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Dr. Baraku Bexley
"I've been thinking about suicide lately. A lot."
"How often is 'a lot'?"
"At least once a day, although sometimes I may go a couple of days without thinking about it."
"When you say you've been thinking about it, what does that mean? Are you imagining ways of doing it? Are you thinking about where you would do it?"
"No, I know how I'll do it."
"What kind of pills?"
"Painkillers. I've got hidden away on the outside eighty-seven hydrocodone tablets. You know: the generic of Vicodin. I got them from a friend who had a prescription for a hundred and only used thirteen. She had some kind of really bad disk problem in her back, but they fixed it and she didn't need the pills anymore. So she gave them to me. I figure I could take the whole batch in three or four swallows and within a few hours I'd be dead."
"What if you don't die?"
"Oh, I'll die."
"How can you be so sure?"
"I did my homework."
"What does that mean?"
"I looked up hydrocodone on the Internet. The lethal dose, depending on tolerance, could be anywhere from around fifty or sixty milligrams up. If I take all eighty-seven, I'll be getting over six hundred fifty milligrams, which should be plenty for someone my size. I'm only a hundred nine pounds. Some kid who weighed eighty-nine pounds died from taking only ten pills. I'd say eighty-seven ought to do the trick."
"Yes, I suppose it would."
"Plus I forgot to tell you-I'm going to down them with tequila."
"You're talking like this is a done deal."
"No, of course not. I'd have to get out of here first, right? And in all probability, that's somewhat unlikely. It's just that you asked how I would do it, so I told you."
"Could you tell me why you think about killing yourself so much?"
"Are you depressed?"
"What does that mean?"
"Are you filled with a sense of the utter meaninglessness of life? Do the routine activities of life like eating, working, reading, watching movies, having sex, and other normal events hold no interest for you? Do you spend a lot of time sleeping?"
"No to all of the above. I don't think life is meaningless. I love to eat, I don't normally mind going to work, I read constantly, I'm at Blockbuster at least twice a week, and if I'm not in a relationship in which I'm having regular sex, I masturbate a lot. As for sleeping all the time, I wish. My life is-was-so busy I can barely squeeze in six hours a night."
"Suicide is usually looked to as a last resort solution-what someone will consider when their life becomes unbearable, unlivable. You sound like you're engaged with your own life and relatively content."
"I am. At least I was . . . until I got locked up, that is."
"So I'll ask again. Why have you been thinking about taking your own life?"
"Don't you want to know where I would do it?"
"You asked me if I've been thinking about where I would do it."
"Yes, you're right. I did. So, have you?"
"And where would that be?"
"I don't know."
"Are you toying with me?"
"No, not at all. I'm telling you the truth when I say that I have been thinking about where to do it. I just haven't decided yet."
"What's holding up your decision?"
"Lots of things. Like who will find me. What kind of mess I'll make. I know I'll . . . make a mess when I die, and I don't want whoever finds me to have to clean it up. For a while, I was thinking about walking into the ocean. Maybe down at Fort Hale Park. But then I risk the chance of no one finding my body. And I want to be cremated, so they'll need that."
"This conversation is leading me to a conclusion I do not want to make."
"Oh? And what's that?"
"I think you have already decided to kill yourself and that all these assurances to me that you're not going to do it are your way of deflecting me from further inquiry or action. I think you know that I am obligated to act if I feel that you are a serious danger to yourself, and you are thus trying to convince me that this is all just an intellectual exercise rather than your true plan."
"I'm not going to kill myself. But I do think about it. What are you going to do? Ha-ha, have me committed? Last time I looked this was still America and I was free to say and think anything I fucking want to."
"That may be true in most situations. But this is not a typical situation. If it was, you would not be sitting there, would you? I would not have voluntarily come to you to discuss these things, right? So the normal rules do not apply, and if I think you're on the verge of suicide, I have to put it in my report and act."
"Court-ordered bullshit. I'm already on a suicide watch, for Christ's sake."
