THIS IS A DRAFT
It'll change. It'll get better. So read it kindly.
It is copyright (c) David Weinberger 2002. Because it's a draft, you don't have permission to quote from it without asking my permission first. But I do encourage you to discuss it on the discussion boards listed on the home page. My email address is [email protected] Let me know what you think.
- David Weinberger
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The next morning I was not up bright and early.
That's because I was up dim and late the night before. I tossed. I turned. I practically did synchronized swimming. My blankets were twisted around me as tightly as if a Boys Scout lodge had used me for practicing for their knot-tying merit badge. And when dawn finally came, I drifted off to sleep.
To sleep, and to dream. To dream about coming home from school with dollar bills stuffed into every pocket and down my shirt and in my cap and in my lunch box. Dollar bills - and tens and twenties - hanging out all over me. And my mother and father were waiting for me, asking me how my school day had been and if I'd like a snack, while I frantically kept shoving bills back into their hiding places, hoping my parents wouldn't see.
It was nine thirty when I woke up, which was late for me on a Saturday morning. Even before breakfast, I made an excuse about getting some exercise, and hopped on my bike.
Harry's was open. Outside was a stack of newspapers. I grabbed one and raced inside, pulling a dollar from my pants pocket. Mrs. Karchov was feeling particularly chatty that day, and it seemed forever before she gave me my fifty cents change.
Thanking her - remember, I am a nice boy - I went outside, sat on the curb, and with trembling fingers looked up in the index where the winning lottery number was. Page 56. It's amazing how hard it can be to find a page when you really want to.
I knew I had five of the six numbers right. So, when I got to page 56, I read backwards, from right to left. There it was, in big beautiful black ink: 9.
I had won.
Have I mentioned that it was one hundred and eleven million dollars?
Now what was I going to do?
So I did what any red-blooded American boy would do: I stood up, made a fist, pulled my elbow in, and said, "Yes!"
That was the moment Mrs. Floyd, my math teacher, decided to pass by.
"Why so excited?" she asked.
"Oh, um, my favorite team just won." This was desperate. I don't even have a favorite team. I can barely tell basketball from baseball.
"Well, congratulations," she said, as she went into Harry's. I hate seeing teachers outside of school. It's so confusing.
I sat on the curb again, this time because I was beginning to feel dizzy thinking about what had just happened to me.
I had won 111 million dollars.
I began to think of all the things I could buy. And after each thought popped in my head, there was a picture of my parents grounding me for 111 million days.
A super CD player. Mom shaking her head.
A speed boat for our vacations on Lake Winpucket. Dad looking disappointed in me.
Brand new cars for my parents. Mom and Dad giving the keys back to the car salesperson.
Could I not accept the prize? Just pretend I had lost the ticket or the woman had never given it to me? But how can you turn down 111 million dollars? I could give it all charity ... but I'm not that nice a boy.
I guess I wasn't looking so happy by the time the woman who looked like the Starship Enterprise came back out of the store, with new lottery tickets in her hand.
"Oh, hello!" she said cheerily.
"Hello," I said, avoiding her eyes.
"Oh dear, you seem upset?" she asked. "Can I help you?"
I practically laughed. "Not exactly," I said.
"What's bothering you?"
"Well," I said, "it's actually sort of your fault."
"My fault," the woman said in great surprise, putting her hand to her chest as if her heart were failing her.
"Only sort of." Now I had to explain. "Remember, you gave me that lottery ticket a couple of days ago because I helped you pick up some buttons that had spilled?"
"Yes, indeed. You were very kind."
"Just being polite."
"Well, it's nice to meet a young person who's learned his manners. The ticket was the least I could do for you."
"Was it worth a hundred and eleven million dollars to you to have me help?"
"A hundred and eleven million dollars ...?"
"Yeah. The ticket you gave me won."
"Are you sure?"
"Totally. Do you know that your numbers were in a series?"
"Of course. It helps me pick numbers to use a little sequence like that. Otherwise, I spend forever trying to decide which numbers to pick. So you won?"
"Well, actually, you won," I said. "It was your ticket."
"Now, now. None of that. I gave it to you fair and square."
"But it doesn't seem right ..."
"I wanted you to have it. But, oh, my, what are you going to do with all that money?"
"I have no idea."
"Is that's what's making you unhappy?" she asked kindly.
"Not really. You see, my parents are dead set against playing the lottery."
"Oh, I see."
"In fact, my father has an editorial on the front page of this paper against it."
The woman unfolded a newspaper from under her arm. It was the Gaz. "You mean this article? This is your father? He's a very good writer. The editorial makes a lot of sense."
"So, I can't really tell them that I won."
