Lucky Number 7

I wanted to give a shout out to those who have read and reviewed my book Unbridled. I got my seventh review at Amazon recently, and I know I’m no where near some of the other indie writers when it comes to reviews, but each and every review and rating on Amazon and Goodreads means the world to me and gives me hope for the next book.

Thank you! And thank you for giving me such positive feedback.

If you have read Unbridled or are planning on reading it, thank you as well!

How about a treat? Here is a snippet from my new series, The Avenging Sisters, with the first short story entitled Mod Fury coming out this summer.

The mood mellowed with that statement, and they met each other’s eyes with mutual understanding on why they were here. They couldn’t play and enjoy themselves all the time, even though the twenty-first century made that easier. The Furies still had important tasks to fulfill; it was in their blood, and in any given moment they could resort to their darker selves if it meant saving the innocents. It was their true purpose, hunting terrible people one by one so they could bestow their justice.

And last but not least, if you just love writing, reading and blogging in general please take a moment to visit my sister’s blog: Fear Nothing, Risk Everything. She’s a wonderful, strong and beautiful soul, a great mother and even more amazing woman, and she’s fighting breast cancer right now. She’s documenting her journey through this troubling time.

If you could pop by and just give her a comment, like or encouragement, I think she’d appreciate that!

Cheers.

H.K. Rowe

Something Different

It’s true. My writing schedule is sort of paused right now. I’ve been insanely busy, dealing with some anxiety and trying to find any motivation in these subzero Chicago temperatures. It’s been brutal. I feel the cold so deep in my bones it’s been hard to do anything productive. I’m most useful at my job, it seems, because that’s how I have to be. Otherwise, I’m just energy drained.

Here are some things that passed across my Facebook feed that I felt I needed to share:

7 Romance Publishers that Pay – For those romance writers out there. 7 Publishers looking for submissions.

Chicken Soup for the Soul – $200 for non-fiction poems or prose.

I hope those links help out! For those of you dealing with the snow and cold, stay warm! For those of you in the warmth and sunshine, enjoy it, you lucky bastards!

Cheers,

HK Rowe

Nonfiction Wednesdays – Of Pets and Family

The storm here in Chicago-land has once again delayed my evening schedule, and after a busy night of catching up with bills, I didn’t get a chance to write something new. So please enjoy a piece from my past.


Originally written 4-10-2002.

Of Pets and Family

As long as I can remember my family has always included pets. When I was a baby we had a black poodle named Korky and a long- haired gray cat named Misty. When I was eleven, I got another kitten named Butterscotch. Pets have been an integral part of my life. However, they have shorter lives than me, and I had to go through times where I had to lose pets. All the pets in my life were dear to me, but some were harder to lose. Despite the fact that these were just animals, some people may not consider this important, but I cherish all these animals part of my family.

Korky, a half poodle and half terrier, would always protect me when I was a baby. Mom adopted the small, awkward looking mutt from the animal shelter before they could destroy him. Inviting Korky into our family was a good decision. Not only did my mom save his life by bringing him home from the pound, but also Korky added love and entertainment to our small family. He was the typical dog who loved to play and goof around, but he had some quirks that made him very memorable. His favorite food was pizza, and would bark like crazy when the doorbell rang. He loved to play in Mom’s vast back yard, chasing blue racquetballs until they were in pieces. Sometimes when he would fetch the balls, he’d bring us only pieces, covered in his slimy dog drool. When Korky died it was a great loss to us. He was ten years old, and he peacefully died his sleep. We buried him in our back yard with one of his racquetballs. I was so young when he died, so Mom told me not to cry because Korky would be chasing those blue balls in heaven.

Misty was one of the animals we had that I most disliked. Mainly, Misty was around when I was just starting school, and I didn’t like the attention Mom gave her instead of me. I would pick on Misty relentlessly, to the point where she hated me later in her life. Misty was a beautiful long-haired gray Himalayan cat. Mom found her as a stray on the highway when she was just a kitten. Misty was half-starved when Mom found her, and Mom nursed her back to health with eyedroppers. Mom took a special interest in Misty because she found Misty around the same time I was born. In my Mom’s eyes, she was nursing two babies. Misty and I grew up together, and she put up with my infantile outbursts and games. Somewhere before preadolescence, I started to treat Misty horribly for intentions I don’t recall. Perhaps I was just being a troublesome child, or maybe I was jealous because Mom would pay more attention to her than me.

