Secrets of the Lottery Winner

Secrets of the Lottery Winner


They introduced themselves in the jitney. He initiated the exchange with his everyman invitation, “Just call me Gari.” She said her name was Patricia and brushed off his prompt for a last name as unnecessary.

“Ah,” he retorted, attempting wit, “family names are a sorry American Capitalist tradition, no doubt.”

“On the contrary,” she demurred, “they are a pitiful commentary on the world, Mr. Garibaldi. They insolate people into small groups, where they consider their own needs greater than the good of all the people.”

“Gari, remember? Call me Gari.”

“Of course, Mr. Garibaldi, you appear to suffer from this unfortunate viewpoint more than most.”

He said, her irony missing him by a mile, “Gari. And why me more than others?”

“You are not simply an American. You are Italian-American, and the people of your ancestral country are notorious for placing family on a pedestal, family above all.”

Not much offended Gari these days, and certainly not when he was pursuing treasure; however, this young, extremely sexy woman was now strumming hard on his nerves. He wondered if what he expected would be worth it, and yes, Mr. Garibaldi was offended, truly so.

“Okay, what about the Spanish?” he demanded, confusing founding ancestry. Jamaica was in the Caribbean, wasn’t it? “They have pretty high regard for family.”

Ignoring his misplaced reference, she said, “And look at South America.”

This sent him into a mental stumble. What the hell did she mean? Oppression? Repression? Conquest? Revolution? Poverty? Maybe he’d have to dig up a copy of Nostromo to figure her out. But he was losing sight of his purpose.

They were trading barbs in a jitney wending through Kingston’s suburbs to her house. He knew their destination because he’d asked for the benefit of the jitney driver. He assumed he was on good and progressively better footing with her. Going to her house. For what purpose? To show him how well Jamaicans lived? To impress him with her decorating skills? He hadn’t thought so. Their intentions and expectations had been aligning as he’d hoped, until the prickly jitney exchange.

He tacked to the best course of action and raised his hands. “I surrender.”

“As you well should, Mr. Garibaldi.”

Reconsidering, he cautioned himself that weakness wasn’t attractive in a man. Therefore, perhaps conceding to her wasn’t advisable. He adopted silence as his new tactic. Let her do the talking; that was the ticket.

The next thing she said, after a few minutes of silence and winding through suburban streets that struck him as poor, or tacky if he was in a generous mood, was: “This is my place.”

Her house and the others were close to each other. They were ranch houses of stucco over cinderblock and painted—well once painted—a uniform tan, now just dinginess that varied by degree from house to house.

Gari’s contribution: “Driver, stop here.” He paid what might have been a fair or as easily an exorbitant fare; whichever, it was nothing to him, and to demonstrate this to Patricia, and mix in a little respect for the power of American Capitalism, he tipped the driver half the fare. She noticed, evidenced by her sneer and snicker. She was a hard case but in an oh so beautiful pink package. He coined her: Patricia Pink.

They crawled from the jitney onto a worn dirt path leading to the front door. It was dulled colorless and splintered and opened into a modest room that by its furnishings—a rattan sofa and a chrome leg table with four matching chairs, a fifties kitchen suite—served as the main living area. A doorway in the back opened into a small galley kitchen, and there was door on a sidewall, closed when they entered. He assumed it opened into the bedroom.

“You have a bathroom I can use?” It had been a long ride and the coffee he’d drunk earlier knocked on his bladder door for release.

“Of course we have a bathroom. We aren’t completely uncivilized.”

“I didn’t mean …” Why bother excusing himself when he meant nothing more than he had to go? If she had to politicize something as common and human as pissing, then to hell with her.

“Is it in there?” he asked, pointing to the door on the wall.

“That’s the bedroom.”

“You have a roommate?” he asked, circumnavigating the room to sedate his urgency.


“Do you have a bathroom in there?”

“Of course.”

“Listen, I don’t want to sound crude or be rude, but if I don’t get to a bathroom … well the consequences will be disastrous.”

She motioned at the door and nodded.

He thanked her and exited into the bedroom with as much decorum as a man could muster heading to the john under the scrutiny of a college woman. Virility was one thing; excretion was all-together another. It made him appear ordinary, when extraordinary was his goal.

