This is a story in response to Daniel B. O'Shea's challenge to write a flash story concerning a dispute over a will. You can find more stories here.
Elsa was a year into her position as a mediator when she saw a Mr. Edward and Miss Alice Starkey on the day planner. She assumed there was a dispute over a will or a contract, the areas she mediated after watching colleagues in divorce work go down like torpedoed ships. Will mediation was often contentious, but it was about possessions rather than people and no guns had been drawn as yet in her office.
“Husband and wife?” Elsa asked the clerk.
Doris scrambled through the papers on her desk. “Siblings. Their attorney recommended they seek mediation rather than using a court to settle their dispute.”
“A will then?”
“Yep.” Doris scanned the papers. “Seems to be only one area of contention. The disposition of financial matters, furniture, the house and cars—all that’s complete.”
“So what bequest’s in question?”
Doris paused, scanning the paper. “Alma Starkey’s, collection of—beanie babies. That’s their deceased mother.”
“Beanie babies.” Doris paused. “Kids collected them in the nineties? My daughter had quite a….”
“I know what they are. But aren’t the Starkeys adults?”
“Edward is 54; Alice, 48.”
“Edward,” Elsa said with a frown. “A grown man wants dolls.” She walked over to her computer and googled “beanie babies.” She looked up. “They aren’t valuable anymore. Not since around 2000.”
“Perhaps our siblings think differently,” Doris said.
Elsa shrugged. “Should be fun meeting these two.”
“Or not,” her clerk said.
“Or not,” Elsa agreed.
The brother and sister who walked into her office a few hours later could have been twins—and twins of the same sex. Both had seen significant declines in the hormones that differentiated them. They were short, nearly the same height, round, and had bobbed hair the color of hay. Their features were soft, their eyes nearly colorless.
Without meaning to, Elsa pulled back from their soft warm hands, a bit repulsed. But the two seemed used to this reaction, or at least didn’t notice it, and slipped into chairs at her table. Almost invariably any group entering her office took seats as far away from each other as possible, but Edward and Alice Starkey sat side by side.
“The major portion of your mother’s estate was settled without dispute,” she began.
Both shrugged. But when it seemed like Elsa was demanding an answer, Alice nodded “The rest of it was just things, you know. We’ve always lived in the house, shared the car, sat on the furniture. It’s always been that way,” she repeated.
Elsa took a cleansing breath as she imagined their life. “So what makes the beanie babies any different?
The siblings looked at each other. Finally Edward said, “We have different intentions for the beanies.”
Perhaps they meant to pass them along to a charity or to younger family members and couldn’t decide, Elsa thought.
“I intend to play with them,” Alice said suddenly. “I want to cut those darn tags off and put them in chairs, beds, a dollhouse. I’ve made clothes for them over the years, collected appropriate furniture.” She paused. “They have been Mother’s prisoners for twenty years. I was never once allowed to handle one.” She looked into her lap and ceased speaking.
“And I plan to keep them just as Mother did. With their swish and tush tags intact, with their fur completely blemishless. That’s what mother expected when she left them to us. That’s what we promised,” Edward added, glaring at his sister.
“How many beanie babies are we talking about?” Elsa asked.
“Over five hundred,” Alice said with a sigh. “Every Beanie that Ty made in triplicate at least.”
“Mother has—had---five Garcia the Bears, for instance. And ten Princesses. She was intuitive about which ones would increase in value,” Edward added.
“Mother even collected the counterfeit ones,” Alice said.
“But they have no value now, right,” Elsa said. “None at all.”
“So why not play with them? I’ve been yearning to hold one in my hands for twenty years.”
“Piffle,” Edward said. “You were far too old even then to play with toys.”
“And you’re off the rails if you just want to just stare at them. They’re worthless, Edward. Mother made the wrong decision in collecting them.”
“But if there’re five hundred beanies, why can’t you both do what you want? Divide them in half.” It seemed pretty simple to Elsa.
“They all need to be played with,” Alice said. “How would we decide which ones to keep encased? Or should I say imprisoned.” She looked at Elsa. “Mother kept them in glass cases. She was their jailer.”
“Very few children were ever allowed to play with their beanies. That’s why so many still have their tags and are pristine. Beanies would be nothing more than a pile of dirty fur otherwise.” Edward’s sniffed. “If playing was all you wanted, ordinary toys would suffice.
“Beanies are ordinary toys now. They always were.”
“Things come back in vogue,” Edward said. “And why does a woman of fifty want to play with stuffed animals.”
“Or why does a man of 54 want to stare through glass at them.”
“Do you have any idea about how to settle this?” Elsa asked. It was suggested in her manual that she put this idea on the table.
“Indeed, we have,” Edward said. “We want you to come to the house, build a bonfire, and burn every last one of them.”
“It’s the only thing to do,” Alice said. “I can’t bear seeing them in those infernal cases and Edward can’t bear seeing me handle them.”
“I’m not sure those beanies can burn. Aren’t the beans inside plastic sacks?” The siblings looked at each other and shrugged. “Look, I’ll send someone to pick them up and dispose of them in an environmentally friendly way. Is that acceptable” Both of the Starkey children nodded.
Three weeks later five hundred beanie babies, their tags cut off by Elsa and Doris, were on their way to Afghanistan where Elsa’s brother handed them out to waiting village children. No one considered putting them behind glass. No one thought to just stare at them.