1: THE OFFICE
Michael Stanton sits in a mahogany walled room. He anxiously puffs away at a cigarette, pretending to look relaxed. Across from him sits his father’s lawyer, Ted Rosenbaum. Michael is a young, handsome man in his mid 30’s. He offers a starkly defined contrast to Ted, whom God blessed with neither looks nor personality.
Ted glares over at Michael with a look of disdain. “You know you can’t smoke in here, Michael. I’ve told you that.” Michael takes another anxious haul off his Newport as he tries to deflect the situation. “Yeah, you’ve told me, Ted. But, I think we’ve got bigger issues to settle here than a little bit of smoke in your face.”
Ted reaches into his desk and pulls out a small pouch and places it on the desk. Michael looks over the pouch and tries to mask his curiosity with tomfoolery. “The suspense is killing me. I hope those are $1000 bills if they’re going to fit in that little pouch.” Tom ignores the comment completely.
“As you know, Michael, your father made me executor of his will. I think that over the years our bond went beyond lawyer and client and into the realm of true friendship.
I know he couldn’t speak in the later stages of his illness, but he had written a lot of things in a journal. It seems that he may have had a change of heart concerning his position, both financially and spiritually.”
Michael can barely contain himself as he sits. This is completely foreign to everything his father has taught him, and he can no longer remain silent. “This is complete bullshit! Spiritually? All he cared about was his cars, planes, his fuckin’ mansion…you know that, Ted!”
“Michael, I know where you are coming from. The father that you knew is not the same man who passed on.” Ted wipes a little bead of sweat from his brow, showing his first sign of weakness before he continues. “On that end, I have to inform you that your father has given away the majority of his fortune to various charitable organizations and causes.”
Michael can’t believe it. “Are you fuckin’ kidding me? Are you fuckin’ even remotely fuckin’ serious?” Ted tries not to act fazed. “You’re serious? My father gave everything away? The same father who told me that a measure of a man is the wealth he creates? The same father who bought me a day planner for my 12th birthday because he wanted me to get my life in order?” Ted clears his throat.
“Michael, I said that your father donated most of his wealth to charity. I didn’t say that he gave it all away.” Michael’s face lights up. “On that note, I am supposed to give this to you before you leave.” Ted hands over the small pouch that has been sitting on the table. Michael looks at the pouch with nothing but contempt for it. He wants to push it away. He wants to throw it out the window. His curiosity peaked; Michael opens up the pouch and pulls out the contents. A stopwatch.
Michael feels the need to lay the sarcasm on very thick at this point. “Okay, this is just getting better and better. No inheritance and now I’ve inherited a stopwatch. What a day! End the suspense and just tell me I’m on a hidden camera show now. Holy shit!” Michael just stares at the watch in disbelief. Ted notices the obvious fact that Michael is about two seconds away from smashing the stopwatch into pieces.
“Michael, your father wanted you to have that stopwatch. As you know, I’m only carrying out your father’s wish, and here it is.” Michael just continues to stare at the watch, almost in a trancelike state. Ted continues. “Your father still has a sizeable fortune left over which will go to you.” Michael now looks away from the watch, and anxiously hangs on to every word coming from Ted’s mouth.
“Your father requests that you take this stopwatch with you when you leave here. You are to receive a call from myself at some point today. Make sure that your phone is on at all times. When I call you, you will have to take that stopwatch with you to a predetermined meeting of which I cannot tell you the details.”
“At the meeting, you will bring the stopwatch and synchronize it with a stopwatch on my end. You must set the stopwatch for exactly 30 minutes. You must make it through this meeting without leaving even 10 seconds early. Once you complete this meeting, and once I have confirmed it on my end, you will have completed the task your father set out for you, and you will receive your inheritance. Fifty million dollars.”
