So Much Depends On A Red Wheelbarrow.

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“So much depends on a red wheelbarrow glazed by rainwater beside the white chickens.”
William Carlos Williams.

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This story is now part of SLIGHTLY SPOOKY STORIES.


Red Wheelbarrow cover # 3 (1)

This story is now part of Red Wheelbarrow

Without it, I would not have been able to move the body.

I’d always taken it for granted — the wheelbarrow, not the dead body.

It had always been there, leaning up against the shed or sitting quietly, filled with weeds or split fire-wood — just waiting for the task to be completed.

It was ‘on special’ at the hardware store on the high street.

The shop went out of business not long after, but I remember the wheelbarrows all lined up outside with a huge sign saying how much they were and how much I would be saving if I bought one.

The sign had the desired effect.

I’d needed a wheelbarrow for some time, and the first one in the stack was red. 

The gentleman who served me was happy to make the sale but worried about how I was going to get it home.

“Have you got a ‘ute’ lady?”

“No, why? Is it a requirement for owning a wheelbarrow?”

He looked at me for a moment. I could tell that he was wondering if I was ‘winding him up’.

He decided that I was.

“No, but she’s a big bugger, and she probably won’t fit across the back seat of your car.”

“I don’t own a car. I walked here, and I’m planning to drive her home. I’ll park her outside the supermarket and load her up with my weekly shopping, and away I go.”

“Fair enough, but she really is a bloody big wheelbarrow. Are you sure you wouldn’t like a smaller one? You can still give the grand-kiddies a ride in a smaller one. The one you picked is big enough to fit a large dead body in.” 

He must have thought that he had gone a bit too far because he looked up and gave an embarrassed smile. I wasn’t worried about the ‘dead body’ crack, but I was considering running over his foot for the grandmother comment.

“Is the smaller wheelbarrow on special as well?” I said.

“No, just these huge industrial buggers that I got stuck with when I bought the business.”

“Well then; I have the right barrow, don’t I?”

I smiled and staggered off down the footpath scattering pedestrians in my wake. 

I didn’t stop to buy groceries; that was just me ‘getting carried away’ with the hardware store owner.

Every time I go past his old shop, I wonder what happened to him. 

His shop became a Noodle Shop, then a $2 Shop, then a Tattoo Parlour, then a Bakery, then an empty shop with a strange collection of bits and pieces lying in the middle of the tiled floor. 

It looked like someone had swept up after the last tenants, and never came back to throw out the collection of flotsam. 

I’ve always wondered what the orange penis-shaped thing was. 

I’m sure that it’s not an orange penis, but there has never been anyone at the shop for me to ask; which is just as well because I think I would be too embarrassed to make that particular enquiry.

Gardening is not my favourite pastime, but since my husband died, I have had to work up the enthusiasm.

Bill was the love of my life, and I miss him so very much.

He left me suddenly — an industrial accident. Everyone was very kind, especially his business partner Ambrose Kruis. 

Bill and Ambrose built the business up from nothing, and when Bill died, Ambrose inherited the company; it was part of their partnership agreement. I understood; I wasn’t upset. They were engaged in high-risk construction, and if one of the partners died, it would put the whole business in jeopardy, so it was only fair that the surviving partner benefit. 

It also explained the massive payout that Ambrose received as a result of the ‘partners insurance’. 

He was not under any obligation, but he helped me anyway. 

He knew that Bill put all his capital into the business and consequently, there wasn’t any life insurance. 

I had some savings, but they were for a ‘rainy day’, as Bill used to say. 

Ambrose was very generous when the roof needed replacing and when the plumbing packed it in. 

I knew that I could not rely on him forever, but up until I made a surprise visit to his office, he had looked after me financially.

I arrived early on a Wednesday morning, and his secretary let me wait in his office. “He won’t be long. He’s at a breakfast meeting with the bankers.” 

I decided to make the most of my time and write a couple of letters. 

I do send emails, but I still prefer the personal touch of sending a letter. 

I stepped behind what used to be Bill’s desk and opened the top drawer looking for notepaper. 

Two more drawers were opened before I found some, and that’s not all that I found. 

The writing paper was not lying flat in the drawer. 

There seemed to be something small and bulky under the ream of paper. I removed the paper, and the sunlight coming in low through the office window reflected off the polished silver surface of an antique Victorian hip flask.

You might be wondering why I knew what it was. 

I’d given this flask to my husband on our wedding night. 

It belonged to my grandfather. 

It was some twenty-years-old when he bought it upon arriving in England in 1915. 

He was a young Lieutenant on his way to the front. 

The flask saw a lot of action, and no doubt helped to dull the terror that trench warfare brought to all those involved. 

I recognised the flask from the inscription and by the dent on the top corner. It was caused by a German sniper’s bullet. 

After surviving at the front for all those years, one moment of lost concentration and my grandfather’s war came to an end, only months from the close of hostilities.

The notice of his death arrived on the day that the Armistice took effect. 

The flask was returned to the family along with his other belongings.

Obviously, I was aware that the flask was missing from my husband’s effects, but I put it out of my mind. He had it with him on the day he died; he always had it with him.

I’m not that bright, but I didn’t need a degree in Physics to figure out that something was terribly wrong.

Ambros had murdered my husband so that he could get control of the company and collect the insurance. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was all about the insurance and he probably expected to sell the failing business for the value of its component parts. But, to his surprise, the company survived, mainly because my husband had set it up well and the business had an excellent reputation. Its employees loved him and worked their arses off to keep the company going.

It helped that Ambrose was a bit of a womaniser and that he would often disappear for several days at a time when he was on a ‘bender’.

