One in a million

John had been awake for over twenty four hours; it was nine fifty in the morning Sunday 10th April. He left his house for the short trip to his local minimart. He barely heard the CD playing, as the windscreen wipers whined on full speed in a feeble attempt to clear the wall of water that fell from the skies. He had hoped for another fine day, like yesterday. It had been his plan, since last night at least, to walk this little errand, he had been drunk or drinking since Friday and was more than a little foggy headed. At least he had been able to sleep Friday night; last night was a different kettle of fish entirely. His last drink of Saturday night had been only a little over two hours ago, and while the breakfast and pint of espresso had made him feel more human, the beer monster still murmured beneath his goose bumped flesh. John had simply placated the beast by promising to watch morning service on the God channel while drinking Jack Daniels and smoking a jumbo spliff, if he could only remember how to find his old dealer. But as he drove, on auto pilot, his mind drifted back to Friday night, the last time he stopped in at the corner shop…………………….

He had needed another carton of ciggerettes, which would mean he did not have to leave the house this weekend, and could re-coup after the week from hell at work. He entered the neon lit shop on this Friday night, early evening, the door chimed to signal a new customer in this Aladdin’s cave of treats for the terminal lazy. Cuppa soup sat next to pot noodles, which in turn vied for space with the tin of spaghetti bolognaise and in turn shuffled by tinned chilli con carne. The gaudy lit cold cabinets with micro wave chips, “luxury” ice cream and beer. These tobacconists with delusions of grandeur, posing as supermarket for those of whom a kitchen is an electric kettle, they appear on every corner and every parade throughout the land, and from time to time we all use them. They stock a wide range of odd bits, which you need in case of an emergency prior to Sunday lunch or a dinner party. They all have the same comforting smell, an as opposed to out of town mega markets, they are, well, just convenient.

Wenge Picture frame

John’s first move was to treat himself to a case of cider, and then to the counter for his smokes, as the shop keeper reached from them, John’s eye was caught by the diamond in the rough of the shops cornucopia of tawdry treats, black, white and classic. He felt that boyish wave of excitement,
“Sod it” he said out loud, or at least he thinks he did. The shop keeper broke his trance and asked,
“Anything else sir”
“Yeah, sod it…. I will have a large bottle of Jack Daniels, two packets of Cohiba Minis and bugger it, give us a lucky dip for Saturday’s lottery draw”

He felt that rush of excitement again, his week had been tough, granted, but his promotion had been confirmed less than two hours ago, his wife was at her mother’s all weekend, and now he had stumbled in to a minimart that sold JD and Cohiba mini’s. He was riding a wave of luck he told himself in jest as he folded the lotto ticket and placed it in his wallet. His “shopping” was placed in a bag, and then almost as an afterthought the shop keeper told him the JD comes with a free whiskey tumbler, get in, what a day. He jumped back in to his car, tried to visualise the free glass, he was thinking just a cheap nasty little thing that would explode on its first rinse cycle in the dishwasher.

He arrived home to a dark and silent house, this house is never silent, he thought. He kicked the door closed, visualising a cheeky back heal he saved for the dying seconds in his imaginations own little world cup final. He locked and bolted it, shutting the world out, this was his hall pass, bad 80’s movies, nice smokes, good booze and three different take away’s over the next three days, delivered of course. For now, in this moment of solitude he stood with his head back eyes closed and savoured this moment, it’s this moment you hark back to as you approach Monday morning. There before you lies your weekend unspoilt, and in this one perfect moment there was that rush again. Jumping in to his slippers made this moment even more perfect, as would stripping of the uniform of adulthood and in to sloppy loungers and a tatty t-shirt that feels like a second skin.

Ripping open the case of cider he put four on the coffee table with the bottle of Jack, the free glass and the smokes. The remainder of the case he put in to the fridge for later. He ventured to the “special” draw in the kitchen and sorted through the various ephemera of fuses, keys, lip balm and of course the target of his search, take away menus. He returned to the lounge with a pint glass in one hand and menu’s in the other. He removed the free glass from its box and was more than surprised to find they had not just given away a cheap bit of tat. The glass was a beautiful rounded square and very thick, with a heavy glass bottom, it sat in his hand comfortably, and he poured his first drink. Suffice to say as the sunlight streamed through the French doors on to the garden, Friday night was shaping up to be the perfect end, to a perfect day.

