Joan and Judy
Joan Dennison and Judy Partridge were long time residents of Pickleberry. They met at the 1950 town bake-off, bonding through the delight of shared recipe tips. The bake-off was to be held this month, like it was every year and Joan and Judy were sure as pie going to enter. Joan had won the bake-off almost every year, with her first win being sixty years ago, for her delectable lemon cream pie. Judy had always participated in the bake-off but she never took it seriously, not as seriously as Joan did. Judy never took anything as seriously as Joan did.
Pickleberry was prone to drought. 1984 was a particularly harsh year, and the grocer had forgotten to check his list before delivery, so fresh cream became unavailable to Pickleberry townsfolk. The bake-off was threatened to be cancelled! However, Joan and Judy refused to give up. Joan accepted Judy’s offer of a cup of fresh cream from Mrs Moo with absolute glee, as Mrs Moo, being a pet cow and all, was still producing milk. Joan made many lemon cream pies and shared them amongst the community, raising morale during the drought. She never openly declared that Judy had made it possible.
After all, it was Joan’s lemon cream pie that attracted well known entrepreneur Leroy Cummings to town every year. He put the town on the pastry lover’s map. The local council even erected an enormous lemon cream pie in the town’s centre, so that the passing train passengers and highway motorists could see it and remember to put it on their list of ultimate Sunday-drive destinations. Joan had counted on living high up to expectations this year at the bake-off but unfortunately, Judy said, Mrs Moo was in a drought herself. Mrs Moo has contracted mad cow disease, asked Joan?
Joan hid her disappointment well. She and Judy had gone way back, to the 1950 bake-off, but, unknown to everybody else, the two had always been rivals. So Joan pretended that it did not matter if she used Mrs Moo’s cream or not, as expected. Unfortunately for Judy, Joan knew that by often saying nothing, sitting on the fence during discussions and simply by being pleasant, people have no reason to judge you. Judy, on the other hand, had a mouth on her. One that flapped up and down like a trap door during a cyclone.
On delivery day, Mr and Mrs Dennison met Mr and Mrs Partridge down town. Nice to see you Don, said Mr Earl Partridge. Nice to see you Earl, said Mr Don Dennison. Don, I’m sure you are excited about the bake-off this year. I hear that Mrs Wesley’s jam tarts are a must-try, said Earl. I think one tart’s enough for Don, don’t you think dear? said Judy, boldly dragging her eyes from Joan to the lemon pie monument which cast a shadow over one side of Judy’s face. Joan’s heels clicked along the pavement even on the next block.
Judy was in her kitchen piling cream on to pavlova. She licked the wooden spoon, passed it through the window to Mrs Moo who smelled it, sneezed, then trod away flicking flies with her tail in through the window. Earl, we’re going next door. I’ve made pavlova and wish to share it with the Dennison’s. Joan answered the door and stared at Judy. And what would you like? I’m sorry about my behaviour earlier, said Judy. I’ve made you pavlova. Can we come in? That better be light cream on top Judy, said Joan. Oh, it is Joan, it is.
The foursome devoured the pavlova. They drank tea and reminisced about the good old days. Like when Don and Earl won the men’s squash championship, when Judy and Don used to go round together, when Judy and Don snuck in to the drive-in. There were so many memories, some of which Joan was surprised Judy was openly talking about. My, my it is getting late, said Joan. Then in exclamation, oh no, I’ve missed the store! I’ve no cream! Never-mind dear, get some in the morning, said Don. Yes, Joan, there’ll be plenty left in the morning, said Judy, grinning.
Joan went to the grocer first thing in the morning to buy cream but as the grocer informed her, cream had sold out yesterday. No he didn’t know how or why or who, it was just sold out! Joan was devastated. Angry. She knew who to blame. She knew who had bought the cream. Judy. Judy had bought it all to sabotage Joan’s famous lemon cream pie. And Judy had made Joan devour the evidence. That pavlova, she muttered under her breath. Joan had decided it was time to jump off the fence. Right in to Judy’s backyard, that is.
Joan snatched a sharp knife and a meat tenderiser from the kitchen draw. She wondered if she should take the chainsaw, just in case. She threw on her floral apron, then changed her mind and replaced it with her checkered apron before packing the tools in to her picnic basket. Joan didn’t make eye contact with Don as she left. She couldn’t involve him in this. He didn’t deserve it. He had been a good husband, they had made a great team during their sixty years of marriage, but still, it wasn’t fair to drag him through her imminent downfall.
She should have brought the chainsaw – limbs are difficult to hack off with a knife. She would try to remember this for next time. Mrs Moo was certainly not the one with mad cow disease, thought Joan as she hacked off another one of Mrs Moo’s legs. Call it instinct, call it what you like but, there’s no doubt that Judy had lied about Mrs Moo’s illness, denying Joan her fresh cream for the bake-off. It seemed so easy to butcher the cow. Maybe because she had imagined it so powerfully in her mind before, hacking up a mad cow.
Yes, Joan knew it was always better to keep her mouth closed, to remain polite and always stay on the fence during critical town discussions, especially on bake-off day. This entitled no one to judge her – neither her opinion nor her cooking. So when Joan served her new recipe of chunky steak and fresh mushroom pie at the the bake-off, instead of her famous lemon cream pie that she had cooked and served every year for the past sixty years, the stunned townsfolk took to their own fenced pens and Joan remained safe inside hers. For the time being, anyway.
