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It's a Gamble

Who’s to say why you’re so easily misled and discouraged? There’s no point asking because you won’t answer. It isn’t that you have anything against questions – after all, you bombard me with them often enough. Why won’t I get out of bed? Why do I fall out with the children so much? And why do I hate sweetcorn?

But you never wait for answers. That’s how you’ve always been. Ignorant. Always.

So, when I said quite innocently that you may as well begin putting money on the lottery - seeing how you already have the numbers, and how you never miss a screening of the National Lottery programme, I should have known you wouldn’t listen. And you didn’t.

But I almost felt guilty. You looked at me with an expression that indicated something new. Something I hadn’t really seen before. I suspected it might be a new form of irritation.

And then you came right out and said it.

‘I don’t believe in gambling.’

Do you remember how you said it? With hands on hips and eyes narrowed in disapproval. I’ve never seen anyone managing a hands-on-hips pose while sitting on a sofa, but somehow you managed it.

‘Why do the lottery if you don’t believe in gambling?’ I asked you.

‘I don’t put money on. I just guess. As you know.’

‘But what’s the point?’

‘What’s the point of anything, Gregory?’ you sneered. Your hands and arms repositioned themselves, octopus-like, and stiffened at your side, as columnar props holding up your furiously hunched shoulders. ‘Tell me, seeing how you know everything else. What’s the point in me drinking this brew? What’s the point in leaving the house?’

When you get that way, there’s not a lot that anyone else can do to calm you. Your face, rarely restive, morphed into a terrifying variety of expressions ranging from obvious irritation and disapproval to something more subtle and intangible. Your eyes crinkled, almost as if in preparation for a laugh – though that wasn’t something you allowed yourself to indulge in too much. Accompanying the crinkle-eyes was a lip-curl, a twitch, and a tensing of your fingertips.

You curved your neck a little to enable better vision of me, and sighed. How to describe that sigh? Passive aggressive? Self-righteous? Patronising? Whatever it was, it was very ‘you’.

‘So, you don’t approve of collection of the proceeds of gambling?’ I asked.

‘Didn’t I just say that?’

‘Not exactly,’ I said.

You huffed and reached for the remote control.

‘Leave me alone. It’s time for my programme.’

It was my turn to sigh and tut and huff. But the difference was that you meant each negative emotion right down to the depths of your soul, didn’t you? But, with me, I was just playing. Messing about. I suppose you could say that I was taking a risk. A bit of a gamble, in fact.

You watched, with your head at an angle, as your programme’s theme music began to ring out of the television’s speakers, and turned to say ‘I told you to go’.

I perfected the trudge up to my room many years ago. My trudge was what you wanted, and were waiting for, and I have always been happy enough to gift you daily in this tiny way. But it didn’t reflect what was going on inside the head of me. Not at all.

I switched on my computer, and immediately logged in to see the most recent Irish lottery number updates. The screen told me all I needed to know.

You may not have ever put money on the National Lottery. But I put money on some of the others.

And, after twenty-eight miserable years of marriage, I thought it was about time for me to reap a secret benefit. After all, you definitely did not want to profit from the gains of gambling. You told me so yourself.

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