Friday, June 21, 2013

Flash Fiction Friday!

by Dylan White

     He looked at the body laying next to him, wondering what he had done.
     He couldn’t remember much from the night before.  He had no idea where he was or how he got there.  Or who this lifeless woman was in bed with him, her pretty blue eyes staring dead ahead.
     Panic set in.
He considered just getting the hell out of there.  Then he realized there might be witnesses.  Not to her actual murder, but certainly other people saw them leave the bar together.  And it was possible a neighbor or two saw them come back to her apartment.  But he was the last one to see her alive.  And the first one to find her dead.  He would be the prime suspect.  No, the best course of action would be to call the --
     She snored and shifted in her sleep.
     She’s alive! he thought to himself excitedly. She just ... slept with her eyes open.  Ew.  That’s almost creepier than her being dead.  Almost.
He dropped back on the bed, relieved.  She snored again and rolled over, kicking off the sheets.  She was naked and so was he.  Now he just wished he could remember sleeping with her.  That, and her name.
It was going to be really awkward when she woke.  She would probably remember his name and he’d just be drawing a blank.  He didn’t want to look like that much of an asshole.
     Again, he thought about bailing.  But that would make him look like an even bigger asshole.  Not like they ever had to see each other again.  Given how hot he thought she was, however, he definitely wanted to see her again.  So he had to figure out her name before she woke.
     Carefully, he slipped out from under the sheets and searched for his clothes.  They were strewn about the room.  It must have been one wild night.  Maybe I took pictures, he hoped.  But he couldn’t find his phone.  Or his pants.
     His head throbbed as he pulled on his shirt and underwear.  There had to be something laying around that would at least give him a clue.  Searching the room, he found her phone.  Her name has to be in there, he thought.  Scrolling through her contacts, he realized what a dumb idea that was.  Who puts their own name in their own phone?
     Then it occurred to him that maybe they exchanged phone numbers the night before.  All he had to do was find his name and call his own phone.  Her name would pop up on his caller ID.  Brilliant!  And he’d find his phone.
     Luckily, he did find his number and pressed ‘call.’
     His phone rang in the other room.  What it was doing out there, he had no idea, but he hurried to get it before the sound woke her up.  He also didn’t want her to hear that his ringtone was “Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears.
     His great idea didn’t pan out.  He dug his phone out of the pocket of his pants, which were thrown over her TV.  Her picture appeared on his phone display -- a picture he must have taken at the bar -- but no name.  Unless her name was “Unknown.”  And that wasn’t likely.
     Looking around, he found some of her mail.  But her name probably wasn’t “Resident” either.  She didn’t even have any magazines or anything identifying her.  Then he discovered her purse.
     He hesitated a second before going through it.  There wasn’t a good explanation as to why he was rummaging through her purse if she woke up and caught him doing it.  But when he heard her stirring in the bedroom, he didn’t see another option.  Fishing for her license, he came up short.  So he dumped the contents on the kitchen table.
     All of her crap clattered loudly and he sorted through it quickly.  He figured he’d just tell her he knocked it over.  Finally, he found her ID.  He stared at it for a second -- she even looked good in her driver license picture.  Turned out, she was older than he thought she was.  He didn’t care.  Most importantly, though, he got her name.
     It was such a simple name, he couldn’t believe he forgot it.  He returned to the bedroom, hoping to slip back in bed with her for just a little while longer.
     The gunshot was deafening.  It was the last thing he heard before the bullet went through his brain.  He was dead before he hit the floor.
     She held the gun on him a moment longer, making sure he was dead.  Her heart pounded in her chest and her hands shook as the adrenaline coursed through her body.
     When she woke up alone, she didn’t remember when or how she got home.  She had so much to drink the night before, the whole thing was a blur.  All she knew was she could hear an intruder in her apartment, rooting through her things.  Someone must have broken in, she thought.  So she fumbled under her bed and pulled out her pistol, ready for when he came for her.  She gasped when she recognized his face.
     She looked at the body laying next to her, wondering what she had done.

© 2013 Dylan White

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Indiana Jones Anniversary

Today is another significant movie anniversary for me.  On June 12, 1981, Paramount Pictures released Raiders of the Lost Ark.

