Accidental Billionaire – finished the rough draft, here is one third of it

So I’m writing this story, which I plan to convert into a screenplay. Except the ending is a cliffhanger, and that means I’ll need to write a part two, if I get around to it.

The story is called Accidental Billionaire. I’m sure there’s a better title out there. I’ve published excerpts to the blog, and now that the rough draft is finished, I wanted to share a big continuous chunk of it below. What’s below is probably 1/3 of the full thing. If you want to read the full thing, just email me and I’ll send you a word doc.

Looking for any feedback you can offer to make it better. This is my first story of this length, and it was a good learning process, and there will be more :)

**

The girls were in Deedee’s living room, laughing and drinking their third bottle of red wine. There was a frayed tan couch that an ex-boyfriend left her, but no one was sitting on it. Instead they were on the floor, gathered around the thin wooden plank of a coffee table. Scattered around them on the thick gray rug are empty wine bottles, glasses, and two boxes of delivery pizza.

“I really thought they paid you more, honey,” Cassie said, looking about. “But at least you keep it clean.”

“The business isn’t doing that well.” Deedee stood up and gathered the disposable plates and napkins. She walked to the kitchen and tossed everything into the garbage chute.

Cassie sniffed the air. “Is it just me, or…?”

Deedee nodded. “Smoking nonstop since his last project ended. Like he’s still in college.”

“That’s right! I remember now. His hallway on the third floor was pretty toxic,” Sandy giggled. “Did he at least save some for us?”

“Oh my god. That reminds me. Remember the date I had this weekend?” Cassie said. “He took me to a nice restaurant. Everything started out pretty good. We sat down, ordered some apps, got some drink. But then, get this.” She leaned in and lowered her voice even though there was no one else in the room. “He pulled little foil packets from his pocket. He opened one, and popped it in his mouth. Starts chewing. Then he hands me the other one, just like, slides it across the table” – she mimics the gesture – “and says, ‘Wanna get high?’”

Deedee snorted out her wine. “You mean…?”

“Before the food even arrived. This dude wanted to get high!”

“Was it weed? Or something else?” Sandy asked.

Cassie just gave her a look.

“The craziest stuff happens to you,” Sandy said. “So, changing topics. How’s work Dee?”

Deedee sighed. “Donald’s trying to get another bank loan. So stressed out from it. And then he goes and stresses everyone else out. And I’m the lucky gal who sits right by his door. People talk about quitting all the time. Just about every time he calls me into his office, I get kinda tense cause I’m afraid he’s gonna yell at me or fire me.”

Cassie shook her head and finished her drink. She licked her lips twice, relished the tangy aftertaste. Then she grabbed the remote and turned on the TV. “I wanted to show you girls something. Have you been following the lottery?”

“YES! Isn’t it like a billion dollars now?” Deedee asked.

“Try two,” Cassie said.

A young reporter is standing outside a blue Walmart. The storefront looked like it hadn’t been properly cleaned in a decade.

[Playing on TV]

Rob: …Phil. This latest drawing was $1.9 billion, and there were no winning tickets. So the next jackpot is projected to be – everyone ready for this? THREE BILLION BUCKS. That’s right: Three. billion. Dollar-es. Let that sink in. In fact, Phil, I might just leave work early to go buy tickets!

Phil: Haha, only if you get me a couple, alright? You heard him, folks. No winners in this drawing. Next drawing is projected at three billion dollars. Which means that our next Powerball winner could very well become a billionaire overnight. Talk about motivation! And the whole world’s playing. Some lucky person, hopefully right here in Texas, but could be in Tokyo or Chicago, someone somewhere is gonna buy the winning ticket, and become the first ever lottery billionaire.

Rob: As you can see [the camera pans to his left and we see a long line of people standing along the wall], behind me, these people are already lining up to buy tickets. The drawing is 5 full days away, and people are already lining up! It’s bigger than the Beatles! Bigger than the launch of the new iPhone! [Rob walks over to a brunette in her teens or early 20s, wearing a ribbed top and ripped jeans]. Hi, how are you? What’s your name?

Lisa: Lisa.

Rob: Nice to meet you, now, Lisa. Are you waiting to get Powerball tickets?

Lisa: Our office got a pool.

Rob: A pool! I see, I see. So you’re all buying tickets together. How many of you are in this office pool?

Lisa: Eight.

Rob: And how many tickets will you buy today?

Lisa: Like two each. [She holds up some twenties in her hands] We’re gonna pool it together.

Rob: I’m sure you will, I’m sure you will. Remember folks, it’s $5 to play. So $20 bucks gets you 4 tickets.

[/Playing on TV]

Cassie turned to the girls. “We’re doing it.”

“No way. Not playing.” Sandy shook her head. “Five dollars a ticket, girl. That’s a venti coffee at Starbucks!”

Deedee stroked Ava, her gray Persian cat. “I’ve never played. But three billion. I can’t even grasp how big that is.”

“But even if you win, which isn’t gonna happen. It’s not just fancy flights and spa treatments and shopping sprees.” Sandy slowly refilled everyone’s glasses. “You remember Roberto? High school Roberto. He got five mil when his uncle died in that freak crash?”

“Roberto! Didn’t he have a boyfriend who was like 20 years older than him?” Cassie laughed.

“Yes, that Roberto. I can’t believe you remember! Anyway after he got the money he got pretty messed up. Got into drugs, a bad crowd. Even wound up in jail for a bit. I’m pretty sure he’s broke now.”

“That’s an inheritance. It’s different from the lottery, Sandy,” Cassie said. “We all know Roberto wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer.”

“I’m just saying: Nothing good happens when you win a lot of money.”

