Looking Good

Anne-Marie Keppel
24 min readNov 24, 2023


A Death-Positive Parody

By Anne-Marie Keppel

List of Characters

Dug — Late thirties, family misfit

Hilde — Early 90’s family matriarch

Mentions of but not in the play

Faux butler

The Gentleman (Jack)

Hilde’s children and family

Vasper: Eldest male of family

Brin: Eldest female of family

Tom: Second oldest son

Younger sibling 1

Younger sibling 2

Younger sibling 3

In-law 1

In-law 2

In-law 3

In-law 4

Grandchild 1

Grandchild 2


Ginger: Publicity Doula

Max: Photographer

Lara: Spirit and Body Doula

Emerald: Psychopomp

Massage therapist


Reiki Master


Forest: Legacy Doula

Zane: Grief Doula

Medical Staff


Nurse assistant 1

Nurse assistant 2

Looking Good

A Death-Positive Parody

At 38 Dug had few accomplishments that one would consider admirable. His good looks that had given him so many privileges over the years, from women to jobs to understated winks while heads turned the other way in situations that otherwise would have landed him in, at the very least, embarrassing dilemmas — at most, in jail. Twice he had been in jail. Once, the drunk tank. Released the following day into the custody of his grandmother. The second for petty theft which then led to the discovery that he has 104 unpaid parking tickets and violations in various cities across the US. Again, he was released into the custody of his grandmother.

Dug’s grandmother who was of exceptional generational wealth had been Dug’s guardian angel his whole life. But their love and friendship was true and real and the “rescuing” part of their relationship was the least interesting. Dug who was empathic to the point of removing himself from close relationships in fear of emotionally hurting or being hurt, turned to a somewhat benign variation of “living on the edge” where he shoplifted (but only from large corporate chain stores — his justification) and ignored parking violations.

Dug’s grandmother Hilde, whose family demanded of her societal displays of elegance, eloquence and a pristine reputation of diplomacy and generosity, coped in her own way by living on her own kind of “edge.” In her bottom dresser drawer, there was a false back which opened into a hidden compartment. Over the years in this forbidden cavern of curiosities, Hilde hid fishnet stockings, shades of lipstick that her mother would have found gaudy and inappropriate, fake tattoos, fake mustaches and other gag novelties, a vibrator dildo duo, sometimes some psilocybin chocolates, a pack of clove cigarettes (she smoked one a year on her birthday) and the phone number of a man she once met that said that if she ever wanted to run away all she need do was call him. He would send a helicopter for her, have a fake passport at the ready and she could start her life anew.

This gentleman, whose phone number remained hidden in Hilde’s secret drawer for more than 70 years, had once positioned a faux butler at her family estate in order to alleviate the family of all valuables while they were vacationing. The plan had worked — the estate was drained to the last drop, pockets emptied, safes busted open — when, Hilde who had faked an illness just before boarding the yacht in order to not go on her family vacation, returned home and ran into the extraordinarily crafted heist. The gentleman, whose good looks and demeanor rivaled his art of thievery, was taken aback by the young Hilde. Shoeless, long golden hair billowing and eyes even brighter than the jewels he had just tucked into this pocket, the man stood aghast. It was love at first sight. For them both. In their minutes long exchange which neither of them would forget for the rest of their lives, they agreed to five things.

One: they were soul mates. They both knew this with every cell in their body, every energetic vibration in their existence. Two: they could not be together in this lifetime. Hilde said she had to follow through with the arranged marriage her family intended- it was only one month away. The gentleman agreed that the life he lived was not suited for the Queen that she inherently was. Three: Hilde said she would turn her head and not tell a soul that she had witnessed he and the family’s faux butler had robbed them blind. Four: the gentleman said that if at any time she wished to live a different life- with or without him- he would arrange for it completely. There would be no trace for her family to follow to drag her back to. And five: they kept that secret together.