As he entered the lounge Saturday morning he was happy to see at least three quarters of the JD still remained and one and a half packets of Cohiba. He may have to go for a stroll Sunday morning to replenish these items, but it was no biggie. He spent the day doing the things he needed to around the house, that will keep the wife happy he thought, soccer Saturday on sky TV, stopping and craning an ear every time there were raised voices from the panel of pundits, in case his boys won, and then Match of the Day tonight, that was his plan anyway.

With all tasks completed, he sat down exactly ten past six, give it an hour or so and he will put his order in to Royal Bengal. Later that evening, as he burped curried air in to the lounge at regular intervals and picked at the last half dozen poppadum’s, killing time until the football, he was just watching some re-runs on Dave. His boys had indeed won; he had the reminder set for it. As he sat there both his glasses full and a nice cigar on the go, up popped the reminder, and without hesitation he pressed select. A few minutes too soon, and he had to endure the cringe-worthy lotto show, he reached for his pocket without thinking and pulled his ticket from the dog eared brown wallet. He sat their thinking what am I doing, then announced to nobody whatsoever,
“What are you doing man, there are people out there playing five, ten or fifteen lines twice a week, and still don’t even come away with their bus fare home”
“I’m going to win with a one hit wonder, get over yourself man”

He finished his rant just in time to hear the first number, 40, he instinctively looked to his pristine ticket, then looked twice as he matched two number, a third made him walk under the ceiling light to get better light on the print, just in time to see him match four, soon after five, he looked back to the table, only three cans and a few whiskeys, I’m not bladdered, he thought as he looked back to the screen in time to see the sixth and final number, looked to his ticket, looked to the screen, back to his ticket. He pulled out his iPhone and took a picture of the numbers on the screen, before pressing the live pause button on the remote. He walked to the screen and gasped in disbelief at that moment frozen in time, he pressed his clammy hand holding the ticket against the screen, double, treble and quadruple checking number by number. All his six little ducks in a row. He pressed play as he sunk back down in his comfy lazy boy, in time to hear the man say that indications are there is one jackpot winner tonight.
“Fucking right there is”  He shouted.

Sitting there smiling and shaking his head, checking the picture on his phone and the ticket again, this he would repeat over and over again until getting in his car later that morning. Luckily he set the football to record by man handling the remote to press play in his excitement, and as he did not snap out of his disbelief at the mention of the forth coming game. He did not give them another thought as he compiled the list of wondrous things that had happened since five o’clock Friday night. All the streams in the universe had conspired to drown him in luck, not that he was complaining. He would call the number to lottery HQ, but guessed he would need more booze and cigars by the morning and a nice walk to the shop and back may wash any cobwebs out. However, in all honesty, he wanted another tangible real person to confirm the numbers face to face, before he would believe and a voice at the end of the phone, while he was drunk it just wouldn’t cut the mustard.

He didn’t sleep a wink, he checked every source he could find, teletext, the internet and of course the photograph on his smart phone. The result never changed, but, as dawn grew closer he had started to practice his nonchalance….
“Here mate, can you check this ticket please” he said to himself dismissively in the mirror, over and over again. He was still drinking at 7am so he had not really seen the ticket sober. He put on a large pot of strong black coffee, and threw together a nice little fry-up with the forbidden fried bread. Sitting down to eat, he could only speculate as to the size of the jackpot win, but with his ticket the only winning ticket he guessed at several million pounds, and the Brucie bonus, tax free! He didn’t want to know the jackpot, as if he had made a blunder reading the ticket, he would not know what he was losing. By nine o’clock he felt a bit more sober; he went outside in to the garden. Years it had taken him to produce this floral wonderment, and at the start of spring it was finally bursting in to life, gorgeous to behold. If this was a multi-million pound ticket, he would start again somewhere new, bigger, better and maybe a pool, he thought. He immediately shoved this thought from his head, he still didn’t believe the off the cuff actions of Friday night had won him a life changing sum, so didn’t want to jinx it by spending the money in his mind.

