Mr and Mrs Bishop would frequently be heard by all the neighbours when they were having an argument. Mrs Bishop was the more vociferous of the two, and her strident voice carried the swear words a considerable distance. Mr Bishop was more mousey. He appeared to be a lot more timid, and would often mumble his response.
“I wish to goodness he’d take a few lessons in voice projection,” joked neighbour Molly Bendale. “Sometimes it is impossible to pick up what he’s saying.”
Even though they argued repeatedly, it was still a great shock to all the neighbours when Mr Bishop died suddenly in his kitchen one Sunday morning. A great silence hung over the street for a while, more from lack of arguing than from grief. And yet, Mrs Bishop was eventually noisy enough in her distress. Perhaps it was shock; perhaps it was sorrow.
“I don’t know how she’s going to fill in her time from now on,” joked neighbour Molly Bendale, “now that her nemesis has gone. Still I suppose they loved each other in a way.”
Loved each other indeed! At the trial, the Bishop’s kitchen frying pan was the main piece of evidence.
It was a beautiful summer’s day. There was a warm breeze; the type of breeze Erina imagined would be the breeze they had in heaven. It was a perfect day for hanging out the washing to dry. The past week had been wet and Erina didn’t have a clothes dryer. Not that she didn’t want one, but some things are too expensive on a pension. She had a clothes rack in her garage, but the dampness of the week had not been conducive to drying clothes. But today! Perfect! Perfect! Erina threw the lot into the washing machine.
It’s funny how one does things all one’s life, over and over, without realizing that one day you will be doing it for the last time. That was to happen to Erina. Little did she realize that after a life time of hanging out washing this time would be the last.
Her cousin Magdalen had dropped dead while doing the dishes. You see the point? A life time of doing the dishes and not once do you think you’ll one day drop dead while drying the dishes.
Then a niece, Gwen, left her home to go to work. She had left her home in the car at that same time for thirteen years, and then…
So, as you now know, Erina after thousands of times hanging out the washing was doing it for the last time. The last time ever.
After hanging out the washing she went to town to get groceries and a few other things. That evening she checked her lottery ticket. She won! She won!
The next day Erina went out and bought herself a clothes dryer.
It was a very sad funeral. It wasn’t sad simply because there had been a death; it was sad because to all intents and purposes Natalie was the only person who attended it. Some might think for a small funeral that the undertaker and pallbearers and the musician paid to sing Be Still My Soul all count as mourners. But the truth is a funeral attendance headcount can really only include the genuine mourners. Hence, the funeral Natalie attended had a headcount of one.
Natalie sang at the top of her voice. She didn’t care. As far as she was concerned, she was the only one there:
Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
In fact there was no organist to help out. She was singing the hymn to the accompaniment of a recording.
She had loved Randolph. They had been together for seven years. The volume of Natalie’s singing spoke volumes of her love.
When the singing was over she carefully place her dear dead canary in the hole she had dug and filled it in.
It was amazing. Mrs. Delores Bjorkbom had overheard her husband talking to his cows. It wasn’t human talk like “How are you doing, Daisy?” or “You’ve got lots of milk today, Bessie.” This was pure cow talk. It was a language she did not recognize. Nor had she ever heard anything like it in her life. How she wished she had some devise on her to record it. It was phenomenal.
Word got out. Barnaby Bjorkbom was a cow whisperer. He was more than a cow whisperer; he spoke cow language. Next thing it was in all the papers.
Delores confronted her husband. “We know you communicate with cows in an intelligent fashion. I have invited the Press here next Thursday afternoon for a demonstration.”
Barnaby complied. The Press, plus a few stragglers, arrived. Mr. Barnaby Bjorkbom walked out into a meadow of cows. Cameras began rolling. Dorothy Pinkham of the Billingworth Press probably got the clearest recording. It is transcribed below:
J’kjdgf’;kllj ;ljksafs;lkhgf asf’;lkdg;lk[pkehymgd. Tjoplok[po ;lket. Y;mlq ;kljlkj; loikre sdflkngpe er r lq. Ddf’;l’;re;m;l, k;kjlsjdgp pkjjiohert m pkjkj; ojgkjfgl;kjslf;k poortm ‘lkkl;lk;lkplp r dflkj jk’lgs k; moof kjnlk;jnfsd ls.
“Stunning. Absolutely stunning,” declared the editor of the Daily Sun. “As Mr Barnaby Bjorkbom spoke, all the cows looked up from their grazing, wide-eyed. They were engrossed in his every word.”
For five years now people had put up with Finbarr talking constantly about his pet weasel. No one had seen it, although everyone had been invited to come for a look. And invited. And invited.
It was brown. It was friendly. It had a white chest. It was the cat’s pyjamas. It was unbelievably cute.
“No one seems interested ever in coming to see my pet weasel,” complained Finbarr at work. “No one! It’s pathetic.” Finbarr – it may come as no surprise – worked in a pet shop. It was the largest pet shop in the city.
