Big Brother


By Margi Desmond



Furious, Amy Jo glared at Eugene as his thick, gelatinous jowls rippled with each roaring snore emitted from his mouth. A line of drool flowed across his cheek and onto the upholstery. He slept, reclined in his Lay-Z-Boy, feet in the air, clutching the remote with his right hand; his left, dangling off the side of the chair. He always insisted on choosing the television program even though five minutes into the episode, he'd fall asleep. There was no way she was going to continue watching Bass Fishing with Bert Conway while he snored like a two-ton bull. She slapped the magazine she'd been perusing onto the coffee table, stormed across the room, and snatched the remote.

"Wha..." Eugene shifted in the recliner and opened his eyes. "Hey, give that back to me." He adjusted the chair to a sitting position and wiped the drool off his face with his shirtsleeve.

Amy Jo shot him a disgusted look and changed the channel to her favorite, the Lifetime network. Lifetime's programming always featured inspirational movies with strong female leads. The irony that she was financially dependent on her disgusting slob of a brother was not lost on her.

"Amy Jo, gimme the remote," Eugene said.

"I ain't watching bass fishing." She returned to her usual seat on the sofa. "I want to watch a movie."

"Well I don't, and seeing as I bought the television, you better put it back on my program."

"You bought the television with Daddy's money. Family money."

"He left control of his entire estate to me because he knew you'd blow through yours." Eugene took a deep breath and hoisted himself from his seat, accidentally passing gas in the strained effort.

"Ugh," Amy Jo said and waved the foul air away with her magazine. She increased the television volume and pointed to the screen. "Look, it's a classic. The Burning Bed with Farrah Fawcett." She felt a lump in her throat. Poor Farrah, dying of cancer. It wasn't fair. Such an ugly disease consuming such a gorgeous woman.

"How many times we gotta watch that?" Eugene shuffled to the kitchen. "What's for dinner?"

"Shepherd's pie."

"Again?"

"It's cheap and easy, and since you don't give me an adequate allowance, you'll eat it and like it."

"I wasn't asking for pheasant under glass." Eugene grabbed a Schlitz from the fridge. "I'm sick of casseroles is all. It'd be nice to eat a meal that didn't all come out of the same damn dish once in a while."

Amy Jo cranked up the volume to drown out Eugene's harping.

* * *

Amy Jo steered the grocery cart down the canned goods isle. She grabbed three cans of cheap, store brand cream of mushroom soup for the weekly dinner menu consisting of tuna casserole, hamburger casserole, and chicken and rice bake — her passive aggressive response to Eugene's one-dish supper complaint. She'd take what money remained from the weekly food budget and get tanked on Boone's Farm wine.

"Amy Jo?" a familiar voice said. "Amy Jo McDonald? Is that really you?"

She turned to see a petite blonde woman smiling a perfect, white grin. "Celeste Glover. I can't believe it. You haven't changed one bit." The women hugged. "What brings you back to town? I thought you loved life in The Big Apple."

Celeste's expression darkened. She looked at her feet and said, "Jeff left me."

Amy Jo gasped and clutched her chest. "Oh goodness." The most beautiful girl in high school, the prom queen, the debutante, the gal everyone wanted to be had been dumped by her Wall Street financial superstar husband.

"He left me for a younger woman. A dim-whit secretary." A tear trickled down Celeste's cheek. "Tossed aside by the love of my life. I don't think my broken heart will ever mend."

Amy Jo rummaged through her purse and found a Kleenex. "Thank goodness you never had children." She handed the tissue to Celeste. "I hope you took him for all he was worth, the rat bastard."

"Half of nothing is nothing." Celeste honked into the tissue.

"But I thought..."

"Nope. Bad investments." Celeste shook her head. "We were in debt like you wouldn't believe. I had to move back home. I'm living with my parents. Forty years old and living with my parents. What a loser."

"Don't beat yourself up. We all fall on hard times." Amy Jo patted Celeste's back. "Why don't you come over for dinner tonight?"

"I'd love to. What are you making?"

"Tuna fish casserole."

"Ah, comfort food. How delicious."

* * *

Topping the casserole with crushed potato chips, Amy Jo smiled to herself. She hadn't had a friend visit in ages. Depressed, she usually spent nights drinking cheap wine and staring at the boob tube. Eugene kept such a tight rein on finances she couldn't afford to do anything else. She could've gone to work, but why, when Eugene sat on his ass all day long? She deserved the life of leisure too. But now Celeste was in town, and Amy Jo had a plan.

Ding-dong!

"What the hell's that?" Eugene asked from the den.

"The doorbell," Amy Jo answered.

"Well I know that. I'm asking why someone would be at our door. Especially at dinner time."

"Maybe one of us is sick of being a hermit." Amy Jo opened the front door for Celeste.

She handed Amy Jo a bottle of wine. "I thought this would be nice with dinner. Chardonnay is yummy with fish."

"It's perfect." Amy Jo ushered her friend into the kitchen.

"Who was it? Some fool trying to sell something?" Eugene asked, eyes glued to ESPN.

