Word count 500
Where There’s a Will
By Sam McManus
The desk was pretty in an artificial way, its top a smooth oak, its sides carved like leaf veins, the
seemingly haphazard striations ending smoothly at their edges. Marian imagined its bottom was plain, to
distract her from what was really happening in the drab little room, with her brother and sisters next to
her, their hands folded tightly in their laps.
“Last Will and Testament of Frederick Poll,” Johnny Testa read, his reading glasses lowered, from behind
the desk. “I, Frederick Poll, being of sound mind and body, do hereby make my last will, and dispose of
any previous documents with the same title and purpose…”
As Johnny droned on, Marian tuned him out. Her father was dead, and nothing the man could say would
bring him back. Nothing in that thick sheaf of papers could rewind the moment when he had been
blindsided by a truck going eighty in a fifty-five. Nothing could bring back his dedication to his family,
the smell of turpentine on his skin, or his taciturn expression that everyone knew was as far as he ever got
The casket had been mahogany, and probably cost more than her father had made in a year, trucking for
Sam’s Club, but Grace wanted it, and whatever Grace wanted Grace got. Marian glanced over at her
younger sister, still clad head to toe in black, still clutching the necklace she’d gotten from their old man.
It featured carved celestial wings.
“Daddy gave me this necklace when I was six,” she always told anyone who would listen. “It means I’m
his special angel.”
Tears hovered in the corners and edges of her hazel eyes. It was plain to see, and quite fake, because
Grace hadn’t had any contact with their father for the four years leading up to his death. If there was
anything Marian detested, it was those who pretended to care after someone was gone. Grace may have
been an angel once, but she had flown away, and returned far too late. Marian looked away, turning her
attention back to Johnny Testa.
She had sex with Johnny once, back when she was eighteen and he was in denial that it was a mid-life
crisis. As far as she knew, he had never told her father, who had been his best friend for twenty years, and
for that she was grateful. As she sat there, listening to the man drone on, she wondered what she had ever
seen in him. He had slicked back black hair, a beer gut, and always wore clothes a size too small for a
man of his girth. But he had been forbidden fruit, far too low hanging for his own good.
“I bequeath all my material property to Jonathan Testa,” Johnny read. “Who I loved like a son, but who is
really my younger brother, though we reconnected far too late in life, though I never told him what I
No one could seem to revive Marian.