Fiction by Alan Lawrence Sitomer
Illustrations by Caitlin Kuhwald
This is the story of how I became a 12-year-old billionaire, changed the world and then gave it all up so I could be done with all the headaches and finally just go play videogames with my friends.
And it’s all true. Totally and entirely. Except for the parts I made up, but stick with me, ’cause this story gets NUTS!
So my friend Mike texted me and asked if I wanted to come over and hang out and eat pizza and play videogames. Shawn was coming, too.
I was gonna say yes because I really, really wanted to go, but then I said no because I had some homework I needed to do for English class. But then I said yes, I’d certainly and for sure be there, but then I said no, it wouldn’t be just yet because I had a two-page creative writing essay due for school and not a clue whatsoever in the world as to what to write about. However, right at that moment, I invented something inside my brain that was gonna change the world, but I told the guys it would probably take me at least half an hour to finish it all up and get rich and famous and buy an island and then come over.
Mike understood. Shawn, who never does his homework, didn’t. Whatever. Mom, as usual, wasn’t letting me out the door until I showed her some homework that could make her smile with goofy parent pride. And so then I, well … went to work.
My plan was to create The Ultimate App!
OK, so maybe that’s not the hottest name of all time, but once kids found out what my app could do, I was pretty confident I could’ve called this thing Dog Smell and it still would have been a total home run. Basically, this app would do your homework for you.
Pretty great, right?
My idea was to write a program that would use the camera in a kid’s smartphone to take and then scan a picture of their homework and then have it automatically shoot itself to Google in a search for all the answers. Of course after this Google search, all the correct answers would be automatically plugged back into the blank spaces in the original scan and with a click of a button, a kid could either Bluetooth it over to his printer to make himself a hard copy of his completed homework assignment or have it emailed directly to his teacher for full and entire credit.
Genius, right? Especially since I programmed in a little extra-special bit of love that would allow kids to determine what percentage of answers they wanted to get correct. Only a fool would turn in a week’s worth of homework where he scored a perfect 100 every time. A teacher would catch on by Thursday. But score an 89, a 93, an 86, a 97 and a 93, and you’re working a low A average without drawing a hint of suspicion.
Or having done a lick of work.
And so then I had to price it.
A hundred dollars seemed too steep for a kid to pay, and one dollar didn’t seem like enough. And so then I went with $19.99 ’cause it’s less than $20, and what kid who is really, really motivated to avoid doing all homework for the rest of their life wouldn’t be able to get their hands on less than 20 bucks?
And so then I built it. And so then I launched it. And so then I watched it catch fire. It immediately shot to become the No. 1 best-selling app of the decade in less than four days.
And so then I bought an island — I told ya so — ’cause I like to swim. Of course since I’m not a jerk, I also flew all my friends over on a private jet to check out my neon purple shark tank. But I invited only the ones who had bought and downloaded my app because that only seemed fair.
And so then I rode giraffes. And so then I bought an NBA team. And so then I drove miniature Maserati go-karts around and ate ice-cream sandwiches for dinner. Life was good.
Until I got sued.
And so then I hired lawyers. Like, a lot of them.
And lawyers turned out to be really expensive. And they started asking me about all these things like copyright and permissions and legality and stealing and cheating. And so then I had to hire other lawyers to answer the first group of lawyers. And so then I also had to hire accountants to pay for all the lawyers.
And so then I realized that I didn’t have as much money as I thought I’d had, so I had to sell my island. Apparently, it was a down market. And so then I lost millions on the transaction.
And so then I had to pay real-estate agent fees because apparently even when you lose money on a deal, those guys still make money. And so then I lost a few more bucks.
And so then I really started depending on the sales of the app to pay for all my bills, but the app was removed from the app store “pending further investigation.”
Talk about headaches.
And so then I turned to all my friends who had visited me on the island and asked if I could borrow a few bucks, but it turned out only Mike was able to lend me four singles and seven quarters. Shawn said he would’ve spotted me some greenbacks too, but he already blew his allowance on candy and comics and was totally tapped.
And so then I had to declare bankruptcy. And when you are 12 years old and you declare bankruptcy, your parents get really mad. And so then I was grounded until my sophomore year of college.
And so then I looked up at my mom. And just then I saw her smiling.
Because she always checks over my homework before I’m allowed to go out and play, and apparently my English homework was not only done, but was kinda even good. Sure, it had some run-on sentences, but it was longer than the minimum of two pages, and that always counts as a bonus.
And so then I was set free from the dungeon of my house to go play videogames and eat pizza with Mike and Shawn.
And that’s how I told the truth and told a lie all at the same time when I wrote the sentence, “This is a story of how I became a 12-year-old billionaire, changed the world and then gave it all up so I could be done with all the headaches and finally just go play videogames with my friends.”