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.
It was the first of the month, and Molly and Rhinehart were doing Grandma Claire’s bills.
“Another one for the shred pile. Don’t even let Grandma Claire see it, you hear? The junk they try to sell you, I can’t believe. And hey: keep them piles separate or we’re in deep doo-doo.”
Molly pushed the piles to opposite ends of the kitchen table.
“Well, don’t take this wrong, but . . .”
“Pay this one. . . . But what?”
“Well: why are you always SOOOO crabby?” Molly wrapped her fingers around her forehead and bugged out her eyes as if she would explode if she heard one more crabby word.
“I like being crabby, that’s why. This goes in the stack to pay.”
“You do not.”
“Do too. Being crabby makes me happy. And where’d you put the checkbook?”
“It’s under something. Here.” Molly produced the checkbook with a flourish, and slapped Rhinehart on the shoulder. “Wah-la! See? Nothing to crab about.”
“Say the V,” Rhinehart said, running his finger down the phone statement.
“If you’re gonna speak French, do it proper. Voila begins with a V. Don’t they teach you nothing down there?”
“See! That’s what I mean: Mr. Crabby McAppleton, rotten to the core.” She slaps the table twice with the checkbook. “But why so crabby is a mystery. And it’s so not fun.”
“Crabs are some of my favorite critters. They’re amusing and tasty. And nobody messes with them. Ok, pay this one.”
“No fun at allllllll,” Molly sang operatically. “No fun! At all! No fun! At—”
“Fun is overrated, Mozart girl. What’s really fun is hard work.” Rhinehart held up a page of junk mail. “For the shredding pile. You know what this is?”
“Yes, Rhinehaaaaart . . .” Molly sang. “You give me this lecture every other weeeeek.” She snatched the page and slapped it down on the shred pile. “It’s a very dangerous page of pre-authorized checks that were inserted with the credit card statement. Shred pile, definitely.”
“They look like checks, but they’re just a scam from the credit company. Take a vacation! Write yourself a check! Sounds like free money, but it ain’t. Only a real knot-head would use them.”
“I know,” Molly sighed. “A bonehead. A bozo.”
“You deserve a break! Buy now! Pay Later! And in two months, what do they do?”
“They charge you.” Sigh.
“They charge you out the wa-zoo, is what.”
“Say the V.”
“Fun ain’t never free. . . . What?”
“Out the Vwaaah-zoo, Rhinehart. Say it proper.”
“I ain’t speaking to you.” Rhinehart raised his eyes to heaven. “Try and teach a kid how to protect theirself in this unsteady world, and what do you get? I ask you.”
The phone rang.
“You better get that,” said Rhinehart. “Don’t let it wake your grandma.”
“Watch this,” Molly whispered. “Ahem, ahem.” She picked up. “Yes? Hellooo?” Rhinehart, who never allowed himself to be surprised, did a double-take.
“Mother,” said the voice on the phone.
“Well, Sonia,” replied Molly in a perfect imitation of Grandma Claire. “It’s so good to hear your voice, dear.”
“Yeah, I just got back.”
“And how was your trip, honey?” said Molly. “Where did you go, again? Costa Rica?”
“So exotic, Sonia. You have really done well for yourself. I’m very proud.”
Rhinehart put his head in his hands, and slowly shook it back and forth. Well, he thought, she couldn’t have picked a more deserving victim.
“Mother, I need some money.”
Molly wasn’t prepared for a long conversation. “(Ahem.) Oh, Sonia, I’m sorry to hear that.”
“No, this is serious, Mother. I need to borrow ten thousand dollars. From you.”
Molly blinked. “Ten thousand dollars, dear? Now where would I get that kind of money?” She turned to Rhinehart, and made a series of desperate, pleading faces.
“Yow,” whispered Rhinehart. “What does she need that for?” Molly tipped the phone so he could hear it better.
“Come on. What’s in your checkbook right now?” Sonia demanded. Rhinehart shook his head firmly.
“(Ahem.) Well, it’s not near that much, honey.”
“Can’t you get a loan? Your credit is better than mine.”
Rhinehart shook his head again. “How you gonna pay back a loan?” he whispered.
“Oh no, darling,” Molly said. “How would I pay back a loan? I’m on a fixed income, you know.”
“Mother, come on! I’ll pay you back.”
Rhinehart put a finger to his temple and shot himself.
“I’m sorry, dear,” said Molly.
Sonia tried again. “Don’t you have a college fund for Molly? You could take it out of that.”
“Absolutely not,” Molly snapped.
“I’d pay you back in six months. Twelve at the outside.”
