Whiskey, Surprises, and Sharks

He kept a whiskey bottle under the driver’s seat of his station wagon. His flaming haired daughter, K., sat beside him, and my cousin, L., and I sat in the back. He had stubble and slouched, bony shoulders. We were ten years old.

He was supposed to be taking us to see The Jungle Book. If my mom had seen K’s dad, she never would’ve allowed me to go, but I’d asked her over the phone. And she had my aunt’s assurances that K’s dad was a fine neighbor.

with my cousin
with my cousin

He had several swigs of whiskey by the time the police officer pulled him over. He smiled when he took his ticket for driving too fast, and then we were back on our way. At the theater, The Jungle Book was not playing. They were showing, however, Jaws II.

I knew my mom would kill all of us if I went inside and I didn’t want to see it anyway. My stomach twisted but I took my ticket from K’s dad, and followed my giggling cousin and her squealing friend. The place was crowded and they headed straight for the front row. I couldn’t decide if I was more afraid of the shark or of my mom when she found out where I was.

Mom found out where I was because she called the theater to ask when The Jungle Book would end. Her reaction was what I expected.

Thank god she never knew about the whiskey.

In fiction, how predictable is okay? Too unpredictable and you leave believability on the side of the road. Too predictable and you might as well snooze in the backseat. How do you know your characters and be surprised by them? Do you remember any characters who in the end of the story surprised you? Was it in a good or in a bad way? Or maybe you don’t like surprises…

2 thoughts on “Whiskey, Surprises, and Sharks

  1. After I’ve been with my characters awhile, I come to know them (more or less) as I know real people — which means surprise, when it comes (as it does) shouldn’t really surprise after all. The surprising turns of events and character often turn out to be better than where I thought things were headed, so at least there’s the luxury of revising earlier passages to foreshadow the new direction. (Readers don’t always seem so happy to be surprised.)

    Loved this story, btw. And, as usual, the photo.

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