By Glenn R. Cameron
Michael Trivet lugged his portly frame back into the grocery store through the gloomy drizzle. His wife of twenty-two years was waiting in the ancient Monte Carlo in the parking lot. They had just loaded their groceries into the back seat and not the trunk because the trunk latch was, kind of funny.
When they got seated and ready to go home to their rather shabby townhouse style apartment Janie noticed that the three lottery tickets were still in the car’s cassette player slot. The cassette player hadn’t been able to play tapes for ages but the little springy door grabbed the occasional note, grocery list, and now, lottery tickets for safe keeping.
Janie was of the school of thought that taught, “Let’s check to see if we have any winners right away,” while Michael preferred to live in the fantasy that, “Until we check the tickets and find out for certain that we’re not millionaires, then we might be millionaires.”
“Janie was lovely she was the queen of my nights,” Michael hummed quietly to himself. “Was,” he confirmed to himself again as he moved forward in the line.
The counter lady chirped, “I can help whose next.”
Michael leaned on the counter and fanned the lotto tickets. “I’m sure at least one of these is worth millions,” he smiled at his own worn out joke. He was sure she had laughed at it before.
“You can scan them yourself at the next station,” she smiled helpfully and nodded to her left. “The scanner is new!”
Michael moved to his right and tried first one end then the other of one of his tickets under the scanner’s laser. Finally he saw, Not a Winner on the display when one of his tickets finally scanned successfully. “I’ll try not to take that personally,” he thought to himself.
The second ticket scanned and the display flashed, Loser. “Oh come on!” he muttered, “That’s rude!” The third ticket was more crumpled than the rest. It took him several tries before the display finally, grudgingly it seemed, proclaimed Michael a, Jackpot Winner.
Michael blinked. “How much did I win?” he mumbled quietly to himself. He had used these scanners at other stores but on the rare occasions he won anything the display said, $2.00 or $5.00, and one time, $20.00.
He scanned the ticket again. Jackpot Winner, it said. Jackpot? Really? He looked around. No one was paying him any attention. He furtively scanned the ticket a third time. Jackpot Winner.
Michael’s heart was racing now. He slowly made his way toward the store entrance, his ears were ringing slightly and he felt like he was walking through a tunnel. This must be what it feels like to faint he thought. This made him a bit panicky and he gripped the lotto tickets tighter, afraid he would pass out and let them drop to the floor.
He bumped into one of the Sensormatic security scanners that flanked the entranceway and reached out to steady himself. A mile away through his darkening vision but in reality right next to the security scanner was a courtesy scooter for handicapped shoppers. He sprawled over the large basket on the front of the scooter then managed to collapse into the seat.
He was hyperventilating at this point and he saw bright sparks in his nearly blacked out vision. I’m passing out, he thought, then he blacked out.
He regained consciousness almost immediately. He had slid out of the scooter’s seat and was now sitting on the floor and leaning against it.
A concerned store manager type of face was hovering close by. “Are you alright sir?” the face said. The name tag under the face read Carl and under that it proclaimed, Assistant Manager. On a ribbon pinned under the name tag proclaimed the store’s slogan, Our prices are out of this world!
Carl said again, “Are you alright sir? Are you hurt? Should I call an ambulance?” Carl looked genuinely concerned. Michael was touched.
Michael managed, “I’m okay.” He looked at his hands and saw that he had indeed dropped his tickets but to his great relief they had landed in his lap.
Carl reached out toward Michael who thought that he was reaching for the lotto tickets. Michael desperately grabbed the tickets and folded them with his arms protectively over his chest.
“Can I help you up sir?” asked Carl eagerly. His former concern now seemed more about how this looked to the other customers rather than how Michael was feeling. Michael pulled his feet toward his rump, heaved his torso forward, and offered an elbow to Carl who was pulling him to his feet.
Michael staggered slightly and sat down properly in the scooter again. “I just need a minute.”
Carl now seemed a bit impatient but kept his words courteous. “Is there anything I can do for you? Do you need some sugar or something?” he asked wondering if Michael was diabetic.
Michael shook his head. “I’ll be fine.” He looked through the front window of the store and between this week’s super sales he could see his old car and his “old lady.”
Carl now looked around at the other shoppers and seemed relieved that no one was paying them any mind. His tone returned to it’s former professional measure. “If you’ll follow me I would like to offer you some complementary store vouchers. If we can resolve this now and amicably I don’t think we need to get any lawyers involved.”
“What?” asked Michael distract by an emerging idea. “Lawyers?”
“Please,” said Carl, “I’m sure we can resolve any complaints you may have. You don’t seem to be hurt.”
Michael turned his head back to Carl and noticed that this assistant manager looked barely old enough to drink. “I promise you sir, our floors are normally very clean. We’ll get that water mopped up instantly.” He waved over one of the produce stockers.
“Rick, I need you to get this water mopped up right away,” Carl snapped. “Keep a better eye on things. This gentleman slipped and fell just now.”
“But,” said Michael.
“But,” said Rick.
“It’s okay sir. Rick will get it cleaned up,” said Carl. “I have a $50 store voucher over here at the courtesy desk. Please walk this way.”
“If I could walk that way…” quipped Michael.
“Hm?” asked Carl.
“Nothing. Old joke.”
“Ah, I see.”
“Actually,” said Michael, “can you point me to the back door?”
Carl blinked. “Pardon me sir?”
“The back door. Can I use it?” Michael asked. He could still see the car and Janie. She would be walking in at any minute wondering what was taking him so long. “I’d like to go out the back door if you don’t mind. I’m parked over at the next shopping plaza and don’t think I’m up to walking around this strip mall again.” Michael rubbed one hip with his hand.
Carl paled a bit and answered, “Yes of course sir. Let me get you that voucher.”
“No don’t worry about that. Give it to the next person who walks in. Really. I just want to go,” he almost said “home” but he realized at that moment he had no intention of going home again. “To a meeting I’m late for.”
Carl was nonplussed. “Yes sir, I’ll be happy to show you the way.” He started toward the back of the store. But first he instructed the bright and bubbly counter-girl April to give a $50.00 store voucher to the next person who entered the store.
April for her part didn’t even look surprised. “Sure Carl. Whatever you want.” Michael started to follow Carl and noticed that he didn’t see Janie in the car any more. He quickened his pace and overtook Carl. “Is it this way?” he asked.
Carl paused in his step but quickly caught up with Michael, “Yes sir. We’re going to turn right at the end of the aisle.”
At the end of the aisle they turned right and Michael relaxed a tad. He wasn’t in view of the courtesy desk any more so Janie wouldn’t be able to see him and follow him. Carl ushered him through the swinging rubber doors that led to the back rooms of the store.
They came to an exit and Michael virtually burst through into… sunshine. Was it sunny when he walked in? He thanked Carl and turned toward the neighboring shopping plaza. On the other side of that he knew was a bus station.
Carl returned to the front of the store and saw April giving a $50.00 store voucher to a mousy looking middle aged woman wearing a faded Bob Segar t-shirt. April cheerily said to the woman, “And this is our manager on duty who authorized this special prize today. Carl, this is Janie Trivet, our big winner today.”
Janie was fairly jumping for joy. “I can’t believe it. I never win anything. My husband will be thrilled!”