Skinny Puppy

Tear or Beat

A Remembrance in Six Scenes

by Lara Shelton


Lots of PVC and latex, shaved heads and mohawks. LARA is not exactly out of place in her strategically ripped KMFDM t-shirt and black eyeliner, but there is something studied about her abandon. MIREILLE is more at home with her studded dog collar and mesh shirt and writhes to every angular synthesized beat as if Skinny Puppy had orchestrated an epileptic seizure just for her. The song is so loud that it nearly overwhelms all other sensation, but camera cuts to a CLOSE UP as LARA pauses for a moment to watch MIREILLE with an expression which is half-envious, half-admiring.


The room is an eleven-year-old’s dream. Unfortunately, LARA is seventeen. The late summer sun penetrates lace curtains, rippling shadows across pastel walls. LARA lies in bed, fully awake, staring at the ceiling. She is still wearing the KMFDM t-shirt and her black eyeliner has smeared into raccoon-like shadows.

LARA’S MOTHER, unseen, knocks on the door. We hear only her voice.

LARA’S MOTHER (insitent): I came back for lunch. I left it in the fridge.

LARA doesn’t answer. We can hear LARA’S MOTHER walking down the hall to the kitchen, opening the refrigerator, walking back to LARA’S door, tapping again.

LARA’S MOTHER: Do you have work today?

LARA doesn’t look away from the ceiling.

LARA: I set my alarm for two o’clock.

LARA’S MOTHER: I put your uniform in the dryer. I needed to wash some towels.

There is a silence during which LARA covers her head with the pillow. For a moment we think her mother has left, until she knocks again.

LARA’S MOTHER: I left my tuna salad in the fridge. I’ll be back around five-thirty. (She pauses, considering her words.) But you won’t be here. (She taps on the door again.) There’s a message on the phone. From Mireille?

LARA: What did she say?

LARA’S MOTHER (tentatively): Is she okay?

LARA: How would I know?

LARA’S MOTHER: She said her dog died.

LARA: She doesn’t have a dog.

LARA’S MOTHER pauses, taps on the door again.

LARA’S MOTHER: Call me if you’re going out.

When LARA’S MOTHER leaves, LARA gets out of bed, wrapping the comforter around her shoulders. She goes into the kitchen. Everything is at least ten years out of date: Harvest Gold refrigerator, Formica counter top, dust-covered copper gelatin molds hanging on the walls. She presses the “PLAY” button on the answering machine. While she listens, we can see the kitchen in a series of CLOSE UPS.

MIRELLE (Voice-Over): Hey. My dog died.

MIREILLE laughs, or cries. It’s hard to tell.

MIREILLE (Voice-Over): Come over tonight. I need to dance. Or something. I need to shake of my skin. This dog’s skin. (Laughter again, or crying.) I’m such a bitch.


It’s eight years later. LARA is now twenty-five. Her boyfriend, RICK, is puttering around in the kitchen. Rick is a typical nice-guy whose niceness turns out to be a mask for an unsavory soup of neuroses, insecurities, and offhand cruelties. But LARA doesn’t know this yet. At the moment, they are a Rom-Com version of a happy couple and their apartment could have come out of a Pottery Barn catalog.

RICK puts his arm around Lara’s waist and nuzzles her hair.

RICK: What time is she getting here?

LARA: Eight-thirty, she said. She’s always been late.

RICK: I want to meet her. She sounds wild.

LARA: She is. She was. I haven’t seen her for years.

LARA is clearly nervous. She extracts herself from Rick’s embrace.

LARA: There’s some hummus. I think she’s Vegan.

RICK takes her meaning and goes to the refrigerator. He grabs a container of hummus and puts it on the kitchen table.

LARA (calling): Also the vegetables. I cut them up.

RICK (from the kitchen): Relax. Either she comes or she doesn’t.

LARA: I think you should be upstairs.

RICK (appearing with the vegetables): Can’t I meet her?

LARA: Okay. But you have work to do upstairs.

There’s a knock on the door. RICK rushes to the door to answer it and LARA watches him, as if for the first time she has noticed something in him to disapprove of. MIREILLE still has a shaved head, but it’s now covered with a scarf, and her eyes have a hunted look which was always present, but disguised by youth. Despite the multiple piercings she resembles a chemo patient more than a punk. RICK welcomes her, his nice-guy enthusiasm falling flat when he leans in for a hug. LARA watches with satisfaction as his body visibly deflates.

