With apologies to T.S. Eliot
UNIVERSAL CITY, TX –
Do I dare to eat these gummy peach rings? What about this Code Red Mountain Dew, these powdered donuts, this Big League Chew? Here are cakes and teas and ices, beef jerky and candy bars and Dos Equis. I stalk their stock, ruffle their wares, leave not a rack behind. Shaq smiles mirthfully from the pastel can of a new line of cream sodas by the Brooklyn-based Arizona Beverages Company. It feels vaguely oppressive. What kind of vittles are these?
I settle for a “deliquorish” candy called “Kazoozles” from the Wonka brand. Behind the counter are dip and cigarettes, and I realize that nearly everything you can buy from a gas station at 12:30 a.m. will only hurt you. It will kill your brain cells or raise your blood pressure or leave you pinned and wriggling with the rot of tobacco. If one must really spend a dollar or two, your best option might just be a benign lottery ticket.
“I’ll take a dollar scratch-off too. Thanks.”
In playing the lotto there is a sense of giving yourself up to the unknowable machinations of the world. I become an agitated fatalist when I have a card in my back pocket. Yes, my odds of winning anything significant are virtually nonexistent – yes, I’m more likely to be crushed beneath an errant jet engine – but yes the winners are out there. That instant grand or quarter million dollars could be destined for David alone. This is my license to dream, my flickering greatness.
Some folks will grab a penny from the clerk’s courtesy tray and force the moment to its crisis at once. I prefer to savor my fix, to bring the card home and make a ceremony of its sober scratching. Each game of “Fantastic 5’s” or “Find the 9’s” could be a threshold to radical change—so tread softly and unfold delicately. Is it merely a minor abrasion that could open the door to outrageous fortune? Is it only a thin layer of latex that separates you from a new life? These questions soon dissolve into air, into thin air; your ticket is a dud or pays a lousy couple bucks that you’ll sink right back into more tickets. But at least your money is going to Texas Public Schools!
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