A little fiction

Here is a thing I wrote. I hope you like it.

The Lottery

It wasn’t until the jackpot hit $62 million that Sharon even considered buying a ticket.

Until that point, she’d never really paid attention to the lottery. As far as she was concerned, “Powerball” might be some obscure Olympic event dominated by Romanians. But once the number hit $62 million, everyone was suddenly talking about it. Have you bought a ticket? Anyone can win! Everywhere you looked, the lines stretched long out of the 7-Elevens and Flying J marts.

“Well, it’s true, isn’t it? Anyone could win,” Sharon told her best friend, Darla, as they drove west of Phoenix, out into the desert scrub, for their regular Saturday-morning hike. Darla wasn’t one to play the lottery, either, but she had to agree with this logic. She was also not inclined to get in Sharon’s way about anything.

“So, buy a ticket,” she said, pulling her hair into a tight ponytail, then smoothing down her bangs. “No one’s stopping you.”

Sharon squinted for a moment, then whipped the wheel to the right, just in time to swerve into a Chevron station. She parked and walked into the store, leaving Darla in the car. To her surprise, no one was in there but the young man at the register.

“I’ll take ten Powerball tickets,” she said, already fishing in her wallet for the cash as she approached the counter.

The man printed out ten tickets, which he handed to Sharon with a flourish. As he took the ten-dollar bill she held out, he said, “If you win, remember me.” He smiled and pointed to his nametag. “My name is Abdul. Remember, I’m the guy who sold you the winning ticket.” Sharon looked at him, a slight frown creasing her tanned face. She turned to leave.

Back in the car, she related this exchange to Darla. “The guy behind the counter told me to remember him if I won,” she said. “Meaning, what? That I should send him a card or something?”

“No,” Darla said. “You should give him money. If you win. Like, a tip.”

“A tip? For what? For taking 12 seconds to print out my tickets as part of his job?”

“Well, if he gives you the winning ticket, it’s just good… manners, I guess,” Darla said. “Or, good luck or something.”

“If I just won the lottery, wouldn’t you think my luck is already good enough?” snapped Sharon. “That’s just stupid. Why tip someone for doing something they’re already being paid to do?”

Darla sat quietly for a moment, examining her cuticles. As Sharon pulled the car back onto the roadway, Darla said, “I’d give him money. I’d give him a real nice tip.”

“Oh, really? Like how much?”

“I’d give him ten thousand dollars.”

Sharon snorted. “That’s ridiculous. To a complete stranger? Ten thousand dollars? Don’t be an idiot.”

Darla lifted a finger to her mouth to chew on a fingernail, then let her hand drop. “I’m not an idiot. It’s just… polite to do that. It’s like tipping your waiter or your hairdresser or someone. That’s all.”

“Darla,” said Sharon. “Ten dollars is a tip. Twenty dollars is a nice tip. Ten thousand dollars is, like, three months’ worth of salary! It’s, like, a brand new motorcycle! You are talking like a crazy person!”

Darla sat silently, staring out the windshield as the yellow lines flashed past. Sharon glanced at her. She seemed almost in a daze.

“Seriously, Darla, ten thousand dollars?” Sharon said. “Think about what you’re saying. Because that is beyond stupid.” She shook her head and said again, “Beyond stupid.”

Darla whirled in her seat. “Shut up!” she screeched. “Just shut up! Do you know how much money 62 million is? Do you know how little ten thousand is, if you have 62 million in the bank? It’s like, nothing! It’s like giving a homeless guy a dollar! Which you would also never do!” She turned and stared again out the windshield, her fists clenched, her face going crimson.

“I don’t give homeless people money because they spend it on booze and drugs!” Sharon shouted back. “It’s not because I’m cheap – it just doesn’t help them. It doesn’t make sense. It’s the principle of the thing.”

“Well, what about the guy at the Chevron station?” Darla said. “He’s not a drug addict! He’s just a guy who’s doing his job, who asked for a little human kindness if he sold you that winning ticket! But noooooo… 62 million isn’t enough for you! You’ve got to hold on to all of it, to make sure it doesn’t fall into the hands of some drug addict or homeless person!”

“Are you calling me greedy?” Sharon retorted. “Because that is just beyond the pale! I do tip waiters and I do tip my hairdresser! In all the years you’ve known me, since when have I ever cared about money? When have I ever even bought a damned lottery ticket, for god’s sake?” Sharon stared at Darla until she had to look back at the road. Darla just sat, arms crossed, jaw clenched, tears welling at the corners of her eyes.

“Okay, you know what?” said Sharon. “This is ridiculous.” She veered the car roughly to the shoulder, threw it into park, and opened her door. “I should never have bought these stupid things.” She took her tickets and started tearing them up, shredding them into dozens of little pieces that blew every which way in the desert wind.

“There!” she shouted. “Are you happy? These mean nothing to me. Money means nothing to me!” She tore up all ten tickets until they were nothing but confetti, scattering lazily across the Arizona desert.

And that is how the winning Powerball, sold at a Chevron station just outside Phoenix, Arizona, was never claimed. The next week, the jackpot went up to $87 million. Neither Sharon nor Darla bought a ticket.


10 responses to “A little fiction”

  1. Joe says:

    I liked it. Although, if you’re buying 10 plays in Powerball, you buy a single ticket with 10 plays on it, you don’t buy a string of 10 tickets. The tickets aren’t on a big roll like scratch off tickets; they print on demand.

  2. FPS says:

    Aha! I wondered if you would. As you know, I liked it.

  3. LP says:

    1: Ah, thanks for the correction. Fixing now.

    2: I had to. Because (a) I realized after arriving home at midnight, following an endless flight, that I had nothing else, and (b) I can’t stand to write stuff that only one or two people will read. Now I have at least four!

  4. josh k-sky says:

    This made me smile my good short-story smile. Bravo!

  5. josh k-sky says:

    (To be clear, “good” modifies “short-story”, not “smile.” I wound up short a hyphen.)

  6. FPS says:

    Mine is a little too mopey and a little too semi-fictional to post.

  7. Tim says:

    Yay, LP! Thanks for sharing your story. It reminds me of O. Henry, what with the twisty ending.

  8. LP says:

    Hooray! You like it! You really like it!

    I had fun writing it. Didn’t know how it ended until the very end.

  9. J-Man says:

    OMG! I’m going to the desert to get all the pieces! (Anybody got any tape?)

  10. PB says:

    Person number five! I loved it. Thank you for sharing.