However, Misty was getting old, and I couldn’t grasp this concept at twelve. I didn’t pick on Misty as much, I had my own kitten I paid attention too. But Misty’s health was failing. Her hair was falling out and she could barely walk anymore or control her body functions. She lost a lot of weight and looked very frail. It was difficult for Mom, but we had to put her asleep, just as we did with Korky. It was harder for Mom because she raised Misty like her own, and she had to have my Grandfather take Misty to the vet instead of her. I was relieved to get rid of Misty actually, and the whole ordeal didn’t affect me much.

When it was over Mom was reminiscing about Misty’s full life, and she said to me, “Misty always protected you and watched you when you were little. Sometimes she would sleep with you in your crib. You should be sad as well.”

Before Misty’s death, Mom had gotten me an orange tabby kitten for my 11th birthday. She even let me pick her out. That night Mom and I got into the car and took a drive outside of Freeport to a farm that belonged to a friend of hers. We drove up the gravel driveway to see a small one-story house on our left and a huge barn on our right. This was a dairy farm. But besides the cows that were on the farm, this farm had an infinite number of cats. As Mom drove up the driveway, I was afraid that she would hit some because so many were scattered and painted all over the yard leaving a trail up to the house and over to the barn. I expected to pick one of the cats outside, but I was shocked to discover that there were about fifty more cats inside that small shack!

We walked inside and the place reeked of cat urine, food, and animal smells. Cats were lounged on the tables and appliances. They ran under my feet and scattered in fear when we walked in. Cats occupied every corner and cranny in the house. They were all different colors and sizes. Some were fat and thin, and some were sick and healthy. I looked at them all, trying to make a connection with all of them. None of them appealed to me. I wanted a cat that I could have a connection with, like the connection that Mom had with Misty. I gave up and asked them to take me to the barn to check the cats out there. As we traveled to the barn, the cats seemed more wild and sickly. I felt sorry for all of them because I love cats so much. I wanted to take more than one home, but I couldn’t. I walked past the wild ones as we were led to the barn. Still no connection.

Inside the barn, it smelled of cows and fertilizers. Cats still scattered throughout the barn in frenzy, curious to whom I was, or scared that humans were entering their territory. All the cats seemed similar in the barn. I saw a family of orange tabbies, and many of them looked a like. Most of them ran from me, except one. She looked up at me with intense yellow eyes. She had dirt in her tear ducts and her left ear was brown and crusty from frostbite. She had interesting markings on her back. Amongst her light orange hair, she had thick vibrant organic shapes of a darker orange covering her back. Out of all the orange tabbies, she did not run away.

“I want this one, Mom,” I said.

I picked her up. She was shaking from the cold. I started to pet her, stroking that fascinating mark on her back. She started to purr. She looked up at me; her yellow eyes began to close in relaxation. She stayed in my arms the entire drive home. I knew I had school the next day, but I couldn’t sleep. I was so excited to finally have my own kitten. I loved her already. I laid with her under the covers and got up periodically to show her the litter box. I watched her purr, and I loved to feel her warm fur against me as she slept. I named her Butterscotch, because she had that color of fur. It was a simple name given to a well-loved kitten from an eleven year old.

Butterscotch would grow up with me during the most tumultuous time of my life, my preadolescence. She was company for me when I cried about hard times at school. If I came home from a rotten day of junior high school hell, I would bury my face into my covers and cry, but I didn’t feel alone entirely. Butterscotch would gently walk toward me, already purring without being touched. She didn’t meow. She didn’t have to. She sniffed me as I cried, rubbed against my hand, and make sure she was touching me when she laid next to me. He rhythmic purring and warmth helped to subdue my cries. I would pet her and feel her silky fur under my dry hands, and I would feel better. I didn’t know exactly how I could feel better, but Butterscotch did this for me. She was more than a pet. She was my best friend.

Butterscotch would be a constant source of support and love for me whenever I was down. I was so happy with her I forgot how fragile a cat’s life was. Most cats live long lives, sometimes as much as fifteen years. But Butterscotch was not so fortunate. When she was about 6 years old, she began to have some terrible seizures. She would spin and convulse uncontrollably for long periods of time, during which she couldn’t control her bodily functions. She would try to control them, huffing and yowling, trying to fight with her mind when her body would not listen. After such a horrific struggle, she would weakly try to stand on two legs, and she was unpleasantly soaked in her own urine. Every time she had these seizures, it would pain me to see it. These seizures, as horrible as they were initially, would get worse. The seizures that would eventually kill her were the ones that involved terrible convulsions that took most of the room, and walls and floors would be splattered in blood.

