Michael Irvine is thirty-three-years-old, drives a twelve-year-old car and lives with his parents. His job bores him and his love is unrequited. Very few people pay attention to Michael, and that suits him fine.
Then one day, he finds himself the winner of the largest lottery in the history of Ireland – €190,000,000.
Under the weight of his new found wealth and fame, Michael’s life spirals out of control until he is forced to make a decision.
A decision that will capture the imagination of the entire world…
Targeted Age Group:: 16-80
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I loved the idea of a shy and introverted man winning the largest lottery win ever. Michael Irvine is someone who actually would rather not win any money. A man who would rather be just left alone.
So imagine that man suddenly being given €190,000,000!
Winning the lottery is something we've all fantasied about. Except the person who's actually just won it!
My book is about that person.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I see a lot of myself in the main character, as I suppose most writers do.
I'm not so shy though!
The rest of the cast are made up from bits and pieces of many people I've met over the years.
The parents in The Reluctant Millionaire are most similar to my own, I have to admit.
Michael Irvine opened up the packet of disposable razor blades, which his mother had bought him in Lidl earlier that day. He shoved one of them under the lukewarm water, removed his glasses and leaned forward into the mirror. Sliding the blade over the soapy parts of his face, he edged around the borders of his goatee.
‘One hour per day is more than enough time for the immersion to be on,’ he had often heard his father telling his younger sister, Samantha, before she moved out ten years earlier. Michael didn’t mind the tepid water. Anyway, he normally only shaved once a day. But today was different. Today was his birthday. His thirty-third year.
The same age that Jesus had died on the cross, his mother had informed him when she woke him that morning with a cup of tea. Not being able to think up a suitable reply, he had sat up and sipped his tea until she had opened the curtains and left.
He cupped the water in the sink with his hands and splashed it onto his face. He then put his glasses back on and checked for any remaining shaving foam. He didn’t regard himself as a handsome man, and he knew that he wasn’t alone in that conviction, but he wasn’t exactly ugly either.
Indeed each facial appendage, if taken on its own merit, might even be regarded as anatomical perfection in itself. For example, his nose, he felt, could stand beside the nose of any modern movie star. He was certain it would not only not appear out of place nor deemed inferior any way, but could outshine many of its nasal contemporaries.
And the same could be said for any of his facial features; his mouth, his hazel coloured eyes, his chin, his ears and even his face’s very shape. All were fine examples of human anatomy that performed their respective functions as required and when called upon to do so.
It was only when they were seen as a group that a sense of mismatch and disproportion was somehow deemed. Unfortunately for Michael, how else could they be appraised except as a whole?
Michael had often heard his supervisor, Trevor Tiernan, being referred to by his female co-workers as a good looking man. This Michael found utterly perplexing given that Trevor’s nose was nothing short of gargantuan and that his right eye was at least thirty percent larger than its colleague, the left eye.
However, the accessory which Michael admittedly felt most let down by was his hair.
It was, according to his barber, ‘unmanageable’. The scissors duly clipped noisily around his head as required, and clumps of curly fair hair could even be seen to fall apathetically to their death, but when he left the barber shop, it was a tough job to spot any difference whatsoever from when he had walked in.
Michael buttoned up the blue shirt that his mother had ironed for him after his dinner, and sprayed on some aftershave that his sister had bought for him last Christmas. He heard the shuffling feet and hushed whispers in the kitchen as he made his way downstairs. Operation ‘Surprise Michael with a Birthday Cake’ was in full swing for another year. He pushed open the door and looked dutifully surprised as a chorus of ‘Happy Birthday’ broke out on cue. Although technically a solo by his mother, Rose, rather than a chorus, his father, Jack, did appear to hum along and nod approvingly.
His mother, to her credit, did sing with gusto, however a rendition of ‘For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow’ was abandoned when his father ducked back into the sitting room to watch the end of Crimewatch. Michael promptly extinguished all three candles.
‘Don’t forget to make a wish,’ Rose urged him, then lowering her voice, ‘maybe ask to meet a nice girl this year?’
