Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Jackpot



It was the coldest day of the coldest week in Cleveland’s history when Frank won $500 from a Big Bananas scratch-off lottery ticket.

“Hot dog!” he said, shaking his head in the truck’s cab.

It was the kind of cold that yanked people’s shoulders up to their ears. Froze tears before they could swim in the satisfaction of falling. Turned girls’ nipples hard as nails.

“Jiminy Christmas!”

Frank looked around the grocery store parking lot, longing to share his joy with another. But everyone he observed wore the raw, plucked expression of chickens without their feathers.

A mother exasperated with her bawling toddler.

A middle-aged man slipping on ice, and losing all his microwave dinners.

An older woman with car trouble, who stared at her engine like it was an unfaithful lover.

Frank’s eyes narrowed. He sat for several minutes, running the winning lotto ticket across the scruff of his chin.

Frank cracked his door. His truck sure could use a paint job. Another blue chip fell to the ground.

He walked across the ice-sheeted lot with some difficulty. His shoes were losing their tread.

Frank tipped his glasses back on the bridge of his nose. He’d worn the same pair for twelve years. His granddaughter was growing blurry.

Frank walked through the swooshing doors, whistling. They positioned the flower department at the front of the store. The hard seduction, before the costly truth of all those necessities could add up in shoppers’ minds.

Frank approached a bored worker.

“I want to buy your flowers.”

“Which arrangement, sir?” the girl said, tongue flipping her chewing gum.

“All of them.”

“Uh, what?”

“Yep, $500 worth. Or all the roses. Whichever comes first,” Frank said. “Girls like roses, right?"

The gum flipped out of the girl’s mouth, and landed on the floor. He smiled at her.

With the help of the girl, Frank exchanged his Big Bananas ticket for cash, and carried all the flowers outside. He offered her a dozen red roses.

“You have kind eyes,” he told her. She blushed with pleasure, and took the roses from his arthritic hand, before turning back inside.

The mother with her toddler rolled out.

“Ma’am? Your son wants you to know you're the best mom in the world.” He handed the pink roses to the child, who extended them to his mother with a squeal and soggy smile. She started to laugh, and tousled his hair. So proud.

Frank spread the rest of his city garden in much the same fashion. A few people refused, but most accepted the gift and compliment with the same flutter people savor when hearing spring birdsong.

When the roses were all gone, Frank walked across the parking lot, to the woman still frozen before the dead engine. Her cheeks were siren red.

“Ma’am?”

She turned to him with gutted eyes. “Yes?”

“I don’t have any more flowers, but I’d love to pay for your tow.”

Her knees unlocked, she leaned into him, and his arm wrapped around.

And when her warm tear fell on his old shoe, it was with the sweetest satisfaction.


23 comments:

J.C. Montgomery said...

It's kinda hard to leave a comment when one has been reduced to a puddle of sentimental mush.

Wonderful Sarah. I love this.

sawan said...

Jeez, that was terrific! so emotional. Luvd it. Sarah, tell me youve got a magic pen! :P

David Cranmer said...

I was expecting an unhappy resolution and was pleasantly surprised by its finish.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Very entertaining read. I liked how, after going unnoticed, he made the first move to recognition.

the walking man said...

Wonderfully entertaining. I particularly enjoyed the balance of the symmetry of the day and the heart.

Catvibe said...

Wonderful and whimsical. Apparently he left some of those roses with you.

Catvibe said...

Hey Sarah! I had a feeling you were 'the one'! Big congratulations on your novel. I can't wait to read it!

Charles Gramlich said...

Random acts of kindness. Ain't nothing better.

Vesper said...

What a sweet story to warm me on this harsh January day (at -17F)… :-) Thank you, Sarah!

Sarah Hina said...

JC, I was a bit of a puddle writing it. So we can be mush together. ;) Thank you so much for the warm words, and I loved your entry for Jason's contest!

Sawan, it's not magic, but I like that you think so. :) This story did come pretty easily, though, which is always a relief. Thank you!!

David, I was feeling pretty sentimental when writing it, so I felt compelled to make it all good. :) Glad you liked it!

JR, I liked that idea, too. He extended himself, and it comes back a hundred fold. Thank you.

Walking Man, I wanted him to find, and give, warmth on the bitterest of days. Thank you, my friend, for finding it an entertaining read.

Cat, he did! They were yellow. ;)

And thank you about the novel! Still a year to go before it's published, but I'd be delighted to have you read it, Cat. I appreciate your heartfelt words.

Charles, I completely agree. Even if this is a stretch, I'd like to think it's possible.

Vesper, -17?? Oh, gosh. I'm so sorry! I thought we had it bad at 10 above. :( I'm glad this provided a little bit of a warm glow. :)

jason evans said...

Wow. Just wow.

I'm with J.C. Montgomery up there. I'm just sayin'....

Inspired, Sarah. And awesomely written.

Sarah Hina said...

Jason, thank you!

A Wow from you is praise, indeed. I'll be honest and say I felt great writing this piece. So I figured that was a good sign. ;)

Thanks for sending all this wonderful traffic my way, too! Bonus. :)

Peter said...

Terrific, pulled me and swept me along. You're class girl, pure class!

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Sarah - YOU are a treasure!!!!!

It is 1 degree outside my door. Maybe colder now. But, you have warmed me from the inside out with your uplifting, excellently written story - and that glorious display of flowers....Wowie!

Jennifer said...

This is beautiful and I just love the last line. It's so heart-warming!

Sarah Hina said...

Peter, I like that. :) I'm glad the pacing and story swung you along. Thanks for letting me know I did my job!

K, I took that photo two nights ago at Kroger. I think the story came to me in the produce department, though. :D

I'm so glad I warmed you up!! This weather is ridiculous. :( Thank you, as always, dear friend, for your constant support and warm heart.

Jennifer, thank you! :) I really enjoyed writing this one. Frank is a character we all can aspire to.

Scott said...

I loved it. When a man wins 500 dollars he spends it all making other people happy, which of course makes him happy.

Very sweet.

Gratz on the book deal, Sarah.

Bob said...

Love this!

Aine said...

My face won't stop smiling. I've always wanted to do something like that! Frank is my hero. Thanks for the warm fuzzy feelings... I needed that today!

(psst-- I was given flowers for no reason last week... I guess I already have a hero in my life.)
:)

Sarah Hina said...

Scott, it is a lesson we don't remember often enough. Me included.

Thank you for the congratulations regarding my book! I appreciate your stopping by. Loved your entry into Jason's contest, btw. Really superb job.

Bob, thanks! So glad you visited. Come back again. :)

Aine, you're welcome. :) This story was a nice change of pace. I'm too often directed toward the internal world in my writing. I like this more giving/external approach.

(Lucky you!! :))

Lena said...

you make it complicated for us to comment on such masterpieces. Words are not enough to express the impression of your writing. Beautiful.

Abhishek Joshi said...

Sarah, all I can say is I agree with J.C. Montgomery. :) Totally awesome, your writing.

Sarah Hina said...

Lena, I appreciate your very kind words. I'm glad this piece resonated with so many people. Thank you!

Abhishek, thank you for coming by, and for your warm comment. I'm grateful that you enjoyed this story. :)