Winged Creatures

Winged Creatures

by Roy Freirich
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Overview

Winged Creatures by Roy Freirich

Shots ring out in a local fast food restaurant. Teenager Anne Hagen and her best friend Jimmy hide under a table, watching a suicidal gunman randomly murder her father and others. Winged Creatures tells the stories of the survivors. . .

Struggling to understand her father's death, Anne develops a religious hysteria. Jimmy becomes mute, protecting a secret that he and Anne share until it nearly destroys him and his already fractured family. Grazed by a bullet, driving instructor Charlie becomes obsessed with pressing his luck at a casino. By dangerous degrees, restaurant cashier Carla loses her ability to care for herself and her infant son. Dr. Laraby, an ER physician who failed to revive the shooting victims, turns to his wife as someone to "save," while psychologist Ron Abler tries to counsel the witnesses, but meets suspicion and resistance.

Winged Creatures intimately depicts the inner lives of five people driven by secret torments and dangerous compulsions, in flight from their own memories and dreams, as they struggle to regain their trust in the ordinary world.

ROY FREIRICH is a screenwriter and songwriter living in Malibu, California. Winged Creatures is his first novel.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312378950
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 01/08/2008
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.68(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

ROY FREIRICH is a screenwriter and songwriter living in Malibu, California. Winged Creatures is his first novel.

Read an Excerpt

Winged Creatures


By Roy Freirich

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2007 Roy Freirich
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-312-37895-0


CHAPTER 1

fledgings


Laraby


Distracted is barely the word for Laraby today, because as he exits Carby's Restaurant, pausing outside the little water-stained stucco box of a place with his jumbo "Joe to Go," he wonders if he ever picked up his change. Wait, was there change at all? He hesitates, and then laughs to himself and juggles keys and coffee to hit the auto un-lock button on his key ring. His little black Mercedes chirps cheerfully back at him and gives its lights a quick flash, and he climbs in and drives a little fast to his noon shift, down Route 89, along the edge of Hunt Landing and this row of ugly prefab fast-food spots.

He eases up for the underpass beneath I-94 — Detroit one way, Ypsilanti the other — in case that rookie Michigan highway patrolman with his parka too big is waiting again just the other side, with his heater going and a coffee of his own, and maybe a crossword puzzle, or worse, his radar gun up and ready.

Laraby's late now, two, three minutes, no big deal, but it's the principle, especially when your father was chief attending and founding partner; you don't want staff saying you're taking advantage of the fact week one of ER residency, which they will in a heartbeat, from the aides to the honchos and old hands who worked with Laraby senior.

In the hospital lot, Laraby glides into his new spot, farthest from the entrance but still first row, there beside the big sedans of the surgical chiefs and administrators. He climbs out with his coffee, shutting the door behind him, liking the pricey solid sound of perfectly designed latches meeting and catching, all machined to within millimeter tolerances.

Inside, he clips along and has almost gained the stairwell when Chief of Emergency Surgery Travis Carlson rounds the corridor corner, spots him, and slows. Preternaturally tanned and tall, Carlson looks twenty years younger than he is, nowhere near old enough to have been Laraby's dad's colleague and founding partner in the Hunt Landing Medical LLC. Carlson stands with the big-boned, laconic bearing of a Midwestern duffer nicely settled into his own, for this is his turf beyond any need to prove it to anyone, ever, from whence his easy confidence and boundless good humor.

"Bruce, I'm hearing good things." Carlson's smile as he pauses is bland and obligatory, his mind probably already on the weekend.

"Well, I had a Scout knife-cut that needed suturing, and a broken leg to ship up to orthopedics. No rocket science."

"Good hand, so far." Rolex glinting, Carlson half-lifts a hand in an absent wave as he strolls off.

Approaching the ER nurses' station, Laraby has planned a quick busy smile and an offhand greeting, friendly enough but not particularly inviting, since "give 'em an inch, they'll take a mile" has been his observation of conversation with these girls. They are a stiff-coifed, whippet-thin Ypsilanti housewife with a prematurely aged face, and a borderline obese black commuter from West Detroit with a big booming laugh and a ready smirk. In a word, trouble. Their chatter is littered with the pop culture vernacular of the times, "girlfriend" and "bad hair day" and "talk to the hand," punctuated with the whoops and high-fives endlessly recycled on so many "reality" television shows, with their adolescent dramas of rejection and loyalty and betrayal.

Today they're standing in the waiting area, among a hushed crowd bunched before the big black wall-mounted television, and curiosity stops Laraby and draws him closer as the crowd shifts and murmurs, and a few hands flutter to a few mouths to stifle gasps.

Laraby feels that prickly burst of tension at the thought that some giant catastrophe has again befallen us all, with its immediate toll of human flesh and blood, and the days and weeks and months that presumably follow, of layers of shock and grief and their potentially irrevocable aftereffects. He presses in, trying to see around the big hair of one of the temp girls from HR.

