By: Sterling Warner
“Gerry—why do you always seem a couple years younger each time I see you?”
“Dunno. Sunscreen? Diet? Skin lotion?” Gerry replied.
“At your service, Martin.”
“But you’re sorta right…all my outdoor construction works makes me face the elements everyday—whereas you work in a climate controlled office.
“So, what’s new with you, Martin? Getting any trim?”
“Fuck you. Gerry! I didn’t call you to gossip or brag; I needed to see you face to face to discuss your brother, Todd.”
“So, what’s the rich, little twerp up to now?”
“Dying, Gerry; you brother’s dying!”
“Balls! He’s never—”
“Never told you? Why would he?”
“He should’ve been more sensitive towards siblings—me and our two sisters.”
“He trusted and confided in me. What have you three ever done for him besides—”
“Besides what, Marin?”
“Besides trying to hospitalize him over an alleged nervous breakdown and becoming his power of attorney.”
“Here we go….”
“It’s true, though, isn’t it Gerry?”
“At the time, Todd spent so much of his money shoving coke up his nose. A responsible person—like me, his brother, needed to look after his interests.”
“You mean, look after his money, don’t you? Gerry—this is Marvin’s you’re talking too—don’t try to bullshit me. I was there.”
“Give me a break Martin—all this was a long time ago; you know I always loved him.”
“Hum. You frequently seemed to love his wealth much more; I remember how furious you became when you discovered he’d donated $100,000. to charities one year.”
“I could have used that money to finance a once in a lifetime project.”
“Forget the past, will you? Todd’s dying and the two of you have a lot to settle in a short period.”
“What about our sisters?”
“All three of you kissed Todd off during his nose candy days—he’ll make his peace with them in his own way, I suppose.”
“So, what’s killing Todd?”
“For real; though rare, men get breast cancer more and more these days.
“Did he consider surgery and/or chemotherapy?”
“Both. He had surgery—but the cancer already had metastasized to the rest of his body. The chemo didn’t slow down the spread or kill cancerous tissue.”
“Geeze. He should have called me.”
“He said he emailed you several times—but you never responded.”
“Okay—I recall getting them, but their general subject headings seemed so general—always suggesting we ought to get together and knock back a beer or two. Nothing special. He never mentioned being ill.”
“No, why would he? He didn’t want your pity or orders on what to do!”
“Well, Martin…How long does he have?”
“The two of you need to discuss that and other matters.”
“The Red Lobster at 12:30 PM today.”
“No can do, Martin.”
“Why not, Gerry? That’s such a typical response from you….”
“I’ve got to drive Daniele up to San Francisco to a special Expressionists Exhibition at the De Young Museum.”
“You’ll always have another chance to see such an exhibition. Todd could die today!”
“Good point. Will you be coming along, Todd?”
“Yes, Gerry; he wanted me to be there—maybe a witness?”
At 12:30, when Todd met Gerry and Martin at Red Lobster, the three spoke mostly about things they did as teenagers. Gerry avoided asking questions, fearing honest answers he really didn’t want to know. Finally, after Todd picked up the tap for lunch, he turned towards his brother and said, “As you know, Gerry, I’m not going to live much longer….”
“Martin mentioned something about that; I thought—”
“Thought I’d spoil lunch talking about it? No, that’s for later today.”
“Explain yourself, Todd; I’m not a mind reader.”
“At 4:00 PM this afternoon, meet me at the Black Mirror Marina. All three of us will be going sailing one more time and discuss grim matters—but not now.”
Todd tipped the waiter, shook the hands of both Martin and Gerry, then walked out the door. Meanwhile, Gerry got his cell phone out and placed a call.
“Daniele? Gerry here. Hey, I got some bad news. Something’s come up, so I gotta cancel our trip to San Francisco today.”
“Don’t you dare do this to me, Gerry—today’s about our best friends meeting us at the de Young Museum; it’s not something we can brush off.”
“But I have to; I just found out Todd’s dying; we’ve some final business to take care of late today through this evening.”
“Todd’s a fucking low life; our friends, however, are respected community members. Seriously, which is more important during this point of our lives?”
