Old Ways By Eric Euchler

Eric John Euchler 25 Winooski Falls Way Winooski, VT 05404 Phone: 413-652-7237 eeuchler@gmail.com

INT. CARTER HOUSE, LIVING ROOM - DAY The square room has no furnishings save an old gray rocking chair, and no decoration but a ornate, hand-carved crucifix hanging over the fireplace mantle. MARKO CARTER kneels in front of the fire alongside his mother, JOANNE CARTER. Marko is a young man of fifteen or sixteen. The only scars he bears are faint spots remaining from acne. Tears crawl down Joanne’s face as the two of them rest silently. Marko slouches, peering down at his hands. Marko’s father JACK CARTER creeps into the room. He steps over to where the two kneel together. JACK It’s time son. JOANNE NoJACK I’m sorry dear, but this is... Joanne whips her head back and glares at her husband, with tears still leaking down the corners of her eyes. JOANNE I said no. He’s not going. He doesn’t have to. Jack bends down onto one knee, and places a hand on his wife’s shoulder. He meets her gaze and gives her a quavering smile. JACK I’m sorry, Honey, but you know that’s not true. These are the rules that we must abide by. Joanne drops her gaze. She clutches her face as she falls into her husband and sobs. Jack catches her in both arms and embraces her closely. He rests his chin on her head and looks over to Marko. Marko reaches out to place a hand on his mother’s back. MARKO Its alright Pa, I know this is what I got to do.

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED:

2.

JACK You’re a good son, you know that. Come on, we don’t want to leave him waiting. Jack props Joanne back up, stands, and leaves the room. Marko brings one knee up so that he is kneeling on one. MARKO Don’t worry Ma. I’ll...I’ll be right back, honest. Marko leans forward and kisses Joanne on the forehead. He then stands up and hunches out of the room. Joannes sniffs as she watches him leave. INT. CARTER HOUSE, ENTRY WAY - DAY The entryway is just a narrow hallway, only a few inches wider than the front door. It is dark except for the light leaking in thought the seam of the door frame. Jack and Marko trot into the entry way. Jack moves to the right side of the front door, where a tall wicker basket rests on the floor. Marko glides into a position opposite him. Jack stretches his arms into the basket. He draws it out to unveil a lever action, mare’s leg rifle. The rifle is only a meter long and Jack holds it in one hand without strain. JACK You’ll be needing this. Jack holds his palm outstretched with the rifle balanced on top. Marko eases his hand forward and rests it on the rifle’s grip, wrapping his fingers around and pulling the rifle to him. JACK I loaded it for you last night. Marko looks up to see his father smiling down at him, before they lower back down to his feet. MARKO Thank you. Jack jabs a finger forward and Marko’s eye dart back to Jack.

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED: JACK Now listen here. Remember what I taught you boy. Keep your elbow up...

3.

Marko raises the rifle towards the door. He lifts up his elbow, so that it is pointed away from himself. JACK ... really hug it into your shoulder. Jack grabs the grip of the rifle, and yanks it back into Marko’s shoulder. Marko winces and turns his head. JACK ...and for God’s sake, remember to breathe, will ya? Marko lets out a slow, uneven breath. MARKO Do you think I can beat him...? Jack smiles at his son and drops a hand on his shoulder. JACK If you listen to my advice for once? Then ya, you’ll beat him. Jack yanks Marko forward and crushes him in a hug as Marko grasps the rifle between them. Jack pushes Marko back, grasping both of his shoulders. Jack turns him toward the door and gives Marko the slightest push. Marko takes in a deep breath and exhales. He opens the front door and walks through it. JACK Good Luck, son. INT. BAR - NIGHT The bar is crowded this late at night. Everyone drinks and cheers together in the pale lamplight. Marko walks into the bar and looks around. In the corner he sees Jack. He sits with RON SNYDER and COLLIN BATES, in the midst of a card game. Marko walks over to join them. Jack looks over his shoulder see him.

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED:

4.

