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The Rending

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The Rending

by James Oppenheim

Genre: Suspense
Format of Original Source: Short Story
Recommended Adaptation Length:

Candidate for Adaptation? Promising


His mother flung her arms about him desperately and clung to him….

“I can’t let you go, Paul,” she moaned.

“Oh, mother,” he sobbed. “This is breaking my heart….”

“It is Agnes you are going to,” she whispered.

“No, mother,” he cried. “It is not Agnes. I am going to college. I shall never marry. I shall still take care of you. Think–every vacation I will be back here….”

She relaxed, lay back, and his inventions failed. He had a confused sense of soothing her, of gentleness and reconciliation, of a last good-bye….

And now he sat, head on hand, slowly realizing again the little gas-lit room, the shaking window, the autumn wind. A throb of fear pulsed through his heart. He had passed his mother’s door without greeting her. And there was his valise, and here his tickets. And the time? It was nearly eleven…. A great heaviness of futility and despair weighed him down. He felt incapable of action. He felt that he had done some terrible deed–like striking his mother in the face–something unforgivable, unreversible, struck through and through with finality…. He felt more and more cold and brutal, with the sullenness of the criminal who can’t undo his crime and won’t admit his guilt….


A son cannot tear himself away from his mother, even though he must. It becomes the stuff of POE. There’s an incredible amount of tension in this story (will he kill her?), and although there are many repeat beats (another opportunity to kill her, and a third), part of the point of the story is the son’s inability to act, and so the repetitive beats could conceivably actually ADD to to tension. This storyline won’t sustain an intermission, and might wear thin after about an hour, but might make for a terrifying, thrilling one-act.


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