The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson


  The potatoes were done before Marcia came, and then suddenly the door burst open and Marcia arrived with a shout and fresh air and disorder. She was a tall handsome girl with a loud voice, wearing a dirty raincoat, and she said, “I didn’t forget, Davie, I’m just late as usual. What’s for dinner? You’re not mad, are you?”

  David got up and came over to take her coat. “I left a note for you,” he said.

  “Didn’t see it,” Marcia said. “Haven’t been home. Something smells good.”

  “Fried potatoes,” David said. “Everything’s ready.”

  “Golly.” Marcia fell into a chair to sit with her legs stretched out in front of her and her arms hanging. “I’m tired,” she said. “It’s cold out.”

  “It was getting colder when I came home,” David said. He was putting dinner on the table, the platter of meat, the salad, the bowl of fried potatoes. He walked quietly back and forth from the kitchenette to the table, avoiding Marcia’s feet. “I don’t believe you’ve been here since I got my silverware,” he said.

  Marcia swung around to the table and picked up a spoon. “It’s beautiful,” she said, running her finger along the pattern. “Pleasure to eat with it.”

  “Dinner’s ready,” David said. He pulled her chair out for her and waited for her to sit down.

  Marcia was always hungry; she put meat and potatoes and salad on her plate without admiring the serving silver, and started to eat enthusiastically. “Everything’s beautiful,” she said once. “Food is wonderful, Davie.”

  “I’m glad you like it,” David said. He liked the feel of the fork in his hand, even the sight of the fork moving up to Marcia’s mouth.

  Marcia waved her hand largely. “I mean everything,” she said, “furniture, and nice place you have here, and dinner, and everything.”

  “I like things this way,” David said.

  “I know you do.” Marcia’s voice was mournful. “Someone should teach me, I guess.”

  “You ought to keep your home neater,” David said. “You ought to get curtains at least, and keep your windows shut.”

  “I never remember,” she said. “Davie, you are the most wonderful cook.” She pushed her plate away, and sighed.

  David blushed happily. “I’m glad you like it,” he said again, and then he laughed. “I made a pie last night.”

  “A pie.” Marcia looked at him for a minute and then she said, “Apple?”

  David shook his head, and she said, “Pineapple?” and he shook his head again, and, because he could not wait to tell her, said, “Cherry.”

  “My God!” Marcia got up and followed him into the kitchen and looked over his shoulder while he took the pie carefully out of the breadbox. “Is this the first pie you ever made?”

  “I’ve made two before,” David admitted, “but this one turned out better than the others.”

  She watched happily while he cut large pieces of pie and put them on other orange plates, and then she carried her own plate back to the table, tasted the pie, and made wordless gestures of appreciation. David tasted his pie and said critically, “I think it’s a little sour. I ran out of sugar.”

  “It’s perfect,” Marcia said. “I always loved a cherry pie really sour. This isn’t sour enough, even.”

  David cleared the table and poured the coffee, and as he was setting the coffeepot back on the stove Marcia said, “My doorbell’s ringing.” She opened the apartment door and listened, and they could both hear the ringing in her apartment. She pressed the buzzer in David’s apartment that opened the downstairs door, and far away they could hear heavy footsteps starting up the stairs. Marcia left the apartment door open and came back to her coffee. “Landlord, most likely,” she said. “I didn’t pay my rent again.” When the footsteps reached the top of the last staircase Marcia yelled, “Hello?” leaning back in her chair to see out the door into the hall. Then she said, “Why, Mr. Harris.” She got up and went to the door and held out her hand. “Come in,” she said.

  “I just thought I’d stop by,” Mr. Harris said. He was a very large man and his eyes rested curiously on the coffee cups and empty plates on the table. “I don’t want to interrupt your dinner.”

  “That’s all right,” Marcia said, pulling him into the room. “It’s just Davie. Davie, this is Mr. Harris, he works in my office. This is Mr. Turner.”

  “How do you do,” David said politely, and the man looked at him carefully and said, “How do you do?”

