Ruth

Fiction by Dan Crawley

Her upper body bows over a pile of Scratcher games in the middle of the bed. She’s wielding a quarter on a bright red two dollar ticket. “Goddammit,” she mutters and starts to work furiously on another. I stand near the edge of the mattress. I might as well be acres and acres from her.

Mostly one and two dollar tickets fan out over the rest of the bedspread, though I do spot a long five dollar one prostrate on the carpet. I flip it over and see it’s already scratched off. Wild slashes crisscross over the whole play area. No winners.

I say her name. She continues knocking it out. I say her name again.

“I used the Visa,” she says, annoyed. “I know, okay. But if I get a five hundred dollar win, then paying this next–”

“I just said your name.”

“How you said it. Let me work.” Then she says, “Goddammit,” moving on to the next ticket.

And my work is not enough, is what she’s reminding me of. Truth be told, she’s been living like she’s on her own already. Just as our hardships have turned from a small sack of pebbles to a cargo hold of boulders.

“Jesus wept,” I say under my breath. I look over all the tickets, a field of leftovers. I squat down and start to scratch at one teetering on the corner of the bed with my thumbnail. One she hasn’t fully finished; a few of the numbers are still hidden by the opaque matter. I notice that she’s not noticing me work beside her. And though the ticket is not a winner, I toil away. I rake in all directions with my stained thumb until the whole play area is plowed clean. I reach for another scrap.

<strong>Dan Crawley</strong>
Dan Crawley

Dan Crawley is the author of the novella Straight Down the Road (Ad Hoc Fiction, 2019) and the short story collection The Wind, It Swirls (Cowboy Jamboree Press, 2021). His writing appears or is forthcoming in a number of journals and anthologies, including JMWW, Lost Balloon, Tiny Molecules, and Atticus Review. His work has been nominated for Best Small Fictions, Best of the Net, and the Pushcart Prize.

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