Today is Wednesday and it’s time for Short Stories on Wednesdays. This time, I’m going to feature another scary short story by Ruth Rendell, one of the suspense writers I greatly admire. Well, her “The Fever Tree” (19 pages) is not entirely scary but it has enough thrilling elements to shake one’s reader in wonder and disbelief. That was what happened to me. But before I go into the details, you might be wondering by now what will happen to Short Stories on Wednesdays, what with the title and all.
First, let me assure you that Short Stories on Wednesdays is here to stay. Contrary to some readers who have yet to appreciate the wittiness of short stories, I read them like how I would devour pan de sal with a cup of warm tsokolate for breakfast. For the record, short story collections are piling up on my shelves faster than novels and children’s books. In fact, I’m reading more short stories than I could blog about. Therefore, I love short stories, and this weekly event is the best way for me to spread the love and even give venue for others to do the same.
You see a catch coming, huh? Yes, you’re right; there is a “but”. I’m fixing some priorities to focus more time with family and friends, which means I might “renovate” Short Stories on Wednesdays (originally owned and hosted by Risa) to become a monthly event, instead of weekly, to give you all the chance to read more short stories at your own time without getting bogged down by having to write a weekly post for Short Stories on Wednesdays, although technically no post is really required for the event; just your sharing and ideas at the comments section are enough and very much appreciated. Still, I want to give other bloggers, those who might be interested to join and even myself with enough opportunity to fit in more short stories in their reading and writing schedule. This idea is actually inspired by the mechanics of The Poetry Project hosted by Lu and Kelly.
We could even do a monthly non-mandatory theme by authors, such as Joyce Carol Oates for September, or by culture, such as Indonesian short stories for October, which means this could be our chance to enjoy, if not follow through, more short stories by the same author or culture, rather than random weekly pickings (I’m guilty of that). In the process, this would also mean a change of name of this weekly event. Mind you, these ramblings are still in rough draft; nothing is definite yet. Any suggestions? With your help, I could iron things out before I go on a week-long business trip starting Monday next week.
Just because I’m sharing what I have in mind as far as Short Stories on Wednesdays will go does not mean I’ll miss out on this chance to share with you another short story. As I’ve said, The Fever Tree by Ruth Rendell is “quite” astonishing (there I said it properly). If I were asked how I would describe Rendell as a writer with only this short story to read, I would say she somehow got O. Henry’s obsession with irony and surprise endings and Joyce Carol Oates’ flair for the dramatics and even some Filipino writers’ tricky use of relevant symbols.
The Fever Tree tells of a couple—Ford and Tricia—who are on a second honeymoon after Ford left his lover Marguerite to return to his wife, Tricia, “for ever”. They go to an African place to see wild and exotic animals. The first few things that Ford notices when they arrive at the camp are two fever trees, which, to Ford’s knowledge, signal the onslaught of malaria in an area. On their first night, Ford gets bitten by mosquitoes. He’s fine; however in the succeeding days, he is beginning to panic and entertain thoughts to kill his wife by “accidentally” leaving her to the wild animals in order to return to his lover. It is like, with just a mosquito bite, the intentions of his subconscious surface, revealing how vile Ford really is or how he really feels for his wife.
Tricia reminds me of the female lead character in Oates’ short story, “The Goddess”, choosing to be childish and fearful to appease the men around. She is actually surprisingly stronger, made more obvious against a wild and exotic backdrop, and astute, if not suspicious, of her husband’s behavior. She acts fast, too, which contributes to the dumbfounding ending.
The fever tree, therefore, does not only mean incoming malaria. Still, the result is, well, feverish (I don’t want to spoil the ending even if I think readers who have read a lot of short stories already might find the result predictable). The end for me personally was I couldn’t bring myself to read another Ruth Rendell short story for the day. Therefore, I conclude that The Fever Tree is remarkable and memorable.
Have you read this one? What other short stories by Ruth Rendell have you read? I previously featured the writer’s “The Fallen Curtain” and “The New Girl Friend” for Short Stories on Wednesdays. You could check it out here.
What short stories have you read this past week?
- Nancy -
- [Readings in Philippine Literature: Short Story # 1] “Dead Stars” by Paz Marquez-Benitez, a pioneer Filipino short story writer
- [News] First bilingual edition of “Noli Me Tangere” by Jose P. Rizal
- [Readings in Philippine Literature: Short Story # 6] Dahong Palay by Arturo B. Rotor
- [Readings in Philippine Literature: Short Story # 5] Children of the Ash-Covered Loam by N. V. M. Gonzales
- [Readings in Philippine Literature: Short Story # 3] “The Wedding Dance” and “The Woman who Looked out of the Window”, and some poems by Amador T. Daguio