My Lottery Ticket Was Defective,
So I’m Going to Need My Dollar Back

Dear Commissioner,

This afternoon, out of necessity, I bought a scratch-off lottery ticket. Unfortunately, the ticket I received in exchange for my dollar, paid in cash, was faulty, so now I need to return that ticket for a refund. I can not seem to figure out how to do that, though.

Some background might help you understand my situation: I’m not poor, but I’m not exactly what you might call “good with money.” When I was much younger, I had a “holiday savings account” that was typically overdrawn by April each year. My credit was so bad that in order to attend college I had to get student loans from a student loanshark, whose interest rates were especially high because he was just then putting himself through loansharking school. As an adult, I don’t own a wallet; I have a money clip, but I use it to keep my socks together in the wash. You get the picture, and I’m sure you realize why it was important that I get a lottery ticket: in order to obtain some more money, quickly, since I had only a dollar on me at the time, and I needed more than that to buy a bottle of water and a bag of ice, which is why I was at a liquor store to begin with.

I appreciate fully that there are people who depend on instant lottery tickets for their regular income, and I kept this in mind when deciding which ticket to buy. I thought it would be inconsiderate of me to purchase a ticket promising a windfall far in excess of my immediate pecuniary needs, so I asked for a “Triple Black Cherry” ticket and handed over my “Washington” to the lady behind the counter, who wished me luck, which I thought was odd, but I thanked her anyway. I figured it was like when someone asks, “How’s it going?” and you answer, “Not much.” Sometimes, wires just get crossed, and the nice thing to do is not call attention to it.

The other thing I did out of a desire not be greedy is scratch off my ticket with the smallest coin I had—the coin of the smallest value, I mean, not the physically smallest—because I remembered reading somewhere that you’ll win more from a scratch-off lottery ticket if you scratch with a quarter than you will if you scratch with a dime, for example. In any event, I scratched with a nickel, but only because I didn’t have a penny. I imagined that since the “Triple Black Cherry” ticket top prize is $1,500, with a nickel I’d probably win around three hundred dollars, which was more than enough for the rest of today. But then the unexpected happened.

I scratched off the following combinations of symbols: (1) diamond/coins/safe; (2) grapes/ring/grapes; (3) safe/star/star; (4) bell/bell/pot; and (5) coins/piggy bank/piggy bank. In other words, none was a set of three identical symbols. Nor did any row show a cherry symbol, which would have been an automatic winner, or a “3X,” which would have won me “3 TIMES the PRIZE shown for that GAME!” (emphasis in the original). Being that one of the PRIZEs was $100, it would have been perfect if I’d uncovered a 3X in that GAME, but when all was said and done and scratched, I was left holding a defective ticket.

So you understand, I’m not trying to embarrass anyone. I’m not at all interested in making you or your organization look bad. I believe that the lottery does admirable work. I understand completely that mistakes happen. I’m just at a loss to determine how to have this circumstance remedied by the appropriate person or persons. The woman at the liquor store didn’t seem to understand what I tried to explain, and I was holding up the lunchtime line. The back of the ticket has an address where one can mail a winning ticket, but there’s no counterpart address for broken tickets. I even called the 24-hour confidential “Hopeline” for those with gambling problems, but the man who answered, while at first very nice, quickly grew unsympathetic and ultimately hung up on me.

And that’s why I’m writing to you. No doubt you have many much more important things to be doing as head of the charitable arm of the state government, and I wouldn’t dream of bothering you if I hadn’t exhausted all of my other options. I am enclosing with this letter “Triple Black Cherry” lottery ticket no. 1211-0048402-006(245), which I trust you will want to have your Quality Assurance department examine. Please send my refund—in cash, if at all possible—in the self-addressed envelope provided for your convenience. My apologies for not being able to provide a stamped envelope, but—well, the truth is I don’t really understand how stamps work.

Matthew David Brozik wrote this and many other short humor pieces, which have been published in print and online by The New Yorker, Adult Swim, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Grin & Tonic, The Big Jewel, and no one.

Read more humor here. Or read some fiction here.