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  • Writer's pictureAndrew J Brandt


When I wrote The Unwinding Cable Car during the winter/spring of 2020, I was really trying to stretch my writerly muscles, to do some things narratively that I hadn't done yet. It was a more mature story, and I worked with some supernatural elements that I'd begun toying with in IN THE FOG. In Unwinding, the supernatural was intertwined with Hamilton's character. It wasn't a plot device, it was part of him.

With the anniversary of the book's publication a few weeks away, I thought I'd share a deleted scene from the novel's first draft. The scene in question revolved around a young New Yorker named Hattie who was the one to discover the dead flight attendant. Her death was the thing that really started to unravel Hamilton. When I turned the book in to Brandon, he loved the story but felt this scene took us (the reader) away from the main narrative. I hated to do it, but we cut Hattie's scene.

So, here it is. A little look into the process, a look into what gets cut from first draft to final product.

Eighteen hundred miles away from the highway where Hamilton drove to his sister’s house for Thanksgiving dinner, the streets of Tribeca were mostly deserted with the city’s attention on Manhattan and the Thanksgiving parade that marched down Sixth Avenue toward Herald Square.

Hattie McManus had lived in the neighborhood as long as she’d been alive, seeing the people and places evolve, the mood of the place had changed around her. She grew up playing on the playground at Washington Market Park. She was in high school when the 9/11 attacks rocked the city, the dust and debris floating through the air around Hudson River Park.

Despite the anxiety and panic, the rise and fall and rise again of crime around the neighborhood, her family had stayed. She was the single child of two artists, her father a playwright, her mother an actress. They’d met in the eighties, their love of theatre their own common interest, outside of Hattie.

Her senior year, they’d split up, with her father moving across town, closer to Broadway. She and her mother stayed in the apartment by the park she’d grown up in. She still had a scar on her right knee from a fall from the jungle gym that netted a dozen stitches when she was eight years old.

Hattie was helping her mother prepare the Thanksgiving meal when she’d gone down to the alleyway behind the apartment with a white plastic bag stretching at the seams. It amazed her how much garbage two women could produce just cooking a turkey and all the trimmings.

With the trash bag slung over her shoulder, the morning air hit her in the face, cold and crisp. November in the city was something she never enjoyed, and it meant the days would start getting shorter, the sun setting around five in the evening. For someone whose entire dream was to live somewhere where it was warm all year round, this Thanksgiving cold was the harbinger of winter.

Granted, she wasn’t too blasé about winter. Thanksgiving meant Christmas would soon come. However, after Christmas, winter served no purpose to Hattie. Just cold days and colder nights and the occasional norther that would rip through the city, keeping she and her mother holed up in the apartment for days, the radiator stuttering to life. Hattie wondered how many more years that old thing had left in it.

She also wondered how much longer her mother would be around. She’d become frail in her late fifties, losing weight to the point that she looked like a skeleton. An appointment to the doctor—which led to more appointments and multiple examinations—confirmed the worst.

Her mother was strong and wouldn’t let the cancer take her without a fight. Even now, upstairs cooking their Thanksgiving meal, the woman could just as easily be in bed trying to relieve her pain with medications. But, it was their favorite holiday and nothing was going to stop them from celebrating.

Hattie tried not to think about it, but she did; she wondered how many more favorite holidays they’d get to spend together.

And once her mother was gone, where would she go? Where would she take herself to start over? Or, rather, start altogether? San Diego sounded enticing. Wouldn’t that be a nice change of pace? Take her few belongings across four time zones and live on the beach, surfing and eating fish tacos, living in a city full of sun and perpetual summer?

Though, too, Hattie McManus, with her Irish blood and fair skin and red hair, may have a difficult time with sunburns living somewhere like that. There was also Florida, but she felt too young for Florida. That’s where people go to retire.

California just sounded so much better. San Diego. Or L.A. She would move out to Hollywood, sign up for every audition she could get her hands on. Her mother was, back in the nineties, one of the more respected Broadway actresses in the business, and Hattie had no problem riding those coattails if it meant leaving these harsh winters.

Hattie walked the dozen or so yards through the alleyway to the yellow dumpster and went to lift the lid when she saw something on the ground. She did a double-take and jumped back.

A pair of shoes, black pumps with a good three-inch heel, jutted out from behind the dumpster. The feet in the shoes were a cold color, grotesquely devoid of blood pumping through their arteries.

Hattie dropped the trash bag that she carried over her shoulder. Glass jars inside shattered with it hit the ground and she said, softly, “Hey, are you okay? Ma’am? Can you hear me?”

No answer from the feet, or the person they were attached to.

Hattie moved around the corner of the dumpster and saw the rest of the woman, slumped against the metal of the trash container. She had red hair, like Hattie, that fell in clumps around her round and white face. Her lips were blue and her eyes were open, staring out.

Dried, frozen blood caked around the woman’s neck and Hattie realized that her neck had been slashed, a gaping wound split from ear to ear. The deep maroon liquid coagulated and stained the front of her blouse.

In the woman’s hand, a blade, the type of extendable razor usually used to slit open shipping boxes, shown in the dim light of the alley. The silver metal was spotted with dried blood.

Hattie screamed.

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