CLEAN PLATE a screenplay by S. A.

Scoggin

Registered WGA and ©2009

sascoggin@gmail.com

1

INTERIOR.

BOSTON: A COLLEGE DORM.

NIGHT.

A small dorm room. On the walls local signage: a Bruins poster, a Red Sox game schedule. From downstairs drift the muffled laughs and thumping bass line of a lively party. MARK is pacing back and forth in his room just a bit too fast to be in time with the beat. He opens the door and the sounds of the crowd burst in. It doesn't seem to make him any happier. MARK walks out onto the landing and looks down the stairwell, pausing a moment before stepping slowly down the stairs. He stops halfway down and sits on a step, looking at the party through the bannister. MARK does not notice the pair of attractive legs that appear behind him until one knee touches him. He looks up at a willowy Blonde. BLONDE You were going to call me eventually, I suppose. MARK Sorry. BLONDE You are. I'm going to get a beer. Have a very good story ready. She brushes by him and goes down into the crowd. MARK rises and goes back into his room, closing the door. He turns around in a slow spin, seeing the whole of his room, then collapses into his desk chair as though helpless and apathetic. On the desk are two cassettes. One is labeled "INXS: DON'T CHANGE", the other just "DON'T CHANGE". He picks up the second one and puts it into a tape deck. The first ethereal notes whistle out above the thumping of the floor. Outside, the night sky is pitch black. Large puffy snowflakes drift through a thin shaft of light from a streetlight. The live version of the tune slowly overlaps with and finally becomes the original, crackling from the old speaker of a pickup truck. The snow is cottonwood cotton caught swirling in the headlights. MARK is driving. It is a hot summer night. The dark fields on either side are alive with frog and insect songs. MARK is singing along. He has a strong voice, but the signal is fading in and out, overpowered by a country station. He tries worrying 2

with the tuning knob, but his song is buried: RADIO ...fifty thousand watts of country power serving western Nevada and the Sierras. It's ten-fourteen in the PM and the temperature is eighty-four degrees here in the big melon, Fallon, Nevada. Heading to a low of about sixty overnight, going back up near to one hundred degrees tomorrow. Let's pick up our Agfeed Top Ten Countdown with number four, Garth Brooks withCursing vigorously, MARK grabs for the knob and spins it. The next station he finds is in the middle of "Ob La Da". He keeps going. More country. Led Zeppelin. Country. He flicks the radio off and mumbles, then suddenly begins singing "I Want to be Sedated".

EXTERIOR.

NEVADA: A SMALL TRAILER HOME.

NIGHT. trailer. Someone door. CARSON, a door. He is keeping a

MARK parks beside a battered old aluminum is playing drums inside. He bangs on the young man with long curly hair, opens the slight and wiry, and his hands can't help nervous, twitching rhythm. CARSON Welcome back to planet earth. MARK Carson.

INTERIOR.

NEVADA: A SMALL TRAILER HOME.

NIGHT.

MARK mounts the high step. The trailer is clean and neat. A trap set fills up most of what was intended to be a dining area. The interior is decorated with found art: road signs, plastic toys, sun-bleached animal skulls, and postcards. CARSON 3

How's the old college life? MARK Old. CARSON Well, suck it up son. You've got one more year to go. What's up for the summer? MARK Zipetty do dah. I applied for internships at Boeing and Lockheed, but they tell me nobody's got money. CARSON You want me to see if Ray needs help at the market? MARK Yeah, sure. I can bag groceries...you still don't have a CD player, do you? CARSON That's just a fad, man. MARK Just wonderful. I worked part time in a record store near campus. Serious employee discount. Now I've got a crapload of discs and you don't have the foresight to own a player. CARSON Don't your parents have one? MARK Get real. They still play vinyl. CARSON Should have moonlighted in a stereo store. MARK You get discounts on meat? CARSON 4

Hell, no - I've chopped up too many pigs. I'm totally vegetarian. MARK Doesn't Ray think it's bad PR to have a butcher who won’t eat his own work? CARSON Gee, I don't think he knows. He never asked. So what kind of discs you got? MARK All kinds. Industrial, house, acid jazz, tribal rhythms, world music..... CARSON Hum a few bars. Yeah. MARK Guess I need to find a job.

EXTERIOR.

A FIELD.

DAY.

Mid-day under a white-hot sun. MARK is wandering around aimlessly in a vast expanse of sagebrush. Far behind him, the truck is parked on the side of a lonely road, the door open, the radio still faintly audible. There are other sounds, barely discernible: the wind rising and falling, insects trilling, a lizard rustling along the brittle soil. Beyond are brown hills streaked with dark emerald, without a trace of man upon them.

INTERIOR.

THE F&B MARKET.

DAY.

MARK enters through the electric door. He waves at a cashier and strolls by the produce section, where he palms some cherries. He looks up at the ceiling and grimaces. The store sound system is tuned to KNEV and some dripping, twanging song of loss. In the meat department, CARSON is cellophaning green trays packed with red. CARSON Hey, callow slacker youth! I heard that 5

there might be a job open with the county. Can you drive a dump truck? MARK I can do many things. CARSON Have you ever driven a dump truck? MARK Well, shit. How hard could it be? I've got the better part of a college education. CARSON Then you'd better get on over to the County Yard and jump on it. Unless you got anything better? MARK No. SANDRA, young woman about their age, comes down the aisle. She has a toddler in her cart who is struggling against his nylon seat belt. She has one hand on the cart and one hand on her child's shoulder. CARSON Hi, Sandra. SANDRA Hello, Carson. Hi, Mark. working here now? Are you

MARK Sure. What can I get you today? Cow, pig, lambie? How 'bout a free wiener for little Matty? SANDRA It's Derek, dumbass. And didn't you see the little kid nearly choke to death in "Field of Dreams"? You can't give hot dogs to toddlers. Anyway, they're full of nitrites. MARK, who had picked up a hot dog and held it out to DEREK, 6

takes it back, chagrined. SANDRA I hope you're both going to be at Lee and Rachael's wedding? MARK absentmindedly takes a bite of the hot dog, then points the remainder for emphasis. MARK This whole wedding racket is a bunch of so-called traditions invented out of whole cloth and sustained by the floral cartel. So, Mr. it? SANDRA Romance? Are you paying for

EXTERIOR.

THE COUNTY ROAD MAINTENANCE YARD.

DAY.

Early morning - the sun is just above the trees. The county yard is a combination of a material storage field and heavy equipment parking lot. Men are servicing road graders, dump trucks, and front end loaders. MARK is standing on the running board of a very old and dinged-up Ford dump truck. The FOREMAN, is trying to start it. FOREMAN Damn key's all worn down - takes some time to get her to turn - be careful not to break her.Don't put her into it over forty or the goddamn thing'll fly off. MARK Five speed box? FOREMAN Yep. MARK Reverse is? FOREMAN 7

Over and up. The key finally turns, and the unmuffled engine roars and sputters, sounding powerful and dangerous. MARK pivots out of the way as the FOREMAN leaps out and points off to the horizon. FOREMAN They'll load you up with tailings on Miller's Road. Take it on up to the Cottonwood Ranch turnoff, where the culverts are. As the foreman walks away, MARK gets in and surveys the interior: the cracked brown seat showing springs, motor parts on the floor, a collection of ancient pens and pencils and broken tools on the dash. He revs the engine. The cab shakes, and dust dances up from every surface. Pulling around to turn out of the gate, he starts to sing. MARK Oh, give me forty acres and I'll turn this rig around, it's the easiest way that I've found. Some guys can turn it on a dime or turn it right downtown, But I need forty acres to turn this rig around....

EXTERIOR.

NEVADA: THE F&B MARKET.

NIGHT.

CARSON is exiting the Market. Behind him, lights are going out, the doors are being locked. He walks to the far end of the parking lot to his old VW beetle. MARK is sitting in the passenger's seat, looking through a heap of cassette tapes. MARK I know what I'm getting you for Christmas. CARSON Door locks? MARK 8

Music from this decade. Speedwagon? C’mon. CARSON How was work?

REO

MARK Fun. They gave me a prehistoric truck. At lunch I heard several ribald but witty jokes. CARSON Such as? MARK Well, they're truckdrivin' jokes, so you as a layperson might not appreciate their subtlety. Okay, now imagine that I don't have any teeth: Once there was a man who went into a diner looking for a job. The cook says: OK, but remember, I like my orders in the form of a poem. So the man says: That won't be a problem. Pretty soon two men come in and order stew. Then two women come in and order stew. Then a young woman comes in and orders egg in a glass. So the man thinks a minute, then he goes to the cook and says: Coupla stews for a coupla Jews. Coupla more for a coupla whore. Egg in a glass for a country lass, and if that ain't poetry, I'll kiss your ass. CARSON What's 'egg in a glass'? MARK It's truckdrivin' vittles. CARSON Oh...so what do you want to do? MARK What is there to do? CARSON 9

Drag Main. They sit in silence. Somewhere out in the night, a chorus of bullfrogs call for mates. MARK What the hell, let's do it. CARSON starts up the car and drives out of the lot. MARK puts in a tape and sings along with the Beatles in a bad, thick Cockney. MARK Ob la di! Fucking ob la da! CARSON pulls onto Main Street. After a short block, he turns into a large dirt field where several cars have parked in a cluster so their drivers can converse without getting out. Two boys and a girl come over. FIRST BOY Carson! How ya doin'? CARSON The usual. GIRL Where's the party? CARSON You're looking at it. SECOND BOY Hey - Mark! How's school? MARK One big yuk. FIRST BOY I bet. Beats hanging in this burg though, huh? GIRL (Coyly playing with a roll of money.) Hey, Carson, how about buying for us? 10

Sure.

CARSON What'll it be?

GIRL Two cases of Coors. CARSON Fifteen minutes. garlic field. Back of Lohmiller's

CARSON drives back out onto the street. MARK I don't believe you. Those kids are barely old enough to drive. CARSON Aw, shit. Somebody's going to buy it for them. When we were their age, somebody always bought for us. MARK Suzie's brother, the bunghole? Good thing he was twenty-one. He had no other redeeming features. He still around? CARSON Nah. He rammed that old Camaro of his right into a hay truck one day over by Dayton. He's fucked up in a wheelchair - they all moved to California somewhere. MARK Hell of a way to leave town. CARSON stops in front of a small liquor store. He gets out; MARK stays in the car. CARSON is half-way to the store before he notices that he is alone. He comes to MARK's window. CARSON Coming in? MARK I'm not twenty-one yet. 11

EXTERIOR.

MARK'S HOUSE.

NIGHT.

MARK falls out of Carson's car and waves ineptly as it drives away. He is holding a bottle of beer. He drains it, then looks around for a place to hide the bottle, finally dropping it behind a bush. He goes quietly into the house and flops down on a chair. With a remote, he turns on the TV and finds MTV. After a few minutes of Alternative Nation, his MOM tiptoes in. She is in a nightgown and robe, holding a book. Mom. you. MARK I'm sorry. I didn't mean to wake

MOM You didn't. What did you do tonight? MARK We did the same old thing... with all new people.

EXTERIOR.

A DIRT ROAD.

DAY.

MARK is slumped in the cool silent protection of his dump truck’s shadow. He is reading a paperback and eating lunch. Out of one of the emerald-green fields of alfalfa which border the road rides a young redheaded girl on a black stallion. She slides down to open the gate and leads her horse through the fence. Once on the road, she leaps back into the saddle. MARK has been watching her over his book the whole time. As she rides past him, she smiles, then kicks her heels. The horse gallops away, churning up white alkali dust that settles all over MARK, who waves it away with his book as he watches her disappear.

INTERIOR.

MARK'S GARAGE.

DAY.

The garage was built to accommodate two cars but is instead jammed full of boxes, dressers, bikes, tools, chairs, etc. 12

MARK is searching for something in the chaos. Finally he finds an old bass and a small amplifier. He drags the amp into one of the narrow clearings and plugs it in. He connects the bass and begins to tune it. One of the strings snaps violently under the tension and flies close to his face. He recoils away, cursing. Retying it, he finishes tuning and begins to play. The amp hums loudly and crackles. Yellow lights shine from its guts. Mark is playing faster and louder and does not see the amp start to smoke. He smells it and turns. Still wearing his bass, he grabs the amp by its cord and drags it out into the driveway. It is smoking heavily now even though the power is off. Mark turns on a garden hose and wets it down.

EXTERIOR.

A TRACK SURROUNDING A FOOTBALL FIELD.

DAY.

MR. REDD, the high school music teacher, is jogging along the grass on the side of the track. MARK rides across the field on a bicycle, bounces down onto the dirt of the track and inches along, keeping pace. MARK How far today, MR. REDD? MR. REDD Five miles. How's college life? MARK Expensive. MR. REDD I'll bet. MARK I need a favor. MR. REDD What can I do you for? MARK I'd like to borrow the Marshall amp. MR. REDD Well, nobody is going to need it until September. But I'll need some quid pro 13

quo. MARK Name it. MR. REDD Pep band needs some new charts. still score? MARK Yeah...yeah, no sweat. truck. You

I'll go get my

EXTERIOR.

CARSON'S TRAILER.

DAY.

MARK and CARSON have set up their equipment in the shade of a willow tree a few yards from the trailer. MARK has a mike on a stand connected to the borrowed Marshall. CARSON is whacking about on his trap set, testing the distances. MARK Okay, let's give it a try? Slow, like this. One, two, three, four. He begins to play the bass line for "Cure for Pain". He sings a couple of verses. A dozen cows watch them from a nearby field, slowly chewing.

EXTERIOR.

CARSON'S TRAILER.

DAY.

MARK and CARSON are sprawled in the trailer's shadow. MARK Jimmy Bailey? CARSON He moved to Winnemuca three years ago or so. Works in a gold mine. MARK Who the hell else was there? CARSON 14

Carl Frye? French? MARK He was...okay. He around?

CARSON Naw - he and Gina finally got married. He joined the Navy. MARK Jesus H.! Isn’t there anybody in this freaking hole who still plays guitar? CARSON How about if you play guitar and we find someone who can play bass? MARK We are in deep trouble.

INTERIOR.

THE VFW HALL.

DAY.

MARK and CARSON are sitting on the stainless steel counter top of the large kitchen. Family, friends, and hired help are preparing and delivering platters of food. Laughter and music come from the larger room beyond when the door swings open. SANDRA bursts through the door, looking like she is on the hunt for something. She spots MARK and CARSON and pounces. SANDRA C'mon, you guys - get out there and dance! All the old folks are dancing, and the kids are just standing around like it's the goddamn freshman hop. Come and dance with me, we'll get them started. MARK You're married. with you. Get your mate to dance

SANDRA Get your butt off that counter. 15

INTERIOR.

THE VFW HALL.

DAY.

Arm in arm, MARK and SANDRA come into the main room. A three-piece band, “The Cremetti Family” according to a small placard, is playing danceable tunes. The father is seated at an electric piano, the mother is blowing clarinet, and a daughter is on the violin. MARK and SANDRA go onto the dance floor. SANDRA begins to dance apart, waving at the onlookers to come out onto the dance floor. MARK takes her by the hand and waist and swings her around gracefully. MARK Come to me, you temptress. possess you. SANDRA Here they come! MARK They are jealous of me, my love. SANDRA Sure. I heard you're driving truck for the county this summer. MARK Are there any secrets in this town? SANDRA None at all. I also heard that Carson and you have been playing. MARK Man, we are a quarter of the way to being half-assed. Know anybody who plays guitar? SANDRA How about Mr. Cremetti? He used to give guitar lessons. MARK Our tastes in music are probably 16 I must

irreconcilable. You idiot. taught. Oh. SANDRA I meant ask him who he has

MARK Great idea.