It was for these deeply personal reasons that Hilde delighted in her grandson’s misadventures. When he was little she would slip him little candies when his father had sent him to the corner. She’d secretly given him an enormous box of gag toys for his tenth birthday (and replenished as needed) which had the whole family on edge for years. Fart spray, fake poop, whoopie cushions, disappearing ink (obviously used at the most inappropriate times and on the most inappropriate gowns and silken ties of honored guests) pepper gum, false limbs, fake blood… Hilde would maintain her cross-legged, tight lipped vision of purity while the family would unravel into mayhem, upset at Dug, then arguing with each other and then inevitably forgetting about Dug completely (because his gags were not actually the root of the family trauma- surprise surprise) at which point Hilde would calmly excuse herself to her quarters and Dug who had slipped out unnoticed would fall into her room in an absolute fit of explosive laughter. Matched energetically only by Hilde’s howls of delight.

Today, Hilde is dying. The family has gathered. Not one bit of comfort has been spared for the matriarch. Not one, not two or even three, but four death doulas have been hired along with one psychic medium, a psychopomp, a chiropractor, massage therapist, Reiki Master, a full-time MD and two nurse assistants. The family insists that this must be a good death and a positively death positive experience. The family unanimously agreed that this should be modeled for the public to encourage more meaningful deaths — aware that they are social leaders they have taken on this societal responsibility.

One doula was in charge of everything relating to the bridge between the inner and outer nest including how everything appears in photographs, press releases social media posts etc. Therefore, her wheelhouse involved flowers displays along with Hilde’s clothing, makeup, bed linens to assure that the most perfect and pristine dying situation was adhered to and portrayed to the public.

The second doula was in charge of hiring and managing all support staff including the chiropractors and psychic, massage therapist etc. Her job of course also included maintaining an environment of calm, grace and ease at all times.

The third doula was in charge of recording Hilde’s life story (to be reviewed by the primary family members) and commissioned to have it printed into a hand bound book and shelved in the library at the family estate.

The fourth doula was hired on a whim with very few credentials checked in order to doula the family through the dying process. No one had expected the dying situation to be so emotional and so at the last minute a grief doula was asked to join to help manage and process some of the misplaced anger, excessive confusion and stress.

In the Grand Room of the estate twelve family members and twelve death support staff have gathered at a single central African Blackwood banquet table. The room has a large seating area with overstuffed leather furniture and a huge elk head mounted over an enormous stone fireplace now lit with candles in the summer evening. In the center of the room there are 24 people seated. On one side 11 family members face 11 death support staff. At the head of the table is Hilde’s oldest son Vasper, to his right is Hilde’s oldest daughter Brin, next to Brin is Tom the second oldest son and at the other end of the table in head position is the Publicity Doula, Ginger. Circling around them all, discretely snapping photos is a photographer.

[Ginger attempts to subtly shift the vase of calla lilies in front of her so she can see Vasper talking from the other end of the table.]

Brin: Yes, Ginger, I see you’re finally noticing that no one can see each other around this enormous display of lilies on the meeting table.

Vasper: I think we can see around them well enough Brin. Let’s not stop to discuss the flowers while we have everyone here.

Ginger begins to bow her head with a shy and grateful smile cultivated just for Vasper but then sees that the photographer is focusing a shot on Brin whose expression is decidedly irritated at her brother. Ginger swats her hand at the air to get his attention and shoots him a venomous look. The photographer shrugs, lowering his camera and backs up.

Vasper: Quick overall check in with the head doulas and we’ll only hear from their staff [waving a finger in the direction of the other staff] if need be when we go into detail. If needed. There are a lot of us here.

[Vasper chuckles. Ginger gently laughs. The other doulas and their team, alert and curious, offer anxious nods while on the other side of the table Hilde’s five children and four in-laws and two grandchildren agree with tense silence.]

Vasper: Let’s start with you Ginger. How is everything being handled from the social perspective?

Ginger: [tossing her thick hair over her shoulder while smiling at Vasper] Everything is going so well. The public is responding with so much love and grace. The photo we took of Hilde in the decadence of her deathbed included the supremely-cozy Charlotte Thomas sheets which are woven with actual gold thread– we had a Russian fur blanket on her– which was to die for– no pun intended [Ginger and Vasper laugh at her joke while the rest of the table looks put off] but the wellness team removed it saying she was too hot. [Tilts her head as if steering away from an annoying buzz in her ear] So, I made up for it by securing a one-of-a-kind diamond encrusted very comfortable bandeau head piece by Louis Vuitton. This is really just what Hilde deserves– queen that she is. She will inspire generations of those wishing to die a good death. The social media photo we released this morning actually went viral — over a million shares as of this afternoon.

