Hannah and George had been talking for years about finding a lot at the lake. They wanted to build a summer getaway. George had finally called a real estate agent one morning and found news of a development in the works close to the lake.
"He's coming to see you right after lunch," said George, when he phoned home. "Find out the size of the lots and if they're totally new or if anyone has started building on any of them. It would be nice to find one with the service lines already going past. If he has anything priced low enough, we can run up there this weekend and have a look."
In anticipation of the agent's visit Hannah baked a poppy seed cake. She was just cutting it into slices and laying out a tea tray when the doorbell rang.
Now the day might have turned out a lot differently if Hannah hadn't had words with her neighbour Myrna that morning.
It had been a simple argument over the merits of heirloom versus hybrid tomatoes, but it got a little heated as gardening disputes are apt to.
So, when Myrna was visited by a salesman hawking funeral plots, she was still smarting from the altercation. She stifled a wicked grin and sent the salesman next door to Hannah with the assurance his prospect was looking for such a product.
Hannah opened the door with a cheery welcome and an invitation to sit while she brought out a tray with tea and cake she had prepared for her expected real estate agent.
The delighted salesman was sorting his pamphlets and preparing his pitch when Hannah set down the tray. His face had lit up at Hannah's welcome. It wasn't often he faced this sort of enthusiasm about his product. Most people had a strong aversion towards making arrangements for their final resting place.
"I'm Frederick Murray," he said rising with an outstretched hand.
"I'm so glad to meet you Mr. Murray. This is something George and I have been looking forward to for years," Hannah began as she shook his hand. "Our friends keep saying 'why do you want to go bury yourself up there in the boonies?' but we think we'll enjoy it. It's not as if we can't change our mind and come home when we've had enough peace and quiet, is it?."
Murray gave Hannah a startled glance but went on, "What can I tell you about our plots?" he asked.
"George said to ask about size," Hannah began. "What are the dimensions of your lots or are they all the same?" She knew George would want room to have a barbeque and she wanted a front yard big enough to host an outdoor party or two when they had visitors or family staying.
"Our plots are mostly designed for eight occupants," said Murray.
"Oh there are just the two of us." she said, "But it would be nice to have something large enough to accommodate guests."
The salesman gave a sudden gasping sound as a mouthful of tea chose the wrong path.
When he recovered, she went on. "We'd like something close to the lake. Tell me, Mr. Murray, are all of your lots new, or have any been previously occupied ? We had planned to do our own building."
"Building?" he asked with an uncomprehending gaze, before realizing the gist of her previous question. He gasped out "I assure you, they have never been occupied before. That would be illegal as well as ..."
Hannah interrupted. "I just thought if they had been previously owned, we might not have to do our own excavating and arranging for services."
Murray's face now included puzzlement as well as growing horror. "But wouldn't your minister arrange for your services, and also the umm-excavating, when the time comes?"
"Our minister? Oh I see what you mean, I guess we would need government permits before we started digging."
The salesman was by now wearing an expression of bewilderment leaning towards horror. But he told himself it took all kinds and he didn't want to lose what Myrna had assured him was a sure sale.
"And the lots are all landscaped for use? We don't have to plant grass and clear away the stones, do we?" asked Hannah.
She failed to notice that Murray was now regarding her with the same fascination one would display while watching a snake appear from a wicker basket. He gulped and tried again.
"You said you only needed room for the two of you? I don't think we have any smaller plots but I can make enquiries."
"Oh never mind." Hannah said. "I realize we will need to have room for more". She thought back to weekends when George reconnected with his old fishing buddies. "George is always trailing around the country digging up old friends."
It was at this point that the salesman choked on a piece of poppy seed cake. Hannah jumped up, ready to apply her knowledge of the Heimlich maneuver that she had gained from a Google search, but Mr. Murray leapt up and coughed his way to the door, waving his hand in dismissal. He was willing to go through a lot to make a sale, but he had reached his limit with Morticia of the Addams family.
As he lunged through the doorway, making his getaway, he left a trail of brochures through Hannah's bed of heirloom tomatoes as he took the shortest route to his car.
"Wait," called Hannah. "Aren't you going to leave me your list of prices? Oh well," she shrugged at his retreating form, "I guess it's your funeral, not mine."
I am in the process of compiling a new Baker's Dozen collection of Hannah and George stories. Let me know what you think of this one.
If you would like to check out my other Baker's Dozen sets, A Baker's Dozen Mysteries or A Baker's Dozen Romances, please click on the following pictures.
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