My daddy always said, never underestimate the stupid other folks is capable of. He accidentally blew his brains out with a pistol one night. Thought it wasn't loaded. Kept sticking it in his mouth and pulling the trigger. Guess a bullet had hid in there or something. Put his skull all over the wall behind the couch in the family room. The couch I slept on. Mama said she weren't none surprised. Said Daddy weren't too bright himself. The hell knows? All I remember is sitting on a lawn chair outside the trailer, waiting for folks to clean the mess so I could get some sleep.
Missy Vaughn said we was something. Said so all over Haggard High. Fine by me. I knew she let me cork her to get revenge on her daddy. Now, I ain't calling her daddy one of them uppercase fellows what liked to poke his own daughter. Didn't seem that type to me. But he had a strange sense of humor that could suffocate you. And he never tried to hide his disappointment that his daughter got plowed on the weekends by a resident of Neptune Park.
The Vaughns lived in a house. Like all respectable folks. Third or fourth time I come over to get with Missy, her daddy asked me if I ever had trouble finding their place. Like I might be too stupid to remember where I've been before. Real funny guy. They lived in Ravenswood, this jigsaw puzzle, cookie-cutter development near Merrilville. Houses looked like buildings I seen in a Robin Hood movie.
I played along, though. I said to Mr. Vaughn, "Took me a while, sir."
He went into this bit about how that didn't offend him. On and on, he went"Oh, Dwayne," he said to me, "I'm not the least bit upset about that, not the least." Over and over and over. I could see why his daughter wanted to jab him a little the way daughters always jabbed their daddieswith her choice of boyfriend. If the thought of trailer trash corking her didn't make her daddy break down and cry, she'd go to college and run a few black fellows through her. Eventually, when things like bills and survival became an issue, she'd settle down with the type of man her father had told her to go for from the beginning. You know, rich.
But I liked Missy. She kept her area between her legs fresh. I never once got a whiff of what I smelled inside the girls from Neptune Park. And she'd read to me after we smashed. All this fancy stuff she needed to know in order to sound smart if she decided to go to college. Fancy stuff like that Freud fellow. He said everybody did everything they did just to get laid. I didn't need some fruitcake from Europe to point that out, but the way he put it sounded better than any way I could. She also read to me about Marx and Engels. Pretended like she gave a shit about the fact that me and Mama had just enough money to pay rent on our lot. That we used a rusty space heater from the last century to keep the trailer warm in winter. She said someday working class folks would kick the rich right square in their gold-plated beanbags. Fine with me.
Well, we went at it one night in her bedroom, quiet but vicious. She tired out before I did, said, "Finish already." So I filled her up and rolled over. I caught my breath while she scraped between her legs with tissue. She said, "You know Bill Shipwick, lives across the street?"
"Sure," I said. Bill Shipwick used to be the football coach at Haggard High. Never took the team to state. His wife died in a car wreck a few years back. Semi hopped across the rail on 65 and turned her Buick into an accordion. Only contact I'd ever had with Bill Shipwick was at the drive-in off the exit to Crown Point. I stole Daddy's truck to take this big girl named Tricia to see one of them Transformer movies. Had no interest in the show. Just wanted to plow Tricia somewhere our parents couldn't stumble in and laugh at us. So we're waiting in line with a bunch of other cars. Gates ain't opened yet. SUV behind me starts honking. I looked in the rearview like, Hey, buddy, can't you see nobody's moving? Well, that yuppie wagon just kept on barking. So I rolled down the window and shouted, "Quit with the fucking horn already!" Next thing I knew, Bill Shipwick marched up, fists clenched. He started hollering, "My what horn? My WHAT horn?" Once upon a time, that man might have been a contender.
I said, "Why the hell are you honking so damn much?"
He gave me a boo-hoo about how he had his grandkids in the car and they were "just having fun."
I said, "That's disrespectful, honking for no reason."
So he called me a jerk.
I looked at Tricia. She shook her head, like she understood I'd have clobbered that fossil with one pop.
"Old man," I said to Bill Shipwick, "get the hell away from my car."
He nodded, like he'd won a pissing contest or something, and marched back to his fancy SUV. Called me a jerk one last time.
"Yeah," I said to Missy, "I sure do know who Bill Shipwick is."
She finished cleaning my stain from her thighs and told me Bill Shipwick won the Hoosier Millions.
"What?" I had to hear it again.
She said he'd circled the block holding the ticket over his head like a trophy, telling folks how he'd been patiently playing the same numbers for ten years and it finally paid off.
"How much?" I asked.
She said she wasn't sure. "Minimum bucket," she said, "is always a million."
"Good for him," I said. Maybe he'd get the hell out of Lake County and move somewhere nice, where the sky hadn't turned piss yellow and sick gray from the smokestacks in Gary.
Missy laughed. "Don't you get it?"
"Sure," I said. "Some folks are lucky, others aren't."
"We're lucky," she said.
"You're going to take that ticket from him and we're going to escape."
"How the hell am I going to get his ticket?"
Well now, manicured girls like Missy Vaughn understood instinct-wise how to use what they had to persuade any man to do anything they needed. She nuzzled under my chin, kissed all over my chest, rubbed her little titties against me. "Don't you want to run away?" she said. "Don't you want to be with me?" she said. "Don't you want to be rich?"
