The movie will be made!

The plan is to start shooting at the end of May, early June. I'm getting final notes for the re-write today and will have a couple of weeks to get that done. Most likely, I'll start posting more frequently too! Sweet.


Raising Awareness

For the nycmidnight.com Final Round.
Genre: Ghost Story
Subject: Salesman or Saleswoman

Gordie hasn’t been to school in two weeks. He is in first grade, so this is really an eternity. He stares at the snow-covered pond in front of him, a small dark spot in the middle of it where it isn’t entirely frozen. He wiggles his toes to make sure that they are still inside his boots, which they are. Gordie’s father always tells him to wiggle his toes so that they stay warm when it’s cold outside. Gordie has learned all about frostbite—his father read him a story by Jack London before bed one night. Gordie always carries matches with him and knows not to build a campfire under a snowy pine tree. “If you go numb, make sure you jump up and down,” his father says. “Going numb is bad news.” Gordie stomps his feet and thinks about the fish hibernating in the mud beneath the ice.

Now that it’s wintertime, Gordie’s father never comes home before dark. Even though he just had a week off, Gordie’s father always seems tired when he comes home now. When Gordie asks to play, “Raising Awareness,” a game his father invented, Gordie’s father takes off his glasses and rubs his eyes. Both his father and mother wear thick glasses. “Not tonight, kiddo,” his father says. “I’ve got a lot on my plate.” Gordie smiles and runs into the kitchen, returning with a dinner plate. The plate has a child’s acrylic painting on it: a flower and a bubbly heart and a bright yellow sun. “Hello, how are you today?” Gordie asks his father. “This will just take a second of your time. My name is Gordie and I’m with… the Plate Foundation. We raise awareness about plates. I’m sure you’re aware of the plate situation in Michigan, right?” Gordie’s father nods. “Great!” Gordie says. “So you know how important it is to keep children painting plates in this great State. And that’s why I’m out here today, raising money to help keep children painting plates. With a small contribution of—” Gordie’s father turns away, rubbing his eyes. Gordie looks at the plate in his hands, searching his mind for where he went wrong.

Gordie’s father once told him he could sell anything if he believed in it enough. “Even if you don’t believe it,” his father said, “You can make someone else believe it if you follow the script.”

Gordie’s mother makes him grilled cheese, but she forgets to cut it in half. Gordie knows that he needs to help out more around the house, so he cuts a jagged strip across the bread. He does the same for his mother’s uneaten sandwich. He goes to the fridge but he can’t reach the ketchup. He wonders if he should ask his mother to get it for him. These days, she does some things, but not others. The last time he asked her to make a smiley face with the pancake batter, she looked past him, like he hadn’t said anything at all. Gordie wishes someone would help him figure out how to get the ketchup. “Two minds are better than one,” he says aloud.

In their house, there is a whole wall of pictures and drawings. Gordie likes to look at this wall. These days, there are some pictures missing. There are empty spots on the wall where they used to be. Gordie likes to look at pictures of himself when he was little. “Who is that kid?” he says in a talk show voice. “Does anyone know who that kid is?”
There are framed pictures carefully taken from coloring books on the wall too. Gordie recognizes the ones of the blue racecars and brown dinosaurs—he drew those—but he wonders where the ones of the intricate ferns and rainbow colored fish scales came from. Gordie wishes someone would take his drawings down. They look ugly next to those others.

Gordie plays in the snow with his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He picks up a pine needle and pretends to smoke it, breathing out great white puffs of warm air. Playing alone isn’t so bad, but it isn’t so great either. He rubs Michelangelo’s plastic toes as a precautionary measure.

Gordie hides behind the ottoman and watches his mother look at the picture wall. His mother just stands there. Her lips move. Gordie wonders who she’s talking to.

Gordie and his father lie on the bottom bunk of Gordie’s bunk bed. His father falls asleep in the middle of a story and Gordie takes his father’s glasses and puts them on. Gordie squints up at the bunk above him and swears someone is sleeping up there. His father wakes up and gently takes his glasses back. Gordie looks back at the top bunk and everything is normal again.