"Well," she said, would you mind coming with me and we'll sit down and try to figure this out. Oh, don't worry, I just want to go to the Soda Squirt for a little snack."
So we trudged across the street to the little green and white snack bar. "By the way," she said, "I'm Mrs. Fordgythe. Mrs. Moira Fordgythe," she said. "What's your name?"
"Jake," I said.
"Well, Jake, let's take a booth and have a soda," she said, seating herself at a red leather booth that barely held her.
"I'll pay," I said. "Um, actually," I said, checking my pockets, "you'll have to lend me some money ..."
"Pshaw," she said, "Don't you worry about that."
The waitress came and I ordered a Coke, although I actually was in the mood for a Coke with a scoop of Cookies and Cream ice cream, which gets most of your dessert food groups into a single glass. Mrs. Fordgythe ordered "a simple glass of bubbly bottled water," - she patted her starship-like stomach - "And, oh, a slice of that dreamy looking cheese cake. And instead of a lime in her bubbly water, would you mind putting just a couple of squeezes of chocolate syrup and about two ounces of fresh cream. That would be so lovely, thank you, dear."
There was a brief silence as we each thought about the size of her order, Mrs. Fordgythe with obvious pleasure, me with awe.
"This must be very hard on you, poor dear" she said at last.
"Your parents must be very much against the lottery."
I nodded again.
"And they must have a lot of respect for you to think that you'd act on principle."
I had to nod again. It was true, but I hadn't thought of it that way before.
"Well," she said, "I think I have an idea about how to get you your money without your parents knowing."
"Yes, but of course that isn't your problem."
"No. Your real problem is getting your parents to understand how came by a lottery ticket and to accept your winnings."
That was true, too.
"What's your plan for getting me the money?"
"Oh, it's a very good plan, I think. But you're going to have to trust me."
I didn't say anything. To trust someone, you should know them well enough to think that there aren't any odd quirks that may make them act in ways you didn't predict. And so far Mrs. Fordgythe was all quirks. But I did trust her. I couldn't tell you why.
"What do I have to do?" I asked.
"You have to lend me your ticket for a few days. Do you trust me enough for that?"
"But why can't you just come explain to my parents that you gave me the ticket because I helped you out?"
"Oh, no no no," she said, "I don't think that would be wise at all. You parents will think that you shouldn't have accepted the ticket, and I would so much like to help you find a way to keep the money."
Just then our food arrived and seemed to wipe all thought of lottery tickets, parents and 111 million dollars out of Mrs. Fordgythe's mind. All that existed for her was her spoon, her mouth, and a mountain of high fat desserts.
When she was done, with a satisfied smile on her lips, she said, "Ahh. That was refreshing."
And I handed her my lottery ticket, slightly bent from its trip in my pocket.
"What are you going to do with it?" I asked, which really meant, "Am I ever going to see it - or you - again?"
"Thank you, Jake," she said as she took it. "I really think this plan will work."
"How will I know?"
"Come back to the This 'N 'That on Wednesday around 3. Is that all right?"
"But suppose you have to reach me before that?"
"I can always give you a call."
"But you don't know my number."
"Don't be silly. 'Richter' is in the phone book."
The waitress came back and left the bill on our table. I stuck my hand in my pocket, looking for money, but then remembered that I'd only brought the fifty cents for the newspaper. I looked at Mrs. Fordgythe, embarrassed. "Oh don't be silly, dear," she said, as she left money for the bill. "You don't have your hundred and eleven million dollars yet!"
We stood up to go, and I felt much lighter without the ticket in my pocket. Mrs. Fordgythe touched me on the arm and said, "I'll see you on Wednesday, dear. Don't worry about a thing."
For a moment I didn't. And then I had a sudden thought. "Wait, Mrs. Fordgythe," I called to her back as she began to walk away. "I have a question."
"Yes, dear," she said sweetly, turning towards me.
"I never told you my last name. How did you know it?" I could almost hear the dramatic background music as the detective uncovers the clue that gives it all away.
She pointed to her copy of the Gaz. "It says your father's name right here, dear."
"Oh, yeah. That's right."
"Don't worry about a thing," she said to me again and left.
"Easy come, easy go," is what I told myself all the way home. It's not like I ever really had the money, so I couldn't have really lost it. Still, my pockets felt mighty empty walking home.
But, whatever feelings I had that I might have made a mistake were erased as I stepped in the door. "Shhh," my mother insisted, "your father's on TV."
Sure enough, there was Dad being interviewed on a local news program. "It doesn't matter, Connie," he was saying to the host of the program, "the lottery is nothing but gambling - backed and encouraged by your tax dollars."
The woman seated next to him started to talk, but Dad went right on. "You know what really bothers me? The fact that our government runs advertisements encouraging people to gamble."
