In The Soup
It was an unfortunate day for the Craddocks. Like most unfortunate days, it started well with no hint of what was going to occur later. Peter and Julie had been married for twenty five years and had two children, Robert and Lucy. They also had living with them Julie’s widowed mother Elsie, who was a much loved grandmother to the children.
It was Peter who was hit with the first piece of bad luck of the day. The family had volunteered, along with others, to participate in a fund raising activity to help replace the stolen lead from the chapel roof. Participants drew lots to see what constraints they would put on their lives for a 24 hour period, which they would be sponsored for. While Julie was required to wear only purple, Robert to avoid cracks in the pavement and Lucy to skip everywhere she went, Peter was committed to spending an entire day only being allowed to speak in haiku. Elsie merely had to bake a cake.
‘This is an outrage. How can I be expected — to speak just like this?’ he complained bitterly.
The Craddocks had never been a lucky family. Misfortune often seemed to be out to get them, and it appeared to be hereditary. Peter Craddock’s grandfather, Norman, used to work for Campbell’s, the tinned food company. It was he who designed the labels for the cans that inspired Andy Warhol’s famous soup can paintings. Inspired? Copied, more like, thought Norman. If ever there were an injustice, it was the millions of pounds that Warhol’s work was worth when the originals — the originals, Norman would stress — only earned him the standard wage of a graphic designer.
The court case was costly, as it did not go Norman’s way, and he spent the rest of his life in penury.
Today, the curse of the soup can was to strike again, but in a different fashion. When the family arrived home, they discovered they had been burgled. Thieves had broken in through a back window and given the house a thorough ransacking. The intruders had taken any small valuable items they could find — jewellery, watches, electronic devices — things they could comfortably carry.
Needless to say, they were all utterly devastated to come home to such a scene.
‘Call the police,’ Julie said to Peter, not foreseeing the potential difficulties with this.
Peter dialled nine nine nine, and when he got through said, ‘We’ve just been burgled. Send officers straight away. Thirteen Ashburton . . .’ Damn, he thought, and inwardly cursed his address’s syllable count.
‘Is that Ashburton Street, Road or Avenue, sir?’ asked the operator.
‘Ashburton Aven. . .’ said Peter counting the syllables on his fingers. ‘You must come immediate. . .’ He waved a fist in frustration. ‘Leave as soon as possib. . . Aaarrgghh!’
‘Don’t worry, dear,’ said Julie after he’d hung up. They won’t have got the really valuable jewellery. Remember the soup can?’
Peter cheered up a little. ‘Yes, the Campbell’s soup! They won’t have checked the larder. The jewels will be safe!’
‘What soup can?’ asked Lucy.
‘Can you explain, dear? I might struggle with this one. It‘ll need a sonnet.’
‘Of course. Well, in the larder is a secret hiding place. It is a tin disguised as a can of Campbell’s tomato soup and in it we keep all our most valuable jewellery and family heirlooms. Things that can never be replaced. The idea is that no burglar is going to go through all the tins in the larder trying to find something worth stealing.’
‘That’s clever,’ said Robert. ‘Can we see it?’
They all went to the kitchen and had a good rummage through the larder. Unfortunately, the secret tin could not be found.
‘That’s strange,’ said Julie. ‘We wouldn’t have put it anywhere else. I wonder where it is.’
‘Where’s what, dear?’ asked her mother, who had just come into the kitchen to find everyone looking for something.
‘A tin of Campbell’s tomato soup,’ said her daughter.
‘Oh, that. I gave it to the food bank last Christmas. It had been lying around for ages. I didn’t think anyone wanted it.’
And then Peter composed his magnum opus:
‘Bugger, arse, bollocks!
Shitehawk, cocksucking jizzballs!
Fuck, fuck, fucking fuck!’
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