A major publisher is considering publishing my novelization of the screenplay for my feature film Over-the-Rhine. Hence I’ve been working on that and had no blog posts planned for today (I sent it to the publisher just minutes ago, so the proverbial ink is still drying on my screen). And then it occurred to me to post a brief excerpt from the in-progress novel. Here is a short but essential scene that sets in motion much of what follows in this intense drama of addiction and forgiveness.
(Photo below: Turmen Alley scene from the making of the film Over-the-Rhine)
Turmen Alley: to addicts-in-training it means escape, to seasoned users it means there is no escape. It’s here that Herminio, with a tattoo for every one of his client’s needle marks, hides like a crab in a crevice, unseen from Pleasant Street a hundred feet away. Eventually, Damon will move him to another city; “rolling stoners,” Damon calls his dealers, because they never stay in one city long enough to gather moss. “Just keepin’ y’all clean and free,” he says. That sounds good to Herminio, who has no friends, only a man he drinks with and a woman he sleeps with.
A boy moves toward him, passing under a yellow lamp. Herminio doesn’t know the boy, or his age, but he’s sold him plenty over the last six months. The boy is pasty white, with uncut hair and high cheekbones, like a lost prince.
“Hey, H,” the boy says. “H” is all the clients know. It’s all they need to know. The boy slaps a wad of bills under Herminio’s palm as if slapping him a hello.
Herminio continues the motion, depositing the cash into one pocket while sliding a bag of oxycodone out of another and into the boy’s opposing hand. Anyone watching from five feet away would see nothing but a faintly Hispanic man greeting an overly pale teenager.
The boy starts to turn away. Graduation time, Herminio thinks. “Wait, check this,” he says, and pulls out another bag for the boy to see. He points to the needle, spoon, lighter, strap, and bag of magic dust inside. “It’s a gift,” he adds.
“Heroin?” the boy asks.
Herminio nods (heroin and who knows what else). He knows the boy will take it because he’s desperate to be callous and cool. They always are.
The boy takes it.
Herminio smiles as the boy walks away.
Damon will be happy.