I’m taking part in a couple of writing linkies this week. Here’s a short story I wrote a few days ago.
It was a mistake for Brenda and Roger Hyde to tell everyone they’d won the Euromillions jackpot. The press attention had been nice, and holding up a cheque the size of their coffee table while drinking champagne had been a fun day. Their friends in the village had arranged a party to celebrate and the Hydes happily paid for the parish hall hire, food and drink because they’d won £120 million. At the party the local headmistress mentioned the school’s leaky roof only in passing and the problem was quickly solved.
It was fair the local cat’s shelter received something, and the local dog’s home too. The day centre got a new minibus and Brenda and Roger made big donations to children’s and cancer charities. Then they went to the Bahamas for six weeks and enjoyed themselves, their consciences clear that they’d shared out some of their luck.
While they were away, their neighbour, Mrs Barlow, kept an eye on their house. She hoped they might pay for her home to be re-carpeted as a thank you, having regularly mentioned to them the threadbare patches she had to cover with rugs. When the Hydes returned from their holiday they found Mrs Barlow had sorted their post into piles on their living room floor. In fact it was hard to even get into the living room for the piles of envelopes in there. And the dining room was filled with post too. The cat was confused and hiding in one of the bedrooms. The answering machine was full and when Roger logged into their e-mail, there were 13,748 unread messages.
‘Oh dear,’ said Roger, ‘this is a bit of an avalanche isn’t it?’
The Hydes son-in-law, Jason, had quit his job in the expectation they’d be paying off his mortgage and buying him a sports car. Their daughter, Isabelle, was threatening divorce because she couldn’t cope with Jason lying about the house all day every day.
‘I wish we’d stayed in the Bahamas,’ said Brenda.
It took several months to go through the begging letters, calls and e-mails. Brenda and Roger moved into a gated and walled mansion and the requests kept coming in. From a boy who’d been in the same class as Roger in 1968, from Brenda’s cousin’s brother-in-law’s sister’s daughter and from a former eighties pop star who’d blown all his money on drugs and fast cars.
The Hydes found themselves becoming cynical about the plights of people who described themselves as needy. Requests for money were turned away or ignored. When the priest asked for a donation towards a new central heating system for the Church of Our Lady and St Hugh, Brenda felt uncharitable.
‘Remember all those treasures and gold we saw during our visit to the Vatican? The church is rolling in money, I don’t see why Father Simmons can’t ask the Pope to cough up.’
People continued to be nice to the Hydes, but behind their backs phrases such as stuck up and the money’s changed them were increasingly mentioned.
‘It was a mistake to go public with our win,’ said Roger one morning as he checked the time on his Rolex with the kitchen clock.
‘But people are very nice to me these days. They opened a checkout especially for me at the supermarket yesterday.’
‘True. And I always get served at the bar immediately when I go to the pub.’
‘When did you go to the pub?’
‘Oh… not for a long time,’ Roger coughed, ‘years ago. Anyway I’ve received an e-mail from a man who I think is genuinely in need.’ He showed Brenda a message he’d printed out and placed on the kitchen worktop:-
Good salutations to you. Please permit me to make your acquaintance in so informal a manner. This is necessitated by my urgent need to reach a dependable and trust worthy foreign partner…
‘Well he sounds very polite,’ said Brenda.
‘He does. And he has a terribly sad story. He’s a lawyer and his wealthy client and family died in a car accident in Lagos leaving no descendants and $55 million which has been deposited with an overseas security firm. He, himself, has been diagnosed with cancer and is currently laid up in a Nigerian hospital. He needs $12,000 for a life saving operation. If we can fund his treatment then the $55 million can be transferred to our bank account because we happen to have the same surname as the family who died.’
‘That sounds like a reasonable request doesn’t it? Life must be very hard living in Africa. And it sounds like we could be quids in with this one too. What do you reckon?’
‘I’ll reply with our bank details right away. Poor man, some people get a rough deal in life.’