Marvin parked his cart at the deli counter of the local supermarket and drew a ticket – 57. The red numbers on the wall let him know five people were in front of him. Most of the time, he would grab some prepackaged ham and call it a day – the lines at the counter too long, taking time away from things he enjoyed, like playing video games. But, that day, he was in a good mood and decided to actually get a variety of cold cuts and cheeses for lunch sandwiches for himself and his girlfriend.
Instead of idling at the counter, with a few minutes to spare, Marvin shoved the ticket into his pocket and walked away in search of a few other items on his grocery list – hummus, pita chips, sugar. When he returned, with a few more things in hand, 56 was being served. Perfect timing. As he turned to his cart to unload the items he had picked up, Marvin noticed something that wasn’t there before – a scratch-off lottery ticket. Confused, he looked around – ticket in hand – to guess who might have left it there.
What does your usual scratch-off buyer look like? Marvin shrugged and put the ticket back in his cart where he found it. He got his deli meat and some cheese, and still – no one had returned to claim their ticket.
Feeling uneasy, Marvin went aisle to aisle, returning to the deli counter a couple of times in hopes of finding someone who was obviously looking for something lost. But the search rendered no success. He even stopped at Customer Service to see if anyone reported the loss – nothing.
In the parking lot, Marvin called his girlfriend. “What would you do?”
Dana didn’t really know. She was worried Marvin would be accused of stealing the scratch-off but then realized that lottery tickets cannot be found on shelves but rather at a separate counter where you have to pay as you buy. “Not sure there’s anything you can do…” she concluded.
“Yea? Should I just keep it?” Marvin was still trying to figure out how to track the rightful owner. He would have felt terrible if he himself bought a ticket, lost it, and then heard of someone who won big with his ticket.
“Just scratch it off,” Dana felt guilty for being excited. Her life might turn around at someone’s expense. It’s not at someone’s expense because that someone never actually had it. She figured that if it were a lot of money, she’d donate some of it to a good cause anonymously, on behalf of the stranger she had never met.
“I’ll bring it home for you to scratch,” Marvin decided, hoping that it would haunt him less if it were Dana who actually scratched off the ticket, not him. He just found it, but she was the one that actually went and used it.
They said their ‘see you soons’ and disconnected the call.
Dana wished that Marvin had scratched it off there and then. She really wanted to know how much richer they were to become, but she was excited to do the scratching and be the first person to scream out in joy.
Marvin did something he didn’t really do – wait in line – and he was rewarded. He tried to find the person the ticket belonged to, but couldn’t, which meant that it was a sign – God wanted them to win it big.
As Marvin walked through the door, he handed Dana the ticket to scratch. She pulled out a quarter, hoping it would soon be framed somewhere on the wall, and began to scratch off the winning numbers – 8, 3, 12, 54, 15. Then, one by one, she scratched the numbers hidden underneath bags of money. Marvin stood behind her, ready to join Dana in her celebration anytime.
When the first line revealed no matches, Dana frowned. She imagined there would be at least one for a good start. But, there were three more rows to go. The second one was just like the first, but worse – the revealed numbers being so close to the winning numbers – 9, 4, 11, 55, 14.
“OK. Row number 3!” Dana took a deep breath in and out.
Marvin didn’t say anything. He had been holding his breath from the first number Dana had scratched.
By the time the entire third row was revealed, they both felt a little bummed out. There wasn’t even a single number that matched. Not even one with a $1 win.
“This is it.” Marvin rubbed Dana’s shoulder.
Neither one of them said it, but they both thought it – the stars had aligned at the store for Marvin, and no matches in the first three rows could only mean that the last row was going to be life-changing. They also both thought about the family that they indirectly took a fortune from. Maybe they don’t need it as much as we do.
The first number in the fourth line wasn’t a match, and neither was the second, the third, or the fourth. The last one wasn’t either.
“Nothing?” Marvin was stunned. Most of the scratch-offs they bought contained some sort of prize – even if just a single dollar or the price of the ticket.
“At least we saved someone from major disappointment. They can blissfully live their lives thinking that they were about to become millionaires, but someone had misplaced the ticket. And be proud that they helped make someone else rich.”
Marvin shook his head. Dana always looked at the bright side of life.
“I guess we’ll have to remain members of a working class for a little longer.” Marvin was disappointed by not winning but also relieved that he wouldn’t have to live thinking he stole a fortune from someone else.
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