Ma plays the lotto. It is frowned upon by Allah but she is so low, the underground creature, that his judgment is excused from her. He chooses not to see her. She is mired in the soil; without pay for her service as a housewife and, therefore, without air. She is an internal organ; she exists for her husband, through her children. And, yet, her children are frozen immobile. Her husband continues to flog, gnashing, demanding motion but the children do not move. Ma cannot move them; she is the shield over them, broken, taking the lashing, too weak to carry them, too forgiving to force them.
She doesn’t play much, a couple of pounds a week, maybe. Down at the grainy local store which is stuck is some past age. The Indian shopkeeper, with dark wells for eyes, watches her as she chooses the numbers with her head down. How does she pick the numbers? Once upon a time, it was sentimental numbers, ages, dates of births. They’ve been used up, many times over, many years over. Now she chooses some other way. Numbers join together, somehow and pick themselves, after some hovering.
The shopkeeper takes the money, picked with agitated hands by Ma. He processes the ticket and they part with thanks. One dull and wooden, the other like a flicker of candle-light before a draught. The door jangles and the cold claims Ma again. She doesn’t know the numbers, she doesn’t know the day, it is all part of the powerless game she has been required to play, all her life.
She does not dream of a house to replace the dingy cereal box which she enters with a push of the door. It is dark and cramped and the ticket is in the bag. She does not expect but hope is also stowed away, secretly, in that bag. It’ll be brought out, crumple faced and lifeless. She will check it for life and, as usual, the slithers of numbers will not move. There is hardly any disappointment in crumpling the paper and dropping it in the bin. No sadness beyond the constant sadness. Just resignation and a walk to return to the kitchen. Allah has granted her martyrdom but as life ebbs away, it seems, she is, instead, nothing more notable than roadkill. She plays the lotto to cheat her fate; who can blame her? She goes to the other temple, before the other God – and receives the same answer.