The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson


  “They followed us,” my mother said tautly.

  My grandmother put her arms around Dot. “Poor child,” she said, “you’re safe with us.”

  Dot had to stay at my house that night. We sent my brother over to Dot’s mother to tell her that Dot was staying with me and that Dot had bought a grey tweed coat with princess lines, very practical and warmly interlined. She wore it all that year.

  III

  The Confession of Margaret Jackson, relict of Tho. Stuart in Shaws, who being examined by the Justices anent her being guilty of Witchcraft, declares…That forty years ago, or thereabout, she was at Pollockshaw-croft, with some few sticks on her back, and that the black Man came to her, and that she did give up herself unto the black Man, from the top of her head to the sole of her foot; and that this was after the Declarant’s renouncing of her Baptism; and that the Spirit’s name, which he designed her, was Locas. And that about the third or fourth of January, instant, or thereby, in the night-time, when she awaked, she found a Man to be in bed with her, whom she supposed to be her Husband; though her Husband had been dead twenty years, or thereby, and that the Man immediately disappeared: And declares, That this Man who disappeared was the Devil.

  Joseph Glanvil: Sadducismus Triumphatus

  Colloquy

  THE DOCTOR was competent-looking and respectable. Mrs. Arnold felt vaguely comforted by his appearance, and her agitation lessened a little. She knew that he noticed her hand shaking when she leaned forward for him to light her cigarette, and she smiled apologetically, but he looked back at her seriously.

  “You seem to be upset,” he said gravely.

  “I’m very much upset,” Mrs. Arnold said. She tried to talk slowly and intelligently. “That’s one reason I came to you instead of going to Doctor Murphy—our regular doctor, that is.”

  The doctor frowned slightly. “My husband,” Mrs. Arnold went on. “I don’t want him to know that I’m worried, and Doctor Murphy would probably feel it was necessary to tell him.” The doctor nodded, not committing himself, Mrs. Arnold noted.

  “What seems to be the trouble?”

  Mrs. Arnold took a deep breath. “Doctor,” she said, “how do people tell if they’re going crazy?”

  The doctor looked up.

  “Isn’t that silly,” Mrs. Arnold said. “I hadn’t meant to say it like that. It’s hard enough to explain anyway, without making it so dramatic.”

  “Insanity is more complicated than you think,” the doctor said.

  “I know it’s complicated,” Mrs. Arnold said. “That’s the only thing I’m really sure of. Insanity is one of the things I mean.”

  “I beg your pardon?”

  “That’s my trouble, Doctor.” Mrs. Arnold sat back and took her gloves out from under her pocketbook and put them carefully on top. Then she took them and put them underneath the pocketbook again.

  “Suppose you just tell me all about it,” the doctor said.

  Mrs. Arnold sighed. “Everyone else seems to understand,” she said, “and I don’t. Look.” She leaned forward and gestured with one hand while she spoke. “I don’t understand the way people live. It all used to be so simple. When I was a little girl I used to live in a world where a lot of other people lived too and they all lived together and things went along like that with no fuss.” She looked at the doctor. He was frowning again, and Mrs. Arnold went on, her voice rising slightly. “Look. Yesterday morning my husband stopped on his way to his office to buy a paper. He always buys the Times and he always buys it from the same dealer, and yesterday the dealer didn’t have a Times for my husband and last night when he came home for dinner he said the fish was burned and the dessert was too sweet and he sat around all evening talking to himself.”

  “He could have tried to get it at another dealer,” the doctor said. “Very often dealers downtown have papers later than local dealers.”

  “No,” Mrs. Arnold said, slowly and distinctly, “I guess I’d better start over. When I was a little girl—” she said. Then she stopped. “Look,” she said, “did there use to be words like psychosomatic medicine? Or international cartels? Or bureaucratic centralization?”

  “Well,” the doctor began.

  “What do they mean?” Mrs. Arnold insisted.

