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IN THE DARK, a CLICKING SOUND, then a BRIGHT FLICKER, and, LET THERE BE LIGHT. And in the light, moving images. We realize now we’re looking at a film, and the clicking we hear is the projector moving the film. The images we see are of the nineteen fifties, black and white, documentary style. Among the images: Smiling couples in the backyards of Veteran track houses, grilling up burgers. NARRATOR The Great Depression was gone, if not forgotten. World War 2 was over and we had saved the world from the bad guys. Duck tail rockers and pony tail honeys grooving to rock and roll music. NARRATOR (CONT’D) There was rock-a-billy or rock’n roll music on the radio. But no abundance of rock’n roll feel in the air where we lived. Hot rods charging side by side down a strip of highway on a moonlit night. Moths flutter up in front of the screen, charmed by the light, and now we see a strip of black at the top of the screen, and in the black strip, stars. NARRATOR (CONT’D) A few of the guys like Chester White had duck tails and hot rods. A soda shop scene with giggling girls at a juke box, punching in nickels. PULL BACK MORE. It’s a drive-in theater packed with cars, and some of the cars are rocking. Cigarette smoke curls out of car windows and rises into the night, but our main focus is still that big giant screen, that window into our dreams. Some pony they over NARRATOR (CONT’D) of the girls wore poodle skirts and tails. But the most radical thing did was play the same song over and on the juke box. Mostly Elvis.
Images continue to flicker by. A bus station. A sign that reads WHITES ONLY. We can see smiling white faces entering into the bus station, men, women, children.
NARRATOR (CONT’D) Some of the Baptist kids danced in spite of hell and damnation. The colored knew their place. Gay was still a word for happy. Children were thought by many better seen than heard. Across the way in the station, another that reads: COLORED. We can see black people going under this sign, entering into the bus station. Children in church, sitting quietly in their starched clothes, hands in laps. The pulpit. The preacher waving his hands and throwing his mouth wide, tossing out the words of Jesus with all the enthusiasm of a crazed man swinging a club. NARRATOR (CONT’D) Stores closed on Sundays. Our bomb was bigger than their bomb. The United States of America could beat anyone. Even Martians. MOVING CLOSE IN ON THE SCREEN AGAIN. Atomic bomb test shots. Houses being wiped away as if by the hand of a god. The mushroom cloud, rising poisonous and oddly beautiful against a grainy black and white sky. NARRATOR (CONT’D) The President was a jolly, fat, bald man who liked to play golf, and was a war hero. Eisenhower playing golf, smiling at the camera. The film sputters and flaps and now there is only a blank white screen and it is all we see. It fills our vision from corner to corner. HOLD that white screen momentarily. NARRATOR (CONT’D) Being blissfully ignorant. I thought all was right with the world. SLOW DISSOLVE TO DARK: FADE IN ON: THE LATE NINETEEN FIFTIES
AN EAST TEXAS TOWN -- MAIN STREET -- LATE AFTERNOON The town is seen in Black and White. And there is SILENCE. Then-COLOR SLOWLY BLEEDS INTO THE SCENE, and the town comes alive with MOVEMENT AND SOUND, and the sun is like a big red plum exploding at the far end of the street. Poking out from parking places all along the street are forties style bomb cars and newer fifties tail-fin autos. We see signs for the Drug store, Furniture store. J.C. Penny. And prominently, a fine picture show with a rising sign that reads THE PALACE THEATER. The marquee tells us GIANT is showing and it stars Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor. People are moving about. Along the sidewalk. Crossing the street. A black Cadillac rolls into view at the far end of Main Street, seems to be driving right out of the dying sun. It heads toward us and we HEAR from it’s radio Johnny Cash. The car comes closer, and we HEAR A SQUEAKING SOUND. We can’t place it. Is it coming from the car? SQUEAK. SQUEAK. The car turns screen right and is gone, revealing what was behind it, the source of the SQUEAK. A boy on a bike. Like the Cadillac, he seems to be riding right out of the dying sunlight. He is standing up as he pedals, and the SQUEAK belongs to his huge J.C. Higgins bike. CLOSE ON the boy on the bike. This is STANLEY MITCHEL. He’s a lanky, dark-haired, thirteen year old boy with knife-sharp features and dark doe eyes. He’s wearing a short sleeve shirt, cuffed blue jeans and high top tennis shoes. And now, the same narrator’s voice. NARRATOR (CONT’D) My name is Stanley Mitchel. I’ll tell what I recall. It’s a true story. It happened in a short period of time, and it happened to me in the Summer of 1958 in the East Texas town of Dewmont, Texas a few months after my family moved there. OVERLAP DISSOLVE: Stanley riding past some fine, old, two story homes, then some fifties tract houses.
Stanley darts his bike across the highway behind a black Dodge and well in front of a chugging pickup truck. A SERIES OF WINDOWS They are floating in an impossibly bright blue sky, amongst clouds white as angel underpants. We WIDEN and see we are looking at a wall mural. The mural consists of that bright blue, white cloud day, the windows at the top, and a handful of 1880’s hard-riding cavalry men being pursued by plains Indians, also on horseback. Arrows are flying. There are puffs of smoke from the trooper’s guns as they turn in their saddles to shoot back. One of the trooper’s hats is flying off. Closer to the ground are a couple of windows and a door. ANOTHER ANGLE so we see it is a drive-in theater. At the very top, for the first time, we see a big, wooden, blue, dew drop, performing a suspended drip toward the roof of the theater. There’s a sign up there as well: THE DEWDROP DRIVE-IN. Stanley dismounts his bike before it really stops, lets it fall, darts for the door at the bottom of the mural. Stanley hits the door like a line backer, just managing to turn the knob ahead of his rush, and we realize in that instant, that not only is this a drive-in theater, it’s a home. INT. DRIVE-IN/HOME --LIVING ROOM -- INSTANTS LATER Stanley bursting through the door, and now we’re MOVING QUICKLY into the living room, done up FIFTIES STYLE. Stanley charges through the wide opening that leads into the-KITCHEN as there’s no real barrier between it and the living room. Suddenly, at Stanley’s feet is a small, hot-wired mixedbreed dog with a bobbed tail, bouncing like a ball, BARKING. This is NUB. Stanley gives the dog a quick pet, hardly slowing his momentum at all. STANLEY Hey, Nub.
A good-looking middle-aged woman, “GAL” Stanley’s mother, wears an apron and is stove, stirring something in a pot with wooden spoon. She gives Stanley a tough
MITCHEL, cooking on the a long handled sideways glance.
GAL Slow down, boy. You’re in the house now. STANLEY Sorry, Mom. Stanley really hasn’t slowed much at all. He hits the cookie jar, is in and out so fast with a fist full of fat home baked chocolate chips, you can hardly see him snatch them. GAL Ruin your supper. STANLEY I’m okay. GAL You better eat, you know what’s good for you. STANLEY (not really worried) Yes, ma’am. As Stanley continues to move, we see past him a short hallway and a stairway. Near the bottom of the stairway, coming toward him, carrying a full laundry basket, is a black woman. She’s about thirty, plump, baby-faced; the dress she wears is a kind of colorful tent. This is ROSEY, the Mitchels part time maid. She is a woman of her time. Stanley pauses. STANLEY (CONT’D) Hi, Rosey. ROSEY (brightly) Hi, Mr. Stanley...Cookies gonna spoil your dinner. Coming down the stairs, a sixteen year old girl. This is CALLIE, Stanley’s sister. She’s a pony-tailed knock out in dungarees, bobby socks, and slip on shoes. She’s all hormones and attitude. She bounces down the stairs quickly.
ROSEY (CONT’D) Slow down on them stairs, girl. CALLIE Yes, ma’am. ROSEY (to Callie; very familiar) You brought your laundry down? CALLIE Yes, ma’am. Callie at the bottom of the stairs now, looking at Stanley. CALLIE (CONT’D) His too...You owe me, squirt. Callie scowls at Stanley, makes a face that supposed to look mean. On her, even that looks good. ROSEY Good. I can put this down now and run to home. Rosey slides past Stanley and Callie and out of view. Stanley sticks his tongue out at Callie. And, he’s moving again. Still in motion, he rushes to the back door, a sliding glass affair, flings it open and he and Nub charge-OUTSIDE into the DRIVE-IN LOT. GAL (O.S.) Close that door. Stanley complies, and we get a real look at the lot, THE CAMERA circling about like a shark. Speakers are arranged in rows on poles. We see a little weathered shack out back against a tin fence that surrounds the place. It’s the projection booth. The fence itself has cheesy aliens painted on it here and there, the proverbial little green men of the fifties. The dying sunlight flows over the shiny tin fence like blood on ice. In a space in front of the tin fence is a long swing set with ten swings and to the side of it, a slide, and just beyond that, a see-saw. Stanley moving toward the shack with Nub. Shadows are beginning to stretch.
Stanley is spinning, walking backwards, eating a cookie, spinning forward again, then backwards. He looks back at his house. To the left side of the doorway he has recently exited, is a large white wall. It’s tall as the house, which covers two stories and an attic, and it’s almost as wide, and it’s as white as the inside of a shut-in’s thigh. It’s a drive-in theater SCREEN as well as part of Stanley’s home. There’s a ladder that runs alongside the screen and goes to the roof. Farther left, past the drive-in screen, the driveway Exit. Opposite end, a long covered porch with a couple of chairs, an antennae poking up through gap in the porch roof, spreading its metallic fingers high. And just beyond all this, a CONCESSION STAND and the Entrance. The concession is made of a lot of glass and we can see inside. There’s a man moving around in there, cleaning something with a rag. This is JACOB MITCHEL, Stanley’s dad. We get a CLOSER LOOK AT HIM. Sturdy guy. Working man’s arms. A face that’s seen some sun. He is a little intense. RETURN TO STANLEY as he spins forward again, keeps walking. Stanley and Nub arrive at the projection shack. The side door is open and Stanley looks inside, sees-BUSTER LIGHTHORSE SMITH an elderly black man sitting on an upraised platform in a ragged chair behind a movie projector, eyes half closed. He has a face that has seen much and doesn’t want to see anymore. There’s a toughness about him, a kind of wounded nobility. In one of Buster’s hands we see the tip of a whiskey bottle poking out of paper sack. In the other hand, a paper back of I, THE JURY, by Mickey Spillane, droops, about to fall. The booth is stuffed with homey items. A coat on a nail. Paperback books and magazines stacked on the floor. All manner of odds and ends. STANLEY You’re here early, aren’t you? Buster, without looking, his eyes fluttering slightly. BUSTER Yep. Stanley realizes he’s standing there with his fist full of cookies. He holds up the cookie-filled hand.
STANLEY Cookie? Smith turns his head, looks at Stanley. Moving almost out of his chair, he takes hold of the door, SLAMS it shut, causing Stanley and Nub to jump. STANLEY (CONT’D) (softly) Guess not. Stanley and Nub wandering off, moving slowly around the circumference of the fence. Stanley reaches a cookie down to Nub. Then takes a bite of one himself. As he goes past the swings, he touches each of them, moving them a bit. He climbs up the slide without using his hands, slides down it eating a cookie. He’s up and walking again, right along the fence. He comes to a doorway that is also part of the fence. It has two padlocks on it, one low, one high. The locks are merely draped through the hooks, not fastened. Stanley pulls the locks, drops them on the ground, opens the door and slides outside. BEHIND THE DRIVE IN It’s growing dark. There is a rumble of thunder and a flash of lightning in the sky. In the background there’s a thick, dark growth of woods like a wall of shadow. Stanley stands there eating a cookie. He gives one to Nub. Now they are all gone. Stanley looks down at Nub, a slow smile crosses his face. STANLEY (CONT’D) Nub. Catch me! Nub looks up. Stanley wheels, starts running through the settling darkness. He zigs, he zags. The dog is right on him, catches him easily, grabbing his pants legs with his teeth. Stanley keeps running, dragging the little dog with him. Nub is tenacious, and won’t let go. Stanley, onto his down. He worrying laughing, keeps trying to run with Nub hanging pants leg. He stumbles, lets out a CRY, and goes hits the ground pretty hard. Nub is still his pants leg.