Gordie practices while he waits for his father to get home. “Hello, my name is Gordie. I’m with the Ghost Glasses Group. We’re out here today working to get all poor children a pair of Ghost Glasses. I’m sure you’re aware of the problem of the all the poor children who can’t see ghosts, right? Of course you are…”

When they eat dinner now, there are four chairs at the table. Gordie picks one food a night to not eat just to see if his parents will notice. Sometimes he wonders if they are having a conversation he cannot hear.

Gordie stares at the mattress above him and wonders why he never sleeps in the top bunk. He tries to imagine someone sleeping in the top bunk. He tries to see a lump in the bottom of the mattress, a shape in the shadows. He closes his eyes and hopes to hear a creaking in the bed frame, a shifting of weight. But there’s nothing. Gordie stares up at the empty bed above him and screams for his father.
Gordie’s father rushes in, pushing his glasses on his nose. In soothing tones, he asks what the dream was about. “I wasn’t dreaming,” Gordie says.
“What’s the matter?” his father asks.
“Do you see anyone in the top bunk?”
Gordie’s father looks upwards, his eyes blinking behind the thick frames of his glasses. “Would you like a glass of water, kiddo?”
“No,” Gordie says.

Gordie stares into the mirror and his eyes stare back at him. He shuts his eyes tight. “Bloodymary bloodymary bloodymary bloodymary bloodymary bloodymary bloodymary bloodymary bloodymary bloodymary bloodymary bloodymary bloodymary!” Gordie opens his eyes and looks into the mirror.
He is all alone.

Gordie sits cross-legged on the carpet, Michelangelo gripped in his hands in front of him. He whispers through clenched teeth so only the doll can hear him. “Just a few dollars will do the trick. Your contribution will go a long way in helping kids get the glasses they need. Boys and girls all over America need these glasses…”

Gordie glares at the pond, concentrating on the dark wet spot in the middle. He has been glaring at the pond for a long time. “Where are you?” he finally shouts. His toes are numb but he doesn’t care about that.

There are four chairs at the table and three plates. Gordie’s parents chew slowly, like horses. Gordie chews slowly too. “Do you see anyone sitting there?” Gordie asks. His parents stop chewing. Gordie pushes out his chair, runs into the kitchen and returns with the dinner plate painted with a flower, a bubbly heart and a bright yellow sun. “Who painted this?” Gordie asks, his voice quavering. “Who did?” His father slowly rises out of his chair and gently takes the plate from Gordie’s shaking hands.

Gordie wakes up in the middle of the night, his teeth chattering. He is freezing cold. He opens the door to his parents’ room. “The water is cold,” he says. “Am I going to get frostbite?”
In the morning, when the smell of coffee wakes him up, Gordie does not remember how he ended up in his parents’ bed.

These days, Gordie feels like crying, but he can’t do it for some reason. There is a peach pit in his stomach and it sucks up all of his tears. His mother watches cartoons with him but she doesn’t laugh at the jokes, so he doesn’t either. When she gets up from a commercial, she brings back three juice boxes. “One for you,” she says. “One for me, and one for—” She puts her hand to her mouth. “I’m sorry, Gordie,” she says. “I’m sorry.”

Gordie likes it when his mother tucks him into bed so tight that he feels like a mummy. These days, she doesn’t always remember to do this, so when she does remember, it makes him extra happy. When his mother leaves, his father comes in, carrying the painted plate with him. “My name is Dad,” his father says. “I’m with the Plate Foundation. I’m sure you’re aware of the issue with painted plates in Michigan, right?” Gordie nods his head. “We’re out here tonight so that everyone knows about all the hard work big sisters put into painting these plates. It’s very important that we recognize the artistic talent…” Gordie’s father trails off for a moment. He fixes his glasses and then smiles at Gordie. “It’s important to know that only big sisters can paint beautiful plates like this, don’t you agree?” Gordie tries to move his arms, but they’re trapped snug beneath the covers. “Would you like to contribute to the Plate Foundation to help raise awareness about the artistic talents of big sisters?”
Gordie shakes his head. “No.”
“It would only take a small contribution,” his father says.
Gordie drags his arms free from the blankets, rips the plate from his father’s hands and hurls it against the wall. It takes a chip out of the drywall and thuds softly on the carpet, completely intact.
“Okay,” his father says. “Maybe next time, then.”

