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Calculated Risk

Short Fiction by Jonathan Mitchell

Thom Traylor walked up the path to the Miller household whistling a merry tune and waving his left hand in front of his face in a fashion pathognomic of autism. He did this when he was happy. After all, he was going to visit Alex Miller, and, of all of the autistic children he worked with, Alex was his favorite.

Thom noticed the Miller family station wagon parked in the driveway. Thom decided to check out the license plate number. It was 3NXP613. 3,613, a prime number, thought Thom to himself. Thom liked to look at license plate numbers and determine whether or not they were prime or composite just for kicks.

Thom rapped softly on the front door. The noise from doorbells often bothered him. Christine Miller answered the door.

"Hi, Christine, good to see you, I hope Alex is home."

"Yup he is here and I am sure he is glad to see you."

Sure enough, 8-year-old Alex came running out to greet Thom, holding a shoelace in his left hand and a Canon spell checker he often used in his right. Thom entered the Miller household.

"So, is Alex Senior home?" inquired Thom.

"No, he's out playing golf," she said. "Saturday is always his day to play golf. You know, he likes to unwind from the pressures of the office and having an autistic son who doesn't speak."

"Well, we are making some progress with Alex's facilitated communication," Thom responded. "After all, he couldn't communicate at all when I first started working with him 1,048 days ago."

Christine cut Thom off. "You know exactly how many days ago you first met us at that autism society meeting?"

"Sure 'nuf do. It's a gift." said Thom modestly.

Thom entered the Miller's living room and saw a woman about Christine's age. Christine decided to make the appropriate introductions.

"Jennifer Van Valkenburg, Thom Traylor. Jennifer is a dear friend of mine whom I went to college with."

Jennifer and Thom shook hands. In the meantime, Alex was shrieking and jumping up and down and shaking the shoelace in his left hand. The three adults ignored Alex's behavior as if it was a common occurrence that they were all used to.

"I've heard a lot about you," said Jennifer to Thom, smiling as they shook hands. "So, is it true that you are autistic and a mathematical savant just like Rainman?"

Thom smiled wryly.

"Well not exactly," Thom finally replied. "Rainman was very low-functioning and could not care for himself in spite of extraordinary mathematical and memory abilities. I don't really have the same type of memory abilities that he displayed in the movie. However, I have all of the same mathematical abilities he demonstrated in the movie and a few others that he didn't. I am quite high-functioning. I am a C++ computer programmer and I make $48,000 a year. I do like to do respite work with autistics lower-functioning than myself on the weekends though. I feel I should give something back for God's choice of allowing me to be so high-functioning."

Thom paused for a bit and then continued talking. "Also, Rainman was a work of fiction, and I am true life since you see me here." Thom smiled, Jennifer and Christine both smiled back. Then they both stared in awe of Thom, the highest of high- functioning autistics. Alex ran away and started shrieking and jumping about the Miller household.

"Give Jen a demonstration of your abilities, Thom," asked Christine.

Thom hung his head low and looked a bit embarrassed. "Aww I don't know."

"Aw come on," Jennifer enthused.

"Well okay, but you have to give me your date of birth, including the year. I know some chicks are funny about that."

"August 12, 1957," said Jennifer without hesitation.

"You were born on a Monday. Monday's child is fair of face."

Thom looked at Jennifer to assess her reaction.

"You're right. That's absolutely amazing," said Jennifer.

"That's not all," continued Thom. "I also know that you were born on the 224th day of 1957."

Jennifer and Christine said nothing, being so impressed with Thom's talents.

"I've known you for 3 years now and I can never get over your abilities," Christine finally replied.

"Correction, not quite three years, only 1,049 days."

Christine smiled. "Yea, I guess you're right."

They were then interrupted by a noise that sounded like things were being knocked off of a shelf.

"Oh, that's Alex, I have to take care of this," said Christine and started walking off really fast. Jennifer and Thom followed Christine into the Miller's kitchen.

"Rah, wah, wah ahhhhhh," Alex screamed. Christine immediately thought that Alex must want to communicate something and be frustrated since he could not talk.

"ALEX, YOU STOP THAT THIS MINUTE!" yelled Christine, grabbing her son and restraining him.

"Jen, can you do me a favor and put back all of those pots and pans he pulled out."

"Sure, no problem."

"Does not look like anything is broken," commented Jen after inspecting the kitchen things that Alex had taken out of their shelves and compulsively placed on the countertop.

"Alex, I have a good mind to spank you."

Thom then decided to interject. "Ahh, calm down, Christine. Hand him his Canon spellchecker, maybe that will give us a clue as to what is on his mind."

Christine then did as Thom said, handing her son the hand- held Canon spellchecker which Alex used to type out one word phrases. Alex could use it for further communication with Thom acting as facilitator but could only type out individual words on his own.

Walk, typed Alex, punching out the letters for the word on the spellchecker.

"He wants to take a walk," said Thom.

Thom then took Alex by the hand.

