Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: CLOWN (02/13/20)
TITLE: The Cask of Amontillado Continued
By Tanya Shliahov
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For some time, he sat sullenly in the silent darkness. His furious thoughts turned towards escape. He leaned forward, straining to detach the chains which held him from the grim catacomb wall, but they remained firmly in place. Desperately, he dug at the ground with his heel but realised this was futile. Trembling at the enormity of his appalling circumstance, his fidgety thoughts now turned toward the jolly festival he had been looking forward to since March. He had dressed as a clown, complete with jingling bells riveted to the points of his hat, hoping to outdo his boisterous friends, but now, they would be wondering where he was, or maybe not. They knew he was wrongly fond of his drink. On a night like this, he would be easily side tracked and so he had been. He cursed himself for having been so drunk and for having been drunk at all.
He thought mournfully of Lady Fortunato, his devoted wife, uneasily loitering outside their palatial palazzo, waiting for him with furrowed brow. He reminisced fondly of the first time they had met. He had been eight. She had been four. He had been reclining in his grandfather’s blossoming Sicilian garden,weeping. Young Lady Fortunato had been climbing a flowering fig tree when she spied him. Later that day, she found her mother and asked what had caused the small boy across the wall to experience such bereavement.
“His mother is sick” her mother had sorrowfully supplied. “Do not bother the small boy” she had warned.
Fortunately, the usually obedient Lady Fortunato had ignored her mother’s instructions.
“Don’t worry Fortunato” she had quipped. “God is with you.”
Fortunato had been smitten. They had played happily in his grandfather’s elaborate garden until adolescence. Then, she, becoming coy, had felt more comfortable frolicking with peers of the feminine variety. Then, at the age of 19, he became aware that Lady Fortunato was becoming captivating to many a fine man. If he didn’t act quickly, she would be gone, snapped up by a charming millionaire or even royalty.
He had waited until the night of her sixteenth birthday. As the clock struck ten, he had hesitantly requested she accompany him outside. Fondly, turning to face her, he had affectionately regaled how much he admired and loved her. Lady Fortunato, her cheeks turning pink, had shared her matching sentiments of him but more haltingly and less eloquently.
He now wept again behind a wall, but she was nowhere to be found. He wondered if she would ever re-marry. Of course, she would. He hoped it would not be to Luchresi, that fool who wouldn’t know an Amontillado if it was poured on his head. The hairs on the back of his neck shuddered as he thought of Montresor. Surely, she would not marry him! How would she know not to betray Fortunato in such a manner? He prayed that a way of expulsion from this dire prison would be shown to him.
Suddenly, his dour thoughts were interrupted by a slow shuffling gait. Who would be in a catacomb on festival night? Now, he heard delirious laughter and indecipherable muttering. It caused his heart to clench inside of him. Ordinarily, he would have kept quiet, but he did not have that luxury.
“Hark, hark sir!” he implored. “I have been immured by a treacherous man! I beg you to assist me!”
The deranged muttering stopped still, and there was a shocked silence which was suddenly shattered by the peculiar hiker’s cry of, “Hark! Hark! Hark!” followed by maniacal laughter.
“Sir! I implore you!” Fortunato shouted again.
“Whose there?!” a steadier sounding voice called out.
“My name is Fortunato. I beseech you to release me!”
Fortunato clasped his wife tightly to his chest. “My prayers have been answered!”
“God always answers” she lovingly chided. “Sometimes with a ‘Yes’, sometimes with a ‘No’ and sometimes he tells us to ‘Wait’.”
With this lecture proclaimed, she now embraced him two-fold. Tearfully, she gave attention to her husband’s anguished re-telling of the night’s events - his capture and betrayal by his devious, long-time friend, Montresor, and his rescue by a kindly monk who had followed an elderly bishop, whose mind was now unbalanced, into the winding catacombs.
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