Brian DeLeeuw The Dismantling: A Novel

ISBN 13: 9780142181744

The Dismantling: A Novel

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9780142181744: The Dismantling: A Novel

How much of yourself are you willing to sell?

At twenty-five, Simon Worth is a med school dropout, facing the grim reality of failure and massive student loans. Left with few options, he becomes an organ broker for a black-market organization, matching cash-strapped donors with recipients whose time on the transplant list is running out.
Tasked with finding a donor for Lenny Pellegrini, a severely depressed ex-NFL player who’s been drinking himself to death, Simon’s luck appears to change when he’s contacted by Maria Campos, a young woman desperate for cash whose liver happens to be the perfect match.

The transplant goes according to plan . . . until soon afterward, when Maria disappears and Lenny makes a cruel and destructive decision. As Simon’s world becomes increasingly dangerous, he learns of an unspeakable secret from Maria’s past and must decide, against his better moral judgment, that the only way he’ll survive is to trust her.

Chilling and fast-paced, The Dismantling questions the meaning of atonement and asks how you can reconcile the person you once were—and the person you want to be—with the person you are today.

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About the Author:

Brian DeLeeuw is a novelist and screenwriter living in Los Angeles. He is the author of the novels The Dismantling and In This Way I Was Saved, which was long-listed for the Dylan Thomas Prize, as well as the independent horror film Some Kind of Hate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and received his MFA in Fiction from The New School.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Thank you to Richard Abate and Melissa Kahn for sticking with this project far longer than might have seemed reasonable. Thank you, also and profoundly, to Liz Stein for your willingness to take a gamble and your tenacity in seeing that gamble all the way through.

Thanks to Katie Arnold-Ratliff and Christopher Beha, both of whom read many more iterations of this novel than anybody should rightly be subjected to. Your suggestions and guidance were indispensable, as always, and you are as good friends as you are readers. I’m also grateful to my friend Dr. Lauren McCollum for generously sharing the story of her own liver donation.

And thank you, finally, to the Corporation of Yaddo for providing the welcome time and space to complete a crucial portion of this book.

SIMON looked again at the girl’s photo on his screen. There was no denying it: she might as well be Lenny’s younger sister. Besides the Mediterranean coloring, there was a certain leonine quality to the face, the strong jaw, canted eyes. The photo was from the shoulders up, the background a tan stucco wall presumably somewhere in Los Angeles. She looked directly into the camera, smiling with her mouth only. He wondered if she was an actress, or trying to become one. She was young enough; pretty enough too, or nearly.

I hope I’ve understood your company’s website correctly, her first e-mail had begun. I’m twenty-two years old. I don’t smoke. I don’t drink. I live a healthy lifestyle, or as healthy as you can in LA when you don’t have much money. This has been a difficult year for me financially, which is why I’m interested in the kind of deal I think you’re offering. Please be in touch with more of the specifics. Yrs., Maria Campos.

Simon had replied, through Health Solutions’ encrypted server, in the usual manner: direct, impersonal, detailed. He told her that if her blood type was a match, she would need to undergo some tests—first blood work, a physical, and a CT scan in Los Angeles, and then if these were satisfactory, liver function tests at the hospital here in New York. Next would be the screening interview. After all that would come, if she passed, the surgery itself and a few days of in-patient follow-up. Then she could go back home, and that would be the end of it. If she was still interested, she should send him the record of a recent physical examination, a photograph, and a phone number. He didn’t mention money yet.

The next morning she had responded: Before I wrote, I thought about what you might need, so I got these records ready. The photo request is weird—this isn’t a date—but here you go. You can reach me at 562-820-1980. Please advise the next step. Yrs., Maria.

Simon had looked at the attached photograph and medical records; then he’d looked at the photograph again. He’d hardly been able to believe his good luck.

 · · · 

SIMON pursued an obvious strategy in the winnowing of transplant applicants: it’s easier to convince the hospital’s social workers that people who look as though they belong together—which really means looking as though they have roughly the same amount of money—are involved in an altruistic partnership. If the recipient is a pasty rich guy from Connecticut, then flying in a donor who doesn’t speak English, from, say, Brazil, is probably not going to be particularly convincing. And if they look physically enough alike, as if they might be first or second cousins, it all becomes even easier. Now, finally, after a week and two dozen applicants he’d been forced to toss aside—wrong blood type, wrong attitude; too old, too sick, too fat—it appeared he had the perfect candidate.

