by Rick H
Sometimes a lucky break ain't so lucky.
The Lottery Ticket
Word Count: 1976
Jerry stopped to gas up after another double shift at the factory. He was smiling to himself as he filled the tank, thinking of the woman waiting at home for him. He spent his last dollars on a billion-plus lottery, set for tomorrow night along with a rose from a countertop vase. Oh, the things he could do for her and their soon-to-be newest member of the family, aah, if only, he wished. They would be so happy. Life would be beyond awesome he thought as he pulled into the parking lot of their tiny apartment.
He smiled thinking of the magazine in the break room at work. It showed pictures of a vintage hundred-foot yacht some big country singer owed. Man, it was beautiful! All wood and old school craftsmanship, etched glass, polished brass, engraved wooden panels, stain glass, it's shame they don't build stuff like that anymore Jerry thought. It was simple elegance at its finest. Of course, he'd have to hire a professional to decorate and furnish it and make it his own special haven. Yep, a guy could pretty much do as he pleased and have what he wanted with a billion dollars. Life would be wonderful with a billion dollars Jerry mused.
As he turned the knob to the apartment, he immediately knew something was wrong. Emma was on the couch, arms wrapped around herself, silently sobbing. He left his keys in the door and ran to her. Kneeling before her, he gently pulled her to his chest. He didn't say a word, he just held her. Poor Emma, happy one moment, upset and in tears in the next. Emma became more emotionally unstable as her pregnancy began to come to term.
After long minutes she calmed. Emma smiled like she did when she did some small silly thing and embarrassed herself. Jerry just smiled back and held her lightly. With her cheek on his chest, she stroked his back as she told him she was being laid off from her bookkeeping job. Everyone at the interior furnishing store was going to be. The owners decided to retire and sell the property. She cried telling him how sorry she was. Jerry knew how bad she felt. Ever the optimist Jerry stated, despite the new financial adjustments it would all work out. She only had another few weeks before the baby was due, so she really didn't need to worry about a thing Jerry consoled. They hadn't planned to keep her working after the baby was born for the first year or so anyway. Jerry had stated he wanted their son off to a good start in life with a loving, attentive, mother. Things would work out, they always did.
Emma said I love you as she closed her eyes. Jerry eased her back into the corner of the couch. He got up retrieved the keys, then returned and took off his boots. He gently put his arm around Emma. The sudden weight of five double shifts hammered him deeply into the cushions. Napping away the stress of the world, both with a smile upon their lips.
The next day everything changed. Just not for the better as they both hoped, although it hardly showed then. Jerry's last two dollars had multiplied themselves hundreds of millions of times over. Jerry had indeed won the lottery.
Something selfishly independent subtly emerged within them shortly after that day. Jerry knew this to be true though he couldn't put his finger on it.
Little three-year-old Frank or Francoise` as Emma insisted he be called, cried bringing him out of his thoughts. The latest nanny silently retrieved Frank out of the front seat of Jerry's pickup truck. Her eyes carefully avoiding the half-empty bottle of Scotch on the floorboard. Poor Frank, Jerry thought as the child was whisked through the portico and into the pretentious house Jerry always despised.
Jerry snickered and shook his head thinking how ironic Emma, now the newly crowned Queen of Flakes and Snobs, once lived contently in a tiny one-bedroom apartment way back when. He remembered a sweeter, happier person at the time. Jerry took a pull off his bottle as he waited at the iron gates for security to release him back into the world.
Jerry pictured Emma, her two assistants with a nanny in tow as they marched into the lawyers' office. He was bewildered by how Emma had grown so cold, selfish, and angry toward him. He only knew the woman absolutely hated him with all that was within her.
Sure, he became as busy, or truthfully busier, then when he had worked doubles at the factory, but a half a billion will do that to a guy, Jerry justified. There were the lawyers, accountants, financial planners, developers to deal with, not to mention security details to be assigned and arranged. Besides, he thought to himself, she had the baby, certainly no reason he shouldn't have some fun, especially after working so hard for months since she got pregnant. Why shouldn't he play now? Now that he could finally afford to. Anyway, they had had some good times on the boat early on so she shouldn't complain. He didn't tell her how to live or what to do. No, he just paid for it all he grumbled.
Jerry managed to buy the country singer's yacht, paying nearly three times its appraised value. He decided to get it without having a word of discussion with Emma, it was their first big lottery purchase. It was also their very first ugly argument. Jerry managed to appease the situation by suggesting they buy Emma her old interior design store and let her run it. Her first big job would be furnishing his new yacht. The only problem with the whole idea, as Jerry saw it now, was the fact Emma had no sense of taste, style, or decor. To her, if an item costs a lot of money it had to be classy, regardless of how gaudy, garish, or ridiculous it appeared.
