The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson


  Mrs. Allen was quiet for a minute. “I can see where you wouldn’t like to speak to the landlady,” she said finally.

  “Of course not,” Emily said. “I just want it to stop.”

  “I don’t blame you,” Mrs. Allen said.

  “You see, it means someone has a key to my door,” Emily said pleadingly.

  “All the keys in this house open all the doors,” Mrs. Allen said. “They’re all old-fashioned locks.”

  “It has to stop,” Emily said. “If it doesn’t, I’ll have to do something about it.”

  “I can see that,” Mrs. Allen said. “The whole thing is very unfortunate.” She rose. “You’ll have to excuse me,” she went on. “I tire very easily and I must be in bed early. I’m so happy you came down to see me.”

  “I’m so glad to have met you at last,” Emily said. She went to the door. “I hope I won’t be bothered again,” she said. “Good night.”

  “Good night,” Mrs. Allen said.

  The following evening, when Emily came home from work, a pair of cheap earrings was gone, along with two packages of cigarettes which had been in her dresser drawer. That evening she sat alone in her room for a long time, thinking. Then she wrote a letter to her husband and went to bed. The next morning she got up and dressed and went to the corner drugstore, where she called her office from a phone booth and said that she was sick and would not be in that day. Then she went back to her room. She sat for almost an hour with the door slightly ajar before she heard Mrs. Allen’s door open and Mrs. Allen come out and go slowly down the stairs. When Mrs. Allen had had time to get out onto the street, Emily locked her door and, carrying her key in her hand, went down to Mrs. Allen’s room.

  She was thinking, I just want to pretend it’s my own room, so that if anyone comes I can say I was mistaken about the floor. For a minute, after she had opened the door, it seemed as though she were in her own room. The bed was neatly made and the shade drawn down over the window. Emily left the door unlocked and went over and pulled up the shade. Now that the room was light, she looked around. She had a sudden sense of unbearable intimacy with Mrs. Allen, and thought, This is the way she must feel in my room. Everything was neat and plain. She looked in the closet first, but there was nothing in there but Mrs. Allen’s blue house coat and one or two plain dresses. Emily went to the dresser. She looked for a moment at the picture of Mrs. Allen’s husband, and then opened the top drawer and looked in. Her handkerchiefs were there, in a neat, small pile, and next to them the cigarettes and the earrings. In one corner the little china dog was sitting. Everything is here, Emily thought, all put away and very orderly. She closed the drawer and opened the next two. Both were empty. She opened the top one again. Besides her things, the drawer held a pair of black cotton gloves, and under the little pile of her handkerchiefs were two plain white ones. There was a box of Kleenex and a small tin of aspirin. For her plants, Emily thought.

  Emily was counting the handkerchiefs when a noise behind her made her turn around. Mrs. Allen was standing in the doorway watching her quietly. Emily dropped the handkerchiefs she was holding and stepped back. She felt herself blushing and knew her hands were trembling. Now, she was thinking, now turn around and tell her. “Listen, Mrs. Allen,” she began, and stopped.

  “Yes?” Mrs. Allen said gently.

  Emily found that she was staring at the picture of Mrs. Allen’s husband; such a thoughtful-looking man, she was thinking. They must have had such a pleasant life together, and now she has a room like mine, with only two handkerchiefs of her own in the drawer.

  “Yes?” Mrs. Allen said again.

  What does she want me to say, Emily thought. What could she be waiting for with such a ladylike manner? “I came down,” Emily said, and hesitated. My voice is almost ladylike, too, she thought. “I had a terrible headache and I came down to borrow some aspirin,” she said quickly. “I had this awful headache and when I found you were out I thought surely you wouldn’t mind if I just borrowed some aspirin.”

  “I’m so sorry,” Mrs. Allen said. “But I’m glad you felt you knew me well enough.”

  “I never would have dreamed of coming in,” Emily said, “except for such a bad headache.”

  “Of course,” Mrs. Allen said. “Let’s not say any more about it.” She went over to the dresser and opened the drawer. Emily, standing next to her, watched her hand pass over the handkerchiefs and pick up the aspirin. “You just take two of these and go to bed for an hour,” Mrs. Allen said.

