Jump to content

How To Save A Life [Mature]


Recommended Posts

A little background:

This story has been in the works for over two years now, possibly three. I worked on it a lot about two years ago and posted a few things but after I went over them, they were pretty crap.

It is not fantasy whatsoever. It's fiction and my eventual goal is publication. My inspiration comes from a few books, most notably ​Mercy Among The Children​ (David Adams Richard) and ​Fall On Your Knees ​(Marie Ann MacDonald). Both are Canadian books (that both take place in Eastern Canada) and are amazing but depressing as shit. And I do well when covering depressing topics so... yeah.

Feel free to tear this one apart on grammar and style. Content stays the same though. I'll post sections as I work on it but it's going to take a while.

As a creative writer, it’s surprisingly difficult to find inspiration in other people’s work. The mind works differently for each author. Some draw on personal experiences as a spark; others tend to dream up fantastical scenarios. In my case, I use fairy tales and fables as my inspiration. However, I do enjoy reading other new authors’ works, trying to dissect each novel in order to isolate that little nugget. Even so, it’s still a challenge for me to connect with another writer’s characters because they’re not my own. It doesn’t matter how much characterization is injected into any given book.

Or so I thought. Through Tinted Lenses changed everything for me.

It’s not because it’s an excellently written book. That doesn’t mean it isn’t; being shortlisted for the Giller Prize is no easy feat. Especially when the author’s biography outright states that it was his first novel. But it was the dedication that resonated with me.

Michael Mackrow, the author, had dedicated the book to “the only man he had ever loved”. That’s a typical dedication but the name triggered a lost memory deep within the recesses of my mind. Somehow, I knew that the name ‘Shawn Beck’ was one that I had heard during one of my many 3 AM conversations with my father many years ago.

I began digging through dusty records for clues. My dad had always been a firm believer in keeping family trees intact. Even so, it took me almost a week before I struck pay dirt. The search had begun to take over my mind in an obsessive manner that finding the connection was a breath of fresh air.

I still hadn’t read the book and decided to hold off for a while. A quick Internet search led me to a two year old obituary. It was short and quite to the point. And once again, Mackrow’s name showed up as the sponsor for the funeral.

Armed with this knowledge, I located Mackrow’s phone number and left him a short but curt message. I told him that I was a fellow aspiring writing and was eager to pick his brain. As an aside, I also hinted at a personal connection to his deceased friend.

A few days later, I got my response. Mackrow said that he’d be pleased to meet at a Cabbagetown bar. He gave me directions and told me to be there at seven.

And so, I now find myself outside a dingy pub deep in the bowels of Toronto. People like to talk about twinges that prophesize stormy weather or gut feelings right before a calamity. I don’t put much stock into intuition but now, I understand those feelings. One last drag on my cigarette and I walk in.

The pub itself is pretty quiet, being a hole-in-the-wall notwithstanding. Two middle aged men sit at the bar, arguing with the bartender about the Leafs. A mountain of a man is shooting pool in one of the corners of the room. When he stands up straight, I can recognize his face from the book’s jacket.

I walk over to the pool table as he lines up another shot. A quick snap and he pockets a ball. “Mr. Mackrow?” I ask.

He looks up and smiles. His lumberjack appearance doesn’t seem to match with the grin on his face. That being said, nobody would have guessed that he’s the next big Canadian writer either. “Mike. Forget the formalities. I’m guessing you’re Simon?” He stands up straight and reaches for his beer. “Go and grab a drink from Matty.” He points at the bartender who is lazily cleaning glasses.

I drop my bag and jacket in a nearby booth and make my way to the bar through the labyrinth of chairs. Matty tips me a nod and immediately starts pouring a beer before I can open my mouth. “This shit is home-brewed. I don’t care what you fancy, this is the first thing you’re drinking.”

“Uh… sure. Got it.” I take the drink and give it a try. It’s excellent. I know my alcohol and this tastes on par with Hacker-Pschorr beers. Light yet full-bodied. “Did you say that this is local?”

Matty snorts and begins to pour one for himself. “Naw. This is a family recipe. I’ve got a small distillery up in Barrie that produces just for here. Wicked shit, eh?”

I put six dollars on the counter and head back to Mike. He’s already cleared the table and begins racking up the balls with efficiency. “You got questions, right? Ask away.”

Sitting down, I pull out a folder and start removing some papers. Mike glances over and raises an eyebrow. I can tell he’s intrigued.

“I’m gonna be honest. I haven’t read your book,” I begin as Mike seats himself across from me. “I was going to but I stopped at the dedication. I was pretty sure I had heard the name before so I started doing some research.” I tap one of the papers that I’ve set out. “I could bore you with the details of my family tree but I’ll spare you the agony and get to the point. Shawn Beck was a distant cousin of mine. There wasn’t any contact between our families, mind you.

