Academic journal article Chicago Review


Academic journal article Chicago Review


Article excerpt

Like most everyone I know, the less money I've got, the more I spend on beer, cigarettes, and lottery tickets. Call it what you will, but I say the harder the life, the more you spend on junk. However, one time, I have to admit, I went a little too far with that last chance, and ended up where I least expected to.

It was Sunday morning, when Bobbie, my ex, called at his usual time. For eight years I'd thought we were separated, since we lived in different places, but he seemed to think this arrangement was only a matter of convenience. He called, frequently, "just to check," and appeared at all hours to visit the children.

This call came about two hours before I was going to drag everyone off to Mass. It was a beautiful morning: soft autumn air, gold leaves on the pavement, that haze of the last days of summer around the borders of the trees. The girls were already complaining about being stuck in church for an hour, and the boys were banging a basketball up and down outside as if it was a punching bag.

Bobbie said, "Don't laugh."

"Why would I?"

"I just found one of those instant lotto games in yesterday's mail. And I scraped the little circles with a penny and came up at the top of the pyramid."

"That's a first,"I said. "What does it mean?"

"I either win a Cadillac, $20,000, a color t.v. or a home computer."

"I bet."

"It's true, Peg. Let me read it. There's a hitch."

"There's always a hitch."

"Well, actually there are two. One, I have to drive all the wav to Cape Cod to collect... And two, I have to bring my wife along. The deal is supposedly for Young Marrieds."

"We certainly don't fit in that category, Bobbie. I think you better give it up:'

"Are you kidding? I'm at the top of the pyramid!"

"You're not a Young Married, Bobbie. You know that:'

"I can pass for thirty-five. People always say that to me. Besides, you know-for the kids. Whatever it is, I'll give it to the kids.'

"The Cadillac? The money?"

"I'll sell the car," he said, "and pay off some debts and I'll give the rest to you and the kids.'

The trouble was, he'd probably do it. I knew that from experience. He'd split the money between me and the kids and him, and then he'd be poor again, which seems to be the way he likes to be anyway. Ever since we broke up, he hadn't made a dime. It was like the way you can sail around with an anchor on board ship, but throw it over, and neither one of you moves. Nothing had changed for either of us since we separated.

"I don't want to get involved," I told him. "Bye now."

I hung up. Lots of times I didn't even say Bye but slammed it down in his face. It didn't faze him. In an hour, he was outside the house in his truck. He got Tony to bring me the lotto card inside. Bobbie was not allowed through my garden gate since he pitched a tent in the front yard and wouldn't move. He called himself a squatter and had the children bring him plates of food. For two months I couldn't get him off my property-him and his dog and his portable john from the construction site where he was then working.

I stood in the kitchen and read the card. The top of the pyramid belonged to Bobbie all right. The numbers he had scraped matched. I told Tony to tell his father, "Go to the Cape and see what you can get."

Tony ran out. Then in again.

"He says you have to go with him," he told me, his brown eyes focused on a blister on the palm of his hand, not me.

"Ha! Tell him he better plan on going alone or finding someone else to pretend she's his wife. I'm not going anywhere with him.' "I'll tell him." Tony ran out; then his little brother, Dunky, came in.

"Daddy says you don't have to drive in the truck with him. You take your car and he'll follow you. Then you can collect the prize and just leave. Come on, Mom, do it!"

"Why can't he do it alone? …

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