When I was little we lived next door to a very nice lady who was fond of baking and handing out cookies. Gingerbread, star shaped,heart shaped , house shaped frosted and dusted- they were all delicious and all of them were on little plates scattered here and there on table tops throughout her old fashioned and softly lit living room.
One day I was over there for my almost daily cookie fix when she noticed me admiring one of her clocks ( this one had a blank face with hands that looked like tree branches ) that sat was sitting next to a plate of almond cookies when she told me out of the clear blue sky , that her husband had been an executioner.
I almost didn’t hear that- because when I wasn’t trying to decide which cookie to try next, I was distracted by those clocks.
Because Mrs. Fenton didn’t have just one or two clocks in her house.
Mrs. Fenton’s house was filled with clocks- big clocks. Little clocks. Hundreds of clocks. Some of the clocks looked like angels or ladies in fancy dress and they had clocks in their stomachs. I’ll be honest- I didn’t get that sort of design back then and I don’t get it now.
What I did get was that all of the clocks were stopped, roughly at few minutes after midnight and my neighbor explained that her husband used to buy a clock for each of the criminals he executed and he stopped them at the declared time of death.
I thought that was a neat idea- but I was a kid and at the time I thought shrunken heads were a neat idea too.
My favorite clock was a Grandfather clock – but this clock was stopped at 3:oo .
I assumed that clock wasn’t one of the execution clocks- but I was curious and asked.
” Oh that one. ” She said with a little laugh.
I took a cookie off the cookie table packed with small porcelain cats and waited to find out what the challenge was.
” Miss Clay was called the Greenlake Devil Woman. She killed the people she rented rooms to and after she killed them she chopped them up and fed them to her next batch of boarders.”
I was mid-bite into a cookie and I tried to picture that. I could see an old-fashioned kitchen and a lady in an old-fashioned frilly apron whistling just like a bird as she chopped and stirred and seasoned things in ceramic bowls and boiling pots.
With that happy image in mind I kept chewing.
” Well. Mr. Fenton did his job- and this one involved electricity- and they called Miss Clay’s time of death and Mr. Fenton was thinking about clocks and the County workers took her to the morgue and a few hours later she was back at her house in her kitchen working like a thing possessed. Mr Fenton and the police and a Priest or two showed up and there she was- a terrible beauty with flour dust in her hair and a smile on her blue yet very kissable lips- Mr Fenton said later. “
” Wow. So she came back from the dead and went home and cooked dinner?”
” No dear.” Mrs Fenton said looking at me curiously. ” Whatever gave you that idea? She came back from the dead and baked cookies.”