Breathe, Cathy, Breathe

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“Cathy, what are all these cut up magazines, newspapers, and pieces of papers doing strewn all over our living room floor?” her husband, Brad, yelled across the room?

Still wearing khaki work clothes, Brad arrived home after working all day operating a crane at a construction site. Tired, he looked forward to lying down for his usual nap on the couch before dinner.

“Geez Cathy, there isn’t even a clear path to walk to the couch,” he added as he did his best to maneuver in between the piles of paper toward the couch.

Agitated and frustrated weren’t the words he would like to have used to express his annoyance at having to stumble through the cluttered mess on the living room floor.

Sitting on the floor in the middle of the massive pile of papers, Cathy stopped cutting and lay down the scissors she used to create the piles of papers.

Wearing no makeup, her long black hair falling over her face, beaded up perspiration breaking out across her forehead, she looked up at Brad, brushed back the hair from her eyes, and exclaimed, “Hi honey. Guess what? I decided I’m going to enter contests. It’s my new ‘thing’. I’ve been searching through magazines, newspapers, and the internet for contest entry forms.”

Barefoot wearing an oversized white tee shirt that read ‘Save the whales’, she continued, “When I find a contest in a magazine or a newspaper, I cut it out, fill it in, and mail it. If I find one on the internet, I print it and do the same thing.”

Doing his best to hide his exasperation, Brad completed the paper obstacle course to the couch. He plopped his 245 pound body down and leaned back against the back of the couch. Bowed in the middle with a time formed indention the shape of Brad’s body, the sagging threadbare red velour couch had seen better days.

With his arms wrapped across his chest, he looked over at Cathy still sitting on the floor and expelled a sigh. With his head cocked to one side, he glared at her. “Cathy, you’re off on another crazy project again. Do you have any idea what the odds are of you winning one of those contests?”

In his mind he thought, “My dingbat wife is off on another crazy escapade.”

She looked over at him and childlike, responded. “Yes, I’ve read all about it, but I’ve got to give this a try. I’m sure I’m going to win big this time, Brad. I just know I’m going to win the prize I’ve always dreamt I would win. I bought a box of envelopes and stamps to mail in my entries. I talked to the man at the newspaper stand and he agreed to sell me his old magazines and newspapers for a nickel each.”

Brad sighed again. “Well what if all you win is junk you don’t need and will never use like radios or spa coupons, or a trip to Tahiti? In addition, if you’re buying outdated magazines and newspapers, most of the contests will have expired.”

He sucked in more air, let it out and went on, “Do you remember the time you got it in your head to sell old CD’s and DVD’s as coasters. You bought several hundred out-of-date CD’s from Staples. Then you painted multi-colored psychedelic glowing paint swirls on them and tried to sell them on the internet and to your friends as coasters. No one wanted them. You lost money and we still have three boxes of the things sitting in the attic. Should I go on about the other hair brain schemes you’ve come up with? This has got to stop, Cathy. Why don’t you get a job even if it’s volunteering for a charity? That would keep you busy.”

“For heaven’s sake, Brad. Don’t be so negative. I’ve already planned for those contingencies. I can sell the items on the internet and have a garage sale. There are many internet sites where I can list things for sale. I can list my garage sale too. It doesn’t cost much for the envelopes or the stamps. You’ll see.” She grinned as she picked up the scissors and went back to cutting out entry forms.

“I give up.” Brad sighed as he brought his legs up so his six foot four body would fit on the couch. He turned to face the back of the couch; his arms still crossed over his chest.

More exasperated than ever, he muttered, “I can see you’re dead set on doing this. I’m beat. It’s been a long hard day. I’m going to take a nap. Try to be as quiet as possible when you cut out the entry forms or better yet, how about fixing dinner?”

Not long after, the only sound in the room were Brad’s snores and Cathy’s scissors snipping away at an entry form in a magazine.

~ * ~

Several months later, Brad came home from work and opened the front door. Boxes piled one on top of another containing unknown items greeted him. Once he opened the door far enough to allow him to step inside, he wangled his way through another obstacle course to get to the couch. Each day for the past two weeks, more boxes appeared, but Cathy had not opened or disposed of any of them.

“Cathy.” He yelled as loud as he could.

Cathy rushed in from the kitchen all atwitter. “Brad, honey. I’m so glad you’re home. Isn’t this exciting?” She exclaimed in her high-pitched voice. Giddy with excitement, her thin five foot two body shook.

Brad looked around. He saw nothing but boxes with unknown content. Exasperated, not knowing what she was excited about, with a sarcastic tone, he asked her, “Isn’t what exciting? What are you talking about, Cathy? And what is this obstacle course of boxes doing in my living room? I thought you said you were going to sell these on the internet or have a garage sale. When?”