“A little more digging led me to both his obituary and a review of your book that mentioned that you had based your story off of a true event. It wasn’t difficult to put two and two together. You didn't just write a novel; it was a eulogy.” I stare at Mike. He’s gone still, possibly lost in painful memories. Taking a deep breath, I plunge in. “Mike, I want to know what really happened. I get the feeling that there’s more to the story than what you put to paper.”

Time slows to a standstill as I watch Mike’s face. He’s unable to disguise his emotions as a solitary tear breaks free from his eyes. He wipes it away, breaking the spell.


“Look, this isn’t meant to be an ambush. I know it’s probably not easy to talk about…”

“Welcome to the understatement of the fucking year,” he interrupts. “It took me six months of therapy just to pull myself together. The book was supposed to be a diary but my shrink told me that it would be a shame not to publish. It gave me the closure I wanted and let me ignite my passion for writing.” He picks up his beer and drains it. “All it cost me was a pound of flesh.” Matty appears at his side with another beer and puts it down in front of the big man before sitting down himself.

“Mikey, drink and shut the fuck up for a second,” he drawls while fishing around in his pocket for something. Out comes a joint and Matty promptly lights it. “Shawn’s death wasn’t your fault. And it wasn’t Kacie’s either.” My ears perk up at this name. I haven’t run across a Kacie in any of my research. “You’ve spent two years blaming yourself for a series of events that were beyond any of us. It’s about fucking time you let all that shit out.” Two puffs and he hands over the joint to Mike.

“I could have…”

“You could have what? Driven her out the city? Knocked some sense into him? He loved her and we all knew it. There’s shit I regret too but it happened and it’s over. It’s time you let go too. Tell him the story. Maybe you’ll even come back to Earth.” Matty gets up and starts clearing away the empty glasses. “I know that you lost your best friend that day. But remember that I lost two. Maybe I’ll finally get one of them back,” he says bitterly as he retreats to the bar.

Mike takes a long drag on Matty’s joint and passes it to me. As I smoke, I can see the wheels in his head turning. Matty’s outburst seems to have struck a nerve. But I don’t think he’ll tell me the story after all.

“He’s right, you know. I lost my dad five years ago and only talking about him let me deal with the pain.” I give him back the joint and start putting the papers away. “If you want to table the story for another time, it’s fine with me.”

“Naw.” His answer surprises me since he’s having trouble meeting my eyes. “You came her for the truth so that’s what you’re going to get. Matty’s right; I’ve been blaming myself for everything that happened. Maybe telling you everything might change something.” Mike closes his eyes and lets out a long stream of smoke.

“So let me tell you a story.”​

Edited by Pharoahe Monch
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Starting excerpt from Chapter 1. I'm actually really proud of this little piece here.

It’s hard to trace the genesis of any given event. Is it the first meeting between the parties? Or the single action of lighting a fuse before the powder keg explodes? There are valid arguments for both but I think that this story begins long before the fated “beginning of the end”.

Guilt is something I’ve been struggling with. It’s painful but you can’t compare it to breaking an arm. That pain is instantaneous; one second healthy while the next is pure agony. No, that’s not guilt. Guilt is the slow and torturous burning of the soul as it passes through the ether. Suffocating but with not enough pressure to finish the job. And as a result, it consumes me, every day more than the last. I relive every choice, every moment. It makes me question my own sanity. Doubt my decisions. There are no time machines so I’m always left alone with my guilt staring back at me.

I’ve tried to tell myself that it wasn’t my fault. I wake up, brush my teeth and lie to myself every morning in the mirror. Some days it works and I can carry on with my daily grind. But not always. I’ve walked the streets many times and some days, it’s reflected in the faces of strangers. Their smiles hard, eyes accusing. They don’t know me but they smell fault like a jackal searching for prey. One day, someone may call for the cops. “There he is! The murderer! He orchestrated the death of Shawn Beck, arrest him!” I’ll plead guilty in both courts, especially public opinion. If I can’t even convince myself of my own innocence, what luck will I have with a jury of my peers?

To understand my guilt requires knowledge of every event that lead to this moment. And so, we circle back round to the genesis. I could start with Kacie’s tornado-like upheaval in our lives but she was only the catalyst. Shawn was a flawed hero, a Hamlet or Romeo, doomed to death. Pure intentions be damned. And me? I was the friend who failed him, if I can even call myself his friend. Even six months later, I wake up sobbing from nightmares, wishing that I had died instead.

So let’s take a trip down memory lane. Let me recite this tale one last time so that the world can judge me for my actions or lack thereof. Put me on trial and read out the charges. I am ready to stand in judgement. No event skipped, no detail forgotten. For I intend to tell the truth; the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...