1729 – a short story (inspiredworldmagazine.com)

1729 I had this dream. It was a bit confused – or perhaps I was a bit out of it as I tried to recall it the next day – but it was one of those dreams you wake up from in the middle of the night and say, “Jeez! I must remember that!” And then nine times out of nine you forget all about it until about two weeks later, and by then it’s all a bit scrambled. Well, this was one of those except it only took me a couple of days to recall it, because it had one big bit of information in it, the number 1729. It might have been 1724, I thought, but eventually I decided I was more leaning to 1729. You may think I’m nuts, but I have to tell you I’ve had some great dreams. In one of them a few years back I got a whole lesson plan for one of my classes, one I’d been kind of agonizing over, and when I got to work I could remember about two thirds of it. I wrote it down and it turned out just great. What a gift! Well, that felt like one of those kinds of dreams. Clearly it was some kind of message, from out there, wherever that is, and I needed to know what it was that 1729 was trying to tell me. So I looked up what Wikipedia had to say about it, and all I got was the first performance of a Bach piece and the publication date of Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”. Not much help there. 1724 was even less use. You see, I wondered if it might be guiding me. Perhaps to the lottery. The Numbers Game has just 4 numbers, and then you have to choose the order, which is a bit more tricky. But the lottery has six numbers, and a multiplier, so could it be that I had to play 1, 7 and then 17, and then 2 and 4 and 24? But what about 12 and 14? Or, come to think about it, 41 and 21? Now I was getting confused. And which lottery? As those of us who occasionally buy a ticket know, you’ve got quite a few to choose from these days, which is why I always use the Mega millions with quick-pick, so I don’t look like a dork buying my ticket. I don’t want to look like I don’t know what I’m doing, and anyway the very sullen Sri Lankan guy at the cash speaks in a way I can’t quite catch. But perhaps he doesn’t know exactly how it works, either, and that time I asked he was laughing at me? I mean, I guess he’s from Sri Lanka, because he has a big poster of it behind the till. Faced with this I chose the numbers game and the mega millions. I didn’t want to spend too much, just in case it wasn’t going to work out. But just in case I checked the previous day’s numbers for both (because the information would have been fresh, then, seeing as how the dream was a couple of days old) and none of them were even close. I reckoned my dream vision might still be OK. I bought two tickets. The Numbers and the Megabucks. A buck each. For the next few days I couldn’t do anything. I was so full of what I’d do with the cash that I could hardly focus on conversations any more demanding than, “Would you like fries with that?” I had a few pretty good schemes mapped out, too. I’d spend some on me. Get that BMW. Then I’d set up a Foundation to help kids who’ve come from difficult homes. Something where I could do some good and not have to work hard or anything. It was only two days to the Megabucks drawing and I had a whole lot of great ideas, I can tell you. The Numbers had been and gone already. But I was relieved because the Megabucks paid out more. Of course nothing happened. The next day after the let down – I wasn’t surprised, really. I just felt the same. Anyway, I went on ebay, as I so often do. I know I shouldn’t because I just get excited about all kinds of random things, and wind up spending money I really shouldn’t. I typed in 1729. Then I had to narrow it down so I thought “Antiques” would be the best category. All I got was a load of stamped wills and such – old documents not worth anything but sentimental spending. I was tempted by a Will that had been drawn up at Guildford, England, which is where my parents had lived for a while. But I knew I’d have to frame it, then put it somewhere, and I couldn’t be bothered. Then I saw a whole lot of other stuff, including, strangely enough, that one I mentioned earlier “A Modest Proposal”. It was kind of interesting to look at, and pretty tattered and so I passed on it, even at the price ($15 plus postage). Three months later I’m reading on-line and there’s an article about a surprise auction find that had just gone to Christie’s and was expected to sell for a fortune. It was the sort of thing that The Antiques Roadshow would make a fuss over, a knackered old document that no one would really care about apart from a collector or a museum. Junk really. I looked closer. It was an edition of “A Modest Proposal”. They called it a pamphlet, which is why I hadn’t paid much attention. And that triggered something in the recesses of my memory. Dated 1729. It was, they said, a copy that has the author’s own handwritten comments and corrections on it. This had been verified – it really was his handwriting – which is why it was worth so much. There was even a message on the back of one blank sheet, by the same hand. Yeah. You guessed it. The same one. The ebay one that went for $15 (plus postage). The trouble with dreams is that they tell you so much good stuff, but they don’t tell you how to translate that stuff into the real world, right? So now I tell this story in pubs and bars and it gets me a free drink or two. But I’d rather have had the $375,000 that it eventually sold for. Next time.