The fat letter bore my name in 60 point type, slightly misspelled. ''You have won $10,000,000,'' said the text. ''All you have to do is return the enclosed application with the number you will find elsewhere in this communication. If it proves to be the winning number, you will be presented with a check. No purchase is necessary.'' Then, in tiny letters, the message went on, ''If you do not order a complete set of our pots, however, do not use the order form to enter this contest. On a 3" x 5" card write in block letters the name of this contest, and under it your name, and over it....''
Ten million dollars! I carefully counted the zeros and tried to figure out how much money that was. No matter; it was a lot, worth filling out a 3" x 5" card with whatever they directed, certainly worth a 33 cent stamp.
Looking further, I found several ''game cards,'' slips requiring the scratching off of gilt patches to see what additional prizes I would be entitled to, if I won. Of course in each case I would win the largest prize, as was revealed under the gilt. Great!
Another enclosure bore the inscription, ''Do not open unless you have decided not to order our wonderful pots (or shirts, or pajamas) at this time.'' Since I had so decided, I opened it. It began, ''Frankly....'' Hadn't the previous messages been frank? It said further, ''This may be your last chance to order these wonderful pots at this ridiculously low price.'' I really didn't need pots, but at a ridiculously low price! That price, I soon discovered, was higher than what I had paid for similar pots just recently.
The letter was signed with a familiar name, and adorned by the likeness of a well-known television personality. Surely this offer must be legitimate. I enclosed all the necessary documents in the envelope supplied, affixed a stamp and mailed it well before the posted deadline.
Several weeks later, I received another letter, with my name in big black beautiful script. This time I was informed, ''You have reached the first plateau. Just fill in the appended documents. You are assured of a prize, and are still eligible for the GRAND prize of $10,000,000.''
Alarmed by the caveat, ''If you do not answer by ____ , your name will be stricken from our mailing list,'' I quickly followed all the instructions -- again -- and mailed back the necessary papers, again affixing a 33 cent stamp.
Sure enough, a couple of months later, after I had given up on the whole offer, I received a check, as a first-level winner, for the munificent sum of 40 cents. ''You may be foolish enough to cash this check,'' the accompanying letter advised, ''but you can be smart and use it toward our pots, where it will be credited for twice as much as its face value.''
I still didn't have any use for their pots. The next time I went to the bank I cashed the check. I am now only 26 cents out of pocket, not counting the cost of a 3 x 5 card, on the $10,000,000 contest I entered.
Today I found in the mail another contest offer, this one promising a prize of $50,000,000. Will I enter it? You bet I will!