A steady drizzle of rain gave way to the first splatters of sleet against the windscreen. Her small Vauxhall Astra slowed only marginally in response to the changing weather. In the solitude of her own head, Mavis reassured herself that choosing the A44 and A40 roads from Chipping Norton had been a safer option than the anonymity of rural B roads as she skirted the northern edges of Oxfordshire at night. Being snowed-in didn’t fit with her plan, and she had no wish for Jack to be alerted to her deception. Jack need only believe that she was on her way to a bookclub meeting in Oxford.
Jack. Husband, business partner, unsupportive bastard. When the going was good, Jack had her back. The Monster Pie business had been her own idea. He crunched the numbers at the outset, stepped onboard, and Mavis and Jack Kidwell built a backyard start-up into a thriving, medium-sized business renowned throughout the chocolate box villages of the Cotswolds area. Very few tourists ever leave the region without having sampled the gastronomic delights of a Monster Pie.
Accusatory. That’s what Jack had become over the past few years. Unsupportive, negative; a handbrake on her creativity, a millstone around her freewheeling flights of fantasy, a crashing bore. Their relationship was spent. Only Mavis’ staunch church underpinnings, which had lately morphed into religious fervour, prevented her from leaving a loveless and soul-destroying marriage. For the past forty–three minutes within the confines of the Vauxhall, Mavis had reflected darkly on Jack’s latest accusations. Psychosis. Ppphhhttt! What would Jack know about psychosis? Or delusions? Whenever he was backed into a corner, whenever he was losing the argument, out came a feign of concern about his wife’s mental health and well-being. Out came the pleas to seek professional help. Mavis would have none of it, retreating further into her zealous religiosity for answers, for comfort, for self assurance. Mavis had no problems.
It was several days ago, quite without a lead-in context, that she’d excitedly confronted Jack with the brilliant notion of changing the name of the pie company. Wide-eyed, she’d blurted out that she was changing the company name to ‘Heavenly Pies.’ Jack had deflatedly lowered his head into his hands, exhaled deeply through clenched teeth before raising his head to meet her eyes.
“Why would you change the name of a successfully marketed product, Mavis? It makes no sense. None at all.”
“It does to me, Jack. Perfect sense. I lifted the pastry cap from a pie this afternoon and was reading its entrails. The reading was definitive. I’m compelled to change the name and, in doing so, broadcast the glory of God to the world. I’ll market the pies with the slogan ‘Heavenly Pies: God’s proof that he loves us.’ “
Jack’s face had drained and he’d stood briefly with his mouth agape before spluttering, “You’re seriously delusional, Mavis. You need help. Pies don’t have entrails! You can’t read a pie. And how do you know which foods have God’s imprimatur? Have you asked him?”
Unphased by Jack’s negativity or his amateur psychiatric diagnosis, Mavis had wildly announced, “Not yet, Jack, but I’m going to. It was all in the entrails.”
With wipers working hard against the increasing sleet, Mavis exited the motorway and turned left into the dark and miserable wetness of the small country B4009 road. Within 2 miles, she parked and switched off the headlights outside the 13th Century Church of St Peter and St Paul near the village of Aston Rowant. The entrails of the pie had revealed to her that a deep baptismal font, carved from marble by the Normans, lay within the church. The 800 year old stone walls felt bleak and unwelcoming in the darkness and she shivered a little as she pushed and gained entry through a heavy wooden side doorway. Rural churches in the UK are rarely locked.
With the aid of the light of her phone, Mavis crept hesitatingly towards the ancient baptismal font. Carved from Purbeck marble, it stood almost 5 ft high and contained 3 ft of chilly baptismal water. Mavis stared in awe. This was it. Just as the entrails had directed her. This was the portal that she needed to pass through to gain an audience with God, and float her new marketing idea. With God’s blessing, she would alter the name of the company and thereby spread the message of God’s love for mankind.
Dragging a small church pew towards it, she clambered awkwardly onto the lip of the stone font and switched off her phone. In the inky blackness, there was a slight slip of a wet shoe across ancient marble. Off balance, Mavis lurched forward extending both arms outwards to unfruitfully grasp the other side of the font, releasing the two Monster Pies she had been bringing for the meeting. They splashed unceremoniously into the font at the same time as Mavis Kidwell sickeningly struck her forehead against the marble lip. Downwards to the denizens of the chilly font, her bloodied head and limp torso slid and joined the two drowned pastries. The cabernet infused beef pie released small flakes of pastry moments before the chicken satay pie.
At 8am the following morning the drizzle and sleet had ceased and a pale, insipid sun attempted to poke its head unenthusiastically through the overcast sky above Aston Rowant. The verger arrived to open the doors and windows of the church and was stunned at the unexpected sight of Mavis Kidwell’s ample buttocks and legs protruding limply from the ancient font. With a garbled scream, she retreated from the building and summoned the vicar from the nearby cottage. Authorities were duly alerted. The coroner’s inquest determined accidental death through misadventure.
Jack, stunned by his wife’s tragic and bizarre demise, would spend much of his remaining life poring over the signals and red flags Mavis had subtly given in recent years, and pondering how he could have reacted differently.
God only knows whether Mavis was granted a divine audience.