Jimmy Stewart sat hunched on the cold metal seat, with chin tucked uncomfortably inside his well-worn coat. He no longer took in his surroundings – in fact, having to experience the Bus Station on a daily basis, he did his best to actively ignore them.
Jimmy gripped his rolled-up newspaper tightly and shut his mind to the Monday afternoon queues. He had enough problems of his own without having to share their burden. He was forty-two years old, without a job, and a hairline that wasn’t so much receding as in full retreat. The light at the end of the tunnel had long since been extinguished.
“Come on then, we’ll have ya!” The harsh teenage voice coiled its way round the walkways like a snake looking for prey. Was he the intended target? He shuddered and waited for the confrontation that never came. There was a sudden movement in the queue, but the youths passed him by without a glance. Jimmy was relieved, yet somehow disappointed. He wasn’t even worthy of being a victim. Even so, he couldn’t help but give silent thanks to the dog-eared paperback, “The Power of Positive Thinking” that he always kept in his inner coat pocket. It gave him confidence, and made so much more sense than keeping a rabbit’s foot or other silly charm.
There was a murmur of anticipation, followed by increased movement, as a single-decker bus crawled its way into Bay 15. Jimmy rose to his feet and found his way blocked by a rather unpleasant-looking man with neck tattoos and a shaven head.
“Excuse me”, Jimmy’s voice was little more than a whisper. He made the briefest of eye contact, and then looked away. The man smiled, and stepped back obligingly. Jimmy touched his newspaper to his head in acknowledgement, and then immediately wished he hadn’t.
The queue shuffled forward, and Jimmy joined the line. He wondered whether he should take his wallet out here (and risk being robbed) or wait until he was on the bus. If he couldn’t find the right change there, everyone would be watching. He decided to wait. Jimmy was used to waiting, taking his turn. He had never been one to stand out in the crowd or make a scene.
Once inside the bus’ protective cage, he felt safe enough to open his wallet and look inside for the fare. Mercifully, the correct change seemed to fall into his hand. He took his ticket and gratefully headed for the nearest available empty seat.
“Hey, you’ve dropped something, mate.” The driver pointed at two neatly folded pieces of paper huddled together near the door. Jimmy sheepishly made his way forward and picked them up. He recognised his two lottery tickets straight away. He had hurriedly pushed them in his wallet a couple of days ago, and there they were, lying on the floor. He returned them to a safer compartment of his wallet, with zip protection, and sat down with all the dignity he could muster.
Jimmy didn’t like to break his routines. He always bought two lottery tickets from the Fast News Shack on a Saturday afternoon. He would then check his numbers from the Monday paper. There was no rush to get the result. Why dash your hopes instantly, when you can fantasize for a day or two first?
He was sure one or two passengers were staring at him. He didn’t know why, but he didn’t like it. He opened the paper at a random page and hid himself behind its tabloid shield.
Jimmy scanned through the pages without any great enthusiasm. There didn’t seem to be much of interest happening in the world today. No unfortunate Government Ministers caught with their trousers down, no Premier League celebrity lawyers taking easy money from their non-entity clients. Just enough shallow and trivial happenings to fill a gossip-hungry newspaper.
Then he saw them – last night’s winning lottery numbers. Jimmy had a look, just a casual look. Then he looked again, and again. They were familiar. VERY FAMILIAR. Maybe he was mistaken? No, he would recognise the sequence anywhere.
HE HAD THOSE SIX NUMBERS!
The ones he put on faithfully, week after week, without a win and without a hope. Jimmy thought that his was the only combination that statistically had no chance of winning. Until now. Granted, he only had three matches per ticket. But that was a small point that could be sorted out later. Maybe the small-print covered issues like this.
Then the doubts began to creep in. As he knew they would. Jimmy knew he had to see a hard copy of the numbers that were in his head, just to make sure his memory wasn’t playing cruel tricks on him, in the way that memories sometimes do.
But Jimmy couldn’t check his tickets – not here, with all these people looking over his shoulder. Someone would see the numbers and then they all would know, and they would make him give up the tickets by force. Or by showing him up. There would be no escape.
Jimmy left the bus at the first available stop. The driver gave him a strange look, but Jimmy didn’t think he could have known.
Although no-one else got off, Jimmy still felt open and exposed. After a few seconds of watching the traffic drive past, too close for comfort, he headed for the relative safety of nearby park. With no-one in sight, now was the moment. The moment of truth. Even though Jimmy knew the outcome, it was with sweaty palms and a pounding in his head that he opened his wallet and slowly unfolded the tickets…
Don’t they say that six numbers equals the jackpot?
This time there was no cruel twist of fate, just six of the numbers that he always picked, the same numbers that meant he was about to probably become a millionaire, maybe a billionaire, who knows- even a ZILLIONAIRE! Just thinking about it made Jimmy tingle.
He stuffed the tickets into a trouser pocket, and set off running. He had to phone the Claims Line now, nothing else mattered. He needed a phone box, and he needed one badly. Jimmy had never bought himself a mobile phone – after all, they’re not sure about the radiation effects are they? Right now, he would have traded a short burst of microwaves to the brain for two tin cans and a length of string.
Several minutes and only three changes of direction later, Jimmy found himself an empty phone box. Fortunately, he didn’t have time to consider that although nearly all phone boxes are working these days, they still have that all-too-familiar smell about them.
Jimmy arranged the change from his wallet in ascending order. He put the smallest value coin into the phone. After all, the fact that you’ve won a few million quid doesn’t mean you should start throwing your cash around, does it?
As he listened to the dialling tones, it began to sink in just what had happened. He took a deep breath, savoured the moment and felt a warm glow inside. A bit like pouring chocolate sauce over a hot sponge pudding, but more financially rewarding.
Who knows, Jimmy Stewart could become a household name…
Jimmy was almost disappointed when a female voice cut into his lovely positive feelings.
“Hello Lottery Claims Line, Chantelle speakin’. How can I help ya?” The voice had a ‘Don’t bother me ’cos I’m chewing gum and polishing my nails’ quality about it.
“My numbers came up. I’ve won!” Jimmy punched the air in silent salute to the adoring masses. He enjoyed it so much – he did it again!
“Oh is that so, I’m really happy for ya.” said nasal Chantelle, with all the enthusiasm of a male black widow spider that’s just read his tea leaves. But there was no holding back Jimmy now.
“I can’t believe it, it’s just…well, I’ve never won anything before, and now this!”
Jimmy’s thoughts of being presented with a cheque the size of a door, were cruelly interrupted.
“Yeah, so what’s your name?” The accent was vaguely Newcastle – the attitude seriously New York.
“Jimmy…er, Mister James Stewart.”
“And where do ya live, Mister James Stewart?”
“No, what’s your postcode? We can tell what your address is from that.”
“I know what my address is.”
Chantelle was starting to get really irritated by this Jackie Stewart bloke. Luckily she was too much the professional to let it show.
“Listen, Mister. No postcode, no wonga. Ya nooo wot I mean?”
Poor Jimmy. He was starting to get flustered. His postcode, the key to unlocking his cash windfall, was just out of reach.
Think, Jimmy, think!
“Would my phone number help…at all?”
“Oh please, and why would I want your phone number, huh?”
“Because I’ve just won the Jackpot. Six numbers. The Works.”
Chantelle’s ears sprang forward like a startled cat.
“Oh, I see… your home phone number would be just fine. My name’s Chantelle. Could you pass me your details now, please, Sir.”
What a difference, thought Jimmy. Instant respect! Maybe the usual trip to the Seaside might be for two this year…Looks like he may have hit the jackpot in more ways than one.