“How about if we win, Deedee will break up with Jackass?” Cassie winked. It was her nickname for her boyfriend Jackson.

Sandy laughed.

Deedee tried to protest but couldn’t. Instead she pulled $20 from her purse and slapped it on the coffee table.

Cassie raised her glass. “Yay! Let’s toast. Come on Sandy. Don’t be cheap. You know you always wanted that black Chanel clutch. If we win you can buy the whole store.”

“I hate both of you,” Sandy said.

**

Deedee walked briskly to her desk. The office air was cold and stale. Donald, her boss and the company president, was already inside his office. His feet were propped on an oversized mahogany desk, the conference phone on speaker. His door was open, so she could hear him as he talked about sales figures and new policies and upcoming conferences.

She felt Donald’s eyes follow her as she sat down and turned on her old desktop computer. She surveyed their spacious but low ceilinged office. The two sales guys were on their headsets. Their designer was focused on her huge monitor. The customer support team was the busiest this morning, and she locked eyes with Joao, who gave her a quick wink and smile.

Donald called through his door. “Deedee. Do you have my slides ready?”

She swiveled around in her chair. “For the Kraft meeting?”

“No, the investor pitch.”

“Oh. I…”

“I sent you an email. Need to update it.”

She nodded and began to stand up. Though she wasn’t sure why.

“One more,” he said, lowering his voice slightly but still loud enough for those sitting nearby to hear. “It’s almost 10. You should have been here this morning to take notes.”

**

“I’m not hungry,” Deedee said, rubbing her stomach.

“You’re usually starving by now.”

“I had a muffin earlier.”

“Too much fun last night?” Joao grinned.

“The girls were over late. We drank a buncha wine.”

“Where was my invite?” Joao asked. “You know I love hanging with y’all.” He paused but Deedee didn’t reply. “Anyway, is Donald on his time of the month? That man is not having a good day. He gets so pissy sometimes.”

“I think he just has too many meetings these days,” she said.

“Before you got in, Arthur was in his office and they were literally shouting at each other. At 9am. Arthur raged outta there. He looked like he might quit.”

A waiter came over with Joao’s order on a tray. Joao grabbed his sandwich and salivated over it before quickly putting it down. The aroma of the meatballs was smoky and delicious, but Deedee’s stomach felt too tight, too squeezed to fit even one.

“Oh! You gotta check this out.” He showed her his phone screen.

It was the Powerball ticker. The jackpot: $2,552,812,170.

Deedee blinked hard. “Two billion dollars? Is that right?” She mentally counted the digits.

“Try two and a half. It’s gonna be three soon. People are saying it could reach five. Five. Billion. Dollars!” Joao made a weird sound like the union of a gurgle and screech.

“A billion. I just can’t believe you can win that much money. I mean, the only dream I have is to buy a Birkin bag.”

“Honey, you could buy Birkin itself with that kinda money!” His loud cackle caused nearby customers to look over. “But knowing you, you’d just get more cats.”

“Shut up!” She reached over and tried to slap him.

“Anyhoo, if I won, I’d just take that money and throw a never-ending party.” Joao’s eyes started to drift away. “An orgy. With mountains of coke. A vodka luge, twinks, gogo dancers, the whole works,” he said loudly. Now more people were staring at them.

She covered her eyes in embarrassment.

“So, let’s buy tickets?” He asked after a long silence.

“I think I already am.”

“With the hubby?”

“No, the girls. And he isn’t my husband, stop calling him that!”

“Well, I’m your work husband. And he’s your weed smoking house husband.”

“You’re really on a roll.”

“Only cause you didn’t invite me last night. But anyway, moving on. I have an idea: let’s get the office to play. Let’s do a pool. We can kill an afternoon on it.”

Deedee checked her phone. “Well, he is out for meetings…”

They looked at each other and, as one, stood up and gathered their things.

**

Several people were grouped by their desks, chairs turned inward to form a loose circle, burrito wrappers and tortilla trays spread on the floor. The char of freshly cooked meat and spices hung over them like a cloud.

Joao and Deedee strolled over.

“Who wants to be a billionaire,” Joao said in a sing-song voice.

Changwith looked up. “What you got now,” he asked, talking through a full mouth.

“Powerball! The jackpot’s two and a half bill. Maybe even three now.” Joao handed Lindsay his phone with the lottery app open.

Lindsay’s eyes widened. On the app, the jackpot ticker was rising rapidly. The default increase was $10, but sometimes it would jump $40, and sometimes $100. “How much is a ticket?” She asked.

“Five bucks,” Deedee said.

“Let me see.” Changwith yanked the phone from Lindsay’s hand and squinted at the number. “H-E-double hockey sticks. Three bill! Hell yes I’m in.” He pulled out his wallet.

“Nice!” Joao fist bumped him.

“Fine,” Lindsay shrugged. “If we won, I’d quit in a heartbeat. I feel like everyone would leave.” She looked around, suddenly fearful the wrong person was listening.

“How about like 20 bucks each?” Joao said.

“Works for me,” Changwith said.

“Cash only. No PayPal or Venmo or bitcoin or whatever else you wanna try to pay with. Cold hard cash.”

Deedee walked to the printer and grabbed a sheet of paper. “Give the cash to Joao or me, and we’ll write your name down here. Then you can sign it.”

Changwith took the sheet from Deedee and signed his name with a flourish. He suddenly froze as he handed the page back.

Donald loomed behind her. “Hey team! What’re you up to?” He put his hands on Deedee’s shoulders and squeezed. He peeked over her at the sheet of paper.

“Oh, we’re, uh, we uh, playing a game,” Joao said.

