This short story made me miss the launch of the new series of Strictly Come Dancing!
This compelling literary, scientific and philosophical story is no ordinary, predictable tale. From the outset, one is searching for the manipulator. The clever use of perspective and narrative structure guides the reader into the narrative and instructs. It is an intelligent study of the human condition and the psyche: though this may seem challenging – it isn’t. Engaging with the central character becomes an obsession for the reader.
Like Sandra, the reader connects with the ‘fragile’ Tess who suffers ‘deep unease into the roots of her hair’. Stage, by stage Tess’s life is deconstructed. The comparison between Sandra’s life and Tess’s life is clever. On the surface, the elderly Tess is as vulnerable as Sandra’s children; but unlike the children, Tess has lived a life. Sandra asks a pertinent question:
‘Why was it that young children and, for that matter senile adults, are put into the category of innocence and naivety?’
Tess is lonely but is not innocent or naïve. She knows how to get attention from Sandra in the care home. Tess is ‘waiting for death’ but has learnt so much about people. She knows about the destructive power of jealousy.
‘…you’ll never be happy ..’ if you feel ‘jealous’. The story examines the flaws in human nature and suggests that everyone would be happier if they felt ‘genuinely pleased for those that did better than ourselves.’ Jealousy is presented as a catalyst for a manipulative mind. Tess has studied the character flaws that contribute to the psyche of a manipulator.
The story reaches out to the reader offering a positive philosophy for life. Victims of emotionally and physically abusive relationships can gain courage from this story to take action, rather than applying the ‘basic tricks’ to survive. Perhaps, this groundbreaking story should be prescribed in counselling sessions.
This powerful short story will be forever tattooed on my mind. While reading, I felt like the character who is ‘constantly standing on a tightrope…balancing…over troubled waters’. This short story delivered some surprises, and even cleverly manipulated the reader. I urge readers to explore this narrative and to discover the symbolism of the tattoo.