‘Billy’s Girl’ by Gordon Jackson

Billy’s Girl by Gordon Jackson, 1985

The magic trick:

Surprising the reader with a twist ending of shocking immorality

“Billy’s Girl” throws you off the scent from the start. You see the title and expect to learn about Billy’s girl. Instead the story launches right into the disappearance of Billy. The narrator isn’t Billy’s girl either. A quick scan of the text indicates that the story is only three paragraphs long. Where is Billy’s girl?

Then she appears. And I don’t want it to sound like I’m claiming this to be the single greatest, most shocking twist in the history of literature or anything. But it ain’t bad. And that’s quite a trick on Jackson’s part.

The selection:

First Billy was on the raft and then he was not. Sun shone on the blue water. Carmine looked for him in the bathhouse, at the popcorn stand where he liked to waste time with Camille, then down by the lifeguard station. But nobody had seen him. If I catch that kid, Carmine said to me in the bathhouse, but I hadn’t seen him either, what could I see from behind the counter there except a little stretch of open water, the sun bright on the big lake, pines in the distance. Occasionally someone would stroll by but I hadn’t seen Billy at all, he could still be out there hiding among the big float tanks underneath the boards, his break over, turn up later rake in hand, why, Mr. D’Angelo, I’ve been clearing up this area like you told me to.  It would be just like him.

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