Read an Excerpt
The following excerpt is from Chapter 1.
On the afternoon of November 25, a woman named JoLayne Lucks drove to the Grab N'Go minimart in Grange, Florida, and purchased spearmint Certs, unwaxed dental floss and one ticket for the state Lotto.
JoLayne Lucks played the same numbers she'd played every Saturday for five years: 17-19-22-24-27-30.
The significance of her Lotto numbers was this: each represented an age at which she had jettisoned a burdensome man. At 17 it was Rick the Pontiac mechanic. At 19 it was Rick's brother, Robert. At 22 it was a stockbroker named Colavito, twice JoLayne's age, who'd delivered on none of his promises. At 24 it was a policeman, another Robert, who got in trouble for fixing traffic tickets in exchange for sex. At 27 it was Neal the chiropractor, a well-meaning but unbearable codependent.
And at 30 JoLayne dumped Lawrence, a lawyer, her one and only husband. Lawrence had been notified of his disbarment exactly one week after he and JoLayne were married, but she stuck with him for almost a year. JoLayne was fond of Lawrence and wanted to believe his earnest denials regarding the multiple fraud convictions that precipitated his trouble with the Florida Bar. While appealing his case, Lawrence took a job as a toll taker on the Beeline Expressway, a plucky career realignment that nearly won JoLayne's heart. Then one night he was caught making off with a thirty-pound sack of loose change, mostly quarters and dimes. Before he could post bail, JoLayne packed up most of his belongings, including his expensive Hermes neckties, and gave them to the Salvation Army. Then she filed for divorce.
Five years later she was still single and unattached when, to her vast amusement, she won the Florida Lotto. She happened to be sitting with a plate of turkey leftovers in front of the television at 11 p.m., when the winning numbers were announced.
JoLayne Lucks didn't faint, shriek or dance wildly around the house. She smiled, though, thinking of the six discarded men from her past life; thinking how, in spite of themselves, they'd finally amounted to something. Twenty-eight million dollars, to be precise.
One hour earlier and almost three hundred miles away, a candy-red Dodge Ram pulled into a convenience store in Florida City. Two men got out of the truck: Bodean Gazzer, known locally as Bode, and his companion Chub, who claimed to have no last name. Although they parked in a handicapped-only zone, neither man was physically disabled in any way.
Bode Gazzer was five feet six and had never forgiven his parents for it. He wore three-inch snakeskin shitkickers and walked with a swagger that suggested not brawn so much as hemorrhoidal tribulation. Chub was a beer-gutted six two, moist-eyed, ponytailed and unshaven. He carried a loaded gun at all times and was Bode Gazzer's best and only friend.
They had known each other two months. Bode Gazzer had gone to Chub to buy a counterfeit handicapped sticker that would get him the choicest parking spot at Probation & Parole, or any of the other state offices where his attendance was occasionally required.
Like its mangy tenant, Chub's house trailer emitted a damp fungal reek. Chub had just printed a new batch of the fake emblems, which he laconically fanned like a poker deck on the kitchen counter. The workmanship (in sharp contrast to the surroundings) was impeccable--the universal wheelchair symbol set crisply against a navy-blue background. No traffic cop in the world would question it.
Chub had asked Bode Gazzer what type he wanted--a bumper insignia, a tag for the rearview or a dashboard placard. Bode said a simple window tag would be fine.
"Two hunnert bucks," said Chub, scratching his scalp with a salad fork.
"I'm a little short on cash. You like lobster?"
So they'd worked out a trade--the bogus disabled-parking permit in exchange for ten pounds of fresh Florida lobster, which Bode Gazzer had stolen from a trapline off Key Largo. It was inevitable that the poacher and the counterfeiter would bond, sharing as they did a blanket contempt for government, taxes, homosexuals, immigrants, minorities, gun laws, assertive women and honest work.
Chub never thought of himself as having a political agenda until he met Bode Gazzer, who helped organize Chub's multitude of hatreds into a single venomous philosophy. Chub believed Bode Gazzer was the smartest person he'd ever met, and was flattered when his new pal suggested they form a militia.
"You mean like what blowed up that courthouse in Nebraska?"
"Oklahoma," Bode Gazzer said sharply, "and that was the government did it, to frame those two white boys. No, I'm talking 'bout a militia. Armed, disciplined and well-regulated. Like it says in the Second Amendment."
Chub scratched a chigger bite on his neck. "Reg'lated by who, if I might ast?"
"By you, me, Smith and Wesson."
"And that's allowed?"
"Says right in the motherfuckin' Constitution."
"OK then," said Chub.
Bode Gazzer had gone on to explain how the United States of America was about to be taken over by a New World Tribunal, armed by foreign-speaking NATO troops who were massing across the Mexican border and also at secret locations in the Bahamas.
