by Stephen Tuffin
‘Pinch, pinch, pinch, pinch, pinch, pinch, pinch, pinch, pinch, pinch!’
Mrs June Lovall stood back and admired her work. A pie. A perfect pie.
She smiled and made the final pinch around the perimeter of the pie sealing in the deadly contents. She lifted a flour-stained glass to her lips and drank. A cheap red. French.
Mrs Lovall untied her apron – the one with the pleated edging and the scenes of London on it – and made to lay it across the back of one of her six matching Nordic pine dining chairs. She missed and the apron dropped to the floor unnoticed.
Wobbling her way into the lounge of her three-bedroom semi, complete with a detached, red brick up-and-over garage, she flopped into an over-stuffed armchair and took a gulp of wine. She lit a cigarette, she inhaled, then exhaled, while sliding down the chair until her arse was hanging over the edge of the seat cushion, and the back of her head was at the base of the back rest.
Earlier that day, after a very informative and, it has to be said, unexpected chat with BBC Radio 2 DJ Jimmy Young, she had decided to kill her husband. It was around ten o’clock and Jimmy had just finished playing Lulu’s hit single ‘I’m a Tiger’. That particular tune was a favourite of Mrs Lovall’s because she knew all the words.
I’m a tiger, I’m a tiger
I’m a tiger, I’m a tiger
I’m a tiger, I’m a tiger
I’m a tiger, I’m a tie-eye-eye-eye-iger.
Lulu faded and Raymondo, Jimmy’s talking chipmunk, asked the familiar question:
‘What’s the recipe today, Jim?’
Mrs Lovall had no idea what a chipmunk looked like but she had a fondness for them nonetheless. They had cute voices – a bit like how she imagined a kid might sound if you forced helium into its little round belly and made it speak. The only problem might be was that she really hated kids and having one around just so she could fill it with helium once in a blue moon, would require a great deal of effort on her part. She reminded herself that this was one of the positives of having a barren womb.
‘Barren womb,’ she said. ‘Barren womb, Barun wooOOOM!’
She decided she didn’t much like the phrase ‘barren womb’. It reminded her of Miss Havisham’s room in the 1946 film Great Expectations: a cavernous space filled with rotting food and cobwebs – not exactly the sort of place Mrs Lovall imagined a man might want to pay a visit.
She turned her attention back to Jimmy and Raymondo. ‘Yes,’ she slurred, ‘What is the recipe today, Jim?’ She drained her glass before he had time to reply.
‘It’s Rat-Poison Pie!’ Jim said enthusiastically.
Mrs Lovall burped softly into her hand then rolled off the chair and, remaining on her knees, shuffled across the Axminster and Wilton to where the radio sat on the windowsill.
‘Go on,’ she said to Jimmy.
‘Well,’ Jimmy said, ‘we all know you think your old man is a dirty, cheating bastard, don’t we June?’
Mrs Lovall nodded.
‘And here on the J.Y. Prog, we don’t take kindly to dirty, cheating bastards, do we Raymondo?’
‘No, we hate dirty, cheating bastards,’ the chipmunk squeaked.
‘Then, what should I do?’ Mrs Lovall said.
‘Well, here is, indeed, what you do, do,’ Jimmy said.
Mrs Lovall was all ears.
‘But first!’ Jimmy began. ‘A tune for all those unfaithful fuckers out there who think it’s clever to cheat on their wives. It’s Paul Jones singing ‘I’ve Been a Bad, Bad Boy’.
While Paul sang his song, Mrs Lovall took the opportunity to nip to the loo and tidy herself up a bit. She smacked on more lippy and touched up her eyes and still had time to light a smoke and fill her glass before making it back in time to hear the final ‘…bad, bad, boy’ fading away.
‘Later on in the show,’ Jimmy said, ‘we’ll be talking to Labour MP Sidney Silverman on the anniversary of his Private Members’ Bill. You’ll remember that Bill because it brought an end to the death penalty in the good old British Isles.’ Jimmy laughed.
Mrs Lovall smiled.
‘You might well smile, June,’ Jimmy said. ‘You can do your old man in and the worst you’ll get is life!’
And Raymondo made a cute little chipmunk noise that sounded like someone slowly choking to death at the end of a long piece of rope.
Mrs Lovall took a gulp of wine. It had occurred to her that Jimmy Young wasn’t really talking to her from inside the radio. It had occurred to her that she was experiencing some kind of alcohol-induced episode.
‘This is not an alcohol-induced episode, June. This is me, J.Y. talking to you from the BBC radio studios in Wibbly Wood SW11. And I am telling you, June, I’m the real McCoy.’ There was a dramatic pause. ‘I could have played for Southend United, in my youth!’ Jimmy boasted.