The early April Sunday weather left a lot to be desired. It had started raining hard about five this morning and had not let up. This was possibly the reason he decided to sober up, no matter how rich he was going to be or not, he was defiant, that getting wet was not in the plan for today, plus, if the ticket got wet he worried it may not be honoured. That was just the other excuse he used in a decision to take the car. He was still in yesterday’s clothes, so a couple of steps took him in to the open garden and stood there for ten minutes in the cold rain, also to help his drunken fog to lift. He wandered up stairs after dumping his saturated clothes at the French windows, and with not a care in the world walked through the house naked, not even worrying if anyone saw through the open curtains. He showered and dressed, went down stairs, checked the ticket, again. Firmly put it in to his dog eared wallet, put the wallet in to the zip up inside pocket, and zipped it, and double checked. He entered the garage, and sized up this car, and pondered what car he would have in a few weeks’ time. Once again instantly pushing this money centred thought from his mind.

He arrived in good time for the Sunday opening hours, he parked outside the shop, then removed the ticket from his wallet, checked with the screen shot on his phone, the excitement bubbling away, seconds turned to minutes, minutes turned to hours, his life lived in an extreme slow motion. Bang on ten o’clock he was snapped out of his trance by the rattling of the metal security shutter being lifted and the crash as the last of it hit the top of the frame. He heard the familiar door chime ring out, and through the mist on the windows he could just see the same shop keeper as before entering the shop and spinning round the open sign on the door. With childlike excitement he leaped from his car, not even caring if he had shut the door properly, and dashed inside the shop.

With his best nonchalant stroll he perused the shelves, in search of something junky to eat later today. Threw a few items in his basket not sure whether it was what he wanted or not. Then with trembling legs he made the slow approach to the counter. The blessing of being the only one in the shop had not escaped him, either way win or lose he welcomed that. The shop keeper totted up his shopping threw in the two packets of Cohiba, bottle of JD and the free glass. Just like he practiced he threw the magic line……….
“Can you check this for me please mate” without a wobble in his voice.
He did not need the answer spoken, he could tell by the shopkeeper’s astonished look…..and then…..
“Jackpot” he managed to blurt out
“Jackpot, mate” he continued
At last john could start to look at what he could afford, and then turned to the still startled assistant and asked
“How much?” he felt he was the only person in the UK not to know this answer.
“Twenty four million give or take, mate” was the reply.

His vision swayed and blurred, and he felt his knees give way below him. Soft hand’s appeared beneath his arm pits to steady him and lower him gently to an old dinning chair, which as he saw it the memory of his grandparents’ house came flooding back so vividly he could even smell the roast dinners his nan used to make him. After a swift shot of JD from his bottle and free glass the colour swam back and vision focused. He thanked the shopkeeper, whose face was slowly returning to excitement from concern, then took his verified winning ticket and returned to his car.

He sat there for an age; head tilted back looking at the world through his tinted full length sunroof. As he stared at the sky, his attention was caught by flickering silver objects glinting in the suns feeble light as it tumbled end over end, he picked one and followed its path. It hit the road not twenty feet from his car and exploding in a foaming froth, he could just make out the 7up logo, and this was followed by a huge crash of what looked like an aeroplane’s hostess trolley. As he resumed his attention sky wards he saw falling directly for him, what he could only make out as an airplane toilet, within forty feet, in took just seconds to smash through the safety glass of the sunroof, and the last thing that went through John’s befuddled mind, was the toilet seat.

In the ensuing hours and days, it turned out to be a cheap airline’s 747 had just disintegrated in mid-air. Setting fire to the remnants of the shop, and killing the only other person who knew of the winning ticket, which was now just ash beneath the 747 tail end. The moral to this story has to be, if life gives you lemons make lemonade, if it treats you like a king, be afraid.

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