The Little Things
by C.M. Werner
Mama always had a thing for corn chips.
I sat, curled, knees to my chest, beneath the sticky gas station table, gently picking at the hardened gum that speckled the roof above me. Flecks of paint peppered the floor in iridescent dust as mama furiously scratched the lotto ticket in her hand.
Mama’s been playing the lotto since I was in the womb. It’s not just an obsession; it’s the very linchpin that keeps her sanity intact. In her mind, playing the lotto is as good as praying, and she never skips a week, even if she has to spend her last lonely dollar in the process.
And she often does.
But she keeps playing. Keeps clinging to that hope that one day she’ll win the big one. Everybody needs a bit of hope, after all. Some folks find that hope in religion, others in themselves, and some folks, like my mama, well she just leans on luck.
Some folks spend their Sundays at church, skimming for hope within the riveting tales of centuries past. Others labor day and night, their hope clenched firmly in calloused palms. Not me and my mama, though. We take our hope served raw. This right here is our church, and whether my mama ever wins big or not, it don’t really matter much. After all, it’s the little things that keep her marbles tidy, and even the smallest of victories leave her buoyant in the tide.
Every now and again she’ll win a ticket, usually just enough to buy a pack of bubble gum or another one of them scratch-offs. She lost far more than she ever won, but she never does see it that way. Instead, it’s them small triumphs, them $2 winnings, that rouse her from her sheets each morning. That keep them demons at bay.
“I won! I won!” she shouted joyously, snapping me from my stupor. Her leg, possessed by elation, kicked me hard in the back of the head. She leapt up and scurried to the checkout, proudly slapping her ticket on the soiled countertop. “I won,” she said grinning, her crooked teeth gleaming awkwardly in the fluorescent light.
“Well congrats, little lady,” said the man behind the counter. “Whatcha gonna do with all them winnings?”
Mama hesitated. “I’ll take two more scratch-offs and a bag of them corn chips.”
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C.M. Werner is an underemployed writer living in a cramped micro-studio in Denver, Colo. A radical queer raised in a pristine, conservative suburb, writing has long provided her an escape to a world that’s equally bleak but far more malleable.