‘The Trouble With Mrs. Blynn, The Trouble With The World’ by Patricia Highsmith

The Trouble With Mrs. Blynn, The Trouble With The World by Patricia Highsmith, 2002

The magic trick:

Creating a nightmare deathbed scene, not through melodrama but through a very realistic, passive-aggressive cruelty

This is a nightmare scenario. On your deathbed and you have to put up with Mrs. Blynn? She’s awful. She’s passive aggressive in the extreme – casual in her cruelty. It’s perfect, though. This isn’t some melodramatic deathbed scenario, where the dying woman’s long-kept secret is finally revealed. There’s no agonized history between Mrs. Palmer and Mrs. Blynn. This is true to life. This is the way people subtly express their hatred and frustrations, and this is the way we put up with all of it, quietly and painfully. And that’s quite a trick on Highsmith’s part.

The selection:

The injection hurt today, but Mrs. Palmer did not flinch. It was really such a small thing; she smiled at the slightness of it. “A little sunshine today, wasn’t there?” Mrs. Palmer said.

“Was there?” Mrs. Blynn jerked the needle out.

“Around eleven this morning. I noticed it.” Weakly she gestured toward the window behind her.

“We can certainly use it,” Mrs. Blynn said, putting her equipment back in her bag. “Goodness, we can use that fire, too.” She had fastened her bag, and now she chafed her palms, huddling toward the grate.

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