Paul’s great uncle Samuel was eccentric, to say the least. But he had managed to do quite well for himself, even despite his jingoism or his habit of pointing at 18-year old men in public and loudly declaring, “I want you!” Paul had never been sure exactly where his money had been made, although there were unpleasant rumors that it had been eked out of foreign entanglements. But, it was certain there was a lot of it, and after his death on Tuesday, Samuel’s family had been electric with anticipation.
Sitting in the parlor room, Paul found most of the provisions of the will not only bored him, but went over his head. A secret base in the Congo? Why did his uncle even have that? And to tell the truth, Paul was not even sure why he was there… absently looking around, he saw that his father, the head of the Church of England, was looking daggers at him. Oh yeah.
Well, after being kicked out of his parents’ house, with little more to his name than a Honda Civic he’d nicknamed “Mayflower,” it was true that he had been hoping for a deus ex machina or two from his uncle’s ghost. Just enough to get him back on his feet. He stopped.
…Would that be deux ex machina, then?
“’And to my insipidly well-dressed nephew Paul Francis America, I bequeath my fabulous America Manor. He always did enjoy coming there during the summer, or maybe that was Bill, but at any rate I’m giving it to Paul.’”
Paul thought for a moment he had misheard, then let out a whoop. Heads turned towards him, many taking note of him as if for the first time. America Mansion was one of the jewels of his uncle’s estate: with grounds totaling 3.2 million square miles, stretching from sea to shining sea, it was certainly better than his summer home in Alaska. Why Paul? their gazes asked silently. A few said it aloud, and others admitted that they were rather uncertain of it themselves. The presiding lawyer coughed politely and continued.
“’However, this gift to my dearest Bill, or possibly Paul, is not without a string attached. For, before it may truly pass into his hands, he must first spend a night there… alone. And if he should prove unable to do this, then the house shall pass to the other, Bill or Paul or whoever we decided that it was. …Because now that I think of it, I might be thinking of him anyway, but eh.’”
Paul America came out of the reading of Samuel America’s last will and testament feeling elated, the key to his uncle’s mansion warm in his hand. His mother and father had not said a word to him since the end of the reading, or even looked at him, but it was obvious they felt that anyone there was more qualified for such a blessing than himself – but while Paul could not explain it, who was he to question the wisdom of his uncle’s choice? This was one old gift horse he would not look in the mouth.
Especially because the horse in question was dead.