Lucky Stars

An essay by Pat Delmarre, as provided by Robert Dawson
Art by Scarlett O’Hairdye

“Don’t you ever feel guilty?” I asked Brianna.

“Naaah.” She tapped her nails, hot pink with black Klingon alphabet decals, nervously on the arm of the couch. “And if I do, I just think about that Venge bicycle I’ll be riding next week. Twenty thousand smackeroos, including the custom respray. And that’s just the beginning.” She smiled luxuriantly, and took another big handful of chips. “What are you planning to do with yours, Pat?”

“I haven’t really thought beyond paying off my student loan,” I confessed. “Maybe a BMW convertible or something.”

“Well, better start thinking, kiddo. In an hour, we’re going to be rich. Probably.”

We’d been working on it for almost a year.

Brianna and I had been not-quite-making-out on the couch, with the evening news ignored in the background. I was stroking the smooth skin of her upper arm, making slow progress towards more interesting places, when suddenly she grasped my hand and pulled it firmly away from her.

“Aw, Bri–don’t be like that.”

“It’s OK, Pat. Just listen to this first.” She pointed with her other hand towards the TV.

“I don’t get it. Nobody won the lottery: what kind of a story is that?”

“Yeah, but did you see how big the next jackpot will be? Thirty million dollars.”

“That happens a lot more since they stopped paying small prizes and put it all onto one big one.”

“Yes, but don’t you see? With a lottery like this one, six numbers out of forty-nine in any order, there are only fourteen million combinations. So with two-dollar tickets, the expected value of each ticket is more than the cost. There’s got to be an angle on this.” She got her Genius At Work look.

“Yeah,” I said. “Only if you won the jackpot, with this many people buying tickets, you’d probably have to share it. There goes your edge.” I tried to wriggle my hand free.

She held on firmly. “Pat. It’s rolled over for five weeks in a row. What does that tell you?”

“Errrh, nobody bet on the winning numbers?”

“Smarty-pants. But we know there’s a bazillion people buying tickets, so they must all be clustering on other numbers.”


“Grandchildren’s birthdays, 1-2-3-4-5-6, things like that. They’re just as likely to win, of course, but if they do, they’ll have to share. I bet if we bought enough tickets on the boring numbers, we’d have a good investment.”

“No way.”

“Way. Voltaire and Le Condamine did something like it in the eighteenth century. I learned about it in my history of math class.”

“Bri, maybe this Condom guy had fourteen million dollars to invest, but I don’t, even if the odds are good. You don’t either.”

“Right. So we get partners. You find ways of doing that, that’s what your B.Comm. courses are there for. Me, I’ll work on herding the sheep a bit tighter. Improve our odds.” She grinned and put my hand back, about where it had been before the interruption. “Now, where were we?” I did not answer; Brianna’s lips were in the way.

Art for "Lucky Stars"

She put it online, and charged ninety-nine cents. For that, she promised free upgrades–any time she wrote a new selection algorithm, everybody would get it automatically, without even having to ask. Within a few days, orders were flooding in.

To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Winter 2018 collection.

Pat Delmarre has a B.Comm., three jobs, and a humongous student debt. Like Mount Everest sized? Pat lives with Brianna Flick, provided that Brianna does not have any more so-called clever ideas. Ever. Because eating Kraft Dinner every day is getting totally boring.

Robert Dawson has a Ph.D., teaches mathematics at a Nova Scotian University, and writes science fiction. He has taught probability theory many times, and has never bought a lottery ticket. These two facts may be connected.

Scarlett O’Hairdye is a burlesque performer, producer and artist. To learn more, visit her site at

“Lucky Stars” is © 2014 Robert Dawson
Art accompanying story is © 2017 Scarlett O’Hairdye

This story originally appeared in the October 2014 issue of Perihelion.

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