UKArchive ID: 19461thegeeza
Originally published on May 28, 2007 in Fiction
Life's a lottery. It could be you... 2,710 words.
‘You can forget that,’ said Claire.
Ray looked at the watch for a few moments more, before focusing on his kids running around in the reflection of the shop window.
‘Stop running!’ shouted his wife.
Ray turned back to the sober reality and the crowds of people swarming all over Croydon High Street. He glanced at the watch once more, then shouted at his kids. They stopped and came over.
‘Can we have McDonalds?’ said Little Ray.
‘No,’ said Ray.
‘KFC?’ said Katie.
‘No,’ said Claire.
‘No. No. No. We’ll have lunch when we get home,’ said Claire. Little Ray opened his mouth. ‘No!’ she said, stamping a foot down.
Ray and Claire sat at the dining table, watching the kids eating their sandwiches and crisps in front of the television. Ray finished his tea quickly and picked at something that had dried hard on the table.
‘I’m going to see Joe this evening,’ he said.
Claire shook her head and turned her mug around on the table.
‘I won’t be long.’
‘Don’t worry,’ he said. ‘It’s nothing.’
‘I told you, Ray,’ she said. ‘I don’t like it. I don’t want you to go.’
‘It’s nothing,’ said Ray. ‘It’s easy. There’s no risk at all.’
‘No risk?’ she said, looking up at him.
He grimaced. ‘Well, hardly any.’ She kept staring at him. ‘None to speak of,’ he said, but he knew he would never convince her.
When he got to the pub, Joe waved him over, towards the corner where he was sitting. Ray drank from an invisible glass and raised his eyebrows. Joe pointed at his full pint, so Ray bought a drink and sat at the small round table. Joe pulled a packet of cigarettes from his pocket, looked around and offered it to Ray. Joe lit his cigarette and then Ray’s.
‘Nice Zippo,’ said Ray.
Joe nodded and looked around.
Ray followed Joe’s eyes and surveyed the pub. It was fairly busy, but it looked like a normal evening.
‘What are you looking for?’
Joe lowered his head. ‘You can’t be sure who’s listening,’ he whispered.
Ray looked around. ‘Listening to what?’
‘We haven’t said anything yet,’ said Ray.
‘I know,’ said Joe, now only moving his eyes from side to side, keeping his head low.
Ray took a drink from his beer. ‘So, what’s the plan?’
Joe screwed up his face and tapped the table. ‘Shush.’
Ray looked around and saw Frank and Elsie getting up from their table. Ray nodded at Frank. ‘Goodnight, son,’ said Frank, patting Ray on the shoulder as he moved past.
‘Be careful,’ said Joe. ‘You never know who’s listening.’
‘Frank used to nick tiles off people’s roofs,’ said Ray.
‘He’s about seventy years old and my old man’s best mate.’
Joe shrugged his shoulders.
‘He’s hardly likely to tell the police that I like your lighter, is he?’
Joe put his hands down flat on the table. ‘Let’s get down to business, shall we?’
Ray drew on his cigarette and nodded.
‘My … contact … said that he will leave the doors of the warehouse open at … a certain time. He will make sure that there’s no one there … at a certain time.’ He looked around and then back at Ray. ‘We get out the van and load up the merchandise.’
Ray took a drink and nodded.
‘We put the merchandise in my Mum’s house.’ Joe scanned the room.
Ray sucked on his cigarette and Joe did the same. ‘Right,’ said Ray.
‘I’ve got some buyers lined up. We leave the rest and sell them after a few weeks when the heat’s died down.’
‘Okay,’ said Ray. ‘And your mate is alright?’
‘My contact is kosher,’ said Joe. ‘Stand on me. I’ll put my professional reputation on it.’
‘Okay. It seems easy.’
‘It is. The televisions are so big, that no one would think twice about seeing us load up,’ said Joe.
‘The bigger these things are, the easier it gets,’ said Joe. He tapped out a tune on the table with his fingers. ‘You could say,’ he said, looking around, ‘that they won’t see the wood for the trees.’
Ray frowned and shook his head. ‘How many buyers have you got?’
Joe looked around. ‘Two.’
‘Two? Is that all?’
‘When you pull a job this big, you don’t advertise it, do you?’ He looked around quickly. ‘And keep your voice down!’ he hissed.
Ray drank a lot of his beer down. ‘Joe,’ he said. ‘I need the money now. That’s why I said I would help you out. I can’t afford to take the risk for the split of two TVs and then have to wait a few weeks. My mortgage –’
Joe held his hand up. ‘Please,’ he said. ‘Let’s keep this on a professional basis.’
Ray finished his beer and put the empty glass down. ‘Who are the buyers?’
‘You don’t need to know. It’s on a need to know basis. Leave that to me.’
