I’m writing this column on Powerball Wednesday. By the time you read it, someone will have won millions of lottery dollars and begun to gain a clearer understanding of the downside of opulence. Take your Thanksgiving table, for instance. Full to overflowing, wasn’t it? And so were you. Not just satiated but suffering stuffed-to-the-gills misery. Then why is it that you’re eagerly anticipating a replay come Christmas? How soon we forget.
“Here, kid. Take this quarter and knock yourself out.” That’s my cousin, who will be on his way to basic training the next day. It’s about this time of the year in 1942 but still warm, and we’re at a family-and-well-wishers’ backyard barbecue in his honor. His name is Warden, but we always called him Lucky. At that time because of the Lucky Strikes he carried rolled up in the sleeve of his white T-shirt. Later because he served his World War II term of duty overseas as a Russian/German language translator, came home safe and sound at the end of the war and lived to a ripe, albeit nicotine-stained old age in spite of his lifelong habit.
Anyhow, I snatched up that quarter, lost my 10-year-old self in the milieu of backyard barbecue revelers, and dashed off to the neighborhood grocery store. Mr. Swartz behind the counter was glad to see me. Times weren’t all that lush and I had a quarter eating a hole in my pocket. Not a sweaty penny or two tied up in the corner of a hanky.
I invested my entire windfall in penny-packs of Root Bear Barrels, ropes of Licorice both red and black, Tootsie Pops and Tootsie Rolls, miniature Slo Pokes, Bit O Honey midgets, Chick-O-Sticks and Red Hots, and that’s when trouble showed up. Two cousins, one older than I and the other younger. Both of them fat for good reason. Do you have any idea what the size of a sack holding 25 packets of penny candy looks like? Huge. Impossible to conceal, and the cousins would tell our respective moms if I didn’t share.
So I did, but with grace falling short of anything you could call Christian charity. In the end, we hunkered down in a circle out of the wind behind the grocery store and did our “one for Tina, one for Dorothy, one for Marjorie” routine, divvying up two dozen of the sack’s contents — the twenty-fifth piece, a black licorice rope, going to me — and consumed all of it on the spot.
I and I alone was that day’s Powerball winner. Still, looking back, divvying up the spoils probably saved me from a roaring belly ache and cemented my right to cousinship. New Powerball winner, take note.
MARJORIE ANDERSON is an Edmond resident.