The next step was securing Peter DaSilva’s approval, which was the reason Simon was sitting in the Health Solutions office at nine on a Sunday morning. This was a rare in-person audience with his employer, who preferred to communicate via cryptic text message or hurried calls from one of the five boroughs’ remaining handful of public pay phones. DaSilva was half an hour late, but at last Simon heard a key slide into the lock, and then the door swung open and in he walked, Yankees cap perched loosely on his cinder-block head, black blazer draped over his bulk, laptop bag slung over his shoulder. Peter DaSilva was a droopy-eyed, corpulent man who always seemed on the verge of falling asleep. He nodded at Simon and slumped onto the couch, where he lit a cigarette and rubbed at the pouches under his eyes. He looked as though he should be permanently installed on the bleachers of a horse-racing track somewhere, preserved in the amber of stale cigarette smoke and fried food. But there was something about this shambolic persona that set his patients at ease as he led them and their families—in his other, legitimate job as associate transplant coordinator at Cabrera Medical Center—step by arduous step through the emotionally brutal transplant process, as he played the roles of advocate and counselor and confessor. He exuded calm. It wasn’t exactly an act—more like camouflage. Because Simon knew that Peter DaSilva was very good at what he did—both his coordinating job at Cabrera and also as the shadow proprietor of Health Solutions—and he didn’t get to be that way by not paying attention.

“So, who is she?”

Simon lit his own cigarette and turned the monitor to face the couch.

“Hmm.” DaSilva exhaled smoke through his nostrils like a cartoon bull. “I don’t see the resemblance.”

“You . . . what?”

“I’m fucking with you. Nice break, for once. What’s the age difference?”

“Seventeen years.”

“Maybe we go with a second cousin angle. That should satisfy social.”

“She already e-mailed me her records.” Simon handed over a printout. “Take a look. Compatible blood. No underlying conditions. Healthy. Young.”

DaSilva flipped through the pages. “A hundred and thirty-five pounds? I hope her liver’s fat and happy. Lenny’s a big boy.”

“I’d say it’s worth pursuing anyway, wouldn’t you?”

“She’s in Los Angeles?”

Simon nodded.

DaSilva took a binder off the bookshelf, flipped it open to a tabbed page. “Here’s the number of a lab in Glendale. Tell her to go for the usual screening package.”

“So I should call her?”

“Does Lenny have a secret twin I don’t know about? No? Then I don’t see the point in waiting for anybody else. Just do me a favor: when you talk to her, make sure she’s not a mopey jerk-off. One per pair is enough.”

“Lenny was that bad?”

“Let’s just say his attitude didn’t inspire confidence. I don’t want him doing any improvising in the psychosocial, okay? Everything he says should be something he’s heard coming out of your mouth first.”

“You know I’ll do my best to prep him.”

DaSilva stubbed out his cigarette and stood up. “That’s all I ever ask.”

 · · · 

THE search for a donor had begun eight days before, when Simon pulled his rental car into Howard Crewes’s driveway at the terminus of a quarter-mile cul-de-sac tucked within a gated development off Route 1. Simon had stepped out into the late-summer haze, feet crunching on gravel, and squinted up at the house, a blinding-white neo-Georgian. This, apparently, is what a decade in the NFL buys you: brick chimneys, black-tile roofing, Ionic columns flanking your front door. Crewes had called Simon that morning and disclosed that he’d been “guided” to the Health Solutions website and wanted to speak with somebody from the company in person. Simon had known about Crewes for years before he received the man’s call. He was the Bruiser back then, an enforcer at strong safety for the Jets, accused cheap-shot artist. But now he was just a middle-aged man living by himself in a big house in the middle of New Jersey, and he was, Simon had to assume, dying.

Simon had walked up the path and rapped the knocker, a brass lion’s head. A tall, stooped black man with a head of receding salt-and-pepper hair opened the door. He wore a crisp blue dress shirt tucked into tailored khakis, a pair of leather slippers on his feet. It was Crewes, looking some years older than he’d appeared in the most recent photograph Simon had found online, new tributaries of wrinkles creasing the landscape of his face.

“You must be Simon Worth,” Crewes said, squinting against the glare.

“Yes, sir.” Simon wondered what the man thought of his appearance, of his bland gray suit, his nondescript white-guy’s face and salesman’s smile; whether Crewes had expected somebody flashier or more rugged looking, or at least a few years older. Simon was twenty-five, but he knew he looked about five years short of even that.

