Scratch-offs


By Dan Nielson

            Charlie Egan leaned against the screen door. “Rosemary, how long are you going to be doing those dishes, Rosemary?”
            “What’s it to you?” Rosemary said to a fork with egg on it. 
            “Rosemary, I’ve been waiting out here since before dark and it’s getting cold, Rosemary.”
            “Nobody asked you,” Rosemary said to a souvenir cup from the county fair.
            Using the backs of his hands as padding, Charlie pressed his forehead against the doorframe. His knees were sore from the ride up the hill. It was a ten-speed, but the shifter was broken.  
            In her mind, Rosemary O’Brien had a home of her own and a husband and babies. That should have been her life by now, but then her mom died, and when her dad got laid off he just lay down on the couch and pretty much stayed there. Right then he was in the living room watching The Big Bang Theory.
            “Rosemary, what are the odds of me seeing you tonight, Rosemary.”
            Rosemary squeezed out the rag and draped it over the faucet so it wouldn’t smell.      “About the same as you winning your money back on a scratch-off,” Rosemary, smiling, said.
            Charlie Egan got the hint. He leaped off the porch, hopped on his bike, and coasted down the hill to the Piggly Wiggly where he bought twenty dollars worth of scratch-offs.
            His knees were screaming by the time he made it back up the hill, but the screen door was unlocked, and Rosemary and her father, Big Bill, were seated at the kitchen table drinking beers. There was an extra beer in front of an empty chair. Charlie sat in it, twisted off the cap, and took a good swallow.
            Big Bill put out his hand and Charlie handed over the tickets. Big Bill was lucky with scratch-offs, that is, if you believe golfer Gary Player’s famous quote about how the more you practice the luckier you get. Big Bill had lots of practice with scratch-offs.
            The third ticket matched three footballs, which secured Charlie a date for that evening. Rosemary checked the newspaper for movie listings.
            There were seven tickets left. Big Bill continued to scratch. He got to the last one.
            “Holy Baby Jesus!” Big Bill said. “One more Cheesehead and we win the jackpot!”
            Rosemary put away the paper. “What’s the jackpot, Daddy?”
            “Twenty thousand smackeroonies, that’s all,” said Big Bill, who moved the ticket to the middle of the table so they could all stare at it awhile.
            “Rosemary,” Charlie said, “if it’s a Cheesehead I’m buying you an engagement ring, Rosemary.”
            “Fuck that,” Rosemary said. “If it’s a Cheesehead I’m marrying you tomorrow.”    
            It was a football. Which wasn’t all that bad because four Cheeseheads and a football meant two hundred dollars.
            Rosemary had her license so she drove Charlie in Big Bill’s car down the hill to the Piggly Wiggly to cash in the ticket. After the movie they went to a bar and then a motel. Charlie made sure he had enough money left over to buy a new bike.
 

Dan Nielsen’s work has appeared in such diverse places as Selected Poems of Post-Beat Poets, published in Chinese by Wengingbooks, and The Random House Treasury of Light Verse where he shares a page with William Carlos Williams. Recent publication credits include: Hobo Pancakes,” “Story Magazine,” “The Higgs Weldon,” “Rusted Truck,” “Cease Cows,” and Defenestration.” Dan has a blog with links and art: Preponderous.

Dan Nielsen-1.jpg