Sunday 19 January 2020

Murder on the menu over family dinner

It was a bit of a shock to the system when Eilis O'Hanlon discovered she was the only one in her family who wouldn't actually murder anyone

Eilis O'Hanlon

We were having a discussion over dinner recently about which one of us was most likely to commit murder. I'm not sure how we got on to the subject. Meal times do tend to be quite argumentative. That's not my fault. I'd happily eat in silence, like a monk, savouring my food. Others seem to regard the fact that we're all gathered around the table as a cue to begin a debate on such pressing subjects as why the Americans lied about going to the Moon (don't look at me; I didn't start it) and whether an author's opinion of his or her own work is any more valid than that of a reader (that one is still going on).

Somehow, murder was on the menu this night. It was quickly established that our son would indeed be prepared to kill, but only in self-defence. But that didn't really count, because everyone apart from the most mental pacifist would surely do the same.

Our eldest daughter, we decided, would kill for money, as long as she was guaranteed to get away with it.

Ever since she realised that children are the beneficiaries of a will, she's been plotting ways to do away with us, and Heaven help her younger brother and sister when she does, because they'll be next on the list. Well, why settle for one-third, when you can have it all?

Too smug

My youngest daughter is less ruthless, despite having a worrying fondness for slasher films, but she did say that she'd kill anyone who killed me. Which was nice.

"I think she meant anyone who killed either of us," Himself insisted. "Is that what you meant?" I asked. No, she confirmed, it was just me. I tried not to be too smug. I failed.

We all agreed that Himself was definitely most likely to become a murderer, mainly because he has always admitted to a not-so-secret yearning for a gun. For years, he tried to persuade us to move to South Carolina, so that he could carry a concealed weapon. He gets offended when we all point out that this makes him a prime candidate for a mass shooting, starting with us and then moving out into the general population.

But he did admit that, of all of us, he would indeed be most happy to kill certain individuals, and he wouldn't even feel sorry about it afterwards, as long as they had it coming.

Moral high ground

What surprised everyone, apart from me, was the realisation that I was by far the least likely of any of us to commit a murder. They'd always harboured a suspicion that I was probably steelier than I looked. Partly, I think it's the Belfast accent. It sounds threatening, no matter how hard you try to soften it

But mainly, it's my own fault for going on so much about being from the Occupied Six. And, yes, I do call it that. If the kids are complaining about something trivial, I always like to remind them that I grew up in a war zone, and that we had far more urgent things to worry about than whether someone remembered to buy the Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice-cream.

It never works, but I live in hope.

My moment of smugness at being the least likely murderer was shortlived anyway, because they then started to accuse me of being a wimp for not wanting to kill anyone!

Though there was one exception.

I couldn''t deny it. In fact, I live in constant fear that this person, who must remain nameless, will one day be bumped off, because I'd be the prime suspect.

"Doesn't count," I said. "We're only talking members of the human race here."

"Fair enough," Himself grumbled. If he's learned nothing else after all these years, it's that some arguments are just not worth having.

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