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About The Lottery

What happens when seven members of a cookie exchange suddenly win the mega millions?  Now, in the midst of the worst economic downturn in three quarters of a century, The Lottery turns Pearlman’s unflinching eye on class and security, arrogance and entitlement when she opens up the dirty little secret of money and wealth.  As seven members of a cookie exchange meet to play the lottery, they realize each has scars from the economic system and has been hit by the recession in different ways.

But, of course, they win! The big one: $125 million. A life changing amount.  Their dreams have all come true. Or have they?
Will anything ever again be as exciting?

With the lottery win, healed fractures break open, bursting into rages.  Character flaws are exposed; loyalties and moralities are tested.  And, yes, new lives and dreams are realized. Wealth brings out strength, courage, and generosity in some, and selfishness, greed, conceit in others.  Integrity is tested when they learn startling things—garnering dismay and admiration — about themselves as they finish another year together, frayed at the edges, but even closer as events make a full circle. As readers we are able to examine our own ethics about money and class, and, indeed, life itself, as we witness the cookie club friends facing both struggle and joy.

How does this all end? Leave it to Pearlman to bring the story to a memorable conclusion, warming our hearts and breaking our hearts at the same time.


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Reviews

“It’s a winner!”…Barbara J Tobey

“In Ann Pearlman’s book The Lottery, seven women agree to play the lottery weekly in order to help with their individual financial hardships… I started the book thinking that money was the most important thing in life. As I read about these endearing women I discovered that what’s most important in life is love… I learned that money drives away poverty, but love makes life worth living. This book, The Lottery, touched me deeply in many ways. I thoroughly enjoyed the characters, the lottery quotes at the beginning of each chapter, and the renewed spirit of each of the members of the Cookie Club. Highly recommended!.”… T.Novotny

“I love the books written by her!” … Nancy Jackson

“The Lottery, Ann Pearlman’s third book in her series about the Christmas Cookie Club women, continues her tradition of complex characters and relationships, as well as her subtle – and sometimes not so subtle – social commentary. Two of the more minor characters in the earlier books take center stage here and are beautifully developed by Ms. Pearlman. Her ability to set scenes and engage the reader remain as stellar as always.”…L. Sherby

“Wonderful book of women and friendship.”…J. Davis

 

 

 


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Excerpt

One

 

Moses used a lottery to decide who among his flock would win a plot of land by the river Jordan.

 

THERE IS NO PAST, it’s never gone. It determines how you view the future. And life exists only in your mind.  It is how you see it, Jeannie thinks, standing on Juliet’s porch just before she rings the bell. The thought, with its smidge of pessimism, comes as a surprise since she is nothing but excited and happy to be at this gathering.

Sure enough, Juliet opens the door with a hug, her laughter erasing the thought.  “This is going to be so much fun. We’ll win the lottery. I know we will.”  After she hangs Jeannie’s coat in the entry closet, slides the door closed, it’s as if Jeannie were never outside in the gusting snow, her breath never visible in the air.

Juliet’s house is perfect.  Evidence of the holidays has vanished except for miniature lights embellishing a six-foot tall ficus tree in the corner of a mostly white living room.  Pale maple floors, smooth and gently satin, surround Turkish rugs.  Classical music plays on the stereo.  A cello piece, sounds like Yo-Yo Ma playing Gershwin.

Juliet pulls Jeannie to her kitchen–black granite, maple cabinets, and stainless appliances. Cabinets closed. No mixers, coffee makers, dirty dishes in evidence as though the food was magically prepared, and proof of toil and dirt erased. Rosie is already there, usually the first to arrive anywhere, and Chandra. Rosie is slicing a piece of Juliet’s Amaretto chocolate torte, knife in hand.

Chandra grins, “You have to get some cake. It’s fabulous. Chocolate! Almonds! Alcohol!”

Just then Vera enters along with Sissy and Marnie who have driven together. They hug and kiss each other, this throng of good friends, who celebrate throughout the year, ending with a Christmas cookie club.  Spirits are high in the warmth, bright colors and boundless love, a welcome refuge from dark and bitter snow. Each of them has brought a bottle of wine.