I invited him around to the house for a meal — something that I had done a dozen times.

During the dessert course, I excused myself, “Just need to visit the ladies room.” I came back with an old shovel that my husband used to dig the veggie patch — the irony was not lost on me.

I struck Ambrose twice on the back of the head. He went down, and apart from his lemon-meringue-pie landing on the floor, he did not make much of a mess.

Moving the body proved to be a bit of a chore, but the trusty red wheelbarrow was up to the task.

I didn’t own a car, so Ambrose was going to have to travel in the wheelbarrow for the two-kilometre ride to the construction site that Ambrose’s business owned. There was a concrete pour scheduled for the morning.

I’m not sure what I would have said if someone had stopped me, and I’m pretty sure that I looked hilarious as I struggled along with this huge red wheelbarrow filled with an Ambrose.

I was utterly exhausted when I got him there and dumped him into a pit and covered him with gravel, but I still had to get the wheelbarrow back to my house without being seen.

I was in the lap of the gods on both halves of this deadly journey, but the gods smiled on me, and I made it safely home.

I slept for fifteen hours straight. 

I cleaned up the blood and the lemon-meringue-pie when I woke up and waited for the police to arrive.

They never did, and what’s more, it turned out that the partnership agreement had a clause covering the eventuality of both partners dying within ten years of each other. 

The business went equally to the wives of the partners.

Ambrose wasn’t married.

I had to wait seven years before Ambrose was declared dead, but I didn’t mind — the money and the business weren’t the points.

That old red wheelbarrow is very ancient, and rust and a little red paint are about the only things holding it together now, but there is absolutely no way I am ever going to throw it away.

Every time I look at it, I’m reminded of everything I’ve lost and also of the revenge that was mine to take.

So much depends on a red wheelbarrow. 


30 thoughts on “So Much Depends On A Red Wheelbarrow.

  1. Thank you, Terry, for my first good laugh of the week! (And first thing in the morning, yet! My daughter even came over to see what I was reading.) That first scene in the hardware store with the salesman is just pitch perfect. Love the rhythm of the ending, too. PS, apropos of nothing, one of my favorite bookstores in Paris went out of business last year. It was called “The Red Wheelbarrow”. No mystery there; we’re losing brick & mortar bookstores at an alarming rate all over the world. But of course I had to read this story first before scrolling back to the earlier posts. Will keep catching up with your prodigious output soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for those comments…… I loved the thought of you laughing out loud, and your daughter wanting to know why. I’m sad to hear about the bookshop…… I think I saw a photo of it in my searching. Amazingly we still have two bookshops in our little town. The secondhand shop is tiny and I’m not sure how they survive. I have given them books from time to time and I have noticed that others do the same so maybe that helps.
      Some of my stories will disappear off this site in a few weeks because they will be published in a collection, but I will give you plenty of warning before that happens.
      I’m attempting to ‘crowd fund’ the cost of producing the book and that will take about 30 days.
      I appreciate all my readers but I must say that your dedication is a stand out. I love your enthusiasm and your excellent comments.


  2. Greetings Terry; love the story, the setting, the mood, but I’m having trouble (no Physics degree here either!) finding how she made the leap to murder with the finding of the flask… everything else adds up (insurance, etc.), so had she already concluded that Ambrose had murdered Bill and was planning already to kill the sot when she found the flask?. Apologies, this seems like a nitpicking comment and I’m this close to deleting it. – it’s been one of those months.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Not ‘nitpicking’ at all…….. I was putting a lot on my readers to fill in the gaps…… my missus brought up the same point, only she was more concerned that I had not described the ‘industrial accident’. In my mind, there was no other reason for Ambrose to keep the flask other than his guilt/ complicity in the husbands death…….. an ‘industrial accident’ is usually code for ‘the bloke got squashed by something’ and the flask should have been badly damaged, but it wasn’t. So it must have been removed from the body before the ‘accident’ occurred. For some reason I saw Ambrose keeping the flask as a ‘trophy’ or simply because he coveted it….. the husband did seem like the ‘senior’ partner.
      Your comment tells me that I need to look at the story again……. I felt that it was getting to be a bit long and my readers had the ‘two partness’ of the story to contend with, but I do sometimes err on the side of brevity when it comes to description, and I’m still learning what the correct balance is.
      Nothing should take you ‘out of the story’ and if something does then it needs to be sorted out.
      Thanks for taking the time to comment………. you know that I always appreciate it.
      I hope that the dust has been settling a bit for you………… it’s been bloody dusty around here just lately.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on araneus1 and commented:

    This will be the opening story in my new [as yet unnamed] Short Story Anthology [Book 3 in the series]. I wanted you to be able to read it one last time before it is blacked out on my site. I really love this story and I remember how I felt while I was writing it. At the time I was exploring my ability to ‘write as a woman’. That is not as easy as it sounds. I did not want to be ‘pretending’ to be a woman. If it did not ring true, then I had failed as a writer. I think that this, and other pieces I have written, where the protagonist is a woman, work pretty well. I hope you agree, and I hope you enjoy this story. The world needs more stories about garden tools; don’t you think?


  4. mmmm! lemon-meringue-pie. I love it, but I’ll watch my back whenever I eat it from now on.

    I laughed because of the story’s well stated irony and the expertly depicted effectiveness of a person new to murder — her very innocent(?) stepwise approach.

    also, I grew up in east Vancouver, where there’s at least one body in every concrete foundation, put there by the pros. I can relate, in a way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks dm, sorry that I ruined lemon-meringue pie for you…….. keep your back to the wall and always face the door while eating any sweets……… just sayin’.


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