Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. But most times you gotta be careful what you ask for because you just might get it. Lenore smoked heavily which ate deep into the family grocery budget. Chester couldn’t complain sporting a fairly expensive habit himself. Bourbon was Chester’s poison of choice. The cheaper the better, quantity goes in before the quality goes on. No top shelf for Chester and he’d slid from the middle to the bottom shelf long ago. He never knew what the top shelf looked like.
When people change for the worse following the path of absolutely no resistance and they’re unable to even recognize each other in the mirror when standing side by side, well it’s safe to say all hope is lost for the American pipe dream of a better life. If the old saying, if you work hard you’ll be a success had any truth to it then ditch diggers would be millionaires.
They didn’t believe in hard work so there was no threat of becoming rich but she liked playing the lottery.
Chester and Lenore were far from millionaires. Generally those types don’t live in a 1958 ten by forty foot house on dry rotted tires in the Cozy Bear trailer park. They did have a Cadillac though. It was a 1974 Deville that miraculously still ran on five of the eight cylinders. The cracked windshield matched the cracked tail light lenses on both sides. Chester kept a drawer full of 1157 or 1034 bulbs since every time it rained at least one if not both tail lights burned out. He was a handyman and could perform outright miracles with duct tape and a roll of bailing wire. The heat stayed on in the winter time and the fan kept turning and oscillating back and forth in the summertime.
“What more could you ask for,” he always said.
The train tracks ran a long rusty parallel next to their humble abode but the engine whistle used to blow every afternoon at 4:15 PM like clockwork. Lenore now yells out the kitchen window at Chester every time he goes to the store with the precision of the train conductors pocket watch, “Get my cigarettes and don’t forget my lottery numbers.”
“Yea, yea,yea.” Chester would say climbing into his cancer infested chariot and setting a course for the convenience store. He felt he was a lucky man because the convenience store was strategically located across the street from the liquor store. His bourbon and her cigarettes and maybe a box of ho-ho’s, that’s the normal stop. It usually made her happy. Upon his hero’s return he’d hear her say, “A minute on the lips and a year on the hips.” Or something to that effect. On one such occasions after cashing out he had a little over three dollars and some change so he doubled back around and grabbed a bag of ruffles. The original kind, no baked or healthy ones. He just heard that song on the radio in the car, “I’m not afraid of dying, why should I be?” Chester wasn’t afraid of dying, that ship slipped out of the harbor long ago.
Lenore was a very superstitious woman. She didn’t like or trust black cats, she wouldn’t step on a crack on the sidewalk and if there was an open ladder, she would cross the street. It became an obsession with her and it drove Chester nuts, though he learned how to defuse the situation by just not giving a shit. Anytime he did or said something to piss her off concerning her superstitions he would grab the bottle and pour a healthy amount of whiskey and in no time the squeaking of her nagging voice would melt away and sound like the adults in Charlie Browns peanuts show. Wa-wa-wa.
She picked her lottery numbers based on the way the sun set or the moon rose or the amount of rain or some other equally stupid way of looking at things. But Chester knew she was dead serious when it came to her beloved lottery numbers. He knew that if he ever made a mistake he should either keep on driving past the entrance to the Cozy Bear trailer park or keep one eye open at night like the Vietnam vets reportedly did to keep the little kids from sneaking in and blowing them up at night.
As with most people along with age comes a degraded eyesight. Chester was no exception. Years of watching television a little closer than he should took a toll on his peepers. He could still see fairly well at a distance but his arm would only stretch so far to put things back in focus.
The stop at the liquor store went smooth and cradling the brown paper bag in his arms like a newborn he dug into his pocket for the caddie keys. He didn’t hear the light tinkle as the reading glasses fell out of his pocket and landed in the direct path of the rear bald tire. His five good cylinders roared to life and out through the parking lot he went.
He maneuvered across the street to the two handicap spots that were open, and swung her in like a seasoned veteran boat captain. “I’ll only be in here for a second,” he said to no one as he got out of the car. He couldn’t walk the extra three steps from the parking spot next to the second handicap slot. He never really considered that.
“Two packs of the cheap ones, will ya?” He said.
This time Lenore scribbled the numbers on a half of a torn envelope but still yelled out the kitchen window. Just like the train.
“Got the cigarettes, now the lottery.” He said talking to himself.
Reaching for his reading glasses he came up with nothing. Checked the other pocket and began looking around on the floor. Nowhere to be found. Holding the torn piece of paper he could see the numbers 7-23-46-51-67 and 5. He looked back at the young blonde behind the cash register and then down at the lottery slip. With no glasses the tiny numbers in the tiny boxes were to small to see. Looking back at the blonde, he counted the numbers and darkened in the 7. Counted over till he got to 23 and darkened that in. Looked back at the blonde once again and she smiled at him. Counted over to where he thought the 46 was and darkened it in.
For a second he considered it and thought he might have a chance with this blonde cashier. “In your dreams.” He heard his conscience whisper in his one good ear. He looked back down and tried to count to the 51 box and darkened it. He looked up once more and winked at her and darkened in the last box, thinking hopefully that is a 67. Then counted over 5 boxes and marked it. He went slinking up to the cashier and was surprised when the manager, an older woman took his lottery slip and gave him his ticket and said, “good luck honey, I hope you win.”
Lenore blew a gasket and almost punched Chester’s lights out when he handed her the ticket, then a horrible scowl formed on her face.
You missed two numbers you lame brained good for nothing piece of crap. I said 7-23-46-51 and 67.” She screamed.
Chester didn’t say anything, he just headed over toward the cupboard for a glass. He was pouring when she shook the ticket in his face and said, “53 and 68, you got the wrong numbers you nimrod.”
Nothing more was said. Chester proceeded to drink himself to sleep and Lenore buried herself in the book she was currently reading.
She threw the ticket on the TV and went into the bedroom after she was sure he had passed out from the half bottle of bourbon sitting on the table.
He probably dreamed he was suffocating with his face buried in between two huge breasts when he stopped breathing. Lenore straddled across his chest with the pillow grasped in both hands.
She slowly spoke between clenched teeth, “this is the last time you’ll get the numbers wrong dearie.”
Detective jones arrived shortly after the 911 call. She made it herself after a moment of clarity hit her like a freight train. After the cleanup, he was the last one to leave but as he passed the TV, he noticed a lottery ticket and stuffed it in his shirt pocket.
Three days later, Lenore was in lockdown, Chester was laid out at the morgue and Detective Jones was sitting in front of his TV in his underwear with his glass of bourbon, his cigar and the lottery ticket.
The balls began to roll. First was a 7 then a 23 and then a 46, he held his breath, a 53. The last to roll down was 68. He waited for the final number and said, “come on mama, daddy needs a new set of clubs.”
The ball rolled to a stop and it was his lucky number 5.
23 million 7 hundred thousand and some change.
He heard a small voice say, “careful what you ask for, you just might get it.”