Been There or Not

8DD10808-A2AA-4659-B358-7464172A9527I used to think of myself as a man of the world — a well-traveled, fairly learned, and sophisticated man. But it’s just not true. Not by a long shot.

A friend of mine told me about an app for the iPhone (and I assume there’s an Android version as well) called “Been.” The app allows you to identify all of the countries across the globe you’ve ever been to. I thought that would be cool, so I downloaded the app from the Apple App Store.

I started tagging all of the countries I’ve traveled to. I even went so far as to tag all of the states in the United States I’ve been to.

The good news is that I’ve been to all 50 states in the U.S. And I’ve been to three countries (Canada, U.S., and Mexico) in North America.

But then my “man of the world” self-image got destroyed. I’ve been to just 12 countries in Europe and only one in Asia (Israel).

And I’ve never been to any of the countries of Central America, which “Been” considers to part of North America. Or to any countries in South America. Or Africa. Or Oceania (Australia, New Zealand, South Pacific islands, etc). Sheesh!

I’ve never been south of the equator. And the furthest east I’ve ever been is western Russia.

The map below, from the “Been” app, shows in orange the countries of the world I’ve been to. The counties I have never been to are shown in gray.DA03A0BF-A799-4995-9577-90E946947DBBYes, I know. Very little orange and a whole lot of gray.

I’ve never had a bucket list, but I think I might start one. And at the top of that list will be to turn this map a whole lot more orange than it currently is.

Now all I have to do is win the lottery so that I can afford to fund the one and only item on my bucket list.

A Christmas Miracle?

F0D82E45-2B94-4354-B003-A12CFBA700DFAs my wife and I were on our way home from walking our dog this Christmas morning, we passed our local convenience store. They sell Mega Millions lottery tickets there. The sign in the store window showed that the Mega Millions jackpot is up to $321 million and the next drawing is tonight.

I don’t usually buy lottery tickets. As a retire on a fixed income, and with my 401(k)retirement savings account haven taken a big hit over the past few weeks, buying lottery tickets is a frivolous expense with almost impossible odds of hitting the jackpot.

But when I saw the Mega Millions sign in the window, I said to my wife, “I’m going to splurge on five ‘quick pick’ tickets. After all, today is Christmas Day. Maybe we’ll experience a Christmas miracle, and one of my picks will be the big winner.”

So I walked into the convenience store, plunked $10 on the counter, and bought my five Mega Million picks. (And for another $5.00, a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream for later).

I promise that should I win tonight’s Mega Million jackpot, I will start believing in Santa Claus again. Hell, I will even commit to believing in God. Because if I do win, that has to be a sign from above.

Do you hear me, God?

Sunday Photo Fiction — The New Earth

img_1400They did everything they could to make it seem natural. Artificial light shining through the windows along the long hallway provided the illusion of sunlight. The opening at the end of the corridor led into a vast open area with high ceilings, green plants and trees, and a large pond fed by a waterfall. All artificial, but very realistic. It helped to make us all feel as if we were still living on the surface.

It was difficult to remember that people once lived on the surface. I was born here in the catacombs and all I knew of the old world I learned from my parents, who learned from their parents. And from books that had been salvaged, although it was hard to distinguish anymore between fiction and non-fiction.

Fortunately, those with foresight saw what was coming and began to construct these elaborate catacombs deep beneath the surface of the planet. But they could accommodate only about 100,000 of the planet’s nine billion inhabitants. A lottery was devised and my grandfather was one of the lucky winners.

Severe storms and catastrophic floods destroyed those left behind. But we are the lucky ones who must carry on.

Or are we?

(199 words)


Written for today’s Sunday Photo Fiction prompt. Photo credit: Susan Spaulding.

SoCS — Are You Talking To Me?

For this week’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt from Linda G. Hill, the challenge is to write a post starting with “psst,” or any other attention-getting noise or word.


“Psst!”

I looked around and saw a shady looking guy standing in the shadows.

“Are you talking to me?” I asked.

He motioned to me to come over to him. Against my better judgment, I moved toward him. I could smell him even before I got close enough to see his face clearly in the dimness.

“What?” I asked.

“Dude, I’m in a bad way,” he said. “Fallen on some hard times, you know. I could use some cash.” He reached a skinny arm out toward me, a small piece of paper between his thumb and forefinger.

“What’s that?” I asked, pointing to the paper he was holding.

“It’s a Powerball ticket, dude. It fell outta some dude’s pocket. It’s for tonight’s drawing. Could be worth a lot of dough,” he said. “It’s got ten picks on it. Cost you twenty at the liquor store. But gimme five bucks and it’s yours.”

I couldn’t remember the last time I played the lottery, but this was too good a deal to pass up. He and I made the exchange, his Powerball ticket for my fiver.

“Good luck, dude,” the guy said as he slinked back into the shadows.

When I got back to my place, I threw my keys and the Powerball ticket on the sidebar in our foyer and greeted my wife, who was fixing dinner in the kitchen. I told her about giving some creepy homeless guy five dollars in exchange for the lottery ticket. “You’re nuts,” she said. “You know he’s just going to use it to get booze or drugs.”

“Yeah, that’s probably true,” I said. “But you never know. We might have a winning Powerball ticket.”

My wife woke me up the next morning, whispering into my ear, “Psst, I just checked the Powerball ticket.”

“And?” I asked.