I was 11 when Raiders came out.  Indiana Jones had to be one of the coolest movie heroes I'd ever seen.  I'll go so far as to say he is one of the most iconic movie heroes of all time.  That's not a stretch, really, is it.  Like any other eleven-year-old boy, I wanted to be Indiana Jones.  At the time, it was mostly because all the action provided a lot of play-fodder.  Yeah, I had a fedora and a make-shift whip and I ran around the neighborhood pretending to punch out Nazis.  I hoped one day I would even get to be in a movie like Raiders.  But that's a story for another time.  As I got older, I learned to appreciate other aspects of the movie.  There were the historical and religious tie-ins, Indy's intelligence, and the throwback to the old movie serials of the 1930s.

Then I started to appreciate just how great the screenplay was/is for that movie.  I often use it as a template for a good screenplay.  Not that I've written a particularly good screenplay myself, but at least I have a guide.  Part of what makes the screenplay so great is its homage to the 1930s adventure serials.  Screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan said that he wanted some sort of cliffhanger-type of event every five pages, just like in the serials.  And he delivered.  The screenplay is formula, yes, but it's formula that works!  Kasdan establishes Indy's character and the tone of the movie with the opening set piece in South America and then in Indy's classroom.  Then he introduces the instigating action and goes on to tell you everything that's going to happen in the movie!  All you have to do it sit back and enjoy.  And I enjoy it every single time.  Of the four Indiana Jones movies, this one is by far the best IMHO.

Speaking of the four Indiana Jones movies, I will have another "One Too Many" about them in a future post.  So subscribe and check back.  Or follow me on Twitter.  All the cool kids are doing it.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Happy Anniversary, Ferris!

On June 11, 1986, Paramount Pictures released Ferris Bueller's Day Off.  It is considered to be one of the most iconic movies of the 80s.  And for good reason.

John Hughes was the king of high school movies back in the day.  From Sixteen Candles to Pretty in Pink to the Breakfast Club and even to Some Kind of Wonderful, Hughes managed to capture our teen years in such a way that just about everyone could relate -- if you were a teen or had ever been a teen.  But Ferris stands out as just slightly better than the rest, in my opinion.  Here's why ...

Most teen movies (now called YA -- especially if they have shiny vampires or some dystopian element) rely too heavily on the stereotypes.  It's ironic because a lesson in most teen movies is to be yourself and not worry about the stereotypes.  But they all have the jock, the cheerleader, the nerd, the weirdo, and on and on.  There usually isn't much actual character development.  The Breakfast Club had nothing but stereotypes -- but it worked so well because all of the characters understood why they were stereotypes as Brian writes in his letter to Vernon on behalf of the group, "You see us as you want to see us."

Ferris is fantastic because Ferris is his own man.  He doesn't fit in to any group or clique.  Actually, he fits in to all of them.  As Rooney's secretary Grace describes, "He's very popular, Ed.  The sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebies, dickheads -- they all adore him.  They think he's a righteous dude."

Ferris was a righteous dude.  He was nice to everyone.  Even the supporting characters, the ones who only have a couple of lines, they all know him and love him.  They way they talk about him shows that they consider Ferris a friend.  That was huge for me.  I don't understand why that wouldn't be huge for anyone.  It's so easy.  You want people to like you?  Just be a good guy, a righteous dude.  I think that's why Rooney couldn't stand him.  He was the ant-Ferris.  Bizarro-Ferris.  He was all about the rules and structure and he didn't care if anyone liked him.  I don't think Rooney disliked Ferris because of his blatant disregard for the rules. I think Rooney resented Ferris precisely because Ferris was a well-liked free-spirit and Rooney wasn't.

His friends didn't really fit in to cliques either.  Maybe Cameron was the geek and Sloane was the popular cheerleader chick.  But the cliques cross-bred.  Just like they do in real life.  It wasn't about cliques.  It was about characters.  And Ferris was cool because he wasn't wrapped up in labels.  He liked people for who they were.  He wasn't one thing.  He was every thing.  I mean, the guy went to a baseball game and a museum on the same day!

