Today I had high tea with a group of ladies living at an Independent & Assisted Living Seniors complex. It was a great place to conduct research for "Say Cheese Before You Die." After introducing myself, and explaining what the book is about, I asked the ladies to tell me what their husbands do/did that made them want to kill them.
At first the ladies' flowery china cups stopped halfway to their mouths, and their eyes grew large. One of them choked on a blueberry muffin, while another slapped her on the back, dislodging her hearing aid. "Oh, my husband was wonderful," one said. "He was always there for me when I needed him."
The other ladies nodded. "Yes, my husband is such a sweet man. I'd never want to kill him," another said.
I sipped some decaffeinated, herbal tea and raised one brow. "So none of your husbands ever did anything to annoy you? They never did anything to make you want to give them a knuckle sandwich?" The china clinked as I set the cup on the saucer. My gaze circled the table. "They never left the toilet seat up?"
Their expressions changed from angelic to demonic. "Well, as a matter of fact, there was something my husband used to do that annoyed me," Agnes, a tiny woman with a string of pearls resting on her gray angora turtleneck, said. The rest of the women pushed their walkers out of the way and scooted closer to the table. "We lived in a very nice neighborhood, with a large garage, and a driveway big enough for both of our cars, but he would always park on the street whenever he wanted to go out again."
The ladies gasped, and one patted Agnes on the hand in commiseration.
"And my Franklin, is always forgetting people's names," Maria said, as she straightened her napkin over her soft plaid, Pendleton woolen skirt. "So I will say, 'Franklin, you remember Margaret and Herb, don't you?' so that he has their names. Instead of just saying, 'Yes,' he says, 'Of course I remember them,' like I'm stupid for having thought he didn't."
There was a chorus of low growls.
"That has often made me want to hold a pillow over his face," Maria said.
"And no one would blame you," Margaret agreed.
Now the ladies seemed eager to discuss annoying habits. "Oh, and my husband likes to feed the cat on the counter by the sink." Edith chimed in. "It just makes my skin crawl. You know where those paws have been."
We spent the next hour discussing extenuating circumstances for murder, amid tea cookies and muffins. When the wall clock clicked onto 4PM, I excused myself, took all the china cups out to the kitchen, and washed them. When I finished, most of the ladies were still gathered around the tea table. "That was a most enjoyable tea," one said, and they all smiled and nodded.
I love research. As my co-worker said after spending a couple of hours discussing this same subject over lunch, "Time flies when you are planning murders."
What does your spouse/significant other do that annoys you?
Editor's note: Melanie Sherman does not advocate murdering your spouse, even if he leaves the seat up. This was research for a fictional murder.