Duane Sherrill

You’d think after months of quarantine, without getting out and doing anything that my mother would be chomping at the bit to fly the coop once she got her COVID shots.

“We can go eat somewhere if you want,” I told my mother after promising her for months that her house arrest would be over once she was fully inoculated.

“How about we do something next weekend?” my mom responded, her reluctance to immediately flee her captivity piquing my suspicion. “I need to stay around the house.”

“Are you feeling okay?” I replied, reaching out to feel her forehead. “You’ve been wanting to get out for months.”

At this point I realized she was up to something. My mom is, well, I’m not allowed to tell her age but she was raised during the Great Depression if that gives you any hint, so she’s pretty set in her ways. Therefore, when she does something out of the ordinary and won’t make eye contact, I know she’s up to something.

“Are you waiting for a package or something?” I asked.

“Kind of,” she shot back.

The mystery novelist in me kicked in. I had to know what she was up to. “Okay. Give. What’s the deal?”

Giving a sigh, she came clean. “I think this may be the year,” she began reluctantly. “My year.”

“The year for what?” I prodded.

“Well, they’ve been contacting me more than usual, so I think I may be the one,” she cryptically responded.

“The one for what?” I impatiently asked.

Following another pause, she let it out. “I think this is the year I win the Publisher’s Clearing House,” she revealed.

I repressed an all-out laugh because I knew she was being serious. “So you want to put off getting out so you can wait here for a knock at your door that probably will never come?” I asked.

She narrowed her eyes, put off by my doubt and negative vibes.

“What if we go somewhere and they come here to give me my millions?” she defended. “What then? I’ll miss out on the flowers, balloons and that big check.”

I shook my head.

“It ain’t happening,” I said. “Do you know anyone who has ever won that thing? I hate to burst your bubble, but you can wait all day and that knock ain’t coming.”

Exasperated by my unbelief, mom crossed her arms and stubbornly held her ground.

“Well, if I win I’m going to pay off your house and car,” she announced, her revelation stopping me in my tracks.

Sure, the chances of her winning were slim to none, but hey, the best house and best car you can have are a house and car that are paid for.

“Um, okay. We can wait until next week,” I said, adding a caveat. “However, here’s the deal – if you win, you have to buy lunch.”

Unfortunately, the people with the big check and balloons never came, despite my mother watching out the window like a woman waiting by the sea for her man to return from his voyage. In this case, I’m afraid he got eaten by the kraken.

I suppose there’s a glimmer of hope that still remains, but just like any lottery, casino or drawing, the chances of winning are remote.

One might think the recent lottery millionaires this past month from Chattanooga, Sparta, Smithville and Columbia would make me less negative when it comes to my view of winning in games of chance. Well, one would be wrong.

I’ve stood in front of the palatial edifices of Las Vegas where millions thought they had the perfect way to beat the system. However, the massive casinos there tell a different story. These massive structures tell me “the house” almost always wins. Sure, you can claim all you want but I’m yet to meet a rich gambler.

“Wait a minute there, Sherrill,” I can hear you growl. “I went to Tunica and won 500 bucks last year on the one-arm bandits.”

Well, first off, the reason they call them one-armed bandits is because, well, they take your money. And second, most people spend $1,000 to make that $500. Um, if you do math, that’s a $500 loss. However, folks are too proud to admit the obvious – that you almost always lose when you play the house. Why? Because that’s what they do. It’s math and business combined into a billion-dollar industry. How do you think the state lottery puts so many kids through college in Tennessee? It’s because most folks lose on a regular basis, thereby making their lottery ticket purchase a non-tax-deductible donation to the higher education fund in the Volunteer State.

I have a friend who hit a $750 ticket a while back and was ecstatic. This came after she had played the lottery pretty well every day for over a decade, meaning she conservatively had donated $10,000 to the college fund over that time for that small return.

Now, I’m not discouraging you from buying lottery tickets if you find it fun. You helped put my oldest son through trade school, and I appreciate that, since higher education priced its way out of affordability decades ago. Now only the rich and gifted can afford college unless you qualify for the Tennessee Promise or your family doesn’t make much money. Sad but true.

With that said, mom is still holding out hope but she’s more than ready to go out and eat rather than waiting by the door for that big check.