  “In a period of international crisis,” the doctor said gently, “when you find, for instance, cultural patterns rapidly disintegrating…”

  “International crisis,” Mrs. Arnold said. “Patterns.” She began to cry quietly. “He said the man had no right not to save him a Times,” she said hysterically, fumbling in her pocket for a handkerchief, “and he started talking about social planning on the local level and surtax net income and geopolitical concepts and deflationary inflation.” Mrs. Arnold’s voice rose to a wail. “He really said deflationary inflation.”

  “Mrs. Arnold,” the doctor said, coming around the desk, “we’re not going to help things any this way.”

  “What is going to help?” Mrs. Arnold said. “Is everyone really crazy but me?”

  “Mrs. Arnold,” the doctor said severely, “I want you to get hold of yourself. In a disoriented world like ours today, alienation from reality frequently—”

  “Disoriented,” Mrs. Arnold said. She stood up. “Alienation,” she said. “Reality.” Before the doctor could stop her she walked to the door and opened it. “Reality,” she said, and went out.

  Elizabeth

  JUST BEFORE the alarm went off she was lying in a hot sunny garden, with green lawns around her and stretching as far as she could see. The bell of the clock was an annoyance, a warning which had to be reckoned with; she moved uneasily in the hot sun and knew she was awake. When she opened her eyes and it was raining and she saw the white outline of the window against the grey sky, she tried to turn over and bury her face in the green grass, but it was morning and habit was lifting her up and dragging her away into the rainy dull day.

  It was definitely past eight o’clock. The clock said so, the radiator was beginning to crackle, and on the street two stories below she could hear the ugly morning noises of people stirring, getting out to work. She put her feet reluctantly out from under the blankets and on to the floor, and swung herself up to sit on the edge of the bed. By the time she was standing up and in her bathrobe the day had fallen into its routine; after the first involuntary rebellion against every day’s alarm she subsided regularly into the shower, make-up, dress, breakfast schedule which would take her through the beginning of the day and out into the morning where she could forget the green grass and the hot sun and begin to look forward to dinner and the evening.

  Because it was raining and the day seemed unimportant she put on the first things she came to; a grey tweed suit that she knew was shapeless and heavy on her now that she was so thin, a blue blouse that never felt comfortable. She knew her own face too well to enjoy the long careful scrutiny that went with putting on make-up; toward four o’clock in the afternoon her pale narrow cheeks would warm up and fill out, and the lipstick that looked too purple with her dark hair and eyes would take on a rosier touch in spite of the blue blouse, but this morning she thought, as she had thought nearly every morning standing in front of her mirror, I wish I’d been a blonde; never realizing quite that it was because there were thin hints of grey in her hair.

  She walked quickly around her one-room apartment, with a sureness that came of habit rather than conviction; after more than four years in this one home she knew all its possibilities, how it could put on a sham appearance of warmth and welcome when she needed a place to hide in, how it stood over her in the night when she woke suddenly, how it could relax itself into a disagreeable unmade, badly-put-together state, mornings like this, anxious to drive her out and go back to sleep. The book she had read the night before lay face down on the end table, the ashtray next to it dirtied: the clothes she had taken off lay over the back of a chair, to be taken to the cleaner this morning.

  With her coat and hat on, she made the bed quickly, pulling i
t straight on top over the wrinkles beneath, stuffed the clothes to go to the cleaner into the back of the closet, and thought, I’ll dust and straighten and maybe wash the bathroom tonight, come home and take a hot bath and wash my hair and do my nails; by the time she had locked the apartment door behind her and started down the stairs, she was thinking, Maybe today I’ll stop in and get some bright material for slip-covers and drapes. I could make them evenings and the place wouldn’t look so dreary when I wake up mornings; yellow, I could get some yellow dishes and put them along the wall in a row. Like in Mademoiselle or something, she told herself ironically as she stopped at the front door, the brisk young businesswoman and her one-room home. Suitable for entertaining brisk young businessmen. I wish I had something that folded up into a bookcase on one side and a Sheraton desk on the other and opened out into a dining-room table big enough to seat twelve.

  While she was standing just inside the door, pulling on her gloves and hoping the rain might stop in these few seconds, the door next to the stairway opened and a woman said, “Who’s that?”

  “It’s Miss Style,” she said, “Mrs. Anderson?”

