|And the Winner Is
When the guy tells me how much it is Im disappointed.
Its a pity it isnt last Saturday. That was a rollover, 16 million, one winner.
I have to share this lacklustre Wednesday jackpot with two others. Probably my only chance
at big money and I come in joint third. I feel like telling him to forget it, stick it up
his arse, wait for another week when its a bigger pot and I wont have to split
The guy acts sympathetic, as if hes giving me
bad news, as if the moneys going to be a problem.
Some people find it difficult, making the
lifestyle transition, he says. I stare him out when he says this, daring him to make
a comment about my scabby furniture, but his bottle goes and he looks away.
Wilma, Im here to help, he says.
We have a team of experts who can offer counselling, advice on investments, a
helping hand. I understand that itll seem strange to you but youre not alone.
We arrange social events where youll have the chance to meet and share experiences
with other winners.
Im for sharing nothing. I tell him I just want
the dosh. I dont mention that I want him out my house but I must be quite good at
the old non-verbals because he gets the message and hops it.
I dont phone in or anything. Maybe its
because I havent phoned, but Im not getting the same buzz I usually get from
dogging my work. After a few days I kind of half expect Healy to turn up at my door but he
doesnt. Probably the union wont allow it. Just as well, I dont want him
here. Dont want to see his big false smile and smell his sickening aftershave all
through my house. That metallic citric stench is fooling nobody. Underneath that I can
still smell him, his warm pits and his groin.
I have to stay in during the day. Theres no way
I can be seen out and about. I ticked no publicity but these things are likely to
get out. Id knit but Ive run out of 2-ply and Ive nothing to knit
anyway. Ive a wee ball of that lovely soft lemon wool but its only enough for
one bootee and thats no use to anyone except a one-legged baby. Mind you, the way
that Sharon McCormack is going, with the drinking and the drugs, her babyll be lucky
to have one leg.
I go to the garage every night for milk and sweeties.
Usually I go about 3 a.m., sometimes later if theres something good on the telly.
The woman in the garage cant believe the money I spend on tickets. One night I ask
her for fifty lucky dips just to see the look on her face. Actually this is a
mistake. I dont want to draw this much attention to myself. They take ages to print
out and customers in the queue are growling at me. Anxious to get home no doubt, probably
left the kids unattended. After this I stick to ten lucky dips in amongst a loaf
and a couple of Mars bars. Even buying Ferrero Roche every night, theres only
so much cash I can splash in a garage.
I become a demon with the credit card. On the internet
I love dragging stuff down and putting it in my shopping trolley, thats the best
bit. The guys who make the deliveries act all friendly expecting a tip but I never give
them one. They stop smiling and after that my parcels arrive damp or squashed, or smell
like theyve farted on them. I sniff the parcels right in front of them to let them
know I know.
I buy a top-of-the-range TV and entertainment centre
on wheels and drag it from room to room. At first its a novelty but if Im
watching a movie, An Officer and a Gentleman or Braveheart or something and
I want to go into another room, unplugging it and lugging it and plugging it is a
nightmare. I end up having to buy another three. Its good fun watching the wee
skinny delivery guy humphing them up two flights.
I open an account with an online clothes shop and buy
designer names. The clothes dont look as good as they do on the website, they
dont hang right. With my childbearing hips its never been easy to get clothes
to fit. Ive got what they call in the catalogue a midriff bulge. A girdle of fat
like link sausages hangs over my denims. It takes me a while to get used to the sizes. In
my pre-lottery clothes Im still a sixteen. In the designer stuff Im a
fourteen, occasionally even a twelve. These rich women are kidding themselves on. More
often than not I have to invoke the twenty-eight day no-quibble money-back guarantee.
Its the same guy who comes to uplifts and, if I can work one up, I fart on the
parcel before handing it over.
Nobody phones. Not even Healy. Hell have taken
the huff that I didnt finish that Premier Prices anorak order for him.
Hell be dying to lean over me at my machine, stinking up my workspace, telling me
how disappointed he is. Payroll doesnt forward my pay. They probably think Im
lying behind the door, in pain or starving, but they wont send me the money they owe
Every morning I get the mail and jump back into bed
with it. I fill out every coupon. I especially like the ones that try to gather personal
information about me. I fill out my name as Torquil Farquarson Mc Fadden, a police
officer, an inspector, six-foot three. I like it when they want to know his hobbies. A man
like Torquil has many interests: majorette displays, country and western music, light
opera. I entertain myself for hours and post them at night when I go out for sweeties.
