Friday, December 4, 2009


I set my brother up with a lightweight fly-fishing outfit for his birthday about a year ago. He loves to fish. We said we'd celebrate on a river when he was finished with the rehabilitation program at a methadone clinic. And we did. With our father, we celebrated his freedom from heroin, and methadone, the day before our Thanksgiving feast this year. The river was the Lower Salt, a tailwater trout fishery in the Sonoran Desert just thirty minutes from my brother's home. There are saguaro cactus on the rugged ridgelines and palo verde trees along the river's banks.

Trent is fourteen years younger than me. We've always been close in a big-brother/little-brother kind of way but over the past several years he's become a best friend and my screenwriting partner. Our writing partnership got started when he was in a detox clinic, kicking heroin. He sounded miserable when we talked on the phone. I said, "This has the all makings of a classic movie formula: the protagonist is having the worst day of his life when an even bigger challenge confronts him." I asked, "What's the worst thing that could happen to you right now?" "Zombies," Trent said. And Junk Sick was born.

Over the next two years we learned how to write a script and wrote one. We learned how to make a Hollywood pitch and we've pitched Junk Sick more than a dozen times so far, getting, like flyfishers do, everything from looks to plucks and, occasionally, that exhilarating strike. Our script has been under consideration by an indie studio for over a year now but they've yet to give it the green light. We've come close with two other studios during this time but we still haven't landed a Deal. Last month, Junk Sick was one of 10 Finalists for the Dark Hart Screenplay Award at the 2009 Spooky Movie Film Festival.

Being flyfishers, it's in our nature to wake early and try again. And it doesn't hurt that Trent's a musician and I'm a poet: rejection is part of our daily lives.

The people I've met in the drug rehab world during this journey with Trent are always quick to remind me that "Trent is a miracle." He is among that 1% that not only survive addiction but live to thrive again. Our friend Colin, a drug rehab specialist and a screenwriter, too, stressed how important it is for an addict to find something that matters more to him than his particular drug. When you understand the nature of a drug like heroin, and the physical changes it actually makes to how a person's brain functions, you appreciate what a tall order that is.

Fortunately, Trent found that sense of purpose in screenwriting. A life-long horror film fan, he always dreamed of writing a movie himself. Right now, he is writing a new script and an article under the working-title, "Writing Myself Clean: How Horror Saved My Life."

My Thanksgiving trip, and our heroin-and-methadone-free fly-fishing celebration, became all the more poignant for me this morning. I received an e-mail from a woman I loved many years ago. She wrote to tell me that her little sister recently died an alcohol-related death. She was Trent's age. Memories of our much-younger siblings tagging along with us on dates came rushing back. So many smiles. So much laughter. My heart is broken.