A Chance Encounter

by Tara Lazar

He approaches you with a thick wad of computer print-outs, a hundred pages of nothing but random 0s and 1s. You are taking AP Calculus your junior year in high school, a subject forced upon you for the benefit of college applications, yet no one realizes you understand nil, having been absent the day the teacher defined e. He spreads the papers onto the floor and circles groups of 0s in red - if you get one 0, a second 0 is more likely than a 1, according to his odd rules and imprecise scenarios. He tries to convince you that he can crack the roulette wheel at Harrah's, there is a recurring pattern, don't you see? You nod to placate him, the sharp smell of gasoline and grease still on his skin. "It was lucky I met your mother," he says, patting you on the back, believing you'll help him locate structure in chaos, the three bets in the middle of infinity that will change his life.

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Tara Lazar, author of Ice Dancing, has never won anything at the roulette wheel (although she's pretty good at picking the ponies).