Copyright (c) 2016 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.
By R. Peterson
Janet Reynolds took Jack to the sawmill, dropped Sally and Mick off at Altamaha Elementary School and then held her breath as the Ford F150 lurched smoking up to the pumps at QT’s Convenience Store. She was sure the way her morning was going that she’d run out of gas. There was $16.34 in her purse including the pennies and she needed diapers. Kit Kat was beginning to cry again. Janet didn’t blame her. The car-seat still smelled like bile from when the eight-month-old had been sick the day before.
Baxley only had one cop on duty at a time and Janet saw Bobby Joe Tinker come waddling out of Quick Trips tearing the wrapper off a giant Snickers bar while holding a bag of Chili-Cheese Fritos and a large Mountain Dew under his arm as he lumbered toward his patrol car. She hoped her ex-boyfriend was too hungry to notice the expired Georgia license stickers on her pick-up.
He turned his head, saw her and dropped the chips as he came running toward her. She didn’t know fat-men could run that fast. “Get out of your truck!’ he yelled. “Yall on fire!”
Janet laughed as she opened the rusted door. “Clarence at Repair-n-Run says the smoke is from bad-engine rings … whatever they are,” she said as she waved the smoke from in front of her face. “We go through two quarts of used-oil for every six gallons of gas.
Bobby Joe shook his head. “I thought for sure this old piece of junk was gonna explode any minute.”
“This old truck was Jack’s pride and joy back in our school days,” Janet said. “I guess it’s just getting old like we all are.”
“If you would have married me instead of that damn Raven’s first string quarterback I’d have you driving one of them Porsche nine-eleven’s’ or something more your style … not this old corn hauler.” Bobby Joe looked sincere.
“On what Appling County pays its deputies,” Janet laughed, enjoying the flirting from an old beau. “Robert Joseph Tinker, you got the biggest heart in Georgia from your momma … but not a lick of sense when it comes to women.”
Bobby Joe took off his hat, wiped his forehead with his hand and glanced-up at the sun, obviously trying to change the subject.. “Damn! This here day’s gonna be hotter than a goat’s butt in a pepper patch.”
A low-riding midnight blue ’64 Impala cruised slowly past the on the highway, the glass-pack mufflers sounding like the rumble of thunder. The driver and passengers were just a dim reflection behind dark-tinted windows. “That’s Harry Shanks Walton,” Bobby Joe stared, but only for a second. “Not someone you’d want to mess with. He just got out of Georgia State Prison at Reidsville two weeks ago for two counts of rape and murder in Savanna. I hear now he’s got himself a gang.”
“I heard about those murders,” Janet said. “That was eight years ago … maybe he’s reformed.”
“Prison don’t make you better … it makes you worse,” Bobby Joe told her.
“Ain’t you going to arrest him for those noisy mufflers?” Janet couldn’t help but kid her old classmate.
“I do my job … but I ain’t got no dern death-wish,” the deputy told her.
A flat-bed truck filled with teen-age boys, some standing up in the back drinking from cans and whooping, went past the other direction easily traveling well over the posted twenty mile-per-hour in-town speed limit and saved the deputy’s pride. “See you later, Janet. Damn High School graduation is in two weeks,” Bobby Joe muttered as he loped importantly toward his patrol car. “Kids now-a-days ain’t got enough smarts to take their beer-parties out a town.”
The inside of QT’s was a beehive of activity. Janet noticed a long line at the checkout counter and those waiting in line did not look like they had anything to purchase. “What’s going on?” she asked Mary Jennings who was setting up a floor display for Pepsi. “That damn lottery,” Mary said. “It’s over eighty-million and every peanut-picker in the county thinks they‘re gonna win it!”
Janet remembered Jack had asked her to buy a two-dollar ticket while they were eating breakfast. The truck needed at least ten in gas to get through the week and the cheapest box of Parent’s Choice diapers was $5.97. She would be a dollar short. “Sorry Jack, looks like we’re not gonna be featured on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous this week,” Janet muttered as she waited in line.
Leroy Folsom was in the check-out line in front of her. He was wobbly and smelled like half a case of Cartersville Swamp Water. “What will Mr. Bud Weiser be buying today?” Mary Jennings’ little sister Lisa asked him with a grin. The sarcasm went right past Leroy’s thick Georgia skull. “I’ll have me a some of that-there Copenhagen chaw,” He waved his hand. “And a quick-pick,” he told her. “Make sure it’s a winner this time.” While Lisa was using the lotto-machine to print out his ticket Leroy knocked the chew off the counter. When he rose after picking up the tin of Copenhagen a folded dollar bill was in his hand. “You dropped your money,” he told Janet. His breath smelled like Black Eyed Peas and Ham Hocks. By the time Janet turned her face back to protest that the dollar wasn’t hers, the town-drunk was already staggering out the door.
