The first writing assignment my eighth grade English teacher gave us was a prompt from one of her favorite songs: Barenaked Ladies’ “If I had a million dollars…” My eighth grade self was neither financially savvy, far-sighted, nor inspired. I wrote that I’d finally get a pet dog, as if enough money could convince my parents I’d magically become responsible enough to take care of one. It didn’t occur to me I could have also added that I’d just hire a dog sitter to cover the less glamorous aspects of having a pet. After listing all the cool tricks I’d teach my dog and all the long walks we’d take, I had trouble deciding what to do with the remaining $980,000 (assuming the old girl lived ten-odd years.)
In Millions, Frank Cottrell Boyce poses the same question my English teacher did, but his take is far more interesting than mine. Less than three weeks before Euro Day, when the old pound becomes obsolete, a big bag of cash–229,370 pounds in bank notes, to be exact–falls out of the sky and into Damian’s lap (or to be literal, at his feet.) Damian idolizes patron saints the way most boys follow footballers. He also tries to emulate their ways (for example, mortification of the flesh by holly) and receives regular visitations from them (he is anxious to know if they’ve met a St. Maureen yet), so naturally, he assumes the money is a gift from God meant to be used for good works.
Damian’s older brother Anthony, a Wall Street financial guru in the making, believes a house would be a better investment. He’s also a lot shrewder than Damian, whether it’s at telling credible lies or leveraging the fact their mum’s dead to their advantage. At first it’s great to feel so rich, but it turns out it’s difficult for two minors to spend so much money, whether it’s on real estate or charity, without arousing suspicion and unwanted attention. Especially since that money didn’t just fall from the sky, but was pitched off the side of a train… (more…)