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.
Grandma Claire was wiping the counters after supper, while Molly finished her homework at the table.
“What’s up with Greg these days, Molly Tea Cup? Haven’t heard you mention him in a couple of weeks.”
Molly looked up, her eyes cold and hard. “Rhinehart ran him off, Grandma Claire. It’s that simple.” She turned back to her work.
“Whatever do you mean? Rhinehart wouldn’t do that.”
“Oh, wouldn’t he?” Molly set her jaw. She finished the line she was writing, lay down her pencil, and folded her hands on the table. “Grandma Claire, sometimes I don’t think you even know Rhinehart.”
Grandma Claire raised her eyebrows as she reached for a wine glass. “Do tell . . .” she said.
“I’m tired of thinking about this,” said Molly, “so I’ll give you the short version. Two weeks ago, I brought Greg home to study for English. I left him with Rhinehart for one minute. Rhinehart showed him a knife and scared the spit out of him with some B.S. story about prison.”
“Greg left the house at a dead run, and he hasn’t spoken to me since.”
“Greg is the fifth boy in two years that Rhinehart has chased away,” added Molly. She spoke with real passion now. “The others don’t matter, but I liked Greg. He was really the one, Grandma Claire. Plus, he was going to take me to the spring dance. It’s unforgivable, what Rhinehart did.”
“Consequently,” said Molly in a more matter-of-fact tone. “I am plotting Rhinehart’s murder. I hope to make it look like an accident—or perhaps a suicide.”
“Molly, may I say something?”
“No, you may not. When this has happened before, you have always taken Rhinehart’s side.”
“Molly . . .” said Grandma Claire with a chuckle, splashing wine into her glass. “You and Rhinehart have bickered about something every day of your life, but you always end up laughing over it later. You know what the trouble is, between you two?”
Molly clapped her hands over her ears. “I don’t want to hear it!” she said. She began to sing. “La la la la la la!”
“You’re too much alike,” said Grandma Claire, shaking her head.
Molly groaned. This is how it always went with Grandma Claire. She looked down from her lofty height and lengthy years, and made some casual, oversimplified, and most of all patronizing comment that got things completely wrong. This was why Molly didn’t want to talk about it right now. If Grandma Claire couldn’t see how utterly different Molly was from Rhinehart, then Molly felt there was little point in further discussion.
“Listen,” she said. “I know I’m on my own this time, and I feel I’m quite ready.” She picked up her pencil again. “Murder most foul,” she said through gritted teeth.
Grandma Claire smiled and turned away with her cane and her wine glass. In a minute, Molly heard the television in the next room.
Murder wasn’t quite right, of course. Murder was often bloody, and the cover-up would be time-consuming. In fact, a better revenge would be to keep Rhinehart alive. What Molly wanted was to humiliate Rhinehart, to make him suffer.
But even this would be difficult. To humiliate someone, the best approach is to win them over, string them along, and finally ruin them in front of someone they care about. Trouble is, Rhinehart cared about very few people. Not only that, but Rhinehart could see a trick coming a mile away. This would take some planning.
What Molly had going in her favor was the natural tendency of the old to underestimate the young. Rhinehart probably thought she’d already forgotten about Greg. Molly would encourage this. She might even join Rhinehart in a scam of someone new; Rhinehart loved conspiracies. Molly could wait. Just when she had him thinking of her as a partner again, she would spring the trap.
From beneath a pile of schoolwork, Molly slid a single sheet of paper.
Dearest Rhinehart,Rhinehart dear,
My darling Rhinehart,
Please pardon me You must forgive me for putting down in a letter what I’ve never said explained expressed to you in person. However, I’m sure it’s nothing you haven’t thought about already. And frankly I must say I’m devastated surprised a little hurt that you haven’t brought it up, yourself.
I’m speaking of marriage. I refer, of course, to marriage. I’m talking about marriage, dearie, as you must have guessed.
Molly paused to chew her pencil. Should she go for flattery or play the “helpless woman”? Or neither? How would Grandma Claire do this? (Setting aside the fact that she would never actually do this.) But that was the plan’s brilliance, she told herself. Rhinehart wouldn’t see this coming. Molly was certain he’d never had a love letter from anyone—let alone a marriage proposal. Who would marry Rhinehart?
I know you think I’m hopelessly addicted to romance novels, but in a way, those books have opened my eyes to
the passion I feel how I feel about you. How I’ve always felt. Surely you have felt it, too, darling Rhinehart, dear.
Well, don’t think me too direct, but I believe it’s time for us to do something about how we feel. Time is marching on. For my part, I may last another year, or I may not, but I cannot spend it without you. Rhinehart
darling dear, will you marry me?
You don’t have to decide right away, but I have to know that you’re giving this proposal some thought.
Here was the trickiest part. How do you close the deal? How can she get Rhinehart to embarrass himself? Molly flipped through the pages of The Unruly Heart, Tropic of Rapture, and The Highwayman’s Bride for a clue.
Wear a white silk around your neck, wrote Victoria. Then I will know you’ve read this letter.
So I know you’ve read this message, wrote Ramon, your ring you must wear on the opposite hand.
Drape your cloak across your left arm.
A single light will I place in my window.
Molly picked up her pencil again.
Come to dinner Sunday. Sonia will be here, and Molly, of course, so we won’t be able to talk. But when you come, wear your orange hunting cap—and wear a feather in it. That will be our sign. I know it seems silly and romantic, dear, but it’s important to me. I must know that you’ve read this letter and that you’re giving it serious thought.
See you Sunday.
Molly smiled as she pictured Rhinehart trying to explain his orange cap and feather. Grandma Claire hated that cap, and Aunt Sonia was allergic to birds of any kind. She imagined the look on Rhinehart’s face, talking about a letter. “What letter, Rhinehart?” “The one you slipped in my jacket.” “I see you every morning. Why would I slip you a letter?” “To ask me to marry you!” “You’re drunk!”
This was going to be a first-class scam—nothing hurts like a blow to the heart, as Molly well knew. Plus, Rhinehart had no one to blame but himself; he started this. Not a jury in the world would convict her. And best of all, it would be a long time before Rhinehart tried to mess with Molly again. Prison indeed, she thought. He’ll soon wish he was in prison.
Still smiling, Molly copied out the letter and carefully forged Grandma Claire’s signature.