STANLEY (CONT’D) (a little whinny) Nub. Let go. Nub reluctantly backs off, sits down, studies Stanley. Stanley sits up, rubs his ankle. Between his legs, sticking up and clearly seen-THE SHARP EDGE OF A RUSTY METAL BOX. It’s poking right out of the dirt. Stanley slides over to the box on his butt, examines it, tugs at it. It’s stuck solid. He starts to dig around it with his hands. Nub watches for a brief moment, then he too begins to dig. STANLEY (CONT’D) That’s it, Nub! Dig. Dig it up. As they dig and the darkness settles around them, we-TIME DISSOLVE: STANLEY AND NUB covered in dirt have the box free. Stanley picks it up, examines it. There’s a little padlock on it. He tugs at it. No dice, it’s solid. He holds it close to his ear and shakes it. STANLEY (CONT’D) There’s something inside, Nub. GAL (O.S.) Stanley! Time to come eat! Stanley jumps up with the box and charges to the fence, slams through it, pausing to put the box on the ground and push the padlocks back in place. But this time, he locks them. He moves along the fence. There’s a light in the projection booth. He goes carefully behind it, places the box there, in a narrow gap between booth and fence. INT. DRIVE-IN/HOME Stanley pushes aside the sliding glass door. Gal looks at him and Nub. They are a sight. Filthy. Just as they are about to come in--
GAL My God, Stanley. You look like a little pig. You too, dog. Nub stops, sits. GAL (CONT’D) Take your filthy selves outside. Strip to your underwear, rinse yourself and Nub off with the hose. Come get some fresh clothes on for dinner. I’ll get you a towel. Go on. The both of you look like you’ve been burrowing to the center of the Earth. Stanley backs out of the door, Nub following. EXT. DRIVE-IN/HOME Stanley with the water hose near the concession stand. He’s in his underwear. He’s hosing his face. He turns, looks at Nub. Nub gets the drift, starts to bolt, but Stanley nabs him. He applies the hose to the dog. STANLEY Sorry, Nub. Got to be done. A rumble of thunder. Stanley looks up. ON THE HOSE spurting water. INT. DRIVE-IN/HOME Rain thumping hard against the glass door, but it’s cozy inside. The dinning table is stacked with food. Stanley, in fresh clothes, Callie, their Mom and Dad are seated at the table preparing to eat. Nub is sitting on the floor nearby, hoping for a dropped scrap. GAL Won’t be much in the way of business tonight. Jacob puts a biscuit on his plate. JACOB Probably not. GAL The projectionist...What’s his name?
JACOB It’s a mouthful. Buster Lighthorse Smith. GAL He drinks too much. He spent the night in the booth again. The place looks like a rat’s nest. JACOB He gets the work right. But, I’d lose him if I knew how to run the projector. Or I could get a good white man. GAL Skin color makes the projector run better? JACOB You don’t know people like I do, Gal. HARD KNOCK ON THE FRONT DOOR GAL Who could that be? JACOB We can guess, or we can go look. Jacob pushes his chair back as he rises, starts for the front door. ROSEY (O.S.) (calling loudly) You Mitchels in there? At the kitchen window, we see Rosey’s face looking in. She’s in the rain. Gal goes to the window, points at the door, and Rosey moves away. FRONT DOORWAY -- LIVING ROOM Jacob lets Rosey in. She looks like a drowned rat. Water is dripping off of her and her clothes are soaked. Her eyes are swollen, especially the left, and so is her lip, which is also split. The soaked dress she is wearing is stretched at the neck and ripped. Gal enters. GAL My God, Rosey. What happened to you?
ROSEY (looking sheepish) Didn’t want to bother y’all none, eatin’ your dinner and all, but I didn’t know no where else to go. Gal takes Rosey’s arm, starts leading her into the kitchen as Jacob closes the door. KITCHEN ROSEY (CONT’D) My Old Man, Bubba Joe, he done beat the tar out of me. Gal directs Rosey to her own chair at the table. Jacob gives Gal a look. You’d think from his expression that a turd had just fallen from heaven. Callie and Stanley watch all of this with great curiosity. ROSEY (CONT’D) Guess I had it comin’. Sassin’ back and all. He scared me this time. Pulled a big ole knife. Tole me he was gonna cut me from gut to gill. Gal moves to the sink, snatches a cup towel, throws it on the counter. She opens the refrigerator, snaps out an ice tray and levers it open, allowing the cubes to fall onto the towel. GAL See if we can bring down that swelling. Gal presses the ice in the towel against Rosey’s face. Rosey takes hold of it and presses. ROSEY First hit me, that knot under my eye big as a possum. STANLEY Big as a possum? CALLIE Hush, Stanley. Gal leaning over Rosey, examining the eye. GAL The left eye is the worst spot?
ROSEY Yes’sum. He hits me mostly with the right. GAL Call the police? ROSEY They say nigger want to beat his woman, ain’t none of their look out...Guess I shouldn’t have sassed him. JACOB Some women don’t know their place. Gal gives Jacob a look that could melt lead. GAL My place, dear, is pretty much where I put it. Man hits me, he better remember he’s got to sleep. ROSEY He wanted my money, but he gambles, drinks it up. He hit me for it. Nuther thing, Bubba Joe wants me to go out and do another little bit of work I don’t want to do, cause he says there’s good money in it. GAL What work? ROSEY Well, Miss Mitchel, can’t talk about it with the chil’ren here. GAL Oh..Oh..That. ROSEY Yes’sum. That’s the work. He gonna kill me afore I do that. Gal pats Rosey’s shoulder. GAL Tonight you’re gonna eat with us and sleep on the couch. Jacob gives Gal an exasperated look.
ROSEY Well, now, I don’t know I ought to be sitting here at no table with your family. People might talk. JACOB (serious) They might. GAL Let them. Callie. Fix Rosey a plate. Rosey, you eat up and relax. Jacob moves behind Rosey’s back, motions Gal aside, into the living room. LIVING ROOM Gal and Jacob. They have their heads close together and they are whispering. JACOB We can’t let HER stay here. GAL Should we turn her out in the rain? JACOB It’s about stopped. GAL She’s been hurt. She can’t go back to that...animal. JACOB It’s just not done. A colored and whites at the dinner table. Sleeping in our living room. Gal pokes a finger in Jacob’s chest. GAL It’s done. JACOB I’m the man of the house. I make the decisions. GAL Not this one, you don’t. And bring a chair. We’ll need it at the table.
Gal marches back to the kitchen, leaving Jacob flabbergasted. KITCHEN Rosey is at the table, gently tasting the snap beans on her plate with a fork. GAL (CONT’D) (referring to the beans) How are they? ROSEY Could use a little salt. Gal’s face, a little surprised. CUT TO: JOHN WAYNE The Duke is in cowboy duds, that famous bib-shirt, a white hat pushed up in front, carrying a rifle. He’s starting to walk that walk of his, down a dark Western street. PULL BACK It’s a movie, of course. As we PULL BACK, we can see the theater lot, rows of cars facing the screen. A few people sitting on their hoods, or with pickups backed in with the tail gates facing the screen, truck beds full of kids, the speakers draped and ready. A few cars rocking. The playground. Swings, slide, see-saw, packed with screeching kids. INT. CONCESSION STAND A crowd inside, buying stuff. Behind the counter, Jacob and Gal. They’re working the concession. Passing popcorn, hotdogs, drinks. Jacob hands a hotdog in a paper boat across the counter to a CUSTOMER. The Customer is a redneck looking guy with enough grease in his hair to lube a transmission. Jacob slips behind the cash register. JACOB We ought to get Stanley back down here, Gal...That’s one-fifty.
Behind Jacob, Gal is running a drink into a paper cup, one hand on the fountain lever. GAL He can work tomorrow night. He’s only a boy but once. An hour now and then is enough. Customer looking over his hot dog. CUSTOMER There ain’t no drink with that, and it’s a buck fifty? Jacob moves his attention between the customer and his wife. JACOB I need him more than just Saturday....It’s extra long and it’s got chili and onions. Gal is at the cash register, taking money and putting it in the machine, sort of pushing Jacob aside to get the job done. CUSTOMER How much without the onions? Jacob, sliding back in behind the register, is dismissive. JACOB Buck fifty. CUSTOMER I could have made a hot dog at home for seventy-five cents, with chili onions and relish. Gal, snapping a popcorn bag into shape with a flick of her wrist, smiles at Customer. GAL Yeah. But you don’t get the atmosphere. Customer plops the money on the counter and leaves with his chili dog. Jacob turns his attention to the next in line. A pleasant looking WOMAN.
PLEASANT WOMAN One Popcorn, light butter. Two hot dogs. Three small drinks. JACOB Coming right up. Jacob wheels toward the hot dog cooker, and as he uses tongs to pull a weenie off a spike and slap it on a bun, he turns to the Woman. JACOB (CONT’D) Mustard? PLEASANT WOMAN Light. Jacob, back at it, preparing the hot dogs. He’s talking to Gal without looking at her. JACOB What about Callie? She too good to work? Gal at the popcorn popper, filling the bag with a scoop. GAL She’s going out. Jacob is already making the second hotdog. JACOB Out? She’s always going out. GAL She’s a teenager. JACOB I never got to be one. Jacob puts the hot dogs in paper trays and sets them on the counter by the cash register. Gal slides in beside him, sets the popcorn next to the hotdogs, steps lively to the drink machine. She talks first to Jacob, then the customer. GAL Neither did I...That was three small drinks, right? PLEASANT WOMAN That’s right. Not too much ice.
Gal is scooping ice into the cups, and as she fills the cups with soda, she hands them to Jacob, who sets them on the counter in front of the woman, along with the rest of her order. Jacob smiles at the woman. JACOB Two-seventy-five. The woman produces money from a beaded purse as Jacob puts her order in a cardboard carry out tray. GAL That’s why our kids get the chance. JACOB What? GAL Teenagers. They get to be teenagers... And Rosey gets to stay for a while. Jacob shrugs and grunts, turns his attention to the next in line, a teenage boy. INT. DRIVE-IN/HOME- KITCHEN -MOMENTS LATER Stanley at the refrigerator. He has it open and is taking out a paper carton of milk, drinking right from it. ROSEY (O.S.) You ain’t suppose to do that way, Mr. Stanley. Stanley, startled, pulls the carton from his mouth. He glances toward the dark living room. STANLEY I thought you were asleep. Stanley puts the carton back in the refrigerator, closes the door and wanders into the-LIVING ROOM Rosey, who is lying down on the couch with a damp rag held to her eye, sits up slowly. ROSEY Close my eyes, I see Bubba Joe comin’ at me.
Lots a things you don’t want comin’ at you fast, and Bubba Joe at the top of the list...Ought to take my old chicken choppin’ axe to him. But I love him. I hate him too, and I’m sacred of him. But I love him. STANLEY Why? ROSEY Ain’t got no reason. Men, they got reasons. But they reasons ain’t much and they don’t last long...Man like Bubba, he don’t even love hisself, let alone me. Stanley has settled into a chair. STANLEY He sounds terrible. ROSEY Bible says not to judge least ye be judged. Least I think it say that. I don’t read so good. Preacher told me that. Course, had his hand on my knee at the time, so I got some doubts. STANLEY Why would Bubba Joe hurt you, Rosey? ROSEY Ain’t no good reason...Mr. Stanley, you don’t understand some things. Man like your daddy. He treated like a real man. Bubba Joe, he treated like a boy. White men younger than him call him boy, and he six three and weigh nearly three hundred pounds. He a war hero. STANLEY Really? ROSEY Go over to that Korea. Get a bad wound. Come back here, he on the back of the bus again. How a man gonna be a man, or even like himself, or treat anybody good, he gets treated that way? STANLEY Rosey? Don’t you have to love yourself not to let him treat you like you been treated? Mama says something like that.
ROSEY (not entirely a compliment) You a smart boy, Mr. Stanley...I got to lay down now. Rosey stretches out on the couch without another word, places the damp rag over her eyes. Stanley stands up and slowly leaves the room. INT. STANLEY’S UPSTAIRS BEDROOM -- LITTLE LATER Stanley is sitting on his bed in his pajamas, little horse covered jobs. There are a number of things on the wall, like a coonskin cap on a nail. A pennant or two. Nothing fancy. Kid stuff. The only light in the room is from a lamp on a night stand near the bed. Stanley is just sitting there, his head turned toward his dark window. He sticks his hand under the lamp, moves his fingers, make’s shadow shapes on the wall near his bed. The bedroom door is open. Callie suddenly fills it. She has on a bright blue dress, looks like a teenage dream. CALLIE Hey, Squirt. Not gonna watch the movie? Stanley turns to look at his sister. STANLEY Seen it. CALLIE Yeah. Me too. Lots. STANLEY You came to ask me that? CALLIE Can’t a sister be friendly with her brother? Stanley studies her. STANLEY Going out? CALLIE It’s Friday night, isn’t it? STANLEY Chester?
CALLIE What makes you think that? STANLEY Cause everyone says so. And we don’t hardly even know anyone yet. So you aren’t very sneaky, you know...That’s why you really came up here, isn’t it? To get me on your side? Callie is caught, and her face shows it. CALLIE It’s something to do. We’re going to the downtown movie. STANLEY Daddy know? CALLIE Of course not. You know he doesn’t. Sharon and Danny are picking me up. We’ll meet Chester at the movie. STANLEY Daddy says Chester is a greasy weasel. Callie is suddenly overcome with caution. CALLIE You’re not gonna tell, are you squirt? Stanley shakes his head. STANLEY But you owe me one. CALLIE What’s that mean? Stanley smiles at her and shrugs. CALLIE (CONT’D) No. I got to know. Stanley doesn’t respond. Callie sighs. CALLIE (CONT’D) I’ll clean your room and take your laundry down. STANLEY For how long?
