The poor family kept arsenic around to poison the rats that always came in the rickety house. The house was more of a shack, but it had a roof and a wood burning stove in the kitchen. Rats came in from the fields almost year round.
Back then, they had kids to help with the farm work. Ready made slave labor born into a lifetime of voluntary, taught servitude.
The family went out in the fields all around the house in rural Alabama to work. They worked hard and were almost starving, so they left their Grandma at home to cook them something to eat. Grandparents were good for only two things: babysitting and cooking.
Maw rustled around in the kitchen and got the fire started. Mama was already gone. She’d run off a few years back looking for something new; anything new. All they owned was covered in rust and dust and was falling apart. She left him, the kids, and the farm.
Pa worked them kids. He didn’t know anything else.
Maw got out the lard and looked out the dirty window. She couldn’t get around good anymore. The old kitchen was her one stop back and forth every day on her way to the grave. She reached up in the cluttered cabinet and started pouring and mixing. Maw’s arm was still pretty strong though nothing else about her was near sufficient.
She finished her work and set the food on the table.
Pa and the kids came back in the house a little later and sat down. They didn’t even wash their hands. They started dipping and grabbing immediately and shoveled in their mouths. Near starvation, not much else mattered.
They went back out, leaving Maw to clean up the mess they’d left. There was a few beans still in the pot Maw decided to eat right then. She turned and glanced at the flour sack, not thinking much of it. She put the dishes in the sink and went to put the sack up. She sat it down, placing it back in the cabinet and saw a black “x” on it.
Maw stopped and thought. She looked around and out the dirty window.
That night after working in the field all day, the kids came in sick. Pa told ’em to go to bed. Pa wasn’t feeling too good himself, so he spit out his snuff and fell asleep on the old couch.
Maw got up first the next morning and went to check on the sleeping children. She pulled the covers back and touched the girl’s face. It was cold and the girl was dead. Both her brothers were dead.
It was right then that Maw realized she’d poisoned them with her arsenic biscuits.
With no life left to live Maw and Pa buried the kids.