Rosie hands a plate of cake to Vera, “So. Is this the best cake ever, or what? Wait till you taste it.”

“This is better than sex,” Chandra’s teeth gleam white in her brown face.

“Nothing’s better than sex,” Juliet says.

“Sex? What’s that?” Sissy jokes.

“I’m here. Sorry I’m late.” Taylor calls, stomping her boots in the entry.

“We’re all here!”  Juliet announces. “All who want to play.”

There’re twelve members of the cookie party. At the last cookie club, Sissy announced she won ten grand playing the lottery. They decided to form a lottery club and play together.

“So there’ll be only eight of us,” Marnie says.

“This is going to be soooo much fun.” Rosie’s voice trills.

“Maybe we’ll win enough we could all take a trip together. Chicago.”

“Chicago? Let’s go someplace warm in February,” Juliet says. “The Caribbean.”

“Maybe even Paris,” Rosie squeals.

“Or Barcelona.”

“China.”

“Brazil.”

They throw in dream vacations, the places they haven’t been.

“We might be able to win the whole thing. Even more. Maybe a million!”

“God! What would I do if I won a million?” Jeannie muses.

“We all dream that,” Juliet says. “It’s everyone’s dream: winning the lottery.”

“Say ‘fuck you’ to Rick,” Taylor blurts out.  “Who still hasn’t paid child support and his latest settlement offer is shit. That’s what I’d do. Sign his damn papers and be done with him.”

“I’d buy a house with Jim and help Sky start her law practice.” Marnie’s voice is wistful.

“Quit my job,” Chandra says.

“Buy that empty building on Stadium that would be soooooo perfect for yoga,” Jeannie says.  “I can just see it with a few studios, maybe a massage room. A comfortable waiting room. Sauna. Showers.  Or maybe an entire wellness center.”

“Pay off my kids’ college loans,” adds Chandra.

“Get a face lift!” Vera says.

“Start a foundation!” says Sissy. “Urban farming for Detroit,” Sissy adds.

They spill out wishes, fast and furious, dreams toppling on other dreams, overlapping, fighting for first place in a hierarchy.  What they’d do if they won a million dollars.  All those unlived lives. Shopping sprees, houses, trips, boats, helping kids and family, donating to a charity, starting businesses.  The excitement of owning unlimited beautiful, thrilling things spills out. Security at last. Security and freedom.

“The more numbers we have the greater our chance for winning!”  Juliet sings, swaying her hips and doing a little dance, as she pours white wine.

“But the more we have to split the loot!” Chandra chortles.

“It is what it is.  And if we want four more numbers we can get easy picks,” Sissy wears the multicolored scarf she bought with her lucky ten thousand.

“What’s that?” Taylor says. “I’ve never done this before.”

“Let the computer pick numbers for us.”

By now, the cake is almost devoured, only a few stray almonds lie on the plate.  The friends move to the living room, glasses in hand. Juliet totes the basket of tangerines, and Vera the wine bottles, and places them on the Noguchi glass coffee table.

Jeannie sits on the sofa and pulls a cream-colored cashmere throw over her legs.  Outside it’s thick night, Juliet has no blinds so the winter dark is like dead eyes.  A stray flake falls and it looks lonesome, as if a fleck from the white walls, or the white sofa, or the chairs had sparked to the outside.

“We’re going to play the Mega Millions, yes? The Power Ball?” Juliet asks.

“I thought so. Right?” Chandra scans the room waiting for nods.

“It’s on Tuesday night, so we buy the tickets by Tuesday.”

“How do we want to do it?” Marnie asks.

“I thought we’d each pick a set of numbers and play all of them. We’ll have eight chances to win each week,” Juliet says.

Everyone nods. “That way each of us would play her own and everyone else’s favorite numbers.”

“But we won’t change the numbers. They’ll be our magical numbers,” Jeannie says.

“Well, who is going to do it? Are we going to take turns?”  Juliet asks.

“How ‘bout one person buys the numbers for a month and then we rotate the next month.”

