The Case of the Missing Peeps
Introduction to the Tale
Upon returning home, I had to pause and look around my home...wondering, if I should suddenly die tomorrow...what interesting mysteries would I leave behind for others to solve?
As you can see from this tale, my mother had a very dark secret hidden in the closet....or was it a sweet one?
I'll leave that for you to judge. But in the meantime...you may want to take stock of what you leave behind when you go. There could be nosy people like my sisters and I around and we'll uncover all of your secrets...with pleasure.
Nancy Drew...Eat Your Heart Out
"Okay, Laurie," Toni said pushing the piece of paper across the table at me, "you try to figure it out. The rest of us have no idea what it means."
Instantly curious, I made like Nancy Drew and plucked it off the table. Hmm...a clue? Slowly I examined the document. Common stock notebook paper, college ruled with unruly white paper shreds at the top. The notebook was obviously of the spiral bound variety...aka a stenographer's pad.
There was writing on this creased sheet of paper...a graceful, feminine hand done in blue ink. I sniffed the page. As I suspected, probably a Bic...the one that comes twenty-four to a pack. My eyes drifted to the first line of writing...
9. Purple chicks, marshmallow rabbits, jelly beans
Interesting...very, very interesting...
As absorbed and fascinated as I was by this obviously complex message, I barely noticed my sister, Michele looking over my shoulder.
"Keep reading," she said.
8. Almond joy egg, blue bunnies, M&Ms
My acute detective skills noticed the clues running in a sequentially decreasing manner down to the number one. Each line had three items...and three items only...no more than three...but more than two and definitely less than four. This seemed important.
"Purple chicks and blue bunnies," I muttered under my breath thoughtfully.
I rubbed my chin, grimacing as my fingertips brushed a stiff hair that had somehow escaped my notice until now. Genetics and hormones were definitely working against me. Using my fingernails as pincers, I managed to grab the end of it and give it a quick tug.
"Aha!" I yelled triumphantly.
"You got it!" said Toni gleefully.
I held the offensive hair up for inspection and frowned at it.
"Yeah...but if it had been any shorter I would have needed my tweezers...and I forgot to pack them."
Toni's brow furrowed in puzzlement.
"No, no," she said dismissively, "I mean the list. What does it MEAN?"
Still involved in examining the offensive whisker, I answered in a rather preoccupied manner.
"Oh...well that's easy. It's all Easter candy."
"So," Michele said turning her attention to the list again, "if that's Easter candy...then the next part of the list...numbers four to one are....?"
"Valentine's Day candy!" Toni shouted pleased with her deductive reasoning, "See...conversation hearts...line three."
"And below that are lines numbered two and one....and they are both Christmas candy" I concluded.
The three of us nodded our heads...convinced we were hot on the trail of a most complex and baffling case...the work of a truly twisted and probably compulsively organized mind. Mom.
"Why would Mom make a list of candy?" Michele asked.
"Even more importantly...why is the Christmas candy, the Valentines candy and line number one of the Easter candy crossed off?" I pointed out quickly.
The three of us pondered this complication solemnly.
"Not to mention," added Toni, "it's August. Easter was what...four months ago?"
With a sigh, I folded up the note and carefully placed it back on the table.
"I'm afraid," I began hesitantly, "that I can only draw one conclusion from this list."
Two sets of blue eyes turned to me, breathlessly anticipating my brilliant deductive powers.
"It's a stash list. I'm betting that somewhere in our mother's apartment, we're going to find a secret cache of marshmallow peeps..."
We all smiled at the memory of marshmallow peeps and Mom. It was one of her weaknesses. She even had a special way of eating them. With a great show of ceremony, she would unwrap the cellophane and then set the exposed tray of sugary, marshmallow confections on the counter "to stale." Once the outside was sort of crunchy...but the inside was still soft...they were deemed fit for consumption.
