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Lottery

Story by Rebecca Bernard (Read author interview) March 21, 2022

Art by Daniele Levis Pelusi

My husband’s best friend hung himself in his bedroom closet.

Sometimes, my husband dreams about his friend and he tells me about the dreams. In the latest one, they’re at 7-Eleven buying scratch-off tickets. The dead friend wins big. A ten-thousand-dollar prize.

They whoop in the aisles. The friend says to my husband, I think I’ll reinvest. He goes to the counter, asks the cashier for ten thousand dollars in scratch-off tickets: the crossword, cash five, pick three. Thousands of waxy pieces of paper.

This will take days, my husband says to his dead friend. We’ll never have enough time.

His friend produces a penny, shiny, newly minted.

They don’t make new pennies anymore, do they? I ask.

It’s a dream, says my husband.

The whole thing, everything a dream. Outside, the world white and dry. This, the dead of winter. I listen to my husband talk. It is something I have been told I am not good at doing.

I’m not finished, my husband says to me. We went into the parking lot and on the trunks of other people’s cars we scratched off the tickets and this one was a winner and this one was a winner and this one. Seven hundred fifty thousand dollars he won. It was incredible.

My husband wipes his eyes. He isn’t crying. It’s allergies.

In the dream, I shout it over and over, he says. You won you won. Look how much you won!

This was heaven? I venture.

You’re not listening, he says to me. My friend won. He was a winner. We both were.

Right, I say. You won a lot of money.

Yes, says my husband. He won so much money. It was glorious, I mean. I’d never seen someone so lucky. A boat, two boats, he could buy it all.

Sounds like a great dream, I say.

It was, he says.

So, what’s the matter, I ask my husband.

I didn’t finish, he says. In the dream, I asked him what he wanted to do. And he said we should be practical. We should go to the bank and deposit the money. I said, okay. Even though it’s not what I would have done.

It was his money, I say.

I know that, says my husband.

But it didn’t work, he says. We got to the bank and waited in the long line, and when it was finally our turn, the teller told my friend we’d have to pay taxes and the taxes were greater than the total. The teller took everything, and he wouldn’t give it back. I screamed at the teller, I told him it was theft, the unfairness of it, the nonsense! My friend had to calm me down. I was the one screaming.

My friend said to me, what did it matter. What did anything matter. I could do it again. Win it all again.

My husband becomes quiet. His lips pursed. His hands by his sides hang like dead weights.

I think about what to say. My dreams have beat me up before. I know that I should understand. But you couldn’t do it all again. That kind of luck.

My husband turns to look at me slowly, a planet forgotten its axis. He nods his head.

The world outside, white as bone.

What would you have done with the money, I ask.

He hesitates. Understands that I have paid attention. I nod, proud, though I shouldn’t be.

What I would give to have listened better, he says.

About the Author

Rebecca Bernard’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Shenandoah, Southwest Review, Colorado Review, and North American Review among other places. Her debut collection of stories won the 2021 Non/Fiction Prize held by The Journal and is forthcoming from OSU’s press in fall 2022. She recently started as an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Angelo State University, and serves as a Fiction Editor for The Boiler.

About the Artist

Daniele Levis Pelusi is a photographer from Italy.

This story appeared in Issue Seventy-Five of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Seventy-Five
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