"Perhaps. Shall we move on?"
"Okay with me."
"Tell me why you're here."
"You know why I'm here. I'm incarcerated . . . is institutionalized a better word? . . . and the court is making me talk to you."
"I want you to tell me what you did and why you did it."
"You know what I did. As for why I did it, you'll have to figure that out yourself. Isn't that what they're paying you for?"
"In a sense."
"Well, then . . ."
"Let's put aside the reason you are here and talk about some other things that are-were-going on in your life."
"Fine with me."
"Can you tell me about your job?"
"Sure. But isn't all that in my records?"
"Yes, but I'd like to hear it from you. What is it you do?"
"I'm a certified animal euthanasia technician. I make $451.92 a week. That's a whopping twenty-three five a year."
"And what is a certified animal euthanasia technician?"
"Every Friday afternoon, I euthanize all the cats and dogs in the animal shelter that have not been adopted by then."
"How do you euthanize these animals?"
"We use a gas chamber."
"What is your role in this process?"
"Process. You guys are funny. Only shrinks would describe mass execution as a process. Did you all get that from Auschwitz? I understand the Nazis were big fans of euphemisms."
"Please do not trivialize or make fun of the Holocaust. I lost my grandfather at Auschwitz."
"So, what is your role in this process, please?"
"I take the animals from their cages and place them in the gas chamber."
"Don't they try and run away?"
"They all have choke chains around their necks, even the cats, and the room has steel rings embedded in the floor every three feet in a grid. We start in the far left corner and hook one animal to each ring. We can do around a dozen animals at a time, although usually it's only five or six."
"What happens after they're all hooked to the floor?"
"I close the door and bolt it with a sliding bar. The room is airtight once the door is closed. Ironically, the animals would probably all suffocate to death if we just left them in there. The air would run out after a while. But that would be traumatic and painful. And take a long time. So we try to get it over with as quickly as possible."
"What happens after you bolt the door?"
"I sign a form."
"What kind of form?"
"It's a form that lists the animals I put inside the gas chamber-you know, one brown terrier, one black-and-white cat . . ."
"And then what happens?"
"I hand the clipboard to my supervisor, Jake. He double-checks everything and then he signs it. A copy of this form has to go to the state every week."
"What does Jake do after he signs the form?"
"Well, usually, he goes back to his office and finishes eating his lunch. He likes a late lunch."
"You know what I'm asking."
"We both walk over to a computer panel on the wall outside the gas chamber. We then go through a specific procedure that I had to learn cold before I could get my certification."
"Jake does all the talking. 'Nine animals confirmed for euthanasia. Door seal confirmed. Quantity of lethal agent confirmed for nine animals. Initiating.' Then I push a button. But I forgot something."
"And what is that?"
"Before we start the procedure, he puts on a CD."
"He plays music? For the animals?"
"No, they can't hear it. He plays it for us, although he really plays it for himself."
"What does he play?"
"The White Album."
"I see. What happens after you push the button?"
"A thermometer lights up."
"A gauge that looks like a thermometer lights up on the main panel and a red light starts to rise to the top of the tube."
"On the side of this tube are numbers from one to ten. Supposedly, once the red hits the two, all the animals are asleep. I've never looked to see if that was true, though. There's no window in the door. Once it hits five, they're not supposed to be breathing anymore, and when it gets to ten, their hearts have stopped. That's about a six percent CO concentration. Fatal."
"What happens after it gets to ten?"
"Nothing. Jake goes back to his desk and I go do whatever else I have to do."
"What about the animals?"
"A timer starts as soon as the gauge hits ten. A bell rings after fifteen minutes. Then we can get them out."
"Who opens the door?"
"Me. I'm the tech."
"Could you talk about that, please?"
"Because I don't want to."
"I think it would help your situation if I wrote in my report that you were cooperative. Plus I do believe it will also help you personally to talk about it."
"What do you want to know?"
"Take me through what happens after the timer bell rings."
