Louise sat in the armchair in front of the television and picked up the remote. The Saturday night film feature would be starting soon, and she was looking forward to this week’s offering. It was a film she had hoped to see in the cinema but, as usual, she had missed it.
But she was early. The Lotto still had to come on first. Because she was habitually early for everything, Louise had sat through the drawing of the Lotto numbers rigmarole far more times than she had ever needed to. Why couldn’t they just get to the movie and let people enjoy their Saturday night, she wondered.
She glowered at the presenter, who was now delivering her opening spiel in her usual confident and cheerful manner. She seemed blissfully unaware that her dress and hair were been sneered at by at least one impatient viewer.
“Wow! You know all your numbers up to 42! What a talented blonde you are,” Louise thought to herself. She wondered if the presenter went home proud of a hard day’s work of pressing buttons on a couple of machines and then calling out the numbers.
Her thoughts were continuing along that vein when she heard “… this week’s prize money of €6,476,832.” Six million wouldn’t be too bad at all. She’d give the extra change to charity, of course, before she fecked off to the south of France for the rest of her life.
The first number to fall down the tube was 23. “My birthday!” thought Louise, “I got one number anyway.”
The next was 27. “Janis Joplin, that’s for you. I’m doing well this week.” Then it was 11 (legs eleven) and 7 (for the Seven Samurai/Magnificent Seven/Secret Seven).
By now, her jaw was hanging loose. She knew nobody that had gotten four numbers before. Three numbers was fairly common, and usually resulted in a scratch ticket, or maybe a couple of euros, but four could bring in a good few hundred.
The fifth number was 42 – the answer to life, the universe and everything. Louise was no longer bitching about the presenter in her head – she now seemed like the most fabulous creature ever put on this earth. They were probably kindred souls too, and Louise swore she would take her for a drink if only she managed to produce the final number.
And the gorgeous angel did – 33, the unpronounceable age for any self-respecting Paddy. And the age Jesus was when he died, of course.
Louise found herself on her knees before the television screen, tears pouring from her eyes. What should she do now? Who would she call first? She couldn’t think straight so, as she always did in these situations, she grabbed her cigarettes and went outside for a celebratory fag.
It was a beautiful night outside; cold, but with so many stars twinkling in the sky. But as she bent her head to the flame from the lighter, Louise remembered what had actually happened earlier that day when she went to the newsagents. How she had forgotten her debit card and only had €10 in her wallet. How that was enough for either a pack of cigarettes or a lottery ticket, but not for both. How nothing ever takes precedence over cigarettes, not food, not coffee, and certainly not a stupid lottery ticket.
So, her cigarettes had not cost her €8.15; they had in fact cost her €6,476,832. She was right now inhaling her one and only chance at an instant fortune, and was blowing it out her nose in a haze of stinking tar fumes.
Remember, kids, smoking is bad for you …