11 & 52

by Yasmin Ahmad (Canada)

The last thing I expected USA


I stared at the two orange tickets in my hand, each with a number written on it in green—11 & 52—handed to me by a stranger. I was taking a gamble and I was starting to believe that it wasn’t going to pay off.    I took a look around. Ed and I had come to Austin for a quick getaway, and he was indulging my need to find a quirky, hidden gem in the city. I had convinced him to follow me to Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon, where we were sitting on plastic lawn chairs in the parking lot, just a few feet from a dumpster and porta-potty, slowly losing our will to live in Austin’s sweltering heat. He wasn’t saying much; I couldn't tell if he was annoyed at being pulled into another of my questionable exploits, or if he was silently suffering because he’d overindulged at Torchy’s Tacos.    I glanced back over to the group of people bustling around a chicken coop in the middle of the parking lot. They were emitting cries of excitement, followed by huge sighs of disappointment. I had walked away from them just moments before, the excitement and boredom combining to take their toll.   “Let’s just go,” I said. “There’s no chance it’s going to be me.” I suggested we head to the State Capitol to check off at least one touristy ‘must’. But Ed insisted we wait. He settled back into his chair, refusing to admit his food coma was responsible for keeping us in place, melting in the heat.    Minutes later a much louder roar erupted from the direction of the chicken coop. Ed had fallen asleep so I headed back to the crowd and jostled my way to the front. My eyes zoomed in on the floor of the coop, scanning the square grid of numbers for 11 and 52.    Then I spotted it. A huge piece of chicken poop dumped right between the two ones that made up the number 11. I edged my way in a little closer, trying to make eye contact with the chicken I had built my hopes and dreams upon—at the going rate of $5 per ticket. A Ginny’s employee reached in and lovingly scooped up the chicken, shouting over the crowd, “Number 11 is the winner!”    “That’s me”, I said quietly. Then cheering loudly with game show contestant levels of enthusiasm, “I have number 11!”   “Congrats hon, you won.”   I was in a state of thrilled disbelief (as was Ed, once awake). Going off the beaten path had paid off. Armed with the $300 prize money and the honourable title, Winner of Chicken Shit Bingo, we headed out to feast at Austin’s infamous food trucks ready to slip into our next food coma.