“Come on inside.”

Crewes turned, limped across the foyer. The lights were dim; the air-conditioning roared. Sunlight filtered through tall bay windows to reveal the improbable scale of things: acres of oak flooring, a cavernous fireplace. There was very little furniture, nothing on the walls. Crewes led the way to a study in the back, all mahogany, velvet, and brass, which appeared to be the only room on the ground floor in regular use. He waved at a club chair and installed himself behind a leather-topped desk.

“Don’t be offended,” he said. “But I gotta admit you guys were my last choice.”

Simon nodded; this was typical client throat clearing. “We usually are.”

“You understand I tried to do this the right way. The legal way. I asked family. Close friends. Hell, I even asked other guys from the team. But either people weren’t interested, or the ones who were didn’t match up right.”

“And now let me guess: the transplant centers are telling you to get on the list and wait. As though you had all the time in the world.”

“Worse. You ruin your liver drinking? Forget it. Don’t even bother with the list.”

“Six months clean.” Simon shook his head ruefully. “UNOS won’t consider you otherwise. Most units won’t either.”

“I’ve been made aware of that, yeah.”

It was a familiar story, but what Simon saw when he looked at the man didn’t fit. As discreetly as he could, he checked for the usual signs of liver failure: jaundiced skin and eyes, whitened nails, the crooked stiffening of flexion contracture in the fingers. He saw none of this. Crewes’s shirt lay flat across his belly, no sign of the telltale bulge of fluid in his abdomen. Simon hadn’t thought somebody this desperate would be able to hide it.

“The drinking,” Crewes said. “We do things your way, will it be a problem?”

“I can’t make guarantees yet. But if there’s any possible way around it, we’ll figure that out.”

Crewes leaned back in his chair, clasping his hands behind his head. “I know what you’re thinking: why does this sick guy look so healthy? Or maybe I’m flattering myself, maybe I don’t look so great either. Anyway, this isn’t for me. This is for Lenny. Leonard Pellegrini. He’s a guy I played with, a teammate; a friend too, or at least he used to be. He’s messed himself up, bad enough that he’s going to die if he doesn’t do something about it. If he doesn’t do . . . this.”

“And you’re . . . funding everything?”

“Funding. Organizing. Making sure the thing happens.” Crewes sighed regretfully. “I’m not a match, or else I’d just donate myself.”

“A gift.”

“A gift, yeah. Lenny can be an asshole, but that doesn’t mean he deserves to die. You see this house.” He pointed up at the ceiling, then swung the finger down to his own chest. “I’m the only one living in it. I can guess how much this is going to cost, but what else am I saving my money for?”

The arrangement was unorthodox, but Simon didn’t think that was enough of a reason to turn Crewes down. “I need to speak with him before we go any further. In person.”

“I figured. I’ll drive you out to see him tomorrow. I just wanted to check you out myself first.”

“And?”

“You’re a real live human being, which is a start. You people screw me, you’re the one I’ll be looking for.”

He stood up: the meeting was over. He stuck out his hand, and Simon took it, Crewes’s grip firm and rough as a brick.

Driving home on the Turnpike, Simon thought again of the play that had briefly made Howard Crewes the most infamous football player in America. He’d seen it live on television a dozen years before, as a thirteen-year-old kid sitting alone in the den of his father’s Rockaway Beach home. He remembered gangly Alvin Plummer running his pattern to the middle of the field. Flying out of the left side of the screen, Howard Crewes led with his head. Plummer was focused on the overthrown ball; he didn’t see the hit coming. The temple of Crewes’s helmet met the crown of Plummer’s. The second man’s head snapped down and to the side as though on a well-oiled hinge. The two men collapsed to the ground. Crewes got up; Plummer did not. Trainers huddled over the receiver, his fingers curling into odd, baby-like fists. A golf cart crawled across the turf. Medics parked it near Plummer, assembled the gurney and backboard. Crewes stood, hands on hips, his back to the felled man. Simon remembered feeling as though he were witnessing something, in this raw moment before the imposition of a palatable narrative (tragedy, contrition, redemption), that he was not meant to witness: the unadorned fact of a man lying crippled on a field and the man who had crippled him turning away.

