Other submissions by Dacia Weist:
If you want to read their other submissions, please click the links.
Trial of Reality (Sci-Fi, Writing Award 2023)
The Dragon from Guangzhou (Historical Fiction, Book Award 2023)
Trials & Tribulations of Modesty Greene (Historical Fiction, Book Award 2023)
Glue (Women's Fiction, Book Award 2023)
The Sinners' Club (Contemporary Fiction, Book Award 2023)
The Dragon from Guangzhou (Historical Fiction, Screenplay Award 2023)
Trials & Tribulations of Modesty Greene (Historical Fiction, Screenplay Award 2023)
Glue (Women's Fiction, Screenplay Award 2023)
The Sinners' Club (Contemporary Fiction, Screenplay Award 2023)
Trial of Reality (Sci-Fi, Screenplay Award 2023)
The Original Zodiac or Philo and Pater (Historical Fiction, Writing Mentorship Award 2023)
Letters to the Bottom of Elephant Butte (Women's Fiction, Writing Mentorship Award 2023)
In the Interim (Drama, Writing Mentorship Award 2023)
Lori; my favorite four-letter word (LGBT, Writing Mentorship Award 2023)
Manuscript Type
Logline or Premise
Bek Usmonov's father rips him away from everything he loves. At 10yo he dreams of breaking away from the norm. He wants to fight. He wants to win. MMA takes him to Thailand, China then Australia when Covid19 hits, changing everything. The dream gets bigger; fighting in the USA becomes a reality.
First 10 Pages

Science says pain is constructed entirely in the brain.

Chapter One (2017 China)

Is there a hole in my mouth? I’m woozy, a little disoriented as I spit blood to the boxing ring mat. Am I missing a tooth? My tongue involuntarily moves to the new space that wasn’t there moments ago. Another trickle runs down the side of my face. Did you know there’s a different feel between blood and sweat? I rub my temple with my forearm. It’s blood, I knew it. The pain rushes at me as I sit in my corner. My corner team was a no-show, for this fight. There were here for my first fight but I don’t know where they are, my coach, his assistants. I hope they are alright. I’m alone in China and just got my ass kicked. The coach for my opponent is clearly trying to get the ref to call the fight. Shaking my head, I rise from the squat stool and shake my head. The movement hurts so much, the pain shrouds me. Everything goes black as I fall forward unconscious.

I wake in the showers of the locker room not entirely sure how I got there. Luke warm water cools my body. I’m able to stand. It’s a struggle to get to my locker and open it. I sit to rest before starting to dress. Pain comes from so many places that it creates my present and my past.

In high school biology class I remember learning that all pain comes from the brain. I don’t know, I think it may start in the heart too. Guilt from leaving my mother. Rage from my father’s betrayal. Emptiness from my second mom’s indifference of me. Not feeling I belong in a country where I wasn’t born. Not knowing where I belong. All of these things are pain, but heartbreaking pain, so perhaps my theory is right and hurt starts in the heart.

If my choices are heartbreaking hurt or pain from the brain, I’ll take the missing tooth anytime.

Hello, my name is Bekhzod Usmonov and this is my story.

Science says that pain can sear a memory into the brain.

Chapter Two (1994-2004)

I like to believe my parents were once in love. That their life together started with a shy smile across a crowded market, or a chance encounter on the way to the mosque. The reality is their marriage started like every other in Tajikistan, a business deal.

When the USSR fell, the government laid claim to many party members’ property as a punishment for surviving the conflict. Those that did not relinquish their land and valuables were arrested or more likely, shot.

My father’s father was a proud man, but not a dumb man. He signed the papers that gave the government ninety-five percent of the wealth his family had toiled over for generations. Wanting to create an illusion of fairness, the new government allowed him to keep his home and his business. This way he could house and feed his family and if my grandfather took care of his own family the new Russian government wouldn’t have to.

The drive to do more than survive is an Usmonov family trait. Different challenges, obstacles and complications come with each generation but after getting knocked down, we seem to rise, matching and beating the odds.

It wasn’t long before my grandfather’s business was thriving and growing again. In part due to a lucrative merger deal he proposed to a new construction company. My grandfather made sure the negotiations included a wife for his eldest son.

As with the customs of my motherland, my parents didn’t meet before the day of their wedding, they did not get to weigh in whether they wanted to get married in the first place. Their union was a transaction sealed with a handshake.

My child brain wants to believe there was love where my adult brain has a more practical awareness. Regardless, their marriage lasted ten years

I crumble to the floor when my dad tells me that I am leaving and moving to Yekaterinburg, Russia without my mom and little sister. He had left us about a year ago. My mother had told me there was a business deal he was working on to make lots of money to support our little family but I saw the sadness in her eyes, I heard the grief of loss in the undertones of her voice. Now he was back and was planning on taking me with him.

I scream.

I yell.

