A man wins the Lottery...or does he?
“Once again, our winning numbers for tonight’s 216 million dollar MegaBall Lottery are 14, 17, 22, 45, 47, and our MegaBall is 9. And remember, 50% of all lottery proceeds go directly to…”
Jerry stared at his ticket. He looked at his buddy, Randy, who was in the process of ripping up his own ticket. The funny looking little bald guy on TV was still blabbing about how much the lottery benefited education, but Jerry wasn’t hearing a word he was saying. His eyes returned to his ticket.
Paul, the third of the trio in the room, was just finishing scribbling down the numbers on the back of a grocery receipt. He was a friend of Randy’s, but only an acquaintance to Jerry. “Well, I won five bucks, anyway,” he said.
The three of them were sitting on the couch, and it wasn’t much of a stretch for Jerry to reach across Randy’s lap and snatch the receipt out of Paul’s hand, at the same time saying, “Let me see those numbers.”
The urgency in Jerry’s voice and the forcefulness of his action sparked their curiosity, and a moment later Randy asked, “What? You think you won?”
“No,” Jerry said, shaking his head while he confirmed the numbers. “I know I won. I won!” He jumped to his feet, knocking his bottle of beer off the table and scaring the dog. “I won!”
Randy and Paul joined their companion in the center of the room. “Let me see that,” they said in unison. Jerry willingly handed the ticket and receipt to Paul while he bounced up and down like a man who’d just won the lottery, because he had.
“Son of a bitch!” Randy said.
“You lucky bastard,” Paul added.
Jerry had danced himself into the kitchen and was trying to punch numbers into his cell phone, but he couldn’t stand still long enough to have any luck. Hell, he didn’t need any more luck. His golden lab, Lucy, was wagging her tail and bouncing around as much as he was. She seemed to be just as excited, but she had no idea why.
Just then the sound of screeching tires was heard outside on the street, quickly followed by a loud crash.
Jerry opened his eyes. The room was dark except for the red numbers on his alarm clock flashing 4:12, 4:12, 4:12. Apparently, the power had been knocked out. He got out of bed and went to the window. Peeking out of the curtains, he looked up and down the street, trying to see where the sound had come from. What looked like a pick up truck had wrapped itself almost completely around a power pole one block down to the left, and the orange and yellow flames that engulfed them both were lighting the moonless night. Whoever was in it couldn’t have lived, and if they had, they probably would have wished they hadn’t, because they wouldn’t have had much of a life after that, anyway.
Jerry let the curtains fall together and went to his kitchen. He poured himself a strong drink and listened to the sirens approach from the south side of town. He remembered the dream. It was so real, so vivid, all the way up to and including the crash, which in reality wasn’t a dream at all.
At least for the occupants of the truck.
Sitting at the kitchen table, he started to think about the dream. He realized he was more awake than he should have been, which made thinking all the more easier.
He wasn’t sure where or when the dream started. That part of it was fuzzy. He thought maybe one dream just slowly mixed into the lottery dream, like watching a bright sunny day gradually turn into a dark moonless night, much like the one outside his window right now.
He decided he’d better write down the details while they were still fresh in his mind. Somewhere in his 49 years he’d read or heard that dreams have meanings, but he never really put much stock in that.
Another strong drink and an hour later, he was ready to go back to bed. The sirens and flames were gone, leaving the neighborhood in relative silence once again. He fluffed his pillow, climbed under the covers, and closed his eyes. Sleep didn’t come easy, but when it finally did, it embraced him in its warm arms and squeezed him tight, just like his Aunt Sophie used to do when she’d come for a visit.
He was at the bus stop waiting to go home from work, and the bus was late as usual. What was left of the day was gloomy and dark, and the clouds had been spitting rain since he’d walked out of his office, probably longer. An old guy with a couple weeks of gray hair on his face and wearing a tattered wool coat was sitting next to him on the cold wooden bench, smoking a cigarette and coughing between puffs.
“What time ya got?” the coughing man coughed.
Jerry took out his cell phone and checked. “6:15,” he said. His cell phone also informed him that he had two new text messages, one from a number he didn’t recognize. He opened the first one, the unknown number. It said:
'Jerry, please pick me up at the train station tomorrow morning at 9. I have to see you. Love, Aunt Sophie.’
Couldn’t be, he thought. This has to be a prank. He didn’t even think Aunt Sophie was still alive. And even if she was, she’d be what? In her late eighties, at least. From what he could remember, the last time he saw her she didn’t look like she had much time left on this earth, and that was thirty some years ago.
Just then, an old Ford Mustang uncolored in primer drove by, its earth-shattering hip hop vibrating the air. The bus was right behind it, squealing and hissing as it pulled up to their stop.
Jerry got on first and saw that the bus was full of daily laborers on their way home, but he managed to find a window seat near the back.
As soon as the bus started moving, something caught his eye down a side street. He wiped the window to get a better view. It was a pick up truck wrapped almost completely around a power pole. The flames were still licking at the sky.
Jerry scratched his head. He remembered seeing this accident somewhere, but he didn’t know where. Deja vu? He almost had it when his phone rang.
Jerry opened his eyes. The red numbers on his alarm clock read 9:37. He reached over to his nightstand and picked up his phone.
“Is this Jerry?”
“Yeah. Who’s this?” he asked, wiping the Sandman’s gift from his eyes.
“Where are you?”
“Didn’t you get my message?”
“Who is this?” Jerry repeated. He didn’t like to play guessing games, especially when he was barely awake.
“This is your Aunt Sophie, Jerry.”
Jerry’s mind went numb. He was seriously confused at first, but that was quickly overcome by anger.
