The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson


  “We’d put the baby in your room,” Mrs. Anderson said. She laughed and gave Mrs. Hart’s hand a push. “Don’t worry,” she said, “I’d keep out of your way. Well, and if you wanted to put the baby in with me then I could get up at night to feed it for you. Guess I could take care of a baby all right.”

  Mrs. Hart smiled cheerfully back at Mrs. Anderson. “I’d love to, of course,” she said. “Some day. Right now of course Bill would never let me do it.”

  “Of course not,” Mrs. Anderson said. “The men never do, do they? I told Mrs. Martin down at the grocery, she’s the nicest little thing in the world, I said, but her husband wouldn’t let the scrubwoman come live with them.”

  “Why, Mrs. Anderson,” Mrs. Hart said, looking horrified, “saying things like that about yourself!”

  “And another woman, one who’s older and knows a little more,” Mrs. Anderson said. “She might see a little more, too, maybe.”

  Mrs. Hart, her fingers tight on the teacup, caught a quick picture of Mrs. Martin, leaning comfortably across the counter (“I see you’ve got a new star boarder, Mrs. Hart. Mrs. Anderson’ll see that you’re taken good care of!”). And her neighbors, their frozen faces regarding her as she walked down to meet Bill at the bus; the girls in New York, reading her letters together and envying her (“Such a perfect jewel—she’s going to live with us and do all the work!”). Looking up at Mrs. Anderson’s knowing smile across the table, Mrs. Hart realized with a sudden unalterable conviction that she was lost.

  The Tooth

  THE BUS was waiting, panting heavily at the curb in front of the small bus station, its great blue-and-silver bulk glittering in the moonlight. There were only a few people interested in the bus, and at that time of night no one passing on the sidewalk: the one movie theatre in town had finished its show and closed its doors an hour before, and all the movie patrons had been to the drugstore for ice cream and gone on home; now the drugstore was closed and dark, another silent doorway in the long midnight street. The only town lights were the street lights, the lights in the all-night lunchstand across the street, and the one remaining counter lamp in the bus station where the girl sat in the ticket office with her hat and coat on, only waiting for the New York bus to leave before she went home to bed.

  Standing on the sidewalk next to the open door of the bus, Clara Spencer held her husband’s arm nervously. “I feel so funny,” she said.

  “Are you all right?” he asked. “Do you think I ought to go with you?”

  “No, of course not,” she said. “I’ll be all right.” It was hard for her to talk because of her swollen jaw; she kept a handkerchief pressed to her face and held hard to her husband. “Are you sure you’ll be all right?” she asked. “I’ll be back tomorrow night at the latest. Or else I’ll call.”

  “Everything will be fine,” he said heartily. “By tomorrow noon it’ll all be gone. Tell the dentist if there’s anything wrong I can come right down.”

  “I feel so funny,” she said. “Light-headed, and sort of dizzy.”

  “That’s because of the dope,” he said. “All that codeine, and the whisky, and nothing to eat all day.”

  She giggled nervously. “I couldn’t comb my hair, my hand shook so. I’m glad it’s dark.”

  “Try to sleep in the bus,” he said. “Did you take a sleeping pill?”

  “Yes,” she said. They were waiting for the bus driver to finish his cup of coffee in the lunchstand; they could see him through the glass window, sitting at the counter, taking his time. “I feel so funny,” she said.

  “You know, Clara,” he made his voice very weighty, as though if he spoke more seriously his words would carry more conviction and be therefore more comforting, “you know, I’m glad you’re going down to New York to have Zimmerman take care of this. I’d never forgive myself if it turned out to be something serious and I let you go to this butcher up here.”

  “It’s just a toothache,” Clara said uneasily, “nothing very serious about a toothache.”

  “You can’t tell,” he said. “It might be abscessed or something; I’m sure he’ll have to pull it.”

  “Don’t even talk like that,” she said, and shivered.

  “Well, it looks pretty bad,” he said soberly, as before. “Your face so swollen, and all. Don’t you worry.”