‘I want to know, Joe, or I’m out.’
Joe drank some beer, looking carefully at Ray and then put the glass down. ‘Okay,’ he said. ‘I’ll tell you, but I’m trusting you, okay?’
Ray rolled his eyes.
‘I’m having one,’ said Joe. ‘Frank is having the other.’
‘Frank?’ said Ray, nodding at Frank and Elsie’s now vacant table.
‘Yep,’ said Joe, stubbing his cigarette out in the ashtray. ‘Snapped my hand off.’ He rubbed his fingers together, dropping tobacco and broken cigarette filter onto the table. ‘I asked him when I was waiting for you. That’s why I didn’t want to discuss it in front of him.’
‘You’ve planned this carefully, haven’t you?’
Joe smiled and nodded his head.
‘But he’s my Dad’s best mate.’
‘I know,’ said Joe, nodding his head slowly, still smiling. ‘Are you getting the beers in?’
Ray shook his head, stood up and went to the bar. Joe watched him carefully, thinking, planning.
When he came back, Ian McPherson was sitting in his chair. ‘Alright, Ian,’ Ray said, pushing past to sit next to Joe.
‘Alright, Razor,’ he said. ‘So, you boys got a job on, have ya?’
‘What’s this?’ said Ray.
‘It’s okay,’ said Joe, ‘Ian’s alright.’
‘Joe, I know Ian well enough, thanks mate, but what are you playing at?’
‘Ian said he might be interested in a television, right? Right, Ian?’
‘Yeah,’ he said, drinking and smiling, looking at Ray. ‘Interested.’
‘So, I thought that maybe we could do with some help,’ said Joe.
‘Help for what?’ said Ray.
‘For the job,’ said Joe.
Ian’s grin looked like it might break into a titter at any moment.
Ray rolled his eyes and turned to Joe. ‘To carry some televisions?’
‘For muscle, just in case.’ He waited. ‘Maybe he could drive.’
‘Yeah, I can drive,’ said Ian. ‘I can drive good, Ray. Real good.’
Ray’s phone buzzed in silent mode in the pocket of his jacket, hanging on the back of Ian’s chair. It continued to buzz intermittently all night until Ray felt it, as he stood outside the kebab shop at midnight, just after a boozy embrace to cement his new entrepreneurial career with Joe and Ian. They had gone their separate ways and Joe was standing in front of a row of shops pushing his mobile as hard as he could into his ear, so that he could hear the words as loudly as possible, not believing what they were telling him. He dropped his Doner Kebab onto the wet ground, spraying rancid meat and dried lettuce all over the pavement. It was Claire, screaming at him down the phone. They had won the lottery.
‘Four million, two hundred and seventy six thousand pounds … and some pence,’ said Ray, pushing bacon around the film of grease on his plate. He rolled a gooey substance around the roof of his mouth, the result of his hangover.
‘Yes!’ said Claire. She was too excited to eat. ‘Can you believe it? The answer to all our prayers!’
‘Can I believe it?’ said Ray, now pulling a large piece of bacon towards his mouth, most of it dangling from his fork. ‘No. Not really.’
Claire spent the morning and early afternoon on the phone to everyone she knew, taking advice on good areas in which to buy a new house, amongst other things. She started off by telling everyone that there was nothing wrong with their current house, but she soon started to talk about Kingswood, the posh part of Cheshire where all the footballers lived, to Spanish mansions and Manhattan. Ray sat in front of Sky Sports and watched badminton from Malaysia through to a second division football match where he didn’t know any of the players, drinking cans of strong lager and saying nothing. His trance ended when Claire tapped him on the shoulder and gave him the phone.
‘It’s for you,’ she said, ‘but hurry up as I’ve got more calls to make.’
‘Hurry up, will you?’
Ray took the phone and looked at it as though he had never seen one before. He put it to his head tentatively and said, ‘hello?’
‘It’s Joe,’ said the voice.
‘Yes, it’s me, Joe. Listen, the job is set for tomorrow morning. I spoke to my mate, you know, the contact I told you about and he’ll do what we said tomorrow, when they take their tea break, at half ten.’
‘Ian’s ready. My brother will lend us his van.’
‘He doesn’t know what it’s for … and he never needs to know. Okay?’
‘Listen, Joe,’ said Ray.
‘Look, I don’t want to talk on the phone, because someone might be listening, okay?’
‘I’ve got to go, Ray.’
‘Joe, I’ve changed my mind.’
‘Changed my mind.’
There was silence for a few moments. ‘What do you mean, you’ve changed your mind?’
‘I don’t want to do the job, Joe.’
There was more silence. ‘Look, I don’t want to … can we meet?’ said Joe.
‘There’s no point, mate, I’m not doing it.’