Eventually, after much harping, Deidre said she would volunteer to go for a peek. It might help shut Finbarr up.
“My weasel!” declared Finbarr lovingly gathering Dillinger from its cage and presenting it to Deidre to pat.
Deidre didn’t have the heart to tell him that the thing wasn’t a weasel at all. It was a stoat.
Thelma went out to the garden to get some parsley. She got bitten on the finger by a little spider. It wasn’t much. It gave her more of a fright than anything else. Over the next few days her finger swelled up so she went to the doctor.
The doctor gave her some stuff but it didn’t seem to make any difference. It wasn’t overly sore, but Thelma worked as a secretary and she was finding with the swollen finger that it was increasingly difficult to type.
Things went from bad to worse. The doctor began suggesting amputation but Thelma said she wouldn’t mind a second opinion on that, thanks very much.
She had to resign from work and, being a solo mother, found it difficult to pay for things needed for her three high-school-aged children. They were falling into bad company. She couldn’t afford to run the car, and rent was becoming increasingly difficult. Then one of her daughters came home and announced that she was moving in with her boyfriend, and she was only sixteen. Next thing Thelma was thrown out by the landlord.
As luck would have it, Thelma got a job working as a cook in a rather exclusive restaurant. She was very good at it too. But if you go there to eat you’ll find there’s not a sprig of parsley in sight.
“I can’t help it!” Rowena shrieked desperately. She was eating a sausage; in fact one sausage after another. It wasn’t a competition or anything; it was simply that she had purchased a container of pre-cooked sausages – twenty-four to a packet – and she had got hooked. A short nuke in the microwave warmed the pre-cooked up in a jiff.
Not that she wasn’t addicted to sausages in the first place. She had always been partial. That’s why she bought them. And they were on sale. So far she had eaten six. There were still eighteen to go.
Common sense prevailed. She quickly opened the freezer lid and threw them in. She would space them out. So as not to be tempted she donned her raincoat, took the umbrella, and went for a walk.
When she got home her son’s football team were there and they had eaten all the sausages. It was a post-match “where did we go wrong?” review.
Rowena didn’t say a word but she was glad they had lost. “Some people are born to be selfish,” she said.
My thanks to each and every one of you for coming to this group session. Now that we have finished our coffee and cookies, if you would like to take a seat and we shall discuss the causes of why you are here: what is the root cause of why each of you suffers from low self-esteem? I know the course is expensive but I believe it will be worth every penny.
When someone comes to see me for therapy, it is usually clear early on if they have poor self-esteem. It shows up in their language, in how they talk about themselves, and it shows up in their non-verbal communication such as their body language.
For people such as yourselves with low self-esteem, I make it a priority to find out how the outside world valued you when you were young, and how as adults you can now determine your own value.
This can be hard and take time to achieve, so I have saved you the trouble by poisoning your coffee and cookies and none of you will ever have to worry about low self-esteem again. You, to be quite honest, are the dregs of society, and I have arranged for a garbage truck to wait at the back door and you’ll be loaded into it – at this stage dead or alive – to be taken to the town dump.
All doors, except the back door, are locked. Have a nice day and thanks for your money.
It came as a shock to the whole street – in fact it wasn’t much of a street, more of a cul-de-sac with just six houses on it – when Mr Algernon James was found lying dead at his front door with a carving knife stuck in his back. He lived at Number Four. Police carried out an exhaustive investigation. All five of the other households had salient motives.
There was Mrs Dorothy Phelps of Number One. Algernon James had run over her cat six months earlier. All that Algernon had said by way of apology was that “Your stupid cat shouldn’t have been on the road”.
There was Mr Harry Barnaby of Number Two. He was not happy that Algernon James had chainsawed down a significant tree on the street. It supposedly had been planted years earlier by Princess Diana not long after she had danced with John Travolta. All that Algernon had said was “It ruined my view, and since you love it so much why don’t you cart it away yourself.” Not a leaf was moved. It lay there as a relic.
Ms Tessa Clockbury of Number Three was a most displeased neighbour. She shared a boundary fence with Algernon and he had cut a hole in the fence so his dog could get through and do its business on her lawn. “A dog is a dog” was all that Algernon said.
Mr Tom Brick despised Algernon with all his might. He was at Number Five. Algernon had parked his old motor vehicle on the grass verge outside Tom’s house. It not only leaked oil on the lawn manicured to perfection by Tom, but the car had been sitting there for several months now and all that Algernon had said was “It’s a public street. You don’t own it.”
Finally there was Mrs Hyacinth Arrowsmith. It would take a novel to expound on why she held grudge after grudge against Algernon. Not least was a letter Algernon had written to the editor of the local newspaper (and printed) referring to “Hyacinth Arrowsmith, that old fart bag at Number Six”.
So there were the five suspects. Each could be guilty as far as the street gossips knew. It therefore was a great surprise when Mrs Noelle Brackenburg was arrested for the murder. No one had heard of her, and she didn’t even live on the street.