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A ticket to PARADISE LOST

Our story so far: Harry Hill had been right _ he and Jimbo had known each other many years ago when they spent the summers together as kids at the Windy Oaks. But things were different now. Harry had pressured Jimbo to tell him where the winning lottery ticket had been stashed, but Jimbo didn't know. Then, Paulie and Johnny turned up dead, and the police were questioning everyone in the campground.

CHAPTER SIX

Later that night, Jimbo finally passed out in a drunken state, muttering, "Blast that infernal phone!"

Gus went back to his trailer to take it all in. All night long he fretted. Why had they bought that ticket? Look what it is doing to us, he thought. Johnny and Paulie are dead and any one of us could be next.

He thought like this for hours, until his brain could take no more and needed sleep.

Jake didn't like police, and he surely didn't like spending hours in a cop shop. After he left the sheriff's sub-station, he went back to his battered RV, watched a late movie on his scratchy old Magnavox, drained a few beers, and finally relaxed enough to fall asleep.

Ada and Edith, happy to be reunited, went on a walk around Windy Oaks to clear their heads, then made it back home for a night of fitful sleep.

The ticket had been well hidden. The group were so proud of themselves _ they had hid it in plain sight, talked about it and still no one found it. They were just plain amused that no one had noticed that one day the pelican had a fish tail in it's mouth. It was just too sweet.

But they all had overlooked something important about outdoor life in Florida: When you leave something outside overnight, never wrap it in something that once had food in it, even if you do wash it out.

None of the lottery winners had thought about that, being so caught up with thoughts of being rich. No more worries for them, and life would be good. Wouldn't it?

Hidden in the mouth of the pelican, the plastic bag holding the ticket almost dared someone to notice it. All around the park, cops probed for clues, the residents complained about the inconveniences from the investigation, drunken strangers in the bar sang along with country tunes warbling from Jimbo's old AM radio.

That night, as the four remaining lottery winners restlessly tried to sleep, a new danger emerged.

With quick feet and a robber's mask, the thief headed toward the Windy Oaks sign, and the pelican. Drawn by the faint smell of meat still remaining in the plastic bag holding the lottery ticket, the fat raccoon clambered up the sign and looked into the pelican's mouth.

He smelt the air: Meat!

He picked up the plastic bag and turned it with his paws, trying to find a way in. He bit the bag, hoping to taste food, but instead, he got a mouthful of Ziploc plastic. This was no food, his mouth had been defiled, his taste buds angered, his stomach upset.

The raccoon dropped the bag holding the ticket back into the pelican's mouth, and it tumbled out of sight. He rooted around in the pelican's hollow wooden pouch, looking for the source of that enticing smell of meat. As he scratched and dug, the plastic bag holding the lottery ticket sank deeper into the mud and wood shavings that had collected in the bottom of the pelican's weathered pouch.

Momentarily disappointed, the raccoon scampered off to the bar's trash cans, where there almost always was real food.

About the author

Trevor Jones, 16, is an 11th-grader at Citrus High School. Trevor has been writing for the high school newspaper since he was a freshman. He has lived in Inverness since age 5 and says that not much has changed in the town since he and his family moved here from St. Petersburg. He expects to graduate from CHS next year and go on to college.

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