Lottie tilted her head slightly as she studied her reflection in the
little sliding glass window. Her hair, shaped in close to her head,
reminiscent of a 1960's style, was now almost completely grey, flecked
with just a small amount of black hair. She tilted her head in the other
direction and decided that it did suit her after all. But her skin, oh,
that was another matter. The tan was fading off the loose and flaking
wrapping on her skull, fading so quickly.
Lottie sighed and picked up the first flat plastic tray, whose plastic-glass cover protected fragile little lottery tickets like rare leaves from some long dead tree. They were valuable, these things. A bright, new notice behind the glass Lottie had used to evaluate her hair colour just a moment ago, declared that here a lucky winner had won two and a half million dollars.
Lottie, the lucky lottery lady, as she was now called affectionately by the booth operator, young George Junior was closing up for the night. She systematically counted and checked every tray and reconcilled it with the electronic till print-outs using small neat pencil checkmarks. She worked quickly to avoid a late customer upsetting her balances beneath the rather garish notice George Junior had erected, blaring out her new epithet on the front of the kiosk. It was six o'clock and Saturday night and, as Lottie checked the ticket trays against the check sheet and placed them into the lockable drawers behind the counter, she considered what she might do with the evening.
Lottie hadn't called Mary for a while and she felt a little guilty about it. But every time she spoke to her childhood friend, Mary seemed to have become even more bitter about life. Lottie's own kids were grown up now: one on the west coast and poor Michael, lost on the streets of Los Angeles somewhere. As Lottie had grown up she had been one of a group of seven girls of the same age, raised together, schooled together, dated together and sometimes much too closely together. But at last time and circumstance had dispersed them all. Lottie's good friends, one by one, had gone and were replaced only by a scattering of aquaintances.
Why was Mary so bitter about everything? It was one of life's mysteries that defied solution. So Lottie just accepted it and got on with each day. But to critisize Mr Zeeman for giving her that week in Florida, albeit in late spring, for doing no more than selling him the winning lottery ticket. Well, it was so senseless. She deserved nothing and felt embarrassed. But it was young George who had encouraged her to go. And she was glad to go, a realization she came to one evening as she had sat listening to Mary critisize Mr Zeeman: just because the ticket was to a bargain resort during the off-season. It was still a gift and still a generous thought.
So the tan was going now, the tan she had worked on forty years too late. And Mr Zeeman, now a millionaire was gone too. If anyone deserved the jackpot it was him. He had bought tickets from her regularly as clockwork. They had gotten to know each other and shared little glimpses of each other's lives. If the truth be admitted, she told herself, she had had a bit of a crush on Mr Zeeman for a long while now. And then the winning and the publicity and he was gone. So suddenly.
The man in the sports jacket turned to the uniformed policeman and said: "It's a month yesterday when his son was killed"
The policeman, standing in the empty kitchen watching the detective pick through the papers on the table, looked blank.
The detective looked up and seeing the look, explained. "Remember the Canadian private in the U.N. who hit a landmine in Rwanda?"
"Oh, yeah." But the uniformed cop didn't look very enlightened.
"He came from here. This was his dad."
"Oh". The uniformed cop shifted his weight a little as he absorbed the information. "There isn't any doubt that he did himself, is there, sir?"
"No", the detective sighed and dropped the sheaf of papers back on the table. "I just like to know the real reason why" he thought as he wandered into the sitting room.
The detective considered that there was no such thing as suicide: it's always murder, just that the victim is the perpetrator.
In her flat, Lottie, kicked off her shoes. In the refrigerator she had a plate of leftovers and she slid them into the microwave, put on the kettle, and then, changing her mind, cancelled the microwave program. She popped open the door and looked at the food, debating whether to put it back in the fridge or to throw it out. Unable to decide, she put it on the counter and reached for the cupboard. There was a bottle of vodka, mostly empty. From the fridge she brought a cardboard orange juice container. Filling a glass very full of vodka, she tipped the juice container and a small dribble of orange juice emerged, mixed with the vodka creating only a gentle orange yellow shade.
Lottie shrugged and took a big drink anyway and, bottle in one hand, glass in the other went into the bed-sitting room of her tiny apartment. She sat on her pillow piled bed and, from the bedside table clicked on the television. Noise filled the apartment with a sort of remote enjoyment. Without even seeing the screen, you could tell the laugh track of the show was canned and artificial. She finished the vodka and, about to pour some more, realized the bottle was empty.
Lottie turned off the television and returned to the kitchen. The kettle had boiled. She started making a cup of tea and eyed the telephone hanging on the wall. As she poured the water, Lottie thought about how friends, one by one, were replaced by a stream of temporary aquaintances and how different an aquaintance was from a real friend.
On the mantlepiece over the closed up fireplace that the television sat in front of were a few books. They sat amongst the various knick-knacks her life had brought her. She thought of the books as just another type of dust collector, a memory holder. As she reviewed the mantlepiece, standing in the doorway of the room, her eye caught a thin book lying on its side, at the bottom of a pile.
With a the tiny start of a smile she went over and gently pulled the book out. It's edges, where they had protruded from the bible that had sat on top of it were grayer and slightly dust stained. The cover said "Love Poetry" by Frank Napolitano. She opened the book and read the inscription on the flyleaf: "To you, Lottie, for I will leave you, yet know now my love was so true."
"Oh, Frank", she sighed and pulled her lips together tight as though about to cry. "That was so long ago." She had liked Frank but had she ever loved him? He was so hard to get to know: it was never really attraction, just fascination. Maybe Frank had read that. Maybe that's why he never put any effort into the relationship. She put the book down on the television. Maybe this time she'd read it.
In the kitchen she poured herself a mug of tea and drew from the cupboard another bottle of liquor. This time whiskey. Shrugging she poured some into the mug until it was full to the brim. Looking up, her eyes crossed the telephone. Lottie stopped, and with a wry smile reached a little unsteadily for the phone book.
"Anything more I can do here, sir?" the uniformed officer asked the detective from the sitting room doorway.
Without turning the detective said, resignedly, "No, I'll do the paperwork up Mike. See you later"
The detective sighed, looked slowly around the room once more and, as he turned to leave, the phone rang. Suddenly time was moving again and the detective was alert. He let it ring three times and, seeing the calling number on the display phone and jotting it down, lifted the receiver. "Hallo" he said in as neutral a voice as possible.
"Frank?" Lottie's voice sounded uncertain. "Is that you, Frank?"
The detective's eyes focused nowhere in particular. "This is Detective Zeeman, Ma'am. Can I ask who's calling?"
"Oh". To the detective's surprise Lottie's voice sounded suddenly bright. "Are you Mr John Zeeman's son?"
Because the detective didn't answer immediately, Lottie rushed on in explanation. "This is Lottie, the lucky lottery lady. I sold your father his tickets."
The detective relaxed. He remembered the publicity photographs. "Yes, I remember you" he said.
"I was calling for Frank Napolitano. Is this the right number?"
The detective asked his question quickly: "When's the last time you spoke to Frank, ma'am?"
"Oh", Lottie paused to remember. "It was quite a few years ago. We lost touch. Frank didn't return my calls and..." Lottie's voice paused and a new note of concern entered her voice. "He's okay, isn't he? Frank, I mean."
This time the detective paused, considering his options. He decided to be direct. "No, ma'am, I'm afraid he's not. Frank Napolitano killed himself this afternoon."
All he heard from the earpiece of the phone was a small, short "Oh".