The Grand Prize
As was usual for a Tuesday, Paula had served the tea a few minutes before half past eight. As every night they have watched television from half past seven, a quarter to eight, but on Tuesdays the tea is always served at this quite exact time for Jude to have fresh tea while checking the EuroMillions draw which is published just after half past eight. Although checking the drawing only means spending less than a minute checking a website on his phone without interrupting the television, the habit of doing it with fresh tea also dates back to his grandfather when, at this hour a television channel transmitted the drawing and if you missed the minute the numbers were on the screen you had to wait until the next day to check the numbers in a newspaper. As they never say much to each other, after serving the tea, Paula quickly lets herself be absorbed by the television no matter she has just missed something while making tea. When they win a small amount a couple of times a year Jude announces this by simply saying the amount out loud.
Jude clicks the bookmark and after a short while suddenly bursts out stammering
“Paula look the phone’s flashing in green. We have won big. We have won more than a million pounds!”
He holds the phone towards Paula seated at the opposite side of the coffee table so that she can see that the entire screen is filled with the one word ‘Congratulations’ flashing in green letters. She gets up to walk around the table and squat next to his chair. He clicks the screen for the flashing word to be replaced by a text saying
‘This phone has been used to play in the EuroMillions lottery for the drawing of Tue 20 May 2069 20:30. You are the only person to have selected the five numbers 23 41 6 13 22 and the two Lucky Star numbers 7 2 to win the entire pool of (new line with a font filling the width of the screen)
Click here to learn more.´
Jude and Paula are both totally flabbergasted and read the message over and over until, after some two minutes have passed, lets his hands with the phone drop to his lap. He faces Paula who says her voice shaking
“This is more than a hundred times more than what your grandfather won isn’t it? We can buy a larger house and go to Mallorca for a week can’t we?”
Jude’s voice shakes as well as he answers
“Yes Paula we can do both. We can do much, much more. It’s not a hundred times what my grandfather won but something like a thousand times more.”
Paula at the end of a deep inhalation says “A thousand times?”
Jude lifts the phone to again read the amount before saying “We can go to Mallorca every year for decades. And I think we might not have to work for money for a single day for the rest of our lives.”
Paula lets his words sink in for a little while and then says “You mean I can be a proper housewife? Only going out to see women of the neighbourhood? I can’t believe it. Are you sure it’s not some hoax or your phone has been infected?”
Jude thinks for a moment before replying.
“I used the bookmark I have used for years to check the drawing to get the flashing green text. But it’s out of this world, too good to be true. Your warning might have saved us a lot of trouble. The amount is so fantastic that it almost took our common sense away and click the link which might destroy my phone and get me into trouble. Can you remember the lucky numbers? I’ll go and ask our neighbour to display the drawing result on his phone. As I remember the numbers shown on the screen right now are the same numbers you entered in the park on Sunday, but even then it may be due to malware.”
Paula reads again then says “I’m quite sure it is the same numbers as I entered on Sunday. Wait a moment, today I washed the dress I wore on Sunday and I usually leave these notes until washing as I always check the pockets immediately before anyway. It might very well be in the waste bin. Wait a minute.”
While Paula is away Jude reflects that if it shows they haven’t won and this is a hoax or phishing attempt, it has at least resulted in the longest conversation between them perhaps forever. Maybe it will make him think of some other incidents to make Paula break away from the modest subservient role that custom dictates and which she has simply adapted from all women she has ever had contact with. Paula is almost running into the living room waving the note in front of her and calling out loudly right after passing the doorway
“They are the right numbers, but let us both check.”
The numbers on the phone are the same as on the note. Jude puts the phone on the table and get up while taking hold of the note saying as he does so “I’ll go and knock the door of Adam.”
Adam, who lives three doors up the street, lets him in and when shown into the living room his wife gets up from the coffee table with her head lowered to leave the room. Adam plays the EuroMillions as well and quickly gets his phone to show today’s drawing results. On his phone the page looks as usual listing the lucky numbers and saying there is a grand prize winner in Staffordshire who has all the seven numbers and has won the entire pool of £34,357,852. Adam is shocked when comparing the note with the phone simply saying “Thirty-four million pounds?”
