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Letter From America: Just The Ticket

Ronnie Bray dreams of winning one of those multi-million-dollar Lottery prizes, but he never will. Guess why not.

Nobody won last night’s big Lottery Jackpot. That means that on Saturday the jackpot will be a North American record of three hundred and sixty-five million dollars, which is around two hundred and ten million in real money. Anyone unfortunate enough to win the big prize on Saturday will have to pay a swingeing tax on the loot.

Unlike the Mother Country where premium bond prizes and winnings from gambling, such as cash won from football pools, horse racing, and the National Lottery, are exempt from income tax, the American government looks on the good fortune of its citizenry and resident aliens as a windfall opportunity to scrape up a bit of its own unearned income.

The winnings are not paid out in full but doled out over time, unless the lucky winner opts to take immediate cash settlement. The settlement in this case would be a mere one hundred and seventy-seven million dollars, which in proper currency comes out at a trifling hundred and one million.

It does not take much imagination to think about how a person could dispose of a hundred million pounds. Paying off the kid’s mortgages and their other dues and demands to give them each a level start would take very little and bless their lives. After that, a summer home in Montana and air tickets for my siblings to fly to the last best place on earth and realise that I was not mad when I described the beauty of the inland North West.

Other than that, we would fund missions for the willing but indigent, help Mesa City Council put some grass in Quail Run Dog Park, and our own doggies would live on the very best dog food money can buy, besides which we would buy a van that is safe, comfortable to drive, but easier on petrol gallonage.

Well, that’s the dreaming done! The chances of us winning the Arizona State Lottery are nil to no-good-at-all, and they’ll stay that way. Dreaming of spending the winnings reminds me of the story of the man who believed that winning the lottery would rid him of all his cares and woes who prayed every night the lottery was drawn that he would win it.

Weeks passed, and then months, but he didn’t win a bean. Finally, in exasperation he took God to task for His failure to secure for him the wealth he so sorely needed and for which he had so earnestly pleaded for such a long time.

Before he could get to his feet, the room brightened, and a voice like thunder asked, “You want to win the Lottery?”

In as much dudgeon as he could summon, he answered, ”You KNOW I do! I have prayed and prayed and prayed, but it hasn’t happened. You just KNOW I want to win the Lottery more than I have ever wanted anything in my whole life!”

There was a pregnant pause. The man opened one eye to make sure the brightness hadn’t gone. It hadn’t. Then, the voice again. “If you want to win the Lottery and you want me to help you, then there’s something that YOU have to do!”

“Me do something? What can I do to win the Lottery? You are God! There’s nothing I can do about it!”

A further pause and then, “You COULD buy a ticket!”

Which is where we came in, and why we’ll never win the Lottery? We don’t buy Lottery tickets, and we never will. The dreaming bit is still good, though.

COPYRIGHT (C) 2006 RONNIE BRAY

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