The damned house.

After years of separation, two brothers met forced by an inconvenient event. Their father’s funeral.

“When was the last time?” Both said at unison shocked by the signs of time. It felt like was since childhood—in late 70’s when one of the two was wearing a Star Wars T-shirt that day, doesn’t matter who, back then they exchanged clothes—that both haven’t seen each other.  The older brother, now a successful financier that wore an impeccable hand-embroidery wool suit, a heavy Swiss watch and a smartphone that appeared glued to his hand. The younger brother, a renowned acupuncturist and alternative healer, environmentalist and social network activist that wore a flannel attire, Buddhist prayer beads, slovenly long hair and worn leather sandals.

The line was long to offer the condolences to both grievers.

That endless night both mourned and complained by their father’s passing. They remembered the wonderful years they spent together  and mourned again until the tears run out as the coffee got cold and the cigarettes turned to ashes.

The two dutiful sons carried the coffin on shoulders and gave a touching farewell speech of their beloved father.

A plump short man with gnarled mustache, intercepted the two brothers after the burial. He introduced himself with high pitched voice as “Mr. Adolf Griffith, the deceased’s lawyer.”  He invited both to attend to his office the next day to update them on their father’s affairs. The brothers looked puzzled each other, forgetting that the matters for the dead finish six feet under, but for the living, are quite far from solved. Mr. Griffith wiped the sweat of his bald head, extended his card accompanied with his condolences and leaved before they could pronounce a word.

The two men were now strangers in the town that was their birth place, and like most of the people that abandon that their hometown in pursuit of greatness they loathed that place and had no plan of staying longer. However, with the advent of recent news—and as dutiful sons they were—both agreed on staying on their father’s house and to attend with Mr. Griffith next morning to solve any remaining issue before departing.

They arrived to the 1144 of Berkeley street. The house felt smaller than before, but their father made an excellent job conserving it, so for the two it was traveling back in time. The oldest son felt proud of observing his school diplomas hanging on the corridors. The youngest found with surprise that his father kept all his paintings and drawings at his room.

They shared the table as used to do as children, with a glass of warm milk and a slice of fruitcake cooked by old Mrs. Wellington, and wandered how old was she. “More than a hundred,” pointed the younger son remembering she was an old woman back there. But the fruitcake was the same.

After dinner, they went up to their respective rooms and found them unchanged, like if they were the last ones inside of them. Like if the door closed after their departure and was never opened until that moment. It was surprising, it was magical.

Both could barely slept that night digging in the cupboards for their lost memories that slowly changed their perspective about that place. “It’s not that bad after all, and maybe, in second thought, it’s great to stay here,” the brothers realized. The tiredness pelleted at the small hours and they fell asleep.

“I regret to inform you,” said Mr. Griffith twisting his moustache. “We are not sure about the whereabouts of your father’s will and it will take me about a week to search for it.” He pointed the vast unorganized and dusty library that appeared to hold the annals of whole human history.

The brothers took this news lightly, after all, they were having a good time in the house and both deserved a rightful vacation, so this represented a perfect opportunity. They arranged everything, called their jobs to postponing appointments and to relatives.

As the days passed the lively vacations they planned in the house, it became anything but peaceful. After years apart and with opposite manners, soon they started arguing. First for preparing coffee instead of green tea, washing the dishes and for buying organic vegetables at grocery. Later in a heated debate about smoking weed instead of cigarette and finally for listen Pink Floyd instead of Queen and U2. They realized why they could not live together any longer, but they didn’t give much importance in the subject because a day later, Mr. Griffith would announce who will inherit the house—which now both were fond of.

“I regret to inform you,” said Mr. Griffith twisting his moustache. “That your father, died intestate and we need to: apply for a letter of administration and point and executor, perform a trial to clear succession to you… blah, blah, blah.” The two brothers stared at him speechless. “Well, I’ll call you when have the documents ready.”