I won't say I idolized Ferris.  But I will admit, I wanted to be Ferris.  At least, my version of Ferris.  In some ways, I think I succeeded.  In other ways, I still aspire to be like that guy.  Someone who savors life and enjoys every moment.  The tag line, I think, is misleading.  Ferris wasn't about leisure and doing nothing.  He was about enjoying everything life had to offer.  And then sharing that joy with others.

"Life moves pretty fast.  If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."


Friday, June 7, 2013

Flash Fiction Friday!

Seven Minutes
by Dylan White

     Jason had never been so nervous in his life.
     He watched anxiously as the bottle spun, hoping it would point to Penny.  But just like it had the past two spins, Jason found himself having to kiss Kim Carson.  Jason didn’t like Kim.  No one really liked Kim, actually, and no one was really sure how she got invited to Penny’s fourteenth birthday party in the first place.
     Penny’s plan to only invite a few select people backfired when Kim overheard her ask Jason to the party.  Butting in where she didn’t belong was one of the things that bothered people most about Kim.  To make sure Kim didn’t tell anyone else about the party, Penny reluctantly invited her, provided she swore to keep it a secret.
     Normally, Kim loved to share secrets.  She thought it made her seem like she was popular and knew things.  It was yet another trait people hated about her.  But this time, she didn’t say a word.  Being let in on a secret, especially one from Penny, was a big deal to her.
     When the bottle pointed to Kim for the third time, Jason knew he didn’t just have to kiss Kim.  He had to spend “Seven Minutes in Heaven” with her -- seven minutes alone in a dark closet together to presumably make out ... and more.  But Seven Minutes in Heaven with Kim seemed more like an eternity in Hell.
     Everyone “Oooo’d” and started chanting, “Ja-son!  Ja-son!  Ja-son!” as he stood up from the circle and headed to the coat closet with Kim.  The two crammed themselves in the tiny space and shut the door.  The few jackets in the closet had already been shoved to one side when Brandon and Skylar spent their seven minutes.  Jason shuddered to think what they did and that he had to do it with Kim.
     Jason thought the darkness might make it easier.  He could just imagine Kim was Penny.  Jason felt around, found her face, and kissed her.
     But Kim pushed him away.
     “You don’t have to do this,” she said.  “I know you don’t like me.”
     “I like you,” Jason insisted, somewhat convincingly.
     “I’ve heard the way you talk about me,” Kim continued.  “None of you like me.”
     Jason felt guilty, knowing she was right.  But her statement begged a question.
     “Then why are you here?”
     “I don’t have any friends,” Kim admitted.  “And I wanted to feel like I did for a night.”
     The silence between them was more awkward than the time his autocorrect sent a text to his mother saying he wanted “french kisses” with dinner instead of “french fries.”
     “I’m sorry,” Jason finally apologized.  He almost didn’t, but he figured he’d look like an even bigger douche if he spent the next six minutes without saying anything.
     “I don’t get it,” Kim complained.  “I’m really nice.  Why doesn’t anybody like me?”
     Jason sighed.  He couldn’t believe the responsibility had fallen on him to tell her.  So with brutal honesty, Jason told her about her annoying habits, including how she managed to get herself invited to Penny’s party.
     It was a major reality check for Kim.  She didn’t realize just how poor her social skills were.  Jason comforted her as she started to cry and offered to help her actually make friends with everyone at the party.
     Kim was thrilled and thanked him.  Feeling magnanimous, Jason took his offer to hook her up with the “in crowd” a little further.
     “We have another four minutes,” he said suggestively.  “You want to ... you know?”
     “No, thanks,” Kim refused warily.
    “No, thanks?” Jason repeated, stunned.  He couldn’t understand why a girl like Kim Carson would turn down the opportunity to make out with him.
     “You’re not that good of a kisser,” she said not-so-delicately.
     “Not that good of a -- ?”
     “You don’t have to repeat everything I say to you,” Kim interrupted.  “I’m sorry, but I had to kiss you twice out there and, to be honest, I was expecting more.”
     “What were you expecting?” Jason asked.
    “You press too hard,” she said.  “It’s like kissing a brick.  With a tongue.  Oh, my God, your tongue.”
     “You like it?” Jason asked, thinking he had to have at least one marketable skill.
     “You’re, like, whipping me with it, like the queen’s tail in Aliens.”
     Jason had never seen that movie, but he knew it wasn’t good.  Her description, not the movie.  If he saw it, he’d know the movie was awesome.
     “You’ve got to do it more like this,” Kim said.
     She took Jason’s face in her hands and gently pulled him close to her.  She softly placed her lips on his and kissed him tenderly.  Jason instinctively went into Aliens mode, but Kim gave him a light slap on the cheek to make him stop.  He gave in and let Kim take the lead.
     They spent the next three minutes kissing deeply and slowly.  Her tongue slid between their lips and she caressed his tongue with hers.  Jason caught on quickly and returned the gesture with a much more tender approach.  Their arms enveloped each other.  Jason felt a chill run down his right side and the blood rush from his brain.
     Finally, Kim released him and wiped the little bit of spit from her lower lip.
     “Much better,” she said.
     “Where did you learn to kiss like that?” Jason asked, dreamily slurring his speech.
     “Sleep-away camp last summer,” she said.  “We played ‘Seven Minutes’ a lot after lights out.”
     Just then someone banged on the door, telling them time was up.  Kim opened the door, anxious to return to the party and implement Jason’s advice.
     Jason, on the other hand, didn’t want to leave the closet.  He found himself wishing he could spend another seven minutes with Kim.  That, and he needed to calm down a little before facing his friends.