  “I’m not worrying,” she said. “I just feel as if I were all tooth. Nothing else.”

  The bus driver got up from the stool and walked over to pay his check. Clara moved toward the bus, and her husband said, “Take your time, you’ve got plenty of time.”

  “I just feel funny,” Clara said.

  “Listen,” her husband said, “that tooth’s been bothering you off and on for years; at least six or seven times since I’ve known you you’ve had trouble with that tooth. It’s about time something was done. You had a toothache on our honeymoon,” he finished accusingly.

  “Did I?” Clara said. “You know,” she went on, and laughed, “I was in such a hurry I didn’t dress properly. I have on old stockings and I just dumped everything into my good pocketbook.”

  “Are you sure you have enough money?” he said.

  “Almost twenty-five dollars,” Clara said. “I’ll be home tomorrow.”

  “Wire if you need more,” he said. The bus driver appeared in the doorway of the lunchroom. “Don’t worry,” he said.

  “Listen,” Clara said suddenly, “are you sure you’ll be all right? Mrs. Lang will be over in the morning in time to make breakfast, and Johnny doesn’t need to go to school if things are too mixed up.”

  “I know,” he said.

  “Mrs. Lang,” she said, checking on her fingers. “I called Mrs. Lang, I left the grocery order on the kitchen table, you can have the cold tongue for lunch and in case I don’t get back Mrs. Lang will give you dinner. The cleaner ought to come about four o’clock, I won’t be back so give him your brown suit and it doesn’t matter if you forget but be sure to empty the pockets.”

  “Wire if you need more money,” he said. “Or call. I’ll stay home tomorrow so you can call at home.”

  “Mrs. Lang will take care of the baby,” she said.

  “Or you can wire,” he said.

  The bus driver came across the street and stood by the entrance to the bus.

  “Okay?” the bus driver said.

  “Good-bye,” Clara said to her husband.

  “You’ll feel all right tomorrow,” her husband said. “It’s only a toothache.”

  “I’m fine,” Clara said. “Don’t you worry.” She got on the bus and then stopped, with the bus driver waiting behind her. “Milkman,” she said to her husband. “Leave a note telling him we want eggs.”

  “I will,” her husband said. “Good-bye.”

  “Good-bye,” Clara said. She moved on into the bus and behind her the driver swung into his seat. The bus was nearly empty and she went far back and sat down at the window outside which her husband waited. “Good-bye,” she said to him through the glass, “take care of yourself.”

  “Good-bye,” he said, waving violently.

  The bus stirred, groaned, and pulled itself forward. Clara turned her head to wave good-bye once more and then lay back against the heavy soft seat. Good Lord, she thought, what a thing to do! Outside, the familiar street slipped past, strange and dark and seen, unexpectedly, from the unique station of a person leaving town, going away on a bus. It isn’t as though it’s the first time I’ve ever been to New York, Clara thought indignantly, it’s the whisky and the codeine and the sleeping pill and the toothache. She checked hastily to see if her codeine tablets were in her pocketbook; they had been standing, along with the aspirin and a glass of water, on the dining-room sideboard, but somewhere in the lunatic flight from her home she must have picked them up, because they were in her pocketbook now, along with the twenty-odd dollars and her compact and comb and lipstick. She could tell from the feel of the lipstick that she had brought the old, nearly finished one, not the new one that
was a darker shade and had cost two-fifty. There was a run in her stocking and a hole in the toe that she never noticed at home wearing her old comfortable shoes, but which was now suddenly and disagreeably apparent inside her best walking shoes. Well, she thought, I can buy new stockings in New York tomorrow, after the tooth is fixed, after everything’s all right. She put her tongue cautiously on the tooth and was rewarded with a split-second crash of pain.

  The bus stopped at a red light and the driver got out of his seat and came back toward her. “Forgot to get your ticket before,” he said.

  “I guess I was a little rushed at the last minute,” she said. She found the ticket in her coat pocket and gave it to him. “When do we get to New York?” she asked.

