‘Encounters With Unexpected Animals’ by Bret Anthony Johnston

Encounters With Unexpected Animals by Bret Anthony Johnston, 2012

The magic trick:

Making the reader wonder about the character’s intentions and then showing that very character wonder the same thing

This is a creepy little story in which a man drives his teenage son’s girlfriend home one night. He talks to her about breaking up with his son. He seems to have his son’s best interests at heart. But there’s no denying the scenario is creepy and complicated. Why did he drive her to this secluded spot away from her house? The reader can’t help but wonder what the man’s real motivations are. As the story goes on, he seems surprised to find himself wondering the same thing. And that’s quite a trick on Johnston’s part.

The selection:

“Is there anything I can say here? Is there something you’re wanting to hear?”

“You can say you’ll quit him,” Lambright said. “I’d like to have your word on that subject.”

“And if I don’t, you’ll leave me on the side of the road?”

“We’re just talking. We’re sorting out a problem.”

“Or you’ll beat me up and throw me in the creek?”

“You’re too much for him. He’s overmatched.”

“And so if I don’t dump him, you’ll, what, rape me? Murder me? Bury me in the dunes?”

“Lisa,” he said, his tone pleasingly superior. He liked how much he sounded like a father.


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