Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Murder is Served


by Tracy Kiely

I have found that the holidays – especially those in which large numbers of relatives descend together under one roof – are an excellent source of murderous inspiration. For whatever reason, Thanksgiving has always been my go-to source for murder.
Growing up, my grandmother lived with us. She was a lovely, funny, amazing woman, and I adored her. However, she had one younger brother who she herself explained as being the way he way because he may have been “dropped him on his head a few times when he was a baby.” Jerome was a confirmed bachelor. He lived in his childhood home, which he kept as a sort of shrine to his late mother by changing nothing. And I mean nothing. The only addition was a dog, by the name of Bud, who neither cared that his name was Bud, nor  - apparently - about personal hygiene. Bud was known to pee into running floor fans. Every Thanksgiving, Jerome and Bud would drive from Connecticut to our home in Virginia. What would be a five-hour ride for most was twice that as Jerome not only made frequent stops to let Bud out, but also because Jerome liked to save gas by randomly turning off the engine on his rusty green Pinto and coasting.
            I drove with Jerome only once, and I still have nightmares.
Anyway, one particular Thanksgiving, Jerome called from the road to say that traffic was heavy and he would be later than usual. My grandmother told him that was fine and that he should “take his time.”
Hours passed and there was no Jerome. More hours passed. My father began sneaking into the back bedroom to quietly make calls to the state police about any accidents. Night turned into morning, and morning to afternoon; still no Jerome. By now, my grandmother was beside herself, and my mother was wondering if it was bad form to serve Thanksgiving dinner fare for a funeral reception.
And then Jerome breezed in with a cheerful, “Well, hello, all!” Bud headed for the fan. In shock, my grandmother finally got out, “Where the hell have you been?”
Jerome looked at her as if confused, and said, “What’s wrong?”
            “I haven’t heard from you since two o’clock yesterday! What the hell took you so long? I thought you were dead!”
Jerome just laughed at her as if she were being silly. “But you told me to take my time! So, I got a hotel. Bud and I had an excellent time!”
My grandmother neatly clipped him by the ear and practically dragged him down the stairs to her apartment where she proceeded to try not to kill him as she screamed at him for the next two hours. My mother and I gleefully sat near the vents and listened to every word.
Another year, it was my father’s family who skirted dangerously close to death. I must have been about ten. My mother had worn herself out prepping her usual fare; a massive turkey, two kinds of stuffing, yams, potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, and, of course, a pumpkin pie for dessert.  My grandparents on my father’s side were staying with us as usual and on Thanksgiving morning, my grandfather insisted on taking us all out to brunch.  As he made his third trip to the buffet, my mother laughingly said, “Now, don’t eat too much! Remember to save room for Thanksgiving dinner.”
With a dismissive flick of his wrist, my grandfather grunted, “Freeze it.”
And now it is my turn. Every year, we host Thanksgiving at the Cape for my husband’s family. Every year, I attempt to seat twenty-eight people of varying temperaments in a manner that ensures as little friction as possible. I usually fail, and am always left in awe at those poor souls who arrange the seating charts for United Nations’ Dinners. By the end of the meal, I have a least one really good and really justifiable murderous thought.
Now of course, I don’t kill of these people per se in my books. I merely take their behavior, twist it, exaggerate it, and then let my imagination run wild. Hell, it’s cheaper than therapy.
I guess what I’m saying is that ideas are all around us, if you are open to them. But, obviously a good story is more than just the idea. As everyone else has said, it’s what you do with the idea that matters. Let’s say you have eggs, sugar, butter and flour. Will this make a good cake? Who knows? It’s how you put together those ingredients that maters.
See what I mean?
But, in any case, bon appetit!

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