UPDATE: $1.6 billion Powerball jackpot goes to 3 winners in 3 states (Winning numbers drawn:  4-8-19-27-34 and Powerball 10.)

LEWISTON — The lines were long at the Gulf Mart on Lisbon Street on Wednesday — but these shoppers weren’t just buying beer, gas and cigarettes — they were buying dreams.

A billion and a half dollars worth of dreams, to be exact.

“Not having to go to work tomorrow,” Samantha Nichols of Lewiston said, “that would be nice.”

Nichols bought just one Powerball ticket at the Gulf Mart, which seemed to show great restraint on her part.

“Yeah, I have 11 more in my car,” she said. “But my husband bought those.”

Asked what she would do with over a billion dollars, should she win, Nichols got a faraway look in her eye. The look is common among those who are dreaming of the biggest windfall in lottery history.

“I’d take care of my kids and my friends,” she said. “And give something to all the children’s hospitals.”

Chris Cope was heading back home to Dresden after coming to the area to work all day. He stopped at the store to get a six-pack on his way out and thought, “Why not get in on the action?”

“You never know, right?” he said. “And at least I get an hour’s worth of dreaming on the drive home.”

Like the others, Cope said he’d take care of his kids with the money and then give to a bunch of charities.

“If I didn’t faint first,” he said.

Joe Hartley of Lewiston also bought just one ticket during his stop at the store. That’s enough to pay for a few hours of dreaming, he said, but not enough to break the bank.

“I’m not greedy,” Hartley said. “There are guys out there dropping 20 or 30 bucks at a time on it.”

On his way out of the store, he paused at the door to wish the others luck.

With the drawing still a few hours away, the lines remained long at the Gulf Mart into the early evening. Clerk Melissa Sheaves took the customers’ money and handed them tickets, moving through the lines with impressive speed. While doing so, she endured all of the usual comments: Customers wanted guarantees that they were buying the winning ticket. They promised to remember her, should they win it all. And so on, and so forth.

Sheaves smiled at them and kept the line moving.

“Everybody just wants to win,” she said. “It’s that simple.”

Count Mandy Meserve among them. She doesn’t usually play the lottery, she said, but she was drawn by the massive jackpot. She didn’t really expect to win it, but she had a plan, just in case.

“First thing I’ll do is buy a big house for my family,” Meserve said, with that faraway look of dreaming. “Something out of the city. I’ve got five kids to take care of.”

In all the hoopla and dreams of riches, it was easy to forget that there are people who don’t play the lottery — no matter how big the jackpots get. To some, the astronomical odds against winning are just too much to ignore.

“To me, it’s a voluntary tax,” Andrew Hall of Lewiston said. “And I pay enough taxes.”

A respectable opinion, and one that was largely ignored at corner stores and supermarkets all over the region. Even with the incredibly faint odds against them, thousands of dreamers were more than happy to fork over two bucks — or four, or six or 10 – just for the brief hope that they might go to bed struggling and wake up a billionaire.

“I’m in it for the fun,” Meserve said. “It’s really fun to hope.”


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