TITLE: The Jackpot
When he stopped by his cousin Leroy’s in time for the late news five days before Christmas, Julius Wheeler was worth one hundred and ninety-eight dollars. His assets included eight compact discs, a green plastic picnic table, a broken iPod, and a mattress of questionable repute. He paid two hundred dollars a month for a one-bedroom apartment in Carrolton Oaks, a crumbling and crime-ridden housing project just inside the eastern border of Richmond, Virginia. Twenty hours a week, he cleaned the twenty-ninth floor of a large downtown law firm as a member of a CleanSweep work crew. He made seven dollars an hour.
“Hey, Julius, you buy a lotto?” Leroy asked.
“Yeah,” Julius said, cracking open a beer and taking a seat in the center of the threadbare couch in Leroy’s apartment. It sagged in the middle and was peppered with cigarette burns.
“Ain’t gonna win s*** buying one,” Leroy said, fanning out his tickets for Julius to see. “I got eight. Gonna make me rich. What numbers you play?”
“Just had the machine pick’em. Like it make a difference. Nobody ever win these things.”
“Bull****,” Leroy said. “You think like that, you be stuck in that sh**** apartment the rest of your life, and I be living on the beach. You come visit anytime.”
“We shouldn’t even be playing,” Julius said, thinking about his sh**** apartment and how much he preferred it to his eight-by-eight cinderblock cell at Red Onion State Prison.