I live next to a liquor store where an old man sleeps.
He’s outdoors most mornings in the fog that I can barely stand without my piping mug of coffee and full-blast defroster I use to thaw my body and mind. At night, I notice him, too. He’s almost always drunk under the flickering of the parking lot light behind the convenience store, back against the cold brick, bundled under a few garments and the old sleeping bag I gave him (though I don’t think he remembers where it came from). From his coat, an arm is attached to a well-traveled pair of gloves, one hand gripping a paper bagged can which rests on the pavement as he sleeps.
He’s a man, like you or me, but a drunk under the stars and homeless, you see.
And as I wait in line behind him tonight,
he spent his last dollars on beer and “A shot at the big one!”
He shouts these words as he exits, paper bag tall boy in hand. Ticket tucked neatly under the brim of his ball cap. I know he’ll go hungry tonight chasing it.
His sacrifice gets me thinking on the walk home.
Soon, a siren in the distance reaches the winner of what I imagine is a domestic case over hard money spent on dreams of the easy life…
Angels circling the head of the accused, because it’s alright to follow that American dream and imagine what a buck could do.
And why not?
Why not buy in to that easy estimate of billions wealth that everyone seems to be eavesdropping on?!
It’s not lengthy or weird. It’s standard, like chewing gum or a pack of smokes.
Addiction is a word best left for problems, but this is the dream? Just use your imagination!
Why work hard today
When there’s always a new ticket tomorrow.
“And someone won in Redding, lucky bastard.” I imagine him saying just loud enough for the line at the liquor store counter to hear him. The next time I see his stubbled face, hungover and shuffling in the liquor store line he’ll still be hungry… “Lucky bastard.” He will mutter, and he will mean it with all of him. Not jealous so much as holding onto that hope
A desperate hope that folds like currency to the growing neon numbers of the bi-weekly drawing.
Zane Erhardt Boehlke
Teacher. Writer. Musician.