One Lucky Bastard

Posted on: August 12, 2013

Every evening he walked half a mile down to the 7-11 to buy his lottery ticket. On the walk there, he smoked his pipe. On the walk back, he cleaned out his pipe and chanted the Powerball numbers over and over again in his head.

When he got home, he’d turn on the TV and wait. 7-37-9-2-82-12.

For three weeks, he’d played the same numbers. 7 for July, his least favorite month. 37 for the age his mother was when she died, standing over the kitchen stove sautéing vegetables. 9, the age he was on that day, when he entered the kitchen, turned off the stove, and called his father at work. 2 for his two good legs, for his two good feet, one in front of the other. 82 and 12 for the street address of the 7-11. 8212 North Lucas Drive.

When he won the Powerball, the 7-11 would experience a boom in business, and they’d put his photo above the counter. 8212. You have to tip your hat to the places that bring you luck. He wasn’t sure how long it was going to take to win. Probably only another couple of weeks.

He’d been avoiding the lottery. His father had been pushing him for years, “Use it on the Powerball,” but he’d always resisted using his luck for straight cash. It seemed wrong. But his father was ninety. And people who are ninety should get what they want.

After his mother’s death, he noticed strange things happening in his life. At a school assembly a few weeks later, he fixated on the end-of-the-year raffle prize: a gift certificate to Shoe World. Though his name was in the goldfish bowl only once (other more goody-goody kids had multiple entries for good behavior), the principal drew his name. It echoed across the gymnasium. He bought the red high-top sneakers his mother had said were impractical.

The cafeteria always served pudding on the days he craved it. He aced multiple-choice tests without cracking a book. When his father was up for a promotion at work, he paced the perimeter of the office building, envisioning the scene, until his father emerged and high-fived him in the parking lot.

The closer he could get to the luck, the quicker it would deliver. When he decided on Brown for college (Harvard or Yale would be too suspicious), his father took him to Rhode Island to deliver his application in person. He took seven campus tours to cover the most ground. His acceptance letter arrived a few weeks later.

By the time he was in his sixties, he was using most of his luck on internet giveaways. They were less conspicuous, and he found he could speed things along just by surfing the individual sites for a few hours a day. He took an all-expense paid trip to Montana when he won a Marlboro contest, despite the fact he preferred pipe tobacco. He entered his second cousin Darla in the HGTV dream house giveaway, which she won. He won iPads and computers and free groceries and shopping sprees, most of which he gave to relatives who were sworn to secrecy. He liked things simple. He lived on his luck, but only in such a way that he could remain under the radar.

“You gotta do the Powerball,” his elderly father croaked into the phone. “It’s the ultimate test.”

“But I have everything I need,” he said.

“Just do it,” his father said. “Do it for me? Move me into one of those luxury nursing homes with the sexy water aerobics instructors. Come on.”

So he did. He walked to the 7-11 and played his numbers. 7-37-9-2-82-12.

“Is today the day?” Kevin, who worked the register, asked.

“Might be,” he said.

“Dude, if you win, you should buy me a car. The AC’s broke in my Fiesta.”

“Sure thing,” he said.

As he left the 7-11, he ran his hand over the top of Kevin’s car and let the cool freon vision wash over him. He made a mental note to stop by the mall tomorrow and enter the drawing for whatever car they were giving away in the rotunda.

When the bowtie-clad announcer on ABC pulled the red 12 ball from the tube, he reached for the phone and called his father.

The phone rang seven times before the electricity in his house started to flicker, then went out entirely. It was almost midnight. He’d try in the morning.

The next morning, the power was still out. He went outside and headed toward the 7-11. It started to rain.

“Dude, no umbrella?” Kevin asked.

“My power’s out,” he said. “Can I use your phone?”

“Whatever,” Kevin said.

He dialed his father again. Again, no answer.

“Do you have a pen?” he asked Kevin.

Kevin gestured to the pen chained to the counter.

He pulled out his lotto ticket and signed the back of it.

“Holy shit, no way!” Kevin yelled, snatching the ticket and holding it up in the fluorescent light. “We gotta call the news!”

“I don’t want to be on TV,” he said.

“Well, I do!”

Kevin vaulted over the counter and called to his manager, “Yo, Ray! You gotta check this out!”

He tried his father one more time. When, on the seventh ring, an unfamiliar voice answered, he knew it was over.

The paramedic told him a neighbor had found his father lying in the kitchen when she came to borrow some sugar. It was probably a heart attack.

“I won the lottery,” he told the paramedic.

“You’re one lucky bastard,” the paramedic said. “I mean, man. Wow. Forget I said that.”

“I’ll be there soon,” he said.

Out the window of the 7-11, the news vans were pulling up. The camera crews swarmed Kevin and Ray, who pointed and gestured in his direction.

The television clip would replay across the country. Kevin, popping and un-popping the collar on his 7-11 polo, says, “He’s gonna buy me a car! Today’s the luckiest day of my life!” Behind him, the winner of the $290 million dollar Powerball lights his pipe and walks away.

Photograph By: Emily Blincoe
Written By: Dot Dannenberg

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