The day started out like any other, boring and seemingly endless, I got to the office late, received a dirty look from my boss and felt tired from a late night with too little sleep. The coffee in the office was terrible but I helped myself freely to it anyway hoping the caffeine would revive at least a tenth of my energy and get me through another long day. To make matters worse it was a Monday. Ugh!
I was busy with reports, but was so bored by them and had such a backlog that I was tempted to shove them into the trash bin all morning. I was forced to listen to Rush Limbaugh yelling from the guy's radio in the cube next to me. From the other side I heard Larry King talking to a radio guest, compliments of my other cube neighbor. I didn't like either Rush or Larry, but this was cube life at its most humiliating and I had few choices and no power.
Then after the morning was halfway finished I heard the office sweetheart/slut talking with one of the managers in the hall outside my cube. She was trying to get in with the boss and finagle another promotion. Good for her, I thought, certain that with a body like hers she would make it. I had been in the de-humanizing world of corporate America for over three years and far from ever being promoted I had just barely managed not to get demoted.
During the last hour of the morning we had a team meeting. Oh god how I hated these! The one hour drug and drug and drug by, my back was hurting by the time I rose up out of the chair, and my right leg had gone to sleep. The meeting was aimed at being a morale booster but I was always amazed at how demoralized the team was when we trudged out of one of these meetings.
When I got back to my cubicle the red light was blinking on my phone telling me I had a message. The growing ulcer in my stomach burned at the sight. This was no doubt another message left by one of my unsatisfied customers wanting to know where their flipping reports were. I could have told them what to do with their reports, but then of course I wouldn't have had a job any longer. I was fairly low on my savings and my debt was mounting because of the new car I had purchased the year before, so I couldn't afford to be with out the job. As I picked up the phone to listen to the message I just hoped that the irate customer had not copied my boss on the message.
The message was not from an irate customer. Instead my first impression was that it was worse. The stern voice of an older man informed me that he was an attorney with a big firm downtown and wanted me to call him ASAP. What kind of trouble had I gotten myself into this time I wondered?
I wrote down the number the stern voiced attorney had left and quickly dialed it. A receptionist answered the line and I told her who I was and gave the name of the attorney who had called me. She was polite and told me to hold. I did as I was instructed and felt my palms grow sweaty as I held the phone to my ear.
My boss walked by my cube and I tried to give her my best smile. She frowned back at me and passed. Then the attorney came on the line.
"Mr. Jones?" asked the attorney. "Mr. Jimmy Jones?"
"Yes. That's me."
"My name is Max Strickland. I'm a partner with Hart, Hadley, and Strickland. I need to see you in my office as soon as possible Mr. Jones."
"What is this about?"
"It concerns your Uncle Richard. I'd prefer not to go into any more detail on the phone. I have some time this afternoon at one. Plan on staying for at least an hour, my receptionist will give you directions over to the office. I'll see you then."
I stayed on the line long enough to get the directions. I already knew where it was. I worked downtown and could walk about three blocks and be at the front door of the skyscraper the law firm was a tenant of.
I sent my boss an email saying I would be taking lunch from one to two that afternoon. I never got a response back, but my boss never responded to my emails unless I was in trouble, so I assumed it was all right to take the late lunch hour and waited impatiently for the time to arrive. I still had no clue as to what this was all about, but he had mentioned my Uncle Dick so I was not too worried. Uncle Dick was my favorite uncle, and was a cool guy. If he was involved in this somehow it might be all right, and would definitely be interesting.
I got caught on the phone with one of my worst clients five minutes before I was to leave. The client call lasted ten minutes and so this made me late. Nothing was accomplished by the call, the client just got to ball me out. They probably felt better after the call. I felt worse and not too much like going to a law office to spend my whole lunch hour.
I walked the few blocks down from my modest office building, and to the giant skyscraper where Hart, Hadley, and Strickland were located. Entering the building lobby I read the directory and found the firms name listed on the twenty-first through twenty-third floors, and a part of the twenty-fourth floor. The reception area was on the twenty-second floor, and so that's where I took the elevator.
The reception area was fancy and spoke of money right from your first step off the elevator. Oak wood panels covered the walls, and even the pretty young receptionist had a big desk and a leather chair. She was friendly to me, but only in a polite sort of way. I got the feeling she thought I was an important client. Maybe she wasn't too smart.
I only had about two minutes to wait. I flipped through a magazine in the reception area and sat in one of the over stuffed chairs. Then the attorney I had spoke with on the phone, Mr. Strickland came out and introduced himself.
"Come right this way Mr. Jones," he said as he led me back through the firms' offices. Soon we reached a huge conference room with a spectacular view of the city, and I was invited to have a seat at a long formal table. There were about half a dozen people in the room. All wearing expensive suits, and all attorneys, I felt out of place immediately.
An uncomfortable few minutes of silence ensued and there was the rustling of papers across the table as a couple of the attorneys opened brief cases. I realized all eyes were upon me and I looked nervously at the unblemished varnish of the tabletop.
"Can you give us a picture ID, Mr. Jones?" Strickland asked, and I fumbled in my wallet for my driver's license. I handed it over to one of the lesser attorneys and he hustled out of the office with it to get a photocopy.
"I need you to sign here," Strickland said handing me a serious looking document. "I also need a signature on the third page from the last, and initial everywhere I've placed a red circle."
He handed me his personal pen, embossed with his initials. I bent over the pages to start to sign, but then thought better of it. What in the hell was all of this?
"Could I get an explanation as to what this is all about?" I asked.
"Sorry, Mr. Jones," Strickland said, and I was surprised how deferential he was to me. "Of course, let me start at the beginning."
"You said this is about my Uncle Richard?"
"It is," Strickland, answered directly. "Your Uncle Richard died last Friday night."
"I'm sorry to hear that."
"This matter concerns his Last Will and Testament."
"Uncle Dick remembered me in his Will?"
"Yes. He did. In fact he has left you everything in his Will. You are his sole benefactor."
The importance of these words, or how they were about to change my life didn't sink in right away. I sat there and still felt out of place in the elegant conference room surrounded by attorneys.
"We are notarizing your signature now. There are quite a few more papers that I am going to need you to sign. That's why I told you on the phone this could take an hour or longer."
You see, my Uncle Dick had been rich. He had started off his own business when he was a young man, and sold it a few years later at a sizable profit. Then in his middle years he had opened a string of mid sized companies. Those were a success as well, and he sold them for a huge profit. Then in his later years he had opened a couple of gigantic international corporations. After selling those when he was a very old man he had become a billionaire.
My family had been proud of all Uncle Richard's success, but at the same time held him up as the black sheep of the family. He had lived a non-conventional life, and there were conservative elements in my family who despised him. My dad had not talked to him in a number of years.
I had always been very close to Uncle Dick growing up as a boy. He was my favorite relative by far, and not because of his money, because he never shared any of that with the rest of us. He was just a personable guy. Very low key, he never let anything get to him or upset him, and he seemed to have a kind of innate wisdom about him that made you look up to him regardless of his financial standing. I actually respected Uncle Dick, and I have respected few people in my whole life. I was sorry he was dead. I had not seen him since I graduated from college three years before.
The paper signing took over an hour. Actually it took over two hours. My arm was tired, and my right hand had a cramp in it by the time I had initialed the last document. I don't know exactly what all I had been signing, or why I was required to sign so many different papers. I was just in a daze. While I sat there signing documents I felt genuinely bad that Uncle Dick was dead, and the money aspect of things had not occurred to me yet.
.... There is more of this story ...