Kim D. Bailey
The Day She Got Busted
Terry heard the bell sound and came out of the cooler just in time to see a woman running back out the door with a 12-pack of beer.
“Shit!” She grabbed the phone and sent a text to Ed. Considering this was the third time in six months a theft occurred on her shift, she knew he would fire her. Just in case she got lucky, she filled out the paperwork and tried to stay busy.
It was nearly midnight and the overnighter was late. Terry straightened up some more, sold some gasoline and cigarettes.
Finally, he walked in the side door.
“Sorry! My car wouldn’t start, Terry. I reckon I need to get another battery.”
“You need another car, Jake. I was supposed to be out of here an hour ago.”
She finished her paperwork and gathered her things. “Oh, I almost forgot! I need to grab lottery tickets. Pete will die if I don’t bring them home this time. Did you see the jackpot?”
Jake let out a long sigh, “Yes, 550 million. Damn, I wish I was lucky.”
“Well, I don’t think we’re lucky either, but you know Pete. He’ll want his lottery tickets and Busted paper. I don’t know why he gives a hoot about those dumbasses getting themselves arrested, but he says reading it makes his bowels work better.”
“Damn, Terry. That’s fucked up.”
“You ever met Pete? That’s fucked up.”
Terry faithfully played Pete’s numbers. He was convinced that if he didn’t keep playing them he would lose on the day he missed. So, whether Terry worked or not, they had to buy 10 draws every week on both big games. She took his tickets and Busted paper to him, on schedule, and said nothing. What Pete didn’t know was that she played one draw each week on her own, and she did the quick picks, letting fate decide. It was amusing at least, and fun to fantasize about how she would spend the money if she won.
One of her favorite dreams was about how she would divorce Pete and move to Italy. No one in her hick town knew anyone from Italy, or anything about it, but that’s where she dreamed of going someday. She would tour the great museums, learn how to speak Italian, and take some painting classes. Maybe one day, she could sell her own paintings on the streets.
It was all pie in the sky, but it helped her get through.
Terry knew she had settled when she married Pete, but having no better options, she did what everyone else in her family did. Got married, had kids, and worked at a dead-end job. It was so cliché. Unfortunately, she was a living, breathing cliché and she knew it.
There was a time she wanted to be a painter. Her teachers encouraged her parents to put her in art instruction, above what the public school offered. Daddy was a plumber and Momma worked at the yarn mill. What did they know about higher education? Terry pleaded with her parents to help her get into school. Her mother screamed at her to get the dishes done and her dad drank and watched his nightly programs on television.
“Now, Terry, you know ain’t nobody from our family ever gone to college. We just simple folk. You get you a good husband and work hard. That’s all you need.” Daddy slurred.
She gave up on the dreams she had as a girl, but Terry longed to know what it was like outside of Newton, the small mining and industrial town an hour from Lexington. Other than a car ride to Washington DC when she was 10-years-old, she hadn’t seen much else.
Muttering under her breath, Terry took Pete’s tickets and her secret ones, those hidden in a small zippered pocket inside her purse, and walked into the Majik Mart on the other side of town to check them. First, she grabbed a Coke from the cooler and some M&M’s. Seemed like all she did was eat candy and drink soda pop anymore. And she wondered why she kept having to buy bigger jeans.
A young woman in front of her had two preschoolers with dirty faces hanging from her, crying for candy. She switched the baby on her hip to the other side and finished paying for her gas. While she ushered her other children out the door she shot a tired look at Terry, who looked on with empathy.
Terry plopped her tickets down on the counter. “Hey, Iris.”
“Hey girl, you win us some money today?” Iris was missing a front tooth, but she was sweet. Best friends since 4th grade, Iris got knocked up in high school and never talked about it. Terry sometimes wondered what happened to Iris’ dreams. Were they deferred, like her own, or did she even have any?
Iris rang up her purchase and checked Pete’s tickets. “Well, I reckon Pete can play again on this one, but the other one’s a dud, like all the others.”
“That’ll work. Okay, check these now.” Terry passed her two tickets over the counter like she had done at least a thousand times. She began to stuff change in her pocket and put Pete’s losing tickets in her purse when Iris squealed.
“Oh! Sweet JUMPING BABY JESUS!”
Terry dropped her Coke bottle. “What? What?”
Iris was grinning, the gaping hole where her right front incisor should have been had never been so beautiful to Terry. “Honey, you won!”
“How much? Did I get a free ticket?”
Iris just smiled, shook her head.
“Well? Did I win some money? What, Iris, is it $50 or something? What?”
Iris handed the winning ticket to Terry along with the confirmation slip that the lottery machine spits out.
“You won it all, Terry. All of it.”
Terry stared at the ticket and the slip. She had sold thousands of tickets to customers over the years, and bought plenty more for Pete, and some for herself. The print on the ticket began to blur and she wiped her eyes with her fingers.
“This don’t seem real, Iris. This says I won 550 million dollars. I won the whole thing. That can’t be right.”
Iris walked around the counter and hugged her friend. “Now listen, you need to put that away. When you get home and Pete is out with Bill and Zeke, you call that number on the back. They’ll tell you what to do.”
Terry nodded and did as Iris said. She walked out of the Majik Mart and drove away, ending up at home about an hour later. She didn’t remember the drive or where she had been by the time she turned the lights on in her kitchen.
Pete had left a note, “Gone to Bud’s, talk later.”
Terry checked the house. No one was there. Kyle and Kathy never came around unless they wanted something, but she had to make sure she was alone.
Shaking, she picked up the phone and dialed the number on the back of the ticket.
Terry pulled up in front of Iris’ house and honked. “Let’s go, we’ll be late!”
Iris ran out with two suitcases and a satchel. She got in the car next to Terry and grinned. “How do you like them?”
“Oh, my goodness, girl. You are gonna catch you a hot Italian lover now! Your new teeth are gorgeous! They look so real.”
Iris was giggling like she was fifteen again. “Honey, I never expected you to share your winnings with me. You know I was always joking about that. But I gotta say, I ain’t gonna complain!”
“What did Bud say when you told him?”
“He stared at me like I had three heads. What about Pete?”
Terry was quiet for a few minutes as they drove to the airport. When they pulled into the rental car area, she finally said, “I think he still expects me to go to work in the morning and bring his next batch of tickets to him tomorrow morning. And his damn Busted paper. Poor fella won’t be able to take a shit for a week!”
Kim D. Bailey, a 2017 Pushcart Prize Nominee, writes Women’s Fiction, short stories, poetry, non-fiction, and a weekly column. Kim is a poetry editor for two journals. She is currently editing a third novel and does freelance editorial work. She’s published in several online literary journals and print magazines, podcasts, and has taught writing courses online. She currently lives in Fort Oglethorpe, GA with her partner and published poet, S. Liam Spradlin.You may connect with her at www.kimbaileydeal.net or Twitter @kimbaileydeal, Instagram @kimdbaileyauthor or her Facebook page