News!

‘TILL DEATH has been submitted to the Toronto Film Festival! Hopes are high. I’m scheduled to begin work on a Josh Turpin / Amanda Merritt production (yet to be named) in the coming weeks. The script looks great! And I begin the final rewrite of LENNY’S GARAGE TOMORROW. Lenny is scheduled for completion September 1. I’m very excited to put the final touches on LENNY’S GARAGE. It’s in the final rewrite that my novels find their voices. I may be a bit tardy with my fiction submissions, what with all this summer work and all!  Check my site often and don’t forget to check back to my archives!

Shel

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Morning of Execution

Billibong woke up at his usual time and went fairly rangy at not having his breakfast waiting. It was in all respects a normal start to the day in the lab. His screeches and howls woke all of the other animals as usual.

          Fluffette seemed particularly put-upon by Billi’s early morning harangue. It was almost as though she knew this was her last morning and coveted that final bit of peaceful sleep. Put-upon was as good as it would get for Fluffette this day. She was denied her final meal for reasons she could not possibly comprehend despite considerable effort. She figured breakfast was being modified for some new test or preference that she’d be enjoying today. It wasn’t the first time she’d been surprised by a disruption of the usual feeding schedule, and her previous experiences were all good. New and delicious protein rich foods or gluten and wheat-free vegetarian fare always led to extra human contact and often a coveted walk. But today her handlers seemed less intent on petting and eye contact and rather keen to busy themselves with outside minutiae. She thought it odd that no music was playing in the lab and all of her human friends were too busy to give her any attention. When Doctor Friesen finally approached her it was with a sad face and unintelligible bad news. Of course Fluffette cooperated as always. She wasn’t about to modify her perfectly civil behaviour as the result of her humans having a bad day. On went her walking harness. As she passed the other cages, she ran her fingers along the grills, making that thrumming sound she loved so.  She stopped for a moment at Billi’s place as he seemed somehow sad. She felt sad herself as once again, Billibong was being left out of the excitement.

            “C’mon old girl,” Doctor Friesen said, as he led Fluffette past the other cages. He noticed that she hesitated at Billibong’s cage and had to give a little tug on the harness to move her along. Fluffette was almost fifteen years old, about two thirds of her natural lifespan, but far older than most lab apes. She had outlived her utility for long-term dietary experimentation and was unsuited for transfer to a retirement facility. Doctor Friesen knew that such animals could not be safely reintroduced to the wild and there was certainly no interest in funding such expense anyway.  For nine years, Fluffette and Doctor Friesen had worked together in this lab and their work produced considerable data. Friesen was unemotional but noticeably vacant as he walked the mature female ape to the chair in which she would receive her fatal dose of sodium pentobarbital intravenously and close her eyes and drift off to points unknown. “We’ve had a good time, you and I,” Doctor Friesen said.  “Lets get this little bit of business done. Then I’ll be sure to put in a good word for you in the month-end report.” Fluffette, remarkably, did not reply.

Study for: Lenny’s Garage (a novel excerpt)

It occurred to Lenny that he’d been in the Yorkville Cat Clinic for forty minutes and no customers had come in.

            “You’re not very busy,” he said.

            “It’s not like I do a lot of cats,” Nick replied. He slid the razor blade across the smooth glass surface of the framed open sign and collected the scattered powder into a final parallel line. He tapped the blade three times and took up a loosely rolled hundred-dollar bill. Rolling it between his thumbs and forefingers, Nick tightened the roll and thrust it toward Lenny. “You have the honours.”

            “Thanks,” Lenny replied as he leaned into the glass. He held the bill up to one nostril and pushed his other nostril closed with his forefinger. With a quick snort and a pivot of his neck he inhaled one line. Sitting back up, he pinched and wiped his nose as he sniffed and reattached his gaze.

            “Good huh?” Nick asked.

            Lenny nodded. “If I were to bounce something off of you, do you think you could keep it quiet? It’s not a national secret or anything. Just sort of private.”

            “Hey man, it’s me, you’re talking to. What do you think?”