  “Sit down, sit down,” Marcia was saying, pushing a chair forward. “Davie, how about another cup for Mr. Harris?”

  “Please don’t bother,” Mr. Harris said quickly, “I just thought I’d stop by.”

  While David was taking out another cup and saucer and getting a spoon down from the tarnish-proof silverbox, Marcia said, “You like homemade pie?”

  “Say,” Mr. Harris said admiringly, “I’ve forgotten what homemade pie looks like.”

  “Davie,” Marcia called cheerfully, “how about cutting Mr. Harris a piece of that pie?”

  Without answering, David took a fork out of the silverbox and got down an orange plate and put a piece of pie on it. His plans for the evening had been vague; they had involved perhaps a movie if it were not too cold out, and at least a short talk with Marcia about the state of her home; Mr. Harris was settling down in his chair and when David put the pie down silently in front of him he stared at it admiringly for a minute before he tasted it.

  “Say,” he said finally, “this is certainly some pie.” He looked at Marcia. “This is really good pie,” he said.

  “You like it?” Marcia asked modestly. She looked up at David and smiled at him over Mr. Harris’ head. “I haven’t made but two, three pies before,” she said.

  David raised a hand to protest, but Mr. Harris turned to him and demanded, “Did you ever eat any better pie in your life?”

  “I don’t think Davie liked it much,” Marcia said wickedly, “I think it was too sour for him.”

  “I like a sour pie,” Mr. Harris said. He looked suspiciously at David. “A cherry pie’s got to be sour.”

  “I’m glad you like it, anyway,” Marcia said. Mr. Harris ate the last mouthful of pie, finished his coffee, and sat back. “I’m sure glad I dropped in,” he said to Marcia.

  David’s desire to be rid of Mr. Harris had slid imperceptibly into an urgency to be rid of them both; his clean house, his nice silver, were not meant as vehicles for the kind of fatuous banter Marcia and Mr. Harris were playing at together; almost roughly he took the coffee cup away from the arm Marcia had stretched across the table, took it out to the kitchenette and came back and put his hand on Mr. Harris’ cup.

  “Don’t bother, Davie, honestly,” Marcia said. She looked up, smiling again, as though she and David were conspirators against Mr. Harris. “I’ll do them all tomorrow, honey,” she said.

  “Sure,” Mr. Harris said. He stood up. “Let them wait. Let’s go in and sit down where we can be comfortable.”

  Marcia got up and led him into the living-room and they sat down on the studio couch. “Come on in, Davie,” Marcia called.

  The sight of his pretty table covered with dirty dishes and cigarette ashes held David. He carried the plates and cups and silverware into the kitchenette and stacked them in the sink and then, because he could not endure the thought of their sitting there any longer, with the dirt gradually hardening on them, he tied an apron on and began to wash them carefully. Now and then, while he was washing them and drying them and putting them away, Marcia would call to him, sometimes, “Davie, what are you doing?” or, “Davie, won’t you stop all that and come sit down?” Once she said, “Davie, I don’t want you to wash all those dishes,” and Mr. Harris said, “Let him work, he’s happy.”

  David put the clean yellow cups and saucers back on the shelves—by now, Mr. Harris’ cup was unrecognizable; you could not tell, from the clean rows of cups, which one he had used or which one had been stained with Marcia’s lipstick or which one had
held David’s coffee which he had finished in the kitchenette—and finally, taking the tarnish-proof box down, he put the silverware away. First the forks all went together into the little grooves which held two forks each—later, when the set was complete, each groove would hold four forks—and then the spoons, stacked up neatly one on top of another in their own grooves, and the knives in even order, all facing the same way, in the special tapes in the lid of the box. Butter knives and serving spoons and the pie knife all went into their own places, and then David put the lid down on the lovely shining set and put the box back on the shelf. After wringing out the dishcloth and hanging up the dish towel and taking off his apron he was through, and he went slowly into the living-room. Marcia and Mr. Harris were sitting close together on the studio couch, talking earnestly.