  The door opened wide and an old woman put her head out. “I thought it was that fellow has the apartment right over you,” she said. “I been meaning to catch him about leaving them skis outside his door. Nearly broke my leg.”

  “I’ve been wishing I didn’t have to go out. It’s such a bad day.”

  The old woman came out of her room and went to the front door. She pulled aside the door curtain and looked out, wrapping her arms around herself. She was wearing a dirty house dress and the sight of her made Miss Style’s grey tweed suit suddenly seem clean and warm.

  “I been trying to catch that fellow for two days now,” the old woman said. “He goes in and out so quiet.” She giggled, looking sideways at Miss Style. “I nearly caught that man of yours night before last,” she said. “He comes down the stairs quiet, too. I saw who it was in time,” and she giggled again. “I guess all the men come downstairs quiet. All afraid of something.”

  “Well, if I’m going to go out I might as well do it,” Miss Style said. She still stood in the doorway for a minute, hesitating before walking out into the day and the rain and the people. She lived on a fairly quiet street, where later there would be children shouting at each other and on a nice day an organ-grinder, but today in the rain everything looked dirty. She hated to wear rubbers because she had graceful slim feet; on a day like this she went slowly, stepping carefully between puddles.

  It was very late; there were only a few people still sitting at the counter in the corner drugstore. She sat on a stool, reconciled to the time, and waited patiently until the clerk came down the counter with her orange juice. “Hello, Tommy,” she said dismally.

  “Morning, Miss Style,” he said, “lousy day.”

  “Isn’t it,” she said. “A fine day not to go out.”

  “I came in this morning,” Tommy said. “I would have given my right arm to stay home in bed. There ought to be a law against rain.”

  Tommy was little and ugly and alert; looking at him, Miss Style thought, He has to get up and come to work in the mornings just like I do and just like everyone else in the world; the rain is just another break in the millions of lousy things, in getting up and going to work.

  “I don’t mind snow,” Tommy was saying, “and I don’t mind the hot weather, but I sure do hate rain.”

  He turned suddenly when someone called him, and went dancing down to the other end of the counter, bringing up with a flourish before his customer. “Lousy day, isn’t it?” he said. “Sure do wish I was in Florida.”

  Miss Style drank her orange juice, remembering her dream. A sharp recollection of flowers and warmth came into her mind, and then was lost before the cold driving rain outside.

  Tommy came back with her coffee and a plate of toast “Nothing like coffee to cheer you up in the morning,” he said.

  “Thanks, Tommy,” she said, unenthusiastic. “How’s your play coming, by the way?”

  Tommy looked up eagerly. “Hey,” he said, “I finished it, I meant to tell you. Finished the whole thing and sent it away day before yesterday.”

  Funny thing, she thought, a clerk in a drugstore, he gets up in the morning and eats and walks around and writes a play just like it was real, just like the rest of us, like me. “Fine,” she said.

  “I sent it to an agent a guy told me about, he said it was the best agent he knew.”

  “Tommy,” she said, “why didn’t you give it right to me?”

  He laughed, looking down at the sugar bowl he was holding for her. “Listen,” he said, “my friend said you didn’t want stuff like mine, you want people, like, from out of town or something, they don’t know if they’re any good or not. Hell,” he went on anxiously, “I’m not one of these guys fall for ads in the magazines.”

  “I see,” she said.

  Tommy leaned over the counter. “Don’t get sore,” he said, “You know what I mean, you know your business better than I do.”

  “I’m not sore,” she said. She watched Tommy hurry away again, and she thought—Wait till I tell Robbie. Wait till I tell him the soda jerk thinks he’s a bum.

  “Listen,” Tommy said to her, from halfway down the counter, “how long do you think I ought to wait? How long will they take to read it, these agents?”

  “Couple of weeks, maybe,” she said. “Maybe longer.”

  “I figured it might be,” he said. “You want more coffee today?”

  “No, thanks,” she said. She slid down from the stool and walked across the store to pay her check. They’re probably going to buy that play, she was thinking, and I’m going to start eating in the hamburg joint across the street.

