The October Country: Oct. 3: “Lamb to the Slaughter” by Roald Dahl

In celebration of the month of October, I’ll be sharing 31 of my favorite spooky, eerie and creepy stories, one per day. The stories will range over an array of genres: horror, suspense, science fiction, mysteries and dark fantasy.

The October Country

that country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights stay. That country composed in the main of cellars, sub-cellars, coal-bins, closets, attics, and pantries faced away from the sun. That country whose people are autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts. Whose people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain…

— Ray Bradbury

October 3: 

Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl

Found In:

Tales of the Unexpected

Opening Line:

“The room was warm and clean, the curtains drawn, the two table lamps alight-hers and the one by the empty chair opposite.”

Ah, Roald Dahl, wonder of my childhood reading. I have so many fond memories of Dahl’s books for kids: Matilda, The Witches, James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The BFG.

Like many others, I was entirely caught off-guard by Dahl’s adult work, which is dark and delicious and utterly diabolical. In retrospect, this really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Consider all the wickedness in those children’s books: the hideous witches, the vile teachers, Mr. and Mrs. Twit.

What is Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory if not a glossed-over house of horrors?

Lamb to the Slaughter is probably Dahl’s best-known short work. If you haven’t read it, you’ve really missed out.

The tale centers around prim and proper Mary Maloney, who over the course of the story will do some very unprim and improper things. Such as murder her husband. Mr. Maloney apparently has had enough of his wife, and he comes home one evening and explains that he wants a divorce.

“So there it is,” he added. “And I know it’s kind of a bad time to be telling you, bet there simply wasn’t any other way. Of course I’ll give you money and see you’re looked after. But there needn’t really be any fuss. I hope not anyway. It wouldn’t be very good for my job.”

Well, when you put it that way…

Old Mary isn’t having it. She’s sixth months pregnant with Mr. Maloney’s child and she isn’t going to stand for this kind of crap. So she hoists up a frozen leg of lamb and beans her husband over the head.

And that’s the end of that, as they say.

But that’s not the end of the story. Murder is all fine and dandy, but then you’ve got a body to dispose of. Which is where Dahl’s tale becomes truly unique, brilliant and demented.

Mary Maloney will get away with murder. How she does it, however, is a stroke of genius. Because it’s not just explaining away her dead husband’s body, but doing away with the murder weapon.

Lamb to the Slaughter is, my dear reader, a fine meal for one late October evening.

More October Stories

For the month of October, you can download

Tyler Miller’s The Other Side of the Door 

FREE.

In celebration of my favorite month, I’m giving away my collection The Other Side of the Door. These are stories inspired by so many of my favorite writers: Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Richard Matheson, Shirley Jackson.

Stories like the award-winning Til Death Do Us, about a man who believes he’s gotten away with his wife’s murder…at least until her severed finger is delivered to him in a box. Somebody knows the truth…

Or another first-place winner: Not Dead, Not Even Past, the story of a small-town sheriff confronted with a string of suicides he can’t explain. Each of the victims share a disturbing trait: no matter how they died, all of them have lungs full of water.

I loved working on these stories, and I truly believe that you’ll enjoy reading them just as much as I enjoyed writing them. Check them out. For the entire month, they’re free. What have you got to lose?

Except a little sleep…

Above image by Hardy Mayes

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