  “My father’s name was James,” Marcia was saying as David came in, as though she were clinching an argument. She turned around when David came in and said, “Davie, you were so nice to do all those dishes yourself.”

  “That’s all right,” David said awkwardly. Mr. Harris was looking at him impatiently.

  “I should have helped you,” Marcia said. There was a silence, and then Marcia said, “Sit down, Davie, won’t you?”

  David recognized her tone; it was the one hostesses used when they didn’t know what else to say to you, or when you had come too early or stayed too late. It was the tone he had expected to use on Mr. Harris.

  “James and I were just talking about….” Marcia began and then stopped and laughed. “What were we talking about?” she asked, turning to Mr. Harris.

  “Nothing much,” Mr. Harris said. He was still watching David.

  “Well,” Marcia said, letting her voice trail off. She turned to David and smiled brightly and then said, “Well,” again.

  Mr. Harris picked up the ashtray from the end table and set it on the couch between himself and Marcia. He took a cigar out of his pocket and said to Marcia, “Do you mind cigars?” and when Marcia shook her head he unwrapped the cigar tenderly and bit off the end. “Cigar smoke’s good for plants,” he said thickly, around the cigar, as he lighted it, and Marcia laughed.

  David stood up. For a minute he thought he was going to say something that might start, “Mr. Harris, I’ll thank you to…” but what he actually said, finally, with both Marcia and Mr. Harris looking at him, was, “Guess I better be getting along, Marcia.”

  Mr. Harris stood up and said heartily, “Certainly have enjoyed meeting you.” He held out his hand and David shook hands limply.

  “Guess I better be getting along,” he said again to Marcia, and she stood up and said, “I’m sorry you have to leave so soon.”

  “Lots of work to do,” David said, much more genially than he intended, and Marcia smiled at him again as though they were conspirators and went over to the desk and said, “Don’t forget your key.”

  Surprised, David took the key of her apartment from her, said good night to Mr. Harris, and went to the outside door.

  “Good night, Davie honey,” Marcia called out, and David said “Thanks for a simply wonderful dinner, Marcia,” and closed the door behind him.

  He went down the hall and let himself into Marcia’s apartment; the piano was still awry, the papers were still on the floor, the laundry scattered, the bed unmade. David sat down on the bed and looked around. It was cold, it was dirty, and as he thought miserably of his own warm home he heard faintly down the hall the sound of laughter and the scrape of a chair being moved. Then, still faintly, the sound of his radio. Wearily, David leaned over and picked up a paper from the floor, and then he began to gather them up one by one.

  Trial By Combat

  WHEN EMILY JOHNSON came home one evening to her furnished room and found three of her best handkerchiefs missing from the dresser drawer, she was sure who had taken them and what to do. She had lived in the furnished room for about six weeks and for the past two weeks she had been missing small things occasionally. There had been several handkerchiefs gone, and an initial pin which Emily rarely wore and which had come from the five-and-ten. And once she had missed a small bottle of perfume and one of a set of china dogs. Emily had known for some time who was taking the things, but it was only tonight that she had decided what to do. She had hesitated about complaining to the landlady because her losses were trivial and because she had felt certain that sooner or later she would know how to deal with the situation herself. It had seemed logical to her from the beginning that the one person in the rooming-house who was home all day was the most likely suspect, and then, one Sunday morning, coming downstairs from the roof, where she had been sitting in the sun, Emily had seen someone come out of her room and go down the stairs, and had recognized the visitor. Tonight, she felt, she knew just what to do. She took off her coat and hat, put her packages down, and, while a can of tamales was heating on her electric plate, she went over what she intended to say.

  After her dinner, she closed and locked her door and went downstairs. She tapped softly on the door of the room directly below her own, and when she thought she heard someone say, “Come in,” she said, “Mrs. Allen?,” then opened the door carefully and stepped inside.