© 2013 Dylan White

Facebook   Twitter

Saturday, May 18, 2013

One Too Many - Die Hard Edition

There can, indeed, be too much of a good thing.  Especially when it comes to movie sequels.  The most recent example is the latest installment of the Die Hard franchise.  I think we can all agree that the original Die Hard is a classic action movie.  It changed the genre.  It gave us the intelligent villain, the everyday Joe hero, and it still holds up today.  It's quotable, it had great characters, exciting action, a cool plot twist, and proved that Bruce Willis could be a star.  We'll forgive it for doing that stupid 80's trick of having the supposedly dead bad guy suddenly come back for one last scare.  At least it paid off when Powell shot him and brought his character full-circle.
The second one, Die Harder, was kind of lame.  I mean, the title alone should have been enough of a red flag.  It took everything that was cool about the first movie and tossed it out the window.  Well, everything but Bruce Willis.  He was the only legitimately good thing about that movie.  We were expected to believe that, even in the Die Hard universe, John McClane could go just about anywhere in Dulles airport.  And that the entire airport had only one maintenance guy.  And that no one really cared about that one plane five minutes after it crashed.  It may have seemed that the second installment was one too many.
But the third movie, Die Hard with a Vengeance, made up for it.  It wasn't as great as the first movie, but it was a lot better than the second.  It brought back a lot of the elements of the first movie, particularly an elaborate heist plot.  The revenge plot against John McClane seemed like an afterthought and completely contrived with its whole cat-and-mouse game around New York, but it worked because McClane had Samuel L. Jackson as a reluctant partner.  Yeah, that's pretty much what made that movie.  Samuel L. M. F. Jackson.
When the fourth movie came out in 2007, Live Free or Die Hard, it proved that there was still life in the franchise.  It didn't shy away from the fact that John McClane was older.  Instead of having to save his estranged wife, whom we realized was useless character in the first act of the second movie, he had to save his daughter.  Not just save her, but save his relationship with her.  Justin Long wasn't half bad, either, and it kept his career alive a little longer.  The action was still Die Hard campy, but this time it was more inventive and fun.  Sure the plot was ridiculous and it had Kevin Smith in it.  But it also had Maggie Q.  Win.  Of the all the movies, this one is my second favorite.
Then this year, they went one too far.  A Good Day to Die Hard took everything that was good about the earlier movies -- even the second one -- and tossed them.  It tried way too hard to play up the estranged father and son story line between John McClane and is son, Jack.  When Jack turned out to be a CIA agent or some such BS, it was obvious they were trying to pass the mantle on to someone younger to continue the franchise.  But the plot was thinner than the hair on Bruce Willis' head.  The action was little more than car chases and fight scenes.  And talk about phoning in performances.  On second thought, let's not.  People who have wondered when Die Hard was really going to die just witnessed the flatline of the franchise.  Die Hard 5 was one too many.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

May the Fourth Be With You

So I know the new Star Wars movies are coming out in a couple of years.  I wish I could say I was more excited.  I LOVED the original Star Wars - now called Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope - and The Empire Strikes Back still holds up as a fantastic movie, even though it doesn't stand on its own.  Then Return of the Jedi came out in 1983.

