A Short Story on the Website of
the Red Dirt Writers Society

He Who Laughs Last, Lasts 
by Harriet Morgan (Apr 2009)

            “When I win this million dollar prize from the magazine company, I’m going to leave you and live the rest of my life in luxury, Harry!”


            “Well, then, Lillian, I guess I’m stuck with you. Your chances of winning that million dollars are almost nil! ” Harry turned back to the television program he had been intently watching before his wife made her nightly statement. Lillian shrugged before continuing to fill out her latest entry to the million dollar contest. This was the same discussion the couple had had every evening for the past 10 years. In fact, it was just about the only discussion they ever had.

             When I win that money, he’ll be sorry. I’ll be out of here so fast it’ll make his head spin. I’m going to hire a top notch attorney and get a quick divorce. I’ll have a snazzy apartment with nice new furniture and a cute, sporty little car - all those things Harry’s never been able to afford.

            Remembering a recent conversation with their oldest child, Lillian winced a little. Jason had asked, “Mom, why do you and Dad argue all the time? You must have had 20 good years together before you started this incessant quarreling. I feel like I need to put both of you in timeout, like I do my kids when they fight.”

            “Jason, you just don’t know how difficult your dad can be! He has so many irritating habits: the way he clears his throat all the time and he never listens to me. When he’s home he’s always glued to that TV! ”

            “I know, Mom. Dad says just about the same things about you.”

            “I don’t watch that much TV and I certainly don’t clear my throat all the time.”

            “Well Dad‘s complaints are slightly different, but it‘s really the same thing. He says you nag him all the time and are always working those ‘confounded’ (his word) crossword puzzles and talking about winning the million dollar drawing. You know that Dad clears his throat often because of his allergies. He can’t help it, Mom. Is that really enough to cause a marriage of 30 years to end?”

            “Yes, it is, son.” Yes it is! Besides it’s 32 years, but who’s counting?


            One morning a few weeks later, Lillian sat at her kitchen table filling out her latest entry for the million dollar drawing. Because she had missed her home mail pickup that day and the contest deadline was quickly approaching, she gathered up her mail and headed to the local post office. The weather had been so beautiful lately that the middle aged woman decided to walk. After all, it’s only a few blocks and heaven only knows I can use the exercise! Maybe I’ll do this every day and see if I can lose some of these extra pounds. Great idea!

            As she walked along enjoying the warm, early spring sun, her walk became a stroll. She listened to the birds singing and stopped from time to time to admire some of her neighbors’ beautifully groomed yards; freshly turned soil where vegetable gardens were being planted; and the daffodils and tulips that were beginning to open up.

            When a voice from the past called out, “Hi, Lillian!”, she happily stopped to visit with Judy Woods, a former neighbor with whom she had made trips to the park when their children were little. Judy invited her in the house for a cup of tea and a nice visit.

            “Oh, my gosh, Judy. This has been wonderful, but it’s getting late and I need to get to the post office before it closes. We’ll have to get together again soon.”

            As her friend rushed off, Judy replied with a smile, “You bet, Lillian.”

Lillian looked at her watch as she continued on toward the post office. There, made it with ten minutes to spare! What a great day! Beautiful weather, a nice visit with an old friend, and my entry mailed in time for the big contest.

            Oh, how I would love to win that million dollars! I’m so tired of Harry’s irritating habits. I could take walks like this and go out with friends whenever I wanted if had that money.

            She was so wrapped up in her day dreams of wealth that, at first, Lillian failed to notice the rain clouds beginning to gather. As she rounded the corner a couple of blocks from home, the clouds suddenly opened and poured rain as only a spring shower in Oklahoma can do.

            Oh, dear, I better hurry up or I’m going to be soaked!

            Lillian lifted the hood over her head and pulled her jacket tightly around her shoulders as she began to run for home. When she got to the corner, she was so involved in trying to keep dry and get home, she neglected to “look both ways”. She never saw the car that hit her.


            “Dad will you be okay now. I really need to get home to Susan and the kids.”

            “I’ll be fine, Jason. Thanks for your help. I wouldn’t have been able to do all the necessary things for your mom’s funeral without your help.”

            Just about that time Harry’s doorbell rang out. “Let me see who this is before you go, son.” It took a few minutes for Harry to take in all the commotion at his front door. Standing in a half circle facing the door were several people Harry had never seen before. One held a bunch of balloons. Another cradled a huge bouquet of red roses. All were wearing big smiles and chanting “Congratulations, Lillian!” The smiles faded slightly as this group of celebrants began one by one to realize that this was not Lillian. Finally, a dignified older man, holding an oversized check with many zeros on it, stepped around the others and spoke to Harry. “We are here to award our one million dollar prize to Mrs. Lillian Jackson. Is she home?”

            After clearing his throat several times and shaking his head to clear the fogginess he was experiencing, Harry croaked, “No. My wife, Lillian, died in a car accident earlier this week. We just returned from the cemetery.”

            “Oh, my! I’m so sorry.” The spokesman said. He turned to face the rest of the crowd, and raised his arms and then slowly lowered them, as though directing a choir to be seated. There was an immediate hush.

            “Mr. Jackson, I know this won’t replace your loss, but as your wife’s beneficiary, you are entitled to receive this prize. I hope that somehow this check for one million dollars will help alleviate your pain. He handed Harry the check before he and the other members of his entourage turned slowly and silently and returned to their limousine and drove away.

            Harry watched them drive away, then turned around to reenter his home. A large grin began to spread over his face as he muttered, “Yes, it will help

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