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How to win the lottery

2, 24, 30, 37, 43, 50 and the bonus ball 5. The red balls are bouncing at the bottom of my television screen with the winning lottery numbers written in white. The expectant music rings as the optimisitic ‘voice of the balls’ announces tonight’s winning numbers.

I once saw a programme called ‘How to win the lottery’. A group of people were able to correctly predict the lottery numbers lead by a famous ‘Mentalist’. It involved using the so called “wisdom of crowds” phenomenon in which the belief is that the collective opinion of a group of individuals is better than that of a single expert. In the programme each individual was asked to predict what each number would be in that week’s lottery draw. They worked out what the average number was based on all the guesses. Conveniently it didn’t seem to work when they were allowed to buy a lottery ticket, but after several weeks of ‘practise’ and without the element of greed they were able to predict the correct numbers.

We just use the same numbers each week: a combination of birthdays and house numbers. If it was up to me we wouldn’t play. As far as I’m concerned that weekly £2 would make us more money saved in a high interest bank account, but as Pete always says, “It’s the only opportunity we’ll ever have of becoming millionaires. You’ve got to be in it to win it!” I roll my eyes at his repetition of the same catchphrase over and over again.

I’m sat curled up on the sofa having a quiet night in. Pete is on a work’s night out. He did actually ASK if he could go out, thinking that I might need him at home or might want his company… company?! No, you’re alright. The only company I need on a Saturday night is a glass of red wine and the remote control.

I haven’t changed channels. The numbers are still staring blankly at me and I seem to be staring into ‘space’.

Who actually expects to win the lottery? As far as I could tell from that programme the only way of correctly predicting the numbers was by NOT buying a ticket. So they might have got the numbers right, but they didn’t actually WIN. Yet, here I am. Facing the reality that most people spend their lives dreaming about. My finger won’t bring itself to change channels as my eyes are fixed on the TV. I realise after a few seconds that I’ve forgotten to breathe. I suppose that’s perfectly normal when, for the first time in your life you discover that you’ve just won the lottery. I haven’t got the ticket in front of me, but I know the numbers are ours.

I’m not sure how much time has passed, but I’ve tried to call Pete about 200 times and sent him about the same number of text messages. Eventually I hear him fumbling at the front door trying to get the key in. Quickly I find the spare and open it for him.

“Did you get my messages?!” I ask frantically.

I can’t contain myself as I look up at him. He has a smile on his face and glazed eyes. Like a felled tree he falls through the doorway and suddenly I’m looking down at him – obviously he’s had a good night! I don’t care. I root around in his pockets looking for his wallet and the winning ticket.

“Mmmm….sss..?” comes his wasted reply. I ignore him.

“How many pockets has this coat got?” I can feel the bulge of his wallet but can’t quite fathom where the opening is. “You bought the ticket today, didn’t you.” I say it as more of a statement than a question. Normally I’m the one who gets it when I do the shopping on a Saturday morning, but I was helping out a friend bake some cakes for her new business and asked Pete to do the shopping instead.

“Tsss…tsss…tss” is his reply.

Finally I find his wallet. The front door is still wide open as Pete’s legs dangle through onto the front step. There’s a cold breeze coming through. I barely notice it, but it seems to be helping to sober up Pete.

“Ticket?” he says looking questioningly at me.

“Yes, the Lottery ticket. Where is it?” I frantically open every section of his wallet and pull out every credit card, bank card, library card and note I can see desperate to find it.

“Lottery ticket?” he asks again now with a worried look on his face.

My hands freeze for the second time this evening as I hold his empty wallet. We exchange sobering glances.

How to win the lottery: buy the ticket!

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