“You had your college fund thirty years ago.” Molly said, getting a bit heated. “Molly’s fund is for her and her alone.” She took a breath and lowered her voice. “Besides, Rhinehart is being very strict about saving lately.”
“Damn it, Mother!” said Sonia.
“Language, please!” Molly answered automatically.
Rhinehart nearly spit up his coffee.
“How about a little respect, young lady?” said Molly.
“Whatever,” said Sonia, with venom. “You’ve always treated Molly better than your real children.”
“That’s not true, dear,” Molly went on more lightly. “But I do wish I knew why all three of my ‘real’ children have such money troubles. Paul and his crazy investments, you with your travel and your credit cards. Georgia and Hal can never seem to get ahead, either. It’s a mystery to me.”
“Mother. . . .”
“Not that I’m judging, dear. I’ve never had much money, so what do I know about high finance?”
“Mother, listen to me.”
“I keep thinking that if you could only find a good man, things would turn around for you . . .”
“. . . but I know, I know: that’s none of my business. You don’t have to tell me.”
“Ask her what she needs it for,” Rhinehart whispered. They were both enjoying this too much to stop now.
“(Ahem.) But really, Sonia, why in the world do you need ten thousand dollars?”
“Mother, I’m desperate. You know I wouldn’t come to you if it weren’t important.”
“I know that, dear,” Molly said gently. “But what’s this all about?”
Sonia was silent for a moment. “I took some money from work,” she said softly. “From the bank account.”
“Really? (Ahem.) From the travel agency, dear? Why ever would you do that?”
“I don’t know . . .” Sonia sounded quite miserable about this, in her own bristly way. But Molly knew, and certainly Rhinehart knew, that this was not the first time Sonia had been indiscreet with money. On the other hand, it was the first time she’d confessed to felony embezzlement. Sonia went on.
“Mother, I just . . . Okay.” Sonia took a deep breath. “Well. Um. You know the last time I went to Costa Rica?”
“Of course, dear. Just last spring,” Molly said.
“Well . . . I met a man . . .”
Molly gasped. Rhinehart clapped his hand over her mouth.
“I know, Mother. I know,” said Sonia. She took a deep breath. “His name is Ricardo, he’s a tour guide, and he’s wonderful. And if you whisper a word of this to Paul or Georgia, I swear I will set your house on fire.”
Molly gathered her wits quickly. “Of course, dear. Not a word. You can count on me. But the money?”
“And . . .,” Sonia went on, “. . . we found a house.”
“In Costa Rica?”
Rhinehart leaned back in his chair. This was probably the worst idea he’d ever heard from anyone in Grandma Claire’s family—and that was saying something. Even Claire’s idea of formally adopting Molly last year without telling her kids (which, in Rhinehart’s view, would certainly backfire on Claire one of these days)—even that idea—wasn’t this crazy.
“So that’s what you (ahem) stole the money for?” suggested Molly.
“Borrowed the money! Yes. It was wrong, I know. But I’ll pay it back, Mother,” and here Sonia actually sniffed back a tear. “And Mother . . . I love him.” At the table, Rhinehart groaned and covered his eyes. Molly made retching motions over the junk mail.
“Oh, Sonia,” she said softly. “Taking the money was very wrong of you.” Then her voice brightened. “But in a way this is just like what happens in that book I was reading—Tropic of Rapture?” Rhinehart groaned again.
“Mother . . .”
“Elizabeth Deveraux meets Ramon Santiago. They fall in love . . .”
“Mother . . .”
“Yes, they have a tough time, dear, but they find happiness in the end. They do. And it’s even in Costa Rica!”
Rhinehart was digging madly for a beer in the fridge.
“Mother, this isn’t helping.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, dear,” Molly chuckled. “I guess I got a little carried away, didn’t I? I’m just so happy for you.”
“I need to pay back that money before they find out.”
“Yes, you do,” said Molly sternly.
“If anyone ever finds out, she goes to jail,” whispered Rhinehart.
“Why, if anyone were to find out,” Molly said, “they’d put you right in jail, wouldn’t they, dear?”
“I know. I knooooww. That’s why I need the money!”
“And I’ve just had an idea that might help you.” Molly lifted a page from the shredding pile and held it up to the phone. “Did you get your credit card statement this month?”
“Yes, I did, Mother. Several of them.”
“Oh, you wouldn’t . . .” whispered Rhinehart. He slid down the wall and sat with his beer between his knees, shaking with silent laughter.
“Well that’s super, honey,” said Molly brightly. “Super great. Because here’s the thing. I’ll bet each one of them came with a little page of checks . . .”