He wanted to remind her that Jesus had also been a bachelor at that age, but an acute sense of humiliation prevented any retort. Jesus, being the son of God and saviour to all mankind, while Michael's career aspirations having thus far reached the meteoritic height of a controller for office administration in the Civil Service.
‘Someone like Julie,’ Rose urged. ‘She was nice. I miss her.’
He had met Julie two years ago in a dark pub, and had almost convinced himself that she hadn’t only agreed to go out with him because he casually mentioned to her that he had won two backstage passes to the Kings of Leon in Marlay Park for the following evening. It had been a great gig. So much so, that he had stuck around for almost an hour even after he’d seen Julie being led by the bassist’s hand into his dressing room.
Michael had asked her to meet him for their second and final date at his house just to prove to his parents that he wasn’t gay. Not that he had anything against being gay. In fact, he often thought his life would be somehow a lot less complicated if he were attracted to men. He suspected though that he would be seen as even less of a catch to the generally good looking gay community.
Embarrassingly he had feigned a prolonged phantom relationship with Julie, often leaving the house to attend the cinema alone or to read the newspaper in a quiet pub. Eventually they had broken up, and despite his mother’s enquiries, he had insisted there ‘was nothing to talk about’. A line that was ironically the only piece of truth in their entire six-month fantasy affair.
‘Here, son, buy a drink for yourself,’ Rose whispered, shoving a twenty euro note into his hand.
‘Thanks, Mam,’ Michael said slipping it into his pocket.
‘Will you have a slice of cake before you go?’
‘No, thanks, Mam. I’m grand.’
‘Why don’t you take it with you to the pub to share with your friends?’
‘Em, I don’t think so. Why not give some to Dad?’
‘Okay then. Enjoy yourself tonight, Michael,’ she said cutting a slice and popping it onto one of the small Mickey Mouse paper plates that were stacked beside the cake.
‘Might shut him up for a while,’ she added with a smile, and carried it into him.
It was already dark when Michael reached Harry’s pub, a short ten minutes’ walk from his house. The pub was run by a bald-headed fifty-year-old called Harry Brennan. Or Hard Harry as everyone, including his mother, called him.
Michael pulled the heavy door open, allowing the light and heat of the crowd and the cacophony of chatter, clinking glasses and laughter to temporarily spew onto the street. Above the din, he heard the cackled laugh of Joey McGuinness, and instinctively moved to the opposite end of the bar.
Michael couldn’t remember a time when he didn’t know or didn’t hate Joey McGuinness. From Junior Infants to present day, Joey had always been a part of his life, like a bad smell that just wouldn’t go away.
‘Wherever Joey is, that’s where the party is,’ he’d heard someone once say. ‘Yeah, and the fight afterwards,’ someone had added.
There were many reasons that Michael hated Joey. A age six, they had a fight in First Class in the school yard. Mrs. Connolly had caught them and made them shake hands, which they did, but as soon as she had turned her back and walked away, and while still shaking hands, Joey had punched Michael hard in the stomach with his six-year-old clenched left fist.
Then when Michael was twelve, he did something he swore he’d never do again and had kept that promise to this day; he volunteered. He liked the drama teacher, Mrs Kelly, perhaps even had a teenage crush on her. So when she asked for someone to read the welcoming monologue at the Christmas school play, Michael’s hand had shot into the air.
He had voiced his concerns later on to Mrs Kelly, but she insisted he would get over his fears and that it would be all right on the night. It wasn’t. At first he froze in front of the two hundred seated parents in the large hall. He could hear Mrs Kelly’s voice encouraging him to speak. He could hear the principal’s voice threatening him to get off. He could do neither.
Next the giggles began. Barely suppressed sniggers from the audience. Shouts of “get on with it” from some older students. He willed his body to move but his feet stayed planted on the wooden stage.
And then the warmth. At first it was almost pleasant. He could feel the trickles down his left leg. The giggles turned to pointing and laughter. It probably only lasted twenty seconds before Mrs Kelly walked on stage and put her arm around him and walked him off, but it felt like twenty minutes.
Even today he sometimes woke to those hundreds of eyes looking at him and the laughter ringing in his ears. Joey McGuinness may not have come up with it initially, but it was from him that he first heard his name change from Michael Irvine to Michael Urine.
