György Spiró

Illustration by Florinda Pamungkas

A middle-aged WOMAN wearing a housedress is peeling potatoes at the kitchen table. She throws the peeled potatoes into a pot full of water. From stage right, coming from the garden’s side, a middle-aged MAN enters carrying a plastic bag.

MAN:  Hi . . .

WOMAN (looking up):  What time is it?

MAN:  Around two, maybe half past.

(He puts the plastic bag on the armchair, sits down onto the other kitchen stool, huffs.)

WOMAN:  I thought I got the time wrong . . . What’s the matter, are you sick?

MAN:  No.

WOMAN:  Did you get fired?

MAN:  No.

WOMAN:  Did the company go out of business?

MAN:  No.

WOMAN:  What then?

MAN:  Nothing . . . I just thought, I’ve done enough for the day . . .


WOMAN:  What do you mean enough?

MAN:  Just enough of everything.

(The WOMAN gets up, fills a pot with water at the water fountain, and puts it on to the stove.)

WOMAN (standing):  There aren’t buses at this time. How did you get home? Did you get on the freight train?

MAN:  They got rid of the them things again, takes the corner so slowly it almost stops . . .

WOMAN:  How many times have I begged you not to do that!

MAN:  Alright, I don’t usually, I only did it today . . .

WOMAN:  What sort of example is that to show the kids?

MAN:  They won’t find out . . . Nobody saw me. Do we have anything to drink?

WOMAN:  Like what?

MAN:  I don’t know, wine, beer, brandy . . .

WOMAN:  We don’t, no. What’s wrong with you?

MAN:  Nothing.

(He gets up, drinks from the tap.)

WOMAN (not liking it):  We do have glasses, you know!

MAN (sits back down):  Look, . . . I need to talk about something . . . Sit down.

WOMAN:  So, there is something wrong. (Sits down.)

MAN (voice trembling):  Well the thing is I—I’ve been playing the lottery.

WOMAN:  What?

WOMAN:  Well I get a ticket, tickets . . . and I fill them out . . .

WOMAN:  Why?

MAN:  I don’t know . . . just came up with the idea. I thought you can win tons of money.


WOMAN:  When did you start playing?

MAN:  Since the repayments . . .

WOMAN:  For three years?!

MAN:  Well . . .

WOMAN:  You’ve gone mad, must have caught rabies?

MAN:  Why, did you actually notice? Was there any less money for food? I’ve been living on bread and dripping for years.

WOMAN:  With your cholesterol?

MAN:  I eat cholesterol-free dripping! Alright?!


WOMAN:  I’m speechless!

MAN:  OK. It doesn’t matter anymore, it’s over now . . .

WOMAN:  You take expensive pills, but you eat dripping.

MAN:  I’m telling you it’s over! I’ll never eat dripping again!

WOMAN:  How much did you waste each month?

MAN:  Not much. Five or six thousand, but I saved it on my belly!

WOMAN:  Why do I bother budgeting and being careful when you just—

MAN:  OK, it doesn’t matter now, I’ll never do it again . . .

WOMAN:  They should publicly display you somewhere.

MAN:  We, we won! We’ve hit the jackpot!


All five numbers!

(The MAN starts to cry. The WOMAN is staring. Beat. The MAN sniffles, grins, jumps up, walks around.)

The draw is on Saturdays, it’s on TV, too, but I never watched it. Wouldn’t have been possible, the kids watch other things, and you too. Anyway it would have been suspicious . . . I usually check it on Mondays in town. I don’t buy the newspaper, really, I just flick through it at the stand and give it back . . . they’re used to it . . . But today I forgot, didn’t realise it was Monday . . . because I was on me shift yesterday. Only realised at noon, and as today’s paper was just lying about on the table, in front of the loo, next to the ashtray . . . I looked and . . . oh my God!


WOMAN:  How much?

MAN:  More than six hundred million forints!


WOMAN:  It’s usually double that.

MAN:  Only if it rolls over! A while back someone won two billion . . . Isn’t six hundred million enough?


WOMAN:  Six hundred million!


Show me!

MAN:  I didn’t bring it with me. I just saw the front page . . .

WOMAN:  The lottery ticket!

MAN:  Oh, that! (Takes his wallet out from the inside pocket of his suit.) I’ve put it in the inside pocket here . . . I buttoned it up just in case . . . the other button’s missing, just noticed. I’ve been holding to it so tightly my left arm’s gone numb . . . even on the train with them smelly sacks . . .

(He sniffs his suit, shakes his head, takes out the ticket from his wallet, puts it on the table, and flattens it out.)

WOMAN:  Let me see it . . .

MAN:  Not with wet hands!

