A lawyer I know once told me there are only two kinds of people in this world: Those who think the pre-deceased should decide how to disperse their life’s work and those who think themselves entitled to it.
Write a story told as a LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT.
You can be silly or serious, realistic or really weird.
Which of the two kinds of people is your protagonist?
Which is their beneficiary? Is there a third kind of person?
What message may your protagonist be trying to send, and do the beneficiaries agree?
Consider your time period and genre, as well as the bequests. Are they sentimental, practical, or fantastical?
The gold pocket watch in 1886 could be a family heirloom, but in 6881 a portal between universes. What if the watch were BOTH those things, regardless of space and time?
Play around with the topic.
Maybe instead of writing the document, you write the story of the passed-down object or one of the beneficiaries.
Maybe you write about the ugly vase or the empty booze bottle, around whose necks cryptic notes are strung.
Maybe you focus on the relative who expected everything and received nothing. Or the lawyer, maybe, duped by the pre-deceased into unscrupulous behavior.
Whatever you decide, your story needn’t be macabre or gloomy. It can be, of course, but it can also be playful.
It can be joyous.
Michele E. Reisinger
Michele is a writer and StoryADay Superstar living in Bucks County, PA, with her family and never enough books. Her short fiction has appeared in Across the Margin, Stories That Need to be Told, Sunspot Literary Journal, Dreamers Creative Writing, and others. Find her online at mereisinger.com.
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29 thoughts on “Day 27- Last Will by Michele. E. Reisinger”
I had a lot of fun writing a terrible man’s will.
My first effort was a will bequeathing a legacy of unpleasantries. It’s such a multifaceted prompt that many ideas blossomed. Thank you for the great prompt!
(I wrote yesterday…forgot to hit send on my check in!)
“a legacy of unpleasantries” is a great phrase!
600 words for me. A Vulcan suffering alone from a pandemic on Earth wonders about what to do with the thing that could give him away – his very alien body.
Oo, good point…Prime Directive, and all that.
The Last to Know
“You sure you don’t want to stay for lunch?” Robert asked his older daughter, Stephanie, after his aunt Ruby’s funeral.
“It’s a long drive back to Denton,” Stephanie replied. While true, Robert suspected this to be code for, I don’t want to spend one second more with the extended family than I have to. He couldn’t blame her.
“OK, give me a hug then. Let me know when you get home.”
The family had agreed to meet at Jimbo’s, a local sandwich shop, for lunch and the reading of the will. About a decade ago, Ruby had told Robert that she planned to split most of her estate between Robert and his two daughters, Stephanie and Elaine. Stephanie had been skeptical, but Elaine had been quite close with Ruby, a widow with no children of her own. The funeral program even listed Elaine as “The Child of Ruby’s Heart.” So maybe out of love for Elaine, the will had remained unchanged.
But two years ago, when Robert remarried, Ruby’s demeanor toward him changed. This had happened before – Ruby had never liked anyone Robert brought home. But she had often been generous when the chips were down, even if it wasn’t with a smile. Could marrying Melissa have gotten him cut out of the will?
“Maybe we can pay off some debt or take a vacation,” Robert said to Melissa. He drummed his fingers on the dashboard. Things weren’t desperate, but they were living paycheck to paycheck.
Melissa nodded slowly. “That would be nice.”
At Jimbo’s everyone hugged and pretended to be happy to see each other. In truth, faction lines had been drawn for decades and even passed down to subsequent generations. For most of the past thirty years, Ruby and Robert had been a faction, later joined by Stephanie and Elaine. However, this had not stopped Ruby from appointing her sister Mary Jean, who was not part of this faction, as her executor.
On the surface, the decision made sense. Mary Jean had worked in a law firm for many years and had seen this process play out many times with other families. But Robert couldn’t shake the conviction that Mary Jean would make things difficult for him. After all, it wasn’t she who had helped him when he needed it, but Ruby. Was he about to get cheated out of an inheritance?
