Increasing Risk

Please come to one of this week’s workshops and readings: Wednesday, Nov. 13thThird Place Bookstore – 7:00 pm  – 17171 Bothell Way NE  Lake Forest Park, WA 98155 /206- 366-3333; or if you can’t make that one try: Friday Nov. 15thUniversity Bookstore – 7:00 pm  – 4326 University Way NE, Seattle, WA  /  206- 634-3400.

Cover art photo better_gohome_300

One piece of craft I stress often with my students (and will talk about in this week’s workshops) is the need for a story to relentlessly increase risk for the main character. In Better You Go Home, Chapter Fifteen, my protagonist, Chico Lenoch, learns that his cousin, from whom Chico was maybe hoping to score a kidney, has incurable MS:

“There is no surgery that can fix.” He shakes his head. “My doctor push

drugs. I say no. What do you think? You think is wrong that I say no?”

Hope stripped away (and the risk for Chico to continue on his quest, given his own pending renal failure, greatly increased), Chico opts to come clean and further risk that Josef, who after all grew up steeped in the paranoia that was as ubiquitous as the air was brown behind the Iron Curtain, will misjudge his motives and refuse help with the quest to find the missing sister:

Sensing the probably not so well hidden edge of despair in my tone, he looks at me quizzically. “I’m looking at renal failure. My doctor gives me a few months, tops. If my internist had his way I

wouldn’t be here now. I’d be home on my couch preparing for dialysis. There’s a long wait for transplant organs. Even Milada wants me to go home. Halbrstat said some unkind things to her today. She’s going to do everything she can to help the mayor set up his human rights case. She wants me out of the way.”

“Is better. You really don’t want to see inside Hotel Jungmann.”

I study the logo from the brewery on my beer glass. A cloven-hooved

creature standing on hind legs holds out a stein with a smug little smile. I

avoid looking at Josef. “Know why I never had kids? I used to tell my wife,

my ex-wife, all kinds of bullshit. But, the real reason? I didn’t want to pass this

fucking disease on to my kids. I don’t know.” But now I do look at him and he

rubs his eyes and I detect a slight tremor in that gnarled hand and remember

his tottering when he walked. God knows, he’s got enough worry of his own.

“Who knows?” I attempt a wan smile. “My father refused to talk to his father

once they were in Iowa. Imagine you’re his father. For most of your adult life

your son refuses to have anything to do with you?”

Now it’s out in the open. Without a kidney, Chico will di

An interviewer recently asked me how real this was.  The health crisis of my character seemed pretty authentic to her. Because I use a first person narrator, it is easy to assume that the health crisis and risk are mine. Not the case. But it is true for my sister. Without a kidney transplant, only dialysis is keeping her alive. She needs a donor. Please contact the University of Washington Medical Center Living donor program at 206-598-3627 for more information or contact Sandra Driscoll at:


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