I do house clearances, I pick up all sorts of things, odd things. Some goes to auction, some goes to charity, the rest of it, the smaller stuff I stick on Gumtree or maybe EBay if I'm not so sure of the possible value. That was how I came across the guitar. It was in a old biddy's flat in Stirling, she'd been dead and gone for a while. To be honest there wasn't really much of any great value in the place. Some china, some prints but the guitar was there, left behind I guess and putting two and two together I thought it unlikely it had belonged to her. It was my simple assessment anyway. The guitar was a three quarter sized acoustic, six string and sunburst. Now I didn't really know much about guitars but I knew that by the age of the wood and the weight that it was a decent piece. There was no name of the headstock and only a very faded label in the body hidden down beyond the sound hole. The print on looked indistinct and had faded so it wasn't much help. It was a bit dusty and worn looking but I considered it to be interesting. I had a friend who knew about these things though so I put the guitar into the back of the van, wrapped up in a blanket just in case.
That was a few weeks ago and the guitar had just been lying in the office, I hadn't really got around to doing anything with. It was collecting more dust. So this girl comes in, she's got a bill to pay for a removal job we did the other day. A proper job with an invoice and so she hands me £250 cash for the day's work and I scribble on the receipt. “I need this for the insurance,” she says. Then she looks around and spots the guitar. “That for sale?” As I'm not sure the value I hesitate and look at the guitar and then back at the girl before responding. “Well I picked it up a few days ago, I've not had the chance to value it properly, it looks old enough to be worth a few pounds. Did you have a figure in mind?” “Well not real money but I'd give you this lottery ticket.” My jaws clearly drops as she produces a worn looking lottery ticket. She sees that I'm puzzled and says, “it's winner and I'll trade it for the guitar.” “Let's see the ticket.” There's nothing special about it, it's about a month old. “Ok but before it's a deal let me check those numbers.” At this point I expect her to drop the charade and offer me fifty quid for the guitar but she just looks straight at me and says, “Yeah, you go check those numbers, when you do you'll hand me the guitar.”
I nipped into the back office and flipped up the lottery results page on my phone. April. There were the winning numbers; 16 23 26 28 42 49. I looked at the ticket, the numbers matched. It looked like a genuine ticket and not a forgery. I was trembling, this was crazy. I stopped and thought for a minute. This made no sense, it was too good to be true and I knew too well what that meant. There has to be a scam in this and why bother for an old guitar even if it's worth a bit more than I might have thought? Then I thought about the ticket and saying nothing and just handing over the guitar. I also thought I needed a witness to at least corroborate whatever the facts were from now on in but there was no one else around. I counted to ten and looked at the ticket. Through the office glass I could see the girl, she was staring at the guitar and chewing gum.
I took a deep breath, “Hi, ok I'll take the ticket, you can have the guitar, that'll be fine if that's what you want.” She seemed to be looking right through me. “Thanks, you'll not regret this.” She walked over and picked up the instrument, casual pinged a few untuned strings and a dull chord rang out. She giggled at that and without turning around walked away and dropped the guitar into the back of her car. I watched her as she drove off, my thumb and index finger squeezing the lottery ticket between them as I held it in my pocket. I waited a long time, I counted the traffic lights and junction times before I moved. I wanted to count her out and away. The time seemed stuck in single figure minutes but I moved eventually. I went to the office door and locked it. I took the ticket out of my pocket and put it on the desk. I fired up the laptop and checked another lottery results website. I looked at each number on the ticket, I held it up to the light. Everything was checking out, everything was the way it should be except for the fact that I'd just swapped a jackpot winning lottery ticket for an old, battered guitar. That didn't check out but sometimes life's like that and you just have to go with the flow.
All that was eighteen months ago. I'm now settled down on the Cote d'Azur. I cashed in the ticket and bought a tidy villa up in the hills above Nice. I'm here with my girlfriend. We've a nice pool and some statues in the garden. I treated the family and my pals, bought a couple of nice cars and now I'm holed up here, happy and there's enough sitting in a Monaco bank to pay the bills well into the future. But I still think about that day when she came into the office, I wonder if it was all real. I wonder was there ever a girl or a guitar? I tried to trace her from the invoice address, no luck. I looked around for the guitar in salerooms and on EBay but got nothing. Looking back on that day in the office it was all over in a tiny sliver of a moment. Was it just my ticket, lost in my pocket all the time and my subconscious played a recovery trick? Did I have a breakdown? Am I in a parallel universe? Was she an angel? There certainly was a ticket. I framed the photocopy. I'll never forget that sequence of numbers either. Sometimes life, even when it adds up doesn't add up.