I cry.

I plead.

I gulp deep breaths of air as I beg.

Anger wells in my chest and chokes my cries. I pound the floor with my fists until my father barks “Bu yetarli” That’s enough. Apparently, while I was at school, he had shown up and packed my things. All of my worldly possessions have been distributed between a cardboard box for toys and two backpacks for clothes.

My mother fights back tears by physically biting her bottom lip. I have no desire to leave. I love my mom more than anything else in my nine year old world.

“Iltimos yo’q” Please, no. I hear the desperation in my voice. There is no choice for me. My father’s impossibly strong arm wraps under my armpit and he picks me up effortlessly. I kick at him, yell for my mom who has taken my sister and left the kitchen for the safe haven of the master bedroom. With effort I twist my body and open my mouth wide ready to bite down on my father’s arm.

“To’xtating!” Stop it! my dad shouts and gives my body a rough shake as he walks towards the car. My mouth snaps shut and I bite my tongue. Tears flood my eyes and I blink rapidly to control them. He opens the back door of the big sedan and flops me into the backseat. Not aggressively but not gently either. My anger is now coated with fear and peppered with uncertainty. I feel fire blaze in my eyes but don’t dare say anything now we’re away from the audience of my mom, Umida.

How is this happening? I sulk and fight the urge to cry like a girl. I’m so furious at my dad I want to punch him but he is too big, too strong. None of this is fair. My dad’s voice rolls in from the front seat like a dense fuming fog. I try to ignore him, I don’t want to hear what he’s saying but the car is small and there is only me for his words to find.

“You’ll have a new mom and a new sister, but she’s not smaller than you, she’s a couple years older-”

A new mom? A new sister? I hold my hands over my ears and scream.

“I don’t want a new mom” The anger releases in a pop, the words spew from my mouth. “I want my mom, I don’t want a new one!”

“That’s not the way things are done,” he answers. Even with my hands over my ears I can hear there’s a new edge to his voice that sends a chill down my back. Dread floats from my gut and settles in my head. Lowering my hands, I take a sniveling breath as he continues, “Fathers raise their sons, that’s the way things are when there is a divorce.” The word feels like an open faced slap, of course I knew, the word but hearing it hurt. “Boys stay with their fathers. Girls with their mothers. I won’t let you end up a sissy-boy, it’s up to me and me alone to be sure you become a man.”

No! I want to scream. No! At this point, I know better than to speak. Silence settles between us. The drive drags on worse than Friday mosque service. The scenery changes and changes again. There is no more conversation. There is no more mom. There is no more little sister, no more friends, no more … everything. Emotions weigh down the stuffy air in the car and I can no longer hold my eyes open.

Sometime later I have a vague awareness of being lifted from the backseat and carried. I’m in a small bed, someone who is not my mom tucks a blanket around me. My head and heart are heavy in my small body and I immediately lull back into deep, dreamless sleep.

A hushed conversation wakes me. I hear two women speaking Russian just outside my door. By their tone they are also not happy with this new situation. My eyes dart around as I take in my surroundings. (describe room here) The exchange seems to wrap up with stomping and a door slam. I’m fully conscience now and I need to find a bathroom.

Science says a typical adolescence brain experiences an intensification of emotional experiences.

Chapter three (2004-2009)

For the next five years, I hate my life. I don’t belong in this country, in this school, in this family. The administrators in the school want to put me back a grade but my dad adamantly says no, “It’s not a lack of education, only a language barrier,” he tells the school’s administrator in Russian. To fix the problem, my dad hires a translator to go to school with me. He’s a nice enough person, but only a freak has a full grown man sitting next to them on a plastic chair two sizes too small. The interpreter whispers to me every syllable as I make notes in my native language, Uzbek.

My new sister, Tayata, is a few years older than me and enjoys punching or tripping me when no one is watching. There are memories of my little sister, Madina, that seem to haunt me now. For fun, I used to make her cry by pushing her down or forcibly taking a toy from her. It made me laugh. Whenever she would complain, my. mom would ask her, “What did you to upset him?”

I would smile when Madina whined, “Nothing, he’s just mean.”

It is not funny now. Tayata’s resentment matches mine but she is bigger and stronger. It doesn’t take me long to learn to punch her hard where it will hurt the most and run.

My new mother is aloof to me, as if I’m an unwanted pet that came with her new sugar daddy; the opposite of a bonus. During those years I learned Russian, how to dodge a punch and exactly what I don’t want when I grow up.

Science says the brain’s chemistry is what drives the feelings of love.