            “You’re not really the most discrete—

            “Fuck you. I’m discrete when you need me to be. You want to talk? Talk. I won’t say anything to anybody. I’m here for you.

            “It is good stuff,” Lenny said.

            “Got it from the Russians.”

            “I tested for that Freedman kid,” Lenny said tentatively.

            “What are you talking about?” Nick paused. “That Jewish kid with cancer?”

            “Leukemia.”

            “What do you mean you tested? Like you gave blood?”

            “Yeah. They took a blood sample to test to see if I could be a match for a transplant?”

            “A transplant? What are you nuts? Transplant what? When did you do this? What do they transplant? Are you related to the kid? Freeman?”

            “Freedman. No. They take bone marrow. It’s not a big deal really.”

            “Not a big deal? You are nuts. What about infection? The anesthetic? You could get AIDS or something.”

            “Come on,” Lenny got up. “You didn’t learn anything in vet school?”

            “I didn’t really have time to study, if you know what I mean,” Nick took the coke straw and did a line. “The dean didn’t seem to mind my pre-occupation. Hey, pre-occupation, get it? That guy had a bigger habit than Scarface. Anyway, sit down. I want to hear more.”

            “I went in last week and gave a blood sample. They called me this morning. I’m a preliminary match. They want me to come back in and give them another sample.” Lenny sat back down and put out his hand for the straw.

            “You were a match? That’s like one in a million, isn’t it?”

            “Not really. About a half million if you’re a match. Not just for the prelim. I don’t know how many people pass that.”

            An electronic door chime rang. “We’re closed,” Nick yelled. “I forgot to lock the door,” he whispered to Lenny.

            A voice called back. “Closed? But the sign says—

            “Sorry, family emergency. Please come back tomorrow,” Nick yelled. He turned to Lenny and pointed to the open sign. “Sign’s down. Business hours are over.” Then he leaned in and sucked up the last line.

            “So I tested positive and I’m going in tomorrow to do it again.”

            “Don’t tell Arthur, that’s for sure. He’ll fucking freak.”

            “It’s not about Arthur, it’s about me.”

            “You mean the kid, right? The Freedman kid. What is that, some sort of tribe thing? He’s one of yours so you have to step in and risk your life for him. Even if he’s a complete stranger?” Nick sniffed loudly and wiped his nose. “Fuckin’ eh! That Vlad should get an award for this shit.”

            “What? A guy can’t do something for someone else? For a sick kid? It’s a blessing to do this.”

            “Yeah, I know. You guys have the market cornered in the blessing department. Our goyishe god doesn’t give a shit if we save a kid, right? Fuck you. You’re an elitist prick, Lenny. You know that?”

            “This was a bad idea. Never mind. Why I thought I’d get support from my friends is beyond me. I probably won’t pass the next screening anyway.”

            “You’ve always looked down on me,” Nick said. “You guys are so fucking superior with your Jew club and your Jew secret handshake and your Jew morality. Every day at lunch it’s Hello, it’s good to see you Mr. Goldstein, good to see you Mr. Glass, good to see you Mr. Levinsky, oh hi Nick you goy. I’m fucking tired of everyone treating me like I’m less moral or socially responsible than you. Should I lay out some more coke? I got new stuff coming in on Thursday. It’s the sweetest blow you’ve ever tasted.

            “Nick, you know we all love you. So you think I’m crazy?”

            “I don’t know. I don’t understand it. Why would you take the chance?”

            “I don’t know Nick. I don’t know. I didn’t even realize that I heard the ad. I just found myself driving to the synagogue where they had the blood testing clinic and signed up.”

            “You didn’t park in front, did you?”

            “What the hell, Nick. In case I’d be embarrassed to do the right thing? I parked about three blocks away. Nobody saw me.

            “The guys would freak.”

            “Yeah, I know.”

            “You’d get Arthur’s high and mighty we’re the privileged few, the enlightened ones, separate from the masses speech.

            Yeah, I know.

            “What are you going to do if you match?”

            “I don’t know. Do the transplant, I guess.”

            “Will you be in, you know, the hospital?”

            “I guess.”

            “So you’ll miss lunch.”

            “Probably.”

            “Then you’ll have to make up a story.”