The two returned to the house amid an awkward silence that abided until evening. Both thought about the best way to proceed with this setback but no one dared to externalize them.

That night, both went to bed, and in the moment between sleep and vigil they received the visit of an unexpected visitor.

“Last night,” said the oldest brother forking a piece of omelet. “My father came to visit me.”

“I dreamed of him too,” answered the younger brother spooning his porridge. “Weird, isn’t?”

“He came to apology for not leaving a will, but he said that his last wish was that I should inherit the house and that you will understand and abide his will.” Said the older brother evading his brother’s sight.

“Well.” The younger brother cleared his throat. “He said the same to me, because after all, I was the one who helped him to build the barn.” He hanged a medal in his chest. “So I was the rightful heir of the house.”

“Barn? Do you mean the wood stall in the backyard that looks like a latrine and only serves to shelter gardening tools?” Said the oldest brother with irony. “But I, instead helped him to repair the porch, I’m the rightful heir of the house.”

“The porch?” The young brother guffawed. “The huge strainer with golf ball sized holes? I will need to invest a fortune just to repair the porch only because you don’t do anything good.”

“I don’t believe your stunted salary selling incenses will allow you to pay for that, you can’t even pay for a pair of shoes and come to tell me that I don’t do anything good? At least I finished school.”

“You and your overflowing ego,” says the younger brother. “Instead of the porch you should have built a statue of you with a sign inviting to guided tours to admire the walls plagued with your grandiosity.” He waved his hand up to the sky.

The older brother stood and hit the table with both hands. “And you should have worked instead of pursuing your artistic dreams leeching on my father’s wealth!”

“Oh!” The younger brother tossed the spoon over the table and stood. “Then what about the money wasted when you crashed father’s car in a binge?”

The two stared each other with fast paced heart and a knot in the throat recalling all the awful old memories that have erupted.

“I am going to do what my father didn’t when had a chance.” Said the older brother abandoning the kitchen and raced the stair to his father’s room while his brother stood hearing the footsteps. The older brother opened the window and casted away the framed paints and drawings into the lawn of the backyard, that didn’t cushion the fall.

Drown with rage the youngest brother walked the corridors dropping the hanged diplomas and when found no other, he took a hammer and went out the house to hit the porch.

The older brother ran down the stairs to the kitchen and turned upside down the cupboard until he found a combustible gallon and headed to the backyard and sprinkled the wood stall and ignited the fire warmer than hell.

He came back to the kitchen to find his younger brother swinging a baseball bat.

“I’m going to kill you,” shouted before charging him. The oldest brother managed to dodge the swing and wrestled him down.

“No, I’m going to kill you,” Said the oldest brother chocking him. “Buddhist can’t kill, remember?”

The youngest brother managed to escape the lock and punched him back.

Both wrestled ferociously for long minutes destroying everything that came in their way, until the telephone rang. After seven ring tones, they separated and finally the older brother answered breathless. “Yes?”

“Oh, it’s me Mr. Griffith, I called you because I regret to inform you,” the brothers stuck to the receiver listened to the twisting of the mustache. “Mr. Lee, came to me and brought a contract of sale that your father issued of the house, and the copy of the bank transaction of the payment, so I regret to notify you that the rightful owner of the house is now Mr. Lee.”

The receiver was dead silent so Mr. Griffith continued. “Mr. Lee apologies for the delay of the notification, but he didn’t wanted to push this matters during your mourning.”

There was no answer from the brothers so he ended the call. “Well, Mr. Lee wishes that you could clear the house by Friday.”

The brothers hanged the phone.

“What did they said?” Asks Mr. Lee worried by reading Mr. Griffith shocked expression.

“Nothing, don’t worry,” said Mr. Griffith wiping the sweat of his bald head. “You know this youth, they feel they own the world.” He taps the back of Mr. Lee. “We’ll get the house… someday, but we’ll get it.”

 

M. Ch. Landa

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