"The first thing I do is go into the rear storeroom and get the disposal cart."
"And what is that?"
"It's a big folding cart on wheels. It holds a thick rubber bag that is stretched open. The bag has a heavy zipper running across its top."
"The animals go in this bag?"
"Their bodies do. Yeah."
"Do they all fit?"
"The bag holds the equivalent in weight of about a dozen cats or six dogs. Sometimes we need two bags."
"I wheel the cart over to the gas chamber and place it on the right side of the door. Then I put on thick rubber gloves and a mask and then I unbolt the door and open it." "Doesn't gas get out into the room?" "There's a reverse exhaust system that sucks out all the gas and then runs it through an afterburner that renders it nontoxic. It's an OSHA thing. By the time I open the door, the air inside the room is perfectly safe. In fact, I'm pretty sure the door won't open until the gas is completely cleared. And there are CO detectors throughout the building too."
"Why the gloves and mask, then?"
"It's a mess inside the room. The animals' bowels and bladders let go when they die."
"I see. What about the smell?"
"The exhaust system gets rid of some of it, but it's still pretty rank."
"What do you do next?"
"I start with the animal closest to the door. I unhook the choke chain, pick it up, and carry it outside to the disposal cart. Everything goes in the bag. The collar, the choke chain. Everything. They're all made of copper or tin, so they melt in the crematorium."
"What do you think about as you're emptying out the gas chamber?"
"Anything but the animals."
"I don't think about the animals and I don't look at their faces."
"Could you talk about that?"
"I knew these animals. Even though we only had them for a week or so, I got to know every one of them. They each had a personality too. And they were all so trusting. They were always happy to see me. And they were incredibly grateful for any attention I gave them."
"This is difficult for you to talk about."
"You bet your ass it's difficult. These animals were my friends. And I had to kill them. What bothered me the most was that they came with me willingly, just happy to be with me. And then I locked them in a room and fucking killed them. I completely betrayed their trust in me."
"Why did you take this job in the first place?"
"I thought I could do some good."
"You know . . . helping find homes for animals . . . helping kids pick out a pet . . . that kind of stuff." "But you knew you'd be involved in euthanizing them too, didn't you?"
"By the end of the job interview I did, yes . . . but that's not why I applied at the shelter."
"Why don't you tell me about that?"
"I applied at the shelter for an office job. I wanted to man the front desk and take in the animals people found or couldn't take care of anymore. Like I said-to help. A lot of animals came from elderly people."
"What do you mean?"
"A lot of elderly people have pets, and when the old person dies, no one in the family wants to take their animal. So they bring it to us."
"What do they tell you when they bring in these animals?"
"Usually that there's no one to take care of it and they want us to find it a good home."
"What do you tell them?"
"That we'll try."
"And do you?"
"Absolutely. People come to the shelter every day looking for a cat or dog. And we always take our time with them and make sure that they are comfortable with the animal they pick out. We don't like anyone to walk out without a pet."
"So why all the killing . . .
Excerpted from Dialogues by Stephen J. Spignesi Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
1. What were your initial perceptions of Tory? How did you visualize her at first? What were your impressions of Dr. Bexley before herevealed details about himself, such as his Tanzanian ancestry?
2. Discuss the experience of "eavesdropping" offered by the novel's unique format. In what way was Stephen Spignesi able to enhance the suspense by letting the characters convey the action in their own words?
3. What recurring themes did you detect in Tory's writing? What do you make of her comment that "Skyline Pigeon" was merely inspired by a friend's anecdote and didn't reflect anything in Tory's life? Is it valid to look for the facts of an author's life in a work that is labeled fiction?
4. How would you have responded to the questions on Tory's psychology tests? Did you share in her wry reaction to these tests, or did you agree with Dr. Bexley regarding their usefulness?
5. Which of the novel's narrators seems the most reliable? Which was the most engaging? How did you react to the process of interpreting these varying points of view?
