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Drama Mystery

Granny is gone. Today was her funeral. And even though I want to wait until... never, I know I need to go through her things. The lawyers say I need to wait for the will reading before I do anything permanent. But that’s, like, 3 days of waiting. Might as well start sorting it all, because I can't “grieve and do nothing,” as the lawyers put it.

Granny Wendy is really my great grandmother. Was, “she was,” I hate that it’s all past tense now. Anyway, she’s the one who raised me. My mom Cathy died giving birth to me and I never knew my father (I don’t know if my mom even knew who my father was).

But Granny was there by my mother’s side. There, through the horrible home-birth and there, when my Mother named me Carly just before she died. Granny didn’t have to, but she took me in, knowing I had a hard road ahead, being a meth addict’s baby. So, at 56, my great grandmother had a newborn to take care of and a grandchild to bury. She decided to give me her sir name, Whitaker, “Because family is family. No matter what,” as Granny put it.

I decided to start with her closet. I think I can make easier and quicker decisions in there. It’s a smaller closet than I remember. I guess things seem bigger when you’re just a kid playing hide and go seek or playing dress up. So, I start pulling down her keepsake boxes from the top shelf. I’ve always wanted to know what’s in them.

The first three I open are full of photos. But in the fourth box I find some particularly important papers. Granny Wendy and Grandpa Wallace (Wally)’s marriage license, a school report card (from the 40s, OMG), two death certificates for Cindy and Collin Caviler (my Grandparents) Granny and Grandpa’s pilot licenses, Grandpa Wally’s death certificate and a Purple Heart.

At the bottom of the box, I find a photo of a handsome young man, in army fatigues and written the back is:

Willy Wiggins, Iraq, Jun. 2007.

“Who the heck is that?” I say aloud, even though it’s just me and the dog, Shadow. I shrug and set the picture down on Granny’s dresser and continue going through her things.

Granny was somewhat of a packrat. She kept so many things from forever ago. In the back of the closet was her wedding dress, a few old waitress uniforms, some really nice dresses from parties that she and Grandpa Wally went to.

Granny’s life was never easy. She had her daughter, Cindy, when she was just 17 in 1945. Only to lose her and her son-in-law, Collin Caviler, in a car accident in 1970, just three years after my mom, Cathy, was born.

There was a big family upset which lead to Granny’s brother cutting himself off from the family in 1950s after he was in the military for a few years (Granny never talked about him or what the fight was about). Granny Wendy was a tough, but kind, woman. I like to think that I take after her.

As I walk out of the room to get some trash bags, I see the picture I left on the dresser.

“God, how am I going to find you?” I say out loud to myself.

After lunch, I went down to the basement and found even more stuff. I’ll have to have, like, eight yard sales just to get rid of it. So, I started organizing things into categories: kid stuff from years of running a daycare out of the house, clothes, holiday décor, sports equipment. And this, of course, made the trash pile grow.

“I think I’m gonna need some help.” I say wearily to Shadow, as he takes a nap on an old, musty couch.

I go back up to Granny's room to grab the box of trash bags and I see the picture again on her dresser.

“Oh yeah, you,” I say. “Let's try to figure out where you come from.”

I go up to my old room, which Granny turned into an office after I went to college. I decide to just google his name and see where it takes me. First, I try Willy Wiggins and don’t get much. Feeling stupid, I try William Wiggins next and something from the Navy comes up.

A man from Glencoe, FL, born in 1924, with the full name William Walter Wiggins Jr. He was in the Navy from 1948 until his honorable discharge in 1967 when he was wounded. He died in 1972, leaving his wife, Sandy, and three kids, William III, Cecile, and Jenny.

“Well, “Willy” could be a relative of ours. But why does Granny have your picture?” I ask Shadow as he wanders in. “Do you know who he is, boy?” He puts his head in my lap and grumbles for an answer. “I thought not. How about dinner?” I ask to which he licks his lips. “And a walk?” He lets out a booming bark.

Later, as I head up to bed, Shadow runs to Granny’s open bedroom door, looks back at me and whines.

“I know, boy.” I say morosely to his droopy, sad face. “I miss her too. Come, sleep with me tonight. We’ll keep each other company.”

I toss and turn and fall into a fitful sleep. By the next morning, I just can’t face the day. I roll over to sleep more, but the doorbell rings. This, of course, wakes Shadow up and sends him into a barking frenzy. I groan and rollover but the bell rings again and for a third time. I get up to see who needs what so badly.

It’s Mrs. Filmore, from across the street and her right-hand, and left-hand, women Mrs. Beaker and Mrs. Phillips. If there is a picture in the dictionary for “nosey” or “gossip” or “I’m-gonna-butt-into-your-life-but-you-better-not-butt-into-mine” Mrs. Filmore would be the full-page feature with Mrs. Beaker and Mrs. Phillips tied for second.