RICK glances at LARA, helpless, and LARA rushes to the door to rescue him, but her own hug gets no better reaction. MIRIELLE accepts it as if it were a heavy yoke and she were a beleaguered ox.

MIREILLE: I’m not a hugger.

LARA: It’s okay.

MIREILLE: I’m more of a cocksucker.

RICK erupts in shocked laughter, but LARA shoots him a look. It’s clear that MIREILLE was being derogatory, rather than funny.

LARA: What are you doing in California?

MIREILLE blinks her large, liquid eyes.

MIREILLE: Sucking cock, I told you.

LARA pauses, uncertain if it’s a joke.

LARA: You mean…?

MIREILLE: My brother died.

LARA: How?

MIREILLE: On a diving board.

LARA pauses, glancing at RICK. RICK looks her way, a wry smile on his face.

RICK: Nice to meet you, Mireille. I have work to do upstairs.

LARA watches him go. MIREILLE is meanwhile taking in the apartment, and LARA can feel her judgment descending on her Pottery Barn lifestyle. She moves into the dining area.

LARA: Sit down.

MIREILLE follows, but stands at the table, her hands resting on the back of the chair. She is like a hunted animal, unable to calm down.

MIREILLE: In the hills. It was a porn shoot. He fell back. It snapped his neck in half.

LARA: My God.

LARA pauses, takes a carrot from the tray and dips it in the hummus. The CRUNCH of the carrot seems deafening.

LARA: So you’re here for the funeral?

MIREILLE blinks her large, liquid eyes, as if she were a camera taking photographic evidence of a crime scene. LARA pauses, the baby carrot still raised halfway to her mouth, caught in the act of seeming content.

MIREILLE: It was good to see you.

MIREILLE wraps the scarf around her head, and before LARA can stop her, she has left.

RICK comes out from the stairwell, where he has been listening.

RICK: Jesus.


A large house in what was once the nicest part of Duluth. Numerous people in their 30s are gathered around an illuminated swimming pool, lifting red plastic cups to their mouths. It’s a party, but a somber one. A lone plastic ring drifts forlornly across the surface of the water. LARA opens the sliding glass door, dressed in her KMFDM t-shirt but carrying a knock-off Gucci bag. DANE, a young man with an unmistakable resemblance to MIREILLE, hops up to hug her, give her a beer.

DANE: Look at you! How is California. She said you had a Silicon Valley boyfriend.

LARA shrugs. That relationship has ended badly.

LARA: She told me you were dead. That you broke your neck on a diving board.

DANE: She always says that.

DANE takes her by the hand and they sit on the edge of the pool, dangling their feet in the water.

DANE: Did she tell you she was a hooker too?

PARTY GUEST #1 raises her beer.

PARTY GUEST #1: She told me that.

PARTY GUEST #2: She told me she was a dominatrix.

PARTY GUEST # 2 pours a little of her drink into the pool.

PARTY GUEST #3: She told me she was a Satanist.

PARTY GUEST #3 pours his drink into the pool. The rest of the party joins in. LARA looks from DANE to her bottle. She has been compulsively peeling the label.

PARTY GUEST #2: You never told us exactly how…

DANE laughs, but it is an uncomfortable laugh, as if he is on the verge of hysteria.

DANE: It was the only way. We always knew it.

PARTY GUEST #1: But I mean it was heroin, right?

DANE shakes his head. He chucks his empty beer bottle at the poured concrete fence, where it shatters, then gets up and leaves, slamming the sliding glass door shut so hard that LARA winces.

PARTY GUEST #3: You always were an idiot, Steve.


LARA’s childhood home. She puts her Gucci knock-off purse down on the counter.

MIREILLE (Voice-Over): Hey. My dog died.

MIREILLE laughs, or cries. It’s hard to tell. The camera cuts to CLOSE UPS of the Harvest Gold refrigerator, the Formica counters.

MIREILLE (Voice-Over): Come over tonight. I need to dance. Or something. I need to shake of my skin. This dog’s skin. (Laughter again, or crying.) I’m such a bitch.

LARA takes her phone from her purse, carefully unlooping the earbuds as she walks down the hall.


The same bedroom from when she was nineteen, which is the same bedroom from when she was fifteen, and the same bedroom from when she was twelve. LARA puts her earbuds on with the same solemn sense of ritual that an executioner uses when preparing the needles for a lethal injection. She presses play. The sound of Skinny Puppy fills the soundtrack, and LARA begins to dance.


Skinny Puppy

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