Excerpt from The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Opposite of Everyone

by Joshilyn Jackson

The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson X
The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson
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    Feb 2016, 352 pages

    Oct 2016, 352 pages


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No, thank you. I have enough money to last me the rest of my life.

That was a joke. The cancer got everywhere before I noticed, so "the rest" will be quite short. Weeks, if I am lucky. I am going on a journey, Kali. I am going back to my beginning; death is not the end. You will be the end. We will meet again, and there will be new stories. You know how Karma works.

It was more than a note. It was an epitaph. Or a poem. Or a threat. That was all I knew at first read. I read it again, and saw what it did not contain. There was no absolution.

In fact, the whole thing seemed designed to make me angry. I hated cryptic missives, and mystic-ness, and condescension. Of course I damn well knew how karma worked, but I did not believe in it. I didn't believe in reincarnation, either, or fate, or that time was any kind of wheel, and she knew it.

If I took all that crap away, I understood what she was saying. That my debt transcended even death. Hers and mine. We could both die and rot to dust, and my dust would still owe hers.

What I couldn't understand was this: a thousand miles away from me, in Texas, my mother was dying.

This was information that I couldn't process.

"My mother's dying," I told the cat, trying out the words. They were ashy and fine in my mouth, but I tasted truth in them.

Hearing it out loud, I still felt nothing. I felt so much nothing, swelling black and dense inside of me, that I couldn't even blink. My eyes dried and itched. Time stretched into something endless.

A solid week had passed while my check worked its way to Texas and back. Kai might already be dead.

At that thought, a raw ease came into my shoulders, and at the same time, I had the gap- tooth, ugly feel of something missing, the urge to jam my tongue into the hole. My insides jangled at the dissonance. If she was dead, I didn't belong to anyone but Henry.

The note took up the whole back of the check, but I noticed more tiny letters, running sideways up the margin. My numb fingers turned the little paper, and my dry eyes read. Eight more words were squeezed against the edge, clearly the last thing she'd written to me. Perhaps the last thing she'd write to me, ever:

(Obviously I don't want you to come here)

My mother was dying, and she didn't want me at her bedside.

"I'm fine with that," I told her, or maybe I was telling Henry.

I was oddly glad then that my cat was deaf and couldn't hear me saying this true and ugly thing. From far away I heard my own voice laughing because that was so stupid. Did I think a hearing cat would have understood the English? I laughed, and Kai was still dying, telling me not to come, and then I stopped laughing, because my body had stopped breathing.

Her absence coiled itself around my chest, my neck. It was pinching all my airways closed. I felt my ribs folding, squeezing inward to crush at my heart. My arm went numb, and I thought, very calm, I'm having a heart attack.

I lurched to grab my phone. My thick- fingered hand fumbled it and I watched it fall away. I noted with dry interest the spiderweb created as the screen cracked. I wasn't scared. I was something worse than scared. I was blue and turning bluer. I was drowning in dry air.

Then I was on my knees, scrabbling to retrieve my broken phone. I got the number pad to come up, and for the second time in my life, I found myself dialing 911. To dial it again now was such black irony, and I had no faith that this call could save me.

I could feel my mother's cord rewrapping my throat, leaching the living color from my skin. I slipped down sideways to the floor. My heart flopped and skipped. My arms and now my legs were losing all sensation. I could barely hear the woman on my phone asking, "What is your emergency?"

I wanted to tell her I was having a heart attack. I wanted to ask for an ambulance. But I couldn't answer. Not that question. The last time I'd answered it, I'd begun the long, long process of killing my own mother. A process which was only ending now.

The voice inside my phone was talking louder now, calm and firm. "Hello? Can you speak? What's the nature of your emergency?"

I had no air to answer. I didn't even try. I pushed the phone away. It slid across the sleek wood floor, the disembodied voice inside still calling out. I turned away, turned toward the blackness, and there was karma, after all. I let everything that I deserved come at me. I let it come, at last.

Excerpted from The Opposite of Everyone by Tom Jackson. Copyright © 2016 by Tom Jackson. Excerpted by permission of William Morrow. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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