Not so dark – have a smile.

I Will!

I’m not the oldest, I’m not the baby of the family, the third oldest, the second youngest. So what does that tell you? Not much, I guess.

My name is Charlie Nutz, Charlie after my grandfather, and Nutz, well, we are nuts. We should have a longer surname, but my grandfather changed it. A Jewish name was not helpful when the war started.

We now live in north London. A foreign-sounding name is not a problem here. The other kids at school thought our surname was great fun, and they made my life a misery. They even Christened me Hazel. Not very original, but I had to put up with it. Christened was not the correct term, but what were we to know?

Working with my head down, few friends, and no girlfriends, I made it to university. The first person in my family to do so and the only one who had tried.

A degree wasn’t to be. Sadly, my mother was ill, and I had to drop out. Somebody had to care for her; unfortunately, my siblings were not up to it. The only other female, my little sister, offered to help, but she forgot what she was doing, the jobs got half-finished, and she returned to daytime tv.

My dad, you ask? He used to drink before my mum got ill; he drinks even more now. He has had no luck in his life. He could easily be a professional footballer but was too small. He attempted managerial work. They said, ‘You have to start at the bottom.’ My dad was too clever for that, so he joined the dole queue.

Gerry, the eldest, got sacked unfairly from his warehouse job. He was a brilliant fork-truck driver, the best; everybody said so. A girl from the office had her eyes on him. He was not interested; it upset her. So, she trumped up a charge; she had the nerve to say he touched her inappropriately! Who could believe that of my big brother? Now he keeps the sofa warm, waiting for the next opportunity. Mind you; he has put a fair bit of weight on in the last year.

The brains of the family, Alex, the second oldest, is an absolute whizz at maths. He worked it out that if you collected discarded lottery tickets from the bins near the newsagents, “you will for sure” definitely bound to find a winner. That didn’t work quite as well as he imagined, but he is excellent at solving problems. He then thought of his plan that bit further; he got to know a natural beauty who worked for the company that runs the lottery.

Alex’s new lady love, Julie, was blonde and wobbled in all the right places. I had never seen him with such a stunner. He has had his share of women, but never like Julie. They got along so well too. She lapped up his scheme and was willing to go along with it. She even had ideas that made it more workable.

They bought some of the latest tickets and even hunted down some old ones. At first, I didn’t understand why they wanted old ones until they explained people thought the tickets were out of date when they lasted six months. Alex and Julie told “out-of-date” ticket owners they were collecting our gran’s lucky numbers and wanted them to be cremated with her. As a kind of lucky send-off, people lapped it up. Odd, as she had died before any of us had been born. Anyway, people believed them, sold or gave them the tickets.

Then they worked hard, heads together in front of the living room’s lamp. I was desperate to see what they were up to. Finally, after a few nights, they proudly showed me the result of all their graft.

A battered old lottery ticket.

‘What is that supposed to be? A miniature Banksy work of art?’

‘That’s an idea!’ said my brother.

He was thinking ahead as usual.

Julie explained, ‘This is a winner from three months ago. But I know they have not claimed the winning number. So, we made our own. Good, isn’t it?’

The following day Alex couldn’t wait for nine o’clock when the claims office opened.

‘Aren’t you going to wait for Julie?’ I asked.

‘No, she doesn’t want to be involved as she works in the office. Besides, I borrowed five grand down the pub, which I gave to her last night, an early bonus for her. So when the cheque clears, we are going on holiday. Great, eh? I might even propose to her on some romantic beach. What do you think?’

‘She’s prettier and brighter than your normal girlfriends, that’s for sure,’ I said.

‘And your idea of faking a Banksy was brilliant. So we do that next.’

‘I was only joking.’

‘That’s why you are mum’s carer, always joking while I’m joining the jet-set.’

I couldn’t argue.

He made his call. He stated his name, his address and the winning number.

An hour later, there was a rap at the front door. They knocked me roughly aside. Four uniformed officers marched through our hall, plus a dour-looking Julie was with them.

‘Sorry guys, it’s my job to catch cheats.’

Mum said she wanted to be in court to hear the conniving bitch and how she set up her son. I didn’t have the heart to argue with her. My father said he would go too, but we all know he won’t. The other two had something on tv they didn’t want to miss.

The date of the trial arrived, mum, and I set off in good time.

‘Hi Alex,’ mum shouted and waved. A severe man told her to be quiet, ‘The judge is in court.’

As soon as the trial started, so did my mum’s coughing. Finally, after a full minute, the judge spoke, ‘If you can’t control your hacking, please step outside.’

I ushered mum out. Her coughing fit got worse. Somebody fetched medical help, and they pushed me out of the way. Half a minute later, they were shaking their heads and muttering condolences to me. The ambulance arrived and took mum and me to the hospital.

Maybe now was the time to finish that degree? Everything will be fine.


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