The Mega Millions drawing is tonight and my head is already bathed in the ethereal glow of paid-off student loans, sports cars, and luxury condos by the ocean when Lori asks if I’d like to participate in a lottery pool with some other store employees. Don’t bother, a passing customer interrupts before breaking into a cheeky grin and laughing, I already bought the winning ticket. Lori and I laugh with her.
The next day, the dairy manager will tell me and another stock clerk how cashiers at the mini-mart tried to pressure him into buying a ticket. He told them no, they asked why, and he replied, Because I don’t want my fucking asshole wife to get half if I win! The cashiers laughed when he said it, the other stock clerk and I will laugh when he recounts the story. Later, I will wonder if his wife bought a ticket.
The passing customer wishes us good luck on the lottery pool before I answer Lori, Yes, but you’ll have to front me the money because I don’t carry cash. Lori doesn’t bat an eye. She begins to detail how we will divide the 1.6 billion dollar jackpot. Even if seven or eight people join the pool, that’s still a couple million for each person, she says. A couple hundred million, I correct. Lori grins and then disappears to gather other participants for the pool.
The line for tickets at the service center grows as I go about the rest of my shift stocking milk in the dairy aisle, running for carts, and facing shelves. The cashiers stand at the front of their checkout lanes, numbered lights beckoning overhead. But customers patiently wait to be checked out by Deb at the service center. Normal cash registers aren’t equipped with lottery ticket printers—only the service center.
Before we leave for the night, Lori tells me she’s planning to buy a ticket separate from the pool, and I offer to pay for it with my credit card. That way we’re square, I say. Lori shrugs, Sure. So I buy two tickets. One for her and one for me. I eagerly watch as they print and Deb tears them from the machine. Renewed fantasies sway in my mind like translucent fabric in a gentle breeze.
Tonight, I won’t watch the drawing. I’ll forget about it before I go to bed. The next day I’ll learn that the winning ticket was sold somewhere in South Carolina and I’ll remember the week I spent in South Carolina three summers ago, and how much I loved Myrtle Beach, and I’ll think that three summers is a long time and some time I’d like to go back.
But right now I’m not thinking about who will win. I’m thinking about paid-off student debt, sports cars, and luxury oceanside condos as Deb hands me the two tickets. I take them and fan them out as if there are more than just two for Lori to choose from. She dramatically covers her eyes and blindly plucks one from my hand. There’s the winner, I say. Lori grins.