by Dart Humeston
“So, if you take every fifteenth letter in Genesis chapter eight and assign it a numerical marker based on its position in the Hebrew alphabet, then subtract the sum of your social security numbers adding 50% of your age, then you have it!”
I pulled my palm across my face slowly, from top to bottom as we sat in the car at the traffic light. I was driving my younger brother to the grocery store. We were planning on watching the football game and needed beer and chips. Oh, and yes, his lottery ticket.
“You just have to do this calculation six times to have six lottery numbers.”
“Frank, are you off your meds again?” I asked.
“Don’t do that face rubbing thing Larry! You know that I know you only do that when you hear or see something that you think is really, really stupid.”
“Say that nine times fast,” I said, smiling. An inside joke from when we were in college together. Thought it might derail the conversation. It didn’t.
“My meds, as you so insultingly refer to them, are blood pressure pills, and no, I am not off them!”
I looked over at Frank and sighed. He was balancing in his lap a bible, his smart phone calculator, two yellow legal pads and his “Strategic Lottery Winning Systems” notebook. That was a two inch binder filled with all of his other complex formulas to trick the universe and win the lottery.
He started out innocently enough a few years ago, downloading all of the prior winning combinations, and installing lottery tracking and prediction software on his computer. When that didn’t work he turned to prayer, and when God didn’t cooperate he started getting really weird. He had systems based on the day’s temperature and barometric pressure, on calendar dates, even on top news stories of the day. My personal favorite though, was the Numerical Rhyming System. He would take a word that rhymes with numbers, such as “Eight” rhymes with “ate” and do some funky math with the letters in the word. Similar to the current system, but I liked watching him trying to figure out all of the possible rhymes, especially for numbers such as 37. I think he came up with “Dirty Heaven”. That just did not seem right to me.
The traffic light cycled to green, and I pulled through the intersection.
“Frank, there is no pattern.” I said. “The Universe doesn’t care about the lottery. There is no secret trick. It is pure chance, totally random.”
“Not according to my data, Larry.”
“Your data is flawed.”
“Not this time Larry, I am 100% positive I have discovered the trick.”
I pulled into the parking lot.
“How much are you blowing on this crap every week?” I asked. “And does your wife know you are this nuts?”
“Brother, when my wife and I send you an electronic postcard from Hawaii in a week, you will change your tune.”
I looked over at him rolling my eyes.
“One dollar.” He replied.
“Yes, if you don’t believe in your system, the universe will see that! Once you determine the one winning combination purchasing any more tickets invalidates the process.”
“Let’s get snacks for the game.” I said, rolling my eyes again as I exited the car.
We separated in the store to speed up the process, and I doubled back to follow my brother as he charted a beeline to the lottery counter. He had a yellow legal pad with calculations spewed all over it, up and down, in the margins, the sides, and the back even. I felt embarrassed for him. I wanted to see if he was really only spending a buck on it. If he was blowing a hundred dollars a week, I was going to have to have a real serious brother to brother talk with him. I liked his wife and kids too much to not do that. And there was the fact that he was still my little brother.
I saw him wait patiently in line, occasionally make an adjustment to one of the numbers on his legal pad. The jackpot was $350 million, so it was pulling in more stupid people than normal. I wandered over to him just as he reached the counter. He plopped his legal pad down and started reaching for his wallet. Oh boy, I thought, here it comes. But instead of a fifty or a hundred dollars, he pulled just one single dollar out and handed it over.
“Numbers?” The cashier asked.
My brother looked at his legal pad, flipped several pages and then rapidly said, “Quick pick!”
“What the hell!” I shouted, startling him and the cashier.
I apologized to the cashier for my outburst as she slid the one lottery ticket across the counter and then I pulled my brother toward the chips aisle.
“What was that about?” I asked.
He held up the one lottery ticket and smiled.
“I tricked the Universe Frank!” He said quietly.
“How?!” I asked loudly.
“It is random! Totally random!” He said, smiling ear to ear.
I gave up. I didn’t speak to him at all until the second quarter of the football game.
That was six months ago. My brother has not bought a single lottery ticket since. Then again, with $350 million in the bank he doesn’t need to.
◊ ◊ ◊
Dart Humeston is a college administrator and sometime adjunct faculty who is focusing this stage of his life on what he loves; writing flash fiction. A few published with more coming.