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I heard a radio drama many years ago about a man that is down and out in (I think) a Times Square hotel. Possibly considering killing himself, when suddenly, a machine appears. It is shiny and from the future; called something like MC4000 (I am pretty sure the # was 4000, but the prefix would have referred, perhaps, to a credit card company, i.e., "MC"-Master Card).

He thinks that he is having his wishes granted by this machine when everything he asks the machine for appears; including a huge marble mansion. The story ends with him getting a bill for all the things he has asked for. The machine, as it turns out, is not an "Aladdin's lamp" as he supposed, but a "credit card" from the future and he owes many millions of dollars! Of course he can't pay it, so he is sent to a debtor's work prison where all day he slaves extracting marble from a quarry.

As the story ends he is dreading the hard labor he is destined to perform for the rest of his life, but expresses solace to a fellow prisoner that he will probably die many years before he pays off the debt. The fellow prisoner says, "That is, of course, unless you purchased eternal life." (which of course he had!) The final words are the fellow prisoner saying something like, "and there is always some sucker ordering a Marble Mansion."

  • Can you recall approximately when you heard this, or perhaps even what station it was on? – Adamant Sep 26 '16 at 0:39
  • It had to be at least 20 years ago on a (probably public radio) station that aired in Long Island NY that played old radio dramas of all types (not just sci-fi); my guess is that the recording itself was from the late 30s; the acting was very much in the style of The Shadow. – SAL MACALUSO Sep 26 '16 at 12:14
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I heard a radio drama many years ago

"Something for Nothing" is a short story by Robert Sheckley, first published in Galaxy Science Fiction, June 1954, available at the Internet Archive (story starts on page 55). Also available at the Archive, the X Minus One radio adaptation aired on April 10, 1957 (this also available on YouTube).

about a man that is down and out

Definitely not prosperous:

But had he heard a voice? He couldn't be sure. Reconstructing it a moment later, Joe Collins knew that he had been lying on his bed, too tired even to take his waterlogged shoes off the blanket. He had been staring at the network of cracks in the muddy yellow ceiling, watching water drip slowly and mournfully through.

[. . . .]

Out of the army, Joe had avoided work, for which he was psychologically unsuited. He had drifted around, hoping that some fabulously wealthy person would be induced to change his will, leaving him Everything.

in (I think) a Times Square hotel.

I don't know about the Times Square hotel, but he is in New York City when the story begins:

First, he would get the machine out of New York—upstate, perhaps—some place where he wouldn't be bothered by nosy neighbors. The income tax would be tricky on this sort of thing. Perhaps, after he got organized, he should go to Central America, or . . .

. . . suddenly, a machine appears. It is shiny and from the future; called something like MC4000

Collins knelt to examine it. The machine was about three feet square and it was humming softly. The crackle-gray surface was featureless, except for a red button in one corner and a brass plate in the center. The plate said, CLASS-A UTILIZER, SERIES AA-1256432. And underneath, WARNING! THIS MACHINE SHOULD BE USED ONLY BY CLASS-A RATINGS!

He thinks that he is having his wishes granted by this machine when everything he asks the machine for appears; including a huge marble mansion.

The rest of the day, Collins reclined on a couch and drank iced beverages while the Maxima Olph Construction Company materialized equipment and put up his house.

It was a low-slung affair of some twenty rooms, which Collins considered quite modest under the circumstances. It was built only of the best materials, from a design of Mig of Degma, interior by Towige, a Mula swimming pool and formal gardens by Vierien.

By evening, it was completed, and the small army of workmen packed up their equipment and vanished.

The machine, as it turns out, is not an "Aladdin's lamp" as he supposed, but a "credit card" from the future

"You are laboring under a misapprehension, sir," Flign said with quiet dignity. "The A-rating does not represent a social group, as you seem to believe. It is merely a credit rating."

"A what?" Collins asked slowly.

"A credit rating." Flign glanced at his watch. "We haven't much time, so I'll make this as brief as possible. Ours is a decentralized age, Mr. Collins. Our businesses, industries and services are scattered through an appreciable portion of space and time. The utilization corporation is an essential link. It provides for the transfer of goods and services from point to point. Do you understand?

Collins nodded.

"Credit is, of course, an automatic privilege. But, eventually, everything must be paid for."

and he owes many millions of dollars!

The total came to slightly better than eighteen billion Credits.

Of course he can't pay it, so he is sent to a debtor's work prison where all day he slaves extracting marble from a quarry [. . .] "and there is always some sucker ordering a Marble Mansion."

"What's this?"

"This is a pick," the man said patiently. "And over there is a quarry, where you and I and a number of others will cut marble."

"Marble?"

"Sure. There's always some idiot who wants a palace," the man said with a wry grin. "You can call me Jang. We'll be together for some time."

Collins blinked stupidly. "How long?"

"You work it out," Jang said. "The rate is fifty credits a month until your debt is paid off."

. . . expresses solace to a fellow prisoner that he will probably die many years before he pays off the debt. The fellow prisoner says, "That is, of course, unless you purchased eternal life."

"The first thousand years? I won't live that long!"

"Sure you will, Jang assured him. You got immortality, didn't you?"

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    I don't know what to say! You guys are awesome! I have been trying to track down that story for years! I am actually in tears! THANK YOU!!!! – SAL MACALUSO Sep 26 '16 at 18:39
  • Here is an audio of this story: youtube.com/watch?v=4nTa4mEWxGk – SAL MACALUSO Sep 27 '16 at 2:15
  • @SALMACALUSO Did you notice that one of the links in my answer is a link to an index of archived X Minus One radio dramas? That audio of "Something for Nothing" is number 94 in the index. I also linked to a scan of the original magazine story. – user14111 Sep 27 '16 at 3:37
  • The blue phrases in my answer are clickable links. – user14111 Sep 27 '16 at 3:47
  • I love the X-Minus One dramatization of this story... – Doug R. Sep 27 '16 at 11:40

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