“TRUE! Nervous – very, very dreadfully nervous… I had been and am…”
My stepfather, Chas, used to quote that line from Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” at me all the time. Not because he was insane, heard the death-beetles ticking in the walls, or had murdered anyone (I don’t think), but because he thought it was funny. Or maybe because my sister or I would always come back dramatically with the rest of the line – “But why will you say that I am mad?!”
Then we would all burst into maniacal laughter. What can I say? We were all of us a little bit strange.
Is it weird to admit to an Edgar Allen Poe short story as my favorite? “The Tell-Tale Heart” has a place in my, um, heart, and not just because it’s gripping, and scary, and one of the first short stories I ever memorized lines from. It’s because I shared my love for it with Chas, and somehow my enjoyment of the story got all mixed up with my love for him.
Chas was an amazing person, a brilliant mathematician, an award-winning fiddle-player, and an outstanding dad, always treating me with the same affection he showed his biological daughter. He died unexpectedly from a fast-moving cancer four years ago, and I miss him every day.
You might think it would make me sad to reread that story. It does, a bit. But still, every time someone happens to ask me if I’m nervous, I answer, “Nervous? Yes very, very dreadfully nervous,” even if it’s not true. Because, when I remember those lines, I’m not really thinking of that story – the narrator ripping open the floorboards to uncover the body he had hidden there – I’m thinking of Chas, wiggling his eyebrows, hamming it up, making me laugh.
Isn’t that the way it is with the stories we love? They become a part of our lives, they take up residence in us. And, if we’re very, very lucky, we share them with those we love, so that years later, the stories can recall that deeper love with just a few words.
To read an excerpt of Nikki’s short story, “Casserole Confessions”, CLICK HERE
“Casserole Confessions” is now available in its entirety in MEMOIR, VOL. 1.