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Writer, Unnatural Selection (2007)

Client: Magnolia Pictures via ARG Studios.

Wrote two characters for campaign promoting the U.S. premiere of Korean film “The Host.”

The dog days of summer have brought me a rabid grief. Sorry to wax all personal, but I lost my dad this week and I’m feeling particularly rough around the edges – although Jon, as usual, is his wonderful, healing self. He even flew to Pittsburgh with me for the funeral.

My dad had been through his share of hardship, especially after my brother died, and I always wished I could pay him back for what he gave me. He was my protector and it nearly cost him his life. His life, that he spent providing for me and my brothers. It seems like all we gave in return was heartbreak.

One night when I was in high school, I was helping out at the bar. This guy came in. He’d been there before several times. Each time he came back, he was exponentially worse. It started out okay. I was used to being flirted with. If you’re a girl working in a bar in the midst of steel workers and college students and nobody pinches you on the ass, something’s probably wrong; have you checked your deodorant?

But this guy, he was different. He moved from a wink and a playful pinch into uncomfortable-land really quick. I’d try to take his glass and he would grab my hand and smile at me – with that smile. _That_ smile. In a crossword puzzle “_That_ smile” would translate to “leer,” but leer doesn’t even do it justice. His depraved, lingering grin had its own gravity, and I could feel its weight on me everywhere I went. And you know what? It was exciting. Oh God, I hate to admit it, but it was. I was just a kid, really, what, 16? 17? Here was this burly man who was so masculine that I could practically see the testosterone flowing around him, like the stink-marks around Pigpen in the Charlie Brown comics. And he wanted me. I started to see myself as a sexual being; I was something desirable to the opposite sex. And I started to play the game. I said things that were far too daring. I was not prepared to put my money where my mouth was. He even said, “You know, it’s girls who say things like that who get in trouble.”

Red freaking warning, BAIL OUT, EJECT! Flashing neon signs, right there. Did I heed them? No. I skipped merrily down the path into the dark and tangled forest, matching leer for leer, flirt for flirt.

It was a while after closing. I was doing the final sweep-through. I had a big bag of trash to take out to the bin. He was there in the alley and offered to help me. I said yes. He took the trash from me and threw it aside. He kissed me roughly and put his hands all over me and I wanted him to, and then –

Well, then it went too far. He went places I wasn’t prepared for him to go. I asked him nicely: “Please move your hand from there.”

He laughed.

I told him: “Move your hand.”

He didn’t.

Well, what the hell did I expect? I led the guy on for months. Of course he thought I’d back up what I had been saying. He thought it was part of my game, my spiel, my routine, I bet you say that to all the boys, but there were no other boys, not then. He laughed at me and didn’t stop.

I didn’t want to cause a scene; he was, after all, a customer, and one who paid (and tipped) very well. I had just resigned myself to losing my virginity in the trash-strewn alley behind the bar when I saw a familiar head peek out of the building. I screamed, “Daddy!” and he took one look at what was happening and came riding over on his white horse and rescued me like I was a princess in a fairy tale. The guy must have been 240 pounds to my father’s 170 and topped him by a good six inches, but Daddy fought nobly and bravely and the guy left me alone and went to work on my dad. Beat him to a bloody pulp and then he spit on Daddy’s face as he lay on the ground, a great big tobacco-sauced wad, and said, “Well, I’ll never drink _here_ again.” And he calmly strode off, thumbs hooked in his belt loops, out of this story.

My dad was in the hospital for 4 weeks afterwards. That’s one cycle of the moon. Not a long time in the grand scheme of things, but in other ways it was forever. And in even other ways, I don’t think he ever left the hospital. Maybe it was brain damage, maybe it was loss of face, maybe it was disappointment in me, but my daddy was never the same again. And I grew up and flew the coop and I hadn’t visited him in months, and I thought I would have the chance to tell him I loved him again while he was alive, and I didn’t, and that really sucks all to hell.

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming…

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