Parasites. Ingrates. Wretched fruit of my loins. They have invaded my home, buzzing around like flies on a piece of rotting meat. They have violated my precious peace of mind by spreading noise and discord and the absurd drama of children who evidently never grew up. They are putting Post-it notes marked with their names underneath pieces of furniture and behind artwork, and gathering priceless knick-knacks onto tables categorized as Trash Junk, Sellable Junk, and Keepers.
Arguing at one moment and cooperating the next, they are making quick work of organizing my estate. Lists are being drawn up, photos taken, paperwork signed, and I’m sitting in the thick of it all, in my favorite chair, with no one so much as offering me a beverage. I’m not dead, not yet, but I’m close.
The condition I’ve suffered with for years has taken a turn for the worse, and according to my doctor, men of my advanced age usually don’t have the strength to fight. He’s the one who told my family, who didn’t listen to my reasonable request that they be kept the hell out of my business. According to him, I can’t face this alone. Clearly he hasn’t met my family.
In my dining room, there is a solid mahogany table that a wealthy merchant once bought as a wedding present for his daughter. He had it delivered to the future home of the couple, who would move in once they were married. As was family tradition, the bride slept in the marriage bed the night before the wedding for good luck. But in the middle of the night, raiding soldiers from the North plundered the house, killing the merchant’s daughter and ravaging everything that was too big to steal—except, oddly enough, the table. It is a Civil War relic and worth so much more than just the high price it would fetch at auction if it possessed any sort of authentication. Underneath it is a tag bearing the name of my granddaughter, a divorced mother of four young boys who needs a new table because her children destroyed the last one. I told everyone in my family the story of the merchant’s daughter, which had been passed down, along with the table, through generations on my father’s side—yet no one objected to my granddaughter’s request.
Hanging in the master bedroom above the reading chair in the alcove is a portrait of my great-grandmother. It was painted in her late twenties, when her beauty was at its peak and her utter satisfaction with life shone through her smile like the dawn breaking over the desert. My great-grandfather commissioned the portrait to commemorate his recent success in business and to serve as a token of gratitude to his wife for suffering through years of financial strife. His many, and often risky ventures finally paid off, to such a degree that they ensured the affluence of most of his descendants. In addition to being firmly rooted in my family’s history, the portrait is a reminder of my beloved late mother, for the two women were nearly identical. Stuck behind the frame is the name of my son, who plans to give it to his third wife for her 25th birthday because “she’s into old stuff”. He and my mother were never close, and he couldn’t even recall her first name when I recently asked.
Resting on a velvet cushion in an old curio is a brass compass that my father gave me the day I graduated from college. He was never an affectionate man, and rarely gave praise even when plainly deserved. For most of my childhood, I doubted that he loved me or cared what I did with my life, and although I tried to look up to him, I never felt a strong connection until the day I graduated and he slipped the compass in my hand. “You never needed my guidance,” he said, “because in most ways you are a far better man than I ever aspired to be.” He wanted the compass to remind me that no matter what direction I took in life, he knew, and I knew, it would always be for the best. Three months later he took to bed with pneumonia and died before I could get back from my new job to see him. I wore the compass in my vest pocket every day from graduation to retirement, and later moved it to the curio for safekeeping. Just moments ago, my daughter tossed it in a pile with ashtrays and figurines and porcelain tea cups without matching saucers, on a table labeled Sellable Junk.
I know you can’t take it with you. I know that I could fall asleep tonight for the last time and it wouldn’t matter what became of my possessions. But I can’t imagine resting in peace knowing that the significance of these precious heirlooms will be lost forever in the hands of those myopic fools, those greedy tactless vultures scavenging through my home and treating me as if I were already dead.
So I have a plan.
The first thing my family doesn’t know is that I cashed out all my bank accounts, stocks and bonds weeks ago. I gave half to my favorite charities, and half to the volunteer firefighters.
The second thing they don’t know is that my house is rigged to the hilt with explosives, compliments of an old friend from the army who’s still spry enough to get around attics and stairs.
And the third thing they don’t know is that I have no intention of prolonging the inevitable. I’m old. I’m sick. I have nothing better to do than sit around and wait until tomorrow.
So in less than twenty-four hours, as I sit here in my favorite chair, among my favorite things, it’ll all get blown to kingdom come—the house, the furniture, the artwork and everything.
That way, no one will get anything.
Katie Memmel is the Editor-in-Chief of Prime magazine, a steel industry publication. While she's absolutely riveted by price fluctuations, merger activity, and international trade legislation, she'd rather stay home and write stories all day. And she should... as often as economically feasible.