© 2008 by Raymond Alexander Kukkee
The Big Win
The tiny bits of paper floated on the wind and I watched as they drifted away and fluttered downwards one by one, finally settling on the water below. The current carried them downstream and out of sight.
“Out of sight, out of mind” I thought to myself, smiling inwardly. It was time to go back home and mow the grass, and I know that if I hurry, I can finish just in time to go to work. It’s 6:00 am and I’m an early bird, I always have been. I took a last look at the river, kicked the front tire again just to be sure, and climbed into the old half-ton.
The truck started, that was a surprise, the battery is getting a little weak. No wonder, I was sitting on the bridge, listening to the radio, and after all, I can’t blame the battery, it’s eight years old. Time to buy a new one. A new battery, I mean. The truck sputtered and started.
I let my imagination run crazy as I drove past Mack Firston’s cows in the east pasture. He waved. He was by the fence at the road, opening the gate to call the milkers into the barn. Chores. Mr. Firston is a hard working man, like his father was, I thought to myself.
I stopped for a minute. He walked over to the ditch. I shut the motor off so it wouldn’t scare the cows as they wandered through the gate, passing us. Cows that are scared don’t give any milk. I’m not a farmer, but I know that because Mack told me.
“Nice morning Mack,” I said, ” I see you didn’t win the lottery last night, you’re still hard at it.”
“Not me, you think I would be milking cows at six if I won the lottery? I’d have’em all sold ten minutes after I won, ten minutes at the outside, that is.”
“Not too likely, I see you have a new calf over in the corner of the pasture over there.”
“Just born during the night, pretty little thing isn’t she?” He grinned. “Heifer, another girl, I love those girls.”
“That calf is worth more than my useless lottery ticket, according to the radio this morning, I only had one number on it” he said thoughtfully.
“I never win, well, no, that’s not exactly right either, I won a bike when I was a kid, ten years old, a red one, a Flyer, I think it was, nice bike, it had big fat tires on it too, you remember that bike, James? I wore it right out and I haven’t won anything since.”
“That was a nice bike, and some things you can’t put a dollar value on “ I said, kind of weakly, suddenly feeling like I was trapped somehow. I did remember the bike.
“I guess I better get going, I have to cut the grass before it rains and then off to work I go.”
“It’s supposed to rain a lot, but maybe we’ll win next time. ” he said thoughtfully, smiling and watching the new calf stumble along after the black and white Holstein.
“You already won” I said, pointing toward the calf.
“I think so” he said, “Y’know, we’re blessed, Sarah and I, but it would be nice not to have to work all the time, even if we did get a good crop last year.”
“Keeps you healthy, Mack , all that hard work and clean living, look at you, you’re in good shape for an old goat.”
I turned the key and the motor turned over kind of weakly, but it started, another miracle.
” James, sounds like the first thing you’ll need is a new battery, you better win the lottery, that doesn’t sound too good.”
“I did “ , I said . He looked at me sideways and laughed.
“Sure, sure. You and me both, we’ve been winning the lottery forever, haven’t we? Look at us, James, I’m not doing so badly, and you’re rich already, you don’t need to win any lottery, you got your kids and grandchildren, they’re all a gift from heaven, aren’t they, and that Samantha of yours, that woman, she’s a treasure, and that house, well, it’s yours, it’s not so bad even if it’s in town, it’s got a nice yard, big old trees..”
“All it needs is a new roof, new windows, another layer of paint and…and a new truck to park in front of it”, I added, laughing.
“Maybe a new screen door, too, but, ” I looked at my watch “…hey, I better get moving, I have to get to work.”
“I better bring that calf in before it rains too” he said, turning. “See you”.
I jammed the truck into gear and took off slowly. I looked in the mirror and waved my arm out the window. He waved, turned and headed toward the calf, holding his hat up like he was imitating the Statue of Liberty.
Never again would I have to do that if I did not choose to do so. Go to work, I mean. I would be a gentleman farmer, like Mack. I could choose a life of leisure. Buy a new car. Two new cars, seven new cars, a Hummer, and a Maserati to show off on Sundays. Some thoroughbred race horses. A four hundred acre estate to play on. A castle up on Lake Superior in Canada. Visit Europe .A new home. Anything I want, I could have it.
-See, I just won 321 million dollars. The Lottery does that. I didn’t expect it, I never win anything. The numbers were on the squawky radio and the ticket was sticking out of the ash tray. I don’t smoke, I use the ash tray for dimes and quarters for parking, and I stuff letters in there and slam the ash tray on the end of them so they stick out. I don’t forget to mail them that way.
I remembered where it was when I heard the numbers on the radio. The ticket, I mean. I stuck the ticket in the ash tray just like it was a letter after I picked up a carton of milk from Mrs. Gillespie’s Corner Mart. She looked kind of crabby when she sold it to me too. Newspaper, milk, a chocolate bar for Samantha, and a ticket. THE ticket.
“Anything else? You’re not going to win, I’ve got the winning ticket this time” she huffed. She always huffed. She was huffy. Always was.
“That would be nice” I said to her. “Then you and Bert could retire.” She smiled.
“I’d give the key to this place to the first fool that walked in the door if I won” she said.
“We can dream, can’t we?”
“Right”, I said, smiling “This is a nice little store, I better get outside so I can walk right back in here.”
She chuckled. “Then you would be a real fool.”
