Bruce Toews (masterofmusings) wrote,
Bruce Toews

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The Painted Door

During the course of my job, I've had cause to read "The Painted Door" by Sinclair Ross (not to be confused with A Painted House by John Grisham.

This strikes me as the most eery story I've ever read. If you plan to read this story for yourself, this LJ entry is going to be filled with spoilers, so I'd advise going onto the next one, which is a good bit about audiobooks.

Ann is a farmer's wife, married seven years to John. They are a pioneer couple in the fledgling prairies, presumably of Canada.

A storm is on its way, but John, despite Ann's protests, feels an obligation to help his aged father, living alone, who lives a five-mile walk away, and so he, promising to return that evening, proceeds to help the old man. Ann is alone, but John has offered to stop by at Steven's place on the way and invite him to come down and play cards with Ann.

To occupy herself, Ann breaks out the pain, and starts painting the bedroom door. The paint will be wet for some considerable time.

The foreshadowed storm hits with a fury. ann tries to go out to do John's chores for him, but is unable to make her way to the barn. It's at this point that Steven arrives, the United States Marines, as it were, and does the chores. He starts insisting that there's no way John is going to return that evening, it would be foolhardy. But Ann protests that John would make it back, he always does ... and she knows this to be true.

But she finds herself persuaded by Steven, and Ann and Steven have sex. Lying awake afterwards, Ann imagines she sees the shadow of John coming into the house, finding her and Steven in bed together, and with unaccusing sorrow, leaving. She wakens to a pang of guilt, realizing that Steven's qualities, such as they are, are shallow, while John's is a loyalty, a trustworthiness ... he is a worthy man.

The next day, they find John's body out in the prairie ... by outward appearances, he had missed the farm, walked past it, and gotten killed in the blizard. When left alone with the body, though, Ann notices that on the palm of John's hand is a smear of white paint. It had been white paint that Ann had used to paint the bedroom door.

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