by J R Hampton
Brian bought a lottery ticket. He knew it was pointless, every time he’d tried to win the jackpot previously, the universe had rearranged itself accordingly and changed the numbers.
In fact, he’d calculated the odds of outsmarting the universe and winning the jackpot to be 13,983,817 to 1, which was slightly more than the odds of winning the lottery which was 13,983,816 to 1.
Nowadays he resigned himself to placing the previous week’s winning numbers as they’d obviously worked for somebody else. Somebody else, he figured, was always winning, so they evidently had had a better strategy than his.
As he waited for the elderly shopkeeper’s fingers to count out the pool of copper coins which he’d emptied over the counter, he imagined what he’d do with his winnings.
He’d quit his job. For the last eight years he’d been employed by Worcester’s smallest print factory to proofread messages before they are sent to be encased into fortune cookies. His boss, Mr Cholmondeley, would pull Brian up again and again on such petty things as failing to spot the difference between effect and affect.
This time, it would be different. Brian would wait patiently for the next remark. He’d then kick back his chair, scrunch the little paper into a ball and toss it into the ‘good’ pile. Whilst Cholmondeley’s jaw became acquainted with his shoes, Brian would casually walk over to Becky, the pretty receptionist with tiny eyes, scoop her up into his arms and steal a passionate kiss. The affect would be awesome!
Brian’s eyes met with the shopkeeper’s face, which was politely smiling back and blushing at his pursed lips. He turned directly into the greeting’s card stand, to which he promptly apologised, before hastily sliding out through the slowly closing shop door.
He checked his watch, which showed 7.00pm, so therefore knew that it was in fact 7.30pm as he’d set it half an hour early to avoid being late to anywhere. Unfortunately, he’d just missed his bus and the next wouldn’t arrive for at least another hour, give or take thirty minutes. He stood on the pavement and began to contemplate his next move.
Maybe, he wondered, the reason the universe had been so very unkind to him for all of these years was because it was saving something up, just around the corner, very special and unexpected.
Unexpectedly, on the other side of the road, a Victorian time machine appeared. A smartly dressed and inquisitive man, wearing a very dapper smoking jacket, stepped out and beheld the future with dazzled bewilderment.
Brian watched the time traveller examine the bright neon signs with disbelief, the strange colourful clothes with wonder and the illuminating street lamps with astonishment. Presently, a passing aeroplane caught the traveller’s sight and he excitedly ran out into the path of an oncoming lorry which flattened him in an instant.
This was the opportunity that Brian had been waiting for all of his life. He quickly pushed his way past the now growing crowd of concerned citizens and leapt into the machine.
Setting the dials to last Saturday, he gripped his ticket tightly in his hand. “What are the odds?” he mused.
J R Hampton is an English lecturer from Coventry. He has had his stories published online and in anthologies. If you would like to say hello, you can find him on twitter @Joolshampton