“Come on!” one of the other members of his gang whispered urgently. “You know the timing. We have to hurry.”
They were all cold, but Antoniv ignored the blue tinge starting to creep up into his fingers. All of his attention was focused on the clicks. The safe would eventually open for him, he just had to be quiet and concentrate. And be patient. That was the key, he thought as the other gang members shifted from one foot to the other, trying to keep the blood flowing to their extremities.
A few minutes later, the heavy safe door slid open and he stepped back, triumphant. The other boys laughed at their member’s success, then quickly grabbed the money which, unfortunately, added up to only a few rubles. They were irritated that their heist hadn’t resulted in a bigger bang, but Antoniv had warned them that the shop owner took his money to the bank on this day. They hadn’t listened though.
A strange chill slipped down Antoniv’s spine and he looked around, sensing danger. “Come on, it is time to get out of here,” he told them all. He took precious moments to wipe his fingerprints off of the safe before he raced out the back door of the shop. The others had already dashed out the door. In this neighborhood, it was every man for himself and each member of the gang understood that.
It was only a miracle that he’d taken those moments because, as soon as he peered through the door to make his own escape, he realized that the police had been waiting for them! The four other boys who had done the heist were all leaning against the brick wall of the building, the police patting them down before slapping handcuffs on them. One of the boys looked at the doorway and smiled, nodding his head. Antoniv knew what that signal meant and he smiled right back, accepting the task. He would get them out of jail with the bail money from their other thefts, which was stashed in the abandoned building they considered to be their private headquarters. There was no heat in the building, but it didn’t matter. It was isolated and the police didn’t come around to investigate the area often enough for their presence to be a concern. A perfect hideaway.
As soon as the police were gone, Antoniv raced through the back alleys, winding his way across town. He gathered up the money stolen from previous heists and headed right back to the police station. Four hours later, the five of them were back out on the street, laughing at their “success”.
The following day, Antoniv walked into school and sat down at his desk, waiting for the teacher to start droning on about whatever subject was on the schedule for the day. His fellow heist members were in another class and he picked up the comic book he’d snagged out of the library earlier in the day, not wanting to listen to the boring teacher. School was just a place to hang out until he could meet up with his friends and plan their next adventure. The police didn’t harass them during school hours.
“Excellent job,” his math teacher announced.
Antoniv looked up from his comic book, then down at the paper on his desk that the math teacher had just handed to him. A perfect score? Whatever, he thought and slid back down in his chair, eager to return to the comic book.
The teacher noticed his student’s lack of enthusiasm for the work, but he wasn’t giving up. This was a tough neighborhood and only a privileged few made it out without being killed or imprisoned. “You will meet me after school today, Mr. Petrov,” the math teacher announced.
Antoniv swallowed. After school? Huh?
He looked up at his teacher, wondering what was going on.
Six hours later, Antoniv stood in the doorway to the math teacher’s classroom, not sure if he should stay or slip out of the school and catch up with his friends.
“Enter!” came the booming, unrelenting voice.
Antoniv stepped into the room, still not sure why he was here or what the teacher expected of him.
“Sit!” the teacher commanded next.
Antoniv took the first available seat, stunned. No one spoke to him like that. He wasn’t one of the prized students. He was one of the misfits – the kids that were ignored or just tolerated and passed on to the next teacher.
The math teacher stared at his sole companion in the classroom over the wire rims of his glasses. “Solve this problem for me,” he commanded of Antoniv and pushed one of the chalk boards away, revealing a complicated math problem.
Antoniv stared up at the numbers for a long moment, his agile mind sifting through the symbols. A moment later, Antoniv stood up, took a piece of chalk and started writing on the second board. It took him several moments, but his mind was absolutely focused on the problem, fascinated with the possibilities and all of the symbols. He wasn’t completely sure what each of the symbols meant, but he could figure that out as he worked his way down deeper into the problem. When he stepped back, his eyes going over his answer, Antoniv finally nodded and turned to his math teacher, silently asking if he’d done the problem correctly.
“Excellent,” the teacher said, stepping forward. “But you could have done this,” he explained and showed Antoniv several shortcuts to work through the problem.
