I’m writing a novella about a collection of people in small-town Texas who play the world’s first $5 billion lottery.
My plan is to publish all of it – maybe 100 to 150 pages – excerpt by excerpt to this blog. Then I’ll edit and package it into a proper ebook.
Here are the very first pages. Please keep in mind that this is a draft, so I expect a fair number of changes to structure, tone, characters, all of that.
The girls are in Deedee’s living, laughing and drinking their third bottle of red wine. The space is dominated by a frayed tan couch that an ex-boyfriend left her. No one is sitting on the couch, though. Instead they’re on the floor, gathered around the wooden plank of a coffee table. Around them on the large gray rug are empty wine bottles, glasses, and two boxes of delivery pizza.
“I really thought they paid you more, honey,” Sandy 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.
Sandy sniffed the air. “Is it just me, or…?”
Deedee nodded. “Smoking nonstop since his last project ended. Like he’s still in college.”
“His hallway on the third floor was pretty toxic,” Sandy chuckled. “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, ok. Everything started out pretty good. We sat down, ordered some apps, got a drink order. He’s all smiling and charming, opened doors, the whole bit. Everything was great for once. But then, get this.” She leaned in and lowered her voice. “The food hadn’t even arrived. He pulled these little foil packets from his pocket. And I’m thinking, ok, maybe it’s gum? 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 goes, ‘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. “He’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, finished her drink, and filled everyone’s glasses. She then 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 looks like it hasn’t been properly cleaned in a decade.
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 some too, alright? We got a deal? 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 Paris, Texas, but maybe in the original Paris, or in Tokyo, Japan or Chicago, Illinois, 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?
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?
Rob: And how many will you buy today?
Lisa: Tickets? 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.
Cassie turned to the girls. “We’re doing it.”
“No way. Not playing.” Sandy shook her head. “Five dollars, 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 took a long sip from her glass. “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. Haha 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.
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.