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Money-Mad Over Millions Promised in the Mail

My incumbent wife, who is otherwise relatively normal, turns out to be lucky-prone about mail-order prize money, and has built up a credit of $23 million, as of the most recent postal delivery.

Some of the jolly philanthropists concerned in this are prestigious, like Reader's Digest, but a few may be thought of as dubious, like Pete's Personal Pizza Palace and Video Exchange on the Cushing Town Landing ($2,200,000).

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She thinks this started at the deli counter in the ultra-super momentous master mart, where she put her name down for Mrs. Willoughby's Handy Cookbook, sent free, that gives a thousand recipes for candied chicken livers. This got her name on the full 800-number mailing list, and her average daily accumulation has been $22 million.

She sits all day looking out the window at the place where the pool will be, and calls all the family friends on the cordless telephone to ask if they'd like to borrow some money. She has become money-mad and is having new drapes for the front windows with appliqued dollar signs.

I'm not happy with this sudden opulence and have tried to reason with her. But she just waves in the air another announcement that she has won $2 million and tells me to go put my stickpin in my necktie as supper is ready.

It is true that none of this promised moolah has yet landed in her waiting hands. I give her $3 a week to buy groceries and methodically collect the change, and all the rest of her millions repose in a kind of mail-order escrow of a most promissory sort. There is always something else that she must do, such as buy 50 imitation Hummell figurines, one a month at $35.78 plus postage, after which the certification trustees will authenticate her validity and her name will be enrolled for the $10-million drawing early next year.

No, I haven't told her about that part. After the original letter comes, saying she is a guaranteed possible winner, I screen the follow-up letters that come - letters emphasizing the importance of acting immediately and describing the free gifts she must buy to become eligible for her choice of six new Nelson Eddy victrola records.

I don't rightly understand these follow-up letters. On a follow-up mailing at 29 cents a shot, it would be cheaper to send my wife the promised $2 million and blow what you've got left on an ice cream. But they come, come, come. One by her initials, one by her maiden name, one by Ms., one by Mrs. and my name, one by Present Occupant, one by Householder, and always one ``Care Postmaster.''

As I say, I sort these out and keep the more flammable ones to kindle a fire, and heave the rest into the galvanized can for the recycling experts. In this way, she doesn't find out that it's easy to become rich. So why not? We don't need all her money. I'm still getting monthly dividend checks from the Ponzi Foundation and the Townsend Club, and I have my little nest egg in the Florida Boom. I've never touched a cent of my Confederate bonds.

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Probably, I never told you about poor, poverty-stricken Lemuel Basford Bickford, the Silas Marner of Lally-gag Gore (next town up-river from Clunker's Vista) who inherited a bank in Boston from his great-uncle Wingate Pulsifer, the man who discovered gold at Ranking's Mill in Nome, Alaska.

Lemuel had never owned a bank, and being a prosperous sweet-corn farmer in East New Portland, Maine, he had little interest in banking. So he went down to Farmington to see Currier Holman, an old hoss-track friend who had studied law, and asked Currier what a man should do about a bank he had inherited, and Currier said, ``Leave it to me.''

So Lemuel signed a paper that Currier put in his safe, and Currier went down to Boston to find out about this bank. He found it, and it was a good-enough bank, and Currier stayed a while to learn something about banking, and he reorganized the ownership and had himself and Lemuel Bickford named directors, and with things in a self-perpetuating arrangement he went back to Farmington and renewed his fishing license.

Now Currier Holman was a good man, and from that day forward, on the first day of every month, he and Lemuel Bickford received, each, a registered-mail letter from Boston that contained one $20 gold piece, or a double-eagle, as honorarium for services as directors of said bank.

Attorney Holman, I'm told, lived to be a very old and rightly venerated citizen, and found uses for the $20 a month. Lemuel, on the other hand, had no need for such windfall benevolence, and kept his double-eagles, as they accumulated, in a sugar barrel in his barn up to the time the timbers collapsed. He, too, achieved advanced age and had long since given the bank ownership to his son Homer by deed-of-gift. Lawyer Holman drew up the deed. But Lemuel, as did Currier, remained directors at $20 a month.

It was during the administration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt that the United States of America abandoned the gold standard and that this Boston bank went up-spout, as did others, and no longer needed gold pieces to pay the directors.

Lemuel's son, no longer having a bank, brought out his barrel of $20 gold pieces, which were now immensely valuable because they were instantly rare. In short, everybody was happy, nobody was downhearted, and nobody needed any $2 million from anybody. Let that be a lesson to you.

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