It was late afternoon. It would soon be dusk.
"I don't think I ever told you the one with Captain Hopewell in it," the man named Kurt was saying.
"Don't start. For God's sake, you'll jinx us for sure," the man named Merle said. "Just get me thinking about that one and it'll jinx us."
"This one's isn't going to jinx us. If you knew the story, you'd know that," Kurt said, and then for a few minutes both men sat silently and mulled over everything they'd discussed on the nature of luck over the course of the last few months as they'd wandered up and down Superior Street, shaking a cup for spare change, scraping for odd jobs, whatever it took to gather enough for some booze and a scratch lottery ticket. They'd agreed that to talk too much about good fortune just before you scratched would decrease the odds of it coming, because luck had to bend around the place and time of the scratch, establishing itself in relation to your state of mind at that particular moment. You either scratched in a deliberately calm, quiet moment, or in one of great emotional intensity. Scratch a ticket on the sidewalk in front of the Hope Mission—or worse yet, inside the lounge, with all that dusty grief—no chance in hell. At your mother's grave on a pristine winter day, after paying your prayerful respects and laying some flowers against the tombstone, about fifty/fifty. Out in Lake Superior on the deck of a good ship under a gloriously crystalline sky, sixty/forty. On the deck of the same ship in a hundred-year storm with slush ice forming on the lake, just after hearing the news that your old man's died, ninety/ten. Back at your mother's grave in the fall, at dusk, having survived the hundred-year storm, sure thing. Best to clear the head of all expectation and settle into a state of not-caring as you look out with silent and blissful longing at the lake.
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