FLASH FICTION: Just the Ticket

James sat forward in his armchair and checked it again.

All six in a row. Match, match, match. Match. Match.

Match.

There was a number on the back. He picked up the phone. Corded. He liked to see wires go from A to B, endorsing his belief that the world could still be understood by observing it. The lady that answered was young and excitable, helpful enough. She explained what to do next, although he couldn’t concentrate over the noise of her smile. He hung up.

It wasn’t right. It wasn’t fair.

If she was here, he would have relished telling her the news. The crooked smile that broke out, always from left to right, and the twitch of her nose as her cheeks rose to those diamond eyes. She would have screamed and sang and danced a funny jig she half-remembered learning from an uncle in County Mayo.

Bill would have got a kick out of it, certainly. Oh ho, he’d have said, slapping him roundly on the back, his belly trembling with the exertion. Oh ho ho, you old dog. Turn up for the books, eh? Eh? Oh ho ho ho.

He would have enjoyed seeing the look on Mrs Shawcroft’s face, neighbour of 42-years and mortal enemy to the end. He would have found the right moment. Perhaps when she was deadheading withered petunias or washing her imitation crystal in a basin of suds.

It had come too late.

He went to the kitchen. He put a pan on the stove and dropped a single egg into the steaming water and watch it jiggle and dance away from the air bubbles rising to the surface. A slice of toast he only half-recalled toasting popped.

James set the ticket on the mantle piece, between the brass candlestick and that ornament from their holiday to Spain. He retired to the armchair with a groan. Eggs, toast and tea. Never as good as she made them. He couldn’t boil an egg, she used to chide him in company. Well, he could. But he wouldn’t enjoy it. She was right, as ever.

He would not collect the prize, he decided, finally. Despite beating the astronomical odds, it would always feel like bad luck. I’ll save my quid next week, he thought. He didn’t want to be short for a box of eggs or loaf of bread.

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