There is another world, but it is in this one.

Paul Eluard. Œuvres complètes, vol. 1, Gallimard, 1968.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Four stories from Alfred Hitchcock anthologies

Alfred Hitchcock: 16 Skeletons from My Closet (1963)

16 Skeletons does not have the historical breadth of other Hitchcock anthologies.

Still, "...said Jack the Ripper," reminiscent of "The Waxworks" by A.M. Burrage, is worth the cover price.

...said Jack the Ripper

by Robert Arthur (1957)

A wax museum filled with murderers and their victims is a bad place for a condemned man to hide after escaping death row on the night he is supposed to go to the electric chair. And the wax museum proprietor, Pop, seems a little "funny."

"Keep your eyes open, Pop," the police inspector called back as he headed for the door. "Blow that whistle I gave you if you hear anything. We'll come running. Morgan's around some place."

"I will, Inspector," Pop Dillon answered, staying carefully in front of the seated figure in the electric chair - a figure with a black cloth over its face, with a metal plate clamped to its skull, with straps holding its wrists and ankles in place.

As the door closed, the figure in the electric chair stirred. Burke Morgan lifted the false bands that seemed to bind his arms and legs. He pushed back the metal bowl on his head and lifted the black cloth from his face. He winced as his stiffened shoulder protested.

"Seemed like they were here an hour," he said. "Good thing they were in a hurry, my shoulder was getting pretty bad. But, you see, they never gave me a second look."

"Oh, it was very smart," Pop agreed. "But now what can you do? If you go out even in a police uniform, they'll recognize you; there are so many of them."

"I don't think so. But anyhow I'm going to stay here for a couple of hours until they move to another part of the park. If anyone comes back, we'll work the same trick. I'm going to take it easy right here in this chair, and you can sit there, in your old rocker. We'll wait together, Pop."

Alfred Hitchcock: Stories They Wouldn't Let Me Do on TV (1960)

Stories They Wouldn't Let Me Do on TV is filled with canonical masterpieces by Edward Lucas White, Jerome K. Jerome, M. R. James, Saki, and Robert Hichens. There were still several I had not read before, however.

Being a Murderer Myself by Arthur Williams

A droll tale narrated by a too-clever killer beset by attentions of tiresomely attentive women. Some might envy such a predicament; the narrator finds in it only pragmatic fodder for his chicken farm.

....She did not notice, however, that I was not enthusiastic at the prospect of helping her. Actually, I was highly displeased. After she had jilted me, I had worked her out of my system, at the same time making extensive improvements on my poultry farm. I had made the whole farm self-supporting, and with labor-saving devices and processes was able to run the whole place singlehanded, for I liked fowls and preferred to do all the work among them myself.

     But with Susan there it would have been difficult to continue in the same satisfying way. I knew I would have to entertain her, which meant that I would have had to shelve some of the less important, yet essential work. My routine would probably have got interfered with, and the three thousand chickens, which were at the most awkward age, might have caught cold or contracted some other ailment they are susceptible to.

A Woman Seldom Found by William Sansom

....Softly she spoke the return of his love. Nothing would ever go amiss, nothing would ever come between them. And very gently she drew back the bedclothes for him.

     But suddenly, at the moment when at last he lay beside her, when his lips were almost upon hers - he hesitated.

     Something was wrong. A flaw could be sensed. He listened, felt - and then saw that the fault was his. Shaded, soft-shaded lights by the bed - but he had been so careless as to leave on the bright electric chandelier in the centre of the ceiling. He remembered the switch was by the door. For a fraction, then, he hesitated. She raised her eyelids - saw his glance at the chandelier, understood.

Samson, L.P. Hartley, and Robert Aickman cry out in one voice: Never visit Venice!

The Perfectionist by Margaret St. Clair

Aunts and nephews: a relationship that usually ends in tears.

Our narrator moves in with his Aunt Muriel, who loves sketching but has a hard time with active subjects. A drawing of goldfish is aided by Muriel freezing the fishbowl. Her beloved dog finally sits still after he is poisoned and taxidermied.

....The day was muggy and overcast, and I didn't feel like doing much, anyhow. I disbudded peonies for a while and clipped off seed pods; then I decided to give the Oriental cherries a light going-over with the pruning shears. It ought to have been done earlier. When I'd finished, I went into the shed for some linseed oil and bordeaux to mix a poultice for their wounds.

     Reaching for the can of bordeaux, an unfamiliar gleam in the comer behind it caught my eyes. It was a can of arsenate of lead. The label bore the usual skull and crossbones. I opened the can. About a quarter of an inch of the poison was gone.

     It might have been in the shed before, of course; I wasn't sure it hadn't been. I held on to that idea: I wasn't sure.

     I don't know what I did the rest of the day. I must have pottered around in the garden, trying not to think, until dinner time. Aunt Muriel came to the window once and asked me if I didn't want any lunch, and I said I wasn't hungry.


15 May 2020

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