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“How did you know?” What else was I going to ask? How’s the weather? Do you know the first Pacific island that Magellan stopped at during his brave circumnavigation of the globe?
My parents had hurried me and Mrs. Fordgythe out of the studio before the press could catch us. We jumped into a taxi and were going to go to the train station, when my mother said, “The press will be waiting for us there.” My parents looked at each other, shrugged their shoulders, and told the taxi driver to take us all the way home. Why not?
My mother said, “I was pretty sure last week because of the sorts of people who were getting donations. It seemed that a lot of places that our family cares about were getting money from the Fordgythe Foundation.” For some reason, I was reminded of Mr. Sadler’s cowboy story: “Know the people...” Of course, sometimes people you don’t know need money, too.
“Of course,” my mother said, “that was just a hunch. I didn’t think it could really be true because, well, it was all so much. You set up a foundation. You were running an entire charity.”
“So, how’d you figure it out?”
“An article in the paper said that the bundles of money were all tied with pink and purple yarn with little sparkly flecks in it. You think I wouldn’t recognize my own yarn, Jake?”
“D’oh!” I said.
“So then I asked Ari.”
“But he wouldn’t tell me a thing. So I asked Mimi.”
“Mimi gave me away?”
“Well, yes. But only after I told her that I’d do my best to keep it a secret, and after I’d told her how proud I am of you.”
“So, when did you tell Dad?”
“Yesterday. I had to. I knew Mr. Dunn was up to something. That awful Matt boy was snooping around. I think he was following you.”
“I caught him at it last week but it was just about a missing spoon at the Dunns’ house.” My parents looked puzzled. “It’s a long story.”
“Well,” said my mother, “I think Matt may not have told you the entire truth. I saw him following you on Saturday afternoon.”
“He must have seen us in the city. We gave away a whole bunch of money on Saturday night.”
“And here we thought you were wasting quarters in the arcade,” my father said.
“Oh, we did that, too.”
We dropped Mrs. Fordgythe off at her house. It was more like a mansion. The driveway went on long enough to need traffic signals. I got out of the taxi with her.
“I am so proud of you, my boy,” she said, her hat blocking out all of the moon and half of the stars. She held my hand in one of hers and patted it with her other.
“You’re like my fairy godmother,” I said to her.
“There’s no such thing.” She looked me straight in the eye and no longer seemed to be so flighty. “But if there were, I wouldn’t have been your fairy godmother. Wouldn’t I really have been the fairy godmother of all the people you’ve helped and all the people you’re going to help?”
That’s when I cried. She gave me another mountainous hug. “I so look forward to watching you grow,” she said. “I so look forward to it.”
So, here’s the rest of what happened.
I was interviewed by every newspaper and television show on the planet and possibly some from other planets; that would explain some of the weird questions they asked me.
My mother became head of the Fordgythe Foundation. Ms. Minden was the second person in charge. That’s a full-time job, so she quit her job at the bank.
My father still edits The Gaz because that’s what he loves to do. He also enjoys the weekly news talk show he has on the TV station. Laurie is his producer.
The Gaz is now the number one newspaper in the region. The Register is still around but it just doesn’t have the old oomph. Mr. Dunn doesn’t have much to do with the paper any more. He keeps busy with the thousand other businesses he owns. But he’s sure as heck not running for governor any time soon.
Soon after my mother became the head of the Foundation, we had a big family meeting, with Mrs. Fordgythe and Ari and Mimi. We also had a woman who knows all about managing money there; she was recommended by Ms. Harrigan at the bank. We got together to talk about how we want the Foundation to spend its money. The basic principle we came up with is simple: We should spend it where it will do the most good. Simple to say but really hard to put into practice. We decided that we wanted to continue to spend some in our town because those people are the closest to us – and not just in terms of distance – but that we also should look into donating money elsewhere in the world.
That conversation has turned into what seems like it will be, literally, a lifetime of conversations about how we can best spend the money that I won by accident, did nothing to earn, and don’t deserve. I don’t think there’s any topic more interesting. But it’s also hard because it means learning about the suffering so much of the world undergoes every day. Worse, it means choosing not to help some people who deserve it because, while $100,000,000 is a lot of money, it’s nothing compared with the amount of money the world needs.
We decided that since much of the worst suffering is outside of this country, we ought to be helping out there, too. So, we’ve been all over the world. And my family has discovered that we love traveling. Often our journeys take us to places that make you sad and sometimes make you ashamed to be members of a species that lets such suffering happen, but we also go on trips for fun. We live at home as we always have, but we travel like rich people.
Of course, now that I don’t have to hide my money from my parents, I also can spend it on myself more. But I don’t enjoy spending money. I know it sounds odd, but when you realize that you have enough to buy anything you want, there’s not much thrill in buying stuff. So, I now have an aquarium so big that we have to keep it in the living room, and it’s got some very cool fish in it. Plus, I own just about every halfway decent video game that’s come out. And The Scutters is one of the best-equipped bands around. Unfortunately, we still sound bad. But beyond that, just having stuff doesn’t make me happy. So, I don’t buy a lot of stuff.
Maddie’s money is sitting in the bank. When she gets old enough, she’s going to have her own foundation. She doesn’t know about that yet. She’s still thrilled that she has ten dollars.
Mimi and Ari thought they might become boyfriend and girlfriend now that Ari has stopped forcing himself to be so Ari-ish. Then they look at each other, laughed, and went back to being two of the three best friends who ever existed.
We’re certainly more popular than we were back before we became three of the richest best friends who ever existed. Kids know who we are. They nod at us when they see us in the hall. We get invited to parties. But we can’t tell how much of it is due to the money. So now we’re popular, but it doesn’t mean anything to us. The thing is, I think popularity is always like that: the reasons people become popular are too confusing and messed up to make popularity a way of telling anything real about yourself.
And what about the lottery itself? Because of all the publicity around my big win, the question of whether there should be a lottery got put on the ballot so that at the next election, everyone got to vote on whether the state ought to quit it. My father spent most of two months going around the state giving speeches against the lottery. On election night, we all stayed up late to see the results. And it was a landslide: The people of our state voted overwhelmingly to keep on having a lottery.
I was disappointed. But who am I to complain?