My name is Tom Trelawney and I come from a long line of liars, cheats, crooks, bandits, thieves, and smugglers.
That’s what my uncle says, anyway.
I’d like to believe him, but if our family consists entirely of criminals, what went wrong with my dad? He’s probably the most honest person on the planet.
“He’s not a real Trelawney,” says Uncle Harvey. “Not like you and me.”
According to my uncle, our family originally came from a small village in Cornwall, a rugged corner of England that sticks out into the Atlantic, pointing like a finger at America. The Trelawneys called themselves fishermen, but they actually made their living by piracy, smuggling illegal goods ashore and hiding them in the caves that riddle the Cornish coast.
My grandfather was a real Trelawney too.
He wasn’t a pirate or a smuggler, but he never did an honest day’s work in his life. He was always running from someone, always searching for a place to hide, and he left a trail of enemies all around the world.
I never really knew him. I wish I had.
We only saw Grandpa once a year, sometimes even less. The last time he came to the States for Christmas, he drank too much wine and had a big argument with Dad.
Ten months later, he was dead.
He had a heart attack while watching TV, and that was that, kaput, he was gone.
“A good death,” my mom called it, and perhaps she’s right, although it’s not exactly what I’d call a good death. What’s wrong with being gnawed to pieces by piranhas? Or flung from a plane without a parachute? If Grandpa had died like that, I really would have been proud of him. But he died sitting in his recliner, slumped in front of the TV, according to the neighbor who found him, so maybe that really was a good death.
Grandpa had lived all over the world, but he spent the last few years of his life in a small village on the west coast of Ireland. We arrived in Shannon at dawn on the morning of the funeral. (By “we,” I mean me, my mom, my dad, my little bro, Jack, and my big sister, Grace.) Dad rented a bright blue Ford Focus at the airport and drove us across the country to Grandpa’s village.
Not many people came to the funeral: just us and a few neighbors.
Halfway through the service, the door squeaked open and Uncle Harvey stumbled down the aisle. “Sorry I’m late,” he whispered loudly enough for everyone to hear. The vicar gave him a stern look and carried on with the sermon. Uncle Harvey grinned at us and slid into a pew on the other side of the church. I grinned back while Dad gave him a dirty look. They might be brothers, but they don’t like each other much.
I was looking forward to talking to my uncle. Earlier in the year, we had traveled to Peru together, hunting down a stash of buried gold that had belonged to Sir Francis Drake. Later, back in the U.S., we’d been given dinner at the Peruvian embassy, but I hadn’t seen my uncle since. I wanted to know if he’d had any more adventures. Had he been chased by crooks? Threatened by thugs? Or beat up? Had he stolen anything? Or cheated anyone? Even after spending a week with my uncle in Peru, I didn’t know very much about his life, but I knew one thing for sure: it was a lot more interesting than mine.
The ceremony concluded with prayers, then we shuffled into the graveyard and stood in line to shake hands with the vicar. When my turn came, the vicar smiled down at me and said in his warm Irish accent, “So which of the grandsons are you? Are you Jack or are you Tom?”
“Ah, the famous Tom. Your grandfather told me all about you. He said you were full of mischief. Is that true?”
“I suppose so.”
“He also said he saw himself in you. I can see what he meant.”
“Really?” I said. “What else did he say?”
“Oh, this and that. Maybe I’ll tell you when you’re a bit older.” Chuckling, the vicar let go of my hand and grabbed the next in line, which happened to belong to Uncle Harvey. “Your father was a lovely man,” the vicar said. “You must be missing his presence.”
“I’ve heard him called a lot of things,” said Uncle Harvey. “But never lovely. Maybe he was lovelier to you than he was to us.”
The vicar looked a bit nervous, not wanting to say the wrong thing. “I didn’t know your father well, but we thought of him as a valued member of the community.”
“Did you really?” Uncle Harvey sounded surprised. “So he didn’t steal any of your silver? Or flog your hymn books on eBay?”
“Actually, we did have a few things go missing,” said the vicar. Then he noticed that my uncle was smiling. “Ah! You’re having a joke with me, aren’t you?”
“I’m so sorry,” said Uncle Harvey. “I can’t help myself.” “Even in times of trouble, it’s good to have a smile on
your face.” The vicar beamed and moved to talk to the next person in line.
As my uncle and I walked through the churchyard, he winked at me. I winked back. Now we knew how Grandpa had been supplementing his pension.
Uncle Harvey said, “How’s life, kid?”
“It’s OK. A little boring. How’s yours?”
“I would say it’s good, but my dad’s just died so I probably shouldn’t. How often did you see the old man?”
“Not very often,” I replied. “He sometimes visited us for Christmas. But he and Dad always ended up arguing.”
“He argued with everyone. That was just his way.” “Did you argue with him too?”
“All the time,” said Uncle Harvey. “But we always made up again. He was like that. We’d get drunk together and have a big row, then forget all about it the next day. It’s a pity you won’t get to know him better. Did you ever come and stay with him?”
“Dad wouldn’t let me. I don’t know why not.” “I do,” said Uncle Harvey.
“He knows that as far as he’s concerned, the Trelawney genes skipped a generation. You’re more like your grandfather than your father. He must have been worried about what would happen if the two of you ever got together. Just like he’s worried about the two of us. And he’s right, isn’t he? Ah, hello, Simon. How are you?”
Simon is my dad. He didn’t look particularly pleased to see his brother, but maybe he was just feeling sad. I guess you would feel sad if your father died, even if the two of you had furious arguments whenever you happened to be in the same room at the same time.
The brothers shook hands. Then Uncle Harvey kissed my mom on both cheeks and said hello to Jack and Grace.
“I’ve invited the vicar to j...