  “Thank you.” Emily began to move toward the door. “You’ve been very kind.”

  “Let me know if there’s anything more I can do.”

  “Thank you,” Emily said again, opening the door. She waited for a minute and then turned toward the stairs to her room.

  “I’ll run up later today,” Mrs. Allen said, “just to see how you feel.”

  The Villager

  MISS CLARENCE stopped on the corner of Sixth Avenue and Eighth Street and looked at her watch. Two-fifteen; she was earlier than she thought. She went into Whelan’s and sat at the counter, putting her copy of the Villager down on the counter next to her pocketbook and The Charterhouse of Parma, which she had read enthusiastically up to page fifty and only carried now for effect. She ordered a chocolate-frosted and while the clerk was making it she went over to the cigarette counter and bought a pack of Koolsbought a pack of Kools. Sitting again at the soda counter, she opened the pack and lit a cigarette.

  Miss Clarence was about thirty-five, and had lived in Greenwich Village for twelve years. When she was twenty-three she had come to New York from a small town upstate because she wanted to be a dancer, and because everyone who wanted to study dancing or sculpture or book-binding had come to Greenwich Village then, usually with allowances from their families to live on and plans to work in Macy’s or in a bookshop until they had enough money to pursue their art. Miss Clarence, fortunate in having taken a course in shorthand and typing, had gone to work as a stenographer in a coal and coke concern. Now, after twelve years, she was a private secretary in the same concern, and was making enough money to live in a good Village apartment by the park and buy herself smart clothes. She still went to an occasional dance recital with another girl from her office, and sometimes when she wrote to her old friends at home she referred to herself as a “Village die-hard.” When Miss Clarence gave the matter any thought at all, she was apt to congratulate herself on her common sense in handling a good job competently and supporting herself better than she would have in her home town.

  Confident that she looked very well in her gray tweed suit and the hammered copper lapel ornament from a Village jewelry store, Miss Clarence finished her frosted and looked at her watch again. She paid the cashier and went out into Sixth Avenue, and began to walk briskly uptown. She had estimated correctly; the house she was looking for was just west of Sixth Avenue, and she stopped in front of it for a minute, pleased with herself, and comparing the building with her own presentable apartment house. Miss Clarence lived in a picturesque brick and stucco modern; this house was wooden and old, with the very new front door that is deceptive until you look at the building above and see the turn-of-the-century architecture. Miss Clarence compared the address again with the ad in the Villager, and then opened the front door and went into the dingy hallway. She found the name Roberts and the apartment number, 4B. Miss Clarence sighed and started up the stairs.

  She stopped and rested on the third landing, and lit another one of her cigarettes so as to enter the apartment effectively. At the head of the stairs on the fourth floor she found 4B, with a typed note pinned on the door. Miss Clarence pulled the note loose from the thumbtack that held it, and took it over into the light. “Miss Clarence—” she read, “I had to run out for a few minutes, but will be back about three-thirty. Please come on in and look around till I get back—all the furniture is marked with prices. Terribly sorry. Nancy Roberts.”

  Miss Clarence tried the door and it was unlocked. Still h
olding the note, she went in and closed the door behind her. The room was in confusion: half-empty boxes of papers and books were on the floor, the curtains were down, and the furniture piled with half-packed suitcases and clothes. The first thing Miss Clarence did was go to the window; on the fourth floor, she thought, maybe they would have a view. But she could see only dirty roofs and, far off to the left, a high building crowned with flower gardens. Someday I’ll live there, she thought, and turned back to the room.

  She went into the kitchen, a tiny alcove with a two-burner stove and a refrigerator built underneath, with a small sink on one side. Don’t do much cooking, Miss Clarence thought, stove’s never been cleaned. In the refrigerator were a bottle of milk and three bottles of Coca Cola and a half-empty jar of peanut butter. Eat all their meals out, Miss Clarence thought. She opened the cupboard: a glass and a bottle opener. The other glass would be in the bathroom, Miss Clarence thought; no cups: she doesn’t even make coffee in the morning. There was a roach inside the cupboard door; Miss Clarence closed it hurriedly and went back into the big room. She opened the bathroom door and glanced in: an old-fashioned tub with feet, no shower. The bathroom was dirty, and Miss Clarence was sure there would be roaches in there too.

