The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson

  Uptown, she thought, that’s right, and she started up the avenue, thinking: He wouldn’t have to cross the avenue, just go up six blocks and turn down my street, so long as he started uptown. About a block farther on she passed a florist’s shop; there was a wedding display in the window and she thought, This is my wedding day after all, he might have gotten flowers to bring me, and she went inside. The florist came out of the back of the shop, smiling and sleek, and she said, before he could speak, so that he wouldn’t have a chance to think she was buying anything: “It’s terribly important that I get in touch with a gentleman who may have stopped in here to buy flowers this morning. Terribly important.”

  She stopped for breath, and the florist said, “Yes, what sort of flowers were they?”

  “I don’t know,” she said, surprised. “He never—” She stopped and said, “He was a rather tall young man, in a blue suit. It was about ten o’clock.”

  “I see,” the florist said. “Well, really, I’m afraid….”

  “But it’s so important,” she said. “He may have been in a hurry,” she added helpfully.

  “Well,” the florist said. He smiled genially, showing all his small teeth. “For a lady,” he said. He went to a stand and opened a large book. “Where were they to be sent?” he asked.

  “Why,” she said, “I don’t think he’d have sent them. You see, he was coming—that is, he’d bring them.”

  “Madam,” the florist said; he was offended. His smile became deprecatory, and he went on, “Really, you must realize that unless I have something to go on….”

  “Please try to remember,” she begged. “He was tall, and had a blue suit, and it was about ten this morning.”

  The florist closed his eyes, one finger to his mouth, and thought deeply. Then he shook his head. “I simply can’t,” he said.

  “Thank you,” she said despondently, and started for the door, when the florist said, in a shrill, excited voice, “Wait! Wait just a moment, madam.” She turned and the florist, thinking again, said finally, “Chrysanthemums?” He looked at her inquiringly.

  “Oh, no,” she said; her voice shook a little and she waited for a minute before she went on. “Not for an occasion like this, I’m sure.”

  The florist tightened his lips and looked away coldly. “Well, of course I don’t know the occasion,” he said, “but I’m almost certain that the gentleman you were inquiring for came in this morning and purchased one dozen chrysanthemums. No delivery.”

  “You’re sure?” she asked.

  “Positive,” the florist said emphatically. “That was absolutely the man.” He smiled brilliantly, and she smiled back and said, “Well, thank you very much.”

  He escorted her to the door. “Nice corsage?” he said, as they went through the shop. “Red roses? Gardenias?”

  “It was very kind of you to help me,” she said at the door.

  “Ladies always look their best in flowers,” he said, bending his head toward her. “Orchids, perhaps?”

  “No, thank you,” she said, and he said, “I hope you find your young man,” and gave it a nasty sound.

  Going on up the street she thought, Everyone thinks it’s so funny: and she pulled her coat tighter around her, so that only the ruffle around the bottom of the print dress was showing.

  There was a policeman on the corner, and she thought, Why don’t I go to the police—you go to the police for a missing person. And then thought, What a fool I’d look like. She had a quick picture of herself standing in a police station, saying, “Yes, we were going to be married today, but he didn’t come,” and the policemen, three or four of them standing around listening, looking at her, at the print dress, at her too-bright make-up, smiling at one another. She couldn’t tell them any more than that, could not say, “Yes, it looks silly, doesn’t it, me all dressed up and trying to find the young man who promised to marry me, but what about all of it you don’t know? I have more than this, more than you can see: talent, perhaps, and humor of a sort, and I’m a lady and I have pride and affection and delicacy and a certain clear view of life that might make a man satisfied and productive and happy; there’s more than you think when you look at me.”

  The police were obviously impossible, leaving out Jamie and what he might think when he heard she’d set the police after him. “No, no,” she said aloud, hurrying her steps, and someone passing stopped and looked after her.

  On the coming corner—she was three blocks from her own street—was a shoeshine stand, an old man sitting almost asleep in one of the chairs. She stopped in front of him and waited, and after a minute he opened his eyes and smiled at her.

