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Match all six numbers and be the winner of the Mega Multimillion Dollar Lotto Lottery!" brayed the skinny man on the TV. "This week's jackpot is three and a half million dollars!"
The camera swept to a tall blonde woman with freakishly long silver fingernails who was poised to pluck a numbered Ping-Pong ball as it popped out of the lottery bin.
Janna tightly gripped the pink slip of paper that could change her life. All week she had worried: What if she lost it? What if it got ripped? What if it was the winning ticket but it got wet and the precious magic numbers disappeared in a smear of ink, and her chance at happiness along with them? Or worst of all, what if her mom found the forbidden lottery slip and took it away like last time?
"But we need the money, Mom!" Janna had moaned.
"The last thing that people who need money can afford is a lottery ticket!" Janna's mom had said.
"But if you don't buy a ticket, how can you ever win? You know, buy a ticket, buy a dream?"
"You have a greater chance of being struck by lightning, dear, yet I don't see you paying for a chance at that."
Then Janna's mother had held up the piece of paper that contained Janna's hopes, and had ripped it into very tiny, very unhopeful pieces and had flushed them down the toilet. It wasn't fair!
But that was last week; this was now. Janna had kept the lottery ticket in an envelope under her pillow ever since she'd bought it, and now the paper was safe in her hand, the numbers crisp and clear. It was the winning ticket, she simply knew it. Those six numbers would take that anxious look from her mother's eyes. Those magic integers would buy them a new car to replace their old and decrepit hatchback named Maybe, because maybe it would start and, then again, maybe it wouldn't. Those nice numerals would buy Janna anything and everything that she had ever, ever wanted or would ever, ever want. She would be just like Elizabeth Newby across the street a modern day princess with the newest gadgets and gizmos, the neatest clothes, the coolest of everything cool. How happy those numbers would make her!
The first ball popped out, and the silver talons pounced.
"Check your tickets, Ladies and Gentlemen. The first number is...sixty-three!"
Janna didn't need to check her slip. She knew that sixty- three was on it.
The second ball hopped out.
"Thirteen! Lucky thirteen for some folks out there. Are you one of them?"
Yes, Janna was one of them.
The third ball appeared.
"The third number is nine. Three more to go! Are you still with us?"
Janna was. There was a slight pause before the fourth ball appeared, and for a moment Janna lost her hope, her resolve, her absolute belief that she held in her hand the ticket to more than three million dollars. The ball finally appeared.
"Fourth on our numbers hit parade today is twenty-two. Those of you who have matched four numbers are already winners! One hundred dollars to anyone who matches four out of six!"
Janna had already won one hundred dollars. She kissed the piece of paper, breathing sweet, supportive words into it.
"Thirty-one! Do you have a thirty-one?"
Janna didn't have to look. She had looked so many times that she knew the numbers on the pink slip by heart, but she looked all the same, just to make sure that the thirty-one hadn't disappeared.
Five numbers out of six meant she had already won one thousand dollars, but if she didn't win the entire jackpot, she didn't want any money at all. They could keep their piddly thousand bucks!
The model's silver pincers snatched the final ball like a bird grabbing a worm. There was a horrible second as she fumbled the ball slightly instead of rotating it gracefully, and the painted number got lost in her palm.
"You klutz!" Janna shrieked at the TV. Then, afraid her bad temper would break the magic, she concentrated on being calm and serene.
Sixty-six, she breathed.
Sixty-six, she willed.
Sixty-six. She would do anything for a sixty-six.
Sixty-six. It had to be a sixty-six.
It wouldn't be fair if it was anything except sixty-six! Maybe if she said "sixty-six" sixty-six times?
Sixty-six. Sixty-six. Sixty-six. Sixty-six. Sixty-six. Sixty-six....
The model had regained control of the ball and was slowly rotating it to the screen. There it was! It was...ninety-nine. Janna went cold and still. She felt as if she had just run full speed into a wall. She had been so close. Good-bye, new car. Hello, Maybe. It wasn't fair!
But wait the silver talons were turning the ball. Here it came, right side up! The ninety-nine turned into a sixty-six! Sixty-six! Janna had known all the time that it had been a winning ticket! How could she ever have doubted it?
The man with the donkey voice was speaking. "We hope you were the lucky one, but if not, there's always next week's Mega Multimillion Dollar Lotto Lottery. Buy a dream for a dollar! Good night, folks!"
Janna stood in the center of the room, clutching the ticket to her chest. Now that she was rich, the very air she breathed seemed different. Now that she was rich, she would change a lot of things. Now that she was rich, she could have everything that Elizabeth Newby had. No, she could have more than Elizabeth Newby had, and before Elizabeth Newby had it.
Janna heard the door open behind her and turned to see her mom with an armful of groceries and a handful of mail. Janna jumped up and ran to her, knocking the mail into the air. She whooped and threw her arms around her mother. She heard glass break as the grocery bag fell to the floor, but Janna didn't care.
"I won! I won!"
Mom held Janna's shoulders and stared at her daughter. Janna waved the pink slip in her mother's face.
"We're rich! I won the lottery just like I always said I would!"
Janna's mom said nothing, but Janna could see the tiredness fall from her eyes, and she saw quite clearly the images that appeared in her mother's mind a reliable furnace, a dishwasher, a new winter coat instead of a used one.
The telephone rang. Janna fell silent as her mother reached, dreamlike, for the phone.
Janna could see her mother's hand tremble as she handed the receiver to Janna.
"Hello, Janna? This is the president of the United States. I just want to congratulate you on winning the lottery. It couldn't have happened to a nicer person!"
Janna nodded dumbly into the receiver.
"Say thank you," her mother hissed.
"Thank you," Janna squeaked.
When the president hung up, she handed her mother first the telephone and then the telephone book.
"Call up the car dealer. Tell them to bring over that new car we were looking at last week, the fancy convertible. Any color you want!"
It seemed that Janna had no sooner turned around to look out the window than a wrecker was hooking up Maybe to haul it away once and for all. The sleek, shiny blue sports car she and her mother had oohed and aahed over was pulling into Maybe's old place.
As her mother ran out to the car, Janna pulled the stack of catalogs from under her bed, the ones she liked to leaf through and checkmark the things she liked. She dug her mother's credit card out of her purse on the kitchen table and picked up the phone. To save time Janna just ordered one of everything in the first catalog and requested express delivery. Immediately, the doorbell rang. All the things she had ordered had arrived! She had everything stacked in the hall while she dialed the phone number of the next mail-order company.
"Janna," her mother called. "Janna!"
Janna looked out the window to see her mother standing by their new car with a fur coat on over an expensive-looking red dress. Shiny jewels sparkled from her ears, her neck, her wrist.
Janna waved, yet her mother still shouted, "Janna! Janna!"
"Yeah, Mom, I see you. Cool!"
Janna opened her eyes carefully. Her mother was standing in the bedroom doorway.
"What's cool, Janna?"
"Nothing," Janna said.
"Hurry up, lazybones. We need to get a move on if you want to get the best pick of winter coats. I'll go try to start Maybe. Don't forget to bring your money for the bookstore."
Janna turned her head to look out the window. Maybe stood in the driveway like a diseased and disgusting bug. She felt under her pillow. There it was, her pink lottery ticket from last night's lottery. She remembered now. She hadn't even matched one number in the Mega Multimillion Dollar Lotto Lottery.
Copyright © 2009 by Kimberly K. Jones