“We’ll meet every month to change the buyer?  Let’s meet at the buyer’s house.” Jeannie wants to make sure they keep meeting.  “I’ll do it next month.”

The truth is, she’s not doing this for money. She likes the idea of all of them meeting every month and is aware of the absent cookie club bitches. Yeah, money would be nice, who wouldn’t want to win a million bucks, but if someone said, do you want to meet every month and discuss books, or the stock market, — hell, even shoes, Tupperware, or the dog park (and she doesn’t even have a dog) she’d sign up.  She wants the camaraderie.  Jeannie still misses the closeness she once shared with Rosie and Sue when they were the three musketeers.   Then Sue started an affair with Jeannie’s father and told Rosie.  Rosie kept the secret, but Jeannie found out. Her two best friends, and her father betrayed her.  She shakes away the memory. Enjoy this! She reminds herself.

Yes, she wants to be with Rosie in spite of the tarnished friendship.  All weekend, she smiled when she thought of this night, cherishing and anticipating the joy. The laughter. The crazy fun of playing the lottery.

“Okay. So we’ll each have our numbers in play, and one person will buy for an entire month.” Marnie summarizes. “Whatever we win we’ll split up evenly, right? Regardless of whose number it is, or who actually bought the ticket, right? We pay in evenly and split evenly.”

“Of course.” Everyone says.

“That goes without saying,”

“I picked up some Mega Million tickets.”  Juliet passes papers with red numbers from one to fifty-six in five panels, each divided by yellow bars, numbers for the easy pick options at the bottom.  On the right side, it says Mega Millions in blue. On the left, insert face up.  Jeannie has never seen one before.  Each slip, about a quarter of page in size, has the option of five bets. The panels are divided in two.  “I don’t get this,” she turns to Sissy figuring she’s the expert. She won.

“The top part is for the five numbers, called white balls, and for the bottom half, you pick one number, and that’s called the power ball. If all six numbers hit, you win it all.  Millions usually. If you match five, you win $200,000.  I matched four,” Sissy picks up a tickets and points to the top panel. “Four of these, and the power ball. I used my dream book and won with 12, 10, 17, 20, which were for babies, tree, laughter and green. She points to the bottom part, “My power ball was 14 for cook, ‘cause I sure was cooking up those cookies.” Sissy laughs.

“How do you know which numbers go with which dreams?” Vera asks.

“From this.” Sissy holds up a tattered pamphlet, the red in the picture rubbed to pink, the black ink rubbed away in spots. The title, Aunt Sally’s Policy Players Dream Book, worn to grey.  “It was my mother’s. That’s how old it is!” She smiles at it, lovingly.

“It worked!” Rosie says.

“A little bit of magic,” Juliet says.

“Superstition.” Chandra says. “Numbers are about probabilities.” Chandra teaches math in high school.

“Or getting in the groove of the vibe of the universe,” Jeannie suggests.

“Let’s face it, we can’t predict the numbers and the odds are way against us.” Marnie says.

“Well, we’re gambling.”

“We’re not gamblers. We’re dreamers.  We’re optimistic dreamers.” Marnie’s platinum hair is striking even in this mostly white room.

Sissy laughs, “That’s me. Always the dreamer, always believing the dream can come true. And you know what?” She nods her head. “Sometime it does. Look at our Aaron and Tara.”  Sissy looks at Marnie. Aaron is Sissy’s son, and Tara is Marnie’s daughter, married with a little boy and a baby on the way. “They’re just kids who followed their dream and now have a number three hit song. That dream came true with work and talent.  Sometimes dreams come true with luck, like my win.  But was it luck? Or was I prescient with the numbers and is this old dream book more than it seems?”

“Dreams are messages from our unconscious.” Juliet reaches for a tangerine and peels it. The vibrant rind is a splotch of color against her white pants and sweater, her silvered nails.

“Maybe messages from the universe if you interpret them correctly,” Jeannie says.

“Or random firings of our brains discharging the day’s events.” Chandra adds.