From outside, even now Laraby can hear the thwok thwok of a helicopter and the crazed sirens dopplering off down distant county roads, and he guesses his beeper will be paging him within the minute.

On the TV's little screen Laraby can make out squad cars pulled up at haphazard angles, doors left open. SWAT cops in Kevlar inch along an exterior wall of a stucco-and-glass fast-food restaurant, and his eyes narrow in astonishment to read "Carby's," right there in those balloon-style letters above the entrance of the place, same as those across the white plastic of the take-out coffee cup still warm in his hand.

For a second Laraby lets himself wonder if it's even the same restaurant, and how anyone could tell them apart anyway, since these franchise joints are built to uniform corporate specs, and half the time not more than a few miles apart. But of course it's the same place, and whatever misfortune unfolds within could just as likely have befallen him, if he had arrived there a few moments later, or if he had chosen to go back to check on his change.

On TV now the cops stop, their backs flat against the salmon-colored water-stained stucco, seemingly unwilling to move past a window where they can be seen by whoever is inside.

The frame pans sideways to focus on a woman in the near foreground, with a complicated-looking hairdo, hamming it up into a microphone with an urgent hushed breathiness: "Police arrived just over ten minutes ago, Stu, but they're still unsure at this point whether they have a random shooting or a robbery or a hostage situation in the making. All that's clear at this point is that shots have been fired, one man has escaped out the back and is now talking to police, who continue to study their options as this drama continues to unfold —" Suddenly, from inside the restaurant, three gunshots sound in rapid succession, trebly and tinny, but still loud enough to crackle the TV's little speaker. Blamtn, blamm, blaml The reporter flinches, crouching. The frame lurches sideways and drops, displaying a dim jerky square of sidewalk.

Bits of disconnected whispered speech leak from the edges of the screen: "... camera ..." "... no, don't know ..." "... wait ..."

The frame readjusts to provide a tilted distant view of Carby's front double doors, with just the top of the back of the reporter's hair in the foreground as she faces toward the scene, crouched or kneeling beside what's probably their remote van.

Across the lot, the cops continue inching along the water-stained exterior wall toward the door, and now a klaxon fire alarm blares, a maddening metallic grinding sound. And blammml another gunshot. A pause. And then yet another. And then silence, during which nothing and no one moves.

One cop counts down from three to one on his fingers, takes a step, and flings open the glass front door and then flattens himself back against the wall again, his short little riot shotgun held vertically, barrel practically against his ear. He waits a beat, and then he and a second cop launch themselves through the open doorway.

The third cop hesitates, pale, his back still pressed to the stucco. But when this one tries to step through, he simply stops, sinking to his knees as if in prayer, as pfft, the feed goes dead and the screen goes black, and then flickery with flashes of white noise.

A woman next to Laraby murmurs "Oh, my God" just as he feels the vibration of his pager in his pants pocket, and starts to run down the short bright hallway for the scrub room.

First GSWs are bound to give pause, Laraby knows this as he paces the OR anteroom moments later, scrubbed and gloved, but still he goes blank with his heart skittering and sinking as they wheel in three gurneys, rushing and shouting. Laraby stares at the shreds of red sport jacket on the upper thorax case that's bleeding out too fast, and at the chalk white inert face of the head wound and wads of bloody compresses the EMTs apply for pressure, but it's the glimpse of tan windbreaker under the plastic sheet of the DOA that sucks the air out of his lungs when third-year surgical resident Howland, following fast behind, says: "Shooter, lost him on the way. Let's move."


In the OR, it's as if time stretches and gaps as Laraby's focus narrows to a centimeter of shredded bone and stringy leaking vessels, and then another centimeter after another of the same, too many and far worse than he's ever seen as an ER intern, and then in a sudden panicky burst his focus expands to the room itself and the squeak of foam-soled shoes on linoleum and the intermittent tones of the monitors. Suddenly, he wants to sob out loud; his hands keep getting lost so quickly in the bloom of blood rising from the opened chest of the second critical from Carby's restaurant. Bullets have smashed through ribs, and the resultant splinters have perforated key arteries, and Laraby has been suturing against all hope, since by now the patient's blood gas levels, most important the level of oxygen in his blood, have for more than twenty minutes been lower than life-supporting.

Undeterred, Laraby continues to try to save the slick, inert red lump of muscle in his hands. The steady tone of the flat-lined EKG harmonizes with the tone of the flat-lined EEG: a chord, a chorus, a consensus.

