Cathedrals | Leisure

Cathedrals by Jason Duaine Hahn Based on the short story Cathedral by Raymond Carver


FADE IN INT – RAILROAD TUNNEL - AFTERNOON – BLACK AND WHITE The camera faces the inside of a train tunnel. It is pitch black, except for the light at the other end of the tunnel, which is a bright white. It becomes obstructed, and the horns of a train are heard echoing through the tunnel. The camera stays static as the train approaches closer. The horns and sounds of the train grow louder. The train nears the camera, almost to the point of collision. Camera CUTS to outside the tunnel. EXT – RAILROAD AND WILDERNESS The train is shown shooting out of the tunnel into the open, the camera pans up to reveal a sea of wilderness and trees. The white smoke from its exhaust quickly rises into a clear sky as the train travels into the distance. The noise of the train is the only sound. INT – TRAIN Camera is positioned behind an attractive stewardess slowly pushing a cart of goods through the aisle, gently asking passengers if they’d like refreshments. She comes to ROBERT, a bearded and grayed black man in his late 60s. He is facing the window while wearing dark sunglasses and an old, black, felt fedora. STEWARDESS How are you this afternoon, sir? I have wine, fresh orange… Robert turns and gives her a smile, then motions with his hand that he isn’t interested. He returns to the window and she walks away. The camera shows ROBERT’s pinky inconspicuously resting upon a worn book slightly sticking out one of the bag’s pockets next to him. The title is not revealed.




INT – JULIAN AND JANET’S HOME, LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS – EVENING- 1972 - COLOR The television is on but JULIAN is not paying attention. He is sitting on the couch, visibly uncomfortable, concentrating on the whiskey in front of him. The camera shows the dusty picture frames containing pictures of he and his wife. He glances toward the clock and is angered. JANET’S footsteps are heard coming down the stairs. JULIAN


Maybe I can take him bowling! JANET’S footsteps become louder. She appears at the base of the stairs and looks toward JULIAN. JANET Listen, if you can’t do this for me, at least do it for yourself. Making one friend wouldn’t hurt you—would it? Just make him feel welcomed. That’s it. JANET walks into the kitchen. Camera follows her. She places a white apron hastily over herself, attempting to gather up the last ingredients for dinner. JULIAN O.S. I don’t have blind friends. You’re the expert. I heard they have a ‘sixth sense,’ I’m sure he could manage a strike. JANET First off, friends? You don’t have any friends. None. Zero. Second, if you love me, then do this for me. There is a brief pause and JANET walks to the living room entrance and stares piercingly at JULIAN. She returns to the kitchen. JANET And goddamn it! His wife just died. Is there an ounce of that thing you call a heart left for you to understand that?! In her rush, JANET spills a glass of red wine left on the counter. It spills directly onto her. JANET looks upwards, letting out a long sigh of exhaustion and sadness. Her watery eyes reflect the light from the ceiling. She shakes her head. The entirety of the stain is not visible to the camera. Camera CUTS to JULIAN. JULIAN is humored at himself. He puts his glass of whiskey down and walks toward the kitchen. JANET’S back is toward him.


JULIAN His wife… Beulah, right? (Tauntingly) BE-YOU-LA. Is… Was she African? I mean with an ethnic name like that, who in their right mind would… JANET turns and faces JULIAN. The deep red wine has stained the apron along her waist. It looks eerily similar to blood. JULIAN stares at the stain while JANET glares at him. They pause in silence. JANET removes the apron and tosses it into the trash. The clothes underneath are not stained. She grabs her car keys quickly. JANET You’re a fuckin’ nut! You know that?! You’ve officially snapped. You’re drunk aren’t you? (Laughs) Of course you are! Clean yourself up, Julian. Do it for yourself, I don’t even know if I should care anymore. JANET exits toward her car. JULIAN stands in the kitchen a few moments longer, pensive. JULIAN You’re not alone. JULIAN walks back into the living room. The sound from an early 1970s sitcom of a family laughing and enjoying themselves engulfs the room. JULIAN, disgusted, hits the knob of the television, turning it off. He moves lazily toward the couch, sits and takes a long sip from the bottle of whiskey, instead of the glass. JULIAN tilts his head back on the couch and closes his eyes. 5 INT – JULIAN AND JANET’S BEDROOM – A WEEK PRIOR JANET, wearing glasses and sleepwear, is in bed, steadily going through old papers and photographs. JULIAN is at the desk, looking at bills. They sit in silence. JULIAN is uninterested in talking to JANET. There is an emotional and physical distance between them. JANET I’m so excited. JULIAN (Without effort)


