“It’s definitely food for thought,” declared Ava-Margaret. She had been entertaining a guest at her apartment in the retirement village and they had discussed how late December-early January seemed to be the time the Grim Reaper made an appearance. “It’s funny,” said Ava-Margaret, “we older people don’t seem to have the resilience against illnesses that we used to have in younger years.”
Because Ava-Margaret and her visitor were enjoying a lovely cup of tea didn’t mean that Ava-Margaret was doing nothing. She was busy chopping up rhubarb to make rhubarb jam. “I know I’m early,” said Ava-Margaret, “but I avoid the Christmas rush by preparing a few little gifts well in advance. Little jars of rhubarb jam are just what the doctor ordered.”
“You realize,” said the visitor, “that you are chopping up the rhubarb leaves as well as the stems. The leaves are poisonous.”
“Dear me, so they are!” laughed Ava-Margaret. “I’ll have to be careful as to who I give these little gifts to.”
Stephanie was a cat. She was sick to death of the neighbouring cats coming over and eating her food when no one was looking. She came up with a plan. She would lace her food with rat poison. So she did that. But before any neighbouring cat made an appearance, Stephanie’s dearly loved grandmother paid a surprise visit.
Willow was on to her fourth husband. Each of the first three had died around Christmas time. That was because marzipan icing on a Christmas cake has a strong enough taste to disguise any other ingredient that might lurk within.
Each husband had asked the same thing: “How come you’re not eating any Christmas cake?” Willow always replied that she didn’t like the taste of marzipan. It was too strong and sweet.
The fourth and current husband, Leo, had survived a good seven months of marriage. Unlike his predecessors he didn’t like marzipan. Leo had not told Willow of his distaste and so Willow had made a big Christmas cake with thick poisoned marzipan.
Leo didn’t want to offend Willow by not eating it after she had gone to so much trouble to make the cake look pretty, so he would discreetly pretend to eat while wrapping it carefully in a paper napkin for disposal.
All three of Willow’s prize pet chickens died, followed by the sudden death of Ms Sadie Walker, a neighbour on one side, who absolutely refused to accept any payment for services except perhaps a slice of delicious Christmas cake. Her death came as a shock to all: “I was just talking to her yesterday,” said Leo.
Then Ms Adeline Ackroyd, two doors up, passed into eternal bliss, followed by Ms Riley Crum from over the road and Ms Faith Swanson of North Dakota who was visiting for the last month or two the man who owned the corner shop.
It was then that Leo realized that the culprit was perhaps the Christmas cake. He didn’t say a word. It just so happened that Willow was partial to whipped cream-filled meringues. May she rest in peace.
Liam was absolutely horrified. He’d just seen his wife dead on the bed. Her body was twisted unnaturally. She must have died in utter agony. Her face was as purple as a purple grape. Her mouth looked like she had died in the middle of a scream. Her eyes were vacant and wide open. It was the most horrific thing Liam had ever seen.
He had no idea she would die in such torment when he gave her the poison.
Ian told Mia, his wife, just how shocked he was with the news. The husband of his ex-wife had died suddenly. Ian was the last to know. “You’d think my kids would have mentioned it or something,” Ian told Mia. “After all the kids live with him and Mary most of the time.”
“I can’t believe he’s dead. He was here only last Monday to pick up the kids. He seemed fit as a fiddle. And to think he’d barely got home when he dropped dead. I must admit that I’d never warmed to him much, but it’s still a shock when something happens that you’re not expecting.”
“Thank goodness he didn’t do it when he was here. I wouldn’t have known what to do. I’m no good in an emergency. And then given what Vivian told me about him and what he did to her, I wouldn’t be surprised if I would not simply have stood there and watched him die.”
“Vivian said that the coroner reckoned it wasn’t an accident. He was poisoned or something. I don’t believe that for a minute. My ex-wife, Mary, is not like that. She wouldn’t have it in her. Besides, unlike me, she’s no good at chemistry and poisons and stuff.”
“One good thing about not been told he’d kicked it was that I didn’t feel compelled to go to the funeral. It was all over before I could blink. On a lighter note I offered him a beer when he came for the kids. He took it and given that he dropped dead about thirty minutes after I can’t help but think it was a waste of bloody good beer.”
Austin’s next-door neighbour had twenty-four cats. No kidding. They swarmed all over the place, including on Austin’s property. Austin detested them. He didn’t mind a cat now and again, but twenty-four of them were a horror.
Besides being everywhere, they seemed to favour Austin’s lettuce patch in the garden to do a certain business. There was only one thing for it: he planted lilies all around his garden. They’re poisonous to cats. Problem solved.
Austin’s next-door neighbour had one cat. At least for a while.
It can get quite confusing doing a murder. No doubt some of the readers of this story will know what I’m talking about. Exactly which glass did I poison? Which is the handgun with the special bullet I had made out of the wedding ring? I especially sharpened the carving knife and now I’m not sure which one it was.
