When Ernest Casey won the lottery his first thought was the one his father had once said about winning a big lottery prize:
‘It’ll ruin everything.’
Ernest decided there and then not to breath a word of his success to anyone. Especially his family who were blood sucking, amorphous scum bags on the good days of their lives.
He replaced the phone after the man from the lottery office had called with the news. Switched on his kettle and made himself a large pot of tea.
Looking at the kettle an old one he’d had for many years with its patched up cord, thank goodness for electrical tape, he thought as he made a mental note to purchase a new kettle as soon as he could.
A half billion was an awful lot of money he concluded and he knew he would never spend anywhere near quarter of it.
He was a single man now days, his wife of some twenty years had thrown him out when his job at the car wreckers had been terminated and his meagre income disappeared.
Since then he had lived in a small bed-sitter, his social security just enough to cover his rent and utilities. Eating had become a bit of luxury and if it wasn’t for the charities he might have starved.
His one daughter had made the effort each Friday to invite him to dinner and his contact with her he greatly valued. She was his first beneficiary; she had a mortgage and needed help to get ahead financially.
So on that first night of untold wealth to make a list of people he thought might give some of his wealth to.
He was very particular, those who had made his life a misery received nothing and that included an uncle and aunt on his mother’s side, sad miserable people who never stopped berating him for what they perceived as his laziness in losing his job and not being able to find another job. They saw him as a failure as a human being for not being able to maintain his marriage and they rejoiced in the stories of humiliation and derision his former wife spread around the town.
In the weeks that followed rumours began to circulate around the town of a major benefactor. People were finding letters in their mailboxes containing cheques for considerable amounts of money with no notes nor acknowledgements as to whom the money was from.
Though many were aware of the biggest lottery prize ever being won by a local it was therefore suspected that the winner was the welcomed benefactor.
Ernest watched the result of his philanthropy with great delight. The poor family on Destitute Street suddenly found they had money to move from that location to Comfort Street, educate their children and take their family on a rare holiday.
The Penola Charity Sisters looked at their more than generous donation and decided to buy the refugee families they cared for new clothing and microwave cookers.
The Town Council eyed the cheque they were given and the attached note with a sense of relief that the money was to used to upgrade the skateboard rink a place where so many of the towns youth congregated on a regular basis.
Meanwhile his daughter deposited her cheque and went straight to the builders centre to look at plans for an extension to her house as she has discovered she was pregnant and they would need a new bedroom and a new bathroom.
The other family members looked on, noting the daughter’s good fortune and wondered if it was Ernest who was dishing out the money. After all he did move from Bed Sitterville to Luxuryville in the space of a month.
Cousin Misery approached him and asked the obvious question. He said he received a small cheque in the mail and a request he move to this new part of town.
His ex-wife Greedy not to be outdone berated him on the phone for not sharing his new found wealth with her after all she’d done for him during their marriage. He agreed and promised that the next day he would leave her a portion of his wealth, as she was right she had done a lot for him during their marriage.
The next day she received a registered letter. It contained dollar note with a signed note: ‘What you are worth to me.’
Ernest liked being the source of so much rumour and innuendo and for the first time in his life he was in control of his life and he liked that.
His final act was to buy the car-wrecking yard, revamp the business and get it working the way he always thought it could. He employed the people he knew would be good and loyal workers and paid them generously.
On Sunday afternoons he walked along the riverbank watching the children paddle in the shallow waters, the young couples walking their young families.
In the old coffee shops he passed older friends he once had in days when he was a married man. They had scorned him when his marriage failed, ridiculed him as a man of little worth and spread plenty of rumour about him most of which was untrue.
Now days they looked at him in a different light. Never certain if he was the benefactor or a recipient. They eyed him with suspicion and Ernest Casey was happy that was the state of affairs.
In a small house on the edge of town a struggling couple, three small children in tow discovered an envelope in their baby carriage and looked at each other in wonder….