More blood blinds Laraby, flooding the surgical field. His first patient, the guy in jeans whitened with drywall dust, was pretty much gone, with a shot-out brain stem, and now this one hemorrhages internally so fast Laraby can barely make out the thick tree of vessels that branches from the man's dead heart. He finishes resecting and clamping a shot coronary artery, and blinks against the glare stinging his eyes, and even though the RN mops and irrigates and turns momentarily to check the flat-lined monitors, it all seems far away, because the scalpel in Laraby's hand has somehow gently edged the limp aorta, and a thin needlelike stream of blood sprays momentarily, and then subsides.

"Uhhh ... looks like a bone frag got the aorta," Laraby says, to anybody. "I gotta clamp. Maybe ... just ..." His voice fades, with all hope against hope.

Dan Howland turns back from the irrigation machine he has been adjusting and shakes his head at all the bleeding. "Whichever, what-ever. Not enough clamps in the world, Bru."

Laraby keeps on, clamping and suturing pieces that become more pieces as he joins them to other pieces of useless tissue, split apart and gaping from the bone splinters broken off by the bullets that pierced the upper thorax.

He sutures and sutures and the RN is watching and mopping and looking at him kind of questioningly for Laraby doesn't know how long, but hey, it's her problem. He's fine with trying as hard as he can for this guy who ended up here, out of nowhere, for no reason.

But finally he's holding a red soggy mess of dead human muscle in his hand and it's time for the TOD and the sheet over the head and his sweaty rubber gloves to come off. He rips away the mask stinking of his own dry mouth, gasping at air, and a small flash catches his eye, a wink of light from the gold cuff-button of the razored red sport jacket dangling down the side of the gurney.

Howland clucks sympathetically at the chart as Laraby heads out. He follows him into the scrub room, shaking his big handsome horse face ruefully. "Hell of a week to start ER, pal. But you definitely went the extra mile. Defib, breather, attempted suturing. Carlson wouldn't have."

Laraby slams the tap on, blasting water into the sink. All the chatter about chart review for the HMO, mandated to pare down unnecessary procedures, all the little caveats buried in the welcome aboard glad-handing, all of it comes back to him now. Well, fuck them.

He looks Howland right in the face. "Hey, Dan, you got something to say, try English."

He shrugs, Mr. Casual, Cool Breeze. "Nada. But he might, so I'd keep the chart short 'n' sweet. Either way, you gave it definitely the best —"

"Yeah. Better, best, bested." Laraby slams off the tap and grabs a paper towel.

Howland shrugs. "Families out there." He looks over his clipboard. "Realtor, Aaron Hagen, wife and daughter. Other guy, first in? Local contractor, single dad, two daughters."

Laraby has to make sure. "Tan windbreaker? Who was that one?" Howland, "The DOA? Shooter, forget it. So, who do you want?" Laraby doesn't think it over. He simply knows, without understanding it, that somehow these dead are his failures, that everyone knows it, and that their families are owed his apology and atonement, if there is any at all to be had. "I got it. I just need to change and take a minute."

Howland imitates concern. "You sure? Because —"

"Got it."

Howland lifts an eyebrow, fine with him, as Laraby walks.


In his tiny office, Bruce Laraby sits behind his desk, idly humming, staring off. Before him lays an unruly pile of condolence cards, and behind him there are arrangements of white lilies, their smell gone cloying over the blurry week since his dad's funeral.

So what is the point? he wonders. The temporary little healings, the brief reprieves — in the end how ineffectual against the looming separation and absence, how vain and ridiculous, basically. Because when the tissue won't hold a clamp or suture, all the hard-won skill in the world shines like counterfeit coin, all the love and admiration and esteem of his wife and colleagues are stolen gifts.

If Laraby had thought ER a chance to prove otherwise, today laid any such hopes to rest. Doubts linger, nag, and finally loom: is it all a losing battle, or is he losing the battle?

The nurses rankle him the most, really — catty, opinionated amateurs who never say a word but second-guess you with a glance that lingers too long, or a purposeful look away. Bitches, let's face it. The talk all happens behind your back, easy to spot in the way conversation turns stiff when Laraby steps up to the RN station for a coffee, and then stalls altogether as he steps away again, until he's presumed out of earshot. These halls are like high school, filled with the whispered subterfuge of betrayals and the sting of ridicule, all the vicious innuendo of adolescent politics.

Suddenly a fury wells up in Laraby and overwhelms him, until his own pulse is a roar in his ears and his arm is sweeping across the meaningless idiotic litter on his desk, sending papers and cards fluttering and paperweight plunging. And then he sits there, blinking in the stillness, looking down at the floor and the broken framed photo of him and his dad in their med coats, arms around each other, smiling up at nothing.


The Children

Sixteen-year-old, mousy Anne Hagen sits in a molded plastic chair in the waiting area beside her year-younger friend Jimmy while a bunch of paramedics and cops mill around, sipping coffees and murmuring and basically trying not to stare at them. Since they were led from Carby's restaurant, they have been given blankets and little waxy Dixie cups of water, and have been asked again and again if they want more, but now Anne has a moment to look around and check off the seconds as the second hand on the big wall clock does, and then she sees the soundless picture of a minister and the church or whatever on TV for a moment before looking over at the potted plants and wondering if they're real. And then the colors, Anne has read that the paint colors in hospitals and military facilities and jails are chosen on purpose to make people feel calm or hopeful or whatever.

