The Lottery Ticket
by Bruce H. Mero
Neither of us is a gambler, but when the New York State Lottery Jackpot hit $40 million a number of years ago, temptation overtook her and Gretchen decided she wanted a piece of the action. On our return home from dinner in town, we stopped at the Quick Stop at Stokes Corners and through a driving downpour, she ran into the store to purchase her ticket. Friend Brian and I waited in the car.
The store was crowded and it took Gretchen several minutes to get to the checkout-counter and to get her ticket. We watched through the store window as she bought her ticket and chatted with the clerk. She dashed back to the car in the rain, ticket in hand. She was such an infrequent lottery player, she explained, that the clerk needed to tell her how to fill out the card. She wanted our advice on what numbers to pick. We went through a series of suggestions, she made her picks and started to go back into the store to give the clerk her ticket. Brian’s interest had been piqued. He decided he’d try his chances and buy a ticket and told Gretchen he would return the ticket to the clerk in the store for her. He jumped out and dashed into the store. I followed, remembering that we needed to buy more beer. The line at the checkout was a dozen people deep, most all of them buying lottery tickets. Brian got in line. I went to the beer cooler to look for our favorite brew, grabbed a twelve-pack of Killian’s and headed back toward the checkout. I was a couple of aisles away when I heard someone rip-off a giant fart.
Now I need to pause in my story to let my reader in on a little background. Although he will deny emphatically most everything I am going to tell you, this is the truth: friend Brian is a farter. He is an extraordinary farter, a champion. If farting were a competitive sport, Brian would medal in farting. Almost on demand, he can let billowing, boisterous ones, or deadly silent, sneak-up-on-you, clouds of toxic gas ones that could start fires if a spark went off. I’ve seen our dog Webster leave the room after Brian has performed. He admits he has a special propensity for this activity, but steadfastly claims it only happens to him when he is visiting with us and that he never does it in public. Brian blames it all on Gretchen’s cooking. We know differently. Over the many years of our friendship, Gretchen has experimented on all types of fart-proof cuisine, different combinations of foods, meal scheduling changes, food item prohibitions and menu deletions, meal timing, fasting, take-out, eating in restaurants, bottled water, different beer and beeno. Nothing seems to change the outcome. He is going to fart and he is going to let big ones, no matter what he eats or drinks. Early in our friendship he would feign ignorance or try to blame me when the air smelled like putrefying viscera. If our dog was nearby, the poor critter got the blame. Gradually, we came to understand and accept the fact that no one compared to Brian when farting is the game. Nobody. Eventually, he admitted to his special gift, and it became a joke when he visited, though he was always circumspect in public. Almost always.
This is our friend Brian. The expression on his face tells the story well. Doesn't he look as though he just cut one?
So, now, back to the Quick Stop. I knew instantly that the cause of the rumble at the checkout counter was Brian. I stopped my advance toward the counter and looked over the shelf at my friend. He was guilty. His face was beet-red, though his lips were tightly pursed and eyes pointed straight ahead. He was doing the see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil response we’d observed earlier in our friendship. He began looking around like everyone else in the checkout line trying to identify the perpetrator. We made eye contact and I knew instantly what he’d done. He also knew that I knew.
It got worse quickly. The folks in line started holding noses and waving hands in front of faces. I began hearing audible gasping, a series of gags and then complaints. The two people waiting in line behind my friend backed out of line and left the store. In front of Brian a lady dropped her loaf of bread and ran outside into the rain. Then the next several people in line bailed, one flailing her arms around her head and face. Brian stood his ground. Within seconds, everyone in the checkout line was gone. They all stood out side in the rain and looked back into the store to try and see what had just happened to them. Brian was alone in the line. The lady behind the counter had locked her register and moved out of the smelly cloud. She returned when Brian calmly stepped forward and presented Gretchen’s lottery ticket. He asked the clerk for another ticket, slowly filled out the numbers on the card and then handed it and two dollars to the clerk. Then he turned. With lips tight and face expressionless, he marched out of the store, through the crowd and got back into the car. There was a dozen people looking at him. Brian and Gretchen sat motionless in the car while I held my breath, paid for the beer and got back into the car myself. I noticed when I got in that Gretchen had tears running down both of her cheeks. I backed the car away from the store and left the parking lot. Both of them exploded into laughter. Gretchen had seen the whole episode through the store window and knew what had happened as soon as I, without benefit of sound or smell. She said that she had laughed so hard that tears had filled her eyes and she fell over in the seat.
For a long while after that episode I had to compose myself before going into the Quick Stop for fear someone who was gassed that night might recognize me as an accomplice. I did, remember, drive the get-away car.
A few years later our daughter, Mitra, took a part-time job at the same Quick Stop. The older clerk told her of the night that the horrible gas cloud evacuated the store and of the two customers who braved the terrible stink to pick-up a lottery ticket and buy beer.