‘Marjorie’s Last Letter’
by Troy Blackford
Marjorie had always been both my inspiration and the thwarting force in my universe. Whenever I attained success in life, it was the thought of Marjorie that had driven me on. And it would be Marjorie, perched in the wings, who snatched the short-lived victory from my hands. Without her, I would have had nothing, yet with her, I lost everything.
The pattern became clear early in our relationship, even to me. But one does not simply walk away from Marjorie. She was too perfect, too aware of her own perfection, like a shoreline of razor sharp rocks that men lined up to smash themselves to pieces on. Each day with Marjorie was like willingly being trapped in a burning barn — the flaming rafters may have been falling all around you, but somehow the smell of fiery cow is making you feel at ease, like you’re at a barbeque.
That might not be the best way of putting it, but nothing I say ever is. It’s that damned Marjorie, always in the back of my mind, tangling my tongue. She has a way of sinking her teeth into every thought you have, mangling them before they can fully form. When I first saw her, I knew I had to have her. Not own or possess her. Nobody could even hope to put a mark on Marjorie. No, I would settle for throwing myself at her feet and basking in her glow.
She did have a kind of glow, my Marjorie. Most people have a temperature of about ninety-nine degrees. Not Marjorie. Her average temperature was one-hundred and two point three. Always, right up until the end. I should have known that the end would come sooner for her than others — she was burning through life faster than the rest of us. Of course, though she left us early, Marjorie ensured that the echoes of her footsteps would reverberate long after she was gone.
It started the day after the funeral. I went back to my office — not an office where I was employed, mind you, but my office — and walked to my desk. Sitting there, held down by a vase filled with out-sized dandelions, was a note written on pink paper and marked with little purple ‘teddy-bear’ stickers: Marjorie’s stationary. My heart still trembles when I recall my first sighting of that note.
“Marjorie!” I exclaimed, in that shocked voice she always elicited. She would never hear my voice again, and that made the taste of her name sting my tongue more sharply. From beyond the grave, as it were, Marjorie still lashed out at me with mingled sweetness and pain. “Same old Marjorie,” I sighed, sliding the vase of dandelion stalks off the page. Only Marjorie would have left something like that. What can I say? She knew what I liked.
I picked up the note, my lips curling into an expectant frown. My first day back on the job, and Marjorie was already throwing me curveballs. Would she still be able to strike me out, or had her death given me the upper hand? I read her compact, scrawling script with mounting trepidation. “Why, it can’t be so! There must be some kind of legal recourse, I mean, after all... But surely, you don’t mean to say...”
I flung the teddy-bear emblazoned missive down on my desk, raised my fisted hands above my head, and yowled a single hateful, passionate word at the ceiling: “Marjorie!” I broke down, kneeling over the dandelions and weeping with the abandon of a wronged and sleepy three-year old. “Oh, Marjorie — why?”
Gabriel, my second-in-command in business and dearest friend in life, came rushing in, curious about the noise. “What’s the matter, Galt old man? You sound like you’ve seen a ghost.”
I turned to him, not bothering to hide my tears. “You know what, Gabriel? You may not be too far off track.” I showed him the note. He took it gingerly, as though it might burn him.
“Marjorie?” he asked, but it was an empty question. He had known the answer as soon as the question had formed in his mind.
“There’s more,” I said, heaving a tremendous sigh. “Just read.”
Gabriel’s lips moved to form the shape of the words, but soon he began to read snatches of the text out loud in his shock.
“You can certainly see why… purely business reasons… sure we can all agree… the only way… posthumous hostile takeover… mutually advantageous… might find difficult to accept initially… sure that, in time… Turwin Enterprises now officially MarjorieCorps… thank you for your understanding… it will be a pleasure having you work for me…”
Gabriel looked up, his face horror stricken. “Why, Galt, this is insane! Is this really true? Can she really do this?”
I sighed. “I’m afraid it’s perfectly within her rights to exercise her corporate stock in the manner she has done.” I bit my lip. “I had expected, of course, that her will would leave her stock holdings to me. Clearly, she has done no such thing.” I looked in the cabinet the note had referred to, and found a stack of memoranda.
“Honestly, Galt!” Gabriel said, peering over my shoulder. “To be micromanaged from beyond the grave by the spirit of your dead wife is… vexatious in the extreme!” I sighed again, and opened a different cabinet, one that was giving me quite a bit more comfort at this point.
“Have a drink with me, Gabriel,” I said, sloshing tall gasses full of eight-year old scotch. “Let’s have one more drink as the heads of Turwin Enterprises.” He nodded, took the glass.
“Damn!” he cried, our final toast. We poured the drinks down our throats, shook the nearly empty glasses at the sky, and shouted — and not for the final time — “Marjorie!”