“I won! I won!”
Benny knew he was embarrassing himself but he didn’t care. As he walked past the State Lottery office, he jumped up and down while raising his arms in victory, like a prize-fighter who had won a boxing match that he was expected to lose.
He wore an exceedingly wide smile as he walked down the street. He still couldn’t believe he now owned the biggest reward anyone could possibly receive. All of his worries were over. He’d never have to fret about his future fate again. It was all taken care of.
He casually walked the four blocks to his home in the tenements. He didn’t notice or care to notice the two men who were following him. The route home took him through the alley behind the homeless men’s shelter. He smelled the urine but without distaste. Rotting garbage from a nearby dumpster assailed his nose but he took no special notice.
Benny felt a hand rest on his right shoulder. He turned around and saw them. He didn’t recognize them, but the two men could have been any of the homeless fellows who occupied the area around the shelter.
“How can I help you guys?” The wide grin never left Benny’s face. He felt too fortunate to be aware of his peril.
“Hand it over. The ticket.” It was the other man. The first had put his hands back by his sides and the other hand his right hand in his jacket pocket.
“What ticket?” Benny was mildly confused but confident his twin companions would clear things up.
“The lottery ticket. You yelled that you won. Figured you won big. Give it over.”
“No, you’ve got it wrong, brother. I didn’t win the lottery. I won something better.”
“Fuck you,” said the first man in a low growl. “Give it over now.”
“No, it’s not that at all, brother. Let me tell you about…”
The second man rapidly produced a knife. Benny didn’t see it, but he felt the blade slide into his gut. He didn’t feel much pain, but his legs suddenly collapsed beneath him. He felt light-headed and was vaguely aware of hands reaching through his clothes.
“It’s not here,” he heard a voice say across a chasm.
“You nuts? He said he won. We saw him come out of the Lottery place.”
“You dummy. We saw him walk past the Lottery place. No ticket. Just this stupid pamphlet. Let’s blow before someone sees us.”
Two pairs of footfalls echoed down the alley. Benny’s vision was starting to darken. Something in his shirt felt wet. He was getting colder.
Benny smiled again and muttered, “I won. I won. I’m saved.”
He died face down, a pool of scarlet growing beneath him. On the ground beside him was the pamphlet he was given at the revival meeting when he answered the altar call. The revival was held in a rented hall next to the Lottery building.
The pamphlet’s cover announced, “Confess Jesus and Live with Him in Paradise.”
Even death couldn’t touch Benny.
Inspired by Tony’s Lucky Day at Orchid’s Lantern.
I realize the ending is somewhat ambiguous. If you are a Christian, you will be reassured that Benny had been saved and will spend the rest of eternity with Jesus. For everyone else, it will seem as if Benny died in vain. In either case, Benny didn’t fear death, and even though he suffered a violent demise, he faced his end with peace.