The room was tiny, barely sufficient for the double bed crammed into it, and the night table, chipped blond veneer with faded black accent paint, modeled after a style popular in the U.S. in the fifties. On the bed was a bare mattress. It was spotted so as to confirm his image of Patricia’s true vocation and trigger sensations of disgust and the overwhelming conviction to thank her for her time and recall the jitney.

The bathroom had begun its life as white. When Gari entered, it was gray and brown; and it would have made him retentive had the coffee not been pressuring him beyond endurance and pissing hadn’t been the only business he had to conduct. After relieving himself, he covered the distance between the bathroom and the bedroom door in two strides, and in that small hop decided to tell Patricia he was sick. He settled on general, vague illness as sufficient to get him out of the house without too much effort. That she might prefer him to leave didn’t occur to him.

Reentering the main room, he saw he’d have to concoct another and more forceful excuse. Patricia and three other people confronted him. Two were men, both tall, rangy, ebony, in bright-hued pants, one wearing red, the other green, yellow flip-flops on their feet, loose rayon shirts imprinted with wacky floral patterns draped on their loose frames. The woman was short and fat and covered by a moo-moo. Her head was round and big and connected directly to her shoulders without benefit of a neck. She also wore flip-flops, pink her color choice. The man in the bright green pants, who Gari noted with fear, revulsion, and revelation that perhaps these were not mere friends of Patricia, sported a jagged, raw scar zigzagging down the exact middle of his face, rendering the tip of his nose and his lower lip cleaved. This morbid mask was scarier than what the man gripped in his hand. The object was a pistol, a little black block that could have passed for a toy, or a slab of licorice that the man carried about as a snack.

Gari’s thoughts rampaged in this order: This is a joke, little Patty’s way of driving home her point, whatever the point was. The pair were robbers who found their way into the house and were sticking up him and her. These were her parents and uncle who either, a) resented his presence in their happy abode, or b) decided he intended raping Patricia and wished to take their revenge before the fact, or c) suspected their daughter and niece had, was, or would betray the family’s honor and elected to prevent her from doing so.

None were correct. The two men and the woman were not relatives but accomplices and the crime they were perpetrating was merely tangentially related to robbery. As Patricia eloquently phrased it: “Mr. Garibaldi, you are a prisoner of the Jamaican Freedom Alliance. We accuse you of capitalist terrorism and perpetrating crimes against the Jamaican people.” She declaimed her accusation curtly, concluding by clamming up and signaling the men to seize him.

Before the man in the green pants had transferred the pistol—which Gari persisted in speculating might be a toy or food while he castigated himself as a grand idiot for allowing what was about to happen happen—to the black fireplug of a woman, Gari squealed, “Now wait a minute here.”

The men seized him and shoved him into the bedroom, where the one in red produced several lengths of mangy rope. He tied Gari’s wrists with the longest length. He wrapped the excess around Gari’s chest, binding his arms to his side. Then he shoved Gari onto the bed, which Gari found eclipsed the cinching in horror as the mattress was fouled, fearfully resembling a cultured petri dish, an artifact from the Kinsey research labs. With the shorter rope, he bound Gari’s ankles and took his Lubeck’s shoes. Gari’s response to this burst of restraining activity was: “Patricia, what the hell is going on?” Her response was to signal the men from the room, retreat herself, and slam the door on him.

Though the bed was a breeding ground, at least he wasn’t as uncomfortable as if they’d tossed him on the floor; but the rope bit into his wrists and ankles and he wished he’d had the presence of mind to have configured his joints oddly like spies did in movies when they’d begun trussing him. Several minutes passed, though these constituted anything but ordinary time. These increments crept like hours. It was one thing to waste away time in your own bedroom or your office—God and his associates knew he’d been an expert malingerer; but these empty bedroom seconds and minutes transformed to eternal ticks of time, the old Chinese water torture treatment of time, tormenting with agonizing voids between drips, and in duration seemingly endless; very, very long, like the elongation of the word “long” where the writer sticks in a dozen O’s.