INTERIOR.

THE VFW HALL.

DAY.

MARK is leaning on the piano, watching MR. CREMETTI play romantic background music. His wife and daughter are on a break. MR. CREMETTI No, I haven't had a guitar student in ten years or so. Why do you ask? MARK I'm trying to put together a band. MR. CREMETTI Sorry. I wish I could help you out. If I do hear of anyone, I'll let you know. MRS. CREMETTI has come up, punch glass in hand, in time to catch the gist of the conversation. MRS. CREMETTI What about Stanley, dear? MR. CREMETTI In a band, Mother? MARK Stan...plays guitar? MRS. CREMETTI You didn't know? MR. CREMETTI He's been terribly shy all of his life. 17

I gave up trying to get him in my piano recitals by the second grade. MARK He plays piano? MRS. CREMETTI Since he was three. Stanley would never let anyone see him. It's a shame, really. He has perfect pitch. MR. CREMETTI Funny thing is though, he can't sing a lick. Perfect pitch on the violin but can't sing. Well, you can ask him, if you want, but I seriously doubt you'll ever get him to play in public. MARK He plays violin?

INTERIOR.

THE VFW HALL.

DAY. MARK comes up

CARSON is in the middle of a pack of guys. from behind and pulls him away.

MARK You won't believe who can play guitar. Stan Cremetti. CARSON Yeah, right. MARK His mom and dad told me. violin, too. CARSON Get outta town. MARK He won’t play when there's anybody around. CARSON 18 Piano and

Well, I believe that. I've known him since we were five, and I've never heard him put two sentences together. So what are we going to do about it? MARK We've got to audition him.

INTERIOR.

THE VFW HALL.

DAY.

MARK is talking with some friends. Among them is STAN, a large hulking fellow who is listening intently but not speaking. Couples are still out dancing. CARSON brings up a tray of drinks. He has taken off his suitcoat, rolled up his sleeves, and wrapped an apron around his waist. CARSON Three beers...gin and tonic...soda water...Stan, another lemonade freeze? STAN Thanks. Stepping back from the group, MARK catches up with CARSON. MARK What's in the lemonade? CARSON Two ounces of Everclear. taste it. He can't

MARK Jesus, show some restraint, okay? We don't want to kill him. CARSON Look, he weighs about two-fifty. It'll take seven, eight ounces of alcohol to get him up to point one five. This is his third glass. One more and then he gets straight lemonade. He'll be much less inhibited any time now. MARK 19

Point one five? Let's not let him get to his car while we're not looking. CARSON You have no faith. I have his distributor cap in one pocket and his keys in the other.

INTERIOR.

THE VFW HALL.

DAY.

The hall is empty except for MARK, who is sitting at the piano, picking out a melody with one finger. CARSON comes in, followed by a noticeably unsteady STAN. CARSON Okay, Stan is here to back me up on this. No way. MARK You're wrong.

CARSON Impossible. MARK Stan, you be the judge. Carson and I have a bet. He says that this is "Days of Wine and Roses". He pecks out a couple of bars. MARK And I say that this is. MARK struggles with a few more bars. Both tunes sound pretty much the same, remarkably like "Yankee Doodle". STAN No, no, no. You're both nuts. Here this is "Days of Wine and Roses". STAN sits down, shoving MARK aside, and begins playing with both hands. Two of the bridesmaids come in, giggling between themselves. STAN stops in mid-chord and stands up. 20

STAN I've gotta go. find my keys.

Patti's sick.

Can't

CARSON C'mon, I'll drive you home. keys’ll turn up.

Your

EXTERIOR.

A RESIDENTIAL STREET.

DUSK.

CARSON and MARK are sitting in Carson's car. MARK Think she's forgiven him yet? CARSON I hope so. Man, he was a puking wreck. MARK Just can't hold his frozen lemonade. CARSON What's that? MARK All right! A guitar! They jump out and slink along a cedar fence to the back of a house. They peek through a gap in the fence and see STAN and his young daughter, JULIA. STAN is sitting in a rocking chair holding an acoustic guitar. His daughter is struggling to keep her arms around a four string ukelele. STAN Want to try it again, Julie? JULIA Yes! STAN Remember to change back to D after the oinky part. STAN starts to pick a melody, and she begins to strum chords and sing. 21

JULIA Once there were five little piggies in a row. Oink, said one, I've got to go. Oink, he said, and oink, he did. He got up and away he went... Oink...oink, oink, oink, oink... Oink, oink, oink, oink... Oink, oink, oink, oink... MARK pushes open the gate. STAN stops playing. keeps singing for a moment, then stops. JULIA Who's that, Daddy? STAN Friends, pigpen. MARK and CARSON come up onto the porch. MARK picks up the guitar which STAN had laid down behind the rocker. MARK Julia, I'm Mark. This is my pal, Carson. Do you remember us? JULIA No. MARK Is your daddy a good guitar player? JULIA He's the best! STAN Julie! Please go see if your mother needs help. JULIA Okay, Daddy. Bye. She waves farewell and goes into the house, clutching her ukelele by the neck. MARK Guitar? Piano? 22 JULIA

STAN shrugs. Out the back door steps his wife, PATTI, a diminutive redhead, her long hair up in a bun. She is wearing a "The French Chef" apron. She pats her hands together and puffs of flour fly off. PATTI Mark and Carson. by? Whatever brings you

MARK Well...actually, we...came to apologize. For the other night. We kinda slipped Stan some pretty strong drinks. PATTI So that's how it was. STAN I told you. MARK Yeah. It was stupid of us. We're sorry. I hope we didn't cause any problems. PATTI At least you didn't let him drive home. CARSON We made sure he couldn't. PATTI So? You got him drunk. I don't think Stan does it often enough. STAN I puked all night. CARSON Jeez. That was straight grain alcohol. You should have slept like a baby. PATTI You obviously have never had a baby. They cry and spit up all night. Poor 23

dear. You spent a long time on the white telephone, calling Ralph. MARK It was a mean thing to do. PATTI Then why did you do it? MARK Carson and I need a guitar player. We used to know some guys who could play guitar, but they've all left town. At the reception, Stan's dad and mom told me that Stan played guitar. And piano and violin. PATTI And trumpet and French horn and banjo. MARK We were skeptical. So we tricked him into getting drunk and playing the piano. PATTI You want Stan to play guitar in your band? MARK Yeah...is that okay with you? PATTI Okay? It's fabulous! Stan, you play so beautifully. It's about time people appreciated your talent. STAN Too busy. MARK We'll just be jamming for fun, by ourselves. PATTI Go ahead, honey. Give them a chance. 24

(From where whole Daddy, can

JULIA behind the screen door, she has listened to the scene.) I play in your band too?

INTERIOR.

MARK'S GARAGE.

DAY.

MARK is moving the last few boxes out of the center of the garage. He has somehow managed to clear a sizable space by piling junk outside. CARSON is setting up the drums. STAN drives up and comes in, holding his guitar nervously. MARK Acoustic guitar? Looks like we are unplugged. STAN Is it okay? MARK Sure. I'll turn my amp way down. Listen to this. Here’s a couple of tunes for us. Clean trio stuff. I charted out the chords. He punches play on a black boombox. "American Music” starts. After one chorus, MARK turns it off. MARK I like that one. straightforwardIt's pretty

STAN is already playing the rhythm chords, in tempo. CARSON You didn't stay up all night charting out the chords, did you? MARK What the hell. can get. Let's see how far we

He starts. CARSON leads them sparely; STAN drives with the rhythm. MARK stumbles along, trying to sing and keep up 25

with the bass line. They play to the end of the first chorus, right where Mark had stopped the tape. STAN stops and looks up at them for guidance. MARK Uh...second verse, same as the first? STAN nods and takes off again. up. The others race to catch

INTERIOR.

MARK'S TRUCK.

DAY.

MARK is driving much too fast down a two lane highway running straight through the browned sagebrush. STAN is on the outside; CARSON is crammed into the middle. After sneaking several peeks at the speedometer, he cannot contain himself. CARSON D'you think this old thing should be doing eighty? MARK I'm an engineer. CARSON That's what they said on the space shuttle. MARK Is that so? What kind of guitar should we get Stan? One of those futuristic triangular jobbies? Or maybe a square one with fur around it, like a ZZ Top thing? STAN I like the one I've got. MARK It's okay for folk songs, but we're a power trio, man. Bass, drums, guitar. You've got to be solid-body ampped-upthe-wazoo screaming. 26

STAN What kind of music does a power trio play? MARK A power trio strips a tune down to its core. Rhythm, melody, chords. The fundamental inputs of pleasure. Synaptic depolarization. The neurons fire in little sparks. Pinka pinka pink. The music that moves your butt contains harmonics and subharmonics of your natural neural vibe. Harmony in a song is the relationship of two notes to each other and to the background humming in your noggin. The music I like to hear makes me feel good. It resonates in synch with my natural cellular oscillations and elevates my endorphin levels. You like Brahms, I'm down with da boys, da boys, da Beastie Boys. Our brains are just beating differently. Except if you like country music, which is a result of zero brain activity and so satisfies the legal definition of death in most states.

INTERIOR.

RENO: A PAWNSHOP.

DAY.

MARK, CARSON, and STAN enter the shop. Two walls are covered with musical instruments - brass, woodwind, a few stringed, and lots and lots of guitars. There are several traps sets and other assorted drums and a row of amplifiers. MARK Look at these babies! Every one was someone's dream. Bought at retail in the heat of passion. CARSON And unloaded for rent money. This isn't the most inspirational place. 27

MARK Who dares, wins, my friends. Stanley! Look at that! This is an awesome axe. He takes down off the wall a black and gold Stratocaster and hands it to STAN. CLERK Can I help you? MARK Can we try this guitar, please? The CLERK rummages behind a counter and finds a cord which he uses to connect the guitar to a small amp. He turns the volume on to "1" and walks away. STAN begins to strum a tune. CARSON recognizes it and sings along. CARSON Down in the valley, valley, so low... MARK disconnects STAN from the small amp and plugs him in to a monster. He turns it on as quietly as it will go, lower even than "1". MARK Butthole Surfers. STAN Okay. CARSON has found a pair of drumsticks. He taps out the rhythm on a kettle drum. MARK starts to sing "Who Was in My Room?", sotto voce until he twists the volume up to "10". MARK WHO THE HELL WAS IN MY ROOM? STAN slashes. The walls tremble. store clap hands over their ears. incensed, rushes toward them. MARK (Screaming.) We'll take it! 28 The customers across the The clerk, alarmed and

INTERIOR.

RENO: A CASINO BUFFET ROOM.

DAY.

MARK and CARSON are heaping their plates with food at the buffet line. Behind them STAN has his plate precariously balanced in one hand. He is holding his new guitar in the other. MARK That window was cracked when we went in there. CARSON My left ear is still ringing. They move to a table. STAN joins them. in his lap while he eats. MARK What? He puts his guitar

INTERIOR.

MARK'S GARAGE.

NIGHT.

CARSON is adjusting a cymbal - he can't seem to obtain the proper height. STAN has his new guitar hung around his neck. He has found an old chainsaw in the corner and is pulling the cord. It doesn't start. He worries it with a screwdriver and keeps trying. MARK is working with a solder iron behind a big black amplifier. It looks pretty shabby next to the school amp. MARK Jesus, this thing is a wreck inside. CARSON Mrs. Frye told me that Carl's father built it from scratch. MARK Yeah, I remember. pretty good. It used to sound

CARSON Remember how Carl would turn up the 29

treble to get that fuzzy sound? MARK I remember blowing up the speaker doing that. The damn magnet shot across his bedroom and broke a hole in the door. He should have replaced the crossover net when he put in the new speaker. CARSON Hell, he didn't have that kind of cash. He stole that speaker from the movie theater. MARK No shit? I never knew that. CARSON You didn't notice that you only heard the left side of the soundtrack for over a year? MARK Nah. I was going out with Shelley. We sat way back in the dark rows. I had her tongue in my ear most of the time. Okay. Done. He gets up and plugs in the power cord. STAN bangs a chord which starts out clearly but tails off into static. CARSON What's that smell? MARK Son of a bitch! He unplugs the amp and kicks it. It arcs a bright flash of sparks in response, and they all scramble back away from it.

EXTERIOR.

THE HIGH SCHOOL.

DAY.

MARK and MR. REDD are loading another big amplifier into Mark's truck. MARK ties it down. Both are dripping with 30

sweat. MR. REDD Four more arrangements - you're sure you can do that much? MARK No problem. Great. MR. REDD Need any more equipment?

MARK Thank God, no.

INTERIOR.

MARK'S GARAGE.

NIGHT.

The boys have both amps humming. MARK is putting the last pieces of tape on plastic sheets fitted to the windows. CARSON We're going to sweat our balls off. Shaking his head, MARK flips a switch on the wall and a fan starts to turn above the rafters. The plastic on the windows bulges inward as the air is sucked through the room. MARK Let's try that Sugar tune. He picks up his bass and counts off. your Mind". They start "Change

EXTERIOR.

MARK'S GARAGE.

NIGHT.

A young couple out for an evening walk with their babe in a stroller has stopped in the street to listen. The music is plainly heard and still fairly loud. A bicyclist rides by, turns around, and stops. He nods at the couple. BICYCLIST Is that somebody's stereo? 31

WOMAN I don't think so.

INTERIOR.

MARK'S GARAGE.

NIGHT.

The three are concentrating on their playing.

EXTERIOR.

MARK'S GARAGE.

NIGHT.

The couple and the bicyclist have been joined by a jogger, a man walking his dog, and two cars full of teenagers. The couple with the stroller is dancing.

INTERIOR.

MARK'S GARAGE.

NIGHT.

They are repeating the chorus. There is a knock on the steel of the garage door, barely noticeable at first. CARSON hears it and stops playing. The others grind down to a halt. They hear a banging and muffled shouting. MARK opens the garage door. Standing outside is a cop holding his nightstick. Behind the cop is the crowd which had gathered, now more than a dozen people.

EXTERIOR.

A TRAILER PARK.

NIGHT.

Most of the mobile homes are dark. One is still brightly lighted, and loud music leaks out the windows. Several cars and trucks are parked outside.

INTERIOR.

A MOBILE HOME.

NIGHT.

The trailer is packed. Teenagers are on the floor, sitting on the tables, squeezed into the bedroom. MARK is crammed on a small couch in between two girls who look about his age. They have to speak loudly to be heard over the stereo. 32

FIRST GIRL You're so lucky, living in Boston. It must be exciting after growing up in this place. SECOND GIRL I’d give anything to get out of this burg. Maybe we can visit you in Boston, huh? FIRST GIRL My brother was in seventh grade last year, and he said that Mr. Hodges told them: "Look at Mark Foster. He used to get C's in my class, and now he's going to be an aeronautical engineer". MARK That senile old bastard. I spent most of seventh grade in the hall for being a wiseass. FIRST GIRL But at least you ditched this burg. MARK Hey - I'm still here.

EXTERIOR.

MARK'S HOUSE.

NIGHT.

MARK is trying to sneak into the unlighted backyard. He comes through the gate quietly, then almost trips over his father, who is lying back on a lounge chair, looking at the sky through binoculars. MARK Dad! What are you doing? His father reclines and puts the binoculars back to his eyes. DAD Stargazing. You've been drinking. 33

MARK Two beers. DAD You'll be twenty-one soon enough. young as long as you can. MARK You mean stay illegal longer than necessary. DAD Have a good party? MARK Sure. Some of these people I hadn't seen since graduation. You know, I'm pretty lucky. My old friends don't seem to be jealous. I'm not sure I could be that generous if they were getting something I wanted. DAD Maybe they have their own dreams. MARK You're probably right. There are all these kids that I spent nearly every day with for over twelve years. They're like family. I know guys in college whose parents moved around all the time. They went to a different school every couple of years. They don’t have friends like mine. DAD Look there. Do you know what that is? He hands the binoculars to MARK. MARK Space junk. Booster rockets, solar panels, dead satellites, stuff like that. A lot of it's only a hundred and fifty miles up, waiting to burn in. 34 Stay

DAD I'm going inside.