Melody had planned the murder of her husband in great detail. When husband Jack came out to his garden shed – he called it his “Man Den” – she would be behind the door and slash him to death with a machete. It would be (she would tell the judge) completely unplanned and in self-defence. “Spontaneous” is the word.
Jack came out to his Man Den immediately upon coming home from work. Melody went out ten minutes prior to that and waited behind the door. It was summer. It was still daylight. Melody could see the calendar pictures of scantily clad women hanging on the walls of his Man Den. It strengthened Melody’s resolve. Why he needed to still have the photo of February 2011 pinned there was anyone’s guess. Melody shivered. Ugh.
Melody heard Jack approach. He entered. She slashed wildly. There was blood everywhere; the February 2011 Calendar Girl was rightly splattered. The hacked body lay on the floor at the door. The deed was done!
Only it was the neighbour who came on Thursdays to mow the lawn.
Charlene was bitterly disappointed. She had spent months researching poisons. She had gone to the library. She had scanned the internet. She even asked a professional autopsy expert what the best way was to poison a man. The professional autopsy expert was at first reluctant to impart knowledge, but in the end Charlene seemed a nice enough and pretty harmless person. She was given a list of almost impossible to detect fatal poisons that could be used.
Charlene’s husband was no help. He was an ignorant, lazy spouse. Charlene never asked him anything, and in this scenario she simply smiled despairingly. She wasn’t going to waste time with his witlessness.
In the end she narrowed it down to two poisons. To be doubly sure Charlene made an appointment to see an industrial chemist at the local woollen factory. These industrial professionals are experts at all sorts of things, and their experience in practical chemistry seems to extend their ability to explain things simply. “Which of these two poisons will be most effective and lest detectable?”
The industrial chemist was very nice. He pointed out, however, that neither of the poisons would result in death. He said that one of them if used would require the imbibing of several large containers of liquid and the other would need the equivalent of having to eat seventeen to twenty indigestible potatoes in twenty-four hours.
It was indeed a disappointment – and after all those hours and hours of research.
Charlene had had enough. She went home and threw her uncompleted novel in the trash.
They claimed to be the biggest supplier of garden bulbs in the country. Floyd was just one in a million that used their services. Only online orders were taken.
Of course, bulbs don’t flower the minute they arrive in the mail. Red gladioli bulbs might arrive in September but wouldn’t flower until January (Southern Hemisphere times!)
That is how Floyd developed a system. He would email the bulb company in January to complain that the red gladioli bulbs he ordered in September were now flowering and they were yellow. “It is so disappointing,” wrote Floyd. “After all these months of anticipation and then this happens.”
The following season Floyd would get a little parcel in the mail. “We apologize for our error in fulfilling your order with the wrong coloured bulbs. Here are the correct bulbs.” Floyd now had twenty red gladioli bulbs, instead of the mere ten he had originally ordered.
Floyd had used this trick for seven years. Among his order “corrections” were Mixed Ruffled Begonias, Zantedeschia Amberjack, Hippeastrum Terracotta Star, and Tigridia Pavonia. What a picture his garden was!
This year he would try something different. He would attempt to grow garlic, because these days the cooking garlic imported from China was tasteless. Floyd’s package arrived in the mail with a note:
Dear Floyd – here are the bulbs you ordered. Since you have been such a regular customer over the years we have included six extra bulbs for you to try with your cooking. So there are half a dozen bulbs for you to use for planting and half a dozen bulbs for you to use for eating. It’s our way of thanking you by giving you an opportunity to try before you plant!
Floyd did indeed cook with some! Of course, Hyacinth bulbs can be lethal.
Some cultures eat cake with a fork; some with a spoon; some simply eat cake with their fingers.
Aileen had baked a cake for visitors. It wasn’t a fancy occasion. It wasn’t a particularly fancy cake. The cake was simply something to nibble on with a coffee or tea, or in Jackie Olwynn’s case, with a glass of water. The occasion was something that Aileen did every year, and that was to invite all the women who lived on the street in for a cuppa.
This was the eleventh year that Aileen had held such an occasion, but it was the first year since her husband had upped and left. He’d run off with a woman who lived two doors down the road. Penelope-Prue most certainly was not on the invitation list!
And then the worst happened: Jackie Olwynn arrived with Penelope-Prue in hand. “She wasn’t going to come,” said Jackie, “and I said, don’t be a silly-billy.”
Penelope-Prue was from overseas. She was not a typical foreigner; she was loud, obnoxious, and did everything that was totally, socially proper in an ostentatious way. AND – she ate her cake with a fork.
The little afternoon tea began. Aileen had already divided the cake and placed the slices on pretty plates of delicate flowers. “And would any like a fork to eat their cake?”
Penelope-Prue did. “An educated lady is one who eats cake with a fork even if she dines alone!” joked Penelope-Prue.
Aileen nearly sniggered. “Aha!” she thought, “it is indeed very proper for that frump to eat her poisoned slice with a fork.”