I was 13 years old and so excited.  People cheered whenever a familiar character appeared on screen.  I enjoyed the Sarlaac pit, the Endor hover bike chase, and the big climactic battle of the Death Star that was basically a retread of the original Death Star battle, just with a bigger budget.  And of course, being 13, seeing Princess Leia in the slave girl costume ... sorry, where was I?  Oh, yeah.  So I left the theater after seeing Jedi and thought, "That was fun.  Now when does the REAL movie come out?"  It just didn't seem like a solid follow up to Empire. And I was 13!

Fast-forward some twenty-six years and the first prequel was released - The Phantom Menace.  The ads looked great.  And I was so excited to get a new Star Wars movie.  And then I saw it.  Here's how well it went over.  Remember that scene where Jar-Jar Binks gets his hand caught in the engine of Anakin's pod racer?  Everyone in the entire audience shouted, "Turn it on!  Turn it on!"

As much as Menace tried to deal with heavy themes, Lucas went too far the other way in terms of silliness or "comic relief" to balance it out.  And his writing was so stilted, particularly the dialogue.  Lawrence Kasdan's script for Empire was brilliant.  Simple, easy, fun, weighted, and balanced.  What ticked me off was how much Lucas just seemed to either forget about everything he established, or just decided to say, "Hey you know all the cool stuff?  Forget it.  I'm doing this now."  I mean, I thought the Force was something anyone could get in touch with.  It is, after all, "an energy field created by all living things.  It surrounds us and penetrates us and binds the galaxy together."  No.  You gotta have little microscopic midicholorians in your blood.  What the ... ?  Oh, and remember how Ben said that Yoda trained him?  Nope.  Who the hell is Qui-Gon?  Okay, sure Yoda may have trained Ben as a "youngling," but come on.  You're reaching.  Admit it.

The prequel sequels didn't fare much better in my mind.  Clones had its moments, but as a whole bored me to no end.  I hated Hayden Christensen almost as much as I hated Jar-Jar and the kid who played young Anakin.  In retrospect, Hayden may have been brilliant, but I haven't decided.  And I can sum up my reaction to Sith in one word ... "Nooooooooo!"

So now the new movies are coming out.  I think Disney will do a good job and I have faith in J.J. Abrams.  But knowing that Carrie Fisher and Mark Hammill are attached makes me wary.  I don't mind referencing their characters' legacies in the story, but bringing them back into it - even if only as a cameo - just seems like too much of a stunt.

I remember seeing an interview with George Lucas once.  It was just before Jedi was going to be released in theaters.  The interviewer asked him if there would be a lot more effects and eye candy or the like.  Lucas responded that there would be, but they wouldn't be the focus.  He said, "The story isn't the effects.  The story is the story."  He seems to forget his own words a lot.  I hope the new Star Wars movies are good.  But those hopes aren't high.  Maybe the writers will follow Patton Oswalt's advice ...

Monday, April 22, 2013

Someone I Love Needs A Cure

It was Easter Sunday, 2013.  My daughter had been feeling lethargic for a few weeks and complaining of a chronic sore throat and dry mouth.  She seemed okay, though.  We thought maybe it was mono or something.

That morning we hunted for Easter Eggs and she sang in church with her brother.  That afternoon, she took a long nap.  Then another one.  At dinner, she only ate a couple of bites and said she "felt weird."  Despite sleeping most of the day, she went to bed.  Around 1:30 in the morning, she came into our room and could not stop throwing up.  He moaned and wailed with terrible stomach pains.  We worried she might have eaten something that disagreed with her -- maybe some bad candy or something at breakfast.  She knew, on some subconscious level, it was something else.