By the end of the first hour or two, which in actual time were his first ten minutes on the bed, he broke out in a profuse sweat, his muscles tightened, and involuntary tremors caused his legs and arms to bounce spasmodically. Strangely, as this should have been his first concern when the man in green pants had flashed the pistol, he finally grew anxious about his situation. No doubt about it, Patricia did not care for Americans and found capitalism, the underpinning of America, what distinguished Americans from others, repugnant. It seemed odd to him now, bound on her bed like fowl awaiting slaughter, that he found her and her tirade regarding his status as an American capitalist and despoiler of all pure and holy in a world otherwise better operated under an atavistic regime of her and her cohorts amusing.

Wallowing in his expanding pool of sweat and fright, he laughed uncontrollably recalling how badly he’d misread her intentions. The irony was stark and limpid: She’d been forthright with him. Well, perhaps a little circumspect in that she didn’t flat out reveal to him she was luring him to his kidnapping—or at least he hoped this confinement was a kidnap and not simply out and out wholesale butchery to make a nutty revolutionary point to a world of people who might listen for a tenth of a second before munching down their pizzas, playing their Gameboys, watching their movies, grabbing naps, moving their bowels; he’d interpreted her orneriness as playing hard to get. After all, what woman in her right mind, especially when from a land of squalor, would pass up the opportunity to play with a rich American? Who knew what good would come of it? Yes, he’d been wrong; but, damn, it was understandable.

Gari figured the best he could hope for was a plain, old-fashioned kidnapping, where the kidnappers demanded ransom, the loved ones paid it, and the victim walked. Sometimes the kidnappers mutilated their captives. He was dredging the muck of his mind for an example and the best he could extract was Getty. What Getty, when and where? Paul rang a bell, and Italy too, where they flew off the handle regularly. It had been a Getty kid and his captors lobbed off an ear and mailed it to the rich and pathetically cheap family.

But, this was a new era—the era of the full-fledge run amuck terrorists who sawed off heads to make pointless points to which few acceded. Reflecting, it dawned on him: Patricia hadn’t been bantering with him; she hadn’t been teasing him; what had transpired between them hadn’t been verbal footsies. She’d been serious. He was an American Capitalist. She wasn’t a student, unless it was of Castro and Marx and the whole discredited gang of communists. She was a revolutionary. This realization engendered several violent leg thrusts and a couple of arm twists, all of which served no purpose other than to hurt him.

Thing was he’d never heard of a Jamaican revolution. He couldn’t recall seeing anything in the papers or on television. He’d booked the trip and spent at least several minutes reading up on affairs on the island. He’d even glanced at the Gleaner. Sure the place had crime, yet what place didn’t? But it was the normal stuff. People robbing each other, stealing cars, killing each other over drugs, while drunk, the usual run-of-the-mill mayhem. There hadn’t been a word about revolution.

Twisting on the bed wasn’t accomplishing much more than the rope cutting into his wrists and ankles. He hoped he wasn’t doing permanent damage. Thinking negatively, as he was, he’d simply depress himself, and then what good would he be to himself? While they’d bound him, they hadn’t gagged him. He looked over to the window. It was brown with dirt and, worse, closed. He could yell for help, but would anybody hear him, except for his captors, who he assumed would not be pleased to hear him screeching? He didn’t precisely know what retribution they would inflict upon him, but that it would be unpleasant—he successfully repressed words like “brutal,” “vicious,” and “inhuman”—of that he had no doubt.

As he writhed and sweated and whimpered and mentally tormented himself, the door cracked open. He responded by stopping suddenly, though halting the twitching of his muscles was beyond his powers. Patricia stuck her head in and flashed her green eyes at him. He railed at the knowledge that she should be in the bed with him, and there should be clean sheets covering the mattress, and each should be freshly showered with her fragrant with jasmine and with him nuzzling her breasts on his way to licking the moist valley between them.

She said, “I trust you aren’t too uncomfortable, Mr. Garibaldi.”

“What’s the idea?” he demanded.

“The idea is to have your rich American capitalist friends buy you back for a handsome fee that we will use to wage revolution against you.”

“You’re nuts.”

“Tsk, tsk, Mr. Garibaldi, you know as well as I nuts is exactly what I am not. But, I have doubts about my colleagues.”

Suddenly in the throes of sphincter puckering, he exclaimed, “They’re nuts?”

“No, not exactly. They are committed revolutionaries who care less about the money they’d get than your symbolic value.”

