The Reading

The Reading

Edgar Allan Poe was an American writer (1809-1849) best known for his poems and short stories of mystery and the macabre. He is also considered the creator of the detective fiction genre. First printed in an anthology entitled, A Bit of Poe, the following tale was inspired by his work. This post is a deviation from the theme of other posts.

Edgar Allan Poe
Art by Jay Roseberry

 

 

The Reading

 R. A. Andrade

 

 

Five family members, dressed in black, filed into the dim, walnut-paneled room, silently anticipating their portion of Edgar’s two billion dollar fortune. Each in turn, took a seat at the stately mahogany conference table, some having hidden smiles escaping to the edges of their mouths. Edgar’s sixty-something first wife wiped a finger across the tabletop, revealing a swatch of shiny wood through the layer of dust. Examining her fingertips, her eyes widened, and then she shrieked.

All eyes turned to the terrified woman.

“When’s the last time someone cleaned this room?” she cried.

Eight large candles on the walls provided the only illumination in the room. Edgar’s forty-something second wife shivered with uneasiness. “It’s kind of dark in here, could you turn the lights on?” She squinted across the table in between the open Merlot wine bottles lining its center. The expressions on the faces of the two sons who were sitting there were barely discernible in the bad light.

A single sharp “caw” caused all five to clear their seats by inches. Everyone’s attention moved to the source of the noise, a large black bird perched in a cage that sat in a corner of the room and was adorned with ugly skull figures. “Birds give me the creeps,” Margaret uttered with a sneer. She was Edgar’s twenty-something third wife, a bride of only two weeks.

Allan, the family attorney, sat at the head of the table, his face masked in shadows. A crack of thunder jolted the family to jump in unison again. Adding to the discomfort, the lightning flash momentarily revealed a grotesque long scar across the attorney’s right cheek.

He cleared his throat, awaiting complete silence. All faces turned to him. “I apologize for the candle lit room and having this reading at midnight. It was specified by the deceased.”

The twenty-something son stared at one of the flickering flames and then interrupted, “Excuse me, but aren’t those LED’s? They’re not real candles.”

The attorney stretched his neck, pulled at his collar, and then explained, “Fire laws.”

Margaret, growing impatient, reached for the nearest bottle of wine, poured a full glass; the crimson liquid was black in the low light. She emptied it in one gulp. Instantly, her face contorted into a horrible mask and she clutched at her throat. “What the hell. This is Chardonnay! This isn’t a red wine.”

“Ran out of red,” Allan explained. “Used food coloring. Now if I may continue to the reason you are all here …”

“What’s with that weird bird over there?” the thirty-something son interjected.

“That’s Poe, the deceased’s pet raven of many years,” Allan answered.

Margaret turned her head, studied the creature, and then turned back to face Allan. “You do know that’s not a raven, don’t you? That’s a common crow. And where the hell did he keep that thing? I never saw it.” She paused thoughtfully, and then asked, “Do you have any gin in this place?”

Ignoring the request for alcohol, Allan said, “The deceased kept Poe in a hidden room so no harm would befall his beloved companion. Let’s get back to the will, shall we? I think you will all find this quite simple.”

All five leaned forward, their sight locked onto the obscure face. Not one took a breath.

The attorney continued, “Edgar’s total amassed fortune is given to….”

They all inhaled and held it.

“Poe, his pet raven.”

“Crow,” Margaret stated.

“OK lady, all his money goes to the bird,” Allan answered.

Twenty-something son shouted profanities at the barrister.

Thirty-something son pounded a fist on the table.

Sixty-something first wife wept.

Forty-something second wife reached for a bottle of colored Chardonnay.

Margaret calmly dropped her head. She opened the purse sitting in her lap. She withdrew a small, semiautomatic Berretta. She twisted in her chair and pointed the gun at the crow.

The bird gave a meek, pleading caw.

She fired.

A cloud of black feathers and a mist of red obscured the cage.  Blood speckled the faces of the six in the room.

Margaret laid the weapon in front of her on the table, spit out a feather, and then said, “Oops.”

 

Copyright ©  2013

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