Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dee Turbon: The Winner of the Betty Million Contest

THE WINNING TICKET
by Dee Turbon

‘What would you do?’
‘If I won?’
‘Yes, what would you do with the money?’
Betty laughed and her face flushed. She sipped at her tea, tipped the cup and dipped her head so that her glasses misted over for a moment. She unkissed her cup then and swallowed.
‘If I won the big prize?’
‘Yes,’ said Harriet. ‘Say you won a million.’
‘A million dollars?’
‘Yes,’ said Harriet, ‘A million dollars and your ticket was the winning ticket. What would you do with the money?’
Betty set her cup in its saucer and placed the saucer down on the table. She brushed cake crumbs from her lap and looked at her ticket and the numbers printed across the centre of the orange strip of paper. A million dollars would do, she thought. Not that she didn’t already have a bit put by. Been saving most of her life for that rainy day that never came. Got enough in the bank that she could pay her way for all the days left to her, that’s what she thought. But a million dollars would make a difference. She bit her lip and sucked in air.
‘I’d not put it in no bank,’ Betty said.
Harriet agreed. That would be a waste. ‘And no fun in that either,’ Harriet said. They’d have to spend it and it would be a race against time, that's what Harriet thought.
            ‘I’d get my hair done,’ said Betty. ‘And a new coat, and some new glasses, can’t read my book with these things. And shoes. I’d buy me a new pair of shoes, seven new pairs, one for every day of the week. Wearing new shoes is like walking young again.’
            It was Harriet’s turn to laugh. ‘Shoes and a new coat and your hair? Wouldn’t make much of a dent in a million. You need to think bigger than that, Betty. Bigger than you’ve ever thought before. The sky is the limit, girl.’
            A crease deepened on Betty’s brow. She thought of things she needed. The sofa in her front room wanted restuffing and a new mattress for her bed. And the tiles in the bathroom, some of them were cracked though they’d been cracked since before Ed passed away. Sofa, mattress, tiles. But Betty knew none of that was big enough for Harriet, so she held her tongue, and the crease on her brow remained fixed and she looked as though she was thinking.
            ‘This could really change your life, Betty. I mean really change everything.’
            Betty agreed. She nodded to show that she did. Then she tried to understand what that meant. Mondays she had supper with Mrs MacDonald. They had macaroni cheese and a glass of dry white wine and chocolates on a small plate. Tuesdays she visited Morty. He kept to his bed except for the Tuesdays. Got up special for her coming, he did. They talked about how life was and how it had been and she held his hand in hers and they walked around the house like there was something between them. Betty took him gingerbread in the winter and strawberries in summer. And Wednesdays she went shopping with Martha and Thurdays she did her washing and cleaned the house. Fridays she sat on the bus with Harriet, a different place from one week to the next, working their way through a whole book of places, and tea or coffee in a different shop every week and each Friday they bought a lottery ticket, one for Betty and one for Harriet, and each week they talked about what they would do if they won. Saturdays Batty made up numbers with Mr and Mrs Brown and Arthur. They played bridge and they used matches for betting and they drank port or sherry till they could no longer read the numbers on the cards. And Sunday was church. Betty’s week was pleasantly full and thinking about it, she wasn’t sure that she wanted to change much of that.
‘I’d get me a big house with three bathrooms and too many bedrooms,’ said Harriet growing impatient with Betty’s lack of imagination. ‘And a walled garden with fruit trees in lines, apple and cherry, and a gardener to tend everything. And a big car so I could drive all over and I wouldn’t worry about filling her up and men in suits would tip their hats to me. And I’d sail round the world, for months at a time, and they’d know me in the best hotels, and I’d get the best rooms and they’d call me the big tipper. And everything first class and everything within reach.’
           Betty laughed again, different from her earlier laugh, not so fresh or so real. She told Harriet to be sure she checked her numbers, just in case. There was nothing new in what they said. Each week it was the same and they both laughed and ordered more tea and talk moved on to how Morty was and what Betty and Morty had talked about, and what Harriet thought of the new minister and his hectoring from the pulpit and his hand soft on their arms after the service, and Arthur seeing diamonds when he had hearts and seeing five when he had seven. Then, as the clock moved on to four, Harriet scooped up her ticket and dropped it into her purse and Betty quietly slipped her ticket under her cup and her saucer with a single green dollar laid on top so Harriet wouldn’t see, and they both got up to go.
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I chose The Winning Ticket by Dee Turbon because it of its humanity. I actually really liked both of the stories that were submitted for this reason.  The human interaction and dialog in Turbon’s piece felt genuine to me.   I think that Tom Martin’s piece had a great tone to it as well.  It had a kind of stream of consciousness thing to it that reminded me a bit of James Joyce’s work.

Nice job!

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