  Finally Miss Clarence turned to the crowded room. She lifted a suitcase and a typewriter off one of the chairs, took off her hat and coat, and sat down, lighting another one of her cigarettes. She had already decided that she could not use any of the furniture—the two chairs and the studio bed were maple; what Miss Clarence thought of as Village Modern. The small end-table bookcase was a nice piece of furniture, but there was a long scratch running across the top, and several glass stains. It was marked ten dollars, and Miss Clarence told herself she could get a dozen new ones if she wanted to pay that price. Miss Clarence, in a mild resentment of the coal and coke company, had done her quiet apartment in shades of beige and off-white, and the thought of introducing any of this shiny maple frightened her. She had a quick picture of young Village characters, frequenters of bookshops, lounging on the maple furniture and drinking rum and coke, putting their glasses down anywhere.

  For a minute Miss Clarence thought of offering to buy some books, but the ones packed on top of the boxes were mostly art books and portfolios. Some of the books had “Arthur Roberts” written inside; Arthur and Nancy Roberts, Miss Clarence thought, a nice young couple. Arthur was the artist, then, and Nancy…Miss Clarence turned over a few of the books and came across a book of modern dance photographs; could Nancy, she wondered affectionately, be a dancer?

  The phone rang and Miss Clarence, on the other side of the room, hesitated for a minute before walking over and answering it. When she said hello a man’s voice said, “Nancy?”

  “No, I’m sorry, she’s not home,” Miss Clarence said.

  “Who’s this?” the voice asked.

  “I’m waiting to see Mrs. Roberts,” Miss Clarence said.

  “Well,” the voice said, “this is Artie Roberts, her husband. When she comes back ask her to call me, will you?”

  “Mr. Roberts,” Miss Clarence said. “Maybe you can help me, then. I came to look at the furniture.”

  “Who are you?”

  “My name is Clarence, Hilda Clarence. I was interested in buying the furniture.”

  “Well, Hilda,” Artie Roberts said, “what do you think? Everything’s in good condition.”

  “I can’t quite make up my mind,” Miss Clarence said.

  “The studio bed’s as good as new,” Artie Roberts went on, “I’ve got this chance to go to Paris, you know. That’s why we’re selling the stuff.”

  “That’s wonderful,” Miss Clarence said.

  “Nancy’s going on back to her family in Chicago. We’ve got to sell the stuff and get everything fixed up in such a short time.”

  “I know,” Miss Clarence said. “It’s too bad.”

  “Well, Hilda,” Artie Roberts said, “you talk to Nancy when she gets back and she’ll be glad to tell you all about it. You won’t go wrong on any of it. I can guarantee that it’s comfortable.”

  “I’m sure,” Miss Clarence said.

  “Tell her to call me, will you?”

  “I certainly will,” Miss Clarence said.

  She said good-bye and hung up.

  She went back to her chair and looked at her watch. Threeten. I’ll wait till just three-thirty, Miss Clarence thought, and then I’ll leave. She picked up the book of dance photographs, slipping the pages through her fingers until a picture caught her eye and she turned back to it. I haven’t seen this in years, Miss Clarence thought—Martha Graham. A sudden picture of herself at twenty came to Miss Clarence, before she ever came to New York, practicing the dancer’s pose. Miss Clarence put the book down on the floor and stood up, raising her arms. Not as easy as it used to be, she thought, it catches you in the shoulders. She was looking down at the book over her shoulder, trying to get her arms right, when there was a knock and the door was opened. A young man—about Arthur’s age, Miss Clarence thought—came in and stood just inside the door, apologetically.

  “It was partly open,” he said, “so I came on in.”

  “Yes?” Miss Clarence said, dropping her arms.

  “You’re Mrs. Roberts?” the young man asked.

  Miss Clarence, trying to walk naturally over to her chair, said nothing.

  “I came about the furniture,” the man said. “I thought I might look at the chairs.”

  “Of course,” Miss Clarence said. “The price is marked on everything.”

  “My name’s Harris. I’ve just moved to the city and I’m trying to furnish my place.”

  “It’s very difficult to find things these days.”