The missing pictures are back on the wall. Gordie examines them with a magnifying glass. “Who is this girl?” he says in a talk show voice. “Where did she come from?”

The snowman Gordie built has a crooked head. “Moms and Dads all have Ghost Glasses,” Gordie tells the snowman. “Wouldn’t you like to make a contribution so kids can have them too?” Gordie punches the snowman’s head, smashing it into smithereens.

When Gordie’s father comes home from work, he has a small package wrapped in brown paper. He kneels down next to Gordie, who has been looking for things in the carpet with his magnifying glass. “Hey, kiddo,” his father says. “I was at my job today, working on a big commission, when the President of the Ghost Glasses Group paid me a visit. He said that you were dong a great job raising awareness about children who don’t have glasses. He said you did such a good job, that now every kid in the region has a pair of Ghost Glasses. He wanted me to deliver this to you personally.” He hands Gordie the brown package and Gordie unwraps it slowly. There is a pair of large black-rimmed glasses with thick lenses inside the box.
“How do they work?” Gordie asks.
“You just put them on,” says his father. “It might take a couple of days for you to get used to them, but that’s normal. The nice thing about Ghost Glasses is that you only have to wear them when you want to see ghosts.”
“But you wear your glasses all the time,” Gordie says.
“Some dads need to do that sometimes,” his father says.

Gordie waits until his is alone to put the glasses on. He stumbles over to the picture wall. Everything is blurry and colorful. He doesn’t see any ghosts yet, but that’s normal.

Gordie wears the glasses for three days straight. He even wears them in the bathtub. Sometimes he catches sight of something out of the corner of his eye. Sometimes he knows a ghost is watching him play with his Ninja Turtles. He acts normal, so he doesn’t scare her.

Gordie stomps his feet in the snow. The pond is completely frozen over now, no black wet spot in the middle anymore. Gordie sits down next to the headless snowman and begins to roll a snowball for a replacement head. Gordie hears something and he looks up, squinting behind the thick windowpanes of his glasses.
“Hey,” Gordie says. “Are you hungry? Mom’s making soup. We should go inside so we don’t catch frostbite.”

The peach pit in Gordie’s stomach is gone. His mother comes into his room and asks him what’s wrong, but he can’t answer because he’s crying so hard. He takes off his glasses and buries his head in his mother’s lap.
Even though it isn’t dark outside, Gordie’s father comes home and the three of them just lie in the bottom bunk bed without their glasses on. They lie there for a long time like that, not moving or saying anything.

Where No One Belongs

For the nycmidnight contest.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Subject: Sewing

Rioko pets old Mr. Ryu’s dog. The internees call the dog many names. Most of the names are about hope and that is a good thing. The dog wanders away toward the fence, maybe chasing the shadow of a jackrabbit or a fat horned toad. Rioko looks up and Mr. Ryu is chasing after the dog, calling one of its names. The sentry guard in the tower yells something and Mr. Ryu still calls after the dog, another name this time. Mr. Ryu is at the fence now and then there is a loud clap, a rifle shot. Rioko sees the dog licking Mr. Ryu’s hand but she can’t see Mr. Ryu’s face. Rioko is seventeen and she has just seen someone die. She is cold; she is sweating. She looks down at her shoes, her right foot throbbing in time with her heartbeat.

Dr. Jonas David Mendelssohn has one hand. He sewed up his wrist on a Japanese island and now he sews up the seams of torn skin of these prisoners in Topaz, Utah. He prescribes aspirin and water and morphine. In makeshift barracks, he diagnoses bronchitis and sprained ankles. The internee doctors send the ones with cuts his way even though he only has one hand. They call him Dr. Mender.