“Nice.” Donald looked at each of them in turn.

“The lottery,” Changwith blurted out. “Jackpot is three billion.”

“Three. Billion?” Donald mouthed the bee sound again, in silence.

No one spoke for an uncomfortably long time.

“We’re doing an office pool,” Deedee finally said, scooting her chair away from him as she spoke.

“I love that! So Changwith is the first in? My man!” Donald pulled out his wallet and began rifling through it. “You know what? I’ve got a better idea. Why don’t I just buy tickets for the whole office?” He looked at them expectantly.

“Does that complicate things?” Changwith asked.

“Well, we already started to play,” Joao added.

But Donald didn’t hear them. “Is $200 good? How many tickets does that get us? Give me a sec. Don’t move.” He trotted to his office and returned with a wad of bills in his hand, licking his fingers as he counted the bills. “Two, four, six…nine, ten. Ten. There we go!” He tossed the $20 bills onto the closest desk – Lindsay’s – with a flourish.

Lindsay stared at the money. “Ok, so is this for everyone then?” She looked around, nonplussed.

“How many tickets does that get us? Is it enough?” Donald checked his watch. “I gotta run. Came back for my laser pointer. Deedee, help me with something?” He turned and walked toward his office, not waiting for her to follow.

**

Deedee walked into the convenience store. The humid and heavy evening air was instantly replaced by the starchy air-conditioned cold. The empty store was filled with old man smell. She headed straight to the counter.

“Evening Dee,” the clerk said. A paunchy man in his early 50s, his shoulders and neck sagged after a long day of standing.

“Hey Bill,” Deedee replied. “Long day?”

“They seem to be gettin that way.”

“Well, I got some money here for Powerball tickets,” she said. She took out Donald’s stack of $20 bills from her purse and spread them on the counter.

“Ok, ok! Business is good, I guess?” He shook his head and began to count the money. “Seems like half the town’s come in to play today.”

She smiled. “It’s Donald’s money.”

“Did he have any numbers in mind? What numbers would you like, hun?”

“You can have the machine pick. No preferences.”

“Sure thing. Let me see that pretty ID of yours.”

Deedee handed over her driver’s license.

Two minutes later, Bill slid a small stack of tickets and a receipt toward Deedee. “Here ya go. That’s 40 tickets right there. I can’t understand why y’all play, but then again.” He looked around his store. “Maybe that’s why I’ll still be here.”

“Shoot! Wait, I’m sorry Bill. Can I get my birthday numbers for one of the tickets? I’m so sorry.”

Bill let out a weary sigh. “I’m sorry Dee. The machine already picked the numbers. You can’t reprint the tickets.”

“Ok.” She sighed too. “I’ll buy one more then? Numbers one and eleven.” She dug around in her purse and pulled out a ten dollar bill.

“One and eleven, sure. I’m really sorry, hun.” He printed out another ticket and placed it on the counter.

With both hands, she slide the stack from the counter into her purse and walked to the door.

“Dee! Wait!”

She turned around. Bill was waving her ID and a $5 bill in the air.

**

The TV was playing a program on the Powerball. Since that wine night with Sandy and Cassie, Deedee’s life had become non-stop lottery gossip: at work with Joao it was speculating who would quit if they won; at home with Cassie it was what trips they’d take and what purses and shoes they’d buy. Cassie in her excitement had even created a shared Amazon wishlist which grew longer by the day. The whole town was abuzz with chatter. Bill was doing more business than he had in years. Grasslight, the local bar, was holding a two-for drinks and appetizers promo today. People were expected to pack the place as soon as it opened for lunch: It was drawing day.

Last night, even her boyfriend Jackson had mentioned he was gonna buy tickets – but she didn’t think he had the motivation, much less the money. The only person who didn’t seem interested, and never brought it up, was Sandy. She’d made it a point to shut down all Powerball conversation whenever it got going.

Deedee sat on her couch and ate her usual breakfast, a cup of strawberry yogurt with some mixed nuts. She carefully carved the spoon into the creamy yogurt, made sure to get the right balance of nuts to yogurt with each bite.

[Playing on TV]

Rob: …excitingggg day. After five days of waiting, we’re finally here at drawing day. Today, someone, somewhere, might win FOUR BILLION dollars. Or is it closer to five?

Phil: Oh, Rob. I think the latest count is four and a half billion. More than the entire history of Powerball, ever. In fact I think this is more than all previous Powerballs, combined. And it’s not even over yet, folks! You can still play. You still have 10 hours left. As you can see, the lines just don’t end. People are frantic to get tickets before cutoff! [b-roll of different lines outside convenience stores, supermarkets, ticket vending machines, people fighting and shoving]

Rob: Phil’s right. He’s got his tickets. I’ve got mine. Our producers, the camera guys. Heck, even former President Booker is part of the action! Check out this amazing clip that’s making the rounds:

[Camera cuts to a shaky handheld video of former President Cory Booker. He’s wearing a gray cashmere sweater over a blue collared shirt, and loose fitting dark jeans. He’s standing alone. Behind him is a Powerball kiosk in what appears to be a luxury outdoor shopping mall, perhaps in Palo Alto]

Lady: President Booker, I’m such a big fan. I voted for you. What a surprise to find you here. It looks like you just played the Powerball. [A female voice is behind the camera, which pans left and right. The former president manages to smile as his eyes look around at the crowd slowly gathering]

President: Yes, well, as you know, the presidency doesn’t pay that much, right? And well, we were just out, Sarah and I, we were doing a bit of shopping today, and I saw the kiosk – wow, look at the line now – and sorta figured, why not? Why not join in the fun and buy a few tickets for the family?

