Part Two: 319
The Ticket is a work of short fiction written by former Three Rivers resident and local author Charles Thomas. The story has been split into seven parts, all of which will be published on Watershed Voice in the coming days/months.
Daryl slept through Britney’s first three text messages and then slept through her two phone calls, too. It wasn’t until she knocked like a jackhammer at the front door of the little Cape Cod on Hooker Avenue that Daryl finally woke up.
“Daryl,” he heard his mother yell from the living room. “Your friend Brittany is here to see you.”
Brittany wasn’t someone Daryl would have called his friend, but she was the person who’d given him a break when he needed it the most. Things had been pretty bleak when Brittany, the shift manager at the Triple Ripple Café, had offered him a job when no one else in town would. Maybe she was just desperate for staff, but Daryl thought that it was because she saw something in him beyond his record.
“I’m coming, Mom,” Daryl yelled back as he reached an arm down below his bed in search of his jeans. What was Brittany doing here anyway? He was off today, right? As Daryl zipped up his jeans, a wave of panic washed over him. Maybe he’d been scheduled to work this morning and spaced it. This could be the end of his short career as a barista.
With a defeated sigh, Daryl made his way down the hallway of the little house. Brittany was standing at the front door talking to his mother. She was wearing the very same Triple Ripple Café shirt that Daryl had slept in and was still wearing.
Yep, Daryl thought, I screwed up big time.
But instead of being angry, Brittany looked nervous as she made small talk with his mother.
“Hi Daryl,” Brittany said as Daryl came into view. Brittany was about the same age as Daryl but had lived a much easier life. She looked all of her 30 years, but you could still see more than just a shadow of the Wildcat cheerleader she had been. Sure, a few extra pounds had packed on in the last decade, but nothing that would stop her from putting on her old uniform. Unlike Daryl, Brittany finished high school and had even taken a few classes at Glen Oaks before dropping out to marry her high school boyfriend Rob.
“No offense,” Brittany said abruptly to Daryl’s mother, “but can Daryl and I talk in private.”
“Sure,” Daryl’s mother said, “but please tell me that Daryl still has a job.”
“He’s great. Everything’s fine. Really,” Brittany reassured her with a smile.
But his mother’s weary walk back toward the kitchen suggested that she wasn’t completely convinced.
“Did you not get my texts or my phone calls?” Brittany whispered bitterly to Daryl as soon as they were alone.
“Did I miss my shift or something? I was sure that I was off today, so I stayed up late playing video games and….”
“You don’t work today,” Britany whispered. “This is about the ticket.”
That lottery ticket? Daryl, Brittany, and a high schooler named Madison had been working the shift when someone had given them the ticket as a tip. Because she was shift leader, the crew had nominated Brittany to hold on to it and check the numbers.
“What about it?” Daryl asked.
“We won, Daryl. We won.” Brittany whispered excitedly. “I checked it 10 times to make sure, and I still can’t believe it, but…we won!”
Daryl felt a new kind of anxiety pass over him.
“What?” he said incredulously. “You’re kidding, right?”
“No,” she said. “I’m dead serious.”
“Did you tell Madison yet?” Daryl asked.
“No, I thought the grown-ups should take the lead on this. We need to keep this quiet for now until we can figure out how to play it. Don’t tell anyone, not even your mom.”
“Did you tell Rob?”
“No, we tell no one for now,” Brittany ordered. “We’re not even going to tell Madison until we figure some stuff out, okay?”
It seemed unfair to Daryl to keep this from Madison. She had just as much of a share in this as they did. But then again, she was just a junior in high school.
“Okay,” Daryl agreed. “It’ll be our little secret.”
“Good,” Brittany said. “We need to talk to a lawyer and figure out how we’re gonna play this before we start running our mouths.”
“Not a word about this,” she reminded him once more as she walked to her car. Brittany was the shift manager and had left Trevor alone to make this visit, and Trevor was not the kind of kid that should be left alone with a cash register full of money.
While Daryl didn’t break his promise to Brittany, by that evening Three Rivers was abuzz anyway. Television trucks from Grand Rapids and South Bend descended like locusts on the 131 Gas and Go where the winning ticket was sold. The reporters were asking anyone who would talk to them what if felt like to have a neighbor who had just won $319 million dollars.
Charles D. Thomas is a writer and psychotherapist who made Three Rivers his home for over a decade. Feedback is welcome at Charles@charlesdthomas.com.