Vasper: [placing his hand to his chest] We couldn’t be more appreciative. If we are not inspiring others to embrace their own good death what are we doing here, right?

[Several slow nods around the table]

Vasper: Ummm…

[Vasper flings a finger at the physical wellness doula, Lara]

Lara: [slow, dreamy voice] Hilde is responding very well to all of the treatments. Yesterday she began with a gentle chiropractic adjustment followed by a Reiki treatment which aligned the fullness of her physical and energetic system. Then she had a hand, head and foot massage with herbal infused oils, a reading with our psychic to make sure that she was not in any distress– that direct communication is invaluable. Separately the psychopomp has begun checking in with her ancestors to make sure they were readying to receive her. Earlier today was much of the same wellness work, and since we’re getting close to her transition deeper psychopomp work with Emerald will begin working with her more closely to create that bridge between Hilde and her ancestors to ensure that she is safe and well guided out of her body. Overall, Hilde is doing remarkably.

Tom: Well, I’d like to know which ancestors. There are some that we actually don’t want anywhere near our mother. There was one that was actually a real piece of work when he was alive and I can’t imagine he’s any better dead.

Vasper: Yes, Lara we’ll need to hear from the psychopomp directly about that. We can’t have any disruptive relatives dropping by — even if they’re dead.

[small chuckles around the table]

Lara: Of course, that is a valid concern.

[Lara leans forward looking down the line of death support staff and nods at Emerald who gently nods back.]

Vasper: Okay, next to the wellness doula, Forest, go ahead.

Forest: As you all know I have been recording Hilde’s life story and it has been captivating.

[Nods of approval and gentle smiles from the family side of the table]

Forest: [speaks slightly hesitantly] She does talk quite a bit about Dug whom I have noticed is not here at this table. [Uncomfortable shuffles and deep breaths from the family side] And, once in a while she will reference someone with whom she was fond of but that really doesn’t track with those that I have traced in her social circles…

Vasper: I think we can all agree that mother is cognitively declining in this late stage of life. Right, Doctor?

Doctor: I um… It’s not–

Vasper: Yes, it’s probably not appropriate to discuss the mental capacity of our mother in a public manner such as this.

[Looking at Ginger pointedly and then eyes returning to the legacy doula]

Vasper: You needn’t worry about that Forest. Just keep recording everything that tracks with reality.

[Forest raises his eyebrows and closes his mouth. Vasper points at the grief doula]

Vasper: I understand that you just came on this morning since mother’s time is getting close, correct? What’s your name?

Zane: Hi everyone, my name is Zane. My pronouns are they/them and I’m really happy to be here with all of you at such a meaningful time. I am here if you’d like to talk about anything at all — all things grief and feelings, I’m here for you.

[Tom stiffens and Vasper glances at him and then at Ginger who gives a stiff smile at Zane]

Vasper: Thank you Zane. My um, pronouns are he/him. Let’s ah, go around the table and introduce our pronouns please.

[Around the table various mumbles stack over one another with she/her and he/him. Zane smiles awkwardly but lifts their chin and takes a deep breath. Vasper clears his throat.]

Vasper: Moving on to the doctor, please.

Doctor: Thank you Vasper. Hilde vitals are unstable but that is normal for this stage. At times she seems alert but overall she is sleeping quite a bit which is also normal.

[Vasper smiles at Ginger]

Vasper: Thank you Doctor and how long do we have until… until it’s time? There are two press releases planned but if the time is shorter we’ll want to combine them into one so that the final announcement really makes an impact. Remember this is all in the name of death positivity– embracing our mortality and sharing it– nothing to be ashamed of.

Doctor: Oh, that is very hard to determine but I’d say…

Nurse assistant 1: Pardon me for interrupting, but we usually don’t like to give an exact–

[Nurse assistant 2 nods]

Vasper: Forgive me, but I was asking the Doctor who is quite capable of giving an accurate medical assessment.

Brin: Well, hang on, as I understand it, these two nurses have been at dozens if not hundreds of deaths– have you Doctor?

