Megan parks her Taurus behind the line
of BMWs and Porches, neatly waxed. She doesn't bother locking the
car. She's not even sure the locks work anymore. Her trips to this
house have always been infrequent. This would be her last. She pauses
at the end of the brick sidewalk to stare at the house, big and
imposing. Perhaps she should have changed from her jeans into
something more appropriate. Too late now.
She approaches the front door, flanked
on either side by marble lions frozen in snarling anger and time. Why
had she been invited to this? She was only a distant relative.
Perhaps the invitation was merely a duty paid to family obligations;
a recognition of a connection, however tenuous.
“Megan.” Her mother's cousin Sophie
is framed by the open door. Her arms are crossed. “Everyone has
Megan continues up the sidewalk
reluctantly. She wants no part of this dividing. How to split up a
“She's in the parlor.” Sophie
greets her with a whisper of a kiss; dry lips scratching air. “Go
and pay your respects.”
Megan does as she is told. She sits on
a red velvet chair beside the bed where her dead aunt lay. She takes
one of her hands into her own. The skin is dry and leathery and
painfully thin. She studies the lines in her aunt's face, wishing she
had taken the time to get to know her better. “Regrets,” she
says to Cousin William, who has just entered the room. “Do we feed
upon them or do they feed upon us?”
William gives her a strange look.
She's always been considered the family
crackpot; the oddball who doesn't fit in anywhere. “Do you think
Great Aunt Eloise is looking down on us right now?”
“I don't know why I come to these
things,” William says.
“Don't you ever feel that?” she
persists. “After someone dies?”
William loosens his tie. “No.”
“I'll feel her looking down on me for
weeks. When I'm in the shower. When I'm at work.” Megan laughs.
“When I'm sitting on the couch wasting time watching TV.” She
studies her cousin. “I'll feel the presence of her more in death
than in life.”
“Don't that bother you?”
“Don't beat yourself up. She wasn't
the kindest of women.”
“She was kind enough.”
“Kept a tight grip on her change
purse, didn't she?”
“Don't speak ill of her.”
“Why?” William grins. “Is she
looking down on us right now? Afraid she's listening?”
“You wouldn't understand.”
“The newly dead connect us to God.”
“Connect us to God?” William
laughs. “How can you be so forgiving to a woman who left you
So William knew as well. The relatives
must have figured Megan would contest the will; demand a portion of
the fortune. That was why they'd invited her today.
William rolls his eyes. “I'm going to
get something to eat. Coming?”
“In a moment.” Megan stares at her
aunt, trying to get some clue about the mysterious letter she'd
received three weeks ago:
Some will say I cheated you, by
leaving you nothing at all.
But by leaving you nothing, I have
left you everything.
Your relatives will fritter away
their inheritance, putting on additions to their homes, buying
jewelry, getting plastic surgery. They have bought into the illusory
daydream, painted and decorated by the marketers: Pretty baubles and
trendy boutiques and fancy coffee shops. But coffee is still coffee,
regardless of the cup. And coffee will still grow bitter.
Their dreams will fade away. Their
bitterness will grow. But you, Megan, who feel you fit nowhere, fit
everywhere. Know that by being invisible, one can see all.
Find one thing, Megan, to remember
Choose well, my dear.
Megan shakes her
head. What did her aunt mean by those words?
She wanders into the kitchen where
harried caterers load hors d'oeuvres upon trays. “Can I help?”
Megan has always felt more at home serving than being served.
“Why?” One of the waiters says.
“You afraid we're going to steal your inheritance? Make off with
Megan shakes her head. “No, I...”
“You want to help, take this to the
dining room.” A woman presses a tray into Megan's hands.
She deposits the tray on the dining
room table. Her relatives mill about snacking from pretty glass
plates. Megan studies their mouths, chewing and talking and chewing
some more; crumbs clinging to their lips. No one acknowledges her.
She goes to the living room and walks
to the shelves; studies the trappings of a life trapped by fortune:
Candlesticks of gold. A bronze sculpture. Rare first editions, all of
them unread. Treasures from every corner of the globe decorate the shelves. Only one thing does not fit in. It's as out of place as Megan is. A rabbit. Ears flopped over. Eyes closed, as if sleeping on a
bed of clover. God it's ugly.
Why had her aunt kept it?
Megan considers for a moment. No one
would miss the rabbit. Certainly no one would want it. She picks it
up, weighs it in the palm of her hand. It's surprisingly heavy. Iron?
She makes a mental note to ask Robert, as she slips the rabbit into
her purse and heads back to the dining room.
“Listen,” she tells her aunt
Sophie. “I'm beat. I think I'll head out.”
“But...” Sophie's protest is weak.
“Really,” Megan says. “I don't
want anything anyway.”
“Oh.” Sophie brightens a bit. “If
you really mean that.”
“I do,” Megan says. “I'll see you
soon.” She heads for the door. No one says goodbye.
She dumps her new running shoes from
their box and tucks the rabbit inside, pulling a bit of tissue
from the shoes up alongside to tuck it in place. She pulls away from
the curb, certain she can hear the collective sigh of relief from the
relatives inside. She has no business being on this side of the city.
She belongs on the South Side. The gritty side. The poor side.
She cuts through the city. Traffic is
light at this hour. Close to home, Megan stops to let a jaywalker
pass. An elderly woman, moving slowly behind a walker. Directly in
front of Megan's car, she stops. She looks Megan in the eye. Raises
her hand and points. A chill runs up Megan's spine.
A rustling in the car reminds her of
the McDonald's bag she'd stuffed beneath her seat after lunch. She
reaches under and pulls it out.
The street is clear. A car behind her
honks. She continues driving.
Again, the rustling.
Was it coming from the box? She pulls
down a one way street and parks in front of a Laundromat. She opens
the box. The tissue paper is torn to shreds. Megan stares inside of
the box, trying to make sense of it. The rabbit's eyes fly open,
staring. She feels her stomach drop as she watches the rabbit's hind
leg twitch. Megan gets out of the car, takes the box inside the
Laundromat, intending to throw it in the garbage.
“Oh, look,” a woman says staring
inside the box. “That's just beautiful. Where did you find it?”
She rubs a finger along the rabbit, who arches its back in response.
“Did you see that?” Megan breathes.
The woman stares. “See what?”
“The rabbit. It...”
The woman frowns. “You want me to
call a hospital, honey?”
Megan shakes her head; returns to her
car. She pulls out her cell and dials. “Robert,” she says, when
he picks up. “Could I be crazy?” Perhaps she needed a vacation.
“That's why I love you, Megan.”
“No. Really. I...” She stares at
the rabbit in the box. “Does seeing things other people don't make
me mad or a visionary?”
“You have the rabbit, don't you?”
“How do you know about the rabbit?”
“I'll meet you at your place. And
“Whatever you do, don't tell