Windfall: A Novel
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In his twenties and thirties, Ben never thought about money--more or less what you'd expect from a scholar whose specialty was the transcendentalists. But now, in his forties, trying to raise two children on a thirty-thousand-dollar-a-year salary, it's all he thinks about.
Money is a problem for Ben Lindberg. As a college professor, he's fought long and hard to keep his intellectual life--and his family life--safe and secure. But he can't afford to replace his broken-down car, can't even afford to fix it, can't even afford to move his family into a better part of Austin.
Then, one night, things change. Searching for the stray family cat, Ben finds in the basement of an abandoned feed store eight coolers filled with fifty-dollar bills. A windfall.
He knew he should leave, but he couldn't. It was the most extraordinary moment of his life and he wanted to savor it.
Ben takes the money, hides it and doesn't tell his wife. For a time, their lives improve. They move into a wonderful new house and buy a second car. Ben becomes a hero to his family. But when someone comes looking for the coolers, Ben discovers that everything comes at a cost--in this case, a cost beyond anything he could have imagined.
Windfall is the story of an ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances. Tautly plotted, intelligently written, and shot through with searing psychological insight, it is a novel of paranoia and betrayal, secrets and shattered ideals--a relentlessly suspenseful thriller.
the university opening a drawer that he shouldn’t. Yet there was no sign Katy was suspicious. There had been the incident in the front yard after he bought Matt’s basketball shoes, but nothing else, really. It was almost too easy. He was the one who paid the bills and Katy was not what anyone would call a fastidious balancer of the checkbook. What he was banking on was an unspoken reservoir of trust—and hadn’t he earned it? Through seventeen years of marriage he had been an utterly faithful
of clothes wrapped in ghostly plastic. “Hey, mister, you have a dollar you could spare?” Ben turned. A homeless old woman, dressed as fantastically as a creature out of Dr. Seuss, huddled against the low wall at the corner of the building, her wire shopping cart at her side, jammed with all her worldly possessions. She could have been anywhere from forty to sixty, with tiny, hard eyes and dirt-streaked cheeks. She wore scuffed, mismatched men’s shoes with sagging candy-cane-striped socks and
check. All he had to do was get Katy to believe it. On Friday, he and Katy went to see Doctor Zhivago at the Paramount. It had been thirty years since Ben had seen it and he had forgotten how astonishingly beautiful it was. It was a movie that could make you fall in love with the cold again—Omar Sharif and Julie Christie’s tryst in an icicled ruin, a candle glowing inside a frosted pane, horses pounding through the blowing snow. Ben found himself moved more than he expected by the story of the
see the finished manuscript. Ben’s problem, five years later, was that he had lost faith in his evidence. Did he actually believe that Thoreau and Lidian Emerson had slept together? There were, after all, other rash acts besides the sexual one; there were other ways to betray people’s trust besides seducing them. Lidian Emerson was forty-five, fifteen years older than Thoreau; had borne four children and buried one of them; was a sad, strange woman in black who fed the rats in her house for fear
“And you told the police?” “I told ’em what I could.” Sweeney stared mournfully at the brilliantly yellow cubes of Jell-O shimmering on his lunch tray. “I’m not holding my breath about it.” Ben leaned forward in the chair, pressing his fingers together. “Listen, I want to apologize,” he said. “About what?” “About the way I’ve been lately. And I wanted to say … I’ve been thinking about your proposal.” “What proposal was that?” “The other night. At the skating rink.” Ben raised his head,