A Natural Push by Louise Dragon
“What is wrong with her?” Meg demanded to a room full of co-workers. “Can you see what she’s trying to do to us?”
“We used to all get along . . .” shy Kate mumbled quietly before looking quickly back down at her busy hands.
“I am so tired of the back stabbing and finger pointing. We’re adults and we need to start acting like adults no matter how spiteful Piper acts,” Shannon pointed out glancing down at Kate’s hands also.
“Now, now,” Lori began, she had covertly called this meeting together to help unify her co-workers, not to split them up. “Piper is just a bit of a perfectionist. I don’t think she can help being bossy and conniving.”
“No offense, Lori, but you’re too kind,” Meg said.
“You really are very kind . . .” shy Kate spoke is hushed tones, barely above a whisper. Lori glanced over at the mousy little blonde and smiled. She remembered that Kate had grown up in the Farnums Hills. Her family was what Lori’s mother called “hill people.” Hill people were a peculiar tribe of gypsy folks living very simply in the cabins and shacks of the Farnums Hills. They grew their own food, took care of their own problems, and pretty much kept to themselves. Shy Kate had apparently ventured out of the nest. She now worked at Village Bakery and kept a small apartment for herself in town. Shy Kate had been the pawn of Piper’s vengeance many times in the past few months, but Lori had never heard Kate say an unkind word about anyone.
Lori also glanced down at shy Kate’s hands. Her tiny, bird-like hands, so great with a rolling pin, were now shredding bits of photo paper into a plastic bag in her lap. Every now and then her gray eyes rolled back until only the whites showed and her lips moved as though she were praying silently to herself in the midst of this loud informal meeting of which Piper Palumbo had not been invited. It was suspected that Piper had spies planted throughout the bakery. Spies who reported back to Piper any infraction of the rules – no matter how minute – any infraction, which could bring a quick tongue lashing from Miss Piper at any time.
“She’s not our boss,” Shannon said angrily. “That’s what makes it so frustrating. She’s just a baker like everyone else, but yet so quick to judge . . .”
“Too quick,” shy Kate said abruptly and looked about the room briefly before returning her eyes to her task.
“She’s never going to leave,” Meg whined. “We’re never going to be free of her constant abuse. There’s just no way to be rid of her.”
“There may be a way.” Shy Kate spoke quietly and all eyes turned to her. “There may be a way . . . but it won’t be pretty.”
Shy Kate held up her plastic bag of unusual odds and ends and began to tell of a woman in the hill country named Tansy.
Pauline (Tansy) Swift was one scary old woman but she was everyone’s favorite grandmotherly crone who always came up with a way to handle certain everyday problems.
Shy Kate had been to visit Tansy recently and had learned from her how to bake one of Tansy’s special cakes. “Cake with a Kick” was what hill people called them and shy Kate was working on creating just such a cake for Piper and her workplace spies. She had been collecting items for a special apple cake and was timing out its creation to coincide with Piper’s upcoming birthday celebration, which had been slated for this Friday the 13th.
Shy Kate warned the group not to eat the apple cake even though it would look and smell very delicious and would be difficult to resist.
“Are we talking about murder here?” Lori spoke in a breathless whisper.
“Only if we’re lucky.” Meg spat out, and then quickly clapped a hand over her mouth.
“It’s not poison or anything, is it?” Shannon whined. “I don’t care if we kill the bitch, I just don’t want us to end up in jail or anything.”
“No poison,” shy Kate said quietly. “Just a little natural push from Miss Tansy.” She held up a shiny red apple. “Now everyone take a bite.”
The core was broken in half. Half went into the baggy and the other half was wrapped in a sliver of parchment and tied with a red ribbon—it probably still hangs in Kate’s locker to this day. Lori and the other girls marveled over that dried apple husk many times over the next few years.
As for Piper Palumbo . . . It all started with a case of really bad laryngitis right after her 37th birthday party.
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