The second problem was although somewhat sensitive and hurt by criticism before, Emma had suddenly become intolerant of instruction or suggestions. She consistently took these as a personal attack. She became insistent and controlling. So much so, within a few months, all her old-world friends at the store either quit or were fired.
His dream of having a peaceful time on a classic yacht, quickly became an explosive battlefield of ugly words and an eclectic disjointed entertainment hub. A party place for scores of people he didn't know at all and care for even less. Everything between them became a battle of wills. Leaving him feeling an unwelcome outsider on his own boat.
Jerry seldom drank in his old life but could now knock back a fifth or more a night and still remain standing. After one of these nights, Jerry with bloodshot eyes and slurred words spoke his mind in true blue-collar fashion. Jerry loudly evicted all of these fashionable guests off his boat. Emma was outraged. Ordering nanny number five to go gather the baby and his things. Citing she won't stand of that type of behavior in front of a child. The child had been far forward below with his fifth nanny and well out of range to the blaring music and Jerry's graphic impassioned opinions of these strangers.
Emma the never-concerned mom, stormed off with her friends, calling the nanny to hurry along with the child. Jerry's outspoken opinions of Emma's nurturing techniques sealed his fate in court. It may have cost him close to everything he owned except a couple million and his old truck, but at least he got to see his son twice a year for a few days. He was not sure he could stay sober for that long these days.
Jerry remembered waking up from his third or was it his fourth DUI, handcuffed to a hospital bed. A detective coldly informing him he was under arrest and Emma was dead. He was also a suspect until the investigation proved otherwise. Apparently, after his drunken rage of smashing his truck through the iron gates of her home and slamming into a tree, according to reports, Emma ordered everyone at the party to just go back inside and just leave him in there. She couldn't be bothered to deal with him while she had guests. She would call in the morning and have him hauled off with the trash. According to the police report, she continued to party through the evening taking something to calm her down from, according to witnesses, "The intense anxiety, emotional pain and heartbreaking experiences her love for that man causes her." She reportedly had complained. The detective raised an eyebrow quipping, "Quite a flair for the dramatic that one".
The people she entertained at the residence continued to party. No one bothered checking on her absence. The police were finally called when the household staff arrived, finding Jerry upside and wedged in his truck against a tree with two broken legs. Emma was found blue and stiff on the couch in her master suite where it appears, she had been for at least eight hours. Twelve other people were found passed out throughout the residence. Various amounts of cocaine and other illicit substances were also found within the residence and on the victim's person. As he heard the news and realized all the implications, Jerry felt himself fading from the hospital room.
Jerry awoke with a start. Unsure of where or even who he was. Barely focusing, he found himself staring into the kindest, most caring green eyes he'd ever seen. Emma with a quizzical look laughed, saying he looked like he'd never seen her before. Smiling she handed him a beer, "A reward for my hard-working man.", she said, then asked if he was sure he was okay. Jerry just stared at her stupidly, nodding slowly, a confused expression still on his face.
Emma called out from the kitchen, "Dinner in fifteen, and thank you for the rose Sweetheart! Now go wash your hands, young man. I made your favorite. Chile Mac!" She continued with the news updates of the lottery being up over a billion dollars. Did he think they should buy a ticket and take a chance? And wouldn't it be terrific if they won? Prattling on and on about having a huge house with big iron gates. They'd have big trees down the center of a long driveway ending in a circle under one of those covered entrances with columns. "What were they called, Honey?" Emma asked. "A portico", Jerry mumbled. "Life would be fun and worry-free. Life would one long party, wouldn't it, Babe?", She said this as he stood up. Jerry eyed his untouched beer like he was holding a rattlesnake.
In his mind's eye, he saw everything they shared together during the last six years in an instant as he walked toward the bathroom. Their struggles, their triumphs, their poverty-induced romantic candle-lit dinners of macaroni and cheese with a can of chili thrown in to make it special. He remembered their laughter as they playfully pretended to be sitting in an exclusive Parisian restaurant with all those fancy people. Back in a time when all they really owned were a couple of TV trays and an old beat-up couch no one else would have. All this overwhelmed him. Jerry reached into his wallet. With a sigh of relief, he poured his beer slowly into the toilet and watched the now crumpled lottery ticket swirl down the drain.
Coming up behind Emma he placed his cheek on her shoulder and his hands around her swollen belly. She leaned back into him, asked, "Well? Should we get one?" She found his answer a bit curious as he softly kissed her neck and whispered, "It's a very thin line between dreams and nightmares, Sweetheart, and some things are not worth taking a chance on."