A Lesson on Greed

Ben Via, Contributing Writer

My names Jonathan. At one point in my life I was a millionaire. I owned a penthouse, nice cars, even a boat! I had it all! Today, I sit in front of small shop in New York City with my guitar, hoping someone has some spare change I can have. How’d my life get to where it is now? Well let me tell you.

It was the year 2010, I was sitting on the couch watching TV alongside my dog Cooter. I had been struggling with a drinking problem for quite awhile now. My life had went to hell ever since I lost the girl I loved. Even during the relationship, I just couldn’t stay away from a bottle. My daily routine was wake up, go to work, come home, drink, and then sleep. I hadn’t shaved my face in well over two weeks. It would take an absolute miracle for me to get my life together at this point. I had lost all hope for one though. I was over it.

It was about 9:30 pm at the time meaning it was time for me to go to sleep. I could never fall asleep immediately though. I’d toss and turn trying to find a comfortable position. Even once I found that position, I’d be too caught up in all my thoughts to let my mind drift off anyways. Eventually I’d have to picture myself just sitting in a black room. Not moving. Not talking. Nothing. At that point, I’d begin to drift away into a deep sleep.

The next morning I’d slowly get out of bed and put on my clothes. I put on a white t-shirt with a stain right on the front along with with a pair of ripped up blue jeans. I went into my worn down kitchen to make me a cup of coffee as I did every morning. Afterwards, I went out and started the car to let it get warmed up. I came back in and watched the news for about ten minutes before I left. It was a cold day, everything appeared dead and lonely. The only thing that seemed to show color was the sun rising over the mountain. I never stopped and looked at the sunrise. I could never picture anything positive from it. All I saw was a big ball of fire. I’d  just ride in silence for about 25 minutes before I arrived at work.

I worked at a small hardware store on the side of a small road. Very rarely did anyone ever come in so silence eventually became my best friend. I was living a little kids nightmare. Alone all the time. When customers did come in I didn’t attempt to say more than I was required to. There was never a “Good Morning” or “How was your day.” The only thing that made a sound was the loud bell that hung right over the door to greet the customers. I hated that thing. I had wanted to take it down for the longest time but knew my boss would be angry with me. I definitely couldn’t lose this job either. The hours went by slow. It’d feel like I was in there for weeks before I was able to go. I’d had maybe eight people come in that today. All came in at about an hour and a half later than the last. It felt like torture.

The clock hit 7:00 pm which meant I finally got to leave. However, I didn’t show any excitement at all when leaving. I’d slowly walk out and slouch into my car. The car didn’t start immediately. When I turned the key the car would begin to start and then slowly die off like a suffering animal. The car finally started and I began to make my way home. As I was driving I remembered I needed to get something to eat while I was out. The closest place to me was a small gas station and I had to  just have to settle with that. I went into the gas station and immediately was “greeted” with the sound of a loud bell. I walked down to all the canned food and grabbed a can of beans. It was quiet. The only thing making a sound was the loud air conditioner. I walked over the the cashier and set down the can of beans. I also bought a pack of cigarettes along with a lottery ticket. I never really believed I would ever win the lottery but bought them because they gave me something to do. Afterwards, I left the store, got in my car, and left.

When I pulled into my driveway I had to slowly pull in so the bottom of my car wouldn’t rub the ground. I could already hear Cooter barking from inside. Cooter was the only thing happy to see me anymore. When I got out of the car a light breeze started, leaving me with chill bumps. I could see my own breath and remembered when I was a child and acted like I was a furious dragon. That was when I was happy and didn’t have to worry about when the time would come when I’d just drop dead. Not that I worried about it much anyways. I would’ve done anything to get out of this hell hole. I hated it. I let Cooter out of the house to run around and do his business. I walked in the house and took the canned beans out of the bag and set them on the counter. I opened up the drawer to find the can opener. I searched all around the drawer but couldn’t find it. I finally just decided to pry open the can with a knife and a fork. Once I got it open, I set it in the microwave for 5 minutes. Afterwards, I heard Cooter scratching on the door wanting to be let in. When I opened the door Cooter immediately came running in straight to the dog bowl. I was happy to see him but you’d never know it. I always just kept the same dead look on my face no matter what.

I walked back over to the bag and grabbed my cigarettes and the lottery ticket. I quickly took the wrapping off the cigarettes and began to smoke. I laid the lottery ticket on the counter and dug into my pocket looking for anytype of coin. I finally ended up finding a dirty dime along with some lint. I scratched almost all of the lottery ticket off but was interrupted by the beeping of the microwave. I grabbed the can out of the microwave and completely ignored the burning sensation in my hand. I grabbed a spoon out of the drawer and began eating. I set the can right next to the lottery ticket and started scratching away. I wasn’t paying much attention to the numbers until I realized I was one number away from ten million dollars. Immediately butterflies started in my stomach. I was scared yet excited. I didn’t want to scratch away the last number because of my belief it would fail. This was the last hope I had. I slowly scratched off the last number and checked what the number needed to be and… I won.