  “Look,” she said, the words coming before she thought of them, “I’m sorry to bother you, but I’m looking for a young man who came up this way about ten this morning, did you see him?” And she began her description, “Tall, blue suit, carrying a bunch of flowers?”

  The old man began to nod before she was finished. “I saw him,” he said. “Friend of yours?”

  “Yes,” she said, and smiled back involuntarily.

  The old man blinked his eyes and said, “I remember I thought, You’re going to see your girl, young fellow. They all go to see their girls,” he said, and shook his head tolerantly.

  “Which way did he go? Straight on up the avenue?”

  “That’s right,” the old man said. “Got a shine, had his flowers, all dressed up, in an awful hurry. You got a girl, I thought.”

  “Thank you,” she said, fumbling in her pocket for her loose change.

  “She sure must of been glad to see him, the way he looked,” the old man said.

  “Thank you,” she said again, and brought her hand empty from her pocket.

  For the first time she was really sure he would be waiting for her, and she hurried up the three blocks, the skirt of the print dress swinging under her coat, and turned into her own block. From the corner she could not see her own windows, could not see Jamie looking out, waiting for her, and going down the block she was almost running to get to him. Her key trembled in her fingers at the downstairs door, and as she glanced into the drugstore she thought of her panic, drinking coffee there this morning, and almost laughed. At her own door she could wait no longer, but began to say, “Jamie, I’m here, I was so worried,” even before the door was open.

  Her own apartment was waiting for her, silent, barren, afternoon shadows lengthening from the window. For a minute she saw only the empty coffee cup, thought, He has been here waiting, before she recognized it as her own, left from the morning. She looked all over the room, into the closet, into the bathroom.

  “I never saw him,” the clerk in the drugstore said. “I know because I would of noticed the flowers. No one like that’s been in.”

  The old man at the shoeshine stand woke up again to see her standing in front of him. “Hello again,” he said, and smiled.

  “Are you sure?” she demanded. “Did he go on up the avenue?”

  “I watched him,” the old man said, dignified against her tone. “I thought, There’s a young man’s got a girl, and I watched him right into the house.”

  “What house?” she said remotely.

  “Right there,” the old man said. He leaned forward to point. “The next block. With his flowers and his shine and going to see his girl. Right into her house.”

  “Which one?” she said.

  “About the middle of the block,” the old man said. He looked at her with suspicion, and said, “What you trying to do, anyway?”

  She almost ran, without stopping to say “Thank you.” Up on the next block she walked quickly, searching the houses from the outside to see if Jamie looked from a window, listening to hear his laughter somewhere inside.

  A woman was sitting in front of one of the houses, pushing a baby carriage monotonously back and forth the length of her arm. The baby inside slept, moving back and forth.

  The question was fluent, by now. “I’m sorry, but did you see a young man go into one o
f these houses about ten this morning? He was tall, wearing a blue suit, carrying a bunch of flowers.”

  A boy about twelve stopped to listen, turning intently from one to the other, occasionally glancing at the baby.

  “Listen,” the woman said tiredly, “the kid has his bath at ten. Would I see strange men walking around? I ask you.”

  “Big bunch of flowers?” the boy asked, pulling at her coat. “Big bunch of flowers? I seen him, missus.”

  She looked down and the boy grinned insolently at her. “Which house did he go in?” she asked wearily.

  “You gonna divorce him?” the boy asked insistently.

  “That’s not nice to ask the lady,” the woman rocking the carriage said.

  “Listen,” the boy said, “I seen him. He went in there.” He pointed to the house next door. “I followed him,” the boy said. “He give me a quarter.” The boy dropped his voice to a growl, and said, “‘This is a big day for me, kid,’ he says. Give me a quarter.”

  She gave him a dollar bill. “Where?” she said.

  “Top floor,” the boy said. “I followed him till he give me the quarter. Way to the top.” He backed up the sidewalk, out of reach, with the dollar bill. “You gonna divorce him?” he asked again.

