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.
Molly’s hopes rise and fall with every change that passes over Rhinehart’s face. Her dreams of being free from the aunts and uncles, of watching the sunset every night from the porch of this old house—her dreams, in short, of living out a quiet life till she’s as old as Grandma Claire—deflate each time Rhinehart sighs and shakes his head. Yet they rise again when Rhinehart’s eyebrows lift, or when he flips a page to double-check a fact.
“Hmm,” says Rhinehart.
“Got something?” asks Uncle Hal. No one in the kitchen dares to breathe. Molly is on her tiptoes.
“Nope,” Rhinehart says. Sighs and groans of pain. “Thought I did for a second.” He buries his nose in the will again.
“He has to find something,” says Georgia through perfect teeth.
“Ah!” says Rhinehart, flipping pages. All heads snap toward him.
“Dang,” says Rhinehart, tracing a line of print with his finger.
Aunt Sonia has had about all she can take. She stabs a cigarette into the ashtray and stands up. “Well, that’s it,” she declares. “I never thought the old goat could find a loophole, anyway.”
Molly glances at the clock. “Almost six now,” she says. “Joanne will be here in a minute.”
“The hospice nurse?” asks Uncle Hal. Molly nods.
Sonia is still thinking about the will. “I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m going to challenge this in court.”
“I agree,” says Georgia. “We’ll just say Mother was not in her right mind. It’s clear from how much money she’s throwing away here.”
“You won’t get nowhere with that line,” says Rhinehart, stirring sugar into his coffee with a finger. “This will is tight as a drum. Plus, there ain’t any judge drunk enough not to see right through this group.”
“Rhinehart, you’re a bit of a downer this morning,” says Uncle Hal with a grin. “We were all hoping you’d help us out here.”
Paul snorts. He’s the executor. Rhinehart looks around the bitter kitchen, and then he hooks a thumb in his suspenders.
“Well . . .” he says, leaning back in his chair. “If the lot of you are serious about tearing up your own mother’s will, there is one way you haven’t thunk of. It don’t seem right to me, and I guarantee the law frowns on it, but still . . .” He glances out the window, where a car’s headlights are approaching the driveway. “Claire might even see the humor in it.” The car slows down and its turn signal starts to blink.
“What is it, then?” snaps Paul. “And hurry up.”
Rhinehart’s eyebrows rise. He looks at each of the aunts and uncles in turn. “Molly,” he asks. “Does anyone else know that Grandma Claire’s gone? Anyone outside of us here?”
Molly blinks. “Um, no. She just—a little after five. It was too early to call the pastor, and I knew that Joanne was coming at six.”
“There you go, then,” says Rhinehart. “If you need a new will, it’s pretty clear how to get one.” He folds his arms.
“What?” says Paul sharply. “What are you talking about?”
Rhinehart brushes a crumb off his shirt. “Molly does voices purty good, I hear.”
“Oh no,” Georgia gasps. “That’s completely impossible. Isn’t it? There’s no way we could . . .” Outside, Joanne’s car is pulling up the drive in slow motion.
“I like it!” laughs Uncle Hal. “It’s high risk but high yield, too. We can fix everything!”
“It would be the scam of the century,” Molly whispers.
“What?? What would be??!” shouts Paul.
Sonia shushes Paul with one hand. “It’s our only good option,” she declares. “Everyone! We have to get rid of Joanne. She cannot go upstairs, you hear me?”
“What?” says Paul again, his eyes a little wild. “How??”
“Uncle Paul,” says Molly in a soothing voice. She takes Paul’s hand and looks directly into his eyes.
“Grandma Claire had a real good night, and she’s getting ready to spend a quiet day with family. I’m just up there giving her a bath. Will you just ask Joanne to check back tomorrow?”
Aunt Sonia stares at Molly like she’s never seen her before. Uncle Paul is in a daze.
“Family day,” repeats Paul. “Check back tomorrow . . .”
“You’re the executor,” Molly says firmly, almost hypnotically. “And you’re Joanne’s high school sweetheart. She’ll trust you.”
“I’m the executor,” says Paul.
Aunt Sonia slaps her forehead. “My god, the girl thinks like a short brown Rhinehart. No wonder I hate her.” Sonia sinks onto a stool.
Nobody moves, but all eyes meet over the kitchen counter. There is silence, and then the car door slams outside.
“Aunt Georgia,” Molly says quickly. “Why don’t you scramble some eggs? Aunt Grace, there’s cereal in the pantry.” People start to bustle now. “Uncle Hal, I’ll take your glass—no scotch in front of Joanne. Aunt Sonia,” says Molly. Sonia lifts one eyebrow. “You need another coffee. Uncle Paul? You know what to say? And Rhinehart . . .” Molly looks him over. “You’re a genius.” Molly takes the stairs two at a time, as Joanne Hardy, LPN, knocks on the door.
Uncle Paul briskly smears his hair with one hand as he opens the door with the other.
“Good morning, Joanne,” he says unctuously. “You’re looking bright-eyed and bushy-tailed this fine morning.” Joanne and Paul were high school sweethearts during the last ice age, when saying “bright-eyed and bushy-tailed” was considered cute and a little bit racy.
“Well, Paul,” Joanne giggles, touching her hair. “Didn’t expect to see you here.” Nurse Joanne is dressed in green scrubs, bulky white track shoes, and a short-sleeved smock printed with tiny cheerful pink flowers. She isn’t more than one step into the room when Aunt Grace hands her a mug of coffee.
“Here you go, dear,” says Grace. “Fresh brewed. I thought you could use a cup.”
“Why Grace, thank you so much. You didn’t need to do that. And look—it’s the whole gang of youse. Usually, it’s just me and Molly, Claire and Rhinehart.”
Joanne’s eye lands on Georgia. “Oh,” she says. “Georgia! How do you manage to look so good at this time of day? I swear I never see you but what you look like a movie star. Even in a apron. I swear.”
Georgia, at the stove, favors Joanne with a perfect smile. “Joanne, I know your game, darling. But yes, just for saying that, I will get you tickets to my next show.”
“Oh you mustn’t!” protests Joanne. “I sure didn’t mean . . .” but Georgia lifts a jeweled hand.
“Of course I must. You’ve done so much for Mother. No, I absolutely insist, dear.”
“You are just as wonderful as they say.”
“It’s a fabulous show, Joanne. You will simply die when you see it.”
“Here, Joanne,” Sonia pats a stool beside her. “Come and sit. We’re just getting breakfast. You’ll stay and have a little something with us?”
“Oh, you know, I really can’t,” Joanne giggles. “Just the coffee is fine for me.”
“Full schedule today?” asks Paul. “I don’t know how you do it, Joanne. You work all the time.”
“Oh, well,” Joanne blushes. “I love my work.”