The shock of Joan’s change of taste affected everyone. Some refused to try the pie and didn’t talk to Joan before leaving. Others enjoyed the pie immensely and claimed it should replace the lemon cream pie monument in the town centre immediately. One man took to starting the job himself and began hacking at the cement with a butter knife. Mr Leroy Cummings said it was the most delicious chunky steak and fresh mushroom pie he had ever…ooh a butterfly. Mr Cummings was suddenly distracted mid sentence, and stared intently at the sky while mushroom dribbled from his open mouth.
You have done it now, haven’t you Joan? I know what’s in your pie, you selfish cow! Judy threw herself on Joan and started punching Joan’s bony arms with her knuckles – it sounded like a corroboree – but Judy started to slip on Joan’s recently moisturised skin and all Leroy Cummings saw was Judy’s fingers clasping at the deep valleys in Joan’s arms as she slid down on the fake cork tiles of the community hall kitchen floor. Two neat perms fluttered to the floor and Mr Cummings’ hysterical cackle echoed throughout the community hall, somewhat buckling the fake cork tiles.
A Harley Davidson croaked in the parking bay in front of the community hall. The bikey swaggered up to the open doors, gave a pointless two-knock and stepped inside. Fake cork tile. He spat on it. I’ve never been a ‘fake anything’ sort of man. Especially with flowers. He picked up a bunch of fake daisies from a plastic vase near the cake stand and threw them to the floor. His metal-buckled boots pressed them in to the cork tiled floor. Or mushrooms, he added. Then and in a surprisingly quiet voice, he called, Joan, we need to talk business?
Joan scuffed her shoes along the fake cork tiles, puffing her palm under her perm along the way. Mr Dirk, what a surprise! You know him? Asked Don. Joan ignored her husband. Joan, Joan, it seems there’s been some, how should I put it, lack of fungi – west side of town; the boys are crying Joan, the boys are crying? I understand, Mr Dirk, your concern. Cup of tea perhaps? Mushroom pie? Mr Dirk panned the room with his eyes then exhaled; the grumble in his throat echoed louder than the Harley Davidson engine, shattering one of Don’s ribs.
Judy scrambled from the floor, clutched on to Joan’s eighty-year-old breasts and declared, she put mushrooms in the pie! Magic mushrooms! They gave Mrs Moo mad cow disease and now you will have it too! Mr Cummings crawled towards Dirk, hugged his ankles and whined like a crook dog. She’s the best pie maker in the world, I want more, Leroy wants more! More! Back off, said Mr Dirk or I’ll turn your face in to a lovely mashed potato and mushy-pea pie. Meanwhile, someone dropped to the ground screaming, I hate fire crackers!
Suddenly Earl appeared, flicking something bristly between his hands. He screamed, Mrs Moo was murdered – I found her tail in the veggie patch! Judy lunged at Joan – you monster! You killed her, I knew you were up to something! – Mr Dirk stretched out his giant hand, Judy flipped over him, smashed her ankle on the plastic vase, flinging her moccasin right on to Mr Cummings’ face. He shook his head like a wet dog then turned to the bikey: who the hell are you? The one that’s about to aid you in your “come-down”. Mr Cummings ran for it.
The townsfolk of Pickleberry poured from the community hall like hot scrambled eggs from a Tupperware container. Mr Cummings stumbled over the gutter then scuffled towards the town’s lemon cream pie monument. Mr Dirk cracked his fists against his palms. Back at the hall, you could hear another of Don’s ribs crack. Judy hobbled towards a parked mobility scooter, switched the key and took off after Mr Dirk the bikey. She passed Earl in the street, who then flung himself on the back and began whipping Mrs Moo’s tail like a jockey with a whip, go Judy ‘ole girl, go!
A bus full of tourists suddenly arrived and passengers were fanatically ticking off the thumbnail picture of a lemon pie on a tourist map of Pickleberry area. That’s Leroy Cummings from Pickleberry Tourism, someone shouted. Leroy had scrambled up the monument and was now clinging to the cement crimping. Earl stopped whipping the bikey’s calves with Mrs Moo’s tail, the bikey stopped pounding his fists, and Judy screamed as her mobility scooter slammed in to the lemon pie monument. Mr Cummings’ last words as he fell to his death were, Joan Dennison wins the bake-off for her fresh mussshrooom piieeeeeeee!
The bikey left town, the tourists returned to the city, however, as predicted, Joan remained on her fence. Joan never mentioned a word regarding Mr Cummings’ death. After all, she hadn’t witnessed the incident, she had been cleaning the community hall and tending to her husband Don’s broken ribs at the time. You see, Judy was right. Joan had made the townsfolk high on magic mushrooms. Understand though, it had rained heavily the night before Joan handpicked those rather colourful looking mushrooms from the paddock. After all, they were Mrs Moo’s favourite. As for the bikey? Well, that’s another story…
Joan and Judy was originally released as a one hundred word story series on The Literary Gangster blog. Fans had to wait each day to read the next part of the story. It was an intense time!