ALL OVER TOWN on Thursday, according to our own informal poll, Thanksgiving tables, never mind how heavily laden with food, were rising off the floor, levitated by the sheer force of collective indignation expressed by the diners. Indignation? Yes, indignation and more: wrath, fury. Its object was, of course, the kid. You know which kid -- the kid whose hard-working, widowed mother won the $1 million lottery . . . the kid who had left home reportedly because this unfortunate woman wouldn't support him in a $32/hour tennis-lesson habit. Now the kid was home and wanted to stay. Wouldn't you know? How sharper than a serpent's tooth . . . etcetera.
It is not the real boy that interests us -- who knows what the full story is of any family conflict? Rather we are interested only in the metaphorical boy -- the sitcom adolescent who sprang out of that story into the well-cultivated rages and resentments of older folks everywhere. We suspect that in whatever other ways he may share his mother's bounty, if he gets a single cent of it for high-priced tennis lessons, the other ticket buyers will rise up as one and demand their money back, even as the citizenry at large votes to repeal the lottery. It's that bad.
Million-dollar lotteries were made for this. They titillate, offend or gratify our sense of fitness. We scrutinize the results for evidence of providential intervention, of cosmic justice -- or injustice. If we can't win it ourselves, the reasoning goes, the loot must fall into the hands of one who is needy and deserving. No offense intended, but people would have felt just a tiny bit cheated if, say, Averell Harriman or Charles Percy had won the lottery. Instead, a hard-times heroine, as it appeared, got one of the lucky draws: a young widow, thrown back on bartending to support her two children, who herself had had to overcome excessive dependence on drink and marijuana. She sounded terrific. It was a stunning morality play, made all the better by the appearance of the familiar (to us all) ingrate-child. That child should not be condemned, but rewarded: he added something essential and deeply satisfying to everyone else's appreciation of the event.
But wait: what about the eight beers? We knew you were going to ask. It is true that perceptions were slightly disarranged by disclosure that the heroine had drunk eight beers since learning the good news. But no one is perfect and it had been over a pretty long period of time and we prefer to regard that as a minor flaw in the story. Somewhat more serious was the case of the other big winner, a struggling father of four sons and four daughters whose utter perfection for the part was slightly marred by his suggestion that the $50,000 a year he will get is not such a big deal, will not really go all that far. It was going great guns until then.
Since this was the first time around, we suppose these flaws in the story line can be forgiven. But that won't be the case forever. Will the people who arrange these things please get the script in a little better order next time? The tennis-happy kid was a terrific touch, but three beers would have been about right, and the response of the hard-pressed father of eight, though not without a certain validity, needs work.