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The luck of the draw 

 

Javi sat on the curb by the road, his short twisted legs stretched out in front of him and the rough wooden crutches by his side. He was there most days, smiling, listening to the cheap plastic radio that helped him pass the time.It was a good spot, the “extranjeros” who liked to go walking would trudge past and, though most affected not to notice him, his hopeful smile and mimed actions sometimes won him a cigarette or two. The old men permitted that. They sat on the bench beneath the tree nearby, they were village elders. They discussed the football, the corruption of the politicians, the bananas and the goats. Javi was not admitted to their ranks, and they would tut with disfavour if javi begged a few coins-that dishonoured the village- so he didn’t.

The village looked after Javi in a half-hearted sort of way. He had been born there, had limped behind the village boys at their games, watched wistfully their courting, their celebrations and festivals. He was everyone’s responsibility, and no one’s. After his parents had died an elderly aunt had taken him in, providing bed and board, but she didn’t want him under her feet all day. So out he had to go, swinging down the hill on his crutches to his favourite spot on the corner near to where the men gathered, but not too near. He could watch them, and they certainly kept an eye on him but the days were long.

Oliver and his wife had bought a small holiday apartment in the village. They like walking, and most days would set off along the road to walk to town, or to take the bus up to the mountain. Some days Oliver went alone. He always offered a polite “Buenos Dias” to the old men, which might or might not be returned with a gruff “Buenos,” and he always made a point of wishing Good Day to Javi also. Oliver was like that.  A tall aristocratic Scot of advanced years, with a merry glint in his eye, and an abundance of goodwill for his fellow man. He never failed to notice Javi, and always greeted him courteously as he passed.

In due time Oliver, a non smoker, took to buying packets of ciaretttes. He would offer a couple to Javi as he passed. Not the whole pack, the old men would disapprove, but mabe a couple was about right. Javi would beam his thanks, and as Oliver spoke to him in English, Javi responded in Spanish. It did not matter.

On a whim one day whilst in town, Oliver bought a lottery ticket. He smiled to himself as an idea came to him. Well why not? Later that day, strolling up to the bus stop, he paused to show it to Javi.  “Now I don’t know how this thing works”, he explained slowly, “No comprendo lotterias, so I would like your help, and we can share the prize if it wins? You look after it meantime.”

It took a while in the two languages, and with signs, to make Oliver’s plan clear but eventually it was, and the bargain was sealed. Javi was so excited.

The days passed until the Grand Draw. Oliver didn’t bother with the television and Javi’s aunt in the village didn’t have one, so the results were not immediately available. Oliver left his wife sunbathing on the terrace and took himself off into town to purchase a newspaper which would contain a list of the winning numbers. He sat with a cafe con leche, and wondered if perhaps he had done the wrong thing. Javi was a simple soul, he’d never been the proud owner of half a lottery ticket before, and clearly had unrealistic expectations of it’s probability of success. He had taken charge of the ticket in the white envelope where Oliver had placed it, folded it reverently and stowed it safely in his pocket. Each time Oliver had passed he had either tapped the pocket, or or extracted it in it’s increasingly grubby and crumpled envelope to demonstrate with a smile, and shining eyes, that all was well.

Oliver got off the bus and walked down to Javi’s corner. He bent down and moved the crutches along a little to make room for himself. To Javi’s amazement, he folded his own long legs beneath him and sat on the curb beside the little man. He flourished the newspaper and turned the pages, scanning for the column where the winning numbers were listed. Javi. beaming with excitement, produced the grimy envelope, and drew out the ticket. Together, in two languages, they checked off the numbers….A match? The first, the second,  the third…but not the rest. Nearly…. but not quite.

Neither of them spoke for a moment, then Oliver said hesitatingly, “I’m so sorry…er, perdone mucho. I…”

Javi’s eyes were bright with tears. “No significa senor,” he said, “Yo no need dinero. Have sun, have mi pueblo, my village, and now I have also un amigo….a friend. “I have very much luck.”

By June Holloway