EXTERIOR.

A COUNTRY ROAD.

DAY.

MARK is easing a full dump truck down a rough road. Piles of fill line the side; a road grader is blading the hard dirt level. MARK pulls into a recently cleared field where three huge new metal sheds stand in a row. He parks and hops out. A man pushing a wheelbarrow loaded with cement block comes from behind one shed. MARK Excuse me - is this the Hack ranch? MAN Not Hack. MARK What are these? Que...casa? Onions. MAN Casa por onions.

EXTERIOR.

A COUNTRY ROAD.

DAY.

MARK is driving his truck down the same washboarded road, CARSON and STAN bouncing about beside him. MARK These buildings are awesome. Apparently Fenilli got a deal from the construction company. Three for the price of two, and the third shed won't have onions in it until the season after next. He pulls into the field and drives up to one of the sheds. They all get out. MARK takes out a key and unlocks the door. He steps inside and flips on a light switch. The shed is huge: metal walls and roof, cement floor, translucent panels in the ceiling letting in some natural light. There are bales of straw stacked at one end. The 35

remainder of the shed is thinly strewn with construction debris. MARK All we have to do is clean it up and pay for the electricity. What a beautiful space! CARSON picks up a couple of wooden slats and bangs on an empty five-gallon plastic bucket. STAN kneels and runs his hand admiringly over the floor. CARSON Good acoustics. STAN Nice pour!

INTERIOR.

THE ONION SHED.

NIGHT.

They have set up their gear in one end of the shed. STAN, wearing his guitar, turns on his amp and thumbs a chord. They listen in awe at the reverberations. CARSON What a waste on onions! MARK "Head On" - Pixies version. He plugs in his bass and turns on his amp, then nods at CARSON, who clacks his sticks together to set the pace. They play over the montage.

MONTAGE. Late at night. MARK is sitting at a desk, one lamp on in the dark. He is transcribing music from a tape. He plays the tape in his boombox for a few seconds, then makes a couple of notes on the sheet. He reaches for a small keyboard and picks out a melody with one finger. MARK and CARSON are deep in the sagebrush, away from 36

everything. MARK takes an old album: MEET THE BEATLES! and a pistol from his truck. He gives the album to CARSON, who shucks record of its paper sheath, scales it into the air, and hits the dirt. MARK fires at the black circle and misses. He stomps over to where it lands and empties his weapon into it, raising volcanic spurts of dirt. MARK is stopped at a drive-thru bank window in his dumptruck. He can barely reach down to the drawer. He leans halfway out of the window to grab his fistful of cash. MARK and STAN are back in the Reno pawnshop. STAN is caressing a hollow body Fender. The clerk who waited on them before comes out of the back room and rushes at them in a panic, shaking his head. He takes the guitar away from STAN. MARK points at an amp. The clerk plugs the guitar into the amp and plays a chord for them. STAN and CARSON are manhandling the two school amps from the back of Mark's truck back into the high school while MARK shows some scores to MR. REDD. They have built a stage from odds and ends of planks and straw bales. Their two new amps stand on either side of the trap set. MARK stage dives off into a big pile of straw. CARSON follows. They wave at STAN to try, but he shakes his head adamantly.

INTERIOR.

MARK'S HOUSE.

DAY.

MARK is eating a sandwich on the porch, watching a baseball game on a small TV. MOM comes out with a glass of milk. MARK Thanks, Mom. MOM I ran into Mrs. Costello at the Post Office this morning. MARK Yeah? Her husband does most of the county welding. 37

MOM She is under the impression that your position is full time...permanent. MARK Really? MOM You should straighten things out. MARK You know, don't you? MOM Know what, dear? MARK I'm going to stay here...into the fall. MOM And how long are you planning on driving a truck for the county? MARK I don't know. MOM I presume you were going to tell us eventually? MARK Sorry. MOM What's wrong? You haven't been expelled? MARK No. MOM A girl? MARK No. MOM 38

Then what? You've got one more year to go, and you'll have your degree. You've wanted to build airplanes all your life. One more year.... Well, I'm glad you aren't in trouble. I'll let you tell your father. MARK What do you think he'll say? MOM Oh, he'll be upset for a while. Then he'll go out in the shop and build something, and he'll be all right. MARK I thought you'd be pretty mad at me. She hugs him. MOM My baby. You don't remember what you were like as a toddler. No one could tell you anything. You had to touch the hot stove. You had to try and grab the flame in the fireplace. You put everything into your mouth. When you were about seven or so, we quit trying to give you orders. We just gave you suggestions. But someday you'll meet a nice girl, get married, and have a child who'll be just like you were. Then you’ll appreciate your parents.

EXTERIOR.

HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL FIELD.

NIGHT.

A football game is in progress under the lights on a warm Friday night in early September. A crowd of several hundred fills the stands on the home side. Fewer sit in the smaller away bleachers on the other side of the field. Perky cheerleaders are cartwheeling, the band is blaring, the crowd leaps up and cheers a long run from scrimmage. MARK is wandering on the track between the stands and the field. He turns away and walks over to the stands where the marching band is playing the school fight song. MR. 39

REDD waves at him. MR. REDD When do you leave for Boston? MARK I'm taking the year off. MR. REDD But you're almost done. Well, at least you will get a chance to hear the fruit of your labor. We’re going to play "Whip It". The band shuffles sheets to the score. MR. REDD counts them down, and they begin to play. The tune is barely coherent. Instruments take off on tangents, the rhythm speeds up and slows down. MARK forces a smile and gives them a thumbs-up. He waves farewell to MR. REDD and turns away, immediately spotting CARSON, who was coming up behind him. CARSON is wearing a fringed leather jacket, black cowboy hat, tie-dyed pants, and sandals. CARSON What the hell are they playing? MARK That's...uh..."Like a Virgin", you know, Madonna? CARSON Oh yeah, sure. They make their way into the stands and up to the very top, pausing to greet someone on almost every step. Once at the top, MARK hears his name called from below and behind. He looks down and sees SANDRA with her arms full of bags of popcorn. MARK That's saturated fat colored yellow. SANDRA It's for Bernie and Derek. MARK So you are the Black Widow. 40

SANDRA Why aren't you in Boston? MARK I'm taking some time off. SANDRA Why? What's wrong? MARK Nothing's wrong. school. I'm just tired of

SANDRA But what are you going to do here? MARK I'm driving truck for the county. SANDRA Oh God. You're making me sick to my stomach. Will you come over to dinner? MARK When? SANDRA I'll call you. Moron. She walks off into the darkness. CARSON What are we doing after the game? MARK It must be about time to go railing again. CARSON Great idea. Your truck doesn't fit on the track, does it? MARK Nope. But Billy Souza has a '72 Dodge Dart, and that will fit. I saw him on the way in. 41

CARSON What if he doesn't want to go? C’mon. railing. MARK Nobody ever didn't want to go

EXTERIOR.

IN THE DESERT.

NIGHT.

MARK and CARSON are driving slowly along a narrow, rough dirt road. They round a turn and in the headlights see an old Dodge stopped just before a slight grade which rises up to a single pair of railroad tracks. MARK and CARSON stop and get out. In the Dart are two teens, BILLY and BUDDY. MARK Hey, Billy. Nice car. Hi, Mark. BILLY This is my cousin Buddy.

MARK How ya doin? BUDDY Did you bring some? CARSON holds up a cooler. They see another pair of headlights coming on the road. BILLY That's probably Annette Lewis. of girls wanted to come. A bunch

BUDDY Some'm'll probably have to sit on our laps. BILLY I hope so. The car drives up and stops. Four girls get out, giggling and fluttering. One of them is the girl Mark saw on the horse. 42

BILLY Hot damn. Annette and Barb and Melissa. BUDDY Who's that other one? BILLY Oh, that's Victoria Riley. I've never partied with her before. What is she, a sophomore? BUDDY Jail bait. The girls come over the Dart in a tight group. ANNETTE Hi guys...what's going on? BILLY We're ready to get her up on the rails and ride. ANNETTE You know, my uncle said they used to do it all the time, back in the sixties. How do we do it? MARK We have to let just enough air out of Billy's tires so they can follow the track. It'll steer itself. BILLY This won't hurt my rims, will it? MARK Naw. It doesn't take much. Then we just sit in the car and party. MELISSA Sounds like a blast. How come people don't do it all the time? MARK 43

They used to, long ago. Then one night in 1969 - the summer of love - a car full of kids was smashed head-on by a freight train. They were all killed instantly. It happened right up there. About two miles from here. BARBIE Oh my God! MARK They were high - so high they totally forgot about the 11:33 train. BILLY Hey, it's 10:30 now. MARK Don't worry. That train doesn't run anymore. Not since.... There's no traffic on this line until the 4:11 from Fallon. BUDDY How many were killed? MARK Eight kids. Their bodies were so mangled together that the mortician just divided up the remains into eight caskets pretty much at random. BARBIE Jesus! There's eight of us!

EXTERIOR.

ON THE RAILROAD TRACKS.

NIGHT.

It is a clear moonless night. The Dart idles along the tracks. BARBIE is sitting behind the wheel, facing sideways, not touching the controls at all. MARK is outside on the hood, sipping a beer and looking at the stars. Inside, the kids are drinking, listening to the radio, talking, laughing. VICTORIA (O.S.) 44

Get your elbow out of my ear! that's it!

OK,

She climbs out of the window and sits beside MARK. MARK Plenty of room out here. VICTORIA Infinite room! Can’t you just feel yourself falling into the sky? MARK I guess. VICTORIA Aren’t you supposed to be back in Boston? MARK Christ. I should have a T shirt printed: No, I am not going to college this year. Thank you very much. VICTORIA I'm sorry. MARK Small town life. business. Everybody knows your

VICTORIA Then why are you still here? MARK How old are you? VICTORIA Sixteen. MARK Well, this is the first time in fifteen football seasons I haven't been off to school. Since you were one year old! VICTORIA So how does it feel to be out? 45

Strange.

MARK No required reading.

He sits up, peering off into the blackness, then slides off the hood and sprints down the track ahead of the car. VICTORIA follows without hesitation.

INTERIOR.

THE CAR.

NIGHT.

The kids are silly, giddy from the novelty of the moving party. CARSON cocks his head, then leans far out of the window. CARSON Hey! Be quiet! I hear something! They fall silent. Suddenly, there is a blinding light and the piercing shriek of a whistle. Screaming and swearing, they fly and tumble out of doors and windows. They flop in the dust and roll down the grade. When they recover enough to look up, they see MARK standing on the track with a big spotlight lantern. VICTORIA is standing beside him, blasting a canned air horn. CARSON is rolling around in the dirt, crying from laughter. BILLY and BUDDY shout threats and curses. MARK sidesteps the Dart, which starts to pick up its pace once relieved of its human ballast. MARK Hey! Better catch that car! There are real trains through here sometimes! All except CARSON, who is still howling, dash after the fleeing Dart.

EXTERIOR. COUNTRY ROAD. DAY. MARK is driving an overloaded dump truck down the road. A boombox on the floor is cranked up with a Rubber Rodeo tune. At the gate leading to the cemetery he sees a familiar horse tied to a post. He turns down the cemetery road, where VICTORIA is sitting on a grassy plot, her back to him. He stops and jumps out. 46

MARK Anybody I know? VICTORIA Jamie Villacort. He was my date at the eighth grade dance. MARK I heard about that. again? What happened

VICTORIA He was drunk. He drove off the road, out on Pitts Lane, where the curve is and the old cottonwoods are right next to the road. Apparently he never even touched the brakes. There were no skidmarks at all. MARK Where was he going? VICTORIA Going? He wasn't going anywhere. That's what he did for entertainment. Have you been away so long? What did you and your friends do on summer nights? MARK Well...yeah, I guess we did some of that. One night I was riding around with Lowell and Dave. All of a sudden Lowell floors it. We were doing a hundred and fifteen, I swear, past the old dairy. I laid down on the floor. The trees were a blur...but I never felt in any real danger. VICTORIA Oh, right, I forgot. You are immortal.

MARK You're supposed to feel immortal at sixteen. 47

VICTORIA Tell Jamie. MARK What do you do for fun? VICTORIA I walk around town after dark. After ten o'clock, all the houses go dark. I walk down my street and I wonder: What goes on behind the shades? Every healthy person has a secret life. They must! People here want to be so uniform. So I pray that there are wild bestial acts happening as I walk by. Life just couldn’t be this bland. MARK You'd be surprised. VICTORIA Usually I can walk down Main Street from NAPA Auto Parts all the way to the Silver Strike without a car passing me. What's it like to live where you can find people up all night? MARK You know Parrott Road, out where the Hack Ranch is? Yes. VICTORIA I ride down there.

MARK There are some new onion sheds there, about half a mile from the highway. We've been playing two or three times a week. If you wanted to come and listen. VICTORIA I'd like that. What's the dirt for? MARK We're laying in a culvert. I'll see you around. They're waiting for me. 48

He backs up and bumps into the headstone. He grabs it to keep his balance, then something in the inscription computes. MARK Wait a minute. He was only fifteen. What was he doing driving?

INTERIOR.

SANDRA'S HOUSE.

NIGHT.

The door bell rings. BERNIE, a tall, dark man who looks part Hispanic - maybe Native American - gets up from an easy chair and answers the door. It is MARK, bearing a small paper bag. BERNIE Sandy told me you were still in town. How come I haven't seen you in the courthouse, picking up your check? MARK Direct deposit. it. Maybe you've heard of

BERNIE Hey, you'd be proud of us. The assessor's office is high-tech. Everything is electronic. . MARK Really? Stand alone or network? BERNIE Network all the way. We run a custom client-server package off a VAX in Carson City tied to a statewide WAN. SANDRA comes in holding her flailing son under one arm. SANDRA Mark! Bernie's been waiting for you to come and talk computers with him. She puts Derek down and accepts the bag, looking inside. 49

SANDRA Cherry Garcia! Derek, stay here and male-bond. She leaves. DEREK runs and flies onto BERNIE's lap as BERNIE turns down the volume of the baseball game he had been watching. BERNIE Sandy told me you're playing in a band. MARK That sounds formal. It's just me and Carson and Stan having some fun. BERNIE It's hard to picture Stan Cremetti playing a guitar. DEREK has stolen to the front of the TV and changed the channel to a cartoon show. MARK I wouldn't have believed it myself. He plays piano, too. And violin, and who knows what else. BERNIE flicks the remote, changing to the baseball game. DEREK leaps up and changes it back. BERNIE Is he any good? He tries to use the remote, but DEREK is shielding the cable box with his body. MARK Good isn't even the word. He's a fucking freak of nature. Derek, you didn't hear that. Stan's a human sample machine. He hears something; he plays it. BERNIE Judas. I knocked heads with the guy everyday for four years. You'd think 50

I'd know this about him. MARK He's shy. BERNIE Tell me about it. Twice he made AllState at tackle and didn't even show at the dinner to get his trophy. Hard to believe he'd stand up in front of an audience. MARK What audience? We play for the onions.

INTERIOR.

THE ONION SHED.

NIGHT.