“Tony Cordess said he caught Leroy having sex with a pig,” Lisa whispered when the door closed.
“That poor pig,” Janet told her.
“Will this be all?’ Lisa asked Janet with a grin. “I’ll be pumping ten dollars of gas,” Janet said. She was counting her money in her head; with the dollar Leroy found, she just had enough. “Give me a quick-pick too,” she said. “I know I shouldn’t.” Janet smiled. “But you know Jack … he dreams about waking up in high cotton.”
“Don’t we yall!” Lisa happened to glance at the numbers as she handed Janet the ticket “four-nineteen … that’s my birthday,” she said, “… hope it’s lucky!”
Jack offered to help with the dishes after supper, but Janet handed him a beer from the fridge and told him to relax. Sally and Mick were watching an episode of Blackish. “These people don’t act like any of the Negros we know, mama,” Sally said.
“The correct term is African Americans,” Janet told her as she sat down … and TV is just make-believe.”
The semi-weekly lotto drawing appeared following a commercial for Budweiser light beer. “I know it’s only Wednesday but I feel like getting sloshed,” Jack said. He got up and walked toward the kitchen.
“Tonight’s lucky winners will share an estimated jackpot worth eighty-six million dollars,” the announcer said, as the cage with the numbered balls began to roll.
“Clarence says they might have to lay off six people if orders don’t pick up,” Jack said from the kitchen. Janet heard the bottle open as the first ball rolled down … six was the number printed on the side of the white ball. Janet looked at the lottery ticket lying on the coffee table: 4-19 -11 -6 -46 with the power-ball number 9. She picked up the ticket … and her hand trembled slightly.
“I’ve only been working full-time since January,” Jack went on as she heard him open the cabinet above the stove. “Any of those Barbeque Fritos left?”
The next white ball rolled down … number eleven. Janet felt her heart begin to pound like a jack-hammer as Jack kept on talking “I might have to ride the bus to Cartersville and get a job in the Anheuser Busch plant working in quality control … can you believe someone gets paid to drink beer all day and say if it’s good or not.”
The next ball rolled down … it was number forty-six. Janet stood up so fast she kicked the car seat Kit Kat was in and the baby began to cry. Jack was still talking. “Fat chance of that though, guys like Gary Andersen would do that job for a bowl of peanuts and a handy restroom.”
Janet’s hand was shaking so hard she had to look three times to read the numbers on the ticket. The next white ball was rolling down … number four. Janet opened her mouth but she couldn’t make a sound. The baby was beginning to wail … still Jack would not shut up. “Seriously,” he said washing down the words with beer. “I hear they might need help on the loading docks … I still have a valid fork-lift operator’s license.”
The last white ball rolled down …. It was number nineteen. Janet felt like she was going to faint. The room was starting to spin. The baby was crying louder. Sally and Mick sensed something was wrong with their mother and they began to cry too.
“And the power ball is …” The announcer made his voice louder for dramatic effect. “Number nine!” From somewhere in the lottery studio background Louis Armstrong began to sing “… Oh how I’d love to be in that number …When the Saints go Marching In.”
“Tonight’s jackpot is worth an estimated eighty-six million dollars,” the announcer boomed over the music.
Janet finally found her voice … and she screamed. Jack came rushing into the living room. “What’s wrong?” he said.
“Max Jennings will charge us some gas when he knows how important this is.” Jack’s face was flushed and his eyes looked like they belonged in some wild animal’s head. Janet sat on the other side of Kit Kat’s car seat, squeezed together with Sally and Mick. She held a square Tupperware container, with the winning ticket inside, so tightly in her fingers as if it might blow out the window, that her knuckles were turning white.
Mick was beginning to feel cramped. “It’s stuffy in here … can we open a window?”
“No!” Jack and Janet both screamed at the same time.
They weren’t expecting the huge crowd at Quick Trips. People were parked alongside the highway a quarter of a mile before the convenience store. The parking lot was so full of milling people there wasn’t any room for cars. Janet recognized the local news station truck as well as two other TV vans from Atlanta.
“What’s going on?” Jack unrolled his window next to two of the guys he worked with, who were drinking beer in the parking lot.
“Haven’t you heard,” Tony Cordess sounded drunk and smelled like it as he leaned in the window. “Some lucky #&^%$# won the lottery and they bought the ticket out of this store.”
“Is that right?” Jack tried to sound innocent. Behind Tony, Jack recognized George Brady another co-worker who was beating his fists against the side of his own car. “That #&^%$^# close!” he was screaming to no one in particular.
“Yeah,” Tony was slobbering. “The mayor, the chief of Police and about thirty news-people are inside the store right now grilling Mary Jennings’ little sister Lisa about who she sold the winning ticket to … she claims she didn’t notice the numbers and can’t remember.”
“I’m sure she must have sold hundreds of tickets today with that much prize money,” Jack told his friend.
