Nance Knauer

Otter just about drove off the mountain when he heard the last number of the Powerball. He double-clutched and hit high gear on a curve, felt the tail end of the trailer swing out into the far lane, and turned the big wheel all the way to the right. The load shifted and pulled the rig back to the inside, and the cab windows shook as the shoulder gravel spun out against the guardrail. The brakes smoked for twenty minutes after he stopped. His eyes felt too big for his head as he collapsed spread-eagled in the hawk weed and ditch daisies, knowing that if he raised his head to look, the lake would still lie below, and the gulls would be screaming above Elsie’s Fish Shack.

The June sky was free of clutter and Otter tried to find where the blue washed to white as he turned his head toward the sun. A nerve in his hand fired and his thumb jerked in the dust like a hoe-cut worm. He thought about his dog, Jack, and about the donuts on the dash and then he remembered a song he never heard on the radio anymore, and he started to cry. He spluttered great, wet, heaving sobs and a woman in a pickup truck stopped and rolled down her window to ask if he needed help. Otter sniffed and ran his palm over his face, then sat up and shook his head. The woman said OK, if you’re sure, and he nodded and waved her on.

Waiting until she rounded the curve, Otter stood and cleared his throat. He stepped over the ditch to the pile of fallen rocks beside the cliff and studied the veins of red ore that ran across the mountain's face. Reflected warmth rose around him like a breath as he searched for the flat pieces, and he piled them, one by one, on top of a level boulder, until he formed a crude figure about three feet tall. He let his hands rest on the capstone before he pulled the winning ticket out of his back pocket and worked it between the rocks. He looked back once, as he was climbing into the truck cab, and shook his head. After he made his drop later that night, he stopped at the Holiday store and bought a new hat that said “I’d Rather Be Fishing” on the front, and an extra box of donuts.