CALLIE Two days. STANLEY Three. CALLIE (sighing) Three then. STANLEY Deal. Callie smiles big and bright and beautiful. CALLIE Bye, Squirt. As Callie slides away still smiling, Stanley reaches over and turns out his lamp, slides under the covers. The CAMERA CLOSES IN ON HIM, then GLIDES past him to the window, then out into the night and upwards into the stars which fuzz together and we-DISSOLVE TO: THE STATIC OF A TV SET WIDEN, and we’re in the Mitchel’s LIVING ROOM. DAYLIGHT STREAMS through the back window, and Stanley, wearing a loose shirt and jeans, is beating on top of the set. The TV picture clears somewhat, but it’s still laced with jagged lines. We can hear SOUND on the screen, and we can tell there’s some kind of action going on, even if we can’t really see it. Stanley griping at the set, pushing up the window, sitting on the sill, turning the antennae which is just outside the window. He’s looking over his shoulder at the TV as he does the adjusting, trying to hold his mouth just right. We can see his feet now. He’s wearing some fancy cowboy boots with Roy Roger’s likeness on them. TV screen finally settles down. It’s Johnny Weismuller, a Tarzan movie. Stanley moves quickly to a place on the floor, sits in front of the TV with legs crossed watching. A KNOCK ON THE DOOR.
Stanley, slightly peeved, gets up to answer it. Standing in the doorway is a gangly boy Stanley’s age with long brown hair pushed back on his head and greased down heavy. He has on faded, patched, cuffed blue jeans, old scuffed shoes and a white tee shirt that’s a little toward the yellowed-side. He’s constantly scratching his head. This is RICHARD CHAPMAN. RICHARD Hey, Stanley. STANLEY Come on in. Jungle Theater is on. As Richard slides inside and Stanley shuts the door, he looks down at Stanley’s feet. RICHARD Wow. Those are some neat boots. STANLEY Mom got them for me. The boys hustle around in front of the TV set, and now we are at-ANOTHER ANGLE and we can see into the kitchen. Gal is at the stove cooking breakfast, stirring some bacon in a pan with a spatula. Eggs are in another frying pan. She looks at the boys. GAL Richard, you want some breakfast? I’m fixing Stanley some. Toast, eggs and bacon. Richard looks at her. RICHARD (somewhat shyly) Yes, Ma’am. That would be real nice. Gal gives him a smile, turns back to her cooking. LATER Boys are sitting on the couch now with the TV trays, greasy plates in front of them. The Tarzan movie is fading out.
Stanley gets up, sets the tray on the couch, goes over and cuts the TV off. STANLEY You missed Jungle Jim. RICHARD I know. I wanted to come, but daddy wouldn’t let me. I had chores. Richard is setting his tray aside now, standing. RICHARD (CONT’D) Thing is, I got to go home. STANLEY I thought we were gonna run the woods? Richard shakes his head. RICHARD Can’t. I got to get back. I didn’t ask daddy if I could come. STANLEY Why not? Richard moving toward the door. RICHARD Cause he wouldn’t let me. CLOSER ON RICHARD’S BACK as he retreats. The back of his white tee shirt has bloody bands on it. STANLEY Man, what happened to you? You’re bleeding. Richard pauses at the door. RICHARD I got a licking. STANLEY That ain’t no licking, Richard. You’re bloody. RICHARD Sometimes I got to be corrected. (grinning)
I just pretend I’m Tarzan being tortured by natives. I do that, I can take most anything. Stanley is not amused. Richard’s grin fades. RICHARD (CONT’D) I got to get back. We’ve got field work to do. And daddy ‘spects me to be at the preachin’ this afternoon. All his hands done run off. They work awhile, then quit. I’m what he’s got. Stanley is studying Richard. STANLEY I could go with you to your place. RICHARD I don’t know daddy would want anyone there. STANLEY I wouldn’t stay. Just ride bikes with you. I got to put on my sneakers, though. RICHARD Yeah. That’s okay. I’ll wait outside. Richard goes out. Gal steps into the living room drying her hands on a cup towel. GAL Did I hear that right? That boy got hit across the back? STANLEY Yes, ma’am. GAL And that man claiming to be a preacher. NARRATOR It was like that for Richard. I had chores, but Richard, he worked like a grown man, same as the men his daddy hired to work in the fields. STANLEY AND RICHARD They are riding down a very narrow and weather-beaten red clay road.
Richard is in the lead, and he pulls over and stops and points, supporting the bike with his straddled legs. What he’s pointing at: The remains of an OLD SAWMILL, out in the high grass, standing amidst scrubby trees that have grown up around it. It’s an old shack made of tin, ten feet off the ground on stilts. There’s a ladder underneath it that leads up through a trap. Next to it is a larger, three story tin covered building with a rickety metal chute jutting out of a high opening, and below that chute is a two story high pile of sawdust, gone black from weather and time. As Stanley rolls his bike up next to Richard’s. RICHARD Used to be an old sawmill. They say there’s kid under all that sawdust. He was playing on the chute and slid down in the dust. He didn’t know he wouldn’t just land on top. He went inside. STANLEY That can’t be. They would have dug him out. That’s just some story. RICHARD What they say...Wouldn’t be so bad, ending up there. It looks kind of comfortable. STANLEY Not to me. Richard turns, stares at Stanley and smiles. RICHARD Yeah. That’s silly...You’re daddy ever hit your mama...you know, correct her? STANLEY No. Course not. RICHARD My daddy does when mama sasses. Your mama has a tongue, don’t she? STANLEY Well, yeah. But daddy don’t hit her. RICHARD You get many whippings?
STANLEY A spanking now and then, when I was younger. No whippings. Not like you mean. RICHARD You think you’re growing up all right? Stanley is taken back by this question. STANLEY Guess so. Richard nods, launches his bike forward and Stanley follows. CHAPMAN HOUSE The chimney is held up with a pole. The grass in the yard is nearly knee high, scattered with weeds. There are crumbling out buildings, including a large, unpainted barn. There’s a hog inside a small pen, lying in a damp place in the corner, near a kind of ragged shed. A big black dog is out to the side of the house. His long leash is hooked up to a run of clothes line, and he gallops along it’s length, barking. Stanley and Richard roll into the grassy yard, get off their bikes. Richard looks at the dog as he lays his rusted, old bike down in the yard. Stanley retains his. RICHARD Daddy loves that dog. Crazy about him... I got to go in now. STANLEY Sure. Richard steps onto the porch. It squeaks as he does. The porch roof is rotten, bits of it hang down; it looks so damp and ragged you could tear the lumber apart with your hands. There’s a screen door that hangs at a slight angle, and there are big holes in the screen. The door behind the screen has a series of holes in it, like someone has thrown darts, or a knife at it. At the window, a dirty curtain moves. A face looks out. A woman, RICHARD’S MOTHER. She has a black eye and looks frightened. The curtain drops and she is gone.
The front door opens, and the screen is shoved back by MR. CHAPMAN, Richard’s dad. He comes out on the porch. Tall, lean man who looks as if he had once been wet and wrung out too hard in a wash wringer. Doesn’t seem to be any moisture left in him. His hair and eyes are as dark as pine nuts, his skin is like leather. His jaw shows that he has a load of tobacco. Chapman directs an angry look at Richard. CHAPMAN Where the hell you been? RICHARD Just went to see Stanley. Chapman looks out at Stanley. CHAPMAN Some folks got time for play. You ain’t. Chapman turns his attention to Richard. CHAPMAN (CONT’D) Can’t keep them niggers and wetbacks, and now I can’t keep you. You got work to do. Get in the house, boy. Wasn’t what you got this morning enough? Get in there. Richard is already moving past his father. RICHARD Yes, sir. Just as Richard is going into the house, he looks back at Stanley. The expression on his face is equivalent to a suicide note. Chapman stares out at Stanley, who is still holding his bike. CHAPMAN Anything I can do for you, boy? STANLEY No, sir. Chapman spits a stream of tobacco almost off the porch, turns, goes inside, slamming the door. Stanley turns his bike around, slips astride, starts to peddle away, down that worn, clay road.
Continuing narration shouldn’t miss a beat between scenes. NARRATOR I thought about Richards some-DISSOLVE TO: DRIVE-IN LOT -- MID DAY Stanley is wandering along near the fence, carrying a stick, snapping it against the fence as he goes. The noise it makes is irritating. Nub is snuffling and bounding about. The continuing narration shouldn’t miss a beat between dissolving scenes. NARRATOR --and I felt sorry for him. Stanley starts running down the length of the fence, the stick banging against the corrugated tin. He’s running right toward the projection booth. NARRATOR (CONT’D) But this morning, I felt more sorry for myself than for Richard. I had a full Saturday, hours before I had to help Mom and Dad at the picture show, and no one to play with. And then I remembered the box. Stanley reaches the projection booth, stops in his tracks, because he spies-THE BOX tucked in tight between fence and booth. He drops the stick, pulls the box out, and the-PROJECTION BOOTH DOOR flies open, and out stumbles Buster. He looks like he’s been rode hard and put up wet. He’s wearing a tee-shirt, his pants are held up by suspenders and his fly is partially unzipped. He’s in sock feet. The light hurts his eyes. BUSTER What in the goddamn hell are you doing, boy? You sound like a barrel of nails rolling down hill. STANLEY What are you doing here?
Buster pauses, squinting against the morning sunlight. He looks about. BUSTER Well, hell, boy. I don’t know...Guess I didn’t go home last night...What you got there? STANLEY A box. BUSTER No shit. Stanley is surprised at this comment. STANLEY I found it out back. Between the fence and the woods. It was kind of buried. Buster sits down in the doorway. BUSTER What’s it got in it? STANLEY I don’t know. It’s got a lock on it. Buster holds out a hand. BUSTER Let me see it. Stanley hesitates. BUSTER (CONT’D) You can have the damn thing back. Let me see it. Stanley moves over and gives it to Buster. Buster examines it, then slams it on the ground. He picks it up. The lock has snapped loose. Buster pulls the loose padlock free, drops it on the ground. BUSTER (CONT’D) Lock was so rusted, it was about to go. Buster hands the box to Stanley. STANLEY You’re aren’t going to look inside?
BUSTER You found it. You look if you want to. Stanley, holding the box in the crook of one arm, opens it. INSERT BOX: Letters, pages, bound up by a red ribbon. BACK TO STANLEY AND BUSTER STANLEY It’s nothing but letters. BUSTER Words can be mighty interesting. Stanley looks at Buster. STANLEY I was hoping for a treasure map. BUSTER (grinning) Ain’t we all, boy...Me, I ought to go home...In about fifteen minutes I’ll start remembering where it is. Buster stands up and slips back inside the booth, the door still open. Stanley idly moves to where he can see Buster. Buster is pulling on a collared shirt; he looks out at Stanley. BUSTER (CONT’D) Watching a man put on a shirt all that exciting? Stanley shakes his head. BUSTER (CONT’D) Then run on, now. I’ve had enough of you. Stanley darting toward the drive-in/home, the box under his arm, Nub bounding after him. Stanley pauses at the sliding glass back door of the house. He turns and watches Buster walk away from the projection boothe, heading toward the drive-in exit. The old man may be a grump and a bit hung over, but he walks with his head held up. INT. DRIVE-IN/HOME Stanley’s inside, pulling the sliding door shut. Rosey comes into view carrying a duster.
ROSEY That old Buster say something to you? STANLEY Not really. ROSEY He prickly. And ten years older than what he tell you. Puts black shoe polish on his hair. Thinks he’s better than the rest of us cause he part Indian...Or say he is...What you got in the box? STANLEY Letters. ROSEY You got a box of letters? You just running around with a box of letters? STANLEY Yes, ma’am. Stanley is moving toward the stairs with Nub, and as they start up-ROSEY (calling) You ought to get you a ball. They a lot more fun than a box of letters. INT. STANLEY’S ROOM--MOMENT’S LATER His door is open and Nub is on the bed, wagging his tail as Stanley drops down beside him, swinging his feet up, resting his head against the headboard. He places the box on the bed and lifts the lid. Callie comes through the door. CALLIE Mom sees you with your shoes on the bed, and that dog, you’re going to be in some trouble, mister. STANLEY (not really paying Callie attention) Mom lets Nub on her bed sometimes.
