Tick tock, pop, and sinking lifeline: A Review of ‘Mrs. Kelly’s Monster’

What’s the first impression about the following time sequence?

It’s 6:30 a.m. / 7:15 a.m. / It is 8:25 a.m. / It is 9 o’clock. / It is 9:20. / The time is 9:36 a.m. / It is 9:54. / It is 10:01 a.m. / It is 10:40. / It is 10:58. / It is 11:05 a.m., the day of the monster. / The clock says 12:29. / At 12:53 … / It is 1:06. / The clock … says 1:40. / It is 1:43, and it’s over.

Seem a bit too scattered, and obscure? What if with the additions of the following onomatopoeic ‘pops’?

With each heartbeat a loudspeaker produces an audible popping sound. The steady pop, pop, popping isn’t loud, but it dominates the operating room.

It is 8:25 a.m.  The heartbeat goes pop, pop, pop, 70 beats a minute, steady.

The chatter of the half-inch drill fills the room, drowning the rhythmic pop, pop, pop of the heart monitor.

The microscopic landscape heaves and subsides in time to the pop, pop, pop of the heart monitor.

The heart monitor continues to pop, pop, pop, 70 beats a minute, 70 beats a minute.

The carotid twists and dances to the electronic pop, pop, popping.

The heart monitor pop, pop, pops with reassuring regularity.

The heart monitor goes pop, pop, pop, steady.

In the background the heart monitor goes pop, pop, pop, 70 beats a minute, steady.

The heartbeat goes pop, pop, pop, 70 beats a minute.

Pop, pop, pop …

… …

The tick tock on the clock echoes the pops of heartbeat, threading the overall story of Mrs. Kelly’s Monster.

The story was written by Jon Franklin in 1978, depicting the process of a brain surgeon by Dr. Ducker to cure Mrs. Kelly of an aneurysm – ‘the monster’ – which has long agonized her, ending in that ‘the monster won’.

With vivid, but concise descriptions, the author gradually pulls readers in, showing how Mrs. Kelly had suffered over the years before she made the final decision to take the surgeon, a hard one on which she staked on life.

Delicate, vivid details of the whole operation bring readers to the scene, even to hearts and minds of Dr. Ducker: Readers could almost see Mrs. Kelly’s ‘crescent’ scalp, skulls, and the ‘monster’ under operation and how Dr. Ducker operates through the ‘journey’; also could feel is his almost meticulous concentration and fragile nerve throughout the process.

Running through is the ‘tick tocks’ of clock and ‘pops’ of Mrs. Kelly’s heartbeat when fighting the monster, which tightens the story as well as reader’s heartstring, shadowing nervousness, excitements and jitters upon readers’ heart. Using the ‘tick tocks’ and ‘pops’ as a string, the author almost manages to control the heartbeat of readers by a simple pull, until it comes to the final collapse when ‘the monster won’.

Tick tock.


Tick tock.


… …

Until a unanticipated, gigantic collapse:

The point readers finally realize what the onomatopoeia symbolize:

A sinking lifeline.


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