Our Town – August 28, 2014

The Soupster participates in an annual ritual.

The Soupster participates in an annual ritual.

Originally published Aug. 23, 2007

The air was thick in Harrigan Centennial Hall for Our Town’s annual lottery. How could it not be? The choosing of nine people to have the worst luck in town for one calendar year? The lottery had been a local feature for longer than anyone remembered.

These were the thoughts the Soupster thought, shared by his fellow townsfolk, as he sought a seat in the crowded auditorium to wait for the drawing of the unlucky nine.

The Soupster knew his name was in the black box on a stand in the middle of the stage, under a spotlight. As were the names of all the adults in Our Town. Mr. Summers, the moderator, droned on in his official voice the lottery’s rules.

Then the Soupster spied Hutchinson, the new news reporter, holding back in the shadows, his long notebook open and his pen poised.

The Soupster motioned the scribe into the empty seat beside him. “You know you’re not part of the lottery until you’ve been through a winter,” the Soupster whispered to Hutchinson. “So you can relax.”

“What do you all do to the people whose names are picked?” Hutchinson whispered back.

“It’s nothing we do,” answered the Soupster. “The bad luck just happens. They wash their car and it rains. Things get busy at work and a bunch of relatives will descend on them. If there’s a nail in the road, they’ll drive over it. The store will run out of milk five minutes before they arrive.”

Hutchinson looked alarmed, so the Soupster continued. “The unluckies know enough to avoid firearms, fishing hooks and jetskis for the duration, so serious injuries are rare. It’s more the annoyance. They’ll forget to make important phone calls. They’ll put their garbage cans out after the truck has already passed. Their arm will hurt after their flu shot. They buy decaf by mistake. That sort of thing.”

“Shhhhh,” said Mrs. Dunbar, turning around in her seat in the row ahead of the two men. “Mr. Summers is about to start reading names.”

Hutchinson lowered his voice. “You ever picked?” he asked.

“1998,” said the Soupster. “Don’t make me think about that miserable year.”

Mrs. Dunbar turned all the way around this time. “Will you please pipe down!” she whispered emphatically.

“What’s the rush?” asked the Soupster.

On stage, Mr. Summers cleared his throat into the microphone. He reached into the black box and read the first name. “Susan Ripley.”

“Oh, no,” Ripley said as she stood, before mounting the stage steps. “I’m remodeling my kitchen!”

“Stu Sharansky,” Mr. Summers said.

“My boat’s in the shop,” Sharansky moaned as he moved to the stage.

“Dorothy Dunbar,” said Mr. Summers.

Mrs. Dunbar turned around and gave the Soupster one last stern look, before making her way down the aisle.

The Soupster frowned. “See, she was in a big rush for nothing,” he said to Hutchinson. “Her bad luck started already.”


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