The plot development of Beattie's short story Jacklighting is convoluted and partially hidden, much like the nameless narrator's unconventional telling of the tell. Nicholas, lying brain dead due to being hit by a drunk driver, is the focus of much of the narrator's narrative. Nicholas was someone who mentored the narrator when younger. He taught her a game, but we are not informed of it until the story ends: "He had us close our eyes after we'd stared at something and made us envision it again" (Beattie 1983, 23). Wynn and Spence possess the ability to succeed at this game, able to make the objects stand out more vividly than they do in life. For the narrator, however, things continue to be lost in darkness, "When I closed my eyes, I squinted until the thing was lost to me. It kept going backward into darkness" (Beattie 1983, 23).
The narrator, Spence and Wynn typically celebrate Nicholas' birthday, "It is Nicholas' birthday. Last year he was alive" (Beattie 1983, 17). Nicholas now lays brain dead after being hit by a drunk driver. Jacklighting is a significant title because Spence must call the police each year to report hunters who "jacklight" deer, meaning they hunt them at night with powerful lights. However, as the plot unfolds, the narrator believes the stars use their light to pinpoint human beings, freezing them for a moment, before doom strikes. Like the helpless deer who are jacklighted, the narrator views human beings as being subject to the same whims of the universe. The narrator has a dour view of life. She imagines that "if the birds could talk, they'd say that they didn't enjoy flying" (Beattie 1983, 23).
Nicholas was different. Nicholas made life fun and saw the wonder and magic in the smallest things and briefest moments. He made the narrator a lobster claw necklace, and, in better days, his birthday was celebrated with "mint julepsÓcroquet gamesÓcake" and "midnight skinnydips" (Beattie