BY LARRY FLEWIN
Copyright is held by the author.
THE LAWYER sat back, crossed her arms, and took a deep breath. A knowing smile crossed her face as she addressed the couple across her desk. .
“So, who gets the dog?” she asked.
“He does,” said the wife, Julia, with a sigh.
“Me? Why do I get the dog. I don’t want the dog,” exclaimed Charlie, her husband.
The two of them had been to see Andrea, their lawyer, several times in the past few months to settle their affairs. This would be their last visit. Andrea was going to miss the Laurel and Hardy routine.
“Yes you do, it’s your dog,” snapped Julia.
“It is? Oh yeah, it is. I forgot. So that’s why there’s a bowl at the back door. I thought you were mad at me again.” Charlie smirked at her discomfort. The dog really was his, and it and he had driven her up a wall ever since Charlie had first brought it home.
“Now how could you possibly forget. I can’t. First day he brings the stupid thing home, it pees all over the living room carpet. “
“It was just the one time.”
“Try two or three.”
“Which meant replacing the carpet,” he said with a groan, “and then the furniture didn’t match the new carpet, so we had to replace all that. After that it was the TV stand.”
“Hey now, it wasn’t all that bad. We did get a lot of that stuff on sale as I recall.”
He winked at the lawyer. “Yeah, the spend-all-my-money sale.”
Julia looked offended. “It’s our money remember. And you were with me the whole time, Buster. And…..you were the one who picked out the TV stand. ‘It’s okay dear, she’ll fit in the corner no problem.’ Until we got it home….”
Charlie chuckled quietly as he contemplated that magic moment yet again.
“Yeah that was fun. I was sure I’d measured it right,” he explained, “but metric always throws me. They changed it right after I graduated high school so I still don’t get it. I mean it’s a nice piece of furniture and all but it’s a European make. All I can think of is that their metric is different from ours somehow. “
“Right,” said Julia, smiling knowingly. “And just remember, those are your BETA tapes not mine. You’re just lucky we’ve still got room for them all.”
“It’s coming back, honest. You’ll see, one of these days. …”
“You gotta see this,” exclaimed Julia. “ Every Get Smart episode ever made, and he won’t throw them out even though he’s got the DVD box set.”
“Yeah all right I know, I know,” said Charlie.
“So,” said Andrea, trying not to laugh. “Who really does get the dog?”
Charlie sighed deeply, which earned him a knowing glare from Julia, the love of his life for the past 27 years.
“It’ll be me and him I guess, unless I go first. At that point, well, does it matter? I mean, you will find him a good home won’t you?”
Julia looked hurt. She gave his right thigh a loving squeeze. ”C’mon, don’t talk like that. He’s not going anywhere and neither are you. I’ve been stuck with you too long for that to ever happen. I love you, you just remember that.” She gave him a playful poke in the ribs and he burst out laughing.
This whole thing with Julia and the wills had been bugging Charlie since day one. She had been chasing him for the better part of a year to “get this done” as she put it when he never really saw the need. They were still relatively young, sort of healthy, and now that the kids were gone, thinking seriously about selling out and picking up a little place in the country. Just a couple of acres were all Julia had in mind. I could garden and do my pottery and do the local craft shows and things, and you could….well….. you know….. do things. There’s always something that needs doing on a farm she’d say. God knows you have enough tools.
Just last Christmas, when she’d started all this stuff about wills and powers of attorney, he had actually spray painted a shovel gold and put it under the tree for her. If looks could kill she might have been a widow right then and there, but she got over it and became even more determined to get their affairs in order. And the longer Charlie put it off the more convinced she became of the need to. That TV show was right, men really do live for the moment. Well not me, I want to be completely sure before it’s too late.
Theirs was quite the relationship. So few of their peers had actually reached this stage of their lives still attached so fondly to each other. And fewer still had actually done the paperwork to make it official as Charlie put it. Still, he had also come to recognize the need to organize a few things in his life. You are getting older he told himself, and time is starting to run out. You have to do it and do it now. That had meant delving into estate planning, burial plots, and other dark things as he called them, but he had stuck to it and today it would all be over.
Their lawyer, 10 years younger and divorced, resigned herself to enduring the loving couple routine one more time. It was not something she saw very often in her line of work. God, she mused, married for 27 years and still holding hands, what I wouldn’t give for some of that. All that time and all that energy and they’re still crazy in love. If they could bottle it they’d be billionaires.
She glanced at her watch. “Okay folks, I don’t mean to be rude but we gotta get going here. We’ve still got a lot of ground to cover and I’ve got a client at 11. So, DNR, yes or know?”
“DN what?” said Charlie, a puzzled look on his face.
“Do Not Resuscitate,” said Julia, matter-of-factly, “Remember, we talked about this. If either one of us gets into a situation where we end up vegetables, or something like it, no extraordinary measures will be taken to keep us alive. Basically we pull the plug and that’s it.”
“Yeah I know, I know,” he said. “We’ve talked about and I’m okay with it, but it just seems a little harsh that’s all. Hard to imagine having to do that, you know?”
“It’s okay Baby, it’s okay,” said Julia softly. “I know this bothers you but we gotta do this. We’re not getting any younger, you and I, and with your condition and the kids moved out….it’s time.”
“Yeah, it’s just a little hard sometimes that’s all. I’ll be okay.” He took a deep breath. “Okay, so what’s next.”
“Well, actually, just a few signatures is all I really need now and we can close the books on this. I can have my assistant draft up the final forms and have them ready for you mid next week. Okay?”