MARK and CARSON and STAN are playing something, probably for the first or second time judging from the way it falls to pieces every other bar. They fight to hold it together, but there is no structure by which the tune can be identified. The door opens a crack, and VICTORIA enters hesitantly. MARK motions for her to come in, and she does, trailed by three more girls and two boys. STAN stops playing and turns around. MARK points to a wall of straw bales set back from the stage. VICTORIA nods and leads her flock out of sight. MARK At the chorus: 1...2...3...4... They begin again. STAN plays without turning around. VICTORIA peeks around the bales. Behind her, the kids are dancing.

EXTERIOR.

MAIN STREET.

NIGHT.

MARK is walking down the center line of Main Street. No cars pass. He looks up and down the street. No headlights. A VW comes from a side street in front of him and pulls alongside. CARSON is behind the wheel. He shifts into reverse and backs up to keep pace with MARK. 51

CARSON What's shakin', pal?

You hammered?

MARK I'm walking from one end of Main to the other without anyone passing me. CARSON Did I screw it up? MARK You haven't passed me yet. you doing out so late? What are

CARSON Couldn't sleep. Thought I'd come down and play the slots. MARK looks up and sees that they have ended up in front of the Silver Strike casino. MARK Why don't you just hand me your money? CARSON Coming in? MARK Not tonight. CARSON I forgot. When's your birthday? MARK Thursday. CARSON Let's make a date. Your first night legal, we go out on the town. MARK Family's got a party planned. CARSON Till midnight? MARK 52

Not likely. CARSON Then you call me when it's done.

INTERIOR.

THE ONION SHED.

NIGHT.

They are playing the last chorus of "Long View". A dozen kids are dancing in front of the stage. STAN is facing backwards, trying to ignore them. MARK looks up and sees four more kids slip in the door. MARK This is just a practice. BOY We don't care. MARK You get what you pay for. break. We're on

He slips a tape into the boombox and connects it to an amp. He starts the tape and takes off his bass. The kids start to dance again. MARK walks outside and stretches his arms over his head, then he leans against the building and slides down it so that he is sitting on the ground. Above, the stars are huge and steady. VICTORIA’s voice comes out of the darkness. VICTORIA Word gets around. MARK Think we need a bigger club? VICTORIA Is that what you want? MARK That's my dream. Playing in some noisy smoky dive in front of fist-fighting drunks until four in the morning. VICTORIA 53

You guys don't even realize what you have. Anybody else in your place would be riding it out of here. You could play clubs. Reno, Tahoe, who knows? But you've already been out there and come back. MARK Hey, you need a ticket out? Learn to play bass and you can have my place. VICTORIA Whatever you need out of this band, you can't give it to me. I wouldn't know what it was. I've still got to study for a history test. She jumps up and disappears into the night. Singing "Don't Know Much About History", MARK tries to go back inside, but a knot of kids is coming through the door. One girl is holding Carson's cowboy hat, upended and half-full of coin and bills. She gives the hat to Mark. GIRL Here. We heard that you were paying the utilities. BOY Now we got what we paid for.

EXTERIOR.

OUTSIDE MARK'S HOUSE.

DUSK.

CARSON pulls into the driveway. The family is cleaning up from a barbecue. They wave and call hello. DAD holds up a burger and points to it. CARSON shakes his head. MARK comes out of the house and jumps into the car. CARSON drives away. CARSON Get any good toys? MARK Clothes. Cash. for my Mac. Got a nice CAD program

54

CARSON Take a big hint, eh? something practical.

Well, I got you

He digs under the seat and brings forth a new CD. MARK Human Sexual Response! find this? Where'd you

CARSON Tahoe. There's a little record shop in Crystal Bay, run by aging hippies. I knew they'd have something for you. We'll have to drive up there sometime. Here we are. Legal gaming and consumption of alcoholic beverages by the drink. He parks in front of the Silver Strike Casino.

INTERIOR.

THE STRIKE.

EVENING

The front door opens into a large room. A bar runs along the right; rows of slots and video poker are on the left. CARSON Give me your license. He takes Mark's license to the bar and holds it up for inspection by the bartender, a flabby, dour man. CHUCK Congratulations, Mark. First drink's on the house. What'll it be? MARK Uh...beer? CHUCK draws him a glass and slides it across the bar. MARK picks it up, then waits as CARSON orders a beer. They take their glasses into the next room, a lounge where a threepiece band is playing a country song. A sign reads: The Highwaymen. 55

CARSON Next time you're twenty-one, request a more expensive drink. MARK What did you ask for? CARSON A beer, of course. They wouldn't have that tradition if people thought to ask for strawberry daiquiris or Suffering Bastards. In the lounge, a dozen or so people are sitting around chatting. Most tables are empty. The band is bass, guitar, drums. They finish one song and immediately start another. Two couples are dancing. MARK and CARSON sit down and survey the scene. MARK Can I have my ID back now? CARSON No way. Hey Rimmer! My friend Mark is twenty-one today. How about that? An older man staggers past. He has the look of a weathered cowhand. CARSON holds Mark's license up. RIMMER shakes MARK's hand with great gravity, then shouts at the bar. RIMMER 'Nother round here on me, pard! (To MARK.) Just remember to stay single, you hear? I was hitched to the plow two times before I was your age. Two sisters, too. Can you believe that? Sisters and sisters-in-law. They wereCARSON Rimmer! Your pizza's ready. RIMMER I didn't order any goddamn pizza! I'd better go and tell them again, I didn't do it...those bastards... 56

He ambles off just as the barmaid brings them two more beers. MARK starts to put money on her plate, but CARSON makes him take it back. CARSON Not tonight, pard. good here. Your money's no

INTERIOR.

THE STRIKE.

EVENING

Later. More tables are occupied. An older crowd, mostly. More dancers on the floor. One couple walks by; CARSON shows them the ID. The woman motions to catch the barmaid's attention, then points at Mark and holds up two fingers.

INTERIOR.

THE STRIKE.

DAY

Later. The room is crowded. The floor is jammed with couples swaying in time to a live rendition of "Your Cheating Heart". The barmaid brings another round. She nods toward another table, where two older women wave. GUITAR PLAYER We got a special night here for somebody? CARSON Mark's twenty-one today! GUITAR PLAYER Well, Happy Birthday, Mark. From the Highwaymen. He starts to pick out "Happy Birthday to You". GUITAR PLAYER Twenty-one is the very best birthday of all. Is that a beer you're drinkin'? Nothin' like your first beer. That is the first beer you've ever had, right? That's what I thought. Have one on us. 57

The barmaid nods, her hand already on the spigot. begins to sing. BAND Happy Birthday to you You were born in a zoo You look like a monkey And you smell like one, too.

The band

The barmaid sets another glass of beer down in front of MARK. BARMAID You know, I'm not supposed to serve you if you are obviously inebriated. MARK Wh- what makes you...say that...thing you said? CARSON He's not driving. BARMAID He'd better not be. If anything happens to him, I'll kick your ass. MARK She could do, too. 'Cause you're just as fucked up as am I. Wanna crash on our couch? CARSON No thanks. I got a key to the loading dock door at the store. There's a cot back there. I've got to be in early tomorrow anyway. MARK Work! Holy Shit! I forgot all about work. I've got to haul sand out to Keane Valley in the morning.

INTERIOR.

COUNTY MAINTENANCE SHOP. 58

MORNING.

Reddish dawn comes in the windows. MARK is wandering around, looking pale and sick. Everywhere he turns waits something offensive to his condition. A man hammering on a tire rim; another eating a greasy toasted sandwich; the whine of a pneumatic wrench. He spies several sets of earmuff soundguards hanging on a wall over some chainsaws and slips a pair on. The look on his face is one of blissful relief.

INTERIOR.

STAN'S HOUSE.

DUSK.

MARK, STAN, and CARSON are sitting around the dining room table, which is covered with cassettes, printed sheet music and handwritten charts. In the kitchen, PATTI is setting a camcorder up on a tripod. JULIE is sitting on the floor in a pile of videotapes, holding up a tape. JULIE Is this it, Mommy? It says...beefer..beefer n-tees..beavers eat trees? PATTI That's it, kiddo. Beef entrees. it in and let's get to work. Pop

CARSON. After "she said", we should go buddabudda-budda-fade-conk? MARK In D. STAN I can bend the chord up at the end. MARK Chop it, like that! CARSON Budda-budda-budda-fade-conk? PATTI is taking out pots and pans and setting them on the rangetop. The cooking area is on an island. Attached to the ceiling is a large mirror angled so the camera can 59

shoot a top view. JULIE has dragged a stool over and is standing on it, sighting through the camcorder eyepiece. MARK "She said"-budda-budda-budda-buddaconk! JULIE Quiet on the set! PATTI Welcome back. Today we will be preparing three dishes for a small dinner party. We begin with the classic Caesar salad, followed by an elegant yet hearty boeuf a la monde with broccoli timbales. These particular dishes are definitely not low fat, so you wouldn't want to eat them everyday. We have prepared our roast by marinating as one would for the preparation of sauerbraten. The marinade is about one quart of equal parts vinegar and water. I prefer the more expensive balsamic vinegar from Italy. It has a delicious smoky, nutty tang. Then add one-half diced white onion, two bay leaves, freshly ground pepper, and several tablespoons of sugar. Don't scrimp on the sugar even if it seems odd to have sugar and beef in the same pot. Heat the sauce until warm and thoroughly mixed and pour over the beef. MARK and CARSON have fallen silent and are watching the cooking intently. STAN is reading sheet music, nodding his head to a silent beat.

INTERIOR.

STAN'S HOUSE.

NIGHT.

They are in the middle of dinner. JULIE's plate is clean, and she is curled up asleep in her chair. MARK and CARSON are eating with gusto. 60

PATTI So close to Cambridge. I had a dream about that. I dreamt that I was on a cozy little street lined on both sides by tall trees. I was wondering where I was, then I saw her. She seemed to know me, like I was an old friend. She invited me into her house. I took off my coat; we chatted. She made dinner for me! MARK Well, if I ever do run into her, I'll recommend you highly. PATTI She cooked in a frying pan made of solid gold once, you know. MARK Entirely appropriate. I know she would approve of this a la monde. PATTI Thank you. I made it last New Year's Day for my parents. Now it's all they want. CARSON Speaking of New Year's, KRNV in Reno has their battle of the bands. Finals on New Year's Eve. Want to get tickets? MARK Tickets? Hell, we should be in it. CARSON Why not? MARK notices STAN stiffen. MARK Stan! You can do it. You're doing great in the shed, man. STAN 61

Yeah, but I know all those guys. CARSON I feel better playing in front of strangers. PATTI Get over it, dear. They need you. And you need them. You know you love to play that loud old guitar. I mean, my God, hasn't our sex life been fantastic lately? STAN Patti! PATTI turns to MARK, who is nodding politely. choking on a timbale trapped in mid-guffaw. PATTI Well, it's true. CARSON is

INTERIOR.

MARK'S HOUSE.

DAY.

It is mid-afternoon in late fall. The trees outside are red and gold. Mark and his father are watching a college football game. DAD Naked bootleg - strong side. MARK Flanker screen. The phone rings in the other room. with a cordless phone. MOM Mark. MARK holds the phone to his ear, still watching the game. MARK Hello? 62 Mark's mom comes in

VICTORIA (O.S.) I need a gigantic favor. The Sophomore Sock Hop is supposed to start at seven, but our band just canceled. Would you play for us? MARK What? That's in like...three hours. All our gear is out in the shed. And we don't have but maybe twelve tunes. VICTORIA (O.S.) Please, please, please? You could mix in tapes like at the shed. You could play things twice. No one will mind. MARK Let me think. If Carson is home and willing, and if Stan doesn't freak. VICTORIA (O.S.) Get back to me as soon as you can. I've got to know whether to cancel the food and the cop. I've got to call MARK Okay, I get the picture. Bye.

INTERIOR. NIGHT.

A LARGE FUNCTION ROOM AT THE HIGH SCHOOL.

A crowd of kids stands about. Some are carrying in the band's equipment and arranging it under MARK's supervision on a low platform. CARSON is adjusting his cymbals. STAN is sitting on the back of the platform, his back to all, cradling his guitar. MARK steps up to the mike. MARK Good evening! Can you hear me all right? OK - we're almost ready. You probably know by now that we are the substitute band. What we're going to do tonight is play some of our favorite tunes and spin some others. We might stop and start over and cuss at each 63

other. Please bear with us. If you have requests, we'll try to accommodate you. My name is Mark Foster. On drums is Carson Carson, and on guitar, the one and only Stan Cremetti. MARK turns around and sees that STAN is still hunkered down. He takes off his bass, turns on a tape, and goes to sit beside STAN. STAN I thought it might get easier. MARK It's never easy. If you want to be a performer of any kind, you've got to figure out how to tap that fear for energy. STAN I said I would try. try. I came here to

MARK Stand right behind my amp so you can see Carson. He goes back to his mike and turns off the boombox. Putting on his bass, he nods to CARSON. MARK This one is called "Divine Hammer". From nowhere, it appears, comes STAN's guitar opening. Kids who weren't paying attention before are looking, trying to see where the player is. CARSON and MARK join in, and dancing breaks out.

EXTERIOR.

THE ONION SHED.

NIGHT.

A crew of youths is just finishing unloading the band's gear from MARK's truck into the shed. One by one and two by two they bid farewell and drive off, leaving MARK, CARSON, and VICTORIA standing in the clear cold night. 64

MARK How about a beer? There's some in the fridge. CARSON I've got a steer and two lambs coming in in the morning. You know what they call a butcher with a hangover? MARK No - what? CARSON holds up his right hand with some of the fingers folded back out of sight as he heads for his car. CARSON Lefty. VICTORIA How about that beer? MARK Uh... VICTORIA Oh, c'mon.

INTERIOR.

THE ONION SHED.

NIGHT.

The shed is black except for one small lamp in the corner where a refrigerator, two wooden chairs, and an old couch form a little conversational grouping. MARK and VICTORIA are sitting on the couch, sipping beers, listening to the silence. VICTORIA Do you miss school? MARK I miss my friends. I miss learning new things. I don't miss the exams. VICTORIA Miss your girlfriend? 65

MARK Don’t have a serious one. VICTORIA What did you tell her when you left? MARK See you later. VICTORIA Grand. MARK What? VICTORIA You're such a man. with your eyes. You see the world He responds, politely at

She comes closer and kisses him. first, then passionately.

MARK What am I supposed to see with? VICTORIA My heart. She takes his hand and guides it inside her shirt. MARK You? VICTORIA YesMARK I? She fumbles a condom from her shirt pocket. VICTORIA There. MARK Sure? 66

They slowly fall to horizontal together. VICTORIA Blind, blind, blind....

INTERIOR.

MARK'S HOUSE.

DAY.

Sunday morning. MARK is eating a late breakfast in front of the TV, watching an NFL pregame show. He looks out the window and sees VICTORIA riding her horse into the yard. He hurries out the door.

EXTERIOR.

MARK'S HOUSE.

DAY. She reins her mount in and

VICTORIA is riding bareback. slides down to the ground.

VICTORIA Want to go riding? I can get another horse. With a saddle, even. MARK I'll pass. VICTORIA Geez. Someone once said that the only creatures happy after intercourse are roosters and women. I didn't know it lasted until the next day. MARK can’t resist the urge to glance over his shoulder. VICTORIA What? MARK I guess I...just...I'm sorry about last night. VICTORIA Sorry? Why should you be sorry? MARK 67

I didn't mean for us to - you know VICTORIA Oh, I see. Well, I'm only a teenager from a tiny cow town. I don't expect to be in the same sexual league as your East Coast coeds. MARK I shouldn't have forced myself on you. VICTORIA My god! You fucking fool. I have been trying to get your attention ever since I was in seventh grade and you were a senior. Don't you remember me riding my bike up and down this road everyday? MARK Really? VICTORIA Really. I used to stand behind your car when we were at the drive-in and make believe that it was me in the car. You didn't force me to do anything.

