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Funny

Thomas Portman had always liked games. As a little boy, as a teenager, as an adult and now as an old man on his deathbed, he still loved them. Of course, those who knew him would seldom refer to these joys of his as games. They might suggest instead “prank” or “cruel joke” or other words which I’m afraid I am unable to include, considering the present setting.

Lying still in his dimly lit room, Mr. Portman couldn’t help but ponder. He’d had fun at other people’s expense all his life, and though reason dictated that his age and stature now prevented him from doing so, he wished to have one more game awarded to his name before the very end. To go out with a BANG, that was his desire. That is how he had left all previous establishments in his life. School, university, first, second and third job, retirement as CEO, he had had a special game planned for each occasion. Why leaving life should be any different, he couldn’t imagine.

He thought. What would his relatives want from him most at this juncture in his life? And more importantly, what could he do to mess that up?

“Why sir”, said his butler Ralph, upon being questioned on the subject, “the only thing that I can imagine is… the outcome of your will.”

Mr. Portman frowned.

“My will? Why would they care about my will?”

Ralph frowned in return.

“Pardon the question sir, but am I not right in presuming that you are quite wealthy? You do manage to afford not only me, but a whole lot of other servants as well. Not to mention the enormous mansion.”

“So?”

The butler smiled.

“Well, don’t you think sir that your family might potentially, in the event of your passing, want to benefit of such wealth?”

Mr. Portman smiled. He’d never imagined the game would be so easy to conduct. All his life he’d never thought much about his death, reason for which he’d never bothered writing a will. Only now did he realize the potential of such a document.

He took a pen and a piece of paper and thought about his relatives. Thankfully he didn’t have many. Three, to be more exact.

He considered his sister Sylvia first. A nice girl, whose passion in life was talking, reason for which she never stopped. She talked all her way to The Telegraph, then, no one knows exactly how, though some theories point to witchcraft, she talked her way into the House of Commons. Her ambitions lied even higher, but it seemed the rest of Britain had heard her speak so many times, half the population was convinced that she was already in office.

His brother came next. George was a simple man who loved the ordinary things in life. He enjoyed his pints of beer at the end of the day, coming home to his wife, kissing his kids goodnight, and then wrapping up the day by staring at his jewelry. Don’t laugh, his collection was nothing to scoff at. He enjoyed gazing at his chest of diamonds and golden rings and earrings and silver bracelets. Any casual visitor would probably assume that the collection was a shared one. The husband collects and the wife wears them on special occasions. As a matter of fact, his wife hardly ever saw the collection, and touching the newly polished gold was out of the question. She didn’t mind though. She’d often remark to her friends smiling:

“He is always happiest when next to his jewelry. And you know my dears, it’s nice that he has a hobby. It gives me time to also pursue mine. You should see him! I can pop out to town late in the evening and he never even notices!” 

Laughter often ensues.

His last relative, well, of those he remembers, is his little niece, Ruth. What to give her? Mr. Portman looked around the room. In a corner, an old box. In the old box, an old childhood game. Perfect for the occasion.

A few weeks later, Sylvia, George and little Ruth were gathered around a document. And the man reading it.

“My dear family” read Ralph, “after careful consideration I have decided to split all of my worldly possessions between my beloved siblings, Sylvia and George Portman.”

The two uttered a sigh of relief and smiled at each other before resuming their grieved expressions.

“However”, Ralph continued.

At that their faces paled.

“I have a few conditions. First, my dear Sylvia, to whom I leave my house in London, my country estate and half of my total savings.”

Sylvia dared to beam.

“My only condition for her is to refrain from talking entirely for the duration of one week.”

The woman darted to her feet.

“But I can’t do that! I have an important event on Tuesday! He knew I have my campaign speech this week! It’s impossible! I can’t accept something like that! It’s simply—”

“I’m sorry Miss Portman, but these are the conditions.”

“Is there no other way?”

“I’m afraid not.”

Sylvia paused for a few moments.

“How much money are we talking about here? He said half of his earnings, right?”

Ralph smiled.

“I am afraid the exact sum cannot be disclosed until the meeting of the requirements, but he did happen to mention some figures to me a couple of months ago.”

“What were they?”

“He said he hoped to be able to leave behind a total of 800.000 pounds.”

George’s eyes gleamed.

“Does he say what happens to the money if Sylvia doesn’t meet the conditions?” he asked hopefully.

