Read Fit to Die Online

Authors: Joan Boswell

Fit to Die

FIT TO DIE

A Crime and Mystery Collection

FIT TO DIE

A Crime and Mystery Collection

Edited by Joan Boswell and Sue Pike

Text © 2001 by the authors

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior consent of the publisher.

We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program.

Napoleon Publishing/RendezVous Press

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

05 04 03 02 01     5 4 3 2 1

National Library of Canada Cataloguing in Publication Data

Main entry under title:

Fit to die

Short stories by the Ladies Killing Circle.

ISBN 0-929141-87-3

1. Detective and mystery stories, Canadian (English) 2. Canadian fiction (English)--21st century. I. Boswell, Joan II. Pike, Sue, date- III. Ladies' Killing Circle.

PS8323.D4F58 2001      C813'.08720806       C2001-901968-8

PR9197.35.D48F58 2001

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Fit To Live

Audrey Jessup

Race

Vicki Cameron

Writer's Cramp

Joy Hewitt Mann

Down in the Plumps

Victoria Maffini

Double Trouble

Barbara Fradkin

Grudge Match

Therese Greenwood

A Dirty Jog

Joy Hewitt Mann

Sign of the Times

Mary Jane Maffini

Grand Slam

Lea Tassie

Seeing Red

Linda Wiken

Fit to Die

Joy Hewitt Mann

Las Flacas

Violette Malan

Snap Judgment

Sue Pike

Returning the Favour

Joan Boswell

A Brisk Sit Down

Joy Hewitt Mann

A Matter of the Heart

Day's Lee

The Brief Life of Alice Hartley

Liz Palmer

Tee'd Off

Mary Keenan

A Straight Lie

Joy Hewitt Mann

Although, on the Other Hand

Pat Wilson and Kris Wood

Seigneur Poisson

R. J. Harlick

Natural Medicine

Joy Hewitt Mann

Love Handles

H. Mel Malton

There's A Word for It

Melanie Fogel

Old Geezers

Rose DeShaw

FIT TO LIVE

AUDREY JESSUP

I could have strangled Merrilee Parker. In my role as President of the Social Activities Club at Sunset Lodge Seniors' Residence, I had just announced that we would be holding tai chi classes every Monday and Thursday morning starting the next week.

“Tai chi?” Merrilee squawked. “That Chinese thing where people stand around like statues in the park? I don't think so. What use will that be to us, Eileen? Some of us hardly seem to be moving as it is.”

Louise Martin's face clouded, and she looked down at the walker she was obliged to use when her arthritis flared up.

“It promotes balance,” I said, “and some of us certainly don't seem to have much of that, mentally anyway. I took it many years ago, and I found it very helpful. But you don't have to sign up if you don't think you can handle it, Merrilee.”

Of course, I knew she would turn up on Monday. She always wanted to know what was going on, and she would certainly want to prove she could do tai chi. But she was never in favour of something suggested by somebody else, particularly if that somebody was me. She had been President until I was elected nine months ago, and our ideas of worthwhile activities were like sugar and pickles. Her idea of
interesting events had been a fashion show and a cosmetics demonstration, but the dress shop she selected thought Velcro was a dirty word, and the cosmeticians left us with a discouraged feeling and a bagful of makeup which we never touched again.

I knew between now and Monday she would be dropping sarcastic remarks to the other residents about the new program I was introducing, and I thought it was really important to keep the mind and body active, not just well-covered. I was therefore very keen on getting as many as possible signed up. I was quite proud of the programs we had introduced in the past months. I had visited other homes where they didn't seem to do anything except sit in front of a television set, and I certainly didn't want that to happen to us.

A few of the residents, friends of Merrilee, complained. “You've got too many activities going on, Eileen,” they said. “We like to watch the soaps in the afternoon.” But I noticed when they heard someone yell “Bingo” or caught the sound of the sing-along round the piano, they would gradually creep in and get a card or a song sheet. No, I didn't think Merrilee would opt out of the tai chi program. She would come if only to say “I told you so” if it didn't work out.