Are you… JANET Yeah, nervous, too. It’s been so long. I wonder if he looks any different. He has to! JULIAN is halfway paying attention. He is slightly annoyed but able to contain it. JANET I feel awful that he is visiting under these circumstances. But I guess some good can come out of a bad thing. Tragedy helps people reconnect, that’s when you realize what’s most important. JANET looks toward JULIAN’S direction and can tell his full attention is not on her. She does not get angry and is not bothered by it, she finds it funny. JANET I wish you could have witnessed him talk about Beulah. Always, so… ecstatic. They were so much in love. When the cassettes came after they met, she was the only thing he would talk about. Describing her beauty in the most poetic ways, you could just tell she was just so happy whenJULIAN Are you sure about that? JULIAN turns toward a confused JANET, tossing the bills in his hand hard on the desk. JULIAN (Cont.) Are you really sure about that, Jan? JANET What are you talking about? Am I sure about what? JULIAN It’s never crossed your mind? I can’t believe it hasn’t… The guy’s blind. How


could he even know how the old bag looked like? How long were they together again? Eight years? Imagine that for a second. Just for a second. Eight long years married to someone and you don’t even know what they look like? JANET Jules, c’mon. It’s not all about the looks. I mean, SHE could see HIM, and she accepted him for who he is, rightfully so. JULIAN is showing some agitation and frustration to JANET’S response. He rubs his fingers over his eyes out of stress. JULIAN I feel the most sorry for her. JANET Don’t say that… not now. I don’t know where this is coming from but I don’t want to hear any of it. You know he’s excited to meet you. You need to finish listening to the tape… JULIAN Hey I’m just trying to say don’t pretend like it isn’t weird. JANET I don’t have to pretend about anything, Julian. So what if it’s unconventional? JANET calms herself down and grins, she believes she has deflated JULIAN’S ego. JANET goes back to her papers and photographs, picking one up and holding it toward JULIAN, who turns back toward the desk. JANET Take a look. JULIAN ignores JANET. The camera faces JANET and a picture of ROBERT and BEULAH’S wedding is visible. JANET (Cont.) That’s what I thought. Just by looking at


this picture, you can tell… you can tell a lot by a picture. You can learn more about things the longer you look at them. JULIAN gets up and steps toward the door, his body language shows he is ready to sleep. He won’t be sleeping in the bedroom. He turns to JANET before he leaves. JULIAN You and her could have studied it forever (pauses), you weren’t going to stop the cancer. JULIAN shuts the door. The camera focuses on JANET, frozen in her bed, staring at the door. FADE OUT to black. 6 INT – JULIAN’S LIVING ROOM – FADE IN JULIAN wakes up, startled by the flashback/dream he just experienced. He begins to mutter under his breath and shake his head to get his focus back. JULIAN G’DAMN IT. JULIAN begins to rub his hands through his hair, obviously frustrated. Then he slowly drops his hands and looks at the blackened screen of the television. He walks toward it. JULIAN opens a drawer under the television, revealing a collection of cassette tapes with labels facing upwards, each one with a date, stretching back 15 years. Each label has ROBERT’S name written on it, and JANET’S full name. The camera pans over each label. CUT back to JULIAN. JULIAN (Muttering) Where is it… JULIAN’S hands travel across labels with the name JANET ROSE across them, then comes to the last cassette before it changes to JANET WHITE. JULIAN Gotcha. JULIAN grabs the last JANET ROSE tape and walks toward the stairway.



