IN CASE YOU WIN THE POWERBALL

Powerball numbers

What to do? Well, you could buy the house that Gaud built, a red Ferrari station wagon, a poodle named Fifi to leave it all to, and a machine pistol at Cabellas (get the 20 round clip to rumble with third cousins, who are coming with brass knuckles…) OR you could disappear completely, and plan to reemerge a hero after starting a private war against a corrupt Caribbean island governor. That’s what Howard Rosen does in The Instant Celebrity, knowing he will be forgotten after 15 minutes of fame, then left for dead by hospice nurses after the hospital bankrupts him for treatments of wounds inflicted by long lost relatives and jealous high school classmates. (The hospital will, no doubt, find a clause in your health insurance that voids your policy while doctors charge $500 per aspirin and $25,000 per bandage.) Why not have fun, instead of being hounded by the Dobermans of Zombie Nation? Excerpt below…

PowerballHe hadn’t wanted to hire anyone, except from necessity. He’d always been a loner, and didn’t trust what people did or said behind his back. In these respects, at least, we had something in common. He wasn’t sure where that started for him, precisely, but it may have had something to do with the fact that when he was ten years old his stubborn parents were killed by burglars posing as Fuller Brush salesmen. He’d been hiding in the shower at the time, and, in a way, he’d been standing behind that shower curtain ever since. Trying to wash off the bad luck.
—The night his life changed forever, Howard was eating a fried egg sandwich and drinking iced tea with a little Sweet & Low in it. He’d just completed the monthly books for a bowling alley in Flint, Michigan called the Knock & Roll, and he’d shut down his computer in the other room when he felt hunger pangs and decided to cook up something other than the books before watching a rerun of Deal or No Deal. Then he remembered the Powerball lotto ticket he’d purchased the previous night at the Quik Stop, along with eggs, cheese and bread.
—He found the ticket in the bottom of a plastic bag he’d discarded in the trash. It was stuck to the Quik Stop sales receipt, and was the only lotto ticket he’d ever purchased. He’d only purchased that one because everyone else in line was buying five or more of them at the time, and he hadn’t wanted to stand out in the crowd. The only reason he watched Deal or No Deal, he confessed, was because he’d tired of trivia shows.
—Howard didn’t notice his numbers were coming up until the third ball fell into place. When the fourth ball rolled down the chute and bumped into the others, he looked down at his ticket and back up again three times, as if there’d been a mistake. It wasn’t possible, was it, that he was holding a piece of paper which had effectively eliminated well over ninety-nine percent of the many millions of luckless players already?
—As ball five jumped around somewhere inside the mesh cage displayed on his TV screen, “like popcorn in a kettle,” Howard confirmed that he really was holding such a ticket. And that’s when his hands began to tremble.
—Then ball five was released.
Given its chance to fall and roll alone into the slot, this ball (bearing its fateful faceted numbers) turned in a blur all the way down the chute, taking two abrupt corners. Then it met the others with an audible tap, and froze as the eyes of millions of envious and frustrated viewers in twenty eight states also froze and focused on it.
41, it read.
—Howard stared at the number on the ball too, afraid to look down. The number was familiar to him. His heart knew it because it had already begun to beat erratically as the muscles in his dry throat constricted in rhythmic spasms. Spasms that evinced something like a squawk from between his lips. When he finally did look down, it became as though an invisible hand tightened around his windpipe in a Vulcan death grip. He pitched forward, involuntarily, his stomach muscles now brought into play. His face flushed as he forced himself to look back up to see the cage circling again, one last time. . .
—And that’s when ball six dropped.
—The money ball.
—The power ball.
The ball started its run and took the turns casually, unaware that a solitary self-employed bookkeeper in the suburbs of Flint, Michigan could not breathe until it stopped. But even when it did stop, Howard still could not breathe. Especially not then. That’s when even his heart stopped, momentarily. He pitched forward onto all fours, looking up at a screen that was only a foot from his strained face. Spittle drooled from one corner of his mouth onto the threadbare shag carpet.
33, the ball gleamed at him on tight focus.
—Howard lifted the crumpled lottery ticket to his face as if lifting a soul from hell. He found the number there, sure enough, in its rightful, fateful place. If a fragment had fallen from an exploding Space Shuttle to land in the center of a dart board held in his lap, he could not have been more astonished. And he was still staring at the TV screen ten minutes later when a rerun of Everybody Loves Raymond came on. Then he rolled over onto his back, and looked up at the spider cracks in the plaster above him. His gaze followed cracks that resembled tracks, as though he could still see the falling balls, nudged into descent by the finger of God. He closed his eyes and felt the whole room turning, then, just like the cage of balls had turned. Finally the laugh track of Raymond swelled, and he opened his eyes again, and got weakly to his feet.
—He found his Smith & Wesson .38 revolver by fanning one arm between the mattress and box springs in his bedroom. He hadn’t held the gun since he’d put it there several years prior, although he’d seen it on occasion whenever he’d periodically turned the mattress over. As he put the gun to his head now, experimentally, he thought about all the bad luck he’d accumulated in his forty-seven year lifetime. Since his parent’s death he’d been passed around like a tray of hors d’oeuvres between orphanages, schools, relationships, jobs. There had been no takers, only nibblers. Until now. And so here he was in middle age, a nondescript and friendless nobody, too down on himself to ever look up. A loser until this very moment, he’d been afraid to touch the gun beneath his mattress for fear he’d use it on himself.
—But now he was no longer afraid.
—So he pulled the trigger.
—Then he pulled it again. And again. He pumped six bullets into the cracked bedroom ceiling, and yelled at the top of his lungs as the plaster rained around him in time to each deafening blast! Then he slipped to the floor, and laughed along with the laugh track in the other room. Laughed hysterically, as tears now blurred his vision of the holes in the ceiling above him. God had a sense of humor after all, he realized. And that seemed even funnier to him than the last time he’d laughed, when in the movie Planes, Trains, and Automobiles John Candy and Steve Martin had taken a ride in the back of a pickup truck in winter with a dog so cold it had icicles hanging from its teeth!
—The irony of it: the day before, his personal net worth amounted to ownership of a 1979 Chevy Malibu with rusted wheel wells, and a checking account with a pre-rent balance of three hundred eighteen dollars. A day later his personal net worth–although he didn’t know the exact figure yet–included his solo winning of the largest lotto jackpot since the Big Bang. And since he’d randomly chosen the lump sum payout option, his pre-tax take from the unprecedented pool of money, which had rolled over more times than Colin Ferrell at a Palm Beach pajama party, exceeded nine hundred million dollars.