But as dreadful, at least at the time anyway, that these incidents were, they paled in comparison to the real reason that even Joey’s voice made Michael nauseous, and Joey’s proximity made Michael’s skin crawl.
Joey McGuinness had done what Michael had never done, and as much as he fantasised about it even to this day, it was something that fate would assuredly deny him forever; he had dated the most beautiful, desirable and loveliest girl in the whole wide world – Lauren Fox.
The girl whom he had first noticed when she was just seventeen-years-old getting off a bus in a green school uniform. The girl whom he had painfully watched being chatted up by every bloke (except him) in Ace’s nightclub every Saturday night. The girl who had unknowingly broken his heart when he had seen her kissing Joey McGuinness while lying on the grass on a sunny afternoon in Beckett's Park. And the girl whom he always thought of when he became bored and frustrated with his own bachelor life.
The same girl who was now walking towards him, her shiny jet black hair tied up in a bun and her sparkling green eyes smiling at him. The same girl, even after all these years, who still managed to set his heart racing at the mere sight of her.
‘Hiya, Michael,’ she said. ‘What can I get you?’
Lauren Fox was perfection.
He never called her it, nor referred to her by that name, but he understood why most of the guys called her (at least behind her back) Luscious Lauren.
‘The usual? Carlsberg shandy?’ she asked.
‘No thanks, Lauren. I feel like something different. It’s my birthday.’
‘Well, congratulations, Michael. What do you fancy?’
‘How about, em… a Heineken shandy?’
‘Really?’ she asked, raising her eyebrows at him.
‘Okay, then. How about one of them?’ he said and pointed to the Bulmers cider tap across the bar.
‘I think I can manage that,’ Lauren said, smiled and grabbed a pint glass from the shelf.
He genuinely tried his utmost not to watch her walk away, but her curves to him were like the headlights of a car to the eyes of a small rodent scurrying across a country road at midnight. He stared at her for just a moment too long until he was forced to grab the side of the bar, such was the wallop he received from a clenched fist into his right arm.
‘Are you checking out my girlfriend’s arse, Urine?’ said Joey McGuinness an inch or two from Michael’s ear. Michael could feel wet spits of beer sprayed onto the side of his face. He tried to gain his composure even though the pain from the blow pulsed down his arm.
She’s not your girlfriend, was all Michael could think to say, but of course didn’t.
‘I don’t blame you though,’ said Joey and he put his arm around him and looked at Lauren. ‘Would you just look at the body on her?’
Michael looked at Lauren and then turned away. The smell of nicotine from Joey was making him nauseous.
‘Even though she’s popped out a kid,’ Joey continued, ‘she’s still a ride and a half. I don’t know how she does it.’
Michael noted the use of the indefinite article, ‘a’ kid, and not the possessive adjective ‘our’ kid.
Some evenings, although it was all too rare, Joey and his boisterous friends would leave Harry’s early, and head off to Ace’s nightclub. The crowd would peter out, leaving Michael to sip on his pint and have Lauren almost to himself. They spoke about their jobs, their hopes and even their dreams.
One night after having a second glass of Zinfandel, she spoke about her son, Max. It had been an unplanned pregnancy, she confided, which then led to Joey insisting and then demanding a trip to the UK for a swift termination. He had even offered to pay half the bill. It was the first of many arguments through a difficult and painful pregnancy that ended in an emergency Caesarean section in the seventh month.
Max, born at just over three pounds, spent his first six weeks in ICU in Holles Street hospital. His diagnosis of Down syndrome was made within a few minutes of his birth. After crying hysterically for a full ten minutes, Lauren begged that Max be brought back down from ICU, which in fairness to the consultant, he did. Lauren sat up, as best she could, and wiped away the tears.
The doctor handed her her new baby, her new life and her new world. She held him close, kissed him on his lips as gently as she could and thought light was shining from his skin, such was his beauty to her. Max, for his part, happily took over every aspect of her life too.
