AW Flash Fiction –“Loser” — 8/9/09

My very first Flash fiction post at AW:

Loser

Tommy Schofield was a professional loser. He’d accumulated a record 1,435,257 losses since his life began 27 years ago.

His losing streak began at 11:59 PM on December 31, when he was born, a mere one minute shy of being the winner of Baby 1982 and all of its free gifts and accoutrements. He never won at parlor games, was not a fast runner, and had yet to win a hand of solitaire. At carnivals, they always correctly guessed his weight and when he slammed the hammer down on the muscleman game, his score predictably was “Loser”. Las Vegas treated him no differently than the rest of the competitions in Tommy’s life. He might as well have handed over his $100 playing money because it all ended up in the coffers of the casino within a few short minutes anyway. Even the loosest nickel slot machine voraciously gobbled his roll of nickels without offering up a single win.

Toiling through a life without ever getting a single lucky break was exhausting. Everything Tommy achieved, he did so only because of long hours of hard work and persistence. Luck never entered into the equation. But a man only had so much energy and Tommy’s tapped out with a high school diploma that he converted into a series of menial jobs. In his relationships with women, he fared similarly. They didn’t last and when his relationships did end, they ended very badly. Even his mother joked that if you looked up the word “loser” in the dictionary, there you would find a picture of Tommy Schofield, an unflattering one, and with his name beneath spelled wrong.

On January 1, the day after his 27th birthday that everyone, even his family, forgot, he walked to the cinema in the ice and snow. His plans for New Years included the singular plan of watching the latest action flick by his favorite actor, Stephen Stallion. In his pocket, he carried exactly enough money to purchase a ticket, a small popcorn and a small soda, no more, no less.

Taking his seat in the exact middle of the theatre, Tommy settled back for his movie. He watched the preshow trivia quiz and incorrectly answered every one of the questions. In his disgust at missing even the question about his movie idol Stephen Stallion, he spilled his popcorn on the floor and then while trying to clean up his mess, spilled his drink as well.

The movie began but Tommy found it tedious and soon drifted to sleep.

“Hey! Wake up, loser!”

Tommy stirred and opened his eyes. Inches from his face, Stephen Stallion’s eyes bored into Tommy’s. “I said, let’s get going loser!”

“Oh. I’m sorry. Is the movie over?” asked Tommy nervously wondering how in the world out of all the theatres in America, Stephen Stallion had ended up at his, and in the seat next to him.

“Of course it is. Now come on, let’s get going, loser,” hissed Stephen.

“Are you Stephen Stallion?” Tommy asked.

“Well of course I am.” Stephen lit up a cigarette.

“Uh, I don’t think you’re supposed to smoke in movie theatres, Mr. Stallion.”

“Yeah? You gonna report me?” he asked after he took a long drag and then blew the smoke in Tommy’s face.

“I’m a big fan of yours, Mr. Stallion,” gushed Tommy, waving away the smoke that curled into his eyes. “Can I ask you a question? Is that your real name, Stephen Stallion?”

Stephen looked at Tommy like he had just farted. “What do you think?”

“I don’t know. It sounds sort of theatrical but you never know.”

“Stallion is really my last name but my first name is actually Godfrey.”

“Oh, I see. Godfrey Stallion. Why did you change Godfrey and not Stallion?” asked Tommy.

“Are you for real?” asked Stephen, “or are you just messing with me?”

“I assure you, I am for real.”

“I changed Godfrey because it’s a loser name and Stallion isn’t. There. Does that make sense to your pea brain?”

“I’d have changed Stallion,” said Tommy thoughtfully.

Stephen groaned in exasperation then pointing to the screen with his cigarette asked, “What did you think of my movie?”

Tommy colored and avoiding Stephen’s eyes said, “Well, I’m sorry but I was very tired and fell asleep but the parts that I saw were very good.”

“Liar. You’re the only person in the theatre. Nobody likes my movie, not even a loser like you.” He slouched in his seat, knees rocking in and out as he puffed away in disgust.

“I’m very sorry,” said Tommy, who also slouched down in his seat.

“Yeah, me too. But here’s your prize,” said Stephen as he handed Tommy an envelope.

“My prize?”

“Yeah, you won the contest, kid,” said Stephen clapping Tommy on the back.

“What contest?”

“The ‘Win a day with Stephen Stallion’ contest, you moron!”

“How did I win this because see I’ve never won anything in my entire life and it seems a bit unbelievable that after 27 years I’d win something as huge as this.”

