The doorbell rang again and “I went to open it with a light heart—for what had I now to fear?” In came a group of rather young moms from the ward, headed by gum-chewing, phone-texting Lisa Wilde—her blond, streaked hair pulled into a skimpy straight out ponytail with more hair hanging out than in it. Why did young women wear their hair like that? It made Betsy think of Olive Oyl from “Popeye.” There was nothing attractive about it. But in spite of hair-dos, this was a very confident group. Youth always seemed confident around those that had a little age on them.
Betsy had all the ladies go to the kitchen to fill their plates before the actual Poe discussion started. She heard lots of nice comments like “What a gorgeous home,” “Betsy is so good at decorating,” “I wish I dared ask her to help me do something with our guest room.” At that last comment, Betsy almost choked on the carrot she was munching for nerve control. “She’d love to see what I could do with a guest room!” was Betsy’s cryptic thought.
She also heard some muffled remarks like, “Betsy doesn’t look quite as great as usual, do you think?” and “If I’d known this was all Betsy was going to serve us, I would have eaten dinner at home.” and “I was expecting a lot better food than this.” These last two observations were whispered quietly but Betsy heard them. “And now have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over–acuteness of the senses?” They were said by the second and third largest women in the group—Sister Pines and Sister Hasbrow who seemed to go together like peanut butter and jelly. You seldom saw one without the other and vice-versa.
Betsy felt like shouting, “The way my month has gone so far, you’re lucky I didn’t just serve you water and crackers!” Which reminded her that she had totally forgotten to provide something to drink. She wondered if anyone would be offended if she suggested that those who were thirsty could stick their heads under the faucet. Probably.
Finally, the Book Clubbers were settled back in the living room and Sister Harris stood up to give some background on Edgar Allan Poe: “Born to an unfortunate heritage, orphaned , unsympathetically raised…………”
“Ta dum, Ta dum.” Betsy looked around to see if anyone else had heard that superfluous sound. Nope. Just she, it seemed. She tried to sit calmly with her hands held in her lap as Sister Harris finished up and Sister Barnes started a discussion on “the Pit and the Pendulum.” But Betsy couldn’t concentrate on any of the words because “meantime the hellish tattoo of the heart increased.” “Ta dum. Ta dum.” It was definitely coming from the direction of the guest room. “It grew quicker and quicker and louder and louder every instant.” “But even yet I refrained and kept still. I scarcely breathed.”
By the time Sister Barnes sat down and Monique Jarvis started her part of the Poe discussion which happened to be “The Tell-Tale Heart,” Betsy had a very difficult time sitting still. She sat on her hands in an effort to keep them from rising in a grotesque choke-hold on her own very fragile neck.
“Ta dum. Ta dum.” What a noise! “And now a new anxiety seized me…the sound would be heard by a neighbor!”
As Monique went on and on about the old man and his blue glazed eye and the mad man watching him and ultimately killing him and hiding his body under the floor, Betsy could hear her own “ta dum, ta dum” growing louder and louder.
Then Monique invited more discussion of the whole story and of the policemen who came to the madman’s house. “But the noise arose over all and continually increased. It grew louder—louder---louder! And still the (women) chatted pleasantly, and smiled. Was it possible they heard not? NO, no? They heard! They suspected! They KNEW!...They were making a mockery of my horror. I felt that I must scream or die!—and now—again hark! Louder, louder! Louder! LOUDER!”