Short Story: Ketchup Days

“This is not blood, my dear.  It’s ketchup.”  The young police constable was trying to keep the smirk from his face, rather unsuccessfully I might add.  I could tell he thought me a kooky old bat.  Maybe he’s right, but I panicked when I came home to see the walls painted red and Oliver lying amidst it all, not moving.  I suppose the sickly sweet stench of tomato sauce should have given it away but I’ve never smelt a dead body before.  For all I know, it could quite conceivably smell like the gallons of ketchup that is now smeared all over my expensive wallpaper and Italian leather sofas.

“And what about Oliver?” I asked.  “Is he dead?”  The police officer looked confused, until I pointed to the stagnant body of my husband languishing in the corner of the room.

“No, Mrs Durham.  Not dead.  Drunk, I’d guess.”  He twisted his lips in amused thought for a moment.  I could tell that I was going to be the joke of the day at the station.  “Dead drunk, maybe.”

I wonder if Mr. I’m-a-very-funny-policeman saw the flicker of disappointment in my eyes.  Dead would be better than dead drunk, that’s for sure.  He’ll be dead soon enough if I have my way – Oliver, that is, although I could certainly see the police constable ambling into my firing line.  That’s when Oliver awoke: as though to spite me.

He had snored loudly and dramatically, over in his little ketchup-corner.  In doing so, he accidentally inhaled a good globule of the gunk in which he lay and ended up coughing and retching, struggling to an upright position to stop himself from choking.  I couldn’t help but sigh with disappointment that his survival instinct had kicked in.  The idiot constable looked between us and laughed.  How dare he?

“So, is there anything else I can help you with Mrs Durham?” Constable Ha-Ha asked.  “Perhaps there is some spilt milk in the kitchen, or a smashed mayonnaise jar in the garden?”  I sneered at him and his ridiculous grin.  He just couldn’t help himself, could he?   I ground my teeth in frustration, trying to stop my temper from re-aiming.

“You know, next time you come home to a culinary disaster such as this, perhaps you need to phone a cleaner for the mess and a take-away for dinner, rather than dialling 999.”  That did it.  Mr I’m-so-much-better-than-you had crossed the line and something snapped inside me.

“Actually, Police Constable, I do require your assistance in the kitchen for a moment,” I replied, my eyes narrowing as I took aim.  I had released the tension in my jaw, acting all sweetness and light.  “I am a weak old lady and as you see, my husband is a useless, ketchup-covered parasite.”  I held out my arm to guide Police Constable Look-who’s-in-trouble-now and he plodded before me with quite an audible huff.  I was glad to hear that he, too, was tiring of his little jokes and was ready to leave.  The cheeky little so-and-so would get what was coming to him.

I followed, a few feet behind him of course, hobbling in the way that everyone expects old ladies to hobble.  It is my ‘you-don’t-need-to-be-afraid-of-me-because-I’m-too-weak’ act but little did he know that as I walked into the kitchen behind him, I picked up a bottle of ketchup from the crate I had hidden behind the door.  A good, old-fashioned, heavy glass bottle – the type that can take a good thumping on its bottom.

“Here it is, Police Constable,” I said, emulating his earlier smug grin, and as he turned to see, the heavy glass bottom of the ketchup bottle connected nicely with that bone-filled head of his.  His grin finally slipped as the glass shards stuck into his skull and the ketchup dribbled down his face before he slid slowly to the floor.  I giggled with satisfaction.  His eyes were rolling back in his head!  I should score some good points for that one.

That’s when I heard my no-good, pea-brained, idiot of a husband stumbling through the corridor behind me, still dazed from his own little ketchup…accident.  “You’ve done it again,” he groaned groggily as I turned to him, smiling and content.  There’s nothing like a mid-afternoon murder to make me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

“Yes, Oliver.  I’ve done it again.  There’s not a problem, is there?”

“You can’t keep killing people, Arabella.”  He staggered over to the cupboard and pulled the tea-towel out from over the door.  He began to slowly, methodically, wipe away the previous night’s now sticky and half-congealed ketchup.  “All because you feel they don’t respect you?  Ha!  I can see the headlines now: ‘Ketchup Killer Strikes Again’.  Perhaps when the police finally catch up with you, they can say ‘Ketchup Killer in a Pickle’.”  He laughed in his tired and irritating way.  He sounded almost as though he were bored of all this now but no, I couldn’t allow it.

“You need to be careful what you say, Oliver.  Do you want a repeat of last night?”  I shuddered when I thought back to the previous night.  I had lost control, which is so unlike me.  I’d thrown six bottles in total, all directed at his head.  He had dared to question me then, and now he is daring again.  I had managed to knock him out last night but unfortunately, he’d survived.  Still, there are benefits to his survival.  “Now Oliver, dispose of this body and clear up this mess immediately.  You know what will happen if you don’t.  I have six bottles left in my crate and as you know, I’m not afraid to use them.  I shan’t be putting up with your nonsense any longer.”

As I sashayed from the kitchen with a smile on face, I heard him groan with aches and age as he dragged the body towards the door, and I couldn’t help thinking to myself: this is the good life.

Featured image source

Artwork by Anna Eveleigh

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