Thursday, 29 August 2013

A most unusual house.

ANOTHER TEN WORDS
This weeks's challenge from Chuck Wendig at Terribleminds.
I’m going to give you ten words. Your job is to work all ten of these words into a flash fiction story, ~1000 words in length. That’s it. End of mandate.
The story’s due in a week: Friday, August 30th, noon EST.
Post at your online space.
Link back here.
The ten random words are as follows:
FUNERAL
CAPTIVATE
DECEIT
BRIMSTONE
CANYON
BALLOON
CLAY
DISFIGURED
WILLOW
ATOMIC
A most unusual house.
She hated funerals. It was the insincerity of most of the mourners that made her want to barf. When she died, she hoped a few firm friends showed up, not a crowd of rubber-neckers with hearts full of deceit, and eyes devoid of tears. One person had even bought a flower arrangement that had a balloon in it for goodness’ sake. She was hoping that it didn’t say ‘Congratulations; it’s a boy!’ or something equally inappropriate.
She glanced around at them. The crowd had left the chapel and followed the family to the interment. She thought that was a bit rude. She felt as if that part ought to be more private. She didn’t know anyone other than her mother and a few vaguely familiar faces from other family events; weddings, christenings and funerals. Maybe people should have get-togethers for divorces? Just to even things up? A right of reply to those hideous wedding speeches.
Their greed seeped out of the pores of their skin. Her grandmother was a wealthy woman. Everyone wanted a piece of the pie. They all pretended to be captivated. Hanging on every word the minister said as if they actually cared.
She was one cousin among a dozen, the chances of her getting anything of value was unlikely. The insincerity of it made her mouth taste sulphurous, as if she had chewed on brimstone. She edged slowly backwards and finally, walked away.
The cemetery was close to her grandmother’s house. She had a vague memory of walking through it as a child wearing her favourite sandals with the enormous plastic daisy on them. The place brought it back. She must have been about five or so. They had been on an epic road trip holiday. Even done the Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore and then they had dropped in to visit grandma. She remembered now. The actual memories were disfigured by the photos and the stories told as you looked at the album. There was a stream around here somewhere. She stepped carefully around the graves until she saw a willow, leaning over the clay banks and trailing its long branches on the surface of the water.
She huffed out a breath. She could breathe now, by the river. She bent down, cupped her hand and drank from the clear water. When she turned around her grandmother was sitting on the roots of the willow.
She closed her eyes. When she opened them again her grandmother was still there but looked slightly more transparent if that was possible.
“Shouldn’t you be at your funeral?” she asked.
The old woman shuddered. “Horrible things,” she muttered.
“Yeah… that’s what I thought.”
“I know.”
She nodded. “Your friends came,” she tried.
“None of those people are my friends.”
“I am sorry to hear that.” She genuinely meant that.
“You’re here.”
“Yes.” She hesitated. “And you’re here.”
“I have something to tell you.”
“Okay.”
“The house is yours and all of the money. Every cent.”
“Me? Good Lord. Why?”
“You love it. Like I did and you will need the money to protect it and maintain it.”
“I hardly ever visited here.”
“I know. That wasn’t your fault. But it is still obvious to me that you are the right one out of them all.”
“They will fight me in the courts.”
“No, they won’t. I have built in some curses. Always hated lawyers.”
“Ah… okay. Will they know that?”
“Of course! It’s in the will. Once the first few drop dead, they’ll get it.”
“And you expect a lawyer to read that out?”
She chuckled. “Read it? He drafted it. Stick with him. He’s not half bad.”
“For a lawyer?”
“Exactly. He’s handsome, too. Pity about the lack of soul.”
She suspected that she may actually mean that literally.
She heard her name called by a man whose voice she didn’t recognise.
“Here!” she called back. “Will you be around?” she asked the spirit.
“If you wish.”
“I think I will need your advice and I’d like to get to know you better.”
Her grandmother seemed pleased by that. The spirit stood and floated patiently just behind her. She saw him now, well dressed, tall and dark haired and picking his way through the grass as if it would wreck his shoes. He was good looking.
“Don’t sign anything without reading it first,” her grandmother said.
“I take offence at that,” he said.
“You can see her?”
He nodded his head in a sideways movement that was almost more of a bow. Respectful.
“Are you ready for the reading?” he asked her.
“I-I think so. It will be bad won’t it?”
Atomic.” He held his arm out to her. She put her arm through it and he patted the back of her hand where it rested on top of his. “You’ll be fine with two advisors.”
“She’s coming, too.”
“I’m sure she wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
“I don’t know… she missed her own funeral.”
He laughed and she thought he got better looking.
“How will we stop them from taking things from the house?” she asked. If they were disgruntled after the reading, she knew a few cousins who were highly likely to slip the silverware into their handbag.
“It won’t matter; the things will eventually find their way back.”
She blinked. Clearly she had inherited a very unusual house.
~~~~
© AM Gray 2013