I keep having these dreams about money. Maybe it's like a starving person dreaming about food. There are different dreams, but the money is always the same, eight and a half million dollars. The source of this bounty is mysterious; the cash just magically turns up.
Sometimes I'm swimming towards land that's just getting further away, when a yellow rubber dinghy surfaces. I roll into it and find myself lying on a cash mattress made up of bundles of five - dollar notes and neatly tagged, eight and a half million dollars.
Waves wash in and the wet money gets heavier and heavier. Frantically, I toss bundle after bundle overboard. All the time I'm crying and the boat is sinking because I can't get rid of the money fast enough. I slide back into the water and use the dinghy for buoyancy, kicking my way through a sea of five dollar bills towards the receding shoreline.
Or... I'm typing words into the laptop, wonderful words, the best I've ever written. But the printer disgorges thousand- dollar notes instead of my story. They just keep coming. I examine the bills. They're real, eight and a half million dollars worth. But the printing has crashed the computer and it's taken my inspired prose with it into cyberspace.
If I were a professional hit man or a blackmailing mistress, these midnight diatribes might suggest the psyche's attempt at aversion therapy. But I'm just an out- of- work widow with a word habit.
Other people seem to dream about money too. The bankruptcy trustee, the taxman, the form-takers at the dole office, they talk about my money as if it actually exists. Their nonplussed expressions when they examine my blank assets' statement and glittering resume are quite understandable. I feel exactly the same. So a preoccupation with money comes with the territory, but eight and a half million ? It's way beyond the fuck-you fund I've always dreamed of.
Before my husband did me what he termed a favour and let me find him floating in a bathtub full of blood, he stole a lot of money. How much? They just kept repeating "millions" and looking at me blankly. How many millions; eight and a half? Is this what he whispered in his sleep; is this my subliminal savings account number?
When the police pulled the house apart, after I buried the quiet, conservative lawyer I shared a quiet, conservative life with for twenty years, the only thing of interest they found was a manuscript, the one I'd been wrestling with for the past three years. I called it a thriller, they called it evidence. As it happens, it's about a lawyer, trust accounts and millions that simply vanish.
In my book the lawyer is innocent, but no one believes him. In my life the lawyer was guilty, but no one believes it. They think I did it.
Twelve pages in, the Detective from the fraud squad lifted his eyes and looked at me the way a drowning man looks at a lifeboat. Then he went back to the book. While his colleagues disassembled the rooms I had so lovingly created, he read on. I sat and watched, staggered that his total involvement with my characters and story thrilled me so, even while my home was being ravaged.
"This here's a hell of a story"
"You must know a lot about banking."
"I'm just a good researcher".
"Did you write it before or after he did it?"
"He only committed suicide nine days ago".
"I mean the money, before or after the money disappeared."
"I don't know when it disappeared. I only know what I read in the papers."
"And in the note".
"The note simply said he couldn't face the disgrace. It didn't mention money".
"This is how it happened" He held up my manuscript, "exactly. Whoever took that money used this book as a blueprint. Whoever took that money read this book".
He smiled, a simple play of muscles that didn't reflect in his eyes, "or maybe wrote it".
"My husband must have read it. I asked him not to, but he must have read it anyway. It's just my imagination running wild. It couldn't really happen."
"It did happen, just the way you said. But unlike your ending, we will recover this money; the thief won't get away with it."
"Cutting your own wrists in the bath is hardly getting away with it."
He put my precious manuscript into a plastic bag, closed it up and labeled it MO. He then impounded my laptop and the two back-up copies of my novel.
That was two years ago. Since then my husband's estate has been seized by the Trust Funds. I have been removed from my position as head mistress of an exclusive girls' school, because notoriety and innuendo turns middle- class parents into vigilantes.
No other school would have me, so I've also been declared bankrupt and abandoned by my erstwhile friends. Now I live on social security, in a loser-infested housing estate, which is why it has taken so long.
I started doing it by hand, but I'd forgotten how to think, except on the screen. Eventually I scraped up enough to get an ancient PC. Paper's been a problem though. No one takes low-tech disks any more, so when I finished the rewrite I had to print the whole book. That week I lived on baked beans and crackers. The screenplay didn't use as much paper, so I managed a can of Irish stew as well.
Today I'm going shopping; fillet steak, camembert, juicy tomatoes, chocolate and a bottle of Bollinger. My agent swears it's the biggest advance in history. Of course, the screen rights tipped the balance. But I'll still have to borrow money from her for my celebratory meal.
Unless, of course, that fancy wine merchant can cash the cheque for eight and a half million dollars.