The Ticket, by Evelyn Krieger
There were only six numbers to check, but, just to be sure, Dolores put on her reading glasses. On the kitchen table, the newspaper was opened to the all-important page. Dolores lined up her ticket with the newspaper numbers, and compared them with such deliberation that one would have thought she was half-blind. Dolores read the numbers aloud, slowly, succinctly, like she did when calling for Bingo. “9…14…21…24…26…30.”
A warm sensation spread across the back of her neck. Dolores’s pulse quickened. She smacked her palms together and let out a scream that bounced off the kitchen walls and sent the parakeets careening in their cage.
“Yes! Yes! Yes!”
She cried, then laughed, and screamed once more. She jumped up from the chair and did a quick cha-cha. She For years she had fantasized of this moment. Week after week. Ticket after ticket. Now, her prayers had been answered. Dolores Marion Cheswick held between her trembling fingers, a paper ticket worth 2.5 million dollars.
It was 7:30 on a Saturday morning. In just a few minutes, her husband Ed would return from walking his dog, his damn dog, as Dolores referred to it. She stared at the ticket, her mind buzzing with possible hiding places. Come Monday morning, she would have to get a safety deposit box, but in the meantime, Dolores feared the ticket would get crumpled or ripped or wet, or…lost! Her heart quickened. Where to stash it now? Certainly not her purse. Dresser drawers were too risky. Dolores stood up, her legs shaking, and looked out the window. Her husband was standing across the street waiting for the dog to do its business. Rotten Rottweiler.
Dolores rushed down the hallway and into the living room. She eyed the wall-to-ceiling bookshelf bursting with musty books of every sort and stacks of old magazines that Ed refused to throw out. For years she had asked him to get rid of his clutter, the antiques chairs he never got around to fixing, the newspapers piles, the collection of beer bottles, fishing rods, rusty tools, wood pieces, milk crates. Dolores smiled when she saw her book, Your Money or Your Life, on the bottom shelf, mixed in with Ed’s back issues of Smithsonian and obsolete travel guides. The book title seemed so perfect that Dolores thought it might be a sign from God. Dolores removed the book, opened its cover, and placed the ticket inside.
The chimes rang on the back door. Dolores tucked the book in the shelf, then dashed down the hall and locked herself in the bathroom. She heard Riley barking. Damn dog. Dolores knew she wasn’t in any shape to face Ed. How in the world could she act normal again?
In the refuge of the shower, Dolores let those numbers dance in her head. She smiled as the water ran down her face. Freedom! She’d quit her stinking job and finally get out of Hillsdale. See the Grand Canyon, Fiji, Paris, Vienna. She’d spend time with her sister in Rio. Hook up with her old friend Carolyn in Palm Beach. Maybe meet a man who knew how to have a good time. Of course, first she would have to get Ed out of the picture.
He sat just where she knew he’d be, in his brown leather recliner, with the TV remote in hand, and loyal Riley curled at his feet. Dolores poked her towel-wrapped head into the family room.
Riley barked. Ed looked up from the TV. “Hey, did you hear the big news?”
“Shop and Save sold the winning megabucks ticket. Two and a half million. One winner!”
Dolores’s knees weakened.
“Can you believe it?” Ed shook his head. “This’ll put Hillsdale on the map. For fifteen minutes at least.”
The air in the room seemed to change. Dolores swallowed. “Too bad I didn’t buy a ticket.” Her voice seemed to come from someplace else.
“Yeah, you and everybody’s uncle.” Ed switched the channel. “Miles told me this morning. I just got it on the news here.”
Dolores felt a metallic taste in her mouth. She looked at the talking heads on the television. “Imagine that.”
“Well, Frank O’Malley is doing a jig this morning. Balloons flying outside his store.”
The Shop and Save! Dolores hadn’t even thought about where she’d gotten the ticket. For years she bought in Ashland, or at the Mobil Station, or over in Southfield, playing whatever numbers popped into her head. Now her head felt like it would burst. She took a deep breath.
“They say who won?” she asked.
“No word yet,” Ed replied, reaching down to stroke Riley. “That lucky, son-of-a-bitch is probably drinking champagne.”