The person I was concerned about was Nora Barton. She had been at the Lodge three weeks but had been quite reclusive. I had made a point of sitting with her at lunch the day she arrived, and although I had to work at it, I did find out she was the widow of Herb Barton of Barton's Berry Farms.

“That must have been an interesting life,” I said.

She looked at me as if I were crazy. “Interesting?” she repeated. “It was backbreaking and heartbreaking work. As I'm sure the new owners are finding out.”

“But at least you could get away in the winter.”

“We had animals, and we couldn't leave.”

I thought it was time to change the subject. “And what made you choose Sunset Lodge?” I asked.

“I didn't choose it. My son did. He sold the farm out from under me and made me come here.”

“Well,” I said, as cheerfully as I could, “I know it's a big change for you. We've all gone through it. But you'll soon find lots to do. As a matter of fact, I've brought you a list of the various activities. I'm sure you'll find something you like.”

As these places go, Sunset Lodge is very nice. Well, except for the name. Why don't they realize we don't need to be reminded at every turn that we're getting old and coming to the end of our days? There are three levels of care here, according to a resident's capabilities. The owners call them Pavilions A, B and C. The residents call them Sunset, Twilight and Goodnight. In Pavilion A, we're all more or less able-bodied. At least we can take care of our personal needs, even if we might be a bit slow about it.

My aim is to help us all fend off the further deteriorations of old age, physical and mental. The other four members of the Social Committee are not always as enthusiastic about the new programs as I am, and sometimes it takes all my efforts to convince them. I always manage it in the end, though.

Nora didn't come down for dinner that first day, and she didn't sign up for any more meals in the dining room. In Pavilion A, each resident has a small apartment with a kitchenette, but meals are available for a reasonable price in the dining room. Most of us sign up for at least one meal a day. Nora was probably living on grilled cheese sandwiches from the toaster oven provided in each apartment. I didn't think it could be a matter of cost. They must have been paid a pretty penny for the farm.

For three weeks, the only time I could catch her was when she came down to check her mail, change her library book or use the washing machines. I tried to tempt her with something every time I saw her. “We're doing calligraphy this afternoon. Why don't you give it a try?” “There's a sing-song tonight after dinner. Why don't you drop in?” “We've got
Casablanca
for the movie tonight. You should come down. Starts at seven.” She always gave me a polite but firm “No, thank you.”

I couldn't figure out what she did with herself all day in her little apartment. I can't stand people sitting in a corner and sulking because life has taken a new, unwanted path. One must get up and at it and try to enjoy where one has landed. So I took her aside one day. “You know, Nora,” I said, “we're all in the same boat here. And when somebody is really unsociable, it makes the rest of us feel very uncomfortable. Why don't you at least come to the tai chi classes? You don't have to talk to people, and you could use the exercise. It's not good to sit in your room all day.” She finally agreed to try a class, which I considered a personal victory.

As she had only been given the most cursory introduction to most of the other residents, I invited her to come down to dinner on Saturday night as my guest. She could hardly refuse. Dinner on Saturdays was always a buffet, and that week there was either chicken pot pie or baked ham (which meant we'd be getting pea soup and ham croquettes next week) and for dessert lemon meringue cake or apple pie. As we were leaving the buffet table with our loaded trays, Merrilee came swishing in behind us. She always changed for dinner, but tonight she had outdone herself with a long embroidered cream skirt and a rose-coloured blouse.

Other books

The Wrong Rite by Charlotte MacLeod
Living by Fiction by Annie Dillard
Spellbound by Kelley Armstrong
Ginny's Lesson by Anna Bayes
Shadow Puppets by Orson Scott Card
Escape From Obsession by Dixie Lynn Dwyer
Once More With Feeling by Emilie Richards