Book Excerpt: 'The Fabulist'

My mind drifted to Allison and the picnic we'd had the night before, sushi and white wine on the Lincoln Memorial steps. I thought also of a klezmer concert I'd recently attended called Jews with Horns and how I'd popped a contact lens while dancing and had to drive home winking. I thought of my family too: my parents and Nathan, my brother.

Crossing through Dupont Circle, I watched the last few moves of a speed chess game and stopped at the CVS to buy a Mother's Day card. The card I selected had a picture of a mom telling a young boy to put the scissors away "where you found them," which is exactly what my mother used to say: "Make sure to put the scissors away, Stephen — where you found them."

Surely, you say, I must have known the trouble I was in — and to some extent I did. I must have been anxious and scheming, racking my brain for a way out, even then. I must have been buying time. That is what everyone who has never been caught thinks. But, in fact, I didn't plan; I didn't scheme; I didn't even envision what was to come — not yet. Instead, during the walk, I willed myself beyond recall. Had I concentrated on what I had done, I probably would have turned and run.

Here is the article Robert was referring to in his messages. It had appeared in the Weekly a little while before:

Not-So-Lucky Numbers, by Stephen Aaron Glass

Every other Sunday, Gloria Pruitt, a graying, frail woman in her early seventies, stages an elaborate protest against the state lottery outside the Pennsylvania governor's mansion.

To make her demonstration more photogenic, Pruitt drapes herself over a seven-foot-high crucifix, which she has built out of white beach balls from Kmart, painted with black numerals. Above the cross she puts a placard that reads: "I won the lottery for your sins."

"It's my goal to have the lottery abolished before I die," Pruitt explained to me.

"Having a mission with a good social purpose is what keeps me young."

Pruitt is part of a growing group of lottery winners who are planning to sue state governments that sponsor gambling. In the late 1980s, Pruitt won a $50 million jackpot. But like so many jackpot winners, the grandmother of six lost all of her money to sham investments and outlandish spending. She now folds shirts at an Eddie Bauer store outside Harrisburg; before her win, she was a successful middle manager.

"In January I had to sell off most of my winter clothes-sweaters, coats, Neiman Marcus furs, even a parka I'd had since high school," she said. "I'm in more debt now than ever before. The lottery ruined my life. I wish I had never won. Frankly, it's a crime that I won."

"Gloria didn't win the lottery," Stan Romaine, a lawyer who organized a Virginia conference for aggrieved winners, explained to me. "She was nearly destroyed by it."

It went on from there — with more on Gloria Pruitt and the Virginia conference, and more on other winners' tales of woe. I should have been thinking of the story as I walked — drifted, really — toward the Weekly, but I was not. Instead I thought of everything, anything, else that came to mind.

Soon I reached the magazine's office, and stopped to look at what had been my home since the day after I graduated from Cornell.

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