Adam Dalva


You are now five.

You’re at a birthday party.

You are at your birthday party.

Count the candles on your cupcake.

If there are five,

you may stop

so you can eat.


You are seven. You are in a car.

You are in your father’s car. Now,

look at the speedometer. Assuming the speed

of forty-nine remains constant, will you be

able to count up to it in

increments of seven and finish on a

seven? If so, you may stop until

he changes speed. Meanwhile, look at the

reflectors by the road, the ones that

shine like cat eyes. Count them. When

you get to seven, start counting them

again. This keeps your father’s car from



You are now ten.

You’re being punched.

You are being punched by four people.

Count to ten. Does it end on a four?

Count to twenty. Does it?

If so, you may stop,

but until then

keep them

from stopping.

Pretend it doesn’t

hurt. After you run away

on a twenty, you may cry. But as

you walk home, you must count every single

wave in your head and your chest,

your legs and your arms, and

 if they all stop pulsing on a ten,

you may tell your mother

that you got hurt

playing hockey in gym.



















You are now twenty. You have a girlfriend. You are going to see your girlfriend so sh
e can break up with you. When you get to her apartment and she tells you to sit dow
n, walk past her into her little office, the one with the weird paneled ceiling, so you c
an look up and keep counting the nineteen and three-quarters panels until it’s over.


You are twenty-three and you are


in your therapist’s office. Count your


so you don’t have to tell him about



You are twenty-seven.

You are in Florida.

You are in Florida writing a story called “Struct.”

Count up the ages in your story.

Does twenty-seven go neatly into the resulting number?

If not, remember other times when you counted

and use those to even it out.

Don’t lie.

It’s time to finish writing “Struct.”

Go sit in the little writer’s studio that you share with seven others.

Sit down in the chair that you marked with a little piece of scotch tape on the back

in case it got moved.

Re-position it directly across from the bookcase

that is underneath the stairs.

Remember how, on the first day, it had twenty-seven books?

Think about how happy that made you.

How many books are in the bookcase now?

Have books been removed? How many?

If so, count the books again until you can stop on twenty-seven.

Is someone sitting in front of the bookcase?

If so, you must lean over and account for the books

that might be behind

his or her head.

And then count the books until you can stop on twenty-seven.

You are ready to finish “Struct.”

Count the number of words in “Struct.”

Count the number of lines in “Struct.”

Is the number of words divisible by 27?

And is the number of lines divisible by 27?

If not, keep on going until it stops.

A struct is a complex data

(keep on going until it stops)

type declaration that defines a physically

(keep on going until it stops)

grouped list of variables placed under

(keep on going until it stops)

one name in a block of

(keep on going until it stops)

memory, allowing the different variables to

(keep on going until it stops)

be accessed. The struct can contain

(keep on going until it stops)

many other complex and simple data

(keep on going until it stops)

types. It references a contiguous block

(keep on going until it stops)

of physical memory, usually delimited by

(keep on going until it stops)

word length or half word boundaries.

Keep on



It stops

Keep on going



Adam Dalva’s writing has appeared in The New York Review of Books, The Paris Review, Tin House, and The Guardian. He teaches Creative Writing at Rutgers University and Marymount Manhattan College and is a book critic for Guernica Magazine. Adam has received writing fellowships from the Atlantic Center for the Arts and the Vermont Studio Center. He is a graduate of NYU’s MFA Program, where he was a Veterans Writing Workshop Fellow. Adam’s graphic novel, OLIVIA TWIST, was published by Dark Horse in 2019.