Perry knew that there was something special about numbers.
From a very early age, he realised that there was nothing on this earth or even outside of it that was random. Every number was significant and a very important part of a bigger picture.
Perry believed in God. He believed that not only was He the ultimate protector, but that He was the ultimate mathematician. One just had to look at nature to see how He had worked it all out, right down to the moon and the tides, the number of petals on a flower, or even the dates, on which you were conceived, born and ultimately died.
Perry believed in fate. He believed that there were certain things that happened because they were destined to happen. That’s the way God wanted them to be, he reasoned.Like his Job.
Perry hadn’t really much of a choice when it came to time to start working and to bring in some money to his Family House. At 15, he’d been told that it was time to get a job, and that his Dad had spoken to Mr. Jankelowitz down at the Hardware store on East 52nd. His Dad told him he’d to report for work on Monday morning, Eight O’clock, sharp.
Perry had been there for almost 42 years now, and apart from four days off in ‘67 to have his appendix out, he’d never missed a day, not even when the rest of the staff was dropping down with flu. No-Sir! This was his destiny and if destiny said that was the way it was going to be, then he couldn’t let Mr. Jankelowitz down, now could he, he reasoned?
In January, just before the Builders returned to work to start their construction schedules, Perry took his annual leave, which now entitled him to 15 working days, or close to four weeks if you took into consideration Sundays.
Overall, he made the most of his fate and his destiny, and enjoyed his work as much as anyone working in a Hardware store for 42 years could enjoy it.
He was good at his job, and Mr. Jankelowitz Junior, who took over the business from his Dad in ‘84, was happy with his performance. You certainly didn’t rise from the position of general dogsbody, to Senior Sales Clerk unless someone thought you were doing something right.
The only thing Perry was unhappy about, was his wage packet. He found it increasingly difficult to manage his household on the $428.55 take home pay, particularly as his landlord of the last 17 years had recently increased his rental by more than 20% due to spiraling costs, as he put it
It was pointless talking to Mr. Jankelowitz and as such, he wouldn’t insult him by doing so, even though Perry’s wife, Marcie, told him that he should have enough backbone to stand up for what was right. Increases came only once a year in January and had been a solid, steady 5% increase ever since he could remember.Perry didn’t want anything to upset the numbers and so, rather than live to regret upsetting Mt Jankelowitz, he cut back on his personal expenses and in fact, gave up drinking beer and the occasional cigarette in order to make ends meet.
Perry also had a vice.
Perry enjoyed a flutter at the races every Friday lunchtime, and until recently, had played quite a profitable game at the local track, only ten minutes away from his workplace.
Whatever he did, he always used the same combination of numbers.He took his own Birthdate, Marcie’s Birthdate and His Mom’ Birthdate and, depending how many numbers he needed, he always used the same method to arrive at either a two, three, four, five, six, or seven digit number.
In the case of his weekly lotto entry, the numbers he always backed were 10, 14, 17, 18, 20, and 30. His second entry was a variation of that being 4, 6, 11, 16, 24 and 40 . Another variation, made up his third lotto entry, and that was 9, 10, 17, 27, 29, and 42.Every week, he took these three sets of numbers and he had not changed them in the last four years.Y
es, he’d had a couple of reasonable wins, but over the last few months, he’d had nothing. This weekends Super Lotto Draw was a record, but he didn’t doubt his choice of numbers. The numbers were fated, like the rest of his life.
At the track, he used the same source to calculate numbers, which gave him the horses to back, the race number, as well as the date of the race meeting.On one occasion, he took home a whopping $132 from a bet on a horse that he’d backed, based on The Numbers.
Today, on his walk to work, he’d stopped in at the Seven-eleven and taken his usual three numbers in the Lotto draw. He put the ticket neatly folded in his wallet. The most he’d ever won on the Lotto was $46 and recently he was reasoning that maybe he should save the three dollars he spent every week, and rather use it at the track where he seemed to have more success.
The bookie’s at the Track knew him well now and had even extended a “Line of Credit “ to allow him to place bigger bets on his favourite horses.
Today he had to win and he had to win big.
Apart from two of the Bookie’s who had given him a deadline of today to pay up the six thousand two hundred dollars, or else, he was in about as deep as any man could get.
He’d borrowed $2000 from his Brother-in-Law, Bert, another $300 from one of his colleagues at work and even resorted to borrowing $450 from his neighbour Calvyn.
But that was not the worst of it.
Since they’d got married in 1992, Perry and Marcie had been saving what little they could afford to eventually go on that honeymoon that they didn’t have. Marcie had been four months pregnant when they got married and was one of those women who threw up at every opportunity and suffered morning, noon and night.
When she’d miscarried in her seventh month, she was told that she shouldn’t have children as apart from her feeble frame, it was genetically advisable, the two of them being Cousins, not to try to have more children. A hysterectomy was performed shortly afterwards.
Perry had always promised Marcie that they would take a holiday down in Florida once they’d saved up enough money. Until a few months ago, that account stood at just under four thousand dollars and by January, when his leave was due, they would have enough saved to take a trailer behind the car and spend a couple of weeks soaking up the sun.The account now had a balance of less than $500, as Perry had slowly whittled away at his life savings.