"Eugene?" Celeste said. She walked around the bar separating the kitchen from the den area. "Is that Eugene McDonald, Amy Jo's handsome brother and star quarterback, Hunt High School 1987?"

The Lay-Z-Boy's leather made a squeaky, squishing noise under Eugene's weight as he turned, eyeballs bugging out of his head. "Celeste," he stammered. "You...you haven't changed a bit."

Celeste stood, silent. She sure couldn't say the same about Eugene.

Amy Jo snorted. "Who wants a glass of wine?"

Eugene hopped up from his recliner and hurried to the kitchen, tucking his shirt in along the way. Amy Jo hadn't seen him move so quickly in years. "Lemme do the honors," he snatched the wine bottle from her. "How's Jeff?" he asked Celeste.

She shook her head. "Don't get me started."

* * *

The women, united by injustice bestowed upon them by men, felt as if they were starring in their own Lifetime movie. It was time for empowerment. Time for action.

"It'll be easy to pull off," Amy Jo said. "Eugene will suffer flu-like symptoms, then he'll croak. I'll inherit the estate and give you thirteen thousand dollars for your assistance."

"Why thirteen thousand?" Celeste asked.

"That's the most you can receive without having to pay taxes. We don't want to call any attention to my giving you money."

"That's very kind of you." Celeste smiled. "And you're sure this will work?"

"Absolutely. Trust me, it's the easiest way to knock him off." Amy Jo poured antifreeze into a glass half-filled with iced tea. "It tastes sweet, so he won't suspect a thing."

"How do you know?"

"I've seen a lot of true crime shows. It's done all the time."

"But those people got caught."

"Stop worrying." Amy Jo stirred the drink. "You take the rest of the antifreeze and toss it in a dumpster. I don't want it in the house for anyone to see."

Celeste grabbed the bottle and started for the door. "Okay, boss."

"Come back for dinner. I'm making chipped beef on toast. We can watch a movie while Eugene's health deteriorates. That way you'll be telling the truth if anyone asks if he seemed sick."

Eugene shuffled in the front door, took one look at Celeste and said, "Hi-yah beautiful."

"Hey, handsome." Celeste winked at him while casually holding the bottle of half-empty antifreeze behind her back. "What's up?"

"Went over to the Walmart to pick a few things up. Damn madhouse, that place."

Celeste backed out the door. "Good to see you again."

"You too." Eugene gazed after her, a smile on his face.

Amy Jo handed him the iced tea/antifreeze cocktail. "Here, you look parched."

* * *

Eugene shoveled soupy chipped beef and soggy toast into his mouth with the gusto of a starving lumberjack. Amy Jo scowled. Celeste picked at her meal. Later, as the two women washed the dinner dishes, Amy Jo explained, "The stupid idiot placed the glass of tea on the table by his recliner, and when he sat down, the chair shifted and knocked the glass over."

"Oh no," Celeste said.

"I couldn't make another one because I'd sent you away with the rest of the antifreeze."

"Maybe it's a sign we'd better not do this."

Amy Jo shook her head. "Not so fast. I have another idea."

* * *

Early the next morning Celeste arrived with the "special ingredient" for a big breakfast. Amy Jo cooked bacon, eggs, and pancakes for the trio. Celeste poured coffee for everyone while Eugene sat at his usual place at the head of the table.

"Woo boy, this smells good," he said to Celeste. "Amy Jo never bothered cooking breakfast until you started hanging around with us." He grabbed a handful of bacon and tossed it on his plate of fried eggs.

Celeste handed him the serving platter piled high with pancakes. "Here, Eugene, have a couple of these. They're to die for." She and Amy Jo glanced at each other while Eugene stabbed a couple of pancakes with a fork and dropped them on his plate.

"Syrup?" Amy Jo started to hand the bottle to Eugene when the phone rang.

"I need to get that," he said and stood.

"No, I'll get it," Amy Jo said, but Eugene pushed past her and grabbed the phone from its cradle in the living room. The ladies ate quietly while trying to overhear his conversation; however, Eugene's side of the conversation only consisted of "uh-huhs" and "okays" with a final "see ya" before he hung up.

"That was Walmart," Eugene said as he strode to the door. "I left my MasterCard at the register yesterday."

"Wait. What about breakfast?" Amy Jo asked.

Eugene slammed the door behind him and the two women stared at each other in disgust. "One bite. Just one stinking bite of pancake and the crushed peanuts would've caused anaphylaxis."

"His allergy to peanuts is that severe?" Celeste asked.

"Oh yeah. Since I hid his EpiPen it would've only taken a few minutes. Natural cause of death. Case closed." Amy Jo sipped coffee and munched on a piece of bacon.

"It's almost as if there's a greater power looking out for him." Celeste poured herself another cup of coffee.

Amy Jo shook her head. "Nah, I don't believe it. We'll get him next time."

"Third time's a charm."

"Let's hope."

* * *

Two policemen stood on the front stoop as Amy Jo answered the door. Her heart sank as they looked solemnly at her. Oh no, Eugene was on to me. They're here to arrest me for attempted murder! She took a deep breath, fought a full-fledged panic attack.

