The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson

  Mr. Shepherd was a genial man who lived near the Walpoles and gave the children nickels and took the boys fishing. “He says Lady’s going to get shot,” Jack said.

  “But the spikes,” Judy said. “Tell about the spikes.”

  “The spikes,” Jack said. “Listen, Mommy. He says you got to get a collar for Lady….”

  “A strong collar,” Judy said.

  “And you get big thick nails, like spikes, and you hammer them into the collar.”

  “All around,” Judy said. “Let me tell it, Jack. You hammer these nails all around so’s they make spikes inside the collar.”

  “But it’s loose,” Jack said. “Let me tell this part. It’s loose and you put it around Lady’s neck….”

  “And—” Judy put her hand on her throat and made a strangling noise.

  “Not yet,” Jack said. “Not yet, dopey. First you get a long long long long rope.”

  “A real long rope,” Judy amplified.

  “And you fasten it to the collar and then we put the collar on Lady,” Jack said. Lady was sitting next to him and he leaned over and said, “Then we put this real sharp spiky collar around your neck,” and kissed the top of her head while Lady regarded him affectionately.

  “And then we take her where there are chickens,” Judy said, “and we show her the chickens, and we turn her loose.”

  “And make her chase the chickens,” Jack said. “And then, and then, when she gets right up close to the chickens, we puuuuuuull on the rope—”

  “And—” Judy made her strangling noise again.

  “The spikes cut her head off,” Jack finished dramatically.

  They both began to laugh and Lady, looking from one to the other, panted as though she were laughing too.

  Mrs. Walpole looked at them, at her two children with their hard hands and their sunburned faces laughing together, their dog with blood still on her legs laughing with them. She went to the kitchen doorway to look outside at the cool green hills, the motion of the apple tree in the soft afternoon breeze.

  “Cut your head right off,” Jack was saying.

  Everything was quiet and lovely in the sunlight, the peaceful sky, the gentle line of the hills. Mrs. Walpole closed her eyes, suddenly feeling the harsh hands pulling her down, the sharp points closing in on her throat.

  After You, My Dear Alphonse

  MRS. WILSON was just taking the gingerbread out of the oven when she heard Johnny outside talking to someone.

  “Johnny,” she called, “you’re late. Come in and get your lunch.”

  “Just a minute, Mother,” Johnny said. “After you, my dear Alphonse.”

  “After you, my dear Alphonse,” another voice said.

  “No, after you, my dear Alphonse,” Johnny said.

  Mrs. Wilson opened the door. “Johnny,” she said, “you come in this minute and get your lunch. You can play after you’ve eaten.”

  Johnny came in after her, slowly. “Mother,” he said, “I brought Boyd home for lunch with me.”

  “Boyd?” Mrs. Wilson thought for a moment. “I don’t believe I’ve met Boyd. Bring him in, dear, since you’ve invited him. Lunch is ready.”

  “Boyd!” Johnny yelled. “Hey, Boyd, come on in!”

  “I’m coming. Just got to unload this stuff.”

  “Well, hurry, or my mother’ll be sore.”

  “Johnny, that’s not very polite to either your friend or your mother,” Mrs. Wilson said. “Come sit down, Boyd.”

  As she turned to show Boyd where to sit, she saw he was a Negro boy, smaller than Johnny but about the same age. His arms were loaded with split kindling wood. “Where’ll I put this stuff, Johnny?” he asked.

  Mrs. Wilson turned to Johnny. “Johnny,” she said, “what did you make Boyd do? What is that wood?”

  “Dead Japanese,” Johnny said mildly. “We stand them in the ground and run over them with tanks.”

  “How do you do, Mrs. Wilson?” Boyd said.

  “How do you do, Boyd? You shouldn’t let Johnny make you carry all that wood. Sit down now and eat lunch, both of you.”

  “Why shouldn’t he carry the wood, Mother? It’s his wood. We got it at his place.”

  “Johnny,” Mrs. Wilson said, “go on and eat your lunch.”

  “Sure,” Johnny said. He held out the dish of scrambled eggs to Boyd. “After you, my dear Alphonse.”

  “After you, my dear Alphonse,” Boyd said.

  “After you, my dear Alphonse,” Johnny said. They began to giggle.

