By Liz Ulin
Maddie’s back ached like the devil, but she sat up straight in her chair and fished out the paper from her purse, the list of nieces and nephews and which heirlooms they’d inherit. It was quite a mess, things re-penciled in again and again. She squinted to read the darn thing.
Lilith had always loved the Hummel figurines but god knew her house was a sty and they’d likely be buried in filth inside of a week.
At forty-five, Thomas wasn’t even married to a woman, but Maddie had promised him the sapphire ring ages ago. What on earth would he even do with it now?
And Lorraine, his sister, never missed a chance to admire it. But such shameless coveting should hardly be rewarded.
And poor Janice—that one was never right in the head. What to leave in the care of a woman who stores mayonnaise out of the fridge?
Then there was Bobby and Nicholas and Cecile and Gen…
It was all too difficult.
Maddie was about to say that it was all too difficult and that she needed more time and that she really couldn’t even think about it right now, could they do it next week? But when she looked up, she didn’t say any of this.
The lawyer, Jimmy Pancetta, a trusted family friend and confidante, had taken the empty box of donuts off his desk and put it over his head like a hat.
Jimmy held his pen, poised to record her wishes. “Maddie, I know this isn’t easy, but let’s just get it on paper the best we can.”
Maddie looked down at the list and then back at her lawyer to make sure she wasn’t just having a moment. They were happening more and more, these moments, when she wasn’t so sure of herself.
When something she should know, she didn’t know. When something she found strange, other people didn’t find strange.
Perhaps this was a moment; how could it be otherwise? Jimmy had a donut box on his head.
“Maddie, the last time you came in, we had the figurines going to Cecile and the sapphire ring going to Tom…”
It wasn’t just that he had a donut box on his head, but his lips were a vibrant shade of red, Ruby Rose, in fact. Her shade of red. Maddie dug into her purse, fumbling for her lipstick. There were her keys, her wallet, her dental floss. No lipstick.
She dumped her purse out onto the desk. It was absolutely not possible to be without lipstick because a lady does not go out without her lipstick. So where was the lipstick?
“Is everything alright? Is there something you’re looking for? Maddie, here, let me—”
People didn’t usually scream at Maddie like this. Usually they didn’t even notice her. When she sat at a dinner party or stood on the subway or waited in line for ten minutes at the deli and took a number like everyone else, they didn’t even call her number, purposely skipping her number because perhaps she was a little slow to order, asking to taste things, entirely within her rights! Well, things could be delicious or disgusting. Was she supposed to just trust them? Pay the money, take it home, and then toss it in the garbage?
Jimmy got up from the desk and went around to her side. She could see the fishnet stockings clearly now, and the heels. She’d always suspected he was a bit swishy, but for heaven’s sake, wearing them to work? She was as modern as the next person, but there was a limit. How had it fallen to her to tell him? It was always falling to her. Looking after everything, setting things straight.
“Jimmy, this is extremely inappropriate.”
Jimmy was taken aback. It couldn’t have been easy to be called out like that by an old family friend, told how you appeared to have lost your marbles and should really be seeing a psychiatrist. But maybe it was just stress or a temporary lapse. She’d give him the benefit of the doubt for now, get him to sit down and get back to work.
“Alright, Jimmy, give Lilith the Hummels. They’ll live like pigs but at least she won’t sell them.”
Maddie folded her hands in her lap and stared at her lawyer. The contents of her purse were all over his desk and she’d get to that in a minute, but for now, she had to get this straight—her thoughts about where things would go and who would get them. Her head was clear now and who knew how long it would stay that way? People sometimes took a turn for the worse and then it was too late.
“I promised Tom the sapphire ring. I know it doesn’t make sense, but go ahead and give it to him.”
“You’re sure?” the Jimmy asked.
“Of course I’m not sure, Jimmy, but if we waited for things to make sense…” she looked at him pointedly over her glasses, “we’d never get anything done.”
On the bus home, Maddie sat next to big man who took considerably more than his half of the seat and could’ve used a shower. To distract herself, she scribbled a to-do list on the back of an old grocery receipt: take chicken out of freezer, cancel Didi’s vet, call Jimmy’s wife—a horrendous task but she’d have to intervene at this point—iron skirt, scrub sink stain, list for will.
The tough one. Maddie put the pencil to her lips to ponder. Lilith had always loved the Hummel figurines but god knew her house was a sty and they’d likely be buried in filth inside of a week…