You know that Publisher’s Clearing House letter that begins, “You may already be a winner”? Well, let me tell you how that works in real life. There I was, just on an ordinary Tuesday, October 30, doing a little laundry, thinking what to fix for supper, when the doorbell rang. I opened the door of my doublewide to find two shined-up people, a man and a woman dressed fit to kill, and holding a great, big cardboard check with my name on it. There was a truck with a big antenna and a guy with a furry microphone, which he stuck right in my face. And there I was, in my jeans with bleach stains and an old shirt of Dwayne’s.
“Congratulations, you’re the newest Publisher’s Clearing House winner!” yelled the man, grinning like a mule eating briars.
The woman yipped and yelped and waved the big check back and forth as best she could, considering the size of it and the size of her hairdo. The camera came in real close and they poked that furry microphone at me. I just looked at them. When I’m surprised, I get real quiet. After a minute or two, the man said, “Cut,” and the cameramen took the big heavy-looking cameras off their shoulders and looked bored.
“Uh, Mrs.….Douglas, is it? Delladean Douglas? Look, Mrs. Douglas, we need a little more enthusiasm. This goes on T.V., you know. Aren’t you happy to see this giant check with your name on it and all those zeroes?”
“Why, yes, I reckon I am,” I answered slowly, “only I wonder is it for real or some kind of joke?”
“It’s for real, believe me. You just became a very wealthy woman. Now, when we turn these cameras back on, could we have a big smile and maybe a little jumping up and down?
Well, no, they could not. I may be a poor person, but I’ve got my dignity. Eventually it all got sorted out. The Publisher’s Clearing House folks gave up and left without no pictures of me jumping and smiling. They was aggravated, I could tell, but they left the check. Guess I won’t be on the television any time soon. I went to the bank with the regular-size check they give me and I opened me a ginormous checking account and got a fistful of ten-dollar bills. I had plans for those tens. The bank manager put the rest in something he called short-term C.D.s until I can figure out what to do with it. That night when I went to bed, I was just as tired as if I’d worked real hard.
Here is what I did the next day.
I drove my old junker to the Ford dealership and wrote a check for a new red Mustang convertible. While I was at it, I bought my ex, Dwayne, a pickup truck. Dwayne’s had a streak of bad luck. After he divorced me, he got laid off at the creamery and then his old truck died. His girlfriend dumped him and he had to move back in with his Mama and her third husband in their singlewide. Dwayne’s step-daddy don’t like him and that’s close quarters to be in with somebody who don’t like you. Now he’s got no job and no ride to go looking for one. I have found out I can get along just fine without him and I ain’t taking him back, which is what he will want when he hears about the money. So the truck is a consolation prize. Maybe I wanted to mess with him a little, too.
Then I went to see my brother, Hank. Him and me ain’t spoke for about a year, since Mama passed and he acted so ugly about her things. Mama sure didn’t have much, but Hank wanted it all because he’s the oldest boy. I didn’t think it was one bit fair and I still don’t, although I’m shamed that we fought about household plunder. Mama would have whupped us both. So there’s been bad feelings between Hank and me, but Hank’s boy, David, is a child I purely love. He’s a senior in high school, and smart! That boy has made us all proud. I asked to talk to him.
“David,” I said, “are you planning on going to college?”
“Yes’m, Aunt Delladean, I sure want to, but I don’t know if I can earn enough….”
“Stop right there,” I told him, and I felt my face near split in half with smiling. “You’re going to college and it ain’t costing you a cent because I’m paying. I won the Clearing House prize, y’all!”
Well, Hank and me started talking again right then, and there was hugging, and yes, there might’a been some jumping up and down but it was private, in the family. David’s face turned white and then red, and he cried some, and so did Hank and me and Hank’s wife, Carlene, but pretty soon we all settled down and I told them about the cameras and microphones and the shined-up people with that giant check. Hank seemed real glad for me and didn’t act ugly at all.
It was a good day, and it wasn’t over yet because it was Halloween night, which was always my favorite holiday. I liked it so much as a young’un that Mama would laugh at me and call me her little Witch Hazel. That night the children came to my door as usual and after I oohed and aahed over their get-ups, I give ‘em each ten dollars in their little trick or treat bags. It was the best fun I’ve had in years, seeing how their eyes got big when they saw those tens. I figured ten bucks was just right – enough to be exciting to a kid, but not so much that their parents would freak out. A ghost and a mermaid came back three times, but I pretended I hadn’t seen them before. Kids in my neighborhood don’t get much give to them, so let ‘em enjoy it.
I ain’t an educated woman, but I ain’t stupid, either. I know I’ll need help to handle all that money, and tomorrow I’m going to see about getting me a lawyer and an accountant and I don’t know what all. I don’t intend to blow the money, but I needed one day to spend it however I wanted so I could stop feeling poor and start feeling rich. You know what? It felt good to give money away and it felt good to spend it, too. It didn’t take no time at all to get my brother back and give my nephew a bright future. The Publisher’s Clearing House folks were right: I already was a winner.