My brother and I had never gotten along. Hatred would be too strong a word but indifference fit. Charlie was eighteen months older, and, as such, I was too young for his games. Charlie was born before the war, I was born during the dark days of misery and defeat. Oh ... we worked it out in the end; first Italy, then Germany and finally, Japan.
Charlie was ... responsible.
I was ... frivolous.
I truly believe that his eighteen months of better food, a house with plenty of coal and no rationing somehow helped him in those eighteen months to grow straight, strong, mentally fit and fat while I sucked hind tit.
Charlie had eggs, bacon, and toasted bread spread with real butter.
I had powered eggs, four ounces of mystery meat a week, day old home baked bread with bugs and margarine.
But, we grew ... it's how life works. Charlie grew to be six foot three. I ... the only male ... in the family under the magic six foot mark ... stopped at five feet ten. Just another bone of contention.
Life: a sexually transmitted fatal disease.
Charlie and I grew apart. He worked through high school, got a state job when he graduated and moved away. His job was uninteresting ... rod-man for a state highway survey crew. Seventy five hundred a year and fifteen dollars per diem. Fifteen bucks every day he lived away from his Ann Arbor base.
"It doesn't stress me. I walk until the chain stops me, stick the spike in the ground, obey the fella with the degree, and do it over and over ... all day long. Nobody cares as long as I do my job. I write in my head."
Charlie was big on Science Fiction ... what he read and what he wrote.
By the time he was thirty, Charley had over Seventy five thousand in the bank. Charlie ... the miser. At thirty-one, he was published ... a pseudonym ... of course.
I was a lazy fucker ... terrible person ... and listless.
I married ... probably to beat the baby on the way. Twenty four years old ... the wife was a high school senior.
Charlie married ... at 44 ... to a widow ... with children.
When the state decided that accumulated sick, vacation, and holidays had to be used or lost, Charlie went to college ... for four years ... paid for by his accumulation. Not that he needed the money for school ... as a state employee ... tuition and books were free ... he already owned a large duplex less than a mile from the school. The other half of the building made his mortgage.
I had never been to his ... wife's ... home.
So ... imagine my surprise when I got a call. "Hello."
"Mr. David James Austin?"
Shit ... a bill collector. "Yes," I said.
"Formerly married to Cora Jo Austin?"
"That is correct," I said.
"Would it be possible for you to visit our Law offices? Smith, Hagerty, Olsen and Lynn."
"Not any time soon, I AM in Tennessee," I said. "What's this all about?"
"Well, I guess there's no other way," It sounded like he was dithering, trying to make up his mind. Evidently he succeeded. "It is our sad duty to inform you of the premature deaths..."
Whoa ... DEATHS ... not death.
" ... of your brother, Charles..."
No big deal.
" ... his wife, Helene..."
She was a money grubbing gold digger.
" ... his adopted son, Willard..."
Never met him.
" ... his adopted daughter, Cassandra..."
Looked her up on Facebook ... a babe.
" ... your nephew, David James..."
" ... and his twin sister, Maryanne..."
" ... two weeks ago, this Saturday. You have been singularly hard to find, Mr. Austin."
Not hard enough. "You've been looking for me for two weeks?" I asked.
"Yes, when can you come to Belleville?"
"Mr. Austin left a vast estate." He paused.
The pause was long enough for my mind to scream, Fucking Charlie! You Bastard!
The attorney continued, "You are the executor."
"There has to be some mistake?"
Here, the lawyer, William Hagerty III, finally introduced himself. He spouted off my wedding date and the odd circumstances of it, my children's names and their birthdates, the name of our first dog, the places we'd lived ... every one of them.
I could no longer deny it ... I was me ... and Charley was a nosy bastard. Shit ... I don't remember all that crap! Birthdays?
"This isn't my regular job, Mr. Austin. My grandfather, William the first, was your brother's attorney. When he died, my Dad took over. Deuce ... that's Dad ... retired after a disabling stroke ... I'm the junior partner."
"Look, call me David."
"Only if you'll call me Trey."
"Done ... Trey, is there any way I can get out of this?"
"Because I don't want to be responsible," I said.
"Thank you, David. Your brother stated in the long preamble to his will that you wouldn't want the job because you didn't want the responsibility. That statement you just made proves your identity far more than anything else you could say ... Now that I have confirmed ... there is a charted Citation waiting at Downtown Island Airport flying direct to the Willow Run General Aviation terminal where a limo will pick you up."
"My car is broke," I said. "Wait ... there's somebody at the door."
"A limo driver. You need nothing, David. Just go."
She was cute in leather ... she knew it.
"David?" She was looking at a photograph. "Come on ... pilots awaiting. Go go go."
"Who is it David?" my wife asked. I'm surprised she noticed.
"I have to go, Karen."
"Stop at the store and get me something yummy."
"Got any money?"