Unexpected

“But I’m not expecting anything,” Clark protested. The FedEx man thrust a pen and clipboard toward him with one hand; in his other hand was a large, fat envelope.

“Please sign here.”

Clark hesitated, not sure what to do.

“Please, mister, I’ve got a lot of packages to deliver and just so much time to do it. If you just sign I can leave and you can do anything you want with the package.”

Feeling off-balance, Clark semi-consciously scribbled on the paper attached to the proffered clipboard, but he didn’t reach for the envelope. The FedEx man looked at Clark sharply, and then laid the envelope against the step beside Clark’s feet.

“Thanks. Goodbye.” And the FedEx man loped off to his waiting truck, its motor idling, seeming to Clark to be impatiently waiting to make the next delivery.

Clark stood inertly in his open doorway, watching the truck zoom around the corner where the street curved toward the freeway onramp.

He finally looked down at the bulging envelope near his feet. His head began to flood with images and questions. He reviewed all his few remaining relatives, but couldn’t think of any who would send him anything.

This left official agencies or businesses. Did the IRS return his tax papers for correction?  Maybe it was misdirected to him? Was it for a neighbor? Clark just couldn’t get a clear idea.

Finally, Clark decided to examine the envelope to see if the writing on it would answer any of these questions. He stooped and grasped the envelope at the corner nearest to him with his left thumb and forefinger and began to lift it, but then quickly put his right hand under the package. He thought it might weigh two or three pounds. “There’s a lot of paper in this,” he said to himself.

He looked at the delivery document inside its plastic cover, pasted to the front of the envelope. It was hard to find the name of a sender without his glasses, but the sunlight was bright enough for him to discern most of the printing and writing. There—a name and an address in the city. The name seemed familiar: “Spaeth.” Where had he seen that name before?

Clark sighed, deciding this was enough evidence to warrant opening the envelope. He turned away from the open door, gave it the usual nudge with his shoulder to close it and shuffled over to the end of the couch nearest the window, through which the afternoon sun’s light and warmth flowed invitingly.

Clark had all his necessary small tools on the table next to this end of the couch: TV remote control, two sets of glasses—one for reading and one for TV viewing—stacks of magazines and newspapers, pens and pencils, magnifying glass, and scissors. He put on his reading glasses and grasped the scissor handles.

The envelope’s plastic binding gave way to the point of the scissors so easily that Clark wondered how the package could stay intact through its travels. Soon he had in hand a one-page cover letter and three file folders bound together with rubber bands. The letterhead was from the law firm of Charles G. Spaeth. “Yes,” he remembered to himself, “Charlie Spaeth, my lawyer from so many years ago. What could he want with me after all this time?”

As Clark read the letter he realized this was from someone else, not Charlie. It was about Charlie. He had died and all his legal papers were being distributed to his former clients. There was no successor attorney.

Clark put the letter on the couch to his left and slowly removed the rubber bands from around the envelopes. There were three. One was labeled “Minsky, Clark: Trust.” He put it on top of the letter,
remembering that his trust was very simple and hardly worth the expense of creating it.

The next one read “Minsky, Clark: California Franchise Tax Board vs Minsky.” Clark issued a small grunt of satisfaction: “one of the few battles I’ve won.” This folder joined the other on the couch.

His grasp on the final folder slackened as he read, “Minsky, Clark: Final Divorce Decree and Agreement.” Papers fell and spread across the floor at his feet as he momentarily held the emptied folder, his fingers burning. He then dropped it on the pile of papers it once held and, with great effort, forced his right foot to slowly push the pile toward the TV, as far from himself as possible without the seat of his pants losing its purchase on the couch.

The sun moved slowly across Clark as he remained sitting on the couch. Motes of dust, illuminated by the glancing sunlight, slowly settled as Clark sat. The sun’s warmth and light finally left the window.

Clark remained in the darkness, slumped at the end of the couch, wondering if he had enough energy to get up and prepare his solitary dinner, a routine of the decades since Martha left him for Kerwin, his younger brother.

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