6. Tory claims that she doesn't know why she murdered her colleagues, though she says she does not fear her own death and has seriously contemplated suicide. What was your understanding of her motivation as the novel unfolded? Was she acting out of anger toward her co-workers, or compassion (just as she euthanized the animals to save them from what she perceived as a worse fate)?
7. What is the effect of knowing that one of Dr. Bexley's grandparents died in the Holocaust? What does his profession teach about the nature of suffering and sadism in humanity? Should Tory be categorized as someone who derived pleasure or a sense of empowerment from the suffering of others?
8. In Chapter Four, Tory describes the "Animal World" documentary that represented her calling to work in an animal shelter. She tells Dr. Bexley that "mankind is completely irrelevant to these magnificent creatures" and describes the documentary as an epiphany in her life. Do you believe that Tory identified with a theme of the documentary? How would her work at the pharmaceutical company have compared to her new job?
9. In your opinion, why did Tory place her co-workers in the gas chamber even though the injections alone would have proven lethal?
10. Do the clues regarding Tory's childhood, revealed through interviews with her parents, exonerate her from responsibility for the murders? How would you characterize the psychological states of her mother and father? How much of our behavior should be attributed to nature and how much to nurture?
11. In Chapter Eight, Dr. Gwyneth June reveals the autopsy results from Tory's victims. From this information and the recollections Tory later provides, what observations can you make about the staff of the animal shelter? Did Tory have much in common with them?
12. Why did Tory fake an illness during the first part of the trial? Did it empower her to be able to postpone the trial, just as she controlled the length of her sessions with Dr. Bexley? Or might she have had a very different goal in mind?
13. What did you discover regarding the concept of insanity and mental competency in relation to criminal trials? Did the novel change your perception of how these concepts should be applied in a court of law? Had you been a member of the jury, how would you have voted? Would the outcome have changed if the dialogues you read could have been admitted as evidence?
14. What is your understanding of the voices Tory hears toward the end of the novel? Do you believe her victims have begun communicating with her, or is she imagining their afterlife because she feels guilt?
15. In Chapter Fifty-three, how does Tory seem to react to the priest who predicts that she will proceed to "spend all of eternity in God's love"? Why does she later request that Kaddish be said for her?
16. How did you interpret the novel's closing scenes, particularly when Sarah from "The Baby's Room" reminds Tory of a creator's power? In what sense are we the narrators of our destinies? Does the novel's epilogue express ultimate reality, or a creative reincarnation and second chance?
17. Having finished Dialogues, reread the prologue. What outcomes can you predict for her now?
Posted June 8, 2011
Posted February 23, 2006
This is a terrific book, especially from a first-time novelist. I read the book in one sitting. It's that good. I just couldn't tear myself away from it. Prior to writing this novel Mr. Spignesi wrote several enlightening books about Stephen King, who is one of my favorite authors. But let me say this, Stephen King hasn't written anything as powerful as Spignesi's DIALOGUES in a good long time. This book is definitely recommended.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 30, 2005
this story held my interest from the very first page. It was a book I could not put down for long. The ending surprised me because I kept wondering why Tory was going to be excuted so fast after her conviction. I loved the ending. The name Tory Troy is almost a tonque twister and the mothers name Viviana is so different I was wondering why the author choose these names. It is truly a dialogue story which I thought would be boring but it is very much the opposite. Fron the begining I pictured Dr. Bexley as a women in her late forties and then had to change my thought process when I realized it was a man. I picture Tory as a slight dark haired girl and the only reason she killed her co-workers is she snapped. I would recommend this book to all who love reading suspense/drama novels.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 11, 2005
