Available July 2010
from Eternal Press
Joe doesn’t expect much more from life. His marriage is average, kids are average. So when he wins the lottery -- one of the biggest jackpots of all time -- everything changes. Or does it? Would they have made the same choices anyway?
The beggar sat, as he did every morning, a colorless rag of a sentinel leaning against the smooth, black marble wall. Most days, Joe did his best to avoid him, ducking into a crowd before pushing through the gold-framed revolving doors to the bank where he worked. He hated to be callous, but didn’t want to feed the old man’s addictions–he always smelled like a landfill doused with booze. His slitted eyes appear filled with liquid steel, and his gaze felt as powerful as a laser probing Joe’s conscience.
This May morning, the beggar couldn’t mar Joe’s good mood. Even the air smelled sweet. Spring’s official started several weeks earlier sullen and glum, but this morning’s warm, bright sun caused an eruption of blooms and birdsong. In fifteen minutes, he’d meet with Mr. Brown and likely get a promotion and a raise. His wife had felt unusually affectionate this morning too. Everything seemed to be falling into place in perfect synchronicity and harmony. No, Joe didn’t want anyone to spoil it.
He walked behind three teens with spiked, multi-colored hair, heavy chains on their black leather coats and baggy jeans. The beggar held up a dirty paper coffee cup as they passed. The boy nearest the old man deftly lifted a heel in passing to knock the cup from his leathery hand. The three laughed and kept walking. The old man’s hand didn’t waver, as if the cup and its contents weren’t strewn across the sidewalk.
Scattered people sidestepped the coins as the cup skittered between their shoes. Joe glanced at his watch; his supervisor would be more conscious today of his clock-in time. With a forceful exhale, his fingers readjusted on the handle of his briefcase. A tattered dollar flopped like a fish away from the beggar, who stared somewhere beyond, his eyes unmoving. Joe quickly set his briefcase on the dollar, retrieved the cup, picked up coins from the concrete and tossed them inside the cup. He reached into his pocket, frowned at the fifty–his only bill. Crouching before the beggar, he placed the cup back in his still-outstretched hand. With a rotten-toothed smile, the old man nodded and mumbled unintelligibly.
“Hey, do me a favor.” Joe inserted the fifty dollar bill into the cup. “Go get yourself cleaned up and get something to eat. Okay?”
The old man peered up. “Fortune will smile upon you.”
“Not if I don’t get inside.” Joe gathered his briefcase; let the revolving doors whoosh him through.