INTERIOR.

VICKI'S HOUSE.

NIGHT.

VICTORIA is curled up by the fireplace, reading. Outside it is snowing heavily, big puffy flakes caught by an exterior light, white on black - reminiscent of the opening scene. There is a knock on the window. VICTORIA looks up and sees MARK waving. She hops up and lets him in. He shakes off the snow, setting down a small electronic keyboard and a folder. VICTORIA You're frozen. Where's your coat? MARK I forgot to put it on, I guess. writing a tune. VICTORIA 68 I was

You walked over in this? MARK pokes at the keyboard. MARK Listen to this. then C, B. D flat, B, D flat,

VICTORIA sits close to him. VICTORIA I love creative men. A, G... MARK. Where's the old folk? It's just

VICTORIA Out to the movies, sweetie. me...and you.

MARK I figure we can get away with one cover, but we gotta come up with two good originals. Think "Headon" would work for us? You know, Pixies, Jesus and Mary Chain? VICTORIA Uh huh. She nibbles on his ear. He gives her a quick kiss, just to acknowledge her presence. MARK The scoring at these things is entirely subjective. It all depends on who they've dredged up to judge that night. She is rubbing up against him with her whole torso. MARK You're not listening to me. She manages to slip a hand under his shirt and rub his chest. MARK 69

What if Leon and Shirley walk in? VICTORIA You'd have to marry me or go to jail. MARK That's not funny. VICTORIA What? I was joking. She sits up, straightening her clothes. VICTORIA You think it's possible, don't you? You think that I could trap you into marrying me. What? We'd get a trailer and have dirty little babies - and you'd have to drive that fucking truck all day and never get back to your precious college friends? No. MARK That's not what I meant.

VICTORIA But it crossed your mind, didn't it? How dare you even consider that I would have you and your rotten children and be stuck here forever? I'm getting the hell out! And nobody - especially somebody like you who had their chance and blew it, is going to stop me. Get out! Now! MARK No way! It's cold out there. VICTORIA You should have worn a coat! She grabs him and tries to move him off the couch, but he is too big and much stronger. He cannot be budged. He fends off her blows, finally getting her in a hold with her arms pinned behind her. VICTORIA 70

Let me go! MARK Promise to stop gouging me with your bony fingers? VICTORIA Okay. Releasing her, he stands. Wait. VICTORIA Did you really-

MARK Think you were out to get me? No. I wouldn’t like that anymore than you. VICTORIA Please don't go. Let's start over. It's so cold out there. MARK Well, yeah. It is. VICTORIA Did you mean it the other day, when you said that you enjoyed - you know - it? Was it really all right? MARK It was better than all right. VICTORIA I mean mechanically. Was everything working the way it should? Yeah. MARK You could make a living at it.

VICTORIA You'll get free samples anytime. She runs her fingers through his hair. They kiss. It is becoming serious when they hear voices outside. They leap up, composing themselves. VICTORIA grabs her book and dives onto the floor by the fireplace. MARK picks up his 71

keyboard and stands there uncomfortably. VICTORIA's parents, SHIRLEY and LEON, come noisily in the door, brushing and stomping away the snow. LEON What a night! Well, hello, Mark. VICTORIA How was the movie, Dad? LEON The movie was good, but the sound was lopsided. The speaker on the left side seemed to be dead. SHIRLEY How's the homework coming?

INTERIOR.

HIGH SCHOOL GYM.

NIGHT.

MARK and CARSON are squeezed into stands watching the last seconds of the first half of a close basketball game. They are focused on the cheerleaders, who are cavorting and tumbling during a timeout. VICTORIA is one of the cheerleaders. The pep band is blasting out the school song. MARK Scientists think that the ability to recognize symmetry in one's environment may have played a significant part in survival. CARSON And? MARK These cheerleaders. symmetrical. They're quite

The half ends; the teams clear the floor. Much of the crowd stands. Some head for the doors. MARK leaves CARSON talking to some friends and goes down to the corner of the gym where the pep band is set up. 72

MR. REDD Good timing! We were just about to kick off one of your arrangements. Would you do the honors? Love to. MARK Which one?

He peers over the top of the music stands. MARK Great idea. Okay, gang - here we go They play "Whip It", and this time it is recognizable. MARK nods in approval and pitches in with the vocals. The cheerleaders skip over and improvise a chorus line dance.

INTERIOR.

VICTORIA'S HOUSE.

DAY.

It is late afternoon. MARK, VICTORIA, SHIRLEY, and LEON are sitting at a dining room table, finishing a meal. LEON I couldn't believe it. I just had the brakes done, and now on the transmission! We were hoping it would be Vicki's car someday. MARK Oh, you wouldn't want a big car like that at college - ow! VICTORIA I'm sorry. I thought that was the table leg again. MARK Can’t you relax? My leg is going to be black-and-blue. SHIRLEY Vicki, are you feeling all right? VICTORIA I'm fine, Mom. I'm just full of 73

nervous energy. walk.

I need to go for a

She gets up. MARK follows, thanking them all for the meal. He follows VICTORIA to the front room, where they put on their jackets. The walls are covered with pictures of Victoria: as a baby, toddler, posed with different relatives, playing sports, with parents on trips. They go out the door. It is clear and sunny and cold.

EXTERIOR.

STREET.

DAY.

VICTORIA and MARK are walking. MARK What the hell is with you? You were kicking me on purpose. VICTORIA Because you can't take a hint. My parents get nervous when I talk about college. MARK What? They don't want you to go to college? VICTORIA Of course they do. They just don't want me to leave them. MARK Excuse me? Miss 'can't wait to get the hell out of here'? What did they think you were going to do when you graduate? VICTORIA They know. They've been saving for my college since before I was born. They're just not emotionally ready for it to happen. MARK You're an only child. 74

VICTORIA That's part of it. MARK Where you want to go? VICTORIA I want to go everywhere. I want to enroll in dozens of Universities, all at the same time. I want to go to Homecoming with a hundred thousand drunken, screaming football fans. I want to scuba dive in the Pacific and ski in the Rockies. And get credit for it. I want to study writing and biology and business and psychology. I want to take a year abroad at Oxford and Heidelberg and the Sorbonne. I want everything, all the time, everywhere. MARK That could get expensive. VICTORIA I'm an only child, remember?

INTERIOR.

SILVER STRIKE CLUB.

DAY.

MARK and CARSON are sitting in the restaurant eating a pizza. The casino manager comes in and sees them. He comes over, pulls a chair up to the table, and sits. MANAGER How's our pizza compare to the big city? MARK Mmm. MANAGER My son tells me that you guys have a band going. MARK 75

Mmm mmm. MANAGER He says you're hot. Between all the money I've spent on music lessons and he's spent on records, I would hope that he'd know. MARK He studies with Mr. Cremetti, doesn't he? MANAGER Since the second grade. MARK Stan plays guitar with us. MANAGER No shit? That's one talented family. Well, anyway, I have a problem. I need a band to play Thursday nights. You interested? Here? MARK But we're not country.

MANAGER I know. I want some new music in here. I already got Fridays and Saturdays booked with out-of-town talent. CARSON What about the Highwaymen? MANAGER Ben and Roy both work for Crowell Copper. They're getting transferred to the Kingston, Arizona mine. I don't think that Barry Lee playing bass all by himself is going to cut it. So what do you say? MARK It's a deal. MANAGER 76

Great. Bring your gear round the back Thursday, anytime. Play from eight to one. Ten minute break every hour. The manager leaves for the kitchen. MARK Damn, I forgot to ask him about the money. CARSON Screw the money. Stan's going to shit a concrete block.

EXTERIOR.

A HOUSE UNDER CONSTRUCTION.

DAY.

MARK and CARSON walk up to STAN, who is helping another man screed a concrete patio. MARK Lotta mud. MAN Seven fucking yards. CARSON That won't blow away. MARK Say, Stan, we got an offer to play at the Strike on Thursday nights. What'd ya think? STAN Son of a bitch? MARK Five hundred bucks a pop. STAN Son of a bitch. CARSON We already kinda made a commitment. 77

STAN Son of a bitch! MARK It'll be just like the shed...with slots instead of hay. STAN Son of a bitch. MARK Thursdays are a slow night. Practically deserted. STAN Son of a bitch. MARK We start this week. STAN Son of a bitch.

INTERIOR.

MARK'S HOUSE.

DAY.

No one is home. The phone rings four times, then the answering machine picks up. MARK has recorded the greeting. MARK Hello, this is the Foster residence. If you are calling to ask about the Shed, we will be playing tonight starting around seven. If you have a message for Mark Foster or for Mr. or Mrs. Foster, please leave it after the beep.

INTERIOR.

THE ONION SHED.

NIGHT.

It is early, but already there is a good crowd of kids milling around. On the stage, a young man is telling jokes. He is getting heckled and razzed. More kids come 78

in every minute. MARK and STAN are in the conversational grouping, looking at some charts.

EXTERIOR.

THE ONION SHED.

NIGHT.

Two beefy youths wearing letter jackets are blocking the door against the entry of a cursing teen. A girl comes from inside. GIRL What's the problem? FIRST BEEFY YOUTH Charlie's drunk. GIRL Charlie! You know the drill. You can't come drunk. You want us to get shut down? CHARLIE I am not drunk, goddamnit! GIRL C'mon. Give me your keys, and I'll drive you home. CHARLIE Fuck you! He shoves one of the beefy youths and gets shoved back, landing on his ass on the dirt. A Sheriff's patrol car pulls off the road and into the parking area. CHARLIE springs to his feet. The beefy youths wave at the deputy, who waves back, and after a look around the lot, drives away. CHARLIE stumbles to his car. FIRST BEEFY YOUTH Should we stop him? SECOND BEEFY YOUTH We'd have to hurt him to help him. GIRL Drive carefully, Charlie. 79

CHARLIE Fuck you!

INTERIOR.

THE ONION SHED.

NIGHT.

SANDRA comes in the door and looks around the shed in awe. She spies MARK and comes over to sit beside him. SANDRA This is boss! MARK Where's the rest of the tribe? SANDRA Fast asleep. I thought I'd come out and see what all the fuss was about. MARK Fuss? SANDRA Are you kidding? This is the talk of the town. CARSON rides a motorscooter in the door. helmet and turns off the motor. Jesus! MARK What is this? He takes off his

CARSON New wheels. Got it at a yard sale over on Oregon Street. I'm going to paint her apple red with black tiger stripes. Pretty cool, huh? Did you tell them all yet? They climb up onto the stage and pick up their instruments. MARK takes the mike from the young comic. MARK I have an announcement. We won't be able to open the shed on Thursdays 80

anymore. We've got a regular gig at the Strike. You've all been very generous, but we tapped out buying hardware, and we can really use the cash. We'll still be here Fridays and Saturdays.

EXTERIOR.

STAN'S HOUSE.

DAY.

It is a sunny, cold December afternoon. STAN is splitting wood with an axe. MARK is helping by taking round logs from a stack and setting them up on a stump to be split, then tossing the pieces into a basket. CARSON is driving invisible golf balls with an old five iron. CARSON The crowd falls silent as Carson prepares to tee off on the first hole of sudden death here in Augusta. The intense pressure seems to have Woods and Duval looking tight, but young Carson is relaxed and confident as he addresses the ball. Carson, who is the leading money-winner on the PGA tour this year as well as the drummer for the famous.... Hey. What's the name of our band? MARK shrugs.

INTERIOR.

STAN'S HOUSE.

DAY.

CARSON stumbles in, struggling with the heavy basket of wood. He plops it down by a wood stove. Through a doorway he sees PATTI and VICTORIA cooking and talking, to each other and to someone else. He moves closer and sees that it is JULIE, up on her stool with one eye pressed to the camcorder. STAN and MARK come in carrying kindling. CARSON Jesus, will you look at that coq au vin? Stan, what the hell did you do to deserve this? 81

They go into the kitchen. finger to her lips.

JULIE quickly turns and puts her

PATTI So we have the galantine of turkey with the imported truffle rolled inside served with poached mandarin oranges and a side of tomato provencale. Victoria, thanks for cohosting today. VICTORIA It was my pleasure. JULIE Cut! CARSON reaches for a truffle, and VICTORIA raps his hand with a wooden spatula. VICTORIA Wash your hands. CARSON Si, Mrs. Grasso. VICTORIA Who? MARK Bryan Grasso's mom. afraid of germs. She was deathly

CARSON I still have dishpan hands. Every time we took five she would yell, "Wash your hands when you come into my kitchen!" I think she made her own soap so it would have extra lye in it. MARK They were in a band. VICTORIA When was this? MARK 82

I never told you about the Junior High Rock and Roll Revival? The Golden Age of Garage. VICTORIA Please do. They all sit down at the table Patti has been loading with food. MARK You know that pink house across the street from the Junior High? When we were in the seventh grade, the Rusts lived there. Steve was a senior, I think, and he had an older sister who was a secretary for the city. Sarah. CARSON My first love.

MARK You wished. Steve and Sarah both played guitar. Steve would come home from school every afternoon and drag his guitar and amp out into the carport and grind away. We watched him out of the windows in last period. Some of us started to go over and hang out and listen to him after school. Later, Sarah would come home and get out her guitar and the two of them would jam. It wasn't long before we were scrounging around for guitars of our own. Steve showed us some chords, and away we went. By eighth grade, there were quite a few kids who could play. Of course, no one could play like Stan, but we didn't know Stan played at all. CARSON I put together a trap set. Me and Bryan and Dave Stanger and Kenny Lamonica were The Scrofulous Toads. VICTORIA Why did you switch to bass? 83

MARK There were too many guitar players. You can't have a band with just guitars. I saw an old Fender bass in a yard sale in Carson City and got my dad to buy it for me. I was the only bass player in town for months. I was in three bands at the same time - Hard Water, The Dipsticks, and Too Dilute. CARSON That summer before high school you could hear guitars twanging on every street in town. We would set up right in the Grasso's driveway and play. We got really good at "Pipeline", you know, by the Chantelles? We played it over and over. MARK Drove the grownups crazy. As far as they were concerned, if it didn't have a steel guitar and wasn’t about alcoholism and ignorance, you were just making noise. It was the purest punk. No-talent smart-ass kids with cheap, loud amps. Then we got to high school. Football practices lasted until dark, and girls took more time, and we got cars. The bands played less and less. Then Sarah got married, and Steve went into the Army. There were a dozen bands in town that summer. Two years later there were zero. JULIE shoves a last bite of food into her mouth and holds up her plate for all to see. JULIE Clean plate!

EXTERIOR.

THE SILVER STRIKE.

NIGHT. Bartenders, cooks,

MARK and CARSON are in the alley. 84

waitresses come in and out a back door, carrying parcels and food, changing shifts, grabbing the air, smoking cigarettes. MARK He's not going to come. CARSON Maybe. If he can't, he can't. we gonna do about it? What're

STAN comes stumbling down the alley, looking fairly terrified. MARK Just in time! CARSON Mark though you'd bailed. STAN Patti said I should give it a fair try. CARSON Or what? No sex? STAN That's got nothing to do with it. MARK Okay. Let's get in there while we have that old momentum going.

INTERIOR.

THE SILVER STRIKE.

NIGHT.

They are setting up and doing a mike check. The room is about a third full. SANDRA and BERNIE are there with another couple. STAN is facing a wall, tuning. A man in cowboy boots saunters over. MAN Is it too early to make a request? MARK What can we play for you? 85

MAN How about "Thunder Road"? MARK Ah. The one and only hit of Robert Mitchum. No. MAN Garth Brooks. MARK Don't know it.

