John Domini Online

Below, a short story that appeared in The Literary Review, 2006. It's part of John's latest story sequence, MOVIEOLA!, on Dzanc Books.

Assassins, Storyboards To Date

What we have so far is, we begin with the down-to-earth, the romance angle, a girl who's about to give up on finding a decent guy, she figures it'll never get anywhere, the games never end. Begin where anyone can make the connection, that's the whole first board, just another girl sick of the same-old, all the more of a drag because she knows what she's got to offer, she's old enough to know but she's still good-looking, sure, hot when she wants to be, and she's had a life, boyfriends, maybe girlfriends, maybe put a little edge on her, plus she's got degrees on the wall and they say she's some kind of doer of science, and she's got a lab, that's important. We could go as old as thirty-five. The point is, when she gets it going with this guy, our guy, that's got to line up nice and natural with the romance, it's got to feel like this is it, the boyfriend she's been waiting for, and all we need to suggest the trouble, I mean our principal twist, the fact that he's a highly-trained secret government assassin — the only hint we need for that here at the start is the right shadows during the meet.

We're thinking a bookstore meet, a place like that we kill two birds with one stone, we establish brains and a basis, I mean the basis between our guys, we were thinking maybe poetry, the stiff that dreams are made on. Oh, it's stuff? The stuff that dreams are made in, whatever, Google, the point is that's what drives the meet, and our girl's so taken by this sweet guy, he's got the poetry and he's got the abs, we'll put him in a snug white T, and she's so bowled over she doesn't notice the shadows. For this we see some way-high oldtime bookstore shelves so his face is all in shadow, our girl never sees him clearly, she never has a clue about how this great new guy spent a couple of years up at the Compound, Fatal Blows 101 through the Seminar in Body Disposal, and after that he did at least a couple more rotations out in the alleyway, the parking garage, the uppermost window of a little-used warehouse. Carrying a high-powered rifle with a laser scope. Carrying a short black Baretta with a long silver silencer, whatever, flashbacks, carrying a page of boxscores on which the ink conducts an electric charge that induces heart seizure. Carrying a condom lubricated with a penetrating toxic gel — but not for our girl, no, she's not a target, it's the real deal between these two and we can never lose sight of that, it's our bottom-line arc —- for the two of them every orgasm's as distinct and gorgeous as a snowflake. That's why we can't have her see him kill somebody, either, or not first thing, not for her first irrefutable clue of what her new perfect sweetie does for a living. First would be something like this next board here, she discovers this strange condom and she goes all horrified thinking maybe he's cheating, but then she's not the usual helpless woman wronged, I mean who might be wronged, remember the degrees, remember the lab, a roomful of white oblong apparatus each with its own blinking red light, and so she can stay late one night and establish scientifically whether this man who she believed was a true and immutable boyfriend was instead just more of the same-old. She's got latex gloves and the latest technology in chemical analysis, plus the kind of heart you need to ride herd on all those knobs and buttons, but next thing you know it turns out this girl's going to need the heart of a lion, because she's sitting over a lethal condom, right there between the clips of her trace-analyzer, and she's learned the truth, science doesn't lie, her guy might be highly trained but he's no longer so secret. And with that she signals some kind of take-charge, snapping off the gloves or whipping out the ponytail, thirty-fucking-five and she's ready to start all over. We can use the light here, again, we see the lab with an entire wall of windows, the sweatshop style with the iron frames, and at this moment practically white with sun in this glowing visual metaphor as what she must do burns through the boxes of her life to date and turns her into a total babe for a moment, showing cleavage under the smock while her eyelids flutter and lips go ajar, a woman in the middle of another snowflake, while she realizes this is the one and only real deal in her life and there's just one way to keep it, and that's to stand by her man, shoulder to shoulder assassins together.

So then we're into the Compound, you see she's traded one smock for another, the karate uniforms the recruits wear, and she's good in this outfit too, easy on the eyes and nasty on her feet. Her trainers have reached the point of pulling the criminally insane in off the streets for her, and our girl handles every one of them, she faces off with some Aryan Brotherhood musclehead and she flips him over one shoulder and then freezes him with a slippered foot on his tattooed throat, and then, whatever, split-screen, she kicks the legs out from under some Shaq-sized OG and does a knee drop into his groin, he's a jelly donut after that. Finally some dry-ice in a suit and tie eases into the room, some Alpha exec who watches our girl...

Contact John Domini

John is always glad to hear from readers and thinkers: john@johndomini.com

He has won awards in all genres, with fiction in Paris Review and non-fiction in The New York Times. The Times praised his work as "dreamlike... grabs hold of both reader and character," and Alan Cheuse, of NPR's "All Things Considered," described it as "witty and biting."

John's grants include an NEA Fellowship and an Iowa Major Artist Award. He has taught at Harvard, Northwestern, and elsewhere, and makes his home in Des Moines.

Photo credit: Camille Renee.