I wrote this. I almost didn’t recognize that I did! This was for the collection I wanted to write. Perspectives.

 

I knew this girl once, Mindy. Mindy was a star employee. She must have gotten straight A’s through high school but got sidetracked smoking pot in college and hanging out with the artsy crowd. She was an Asian girl who seemed to simultaneously look too deep into your eyes while not really looking into your eyes. She was so serious. So funny. So bizarre, so unknown. No one knew anything about her life outside of the office, and she never went to company social functions, always claiming she’d be out of town. She’d probably had a black boyfriend somewhere in her history, she just seemed like the type. But here she was in our office, always wearing conservative sweaters (usually black) with her hair tied back and glasses, always focused in her cubicle getting things done. She fucked our quota every month. We all hated her, but she was nice and she was a chick so we felt guilty for hating her. I think deep down we all secretly wanted to fuck her just to know what she was about. I remember my moment. It was one afternoon. We were on an emergency run to the printers for brochures, getting stuck in traffic on the way back. We’d never been alone together outside of the office, and we made idle, awkward conversation. I got a text from my ex, who was giving me shit about some money I owe her. Who’s that, she asked. My ex, I said. She’s fucking crazy. Mindy shook her head. If she’s crazy, why are you talking to her? She’s always texting me, I said. Then stop answering her!, she yelled. I was offended for a second, but then she burst out laughing. I started laughing too. It was such an obvious thing. And in that moment, I wanted to reach over into the sash of sunlight across her arm and touch her. I wanted to know her skin.

But that’s another story. So the company loves her. She’s a little quirky, takes the dress code monotonously, but she gets shit done. So everyone leaves her alone. Then one day, I get a message from my friend Rob in IT to come over to his cubicle.

I get there and he’s got this grin on his face, like the fucker’s sitting there with my toothbrush up his ass, just waiting for me to find out.

What’s up?, I say.

So…the company had me install a program so we can track communication coming in and out of the office. Emails, IMs, that sort of thing.

What? When did this happen?

Well technically no one’s supposed to know, so keep it on the DL. They just want to track what’s coming in and out of the company.

They’re spying on us?!?

Look, don’t lose the plot, man. Check this. I’ve been looking at the logs. Here’s what you’re messaging this morning. Business, business, asking Carl if he caught Family Guy last night, boring shit.

What’s your point?

Here’s what… Mindy was writing.

First of all, there were a lot of conversations. It looked like in a matter of a couple of hours, she’d had over 30 conversations with different people. How was she so fucking efficient?

What am I looking for, Rob.

Keep looking. Look for anything that might stand out.

I scrolled through quickly but it seemed like office stuff regarding logistics, follow-ups and internal communication. About three-fourths down the file, my eyes screetched to a halt. I saw the word.

Blowjob.

I scrolled back up and Rob laughed knowingly.

She was talking to someone.

KAT8: hey
MindE614: what’s up
KAT8: need to ask you a question
MindE614: go for it
KAT8: do you ever have any problems getting a guy to come when you’re giving a blowjob?
MindE614: no
KAT8: oh
MindE614: well sometimes if they’ve already cum multiple times.
Kat8: oh
MindE614: why. What happened?
Kat8: I don’t know if it’s me and I’m not doing it right.
MindE614: are you massaging his balls?
Kat8: yeah, but I don’t do it very hard because I don’t want to hurt him.
MindE614: are you using your hand?
Kat8: what do you mean?
MindE614: you want to slide your hand along with your mouth, so it feels deeper. Use both hands, one to massage his balls and one to stroke. If you wanna be pro, try stroking his g spot while you massage his balls and if he’s getting close, pick up the pace but whatever you do, don’t alter the pace!
Kat8: ok, thanks. I’ll have to practice that.
MindE614: whatever you do, just relax. Have fun. Don’t make it work
Kat8: you’re the best! Hey are you going to andy’s bbq on Saturday?
MindE614: oh crap, I can’t make it. I’m going to be out of town.
Kat8: alright. We have to hang out sometime.
MindE614: for sure.
Kat8: bye

I was speechless. I look at Rob. He just looks at me like he needs a cigarette.

We need to date this girl to figure out what’s up, he says.