  “Are you hungry, Boyd?” Mrs. Wilson asked.

  “Yes, Mrs. Wilson.”

  “Well, don’t you let Johnny stop you. He always fusses about eating, so you just see that you get a good lunch. There’s plenty of food here for you to have all you want.”

  “Thank you, Mrs. Wilson.”

  “Come on, Alphonse,” Johnny said. He pushed half the scrambled eggs on to Boyd’s plate. Boyd watched while Mrs. Wilson put a dish of stewed tomatoes beside his plate.

  “Boyd don’t eat tomatoes, do you, Boyd?” Johnny said.

  “Doesn’t eat tomatoes, Johnny. And just because you don’t like them, don’t say that about Boyd. Boyd will eat anything.”

  “Bet he won’t,” Johnny said, attacking his scrambled eggs.

  “Boyd wants to grow up and be a big strong man so he can work hard,” Mrs. Wilson said. “I’ll bet Boyd’s father eats stewed tomatoes.”

  “My father eats anything he wants to,” Boyd said.

  “So does mine,” Johnny said. “Sometimes he doesn’t eat hardly anything. He’s a little guy, though. Wouldn’t hurt a flea.”

  “Mine’s a little guy, too,” Boyd said.

  “I’ll bet he’s strong, though,” Mrs. Wilson said. She hesitated. “Does he…work?”

  “Sure,” Johnny said. “Boyd’s father works in a factory.”

  “There, you see?” Mrs. Wilson said. “And he certainly has to be strong to do that—all that lifting and carrying at a factory.”

  “Boyd’s father doesn’t have to,” Johnny said. “He’s a foreman.”

  Mrs. Wilson felt defeated. “What does your mother do, Boyd?”

  “My mother?” Boyd was surprised. “She takes care of us kids.”

  “Oh. She doesn’t work, then?”

  “Why should she?” Johnny said through a mouthful of eggs. “You don’t work.”

  “You really don’t want any stewed tomatoes, Boyd?”

  “No, thank you, Mrs. Wilson,” Boyd said.

  “No, thank you, Mrs. Wilson, no, thank you, Mrs. Wilson, no, thank you, Mrs. Wilson,” Johnny said. “Boyd’s sister’s going to work, though. She’s going to be a teacher.”

  “That’s a very fine attitude for her to have, Boyd.” Mrs. Wilson restrained an impulse to pat Boyd on the head. “I imagine you’re all very proud of her?”

  “I guess so,” Boyd said.

  “What about all your other brothers and sisters? I guess all of you want to make just as much of yourselves as you can.”

  “There’s only me and Jean,” Boyd said. “I don’t know yet what I want to be when I grow up.”

  “We’re going to be tank drivers, Boyd and me,” Johnny said. “Zoom.” Mrs. Wilson caught Boyd’s glass of milk as Johnny’s napkin ring, suddenly transformed into a tank, plowed heavily across the table.

  “Look, Johnny,” Boyd said. “Here’s a foxhole. I’m shooting at you.”

  Mrs. Wilson, with the speed born of long experience, took the gingerbread off the shelf and placed it carefully between the tank and the foxhole.

  “Now eat as much as you want to, Boyd,” she said. “I want to see you get filled up.”

  “Boyd eats a lot, but not as much as I do,” Johnny said. “I’m bigger than he is.”

  “You’re not much bigger,” Boyd said. “I can beat you running.”

  Mrs. Wilson took a deep breath. “Boyd,” she said. Both boys turned to her. “Boyd, Johnny has some suits that are a little too small for
him, and a winter coat. It’s not new, of course, but there’s lots of wear in it still. And I have a few dresses that your mother or sister could probably use. Your mother can make them over into lots of things for all of you, and I’d be very happy to give them to you. Suppose before you leave I make up a big bundle and then you and Johnny can take it over to your mother right away…” Her voice trailed off as she saw Boyd’s puzzled expression.

  “But I have plenty of clothes, thank you,” he said. “And I don’t think my mother knows how to sew very well, and anyway I guess we buy about everything we need. Thank you very much, though.”

  “We don’t have time to carry that old stuff around, Mother,” Johnny said. “We got to play tanks with the kids today.”

