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Just for Starters ...
The next time I get carried away with making a ton of money, just tie my shoelaces to a runaway freight train or shake my head to see if there's any part of my pea brain left rattling inside. Because ... if I can't remember what I learned on this little McDoogle mishap, then my mind is majorly missing.
It all started when the state lotto got up to 2.1 gazillion dollars. Suddenly, everyone in town went crazy buying lotto tickets. Dads filled their briefcases, Moms filled their purses, and those who could only buy a few tickets at a time came back almost as often as my big brother did trying to pass his driver's test.
The point is, everybody had Lotto Fever in a big I-don't-care-how-many-meals-we're-gonna-miss- I'm-buying-another-fifty-tickets! kind of way.
Even us kids.
"Hey, Wally, (munch-munch) where you guys headed?" It was Opera, my best friend, the 'eating machine'. School had just let out, and he was catching up to Wall Street, my other best friend (even though she is a girl), and me.
"Off to buy lotto tickets!" I shouted. You always have to shout to Opera. The only thing he loves more than eating potato chips is listening to classical musicwhich explains the Walkman headphones surgically attached to his ears. "You want to go in as partners with us?" I asked.
"Nah, (crunch-crunch) nobody ever wins those things."
"We will," Wall Street shouted. She gave me a sly wink. "I've gota couple of systems all worked out to choose the winning number."
"No (crunch-munch) kidding?"
"You bet," Wall Street said. It was an obvious con job. Wall Street planned to make her first million by the time she was fourteenmost of it off of Opera and me.
She whipped out her calculator and punched a bunch of keys. "You see, you take the hypotenuse of a right triangle, multiply it by the latest Dow Jones Industrial Average, divide it by E=MC², and BINGO! You get the winning number!" (Wall Street could convince people of just about anything.)
"Really?" Opera cried.
"Oh, yeah!" Wall Street said. Then lowering her voice, she pretended to have even more inside information. "And, if that doesn't work," she glanced around, "there's always my super, top-secret tried-and-true method."
"What's (munch-crunch) that?" Opera whispered back.
"Eeny, meeny, miney, mo."
"Hey, I've heard of that one!" he cried.
"Rats, my secret's out. Oh, well," she shrugged. "I guess it's hard to keep anything a secret that works so perfectly."
That's all Opera needed to hear. Before you could say, "There's a fool born every minute," he dug into his pocket and pulled out a wad of bills. "Here, let me go in with you guys and buy some of those tickets."
Good ol' Operaheart as big as a forest, mind as dumb as a stump.
I looked up just in time to see Gary the Gorilla reaching for my throat. Fortunately, I took a breath just before he cut off my air supply. (Sometimes Gary forgets his own strength, which is easy to do when you're the only seventh grader who has to shave twice a day.)
"You guys buyin' lotto tickets?" he asked as he lifted me off the ground and held me up face-to-face with him.
I wanted to answer, but it's hard to say anything when you're busy choking to death. I opened my mouth, but what came out was the usual: Choke ... Gasp ... Cough ... Wheeze ...
"Well, are you?" he demanded.
I gave an encore performance of my dying routine: Wheeze ... Cough ... Gasp ... Choke ...
"What's the matter, cat got your tongue?" he asked.
"Actually," Wall Street pointed out, "it's the bully that's got his throat."
"Oh." Realizing he might be the cause of my early death, he let go of my neck. I sort of slid down to the sidewalk ... not dead but giving it some serious thought.
"I'm fillin' out my lotto numbers," I heard him say. "And I can't figure out what to put down for the last numbera five or a two."
"That's easy!" Opera said. "Wall Street here (munch-crunch, crunch-munch) has a system and"
"Shh." Wall Street pretended to frown. "Don't give away all my secrets."
"Oh, (crunch-munch) never mind."
But it was too late. Opera had let the make-believe cat out of the make-believe bag. With one swift move, Gary reached down to Wall Street and lifted her up.
"You gots a secret for finding the winning number?" he growled into her face.
"No, ..." she gasped, "I was just ... making that ... up."
"Oh." He must have believed her because he set her back down a lot gentler than he did mea definite advantage of being a girl. Then he glared back at mea definite disadvantage of me being me. "I need some help here, McDorkoid," he demanded.
Never wanting to disappoint Gary, let alone almost die twice in the same afternoon, I staggered to my feet. "If you only have two choices," I said, trying to rub his ring-around-the-collar fingerprints off my neck, "why don't you just flip for it. Heads, it'll be fivetails, it'll be two."
"Hey, that's a great idea!" He beamed.
I turned to Opera and Wall Street, pleased that I'd found a nonlethal solution until I noticed my feet were off the ground. Once again I was enjoying the wonderful aroma of Gary the Gorilla's breath.
