“... and the lawyer said that, so long as both our names are on the account, then the account automatically goes to the survivor.” Wendell Wald smiled and added, “So, once the transfer of the realty business and the house goes through, your grandmother and I can fade away up in L’Anse.”
Normally Sally Wald enjoyed family dinners. As a kid she’d sneered at her classmates who whined about being forced to stay at the table instead of eating in the living room while TV was on. Why would anybody want to miss out on learning what was going on in the grown-up world? Only a few years ago had she realized that most parents weren’t as open to their children as hers… or as genuinely attentive to the children’s contributions to the conversation.
But listening to her grandfather cheerfully discuss the arrangements being made for his imminent death… no, this conversation she could have skipped.
And of course her big brother Steve would have to make it more awkward. “Grandda, L’Anse is an armpit,” he said. “There’s a property up in northern Minnesota I know of, much more beautiful, surrounded by miles and miles of forest.”
Abigail Wald shook her head. “No, dear,” she said. “Your grandda and I planned this out years ago. We’ve already bought a sailboat- spent a few weekends last summer learning how to sail it. At the first sign of either of us going feral, we’ll go for a sail… and have a little accident.”
“See? That’s my practical Abby-girl,” Wendell said, still smiling. “Together to the end, like our wedding vows. And this way there’s no chance of innocents getting hurt. No complications.”
“And you’ll have a nice little lakeside bungalow to re-sell afterwards,” Abigail added, her gray hairbun bobbing as she paused to take a bite of meatloaf. “We’ll keep it nice and clean to make it easy to turn around.”
Sally couldn’t say anything, not least because this sort of thing really was important to get arranged in advance. But… but could they make this dinner any more awkward if they tried??
Fortunately her mother Andrea felt the same. “So, Sally, what did you study in school today?” she asked.
“Walt Stubbe,” Sally said without thinking. Her two younger brothers giggled, and she shot them a glance promising repercussions later.
“That boy? Still?” Her father shook his head. “I’m sure some better arrangement could be made if-“
“Shush, Bill,” Andrea said. The tone was gentle, but it was unmistakably an order to be obeyed. “She’s made her decision, and it’s a good one. The Stubbe bloodline is a good one, whatever the excesses of the boy’s father. Mabel Garrity hasn’t got bored of him yet, so that speaks well to his ability to please a mate. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who saw him pick up a car a couple of Howls ago.”
“It was only a VW Bug,” Steve muttered. “It wasn’t that impressive.”
“You can’t even pick up Stubbe’s motorbike,” Roger, voice cracking, sniped.
“Bite me, runt,” Steve grumbled.
“Too late,” Roger shot back.
“Language, boys,” Andrea said sternly, quelling them.
“But dear,” Bill insisted, “Walt Stubbe is thicker than a tub of used lard.”
“This is not always a drawback,” Andrea replied. “Stupid is acceptable, so long as he’s trainable.”
Sally’s dad opened his mouth again, paused for thought, and shut it.
“That’s pretty much what I’ve been thinking, Nana,” Sally said. “Also, I’ve been thinking about someone to replace Con Nero as Alpha.”
“There’s nothing wrong with Con Nero,” Grampa Wendell said. “He’s been so much better than Frank Stubbe ever thought of being. And being alpha’s not an easy job, I can tell you.”
“Your granpa’s right, dear,” Abigail said. “Don’t be in any hurry to throw him out just because you can.”
“But Con Nero’s about the same age as Mom and Dad,” Sally insisted. “Maybe a little older.”
“Substantially older,” Bill muttered.
“So someday he’s going to be too old to be alpha,” Sally continued. “So who follows him? It ought to be a Wald, but Dad will be too old when the time comes, and Steve says he doesn’t want it.”
“And I don’t,” Steve said. “The family business is all I can handle.”
“And if Steve’s staying here, that means Roger and Junior go elsewhere,” Sally said.
“Not soon enough!” William Wald, Jr. said, flinching when his mother snarled at him in response.
“So if the next alpha’s going to be one of us, it’ll have to be me,” Sally finished. “Or, at least, my mate. And Walt is the best option available.”
“Hmm.” Sally’s father shrugged, then took a roll and began buttering it. “Well, don’t be too quick to close off your options, dear. You’re still in high school, after all- no hurry.” Taking a bite of the roll, he added, “What about the newcomer- Cramer or something? He seems like a sturdy fellow.”
“Him?” Sally shrugged. “Nobody knows anything about him. He just turned up a couple months back with nothing but a set of clothes.” She shrugged. “I’ll think about it, but I suspect I’ll stick with Walt. At least I know his pedigree.”
“Language, dear,” Andrea chided, and the conversation moved on to other things.