“I know one thing,” Tony’s words were slurred. “When I find out who won my money … I’ll cut his nuts off. That money should have been mine. I’ve bought twenty-dollars worth of tickets in here every week for the last ten years!” He spit on the asphalt. “God Dam it to Hell … that money should have been mine.”
“How do you know the winner was a he?” Janet tried to sound cheerful.
“If it’s a woman that has got my winnings I’ll do a lot worse things to her,” Tony promised.
“Some friends you’ve got,” Janet said as Jack rolled up his window.
“He’s just drunk,” Jack said. “Money and booze will make anyone crazy.”
“Looks like not winning makes people even crazier … still want to ask Max Jennings if he’ll charge you enough gas to get you and that winning ticket to Atlanta?” Janet asked as they moved through the mad-cap parking lot and back onto the highway.
Jack and Janet were too wired-up to watch television and had finally got the children to sleep. They lay propped-up in bed with the Tupperware box between them, they each had a hand on it. The poor sandwich box had moved from safe-place to safe-place ever since they got home, going from Jack’s bottom drawer under a pile of socks to the tiny freezer compartment above the refrigerator wrapped in blood-smeared butcher-paper to look like a pound of hamburger.
“I get paid on Friday,” Jack reasoned for about the twentieth time. “All we have to do is play it cool. No-body knows we got this ticket. To hell with the mortgage on the trailer-house. We’ll rent a reliable car that will get us to Atlanta from the Avis store in Macon… our truck will make it that far … after we cash the ticket and get the money all of our troubles will be over.”
“What will it be like to be rich?” Janet sighed and closed her eyes. “We won’t live here in Baxley will we?”
“Baxley!” Jack laughed. “Hell no! We’ll move to Paris or London … some place fancy. Who needs these cracker-heads?”
“Our lives will change forever,” Janet said. “I have friends here … at least I did have.”
“We’ll find new friends where we’re going … a lot of them.” Jack promised.
They were still awake two-hours later. Janet put on her peek-a-boo nightgown she’d worn on their honeymoon, showing her pink bra and panties and they’d made love like two muskrats for over a half-an-hour … but it still didn’t relieve the unbelievable tension.
“I have to go to work in the morning,” Jack moaned. “If I don’t show up at the sawmill someone might get suspicious.”
“There’s a bottle of Benadryl I keep for my hay-fever above the sink,” Janet told him. “Take two of them with a glass of milk and they’ll knock you out for sure.”
An hour later they were finally sleeping soundly. Janet was the first to awaken from banging on the trailer door. Jack was still groggy from the drugs. “My God it’s two AM,” she said as she walked into the living room still wearing the naughty nightgown. “Who’d be coming around at this time of night?”
“It’s me, Lisa Jennings,” a tiny voice said. “Can I come in? It’s very important.”
“It’s Mary’s little sister,” Janet told Jack who was following behind rubbing his eyes. “She sounds like she’s been crying!”
Janet had just released the lock on the door and turned the knob when it burst inward. Two large bear-sized men with scared faces and one short-one with greasy black hair pushed Lisa into the trailer before them. Janet stared at the girl’s hands, her fingers were all bleeding and several of her fingernails appeared to be missing.
“I’m sorry,” Lisa sobbed. “I didn’t want to say anything to anyone but they were waiting for me at my house.”
“I believe yall have something that we want,” the biggest one sneered.
“This is about the lottery ticket isn’t it?” Jack said. He was still holding the Tupperware box in his hand. He pushed it toward the now smiling man. “Take it … and leave us alone.”
“We seem to have a little problem,” the man said. “Only the person who bought the ticket can cash it … and that will be in no less than twelve hours in Atlanta.” He reached out his hand and lifted the bottom of Janet’s teddy. She slapped his hand away.
“Leave her alone!” Jack lunged forward and the other two men grabbed him from behind.
“I’ve been in prison for eight years,’ the biggest man said as he viciously lifted Janet’s arms and held them above her head. “Do you know what going without a woman for that long does to a man?” He stared at Jack and then turned his black eyes back on Janet. He slowly began to lift her nightgown again as she began to sob.
“It turns you into a #&^%$^# animal,” the short, stalky men holding Jack said just before he punched him repeatedly in the face.
One of the men tied an unconscious Jack’s arms behind him with Janet’s bra and then stuffed her torn underwear into his mouth sealing it with duct tape as the two others dragged a kicking Janet and a now naked Lisa into the bedroom.
From somewhere in the dark Kit Kat’s cries mixed with Janet’s sobs. “She’s only sixteen,” Janet begged. “Do what you want to me, I’ll do anything you say, but leave her alone.”
“We got eight years of real dirty thoughts in us,” the man said as Janet began to moan. “That’s going to take more than one woman and nine-hours to satisfy.”
To be continued …