The woman spoke up. "Still, I'd rather have the government run the lottery and have the money go to education than have organized crime run it and have the money go to them."
"Oh, Laureen," my father said, "You might as well say that the government ought to start selling cocaine because it's better than having criminals do it. And then you'd see advertisements telling you how great cocaine is! That's exactly the situation we're in with the lottery."
The host jumped in to point out that the lottery wasn't exactly the same as selling drugs, but my father was just gathering steam. Knowing that the lottery ticket was no longer mine sure made it a lot easier for me to watch the rest of the program.
That afternoon, when my father came home - still with a patch of makeup from the TV appearance on his forehead - we all told him what a great job he had done.
"The producers of the show thought I did pretty well, too," he said, obviously quite pleased about something. "In fact," he added, pausing to keep us in suspense, "they want me to create a special Town Meeting of the Air on the topic 'Lottery: Yes or No.' And I'd be the spokesperson for the No side."
"That's wonderful," said my mother.
"What's a 'nose hide'?" my sister asked.
"What's a nose hide?" I asked, completely confused. "Boogers?"
"No, no" my mother said, "Maddie wants to know what a 'No side' is. It's someone who disagrees with something. He's on the side that says No. That's all."
I liked my way of hearing it better.
"Can I be on the TV show?" asked Maddie.
Dad and Mom laughed. "Maybe when you're older. It's really for grownups."
"But that's not all," my father said. "If it goes well, they think they'd like me to host a whole series!"
"My daddy the TT star!" said Maddie. We all laughed because "TT" had been my old nanny's cute way of saying "TV." Maddie hadn't ever met her, but Aunt Flo (as we called her) lived on in family legend, along with one of my grandfather's old hat customers who used to recite the poem "Hiawatha" to me whenever I saw him. There was also my father's childhood dog Whiskers who once ate an entire plate of brownies off the kitchen table and then knocked over a glass of milk and drank it. I suppose every family has a set of characters that somehow get turned into legends.
With my father becoming more and more famous for his anti-lottery stand, the fact that I'd probably never see that lottery ticket again should have been a huge relief to me. But the truth is that it's about the only thing I could think about. I lay in bed unable to sleep for over an hour that night, thinking about what I could have done with a hundred and ten million dollars. I mainly thought of really dumb things like buying a yacht and completely filling it with those plastic egg-like containers you get from the quarter vending machines. Would a hundred and ten million dollars - 440 million of the containers - be enough? It's really hard to figure. Or I thought about buying a collection of the world's best electric guitars, with every gadget ever invented. I tried listing every gadget I could think of to see if that would put me to sleep, and had gotten up to treble boosting wah-wah's with bass thumper reverb, when I finally dropped off.
But I woke up feeling like I had lost something. Only after shaking my head a couple of times did I realize that I was feeling the loss of the a hundred and ten million dollars I never actually had.
On Monday in school, with five dollars of allowance money in my pocket, I felt poor because I was comparing it to the big pile of money I didn't actually have.
Our gym teacher let us out ten minutes early, and I hooked up with Ari outside, watching some of the older kids shoot hoops. We could have tried to enter, but by the time we managed to get a stray ball, it'd be time to go back in. So we just sat on our heels and talked. Ari told me about a really annoying visit to his uncle about two hours away during which his father and uncle almost got into a fistfight over a stupid ping pong game. When he was done, he said, "So, what did you do this weekend?"
I almost replied, "Won a hundred and ten million dollars. And then gave it to this fat lady." But there seemed no point. More important, though, I discovered that a part of me was still thinking that Mrs. Fordgythe might actually show up with the money. The real reason I didn't tell Ari was so I could keep it a secret if it actually happened.
People are funny, aren't we? Or maybe not funny so much as really complicated. Here I was feeling poor because I was convinced I never was going to see the lottery money again, but another part of me was saying, "Now, don't be too hasty. You may get the money after all."
I can't figure me out. How can anyone expect me to figure out other people?
Especially Ari. Monday night we had another rehearsal of our band. When I got there, you didn't have to be a member of the Psychic Friends Network to know that something was bothering Ari. He was sitting on an old coffee table that had been in his garage forever, studying his shoelaces, and barely lifted his head to say hello. Mimi was reading an old copy of People magazine.
"Hey, Ari," I said. "What's bothering you?"
This is all part of the ritual we all seem to go through. Boys, anyway. When someone asks what's bothering you, you always have to deny that anything is wrong at least three times before you can admit it. Ari, being Ari, however, didn't quite play along. I only had to ask him one more time.