INT – JULIAN’S BEDROOM JULIAN places the cassette into the tape recorder and presses play. He turns the volume up, but there is only static. He stands impatiently for a few moments, and then a deep, jazz-like voice plays through the speakers. It is ROBERT. There is a lot of static, almost as if it were being played through a record player. ROBERT Hello, Jannie. I hope all is well and this cassette reaches you in time. JULIAN takes a few steps back and sits on the corner of the bed, satisfied. ROBERT (Cont.) I know it is almost your wedding date. It is my deep regret that I will not be there, my dear. I know you will look absolutely stunning. (Pause) I’ve known you for many years now, but it still feels like it was only last week I received your call, when I didn’t think anyone would respond to my advertisement. Who would want to sit and read books to an old man, right? I know I’m uh handsome bugger, but still (Chuckles). And you were such a great reader—you knew how to bring the pages to life. I… I really enjoyed – and am still surprised by – the poem you sent me. I can’t believe you wrote that so long ago. And about that day… I was very nervous to ask if I could touch your face, I knew you knew why I asked, yet, I was quite nervously wrecked. I am very pleased to hear that I effected you in a such a manner that allowed you to express yourself so beautifully in your poem. It touched me deeply. JULIAN frowns upon hearing this. ROBERT (Cont.) I am very glad you came into my life then. And you have grown so much since. Going through the divorce with MichaelYou were so young then-but you made it


through. And here you are, having found love once again. So (pause) Ju-li-an. Well, from what you have told me about the fellow, I would have to conclude— JULIAN hears JANET’S car outside. He jumps quickly up and removes the tape from the stereo, and runs down stairs. 8 INT – JULIAN’S LIVING ROOM JULIAN runs toward the television stand and places the tape back in the shelf. He can see the silhouettes of two figures outside the window through the curtains. With the tape back, he is relaxed. The sound of JANET’S laughter is heard from outside. The door opens and in walks JANET, a bag of luggage over one shoulder, and in her other hand in ROBERT’S hand, guiding him into the house. JULIAN is furious. JANET and ROBERT are laughing so much that they do not notice JULIAN. JULIAN races over to them and grabs ROBERT’S bag, grabbing ROBERT’S other hand away from JANET’S in the process, introducing himself. ROBERT It feels like we have already met, my dearest friend! JULIAN responds to ROBERT by giving nothing more than a half-hearted chuckle. ROBERT, JANET and JULIAN sit down in the living room. JANET is tired but forces herself to the kitchen. It is silent for a few moments, and JULIAN feels awkward. JULIAN So, Robert, what side of the train did you sit on? JANET (O.S.) What?! Why would you ask that? Why in the world would that matter, Julian?! ROBERT No, no, no, it’s a perfectly fine question, Jannie. Actually, I am very conscious what side of the train I sit on. ROBERT removes his sunglasses, revealing eyes with darkened whites. His eyes almost look “normal,” but they don’t focus on any one thing for long and just slightly


wander. ROBERT removes his fedora next, revealing a smooth, bald, head. ROBERT (Cont.) Ya see, I haven’t been on the train in a very long time, not since I used to travel with my muther. I enjoy the speed of the train most of all – it’s really something else, bub, if you sit down and let yourself feel it. JULIAN Of course, it is. Of course. 9 INT – DINING ROOM TABLE – A FEW MINUTES LATER – NIGHT JULIAN, JANET and ROBERT are at the dining room table with food in front of them. JANET and ROBERT are talking, but their voices are not heard. Instead, there is a, soothing, piece of jazz playing in the background that dominates the audio. The camera emphasizes JANET and ROBERT chatting, then shifts to show JULIAN watching ROBERT eat. ROBERT, though he is blind, is eating his food rapidly, without assistance. He is ripping apart meat, mixing his potatoes, reaching for his milk and setting it down without spilling. The camera shows ROBERT’S actions, then focuses in on JULIAN’S expression of bewilderment. Music and picture FADE OUT. INT – LIVING ROOM – A FEW MINUTES LATER JULIAN, JANET and ROBERT walk into the living room. JULIAN and ROBERT sit. JANET prepares to go upstairs and change. JANET Okay, gentlemen. Just give me a few minutes and I’ll be right back. I’m just going to change into something comfortable. The day is finally catching up with me. Robert, it is so nice you’re here. ROBERT Sure beats cassettes, doesn’t it, deary? JANET It sure does, bub! Before JANET leaves, she notices ROBERT’s bags next to his



