Parchment Cheques

John Erhardt

From my seat in front of the liquor store, I could see him exit the train and scurry to his glove compartment, rooting for an unknown secret I couldn't be exposed to. He was in a hurry, and I watched him furiously empty his personables onto his carseat. He frantically tore through the collection with a fervor matched only by small children picking out the good jellybeans. He found what he wanted.

I sipped my cola through the twisty straw and basked in the warmth of Thursday. Passers-by nodded to me and some commented on my new haircut, one that I desperately needed. My man I was watching did not know I was watching him, and it was better that way. I wanted to follow him. Whatever he searched for in his car, I could not know of: he kept it concealed in an over-sized coat, quite out of place in the current humidity. I was curious: I followed him.

I abandoned my seat which I had occupied for three sodas, and discreetly followed him down two streets, past the library and made a turn by the convenience store. His stride was quick, his steps were diligent. He knew where he wanted to go, and he knew that time was not waiting for him. I sipped the last of my soda, careful not to make the eager slurping sound that would reveal my location to him. He walked with a pace so overly dramatic that I had to think about food so as to keep from laughing. He shot a nervous look over his shoulder only once, and I quickly pretended to be engaged in a disagreement with the newspaper dispenser.

His shoes were large, leading me to believe he housed large feet in them. His thinning brown hair blew slightly as he created his own wind, and he whistled a tune with no name. He wore a tie, and loosened it after a few minutes of walking. I knew he was getting hot, as I was. I drank up the last of the melted ice from my soda, and tossed the empty cup into a lonely parking lot.

He stopped at the crosswalk by Fletcher Shoes and the Episcopal church. I waited three strides behind him, digging in my pockets for unmentionable stratagems. He shifted his weight and checked his watch. "WALK" flashed blue-white across the street, and he resumed his journey. I was in tow.

We passed in front of the Catholic Church just as a wedding was concluding, and we got to dodge people like unloved relatives, adding excitement to our unspoken game. He turned and I stopped. His destination was now clear as he rounded the corner. He ran his hands through his slightly dampened hair. He checked his watch again, and I checked mine: three minutes to five. He dropped his envelope into the jaws of the patient mailbox on the corner. I made out the phrase "THREE MILLION DOLLARS" on the outside of the envelope before it found solace in the innards of the blue depository.

The eagerness to enter a sweepstakes possesses us all in strange ways. I turned around, walking back the way I had come, hands stuffed in my pockets, fingering my loose change. I counted forty-five cents.