Chapter Four (2009-2014)

As I walk home after school, I walk fast. I don’t want Tayata to be in front of me. Deliberately I move quick, I want her behind me like a well-behaved woman should be. I notice my father sitting on the porch of the tidy house as we near, my steps involuntarily slow. Tayata whips by me in agitation and bounds up the steps as she gives my father a generic greeting. He shouldn’t be home this time of day. Why is he home right now? I no longer can move my feet, they are cemented into this walkway and the hardening moves up into my body to steel me from whatever the reason is my father is home at this hour on a weekday. I watch his eyes move from the left to the right and back to the left, looking at something on the horizon, never seeming to land on me. Dread fills my soul.

A sharp breath forces in at my throat as he gets up from the stoop and strides towards me. I lower my eyes because he thinks that’s some form of respect but in actuality I just don’t want him to see the terror in my face his presence causes me.

“It’s time for us to move on, son,” he says with no emotion in his voice. The statement came so detached from feeling, he could have been commenting on the weather.

“Back to Tajikistan?” I squeak. I haven’t seen or spoken with my mother for five years and hope swells in my chest.

“No, of course not,” he says, still not looking at me. There is a moment of panic as I think about a life with just us two before he announces, “we’re staying here in Russia, you’ll have to change schools and you’ll have a new mom.”

Another mom. Another different mom. Momentarily, I close my eyes as every emotion imaginable cascades over the top of me. Unlike the move here, these emotions are saturated in relief.

The new Tatiana isn’t at all like the first one. First of all, she is a decade and a half younger than my dad making her closer to my age than his. Secondly, she has no children so she is naturally more carefree and happy. The new house is a lot like the old one physically but the energy of it sings instead of whimpers. There is a happiness here I’ve never felt before. Perhaps it comes because of the genuine love Tatiana has for my father. Perhaps my father is in love, maybe for the first time. It would be easy to be in love with her; she’s beautiful and radiates confidence laced with a sly sense of humor. She’s intelligent and had traveled the world. Tatiana tells us about her life and her adventures in Egypt and Thailand. She may be the bravest woman I’ve ever met.

In my childhood house, I remember my dad hitting my mother, many times. It’s the way of the Tajikistan husband. In Russia, I thought things would be different as the first Tatiana seemed tough as a shark but I witnessed my dad throw her across the room like a rag doll when his temper flared. Again, this is not unusual behavior for this part of the world. My father is no monster, he is just a hot-headed husband with sharp-tongued wives. At least these are the words he tells me. Traditionally this behavior feels somewhat normal, but in my heart it doesn’t feel right at all. I hope my father never hits my new mom.

A few weeks after we are settled in, my dad tells me he has a surprise for me and leads me into the kitchen. He picks up the wall mounted phone and dials. Confusion stirs in me as my eyes dart between Tatiana and my father. She has an impish grin on her face she can’t hide, restrained glee bubbles from the corners of her eyes. My father is speaking Uzbek and my attention snaps back to him. His back is to me and he speaks in a low tone then turns to me and hands me the receiver. I hear Tatiana start to giggle. With confusion, I say, “hello?”

My mother, Umida, yelps on the other end of the line. Happy chatter fills me, ears first. The love that comes through the phone is like a physical blow to my solar plexus, it hurts so good. The emotion wraps me so tight my throat closes and I have a hard time speaking. My knees are going to buckle. A light-headedness sets in so I lean into the wall as I take in her voice, her comments and questions, her joy and love. Five years with no contact at all Tears of joy stream down my face as we speak my native tongue and catch up. I sink to the floor laughing when my mom puts little Medina on the line, but she’s not that little anymore, I can hear it in her voice.

“Told you,” Tatiana says over her shoulder to my father as she gives me a quick wink.

One afternoon my new mom greets me at the door after school. At this point, I only have another year and a half before graduation. Tatiana glows more than usual and tells me she has something she wants to tell me but I must keep it a secret until she tells my father. I nod not sure what I’m promising to keep to myself.

“I’m pregnant,” she beams jutting out her flat stomach while she rubs it with both hands. This is such great news I tease her I am not sure I can contain myself. She playfully punches me in the arm and mock threatens to punish me. Then she starts to spin around and dance between the living room and kitchen. Watching her hop around singing a silly nursey rhyme about storks and babies I realize my father is going to be ecstatic! I certainly am.

The summer after my junior year of high school, my little sister, Anastasia is born. She is a perfect little cherub of a baby, pink and bald with a sweet mewling cry that melts my heart. Since my dad has long hours with work, I become more of a caregiver to this little angel than an older brother. Often I get up with her in the night or watch her after school so Tatiana can run to the store or take a moment for herself. Anastasia is such a perfect baby, she’s even tempered and smart, just a little rascal getting into everything. I love her like I’ve never loved anyone on the planet except perhaps for my original mother, Umida. This relationship is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I’m smitten as I watch Anastasia grow during the first year of her life.

Science says brain damage can be caused by the death or damage of brain cells.

Chapter 5 (2014-2019)

Like all the boys in school, Sambo is our sport. For those of you who don’t know, Samb is an internationally practiced combat sport a lot like wrestling but more aggressive.