Wit’s End was the droll name of Edward’s imposing but decaying residence. He and his wife Julia had retired there, Edward to pen his pithy, humorous novels, and Julia to discourse on slimming.
Once, one would undoubtedly have described Julia as a ‘willowy blonde’ and Edward as ‘dashing.’ Visiting them now after ten years I was truly shocked. Edward’s eyes were lifeless and his hair almost gone, Julia’s figure Auschwitz-like.
After welcoming me and serving me tea, Julia bid me follow. “I’ve discovered the most marvellous book, come!”
Entering the library, she selected an ancient volume, résumé du diets, showing me illustrations of impossibly thin Elizabethan women. Juxtaposed were strange recipes – samphire stew, starling fricassee, fox meat in aspic, others stranger still.
I remained with them a fortnight and for ten days she prepared food for Edward and I alone, before withdrawing due to ‘enervation.’
On the day of departure, I went to her chamber. It was vacant, just her bonnet and gown on the four-poster. I turned to leave, then noticed them twitch. Beneath the gown was a translucent skeletal ‘thing’ and inside the bonnet two eyeballs in a gossamer substance. “Julia? JULIA??” The eyeballs blinked back.
Featured in the book, To Cut a Short Story Short: 111 Little Stories
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