The Gift

20 Oct

Peter Marlow/ Magnum

On her 12th birthday her mother gave her a red envelope from the mail. The family was poor. The father a drunk. The kids beat her up at school. The envelope had no return address. The upper left hand corner just said:


Well open it, said her mother. And she did.

It was a check for one million dollars.

In the memo section it said “You’ll Never Want Again.”

The address section had no name. It just said TREEHOUSE CORPORATION.

It’s a prank, said the mother. Throw it away.

Yes, the girl agreed. A prank. But it’s funny. I like it. I’ll put it in a frame.

That’s ridiculous, the mother said. Why torture yourself like that.

It’s fine, said the girl. It’s funny.

The next day she skipped school and rode her bike to the bank. Presented the check. I think this is a joke, she said. But can you check to be sure. The teller gave a half smile and went to get the manager. She took the check with her. The girl’s heart picked up. There was a long moment at the window. The radio was playing Fleetwood Mac. Well there you go again– you say you want your freedom. The manager came to the window. He wore a light purple shirt and a dark purple tie. He was holding the check. Are your parents outside, he asked.

No, she said. I rode my bike.

I’m going to need a parent or guardian for this situation, he said.

It was real.


Her parents didn’t steal the money. They bought a modest house. She went to a new school. They didn’t beat her up there. She read French. She played viola. Before the school she didn’t know what a viola was. She loved it.

She looked for TREEHOUSE CORPORATION every day at first. Then every week. Every month, every year. But she never forgot. She went to college. Majored in journalism. Asked her professors: how could you find someone from their bank account. Treehouse Corporation was an LLC owned by an S Corp owned by another LLC in Bermuda, and so on. They didn’t want to be found.

She placed little classified ads. Places where someone who owned a corporation would read it. The Financial Times. The Economist. I’m the girl from Oak Grove. You gave me a gift. It changed my life. I’d like to talk to you. Please write to me.

No one did.

She got a job at a newspaper. The Paris bureau. A girl from her town, her home. She met a man, a painter. They married in June. A boy. She would speak at night about the gift. Treehouse. Let it go, he told her. His palm on the back of her neck, kissing her hair. Let it go. It gave you a life that brought us together. It did its work. It doesn’t matter anymore.

And one day there it was. In her very own paper.

A billionaire was dying. He’d built half the homes in America. He never gave interviews but now just once. He grew up poor. The father a drunk, he beat the boy. One day a kindly neighbor gave him a gift. His first ten dollars. He bought lumber. Taught himself to build. Made a place he could be safe. A treehouse.

He had no office anymore. His mysterious foundations didn’t return her calls. Marcel took the baby while she flew 20 hours. Back roads to the mansion outside Omaha. She came to the gate with the high beams from the rental car cutting into cold pouring rain just as night fell. Big black button on the old intercom. Hello, she said. Hello—do you remember me. You gave me a gift.

No one answered.

Please, she said. Please—I’ve looked for you all my life. The cold rain fell and fell. She was crying.

And a voice came.

I can’t believe you’ve found me, a man said. Raspy and tired like waking up from a long sleep. Is there anything you’d like to tell me. And she said: can I have some more money.

16 Responses to “The Gift”

  1. Soinclined October 20, 2020 at 10:03 am #


    • J.B November 14, 2020 at 10:27 pm #

      Sums up the modern woman’s entitlement disposition perfectly. All self interest instinct, no heart. But then again what is to be expected from the walking dead… Alive on the outside but rotten and dead on the inside.

  2. Yoo Numba Won Fuckee October 20, 2020 at 11:55 am #

    Like Ray Carver meets Mitch Hedberg.
    Excelsior to you, dear boy. Excelsior.

  3. dickycone October 20, 2020 at 12:06 pm #

    5 stars out of 5. Loved it.

  4. Anonymous October 20, 2020 at 3:37 pm #

    Dam so lit

  5. AlmostAnonymous October 20, 2020 at 11:53 pm #

    I laughed out loud. What an ending!

  6. Lou October 22, 2020 at 12:29 am #

    Was waiting for that surprise ending, and it over delivered. Bravo!

  7. Anonymous October 23, 2020 at 7:47 am #

    It’s your birthday. All your friends gather for a party. Everyone exchanges gifts, but none of them are for you. There’s a dinner, but no seat for you at the table. The party music is about other people’s parties. The guests ignore you completely. You momentarily wonder if this is even your party. But there is a baby picture of you in another room. You recall the host asking what you wanted, but none of your wishes were granted or remembered. The people there don’t seem to recognize you are still alive.

  8. Nikol D S Hasler October 23, 2020 at 1:39 pm #

    Reading this made my day better. Miss you, dork.

  9. dick October 23, 2020 at 8:06 pm #

    you fuck i was actually sorta crying and then… but such is life one big joke

  10. The Electric Retard October 24, 2020 at 2:14 am #

    It’s 5 AM and I find myself barefoot in the graveyard after my first manic episode in months. I kept hearing things. For a while I thought someone was watching me. I’ve always had trouble keeping eye-contact, but today at the gym I realized I can’t even look myself in the face. I beat off to Japanese gay hentai for the 7th time this week using my anal lube that I bought when I still thought that tranny would let me fuck him in the ass. I would have settled for getting my own as torn up. He asked me to eat his ass but I don’t want HIV that bad. Sorry I thought someone was watching me again. I just farted. I made a promise to myself today that when I go out it’ll either be in combat or by my own hand. If I died by mistake I don’t think I could ever live that down. Do you think I should go back on Grindr? (Or maybe back on my meds?) It’s reassuring to know you can always take yourself out. One time at the graveyard I found a tombstone, shaped like a bench, with a pile of clay rocks on it dig up by some local groundhog. I left a note on it saying I liked the rocks. Reminded me that there’s other people out there. I went back the next day, the note was gone, and the rocks were in the shape of a heart <3. I look at the names and the wife was dead but the husband didn’t have his death date carved in. I always make sure the heart doesn’t get out of shape whenever I visit. One time I told my mom I was going to kill myself. She said if I didn’t go to school the next day then she’d call the police to have them escort me. I ran into the graveyard in the middle of a snowstorm and forgot to bring my coat. I could hear the sirens coming for me and I had to look down to make sure all the people behind the graves weren’t watching me. I left a not on the heart grave saying I’d cry if he died and then ran into a nearby Christmas tree field and hid under one of the trees for warmth. I cried while I waited for the cops to come kill me. The dogs got so close I don’t know how they didn’t smell me. I got home that night around 9 PM and had to ring the doorbell to get in. My mom answered and asked me what I was doing outside. I said nothing and walked inside.

    • Anonymous November 5, 2020 at 10:35 pm #

      You suck at writing

  11. bowler hat October 24, 2020 at 6:17 pm #

    excellent. very compelling piece of writing. excellent storytelling with a punch. norm macdonald would be be great reading this

  12. David October 25, 2020 at 4:46 pm #

    I should have seen it coming after “majored in journalism”

  13. Nikolai Vladivostok November 15, 2021 at 11:10 pm #

    I read it before but forgot the ending so it was just as good the second time round.

  14. Aleff August 29, 2022 at 4:55 pm #

    i’m learning english while reading and picking words from your stories. laughed so hard. thanks, tacos

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