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The Lottery Winner by Martin Green.


“I won the lottery.”

As usual on a Monday morning the guys in our office had gathered around the coffee maker, having their wake-up cups and discussing what they’d done on the weekend. The office was a small unit in the State of California’s large Health Department located in Sacramento. Jerry Stebbins, our lead analyst, had asked, “Anybody do anything exciting over the weekend?”

“We had a soccer game,” Sam Parker, who lived in the suburbs with three or four kids, had said . “Our son scored a goal.”

“How about you, Paul?” This had been addressed to me.

“No, nothing exciting. How about you?”

“Just the usual, mowed the lawn and cleaned out the gutters. Hey, Trudi, how was your weekend? Had a hot date?”

Trudi, the unit’s secretary, who was, as the saying went, “hot” - she wore tight sweaters and short skirts and was the object of much speculation among us guys - had joined us. “My weekend was fine.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s all you’ll ever know.”

That’s when Henry Hoskins, our statistical clerk, a man in his thirties, who was usually quiet, had piped up with his declaration that he’d won the lottery.

Now all heads turned toward Henry. “How much did you win?” I asked.

“Did I hear that somebody won the lottery?” It was John Bidwell, our unit chief, coming in late as usual.

“I did,” said Henry.

“How much did you win?” I repeated. “Millions?”

“No,” said Henry. “Not millions, but quite a bit, for me.”

“Well, congratulations,” said Bidwell. “Did you finish that table on birth rates?”

“I’m on it.” With that we all scattered to our desks and the work week had begun.

As I’ve said, Henry Hoskins was usually very quiet. He did his work capably and kept to himself. He was one of those gray people you didn’t seem to notice. After his lottery win though he seemed to have won some measure of respect. The first sign of this came when the guys were ready to go to our weekly lunch at the Pheasant Club, famous for its steak sandwiches. We were on our way out when Jerry Stebbins looked back to where Henry was at his desk and asked if he’d like to come with us. Henry looked a little surprised but then said, “Sure.”

From then on Henry usually joined us when the whole gang went to lunch together. He was still quiet and didn’t say much about himself but was pleasant enough to have along. Then Sam Parker, who was in a fantasy football league, began asking Henry about his selections, evidently considering Henry to be an expert when it came to gambling, never mind that winning in the lottery was simply a matter of luck. I’d say the final indication of Henry’s new standing was when Bidwell asked him to attend our weekly staff meetings. “After all,” Bidwell said, “he’s an integral part of our team. I don’t think we appreciated how much he contributed before.”

My desk happened to be close to Henry, so we usually talked a little during the day and I found out something about his life outside the office. His parents owned a hardware store in Chico and once a month he drove up to visit them, a dutiful son. He lived in a small apartment downtown so he could walk to work, which was convenient. He liked to read, mostly history, and on weekends took walks in Capital Park, where he’d feed the squirrels. He never mentioned any friends and certainly not any women.

Around the end of the year Bidwell called a staff meeting and announced that Henry had passed an exam and would be promoted to analyst status. We all congratulated him while he smiled modestly. Trudi kissed him on the cheek and he blushed. I reflected that Henry had come a long way since becoming a lottery winner. He was now one of the guys and a full-fledged analyst. Everyone deferred to him when questions of betting or of statistics came up. He could now stand with everyone around the coffee maker on Monday mornings and discuss weekend activities with the guys, even joke with Trudi.

But there was more to come. It was on a spring afternoon. Henry and I were working on the same project and so we took afternoon break together in the building cafeteria. “I have something to tell you,” Henry said.

“What? You won the lottery again?”

“No, nothing like that. I’m engaged to be married.”

“You are? Who’s the girl?”

I’d like to tell you that it was our secretary Trudi; that would have made a nice story. But no, it was to another girl, one he’d met while feeding the squirrels in Capitol Park.

“I’d appreciate it if you didn’t tell the other fellows,” said Henry.

“Why not?”

“Well, you know how they like to joke around. When we’ve set a date I’ll announce it.”

“Fine, but this calls for some kind of celebration. I’ll take you out to lunch at the Pheasant Club tomorrow. By the way, you never did tell us exactly how much you won in the lottery. How much was it?”

“Well, it was $150.”

“$150? You told me it was quite a bit.”

“It was, to me. Especially before I got that promotion.”

“All right. But in that case, I’ll drive to the Pheasant Club, but I’m not paying for lunch. It’s on you.”



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