[Camera cuts back to the studio]

Phil: That was recorded by a shopper a few days ago. And in hindsight, it was a real turning point. After former President Booker was seen on camera buying a Powerball ticket, suddenly everyone wanted in. Celebrities, politicians, even an Instagram video of Floyd Mayweather in a strip club raining tickets. Even hashtags, like “twoforone”, where you buy two tickets, and give one away. It’s a phenomenon, people. The first social media lottery. And it all comes to a climax today.

Rob: Now I’ve been doing some calculations, and, and if the lottery is, let’s say $5 billion, let’s say one person wins it ok, let’s call the lucky winner Phil, haha, and let’s say plucky Phil chooses the one time lump payment. So that cuts your winnings down by half, around $3 billion. And then let’s pay the federal and state taxes, which together will be about 20%, because our Phil here is a good proper lawful citizen, so that will leave him with just about two billion in cold, hard cash. Two billion in cash, into Phil’s bank account.

Phil: That lucky bastard.

Rob: The biggest one time payout in history. One way to put this in perspective: Lonzo Ball, who just signed the most lucrative basketball contract in history, half a billion dollars. The Powerball is TEN TIMES his contract. If you win, you could sign 10 Lonzo Balls! Start your own basketball team!

Phil: Some insane numbers, Rob. Pure insanity. In fact, we wanted to share with everyone some ideas of what you could do with the money. So we have Jessica here to give us a special report. Hey Jessica!

Jessica: Hi Phil. Rob. Yeah guys, it’s unprecedented. I’m gonna be watching just like everyone else tonight. Not only is the jackpot breaking records, the audience estimates are too. An expected live audience of almost half a billion people will be watching tonight. Which means the drawing itself will be the most televised event in history, bigger than the World Cup final. Bigger than the Super Bowl. And Rob’s favorite actress, Jennifer Lawrence, is doing the drawing.

[Camera cuts back to Phil and Rob; Rob is laughing loudly and saying something but there is no audio]

Jessica: But that’s not why I’m here. I’m here to give you an idea of exactly what you can do with that kind of money. I mean, $2 billion in your pocket is a lot of money, but I don’t think any of us can really grasp just how much money that is. So let’s make it concrete. What can you buy with $2 billion?

[A pastiche of images and short video clips begin to appear on the screen]

Let’s say you want to buy a nice house? For starters  the most expensive mansion in the world, a three floor luxury penthouse in the luxury Roppongi District of Tokyo, Japan, recently sold for $85 million. The buyer was a reclusive Korean billionaire. Olympic sized indoor swimming pool, Grecian marble toilets, even a 4 car parking garage with a private elevator, and sweeping – simply sweeping – views of the Tokyo skyline from the 92nd floor. And if you win the Powerball, this penthouse could easily be yours. And it would be just a rounding error in your winnings.

…or maybe you want to travel the world? An around the world plane ticket, first class on Singapore Airlines, would cost around half a million. Let’s say you have a family of 4. That’s $2 million for the 4 of you. So you could do that once a year, for every year of the rest of your life, and you’d still not make a dent in your money. In fact, you could invite your extended family, your childhood friends, and your financial manager along on the ride, and it still wouldn’t move the needle!

…or ok, let’s say you’re an investor, and you want to turn those billions into even more? Become the next Warren Buffett? Well, let’s say you took all that money and invested into Bitcoin, this generation’s gold. Each Bitcoin currently trades at around $55,000. With two billion dollars, you could buy 36 THOUSAND of them. Instantly, you’d become one of the top 20 or 30 Bitcoin holders in the world. Your stash of digital gold will be on par with the known holdings of Fortune 10 companies and the world’s largest hedge funds. You’d have more Bitcoin than France! A Bitcoin baron, like the oil and gold barons of old.

…or perhaps you like fine dining and…

[/Playing on TV]

**

It was 6:45pm. Normally the office would be empty, but most of the team had stayed to watch the live lottery drawing. Desks were littered with takeout food, napkins and cutlery, and disposable cups in various states of use. The air was heavy with the musk of leftover foods and body odors.

“Has Donald come in at all today?” Lindsay asked.

“He’s out for meetings,” said Deedee.

“Watch him show up right before the drawing.” Changwith leaned forward and lowered his voice. “What happens if we win? Technically, isn’t it his money?”

No one said anything. Lindsay and Deedee exchanged a look.

The office doorbell rang, a whirring sound like a kid’s wind-up toy. Someone was standing outside holding large bags of food.

“Baba’s here!” Joao shouted, running to the door.

“You order from that place too much,” Deedee said. Baba’s was a divey Chinese restaurant across the street. The owner always delivered the food himself. The restaurant namesake, he’s here tonight, a rangy man in his early 30s with long wavy hair and a wide toothy smile.

“Hi everyone!” Baba shouted as he hoisted two impossibly full bags of disposable containers and bowls onto the office’s makeshift reception desk. Although Baba was simply the Chinese word for father, everyone called him that and he never offered his real name.

“Where’s the boss man?” Baba looked around, slightly disappointed. Donald was a big, if inconsistent, tipper.

“Sorry Baba, he’s out of office today,” Joao said as he unpacked the bags and inspected each container’s contents. “Peanut chicken, nice! Who got that?”

“Ok, well, I gotta rush back. The lottery drawing is tonight!”

Changwith pointed to the office conference room, where the live Powerball broadcast was playing on a giant projector screen. “You should stay and watch with us,” Changwith said.

“Ah, so nice. But I got customers. Waiting. BUT! Next time you call for food, if I don’t pick up, then you’ll know. Who won. Because I will be retired and out of here!” He laughed and gave them a thumbs up on his way out.

