A young man received unfinished works from his deceased father...and a curious contact.

“I don’t really get this at all.” Brendan lost track of how many times he uttered that exact phrase over the course of the morning. Regardless of the count, his present company appeared unfazed.

His mother sat closest to him. As customary, her smile failed to match her melancholy eyes. Her long hair flowed down her back, lustrous, mahogany streaked with silver. She placed a comforting, slender hand on Brendan’s shoulder.

“You don’t remember much of him, but I can promise you there was a lot to your father that even I didn’t know,” she whispered.

Leland Eubanks lounged on the opposite side of the table, dressed ostentatiously for a gathering that, as far as Brendan was concerned, could have been avoided altogether with a simple delivery. A grim little smile played at the attorney’s lips. “I do believe, Brendan, that your dad had a cryptic side to him. Perhaps all of this is just a matter of him expressing himself to you all these years later.”

Brendan shook his head. “But it doesn’t make any sense.” His father’s absence in his life lingered in Brendan’s heart, though more out of sadness than bitterness. Ben Augustine succumbed to cancer a few months after Brendan’s second birthday. The only memories Brendan possessed of his father rested in cheap, faux wood frames.

He gestured to the huge box that stood sentinel in the middle of the kitchen table. It was heavy, filled to the brim with novels and notebooks. “These are dad’s things. He left them with you to give to me on my 21st birthday. But it’s just junk!”

His mother let out a sharp gasp and pulled her hand away. Brendan flinched at the look of reproach she stabbed in his direction.

“Your father adored you, Brendan, and there is no reason to be ungrateful for anything he left for you.” Her voice cracked, a whip in a silent room. The disdain in her gaze lingered momentarily before softening into her usual somber.

“I’m not being ungrateful, I promise,” he replied. “But why wait almost 20 years to give me this? Why not leave it with you?” He gestured to Eubanks. “Why leave it with him? When is the last time we even talked to this guy? When we were about to get evicted? Mom, that was when I was in grade school.” Brendan shook his head. “My dad might have been cryptic, but this makes no damn sense.”

Eubanks glanced at his watch. “Sensibility aside, these were your father’s instructions. Explicitly.” He nodded toward the box. “I’ve kept these belongings in storage for quite some time, and with no charge. It is yours to see to. Apologies, but I must be going.” He stood and nodded toward Brendan’s mother. “Good day, ma’am.”

After he left, Brendan stared at the box. Part of his imagination spawned thoughts of some ferocious jack-in-the-box bursting forth from the recesses of the box, laughing maniacally with his father’s face.

“You didn’t have to be so rude to him,” his mother sighed.

Brendan grunted.

“What are you going to do, hon?” His mother seemed genuinely curious. Brendan knew that his father’s death always left a ragged hole in his mother’s life. And here he came again, from beyond the grave, rearing up and opening that wound in her heart once more.

“I don’t know. You can take it, I guess. If you want it.”

She glanced at the box, her mournful gaze drinking it in. “He left this all for you, son. Maybe it’s for you to know him.”

“I’m not going to know him any better through books he read and notes he took.” Brendan noticed the way she flinched at his dismissive words. “Besides, I’ll probably misplace them. My apartment is a wreck.”

The End

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