"Ma'am," the older of the two cops said, "are you Miss Amy Jo McDonald?"

She opened her mouth but only managed a soft croak.

"Who is it?" Celeste called from the kitchen.

The officer took a step forward and looked past Amy Jo. "Wilson County Sheriff's Deputies, ma'am. You mind joining us?" They heard footsteps as Celeste trotted to the door.

Prison. I'm going to prison. I might get the death sentence. They'll put me down like a dog. Oh Lord, they'll do one of those crime shows about me. Amy Jo started to hyperventilate.

"Why don't we go into the house, Miss McDonald," the officer said. "You don't look so good."

"Yeah, Amy Jo," Celeste said. "Get a hold of yourself." She placed her arm around Amy Jo and walked her to Eugene's recliner.

"No! Not there," Amy Jo yelled.

"All right, all right, calm down." Celeste steered Amy Jo toward the couch. "Have a seat and I'll pour you some water."

The officer in charge waited for Amy Jo to sip her water and gather her wits. His younger counterpart stood across the room, glancing at the knick knacks arranged on table tops.

"Miss McDonald — " the lead officer started.

Oh no. Here it comes. They're going to arrest me. I'm gonna fry for scheming to murder Eugene. Hail Mary, full of grace... Amy Jo's eyes flooded with tears.

" — I'm sorry to inform you that your brother, Eugene McDonald, was involved in a vehicular accident this morning. He was pronounced dead at the scene."

Amy Jo looked at the officer. "Huh?"

"Ma'am, your brother was killed in a car accident this morning at approximately eleven o'clock when a truck jack-knifed and plowed into your brother's sedan."

* * *

After a quick stop at the attorney's office for the reading of Eugene's will, Amy Jo and Celeste planned a shopping extravaganza in Raleigh. They made reservations to stay the evening at a swanky hotel and enjoy deluxe spa treatments. Goodbye small-town Wilson; they were hobnobbing in the Capitol City!

Mr. Harris's secretary ushered them into his conference room. "Mr. Harris will be with you in a moment. We're still waiting for one more person."

"Another person? Who?" Amy Jo asked.

"I'll wait for Mr. Harris to explain," the secretary said and shut the door behind her as she left the room.

"You have any long lost siblings I never knew about?" Celeste asked Amy Jo.

"No. This doesn't make any sense." Amy Jo helped herself to a drink at the wet bar. Harris, Hacker, and Ludwig was the finest law firm in Wilson. She figured her family had paid plenty of fees to them to justify a belt of scotch while they kept her waiting. She took a seat beside Celeste at the conference room table as the door opened.

Celeste gasped. "What the..."

"Hi hon," Jeff Glover said to his ex-wife.

"Amy Jo," Mr. Harris said. "So good to see you again; however, unfortunate under such sad circumstances. Both your father and Eugene were wonderful men."

"What's he doing here?" Amy Jo pointed to Jeff.

The two men joined the women at the table. Mr. Harris donned reading glasses and slipped a document out of a file marked "McDonald." "Eugene recently enlisted our services to facilitate a business partnership with Mr. Glover. He's developed a revolutionary new hair removal product but needed the financial backing to make the business a success."

Amy Jo's blood started to boil.

Mr. Harris continued, "A week before Eugene's death, the partnership was solidified and mass production of the product began."

"I don't want to work with this jerk," Amy Jo said. "He dumped his wife for a secretary."

"Good news. You won't have to work with him." Mr. Harris said. Jeff smirked. Amy Jo glared at the two of them. "In the event of either partner's death, full ownership of the company reverts to the surviving partner."

"Whatever," Amy Jo said. "What's a few thousand bucks out of my entire family estate?"

Mr. Harris cleared his throat. "Eugene's investment totaled five hundred thousand."

"Half a million?"

"The entire estate."

"What?"

Jeff looked at his ex-wife. "Celeste, this could be a fresh start for you and me. You're the love of my life. My high school sweetheart. The affair was a stupid midlife crisis mistake. It's you I want to spend the rest of my life with. Now we can. We'll be rich. Please, come back to New York with me."

Celeste's expression softened. She allowed Jeff to hold her hand. "Well..."

"You've got to be kidding me!" Amy Jo bellowed.

"Don't worry, Amy Jo. We'll give you thirteen thousand dollars to help cover your expenses while you search for employment," Celeste said.

"Why you..." Amy Jo lunged for Celeste but Jeff pulled his beloved out of reach and Amy Jo landed face first in the plush carpet.

Destined to a fate worse than prison, Amy Jo had to find a job.


Margi Desmond's publishing credits include more than 100 non-fiction articles and short stories. She holds a Bachelor of Science in communication, a minor in English, and a diploma in private investigation. She facilitates a writing program for the Army Europe Library System, serves as a selector for the Colorado Book Awards, and is a member of Mystery Writers of America.

This is Ms. Desmond's third short story to be published on omdb! online.


Copyright 2013 Margi Desmond. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited. OMDB! and OMDB! logos are trademarks of Over My Dead Body!


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