Stanley takes the bound letters out, unfastens the ribbon, lets the letters fall out on the bed along with individual pages. He pulls one letter from an envelope to look at. Callie moves over to the bed, sits on the edge, glances at the letters. CALLIE What’s all that, squirt? Stanley reading the letter. STANLEY Found them buried in the box out back. Thought it might be something neat. Have a map or money in it. But it’s love letters. CALLIE Love letters? Let me see. Callie grabs one and opens it. STANLEY Those are mine. As Callie opens the letter and is about to read it. CALLIE You found them, but they don’t belong to you. Callie has begun to concentrate on the letter. CALLIE (CONT’D) This is so sweet. It was written during the war. See, it’s dated. 1940. She shows Stanley the letter. STANLEY Look how it’s written. INSERT LETTER as Callie looks at it. Writing runs the normal way across the page, but there is writing written over it going from the top to the bottom. At the top of the letter we see: Dear J. I miss you, darling. Callie shuffles the pages, and we see the last page, and how it’s signed: Love M.
CALLIE They used to write like that during the war to save paper. They had shortages. Mom told me about it. She said at first it’s hard to read, but after a while, your eyes adjust, and you read it one way, then you read the rest the other way. Callie does that, shifting the letter around in her hand. CALLIE (CONT’D) I can do it. It reads like a woman’s writing. J to M it says. Initials. That’s odd. Callie picking up other letters, sorting the envelopes in her hands. Richard is taking letters out of envelopes. CALLIE (CONT’D) None of the letters have stamps or addresses on them. I bet they were hand delivered. Callie pauses to read. CALLIE (CONT’D) My goodness. STANLEY What? CALLIE J got pregnant. M says she’s sorry. Not to worry. M says she’ll help J get rid of it. Guess it’s not a woman’s writing. STANLEY Rid of it? CALLIE Abort. Some doctors do it. It’s not legal...I’ll explain later...Where exactly did you find this? EXT. BEHIND THE DRIVE-IN Birds are chirping. It’s a pretty day. Stanley and Callie are standing over the hole where the box was dug up. Nub is barking in the distance, sharp, annoying barks.
CALLIE For some reason I was expecting something more exciting...What is wrong with that dog? He’s giving me a headache. THEY LOOK TOWARD THE WOODS. Dark in there, but there are slats of sunlight, and we can see Nub in amongst the trees and twining vines. There’s an old fallen down tree lying across the limb of a standing tree, and Nub has started up that, nimble as a cat. WE SEE WHAT NUB SEES. A squirrel. It’s on a limb, whisking it’s tail the way agitated squirrels do. Nub really hates this. It’s like a red flag being waved at a bull. Stanley and Callie break through the woods and come to the tree Nub is on, take a look. CALLIE (CONT’D) Nub, come down before you break your fool neck. STANLEY Just a squirrel. CALLIE We’re going to get ticks and chiggers. Stanley is walking around the tree, looking up at the squirrel. He walks wide of the tree, stumbles a bit. Looks down. Sees PARTIALLY BURIED STONE STEPS. STANLEY There was a house here. Callie ducks under a limb, stops next to Stanley. She looks first at the steps, then up-CALLIE Stanley. Look. THEY SEE AN AMAZING SIGHT IN THE TREES: Shredded, rotted, lumber hanging from limbs like ugly Christmas decorations. A window frame with a broken pane of glass still in it, supported in the air, speared by a pine limb. HIGHER UP a large piece of roof frame. A blackened door held aloft by a limb that has grown through the hole where the doorknob was. PANNING RIGHT, an iron staircase hanging in the air, supported by limbs. We FOLLOW THE CAMERA DOWN the staircase, to the ground. The staircase is being held about four inches off the earth by those limbs.
Stanley darts over to the staircase, takes hold of it. CALLIE (CONT’D) Be careful, squirt. You’ll pull that down on your head. STANLEY It’s firm. I could climb all the way up it. Callie joins him. CALLIE Well, don’t. STANLEY Think a tornado got the house? CALLIE Burned. Trees grew up inside and around it, pushed all that stuff up...It looks to have been a big house. A mansion maybe. Could be your box wasn’t buried at all. The house must have run all the way back to ours. Box could have dropped through the burning floorboards, got covered up over the years. STANLEY Think so? CALLIE (shaking her head) I don’t know. I’m starting to be as silly as you. Get that stupid mutt and let’s go back to the house. I think I feel a chigger in my arm pit. STANLEY’S ROOM - NIGHT Stanley, already in pajama bottoms, is putting on his pajama top. As he finishes buttoning it, goes over to his lamp and switches it off, his face toward the window, he does a kind of double take at what he sees. DOWN NEAR THE STREET, a big black man is standing. He’s wearing a hat. You can’t make his features out very well, but he raises a cigarette to his face, and, we go-CLOSE ON HIS FACE as he puffs, and in that little cigarette glow, we see that he’s a rough looking character. He lifts his head toward the window above.
STANLEY steps back as if hit with a blow. He takes a deep breath, eases forward again, takes a look. THE STREET. No one is there now. DRIVE-IN/HOME -- STAIRWAY --MOMENTS LATER Stanley coming downstairs carefully in the dark. In the hallway. The kitchen. Stanley pauses at the connection between kitchen and living room. Rosey is just sitting on the couch in her oversized sleeping gown. She turns her head and looks at Stanley. STANLEY Bubba Joe...What’s he look like? ROSEY (fearful) You seen him? STANLEY I don’t know. Looked out my window...and someone, a colored man, was standing out at the street, looking at the house. Rosey is up, moving into the kitchen. She opens a drawer and takes out a huge butcher knife. ROSEY He a big man? STANLEY Yes, ma’am. Real big. ROSEY Bet he wearing a hat. Stanley nods. ROSEY (CONT’D) Bet he got a razor with him too. He always carry a razor. Keep it in his shoe. Rosey is moving back into the living room now, and Stanley is following close behind.
Rosey goes to the door and unlocks it, opens it a crack, holding the butcher knife tight. STANLEY Rosey, don’t open the door. ROSEY I got to know. STANLEY He’s gone...I looked again and he was gone...I don’t know it was him. Rosey opens the door wider. OUTSIDE. The night. The street. The wind blowing gently. Rosey steps just outside the door, looks left and right. Stanley moves outside with her, standing very close. Another view of the night and the empty street. LIVING ROOM Rosey is locking the door. She carries the butcher knife with her to the couch, sits down. Stanley sits in a chair. ROSEY He ain’t never gonna quit till he gets me. STANLEY You should tell, mama. ROSEY I should...but I do...I might have to leave. And I wouldn’t blame her, or your daddy...But Mr. Stanley, I ain’t got no place to go. He probably not gonna bother me here...just looking. He don’t want no trouble with white folks and white folks law. STANLEY He’s as bad as you say, I don’t know he’d care. ROSEY Please don’t tell, Mr. Stanley...I like it here. I feel safe...Please... Stanley thinking on this.
STANLEY Okay...I won’t. Stanley moves toward the kitchen, turns and looks back. Rosey is placing the butcher knife under the couch cushion, lying down, pulling the covers up to her chin. She turns her head toward Stanley. ROSEY Good night, Mr. Stanley. STANLEY Good night, Rosey. Stanley steps away, and-EXT. BACK OF FENCE BEHIND THE DRIVE-IN -- DAY Stanley and Richard are walking up to the drive-in’s back fence, they have fishing poles over their shoulders. Nub is with them. They get to the fence and throw the poles down next to the fence. RICHARD We might have got something, had we used dynamite. STANLEY And where would we get dynamite? Stanley opens the gate and they go through it with Nub, into the-DRIVE IN LOT As Stanley closes the gate, slipping the padlocks in place-RICHARD I don’t know. But daddy went fishing with it. He throwed it in the water and all manner of fish floated up. Maybe they was a hundred. We only took the best ones. BUSTER (OS) Ain’t you got no pride, boy? Dynamite ain’t no way to fish. That’s just wasteful. Not to mention cruel. The boys turn, and standing in the doorway of the projection shack is Buster.
He looks three sheets to the wind, weaving a little, blurry-eyed, suspenders dangling, pants unbuttoned at the top, no shoes. After a moment, Richard collects himself, and-RICHARD I got enough pride I don’t need no drunk nigger telling me how to do things. BUSTER Boy, I’m old and worn out and drunk, and my ass hurts, and I could whip you and two just like you to a frazzle any day of the week. And you can bring your dogs. RICHARD I told my daddy, he might see you got hung. BUSTER Tell your daddy he can kiss my big black ass. Right on the pucker spot. Richard stalks off toward the drive-in/home, Stanley follows, along with Nub. As they come to the sliding glass back door. STANLEY You ain’t goin’ home, are you? He don’t mean nothing. He’s drunk. Richard with his hand on the door. RICHARD I ain’t right sure I ought to be comin’ over here anyway. STANLEY What’s that mean? RICHARD Well...you ain’t god fearing. Running niggers in your house, and your business...and-Richard points to the little table out by the concession stand. A book is lying there. RICHARD (CONT’D) --you’re always reading. Daddy says man made books, funny books are the devils work.
STANLEY The devil reads Tarzan? Funny books? That’s silly. And I guess he watches I LOVE LUCY? RICHARD I better get going. Daddy’s got taters to dig this afternoon. Two wet backs working for him run off. STANLEY Come on, stay. I didn’t mean nothing by it. We can play checkers. The glass door slides back, out comes Rosey with a plate of cookies. Richard starts past her. ROSY You ain’t gonna stay for cookies, Mr. Richard? Richard pauses, shakes his head without really looking at her, slides through the open doorway and is gone. Rosey looks back through the door, watching him. We hear the front door close. When Rosey is sure he’s gone-ROSEY That Mr. Richard, he as antsy as the bugs in his head. STANLEY Bugs? ROSEY That boy got lice. His mama ought to know that, and ought to lye soap his head. That’ll get rid of ‘em. Careful you don’t get them on you, or I’ll be soaping down your head. Richard sort of collapses in one the chairs by the little table. Suddenly his and Rosey’s attention is drawn to thePROJECTION BOOTH Buster, a bottle with a sack around it in one hand, grins at them, pops his suspenders in place with his free hand and starts toward them. ROSEY (CONT’D) Ain’t he supposed to gone home?
As Buster comes across the lot toward them. STANLEY Sometimes he doesn’t. Buster wanders up to them. He looks at Rosey and grins. BUSTER Them cookies for me? ROSEY No. Buster takes one off the plate, flops down in the chair where Richard sat, takes a bite of the cookie, then a swig from the bottle in the sack. BUSTER I run your little friend off? STANLEY (bitter) You did. Buster nods, as if this is of no significance. BUSTER Today is my birthday. ROSEY Then you must be about ten years older than God’s grandpa. BUSTER I’m seventy. ROSEY Oh, nigger, ain’t nobody gonna believe that story. I known you all my life, and I think you seventy when I was born. You’ve had one foot in a ditch and the other on a banana peel for some twenty, thirty years. BUSTER (indignant) Well, I don’t look seventy, do I? ROSEY You look about a hundred and forty-five, you axe me. And you drunk as a skunk. Mr. Jacob get back from town, he’ll fire you quick as a snake strike.
BUSTER He won’t do that. He can’t run the projector. Now, go on, woman. Me and him talking man to man. Rosey makes with a hurumphing noise, heads back through the open split in the door. As she does, Buster leans out to look at her. BUSTER (CONT’D) (softy, to Richard) That ass of hers looks like two pigs wrestling in a sack, don’t it? ROSEY (O.S.) Least they happy pigs. Ain’t nothin’ happy ‘bout you. Buster lets out a little laugh and Stanley grins nervously. Buster takes a hit from his sack, reaches over, takes hold of the book on the table. BUSTER TARZAN THE TERRIBLE. This the one where Tarzan finds dinosaurs and people with tails? STANLEY (surprised) Yes, sir. BUSTER What’s the matter? Didn’t know niggers could learn to read? Stanley doesn’t know what to say to this. BUSTER (CONT’D) I’ve read all them Tarzan stories. I’m always hopin’ some big black man gonna jump out of them jungle weeds and whip him good, stuff a monkey up his ass and make him like it. Buster is really grinning now. He drops the book on the table. BUSTER (CONT’D) You ever read them letters in that box? Stanley nods.
STANLEY Love letters. BUSTER Love letters? STANLEY Yes, sir. Callie thinks they belong to the old house burned down out back. Some of it is up in the trees. BUSTER Do what? STANLEY Pieces of the house. The trees grew up through it. BUSTER Say it did? Now that’s something. I’ll have to look at that...Back there used to be the Stillwind place. You know that? STANLEY No sir. Who are the Stillwinds? BUSTER Rich people used to have a big ole house back of this drive-in. Fact is, it run all the way up to and past the projection booth out there. Burned down. Later they sold the property...There was always a mystery about that fire. STANLEY What kind of mystery? BUSTER About the girl killed in the fire. A daughter. They found her body, she was tied to the bed with wire. Folks said that when that house was burnin’, they could hear her screams all the way into town. There was some thought her daddy, old Mr. Stillwind done it. Tied her up and burned the house down on her. STANLEY Why?
