Thursday, September 23, 2010

THE BIG SLEEPYBYE by Dorian Tenore

Will The Met's Temple of Dendur be the Temple of Doom for our heroes? Read on....

I was considering running more chapters of my novel The Paranoia Club (PClub) here on the ol' blog site. I’m still polishing up PClub with ghost editor Nicole Bokat each month. I’d do it all ASAP if I had both the time and money all at once! But the thing is, there are apparently two schools of thought on posting one’s fiction online:
1.)     Some experts say it’s smart to run your fiction on your Web site, so you can build a platform for others to see your work and develop a fan base.
2.)     Other experts say that doing so would kill readers’ incentive to actually spend money buying your novel if/when it’s published. Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free or get the stories online for free?For what it’s worth, I’ve been wondering about an alternative that my husband Vinnie suggested: running my short stories and my outtakes here—that is, polished scenes I’ve written but couldn’t quite fit into PClub or the other novel I’m almost done writing, Suburban Outlaws. Here's a tongue-in-cheek short story that appeared in the magazine Alternative Motifs in 2006.
Warning: Comical Violence and Spurting Bodily Fluids -- No, Not Blood!

The Big Sleepybye
Dorian Tenore

Clicking her mouse, Kate Bonaventure opened her New Death City document.  A wave of apprehension crested in her gut.
Dominic’s mischievous voice calmed the wave into a ripple before he nuzzled her neck.  “You should just call it The Private Dick and The Sexy Chick.”
“Too long, babe.”  Kate smiled.  “The best hard-boiled mysteries have pithy titles.”
Caitlin tugged Dominic’s sleeve.  “C’mon, Daddy.”
“We got time, kitten.  Mommy needs nuzzling.”
“I’ll help.” Caitlin plowed her face into Kate’s neck. Her five-year-old fervor tickled, unlike Dominic’s slow, sensual approach.
Four-month-old Maggie gurgled in her carrier.  “You want in on this, too?”  Kate bent down to kiss the littlest Bonaventure, complete with the girls’ favorite “Eskimo nose kiss.”
“Huggles!”  Throwing her arms around Kate, Caitlin gave her their itinerary wrapped in an invitation. “Mommy, you could come to McDonald’s and Barnes ‘n’ Noble’s for storytelling, too.”
“Thanks, kitten, but today’s Mommy’s Writing Day.” Kate gave Caitlin the same nose-kiss treatment as Maggie. “That means it’s Daddy-Daughters Fun Day.”
Dominic wrapped Kate in his arms. “It’ll be a fun day for Mommy, too, right? We’re not gonna come home to find you in front of a blank screen eating a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, looking like you’re gonna cry?”
Smiling, Kate shook her head.  “I promised myself I’d write something, anything instead of staring at the computer holding out for the perfect phrase.”
“Now you’re talking, babe. Just write whatever comes to mind and have fun with it.”  Dominic winked. “You can always rewrite it later.”
“That’s what I do best.”  Kate squeezed him gratefully.  “Thanks for not thinking I’m wasting my time writing a hard-boiled mystery instead of sticking to my Riverdale Family columns.”
“If you enjoy writing it, you’re not wasting your time.” Dominic grinned. “Anything else I can do to help, like testing out your car chase scene?  Bet the girls would get a thrill out of it.”
Kate gave him a mock-scolding look. “No, thanks!  Let’s keep those kind of ‘thrills’ purely fictional, please.”
Dominic’s grin got sexier. “Okay, but after we tuck the girls in bed tonight, we’re reenacting that love scene you were gonna write today.”
“Now that’s the kind of motivation I like.”  Kate and Dominic kissed (not nose-kisses) until the girls’ antsiness level reached critical mass. Daddy and daughters rolled out the door, a moving bundle of noisy, happy energy.  Once their SUV drove out of Kate’s waving range, she parked herself in front of the computer, thinking jubilantly, Got my grownup time, my writing time, my computer and my brain working at the same time.  My favorite “writing songs” are cued up.  My answering machine’s in instant pick-up mode. I’m ready!
She’d have four hours of uninterrupted fiction-writing time for the first time since Maggie was born. She’d been getting back into a mystery-writing mindset, reading and revising her manuscript during Caitlin’s school hours as Maggie napped. With time and undivided attention to give her pet project, Kate was sure she’d have a new chapter ready for next week’s writers’ workshop.
She’d left off at Chapter Twelve. Time to start Chapter Thirteen — unlucky number?  She rolled her eyes. Excuses, excuses Start writing, Kate! The Kill Bill: Vol. 1 soundtrack blared from the jukebox CD player—perfect for writing action scenes.
Set in Manhattan, New Death City was the suspenseful (Kate hoped) story of private investigator Joseph “Clint” McClintock, hired to shadow the beautiful, enigmatic Sabrina Rosabella, newly widowed and newly rich.  Someone wanted Sabrina out of the way badly enough to put a contract out on her with Olaf Dietrich, the coolest, cruelest hit man on two continents. 
When Kate last worked on New Death City, Clint had confronted Sabrina, warning her to stay home behind locked doors.  She’d agreed, then slipped out to a gala fundraiser for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, unaware that Clint had set up surveillance. Tailing Sabrina, Clint spotted her in the Met’s Egyptian exhibit, cornered by Dietrich.  Sneaking around the sides of the Temple of Dendur, Clint looked for an opening to jump in and overpower the evil bastard….
The fear in Sabrina’s sherry-colored eyes undermined her imperious pose. Her whisper echoed in the room’s vastness.  “You…”
Kate blanked.  “You…”
Damn!  “You” what?
Kate said it aloud. “You…you…”  Her fingers punched the appropriate keys.
“You jerk!”
Hmm…yeah, Dietrich’s definitely a jerk.  Not exactly clever, sophisticated dialogue, though.  But how many people are clever and sophisticated when they’re cornered by a knife-wielding jerk?  Ah, but this is fiction, Kate.  You’re always saying fiction dialogue should be like real speech, only better….