Lindsay dug through the bags. “Yes, extra sauce!” She opened a large container of Baba’s spicy spread and smelled it with closed eyes.

[Playing on TV]

…growth in the jackpot size, Danica?

Well, Alan, I’m as excited as all of you to see who becomes the first ever billionaire from playing Powerball. To answer your question, there are two reasons for this incredible jackpot: One is that the lottery is now a global phenomenon. Like basketball and celebrity gossip, the lottery is no longer just an American thing. It’s gone As you can see from the map, the number of countries in green that have legalized the Powerball has gone from just two – the US and Canada – to more than fifty. And with its enormous success, we can expect that number to continue to keep rising.

Wow, that’s an impressive chart. So if I’m understanding this, Danica, then the red countries – the ones in red color – those don’t play?

Correct. And you know, with the colors, it looks like a Christmas tree! Most of Europe can play, parts of South America, but not Germany. Not China. The Middle East doesn’t. I mean, just spitballing here, but with 50 or so countries we already have a five billion dollar jackpot. If all these other countries joined in, a big if, you could easily see a ten billion dollar jackpot. Maybe even twenty?

That’s astounding. So number one, is growth in countries. And you can see from our own network feeds [the screen switches to wide-angle shots of massive crowds gathering in Times Square, in Piazza San Marco, in Museumplein], absolutely massive crowds are gathering tonight to watch the drawing. So Danica, what’s the second reason?

It’s in your pocket: your phone! Online gambling! For the first time ever, people in most countries can buy lottery tickets online. And since we all have phones in our pockets, and computers on our wrists, and now computer screens in our glasses, more and more people are buying digitally. Now, it’s really hard to know exactly how many people are doing that, because Powerball doesn’t release the stats, but it’s a good guess that half of the tickets if not more, especially overseas, because as you know…

[/Playing on TV]

**

“Hey you,” Sandy whispered from just behind Deedee’s ear.

Deedee jumped. “Don’t do that! But I’m glad you came.”

“I just came for the free food,” she said.

“Who’s your friend, Deedee?” Changwith called out from a corner of the conference room where he had setup a makeshift bar. “Would you like a drink?” He was pouring whiskey into a tumbler. His face was flushed pink.

“You met her at the holiday party. Don’t remember? Probably because you were a little, um, drunk?” Deedee looked at Sandy and they laughed.

“Did you get tickets too, Sandy?” Joao asked. He held a plate of rice and chicken and was shoveling it into his mouth with a fork.

“Cassie bought us some,” she said. “But for the record, I think the money would be better spent elsewhere. You know that Powerball keeps more than half the jackpot, right? No charities, no social causes. Billion of dollars, straight into their pockets.”

“And the other billions into mine tonight!” Joao said.

[Playing on TV]

…have to line up here in the good ‘ol US of A, which I spent two painful hours doing yesterday.

Exactly! America is the big exception in that you still have to buy your tickets in the air quotes real world. But if you live in Mexico, you can just use the Powerball app, buy as many tickets as you want, and the numbers are on your phone, and it’s all tracked and verified on the Ethereum network, the blockchain.

Thank you, Danica. Wonderful reporting. Our producers are telling me the live broadcast is beginning now. So we must leave you. DRAWING TIME!

[The screen switches to a live feed of the Powerball drawing; a video montage introduces Jennifer Lawrence, and the camera zooms in as she walks onstage, wearing a dark red hip hugging gown, a stack of gold envelopes in hand]

Hello everyone. Hello to the audience here tonight [she smiles and waves at those sitting in the audience], hello to all our viewers around the world. Welcome to the 2nd annual worldwide Powerball drawing. It’s pretty wild to be here tonight. I can’t believe it myself. Just a crazy world we live in today, right? Cars driving themselves. Eyeglasses that are now computers. And now a five – BILLION – dollar lottery. We’re living in some astounding times, aren’t we? [the live crowd roars]

[/Playing on TV]

“She looks unbelievable,” Joao said.

“Like you care.” Sandy winked.

“I can’t appreciate a hot woman?” Joao said.

“You don’t even appreciate good Chinese food,” Changwith said. “Everyone have the numbers ready? Remember, Vegas offsite if we win. Models and bottles, baby. I want my models and bottles!”

[Playing on TV]

…find a winner tonight, then that person, no matter where they live in the world, will be the first in the history of lotteries to take home more than a billion dollars in cold, hard cash. In fact, let’s have a look at the final, the confirmed jackpot.

A spinning number displays on screen that increases wildly in value, slowing down and eventually stopping at:

$5,222,319,890

Five billion, two hundred…twenty two million. Just a tiny bit more than I make in movies. Y’know. Five point two billion dollars. No big deal.

Ok, well let’s get to it. As you can see, I have in my hand six envelopes. Six envelopes for six numbers. You’ll also notice I have five gold envelopes and one red envelope. The red one’s opened last. That’s the Powerball. Each one is individually sealed. Literally no one in the world knows what the winning numbers are. Each number was randomly chosen by a different person in a process that public and verifiable process. So I will open each envelope, read out a number, and then it will display on screen.

Are we ready? [a drum roll plays softly in the background; she opens the first envelope]

And…the first number in our multibillion dollar Powerball drawing is…ONE! One. The first number is number one. Hmm, how convenient. [She shows the card to the camera, and the number 1 is displayed on the top left of the screen]

Here we go with the second number. [She fumbles to open the envelope] Ok, got it. The second is…9! That’s nine.

The third number…41!

The fourth number is 11!

The fifth is…28!