Rioko is sick. She is sick in her heart and in her foot. She has a fever and no water. Rioko lays in a small cot under an itchy green blanket with her little sister, Cola. Cola says Rioko stinks. Cola says that maybe she won’t sleep with Rioko anymore if she keeps farting. Cola shifts, sticking her butt out, and immediately falls back asleep.
“Sorry,” Rioko thinks she says. She thinks about how her shoes are the same color as the Utah desert. They used to be bright white but now they are burnt like the earth. She always wears them to bed. She is scared. She is sick.

Dr. Mender stares out into the empty Utah desert. He drinks coffee and tries not to think about old Mr. Ryu and the gaping hole in his face, and Paul, the sentry guard standing stupidly and arrogantly over the dead body, believing he has done no wrong, ready to shoot again. Dr. Mender tries to think about the day ahead and not the days and lives and limbs that are behind him.

Rioko does not want to wake up for breakfast. Cola shakes and shakes and shakes her sister’s body. Rioko can see her sister as if through a peephole in a door, disproportionably comic. Rioko is thirsty. Cola rips the covers away, a crowd growing around Rioko’s bed. Some noses wrinkle at the stink. A hand brushes across her foot and Rioko would scream if she didn’t feel so far away. Rioko is in the middle of the desert and so is everyone else. They are where no one belongs.

Dr. Mender contemplates the girl’s shoes. The left shoe is burnt orange and dry, the shoelace carefully double knotted. The right shoe is dark red, wet and swollen.
Dr. Mender does not scare easily but he is frightened for the girl. He has given her morphine and she has fallen asleep. Her face is narrow. She has chapped lips and her chin has an upward tilt. Her name is Rioko and this is the name he whispers soothingly as he cuts the canvas of her right shoe with a pair of stainless steel scissors. Her name slides out of his throat like cool water. Rioko Rioko Rioko… The seams break easily, and the shoe falls away like a soggy husk.
Her sock is an amalgamation of desert dust turned mud, blood, puss and cotton. There is a small hole in bottom the sock, directly in the middle of the sole of Rioko’s foot. Dr. Mender starts the cut at the hole, gently moving the scissors up her ankle, the stump of his left hand holding the girl’s leg steady. Rioko Rioko Rioko…

Rioko wakes up and she does not scream. Maybe it is because she has morphine coursing through her veins. Maybe it is because she has been locked in this prison for seven months. Maybe it is because she hears her name softly echoing off the white washed walls of this cinder block infirmary. Rioko Rioko Rioko…
She stares at the man holding her foot, his fingers wrapped around her ankle, the stump of his left wrist gingerly tamping the arch of her foot, her big toe, the sole of her ankle. She cannot feel him do this. Her foot, she thinks, has been invaded by the Utah desert. It does not belong to her anymore. She wants to tell this white man, his name is Dr. Mender—he once gave Cola some anti-septic after she was stung by a bee—she wants to tell Dr. Mender that she is sorry, but this isn’t her foot any longer. Nothing escapes her throat except dust. She is thirsty.
Dr. Mender looks up at her and smiles. Through the lenses of his glasses, Rioko sees that his eyes are far away, like her. She imagines he sees this place through a telescope like she does. He sets down the foot and helps her take a sip of water. “I’m glad you’re awake,” he says, catching a rivulet of water on her chin with a handkerchief. “I was getting a little lonely.”

Dr. Mender tells the girl that her foot will have to come off. She tells him to give it to the desert, to bury it and to sew up her leg so that the desert cannot take that too. “They are trying to take it all,” she says. “Everything we had we no longer have.”
Dr. Mender tries to make a joke, something about how she can tell her children that she lost her toes in Topaz. He feels stupid after saying this. She gives him a forgiving look, allowing him to try again. “How did this happen?” he asks.
“Suddenly,” she says.

