|“I bet’cha didn’t know that your grandmother’s name was Jill.” I'd put a "naming tag" (his father said) here to let the reader know something about who's talking. It's distracting for the reader to suddenly be in Jim's head in the next paragraph(he hadn't)
In fact, you could pull up the beginning of the third paragraph: The old man shifted in the bed toward his son, who was sitting at its edge. Jim’s father…his Da…was dying.
I don't know about the accent mark on da'--I think most people will go along with the idiom without it--especially if you use it as capitalized form as a name early on--and would this mean you'd need to use "da''s" when using possessive case?
He hadn’t. Jim was only a teenager when she had died, more occupied by the many new and exciting ways to fry the brain with needles and pills, and enchanted by the overwhelming number of anti-war songs heard from street corner to street corner. it reads as if SHE was more occupied by drugs. Rewrite to: When she died, Jim was only a..."
The old man shifted in the bed toward his son, who was sitting at its edge. Jim’s father…his da’…was dying, and had rejected all hospitals and nursing homes for the familiar comforts of his own home. He’d lived there for the better half of 60 years, and though Jim grieved, his father’s warmth emanating from the sheets reminded him of better times—and so Jim was momentarily soothed enough to be contented. It had been a trying week altogether, but Jim felt he could at least enjoy this moment. After reading the whole story,and coming back I realized that this was some foreshadowing--a really bad week with Ma--but it's so faint that no one will pick it up. I wonder if you shouldn't mention early on about Ma's death--without letting the cat out of the bag of course. Jim, a good son, could simply be expected to shield his father from the sad news on his deathbed.
“Jim,” his father said, “I don’t know when the others are supposed to arrive, but I have to confess something…something horrible.”
Jim’s temperature dropped at the same time it rose.a long oxymoron. I'm sure you were trying to show conflicting emotions, but perhaps you should rethink this image. He had his own horrible confession to make, but he'd only intended on sharing that insight with his father's headstone.
”Son,” his father began to struggle to swallow, and Jim grabbed a juice box and promptly held it to da’s mouth.maybe you mean: "Son," his father began, then struggled to swallow..." You wouldn't say: "Son," his father began to dance." We often bring in action verbs as tags after dialogue, but they don't really explain the dialogue.
Jim was only slightly disgusted by the sprouts of gray hairs that hung from his da’s ears like wiry weeds, and the plumped, mounded moles that decorated his neck. It was his da’, after all, and he would love him even if he were to grow horns and hooves. If you wrote: "Jim wasn't disgusted by the..." Wouldn't this be more in tune with the last sentence--and make Jim a little nicer?
I wrote the above before I realized the story wasn't supposed to be taken seriously--but then neither will the reader. I'm not sure that it works without a signal that you're having fun.
Slight tears collected in the tattered skin-pockets beneath da’s eyes, and his cold hand gripped Jim’s tightly. tattered skin pockets?? Tattered means torn, raggedy as a garment. Wouldn't "wrinkled" or "seamed" fit better?
“You remember when I told you kids that your grandma passed away in her sleep some forty years ago?” His da’ asked. Jim felt his throat knotthroat knot first impression was of a tie. tighten? clench? and he squeezed his da’s hand nervously. “Well, truth is…I killed her. She was lyin’ there in bed and I gagged her good.”
Da’ was crying now and Jim asked the only question he could think of to stop those maddening sobs.three of your last four sentences lacked punctuation (commas) and were run-ons. It could be an editing problem, but I suspect you need to freshen up on this aspect of grammar.
”Why da’? Why’d you do it?”
Jim didn’t actually give a rat’s ass why his da’ had done it. He hadn’t even known his grandma, and in some sinister way—a way that made his face blush—he felt relief by his da’s deed. I started to make a comment about this in my first reading, but then held back. I think it was about here that I began to smell a rat. It's obvious that Jim's a sociopath and has committed a crime here. (/i)
The old man shrugged and coughed drool onto his collar. “She was there, I was there…it seemed to make sense.” comma splice and another complete sentence after pause signal should take cap on 'It'
Jim hadn’t prepared for the heavy guilt that began to plug his throat.he has a lot of throat problems I'm not sold on this image.
Without even thinking, he whispered, “Da’…I have a confession to make, too.”
Da’ dried his eyes with the frayed end of the bed sheet and looked at his son with surprise.
“I killed ma’,” Jim whispered, “I killed her good…last night…stabbed her several times.” Why the accent on ma? and since it's used as a name, capitalize
Da’ simply stared at Jim blankly. This made Jim nervous, for he’d expected his da’ to cry. He couldn’t read the blankness of da’s face, nor could he translate the unexpected gentleness of his moistened eyes. The man obviously recognizes a chip off the old block.
”Da’ I’m sorry,” Jim whimpered, “I’m so sorry, da’.” He leaned inward toward his da’ and rested his head against his chest.”
Da’ was unnervingly calm. “Why’d you do it, son?”
