Fiction

Comeuppance

By: Michal Reiben

David’s sister Dana is pacing back and forth over his terracotta tiled kitchen floor, her face rigid with tension, “Do you remember our cousin Arie?” she finally blurts out.

“Sort of, what about him?”

“He got in touch with us and he insists there’s been a mistake in the registration as to the ownership of the house in Gorgon Street. He claims that when Dad was alive he signed a contract leaving the house to him. Then later on when Dad’s lawyer died one of his two sons who took over the law firm made a mistake and copied the contract out incorrectly. Now he wants to sell the house and he needs us all to sign an agreement in which we relinquish our part of the house over to him.”

She is speaking loudly to be heard above the noisy hum of my refrigerator.

“Mum, Nevi, Danny, and I have all decided to sign it since he hinted he’d contest Mum’s will if we don’t agree. Now, all we need is for you to also sign.”

David loves his sister dearly but in his bones, he smells a rat.

“Sounds weird to me, if the lawyer made a mistake he should correct it, it’s got nothing to do with me.”

“Call Nevi and ask him if you don’t believe me,” she said.

“I’m not going to call Nevi and I’m not going to correct some stupid lawyer’s mistake. I thought Dad sold that house years ago?”

Dana continues to try to persuade him but David senses she is lying. Finally, she despondently leaves. David immediately makes a phone call to his son Kye, since he has a business head, and he gives him an account of his sister’s strange story.

“Dana’s lying, it’s hogwash, find a copy of your father’s will and send it to me,” said Kye.

“Yes, alright,” said David and rings off.

The following day Dana calls David on the phone and continues to badger him, “Have you changed your mind? Arie has had such an unfortunate life, I mean his parent’s divorce can’t have been much fun.”

But David is not the less bit swayed. Seeing as how Arie is now a middle-aged man and quite wealthy.  

“Dad died ten years ago there’s no reason why he can’t wait another month while I make some inquiries.”  

Dana then changes her strategy and begins to pester David’s boys but they just think ‘she’s lost some of her marbles.’

 Next, it’s David’s brother Nevi who goes on the warpath. Nevi was born after David left home at the age of fifteen. He’s the ‘golden child’ of the family, and ‘the apple of their mum’s eye’.  

“You can’t just ignore the situation. I’m coming over right now, you have to sign a relinquishing order,” he commands David like a sergeant major over the phone

“I’m expecting visitors, you can’t come over.”

David’s refusal rubs Nevi up the wrong way.

“How could you have been so nasty to Dana? She’s always been so kind to you. All the family has signed, they’re all against you…” and so he rants on incessantly for two whole hours.

David is rather taken aback since Nevi had always been such an amicable guy. He surmises that Nevi has decided to take a day off from being so perfect all the time.

“I haven’t done anything wrong. You’re all driving me crazy, brainwashing me. Now I understand why criminals agree to have committed crimes they didn’t do! I’m sorry but I have to call off someone’s knocking on the door..” said David and places the phone back into its cradle.

By and by he receives a call from Kye, “Dad, the Will arrived this afternoon. In it, your father canceled all his previous agreements and wills. That house doesn’t belong to Arie. He’s a fraud. Your family has been lying to you.”

“So who inherits the house?”

“The whole family,” explains Kye.

“What a swindler. I don’t understand why the whole family is so scared of Arie? There’s no way he’d contest Mum’s will. He’d lose the case and be left with the hefty lawyer and court expenses.”

“Don’t sign anything,” Kye said and rings off.

David feels in need of a sympathetic ear and so he calls Nevi’s kind wife, Dune and he pours his heart out to her about what’s been happening.

“Don’t sign anything. Send a message to Arie and explain to him why you’re not going to sign,” she advises.

For a while, David sits feeling depressed as if his spirit is sinking into a black hole and so he endeavors to comfort himself with large mugs of coffee. This event has stirred up nasty memories that had taken him five years to come to terms with and which now come flooding back:

When their father had been alive he’d owned a large, luxury house. As far back as David can remember he’d promised them his children that this house would be their inheritance and would be equally shared out amongst them. It was something the family often talked about during family meetings. David didn’t want his father to die but still, this assurance of money somewhere in the future gave him hope that one day he wouldn’t be so poor. Ever since his wife had died from a burst appendix it had been a struggle for him to bring up their three boys, one of whom has autism, singled-handed. David’s father had also promised to leave him a seaside hut he owned. A place where the whole family constantly wished to go. Consequently, David had only ever managed to go there a few times when it was pouring with rain which had put everyone else off. Even so, he, his boys, and their shaggy dog had had a marvelous time. They’d loved the feel and the sound of the soothing rain. They’d loved to run and splash through the waves lapping up on the sandy shore. They’d loved swimming in the salty sea as the rain pelted down from above. It had given them a sense of being fully alive. David often had daydreams of when the hut would belong to him and of being able to go there with his boys whenever they pleased. It was those visions that had kept him going whenever he was feeling down or lonely. However, the day came when their father changed his mind, and decided to keep the bulk of the money from the house for himself. Hence he sold it while he was still alive, and distributed a living will, although he shaved off as much money as he could from each child. This resulted in an unequal distribution of his money and caused havoc amongst his offspring and he completely excluded poor David. David supposed it was because he was the weakest member of the family, and the easiest to fob off. Their father also secretly sold the hut by the sea. David had shattered like broken glass. Later when their father lost all his money due to bad investments David thought it was his comeuppance.

Presently David pulls himself together, takes Dune’s advice, and sends Arie a message. He writes that since their father disinherited him and he needs money for his non-verbal son with autism he won’t be signing the relinquishing agreement. That his tiny 4% will hardly make any difference. Arie answers almost immediately that he is sorry about his son’s plight but ‘he should bug off ’ although in rather more respectful language.

The days turn into weeks and then one day a special messenger arrives at David’s apartment with a large envelope. Upon opening it he discovers it contains a lengthy lawsuit of forty pages long. Admittedly the large bundle includes photos of the house in Gordon Street and their father’s will. He reads it carefully and notes it’s a pack of lies and that Arie has now found a new way of stealing the house. He is now suing for squatter’s rights. Which is weird since he lives and works in a different town. This new development doesn’t surprise David in the less since Arie has an uncle who is a judge and is presumably advising him as to what to do.

He sends a copy of the contents of the envelope off to his son Kye.

In due course, Kye calls him and clarifies, “It’s only a discovery demand in case you want to object. To hire a lawyer will cost you a fortune, more than your share. Don’t answer and forget about the whole sordid affair.”

Yet once again David has lost. Although people should be wary of being unkind.

David reflects, “I wonder what will be Mark’s comeuppance?”  

Categories: Fiction

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