Best "Que" in Town
© Copyright 2018 by Kathryn Lynch
If you enjoy barbeque, you might enjoy this story. Then again,--maybe not!
It was supposed to be raw land, this 3.34 acre parcel she had purchased. So when she examined the forested section of her land and stumbled upon the old brick structure, the Old Lady was both surprised and confused. It appeared to be a large barbeque or fireplace, standing alone. Its origin and purpose were shrouded in the past.
She never expected an answer to these questions, but the answers came when her cousin visited the land. Kevin had been an undertaker since an early age, something the Old Lady considered part of his weirdness, and his charm. He studied the old brick structure with interest and delight. “It's a crematory”, he said. “It was used to dispose of bodies. This one is so large it may have been used to dispose of dead cattle. It is very old and it will probably last another hundred years.”
Kevin wanted to see if the crematory still worked. After cleaning the firebed, he placed a layer of straw across the area. Next he placed barbeque charcoals on the straw. Finally, he topped the charcoal with dried firewood and ignited the mixture. The fire came to life, warming the area slowly. He explained that crematory fires took about an hour to reach desired temperatures.
Finally, a rat that the Old Lady's cat had killed but not eaten, was placed in the oven. The body of the rat was soon consumed by fire, turning orange until it flamed out. A formless heap of gray ashes remained where the rat had once been. It was gone.
The fact that she owned a working crematory gave the Old Lady an odd sense of power.
She had purchased a manufactured home and had it moved to her land. It needed many repairs so she decided to spend $200 a month of her Social Security Retirement check every month to fix it up.
The pace of renovation as agonizingly slow. She struggled to live on what was left of her check amidst paint cans, tools, and the building materials of half finished jobs. Finally, after a year the house looked and felt comfortable. She could relax with $200 a month added to her living allowance.
The Old Lady's content was short lived. The following week, an official looking dark green car pulled into the driveway. The woman in the dress and high heels announced that she was from the Tax Assessor's Office. She was there to examine and take pictures of the improvements to the property. The Old Lady would be receiving a new tax bill. The camera clicked away as the woman complained about the muddy ground, her shoes sinking repeatedly while she worked.
The Assessor didn't see the Old Lady approach from behind, swinging a hammer that hadn't yet been returned to the tool shed. The woman dropped and died in one swift movement The Old Lady gathered up the woman's shoes, camera, purse, county maps, paperwork, cell phone, and recorder, placing them in a large garbage bag next to the body. Next she covered the body with a tarp.
Wearing rubber gloves she drove the green car to the local market, leaving it in the adjacent vacant lot and calling a cab to return home. Now she went to the feed store to purchase two bales of straw and several bags of charcoal briquettes. With the firewood she had on hand, she was now prepared to take care of the Tax Assessor and anyone else who continued to threaten her land.
The Old Lady prepared the oven exactly as her cousin had done. She encountered some difficulty moving the body until she fashioned a harness-like rope around the woman's back and underneath her arms. On arriving at the oven, she employed the rope as part of a pulley system using the overhead loop and wheel already part of the structure. She was able to swing the body into the oven where it quickly turned a bright orange color. Next she added the bag of the woman's personal possessions. She knew the body would burn for several hours, so the Old Lady piled on the firewood and went back to her home.
At daylight, she went to the oven carrying a broom. The morning wind was already dispersing the ashes into the surrounding trees and brush. A few sweeps with the broom left the oven as clean as before. She was NOT going to pay higher taxes.
The Permit Inspector came next, swaggering up the Old Lady's driveway from a county car indistinguishable from the Tax Assessor's green vehicle.
Carrying a clipboard and a measuring tape, he calculated the distance between the posts of the stairway railing that she had just finished building. “Not the right measurement”, he said, tearing off a newly painted post and tossing it aside. As he began to tear down a second post, she swung, using the the abandoned board, hitting the Inspector squarely on the back of the head. He dropped like a stone.
The Old Lady gathered up the clipboard and the tape. Next, she removed from the vehicle county maps, work orders, and forms. She struggled to move the Inspector to the crematory as he was considerably larger and heavier than the woman. Finally, she built up the fire and when it began to flame, she managed to swing him into the oven, placing the bag of possessions she had collected on top of the body.
She returned to the vehicle. Using gloved hands, she drove the car to the vacant lot near the local market. She left the work helmet, tools, and work boots inside and using the Inspector's cell phone she made a call to the Permit Office, disconnecting when someone answered. Now she walked to the benches in front of the market and called a cab.
He would cook all night. In the morning she would send him into the wind with her battery operated hair dryer. NO ONE was going to come on her land and tear things up.
The woman who came to the door asked for her by name. When the Old Lady acknowledged her identity, she became the new owner of legal documents. The woman was a Process Server.
She had to act quickly. Grabbing the loaded pistol which she kept by the door, the Old Lady fired at the Server who dropped and died in midstep. The gunfire noise melded with the noises of the nearby firing range, drawing no one's attention.
The Process Server was cooked exactly like the other two, along with all the legal documents she could find in her car. The vehicle was left in the market parking lot and abandoned. She was NOT going to have any judgments or liens filed on her property.
Kevin had returned for a visit. The Old Lady talked to him about the possibility of the crematory being used as a barbeque. Curious and interested, he walked around the structure several times. “You need to clean it up and put in a couple of grills”, he said. They rented a sander and went over the bricks. The structure now resembled refurbished buildings the Old Lady had seen in big cities. Next they drilled holes on the right and left sides of the oven walls. Pieces of rebar were inserted across so that they formed a holder for the grills. Finally, Kevin found two suitable grills at the hardware store which he placed at different levels on top of the rebar. The”barbeque” could be converted back to a crematory simply by removing the grills and the rebar.
That evening, the Old Lady and Kevin had barbeque for dinner, two thick delicious steaks, cooked to order, complete with all the trimmings. She thought that only an undertaker could enjoy a meal so much under the circumstances.Epilogue: The disappearances of the Tax Assessor, the Permit Instructor, and the Process Server were never solved. Police believed that the three had met with foul play in the lot of the local market when they had stopped there to get a snack. Unfortunately the store had no security cameras. The Permit Inspector had made a call from that location but the call had been disconnected.
The Old Lady's property taxes did not go up. The porch was finished and painted. To this day her land is unencumbered with judgments or liens.
The Fourth of July barbeques at the Old Lady's place became a favorite in the subdivision. The neighbors thought she was lucky to have the largest and the best cooking “que” anyone had ever seen. They looked forward every Summer to gathering there for a feast.