“You asshole!”

But Sabrina’s cultured, well-bred — would she really call somebody an “asshole,” even a killer?

“You blackguard!”

C’mon!  Who talks like that, no matter how well-bred they are?  That’ll teach you to dive into Agatha Christie for a change of pace from Hammett and Chandler.  What would people you know say in this situation?  Once they stopped screaming, crying, and begging for their lives, I mean?

The first thing that leapt to mind was Caitlin yelling at her pal Tyler after he’d rubbed purple paint in her favorite Barbie’s hair.

“You doodyhead!”

Yeah, that’s exactly what Sabrina would say. Totally in character!  Kate was giggling too hard to type.

Okay, pretend you’re cultured, well-bred, and trying to talk down a knife-wielding doodyhead….

“You can’t just kill anyone who gives you trouble. What if everyone was like you, just murdering anyone who gets in your way? What kind of world would this be?”

“An underpopulated one, madame,” Dietrich sneered.  The spotlight illuminating the Temple glinted off his silver hair and the stiletto that had claimed so many victims, mere millimeters from Sabrina’s throat.

Dietrich’s knife arm moved like lightning. So did Clint. He leapt out from behind the column, wrenching Dietrich’s muscular arm hard enough to dislocate his shoulder. 

The assassin howled in pain, his stiletto clattering on the floor.  Sabrina grabbed it as Clint and Dietrich slammed into the Temple’s hieroglyphic-engraved stone walls.  Dietrich scraped his skull, his blood smearing against some ancient soldier’s centuries-old graffiti. “Owie!”

“You’re getting a time-out, mister!” Clint grunted.

“I’m telling,” the hit-man whined, snapping his dislocated shoulder back into place.

Kate peered at what she’d just typed.  Owie? A time-out?!  I’m telling?!  “Where the hell did all that come from?!”  She deleted those lines, shaking her head.

Clint barked at Sabrina, “Run!  Get security!”

She nodded furiously, pocketing Dietrich’s blade.  The staccato tapping of Sabrina’s Manolos echoed through the exhibit as she tore past the Temple’s enormous artificial moat.

That’s better. Keep going, Kate!

Dietrich sucker-punched Clint in his six-pack. Dazed and gasping for breath, Clint’s one coherent thought was: Shit, gotta work on my abs!

His head cleared in time to see Dietrich sprinting downstairs towards the moat. Clint scrambled to his feet, launching a flying tackle at the hit-man. Hunter and hunted hit the shallow moat as one, splashing and crashing in a tangle of limbs and concealed weaponry.

Clint’s rock-solid fist plowed into Dietrich’s gut, but his foot slid on the moat’s bottom.  As he lost his balance, Dietrich pounced upon him, his sinewy hands squeezing Clint’s throat, shoving his head underwater. 

The moat was six inches deep, just enough to drown Clint if the moat hadn’t doubled as Manhattan’s classiest wishing well. Clint scooped up a handful of coins from the moat floor, slinging them hard into Dietrich’s merciless eyes. 

The assassin roared in surprise and pain as wet, slimy pocket change stung his eyes. Dietrich’s hands flew to his face. As Clint sat up, coughing and swinging, his fist connected hard and fast with Dietrich’s Germanic jaw.

Dietrich’s head snapped back briefly, but the son-of-a-bitch still wasn’t down for the count. “No fair!”  Temporarily myopic from the onslaught of loose change, Dietrich flailed at the water, blindsiding Clint with a huge splash.

