Rants & Essays

The Lottery Ticket

By Chris D'Agostino

Gambling is always a sordid business, and there is no addict more pitiable than the lottery ticket junky.

But I'm ahead of myself. Today, instead of doing research for a history project, I was meditating on the virtues of being 18. It's a strange age. Officially considered an adult by the government, I am none the less unable to buy booze or nicotine: and let's face it, what other advantages are there to being an adult? I felt no different than I did two months ago, when I was still seventeen.

It struck me that I had not used a single one of my rights. One of the problems with our society is that we no longer have any rites of passage. The passing from childhood to the adult world is a banal and hollow affair. We're told 'you're not a child anymore. Grow up and face reality,' with no real sense of what reality is. I found myself become increasingly determined to use my rights. I decided that something drastic must be done.

As far as I can see, there are three gains that I've made. The first is the ability to buy pornography. I am deeply ashamed to say that I have not exercised this right(1). Still, in many ways, porn has lost its novelty. I must admit, that when I was 13, this right seemed urgently important. But now, it's not such a big deal.

The second right is the ability to see 'R' rated movies. Since we have no theatres in town, that's out. The idea of spending 20 dollars in gas money in order to see a god awful movie for another 10 dollars doesn't appeal to me.

The only right left is the ability to buy a Lottery ticket. This, then, was to become my initiation. The vehicle I would joyride out of childhood, and leave overheated and smoking on the side of the highway. It didn't exactly make sense then, and it doesn't exactly make sense now, but it felt right, and sometimes that's all we need.

My goal was clear, but my path was cluttered. I needed to escape the library. The problem was; the walls of the library were painted white. Decked in black, I stuck out like a Republican in an opium den.

My effort was valiant, but I was caught at the turnstile.

"Chris! Where are you going!" I turned about to find my history teacher. For some reason, he saw it fit to blow his fetid breath in my face. The wind spilling from his lungs reeked of alcohol.

"I...have to get my library card," I told him.

"No you don't. This is the school library. They don't use cards."

"That applies to most people, but not for me. Years back, I was caught running a drug smuggling ring. We used library books to hide the dope. Since I was nabbed, the government requires me to sign out all material."

He stared at me doubtfully. I grabbed him by the collar.

"Damn it man! There's no time for thought! It is imperative that you trust me. If I don't get this project done, how the hell do you expect to learn about Dadaism? And then what are you going to do when some burly cop is pistol-whipping you and demanding that you tell him all you know about Marcel Duchamp?"

His eyes glazed over. I knew he wasn't entirely convinced, but no one in their right mind wants to get pistol whipped. "Alright. You can go," he told me.

I rushed over to the local convenience store, which was conveniently located nearby. I had already lost enough time.

The store was grimy, and must have seen the purchase of millions of candy bars. The lottery tickets were closely guarded by the clerk; a withered woman with wild and snowy hair. Time had beaten her like a wayward mule, and she wore a perpetually bored expression.

There was one final decision to make. Which ticket would I buy? There was only one ticket that carried a spark of adventure. Only one ticket that would do for a maverick like me. I strode up to the counter and slammed down three dollars. "Give me a Bingo ticket," I told her.

She stared at me skeptically. "You sure you're 18, hon?"

"Sure as the day I was born," I replied.

Still she hesitated. "I can't sell tickets to people under 18 years of age." I had come too far to be thwarted. I would not have my moment of victory snatched away by a dentured old lady. "Damn it, woman! I'm 18. Here's my proof." I thrust my driver's license in her face. She pushed my arm away, and got me a ticket.

Suddenly, a look came over her face. Her eyes glazed. She licked her lips. I still cannot express the utter horror I felt when I realized what she was thinking. 'He's 18. He's legal.' She made a grab at me with all the dexterity of a one flippered walrus. I ducked back, clutching the ticket to my coat, and scrambled out of the store. I did not look back once until I got to the school.

I went to the cafeteria, and sat down. I looked around, and realized that I felt fundamentally different. This then was how Don Juan felt. This is how the Crow and the Cree and the Blackfoot and all the braves felt after their initiations. I felt like a king amongst beggars. I pulled out a coin, and placed the ticket on the table. The only thing left to do was scratch.

And scratch I did. It was with rising exhilaration that I uncovered one number after another. And as I came closer to final victory, a crowd of the paupers gathered around me. The vultures sense their prey quickly, they say. They had caught wind of my power, and they wanted a cut of my hard earned reward. "Fuck off, you buzzards!" I shouted. "There's no place for you here." Yet still they flocked.

I uncovered the last number, and the murmur of the crowd died down. I looked up. I looked left. I looked right. I stood up. And then I said, "Bing-fucking-O!"

I grabbed my coat and pushed through the ring of beggars. "How much did you win?" asked one of them.

"That's not important!" I snapped at him.

"Well, what are you going to do with the money?" asked a second.

I paused, and reflected. "I think I'm going to ride this pony all the way to glory."

And why not? With the three dollars I won on that ticket, I've earned a free one. The next one could very well be worth a million. And if not? Well, so what. If all else fails, maybe that clerk has a retirement fund stashed away.