An illustration of Margaret Atwood’s short story collection, “Stone Mattress”. Atwood’s stories are about old age and dying and various manifestations of these two irrefutable biological verities.
The image above is how the title story “Stone Mattress” ends—in blood. Stone Mattress is the weapon that Verna, the narrator and an ageing widow, uses to kill her high school rapist, Bob. Verna stumbles into Bob aboard an Arctic Cruise; she recognizes him but he doesn’t recognize her back.
Verna decides to give Bob two chances of survival, either he recognizes her on his own, or he apologizes after she confronts him with her identity. Bob does neither; men rarely do. So Verna kills him at the end, half-apologetically, as Bob dies clueless, bludgeoned with a stone mattress, or a stromatolite, “fossilized cushion, formed by layer upon layer of blue-green algae building up into a mound or dome, … this very same blue-green algae that created the oxygen they are now breathing.”
The weapon of retribution is symbolical: A primal crime avenged with a primal tool.