An Excerpt: WHY PEOPLE DO WHAT THEY DO

Why People Do What They Do

The following is excerpted from “Pretty Things,” a short story in the brilliant anthology, WHY PEOPLE DO WHAT THEY DO by award-winning screenwriter, Emilio Iasiello.

She paused before entering the room. A partition blocked most of her view. She saw only the lump of her mother’s legs under the white blanket. Marla took a couple of deep breaths and straightened her blouse and skirt. She never knew what to say to her mother. Sometimes, Marla would tell her how Scott was doing. Other times, Marla stood there holding a cup in which the older woman spat up phlegm. On several occasions, her mother would be still, then suddenly burst into hysterics, refusing to calm down until she was sedated.

Thankfully, she found her mother asleep, or else doped up on one medication or another.  They all seemed the same: Codeine, morphine, whatever did the best to numb the pain. They gave her several different pills of varying sizes and colors. Once, when it was really bad, a doctor administered a shot.

Marla studied her mother’s sleeping form–her head was nearly bald with only a few wisps of hair. Her cheeks were so deeply lined that when relaxed as they were now, sagged like the wrinkled skin of a peach. She wanted to touch her mother, but couldn’t. Her fingers stretched out but retracted slowly. Instead, Marla touched her own face, running her fingertips all over–her cheekbones, her eyes, her nose, her lips.

Then, a thought struck her. Had her mother ever been pretty? She had never given this much thought before and she definitely couldn’t tell now. This body, this form in front of her, was only a fraction of who her mother had been. What about a time prior to this terminal condition? Before marriage and two kids, and a mortgage only half-paid? Had she been pretty then? Marla racked her brain, but couldn’t recall a single incident when her father had referred to his wife by anything else but her name. Sure, he had said “dear” and “sweetheart” (endearing terms not affectionate ones, she noted) whenever he wanted something, but never once did she hear him call her “beautiful” or “sexy” or least of all, “pretty.”

Looking at her now, there was no misinterpreting her mother for anything but what she was – a faceless, dying woman.

Marla dipped her hand into her bag and retrieved a brown compact. Leaning over the bed, she applied powder onto her mother’s sallow features. She patted carefully, working it in between the deep wrinkles. The skin was extremely loose in areas, as if it had been a size too large. It felt foreign to the touch like latex: Almost real, but not quite.

She paused a moment and reconsidered her subject. She removed another small case and opened the rouge. She worked hard, adding and subtracting the bright color with the side of her hand. Now and then, she stopped to brush away the hair that fell over her eyes. When she was finished, Marla stepped back to appraise her efforts. The pale complexion had been replaced with a healthy, albeit artificial, glow.

“I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to come back tomorrow. Visiting hours are over.”

“Of course, I didn’t mean to stay so long.”

“Hey, no problem, I just have some things I have to do for her that you can’t be here for:  Hospital rules. You understand.”

Marla nodded.

The nurse wheeled in a cart loaded with various instruments and containers. There were things on it that she had never seen before, things that made her stomach jump. Marla turned away from the nurse and looked out the window. It was steadily darkening outside, but clear just as the weather report promised.

Marla got her things together. The nurse checked the machines, then pressed her fingers against Marla’s mother’s wrist and looked at her watch.

“You do this?” the nurse asked, looking at the patient. “She looks good.”

Marla shrugged. She wanted to tell this woman everything, but didn’t know where or how to begin.

“It’s something. I mean–you know.”

The nurse made a notation on a chart. “I know, Honey,” she said. “Believe me, I know.”

WHY PEOPLE DO WHAT THEY DO is available for Kindle and paperback on Amazon.

Emilio IasielloAbout the Author

Emilio Iasiello authored the book Chasing the Green (published by FEP International in 2008). He has published short fiction and poetry in numerous academic and literary journals. His stories have appeared in Buffalo Spree MagazineThe Larcom ReviewOasis, and Krater Quarterly, and his poems have appeared in the New York ReviewIron Horse Literary ReviewThe California QuarterlyThe Washington Review, and The Wilshire Review, among others.

An avid screenwriter, he has optioned several screenplays three of which have been produced into films: Saint Christopher (2002), P.J. (2008), and Chasing the Green (2009). Chasing the Green won the Award for Excellence in Filmmaking at the 2010 Canada International Film Festival and the Best Supporting Actress in a Feature Film Award at the 2009 Los Angeles Action on Film International Film Festival. P.J. received the Best Actress Award in the 2008 Miami Underground Film Festival. A fourth screenplay, Dead of Knight, is currently in post-production and expected to be completed later in 2010. His IMDB link is http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1045623/ Several of his short stories have been published in Writing Raw http://writingraw.com/bios.html .

 

10 Magnificent Stories

Why People Do What They Do10 Magnificent Stories: A Review of WHY PEOPLE DO WHAT THEY DO

Looking at the table of contents and swiping at a few of the pages, I thought I could whip through these short stories in no time. Then I began to read them, and I soon realized how spare and fine Emilio Iasiello’s writing is, how clear and explosive the imagery. It was as if I were watching a movie rather than reading a book. Like Mozart who wasted no notes, Mr. Iasiello doesn’t waste words. And he weaves memorable stories with them. He creates moments in time that reveal the complexity of life.

