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Winter, 2006
24-Hour Short Story Contest
1st Place Winner!

TOPIC OF THIS CONTEST WAS:
She shivered and wrapped her arm more tightly around her little brother. The grocery cart that held their tattered possessions was now full of cans and they steered the rusty contraption toward the local recycling shack. Suddenly, a man in a black coat and hat stepped into their path, thrust a piece of paper into her brother's bare fist, and hurried away. The two children looked at each other and then at the piece of paper...

Entries must touch on the topic in some way to qualify.

 



A Goddamned Fortune

By Martin Dodd, Salinas, CA

George shivered and pulled the tattered jacket tighter around him.
Patches of snow remained in the park as they had the night before. George picked
up a stick and poked at the dead, gray ashes nearby. That's just like Lenny.
He couldn't string two thoughts together, much less remember to keep a fire
going.

Lenny lay in his customary fetal position. George poked him. "Wake up,
Lenny!"

Lenny stretched to his full six feet, four inches. He yawned and coughed.
"Mornin', George. What's for today?"

"Goddamn, Lenny, the same as every day. We pick up bottles and cans. We
go to the recycle center, and then to Al's. We buy saltines and sardines,
and as much rot-gut wine as we got money for. Then, we crawl into these bushes
to sleep. And, if you had half a fucking brain, you'd keep a fire going so I
wouldn't wake up freezing."

"It's not our lucky day?"

"Lenny, you're the eighth wonder of the world. You're the only guy alive
that's taller than his IQ."

"I'm taller'n you, George."

George retrieved a shopping cart from the bushes and pulled a burlap sack
from it. He held the bag out to Lenny. "Here's your sack, Brainiac."

Lenny struggled to his feet and hugged himself, while searching the
ground around him. George asked, "What're you doing?"

"Lookin' for my jacket. I'm cold."

"You swapped it for my wine last night."

"Don't 'member that."

"You don't remember shit, T-Rex. Come on. It's your lucky day."

Lenny took the sack and smiled. "I'm glad you got my coat, George. It's
cold an' you're my very best friend."

George grimaced. Jesus, two graduate degrees and here I am saddled up
with an idiot that thanks me for insults. He kept Lenny around because the
dolt would dive into any dumpster, crawl through brambles, and reach into
sewer drains for cans and bottles. Lenny was working proof of Marx's surplus
value theory. The big guy could bring in more money in recyclables than he
needed for sardines and wine. The surplus went to George.

What did it cost? The promise of a "lucky day." Every bum knew the
story. One day, digging in trash, a guy found a winning lottery ticket. He left
the streets and moved to Beverly Hills. He married a beautiful woman, bought
a Rolls Royce, and drank French wine. It happened once. It could happen
again, or so thought the dumb people that believed in dumb luck.

Lenny worked the trash cans next to the walk, which ran around the duck
pond. George sat in the sun's warming rays and pulled a wine bottle from
"his" jacket pocket. George noted the small amount of wine left. He gulped it,
tossed the empty bottle into the cart, then closed his eyes waiting for the
alcohol to stop the tremors and the feathery tickle behind his eyes. He dozed.

#

"Wake up, George, wake up."

George jerked awake. Lenny danced and jabbered. "Our lucky day. Our lucky
day."

"What the hell's got into you, Lenny?"

"Magic! Look. Look." He held a slip of paper.
"Let me see." George took the paper, a lottery ticket, with yesterday's
date and the numbers: 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34. "Forget it, stupid. Someone threw
it away. Not a winner."

"Yeah, it is. He said so."

"Who said so?"

"The man that gave it to me." Lenny continued dancing.

"Stand still!"

Lenny stopped. A big grin shaped his face. "We're goin' to Beverly
Hills."

"What man?"

"He had on a long black coat and a black hat. Said it's a magic ticket."

"You're crazy."

"Here." Lenny pulled a crumpled newspaper from his back pocket. "He
showed me this."

The paper was today's date. George smoothed the wrinkled page until he
saw: Yesterday's Lotto $17,000,000
3 - 5 - 8 - 13 - 21 - 34

George looked at the ticket, then the paper. Good God, A fucking fortune!
A Goddamned fortune--I have to share with a retard. No I don't. Without me,
his share will be stolen or wasted. He wouldn't last a week alone in this
jungle and I sure don't want him around in my world of fine wine and women. I'll
put him out of our misery.

George spied a large rock, one large enough to do the job. He rose from
the bench and picked it up. "Lenny, we need to think this out. The man may
come back. Let's hide in the bushes over there."

George moved into the bushes. Lenny, humming to himself, followed. From
the cover of brush, George looked around and saw no one else. He pointed
toward the duck pond. "Is that the guy? Over there." Lenny turned to look.
George raised the rock and slammed it hard into Lenny's skull. The big man
collapsed.

George knelt and pounded Lenny's head again, then felt his neck, no
pulse. Shaking with excitement, George looked at the ticket and the paper: 3 - 5 - 8 - 13 - 21 - 34. Seventeen million dollars! But, what if it's a joke?
Maybe some guy bought a ticket then went to one of those places that prints
phony newspapers. It's too good to be true. Maybe I killed stupid Lenny for
nothing. Check it out. Al sells tickets. I'll check it there.

George made his way to Al's Liquors, his heart pounding. Inside, Al was
talking to two men. They looked like cops. Easy, George. Don't be
nervous. They can't know about Lenny.

Al approached him. "Hello, Einstein, where's your buddy?"

"He's around. I think I got something Al. Can you check this?"

Al took the ticket and popped it into the Lotto machine. It "ticked" a
few times then stopped. George watched Al's eyes grow big, looking at the
ticket, then at him. Al said, "Excuse me," walked back and spoke to the men.

George's stomach churned. He needed some wine. Oh, God. The cops turned
to him. The smaller one asked, "Where'd you get this ticket, fella?"

"I--I, uh...a guy gave it to me yesterday when I bummed him for change."

The cop squinted. "Describe this guy."

"Long black coat and a black hat."

"Where'd you meet him?"

"In the park. Near the duck pond."

"Well, you've described a man, found murdered in the park, who had a
receipt from this store. Al says that man always plays these numbers in the
lottery.

Is that right, Al?"

Al nodded. "Yeah, claims they're magic numbers."

The cop faced George. "You got a friend to back up your story, fella?"




What Martin won:

$300 Cash Prize
Publication of winning story on the WritersWeekly.com website
1 - Freelance Income Kit Includes:
-- 1-year subscription to the Write Markets Report
-- How to Write, Publish and $ell Ebooks
-- How to Publish a Profitable Emag
-- How to Be a Syndicated Newspaper Columnist Special (includes the book; database of 6000+ newspapers; and database of 100+ syndicates)


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