Stephen rolled his eyes and stood. He threw his cigarette down on the ground and then crushed it beneath his shoe. “I don’t know kid. I just know you’re coming with me, for better or worse. Contest rules.”

“Sure thing, Mr. Stallion! What are we doing first?” asked Tommy.

“I need to go get more cigarettes so let’s make a quick stop at the Gas n Go and then we’ll go to Vegas. How’s that sound?”

“Wow! Really! Las Vegas?”

“Ever been, kid?” asked Stephen as he ushered Tommy out of the theatre and into his waiting limousine.

“To Vegas? Yes, I have. It was…interesting.”

The chauffeur stopped at the Gas n’ Go according to Stephen’s instructions. “Come on in with me kid,” said Stephen. “I’ll buy you a beer.”

Tommy hopped out of the car and as he made his way toward the store’s door, he noticed a lottery ticket caught in a gust of wind. He trapped it beneath his shoe and looked around to see who had lost it. He saw no one even remotely close to the Gas n Go. It was New Year’s Day after all and most people were home recovering from their long night partying.

Inside the store, Stephen had already grabbed two beers and had asked the clerk for a pack of his favorite cigarettes. Seeing Tommy and his ticket, he asked, “What you got there, a lottery ticket?”

“Yes. I found it outside. Probably a losing ticket that someone trashed,” Tommy said shrugging.

“Give it to the clerk to check.” He took the ticket and handed it to the bored clerk and said, “Check my pal’s ticket too would you there buddy?”

The clerk scanned the bar code and was already handing it back to Tommy, assuming it was a losing ticket when he did a double take at the reader and said, “Whoa!”

“What? Did he win something?” asked Stephen.

“You could say that,” said the clerk. “He won the $2 million jackpot. This is the only winning ticket for last night’s drawing so it’s all his.” The clerk looked at Tommy and said, “Dude, you’re a millionaire!”

Twenty minutes and a head full of prize fulfillment instructions later, Tommy and Stephen headed to the airport for Las Vegas.

When they landed, as soon as Tommy exited the jet way, balloons and confetti exploded around him. Two men in suits and a woman in a gold lame evening gown rushed him.

“Congratulations! You are the one millionth passenger to arrive on Las Vegas Airways in Las Vegas. You have won one million dollars!”

Tommy’s good fortune continued as he first played slots and turned a single 25 cent bet into $300,000.

He and Stephen went to a show and were treated to front row seats. When the show began, the emcee announced that whoever was holding lucky ticket number 75206, please raise your hand and receive the keys to a new car. Tommy looked at his ticket and noted that it was number 75206.

“I can’t believe this is all happened to me!” exclaimed Tommy to Stephen as they boarded the plane to take him home at the end of his 24 hours.

“That’s some lucky streak you had, kid,” said Stephen. “If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I’d have never believed it.” Stephen clapped him on the back.

“I owe it all to you, Mr. Stallion,” said Tommy in earnest as they buckled their seatbelts and the private plane began to taxi.

Stephen just shrugged and then kicked back to take a nap. Tommy did the same.

When he woke, he was sitting in his seat in the theatre and Stephen was gone.

“It must have all been a dream,” he mused to himself sadly as he left the theatre.

Outside the chilly winds cut through him and he drew his coat in tighter to his body. He slipped his hands in his pocket and found a slip of paper inside. Removing his hand with the paper between his fingers, he saw that it was a lottery ticket. His heart began to pound. He raced through the chilling winds to the Gas n Go, two blocks from the theatre.

Shaking, he handed his ticket to the clerk, the same one from his dream. His heart pounded harder as the clerk scanned the ticket and as he had done in his dream, began to hand it back to him.

“Oh wait,” said the clerk. “Hold on.” The clerk stared at the screen waiting for the computer results of the scan. “Nope. Nada. Zilch. It’s a loser.” He handed the ticket back to Tommy.

“Nothing?” asked Tommy. “Seriously?”

“S’what the computer says, dude.”

Tommy shrugged and left the store. He heard the squeals of skidding tires and then felt the horrific blow of the impact.

**********

“He was a decent guy,” said Stephen to the reporter. “I’m so thankful I’m alive though. Such a freak accident for the prop to fly off the plane and kill the guy while he was sleeping. What a way to go,” he said sadly as he shook his head.

“Who was he?” asked the reporter.

“Nobody. Just some loser who won my contest.” Stephen whistled taps as he walked off holding the lucky lottery ticket, the one millionth airplane boarding pass and the keys to a new car.

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