“You got water in my ear, stupid-head!”  Clint swept his arms through the water, smacking Dietrich with sheets of water left and right while shaking his head sideways to get that damn water out of his ear.

“You’re just a big cheater,” sneered Dietrich, pushing Clint back into the moat.

Clint pushed Dietrich right back. “I’m rubber, you’re glue, everything you say bounces off me and sticks to you.”

Dietrich kicked furiously, pelting Clint with water.  “Shut up, you big retard!”

“Make me, you big baby.” Clint drew his gun, but it wasn’t even a good water pistol after the bath they’d just had.  He sucked up a mouthful of water, spit it in Dietrich’s face, then made a face of his own. “Ewww! Yucky pool water!”

Kate stared in disbelief at what she’d just composed. She rubbed her eyes and stared harder, as if that would magically make it sound like it belonged in the Mystery/Suspense section instead of Children’s Books. “How’d my tough-guy action scene end up sounding like a wading pool party gone out of bounds?”

She stood up, stretched, and walked around the living room, hoping the improved circulation would make the writing part of her brain function like a mystery-writing adult again.  Then she read over what she’d written, cringing—but laughing, too.

The jukebox CD player switched to the music from North by Northwest’s romantic train scene. Good cue!  Kate put aside the fight scene, moving on to the next step in Clint and Sabrina’s relationship….

“You’re lucky I came along when I did, princess,” Clint growled. “For a smart, sophisticated girl, you’ve made some lousy judgment calls. What the hell were you thinking, slipping out to that museum shindig after you promised you’d stay put?”

Sabrina tilted her face up, a blush spreading over her high, proud cheekbones. “But I’m bored. I wanna play. You’re not the boss of me!”

Kate gave her monitor the gimlet eye, as if the glowing screen itself were responsible for what she wrote.  “Uh, no. Sabrina isn’t five, she’s twenty-six.”  She deleted everything after “cheekbones.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. McClintock…”

His anger cooled enough to let a grin slip through.  “Oh, hell, call me Clint. I just saved your life; I think that rates a first-name basis.”

Sabrina smiled sheepishly.  “I’m sorry I wasn’t honest with you, Clint. I guess attending the gala wasn’t one of my best ideas. But you wouldn’t take no for an answer. You forced me to give you my word. I never have been and I never will be bound by anything I don’t do of my own free will.”

Kate nodded approvingly.  Not bad!  Reading the paragraph again, her approval evaporated.  Yeah, it’s not bad because Gene Tierney already said those lines in Laura.  Paying homage to my faves is one thing; plagiarism is something else again. Damn!

Just as she was about to hit “Delete” again, Kate realized she’d already deleted a lot of what she’d written today.  She’d promised herself she’d complete a rough draft of this chapter before the gang came home.  That won’t happen if you delete every other thing you write, kiddo. You’re the Revision Queen of Riverdale; just keep going and fix it later.

The word count climbed as Kate put her inner editor on hold. Before she knew it, her protagonists were back in Sabrina’s townhouse, yielding to their mutual attraction. She smiled to herself. C’mon, Kate, this part shouldn’t be hard. You and Dominic still find time for romance. When Caitlin came along, Kate and Dominic promised each other never to end even the busiest day without at least cuddling and kissing. They’d kept it up even after Maggie was born. Face it, Clint and Sabrina have morphed into noir-ish versions of you and Dominic anyway….

Clint bent his long, lean body down towards Sabrina’s face,  gently kissing the tip of her nose, then nuzzling it in an “Eskimo kiss” while Sabrina’s giggle tinkled like silver chimes.  “Who’s Daddy’s kitten, huh?”

“Me!”  Sabrina threw her arms around him.  “Huggles!”

Whoa!  Excuse me, that’s how you and Dominic kiss the girls, not each other.  Show that to your writers’ workshop and they’ll think you’re a perv and put your children in foster care. Get your head out of “parent mode” and into “couple mode.” Just type in the first real-life romantic antics that leap to mind….

Clint planted his lips upon hers. Sabrina yielded to the tender strength of his embrace, her hands sliding up his arms, her curvaceous body softly meeting his. Clint felt her warm, moist lips parting under his as they kissed more urgently….

That’s more like it!  Beaming, Kate deftly typed the lovers into Sabrina’s boudoir and out of their clothes….

The only things softer than Sabrina’s Egyptian cotton sheets were her long cinnamon hair and her creamy naked skin. A trace of Angel perfume wafted into Clint’s nose as his kisses drifted from Sabrina’s lips to her swan-like neck to her full teardrop-shaped breasts. Cupping her soft, fleshy orbs in his strong hands, he nuzzled her nipples and began to gently kiss and suck them. Sabrina raked her slender fingers through Clint’s thick dark hair, moaning with pleasure. “Ooh, just a little bit harder, please,” she begged, “but still gentle.”

