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Winning the Jackpot

by Martin Green


     “So you won a jackpot,” I said. “That’s unbelievable. How much was it?”

     “A thousand dollars,” said Abe Silver. “Yeah, I couldn’t believe it myself. The slots at that Indian casino are usually tighter than a drum.”

     Abe and I were having one of our semi-monthly lunches at the Lodge restaurant, the Lodge being the center of most activities in the Northern California retirement community where we lived. Abe and I were both from New York and both Jewish. We’d met when a New Yorkers club was formed and had naturally gravitated together ever since.

     “So what are you going to do with all that wealth?”

     “I don’t know yet. It still seems like a miracle.”

     “Yeah.” Abe and I, being Jewish and brought up in Jewish households were both pessimists. As Abe had once said, Jews had been persecuted for thousands of years and now there was a country that had vowed to wipe them out. We’d compared notes on growing up in New York and our experiences had been the same. In the winter, our mothers had made sure we wore our coats, hats and gloves before venturing outside. In the summer, we couldn’t stay out too long or else we’d be liable to get heatstroke. Of course, at all times we had to look both ways before crossing the street. Talking to strangers was forbidden. Dangers lurked on all sides.

     Abe suddenly began to cough.

     “Are you all right?”

     “Yeah. I think I’m coming down with a summer cold.”

     “You remember when we were kids we had to put that stuff on our chests when we got a cold?”

     “Yeah, I remember. It worked sometimes, too.”

     We went on to discuss the presidential election then going on. We agreed that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were both terrible. No matter who won, we were pessimistic about the future of the country. “At least,” said Abe, “I hope whoever gets in will be friendlier to Israel.”

     “Yeah, I hope Obama doesn’t pull a last-ditch surprise. He really has it in for Netanyahu.”

     “I wouldn’t put it past him. Poor Israel. The Jews finally get a tiny country and the whole world is against us.”

     We left on that pessimistic note.

     At our lunch a couple of weeks later Abe was looking unhappy. “What’s the matter?” I asked Abe when he came in. “Did you get caught in that downpour?”  In the Sacramento Valley where we lived it wasn’t supposed to rain during the summer but today we were having a freak storm.

     “Nah, it isn’t that.”

     “Is your cold worse?”

     “It’s about the same. It’s only one of the things that’s been happening to me since I won that jackpot.”

     “What things?”

     “Well, our air-conditioner went out. It was on a Friday of course and you remember how hot it was then. Cost a few hundred dollars to get it fixed. Then on the way to the store I got a flat tire. Had to wait half an hour in the hot sun until the tow truck came. And my computer went down. I’m still waiting for someone to come and fix that.”

     “Seems you’re having a streak of bad luck.”

     “And the weather; when has it ever rained in July before?”

     “Wait a minute, you’re not saying you’re responsible for the weather.”

     “Nah, I guess not. But all those things. You know, I haven’t felt really comfortable since winning that damned jackpot. I don’t know, it’s as if the universe has somehow gotten out of order. Do you know what I mean?”

     “No, not really.”

     “Well, I have to do something about it.”

     “What are you going to do?  Give the money back to the Indians?”

     “No, I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m thinking about it.  Okay, let’s order. So what do you think Hillary will do once she gets in the White House. Do you think she and Bill will be as crooked as ever?”

     After lunch with Abe I drove back home in the rain and checked my computer for e-mails. Nothing but spam, as usual. I looked at how the stock market had closed; it was down again. I went out to collect the mail, the usual bills and organizations asking for donations.  I did notice though that the rain had stopped and the sun had come out.    When I got back inside the house the phone rang.

     I picked it up, it was Abe. “What’s up?” I said.

     “I’ve decided what to do.”

     “About what?”

     “About that jackpot, you idiot.”

     “I was just kidding.”

     “Hah. Anyway, I’m giving a thousand dollars to that organization that plants trees in Israel.”

     “That’s good.”

     “Yeah, I’ve felt better ever since I decided.”

     “So you’ve restored order to the universe.”

     “I don’t know about that but my computer started working again. I think the bad things have stopped happening.”

     “And it’s stopped raining, also.”

     “I don’t take credit for that. Anyway, I wanted to let you know.”

     “I’m glad you did.”

     “See you later.”

     I hung up and looked outside. The sun was glinting off the trees in my backyard. A bird flew by. The sky was a clear blue. So all was right with the world. For the time being.


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