She swept her right arm around the room, her right hand palm up as if she were performing a demonstration of some sort leaving Brad more confused than ever.

As she danced in and out of the stacks of boxes, she said, “Look. These are all things I’ve won so far with the contests I entered. Isn’t it great?”

“You won all this junk?,” Brad asked looking aghast not believing what he just heard.

Still wide-eyed with excitement, Cathy replied, “Well I didn’t exactly win all of it. I had to buy some stuff to get the entry form off the boxes like cereal and other stuff, but we’ll use it. It won’t be a total loss. You’ll see.”

Rolling his eyes, Brad looked up at the ceiling; his hands clasped in a prayer position. He whispered, “Oh Lord. What have I done to deserve this?”

Ignoring Brad, Cathy went on, “And there are more in the garage. Now don’t be mad, honey, right now there isn’t enough room in the garage for your truck. But, this is only temporary. It’s just until I sell everything online or in a garage sale.”

He turned to Cathy, “Are you telling me I can’t even park my truck in the garage? It isn’t bad enough that I can’t even get to the couch anymore. Thank god I can at least get to my bed.” He started walking to the bedroom to take his late afternoon nap.

Cathy’s face turned red. She looked down at the floor, “Uh well, I meant to mention that too. You can get to the bed; you just can’t get in the closet. But don’t worry, honey, I laid all our clothes on the couch. It’s only temporary, just until…”

“Yeah. Yeah. I know,” he said as he interrupted her.

Mimicking her, he continued, “Just until you sell them online or in a garage sale.” He turned toward the bedroom.

Cathy called after him, “Honey, you know I’ve always wanted to win a contest. Have faith.”

He stopped and turned to face her. “Well now that you’ve won, why do you keep entering?”

“Because silly, I haven’t won the prize of my dreams yet.”

Indulging her and out of curiosity, Brad asked, “The prize of your dreams? I didn’t know you had a specific prize goal. What is it?”

Giggling, she responded as she continued whirling around the boxes, “You’ll see when I win it. I don’t want to spoil the surprise.”

Too tired to argue anymore, he continued into the bedroom, shoved aside several of the boxes, laid down and fell sound asleep.

Cathy danced into the kitchen to finish making dinner.

~ * ~

At work the next day, Brad’s friend Jack looked at Brad as he dragged himself into the office for his assignment.

“Man Brad, you look like something the cat dragged in. What happened to you? Your old lady still driving you crazy with her new project?”

“Yeah. Every day for the last few weeks, boxes of crap she won in those contests arrive. I can’t even park my truck in the garage or get into my closet or nap on the couch anymore. She has filled the inside of the house with these boxes of junk. But she swears she can sell it all on the internet or in a garage sale. So far, she hasn’t sold one thing. I tell you Jack, I don’t think I can take much more. I love her, but she is such a dingbat. I can’t get through to her. I can’t make her understand the financial and other consequences of her foolishness like the boxes squeezing us out of our house. She has some fantasy about winning ‘the prize of her dreams’, as she put it.”

Deep in thought, Jack stood for a minute, his left arm across his waist, his right elbow resting on his left arm and his hand on his mouth. As he looked up at nothing, he tapped his mouth with his forefinger. Suddenly he lowered his hands to his hips and looked at Brad.

“Hey, Brad. I have an idea. You know that casino across town?”

“Uh, yeah. What about it?” responded Brad.

“They have slot machines. Take Cathy to the casino, give her say oh maybe fifty bucks and tell her she has to play the slot machines. Tell her if she wins anything at the slot machines, she could go on with her schemes; if she loses, she has to stop. You know the odds of her winning on a slot machine are slim to none if you only give her fifty dollars in quarters. What do you say?”

Brad stood staring at Jack as though Jack had suggested he allow Cathy to gamble away his last penny. He looked at Jack as if he wanted to say, “Jack, are you nuts?”

After a few minutes during which he stood riveted to the floor thinking, he turned his head and looked over at Jack. “You know, Jack. That might work. At first I thought you were nuts, but yeah, that idea might work at that. I’ll try it this weekend. Thanks.”

As Brad turned and began to walk toward the door, he stopped and turned around, “Oh no. Wait a minute, Jack. What if she wins even a dollar or less and loses all of the fifty dollars; I’m still stuck with these stupid costly projects.”

Jack stared at Brad while he paused in thought. “Good point. Give her a limit. I mean tell her that at the end of the evening, she has to come home with fifty dollars plus what she won even if it’s only a quarter over the fifty. That’s almost impossible on a slot machine. Today’s Friday. It’s the weekend. Why not take her there either tonight or tomorrow night?”