They were both very quiet now, Charlie and Julia, sitting side by side and holding hands as they always did. In turn they leaned forward to pick up a pen and sign where the lawyer indicated. The silence was palpable.
“There now, all done. That wasn’t so bad now was it?”
“No I suppose not,” said Charlie, smiling broadly. “I guess all those lawyer lessons really paid off. It was a good idea coming here to read up on all that stuff. I can’t imagine how you do it. I think I counted 42 books alone on estate planning. All that just to hand it over to somebody else. And a hell of a view besides.”
The lawyer smiled, “There’s 43 but who’s counting, and yeah the view is pretty darn good. Yes I’ve read them all and they can help you make up your mind sometimes. It’s a little bit different perspective, but they do detail the decisions you have to make. “
“Thank you for this,” said Julia, squeezing Charlie’s hand tightly in affection. “This means a lot to me. To both of us.”
“Yeah I know Baby, I know. And you’re right, it is time to get all this done. I mean if we’re going to start travelling again next summer, we have to have all this done first.”
“That sounds nice. Where are you thinking of going?” asked the lawyer.
“Oh probably out east. Never been that way, either of us, so it’ll be quite the adventure. Stay at some B & Bs, do some walking, look around, you know…..all that good touristy kind of stuff,” said Charlie, smiling.
“But this time we won’t be in a hurry to get back to work or have to keep the kids busy. It’ll be just the two of us….” Julia suddenly developed a look of panic. “Oh God, speaking of which, what time is it?”
Charlie glanced at his watch. “Eleven on the nose. Why, what’s up?”
“God I’m late already. I’ve got my own clients coming and we still have to get a bite somewhere. Listen, Andrea, thank you for everything, you’ve been just wonderful. I can’t thank you enough.”
“Oh hey listen Julia, it’s no problem. It’s nice to be able to do something like this and not bring out the whip and chair. Tell you what, I’ll block in my schedule when the papers are ready and give you a call okay? Maybe we can do lunch and save you some time.”
“Sounds good, thanks. Bye.”
Charlie and Julia hurried out the office doors to the bank of elevators. The glowing numbers showed they were all busy, which meant they were going to have to wait even though Charlie pushed all the down buttons. Julia cursed under her breath.
“Damn. These are really important people and I can’t be late, not this time. Hey where did you get those?” Charlie waved some sandwiches under her nose.
“They were having some kind of party in the lunchroom so I grabbed a couple on the way past. We can eat on the way down.”
“We can’t do that, that’s someone’s lunch.”
“No it’s not, well yes it is, kinda, but we’re paying for it. I mean, she’s charging us enough, so who’s gonna miss a couple sandwiches? Oh wait, I forgot the drinks, I’ll be right back. Here take these, I’ll get a couple more.”
“No wait Charlie, don’t go, the elevator’s here.”
“You go ahead, Sweetie, I’ll catch up. Meet you at the car.”
“Yes, go, go, go. I’ll be right there I promise.”
“Oh all right. Love you. See you in a bit. Bye.”
Charlie was still waiting in the middle of the lunchtime crowd at the elevator doors when an ashen-faced Andrea hurried over to him. She took him gently by the arm and pulled him to the back of the crowd.
“Charlie, “ she whispered. “There’s something I need to tell you. Something’s happened“
“Okay, what is it.”
She sighed heavily, and looked down at her shoes before taking a deep breath and lifting her face to his. “It’s about Julia….”
“Okkaayyy, what about Julia? Something wrong? I mean I just saw her.”
“Yes I’m afraid so. Oh, listen I’m so sorry….”
“Andrea, what’s going on? What about Julia?” She told him and he broke down in tears. There were a few in the crowd who did the same, silently and privately, when they overheard what she had to say.
”You’re sure about that?”
“Yes, “ she said. “Quite sure. I talked to the hospital and that’s what they said happened. No question.”
“And they’re sure it was an accident. No chance someone here did this deliberately?”
“I checked with the police,” said the lawyer matter-of-factly. “They are quite satisfied on that point. I mean they found part of the sandwich still in her hand, bite marks and all. And the reaction time wasn’t all that unusual. Reactions like that can be as little as 30 seconds. Look at asthmatics, when they have a serious attack, it can be almost instant, and last as long as they can hold their breath. I’m afraid Julia’s reaction time was normal.”
“Damn,” Charlie whispered. “So what happens now?”
“Well, you’ll have to go through the police process, tell them what you know, get a death certificate, and then find a good home to work with. I’ve got the number of a couple that I deal with that are pretty reasonable, and entirely circumspect with a death like this.”
He sighed heavily.
“What’s the matter?”
“Oh nothing. I’m just surprised at how all this worked out. I mean that was a tray full of roast beef, tuna and cheese sandwiches and nobody can figure out how peanut butter got onto some of them. I mean all I did was grab a couple and hand them to her while she waited for the elevator. Who knew that she’d react as quickly as she did. I’ve heard of food allergies having that kind of an effect, and I knew that her nut allergy was serious, but I never…….God.”
“I know, I know,” said Andrea quietly, “I’m just as surprised as you are, but apparently there’s no predicting this or so I was told. I guess with not having had nuts for so long her immune system wasn’t built up enough and couldn’t handle the reaction when it hit.”
Charlie smiled wickedly. “Son of a frickin’ bitch……it actually worked.”
“Uh huh, looks like.”
“So listen, I’ve got a room with a hell of a view. Interested?”
“Yeah, I might be….lover.”