WOMAN (jumps up, dries her hand with a tea towel, looks for glasses, puts them on, sits back down, carefully holds the ticket, looks at it):  They give you six hundred million in exchange for this?

MAN:  Six hundred million, three hundred and forty thousand!

WOMAN:  This shitty little thing is worth that much?

MAN:  Yep!

WOMAN:  It’s incredible . . .

MAN:  Why, money’s also just paper, isn’t it?

WOMAN:  That’s different, that’s money.

MAN:  This is money, too.

WOMAN:  Who’s going to believe this is money?

MAN:  The bank people, them who hand it over . . .

(The WOMAN jumps up, sits down, plays with her hair.)

I had just locked myself in the loo. They fixed the lock last week. I took out the ticket . . . I usually play the same numbers, on one of them I’d put down our birthdates, yours, mine, and the kids’, and my father’s . . . and it was the winning one . . . On this one!

WOMAN:  Alright, don’t get worked up. Not with your blood pressure!

MAN (huffs):  And I felt dizzy suddenly, I was scared I might flush the ticket down the loo . . . I put it in me wallet . . . lucky I bought this wallet . . .

WOMAN:  A leather one.

MAN:  Yeah, leather! It’s easier to fish out if I drop it in. I was standing in the cubicle, sweat dripping off me, my heart was thumping. Because if I drop it in, the writing rubs off and they don’t accept it . . . I was laughing to myself: Is this really the moment to kick the bucket? A total heart attack, that’s what I was feeling like . . . I put the seat down, I sat there for a while, taking deep breaths. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to unlock the toilet door and that no one would come for me, the space is too small up there, I won’t be able to climb out, I’ll die of hunger.


I came out of the toilet, but I had to run back with a bout of diarrhoea . . . I then managed to sort meself out somehow. They saw I wasn’t going to be doing any packing. They said go home, that I’ll be able to do overtime. I was petrified the whole time that they would nick it out of me pocket . . . Now, of all times! I saw thieves everywhere. They must have thought I was drunk, swaying like that. You don’t know what I went through!

WOMAN:  Give money away in exchange for this piece of paper!

MAN:  We have to hide it . . . It would be shite luck if we got robbed just now . . . Where should I put it? Got to put it somewhere they won’t find, where it won’t burn if there’s a fire . . . Bloody hell . . . I can’t think straight . . .

WOMAN:  In the sugar pot, we never use it, it’s empty . . .

MAN:  It’s no good, no. Someone could knock it down and the ticket’ll get damaged.

WOMAN:  We’ll wrap it in cling film and hide it in the coffee box . . . We don’t use it anyway, it’s empty.

MAN:  OK, but we mustn’t forget it’s there . . .

(The WOMAN tears off some cling film and carefully wraps the ticket up. She gets the coffee box from the bottom drawer, opens it, smells it, puts the ticket in it, and puts it up on the shelf.)

MAN:  Put it higher . . .

WOMAN:  Why?

MAN:  Why not . . .

(Short pause. The WOMAN places it onto a higher shelf.)

WOMAN:  This alright for you?

MAN:  That’ll do.

WOMAN:  The kids’ll notice it’s somewhere else . . .

MAN:  They don’t drink coffee, why would they notice?

(The WOMAN sits back down. She watches the coffee box in silence.)

It’s good it looks so used. Where’s it from?

WOMAN:  Poor Dad got it from Yugoslavia. In the seventies when he went there for a week with mum . . . It used to have cocoa in it . . . This is what he brought me back . . . I was the only one allowed to have some . . . It says cocoa on it, and Prah too . . . I asked him what Prah meant, but Daddy didn’t know . . . Maybe cocoa powder? I’ve got rid of lots of stuff but not this, this . . .


If they break in, they start with boxes like these . . .

MAN:  No one ever breaks in here. Break in here! What would they find here?! Take the stove with the gas cylinder?


WOMAN:  Are you sure you looked at it properly? Are they the right numbers?

MAN:  I’ve checked them twenty times!

WOMAN:  They are this week’s, right?

MAN:  Nothing to do with weeks. It’s the five-number lottery draw. We’ve got all the right numbers on that!

WOMAN:  No, I didn’t mean that . . .

MAN:  It is this week’s! Look for yourself if you don’t believe me!

(The WOMAN gets up and goes towards the shelf.)

MAN:  Check it on the telly. The numbers are listed on teletext, page eight hundred and seventy and eight hundred and seventy-one . . .

WOMAN:  Have you already looked?

MAN:  When could I have looked? I saw it in the newspaper . . .

(The WOMAN runs out of the kitchen stage left. Short pause.)

