1968 Straight


   The Heron Report hits the Pennsylvania lottery today with Pick of the Litter under the 222 overpass, where there are three-of-a-kind square paper tickets jettisoned from above.

   I retrieved one to the right going out and a pair to the right coming back. Big 4 NITE is the name of the game.

   When I have a chance to study them, I notice I have picked them up in reverse order of purchase, if you can believe the machine-stamped time. It is magical thinking to say this cancels them out. First they were issued, now they are collected. Magical thinking is amusing, when tickets are losing. I almost had it!

     The first one plays, for fifty cents, the numbers 1968, straight. What I know about lotteries can be contained in a head the size of a pin: The house always wins. Yet, someone has to win and if you don’t play, you can’t win.

    I would say the year 1968 has special meaning to the purchaser, for example, his or her birthdate. This ticket was purchased at 05:47 yesterday, July 6, 2010.

    The year 1968 saw The American Civil Rights movement, Laugh-In, the Vietnam War, Led Zeppelin, President Lyndon Baines Johnson, Hot Wheels, the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and 60 Minutes.

   The second and third tickets lay across the path from the first one, which was vertical like a flag in the tall scruffy grass. The second ticket, 05:46 plays 888 straight and the third, which lay face down next to the second face up, plays 4446 at 5:45, establishing it as the first ticket played. The one who laid his money down likes even numbers and places modest bets. I think I would like to talk to someone who sells tickets. Regular players bet on a budget.

   At the park, Rick yanks the purple loosestrife from the side of the creek where silt is accumulating. He says cutting it fails to halt the bewitching, invasive plant with pretty purple flowers – it continues to produce seeds and spread. He shows me some wild mint growing in the water and says there is some growing in the meadow too. He sees it when he mows.

   “How are you keeping cool?” he asks. We engage in conversation about the perils of air-conditioning, the benefits of breezes and the helpfulness of  shade, and the wisdom of taking it slow.

   High school athletes run the trail. They have bright faces and bare midriffs, sweaty faces and no shirts and healthy, determined faces and tee shirts.

   “Twenty-seven minutes!” shouts the coach, running with the string of young men and women.

   “He’s all right!” I think.

   I take a fallen branch off the grass and throw it like a javelin into the treeline. A heron squawks from the creek and from the corner of my eye I see it fly. It was close to us. Further up one flies neat and tucked, as in yesterday’s report. They remind me of pelicans when they do, keeping their necks in. Walking gives me the chance to analyze everything and just let it be. Today is 7/7.

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