Chub glanced warily toward the horizon. "The Bahamas?" He and Bode were in Bode's cousin's nineteen-foot outboard, robbing traps off Rodriguez Key.
Bode Gazzer said: "There's seven hundred islands in the Bahamas, my friend, and most are uninhabited."
Chub got the message. "Jesus Willy Christ," he said, and began pulling the lobster pots with heightened urgency.
To run a proper militia would be expensive, and neither Chub nor Bode Gazzer had any money; Bode's net worth was tied up in the new Dodge truck, Chub's in his illegal printshop and arsenal. So they began playing the state lottery, which Bode asserted was the only decent generous thing the government of Florida had ever done for its people.
Every Saturday night, wherever they happened to be, the two men would pull into the nearest convenience store, park brazenly in the blue handicapped zone, march inside and purchase five Lotto tickets. They played no special numbers; often they were drinking, so it was easier to use the Quick Pick, letting the computer do the brainwork.
On the night of November 25, Bode Gazzer and Chub bought their five lottery tickets and three six-packs of beer at the Florida City 7-Eleven. They were nowhere near a television an hour later, when the winning numbers were announced.
Instead they were parked along a dirt road on a tree farm, a few miles from the Turkey Point nuclear reactor. Bode Gazzer was sitting on the hood of the Dodge pickup, aiming one of Chub's Ruger assault rifles at a U.S. government mailbox they'd stolen from a street corner in Homestead. An act of revolutionary protest, Bode had said, like the Boston Tea Party.
The mailbox was centered in the headlight beams of the truck. Bode and Chub took turns with the Ruger until they were out of ammo and Budweisers. Then they sorted through the mail, hoping for loose cash or personal checks, but all they found was junk. Afterwards they fell asleep in the flatbed. Shortly after dawn they were rousted by two large Hispanics, undoubtedly the foremen of the tree farm, who swiped the Ruger and chased them off the property.
It was some time later, after returning to Chub's trailer, that they learned of their extraordinary good fortune. Bode Gazzer was on the toilet, Chub was stretched on the convertible sofa in front of the TV. A pretty blond newscaster gave out the previous night's winning Lotto numbers, which Chub scribbled on the back of his latest eviction notice.
Moments later, when Bode heard the shouting, he came lurching from the bathroom with his jeans and boxer shorts bunched at his knees. Chub was waving the ticket, hopping and whooping like he was on fire.
Bodean Gazzer said: "You're shittin' me."
"We won it, man! We won!"
Bode lunged for the ticket, but Chub held it out of reach.
"Give it here!" Bode demanded, swiping at air, his genitals flopping ludicrously.
Chub laughed. "Pull up your pants, for Christ's sake." He handed the ticket to Bode, who recited the numbers out loud.
"You're sure?" he kept asking.
"I wrote 'em down, Bode. Yeah, I'm sure."
"My God. My God. Twenty-eight million dollars."
"But here's what else: They's two winning tickets is what the news said."
Bode Gazzer's eyes puckered into a hard squint. "The hell you say!"
"Two tickets won. Which is still, what, fourteen million 'tween us. You believe it?"
Bode's tongue, lumpy and blotched as a toad, probed at the corners of his mouth. He looked to be working up a spit. "Who's got the other one? The other goddamn ticket."
"TV didn't say."
"How can we find out?"
Chub said, "Christ, who gives a shit. Long as we get fourteen million, I don't care if Jesse Fucking Jackson's got the other ticket."
Now Bode Gazzer's stubbled cheeks began to twitch. He fingered the Lotto coupon and said: "There must be a way to find out. Don't you think? Find out who's this shitweasel with the other ticket. There's gotta be a way."
"Why?" Chub asked, but it was awhile before he got an answer.
Sunday morning, Tom Krome refused to go to church. The woman who'd slept with him the night before--Katie was her name; strawberry blond, freckles on her shoulders--said they should go and seek forgiveness for what they had done.
"Which part?" asked Tom Krome.
"You know darn well."
Krome covered his face with a pillow. Katie kept talking, putting on her panty hose.
She said, "I'm sorry, Tommy, it's the way I'm made. It's time you should know."
"You think it's wrong?"
He peeped out from beneath the pillow. "You think we did something wrong?"
"No. But God might not agree."
"So it's precautionary, this church visit."
Now Katie was at the mirror, fixing her hair in a bun. "Are you coming or not? How do I look?"
"Chaste," said Tom Krome.
The phone rang.
"Chased? No, sweetheart, that was last night. Get the telephone, please."
Katie put on her high heels, balancing storklike on elegant slender legs. "You honestly won't go? To church, Tom, I can't believe it."
"Yeah, I'm one heathen bastard." Krome picked up the phone.
She waited, arms folded, at the bedroom door.
Krome covered the receiver and said, "Sinclair."
"On a Sunday morning?"
"I'm afraid so." Krome tried to sound disappointed but he was thinking: There isa God.