The Power Number

by on May 11, 2024 :: 0 comments

photo "Pile of Luck" by Tyler Malone

Searching, she ran her fingers along every crevice in the house, wherever he might have kept his computer password, like along the inside upper ridge of the cabinet in the dining room. It was actually a curio cabinet, and it mostly stored her grandmother’s cocktail glasses, for show, because during her entire thirty-something-year marriage, she and Tony only ever drank beer.

Whenever she had asked him for his computer password, he had told her, “Mary, you will know it when you need it. I change it regularly, anyway, so no sense in giving it to you now.”

Now she needed it, and was aggravated by his personal need for privacy, even though it was two-sided, because she had never shared her password either. She would have given him hers without question, but he had never asked. It was when she developed an intimate companionship with someone else that she felt reassured to know that her emails were secure.

While she didn’t have regrets about the extramarital relationship, she knew she would have never looked outside her loving relationship if her husband’s ten-year-old diagnosis had never advanced to incapacity. His brain had been riddled with lesions from the get-go, a sure sign of multiple sclerosis. The affair only started recently.

It was actually less usual for a man to blossom this disease, but what’s not supposed to happen is no solace when that’s what does happen.

Mary was surprised when her husband finally gave her a clue about his password, before his cognitive issues began, but it really wasn’t very helpful. He told her that it was the combination of numbers that he played in the lottery every week. She hadn’t known he had ever played the lottery.

Thinking back to when he was still able to work, she figured he must have bought his tickets when he made stops at the quick mart to fill his tank. Funny, she had never seen any ticket stubs, but she guessed that maybe he could purchase them on-line. She never played lotteries because she figured winning a world of cash would be a hassle.

She had always considered herself lucky enough.

She did need Tony’s password now in order to take care of the financial matters he had been taking care to do for so long. When she had told him firmly that she could and should take it over, he had said “I have the time,” so she hadn’t fought him about it, even though she knew it was the one thing he didn’t have.

Her boyfriend had said, “You worry too much. The bill collectors will find you.”

But she did need to know. She had no idea of their assets, like retirement; no idea of the monthly expenses because Tony did everything electronically, set it all up to be automatic. At least she did know the house was paid off. She had made that a goal when she switched to a full-time schedule and set up the direct payment herself.

Her job as a hospital nurse blessed her with distraction. It also allowed her to change her hours almost immediately. She had worked practically every type of schedule: part-time, per diem, weekends only, three twelves; whatever had been the best fit for their family’s situation.

It had been easier for them to come to the same conclusions when the decisions were about what was best for their daughter, Beth. It was more difficult to agree on what should happen when Tony could no longer work. He had wanted her to care for him. “I must work,” she replied.

“We have enough,” was his response.

Now that he was gone, it was more than wanting the financial information. She felt his presence as if it were on negative film. She desperately wanted to see his communications with friends and family, to keep his essence alive a little longer.

Just weeks after his death, thirty-year-old Beth popped in at 7am. She never came around unannounced, so it felt unusual. At first, Mary was startled because she hadn’t heard the alarm announcing the front door had been opened, but she did hear Benny’s tail hitting the wall, like he did when he excitedly waited for family.

It was then that Mary told her boyfriend, their electrician of twenty-something years, to stay in the bedroom. She closed the door behind her without giving him time to respond.

“Look, Mom,” her daughter yelled as she ran up the stairs. “We won the lottery!”

“What do you mean?” Mary asked.

“You and I won the lottery! 4 million dollars! Dad, he had me play. He gave me enough money at the beginning of every month to buy a weekly ticket. He said that if we won, it would be for both of us.”

“What numbers did he have you play?” she asked.

“1, 2, 10, 26 and 57 for the power number,” Beth replied. “The month and day of your birthday, my birthday and Dad’s age. The only number which ever changed was the power number. He changed it every year on or right after his birthday. Well, we won four million dollars! I called out sick so we could figure this out.”

She clasped her mother’s hands together to stop them from trembling.

The two of them walked downstairs, settling in at the kitchen table. It was good that they had sat down because the boyfriend walked in seconds later. Beth jumped.

“Sorry, Mary,” he apologized, “I couldn’t wait any longer, I have to get to work. I’ll call you later, because I’m sure you two have a lot to talk about.” He didn’t wait around.

Mary didn’t know where to begin. She was still thinking about the number 57. Yesterday was her beloved’s birthday and the power number, under normal circumstances, would have changed to 58. That would easily have been her preference.

At the moment, she didn’t feel lucky at all. She wanted to die.

editors note:

What more of a curse than knowing more than you already know? ~ Tyler Malone

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