I fill in forms online whenever I find them. I put on
the New You cosmetic clinic form that I have an unsightly mole on my cheek shaped
like a swastika which inhibits my career in the force. The next day New You emails
me back offering a free online consultation. How can I refuse? So begins a correspondence
which lasts days before they give up on me.
After a month I get a letter. Human Resources want to
know if Im sick and under the doctor. I am required to produce a valid sick line for
the period of absence. I am reminded that absence without permission is a disciplinary
matter. Its signed Bernard Healy. Bernard. Wouldnt want to be calling a
kiddie after him with a wanky name like that. They still dont send my pay.
After the carry on with the lucky dip tickets
Im more careful at the garage. Over a period of six nights I buy twenty seven half
pound boxes of Milk Tray. I take ages wrapping them all up in posh paper with
ribbons and rosettes and everything. When Im finished Im really pleased with
them. All the coloured boxes make my couch look like a shop display.
Im sorted clotheswise with a long dress and a
fur coat. I think long and hard before I buy the coat which costs a packet and is not even
real fur. Even though Im loaded, Im not a scattercash just for the sake of it.
The fake fur feels lovely, I snuggle under it when Im watching telly and stroke the
fur, its pure quality.
On the internet I find a local pipe band. Emails to
and fro but we cant sort anything out. All but four of the band have jobs and can
only do weekends. The Pipe Major is looking for a lot of money, payable in advance.
Eventually I settle for the four so long as they have the full kit. The Pipe Major guy
assures me they have and, after my cheque has cleared, he phones me to confirm the time.
They look amazing, like tribal warriors. Theyve
got kilts and big furry hats and the Pipe Major has a leopard skin over his shoulder. I
meet them outside the gents where theyve changed. He arranges for them to leave
their street clothes with the old woman who caretakes the toilets.
We go round the corner to a quiet car park while they
tune up. Up close the bagpipes are shockingly loud and make a noise like a ship being
crushed by an iceberg. After a few minutes it comes together and begins to sound like a
tune. As the Pipe Major straps the massive drum on his belly we discuss what I want.
Im with you, he nods,
something upbeat and dignified.
We wait outside for the half twelve hooter and then go
in. My card is still by the clock so I punch in for old times sake. We march up the
middle of shop floor, me at the front, sweeping up oose and threads with my fur coat
dragging the ground. The Major is right behind me with his big drum and behind him come
the three pipers. We fill every inch of the factory with noise. From the manky skylights
to down beneath machines where lassies hide their squiggly seams, me and my warriors
command the space. Someone has been using my machine, I notice; theres thread all
over the place and an untidy bundle of pink sleeves lie like severed arms across my
Right away all the lassies start clapping and
heuching. We head for the canteen and everybody follows us, some of them attempting a
Highland fling and making a total arse of it. The Pipe Majors timing is perfect and
we arrive in the canteen just at the end of the tune. They love it, theyre going
mental clapping, heuching, stamping their feet; this is better than the best hen party the
factorys ever had, even better than Anne Marie McStays. Still no sign of Healy
so the band starts another one.
Im handing out boxes. After all the time I took
to wrap them they rip them open in seconds. The floor is covered in wrapping paper and
ribbons; its like Christmas. Some of them are finding cheques and squealing and
jumping up and down. The band is still playing; its a mad house.
What is going on here? shouts Healy.
Hes wearing a white shirt and his blue Daffy
Duck tie. He must have a meeting this afternoon at head office, probably to explain why
the anorak order wasnt ready on time. I give the signal and, without hurrying, the
Pipe Major finishes the tune.
Ive come to tender my resignation, I
say. Ive brought you a gift Mr Healy.
He stands with his mouth open as I hand him his box.
Not everybody gets a cheque. The ones who pretended
they were nice, who smiled and acted kind when I came into the canteen, all they get is
the Milk Tray. The ones who ignored me or sniggered get a cheque, nothing over the
top, anywhere between two and ten grand. Some of them whisper or ask each other outright
how much they got. The turbulence is beginning.
Healy gets thirty grand. Hes laughing and his
hands are shaking.
Wilma, this is incredibly generous! he
He grabs me and squeezes. Its sore, as if
hes trying to get my shoulders to meet in the middle. He squashes his lips against
the side of my face, a big loud smacker. I can see hairs on the back of his neck, curly,
coming in grey. He needs a haircut. Im scared but they whistle and cheer.
