Jess’s verbal onslaught took me completely by surprise.
“How could he do this to me? Shit! I was his world, his little princess. There’s no way this is right. I don’t believe it.”
Her face went bright red as she aimed a furious gush of vitriol toward our recently deceased father, and the battle-scarred guitar case leaning on the wall. I noticed a small trickle of snot run from her nose to her top lip and bit my lip to stop myself from laughing.
“Is this all he thought of me? Really?” The tirade continued at breakneck speed.
“Show a little compassion, Jessica. The soil’s barely settled on his coffin.”
“Shut up, Mike. I fucking hate you,” she snorted, the anger seeping from every pore.
She can be a nasty bitch and that’s why I distance her from my family.
In Jess’s self-absorbed, egotistical opinion, she should have been left a lot more than a battered guitar case and its contents. It doesn’t matter that she’s done squat to deserve it. Her perceived self-worth value demands she gets more…and more…and more.
She may be my little sister, but she’s a spoiled pain the ass. It started when she was five and my folks got her a Disney princess costume for Christmas. Jess couldn’t leave the princess mentality behind and now thinks she should be treated like royalty all the time.
She loves to blame others for her failures and refuses to do anything difficult or boring because our parents failed to set boundaries and let her get away with it.
You see, Jess’s wanted for nothing in her life. Whereas I’ve worked damned hard for everything I have. Thanks to Dad, she lives with her daughter, Eva, in a luxury penthouse apartment. He owned the building and gave the apartment to his forgetful, drama queen daughter several years ago – just after she became pregnant following a drunken screw in the back of a van with a musician from a punk band.
Like most spoiled brats, everything Dad had done for her in the past counted for nothing at that moment. Selective memory often struck Jess when it suited.
It must have slipped her mind it was me who ran Dad’s property business when he was ill. The first time Jess had ever been to the office was after he died. I’m surprised she even knew where it was located, but she could zero in on the smell of Dad’s money very easily…
Our father, Bill, was a bona-fide red-white-and-blue American war hero. A USAF Para-Rescueman in the Vietnam war, Bill and his team flew helicopters into combat zones to extract wounded troops. He repelled through the trees to ground level where he attended to the injured and got them airlifted to safety.
With unfaltering dedication, he performed this perilous mission more than 200 times. His bravery saved countless lives. On what was his final mission, he took a bullet to the leg and had to be evacuated to safety.
Once back in the USA and healthy again, Bill dabbled in buying and selling property. His forte was deals converting old warehouses into luxury apartments. He was damn good at it. He owned the building that housed Jess’s luxury apartment. Bill also flirted with local politics for a while and became one of the city’s most influential people.
Jess’s bleeding-heart diatribe continued unabated.
“I was always there for him and this is all I get,” she said as the faux tears materialized.
“Give me a break, Jess,” I laughed. “What universe did that happen in? You turned up like a bad smell when you wanted something.”
“That’s so unfair you son-of-a-bitch,” she bawled into her handkerchief. “What am I going to do now?”
“Wipe that snot of your face?”
Jess stared a hole through me. Smiling back at her didn’t help her mood, either. It was, and always will be, all about Jess. She despised not having everything she wanted and with Dad gone, the money train may have just left the station.
When the award-winning pseudo crying had finished, I asked about her “heirloom.”
“Come on, what’s the story?” I pointed toward the guitar case.
“Have you looked inside?” I had to ask. I play guitar and the contents of the unopened case intrigued me.
“Really? You’re asking now? I thought you were here for ME. Fuck you,” she snapped, her sense of entitlement rising dramatically by the second. She must have forgot Bill was my father too.
“He got it at a charity auction years ago. Take it if you’re so damned interested. I don’t want it.”
To emphasize her point, and her immature nature, Jess gave the guitar case a hefty kick as she went to fill her wine glass for the umpteenth time. She grieved in weird ways…
I shook my head. I’d had enough of her self-centered crap for one day.
“Screw this, I will.” I grabbed the guitar case and left her as guest of honor at the pity party.
As soon as I got home – my family’s living arrangements aren’t as lavish as Jess’s – I flipped the catches and opened the case. Nestling in the tatty lining was a black Fender Stratocaster.
I’d always wanted an original Strat. This one had a few scuffs and dings from plenty of hard use by the previous owner. Two things stood out, the broken bottom “E” string and a signature in black sharpie on the white pickguard.
As my fingers skimmed over the case’s velvet lining, I felt something underneath the scarlet cloth. After a little persuasion, I managed to extricate an envelope and what I saw inside made me weak at the knees.
There was a weathered 8×10 black and white photograph. It showed Dad shaking hands with someone handing him the guitar. This had to be the presentation at the auction Jess mentioned.
I instantly recognized the other guy. It was Stevie Ray Vaughan. I stared at the photo in disbelief. Was this really one of his guitars? Why did Dad never tell me about this? He knew I was a fan. My love of music came from Dad.
A torn, yellowing newspaper cutting, dated August 1990, was clipped to the photo. The feature stated that Stevie was playing at a nearby concert venue and had donated the guitar to the charity. The cutting mentioned how he broke the string while playing the guitar on stage.
A hasty Internet search conservatively valued an ex-Stevie Ray Vaughan guitar, with provenance, at around six figures at auction. Not that I had any intention of selling it.
I called Jess next morning. As expected, she was still wallowing in self-pity and headache tablets. I didn’t care. I had questions about the guitar. Did she remember anything? Where had it been all these years?
“That guitar means nothing to me. I never want to see it again. Leave me alone. This is so unfair,” she moaned before slamming the phone down.
I had a mental image of her sitting on the ridiculously expensive couch pouting like a little child. If she thinks life’s unfair now wait until she’s calling me up asking for the guitar back when she realizes that was her half-million-dollar inheritance.
That might be the time to get comfortable and enjoy the show as I tell her I’m having the guitar memorialized in a glass case. I thought it would be a nice tribute to Dad now that I’m CEO of his multi-million-dollar property company…
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