I laugh, and get back to work.

Later that day, I see Mindy leaving.

What are you doing this weekend, I ask her as she passes by.

Oh, I don’t know. A friend of mine is having a bbq.

Sounds great, I say. Have fun.

Thanks, she says and she walks away.

I went home and jacked off, coming so hard I nearly blacked out.

My Lame Phobia – Scrubs Spec Script

Synopsis: JD discovers his greatest phobia — cheerleaders.

Awards: Best Half-Hour Spec (Existing Show) – Acclaim TV Writing Competition (2002)

Format: PDF

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It’s A Wonderful Gay Life – Will & Grace Spec Script

Synopsis: On the night before Christmas, Jack sees his life as it would be had he been a straight man.

Format: PDF

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The Kids Are All Okay – Feature Screenplay

Synopsis: A precocious little girl mistakes the man who kidnapped her for her new best friend.

Genre: Dark Comedy

Page Count: 103

Awards: First-Round Qualifier, Open Door Contest  (2000); Semi-Finalist, Chesterfield Writers Project (2000)

Format: PDF

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Pieces – Short Screenplay

Synopsis: While driving on a rural road in the dead of the night in Mexico, a married couple in a strained marriage believes it sees human body parts lying in the middle of the road.

Genre: Psychological Horror Short (12 pg)

Format: PDF

Production: (2006) Super 16mm transferred to HD

View Screenplay

Watch Film

Wednesday Morning

It was Wednesday when her father finally came home, under a dull, mottled sky of an early November morning. Lucy was the first to see him enter the yard. She was standing in the kitchen preparing bowls of oatmeal for her three younger brothers, when she heard the clink of metal against metal, looked up to see her father step through, closing the gate behind him like a prowler in his own yard. His face was swollen, his shirt battle-worn, the left sleeve nearly completely torn. His clothes, spotted with blood, were the same he’d been wearing when he’d left for work on Monday morning. Two sunken eyes burning deep inside dark, tired circles, focused on something distant in the horizon. It was the look in his eyes that made her hands instinctively curl into fists.

She didn’t call for her mother, whose voice pitched with frustration as she oversaw her brothers getting ready in their room. Instead, she reached into the cupboard for an extra bowl and set it at the head of the table, filling it with a ladle of oatmeal even though she knew on mornings like these, it would go untouched.

Her father entered the house, leaning against the doorframe to take off one muddy shoe, then the other, untying the laces with raw, trembling fingers. He lined them up neatly with the rest of their shoes. His were giants dwarfing the others.

“Where’s your mother, Lu?”

She nodded towards the back room. His bloodshot eyes turned and took in the hall, impossibly long. Instead, he crossed the room and turned on the radio on the kitchen counter. A hollow man’s voice relayed news from the fighting overseas. He dialed the tuner until the kitchen filled with the warm strains of “Maggie May,” then dropped himself into a chair at the table.

“What happened?” she asked.

“What happened?”

He followed her eyes to his clothes.

“Oh, not my blood.” His laugh was a harsh, vulgar sound, too loud so early in the morning. He opened his arms to her, and she crawled onto his knee, even though she knew at 10 years-old, she was probably too old to be curled in his lap; nevertheless, it made her feel safe. She breathed his scent of cigarettes, whiskey, and something underlying—sour, metallic. A desperation. It was the smell of the horsetrack. He rocked her gently, a bedtime story out of place, out of time.

“I was on my way home when this guy on a bicycle…wasn’t paying attention or nothin’, just came outta nowhere and bam! Got hit by a truck.”

“Were you driving?”

“No, I wasn’t driving. My car, ah…I left it at the office.”

“You were walking?”

“Yes, honey, I was walking. So this guy got plowed by a truck, and me and these other guys who saw what happened, some construction workers, we ran and took care of him until the ambulance got there, making sure he didn’t move and trying to stop the bleeding. The pros said we probably saved his life. Just one of those things…you always take care of people when they need you, Lu, even strangers. I always taught you that, didn’t I?”

