The attorney set the laptop down on the swing-arm table and moved it to face the old man in the hospital bed. He nodded, and the old man looked into the camera.
“I, F. Mordecai Hauser, being of sound mind and failing body, do here record my last will and testament. My attorney, Danvers Adams, is present and will make himself known when I’m finished.
“Smaller and special bequests have been previously made. This is for my family.
“To my daughter Pamela, I leave the sum of $3 million … on the condition she stop sleeping around with that plumber. I have no objection to your committing adultery, Pamela, nor do I mind that you’re committing adultery with a plumber. It’s simply that I once engaged his professional services and he grossly overcharged me. If you must cheat on Brad — and who can blame you? — find someone I didn’t do any sort of business with. Should you fail to end your affair with the plumber, the money will go into a trust fund.
“To my daughter Ruth I leave the identical sum of $3 million. Please use some of it to fix your various implants as you’re off center and, love you as I do, looking at you lately makes my head hurt. Failure to do so will put the money into a trust fund.”
Hauser took a raspy breath.
“To my son, Franklin, I leave the by-now familiar sum of $3 million. You have control of the business and already live in the house, so you don’t actually have need of this sum. I suggest you offer it to your wife in exchange for a quiet annulment and perpetual silence. Mr. Adams has a folder containing proof positive that ‘Polly’ began life as ‘Arnold’ and this is why you have no children. Of course, by now you might actually love … I have no idea what pronoun to use. In that event, the money goes to the aforementioned trust fund.
“To each of the children of my daughters — my five nieces and nephews — I leave the sum of $400,000. This should be sufficient either to get good educations and begin well in life or to see you down the drain at an early age in high style. No conditions are attached save that you be 18 years of age to collect. Yes, I know the eldest of you is presently 12. It’s good to wait for things.”
He took a sip of water.
“Now, concerning that trust fund you’ve been hearing so much about. If you’ll take the advice I’ve given to go along with the money, there will be no trust fund and the matter ends there. If even one of you fails to live up to the simple stipulations I’ve placed on my bequest, then at the end of 10 years — see, children? Even your parents have to wait for money — whichever one of you is judged to have done the most to bring the love and unity to the family that I have failed to will get half the money. And if the family isn’t torn apart by that, you’ll get the other half a year later. The details of the judging are in the hands of my attorney’s firm and the judgment will be final without possibility of appeal. Those of you wishing to enter into collusion with the attorneys should get an early start.
“Should none of you be found to have brought the family into harmony, the money will be quietly dispersed throughout one thousand charities chosen at random.”
A wheeze took Hauser’s breath momentarily.
“I’m just about finished, in every possible way. I wish you all well, in spite of yourselves and in spite of what your dear mother and I have made of you. Danvers?”
The attorney turned the laptop toward himself. “I am Danvers Adams, a partner in Kucerich Adams Greenough and West. I am Mr. Hauser’s attorney and attest that he recorded this will of his own volition. This ends the statement.”