Jason Solomon has few items eliciting appreciation from his even fewer visitors. A single brass menorah and a fine, velvet kippah alongside it on the mantel drew the eye before being wiped from that memory segment marked “fleeting”. Otherwise his apartment was plain, but noticeably clean and, unusually for a recently divorced man in his fifties, exceptionally tidy.
His cleanliness was a tribute to his thirty-eight-year career as a baker in his father’s shop, a man for whom the godliness of cleanliness was visited upon his employees with a wrath of scriptural ferocity.
Contrasting with its spotless appearance, the apartment smelled as high as a three-day old cadaver, and so it should, because Jason Solomon is dead.
He sits in his armchair facing the small window overlooking the courtyard at the back of his tenement block, eyes clenched tight in an echo of pain, a thin line of dried drool adorning his cardigan; a rivulet of impending mortality now baked hard by the streaming sunlight, the last ironic act of a life lived tidily.
“Looks like a heart attack”, said Judie Foss, after checking Solomon’s vitals. She was one of two paramedics admitted to the apartment after Solomon failed to show up for work two days running. Both of them knew what was coming before they gained entry, but they still drew an ill-advised breath at the summer sun-engendered stench coming from the room.
“Poor bugger. He’s been here a few days,” her partner, Mike Standish replied. “Open the window, Jude. I’ll phone it in.”
She reached out and pulled at the window catch, but it refused to budge, “I’ll try the kitchen window.”
Mike pulled his cellphone from his pocket and started to dial when he noticed a small, pink, slip of paper lying on the floor, just under edge of the chair. He lifted it free and folded it open. It was a lottery ticket and Mike knew with absolute certainty the cause of death. Glancing back at the kitchen door to make sure he was unobserved, he pocketed the ticket and walked over to the small hallway.
“Popping outside, Jude. I can’t get a signal in here.” Mike said as he stepped out onto the graffiti adorned landing. He took the stairs down two at a time, his heart racing with excitement and his finger stabbing feverishly at the National Lottery app on his phone. Comparing the numbers, his excitement turned to exultation. They were a match.
“Oh my God, I’m rich,” he said to himself as he stepped unseeing into the path of a speeding bread van, which lifted him clear off the ground and threw him against the far wall of the terraced street. He was dead before he hit the floor and the lottery ticket bobbed and fluttered in the sudden breeze, taking it clear of the narrow, intersecting roads of the tenement blocks, along the broad expanse of Whitechapel High Street until it settled at the feet of a young priest entering the London Hospital to dispense compassion.
Picking it up, he immediately knew in his heart it was the winning ticket and visions of affording great works of charity flashed through his mind. He barely saw the oxygen bottle falling from the fifth floor window as it hit him with the force of a pile-driver, driving his biretta through his skull and into his chest cavity.
The ticket fluttered on and on, riding the breeze like an avenging angel.
Round and round it goes, where it will stop, nobody knows.