It is silent for a while before Jude asks “May I borrow your phone to call the lottery service number?”
Adam says jokingly “Of course, you just have to pay my phone bills for the coming year.”
In a serious tone Jude says “Adam I think I actually might have won this incredible amount. If it’s true I’ll pay your bills for ten years. If it isn’t I just owe you one next time we meet at the pub.”
Adam hands Jude the phone with a nod for a deal. Jude has to come up with all the details of his account at the lottery and tell why he isn’t using his own phone then the man at the other end says slowly and very clearly “Mr. Jude Russell I am convinced that you are the winner of today’s draw and as such have won more than thirty-four million pounds. But we need a final confirmation by you calling us from the phone used to enter today’s draw. Please get this phone and call this number again. I’ll await your call.”
From the expression on Jude’s face Adam already knows what he is going to say “I really won Adam. It seems I have become a multi-millionaire. It just needs to be verified electronically. Please come with me, and bring Martha too. Paula and I need someone to talk with about this new situation right away. There’ll be free drinks and whatever we can think of and get at this hour of course.”
Adam nods and as they pass the kitchen door informs his wife Martha in a few words and she soon appears with her head wrapped in black tulle. When Jude and Adam return Paula withdraws to the kitchen.
Jude calls the lottery service again and within a minute the man says “Mr. Russell all of our checks come out positive. You are now officially the winner of more than thirty-four million pounds, enough for you and your family to live without working for the rest of your lives. This is the third largest amount won in any lottery in the UK ever and it is the tenth largest amount in the history of EuroMillions. Congratulations. Due to government regulations against money laundering and other criminal activity the full amount can’t be at your disposal until a few days time but an immediate money transfer has been initiated for ten thousand pounds to appear on your phone account within a minute after this conversation is over. For wins above five thousand pounds we offer for free a counsellor for both financial matters and behaviour to have a meeting with you and whoever you want to be present, preferably at your home for him to best access your current situation. If you’d like to use this offer, and I strongly recommend you to do so, I have already made a booking in the diary of Mr. Woodrow, who is our most experienced senior counsellor in your region for tomorrow at three o’clock. Mr. Russell would you like to meet Mr. Woodrow at your home, or at another place or time?”
Jude says without hesitation “Yes please, I would like to meet Mr. Woodrow here at the address in my account information. Tomorrow at three o’clock is fine.”
The man at the lottery service says “A wise decision Mr. Russell. Then I won’t take much more of your time for you to start celebrating. There are two things which cannot wait until your meeting with Mr. Woodrow. Go to your bank soon after they open tomorrow to inform them that the very unusual amount to appear on your account soon is not an error and what is available on your phone now of course neither an error. If they have any questions they can just call the same service number of ours you have used now. Lastly, most people don’t grasp the amount you have won. You can of course tell people that you have won a very large amount but don’t mention any amount. I’m sure you are going to have a pleasant evening and night. Just hang up and of course if any questions arise before your meeting with Woodrow don’t hesitate to call.”
Jude closes the connection and opens the electronic wallet to see the balance. It says £10,052.70. He shows it to Adam and goes to knock the kitchen door. As expected the two women have their heads wrapped in black tulle. He shows the phone to Paula and, smiling widely, says
“We really have won thirty-four million pounds Paula. This is the first payment. The man says it means neither of us will have to work for the rest of our lives. A counsellor is coming here tomorrow at three o’clock to advise us what to do. I assume we don’t have anything to celebrate with in the house, but it’s only five past nine. I think the supermarket up on the Northern Road is open at least until ten. We have to celebrate with what they can provide. Beer and chips and with heck to the cost, lets add a bottle of whisky. We can’t get really drunk and it can’t be late. There is a lot do tomorrow.”
