The Lottery – Chapter 1

I held the door open as the slightly overweight lady came out of the Circle-K. My stomach took that moment to growl. Sometimes, when it growls, I’m the only one who can hear it. But it was loud enough to make the lady glance my way.

“Gracious me, Sugar. You look a bit peaked,” she drawled.

While she seemed like a nice sort, the pity in her eyes bothered me. Sure, I hadn’t bathed in more than a week, and the angular face reflecting off the glass showed smudges of dirt under sunken eyes. My stomach gurgled again, protesting the lack of food. I just wanted to curl up and die right then.  I thought about letting go of the door and bolting. But I didn’t. A little voice in the back of my head said a real man wouldn’t do that. Even shamed, he’d do the right thing and hold a door open for a lady.

I mumbled, “I’m fine, ma’am.”

I’ve read online some women don’t like being called ma’am, but down here in the South, it’d be an insult not to. There weren’t too many lessons I’d learned from my mom, but that one stuck.

The lady shook her head and reached into her purse and pulled out a bill, “I ‘spect so. But you’ve got good manners. Somebody’s raising you well. Why don’t you take this and have a treat?”

I was loathed to accept the money. But I couldn’t stop my hand from reaching out and taking it. I’m sure the red on my cheeks came through the grime. Even though she was back in the car, I could almost feel my mom nudging me to do the right thing. I swallowed the lump in my throat, “Thank you, ma’am. It’s not necessary but I’m much obliged.”

She laughed softly as she stepped off the curb, “You’re sweet. Now why don’t you go get yourself something.”

Once inside the store, I opened my palm and saw the picture of Andrew Jackson on the greenback. Mom and I had spent the last of her tip money a couple of days ago, and the image of the dead president was a welcome sign.

Going over to the canned food section, I picked up a few cans of Dinty Moore before heading over to the wall of drinks at the back of the store. Mom loves her Red Bull, and I picked up a can for both of us before heading over to the cash register.

The pimply faced brown-skinned kid behind the register eyed me. Of course, if I saw me, I’d probably be dubious. Ten days in the same worn and ratty clothes, ten days without a bath, I didn’t exactly look reputable. Still, when he saw the Jackson, he scanned the items and took my money.

Outside, I spied the lady who had given me the money at one of the gas pumps. As she climbed into her car, a nice late model Buick, the wind caught a scrap of paper from one of her pockets and blew it across the island of pumps. The door closed and light exhaust wafted from her tail pipe in the coolness of the March morning as she pulled toward the exit.

“Hey lady!” I called out as I hurried over to see what she’d dropped. The wind trapped the scrap of paper against another gas pump. I reached down to pick it up and noticed an orange ribbon of ink along one side and a logo at the top. I recognized it as a ticket for the Mega Millions lottery. Instead of the familiar purple L and the block letters from the Louisiana Lottery Commission, this ticket carried the logo of the Texas Lotto.

Of course it would. Mom and I had been in Texarkana for the past week. Not on the shitty Arkansas side, but the equally shitty Texas side.

Holding the slip of paper, I looked up, trying to see the lady’s Buick, but she was long gone. Ignoring the logo and the computer-generated numbers, I noticed the draw for the same day. Then I saw the jackpot. It was up to three-hundred-fifty million dollars. It must have been a while since anyone had won.

I shoved the ticket into my jeans pocket and headed toward the car. I’d seen plenty of lottery tickets. Earl played the Mega Million twice a week. Most of the time, the tickets ended up under the ashtray next to his old La-Z-Boy recliner. But the older tickets could be found just about anywhere. I swear, we could have wall papered the living room of drafty single-wide in those things.

The car was just where I’d left it, parked behind an old, boarded up store, next to a couple of empty dumpsters. I looked down into the car, Mom was asleep, reclining all the way back in the driver’s seat. Despite the yellowed bruises under her eyes, even I could tell that she was pretty. Her hair, which was messy and tangled, was a golden blond, the shade of a wheat field. Only slightly darker than my own messy hair.

She looked young. Too young to be the mother of a tween. My friend Jeremy was always telling me how hot my mom was. Of course, as a preteen boy, I’d just tell him he was gross. But standing there, looking down on her, alone with my thoughts, I couldn’t help but agree with him. Despite the dark circles under her closed eyes and the unhealthy pallor of her skin, her youthful beauty was easy to see.

