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FICTION on the WEB short stories by Charlie Fish

The Daughter-in-Law
by Julie Bosma

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As soon as Mrs Macdonald opened her front door, she knew her future daughter-in- law was a slut.

John had his arm around her skinny shoulders and the cold Wellington wind made her blonde hair (no doubt dyed) stick to her heavily made-up face. The creature smiled.

"This is Sam, Mum," said John, pushing her forward.

"Sure pleased to meet you," said the girl with the man's name and smiled again. "You'd better come in I suppose," said Mrs Macdonald and walked ahead of them to the lounge.

She heard the girl giggle behind her and then they stood awkwardly in front of the fake coal fire.

"Sit down sweetie," said John, and pushed her into the Lazy Boy nobody ever sat in since Mr Macdonald died twelve years ago.

"You'll be more comfortable over there," said Mrs Macdonald, pointing at the hard, brown vinyl of the settee.

The girl frowned and changed places.

"So this is your friend?" asked the mother.

"Fiancée, Mum," said John curtly and sighed. "We're engaged. We're getting married in a month. We have set the date: eighth August. I did tell you."

"Ron and I hoped you might like to help us a bit with the planning," said Sam.

"Ron?" said Mrs Macdonald. "Ron? Who's Ron? My son's name is John, just like his late father."

"Just a joke," said the girl, patting her cheap hair and looking sideways at John.

"You know, Ronald McDonald? From McDonalds? I always call him Ron. It's just a joke!"

"I don't think it's very funny," said Mrs Macdonald frostily. "John's father would turn in his grave if he knew!"

She shuddered when she thought of the horrible McDonalds eating-places; their big, yellow M's taking over every decent shopping area, the sickening smell of their hamburgers and chips wafting over the footpath. When once she had peered through a window the place seemed to be filled with screaming children, who threw their food on the floor as soon as they received it and then proceeded to climb onto garishly coloured frames of some sort.

She had no idea who Ronald McDonald might be, but she suspected the worst. She looked at the girl again through half-closed eyes.

"Cheap," she thought. "Nasty. Common. A slut. She can't marry my John. I won't have it! I just won't!"

"What about a cup of tea, Mum?" asked John, wrapping his arms around Samantha. "I'm sure Sam would love a cup as much as I would."

"Oh yes, please Mrs M.," said the slut.

Mrs M. indeed!

"I made your favourite cup cakes for you, John," his mother said, looking at the wall above his head so she would not have to see the disgusting pawing on the settee. "Great, Mum, but don't forget: no icing on mine!" Samantha giggled for no reason at all.

"I love icing," she said. And hundreds and thousands."

"Plain for me," said John. "Unlike my women!"

Mrs Macdonald snorted and walked to the kitchen, her feet heavy in her pink slippers.

She could see the cup cakes in a blur, their pink icing almost lighting up the gloomy kitchen. She touched the plain, un-iced one for John with one finger and moved it far away from the others. She watched herself opening the sink cupboard like a robot. The packet of Rid-Rat was in her hands without her having to look for it.

She sprinkled the stuff heavily over the pink icing, with stiff, mechanical movements. To her amazement the Rid-Rat consisted of bright pink granules, exactly the same colour as the icing.

She pressed them down slightly. Her head felt light and empty. She put the plain cake back with the others. Her hands did not even shake when she carried the tray into the lounge.

"Cup cakes for everyone!" she said in someone else's voice. "Icing for us, plain for John."

"I will have to force you to eat all the things I like, once we're married, said the girl. "Why wait? I'll do anything for you right now!" said John.

He grabbed a heavily iced cup cake, opened his mouth as wide as he could, and put the whole thing in.

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