The Lucky Winner

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Chapter 37

The Day of the Lottery Winning

Dad was driving a flatbed truck back from California. He’d been on the road for a week, repeating the same routine—drive, stop periodically for bathrooms and to get high-calorie foods with no nutritional value, rest in the sleeping compartment at truck stops, and back to drive, drive and drive.

He returned to the terminal and by dinnertime, he was home.

He opened the door to find Mom and me sitting at the dining table, our eyes locked on him as he entered.

“What’s going on?” he asked, having no idea why we were like two frozen chickens.

In cases like these, when people acted in an abnormal way, one usually imagined the worst. He sure did—the very worst thoughts raced inside his head. Does someone have cancer? Do we have a new unknown debt to pay? Did Kyle get hit by a car?

“Guys? What’s the matter?” he asked, fully prepared to face the tragedy—whatever it was.

Mom finally opened her mouth. “Hi, honey…” her voice shook.

His gut told him that it must have been about her. Then he remembered she always had her yearly check-ups around that time. She probably learned something bad from the results, he thought. Something really bad, judging from the expressions on our faces.

He hurried over to his wife and put his arm around her shoulder comfortingly. “Honey… I’m here for you. We’ll fight it together. Okay?”

“Fight what?” Mom looked up.

So she wasn’t ill. “Oh, good,” he exhaled. “I thought you were sick or something.”

Mom just kept staring. “I did feel like fainting at work.”

“So you are sick,” Dad stared back at her, feeling uncanny. “Or what…?”

“Honey,” Mom took a deep breath, looking him in the eye, “I just won a hundred and two million dollars.”

The two of them watched each other for a long moment, Mom still shaking with disbelief, and Dad looking blank, unable to process the information.

So I screamed for joy with unbridled delight. At the top of my lungs.

By then I’d already digested the reality and couldn’t wait to release my exhilaration. Truthfully, it was impossible for me to express how I felt. However, all of the totally-impossible-to-believe thrills of being rich overnight made me worry I could go insane if I didn’t scream at least once.

My scream seemed to help Dad assess Mom’s words somewhat. He looked at my borderline crazy delighted face, and then back at Mom.

“What are you… talking about?” he asked, as if he heard the words, but failed to understand their meaning.

“I won the lottery, honey…” Her eyes became misty—either from having them so wide open for hours or because she was about to shed tears of joy, I wasn’t sure. Probably both.

Dad’s eyes widened. “The lottery? What?” Then he added, “But we don’t even play…”

Playing the lottery was a little secret she even kept from Dad. I’d always thought they discussed just about everything with each other, but I supposed I was wrong.

“I’d only been buying one ticket every other week at Tesoro. I didn’t mention it, is all…”

“For how long?”

“Since Ella was born.”

“Since… what?”

It was kind of funny they were discussing that. We’d just won a hundred and two million dollars and we were talking about how long she’d been playing it? I supposed nobody really knew how to react to something they never even thought about before. It didn’t seem real. It sure looked like it hadn’t hit Dad yet.

“Dad, do you realize what we’re talking about here?” I stepped in. “We’re millionaires!”

Dad’s head snapped up and he looked at me like a deer caught in the headlights. Then he whispered, “Holy shit…”

That was the very first time I ever heard him swear. He probably swore a decent amount when he was young, but as far as I knew, he never did. At least, not in front of us. He seemed to suddenly realize what he’d just said.

“Sorry,” he quickly addressed us before stuttering from not knowing what to say. “I-I-It just—wow…”

He was more than overwhelmed. Who wouldn’t have been? Even though he was one of the calmest people I’d known all my life, sure, even he could lose it to a hundred and two million dollars.

Then Kyle came out of his room with his laptop in his hands.

That night, Dad couldn’t sleep. He wasn’t alone. He and Mom tossed and turned until their eyes eventually caught each other.

“Can’t sleep?” said Dad as he stroked her shoulder gently.

Mom shook her head, “I see you can’t, either.”

Dad looked into her eyes and said as if he were trying to convince her as well as himself, “This is not going to change us. Don’t you worry about a thing.”

“I know,” Mom whispered.

“We’ll talk more tomorrow.”

He tried to force his eyes to close. They never did, however.

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