            “I don’t know. We’re getting way ahead of the game here. I’m not even a match yet. The odds are—

“Yeah, we covered that. But you’re not exactly normal in that respect, are you?

            “I guess.”

            “You guess?”

            “Yeah.”

            “Seven out of ten, right?”

            “Eight.”

            “Eight? When did that happen?”

            “I don’t know. About a month ago.”

            “Jesus. I mean Moses, or whomever. And Vegas?”

            “No Vegas.”

            “Jesus, Lenny. I’m sticking with Jesus. We could make out like bandits.” Nick dropped to his knees. “Please let’s do Vegas. You and me. I’ll pay for everything.”

            “Get up, you dick. We’re not going to Vegas. Jesus was a Jew. And they don’t have coin-toss tables anyway.”

            “Of course he was. Took over the family business, so to speak.”    

Lenny ran his finger around the open sign and mopped up the last of the cocaine and rubbed his finger on his gums. He checked his Rolex and plucked his mohair jacket from the back of his chair and threw it over his shoulder. “It’s time. Lets go.”         

            Nick scanned the back room and then put the sign on top of a tightly wrapped package in a medicine cabinet above one of the two examination tables. He closed the mirrored door and tapped it twice.

            “Nobody would look for this in here,” he said.

            “That’s funny,” Lenny replied. “I guess it’s a better hiding place than in the drug locker.”

            “Oh, I keep shit in there too,” Nick said. He also checked his Rolex. “We’d better get going or the guys will be pissed.”

            “And get the best parking spots.”

Hunger

Dark glasses, out of style boots with big heels, a scarf made of wrinkled poly. She strides up the walk clicking and swinging her sex like a billboard for milk as I pass close, too close to remain unnoticed and stop because I feel obligated like there are rules for this sort of thing. My fifty, maybe sixty rapid-fire words representing not a transaction but an insistence of ignorance and hope are received with the worldliness of a second-generation whore in her first decade of grist. With tentative motions I steer as though a learner and duck into the prescribed laneway, follow instructions and wait, jump, fidget, wait, and reverse my commitment to this non-entity, without compassion, and find her blocking the exit in time, just out of time. The door clicks not entirely shut, her handbag laid without emotion on the carpeted hump of the transmission of my mother’s Dodge. She’s wet with sweat, not sex, and mumbling about irrelevancy as she pauses by design to remember the cash, the cash that I count and lay out on the dashboard to watch as my pants are yanked without passion, exposing my ignorance glowing blue as is the case in the Dodge but not the Pontiac that is soft white. The repeated raking of her teeth and a ghastly cough almost leads to my abandonment in disgust but for it being too late, well into the chasm of commitment that precedes the crash, gasp, heat. With expert timing she avoids soiling her face, lips, eyes, hair, blouse, ruining my fantasy and fulfilling hers, mine being of five years breadth and hers of an insignificant instant, in a tissue that I cannot be sure was virgin.       

           I travel uptown, the seat further back than the trip down, my wrist resting on the apex of the wheel, my mother’s radio station squawking about politics for ten minutes or more before I notice, the window too low for the sharp bite of air, the occasional flurry losing its colour on the windshield just inches from where the cash, the cash lay before. Time changes my status from spectator to major-leaguer, filled with courage and history to flaunt and lie for all to see forever. No longer guessing and lying and thinking aloud at night.

          Flying horizontal flashes of exposure blur the stark truth of day where sounds are modified by sub-orders of black and bitter, familiarity that I will not give up as the years mount and decay. I try to push regret down far, consider time lost, the compassion and forgiveness of my youth. I am guilty of damage. Effecting, causing, damage. Toying with life. Interrupted only by diverting my eyes, caste, power, and abuse— yes abuse, certainly abuse. I feel inescapable regret. Irretrievable acts spent on hormonal highs and consequence not avoided. A life affected. Thoughtless, inconsiderate acts, selfish abrupt lasting acts, offered without thought or provocation. I drive the dark streets of her past with knowledge of contribution, unable to outmaneuver the reality of my visit, the impact of youth, unforgivable ignorance and hunger.