Ok, so to recap. So far, we have five numbers. In order they are. One. Nine. Eleven. Twenty eight. And forty one. 1, 9, 11, 28, 41. The numbers should all be displayed on the screen for you, too.

There’s one more number left. The red envelope. The Powerball. [she holds up the red envelope] This could determine everything. Let’s see what it is…the Powerball number, upon which someone could win five billion dollars…make that five point two billion dollars…the Powerball is 7! I repeat, seven!

Anyone jumping up and screaming? Anyone? Hello. Anyone? Bueller?

I kid…anyway here are the full winning Powerball numbers. One. Nine. Eleven. Twenty Eight. Forty One. And the Powerball is SEVEN. 1, 9, 11, 28, 41, and 7.

[/Playing on TV]

“Any winners?” Joao asked, thumbing through his phone.

“We got three,” Changwith said, his excitement diminished. “Three numbers. Nine, twenty eight, and forty one. That’s it.” He sighed and finished his drink.

“Did we win anything then?” Deedee asked, biting from a fried dumpling with a fork. Drops of warm meat juice came out the corners of the dumpling. A tiny bit got onto her chin. She wiped it off.

“I don’t know. It should be on the back of your receipt, Deedee,” Changwith said. He and Lindsay peered over Deedee as she looked at the back of the receipt she had set on the table.

“Three numbers…five hundred bucks. Not bad!” Sandy said. “So, what are we gonna do with it?”

“Throw a farewell party because we’re all losing our jobs?” Changwith laughed. Joao groaned.

[Jennifer Lawrence re-appears on the screen. The envelopes are gone, and she has changed into a low cut black evening dress]

Some very exciting news, everyone. Very exciting. Very, very exciting. I was just informed by our Powerball executive committee that WE HAVE A WINNING TICKET. That’s right, someone WON THE JACKPOT TONIGHT! Someone out there, wherever you are, you’re holding onto what is probably the most expensive piece of paper in the world right now. Don’t worry, it isn’t me. If it was, I wouldn’t be here, I’d be in hiding. Just kidding! I don’t even think I’m allowed to play…

But to repeat, we have a winner tonight! Someone whose ticket matched all six numbers including the Powerball. Those numbers, again, are 1, 9, 11, 28, 41, and a Powerball of 7. Someone just spent $5 bucks and made a cool $5.2 billion dollars from it. Best investment ever. Congratulations to you, if you’re watching. Please celebrate responsibly. Get drunk, make love, eat cheetos. But whatever you do. DO NOT LOSE YOUR TICKET. Don’t. Lose that ticket!

[/Playing on TV]

The office deflated after hearing news of the winner. Everyone secretly thought that if they didn’t win, then no one else did either, and maybe they could play again next week. Some people looked over their numbers again. Others texted family and friends who were also playing. Slowly, one by one, Deedee’s coworkers drifted out of the office. Sandy left but not before Changwith unsuccessfully asked for her number.

“You ready to go?” Joao swigged the rest of his whiskey cocktail. He grimaced at the flavor.

“Give me a sec, yeah?” Deedee was texting.

Joao took the phone from Deedee’s hand. “Oh, Jackson huh.” He read aloud: “Whatever. Why do you always gotta…”

She snatched the phone back. “Jerk! Stop it.”

“You guys are always fighting…and probably not fucking?” He raised his eyebrows.

“You’re a dick when you’re drunk, you know that. Will you at least drive us home tonight?”

“Yes, yes I can. We can go if you want.”

Changwith was playing an improvised game of beer-pong. Deedee glanced over at Donald’s empty and dark office as they walked out.

“So you disappointed?” Joao asked.

“Not really. I couldn’t imagine that much money anyway. I mean, we won five hundred, right? That’s pretty good.” She got into the car, leaned back, and closed her eyes.

He reached out his hand and rested it lightly on her shoulder. “Yeah, five hundred. Not bad. But I’m worried, Dee. I’m worried we’re gonna close up shop soon. Donald is never around. What’s he doing? Where does he go all day? Chang is totally right, we may need a farewell party after all.” Joao sighed and looked at her. “Hey, did you notice the numbers? One and eleven?”

Her eyes were closed. She was drifting to sleep.

The Accidental Billionaire: Part 5

Below is an excerpt from a novella I’m writing. Here are previous parts:

The story is about someone who wins a billion dollar lottery, and how their life changes as a result. I am publishing about a scene a week, and will eventually release the full story as an ebook.

**

Deedee sat on the couch and slowly ate her usual breakfast, a cup of strawberry yogurt and a banana.

The TV was playing a program on the Powerball. Since that night with Sandy and Cassie, her life had become non-stop lottery gossip: at work with Joao it was speculating who would quit if they won, at home with Cassie it was what trips they’d take and what purses and shoes they’d buy. Cassie in her excitement had even created a shared Amazon wishlist which she added to seemingly every hour. The whole town was abuzz with chatter. Bill was doing more business than he had in years. Grasslight, the local bar, was holding a two-for promo today and people were expected to pack the place as soon as it opened for lunch: It was drawing day.

Last night, even her boyfriend Jackson had mentioned he was gonna buy tickets – but she didn’t think he had the motivation, much less the money. The only person who didn’t seem interested, and never brought it up, was Sandy. She’d made it a point to shut down all Powerball conversation whenever it got going by referencing a seeming laundry list of accidents and mishaps and tragedies minor and major that seems to befall the winners.

[Playing on TV]

Rob: …exciting day. After five days of waiting, we’re finally here at drawing day. Today, someone, somewhere, might win 4 BILLION dollars. Or is it 5?