To make it worse, they’re also triplets. I plaster on a fake smile and open the door.

“Oh, you poor dear,” Mrs. Filmore starts, craning her neck to get a look inside the house.

“When was the last time you ate something, deary?” Mrs.  Beaker continues, holding a casserole in her hands.

“Is there anything we could help you with?” Mrs. Phillips finishes and she’s holding a plate of cookies.

Shadow is just behind my legs and gives an unhelpful low growl.

“Shadow, back.” I say, barely keeping the chuckle out of my voice when Mrs. Beaker jumps. “Hi Mrs. Filmore, Mrs. Beaker, Mrs. Phillips. How are you ladies doing?” I ask out of habbit.

“You’re too kind, dear. We’re fine.” Mrs. Filmore says mechanically.

“I made this for you, hon. You need to eat something.” Mrs. Beaker says and she pushes the casserole in to my right hand.

“And I made these for you.” Mrs. Phillips says needlessly and pushes the plate of cookies into my left hand.

“You’re so kind, thank you. I don’t need anything just yet. I hope you might be willing to help next week?” I ask tentatively, “I’ll be needing to put a yard sale together. I’d be grateful for the help.”

“OH! Say no more, dear., says Mrs. Filmore.

“We’d be thrilled!” Mrs. Beaker says.

“That is something we’re the best at!” Mrs. Phillips adds.

“Just call me when you’re ready,” Mrs. Filmore starts.

“And we’ll come running” Mrs. Beaker finishes and the three of them walk away chattering.

“Thank you.” I call after them. And as they hit the sidewalk, the Mailman turns up the front walk.

“Miss Whitaker,” he starts. “I was sorry to hear of your grandmother’s passing. Know that she was loved by the community. We’re all here for you.” He says and he passes me the mail.

“Thank you, Mr. Morgan. That means a lot to me.” I say in return. “And please, you’ve known me long enough, please call me Carly.” I say kindly.

“See you around, darling,” he gives me a grandfatherly wink and continues down the street.

“Alright, Shadow. Let’s get some grub.” I say as I close the front door.

As we head toward the kitchen, I look through the mail and the big envelope on the bottom is from the Vital Records Office. I stop in my tracks.

“Granny’s death certificate,” I say in a hoarse whisper, Shadow whines. “It’s okay boy.” I sit down at the kitchen table and open it. As I read through it, tears form and I blink fast to keep them from falling. And suddenly, there it is, in black and white.

“Oh, my God! Granny’s father... William Walter Wiggins.” I gasp. “So the “Jr.” I found in the Navy, he’s Granny’s brother?!”

I sit there stunned for a minute, thinking back to a conversation I had with Granny:

“Why do we have such a small family, Gran?” my 7 year old self asks.

“Why do you ask?” Granny wondered.

“Well, Samantha says she has about 50 people in her family. And they all get together at Thanksgiving.” I say.

“Well, I did have a brother..” Granny reminisces.

“Did he die?” I interrupt.

“I’m not sure, Ladybug,” she says with a small smile. “I haven’t talked to him since, well, 1949,”

“1949?! That was like, a million years ago.” I say back to her, dumbfounded.

“Maybe not that long,” she says with a chuckle. “But it has been a while. Daddy and William got into an argument that made them stop talking. And they didn’t get to resolve it before Daddy died,” she says, her eyes go glassy as she looks into the past.

As the memory fades, I look down at Shadow as he rests his head on my knee.

“I’m okay, boy,” I say as I wipe a tear off my cheek. “I have to find this Willy now. Family is family. Like Granny always said.”

I head back up to the office to do some more research. The William Jr. I found, in the Navy, was Granny’s brother. He married a Sandy Jessip. They had three children: William III, Cecil and Jenny. William III was born in 1952. There’s no way he’s the Willy in the picture. The math doesn’t work out.

“We’re getting warmer, Shadow.” I say excitedly. “Willy can't be far now.”

As I try to dig deeper, I have a hard time finding anything on William III. Until an old newspaper wedding announcement from May 1984:

William W. Wiggins III is to marry textile heiress, Janet K. Jennings, only daughter of James “Jimmy” Jennings, Jennings Textile and Flooring Co.

It grazes over much of William III’s life and doesn’t say why he waited to have a family.

I make an educated guess that the picture I have is likely of William III’s son. So, with another educated leap, I try searching “William Wiggins IV.” And the sad tale comes to a devastating halt, as I read an article from 2008:

William Wiggins IV was killed in an attack in Iraq in July 2007. His grandfather, William W. Wiggins Jr., served in the Navy in Vietnam, until he was wounded in 1967 and earned a Purple Heart. He went stateside and became a Recruitment Officer for the Navy until his death in 1972, from liver disease. William Wiggins IV decided to join the army after his grandmother was killed in the 9/11 attacks. After his son’s death, his father, William III, relapsed. Throughout the 1970s William III was a heroin addict, living on the streets of Daytona Beach, FL. His whereabouts are currently unknown. This past Monday, however, William IV’s mother, Janet, consumed with grief, took her own life.

