delicious, knife, mystery

“To my beautiful daughter, I leave the Pensacola Manor. I want you to enjoy this property with your children as much as I enjoyed sharing it with you,” the fat attorney states.
He continues: “To my adopted grandson, I leave my 415 Cadbury estate. Meet a girl who likes boys and settle down.”
A nostalgic chuckle rumbles in the small office, as if I’m the butt of some joke. Some long running family joke about, oh I don’t know, how my ex-girlfriend became a lesbian and left me for my other ex-girlfriend who is also a lesbian. We all get together once a month for coffee.
My grandpa reminded me of my adoption every chance he got. Even from beyond the grave during this will reading. It’s annoying, but not enough to turn down a free house.

I just moved into this new old house. The exterior is old and Victorian-looking. It was built in the early 1900’s but the insides have been completely renovated.
“Hi, welcome to the neighborhood. We’re the Adekoya’s,” the first cheerful family recites.
“I’m Jonathan Adekoya, but you can call me John,” said the man as he shakes my hand.
“Oh thanks, Johnny.”
“Is that for me?” I ask the woman.
“Why yes it is. It’s just some homemade cookies, a pie, and a greeting pamphlet from the NWA, that’s the Neighborhood Watch Association for short. These should help you get started. Oh, how rude, my name is Mary, these are our children John and Rebecca. And we’re all so sorry to hear about what happened to your grandfather. Walter was just the nicest.”
“Thank you for your kind words and it’s, um, nice to meet you all…”
Awkward silence.
“As soon as I get settled in, I would love to have you all over for a little house warming party. Oh, that’s my phone. I have to take that. It was nice meeting yall.” I close the door then smell the pie.
The phone didn’t ring; I assumed they were the snoopy neighbor types, so I kept the conversation short. Plus, I didn’t want their kids coming in and touching my moving boxes, and putting their sticky hands on my things. Over the next two hours, I have almost identical conversations with the other neighbors.
The next several months were actually quite fun. My passion for painting, or more accurately, pretending to be a painter by having art supplies laying about, is growing. My job is going good; I design greeting cards.
My new neighbors have some sort of party for our little cul-de-sac on every possible holiday, birthday or good report card. They are essentially the same people, so I am a great addition to the neighborhood because I spice things up. I use passive aggressive humor as much as possible to break up the monotony of their obvious puns and jokes about raising kids or working for corporations.
It’s winter, my favorite season, and my ring tone is now “Jingle Bells.” It’s a quiet Sunday night. I sit down on my grandpa’s old comfortable leather chair in front of the fire place with a cup of hot cocoa. The snow is gently falling outside. The night sky is clear and the waxing moon floods the snow with a beautiful blue sparkle.
This is absolutely perfect until the rude interruption of my door bell.
My face, blank when I open the door, stays frozen, as I shut the door in their smiling, singing faces. Don’t get me wrong, I like Christmas music, but only when performed by chipmunks or barking dogs.
These neighbors are family-having suburbanites. My immediate family has been reduced to me and my three-year-old Swedish pug, Amy. I don’t know her exact age, but I measure the years since I found her in a dumpster. Also, I’m not sure if she’s Swedish but she was gnawing on a Swedish Fish wrapper when I lifted a junky sled off of her.
But these are my neighbors and forcibly, my friends. So, I take my “damn it all” face off and replace it with my “good ol’ fashioned ribbing” face and open the door again.
“Ahhh… I’m just kidding. How are you all doing? Here, come inside. I just made hot cocoa.” By made, I meant bought… in packets… on sale… because they expire today… oh wait, yesterday… wait, one year ago yesterday. I can’t tell for sure, the expiration date is partially rubbed off.
As they settle in my grandpa-smelling living room, I hurry into the kitchen.
“Meh, you get what you pay for. Which in their case is nothing,” I mumble to myself as I turn the faucet to hot.
John and Mary will be wanting to talk to me about new NWA information, at least that’s what I assume as I carry the hot chocolate into the room and notice typed notes on NWA stationery laying my coffee table. Their kids sit oddly in the parlor room. Even though the TV’s on, the boy is staring out the window and the girl is staring at Amy. Amy looks uncomfortable.
“It’s a shame you weren’t at the last NWA meeting,” says Mary. “We covered so much, mostly winter things, you know, rules and regulations about how to keep our neighborhood looking great.”
“Oh, thanks for stopping by to give me all the updates. I was so sick the other day. Cold and flu season always get me,” I innocently shrug.
“I thought you were working late?”
“Um, yeah… I was sick of working late. (nervous chuckle). I was working and I was sick; they just don’t give me a break there.”
“I understand, they keep John at the office ‘til all hours of the night.” Mary glowers and it kind of scares me. I’m just relieved they skip right over my revealed lie and even tackier cover up.
