I won the lottery.
As usual on a Monday morning the guys in our office had gathered
around the coffee maker, having their wake-up cups and discussing what
theyd done on the weekend. The office was a small unit in the State of
Californias large Health Department located in Sacramento. Jerry
Stebbins, our lead analyst, had asked, Anybody do anything exciting over
We had a soccer game, Sam Parker, who lived in the
suburbs with three or four kids, had said . Our son scored a goal.
How about you, Paul? This had been addressed to me.
No, nothing exciting. How about you?
Just the usual, mowed the lawn and cleaned out the
gutters. Hey, Trudi, how was your weekend? Had a hot date?
Trudi, the units secretary, who was, as the saying went,
hot - she wore tight sweaters and short skirts and was the object
of much speculation among us guys - had joined us. My weekend was
Thats all youll ever know.
Thats when Henry Hoskins, our statistical clerk, a man in
his thirties, who was usually quiet, had piped up with his declaration that
hed won the lottery.
Now all heads turned toward Henry. How much did you
win? I asked.
Did I hear that somebody won the lottery? It was
John Bidwell, our unit chief, coming in late as usual.
I did, said Henry.
How much did you win? I repeated.
No, said Henry. Not millions, but quite a bit,
Well, congratulations, said Bidwell. Did you
finish that table on birth rates?
Im on it. With that we all scattered to our
desks and the work week had begun.
As Ive said, Henry Hoskins was usually very quiet. He did
his work capably and kept to himself. He was one of those gray people you
didnt seem to notice. After his lottery win though he seemed to have won
some measure of respect. The first sign of this came when the guys were ready
to go to our weekly lunch at the Pheasant Club, famous for its steak
sandwiches. We were on our way out when Jerry Stebbins looked back to where
Henry was at his desk and asked if hed like to come with us. Henry looked
a little surprised but then said, Sure.
From then on Henry usually joined us when the whole gang went to
lunch together. He was still quiet and didnt say much about himself but
was pleasant enough to have along. Then Sam Parker, who was in a fantasy
football league, began asking Henry about his selections, evidently considering
Henry to be an expert when it came to gambling, never mind that winning in the
lottery was simply a matter of luck. Id say the final indication of
Henrys new standing was when Bidwell asked him to attend our weekly staff
meetings. After all, Bidwell said, hes an integral part
of our team. I dont think we appreciated how much he contributed
My desk happened to be close to Henry, so we usually talked a
little during the day and I found out something about his life outside the
office. His parents owned a hardware store in Chico and once a month he drove
up to visit them, a dutiful son. He lived in a small apartment downtown so he
could walk to work, which was convenient. He liked to read, mostly history, and
on weekends took walks in Capital Park, where hed feed the squirrels. He
never mentioned any friends and certainly not any women.
Around the end of the year Bidwell called a staff meeting and
announced that Henry had passed an exam and would be promoted to analyst
status. We all congratulated him while he smiled modestly. Trudi kissed him on
the cheek and he blushed. I reflected that Henry had come a long way since
becoming a lottery winner. He was now one of the guys and a full-fledged
analyst. Everyone deferred to him when questions of betting or of statistics
came up. He could now stand with everyone around the coffee maker on Monday
mornings and discuss weekend activities with the guys, even joke with Trudi.
But there was more to come. It was on a spring afternoon. Henry
and I were working on the same project and so we took afternoon break together
in the building cafeteria. I have something to tell you, Henry
What? You won the lottery again?
No, nothing like that. Im engaged to be
You are? Whos the girl?
Id like to tell you that it was our secretary Trudi; that
would have made a nice story. But no, it was to another girl, one hed met
while feeding the squirrels in Capitol Park.
Id appreciate it if you didnt tell the other
fellows, said Henry.
Well, you know how they like to joke around. When
weve set a date Ill announce it.
Fine, but this calls for some kind of celebration.
Ill take you out to lunch at the Pheasant Club tomorrow. By the way, you
never did tell us exactly how much you won in the lottery. How much was
Well, it was $150.
$150? You told me it was quite a bit.
It was, to me. Especially before I got that
All right. But in that case, Ill drive to the
Pheasant Club, but Im not paying for lunch. Its on you.