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Crime Fiction

My brother remembered last year we played a family trivia game with Dad and his pick for a ‘last meal’ was lamb chops, so we cooked him those for dinner tonight. Lamb chops are not a common dish in Chicago. Mom found them at the gourmet supermarket in Buffalo Grove. She said it’s the least we could do.


At the dinner table, all those lamb chops are grilled and arranged in a crown. Sitting behind them, Dad looks at us and announces, “Computers around the world are going to crash tomorrow. Do you realize what that means?” His voice is loud and deep and almost shakes the walls. 


There's an awkward silence. He’s waiting for one of us to show interest so he can explain the computer problem. But our minds are on something else, and tomorrow being January 1st 2000 just doesn't feel that important.


Mom speaks up first, “You are the computer expert John, tell us what it means, but try the soup first?”


Tonight is a rare family dinner. Most of the time Dad is away on business, busy with being the CEO of the family company, that’s what Dad says. Mom says he’s away with other women. I don't know why he needs to bring his fishing equipment if that's what he's doing.


“Cathy! This soup looks delicious!” Dad says. He holds his bowl, stands up, and puts in his spoon and give it a stir. “While this is cooling off, let me explain the year 2000 problem. Bear with me. This software glitch will cause computers to crash at banks, trains, in airplanes, even nuclear power plants. The idiots who designed these systems…”


I interrupt, “What about hospitals?” The business magazines Dad keeps on his desk say he is the King of hospital computer systems.


“Those will be fine, we had two hundred software engineers check and recheck everything,” Dad says. “Now, what I’m really worried about are the nuclear power plants, especially the ones close to us at Zion...”


I zone out while Dad endlessly explains how many things will break down tomorrow. If so many things are going to fall apart, why haven’t we stocked up on any extra food or hair conditioner?


Drink the soup. Drink the soup. I see the chorus in the family’s eyes.


I was undecided about the whole thing, but after a family meeting organized by Mom, we decided together that Dad needs to go. We will each pitch in, in our own way. Mom, the cook, will poison his soup. If that doesn't work, my little brother Seth will take a shot at him in the shooting range when Dad is not looking. Seth is young enough it will be judged an accident. And if that doesn't go according to plan, it will be my plan. Plan C. 


Dad is bringing the spoon toward his mouth. I’m pinching my leg and trying to act natural. Something big and heavy brushes against my leg. Bandit, our border collie, moves toward Dad and makes a leap.


“Get off Bandit!” Dad shouts, then he topples over toward the table. Everything goes flying with a crash. Luckily, Dad grabs the table with one hand and catches himself. 


“Sorry Cathy,” Dad, looking remorsefully at the floor, says to Mom. Broken ceramic and chicken vegetable soup are everywhere. Bandit’s long tongue is lapping up the soup greedily. A rare opportunity for a taste of people food.


Bandit staggers and topples over, Right where Dad should have been, and starts vomiting, and then lays still. 


Dad checks on Bandit, feels his heart beat, and looks about to cry.


“Everyone, stay away from the soup,” Dad says in a quavering voice. “It might have botulism toxin.”


Everyone looks in shock, and no one says anything back to Dad. What have we done to Bandit? Things are definitely past the point of no return now.


“Anaerobic bacteria multiply in a lack of oxygen…but I guess you all don’t know much about bacteriological processes,” Dad says.


“Dad, you remember I’m in dental school, right?” I say.


“What does that have to do with bacteria?”


“4 years of biology classes, in case you weren’t paying attention.”


Dad stop talking about bacteria, but insists we keep eating while he sends our housekeeper with Bandit to the veterinarian. Maybe they can do something for him, he says. I feel sick to my stomach. We sit down again, and I try my best to look like I’m eating. 


Mom starts nagging Dad about where he was last week and why he didn't return her calls. Tempers rise. I just want them to stop arguing.


“Dad you’ll never be content,” I say, “you’ve made a billion from Maglione & Co, you own a dozen antique cars, and now you starting your next business. But you are never home.”


“I do it all for our family,” Dad says and looks a bit sad. We eat in silence for a while.


The deer head mounted on the wall in the dining room looks my way.


When dinner is finished, Seth says, “Dad, can we do some target shooting?”


Dad has a shooting range tucked into the hill behind the stables that he takes his buddies to. He’s always been trying to get Seth involved.


“Seth, my man! Girls, you will need to excuse us, we’ll be back in later,” he says.


After they leave, what feels like an eternity of waiting goes past. I think about if Seth will be emotionally ok after murder.