The little brass bell tinkled as I walked out of the door. I can remember it like it was yesterday because it was yesterday.
I was sitting in the truck, parked on the bridge.
Strange. I gawked at the ticket. The first number was 32, and the others were 36, 37, 38, 39, and 49. My favourite numbers. Why does anyone think their numbers will ever be picked? I asked myself. The odds are one in a hundred million or so. No matter, I always played them and had never even won a free ticket. I stuffed it in my shirt pocket. I shook my head.
I got out and walked around the truck and kicked the tires. One was soft. I pumped it up a bit with the dusty hand pump from behind the seat. I puffed a bit, something like Mrs. Gillespie does. I hauled the ticket out of my shirt pocket and looked at it again. The numbers were the same. It looked ordinary, just like all of the others I had bought. I leaned against the railing and watched the water.
I shut the lawnmower off and poured some more gasoline into the tank. Cut grass smells good.
“If I ever won the lottery, I would tell my boss to shove it quick” my neighbour said, watching me over the fence, scratching his head and swatting mosquitoes.
“It’s gonna rain, the bugs are biting again” he said. “Nobody would ever boss me around again, no sireee, I’d be sleeping in till ten every morning and drinking Scotch every night. His left eye was kind of red.
He rubbed it and blinked sideways and his eye focused on me again.
“I had three numbers last night, I won a free ticket.” he said.
“Not me”, I said, “I didn’t win any free ticket”
I don’t need a free ticket, I buy one every week” I said.
“You’re not missing much, those free tickets always have bogus numbers on them anyway.” he said, “There’s something wrong with them, I never won anything with a free ticket, isn’t that funny, you win a free ticket, but it never wins another free ticket.”
“Maybe you’re supposed to pay for what you get” I said. “Well, you get what you pay for, I meant,” screwing the lid tightly back on the gas tank of the mower.” I gave it a pull. It wouldn’t start. I pulled it again. It sputtered, but it still wouldn’t start. Bad compression. I pulled it a few more times. It made me sweat a bit.
“Tomorrow”, Bill said. “It will start tomorrow, after it’s cooled off a bit and had a nice vacation, and be assured, that clunker would start tomorrow, but it knows it will be raining tomorrow, cranky old machines are like us, they know stuff and get while the gettin’ is good, so no sense in pulling your arms out of their sockets, old goats like us shouldn’t even have old lawnmowers, old anything, and that’s a fact.” He laughed.
“Like my truck” I said, smiling. “Battery’s almost toast, I need a new one.”
“I’d be getting a new lawnmower first, if I was you.” he said. “That one is looking pretty cranky”.
“I’ll take that into consideration.” I said, laughing.
He smiled. “Darned stuff ain’t built like it used to be.”
“Maybe we’ll win the lottery next week” he said. “If I win the lottery, you can have my rider here, it’s got a new motor in it, that’ll save you buying a new one, and you can even drive it down to Gillespie’s to pick up milk “.
I looked over the fence. His riding lawnmower was the same vintage as my old pusher.
“Sure”, I said, “that will a real improvement.” I laughed. “I’ll get nice new saddlebags for it.”
He turned over the key, it started right away. “It’s got a brand new battery too, see? Twenty-nine bucks on sale this spring down at Wedgie’s. Runs good, see, but I’d get myself right down to Wedgie’s and buy a shiny new sixteen-horse right away if I won the lottery.”
“That one runs, but what the heck, spend it, get a new one anyway, why not, that’s what money is for, ” I said, “that old one will work better in my yard anyway.”
“He looked at me kind of strangely.
“Maybe we really will win the lottery next week…” he said again.
“I did already” I said, and gave my old lawnmower cord another vicious pull. It started, and I didn’t get to hear what he said, but I think it was “Sure, I did too”. He spun his fingers around his ears like I was a fanatic and shook his head. He watched me cutting for a moment and shrugged and walked away, leaving me to cut the grass in peace.
I finished the grass. It started to rain. “Thank you, Lord, ” I said out loud, “just in time” and pushed the lawnmower into the shed.
My wife handed me a cup of coffee as I walked through the screen door. “I was bringing it out to you.” she said. I sat down at the kitchen table.
“I heard on the radio, someone won 321 million dollars on the lottery last night, what did you do with the ticket you always get at Gillespies?
“It’s raining ” I said.
I stirred my coffee. She put a piece of bread into the toaster. I watched the rain.
“-Oh, the ticket, I must have lost it, I guess. Three hundred and twenty-one million dollars?”
I shook my head. “That’s a lot of money.”
” Anyway, if I had a winning ticket like that, I’d probably just tear it up into little bits and throw it in the river, who needs that much money anyway?”
She looked at me and smiled. “I know” she said. “What on earth would anyone do with it?”
“Maybe throw it in the river, pump up the tires on the old truck, and get on with life, admire Mack’s cows and cut the grass just in time to go to work?” I asked.
She sighed. She looked like she was deep in thought. She jumped.
She buttered another piece of toast and handed it to me. She suddenly glanced up at the clock, leaned over and kissed me on the forehead.
“It’s getting late, dear.”
We stood up. She hugged me.
” I love you James…poor or not, old or not, you’re exactly like you were forty years ago . You better take that toast with you, it’s almost eight, you better get moving.”
She winked at me. “By the way, we’re complete lunatics, you know that?”
“I know” I said, smiling.
#tickets, #lottery tickets #big win
Photo: Wikimedia Commons