This excerpt from Jessica Wynn’s story “Milo’s Challenge”appears in full in the Chinatown Bus Stories Chapbook: “Stories and illustrations of adventure, tragedy and lives in transit” w/ accompanying artwork by Keith Warren Greiman
Milo was never a boy scout, and it shows. It shows in his wrinkled clothes, shaggy hair, overdrawn bank account and the disorganization of his gloomy ways. Tonight, in Richmond, the air is sweaty and the sweet scent of maggots fills Milos nostrils as he wanders down Belmont Avenue. He dips inside a small shop, fingering the knicks and knacks crammed on the shelves, wondering what the business plan looks like for this junk shop. The front counter, shrouded with trinkets, and numbers and symbols he doesn’t know the meanings, has a sign reading Make a wish. Play lotto.
“How much to make a wish and play the lotto?” Milo asks the young woman clerk. “Three dollars. You wish on this and scratch this.”, placing a small wooden Ox with tiny crystals for eyes and a Double Dollar Fortune scratch-off in front of him. As Milo unfolds some crumpled bills, the clerk flirts in a different language, Milo guesses Chinese, with two apparent regulars.
Milo lays three ones on the counter, puts the scratch ticket in his wallet and embraces the Ox in his fist as he walks out the door. When the clerk runs out to the crowded street, frantic to get her family’s ancient Wishing Ox back, Milo is blocks away, unaware the Ox was not included in the three-dollar cost. He never does have a strong attention to detail.