First they told me I was inheriting the biofather’s art supplies and his own paintings. Biofather was a Chinese painter. Then they found a new copy of the will, and next to my name was one word, in his handwriting — with an arrow to be clear:
is what it said.
And I thought, well okay. There was no reason to expect anything. Didn’t he always say he’d be damned if he’d leave me anything? I do wonder what that was about. I always just chalked it up to his being what he was and that it had nothing to do with me.
But it did have something to do with me. I just can’t work it out. It should be simple. It should be clear.
Before he died, I asked if he had any memories of me from when I was very small. Since we didn’t have any contact after that until much much later when I tracked him down. Maybe I shouldn’t have looked for him at all. Probably a big mistake.
One of his memories was giving me my first and middle names.
Names I never used. Names I won’t even mention out loud — they are so inappropriate.
He got a big smile on his face. Huge. The pain in his phantom leg receded.
“They were supplied by the government,” he said. “Those women.
“They gave us anything we wanted. Just so long as we didn’t leave. Great food. Wines. And those women. This was at the University of Chicago. It was part of the Manhattan Project. They just wanted to keep us happy and well supplied.
“Those women,” he said, his eyes misting over. “Those were the best days of my life, those women at the lab. They were grad students at the University of Chicago. Not just bimbos but smart. Smart whores…”
He described both of them in great detail. Blonde. Curvey. Smart. Is all I’ll describe. And they did whatever you wanted. Just don’t leave the lab.
There was an accident in the lab. Some idiot had built and installed a thick lead safe for the radioactive materials. The idiot had attached the safe to the wall of the first lab. Only thing is, the idiot only enclosed the box on three sides.
So. The radiation leaked into the next lab. And the next one. And the next one. All the way down the line. Biofather was in the first lab exposed, and therefore got hit with the most radiation. They were told to get checked out by a doctor — but to keep quiet about the accident. Don’t say anything about radiation, they were told. And so he had hinted pointedly at how the M.D. ought to treat him.
He was sterile, the biofather was. From this little accident.
And so. When my mother became pregnant, he was appalled. He just wasn’t expecting it.
“You know. She wanted to abort you,” he said suddenly. Big smile again. Thank god he stopped talking about how skillful those women were.
Did I tell you? He named me after those two women. Whore one. And whore two. Best memories of his life. That’s what he gave me to start off mine.
“She said it was you who wanted to abort me,” I said.
“No, no. It was her.”
He didn’t mention the radiation as a cause. My mom had told me of their concerns of what the radiation might do to me, since he wasn’t even supposed to have intact sperm or motility. It had all sounded reasonable to me. I would have been concerned if it had been me.
I think OMIT was my default setting.
His wife of 50 years changed their will. She stipulated that all his art should go to the Asian Art Museum where he studied painting. They didn’t want any of the stuff.
So once again I got the paintbrushes. And some ink. A very cool stapler and a lot of staples. His own engravings of naked women. When he was still in his Western art phase. And all those Chinese paintings. He was a really good painter. And chemist. He made his own suntan lotions. Liquers. His own machinery parts. Renaissance man, they said. Gardener. One of the things he grew was bamboo. To make his brushes. Then he’d paint pictures of bamboo growing. And eventually worked his way up the great chain of being, with more and more complex paintings.
Which I just stacked in my garage. Along with his brushes. They gave me his photo albums. Nobody wanted them. His photo albums are filled with pictures of his art collection. Not family. Not travels. Just art. The art collection that goes to auction next month. That somebody else inherits, I don’t remember who.
I’m not really sure why I’m alive. One of those cosmic jokes, I guess. The little sperm that could. That was all he really needed to give me. It’s the only thing that really matters. For any living person, the odds against life are astronomical. That’s even more the case, I guess, for me.
They joked that I’d have wheels instead of feet. They joked. Was that each of them? One of them? Both together? Were they frightened? Expecting a monster? It’s not something I’ll ever know for sure. It’s not something I can ask.
Life is a pretty good inheritance, don’t you think? Maybe it’s enough. We, none of us, need have lived at all — but look at us, the lucky ones—we lived! We got to see the sunshine and the darkness. The stars and the oceans, the lakes, and the streams. Muir Woods — which is one of my favorite places. We cuddle our kitties, and follow some of our dreams. We get to take chances. We try to mend fences. We can run off together, like wayward young things.
Or. I could sit and eat chocolate, could laugh at his obit. Husband and Father, Grandfather it reads.
For all that unpleasant stuff that we carry, we can let it all go and just see where that leads.