I jumped up in excitement and yelled at the top of my lungs. Cooter looked at me with confusion. I looked at Cooter and yelled “We won the lottery buddy! We won!” Cooter wasn’t used to seeing me happy, but when he did, his tail wouldn’t stop wagging for another hour or so. Tears ran down my face. My life was about to change forever.

I grabbed my coat and stormed out of my house. I didn’t care if the bottom of the car rubbed or not. I had to get to the store and tell the cashier. I drove as fast as I could not caring about the speed limit at all. I had just won at life in my mind and nothing was going to stop me. I ended up making it to the store right before they were about to close. I ran in the door and yelled “I won! I won!”. The cashier looked at me with shock and asked to see the lottery ticket. I hesitated to hand over the ticket but ended up slowly releasing it from my hand to have the ticket checked. The cashier confirmed that I had won and picked up the phone and started dialing numbers. The cashier began talking and explaining that one of his customers had won. I stood there silent listening to the small voice coming from the phone. About a minute later the cashier told me that they would need my number and that they would call me sometime the next day. I told them my number and headed home.

By the time I got back to his house it was already 10:30 pm. I began getting settled to go to sleep. I knew I would be tired in the morning for work. But wait, why work? I was now a millionaire! I didn’t need to work anymore! I was free! I made the decision that I would call my boss in the morning and tell him I quit! It was still very hard for me to sleep. But it wasn’t because of the lonely thoughts I had dealt with for what seemed like forever. I was excited for the next day. A feeling I hadn’t felt in forever! I wanted to throw up. I wanted to yell. I wanted to cry. I was ecstatic! For once in my life I couldn’t wait for the next day. The biggest day of my life.

The next morning I jumped out of bed to the sound of my alarm. However, I didn’t begin to get dressed. I sat on the edge of my bed still in nothing but my underwear and picked up my phone. I began to dial my bosses’ number but felt nervous for some reason. This job was all I had right now. If something went wrong I would be screwed. My boss finally answered on the third ring. At the sound of his voice, a burst of confidence burst through my body. The sound of his voice angered me for some reason. Right before I began to talk, I thought about all the pain that man had put me through. I began calling him every name in the book! It got to the point where even if I didn’t quit, I was gonna be fired. I had never felt so alive! After I was done exchanging words with him, I hung up and slammed my phone into the bed out of excitement. I wasn’t planning on going back to bed afterwards though. Today was the day I became a millionaire!

It was about 5:00 pm and I began to get worried about the call. What if it was all a dream? Had I just ruined my life more than I had already? My thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a ring. I jumped up and ran to my phone. I picked it up and checked to see who it was. It was a number I had never seen before. I crossed my fingers and nervously answered. A small “Hello” was all I could say before a loud voice from the other side yelled and said “You’ve won TEN MILLION DOLLARS!”. I jumped in the air and yelled “YES!”. I couldn’t breathe. It was all so overwhelming. After I got myself under control they explained to me that the money would be shipped to my house within the next week. Now it was just a waiting game.

A couple days had passed and still nothing had showed up to my house. Not to mention the days felt like years. I began to get impatient. Can you blame me though? The miracle I had needed was so close and I was starving for it.

Ding Ding. The doorbell. Running to my door as fast I could. I opened the door to two men in all black suits. They were wearing black sunglasses. They almost looked like hit men. I don’t know how but in the calmest way possible the words “Ten million dollars for Jonathan Doodleburg.” came out of one of the men’s mouth.  The man to the side giggled at my last name. Ouch. I quickly responded with “That’s me!”. They proceeded to ask me questions and made me sign a contract or whatever. It probably would’ve been a good idea to read what the contract said but I really just wanted the money as quickly as I could get it. After I signed they went to their cars and pulled out five boxes. They handed them to me one by one. I set them down beside me. The two men said “Have a good day sir” and just left. It all seemed too good to be true. It didn’t feel like it should’ve been that easy. I expected more. More? What was I talking about? I was ten million dollars richer! I opened one box to see and it was two million dollars somehow crammed into a box. I might’ve drooled. I had one thought in my mine… What now?

One plane ticket later I was in New York City. As a kid I had always dreamed of living here and now I could. Of course I had to bring my loyal companion Cooter with me! Me and him were both about to live the rich life. I had bought a penthouse without a care in the world. I had a black limo waiting at the airport to pick me up and take me to the penthouse too! I hopped in the limo along with Cooter and was absolutely blown away. The nicest restaurant I had ever been inside of was now on wheels. There was wine, little platters of food, there was even dog treats for Cooter! I could get used to this!

On the way to the penthouse I decided to take a little detour to some clothing shops since I was still wearing my old ragged clothes. I walked out of the stores and looked like I belonged. I felt powerful. In my head I ruled the world! As if people should bow down to my presence. I hopped back in the limo and continued back on the journey to the penthouse.