“Huh?” was his pithy rejoinder.

“I’m sure you’ll understand that as the epitome of American Capitalist excessiveness your example would make a powerful point about the ultimate fate of your type and show the people the depth of our commitment to freeing them from your oppressive ways.” She radiated devotional adore as she spoke, which he knew something of having attended church with Emily for several years until his faith fell by the wayside due mainly to resentment over their poverty and her penny-pinching penchant. His religious period illustrated clearly the devoted could be raving lunatics about a cause.

Lush with revolutionary love as it was, Patricia’s answer struck him as roundabout and dense and a failure at imparting good feelings; however, any threat he sensed was vague. His problem was now similar to that of an ill patient in conference with his doctor: Did he really want to know his fate? He decided lying on the bed in partial ignorance was preferable.

What he liked mattered not a wit to Patricia, who said, “Naturally, the symbolic act is your execution. The question my colleagues are discussing is the method of your demise and how to maximize its media value.”

“You can’t be serious. You’re not going to kill me.”

“I, no. My colleagues, Mr. Garibaldi. That’s part of the problem with you Americans. You talk over people and don’t listen. If Americans listened more, perhaps you would not be in this situation today.”

“Patricia, come on, kill for what, wanting a little … you know?”

“Tail, Mr. Garibaldi. I’ve studied your American slang. One must understand her enemy to conquer him. True, is it not?”

Gari felt foolish carrying on a conversation with a woman dressed in pink and he tied up like a plucked turkey, a mindless victim, an example, a precious revolutionary symbol, a bloody diatribe against everything he’d come to embrace and revel in over the past couple of months. Thus was born inspiration.

“Patricia, I’m not a capitalist. I’m a working slob like everybody else. This is all a big mistake.”

“Everyday slobs, Mr. Garibaldi, do not display the arrogance you do.”

“Listen, really, I am a working stiff. Stiff as they come. My wife, she shops at Wal-Mart for Christ’s sake. I’m talking Wal-Mart here.”

“As a Wal-Mart shopper, you are a terrible abuser of the people. Your patronage simply encourages the proprietors to dole slave wages to the people who manufacture what you consume.”

“All right, look, obviously I’m not explaining this properly. Entirely my fault for not being clear. Here let me try this: the lottery. Yeah?”

“We have a lottery in Jamaica. Yet another way to pilfer from the people.”

“Yeah, okay, maybe so. I played the damned thing for years. Thought I’d win someday. Didn’t really believe it. And then, wham, I’m an Illinois millionaire. No American Capitalism involved whatsoever. Just plain, blind, stupid luck. Could have happened to anybody. Could have happened to you, Patricia.”

“I doubt it, Mr. Garibaldi, as I never squander money on games devised to placate the people and divert them from their duty of overthrowing tyranny.”

“Sure, okay, but the point is I’m not an American Capitalist. Honestly, Patricia, I wouldn’t know the first thing about oppressing people. I mean the people.”

She smiled almost benignly. “American capitalists exhibit a common trait, Mr. Garibaldi. By your actions, I’m certain you are quite well versed in it.”

He devoted a few seconds of what was beginning to feel like a greatly shortened life span in an attempt at making heads or tails of her statement. He gave up and confessed, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Just this, Mr. Garibaldi: Deception. You cannot lie here and claim you are not a practitioner of deception. Certainly not after what you had planned for me.”

More inscrutability. It seemed to be her specialty. He shook his head, partly from frustration and partly because he didn’t know how to answer her.

“You claim your intention in returning here with me had anything to do with my project? Please, Mr. Garibaldi, we both know why you returned here, and what you now wish was occurring on that bed.”

“For Christ’s sake,” he yelled, frustrated that this woman wouldn’t listen to reason.

“We’ll let you know our decision,” she said, again smiling pleasantly as she closed the door on him.

He discovered he was both drenched in sweat and exhausted by his exchange with his pink-clad revolutionary mistress. He worked on calming his nerves. He wouldn’t find an exit unless he was clear-headed. Relaxing was the key.