The will began with a few specific bequests for small items. This information had been known for years, and according to Elaine, Ruby’s siblings and cousins had basically looted the house of most of its valuable content anyway.
Robert spaced out with the legalese, but he snapped right back to earth when he heard Mary Jean say, “I leave my residual estate to Elaine Barker.”
A few people around the table tried not to gasp, including Robert. “Don’t worry, Dad, I’m happy to share,” Elaine whispered.
“It’s not about that, dear,” Robert whispered back. For one thing, Elaine had no idea what she was up against. For another, Ruby had lied to his face.
Melissa squeezed Robert’s hand. “I’m sorry, honey.”
“Thank you, sweetie.” If Robert could do anything, it was to maintain a stiff upper lip in the face of disappointment. But he felt a bit dazed again.
A short time later, Robert looked up and everyone was leaving. To add insult to injury, the server brought him the bill.
May 27 2023
Whoa, 1195 words today!
Breakfast for Blessings
The fall of 2020 was a rough one. Many lives continued to be lost in the wake of the pandemic. Especially here in Florida, where people decided the rules did not apply to them. I guess everything has a risk. That October, as the leaves rolled in up north past the estate of one Mary J. Joseph, Mrs. Joseph was cold and alone with her maid Elsa to keep her company through her final days. When those were, nobody knew, but it felt like they were coming soon.
Like many people with money to spare, Mrs. Joseph went on a trip to Sarasota, FL to get some sun and escape the chill in her bones. She told her family; John Joseph, Jr. & his wife and two sons, Kelly Joseph & her husband and one daughter, as well as Tyrone Joseph, a lad of only 20, unsettled and continuously separating himself from the family. No one wanted to come with her, no one seemed to really care at all. Anyway, they were busy with their investing and their plotting. They didn’t have time for frivolous adventures unless it would increase their net worth.
So, she invited Miss Elsa along, and awarded her a paid vacation, a free private suite downtown for two weeks, and a spending stipend, as well as access to the chauffeur Jefferey. Mrs. Joseph made it known to Elsa she was free to explore solo, but Elsa insisted upon spending the bulk of her time outside of the suite with Mrs. Joseph. And, so it was, an unexpected journey through the elite playground of southwest Florida.
You can imagine the fun they had together. Mrs. Joseph showed Elsa a world she never knew, one of glamour and people waiting on her hand and foot, and being pampered and cared for. Elsa showed Mrs. Joseph the best flea markets and elotes.
By the last morning of their trip, Mrs. Joseph and Elsa were closer than they ever meant to become. They decided to slum it down in the hotel cafe for breakfast. Mrs. Joseph ordered her usual scrambled eggs and rye toast with black tea and Elsa ordered a soy latte and slice of quiche. As they waited, a downtrodden youth with black hair and a belly piercing walked over to the counter, her toddler in tow.
“Can you just give me some coffee, please? And a muffin for the kid?” she asked the lady at the counter, laying out some coins.
“You can’t be in here, Jesi,” the woman stated, rolling her eyes.
“Listen, if Mr. you-know-who didn’t fire me, then I wouldn’t be in this mess,” she gritted. “Look,” she sighed, “I have a kid to feed. There is so much money in this city, and no one will help me. Come on, Hilda.”
Jesi’s pleading eyes locked with Hilda, who was not moved to action either way. Time was frozen, calling for intervention.
“Excuse me, dear,” Mrs. Joseph started. Jesi and Hilda looked at the old woman, unsure of what would happen next. Elsa’s face contorted with surprise and concern.
“May I please purchase you and your daughter some breakfast?” Mrs. Joseph said, finally.
Everyone breathed. The room once thick with tension and classism aired out.
Jesi looked deep into Mrs. Joseph eyes. “Yes, you may,” she said, “and thank you for your kindness. I am not in a place to say no, anyway.”