That night Dolores waited for her husband to fall asleep before slipping into bed. She had, again, rechecked the numbers on her ticket, this time placing it in a small, white envelope and back inside the book. Her body felt relaxed after a glass of wine. While Ed snored, Dolores plotted. She wasn’t about the share her win fall with him. Ed made a decent income and had a good retirement fund. Now she would not have to depend on him anymore. For years Dolores felt deprived of affection and the pursuit of her dreams. She thought of all the years she devoted to raising their three sons, who turned out spoiled rotten anyway. She’d given up a college degree and travel dreams to do what she thought she was supposed to do. What had happed to that young woman who wanted to climb mountains and learn five languages?
Dolores thought of the bags of junk Ed had brought home that afternoon from the flea markets. More “rare” books that would prove to be worth little. Dolores had always lived by the principle of “one new thing in, one old thing out.” She had begged her husband to stop going to estate sales. Once, Dolores hired a Feng Shui consultant, hoping he would inspire Ed to get rid of the suffocating collection of junk that had invaded every space of their home.
After her years of quiet desperation and self-sacrifice, Dolores felt the lottery money was rightfully hers. According to the rules, she had a year to claim her ticket. She would tell no one, and just wait until the buzz died down before coming forward. It was useless trying to sleep, so Dolores planned the next move in her master plan.
They sat on the sun porch eating breakfast. Dolores picked at her food while Ed read the Sunday paper. She waited until he had finished his bacon and eggs.
“Ed, I need to talk to you.”
He wiped his mouth with a napkin. “Yeah?”
She looked into her husband’s tired gray eyes. “Ed, I’m not happy. And I don’t think you are either. I mean, about us, together—“
“Oh, Dolores, come on. Not this again.”
She put her hand up. “Please Ed, listen. I can’t go on like this anymore. We’ve tried and we just stay in the same rut. We have nothing in common. We’re roommates, Ed. I’m suffocating. I need my own space right now.”
Ed stared out into the backyard.
“I’m not asking anything from you,” Dolores continued. “You can even keep the house.” She felt her face redden. The irony was delicious.
Ed’s voice cracked. “You want to throw away thirty-years?”
“No, Ed. I don’t. I want to get back some of those years. For myself.”
She spent the rest of the day in the city, alone, giving Ed time to think things over. Meanwhile, Dolores treated herself to a pedicure, bought a pair of ninety dollar pink sandals (on her charge card), and sat in the shade by the riverside sipping an iced coffee, imagining every detail of her new life.
At half-past eight that evening, Dolores pulled into the driveway. The hatchback of Ed’s truck was open. Bags and crates full of stuff were piled inside. Go ahead, Dolores thought. Bury yourself in this house of junk. Riley barked at the front door. Dolores pushed the annoying dog aside.
Ed was standing at the kitchen sink, gulping a glass of water. Sweat dripped from his face. She noticed his dirty hands.
“I’ve been making space for you, Dolores.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’ve made five trips to the dump.” He swung his arm out wide. “Take a look! Upstairs, downstairs, the garage. It’s all yours, baby!”
Dolores felt a tingling in her legs. She pushed herself down the hallway and into the living room. She clutched her chest. The shelves were almost empty. “Oh, my God!” One by one, she pulled the remaining books off the shelves. Where was it? She fell to her knees, amidst the pile of books, and stared at the empty bottom shelf.
Ed appeared at the doorway. “I can change, Dolores.” His voice cracked.” Please. Please, don’t leave me.”
“My books!” she cried.
“Now you’ve got plenty of room! Okay?”
“You idiot! Give me my books back!”
“What the hell is wrong with you, Dolores?”
“Where are they? I need my books!”
“They were mine,” Ed yelled. And you bitched about them for years—“
“No! Bring my books–“
“I dumped them, Dolores! Just like you always wanted.”
The silent scream she had muffled so many years rose to the surface.
As if her hand had a mind of its own, she grabbed a glass paperweight off the shelf and hurled it smack into Ed’s left temple. He cried out, then dropped to the floor. In the silence that followed, Dolores heard her heart thumping, and then, the menacing sound of Riley’s growl.
Evelyn Krieger is a job juggler. She has worked as a ballet instructor, first grade teacher, middle school English teacher, learning specialist, freelance writer, homeschooling mom, and educational consultant. Her YA novel, One Is Not A Lonely Number, was named an honor book from the Association of Jewish Libraries. She considers herself a recovering perfectionist. Evelyn blogs on the Three Ps: Perfectionism, Productivity, and Parenthood at EvelynKrieger.net
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Tags: dysfunctional, Evelyn Krieger, luck, relationships