A Game of Life

A Game of Life

A Story by J.P. Paradise
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How long does a life-time's prize last?

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Maurice Stott slipped into his bathrobe and shivered with pleasure. The fluffiness of the thick towelling against his thirty year old flesh was just another reminder of the good fortune. After all it was two in the afternoon and he was just about to take a bath. How many of the guys down at the warehouse would be able to do this? Exactly!

He walked barefoot across the bedroom shag-pile carpet to the bathroom. The coldness of the marble floor was in marked contrast to the carpet and he hurried to the bathmat. Maurice looked down into the bath with satisfaction. It was huge, with stylish gold taps and a whirlpool function. A smile greeted him in the mirrored tiles opposite. He turned the taps. Water cascaded into the bath instantly sending up a great cloud of steam. The mirror misted over, hiding his happy face. He leaned over and prodded two eyes into the condensation. A smiley mouth was added with a quick flick of a finger. Laughing to himself, Maurice selected an oil for the bathwater; sandalwood today. It reminded him of Cass; lovely girl, from the club, some strange hippy ideas, but what a fox!

With the bath running the room was filled by the low, comforting rumble of tumbling water. At a loose end for a few minutes Maurice wandered out of the bathroom and made his way to the balcony. He stood soaking in the afternoon sun and watched the swifts wheeling overhead. The garden stretched away below him, down to the waters edge. The river meandered through the valley like a snake between desert rocks. Sunlight flashed off its surface, making the willows at the water’s edge glow. Slender branches stooped down to tease the fish hiding in their shadows. Swallows dipped to the river to take a drink on the wing or to snatch mayflies from the air. He leaned on the balustrade and inhaled deeply. Oh yes, life was good

One lucky scratch-card. That was all it had taken. A fortune spent, of course, in buying the damn things up a dozen at a time. His workmates at the warehouse thought he was just a dreamer, wasting his time and his money. Where were they? Down at the warehouse still, where they would remain until they were either retired, dead, or redundant. He could still remember that winning card, how he slowly picked the silvery scratchings from beneath his fingernail and stared at the symbols revealed. He could still remember walking out of the warehouse, speechless; his forklift truck abandoned in the aisle and his clocking-in card in tiny pieces on the floor.

Fifty-thousand pounds a year - for life. A new car every year - for life. A tropical holiday every year - for life. There had been just one winning card out of millions and it had been his. He could recall the buzz he felt seeing his picture in the national papers; the radio interviews, the television studios.

“Will this win change your life?”

How often had that question been asked? And how many times had he said, “What do you think? Bloody hell, yes!”

A sharp metallic chime interrupted his thoughts. Irritated, Maurice left the balcony and padded downstairs to answer the door, weaving around white leather sofas and designer furnishings in the expansive lounge. An oldish chap, in a drab brown uniform, stood clutching a clipboard and letting his gaze wander nonchalantly over the Ducati motorcycle on the driveway.

“Yes?” barked Maurice.

The man's attention casually made its way back to where it was required.

“Mr Stott? Delivery for you,” he said, thrusting the clipboard towards Maurice without waiting for confirmation. Maurice took the board. A form was attached, as was a pen on a piece of twine. “Sign at the bottom, sir… yes… just there ...and print your name below it, please.”

Maurice duly complied, wondering where the courier's van might be as he did so. He handed the clipboard back.

“What’s the delivery, then?”

The courier smiled and reached inside his jacket. “Another prize for life, sir, compliments of Smalltrees Scratchcards.”

“Another? God, what is it this time?” Maurice asked, intrigued.

“Bullets,” the courier replied.

“What?”

“Bullets,” the man repeated, drawing out a pistol and levelling it at Maurice. “These should last you a lifetime.”

Maurice's jaw dropped. The pistol’s muzzle hovered before his eyes. He saw a brilliant flash and then nothing more.

Upstairs the gold taps continued to run unchecked, pouring over the edge. Hot water warmed the marble floor and soaked into the shag-pile carpet. It cascaded down the staircase and flowed under the leather sofas, lapping against the body in the doorway and out onto the drive. The scent of sandalwood hung heavy in the air.

Somewhere, many miles away, outside a newsagents, in a different town, in a different county, another young man stared down at the winning scratch-card he had just purchased, and wondered how much his life was about to change.

© 2021 J.P. Paradise


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Added on July 8, 2021
Last Updated on July 12, 2021
Tags: drama, short story

Author

J.P. Paradise
J.P. Paradise

Wiltshire, United Kingdom



About
Occasional writer, serial procrastinator.I write tales that are sometimes comedic, often tragic, and nearly always very dark. Bad things happen to good people, even worse things happen to bad people.. more..

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