BUSTER There’s all sorts of rumors runnin’ around out there about that girl and how she died. And that’s just one of them. Ain’t none of them ever been captured as fact. STANLEY What happened to the Stillwinds? BUSTER Still around. Still got money. Old Man is living in the hotel, dying up there. Hangin’ by a thread they say. They’s folks used to think them grounds out back here, where the old house was, was haunted. STANLEY Really? BUSTER Pshaw. Them’s just stories. Ain’t no such thing as ghosts, boy. They’s people see ghost all over this country, and ain’t a one of them seen nothing but they own imagination. ROSEY (O.S.) Yeah, they is ghost too. BUSTER (exasperated) Woman, you gonna listen in, might as well come on out here so you can get it all. Rosey comes through the crack in the sliding door. ROSEY They’s wolf-man’s too. I’ve heard about them. They all out in them woods when the moon gets full. BUSTER Now that, boy...What’s your name? STANLEY Stanley. BUSTER Now that, Stan, is just plain old ignorant superstition. There isn’t any wolf men, and there ain’t no ghosts.
Rosey puts her hands on her hips. ROSEY You one of them don’t believe in nothing. Well, you don’t know everything, Mister Smarty Pants. You just drunk, that’s all. Bet you don’t believe in heaven or hell. BUSTER I believe in hell, all right. But I don’t think you got real far to go to find it. In fact, woman, I think you could be a piece of it your ownself. ROSEY Well, some of us god-fearing folk, have chores to do. BUSTER Run on then and do em. Ain’t no one stoppin’ you. Get God to help you, you want. See how that works out. Rosey makes a face, departs through the doorway, this time pulling it closed. Buster takes a swig from his bottle. BUSTER (CONT’D) Thing is boy, you can’t go believing everything someone tells you, or even believing what you think you see. You got to look at a thing careful like, cause if you’re done set to believe something, you got to know you’re likely to believe it, even if there ain’t no truth there. Followin’ me? STANLEY Yes, sir...I think so. BUSTER People gonna tell you about heaven and hell, and ain’t no one been there. Tell you it’s cause the Bible says so. And they ain’t never read the Bible. Sometimes though, maybe what don’t seem right is right. Mr. Sherlock Holmes got a saying something like this. Take away the possible from somethin’, show that ain’t it, whatever is left, no matter how impossible, that’s the truth...You even know who Sherlock Holmes is?
STANLEY Seen him on TV. BUSTER Them old movies? Well, that ain’t Sherlock Holmes. He’s in books. That’s the real Sherlock Holmes. I mean, he’s made up, but he works off logic. Brain cells, not some bullshit pie in the sky. Buster’s mind seems to stray suddenly. He looks over at Nub who is sitting quietly, watching it all. BUSTER (CONT’D) That dog yours? STANLEY That’s Nub. BUSTER Now that, is one fine looking dog. Ain’t nothing like a good dog... Buster closes his eyes and lays his hands on his knees and his head droops. Stanley turns, gives him a good look. Buster begins to snore. EXT. DRIVE-IN Marquee is lit up, reads: THE BACKWOODS KILLER. A line of cars is moving into the drive-in. Horns are honking. Kids are hanging out of cars. INT. DRIVE-IN/HOME The sliding back door is dark with pulled curtains, as it must always be when films are showing. It slides open, and we see Stanley stepping out into the drive-in. He takes a look across the drive-in lot. Couple cars bouncing. Cigarette smoke rising out of windows, twisting up into the perfect night. Stanley walks out to the projection booth. He pauses at the steps, then grabbing some courage, goes up, taps lightly on the door. The door swings open.
Stanley sticks his head inside, looks around. The flickering of the projector, the rattling of the film. No one inside. Surprised, Stanley backs down the steps, turns, and as he does, he looks out across the drive-in, at the screen. BLACK AND WHITE FILM. It’s a tough guy detective movie, we can tell that just from the way people are dressed. Men in hats and jackets, loose ties, cigarettes dangling from lips. The women are poured into below the knee dresses, supported on precarious high heels, hats cocked at an angle, pinned there to excessive hair dos. Now Stanley sees something else. In the moonlight, he sees Buster topping off the ladder there, crossing the roof of his drive-in home, going behind the screen, where it lifts slightly higher than the roof. Stanley walks across the lot toward the house, and as he goes, CRACKLING OVER THE SPEAKERS, we HEAR a few lines from the movie. MAN’S VOICE That was ten years ago. There hasn’t been another murder. WOMAN’S RESPONSE I tell you, there’s still a killer. He’s out there, in the backwoods. Stanley has moved beyond the speakers now, and all we hear from them is a MUMBLE OF VOICES, interlaced with static. Stanley comes to the ladder. He hesitates a moment, then climbs. He gets to the top, gingerly steps onto the roof and looks behind the screen. Sitting in one of two chairs up there, is Buster, smoking a big cigar, sipping from a bottle in a sack. Buster turns and looks at him. BUSTER What in hell you doin’ up here, boy? STANLEY Aren’t you supposed to be running the projector? BUSTER Mostly runs by itself, you got it threaded right.
Come over here and sit down. People get to watching you instead of the picture show. You know this was up here. STANLEY I was here once. Stanley crosses until he’s behind the screen, the top of which sticks up four or five feet above the roof. He pauses near one of the metal chairs, stands there. Folks owned lot of time your dad, I to smoke my medicine. BUSTER this before you, they spent up here. They sold out to got to where I come up here, cigar, and take a bit of my
With that, Buster takes a swig from his sack-covered bottle. BUSTER (CONT’D) You the work police? Seein’ I’m own the job? Stanley just looks blank. BUSTER (CONT’D) Sit your ass down, boy. What you come up here for? Stanley sits. STANLEY I don’t know. BUSTER Everything got some kind of reason. You got to learn to think on why you do things. Otherwise, you just wanderin’ through life like a chicken with it’s head cut off and will do anything for no reason. Beat. STANLEY Do you always know why you do things? BUSTER Used to. These days, not so sure. I drink a little. Have you noticed?
STANLEY Yes, sir. It’s just that...I was curious. BUSTER ‘Bout what? STANLEY About what you were telling me the other day. The Stillwind girl. Did you know her or the Stillwinds? BUSTER Me and the Stillwinds didn’t exactly attend the same parties. But near everyone lives in this town knows them. Own all manner of property. Downtown picture show. The furniture store. Lots of places. They’re big wheels, all right. After that fire, the old woman, losing her daughter like that, she just lost her nut. Her and the old man separated. She finally got so many bubbles off the plumb line, they put her in the old folks home. She’s up there now, sucking down creamed peas and shittin’ in a pan. There’s a Stillwind boy too. He ain’t nothing but trouble. Daddy always buying him out of bad business. Women problems, mostly. He’s maybe thirty or so years old. You ain’t amounted to nothin’ by the time you’re thirty, you ain’t gonna amount to nothin’ ever. Stanley is thinking so hard we can see the questions moving across his face. STANLEY Did the Stillwind’s daughter have a name started with J? BUSTER Why you ask that? STANLEY The letters I found out back. They’re from an M to a J. No names, just initials. BUSTER (drunkenly amused) Now, let me see...Son’s name was James, I think. So there’s a J. I don’t know about the daughter.
Course, lot of people can have names start with J....There’s another kind of curious goin’ on here, though. STANLEY Sir? BUSTER Thing I remember, cause it was unusual, was same night the Stillwind girl got burned up, Margaret Wood was murdered. She didn’t get the same kind of write up the Stillwind girl got, on account of she was poor, and her mother was...Well, she took in fellas, you might say. For a price. STANLEY Hotel? BUSTER Not exactly. STANLEY What happened to Margaret? How was she killed. BUSTER Kind of an ugly story too. ANGLE THE DRIVE-IN SCREEN, but we HEAR Buster’s strong narrative voice overlapping what we see. On the screen a young woman in her black and white universe is running down a moon-lit trail, trees thick on either side, a limb lashes out and catches her across the face. We are close to a car as we watch. We move INSIDE the car. There’s a teenage girl inside, and she’s really into this movie, which we SEE through the windshield, and the guy beside her is into her, or wants to be, and he is slipping his arm around her. Without looking, the teenage girl sticks a hand in her suitor’s face, pushes him back. We can HEAR FAINTLY the SOUNDS OF THE MOVIE on the speaker. It’s just a RUSTLING of leaves, the MOVEMENT of trees in the wind, the sound of the girl running, breathing heavy. BUSTER (O.S.) CONT’D) (CONT’D) She was a nice looking girl, had a big silver tooth, right-CUT TO BUSTER:
He’s tapping his front tooth with the tip of his finger. BUSTER (CONT’D) --here. She was in the woods late for some reason, and someone got after her. BACK TO DRIVE-IN SCREEN, THE MOVIE BRUSH BURSTING ASIDE. Someone we don’t get a real look at, explodes from the brush. We can only see a glimpse of pants, shoes. And the UNIDENTIFIED ATTACKER is on the girl, grabbing her, and we get the SPEAKER SOUND from one of the speakers as she SCREAMS. Then he has her by the throat. We can only see his back, as he chokes. The girl’s hand comes up, pushes off his hat. CLOSE ON GIRL’S FACE as she struggles. She’s got her hands to her throat, trying to peal the attacker’s hands off of her neck. She’s getting weaker BUSTER (O.S.) CONT’D) (CONT’D) Whoever it was did some mean things to her. BACK TO STANLEY AND BUSTER. Stanley is leaning forward, he’s enraptured. STANLEY Mean? BUSTER I’ll let your imagination work on that part. But whoever got after her, killed her, stripped her naked, laid her out so her head was on the railroad tracks. ANGLE SCREEN A LIGHT COMING DOWN RAILROAD TRACKS. SOUND THROUGH THE SPEAKERS: A WHISTLE. The train running fast. BUSTER (O.S.) (CONT’D) And the train come along, and-CUT TO: BUSTER as he slams the edge of one hand into the palm of the other with a LOUD SMACK.
BUSTER (CONT’D) And it cut her head off. WIDEN to include the wide-eyed Stanley. BACK TO SCREEN The train finishes whizzing by, and the drive-in movie HOLDS FOR A LONG MOMENT on the empty railroad track and the wooded countryside. BUSTER (O.S.) (CONT’D) Rosey...Superstitious folk, they say she wanders around out there looking for her head. A ghost. They say a dog run off with her head. BACK TO BUSTER AND STANLEY STANLEY Wow. BUSTER Now, let me ask you something...How would anyone know that unless they was there...That a dog run off with her head? The dog tell them? See what I mean about thinking a thing through, boy? STANLEY Yes, sir...Did they find the head? BUSTER I don’t remember. Thing is, don’t be sure of your facts until they are fact. And did you notice another little curiosity? Just came to me while we were talking. Mainly cause I’m soberin’ up. Stanley doesn’t have an answer. BUSTER (CONT’D) Margaret. It starts with an M. STANLEY Margaret wrote the letters? BUSTER You are quick to make some jumps boy. I just said it was a coincidence. Didn’t say it meant anything. When you’re thinking a thing through, don’t jump to nothing, and don’t toss out nothing.
Not right off...Reckon I need to go on down and get set for the reel change now. You run on ahead. Matter of fact, I’ve had enough of you for tonight. Stanley is sort of stunned. He stand up slowly. BUSTER (CONT’D) Go on, now...Wait. You go by the booth, look inside. Lyin’ on the counter there, you’ll see a book. ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES. Pick that up, read it, but bring it back when you’re finished. It’ll teach you somethin’ about thinkin’. I’m figurin’ you might need a lot of help in that department. Stanley isn’t sure how to take this. He moves toward the ladder, pauses. STANLEY Thought you were comin’? BUSTER On my own time. You take care of your rat killin’, boy, and I’ll take care of mine. Stanley eases over to the ladder, looks at Buster, who is taking a swig from his bottle. Stanley starts down. INT. PROJECTION BOOTH Door opens. It’s Stanley pushing it. He comes inside, sees the book, well worn, lying on the counter near the RATTLING PROJECTOR. He picks it up, leaves. INT. DRIVE-IN/HOME -- MOMENTS LATER Stanley comes inside with the book, pushing back the curtains over the sliding glass door. Rosey is cooking something on the stove, stirring a pot. ROSEY Make sure them curtains closed. Don’t want none of this light out there on the movie. He straightens the curtain a little. He starts to glide past her, toward the stairs, pauses--
STANLEY Rosey. Do you know the name of the girl burned up out back? Her first name? Rosey studies on it, stirring the pot as she does. ROSEY I think that girl’s name was Jewel...Jewel Ellen. Pretty sure that’s it. Poor girl, all burned up like a piece a bacon. STANLEY (this is a statement, more to himself) Her name starts with a J. ROSEY You the one went to school, Mr. Stanley. You say it start with a J, I’m all the way with you. You say it start with some nuther letter, I’m on that too. STANLEY Thanks, Rosey. Happy, as if he’s a blind pig that’s found an acorn, he starts toward the stairs. SLOW DISSOLVE: MONTAGE OF FOLLOWING DAYS AND NIGHTS Stanley reading the Holmes book: His room, in bed with the book. On the can, reading. CALLIE (O.S.) Stanley, would you hurry. Outside in a lawn chair reading. Lying on the floor of the living room, holding the book up, reading. Feet of the family pass by him, going left and right. We can see the light fade, hear the TV come on, but Stanley just rolls to different positions, ignoring it all, reading. On the drive-in roof, broad daylight, in one of the lawn chairs, reading.
