There used to be a strange little man who lived in town in the summertime. He wore boldly patterned drawstring trousers and a waistcoat hanging open over a bare chest. He was short and bald with gold hoop earrings and bad teeth. He could be found sitting on the wall outside the delicatessen, calling out to the women that passed by. He would unashamedly grab at an arm or a bag to get your attention. He would dish out compliments and ask you to dinner. He would then try to sell you a lottery ticket. That was what he did, every day. Then he vanished.
At first nobody noticed. Hundreds of people walked passed the wall and didn’t realise that the lottery man wasn’t there. If anybody did notice that he was not sitting in his usual place, maybe they thought that he had gone to visit relatives in his hometown. But everyone was too busy with their own lives to really give it another thought.
Nearly a week passed, it was hot that summer, people tossed restlessly in their beds at night, praying for a cool breeze. It was a humid Saturday evening, music filtered through the town from various hotels and piano bars. An old man sat in his kitchen listening, near the open window. The smell that had been seeping in from nearby had become stronger. It really was unsupportable. That Lottery man next door must have gone away without putting the rubbish out, he thought to himself. He wandered over to the neighbours window and peered in. It was hard to make out anything in the dark room, but the smell was definitely stronger. What if…? The old man shuffled back home and called the police.
Carlo and I had eaten dinner at home and shared a bottle of wine together. We were just climbing into bed, chatting away about nothing when the phone rang. It was almost midnight. I listened to Carlos side of the conversation which wasn’t very informative.
“Yes…go on…huh?....when?....how long?....what now?.....alright, Ok….I’ll meet you there.”
He climbed out of bed and started getting dressed.
“Where are you going? What’s happened?” I asked.
“You know that funny little Lottery man? They’ve just found him dead at his home, but he’s apparently been lying there for 5 days. They need to move him, he smells.”
“What, and you’ve got to go and bury him at now? It’s midnight!”
“No, don’t be stupid. The problem is that there is nowhere else to put him, so they’ve asked me if we can put him in the little church until they decide what to do. They can’t just leave him lying on the floor can they?”
“No of course not,” I said, “but it is midnight on a Saturday. What if we had been out at a nightclub, or if you had got drunk? It’s not really fair to get you out of bed is it?”
“Yeah, you’re right,” he said, bending down to tie his shoelaces, “but what else can they do? I’ve only got to go and open the gates to let them in. I’ll be back soon.” He kissed me on the forehead and walked out the house..
The fate of the Lottery man is one of the reasons that I found myself in the back of a police car the other day...
To be continued