Word Count 500
Sometimes God Smiles
By Mike Cecconi
I spend ten dollars on the lotto each week. Two-dollar Powerball twice-weekly, two-dollar Mega
Millions twice-weekly, the one-dollar standard twice-weekly as well. One pick per life-changing
longshot. Odds aren’t that much better with one than one-hundred, of course, so just one for each
drawing. I just want my chance.
I tell the cashiers I play “as my Dad always said, in case God wants to smile” which is… almost
true. He’d never say that, he was borderline-atheist, it was the title on one of his King Crimson
CDs, though, so it almost counts. I also don’t recall whether his father told me “there’s no such
thing as unlucky pennies, any free money’s good luck” or if I just liked the phrase and convinced
myself my Grandpa coined it to give it meaning. They’re both close enough, though, to add some
mystery to an exchange at a gas-station.
Some laugh when I admit playing. It’s not like I go to Stewarts and drop fifty while starving kids
cling to my leg, as are eighty-three percent of all lotto purchases, just one a draw. Five-hundred-
or-so flushed all at once would hurt badly but frittered away semi-weekly, it’s like a flu shot, you
barely feel it. Just a pinch.
They tell me the lottery’s really a tax on a lack of math skills but, in my case, they’re wrong. I
know my odds are in the millions each time, that’s why I know putting more than two dollars
down would be superfluous. I’m aware I could buy six tickets a week until the sun goes out and
never win more than the five-dollar fourth-prize. I know I can’t win but if I keep playing, I still
get to believe that I might.
I play despite the math because it’s how I rent hope with my almost-worthless liberal-art skillset,
here at the end of an empire. You can’t buy hope these days if you’re not already born-rich, but
you can still rent. If I’ve unchecked lotto in my pocket, I can still pretend the hope train’s coming
to replace all my problems with different problems, that the bailout for my college loans and my
brother’s doctor bills are all just over the western horizon. This isn’t tax on my math, it’s a lease
on my almosts. Every few months I go to the Stewarts at midnight when there’s no one to laugh,
I go check my pocketful of rented hopes and I always lose but that’s not the point.
Every book, every page, every screen in every language, we could fill with the almosts of human
history and we would still have almosts to spare. Some say we are a species of the word "I" but
no, we're an animal of "almost". We’re almosts, all the way down. I keep all my almosts in my
wallet and some days they’re the only hope I have to dream on.
It’s two dollars to dream these days, of course, but inflation managed to ruin that too.