“Those are our numbers,” Rhonda shouted in disbelief, “We’ve WON!”
Bruce sprung gleefully from the computer chair and hugged his wife. “We’re rich honey! The jackpot’s one hundred and ninety three million! I can get a Porsche like the one we saw on the highway last month!”
“Let’s buy a mansion on the coast!” Rhonda burst, hardly able to control herself.
Bruce surged with excitement. He stared again at the numbers. Bruce had three rituals every week for the past twenty years. Never miss the Sunday paper. Always visit the butcher on the way home every Friday to pick up whatever the deals were. And, always play the same lottery numbers. Only a vacation out of town or an act of God would cause Bruce to deviate from this routine.
Rhonda danced blissfully, “You DID buy a ticket this week right hun?”
“Of course I did! What kind of question is that? Marty at the convenient store said to say hi when I bought it. He’ll be excited to hear we won. Don’t the stores get money for selling the winning ticket?”
Rhonda was lost in thought, “California or Florida? I kinda like the Gulf side…”
“Why not both? We have one hundred and ninety three million dollars coming!” Bruce chuckled while Rhonda stomped and flailed in bliss once again.
“Oh honey let’s see the ticket! I want to hold the golden ticket!”
Bruce reached for his wallet. Not there. “Oh yeah, I put it in my back jeans pocket.” He searched the dirty clothes pile of the bedroom for the jeans. Not found. Bruce rubbed his chin and for the first time since the wonderful news, he was not smiling. He abruptly left the bedroom, ran down the stairs to the kitchen, slid across linoleum in his socks, down the stairs again to the laundry room in the far corner of the basement. He examined a pair of laundry baskets, nothing identified as his jeans of yesterday. He kicked and pushed articles of clothing with increasing fervor, to no avail. He sighed and ran his hand through his balding hair. A shiver of terror ran up his spine as his eyes fell upon the washing machine.
He flipped open the lid and delved into a mesh of saturated clothing sticking against the walls of the inside drum.
“No… no… no…”
Bruce pried the damp blue jeans from the reluctant jumble.
“NO! NO NO NO NO… NO!”
His hand returned from the back pocket with chaffed shreds of paper. The numbers that weren’t washed off entirely were blurred beyond recognition.
“NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!” Bruce collapsed against the washing machine with his hands on his forehead.