Cola says that she is sorry for calling Rioko stinky. Cola cries and cries and cries… This makes Rioko want to cry but her tear ducts have been fire blasted, wiped bone dry.
Dr. Mender stands at the foot of the bed, his chin resting on his stump. “How is your bee sting, Cola?” Dr. Mender asks.
“F-fine,” says Cola.
“I really like your name,” says Dr. Mender.
Rioko watches Cola gather her composure and she is proud. She is proud of Cola’s long straight black hair and the way she blinks her eyes, not ashamed of the tears on her red cheeks. “Thanks,” says Cola. “I made it up myself.”

“Will this make me feel better?” Rioko asks.
“It should,” says Dr. Mender.
“What if it doesn’t?”
“My job is to make sure you get better and I promise I will.”

A nurse asks Dr. Mender if he would like her to thread the needle, but he insists on doing it himself. He holds the needle against his chin with the stump of his wrist and pushes the thread through the needle’s empty eye with his good hand. He is cross-eyed and his tongue sticks out of his mouth when he does this. It is a funny sight, this one-handed doctor threading a needle, but the nurse does not laugh even though Dr. Mender wishes she would.
Rioko’s leg stares back at him. The bright red of her calf muscle, the glaring white of her tibia, the dainty circle of her fibula—it is perfect. It is all how it should be. He has already stitched the blood vessels and now he and the nurse fold the flaps of Rioko’s skin like wrapping paper, evenly and with care. Dr. Mender removes the needle from his lips and sews the seams with delicate and precise movements. He hopes, in time, that Rioko will not be able to see her scar, that she can fool herself into thinking this is how she has always been.

Rioko wakes up. A nurse brings her water. Rioko drinks it down. Her throat is scratchy. She drinks more water. She is still thirsty. No matter how much she drinks, it is not enough. Her leg, wrapped in a fist of white gauze, throbs in time with her heartbeat.

There are families of Japanese in the northern states now, Dr. Mender knows. They are finding new homes, but they are not really home. Dr. Mender is the color of the desert. He is up to his shoulders in a hole he has dug with a military shovel. The cactus above him provides no shade. It is difficult to dig with one hand, but he manages. He remembers the trenches he helped dig on a Japanese beach, taking breaks to remind captains to remind soldiers to keep hydrated. He used two hands then. He wanted to save lives, not bury them. They swam in the ocean and waited to get bombed.

“Can I touch it?” Cola asks.
Rioko shakes her head. No.
“Why not?” Cola asks.
“You might get infected.”
Cola’s face clouds over, the blood slowly percolating under her skin. She takes a tiny step back. Rioko knows that she has given Cola a horrible thought that she might never forget.

Dr. Mender redresses Rioko’s leg. “It is healing beautifully. The stitches can come out Tuesday,” he says. “Pretty soon, we’ll be able to get you out of this bed and send you back—” Dr. Mender stops immediately. Out of old habit, he was going to say home. He checks Rioko’s face to see if she has caught his slip. She has.
“How did you lose your hand, Dr. Mender?” she asks.
It is two in the morning. He stabs a morphine needle in Private Kramer’s forearm and dry heaves when he sees most of Private Kramer’s guts spilled out onto the beach. Bullets, shrapnel and sand fly around his ears like a hive of angry bees, slicing, diving and howling. He reaches back to his med pack for another syringe but something is wrong. He roots his hand into the bag, but he can’t move his fingers—he can’t feel his fingers. There is a bright flash of a flare and he pulls his hand out and he sees that he has no hand. He calls Private Kramer’s name, but Private Kramer is dead and he realizes that he has not saved anyone, not one person. He thinks this is some kind of joke, maybe even some kind of cruel dream. And then the pain comes and it is no dream.
“Suddenly,” Dr. Mender says.

