Genre: Fiction: Short Stories
Author: Neal James
They just didn’t get on. It just seemed to be that way with brothers and sisters. From early childhood there were always arguments between them, and usually when either mum or dad stepped in it would result in one of them being either forced to apologise or lose some privilege or other. It was worse now. Since the car crash which deprived them of their parents, Julia’s brother Jack had seemed to make it his aim in life to cause as many problems as possible for her. He had always been a spendthrift, and when dad left control of the family printing business to her, she threw herself into the job with a passion.
A university degree in English together with five years spent under her father’s expert tuition in the ways of the printing world had given her a sound basis for moving the Derby firm onwards, and she had succeeded remarkably well in a short time. This went down like a dose of the flu with Jack. Despite her father’s attempts to bring them both into the business, he had done nothing himself to earn any share of the company’s success. Mum and dad had made financial provision for him in their wills, but after the fatal accident which ended their lives, Jack had blown his portion in a very short time.
What if she recorded the program from one week, bought the winning numbers from that week for the next draw, and played the tape the following Saturday whilst he was in the room? It would be easy to persuade him to buy a ticket – he’d wasted plenty of money gambling before. If she chose a week with only one winner it would appear that he’d hit the jackpot. Weeks went by without a success, but sure enough, late one Saturday evening the winning numbers were announced, with one lucky ticket holder scooping a rollover of £7.8 million. This was it. Julia rewound the tape and replayed it to make sure that it had recorded OK. Now all that remained was to get him to buy the ticket.
Bearing in mind his chronic cash shortage, this was quite simple – she even persuaded him into letting her pick the numbers! The next bit wasn’t so easy however. She had to make sure that he stayed in on the following Saturday (his birthday) so that he watched her tape of the draw rather than the live one from the correct week. She hated his mates, they were a bunch of drunken kids, but a free party was just what would attract them, whilst keeping Jack at home. Now she could pull it off. All it needed was some food and drink shopping at the local Tesco and all would be ready.
It all went very well. Of course Julia would have to invite some of her friends or it would look suspicious, and she could always tip them the wink as to the real purpose – Jack wasn’t exactly the flavour of the month with any of the local female population. When Saturday came, she had to hide her nervousness very carefully. Busying herself with preparations helped – he was useless in the kitchen anyway.
The party was remarkably restrained, with all guests behaving so responsibly, that she had begun to feel a little guilty about the trick she was about to play. That changed when she overheard him complaining to his mates about how he had been swindled out of his fair share of the family inheritance, and how he intended to find a way to reclaim what was rightfully his. Julia had already made sure that the tape was in the VCR, so all she had to do was to set it running at the correct time and switch the TV on – everyone would assume that the programme they were watching was live. It worked like a charm. Jack picked up the lottery ticket from behind the clock on the fire surround, and watched as the balls went down from the hopper into the catch-tray below. His hand started to shake after the third one dropped, and you could have cut the atmosphere with a knife as the rest dutifully took their places.
There was complete silence in the room as the final ball fell. Jack stood transfixed as they were sorted on-screen into ascending order, and he heard the sequence announced out loud. He looked from ticket to screen and screen to ticket, tracing the numbers with his finger until he was sure of what he had heard. The explosion of noise was startling, even for Julia. She was quite unprepared for the level of the celebration involving Jack and his mates, and now had to face the dilemma of how to break the news to him …