seat. JANET Robert, I’m going to take your bags up stairs, they’ll be waiting for you when I take you to your room. Just let me know when you’re ready, yes? JANET reaches for the bags next to ROBERT. Just as she lifts them up, ROBERT gently grabs her wrist to stop her. ROBERT Wait, before you take ‘em… ROBERT feels around the bags until his fingers come across the book’s corner. He pulls it out and hands it to JANET, as she slowly puts the bags back down. It is “To Kill a Mockingbird.” ROBERT I’ve wanted you to have it. JANET holds the book with both hands, staring at it with admiration. JANET Just how I remember it… Robert, this is your favorite— ROBERT It was our favorite. I know you’ll take care of it. JANET kisses the cover, visibly happy, and places her hand upon ROBERT’s. JANET Thank you. This is… ROBERT My dear, I know you’ll put it to good use. JANET leaves up the stairwell. JULIAN is surprised at ROBERT’s gift but blows it off, not thinking much of a book. As soon as JANET is out of sight, JULIAN hastily reaches and pulls out a pouch from underneath the couch.


JULIAN Smoke don’t bother you? ROBERT Can’t say that it does. No. Been around it most of my life. Humored and feeling mischievous, JULIAN pulls out his joint paper and begins filling it with cannabis. JULIAN Bet you can smell it from a mile away… ROBERT (Laughs) Well, it really is quite strong. Ciggs all have different smells to them, some I prefer over others, if I must. JULIAN Do you want to try some pot? ROBERT (After a few moments) You know what, bub? I wouldn’t mind trying a lil some. There’s a first time for everything, as the sayin’ goes! JULIAN, pleased with himself and smiling, gets his lighter out and begins to puff his joint. JULIAN Coming your way, my man. ROBERT reaches for the joint, grabs it perfectly, and puts it to his lips. He coughs for few seconds, causing JULIAN’S smile to grow bigger, but ROBERT catches on quickly. JANET is heard coming down the stairs. She stops at the base of the stairs, now wearing a robe, and gives JULIAN a shocked and angry expression. JANET Oh. I didn’t know you smoked, Robert? ROBERT I guess I do, my dear. There’s a first


time for everything! JANET is relieved at ROBERT’s visible excitement. She laughs and sits next to him. JULIAN is disappointed and finishes off the joint quickly, no longer entertained. JANET and ROBERT begin to make small talk. Their voices are muffled as the camera focuses on JULIAN, obviously uncomfortable. He gets up and turns on the television. Not wanting to give JULIAN the satisfaction, JANET restrains herself from looking over, but she clenches her fist. JULIAN catches a brief silence in ROBERT and JANET’S conversation. JULIAN Rob, do you have a television? JANET bites her lip and looks toward ROBERT with her own curiosity. ROBERT As a matter of fact, I do. I have two, to be correct. Just bought myself a colored set. Funny isn’t? I always seem to turn on the colored one instead of the black and white. I could tell the one you have on now is a colored set. I don’t know why, I just can. JULIAN Hm, that is funny. (Skeptical) Interesting how that works, eh? ROBERT Interesting, it is. The brief silence makes JULIAN uncomfortable. He raises the volume. JULIAN turns to JANET to say something, but sees she has fallen asleep. Her robe has slipped off her leg, revealing a large portion of exposed thigh. The camera shows ROBERT’s close proximity to JANET. JULIAN stares at ROBERT, and slowly reaches to flip the robe back over her skin. JULIAN watches ROBERT intently to see if he notices his movements—he doesn’t want to be caught. JULIAN grabs the corner of the robe and quickly covers his wife’s leg. Before he retracts his hand, he looks at ROBERT who is staring at the television, unaware.


JULIAN grins. He reaches at the robe once again and gives one hard tug, revealing more of the skin than before. A piece of JANET’s red underwear is now visible. JANET briefly shifts but remains asleep. Her action moves a bit of her top, and a small amount of cleavage shows in addition to her thigh. JULIAN’s attention is on ROBERT. JULIAN shakes his head pityingly, and returns to his position. Turning back to the set, JULIAN sees glorious images of cathedrals. His eyes dart from the television back to ROBERT. He leans forward. JULIAN Robert, I want to ask something. ROBERT Shoot, bub. JULIAN There is a show about cathedrals on. I know you can hear what the man is saying. But, do you have any idea what he is talking about, or what a cathedral is? It can’t mean anything to you…? ROBERT strokes his beard pensively. ROBERT Well, I know they are big, and can fit a lot of people. They are used for religious purposes, but, I do not know much more than that. JULIAN nods his head, unsurprised. ROBERT Are you a religious man, Julian? JULIAN I don’t believe in much of anything these days. ROBERT Ah, Mr. White. There is much to believe in. JULIAN Haven’t seen anything yet. And I’m not exactly waiting, if you know