Jim sniveled and snorted, then patted his teary face with a blanket. How about a humor signal here> ...patted his face with the drool-covered end of his da's blanket “I don’t know,” Jim said truthfully, “it just…seemed to make sense.”
Da’ nudged Jim off of him, and offered a faint smile. “Tell me what happened,” he said.
Jim straightened and calmed himself. He took a deep breath and let out a long sigh. The room smelled of musky death, and Jim supposed the irony was appropriate. He couldn’t understand why his da’ was taking this all so well, but he supposed that a dying father could appreciate that the two of them had found that they had something new in common…something very unique.
”It was late last night,” Jim began. “Ma’ had gone to her room to sleep alone. When I was sure she was asleep, I crept into the room with a blade I’d found in the kitchen. I couldn’t see her, but I could hear her breathing—quick and sharp breaths. I moved slowly across the room and stepped on someone’s hand! I thought it was odd that ma’ was sleeping on the floor, but when I heard a loud groan I began stabbing. I stabbed her once and then she began to fight back. She hit me with some hard metal object…hurt like a son of a gun…then she moved to the bed, I think. She kicked me a couple of times before she did, but once I stabbed her three or four more times she stopped moving altogether.”
Da’ looked away for a moment, and then took Jim’s hand.
”Then what happened? Da’ asked. close quote missing.
”Then I split…ran out of the room as fast I could.”
”It’s alright, son. It’s over.” Da’ was smiling, but Jim thought he saw some grief in da’s eyes. “We’re not to mention this to any of your siblings when they arrive.”
Jim meant to nod in acknowledgment, but was too stiffened with guilt. The two sat silently, hands clasped tightly together, for several minutes. Jim had hoped to share a meaningful moment with his da’ before he’d passed on. However, this was certainly not what he’d had in mind.
Then, the door tilted tilted open? doors tilt? open and Joe’s head peered through its crack. “Hey bro, hey, da’,” he said. “It ok if I intrude?” Why not use: What's new? I'd love to hear their rejoinders
Da’ grinned brightly, as though everything was (x)once again (/x)right with the world. Jim supposed that perhaps everything was, in a way, though he still felt a fizz of discomfort from the whole ordeal. a fizz of discomfort? Discomfort fizzes?
”Hiya, kid Joe,” da’ beamed. Hiya, Kid," da said, beaming. Once again you can't use a verb like beam as a tag line because you can't 'beam' words. Joe hated being called “kid,” which was precisely the reason that da’ always called him that. Joe didn’t seem to mind this time, however, and ran to give his da’ a hug. Joe pulled a chair beside Jim and began talking to da’. Jim was mostly silent throughout the conversation—his mind elsewhere.
“Jim, Da’,” Joe began to stammer, “I’ve got something to tell you guys. You won’t like it, but if I don’t tell you now…” I'm afraid I know what's coming
Da’ looked at Jim nervously, and then looked back at Joe. “Son, what is it?” Da’ asked.
“I…I killed ma’…killed her last night, while she was in bed.”
Da’ and Jim’s eyes widened and the two exchanged a confused glance.
“I went into her room late last night…it was so dark. She wasn’t there, though, it was just me an’ the dog…so I waited for her with a shovel I’d grabbed from the garage. Finally, the door opened and ma’ walked in. I crept up to her. I was sort of crawling and she must’ve known I was there, because she attacked me with a knife just after she stepped on my hand.” Joe uncovered his sleeve to reveal a bloodied bandaged wrapped around his right upper arm. “She got me once pretty good, so I hit her hard with the shovel.”
“What happened next?” Da’ asked. my guess is the dog began to yelp in pain
“Next?” Joe’s face had gone flush, while the hairline of his forehead began to damp with sweat. “Well, I don’t think ma’ was quite dead yet, because she tried to choke me—but I slipped through her fingers and fell onto the floor. I was a little dizzy, but I was ok. Then I got the hell out of there.”
“So how do you know she was dead if she attacked you after you hit her with a shovel?” Jim asked.
Joe considered this, and finally shrugged. “I got her pretty good. I guess I figured the blow hadn’t taken full effect yet. I’m sure she’s dead, though.”
Jim was astonished. He hadn’t been alone in that room.( he knew that and shouldn't be astonished. He should be astonished that it was Joe Remembering the shovel, Jim felt where a soft but shapely lump had ripened on the summit of his hairless head.
“I just don’t know what to do, da’.” Joe began to cry. “I’m so sorry, da’…I didn’t mean to do it.”
Da’ smiled much the way he smiled after hearing Jim’s confession.
“That’s ok, son…it’s quite alright. Tell me why…tell me why you did it.”
Joe stopped crying. “I don’t exactly know…it just…seemed to make sense.”
Jim wasn’t surprised by the answer.
John and Jay, the twins, were the next of the siblings to arrive.
“Git outta bed, ya lazy good-fer-nothin’,” Jay scorned rowdily. “I know yer fakin’.”
Jim thought the twins had always had the misguided delusion that they were in someway comical. To Jim, however, they were never anything but idiotic, and he grunted at the sight of them. someway or some way?