Phil: Oh, Rob. I think the latest count is 4 and a half billion. More than the entire history of Powerball, ever. In fact I think this is more than all previous Powerballs, combined. And it’s not even over yet, folks! You can still play. You still have 10 hours left. As you can see, the lines just don’t end. People are frantic to get tickets before cutoff! [b-roll of different lines outside convenience stores, supermarkets, ticket vending machines, people fighting and shoving]

Rob: Phil’s right. He’s got his tickets. I’ve got mine. Our producers, the camera guys. Heck, even former President Booker is part of the action! Check out this amazing clip that a viewer sent us:

[Camera cuts to a shaky handheld video of former President Cory Booker. He’s wearing a gray cashmere sweater over a blue collared shirt, and loose fitting dark jeans. He’s standing alone. Behind him is a Powerball kiosk in what appears to be a luxury outdoor shopping mall, perhaps in Palo Alto]

Lady: President Booker, I’m such a big fan. I voted for you. What a surprise to find you here. It looks like you just played the Powerball. [A female voice is behind the camera, which pans left and right. The former president manages to smile as his eyes look around at the crowd slowly gathering]

President: Yes, well, as you know, the presidency doesn’t pay that much, right? And well, we were just out, my wife and I, we were doing a bit of shopping today, and I saw the kiosk – wow, look at that line now – and sorta figured, why not? Why not join in the fun and buy a few tickets for the family?

[Camera cuts back to the studio]

Phil: That was recorded by a shopper a few days ago. And in hindsight, was a real turning point. After President – sorry, former President – Booker was caught on camera outside a Powerball kiosk, the jackpot just went into hyper drive. I mean, we have celebrities now saying they bought tickets, there was this Instagram post of Floyd Mayweather in a strip club raining tickets. It’s even got trending hashtags, like “twoforone”, where you buy two tickets, and give one away. Now that’s some generosity right there! It’s a phenomenon, folks. The first social media lottery. And it all comes to a climax today.

Rob: Now I’ve been doing some calculations, and, and if the lottery is, let’s say $5 billion, let’s say one person wins it ok, let’s call the lucky winner Phil, haha, and let’s say plucky Phil chooses the one time lump payment. So that cuts your winnings down by half, around $3 billion. And then let’s pay the federal and state taxes, which together will be about 20%, because our Phil here is a good proper lawful citizen, so that will leave him with just about two billion in cold, hard cash. Two billion in cash, into Phil’s bank account.

Phil: That lucky bastard.

Rob: The biggest payout in history. One way to put this in perspective: Lonzo Ball, who just signed the most lucrative basketball contract in history, half a billion dollars. The Powerball is TEN TIMES his contract. If you win, you could sign 10 Lonzo Balls! Start your own basketball team!

Phil: Some insane numbers, Rob. Not big, huge. Not huge, borderline insane. In fact, we wanted to share with everyone some ideas of what you could do with the money. So we have Jessica here to give us a special report. Hey Jessica!

Jessica: Hi Phil. Rob. Yeah guys, it’s unprecedented. I’m gonna be watching just like everyone else tonight. Not only is the jackpot breaking records, the audience estimates are too. An expected live audience of almost half a billion people will be watching tonight. Which means the drawing itself will be the most televised event in history, bigger than the World Cup final. Bigger than the Super Bowl. And Rob’s favorite actress, Jennifer Lawrence, is doing the drawing.

[Camera cuts back to Phil and Rob; Rob is laughing loudly and says something but there is no audio feed]

Jessica: But that’s not why I’m here. I’m here to give you an idea of exactly what you can do with that kind of money. I mean, $2 billion in your pocket is a lot of money, but I don’t think any of us can really grasp what that means in the abstract. So let’s make it very concrete. What can you buy with $2 billion?

[A pastiche of images and short video clips begin to appear on the screen]

Let’s say you want to buy a nice house? For starters the most expensive mansion in the world, a three floor luxury penthouse in the famous Roppongi District of Tokyo, Japan, recently sold for $85 million. The buyer was a reclusive Korean billionaire. Olympic sized indoor swimming pool, Grecian marble toilets, even a 4 car parking garage with a private elevator, and sweeping – simply sweeping – views of the Tokyo skyline from the 92nd floor. And if you win the Powerball, this penthouse could easily be yours. And it would be just a rounding error in your winnings.

…or maybe you want to travel the world? Ok. An around the world plane ticket, first class on Singapore Airlines, would cost around half a million. Let’s say you have a family of 4. That’s $2 million for the 4 of you. So you could do that once a year, for every year of the rest of your life, and you’d still not make a dent in your money. In fact, you could invite your extended family, your childhood friends, and your financial manager along on the ride, and it wouldn’t move the needle!

…or ok, let’s say you’re an investor, and you want to turn those billions into even more? Become the next Warren Buffett? Well, let’s say you took all that money and invested into Bitcoin today, this generation’s gold. Each Bitcoin currently trades at around $55,000. With two billion dollars, you could buy 36 THOUSAND of them. Instantly, you’d become one of the top 20 or 30 Bitcoin holders in the world. Your stash of digital gold will be on par with the known holdings of Fortune 10 companies and the world’s largest hedge funds. You’d have more Bitcoin than France! A Bitcoin baron, like the oil and gold barons of old.

…or perhaps you like fine dining and…

[/TV]

Deedee looked at her watch. 9:15am. Time to head into the office.

The Accidental Billionaire: Part 4

Below is an excerpt from a novella I’m writing. Here are parts one, two, three. I am publishing about a scene a week, and will eventually release a pdf or ebook.

The story is about someone who wins a billion dollar lottery, and how their life changes as a result.