“I hope there’s some justice in who wins because I can’t tell you how much I need money.” Vera shudders and pulls her shoulders closer. She sits on a white leather chair and her urgent delivery rivets everyone’s attention.   “I lie awake at night trying to figure out how to juggle accounts and bills. Each month I rotate which bills to pay. Ever since my cancer when we had to use credit to pay bills.  So,” she turns up a palm, “I borrow money on my house to pay my credit card.”  She turns up her left hand, “Thank God we got a line of credit before the housing crash and haven’t used it all up. Then, I pay some of that with a different credit card,” She presses both palms together in prayer, “and hope my commission check comes in on time. Every month I hold my breath praying I can get through without nasty calls. When I can’t sleep, I sit at the computer checking my balances, as though I’ve hidden money in an account or the interest has made some huge difference.” She draws in air through her teeth.

That explains the circles under Vera’s eyes, and the weight loss, Jeannie thinks.

“I thought that was my routine,” Taylor says. “Every month, a different anxiety dance. I don’t want to pick up my own the mail. When the phone rings, I check to see who’s calling, scared it’s a bill collector. Then around the first, I wonder, will I make it? What won’t I pay? So what’s my dream? To have no debt. To pay my bills. To stay away from the abyss,” she shrugs. “That’s all.”  Her eyes fill. “I’ve already accepted that I won’t be able to help my kids go to college.  Buzz will probably join the military.  And Nicole?” She shrugs.

“Yeah, I don’t get it.  The stock market is doing great, but most of us still struggle. Even American cars have bounced back. But everyone I know…”  Vera’s voice trails off.

They sit on the sofa and turn toward each other. Vera grabs Taylor’s hand and squeezes it.

“It’s going great for the rich again. In fact they’re richer than ever. Just not the rest of us,” Sissy says.

They’re talking about something they never discuss. Money.  A secret they keep from each other. One of those unpeeled layers of secret shame and pride. Vera doesn’t go out to dinner with them anymore. When they go, they split an entrée and don’t order wine. Most of them no longer get their nails done, and see movies at a matinee or on discount Tuesdays. They borrow books free from the library or exchange them in book trades. These aren’t big deals, just little extras. The recession still hits them all one way or another.  But Taylor and Vera are in real financial trouble. Jeannie looks around at her other friends and wonders about them.

“Tell me about it,” Marnie utters one of those I’m-going-to-joke-about-it-because-that’s-the-only-way-I-can-even-tell-you laughs that sound bitter and sarcastic. “I’ve had a thirty thousand dollar income cut every year since this recession started.  My house is still underwater.”

We’re naming figures.  We never discuss income, Jeannie thinks. They talk freely about problems with kids, or partners, infidelity on the part of a husband, or lovers, even how often they have sex, – or don’t have sex– but never before have they mentioned income. Jeannie has no idea how much her friends make.  She assumes they’re in the same general class. They manage to appear as if they are by their houses, clothes, cars.   But some of us buy used clothes at Lemon Tree.

Then Taylor says what Jeannie is thinking. “People never talk about money. We’re afraid to.”

“Afraid?” Juliet asks.

“Yes. If you’re poor, you think you’re responsible.  Not a good person.” Her voice trembles.  “Being lazy. Or a shopaholic or stupid.” She clears her throat and almost shouts.  “Or unlucky!  And unlucky means you’re not favored by God. If you have money, God has made it happen because you’re a good person.”  Her eyes are shellacked with tears. “Poverty drives you to do things you can’t believe. That you can’t even imagine doing and then there you are, picking up throw-a-ways from the street.” Taylor clenches her eyes and bows her head as her voice drifts away.

Marnie’s brows are lifted, her lips open. “I didn’t have any idea.”

“I feel like there’s something wrong with me.” Taylor points to herself, poking her chest with her index finger. “I’m supposed to pull myself up by my bootstraps.”

“It’s not you, it was never you.  It’s the economy,” Marnie says.

“That and a rotten husband,” Vera adds.  “And Pfizer closing.”

“People are judged by their money.  You don’t know that unless you’ve been poor,” Juliet whispers these words. The tangerine peel lies curled into itself like a nautilus shell seeking its own beginning.  Then she inhales sharply. “I’ve been poor,” she announces almost as if she’s confessing adultery.

