Mum was a regular church goer and they had this thing going where a group of wives took turns to cook lavish dinners once a month. It came round to Mum’s turn and since we had just butchered one of our cows, she decided to serve steaks all round, sauteed in mushrooms, red wine and garlic.
It would be a big job but as luck would have it, Grandma was coming to stay that weekend too, so it was do-able with her assistance.
The only problem was the mushrooms; the local store didn’t stock them. It would mean a two hour drive to the suburbs and a supermarket. Dad suggested we use the wild ones that grew in the bush block by the creek.
We had eaten them before but Mum was really worried we could mistakenly pick the wrong ones. Dad came up with the idea of cooking a steak with the mushrooms, the day before and feeding them to Old Jess the cattle dog.
The day arrived and Mum and Grandma cooked up the mushrooms with wine and garlic into a rich dark sauce. They cooked up a piece of porterhouse steak medium rare, liberally covered it with the mushroom sauce and gave it to old Jess. She thought all her birthdays had come at once and quickly scoffed the lot. Jess was fine all that day, so it was deemed the mushrooms were safe.
Mum and Grandma slaved away for hours preparing the meal for the church ladies and it was a grand affair. The evening went very well. They were finishing their desserts, brandy baskets of fresh berries and cream, when Grandma, looking very worried, beckoned Mum out to the kitchen. There on her mat was Old Jess, dead. Grandma was sobbing, saying how Jess had died in her arms and she’d bought her inside and put her on her favourite spot – her mat.
Mum quickly called the hospital and they sent out an ambulance. They had to stomach pump everyone – not a pretty site.
Grandma was so distraught, she just kept sobbing, stroking old Jess.
It wasn’t until the church ladies and ambulance had gone, that we were able to get any sense out of Grandma. She said, “And the bastard in the car who hit her never even stopped!” she said.