Michael is at an obvious loss for words. The seconds pass into a minute, and Michael finally composes himself. “Fifty million dollars?” Ted looks Michael straight in the eyes. “Yes.” Michael feels the need to remain the alpha male in this meeting and his lips move more rapidly than his thought patterns. “My father was worth over a billion dollars. He leaves me with only fifty? That’s bullshit!” Ted is not buying the façade of power that Michael is trying to sell, and calls the young man on his bluff.
“You and I both know that fifty million dollars is a lot of money. That’s a lot more money than you personally have right now, isn’t that right, Michael?” Michael tries to remain stoic, but Ted has wrapped the hammer completely around the nail and both parties know this fact. Having been called out, Michael halts his offensive and humbly addresses Ted. “So, keep my phone on at all times, you said?” He calmly nods an affirmative to Michael. Michael extends his hand to Ted. Ted shakes it firmly and Michael places the stopwatch back into the pouch. He clutches it tightly and slowly exits the office.
2: THE APARTMENT
Michael sits in his dimly lit apartment. The walls are adorned with beautiful, yet generic prints and paintings. His cell phone suddenly and very loudly breaks the rhythm of a ticking clock, and Michael snaps out of his temporary daze. He flips it open, and tries not to appear anxious as he speaks. “This is Michael.” On the other end, Ted’s voice is heard. Ted is very calm and deliberate, as he dishes out the instructions to Michael. “You are to go to 75th and 1st Avenue. On the corner, you will see a medical clinic called Med America. You are to go to the second floor, and ask for Dr. Julia Lee. Once you are in the office and seated, you are to send me a text confirming that you are in the office. I will independently verify this fact. Once I text you back, you are to start your stopwatch at 30 minutes; no more, no less.” Michael sits down, glued to the conversation as Ted continues. “Once the stopwatch has hit zero, you are free to go.” I will be waiting for you outside of the clinic with a certified check for fifty million dollars.”
3: THE CLINIC
Michael opens the door of the clinic. The clinic is almost too pristine. Michael quickly rushes to the counter. “Michael Stanton. Here to see Dr. Julia Lee. She should be expecting me.” The receptionist meets Michael’s eager stare with a little twisted smile. “Yes. Mr. Stanton. We’ve been seeing your father for some time. I’m sorry about his passing.” Michael is a little taken aback by this information and is at a loss for words, so the receptionist continues. “Please follow me. Dr. Lee will be with you in just a minute.”
The receptionist sits Michael down and leaves the room. Immediately, Michael takes out his phone. He texts, “I am at Dr. Lee’s office. She will be with me shortly. Michael.” Almost instantaneously, a text message is sent back to him. “I know. I will be waiting for you outside. Ted.” Michael takes a deep breath and pulls out the stopwatch. He puts it on the counter beside him and waits. Dr. Lee opens the door shortly thereafter.
Dr. Lee looks at the stopwatch on the counter. “Let me guess? You can’t start that stopwatch until I sit down, right?” Michael is understandably confused and can’t mask it. Dr. Lee continues. “I know why you’re here. Your father spent a lot of time here.” She continues toward his direction. “But let me sit down first.” She smiles. “Okay, Michael. Go ahead.” Michael starts the stopwatch at “30”.
The stopwatch begins to tick down as Dr. Lee goes on. “Well, Michael. I guess I should start by saying that I’m Dr. Julia Lee. I know you know that, but I’d like to introduce myself personally as well.” Michael extends his hand to hers. “I’m Michael Stanton. I know you know that for some reason, but I guess…ditto.” Dr. Lee’s smile puts Michael at ease as she continues.
“As I said, your father was a patient of ours for some time. He was with us for many years, in fact. Did you know that, Michael?” Michael can’t make eye contact with Dr. Lee. It takes him a moment, but he finally comes around. “No, I didn’t. My father and I hadn’t spoken for a few years, so I didn’t really know he was sick. But I’m sure you knew that.” Without batting an eyelash, Dr. Lee comes back with a simple, “Yes. I did.”