  Mrs. Wilson lifted the plate of gingerbread off the table as Boyd was about to take another piece. “There are many little boys like you, Boyd, who would be very grateful for the clothes someone was kind enough to give them.”

  “Boyd will take them if you want him to, Mother,” Johnny said.

  “I didn’t mean to make you mad, Mrs. Wilson,” Boyd said.

  “Don’t think I’m angry, Boyd. I’m just disappointed in you, that’s all. Now let’s not say anything more about it.”

  She began clearing the plates off the table, and Johnny took Boyd’s hand and pulled him to the door. “’Bye, Mother,” Johnny said. Boyd stood for a minute, staring at Mrs. Wilson’s back.

  “After you, my dear Alphonse,” Johnny said, holding the door open.

  “Is your mother still mad?” Mrs. Wilson heard Boyd ask in a low voice.

  “I don’t know,” Johnny said. “She’s screwy sometimes.”

  “So’s mine,” Boyd said. He hesitated. “After you, my dear Alphonse.”


  THE DAY MY SON LAURIE started kindergarten he renounced corduroy overalls with bibs and began wearing blue jeans with a belt; I watched him go off the first morning with the older girl next door, seeing clearly that an era of my life was ended, my sweet-voiced nursery-school tot replaced by a long-trousered, swaggering character who forgot to stop at the corner and wave good-bye to me.

  He came home the same way, the front door slamming open, his cap on the floor, and the voice suddenly become raucous shouting, “Isn’t anybody here?”

  At lunch he spoke insolently to his father, spilled his baby sister’s milk, and remarked that his teacher said we were not to take the name of the Lord in vain.

  “How was school today?” I asked, elaborately casual.

  “All right,” he said.

  “Did you learn anything?” his father asked.

  Laurie regarded his father coldly. “I didn’t learn nothing,” he said.

  “Anything,” I said. “Didn’t learn anything.”

  “The teacher spanked a boy, though,” Laurie said, addressing his bread and butter. “For being fresh,” he added, with his mouth full.

  “What did he do?” I asked. “Who was it?”

  Laurie thought. “It was Charles,” he said. “He was fresh. The teacher spanked him and made him stand in a corner. He was awfully fresh.”

  “What did he do?” I asked again, but Laurie slid off his chair, took a cookie, and left, while his father was still saying, “See here, young man.”

  The next day Laurie remarked at lunch, as soon as he sat down, “Well, Charles was bad again today.” He grinned enormously and said, “Today Charles hit the teacher.”

  “Good heavens,” I said, mindful of the Lord’s name, “I suppose he got spanked again?”

  “He sure did,” Laurie said. “Look up,” he said to his father.

  “What?” his father said, looking up.

  “Look down,” Laurie said. “Look at my thumb. Gee, you’re dumb.” He began to laugh insanely.

  “Why did Charles hit the teacher?” I asked quickly.

  “Because she tried to make him color with red crayons,” Laurie said. “Charles wanted to color with green crayons so he hit the teacher and she spanked him and said nobody play with Charles but everybody did.”

  The third day—it was Wednesday of the first week—Charles bounced a see-saw on to the head of a little girl and made her bleed, and the teacher made him stay inside all during recess. Thursday Charles had to stand in a corner during story-time because he kept pounding his feet on the floor. Friday Charles was deprived of blackboard privileges because he threw chalk.

  On Saturday I remarked to my husband, “Do you think kindergarten is too unsettling for Laurie? All this toughness, and bad grammar, and this Charles boy sounds like such a bad influence.”

  “It’ll be all right,” my husband said reassuringly. “Bound to be people like Charles in the world. Might as well meet them now as later.”

  On Monday Laurie came home late, full of news. “Charles,” he shouted as he came up the hill; I was waiting anxiously on the front steps. “Charles,” Laurie yelled all the way up the hill, “Charles was bad again.”

  “Come right in,” I said, as soon as he came close enough. “Lunch is waiting.”

  “You know what Charles did?” he demanded, following me through the door. “Charles yelled so in school they sent a boy in from first grade to tell the teacher she had to make Charles keep quiet, and so Charles had to stay after school. And so all the children stayed to watch him.”

  “What did he do?” I asked.