My parents did the right thing by putting Butterscotch down when I was away on a school event. I knew the entire day she wouldn’t last much longer. I woke up early to catch the bus, and I checked on her in her failing state. She was too weak to stand, and when I started to cry, she tried to be strong for me and wobbled on her two bony legs. I don’t think she wanted me to cry, I could tell. When I came home to find her gone and put to rest, I cried all afternoon into the next day. I had lost a part of myself, and it would take me awhile to get used her not being physically there. It sounds crazy, but I think sometimes she visits me in spirit, just to check on me.

Today our family still includes animals, but the ones before them will never be forgotten. Mom and I love to recall the entertaining times our late animals had given us during their lives. We tell the stories over and over again about Korky’s blue balls and Butterscotch’s silky fur. Our eyes light up and we become moist with tears just for a second. Each individual pet made an impact on us; they were family.

@ HK Rowe 2002-2015

Nonfiction Wednesday – Vision of Her

Vision of Her

I had a vision of Her, in the most beautiful clearing of a forest, a little slice of Summerland on Earth just for us.

She saw me weeping and took my hand, and She drew me to a hill glittering with yellow spring flowers and emerald green grass.

As She pulled my hand to follow, I saw Her face, Her smile – the brightest  I have ever seen, brighter than sunlight, and Her hair was long and flaxen, wild and windblown.

Her laughter was warm and soothing as a summer breeze and Her head had a crown of flowers atop of it.

Suddenly as we twirled, dancing and laughing together with our hands still entwined, fairies began to shimmer around us, playing ancient music of happiness and joy.

I laughed with Her. Danced with Her, and with Her eyes of moonlight, she gazed at me lovingly, warming me through my heart and soul.

We danced until the sun went down, where it felt like no time at all had passed.

Finally tired, we collapsed into the grass, cool from the twilight. I caught my breath, but She still held my hand.

I turned to look at Her, and She smiled one last time.

I followed Her gaze to the stars, and when I looked back, She was gone, returning to the Moon, but never really leaving me, looking down at me, watching and forever dancing with me within my soul.

© 2014-2015 H.K. Rowe

Nonfiction Wednesdays – Silent Knight

The sexual tension between us was like silly string. Though I’m sure it was thicker on his end and thinner on mine. Despite the carnal looks he gave me behind that sheepish smile, I knew that it was time. I had the scissors ready in my hands to end this gauche chase.

I made the motion to him to come follow me out of the sweltering store and have a seat on the ground. I sighed heavily and rested my back against the window. Dirt and pebbles crackled beneath me as I shifted into a comfortable position on the rough concrete.

He followed me nervously like my dog does after a rough scolding. How could I tell him? He was my friend, but I could see in the way he looked at me that he wanted to be more. I knew he would patiently wait an eternity if I gave him one obliging signal over any course of time.

If I wanted to save this friendship, I had to be the one to bravely speak. I wasn’t going to let this tension haunt us any longer. I shifted the dirt between my fingers. I wasn’t nervous, but I was scared I’d hurt him. I cared about him, but he wanted a different kind of care that I just couldn’t give him.

“You know, you’re one of my best friends.” I licked my lips. I still couldn’t look at him. “But I can’t think of you as any more than that.”

There! I did it!

I choked back a sigh. I wanted him to see that this didn’t affect me.

But it was painful. I knew that inside him the gallons of hope for me to ever love him swiftly evaporated away with that statement. I was the coward though. I couldn’t even look him in the eye while telling him something that would change the way he looked at me forever.

Superficial conversation soon followed, and he sauntered around lightly acting out that nothing had hurt him. But I knew by looking at his eyes that it did.

© 2004 – 2015 H.K. Rowe

Nonfiction Wednesdays – Unclaimed Ring

Another old tale of mine… a family tale when I was a teenager.

About ten years ago when my great-uncle Homer died, my family acquired no lavish inheritances or priceless antiques. Following an ordinary auction, all that was left was a few cases of precious things. After sifting through service medals and faded dime novels, I found a dusty tarnished ring in a small pool table-shaped jewelry box.

