on July 12th 2016
Published by Hogarth
Source: From author/publisher
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
“A passionate film buff, our hero’s life revolves around his part-time job at a video store, the company of a few precious friends, and a daily routine that more often than not concludes with pizza and movie in his treasured small space in Stockholm. When he receives an astronomical invoice from a random national bureaucratic agency, everything will tumble into madness as he calls the hotline night and day to find out why he is the recipient of the largest bill in the entire country.”
Our hero lives a small life. He doesn’t pay much attention to the outside world. He works part time at a video store that specializes in obscure foreign films that no one wants to rent. He had a girlfriend once but she left him to go marry the man her family chose. He has one friend.
When the bill comes it is a shock. Why would he owe 500,000 kronor (about $55,000)? Who does he owe it to? He calls the number on the bill and finds out.
Everyone in the world is being charged a fee for the happiness in their lives.
He has the largest bill in Sweden. He’s sure there has to be a mistake. He is allowed to appeal and this starts an investigation about whether he truly is the happiest man in Sweden.
I related to the man in this story. He doesn’t have a life that anyone would objectively describe as great from the outside but he is satisfied with his situation. As much as I come across as sarcastic and cynical at first glance, I’m actually a happy person. It pains me to say it. I don’t want to be an optimist but it seems to be a fact. I was told this in no uncertain terms by my ex-husband. In fact, he listed it as one of my major flaws. “You’re happy in whatever situation you’re in,” he spat at me in true anger. He took that to be a character flaw that led to my lack of desire for social climbing. Recently, I had lunch with a former coworker. At one point she said to me, “You don’t like to seem like it, but you’re nice” in a tone usually reserved for statements like, “You are a horrible racist pig.”
Another thing that raised the hero’s bill was his ability to see the best in situations and to learn from them. I’m afraid that in both of the above situations I was thinking as they happened that each was going to make a wonderful story. When my husband complains about the time in St. Thomas when I almost had us fall off a cliff into the ocean at night I always respond, “We had an adventure!” Oh, I am so screwed when my happiness bill comes due.
This is a great short story about finding out what is truly valuable in life.
What do you think that your happiness bill would be?