JACK Hey son. Let me finish this round an’ then we’ll head home. Jack pulls a chair from an empty table to his side. JACK Ron, Collin. You know my son Marko. RON That’s not what I’m saying Bates, I... Ron turns from Bates to Marko. RON Oh ya-hey there’s Marko. Ron collects the cards from the table. He mashes them into a deck. BATES Hey, boy. Ron cuts the deck three times. He tosses a card to Bates. RON I’m saying that it seems lazy. Why can’t the sheriffs do their jobs themselves. Ron tosses a card to Jack, then to himself. BATES It’s too expensive. It’s not like the old way anymore, with a sheriff in every town and due process and all that. Bates flip his card, revealing it as the jack of diamonds. RON I guess. But still, no one ever wants to settle their conflicts like that. Ron flips his card, which is the seven of hearts. Jack flips his over, which is the king of diamonds. Ron and Bates flick their cards over to Jack. BATES That’s the point, though. Win or lose, both sides of a fight don’t (MORE) (CONTINUED)

CONTINUED:

5.

BATES (cont’d) want to be there. So people start to avoid conflicts all together. Bates take the deck from Ron. He passes a card to Jack. JACK What you’re saying is that people are scared to argue. Bates throws a card to Ron. He drops one in front of himself. RON Can’t they just get settled some other way? Ron flips his card, which is the ace of hearts. Jack picks up his card and looks at it, then tosses it to Ron. Bates flips his over which is a two of hearts. Bates slides the card over to Ron. Ron drops the deck on the table. BATES I suppose, but this way is more efficient. No strife lasts more than a day, and after, everyone gets along. Jack grabs the deck. He chucks a card to Ron, then Bates. He drop a card in front of himself. JACK I still think a gun fight to settle an argument is a little drastic. Ron rolls the card over, which is revealed to be the king of spades. Bates flips his card over, which is the king of clubs. BATES Ha. You know we aren’t talking about arguments. Otherwise only one of us would be alive tomorrow night. Jack draws two cards from the deck and drops them on the table. He draws the next card and slides it to Bates. He draws another two cards, discards them, and gives the next card to Ron. BATES Arguments are good. They’re constructive, you know, allow for (MORE) (CONTINUED)

CONTINUED:

6.

BATES (cont’d) change. It when people won’t change that’s when problems arise. Ron flips his card which is a six of spades. JACK You know What I mean Bates. I don’t think killing each other is the right way to settle it. Bates flips his card, which is the ten of clubs. BATES Right, huh? Well that’s getting into the morals of the thing. I’m just saying why the law is the way it is. Bates reaches for the cards in front of Ron. MARKO That’s stupid. Bates freezes. Jack whips his head to Marko. JACK Marko. Marko looks up. MARKO No it is. Killing people is wrong. The legal system is broken. If you know this and go with it anyways than you’re just as broken. Bates jumps to his feet. Marko stands up. Bates jabs a finger at Marko. BATES Listen here. boy, I... The room goes silent. Everyone looks over at Bates and Marko. RON Sounds like you two have something to settle tomorrow. BATES Seems so.

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED:

7.

Bates stands up from the table and walks to the door. He grabs his black duster and hat from a hook on the wall before he walks out. MARKO Dad. I didn’t mean to... JACK It’s alright son, just... just go on home. Marko bows his head and meanders out of the bar. EXT. STREET - DAY A stripe of dirt separating the two sides of town constitutes the street. The buildings along it on either side face each other. People look onto the street from various windows and doorways, in silence. Standing on the opposite side of the Carter house is Collin Bates. Bates straightens his crumpled black cowboy hat, which matches his wrinkled black duster. Bates props his rifle over his shoulder, a large-loop lever action. Marko steps out of his house on to the steps. BATES About time, Boy. You know, some might take tardiness as an insult. Marko glares at Bates, as his foot drops onto the dirt. MARKO Beg your Pardon. I... BATES No need for your begging or pardons, I was only kidding you. We’re already settling one dishonor, adding another wouldn’t change nothing. MARKO I never meant you any dishonor. Bates lowers his rifle, then pokes up the brim of his hat with the end of the barrel and looks at Marko. BATES It doesn’t matter what you meant. You made bad blood between us. The (MORE) (CONTINUED)

CONTINUED: BATES (cont’d) law doesn’t tolerate that, and its our responsibility to take care of it ourselves. You get it? Marko shrugs at Bates. MARKO I guess so. BATES What does bad blood do, it makes the whole body sick. That’s why the law is the way it is. People get into spats, then they settle them. Quick and clean and done.

8.