Sorry.

MAN You know anything by Garth Brooks? MARK No. MAN How about Clint Black? MARK Nope. MAN Gatlin Brothers? MARK How about some Jerry Jeff Walker? MAN Who? MARK Kinky Friedman? MAN Well, how about some Beatles, then? MARK We don't do any Beatles. MAN Don't you know anything? are you going to play? 86 What the hell

MARK We'll play whatever you want. Just nothing by one of those prettyboy neocowpokes with clean boots and fancy hats. And no Beatles. I'm sick of the fucking Beatles. The boomers who control the radio stations have been cramming that ancient shit down our throats too long. MAN Well, whatever it is you do play, play it. We want to dance. MARK motions for SANDRA. She comes to the stage, and he hands her a stack of paper. MARK Help us do "Joyride"? SANDRA Here? MARK Why not? I made a bunch of copies so we could have a good old-fashioned sing along. SANDRA Good thought. I'm the only one here who could even fake it. She circulates in the room, handing sheets to the women, whispering instructions. CARSON Yee haw! Are we gonna line dance to it, hoss? MARK Good evening, cowboys and cowgirls. This is a light-hearted little tune name of "Joyride", and it has nothing to do with rodeo. Ladies, you've got to help us out on the chorus, if you would. It'll become clear to you in 87

just a moment. CARSON kicks it off. MARK sings the first stanza, then he and SANDRA lead the chorus as a few others manage to stumble along with them. MARK again, and the women get the chorus down a little better this time. They are whacking it out. Loud and together, the women in the room are belting. Customers are leaving the slots and tables in the gaming rooms to crowd in the doorways, drawn by the commotion. Cooks and busboys are looking in from the kitchen. The couples who were sitting are now dancing, the women still singing. At the finish, the room is packed.

INTERIOR.

CARSON'S TRAILER.

NIGHT.

Later that night. MARK and CARSON are slumped on a couch, having a beer, and watching an old movie on a small blackand-white TV. CARSON I'm glad I have tomorrow off. It'll be a while before I can even think about sleep. MARK Performance high. CARSON It's doing Patti some good. it? MARK How did you know? CARSON It's not too obvious. Anyway, in this state she's legal. Believe me. I've read the statute carefully. MARK She's quite mature. CARSON Whatever. Too bad she couldn't catch us tonight. We were rockin' and 88 Vicki dig

reelin' and hangin' from the ceilin'. MARK I have a clock radio. Takes forever to wake me up - an hour, sometimes. I just lie there drifting and listen. One morning I was in a dream when the music came on, and the tune got incorporated into the story. I was in a band, a big band, and we were playing a gig in some club. We had to push together lots of little tables to make a stage. Then we jumped up on them to play. It was "Don't Change" by INXS. I was playing something shaped like a guitar, but I could make all the sounds in the song come out of it, just by strumming it and willing it to come out. Like one of those things that Mrs. Ross had in second grade, where you hold down one button and strum and get B-flat chord, only a thousand times cooler. Like my thoughts were turned into sound. CARSON Why don't we play it? MARK It was the kind of dream you shouldn’t try to make real.

EXTERIOR.

RENO NIGHTCLUB.

NIGHT.

MARK, CARSON, and STAN are unloading gear from Mark's truck. VICTORIA is standing on the sidewalk, holding Mark's bass and Stan's guitar and looking at the line of people waiting to get in. Another band passes by without acknowledging them. MARK, CARSON, and STAN carry a load of gear to the door. VICTORIA goes ahead of them. Waiting inside the door is a large, ugly bouncer.

INTERIOR.

RENO NIGHTCLUB.

NIGHT. 89

BOUNCER IDs? MARK She's with us. BOUNCER I still gotta see the cards. VICTORIA Of course. She takes an ID out of her purse and gives it to him. glances at it, expressionless, and hands it back. BOUNCER OK. He takes MARK's ID and peers at it closely. BOUNCER This you? MARK Of course that's me. BOUNCER Doesn't look like you. MARK It's three years old. longer. BOUNCER How old are you? MARK Twenty-one. BOUNCER What year were you born? MARK Fourteen hundred and ninety-two. BOUNCER 90 My hair was He

Fucking musicians.

INTERIOR.

RENO NIGHTCLUB.

NIGHT. MARK is helping

MARK and CARSON are in a small prep room. CARSON tighten a drum head.

MARK That flat pisses me off. Sixteen years old and the guy doesn't blink. Me he wants to kick out. CARSON She's more mature than you. MARK It's not fair. I'm finally twenty-one, damn it, and I demand respect! VICTORIA comes in MARK Well? VICTORIA Three judges. Number one is an elderly woman, almost forty. CARSON Prepare the casket. VICTORIA She's wearing a red gown with tons of fake emerald jewelry. Badly frizzed hair. She reviews movies and theater for the Gazette. MARK Okay, good. I think. VICTORIA Second judge is male. Maybe twenty years old. He's got longer hair than Fabio and a pair of leather pants I will kill him for later. 91

Hmm.

MARK Hard to call.

VICTORIA Last one is a really skinny guy. Can't tell if he's young or old. Could be terminally ill - he's the whitest white man I've ever seen. Dressed all in black. Don't look at him when you get out there. It’s way too scary. MARK An aesthete. Excellent. The other two bands tonight are headbangers. Sounds like at least two of the three judges are artistes. I think we should play "All Over In Blue" instead of "Crackup". CARSON Whatever. Where the hell is Stan? MARK In the head. I told him to stick his finger down his throat and it'd make him feel like a new man. VICTORIA That's awful! STAN appears at the door, looking very pale and shaken. VICTORIA Stan! Are you all right? She guides him into a chair and hands him the drink she is carrying. STAN accepts the glass and drains it in one gulp. MARK What was that? Pepsi. VICTORIA Relax. He's nervous. MARK 92

Nervous? For Stan this isn't anything like nervous. Before our first football game freshman year, three of us had to pry his hands off the locker room door and carry him out to the field. VICTORIA Oh my God. MARK He had fifteen tackles. Six sacks, three on running plays. The other team had to pry their quarterback's hands off their locker room door and carry him out to the field for the second half. I'd be worried if Stan was calm. You remember Tommy Roberts, lived out on the Lazy B Ranch? He was two years ahead of us. State champ in wrestling when he was a junior and a senior. Guess who used to kick his ass on the mats in PE? CARSON Mr. Probert was always ticked off that Stan wouldn't go out for the team. STAN They didn't need me. They had Tommy.

VICTORIA You didn't want to go out by yourself. MARK How's that Morrisey song go? "Shyness will keep you from doing all the things in life you'd like to...." VICTORIA suddenly starts to cry. MARK What's the matter? VICTORIA Don't you realize how much courage it takes for Stan to do this for you? 93

MARK Sure I do. And I’m proud of him. Stop it. too. CARSON You're going to make me cry

INTERIOR.

RENO NIGHTCLUB.

NIGHT.

The band is onstage, ready to play. STAN is hovering out of sight behind an amp, facing to the rear, sweating, the color totally gone from his face. The emcee is standing in front of them with a wireless mike. EMCEE Our last band tonight is brand new. I believe that this is their onstage debut. They've been together for just five months. Dudes and dudettes, give it up for: Clean Plate! They play "Lightning Crashes", very slow and muted at first, then gaining speed all the way through and finishing loud and fast. The crowd claps and whistles, pleasantly surprised.

INTERIOR.

STAN'S MINIVAN.

NIGHT.

STAN is driving. CARSON is sitting in front, caressing a trophy: a golden guitar set on a base of black marble. MARK and VICTORIA are in the middle seat. In the back is a pile of equipment. The van is towing a small open trailer piled with equipment under a tarp. CARSON Did you see the look on those dudes' faces? MARK Whose? CARSON 94

That other band. Spellcheck. I wish I'd had a camera. They thought they were the second coming of Gwar. MARK We smacked them. CARSON Croaked their asses. MARK Stomped them like roaches! CARSON Whipped them like bad dogs! MARK That was our best stuff. We've got a week to come up with some new best stuff. If we play the same shit, we're toast. CARSON Don't bring me down, man. it tonight. Let us enjoy

MARK starts singing “We are the champions”, and the others join in. At the end, MARK stretches it out to "We are the champions of the-biggest-little-city in the world".

EXTERIOR.

VICTORIA'S HOUSE.

NIGHT. VICTORIA opens the door and

STAN pulls up to the curb. gets out.

MARK I think I'll walk home from here. Thanks for the ride. CARSON Tomorrow night? MARK Seven o'clock. 95

They wave goodbye as STAN drives off. VICTORIA sits down on her front steps. MARK joins her. Their breaths are clouds in the black night sky. MARK Makes you wonder what we could be doing after a year or two, huh? With enough time to practice, money for bigger amps, time to work out the new tunes, another guitar, some keyboards? VICTORIA You need a bigger band? MARK Naw. All you really need is bass, guitar, drums. Anything you can't do with that, you shouldn't do at all. But more time would be nice. VICTORIA You think that Stan and Carson want to spend more time rehearsing? MARK We could really go somewhere. VICTORIA You think Stan is going to tour? You think he's going to leave Patti and Julie so you guys can work in Reno and Vegas and San Francisco and LA? Because that's what you'd have to do. Can you see Stan in front of ten thousand shrieking kids? Frankly, I can't. Did you know that he and Patti haven't spent one night apart since they got married? Wow. MARK How do you know?

VICTORIA Patti told me. Those two are so seriously in love. It makes me jealous. And what about Carson? He couldn’t survive where he wasn’t the 96

dictator of cool. MARK What about me? What's my failure?

VICTORIA Being in love and being different aren't failures. And you certainly have no arresting flaws that I've seen. And I've seen all of you. MARK Dropping out of college? home? Crawling back

VICTORIA Look, I don't know why you're still here. You've never let me in on your reasons. And I know that you'll leave again. Too soon. You three - you're magic. The Muse is a sadistic bitch. She tosses you guys together to satisfy her need for beautiful music. Well, the music might find a way out of this valley, but you guys - together - never will.

EXTERIOR.

MAIN STREET.

DAY.

MARK is driving along Main Street. Christmas decorations are up on light poles: red plastic Santas, green garlands, colored lights. He sees a woman his age getting out of a parked car and pulls in alongside. He jumps out of his truck; the woman comes to him and gives him a brief hug. MARK Carol! How have you been? CAROL Merry Christmas, Mark. this burg? MARK Slow. 97 How is life in

CAROL Going back in January? MARK Not that I know of. CAROL Why are you doing this to yourself? MARK There was no war to run off to. CAROL So what do you do with yourself around here? MARK I got a job with the county road department. CAROL Still playing with trucks in the sandbox. MARK It's a big ass sandbox. And we got a band up. Me and Carson and Stan. CAROL Stan...Cremetti? MARK The very same. Hard to believe, but he plays the guitar just like a ringin' a bell. CAROL That is hard to believe. any good? Are you guys

A car goes by: three teenage boys with the windows down, the stereo screeching. They all wave at MARK, who nods at them, thinking. Then he recognizes the tune. MARK Listen - that's us. 98 Bootlegged.

CAROL The big time. MARK You ain't kidding. Why, we won a night at the KRNV Battle of the Bands. We're in the finals on New Year's Eve. CAROL So is that your new career? MARK Maybe. CAROL I'm having a party Wednesday night. Bring some beer or whatever. I'll have plenty of food. Everybody who's in town will be there. They'll all want to see you. MARK Great. I have to work Thursday, though. And play at the Strike. CAROL You're playing at the Strike? I thought they only had country music. MARK Well, come on in Thursday night. ain't country then. It

EXTERIOR.

THE RIVER.

NIGHT.

A section of the frozen river bends in a broad horseshoe. A dozen or so well-bundled people are skating by the light of the moon and a crackling fire in a metal drum on the bank. MARK is playing hockey with CARSON and two other fellows, using brooms for sticks and a taped-up snuff can for a puck. VICTORIA is off to the side, tracing a figure eight. Others are gathered around the fire, warming their hands and passing a bottle. MARK 99

Borque has it behind his net. He turns up ice at full speed - he sheds a defender - a flick of the head and he jukes another - he drops it for the trailer... CARSON John Brodie collects the snuff can! The crowd roars! MARK John Brodie was a football player. CARSON But we spin Brodies in the snow, not on grass. You going to Carol's party? MARK I guess. CARSON You guess? Don't you want to hang with the old chums and swap college tales? MARK Maybe. CARSON Gonna bring Vicki? MARK Why not? CARSON Hey, bring her. I was just wondering if she would be bored. MARK Because she's still in high school? CARSON No, because she doesn't hardly know any of that bunch. Forget I mentioned it, okay?

100

INTERIOR.

MARK'S HOUSE.

NIGHT. He kisses his MOM.

MARK is putting on his coat. MOM Have a nice time. Thanks.

MARK Don't wait up.

MOM Is Vicki going? MARK Naw. She doesn't want to hang out with us old farts.

INTERIOR.

CAROL'S HOUSE.

NIGHT.

Twenty or so of Mark's old classmates are spread throughout the living room. Several are gathered around a computer in the corner. MARK and CAROL are sitting on the couch, watching three of their friends play Taka-rati on the coffee table. CARSON comes in the door with VICTORIA. Several people call his name. He blows kisses to them all and takes off his coat. He is wearing an old Bullwinkle and Rocky "Wossamatta U." shirt. VICTORIA smiles and greets the ones she knows, not looking at MARK. GIRL ON FLOOR I had this TA for English Lit, some foreigner, you know? It was bizzarro Shakespeare with an accent, nobody could follow. VICTORIA finally comes over near the couch. MARK I thought you'd be swamped with homework. VICTORIA I am. MARK 101

Carol? CAROL Sure, I remember Vicki. My brother's in your class. He's gone to Reno with his friends. I'm glad you could come, though. VICTORIA Thanks. She wonders over to the computer kibitzers. CAROL I was telling all the guys about your band. GIRL ON THE FLOOR You play in an onion shed? MARK There aren't any onions in it. GIRL ON THE FLOOR I'd like to hear you sometime. MARK Magic words. He dashes out into the night. Meanwhile, VICTORIA has managed to infiltrate the cloud of kibitzers so that she is seated in front of the computer. MARK comes back in with a cassette. He pops it into the stereo. The music starts: the band is covering "Monkey Gone To Heaven". The recording is erratic: fuzzy and uneven, but charged with raw energy. CAROL That's nice. GIRL ON THE FLOOR Was this recorded in your shed? Yeah. MARK The acoustics suck, I know. 102

He looks around at his friends. They are either carrying on as before or listening politely.

INTERIOR.

MARK'S TRUCK.

NIGHT.

MARK is driving VICTORIA home after the party. VICTORIA You’re not mad at me for showing up? MARK No. VICTORIA Then why are you so pissy? MARK I'm not pissy. VICTORIA Yes you are. You got bent out of shape when they didn't like your tape. MARK They liked it. VICTORIA No, they didn't. Why should they? It's scratchy and echoey, and it sounds nothing like you. They were just being polite. MARK How do you know? You were parked in front of the computer all night. VICTORIA I still saw what was going on. MARK What was going on? VICTORIA They can't like your music. The minute you put that tape on, they all backed 103

away from you. MARK No, they didn't. VICTORIA You scare them. I could smell it. You're doing something which scares the pee out of them. You dropped out. They need for you to be miserable. They don't want to hear about your job or your band or your sexual escapades with attractive and willing young women. They only want you to go back to school. They want you to say that quitting before you grasped the Holy Grail was a mistake. MARK Here I thought they loved and respected me. VICTORIA They have their own vision of your future. To go against that takes some big balls. MARK I'll take that as a compliment. VICTORIA Do you like it when I talk dirty? Balls, balls, balls, balls. Smiling vampishly, she slides closer to him and caresses his thigh. He has allowed the truck to drift out of its lane and has to yank the wheel to correct. MARK Quit that! VICTORIA Let's park on a dark road and pretend we're back in high school. MARK You are in high school. 104

INTERIOR.