Rioko is sick. She is sick in her heart. She is thirsty even though she has had as much water as she can drink.
Dr. Mender carefully takes out the thread from her leg. A nurse holds a mirror so that Rioko can see. Dr. Mender undoes what he has done, stitch by stitch. There is a bright red zigzag across the stump. It reminds Rioko of the sunset here, the image that crosses her field of vision after she clamps her eyes shut as hard as she can.
Dr. Mender shows her how to use her crutches, to let them walk ahead of her. She trips. She falls. Dr. Mender holds out his wrist for her to take and she breaks. She feels the flood pouring out of her and forgets all of the lessons she was ever taught. Respect your elders. Children should be seen and not heard. Don’t raise your voice in anger.
“You lost your stupid hand and because of that, you got to go home! I gave my leg to you and you still won’t let me go! You got to go home! Why can’t we? You didn’t make me better! Why can’t—” She stops as abruptly as she started, her lungs and belly as empty as a barren well waiting to be filled in with silt and dust.

Dr. Mender drinks his coffee and calls all of the friends he knows. He tells them his story.

Rioko eats liver at the mess hall. She asks Cola to sleep in her bed but Cola is too scared. Rioko uses the open-stalled bathroom, not caring anymore if anyone can see her and her abbreviated leg not quite touching the floor. She dreams about Dr. Mender sewing her eyelids shut but this still doesn’t keep out the dust, her vision a permanent zigzag of scarred sunsets. She wakes up and asks Cola to sleep in her bed, but she will not. Rioko lets her crutches walk ahead of her. She eats hearts and kidneys at the mess hall. Rioko’s stomach fills up with sand, like an hourglass. She thinks that Dr. Mender sealed the desert up inside of her and the invasion will never end. She calls old Mr. Ryu’s orphan dog many names of hope and he will not come to her.

Dr. Mender has a picture and a letter. These are good people, he knows. They live in the cold weather, but they are warm and caring and want to help.

Rioko stares at her shoe. She sits in the dust. The adults gather in the shade, talking quietly. Cola plays with the fish in the cement fish pool with the other kids, screeching and laughing. Rioko takes off her shoe and wiggles her toes. She struggles upright and lets the crutches walk her to the fence. Squinting against the sun, she glares up at the sentry tower and hurls her shoe over the fence as far as she can. It lands next to a rock and settles. She glares at the sentry tower. Everything is silent. She can feel their eyes on her. She tests the strength of the fence and contemplates the barbed wire overhead. She jams her good foot in a hole and starts to climb, awkwardly and ferociously. She sees herself through a telescope in an overhead view, an awkward tripod scaling a wall in the middle of nowhere. She wants her shoe back. She wants them to shoot her so she can bleed out all of the sand in her guts. She weighs a million pounds, but still she climbs skyward.
“Where’s Minnesota?” Cola asks. Rioko looks over her shoulder and sees her sister with an envelope and a picture. Dr. Mender stands about ten feet behind Cola and stares at the sentry tower.
“Someone wants us to live in their home,” Cola yells. “Do you want to go?”
Rioko does not move.

Dr. Mender catches the glint of gunmetal in the sentry tower and then turns back to the scene in front of him. In another world, this one-footed girl stuck on a fence in Topaz, Utah is a funny sight. Dr. Mender wishes someone would laugh, but no one does.


So a lot of great stuff has been happening lately, and strangely, my least priority has been to blog about it. So here's a quick run down:

1. It actually looks like Cole is going to be made! I'm headed up to Vancouver Easter weekend to meet with the director and actors for a table read. I don't want to give out the names yet, but as far as Canadian celebrity goes, everyone involved is pretty big time.

2. I'm currently involved in this great short story writing contest run by nycmidnight.com. The initial contest was that you got a genre and a subject assigned to you and then had a week to write a 2500 word story. There were about 550 total entries divided into thirty heats, and I was assigned Genre: Historical Fiction, Subject: Sewing. My story won first place (there were something like 46 total finalists) and got to move on to the final round. We received our assignment last night (Genre: Ghost Story, Subject: Salesman or saleswoman) and were given 24 hours to write another 2500 word story, which I just turned in 2 hours ago. The winners are announced in two weeks? Three weeks? I don't know. All pertinent info is on nycmidnight.com.

So, the next two posts will be the stories I wrote for the contest. I hope they are easy reads.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!