by Katherine Mansfield
(about 2300 words)
Emfeebled by a stroke, Woodifield is out visiting a friend on one of the rare outings he’s allowed by his wife and daughters. The Boss is delighted to see him, delighted to show off his newly renovated office, and all the trappings of wealth and success that come from it. But Woodifield has something to discuss with the Boss, if only he could remember it. A shot of whiskey is just enough to jog his memory, of his daughter’s trip to Belgium. There, while visiting the grave of a fallen soldier, they happen upon the grave of the Boss’s son, as well. Woodifield describes the peaceful scene in great detail before meandering off on the price of a pot of jam and finally departing, leaving the Boss in a state of wretched misery, for having to remember the son who he was so proud of, who stood to inherit the company and was ever the only apple of his father’s eye.
In the midst of his impromptu grieving, the Boss happens to find a fly in his inkpot. He fishes the insect out and lays it on an ink blotter to watch as it meticulously cleans itself, But no sooner has the fly wiped away the last spot of ink, but the Boss drops another upon it. The poor fly has no choice but to once again, clean itself top to bottom. Impressed but the sticktoitiveness of the bug, the Boss drops yet another blot on it. Weakened by the repetative, undeserved hardships, the fly once again cleans itself, slowly. The Boss decides that a final drop will be the last. Unfortunately, it literally is. The next drop finally crushes the fly’s spirit, and its life. The Boss despondently throws the little body in the trash and returns to his desk, unable to remember what it had been he had been thinking about.
Katheriene Mansfield Beauchamp Murray was born on October 14, 1888, in Wellington, New Zealand. Considerably progressive for her time, Katherine had many affairs with men and women alike in her back and forth travels between Europe and New Zealand. She was married twice, though she left her first husband the night of their marriage, and was sent to Germany by her mother to birth the child of another man. She miscarried, however, and left Germany on her own. She was later removed from her mother’s will. She then became involved with the editor of a magazine, and left him several times before they were finally married. She continued to have extra-marital affairs, however, with both men and women, but especially Ida Constance Baker, who lived with her. Mansfield was a prolific writer of 42 short stories and 18 collections. She died of tuberculosis at the age of 34 in France.