Exclusive Excerpt from The Handyman’s History
by Nick Poff
“Ah, family,” Rick said, his head buried in the refrigerator. “The ties that bind.”
“And choke,” Ed added.
Rick laughed as he tossed a head of lettuce at Ed. “Get busy. I’ll chop some carrots,” he said, taking more salad ingredients from the fridge. “By the way, who was James Stephens?”
Ed looked up from his salad prep. “Huh? He’s that red-headed guy on The Paper Chase.”
Stop kidding. I mean your relative, James Stephens.”
Ed shook his head. “I don’t have a relative named James Stephens.”
“Yes, you do,” Rick persisted. “I saw the tombstone today.”
Ed turned around, a mystified look on his face. “Really? I never heard of him.”
“Well, I’m not making it up,” Rick said. “Off to the side of your grandparents’ graves is a small square stone with ‘James Stephens’ engraved on it. Just a name, no dates or anything else.”
Ed stood still, his mouth slightly open, staring at Rick. “I swear I know nothing about any James Stephens. Who could he be?”
“Don’t ask me. I just assumed you knew.” Rick shrugged. “Maybe he was Willard’s brother.”
“Yeah, maybe.” Ed turned back to his salad. “Still, you’d think I would have at least heard of him.”
“I don’t know, baby. Maybe it’s one of those old nineteenth century family secrets, ala Dark Shadows.” Rick snickered. “Ask Uncle Frank the next time you see him.”
“That’ll be the day. But I will ask Mom next time I see her. I bet she knows.” James Stephens, he pondered as he automatically tore at the lettuce. Who was that?
He was still thinking about it later that evening as they were preparing for bed. “What’s on your mind, baby?” Rick said, pulling the covers back on his side of the bed.
Ed shrugged. “Nothing much. Still wondering about James Stephens.”
“Oh boy. I’d have never mentioned it if I had known it was going to get you all riled up.”
“I am not riled up. I’m just curious.”
Rick plumped his pillows behind his back. “Look, I’m sure it’s no big deal. Ask your mom about it and that’ll be the end of it.” He reached for his glasses and his current book and settled back.
Ed slid under the covers and reached for his own book. He tried to concentrate on the printed words, but was still disturbed, more than he was willing to admit to Rick. His mother’s family had always been a cheerfully open book — warts, insanity, scandals and all. His father’s family was a different story, murky and mysterious, and seldom discussed even before his father’s death.
He would definitely talk to his mother about it. He wasn’t convinced she would give him any answers, but it wouldn’t hurt to ask.