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Bubble, Bubble, Tulips Are Trouble: An Easter Mystery Short Story

IN THE March 28 ISSUE

FROM THE 2015 Articles,
andMysteryrat's Maze,
andTerrific Tales
SECTIONS

by Nancy Brewka-Clark

Enjoy this never before published Easter short story with a touch of mystery.

“I don’t know how you can eat that.” Charlene wrinkled her nose. “It really amazes me that in the twenty-first century people still think they can indulge themselves in acts of barbarism that destroy innocent animals.”

I turned the heat down beneath the stock pot. “It’s chicken soup, Charlene. It’s good for you.”chicken

“It wasn’t good for the chicken.” She made a gagging noise. “Disgusting.”

“Look.” I pointed to a calendar put out by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals hanging on the closet door where I keep my vacuum cleaner, mops and other cleaning materials. “I donate every year. They send me a calendar. I am not a bad person, Charlene.”

“I bet you’ll have to come back as a chicken,” she said.

“Come back where?” I picked up a long wooden spoon and lifted the lid off the pot, more to have something to do than to stir the soup.

“To planet earth,” she said, “if it’s still here. Which it probably won’t be, thanks to people like you.”

I reached up to open a cupboard. Taking down a box of green tea, I said, “Do you still drink tea or do you feel sorry for the leaves? Or maybe the microbes in the water?”tea

“Yuck. There aren’t any microbes in our water. Just fluoride. And I’m going to contact our city councilor about that, too. It’s bad for you.”

“Tell that to my teeth.” I bared them at her. “People used to lose their teeth. They’d be gumming their food by the time they were fifty. Then they started putting fluoride in the water and, voila, healthy teeth.”

“That’s all a myth.” Charlene watched me fill the teapot from the faucet. “I use a filter, you know.”

“I know.” I slammed the teapot a little too hard down on another burner and turned up the gas. “I don’t like my water leaking through charcoal. I think it’s dirty.”

“That’s ridiculous. It’s a filter.” Charlene started twirling the pink ceramic bunny salt shaker I always put out as part of my decorating for Easter. There was a matching yellow chicken for the pepper. Both creatures had blue bows about their necks and for some reason the bunny was winking. “So, what dead flesh will you be serving on Sunday?”

My stomach gave a little jerky heave. She did have a way of putting things. “Baked ham, a turkey and shrimp cocktail as the first course. I’ll be slaughtering the pig later this afternoon if you want to watch.”

She laughed. “You say things like that because you’re embarrassed and guilty and you think by making crude comments like that you’ll make me feel bad. But I won’t.” She picked up the bunny. “You’re wrong, Franny, and I’m right.”

“Listen, Charlene.” I poured hot water over the tea bag, thinking how much I hated green tea. “You’ve only been a vegan since Christmas. I’ll bet the first time you see a big plate of boiled lobster at Sailor Stan’s, you’ll cave.”

She laughed again. “You’re on. A hundred bucks says I never touch lobster again.”

“Charlene.” I set the steaming mug down gently in front of her. “I have known you for more than thirty years. We have been neighbors, friends, babysitters to each other’s kids, been through rough times and good times. I know you. So I will not put you in a position where you will have to give me one hundred dollars.”

She blew across the surface of the tea.

“Honey?” Hoping to catch her off guard, I reached up into the cupboard again.

“No. Of course not. Bees make honey. And humans rob them of it.” She smiled. “It’s people like you who cause colony collapse.”

Holding my own mug, I sat down across from her. “Of course it is. I hope to destroy a dozen more this week alone.”tea

She sighed. “More sarcasm. You really are feeling guilty.”

“Charlene.” I put my hand flat on the table, but for once I couldn’t think of anything to say. So instead, I changed the subject. Sort of. “So, what vegan delights will you be whipping up for the family?”

“Oh, I’m so glad you asked.” She hunched toward me, a missionary glitter in her eyes. “We’re starting out with a wonderful spring tender-root consommé, no beef of course, but delicate, sweet, little shoots and sprouts from my very own garden, followed by curried carrot ring, broccoli and cashews, brown rice with mushrooms and, for dessert, bananas foster.”