“Love you, honey, but it’s time for me to pay attention to family matters; down the road, it may profit us socially and economically. Give my regrets…and enjoy the exhibition and the company of our good friends.”
“We’ve only been sailing for 30 minutes, but I’m already seasick!”
“You’re such a wuss, Gerry.
“Fuck you, Todd! I think you brought me out here to make me sick on purpose.”
“Oh, Gerry. You never did have sea legs, did you? Looking around, Todd queried, “How are you, Martin? Sea sick as well?”
“No. We built our tolerance for rough waves together in the US Navy. Remember?” They both looked at Gerry who was spewing his guts over the left port and laughed.
“So, Todd,” Gerry said after recovering a bit. “Why the hell did you take us sailing today? Where’s the fire?”
“No fire, bro, only ashes on the horizon?”
“For you? Yes, Martin told me about your cancer—and I’m sorry to hear about it.”
“Bullshit; still, I bare no ill will.”
“Then what’s this all about?”
“I have asked Martin to be the executer of my will—not as a slight towards you, but to safeguard my requests and avoid all talk of nepotism and challenges to my estate and business operations.”
“No worries here. What else, Todd?”
“After I die, you will assume my position as Chairman for the SSD: Satisfied Sex Data Corporation. Lily and Mia, our two sisters, will also become voting members of the board.
“Todd, be real. Lily and Mia will want to sell shares of the SSD immediately.
“That will not be possible according to the terms of my will,” Gerry explained, slyly grinning.
“So, you won’t expect me to ‘buy them out’ to keep the company in family hands?”
“Affirmative…though you won’t need to keep my life’s work in the family forever.”
“So? We looking at a time frame or what?
“Five years, Gerry. You’ll be the Satisfied Sex Data’s uncontested corporate CEO for five years. During that time period, you’ll have to figure out some useful roles for Mia and Lily—maybe even get them a partner via the SSD.”
“That’ll be like pissing in the wind, Todd.”
“Hey, I’m the brother they both kissed off….they’ll need to work a bit for something they really don’t deserve: millions from me.”
And after five years?”
“Expand. Sell. Whatever you want, Gerry. But if any of you fail to fulfill my inheritance guidelines, then you’ll be forfeiting any claim on my estate.”
“Oh shit,” Gerry snapped as he ran towards the edge of the boat and began puking over the sides again. “I hate sailing, Todd!” he said wiping his mouth.”
“Do you understand everything, Gerry?”
“Yeah, once you die, I take care of the SSD for five years, involve Mia and Lily, then do what I like with the company….”
“That’s it. Martin; sign these papers, and then let’s sail back to the marina,” Todd smiled.
When they reached the harbor, Todd dropped off Martin and Gerry, gave the legal documents they’d all signed to Martin—the executer—and then he headed back out to sea. Two days later, the coast guard found Todd dead, just drifting in his yacht without sail about six miles from short. The coroner concluded that his vital organs shut down—typical for the final days of a cancer victim.
Martin brilliantly performed his duties as executor of Todd Cryer’s will, beginning with securing all of Todd’s assets, affirming Gerry, Mia, and Lily as contingent heirs, and concluding his obligations by paying off the few outstanding debts that Todd left behind. Meanwhile, Gerry’s life changed forever the moment Todd’s last will and testament confirmed him as the Chief CEO for SSD: Satisfied Sex Data Corporation.
“Martin—it’s so great to see you; what’s it been? A year? Year and a half?”
“At least a year and a half; I’ve meant to ask you to lunch or dinner a thousand times, but something always seemed to come up.”
“I’m just as guilty; I could’ve easily phoned, texted, or emailed you.”
“So, how’s Daniele and the others?”
“We divorced three months after I became CEO of SSD; however, we’d been growing apart for a long time.”
“I wasn’t aware….By the way, Gerry—do you still keep Todd’s ashes in an Urn atop the fireplace in your beach house?”
“Yea, Todd’s always with me—at least at home.”
“Cool,” Martin nodded. “How’s the SSD?”