I must say that I wasn't prepared for what he had to say, though. I expected something like: "I just realized that Wiley Coyote isn't ever going to catch the Roadrunner," or "My parents won't let me paint my room black," or even "I have athlete's foot, and I think it's spread to my head.""
I was not ready for: "I'm in love."
I give myself some credit for being a good friend in the way that I reacted. I didn't laugh out loud. But as I was holding in my chuckle, it struck me that I wasn't being fair. What was wrong with Ari falling in love"? Sure, he acted weird, and had strange ways of expressing himself, but he had feelings like anyone else. And, more to the point, he could make as big a jerk out of himself as anyone else. I'm not saying that everyone who falls in love is a jerk. Some people just become jerks once they fall in love. That's been my experience so far, anyway. ("Wait until it happens to you," is what my twenty-year-old cousin Melinda says, and she's not a jerk.)
"In love?" I said. "I thought that was supposed to make you happy."
"Me too. But only if she loves you back."
This wasn't funny. This was bizarre.
"Amanda Dunn?" Mimi and I both asked at the same time.
Ari just looked at his sneakers and nodded to them glumly.
"Amanda Dunn," I said again. Amanda Dunn-it as she was known because if you named something you'd always wanted to do, Amanda had done it. Her parents owned the Dunn Regency, the Dunn Towers, Dunn Estates and the Dunn Village - an apartment building, an office building, a community of houses, and an apartment block mainly occupied by old people who didn't have a lot of money. All had the name "Dunn" written on them in the same ugly cursive script taller than Stretch Levine, our star basketball player. My father had published a couple of articles about Dunn Village because some people claimed that Mr. Dunn was letting the place get run down so that the old people there would leave and the Dunns could raise the rent the apartments to people with more money. Mr. Dunn also owned Dunn Industries, a factory that made something or other and that employed a lot of people in town.
Amanda's life seemed to revolve around the fact that her family was rich. There were the big things like the fact that she was always perfectly dressed and looked down on anyone she thought wasn't her equal. And there were the little things like the fact that she started every day with a new ballpoint pen, not even trying to use up the old one.
Ari and Amanda? Very hard to imagine.
And it was just as hard to imagine what Ari saw in Amanda. Ari didn't care about clothes. That was obvious from how he dressed. He didn't care about money, so long as he had enough to buy a Triple Shake at the Soda Squirt. Ari didn't even care about girls - at least so far.
So, after pretending to be suddenly fascinated by an oil can on the window of Ari's garage so that I could keep my head turned from him as I put on a proper expression, I said, calmly, "Oh really? When did this start?"
Ari sat on his amplifier, his skinny legs swinging in his very wide shorts. "Forever," he said in a dreamy sort of voice as if he was talking not to me but to the clouds. "Or yesterday."
"Well, I was skateboarding home." That would explain the scabs on his knees, elbows and hands, and probably the scratches on his cheek, arms and ankle - Mrs. Rumple's sticker bush always seemed to catch him. "And there she was, walking with Lydia Marmon. This was on Hillside Hill, so we were going about the same speed. So I could hear her talking." He said "her" as if he was talking about a fudge sundae. And now he seemed to be lost in his sweet memories, and his eyes got wet and melty.
After watching this longer than I wanted to, I prodded him. "And what was she saying?"
"It was like bells. Little silvery bells." I took him to be describing her voice, not her topic.
"And what was she talking about?"
"About the dance. Ah, the dance ..." Ari drifted off, probably thinking about whisking her around the dance floor in a swirl of glitter.
"What about the dance?" This seemed to break through his daydream and he spoke to me like the normal Ari.
"She can't go," he said.
"Her father's grounded her. The rogue!" His face was turning red with anger. I don't think I'd ever heard Ari - or anyone - use the term "rogue" before.
"She lost her father's Terwilliger Spoon."
"Terwilliger spoon. I'm pretty sure that's what she said. Her voice was so silvery, it was hard to hear."
Before he could get lost in the memory of her tinkling voice, I sharpened my tone and asked, "Do you know what that is?"
"From what I could tell, I think it was something that was passed down in his family. Apparently Mr. Dunn collects spoons. Mostly silver and gold, from what Amanda was saying. She said something like, 'At least I didn't borrow one of the spoons with jewels in it,' so I guess some have diamonds and rubies in them."
"Why did she borrow it?"
"For a little tea party she was giving. Maybe someday she'll invite me to one ..."
Ari was getting all swoony over a tea party. As far as I knew, Ari wouldn't know which end of a teapot to pour from. Love does strange things to people.
Suddenly, it was as if Ari heard how dopey he sounded. He blushed. "Let's practice," he insisted, and he wouldn't let us stop for two hours.
Have I mentioned that love does strange things to people?
David Weinberger Page 1 7/14/2002
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