She nodded, not mentioning that his story didn’t explain why he’d been gone for two days or that his face looked like he’d been beaten. He smiled at her. “You’re my angel girl.” He kissed the top of her head, smoothing her dark hair, the same color as his own as she wondered how much money he’d lost this time. Whenever he disappeared for days, he was usually in deep. This was a sickness, belonging to her father, to the family. Maybe other girls her age loved horses, but in Lucy’s world, she regarded them with a seething resentment when they brought her father home with his pockets less than empty.

Her brothers rushed in noisily, happy to see their father. Behind them, their mother stopped in the doorway, glaring.

“Where’ve you been, Henry?” Her eyes were fire. “What happened to your face?”

“Not now, Sheila.”

“Yeah? Well Phil called yesterday. Said to give you a message…don’t bother coming to work anymore because they found someone who actually shows up.”

“Aw shit.”

“Yeah, it is shit, Henry. They can send men to the moon now and get ‘em home safely. You know that? Yet you leave for work and disappear, and who knows when you might decide you’re man enough to come home.”

Her mother spun and stormed into the bedroom, slamming the door. Moving Lucy off his knee, he followed, closing the door wearily behind him. They had years of moving to each other’s tempestuous moods to develop a precise rhythm.

You’re stealing right out of your children’s mouths, Henry, followed by Shut up, Sheila, was all Lucy let herself catch before she blocked out their voices, focusing on taking care of her brothers.

“Where was daddy?” Doogie asked. At 5 years old, he was the baby.

“Saving lives,” she said, dryly.

Her parents were still fighting when she left the house, leading the way towards the elementary school with her three little brothers straggling behind like ducklings.

At school, she studied the math of shapes, the diameter of circles, how much water different-sized cups could hold exactly. They took turns reading from Swiss Family Robinson, a family that still found ways to care for each other despite fighting for survival on a deserted island. Lucy usually knew the answers to questions but never participated unless she was called on, which was rare because teachers, like most adults in her life, found it easy to forget she was there. At lunchtime, she went to the cafeteria to get a cheese sandwich. The lunchlady always prepared a handful for kids who forgot their lunches, and if she noticed that Lucy had a knack for consistently forgetting her lunch, she never mentioned it. She ate the sandwich sitting alone against the wall of the school, watching her brothers jumping from the bars of the jungle gym. Spaced a year a part each, they’d always had each other. At the opposite end of the school, where large elm and birch trees lined the border of the school in front of the fence, another boy sat alone, a boy from her class named Lucas who hadn’t spoken much since his older brother was killed in Vietnam over the summer. Whatever thoughts he had, he kept to himself. Whatever world he lived in, he kept it hidden. Lucy was secretly afraid of him. He had eyes like her father’s, either there too intensely, or not there at all.

She imagined what would happen if she crossed the yard, sat down next to him, watched him turn those haunted eyes towards her.

“What do you cry about when you’re alone?” she would ask.

“Nothing,” he would say, surly and defensive.

“What do you cry about?” he would ask. And she would realize, all her life, she’d been waiting for someone to ask her this question.

“Nothing,” she said. “Sometimes…everything.”

Somewhere in a land on a map, a real war was waging in jungles, killing real people with real names, astronauts were landing on the moon, families could survive on deserted islands and feel blessed, while shapes maintained order by numbers that magically held them together and filled them with order. But none of it seemed real to her. It was all far away, distant realities that belonged somewhere else, to someone else, like the lives of those on TV.  So far from the corner where she lived, from the air that she breathed. Real was where she woke. Real was day to day. Real was this fragile world she was trying to hold together with 10 year-old hands that were never big enough.

After school, she came home, brothers in tow, to find her father still in the same clothes, asleep on top of the covers. Her mother was long gone, working as a shift supervisor at Fred Meyer, but the ghost of something electric and hot still hung in the air.

She made a snack of peanut butter and Saltines for her brothers, sat them in front of the TV and told them not to wake their father. She changed into old clothes, slipping on the ratty, paint-splotched navy hooded sweatshirt belonging to her father that she’d rescued from the trash bin last spring, still at least five years too big for her. She’d gotten the idea months ago as fall descended to go door to door after school, offering to rake leaves for a dollar an hour, easily undercutting the lowest rates of any landscaping company or neighborhood kid with similar ambition. Whether or not their neighbors needed their leaves raked or just felt sorry for her, at such a low price she could always find takers. She would rake until the sky faded to black, taking the bills—some new and crisp, some wrinkled and limp—and save them in an old cigar box her father had given her 2 years before on her 7th birthday.

