“Been Ingenious”

People called Ricky ingenious whether they thought it true or not. Most folks choose to remain blithely ignorant to the deeper intricacies of mathematics with little to no effect on their daily life, so who in this town could really say. There were those who must’ve had their doubts as he couldn’t seem to hold down a job and lived with his ma after dropping out of school.

The small ranch home with the neatly trimmed shrubbery and scrupulously weeded walk fell into disrepair not long after she passed. Maintaining even that small space proved too much for Ricky. For a time, people were willing to overlook the overgrown rhododendrons and thick clumps of weeds sprouting from every crack and along the edge of the walk. Poor thing misses his ma, they’d say, she was all he had. After a few months, you had to put away the tissues and break out the edger and clippers and get to the work of keeping up your curb appeal. Such a pity how he’s let things go, those same people would later say, that house was his ma’s life’s work, God rest her soul. The ingenious mathlete and science fair champion had now grown into an utter disappointment of a man. Folks in town would’ve never said that but then they’d never admit how much hope they’d invested in now, no-longer-so-young, Ricky.

After he won the lottery, it all changed. Once he was rich, he was ingenious again. He hired the best lawn crew in town and soon enough the little house was positively bursting with curb appeal. He stayed there to honor his ma and fix up the place the way she’d like, people said approvingly.

But ingenious Ricky didn’t stop there. He’d spent a lot of time fooling around with computers while being supported by his ma. Once he’d struck it rich, he knew what to do. He spent a few years developing a random number generator program based on something called an algorithm that boosted his odds of winning more lotteries. And though his chances were enhanced quite nicely, he needed to buy thousands and thousands of tickets each time. It was the type of thing only a very rich man could afford to do. Soon enough, he won the lottery again and again and again, 5, 10, 20, 50 times. He was profiled in podcasts and on TV. Now, lots of people were finding out how ingenious Ricky was. He’d lived up to his promise.

It was days, maybe a week after he’d died before his body was found. There were boxes of money everywhere on the ground floor. He never moved his things up from the basement. Those who learned the truth about his passing tried not to be too disappointed by it, others would whisper that the method by which he’d taken his own life was ingenious.

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About Jason Graff

Jason Graff has authored one novella, In the Service of the Boyar (Vagabondage Press, '16). He has two novels slated for publication: heckler (Unsolicited Press, 20) and Stray Our Pieces (now available for pre-order: https://www.waldorfpublishing.com/products/stray-our-pieces). His short stories, poems and essays have been published in numerous publications. He lives in Richardson, TX with his wife, son and cat.