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The Inheritance of Mr. Ronald Donaldson

A Short Story

By Benjamin Butz-WeidnerPublished 3 years ago 8 min read
3

The empty beer bottle echoed against the hollow fifth of gin as Ron rolled it onto the floor. Focusing on the screen of his iPhone 5, he searched to see what rates his fluids would fetch at blood and sperm banks, hoping to come by quickly - with a poke or a pull - the $767 he needed. It was Wednesday, the 29th of the month, and if he did not pay the rent, his landlord had promised him, his “ass would hit the curb.”

After the $16.61 expense to purchase a microwaveable chicken burrito, a six-pack, and a cheap fifth of gin, Ron had exactly $20.02 in the only bank account that wasn’t already overdrawn. He’d maxed out his credit cards, and was already two months behind on his rent and utilities. It was a miracle the water had not yet been shut off; the gas company had still cut the heat, despite the laws in Philadelphia which made it illegal to do so in winter.

-----

Ron had no family to turn to for help. His mothers, Ava and Eve, had died six months ago in a freak car accident. They’d crashed into each other head-on from opposite ends of their street, each responding to texts he’d sent announcing his acceptance to graduate school. Dusk had begun its descent as they’d approached their home. Faces glued to their phones, paying attention to their pride and not the road, they’d collided right in front of their street sign, simultaneously making the turn onto the narrow lane they’d lived on. Naturally, the story of a lesbian couple dying in a bizarre crash constituted breaking news nationwide, much more so than updates on countless wars, or a bifurcated economy.

A few weeks after the death of his mothers, in June, Ron had begun to travel. Retreating from the swarm of reporters entreating Ron to comment on his Kafkaesque tragedy, he’d left behind his parents’ rented house in Apollo, PA (the lease had conveniently ended the May they’d died), and had arrived in Philadelphia, where he was scheduled to begin school in September. However, grief had mutated into agoraphobia, his longing for escape into alcoholism. As a result, he’d never shown up for class, and had forgotten to withdraw from school, therefore remaining obliged to pay The University of Pennsylvania its Ivy League tuition.

Now in his second unattended semester, January heading into February, the floor of his Brewerytown studio apartment was littered with empty bottles, wrappers from microwaveable meals and candy bars, overflowing trash, and the few contents of his tawdry suitcase. After selling all his belongings, including his laptop, clothes were all he possessed. There was no furniture except for the rundown sofa that had been left behind; however, the trunk he’d emptied now served as a makeshift coffee table. In the corner of the room was the sleeping bag he’d kept from his family’s camping trip to the Southwest, a plastic bag stuffed with an old sweater at its opening.

Ron hadn’t grown up in luxury, nor in squalor. His parents had struggled financially, especially after ‘08, but as a graphic designer and a nurse they’d always gotten by. The house they’d rented since Ron was two was a small, blue colonial, with white window shutters, and at the top of three brick steps a red door with a rusty-blue copper knocker in the shape of an eagle. The public schools in Apollo were nearly broke, but his cultured parents had tutored him in all that for which the schools had had no budget. After graduating top of his class, he’d gone off to NYU to study screenwriting: his mothers had both loved movies, and as a family they’d often reenact all their favorite scenes (a convenient pastime given their VCR was prone to breakdowns).

Despite his parents’ insistence that he should be patient, his career had gone nowhere after earning his BFA, and it’d eaten at Ron more and more as the years had passed. It had seemed, unlike his peers, he’d neither had the connections nor the free time to pursue his craft; when he’d found time it was usually at the end of a long shift behind the bar, and his ideas were as pickled as him.

The idea had struck him one night (after a week of targeted “Apply Now” Instagram ads) that perhaps a graduate program where he could form more intimate connections might finally give him a viable pathway to bring his ideas to life. His scripts were generally tongue-and-cheek cartoon fantasies full of blunt fairy godmothers, charitable goblins, and horny wizards. Penn’s program was intimate, Philadelphia an artistic hub, all of which, he’d thought, could be beneficial to producing his kind of humor. Plus, he’d be closer to home. For the first time in years he’d believed in his dream.

His hopes, of course, had been shattered along with the windshields of his mothers’ cars. Having just managed to dig himself out of the hole he’d for so long been sinking into, the weight of their deaths was like a construction backhoe dumping gravel right on top of him, blocking out the light. Desperate to slow the opacity consuming him, he’d begun filling his insides with transparent spirits.

-------

Ron tried to get up, remembering the cigarettes he’d thrown on the floor the previous evening. He saw that because of his recent bender his fluids were not premium enough to merit a stud fee, and figured a smoke wouldn't change that. But in the process of getting up Ron tripped over a bottle, his head narrowly missing the metal binding on the corner of his trunk-table. The gin was not mixing well with the third beer, and the chipping plaster white walls of the room spun as he struggled to pull himself up. Finally, with one arm on the sofa, the other on the trunk, and a foot firmly squared past the clutter, he lifted himself up with a pained moan.

As he bent forward reaching for the Newports he’d spotted, there was an abrupt, and powerful knock at the door. Ron jerked his head up in search of the sound, stumbling backward over the same bottle he’d just pioneered past. This time his head collided with the trunk, and all went black.

