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.
STILL LIFE WITH PEANUT BUTTER
— 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?”
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.