  She went out into the rain again to see her bus just pulling up across the street. She ran for it, against the light, and pushed into the crowd of people getting on. With a kind of fury left over from Tommy and his play she thrust her way against the people, and a woman turned to her and said, “Who do you think you’re pushing?” Vengefully she put her elbow into the woman’s ribs and got on the bus first. She dropped her nickel in and got to the last available seat, and heard the woman behind her. “These people who think they can shove anybody around, they think they’re important.” She looked around to see if anyone knew who the woman was talking about; the man beside her on the seat next to the window was staring straight ahead with the infinitely tired expression of the early-morning bus passenger; two girls in the seat in front were looking out the window after a man passing, and in the aisle next to her the woman was standing, still talking about her. “People who think their business is the only important thing in the world. Think they can just push anyone around.” No one in the bus was listening: everyone was wet and uncomfortable and crowded, but the woman went on monotonously—“Think no one else has a right to ride on buses.”

  She stared past the man out the window until the crowds coming into the bus pushed the woman past her down the aisle. When she came to her stop she was timid for a minute about pushing her way out, and when she reached the door the woman was near it, staring at her as though wanting to remember her face. “Dried-up old maid,” the woman said loudly, and the people around her in the bus laughed.

  Miss Style put on an expression of contempt, stepping carefully down to the curb, looking up just as the bus pulled away to see the woman’s face still watching her from the window. She walked through the rain to the old building where her office was, thinking, That woman was just waiting for anyone to cross her path this morning, I wish I’d said something back to her.

  “Morning, Miss Style,” the elevator operator said.

  “Morning,” she said. She walked into the open-work iron elevator and leaned against the back wall.

  “Bad day,” the operator said. He waited for a minute and then closed the door. “Fine day not to go out,” he said.

  “Sure is,” she said. I wish I’d said something to that wo
man in the bus, she was thinking. I shouldn’t have let her get away with it, let the day start off like that, with a nasty incident, I should have answered her back and got to feeling good and pleased with myself. Start the day off right.

  “Here you are,” the operator said. “You don’t have to go out again for quite a while.”

  “Glad of that,” she said. She got out of the elevator and walked down the hall to her office. There was a light on inside, making the ROBERT SHAX, Literary Agents, stand out against the door. Looks almost cheerful, she thought, Robbie must be in early.

  She had worked for Robert Shax for nearly eleven years. When she came to New York the Christmas she was twenty, a thin dark girl with neat clothes and hair and moderate ambition, holding on to her pocketbook with both hands, afraid of subways, she answered an ad, and met Robert Shax before she had even found a room to live in. It had been one of those windfall ads, an assistant wanted in a literary agency, and there was no one around to tell Elizabeth Style, asking people timidly how to find the address, that if she got the job it wasn’t worth getting. The literary agency was Robert Shax and a thin clever man who had disliked Elizabeth so violently that after two years she had taken Robert Shax away to start his own agency. Robert Shax was on the door and on all the checks, and Elizabeth Style hid away in her office, wrote the letters, kept the records, and came out occasionally to consult the files she allowed Robert Shax to keep on display.

  They had spent much time in the eight years trying to make this office look like a severe environment for a flourishing business: a miserable place that its owners were too busy to pretty up more than enough to meet the purposes of its clients. The door opened into a tight little reception room, painted tan the year before, with two cheap chrome and brown chairs, a brown linoleum floor, and a framed picture of a vase of flowers over the small desk which was occupied five afternoons a week by a Miss Wilson, a colorless girl who answered the phone sniffling. Beyond Miss Wilson’s desk were two doors, which did not give the effect of limitless offices, stretching on down the building, that Robert Shax had hoped they might; the one on the left had, on the door, “Robert Shax,” and the one on the right had, on the door, “Elizabeth Style,” and through the pebbled glass doors you could see, dimly, the shape of the narrow window each office owned, crowding close enough to the door and walls to admit that the two offices together were no wider than the reception room, and to hint darkly that all that protected the privacy of Mr. Shax and Miss Style was a beaverboard partition painted to look like the walls.

 
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