Friday Fiction – At least Uncle Charlie had sense
“At least Uncle Charlie had sense enough to enjoy the last twenty years
of his life,” Clay said. “He knew how to live. He didn’t keep working until
the day he died like Pop did.”
Clay’s father, like Clay, had been a quiet person, a banker who kept
his thoughts private as he carted himself off to work each day and trudged
home again in the evening. That was until the day he keeled over dead at his
desk. A robust sort of man, barely fifty-six years old, swooshed off the face
of the earth by a heart attack that came without a whisker of warning.
Louise waited for Clay to continue, waited for him to get back to their
discussion of the estate he’d inherited. Instead, he began reminiscing about
the time Uncle Charlie won a truckload of watermelons in a radio contest.
For several minutes she tried to look interested, but when Clay segued into
the story of a monster catfish Uncle Charlie once caught, Louise found it
impossible to keep looking interested. When he paused between words she
“This house of your uncle’s,” she said. “How much do you think it’s
“No idea.” Clay cradled his chin in the valley between his thumb and
forefinger as if deep in thought.
Louise naturally assumed he was working up an estimate. All that
property had to be worth something—maybe enough for a European
vacation, a new car or a backyard pool. Maybe even… As she pictured a
new bedroom set and burgundy-colored carpeting Clay announced, “The
value of the house doesn’t matter, because I’m not going to sell it.”
“Not going to sell?” she echoed. “But why?”
“Well, I’m almost fifty-four years old and before long we’ll want a
place…” His voice trailed off.
“Want a place? Why? What would we do with a house in Florida
when we’ve already got—” Suddenly the reality of what he was thinking
smacked Louise in the face and left her so faint she had to steady herself
against the table.
“You can’t possibly mean what I think you mean—?” she gasped. “It’s
impossible!” Not waiting for—or perhaps not wanting—his answer, she
peeled off a paper towel and began mopping a droplet of coffee that had
spilled on the table. How, she wondered, could he even think of living in
some other house? This was where they belonged, where they’d raised
their children. Why, she’d planned to live the rest of her life in this house.
She’d even imagined herself dying in the upstairs bedroom.
She finished wiping the table, then continued across the counter over
an already-spotless chrome faucet and along the edge of the sink. Wadding
the paper towel into a tight little ball, she dropped it into the garbage can
and turned back to Clay. “In my opinion,” she said, “it would be downright
foolish not to sell the house and take the money like the lawyer