Fortune

By JULIE SMITH | Published: February 11, 2010

Her eyes fluttered open and she squeezed them shut. Her heart started pumping as thoughts of Spider Solitaire jig-sawed together in her head. Lifting herself to a sitting position she looked at the clock. Seven thirty!

“Damn alarm.” Of course it wasn’t the alarm’s fault…she simply forgot to set it. And that meant no time to play Spider Solitaire, or as she called it, ‘Fortune’, before work this morning. She had been up until 3:00 AM playing and had finally cracked the secret. A ‘yes’ answer was 11% or better out of 10 games in the 'statistics' pull-down menu. A ‘no’ was 10% or under. She couldn't stop now; she'd just sit down for a minute to ask the cards if she should call in sick . The computer grinded slowly to a start; she clicked on the icon and cleared the statistics. Should I call in sick? Her hand shook as the mouse clicked, moving rapidly from side to side. Yes! Fourteen percent. A wave of relief tumbled off her shoulders.

“This is Angela, Cheri,” she said in a croaky voice.” I’m not feeling well – a headache, fever and chills, and I think it’s viral,” the lie slid out as smooth as Jello.

Pause

“Well, Cheri, I'll come in if you need me, but, well...have to go to the doctor to see if it's contagious.”

‘Contagious’ – the magic word. “No, no, of course not. Yes, plenty of liquids. Thanks Cheri.”

She needed money; her credit card was maxed-out. She nervously looked at a large pile of unopend bags containing clothes she bought last week...and her trip to Fiji? And how was she going to pay for all the shoes? I'll ask Fortune. Should I bet on the horses today? Five minutes later she received her answer – yes. Her next question was what race? She looked at her desk calendar and today was the 15th –one and five make six. Should I bet on Race 6? Fortune told her, twelve per cent - yes. She wiped the perspiration off her hands onto her thighs, rubbed her nose and dipped her cigarette butt in a half-full coffee cup from the day before. She had $400 in her on-line savings and could transfer it into her betting account in about two minutes. Should I bet $400 for a win in Race 6? She won twice in 10 games and scored a whopping 28 %. She looked around for another clue as to what horse to bet on. Nothing. Her birthday was September 22, 1979. Nine, plus 22 = 31. Three plus one=4. Nineteen seventy nine added up equals 26, plus the four =30. The magic number is 3. She transferred the money from the bank and made her bet. Race 6, horse 3 for a win, for $400. She placed the bet and looked at the clock...four hours until the race started.

Angela hated to wait. The only way to sooth her impatience was to play Fortune, entering a zone where time and waiting disappeared. She'd often be in the 'zone' for hours and surprised that half-a-day had flittered by. Her eyes felt dry, her muscles ached and her skin itched... she felt the grunge on her teeth and gums. Stretching her back, she walked into the bathroom and looked at her reflection, opening her mouth, widening her eyes. A quick brush and eye drops; a cup of coffee and a few more games of Fortune wouldn't go astray before the race, she thought.

At 1:55 she was in front of the television watching the horses enter the barrier. Horse 3 was a black gelding with blinkers. He was beautiful. I’m on a winner!

“They’re off and running!” said the announcer. The excitement was an adrenalin rush she loved. But because she bet all the money she had, Angela didn’t watch the race and as the horses galloped around the course; she put her head in a pillow, humming very loudly. Unable to control her curiosity, she peeked at the screen and watched them cross the finish line.

“Charlie’s Angel, first over the line by a length! And second…” She saw a smile on the winning jockey’s face as he waved his whip in the air. Number 3 was staring back at her from the saddle blanket. After whooping and dancing, she waited for the pay-out: ten-to-one, $4,000. "Oh dear God."

Angela didn’t go to work for the rest of the week because Fortune kept delivering nicely. Her total winnings reached $76,000 and God bless Fortune! She had the goose who lays the golden eggs.

On Monday, her first day back at work, after recovering from the dreaded virus, she handed-in her resignation. She had fine-tuned Fortune and it hadn’t let her down, not once. While she diddled that long week, her temper often flared, unprovoked; she was always thinkng of the money she was loosing while training a young guy how to use Excel. She couldn’t wait to get back to the goose - to work for herself, in her home, by herself, without any restraints.

