Still Life With Peanut Butter #SampleSunday

I’ve been busy proofing The Southern Indiana Writers Group’s twentieth anthology, XX: SIW GOES PLATINUM. My contribution to the book — other than all the oopsies I’ll probably miss, despite my best efforts — is a Mamie and Florence story, “Still Life With Peanut Butter.”

Mamie lives on Spadena Street, my fictional two-block neighborhood of Storybook Style houses, and Florence is her twenty-something boarder. They each, as well as Florence’s older brother, Bennie, are master manipulators. It’s always fun to write about their trying to outmaneuver each other without dropping their masks.

ANYWAY, here’s the opening of “Still Life With Peanut Butter,” soon to be available in print and in digital form.


— excerpt by Marian Allen

They say it’s an ill wind that blows no good, and Max Carton’s murder proved it.

Mamie didn’t even think about the death until her young boarder, business partner and future sister-in-law, Florence Adagio, called it to her attention.

“Listen!” Florence bounced around to kneel on the couch, Kindle clutched in both hands, shouting over the sofa’s low back and across two rooms. “This is just up your – Oh, crap!” She pivoted and slouched into silence.

Mamie, although she had heard every word and nuance, strolled out of the kitchen and said, “Did you say something, dear?”

buttshot“No.” Florence’s tone was sullen, but held an edge of possible hope. “Something exciting, but never mind. We can’t do it. It’s right around the wedding.”

The loathing that infused the word wedding twisted Mamie’s heart. If Florence turned against the wedding, Bennie might have second thoughts, and Bennie was probably Mamie’s last hope of not dying a spinster.

“If you say so, dear,” Mamie said, knowing that pressing for details would only make Florence more tightlipped.

“Well….” Florence turned around again, holding her Kindle so Mamie could read it, if she came closer. “Here.”

“You tell me about it, sweetheart. I leave the electronics to you.”

Florence flipped the device around and said, “Okay, you remember when that man was found dead in a tub of shelled peanuts at Jumbo All-Natural? That little rinky-dink peanut butter factory that all the schools take field trips to?”

“Vaguely. Didn’t they shut down?”

“Just long enough to disinfect everything. Then they opened again, but nobody wanted to buy their stuff because of the dead body.”

“Did the peanuts kill him?” Mamie itched to take the Kindle and look up the article for herself, but she had carefully cultivated her tech-helpless image. She wasn’t about to let anybody think she was capable of handling anything she could fob off onto them.

“Peanuts aren’t generally homicidal.” In a squeaky voice, Florence said, “I’m a peanut with a gun! Your money or your life!”

Mamie made herself laugh along. “He might have been allergic, you know. Or he might have been smothered under them.”

Florence gave her an admiring look. “He might have.” She skimmed the article. “No, he was ‘bludgeoned’. That means walloped upside the head.”

“I know what ‘bludgeoned’ means, dear.”

“But that’s not the important part. The important part is this: Jumbo is having a recipe contest. The winner gets a year’s supply of peanut butter in your choice of creamy or crunchy, pluh-uh-us … your picture and recipe on the labels of Jumbo All-Natural for a year and a featured spot on Nightly News at Nine preparing the recipe.”

Now Mamie understood Florence’s excitement. The two of them did a weekly webcam cooking show, and Florence was always looking for a way to “take it to the next level”.

Jumbo was only a local company, but the connection to a murder would surely gather some national attention. Even if it didn’t, a featured spot on the local news would be something they could put in their video portfolio.

“And the contest would interfere with the wedding?”

“It starts today and runs to the week before. And the television thing is The Day. So there’s a golden opportunity shot in the butt.”


A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Something threatens to interfere with an event your main character wants very much NOT to be interfered with.


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New Bird In Town #Caturday

Sweetie PieSweetie Pie Turner here, MomGoth’s mom’s cat.

Mom’s cuckoo clock has been grinding down for some time. The cuckoo stopped going all the way in or out years ago, and it never kept the right time. For the past few months, the pendulum just randomly stopped pending — or whatever you call what pendulums do. It finally choked on its own winding chain, and stopped completely.

So MomGoth got on the internet and found a replacement. The picture looked the same, but the clock she got is about half as big as the old one, and it has to be wound every day instead of once a week.

Mom says we’ll get used to it in time.

I took a picture of it for you.

clockThat didn’t come out very well, and everybody freaks out when I get on the table, so I asked MomGoth to take a picture from way up there on those long, funny-shaped hind legs that people balance on.clock2Well, the people are welcome to the silly thing. I’ll just sit by the door and look at real birds, thank you all the same.sweetiepiebirdsA WRITING PROMPT FOR ANIMALS: Are you allowed to get on the table?



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Middle East Obscura Wedding in Atlantis #FridayRecommends

Friday RecommendsPsst! Wanna see some gorgeous building photographs? Go over to Travels in the Middle East and Beyond and look at Vicky Zavros’ pictures of Oman. They’re eye-poppers!

If you still have time after that bliss, check out Atlas Obscura, a bottomless site of information on location. They just published a book, but the web site just keeps updating with new obscure places and their information.

Like this one on Gretna Green, for example. If you read a lot of Regency Romances (I love ’em!), you may wonder why impetuous young couples run off to Gretna Green. This post tells what that’s all about. So now I know!

Another place on the Atlas Obscura site was a place with which I have some distant connection: The Neptune Society Memorial Reef. Charlie and I signed and paid for disposal with the Neptune Society, which originated as a service for burial at sea. Hence, the name. Now, they’re a cremation service, but you can opt to be part of the Memorial Reef. For a price, Ugarte, for a price. So we’re not doing that. But it would be cool!

A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: How would your main character prefer his or her body be disposed of or memorialized?


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