Solomon

He stood in front of an old armchair covered in a bright red fabric, a favourite chair of the old lady. Now her two children, twin women in their seventies, were squabbling over it. The old lady’s will was a simple affair. Divide everything equally between the two of them. The solicitor assisting with it was at her wit’s end. The two women argued about every non-cash item – rugs, pillows, furniture. It was her bad luck that the non-cash items were an odd number and the last outstanding item was the chair. Eventually they agreed on a third party, Larry, who as a teenager had dated each of them and he had been the first boy each girl had kissed. He had been fond of the old lady and felt that he owed it to her memory. He spent a day walking round the flat the old lady had bought in a retirement home. He felt he should try and understand the choices these two women had made but there appeared to be no rhyme or reason to them. They just seemed to goad each other. If one got the China, the other got the glasses. If one chose the duvet, the other chose the pillowcases. It was like the Berlin syndrome; the city would be divided whatever anyone else wanted. After an hour he made himself a coffee from a jar which was going to Winifred and drank it out of a cup going to Diane and stirred the milk from the milk jug which was going to Winifred with a teaspoon going to Diane. He drank the coffee slowly and thought about the two women. He first met them when they were all ten, after he moved into the area. He did not realise how competitive they were until he asked one out on a date. After three outings, she, he thought it was Winifred, said they ‘clicked’ and became very possessive. When she went to university, he asked Diane out and she too said they ‘clicked’ and that alarmed him so much he stopped asking them out. His mother thought them odd and nicknamed them “Win or Die” and neither managed to find a life partner. Larry looked through the photo album, now up to date with many recent photos. And then, he saw how he could make a judgment. They met the following day. Winnie called him their Solomon, the wisest of men. Diane said if he did not give a good reason, she wanted ‘Solomon’ to have the armchair cut in half. Larry said that would not be necessary. His choice would be much simpler. “I’ve looked at all the photos and I reckon the chair belongs to the one who used it most.” The women looked baffled. “Which of you is taking Jimmy on?” he asked. Diane smiled; she had promised her mother that the old cat would be hers. Winifred pulled a face and left the room without a word.

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