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
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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.
“Morning,” says Rhinehart. He wipes his boots absent-mindedly and hangs his dirty jacket on the peg beside the door. This is the first time in a long time that Molly has looked at Rhinehart closely. He looks . . . she doesn’t know—older. Too serious. Not crabby enough. Worn out. It makes her want to give him a hug, and this troubles her deeply.
In his knobby hand, Rhinehart has a clutch of wildflowers. Molly takes these and trades him a cup of coffee. She says nothing as she arranges the flowers in a water glass on the counter.
“Well, Rhinehart,” says Uncle Paul. “We were wondering about you.”
Rhinehart squints at him over the coffee cup. “Is that a fact?” he says.
“How long have you been coming here every morning?” asks Paul. “Forty years, I bet.”
“Since before you lost your hair, Paulie boy,” says Rhinehart. “Since before your voice dropped.” Paul flushes, and Uncle Hal snorts.
“Paul,” he laughs, “you never can get a punch in before Rhinehart nails you. I wouldn’t bait him, if I were you.”
Paul is too busy fuming to be much interested in banter right now. Sonia is staring a hole in her pack of smokes, and Georgia fiddles with the flowers. Rhinehart takes in the scene, and then slurps at his coffee again.
“Pretty glum group,” he says. “Must mean Claire is still with us, eh? You’d be at her money, otherwise.”
“Hah!” says Paul bitterly. “What money? She’s left it all to St. Ignatius.”
Molly suddenly realizes that Rhinehart doesn’t know, and this fills her with sadness for both of them. She takes a handful of his sleeve and leans her head on his shoulder. Rhinehart pats her awkwardly with one hand.
“Rhinehart,” she whispers. “Grandma Claire passed away a little while ago.” In spite of herself, Molly begins to leak tears onto Rhinehart’s shirtsleeve.
“You don’t say,” Rhinehart murmurs, still patting her shoulder. “You don’t say. Well now.”
“Rhinehart,” Molly whispers again. “I have to go with Aunt Sonia. Did you know about that?”
“Oh, you wretched imbecile!” snaps Sonia. “As if what happens to you is the most important thing in the world right now.”
Rhinehart adjusts his arm under Molly’s grip, and then he turns to Sonia.
“Taking care of Molly was the most important thing in the world to Claire,” he observes. “What’s the most important thing to you? I’m gonna bet it’s the will.”
“You’re damn right it’s the will!” screeches Aunt Grace. “Claire has left everything to St. Ignatius and nothing to her family! What kind of a mother is that?”
“Take a breath, Gracie,” says Uncle Hal. “You’re going to pop a blood vessel.” He pours himself another scotch.
“Two million to St. Ignatius . . .” whispers Georgia. “We didn’t even know she had two million.”
“Yep,” says Rhinehart. “I told her you’d be surprised.”
“Sonia!” says Grace. “What shall we do?”
Georgia is starting to panic, too. “We can’t leave it like this, Sonia!”
“Wait a minute. I’m the executor; Sonia can’t do anything.” This is Paul, of course, grasping at straws. Sonia waves him off.
“It doesn’t matter, Paulie boy,” she mocks. “Nobody can do anything. You’re stuck with your junk bond scheme, and I’m stuck with the little brown orphan. There are no loopholes in this will; I’ve been over it twice now.”
“And I’m stuck with Hal’s gambling??” shouts Georgia. “No! I don’t think so!”
Tumult and shouting ensue once again in Grandma Claire’s kitchen. Rhinehart watches quietly while he sips his coffee.
Molly’s disgust overcomes her tears. She gets up to pour another coffee for Rhinehart. It occurs to her, as she does this, that she may have one hope here—one hope to get her away from Aunt Sonia, to keep her out of the orphanage, and to save her share of the estate for her future. And though she had never thought of it before, she realizes now that this hope has always been Rhinehart himself.
“Rhinehart,” Molly says, rubbing her nose fiercely with a tissue. “You can do something, can’t you?
“The Geeze?” asks Paul incredulously. “Rhinehart the Run-Down? Rhinehart the Romeo who could never get up his courage to marry Mother? He’s going to save us all somehow?” Paul is at the very edge, and he begins to laugh.
Molly flares up at this. “You didn’t even know Grandma Claire had money! Who do you think made that money for her?”
“Oh, like Rhinehart is some big-time day trader,” says Paul.
“Don’t approve of day-trading,” Rhinehart says flatly. “Too risky. You play the stock market, you better do your homework and think very long-term.”
Uncle Hal now looks at Rhinehart with interest. “So, Rhinehart,” he asks. “You got a little stash like Claire’s, too?”
“Of course he doesn’t,” scoffs Paul. Sonia turns away with a shrug.
“What I own or don’t own is no concern of anyone here,” says Rhinehart quietly. “Molly shouldn’t a brung it up.”
“Oh, jeeze,” says Hal. “I’ve seen this face at the poker tables. You’re worth even more than Claire is, aren’t you?”
Rhinehart shrugs. “Haven’t checked this morning.”
“I knew it! How are you with legal documents, Rhinehart?” Uncle Hal is still pressing.
“How are you with cards?”
Hal laughs out loud. “I’m great! I’m great at cards, my friend. So now answer my question.”
Rhinehart can see where this is going, and he’s not sure how he feels about it. He’d like to help out Molly, but he’s not inclined to undermine Claire’s last wishes. He squints at Molly before he answers.
“Thing about documents,” Rhinehart says, “it’s all in the interpretation. What’s clear, you can’t mess with. What ain’t clear, that’s where you find your loopholes. As I recall Claire’s will, it’s just like Sonia says. There really ain’t much room to move.”
“Yeah,” says Paul bitterly. “And I’ll bet you helped her write it.”
Rhinehart shrugs modestly. “Only a witness.”
Molly tugs at Rhinehart again. “Please, Rhinehart. You can find something, can’t you? Please . . .”
“Very doubtful,” Rhinehart says. Everyone is looking at him. He looks down at Molly.
“Okay,” he sighs. “Let me see the will.”