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Three Quarters Out!
By Debra (DM) Kraft   

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having faith in fate

Three Quarters Out
by DM Kraft
Previously published here, and in 2006 in the eZine "Long Story Short"   
Some people point then shoot.  The target is in clear site, and they simply go for it.  Ready, aim and fire.  As for me, I fire first.

I have tried the traditional method.  Really, I have.  But no matter how ready I think I am, whenever I take aim, either I stumble or the target moves.  In the end I wind up with a backside full of mud and grass stains, and a mouthful of wounded pride.  Hence the fire first strategy I’ve adopted to guide me along this dusty road of life.

This is not an approach I would recommend to anyone else.  It’s like driving without a map and letting the car decide which fork in the road it wants to take on any given day.  But I learned long ago this is the right approach for me.

The era was “BC” – before computer, pre-paid cards.  Every student driving to and from t he university campus was obliged to have in their possession three American quarters.  Without those coins, your car would become captive to the parking structure – unless you were bold enough to punch the gas and break through the barrier, which happened often enough.  I have never been quite that daring.  And since I commuted to campus every day, I had to have quarters.  Three of them.  Every day.  Neither nickels, nor dimes, nor even dollars would do.  And they had to be American – which might not sound like much of a problem, but this was in Detroit, just one bridge-crossing away from Canada.  Canadian quarters were always finding there way into my pocket.

So it came to be that on one uneventful, nondescript day in the life of just another quarter-pinching college student, an odd series of numbers popped into my head.  It was as though some freaky, fairy godmother felt a smidgen of sympathy after watching me scavenge yet again for quarters.   After another successful hunt allowed me to drive back home, I stopped at a light and “poof,” there they were, four meaningless numbers rambling through the weary pathways in my brain.

“Hmmm,” I said to myself, “maybe I should buy a lottery ticket.”

But a lottery ticket costs money -- a whole dollar, in fact.  Even a tired college student could calculate that one dollar, broke n into those blessed quarters, would pay for one and one-third days of parking – or at least one day of parking and one cup of muddy coffee from a campus vending machine.  No, a lottery ticket would not a wise investment make under such circumstances.

Yes, I did stop briefly in front of the corner party store where Grandpa always got his daily lottery fix.  I sat at the curb and looked at the door to that store, considering both the odds and the risks, and wondering whether Grandpa would have some quarters for me that night.  That was a little game of ours; he would discretely pass me a handful of quarters as though they were some sort of contraband and he was my black-market connection.  I never quite understood his motivation for the secrecy, but I always knew his motivation for those periodic gifts.  I’m proud to say now that Grandpa was proud of me then.  I was the first in the family to make it to college.  Those quarters were his contribution to my success.

But would I get a contribution that night?  Since there never were any guarantees, I did what I thought I should:  I shifted the car into gear, got back on the road and drove home.

That was certainly the wise thing to do.  It was just as certainly not the right one.

As you might have guessed, those numbers did come in.  I would not have won a huge pot, had I played them.  Really, it was just a regular, dail y drawing, which would have netted me a few hundred dollars at most.  But can you imagine how many quarters I could have gained from those winnings?  I could imagine it with painful clarity.

Perhaps I should have known.  After all, the very fact that I was even attending college was almost a fluke.  On another uneventful, nondescript day in the life of a high-school student just a few years earlier, I checked the mail one day, and “poof,” there was a letter from Wayne State University offering me a scholarship.  Okay, so I did earn it on merit.  Still, it was a nice surprise.  It was also an offer I could not refuse.

I never know what surprises might pop up in my path from day to day.  The road I travel has never been clear.  For reasons much like the lost lottery, I veered off the main highway long ago and wound up on something far more bumpy, yet perhaps more exciting.  I’ve traveled to far away places, met wonderful people, heard incredible stories and even created a few stories of my own.

Maybe some fairy godmothers wave their wands and leave golden carriages in their wakes. Mine leaves breadcrumbs.  I’d be a fool not to follow them.

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