  “Five-fifteen,” he said. “Plenty of time for breakfast. One-way ticket?”

  “I’m coming back by train,” she said, without seeing why she had to tell him, except that it was late at night and people isolated together in some strange prison like a bus had to be more friendly and communicative than at other times.

  “Me, I’m coming back by bus,” he said, and they both laughed, she painfully because of her swollen face. When he went back to his seat far away at the front of the bus she lay back peacefully against the seat. She could feel the sleeping pill pulling at her; the throb of the toothache was distant now, and mingled with the movement of the bus, a steady beat like her heartbeat which she could hear louder and louder, going on through the night. She put her head back and her feet up, discreetly covered with her skirt, and fell asleep without saying good-bye to the town.

  She opened her eyes once and they were moving almost silently through the darkness. Her tooth was pulsing steadily and she turned her cheek against the cool back of the seat in weary resignation. There was a thin line of lights along the ceiling of the bus and no other light. Far ahead of her in the bus she could see the other people sitting; the driver, so far away as to be only a tiny figure at the end of a telescope, was straight at the wheel, seemingly awake. She fell back into her fantastic sleep.

  She woke up later because the bus had stopped, the end of that silent motion through the darkness so positive a shock that it woke her stunned, and it was a minute before the ache began again. People were moving along the aisle of the bus and the driver, turning around, said, “Fifteen minutes.” She got up and followed everyone else out, all but her eyes still asleep, her feet moving without awareness. They were stopped beside an all-night restaurant, lonely and lighted on the vacant road. Inside, it was warm and busy and full of people. She saw a seat at the end of the counter and sat down, not aware that she had fallen asleep again when someone sat down next to her and touched her arm. When she looked around foggily he said, “Traveling far?”

  “Yes,” she said.

  He was wearing a blue suit and he looked tall; she could not focus her eyes to see any more.

  “You want coffee?” he asked.

  She nodded and he pointed to the counter in front of her where a cup of coffee sat steaming.

  “Drink it quickly,” he said.

  She sipped at it delicately; she may have put her face down and tasted it without lifting the cup. The strange man was talking.

  “Even farther than Samarkand,” he was saying, “and the waves ringing on the shore like bells.”

  “Okay, folks,” the bus driver said, and she gulped quickly at the coffee, drank enough to get her back into the bus.

  When she sat down in her seat again the strange man sat down beside her. It was so dark in the bus that the lights from the restaurant were unbearably glaring and she closed her eyes. When her eyes were shut, before she fell asleep, she was closed in alone with the toothache.

  “The flutes play all night,” the strange man said, “and the stars are as big as the moon and the moon is as big as a lake.”

  As the bus started up again they slipped back into the darkness and only the thin thread of lights along the ceiling of the bus held them together, brought the back of the bus where she sat along with the front of the bus where the driver sat and the people sitting there so far away from her. The lights tied them together and the strange man next to her was saying, “Nothing to do all day but lie under the trees.”

  Inside the bus, traveling on, she was nothing; she was passing the trees and the occasional sleeping houses, and she was in the bus but she was between here and there, joined tenuously to the bus driver by a thread of lights, being carried along without effort of her own.

  “My name is Jim,” the strange man said.

  She was so deeply asleep that she stirred uneasily without knowledge, her forehead against the window, the darkness moving along beside her.

  Then again that numbing shock, and, driven awake, she said, frightened, “What’s happened?”

  “It’s all right,” the strange man—Jim—said immediately. “Come along.”

  She followed him out of the bus, into the same restaurant, seemingly, but when she started to sit down at the same seat at the end of the counter he took her hand and led her to a table. “Go and wash your face,” he said. “Come back here afterward.”

  She went into the ladies’ room and there was a girl standing there powdering her nose. Without turning around the girl said, “Cost’s a nickel. Leave the door fixed so’s the next one won’t have to pay.”

  The door was wedged so it would not close, with half a match folder in the lock. She left it the same way and went back to the table where Jim was sitting.

