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Lost and Found

The best part of waking 20k in your checking account

“” for once in my life, the painfully startling screech of the iPhone alarm didn’t even phase me. I had been awake for some time now. In fact I had been waiting for it to wake me up from what had to be a dream. I deliberately swiped away the usually monotonous yet always ill timed notification in one swift motion, my eyes not breaking stride from my highly illuminated phone screen lighting up my motionless, yet engaged best 5:30 am face. Was this a joke? Did the IRS make a mistake? For the last hour I had been perusing through my online bank statements trying to make sense of the fact that there was now suddenly a $20,000 deposit into my account that was not there yet 6 hours ago.

It’s no mistake that was I awake at this ungodly hour to look at my checking account, one eye half squinted and the other totally shut-if nothing else than to confirm that I do in fact still get paid every other Friday, it being the second Friday of the month-a phenomenon that has been occuring without fail for the last 7 years or so, yet I seem to be completely unable to abandon the habit of rolling over in my sleep and fumbling in the dark for my device to verify that recurring fact.

This was no routine balance check, however. Above my usual biweekly $2442.13 that sustained my unwavering ability to not be able to say no to takeout of any kind plus finance a mortgage for the last half decade, was another direct deposit for $20,000.

Both my eyes were open now. The depositor, as it appeared on screen, MCMINVESTMENT&SECURITIES did not ring a bell to me. My first thought, in my half awakened slumber, was that my fraction of a fraction of Bitcoin shares qradupled overnight, along with some other brilliant stroke of luck of market volatility, and somehow my Robinhood trading app must have hit some weird limit and dumped the earnings into my account. After a brief check of my Robinhood account, (which required several attempts of unrecognizable face ID at that hour) I quickly discovered that that was not the case, and I still sucked at trading $TONKS.

So what was it then, that caused this unlikely sum to suddenly darken the doorstep of the fastest draining bank account known to man? Perhaps a more appropriate question would’ve been: which poor saps money am I about to completely blow on an endorphin fueled tornadic rage of devastatingly costly bad decisions, golf, endless McDoubles, and otherwise general debauchery?

Before I could even dream up my first course of negligent, trust fund-esque action, a single deadpan reality accosted my already in 5th gear brain like a crash dummy in a safety test car against a brick wall. It was sitting in the back pocket of my jeans, hanging loosely off the top my dresser-where-they landed the night before, mere moments before I translucently tossed myself into a tempurpedic induced trance.

The item in question, a little black book, it occurred to me had been sitting there since the night before, after having been handed to me by my boss at an after work function that had escalated into a hazy late nighter. I, now being very awake and mysteriously $20,000 richer, decided to investigate a little further this small, leather bound black book that the man who signs my checks entrusted me with less than 12 hours ago.

At that point nearly every scenario that could’ve been conjured up had made its way through my anxiety riddled brain. Were we doing something illegal? Was I getting fired? Was my boss cheating on his wife? All seemed to be valid potential plots as I turned back the weathered corners of the book.

It was all names. Names and numbers. There were names of people I knew, employees, customers, ex employees, there were also names I didn’t recognize. Each name had a number beside it, but with no specificity, like a database of daily web traffic. It made no sense. Some names were crossed out, their number circled beside it. I recognized some of those people but didn’t know them. Then I came to my name. It was crossed out. Beside it, circled, the number 020000. I freaked. They were firing me! And this is how they were telling me? I mean, this was an incredibly generous severance package but they can’t just fire me! There was no call up from HR, no performance review, no cause at all. And what am I supposed to do with this book, give it back?

After about 45 minutes, some coffee, and brief google search of the depositor, (which was a shell holdings company directly linked to our firm) I knew what I was going to do. Starting with the next page of that book, I started writing. I was going to expose their scandalous corporate corruption of termination practices, starting with the evidence I had in my own hands, on the previous pages, and with my newly found $20,000 I would buy ad space for my juicy piece and publish it on a full page of the New York Times. (It had not yet occurred to me how completely ridiculous it was that I would be handed the evidence-and the funds-that could produce such a story.)

It was 7:51am when I got the first call. My hands were still wet from the shower. I answered and tapped the speaker phone button, while desperately trying to get a towel around my waist. It was the Times. They were running with the story. They wanted me there ASAP to sign some type of informal anonymity agreement since I was their source for a potential corporate investigation.

I wore all black.

As I made my way down the elevator, I started to get a little clammy and fidgety, and I reached inside my jacket to open up the book one more time, sort of in disbelief at what I was about to do. With all my attention on the page, the elevator door swung open and I walked right into a woman who was carrying about 4 Starbucks coffees and typing frantically into her iPhone. Like a scene from a movie, I watched in slow motion horror as my precious evidence fell to the floor along with a combined gallon of the hottest, blackest, Colombian coffee staining every square inch of the pages the whole way down, crescendoing into a puddle of wet, illegible agony.

When I realized who I had bumped into, my horror grew exponentially larger than I could’ve ever imagined. “Why do you have Marty’s book?” It was my bosses wife. She was on her way to a Zoom conference on the second floor of my building, I should’ve known that, it was Friday. “Sorry” was the only thing I could mutter repeatedly as I clumsily tried to wipe coffee and pages with my bare hands.

“Did he give this to you?” She asked, her head cocked, pointing the coffee soaked mystery book in my direction. All I could do was terrifyingly nod a silent yes.

“He’s such an idiot. I told him to stop doing this. He’s going to scare people.”

I just stood there, motionless. She just looked at me.

“You’re getting a promotion. He wants you to take up the lead visionary role for the the q3 product launch.”

My jaw fell to the floor.

“Let me guess,” she continued, “you woke up to a lot of money this morning?”

Again I just nodded, this time with a bit less bewilderment.

“That’s your signing bonus, congrats. Can you get me some more coffee? My meeting starts in 10 minutes.”

She handed me back the book and I looked up in shock. Without saying a word, I stuffed it back inside my jacket and headed towards the nearest Starbucks. As I approached the door, I pulled out the book one last time, and simultaneously looked down at my phone. I had 3 missed calls from the New York Times.

Tim Hearne
Tim Hearne
Read next: 'Chocolate Kisses'
Tim Hearne

I am a builder in southeastern North Carolina. I took a creative writing class when I was 18 in community college and never really stopped. These are a collection of things I’ve written over the last 10 years.

See all posts by Tim Hearne

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