Mrs. Joseph looked back at her and nodded her on to order. “Add it all to my room,” Mrs. Joseph told Hilda. Jesi ordered herself a large iced coffee, an orange juice and an omelet and for her daughter, apple juice, a Belgian waffle with strawberries and two pieces of maple sausage links. At Mrs. Joseph’s request, Jesi and her daughter sat around the table with the two unlikely companions.
As they shared this meal, every girl at the table changed. Mrs. Joseph felt a responsibility to leave more than a legacy of power and wealth, but of kindness and social investment. Elsa was still in disbelief at all that had happened during this journey, especially these last moments. Jesi felt human again and like maybe there was a meaning to this life, after all. And her little girl smiled up and giggled in between messy bites of her giant waffle.
“I can never thank you enough for this meal,” Jesi said. “It means a lot to me and Riley.”
“May I have your contact, dear?”
“I don’t have phone service at the moment, but I am on Facebook,” she said. “It’s Jesi Ferguson.”
“Elsa, could you please add Miss Ferguson via the family account?”
“It was a great pleasure to meet you, Riley,” Mrs. Joseph beamed at the little girl. “You will be a beautiful princess one day…you already are.”
Everyone smiled and went their separate ways, never to occupy the same space again.
The flight landed back in Ohio, and the fairytale would surely be over, Elsa thought. She didn’t have much time to be concerned with that thought. Mrs. Joseph coughed.
“You cannot cough in 2020,” Elsa told her. “It’s a bad omen, for sure.”
“I’m sure it’s nothing,” Mrs. Joseph said.
I don’t need to give you the grim details of her ultimate end. We have all lost enough from the pandemic. But the last words she spoke to Elsa, those are important.
“You must control my estate, Elsa. Don’t let those rotten Josephs get their hands on it.”
When Elsa came back with the next dose of tylenol and ibuprofen, Mrs. Joseph was gone. A lawyer contacted her with her responsibilities and her share of the fortune. The fairytale never had to end for Elsa, or for Jesi and her daughter for that matter. The family never understood, and I can’t blame them, though the explanation in the will was quite clear.
“It is my ultimate desire to see that a person with great empathy and human understanding would control the outcome of this estate. This person is Elsa Hernandez, the housemaid, but mostly, my friend and confidante. $5 million hereby awarded to Ms. Hernandez. Rather than perpetuate the family’s squabbling and greed, I would like to help you learn the concept of enough. In fact, we all have more than enough. Dear Elsa, please invest in the youth and give back to the disadvantaged. Buy breakfast for homeless single mothers in random hotels in Florida.
Mary J. Joseph.”
Elsa contacted my mother, Jesi, on Facebook, and now we have a beautiful home in Bradenton, and I am about to graduate high school. I won’t have student loans. I always have waffles if I want waffles. But, I share my waffles with my friends. And my mother doesn’t have to beg for coffee anymore. She just makes a pot at home on the counter. I only met Mrs. Joseph one time, but I think about her every day. She is the inspiration behind my non-profit, Breakfast for Blessings. So, I hope you will invest in my organization, and we can serve our community and turn those dollars into aid for single mothers here in Florida one breakfast at a time.
Wow! I love every word of this!!!
Day 27 completed ✔️
Wrote a tiny 54-word piece about a dying man writing out his final words, and those few lines are the entire story.
Life Isn’t Fair
A successful young man is upset his father left his house and all his money to his worthless younger sister. After talking to a lawyer, he sees that he would spend too much money contesting the will and he might not even win. He tells his uncle he wants to burn the house down. He goes to the house to burn it down, but his uncle is there (he sees his car) and before he leaves his uncle comes out and tells him about his own mother who left everything to his worthless brother Tommy. After cracking Tommy’s jaw and getting in trouble for it, he thought about how he could get even. He decided there was no way. Especially after Tommy ran through the money their mom left and even lost the house in a matter of months. The young man went home and pondered it that night. He would see how he felt the next morning.