"But that can't be," Toni said coming out of our shared reverie first to defend our mother. "Mom would never hoard candy...and she's a diabetic. She says she's been doing really well...and I've already been over there twice now. I didn't see anything."
Michele and I shared a knowing smile. Being the youngest by a good many years and not prone to snoop...err...sleuthing, Toni had obviously not been part of her siblings "Christmas Present" hunting excursions.
"I'll look under her bed," Michele volunteered.
With a grin I replied, "I'll take the bedroom closet."
The next day, the three of us drove to the hideout of the suspected marshmallow peep hoarder. In no hurry, sure of what we would eventually find, it seemed to be a good idea to gather as many facts as we could in regard to our suspect.
Michele began sorting through a pile of greeting cards while Toni picked up a stack of papers by the recliner. There was yet another stack of papers on the edge of the table, so I pulled out a chair and began perusing this.
"Check this out," Michele interrupted, "there are three cards at the top with money in them." Let's see...Happy Anniversary...Happy Birthday...Happy Anniversary..."
"Well...whose anniversary is next?" asked Toni. "Oh! Grab the calendar...the one on the door...she marked EVERY occasion on it."
Michele reached over and casually snatched it off the door. "Hmm," she said as her finger traced over the dates, "who are Norm and Vickie?"
Toni wrinkled her forehead. "I dunno...and why would Mom send them money? Didn't she just do that for immediate family?"
"Ah...I have the answer," I said holding up a small pocket sized calendar. "Look here...see how she has the same occasions written in this calendar as the one that was hung up on the door?"
They both nodded their blonde heads in unison.
"But there's a difference. Some are written in black ink...and some in red. If you compare the red ones...the next card receivers are...Michele and Randy anniversary...our niece, Jessica's birthday...and Toni and Dennis anniversary." I folded my arms smugly having cleverly unraveled the card mystery.
"Well, don't get all relaxed yet," Toni said from her perch in the recliner, "I found a really good list here."
Michele and I wandered over wondering what new and insidious plot would emerge from this new clue.
"Okay," Toni began. "On August 11th, Mom ate a muffin for breakfast....lunch would have been a salami sandwich...and dinner was going to be a hot dog."
"Wow, Sherlock," I said with a touch of disdain, "I could have told you the hot dog part since it's in the refrigerator thawed."
Toni quickly stuck her tongue out at me and continued, "Would you like to know what she was going to eat the next day...or maybe the day after that...or..." She quickly flipped the page of the notepad. "Hmm...how about if I could tell you what was planned for September?"
"You are kidding, right?" Michele said aghast.
Peering over Toni's shoulder I read the list. With a strong note of disapproval I commented, "She was eating far too many hot dogs."
"But she liked hot dogs...a lot" Toni assured me.
I made a small gagging noise and continued riffling through my stack of papers.
Emerging from our mother's bedroom, Michele came out holding a piece of paper over her head with a triumphant smile on her face.
"I found one to top that!" she said with a cocky grin.
"Impossible" said Toni.
"I have found...are you ready for this...her make-up schedule!" Michele crowed with glee.
"No!" I exclaimed. "So...she has a list of what she was going to put on her face for the entire week?"
"Even worse," Michele said in mock horror, "it's by the month."
My jaw hung open in slack amazement as Toni replied, "Damn...that's a LOT of make-up."
"Three boxes full to be exact," said Michele nodding.
Being avid make-up mavens, the two of them trundled off to the bedroom to examine the contents of the three boxes while I continued searching for further information. Near the bottom of the pile, an odd sheet caught my attention.
Along one side were dates and to the right of those were rectangles divided into three smaller rectangles at odd intervals. Of the three smaller rectangles, the one furthest to the right was blacked out. In some cases this smaller rectangle took up 50% of the larger one...while in others, especially during the colder months...it was maybe 5% of the larger rectangle.
A suspicious thought wriggled into my mind and I casually glanced over my shoulder for confirmation. It was as I feared...