We had finally arrived to the penthouse. It was beautiful! All the buildings towering around me had me mind blown! The driver walked over to my door and opened it for me. I stepped out slowly with confidence. The world seemed to unfold around me. Everything was bigger. The driver grabbed my bags for me and walked me over to the doors of my penthouse. While I was walking to the doors I heard a slight noise. “Excuse me”. An elder man sat on the ground below me with a sign which read “Veteran who needs a little help. God bless all”. “You wouldn’t have any money to spare would you sir?” he asked. I looked down at the man. Did he really have the courage to talk to me? Who did he think he was? I was angry. Why? I have no idea. I replied with “screw off!” and continued on my way.  

One Week Later

I had started hanging out with people who had around the same “royalty” as me. Blowing my money on things I really didn’t need but wanted to get anyways. I could’ve used some of the money I had for charity but refused to. In my mind I had went through absolute torcher for my entire life and this is the world’s way of giving back. My drinking problem was still around but a lot scarier now. I could afford whatever kind of beverage I wanted! I took advantage of that in every way possible. I wouldn’t give up this money for anything! The money was getting to me but I was too stupid to realize at the time. I was too focused on what to spend my money on next.

That old man would still sit outside my penthouse everyday. I yelled at him once to leave and he respectively did so. But he’d still come back everyday. There was nothing here for him. I didn’t understand. What did he want? I wasn’t going to help him if that’s what he thought. Little old freak!

I got to thinking, I have some people back home I’d like to speak to. Starting with my ex. I started dialing her number. Will she even answer? I had one thing on my mind though. Cuss her. Let her know that the miserable life you were living without her has now changed. You were living your best life and didn’t need her anymore. The phone started ringing. She answered with a confused “Hello?”. At that point, all hell broke loose. The girl I once loved was now my enemy. I hoped her life was as miserable as mine was. I thought after I’d tell her how my life’s going she’d beg to have me back. Of course just to hurt her more I’d hang up with a definite no. But instead, she said she was happy for me. What? She continued on to explain that she has a husband and kids who she couldn’t be happier with. It almost seemed like the money didn’t even phase her. I hung up. Whoa.

One Month Later

I’m getting yelled at. “How did you possibly manage to blow ten million dollars in a month!” they said. What do I do? I’m out of money. I have no job. I have nothing. I was told I have a day to get out of the penthouse. Where would I go? What would I do? All the people I used to hang out with stop coming over. I was lost. There was one thing I was positive about though. Whatever I go through, I can’t bring Cooter with me. There’s no way I’d ruin his life because of my poor decisions. As much as it hurt me, I had to get rid of him. I had people coming by tomorrow to get him. I had to get rid of the only friend I had.


The next day felt like old times. I didn’t want a today. Getting rid of my best friend along with being thrown out of my house. I was scared. Everything just came crashing down all at once. What did I do? Why me? I heard a knock. I was terrified. I opened the doors to a couple standing with their little girl. They were who I’m giving Cooter to. I looked back at him and got down on one knee and said “Well buddy. I guess this is goodbye. I love you”. Tears came pouring out of my eyes as I wrapped him up in my arms. The last time I had cried was when I won the lottery. I handed the couple his leash and let him go.


There I was, all alone once again. The silence screamed at me. My eyes blurred. I was dead. My body was a jail and I was begging to get out. I didn’t want to be here. I had became my own enemy. I realized that everything bad that has every happened to me, I brought upon myself. It was all my fault. I can’t blame a single person for what I’m going through.


It was time for me to leave. I wasn’t allowed back in. I had left the penthouse and did nothing but sit on the cold ground and cry for hours. All the silence I had heard earlier was replaced with car horns and people yelling. I was losing my mind and it showed.


I was sitting there for about five hours when someone put their hand on my shoulder. It was the old man I had always been so cruel to. I looked up at him. “I don’t know what you’re going through but it’ll all get better” he said. I was mind blown. I didn’t understand why he wanted to help me. The man sat beside my and pulled out a guitar. He started strumming the strings and my mind just drifted away into the sound. The beautiful sound of music is exactly what I needed right now. Me and the old man would sit there while he played his guitar for the next couple of hours. Afterwards, the man handed me the guitar and said “I want you to have this”. “Why?” I said. “I was once in your position also. You feel alone. You need an escape. Music is your escape” he said. I took the guitar and just like, that he was gone.


Me and that old man would go on to be best friends. His name was Clint and he told me all about his family and how he ended up where he was today. Clint taught me numerous things like wisdom, courage, and most importantly forgiveness. Clint didn’t live his life sobbing and feeling sorry for himself. He owned up to his own actions and dealt with them. Although I might not have as much money I used to, I am a all around better and more grateful man.  

“Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of filling a vacuum, it makes one.” –Benjamin Franklin

The End