On the Corner of Clerk Street by Rebecca Emin

In my Deal Me In short story reading challenge, I pick fifty-two stories at the start of the year, assign each to a card in a deck of playing cards, then draw one at random every week until I have read them all. Fifty-two cards in a deck, fifty-two weeks in a year, right? The past few years, some other bloggers have joined me in this annual project. They are listed in my sidebar of “Deal Me In 2015 Participants” if you’d like to check out some of the stories they’ve been reading. Also, in the past few years I’ve included a story from Rebecca Emin’s collection “A Knowing Look and Other Stories” in my short story deck. Since I’ve enjoyed those stories, I saw no reason to discontinue this practice in 2015.

(Image found at http://omegalpha.deviantart.com/art/The-Six-of-Hearts-208085225)

Regarding this story, I’m finding it impossible to write much about it without giving too much away, so I’ll Just say a few things and let you discover it for yourself if you’d like to buy/try it. The collection is a mere $2.99 on amazon as of this writing (kindle version)  I’ve posted about a couple of the other stories in this collection before. Here and here if you’d like to take a look.

The “Wait! What?!” Moment

Authors sometimes employ a clever technique to get you to read a story twice. I tend to think of it as the “wait! what?!” moment. They throw a big “reveal” in at the end of their story that makes you reconsider what you’ve read so far, wondering “Did I miss something?” The reading victim then goes back over the story to look for clues or “holes” in the way the author has ’set you up’ for the wait! what? moment. This happened to me with this story, and – on my second “pass” – I came to appreciate the surprising twist even more. At first I thought I had found a problem with the big reveal, thinking, “Aha! Well, if “A” is true, then how do you explain character “B” doing thing “C” on page X!?!?” Then I re-read “page X” and the next couple pages a third time and thought, “Oh, maybe thing “C” wasn’t what I thought it was either…” And so on.

This story called to mind another recent read of mine where, all through the story (or novel, in that case), the reader naturally assumes he knows the gender of one character, only to have his assumption revealed to be wrong near the end. I remember being taken aback then also, looking back through that book trying to find why I had made the assumption I did and looking for slip-ups and failing to find them. I admire authors that are able to trick me like that. There’s a well-known instance of the wait! what? moment in cinema as well in a popular Bruce Willis movie from 1999. 🙂

Can you think of any other good examples of the W!W? moment in your reading. How do YOU like being tricked in that manner?