Dad and Seth both appear at the back entrance at the same time.


Dad chuckles and says, “I’m signing up Seth for gun safety training. He almost took my ear off.”


I am surprised Seth missed. Dad torments Seth for not being an outdoors man like he is. A few times he locked Seth outside in the cold for hours at a time to toughen him up, that’s what he calls it. 


Dad goes upstairs. Each night he takes a bubble bath before watching TV. He’s trying to smell clean before he moves in on Mom later I think.


At dad’s bathroom door, I ask, “Dad, can I come in?”


“Sure,” he says.


“My hair dryer is broken.”


A hair dryer sits on the cabinet, I pick it up, turn it on and pretend to dry my hair. I have checked the length of the cord. I see Dad close his eyes. I'm not a murderer, am I? 


My arm swings forward, lets go of the hair dryer, and it tumbles toward the bath. I see a splash of bubbles and the hair dryer sinking into the foam. It's still running and bubbles are blowing into the air until the room goes dark. 


Dad begins shouting.


I panic and feel my way out in the dark, making it to the door and shuffling down the hallway to the living room, back to where everyone is waiting.


A few seconds later, I hear Dad’s heavy footsteps upstairs, and his shouting becomes louder and louder. I see a dim glow. Then I see dad, he’s holding his Nokia phone with his face lit up from below like a horror film, and he looks really angry.


“Angela? Angela?”


I’m too scared to say anything, maybe I should run, but where will I go?


“Angela, are you ok?”


“I’m ok,” I squeak.


“I don't know how, but you dropped your hair dryer in the bathtub. We have a short circuit, I’ll flip the breaker,” Dad says. “We are all lucky to be alive!”


I’m happy Dad didn't die. Mom and Seth talked me into this plan, but Dad never did anything bad to me.


Dad stretches his arms over his head and says happily, “Three close calls in one day, whew! This reminds me how much I love all of you,” and hugs us, wet bath robe, bubbles, and all.


After we get settled, we sit down to watch TV. As usual, Dad talks over all the Discovery Channel programs . His explaining now feels comforting. I don't know what we were even thinking today. The problems we are having, we will get through as a family, just like they say. 


When it gets late, Dad says, “It's almost New Year's Eve, I'm going to go down to get the Champagne.”


I hear Dad open the basement door. He’s walking down the stairs. Suddenly, a series of loud thuds echo from the staircase. There's a final crash and then silence.


We all stare at each other in the living room. A tingle goes down my spine. One family member didn't update us on her plan.


“Grandma?” I ask.


Grandma comes out of the kitchen, takes a look down the staircase and says, “Never underestimate the elderly. Extra virgin olive oil on the steps down to his liquor fridge. An unfortunate accident.” Grandma winks at me.


I’m still in shock. “Why? He’s your son.” 


“That terrible son of mine killed your grandfather, that's how he took over the family business," she says, "You didn’t think your grandfather's fall was an accident, did you?” 

September 16, 2022 09:36

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29 comments

Michał Przywara
20:46 Sep 16, 2022

Heh, this is darkly amusing :) I think mentioning Seth having plan B and the narrator having plan C was a good example of foreshadowing. Since plan C was mentioned we just *had* to get to that stage, which meant the two prior ones would fail. It remained to be seen how. The ending's a nice turn around, where it looks like the family (at least the narrator) might have had a change of heart, and then that's dashed by a treacherous senior. A pity about Bandit though :) Thanks for sharing!

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21:17 Sep 16, 2022

thanks for reading, happy to hear it sort of works;) indeed, I read that for comedy, if a plan isn't going to work we explain it all in the beginning, and then the reader can see how it all fails later. That's sort of a spoiler for every heist film too.

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Seán Mc Nicholl
08:10 Sep 23, 2022

Haha Scott! I do love a dark humour, and this is it exactly!! Loved the multiple plans and them all failing! Thought it was going to be a soppy ending but then BAM comes grandma! Love it!! Well done!

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09:18 Sep 23, 2022

Thanks, happy to hear you enjoyed the totally out of the blue grandma twist lol.

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19:19 Sep 21, 2022

I loved this, Scott! The humour was on point all the way through and the ending was just great. One thing I really appreciated was the narrative structure: you lured us in with a great opening line, then outlined the Plans A, B and C, then tied it together in a satisfying way. Some stories can be a slog to get through, but this one was impossible to stop reading. One small critique I have is if you could have foreshadowed the Grandma's existence beforehand (maybe through descriptions or throwaway dialogue) so it didn't feel out of the blue...