It was odd that a lifetime bachelor like Homer would have such a feminine looking ring among masculine looking service medals. The ring looked like a diamond, but my grandmother said it was quartz. The quartz had clouded from all the time it was tucked away in the jewelry box. The gold wasn’t real either because it was tarnished underneath the ring. However, it certainly was an engagement ring.

As grandma sifted through old boxes of dishes, I put the jewelry box in my lap and studied its contents. I wanted to play a small game of pool with the top of the jewelry box, but sadly the cue and the tiny balls were glued to the top of the dusty green felt. I had no real interest in the medals after Grandma had told me they were standard issues for time in the service and going to World War II. He had no purple hearts; thus he didn’t do anything to keep my interest in the medals. After Grandma had bored me about how all her brothers were in the service and did this and that, I turned my attention back to the ring.

I tried the ring on, and, of course, it was too large for my ring finger. The only finger of mine that it remotely fit was my thumb.

“This ring was made for a big woman,” I said, a little baffled by the size of it. “Whose ring was this, Grandma?”

Grandma walked over looking quizzingly at the ring. “Oh.”

“Whose was it?” I asked when I saw her look at it in heavy concentration.

“Homer was going to marry some girl when he got back from the service.”

“What happened to her, Grandma?” I asked. The ring was still here. How could he give this to someone when it survived after his death and it belonged to no widow? “Was Homer married before?”

Grandma stepped back, and her face tripped into a daze, “No, your uncle never married. He was engaged to this woman and she sent him a ‘Dear John’ letter while he was stationed in Europe. After she had left him, he never saw another woman.”

“Wow! How cool!” I said, “Well, it’s sad too.” How dramatic! Without knowing this woman, I felt as though she was cruel to break my uncle’s heart for so long. I felt the urge to find this woman and let her know how she made my uncle feel until he died.

“Who was she, Grandma? What was her name?”

“Oh, I don’t remember. I think it was Katharine or Betty or something.”

“Wow! Can I keep the ring?” I asked.

She looked at me puzzled. “Sure, I guess. It’s not worth anything.”

Yes, it was, I thought. The ring held an amazing story within the cloudy quartz and tarnished gold plated band.

As I stared at the ring I thought about what really happened, and for some reason, I could only imagine in black and white. Two people were standing on a pier where thousands of soldiers were ready to depart. The woman was short and petite and had dark hair like Betty Davis and gentle feminine eyes like Ginger Rogers. She wore a medium gray hat, jacket, and shirt. She hadn’t pantyhose on because she couldn’t afford them. Her heels were scuffed and her gloves were slightly damp from crying. She gave her damp handkerchief to my uncle, who I could not imagine young. In real life, my uncle Homer was always mean looking and brooding. Was he always brooding about that lost woman?

Instead, I pictured my uncle tall like Gregory Peck and with a soft youthful face like James Stewart. He really didn’t want to leave her, but it was his duty to go for his country.

“I’ll write you,” he said softly as she choked on her breaths.

The scene faded into another where my uncle was in a dismal soldier’s bed reading letters by a weak gray light. His demeanor was more tired and disturbed than from the last scene. Reading letters was his only moment of comfort among the dizzying reality of war. As anticipation filled his face in opening a new letter, his face crumpled after he read the first couple of lines. The gray light fell weaker and was swallowed up into strangling darkness as my uncle slumped crying into his own lonely arms.

I could almost hear him reading her letter in his head. Like Anne Frank reading her diary, Katharine or Betty spoke calmly and full of hidden anxiety. Did she write her letter bluntly and shortly? Or did she write in great lengths and in much detail? I felt that if she had caused my uncle to be single for the rest of his life her letter must have been unfeeling and short.

“Dear Homer (that was his nickname and I never knew his real name), I know this may be hard for you to understand but I cannot see you anymore. I am sorry for the pain this will cause you but this long distance between us has made me restless. I can not wait any longer for you. I regret to tell you that I have met someone else. I hope you will understand this parting to preserve my happiness. Sincerely, Betty or Katharine.”

The only record of these two lovers was the ring that he had gotten overseas. He must have gotten it large enough for her to size down when he found out her real ring size. I envisioned him buying this ring in small English shop cheap because he could not buy pricey things on his soldier’s salary. I still feel this ring doesn’t belong to me even if I had inherited it. The ring was for only her finger and its value became richer than any diamond.

