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Fiction #284
(published June 29, 2006)
It's All in the Timing
by Errid Farland
There I was, my last dollar in hand, about to let the Quick Pick machine randomly generate my numbers, when I changed my mind. I picked up a card and filled in the numbers myself.


"That's dumb," Harvey said.

"Buying a ticket?" I asked.

"No, picking those numbers."

"They have an exactly equal probability as any other six numbers."

"If they drew numbers once an hour for the next million years, they'd never come up one through six," he argued.

"That's why the lottery is a tax on people who are bad at math."


"Never mind."

Harvey bitched at me all the way home; not about the numbers I played, but about the "never mind." He said he was fully capable of comprehending the joke, it just took him a minute, that was all. He said his, "What?" meant that he was running it through his mind again, not that he needed me to explain. He said there were a lot of people who wouldn't have gotten it, even though he had. He said I'd never have made a teacher, the way I just dismiss people like that.

I said, "I would especially dismiss people who don't get my jokes."

"I got your joke," he said, again.

"Twenty minutes later," I said. "How do you think a stand-up comic would like it if it took everybody twenty minutes to get his jokes?"

"I think he should find a new profession," he said.

We didn't watch the drawing. We heard about it because it was the buzz all over town. "Can you believe it - one through six?" people would say.

We were in line at Dunkin' Donuts the first time we heard it. The customer ahead of us said it to the donut guy.

The donut guy said, "Yeah, and somebody won. What kind of moron would pick those numbers?"

We looked at each other. My heart pounded. My knees went weak. "One through six?" I mouthed to Harvey, my eyes wide as the jelly filled I was going to buy.

"I'm sick," I said, and sat down at the table without buying my jelly filled.

"Where's the ticket?" he breathed, real low, between his teeth.

"Let me think."

I looked in my purse. I pulled out my wallet, my checkbook, my hairbrush, my makeup case, my pack of gum, my collection of mints I get but never eat when I go to restaurants, the stray coins I find in the washer and under the cushions of the couch, the five receipts from Albertson's, the twenty-five receipts from the ATM machine, the receipt from Kragen's for the water pump that left us with only a dollar until payday the next day, the spare set of keys from when I last locked myself out of my car and Harvey had to bring them to me, the tampon I keep for emergencies that had long since broken apart and was in three pieces - the housing, the plunger, and the tampon itself, its string dangling gloriously from the Dunkin' Donuts table - the remains of the tampon wrapper, three shredded tissues and one used napkin.

I followed a similar procedure with my wallet, then together we went to my '67 Volkswagen bug and emptied it out onto the sidewalk. Two girls walked by and I heard one say, "Can you believe it? One through six?"

We stayed focused. We looked through all the Burger King and Taco Bell wrappers and bags on the floor, and in the back seat.

Harvey yelled at me. "Why are you such a slob? THINK!" We got in the car and went home. "Did you even GET the ticket?"

"I think I got it."

Harvey swore at me.

"Don't get agitated," I told him. "It's got to be somewhere."

It was somewhere. It was in the pocket of my jeans in the hamper. I had meant to put a load of laundry in that morning before we left for the donut store, but being such a slob, I put it off until later.

Seventeen point three million, after taxes - that's what we live on now. We have a maid.

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