the MOVO

By Mark Allen Schmidt

A Billion Dollar Windfall

“Consider this a windfall for your world”

In the note from my Auntie

Growing up I was shuffled around between different family members for different duration’s of time. Some of those years were spent with Aunts and Uncles, and for a brief time I stayed with several distant relatives.  I spent one summer with my fraternal grandparents at their beach house in Maine, that was lots of fun. The most memorable time, by far, was the two years I lived with my Uncle and Aunt in Auburn. Auburn is a central California town that sits roughly between Sacramento, and Lake Tahoe.

It was January of 1996, I was 11 years old when I arrived at their door. My auntie greeted me with a big smile and a handshake. (she didn’t have kids and wasn’t much of a Hugger) But we hit it off from the first day. My uncle worked in Sacramento, he left early and came home late. My auntie wrote the code that ran computers. I didn’t understand much of what she did but I did ask lots of questions. Somehow she managed to answer my questions with a either a custom story or an outlandish real-life comparison that would explain what she was creating. 

When she showed me the code she wrote, to me it looked like a person who was trying to randomly use every symbol, bracket and slash on the keyboard. She once said, “Code is art, and art is valuable, meaningful and beautiful.” During those two years I grew into an awkward teenager and became what my auntie called, “a fairly good sounding board,” At first, I asked her all the questions then slowly things changed and she began to ask me more questions. She called me her magic-muse.” She said, I helped her think like people who didn’t know or understand computers.

She was also fond of repeating several of her “one day” predictions. Like, one day computers will be as common as toasters. And, one day people will hold a computer in the palm of their hand. And the one that always intrigued me, one day everyone will use what we’ve talked about in this room. I’d say, “Auntie, if that happens remember to share the wealth with me.” She would simply smile and turn back to work at her monitor and keyboard. 

“Code is art , and art is valuable, meaningful and beautiful. 

After I left we kept in touch through phone calls, emails and texts, then we drifted apart. Twenty three years later, out of my living room window, I watched a sharp-dressed man get out of a big black car and walk up my path. He climbed the steps and knocked on my door. When I opened the door, he started to speak before I could greet him. “Mr. Jones, I have something to tell you.”

“Fine, but first, who are you?” I said.

“I work for your late aunt.”

“What do you mean my ‘late’ aunt? Are you saying she’s dead?”

“Yes. I am sorry for your loss.” He added.

After an awkward silence I asked, “what can I do for you, or I should say, what can I do for her?”

“That’s what I’m here for. Could you please personalize this.” He held out an electronic tablet that displayed a receipt with my name and photograph. 

“Where do I sign?”

“Please look into your image,” The device acknowledged my identity and the man put the tablet in his blazer pocket. “She asked me to give this to you.” He handed me a thin envelope. “I am available anytime you need me. I can arrange for whatever you need to carry out your aunt’s wishes.”

“How do I contact you?” I asked.

“Simply ask, my name is Charles.” He handed me a phone, said good day and returned to his car and left me standing on the porch.

In the future, you’ll have the opportunity to learn all you want about me and what I’ve done with my life. Now, I need to ask you to do something for me…

 

The Envelope, Please

I watched him pull away, then I closed the door and looked at the phone in my hand. I spoke my Auntie’s name, the phone opened and an article appeared. “Pioneer of computer miniaturization dies in central California.” I read the story and I cried. She had always been good to me, she had always helped me. During my school years, she would send cash when I was about out of gas or groceries. When we conversed, she didn’t talk much about herself, she wanted to know all about me. I wish I had pressed more to find out about who she was and what she was doing. 

I slid the phone into my back pocket, then looked at the envelope. My name was handwritten in pencil, I remembered, she liked to pencil things in. The envelope was barely sealed, I ran my thumb under the flap and took out the letter. It read:

Honey: Since you’re reading this letter, you know I’m gone. I want you to know you’ve been the great joy of my life. The few years we spent together opened my eyes to the important things, and closed my heart to the hurtful things. 

In the future, you will have the opportunity to learn all you want about me and what I’ve done with my life. For now I need to ask you to do something: I’d like you to share a billion dollars for me. Consider this a windfall for your world.

Love, your Auntie.  

The letter fell from my fingers, I squeezed my eyes closed and I could picture her smile. I didn’t get to see her one last time. The days I spent with her were my best childhood memories, those times where one of the few things I wanted to remember from my childhood. I reached for the letter, through the tears I started reading again, What did she say about a windfall? Did she leave me a million dollars? 

I read her words again, it wasn’t a million. “I’d like you to share a billion dollars for me.” 

What could she possibly mean by that? What would I ever do with a billion dollars?

“Who was that ‘Charles’ person?” I said out loud.

“How may I help Mr. Jones?” Came the voice from my back pocket.

“What? Who is this?” I asked into the air.

“I’m Charles, your Aunts assistant, and now, I am at your service.” 

I grabbed the phone from my back pocket. “Can you hear everything I say?”

“No sir, I’m only notified when you ask for me.”

“Oh, that’s right, I did say your name.” 

“Yes you did.” Charles said.

For the next hour Charles answered my questions, and I had plenty of them. When we finished talking, he rang off, then the weight of my situation settled around  me like a hundred feet of water above my head. 

My aunt put me in control of one billion dollars. 

My aunt didn’t tell me how to use it, what to do with it, or why she did it. 

She merely said, ‘I’d like you to share a billion dollars for me.”  

Then added, “consider it a windfall for my world.”

 

Here are some of the thoughts that began spinning in my mind:

-Am I rich, or am I supposed to make other people rich?

-How much money can one person possibly give away?

-What good can this amount of money do for the whole world?

-Am I in danger because of this money?

-Who can I trust?

-Who should I tell? (Auntie never told me)

-What did she mean by “share?”

-What if I fail?

 

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A Billion Dollar Windfall 2

I asked him, “what do you think I should do with this money?”
Charles said, “The money is not mine to think about. I can help you once you decide how to share the money.”
By Mark Allen Schmidt

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