One final act of borrowing, worried him more than all the others.
Over the years, Mr. Jankelowitz had entrusted Perry to manage the Petty Cash, and to keep the Books up to date for when the Accountants came in at the end of this month. Perry was about $650 short due to his borrowings.
When this came out, he was finished. Mr. Jankelowitz would not only fire him on the spot but would certainly call the police. He’d seen Mr. Jankelowitz have many shoplifter arrested over the years, some of them for such petty crimes as stealing a packet of 69 cent screws.
Today had to be the Big day. Or else.
By 12.30, Perry had finished unpacking and pricing the new Power Tools that had arrived and was eager to leave work for his lunchtime trip to the track.
Mr. Jankelowitz always paid his staff promptly at 11.00 every Friday, so Perry was ready to roll.He left as the lunch bell sounded and arrived at the track at ten past one, just in time to get his bet in on the first race at 1.15.
He played the first two races carefully, as complete outsiders had come up in his numbers, and he didn’t want that high a risk.
The third horse his numbers had shown, was also an outsider, but Perry knew that this was the one that was going to save him from all of his troubles. If this one came in at 60 to 1, he was home and dry.
He put $400 each way on number 6, Sunburst. That would be more than $24 000, certainly enough to take away his constant headaches.Even the name was ominous, and said to Perry that Florida was just around the corner.
The first two races did nothing for his pocket, as both of the horses he’d backed didn’t even finish.
He sat glued to the final bend and sat at the home straight in the track, as the gates opened for the third race.Sunburst sat in amongst the clump of horses as they rounded the first bend, and by the second bend, had moved back a couple of positions, if anything. Perry sighed deeply.
As they rounded the third bend, he could hear the commentator, excitedly shouting the race’s progress across the P.A. system.
His heart skipped a beat as he heard “Sunburst,” more frequently and nearly died when the horses rounded the bend with Sunburst a good two lengths in front of the rest. His horse was still pulling away from the pack at an incredible pace!
Sunburst crossed the line more than four lengths ahead of the next horse, and Perry breathed a sigh of total relief.
Perry was grinning from ear to ear as he collected his winnings. It came to just under $18 000 after the bookies had taken what they were owed, and Perry was still smiling as he left the track knowing his worries were now well behind him.
Florida, here we come, he thought to himself.
The two thugs must have been at the track, watching the winners very carefully because, as Perry rounded the corner to catch a Taxi, they were upon him.
The first one had a Gun and the second, a very lethal looking knife.It was over in seconds with the two thugs running off down the street, Perry in a bruised heap on the ground, and his winnings well on the way to some low-life drug dealer down town.
Perry was devastated.With a look of absolute defeat on his bruised face, he set off walking towards his workplace, all the time thinking that this was the final straw.
Perry could take no more.He stopped to cross East 19th and almost walked into the traffic, lost as he was in is world of defeat. If someone hadn’t grabbed his arm, he would have walked straight into a Massive Mack Diesel Truck, towing two trailers and managing about 30 miles an hour.
Which is exactly what he did next.
He waited until the next big rig came thundering along and then literally, just threw himself in front of it.
The driver had no time to brake, and only knew what had happened as Perry’s flattened and smashed body flipped from the bullbar in front, and right over the roof of the Cab.
Three days after the tragedy, Marcie collected Perry’s personal effects from the Morgue and arranged for the body, what was left of it, to be cremated.
When she arrived home, she opened the box and quickly went through the contents.
Not much to talk about she thought, a cheap watch, a cheap wallet, a few coins and that’s that.
The wallet contained two single dollar bills, a couple of useless credit cards and his regular Lotto ticket. She removed the cash and the lotto ticket and decided the rest should go where it belongs, into the trashcan.
Perry and his numbers, she thought to herself, always Perry and his damn numbers.
She put on the kettle and made herself a mug of strong black coffee, and sat down on the couch, absolutely drained of all energy.She switched on the TV and sat back, watching the news to try to take her mind away from the past few horrific days and the problems still to come.
Perry had blown it all on his damned numbers and she couldn’t even think of what would happen tomorrow.
“And in some local news today. The biggest ever Super Lotto prize of just over $600 million dollars still remains unclaimed. The ticket, purchased at a Seven-Eleven on East 52nd has so far not been claimed.” The announcer proclaimed.
He rambled on a bit more and then said, “So who knows, it may be you, you might be holding that ticket somewhere and forgotten about it, check your pockets, check your purses, check your wallets. The numbers again are;”
Marcie looked at the screen as the numbers flashed up boldly.
"4, 6, 11, 16, 24 and 40 and the bonus ball is 42."
Marcie, stopped in the middle of a mouthful of coffee, the numbers having a strange familiarity about them.
After all, she’d checked them hundreds of times with Perry every Saturday evening that she could remember.
She stood up quickly, smiling to herself as she crossed the room to the dining table where the contents of Perry’s wallet lay on the table.
Florida, here I come! she thought to herself, a broad smile stretching from ear to ear.
© Copyright 2016 ARTHUR HOWE. All rights reserved.