A church bell rings through the town. Marko swing his rifle up to him and snaps at the grip with his open hand. BATES Whoa, now Boy. not ’til the third bell. A church bell rings again. Marko bring the rifle up to his shoulder, and hugs it. He takes in a deep breath. The church bell rings a third time. A boom explodes from the end of Marko’s rifle. Bates’ hat flies up int to the air, as Bates ducks down and throws his hands up. BATES Oh boy. That sure was a close one. You almost got me there. Now it’s my turn. In one move Bates drops the stock of the rifle, and the barrel lifts up. A brass cartridge ejects out of the rifle and spins back around. Bates aims it outstretched in his hand, closes one eye and pulls the trigger. Markos elbow pops as Bates’ rifle fires. Markos rifle leaps from his grasp across the street, and blood splashes the brown dirt of the ground. Markos clasps his opposite hand over his injured elbow, blood seeping between his fingers. BATES I hope you know that I take no pleasure in this, because I don’t. It’s just the way things have to be. Bates walks over to Marko’s rifle, which lays in the dirt of the street. (CONTINUED)

CONTINUED: BATES In fact, to prove this. I’m going to give you one more chance. You’re just a boy after all. This was never a fair firefight.

9.

Bates gives Marko’s rifle a strong kick. The rifle spins up into the air. It flips and turns before it stabs into the earth right in front of Marko, cradling his his elbow as it bleeds. MARKO Why? BATES What, don’t trust me? Jesus, boy, with manners like these, it’s a miracle you lasted this long. Marko squints at Bates. He reaches out with his injured arm, and wraps his finger around the grip of the rifle. He waits. Bates smiles, but makes no other move. MARKO O.K. Thank You. Marko slaps the other hand under the rifle and yanks the barrel up. Dirt and dust flies into the air, shrouding Marko. Bates spins his rifle again and aims it into the cloud of dirt. A gunshot rings out. Bates’ rifle falls to the ground in front of him. Bates looks down to his hand. It bleeds through the three holes that gape at the points where his pointer, index, and ring fingers used to be. The cloud of dust dissipates. Marko stands with the his rifle pulled tight into this shoulder. His elbow drips blood as it points away from himself, parallel to the ground. BATES Well I’ll be. Bates takes a single step in the direction of his rifle. Marko drops the lever on his rifle. The spent brass casing shoots out and over his shoulder. He slams the lever back up, and hear it click. He looks down his front sight takes a gradual breath in, then exhales. He squeezes the trigger. Bates’ knee jerks inward as blood shoots out in the other direction. He drops down to his knees and cries out. (CONTINUED)

CONTINUED: MARKO Don’t move again.

10.

Marko marches forward to Bates, with his sights still trained on him. He kick Bates’ rifle away with the side of his foot. He raises his sights to to aim directly for Bates’ forehead. BATES What are you waiting for? MARKO I don’t want to do this. Bates gazed drops and he sighs. BATES No one ever does. But it is the way it is. MARKO Not for me. Marko tosses the rifle away and turns his back on Bates. Bates whips his head up. BATES What are you doing. This is illegal. If the sheriffs find out... MARKO Then their problem will be with me. You did your duty, now go home. Marko marches back into his house with his head up. Bate raises himself back up and stares at the house. He turns, looks back to the houses and shakes his head. He limps away down the road. INT. CARTER HOUSE, ENTRY WAY - DAY Joanne and Jack are standing in silence in the door way when Marko enters. Marko closes the door behind him and it creaks. The second the door is closed, Joannes slaps Marko in the bicep MARKO Hey, Ma. What gives? Joannes slaps him again.

(CONTINUED)

CONTINUED:

11.

JOANNE Bad enough you got into a fight. MARKO Ma you know it wasn’t my fault. Joanne slaps him over the head. Marko ducks down. JOANNE With Collin Bates no less. Joann slaps the top of his head, and again with the other hand. JOANNE And when the lord decide to spare your life, what do you do? MARKO Ma, I... JOANNE You go and get the sheriffs on you instead. Marko stands up straight and holds his hands out. MARKO Ma, Ma, Ma! I couldn’t do it alright?! I... I just couldn’t do it. Jack places a hand on Joanne’s shoulder and she turns to him. JACK Marko did the right thing. Jack lays his other around Marko and looks him in the eye. JACK He’s the first person to do the right thing. Jack steers the two into each other and hugs them. Marko wraps his arms around his mother. Joanne lays her cheek against Marko’s chest.

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