The Lucky Shirt
Bob Harlow picked the shirt out from the dresser. It was still wrapped in its cellophane packaging. It was the last of the four shirts that his wife had bought him for Christmas and was by far his least favorite. He did not care for its mauve color or for the fact that it was short-sleeved. He preferred to wear long sleeves. They hid the excessive hair on his arms. Had it not been for the fact that the rest of his shirts were in the laundry and he did need to wear something a little more formal than his usual flannel plaid tops that he sported at his job at the wood yard he would have left the shirt in the drawer. But this was a day that he had to dress up. Tonight he was going to his wife’s niece’s wedding.
He put on the shirt and found that it was rather tight around his chest and that its length was a bit on the short side. It did not tuck in well into his pants and he feared that he was in for a night of constant fudging with the shirt’s tails trying to keep them contained under his belt. Why did his wife decide to send all his other dress shirts to the cleaners at the same time? She knew about the wedding. She had been reminding him about it for weeks now. She should have had his shirts ready. He would have even worn a dirty shirt over this shirt any time.
On the way to the church his wife asked him to stop in at the convenience store to pick up a wedding card for her niece. While she rummaged through the assortment of cards, Bob decided that he would buy a lotto ticket. Normally, he would only do this when the jackpot was $10,000,000 or more but something told him that he should get a ticket despite the fact that tonight’s prize was just $4,000,000. He got the ticket and stuck it in the shirt’s pocket and forgot about it.
The wedding proved to be a disaster for him. Not only did the shirt’s inadequate size keep him in a constant state of discomfort, he found other distractions that made for a despairing evening for him. He did not like the food, the music, and especially he did not like the wife’s relatives. How could he have married into such a family? He shared nothing in common with them. They all acted as if he were a blue-collared moron only capable of making crass socially unacceptable comments.
During the drive home from the wedding his wife lit into him for his behavior and his attitude. She said that he drank too much and that his jokes were lewd and demonstrative of a lower mentality. She said that if he continued to act the way that he did he should not expect to be a married man for much longer.
As soon as he got home he tore the shirt from his back. He did not have the patience to undo all the tight buttons that lined its front. The top two flew off and rolled along the floor while his wife was still in full tirade for his boorish manner. He threw the shirt to the floor and there it stayed until the next day when he picked it up after he nearly tripped over it stumbling his way as quickly to the washroom as he could. His fingers felt something in the shirt pocket. He pulled it out. It was the lottery ticket. He had forgotten all about it. He flung the shirt onto the bed.
A few minutes later, Bob was comparing the numbers of the lottery ticket to the winning ones recorded in the newspaper. He had to rub his eyes several times to make sure that he was not making a mistake. But each time the numbers lined up and corresponded exactly to each other. There was no denying it. He had won the lottery. He had won $4,035,648.27 to be precise. Bob Harlow’s life had changed.
It would be some time before Bob would wear the shirt again. It was now five months later and the world was once again swinging into its yearly Yuletide festivities. This Christmas it was a little bit different for the Harlows. They no longer resided in a climate marked by four seasons. They had moved to the sunny south thanks to the money they had won earlier that year.
Bob loved being retired and leading a lounging life. His wife, however, did not care for being idle the day long and she soon became a volunteer at the community hospital. Tonight was the night for the hospital’s annual Christmas Antics – an evening of entertainment and games and merriment. Merriment for all, save Bob. He did not want to go. He would have much preferred to stay at home and have cold drinks by the pool.
His wife would not have it that way and demanded that he had to come along. She even set out the clothes that he would wear at this semi-formal gala. There on the bed beside a nicely pressed pair of pants and matching suit jacket was the shirt. He did not recognize it at first. He had many shirts nowadays but as soon as he put it on he remembered its encumbered fit and its myriad of buttons, the top two of which had been sewn back on by his dutiful wife. He was about to throw the shirt off when the phone rang. His wife picked it up downstairs and yelled up to him that the call was for him.
When Bob answered he was surprised to hear the voice of someone that he had all but forgotten. It was his younger brother George. He had not heard from George in nearly twenty years. In fact, he had believed that George was dead after he disappeared into the night on a covert operation in Mogadishu during the peacekeeping mission which the country was involved in back then. It was undeniably George on the line with him. He could make no mistake about it. It appeared that George had become deathly sick with malaria while he was being held by enemy forces. Among the symptoms that the younger brother suffered was amnesia. George would end up wandering East Africa for years without ever knowing anything about his past life. It wasn’t until he started receiving treatment in South Africa for what he believed to be migraine headaches that his old memories slowly started to return to him and afterwards it took him some time to find the whereabouts of his brother. But now they found each other. Bob cried for hours on the telephone. His younger brother was alive! He was not dead. Bob could not believe it. He took off the shirt and reflected on this amazing twist of fate.
Bob would never wear the shirt again. His wife picked it and a number of other pieces of clothing and donated them all to a local charity. On the day after the shirt left his house, Bob’s wife decided to move some more things – all of his things out the door. She had enough of him and threw him out. She also found a good lawyer and Bob was parted from the money that he won. He was left destitute and angry for the rest of his days. His brother George would even have nothing to do with him.
The shirt sat in a thrift store for several years where nobody took notice of it. Then one day Dave Muir, a down and out unemployed forty-something man was looking for some new clothes. Dave needed something to wear for an upcoming interview as a mail clerk for a distribution company. The box with the 49 cent label caught his eye. He pulled out the shirt. He gave it a measuring once over and decided that it would fit. He went over to pay the cashier without actually giving the woman any notice. He was too busy trying to dig up the coin that it would cost him. When she announced the bill’s total and Dave found the appropriate change in his pockets, their eyes finally met and Dave at once knew that she was the one that he had been looking for all of his life. He could see that she thought the same too.
Two days later when the two of them went out on their first lunch date, Dave wore the shirt. He had just finished his interview and it went well for him. He was hired on the spot. He attributed his success to the shirt. It was lucky for him. The lunch date turned into an all day affair. A year later they were married. Dave wore the shirt on his wedding day. He would wear it many times in the upcoming years and when its fabric could barely hold together any longer, Dave had it added to a patch quilt that his wife and he slept under for many happy lucrative decades afterwards.