WHY PEOPLE DO WHAT THEY DO anthologizes stories of characters who are on the way down or already there; characters whose actions are extreme and inexplicable, characters who are drawn to addictive personalities; who are on the verge of self-destruction, but who cannot stop their fall. Their responses to life are bizarre, abrupt, befuddled. In their world, there’s lots of agony but little ecstasy.

In the title story, the narrator, drawn to the unfathomable personality of his alcoholic brother, relates an incident in a pawn shop.

See, my brother is prone to this type of violence. It follows him like a tail of toilet paper he can’t shake off his shoe. (“Why People Do What They Do,” loc. 242)

These are stories of violence, of choices that hint at cataclysmic consequences. They are filled with eccentric twists; they tell of drunken dinner parties.

In my favorite story, “Pretty Things,” there is a scene where Marla powders and rouges her dying mother’s face.

When she was finished, Marla stepped back to appraise her efforts. The pale complexion had been replaced with a healthy, albeit artificial, glow.

[A nurse comes into the room.]

“You do this?” the nurse asked, looking at the patient. “She looks good.” Marla shrugged. She wanted to tell this woman everything, but didn’t know where or how to begin. (“Pretty Things,” loc. 1293)

At the the end of the story, there is only a sad, wrenching demise.

This is not the stuff of light entertainment. It is the work of a major writer. I will keep returning to these stories and savoring the power of their beauty and perception, for that’s where the stories’ redemption lies.

If you look for a read that gives new and lasting insight into the human condition, if you long for wisdom, if you choose stories that are hard to stop reading, you will love WHY PEOPLE DO WHAT THEY DO.

My Rating: 5 Stars

WHY PEOPLE DO WHAT THEY DO is available on Amazon.

Emilio IasielloAbout the Author 

Emilio Iasiello authored the book Chasing the Green (published by FEP International in 2008). He has published short fiction and poetry in numerous academic and literary journals. His stories have appeared in Buffalo Spree MagazineThe Larcom ReviewOasis, and Krater Quarterly, and his poems have appeared in the New York ReviewIron Horse Literary ReviewThe California QuarterlyThe Washington Review, and The Wilshire Review, among others.

An avid screenwriter, he has optioned several screenplays three of which have been produced into films: Saint Christopher (2002), P.J. (2008), and Chasing the Green (2009). Chasing the Green won the Award for Excellence in Filmmaking at the 2010 Canada International Film Festival and the Best Supporting Actress in a Feature Film Award at the 2009 Los Angeles Action on Film International Film Festival. P.J. received the Best Actress Award in the 2008 Miami Underground Film Festival. A fourth screenplay, Dead of Knight, is currently in post-production and expected to be completed later in 2010. His IMDB link is http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1045623/ Several of his short stories have been published in Writing Raw http://writingraw.com/bios.html .

Visit Emilio Iasiello’s page on Amazon and tune in tomorrow for an excerpt from “Pretty Things.”

Review: FATAL WHISPERS by Sandra Nikolai

Fatal WhispersMesmerizing and unputdownable, Fatal Whispers, the thrilling new mystery by Sandra Nikolai, stars the romantic duo of Megan Scott and Michael Elliott as they attempt to unravel the steamy secrets behind three shocking murders. Set in Portland and Falmouth on Maine’s craggy coastline, Fatal Whispers will sweep you away by its wealth of intriguing suspects and breathtaking action. You’ll be guessing to the last page of this nail-biter.

Megan Scott travels with Michael Elliott to Portland, Maine where they stay with Bianca, Megan’s cousin. Michael, an investigative reporter has been assigned to uncover the facts surrounding the strange death of a woman living rough. The woman is well-known to residents as Glad Rags Gladys and she is found dead from a mysterious substance close to Bianca’s flower shop. Events take off and very soon there are three murders.

The book is a fascinating mystery. It’s about the logical steps taken to unravel the puzzle of three seemingly benign and unrelated deaths, and we meet some engaging characters on the way as they struggle to stay alive–Megan’s cousin, Bianca and her husband, Victor, and George are among my favorites, along with the setting which has such a strong presence in the book that it’s a character.

But the book is also about the relationship of Megan Scott with Michael Elliott, the gnawing back and forth of it. As a recent widow, her hesitation is understandable and folded into the plot so well by Sandra Nikolai: should Megan become romantically involved with another man, Michael, so soon after her husband’s death?

I must add that I loved Bianca’s flower shop where much of the action takes place. And the final scenes brought me to the edge of my seat as Megan and Michael realize a deadly killer is on the loose.

If you like action-packed mystery and thrillers with characters who grow as they come to grips with what is happening to their relatives and friends before there are more murders, you will love Fatal Whispers, the second book in the Megan Scott and Michael Elliott series.

My Rating: 5 Stars

Fatal Whispers is available on Amazon Barnes & Noble, Kobo Books, Smashwords Premium, and Sony.

Sandra NikolaiAbout the Author: 

Mystery author Sandra Nikolai weaves ordinary characters into extraordinary, life-threatening situations. If you enjoy the challenge of solving mysteries, you’ll love the Megan Scott/Michael Elliott Mystery series. FALSE IMPRESSIONS (2012) and FATAL WHISPERS (2013) are the first two books in the series.

Visit Sandra’s website and blog at http://sandranikolai.com/ and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @SandraNikolai