The Lottery

handbag illustration

“Hurry up, it’s almost on,” he shouted from the sofa, remote control in hand.

“I can’t find it!” she called from the hallway. She’d already pulled everything out of her purse and was scrabbling through month-old receipts and year-old gum wrappers at the bottom of her handbag.

“If you’ve lost that ticket and it’s a winning one I’ll never forgive you.”

“If I’ve lost the ticket and it’s a winning one you’ll never even know about it because it’s a Lucky Dip and you have no idea what the numbers are on it. Get a pen and write the numbers down while I look.”

He sighed and reluctantly pulled himself up from the sofa, tipping the cat off his lap in the process. The cat gave a croaky mew and glared at him.

“Where are the pens?”

“I dunno. Around. Use your eyes!”

He sighed again and scanned the room. Then he poked his hands along the cushions of the sofa. He winced at the crumbs and grit that scraped the edge of his fingertips, but he didn’t find a pen. The cat continued to glare at him.

“Can’t find one,” he said. “What happens to all the pens in this house?”

“Dunno. I always see the cat playing with them. They’re probably all scattered underneath various pieces of furniture.”

The cat turned to the sound of her voice, then looked back to him with a smug, slow blink.

“Here,” she said, “Use this one from my bag. But I want it back when I’m done. You always lose my bag pens.”

“Me, or the cat?”

“Both of you.” She entered the room and tossed the pen at him. He responded too slowly and it thwacked him in the chest.

“Ouch. Thanks a lot.” He glanced at the TV screen. They were gearing up to release the first ball.

“What would you do if we won the jackpot?” she said.

“First? I’d probably hire a limo to take us to one of those posh estate agents that sell the big houses, and I’d insist on viewing every house in the area worth over two million quid. Then I’d go shopping. Then I’d take you to some fancy restaurant and we’d have lobster and caviar and whatever else it is that expensive folk eat. Then I’d go yacht shopping.”

She wrinkled her nose. “That seems a bit excessive.”

“If we win the jackpot we win 78 million. The world is your oyster. Ooh, oysters – they’re expensive, right?” He noted down the first lottery number.

“It just seems a bit gross to go out and start blowing cash on useless stuff straight away.”

“When you have that much cash you can blow it on as much useless stuff as you want. I mean, what else is the point in all that money?”

“To do good for the world.”

He rolled his eyes. “Like what?”

“We could buy a tonne of food and donate it to food banks. We could write a load of cheques for charities. We could set up our own charity, maybe.”

He shook his head and wrote down the second number. “What about the house?”

“I mean, yeah, I’d like a nice new house. But one worth two bloody million is a bit unnecessary. Just as long as it’s big enough to adopt a load of cats.”

“How many cats are we talking?”

“I dunno. All the little old ones that have trouble finding homes. Like 10, tops.”

The cat gave a strangled meow.

“You’re out of your mind. I’m not winning the lottery to spend my days feeding a load of mangey cats. One is enough.”

The cat offered him an appreciative purr.

“Well I’m not winning the lottery just to spend it on expensive meals. You could fix a lot of things wrong with the world with that kind of money.”

“But why should we? Nobody’s looking out for us right now.” He noted the third number.

“We don’t need looking after! We may not be rich but we’re comfortable. We’re very fortunate. And if we’re fortunate enough to win millions then I want to share it with the world.”

“We can share it a bit, sure. But not all of it.”

“Tough. I bought this ticket. If I win, I can do what I want with it.”

“I gave you a couple of quid in loose change the other day. How do you know you didn’t pay for that ticket with my money?”

“Doesn’t matter. I could just pay you that money back and keep the jackpot.”

“You wouldn’t.”

“I might! You’ve missed a number.”

He noted it down.

“If you’re going to be irresponsible with that kind of money then you don’t deserve it,” she said with a shrug.

“That’s not fair. We live together. We’ve been engaged for 3 years. You’d have to give me some. Must be some law about it.”

She shrugged. “We’re not married yet. Wouldn’t want to marry someone so selfish.”

He scribbled down the fifth number, then stared at her. “Are you calling off the wedding?”

She sighed. “Not necessarily! Maybe. I don’t know. But how can we be compatible if we have such different ideas about how to spend that kind of money? It would drive us apart, anyway.”

“Jesus. This was just a nice little Saturday night in with a bottle of wine and the Lottery, and now you want to end our relationship?”

“I’m not saying that, am I? But I think if we did win we’d have to have a good long talk about our aspirations in life.”

“I just want a quiet life with lots of money, is that too much to ask?”

“You’ve missed the last number.”

He scribbled it down. “Better find the ticket then.”

They stared at each other for a short while, both wondering whether that single-line Lucky Dip would spell the end.

“I’ll check my other bag,” she said, and bolted up the stairs.

He tickled the cat behind its ears and it fell into deep purrs. “If we break up, I’m having the cat,” he shouted.

“No, you’re bloody not!”

“I am,” he whispered.

“I found it!” she called, and the floorboards creaked as she dashed back down the stairs.

She handed the ticket over to him. He snatched it and started to check the numbers. She tapped her foot and chewed at her lip. The cat reached out a paw and started tapping at the pen which lay on the coffee table.

“Three numbers,” he said.

“Three? Shit. What does that mean?”

“We win £25.”

They gazed at each other.

“Well. What will we do with our winnings, then?” he said.

She sighed. “Order pizza?”

He nodded. “Pizza sounds good.”

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2 thoughts on “The Lottery

  1. ahahhahahaa, daaamn. 25 pounds ain’t that bad, though. (Or is it euros?)
    This made me feel giddy good reading it and I laughed at the end.
    Can I ask you for some advice? Freelance-and-also-aspiring-writer to freelance-and-also-aspiring-writer? How do you do it with short stories? I can’t wrap my head around writing them. Reading them is all good and enjoyable, but when I get to write it, I feel 10,000 words too constrictive a limit to put characters, scenarios, a climax, resolution in.
    PS I read your 27 things/27 years list. How’s it going with the novel and the agents and the whole traditional publishing/self publishing?

    1. That is a very good question and I think I’ll probably struggle to answer because I don’t think there’s really a single trick or technique to writing short stories which I can share! Most of mine tend to focus on a single scene, and a lot of the time I think of them as just a single moment which could occur within a much longer story or a novel. So I don’t worry too much about character development or backstory – I just think about the particular scene I want to write, and write it. I’ll maybe have backstory or ideas about a character’s history in my head, and that might influence what happens but it won’t necessarily be explicit in the actual short story itself. Rather than thinking of writing a story in a traditional sense with opening, climax, resolution, I try to get to the action and the heart of the story right away, build quickly to a climax, and then kind of leave it there, or have a very brief resolution. I usually leave a lot unsaid or unresolved, but I think that’s just because I like stories like that because they make me think about the possibilities of what happens afterwards. However, I think that helps with keeping the story short and snappy.

      I hope I’m being at least a tiny bit useful here! I think short story is the kind of thing where you just have to practice over and over in order to find your personal style. Being tough with the editing process also helps – just be ruthless and cut out anything that doesn’t move the story forward.

      As for agents and publishing, nothing has happened yet! I’ve had a couple of rejections from agents, still waiting to here from a few and just sent out a few more queries this weekend. I think things tend to move slowly in the trad publishing world so it’s a bit of a waiting game for me right now. If I’m not successful in finding an agent by the second half of this year, I’ll probably go down the small press route or consider self-publishing, but I haven’t done a whole lot of research on these options yet so it all seems a bit daunting right now!

      Thanks for reading!

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