It's no secret that Val is a gambler. Not a Kenny Rogers kind of gambler. All that holding and folding and walking away and running sound quite strenuous. Nope. Not for Val. Val is content to sit on a casino stool and exercise one arm. Or, most often, to throw down her money for scratch-off tickets when she picks up a 44 oz Diet Coke at the gas station chicken store.
I don't buy tickets every day. I buy tickets on the weekend. Some of the tickets I buy are sent to Genius. He gets the $6 cash that his grandma always sent him, plus a couple of scratchers from me. Oh, and of course a letter that I'm sure he tosses away like the gum in a pack of Partridge Family trading cards that Li'l Val used to discard.
As I was buying tickets for Genius on Friday evening, the cranky, out-of-sorts clerk who is always nice to me, albeit in a cranky and out-of-sorts way, said, "Have you tried our new thirty-dollar scratcher?" SCREEEEECH! Back that phonograph needle up! A $30 scratch-off ticket? That surely must be a sign of Hick's impending apopadopalyspe! I really have to get that handbasket factory back on track!
"A thirty-dollar ticket? No! I have NOT heard about it!"
Crankster gestured to a special thick-walled plexiglas case on the counter. I'll be dipped in juiceless soup if there wasn't a shiny gold extra-tall ticket peeping through that plexi. The roll of tickets itself was under the counter. Like back-in-the-day prophylactics, or a robber-beatin' baseball bat. Nobody was walkin' out of the gas station chicken store carrying a case of golden tickets. That's the name of this game, actually: $300,000,000 Golden Ticket. You can win a top prize of $10,000,000 instantly.
"Would you like one?"
"Oh, no! I won't spend thirty dollars on a ticket unless I'm cashing in some winners. Have you sold many?"
"Three rolls since the game started on Monday. There's only 20 tickets on a roll, though." She rang up my Friday night chicken, and my 44 oz Diet Coke, and I commenced to picking out tickets for Genius for the next few weeks' letters, and two for myself. Crankster stacked up my scratcher choices. She always counts out loud. Old-school. Like when she hands back change. "Five, ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-three, twenty-five, thirty."
"Oh. Looks like I could have got one anyway, huh? But I try to keep my ticket money separate. I'm sure I'll be back tomorrow to try one." Can't win if you don't play, now can you?
So today I go back with two twenty-dollar winners, and a five-dollar winner. That's forty-five dollars of winnings. I had a different clerk. A newer one. She was busy with a gas man, and then an old geezer who was parked next to me in a white truck that stopped about five feet away from that tire-bumping concrete slab. He was leaning on a 30-pack of Hamm's Special Light. I guess it's less filling. He paid with a credit card, and the clerk took my tickets to scan them while waiting on his approval. Then he finally cleared his Hamms off the counter so I could see the ticket selection.
I had just chosen a $30 ticket and was telling the clerk my other two choices when the Hammster came back. "I forgot my red tickets!" They have a weekly drawing for cash with their red tickets, but you have to come to the store to check. They can't tell you over the phone. Shockingly enough, Val does not participate in the red ticket lottery. Even though it's free. Just one more thing to keep track of.
The clerk gave me her attention again, and tore off the $10 ticket I asked for, and then the $5 ticket. I walked out of there with $45 worth of tickets, and my 44 oz Diet Coke, all for the price of $1.69. I know. That's highway robbery for a soda!
I got home and got to scratchin'. WAIT A MINUTE! That clerk messed up. I had my $30 ticket, my $10 ticket, and ANOTHER $10 TICKET! That's not what I ordered! I was not happy. Sure, I should have been happy to scam five dollars worth of ticket off that highway-robbing chicken-clerk. But I was not! A scratcher wants what a scratcher wants! Scratchers gonna scratch. I did not want a $10 Monopoly ticket, I wanted a $5 ticket named $500 Frenzy.
Of course that Monopoly ticket was a loser. But my $10 ticket won ten dollars. And my $30 ticket won thirty dollars. So I almost broke even. I'm going to be really mad if that store sold a big-winner $500 Frenzy ticket!
Tomorrow I'm going back, and I'm going to explain their error, and give them five dollars. Can't have the lottery money coming up short! They might lose their license!
Oh. And it's kinda the right thing to do.