“..as part of a welfare study, your household has been allocated £1,000,000. Please contact us at the closest opportunity to arrange the money transfer.” Fraser inspected the envelope the letter had come in. It was addressed from “Studies of Better Living” and to him specifically. He left the letter on his desk, as it was well past the office hours to make the call and check what this nonsense was about, and went into the living room. After kicking off his shoes, he dropped the suit jacket on the club chair and fell face forward into the couche’s embrace, giving out a loud groan. It had been a mightily long day.
Lying on his belly and wriggling his toes, he thought about the cool bottle of summer beer waiting for him in the fridge but could not manage to get himself up to go and get it. He lay limp for a few minutes and then turned on the TV. It was showing a frozen frame from where he had left the sitcom last night. The playback resumed and he let himself to be submerged in the alternate universe with a laugh track and simple but cheerful humour. Ten minutes later he had gathered enough good mood and strength to go grab that beer.
Next morning, not worried about his privacy, Fraser gave his email address to the lovely girl on the other end of the phone line, who assured to him that it was no prank. He still had his reservations but they all evaporated a few hours later when he logged into his bank to see more commas on the wrong end of money numbers in his account than he had ever seen. 1,001,512.32 said the balance and Fraser suddenly felt an irresistible urge to sit down. Since he was sitting down already, he stood up and just, sort of, froze, mind’s internal commentary gone speechless for change.
Well, he thought half an hour later, the reality taking it’s sweet time to sink in. Only thing he had come up with so far was “the fuck”. He redialed the number from the morning and noticed a tremble in his voice as he talked. No, the same girl on the other end said. He could hear a warm smile in her words. No caveats, no taxes, no terms. All yours, mister Finch. Was there anything else? And a good day to you too. Thanking, Fraser hung up.
Well—having laid down on the couch face first, breathing slowly through the fabric—he thought again, million is not that much money. The thought made him want to slap himself. Money didn’t like Fraser, and the fifteen hundred that he had in the account had been his lifetime achievement. Not that there would be any happiness to find in money. But who was he fooling – million was exactly that much money.
A house? He had no use for a house. What else was there. Saving it for a rainy day? The thought of inflation made his stomach turn. And what if a war breaks out? Now that the number was slowly dawning on him, Fraser didn’t feel like losing any of it because of him being stupid. Hedge funds, pension funds, long time investment funds, portfolios, stock markets, scammers and schemers all, there was no safety to be had. With a heaving chest, Fraser realised he was having a panic attack.
And him! What was he supposed to do now. Keep working? And the others! Who could he tell about this? Could he share any of it? He knew all too well that money and friends was not a good mix. His mind was buzzing with millions of questions and no idea where to start. He lay unmoving for a quarter of an hour and then grabbed his phone and dialled the number again.
“Umm, excuse me,” he said.
“Yes, mister Finch,” the friendly voice recognised him.
“This might sound a bit crazy,” he said, mustering courage. “But would you be interested in coming out for dinner with me, tonight?” He gulped after having said the words. In his head he could hear the roaring of the laugh track come to life.