"I'll just flip for a number," he said. "You come up heads, then I'll write down five. You come up tails, then I'll write down two."
Before I could point out that using coins might be better than using me, he grabbed me by the chest and with one mighty heave sent me flying high into the air.
And with one mighty breath, I screamed my lungs out:
Now, I really don't want to complain. I mean it's not Gary's fault he doesn't know his own strength ... and I'm sure not every passenger in that 757 had a heart attack when they saw me shooting past their windows. Still, when I hit the ground, I did have one complaint.
And to make matters worse, instead of landing on my front or my back, I landed on my side. After I pried myself out of the asphalt and opened my eyes, I saw Gary looking down at me a little confused.
"Hey, you landed on your edge."
"I'm sorry," I groaned.
"That's okay." He suddenly broke into a grin and reached down to help me up.
I was grateful there were no hard feelings.
I was not grateful when he said, "Guess we gotta go best two out of three."
Suddenly he grabbed me, suddenly, I was flying through the air again, and suddenly, I was repeating my favorite phrase:
* * *
There was no problem guessing which Lotto Mart was selling the lotto tickets. Something about a line of people stretching from here to infinity gave it away. But I was surprised by the number of poor people I saw standing in line.
"Some of these people can't afford to buy tickets," I whispered to Wall Street. "What are they doing here?"
"I guess they figure it's their only chance to stop being poor," she said.
"But the odds of winning are so small! Isn't that kind of taking advantage of them?" I asked.
She shrugged. "Sure, I guess."
"Is that fair?"
"What do you care?" she scoffed. "Just think of all their money that you'll be winning."
I didn't find a lot of comfort in her words. I found even less comfort in the next ones.
"Excuse me, ain't you Wally McDoogle?"
I turned to see a big man who'd just come out of the Lotto Mart. He had a dozen lotto tickets in his hands and wore a sweater with the words, "Save the Snails" printed on it.
If I'd sucked my breath in any harder, I would have sprained my lungs. He was one of the terrorists I'd put in jail way back in My Life As Dinosaur Dental Floss.
He looked at me, waiting for an answer.
I knew it was time to act. I knew it was time to do what I'm a pro at. I knew it was time to make up as many excuses as I could think of!
"It wasn't my fault," I blurted out. "I'm not the one who thought the rhubarb sauce was nuclear fuel! And, you really can't blame me for getting the fire hose caught in the Tyrannosaurus Rex's teeth, besides how'd I know the President would"
"Easy, pal, easy." He chuckled. "You wasn't responsible."
"I wasn't?" (This was obviously a first.) "Are you sure?"
He nodded. "Actually, I'm grateful for dat time in prison. It like, showed me the errors of my way. The fact is, if it weren't for you, I'd a never learnt that crime don't pay."
"So, you're not mad at me?" I asked.
"Of course not." He smiled a semi-toothless smile. "Oh, speakin' of crime, don't you know that kids under eighteen can't buy lotto tickets?"
"We can't?" Wall Street sounded surprised.
"But we've got all this ... burp ... money." Opera had finished his chips and was now working on his soda.
For a moment, the Big Lug couldn't answer. All he could do was stare at the wad of money in Opera's hands.
"What are we going to ... belch ... do with all this cash?" Opera asked.
Finally, Big Lug found his voice. "Tells ya what I'm gonna do." He reached for one of his tickets and handed it to Opera. "I'll sell ya one of mine."
"No ... BELCH ... kidding ... BURRRP?" (That was a good one.)
"Absolutely!" Big Lug grinned. "One for the price of four."
Before I could stop him, Opera handed over all his money. "It's a deal!" (The only thing worse than Opera's eating habits were his business skills.)
I spun around to Wall Street, hoping she would say something. But she was too overcome with grief to speak. (The poor girl's heart was shattered that someone else had beaten her to all of Opera's money.)
"Here you go," Big Lug said. (Obviously, he had no sympathy for the intellectually challenged.) "Number 333777," he read the ticket's number as he handed it to Opera. "Sounds pretty lucky to me."
"Thanks, Mister! ... BURP."
"Hey, wait a minute," Wall Street said.
But Big Lug wasn't sticking around. "Sorry, gotta go."
Before either of us could protest, he had stuffed Opera's money into his pocket and started down the street. "Good luck on tomorrow's drawing," he yelled, then let out a good laugh.
"Yeah, right," Wall Street muttered.
"Tell me about it," I grumbled.
"Thanks a lot!" Opera shouted back. And then turning to us, he grinned. "Boy, aren't we lucky."
Wall Street and I could only roll our eyes. Little did we realize how unlucky we were all about to become.