Where there’s a will, there’s a way to get your way at last.
Say that five times fast.
No, seriously, I am here to share my last will and testament with you. I have taken a back seat to folks far too often, especially in my later years. Now it’s my turn to talk (so to speak, since technically if you’re reading this I am underground and will not be actually talking any time soon). Don’t worry, I will spare you all the legal language and just cut to the chase. Besides, I don’t really have a lot, so my will is going to be short and sweet.
I leave my house in Brunswick, Maine to my neighbors. Not just the neighbors next door. All of them. My daughter will fuss at this, but right now I’m talking. We’ll get to the details shortly.
I leave what is inside the house to my daughter, Karen. However, she is not allowed to burn any books whatsoever. Those must all be donated, but the are not to be given to Goodwill or the Salvation Army. That’s too easy. A lot of the books helped pay for your education, so be nice to them, Karen. They don’t deserve to be sold for a quarter.
(I wish I had named you something else, daughter. That name is too common. Your father chose it and I never should have listened to him.)
Karen is to be permitted to continue residing in the house by the neighbors. That condition is not negotiable. For their part, the neighbors are permitted to enter, stay, and leave as they see fit. My daughter will have the right to limit entry if it looks like there could be a fire hazard or potential damage to the structure due to overcrowding. She can be trusted to be vigilant. She likes the house.
If the neighbors who are the inheritors of the residence I am bequeathing to them must be named, because this is a legal document, then we might have a small problem. The fact is, I don’t know the neighbors’ names. Don’t ask my daughter Karen, because she doesn’t know either. In fact, my suspicion is that they don’t have names, none of them. Maybe I should have run this by a lawyer before I made up this will? Well, too late now.
Now I need to indicate who the nameless neighbors are and explain why they are getting the property. They are, in absolutely no order of preference or importance:
Raccoons. By the last count, there was a family of seven, with the two parents and five young’uns. There may be some cousins around. They all love the area around Mere Brook, which is my back property line, so they may have contacted relatives to move here. There’s a cute little shed out back, overlooking the brook, and I suspect they hunker down there, beneath the overhang. I always worry about the cold, though. Winters in Maine are a real challenge to the ones who are rough sleeping.
Squirrels. Everybody has them, and I have been no exception. My local crew has special talents, however. They can hang upside down and contort their bodies so they can raid the bird feeders. They eat basically everything the birds do. They also have their own miniature picnic table. I hope they will still get their little plates set and filled with grapes, strawberries, and a peanut or two. Most of the squirrels are gray, but once in a while there’s some fur diversity. All of them are skilled acrobats.
Chipmunks. I don’t recall seeing a lot of chipmunks as a girl, growing up in another state. There are so many here in Maine, though, that it doesn’t look like they’re going to become extinct any time soon. They really are cute. Some are even friendly and can talk. I’ve heard them, so don’t question my sanity. The chippies, as some call them, are not as greedy as the squirrels and don’t crawl all over the feeders. They’re more the ground crew. That counts for something.
A Skunk or two. Since it’s hard to tell them apart, the exact number isn’t clear. Once I saw a huge skunk crossing the street out front. It looked almost all black. Since then, we have detected a skunk presence by the usual method, so total population is kind of a mystery. The fragrance that drifted in through the screen was sufficient to inform us, but it seemed unnecessary since nobody was chasing them away or being otherwise inhospitable.
Opossum. This animal neighbor was always my personal favorite, although I believe Karen is more partial to the raccoons. Opie - I couldn’t help the nickname - might scare some people, but he or she was always welcome to stop by. No danger of rabies, plus there’s the added benefit of being a tick-eating machine. A year ago, I thought I saw some babies, but that could be my faulty memory. Or maybe it was the fact that I made an art quilt with a raccoon and babies on it and confused them in my mind. Anyway, the more opossums, the merrier. They are good people.
A Fox, even if it frequently made eerie sounds beneath my bedroom window. It is really spooky, because foxes make several types of noise, to call to their young, scare off predators, things like that. A human neighbor, whose name I do know but who’s not inheriting my place because she’s got her own, said there’s a den on the far corner of her lot. Might be my fox is really hers. I just couldn’t get used to the uncanny squealing that sounded exactly like a fox had crushed a baby something (squirrel or chipmunk) in its jaws. That gave me nightmares.
This will cannot fail to mention the feline visitors. The house has been a cat magnet, so they occasionally show up. People just don’t tend to their animals like they should. Recently we had a beautiful Bengal roaming around. We took in one hunk of a black kitty with a deflated ear because he lived all summer under the back deck. He loves being in the house and is a real softy, incapable of hunting live animals for food, I’m sure. A new gray kitty, not fully grown, has recently started to come around searching for something to eat. It deserves a safe, warm place to live, too.
