I was a winner.
I first suspected it when the printer finished with the last number in the six digit sequence. I really knew it when the clerk ripped me free from the machine along my perforated edge. I’m not sure how lottery tickets get that knowledge but trust me, we do. I was 200 million dollars in the bag.
The Clerk’s fingers were oily and soaked into my papery edge but I didn’t mind. I was bound for greater things. I carried that stain as I was handed over.
The hand that took me was calloused and trembled slightly. She gave me a quick kiss with chapped lips and then unceremoniously stuffed me into her coat pocket. I couldn’t blame her for the inglorious treatment. She didn’t know. Not yet.
I wanted to be able to tell her, but being 3 by 2, rectangular and made of newspaper quality materials, makes communication rather difficult. The reward for being so limited however, is tremendous.
You get to hear them cheer. You get to help change their lives. For a brief moment you are the most valuable thing in the whole world. Being slightly crumpled, folded into a wallet or riding around with bits of lint and old receipts is a fair price to pay.
After a while, her hand snuggled down into the pocket and gave me a few more wrinkles. Those hard fingers were now icy cold. I wished I could buy her a pair of mittens now, but they would have to wait. At least the internal lining of her jacket pocket seemed to be doing the job. Her hand slowly warmed up and then fate railed against us.
When she pulled out her hand, me and a bit of lint came with it. A gust billowed through the air and snagged me as I dropped towards the ground. The wind was as icy as her hand and I swirled helplessly in it as she walked on. A moment later I slammed into the hard concrete. There was a bit of dirt that globed onto my Clerk oiled edge and kept me pinned.
I stared up at the darkening sky and my little papery heart sank. I wasn’t going to be able to get her those mittens.
A shadow rushed by and my hopes rose. Maybe she had noticed that she had lost me along the way.
But the figure jogged along the sidewalk in a bubble of music without glancing down.
My free edge fluttered as traffic raced along the road with a change of the street lights at the crosswalk. None of the drivers looked over.
A bus sagged to a sighing stop in front of the grocery store and sent another trample of feet by where I was laying. Not one of them noticed me down in the dirt.
The light faded even more. I found I was caught in the shadow that lay between the glowing street lamps that sputtered to life. Their florescent glow barely caught on my corners.
As it grew darker, the footsteps became fewer. The icy wind was tossed less and less by the cars flying by. Night settled in.
I could feel the lottery numbers being called. When each one was announced it warmed the corresponding digits on my soiled surface. But there were no cheers. No one was clutching me with growing hope and then fantastic exuberance. There was just a clump of dirt and a rough, dry leaf that had joined us in the icy night. I could feel my edges getting crisp in the cold.
When the light rose again, I watched on sadly as the sequence of the day before reversed itself.
The cars started gathering in the road again. Dejectedly, I watched them sit bumper to bumper as they waited for the lights to change. When it did, they all rushed by with a billow of exhaust.
More and more feet passed me by but no one stopped. The bus picked up one crowd of passengers. The long cab wobbled on its large wheels as they climbed aboard with their bags and bundles but no one took me.
More people lined up a while later. A few jogged along again. More simply drove on by.
Although it was cold, the sun was dazzling. I knew it wouldn’t be long until it faded me completed. Either that or there would be rain or snow or something else that would obliterate my print. I’d be left a useless scrap of litter along the side of the road.
Then, another pair of feet neared. This one was slower than the pedestrians who had hurried by before. Those had been locked on some invisible objective and were not to be deterred from their path by something as insignificant as I seemed way down here. This new pair though was much slower. They moved as if less interested in the destination and more in the concrete beneath their feet.
Each pair of steps was followed by a long and lingering pause.
A pair of steps. A long pause.
A step. A pause.
And then they were right next to me. The dirty sneakers were loosely laced, as if their owner had thrown them on quickly just moments before. They shoved tiny pebbles aside as they shuffled, turning the rest of the body as a pair of eyes far above me searched the ground.
Another step and they were nearly on top of me. I wanted to shout out, to wave my iced edges, to flare my multicolored border and gain their attention. Of course, I couldn’t do any of those things. I just closed my eyes and hoped.
When those near frozen, calloused fingers pulled me free from the dirt, I felt an amazing surge of joy. That hand had the same trembling. Those were the same lips kissing my soiled numbers that had done so for luck in the store. Her cloudy breath whispered a prayer. Then I was crushed to her chest while she did a little dance on the sidewalk.
All I knew was that I’d get to buy her those mittens.