For the past few weeks I’ve been posting short pieces by several of my author friends. Today I have another one for you, this time by cozy mystery author, Beatrice Fishback. Mulit-published, and highly talented, Bea is a world traveler who, along with her husband, Jim, has spoken to audiences on several continents. A native New Yorker who lived twenty-plus years in the East Anglian area of Great Britain, she cannot resist a good cuppa tea alongside a scone topped with clotted cream and jam. And now, for your enjoyment, may I present…
A Slice of Death
Margaret Drew shut the screened porch door and turned off the light. Lightening bugs flickered off and on in the back garden like tiny torches carried by miniature fairies. Her mother always said she had a wild imagination. But, mother was long gone and Margaret had been on her own for more years than she could remember. She watched the bugs hover then float away on a sea of air.
A deep sigh filled her lungs as she longed for someone to talk to, someone who would be interested in her imaginings. There were days she pretended to be Queen Elizabeth and would traipse around the house with a dressing gown and a cheap tiara on her head and demand the loyalty of her subjects. But, the more time passed and the fewer the people she came into contact with, the less she believed she would ever speak to another person again. She turned off the lights and went to bed. Another long day alone loomed ahead of her again tomorrow.
Ding dong. The doorbell woke Margaret with a start. She draped a robe over her nightgown, tiptoed to the front door and pulled aside the tattered curtain. A postman was scrutinizing the front of the house as if casing the place for bugs.
Margaret opened the door slightly, and the hinged squeaked with rusty tunes. “May I help you?”
“Is this the home of Miss Margaret Drew?”
“Yes.” She drew her robe closer and leaned forward. “What do you want?”
The postman looked at the envelope in his hand and then at her. “I was asked to deliver this to you personally.” He held out the long manila item.
She opened the door a little more and took the envelope. “Won’t you please come in? I’m so rude not offering you a nice cup of tea on such a cold morning.”
He looked this way and that as if to be sure no one nearby watched. “Why, thank you. It’s not often I’m offered refreshments on this job. Usually it’s growling dogs or grumpy neighbors I deal with.”
Margaret opened the door wide and directed the postman to the kitchen.
He sat, laid his hat on the table and rubbed his hands together. “You wouldn’t happen to have some cookies to go with that tea now would you?”
Margaret tied a red-checkered apron over her robe. “I have some homemade pie if you’re interested. I’m the best cook in the world. I use to win ribbons for my pies at every county fair within miles. You won’t be disappointed I assure you. It’s to die for.”
“I’m sure I won’t.”
“It’s wonderful to have company.” Margaret sat across from the man. “I especially like postmen. They are so nice. In fact, my first husband was one.”
The man sat straighter and inhaled the aroma of the warmed pie she had set before him. “Really?”
“Well, I guess I told a bit of a fib.” She chuckled, wiped her hands on the apron and straightened it beneath the table. “He wasn’t actually a postman, but he always dreamed of being one. Said he wanted to have a job where he could wear a uniform.”
“So what did he end up doing?” He spoke through a large mouthful of apples.
“Not much of anything.” She sighed. “He gave up hope of ever finding a job, never mind a good paying one like you have.” She laid her hand on the top of his and smiled coyly.
The postman gulped with a loud swallow and moved his arm from under Margaret’s hand. “You’ve been most kind. But, I have to go now.” He rose slightly, wobbling slightly on his feet.
“But you haven’t finished your pie.” She stood and pushed him firmly back into the chair. “You don’t want to insult a queen now do you?” She placed the tiara on her head.
“Queen?” The postman looked up at her, his eyes wider than an owl at dusk. “I really think I should go.” He stood, forgetting to grab his hat. “Thank you for the tea and pie. It was delicious, but I must be on my way.” The front door slammed with a loud pop.
Margaret roamed the house, aware once more of the hollowness of the quiet rooms. She dug through her closet and brought out another long, formal gown with clusters of fake jewels and dressed in front of the mirror. “Perhaps I’ll be a princess instead of a queen,” she boasted to her reflection. Margaret danced around the room with clumsy movements pretending to be Cinderella rushing from the ball, afraid of the midnight toll.
The day moved along with her paying little attention to the clicking minutes on the grandmother clock that her father had given them as a gift one Christmas long ago.
Weeks passed. For Margaret the haunting quiet began to unnerve her. She paced and wished for someone to visit and listen to her dreams, be attentive to a conversation.
A truck pulled into the drive—a FedEx logo plastered along its side. Margaret watched the tall, dark-haired man alight from the vehicle. She stepped back and waited for the bell to ring.
“Is this the home of Margaret Drew?” His deep and husky voice gave Margaret chills up and down her spine, a tingling she had long forgotten even existed.
“Yes. Please come in. I have some delicious pie just waiting to be eaten.” She took the manila envelope from the deliveryman and opened wide the door.
“I’m afraid I can’t, ma’am.” He tapped his forehead with a small salute. “But, thank you for the offer.”
“Would you mind helping a widow for a moment then?” She forced fake tears to well.
He softened. “Of course not. How may I help you?”
“It’s something I need moved.” She stepped aside and waved her arm toward the living area. “It’s just in here.”
The tall man entered and sniffed. “Not to be rude or anything but that smell of your pie is sure wonderful.”
Margaret smiled. “Please come and have a piece. I would be most honored. The taste is to die for.”
She shuffled around him with the precision moves of a waitress to her customer and waved a dishtowel with a swish. “My, my. I love a man in uniform.”
The FedEx gentlemen stopped mid-bite. “This isn’t much of a uniform.” He gagged on a bite of pie. “There seems to be a bitter taste mixed with the sweet.”
“Dear, oh, dear. Are you all right?” She grabbed a glass of water and plunked in on the table. “Here, drink, you’ll feel much better.” Margaret patted him on the back with the force of a batter hitting a home run.
“I think I had better go.” He wiped his mouth, scurried out the door and missing a step on the way out.
“Another man come and gone in my life. Just like daddy did to mother and me all those years ago.” She breathed deeply and stood taller. “Men are all the same. You treat them nice, you serve them the finest, and they still reject you.” She moved to the bedroom to don yet another costume of royal nature and pranced around the room.
A window slid open. Margaret was unaware of the grinding metal on wood.
“She remains in a world of her own.” Margaret’s mother whispered to the medical attendant on duty. “She thinks I’ve passed away.”
“But why does she dream of uniformed men and wooing their company?” The medical professional scratched his head.
Mrs. Drew inhaled. “Her father was a policeman and was killed in a freak accident in his patrol car while on duty. Margaret never was the same. I thought she would improve over time but things only got worse. She married a postman, but he disappeared only to be discovered dead in a hotel room a week later apparently killed by cyanide slipped into a slice of pie sitting beside his bed.”
“Seems Margaret is left with nothing but regret. All she remembers is her husband and the loneliness brought on by a single slice of pie.”
Copyright © 2018 Beatrice Fishback All rights reserved.