Scriptwriter Michael Downend




The water swirled and eddied twisting the body like a colorless pinwheel rotating downriver toward the bay. Egidius Dirk, a man in his sixties sitting by a fire on shore, looked up as a foot rose then fell at the whim of the current. Unsure of what he saw, he scratched his nose and returned to the can of beans and stale bread he’d warmed over the flames. Soon his belly was full and in the grasp of that comfort he dismissed the sighting in the river. He lit a cigarette scavenged that day from the gutter and glanced once more toward the water wondering if, in fact, he had seen anything at all.

Downstream, at a bend in the river, the corpse caught, broke free, then held once more in a bracket of low-hanging branches near the water’s edge—the neck wedged in a thick willow fork, the torso rising and falling with the flow straining away from the head. A foot repeated a macabre water ballet as though kicking to be free. The body would remain here in the lock of the willow for days—decomposing and undiscovered by anyone but Egidius Dirk who for the moment, had forgotten its somber presence.

He held his cigarette and wiped the snot from his nose with the sleeve of his outermost sweater. He defined this movement as he did all of his conscious actions picturing himself momentarily in a landscape portrait of hope which quickly gave way to the reality of despair. Was anyone watching this crude act? No, not here, not at this hour. There was no polite company to consider here along the muddy bank of the river where he lay alone, unobserved, free of the strictures of that horrible, false life out there. Out there. Out there where he no longer claimed need for definition. He laughed—an odd sounding cackle, an ungainly sound to Egidius Dirk but one for which he would not apologize. Then he cackled once more at the wisdom of this acute observation and moved his bottom across his corrugated bed searching until he found through his thin pants a dry resting place for his bony bottom. He felt loved in that moment—cared for and worthy. Yes, even capable of salvation. He would be saved from a great sadness, yes, and he would cast off the regret of having come to this point. He took a long, last drag on his cigarette then wrapped the butt in a leaf and placed it carefully in his pocket. He would approach the darkening day wary, watching the penumbra rays of the sun—hopeful in that fading light this night would be different. Hopeful this night would bring change—some saving grace by which he would find redemption. He would rise in the morning renewed, a new man, with opportunity spread out before him across the land in every direction. Redemption and renewal lay any way he chose. Tomorrow would be better. Of this he was certain. Then, he curled his body in a comma around a dry island of sand amid the wet of his own riverbank bed and soon fell into a fitful sleep. He would not see, would not hear the sound of a car driving onto the metal plate of the bridge above his head. He would not see, he would not hear the grunting of the men who emerged from the vehicle stopped on the crossing above him. He would not be aware of the body bobbing in the river nearby until he awoke the next morning and wandered downstream in search of hope for his new day.


Blindly down back alleys, across yards, down and down again—falling—his face in the snow, crystals clinging to his eyes, on his feet once again his breath gone, he holds to a fence picket, hands frozen, ice crusting on his sleeves. A face in a window on him, turning away he lurches off down again and away toward home. In the window, the woman cranes to follow his form. A boy. So young. What could be the matter? He looked familiar. She shrugs and turns to kitchen things. Later, she will find his cassock hanging from the fence and know him. Billy. Young Billy, the altar boy from St. Thomas Aquinas, her church.

Billy Farrell should have been a priest. Mind you, he had no such intentions. But in the neighborhood, the ever-watchful mothers, his own among them, would nod in agreement whenever the subject was suggested.

"He has the calling," they said. "That boy has a vocation."

"Mmm. Uh, huh." There was universal acclamation. But Billy Farrell knew nothing of this unanimous imprimatur.

When the cops picked him up for breaking into the Bedford Street grocery store and stealing two cartons of Camels and a bag of Hershey Kisses, the motherly approval of Billy's road to the priesthood was summarily reversed. In fact, those who had flowered Billy's path to sainthood shortly had him on the road to perdition.

"No good. Never was," they murmured. His own mother abstained this time.

It turned out Billy didn't do the smokes and kisses—as the heist became known in the neighborhood before it was forgotten two or three days later. One of the other kids had heard the priest talking about the loaves and the fishes and folded that reality into his version of Billy's alleged heist. Hey, didja hear? Billy Farrell? Did the smokes and kisses down the store ?

In truth, Billy was as honest as the day is long which, of course, is what the good and wise ladies had been saying from the start when he was first seen walking down Barnum Lane to St. Thomas Aquinas to serve morning Mass. And now the good mothers in Frog Hollow reinstated and reaffirmed his worthiness—his record in their maternal files was expunged and soon laid to someone else—an oiler, as the local drunks were called, from the North End, from that notorious part of town with which this righteous youth had no connection. Billy was restored to his rightful place in the pantheon of good kids who never went wrong.

"Mmm. Uh, huh," the ladies of the Altar and Rosary Society acclaimed. Once again what a good boy was he.

What the sainthood committee did not know nor did Billy, was that his future lay cast somewhere between heaven and hell. He wanted to be a cop. He was going to be a cop. So, he grew up still doing all the right things, earnestly avoiding most occasions of mortal sin, took the test for the force, and got on the job all the while holding his terrible secret close and buried deep in his soul.

A widower returns to the scene of his youth and finds a woman he once loved. Based on my play, HIGH THIN CIRRUS which ran in New York in 2012.
Ambrose Bierce disappears in Mexico without a trace.
WORLDY GOODS, the first in a series of crime novels featuring Chief Inspector Henry Gargan, a morose Irish-American policeman.
A parody on organized religion.
Old lovers meet in the imagination of one of them as she wanders one day down to the sea and he comes to take her away.
Gringos unhappy with their lives reinvent themselves in Mexico. They are said to give themselves border promotions e.g., a data entry clerk from North Dakota becomes the senior vice-president of a Wall Street bank once she crosses the border. It is joked in Vallarta that many of these characters are either wanted, wanton or wanting.
A send-up of celebrity worship.
An entire family disappears while returning home from a Christmas Eve dinner with friends. Their whereabouts remain a mystery until a chance discovery years later.
The Tracey sisters leave Ireland for a new life in America with mixed results.
The true story of Min Lurye Matheson, the daughter of Russian immigrants, who battled crooked factory owners and the Mafia which murdered her activist brother to establish the women's garment workers union . First produced as a stage play then broadcast as a radio play on N P R.

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