Authors: Hazel Edwards
First published in Lothian âTakeaways' series in 2002, reprinted
First Canadian edition 2005 Vanwell Publishing Ltd, Ontario
Tamil translation 2009
Markwatersproductions T.V. Script
Original ISBN 0734404425
eBook edition ISBN
Copyright Â© 2002 Hazel Edwards
Reviews and resources available -
Some kids use fake I.D. Turns out; Zoe's Gran used fake I.D. for years. On the day of her Gran's funeral, Zoe opens the âNot to be opened until after my death' package. For Zoe, this becomes an awesome family history mystery. Gran was not just Madga; she had other names and lives. With the help of her hockey playing, techie mate Luke; Zoe sets out to discover her Gran's past via the Dead Persons' Society, online and elsewhere. Like red hair and a big nose, can âbad' genes be inherited?
with thanks to the research âgenis' from State Trustees
NOT TO BE OPENED UNTIL AFTER MY DEATH
It was printed in black on the package.
So I opened it.
Gran was dead. So in one way, it was OK to open her envelope. On the day of your gran's funeral, you expect to say goodbye to her, help pack up the house and her belongings and even arrange for her dog to be looked after. But you don't expect to find out that she was someone else.
Fake ID, that's what my gran had. For years and years. Now I don't know who she really was. But I'm going to find out. I have to.
âHere's the box of bits,' Mrs Donna, the neighbour, had said. âThe Trustee will be here later to check everything. I guess it's OK, since you're the nearest relative here in Australia. That makes you important today.'
Well, maybe I was, and maybe I wasn't. Most days I'm just ordinary. Even my name is ordinary. At my last school, there were four Zoes. But this Gran business is extra-ordinary. And so was my gran, I've just discovered.
Scary stuff, funerals. I've only been to a funeral once before. That was Jay, a boy from our Year 8 class. We cried and cried at the service because death was so close. Was there any plan or does death just zap you? At fifteen, you're just starting to do important things. Not that dying isn't important, I guess, but you don't want to end up in a box with your footy jumper and a stuffed toy-cat mascot draped over it, like Jay.
Gran was different. She always was different.
Gran had lived alone since Pa died a year ago. Not many oldies took belly-dancing classes or went online, but my gran did. And now it seemed that she had not been just Magda.
You shouldn't open private things, especially those with a sign like that! But how else was I going to find out? Gran wasn't who she seemed to be all my life. It's possible that even her name, Magda, was fake, too. So what was real and what wasn't?
NOT TO BE OPENED UNTIL AFTER MY DEATH
' envelope was in the deed-box with other papers inside. The box smelled musty, and yet OK-ish â I notice smells.
No key. So I'd used an unfolded paper clip to pick the lock. It opened fairly easily, once I jiggled the flat clip. Felt a bit mixed up about that. âSorry, Gran, but I've got to find out. Anyway, it did say, “until after my death”, and it's your funeral today.'
But of course, no one could hear me. She was supposed to be in that death chapel at the cemetery place down the road. Bits of her life were still here, and in me. If she was my
gran, that is.
The feeling inside my chest was like cheating in exams. Well, I haven't cheated in a test, but it's the way I would feel, I guess â a sort of fizzy cloud going all through me as I pulled out the old papers. In Year 4, I used to keep a secret diary, but this was different.
A seriously old photo had been folded into four. The creases were well worn and the brownish writing on the back was loopy. Carefully I unfolded it, scared the quartered photo might fall to bits and I'd lose this clue.
She looked about twenty, with bright eyes, laughing up at the camera. The uniformed man standing alongside, with his arm draped across her shoulders, looked much older. I didn't know which country's uniform it was, but it looked official, like he was a soldier or something. Dark-grey eyes. Curly, dark hair. An interesting lived-in sort of face as if he knew a lot or had done unusual things.
âAre you coming, Zoe?'
âIn a minute,' I called to Mrs Donna who was tidying up downstairs. There was a bundle of postcards in an elastic band and a roughly written label, â
'. Who was Tuna? A fish? Was it a nickname? A few foreign letters with a ribbon around them. Love letters? If they were love letters, looking through them was too much like perving, even if I could read the language. Maybe I'd wait until after the funeral and e-mail Mum to ask what she thought.
No. I had to solve it myself. Mum wasn't here and that's why I was boarding with Luke's family and their narky cat. Puss had had a charm by-pass, but not the rest of Luke's family. They were OK.
Gran could have burnt the photo if she'd wanted to hide it. So she meant us to find it. Probably that man meant something special to her. He didn't look like a younger Pa. Wrong hair colour. Turning the photo over, I found stained brown writing with two names scribbled.
M or D and a T? With the loops it was hard to tell. Short names. Letters running together. Scribbled clues to her past, but who would be able to identify them? Probably no one was still alive who knew Gran before she took on the fake ID and why she did it.
Behind the couple looked like a war or revolution with smoke, a flag and burning buildings. A grey world. Even the flag was smoke covered and the colours didn't show much. It was hard to tell even which country they were in.
I fumbled in the deed box. Underneath was an ID card, with a young Gran photo and a blurry date stamp. I put it up to my nose and it smelled old. Then I tried to read it. Date of birth with hard to read numbers. Family name. A squiggly signature. But the name was wrong. Kiss. OK, many women change their names when they marry. That's normal. But Pa's name was Kovacs, and Gran's maiden name was Konya, not Kiss. Why was it the wrong name?
