How to Lose a Fortune - A Flash Fiction

To Margaret, the funeral went by like a slide show. Frederick’s body lay motionless in a gold-trimmed box. Everything else, all the well wishes and condolences, evaporated against that one feature of the room. Next, a faceless line of acquaintances and business partners stood to speak, but all Margret could remember was a chip in the lectern's dark-stained wood. She kept her focus on that one spot to avoid having to look at her dead husband’s face any longer.

She remembered sitting beside her driver, Steven, in the limo, and sitting in a seat just next to the casket for the internment. She sat in her chair long after the others left, eyes on the handful of earth she was made to throw on his final resting place.

“Ma’am, should I ready the car for the reception?”

“Steven, take me home,” she said, grabbing his arm for support as she pulled to a stand. Her final memory of that day was sitting in an overstuffed chaise in Frederick’s study. She simply stared at the desk chair he’d had as long as she’d known him. He’d found it on the side of the road when he was in college, patched with Duct Tape and making all manner of unpleasant noises. Frederick said he’d always keep it, “to remind me I built a whole business with nothing but a second hand chair.”

The memories of that day stood still in her mind, absent of any commotion or movement, words or feelings. In all her memories, and the memories of those astute enough to notice, she never once cried.

The next day, Mr. Haroldson stood in the same study with his wire frame glasses pushed up until they almost touched his eyes. This is the image Margaret imagined she’d remember from this part of the death ritual: her sitting straight as a nail at the reading of her husband’s will.

She first noticed the lawyer’s hands shaking, then his voice. “Mrs. Privley, please remember I am the lawyer for Frederick’s estate at this point. Are you certain you don’t want your own representation?”

“Mr. Haroldson...Gregory, you’ve been the family lawyer since Frederick filed his first corporation. I trust you to read his will,” Margret said.

Gregory opened his briefcase and pulled out a file folder. Inside was a one page document. “This is the last will and testament of Frederick David Privley, being of sound mind and body of this twentieth of June, two-thousand sixteen.”

Margaret interrupted. “Are you telling me he updated his will last week?”

“Yes ma’am. Do you want me to continue?”

“Go on,” she said

“I leave, with no restrictions, any asset I still personally own, minus all debts, to my wife, Margaret Wilma Privley nee Anderson.” He paused for a moment. “After that is his signature and notary public endorsements.”

Margaret let out a sigh. “You had me worried, Mr. Haroldson. Shame on you.”

“Mrs. Privley, I feel I should let you know that you husband has recently incurred a substantial debt. It is possible it will take most or all of his assets to satisfy the amount.”

Margret’s body slumped.

“Gregory. Mr. Henderson, I...I believe I will want my own representation after all.”

(Note from the author: This story is actually in the same "universe" as a previous flash fiction: The Consultant. The connection is between the two stories has not yet been made, but in my head these two stories belong together.)