“What are you doing up there?” Marian’s voice drew nearer as she pounded upstairs towards the bedroom. “We’re going to miss the flight. You do realize the time, don’t you?” George knew that most wives took ages to get ready to go out, especially if there was packing involved. Marian, however, was always ready on time, and never had to switch off the engine to go back for a forgotten item. He fumbled desperately in the pocket of his overcoat, though he was sure that the elusive airline tickets were not there. There was a piece of paper, but not what he was looking for. He stuffed it back as Marian entered.
“I know I put those tickets in a pocket; I just don’t remember which one.” He sounded pathetic, even to his own ears. Marian was now in efficient mode. “Have you looked in here?”
“Yes, I’ve just….”
Frowning, she pulled the overcoat towards her and peered at it.
“This isn’t your coat,” she announced.
“What? Are you sure?”
“Of course. This one is almost new. Yours was tatty. A similar colour, but tatty. Anyway, we don’t have time to worry about that now. Perhaps you’ve packed the pocket that contains the tickets in your suitcase. Have you thought of that?”
George started towards the stairs, heart sinking even further. He would have to unpack everything. It would take ages, and they really would miss the flight.
“Just a minute! Here they are; in your wallet. Come on! Let’s go, for God’s sake.”
They went, and the holiday turned out to be a great success. The sun shone every day, and Marian turned a beautiful golden brown as she lay on the beach, glistening with sun-oil. They were both pleasantly occupied, pretending to read whilst lazily watching the parade of young flesh passing constantly up and down. As the time for aperitif approached they gathered up their belongings and repaired to the hotel. Dinner was served on the terrace, and afterwards there was time for a stroll arm-in-arm along the starlit beach, where the bustle of the day had given way to the susurration of little waves tipped with phosphorescence.
Back in cold, damp Essex the largest jackpot in the history of the Lottery was won but not claimed. Hardly surprising, as the crumpled ticket reposed in George’s wardrobe, while its puzzled purchaser searched in vain. “I know I put it in a pocket,” he told his irate wife. “I just can’t remember which one.”