A New Career

“Esther? Esther, where are you?” Charles yelled

“In the kitchen,” she called back.

Charles dashed into the kitchen and grinned. “Esther, I’ve finally decided on a career.”

Esther paused and then continued kneading the bread dough. “I thought you already have a career as an inventor.”

“That’s just a hobby.”

Esther didn’t look up. “It pays the bills,” she said. She punched the dough.

Charles frowned. “It does?”

Punch. Punch. “Of course it does.”

“But how?”

Esther sighed. “I do the paperwork to patent your inventions and then I sell the patents.   I’ve told you all about this, you know.   You sign all the paperwork.” She punched the dough a few more times.

Charles eyed the dough nervously. “Are you upset with me? You’re punching the dough pretty hard.”

Punch. Punch. Punch. “Nope, I’m not mad. This is just a necessary part of making bread. Tell me about your new career.”

Charles laughed nervously. “Right.   Well, I was thinking about starting a new career in life mathematics.”

“Mmm-hmmm. What’s life mathematics?”

“The new field of life mathematics will help people make important and unimportant decisions with more accuracy.” Charles began to wave his arms as he talked. “If you’re tired and go to bed early, you have extra to do the next day. It’s a complex equation.   Will the extra energy you get from the extra sleep be sufficient for the extra tasks? Life mathematicians weigh the odds.”

“And you can really figure out the odds for every situation and person?   That’s incredible.” Esther smiled.

Charles dropped his hands to his sides and sighed. “Well, not yet. It all really depends on the individual and their specific circumstances. I tested the results of my equations so far, and it’s about as accurate as flipping a coin.”

Esther narrowed her eyes and punched her dough one last time. “Oh really? That’s too bad.” She gathered the dough together and shoved it into a loaf pan.

“But it’s certainly going to be an entire field of study in the future.   I’ll be a pioneer in the field, and my name will go down in history. That’s pretty good, right?”

Esther ran a tea towel under some water, and then twisted it tightly.   Water ran through her clenched hands.   She shook the towel over the sink and then laid it over her loaf pan. She turned, and folded her arms over her chest with a sigh. “I don’t know.”

“What do you mean? Life mathematics is going to be amazing. Think of the potential. Will the extra cupcake taste good enough to be worth the extra calories? Exactly how long do you have at the store today before your toddler has a meltdown? How should you knot your tie for your next job interview? Life mathematics will have all the answers.”

“I think that part of what makes people who they are is how they choose to answer some of those questions. Maybe you can’t really use math to predict every individual,” Esther said.

“You could predict general outcomes,” Charles said.

“That’s statistics, then, isn’t it?” Esther asked.

“Well, maybe a little bit,” Charles said. “How disappointing.”

“It’s all right,” Esther said.

“I feel like you just pummeled my new idea alongside your bread dough.”

Esther laughed. “It will rise again and so will you. You’ll just need to decide if the idea is worth all the effort it will take to actually make it work. Whatever happened to your self-tying bowtie?”

Charles grinned. “Oh that?   I finished it yesterday. I hadn’t shown you yet? Let me get it and I’ll tell you how it works.”

“I’m sure it will be amazing,” Esther said. “I’ll wait right here and start making some sandwiches.” She pulled a loaf of bread out of the breadbox and started slicing it while Charles ran back to his laboratory.