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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Truth or Dare (08/28/08)

TITLE: "Come into my parlor," said the spider to the fly
By Marlene Bonney


The pain was reaching higher crescendos as the orchestra swept into waves of hushed melodies that changed to feverishly pitched clashes of sound.

But the music was only playing in her head . . . her body . . . her heart. The pain was stretching to high soprano range, and she knew the end was near.

Like a spider spinning its alluring web, she had wooed and won the man of her dreams decades ago—through deceit. And she knew she was paying the consequence of past choices.

Even now, Keith, ever faithful to the end, was sitting at her bedside, hovering over her like a mother hen over a wayward chick. Darling Keith, who, loving and cherishing her, continued to hold their marriage vows sacred.

“Patsy, sweetheart, want some ice chips? Here, let me raise your head a little,” his deep voice as soothing as the down comforter tucked up to her chin.

“Yes,” she whispered, “for I need to talk to you.”

The white hospital-sanitized clock on the white, sterile wall seemed to mock her carefully rehearsed words before they were uttered.

“Honey, maybe you should rest a while. Your pain levels have been climbing all day,” he, studying the latest monitor read-outs, protested.

Patsy gasped as another set of clanging cymbals crashed against her skull, confirming her husband’s concern, but she struggled to rise above it this time. He had to be told, and only she could do it. A perky little sanitary nurse scurried to the forefront, menacing syringe cocked and ready to strike.

“Roll over, hon, you know the drill.”

Not strong enough to resist rescue from the onslaught of another stanza blasting through her taxed brain, Patsy gave in to sweet release while the music faded . . .

She hadn’t meant to contrive the hoax. It just seemed to fall into place, and like a little seed planted in the Spring, the idea took root, watered and sunbathed by her acquiescence; then, bloomed over time into full flower, each petal another incident or circumstance to support the initial silent lie.

Now, in her dream, she saw it all in a time-line drawing. The day she and Keith met at an anti-abortion rally, of all places! She was poster organizer and he, group organizer. Unknowingly, she was pregnant at the time . . . the day several weeks later when she feigned a visit to a distant aunt, to get the ‘abortion-gone-bad’ at an out-of-state illegal clinic. The “doctor” was a trainee doing his first procedure . . . the day Keith proposed to her a few months later, declaring the separation from the sudden trip had driven him to distraction . . . each day, month and year of six consecutive failed pregnancies, along with the day the specialist confirmed they would be childless. But before she could see the marks noting the good times, joys and happy events, Patsy awoke.

Dependable Keith had slept in the sanitized hospital chair all night, showing he also realized the end was near.

“My Keith, I love you so,” and the pain was shooting again, making her body writhe and setting the monitor blaring. “Keith, before I die, listen to me!”

“Darling, all right. Don’t torture yourself so,” nodding to the attending physician to administer I.V. morphine.

‘Ah-h, so much better. The symphony is soundless for a change. Perhaps a break before the grand finale,’ Patsy’s mind wandered for a moment.

“Keith, remember when we met for the first time, and then when I went away to see my Auntie in Kentucky? I didn’t really see her. I . . . I had an abortion. I’m so sorry—”

“Sh-h-h,” Keith stroked her cracked lips, “please, honey, save your strength. I’ve always known about that. I convinced your mother to confide in me, I was so worried you were running away from me. We both agreed it was best to let you keep the secret.”

His tender words and the unconditional love he had shown all these years overwhelmed the dying woman--she, who had dared to trade the truth for a life of deceit, risking it all for nothing.

The Master Conductor led the orchestra into a bittersweet lullaby as Patsy took her last breath, the only audible sounds the sobs of a lonely old man sitting in a sterile hospital chair while the white sterile clock on the sanitized wall ticked on.

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This article has been read 476 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Kristin Slavik09/05/08
Wow, this was really touching. I am amazed by the layers of sybolism from the spider to the music to the relationship between the two. Good job!
Arlene Showalter09/05/08
I found the opening of this story very confusing, but after, I really got into it.
This story has a lot of potential. Powerful. Very powerful.
Jan Ackerson 09/07/08
Great idea for this topic! I love stories of forgiveness.

If you quote from a published work (as in your title), your should give the attribution in a footnote. The poem was written by Mary Howitt (and begins with the words "Will you walk...").

The recurring musical metaphor is very good. Strong entry!
Patty Wysong09/10/08
A beautiful story of forgiveness and love! Well done.