  “Was he carrying flowers?”

  “Yeah,” the boy said. He began to screech. “You gonna divorce him, missus? You got something on him?” He went careening down the street, howling, “She’s got something on the poor guy,” and the woman rocking the baby laughed.

  The street door of the apartment house was unlocked; there were no bells in the outer vestibule, and no lists of names. The stairs were narrow and dirty; there were two doors on the top floor. The front one was the right one; there was a crumpled florist’s paper on the floor outside the door, and a knotted paper ribbon, like a clue, like the final clue in the paper-chase.

  She knocked, and thought she heard voices inside, and she thought, suddenly, with terror, What shall I say if Jamie is there, if he comes to the door? The voices seemed suddenly still. She knocked again and there was silence, except for something that might have been laughter far away. He could have seen me from the window, she thought, it’s the front apartment and that little boy made a dreadful noise. She waited, and knocked again, but there was silence.

  Finally she went to the other door on the floor, and knocked. The door swung open beneath her hand and she saw the empty attic room, bare lath on the walls, floorboards unpainted. She stepped just inside, looking around; the room was filled with bags of plaster, piles of old newspapers, a broken trunk. There was a noise which she suddenly realized as a rat, and then she saw it, sitting very close to her, near the wall, its evil face alert, bright eyes watching her. She stumbled in her haste to be out with the door closed, and the skirt of the print dress caught and tore.

  She knew there was someone inside the other apartment, because she was sure she could hear low voices and sometimes laughter. She came back many times, every day for the first week. She came on her way to work, in the mornings; in the evenings, on her way to dinner alone, but no matter how often or how firmly she knocked, no one ever came to the door.

  Like Mother Used To Make

  DAVID TURNER, who did everything in small quick movements, hurried from the bus stop down the avenue toward his street. He reached the grocery on the corner and hesitated; there had been something. Butter, he remembered with relief; this morning, all the way up the avenue to his bus stop, he had been telling himself butter, don’t forget butter coming home tonight, when you pass the grocery remember butter. He went into the grocery and waited his turn, examining the cans on the shelves. Canned pork sausage was back, and corned-beef hash. A tray full of rolls caught his eye, and then the woman ahead of him went out and the clerk turned to him.

  “How much is butter?” David asked cautiously.

  “Eighty-nine,” the clerk said easily.

  “Eighty-nine?” David frowned.

  “That’s what it is,” the clerk said. He looked past David at the next customer.

  “Quarter of a pound, please,” David said. “And a half-dozen rolls.”

  Carrying his package home he thought, I really ought not to trade there any more; you’d think they’d know me well enough to be more courteous.

  There was a letter from his mother in the mailbox. He stuck it into the top of the bag of rolls and went upstairs to the third floor. No light in Marcia’s apartment, the only other apartment on the floor. David turned to his own door and unlocked it, snapping on the light as he came in the door. Tonight, as every night when he came home, the apartment looked warm and friendly and good; the little foyer, with the neat small table and four careful chairs, and the bowl of little marigolds against the pale green walls David had painted himself; beyond, the kitchenette, and beyond that, the big room where David read and slept and the ceiling of which was a perpetual trouble to him; the plaster was falling in one corner and no power on earth could make it less noticeable. David consoled himself for the plaster constantly with the thought that perhaps if he had not taken an apartment in an old brownstone the plaster would not be falling, but then, too, for the money he paid he could not have a foyer and a big room and a kitchenette, anywhere else.

  He put his bag down on the table and put the butter away in the refrigerator and the rolls in the breadbox. He folded the empty bag and put it in a drawer in the kitchenette. Then he hung his coat in the hall closet and went into the big room, which he called his living-room, and lighted the desk light. His word for the room, in his own mind, was “charming.” He had always been partial to yellows and browns, and he had painted the desk and the bookcases and the end tables himself, had even painted the walls, and had hunted around the city for the exact tweedish tan drapes he had in mind. The room satisfied him: the rug was a rich dark brown that picked up the darkest thread in the drapes, the furniture was almost yellow, the cover on the studio couch and the lampshades were orange. The rows of plants on the window sills gave the touch of green the room needed; right now David was looking for an ornament to set on the end table, but he had his heart set on a low translucent green bowl for more marigolds, and such things cost more than he could afford, after the silverware.