  “What do you want?” she said, and he pointed to another cup of coffee and a sandwich. “Go ahead,” he said.

  While she was eating her sandwich she heard his voice, musical and soft, “And while we were sailing past the island we heard a voice calling us….”

  Back in the bus Jim said, “Put your head on my shoulder now, and go to sleep.”

  “I’m all right,” she said.

  “No,” Jim said. “Before, your head was rattling against the window.”

  Once more she slept, and once more the bus stopped and she woke frightened, and Jim brought her again to a restaurant and more coffee. Her tooth came alive then, and with one hand pressing her cheek she searched through the pockets of her coat and then through her pocketbook until she found the little bottle of codeine pills and she took two while Jim watched her.

  She was finishing her coffee when she heard the sound of the bus motor and she started up suddenly, hurrying, and with Jim holding her arm she fled back into the dark shelter of her seat. The bus was moving forward when she realized that she had left her bottle of codeine pills sitting on the table in the restaurant and now she was at the mercy of her tooth. For a minute she stared back at the lights of the restaurant through the bus window and then she put her head on Jim’s shoulder and he was saying as she fell asleep, “The sand is so white it looks like snow, but it’s hot, even at night it’s hot under your feet.”

  Then they stopped for the last time, and Jim brought her out of the bus and they stood for a minute in New York together. A woman passing them in the station said to the man following her with suitcases, “We’re just on time, it’s five-fifteen.”

  “I’m going to the dentist,” she said to Jim.

  “I know,” he said. “I’ll watch out for you.”

  He went away, although she did not see him go. She thought to watch for his blue suit going through the door, but there was nothing.

  I ought to have thanked him, she thought stupidly, and went slowly into the station restaurant, where she ordered coffee again. The counter man looked at her with the worn sympathy of one who has spent a long night watching people get off and on buses. “Sleepy?” he asked.

  “Yes,” she said.

  She discovered after a while that the bus station joined Pennsylvania Terminal and she was able to get into the main waiting-room and find a seat on one of the benches by the time she fell asleep again.

  Then someone shook her rudely by the shoulder and said, “What train you taking, lady, it’s n
early seven.” She sat up and saw her pocketbook on her lap, her feet neatly crossed, a clock glaring into her face. She said, “Thank you,” and got up and walked blindly past the benches and got on to the escalator. Someone got on immediately behind her and touched her arm; she turned and it was Jim. “The grass is so green and so soft,” he said, smiling, “and the water of the river is so cool.”

  She stared at him tiredly. When the escalator reached the top she stepped off and started to walk to the street she saw ahead. Jim came along beside her and his voice went on, “The sky is bluer than anything you’ve ever seen, and the songs….”

  She stepped quickly away from him and thought that people were looking at her as they passed. She stood on the corner waiting for the light to change and Jim came swiftly up to her and then away. “Look,” he said as he passed, and he held out a handful of pearls.

  Across the street there was a restaurant, just opening. She went in and sat down at a table, and a waitress was standing beside her frowning. “You was asleep,” the waitress said accusingly.

  “I’m very sorry,” she said. It was morning. “Poached eggs and coffee, please.”

  It was a quarter to eight when she left the restaurant, and she thought, if I take a bus, and go straight downtown now, I can sit in the drugstore across the street from the dentist’s office and have more coffee until about eight-thirty and then go into the dentist’s when it opens and he can take me first.

  The buses were beginning to fill up; she got into the first bus that came along and could not find a seat. She wanted to go to Twenty-third Street, and got a seat just as they were passing Twenty-sixth Street; when she woke she was so far downtown that it took her nearly half-an-hour to find a bus and get back to Twenty-third.

  At the corner of Twenty-third Street, while she was waiting for the light to change, she was caught up in a crowd of people, and when they crossed the street and separated to go different directions someone fell into step beside her. For a minute she walked on without looking up, staring resentfully at the sidewalk, her tooth burning her, and then she looked up, but there was no blue suit among the people pressing by on either side.

 
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