As I went around to the passenger side door, I understood better why Earl had taken my mom in after my father was murdered.

I knocked on the door until she popped the lock, “Hey I got some food,” I said as I opened the paper back and pulled out a tin of Dinty Moore.

Mom reached over and squeezed my shoulder, “Thanks, Pooh Bear. I didn’t realize we still had money left.”

I didn’t want to worry her, so I shrugged, “This was the last of it.”

When I handed her a Red Bull, she smiled, and for a moment I found myself agreeing with Jeremy. Mom’s smile was positively radiant. She looked a lot younger than her twenty-seven years when she smiled like that.

“Oh, Thank God,” she said as she popped the top and took a long drink.

We split a can of stew, using plastic spoons from an earlier trip to Sonic. The hunger was still there when we’d finished, but I was used to that.

After licking the last of the congealed juice from the inside of the can, I said, “We can’t stay here, Mom. Why don’t we go over to the Salvation Army? They’ve got a place for us to stay.”

She shook her head, “Hell no. Not after what happened in Natchez.”

I sighed, grabbed a paperback from my backpack on the floorboard, and leaned back to read. I didn’t blame her. I couldn’t. Not after everything we’d gone through since leaving Earl. The first night, we had stopped in Natchez, on the Mississippi River. While there wasn’t a shelter for women, they did have a wing for men and another for women and children. The matron who ran the women’s wing came into the little sectioned off space where Mom and I were sleeping in cots. She must have thought I was sleeping, because she slipped inside the blue divider and woke Mom up at some ungodly hour. Even though she whispered, I heard every word, lying there as I was with my eyes closed.

“Ms. Lambert. Samantha, are you awake, dear?”

Mom was groggy but awake, “Huh?”

“I’ve got a place for you and your boy, if you want it.”

Mom woke up more, “A place?”

“Yeah. I seen you’ve been beat up something awful. You need someone who won’t hurt you. Show you some kindness.”

Even tired, Mom’s voice was guarded, “You know someone like that?”

The woman’s voice was barely above a whisper, “Yeah. You could come stay with me. I’d take good care of you, and you could raise your boy here in Natchez. You’d learn to like it here.”

Mom said, “Why? Why’d you do something like that for me?”

“You’re a peach, Samantha, young thing like yourself. I think you’ve been treated as badly by men as I have. And they can’t give you what I can.”

I opened my eyes at those words, only to watch the lady lean forward as if for a kiss. Mom pushed her away and stood up. “Robin, get your shoes on. We’re leaving. Now.”

I had to grab my shoes as I followed Mom into the parking lot. After that, she didn’t want any part of going to any shelter.

But now, with our money gone and barely any gas in the tank, we were running low on options.

“Mom, we can’t stay here much longer. We’re lucky no cops have come back here since we arrived. If you don’t want to try the Salvation Army shelter, maybe we can try another one. There’s got to be more than one.”

Mom shuddered, no doubt remembering Natchez. “I… I can’t Pooh Bear. Once the bruises are gone, I’ll get a job waitressing. Won’t have to wait until payday. Between the tips and food we can get from the job, we’ll be fine until I can afford an apartment.”

I didn’t blame her for not wanting to go job hunting until the bruising healed. How could I? After all, her bruises were my fault.

I closed the book. I just couldn’t focus on the words. I closed my eyes, hating that I couldn’t let go of the memory.

Jeremy and I were in my little room at one end of Earl’s single-wide. Like Earl, Jeremy’s dad worked at the prison. Unlike Earl, his dad worked in the accounting office, offsite. Jeremy and I had known each other for several years and were best friends. And now that we were both on the cusp of our teenage years, we’d started noticing the girls in our class at school.

That night, I’d stolen one of Earl’s Penthouse magazines, which he had stolen from some inmate, and we looked at pictures of naked women. Jeremy said, “Shit, Rob, we should have spent the night at my place. I found some better pictures online.”

That didn’t stop him from adjusting his pants where there was a pronounced bulge. After a bit, he said, “God, I need some relief.”

