• Mathura Hawley

lucky

Updated: Aug 2, 2021


The man who ran the booth for the local charity began to recognize me, and as I won more and more of the smaller prizes, he would call me out to the crowd when I stepped up, as if I were the one to bet on. "

The summer season always ended with a carnival in my hometown, on Labor Day weekend, called Field Days. For three days, the local baseball field and park were taken over by rides, games and swarms of kids out for one last weekend of fun before school began again the next week. I looked forward to this every year, and took great pride in having my own money to spend from selling off my old toys at summer yard sales, mowing lawns and doing odd jobs for cash, which I would shove into a ceramic black bank shaped like a whale. My father was an auxiliary policeman, patrolling the event, directing traffic, and securing us a prime parking spot next to his squad car. The carnies would give him rolls of ride tickets for free, making me popular, and I would walk around confidently in my back-to-school jeans, red vouchers hanging out of my pockets. There was a game of chance called “DINGO” where, for a quarter, you picked a card and peeled it back, line by line, to reveal five letters, with the full DINGO in color netting you a prize. I became obsessed with winning this game, pulling back the paper, hoping for the elusive RED DINGO, the big prize, the four foot tall stuffed moose at the top of the shelf. It was huge, with brown fur and big yellow antlers, and was the coolest thing I had ever seen. The man who ran the booth for the local charity began to recognize me, and as I won more and more of the smaller prizes, he would call me out to the crowd when I stepped up, as if I were the one to bet on. I was moving into the 5th grade, and had been secretly struggling with the dark anxiety and confusion that comes from someone abusing your innocent body and soul, so this new persona was like a bright light. The final night, while everyone crowded onto the grounds to claim their space on the lawn for fireworks watching, or to ride the tilt-a-whirl one last time, I pushed through to the DINGO booth with five dollars burning a hole in my pocket. I could barely reach the counter, and had a moment of panic before I saw the antlers of the moose sticking up toward the peak of the tent. Finally, the man noticed me, winked, and I held up my last five. He squinted, sizing me up to see what kind of gambling mood I was in, and I nodded, signaling him to hand over the whole 20 tickets. “Stand back, everyone, he’s lucky!” he yelled to the crowd, and the strangers around me stared as I began to mine the cards for my golden ticket. With two cards to go, I peeled a red D. Then an I. N. My heart raced, because I had played enough to know what would happen once I had the fourth letter in a row. G. I gasped. O….He reached across the booth and lifted my arm. “Our winner!” he yelled, and I stood, paralyzed, as he climbed up the shelf and took the gigantic animal down, placing it into my arms, while everyone applauded. I turned, tears running down my cheeks, and ran through the crowd clutching my big new friend, fireworks exploding overhead.


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