Unprecedented Paula simply speaks despite Adam’s presence to say “I don’t have to work ever? Jude it’s fantastic. You are from now on married to a real housewife. Please buy some chocolates as well, and filled biscuits. I prefer homemade cakes but it’s too late to bake them.”
Jude is shaken; while saying what she would like him to buy she has put her arms around him for a hug – and right in front of Adam. When Paula is again standing next to Martha, Jude, while facing Martha tells her “If there is something you would like which hasn’t been mentioned please tell me.”
Martha puts her mouth to Adam’s ear and whispers after which Jude says “I think we’ll be back in about half an hour.”
As the men leave the house Jude calls for a taxi.
At the supermarket Jude issues instructions to the driverless taxi to wait. After putting several six-packs of beer and some wine bottles in the trolley it occurs to him that they, especially the women, might want to drink something without alcohol so places five six-packs of various lemonades in the trolley. Seeing the cigarettes at the counter he points at a package and says “a carton”” to the cashier. On their way home Jude lets the electronic voice of the taxi inform them, and it says there is a great discount by hiring a taxi for a full day or a long trip out of town and for a small extra amount a steward can be hired as well to provide service, run errands and handle any unforeseen situations. Jude has this information transferred to his phone.
As soon as the front door has been closed Paula comes close to him, puts her mouth to his ear and whispers “You’ve got to make a call. I have to come with you and say goodbye to my colleagues when you go to the clothing store and give notice for me, and while there I can buy some new clothes as well I assume. But this means I’m out with you until early afternoon I figure that this will not leave me enough time to thoroughly clean the house before this counsellor arrives. I usually do this sort of cleaning on my day off and that is, was, on Wednesday so it’s a full week since I’ve done that. We can’t have this fine man walking on dirty floors and sitting on dusty furniture. Every week Martha sees an old school friend who lives just over on Churchill Street and she has a daughter who is desperately looking for a job as she turns twenty-one in just six weeks and with her being unmarried and unemployed she will be forced to become a nun, which both her and her mother fear and worry a lot about. Martha thinks that if we hire her for a few days she will get another six months to find a steady job. A very thorough house cleaning would be the right way to start our new life I think. It’s a very respectable family Martha says so she can start tomorrow morning and work while we are out. She is also an excellent cook and makes wonderful homemade bakery. They will love you to call now even if it’s late because then they can sleep without worries for the first night for a long time. It’s the Brendan Clough family. Let Martha enter the number.”
Jude can’t remember the last time that Paula has said this much to him continuously and he finds it a little sexy that she is whispering to him despite the subjects not being sexy at all. This win is promising in other areas than money it seems. He has gestured for Adam to go into the living room and bring what he wants. Now he hands his phone to Martha and after getting it back goes to join Adam. They both have a Carlsberg.
On the phone Jude says “Hello this is Mr. Jude Russell of nine Oak Street. My neighbour Adam Hardcastle and his wife Martha, who is a friend of your wife, who live at number fifteen is here with me, informs us that you have a daughter looking for a little work to avoid being taken as a nun. My wife and I would like to hire her for the remainder of the week to help my wife with a really thorough house cleaning. Are you interested in her working for me?”
Mr. Clough answers “Thank you Mr. Russell, I am aware that Mrs. Hardcastle is one my wife’s closest friends. I appreciate and accept your kind offer on behalf of my daughter Susanna. The three days are very welcome, but the conditions for adjourning my daughter be taken as a nun requires both a longer period of employment as well as other issues.”
Jude says “Then why don’t you come over here with your daughter and wife and tell us what is required? We are having a small celebration of a very big event, which is the reason we want a house cleaning. It will also give my wife a chance to see your daughter and talk to her about her skills.”
Mr. Clough says “Thank you for the invitation Mr. Russell. Your kind offer will be received by my daughter and wife as some good days during a hard time. See you in less than five minutes.”
Jude puts the phone on the table and shouts towards the doorway “Women, come in here for a moment.”
