Could my life just be a big TV series? It would explain a few strange things...

In the latest instalment of his weekly diary, a lottery ticket found by chance is burning a hole in Fabien McQuillan’s pocket. What if he actually won?

Fabien McQuillan

Fabien McQuillan

Fabien McQuillan writes a weekly diary about getting to grips with his new life in rural Tyrone

Jim Carrey standing in an office in The Truman Show
The Truman Show explored the idea that a man's life was actually an elaborate reality TV show

I was sitting in our little village café with the children when a familiar face peeked in the window and waved. It was Father Austin, our PP, and he practically ran through the door to speak to me.

I had been in dreamland up until then, unable to chase the image of winning the lottery – from the ticket I had found, or had it found me? – from my gorbish thoughts. In the furthest reaches of my mind my little smiley face was winking and waving and whispering about holidays, a new jeep for Fionnuala, a top-drawer stereo system.

And I was on a lucky streak. All sorts of good things had already happened: the free Syrian haircut the young woman commented that day; the voucher from Mrs Davison; the ticket itself wafting onto my lap.

Since then, Fionnuala had also gotten a pay raise and our mortgage repayments went down for the first time in donkeys.

Could it all be happenstance? I mean it had all the hallmarks of The Truman Show, where Jim Carrey is oblivious to the fact that his whole life is a huge TV series. But that was fiction. Life for me in Tyrone was concretely real, but the notion that the whole of Japan was watching my soap opera every evening was not completely absurd.

Jim Carrey in The Truman Show standing at his door and pointing
Jim Carrey was star of The Truman Show

I wrestled with the moral questions but the devious mind is a powerful persuader. What good would it have done to leave it behind the shop counter? For one of the pimply youths who work there to stick it in their pocket? And who was going to go back to the shop to say they lost a lucky dip? The fact is that shop didn’t even sell the lottery so that almost certainly ruled it out. No, I told myself, this is a finders-keepers scenario. End of. But one that I would still keep on the down-low.

“Call me Frosty.” Fr Austin was babbling. “It was my nickname at the seminary. Fr Austy. F R A U S T Y.” He spelt it out but I wasn’t sure about the over-familiarity, and I was irked that the spell had been broken by this man of the cloth. “Sunday, second Mass, just sit up near the front and I’ll give you the nod.” He was talking ten to the dozen and gave me a slip of paper with the readings on it. He left shouting goodbye and God bless to everyone in the café and I gathered up the children and went home.

I was on a lucky streak. All sorts of good things had already happened. Could it all be happenstance?

“You aren’t listening to me, Fabien.” Fionnuala was on the computer. “Which do you think?” She was right and I had to apologise. I told her I was preoccupied by the fear of reading at Mass. “Your own fault. You volunteered.”

“I did not indeed. I was forced to say yes that night he cornered me in my car. And now I’m the one with a Belfast accent reading at Mass.”

Fionnuala was looking at holiday options for the summer. Everything was dear and she had narrowed down to a couple of options: campsite in Brittany, or all-inclusive in Majorca, and she wanted to book now. “Which do you think, Fabien? We are not going to get soaked in Donegal again. I can’t decide.”

Nor could I, so I asked her which was the most expensive. Brittany, when all things were considered, and it was clearly her preference. “Me too so that’s that then,” I said. “Life is short and we only have so many family holidays so let’s go exactly where we want and not worry.”

Fionnuala eyed me steadily but hit a button on the computer. “Clear and concise, Fabien. It’s not like you.”

But I was looking at the page Frosty had slipped in my hand at the café. The first reading was from Isaiah: “Wash, make yourselves clean. Take your wrongdoings out of my sight. Cease to do evil. Learn to do good.”

And I thought of the lottery ticket in my pocket. I’d know by Sunday morning.