Short Story Review – “Final Statements” by A. J. O’Connell

“Final Statements” by A. J. O’Connell (Independent Ink Magazine, December 20, 2011, 2,286 words) is something of a psychological study. A late-thirties divorcee has moved back in with her mother–no surprise there–but the daughter, Roxanne, has a fascination with a Web site that lists the final words of executed criminals.

Roxanne has taken over her slovenly mother’s house and begun renovating it without her mother’s permission. The only off-limits place is the door to the basement, the site of her long-dead father’s workshop, which Roxanne’s mother still forbids her access.

At first, it’s easy to see Roxanne’s mother’s concern–her adult daughter makes a ritual of reading the words of executed murderers when the Web page gets updated every month. Roxanne curls up on the couch, a pint of Ben and Jerry’s in hand, laptop open, and don’t you dare disturb her. She studies the executed man’s picture and rolls the last words over and over in her mind, noting that the ultimate words are usually, “I’m ready.” Her mother sits at the dining room table playing Solitaire the old fashioned way, with a deck of cards, and tosses barbs over her shoulder about her daughter’s odd obsession. By that point in the story, you begin to wonder just what Roxanne’s issue is with the dying words of the executed.

Then you find out, and I’ll never hear the phrase “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” the same way, ever again.

This is a short, tight story with a good twist at the end–very Hitchcock-esque–and I recommend it.

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