Left To Chance
Grenville Mcadam had spent years programming his computer with weekly lottery results, a program he devised obsessively, in the vain hope of finding the foolproof formulae for winning the lottery. He was 35 years old had very few friends, lived in a dark dingy nightmare of a bed-sit and worked as an accounts clerk at Equity and law.
He could have been a computer programmer or even been promoted if he had more self confidence, but he let people walk all over him all his life. A placid shy, apparently unassuming man with a deep mistrust of other people, riddled with self loathing for being such an outcast. This culminated in a vicious circle he couldn’t break and believed that winning the lottery would change this.
The thing is he wanted to do things his own way and show all them bastards he could make it on his own without anyone’s help or interference. He carried on doing the job he hated, because it paid for a roof over his head, ran his Ford Escort 1.4GL, fed and clothed him and allowed him to continue with his unhealthy obsession.
He was a tall and skinny, with wavy black hair, a pale complexion, a long face with brown eyes and a small pointed nose. He wore a shirt, tie and trousers in the week but hated doing so and couldn’t wait to slip into his Metallica tee-shirt and jeans when he wasn’t working.
He was obsessed with his formulae and this was the only thing he believed in and worked on it every spare moment he had in his bed-sit. He actually believed his formulae could predict the lottery and was constantly recalculating algorithms, though sticking to the same basic structure. It was a mixture of weekly draw numbers in conjunction with the dates, phases of the moon and coastal tide levels. It was a bit of a cross between Astrology, high level mathematics and structured computer programming.
He was so sure that number patterns followed certain rules and every time the lottery blew them out of the water. He tried every combination of possibilities, probabilities and every time the Camelot hand stuck it’s two fingers up at him. Over time he began to get increasingly suspicious of Camelot and hated the smarmy smug grin John Witham gave before he loaded the balls, as if he was laughing in his face every time.
He always wondered why they closed their machines half an hour before the draw started and why they didn’t take entries right up to the draw. As the machines were all linked to their central office, that half an hour could be used to find the numbers for the lowest possible payout. He always wondered why the draw master wore white gloves and not see-through gloves.
His theory was Camelot found out the six numbers for the lowest possible payout by computer from all the entries in that crucial half hour and sprayed the numbered balls with a light magnetic spray. The draw masters gloves would have a device hidden inside that would make the magnetism stronger in the balls. The machine would have a magnet by the hole where the balls came out attracting the sprayed balls to accomplish the twice weekly sting of the great British public.
He wrote anonymously to Camelot a few times about this hoping it would shake them up and his formulae would finally work, but it seemed they ignored his request week after week, after week. This angered him considerably that they were messing with his plans and decided to do something about it.
As he sat on his dirty brown bed-settee, mulling over past events, where he was going in the future and where he was now, in a 13 feet by 10 box room which was his self induced prison cell. In one corner was a sink with a worktop, adorned by the obligatory baby belling cooker. Above and below were a total of two double units, with the base unit having two draws covered in tacky fake teak effect plastic. To the right of that beside a dry rotted sash window was his beloved computer on a black ash computer desk.
Just behind the computer was a large chest of draws for his clothes and stuff, adjacent the bed- settee in front of a four bar electric fire on the wall just to the right of the door. Just to the right of that on a stand was his television set, the prophet of his torment.
The wallpaper was a sixty’s gaudy vomit yellow and brown flowery design with mildew growing out of it. The curtains were cheap purple nylon effigies and the carpet was quite new in DFS green and an orange pedal bin was below the fire to throw his lottery tickets.
The bed-sit was upstairs and the building was once a house, that was now knocked into four bed-sits and he had to share bathroom facilities with the other residents on his floor who he didn’t really know but only to say "hello" to that was about how far the conversation went.
The only other prized possession he had apart from his computer was a cricket bat signed by Ian Botham a prize he won in a raffle ten years before. Above the fireplace was large blown- up photocopied picture of John Witham on which he practised his dart throwing skills.
He was mulling on his settee for ages until he came to a conclusion what he could do to prove Camelot were a bunch of thieving unscrupulous cheats and get his formulae to work. He’d read about magnetism and inductors and also remembered reading in Zit magazine about bandit jammers.