‘For God’s sake, Ray, what are you talking about? You were all in for it last night. What you bottling for? Can we meet?’
‘No, look, I just don’t need to do it, okay?’
‘Has your missus told you that you can’t, or something? What about your mortgage problems? What are you talking about? All you have to do is help me load the bloody TVs in the van, and that’s it.’
‘Ian can do it.’
‘Ian will be driving the van. I want us to jump in the back with the goods when we do the last one, so Ian can get away quickly.’ Ray said nothing. ‘You know? Like on the tele … quick.’ Ray was looking at the football. One of the players was rolling around on the floor like he’d been shot. ‘Ray? Are you still there? Ray?’
‘Yeah, I’m still here. Joe, I just don’t want to do it. Right?’
Ray hung up. Claire was still frowning as she took the phone and walked away. Ray shrugged his shoulders and took another swig of beer. He hadn’t done anything wrong. She might frown at him, but he didn’t give a damn. He was a rich man. His own man.
The Spanish football was about to start, close to eight o’clock when the doorbell rang. Claire was standing in the hallway, talking on the phone, so she opened the door. She led Joe and Ian into the front room. They both smelled as if they had been in the pub a long time, so she ushered the kids from the room and left them to it. Joe and Ian watched her and smiled as she left the room. Without looking up, Ray took a sip from his can and asked them what they wanted. They looked at each other and sat down on the sofa, looking at Ray, now very drunk, legs open, beer can in hand. The smell of the pub drifted up Ray’s nose and he thought it would be nice to shoot some pool.
‘What to we want?’ said Joe. ‘Well, we want to know what the fuck you think you’re doing, for a start. We planned this job very carefully, and you’ll make me look like a right muppet if I don’t do the job.’
‘Job,’ said Ray, sniggering. ‘What a job that is.’
Joe screwed up his face and looked at Ian. Ian was staring at Ray. ‘I fucking give up with you, mate,’ said Joe, standing up, looking at the screen. He walked to the door. ‘Are you coming, Ian?’
Ian kept still, staring. Ray could feel Ian’s eyes burning into the side of his head but he would not confront them. Ian was different from Joe: he was a bit of a nutter when he felt like it. Ray suddenly realised he wasn’t sure if he could turn his head, even if he wanted to, as a cold flush had washed across him and made him feel weak. His stomach convulsed and he turned his head over the side of the chair and puked on the floor. He watched a long strand of spittle spinning, running from his mouth to the pile of sick. His breath felt very hot.
‘You fucking wanker,’ said Ian, standing up, moving past Joe and out. Joe followed just behind.
Ray’s kids came into the room and peered down at their father’s head, hanging even lower now, over the side of his chair. The commentator shrieked from the television as Real Madrid scored an early goal.
‘I’ll tell you what,’ said Claire. ‘It was nothing but luck, pure and simple.’
‘You make your own luck, Babe,’ said Ray, shutting the car door, pressing the button on his keyring to activate the central locking.
The side-street was dark and quiet, the pavement wet from an April shower. He looked across the shiny Mercedes bonnet at his wife and admired her. She looked a million dollars with her newly bleached hair. The dangly gold earrings and jewellery made her look every inch a classy actress super-model singer. They still lived in Croydon and still loved the pleasures that the town had to offer, despite their immense new wealth. Ray had sworn that he wouldn’t change, just because of money.
‘If you had done that job with Joe and Ian, you’d have been banged up too,’ she said, snapping her leopard-skin handbag shut.
‘Yeah, true,’ he said, pulling his jacket down. ‘But I didn’t, did I?’
Four young men came out of the shadows. ‘Hey man, got the time?’
‘No,’ said Ray, holding onto the word.
‘Sure you have,’ said the youth. ‘On your wrist, here!’ He grabbed Ray’s wrist and pulled his arm up. As Ray pulled his arm away, they all saw his gold Rolex glinting in the gaze of the streetlight. ‘See! Casio watch, man.’
‘Hey baby,’ said another one, walking up to Claire. ‘Nice booty!’ He slapped her bottom.
‘Hey, get the fuck away!’ shouted Ray.
The leader’s face contorted with fury. He slammed his fist into Ray’s side, blinding him with pain. He kept thumping furiously, his eyes burning with energy, the soft chocolate-coloured middle, surrounded by brilliant white, boring its image into Ray’s paralysed mind. His mouth snarling as he repeatedly stabbed him, the force keeping Ray leaning up against his beautiful silver car. He slowed down and stopped, watching and grinning as Ray slid onto the road. His friends watched, open-mouthed. No one could hear Claire screaming. She dropped her handbag onto the floor. The leader reached down and took out Ray’s old and battered wallet and put it into his pocket. There was eighty five pounds in it.
‘Get the bitch’s bag!’ he shouted. No one moved. ‘Jamie! The bag!’