The biggest disappointment with Dialogues is that it is only 354 pages long. I could have read so much more. This novel moves so gracefully and draws its reader so completely into a world vividly painted mostly by dialogue that it is hard to put the down when the last word is read. There are subtle revelations on almost every page about the main character, Tori Troy, and her job as the euthanasia technician at an animal shelter. Early on in this marvelous novel, Tori admits to murdering six co-workers. Answers to the questions of 'why?' and 'how?' are delivered in highly-crafted, vivid dialogues with and about Tori and her crimes. Two thought-provoking short stories accredited to her add insight that ultimately pays off in a very satisfying conclusion. I applaud the author and the skill with which he leads his readers through Tori's complicated and sad world of love and neglect, caring and abuse, hopelessness and redemption.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 28, 2005
After laboring in the bean fields for far too long -- Spignesi carved out a fulltime writing career as a non- fiction writer, which is onerous work -- he has decided to seed new ground and harvest the fictional fruits of his labor. The result is a compelling, captivating, can't-put- down first novel that bodes well for this writer who has amply paid his dues. As most fiction writers know, writing dialogue is tough. It's not simply a matter of turning on a tape recorder and picking up whatever is said, and putting that down on paper. Good dialogue means having a well-tuned ear, sensitive to the cadences of language, of words, which is the mark of a fictioneer, a teller of tales. Spignesi, I'm happy to say, nails this down cold: He knows how people speak -- its rhythms, its tics and tropes -- and fuses it with a storytelling voice that is confident. For a first novel, this is an impressive debut. The book marks him as a Writer to Watch -- or, more accurately, a writer to read. Here's a guy who has steeped himself in popular culture, who feasts on movies, and as a result has painted a backdrop that is completely, utterly convincing and thoroughly American. I eagerly await his next novel.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 22, 2005
First of all, let me just say if I could give this novel ten stars, I would. However, five is the highest option here, so five it is! Dialogues is a captivating story about a young girl named Victoria (Tory) Troy. She's vibrant, intelligent, exceptionally bright, and though her actions in the beginning are quite violent, she's a sweet natured, personable character whom I think many readers will be able to relate. The story takes place in Connecticut. The crime scene is a local Animal Shelter... and what a crime it is! She's caught, red handed, and is now held 'prisoner' in a psychiatric hospital, awaiting trial, where she confesses her sins to Dr. Bexley. Bexley, assigned to her case, holds the power to declare her sane/insane. Through numerous discussions with Tory, and various others, Tory's gripping story unfolds. What did she do? How could she do it? Was she insane? What was she thinking? Is she competent enough to stand trial? Will she get the death penalty? Will the Jury let her walk? All the questions are answered, some in ways that will surprise you. From Prologue to Epilogue, Stephen Spignesi's first novel takes the reader on an unforgettable journey. If you're a fan of suspense, drama, horror, mystery, this book is a MUST read! On April 26th, RUN, don't walk, to a book store near you, and pick up a copy of Dialogues. You will not be disappointed.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 9, 2008
Since the police arrested her for six murders, several people have conversed with Tory Troy including her lawyer in a guarded mental hospital. However, the most persistent psychiatrist Dr. Baraku Bexley has interviewed Tory several times to ascertain whether the genius can delineate right from wrong enough to stand trial in a Connecticut court. Over a year ago, Tory lost her job at a pharmaceutical firm that felt the Internet was a better way to sell drugs. Before she left, Tory stole a paralytic drug that leaves victims conscious but paralyzed. Tory obtained worked as a euthanasia technician at the Waterbridge Animal Shelter in Connecticut, where every Friday she kills animals in a gas chamber. --- Tory detests her job, but needs the income as she has no other prospects. As she turns into a loner, her loathing for her work converts towards her peers until she decides to take action. Using the paralytic she stole, Tory begins injecting fellow shelter employees and while they remain awake kills them in the gas chamber. --- Through the dialogues with Tory at the mental hospital readers get a picture of what happened that drove the woman into killing her peers. Additionally, the audience obtains several other dialogues besides the central figure as her distraught parents, the judge, the prosecution team, the jurors, and others discuss Tory. Interestingly fans also get a different side to the indicted murderer through a strong short story and novella she wrote that adds to the feel that we are looking at a real person wondering why. By the uncanny climax, Stephen Spignesi will have readers exchanging dialogues on this insightful uniquely rendered thriller.--- Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.