A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

[BRIEF NOTE] Dishing and taking

This morning at work, I was chatting with a co-worker of Bosnian origin about Roger Cohen’s article. He escaped Sarajevo in 1992. Given how he meets Serbs who claim to have known nothing about the siege of Sarajevo, he’s understandably is fairly skeptical about Serbia’s future. He observed, in passing, how Serbs have been quick to claim ignorance about the horrible things done in their name in Croatia and Bosnia and Kosova/o, but how they’re outraged, positively outraged!, that Serbs are being persecuted.

“Oh,” I replied, “it’s like the old saying: You can dish it out but you can’t take it.”.

He asked me to explain the meaning of the saying. I explained it in brief terms, then went on to summarize a short story that illustrated this point. It’s an American short story, set in a small-town American environment. The protagonist is an old lady, pinched and proper and equally famed for her rose gardens and her gossip, who loved pushing anonymous notes through front doors’ mail slots late at night letting people know how others were misbehaving. After she broke up a young couple in love, one morning she went to her front door to find that someone had pushed a note through her mail slot. She opened the note, read the single sentence, and began to weep. “Go look at your rose bushes.”

Does anyone know who wrote this story and, indeed, what its title is? It has a certain piquancy to it.

UPDATE (7:57 PM) : The story in question is one of Shirley Jackson’s oeuvre, “The Possibility of Evil.” Thanks to princeofcairo for answering my question! I’m unsurprised that it was Jackson. As I wrote in May in connection with her Haunting of House Hill, she has a masterful sense of what is, and is not, unheimlich.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 31, 2005 at 7:57 pm

Posted in Assorted

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