Saturday, February 5, 2011

Significantly Surreal

A snapshot into the light. A fellow, somewhat worse for wear judging from his clothes and shoes, but most especially his physical demeanor, sorting through his wallet with one hand, the hand he's using to hold the wallet, for bills to feed into the CT Lottery vending machine just beyond the checkouts in a grocery store.

We're not exactly Vegas (baby), with slot machines tucked in alongside of church baptismal fonts, but here in Eastern Connecticut, home to Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, it's always go time. And this is just the next day in the only life he will ever know. In his other hand, but not without a struggle, he's clutching a portable nebulizer. The oxygen mask is cloudy and dimpled with condensation from his heavy exhalation. The side of the lotto vending machine asks in chirpy orange and green letters, "Are You Feeling Lucky Today?"

Not so far, at least that's how it seems to me as I gather up the odds and ends I've purchased while the voice of the self-checkout hectors me to 'remember to take your receipt' because the Forces of Mendacity and Mediocrity (sounds like a grunge band, don't it?) could easily spirit it away. The would-be lotto millionaire completes makes his purchase and scans his ticket to see if he's won. He takes himself and his ducat to the 'solutions center' to redeem it and get a pack of smokes, creating one question while resolving another, at least for me.

Between the taxes a cash-strapped federal and state government have levied on a pack of cigarettes, he's out over seven dollars. But he has no time to feel sorry for himself. He hurries past me through the double doors of the exit and the Blue Rhino propane tank corral, to just make a bus that was about to pull out. Instead it halts and opens its doors to let him board.

The doors remain ajar and February chilled air fills the bus as he goes through his pockets in search of loose change he needs for the coin basket that counts his fare. When sated, it's silent as the driver now finally closes the doors as the bus pulls away from the stop and back into the go 'cause it's another day for you and me in paradise.
-bill kenny

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