“Yeah. I like that. To stop all these projects that cost me money and drive me nuts, it would be worth losing fifty dollars. Thanks. I’ll present this idea to Cathy when I get home. I’ll let you know how it turns out on Monday.”

Brad left for home. During the drive home, he dreaded what he knew would confront him when he opened the front door. However, he also felt excited at the possibility that Jack’s idea might work and rid him of these projects and schemes forever.

~ * ~

When Brad arrived home that evening, he made his way through the maze of boxes to the kitchen where Cathy sat cutting out more contest forms. Since she ran out of room on the living room floor, she moved her project to the kitchen table.

She looked up when she saw him. “Oh hi, honey.” She looked at the clock.

“Oh my gosh. I didn’t realize how late it was. I need to start dinner.”

After dinner while they still sat at the kitchen table, Brad looked across at Cathy.

“Honey, I have a great idea. We’ve been cooped up so long in this house with all of these boxes of stuff, we need to get out. How about we go to the casino tomorrow night and try our hand at the slot machines?”

Her face a total blank, she asked, “What’s a casino and what is a slot machine?”

Brad let out a sigh then went on to explain in simple terms what a casino was and all about slot machines. He only mentioned penny, nickel, and quarter slot machines. He told her the easiest slot machines to win money on were the quarter slot machines.

He finished explaining everything he wanted her to know including his rules that if she lost everything she had to stop with her projects.

The idea excited Cathy. Her large brown eyes opened wide. She clapped her hands. “Can we go tonight?”

Brad smiled, happy with himself for having pulled this off… so far. “Sure honey.”

Several hours later, they were on the road to the casino. Brad made a quick stop at an ATM to withdraw fifty dollars, which he would turn into quarters at the casino.

Cathy wasn’t the only one excited. The end to all of Cathy’s projects excited Brad.

~ * ~

Music blared through the ceiling speakers, melodic noises sounded as the tumblers in the slot machines turned and dropped. The ding, ding, ding whenever someone hit the jackpot followed by the clinking sound of coins dropping into a tray echoed throughout the casino followed by the loud excited utterances of those who won.

The emotional anticipation of people hoping to hit it big and the disappointment of those who lost all they came with charged the atmosphere.

“Boy it sure is noisy in here,” Cathy exclaimed as they entered. “Is it always like this?”

“Yep. These slot machines make a lot of noise. It adds to the excitement,” Brad responded as he walked over to the change window and exchanged his fifty dollars for five rolls of quarters.

He left the window and steered Cathy toward a row of quarter slot machines. She meandered down several aisles until she found the machine she wanted and sat down.

“Okay. What do I do now?”

Brad explained what to do, what would happen when she pulled the handle down and what it took to win. He broke open one of the rolls of quarters and handed them to Cathy. He showed her how to put the quarters in the slots and pull the handle down.

The tumblers began to spin. Clunk, clunk, clunk, clunk, clunk. A lemon, a cherry, a cherry, a lemon, and a grape.

“Do I win anything,? Cathy asked her eyes wide.

Secretly happy, Brad responded, “No honey, I’m sorry. Maybe next time.”

This procedure continued until all Cathy had left were five dollars in quarters.

Getting tired of winning one or two times and losing many times, Brad said, “Why don’t you put all of those in the machine this time? You’ll win more money.”

Bored with this whole thing and tired, Cathy said, “Well okay.” She put all twenty quarters into the slot machine and pulled the handle.

The tumblers began to spin. Clunk, clunk, clunk, clunk, clunk. A cherry, a cherry, a cherry, a cherry, and another cherry. Bells and sirens went off and lights flashed. People came running.

Brad couldn’t believe what he saw. The lights in the center of the machine kept blinking $50,000.

Cathy started to gulp and gasp for air. “Oh my God. I can’t breathe.”

“Breathe, Cathy, Breathe.” Brad hollered at her.

“Brad. At last, I’ve won the prize of my dreams. Now I can begin a new project.”

Cathy looked around. “Brad, Brad? Where did you go?”

A man standing near Cathy leaned over and said, “Excuse me lady, isn’t that your husband passed out on the floor?”


Reedsy Prompt provided the inspiration (prompt) for this short story submitted August 23, 2019: “Write a story about someone who wins a contest and the prize of their dreams.”


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Author: GSKWAuthor

Semi-retired. Worked most of my adult life as a secretary, executive assistant & in middle management. In 1998 I formed a secretarial service business at home specializing in the transcription of manuscripts, formatting for print, and eBook publication then uploading to POD publishers. Through ads and a website (no longer active) the business attracted customers from all over the U.S. In 2016, I phased out my business. I now spend the remainder of my "spare time" writing cozy mystery/suspense/thrillers. I hope to publish my first novel titled "Susan's Stalkers - Double The Fear" before the end of 2023. The synopsis is in this site. Check it out.

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