These bandit jammers could cause a magnetic field to hold the reels on fruit machine so people could cheat money out of machines by holding the reels when the machine was on a win line. It said they had a range of 200 feet and they were on a key-ring so they were perfect for what he had in mind.
It said in the magazine you had to build them and they’d supply the parts and the diagrams to build them. It wasn’t illegal to do this on their behalf but it did note it was illegal to use them for this purpose. He thought if he could get within range of the machine on Saturday night at the BBC he could scupper Camelot’s plans and his formulae would work at last.
He wrote off to the BBC for audience tickets for the lottery and said he was partially deaf and needed a front row seat so he could hear what was going on, but really wanted to be in range of the machines. He sent off for the bandit jammer a snip at £19.95 easy to construct with no soldering and waited patiently for his plan to fall into place. Whilst he was waiting he carried on as normal in the dreary nine to five hum-drum and spare time obsession with an added spring in his step.
His bandit jammer came in a week and his audience tickets three weeks after, although he had no intention of taking anybody with him. How perfect could it be, the date for the draw was on the day of his 36th birthday and this put the icing on the cake as far as he was concerned. He constructed his bandit jammer and tested it on various magnetic devices (his compass was worn out) and even for its original purpose to make sure everything was perfect until the time come to right all his wrongs.
The day had come and he received a birthday card from his mother who was always ribbing him about his formulae and she sent him a lucky dip, which he promptly put on the top of the fire with a sneer of arrogance. He lived in Northampton so it was about an hour and a half drive away from London, but took into account 2 hours finding the BBC and Saturday night traffic.
The ticket said to be there for seven so he left about four after spending the day generating the numbers for the lottery and putting it on. The numbers were now comfortably imprinted on his brain and they were 1,17,26,43,45 and 46.
He found the BBC no problem and was there about five- thirty so looked about for somewhere to park his car. He didn’t want to use the BBC’s car park because of potential gridlock getting in and out He drove around for a while and eventually found a car park about half a mile away but couldn’t believe the prices they were charging.
It didn’t matter to him though; it was his night tonight so he paid the extortionate rate. He got his sandwiches and flask from the car walked it to the studios and waited outside the gates until seven and was ushered inside by an ageing bald security guard.
Inside he waited with the rest of the crowd until a tall slim bearded man who loved the sound of his own voice, led them down endless corridors to the huge iron sliding doors of the studio. Before they went in they had to put all their metal belongings on a tray to be scanned by a security guard with a hand held metal detector.
A tall burly blond haired man scanned Grenville and said to him in a northern accent "By eck that’s a funny looking key-ring there lad". Grenville was sweating but tried to hide his nerves and replied "It’s a replica Klingon power replicator, I bought it at the Star Trek convention", in his nerdiest voice. The security guard beckoned him over to the crowd that had been scanned and jokingly said "Live long and prosper", with the hand actions; when Grenville went he said to himself under his breathe laughing "sad nerdoid".
They had all been scanned and the giant door slid open while Grenville gave a huge sigh of relief. An oldish grey haired woman led him to his seat at the front, and was more or less shouting to him for she thought he was really partially deaf. She shouted to him "if there’s anything you need love just put your hand up" in a patronising tone. He just nodded and also pretended he was dumb.
In front of him was the camera’s leading to the stage that was quite wide and split into two parts. On the left were the three lottery machines and on the right was the stage area for the Jet set game show. A warm up man came on a gave them some light entertainment, with a string of mother in law and wife jokes until the lottery Jet set game show was ready.
Eamon Holmes came darting down the steps to take over and the players we’re sitting in the dark ready to be lit up. Included was the giant screen to illuminate last weeks jet set winner and amplifying his smugness to every jealous bastard that was watching. The stage Manager, behind the camera in front of the audience was instructing the audience when to clap and when not to when an event happened that needed a clap or two.
He went through the motions like he does every Saturday night, eliminating players until the Thunderball, where two players are left before it took place. After the Thunderball a woman in her 40’s with a home dyed burgundy hair was playing an image of a dizzy page three bimbo blond who actually had brains, but beat her to scrape through to the final to join the smarmy smug grinning posing dickhead from last week.
