Ohlone College
Creative Writing Stories

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Viktor Cogswell joined the "white flight" from the inner city two months after the accident, heading west with Stanley to any place better than Detroit. Always a quiet man, Viktor now spent his free time staring at blank walls. You could tell by the expressions on his face that he was talking to someone -- or something -- visible only to himself. Meanwhile, Stanley ignored his unbalanced father, busying himself by collecting statistics about anything and everything, believing in the 50% chance that a bus could hit either of them at any moment.

Together, they left the safety of their Polish neighborhood home and the random violence of the Black struggle buried somewhere in their memories and in the dust of their wheels along the Ford Freeway. They had loaded their few possessions into the back of a turquoise and white, 1962 Ford pick-up and hit the road, hypnotized by the white-line possibility of a better future.

Now homeless, the vagabonds spoke little, and the son watched over, or ignored, his father. Stanley's thing with percentages had really taken hold by Buck Spring Flats, Wyoming.Stanley knew with 93% certainty that 18.6% of objects in the back of an open truck ended up on the road. He tied them down securely with care, analyzing the statistical probability of the ropes and inspecting each knot twice. At every gas stop, he ritualistically locked the doors to the cab and re-checked his lashings and knots, worrying about them constantly. For all his attention to keeping their possessions intact, Stanley knew next to nothing about auto maintenance.

The Ford pick-up that had been their refuge for the past month broke down on the outskirts of Denver. Stanley did not know that precisely 100% of all motor vehicles require oil to keep their engines running. At age thirteen, his gift for understanding statistical data did not help him make sound decisions. Stanley needed to learn more factual information so he would avoid making stupid mistakes. He never knew that his obsession with percentages would hound him for the remainder of his life. What would Rosa Parks have thought about that?

Being mile high hobos in Denver distracted Viktor and Stanley from their individual psychoses and unshared grief. After spending a particularly cold night in the truck protecting their belongings from thieves, they set out on foot in Downtown Denver looking for a temporary place to live. Heading east on Colfax Avenue, they found a ratty two-bedroom apartment above KittyKat's Adult Emporium. The manager said they "could have it cheap" if they cleaned the alleyway daily. Low on money and hope, they accepted his offer not yet fully understanding all the ramifications of the deal. Stanley listened quietly during the negotiations, busy deducing the small, 7.5% probability that they would find a better place for less rent. Cringing with fear every time a bus passed his way, and seeing the numbers five-zero-% float through his brain left Stanley emotionally exhausted. He would have pushed his father to look harder and longer for another place if he knew the 100% likelihood they would live above KittyKat's for the next eleven years.

Email author Susan Mountain

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