Ekan the Tiler

By | 1 November 2017

Ekan called his work truck Morph for its ability to shift between function and elegant lane-changer. His dog was called Owl on account of her origin, O,O, and her ability to approach in silence. Naming his daughter was easy: Bubble Tree entered the world with data collected from her time inside the diving bell of the womb, giving it back in a new life filled with symbols in the notations of vowels. Ekan was named after Freider Nake, computer art pioneer, whose surname was reversed in the interests of syllabic extension and the music of iambic emphasis.

Ekan loved his work. Tiling married tactility to spatial awareness, form to grace. He could transform a bathroom from steam collector to a maze of colour-coded complexity. Commissioned to enliven a living room wall, he used the splinters and chips from a box of broken tiles to make the face of Jimi Hendrix. His other work was mostly basic as breathing: white tiles on a kitchen floor; a bathroom pebbled into antiquity with river gravel; a kitchen wall flourishing with the fleur de lis.

At school, Ekan had excelled at mathematics. He could count at a glancing blow off a shelf of tins. Give the boy a long number, ask him to divide it by 9, multiply it by 37, subtract it by whatever you threw at him and he’d respond before you could swallow. He could count swallows while running around an oval. He knew ancient names for numbers and numerical patterns.

Ekan was electrocuted when he drilled through the side plate of an old heater he’d been trying to repair for a friend who’d never held a hammer in his life, and who’d called out that yes, he’d turned off the power. Owl sat beside him and gave the lip-curl and snarl to the paramedics.

At his funeral they played ELO’s Can’t Get it Out of My Head and his mother talked of his love for the number sixteen. It rained. Leaves on the cemetery grass danced like orange beetles. An old girlfriend said she’d only recently found one of his letters, written in code she’d never been able to break. When a plane came over, alarmingly low, everyone in the carpark lowered their umbrellas and waited.


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