Written for the 'Show, Don't Tell' Competition, 8/30/19. A story of 1210 words
| The Ticket.
She had spent cash she really could not afford on the tickets. On any other night she would have thought harder, resisted the impulse, but seated next to her neighbour who flourished out cash and bought two, she had felt that she had to do the same.
It was true that for $10 each, they were a good investment. But that was only if the ticket was a winning one. Ruby looked around at all the people seated around her, most of who were reaching in to their pockets. What were the chances of either of her tickets being drawn? Next to nothing, that was the truth of it.
And now the clock was ticking and the draw had yet to take place. 4pm; that was the time that was clearly stated in black and white on the tickets themselves. 4pm would have given her time to get to the stadium, to pick the boys up. Almost twenty minutes later and there was still no movement towards the drum.
Ruby waved to her neighbour and got to her feet. People had been gathering, all waiting to see who was going to win the $10,000 jackpot. She had to push and shove her way through them, going against the flow, and not one person seemed to be of a mind to make things any easier for her.
Eventually she pushed her way through the doors and dashed through the car park. How many vehicles were there? Ruby was certain there had been nowhere near as many when she had parked. With a sinking feeling she caught sight of her own car, now sandwiched tightly between three others. There was one to the front, one close up behind, but it was the one that was almost side-by-side that was going to present the real challenge.
She climbed behind the wheel of her car and edged it forward and back, forward and back, until she could just squeeze it through the tiny gap that had thoughtfully been left for her. She manoeuvred around the parked vehicles, cursing herself for leaving it so late, berating herself for buying the tickets in the first place. When Ruby eventually got to pull out on to the road, things were no better.
The rush hour! She had made a point of avoiding this, but now she was stuck. There was no way around it. Ruby eased the car forward a couple of car's lengths, then engaged the handbrake. She could not even see the traffic lights. Her fingers drummed on the steering wheel. Tap, tap, tap, then into drive for another slight move.
There was no way she'd make it there in time. When she drew to a stand-still for the fourth time she dialled Greg's number. The phone was on, she could hear it ringing, but her eldest son did not pick up.
With no other choice Ruby left a voicemail message, telling him that she would be a few minutes late, and that he was to take care of his younger brother. She tried calling Paul too, but his phone was not even on.
She could just imagine the face of Coach Bryant. How many times had he informed the parents that end of training was end of training? There would be no one there to oversee the kids welfare. At the blast of the whistle, the coach's job was done.
At nine and ten, her boys were some of the youngest taking part in the training. Ruby had never let them down, not until today when some stupid surge of optimism had kept her hanging on.
As the car drew to a halt just inches from the vehicle in front's bumper, her phone began to beep. Was it Greg, or even Paul? She glanced at the caller display. Some number that she had never seen before. She quickly pressed 'dismiss', muttering under her breath as she did so. It would have been just her luck that one of them would have been trying to get through at that moment. Stupid cold-callers!
Ruby tried Paul's phone again. Still turned off. She had to wonder what the point in him having it was sometimes. She was about to key in Greg's number again when the phone started beeping again. That same number! She pressed 'dismiss' again, eased forward and frowned.
Someone was waving at her from the back of the vehicle. A guy she did not remember seeing before was opening and closing his mouth as though he was talking to her. What a fool! How could she possibly hear what he was saying, and Ruby had never learned to lip read.
Now he was holding up a piece of card, with writing on it. As she pulled on the handbrake yet again, she could make out the words: 'Answer your phone!' Was it him that was calling, someone in the vehicle with him? Why would she be answering to an unknown number at a stranger's say-so?
Again the vehicles moved off. The lights were in view now, she'd soon be out of the worst of it. Once she turned off the main road she would hopefully be able to make up for lost time, but even so she was going to be hopelessly late.
While she was stationary, Ruby's phone rang again. It was that same unknown number. She looked towards the man that had been holding the card up, and his head nodded encouragingly. She picked it up, accepted the call with a simple, 'Hello?' There was, she thought, no need in giving a stranger her name.
"Mrs Ross?" asked a voice.
Ruby shut her eyes. There had been an accident and she had not been there. "Yes, that's me?" she said. "Is there... "
"I'm just ringing to let you know that you won!"
Won? What was this strange person on about?
"Your ticket! You've won the jackpot, $10,000!"
Ruby could not believe it. Someone was having a joke at her expense, and yet there was the man, holding both thumbs up. Could it be true?
"I'm sorry, but are you sure?"
"Quite positive, Mrs Ross. The cash is here, waiting for you."
What was she going to do now? She was heading the other way, late to pick up the boys, and now she needed to head back. But $10,000! That would be enough for her to give it a go. Her own home bakery business. She could fund it now, if she could get there to pick the money up.
"It will take me a while to get back there," Ruby said, the excitement now evident in her voice. "Will you be there for long?"
There was a pause, some distant chatter. "We're just packing up. There will be someone here for the next hour. Will that be long enough?"
"I'll be there," Ruby said, and as she let the car crawl forward the light remained on green. She was on her way and nothing would stand in her way this time.
She hustled the boys quickly into the back of the car, turned back in to the traffic.
"Mom, where are you going?" Greg asked.
"Back to get my winnings. Say hello to the manager and chief chef of Ross's Bakery!"