what I mean. ROBERT (After a few moments) Do you think you can describe a cathedral to me? JULIAN Describe one? I’m not totally sure… I can give it a shot, maybe. JULIAN becomes flustered in anticipation of the challenge, and a bit nervous. He sits up attentively, and peers at the television, trying to get as much detail as he can from the panning, overhead views of the cathedrals on screen. JULIAN (cont.) All right, well, they’re massive. Stone colored… Have pointed corners… steeples, I think they’re called? Never mind… there are huge crosses on the very top of them… I… I’m sorry. I can’t. I’m not very good with my words. ROBERT Hey bub, don’t you worry about it. Can I ask you a favor? Let’s try something a little different. It’s not strange, it may seem like it at first, but I assure you it is not. JULIAN Sure, to hell with it. What is it you want me to do? ROBERT Okay, bub. I want you to get the thickest paper you can find, and a pen. Then bring them back here, will ya? JULIAN (Reluctantly) Hm… all right. Let me see… this shouldn’t be hard. JULIAN gets up to go look for the paper. He quickly glances around the living room, and there is nothing. He quickly walks into the kitchen and goes under the sink,


where they store paper bags. He rips one up so that it is a single sheet and large. He pulls open a drawer and grabs a pen, and walks back to ROBERT. JULIAN Mission accomplished. ROBERT (Laughs) Quick work, bub. Okay I want you to draw one of those cathedrals the best you can, and I’m going to place my hand atop of yours and follow where you are going. I’ll feel the impressions your pen made after you are done. You can do it, bub. Let’s do this together. JULIAN, frozen, continues to stare at ROBERT, expecting ROBERT to say he was joking. JULIAN I, uh, never been one for arts and crafts, Rob, I don’t… ROBERT Nonsense. ROBERT, with an inviting smile, motions with his hand for JULIAN to sit down. JULIAN stares at ROBERT for a moment longer, looks at JANET sleeping, and releases a small sigh. He places the paper and pen on the coffee table between them and kneels down. JULIAN Okay, set. Let’s try this thing. JULIAN takes a deep breath. His hand is shaky. He takes a hold of the pen and starts to draw. The camera follows his lines. First they are straight lines parallel to each other, then he starts to connect them. ROBERT You’re doing it, bub. Great start! JANET awakes at the sound of ROBERT’S excitement.


JANET What’s going on here? Jules, what are you doing? You don’t… draw… ROBERT It’s okay, Jannie. We’re almost done. ROBERT’s hand is rested gently upon JULIAN’s, following his every direction. JULIAN is very concentrated. The camera shows the picture from a little distance, without showing much detail. The Englishman’s voice is muffled but still present in the background. ROBERT turns back to JULIAN. ROBERT (Cont.) Now, close your eyes and keep drawing. You can sense it. I know you can. JULIAN’S eyes are seen tightly shut. His pupils can be seen moving slowly behind his eyelids, as if he were in REM. His hands are still shaking, but a different kind of shaking other than nervousness. It is of excitement, of not being able to put down what is on his mind quickly enough. Suddenly, JULIAN puts down his pen, and is breathing heavily. ROBERT Now, Mr. White, open your eyes and tell me how it looks. CUT to a shot of JULIAN’s face. The camera slowly begins to zoom-in closer to him. Beginning at the 40-second mark, Elmer Bernstein’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” opening score FADES IN, its audio level remains low. JULIAN’s eyes are still shut. They are no longer moving behind his eyelids. He is calm, in a meditative state. The camera zooms-in so all that is in view is JULIAN’s closed eyes. Camera stops. After a moment, Camera CUTS to black, music pauses. A few seconds of silence pass and only JULIAN’s voice is heard. JULIAN It’s… it truly is… something. Cue the 1:37 mark of Bernstein’s score, audio level rises. Score continues, screen remains black.




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