Vasper: They are not nurses Brin. They’ve had a fraction of the amount of formal training and we should be relying on the one person in this room whose education in this field surpasses everyone! Now, Doctor, please, proceed.

Doctor: As I said, it can be hard to determine but if I were to make an educated guess based on her vitals and the slow deterioration I’d say she has about a week. Maybe five to seven days.

[Vasper sits back smiling. Nurse assistant 1 drops her jaw in disgusted awe. Nurse assistant 2 drops her eyes and shakes her head. Lara looks at the rest of her wellness staff with concern but does not say anything.]

Vasper: There we have it. Very good. Plenty of time for both press releases. You might even say that she is an exemplary model moving through the dying process, correct Doctor?

Doctor: Indeed. [small pause] I did notice however that this morning she had a rash on her hands, feet and head that had not been there previously. [Looks up the table toward the wellness doula]

Lara: [Flustered looks at Vasper] I… I don’t know what that could be… we used the most gentle massage oil, right? [ Looks at the massage therapist pleading for an answer that will dismiss the question of a rash coming from the oil]

Massage therapist: Yes, of course, I used the oil you instructed me to Lara, it was an organic lavender and cedar infused —

[Hilde’s children all flinch. Tom slams his hand on the table]

Brin: You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.

Vasper: Brin, let’s not over react.

Brin: Overreact? They poisoned our mother!

Lara: I’m so sorry, I don’t understand, is she allergic to —

Brin: Yes, she’s fucking allergic to lavender. Didn’t you read that in her end-of-life preference guide that Forest finalized last week?

Forest: Umm, I’m sorry to say that Vasper told me not to distribute it widely and so only the family and Ginger got a copy…

[Lara leans back in her chair looking relieved]

Brin: Of course you would give a copy to the Publicist Doula and not to the Wellness Doula. How typical Vasper. Making sure everything looks great and meanwhile the reality is that it is all one great big rash.

[Vasper looks like embarrassed anger might get the best of him which triggers Tom to raise his eyebrows at Zane who subtly nods]

Zane: Okay, I’m sensing some tension here — understandably. Let’s hear about what to do about the rash from the Doctor, but first let’s just take a pause and some nice deep breaths before moving on.

[Zane places their fists up to shoulder height, inhaling through their nose and then while exhaling through their mouth lowers their hands to the table and releasing the fingers into a relaxed position.]

Zane: Let’s do this movement all together, just a couple of times.

[Vasper looks exasperated by Zane and looks furiously at Tom. Brin and most of the others are trying to mimic what Zane is instructing ]

Vasper: What are you doing?

Zane: [through deep breaths] Just taking a moment to let go of some tension. It might not feel natural at first but the more you practice it, the more space there will be for your emotions.

Vasper: [Looks at Tom] We are talking about the rash the Wellness Doula gave to my mother. We don’t need breathing lessons and moments of space, Tom. Was this your idea of caring for the family? Breathing instructions while our mother is upstairs with a bloody rash caused by the “wellness” staff?

Tom: I hired him to help sort out your temper tantrums, Vasper and —

Brin: He’s not a him, Tom!

Tom: Oh, and you’re doing a great job Brin.

[voicing raising]

Brin: Me? You’re the one calling Zane a him.

Tom: You just did the same thing!

Zane: You know, it’s really okay. Pronouns can be confusing in a new situation especially when emotions are heightened. Let’s return to —

[From the main entrance of the grand room a man in his late thirties strolls in with a bag containing a gift. He’s wearing all black, intentionally ripped (albeit fashionable) jeans and a vegan leather coat. He slides a hand through his thick dark hair and smiles at the group of 24 people seated in the center of the room.

Vasper leans back in his chair taking a long deep breath. Zane not realizing that someone had just walked into the room, smiles kindly at Vasper.]

Zane: There you go. Very good. That’s going to open up so much–

Brin: You have got to be kidding me.

Dug: Hello Aunty Brin.

Tom: Dug, this is probably not a great time…

Dug: Hello Uncle Tom.

[Dug places the gift bag under a table on the floor beside a nearby couch]

Vasper: Son, things are pretty tense now, maybe you should come back in a few days. The Doctor says mother has five to seven days more.

Dug: Hello father.