“Couldn’t be better, Martin. I’ve grown to love my CEO responsibilities, and the corporation really does offer a useful product to adult consumers.”
“Good to hear,” Martin said, noting for the first time how Gerry’s once youthful, seemingly ageless face now showed his years, beginning with the crow’s feet at the corners of his eyes to ribbons of wrinkles across his forehead.
“You know Martin? Todd did a fine job creating SSD as an online dating service, but I’ve taken it to new heights. Currently, I’ve upgraded SSD; it’s now a data driven computer system that not only locates ideal matches and sets up meetings, but it also monitors each relationship in terms of accurate selection and customer satisfaction.”
“No kidding? Todd would have been so proud of you—and happy that you took interest in his labor of love: a dating service!”
“You know, as a lark, I sent in my profile and requested a partner; then Mia and Lily followed suit.”
“We’re all perfectly matched,” Gerry responded. “In fact, a month ago, when I tried to get Mia and Lily to fulfill their part of the bargain to qualify for their 1/3 share of SSD, they ignored my attempts to contact them?”
“But they both knew that they had to fulfill tasks you designed according to Todd’s will.”
“True, but after finding their independently wealthy life partners through SSD, they lost interest in their potential share of the company entirely.”
“No kidding,” Marin uttered in disbelief. “They must have been billionaires.”
“Close . . . . at least several hundred million….”
“Well, they, along with your ex-wife, always did value the superficial trappings of society’s finest over genuine, thoughtful friends and family.” As the waiter came with the check, Gerry insisted on paying for lunch. “Okay, but I insist on leaving the tip.”
“Sounds like a great plan, Martin.” Standing up, they hugged and Gerry added, “Let’s get together again soon—and on a regular basis.”
“It’s a deal! Take care my friend.”
Personally and professionally, Gerry had never been happier in his life. His SSD selected partner and he enjoyed each other’s company 24/4—whether on the town, at the ballet, or in front of their 75-inch television set at home. Additionally, he found unique fulfillment in his work as the CEO for SSD while experiencing an enviable, stress free lifestyle. Thus, when Gerry became extremely ill, suffered severe migraine headaches on a daily basis, and found himself unable to keep any food in his stomach, his friends were understandably surprised.
Initially, Gerry tried to contact Mia and Lily—family—to check up on them and their health as well. However, they ignored him in the same manner he’d ignored Todd’s calls and emails years before. Next, Gerry turned his attention towards the always dependable Martin. Since they’d never followed up on their last lunch, getting together under that pretense wouldn’t make him seem troubled or needy. True to character, Martin returned Gerry’s email in less than 20 minutes, explaining that he was currently in Germany on a business trip that would keep him abroad for the next month. However, he promised to contact Gerry and arrange lunch as soon as he returned.”
The following week, Gerry visited his general practitioner for a routine physical—something he’d been neglecting for the past five years. After his exam, the doctor referred him to several others. Then, following a multitude of tests, x-rays, and MRIs, the consensus was that his headaches, vision problems, and loss of appetite were directly related to a malignant racquetball-sized brain tumor.
“Be honest with me, Doc. How long to I got?”
“Six months or less, Gerry. I suggest you get your affairs in order.”
Once he left the doctor’s office, Gerry didn’t bother to go to the garage and pick-up his car. Instead, he started strolling down the snow-filled sidewalk. In an hour, at the edge of town, he looked back once, then continued to walk. To his dismay, the driver in a car across the road noticed and recognized him. “Hey Gerry? What the hell are you doing out here? Trying to freeze or something?”
As the car spun around and rolled up beside him, Gerry recognized Martin’s friendly face in the driver’s seat. “Hey Martin…I didn’t expect you’d be back from Europe for another few weeks.”
“Your email reminded me I had more pressing matters in the U.S.”
“Hop in, Gerry. Let’s go grab a hot toddy or something and warm our bones.”
Obligingly, Gerry got in the car which was blasting a golden oldie by Roger Miller: “…. Some cryin’, six carryin’ me, I wanna be free….” He mulled over the song lyrics for a moment, and then murmured, “Todd had the right idea when he sailed off on his yacht alone.”