“It will be donated to a charity in the area.”

The two siblings frowned.

“I accept” said Sylvia decisively. “When do I start?”

Ralph checked the paper.

“Well… now would be a good time” he read.

“What about me?” asked George impatiently.

“Ah yes. “And to my brother George I leave my other house in London, half of my total savings and of course, my most prized possession, my favourite car.””

The man wanted to jump up and down for joy. George had eyed Thomas’s Lamborghini for years, and now finally the time had come to take it.

“What are the conditions?” he asked, quite sure of himself.

“It’s simple. You are to return the diamond necklace Mr. Portman gave you three years ago.”

To any other man, that would’ve seemed like a laughable request. George Portman however, sat down heavily in his chair.

‘But — but why?” the poor man whimpered.

“A show of faith.”

“But — that necklace is the star of my collection. He knew this he — he knew this. “

“What is your decision?” asked Ralph gravely.

George stood up and with the air of a man watching his beloved disappear into nothingness right in front of him, he nodded once, solemnly.

Sylvia rolled her eyes.

“And now for my niece, Ruth. To you my dear I leave my Atari video game. I hope it will make your childhood just as happy as it made mine.”

The little girl took the game and stared at it for a few moments. She then shrugged and returned to her seat.

“Now” continued Ralph, “we will meet again —“

“Hold up.” Said George. “What’s Ruth’s condition?”

The butler looked up, annoyed.

“Come on George! The kid’s got a video game. Do you really think she needs a condition?”

George stood quiet.

“Anyway, as I was saying, we are supposed to meet again in a week after all conditions are met.”

Any casual observer would think that the game had now ended. Sylvia had kept her promise and, to the joy of those around her, had not uttered a word for an entire week, missing her candidate speech. She had ultimately decided that she had talked her way into positions of power for long enough. After all, buying her way to the top was hardly much of a difference, she thought.

George had also managed the loss of his necklace quite well. He consoled himself every night that with the 400.000 and the money he could get off the car, he could surely replace it with something even grander.

And Ruth… well she liked playing the game. She preferred it over homework, at any rate.

The week passed and the family gathered once again around the document.

“Now” said Ralph, “it is time to deliver.”

The butler took out a chest and placed it ceremoniously on the table.

“He wished for all the money to be withdrawn in a chest” he continued.

“Oh, he was always dramatic like that” said Sylvia beaming from every pore.

Ralph slowly opened the chest and peaked inside. After a few moments, he looked up.

“Well, this is going to be complicated.”

“Is there a lot of cash?” asked George excitedly. “It’s okay, we can handle it.”

“Oh no, that’s not the problem. It’s just —” Ralph reached into the chest and pulled out a ten pound note. “Does anyone have any change?”

The two siblings stared at the small piece of paper in Ralph’s hand.

“But — but that’s impossible!” uttered Sylvia. “You said —“

“Hey! Don’t blame me!” said Ralph. “I’m just the messenger. It says here he’s very sorry, but he’s been bankrupt for some time now. Never was much of an investor, our old Thomas. Lost it all.”

“But when you quoted those figures…”

“Well yeah. That’s what he hoped to earn from his investments.”

Silence.

“Well, no matter!” said Sylvia, eager to talk after being silenced for so long. “I still get the houses.”

“Well actually those belong to the state now. Mr. Portman no longer had ownership over them before he died.”

“But the Lamborghini!” cried George desperately. “What about that?”

“Well yes, you still get the car, but Mr. Portman never said anything about a Lamborghini.”

George laughed nervously.

“It said he’s giving me his favourite car. Surely it’s the Lamborghini.”

Ralph scoured the will.

“No actually, strangely enough he preferred the truck. He liked going into the countryside a lot so the truck was always more convenient.”

Sylvia and George stood together in silence as Ralph took out the car keys and put them on the table.

“So… anyone got change for ten?”

“Here you go” said Sylvia defeated.

They each took their five pounds and left the room, leaving only Ruth. As she turned to go, Ralph stopped her.

“There’s something here about you too.”

“Oh?”

“That game you’ve got is an Atari Air Raid 2600.”

“So?”

“Apparently it’s worth 33.000 dollars.”

The girl frowned.

“Is it still worth that if it’s cracked?”

“I’d guess not.”

Ruth thought for a few seconds, then shrugged.

“Thanks anyway."

September 01, 2020 17:51

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