“You?” Taylor asks.

“I grew up in a trailer park.  White trailer trash.” She shoots a look at Marnie. “Remember?”

Marnie presses her lips to a sad and empathetic smile. “I remember how you didn’t ever get the minis of the school picture to pass out and always pretended.”

Juliet blinks and then looks around her elegant house.

“Well. You don’t have to pretend anymore,” Taylor says. “You’re safe. And secure.”

Vera says, “I’ve been poor, too. And crawled out only to be back in it now.”

“My worst fear,” Juliet says softly, staring at Vera. “Being a homeless shopping bag lady.”

“That’s your worst fear?” Taylor says. “Mine, too.”

“Me, too!” Marnie, Vera, and Rosie add.

“All of us?” I ask. “We’re all haunted by the same homeless bag lady?”

“Yep. That and being raped.” Chandra says.

“Ohmygod. Yes. That’s why I won’t park in a structure. About ten years ago that perv was grabbing women in them, remember?” Marnie says.

“Of course,” Rosie says. “One was down the street from our office.”

“Let’s not even go there.  I don’t even want to think about it,” Chandra says.

“So we agree. Everyone’s wish: winning the lottery. Everyone’s fears: Being raped now and being a homeless bag lady when we’re old,” Sissy says.

“Don’t you get it? The lottery maintains the dream of American capitalism… anyone can be rich.  It’s the modern version of the Horatio Alger myth,” Juliet says.

They don’t know, but I’ve been poor too.  Temporarily poor, but poor. Does temporarily poor count?  Jeannie thinks.

This is what happened.   Mark and she were both working in the admissions department at Michigan State the summer before their senior year when they fell in love. It was one of those sudden, can’t think about anything else, stomach flipping, mad loves as though they found missing pieces of themselves in the other.  Twin souls, they called their relationship. Mark and she rented an apartment and Jeannie called to tell her parents.

“What?  You’re living with a boy? A boy we haven’t even met?”

“He’s a man, Dad. A man. And his name is Mark.”

“And you’re not married. Not even engaged?”

“I just met him two months ago.  I mean, we know this is right. We’re in love, but we’re not ready to get engaged.”

Jeannie heard her mother scream on the other side of the phone. She’s moving in with some boy? A boy. Who?

“You’re sure enough to LIVE with him, but not sure enough to MARRY him.”  Dad yelled, “Are you out of your mind?”

“It’s not the 1950’s anymore,” Jeannie shot back to my father.  “It’s 1989!”

“Honey,” he inhaled. “The year is unimportant. These things are universal. You should marry him first, believe me.” A tinge of fear trembled his pleading, his slow, thought-out words.  “You have to make sure he respects you.  You have to make sure you’re safe.”

“What are you talking about, Dad? Sex? Or living with him?

He didn’t answer. Jeannie had crossed a line she didn’t know existed.  Beyond the window of her dorm room, the grass had already turned brown. Beyond the field was the street for the highway home.

“You’re certainly not going to say he won’t buy the cow if he gets the milk for free, are you?”

Dad didn’t answer.  Jeannie imagined his face red with rage, imagined him pacing as far as the telephone cord allowed.  She wrapped the cord around her wrist, chaining herself to the phone as though she could never leave her father, while their conversation disintegrated into stereotype.

She looked out at West 43, the highway home. “Maybe I should bring him home to meet you and Mom.”  Once he met Mark– smart, handsome, poised, personable– they wouldn’t have any objections.

“He might be a fine young man. I assume he is if you’ve fallen in love with him,” he said as though Mark’s and her love was commonplace and ordinary instead of once in a lifetime, and unique with a rare connection and passion. “But that doesn’t matter.” He stopped a beat.  “What. You. Are. Doing. Is. Unacceptable,” he said as if she were a five year old and he was telling her she should never cross the street without looking both ways.  “I’ll be glad to meet him. But you need to know if you’re living with a man then he can support you.  Not me.”  He stopped for a minute for emphasis.   “That means no tuition.  No room and board. No allowance. No dealership cars. You’re on your own.  You and your boy friend.”