“I have to admit,” I said, “that doesn’t sound half bad. In fact, it sounds delicious.”

Charlene slapped her hand down on the table, making both our mugs jump. “I knew it! I knew you’d see the light!” Then she stood up, leaned way over, and kissed my forehead. “See? I’ll let you taste everything and you’ll never put a poor slaughtered animal on your table again.”

After she left, prancing across the back yard like one of the squirrels she now considered part of her vast sisterhood, I dumped my tea and sat down and reran the conversation in my head. When did I say I was going to heave my ham into the trash? And I loved shrimp. I didn’t want to be their sister. I wanted to dunk them in ketchup, lemon juice and horseradish sauce and nibble them right down to their little tails. This time I was the one to slam my hand down on the table. Call me a pervert if you will, Charlene, but I will not be outeaten in my own home!

A few hours later I was running the vacuum around the living room when I heard a familiar knock at the back door. “Hi,” Charlene called. “I’ve got something special for you.”

She was holding a stockpot between two potholders. “What’s in there?” I asked.

“My famous tender-shoot and sprout consommé,” she said proudly. “It’s all picked fresh right outside my back door but the recipe’s basically Asian, with my own variations. Think global, eat local.”vegetables

When she lifted the lid off, I almost swooned. “That does smell wonderful, Charlene.”

“Lots of allium,” she said. “That’s garlic, with the blossoms. And all kinds of sweet little tiny onion bulbs and–oh, just get down two bowls and let’s sample it. I can’t wait!”

I got down two soup bowls and we dug in. “Sorry if I slurp,” I said, wiping my chin with a paper towel.

“I slurp, too,” Charlene admitted, and we bent our heads and took the broth to task.

“Seconds?” I asked, holding up the ladle.

“There’s enough for thirds,” she sighed.

We had just pushed our empty bowls away and slumped back in our chairs when I felt the first cramp. “Wow. Something’s not right.” When I stood, the walls melted sideways. Heat waves smashed against my skull, frying my hair, but my feet went deadly cold. “Uh–oh!”

I barely made it to the bathroom before I got a brilliant review of Charlene’s special broth. Dimly I heard Charlene retching out in the kitchen and then I heard the back door slam. Or was that me, falling to the floor?

I crawled along the bottom of the sea, struggling for air, until I reached the landline phone. It was way, way up there on the surface, so I pulled its cord and it came plunging down next to me. By the time I called 911, I knew I was food for the fishes.

“Franny?”

My eyes opened. “Charlene?”

It must have been easier for the hospital personnel to have us share a room since we were decked out like twins right down to our oxygen masks.

tulips“Some tulip bulbs,” I heard her say in this wispy, raspy voice, “look like onions. But they’re not. And some narcissus shoots look like allium.”

“But they’re not.” I closed my eyes in satisfaction.

You can buy a lot of roasts, chops and steaks with a hundred bucks.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section. Watch for more Easter related mystery short stories coming this week.

Nancy Brewka-Clark’s first short mystery appeared in The Boston Globe Magazine in 1983. Her most recent mystery, Is Jim Dead?, was performed as a flash comedy in 2013 at the Brooklyn College Department of Theater Gi60 International Theatre Festival. She’s a member of Sisters in Crime and the Short Mystery Fiction Society.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lynn March 28, 2015 at 12:41pm

Thanks for a WONDERFUL story! Really enjoyed it!

Reply

2 Nancy Clark March 31, 2015 at 1:50pm

Thank you so much, Lynn!

Reply

3 Nancy Coffey March 28, 2015 at 1:11pm

Very funny! Moral: Make sure you know your botany before you forage, even in your own garden.

Reply

4 Nancy Clark March 31, 2015 at 1:51pm

And this coming from a woman who knows her herbs.

Reply

5 Kaye George
Twitter: @KGeorgeMystery
March 29, 2015 at 3:26pm

Well done! I enjoyed it.

Reply

6 Nancy Clark March 31, 2015 at 1:52pm

Thank you so much, Kaye!

Reply

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