But the idea was easier thought than executed, especially when the murmur of voices injected with occasional shouts reached him. No doubt they were discussing him, and the need to know their plans for his fate overwhelmed his desire to drop back in the bed and retreat into sleep. He resumed his struggle and discovered the bindings on his ankles had loosened. With effort reinvigorated by stark fear, he was able to slacken them sufficiently to free his feet. He labored over his arms and wrists for a while. He loosened them but not enough to free himself.

Meanwhile, the conversation beyond the door grew more heated. He couldn’t make out what they were saying and this raised his level of desperation and panic. His feet were free and he figured that was enough for him to get closer to the shouting match and maybe hear what they had in store for him.

He twisted his body and swung his legs over the side and padded to the door and planted his telephone ear against it. Everybody has one, and he found he always eavesdropped best with his. Yet even with his best ear firmly on the door, he had difficulty understanding everything the men said about him. The women, though, spoke distinctly with British lilts, and what they said nearly caused him to empty his bladder and colon then and there.

“I believe we can learn from our Middle Eastern brothers,” said the fireplug woman.

The men yelled indistinguishably.

“Removing his head would certainly get the world’s attention. But my fear is it has been overdone. Beheadings these days are common.” Patricia rendered this observation in a cool, clinical manner, as a student in a lab might discuss her approach to her latest dissection.

The fireplug woman offered, “Perhaps we could do something novel with the head. I’m thinking we place it on the steps of the U.S. Embassy. If good fortune shines on us, the U.S. ambassador will trip over it in the morning and perhaps damage something vital.” She uttered these words with a nonchalance that turned Gari’s glued ear soggy with additional buckets of fearful sweat.

Shouting ensured, which Gari concluded was the tone and volume the two men used to converse. For all their loudness, Gari could not understand a word they said, though it must have had an impact on the women, as a hush descended on the other side of the door.

At first, this frightened Gari. They’d made their decision and now were preparing to enter the bedroom and separate his head from his body. He was sure he heard silverware clattering, as if they were in the tiny kitchen rummaging for a suitable knife. He resumed his furious effort at freeing his arms and hands. He’d been at this long enough to burn his arms and wrists and loosen the binding a bit, when Patricia spoke.

“It is different.”

More loudly delivered patois from the men followed. This time Gari was certain he understood at least one word, as the men repeated it several times. “Balls” they shouted. They hadn’t struck him as cricket types. He settled on soccer. But for the life of him, he didn’t understand what soccer had to do with him.

“Hmmm,” said the fireplug woman, “yes, it has possibilities. I’ll volunteer to do it, too. You men are all cowardly bastards.”

Patricia admonished her. “You can’t allow your personal feelings to interfere with what is best for the cause and the people.”

“Believe me, it is best for the women of the revolution. We revolutionary women will be inspired to greater fervor,” said the fireplug woman, igniting in harsh laughter.

Patricia observed, “But it will be such a bloody mess.”

The men immediately shouted, to which Patricia said, “Yes, I understand.” She was silent for a second, as if she was subjecting their comment to further contemplation, when she said, with a concerned timbre he was hearing for the first time, “But you think they are large enough?”

Of course Gari was outraged. First they wanted to geld him and drain him as if he were a pig. Then Patricia served up the insult that he might be small, insignificant, too diminutive to have the impact this band of deranged revolutionaries desired. Catherine had no complaints about his balls or any other part of him. Nor did Loretta, who still inspired excitement in him, while sending shivers up and down his spine and thoughts of a bastard child sprouting in the California sun. Even Emily, who always, until recent times, seemed to enjoy criticizing him, never complained about this aspect of him, though he wondered during the sexual drought years if she had been aware there had been more to him than an inadequate paycheck. He demonstrated his fury in the empty room by breathing hard and snorting.

The fireplug woman blurted, “In this instance, size is of no consequence, eh boys. The very sight of them hanging from the embassy doorknob—tied prettily with pink ribbon, I think, eh—will fill the American men with terror.”

The men mumbled support of the fireplug’s observation, and Patricia conceded that perhaps this was an excellent idea, and the decorative touch was nice, too. It would show these all-powerful American capitalists they were as vulnerable as the poor people they used.

The fireplug barked, “I have already said I will do it, and with glee. You bash him.”