“Mary Beary, you know I’m only taking those hours so we can afford our winter get-a-way. Well, that’s also part of the reason we stopped by. We were wondering if you would be able to do us all a favor. Could you look after our houses while we’re gone? You know, just turn on our lights at night, bring in the mail. That sort of thing.”
“Of course, not a problem.”
“Excellent, we’ll owe you one. We’ll be gone for about 3 weeks.” John aggressively shakes my hand. Mary grins widely.
“Oh, by the way, our new neighbor will be moving in soon. His name is Meredith Becket; try to make him feel welcome. And, oh, he’s a chef. Now we have an edge in the neighborhood bake-off this 4th of July. Oh, I can’t wait to see Michelle Sheppard’s face when she sees our pastries! I’m crossing my fingers Mr. Becket is a pastry chef. Oh, Michelle is just going to die!” Mary is overly titillated and darkly competitive; I want to offer her a cigarette when she finishes her rant, or perhaps a diaper.
“Thanks again for doing this for us,” One of the Johns says gratefully outside his house. The sun is seconds away from setting.
“Oh no, it’s no problem. Have fun in Hawaii and make sure to bring me back something nice!” I demand.
“You got it buddy. Here is our flight and hotel information, and the keys for Jake’s and John’s garage doors. My security code is 3298. Jake’s is 9823. John’s is 2389. It’s all on the sheet, in case you forget.” I forget immediately.
“Oh, yes, thank you…. But for real, bring me back something.”
I wave goodbye to the three vans as they make their way down our block and away to the airport.
I survey the cul-de-sac. My house is on the far left. Light emanates from the menorah, Christmas tree, and light-up skull and crossbones I put in the front window to confuse the neighbors. The three houses to the right are beautifully decorated with Christmas lights and wreaths. Two of them have snowmen in the front yard with real top hats, coal buttons, carrot noses, and scarves. I walk up and steal one the scarves. I should probably wait until next winter to wear it.
Their houses look straight out of any generic home or country living magazine people strategically leave in guest bathrooms.
I wonder if they gave me charge of their homes because they trust me or because they don’t have any other option. All I know is that each house looks more untouched by me than the last. I’m looking forward to going through their stuff. I know they can’t be as robotic as they seem.
The fifth house on our street isn’t decorated with any holiday spirit. It was on the market for ten months before Meredith made an offer. Mary prepared a gift basket; she doesn’t trust me to give a proper welcome. She’s right; I already ate the cookies. The sausage and cheddar looks good (I didn’t get meat and cheese when I moved in), but they take up too large of a space in the basket to remove.
I walk up to wreathed Adekoyas’ door and unlock it. I quickly turn on the porch light and disable the security system. The insides are beautiful and the scent of recently baked cinnamon buns fill the halls. I wish I grew up here.
After perusing through the mail and random drawers, I go back home; Amy and I have a date to spend some quality time together. The absence of neighbors enables me to ignore all leash laws and let Amy do her own thing. I start to make a snowman but it quickly turns into a snow-woman because of the obscenely large snowballs I place on her chest. I go back inside and pull out a small box that was filled with abandoned clothes from my ex-girlfriends. To cover her shame, I dress the snowy looker in a low cut blouse to show off the large frosty cleavage. I step back to admire my work. I decide to name her Ms. Gafford, after my high school art teacher.
Amy and I go back inside and curl up on the big leather chair near the fireplace. We get lost in a hug and fall asleep under a large wool blanket.
I awaken to a ridiculously bright sun shining in my face. I grab a packet of hot chocolate and mix it with steaming microwave water. Letting Amy out for her morning constitution, I notice something abominable in my yard.
There’s a knife in the icy skull of my precious Ms. Beatrice Gafford.
I vomit everywhere. My hot chocolate mug drops dramatically out of my hands and explodes on the concrete steps.
After a snowy 3 minute surgery, my snow princess is okay. However, she doesn’t seem the same. Physically she is healthy, but the trauma has effected her personality. She just stands there, staring at nothing. I put a small icicle tear under her left eye.
I bring the knife and Amy back inside. There is a note taped on the knife:
“I know what you’ve been doing.”
Meredith! It had to be him. But why? I have no idea and barely care. I decide to keep the knife, and instead, grab a recently used butter knife to stick in Meredith’s door. My note:
“For your birthday, I got you a little something special: a butter knife.”
The first part of the message is a new card I designed at work and the latter is a little something I customized especially for him.
I know I have to approach this situation delicately because, well, he stuck a knife in my snow-woman. I have no idea if he is capable of shoving a knife in my head.
