Every now and again I publish a short story instead of a book review. So as it’s almost Halloween here is a little tale of dark humour and cannibalism.
#WhateverHappenedtoAuntAda @cookiebiscuit #shortstory
Photo credit Danielle Lade
‘So you had just started telling me Stan, whatever happened to Aunt Ada? She seemed so fit for 93.’
‘She was. Good strong bones with plenty of meat still on them. You know how old people often get really skinny. Lose all muscle tone. But not Ada. She went to Pilates twice a week, right up until she was almost ninety. And she played tennis at Wimbledon when she was in her twenties. Hockey too. Taught PE at the local convent school. Received an MBE for services to sport after she retired.’
‘Wow, she sounds like a remarkable lady,’ Jean was ramming another slice of roast meat and horseradish into her mouth and chewing appreciatively.
‘Didn’t she leave her body to medical science or something?’ she continued.
‘Something like that.’ replied Stan, ‘Something like that. Pass the potatoes won’t you my dearest.’
‘I don’t want to be cremated after I die,’ said Aunt Ada.
‘Well we won’t do it beforehand,’ laughed Stan. ‘How’s your crackling by the way? Is it crispy enough?’
‘Mmmm. Delicious. And the apple sauce is to die for. Are the Bramleys from old Mr Johnson’s garden.’
‘All home grown my dear, all home grown.’
‘What happened to him, that Mr Johnson? Didn’t he die quite recently?’
‘Funnily enough, it was only a couple of weeks ago,’ replied Stan. ‘Went quick. Heart just stopped. Shame, because he was in really good condition for 78. Played five-a-side football up until his sixties and coached the youngsters from the deprived areas.’
‘In really good condition…you make him sound like a prize heifer Stan.’
‘It’s the same thing really. And he didn’t want to be cremated either.’
‘It’s good to know I’m helping the environment. No grave to dig and tend and take up room in the cemetery. No smoke to pollute the atmosphere.’ Ada was in bed at home, no hospital for a hardy old duck like her. Nothing like dying at home in your own space. It had always been her wish.
It didn’t take long. She went to sleep to the sounds of Classic FM and didn’t wake up the next morning. Stan was with her of course. She’d never married or had any children. He was her only remaining relative. And all her friends had passed long ago, Madge who she’d known since they were children at 77, Edith from the corner shop at 81. She had even outlived Maud who was a right old dragon in her time. Used to be the caller at the Bingo. Clickety click, sixty six. Eighty eight, two fat ladies. They said it was her bad temper that kept her going till she was almost 90. She said it was because she was one of the two fat ladies. But even she couldn’t match Ada’s rude health and sharp wit.
‘I was just thinking, Ada. If you don’t want to be cremated, have you thought about what you’d like done with your body? Afterwards, I mean.’
‘You can stick me in a bin liner and chuck me in the dumpster for all I care. I won’t be here to see it will I?’
‘That wouldn’t be very good for the environment would it and the bin men would never get over the shock. All those limbs sticking out of the bag. It would be like a horror film or one of those crime thrillers. You know when they come to collect the rubbish and there’s a hand poking out with a digit missing.’
‘Stan, you are awful. I think that’s why we get on so well.’
‘There are other options of course.’
‘I’m not being buried at sea, if that’s what you’re thinking,’ she continued. ‘Always hated the water. That’s why I never learnt how to swim.’
‘You won’t be swimming, Ada my dear. Not even floating. But I wasn’t thinking of anything like that. You’re far too valuable to be fish food. Let me explain my after-death plan. I think it might take off and become popular if people could just stop being so squeamish.’
‘Yes Jean my sweet.’
‘I was just wondering whether this is beef or lamb. It has an unusual taste, lighter somehow.’
‘It’s neither actually. It’s Aunt Ada.’
‘Ha ha Stan. You do make me laugh. You have such a warped sense of humour.’
‘I’m not joking Jean. It really is Aunt Ada. She and I made an agreement a few years ago. She didn’t want to be cremated…’
‘You see, you were enjoying it before I told you. We were having such a lovely dinner. Now you’ve gone and spoiled it. It’s good meat, human. Bit like veal or chicken, especially if the person lived a healthy life. No smoking or too much alcohol. Stay out of the sun at noon times. Moisturise every day. Plenty of flesh but not too much fat. There’s loads more in the freezer.’
‘Please tell me you’re joking. I’m going to be sick, Stan. I think there’s something stuck in my throat…’
‘Don’t be like that Jean. At least finish the roast potatoes and the cauliflower cheese. It’s your favourite.’
‘So you had just started telling me Stan, whatever happened to Jean? I gather she passed away quite recently.’
‘Very sad it was, Margaret. We were going to be married next year.’ Stan was chewing the meat off a lengthy femur. ‘Quite sudden actually. She choked on a metatarsal. It was such a lovely dinner we were having. Roast with the full works. Yorkshire pudding, bread sauce, spiced parsnips and my special gravy. And cauliflower cheese of course. It was her favourite.’
‘Oh Stan. I love cauliflower cheese, but it’s the meat part I like best. This is like veal. Very tender,’ said Margaret.
‘Funny you should say that my dear. I like the meat best too. And this is very special. Cooked with love as they say. And there’s plenty more in the freezer.’