  “This must be the tenth place I’ve been. I want a filing cabinet and a big leather chair.”

  “I’m afraid…” Miss Clarence said, gesturing at the room.

  “I know,” Harris said. “Anybody who has that sort of thing these days is hanging on to it. I write,” he added.

  “Really?”

  “Or, rather, I hope to write,” Harris said. He had a round agreeable face and when he said this he smiled very pleasantly. “Going to get a job and write nights,” he said.

  “I’m sure you won’t have much trouble,” Miss Clarence said.

  “Someone here an artist?”

  “Mr. Roberts,” Miss Clarence said.

  “Lucky guy,” Harris said. He walked over to the window. “Easier to draw pictures than write any time. This place is certainly nicer than mine,” he added suddenly, looking out the window. “Mine’s a hole in the wall.”

  Miss Clarence could not think of anything to say, and he turned again to look at her curiously. “You an artist, too?”

  “No,” Miss Clarence said. She took a deep breath. “Dancer,” she said.

  He smiled again, pleasantly. “I might have known,” he said. “When I came in.”

  Miss Clarence laughed modestly.

  “It must be wonderful,” he said.

  “It’s hard,” Miss Clarence said.

  “It must be. You had much luck so far?”

  “Not much,” Miss Clarence said.

  “I guess that’s the way everything is,” he said. He wandered over and opened the bathroom door; when he glanced in Miss Clarence winced. He closed the door again without saying anything and opened the kitchen door.

  Miss Clarence got up and walked over to stand next to him and look into the kitchen with him. “I don’t cook a lot,” she said.

  “Don’t blame you, so many restaurants.” He closed the door again and Miss Clarence went back to her chair. “I can’t eat breakfasts out, though. That’s one thing I can’t do,” he said.

  “Do you make your own?”

  “I try to,” he said. “I’m the worst cook in the world. But it’s better than going out. What I need is a wife.” He smile again and started for the door. “I’m sorry about the furniture,” he said. “Wish I could have found something.”


  “That’s all right.”

  “You people giving up housekeeping?”

  “We have to get rid of everything,” Miss Clarence said. She hesitated. “Artie’s going to Paris,” she said finally.

  “Wish I was.” He sighed. “Well, good luck to both of you.”

  “You, too,” Miss Clarence said, and closed the door behind him slowly. She listened for the sound of his steps going down the stairs and then looked at her watch. Three-twenty-five.

  Suddenly in a hurry, she found the note Nancy Roberts had left for her and wrote on the back with a pencil taken from one of the boxes: “My dear Mrs. Roberts—I waited until three-thirty. I’m afraid the furniture is out of the question for me. Hilda Clarence.” Pencil in hand, she thought for a minute. Then she added: “P.S. Your husband called, and wants you to call him back.”

  She collected her pocketbook, The Charterhouse of Parma, and the Villager, and closed the door. The thumbtack was still there, and she pried it loose and tacked her note up with it. Then she turned and went back down the stairs, home to her own apartment. Her shoulders ached.

  My Life With R. H. Macy

  AND THE FIRST THING THEY DID was segregate me. They segregated me from the only person in the place I had even a speaking acquaintance with; that was a girl I had met going down the hall who said to me: “Are you as scared as I am?” And when I said, “Yes,” she said, “I’m in lingerie, what are you in?” and I thought for a while and then said, “Spun glass,” which was as good an answer as I could think of, and she said, “Oh. Well, I’ll meet you here in a sec.” And she went away and was segregated and I never saw her again.

  Then they kept calling my name and I kept trotting over to wherever they called it and they would say (“They” all this time being startlingly beautiful young women in tailored suits and with short-clipped hair), “Go with Miss Cooper, here. She’ll tell you what to do.” All the women I met my first day were named Miss Cooper. And Miss Cooper would say to me: “What are you in?” and I had learned by that time to say, “Books,” and she would say, “Oh, well, then, you belong with Miss Cooper here,” and then she would call “Miss Cooper?” and another young woman would come and the first one would say, “13-3138 here belongs with you,” and Miss Cooper would say, “What is she in?” and Miss Cooper would answer, “Books,” and I would go away and be segregated again.

 
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