“I remember,” said the old woman, her voice dropping away into the creak of her youth, “the first billion-dollar lottery.”
“Oh, is that true, Ms. Notug?” Janiflower brushed a thin layer of dust off the juicer on the dresser. It stopped working decades before, but still Ms. Notug liked to look at it, she said it reminded her of days disappeared, days, apparently, steeped in juice. “Was it much money back then?”
“Oh, yeah, totes,” she said. “And I keep telling you to call me Madison.”
“Ms. Notug, you know that the facility prefers us to treat our residents with respect, which you totally—” Janiflower stopped herself and then tried it again, “—totes deserve. I alot amour your old-fashioned slang.”
Madison kept her wince to herself. It hardly seemed like the time had passed, but here she was, sitting in a nursing home, attended by a woman with the ridiculous name of Janiflower. One of three on staff.
“You know how ‘a lot’ used to be two words?” she said.
“No, it couldn’t have been.” Janiflower finished with the dusting, and slid the top pillow from the bed, fluffing it with vigor.
“Oh, it was. That was my generation, you know. Who needs the space? Such a waste of time when typing.”
“It would look so funny, ’Alot’ as two words. People used to be so stodgy. And to think you actually had to type what you wanted to say. You really had it ruffle back then.”
“Ruffle?” These kids with their new words, Madison thought. Couldn’t they stick to American?
“Oh, hard. I think it’s like, you know, rough?”
“Huh. Got it. Anyway, what was I talking about?”
“The lottery. The first billion-dollar one.”
“Ah, yeah, that’s right. Now no one won for more than two months, and it just kept getting bigger and bigger—”
Janiflower giggled. “It’s so funny to think of that amount as ‘getting bigger.’ They start at forty billion. I mean what could you buy for that back then?”
“Anything you wanted,” said Madison. “Anything at all.”
“Well you couldn’t give up your day job now, that’s for sure.” Moving on from the pillows, Janiflower carefully folded the worn fleece blanket at the foot of the bed. “I mean, it would help, but…”
“What did you say it was at today?”
“$2.3 trillion. That’s a value piece of change.”
“Trillions. What a world. When was the last time someone won?”
“Thirteen-and-a-half years ago. But I got a feeling tonight’s the night. And it’s only $200 a ticket, so…”
“Well make sure you buy more than one,” said Madison. “You know, to up your odds of winning.”
“Will do,” said Janiflower. “Want me to get you some? It’s against the rules, but for you, I’m bendy.”
“I’m a hundred and thirty-two, what would I do with a trillion dollars? Anyway, didn’t they change the odds?”
“Yep, but it’s all part of the chal. Ya gottta get a ticket to win,” Janiflower said, giving the coverlet on the bed a final smoothing.
“Challenge, Ms. Notug. Challenge.”
“The Super Mega Power GoliathBall covers how many planets?”
“Twenty-three. And when there is a winner, it always seems to be someone from one of those planets alot out in the branches.”
“The branches. You know, alot alot out there? Real alone-like? Still, someone’s gotta win. Eventually.”
“Eventually,” Madison agreed.