This document, which is legal and one I wrote being of sound mind and spirit, cannot leave out the birds who come often, as close as two feet away, to the numerous feeders in back and on the side of the house. They really ought to be more aggressive, because the other animals gobble up the peanut butter suet and sunflower seeds before the nuthatches, hummingbirds, and woodpeckers can get much. I wish the mammals were better at sharing, but guess it’s their nature. Since we never discriminate, the flying neighbors are hereby guaranteed a permanent shelter.
That should do it for my will. We only saw deer once this season - a family of four - but they kept their distance from the vegetable garden. It seems the trick of rubbing the area of the beds out back with smelly soap like Irish Spring really worked. The deer only tried the hostas and rudbeckias out front a couple of times, and I didn’t begrudge them that little snack. We might have a little vole out back, but it seems to be self-sufficient, so it’s possible it doesn’t have any interest in inheriting the house. That decision is not up to me, as I am no longer in the picture.
Karen, as noted, can do pretty much what she wants with the contents of my house, but she is hereby responsible for maintaining it as a place where the animal neighbors can come to feed. Before you think I’m placing a burden on her, one thing needs to be clear. It’s her own fault, because she’s the one who insisted on putting cat food out for the rac-cats every night and now she’s stuck with them. She was adamant that the babies have enough to eat and that they be provided a varied diet. It hasn’t been easy figuring out what raccoons prefer to eat, but we do know they like grapes, watermelon, cat food, and extra spicy, cheesy, chicken enchiladas.
I admit that I’m responsible for the feathered visitors, our frequent flyers, because I’m the one who got the feeders and then bought lots of suet and seed. I don’t know how Karen is going to pay for all the food, but she’ll have to figure it out. I did my best while I was around. I filled more than one shopping cart with supplies for the birdies.
The animal neighbors do have the responsibility of behaving, although I am not particularly worried about that. If this were a matter of humans being awarded a home, then there would be some justification in worrying. Animals aren’t an issue. They just sleep, eat, and play. People do all those things, but in excess. They also do drugs, wild parties and violent gaming. Not good; just look at what’s going on right now in this country.
I can already hear the next-door people neighbors worrying about possible garden damage, but I say to them at least no animals would ever park on your nice lawn with a 4 X 4 truck. Besides, any animals that come onto my property have access to theirs as well. The only difference now will be that the animal neighbors get to come into my house, while the human ones don’t. Hence, nothing new would occur with anybody’s pretty flowers or prize pumpkins.
Now I’m beginning to think that my leaving the house to the animals will not create that much opposition in the neighborhood. As already noted, but here repeated, Karen will manage the property, keep things on an even keel, the usual. However, it occurs to me that we have not discussed all the caretaker’s duties. (Don’t worry, they are not detailed in the will per se, but are included in an addendum.)
At this point, and maybe this isn’t something that fits into a last will and testament exactly, but I’m feeling bad about a couple of the points or articles or whatever you call the parts of a will. I’m kind of rethinking the idea of leaving the house to the animals. Karen’s role as caretaker would become more and more complex, but I wouldn’t be around to discuss that with her.
Maybe Karen would like to inherit the house and I would only require that she tend to the animals as needed, pretty much year round. That would mean making sure they did not starve, because they are our neighbors, after all. It might also mean providing decent shelter, which might or might not mean being in he house.
Or maybe I should just let Karen, who’s actually a really nice kid, have the house and do with it what she wants? After all, she is my daughter. Plus, you need to know that she already is very good with taking care of bird feeders, squirrel picnics, or rac-cat banquets. She loves animals. She will never let one starve or die if she can do something.
Well, that’s resolved. The only problem I can see is if my daughter can’t manage the utilities and upkeep. I already said I don’t have much else to leave her, especially after that slimy thief, the building contractor, walked away with several thousand dollars of mine. At least under this revised version of the will, there is no stipulation that Karen is not allowed to sell it.
You know, ‘round about now I’m thinking how this last will and testament thing is a pain in the neck. Not what it’s cracked up to be. I set out to prove I was of sound mind and body by planning where my earthly possessions should go upon my demise. Still, what I wanted to do did not please many people. Problem is, you can’t change anything after that demise has taken place. Have to make changes prior to demise.
I think I’ll just write Karen a letter. Yes, I know how to use the internet, but these types of things need to be recorded on paper as well…
Dear Daughter of Mine, Karen:
You know all the stuff you and I have accumulated over the years? The stuff we were always going to donate somewhere? Well, as you might imagine, I don ’t have recourse to cash at the moment (because if you’re reading this I’m not around anymore), but you are free to dispose of what you don’t want. I know you will take care of the art and a good number of books, but think first about the best places to donate what.
In a word:
Do what you want!
Just don’t forget to feed the animals!
Your Loving Mother (who is still in her right mind? body?)
P.S. Actually, I still haven’t checked out yet, but wanted to send you the letter just in case.
P.P.S. In fact, I’m feeling very well now. Would you like to go to that new Greek place in town? I hear they have a good retsina.