RENO NIGHTCLUB.

NIGHT.

MARK, CARSON, and STAN are waiting offstage as the band before them finishes. The band is four guys with curly manes who are pumping their fists, strutting, headbanging, thrusting out their hips. VICTORIA slips in behind MARK and peers around him at the stage. VICTORIA Ohh! Sexy! MARK Are you aroused? VICTORIA Yeah, right. I won't date a man who has better hair than me. CARSON Did you scope the judges? VICTORIA Three males. One has a shaved head. Torn denim. Badly executed tattoos. Second guy looks like a Mafia boss. Oily hair, gold chains. Last one is the lead singer from Spellcheck. MARK Fuck. Stan, we're going to play the little piggies number. STAN You're kidding. MARK I never kid. Start it slow, finish it fast. And Stan, I want a nice long solo in the middle. STAN Solo? There's no solo in the piggy song. 105

MARK You're right. Okay, nevermind. idea.

Bad

INTERIOR.

RENO NIGHTCLUB.

NIGHT.

They are onstage, finishing an original song. STAN is behind an amp, facing the rear of the stage. MARK looks out for VICTORIA, who is peeking over the judges' shoulders. She looks up and catches his eye, then makes an up-and-down motion with a fist. CARSON sees the sign and is visibly puzzled. CARSON Does thatMARK I think so. Stanley, get ready to oink, bud. MARK starts to sing, slowly and without any instruments. STAN looks at him in an awful panic. MARK Once there were five little piggies in a row Oink, said one, I've got to go Oink, he said, and oink he did He got up and away he went Oink, oink oink oink oink, oink oink oink oink,oink oink oink oink... He lays on a bass line. CARSON jumps in on the beat, turning it into a march, then into a samba, then a rock riff. By the time there are three little piggies in the row, STAN has recovered enough to strum the melody. MARK speeds up the tempo now with every line. By the time there is only one little piggy left, they are flying. Then there was one little piggy in that row Oink, said he, I've got to go Oink, he said, and oink he did He got up and away he went 106

Oink, oink oink oink oink, oink oink oink oink,oink oink oink oink... Wee wee wee, Stanley, all the way home! STAN keeps playing the melody for a while, then it breaks up a little. He goes up, he goes down, he bends a note. MARK lets out a shriek, reaches over and turns STAN's amp up to 10. CARSON's arms and sticks are a blur. MARK is banging away on a bass line as fast and as hard as he can. STAN is seeming to get comfortable with it when MARK starts to scream. MARK Piggies! In a row! Piggies! Got to go! Oinkoinkoinkoinkoinkoinkoinkoink.... MARK stops abruptly. CARSON tails off a few beats later, but STAN is so fixed on his solo he keeps going and doesn't stop until MARK shouts. MARK Thank you!

INTERIOR.

RENO NIGHTCLUB.

NIGHT.

MARK, CARSON, and STAN are standing in the alley behind the club. VICTORIA comes out the door. VICTORIA What the hell was that? and wonderful. CARSON Weird, anyway. MARK Where have you been? VICTORIA Watching them award the prize. MARK Who won? 107 It was weird

VICTORIA No Santa. MARK Good, I liked them. VICTORIA Stan, that was transcendental. improvise the whole thing? STAN Did I have a choice? VICTORIA Well, people in the crowd were very impressed. STAN Thanks. VICTORIA Where's Patti? STAN She's meeting us at the party. promised Julie she could come. We Did you

MARK Hell, we could have gotten Julie in here with one of Vicki's fake IDs. The EMCEE comes out the door, looking for them. EMCEE Hey - I'm glad I caught you. You've got a great sound. I really thought you had a shot. Thanks. MARK No Santa was great.

EMCEE Should be. They've around for five years. Anyway. I was wondering if you guys had a tape. I have the new music show on Saturday and Sunday, midnight 108

to three. You know: Graveyard Shaft. Drop me a tape, and I'll work in some of your tunes. How about it? Thanks. station. MARK I'll drop one off at the

EMCEE Okay! Well, nice meeting you all. Great show tonight. He ducks back inside. MARK starts singing "On the Radio".

INTERIOR.

RENO CASINO.

NIGHT.

A New Year's Eve party in a casino function room. Large round tables are set with white linen and champagne glasses. The crowd is mostly older and middle-aged, although there are several families scattered around. JULIE is the youngest in the room. An eight-piece band is playing slow tunes. PATTI and STAN are out dancing. MARK and CARSON are drinking beers. JULIE is curled up in VICTORIA’s lap, fast asleep. VICTORIA Five minutes until the New Year. MARK Big deal. It's arbitrary. The New Year should begin on one of the equinoxes, at least. Besides, think about it: most of the people on this planet begin their new year on some other day. VICTORIA Poo on you. All times are arbitrary. That's the whole point. Pick a moment and have a new beginning. Shed the old, ring in the new. CARSON Make the same resolutions again and again. 109

VICTORIA At least you make them. than never even trying.

That's better

CARSON I resolve not to make any resolutions. MARK And what do you predict for the coming year, Carson the Magnificent? CARSON I see all. Kurt Cobain and JFK will be seen jamming in Area 51. They join Lollapalooza with Lady Di as lead vocals.

EXTERIOR.

A HIGH HILL.

DAY.

It is a fine clear day in early spring. MARK and VICTORIA are nearing the crest of one of the highest hills on the valley rim. VICTORIA is in the lead, struggling up a short but steep rock wall. VICTORIA Stop staring at my butt. MARK Am not. VICTORIA Then how come I always have to go first? MARK Rattlesnakes. They let the first person by. VICTORIA How gallant. MARK Move that fine butt, snakebait. 110

They come to the top, a large rounded dome. There is a cairn at the very top. They search about for two suitable rocks and lug them over. They set them down side by side and then sit down on a nearby boulder. They can see the whole valley; the green and straw squares of irrigated crops in the flat, the olive-drab and tan of the scrub and sage where the land rises out of watering range, the tiny houses of the town. MARK points up at a puffy contrail behind a pinpoint of silver. MARK One time I flew to school out of San Francisco. We flew right over Tahoe, then just south of here. Thirty-five thousand feet and I could see the houses. They were tiny - like Monopoly hotels but with real windows. I could see my father's truck pulling into the driveway. VICTORIA I want to see the world from up there. MARK This'll have to do for now. have my jet yet. I don't

VICTORIA Look at the river, how the sun shines off it in the bends...like tinsel. MARK There's Carson's trailer. There's Stan's house and the Strike. Can't quite see the shed from here. VICTORIA I used to lie out on the lawn and watch for the jets passing over. Little sparkling bits of silver, full of people all going somewhere exciting. They go over us so high that you couldn't hear the sound. I thought I was invisible to them. Was I? MARK Huh? 111

VICTORIA Can you see actual people on the ground from up there? MARK No, I don't think you can. VICTORIA So I was right.

EXTERIOR.

A SIDE STREET.

NIGHT.

MARK and CARSON are walking on the street in the twilight of a warm spring evening. They each have a bottle of beer. They see a cruiser two blocks away turn down the street, coming toward them. CARSON tosses his bottle over a fence. MARK immediately does the same. The cruiser goes by, the driver not even acknowledging their waves. MARK Why did we do that? Is it illegal to walk and drink beer? CARSON I don't know. Reflex. MARK C'mon - let's go over to the C&C and get a colder one. They turn down an alley. MARK stops after a bit and cocks his head to listen. They hear a woman singing, a powerful full voice in the middle of "Heart Like a Wheel". MARK motions to CARSON to follow and vaults a low fence. They run quietly up to a house from which the voice is coming out of the window open over their heads. They squat on the lawn, backs against the house. The woman is obviously singing in the shower: water spraying in the background, acoustics of bare tile. MARK What pipes! Who is that? CARSON 112

Must be Betsy Greene. this place.

She's renting

MARK Betsy Greene? That scrawny little thing? CARSON You haven't seen The water and the voice stop. the front of the house. CARSON She isn'tMARK goes to the front door and rings the doorbell. After a moment, the door is opened. BETSY GREENE turns out to be a gorgeous blonde Amazon, dripping wet, barely covered by a small towel. BETSY Yes? Oh, hi, Carson. Uh, yeah. MARK Hi. Mark? MARK jumps up and heads for

BETSY What can I do for you? MARK Uh - we heard you - uh - singing.... BETSY Oh. MARK You have a great voice. Uh - we - uh me and Carson - have a band, like.... BETSY Yes? MARK Uh...how would you like to sing with us sometime? 113

BETSY Like an audition? MARK Not - uh - exactly - I mean - we just sort of play for fun - so if you want to sometime.... BETSY That sounds great. Uh - okay. MARK Uh - bye, then.

He backs up, almost tripping over CARSON. BETSY is closing the door. They can see only her head and one hand. The towel hangs entirely from her hand. BETSY Should I bring my guitar? MARK Uh - yeah - that'd be coolThey back down the walk as the door shuts. CARSON I tried to tell you: She ain't scrawny anymore. MARK No shit.

INTERIOR.

THE SHED.

NIGHT.

The shed is full. The crowd is trying to dance, but the band keeps stumbling over itself. MARK keeps falling off the beat; CARSON knocks over a cymbal with a loud, tunekilling crash. STAN is yawning. He is wearing work clothes smeared with cement. MARK has pulled out the cord from his amp. MARK Shit on a shingle! This sounds like a dirge. 114

Sorry.

CARSON I cut my finger today.

MARK Christ! On the band saw? CARSON No. On a sharp bone. of a bitch. Hurts like a son

STAN I got up at four-thirty. MARK We should cut it short. CARSON What happened to Betsy? MARK I don’t know. She gets off work at seven. I gave her some tapes and charts to go over. Maybe she's in the shower again. BETSY comes in the door, an old hollow-body Gibson under her arm. She is wearing a nurse's uniform. MARK waves her up to the stage. BETSY I'm sorry. We had a code in the old folks' wing. MARK Everything okay? BETSY Oh yes. He's still with us. should I do? MARK You go over those charts? BETSY Every night. 115 So what

MARK Which one would you like to try? BETSY I really want to do "Slow Dog". love it. But what's it about? MARK Some slow dog. BETSY Okay, yeah. But what's "see-through skin"? MARK The kind of skin you can see through. Moving BETSY to the front, MARK positions the mike stand for her. She fumbles with the chart, nervously. He bends down to speak into the mike. MARK Ladies and gentlemen, we have a special guest appearance by your own Betsy Greene on vocals and rhythm guitar. Please be kind. This is our first run through on this chart. The usual rules apply. If we stop, ignore it. If we screw it up, keep your mouths shut. If we stumble through to the end in one piece, you must worship us. MARK gives the downbeat to STAN, who starts the tune, still yawning. CARSON and MARK join in together. MARK is concentrating very hard to stay with the beat. CARSON is looking around like he is distracted by something. BETSY starts to sing, reading from the chart, not playing. She searches around for a place to put it down so she can read it and play, finally putting in on top of an amp. Just in time for the chorus, she lights into the rhythm, pounding the old guitar strings with powerful chops. She starts to hop and dance and drive the beat so that CARSON has to snap to attention to keep up with her. MARK is looking at her, stunned, as she belts out the chorus, ripping into the chords - making mistakes but not letting them slow her down. STAN bites his lip and digs down, even starting to move with the beat a little. By the end, they are smoking. 116 I just

The crowd has stopped dancing, transfixed by the energy pouring out on the stage. The last note rings out, then a long instant of silence. Someone in the back of the crowd says quietly: "Wow", then they all break out in shouting and whistles.

INTERIOR.

THE STRIKE.

NIGHT. She and MARK

The band is playing, with BETSY on guitar. are singing a duet: "I'm Back".

EXTERIOR.

MAIN STREET.

NIGHT.

VICTORIA and ANNETTE are walking along the sidewalk. ANNETTE I don't know. I still think that going into the Army would be a good thing to do. VICTORIA Your dad would like that. ANNETTE You kidding? Sargent Dad? He'd swell up and bust. VICTORIA You should apply for nomination to West Point. You've got letters in every sport. That's a big advantage. ANNETTE But I've only got a B average. VICTORIA I think you have a good chance. ANNETTE Really? How would I find out? VICTORIA I'll help you look into it. 117

They are in front of The Strike. A car pulls into an empty parking space just ahead of them. The driver beeps the horn. It is CHARLIE, waving at them. In the car are several boys and girls. ANNETTE goes over and squats down to talk to the boy on the passenger side. BOY What's up, ladies? ANNETTE The usual. BOY Hear of a party anywhere? No way. ANNETTE The town is dead.

A couple come out of The Strike. While the door is open, music and loud talking and laughter flow out. The door closes, and those happy sounds are cut off. BOY Want to cruise with us for awhile? We'll find a party. VICTORIA I've got to be back here in a little while. BOY No problem. We'll drop you off. VICTORIA Okay.

INTERIOR.

THE STRIKE.

NIGHT.

In the middle of "I'm Back". The large noisy crowd is happy. The band is sailing. The manager is helping out behind the bar. The barmaid is lugging a tray overloaded with drinks and a glass full of tips.

118

INTERIOR.

CHARLIE'S CAR.

NIGHT.

They are headed out of town. VICTORIA is in the back seat with two other girls and a boy. She is fumbling behind her. VICTORIA Your seat belts are broken. GIRL You wanna be burned to death? Not me. If there's a crash I wanna be thrown clear. BOY IN BACK Let's go by the onion shed. VICTORIA They're playing at the Strike. BOY IN BACK That sucks! What're we supposed to do? CHARLIE Fuck them! We're going out to the Hot Springs and party. VICTORIA Charlie - you're drunk! Holding up a beer, CHARLIE laughs, waving the other hand in the air. CHARLIE Fuckin' A! BOY IN FRONT Hey! He reaches out and steadies the steering wheel with one hand. CHARLIE raises both hands to the roof and stomps on the gas pedal. YEE HA! CHARLIE Take the wheel! VICTORIA 119

Slow down! BOY IN BACK Chill out. CHARLIE Fuck you! You don't trust me? He presses the accelerator to the floor. Everyone in the car is pushed back into the seats, laughing, screaming. VICTORIA Stop it! CHARLIE Quit complaining! BOY IN FRONT Hey! Maybe we should! ANNETTE Slow down! VICTORIA Let us out! CHARLIE (He turns right around and yells at them.) SHUT UP! The road ahead bends slightly. CHARLIE sees it coming out of the corner of his eye and swings around. The boy in front grabs at the wheel, yelling. CHARLIE splashes his beer all over as the car starts to slide off the shoulder of the road. He cranks the wheel back to the left, too hard, overcorrecting. The wheels grab pavement, and the car lifts off sideways, flipping, flipping....

INTERIOR. The band here and silenced The band

THE STRIKE.

NIGHT.

is near the finish of "I'm Back". Beepers go off there in the crowd, unobtrusively. They are quickly, and their owners slip out of the room. does not even notice. 120

EXTERIOR.

THE STRIKE.

NIGHT.