As I mentioned, Jeremy and I have known each other for a long time. This wasn’t the first time we’d looked at porn. So, when he pulled his pants and underwear down, it wasn’t the first time I’d seen his dick. You’d think a boy just under five foot would be small down below. Not hardly. He waved his five thick inches toward me, “Come on, Rob. Your turn.”

Maybe if this had been our first time, I’d have been really embarrassed, because physically Jeremy and I were polar opposites. I was tall for my age. Already several inches over five feet, even though I was still months away from turning thirteen. But apart from my height, Jeremy was ahead of me in every other way. When I stripped myself from the waist down, my dick pointed toward the ceiling, lacking both the girth and length of my best friend. Also, and I knew this because I checked it almost daily, I didn’t have hair number one, not even on my balls, which were barely the size of small marbles.

Of course, that night in my room hadn’t been our first time. Not by a long shot. I thought nothing of it when Jeremy grabbed my dick and started jerking me off, and I willingly returned the favor. We hadn’t been beating each other’s meat for long when he pushed me down on my bed and said, “Let’s suck each other.”

Right after discovering mutual masturbation, we discovered blowjobs. So, Jeremy tugging his shirt off and laying down opposite of me wasn’t anything new. I tugged my shirt off and lay with my face pushed against his curly dark brown pubes. As we sucked on each other I felt the tingling building up inside me.

And that was when Earl opened the door. He stood there for a long moment before screaming, “What the fuck are you two faggots doing?

It startled both me and Jeremy as we pulled back from each other. Then Earl was on us. He yanked my friend by the arm and pushed him toward the door, “Get out of here, you queer faggot. Just wait until I tell your daddy what the fuck you were doing.”

Then he turned to me. Before I knew what he was doing, my ears rang as his fist slammed into the side of my head. Before Earl could hit me again, Mom raced into the room and jumped onto his back, clawing at his face, screaming.

Earl was a bully. I’d always known that. When I’d been younger, it had started with snide remarks. By the time I was in junior high, it was slaps against the back or side of the head, just to remind me who was boss. But I had not seen him hit Mom before that night. He threw her off his back before turning on her. After a few hits left Mom crumpled on the floor of my room, Earl, sweat pouring down his red face, stood in the doorway, “Sam, if you ever touch me again, I’ll fucking kill you. And Robin, if you ever have that little faggot boy here again, I’ll beat the ever-living shit out of you. I won’t have queer shit going on under my roof.”

With that, he stormed out of the house. Once the roar of his pickup receded into the night, Mom climbed to her feet. By this time, I’d pulled on my pants and I came over to her. Blood ran down her nose and her eyes were swelling. We clung to each other, crying. When Mom’s tears stopped, she said, “Pooh Bear, I don’t know what you and Jeremy were doing in here, I guess it don’t matter much. But pack your shit into your backpack. I can’t live like this anymore.”

As we drove away in mom’s old Celica, she admitted it wasn’t the first time Earl hit her. Even though I’d never known, Earl’s abuse had started a while back.

I blinked away a tear as I pushed the memory away. Yeah. I’m the dill-hole who caused Mom to get the shit beat out of her, and leaning back in my seat, I still felt guilty as hell. I had never thought of myself as gay when Jeremy and I had fooled around. It was just something sexy and fun. And given the way he loved looking at big tits on the women online, I was pretty sure he wasn’t either. But Earl’s hateful words were hard to shake off. After all, Jeremy and I had done lots of stuff over the past year, almost every weekend. We’d even put our dicks in each other’s ass once. Maybe, despite liking to look at girls, I was gay; I wasn’t sure what to think. Part of me wanted to ask Mom about the sex stuff, but even though we’d always been close, she’d never talked to me about my body, puberty, or anything about sex. I guess she’d hoped Earl might behave in a fatherly way about that, but that wasn’t who he was. I wanted to ask her about it, but seeing the bruises on her face and feeling the shame of knowing it was my fault they were there, I just couldn’t bring myself to bring it up.

The rest of the day passed like several others before. After locking the car, we hiked over to a city park, where we threw a frisbee back and forth and enjoyed the feel of the warm sun against our faces and the cool March breeze.

Dinner was no different from lunch, and we didn’t stay up late. Within an hour of sunset, the car was dark, and we both tried to sleep. But it’s hard to do that when your stomach protests. Still, somehow or another, we managed.

Copyright 2021 – Caliboy1991
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