“Everyone knows how to spend money,” her dad had said, “But what matters is knowing how to earn it, how to hang on to it. Money is survival in this world. Money is power. Don’t ever forget that, Lucy.”

And she didn’t.

Her neighborhood was a mix of homes built in different eras dating back to the late 1800’s. Once populated by old Victorians that anchored every block with tall steeples, thick, noble pillars and sitting porches looking out onto wide yards, working-class money mixed with old money as the neighborhood aged. Families came and went, and lots were razed and parceled into smaller lots which sprung forth compact, more economical one-story bungalows with boxed fences and consolation lawns, like the fading yellow rectangle Lucy’s family lived in, passed down from her mother’s parents, now deceased. Nevertheless, the trees remained, the houses built around their roots so that in the fall, they blazed the street with giant plumes of fire before shedding their color for winter.

She picked houses with lawns strewn with leaves, knocking on doors without finding anyone home until the old widow living alone on the corner lot answered the door and took her up on her offer, letting her rake the leaves under her giant maple. She was a hard worker, using short, efficient strokes until her arms and back burned, sweat sticking stray strands of her dark hair to her cheeks. She saw the silhouette of the widow watching from the upstairs window of the giant house, easily the largest and most impressive structure among the street’s low-slung one-stories. She imagined what it must feel like to look out onto the world from such a high place. She imagined the widow, lonely in her old age and empty house, watching Lucy work so hard and stoically that it made her heart melt. She imagined the widow overcome by compassion, embracing her, loving her, demanding to take her away from all this and shelter her. It made her work even harder.

As dusk fell, the widow brought out a mug of hot chocolate for her, creamy and rich, the real thing, made with milk instead of boiled water like what her mother made, often with clumps of instant mix still floating on the surface. She drank it too quickly, burning her tongue, but it felt good having the heat inside her as the night cooled. She worked until she filled two large trash bags with leaves and hauled them to the curb.

The widow invited her into the living room to stay warm while she went upstairs to get her purse. Lucy had never been inside this house before, and the sheer size and mystery of it filled her with awe. Standing alone in the quiet room, Lucy could feel the echoes of the house, the only sound the hollow ticking of a clock in another room. She approached the mantle, inspecting a collection of crystal figurines, a parade of delicately sculpted angels in various poses. She picked up the one with wings spread, its head tilted upwards, eyes closed, hands held together in prayer. Her eyes caught the light refracting within the prisms of its wings. She had once asked her mother where she’d come from, and her mother had told her about angels in heaven, in particular, an angel named Gabriel who chose the special souls to be born into this world as babies. He would visit them as they grew inside their mothers, whispering to them the secrets of the world, but just before the babies were born, he would press his finger against their lips, silencing them, so they would forget all they had learned.

“Why would he do that?” she had asked.

Her mother shrugged. “A test, maybe. So we all have the great mysteries of life inside us, but we have to work hard to remember what they are. And maybe when we finally understand all that we once knew, we’ll be able to find our way back to home.” Her mother’s explanation created more questions than answers. She wasn’t sure if she actually believed in angels, but sometimes, in the middle of night after waking up from some sort of night terror, she would look out the window at the sky, feel its echo of deep melancholy, and wonder if there really was an angel somewhere out there who knew that she existed. Gabriel…,she’d ask the moon. Why am I here?

The angel, its insides of light, felt heavy in her hand. Her head felt light. Her palms began to sweat. She slipped the angel into the pouch of her sweatshirt.

The walls of the living room were lined with framed photos, and she was taking in each one attentively, a visitor to the museum of a stranger’s life, when she heard the widow’s footsteps down the stairs, tentative with age. The photos spanned eras, documenting time with smiling faces, the journey of human life from youth towards something more substantial–thicker, stronger, with deeper roots.

In a slightly faded black & white photo much older than the others, a young man in a Navy uniform smiled into the camera with his arm around a pretty woman, her black curls neatly tucked under a pillbox hat with delicate netting. Her heart-shaped mouth was turned up ever so slightly, the near imperceptible smile of someone with a happy secret. Lucy had memories of her father putting his arm around her mother in this way. But she couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen her mother smile.