[The photographer zooms in on Dug who has taken a seat on the arm of the couch by the fire. Several of the death support staff look intrigued by Dug, and Ginger looks as if her wishing that Vasper was 30 years younger has come true.]

Brin: Is someone going to do something about this?

Dug: Aunty Brin, I’m not a “this” and I’m here to see my grandmother. I’m not going to wait until the funeral–

Brin: Well, you can’t see her now Dug, she’s sleeping, right Lara?

[The Wellness Doula checks her watch]

Lara: Um, the nurse assistants will be changing–

Vasper: Let’s schedule a time for you to come back tomorrow, okay Dug?

Ginger: I don’t mean to intrude here but the Times is coming tomorrow to do a piece on Hilde and they’re going to be here for most of–

Dug: The Times is coming here to do a piece on Hilde while she is dying?

[Brin huffs leaning back in her chair and Vasper stiffens]

Vasper: We’re embracing the death-positive moment Dug and your grandmother is modeling a good death. We’ve hired four doulas and this entire staff you see before you. This is an important time for our entire family–

Dug: Oh my gods. Did anyone ask gramma if she wants to have the Times here?

Tom: Okay, we really have everything under control Dug and you showing up here in your dark devil, felon-inspired attire and negative attitude–

Vasper: Felon-inspired, Tom? You always have to go there like the baby that you are Tommy, don’t you?

[Dug holds up one hand and begins silently counting down, five, four, three…]

Zanes eyes dart back and forth between Dug and the three siblings and what looks like the other nine family members beginning to get antsy and opinionated.

Tom: This meeting is dismissed.

[Standing up, chair screeching on the hardwood floor. Brin slams her hand down on the table. Vasper’s face turns flaming red.]


One of the younger siblings throws their glass into the corner of the room shattering it while Tom and Vasper begin chest thumping and Brin begins yell-instructing the doctor and Lara to figure out how to fix her mother’s rash. Forest, has pulled one of the quieter siblings aside to ask about who “Jack” might be…

Max is circling the room getting shots from every angle ignoring Ginger who is trying to grab the camera from him. Lara lights an enormous bundle of sage and begins walking around the room while the other Wellness Doulas take seats off to the side to hold space.

From somewhere across the room an obnoxious alarm is going off– coming from a gift bag which has been kicked under the couch.

Dug closes his palm indicating that the five seconds are up and he strolls out of the room and out the front door of the house.

Distant person 1: GOOD RIDDANCE! He’s gone!


Distant person 3: Put out that fucking sage or you’re going to set off the fire alarms!

Outside, the evening is quiet, the late summer sun has begun to dip beyond the horizon. Dug circles the side of the house to the trellis that runs up to his grandmother’s second floor bedroom quarters. Briefly looking over his shoulder he makes sure no one is looking and proceeds to scale the trellis like he has done it a thousand times. The security cameras of course are recording him but no one will bother watching them– at least not any time soon.

Hilde’s balcony doors are cracked open allowing in the warm summer air to flow through her quarters and Jack easily pulls himself over the railing and walks into his grandmother’s room. Instantly he is taken aback by the scent that had accompanied the soothing and joy and comfort that his grandmother had given him– when no one else had– his entire life.

His grandmother looks frail, gentle, almost child-like while she sleeps. He shakes his head at the silly diamond studded elastic head piece that someone put on her head. He also noticed a small raised red rash around her temples.

[Dug bends to lower himself beside his grandmother and takes her hand.]

Dug: Gramma, it’s Dug.

Hilde’s eyes pop open startling Dug so he nearly falls out of his squatted position.

[In a raspy whisper]

Hilde: Oh thank the heavens. Dug, these people are trying to kill me.

[Dug cracks up]

Dug: Well, let’s just say they are “occupied” at the moment.

[They both smile at each other]

Dug: We’ve got about 15 minutes Gramma. I want to tell you– I want to…

[Dug drops his head to his grandmother’s hand in a silent gasping cry. Hilde looks at him with deep adoration and with her other hand reaches to pat the top of his head with an awkward knuckly pat.]

Hilde: Dug, sweetheart, can you get this fucking cinch off my head?

[Dug cry laughs and removes the elastic bandeau]

Dug: Gladly. Gramma they have you on your deathbed dressed up like a Barbie doll.