There was a newspaper clipping with a sportsman's photo, all yellowy around the edges, dated 1956. I couldn't read Hungarian. Not until I was doing my Year 9 assignment had I found out how many languages Gran understood, and Hungarian was just one of them. Her mind must have had lots of compartments like a filing system.
âCome on. You'll be late for the funeral.' Mrs Donna's voice was getting closer.
There was a âthis is all too much' tone in her voice, so I pushed the secret stuff into my backpack.
Kids use fake ID for cheap travel or to get into night-clubs when they're under age, and I'd done it once, but why had my gran used fake ID for all the years she'd been in Australia? In police files, a.k.a. meant
also known as
â¦how many a.k.a.'s did Gran have?
So I left my gran's house, with all sorts of questions unanswered. Then, as I got into the tiny car Mrs Donna was driving to the funeral, I realisedâ¦ In that âDO NOT OPEN UNTIL AFTER MY DEATH' package, there was no will.
âDid Gran leave a will?' I asked. âDid she say what she wanted to happen?'
Mrs Donna shrugged, and passed me the tissues. âThe Trustees have e-mailed Kat about that sort of thing. I've never witnessed a will for your grandmother, but others might have, because you need two witnesses. After that fuss about your pa's will, and whether things should go to your grandmother or not, I don't know what happened.'
What fuss? Last year, I didn't notice boring wills, but since this history assignment, I know people write important stuff in their wills as well as who should get what. If Gran's will explained where she came from and why names and dates had been changed, that would be
helpful. She'd started to tell me, and then been interrupted.
âPut these tissues in your pocket. You might need them soon.'
âThanks, Mrs Donna.' I took the tissues.
âCall me Nell.'
Where do people put wills? Now was not the time to look. First was the funeral and all the death stuff. I pushed some Kleenex in my pocket, just in case.
Rows of red, pink and yellow rose bushes led to the chapel. So many chapels. Embarrassing to end up at the wrong one, even as a visitor. No ID signs on the coffin, or even on the hearse. You could be at the wrong funeral, and too late you'd realise, like when I went to the wrong hall for the hockey team selection last year. Being new again in a different school is a hassle and you miss out on being chosen for teams because kids don't know you or if you can play well enough. Kat, my mum, moved a lot, even before this last Antarctic trip of hers. But she chose to do that. Whenever Mum decided to move, I had to go as well and I had to get used to all the new ways of doing things. I had to start at the bottom again in the âvegie' class or the Thirds. I didn't have a choice.
âThere's a notice board, Zoe,' said Mrs Donna, who kept saying I should call her Nell. I think she felt worse than I did about my mum not being here. But âwinterers' in Antarctica couldn't get out for several months, not even for a death in the family. No ships. No planes. Just e-mail and maybe digital photos, plus a few calls via satellite phone.
A typed sheet with surnames for the funerals flapped in the breeze. Sort of temporary looking. Whose job was it to update the list? Did they wait until the person was cremated, or just until all the mourners vanished into the right chapel?
“Chapel Glory.' What weird names.
Inside the cemetery were colour-coded signs painted on the road. FOLLOW THE GREEN ARROW TO CHAPEL GLORY. Some even had colour co-ordinated flowers in the beds alongside.
FOLLOW THE RED ARROW TO CHAPEL PEACE
None of them said Chapel Death, but that's what they were. Did the cops ever book anyone for speeding in a cemetery?
âLook out!' I'm not a good passenger when Mrs Donna is driving her tiny car. Her seriously thick glasses worry me. And what she can't see through them worries me even more. That blue arrow to the crematoria with ONE WAY ONLY. And didn't the sign-painter think about who might be reading DEAD END?
Somehow, this funeral fuss doesn't seem to have anything to do with me, but it does. Indirectly. Gran's dead and I'm alive. That's why I'd freaked out in the shower this morning when I started thinking about just me being left. But then nothing turns out as expected
Funerals equal BLACK. Black ties. Black clothes. Luckily, wearing black is ordinary for me. Apart from my school uniform, and my hockey gear, everything I wear is black. If they ever had a no-black clothes day, I'd be naked and that could be embarrassing.
âThis may be a little different from what you expected,' said Nell Donna comfortingly. She was right. It turned out to be a Black and White Funeral. Nothing to do with footy colours or which team you barracked for. Parked in front of the chapel was a large white hearse.
âWho are they?'
âWhite Ladies. It's a special funeral company run by women.'
Gran preferred women's businesses. Even her dentist was female. So, a White Lady funeral with white-suited attendants and even a female hearse-driver in a white jacket sounded like a Gran decision.
Well, someone had to do the job, butâ¦it's not what I'd like to try for Work Experience next term. I wondered what they had to do behind the scenes. Did they have to touch the bodies? Would cars pass you on the freeway when you had a coffin in the back of the hearse? Was it illegal or just bad manners to pass a hearse?
âThat's what she wanted,' Nell went on. âIt's been a little difficult not having adult members of your family here to arrange things.'
âWhat's in those?' I pointed to the vase-things along the built-in shelves, like postal boxes. I didn't want to think about adults missing from my family just now.