Thursday, January 12, 2012

Drop the Needle #21

TITLE: The Mistake
GENRE: Thriller

Cal's mother explains she's not really her mother:

“Katherine couldn’t kill you, Cal.”

“Why not?”

Deep sadness creeps into her face. She caresses my cheek with a delicacy I haven’t felt from her in years. Tears well in her eyes. She turns away from me.

“Mom, what is it? Why couldn’t she be the one who—”

She interrupts without looking at me.

“Katherine is your mother.”

Nothing is real…

One of the bitter joys of practicing law is the daily supply of surprise. Surprises erupt like dandelion seeds in the spring, floating all around you, infiltrating your nose and mouth if you so much as breathe.
But never has a surprise walloped me like this before.

My mother’s mouth is moving but I hear nothing. Tears are running down her cheeks but I don’t see them. I’m sitting on the seat of my sister’s Lexus, carrying a baby, but I’m weightless, floating somewhere in spacetime, but not here. Not on Earth. Not on a Sunday afternoon in front of a mysterious little house that undoubtedly contains the mysteries of the universe.

Then reality rushes back into me like three point one four million freight trains. Facts, figures, numbers, letters, face muscles, tics, hand gestures, laughter, agony—everything coalesces into the tiny space between my mother and myself.

I wave my hands to clear it all away.

“Mother,” I say, and maybe I shouted it because I feel the soundwaves reverberate. “Stop. What did you say?”

She wipes her eyes. Licks her lips. Kneads her hands. “I said Katherine is your mother.”

“How can it… I don’t believe you.”

“That’s up to you, but there are tests you can—”

“What’s in the house?”

“She was living here when you were born.”

“She and Daddy…”

“You were born four months after Nancy.”

“But Nancy’s a year older than me.”

"We lied about that."


  1. This is neat, especially the disembodiedness (is that a word?) at the revelation. I'd almost put the "One of the bitter joys" paragraph later, so the physicality of the shock isn't interrupted.

  2. I really like the paragraph that begins with "My mother's mouth is moving but I hear nothing...." The whole paragraph is well written and descriptive, but not overly done in my opinion. Great job!

    That being said, I wanted more description towards the end. I wanted to see her mother's reaction when she asked what was inside the house. Did she pause? Turn white? I don't mind line after line of dialogue, but sometimes I need something to break it up.

  3. Thanks for your comments. I admit I had to delete a little of the reaction to fit within the word requirements, but I'll definitely add more of that back in.

    BTW, you can get the book in print or on Kindle on Amazon. Look under The Mistake by Jonathan Neville


  4. I would suggest cutting the 'one of the bitter joys' parg. One of the things that makes the reveal big is the bigness of her reaction, and just at the moment when she should be reacting, we get this little aside. I think it would be stronger without it.

  5. I liked the 'bitter joys' part because it showed me she was pretty tough, and how much this revelation set her back- but I didn't like the part about 'tears were streaming down her face but I didn't see them'... But you just mentioned them so you DID see them! :D Also, didn't like the three point four million freight trains.

    This was nice, almost lyrical, and I liked her waving a hand between them, dispelling all those feeligns and words.

    I would absolutely read this!