Happy to oblige, Clint sucked Sabrina’s breasts harder, but still gentle. Or so he thought.

Sabrina winced. “Ooh, babe, that’s too hard.”

With a start, Clint realized his mouth was filling with warm, sweetish liquid.  Luckily he reflexively swallowed instead of ungallantly coughing up mother’s milk all over her. “Gah!  Jeez, hon, I thought you already fed the baby.”

“I did!  My breasts must be working overtime today.  Sorry.”  Sabrina’s lovely face clouded with embarrassment.  “I—I guess you’re too grossed out to keep going, huh?  Just as well, my stretch marks look even worse in this light.”  Pouting, she drew the sheet over herself.

Clint hated to see her so disappointed.  “No, babe, no, it just caught me off guard, that’s all.”  He gently lowered the sheet until she was completely bare. It would take more than a little mammary juice to break the spell woven by her angel face and her mesmerizing curves, stretch marks or not.
As their eyes met, a smile spread across her face like a sunrise, beckoning him.  “How does this feel?”  Her fingers slid sensuously down his chest, continuing south until they found their target.

In spite of himself, Clint gasped faintly at her touch. “Oh, yeah…that feels great….”

Kate triumphantly continued along more adult, non-parental lines.  She even managed to make putting on Clint’s condom erotic instead of a necessary evil.

Clint was inside Sabrina now, losing himself in her warmth, feeling her writhe ecstatically as they made love in long, languorous strokes.  Talk about making beautiful music together…their moans blended like sweet harmony.

The bedroom door crashed open.  A cheery voice chirped, “Hi, guys!”

Clint and Sabrina threw the comforter over their naked bodies before Caitlin’s curls bounced into view. “Mommy!  Daddy! You’re awake!” Caitlin’s bright smile twisted into a puzzled scowl. “Daddy, why’re you lying on top of Mommy?”

“Uh…Mommy and I are hugging.”  
“Yes!”  Sabrina nodded like a bobble-head doll in an SUV speeding over a rugged mountainside.  “Daddy and I are hugging because we love each other soooo much.”

Caitlin clapped her hands joyfully. “I love you so much! I wanna hug, too.”

Clint thought fast.  “Uh, sure, sweetie, in a minute. You gotta go back to your room first.”


“Because…Mommy and I have to make sure our pajamas are on. Uh, on right.”

“But why?”

“We’re shy, kitten,” Sabrina said. “Just give Mommy and Daddy a moment and we’ll give you all the hugs you want, okay?”
Kate roared with laughter as the phone rang.  The answering machine played as she crossed the living room.  After the beep, Dominic’s voice boomed, “It’s me, babe!  How’s my favorite crime novelist?” 

Chuckling, Kate picked up the receiver.  “Hi, babe.  What stop on the Daddy-Daughters tour are you guys at?”

Kate heard Dominic shouting cheerfully above the din of rowdy children: “Just checking in from the fabulous ballroom of the exclusive McDonald’s playplace! Caitlin’s already climbing through that giant hamster-trail thing.”

“How about Maggie?  Is she happy or already on sensory overload?”

“No, Maggie’s real happy!  Sounds like you are, too. Makin’ progress with the private dick and the sexy chick?”

Kate clicked “Save,” smiling.  “More than that—I’m having fun with them.”


Feedback is always welcome, be it constructive criticism, lavish praise, or burning questions! :-)


  1. By the way, does anyone here think the ending of THE BIG SLEEPYBYE needs more oomph or more funny, or is it fine as is? To slightly paraphrase Marlene Dietrich in WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION, "Don't be afraid to critique. I'm very disciplined." :-)

  2. I wrote an in depth version of what I thought of this article. I accidentally hit the back button and watched the efforts of the past 15 minutes of typing get destroyed. So now I'm stuck giving you snippets of what I've written. I'm including a list of what it mentioned.

    1. laughter
    2. awesomeness
    3. boner
    4. boner killer

    You are an awesome write madame, I'm sorry it took me so long to read this. Of your awesomeness, I have been deprived no longer.
    I also like the exploding brain article. Makes me want to go back and watch that movie.

    - Tiberious

  3. Thanks a million for your witty praise of THE BIG SLEEPYBYE, good sir! Your accolades are well worth waiting for! I'm very pleased that you enjoyed the CHAIRMAN article, too. I've always gotten a kick out of Gregory Peck's 1960s movies in particular; there's a "fish out of water" quality in his performances in THE CHAIRMAN, ARABESQUE, and MIRAGE that I find oddly endearing. Thanks again, Tiberious!