[Hilde grunts with annoyance and points to her dresser]

Hilde: Go to my dresser and open my bottom drawer. There are some things in there that you’ll need.

Dug kisses her hand before walking across the room and opening the bottom drawer. It’s filled with various empty perfume bottles. Some antique, some just empties of her favorite perfume that Dug loves so well.

Dug: You want some perfume on Gramma?

Hilde: No honey [pausing to breathe] take those bottles out and press on the back of the drawer. [pausing to breathe again] There’s a hidden compartment.

[Dug smiles]

Dug: How… Hilde of you.

One by one Dug places the empty bottles on the top of the vanity and gently presses the back of the drawer in. It springs back out revealing a hidden compartment just as she said. Dug’s eyes widen for a moment before he begins cracking up. He looks back at his grandmother but she has fallen asleep again.

He pulls out a sheet of faux mustaches and a couple sheets of tattoos of bawdy sailors smoking cigarettes and drinking from wooden barrels. He smiles at the whoopie cushion which he blows up part way and pushes on– good as gold. He pulls out a pack of individually wrapped white mints that he knows very well stain your teeth black once they hit saliva. Lastly, he pulled out a sterling silver cigarette case and opened it. Inside, is one clove cigarette and one small piece of paper that has a phone number written on it. The paper is worn so thin, as if it had been held close many times.

Dug suddenly instinctually knows– he catches his breath, clamps shut the cigarette case and drops it back in the drawer. He slowly turns and looks at his grandmother whose slack jaw told him everything he needed to know. Dug rises and goes to his grandmother’s side.

Dug: Oh Gramma. Oh Gramma, I love you with all my heart. You are my sun and my moon and my stars… my laughter. You’re my laughter Gramma.

Dug drops his head onto his grandmother’s shoulder and allows himself three sobs. Then, slightly shaking, he wipes his eyes and notes the time. He doesn’t have long before the family feud comes to a hiatus or at least switches rooms. As if his grandmother was talking to him directly he knows what he needs to do. He rises and with large strides, and excitedly goes back to the drawer.

Dug: Gods I love you gramma. This is seriously the best gift you could have given me and I know it’s the best gift I could have given you.

With tears of sorrow and mirth streaming down his face, he got to work doing exactly what he knew his grandmother wanted him to do. Removing a thick Tom Sellek style faux mustache from the plastic sheet he stuck it just above Hilde’s top lip. Cry-laughing he quickly crossed the room to the adjoining bathroom and wet a face towel. Squatting beside her again he removed the protective film from the corner of the sheet of sailor tattoos and held it on his grandmother’s neck for 30 seconds under the wet towel. Peeling it back he laughed even harder when he saw that not one tattoo but two had come off– the randomly chosen winners were a man peeing into an empty pail and a fish with boobs. He figured he had about 2 minutes more. He quickly blew up the whoopie cushion and stuck it under the cushion next to his grandmother’s bed. Grabbing the china dish full of peppermints (knowing very well that his father was a fan of all hard candy) he ran to dump them into the toilet and flushed them down, refilling the bowl with the gag peppermints.

[Thumps at the foot of the stairs]

Dug did a quick sweep with his eyes looking around the room to make sure all of the gags were concealed and everything in place. He grabbed the small silver cigarette case and quickly replaced each of the perfume bottles, tucking one of the ones that he loved so much into his jacket pocket. Lastly he sprayed a hefty amount of fart spray all over the sheets and diamond headband before exiting the balcony doors behind him and climbing down the trellis.

From behind his grandmother’s favorite weeping willow, Dug allows himself the joy of hearing the shrieks of horror as the family ascends upon Hilde’s corpse. Among the yelling he hears his father fuming at the doctor for not giving a correct time of death. From the darkened evening, he peaks around the tree trunk and looks up into the windows for long enough to see Max circling with his camera.

Dug is delighted. And, absolutely heart-broken. This was his grandmother’s last laugh. This was he and his grandmother’s last secret family torture. He sob-laughed again and again just letting his tears stream down his face and onto the soil beneath the tree. He clutched his heart.

Dug: Fuuuuuuck. This is painful.

A vibration from his pants pocket followed by three more pings in a row momentarily drew his attention to his phone. He read the first text:

Dude, is this your grandmother?

