“I only have to make it through the news”, she thought. “I just have to stomach the news.”
The lottery numbers were always announced just before the weather segment. Usually, she could time it out and avoid hearing about the bullshit in the world. Why watch it, she would say, when she lived it.
But not tonight. This night she felt the need to be present….to see the numbers as they were announced.
She put her empty beer bottle down on a cluttered table, it was now one of five amidst a pile of final notices, junk mail and pill bottles; medication for a kind of pain nothing could quell.
The news intro ran and for the next 30 minutes, four beautiful people would give you the ugliest news of the day, all with a smile.
The lead story—–A suicide bombing somewhere the Middle East killed 26 people, including five children.
” I lost my boy eight years ago”, she said out loud. “Cancer killed my Paulie and it took four years to do it. Those kids were lucky.”
She sniffed and wiped her nose on her sleeve.
The balding man with the booming voice—–Jim somebody who’d been preaching from that six figure, televised pulpit for 17 years now, announced how drone strikes leveled a neighborhood in Syria. She lived in a bombed out neighborhood in Detroit. What was the difference between a drone strike and all the GM plants closing down?
A car dealership commercial.
A second spot for pest control as she watched rosch make its way across her coffee table.
Now it was the blond’s turn to speak. She was perfect, thin, coiffed hsir. She’ could keep her composure in a tornado. Words about joblessness spewed forth from her young lips.
“That’s news???”, she asked. I haven’t had a job for four years.
There was a six car pile up on the interstate. Traffic was backed for hours, she didn’t care. Her car had been repossessed years ago. She rarely ever had enough money for bus fare and when she did have a spare buck or two, that went to buy beer, cigarettes and those precious slips of paper on lottery nights.
She insisted the beer was vital, a part of her viewing ritual.
The cigarettes? Everything looked better through a smoky haze.
There was a story about a re-election bid for a politician. Why vote? Her alderman abandoned her neighborhood. Years ago. The governor was as useless.
There was a shooting at a mall. She heard gunfire all the time.
A four alarm fire in a furniture store. In her her neighborhood, arson gave the kids something to do.
The blond then announced the night’s winning lotto numbers would be announced “after this”.
Commercial. Commercial. Twenty second network promo.
And then the moment she had waited for. She lit up a cigarette and grabbed the last beer in the six pack.
6 21 34 43 49 51
She took a long drag from her cigarette. She double checked her ticket. Those were her numbers. Her numbers. The ones she always played.
Her age when Paulie was born
The age her son was when he died.
The day and month of an anniversary of a marriage that had had also died a long time ago.
The number of her first apartment.
The age she was the last time in life when she was really, truly happy.
She’d won a million dollars.
She looked around her dirty, cramped apartment. One window covered in foil. A filthy kitchenette with a small refrigerator that housed her beer. A counter and two burners that were as cluttered as her table.
What could a million dollars do, she thought. What could it have done? Could it bring back Paulie? Could it have helped her breathe life into a loveless marriage and kept Jim from walking out on her? Would it have healed the broken relationship with her only sister? Would it have prevented her mother from dying of dementia?
Would a million dollars have made a difference? When did it ever make a difference?
She stood up and took a swig of her beeer and caught a glimpse of herself in a mirror. Her face was weathered and, she’d aged well beyond her years. She’d won a million dollars, but it only meant she’d have money to solve the unsolvable. Why bother?
She fell back into in her chair at clicked off the TV. There was nothing left to watch.
“No winning ticket again, tonight”, she chuckled.
She placed the slip of paper in a box under her chair. In it, along with a lock of her only child’s hair, a bridal photograph of a woman she no longer recognized, a well worn magazine that had a spread featuring her as one of city’s first female CEOs, a diamond wedding band, there were two other lottery tickets, each one from other “winless” nights.