That Wednesday morning, when the prize stood on seven million, Mr. Ozery left home thinking about Arthur Schopenhauer.
Why did he hate humanity so? he wondered.
He had everything he needed, shelter over his head, quill and paper, his eyes to see, even a god position at the university. It is a blessing that I am not like him, concluded Mr. Ozery happily. How lucky I am that I love all people.
Unlike other mornings, the distracted Mr. Ozery did something he’d never done before. He took his right foot off the pavement and onto the road without minding traffic.
At that very moment, he heard a deafening screech of tires. Almost instantaneously, he felt sharp fingernails dig into his upper arm and yank him back. Mr. Ozery lost his balance and fell heavily to the pavement. His cane was thrown out of his hand, and for a moment his consciousness left him.
One or two seconds later, he came to, and he heard a voice shouting, ‘Mr. Ozery are you okay? Shimon? Are you okay? Shimon?’
Mr. Ozery chuckled to himself, as the thought flashed through his mind. You are such a fool Arthur. Love of humanity is the greatest gift of all. If only you’d have given it freely, you would have gotten back so much more. Mr. Ozery did not notice that he was laughing out loud until he heard the lawyer’s voice call out again, ‘Shimon, wake up! Say something! Are you okay?’
The voice belonged to his regular, the lovely Mrs. Barrows, who came to visit his Lotto booth on the corner of Shenkin and Melchett streets, every Wednesday evening after work. Hers was a high and happy voice, almost child-like. She always told him how much she admired that he knew all his regulars even without seeing them. And occasionally, she brought him dark chocolate with nuts, knowing how much he loved it.
When he heard Mrs. Barrows’ sigh of relief, Mr. Ozery tried to lift himself off the pavement. She helped him, despite her miniature stature and high heels. He was pleased with the touch of her warm little hands, now giving him their softly padded fingertips, not their sharp fingernails. Mr. Ozery rose to his full height of exactly six feet and three inches, swayed slightly, and then grew steady on his long legs. An invisible hand closed his fingers around the ball of his cane, and his dark sunglasses were returned to him.
Schopenhauer, you idiot! Mr. Ozery kept giggling to himself while thinking that he must seem odd, given the circumstances.
And so, Mr. Ozery bid good day to the passers-by and left for his booth on the corner of Shenkin and Melchett streets in high spirits.
Like every day, Mr. Ozery sat at his booth and served his customers with a smile, welcoming regulars and newcomers alike, wishing them all luck. But unlike other days, he thought about the meaning of life.
What is life, thought Mr. Ozery, surely it is not as Mr. Schopenhauer saw it. He did not understand the philosopher’s bad temper, but still, he loved and admired his work greatly. The meaning of life, Mr. Ozery knew for a fact, was spreading goodness to all that was around him. And today, of all days, he knew that his turn to spread goodness has come.
Towards evening, even before the lawyer reached his booth, he heard the sharp tapping of her heels on the pavement, and a little whistle from her coat sleeves as they brushed her sides. His heart immediately filled with joy and a smile spread across his face. It’s my savior, he thought, the most beautiful woman in Tel Aviv.
When she got to the booth, Mr. Ozery handed her the ticket.
‘This is for you, my dear lady,’ he said to her solemnly. ‘And again, thank you for saving my life.’
‘Forget it, Simon, it’s nothing,’ he heard laughter. ‘I need you here, selling me the right ticket. ‘And besides,’ she added, ‘how many times do I have to tell you to call me Judith? Mrs. Barrows is my former mother-in-laws, and believe me, we’re not even remotely alike.’ And with that, attorney Barrows laughed again, and her laughter rolled on Shenkin Street all the way to Rothschild Avenue.
How beautiful she is, thought Mr. Ozery, spreading so much joy across Tel Aviv with her beautiful voice.
After she left, Mr. Ozery ran his fingers across Schopenhauer’s writings that sat beside him. He shook his head from side to side, muttering, Arthur, you Idiot.
On Thursday morning, when he called to get the winning numbers, Mr. Ozery nodded to himself satisfactorily. Mrs. Barrows bought the right ticket.