  The room, Emily noticed immediately, was almost like her own—the same narrow bed with the tan cover, the same maple dresser and armchair; the closet was on the opposite side of the room, but the window was in the same relative position. Mrs. Allen was sitting in the armchair. She was about sixty. More than twice as old as I am, Emily thought, while she stood in the doorway, and a lady still. She hesitated for a few seconds, looking at Mrs. Allen’s clean white hair and her neat, dark-blue house coat, before speaking. “Mrs. Allen,” she said, “I’m Emily Johnson.”

  Mrs. Allen put down the Woman’s Home Companion she had been reading and stood up slowly. “I’m very happy to meet you,” she said graciously. “I’ve seen you, of course, several times, and thought how pleasant you looked. It’s so seldom one meets anyone really”—Mrs. Allen hesitated—“really nice,” she went on, “in a place like this.”

  “I’ve wanted to meet you, too,” Emily said.

  Mrs. Allen indicated the chair she had been sitting in. “Won’t you sit down?”

  “Thank you,” Emily said. “You stay there. I’ll sit on the bed.” She smiled. “I feel as if I know the furniture so well. Mine’s just the same.”

  “It’s a shame,” Mrs. Allen said, sitting down in her chair again. “I’ve told the landlady over and over, you can’t make people feel at home if you put all the same furniture in the rooms. But she maintains that this maple furniture is clean-looking and cheap.”

  “It’s better than most,” Emily said. “You’ve made yours look much nicer than mine.”

  “I’ve been here for three years,” Mrs. Allen said. “You’ve only been here a month or so, haven’t you?”

  “Six weeks,” Emily said.

  “The landlady’s told me about you. Your husband’s in the Army.”

  “Yes. I have a job here in New York.”

  “My husband was in the Army,” Mrs. Allen said. She gestured at a group of pictures on her maple dresser. “That was a long time ago, of course. He’s been dead for nearly five years.” Emily got up and went over to the pictures. One of them was of a tall, dignified-looking man in Army uniform. Several were of children.

  “He was a very distinguished-looking man,” Emily said. “Are those your children?”

  “I had no children, to my sorrow,” the old lady said. “Those are nephews and nieces of my husband’s.”

  Emily stood in front of the dresser, looking around the room. “I see you have flowers, too,” she said. She walked to the window and looked at the row of potted plants. “I love flowers,” she said. “I bought myself a big bunch of asters tonight to brighten up my room. But they fade so quickly.”

  “I prefer plants just for that reason,” Mrs. Allen said. “But why don’t you put an aspirin in the water with your flowers? They’ll last much longer.”

/>   “I’m afraid I don’t know much about flowers,” Emily said. “I didn’t know about putting an aspirin in the water, for instance.”

  “I always do, with cut flowers,” Mrs. Allen said. “I think flowers make a room look so friendly.”

  Emily stood by the window for a minute, looking out on Mrs. Allen’s daily view: the fire escape opposite, an oblique slice of the street below. Then she took a deep breath and turned around. “Actually, Mrs. Allen,” she said, “I had a reason for dropping in.”

  “Other than to make my acquaintance?” Mrs. Allen said, smiling.

  “I don’t know quite what to do,” Emily said. “I don’t like to say anything to the landlady.”

  “The landlady isn’t much help in an emergency,” Mrs. Allen said.

  Emily came back and sat on the bed, looking earnestly at Mrs. Allen, seeing a nice old lady. “It’s so slight,” she said, “but someone has been coming into my room.”

  Mrs. Allen looked up.

  “I’ve been missing things,” Emily went on, “like handkerchiefs and little inexpensive jewelry. Nothing important. But someone’s been coming into my room and helping themselves.”

  “I’m sorry to hear it,” Mrs. Allen said.

  “You see, I don’t like to make trouble,” Emily said. “It’s just that someone’s coming into my room. I haven’t missed anything of value.”

  “I see,” Mrs. Allen said.

  “I just noticed it a few days ago. And then last Sunday I was coming down from the roof and I saw someone coming out of my room.”

  “Do you have any idea who it was?” Mrs. Allen asked.

  “I believe I do,” Emily said.

 
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