Back to his bed room, a chair near the bed, reading by natural light. Behind him we see the window gradually go from light to dark. He turns, flicks on his lamp, goes back to reading. DRIVE-IN LOT -- NIGHT VERTIGO is playing on the screen. EX. PROJECTION BOOTH Stanley is knocking lightly on the door, the book under his arm. While he waits for a response, he turns his head to a SOUND. A BLACK FORD nearby is rocking to the rhythm of the TwoBacked Beast. The shocks sound like a door in a haunted house. Booth door opens. Buster is inside. He falls back in his chair. The projector clatters, and light flickers. There’s a little lamp on the wall and the light is right on Buster. He has his thumb inside a paperback, glasses on his nose. BUSTER What you up to, boy? STANLEY I brought your book back. BUSTER Already...Come in. INT. PROJECTION BOOTH Stanley steps inside the booth, the door still open. Buster take his glasses off, puts them on the projector table with his book. The SQUEAKING OF THE FORD continues. BUSTER That ain’t stopped since they parked there. They need to get them some oil on them shocks...You don’t know what’s going on there, do you boy? STANLEY No, sir. Well, sort of.
BUSTER Boy your age ought to know more than sort of. Your dad ain’t set you down and told you about the birds and the bees? STANLEY Birds and bees? BUSTER Don’t parrot me, boy...Never mind. Pull the door shut. Stanley pulls the door closed. We can still hear the SQUEAKING. Not as prominent, but it’s still there. It kind of blends with the rattle racket made by the projector. Stanley puts the Holmes book on the table. STANLEY Are there anymore Holmes stories? BUSTER There’s another book. I’ll bring it back with me next time. STANLEY I been thinking. BUSTER NARRATION (grinning) Hope it didn’t hurt you none. STANLEY Rosey says the girl who burned up. The Stillwind girl. Her name was Jewel Ellen. The J in the letter. BUSTER Rosey knew her name? Well, Rosey surprises me. STANLEY Why are you tough on Rosey? BUSTER Why you care? STANLEY She’s a friend of mine. BUSTER Say she is. A colored woman, and you and she are friends.
Stanley nods, is a little defiant in his manner. Buster grins at him. BUSTER (CONT’D) Good for you, boy. Everybody ought to have a friend. Even if it’s Rosey. Why you all worked up about this M and this J thing? That happened so long ago, ain’t nothing to know there now...You trying to be a detective? STANLEY You think I could be a detective? Buster, giving this serious consideration. BUSTER Well now, I don’t know. Takes a special kind of fella. Got to have a knack. Lot of investigating is hunches. But you got to make sure it all fits with facts, not just fits with your mind. When it all snaps together, it’s like lock tumblers clicking and the door on the safe coming open to show you all the goodies. Click. Click. Click. STANLEY How do you know all this? BUSTER Used to be a lawman. And I’ve read Holmes. STANLEY Really? You were a lawman. A Texas Ranger? BUSTER Not any colored Texas Rangers, boy. But I was the law. I’m part Indian, rest of me is African and Cajun. I became a Seminole Lighthorse when I was sixteen. Later added Lighthorse to my name. Lighthorse was a Seminole lawman. Part of the Five Civilized Tribes. Creeks. Choctaws. Chickasaws, Cherokees, and Seminoles. And I’ll tell you something, boy, back then, wasn’t no one calling me nigger. Least not to my face. Cause I carried a Colts .44.
STANLEY (excited) Did the Lighthorse arrest people? BUSTER Arrested them. Executed them, they needed it. STANLEY Really? CLOSER ON BUSTER. He’s starting to reminisce, and we can tell he’s seeing it all in his head as he talks. The SQUEAKING, which has not subsided, continues, but Buster is no longer noticing. BUSTER Knowed a fella named Bob Johnson. Was mostly Seminole. Had some white blood in him, but a drop of Indian made you Seminole in white eyes. Like a drop of colored made you colored. Lot of coloreds preferred being with the Seminoles. Treated you better than whites. Treated you same they treated one another. Lot of coloreds without a drop of Seminole blood in them became members of the tribe. Bob got in a tussle with a friend, another Seminole. Killed him in a drunk fight. He was sentenced to death by the Tribal Council. Bob told them he had some matters to settle, but that he’d come back whenever they wanted. They let him go. STANLEY Really? They just let him go? Buster nods. He turns, pulls a shoebox down from a shelf, opens it, scrambles around inside with his fingers, pulls out a photo, drops it on the projector counter. He shifts his little lamp light to shine more directly on the photo. INSERT PHOTO Black and White. A man standing stiff in a checked shirt and a flat brimmed hat, holding the reins of a large horse. The man has a rifle in one hand, the stock of it resting on top of his boot. BACK TO SCENE
as Buster taps the photograph with a finger. BUSTER That’s Bob. And as Buster really gets into the story, WE GO TIGHT ON HIS FACE, watching the memories crawl over his features like ants. The SQUEAKING FADES in the background until we only have the power of his raw storytelling voice. BUSTER (CONT’D) He was gone for over a month. But the day of his execution, he showed up right where he was supposed to be. He smoked a cigarette, and left his saddle bag full of tobacco and ammunition for his friends, then took off his hat and laid out on the blanket. I pinned a paper heart where I felt his heart beating. One of those Valentine kind. It was traditional. One of the Seminoles with me bent down and pinched Bob’s nose shut, cutting off his breath. Another sat on his legs. He didn’t fight. He didn’t even open his mouth and try to breathe. Me and another fella had the job to execute him. Buster pauses, reaches into the box, shuffles photos around, pulls out one and drops it in front of Stanley on the projection counter. Stanley leans over to look at it, and we-INSERT PHOTO It’s an old Western style photo of several young Seminole men with rifles, one of them a black man, standing over a man lying on a blanket on the ground; this is Bob. Bob has a Valentine style paper heart pinned on his chest. One man is kneeling beside him on the ground, has his hand over the Bob’s nose. Another is sitting on his legs. FOCUS ON BUSTER BUSTER (CONT’D) That’s Bob on the ground. We stood over him with rifles, pointed them at that paper heart, point blank range. He didn’t even shut his eyes. Looked right at me. And I pulled the trigger. Wasn’t no way to miss, standing that close. But I was shaking so bad, I thought I might.
Gun went off, it startled me. Didn’t even realize I was pulling the trigger. ANOTHER ANGLE ON SCENE Buster slowly picks up the photo, studies it, drops it back in the box, then he picks up the first photo and does the same, carefully replaces the lid. We GRADUALLY bring back that infernal SQUEAKING, so that it becomes part of our world again. BUSTER (CONT’D) I liked Bob. He liked me. And like me, he loved his drink too much. STANLEY I was Bob, and they let me go, I wouldn’t have come back. BUSTER Bob had his honor. Honor is important. Man gives his word, he ought to stick by it, or not give it...That said, me, I’d have run off too. STANLEY How could you shoot him if you liked him? BUSTER I was tribal police. It was my job to uphold the law, carry out any sentence it gave...Well, ain’t no use thinking on all that now. Bob’s been gone some long years. STANLEY (admiring) You know a lot of stuff, don’t you, Buster? BUSTER Hell, boy. I’ve forgot more than most men know. SQUEAKING is EVEN LOUDER. Stanley turns his head to listen. BUSTER (CONT’D) Don’t pay that no mind, boy. How’s about I show you how to run this here projector? Reel just about ready to be changed.
Stanley’s face shows that he likes the idea. He stands as Buster stands. Buster leans in toward the reel, says something we don’t hear, points at the projector, and with the SQUEAKING OF THE SHOCKS, we-DISSOLVE TO: WOODS BEHIND DRIVE-IN -- DEAD DARK In a clearing, his foot on the hanging stairway, the hanging house above and about him, is the big black man we saw before, BUBBA JOE. He’s looking over the top of the fence at the drive-in screen. Not really watching, just standing there, smoking. After a moment, he turns and walks off. BRIGHT AFTERNOON -- DOWN BY THE CREEK Stanley and Richard are on the creek bank, on their knees in the mud. Nub is nearby, nosing along the edge of the creek. Stanley and Richard are crawfishing, holding long lines with bolts tied to them for sinkers, and there is bacon on the ends of the strings. We watch as they lower them into the creek. STANLEY (mid-conversation) ...say her head got cut off on the tracks, and a dog run off with it. Since no one saw that happen, how do they know that? You don’t know nothing till you got the facts, otherwise you’re just guessing. RICHARD They say her ghost is still down there. That she has some kind of light, and looks for her head. STANLEY No such thing as ghosts. They hover over the creek, look down, and we look down with them. The creek water is clear Not too deep. A crawfish is scuttling toward the bacon on Richard’s line. RICHARD Here he comes.
Crawfish grabs the bacon, Richard snaps him up. He grabs the mudbug, tugs him free of the bacon, tosses him into a coffee can of water. CLOSE ON THE CAN. It’s filled with crawfish. THE BOYS as Richard lowers his bacon tipped line back in the water. RICHARD (CONT’D) Crawdad’s are dumb. Once they grab, they don’t let go. STANLEY Guess they like bacon. Fishing for a while. RICHARD You know, them letters you told me about. My daddy used to work for the Stillwinds. He was a handy man. Said they were real uppity, and that girl got burned up thought she was so special her shit didn’t stink. He says they weren’t God fearing people and that’s why that stuff happened to them. God sent an angel to set them straight. STANLEY You said that about my family, Richard. That they weren’t God fearing. RICHARD (embarrassed) I know...I didn’t mean nothing by it. I was mad at that old nigger. STANLEY He’s all right. You just don’t know him. Quietly fishing for a time. RICHARD (light going on) Hey, we could slip off tonight. Go down where that Margaret girl was killed. See what we see. Be fun. STANLEY I don’t know.
RICHARD You said you didn’t believe in ghosts, so what you worried about? Besides, you don’t never do nothing you ain’t supposed to. STANLEY I got on my good jeans, and I’m in the mud. RICHARD What a rebel...Come on. It’ll be worth a whippin’, we see anything. STANLEY And if we don’t? RICHARD Worth one anyway. What say? I’ll come over at eleven. We can ride bikes. Stanley considers. STANLEY We close the drive-in at midnight...Make it one. CUT TO: DEAD DARK A LIGHT CLICKS ON. It’s a flashlight and it’s shining on a watch face. The hands read: ONE. PULL BACK -- STANLEY’S ROOM. Stanley is sitting on the bed, fully dressed, except for his shoes. Nub is sitting beside him. Stanley places the light on the bed, letting it shine across the room, starts to put on his high top tennis shoes. Nub bounces off the bed, begins biting at Stanley’s shoe strings. STANLEY (CONT’D) No. Stop it, Nub. Nub stops, but he doesn’t like it. Stanley finishes up with his shoes, goes to the window, looks out. VIEW THROUGH WINDOW. Richard with his bike, waiting by the road. BACK TO SCENE as Stanley grabs his flashlight, starts across the room, Nub following. Stanley stops at the door, looks down at the eager tail-wagger.
STANLEY (CONT’D) Not this time, Nub. On the bed. Go on. Nub reluctantly jumps up on the bed. STANLEY (CONT’D) Lie down...Be good. Lie down. Nub complies unhappily, Stanley turns to the door. STAIRS -- MOMENTS LATER Stanley, creeping down the stairs. He reaches the bottom, and-CALLIE What are you doing? Stanley startles. Callie is standing there in her night clothes, holding a glass of milk. They speak quietly. STANLEY You scared me...I’m getting something to eat, just like you, if it’s any of your business. Callie sips the milk, eyes him suspiciously. CALLIE You get dressed to eat in the middle of the night? And you need a flashlight. Leftovers aren’t buried in the back yard, you know. What are you really up to? Stanley hesitates. CALLIE (CONT’D) Better tell me. STANLEY (frustrated) I’m going to see where Margaret Wood was killed. I think she is the M in those love letters I found. Richard says people say they see her ghost. CALLIE Ghost? STANLEY She’s supposed to be looking for her head.
