But that's how it happened. For months, story after dream-come-true story grabbed he headlines until finally most newspapers just dedicated an entire section to the phenomenon, much like an obituary section, only more pleasant to read. Jimmy had been intrigued for some time about all of this, checking the section of the New York Times each morning to see if he knew anyone. Just as he did the obituaries.
At 56 years old, he was quite accustomed to coming up empty in the obituary section and prayed that this would continue. But the happy-happy-joy-joy section, or, as the Times ironically called it, the Dream Catcher section, was another story. Over the months, he had already read the stories of eight people he had known at some point in his life, one from his own family. And while reading story number nine, about a colleague he had worked with just a few years ago, a theory began to form.
The thinking in the early months of the big changes was that there was a mysterious and even more mysteriously wealthy benefactor out there somewhere that was donating huge sums of money anonymously to random people all across the planet who were deemed worthy. But by the time Jimmy was reading about Omar Jackson and his newfound path back into anthropology after three years of exile, that theory had been disproved. The figure of how much money must have been donated far exceeded the resources of even the richest of families in the world. And there were many stories that involved no money at all, at least directly.
"It's a potlatch, Janet," he said to his wife while she sipped her morning coffee, pouring over notes for a lecture she was giving later in the day. "It's a goddamned massive global potlatch!"
"Come on, Jimmy," she said in a way that told him exactly what she thought of his theory. "You know as well as I do that's ridiculous," she said, rising from the breakfast table to rinse her cup.
As usual, her dismissive tone made him feel five inches tall. She was a tenured professor of anthropology at the college where they had met more than twenty years ago. She was accomplished and well-respected in their field; and he knew she had grown to be embarrassed by his own lackluster career.
Well, let her be, he thought. He'd been embarrassed by her plenty of times, most of them involving young twenty-something playthings. If he were a more self-assured man, he'd had left her ten years ago.
He stood, walked to the sink, and while glaring at his wife, blindly rinsed his own cup. "Look, Janet. Not every word that comes from my mouth is nonsense. Do you not remember the times when we had conversations that sparked years of research? The times when we could talk about a thing for hours? Jesus, I don't even recognize you anymore."
As she grabbed her briefcase and her to-go cup of coffee, she seethed, "Jimmy, I haven't recognized you for years. You haven't published a thing in five years, for Christ's sake. We don't talk about those things anymore because you are completely out of touch with current events in the field. You sit in this house, day after day, and you do nothing! How the hell am I supposed to act?"
"You know damn good and well why that is!" he said as he grabbed the paper and threw the section he had been reading at her. "Omar fucking Jackson! And look! Here he is, back in the game. Back at NYU, probably three doors down from your office. Tell him I said hello today, would you?"
And with that, he turned and headed to his study to do a little research, finally. Because if Omar had hit the "luckpot," there was no magic to this thing at all. The system, whatever it was, could be manipulated. That's all Omar knew how to do and he was the first person Jimmy had read about that was definitely NOT worthy to receive this strange blessing. There were actually people behind this after all, he thought.