And dopey Jimmy has said not a single word, fine. But when they take him into a room he looks so small, his eyes wanting to keep looking into hers as they lead him in. For reassurance? As if they meant any harm. As if they could do any that hadn't been done already.

She just stares flatly back at him, giving him nothing to say. To anyone.

She turns and stares at the TV again, which now shows the minister walking across a stage in his blue suit and kind of silly hair with his hands in the air, beneath a giant stained-glass window. People in the TV audience have their eyes closed, but their mouths move like what Jimmy said to do, reciting something that, because the sound is off, no one can hear. Except maybe God, after all.

Now Anne's mother, Doris, is rushing down the hall toward her, a blur of tears and smudged makeup, from her busy morning shopping or "straightening up" or vacation planning or checkbook balancing, Anne is never really sure. The cops and paramedics and ER people step back, respectful, as Anne stands from her plastic chair and opens her arms. Anne and her mom embrace, and Doris lets out a long shuddering kind of sigh as they sway there, "Thank God. Thank God."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Winged Creatures by Roy Freirich. Copyright © 2007 Roy Freirich. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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.

Reading Group Guide

A suicidal gunman goes on a rampage in a fast-food restaurant. Haunted by flashbacks, the survivors struggle to live with the choices they made that day, and to regain trust in the ordinary world.

Among them:

A waitress who hid in the kitchen. Slighted by the media, she's driven into loneliness and desperation by her dreams. But when her infant child becomes sick, she likes the attention she gets from the doctor, and thinks she may have found a way to get more...

A devoted father and husband who escaped with just a graze-wound, but becomes obsessed with pressing his luck at the dice tables of an Indian casino.

A doctor who failed to save the critically injured, and then repeatedly poisons his wife and gives her the antidote so he can still feel like a healer.

A teenage girl who hid beneath a table, holding her father's hand while he was shot. She develops a religious hysteria and becomes revered by the town — but blackmails her best friend and co-witness into muteness, all to conceal the truth of what really happened.

Winged Creatures explodes the myth of "closure" with an after-the-cameras-go-home look at the real and lasting trauma of gun violence— ordinary people driven by secret torments and dangerous compulsions, in flight from their own memories and dreams

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Winged Creatures 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In Hunt Landing, Michigan, Dr. Laraby stops for a coffee to go at Carby¿s on his way to work as an ER resident at Hunt Landing Medical LLC where his late father was a founder. Not longer after he leaves, a shooting incident occurs at Carby¿s.--------------- Laraby tries to save the lives of a victim and the shooter, but both die. Teenagers Anne Hagen and Jimmy Jaspersen are in the hospital when her mom Doris arrives. Also there are Lori and Sue Carline. The three teenage girls share in common that their dads were with them at Carby¿s and are now dead as a result of the mass shootings. Jimmy was also there with Annie and her father.-------------- Psychologist Dr. Abler offers help to the survivors and their loved ones. Abler explains to Anne about grief, but she insists she is a witness to God¿s plan and she held her brave dad¿s hand while she was under a table and he courageously remained exposed to the killer. The psychologist turns to Jimmy, who is unable to speak. Another survivor forty-eight year old Charlie Archenault, a father and husband, was shot, but is okay. He feels lucky to be alive so he just leaves, takes out money and drives to a casino. Twenty-two year old cashier Carla Davenport is shook up, but also just leaves to pick up her baby Davy from the sitter.--------------- This novelization of an upcoming movie contains a strong premise of following what happens to the survivors and their loved ones of a shooting at a public place that left people dead. The ensemble cast contains unique characters with each person coping differently. However, the rotating perspective at times becomes difficult to follow with what is happening to everyone. Still WINGED CREATURES is an intriguing character study that looks deep into the aftermath of a personal tragedy.------------ Harriet Klausner
LOUdellarosa More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this novel. I was kept hanging to find out why the girl acted as she did. Loved it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think that this book, is a book that I will really like. I have tried to find the actual book and I have seen the movie trailer and I am so glad that I have found it for the NOOK! I want to see that movie as well, but after I read the book. I have seen the trailer, which I said earlier, and I am also excited because it has JOSH HUTCHERSON and DAKOTA FANNING in it. They are wonderful actors and I cna't wait to read it. Thanks for your time. :)
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a truly involving look at post traumatic stress disorder and the various ways it can effect people who even just witness a brutal act of violence.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book truely touched me in a way no other book has before. I loved every page from start to finish it was truely a masterpiece for this day and age.