I couldn’t read more through my tears. So much death and tragedy for one family. I look down at the picture of William W. Wiggins IV and I flip it over and see that it was taken only a month before he died.

I put my head in my hands and weep quietly. Shadow whines and he licks my elbow.

“I’m okay boy, really. For a brief moment there, I thought I was going to find another side of my family. Not all this death.” I say as I scratch Shadow’s head.

I skip dinner and go to bed early. I want to finish Granny’s room tomorrow. Then, start in the library. Granny had a love for books, real books. She passed that on to me. Even though I’ve been living in Virginia since college, we would always read a book together each month and talk about it.

The next two days go by in a blur of boxes and trash bags. I wake up early on Monday, antsy about hearing Granny’s will. I change my outfit too many times to count. I finally come to the decision of dark denim pants with a black button-down blouse.

I head over to Granny’s lawyer’s office in town. After I find parking, as I walk to their office, I get stopped several times. Townsfolk stop to give me their condolences and offers to help.

I walk through the door of The Law Offices of Rodriguez, Martinez, Hernandez, and Lopez, I take a shaky breath.

“Hi, welcome to the Law Offices of Rodriguez, Martinez, Hernandez, and Lopez. Do you have an appointment?” the secretary asks in a disinterested monotone.

“Hi, yes, Carly Whitaker,” I start, and I reach into my bag and pull out my padfolio “I’m here to see Ms. Hernandez regarding my grandmother’s estate.”

“Ah, yes. Have a seat and I’ll let her know you’re here. Can I get you anything? Coffee, tea, water, soda?” the secretary, Jessica, asks as she walks to the door to the back offices.

“No, thank you. I’m fine”

I sit down to wait. My leg starts to jiggle as it always has when I get anxious. I don’t wait long after Jessica comes back for Ms. Hernandez to come out. She’s a tall women who seems to use the money from her billable hours on Botox and collagen. She crosses the lobby with her hand outstretched.

“Miss Whitaker. I wish we were meeting under happier circumstances,” she says.

“Ms. Hernandez. So do I,” I say politely.

“Please, call me Sandra. Let’s head back to my office and we can get started.” She offers with a hand extending back toward the door she came out of.

“Okay,” I take in a tentative breath as I start to follow her.

“Jessica, please hold my calls for at least an hour.”

“Of course.” Jessica answers as we pass by.

“Mrs. Whitaker’s will is fairly straight forward. She didn’t leave many bequests. Some books go to different people and the library; furniture, art and décor go other places. The main items are her properties.”

“Yes. I don’t know if I’m ready to sell the house but I will need to donate or sell some smaller things.” I say.

“That’s understandable. Both houses will be transferred to your name...” she continues.

“Other house?!” I interject. “We only have the one, on Chestnut Drive,” I say with confusion.

“Well,” Sandra starts. “The other is in Cape Coral, FL, on the Gulf coast. It’s a fairly large house and it’s currently being rented out by a non-profit and used as a halfway house.” Sandra informs me.

“This is news to me,” I say, incredulously. “Who runs it?”

“They call it Wiggins’ House. It’s run by... well his name is a mouthful—"

“William Walter Wiggins III.” I say awestruck and Sandra looks at me over her glasses.

“Yes, how did you know that?” she asks.

“I found a picture in Granny’s closet and after some research, I found some of my relations that I didn’t know about and he was one of them. When you said, “Wiggins’ House,” it just clicked.”

“Well, just let me know if you wish to sell either one, anytime.” She says dismissively, not comprehending my shock. “This is your copy. I just need you to sign a few things and we’ll be done.”  

I get back to my car in a daze. I get in and I drive home automatically, not really seeing the road. I head in and, like a sleepwalker, I head up to the office. I have some research to do and a relative to find.

July 22, 2021 16:45

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4 comments

Samia Chowdhury
07:33 Jul 29, 2021

This story was so entertaining to read! It is very well put. Looking forward to reading more of your writings.

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Belle Telara
14:42 Jul 29, 2021

Thank you! I had fun writing this story.

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Alex Sultan
21:33 Jul 27, 2021

I enjoyed reading this story. I like the POV you wrote from and your writing style for it - it is catching and fun to read. If I could give feedback, I'd recommend trying to cut down on the word 'just'. You use it fourteen times in the story (ctrl+f to find it) and it doesn't really add much to the sentences it is used in - you could cut it out for fluidity, or replace it with a more vivid sentence. 'Shadow is just behind my legs and gives an unhelpful low growl.' The word 'just' here doesn't do much. It's an extra word in this sentence th...

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Belle Telara
14:40 Jul 29, 2021

Thank you for the feedback! And I'm so glad you enjoyed my story.

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