During those initial six weeks, as she camped out at Max’s bedside, she read and googled everything she could get her hands on about Down syndrome. So much so that after a few weeks she knew that to give Max everything he needed, she would have to quit her job in the pharmacy, give up her apartment in the village and move back in with her mother. Already a litany of appointments had been set up after Max’s release; physiotherapist, cardiologist, audiologist. Many professions she had never even heard of before.
As often happens in life when the most unexpected of difficulties present themselves, true characters were revealed. Unfortunately, many of her close friends who only six months before she had linked arm-in-arm down Grafton Street at 4 AM singing a Katy Perry hit, now had lives too busy to visit her or even phone. Joey McGuinness was no exception.
At first, Lauren allowed and even forgave him his transgressions, his non-attendance of important meetings and appointments, his heavy drinking, his days of absence from her and Max’s lives, his insistence on a blood test to prove that there was ‘nothing wrong’ with him.
Then there were the arguments that Lauren was spending ‘far too much’ time with Max and ignoring him. All were forgiven by Lauren on the assumed grounds of him being in shock or denial and for the sake of keeping their family together. It was only when he called over to her at her mother’s house with plans for Max to be institutionalised, and declarations of his right as the father to have a say, and about what in his opinion was best for Max, had Lauren eventually kicked him hard in the nuts, dragged him out of her mother’s house, and dumped him unceremoniously in the front garden.
Once he’d recovered to a vertical, if somewhat stooped, position, he didn’t knock to be let back in. Lauren never actually uttered the crowd-pleasing phrase of ‘it’s over’, but the outcome was nonetheless understood by all parties concerned.
‘What do you want, Joey?’ Lauren spat at him, as she placed the pint of Bulmers on the counter in front of Michael.
‘Jesus. Do you hear that, Urine?’ said Joey. ‘Do any of your exes ever talk to you like that? Oh, sorry I forgot. You don’t have any exes, do you?’
‘Piss off, Joey,’ said Lauren. ‘Leave him alone.’
‘Oh, listen to her,’ said Joey, and then leaning back into Michael’s ear, ‘maybe she’ll pop your cherry for you? Eh, Urine?’
‘Whatever he’s saying to you, Michael, ignore him. Here’s your pint.’
‘Bulmers?’ said Joey, ‘what happened to the shandy man?’
‘Thanks, Lauren,’ Michael said, reaching into his pocket for his wallet.
‘That’s okay. It’s on me. It’s your birthday pint.’
Michael’s insides cringed. Outside his shoulders drooped forward. He had too much knowledge and had too much first-hand experience of the modus operandi of your average bully, and so understood the significance of sharing any personal information with them. Anything that they could use as a weapon, or saw as a crack in their victims’ armoury could prove to be disastrous.
But Joey ignored the comment.
‘It’s a long time since Lauren bought me a pint for my birthday,’ Joey said. ‘How come he’s gets free gargle and I don’t?’
‘Because Michael is a gentleman, and you,’ said Lauren, ‘are a prick.’
The slight twitch of annoyance and anger in Joey’s left eye went unnoticed by Lauren. He knew better than to go head to head against her, especially in public. But Michael noticed it. He knew that twitch and how it would work its way through a bully’s body until it eventually manifested itself as an eruption of gratuitous violence against an innocent passer-by. Being both an innocent and a passer-by, Michael waited for the expected blow as Joey dismounted his bar stool.
‘Women. Eh, Mike,’ said Joey going back to his friends. ‘Can’t live with them, and can’t murder them and plead justifiable manslaughter.’
‘Sorry about that, Michael,’ said Lauren when he was gone, ‘I shouldn’t have said anything.’
‘That’s okay, Lauren. He’s just being his usual self.’
It was only then that Michael realised that Lauren had placed her hand on his arm. He could feel her warmth through his shirt and it went through his entire body. Even though she had walked to the other end of the bar, he could still sense the weight of her arm on his, her perfumed smell, her bright green looking into his.
It was most definitely because of those dreamlike sensations that at first he didn’t even notice that everyone in the whole pub was looking at him, and that Joey was standing on top of his round table shouting something and pointing at him. But he was finally woken from his daydream when the entire pub broke into a chorus of…
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday dear Urine,
Happy birthday to you.
Then claps, cheers, whistles, and utter utter humiliation.
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