Sitting in his car in front of his trailer, he can see through the kitchen window the shape of his wife as she leans over the sink. She is making dinner. He has a little boy in there, too. He worries the boy will be like him. He worries the boy will be ugly and good-for-nothing. A lottery ticket sits unscratched on the dash. Every day is this way.
When he holds the lottery ticket he thinks of all the pretty dresses he could buy for his wife. She has only one dress, and when she wears it, he hates himself for pitying her. Her body is like a deflated balloon. She was once fat. He told her and she cried. She said she would never eat again, she would never eat again.
He was laid off from the steel mill two weeks ago. He is afraid to tell his wife because she is always worried about money. He drives to the park each morning and watches the ducks float on the lake. He sits in the driveway and looks at the ticket.
When he opens his eyes and looks at the ticket he will see that he has won. He will drop the penny and scream. He will jump out of the car and run to the trailer and show it to his wife. She will be very confused, but then she will faint. She will lie on the floor like a broken bird. In the kitchen he will go to the boy whose cradle rocks softly by the fridge. He will kiss the boy and sing to him. He will sing “Ain’t No Sunshine.”
A week later he will be on TV. He will be in front of his trailer where news cameras stand on their tripods. The whole world will want to see this very lucky man. He will stand on the porch and his wife will hold the boy beside him. A man in a sport jacket will hand him a very large check. It will be the size of a door. He will hold it up for the camera and somewhere in the hills of Tennessee his mother will be watching and crying. The cameras will turn off and the man will take back the check because it is not a real check. The man will call it a TV check. When asked, he will choose the lump sum, which is almost two million dollars.
He will buy his wife a new home, a new car, and a closet of dresses. He will also buy her braces, which she will show off while fucking. He will hunch over her small, strange body and see them sparkling in the dark.
Aboard his first flight to Las Vegas, he will look up the skirt of an older woman as she reaches for her purse. When he gets to his hotel he will look at himself naked in the mirror and remark aloud about the size of his dick. It is very large. It almost hangs to his knees. Downstairs in the casino at three AM he will lose thirty thousand dollars to a black man with long fingernails. He will reason that thirty thousand dollars is change. The next night, while drunk on champagne, he will bet forty thousand dollars and show his hand: a two, a four, two threes and a king. He will lose. On his way to his room a woman will call him over. She will follow him to his room. She will tell him that, indeed, he is very big. The next day, when he refuses to pay her, she will take his cell phone and call his wife. She will tell her in detail the dimensions of his penis, including the strange mole on the tip. His wife will take half. He will not see his son.
He will wonder late into the night when he is very drunk if his boy can sing. He will recall singing to the boy very vividly. He will recall the lyrics to “Ain’t No Sunshine” and he will sing them into his pillow. He will wonder if his son will ever sing for anyone. He will wonder if his son will ever sing for a crowd. And he will wonder, if he does, will someone in the audience look to their friend and say, That motherfucker is ugly but at least he can sing.
He will board a plane still drunk and without luggage. He will smile at the hostess but she will frown and look away. From the airport he will take a taxi to the house. He will try to fix his hair in the rearview mirror. He will wonder if his son will recognize him. The cab will stop outside her home. There will be Halloween decorations on the lawn. The trees will drip with rain. He will take the cobblestone walk to the front stoop, climb the stairs with the iron railing, and at the door, soaking wet with a blister on his mouth and a ream of fat around his belt, he will close his eyes and ring the doorbell.
He steps out of the car and slams the door. He walks inside the trailer. His wife’s back is turned toward him. Steam rising up from the skillet. Her hair is like dried wheat. She looks like a scarecrow. He comes up behind her and turns her around. He kisses her lips. Her eyes are open. He pulls her down to the linoleum and takes off all her clothes. He leaves his but unzips his fly. He enters her and she moans. He thinks about how fat she once was. How the fat moved independent from her bones. How this woman is just a ghost of what she once was. She was so fat it felt like floating. He wants to feel that fat all around him. He wants to feel it sucking him in. He wants to glide across it. The boy is crying. He turns and looks. The boy is watching from his crib. The boy is watching him.
Eugene Harrogate is from Lexington, Kentucky, and received his MFA in Fiction Writing from NYU. His essays, interviews, and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in Publishers Weekly, Guernica and The Rumpus. He lives in Brooklyn and tweets here.