“How’s the ticker, da’,” John set a box of chocolate covered cherries on the table next to him.
”You crazy kids,” da’ smirked, “you know I can’t have that stuff.” smart move, da.
”Who said they were for you?” John grinned back at him, and then in a more serious tone said, “And why can’t you have them, da’? Because they might kill you?”
Da’ shook his head and laughed. He seized a chocolate cherry and popped it in his mouth. Brown juice streamed down the lines of his cheeks as he chewed. unless he's a particularly messy eater, it probably streamed down his chin.
“By the way, da’,” John said, “We did what you asked us to do. It’s all taken care of.”
Jay’s expression hardened and he elbowed John in the lower back.
”What, Jay-Jay?” John said. “The rest of them don’t know what I’m talking about.”
”What are you talking about?” Da’ asked. His face was half-blackened by chocolate and cherry mess. My mistake. He IS a particularly messy eater Joe grabbed a tissue and began to wipe his da’s face, but da’ swatted at each attempt.
“We killed ma’, just like you asked us to.” John shot da’ a confused look, while Jay shook his head and rolled his eyes.
“You killed ma’?” Da’ muttered.
“You asked them to kill ma’?” Jim gasped.
Da’ looked slightly embarrassed. “Well, your ma’ was going to rewrite the will so that you kids got nothing when she died. Plus, she was always a pain in the ass.”
Makes sense to me. I love this. It's a fun story
Joe looked very confused.
“What are you talking about? How could you two have killed ma’? What exactly happened?” Joe asked.
John’s shoulders sunk, and his eyes began surveying the room nervously and rapidly.
”It was late last night…very dark. We went into her room…waited in the closet for her. When we heard the door open, we waited…she crept around and we heard some noise—a loud bang and a groan—we figured she had tripped on something. I’m not sure why she hadn’t turned on the light, but she seemed to be ok because she was moving more quickly after that. We carefully crept out from the closet and Jay strangled her.”
Jay interrupted, “She fell hard on the floor when I let go. I never killed anyone before.”
”There was still movement,” John continued. “I figured she was convulsing, or twitching, as bodies can do right after a person dies…so I kicked her just to be sure.”
Joe’s lower lip hung wide, like it had been loosened from the jaw.
“This doesn’t make any sense. How could you all have been in that room?” Jim said, ignoring the confused stares from the twins. “I mean, if I only stabbed Joe once, then who did I—?”
Jim was cut off by Judy’s screams. The youngest of the siblings had finally arrived and she was carrying a bloodied dog in her arms—Max. Her white dress was covered with red splotches, and her face shined with a glaze of tears.
“I found him in ma’s room,” she cried. “Someone killed Max! Someone stabbed him! Who would do such a thing?”
No one seemed able to respond. The room was silent apart from the shrill screams of Judy. Somebody shut that silly bitch up," Da screamed, and the twins promptly throttled her. (just a thought to get rid of an otherwise innocent figure before Ma burns them all)
Finally, da’ sighed and said, “Ah, mercy. The woman lives.”
Suddenly, the door shut hard behind them, and Jim noticed how warm it had become. A note slid under the door, and Joe fetched it up and read it.
“It’s from ma’,” he said. “I don’t get it. All it says is ‘I’m sorry, but you’re all just too dangerous’.”
Mom always knows best.
Black smoke flooded the room almost instantaneously. Joe tried to open the door, but it wouldn’t budge. He cried as he pulled away his burned palms.
The large, old house was three stories high and overlooked a cliff. They were inconveniently on the third story. Ma’ must have known that jumping out the window wasn’t an option, though John would try. Jay would try breaking the door down, but that would only let in a gale of red flames.
This is author intrusion--telling the reader what must've happened after the fact. Also I'd dicontinue the use of 'would'--Try something like this: Jay tried breaking the door down, but that only let in a gale of red flames.
Jim remained quiet next to da’, while the other siblings wheezed and coughed and dropped to the floor one by one. Da’ took Jim’s hand and the two sat silently as the room filled to blackness. They sighed and shared the moment. Quality time!
Ok, the contest was to write a mystery with the prompt a deathbed confession of a murder. The mystery turned out to be a new murder: who got killed in the darkened room. Considering the problem of the prompt: solving a murder mystery where there is already a confession, I think you did a pretty good job of turning the tables.
However, a mystery always ends with the clues and questions answered--and you had a problem the twins strangling someone--presumably Joe?--although Joe never mentions getting strangled--but you didn't nail this down.
I can understand your problem--if Ma is fighting back, then why did they think they killed her? This is never resolved.
But what the heck, there was so much improbable stuff going on that even the most fervid mystery genre readers might consider these errors as forgiveable or very minor. I quit reading it as a mystery and enjoyed it as farce--and any serious critique comments pretty much detiorated from there...
Personally, I kind of liked the way the stories about killing Ma built on one another. My early astonishment and creepy feelings dissipated as I realized I'd been conned...that this was a satire. So I hope you'll take some of my comments as intended--simply laughing with you.