Saturday, her first 'business' day after retirement, started with all wins including a trifecta. For the following four weeks, she bet everyday except Sunday (The Lord's Day) and was careful not to wager more than ten per cent of her previous day's profits. After one month of counting daily receipts she patted her computer; Fortune had made her $183,000. As with any 'overnight' successful venture, unforseen bureaucracies tapped on happy shoulders like prey, looking for a meal...taxes, fincancial planning, bookeeping, creating trusts and companies…the problems grew exponentially. Her social life abrubtly ended. Friends stopped calling but that didn’t matter because she didn’t have time for them; she was a winner and getting rich. During her mountainous success, she dropped 15 pounds and her apartment looked like a shelter for the homeless. It smelled of dirty dishes, unemptied garbage bags, and cigarette smoke intermingled with a sour body odour, but that was okay because she could outsource cleaners.

Friday was a good day at the track; not as good as Saturday - her gold day - racing at it's peak, but she thought she could pull in $5,000 easy. It was an unusually hot and humid afternoon with rumblings of thunder, accompanied by flashes of lightening. Race 7 was about to start. She turned on the television just as the horses were approaching the barrier when a huge CRACK shook the house. The television, computer, lights - everthing died. Oh shit. Her bet was already in, so that was good. But she'd miss her rush and the excitement. She waited until the electricity came back on while anxiously looking at a black screen. Twenty minutes later the television suddenly blared, the microwave tinged back to life, and the refrigerator belched but the computer had flatlined. She flicked buttons and checked cables but it was dead, in heaven, didn’t work, didn’t spark, didn’t do didly-squat. She looked at her watch; fifteen minutes to five. Gotta buy a new one and quick-smart.

If Sir Hugh Beaver, creator of The Guinness Book of World Records, was aware of Angela's journey, he might have added another catagory in his book. She was in the car, had driven down to the mall and was manhandling a new Toshiba laptop into the passenger seat of her car, all in ten minutes – a record for sure. Since she never bet on Sunday, she used the next day to dowload back-up disks, programs and personal files. Fortune was there and looking good with new deck colors.

Monday, like everyday, was a workday and money-maker which started at 9:00...always after a few hours play at Fortune. A daunting problem was growing. She couldn’t get above 10 % with her new laptop. With over $800,000 in her bank account, she didn't worry about a bit of loose change to test her Fortune statistics on the horses. The first race was a disaster; the second ditto, damn bad, and not working. Gone was the goosie with the eggies. There must be another percentage I can work out on the statistics.

Four days and nights later she thought she had the solution. But she paid dearly for her research. Redder eyes, spreading rashes, hair loss, shakes combined with weight loss, left her looking like an addict in full swing. She knew she needed medical attention and after making an appoinment, drove to her doctor. He prodded and poked, hammered her knees, took her blood pressure, getting samples of her rash, and urine plus a couple of vials of blood. After all the results were in she found out she had Lupus Disease - one month of bed rest - a good diet then regular excercise plus medication - lots of it. Angela's mother and only friend told her Lupis ran in the family. Her mother's sister, Aunt Thelma, died 15 years ago with Lupis complications. Angela's mother thought her mother died from it. Angela went into a state of shock a put a sheet over the computer like a veil of death.

Desperate, and without an alternative plan, they decided to plea with God. They went to St. Annes Church and prayed . Angela wept while her mother, trying to keep up the flood of tears, daubed Angela's cheeks with the necessary material needed to soak up the tears. "I'll never be the same," she sniffled and pity tears dropped from her face into her lap. Her mother hugged her and kept silent. There were no words to help.

For three months Angela experienced the horrid lows - black dogs were running rabid. First denial, then anger was followed with a bargaining with God (she would stop betting and give her money to the poor; please cure her!). Then 'the black dog' of depression clawed it's ugly paws into her gut. Weeks later she had finally accepted her future of having a disease without a cure; a life of an invalid dependent on drugs.

Part of her therapy was relaxation to relieve stress. She used visualization...but instead of visualizing something she wanted to become, like a healthy, happy soul, it was Fortune playing in her head. During meditation, racing horses interupted her serenity. She stopped praying, shook the sheet covering the computer and placed it tenderly back over. The sheet wasn't quite able to hide her fond memories of making money and the adrenalin rush.

Weeks turned into months and symptoms seemed to steady out.... they never got worse or better. Then gradually the rash started to shrink, the pain in her muscles lessened and there was a ray of hope, maybe? She was tested again and again, and thoughts of suicide always floated just outside reality.

At her next appointment, the doctor grinned at her. "You are making a strong come-back. Just do whatever you are doing, continue the medication and you might, and let me add might get back your normal life."

Angela drove home from the doctors with hope. Might live my normal life. She looked at the sheet covering the computer, whipped it off and thought...just one game of Fortune. Three hours later she placed a bet... Race 7 started in 30 minutes.



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