"Uh...Michele? Toni?" I said with a note of disbelief, realizing what I had in my hand, "Could...uh...you come here for a second?"
Obediently, the two of them returned to the living room...their lips a rather cheerful shade of plum...or perhaps maroon. They looked like overfed vampires. Obviously they'd been in our mother's lipstick locker.
"What did you find?" asked Toni curiously.
Quietly I held out the sheet of paper to the two of them...secretly enjoying the baffled looks on their faces.
"Laurie...what the hell is this?" Michele asked.
"Well," I said, drawing out the moment with as much suspense as I could, "other than a cry for help...it's a schedule."
"I can see that," commented Toni, "since there are dates here...but a schedule for what exactly?"
I smiled slowly. "What do you see over my shoulder? Something...rectangular..."
"Oh...my...god," Toni said as appalled as I had been. "The WINDOW?"
I nodded slowly. "Yes...the window. And the one in her bedroom."
Michele blinked...at first uncomprehending the significance. I watched as the meaning of the list gradually sunk in...her eyes lighting up as she reached the correct conclusion...and then the awful truth.
"Mom made a list of how much to open the windows and when?" she said disbelievingly.
Silently, we each took a seat...the impact of what we had uncovered this day a bit overwhelming. Quietly, I returned the stack of papers to the table as Toni shuffled her feet uncomfortably and cleared her throat.
"So..." Michele began uneasily.
Morosely, I nodded my head in agreement and said, "Mmmm."
"We all make lists..." Toni finally said in a defeated tone, "although, to be honest...I hardly ever..."
I choked back a laugh as Michele arched one finely plucked eyebrow.
"Weren't you the one sitting at the kitchen table this morning making a list of everything we have to do before Friday?" I pointed out.
"Well....there's a lot to remember. What about you and your infamous grocery lists?"
"Those don't count...everyone makes grocery lists!" I retorted. "Besides," I continued, "I wasn't the one that said she probably packed everything wrong for this trip because she didn't have time to make a list of what to pack!" Pointedly I looked over at Michele who had the grace to flush bright red.
"So how many lists would I find if I booted up your computer then?" Toni asked impishly lobbing another question in my direction.
I smiled in mild chagrin. "A lot," I confessed with a self-deprecating laugh. "But definitely not a window or make-up schedule!" I added feeling somewhat vindicated by my self-restraint.
Michele rubbed her hands together and stood. "I don't know about the rest of you...but I could sure go for some marshmallow peeps. Shall we?"
The three of wandered into the bedroom and within five minutes had resurrected eight plastic bags from the dark recesses of the closet. Toni was of course flabbergasted by the armload of bags as we pulled them from their hiding spot and shook their contents out onto the floor. Adding insult to injury, Michele...who is also one of two nurses in our family...flipped the switch on our mother's glucose meter and began reading off the history.
"126...235...386...223..." she intoned, her mouth pursed in furious disapproval.
Toni and I gasped in horror.
"But...but..." Toni stammered, "Mom said that she had it under control." It was rather heartbreaking to watch her reaction at being deceived so cleverly.
"Typical diabetic," Michele muttered, "lie...lie...lie...lie...lie."
"Shall we test our own blood sugar?" I suggested.
Despite Toni's protests over being assaulted with a lancet, we managed to prick ourselves and feed a bit of blood to the meter. With relief, we were glad to discover that all three of us fell well below the danger zone. I won at 102. Evidently, we'd only inherited the OCD list making gene...so far.
Having earned the right to a sugar rush, we ripped the cellophane off a package of yellow chicks with gusto, bit off their heads and chewed slowly.
"They don't taste quite right," complained Toni.
"Of course they don't," Michele agreed in a comforting manner, "but don't worry...we'll take a package of peeps home tonight and leave them on the counter. They'll be perfect for breakfast."
With a smile, we toasted our mother, her sweet tooth, and her twisted lists with our half-eaten peeps, laughing as the sticky marshmallow bits got stuck to each other...another mystery successfully solved.