Whats going on? Have you won the
lottery? he asks with the kid-on smile ripping his face in half.
Im waiting for this question. Hes still
got a hold of me and when I speak Im breathing in his aftershave.
No, I havent won the lottery. I
wasnt in the syndicate; I wasnt invited. I got the money through hard slog and
determination. In fact Ive invented an
An invention? he asks in a way that sounds
like he doesnt believe it. He moves away from me but the smell stays in my nose.
Im not supposed to talk about it but
Ive invented a thing to save babies' lives. Thats why Ive got to resign.
I have to help the government with
Everybody claps and Healy joins in, with a cheque for
thirty grand in his hand he isnt going to diss anything I say. I look at the pipe
band to see what they make of this but theyre staring straight ahead in military
fashion. Healy gets on top of a table with his back to the serving hatch. The food is
ready and steaming away but nobody bothers with it. It smells brilliant, I could just go a
plate of lentil soup right now.
Ladies and eh, gentlemen, Healy says
nodding to the band. The lassies squeal, a few hands try to lift kilts but they cant
get through the protective semicircle the band have formed against the wall. Im
wondering myself if theyve gone commando.
Id like to say a few words of
thanks, Healy says sticking his chest out, acting the big man. Your generosity
is overwhelming. This will certainly go a long way towards that conservatory my
wifes been on at me about!
The lassies laugh because its only usually at
Christmas that he even lets on he has a wife. And now hes admitted that she rules
him. They scream with laughter, ridiculing him. Its all getting a bit hysterical.
I can only say Wilma that you will be
missed. Hes accepting my resignation. Im sure there are one or two
who would say that youre not the most forthcoming or friendly person but, och well,
youre not the worst, and over the years I think weve all come to understand
that you prefer your own company and most of us respect that.
He hasnt understood my gesture and I have to
interrupt him: 'Mr Healy, Bernard. Im rich. We can be rich together. We can make a
nice home, I blurt out and then hang my head.
Everybody shuts up and turns to look at me. They fall
quiet except for a wee surprised hoot that escapes one of the bagpipes. Then I add
quietly, for a family.
Theyre all dying to whistle and bang the tables
but theres not a peep out of them.
Wilma, I dont know what to say.
Im sorry, Mr Healy, I shouldnt
No! No Wilma, dont be sorry.
Its always been there between us, we both know it. And now theres no reason to
fight it anymore. We can do what we want.
Hes going too fast for me and right here in
front of them all.
Wilma, marry me.
There is a slight vacuum in the canteen caused by
every one of them sucking in a lungful of air.
But he cuts me off and says, I love you,
Ive always loved you.
Is that not what Mel Gibson says? I think so but I
Marry me and well leave this place and
make a home and a family. And then he jumps off the table and gets down on one knee.
His eyes are shining, my eyes are shining, the whole place is glittering with shining
Wilma, if you love me, and I think you do, then
please just say yes.' I try to think about it but theyre all still holding their
breath so I have to say, yes.
No, I dont. Because none of that actually
happens. Nothing is going to happen. Hell go home to his wife, the barren, hectoring
bitch, with my thirty-grand cheque.
None of us will forget the money you contributed
to sheets when our girls left to start their families. And dont think for a moment
Wilma that it went unnoticed when you knitted the things, what dyou call them? Yes,
the lovely wee matinee jackets and bootees you knitted for each and every baby that was
born to this factory. Sadly, your leaving will mean an end to that tradition.
Theyre all looking at me and smiling, their eyes
aglitter; some of the older ones are actually greeting. Ive resigned. Ill not
have the whiff of him in my nostrils again, ever.
I need to get out. While Healy is still boffing on I
give the signal and the band strikes up. I march so fast the Pipe Major is having a job
keeping up with me. The whole place, even Healy, marches out into the street with us and
waves us off. I dont look.
The phone rings plenty after that, but I dont
answer it. My bank manager pops round to see me, just a social call. Hes a bit
perturbed that the cheques were from my old account, the account with no money in it. He
says thats illegal. But its okay, he appreciates Im new to handling such
large funds and on this occasion theyll cancel the cheques. I reissue only one
cheque, a large one, to the factory social fund, to be spent on good quality matinee
jackets and bootees.