You Were: The Secretary

August 31, 2010

In 1950, one of the richest men in New York kicked the bucket. A hermit for much of his life, he left no children and fewer friends. Still, a handful of distant relatives hurried to Manhattan to hear the reading of his will. Each hoped he or she would be leaving town the next day with suitcases stuffed with cash. But as it turned out, the gentleman had bequeathed every last cent of his fortune to an individual by the name of PT Scattergood—a person none of his relatives could recall meeting. A person who hadn’t bothered to attend the reading of the will. A person some  suggested might not exist.

You were PT Scattergood.

A few months later, your name could be found on the door of a nondescript office on the top floor of the Chrysler Building. Every day, the most powerful and influential people in the city showed up to grovel for cash. They needed money for environmentally-sound business ventures or pet charities—to begin artistic endeavors or to fund political campaigns.

When your guests arrived, they would be asked to take a seat in the small waiting room outside your office. There, a young woman would hand them a form to sign. The form stated that they were not to disclose anything they saw, heard, or learned while inside your office. The penalty for doing so would be ten million dollars. Anyone who couldn’t agree to your conditions was asked to leave immediately.

Once their signatures were on the form, your guests were forced to wait. Sometimes for an hour. Sometimes for two. A few guests sat on the couch for an entire day. One slept there overnight. They never suspected that it was all just a test. Or that the young secretary typing away at her desk was the person they’d come to see.

Okay. Perhaps I should explain.

For two years before your benefactor’s death, you had been his private nurse. The morning he died, you’d discovered an envelope on his bedside table. Your name was on it. My fortune is yours, the note read. You’ll know what to do with it. And somehow you did. You set aside a bit for yourself. (A tiny percentage of the overall fortune, but enough to keep you in Dom Perignon for the rest of your life.) Then you set out to give the rest of the money away.

But you needed a test—a way to determine which people were worthy of your financial assistance. Sometimes it was obvious. You gave hundreds of millions to children’s charities. You single-handedly saved the whales. Your money was responsible for a non-toxic pesticide that put an end to New York’s bed bug plague. But all those good deeds barely put a dent in your fortune. So that’s when you decided to open your office.

There’s never been a better test of character than making people wait. Most barely made it an hour before they shouted at the poor secretary (you in disguise) or started taking their frustrations out on the waiting room magazines. Nearly every visitor cracked before they reached the five hour mark. But those who didn’t—those who showed patience, persistence, and humility—received a handsome reward.

It took five years, but eventually you reached the end of your fortune. You tossed the wig you’d worn to work everyday in the trash. Had your name removed from the office door. Traded your secretary glasses for sunglasses and caught a plane to Montego Bay where you lived in great comfort for the rest of your days.

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4 Responses to “You Were: The Secretary”

  1. Toodles*** Says:

    Wow! I love the picture. Very stylish chica. And whoever took is a really good photographer. I was staring at it for, like, 5 minutes! And cool past life. Glad she used her money for good, not evil. XD

    And I must simply know- WHERE DID YO GET THOSE GLASSES???

  2. Toodles*** Says:

    Wow! I love the picture. Very stylish chica. And whoever took is a really good photographer. I was staring at it for, like, 5 minutes! And cool past life. Glad she used her money for good, not evil. XD

    And I must simply know- WHERE DID YOU GET THOSE GLASSES???


  3. I think that idea could be turned into a novel by say a really talented author by like the one who wrote THE ETERNAL ONES. What was her name???

  4. Nessy Says:

    ditto @ toodles! love the glasses.

    i just got my signed copy in the mail today 😀 i have to drive for 12 hours tonight, so that will be something good to read :)))


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