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Guitar Gifts, part XVIII

A short story in small installments.

After the first shock and grief, there were things that had to be done. They didn’t dare call health officials to come and make a death certificate and take Brasilia to be buried. That could result in evictions for the lot of them and would certainly lead to Arrietty being removed. Arrietty was sometimes disconsolate and at other times didn’t seem to know what was happening. Gifflet kept her with him in his room.

After a while, Professor Vespers said, “I know somebody.” And he went away and returned very late in the night with some men, and in the morning, Brasilia was gone.

“There’s no honour for the poor,” said Professor Vespers, shaking his head. “She’s in the Pauper’s Field; but they’ve marked her grave so Arrietty will be able to visit when she’s older.”

At the end of the next day after busking, after their meagre dinners, and after Arrietty had at last gone to sleep, they sat in a circle and pored over the paper Brasilia was found with. They all agreed it seemed she had been trying to write a last will and testament; but it was a jumble of scribbles. They could make out the Arr of Arrietty numerous times, and at one point there was a Gi-scribble-scribble-t, which they assumed must be Gifflet. But what she’d been trying to say, nobody could work out.

“Maybe she’s saying that she wants Arrietty to stay with Gifflet,” said Professor Vespers. “That would make sense, since he’s always looked after her so much.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Charming Tom, “Gifflet can hardly look after himself.”

“Don’t talk about me as if I’m not even here!” said Gifflet, flaring up. But he didn’t dispute what Charming Tom said—how could he? Yet, he felt that if Arrietty was taken from him, he’d be truly, completely lost.

“Gifflet sold his guitar for Brasilia,” said Julia. “Have some respect.”

“Sure, for Brasilia. We all know he had such a cru—”

“If it was for Brasilia, it was for Arrietty, too,” said Doctor Dolci gently.

“Anyway, nobody here’s done more for Arrietty,” said Julia, “and she loves him. It would be cruel to take her away from him.”

“Kids adjust,” said Charming Tom.

“But there’s still the issue of support,” said Professor Vespers, ignoring this last comment. “How will you do it, Gifflet?

“Most of the guitar money is still on the table. She didn’t spend it all.”

Charming Tom scoffed. “That’ll last you how long—a few weeks? A month?”

“It’s a weighty concern,” agreed Professor Vespers. “What about her family?”

“Brasilia said they wouldn’t give her money for medicine,” said Gifflet. For him, this was such an indictment that it completely ruled out Arrietty being turned over to them.

“Yeah, well lots of people have bad relationships with their kids and they still care about their grandkids,” said Charming Tom.

“How could you think it would be okay to hand Arrietty over to such selfish people?”

“They’d at least be able to feed her,” mocked Charming Tom. Gifflet flared up, but Julia cut across them:

“We don’t even know who or where they are, much less whether they’d take Arrietty.”

“Legwork work can usually find people,” countered Professor Vesper, “and it’s only right the family should know and have the chance if they want her—after all, it’s just an accident that we all ended up here together. We’re not Arrietty’s real family.”

Gifflet didn’t know what to say to this, but Doctor Dolci said, “It’s anything but accidental that Gifflet has cared for her nearly every day since she was born.”

The conversation went in circles, and Gifflet was afraid. He wanted to cover his ears, but he didn’t dare. At one point the discussion got so heated that it woke Arrietty, who came out saying, “I can’t sleep,” and she flopped into Gifflet’s lap, snuggling into him. Gifflet sang to her and for once, no one screwed up their face at his miserable voice, and soon Arrietty’s eyes slid closed and her body slumped.

Julia stood up and, with her height, she towered over them. “The kid stays with Gifflet,” she said.

“We’ll just all have to help however we can,” said Doctor Dolci.

“Ridiculous,” muttered Charming Tom, and he left with a grimace.

So, it was decided.

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