"Want to take a walk in the park, Alex?" queried Thom in a sort of baby talk voice he sometimes used with Alex. Alex started crying and resisted as Thom tried to take Alex in his direction. Alex then made a sort of grunting sound, nodding towards the communicator with his head. As if on cue, Thom let go of Alex's hand. Alex immediately started typing out a phrase on the communicator. Thom then took the communicator from Alex. Shit, Alex had typed out. "Oh he has to go to the bathroom," said Thom. "I think he knows how to find the way," said Thom.

"Yes," said Christine. "Thanks to your help we got him toilet trained."

As Alex went to the john to do his business, Christine continued talking to Thom.

"I just wanted to tell you how much we appreciate you taking Alex to your house on weekends as part of the autism society's respite program. Jeff and I just could not get along without it and you. Not to mention that it is always interesting meeting the highest functioning autistics such as yourself so we can understand what our kids are thinking about and what is going on with them."

"Ahh, no thanks necessary, I enjoy working with these kids, especially Alex. Between you and me, he's my favorite."

Christine could not contain herself. "No, it is necessary, and you damn well know there is more," said Christine now starting to cry a little bit. Thom pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket which Christine accepted, wiping her eyes. "You know, when Alex was 5 and still had not started talking we had given up all hope of ever communicating with him. Then last year we heard about facilitated communication through the lecture that Rosemary Crosley gave last year at the autism society's general membership meeting. You volunteered your services to us at no charge and now he can actually communicate with us thanks to you."

"Well at the rate he is going he may not need a facilitator much longer. He's managed to learn to type out one word phrases without facilitation. That is not the commonest achievement in the world for a nonverbal autist you know."

Alex then came out of the bathroom, walking up to Thom and his mother, albeit with some reluctance.

Jennifer finally spoke up. "I think I better get going, Chris, nice to have met you, Thom." Jennifer then walked out the door.

Alex put his right index finger on one of the keys of the Canon spellchecker as if on cue. Thom grasped Alex's right wrist gently. With Thom's help, Alex started typing out a message on the Canon communicator. Thom read the message as Alex typed it under his guidance. "He says that after we take a walk in the park, he looks forward to spending the night at my house and looking at the fish in my aquarium and that mommy should not miss him, he is in good hands with his friend, Thom Traylor." Christine smiled. "It is so nice to know what he is saying."

"Say goodbye to your mom," implored Thom.

Bye, Alex typed out without Thom's assistance.

Once again, tears came to Christine's eyes and she started talking, trying to hold back the tears. "Before you go, Thom, I just wanted to say once again what an inspiration and a role model you are to autistic people all over the world."

"Enough of that," said Thom, looking a bit downcast and embarrassed once again.

Tired of the maudlin scenario, Thom immediately exited the Miller household through the front door with Alex in tow.

"We can take a walk in the park when we get to my house," Thom told Alex. "You remember there is a park near my house too."

Thom then put Alex in his car and drove off with him in silence. He then parked his car in the driveway and Alex got out walking with him into his house. He locked the door, pulled the shades down and led Alex into his bedroom.

"Come here, my pretty," said Thom in his best wicked witch of the west imitation. Thom could not get over how cute Alex was with his light hair and freckled face and nice butt. Thom could feel his penis becoming slightly erect. Nonverbal autistic children were manna from heaven for a pedophile like himself, thought Thom. Those parents were such morons. They believed in all of that facilitated communication nonsense. Of course, it was lucky that Alex was able to type out individual words on his own so that suspicion would not be aroused. He then hugged Alex and kissed him on the cheek. He took off Alex's pants and then took off his own. Alex started typing on the Canon spellchecker. Fuck. "Yes fuck!" said Thom in an enthusiastic voice. Those idiot parents would believe anyone was autistic, and they did not understand that simple algorithms existed to calculate what day of the week a given date fell on. The algorithm for figuring out how many days from one date to the next and figuring out the day number from 1 to 366 that a given day of the year fell on were a little more difficult, but being a computer programmer, he was of a mathematical bent, and for a pedophile it ensured handsome dividends. Thom started playing with Alex's penis, masturbating him. Fuck this, thought Thom to himself and he started masturbating himself. He would have to be as hard as possible when penis met rectum. He then got out a book titled Mastering Human Calculator Skills by the late Willis W. Weinzveg and turned the page to the following equation: W=(D+trunc(2.61XM-0.2)+Y+(Y div 4)+(C div 4)-2XC-(1+L)X(M div 11)) mod 7. Yes, it was easy to calculate what day of the week a given date fell on, just like a true autistic savant did.

He knew what he was doing was illegal. He could go to prison. Thom then engaged in another mathematical calculation. He determined how many police per capita there were in the city, how gullible parents of autistic children were, and how many parents had been blamed for molesting their children because of facilitated communication. The calculated risk of the odds against his being arrested for molestation of Alex or any other children was about 38 million to one.

The End

Copyright 2002, Jonathan Mitchell - All Rights Reserved.