Up In Smoke

Eva patiently waited for her stepbrother, Robert, to end his drone about the money he was to get from the will – something about opening a business with other people’s money and having the bank foreclose on some recalcitrant properties. It didn’t seem fair that Robert would inherit everything except the contents of the old house, but after all, she had to remind herself that she qualified only as a stepdaughter. Dad’s passing did not feel like losing someone she loved, but rather gaining a lump in her heart that wouldn’t go away.

She daydreamed about the wonderful talks she and dad shared. Talks about when Mom was alive, about the hard days of her illness and about her passing were precious memories. Robert had been able to go to college, even ithough she had not. It wasn’t so bad being a veterinarian’s assistant, since she always loved animals. If only she could finish her schooling and become a vet herself. But she knew it was an impossible dream with no funds to finance her education.

Robert’s smile turned into a smirk as he offered his opinion on what she could do with the furniture left in the house. Eva couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to buy these old, run-down pieces, but Robert’s suggestion of a one price sale to a local second hand shop would have to do. Then Robert’s brow furrowed with annoyance as he ranted on about the missing stock portfolio belonging to her dad. There was no specific mention of it in the will and Robert wanted to make sure he got everything owed to him. Of course, the house and land, even though mortgaged to the hilt, would pay the outstanding bills with money left over.
After their first conversation about settling Dad’s affairs, Robert’s frequent phone calls became surlier by the day. Two weeks later a call from the police came with the shocking news that her Dad’s house had burned down to the ground. The house itself did have fire insurance to the tune of $100,000.00. Lucky Robert.

Lucky also was the fire investigator who canvassed the neighbors, one of whom recorded the license plate of a car in the street just before the time of the fire. The police soon identified Robert as the arsonist. But since it was his own property, as long as he didn’t file a claim (He said it was an accident) he got off scot free.

Sad with the loss of Dad’s mementos, Eva sat reading the single piece of his writing left in the world. Halfway down the last page of the will, he sentimentally included a poem he wrote for his beloved stepdaughter. It read:

You came like smoke into my life
To warm my heart and bless my wife.
Your giving nature deserves to find
A precious hearth for a heart that’s kind.

One month later, as a final gesture, Eva decided to make one last visit to the old homestead. She gathered the bags readied for her trip to her job at the animal hospital. She cried as she neared the street of her youth. One last turn revealed an empty lot already over-grown with weeds.

Reaching to the sky, a lone chimney stood mute, surrounded by ghostly memories of happier days. As Eva approached the small fireplace at the base of the chimney mentioned in her will, the mention of a hearth struck a chord in her mind. Realizing that her Dad may have hidden something under the hearthstone, she frantically grabbed a stick and pried at the hearthstone. Raising it, the dark space under the stone at first seemed empty. No, something wrapped in a dark, wet bundle occupied the space. Unwrapping the folds carefully, an envelope addressed to her contained a letter and a large number of stock certificates. Now tears of sadness turned to joy as she pressed the evidence of her father’s love to her chest. The sadness of her loss was magically transformed into the promising glow of a bright future.

Up In Smoke

Kenneth Hoffman

Stuarts Draft,, United States

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Artist's Description

Sometimes you get what you deserve.



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  • Ann  Warrenton
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