-------

“Hello, sorry, I hope you don’t mind, the door was open, and it sounded like you fell.” Ron looked up at the cleanly shaved man in a neat blue suit, with a kind and concerned expression on his face. In the hand not employed in lifting Ron off the floor was a tan leather attaché. For a man who appeared to be in his late fifties he was remarkably capable of hoisting a stumbling drunk, fully grown man to his feet.

Ron fell back into the sofa, sitting on a container of a microwave mac n’ cheese that would have smeared all over his backside had it not crusted over in the days since it was eaten. With a belch, and an infantile grogginess Ron flung the tray to the floor. His attention now turned to the man standing before him, a corporate paramour in the midst of Ron’s hovel. Finally, he managed to inquire bluntly, “Who are you?”

Promptly, as though he’d been expecting the question, the gentleman informed Ron, “My name is Gregory Yrogerg, but you can call me Greg. I am the lawyer tasked with executing the will of your late father, Donald Ronaldson.”

“But... I don’t have a father.”

“Right, yes, well your biological sperm donor, that is. Shortly before his passing a year ago, Mr. Ronaldson discovered who’d received the samples he’d given Pennsylvania General Sperm Bank, one, as per the Bank’s records, being your mother, Eve. As he never had children of his own, and was single when he finalized his will, he decided to distribute his estate to the children born from his, uh, contribution.”

Ron stared blankly back at the lawyer named Gregory Yrogerg. His head still throbbed from hitting the trunk, and whether from drunkenness or disbelief, he simply gaped. The lawyer broke the silence.

“Might I sit down?” he asked, giving an incredulous yet polite glance at the filthy couch. After an awkward several moments Ron understood, but having no other seating to offer gave a cartoonish lurch forward, dragged his arm across the trunk bulldozing its artifacts onto the landfill below before inviting the lawyer to sit with a wobbly nod. The lawyer accepted with a manufactured smile.

“I can see this is something of a shock, naturally. However, if you can just give me some basic information, I should be able to initiate the transfers Mr. Donaldson has set in place for you. Could you give me your full name?” As he asked this he opened his attaché, removing from atop a stack of papers annotated with colored Post-Its a little black notebook.

Ron took a moment, then responded, “Newport.” The lawyer, whose eyes were hovering on a page of his opened notebook, looked up quizzically: “Sorry?”

“Cigarettes. There. By your foot. Please.” He said this pointing with a flaccid finger, the other hand on his head. The lawyer traced Ron’s outstretched arm to a place on the floor roughly a yard from his foot, squatted sideways with a stretch, and gingerly tossed the cigarettes to Ron. He then resumed his seat on the trunk/coffee table.

“So, your name is…?”

“Ron. Ron Donaldson.” The lawyer scanned his little black notebook, paused momentarily, then moved his pen as if to make a checkmark.

“Perfect, Mr. Donaldson. And you were born November 17th, 1990, correct?” Ron nodded, his cigarette limply hanging from his lips. He had forgotten all about lighting it.

“Very good. Now, Mr. Ronaldson was a rather wealthy man, and as such we are still in the process of liquidating his assets. When that process is complete the money will be divided amongst you all, but for now, there was enough in his account to provide each of you with these checks.” The lawyer opened the attaché, removed an inconspicuous white envelope, and held it out for Ron to take; when he just stared back at the lawyer, the lawyer awkwardly balanced it on Ron’s leg, giving Ron the same manufactured smile as before. Ron took the envelope and absentmindedly put it to the side.

“How much?” Ron’s demeanor still screamed disbelief, and a state of debilitating inebriation.

“You’ll find the check to be in the amount of $20,000. We expect there will be several more, though that remains to be determined by the outcomes of few specialized auctions, and estate sales.”

“Uh huh…”

“Yes, I imagine this is something of a shock.”

“Yeah.”

There were another few moments that passed before the lawyer stood up, moved around the trunk on which he’d been sitting, and headed for the door. He turned and faced Ron before opening it, a glimmer of concern flashing across his face.

“Is there anything else I can do for you, Mr. Donaldson?” Ron lifted his chin weakly, and met the lawyer’s eyes. “‘Amongst you all’? How many others?” Having just been pulled back from his financial precipice, it struck Ron that he must have siblings, something he’d always hoped for. Moreover, it meant he still had family. His imagination flickered with scenes of a family reunion, with curiosities of what traits and idiosyncrasies he and his newfound siblings might have inherited from their elusive yet benevolent father. Then the lawyer spoke:

“My apologies, Mr. Donaldson, but the identities, and number of Mr. Ronaldson's other offspring is strictly confidential, and I am sadly not at liberty to discuss that with you. Goodnight.” With a curt nod, the lawyer opened the door mechanically, and stepped back into the hallway, closing the door behind him without a sound. His eyes frozen on the door, Ron began fumbling around for his envelope, but in his drunkenness struggled to find it.

depression
3

About the Creator

Benjamin Butz-Weidner

I've come here to tell my tales, and share my truths.

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/benbw63/

Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  2. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  3. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  1. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

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  • Christy Munson3 months ago

    I'm sad to have found this piece so long after it was published but I'm pleased to have found it now! Thanks for sharing.

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