“Hey Gran, you’re looking as gorgeous as ever!” Connor kissed Mavis on the cheek. At 20, he was tall but Mavis could still meet him eye-to-eye.

“Ach, get away with you,” The young rascal reminded her of his father at his age – such a charmer. He could be lying straight to your face and you’d be beguiled into believing him with one look in his dancing blue eyes.

“I bet your mum and dad are pleased you’re home for the holidays?”

Connor smirked. “Yeah, the prodigal son returns. They killed the fattened calf and everything.”

Mavis ignored the sarcasm.

“So what do you need me to do today, old lady?” Connor teased. He was anxious to get away from the lingering smell of over-boiled cabbage, and get his bare hands into the soil.

“Well, there’s lawns, and those rhodos need trimming…”

Connor started pruning as Gran directed. He threw a branch down, showering dead flower heads on the lawn. It was already too hot out here to work. He knew he’d be lucky to get ten bucks an hour, anyway. Every holiday he’d come and it was always the same. Hadn’t she heard of inflation? Age-related wages? He didn’t dare ask her. He’d get the cliché about ‘watching the pennies and the pounds would look after themselves.’ Connor kicked at a branch that landed on his feet. The falling peach-

coloured azaleas looked like soggy used teabags as he hacked at them indiscriminately, resentment mounting with every slash of the loppers.

Mavis watched him from inside, her mind only half engaged in the club accounts in front of her. He was a good lad, but she suspected he was more than a little lazy. After only one year at uni, he had already dropped out of accounting to take up anthropology, or some such nonsense. Would he ever knuckle down and make something of himself? Mavis doubted it. Let him work hard, make him earn pittance, let him burn his fingers on it so he could learn how to handle the big bucks. His father had learnt, eventually, but not without having to do the hard yards. She took more than a little credit at getting him to the point of being a partner in a prestigious accountancy firm, as she had been in her day. Connor chopped at a bush, letting the branch drop at his feet until the grass was littered with debris.

Mavis put her head back down to her books. She enjoyed the exactness of numbers. There could be no halfhearted guesses, no ‘good enoughs’. It was right or it was wrong. Unlike people, who were dynamic and complicated. You could not pin them down.

Her calculations were interrupted by a hot, sweaty Connor sticking his head in the office door.

“All done, Gran. Anything else you need me to do?”

“Well done, lad,” smiled Mavis at the perspiring face with the mop of hair that kept flopping forward, no matter how often he swept it back. “Cold drink? I have some juice in the fridge, maybe even a coke somewhere I think.”

“Yes please. Roasting out there. Why don’t you put the air-con on in here, Gran?”

“Oh, waste of money, lad. Here, let me pay you right away. I presume you prefer cash?” Mavis pulled her wallet from her handbag. “Nine till almost one, let’s call that four hours.” She proudly handed Connor two crisp twenties.

Connor took it disdainfully. She seemed to think she was being generous. Forty dollars was hardly enough for a few drinks. He should have known Gran would be a bit tight on it, as usual. But it got him out from the olds’ for a few hours.

“Actually, there is one more thing,” said Gran. “My internet banking, I can’t remember how to change my auto-payments. Your Aunty Janice usually helps me with this but she’s away.”

“Sure. You log on, I’ll have a look.”

Mavis pulled out her ‘Banking’ folder, ran her finger down the log-in instructions. Even though she did this every month or so, she was still a bit nervous about punching in a wrong number. She was determined to keep up with technology, but computers were a nightmare if you didn’t know what you were doing.

She clicked on the account, highlighting the monthly payment to Sunset Villas as Connor looked over her shoulder.

“Just let me find the invoice. Its changing from $147.50 to $135.50. More people living here, so the shared costs are coming down. Nice to have a bit extra for a change! How do I adjust that?”

Connor started to explain when the telephone rang.

“Oh bother. Hang on. Just do it, would you?” Mavis answered the persistent ringing as Connor sat in her place.

He made the changes, double-checked the new figure and clicked ‘confirm’.

Gran’s voice drifted from the dining room, then the lounge as she circled the oak coffee table, still trying to finish a sentence.

“Yes, but Marjory, that has to go to the committee for discussion before -. I know but-”

Connor was ready to log off when a little voice said ‘go on, a little look’. He drew up a little closer to the screen when he saw the figures. The cheque account had a few hundred, but there were two on-call investment accounts; one with fifty thousand, the other with over eighty thousand smackers sitting there, doing nothing but collecting interest while Gran argued over church politics and knitted socks for children in Nepal. Connor’s heart skipped. And she was excited about saving twelve bucks?

Why was she still sitting on crappy old furniture when she could have new stuff, a decent car, used air-conditioning when it was hot, for god’s sake? And why did she still pay him a lousy ten bucks an hour when she obviously had truckloads she didn’t know what to do with? Tight old Scotswoman! Connor seethed as much as he was baffled.

He glanced over at Gran, who was still staring out the window at her newly pruned garden as she chatted. A few clicks and life would be sweet, silly old bat.

Connor logged off and shut the laptop, just as Gran came back in the room. “That woman! You wouldn’t believe-”

“Yeah, some people, eh Gran. Mum just txted. Got to go vacuum the pool or something. Anyway, thanks for the work and all that.” Guilt fled the room with a hurried goodbye.

Mavis sighed with relief. He was a great kid, but he did fill the room with his broad shoulders and manly smell.

She sat at the computer. Now, how did he change that payment? Her finger followed the instructions as she logged back on. The payment to Sunset Villas was adjusted to the lower figure. Good. But what was this? Another auto-payment? She didn’t have any other regular bills. She clicked on ‘details’ to see an unfamiliar bank account number receiving $200 a week from one of her on-call investment accounts. Starting today. She drew in a deep breath. The little scoundrel. Thank god her really big term investments were not on internet banking.

Prodigal son be damned, she thought.

She found her lawyer’s number in her address book.

“I’d like to make an appointment, please, with Mr Rogers about my will. I want to remove a beneficiary immediately, please.”

By Monique Reymer from New Zealand



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