Sleepers Unbound #2: Cigarettes and the Oklahoma Mega MillionsNov 22, 2016
Posted August 01, 2016 09:22 PM
I watched a woman win 250K today.
Her name’s Evelyn Baxter. She’s a tax professional and works downtown by the court house. I know because she charges me my return every season for her services. Most mornings before work I stop in at the corner station and buy a two dollar coffee, and every morning I add more and more cappuccino mix and less and less house blend. This morning it was somewhere around 60/40.
Evelyn was at the counter paying ten dollars for a modest tank of gas with a Hamilton—the rest for an Oklahoma Mega Millions scratch-card. The clerk handed Mrs. Baxter a handful of coin, and she walked out of the station looking painstakingly like the witch from Hocus Pocus (the Blondie, played by Sarah Jessica Parker). She walked out of the station and stood between her white Explorer and the meter, scratching quick and tight like she was tremolo picking at an electric guitar string.
I was transfixed. For the life of me, I can’t understand why. I just was. Sometimes a person just knows something important is about to happen. A sixth sense, or whatever you want to call it. And this morning, I just knew.
I think the clerk—a nineteen-year-old high school drop-out with two gaudy Japanese-style tattoo sleeves—noticed me staring and said something along the lines of, “Nobody ever wins.”
A radio behind the counter buzzed with static, interrupting two talk-show hosts as they bantered about baseball or hockey or fracking or something else entirely. I handed the girl my money and took a sip of coffee. She started to say something else about prices, but I drowned her out. Evelyn was leering around the parking lot like she had lost something. The meter dial wasn’t moving, and soon, neither was she. I waited there, at the check-out counter, knowing with absolute certainty that I would soon have to find a new tax professional.
Mrs. Baxter eventually sauntered back into the station as a light rain formed outside. She approached the counter, inches from where I was standing, and tripped over a 250K declaration.
“I just won.”
I think we’re all playing the lottery—but for most people, for people like me, it’s anything but a winner’s game. In fact, it’s more like getting the draft and tomorrow I’m shipping out on a big white bus. That’s what it feels like everyday for me. Only, Mrs. Baxter’s fortune has me wondering about your invitation. Your email said you would be watching. The question is who are you? Because I don’t believe for one second there’s two winning tickets within one-hundred square miles of here.
I think it’s pretty disgusting that you—whoever you are—would slander the great Miles Granger’s legacy the way you have. Nobody, not me or anybody else, can ever duplicate the quality of storytelling he has bestowed upon the literary community—no matter how adamantly we try to aspire to his heights. The Nicholas Sleeper novels are dead. Miles Granger is dead. Frankly, you’re lucky I haven’t gone to the police.
I spend ten hours a day sorting priority mail packages to go out for delivery in great haste. On average, a person spends close to thirty dollars to have their mail delivered overnight. Most of the time they seal their packages pretty well; tape covering all the edges; legible handwriting and delicate label placement. It’s my job to verify that all of this is up to par—at least according to postal standards. And like I said, most of the time people do exactly what they’re supposed to do. After all, they’re paying quite a bit extra to get it where it needs to be on such short notice. But it’s a resource we offer, and there’s plenty of people with next to no patience to keep the postal department going.
But every once in a while I get a package and nothing is right about it. The box is falling apart; the tape is twisted over itself; the handwriting is sloppy; and there’s no return address. It’s against regulation to send a damaged package out the door. I could lose my job, if I did. So I dead-letter it. Meaning I box it up according to procedure and ship it off to a mail recovery center in Atlanta, Georgia, where a postal inspector will open the package and seize anything of value inside to be auctioned off online. Sometimes that person will find a workable address or a name, but not usually. So they sell it, and the intended recipient never gets their package.
Call me a cynic, but I believe that’s what this is. Your email. It’s a bad package.
I went back into the station after work. I walked out with a pack of cigarettes (I haven’t smoked since I was seventeen and still stuffing my bras with toilet paper) and an Oklahoma Mega Millions just so I could throw it away.
Leave it alone.
© Elliott J. Scott 2016. All Rights Reserved.