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October 1, 2013

Just a puppet on a lonely string.

Marv Griffin held his ticket in a death grip. His hand literally hurt. The ticket was wet from his sweat.

He had, as a young man endured jokes and taunts due to his name. Hardly anyone recalled Merv these days anyway. Certainly not “I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts.”

This was the only game show now. The closest thing to talk shows were always built into the programming of the daily worship episodes. They’d feature a person like the people standing around Marv now, telling some survivor story after a flood or drought, sometimes some other preacher talking about births or what the kids in his local flock got up to.

The religious shows were Marv’s favorites. He was sick and tired of the ghost and UFO shows. If there were ghosts visiting us, why hadn’t they said anything important? If little green men, why hadn’t they come and saved us from the superstorms? Why hadn’t they guided us to a better place?

They had said that the big storms would only come every two or three decades. Now they were far more frequent, though they rated them on a scale that never seemed to reach the worst, red. He figured red meant it was over. Finality for everything, no point in tuning in tomorrow. Crops ruined, may as well pack it in.


It was almost always orange, occasionally yellow. The yellow he liked the least. They seemed to last longer than the orange ones. With the orange ones, people knew to pray. With yellow, it was like Mother Nature being lukewarm, spitting out absent-mindedly.

Only God could save them now. Marv held his ticket and prayed silently for his salvation. He was not alone. Others were mouthing the Lord’s Prayer. Marv snickered to himself. He just talked to the Big Guy like he was an old Army buddy, someone you’d share a beer with. He figured being more familiar would improve his odds a little.


How he missed it.

There was still a few minutes before the drawing. There were still sacks of meal (it was corn, dammit, processed corn-crap left over after making fuel to power generators for God-knows-what) and bags of sugar being given out. He noted that there was no particular rush to get it except by those who lived on the outskirts, sometimes missed the drawings altogether because they worked the farms.

Corn, corn everywhere, and not a kernel to eat without becoming sick.

Their presence today might make Marv’s chances less, but he didn’t care. Wasn’t math that decided these things anyway. It was the Divine Hand.

The head councilwoman was approaching now. It wouldn’t be long now.

The crowd held their breath as one. This somehow made the air seemed more toxic than usual as everyone braced for the outcome.

“Mattie Halligan.”

There were a few quiet ThankYouGods. Some people looked upward and thanked their lucky stars, wherever those were and then put on a sympathetic face.

Marv began to cry along with the Halligan family. He approached Mattie Halligan and, in his turn, gave her a heartfelt hug. Tears streamed down the big girl’s face. Marv wondered again at a woman’s face without makeup.

Marv also wondered if others had the same thoughts that he did. As he embraced the girl, he envied her.

Then his thoughts turned to what a big girl she was. There’d be plenty to go around, though it might be grisly, depending on how good of a worker she had been. Then there would be more of the corn since there’d be one less eating it.

Marv waited for the crowd to disperse before starting his walk home. He hated being rushed, and no matter how far behind someone was, he always felt as if he had to keep their pace.

He spoke aloud to his Beer Buddy as he walked.

“Forsaking me again? Why do you always seem to take the big ones? I’m tired. When is my turn?”

He knew he would go home and bake some cornbread for Mattie Halligan’s last supper, at which her only appearance would be on the table and to the sustenance of others. That’s what he always did after all the other drawings.

“Well, You know better than me.”


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