She hadn’t anticipated that.  Mark and Jeannie had counted on Dad giving her what he had paid the previous year.

Now, Jeannie realizes he was trying to protect her from men like himself, from what he did to Sue and others.  She doesn’t know how many others. He drank the milk and let the cows roam.

“Okay, Dad.”

“Here’s your mother,” but the receiver was already on the way to its cradle.

So that’s how she became poor.  Jeannie parlayed her full time summer job to part time for the school year.  Three nights a week, she worked as a waitress in the Peanut Barrel Restaurant. She earned less than minimum wage plus tips, and, since most of the customers were students, tips were meager.  Some Saturday nights, she brought home thirty dollars. Her grades fell, but she graduated on time.  The next year, Mark was in law school in Detroit and she worked for minimum wage, $3.35 an hour. She hunted for a higher paying job. After all Jeannie was a college graduate with a new shiny degree in sociology.  But it merely bestowed bragging rights that couldn’t be parlayed into cash.

For four years, she didn’t buy clothes, not even a new bra. Not even a tube of lipstick.  She learned to cook beans and rice. She learned to stretch a chicken and eat thighs, not breasts. She fried smelts. Then sardines.  Baked bean and hot dog casserole was a Saturday night treat.  She lost weight and walked two miles to work.  They didn’t own a car.  They lived on minimum wage and used loans for Mark’s tuition.

But they were blissful.  It was a creative challenge figuring out how to make a home without buying things.  Jeannie picked up furniture from the streets and Goodwill and repainted.  She made a quilt from old dresses and scraps on sale at Jo Ann’s.

They made love every night.

Every dollar was precious, every single one meant so much. Was it just inflation? Or was it working so hard?

Jeannie and Mark watched TV on a twelve-inch television Mom and Dad gave her for her sixteenth birthday, and listened to music on a radio alarm clock.  For four years, they lived below the poverty line. There it was, the poverty line in black and white: 8300 dollars for two people.  Jeannie earned 7000.

“Well, at least our taxes are low,” they’d joke.

Then, in the middle of Mark’s final year of law school, she got a raise to $5.00 an hour.  “Hey. Now it’s ten thousand. We’re no longer poor,” they laughed.

Is temporary poverty, poverty?  Poverty that’s self-induced for a specific purpose? Poverty you know will end? Was she playing at poverty?

Vera and Taylor don’t know if it will ever end… a daily, yearly grind of sinking incomes and used up resources from better times.

When Jeannie got her raise, she bought new underwear and a bra and a tube of lipstick at Kmart. The first things for herself she purchased in over three years.  That’s not an exaggeration for emphasis, or to convince.  When she got a raise to $5 an hour, she bought mushrooms and steak on sale and a bottle of wine to celebrate.  She remembers thinking, if I could have mushrooms and wine at dinner, I’d feel rich.  Now, they do that.  In fact, they take it for granted.

Then Mark graduated, got a job in Ann Arbor making $25,000 a year. They paid off his $25,000 for law school debt.  And got married.  Jeannie wouldn’t let her parents pay for their wedding, but did resume working at her father’s dealership.

She’s been rich and poor.  She was as happy as she’d ever been when she was poor, but proud of how far they’ve come. Then, she and Mark had hope, now they have security.

“Well. I’ve worked all my life. We push the negative away so deeply, we forget the pride of the redemption, the amazing achievement when we crawl out,” Jeannie says. ” She looks around at her dear friends. “We all have.”

“The trick to money is living on less than you make. Then you have enough,” Sissy says.

“Unless your income sinks so low you can’t.” Vera reminds us. They’re back where they started.

“Tell me about it.” Marnie laughs her bitter chortle. “When we win, we’ll get rid of our debts, have security and freedom, and learn to live on less than we have.”

“Back to picking numbers… And playing these dreams of ours.  How else can we figure which ones to play beside that book?” Juliet points to Sissy’s dream book.

“Birthdates,” Jeannie suggests.

