Miles Mayhem sat on the leather chair, strategically
placed by his wife’s decorator in the corner of the room to let him observe the
entire party at a glance. But Miles
wasn’t watching. Truth be told, he
really didn’t care.
He’d closed his eyes so as to distance himself from
all the fuss that surrounded him, fingering the thin cotton blanket someone had
shaken over him despite the fact that he’d said he didn’t want it.
“You’ll be more comfortable,” a familiar-looking
woman had said, tucking it around his lap.
The young generation always and forever thought they
knew better than their elders, Miles mused.
He listened to snippets of conversation that went on around him as
people stood in line for the buffet table.
“…looks good for ninety-nine…”
“…biggest financier on Wall Street…”
“…a good man; a solid
man. Don’t find too many of those
recognized that voice. He opened his
eyes. Jules, his wife of seventy years,
set a plate of hors d’oeuvres on the table at his elbow. He smiled.
“Do I have to eat that?”
“Just pretend, dear.
That’s what we’ve been doing all day, isn’t it?”
All our lives, Miles thought. He spied a cameraman and frowned. This event was supposed to be family
only. “Who let him in, Jules?”
“I don’t know.”
She shrugged and eased herself into the chair beside him. “I don’t much care, either.”
“Look at us,” he said, taking her bony hand. “Sitting up here on our thrones.”
“Only one thing gives us power, Miles.”
And today was the day he would distribute it all.
They gathered like vultures. Half of them he didn’t recognize. Some of them he’d probably never even met.
“…his whole family all together…”
“All but one,” Miles said quietly to Jules.
face lit up. “You think he’ll come?”
had missed every family gathering since he was old enough to make his own decisions. Miles watched people milling about, all
bright-smiled and pretty-baubled. “Todd’s
right,” he said. “This is all a bunch of
“Perhaps he’s right to stay away,” Jules said.
put up a hand. “What was that?” He strained his ancient ears. There it was again. It was the sound of a motorcycle.
The tone of the conversation shifted. The guests began fluttering and squawking
like a bunch of prissy chickens.
“…well speak of the devil…”
“…figures he’d show up now…”
He walked into the room, ignoring the other guests,
ignoring the buffet table.
“Jesus, you think he’d get dressed up for the
occasion, wouldn’t you?”
Todd did was Todd wanted to do.
And for that, Miles had always admired him. Because all his life, Miles had done what
others had expected of him. And now it
was simply too late. He put out his
hand. “Todd. Thank you for coming.”
Todd pulled the blanket from his great-grandfather’s
lap. “You told me it was important.”
A waitress brought forth a cake blazing with candles
and held it before him. “I’m too old for
this nonsense,” he said, waving her away.
“Let the kids do it.”
Speech!” A great nephew
called. He was wearing a three piece
suit, of all things and carried one of those electronic gadgets with which he
Miles Mayhem cleared his throat. Took a deep breath. The room fell silent. “The thing about life that gets me crazy is
that by the time you learn it all, it's too late to deal with it.” He glanced at his great-nephew. Grinned wickedly. “Ozzy Osborne.”
The people before him—all one hundred ninety-six family
members—stared. Eyes widened.
“Since when does Gramps listen to Ozzy Osborne?”
“Did Todd introduce you to that crap?”
Miles smiled; he was enjoying himself now. “Actually I introduced it to Todd. But the thing is, Todd is the only one in
this family who gets it. Todd
understands that the only thing everyone in this room wants is my money. And for that reason, Todd nearly stayed away
“Yeah, I’ll bet,” someone muttered.
Miles looked at his wife. Spoke quietly. “Remember our dreams?”
“Miles, they’re waiting for you to finish.”
“They’ll grant me this one indulgence. Put it up to old man senility. We were going to open that school. We were going to adopt scads of
children. What happened?”
Jules smiled sadly.
“We left life happen to us. But
“But not Todd,” Miles agreed, raising his voice for
the guests to hear. “Todd. Lazy.”
“Rides a motorcycle, for Godsakes. Has multiple tattoos.”
These people weren’t Like That.
His family wasn’t Like That.
“But I know a different Todd. I know a Todd who comes to visit my wife and
me once a week. I know a Todd who’s
racked up more volunteer hours in a year than most of you will in a
lifetime. I know a Todd who needs little
but gives much. And so…” Miles grinned. “I’m removing all of you from my will and
leaving everything to Todd.”
began before his words were covered by protests from the guests.
“My children’s education!”
“He’ll just give it away.”
Miles nodded at that. “Precisely.”
And then, laughing, Miles Mayhem closed his eyes and died.
They say you could hear him humming “The Almighty
Dollar” as he passed.
But no one really knows for certain.
For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, Michael gave me this prompt: The thing about life that gets me crazy is that by the time you learn it all, it's too late to deal with it. -Ozzy Osbourne.
Labels: Fiction, Scriptic