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21:21 Sep 21, 2022

Thanks for commenting and happy to hear you enjoyed it. I didnt want to explicitly list grandma and have her on the abcd list, but couldnt think of a lowkey way to mention her earlier, your idea of dialogue, etc would have worked well. I’ll try something like that in the future.

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Marty B
03:54 Sep 20, 2022

Oh so dark! and the dog :( I liked this line 'The deer head mounted on the wall in the dining room looks my way.'

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Kendall Defoe
22:08 Sep 19, 2022

Did I see this movie late one night back in my teen years? This was fantastic. Just a few punctuation problems - needs more commas - but this had me gripped. And what happens next?

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15:57 Sep 20, 2022

thx! went for fun and silliness happy you enjoyed it. It did get accepted before my final check for punctuation. Next chapter, concept..I would like to think the dad was just misunderstood, and it was all a plot to takeover the crown of the family company by mom, grandma, the son, or maybe even the daughter playing a very long game.

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Craig Westmore
20:32 Sep 19, 2022

I love the premise. The casual decision to kill their father reminds me of The Addams Family. It wasn't entirely clear why everyone wanted him dead and I don't think the narrator should change her mind. If she didn't really have a reason to do it then why did she? Have her be just as committed as the rest of them. The decision to give up could come from exhaustion or the fear of almost being found out by a prying neighbor. If you somehow show all the characters at the table at the beginning and hint that grandma is docile and/or unaware of ...

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Lily Finch
19:22 Sep 18, 2022

Pretty telling that the dad was going to die. The grandmother, his mother, was the surprise murderer. I felt terrible about the dog Bandit. I thought the story was excellent. Thanks, Scott. LF6

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21:12 Sep 18, 2022

Thx happy you enjoyed it, Bandit was taken to the vet and still has a chance for a comeback;)

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Lily Finch
22:00 Sep 18, 2022

I hope you write another one. LF6

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Daniel Allen
16:00 Sep 18, 2022

Nice! I really enjoyed this. I like how you managed to bring out Dad's unpleasant character throughout the piece, culminating with Grandma's revelation.

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16:45 Sep 18, 2022

Thanks! Happy to hear it all worked;) I had a few paragraphs spelling out how bad dad was but deleted them to keep it more in the subtest. Also with the grandma's revelation, one could also wonder if turning on the head of the family runs in the family dna was an idea I wnted to throw out there.

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Tommy Goround
08:20 Sep 18, 2022

Cool. Good twist. Good flow.. That's entertainment.

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15:21 Sep 18, 2022

Thx happy the flow and murder in three part structure entertainment worked😅

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Kate Winchester
02:35 Sep 18, 2022

Poor Bandit! The dark humor is great. I kind of feel bad for liking it, which is a tribute to your writing. I love the homage to Y2K. Great job!

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07:32 Sep 18, 2022

Thx for reading and commenting, I found a list of important historical events, and then thought.. nah. And did one most people have forgotten about already. Maybe Bandit will be ok in the sequel, I left the plot open;)

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Kate Winchester
13:17 Sep 18, 2022

You’re welcome. Lol, in the sequel everyone else dies and surprise, Bandit’s alive. 🤣

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15:16 Sep 18, 2022

😂😂

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Kelsey H
21:35 Sep 17, 2022

The dark humor in this was so good. The repeated failed hits on the father were great and so well described, especially how he's oblivious the whole time to all the near misses. Love how grandma gets the final word.

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07:30 Sep 18, 2022

Thx for reading and commenting, happy you foudn the dad being oblivious the whole time funny and the ending with the grandma funny;)

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09:38 Sep 16, 2022

Inspired by Tolstoy's stories of family conflicts, my attempt to include all 5 prompts in a story.

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Frank Lester
23:27 Sep 25, 2022

I was waiting for the old man to hike back up the stairs and warn everyone that they need to put skid pads on the steps. Seemed as though he couldn't be killed until the devious senior got involved. Good story. An interesting twist on a family plan. Questioning whether "I am a murderer" is a thought-provoking show of conscience. Well put together. Nice twist at the end. Thanks for sharing it.

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11:50 Sep 22, 2022

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11:49 Sep 22, 2022

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20:00 Sep 20, 2022

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L.M. Lydon
22:21 Sep 18, 2022

I love how Grandma's actually the effective one. Having the dad obsess about the nonexistent Y2K disaster was fun. Great first paragraph!

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