Sounds like you left it on a cliffhanger. I bet the reader will have ideas about how they want him to act, by the end 😉
“Mom gave you the clock,” said my brother, handing it to me. “She always said it was because of the clock that you had your gift.”
My gift? I called it more of a curse. I had far too many nightmares from my gift, seeing mostly children in troubling situations. I never told anyone, but sometimes the children turned up in real life, on news reports about Amber Alerts, of found bodies, or stories my brother told me from the Emergency Room. Somehow he knew that I had nightmares about children. To placate Mom, he went off to medical school, becoming a pediatrician at Mom’s insistence. That was puzzling enough to me. After all, Mark got everything he ever wanted in the family, the education, the fancy cars, the attention. I got to stay at home while he lived the good live, taking care of her as Alzheimer’s stole away her mind. Now, all I had of her was the stupid clock, an old, home-made thing my grandfather once gave to my mother when she was a child. It worked, I’ll say that, but it ticked rather loudly. I tried to “forget” to wind it in Mom’s later days, but the damn thing kept going. Mark took it to a jeweler to see if it needed repair. The jeweler said it had peculiar parts that didn’t belong to a mechanical clock, that the winding mechanism didn’t actually do anything, and that it was a pretty good heirloom. He asked if Mark wanted to sell it to him, offered him a lot of money. But Mark said no, and that he would never go back to him again.
The clock was pretty plain, with no regard to decoration or carving. The numbers were hand-drawn on the white painted face, the hands were made of twisted wire, and the rest of the wood was varnished to a dulling shine.
“I don’t want it,” I told my brother, pushing it back to him.
“Nope, not letting you do that,” he replied, pushing it back at me. “Mom always said to look after you, and to make sure you always got the clock. So, that’s what you get.”
Considering Mark got the house and adjoining garden, the money, and the antique Packard, I guess I should feel lucky I got to keep something of my mother’s. I kept my mouth shut, but Mark surprised me. “We’re living here, by the way,” he said. “Take your pick of the rooms. I know you always wanted the wing overlooking the garden. You should take it, if you want to.”
“Those are your rooms,” I insisted.
Mark shook his head. “No more. You need that,” he said. “Mom told me about the dreams, about….” He hesitated. In his position as a Pediatric surgeon, he had seen quite a lot of damage to children in his career. He said, “You’ve got to help.” He took my hand and studied me closely. “You’ve got to open up. Let it come in. If the clock can help that, so be it.”
I shook my head, rattled that he knew about the dreams, that he spoke to my mother when she was so closed mouth to me. “Sis,” he continued, “You’ve got to try.” He took a breath, trying to explain. “If you can, in any way, save these kids from literally a fate worse than death, then you’ve got to try. The clock may help, and you can live here your whole life, if that’s what you want. I’m not going anywhere.”
Tears sprung to my eyes. My nightmares always rattled me to my core. “Please, sis, please try to help,” Mark continued. “So many people depend on you.”
“Depend?” I asked, confused.
“Yeah, depend. We…I…need you to try, need you to help.” He said, “Your gift…is so special. Extraordinary, really. You can see the kids, see where they are. You can, maybe, save them? Maybe? I know this is hard, but if only….”
I put up a hand to stop him. My mind swirled in jealously and rage. He had no idea what I went through, the pain, the suffering, as if I was inside their bodies. He…wait, no, he could understand. Mark was a good man, a good doctor. Caring. Hopeful. I said, “I might need your help.”
Mark smiled. “You got it.”
Excellent story. I was trying to find the connection between the narrator’s gift, her dreams, the unique clock, and I can’t say that I got it in its entirety. But your story, Susan, has something that touches the heart, that makes me believe that good will eventually triumph over evil, that this world of ours will one day be The Paradise on Earth.
Keep writing to inspire and impact lives. God bless you.