Dug clicked on the image that had gone out on social media earlier that morning. He knew it had gone viral but really did not want to see any of his family’s contrived crap perceptions of his grandmother’s “death positivity” that they were so obsessed with.

He looked at the image of the embarrassingly gaudy display of pillows, comforters, flowers and illuminated crystals surrounding his grandmother who was wearing the diamond studded head wrap. The scene was so obnoxious that if it weren’t for the several other pings tagging him in the image he might have missed it. Hilde lay there surrounded by jewels and glory most would actually kill for and she was, with her eyes closed, giving the camera the middle finger.

He zoomed in. There was no mistaking it. It was not just that her hand was resting in an awkward position, it was actually lifted off the bed, thumb holding down three digits so the middle finger was sticking proudly up into the air.

Dug: Why gramma! Were you flirting with that photographer? Who was the genius who swapped this treasure of an image for whatever hellish one that was supposed to go in there?!

Dug was so shocked with pride and joy that he didn’t hear Forest coming up from around the side of the willow.

Forest: Hey, Dug, right?

[Dug stands up brushing off his pants and wiping away stray tears]

Dug: Yeah, hey.

Forest: Sorry, I don’t want to break your cover but I think everyone is…

[Tantrum like shouts and cries in the background]

Dug: Oh, we’re good. My youngest aunt will probably storm out of the house soon if she hasn’t already. The others will be at it for a while…

Forest: Yeah, Zane was actually trying to help but they’re in the bathroom now nursing a black eye…

Dug: Lemme guess, my dad?

Forest: Brin actually.

[They both laugh]

Forest: That was brilliant by the way, remaining anonymous while managing to get Tom to hire Zane.

Dug: Ha, you know about that?

Forest: Your grandmother was… quite talkative these past several weeks. She’s the one who told me you were trying to prep for the emotional fallout around her dying time. She said that you don’t give a crap about them but you were trying to keep the peace around her– for her sake.

[Dug looks down and shuffles his feet a little, nodding his head.]

Forest: She also talked about a man named Jack…

[Dug looks up with furrowed brows]

Forest: I’m going to tell you this now because the others are going to be learning about it when the Will is read. She also seemed to think that you would not be upset by the news…

Dug: Who’s Jack?

Forest: Your grandfather. A one night stand. Or, a one day stand, rather. I’ve got the whole story written in the unauthorized version of your grandmother’s story. I kept the segment that your family doesn’t want preserved for all of history…

Dug: My grandmother had a lover?

Forest: It’s different than that. She did not commit adultery. She respected who your family believes is Vasper’s father, but he was not her soul mate– as she called him.

[Dug stares at Forest unblinking]

Forest: She said that she will give you his number. Not sure if that happened… but, she said it was the last thing she needed to do before she died. She said that he sent word to her last year that he was dying but that his offer still stood– and extended to his grandson. A fresh start, to whatever degree he wished, would be available to him. Instructions were left on a message… you just have to call the number. There’s no expiration on the number, the message or the offer.

[Dug reached his hands into his front pockets- one bulged with the perfume bottle, the other heavy with the cigarette case.]

The yelling had died down inside the house and now there are just exhausted sobs. A loud farting noise rips out across the lawn followed by a louder, frustrated sob. Dug smirks up at Forest whose eyes are twinkling merrily.

[Dug extends his hand to Forest]

Dug: Forest, thank you. You’re incredible. Mail me the excerpt from the book?

Forest: It should be in your inbox right now.

[Dug opens the cigarette case and takes out the clove cigarette. Before he could ask, Forest pulls out a lighter and lights it for Dug.]

They stand there sharing the cigarette watching the people inside the house go from room to room. Lara is smudging the hallways, Ginger crying while scrolling on her phone reading the comments of the photo that went viral, Zane finally has gotten Vasper to do the breathing technique they were trying to teach hours before. And from somewhere in the Grand Room an alarm was still going off…

[Dug exhaled deeply and emptied the last bits of tobacco from the butt on to the soil under the willow offering his grandmother a silent blessing. Then looks at Forest who was looking at him.]

Dug: I’ve… got to make a phone call. Wanna come?



Anne-Marie Keppel

Author, life-long meditator, intentional healer, weaver of joyful living & mama of three