When Butters woke up hours later in the hospital he was completely inconsolable, so his doctors put him into a medically-induced coma for four days while a feeding tube in his nose and I.V. lines in his arms began to nourish and rehydrate him while his feet began the long process of healing.
When he was woken up four days later, the first thing he asked for was that his parents be permanently barred from the hospital. Afterward, he lay in bed the rest of the afternoon staring out the window, refusing to allow anyone to see him except his doctors and nurses.
Just before 4:00 in the afternoon someone knocked on his door and called into the room: “Mister Stotch?”
Butters pulled his blanket higher over his head and replied, “Go away.”
“I’m afraid I can’t do that sir,” the young man who was standing at his door said, walking into the room as if he belonged there. “I’m with the Government Central Bank, and I’m here to finalize the transfer of an extremely large sum of money to you. I can make an appointment to come back in an hour if you’d like, but that’s the very best I can do. Or, we can just take care of this now.”
Butters sighed. He was only now beginning to grasp what had happened to him over the last few days. He rolled onto his back and pulled his sheets higher over himself. “All right. Come on in.”
The man was very kind and professional, taking close up pictures of Butters’ eyes for retinal scanning ID and installing the appropriate software on Butters’ phone. Afterward he showed Butters how everything worked, how to access his new bank account, and how to transfer money from it to anyone he wanted to.
Once he’d left, Butters once again lay back in bed, this time staring at his phone instead of out the window. The display he was looking at on the tiny LCD screen made no sense to him:
Available Balance: $341,578,171,784.17
He knew that number should make him feel happy, but no matter how long he looked at it, it meant nothing to him. The only thing he could think was: and 17 cents; one penny for every year I’ve been alive.
He switched to a news article about the Long Walk. The headline read in large bold type:
ONLY 385.3 MILES THIS YEAR
The first two sentences of the article read: This year’s Long Walk has ended after a very disappointing 103 hours and less than 400 miles covered. It seemed this year’s participants simply lacked in spirit after the first was removed only six miles into the walk.
That was as far as Butters allowed himself to read. He turned off his phone and set it on the bedside table.
He knew he’d won the Long Walk, but he had almost no memory of having done so. He clearly remembered the months leading up to it, his father forcing him to walk four days a week when he just wanted to have fun and be a kid; but he remembered almost nothing of the walk itself. He remembered Stan and Kyle, who had grown really close during those four days (or was it five?), and who had been nice to him...and he remembered changing his socks a few times, and long nights walking beneath the stars for endless hours; but not much else.
He managed to fall asleep, and woke up again when an orderly brought him his first real dinner since the end of the Long Walk. It was a nice meal, Salisbury steak, potatoes, gravy and peas, but he barely picked at it. The same orderly came by an hour later to remove his tray and sat down in the chair next to the hospital bed to speak to Butters in a conspiratorial whisper.
“Hey, man. There’s some guy in the lobby that bribed me with a really expensive bottle of scotch to get him past security so he can see you. He won’t tell me his name, but he’s really insistent...and he has your cellphone number, and has a picture of you on his phone, so...”
Butters was intrigued enough by this to ask that his mysterious visitor be allowed in. The orderly left the room, returning a minute later escorting Kenny, who walked into the room while the orderly waited by the door. Kenny was looking at him lying in bed hopefully, searching his face for any sign of recognition, which came a few moments later as a smile slowly spread across Butters’ face.
“Kenny...?” Butters asked, sitting up straighter in the bed.
“Yeah, man,” Kenny replied, sitting down in the chair next to him. “How are you feeling, dude?”
“I...I’m not doing so good, Ken,” he said sadly. “I mean...you know I was in the Long Walk, right?” Butters looked around, seeming small and lost in the oversized room. “And I won...I’m rich!” He suddenly looked embarrassed. “I mean...of course you know that. It’s why I’m in the hospital, after all.”
“Of course I know that,” Kenny replied, reaching to take one of Butters’ hands in both of his. The orderly standing beside the door cleared his throat and Kenny looked at him. “We’re good here, dude,” and at Butters’ nod he turned around and left. Kenny carefully squeezed Butters’ hand and they sat quietly for a minute.
“You’ll have to remind me sometime where we met,” Butters finally said. “I—I really can’t remember a whole lot right now...”
Kenny smiled, barely managing to keep a look of overwhelming relief from his face. “So...you don’t remember where we met; but do you remember how much we meant to each other?”
Butters nodded. “Of course! I—“ he appeared confused for a moment. “I remember holding hands with you while we were walking somewhere...a beach maybe? Oh...I’m sorry Ken! I’ll remember eventually...”
“Don’t worry about it, man!” He pulled Butters’ hand close to kiss his knuckles. “I don’t mean to rush you.”
“I remember being real sad when I thought I was never going to see you again,” Butters said, looking more lost and confused than ever. “Are you going to stick around for a while?”
Kenny nodded. “Yeah, dude...I’ll be around as long as you want me to be, actually. Um...I had a huge fight with my parents a couple days ago, and I’m pretty much homeless until I figure out what I’m going to do next.” He left out the part where he’d been living in his parents’ SUV for the last two days that he’d stolen at the same time as the bottle of scotch.
“Oh, you’re not homeless, Kenny!” Butters said. “I mean...I got all this money now, and I’ll be getting out of the hospital in a few days, and I’m going to need a place to live once I do. Why don’t you come work for me? What if I put...I dunno...two million dollars in your bank account? Would that be enough for you to find a house for us to live in? I don’t need anything real fancy.” He was staring at Kenny with a desperately hopeful expression. “But I guess I’m going to need a wheelchair ramp, at least for a while. A—and a couple of bedrooms for us, and I want a big backyard so I can have a garden...and didn’t you say you had a brother and sister you had to take care of? Will that be enough?”
Two million dollars, Kenny thought, knowing that was both an insignificant drop in the bucket to Butters now as well as more money than he’d ever dreamed of having.
“Yeah, Butters. That’s more than enough; but, um...how do you know I’m not just going to take your money and disappear?”
Butters’ eyes narrowed. “Because I think I know you well enough to know you won’t do that,” he replied at once. “And besides, there’s plenty more where that came from.” Kenny smiled at that while Butters reached for his phone on the bedside table and began tapping on its screen. “Here.” He said a minute later and handed Kenny his phone. “Go ahead and put your account number in.”
Kenny did, and they said their good nights soon afterward. The last thing Kenny said before he left was “I’ll get started on finding us a house first thing in the morning.”
Once Kenny was gone, Butters transferred not two million but twenty million dollars into Kenny’s bank account, wishing he could see his face when he went to check his balance next time. Then he put his phone away and settled back against the pillows, feeling at peace for the first time since he’d woken up. He realized it would take him a while to sort out everything that had happened, but he suddenly knew that between all the money he had now and Kenny, he had everything he could ever want.