With only two numbers left, Ray was on a role.
He hadn’t been so close on the lottery before; the most he ever won was enough for another ticket or, in one triumphant case, ten dollars. Now, though, he had five numbers matched, one to go, and the bonus number still to be revealed.
The tension mounted as he watched, waiting for the next number to come up. When the televised announcer stated, “32”, Ray’s mouth fell open. Sure, it was only four percent of the lotto’s profit, but at a hundred million dollars, that’s still four million in his pocket.
As he waited for them to get to the bonus number, he thought about what he’d do with his earnings. He considered a new car, something smaller and better able to handle the winter roads. Maybe a new gravestone for Verna, God rest her soul, since they only had the most basic granite plate.
He could pay off his kids’ mortgages, certainly, and maybe afford a refill on insulin. As it was, paying for food and rent ate up his very meager old age pension.
Waiting for the last number to appear, Ray thought of everything he could improve if he won the whole prize. Everyone’s lives would be better, he thought, much better than they had been. Much better than they were.
And as his winning number came up, his ticket to happiness, Ray was left only sad, thinking of the lifetime of effort he had put in to improve things for his kids, and how it hadn’t been worth much at all. He had grandkids, sure, but his own children were all so severely in debt that he didn’t feel like a damn thing he had done had improve their lot. Now it came down to a simple game of chance, and he had won, but what was that worth to a life spent in service to others?
Very little. He would take the money, pay off everyone else’s debts, fix things up, and be done with it all. Someone else, at least, could enjoy the profits. Ray sighed, not having any care left to give.