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.
“You horrible, horrible child,” whispers Aunt Grace. “You knew we were looking for that will, and you said nothing.”
Uncle Hal laughs out loud. “Gracie, chill. Molly’s got all aces right now, and we’ve got bupkus.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” snaps Paul. “I know just how to . . .”
“It means shut up, darling,” Aunt Georgia drawls lazily. “Unless you really don’t want to be executor.”
Sonia shakes out another cigarette and says nothing. She won’t look at Molly, but she’s making mental notes.
In the silence, Molly taps the tip of the bread knife on the counter as she weighs her options. Tap. Tap. Tap. The aunts and uncles fidget, but they’re quiet as children in the principal’s office. Finally, Molly lays down the knife.
“Stay here,” she says, and stalks off to where Grandma Claire’s safe is concealed behind a secret panel in the closet. She can hear Rhinehart’s voice in her head as she opens it: “can’t be too careful these days.”
As it turns out, Grandma Claire is fabulously wealthy. Who knew? Certainly not Molly—she who carries out the recycling and mows the grass. But there it all is, in the will. On a whim, many years ago, Grandma Claire had purchased stock in a little company called Google. This was one impulse that Rhinehart had fully supported.
“Most of them dot-com outfits are gonna dry up,” he said. “But this here Steve Google feller, he’s got him a great idea. I been reading up on him.”
“Oh, who cares?” said Grandma Claire lightly. “I just think it’s a cute name for a company!”
Grandma Claire never mentioned her Google stock to her children, and really, who could blame her. But as they’re finding out now, Grandma Claire is worth just oodles of money, and only she and Rhinehart were aware of how much she had. Old people will surprise you sometimes.
Unfortunately, the will has another surprise for the aunts and uncles, and they are all talking at once, arguing loudly about what Grandma Claire “has done to them.”
“Two million to St. Ignatius!” moans Uncle Paul. “What was she thinking?? Two million. For orphans?” He wipes his head absently with his palm, dragging a few long strands of gray over the pale pink roundness.
“And another million to Primary Children’s Hospital!” adds Aunt Georgia. “It’s shocking, really.”
Aunt Sonia rubs her cheek ferociously. “She had three million in stocks, and she’s left us nothing but a rundown place in St. Cloud, two dead cars, and that rank old cabin on Viola Lake.” She looks at Molly with a special loathing. “You knew all this, didn’t you?”
But Molly is as shocked as anyone. She had always helped Rhinehart with Grandma Claire’s bills, but when it came to what he called “the quarterlies,” she’d had little understanding, and even less interest.
“Did Mother really find infants so compelling?” You can see Aunt Georgia’s stage training as she rolls her perfect eyes. “And orphans, with their grubby hands and their hopeless fashion sense? Pathetic,” she says bitterly. “Just pathetic.”
“Come on, Georgia. The girl,” says Uncle Hal, gesturing toward Molly with the wet end of his cigar. “Show a little class.”
Georgia favors Molly with a brilliant smile. “Oh, Molly’s not a little brown orphan anymore! Are you, darling?” She reaches over to pinch Molly’s cheek. “Now she’s got us . . .”
This was actually a bigger surprise to everyone than Grandma Claire’s wealth, and it didn’t improve the mood in the room. Attached to the will were adoption papers. Molly knew about these, of course. But Grandma Claire had sworn her to secrecy, and Molly never worried about it. Adoption by Grandma Claire changed nothing in Molly’s life, as long as Grandma Claire was alive. Now, of course, it is a very big deal, because it gives her a new set of cards to play. The aunts and uncles can’t just send her away now. As Grandma Claire’s legal child, she is an equal heir with all of them. Well, not quite equal in one way. Grandma Claire has left Molly a share of the estate, but . . . she’s too young to take possession of it.
And unfortunately, Molly now has to go live with one of them, at least until she is eighteen. One of the aunts will be her guardian and the “custodian” of her money. This knowledge begins to fill Molly slowly like a glass of sour milk.
