Adopt A Martyr Lottery Machine by Douglas Gilbert
Short-short Story Contest Entry
I’ve heard there are thresholds in the commerce of death. It’s difficult to know because I don’t think any of the lottery money ever reached my school where the teachers seemed brain-damaged, deranged, or deluded: maybe they used one hundred dollar bills as wall paper and plastered over it with lead paint, asbestos, and mercury. (The creative writing teacher always let us be wild and unstructured since discipline was not his forté, and he claimed he didn’t get paid enough to have a thought). I don’t quite understand it, but I think it’s similar to the workings of the stock market: you start with something that has actual tangible value, and then you write up some derivative documents that are like fairy tales that you can sell for entertainment. In a similar way, tyranny responds to market forces. The leader who supports a sufficient number of loyalists can safely kill a certain number of demonstrators, depending on how many photos and documents leak out into the propaganda market. Various entities issue their own derivative papers, and eventually the moral bubble bursts like a water balloon – you know, ‘kids will be kids.’ But I hadn’t cared anymore about these intellectual matters because I’d just been hungry all the time, and I had no fort to hide in.
I hadn’t known what I was going to eat, but on a whim I bought flour, bread crumbs, and eggs so that I could coat something and fry something. I didn’t know what at the time, because I didn’t have enough money for the object that was to be dipped and coated. The coating is like a shell, a spicy container for a food of more substance. It is something for a shell game before you find the pea, the tangible tangerine, and the princess.
The Supermarket is a sad place that makes me hungry if I only look at the food I can’t buy, but there is an M-tag Lottery Machine between the frozen vegetables and the fish monger concession. It takes credit cards or bills. For a modest price, one can choose a lottery card by surveying the many photos of women and children. I had really loved the charming photo on the lottery card of the family I adopted.
I saw my adopted family on the news: they were machine gunned to death which had meant that I won a prize: a million dollars. I’d think about where to invest later, but now I could afford sizable fresh fish to coat and I already had the shell.
The Supermarket was a happy place when I went across from the vegetables to buy a fish, and showed the aproned man a copy of my winning card.
He fell to the floor, flopping around gasping for air, whispered, “My daughter, my daughter… I told her not to join the revolution.”
I said, “How many pounds does this fish weigh?” He didn’t answer so I shot him dead, and several people had his card — they all cheered because some days are lucky. Someday we will cross the threshold and blow bubbles across the battlefield.
— Douglas Gilbert