“No one can confidently say that he will still be living tomorrow.”
Until three days after his death, Jakob’s father had been very much a stranger to him.
Until three days after his death, Jakob hadn’t often thought about his father; nor did he think much of him. His father had spent far too much of his life working and not nearly enough time with Jakob, and he hated him for that.
Jakob had thought that the passing of his mother would bring the two of them closer together. You know; camping trips, football games, “father and son against the world” kinda shit. That, unfortunately, never happened. Instead, as his father devoted even more of his time to work, the two drifted even further apart, until eventually neither one of them knew the other.
He hated him for that too.
Now, however, he felt embarrassment over the fact that he had let such little things come between him and his father; that he had allowed himself to become estranged and consumed by his own life; not realizing that perhaps his mother’s passing had more – or at least as much – effect on his father.
All things considered, his childhood was as good as one could be, after losing your mother to cancer at such a young age. He had a roof over his head and a full belly. His father was always home to make dinner and tuck him in, though he would often leave again directly after. Throughout the years, Jakob had pets to keep him company during those long lonely hours after dinner, and even a few friends; though he often preferred the pets.
The day Jakob learned of his father’s death however, he had no friends to comfort him. Having become accustomed to being alone, he found he preferred that same thing as an adult. He always found other people to be disappointing and something about him made it hard to fit in with others. He considered himself simply unremarkable. There was nothing about him that made others want to be around him. He offered them no reward. Or perhaps it was he that was disappointing all along; at least that’s what he thought.
His father’s funeral was a short and lonely affair with no viewing. Each of his father’s former employees had driven their cabs to the funeral, as part of the ensuing procession. Afterward, he watched as each one made their way down the long stone pathway, through the ornate metal gate, climbed back into their cars and hurried off to meet at O’leary’s, a popular drinking spot for the cabbies, to share stories and drink until they were properly snookered.
Thomas Hexley, his father’s attorney, had made all the funeral arrangements and after offering his condolences, promptly left Jakob, alone, to his grieving.
He had met Mr. Hexley three days ago as he was leaving his apartment. The tall, nondescript gentleman stood behind Jakob’s car, briefcase and umbrella in hand. He was utterly and completely plain. To look at him and then have to describe him later would be an impossible feat. He was comparing Jakob’s license plate to a number written on a slip of paper in his umbrella-holding hand.
Jakob was about to ask him if he had some problem, and explain that he wasn’t Jakob Drever – that the poor, unfortunate man had hanged himself just days ago – but his mouth seemed incapable of expressing those words.
Instead, the words “Can I help you?” escaped, as if they happened on their own.
“Mr. Drever.” The man looked up with a bit of a twinkle in his eye. “My name is Thomas Hexley. I represent the estate of Mr. Luca Drever.”
“Yes.” The lanky man continued. “The estate of Luca Drever, your father.”
“I know who he is.” Jakob said defensively. “What does he need you to contact me for?”
“Perhaps we should speak in private, Mr. Drever.”
Jakob looked around the empty street suspiciously, wanting to tell the man to get lost, but again, he couldn’t seem to tell him no. In fact, it felt probable that no one ever told Mr. Hexley “no.” Instead, Jakob muttered “Fine,” and escorted Thomas Hexley to his apartment.
After inviting Mr. Hexley in and pointing to a seat, Jakob offered him a cup of tea. He wasn’t even aware he had tea. Mr. Hexley thanked him but declined, while sitting down to the small kitchen table that looked out into the street.
“Now why is it my father has hired you, Mr. Hexley?” Jakob sat down across from the man.
“He had retained my services for many years.” the elder gentleman explained. “I consider myself not only an associate but a friend of your father.”
Mr. Hexley opened his briefcase and extracted several manilla folders and documents, stapled in triplicate. “And…” the man placed the documents on the table and breathed a great sigh. “And your father has asked me to deliver these items as executor of his estate.”
“Executor?” Jakob couldn’t breath. He stood up and walked to the tiny sink in the tiny apartment. He filled a large glass with water, unable to turn and look at the description-less man.