CALLIE I’m going with you. STANLEY What? No. I’m meeting Richard...We’re going together. CALLIE I don’t go, neither will you. I’ll tell. STANLEY You would, wouldn’t you? CALLIE You betcha. STANLEY Oh...All right. CALLIE Be quiet about it. Go through the back, and around the side. Rosey has ears like a fox...I’ll change. STREET IN FRONT OF THE DRIVE-IN -- MOMENTS LATER Richard is standing there, and he’s watching Stanley pushing his bike through the dark toward him. RICHARD I was beginning to think you chickened out. STANLEY Worse than that. A NOISE. The boys look. Callie wearing blue jeans, tennis shoes and man’s shirt tied at the waist, is pushing a girl’s bike toward them. RICHARD You’re sister? You don’t take girls on things like this. STANLEY Tell her that. Callie arrives. RICHARD I ain’t taking no girl.
CALLIE Don’t be silly, Richard. I’ll beat you up. EXT. NIGHT -- A COUNTRY ROAD The trio, riding. They come to the sawmill we saw before, the shack beside it. They veer off the road toward it, Richard in the lead. Richard stops, leans his bike against the mill shack. Stanley and Callie stop as well, lean their bikes with Richard’s as he talks. RICHARD Have to leave the bikes here. No good place in the bottoms to ride...Let me show you something first. Richard walks under the shack, goes up the little ladder underneath. Callie and Stanley follow with their flashlight, climb up the ladder, through the trap, and find themselves-INSIDE THE SHACK It’s a big wide building full of dust and cobwebs, logging tools. There’s a wide, glassless window as well. It looks out at the larger sawmill building, the twostory mound of sawdust and the rusty chute that delivered it there. Richard is standing at the window as Stanley and Callie move over close. RICHARD (CONT’D) (almost to himself) Used to hide here when Daddy got mad. Come here when I want to be quiet. Not think about crops or hogs or such. STANLEY Maybe we ought to go. RICHARD Sometimes I just stand here and think about that boy that’s under the sawdust. CALLIE Do what? STANLEY There’s a story some kid slid down the chute and ended up under the sawdust. I told him that’s just a story.
They’d have dug out his body by now, they knew he was there. Richard grows intense. RICHARD What if he was some kid other kids knew about, and nobody really cared he was here or gone. The kids talked about him, but no one went looking for him, cause it was like he never existed? STANLEY That’s silly, they-Callie elbows Stanley sharply. He looks at her, and she gives him a look back. Richard has not even noticed. Callie touches Richard on the shoulder. CALLIE Come on. We came to see a ghost. Richard nods, and as they turn away-FOREST TRAIL -- NIGHT Our trio is walking along a narrow, tree-lined trail, the moon light spilling over them like honey. Stanley pauses to look over his shoulder. STANLEY You hear something? Like someone following? CALLIE Don’t be an old woman. Callie is about to say something more, when there’s A WAILING SOUND. They freeze, whisper. CALLIE (CONT’D) What’s that? STANLEY Maybe it’s the ghost. RICHARD Thought you didn’t believe in ghost? STANLEY I’m not so sure now.
Richard stealthily leads them off the trail, and through the woods. After a few moments Richard gently parts the underbrush, and in a nearby moonlit clearing, they see-A MAN with his back to us. He’s sobbing. Has a shovel and is digging. Beside him on the ground is a lantern. There’s a colorful blanket nearby, wrapped around something. The man turns slightly, and we see what Richard tells us in whispers. RICHARD It’s my daddy. And he’s crying. I ain’t never known him to cry. As they watch from concealment, Mr. Chapman pulls the blanket bundle into the hole, starts covering it up. Chapman finishes covering the hole, grabs up his lantern and shovel, wanders off. We watch a few moments as the light bobs off through the woods. OUR GANG led by Richard move toward the burial mound. Richard drops down by the mound, starts digging the dirt aside with his fingers. CALLIE Maybe we shouldn’t. RICHARD I got to know what made Daddy cry. Stanley and Callie look at one another, then, with only minor hesitation, drop down beside Richard, helping him dig. The dirt is soft and they dig quickly. They come to the blanket. Richard goes to one end, gets hold of it, Stanley gets the other. They lift it, shedding dirt from the hole, lay it on the ground. Richard drops onto his knees beside it, peels back the blanket. It’s Chapman’s dog. RICHARD (CONT’D) It’s Butch. Butch died. I ain’t never seen daddy cry. Dog made him cry...Damn. CALLIE Let’s put him back.
Richard, stunned, takes hold of the blanket. Stanley takes the other end, and as they lift, we-DISSOLVE TO: OUR TRIO -- LATER trekking through the woods. Richard looks forlorn. STANLEY If you’d rather go home... Richard shakes his head, keeps trudging. RICHARD Don’t matter now. He’ll know I’m gone...Besides, we’re here. A CLEARING Railroad tracks run through it, and on the other side of the tracks is another patch of dark woods. Our trio starts across the clearing, the tracks, come to stand on the other side near the woods, looking about as they talk. RICHARD (CONT’D) Somewhere along in here is where she got put on the tracks. Had her head cut off by a train. CALLIE Somewhere along in here? What’s that mean? Here. There. Twenty feet down the tracks in either direction? More? Before Richard can respond-STANLEY Look. They look. A ball of light is bouncing toward them. CALLIE Someone with a flashlight. The light moves into the woods, nearly out of sight, bobs about. Then it’s back again, hangs over the tracks, moves toward them.
RICHARD It’s someone with a light, they can fly like a bird and hop like a frog. CALLIE Swamp gas, maybe. The light comes ever closer, then...fades just before it gets to them. We can hear them let out their breath. Callie holds out her arm. CALLIE (CONT’D) Look. I got chill bumps. STANLEY Hey! Stanley turns, points in the opposite direction. The light has reappeared and is moving down the railroad tracks. It disappears again. A faint crackling in the woods next to them. STANLEY (CONT’D) Hear that? RICHARD Don’t be such a sissy. You-CRACKLING is LOUDER now. They all hear it. The crackling coming closer. STANLEY (softer) Someone walking. CALLIE Come on. They start walking. Faster, and faster. The CRACKLING in the woods grows, moves faster as well. A WHISTLE BLOWS and we take a LOOK DOWN THE TRACKS. A train light, moving behind and toward them, the WHISTLE BLOWING. Our gang turns to look at the train, and, a hundred feet behind them, stepping out of the woods, is BUBBA JOE. He looks huge in the moonlight. He starts walking toward them.
STANLEY It’s Bubba Joe. CALLIE Rosey’s Bubba Joe? STANLEY Got to be. RICHARD He’s coming pretty quick. Indeed he is. STANLEY He followed us out here. CALLIE We rode bikes. STANLEY He still followed us. CALLIE He hasn’t got anything against us. We haven’t done anything. STANLEY I don’t think he sees it that way. Bubba Joe starts to run. STANLEY (CONT’D) Run! Our trio bolts like deer. Bubba Joe starts to run as well. BACK AND FORTH SHOTS between the train hauling ass, coming closer and closer, Bubba Joe running, and our gang going full out. The train light is wide enough it takes them all in. Callie wheels suddenly, darts across the tracks in front of the train, which is pretty damn close. CALLIE Come on! Run! Train is MUCH CLOSER now. Stanley darts across the tracks, following his sister. Looks back.
Richard has lagged. Bubba is almost on him. The train is close. Callie turns, stops, yells. CALLIE (CONT’D) Run, Richard! Run! Richard leaps in front of the train, and Bubba snatches out at him, and misses, but it looks as if the train won’t...And then, just in the nick of time, Richard steps across the tracks and the train THUNDERS by, the wind from it lifting his hair and shaking the cloth on his shirt. Richard sprints over to Callie and Stanley, panting. RICHARD I damn near shit my pants. OVERHEAD SHOT OF THE SNAKEY BLACK TRAIN We can see our gang, and we can see the train, and on the other side, standing there, defeated, we can see Bubba Joe. The gang hustles away like jack rabbits. EXT. OLD SAWMILL -- LATER They are grabbing up their bikes. As they mount up-CALLIE We can’t say anything to anyone. RICHARD Why not? We tell, they’ll hunt that nigger down and hang him. I’ll pull the rope. CALLIE We don’t know he was going to do anything to us. We just got scared. RICHARD So he was playing chase with us? CALLIE All right. Maybe not. Thing is, Daddy might make Rosey leave if he knows Bubba’s following us. She hasn’t got anywhere else to go. RICHARD What do you care what she does?
CALLIE She’s a friend. RICHARD The maid? STANLEY You got to promise, Richard. Richard doesn’t like it, but-RICHARD Shit. All right. Satisfied, Callie starts off on her bike first, and then Richard and Stanley. NARRATOR We never did decide if that light we saw was a ghost, or swamp gas, or something else. But one thing was certain, it wasn’t half as scary as Bubba Joe. SLOW TIME DISSOLVE: EXT. SIDE STREET IN TOWN Stanley is walking with Buster, pushing his bike. The box of letters is fastened onto the handle bars with an old belt. Buster has a cardboard box under his arm. Nub is trotting along beside them. NARRATOR For a few days we were frightened that Bubba Joe was out there waiting on us, but like most kids, it didn’t last. As they walk, they pass a well manicured graveyard. We see Civil War monuments, graves, a number of little Dixie flags sticking up on grave mounds. NARRATOR (CONT’D) Still, I didn’t lose all awareness of Bubba Joe. Sometimes I imagined him out of the corner of my eye. Buster stops their progress, points to the graveyard. BUSTER Know what all them flags about, boy?
STANLEY Civil War? They fought for slavery, didn’t they? BUSTER Oh, it ain’t that easy, boy. Lot more to it than that. But, yeah, in the end, that was part of it. Still, things ain’t changed all that much for colored. We’re still the ass end of the mule. STANLEY Do you hate them? BUSTER Who? STANLEY Men who fought for the South. Buster pauses on this one. BUSTER Little bit. But bunch of them, they just protecting their home...But I’m glad they lost. They start moving again. We can HEAR WATER RUNNING. Something SNAPPING. We can see that Stanley is taking note of that, and Buster notes that he is. Buster seems curious about what’s over there too. His ears are up, and he GROWLS softly. BUSTER (CONT’D) That’s the creek you hear, boy. Buster points across a patch of cemetery with overturned grave stones, weeds growing up through patches. BUSTER (CONT’D) It’s just beyond them grave stones. STANLEY You didn’t hear anything else? BUSTER You kind of skiddish, ain’t you, boy? STANLEY Yes, sir. I guess.
BUSTER (nodding toward it) That there graveyard, that’s where the colored are buried. Don’t look as nice as that cracker patch, do it, where all them Dixie ducks are buried? STANLEY No, sir. BUSTER We don’t keep it up. Know why? STANLEY No, sir. BUSTER Cause come Halloween, or just anytime for mischief, white boys come along and push the stones over, break em. We better off doing nothin’. Cleaning up out there just attracts them fools. STANLEY Can’t you tell the police? BUSTER Police? For colored folk? Next thing you know you’re an uppity nigger, and they seeing if they can wrap a stick around your head, a rubber hose. They continue walking. Past a lot of old run down shacks, some with black men sitting out on the porch, kids running in the yard. One old woman is raking leaves. Buster waves to them as he passes. A SMALL YELLOW HOUSE -- BUSTER’S HOUSE Buster walks across the lawn, up the porch steps. Stanley removes the box of letters from the handle bars, lays his bike on the ground by the porch. Nub bounds up on the porch with Buster. As Buster unlocks the door, he pauses, looks back at Stanley who hasn’t quite made it up the steps onto the porch. In fact, he’s paused. STANLEY Well now, come on. Buster smiles a little, unlocks the door with a key. Nub charges in with him and Stanley follows.
INT. BUSTER’S HOUSE Buster flips a light switch. Roaches scuttle. STANLEY Welcome to Nigger Heaven. It’s a room full of shelves and the shelves are full of books and magazines. There’s a hot plate on a little table, and a long table in the center of the room. A couple of hardback chairs. An old couch with the stuffing leaking out. Off center of the room is a stove made from an oil drum. A pipe rises up from it and crooks a bit and goes through the ceiling. A pile of stove wood is stacked near the oil drum. There’s a door to a room on the left. STANLEY (CONT’D) You read all these books? BUSTER No. I tear pages out of them to wipe my ass...Sure I read them...Well, MOBY DICK whipped my butt three times. But most of them. Some more than once...Boy, you got to get you a library going. Every man ought to have books... Get you a seat. Stanley pulls one of the chairs from under the table and sits, placing the letter box on the table. Buster takes the other chair, plops the cardboard box he’s been carrying on the table. Nub crawls under Stanley’s chair and lays down. BUSTER (CONT’D) Wondering about that cardboard box, ain’t you? Stanley nods. Buster takes a chair and opens up the cardboard box, takes out the contents. It’s a pile of newspaper clippings, a couple of folders. BUSTER NARRATION Jukes, a friend of mine, he’s a janitor at the police station, and the newspaper office. Got these for me. Old files and such. I get through with them, he’ll slip them back. They so old, ain’t no one gonna miss them anyhow. STANLEY Isn’t he taking a chance?
