Thursday afternoon, Kerry sat in the convenience store parking lot, watching the neon letters as they faltered in their luminosity. He stared at the four tickets in his right hand, each emblazoned with the Powerball logo. He bought the tickets Monday afternoon after work. He handed the clerk a $20 bill. When she attempted to give him the $8 in change, he declined. “That’s for you.” She made eye contact and smiled. “Well, thank you! That’s generous!” Kerry found himself avoiding places that didn’t allow their employees to be tipped.
2020 reaffirmed his promise to tip the clerks as much as he could. Typically, any winnings from his winning tickets served as tips too. Admittedly, there were days when his tips were a bit excessive. Everyone walked away with a smile, though, Kerry first among them. Though Kerry wasn’t a believer in karma or being rewarded for good acts, the idea did cross his mind each time he bought lottery tickets. If such behavior earned rewards, Kerry paid his dues in the year of Covid. Probably hundreds of dollars. Indeed, many clerks said “Thanks!” or “Have a good afternoon!” to him with enthusiasm after buying tickets. Even if he failed to win, his choices left people with a smile.
A few times, Kerry waited weeks to check his tickets. The idea of unknowingly walking around for days without knowing he was rich was compelling. On a few occasions, he was one number away from a big win. In those instances, he ensured that the money went to people who needed it. He shocked a few people. His mental notebook slowly filled with moments of surprise. That’s what he thought the lottery would do for him; fill him with the possibility of a creative life instead of the constancy of necessity. Kerry wasn’t one to dwell on material things.
Unlike his contemporaries, Kerry told people that if he were to win one of the outrageous prizes, he would reward dozens of people. His win would result in a gaggle of millionaires. And although he wasn’t much on the idea of being rich, he was a huge fan of options. Few people outside his close circle thought he might be telling the truth. Everyone claims they will reward those closest to them. Kerry planned to reward both friend and foe. Not in equal measure, but enough to create happiness and to clear his ledgers.
The year of Covid drew to a close without a significant win. Kerry didn’t falter in his enthusiasm, though. For him, it was about continuing the tradition of rewarding people unexpectedly. As long as he stepped up to the plate, his swing might reward him. And if it did, he knew that the world around him would change for a lot of people. He didn’t plan on giving it away to preach an example. He wanted to give it away to make happiness.
At work on Thursday, Kerry avoided the water cooler chatter about who might have won the Powerball the night before. Kerry’s four tickets were folded in his billfold with several previous tickets that were still unchecked. He stopped at the store on the corner with the friendliest clerks. As he turned off the engine, the hair stood up on the back of his neck. He went inside and bought tickets for the Friday and Saturday night drawings. Instinctively, he opted to avoid the self-service ticket checker to the right of the cashier station.
He returned to his car and searched for the winning numbers for last night’s drawing. Fundamentally, he already knew what he’d find. On the third ticket, he saw it: 15 21 40 64 66 03. He won $790 million, half of which he would share with another winner. On a certain level, it failed to surprise him. He simply knew. His smile widened, one years in the making.
Kerry exited the car once again and went inside. He handed the clerk the $200 cash he had hidden in his billfold. “I’ll be back soon. Write down the name of every clerk who works here. Thanks!” The clerk stood speechless as Kerry left without waiting for a reply.
As Kerry started the car to drive away, he was trying to figure out how many people he could reward with $220 million.
Karma was in his heart.
He couldn’t wait for the mayhem of infectious joy to spread around him.
But first, he would live a few quiet days with the secret swirling inside him.