I stopped to buy a lottery ticket at a joint on the Florida-Alabama line.
Yeah, I know the lottery is a fool’s game, but I have a longstanding tradition of doing foolish things.
The man at the counter was sipping from a red SOLO cup, chewing ice. On the radio, Loretta Lynn sang. I bought three Powerball tickets and a Coke.
The man said, “Powerball’s up to three forty-eight.”
That’s 348 million bucks. And even though I’m no mathematician, I’ve been thinking about what I’d do if the universe ever gave me that much money.
That’s what writers do, you see. We stare into space, thinking long and hard about things that will never happen just in case they do. If you do it right, people think you’re working.
First: I would buy a farm. A big one. Not for livestock. This would be sprawling countryside, live oaks, and ponds.
Then, I would build hundreds—no thousands of cabins. Little ones, with porch swings, and scenic views. I would call this operation, “Ellie Mae Farms,” since it will need a name, and my coonhound, Ellie Mae, is sleeping on my feet while I write this.
Yes, here at Ellie Mae Farms, we believe in three things. Foster kids, foster dogs, and saturated fat. Every summer, we’ll welcome kids without parents, who don’t think anyone gives a cuss about them.
We give lots of cusses at Ellie Mae Farms.
We’ll have colossal breakfasts. Any dish you can think of. Bacon, eggs, Conecuh sausage, omelettes, ten-foot-tall glasses of orange juice.
They will send out the local news choppers just to cover our breakfasts.
Our staff will be school teachers. We’ll pay them triple—no ten-times what teachers get paid today. Not only will they teach, they’ll receive five months paid vacations, benefits, complimentary massages, and monthly beer allowances.
And don’t forget our animal shelter. The entire South side of our property is all rescue dogs. They roam free here at Ellie Mae Farms. So make sure you watch where you step—we encourage our dogs to eat high-fiber diets.
Kids and dogs will be paired together, and stay in cabins. Our cabins are well-stocked with the essentials: clean towels, fishing rods, tackle boxes, Oreos, Pay Days, Chili Cheese Fritos, playing cards, SPAM.
Summers will belong to these children. They will run, play, laugh, and develop healthy sunburns.
We’ll have big Christmases, too. Outdoor games, sleigh rides, caroling, tree lightings.
But NOTHING will be as fun as springtime.
Spring is when the farm comes unglued. Our covered-dish suppers will be the Eighth Wonder of the Dadgum World.
I’m talking shindigs of Biblical proportions. Barns with long tables. Fried chicken, barbecued pork, potato salad, and biscuits rich enough to violate federal trade regulations.
Eating with your hands is mandatory. We’ll have dinner music played by bands with twin fiddles and Stetson hats. And nightly baseball games.
And because we believe in bettering ourselves, every cabin will feature a library of sacred books on the nightstands. Classics like: the Adventures of Superman, MAD Magazine, Saturday Evening Post, and the complete works of the late great Kathryn Tucker Windham.
Yes, here at Ellie Mae Farms, it’s my hope to give kids and dogs a fighting chance. The chance to feel like the world is with them instead of against them.
The chance to fall asleep with sunburns on their necks and grins on their faces.
But until my farm thing comes through, I simply hope that anyone reading this knows that someone loves you. I hope every puppy feels wanted. And every child, too.
They pick the Powerball numbers tonight.
Wish me luck.