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Molly and the Geezer

Molly and the Geezer
and the Death of Grandma Claire

Michael Spooner

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.


If it weren’t for Grandma Claire, obviously, Molly and Rhinehart wouldn’t have anything to do with each other. Why would they? Molly’s a kid. Rhinehart is a geezer. That doesn’t go.

Molly is busy with friends and school, and Rhinehart is like an old piece of furniture in Molly’s life. Old and in the way, although sometimes useful for standing on.

If Molly were to think about it at all, she would say that Rhinehart is ancient, weird, smells like a farm, has ear hair and a neck made entirely of turkey skin. He’s a classic. He looks like that old guy on the evening news, but with warts and a ponytail. And eyebrow dandruff. Any of these traits would disqualify him from American Idol and likewise from Molly’s top-five list. There isn’t a ninth-grade girl in Henderson Falls, Minnesota, who would name him among her faves. Molly only tolerates Rhinehart because Grandma Claire is sweet on him. Otherwise, it’s understood that Molly—like most people—finds Rhinehart crusty, cantankerous, overly cautious, and bossy.

Still, Rhinehart does surprise Molly once in awhile. He knows stuff, let’s say. He helps her out with some great scams, and he has never mentioned her dark skin or that she isn’t Grandma Claire’s real granddaughter—both of which Grandma Claire’s adult children point out all the time.

So, don’t think she hates him. Sometimes, Molly even feels a little sorry for Rhinehart, because Grandma Claire decided years ago not to marry him. At the same time, Molly fervently thanks her lucky stars for this. Imagine being related to a guy like Rhinehart.

For his part, Rhinehart sees himself as a mature and sensible person, and he has sagely understood from the start that Molly was going to be under foot for a while—and there would be nothing he could do about it. You don’t change Grandma Claire’s mind. Rhinehart knew this all along, and he wished Molly no real harm. In spite of how he loved to trick and infuriate her, Rhinehart truly wanted everything to go just peachy for Molly. Because that was the only way that she would ever grow up and go away, and his life could get back to how it was when he and Claire were a little younger. Rhinehart is fully aware, though he would never say this out loud, that even after fifty years, he is still fond of the old bat—Grandma Claire, that is—and he’d like to have her all to himself again.

But his childhood sweetheart is one thing; Molly is another. No one ever accused Rhinehart of being fond of teenagers—especially active, noisy, playful, drama queens like Molly—and he thanks his lucky stars that Claire never put it in her will that he should be Molly’s guardian.

So it’s complicated.

The main thing to know here at the beginning is that Molly is an orphan. This is nobody’s fault—least of all hers. Sometimes, becoming an orphan just happens. Sometimes, there’s a tornado, and your parents are taken, and you move in with someone named Grandma Claire in an old farmhouse outside of Henderson Falls, Minnesota (otherwise known as the armpit of the world). Being an orphan is nothing to laugh about, but it doesn’t make you a tragic heroine, either—obsessed with your own fate. You keep on going. You turn two years old without your parents, and then you turn four and eight and twelve, and you just keep going. And while you’re doing that—tending to business, doing your best to grow up without your parents in a weird little town—other people are making decisions for you. And that’s fine. That works. You can wait. But somehow it’s still a huge surprise when you don’t have any vote in the biggest decision of your life. Not a good surprise, either.

For Molly, this isn’t having no vote as in Grandma Claire talking with her teachers, checking her homework, making her brush and floss, put out the recycling, and so on. That’s just normal family stuff, and Molly really sort of likes it anyhow, because Grandma Claire is fun and nice and even silly in a wrinkly, perfumy, old lady way, and it makes Molly happy to make Grandma Claire happy. This is different. This is Molly having no vote about what happens to Molly when Grandma Claire passes away.

Because the thing we don’t think about very often is that grandmothers (and foster grandmothers) don’t last forever. Grandma Claire got sick last year. At first, it wasn’t too bad, but then pretty soon it was. They took her to The Cities for treatment, and after about a million tests, the doctors said there was actually nothing they could do. It was that simple.

Molly and Rhinehart were both used to being in control, keeping the world working for Grandma Claire, each in their own ways. Molly was a problem solver; Molly talked excitedly through things; she remembered things exactly; she had strong feelings. Rhinehart could fix or build or lift or find or prevent anything—especially prevent. Molly was the cheerful optimist, a fountain of wonderful big ideas. Rhinehart lived a safe and skeptical life, and carried a wisdom born of bitter, bitter experience.

Not that they worked together, exactly. In fact, they argued about most things (Molly and Rhinehart could argue at the drop of a hat—anyone’s hat). But the point is they were individually used to making things work for Grandma Claire, and they were good at it.

So it’s really no surprise that neither Molly nor Rhinehart could accept the simple fact that neither of them could fix this problem. Grandma Claire was about to leave them. It was the one thing that Molly and Rhinehart couldn’t argue about, couldn’t even talk about. They—and everyone else in Henderson Falls—knew it wouldn’t be long.

She had plenty of good days, when the cough subsided long enough to let her rest on the sofa, watching TV with her feet on the coffee table. But the cancer specialist over in The Cities made it clear that there wasn’t too much time left—a year at most.

Molly and Rhinehart both hated the hospital, though they could see that the doctor was doing her best. She was always ordering one more test or trying one more medication. There was medication for the cough in Grandma Claire’s chest, and medication for the constipation that the first medication caused, and medication for the nausea that the second medication caused. And so on.

Grandma Claire didn’t want to spend a year in a hospital, so she hired a hospice nurse to come see her every day. “Hospice,” Grandma Claire said, “is what you say when you just want to die at home like a respectable old lady.” Grandma Claire had a practical streak.

Last night, Grandma Claire sort of went to sleep and didn’t wake up. Molly was there when it happened. One minute, she was sitting in the big chair by the bed, holding Grandma Claire’s hand, and the oxygen tube was hissing quietly and Grandma Claire was snoring a little bit. Molly kind of dozed off, too. And the next minute, there was no more snoring, and Molly snapped awake to see Grandma Claire smiling at her, all sweet and dimply just like always, and then Grandma Claire’s eyes went kind of blank and she slid away into the dark.

When you’re an orphan, even when you’re an optimistic person like Molly, there is often some small gloomy part of you that is constantly expecting your favorite people to leave you—like your parents did. And people do leave, of course, so it looks bad. It’s scary and lonely, and you even blame yourself a little bit. You can’t help this. Nothing is your fault, but there you are, being orphaned over and over again for no good reason.

Molly feels absolutely alone right now, without Grandma Claire, and she needs someone she can lean on. But she deeply dislikes the idea of getting attached to anyone—anyone—and especially her realistic choices—who are all Grandma Claire’s children, Molly’s “aunts and uncles.” She hates them.

So there it is. This is the only serious part of the story, but we have it out of the way now, and we can move on to more cheerful things—like fighting over the estate and what to do with an inconvenient dead body.

Chapter Two