“Give a number to each letter in a name and add it up, and if it’s too high, — the numbers have to be under 56, and the Powerball under 46,– collapse it by adding the digits together.” Sissy suggests.

“I’m going to do that,” Marnie pulls out pencil and paper from her purse, prepared as always.

Jeannie fishes around in her purse, and recovers a pen, but no paper.

“ I’m making the Powerball my lucky number. Five,” Marnie continues.

“Why five?”

“Because there’re five kids in my family.  It’s always been my lucky number.”

Juliet stands, opens a drawer in her sideboard and tosses pencils and paper on the coffee table.

First, Jeannie writes her birth date, then Mark’s. They were born the same year.  Their daughter Sara and she were both born in June. So she uses 6, Sara’s and her birth month, as the Powerball.  She adds up Mark’s and her birth year, 68 together to get 5. And those are her numbers.  7 5 11 26 31 6.  Do they hold magic, our birthdates all jumbled up like that?  My family.  What would it mean if we won? Jeannie wonders.

We’re a winning family? Special? The universe recognizes our bond, our unification.  Or is it all random luck? 

There’s quiet as everyone works out her numbers.  Marnie’s head is down, her platinum hair hides her face.  Rosie sits back, legs crossed, wearing black leggings, a grey cami and a flowing shawl in fuchsia.  Her tongue wets her upper lip as she writes.  A gesture that indicates she’s thinking. “I’m turning everyone’s names into numbers.”

Okay, so that will be her, Kevin, Ben.  Who are the other three? Her mom and dad? Sue? Probably.  Jeannie’s left out.

Vera and Taylor thumb through Sissy’s dream book.

As each one finishes, she hands the list to Juliet.  Jeannie presses a copy into her purse.

“Hey. We’re all done.” Juliet sits back. “Here’re our magic numbers,” she grins as she waves the papers. “I’ll email the numbers to everyone so we can check and see if we’ve won.”

“Not if. When,” Marnie corrects her and then laughs.

Jeannie grabs a tangerine.  She’s been working on advanced variations of the firefly pose and feels tenderness in her biceps as she zips away the rind and draws in the fresh citrus aroma.

“Okay. Now the money.”

“Are we going to do easy picks, too?” Marnie asks. ‘What do you think?”

“It just costs a dollar to play. That’s five dollars a month from each of us. Think we can make it ten?”  Rosie asks.

Vera looks away and Taylor hunts in her purse.   Silence lasts a beat too long. Taylor lifts her head and glances at each of them.

In the uncomfortable indecision, Marnie says, “Well, in the months there’re only four Tuesdays, we’ll have eight extra dollars and can play the easy picks with that. Cool?”

“Why don’t we each put in 6 dollars a month?” Jeannie suggests. “Then we’ll be able to have one easy pick each week and the last Tuesday of the month blow whatever’s left on them. How’s that?”  She checks Taylor and Vera’s faces and they’re both smiling.

“Cool.”

“All agreed?”

“Yep.”

“You have to play in cash. So each of you divvy up 6 dollars.”  Juliet waves her fingers toward herself. “Gimme the money. Gimme the money,” she chants.

They laugh as they start the required change making gymnastics so that each puts in six dollars.  Jeannie throws in ten and pulls out four one-dollar bills and ends up giving some to Taylor and Rosie.  All the money, bills and change, lands in a messy pile.  Juliet immediately stacks the bills and sorts the change, puts it all in an envelope and in a large loopy letters, writes C3 Lottery!!!!

“At least the money will help support the schools.  We’re not giving it away to some casino,” Chandra says. “It’s doing a little good.”

Taylor grabs the envelope and draws caricatures of each of them grinning with a banner pronouncing, WE WON THE MEGA MILLIONS above their cartoon heads. “This will make it happen,” she says with a nod.

“This is sooo much fun. I can’t wait till we WIN,” Rosie’s eyes shine.

“We’re going to be rich and happy,” Taylor laughs.

Juliet raises her glass.

“What fun!” Chandra says.

They say it in unison as their glasses create a chorus of crystal pings.

“To winning!” they all say.


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