Madazine
Chapter 5: Special Offer

“Good morning. Cre –”

“Yes. Sorry to break in. Could you connect me with Mr Lumb, please?”

“No can do, madam. Rodney Spoonbill here. I’m taking all calls this afternoon. It’s the staff Christmas party and I started work here yesterday, so I’ve got the short straw. I don’t yet know Mr Lumb, but I’m sure I can help you, today of all days.”

“I see. Is this a special occasion – aside from the festivities, I mean?”

“Indeed it is. We have a two-for-one offer.”

“Really? That seems odd for your business. How does it work?”

“Basically, it’s quite simple. If you are thinking in terms of a disposal, you need only extend the scope to take in another prospective decedent. For example, if you have an ageing family member who is, so to speak, on the brink, you might wish to consider whether there is a second person dear to you and approaching the same state. In that case, there might be an opportunity for both parties to leave us simultaneously at no extra cost. Two for the price of one, you see.”

“Well, what you say leaves me floundering a little, but I’m usually considered quick on the uptake, so I’ll try to enter into the spirit of things, Mr –”

“Rodney is the name. And you are?”

“Marion.”

“Okay, Marion, or shall I say Mazza?

“No.”

“Right. Now, how do you feel about our idea?”

“I’m not quite sure, really. Of course, there is my father.”

“Yes, a common situation. Elderly gentlemen tend to be as cantankerous as they are frail. They’ve been through a lot, you know, and some of them don’t want to face another full winter. Forgive my saying so, but judging from your timbre, I take you to be a lady approaching maturity of years. May I inquire as to the age and condition of your pater?”

“Let’s say he’s over seventy and deteriorating. Too crotchety for my liking, though he’s always been a bit that way, so his present state is no guide. All things considered, I don’t think he’s long for this world. Also, he has annoying literary pretensions.”

“Excellent. It’s easier when they conform to type. These old lads usually think they have something to say, but don’t realise that no-one wants to hear it. By the way, you’re not recording this conversation, are you?”

“Of course not. Why should I?”

“No reason, I’m sure. However, we have a number of suggestions which might, if I may say so, accelerate matters; hasten the natural process, as it were. I can’t mention them on the phone, but if you could call in –”

“We’ll see about that, but what do you mean? Are you hinting at a supplement to his daily fare?”

“Far be it from me to indicate that, but does he have any ... ah ... peccadilloes that might be helpful.”

“Well, he makes his own beer. It’s skull-cracking stuff, so I don’t think he’d notice a fairish squirt of cyanide.”

“He wouldn’t notice it for long, but we could discuss that later. Now, how about the second ... er ... possibility?”

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