  “He just sat there,” Laurie said, climbing into his chair at the table. “Hi, Pop, y’old dust mop.”

  “Charles had to stay after school today,” I told my husband. “Everyone stayed with him.”

  “What does this Charles look like?” my husband asked Laurie. “What’s his other name?”

  “He’s bigger than me,” Laurie said. “And he doesn’t have any rubbers and he doesn’t ever wear a jacket.”

  Monday night was the first Parent-Teachers meeting, and only the fact that the baby had a cold kept me from going; I wanted passionately to meet Charles’s mother. On Tuesday Laurie remarked suddenly, “Our teacher had a friend come to see her in school today.”

  “Charles’s mother?” my husband and I asked simultaneously.

  “Naaah,” Laurie said scornfully. “It was a man who came and made us do exercises, we had to touch our toes. Look.” He climbed down from his chair and squatted down and touched his toes. “Like this,” he said. He got solemnly back into his chair and said, picking up his fork, “Charles didn’t even do exercises.”

  “That’s fine,” I said heartily. “Didn’t Charles want to do exercises?”

  “Naaah,” Laurie said. “Charles was so fresh to the teacher’s friend he wasn’t let do exercises.”

  “Fresh again?” I said.

  “He kicked the teacher’s friend,” Laurie said. “The teacher’s friend told Charles to touch his toes like I just did and Charles kicked him.”

  “What are they going to do about Charles, do you suppose?” Laurie’s father asked him.

  Laurie shrugged elaborately. “Throw him out of school, I guess,” he said.

  Wednesday and Thursday were routine; Charles yelled during story hour and hit a boy in the stomach and made him cry. On Friday Charles stayed after school again and so did all the other children.

  With the third week of kindergarten Charles was an institution in our family; the baby was being a Charles when she cried all afternoon; Laurie did a Charles when he filled his wagon full of mud and pulled it through the kitchen; even my husband, when he caught his elbow in the telephone cord and pulled telephone, ashtray, and a bowl of flowers off the table, said, after the first minute, “Looks like Charles.”

  During the third and fourth weeks it looked like a reformation in Charles; Laurie reported grimly at lunch on Thursday of the third week, “Charles was so good today the teacher gave him an apple.”

  “What?” I said, and my husband added warily, “You mean Charles?”

  “Charles,” Laurie said. “He gave the crayons around and he picked up the books afterward an
d the teacher said he was her helper.”

  “What happened?” I asked incredulously.

  “He was her helper, that’s all,” Laurie said, and shrugged.

  “Can this be true, about Charles?” I asked my husband that night. “Can something like this happen?”

  “Wait and see,” my husband said cynically. “When you’ve got a Charles to deal with, this may mean he’s only plotting.”

  He seemed to be wrong. For over a week Charles was the teacher’s helper; each day he handed things out and he picked things up; no one had to stay after school.

  “The P.T.A. meeting’s next week again,” I told my husband one evening. “I’m going to find Charles’s mother there.”

  “Ask her what happened to Charles,” my husband said. “I’d like to know.”

  “I’d like to know myself,” I said.

  On Friday of that week things were back to normal. “You know what Charles did today?” Laurie demanded at the lunch table, in a voice slightly awed. “He told a little girl to say a word and she said it and the teacher washed her mouth out with soap and Charles laughed.”

  “What word?” his father asked unwisely, and Laurie said, “I’ll have to whisper it to you, it’s so bad.” He got down off his chair and went around to his father. His father bent his head down and Laurie whispered joyfully. His father’s eyes widened.

  “Did Charles tell the little girl to say that?” he asked respectfully.

  “She said it twice,” Laurie said. “Charles told her to say it twice.”

  “What happened to Charles?” my husband asked.

  “Nothing,” Laurie said. “He was passing out the crayons.”

  Monday morning Charles abandoned the little girl and said the evil word himself three or four times, getting his mouth washed out with soap each time. He also threw chalk.

  My husband came to the door with me that evening as I set out for the P.T.A. meeting. “Invite her over for a cup of tea after the meeting,” he said. “I want to get a look at her.”

  “If only she’s there,” I said prayerfully.

  “Shell be there,” my husband said. “I don’t see how they could hold a P.T.A. meeting without Charles’s mother.”

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