I continued the story from Day 25, adding an additional 1385 words. Fast forward ten years. The daughter, estranged from her parents, is divorced, and living in a roach infest apartment with her young daughter. The appraised value of her grandmother’s heirloom ring is in the five digits. It would solve a lot of problems, but her ex-husband would demand his share. Sitting on the floor, having a pretend tea party with her daughter, the little girl asks, “Mommy, why don’t my grandma and grandpa visit me. Don’t they love me?”
Aw! Tricky question to answer…
I used characters from my In the Moonlight story(it begins with one of my main characters inheriting her great-aunt’s house), and wrote the great-aunt’s will with her very strong opinions about certain family members thrown in. And now I have names of some of Yasmin’s cousins, who may or may not show up in the novel(or later stories, because ~of course~)
Love that new characters and stories were just born!
I bet that was fun to write.
This morning was a bit of a struggle. Hopefully, I can do something later with a snippet in which a multimillionaire leaves his second wife a potato. Anyway, day 27 is done. I hope that I’ll be a bit more lucid tomorrow.
But you’re still writing on Day 27. I bet you’ve learned some stuff, this month…
I actually like what came from this one. A flash-length piece about a man giving a lawyer instructions for his will. At first it seems senseless and cruel, but by the end it’s clear that it is a loving attempt to introduce some nonsense into their otherwise drearily sensible lives. I went with third person omniscient, to keep the reader back from identifying too closely either with the lawyer or the testator.
Fun prompt, Michele!
When I read the title of the prompt my mind went into another direction. The Last Will. My story is about a family of Will’s. William, Will, Willy, Bill and Billy. They are fighting over the inheritance. So that gets the lawyer into it too ~ who I think will be one of the Wills (We are traveling so I will (haha) only be able to outline the story. But my imagination just ran wild with the whole thing. ) Great prompt Michelle
(I really don’t think I got it right this time. Anyway, let me thank M.E.Reisinger for the interesting prompt.)
The Doting Son
My father-in-law loved me like the son that he never had from the day I got married. Ours was an arranged marriage. I was a clerk in a private company, staying on the groundfloor of a rented house in Central Kolkata . My wife-to-be, Shila, had just completed her graduation and waiting for her result. In those days in Bengal, by the time a girl turned 21, her parents started preparing for her wedding.
Shila, the only child of her parents, proved an obedient wife. My father-in-law, Tamal Babu, was a retired Head Master. He spent most of his working life in rented houses on the outskirts of the city. Right after retirement, with his benefits, he bought a single storied house not far away from the city proper, and kept the lion’s share of his money in the SBI before running an advertisement in the papers for a groom for his daughter.
That’s how our arranged marriage happened. Now, as I told you at the start, I was a god-send to my in-laws. There was no reason why they should not have loved me. Being the youngest of my three brothers, I was quite docile by nature. So, whenever I had a chance to lend a helping hand to my in-laws during my stay at their’s (and I stayed there very often), I made the grabbed it with both hands. If my father-in-law was going to bank, I would volunteer to accompany him. If my mom-in-law was going to market to do the weekly shopping, I’d invariably accompany her. I would also spend lavishly to buy fish, chicken and fruits for them.
The point was I ensured that my in-laws thought the world of me. So, my happiness knew no bounds when I overheard my mom-in-law praising me to the skies to one of their close relatives:
“I must have done some good karma to have a son-in-law like Tapan. He is not a son-in-law, he is more like my son.”
A couple of years went off like that. By then, I had started accepting the money from my Mom-in-law for the weekly shopping after a vehement refusal. I only agreed in the end when she broke into a cry.
“Am I not your mother? Would you refuse to take money from her if she had to send you to market on an errand?”
The tears in her eyes, I would like to believe, were the reason that softened me somewhat and from that day, I didn’t mind taking money from her.