When the women are standing at the end of the coffee table he says “Mr. Clough, on behalf of Susanna, has accepted her working here for the coming three days. I have invited them over to settle the deal and because for Susanna to avoid being taken as nun requires much more which he’ll tell me about. Paula, I’d like you to find out if you find Susanna suitable for working more for us. I think we have now moved up to a social level where basic cleaning is done by hired help. They will be here any minute. Please receive them and show Mr. Clough in here.”
Jude and Adam each have a chocolate biscuit and a couple of swallows of beer before the doorbell sounds. Jude is able to see the front door and get a glimpse of the women, and as expected there is nothing to see. It’s just two long dresses similar to what Paula wears, black gloves and black tulle head coverings, but he will no doubt see Susanna unveiled in the coming days.
Jude and Adam greet Mr. Clough, from now on Brendan, and Jude gives him a short account of what has happened. Then Adam suggests a toast for a continued friendship. Brendan says that hiring Susanna for a month will give an adjournment of a further six months, but also she has to have a minimum pay of fourteen hundred pounds per month and what Jude can’t fulfil right now her employer being registered as employer and having an employer insurance, but if Jude would like to employ her for at least a month there is no immediate hurry as the employment just has to start before her twenty-first birthday in six weeks.
Jude continues “I’m very seriously considering employing your daughter for several reasons Brendan. Firstly, I think we have moved up to a social level where cleaning is no longer appropriate for Paula. Secondly, as Susanna is quite a young woman we can employ her for many years. Thirdly, we are very much attached to this place and this neighbourhood and want to employ a local. Added to this is the friendship between Martha and Susanna’s mother is the best recommendation she can get. Last but not least Paula has more or less lost her sister to the nuns system, and although the system no doubt has many benefits it is hard for both the nun and her relatives so we don’t want any of our acquaintances to go through what has happened in our family. By the way, I must ask, are you a Burton Albion supporter?”
Jude calls for the whisky to be served, and it is served and poured with skill and elegance by one of the Clough women to make Jude convinced Susanna has now been right up close to him, but he still hasn’t got a clue to how she looks. They spend a happy hour discussing Burton Albion and other local but less serious subjects and then Adam announces it’s time for him and Martha to go home. They all get up and Jude goes to the kitchen door and knocks. The women know it is time and when Paula opens the door the women are all veiled and ready to break up. Jude quickly pulls Paula inside the living room door and whispers to her what she thinks of Susanna.
She whispers back “I’m impressed. She showed me the respect which is appropriate for an employer, although we are almost the same age, and took over my kitchen from the first minute to both serve you, us women and keep the kitchen tidy. In between she contributed to our chat in the best manner by saying something when the rest of us had run out of words. If you want to hire her for a longer period right now it’s fine with me, but wouldn’t it be better for both parties to send her home Friday afternoon with the right contract where everything has been considered. You are totally unexperienced in employing people.”
Jude says goodnight, and notices that while doing this Susanna goes to the living room to return with a tray so the coffee table is cleared. The four other guests have stepped through the front door while they are saying goodnight Susanna leaves the kitchen.
When she curtseys to Jude he says “I would like you to ring our doorbell at exactly eight o’clock tomorrow morning for you to be our alarm clock. We might not get that much sleep tonight so just keep ringing until the door is opened.”
Susanna curtseys once more and all the guests leave. When Jude turns away from the door Paula pulls the black tulle from her head for him to see a very happy face and she comes to hug him.
After a minute of holding tight she pulls a little back and says “I’m a real housewife. I’m a real housewife. I’m the first one in my family to be able to live like God intended. I love your grandfather who taught you to play the lotto. I love you.”
Jude’s smile widens and he takes a really firm hold of Paula to make her feet leave the floor to carry her to the bedroom. They have the best love making ever, and the first one since their wedding night, Jude reckons, without Paula wearing the customary nightgown which helps the wife keep her proper place during lovemaking. While they relax afterwards Paula starts praying. She thanks God and prays for the soul of Jude’s grandfather. She is still praying when Jude falls asleep.