When I put the ring away I still think of the mysterious woman who could have worn it. I wonder what would have happened if she had waited and claimed this ring.

[Originally written in 2004.]

© 2015 HK Rowe

Nonfiction: The Lottery Club

Welcome to nonfiction Wednesdays!

Why did I choose to talk about nonfiction? Well, for one, nonfiction is particularly special to me. I took Nonfiction Writing at Northern Illinois University as an elective for my English Minor back in 2002. At the beginning of the semester, I was dating this guy who I met on one of those free dating sites. It was actually sort of a new thing back in 2002, and he was the second guy I’d met through it. He was, well, a pretty decent boyfriend. However, as I’d find out though some of the weeks before spring break, he was turning out to be sort of a basketcase. We were happy and things were good until he became distant and shady, and then he decided to break up with me right before spring break. Nice guy, eh? Well, it was college.

During that spring break I had to write a paper for my Writing Nonfiction class and read it to everyone when classes resumed. I was so distraught that I couldn’t think of anyone else but my ex. I tried writing my paper about him – in a notebook and on the computer. Nothing I wrote was good. It was all awful, and as I wrote I found myself sounding completely pathetic. My feelings seemed real, but they just weren’t real to me.

I’d soon realized that writing about my ex was just purging. I was releasing myself from the relationship through my words. They were valid, at least to me, but to share them with a class seemed horrifying. Not only that, I didn’t want to seem like a complete loser in front of my writing peers. As some people know, when you take an English writing class, some people can be pretty harsh (and rightly so).

So I scrapped everything I wrote and decided to write about someone else besides myself. I didn’t want my paper to have anything to do with me that had any sort of depth.

I wrote about my job. I didn’t care at the time. I wanted to disconnect myself from my broken hearted misery and write about something that I knew I could write about without really thinking. I wanted to write about a place I was pretty comfortable sharing with others, something that came easily.

At the time, I was working at a gas station. I’d worked at a couple different gas stations for 2 years at that point. I’d worked at one back home, and then I’d found a really well-paid cashier position at a busy gas station in DeKalb near the college.

I decided to write about my job at the gas station back home. I was feeling homesick, and even though it doesn’t sound like the most luxurious jobs, I enjoyed the people I met there. Trust me when I say that gas stations bring in a variety of people from many different backgrounds and social circles.

I’d served the blue collar types, like construction workers and auto mechanics. I’d served the mayor, councilmen, police officers, and clergy. I’d served people on welfare and homeless people. I’d served college kids, high school kids, and even little kids who came in to buy a candy bar while their mother watched from outside.

Probably my favorite people to serve were the lottery players. I had a love-hate relationship with them. When you worked at a gas station, you had regulars, and you had the same folks buying lottery too. So, for my paper I decided to write about the regular lottery players I’d like to call The Lottery Club.

Consequently, my decision to write about these lottery people was a good one. Many people in my class were impressed, even the biggest critics. One person was not entertained, but he was known for finding fault with everything and never being satisfied. It felt good to hear the teacher of the class knock down his criticisms to defend me.

Not only was this one of my proudest writing moments in my lifetime, but the Writing Nonfiction class would forever change my life in a different way.

In this class, I met another student writer there that would someday become my husband. When I’d fretted over what to write after my breakup with that other boy, I’d searched inside myself and expressed something deeper, a part of myself I was delighted to share with others, rather than drown them in my personal suffering. In the end, a bad relationship had ended and another was soon born – a better one.

So I am pleased to share with you that story I wrote, complete in its original form:


 

The Lottery Club

(HK Rowe © 2002-2015)

 

Normally, my six-hour shift never changes. I work at a small, obscure little gas station that attracts the lowest class of people. The same people come into the gas station to get the usual things they did on previous visits. After awhile of repeat visits, regulars are known by first names to us employees at Phillips 66. The people who are normally the regulars are the lottery players. They play Midday and Evening lottery. They never hesitate to spend lots of money either. They constantly consult each other about numbers that they “feel” are right. They’re in tuned with the lottery and number gods. Or so they think they are even if they lose repeatedly.

Butch: President

At Phillips 66 in Freeport, Butch is the great sage of lottery. Not only does he spend over a hundred dollars a day on numbers, but also money seems to be no object to him. To the others who play lottery, he’s the Messiah. They always look up to him and await his advice.

