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FICTION


TITLE: Something in the Cookies
By Nancy Sonneman
04/11/11
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This is mystery story. I tried to sell it to "Ellery Queen" the top secular mystery mag, but it was rejected.
Something in the Cookies
By Nancy Sonneman
I saw in the bulletin from my church that a parish festival was on the summer calendar.. Of course, everyone was asked to bring a simple dessert to share. The last festival was held over two decades ago this month. No doubt the parishioners who were old enough to remember would pass the details along of what happened that day to stop the parish festival for two decades.
Marty Wilson. All the girls doodled his name on their book covers, notebooks, and hands. Just the sound of his name brought sighs and vacant eyes. He was tall, ash blond hair, eyes the color of mint leaves, and a smile that could melt a block of steel.
The parish elementary school had been his alma mater. He was too cool for it now, but he always tagged along with his mother Donna.
She was smitten, too. Oh, not with Marty. After her husband died, Donna was devastated. After a few years, she started the widow, widower, and divorced support group. Along came Brent McGuire.
Brent did for adult women what Marty did for teen girls. They became an instant duo. Everywhere they went, people smiled to see how right the two of them fit together. Then Millicent Adams divorced her husband and six months later she joined the WWD support group.
Millicent was soon the third side of the proverbial triangle. When Brent wasn’t with Donna, he was with Millie. She had pushed her shoe-horn of femininity into the little twosome until she had what she wanted—almost what she wanted. Of course, she wanted Brent all to herself. She convinced him that what Donna didn’t know didn’t count as cheating—after all, they weren’t engaged or married or anything. Brent told Donna that he had gone back to school and wouldn’t be spending as many evenings with her. She bought it. Until Donna happened to go to the new restaurant on the outskirts of town.
Although the restaurant was dark and quiet, piped in music playing softly in the background,with velvet seats at the bar, and real lace tablecloths and real linen napkins, Donna could make out Brent and Millie sitting at the bar, clinking glasses, foreheads together, kissing between sips. Just as Donna turned to go, Millie looked right at her and raised her glass to her. Brent did not see Donna or Millie’s snobbish action. Donna left the restaurant, heart acting as inserts in her shoes. She didn’t know if she was more disappointed in Brent for betraying her trust, or herself for trusting Brent in the first place.
Once inside her car, Donna looked in the visor mirror and assessed the damage that the rage and tears did to her face. She dabbed her eyes and blew out a big breath. She wadded up the hurt and plugged the hole in her heart with it. She blinked her eyes rapidly, like a contact lens wearer, and said aloud, “She is not going to get under my skin. I love Brent. I’ll have a fight on my hands, but he’s mine.”
Millie was sure that her little toast over Brent’s shoulder would send Donna running. Donna was a quitter, a non-confrontational pacifist, scared to death of everyone and everything, bowed down to what “they” would think of her. At least, that was Millie’s perspective.
Two days later, as Millie walked along the streets of downtown, she spotted Brent and Donna, strolling along, hand-in-hand, heads bent to receive each others’ kisses. Millie got angry. Angrier than she had ever been before. Getting rid of Donna would have been too obvious a deed. Life in prison meant no time with Brent, and that just wouldn’t do, so Millie decided to find the way to hurt her deeply.
The annual parish festival was coming up. Marty was allergic to peanuts. He would stop at the dessert booth first and buy at package of her chocolate chip cookies. What better way to make it look like an accident than with hundreds of witnesses? Millie took extra care to make a special half dozen cookies. They looked like chocolate chip cookies, but there was peanut butter in the batter, a handful of peanuts finely chopped on top of the cookies (so they were undetectable), and the cookie sheet was coated with peanut oil when the cookies were being baked.
An hour after the festival started, Marty weaved his way through the throng of teenage girls to the dessert booth just as came through the forest of opponents on the football field to the end zone. “Did I make it? Do you still have cookies left?” Marty panted. “I always have cookies for you, Marty.” Millie said and put the small cellophane bundle of the special cookies into his hand. Marty handed her the payment in coins and began to eat them as he stood there. There was no one else in the booth and no one around. Marty took a bite of the cookie and when he swallowed it, the allergy kicked in. He grabbed his throat as his eyes bulged in fear and panic. Millie watched, careful to hide her glee in case someone somewhere was watching. She turned and straightened the rest of the desserts on the booth’s counter top and the table behind her from which she could take extra desserts when something sold so there was never “a bald spot” on the counter. Marty was still making choking sounds, his tongue now swollen out of his mouth, and Millie took a quick peek at him. He was writhing on the blacktop, his spittle wiping out part of the hopscotch grid that a carefree first-grader drew. Millie turned back to the desserts one last time. When she turned back to him again, there was no more sound, no more spittle, no more Marty.
The 9-1-1 tape played back a hysterical woman screaming, “He’s choking! He’s dying! Hurry!” and the exact location was given. The rescue squad came, but the festivalchair and his wife thought it was part of the festivities and tried to direct them to their booth. After five minutes, the ambulance driver was able to explain that there was a real emergency on the other side of the parking lot. By the time they got to Millie’s booth, they pronounced Marty dead at the scene and took the body away.
Donna’s arrival couldn’t have come at a better time. She was to relieve Millie in the booth, but was coming early to bring her contributions of desserts.
She spotted the ambulance and came around it cautiously, ducking into the booth.
“What happened?” she asked. The body-bag covered corpse had just been taken into the ambulance. The door were about to close.
“Do you know where I can find Mrs. Wilson? Marty’s mother?” the female EMT asked.
“I’m Marty Wilson’s mother. I’m Donna Wilson.”
The female EMT exchanged a glance with the male EMT who came around the ambulance.
“What’s happened to my son?” Donna was frantic now.
“I’m sorry, Ma’am, your son is dead,” the male EMT said.
Donna’s wail was like a favorite melody to Millie. She was the first to put her arms around her and even cried dry tears of mock-horror.
Soon, Donna was suicidal. Brent stayed by her side as much as he could. Millie waited for Donna to collapse and have to be institutionalized, leaving Brent wide open for her. Not even a shoe-horn could break the bond that formed between Donna and Brent. Six months later, they were man married.
Millie’s rage, gloating-and-guilt-see-saw gave her a life sentence in a mental hospital where she died just last week.
I am Millie’s daughter. The date upcoming festival is the same as Donna and Brent McGuire’s twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. What better way to celebrate than by giving Donna an aluminum foil package of my mother’s chocolate chip cookies? Donna loved them. She shared the same allergies that Marty did, so I would make the same small batch of cookies that my mother made for Marty. After all, I saved that recipe card for special occasions. What could be more special than dying on your twenty-fifth wedding anniversary? The local funeral home sold only silver caskets. What a nice touch!
###
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