WOMAN:  How do you turn this thing on?

(The MAN gets up, exits stage left.)

WOMAN’s voice:  What’s going on, then?

MAN’s voice:  Wait, I’m turning the pages, this crap always goes back to the beginning . . . Not long now . . . Here it is . . .

WOMAN’s voice:  Here are the numbers! Bring it here, bring it here!

MAN’s voice:  It’s in the coffee box, we’ve just put it in there! Write down the numbers for yourself if you don’t believe it. But I’m telling you—there are our birthdates . . .

WOMAN’s voice:  Where are my glasses?

MAN’s voice:  You left them in the kitchen. Shall I get them?

WOMAN’s voice:  No need . . .

(She runs into the kitchen, takes the coffee box down, and carefully takes out the wrapped ticket. She unwraps it and looks at it.)

WOMAN:  Oh God! It’s true . . . !

MAN (comes into the kitchen):  I’ll put it back . . .

(The MAN wraps up the ticket, puts it into the coffee box, closes the lid, puts it up onto the top shelf.)


WOMAN (sits down):  We’ll get new curtains.

MAN:  Why? There’s nothing wrong with these.

WOMAN:  And I’m getting rid of the bunk bed from the kids’ room. Their feet have been hanging off it for years . . .

MAN (fidgets, runs with his feet):  Hooray! Hooray!

WOMAN:  You’re going to break the lamp!

MAN:  I’m going to buy a hundred lamps, thousands, millions. I’m losing my mind. Lost my mind! (Out of breath, sits back down.)

WOMAN:  We’ll go on holiday together!

MAN:  What for?

WOMAN:  We’ve never been on holiday since having kids . . .

MAN:  They went to summer camp.

WOMAN:  But never as a family. I went on holiday with my parents!

MAN:  Because it used to be free, the co-operatives paid.

WOMAN:  It’s been a big deal for me! We could never afford to go on holiday with the kids!

MAN:  They went to summer camps . . .

WOMAN:  But never us together!

MAN:  We will now.

WOMAN:  They’re not small anymore! You can’t bring that time back! That life!

MAN:  We won’t go then—

WOMAN:  Yes, we are going! You can take unpaid leave and we’ll go for the whole summer!

MAN:  There is no such thing as an unpaid leave.

WOMAN:  Then you can resign.

MAN:  Really? (Beat. A little less enthusiastically.) Yeah, I could resign.


WOMAN:  We’ll buy a villa on the Yugoslavian coast!

MAN:  Yugoslavia doesn’t even exist anymore!

WOMAN:  Never mind that! It will exist just for us! Under, what’s his name, under Tito. Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor were given an island as a gift! On the Adriatic coast! From Tito! They got an entire island . . . We’ll buy that island!

MAN:  What island?

WOMAN:  Theirs! It was in one of those Yugoslavian war movies, fantastic one, really long, lots of dead bodies. I saw it as a kid . . . Burton was Tito and Taylor played his wife, you know the one that’s fat in real life, what was her real name?

MAN:  Alright, we’ll buy something . . .

WOMAN:  Who is their heir?

MAN:  What?

WOMAN:  Who is Burton and Taylor’s heir? Did they have kids? I don’t think so, actually.

MAN:  I haven’t got the faintest idea.

WOMAN:  They’re not alive anymore . . . It could be that it’s owned by the state then. But what state is that now? Bosnia, or Croatia?

MAN:  It doesn’t matter . . . You can’t buy a whole island with this anyway . . .

WOMAN:  I would like it, though . . . Haven’t you seen it?

MAN:  We didn’t have a TV.

WOMAN:  It was in the movies.

MAN:  I haven’t seen it. Well, I could ask actually.

WOMAN:  Ask what?

MAN:  How much an island costs over there.

WOMAN:  Who can you ask?

MAN:  Someone has to know. We’ll go there and ask. Ask some kind of a lawyer . . .

WOMAN:  That costs money!

MAN:  Like the island.


WOMAN:  How much did you say it was?

MAN:  Six hundred million! It’s more than two Nobel prizes. One prize for you, one for me! (Laughs.) For having survived it! And it was survival! (Short pause.) That’s what I was thinking on the toilet. If anyone deserves it, it’s us . . . I’ve always had this feeling . . . When I started to play the lottery, I already suspected it . . . It was such an intuition . . . That it’ll work out . . . That there is justice after all . . . This was predestined! It had to be like that! All that shit we had to put up with was meant to make us happier now!


WOMAN:  That palace over there is worth eighty million . . .

MAN:  We’ll be able to buy seven of those with this. We can buy seven palaces!

translated from the Hungarian by Szilvia Naray-Davey