Monday, December 26, 2016

An Act of Will

It can’t have escaped anyone’s attention that this is a really bad year to be a celebrity. You can’t scroll through Facebook anymore without suddenly gasping: “My God, So-and-so is dead!” And this is not one of those cases where the response is: “Really? I didn’t know he/she was still alive!” These are healthy people you just saw in a concert, or in a movie, or recently read an interview about. They were, in other words, people whom you simply do not expect to die any time soon.
            Which is why it’s all such a shock when someone like Prince drops dead for no good reason at all.
            “Well, no good reason that you know about,” Amanda pointed out to me recently.
            I gave the matter some thought. “Yes, that’s true. Though, I wonder why that autopsy is taking so long. On TV, you find out almost immediately.”
            “Probably those toxicology reports take longer in real life,” replied Amanda, Harvard graduate and life-long addict of CSI Every City.
            From the comfy depths of the sofa, Saffy looked up from perving through her latest issue of Men’s Health. “What I don’t get is why he didn’t leave a will! I mean, who does that?”
            “You don’t have a will,” Amanda pointed out.
            From a horizontal position, Saffy’s bosom inflated like life-rafts. “Yes, but that’s because I don’t have a bazillion dollars. Prince does. Or did.”
            I will never understand people who don’t have wills. My probate lecturer in law school used to say that people who die without wills should be severely punished. And when someone in the class pointed out that being dead probably counts as a severe punishment already, Professor O’Donovan sniffed and said, “Not nearly enough! Those poor surviving family members!”
            And when I started practicing law, my very first file involved a family that had been fighting over their father’s estate for the past twenty years because the old man had died without leaving a will. That file was such a reliable cash-cow for the firm.
            “So, who’s in your will, Amanda?” Saffy asked innocently.
            Amanda blinked. “Uhm, my family.”
            “Uh huh. So, are we in it?”
            “Why would you be in it?”
            Saffy struggled up and propped herself on her elbows. “Well, you just said ‘family’. We’re your family!”
            Amanda lifted a perfectly manicured eyebrow. “Not in the technical sense, you’re not.”
            As Saffy later complained to Sharyn over lunch at Golden Shoe, you really don’t know who your friends are till a time of crisis. “Honestly!” she exclaimed, pointing a fork stabbed with rojak. “Who is there to console her every time she’s had a bad date? Who holds her hair back when she’s throwing up in the loo from food poisoning? Who, I ask you!”
            “Aiyoh, me, lor! Dat time she break up with John and she so sad, so she eat that rojak at my place, remember? All night, I help her in the toilet. Wah, damn suay, ah, I tell you! I just re-grout the tile, some more!”
            Saffy paused and stared hard at the ceiling. “Oh, yeah. That was you.”
            “Abuden?” Sharyn said stoutly. She radiated with the kind of goodness Mother Teresa would have immediately recognized.
            Saffy regrouped. “Which just proves my point! You’ve been so good to Amanda, you’d think you would inherit her entire fortune, and not her good for nothing relatives!”
            “Like her mother, you mean?” Sharyn asked. “The woman who gave birth to her?”
            “You can be so annoying, you know that, Shazz?”
            Meanwhile, across town, Amanda was having lunch with me at the Tiong Bahru Markets.
            “You don’t think Saffy’s serious about being in my will, do you?” she asked while attempting to delicately cut a chwee kway without splattering orange-coloured oil all over her Dolce & Gabbana dress. “Honestly, how are we supposed to eat these things with toothpicks?”
            “It’s a compliment really,” I said. “She considers you her family.”
            Amanda paused and looked up at me. “You are so annoying when you say stuff like that!”
            “What, it’s true! I am closer to you both than most of my family. Which is why I’ve left each of you a little something in my will! But don’t tell Saffy. I want it to be a surprise!”
            Amanda frowned. “That is really weird, what you just said!”
            I shrugged.
            “I don’t want you to leave me anything,” she went on. “Because I don’t want you to die!”
            “Well, me neither, but if it does happen, I want you to have something to remember me by and…wait, why are you crying? Oh, crap, please don’t…Seriously, stop…”

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