Four | Winner | Eryk Pruitt

Scoop Cover

 
 
 

Miles walked into his door and, without taking off his coat, headed straight for the kitchen table.  The paper was still there, waiting for him.  He stopped throwing them away three days ago because he feared losing something important.  The thought now seemed somewhat… comfortable.

Miles opened the paper to the Metro section.  He knew it would be there.  Although it was Wednesday, the Thursday paper always had it.  He turned to page two, where it always rested, at the lower left hand corner of the paper.  He did this carefully and slowly, as if to rip the paper would break the spell.  Gone was the panic.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  He knew it would be there.

And it was.

In black and white, right buddy old pal?

The numbers looked up at him, unbiased.  After all, it was in the paper.  He looked back down at them with a half-smile, his eyes listless.  He expected the numbers to be there.  Every Thursday, when he got to the office, they had been there, so why, on a Wednesday, with his

(evil)

newspaper that told the truth a day early, should they not be?

The numbers gazed up at him and him back down at them.

4, 11, 16, 24, 30, 41

they said, without rhyme or reason, and Miles of course, took them as fact.

Just above them, next to a claimer stating EST. TEXAS LOTTERY JACKPOT was a small, boldfaced, sentence reading:

12 MILLION DOLLARS

and once again, one day early, Miles took it as fact.  He looked carefully across the small column at the reading that boasted

1 WINNER

across from the six matching numbers column.  Miles grinned assuredly.

That’s one thing the paper got wrong.  Tomorrow, there will be two winners.  One will be this anonymous winner, who will be in my tomorrow’s paper and the rest of the world’s Friday, and the other will be me, Miles Del Riccio, the man who will share a 12 million dollar jackpot in the Texas State Lottery.

Once he committed the numbers  to memory, Miles closed the Metro section and set it carefully to the side of the table.  He threw the rest of the paper into his plastic trash can next to his sink and decided to walk, rather than drive, to the Vickers Food and Grocery, where he normally bought his Lotto tickets.

*

Miles thought it funny that he had to think twice about watching as the Lottery Commission called the numbers that night.  He knew he would be one of the winners, but the joy of watching your numbers being called on national television only happens once in an extremely lucky lifetime, so he forced himself to watch it.

Already, he knew the results.

There was no feeling of apprehension as the announcer called out 41 as the first number.  A twinge maybe, as the white ball marked 16 fell out of the plastic container.  For just a split second, a funny, almost incomprehensible thought fell upon him.

What if the paper was wrong?  It said there would be one winner, but now there will be two.  What if the numbers will be wrong as well?

But he felt assured the paper would not be wrong.  It never is, and never will be.  Oh, misprints happen from time to time, but never on something so important as the Texas Lottery.  Millions of Texans relied on that page to tell them if they had to go to work that day, and the paper would never, ever allow a misprint in that tiny column of the Metro section.

The announcer called out the remaining numbers: 30, 4, 11, and 24.  Miles didn’t need to check his ticket, but he did anyway.  The numbers were all there.  The trip to Vickers had been anticlimactic, just like this moment.  Miles knew when he walked out of the convenience store that he would never have to work again.  But he checked the ticket a second time, just as he assumed anyone would.

I just earned half the rights to 12 million smackers.  The other sucker and I are millionaires.

A funny thought occurred to Miles.  It was a thought usually reserved for a character in a bad horror novel, but that evening, it fell on Miles’ troubled mind.  He stood and quickly walked to the paper, which still sat on his table.

1 WINNER

it said.  Miles half-expected it to change miraculously as the numbers were called out, or maybe even while he filled out the orange play slip in the line at Vickers.  But the paper hadn’t changed at all.  It just gazed up at him and said

1 WINNER

“I beat it,” he said.  A smile tore a crease into his face.  “I beat the paper.”

Miles found out the truth ten minutes later after he set down the telephone.

 *

He didn’t know why he made the call.  After all, the paper was sitting in front of him, and he read it for what seemed to be the twentieth time that day.  But, just as he forced himself to watch the telecast, just as he forced himself to check the ticket, he forced himself to make the call to the Texas Lottery Commission.

He asked the question, and the nasal-sounding woman on the other end of the telephone answered it.  His gasp in surprise was not forced, faked, or even planned.  It was genuine.

“How many winners?” he coughed.

“One,” she repeated.  “One winner.  Congratulations sir, if you’ll…”

Her voice faded in his mind.  He looked over the lottery ticket, then again at the paper.  He had won, he knew that and accepted it.  He had won the lottery.

But no one else had that evening.

The paper gazed up at him innocently, saying nothing but

1 WINNER

and he knew who that was.

How?  How?  Please tell me how?

His mind was filled with thoughts that wouldn’t subside.  Nothing seemed to make sense.  He stumbled in a stupor into his kitchen and reached into the cabinet below the sink where he hid the hard stuff.  He sloppily slammed two shots of Chivas, a drink he usually found to be friendly.  Once he was satisfied with his thoughts and convinced of their clarity, he sat down on his sofa.  He pulled the Metro section over to him and glared at it.

Impossible.

He thought about a third shot, but dismissed it.  He desperately needed to think, although it was the last thing in the world that he wanted to do.

Impossible.  How in the world did it know?  The paper had no idea that I was going to choose those numbers.  What if, buddy old pal, I had not done it?  What if I didn’t think of winning the lottery until Saturday, or next week?  

Miles groaned and closed his eyes.

Then it would have read “no winners,” right?  That’s how it works.  And if I had been hit by a car on the way to Vickers, then I would have been in the Obituary section just like

(stan)

every other stiff that died, right?  But as fate had it, I won the lottery and the paper knew I would.  How, though?  How could it possibly know?

Miles opened his eyes and stared up at the ceiling fan.

Maybe it is evil.

 

 
 
 

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