That last question? No-brainer. She snaked her tongue down my chest, showed me why the first two were just as easy to answer.
I suppose you could call it a generalizing-type of excuse, but I decided Bill Shipwick had enough. He lived in Ravenswood. In a McMansion, goddammit. So his wife died, so what? Life's mostly suffering. You got a house instead of a trailer, you shouldn't do much by way of complaining. That's what I told myself the night I put on a black T-shirt and jeans and snuck through the shadows of Haggard. Tougher to do in Ravenswood because all the streetlights worked.
I almost bashed the old man's front door down. Then I seen he had stickers for Yale Security on his windows. Sometimes that shit meant something, most-wise it didn't. Just a show, to scare off folks like me. I ducked around the back, found a stick about half as heavy as a baseball bat and threw it against a door that looked like it led to Bill Shipwick's kitchen. Nothing happened. No alarms, no lights came on. No rent-a-cops itching to hand me off to the real police.
A few smacks near the latch on a window and I jarred the lock loose and slid it open. Took a struggle, but I managed to wiggle my way in before tumbling to the floor. Knocked my skull on a small, round table. In the dark, I could make out a calendar on the wall from 2012. Maybe that's when Bill Shipwick's old lady died. I didn't remember. I sifted through pieces of paper on top of a cabinet. Didn't see nothing that looked like a lottery ticket. I moved into the kitchen, found a lot of bingo cards. Not sure what the hell Bill Shipwick had them for.
Down the hallway I crept, trying to figure what that old man did with the damn ticket. I pushed a door open to a room filled with bookshelves. Hard to believe Bill Shipwick read anything. Missy would have liked it, though. I wondered if I should take some books, you know, for when we hit the road with all that money.
A shadow crossed a light on the second floor. The steps creaked awful rough. Then I saw Bill Shipwick, crouched close to the wall with a shotgun.
"You got about three seconds," he said. I guess a man's proud enough, he don't stop looking for a fight until they put him in a box and drop him in the ground.
"Mr. Shipwick," I said. I held my hands high, hoping he wouldn't get anxious and pop a shell. "I'm just here for the lottery ticket." I made my way out of the library, toward the bottom of the stairs.
He laughed. He said, "You fixed on going to jail?"
I could smell that old person stinkyou know, like Band-Aids or something. "Mr. Shipwick," I said, "I'm not here to cause no trouble. I just want that ticket so me and my girl can have a nice life someplace else." I grabbed the barrel of the shotgun before he responded and slammed the butt into his face. He flew against the wall, blood flooding from his nose.
"I'm a head upstairs," I said. "You stay put." I took the rifle with me.
The first two rooms on the second floor were empty. I kind of got angry, thinking about all us folks in Neptune Park, crammed in these tiny aluminum cans while folks in Ravenswood had so much space they didn't even need half of it. I found the old man's bedroom. You'd have thought he lived in a black and white sitcom. Two single beds, separated by a nightstand. Bill Shipwick's keys and wallet were on it. Sure enough, I looked in the wallet and found ita Hoosier Millions ticket. Had to be the one. I stuffed it in my pocket and tossed the shotgun on one of the beds.
The bannister groaned as Bill Shipwick pulled himself onto the second floor landing. He couldn't breathe too regular, but he felt like wasting air anyway"Listen here," he said, "I'm going to do what your father obviously failed to do."
"You don't know nothing about my daddy," I said. I tried to walk around him, but he grabbed me, yanked on my shirtsleeve. I pulled away hard enough to send him tumbling right back down the stairs. I followed him, normal-wise, of course, and stepped over him to get to the front door. He didn't move. He'd probably learned his lesson.
I considered cashing the ticket myself. I turned it over and read the instructions. It said it would have to be mailed in. So I went to Missy's, climbed the gutter near her window.
"You got it?" she said.
"Sure, baby." I gave it to her.
"This is it?" she said.
"Says Hoosier Millions, don't it?"
"Dammit," she said. "Mr. Shipwick's an idiot." She held the ticket in my face.
"Look, dummy," she said. "Mr. Shipwick's been saying he played the same numbers for ten years." She pointed to the date at the bottom. "He's been playing the same ticket."
"That's funny," I said. I guessed we wouldn't be going nowhere after all. "You got some grape juice or something?" My throat had gone dry. Couldn't have told you why if I had known myself.
There's been a lot said about me in the newspapers. For whatever reason, they like comparing me to my daddy. I suppose that's okay. I loved him, even when he beat me for being dumb. Like that time he told me to get rid of the leaves on the gravel by our trailer. I gathered them together and dumped lighter fluid on them. I guess one of the flames jumped to a tire on the trailer. Melted the rubber. My daddy made me put the fire out with my winter coat. Promised I'd be thinking about what I did come December and January, when I'd be walking to school with nothing but a sweatshirt and jeans. He wasn't lying. That winter got cold as hell.
Copyright © 2014 Alec Cizak.
Alec Cizak is a writer from Indianapolis. His work has appeared in several journals and anthologies. He is also the editor of Pulp Modern.