Yesterday I found a lottery ticket. I had just dropped my wife off at work, carried a large box into her office for her and was returning to the car.
I recognised the familiar pink colour as it lay on the wet pavement. Unlike a spent betting docket, crumpled and cast angrily or disappointedly on the bookmakers floor, the lottery ticket was folded neatly in three, reducing it to a convenient size for wallet or purse.
I picked it up carefully as I didn't want it to disintegrate and carried it in the palm of my hand to the car. The street was deserted.
I opened the glove box and spread the fragile ticket flat onto the surface of the glove box door.
I could see that the ticket contained three lines of numbers but I did not notice the date on the ticket or memorise any of the numbers.
I just closed the glove box, the ticket sticking to inside of the door,
and drove off to my appointment.
As I sat in the reception waiting for my client to finish her current meeting, I wondered if it was a winning ticket. When the receptionist called me, thoughts of the ticket were replaced by thoughts of how I could convince the client to use my company rather than the services of one of my competitors.
I did not think about the ticket again until last night in bed. If it was a winning ticket, what would I do? I didn't know where the ticket was purchased. Would that be important? “ Sir, if we could just have the name of the retail outlet where you bought the ticket." But surely the powers that be would just want to see evidence of a winning line, namely, the ticket.
As I lay there in the dark, a tidal wave of permutations bombarded my mind.
As the lottery is based on luck and I was lucky enough to find it, was I not then entitled to claim the prize, although I had not actually purchased the ticket?
Anyhow, anyone who bought a lottery ticket and was careless enough to lose it does not deserve good fortune.
But what if the purchaser was someone caring for an elderly relative, or a disabled wife or child? Or a single mother, trying her best to bring up her children on a low income. Or just some lonely soul who never had a break of any kind in his whole miserable life?
If it is a winning ticket, how easy will it be to forget the unfortunate purchaser and enjoy the proceeds.
Then again, they won't miss what they never had.
The things I could do with a large windfall. All those dreams could become reality. No more worrying about bills. I could set my children up for life. My wife could shop ‘til she dropped. I could buy a boat. Never again would I have to get my ageing car ready for its MOT and sit there while a boiler-suited grease monkey decided whether I was a suitable candidate for the highway. And the holidays. All those places that I've only ever seen on T.V. and read about in colour supplements.
I could even give some of away to charity. Yes, I could afford the luxury of helping people less fortunate than myself - like the poor sod that's just lost his ticket.
Could Lady Luck really select this person's winning line only for them to forfeit the prize in favour of me?
But what if he (or she) is a nasty piece of work. A wife-beater or a child abuser. What if a large win on the lottery will only intensify their evil ways? What if they're a racist, or a homophobe, or a golfer?
What if they're just plain dislikeable. You know, the sort of person that sends Christmas cards to distant relatives and friends enclosing duplicated letters outlining what their ‘talented' offspring have been up to all year.
Or, dustbin men who won't empty your blue bin because your child has accidentally put a piece of bubble-wrap in it, despite the fact that everything else has been carefully compacted and is in perfect order.
If only I could share my good fortune with the person who actually bought the ticket.
Perhaps I could find them. I could tell the press that I've found a lottery ticket and wish to return it to the rightful owner. I could suggest that we share our mutual good fortune equally. Surely they would be delighted that the world has at least one honest soul. They may be so grateful that they would only demand a small share of my winnings.
But they may be greedy.
They may want it all, after all, it was their ticket. They may decide to pay me a derisory reward for finding and returning their property and making them rich beyond their wildest dreams.
Perhaps we could cut a deal. You see, I've got the ticket, stowed away in a safe place – I must attend to that in the morning.
Of course, anyone could claim that they were the original owner. How could I be sure? There are criminals out there with state-of-the-art technology and with friends in high places. You hear about them all the time. Computer hackers financed by the mafia. They may know someone who works for Camelot. They can ‘fix' things.
They could concoct a story that would be totally convincing. They could even say I stole the ticket.
I could be prosecuted… I could end up in jail… I could lose my job and my family and end up on the streets!
Perhaps I should just come clean and tell the truth. I found a lottery ticket on the pavement and would like to claim the winnings unless anyone else comes forward. But that's too risky. Somebody surely would, somebody did buy the ticket.
Hey, wait a minute. You can claim prizes for up to a year after the draw date. There's a thing on the National lottery website that covers unclaimed prizes. There are lots of unclaimed prizes that criminals have not managed to get their hands on. Maybe I should just sit on it for a while and wait until just before the deadline. If nobody has claimed it by then, they're not likely to.
But, what if the Lottery people know that the ticket has been lost. They may have been notified and are waiting for a false claim. They may have things set up to pounce when the culprit steps out of the shadows. I may have been spotted picking up the ticket. It may be a ‘fit-up'. It may be a test of my honesty and good character by a prospective employer or to see if I'm a suitable candidate for jury service.
Hold on, what am I doing - lets not get carried away. None of this matters at all unless it is a winning ticket.
I got out of bed and crept downstairs to the study and switched on the computer. While it was warming up, I popped outside and retrieved the lottery ticket from the car. By the time I returned, internet explorer was on display.
I keyed in ‘National Lottery' and waited.
I laid the ticket beside the keyboard. Although slightly faded due to the drenching that it had received on the pavement, the three rows of numbers and the date were clearly visible. It was last Saturday's draw.
As the website appeared, the results for the date on the ticket were displayed in front of me along with a prize breakdown. I checked the ticket with mixed emotions.
There were 6 winning tickets sharing the jackpot, each receiving £767,614.00 - and I held one of them.
I wanted to cheer but I knew I would wake up the whole street. I turned around with a start to see my wife standing in the doorway. “What's wrong love, can't you sleep? She was blissfully unaware of the accuracy of her words.
As we climbed the stairs together, I decided not to share my dilemma until the morning. That way at least one of us would get some sleep.
I lay staring at the ceiling for hours, juggling all the possibilities in my head. I must have dozed off because I was awakened by my wife who provided me her customary good morning, a cup of tea and a slice of buttered toast.
I see you've found my ticket, she said nonchalantly. Did you spill something on it last night? … it looks a bit the worse for wear.
Your ticket, I gasped.
Yes, I recognised the numbers immediately. Now, could you get up and put the bin out, it's the blue bin today.
As I drank my tea, I wondered if there was any bubble-wrap in the house.