October 2012



   “Did you get them?” Larry asked. Everett pulled a pair of bolt cutters from his canvass bag and smiled. Times were tough for Larry and Everett, there weren’t any jobs for people like them and the natural course of action was to do what you had to do to get by. “The last train passes at 1am, that’s when we’ll do it.” They had heard stories of men climbing railroad poles to the top and cutting long spans of copper wire from the poles. As long as a train didn’t go by, the wire was clear of electric.  One strand could net a couple of hundred dollars for an hours worth of work.  At about 2am the two men made their way up the hill from Terrence Street to the railroad. They climbed through a hole they cut in the fence mesh the night before.
   Larry shimmied up a pole as Everett watched for anyone on the railroad, looked up at Larry now a half a football field up in the air and was glad he was the look out. Larry pressed on the handles of the bolt cutters as they bit into the copper, Everett saw the fast moving light as it came around the bend of the railroad.  “Train!” he yelled. He heard a loud pop and a thud then the roar of the train passing by him. Larry was on the ground next to him, smoke pouring from his head. Everett looked down at Larry, shook his head and climbed through the hole in the fence down to Terrence Street.

g emil reutter lives and writes in the Fox Chase neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa. (USA) where he founded The Fox Chase Review and Reading Series. You can find him at g emil reutter-author.

The Bereaved Heirs

Henry ambles over to the stove in pursuit of boiling a pot of coffee. Since the arrival of his relatives, however, everything of conceivable worth and slightest portability has disappeared. Apparently cooking utensils and pots fall into this category, and so Henry finds himself unable to make his daily morning drink. He wonders if he ought to plead, well, living death in the absence of caffeine, but decides that in the context, such an announcement would prove ill-advised.
The general feeling among the possible heirs at the news of Aunt Emily's death amounts to wondering what changes and benefits this event would bring about. Of course, they were now under obligation to fulfill propriety and--oh horror!--express their sincere condolences. As the group mills about the house, a small dog yips excitedly and jumps about their feet.
Jane, a niece of the dearly departed, sniffs, "Goodness, once the old hen pronounced her decision to pass on a bequest to a chosen heir, she ought to have had the respectability to die immediately after. Most decent people do, you know." Her husband John tries to placate her.
"Now, now, my dear. Miss Emily Moore was a generous donor to the Organization Propounding the Wellness of Suicidal House Pets, as well as the St. Patrick's Hospital of Imbeciles, founded by that ... that satirist, Jonathan Swift. In short, a kinder soul could not be found even in the Society of the Spanish Inquisition." He pauses. "That is  ...  if  Miss  Emily  truly  has,  at  last,  croaked."
John crosses himself for safety assurance.
Jane pats him on the arm. "You're Protestant, dear." The little dog cheerfully follows after the guests as they converse.
Catherine snorts inelegantly. "Indeed. We’ve been fooled so many times before. One would think the joke paled the fifth time it was played. What do you think of all this, Henry?"
“My advice” Henry smiles, “is good for all occasions, and likely includes this one: 'Start drinking heavily. Everyone must have their singular amusements, however vexing to others.”
Now poison  ...  or  a  wall  could  fall  quite  accidentally ... Jane leans forward and says in a low gossipy voice, "I hear Miss Emily spent her last breath damning her long-dead ancestors, and her other last breath cursing her offspring."
Some oil on the steps ... he could conveniently fall on a knife ... John interjects his opinion. "Nonsense. Miss Emily didn't have children, and her cackling antecedents came from the devil already. Moreover, she hated everyone." The implications of this statement and the resulting consequences on their respective portions casts a pall on the group more befitting a viewing.
Henry clears his throat. "We'd better settle down." To emphasize his point, he walks ahead of everyone and sits on one of the neatly arranged chairs.
The others smile at one another sweetly and follow, the ladies rustling in their black velvet, the gentlemen in their black suits, and all sweltering desperately in the heat. As the pastor begins a solemn prayer, everyone pulls on an appropriately mournful face, some even managing to squeeze out a tear. Henry is the only one to remain unmoved, his head bowed and eyes closed in silent respect for the dead who, if not lovable, at least had terrified him during his impressionable adolescence. That certainly deserved some degree of acknowledgment.
As soon as decently possible, that is, three days later, the fellow heirs-to-be gather together once more for the hearing of the will. The stout little lawyer clears his throat self-importantly. He begins to drone about technicalities. And proper procedure. And continues to do so despite impatient coughs and other delicate suggestions for him to hurry it up, or loud hints from Catherine that she has waited long enough for this, Jane remarking solicitously that her John suffered from a sad case of nerves in times of suspense, and that said suspense might very well kill him, etc cetera, et cetera. And et cetera. Henry takes the opportunity to try to recall exactly who these people are. Of these lovely representatives of humanity:
John is a little man, physically, and believably a victim of agitation, genial of manner and affable of temper.  Under this exterior of stammers and smiles, however, lies a paranoiac of the highest order, a man who nurses his fears and waters them lovingly; no doubt John talks to them too.
Jane, as has been noted, is a most an incurable busybody. She knows everything that mustn't be known in her neighborhood save for her own affairs. The poor woman is frightened to death of her equally nosey mother-in-law coming over, and upon marriage forced her husband to move the house to a busy section of the city which the latter hated enough not to ever visit, even for her darling son.
Henry moves on Catherine, as you, dear reader, ought to do as well. Don't dawdle. Striving for haughty airs which become her as badly as pink skirts on an elephant, Catherine bowls over everyone in her path and stomps on the remains.
So, Henry surmises, they are all quite capable of murder.
Oh, my dear reader, have you missed that conclusion? Do try to keep up.
“And so ...” the lawyer finishes, “I have decided, after no deliberation whatsoever, to bequeath my worldly goods unto that one creative who has brought joy to my last days--”
All lean forward, except for Henry, who settles back comfortably in his chair to watch the ensuing tragicomedy. The little dog jumps up onto his lap and proceeds to wheel about several times before making itself a little nest.
Catherine, Jane and John start up, smiling with hands outstretched, before realization sinks in. “Who—who is--?” they splutter. Just at that moment, Henry reads aloud the word on the dog's collar. “Benedict, is it, pretty girl?” At the mention of her name, the little dog yelps happily and licks his chin.

Winnie Khaw