Greek-American Stories: Winning by Losing

February 23, 2017

By Phyllis “Kiki” Sembos

The subject was the upcoming raffle being held at church next Sunday. All, excepting Yiannis who hadn’t come in yet, were discussing the prizes Father Athanasios had chosen. John told them, “Very impressive and practical prizes are being offered.

So, I think buying raffle tickets would benefit in any case. If we don’t win, then the church has more funds.” He enumerated, “a quart size jar of honey from Vitina, two bottles of wine from Achaia, a wheel of cheese from Arahova, three jars of Oregano from Crete and a string of dried figs.” George nodded, “A lot of good stuff!” Each dealt out the money for the raffle tickets as Yiannis sauntered in, carrying his coffee to the table.

Eyes zooming in on the dollars piled up on the table, he asked what the money exchange was all about. John explained about the raffle and described the prizes. Sipping his coffee, thoughtfully, Yiannis’ brain began to observe and calculate. “How much are the tickets?” he asked. “A dollar each. Cheap when you consider the prizes,” John responded, handing out the stubs. “Expensive if you don’t win!” said Yiannis.

John continued, “George, here, bought 4 tickets. Kipreos bought five, Dimos and I bought 5 each. Interested? It’s for the church, Yiannis.” Yiannis asked, “When is the drawing?” John informed, “Next week – at the coffee hour in the basement of the church.” “Suppose I’m not there to watch the drawing.” Yiannis, nonchalantly, reached out for a donut. “Then,” John told him, “the winner will be notified by phone, as usual.” Still hesitant, he asked, “How do I carry the stuff to my house if I win? That’s a lot of stuff!” Exasperated, George said, “We’ll help you carry it home, Yiannis. You won’t even need to tip us.”

Thinking, hard, Yiannis reached into his jacket pocket for his wallet. George pushed his seat back a few inches, “Open it carefully, Yiannis. There’s gotta be a squadron of moths in there ready to take flight.” Yiannis made a face, “Not funny, George. Smart people are careful with their money.” John asked, “How many, Yiannis?”

Checking the interior of his wallet, and thinking about his chances of winning being about next to nothing, he pondered; If he won, he’d have to contribute a token of his gratitude to the church. If he didn’t, he’d have wasted two dollars. If he wanted to buy just one ticket, he’d be dubbed Mr. Cheapo by George – by the others too who wouldn’t be verbal about it. But, they’d think it. Finally, he said, “I’ll buy one ticket for Barbara and another for Areti.” With trembling hands he handed over the two dollars.

And the rest of the time went on as usual until it came time to take their leave.
The raffle having been held, they all now gathered in Dixon’s as usual. Kipreos having won first prize was being congratulated by the others. Second prize was a bottle of imported Greek wine, third a gift card for two pounds of Feta from the super market in Astoria. Yiannis, having learned that he wasn’t among the winners, was visibly irritated. He asked, “Who else won?” John shrugged. “Don’t know! But, all prizes were claimed.” Dimos informed him, “There’s going to be another raffle next week. Wanna try?” Yiannis expressed annoyance.

“What? I spent two dollars and got nothing. Now, I’m expected to keep buying raffle tickets until I win? That’ll be $4.00 already. I’m not rich, you know!” George goaded, “We don’t know that! If you are, you’re not going to tell us.”

Kipreos said, “Look, Yiannis! Being a bachelor, I can’t use the Oregano or the string of dried figs. If you want them you can have them” Yiannis brightened. Dimos said, “That’s like sharing the winning prize, Yiannis.” Grinning, Yiannis said, “okay.” “Then, you’ll buy another chance on the next raffle, Yiannis? Tell you what! If any of us win, we’ll share the prize with you – whatever it is.” Looking at it as a win-win deal, he agreed. He placed $2, with great reluctance, on the table. But, the next raffle found no winners among them.

Dimos hoping to appease the sore loser, arranged to say that he’d won. When Yiannis sat, Dimos informed him that he’d won. “What did I win?” he asked, excitedly. “A bottle of wine,” he told him, hoping to see a happy Yiannis. “What!” cried Yiannis, in sheer disappointment. “That’s it? Huh!” Then, rallying, he told them, “But, I’ll take it! Maybe I can sell it for $8.00 – like I did the figs and Oregano. Made a profit!”


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