Molly and the Geezer
and the Death of Grandma Claire
A joyful look at the highest of human values: greed, double-crossing, poor parenting, love, spite, and come-uppance!!
Copyright 2012 Michael Spooner
All rights reserved. Feel free to share a link to these pages,
but do not copy the text, print, or re-post it on any other
site, personal or public.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters herein
to persons living or deceased is purely coincidental.
Molly nibbles a bagel as the others fan out, opening drawers, sorting through shelves. Every so often, they turn up something odd, and they pause to ridicule it.
“I hated history,” Paul says, holding up an antique volume. “Lewis and Clark’s journals, anyone?” Everyone groans.
Grandma Claire has only one filing cabinet, and the uncles have been through that already. It holds warranties for every kitchen appliance Grandma Claire has ever owned. Not just the big stuff—the stove and refrigerator—but the hand mixer, too; the toaster, the spice mill. Also the garage door opener, the ceiling fan, new tires from the car-before-last, the electric can opener. Everything. Saving warranties, Molly knows, was not Grandma Claire’s idea. It was Rhinehart’s.
“Can’t be too careful,” Rhinehart would say. “Something happens to that can opener, you bet the company don’t want it back.” Molly can see him stapling the receipt to the warranty and holding it up. “But you wave this in their face . . . Hah! What are they gonna say then?”
Grandma Claire’s idea of filing was to toss the mail on the counter and have Molly go through it every Tuesday with Rhinehart when he came by for dinner.
“Pay this,” Rhinehart would say, and Molly would make out the check for Grandma Claire to sign. “Make her read this,” and Molly would set it to one side. “Shred that,” and Molly would run it through the shredder that Rhinehart had bought for Grandma Claire when Molly was in sixth grade. “Can’t be too careful,” he had said, testing all the buttons. “Got them identity thefters nowadays on that world wide internet web.”
Rhinehart is extremely well organized for a geezer. Every January, he has Molly making new folders for all of Grandma Claire’s financial papers. “Got to keep the new year separate from the old year,” he always says. Molly hates drudge work.
“Why don’t we just make a folder for every day of the new year?”
“Great idea. I’ll fetch the folders for you.”
“Never mind . . . ”
One Saturday, Rhinehart wheeled in a hundred-pound safe on a furniture dolly and rebuilt the walk-in closet to make a space for it.
“Something starts a fire in this house,” he said, “then that file cabinet becomes a convection oven. Everything gone—pffft! But this . . .” and he slapped a heavy hand on the safe.
“This here is where you want to keep all the most important papers, kiddo.” Then he leaned in. “Don’t let yer grandma just leave stuff around. You know how she’s gettin.”
Molly shrugged. “Whatever,” she said.
“Who made these labels?” demands Aunt Sonia. Molly jumps.
“I did,” she answers.
Aunt Sonia sniffs. “Well, at least you used Mother’s computer for something worthwhile.”
“Who showed you how to make labels on a computer?” asks Uncle Paul suspiciously. Like some people their age, the aunts and uncles don’t understand computers and therefore don’t like them. Only Uncle Hal knows their usefulness for tracking fight results, baseball scores, and horse races—but he’s keeping this quiet.
“Rhinehart showed me,” says Molly.
Paul smiles with satisfaction. “I knew she couldn’t have figured that out by herself,” he says. “And they say the kids these days are so smart. What is Rhinehart—about 150 years old now?”
“Aunt Sonia,” says Molly. “Grandma Claire gave that computer to me.”
“Don’t even think about it,” says Aunt Grace sharply. “Nothing in this house belongs to you.”
“Well,” puts in Hal with true generosity, “she can keep her clothes and shoes and school books and stuff.”
“Grandma Claire gave that computer to me,” Molly says stubbornly. These people are starting to work her last nerve. “All my stories and everything are on it.”
“Oh poor baby,” taunts Sonia. “All her stories . . .”
“Now you listen here, girl,” says Paul, putting on his executor voice again. “You are under age, and you are no relation to our mother or anyone here. Therefore, you can’t claim so much as one dust mite or cockroach in this house. I’m the executor, and you can rest assured that I’ll be looking carefully through every box that leaves with you . . . tomorrow.”
“The single box,” amends Aunt Sonia with glee.
The aunts and uncles have always resented her, and nothing Molly has tried ever seemed to lessen their resentment. Grandma Claire always recommended returning kindness for their cutting remarks, on the theory that they would someday come around. Rhinehart recommended guerilla warfare, and Molly finds herself drawn more and more to his approach this morning. As ugly as they could be, Molly hadn’t ever imagined that the aunts and uncles would actually kick her out of the only house she’d ever known. They are setting new records for spitefulness. So this “tomorrow” business and this “cockroach” business hits her like a slap.
“Claim the cockroaches?” Molly says, raising her voice. “Now, why would I take you with me?”
Uncle Hal snorts, but Aunt Georgia claps her perfect hands together sharply. “Now that’s enough out of you, girl! You may go to your room.”
Molly claps twice in mockery. “Be gone, witch!” she says. “You have no power here.”
Uncle Paul stands up. “You’ve just made your last mistake with this family, Darkie,” he says, coming around the table, rolling up a sleeve. Hal stands, too.
“Paul,” he says. “Let it go. She’s nothing.” But Paul shoves him and lunges past. Hal is trying to hold him back by one arm. They wrestle and thrash, while Aunt Grace shrills and Aunt Georgia claps twice more to no one in particular. General uproar. Somehow, suddenly Molly has the bread knife in her hand, and she thrusts it into the air like an Olympic torch. Everyone dives for cover.
“Now you listen to me!” she screeches. “None of you ever liked me, so don’t even think about bossing me around. Not now and not ever!”
“Insubordination!” says Aunt Grace in a shocked whisper.
“Grandma Claire was the only person in this family who was ever good to me. Now she’s gone, and you can bet I’ll be looking out for myself from now on.” Molly whacks the breadboard with the flat of the knife and thrusts it aloft again.
“Just take it easy, girl,” says Uncle Hal. “Nobody wants you gone tomorrow. Paul was just talking.” Hal is inching his hairy hand along the counter toward Molly.
“You put that hand in your pocket,” Molly says ferociously, “or I swear, you are one second from losing it. Your bookie will have to stand in line.” Hal backs away with his hands behind him.
“You call the shots, then, Molly girl,” he says agreeably. “What’s on your mind?”
“First of all,” says Molly, “if I’m not a member of this family, then I take orders from none of you.”
Aunt Sonia sighs gustily. “Can we just ignore her?” she says. “She’s nothing to us, and we still need to find the will—if there even is one.”
“Secondly,” Molly says, “there is a will, and I know where it is.”