The boy next to Claire shook himself out of his trance and looked at her. He could see no bag. ‘There ain’t no bag,’ he said, quietly.
They ran off down the road.
A door opened slightly. An old man looked carefully out, to see why there was a woman screaming outside his house.
Archived comments for Lottery
e-griff on 28-05-2007
nice to see something from you again, Geeza.
Bit of a funny one this. Involving.
A few problems ... a lot of 'looking' around/watching, and some POV probs (Joe thinking and planning) but nothing major.
Thanks for reading/commenting Griff.
bluepootle on 28-05-2007
Well, you never know how things are going to turn out, do you? I found the bit in the pub the most involving, and I think you need that jolt of humour to get the reader's interest.
Could maybe do with extending the final scene, just to give it more of a build-up. It all seemed to move a bit quickly and be an anti-climax, for me, anyway.
I hope you mean you found some humour, rather than it needs some!
Wanted a quick ending to represent his quick ending. I think any more build-up and it was in danger of being boring, but could be wrong!
Thanks for reading/commenting.
KDR on 29-05-2007
You just couldn't let them go and be happy, could you?
I thought the ending might have worked better if maybe the gang had been sent by Ian and/or Joe, though I know that might go against the random good luck/bad luck thing behind the story.
There were a couple of commas in places I wouldn't have put them, but I probably tend to put mine in all the wrong places anyway!
Characters are OK, IMO, but when did Claire get to find out about the job Ray was meant to go on? Didn't she go nuts when she saw the pile of sick, despite her happiness? There was scope for tension there - maybe she might have threatened to leave him, taking all the cash and leaving him with all the problems still?
I know you'd have an eye on the overall length of the piece, but the impression I got was that there was more story here than met the eye.
Still, it was another good read. It's perhaps a bit obvious that you've not written a lot for a while in places - it's not as smooth as a lot of your other tales from the dark side - but that's just one of those things.
I did consider having him done in by the guys that he let down, but I wanted to bring out the opportunistic nature of winning the lottery and being subjected to a random attack, rather than the revenge thread. I don't think a revenge story of this length would have offered any depth at all.
There is more story, which I hinted at - money worries, the strain on their relationship. I tried to phrase it in such a way that they had discussed him doing something illegal and he'd finally decided to. I didn't want to draw that out - not because of length, but because of relevance, really. I was really thinking about someone who got rich, then got it all taken away (and some) just as suddenly. Triggered by a conversation with the Mrs, this was!
Thanks for reading and commenting, mate.
Rupe on 30-05-2007
I liked the pace of the narrative, the atmosphere & dialogue, but the plot seemed a bit too simple & predictable.
It might just be me, however, but it seemed all too easy that he wins the lottery & all too likely that he'd get his come-uppance in the end. That said, the basic ingredients are OK, but maybe it needs working on some more. I agree with bluepootle that the ending needs more build-up & with KDR that you could make more of the tension between Claire & Ray.
Also - what if they'd won a smaller amount in the lottery? That way, it would be much more of a dilemma whether he was going to do the job or not, whereas given that he's won millions it becomes a no-brainer. What if his associates find out about the winning? What if Claire had bought the lottery tickets & was threatening to walk out with the kids & the cash if he did the crime?
All these just examples - the main thing was I felt it needed more dramatic tension overall.
I replied to KDR above, so won't repeat too much - or want to sound defensive! - but I wasn't going for "plot" per se. I was exploring the idea of someone getting something good suddenly (that was desparately needed), then suddenly losing it (and more). I tried to inject some humour in there too. (not sure if that worked).
The associates (and wife, to an extent) were there to add the humour and to hint at his financial situation. Developing a plot to this would have made it novella size!
Thanks for reading and commenting,
discopants on 31-05-2007
I think pretty much everything has been covered. The story keeps us involved and is set up by the scene in the pub although I couldn't help wondering why they had met in the pub to discuss the job if they were so jumpy about people overhearing them. Couldn't they have gone somewhere quieter- Selhurst Park, for example 😉
Incidentally, after the opening scene outside the jewellers (which links in to the ending) nothing is really seen of the 2 kids- are they necessary to the story and if they are to be in it, perhaps they could play more of a role.
I'll be up in Croydon all this coming weekend- I'll look out for any 'Rays'
In mind mind I had Joe following some kind of stereotypical "job" that he'd seen on the TV - i.e, acting the way he thought this things were discussed. Just a berk, really!
I detail more in my replies to KDR and Rupe, but the whole thing was about getting something you want/need, improving your life immeasurably and then losing it all just as quick. The other characters are secondary, really.
You'll see a lot of Rays walking around Croydon, sitting in the back street pubs. You'll see me too - as I have to go to the shops there, Saturday!
Thanks for reading and commenting,