The Venus Fly Trap

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 'What's the matter?'
'That plant, Merle, it moved.'
'That's because you touched it. When you touch one of its mouths it closes up. It's called Dionaea muscipula.'
The plant stood alone in an earthenware pot contained in an elaborate white stand. It looked very healthy. It had delicate shiny leaves and from its heart grew five red-gold blossoms. As Daphne peered more closely she saw that these resembled mouths, as Merle had put it, far more than flowers, whiskery mouths, soft and ripe and luscious. One of these was now closed.

'Doesn't it have a common name?'

'Of course it does. The Venus fly trap. Muscipula means fly-eater, dear.'

'Whatever do you mean?'

'It eats flies. I've been trying to grow one for years. I was absolutely thrilled when I succeeded.'

'Yes, but what do you mean, it eats flies? It's not an animal.'

'It is in a way, dear. The trouble is there aren't many flies here. I feed it on little bits of meat. You've gone rather pale, Daphne. Have you got a headache? We'll have our sherry now and then I'll see if I can catch a fly and you can see it eat it up.'

'I'd really rather not, Merle,' said Daphne, backing away from the plant. 'I don't want to hurt your feelings but I don't - well, I hate the idea of catching free live things and feeding them to - to that.'

'Free live things? We're talking about flies.' Merle, large and perfumed, grabbed Daphne's arm and pulled her away. Her dress was of red chiffon with trailing sleeves and her fingernails matched it. 'The trouble with you,' said Merle, 'is that you're a mass of nerves and you're much worse now than you were when we were girls. I thank God every day of my life I don't know what it is to be neurotic. Here you are, your sherry. I've put it in a big glass to buck you up. I'm going to make it my business to look after you, Daphne. You don't know anybody else in London, do you?'

'Hardly anybody,' said Daphne, sitting down where she couldn't see the Venus Fly Trap. 'My boys are in the States and my daughter's in Scotland.'

'Well, you must come up here every day. You won't be intruding. When I first knew you were definitely coming I said to myself, I'm going to see to it Daphne isn't lonely.'

From The Venus Fly Trap by Ruth Rendell

Created by Lilliam Hurst with Hot Potatoes