June waited for more.
‘But that’s another story…’ Jimmy said.
‘Tell me about the pie,’ June said.
‘Indeed I will,’ J.Y. said.
‘But first!’ Jimmy began. ‘Here’s those crazy kids from across the pond, The Monkees with ‘I’m A Believer.’
‘For fuck’s sake!’ June said.
‘Language, June,’ Jimmy said.
The last of the wine went the way of the rest and so June made a far from perfect beeline for the ornamental globe that was home to the remaining booze in her house.
The globe was by the window and as she poured herself a drink she saw Old Mother Hunt come rolling out of the corner shop opposite. The old woman had a sliced white loaf in her lap. She applied the brake on her wheelchair and fished under her blanket for a string carrier.
Placing the loaf in the bag she hooked it over her wrist and then stared directly across the road into Mrs Lovall’s eyes. Mrs Lovall pulled the net curtains to one side and threw open the window.
‘Seen enough?’ she shouted.
Old Mother Hunt didn’t answer.
Mrs Lovall began to sing: ‘Old Mother Hunt, the miserable old…’
‘June!’ Jimmy called from the radio. ‘Get away from the window and come over here.’
Mrs Lovall whipped her head round. ‘Just a minute, Jimmy, I’m dealing with this old bitch she’s…’ but when she turned back round Old Mother Hunt was nowhere to be seen.
‘Do you want to know how to kill your husband or not, June? I haven’t got all day you know. Radio 1 Club is on in thirty minutes.’
‘All right. All right. I’m coming.’ And she closed the window, rearranged the curtain and with her glass replenished with single malt whiskey she wobbled her way back to the radio and did her best to listen.
‘But first!’ Jimmy began, ‘It’s the super-dooper Supremes with ‘You Keep Me Hangin’ On.’
Mrs Lovall rolled her eyes and then, with glass still in hand, rolled onto the floor and onto her back – without spilling a drop. And that’s where she stayed until The Supremes finished and Jimmy came back on.
‘Now then, June, about this Poison Pie.’
‘Go on,’ Mrs Lovall said lifting her head ever-so slightly in order to light her ciggy.
‘I’m sure,’ Jimmy said, ‘like any self-respecting housewife, you’ll have some rat poison somewhere in the house.’
‘Under the sink!’ Mrs Lovall said.
‘Rat poison! Rat poison! Rat-a-tat-shat poison!’ Raymondo squeaked.
And Jimmy laughed. ‘Oh, Raymondo,’ he said wistfully.
Mrs Lovall got to her feet and, ciggy in mouth and drink in hand, fetched the poison.
‘Good,’ Jimmy said when she returned. ‘Now. All you need to do is make a pie – steak and kidney is best but chicken will do – then add three drops of poison, stir it all up with a wooden spoon or spatula, spoon the deadly pie filling into a suitably sized pie dish, cover with some shortcrust pastry and bake on gas mark 7 for 35 minutes or until golden brown.’
‘Should I brush the top with beaten egg?’ Mrs Lovall wanted to know. Her head had begun to loll a little and the back of her hair-do had been crushed close to her scalp where she’d been lying on the floor.
‘No.’ Jimmy said.
‘But he might not want to eat it if it doesn’t look appetising. Beaten egg gives the surface a professional sheen.’
‘It doesn’t matter about that, June. This is the last pie he’ll ever eat.’
‘Well, I’m sorry but I think it does matter.’
‘Have it your own way,’ Jimmy snapped.
‘Fuck you!’ Raymondo squeaked. And Jimmy laughed.
And that was that. As hard as she tried, Jimmy and Raymondo flatly refused to speak to her again.
The Jimmy Young Programme rattled to an end and Mrs Lovall made the pie and then sat down with a glass of Babycham to wait for her husband to return home. But by nine-thirty that evening he still hadn’t made an entrance.
And then Mrs Lovall remembered something.
‘Of course,’ she said. ‘Oh, of course. He left me, didn’t he? He left me. I almost forgot.’ And she laughed a little too loudly and for a little too long. Then she cried. Then she laughed a bit more. Then she drank a whole lot more. And then she took the pie outside and hurled it up the garden path.
The next morning, as she had her first drink of the day, she looked out of the kitchen window and saw, lying peacefully on the lawn, but with one leg raised at an odd angle, a beautiful dead fox. And close by, two dead rats, a dead magpie and three dead squirrels. And scattered all about them, bits of glazed pastry and half-eaten chunks of steak and kidney pie.
Stephen Tuffin has an MA in creative writing, teaches creative writing with the Open University as well as working freelance as a creative writing teacher and mentor. This is his second story for Fictive Dream.