Some weeks later, my father-in-law called me to his room :
“Baba Tapu ( he endearingly called me by that name), I have something to discuss with you as I treat you as a son.” He looked over my shoulder at Shila standing with her head down, behind me, while my second mother was busy cooking a delicious dinner for me. Delicious because the aroma coming out of the kitchen made me feel hungry.
“You know, Shila is my only child. Other than Shila and you, I have no one to call my own.” He paused looking directly into my eyes before continuing,”I’m seventy sis now. There is no knowing whether I’ll be here tomorrow or not. I can only die peacefully after bequeathing everything that I have, including this house to you.”
“Why are you talking like that, Baba?” I interrupted him then and there. “Don’t you think that I’m capable enough of buying my own house? Besides, I’m sure you will live to be a hundred.” I said trying to avoid his eyes.
“That will be a curse. In today’s world, living upto a hundred is more of a pain.”
I cut him short again like a dutiful son should, by asking,” Why? Don’t you have faith in us? Don’t you think we’ll take good care of you in old age?”
“No, no. I know that you’ll do that. Anyway, I’ve already talked to my lawyer and informed him of my decision. I will give you the copy once it is ready.”
Despite my opposition, finally I had to give in to him due to the earnest requests of my mom-in-law and Shila.
“Baba Tapu, please stay here till Sunday when Snigdha Babu, that’s the lawyer, comes here. You’ll be the second witness for signing, the first being your Ma (his wife).”
I knew everything was going on as per my plans. I kept talking to Shila about my financial woes and passed it to my in-laws, through her, how desperate I was to buy a house of my own.
Things worked out fine when my dad-in-law called me one evening to inform of a house not far from their own. It was an apartment with two rooms and a small kitchen. Shila seemed very excited about it when I asked the owner about the price.
Fifteen lakhs, I informed him, was just beyond my capacity as my budget was ten lakhs at the most ( I don’t know how I mentioned that amount when my savings might not have amounted to more than a few lakhs!). My dad-in-law immediately took the owner out for some discussion. On their return, the owner told me that he would offer me the apartment at my price, though at a loss.
Though I was laughing from inside, I managed to keep a serious face. I knew that my dad-in-law must have taken it upon himself to pay the rest of the money secretly. Anyway, the plan to buy the apartment fell through, and should I need to explain why?
To cut a long story short, dad-in-law breathed his last soon after his failure to convince me about the importance of having a house of my own. “What would happen to Shilu, should anything, God forbid it, happen to you? Have you ever thought about it? She won’t have a roof over her head.” He had tried his level best putting some sense into my adamant head.
After the last rites and all, while I was sitting down to eat the prawns (one of my sasur’s favourite items) on my plate. Snigdha Babu turned up to read out the will in the presence of my Mom-in-law, Shila and me.
I didn’t worry much about it because he had handed the photocopy of the will long back to me. I sat on the sofa facing the lawyer sitting on a chair opposite while Shila, still shell-shocked, sat beside me. My Mom-in-law, looking utterly grief stricken, stood at the door, wiping her eyes with the folds of her sari from time to time.
Snigdha Babu had started reading out the will by then and was coming to the penultimate page (How did I know? Don’t you wonder, for I was quite fond of taking that will out of the file in my dingy room back home whenever Shila came to my in-laws).
“In case, I pass away before my wife, all my properties including House No 52, at Gobardhan Lane, Kolkata-700192 and my life’s savings will pass over to ..”
With my heart pumping, I was about to congratulate myself internally when I heard Snigdha Babu pronounce the name of the beneficiary, “to my wife, Mrs. Nirmal Sen.”
I looked askance at the lawyer. Did I hear it right? My sasur bequeathed his all to his wife without leaving a penny to me? Or, forget about me, without leaving anything to Shila, his only child?
“That man was a rougue, a scoundrel!” Furious, I told Shila that night. “All my life, I always looked upon him as my father and this is how he has repaid my love!”
Shila, still like a stone, kept looking out at the darkness, emptiness against the window.