“For the grand prize of fifty thousand dollars and a trip to Montego Bay, name the popular children’s program that features a sassy monocle wearing black cat in a red sweater?”

 You know this. Come on. Willie only watched this every Saturday morning. Think. Sesame? No, no, that’s not it. Think goddamnit. Blue’s Clues? Is Blue the human or the animal?  He hadn’t seen his son in over 3 months and the last time was only for a few minutes after he walked off the field at baseball practice. He lost shared custody of him in the divorce.

Larry Kismett loved to gamble. He bet on sports, went to the casino an hour away every other weekend, and bought lottery tickets every time he stopped by a gas station. Lucky Larry he liked to call himself. His biggest loss was the time he stayed at the dog track 30 minutes too long to catch his race and then got stuck on the bay bridge in traffic for another 45, leaving his son at the practice field alone with no ride home. The coach took him to his mother’s house and after that he wasn’t allowed to see his son without supervision again. Often, he’d ride by late at night just to see the soft glow of a television in the upstairs window of his child’s room.

“Let’s get that answer Larry, what do you say?”

His father had left when he was only 8, leaving him with only the men on tv as models. He told himself when he grew up he would be a good dad. He had failed at that, just like everything else he tried. He was cut from Varsity sports his Junior year for getting caught sliding quarters against the wall and smoking American Spirits in the boys’ room. Got fired from his first real job out of high school for showing up drunk because he had been at the casino all night. To his credit, he did win $750. His marriage failed when he had no choice but to confess to his wife that he had spent the remainder of their savings account on a time-share scheme that was milking him dry.

“I’m not sure, but I’m going with Pluto.”

He was never sure of himself. Maybe that was what fueled him to risk his worth so often. He had won some, but lost more often than not the things of real value.

“Larry, you mean to tell me you’re not sure? You’re risking everything on the notion that you are right? Is that correct?”

“That’s right, Chuck.”

Right before he left town for the trip to be on the television game show, he had written two letters and sent them to his old address. One was for his wife, the other his son. They both confessed he had been wrong in not being there more. They both knew better.

“Larry. Larry, Larry, Larry. Now I’ve seen some mighty dumb plays in my time as host, but to risk it all on a guess. That takes the cake.”

His son’s 8th birthday party was the last time he had gotten good and drunk. He had spent the morning watching football and drinking at Hooters and by that afternoon, he was barely able to drive himself over to the house he had once shared with them. He embarrassed his son by stumbling into a table holding carefully wrapped gifts from the boys’ friends. The cake fell to the ground and was soon covered by every ant on the block. One of the neighbors had to walk him down the street and put him in a cab. He had won his bets though.

“For our grand prize, the trip, and all the marbles, Janna- PULL! THAT! CARD!”

The sequined beauty slid the card away revealing the word he said, Pluto.

DING! DING! DING! DING! DING! DING! DING! DING! DING!

Confetti showered Larry as he stood there in shock. He had never won anything this big, yet the feeling was not new to him. The host slapped him on the back while flashing lights and echoing sirens drowned any connection he could make to the oncoming feeling. He thought about his son, hundreds of miles away. He missed his ex-wife and was willing to admit that to himself for the first time.

“Now, what are you going to do with that small fortune, Larry? Try not to spend it all on vacation!”

He looked inside himself for the right words to say. He wasn’t able to find them though. Finally, choking up he mustered out “Going to… going to spend it on my family.”

He hoped that Will had heard him in those moments, but the t.v. wasn’t on in the house he once lived in. Now unlit, no one called it home anymore.

 

Bio of Author:

“Alabama Black Belt native. English Instructor. Lover of black cats.”