  He could not come into this room without feeling that it was the most comfortable home he had ever had; tonight, as always, he let his eyes move slowly around the room, from couch to drapes to bookcase, imagined the green bowl on the end table, and sighed as he turned to the desk. He took his pen from the holder, and a sheet of the neat notepaper sitting in one of the desk cubbyholes, and wrote carefully: “Dear Marcia, don’t forget you’re coming for dinner tonight. I’ll expect you about six.” He signed the note with a “D” and picked up the key to Marcia’s apartment which lay in the flat pencil tray on his desk. He had a key to Marcia’s apartment because she was never home when her laundryman came, or when the man came to fix the refrigerator or the telephone or the windows, and someone had to let them in because the landlord was reluctant to climb three flights of stairs with the pass key. Marcia had never suggested having a key to David’s apartment, and he had never offered her one; it pleased him to have only one key to his home, and that safely in his own pocket; it had a pleasant feeling to him, solid and small, the only way into his warm fine home.

  He left his front door open and went down the dark hall to the other apartment. He opened the door with his key and turned on the light. This apartment was not agreeable for him to come into; it was exactly the same as his: foyer, kitchenette, living-room, and it reminded him constantly of his first day in his own apartment, when the thought of the careful home-making to be done had left him very close to despair. Marcia’s home was bare and at random; an upright piano a friend had given her recently stood crookedly, half in the foyer, because the little room was too narrow and the big room was too cluttered for it to sit comfortably anywhere; Marcia’s bed was unmade and a pile of dirty laundry lay on the floor. The window had been open all day
and papers had blown wildly around the floor. David closed the window, hesitated over the papers, and then moved away quickly. He put the note on the piano keys and locked the door behind him.

  In his own apartment he settled down happily to making dinner. He had made a little pot roast for dinner the night before; most of it was still in the refrigerator and he sliced it in fine thin slices and arranged it on a plate with parsley. His plates were orange, almost the same color as the couch cover, and it was pleasant to him to arrange a salad, with the lettuce on the orange plate, and the thin slices of cucumber. He put coffee on to cook, and sliced potatoes to fry, and then, with his dinner cooking agreeably and the window open to lose the odor of the frying potatoes, he set lovingly to arranging his table. First, the tablecloth, pale green, of course. And the two fresh green napkins. The orange plates and the precise cup and saucer at each place. The plate of rolls in the center, and the odd salt and pepper shakers, like two green frogs. Two glasses—they came from the five-and-ten, but they had thin green bands around them—and finally, with great care, the silverware. Gradually, tenderly, David was buying himself a complete set of silverware; starting out modestly with a service for two, he had added to it until now he had well over a service for four, although not quite a service for six, lacking salad forks and soup spoons. He had chosen a sedate, pretty pattern, one that would be fine with any sort of table setting, and each morning he gloried in a breakfast that started with a shining silver spoon for his grapefruit, and had a compact butter knife for his toast and a solid heavy knife to break his eggshell, and a fresh silver spoon for his coffee, which he sugared with a particular spoon meant only for sugar. The silverware lay in a tarnish-proof box on a high shelf all to itself, and David lifted it down carefully to take out a service for two. It made a lavish display set out on the table—knives, forks, salad forks, more forks for the pie, a spoon to each place, and the special serving pieces—the sugar spoon, the large serving spoons for the potatoes and the salad, the fork for the meat, and the pie fork. When the table held as much silverware as two people could possibly use he put the box back on the shelf and stood back, checking everything and admiring the table, shining and clean. Then he went into his living-room to read his mother’s letter and wait for Marcia.

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