Elementary Probability Theory for All Abilities, A Comprehensive Guide


Everybody has those little inconveniences that seem trivial at the time. For me, it’s a little scar along the
left edge of my left pinky.


When I was in the tenth grade, I had quite a penchant for doing all sorts of gymnastics. My high school
for some reason still thought we were all babies in kindergarten, and gave us recess accordingly. During
said recess time, I would always rush out onto the soccer lawn, despite the protests and occasional jeers of
the jocks, and start doing cartwheels and walking on my hands, pretending I was Nadia Comaneci. I had
seen her on TV at the ‘76 Games, and was somehow convinced that I was to be just like her.


One day, I decided that I was Little Ms. Show-Off. I had been practising my back somersaults at home on
the trampoline with some pillows and they had gone alright, so my tenth-grade noggin decided that day
was to be my debut as Lakewood High’s local gymnastics talent star.


When recess started promptly at 12:30 PM (Mr. Smith, the recess instructor was always very sure to be
very punctual), I ran as fast as my legs could carry me to claim my little patch of grass on the soccer field,
my nerves tingling and ready to burst with excitement. I seem to remember that it was a warm day
sometime in late sunny September, though I do remember that the day before we started reading
Finnegan’s Wake in English with Mrs. Allen. You’ll have to forgive me for not remembering the details as
well; after all, it’s been a while, and memories don’t come so easy at 35.


I rushed out to recess thinking I would be all anybody could talk about after lunch, as back flips did
always look ever so cool. I started going through my usual scheme of cartwheels and so on, but just as
everybody started to look away and mind their own business, I decided it was time. I found a little area


that looked grassier and softer than the rest and placed my feet shoulder width apart, exactly as Dad’s
textbook, Elementary Gymnastics for All Abilities, A Comprehensive Guide, said to do. I had to breathe in
and out a few times to calm down, but eventually I told myself to suck it up and stop being a big baby or
else John Paul wouldn’t let me hear the end of it. On the count of three, I swung my arms real hard and
jumped as high as I could. The only way I can describe what really happened, is that what comes up must
come down. Though of course I can’t really tell you how it looked, after all it’s not as if I could have
watched myself, Anna and Stacie and your Aunt Lucy and of course John Paul, always John Paul, and
everybody else laughed and laughed. Then, when I didn’t get up and gave a moan apparently rivalling that
of a hibernating hippopotamus, they all came rushing and saw that it wasn’t all that funny.


Mr. Brown, the principal, panicked and called the ambulance in a frenzy and told them it was a wild
emergency and that someone had almost died. They came accordingly, and found me sitting in a little
daze, more or less okay, save the deep gash on my left pinky, which was rapidly swelling to a balloon.
The ambulance, thinking I still might die (I guess Mr. Brown left such an impression on them), rushed me
to the emergency room with sirens blaring. The doctors got all serious when I was wheeled in on the
stretcher, and had me x-rayed all over, and presented me with the diagnosis of a broken phalanx, which
my mother, at that time half out of her wits, later told me meant my left pinky finger bone. They put me
on antibiotics so the cut wouldn’t get infected, wrapped up my pinky really well, sent me home, and
Mother even let me skip seventh period Geography and watch daytime television with some ice cream. I
guess I was all anybody could talk about after lunch that day.


Come Saturday, the novelty of the whole ordeal began to wear off, and I found myself in quite an unhappy
state. I was supposed to go zip lining at Maybury State Park that day with John Paul and Anna and Stacie,
but Mother would hear none of it. Though she was being reasonable (after all, my pinky was bandaged so
that my entire left hand was left essentially useless), I pouted the whole day, even after Mother phoned


John Paul and Anna and Stacie, and bribed them all to come over and keep me company, with cookies and
chicken pot pie.


Sunday, and Dad was reading the paper at breakfast. The headline said: “Tragic accident at Maybury State
Park, 1 dead, 2 seriously injured.” Turns out that the zip line there, after having apparently failed several
safety checks, had collapsed. Part of the fun of the zip line was that it took you through all the really old
and tall trees, and you got to feel a little like Tarzan. The line collapsed, and several people ran into trees,
the really tall and thick ones, and, well, as the headline already said, it didn’t end well, God rest their


There you have it. The story of the little scar on the left side of my left pinky. John Paul and Anna and
Stacie and I remembered it for a long time afterward — we were all pretty shaken from the news that the
headline could have been about us. To this day, some twenty odd years later, I still feel along my left
pinky and remember how lucky I am to be alive. And if you’re reading this, you’re lucky too. What is the



Biographical Note: Katherine Rybkin is currently an undergraduate at the University of Michigan studying Mathematics and Biomedical Engineering. She is fascinated by all the unfulfilled dreams of childhood and often writes about love, youth, space, nature, and adventure. In her free time, she enjoys reading and listening to good music. Outrageous Fortune is her first publication.