“The Last Act”

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Plot Description

This is not a nice story. In fact, it’s probably my least favorite Dahl story of all. It should not be read by any children. It’s full of disturbing violence and sexual content, so I’m going to keep this synopsis as vague as possible. Read at your own risk.

Spoiler warning! When Anna Cooper finds out that her beloved husband Ed has been killed in a car accident, it nearly drives her crazy. They were so completely in love that she doesn’t think she can survive without him. Her children manage to convince her to carry on, but soon they’re all moved out and busy with their own lives. Anna misses Ed so much that she decides to kill herself. Before she can do it, though, her friend Liz talks her into helping out at Liz’s adoption society office. Anna discovers that hard work makes her feel needed and that life is once again worth living. After a year and a half of this, she feels that she’s “back in the swim” once again. It’s then that she has to take a business trip to Dallas, Texas to deal with a particularly difficult adoption case. In the hotel, Anna starts to feel frightened and alone. She remembers conversations she had with Ed about Texas. She needs a friend. Suddenly she remembers that Conrad Kreuger lives in Dallas. Conrad was her high school sweetheart and they had planned to get married. Then, of course, Anna had met Ed and left Conrad, and Conrad had married another girl named Araminty. She decides to call him up and, to her surprise, he suggests meeting her at the hotel for a drink. Anna is nervous about this, but feels her psychiatrist back home would be pleased (as he’s always telling her that she needs to “physically replace” Ed). She meets Conrad and is happy to see that he looks as handsome as ever. When she orders a gin martini, he frowns and tells her why gin is not good for women. That’s when Anna discovers that Conrad is now a gynaecologist. She and Conrad talk and she learns that his marriage only lasted two years and that he has almost no contact with his son. She commiserates and tells him the whole story of Ed’s death and her suicidal tendencies. After another discussion of how mentholated cigarettes are bad for women, Conrad lets it slip that he is still bitter about the way Anna jilted him. She is surprised, but he tells her that he was wildly in love with her. Then he suggests that the two of them might… “have a bit of unfinished business.” Anna isn’t sure how she feels about sleeping with another man. After a third martini, though, she’s floating and allows herself to be led back up to her hotel room. She and Conrad kiss for a while, and Anna begins to feel excited about being with him. He continues to make odd medical references, but she shushes him. Conrad is strangely clinical as he removes his clothes and prepares to make love to her. In the middle of the act, though, he feels an obstruction and she begins to feel sick. She wants him to leave but instead he pins her down and begins telling her precisely what is medically wrong with her. She’s nearly hysterical now and struggles to get him off her. Finally she begins to scream and he pushes her to the floor. She staggers to the bathroom crying “Ed!… Ed!… Ed!…” Conrad hears the click of the medicine cabinet being opened. Quickly he dresses himself, wipes the lipstick off his face, and leaves the room.