YOUR TINY HAND IS FROZEN by Robert Aickman
“The pink and blue children on the walls smiled at his plight, winsomely, cheekily, plethorically, according to character.”
A literally eerie telephone story in an era when a telephone was “a squat black monster” with flexes stubby or lengthily coiled. A telephone (and its officious Exchange at number 0) that increasingly harasses Edmund St Jude (translator) who is staying in the studio of his girl friend Edwina Taylor-Smith (portrait painter of people’s children) while she is in a New Mexico sanatorium being treated for TB. (Aickman was reputedly a big fan of Mann’s Magic Mountain, a fact, if so, that often shows up in his fiction.) The nuisance calls and wrong numbers (intended for the Chromium Supergloss Corporation) and cracklings, multitudinous hummings or cacklings or rumblings and his frustrating inability, via a telephone with a short flex, to invite a woman called Queenie for Christmas Day dinner, suddenly give way to reveal the captivating voice of Nera Condamine (making “the telephone more and more to become a simple instrument of bliss, like the soup kitchen to the outcast, or the syringe to the drug-addict”) and (like people grooming each other on today’s social media) they fall in love with each other without ever meeting. She in fact becomes “roses in Edmund’s horizonless desert” amid the other “terrifying abuse and curses; at other times, groans and screams, as of the dying and the damned” — Aickman’s uncanny prophecy of our on-line things today.
Nearer or further, Toby or not Toby, Nera eventually becomes an eerie embodiment of such exchange…?
So who had been grooming whom?
And no doubt Nera has a long flex on her phone.
Still some mysteries, though, at clues given us — Why is the title of this story what it is? Who is the “flex purveyor” (if not each reader)? Why Extension 281? And how could anyone ever think that “Things mechanical are like the ladies”…
Just waiting myself for the bread delivery.
(later postscript – please see comment stream below)
My other reviews of Aickman: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/robert-aickman/