Me and Peter


Marlin M. Jenkins

I met Peter online. I mean, he sent me an email, and from that moment I knew I had to help him. It was such a touching story. About how he couldn't trust his family. About the car crash that killed his wife and kids. The esophageal cancer. It wasn't just about the money.


I told the other teachers at the K-12 about Peter's plea and they weren't convinced. The heartless bastards.


I spelled out why it must have been legit.


First clue: He put URGENT (in all caps) in the subject line.


Second clue: I wouldn't trust my friends or family either. When I won it big at the casino last year, they all wanted something from me, all complained about their Christmas presents.


Third Clue: No one jokes about esophageal cancer.


They all told me it was a scam, as did my wife. But I contacted him anyway. I emailed him back. I said, I know how you feel. I've always wanted to help someone, to have real impact in this world. And thank God for you, Peter. This is the perfect opportunity for us both.


What he wanted help with was this: He had 15 mil he needed transferred to my account, and he needed me to donate to struggling orphanages. He had been doing this kind of charitable work his entire life, but the docs only gave him six more months. He said I could use some of the money to pay myself for my time and to cover any expenses. Win-win.


When I emailed him, he asked for contact information, bank account numbers, a scanned copy of my driver's license and passport to verify my identity. Then he found me on Facebook and we had a few good chats every week, usually when I was up early in the mornings and couldn't fall back asleep, my wife hogging the covers again on her side of the bed.


After I started sleeping on the couch I would send Peter messages to see how he was doing, check up on the cancer situation. Tell him I was there for him whenever he needed me, assure him I was researching orphanages in the impoverished parts of the States.


As soon as the transfer cleared I printed out my bank statement and showed it to the other teachers. Mostly I was accused of Photoshop. I was going to show my wife but figured she wouldn't be too interested. She was only worried about the money in her own account anymore.


Three months after the initial email I showed up at my first orphanage, a small place in Detroit. With how I was able to navigate those one-way roads so easily, so full of purpose, I knew this was destiny. In the midst of the abandoned train station and graffiti and cracked sidewalks that hungered to be New York or Chicago: this is what Peter wanted, hope rising like steam from the streets.


I walked in and saw children sitting at tables, eating lunch. I imagined each at my table at home, my wife eating sandwiches with us. They nodded and gave me a thumbs up and smiled as I waved. None of them turned their head or whispered to each other like at the K-12.


I wrote that $1 million check and gave it to the woman who ran the place, and she leapt into my arms and gave me a kiss. I had to remind her that the children were watching. And that I was a married man.


Once I had visited 10 orphanages, I got another email from Peter. Mostly we talked through Facebook, so when I got an email from him, all caps in the subject line, I knew it was important.


He was making a miraculous recovery. I think the pictures I sent him of the orphanages, the owners and volunteers, the smiles and tears with those 1 mil checks in their hands did some good for him. He wanted me to come and live with him as he started his new life. And, bonus: he didn’t have to lose his esophagus.


He told me to keep the last $5 million and pack up what I needed and come to Nigeria. We bought a nice little house near downtown Abuja. In the evenings we watch the soccer games together.


He's a good friend, not like the people from home. I tell him about the States, about the economy, about universal healthcare, about the way those orphans would look me in the eyes in a way my students never did. I don’t speak much about my wife, and he never asks.


I don't often talk to people in the States anymore but, when I do, they ask if he stole my information, or my money. The usual questions. I tell them of the real Peter, of his big heart, of his character, of a man who dresses nice when going out to dinner, who has traveled widely, and has nothing but my love and my respect.


 About the Writer

Marlin M. Jenkins was born and raised in Detroit and graduated from Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan. His writings have been given homes by decomP, Squalorly, Cheap Pop, and others. You can find him online at