At one point, she turned to me and said, "Daddy, I'm not going to die, am I?"

I replied, "Of course, you're not going to die, sweetheart."  I was very close to being very wrong.

In the morning light, we saw a girl who looked like a ghostly version of our daughter.  It was as if she lost fifty pounds overnight.  Her skin was a pale gray, her eyes and cheeks were sunken and dark, and her speech was starting to slur.  She looked like she'd been in a concentration camp.

A couple of weeks earlier, my mom had noticed that our daughter was constantly thirsty and going to the bathroom a lot.  She thought our daughter might have diabetes and we should get her tested.  We planned to take her in for testing on Monday, April 1st - the day after Easter.

When we saw how sick she looked, we knew we weren't going to get her tested.  We were taking her to the emergency room.  My wife rushed her to the hospital while I made arrangements for someone to stay with our son.  Apparently, on the ride over, my daughter started to roll her eyes into the back of her head.  She was losing consciousness.  My wife talked to her, begging her to stay awake.  They reached the hospital to find it was under renovation.  There was no obvious way in.  When my wife found a place to park, she had to carry our daughter on her back -- she didn't have the strength to walk anymore.

As soon as they made it inside, the nurse at the front desk recognized the immediacy of the situation.  The staff rushed our daughter into the ER, ran a quick test, and found that her blood sugar was at a critically high level.  She had what's called Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA).  Our doctor eventually told us if we hadn't been home, if she had been alone for another couple of hours, our daughter would have died.  She knew.  That night, she knew her body was shutting down.

Fortunately, we caught it in the nick of time.  Within an hour, the color and fullness came back to her face as she lay sleeping in the hospital bed, hooked up to an insulin drip.  Later that day, she was transferred to another hospital that had a PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit) equipped to care for her properly.  She was in the hospital for three days.

In that time, we learned a LOT about Type 1 Diabetes.  We went through the initial stages of blaming ourselves.  But we knew that even had we had her tested a week earlier, it wouldn't have stopped her from getting diabetes.  It just would have saved us the frightening trip to the hospital.

We also learned just how many people we knew who had Type 1 Diabetes or were affected by diabetes.  Emotional support flowed to us in waves and I have never been so grateful for the kindness of friends, family, and strangers.  A friend of mine even wrote a "get well" song for her and several of my Disney friends performed it, recorded it, and sent me the file to show her in the hospital.  She lit up. My wife and I were overcome with tears of gratitude.

I have also never been so proud of my daughter.  She handled everything with aplomb.  She accepted her situation immediately.  Of course, there were bouts of disappointment and lamenting that it happened.  But she knew there was nothing she could do about it. This was her "new normal."  She took it on bravely and immediately.  Twenty-four hours before, she was deathly afraid of needles.  That went all went away.  Without fear or complaint, she started giving herself her own insulin shots -- and she does this four to five times a day.  She watches her carb intake, she manages her own insulin, and she even prepares a lot of her own food.  I'm not just proud of her, I have a respect for her I doubt she'll ever understand.

I am amazed at the sheer number of people who live with Type 1 Diabetes.  I don't say they suffer from it.  Because Type 1 Diabetes is a manageable condition.  People live long, full lives with it.  It doesn't define them.  It doesn't control them.  What amazes me more are the strides being made in finding a cure.  Every day, we get a little bit closer.  But because this has touched me on such a personal level, I am wholeheartedly throwing myself into the quest for a cure.  I would love for one to be found in my daughter's lifetime.  I would love for one to be found in anyone's lifetime.  It's a subtly frightening thing to be insulin dependent for the rest of your life.  No one should have that fear.  And I certainly don't want anyone to go through what we experienced with our daughter that ironic April 1st.

That is why I am donating a percentage of the profits of all my book sales to the American Diabetes Association.  So know every time you purchase one of my books, you are helping to bring a cure for diabetes that much closer to reality.

From me, for my daughter, and for everyone who lives with Type 1 Diabetes, thank you.  From the bottom of my heart - thank you.