Amanda Valentino is the Coyote.
“Me? I’m the coyote. The trickster.” She made a fist with her hand, then opened it and showed me her empty palm. “Now you see me, now you don’t.”
Supposedly I was catching Amanda up on quadratic equations, but really she was teaching me about totems, specifically hers and mine. When I pointed out that totems and superstition and ancient belief systems were about as far from trigonometry as you could get, Amanda gestured at me with her quill pen.
“Au contraire,” she said. “Belief systems are belief systems.”
“Oh, come on!” I said. “Math isn’t a belief system, it’s an explanation for how things work.”
“Right,” said Amanda. “In other words, it’s a belief system.”
She was wearing something in her hair that made it look as if she’d grown a waist-length ponytail overnight, and her dress, with its puffy sleeves and lace edging, definitely looked like it was something out of another century. I’d meant to ask her about the outfit—the hair and the pen and the dress, but as usual, I’d gotten sidetracked. That was the thing about talking to Amanda: I could never figure out how we’d gotten on the subject we were discussing or how we’d gotten off the subject I’d thought we were on.
“Wait, are you telling me you don’t believe in math?” Over the course of the past two weeks, I’d discovered that Amanda was probably the best mathematician I knew outside of my mom. She was truly a genius with numbers. How could she question their fundamental truth?
“I believe in math,” she said. “It’s not like the tooth fairy or Santa. I believe it exists. I just don’t think it explains things any better than a lot of other belief systems just because it happens to be in fashion in this particular place at this particular moment in history.”
“So, what, are you talking about, like . . . God?” This was definitely the weirdest conversation I’d ever had with someone. I tried to imagine talking about God with Heidi or Traci or Kelli.
“Religion is another belief system,” she said. “It happens not to be mine.”
“So, like, what’s yours?” I didn’t mean to sound defensive, but sometimes talking to Amanda made me feel like I was always one crucial step behind her.
“What’s my belief system . . .” She leaned her head against the wall and closed her eyes for a minute. Then, without opening them, she said, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
I shook my head. “There may be a lot of things in heaven and earth, but the point is, you can still count them.”
She opened her eyes and locked them with mine. “That’s what I’m telling you, Callie,” she said. “You can’t.”