Janice scraped off the metallic ink with her lucky nickel, revealing each number, one by one. The usual feeling of anticipation, the bottled up joy, bubbling in her heart, was waiting to pop as the numbers were exposed. She rubbed at each square, brushing the tiny curls of silver and black off the card, never looking directly at the numbers until they were all clear. Every bit of the blind had to be neatly removed before she peeked. She wasn’t like some other lottery gamblers, who would take a few swipes just to see what was there, with no respect or regard for the beauty of the object. The ticket was almost clean now, this would be a winner, she was sure. Then, with a shallow breath, she looked at the numbers.
Nothing. Another losing ticket. She sighed and put it in the pocket of her jeans. She kept them all, the losers, to remind her of her efforts. Someday she'd take them, the instant scratch-off's, the Power Balls, the Mega Millions, the daily Numbers, and burn them in a bonfire of celebration, when she won big. She smiled at that thought and picked up the iron to finish the week’s worth of shirts she was pressing for her husband, Bob. Smoothing out the white cotton, folding the collars just right, making sure the shoulders didn’t catch any wrinkles, she worked carefully. She tried to find some satisfaction in doing the shirts each week and she sometimes found it in the artistry of perfection. Although, let’s face it, she thought as she turned the collar down, it usually just felt like punishment. They ironed in prison too, didn’t they? She stopped for a moment to ponder that image. Suddenly she felt a tug at the shirt and the ironing board almost tipped over.
“What the heck?” she muttered. It was the cat, Jazzman. He had been pawing at the sleeve of the shirt and caught his nails in the cloth. Janice held the ironing board steady with one hand and untangled the cat with the other. He was always getting into something.
“Shoo, you silly cat.” She said gently. It had been her idea to get the cat when their three boys were young. She wanted a pet and thought she would counter the masculine/feminine balance in the house by getting a female cat. A kindred soul she could feel was on her side. They picked a cute kitten at the animal shelter and were told it was a female. They even named it Jasmine as they played with it there. The boys fell for the gray striped tabby immediately. But then as they filled out the paperwork, another worker told them it was a male. The boys wouldn’t choose another, they already had their hearts set on him. So they brought him home, changing his name to Jazzman.
Janice sighed as she remembered. Her attempt had been futile. It was times like that when she felt there was no point in trying to influence her destiny. Let it come as it may.
It must’ve been about that time when she started to play the lottery, she thought as she worked on the last shirt. If destiny was that strong, then she would play the game. Buying her tickets had become such a part of her routine, she hardly remembered how it started. But that was then and this is today. Just another day in the long line of analogous days that made up her life.
But no, today is Tuesday, she thought and Tuesday is special. Tuesday is the day the Mega Millions number is announced. She always waited until Tuesday to buy her Mega Millions ticket. She never bought it in advance. Yes, it was part superstition, but she had another reason. Manny was behind the counter where she bought her tickets on Tuesdays. The steam rose from the iron and for a moment, as it enveloped her face and then dissipated, she felt the heat, like a blush. Or maybe it was the thought of Manny. He was the tall, dark and handsome owner of the store where she bought all her lottery tickets.
All In The Cards also sold greeting cards, gifts and magazines. Manny had a few employees that took most of the shifts at the register, but not on Tuesdays. Tuesdays it was always Manny. As Janice thought about him, working behind the counter, punching in her numbers so the machine would spit out her tickets, she felt almost dizzy. There was something about Manny that made her head spin. The way he spoke to her, so gently while he looked directly into her eyes. The way he laughed at her feeble attempts at humor. The way he handed her the tickets and said, “Good luck,” so warm and sincere. She’d never been unfaithful to Bob, but sometimes she thought, if Manny, if he ever made an advance…well that was probably about as likely as wining the lottery, wasn’t it?