- Win a Trip To Heaven (Details Inside)
No one else believed in us. While I sat at my grandparents' round kitchen table fastidiously hand-printing my grandfather's name, address, and phone number in black ink on a 3x5 card, my aunt's mocking voice bleated from somewhere behind me. "And what are we going to win this time?"
I studied the sheet beside me and read my answer in a rapid mumble: "With Contest News and just a few stamps you could . . . Win big cash jackpots to spend as you please! Win a fantastic cruise vacation! Win fabulous jewelry! Drive away in a brand new car, truck, or van! Get surprise packages in your mailbox all year long! And start smilin' with our THOUSANDS of winning subscribers!"
Then I glanced scornfully at my aunt—she was only ten years older than me and I could get away with this—and bent low over the paper so my hair hung down in a frizzy curtain separating believers from unbelievers, wheat from chaff, sheep from ordinary, garbage-eating goats.
We were going to be rich, my grandfather and I. He'd recently subscribed to Contest News, a monthly mailing that detailed all the current marketing contests and sweepstakes, their prizes, deadlines, and even the odds of winning. Sometimes, when I looked at those seemingly algebraic formulas—1:63, 452—I had my doubts. I'd look over at my grandfather seated in his lounge chair watching professional bowling tournaments those Saturday afternoons, and I'd think maybe I should just go to the mall with Betsy instead. The odds I'd turn a junior high boy's head before she did were slim to none, but surely, I thought, surely they were better than 63, 452 to 1.
But Grandpa had been a salesman in his time. Textbooks, cuts of meat from his first job with a butcher, life insurance just before his retirement. [End Page 75] He was good at convincing me that somebody had to win those contests. It was illegal otherwise, he said. Somebody had to win, why not us? If we sent out enough 3x5 cards, the odds would eventually be in our favor. If we worked hard enough, we would be rewarded. Most people were too lazy to go that extra step, he insisted, flipping through channels with his new remote control. But not us.
That was the selling point for me. All through elementary school and now in the eighth grade, I'd been an extra-stepper, not necessarily to gain anything or to win approval. My parents replied with an earnestly bland "good job" to anything I achieved. No, it was just part of my character. I loved the way my mental muscles felt stretching a little higher, trying to bring the stars to my level. It was like my seventh grade art teacher's classroom poster said, "If you reach for the moon, you may reach an eagle. If you reach for the stars, you may touch the moon." Or something like that. The point is I liked reaching for moons, eagles, and stars, my fingertips flailing for something to hang onto. And the fact that my grandfather was willing to split all our profits 50/50 helped too. What would I do with my half of the $10,000 Pepsi was giving away in every state? I imagined the Normandee Rose and Gloria Vanderbilt jeans I'd buy, little thread roses and swans tattooed to my backside, my modest attempts not to brag as I fingered the springs of a new spiral perm that lay so perfectly on my 50-dollar Esprit sweatshirt.
My mind should have been on heavenly rewards; I knew that well enough. The rich man didn't get through the eye of the needle, the camel had a better chance at heaven. Poor odds indeed. Still, I'd been baptized in water at First Baptist Church when I was 6 and then in the spirit at age 12 when we switched congregations and joined Calvary Victory Center. I was set when it came to the afterlife. Now I wanted to win my ticket to the...