“Yes, Mr. Drever. Your father has passed on.”
“When?” Jakob swallowed down the water in one giant gulp that seemed to get stuck half way down his throat.
Jakob finished the water and returned to his seat. “Was it painful?”
“Can’t be certain.” Mr. Hexley shrugged. “It appeared to have happened in his sleep, but one could only guess.”
“Well, I guess that’s good.”
“Best a man can hope for,” Mr Hexley added.
“You seem very comfortable discussing the whole matter, Mr. Hexley.”
“I hope that isn’t off-putting, young man.” He might have smiled, but Jakob wasn’t sure. “I deal with it every day. It’s as much a part of life to me as having children, buying a home or paying taxes.”
“Death happens every day, and eventually it catches up with everyone.” He continued. “You have to either come to terms with it, recognize it as a part of life; or spend your life running from it.”
They sat for some time in silence, looking down at the table, or rustling through the papers until Mr. Hexley cleared his throat with a short, dry cough. He pushed his briefcase aside. “We do have quite a few things to go over, and very little time to do it in, I’m afraid.”
It took them some time to go over the estate of the late Luca Drever, who, as Jakob found out, had done very little with himself since they had last spoken. He still lived in the same two bedroom apartment they had lived in for past thirty two years. He still maintained a small checking account at a local bank and still operated a small fleet of checker cabs; up until the previous day that is.
“I wasn’t entirely sure if you’d be interested in running a cab company, Mr. Drever.” The plain looking man was placing more forms on the table for him to sign. “It’s a dreadfully foul business. The sort of riff-raff you must associate with in order to operate one is astounding.”
“I don’t know..” Jakob shrugged. “It could be fun.”
“Fun?” Thomas Hexley laughed. “If you call driving around town in the same smelly cab for 8 hours straight, while developing a chronic case of hemorrhoids and a life long addiction to alcohol… fun.” He handed Jakob a pen and pointed at a line on the document. “Sign here.” Jakob complied at which point he turned the page and pointed at another line. “And here.”
“You make it sound absolutely dreadful.” Jakob stated in between signing of documents.
“My apologies, Mr. Drever.” Mr. Hexley withdrew his pen and the form. “I’m only doing as your father had asked and am looking out for your best interests. You just don’t look the sort to be running about town in a taxi cab.”
He continued producing documents for Jakob to place his signature upon at an astounding rate. When he was finished, he placed the newly signed documents into a folder and filed them neatly into his briefcase. “I do have parties interested in purchasing the company; Parties who are already invested in such fields.”
“I’ll have to think it over.” Jakob was beginning to feel as if Mr. Hexley was not looking after his best interests. “It was my father’s company after all. Might be nice to have something to pass down to my own children.”
“Do you have children, Mr. Drever?”
This time Jakob just shook his head.
“Whose children will you be passing this on to then, Mr. Drever?” Mr. Hexley closed the briefcase and whisked it away from the table, and sensing Jakob’s distrust, continued on. “No matter. You do as you see fit, but should you ever decide to remove yourself from the fine field of automotive livery, I shall remain at your service.”
“Are you married, Mr. Hexley?”
“I’ve had several wives.” was his only response. Thomas Hexley handed Jakob a carbon copied duplicate of every form he had signed, which detailed the entire estate. Then he produced an ivory colored business card and handed it to Jakob. “Should you need anything, please don’t hesitate to contact me.”
Jakob accepted the card and shoved it into his pocket. Then he thanked him, and in a whirl, Thomas Hexley was gone.
In the end, there really wasn’t much grieving to do. After spending very little time with his father during the last twenty years, there was little for him to miss, beside perhaps the possibility of what could have been.
After some time, he decided that if he could not grieve for his father, then he would simply mourn missed the opportunities.
Jakob dreaded meeting with the others at O’Leary’s. After all, what stories could he offer? He was certain they each knew more of his own father than he did, and that just made him angry. But, as the new owner, temporary as it may be, he thought he should be present to buy the crew a round and thank them before their service; before he called Hexley and sold the company.