“Is this you?” Lucy asked, as the widow entered.

The widow stepped closer. A faint smile traced her lips. “Ah, yes. This was Walter and I, our first year of marriage.” Her mind lingered on the photo; she nodded to herself, smiling. “He was a good man.”

“What were you thinking about when you took this picture?”

“What was I thinking about? Why, I don’t know.” She looked deeper, then shook her head. “I don’t know, my dear. I think I just felt lucky.”

With a well-meaning ceremonious gesture, the widow handed her a crisp $10 bill, more than three times what she owed.

“There you go,” she said with a kind smile. “Your parents must be very proud of you.” Lucy blushed, mumbled a thank you at her shoes and left.

The first thing she did when she got home was go straight to her room to count her money. In fact, whether or not she had money to add to the box, she still counted her money every day. It was ritual, something she did that helped her feel safe. She kept her cigar box hidden inside the vent near the head of her bed, the deep faceplate sliding out to reveal a dark metal cavern, perfect for hiding her secrets. She used to keep the box in her sock drawer, but sometimes, if her father had the fever and no cash, he would toss the house looking for money her mother hid from him. And she did often give Lucy cash to hide—not much usually, just enough for emergency groceries here and there. “Even if he asks for it Lucy, no matter how mad he gets, say you don’t know. Say there isn’t any.” She would thrust a wad of cash into her hand, her eyes wild. Lucy used to resent her mother for not standing up to their father. But years later, she would remember her mother’s eyes and come to understand the look. It wasn’t just desperation or fear. It was the hunger for something always just out of reach.

The truth was, there had been a night in March when she’d woken up to find her father creeping around her room, rifling through her drawers as she pretended to be asleep. In the morning, she opened the cigar box to find everything gone but the coins. She tried sleeping with the money under her pillow and carrying the money around in a ziplock bag tucked into the back of her underwear during the day, but the terror of losing the money or having it taken from her wore on her nerves. The discovery of the space inside the vent brought her a level of peace. Her father was a desperate thief, but not an overly clever one.

She added the $10 bill to the stack and counted out $187.45.

She returned the money to the box, reached into the pocket of her sweatshirt and took out the crystal angel she’d taken from the widow’s house. In the privacy of her own bleak space, it dazzled. She touched a finger to its face—it had no mouth—wondering what the fragmented colors inside felt like, what their secrets tasted like. She gingerly placed the angel on top of the money, next to a silver money clip and a small gold pendant set with a ruby. She returned the box to the shadows of the vent. Tomorrow after school, she would take the 36 bus to the northside, not far from the racetrack, to a pawn shop run by a stoop-shouldered Armenian named Charlie. Her father had taken her here a few times before, thinking she was too young to understand the business of transaction. She would watch him sell the things that belonged to the family, their house getting more bare, the cash Charlie giving him disappearing into his pocket. She learned that when times were bad—she could take small items from people’s houses while she waited for them to pay her for raking, small things that people wouldn’t notice, at least not for a while, and then pawning them, either stashing the cash for when the family needed it or to pay off Charlie. Because she knew he was the one who loaned her father money he could never cover. And she’d learned a long time ago she couldn’t even trust her father with money to pay off his own debts. If Charlie ever told her father about his daughter’s visits, her father never mentioned it. The last time she went to Charlie’s, she asked him to stop loaning her father money. “He’s sick,” she’d said. “We need to eat.” Charlie wasn’t a bad man, he had a heart and three young children of his own, but his business was business. He had looked over the counter at her. “You’re too young,” he said. “You should be in school. Taking piano lessons. Having tea parties with your dolls.” He plucked a butterscotch candy from a glass dish on the counter and handed her with a kind smile, then put his head in the books until she walked herself out the door. She hated his kindness, which wasn’t kind at all.

Tomorrow she would pawn the angel and other stolen items, find out how much more her father owed. Tomorrow, she would find out how bad it was this time.

That night they ate pancakes for dinner. Her brothers were happy because it was breakfast at the wrong time, but Lucy knew pancakes meant no money. Her father, showered with his wounds patched up, sat at his place at the head of the table, eating with his head down. Throughout dinner, he and her mother never glanced at each other once.