They were both asked to put blindfolds on and that was the cue for the long awaited lottery in Grenville’s eyes. Grenville’s heartbeat was racing whilst he pulled out his keyring and put it on his lap. Waiting with baited breath with his finger on the jammer button, whilst Witham released the set of balls number 7 on Lancelot. Holmesy said the customary "good luck everybody" cliché and the lottery was under way.
The first ball rolled out and was number 21, and Grenvilles jaw dropped in disbelief but he still kept his finger on the jammer thinking he made a calculation mistake. Then came number 18 that was like a 240 volt shock to his system, then 44, 15, 25 and finally 19, which turned Grenville every colour of the rainbow with disgust and and self hatred. Almost foaming at the mouth he finally realised the true reality of his obsession, that he’d been wasting his time all these years.
He sat through the rest of the show staring into the abyss not noticing anything going around him, this included the audience leaving. The smarmy git won the jet set again and gloated with his usual arrogance.
The security guard had to shake him out of his self- induced coma of dejection and he said "it’s time to go home lad" and added "are you o.k.?" Grenville turned to the security guard with a vacant expression and just nodded got up and headed for the exit and walked to his car shaking all the way.
He drove home with thoughts of suicide, anger and most of all self-loathing for the failure he thought he had become. He knew now he had to go home and face the same old shit he went through week after week and it made him sick thinking about it. He got home and said sarcastically "home sweet home" eyed his cricket bat and turned his rage to the computer he’d became a slave to.
He smashed it to pieces and ruined Ian Botham’s signature on the bat, he started on his telly his cooker everything breakable and really went to town. Meanwhile the old lady who lived downstairs from him was calling the police, thinking he was being killed for he was normally such a placid person although she didn’t really know him at all. He went to smash the electric fire and seen the lottery ticket his mum bought him, dropped the bat and checked the ticket out of habit. He couldn’t believe it 15, 18, 19, 21, 25, and 44 were all there; the numbers that made the worm turn in his head were staring magnificently at him.
He kissed the ticket as the police kicked the door in and said "what do we have here then" the other copper said"looks like a loon to me". Grenville quickly put the lottery ticket in his pocket and said "I just went mad I didn’t know what I was doing, I regret everything now I’m so, so sorry" with his saddest face.
The lead copper a tall fat man with a fat face and a ginger moustache didn’t look too impressed and said "I should nick you for this; the old lady downstairs nearly had a heart attack". The other copper a slim clone of the first one but with a black moustache instead added "what seems to be the problem then son" in a sympathetic voice. Grenville had to think fast on his feet and made up some cock and bull story about his girlfriend had left him and was pregnant with his kid.
The first copper said "Allright then but there’s no need for this, you’re going to come with me and apologise to the old lady downstairs". Grenville went downstairs with the copper and apologised to Annie a chain smoking small greyed haired hunch backed frail old thing which made him feel guilty about his selfish actions.
She gave him a bollocking of her own for a least twenty minutes and forgave him as Grenville grovelled and explained his cock and bull story. The coppers dressed him down and added if they had to come out again they’d give him a good kicking and nick him as well. They finally went and told him they’d be telling his landlord but Grenville didn’t care for he has now a fully fledged member of the millionaire’s club.
He cleaned up his flat as good as he could and couldn’t sleep for he couldn’t wait to phone his mum, but first and foremost Camelot with the good news because he smashed up his phone as well. He regretted all he’d done for his computer had some data he needed for his new plans of starting a computer programming business. He then remembered he could pay someone to recover the data because he was loaded now but no way wanted the lottery program.
The next day he phoned Camelot who confirmed his joy and he phoned his mum to say she could have half. He went to Camelot with his mum on the Monday and picked up their cheques each having £1,722,360 each and bank the money promptly when he got home and got an advance off the bank for a luxury hotel. When it cleared he paid his landlord for damages and gave Anne some money for her distress which kept her in fags for years to come.
He bought a house and told his bullying boss where to shove his job and bought some premises for his new business. He didn’t do his formulae anymore but used his skills for web programming and writing applications and ironically even done a job for Camelot.
He was now happy with his life and carried on without obsessions but concentrated on realistic practicalities like finding a girlfriend. To remind him of the hell he went through he had a brass plaque made for the wall behind his desk in his office that emblazoned the words Some things are best left to chance.
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