Unlike the other lottery players, he seems different. His demeanor and appearance seems to be cleaner and more refined then that of the others. He definitely has money to spend, for he is the owner of Mrs. Mike’s Potato Chips.

I’m often curious to why the other lottery players look up to Butch so much. He’s won several thousands of dollars on lottery, but he’s lost just as much. For some reason, the numbers he picks seem to influence the others enough so they play the same.

I always know when Butch appears on my shift. I can see his curly white hair, pink face, and round torso sitting in his blue Jeep as he pulls into the station. His golden presence is radar, and shockingly other lottery regulars seem to come to the station simultaneously when he’s there. He walks into the station and usually some are quick to greet him, inquiring about his numbers and their miraculous origins.

“I saw this license plate number 4-7-6, and I have a feeling it’s going to come in soon,” Butch says when another lottery player asks about his numbers.

“Oh, yeah. I saw that one too. I saw 6-4-7 on the address of a house when I was walking Bogart the other day,” says Ed.

Their chatter warms the dullness of the gas station. They socialize, talking about numbers with passion. They are in their own worlds, and they don’t seem to mind being slowly forced into the corner with the candy and 12-pack sodas by the bustle of other customers.

Butch hands me his long list of numbers. He always tells me to not hurry. He’s going to talk to Ed about his failure at Midday numbers.

“I almost had it too!” I also hear him say, “I second guessed myself again. I had a little feeling about that number but didn’t play it.”

I snort unhappily at his long list. He always plays his numbers the same way every night. For Pick 3, he has about eight or so different numbers and I have to type in each number and play them as a Strait Box and a Strait for a dollar five times. His Pick 4 numbers are played about the same way, only instead of a Strait Box for each number, he wants a 50/50, which is 50 cents Strait and 50 cents Box.

After I type in the first four numbers, my fingers become robotic and seem to move on their own. I push the bright blue, green, yellow, and red keys of the black machine… 4-5-7…Strait Box… Send…Last…Strait… 1 dollar… Repeat…05 times…Send…”

The process seems to take forever. Whenever I punch in his numbers, the redundancy seems to slice my brain out of my head and turn me into a zombie. I don’t usually like getting interrupted during Butch’s numbers by other customers. Because the routine is so ingrained in me, I sometimes hiss like a monster after other customers interrupt me.

Once I get his numbers played and paid for, the rest of the night seems like a reprieve. But I still get annoyed as more lottery people come.

Ed: Vice-President

Ed is Butch’s second-in-command. Butch and Ed wait for each other to show up most nights so they can discuss numbers. Like Butch, Ed drives a distinctive vehicle. When he pulls up in his rusty, dull maroon van, he moves out slowly, gliding into the station like a phantom. As his master leaves the van, Ed’s hound dog Bogart barks at all the other customers coming into the station. Ed has a routine usually every night. He gets about four dollars of gas in his van, buys a bag of cheap Cheetohs for Bogart, and disappears into the bathroom. Usually he’s so quiet I forget he’s still here. When I look out the window, and I still see his van and a hyper Bogart, I know he’s around somewhere.

Eventually, Ed slinks around the corner from the bathroom to my high counter. If Butch isn’t here, he’ll inquire if he has been. Whether Butch has been there or not, Ed will stay, usually for a very long time.

Ed can seem a little scary at first. He could be mistaken for a little homeless man. He wears a ratty old navy overcoat, full of dark spots of unlimited amounts of dirt, smoke, and any other filth. He always wears a blue knit hat, and I’ve never seen him without it, even in the summer. His face looks hard and tired, and without being touched I feel his face is rough and bumpy like beef jerky. His beard, a style stolen from Abe Lincoln, makes him look a hundred years older than his actual age. His eyes are teary and wet, and they remind me of eyes of an aging dog. One eye doesn’t seem to work very well, constantly flooded with tears and moving erratically.

Despite his homely appearance, Ed has a sharp and cranky tongue. His voice has the intimidation of a strict old-fashioned grandfather. He usually looks at me intensely with his erratic blue eye and says to me, “What number is that bingo on?”

Whatever number I say, he steps back in intense thought. Nothing on his body will move except his erratic eye. Suddenly he opens his mouth full of brown rotting teeth.

“Give me it. And don’t disappoint me.”

After about five disappointing bingos, he plays his Pick 3 numbers for the evening. First he wonders about Butch’s numbers, and then he reluctantly plays them, but in a different order. He never spends more than ten dollars, but he’s adamant with me that HIS numbers should be picked because of the money he’s spent. Before he leaves he gives me a slow, piercing look with his wild eye.

