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The theme this time was "A Choice". As usual, we were given no clue as to how we might proceed. I tossed it around in my head for a while and then I realised that my wife had just bought some rather interesting socks and many years ago I had a girl friend who had similarly interesting knickers. Hmmm... Suddenly I had a theme and a perfect closing line (though, to be honest, I'm not sure I really understand the ending). I wonder if it's the story of a perfect, though really rather odd, murder. I'll let you decide.


The Choices of Jennifer

Jennifer was a classically pretty person, with a flawless, porcelain complexion. So much so, in fact, that Peter often thought of her as the personification of a perfect china doll. But despite this, her interior imperfections contrasted with, and sometimes marred, the fragile perfection of her doll-like exterior.

Jennifer didn’t have a middle name, but if she ever felt that she needed one, Peter was convinced that "Indecisive" would be the perfect name for her. Whenever Jennifer needed to choose something from a set of alternatives, she invariably had enormous difficulty in making up her mind – there were always far too many ramifications for her to consider. On the day that he got down on one knee and asked, "Jennifer, will you marry me?" she scratched her head thoughtfully and said, "Maybe… or maybe not...". After three months of weighing the pros and cons, she graduated to, "Perhaps… but..." and after a further two months he got "OK! I think..." and a beaming smile.

Just for fun, on their first wedding anniversary he took her out for dinner to a restaurant which had the longest and most complicated menu that he could find. There was soft music playing and subdued lighting cast subtle shadows. The atmosphere was very romantic. The waiter showed them to a discreet table for two and handed them each a menu. He lit a candle for them while Jennifer stared in dismay at page after page of culinary delights. Peter ordered a bottle of wine which the waiter brought and served. Then he left them to think about their meal.

"I think I might have the chicken," Jennifer said. "Or maybe the duck. The steak looks good. And the fish sounds delightful..."

"I’m having the grilled pork fillet," said Peter decisively. He closed his menu and put it down on the table. He took a sip of wine.

"...the pork does sound nice," said Jennifer. "Oh, look! There’s a delicious navarin of lamb. Perhaps I’ll have that… or maybe the fricassee of goat..."

"I’ve brought a twenty sided dice with me," said Peter. "Would you like to use it to make up your mind?"

Jennifer looked horrified. "I can’t make a random choice," she said. "I have to think about everything very carefully before I can properly decide. And then there’s dessert to consider. That’s always hard."

"The sooner you choose something," said Peter, "the sooner I can give you your anniversary present." He produced a gaily wrapped parcel from beneath his chair and put it on the table. Jennifer’s eyes widened with delight and she reached for the parcel, but Peter pulled it away from her. "Food first, present later," he said, and she pulled a face and stuck her tongue out at him. She went back to considering the menu. Peter saw her start to quiver as she thought about the various combinations that, if she put them together appropriately, might make a delicious meal. The problem was already far too large for her, and he could see that in her mind it kept getting larger still. It was quite clear that she was close to losing control of it.

"There’s far too much to think about," said Jennifer. "You will have to choose for me, otherwise we’ll be here all night."

"OK," said Peter. He’d expected this outcome. He’d been out for dinner with Jennifer many times before and so he knew exactly what to do. "Why don’t you go and powder your nose while I tell the waiter what we want. That way it will be a nice surprise for you when the food arrives, and you won’t have had a chance to think of six different reasons why you’d rather eat something else, because, of course, you won’t have any idea what you are going to be eating until it turns up on the table. And then it will be far too late to change your mind."

"I do  like a fait accompli," said Jennifer agreeably. "It solves so many problems." She trotted off to the ladies.

Peter ordered their food and then he put Jennifer’s anniversary present back on the table. She returned from the ladies, and sat down. "Can I open it now," she asked.

"Of course you can," said Peter and he sat back in his chair ready to enjoy the next stage of his joke.

Jennifer unwrapped the parcel, revealing a plain cardboard box. She opened the box and took out seven pairs of socks and seven pairs of knickers. Each pair of socks and each pair of knickers was embroidered with the name of a different day of the week. Jennifer looked puzzled. "Thank you… I think," she said uncertainly. "I’m sure these are just what I wanted, aren’t they?"

Just then the waiter brought their food. He gave Jennifer her lamb navarin and Peter his pork fillet. Then he put side dishes of steamed vegetables on to the table, refilled their wine glasses, and left them to enjoy their dinner.

As they tucked in to their food, Peter began to explain his present to Jennifer. "Just think of the possibilities," he said. "The most obvious, and also the most boring, is that you wear socks and knickers that match each other and which also match the actual day of the week. But there are many other, much more interesting combinations. Suppose that your knickers and your socks each display a different day which, of course, may or may not be the same as the actual day..."

Jennifer ate a mouthful of lamb and began to quiver under the stress of the choices that Peter was outlining for her.

"Then," continued Peter through a mouthful of pork, "suppose instead that you wear a sock of a different day on each foot. Your knickers may or may not match one of your socks and any one of the three may or may not correspond to the real day."

Jennifer started to moan as the terrible tree of choices expanded exponentially in front of her.

"And if your knickers display the same day as one of your socks," said Peter, "should the knickers match the right hand sock or the left hand sock? Perhaps, for the sake of symmetry, they should match left and right on alternate days..."

Jennifer gave a tiny scream and began to vibrate more strongly. A small stream of navarin sauce dribbled from the corner of her mouth. She was trembling so hard now that a scattering of cracks was beginning to spread over her skin.

"Should there be a pattern to your choices?" mused Peter. "Perhaps your socks should display yesterday and your knickers should display tomorrow. Or vice-versa, of course..."

Jennifer was shaking so much now that she could no longer hold her knife and fork. She dropped them on to the table. The cracks in her skin deepened and she made choking noises as she breathed.

"Or maybe you could use my twenty sided dice to randomise your daily choice of either socks or knickers," said Peter thoughtfully. "Patterns are so predictable, and you don’t want to be predictable, do you?"

Jennifer gave a final, despairing moan as the cracks in her skin fractured and she collapsed into a rattling heap of china shards on her chair.

Peter swallowed the last mouthful of his pork and summoned the waiter. "Can I have a doggy bag?" he asked. He gestured at the remains of the navarin of lamb on Jennifer’s plate and at the pile of porcelain fragments in the opposite chair. "For my wife," he explained.


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