George Moody sat at a table in the Boston Public Library. On the table were two possessions that he never let out of his sight. Even at the homeless shelter near Harvard Square, he slept with these treasures underneath the scratchy, green wool blanket. He also slept with one eye open fearing some of the drug addicted or mentally ill transients.
The streets and homeless shelter were a far cry from where George was two years ago. He had a lovely wife, Ellie, who had been his high school sweetheart; a wonderful son, George Jr., and a Cape Cod style home in Quincy. George had a dream job. He was a staff member of Mayor Fortunado's re-election campaign. He and the Mayor had gone to school together, having grown up in the same Beacon Hill neighborhood. George began to lose touch with reality and inadvertently hurt the ones he loved. Elsie even divorced him and now uses her maiden name.
Mayor Fortunado tried to help when he learned of George's addiction. George started coming to work late, taking an extended lunch, and asking for money. The Mayor had seen George taking a TV and child's video game gear into the less than reputable pawnshop across the street from campaign headquarters. When Mayor Fortunado confronted his friend, George denied having a problem. The Mayor studied George who was sniffing and wiping his nose. The telltale signs were there. Underneath George's fingernails was a powdery substance of the addiction, the silver dust of lottery ticket scratch-offs. In his pockets were the paraphernalia that included a few official lottery ticket scratchers and a St. Jude medal. In George's briefcase was a cache of old Keno tickets from the live lottery game that ran every ten minutes on a color monitor mounted in Sweeny's bar. George spent many hours at Sweeny's doing Keno at the beginning of his addiction and still did when he blew off work. He graduated to Daily Millions, which provided more than just a buzz. Since George's work performance was suffering, Mayor Fortunado let him go. Then George lost everything from there.
Now George spent his days in the library with the only two things that mattered to him, a bible and a garbage bag filled with lethal mix of past Daily Millions lottery tickets and scratch-offs. At intervals he would read the bible and then pull out a Daily Millions ticket, uncrumple it, and with a yellow highlighter go over the number. He'd carefully compare his ticket with a free chart of past winning numbers provided by the Lottery. He always played the same number, a combination of his birthday, 03/17/62. So he played 3,1,7, 26, 30, and 17. After checking those, he would fish through the green Hefty bag for the old scratch-off tickets. He'd carefully study each one in case a winner had slipped by. There were two years worth of "losers," as other people called them, but to George they were a temporary fix. There were so many "losers," it would take George five hours to satisfy his daily habit. He would leave the library with at least a little of that magic silver dust on his puffy, orange coat with a hole so large that the fluff was falling out . He'd even find some of the silver dust in his underwear when he went into the library restroom to have his daily "bath." It was not easy to scrub with scratchy, brown, paper towels falling apart in the sink. He'd stick his head under the faucet and shampoo with the pink, antiseptic smelling hand soap and then put his head under the hand dryer.
After a day of hoping and searching for a winning match or overlooked winning scratch-off, George went outside to beg some change. It was just beginning to sprinkle. If he got a dollar he could buy a lottery ticket and eat at the soup kitchen instead of buying Hostess cupcakes at the convenience store and not getting a ticket. He held out his grimy hat, making eye contact with passers-by. Two priests noticed George with his garbage bag and bible under one arm. George waved the hat in front of the priests with a pleading look. The two priests looked at each other. Then they turned their pockets inside out and produced $1.25 and a handful of T-tokens for the local subway.
"Bless me Father." George said to one the priests.
Both priests replied in Armenian, "Asdvadz orhneh." They explained to George in English, "May God bless you."
It began to rain hard. George headed towards the soup kitchen on Kendall Street. Pausing at a pay phone, he fished around in the pockets of his dirty blue pants and inserted a quarter. He thought how wonderful it would be to hear Ellie's voice again. George had lost their home because he spent the mortgage on tickets, but the phone number was the same in Ellie's and George JR's new apartment. He dialed the twenty-year-old phone number. It rang and then a recorded message came on, "The number you have dialed has been changed to an unlisted number." George hung up the phone. How could Ellie do this? He wiped the tears mixed with rain and continued to the soup kitchen.
As George approached the soup kitchen at the corner of Tremont and Kendall Streets, he noticed it was dark without any lights on. Then he saw the sign. In bold letters it stated, "Due to recent cuts in the city budget, we are closed until further notice." How could Mayor Fortunado not allocate enough money to keep the soup kitchen open? His stomach began to gurgle and groan. He thought about the $1.00 left in his pocket. Hostess cupcakes or a Daily Millions Ticket?
"Damn!" He stomped his foot right into a muddy puddle. He waved his bible at the sky and screamed, "Dear God! I've lost my wife, my son, my home, and my job! All because I had some bad luck with the Lottery! Please God help me win. I want to win Lord! Please."
George entered the Store 24 and began to fill out a form for the Daily Millions ticket, when he began to feel dizzy and felt a stabbing pain in his stomach. George knew he was going to have to purchase the cupcakes. That would mean no ticket. The decision was overwhelming. He thought of how low he had actually sunk. Lottery tickets were more important than food! His priorities were pretty screwed up for the sake of the lottery tickets.
"I am going to win. I'm going to beat this addiction! No more tickets!" He practically screamed at the clerk behind the counter. George felt like he had a revelation. He slammed the package of yellow creamed filled Hostess cupcakes down. "I'll take these."
Later inside the T-station George sat on the floor with his back against the wall. He savored his full belly as a train came inbound. Full belly, shelter, and beat an addiction….he felt wonderful. George fell asleep on cloud nine, dreaming that he'd win his wife and son back. He'd get his old job back too.
In the morning he awakened to the smell of McDonald's breakfast food. It was coming from the trash barrel a few feet away. Often, commuters did not have time to finish their breakfast and threw the remainders into the barrel, a treat for George. As he scooped the bag with golden arches from the trash, he noticed a newspaper in there. It was opened, folded in half, revealing the local news and society page. George's eyes widened when he saw Ellie's picture with Mayor Fortunado. Her wedding picture! The caption read, "Ellie Chance wed to Mayor James Fortunado on March 17th in St. Patrick's Church". George began to weep. He stopped for a moment and brought the paper closer to his eyes.
"No! No!" He shouted. Beneath the wedding announcement was the Daily Millions winning number from the night before. George began crying loudly. Through tears he read the numbers, 3,1, 7, 26, 30, and 17.
ALL CHARACTERS IN THIS STORY ARE FICTIONAL AND ANY RESEMBLANCE TO ACTUAL PEOPLE IS PURELY COINCIDENTAL.
THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND CANNOT BE USED WITHOUT MY WRITTEN PERMISSION.
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