First of all, thanks to the criminally gifted Kelli Stanley for extending the invitation to join this talented bunch of writers as a blogger. This week’s assignment is to describe my protagonist’s family Thanksgiving, complete with dysfunction. Because I’m a lawyer who writes about lawyers, I consider dysfunction my stock in trade.
The protagonist of my debut legal thriller The Insider is Will Connelly, a young corporate attorney who has recently made partner in a big San Francisco law firm. Throughout much of the book, Will is terrorized by a pair of wannabe Russian mobsters, Yuri and Nikolai, who are seeking inside information about a pending technology company merger. At one point, they deliver a thinly veiled threat to Will’s mother Anne, who lives in an assisted living facility called Lullwater Commons. Anne is Will’s only living relative, so let’s imagine that he visits his mother for Thanksgiving dinner … only to discover that Yuri and Nikolai are joining them for Thanksgiving.
Yuri and Nikolai are sitting on either side of Anne at a table in the facility’s cafeteria when Will arrives.
ANNE: Will, honey, it was so nice of you to invite your friends to Thanksgiving dinner.
WILL: Yeah, well, friends might be putting it a bit strongly.
YURI (motioning): Sit, sit, Will. Your mother was just telling us about your childhood. She says you cried like a little girl when she put you on the school bus for the first time.
NIKOLAI: Sweet woman, your mother.
YURI: Okay, now that Will's finally here, let’s eat.
ANNE: Isn’t anyone going to say grace first?
YURI: Please, I would be honored. Vorovoskoi mir. It’s an old Russian prayer.
ANNE: It’s very … concise.
Will knew that what Yuri had delivered was a toast favored by the Russian mafiya. It meant “To the thieves’ world.”
They began to pass around the dishes. Yuri took a dish of corn on the cob and removed one of the metal prongs used to hold the corn. He pointed his finger at Will and then made the motion of plunging the prong into his neck, similar to the gesture employed by Viggo Mortenson’s character in Eastern Promises. Then he made a spraying motion with his fingers to indicate spurting blood. Anne, who was sitting next to Yuri, was oblivious, fiddling with her napkin.
ANNE: I think the food here is very good here, don’t you?
Next, a platter with drumsticks made the rounds. Yuri picked up a drumstick. Once again, he pointed a finger at Will, then pantomimed shoving the bone of the drumstick into his eye socket. Yuri extended his hands in front of him, pretending to grope around blindly, then once more gestured to indicate spurting blood and eye matter.
ANNE (in response to Yuri’s gesturing): Can I get you something?
YURI: Yes, salt please. Thank you, Anne.
A bowl filled with a gelatinous tower of canned cranberry sauce was shared. Yuri looked at the bowl for a long moment, but seemed stymied when it came to imagining the cranberry sauce as an instrument of death. Finally, he made do, directing a glare and a menacing finger at Will.
ANNE: So much to be thankful for.
YURI: That is so true, Anne. We should all just be thankful to be alive. And to have our health. (Yuri holds a hand in front of his face and opens and closes a fist.) We sometimes forget how lucky we are just to have the simple things in life ... like a hand with all five fingers on it .. or a working kneecap. I think sometimes your son Will forgets just how lucky he is.
ANNE: I’ve never really thought about it quite that way, but you’re right.
YURI: Are you thankful, Will?
NIKOLAI: He doesn't seem very thankful to me.
WILL (pushing back from the table): This has been really great, but I think I’ve had enough.