She was clearing the table while her mother struggled in the back of the house to get her brothers bathed and into bed when the doorbell rang. Her father answered the door, speaking quietly to the visitor before entering the kitchen with the widow. She was wrapped in a large black shawl, her face set in an unmistakable expression of disappointment. Her father’s eyes were grave.

“Lucy, Mrs. Tudor says you took something from her house today.”

Lucy paled and she looked from her father to the old lady. “I didn’t,” she said.

“Lucy, it’s okay. I’m sure it’s a misunderstanding,” Mrs. Tudor said. “If you give back the angel now, we’ll forget all about this. No harm done.”

“I didn’t take anything,” Lucy said.

The old lady and the little girl were at a stand-off.

“I’m sure if Lucy said she didn’t take it, she didn’t take it.”

“She was the only one in my house today, and the angel was there and now it’s gone. That’s a very sentimental keepsake for me, a gift from my late husband.”

“My daughter doesn’t lie.”

“She was the only one there.”

“My daughter doesn’t lie.”

“But she steals.”

Her father’s face tightened. “You should leave now.”

Mrs. Tudor looked from her father to Lucy. Finally, she nodded, her mouth fixed in a rigid line. She looked Lucy in the eye, her voice so cold it spit. “You really have people fooled, don’t you?”

Her words hit Lucy harder than a punch to the chest, but she remained expressionless, turning to resume clearing the dishes as her insides burned.

“Did you do it?” He was standing in the doorway of the kitchen, having walked the widow out, his arms crossed over his chest, the overhead light casting shadows that made the burgeoning bruises of his face exaggeratedly grotesque.

She knew he knew the answer. She was always materializing money when the family needed it that he never questioned, more money than could be possibly made from raking leaves, but she wouldn’t tell him now, wouldn’t allow the possibility of him marching her up to her room and watching as she revealed the hiding place of the only security she had that could keep her head above this perpetual feeling of drowning.

She continued clearing dishes silently, bringing them to the sink, running the hot water. Finally, her father let out a deep, pained sigh and said, “I taught you right and wrong, Lu. I hope you know the difference.”

A sudden hatred whipped through her, a dragon rising up through her chest like a red hot scream wanting to eat this man whose addiction, like cancer, was eating through the roots of their family, tearing down what little they tried each day to build up.  She hated her father for his weakness, for his endless hunger, as much as she loved him for his tender, guarded ideals.

That night, after everyone had gone to sleep, she removed the angel from the box, so delicate in her hand.  She took it outside. In the moonlight, the angel looked dull, lifeless, just a crude piece of weight in her hand. She walked to the widow’s house, a small, delicate silhouette bathed in silver light. She looked up at the dark picture window, angry that she’d ever thought this house warm, that she’d ever imagined the widow could be someone different from all the others. With only the moon as her witness, she smashed the angel on the black pavement of the street in front of the house, smashed it to release what light or magic might have been trapped inside. She didn’t know what she was expecting, if anything, but the night soldiered on with its indifferent darkness over shattered glass, and she heard nothing outside of the echoes in her head.

The next morning, her father sat at the kitchen table, searching the paper for jobs.

Next to him an ashtray overflowed with cigarettes. He looked wrecked. Lucy fed her brothers cornflakes in orange juice from concentrate as they were out of milk, and prepared them for school. She would have to do the shopping when she got home later. As they headed out the door, she placed her cigar box of money on the table in front of her dad.

“You taught me right and wrong,” she said. “I hope you know the difference.” She slung her backpack onto her shoulders and turned, leading her brothers out the door. On the way to school, she passed the old widow’s house on the corner lot, the branches of the ancient maple in her front yard spread outward, thick fingers reaching towards a gray, sheltering sky. The curtains were drawn, and surely the old woman was awake at this hour, but if she saw them, there was no acknowledgment. The children walked past the two plump garbage bags of leaves still sitting on the curb waiting for the Friday garbage pick-up, turning the corner and marching onward. In the new light of morning, in either direction up or down the street, this house on the corner easily had the most immaculate yard in the neighborhood.