Lotteries have been in our village since time immemorial. Air Force Lotto? Great! We welcome it like our very own. The grand prize is 500,000 yuan? Holy smoke! The Second Elder Sister started a lottery group by putting down 20 cents first. Having consulted my fortune, which said most favorable, I put down 40 cents. For a whole day Sister and I calculated over and again we went out to recruit prospective players: 500,000 yuan; 500,000 yuan divided among 50 players, each getting 10,000 yuan, 20 cents for 10,000 yuan! The whole village was crazed with excitement. Even dogs had heard so much of “500,000 yuan” instead of dashing over and sinking their fangs into his leg. The craze lasted for a week; we were able to scrape together 10 yuan, with me being the biggest stock-holder. Granny put down only 5 cents. The Fourth Auntie and Fifth Auntie held joint ownership of one share; they even set up an account book for the purpose.
Where to go and purchase the lottery? The Second Sister, not trusting my foresight in matters of money, paid five big coins to Blind Wang for an astrological reading, which turned out to favor the northeast direction. Of the four lottery vendors the entire city, Lucky You is in the northeast. So we decided to go and purchase at Lucky You. However, Lucky You is the smallest of the four and its merchandise is limited to cigarettes and kerosene and stuff. What if the 10 yuan were embezzled? Or the ticket they sell are counterfeits? So, we gave Blind Wang another five big coins to have another astrological reading. It turned out, he said, the northwest would be favorable, too. Not just favorable; in fact, based on careful calculation through his fingers, more favorable than northeast! Good Luck Forever, a much bigger vendor, is in northwest. That’s where the Second Sister had purchased the silk and red quilt and stuff for her wedding.
Who to go and purchase the ticket? A new question presented itself. Ordinarily it should be me, being the biggest shareholder. However, I’m an Ox, and this being the Year of the Rooster, it should be someone who is a Rooster, a man, to be more exactly, ’cause a woman would bring bad luck. Only the Third Born in the Li family is a Rooster; somehow, all the other Roosters have suddenly disappeared into thin air. We wouldn’t trust the Third Born, being so little, to go all by himself. So we decided to send two men, both of the sturdiest Metal Life, to escort him. Then, on an auspicious day, the three traveled downtown to purchase the ticket.
Now that the ticket has been purchased, who should hold it? Whenever our village needs to do something collectively, we run into the same problem: Nobody trusts nobody else. After three whole days and nights of deliberations, it was entrusted to the care of the Third Untie, who has the virtue not of being trustworthy, but of being advanced in age, which would render it virtually impossible for her to flee with the ticket.
On the day of the Lottery, nobody could get a wink of sleep. Take me for instance, once I receive my share of the grand prize—Who else but us will win it?!—how should I spend the 20,000 yuan? Buying a small house? Sounds good, but what location, what style, and what decoration? I toss and turn past the midnight. No, not buying a house, but starting a business instead. Then, the store’s location, style, kind, ways to make money, to expand with the money made, and so on. I toss and turn the rest of the night. The stars in the sky, foamy bubbles by the river’s edge, all look like glittering coins. Insects cheeping during the night, birds chirping at dawn, all sing the same “500,000 yuan” song. Dozing off now and then, hands resting on the chest, I dreamed of glittering coins piled up on me; I could hardly breathe! Then I bought a set of bone cards, at the ready for reading my fortune. If it was bad fortune, it wouldn’t count; simply try again. As a result, it was all good fortune. I would hit the jackpot for sure.
Then, the lottery was drawn and the newspapers announced the top five winning numbers. It didn’t have the number we had committed to memory. House, store .. were all washed away with sweat. So we waited for the sixth and seventh prize winning numbers: No luck with the top five prizes, a sixth prize, to say the least, should be a sure thing? I had my fortune read once again: most favorable. The sixth prize is 00 yuan, part of which could be spent on a new shirt for the summer, not bad. So, while waiting for the sixth and seventh prizes to be announced, I went over the top five winning numbers over and again, thinking of ways for them to spend the money, and couldn’t help but feeling somewhat jealous while thinking thus, and one thought leading to another, I began to think about how the winners’ blissful good fortune had a sudden, disastrous turn, being burnt to death in a fire of their money, perhaps; so it was really my good fortune not to have won the lottery; however, if I had won, I might not have to die in a fire. No matter how I sliced it, it wasn’t a hearty feeling after all.
Then the sixth and seventh prizes were announced. They still had nothing to do with us. It was then that we thought of the last digit prize. Even that played a joke on us: Ours was a 3, while the winning digit was a 2. No luck!
Woe was the Second Sister and me, the organizers of the group! The Third Auntie wanted back from us her 5 cents. There was no way not to refund her. Once we refunded her, nobody else would be willing to write off their 20 cents as lost causes. The Second Sister has been under the weather for the last two days. She has this amazing ability to feel under the weather whenever the woe hits her. So, I was left alone to take care of the 20 cents for everybody. Now that all is taken care of, the Second Sister is not under the weather any more. As for me, well, I slept soundly last night.