I walk innocently over to Meredith’s house to drop off the gift basket and stab the butter knife into the space between the frame and the door. While running back to my house, I hear a “hey you” coming from behind me. I stop, not because of his calls, but because I’m terribly out of shape and need to catch my breath. A man comes up behind me.
“I think you left this stuck in my door, and P.S., it’s not my birthday.”
“Oh, my bad. I found a knife in um, my snow…” I’m too embarrassed to say snow-princess, so I quickly spit out, “and I thought it might be yours.”
“Not mine, but I could take that off your hands if you want. It’s a Sashimi. Thanks for the gift basket. I’m Meredith by the way, but you should call me Mer.”
“Okay, well, its nice to meet you, Mer.”
“Some of the neighbors told me you’re a chef.
“Yeah, I am. And I’m pretty good, too. I was a sous chef in Philadelphia. Hey, you should come over and I’ll cook you my signature dish.”
“Great, see you at 6:45. Don’t be late.”
He walks back to his house while my mind is still trying to generate a plausible excuse for why I can’t come tonight.
The plan was to spend tonight watching the Food Network; there will be a marathon of cake challenges. My love for TV and cake were going to gloriously combine tonight, but now I’m stuck going to my possibly over-medicated neighbor’s house for what may be my last meal. At least the John’s were normal and wildly predictable.
“How do I describe Mer. He looks my age and is a little shorter than I. He’s a chef, but oh so much more. Meredith is the equivalent to listening to your voicemail. The sound is vaguely familiar, like a doppelganger with a higher voice. Kind of like watching a movie with your parents and a sex scene happens. You can’t look away because you are paralyzed with embarrassment. That, but add crazy.” I’m reading my journal entry aloud. I try to draw him on the opposite page but Crayola hasn’t invented a “Knife-wielding Blue” or “Awkward Red” yet.
I promised Amy I would take her to Pet Me (her favorite store) and once there, she’s immediately drawn to the holiday-theme dog clothes. I buy the candy cane outfit because she looks like a pug version of Where’s Waldo? and it makes me laugh.
Amy is ready for tonight, but am I? No, but I throw on a pair of jeans and my “Y2K Survivor” shirt. The sun is now setting and the clock reads 6:42.
“Alright, come on Amy, let’s get this over and done with.”
Mer’s house, to my surprise, is completely unpacked and impressively just plain old off the hook. I see a 67” LCD flat panel TV hooked up to a killer stereo system. His dining room was converted into a fully stocked bar room equipped with a pool AND poker table.
“Make yourself at home, I’m going to check on dinner.”
I set Amy on the floor and she starts to explore.
I think I’ve found my new best friend.
“You are everything I want in my life. Beautiful, sleek, and I know you can make all my wildest dreams come true.”
“It’s a beaut, isn’t?” Mer yells from the kitchen. I slowly break away from my embrace with the TV while nodding and grinning.
Dinner conversation is going great. I subtly insert interrogating knife questions, but so far, he remains innocent. He’s basically a rich chef version of myself. We sit down on the leather sofa and turn on the Bulls game while eating steak cooked to perfection. I warn him of the NWA, the John’s and their robot families. He wants to plan ways to mess with them. Yes!
Dinner and the game eventually end and I decide to look around while Mer cleans up. I see a snowboard in the closet beneath the stairs.
“You snowboard?
“Yeah, I snowboard, but I’m not good,” Mer yells from two rooms over.
“I’m a pretty intense sledder, we should head out to the hill sometime.”
“How ‘bout right now?” Mer proposes as he dries his hand.

Amy is at the top of the hill and Mer is wearing what looks to be professional snowboarding gear – I look homeless by comparison. The hill is empty, likely because it’s a school night. We see a bunch a ‘Danger’ signs but assume they’re for kids. Mer is locked onto his board and I’m on my sled. Each of us are in position at our respective sides of the hill.
I call my sled the Garbage Slammer because it was Amy’s old house in the dumpster. I’m a little worried because I normally fly across the snow in the Slammer, and tonight the snow is especially compact and icy.
“One, two, three, GO!”
Instantly, my sled diverges off course. I hit bump after bump and it’s more painful than anything. My sled spins, pointing me backwards, but I spin around just in time to see a giant snowboard jump. I try to stop with my feet, but it ends up taking one of my shoes off. I fly into the air, the Garbage Slammer violently continues downhill while I hit the ground hard: It knocks the air out of me. I just lay laughing and gasping for air.
I roll over to see Mer half way down the hill covered in snow and laughing hysterically. My hands are freezing and Mer’s nose is bleeding a little from his wipe out. We call it a night.
Amy and I are now tucked in bed and I think of what a great day today was. Amy got a funny new coat and I found my new best friend.
But who stuck that knife in my snow-woman?

delicious, knife, mystery


Mundelein, United States

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