Antoniv stared at the board, his mind completely centered on the problem and the work. Those shortcuts made his mind crackle with energy. With the next problem the teacher presented, he felt more excited than he ever had after the success of a heist. This was a whole new world and suddenly he was captivated by the realm of numbers and all the possibilities they seemed to provide.
Every day after school, Antoniv stopped by the teacher’s classroom and worked on problems until the man told him he had to go home. Antoniv was captivated. He’d never realized how powerful numbers could be. His other gang members started to give him hell for not showing up, but he was bigger than all of them, so he wasn’t afraid of their threats.
And in a weird way, they actually respected him more now for his mathematical acumen and even encouraged him to learn more.
It was the start of a new and inspiring love of numbers. Those math problems helped him see the world in a completely different way.
“More sugar,” she whispered as she watched the egg whites float around in her mixing bowl. She slipped her finger into the fluffy, white cloud, but didn’t taste it. She could tell if the mix was right simply by the texture.
“It’s ready,” she sighed and stuffed the whites into a piping bag. She had no idea that her tongue was sticking out the side of her mouth as she worked on piping perfect stars from the large tip. Not all of them worked out, but she was getting better! Soon, she’d be able to start practicing frosting roses. Well, if her mother would buy her more ingredients – she was starting to grumble about the expense of having two aspiring chefs in the house.
The fire department had put her picture up on their wall, though! Maggie Hart couldn’t handle having all of the cakes, cookies and sweet delicacies that Jasmine liked to create, so she’d resorted to taking the extras to the fire department. They were always grateful for the treats. Which was why Jasmine’s picture was up on their bulletin board! That was pretty exciting. Her sister Janine thought that cooking meats and potato dishes was fun. How tedious was that? And it would never get her picture on the board. No sir! Thanks to Jasmine, she knew her family never had to worry about prompt service from the fire department!
She laughed when she pulled her piping bag away, so excited to have perfected her stars. Roses, here she comes!
Her mother walked into the kitchen at that moment, instantly understanding her daughter’s triumphant expression and what it meant for her grocery list. “You’re not starting on frosting roses until you earn an A on your next math test,” she told her daughter.
Janine snickered in the corner of the kitchen where she’d been relegated to doing her homework while Jasmine baked. They had to alternate turns creating and testing their expertise because her mother wouldn’t let them both work at the same time.
Jasmine’s eyes narrowed on her sister’s evil expression. Janine thought she was going to get the run of the kitchen for the next week until Jasmine’s next math test. “How did you do on the algebra exam yesterday?” she asked of her sister.
Janine’s smile instantly disappeared and her matching green eyes looked up at her mother. Maggie turned to look at Janine, her eye brows high and questioning. “You didn’t mention that you had a math test yesterday, dear. How did it go?”
Janine swallowed painfully, her fingers gripping her pencil. “Um…I’m not sure. I didn’t get the test back yet.”
Jayden looked at her sisters, wishing both of them would let her help them with their math. “You know, there’s a bake sale over at the church next week,” she offered up. “I bet they could use some of Jasmine’s cupcakes.”
Maggie looked over at her daughter, wondering what Jayden was up to. “And?” she asked, knowing that there was a punchline. There was always an ulterior motive.
Jayden looked over at Jasmine, saw the hope and excitement in her eyes and focused all of her attention on helping Jaz get to cook before next week’s test. “There’s no ‘and’, Mom. You’re always saying that we have too much stuff and we should be more involved in the church. This is what Jasmine loves to do, so why not let her contribute?” Jasmine was one of those people who got grouchy if she couldn’t cook and create in the kitchen. If she wasn’t with her track team, sprinting around the track or running long distance, her sister was in the kitchen baking.
Maggie Hart shook her head. “Nope. Not until she gets an A on the math test.” She knew her three girls well, and Jayden was the negotiator of the three. “Jaz, you know what you need to do. Either stay after school and get help or let Jayden review your homework.” She turned to Janine who had her head down, pretending to be working on her homework. “You too Janine. I want better math grades. I don’t care if you three become the best chefs in the world, you’ve got to learn to do the math. How else are you going to make sure you make a profit on the businesses you will eventually open up? You have to make sure you order the right amount of ingredients, charge the right prices for each product, and understand other costs like rent and utilities and staff. It’s great that you’re learning new skills, but there’s more to being a chef than just cooking.” She shook her head, wishing she could help her daughters see the long term view of life.
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