On June 30, 1997, Paul Anderson stopped putting things off.

The first thing he did was pay all his bills. He balanced his checkbook and cut his nails. Then he called his boss. "I quit," he said. "I'm going to get married and write a symphony."

"Sounds good," said his boss. "Have fun."

The next thing Paul Anderson did was clean his house. He mopped and scrubbed, poured sodium hydroxide down the shower drain and vacuumed up the Christmas tree needles. He folded up the storm windows and folded down the screens.

He returned six books to the library and paid the fines. He picked up a suit from the cleaners, then went back home and put it on. Then he went to a jewelry store and picked out an engagement ring. It only took him four minutes. He took the ring to the place where his girlfriend worked, and walked right in past the receptionist to his girlfriend's cubicle. He got down on one knee. The partitions were low enough that her coworkers could see.

"Lydia," he said, "will you marry me?"

"Well, it's about goddamn time," she said, unsuccessfully trying to look annoyed.

* * * * *

On September 30, 1997, Paul Anderson woke up at eight o'clock in the morning and shaved. He put on shorts and a T-shirt, picked up a large notebook and headed for the hotel room door. "Paul," called Lydia