 · · · 

Simon dropped the car off at the rental agency in Long Island City and took the subway to Roosevelt Island, that sliver of land tossed carelessly into the East River between Manhattan and Queens. He lived on the cheaper side of his apartment complex, facing east, toward the southern end of Astoria, rather than west onto a foreshortened slab of Midtown. His view from the twelfth floor looked straight across a narrow band of river onto the Astoria power station, its four candy-striped smokestacks rising higher than Simon’s own building, higher than any building on the island.

In the apartment, he went to his computer to search for a clip of the play on the internet. Plummer had been paralyzed from the neck down; he’d nearly died. Simon remembered learning about this in the sports pages the following day and finding his own confused adolescent feelings to be incommensurate with the reality of what had occurred. He knew sadness was the appropriate emotional response, but he’d found it difficult to think of Plummer as an individual existing off the field, as a person rather than a player; before the injury, he hadn’t been notable enough for anybody to interview, and when Simon tried to think of his face, all he saw was the shadowing helmet and face mask. Years later they’d trot Plummer out, in his wheelchair, to various functions—hall of fame inductions, stadium dedications—but the trickle of appearances slowed and then stopped, and Alvin Plummer again faded out of the public imagination until he died, just a few months ago, of some kind of lung infection, a delayed complication of his paralysis.

And now, in one of the NFL’s occasional paroxysms of brand management, the hit seemed to have been wiped from the internet. Simon clicked from one YouTube clip to the next, sifting through dozens of brain-rattling hi...

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Book Description Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2015. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. How much of yourself are you willing to sell? At twenty-five, Simon Worth is a med school dropout, facing the grim reality of failure and massive student loans. Left with few options, he becomes an organ broker for a black-market organization, matching cash-strapped donors with recipients whose time on the transplant list is running out.Tasked with finding a donor for Lenny Pellegrini, a severely depressed ex-NFL player who s been drinking himself to death, Simon s luck appears to change when he s contacted by Maria Campos, a young woman desperate for cash whose liver happens to be the perfect match. The transplant goes according to plan . . . until soon afterward, when Maria disappears and Lenny makes a cruel and destructive decision. As Simon s world becomes increasingly dangerous, he learns of an unspeakable secret from Maria s past and must decide, against his better moral judgment, that the only way he ll survive is to trust her. Chilling and fast-paced, The Dismantlingquestions the meaning of atonement and asks how you can reconcile the person you once were and the person you want to be with the person you are today. Bookseller Inventory # LIB9780142181744

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Book Description Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2015. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. How much of yourself are you willing to sell? At twenty-five, Simon Worth is a med school dropout, facing the grim reality of failure and massive student loans. Left with few options, he becomes an organ broker for a black-market organization, matching cash-strapped donors with recipients whose time on the transplant list is running out.Tasked with finding a donor for Lenny Pellegrini, a severely depressed ex-NFL player who s been drinking himself to death, Simon s luck appears to change when he s contacted by Maria Campos, a young woman desperate for cash whose liver happens to be the perfect match. The transplant goes according to plan . . . until soon afterward, when Maria disappears and Lenny makes a cruel and destructive decision. As Simon s world becomes increasingly dangerous, he learns of an unspeakable secret from Maria s past and must decide, against his better moral judgment, that the only way he ll survive is to trust her. Chilling and fast-paced, The Dismantlingquestions the meaning of atonement and asks how you can reconcile the person you once were and the person you want to be with the person you are today. Bookseller Inventory # BTE9780142181744

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Book Description Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2015. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. How much of yourself are you willing to sell? At twenty-five, Simon Worth is a med school dropout, facing the grim reality of failure and massive student loans. Left with few options, he becomes an organ broker for a black-market organization, matching cash-strapped donors with recipients whose time on the transplant list is running out.Tasked with finding a donor for Lenny Pellegrini, a severely depressed ex-NFL player who s been drinking himself to death, Simon s luck appears to change when he s contacted by Maria Campos, a young woman desperate for cash whose liver happens to be the perfect match. The transplant goes according to plan . . . until soon afterward, when Maria disappears and Lenny makes a cruel and destructive decision. As Simon s world becomes increasingly dangerous, he learns of an unspeakable secret from Maria s past and must decide, against his better moral judgment, that the only way he ll survive is to trust her. Chilling and fast-paced, The Dismantlingquestions the meaning of atonement and asks how you can reconcile the person you once were and the person you want to be with the person you are today. Bookseller Inventory # LIB9780142181744

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