“You better pick my numbers tonight, not like the last time.” Then he floats out of the station to his van; Bogart is jumping, shaking the van in jubilation at his return.

PeeWee: Public Relations

Upper middle class customers seem to leave immediately upon PeeWee’s arrival. PeeWee is a short middle-aged man, appropriately labeled the Pimp of Freeport. Well, I guess he used to be. For sure, he now puts his shady salary into the lottery system.

He always wears his white plastic-like hat (it looks like a miniature cowboy hat) with small black feathers held together by a black satin ribbon. He’s wearing his green and white striped polo shirt, stained from coffee and other unknown substances. He wears gray trousers and scuffed alligator shoes. His skips into the station with a grin full of mistreated teeth. His charcoal face and deep brown pupils contrast with the intensity of the whites of his eyes.

He hands me his list of tattered notebook paper. It’s scribbled in writing that resembles a child’s. After I hand him the completed tickets with his numbers, he has suddenly thought of more. Through his strong distinctive lisp, I hear about two more numbers. After paying only about four dollars, PeeWee’s vivid presence dances away. He drives off in his dusty blue convertible with some scantily clad and terribly ugly middle-aged woman in the passenger seat. Not only do the customers sigh in relief when PeeWee leaves, but the store itself seems to be more comfortable as well.

Members of the Board

Butch, Ed, and PeeWee only make up small amounts of the regular lottery players that come in during a night at Phillips 66. Usually more familiar faces linger into play the numbers.

Russ, a spirited look alike to Bill Cosby, comes in and shoots out numbers to me before he walks into the door. Thus, he’s affectionately called Dr. Huxtable among my co-workers. Without vision, we can easily recognize him as he yells out his commonly played Pick 4 numbers: 3414, 1947, 1923, and etc. He wears his tan overcoat, has a smile on his wrinkly freckled chocolate face. Sometimes he smoothes out his dry curly gray hair, and squints his eyes to look at my appearance, expecting me to have a new hairstyle. Then he always asks me, “Are you still in school? Do you still do all that drawing?”

He has a brother, Othar, which is a slimmer version of him with wilder black hair. Othar doesn’t only play regular lottery; he also plays instant tickets. He normally buys a pack of Merit Ultima 100 and about 30 dollars in instants with his winnings and crumpled bills. He takes his smokes and tickets and camps out in his clean white van, only leaving once in awhile to cash in tickets. He leaves with me a stack of old Pick 3 numbers to check for winnings. If he has a winner, I’m supposed to give him a “thumbs-up” through the window while he waits in his van. When Othar comes to the station to play, he usually never goes until close. He plays and plays until he runs out of money, and the money is always being found somewhere.

Eyes roll and people inhale when Dick walks in. Dick, an unkempt moldy old war veteran, walks all over town, and finally he stops into Phillips 66 for company and free coffee. His thick-framed glasses are always spotted and greasy. His back is hunched, weighted by his tummy. He seems goofy to those who don’t know him because he usually wears nice dress pants, a pair of tennis shoes, a raggedy bright red coat, and a frilly pink knit hat. He always announces he’s going bankrupt, sometimes in a mournful blues song he made up on the spot. After getting a cup of free coffee, he buys ten dollars in lottery tickets and cheap smokes. He goes outside and stands in front of the window to light up and gaze at the traffic outside. His eyes always look so sad, and I can’t help feel sorry for him, as his life seems to be hanging on by a thread. He’s excited when Butch comes, and doesn’t hesitate to corner him in a conversation about the same topic.

“The boss-man had no right to fire me.”

I don’t know what brings all these men together. Some nights all of them will circle together by the candy and talk colorfully about numbers and luck. They’ve all had that “feeling” about a certain number. They’re always sure the feeling is prophetic. If they win, they can better their lives. They all listen to Butch, who wins and has it better, but he still plays. Maybe it’s just considered an addiction, but I see more magic and color when these men talk about lottery then I see when smokers talk about cigarettes. They all seem to be caught in some life cycle, and they don’t mind. They wait patiently, twirling around in a machine with random circumstances. Someday, they believe their number will be picked.

Also, I did a cartoon of the regular lottery folks.

Also, I did a cartoon of the regular lottery folks.

END

Cheers,

HK Rowe