Formulary Lottery

by Joanne Faries

Newly divorced thirty-year-old Nelson loved lottery day at Glam-Imo-Gen-Y-Aeromics (GIG-YA), one of the nation's leading pharmaceutical health insurance corporations. He bounced out of bed, double checked the calendar, nodded, and proceeded to shower and dress in his favorite pair of khakis and blue shirt. Feeling lucky, he ate a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios (for his cholesterol), read his horoscope, and slicked down his cowlick before pulling out of the driveway in his tan six-year-old Grand Prix. He reflected again on its lack of sunroof. Next time I need to spring for the extras. He turned up his radio and sang along with Amy Whinehouse, "...not goin' to rehab, I said no, no, no." He even shook his finger without taking his hands off the steering wheel.

Good, my space is free. He drove into GIG-YA's remote lot, parked, and waited for the tram along with fellow claims adjusters, analysts, and insurance gurus. "Lottery day," Marianne from hematology said.

"Say what?" asked a new kid in denials. Nelson pushed up his glasses and gave him a brief rundown.

"Basically, there's a wheel. When uncovered it lists twelve drug categories. So, for a chance to win, you need to pick the category of drug that the needle lands on. Then that heading is removed and only one drug is named. The winning competitor had to hand write in the drug name on their sheet. Go to the cafeteria this morning. You'll see what to do." The kid thanked Nelson. Folks on the tram shifted in their seats and murmured their predictions. "Better not be diabetes again. We must have doubled our complaint volume last quarter over that pick." Someone else said, "Hey, it was worth working the overtime. People are gonna bitch about something, might as well be their drug."

Spilling out of the tram, the group jostled through security. Nelson scooted to the short line since he had no briefcase, coat, pocketknife, loose change, or inhaler. Allergy season wouldn't hit for another month, so he was clear eyed and snot free. I'll check email first; then go place my bet. I don't want to appear overeager. He punched his time card, rode the elevator, sauntered to his desk, logged on, and deleted junk email. "So, Nelson, you run your algorithms last night to pick the winner?" Jason Meade and Marlon Nickels snickered. "Should have been out with us at O'Malley's, m'boy. We picked some winners ourselves—two redheads." They slapped each other's back and continued to make crude comments as they headed towards the sales department.

"Ignore those two. Sure they've got the Armani suits, the expense accounts, and the cars, but between the two of 'em, they can't figure out how to double a dose." Shareena Williams peered over Nelson's cubicle. "They're jealous because you win. Hell, I'm envious. What's your secret?"

Nelson blushed and fiddled with his Obi-Wan action figure. "Oh, it's luck." He didn't want to reveal his system or say that his horoscope triggered anything. After all, the lottery was a management game designed to amuse GIG-YA's worker bees, make'em feel a part of profit generation. Ducking his head, he tapped away at his computer until he was sure Shareena was back at work. Quietly, he signed off then walked downstairs to the cafeteria. The big wheel was in place, listings hidden by the cover. "Hey Nelson, ready to place the winning bet?" His lunch buddy, George, handed him a sheet. "You know the drill. Pick the category, and then write in the drug. Everyone's leaning towards erectile dysfunction this quarter."

Nelson chewed on his pen and then wrote in his bet. "Thanks, George. See ya at noon." Back at his desk, he answered phones, responded to emails, and worked on quarterly reports. His boss called a meeting and that killed an hour. While Nelson answered ten new emails, his stomach growled and he looked at his watch. The morning had flown by. Time to head to the cafeteria. Nelson signed off and joined the queue at the elevator.

The cafeteria overflowed. Once a quarter, GIG-YA offered a free meal, usually poultry, and the lottery game. Everyone from upper management to the janitor participated. Partners claimed it boosted morale, though they feared interest would wane if a new winner didn't appear. Amazingly Nelson was correct three out of the last four quarters. The quarter he missed had been an error on his part. He knew the drug he meant, but had misspelled the name. One little "ae" letter combination can skew a pharmaceutical label.

Nelson filled his tray with assorted chicken pieces, a smattering of vegetables, and two rolls. He also grabbed two brownies and two chocolate milks. George waved him over, and he wiggled into the picnic table seat. Two ladies from marketing left after Nelson accidently elbowed one. "Good. We can spread out." The guys ate quickly and then played games on their phones until it was spin time.

Mr. Morrow, CEO, bored everyone with his weak jokes and pep talk. He droned a bit about pending lawsuits, company stock prices, and a possible acquisition of a company in the West Indies. George leaned over, "Voodoo, that's what this company needs." Nelson smiled.

"And now, we unveil this quarter's wheel," said Mr. Morrow. There was a murmur of approval and dismay as folks checked to see if their chosen category was slotted. One fellow near Nelson cursed, "Damn, no heart disease," and left the room. A large contingent chanted, "E.D., E.D.," as George had predicted. "Miss Fievre, from accounting, will have the honor of spinning the wheel." Tall and robust, she gave a hearty yank and the wheel whirred, its colored spokes chattered. It slowed, finally stopping at "Birth Control".

Yes, I knew it. Nelson hid his excitement. George nudged him and he nodded. "And now," Mr. Morrow announced over the din, "the birth control drug that will be removed from its current generic price category and will be listed at full price on the formulary for this quarter is No-Kidzeral. Per our judges, Nelson Watson is our winner for writing in the correct answer. Congratulations, Nelson. You win the pot, once again."

With so many employees participating, Nelson's take was over one thousand dollars. "How did you do it again?" Folks begrudgingly congratulated Nelson and prodded him for his secret. He shrugged. Actually, so much had to do with reading headlines and knowing the market. GIG-YA management wanted to make money. Constantly shifting the formulary list, especially on popular drugs, was a goldmine. Folks don't like to switch medicines and thus will pay full price for what works.

Nelson figured Juno was a popular movie this year and building more buzz. It was a no brainer to guess that the story of a pregnant teen could heighten interest for birth control. What was GIG-YAs most popular birth control medicine? No-Kidzeral. He giggled to himself. As an added bonus, that's the brand my slutty ex-wife takes. Full price now. Man, I love lottery day at GIG-YA. Nelson pocketed his winnings and went back to his cubicle.

BIO: Joanne Faries, originally from the Philadelphia area, lives in Texas with her husband Ray. Published in Doorknobs & Bodypaint, Off the Coast, Orange Room Review, and Salome magazine, she has also had stories in Shine magazine, and A Long Story Short. Joanne is the film critic for the Little Paper of San Saba. She is a member of Trinity Writers' Workshop in Bedford, Texas.