Shouting erupted. Gari swore he heard Red Stripe yelled several times. Nobody rummaged in the kitchen, as it was probably empty. But after Patricia said, “Here,” the front door swung open hard, shaking the house, and the herd exited quickly. He knew the men had exited. He was almost sure that fireplug had followed them. He wasn’t sure of Patricia. She didn’t seem the type to guzzle beer, whether to work up revolutionary courage or simply devolve into drunken insensibility. But, then, he did admit he hadn’t suspected she was more than a young girl on the make. So, while he had a hunch she’d left with the crowd, if only to protect her interest—that is, leading them back to the house to make a sacrificial example of him—his track record with her had been abysmal. It was entirely possible she was on the opposite side of the door with her ear glued listening to him breathing.

He strained to hear her. All was silent on the other side.

He padded away from the door and sat on the edge of the bed. There was the window. If he could untie his hands, escape would be simple. But he’d been working them the entire time he listened to his captors debate the fate of his manhood. The room was bare, containing not even a lamp. The mattress was stripped and rested on a rickety wooden frame. Continuing to struggle with his bindings, he went into the bathroom. It was gray, rusty, and bare. Not even a sliver of soap he might use to grease the cruddy rope securing his hands. And then he noticed the medicine chest in the wall above the sink. This hadn’t caught his eye earlier and he very well might have missed it again if he’d allowed his disgust with the room to curtail his search. He’d nearly missed it because its mirror had been removed, leaving it to blend in with the debilitated décor of the room.

Gary bent toward the cabinet. He opened the glassless door with his chin. He stared at the bottom shelve and his salvation. It was an ordinary object, a simple water glass, but it held the power to free him. It was a dirty little glass, smudged gray and brown, matching the bathroom. To his eye, it didn’t look real. It could be plastic.

He turned his back to the cabinet and hoisted his arms high, but succeeded in touching only the lower frame. He bent as much as he could in the small space, rested his arms, and wondered how those Vietnam War prisoners endued torture like this: arms trussed behind their backs and jacked up, confined in tight, inhuman spaces.

He felt stronger after the rest and was more willing to risk pain to snatch the glass. He positioned his back and hands toward the cabinet. He leaned forward and pulled his arms up until he felt the lower shelf. He was cocked so far forward he feared he might teeter and crack his head open on the fouled toilet. But he held true and was able to grab the glass—and it was glass—by its lip.

Carefully, with his back to the sink, he tapped the glass against the rim of the bowl. Nothing happened. He sucked a breath and hit harder and was rewarded with the sound of tinkling glass. He allowed the glass bottom he held to slide into the sink and then turned to see what he had. It was jagged and big enough to grip. He turned again, retrieved it, and commenced sawing his bindings. This process required more effort and time than he had supposed it would, and as he slashed and slashed he envisioned the men and the fireplug returning, tanks filled with Red Stripe verve and revolutionary ambition before he’d succeeded in slicing one rope; or Patricia might conclude whatever was engaging her and discover him in the act of freeing himself.

But none of that happened. He shed the rope in bathroom sink and walked gingerly into the bedroom, where he pressed his ear to the door. All was quiet on the other side, and he wondered if he might safely open the door and escape out the front. Patricia stopped him. He wasn’t sure of where she was. He decided it was best to leave through the bedroom window.

He went to it. He tried peering out, but it was encrusted with dirt and loathsome to touch. He searched the room for anything he might use to break it and found himself again in the bathroom. He took the cut rope from the sink and wrapped it around his hand. He struck softly at the wall with his fist and determined the rope would protect him from the glass. He drew a deep breath. He held it and listened for sounds in and outside the house. Then he shattered the window with his fist. He cleared away the jagged shards, shook off the protective rope, and scrambled out into daylight.

He didn’t wait to see if Patricia charged out the front door, or if the rest of the band appeared marching up the street. He darted down the street, intersected with a larger street, and discovered a bus stop, where, to his good fortune, a bus had just pulled up and people were boarding. He made it in time to catch it and reached for his wallet and to his utter amazement found it in his back pocket. That he discovered it there was pure relief, as the entire time he’d forgotten it was there, or was too preoccupied to realize it was there, or simply had assumed the revolutionaries more competent than they’d been.

Gari rode the bus to a thoroughfare. There he caught a taxi and was back at the Hilton in plenty of time for cocktails.


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