Michael feels the need to justify his absence. “Well, then you know that my father was a pretty hard guy to get along with, and we didn’t have the best father and son bond.” Dr. Lee mildly nods her head. “Yes, I spoke with your father over the years and he did mention you on many occasions. I think you would have been surprised at the man he was under our care.”
Michael still can’t make eye contact with the doctor. There are many awkward and long pauses that seem drawn out longer than they have to be. Michael looks at his stopwatch. It has ticked down to “20”. He realizes that he is only a few minutes away from the fifty million dollars. Twenty minutes until he can finally be free of his father’s shadow forever and move on with his life.
Michael goes on. “Before he died, he couldn’t really talk, so I didn’t really get a chance to see how he’d changed.” “His lawyer told me the same thing,” Dr. Lee interrupts. “Ted, right?” Michael smiles at the fact that Dr. Lee is always one step ahead of him. “Yes. Ted. That’s absolutely right.” Minutes pass in silence and Michael slowly regains his composure and decides to cut to the chase.
“So, can you tell me why I’m here, Dr. Lee?” Dr. Lee takes a second and looks Michael straight in the eye. “Well, I guess there’s only ten minutes left on your stopwatch, so we had better get moving, right?” Michael looks down at his stopwatch only to discover that the time has just ticked to “10”.
He tries to act unfazed. “Well, I’d like to know why I’m meeting with you? Dr. Lee nods her head in understanding. She begins. “Your father had a neurological disease that has never been recorded before. In fact, we don’t have a name for the disease as of yet. As such, your father contributed mass amounts of money in an effort to find a cure. Through our testing, we were able to make some strides on trying to find what caused the disease and how it’s passed.”
Michael tries to take it all in. “So, why are you telling me this? If there’s no cure and if he’s the only one who had it, how does this affect anybody else? Why are you wasting my time? He was trying to save himself up until the very end. Selfish prick!”
Dr. Lee interrupts him. “Michael, he was happy to die knowing he did what he could for himself. But near the end of his time, we made a major discovery about the disease.” Michael looks down at the clock. It ticks down to “5”. Five minutes until he can walk out of here and get his fifty million dollars and live worry-free.
Michael pries. “Okay, so what’s this major discovery?” Dr. Lee looks very focused now as she gazes into Michael’s eyes. “The major discovery is that it’s genetic. You stand to inherit this disease by a one hundred per cent likelihood.” Dr. Lee grabs Michael’s hand. “Michael, you will get this disease. You most likely already have it, but you haven’t started to show symptoms. But you will. That’s a fact. And you will die just like your father if we don’t find a cure.”
Michael is at a loss for words. He stares into the doctor’s eyes for a second. Dr. Lee continues. “Michael, the reason that you are here is simple. Your father put all his money except that fifty million dollars into finding a cure for this disease. Not for himself, because he was too far along anyway at that point. He put all that money into finding a cure for you. Because he wanted you to live a full, happy life.” Michael has no words to speak, nor the saliva to speak them.
“Your father left you fifty million dollars and a choice. Go live out your dreams and have fun for the next few years until you get this disease, or put it toward finding a cure. Not just for yourself, but for your children and grandchildren if you choose to have them.” Dr. Lee’s words could slice through the air.
“You are guaranteed to get this incurable disease, and your children’s children are guaranteed to get this disease. The choice is yours, Michael. Do you choose to spend the money on material things until you get the disease? Or do you choose to put the money toward helping your future and the future of yours. This is why you’re here.” Dr. Lee knows the gravity of the situation at hand. She can only say, “I’m sorry, Michael.”
Michael cannot contemplate the decision that is being presented to him. He puts his head in his hands as he tries to come to grips with the choice in front of him. Everything was supposed to be so easy. It was all supposed to be over in a few minutes.
Michael finally realizes that life is a simple series of ticks on this stopwatch that is life, and his are all about to end. As a tear streams down his face, he glances down at the stopwatch. The stopwatch ticks to “0”.