This story is by Diane Krause and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
I am Joe Smo and this is the story of my downfall. You will see it only took me ten days. Be prepared because between these lines you will find it could happen to you.
Dec 1:This is the truth. Today is the day, right here in this story to collect two hundred fifty million dollar win from the lottery commission office. Most stories of this type will tell you that your heart is pumping with excitement. I will tell you it is a dull procedure borderline-boring full of bureaucracy run by a team of humdrum official spectacles magnifying every bit of the validation process for a government paycheck.
My lawyer named Brad is my Father’s drinking buddy. I think he may be a con too.
At exactly 1:45 pm, I pose with the Mayor to sign a cardboard check in front of noisy nosey reporters. My lawyer is of no help drumming up business from the crowd for himself.
Dec 2: It is past midnight, I am full of whiskey and in need of a woman. The bartender has one available for a tip. I slide a twenty into his waiting hand as the woman slides on the barstool next to me. She doesn’t seem to mind her dress riding up to reveal the dark tops of her nylons.
“Hello,” she says. Her voice sounds like a bird’s chirp, “I’m Jacquie.”
“Ah, she costs a hundred dollars.” The bartender’s hand remains held out.
This bores Jacquie, who is studying her polished red fingernails. Her face weathers acne scars from her long-gone youth; her eyes hold the lines of a storied life. She paints her lipstick lips again then slowly rises to play the jukebox. She leans over the box with her back towards me and begins to shake her hips to the beat of the music. I lay a hundred on the bartender’s hand and the hand closes taking my extra twenty too. I join Jacque in dance that led to laughing which led to more.
The weight of my body hangs on Jacquie’s shoulders as we stumble home. Headlights blind me and before I focus snap goes a picture. “Paparazzi,” she said.
Dec 2 continued: Donation request calls start while I am asleep. At 8 am I can no longer keep clutching the pillow around my face smothering my ears. The prostitute is gone, same as my wallet with a thousand cash and the phone keeps ringing. Twitter alert pictures us with the caption: Big Lottery Winner gets shitfaced with whore. More photos to come unless my demands are met.
Brad said, “So call the police and let me sleep.” A mumble inside a yawn follows.
“Listen, you scum bag. . .” dial tone.
Bam the door opens and I lay flat on the floor with a gun pointing at my face. The gunman wears a ski mask, the other covers his face with a bandana. The bandana speaks his demands of one hundred thousand dollars. The ski mask keeps his beady eyes upon me.
“The prostitute stole my wallet,” I wait to die.
The kerchief said, “Go to the bank.”
The ski mask answers, “He can’t, she took his identification.” Cough. “Here’s what we are going to do. We will be back in twenty-four hours. No police. We are watching you.”
I recognize the hand swinging the gun towards me and realize the voice is last night’s bartender. My final memory is a raven on my window sill. When I came to my PlayStation, Computer and TV are gone. I check myself into the ER for the night.
Dec 3:Brad makes one phone call to a district attorney which leads to the arrest of the boys at the bar selling my tech out of the trunk of their car.
“Don’t worry,” he says, “The hoodlums are facing twenty years in jail. Your money is invested and insured. You’re set for the rest of your life.”
Dec 4: The bank statement says I am worth one hundred and twenty-five million dollars.
“Half my money is gone, you crooked son of a bitch,” I tell Brad.
“Joe, it is standard practice to receive half your lottery winnings. The other half is eaten by taxes and lawyer fees.”
A raven flies away with a dollar in his beak. I throw my cell phone at it.
Dec 5:Today, the raven comes back home to the windowsill with a mate. Tonight, I treat Devon and Peter to a night of joy at the strip club. The women know about my millions and permit me to touch their soft bodies. I can’t explain who, but someone here is watching me. The feeling crawls and pecks at my skin.
Dec 6: The ravens are busy making a nest.A nest equals nest egg. Nest egg equals investments. Investments equal my name. My name, oh no maybe the crooked lawyer invested my money in his name. Done equalizing-time to see my certificates.
Mad as a rabid dog, I bang three times at the lawyer’s door.
The investments are in my name. I walk home sensing something is wrong, eyes are on my back, following me, after me, ready to pounce. I say out loud, “Stop following me.” No answer. “Get away from me.” Still no answer. I turn to look and snag my coat. My fists fight the invisible. The raven soars ahead of me. “Oh…damn raven.”
Dec 7:Time for Christmas spending. Everyone gets a present. The harmless elf makes a move to grab me, so he gets a punch.
The customers stop shop to laugh. Store window’s Santa and Elves follow me with their eyes. Everyone is coming for me. The raven sent them.
Dec 8:Tavern women make me smile and give me their number. At my door to home Mom’s voice tells me to rid myself of the telephone numbers so I toss them to the wind.
Dec 9:Mama raven brings all the telephone numbers to her nest. A warning shiver shakes my spine. The door rattles, shaking the window. I hide under my bed.
“Sonny boy are you home? It’s your father.”
“Ok, Dad. I’ll be right there.” A voice says are you sure he’s your father. I stop at the door.
“What ya want?”
“Well, Sonny, I could use a little cash.” Proof, it is my father. I let him in.
The ravens peck at my window.
“Dad, I can’t give you money. You’ll spend it on booze and kill yourself. Besides that dirty lawyer of yours took half the loot. Taxes and lawyer fees.”
Dad rubs his chin’s two-day growth, “Alright, I’ll check with Brad, but ya know he is a great lawyer and a heck of a guy. He won’t hurt you.”
“Yeah right, he wants my money. Everybody wants my money. They are following me, wherever I go they are after me.” I grab a towel to wipe the sweat off my face and neck.
Dad’s on the phone; he looks my way, then takes a step farther away and whispers something to the receiver.
“Joe, here’s the scoop. One-hundred million goes to government- nothing you can do. Twenty-five million is lawyer fees. It is expensive, but son you’re still a rich man.”
“Even the government is out to get me.”
The raven laughs, his beak goes up and down revealing a sparkle in the circle that contains his eyes. The raven knows all.
Dec 10:The raven is silent and still momentarily. There’s a click when I answer the phone. The conversation holds a continuing click, click, click, doom, doom, doom. The click remains after the call which means the government tapped my house. I’m stricken with stabbing pain in my chest- my shallow breath is rapid. I try to leave, but the door is locked.
“I am hungry, my stomach growls, I will get my friends they are hungry too.”
“Damn raven leave me alone.”
“You must find the bugs. The bugs are in your house.”
I search. I throw the couch pillows, click. I tip the couch over, click, the chair, the end tables, click. Government spies must be stopped.
The ravens are flapping their wings. “In the kitchen,” they say.
With one arm the dishes are cleared crashing to the floor. My ears are ringing, my chest hurts, it is hard to breathe.
Brad breaks down the door. I jump on his back, punching, kicking, screaming, biting, anything I can do to be rid of this thief and thug.
The ravens make a surprise appearance in my house without notice. They collect my nickels and dimes, uniform buttons, broken bits of glass -anything shiny. I’m unable to fend off the invasion.
The police haul me away in cuffs. At last the ravens dissolve and disappear.
Father raven says, “Be wary, it could happen to you.”
I am seated, sedated and settled. The hospital is nice.
I don’t like the person I have become.