‘Millie, those sausages you just ate?’ said Naomi. ‘They were poisoned.’
The five-year-old looked up at her Mum, eyes wide.
‘In a few minutes your tummy will feel funny. Then you’ll faint. And then you’ll die.’
Millie burst into tears. Snot dribbled down her face and onto her plate, pooling next to a couple of burnt ends of sausage. Millie never ate the burnt bits.
‘But there’s a way to stop it. You just have to eat your carrots. One of them contains an antidote.’
Millie choked back tears long enough to ask what ‘antidote’ meant.
‘It’s something to stop the poison working. But it’s only in one of them. I know how much you hate carrots – I haven’t forgotten that hideous scene you made at your Granny’s birthday in that posh restaurant – but that’s just tough luck.’ Naomi leered at her daughter, black fringe daggering across her face. ‘You’ll have to eat them all to make sure you don’t die.’
Millie redoubled her sobs, but began to fork carrots into her mouth. As she did so, Naomi placed dishes next to the sink, joined by her husband, Ian.
‘Jesus, darling, pretending to poison her? Bit harsh,’ said Ian.
‘She’s got to learn.’
Ian thought about saying something, saw Naomi’s look, and returned to Millie instead. ‘Send her through to the lounge when she’s finished,’ said Naomi, leaving the room. ‘She’s got homework. And don’t eat the leftovers like you always do. You’re supposed to be losing weight.’
The last carrot disappeared down Millie’s throat. ‘Go to your Mum, sweetheart,’ said Ian. She slid away, wiping her nose on her sleeve. Ian shook his head and carried Millie’s plate to the sink, popping the last bits of sausage into his mouth on the way, unfazed by their proximity to the snot.
Five minutes later, as Millie struggled with her spelling, there was a cry from the kitchen, followed by a crash. Millie sprinted out of the lounge. Naomi followed at a more leisurely pace.
‘Mummy!’ screamed Millie from the kitchen. ‘Daddy’s on the floor!’
Naomi remembered the texts she’d found on Ian’s phone and smiled.
Showtime. Naomi ran into the kitchen. Ian was spreadeagled on the tiles. ‘Oh my God, Ian!’ she yelled, crouching down and thanking God for her years in the am-dram club. She clasped his hand like a good distraught housewife. ‘Millie, run and grab Mummy’s phone, I need to call an ambulance!’
Millie scampered away, white as chalk. Of course, fooling a five-year-old was one thing. Doing the same with any questioning doctors, maybe even police, would be tougher. ‘I don’t know what happened. Could it be food poisoning? He had last night’s pizza for breakfast. Oh, Ian, my poor, poor baby.’ But she was good, she knew that. She’d won awards for her Lady Macbeth. And it wouldn’t take much to convince Millie not to tell any nosey parkers about the poisoning story.
Naomi grinned at the prone body of her husband. ‘I told you not to eat the leftovers,’ she said.
David Cook’s stories have featured in the National Flash Fiction Anthology, The Fiction Pool, Ellipsis Zine, Riggwelter Press and more. You can find more of his work here and say hello on Twitter here. He lives in Bridgend, Wales, with his wife and daughter. He’ll eat the leftovers.