When I was in high school, I read a novel set shortly after the Spanish Conquest about seven people who died when a rope footbridge in the mountains of South America collapsed. When the seven people die in 1714, a local priest decides to investigate each of their lives, on the theory that he could perhaps find a thread linking their deaths together so he could understand God’s purpose behind the bridge collapse. The book is about the seven people, but at the end of it, when the priest concludes that he can’t find anything in common between the seven people and publishes his book, he is burned at the stake by the inquisition. The sentence describing it goes something like, “Father ____ was burned at the stake by the Inquisition, not understanding why.” I can’t remember the name of the book, but I have to assume since I was reading it for English and it has stuck in my mind for 40 years, it must be some kind of great literature.
That book popped up in my memory on Saturday, when I learned that one person in Michigan had won the Mega Millions jackpot that I wanted to win. I especially wanted to win this time because my sisters and mother and I went in to buy tickets together, and it would have been a lot of fun to have all of us win at the same time. Even if we had taken the cash option instead of the annuity, all four families would have won more money than we could possibly spend.
My husband and I had figured out the name of the charity we would establish with the bulk of the money, a possible place to move to (in Huntsville, to be close to my mother), what he and I would do with our time and our post-lottery travel plans, which involved a nice motor home and a trip through many different areas of the United States.
The thing I would have enjoyed the most would have been finally being able to write full-time. Don’t get me wrong; I love my job, but I love writing more. So while I wish the person in Michigan all the best, I still can’t help thinking, along with Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, “Lord who made the Lion and the Lamb, You decreed I would be what I am. Would it spoil some vast eternal plan,” if I were a wealthy person?
I also can’t help wondering, just as the priest in the book did, what thread connects the lives of the winners of big jackpots pre-drawing so that they win, and others don’t? At least I won’t get burned at the stake for whatever it is I conclude.
So what are your dreams if you ever came into a windfall of immense proportions?
P.S. My learned colleagues here at WWK inform me that the book is The Bridge of San Luis Rey, written by Thornton Wilder, and in the book five people die on the bridge, not seven.