And frankly, what’s left of the estate isn’t that much. In spite of her Google millions, Grandma Claire thought of herself as just a woman who owned her own house and didn’t run up her debts. She didn’t need millions. So it only made sense to her that, just as she bought her stock on impulse, she could leave it on impulse to charity. What remained of her estate—basically the house and land—she left in equal shares to her children, including Molly.
But Molly knew enough about bank accounts to know that, since she wouldn’t be of age for a few years, she may never see a penny of her share. The others would find a way to steal it from her. Molly sat on a stool with head in her hands, staring moodily at the breadcrumbs on the counter.
Aunt Grace doesn’t understand millions. She thinks about what she can snatch up in her bony little fist. Here she stabs the will with a crooked finger. “She promised all her silver to me, not to the Little Brown Urchin. You were there when she said it, Sonia.”
“I heard no such thing!” growls Sonia.
Grace’s voice is rising. “And Paul was to get the big ring, and whatever else he wanted from the jewelry. He’s the oldest, after all. I can’t believe Claire would go back on all these promises.” She sniffs. “It just shows how you never really know a person.”
“You were to get some of the jewelry, Grace darling,” purrs Aunt Georgia with malice. “No one believes you were getting your pick of it. And really, the silver would be worth only a few thousand—hardly enough to pay off brother Paul’s bad investments.”
Uncle Paul is still wiping his head about St. Ignatius, the orphanage back in Minneapolis. “Two million dollars?” he asks the room.
“That’s a stock fund, pal,” says Hal with a wave of the cigar. “Could be a lot more than that—we won’t know till they cash it out. But hey, you’re the big-shot executor. At least you can run up a few expenses, eh? Nudge-nudge, know what I mean?”
“I’m only concerned that Mother wasn’t really herself when she wrote this,” says Georgia flatly. “The poor dear was just exhausted these last few years.” Georgia nibbles at a bagel.
Uncle Hal snorts. “Poor old bat, more like. She’s just made paupers of us all. It would be funny if I didn’t have a bookie to pay.” At that thought, Hal goes a little weepy. “Oh dear saints in heaven. My bookie.” He gets up and opens the cabinet where Grandma Claire kept a few bottles of liquor.
“A bit early for gin, don’t you think?” says Paul. “It’s just after five in the morning.”
“I’m grieving,” snaps Hal. “Besides, it’s scotch.”
Aunt Grace isn’t done screeching. “And why does Sonia get half of what’s left from selling the farm? There are three families here; it should be split in three equal shares!”
Sonia shoots her a look and growls, “Because—you petty anorexic imbecile—I’m the one who has to take the kid. Mother knew it’s the only way I’d do it.”
Molly’s head comes up. “Excuse me?” she says. “You have to . . . what?”
“Paul,” says Grace. “We just can’t accept this. You have to do something.”
“Like what??” says Paul, throwing one hand in the air, the other hand frozen to the top of his head. “This is Mother’s will! It’s not like I can wave a magic wand.”
“Aunt Sonia, what did you say?” Molly asks. “Did you say something about me?”
“It’s tragic how her mind must have gone at the last,” sighs Georgia. “We simply can’t leave things this way, can we, Hal?”
Uncle Hal takes a big swallow and shakes his head. “Don’t see how you can leave em any other way,” he says. “She had it notarized and everything. Must have brought that Jackie Taylor over to the house. That what she did, Molly?”
“Aunt Sonia,” Molly insists. “You said something about me.”
Uncle Hal burps quietly, looking out the front window at car lights pulling into the driveway.
“Sonia,” declares Grace. “If Paul won’t do anything, you have to.”
Uncle Paul stands up. “No! For once, Sonia can’t do a thing,” he declares. “I’m the executor.”
“Just shut up, Paul!” Aunt Sonia screams, and her hair stands out like an electric zinc flag. “Will you shut up for one minute and let me think?”
Uncle Hal opens the door and Rhinehart steps inside.