**

Deedee walked into the convenience store. The humid and heavy evening air was instantly replaced by the starchy air-conditioned cold. She headed straight to the counter.

“Evening Dee,” the clerk said. A paunchy man in his early 50s, his shoulders and neck sagged after a long shift.

“Hey Bill,” Deedee replied. “Long day?”

“They seem to be gettin that way.”

“Well, I got some money here for Powerball tickets,” she said. She took out Donald’s stack of $20 bills from her purse and spread them on the counter.

“Ok, ok! Business is good, I guess?” He shook his head and began to count the money. “Seems like half the town’s come in to play today.”

She smiled. “It’s Donald’s money.”

“Did he have any numbers in mind? What numbers would you like, hun?”

“You can have the machine pick. No preferences.”

“Sure thing. Let me see that pretty ID of yours.”

Deedee handed over her driver’s license.

Two minutes later, Bill slid a small stack of tickets and a receipt toward Deedee. “Here ya go. That’s 40 tickets right there. I can’t understand why y’all play, but then again.” He looked around his store. “Maybe that’s why I’ll still be here.”

“Shoot! Wait, I’m sorry Bill. Can I get my birthday numbers for one of the tickets? I’m so sorry.”

Bill let out a long sigh. He looked at the computer screen, hit a button, and shook his head. “I’m sorry Dee. The machine already picked your numbers. You can’t get refunds on the Powerball, I’m afraid.”

“Ok,” she sighed. “I’ll buy one more ticket then?” She said. Digging around in her purse, she pulled out $10.

“One and eleven? Sure. I’m sorry about that, hun.” He printed out another ticket and slide the stack toward her. “You want a bag for that?” He softly chuckled.

She smiled as she slid everything on the counter into her purse. A call was coming in from Jackson. She answered as she walked to the door.

“Dee! Wait!”

She turned around. Bill was waving her ID and a $5 bill in the air.

Daily Habits Checklist (November 27 – December 24): “Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past” – Lily Tomlin

The good: waking up early, exercise and pushups, writing (in stretches)

The bad: meditation, doing some work in the evenings (although this is often because I’m out with friends)

For the new year, I didn’t set any resolutions of the typical sort (eg, lose X pounds, run Y miles) but I did set a few “habit resolutions”, daily habits, small practices I’d like to build or increase in my life, among them:

-Spend more time on music
-Wake up even earlier (though this is a life long process)

Happy 2018 everyone! May your days be fruitful and fulfilling, and your year be wonderful :)

Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past – Lily Tomlin

Here’s why and how I track my daily habits.

Thanks for following! You can find me on Twitter.

The Accidental Billionaire: Part 3

Here are parts one and two. I am publishing a scene roughly once a week.

**

Several people were eating by their desks, chairs turned inwards to form a loose circle, burrito wrappers and tortilla trays spread on the floor. Joao and Deedee strolled over.

“Who wants to be a billionaire,” Joao said in a sing-song voice.

“What you got now,” Changwith asked, trying to talk through a full mouth.

“Powerball! The jackpot’s two and a half bill. Maybe even three now.” Joao handed Lindsay his phone matter of factly, with the lottery app open.

Her eyes widened. On the app, the jackpot ticker was rising rapidly. The default increase was $10, but sometimes it would jump $40, and sometimes $100. “How much is a ticket?” She asked.

“Five bucks,” Deedee said.

“Let me see.” Changwith playfully yanked the phone from Lindsay’s hand and squinted at the number. “H-E-double hockey sticks. I’m in. How much?” He pulled out his wallet.

“Nice!” Joao fist bumped him.

“Fine,” Lindsay shrugged. “If we won, I’d quit in a heartbeat. I feel like everyone would leave.” She looked around, fearful that someone was listening.

“How about like 20 bucks each?” Joao said.

“Works for me,” Changwith said.

“Cash only ok. No PayPal or Venmo or bitcoin or whatever else you wanna try to pay with. Cold hard cash only.”

Deedee walked to the printer and grabbed a sheet of paper. “Give the cash to Joao or me, and we’ll write your name down here. Then you can sign it.”

Changwith took the sheet from Deedee and signed his name with a flourish. He froze as he handed the page back to her.

Donald had walked up. “Hey team! What’re you up to?” He put his hands on Deedee’s shoulders and squeezed. He looked at the sheet of paper.

“Oh, we’re, uh, we uh, playing a game,” Joao said.

“Nice!” Donald looked at each of them in turn.

“The lottery,” Changwith blurted out. “It’s three billion.”

“Three. Billion?” He mouthed the bee sound again, slowly. Then he peered over Deedee’s shoulder at the sheet of paper.

No one spoke.

“We’re doing an office pool,” she finally said, moving away from him as she spoke.

“I love that! So Changwith is the first in? My man!” Donald pulled out his wallet and began rifling through it. “You know what? I’ve got a better idea. Why don’t I just buy tickets for the whole office?” He looked at them expectantly.

“Does that complicate things?” Changwith asked.

“We already started,” Deedee added.

But Donald didn’t hear them. “Is $200 good? How many tickets does that get us? Give me a sec. Don’t move.” He trotted to his office and returned with a wad of bills in his hand, licking his fingers as he counted the bills. “Two, four, six…nine, ten. Ten. There we go!” He tossed the $20 bills onto the closest desk – Lindsay’s – with a flourish.

She stared at the money. “Ok, so is this for everyone then?” Lindsay looked around, nonplussed.

“How many tickets does that get us? Is it enough?” Donald checked his watch. “I gotta run. Came back for my laser pointer, actually. Deedee, help me with something?” He turned and walked toward his office, not waiting for her to follow.