MARK and CARSON are sitting on the curb in front of The Strike, sipping drinks from plastic glasses. CARSON I'm hotter than a whore on dollar night. MARK And you smell like one, too. CARSON You sure you don't want to come over after and catch the late movie? "They Saved Hitler's Brain" is on. MARK I told Vicki I'd hang out with her. CARSON She can come too. Just keep your tongues in your own mouths. MARK She was supposed to be out here to meet us on break. They hear a siren in the distance, then another joins in. A movement catches MARK's eye. He turns in time to see Victoria's parents' station wagon fly across Main Street, horn blaring, trailing sparks as it bottoms out on a rough spot, not even slowing at the stop sign. It disappears on a side street behind a blue "HOSPITAL" sign. MARK drops his cup and runs to the corner just in time to see the car's taillights as it turns, several blocks away. He sprints desperately down the middle of the dark street.

INTERIOR.

MARK'S HOUSE.

MORNING.

Early dawn. FATHER and MOM are asleep. FATHER wakes up slowly, hearing a hissing sound. He gets up and goes into 121

the front room, still more asleep than awake. MARK is sitting in front of the TV, head held low, staring at a screen of snow and static. He hears his father and looks up, haggard, pale, but dry-eyed.

INTERIOR.

A CHURCH.

DAY.

An organist is playing a slow hymn. The small church is overflowing. The crowd is standing in the back and the sides and goes right out the door onto the lawn. MARK and his parents are sitting up front with LEON and SHIRLEY. A couple of the kids who were in the car are there, bandaged and casted. CARSON, who is wearing a formal grey morning coat and white gloves, is in a back pew. STAN and PATTI are standing in the rear. STAN is holding JULIE, who looks frightened by it all. At the altar is the casket, covered by a white and gold cloth, red roses piled on top. In a side doorway, the funeral director and the minister stand just out of sight. The minister is anxiously gripping a Bible. MINISTER The casket's closed? DIRECTOR She went through the windshield, for God's sake. There's no way I could make her.... MINISTER Jesus Christ. DIRECTOR So her parents have that - mess - as their last memory of her because I couldn't make her beautiful for them.... MINISTER You did your best. The MINISTER goes out to the podium and begins to speak as the music fades away. MINISTER 122

Brothers and sisters, we come together today in the sight of God to remember a life. A friend, a classmate, a daughter....

EXTERIOR.

THE CHURCH.

DAY.

A day in late spring, dry and hot, full of the sounds and smells of emerging life. Trees are in full bud; birds call all about. The service is over. The somber gathering shuffles slowly to their cars. Six young men, familiar faces from the Shed, bear the white casket out to the hearse. In their wake, small groups of sobbing teens cling together. A second black vehicle is full of flowers. MARK is standing, watching. PATTI comes up to him, carrying JULIE. MARK holds out his arms; JULIE swings over to him and hugs him tightly. PATTI Can we ride up with you? Sure. MARK Where's Stan?

PATTI He'll be there. They go and get into the car with Mark's parents. The motorcade forms up, a long line of cars and pickups following the hearse.

EXTERIOR.

THE CEMETERY ROAD.

DAY.

The procession is slowly making its way into the cemetery. At the very end of the line is STAN, driving a big pickup with "CREMETTI CONCRETE" on the doors. He is towing a gas engine generator. He does not follow the rest but turns off the road onto a dirt trail leading to a small hill which overlooks the cemetery. He slows and pops the truck into four-wheel drive, then attacks the hill.

123

EXTERIOR.

THE CEMETERY.

DAY.

Some of the crowd are settling onto folding chairs set up around the large off-green piece of plastic turf which surrounds the grave. Helpers in black suits are carrying in bouquets and arranging them under the old white tent set up over the hole. The pallbearers are setting the casket onto the lowering mechanism.

EXTERIOR.

OVERLOOKING THE CEMETERY.

DAY.

STAN has parked at the very top of the hill. Standing by his truck, he can see the graveside service going on but can hear only the wind. He starts up the generator, then rolls back a tarp in the bed of the truck to reveal his amp. He takes his guitar from the cab and plugs it into the amp, then stands silently watching the ceremony below.

EXTERIOR.

THE CEMETERY.

DAY.

The eulogy ends. LEON and SHIRLEY are kneeling by the casket. Everyone else walks out from under the tent. They mill around, comforting each other with words and touches. Then heads lift and eyes search the heavens as a single guitar begins to play. A few point up at STAN, tiny on the hill. He is playing "Blood and Roses" at about half-tempo. MARK I tried to love but it came out wrong I tried to live but I don't belong I close my eyes and I see Blood and roses. STAN finishes, letting the last note hang out. It echoes all around them. MARK sees PATTI looking up to the hill. She is crying and laughing at the same time.

INTERIOR.

CARSON'S CAR.

DAY.

CARSON is driving, listening to Green Day on the tape player. It is a hot summer day. He drives past the Little 124

League ballfield and sees MARK's car parked there.

EXTERIOR.

LITTLE LEAGUE FIELD.

DAY.

MARK is playing home run derby against several small kids. Two are girls. The little boy on the mound serves one up, and MARK blasts it over the left field fence. MARK Twelve. PITCHER Hitter shags. MARK How many balls we got left? PITCHER Two. MARK Okay, shoot BBs, kid. CARSON Rocketfire. MARK Want in? CARSON How many dingers did you have to spot these children? The pitcher lobs one in and MARK smacks it over the center field fence. MARK Oh, they let me win. He drives the next offering high into the air. It heads toward the foul pole in right. MARK bends backwards and flails his arms, willing it. It goes over the fence, fair by a foot. One of the girls comes in from her shortstop position and picks up the bat MARK twirled away in triumph. 125 Hummbabe.

PITCHER Hitter shags. MARK and CARSON start walking toward the outfield. They reach the low fence and spring over it. MARK starts picking up balls and heaving them toward the mound. CARSON Your dad said you haven't been home much the past few days. Stan called me at work to ask when the next practice was. MARK They don’t make McGuire shag. CARSON I told Stan that you were mentally prepping to go back to school. MARK stops in mid-throw and tosses the ball from hand to hand. CARSON I didn't think you'd last this long. MARK Engineering is all about rational design. You got your algorithms, flow diagrams, stress analysis. You maximize the loading efficiency and minimize the wing chord deformation. Quantitate and compute. Every problem is reducible to a solvable form. He picks up a ball and tosses it toward the infield. MARK See that spin? It'll curve to the left as it falls. Bernoulli effect. Predicability. I saw a woman in front of the Student Union one day. She had the most amazing tits. As she walked by, I had two thoughts. The first one was that the internal bracing must be vertically crosstied because of the high yaw to pitch ratio. The second 126

was that if her nipples were fitted with three-blade contrarotating propellers, the nacelle coefficient of drag on her breasts would be about five. CARSON You are a sick puppy. MARK One night I wandered into somebody's room and found an old bass. Same make as mine. As soon as I picked it up I knew what I needed. CARSON Drums and a guitar? MARK Music. CARSON If she were here, would you be going back? MARK Can’t say. Life has a punishment for speculation. It picks you up by the heels like in the cartoons and smacks you back and forth against the ground: Whack! Whack! Whatif! Whatif! Until you've got all the whatifs knocked the fuck out of you. She said I had put on my brakes and pulled off onto the shoulder just because I couldn't see the road beyond my headlights, and I was afraid that maybe it would end. Maybe the whole road wasn't really there. But she had faith in the highway at night. That you kept on going and believed the way would become clear as you approached. It doesn't matter if I would have stayed here, because she wouldn't. She was living to get on that road.

127

INTERIOR.

THE SHED.

NIGHT.

The largest and quietest crowd they have ever drawn mills about, eerily silent, anticipating. CARSON and STAN are on stage, waiting. BETSY is down in the crowd, talking softly to a group of girls. MARK comes in the door, hair all askew, looking harried and rushed and mounts the stage. BETSY comes up onto the stage and adjusts the mike stand for him. MARK readies his bass and amp. The others are ready, waiting and looking to him as he steps to the mike. MARK Sorry I'm late. Nothing but bad news anymore, it seems. The Fenillis are going to need their shed back in a couple of months. And, yes - I'm heading back to school. I'll miss this old shed. I'll miss Carson Carson and Stan the Man. I'll miss Betsy Greene, who is like one of those things with the two paddles they jolt you with in the emergency room. I'll miss other friends. A few in the crowd start to cry. VOICE FROM CROWD She’s in a better place. MARK Don't ever say that! Don't say that she's in heaven, or that she walks with the angels or floats on a cloud or sits next to God. What if she's not? What if there's just darkness? Then what will it have been worth? Don't bet your life on heaven. Or reincarnation. Believe in the life you've got. Live it carefully. There's no guarantee you get anything else. Don't get sloppy. Don't expect some deity to bail you out, give you another shot. And wear your fucking seat belt...stay sober. You got a hell of a present the other day. The present was that now you know you can die. Somebody gave that to 128

you. It cost...it cost a lot. fucking lose it. BETSY breaks into tears beside him. him.

Don't

It seems to startle

MARK There's an old song I like playing because it reminded me of someone who always seemed to be able to see the world a little bit more clearly than me. STAN and CARSON start "The Whole of the Moon". When they finish, MARK is the only one in the shed not wiping his eyes.

EXTERIOR.

COUNTRY ROAD.

DAY.

Another furnace of a day. STAN is driving a fully-loaded cement truck very slowly past the cemetery. He notices MARK standing by Vicki's grave. STAN continues on for a moment, thinking, then he spins the huge truck around in a dusty, noisy U-turn and roars into the cemetery. He stops a respectful distance away and gets down, leaving the truck idling and the mixing barrel turning. He walks quietly up to MARK, who does not appear to notice him and does not look up. MARK When your heart stops, your brain stops getting oxygen and glucose. Metabolism stops. No more proteins get assembled, no more messages shoot from cell to cell across the synapses. But the protease enzymes keep right on going, like they didn't hear the whistle. They get their energy from tearing proteins apart, so they just keep chewing up tissue. Fifteen minutes after your heart stops, your brain is three pounds of rancid mush. Every memory, every feeling. All digested. Fifteen minutes is all we are from being a hot lunch for the billions of 129

bacteria that have been abiding in your body all your life. Waiting for their time. The quick don't much like that about the dead. We don't like the empty eyes and the smell of rotting people. So we drain out all their blood and replace it with poisonous soup that fixes all the enzymes and kills all the bacteria. Then we tuck the one we loved into a very expensive box and bury it all deep in the dirt. Just a piece of meat gone bad. How many thousand of years will that casket hold tight? Two? Three? And where are we by then? In a hole on some other part of the planet, another box of bones. STAN Patti's pregnant. MARK Oh, my God. That's wonderful. must be so happy. A baby. Julie

Fighting back tears, he sinks down onto the bare mound of dirt atop Vicki's grave, squashing the remains of some dried-up bouquet. He picks up a fistfull of petals and dirt and sobs uncontrollably.

EXTERIOR.

MARK'S HOUSE.

DAY.

Early on a Sunday afternoon. MARK and FATHER are getting out of a pickup, MARK with a string of trout. MOM comes out onto the porch. MOM Carson called a little while ago. The band wants to have an early practice today if you can make it. MARK swings the fish to his father. MARK See you in the frying pan. 130

EXTERIOR.

THE SHED.

DAY.

MARK drives up. He thinks he sees BETSY in the doorway, but she is not there on second glance. He steps into the shed. The lights are off, and he cannot see by the dim light allowed in by the translucent ceiling panels. MARK What's up? Is the power off? BETSY Surprise! The lights come on. MARK sees an empty shed, nothing out of the ordinary, really. STAN and CARSON are on the stage, ready to play. BETSY is holding her guitar. He comes up onto the stage. His bass is there, plugged in, amp on, ready to go. STAN, grinning broadly, starts to play "Don't Change". BETSY joins in with a jangly rhythm line; CARSON hops in with the beat. MARK begins to sing. They go all the way through. STAN holds out the last note - it is eerily reminiscent of the echoing last note which floated out over the cemetery. Then silence.

EXTERIOR.

A HILLTOP.

DAY.

Very late in the afternoon on a stormy summer day, MARK is standing on the hilltop where he once took Vicki to see the valley. Dark clouds roll out over the land. Lighting is striking. He is so high up he seems to be above the storm. He picks up a rock and carries it to the cairn. He lays it down on top of the two rocks he and Vicki had left there.

EXTERIOR.

A SIDE STREET.

DAY.

The sun is setting. MARK is walking slowly along a quiet residential street, hands in pockets, just looking about as he goes. He passes a man watering his lawn. They nod at each other. Three kids on bikes whiz past. A dog runs up, barking, sniffs his outstretched hand, licks it, runs after 131

the bikers. Two very young girls are drawing with chalk on the sidewalk. MARK stops. MARK That's a beautiful unicorn. FIRST GIRL Thank you. SECOND GIRL I got chalk for my birthday. MARK What a wonderful present. your birthday? SECOND GIRL Yesterday. FIRST GIRL Would you draw a dinosaur for us? need a big dinosaur. Okay. draw? We When was

MARK What kind of dinosaur should I

FIRST GIRL A Tyrannosaurus. MARK Won't he eat the unicorns? No. SECOND GIRL They're friends.

MARK renders a quick dinosaur. FIRST GIRL That's good! SECOND GIRL What's your name? MARK Mark. 132

FIRST GIRL Hi Mark. FATHER pulls up in his truck and gets out. FATHER What's this? MARK I'm drawing a friendly dinosaur. He has unicorn buds on the side walk. (To the girls.) This is my dad. I have to go now. The two girls wave goodbye and return to their drawing. MARK and FATHER start to walk. FATHER How come you're not at the Strike? MARK I got them a replacement. leave the truck there? You going to

FATHER What, it's going to get stolen? if I walk with you? MARK Of course not. Why would I mind?

Mind

FATHER I thought you might want to say your last goodbyes alone. MARK What do you mean? FATHER This is it for you. You'll never live here again. When you graduate, you'll get a job in a city somewhere. You'll get married there, probably have kids in the schools there. Sure - you'll visit us, but face it. This is your last night in your hometown. 133

MARK I could come back here to live. FATHER And do what? You want to build supersonic airliners, hypersonic orbiters? You can't do that here. You want to live that big city life, anyway. You should be able to go out to a club or whatever and not have to see a familiar face if you don't want to. You need to be able to meet women you didn't go to kindergarten with. I know all about that big city life. I went to college in Pocatello, Idaho, remember. MARK Maybe after all that I'll retire here. FATHER Just make sure all your children are out of diapers by then. I'll take them fishing, but no diapers. He suddenly grabs MARK and hugs him. FATHER Finish your walk. FATHER heads back toward his truck. MARK crosses the street and heads down an alley. He hears guitars and drums and looks in the window of a garage. Four kids are playing "Don't Change", fast and very ragged.

INTERIOR.

THE STRIKE.

NIGHT.

...the song continues: a little slower, a lot more rockabilly. BETSY is singing. BARRY LEE, wearing the same fancy cowboy shirt he wore as a Highwayman, is playing bass. CARSON is playing and at the same time managing to flirt with two women who are dancing together near the stage. STAN is facing the crowd, making kiss faces at PATTI, who winks at him from a table where she is sitting with two other couples. She is sipping from a soda while 134

they are all drinking beers...

INTERIOR.

BOSTON: MARK'S DORM ROOM.

NIGHT.

...the tape finishes. MARK is sitting at his desk. Before him are pictures: him and Stan and Carson squeezed together for four small shots in a photo booth; the three of them onstage; a picture of Betsy sitting in the conversational grouping, playing her guitar; his family at a backyard barbecue; Patti, flushed and sweaty, holding a fat newborn baby to her bosom; Vicki in her cheerleading sweater, smiling exuberantly, a victorious basketball team celebrating in the background. MARK's bass leans against his desk. The BLONDE comes back into the room with two beers. She shoves one into MARK's hand and flops into a chair. BLONDE Apologize now. Then we dance. MARK laughs and picks up his bass. MARK I was in this band....

THE END

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