“Lady, I don’t know who you are, but—”
“It’s me, Jerry.”
He took the phone away from his ear and stared at it, like he’d never seen a cell phone before in his life. He tried to remember what Aunt Sophie’s voice sounded like, but he came up blank. He put it back to his ear.
“So you’re my Aunt Sophie, huh?”
He paused for moment, and then a little bright light bulb appeared over his head. Figuratively, anyway.
“Well, if you’re my Aunt Sophie, then what was your maiden name?”
Sophie was his mother’s oldest sister, and unless this imposter had done their homework, there was no way she could know this.
“What a silly thing to ask,” the voice replied. “It was ‘Wilson’, the same as your mother’s.”
Jerry abruptly ended the call. So it was a prank. This person had obviously done their homework, but he wasn’t about to let her make him believe that she was his ancient Aunt Sophie talking on the phone.
He got out of bed and went to the kitchen for a cup of coffee. As he sat down at the table, it occurred to him that he’d had a dream of Aunt Sophie just the other night.
Or was it last night? When was it?
He stood up and started to walk over to the calendar on the wall to check the date, but before he even took two steps, there was a knock at the door.
Opening his eyes, Jerry found himself laying on his couch. He figured he must have nodded off sometime during the day. As he got up to answer the knock at the door, he had to step over Lucy and a bottle of beer that had somehow found its way off the coffee table, leaving a good sized stain on his otherwise spotless shag carpet.
He opened the door. It was Paul.
“Is Randy here?” he asked. His face was pale. He looked worried.
“I’m not sure,” Paul said. “It’s just that I had this really weird dream last night.”
Paul ran his fingers through his hair, or what little he had left, anyway. “About Randy. I dreamed he wrecked his truck.”
“No. I’m serious as a heart attack. It seemed so real. I literally woke up sweating.”
It was Jerry’s turn to run his fingers through his hair. Something strange was happening, but he had no idea what it was. Then he remembered the truck wrapped around the power pole.
“Do you remember anything else about your dream?” he asked.
Jerry could almost see the wheels turning in Paul’s feeble mind. It took a few seconds, but he finally said, “Fire.”
Jerry started to tell Paul about his own dream and about the odd similarities when he felt somebody shaking him by the shoulder.
“Hey, dude. C’mon, man. Wake up. They’re about to pick the numbers.”
Jerry opened his eyes and looked around the room. He wasn’t sure where he was at first, but then he saw Randy sitting next to him, and next to him sat Paul. A funny looking little bald guy inside the television was about to start calling off numbers that were printed on ping pong balls bouncing crazily around inside a clear plastic drum.
He looked at Randy’s hands and wasn’t too surprised to see them holding a lottery ticket, just as he was. Paul’s ticket was on the coffee table, and in his hand was a pencil poised over the back side of a grocery receipt. There was a full open bottle of beer on the table in front of Jerry, and Lucy was sleeping soundly at his feet.
The guy inside the television called the first number: “17”.
“So far, so good,” Paul said as he wrote down the number. Jerry kept his eyes fixed on his own ticket.
“Damnit,” Randy said.
Jerry felt his heart grab a couple of extra beats. He stood up and walked into his bedroom.
“Where are you going?” Randy asked.
Jerry opened his nightstand and pulled out a snubnose .38 revolver. He put the barrel against his right temple.
“And our MegaBall for tonight’s 216 million dollar jackpot is…”
He closed his eyes.
And pulled the trigger.
The day was overcast and the clouds were threatening to spill their guts, but there was still more people that showed up for Jerry’s funeral than he would have expected.
Some of them sat in the folding chairs that were placed in front of the cherry wood casket, and the casket itself rested precariously over the hole in the ground that would serve as Jerry’s final resting place. Other people were standing around whispering to each other and holding umbrellas in case the clouds made good on their threat.
Since Randy was the closest thing Jerry ever had to a brother, and there were no family members in attendance, he was the one who delivered the eulogy for his childhood friend.
He started by talking about the good times they had growing up-sleepovers, playing football in high school, chasing the same girls, and other things that any two lifetime pals shared during the time they had in this fragile and sometimes cruel thing we call life.
Randy finished the eulogy by questioning why Jerry took his own life. He was there that night, and Jerry knew he had that winning ticket. He was going to be a very rich man. Even after the government stole their share in taxes, he probably still would have been left with half of it.
Maybe there were other things happening in his life that he kept to himself and never mentioned to anybody.
It was a question that couldn’t be answered.
Some of the people wiped tears from their eyes, and Jerry himself felt a tear roll down his cheek.
He was laying in a bed in a room with white walls. There were no windows, but there was plenty of light from the metal halide bulbs that hung over his head. He tried to raise his hand to shield his eyes from the glare, but his arm wouldn’t move.
In fact, he couldn’t move any part of his body.
There was no furniture in the room either; just four white walls, a neatly tiled floor, and one single door.
He was alone.
Images, voices, and sounds began to enter his mind. Only one at first, then another, and another, until they were all bouncing around in his head like those ping pong balls inside that clear plastic drum.
“And remember, 50% of all lottery proceeds go directly to…”, an old Ford Mustang, “What time ya got?”, a spotless shag carpet, “What a silly thing to ask,” a .38 revolver, “You lucky bastard,” sirens and flames, “Is Randy here?”, 4:12, 4:12, 4:12…
An ear-piercing scream echoed through the halls of the B ward, and two nurses in white uniforms came running, syringes in hand.
And this time Jerry closed his eyes as he welcomed the cold fluid into his veins…
Approximately 2,400 Words