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Her problems have just begun....
It is 1975, an ordinary year for an ordinary Southern family. TRAY DUNAWAY, like thousands of other teenagers around the country, longs to be part of the popular set at school. Tray’s mother, EVELYN, lies in bed most days with a headache, and her bipolar tendency toward extreme highs or desperate lows veers more and more often toward depression. Tray’s grandmother GINNY, who lives with the family, still grieves the loss of her husband, Brook. She believes it’s time for her to move out, if she could afford to, and find a place of her own, maybe even a new romance. This doesn’t look likely, given the state of the family’s finances.
Then something extraordinary happens. A down-and-out friend of the family, PEE WEE JOHNSON, buys an extra lottery ticket. He gives it to Tray’s dad as a thank-you for driving Pee Wee to Hazard, Illinois, where he purchased the tickets. And what do you know?
When Johnson demands his cut, Tray’s dad refuses. As Evelyn’s illness spirals toward madness, Johnson turns threatening, and Tray makes some poor decisions, what initially seems like a stroke of good fortune suddenly triggers a disturbing chain of events.
I cannot take my eyes off my mother. I’m frozen—the way you are in those nightmares where you really need to act or run but you can’t move at all—while I watch Mama grab the arm of one of the younger men. He’s looking through the lens of his camera, though not in Mama’s direction. Through clenched teeth, she tells him, “I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille,” and she looks like she’s about to die laughing at something she’s just thought of.
“What do you think about all this?” someone on the camera crew asks. I pull my eyes from my mother’s troublesome expression to meet his gaze. He is sort of cute, about twenty or thereabouts, sandy hair, friendly brown eyes, and an eager to please expression. Like a puppy. For a moment, I wonder what he means. Is he asking what I think about winning the lottery or about my crazy family?
Before I can answer, my attention is drawn by a sudden shift, a stillness in the room. All the cameras point at Dad. An older gentleman with a pointed beard and bushy white eyebrows hands him an enormous check, bigger than the posters I sometimes do for school. Surely this is a joke. You can’t go to the bank with a check that size, can you?
Dad takes the check, smiles a broad, strained smile, and glances in the direction of Mama, who lunges toward him at lightning speed.
An explosion of flashes from cameras illuminates him like an angel about to ascend, and then Mama snatches the check and giggles. “I’ll take that,” she says.
Another flash of light and I realize that, outside, actual lightning is adding to the effect.
“What are you going to do with the money?” Puppy Eyes asks me. He does not have a camera, though he has some sort of device hooked to a belt around his waist.
“I don’t think that’s up to me to decide,” I say, thinking of the new clothes I am longing for and of my one pair of new socks. But, maybe, now that we really have the money … maybe things will be different.
Mama, holding the gigantic check, now postures for the cameraman. I am mortified. What will the kids at school think of this fiasco? Gram stands quietly out of the way, and I shoot her a nervous but grateful smile. Why can’t my family act normal for even one day?
Another flash of lightning and the door rattles. Everyone looks in its direction. Pee Wee Johnson stands there, hands on hips, dripping with rain. He wears cowboy boots, and a Stetson hat replaces his usual baseball cap. A crackle of thunder supplies the only thing needed to make the ridiculous show complete. My eyes drop to Pee Wee’s hip, where I’m half expecting to see a holster and gun. “I’m the one what bought that ticket,” he says.
Website and Blog: www.debracolemanjeter.com
The Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1941103863/
The trailer: https://vimeo.com/50187275
Buy the book at Amazon.
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