Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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CNF Essay
1510 words
SHJ Issue 12
Spring 2015

The $10,000 Offer

by Megan Vered

When Miguel asks me to marry him, I think, Why not? A quick trip to Boston City Hall in exchange for $10,000 cash. What could be bad about that? Fortunately, I have the good sense to call Dick Miller, my father’s law school buddy.

“Do you love him?”

“No, he’s not my boyfriend or anything.”

“Then why marry him?”

“He’s a waiter at the restaurant where I work. He needs his green card. Is there any reason I shouldn’t do this?”

“I can’t tell you what to do, Megan, but do me one favor. Call your father.”


“Please just do as I ask. Call your father.”

I wait until Saturday. It is three hours earlier in California, so I carefully time my call. I dial the phone. Imagine his response. My father, the grand adventure seeker will be proud of me. I am his high-dive, daredevil daughter, the one who braves whirling waters. I bristle at rules and regulations, much to my mother’s chagrin. Daddy will think I am doing something daring, courageous. He’ll give me a virtual bear hug and say, “That’s my girl.”

I could not have been more off base.


In 1976 long-distance phone calls are expensive. We only pick up the phone when urgent life cycle events are dispatched: divorce, death, marriage, and babies. Otherwise, we write letters. So when my father hears my voice he knows something is up.

“Hi, Daddy. How are you?”

“Fine, just fine. Is everything okay?”

“Dick Miller suggested I call you. You see there’s this guy. His name is Miguel.”

I immediately feel my father’s concern on the other end of the line. Any conversation starting with “There’s this guy named Miguel” cannot bode well.

“He asked me to marry him.”

“He what?”

“Yeah, he asked me to marry him. Next week, so he can get his green card.”

“He asked you to marry him?”

“Yeah, and he’s gonna give me $10,000.”

To set the record straight, I have absolutely zero romantic interest in Miguel. He is a dinner waiter at the restaurant at the top of the Prudential Building, where I work evenings as a cocktail waitress. We’ve known each other for a few months. We take our coffee and smoke break together sometimes. He is perfectly nice, but neither devastatingly handsome, nor poetic, nor intellectual. No wow factor.

I want to say yes, because I figure it is a minimal-risk situation. At age 23 I am a free agent, and though I have a hot Guatemalan boyfriend named Raphael, marriage for love is not on my radar. Green-card marriage is an exciting experience. Why not?

I foresee that my father, who dropped out of Boalt Law School after the second year and became a freewheeling, self-employed business entrepreneur would approve of me doing something so open-minded and unconventional. I imagine that he will think I am pulling off a dashing business deal by making a wad of cash for minimal effort.

“He’s going to what?”

“Give me $10,000.”

“For marrying him?”

“Yeah. All I have to do is marry him. We won’t stay married or anything if that’s what you’re wondering.”

“Where is he getting the money?”

“I dunno. Maybe his parents?”

“Some guy from El Salvador just waltzes up to my daughter and asks her to marry him.”

“Dad, he’s from Guatemala.”

Man, this is not going at all as I had anticipated. Then the floodgates open.

“You tell that son of a bitch that if he were here right now I would wring his fucking neck. Marriage is a sacred institution. Who the fuck does he think he is asking my daughter to do something like this?”

I am speechless on the other end of the phone. Since when does my nonconformist father, who lives every day on the edge, consider any institution sacred?

“Do you understand what a selfish request this is? Promise me you will not do this.”

At this point, my father begins spewing swear words, letters strung together like the alphabet gone berserk. I manage to calm him down by promising I will tell Miguel no.

Now comes the hard part. I have to go back to Miguel and tell him no when I have already given him an implicit yes. I so want to be that selfless girl who’d give him the chance to become an American. While the cash is an obvious perk, I am mostly motivated by a romanticized sense of altruism, yet another trait of my father’s that I admire. I find Miguel at the restaurant the following day. I see it in his eyes. He knows.

“I’m so sorry, Miguel. I can’t marry you.”

“But I thought—”

“I spoke to my father.”

“But you said—”

“I can’t.”

“You told me yes. I’ve made plans.”

His eyes flash with anger.

It was all flowers and kisses as long as I was trending toward yes. All I can do is walk away. The already lukewarm friendship I’ve had with him goes cold after I decline his offer. I wrestle with the aftermath of guilt. I could have made someone’s life better and didn’t.


Fast-forward ten years. I am now married (as in really married) to a struggling musician, am the mother of two young children, and have a busy practice teaching Lamaze classes for expectant parents. Miguel’s $10,000 offer is history as are my spirited 20s. Much to my surprise, I have become domesticated.

A woman who had been my student calls me one day. She begins the conversation by telling me she has something difficult to ask me. Her voice sounds like a strained violin. And then it comes.

“You don’t have to answer me right away. And I will completely understand if you say no.”

She tells me that she is unable to conceive a second time due to post-measles ovarian failure. She and her husband want to pay me for donating my egg. Apparently I have everything they want in a gene pool. They consider me beautiful, bright, and someone whose egg they would be happy to fertilize. She offers a brief overview of the hormonal injection protocol and egg-harvesting process. She recognizes she is putting me on the spot, asks me to think about it and get back to her. She offers me $10,000. Not for marriage this time, but for a baby. Not for a green card, but for a real life babe-in-arms.

I cannot say I am not tempted. A stack of hard cash would make a huge difference in my hand-to-mouth existence. This would give me the opportunity to—in an out-of-the-ordinary way—have that third child I have dreamed of. Besides, giving of myself in this way would allow me to walk in my father’s bighearted footsteps. He is no longer alive, but I imagine—were I able to call him—he would approve of this philanthropic gesture.


This time I call my girlfriend Lise. She is a fellow Lamaze teacher who gets the baby thing. A straight-shooter, I know I can depend on her to be forthright without being judgmental. I dial the phone, wavering. I might not have the stamina to go through the hormonal hell that awaits me should I say yes. On the other hand, I am motivated to create another life. And oh, that money; it is calling my name.

Lise’s reaction is not much different from my father’s. Her feelings, though unequivocal, are meted out with a little more restraint. She manages to make her point without cursing.

“They asked you to what? Donate your egg? Megan, having a baby is a personal and sacred thing that you do with your husband. I cannot believe that anyone would ask you to do something like this. How selfish! And think about it, one day you will be walking down the street and you will see a little girl, a little Megan who should have been yours. You can’t give your egg away like that! The answer is absolutely not!”

I hear everything she says and know she is right. Clearly, I have to call my student and decline, even though I am oddly attracted to the idea of having another little Megan in the world.

Again, the hardest part is the phone call I make the following day to say that I am unable to help. I still have a romantic yearning to be the one who can say yes to such things without flinching.

Today, when I look back on this gamble called life, I still feel a twisted tinge of regret that I failed to help two people in need. I am also aware that though I lost $20,000, I averted the aftershock of a fraudulent green-card marriage, and I never have to worry that there is a look-alike little girl out there with a big heart who might be genetically predisposed to say yes to ill-advised requests.


SHJ Issue 12
Spring 2015

Megan Vered

is an MFA candidate in writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts, whose nonfiction has appeared in such publications as the “First Person” column of the San Francisco Chronicle as well as Amarillo Bay, Crack the Spine, The Diverse Arts Project, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Existere Journal of Arts and Literature, The Penmen Review, The Oklahoma Review, and Lake Effect.

She was the featured essayist in Mezzo Cammin (Spring 2014), and was among the authors featured in the Story Chairs short-story installation at Jack Straw Productions in Seattle (2013).

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury