I've been planning to try my hand at NPR's Three-Minute Fiction since it first started. Each time, before I knew it, the deadline had come and gone. It almost got away from me this year. But on the day of the deadline, I sat down and in a little less than three hours of writing and rewriting produced this short story. I named it "Obama Luck."
Slipping off to sneak a smoke was the first of The Man’s secret habits. Only I knew about the second.
I learned of this compulsion on Day Two after I was summoned into the Double O.
“Where can we go in this place if we want a little privacy?” The Man asked.
I knew what he meant. I was one of the first agents assigned to Renegade’s detail, shortly after he became a candidate and the death threats started flooding in. I was one of the few agents who hadn’t kicked the habit so we’d sidle off, away from the prying press, to some secluded place.
“Flynt, I’ve got a top secret mission for you,” The Man said on Day Two.
“Yes, Mr. President,” I answered, perplexed. Secret Service never gets any secret missions. The Langley spooks keep them all for themselves.”
“Whenever the Powerball tops 200 mil, I want you to buy 7 quick picks.”
“Excuse me, sir?”
“I want you to buy 7 Powerball quick picks whenever the lottery hits 200 million or more. Privileged. Got it?”
“Good. Now where can a couple of guys go for solace and a smoke?”
“I’ll scout around the Castle, sir.”
“Thanks. I’m still trying to find the privy.”
Last November, when I handed him his quick picks, The Man looked me straight in the eye. “Michelle doesn’t know I’m doing this.”
I shrugged; surprised he’d share that with me. Our relationship wasn’t close, really. I hadn’t told him that my wife had left me or that my house was underwater.
“If she knew, I’d never hear this end of it.”
“She’s funny that way. She believes there’s only so much luck to go around. After I won the Senate seat she insisted I kick the lottery.”
“She said I’d spent my share of luck. I shouldn’t tempt fate.”
“In a superstitious sort of way, I went along, just in case she was right. That was until Roberts swore me in.”
“The more I learned about what I’d inherited, the more I knew I wasn’t that lucky.”
So that was why I’d been running those errands for The Man for the past three years. No matter where we were, if we were in country, whenever the Power Ball went big, I’d drop by a different Seven Eleven, liquor or grocery store and make the pick up.
He smashed out the butt, and then sighed heavily.
“Flynt, I’ve got a major, major dilemma.”
“How major, sir?”
“Two-hundred and fifty major.”
“That Powerball winner…the one who hasn’t stepped forward in the past three months to claim the winnings.
I nodded. The ticket was purchased at the convenience store I’d bought his seven from. At first I thought it was coincidence but as time passed by, I’d begun to wonder.
“I’m the winner.”
“Do you see my dilemma?”
“I see a lucky man.”
“If I come forward, Republicans will have a field day. I’ll be as rich as Romney. I’ll lose the votes of half the Americans who dreamed of winning with that ticket.”
“If you lose, Mr. Obama, you’ve got a quarter bil to fall back on. If you win, you can claim your $250,000,000 and happily…”
I was about to say, “retire,” but kept it to myself.
Obama nodded and I grinned before lighting his cigarette. I knew it would be our last smoke. My luck had changed. I was about to cash in on my pension and a big paycheck. I had a secret to share.
Enquiring minds would want to know.
I admit this piece of fiction is whimical. I think of it as a bit of O'Henry meets Hemingway. The 9th Round winner, who was announced on NPR yesterday, was Marc Sheehan. His story, The Dauphin, was just as creeative but touched on a heart-breaking challenge for many Americans. I faced this heart break with my mother for years before she died five years ago.