Flash Fiction: A Bag of Lottery Tickets, Prospect Park Pond

A Bag of Lottery Tickets by Laura Yan

She had been saving the lottery tickets for years. Every Monday, on her way home from work, skin tinted with the smell of Chlorox and bleach, fingers pruned, she stopped at a bodega to fill out the same set of numbers: 4, 22, 1, 13, 12, 5, for her mother’s birthday, her son’s, and her own. Her mother was dead, and her son, somewhere on the West Coast. He was traveling or playing music or trying to be an actor. He rarely called. Sometimes her memories confused her, and in her dreams she could not tell her husband from her son. Her husband had left her years ago. His drinking got worse after he lost the job and  his eyes filled with rage. She still had the scabs on her thigh, when he had rammed the edge of the table against her, the sharp of the wood cutting deep.

On Tuesday nights she waited in front of the TV, fingers poised over each number as they showed up on the screen. She did this always with calm and diligence, double checking just to make sure. She had to double check herself about other things, too. Her eyes weren’t what they used to be and her hands shook often. She didn’t think of herself as old, but perhaps it was the impression she gave to others. Sometimes people stood up to offer her a seat on the train. Maybe it was just her stooped back that gave her the look of carrying more weight than she was.

Mostly what she wanted was for her son to settle down with a nice girl. If she won the lottery she would buy them an apartment on the West side, with wood floors and big windows. She would move into a small room there and prepare their meals. She used to be a great cook, though these days she made the same thing every day: a hard boiled egg and tea in the morning, a  neat sandwich for lunch, and a vegetable casserole for the week for dinner.

One night, she couldn’t sleep. She lay awake for hours and listened to the sounds of cars outside. She felt her body like a coffin, ungainly and stiff, suffocating her. She clenched her eyes shut. She would go for a walk, she decided. She used to do it often. She pulled on a ragged coat and paused. She went to the drawer where she kept the neat stack of the lottery tickets, her history of failures. She stuffed them in a plastic bag that swung against her knees as she walked. She walked alone and slowly in the dark to the park where, once, long ago, the man she loved had gotten down on one knee and held out a ring that caught the rays of the sun. She could see it, her young, slim self and their long, hot kiss. She felt her young, slim self turning to watch her now. With relief, she met the girl’s eyes, and let the bag fall into the shallow pond. She did not look back.

The bag bobbed on the surface of the water, bloated and complacent until the daylight gave it new life, and someone walking past pointed and laughed.

Fat by Tanya Bryan

Things come easy to the young, the pretty, the thin. When you’re fat like me, your prospects narrow. As you grow older, uglier, fatter, you realize that it’s not going to get any better than the mediocre that’s already happened. I’m not bitter that I get paid less for the same job that younger and less experienced colleagues do. I’m bitter that my own body has worked against me all these years, held me back from doing better, being better.

People barely notice you when you’re fat. Or if they do, they glare. They glare at you for eating, for sitting, for breathing. The judgments passed are based on appearance without regard for the struggles and pains of being obese. Eating well and exercise work for some, but never for me. I was always this way. As a child, the teasing was unbearable. I threatened to run away every week. But I never did. I was a good girl. I ate my veggies, went to fat camps, and tried every diet my mom could find in her women’s magazines, but I remained a dumpy child. By the time I became a dumpy adult, my mom had given up. She was loathe to invite me over for Christmas dinners since the sight of me reminded her of her failure to have a beautiful, successful, thin child.

Despite all that, I try to maintain a certain weight, even if it doesn’t fall within the 0-2 range that the women in my office are. Next to them, I am a giantess. But I continue to ride my bike to work every day, and on weekends I run through Prospect Park, ignoring the people staring at my gobs of flab flopping about like uncooked cookie dough.

My vice, my only vice, isn’t pizza or chips or nachos. It’s lottery tickets, or “the idiot tax,” as my dad calls them. I buy them by the dozen, hoping for a way out. If I could just win some money, I could change things. Maybe get liposuction. Move away from the reproving eyes that have haunted me since childhood. Brooklyn is unforgiving in it sentencing.

One day, feeling nostalgic for the self I never had, I stuffed all the losing tickets I’d saved over the years into a plastic bag, and brought them with me on my morning run. As the fat shimmied one way, the bag slipped the other, two failures rubbing against each other as I ran around the pond. Halfway around, I tired of the impermeable plastic against my back making me sweat even

more than usual. I plopped it down, stared at the ripples in the water, breathing heavy. This is stupid, I thought. I’m fat. And I’m lugging around a bag of losing tickets. Why? So I did the most reasonable thing I could think of: I stood up, swung the bag around me, and flung it into the water. Then I continued running, hoping nobody had witnessed my latest failure.

The Wrong Numbers by Nate Worrell

I always thought you were a 7 11 53 but you turned out to be just another 2 38 49.   Maybe it was because I was always 8 31-ing when you wanted to just 17 19.  I tend to lean towards it being my fault that we never worked out, but a part of me blames you.  I always remember 01 10 20 11 at Prospect Park where you introduced yourself as 55 57 28 67 80.  It was the luckiest day of my life.   So yeah, there’s bitterness, but I understand.   Sometimes things are just a number or two away from being a perfect combination.