Look up loser in the dictionary and you’ll find Wayne—Wrong Way Wayne, to be exact. He’s spent most of his life deserving that definition, but now he’s determined to not let it define him. Not today. Not with his best shot at buying a farm.
He’s dreamed of raising his kids on a farm for as long as he can remember. Like he was raised, until that horrible day when he had to leave it for the city.
But today he’s hoping his losing streak will end. It has to. His children are almost grown. He’ll make his stand on the courthouse steps and put in the winning bid at the farm’s foreclosure auction. Or will he?
Is it Wayne’s destiny to always lose? And if so, can a loser win for losing?
MY GLASS HAS been half empty my whole life. Never half full. Not once. Okay, so maybe that’s not totally true. It hasn’t always been that way. But definitely after my junior year in high school it has.
Before that, yeah, I’ll admit there were a couple times when things looked pretty good. Like when I was a kid. I think I was maybe six. This was before my dad left us, when we were still on the farm, a goat wandered onto it and Mom let me keep him. Good ol’ Billy.
And there was that other time, on the Fourth of July when I was ten, when I was playing Kick-The-Can with Freddie Farkas on Brandy Station Road and I broke my big toe.
Yeah, I know that doesn’t sound like a good thing. But it was why the can broke my toe that was the good part. The can turned out to be full of old coins that I sold to start my savings account, the one I’ve been adding to ever since for a down payment on my own farm someday.
That was the best place to grow up as a kid. And I knew, even back then, that was where I wanted to bring up mine—on a farm of my own here in Virginia. And Tina and I will buy the farm someday. Not in a kicking-the-bucket or pushing-up-daisies kind of way. No, in a sign-the-dotted-line-we-got-ourselves-a-farm-in-the-country kind of way.
I was thinking of this and other things earlier today as I stood on the corner of Water Street and Third. I hadn’t yet done what I had set out to do. Raising our girls on a farm, that is. Now with them being seven and twelve, it wouldn’t be long before they’d be all grown. Was there still time? I hoped so. If my glass ever got half full.
And my best shot of that happening was about three blocks from where I stood.
But first I had to make a move. At the right time, of course. And was this the right time? What if it wasn’t? The possibility of it backfiring bounced around in my head like a set of thrown dice. What if it was the last move I ever made?
I pictured one of my friends saying, “I just talked to him yesterday and he was fine. And now he’s gone. Damn shame, that.”
And with my luck I figured that was the way it would go down.
I was no stranger to danger up to then, that was for sure. But waiting wasn’t exactly a no-brainer, either. It had its own set of ohmygod-did-that-just-happen? possibilities lurking in the wings.
Man, I thought. What should I do? Stay or go? Take the first step on the mission and risk it all? Or wait for the signal that it’s safe?
How many minutes had it been? It seemed like forever. And I was sweating. Not just from anxiety, either. The sun beat down on me hard, like the mallet did when it rang the bell on the strong man carnival game.
For sure, life had rung my bell many times before, and I was willing to bet it was getting ready to again.
Except I never bet. Because I always lose.
Why didn’t I just get going and deal with what came down? Because society said so, that’s why, for my safety.
But what if it made me late and I lost out?
How many times can a guy lose in a lifetime, you ask? Every time, did you say? Ding-ding-ding-ding, we got a winner.
From behind me someone said, “What would the fox say?” From the sound of it, a young girl.
“Ring-a-ding-ding. Wah-pa-pa-paw,” answered another.
There’s safety in numbers, I thought.
And then they were gone. They didn’t hesitate. They just walked. Even though it said, “Don’t Walk,” they walked. Just like that. No fretting. No thinking it through. No fear. They just up and walked and crossed the street. Their mission completed. Mine, not so much.
And that’s when I heard him.