Fiction by Joe Donnelly ’86 and Harry Shannon
The client is a balding, sunburned man with soft, forgettable features. Running late, he enters the office at 7:02 p.m. and nearly knocks a small Buddha statue from its wooden base. He closes the waiting room door behind him and pauses, unsure of the protocol. From behind his desk, Dr. Bell watches intently. Experience has taught him that a new client will give you 90 percent of what you need just walking through the door. Dr. Bell sees that Mr. Potter is mildly agitated — perspiration rings the armpits of his Hawaiian-print shirt and his breathing is rapid. Not unusual for a first-timer, Dr. Bell thinks. The psychotherapist smiles wryly and motions for Potter to sit on the green couch. Mr. Potter collapses into the cushions and sets his leather shoulder bag in front of him. His khaki slacks are a size behind the times.
“How long does this last?” Mr. Potter asks. “An hour?”
“Fifty minutes,” Dr. Bell says pleasantly.
The new client stares at Dr. Bell for a moment, takes a deep breath, and pulls a small-caliber pistol from under his shirt.
“Fine,” Mr. Potter says, waving the gun at Dr. Bell. “Then you have fifty minutes to live.”
This excerpt is from a story that Joe Donnelly ’86 co-wrote “on a whim” with friend Harry Shannon, writer and recipient of the Tombstone Award and the Black Quill. The piece was written a year and a half before Donnelly decided it was fitting for Slake, a quarterly journal that he co-founded with Laurie Ochoa. It will also be included in The Best American Mystery Stories 2012. Read the full “Fifty Minutes” in Slake #2 “Crossing Over” or online at: http://slake.la/features/fifty-minutes. For more on Donnelly and Slake, read “Slaking readers’ thirst” at left.