BUSTER Yeah. Me and him are friends...And besides, Jukes owes me twenty bucks. He also knows from experience, drunk or sober, I can whip his ass. Buster smiles slowly, and Stanley smiles. Stanley takes hold of a mass of clippings, as if weighing them in his hand, drops them on the table. STANLEY What exactly are we looking for? BUSTER Motive. Connections. What fits with what. Money. Love. Pride. Causes of most murders. Pride being the worse, cause it makes the other two. STANLEY How will we know when we find something? BUSTER Depends on us. Lot of it’s instinct. Me, I got the instinct. Don’t know about you yet. But even more important than instinct is logic. If a thing adds up, then the sum is probably right. You follow? Stanley looks blank. BUSTER NARRATION Use common sense. Look for similar crimes. Fires. Railway murders. See if there’s a pattern. Then proof. STANLEY Is there always a pattern? BUSTER Lot of times, yeah. Then again, there’s folks do things and there ain’t no logic in it. They just do it...Not very satisfying is it? Still wantin’ to detect? Stanley nods. Buster shuffles the newspapers around that Stanley dropped on the table.
BUSTER (CONT’D) Look here. There’s pictures of them girls, Margaret Wood and Jewel Ellen Stillwind. INSERT NEWSPAPER PHOTO We see two pictures, side by side of the girls, Jewel and Margaret. Jewel is pretty. Even in this photo, Margaret is flashing her silver tooth, though it merely looks gray in the newspaper photo. BACK TO SCENE BUSTER (CONT’D) That’s the only time Margaret going to be alongside Jewel in the paper. One thing I remember, she sort of got pushed back. It was all about that poor Stillwind girl got burned up. Margaret, she was just another tramp from down near the swamp. Thing in life I’ve learned, is if you’re poor, you’re already screwed, you done anything or not. Buster shuffles the newspapers some more. He slides a folded paper in front of Stanley. INSERT NEWSPAPER PHOTO A handsome, gray haired-man with a far away look in his eye. BACK TO SCENE BUSTER (CONT’D) That there is Mr. Stillwind, Jewel Ellen’s daddy. Ain’t he the slick one? STANLEY Can you tell anything from those photos? BUSTER Well, Margaret’s got a silver tooth, and Jewel Ellen has blonde hair, and Stillwind looks like he was born with a stick of silver stuck up his ass. But that’s about it. Take hold of them papers, and dig in. I’ll look the police files over. We get the chance, we’ll look them letters over again.
Stanley starts examining the clippings, but he hasn’t been reading long before-STANLEY Buster...why are you doing this? Buster looks up, takes a moment to gather his thoughts. BUSTER Cause there ain’t much else for me to do. Tell you somethin’, boy. Do what it is you want to do much as you can long as you can. Cause we ain’t all that special. There ain’t no little heaven waitin’ on us where we gonna catch up on things we missed. Live your live, cause in the end, dirt and flesh is pretty much the same. OVERLAP SHOTS to show TIME PASSING, them dipping into the files, the clippings, the letters, and finally we have Buster stretching. Stanley looks up. STANLEY Find anything? Buster nods. BUSTER Some. We know the fire and the murder were the same night, and the files suggest the times were far apart. Several hours difference...And I think these letters, they are Margaret and Jewel Ellen. STANLEY Two girls? But isn’t that wrong? BUSTER Loving somebody got to be better than not. STANLEY Could it just mean they were friends. BUSTER You read them letters, didn’t you? STANLEY Some.
BUSTER (emphatic) They loved one another. And in the Bibical sense, boy. That much is certain. Stanley looks blank. BUSTER (CONT’D) Sometimes that happens. Folks just don’t like different plumbing, they like the same. You get what I’m saying? A look of realization comes over Stanley’s face. STANLEY Guess. BUSTER Ain’t that rare, boy. Just kept quiet. Like colored folk liking Pat Boone. Ain’t somethin’ you admit to in polite company. STANLEY But she was pregnant. They can’t...can they? BUSTER Course not...I’m gonna have to have that birds and bee talk with you boy. In that area, you the dumbest boy I ever met. Buster picks up one of the letters, shakes it. BUSTER (CONT’D) Thing I get is Jewel Ellen got pregnant, and ain’t nothin’ in here says by whom. I got my ideas, but that’s all they are. Now Stanley’s head is spinning. BUSTER(CONT’D) Margaret was gonna help her get an abortion. I told you I knew Margaret’s mama...She did a little coat hanger work. Stanley is quizzical. BUSTER (CONT’D) She was an abortionist. That might of been what they were gonna do that night. Margaret helping Jewel Ellen get undone. Someone didn’t like that.
STANLEY So they tied Jewel Ellen up with wire and set her on fire. Killed Margaret, put her on the train tracks. BUSTER Police reports don’t say anything about the wire. That could just be an old rumor. And there’s no real connection between the murders. But, the newspaper clippings, there’s plenty of talk about how Old Man Stillwind and the Chief of Police back then were friends. They was always doin’ some kind of event together, and Stillwind and his wife and the Chief and his wife, they even took a cruise over to Greece. Hungry. Turkey...One of them lunch counter countries. So maybe Jewel Ellen was tied up, and the police chief, he didn’t get that in the files. Could have been some money went his way. Rumor might not be rumor. You hearin’ me? STANLEY Yes, sir. How’d whoever kill her know she was pregnant, or was gonna get an abortion? BUSTER Can’t say. Watched. Figured it out. Sneaked and read one of the letters. I think she got killed cause she might talk and say who knocked her up. How’s that sound? STANLEY Makes sense. Buster grins. BUSTER Boy, that ain’t nothing but me guessin’. Maybe good guessin’, but that’s all it is. There’s suggestions in them letters, but not facts. There’s research to be done. Maybe someone to talk to...Tell you what...Got to take me a little shot of my medicine. Buster gets up, finds a bottle, returns to his chair, twists off the cap and takes a swig. He looks very pleased. As he takes another shot, the window behind him darkens. Buster turns, looks, turns back.
BUSTER (CONT’D) Rain coming. But we’re snug as little bugs in here. Go on, boy. Keep reading. TIME OVERLAP SHOTS of them reading, and Buster drinking, and that bottle is getting low. Buster stops reading, he’s just sitting there, sipping. Stanley looks up now and then, observing all this. There’s a kind of darkening mood that we can see on Buster’s face; darker by the moment. Behind him, the light through the window has faded and there’s a flash of lightning. STANLEY You all right, Buster. BUSTER (sharp) Yeah. Why wouldn’t I be? STANLEY Well...you’ve drank an awful lot. BUSTER (ominous) You telling me I drink too much, boy? STANLEY No sir. I was just saying-BUSTER You were sayin’ I drink too much. I seen you lookin’ at me. You was wonderin’ about the old nigger and the bottle, weren’t you? Wonderin’ if I could hold my liquor. Thunder rumbling. Nub not liking it. STANLEY Buster-BUSTER You call grown white men by their first name, white boy? STANLEY (nervous) You asked me to. BUSTER You think I’m not their equal?
STANLEY (scared) Bus--I didn’t say anything. Nothing like that. BUSTER But you were thinking it. Buster stands up suddenly, causing his chair to fall over. This coincides with a peal of thunder, flashes of lightning. The sound of hard rain striking the roof. STANLEY I wasn’t. Stanley is pushing his chair back now and Nub has bounded out from under it. BUSTER You get out of here. I’m tired of playing. I should have known better than to tie up with you. Boy don’t know his ass from a hole in the ground. Buster sweeps his arm across the table, knocking everything they’ve been reading to the floor. Stanley, scared. He rushes to the door, fumbles with it. The liquor bottle from which Buster has been drinking SMACKS INTO THE WALL next to the door, just as Stanley works the door open, stumbles out onto the porch with Nub, into the cloud induced darkness and the wild, windblown rain. Behind him we hear-BUSTER (CONT’D)O.S.) Leave me alone, boy! Leave me alone. Stanley stumbles down the porch. He’s crying. He grabs hold of his bike, tries to mount it, gives up, just starts pushing it. Nub trotting after him. INT. BUSTER’S HOUSE Buster seems to understand what he’s done. He collapses into his chair, puts his head in his hands. EXT. STANLEY IN THE RAIN Flashing lightning. Knocking thunder. Stanley pushing his bike, heave-crying a bit, and he glances across the road, through the heavy net of rain, and what was that?
An image. A big man. In a hat. A black man. Bubba Joe? Seen too fast and too briefly in a flash of lightning. Nub GROWLS. Stanley really starts to push his bike, trying to see in front of him. There’s not much to see. A dark sheet of rain. He’s breathing heavily. A glimpse to his right. Someone in the rainy dark. Turns back, pushing as fast as he can, tries to mount the bike for take off, and just as he does-A shape CHARGES out of the rain and grabs the handle bars and jerks the bike, slings it, sends Stanley whirling off of it, SMASHING into a tree. Stanley looks up as a face leans over him. Bubba Joe. And it’s not a happy face. Bubba grabs Stanley by the shirt front, jerks him up, pushes him against the tree with one hand. A knife seems to pops into Bubba’s free hand. BUBBA JOE You took Rosey away from me. STANLEY I didn’t do nothing. BUBBA JOE You all did plenty, you little pecker wood. All you lilly-white sons-a-bitches. Bubba, evil grin. The knife starting to move toward Stanley, and-Nub hits Bubba Joe’s leg like a torpedo. Bubba lets out a yell, lets go of Stanley, stumbles back, Nub chewing on his leg. Bubba is shaking his leg, trying to toss Nub loose, but Nub just rides there. BUBBA JOE (CONT’D) Goddamn mutt! Bubba Joe comes down on Nub with the knife, but before the knife can strike, A HAND, grabs Bubba’s wrist. There’s a blow to Bubba’s nose that causes blood to squirt and his hat to fly off. It’s Buster. Bubba stabs at Buster and Buster slaps the knife hand to the outside, captures the wrist with one hand, hits Bubba in the throat with the other.
Then there’s a twist of the wrist, and Bubba flies, lands hard, slinging Nub loose of him in the process. Buster falls down on top of Bubba, causing the knife, which is still in Bubba’s hand to bend toward him. Buster drops his body against Bubba’s hand and the hilt of the turned knife, causing the blade to go straight into Bubba’s heart. BUBBA’S FACE as he receives the knife. Mouth open, eyes wide, and then he’s still. Slowly, Buster stands up, breathing heavy, he leans back against a tree, laboring to get his breath. Then bends over and vomits, big time. Nub is on the dead Bubba’s leg, biting ferociously. Stanley comes into the scene. When he does, Buster, recovered, grabs him like a long lost brother. BUSTER You all right, boy? Stanley shakes his head. BUSTER (CONT’D) I didn’t mean nothing. Nothing. I’m a goddamn drunk...Sober now, you can bet on that. Soon as you left, I knew what a jack ass I was. I come to get you...And I seen him. Stanley is really too amazed at the sight of Bubba to pay much attention to Buster right now. He watches as Nub works at Bubba’s leg. STANLEY Dead, isn’t he? BUSTER Any deader, have to be two of him. Nub, cut it out. Nub obeys Buster, comes to sit with the two of them. BUSTER (CONT’D) Don’t never get rid of that dog, boy. That dog...he’s somethin’ else. STANLEY How did you do that...throw him like that?
BUSTER Jujitsu. Jap stuff. Hadn’t got him right off, he’d have took me. I’m too old for this shit. Stanley starts to cry big time. Buster pats Stanley’s head. STANLEY It’s cause of Rosey. He wanted her back. BUSTER He didn’t know what he wanted. Never did. It’s all right, boy. It’s all right. You and Nub, stay here. THE CREEK BANK Buster is dragging Bubba’s body in the rain. He has Bubba’s hat folded and stuck in his belt. As he comes to the edge of the bank, he takes a breather, then grabs Bubba’s legs, kind of slings him into the fast and roaring creek water. The water receives Bubba, washes around him, carries him away. Buster pulls the hat from his belt, sails it out into the water. When Buster has seen the last of Bubba swirling in the swell, he starts back. STANLEY AND NUB They are waiting by a tree. The rain is slackening. Buster appears. He reaches down and pats Nub, stands, puts his arm around Stanley’s shoulders. BUSTER (CONT’D) We can’t never tell what happened here. Man like Bubba, ain’t no one gonna really miss him. We don’t need to tell nothing. You understand, boy? You all right with that? STANLEY Yes, sir. BUSTER Good...good. Let’s get you dry. Grab your bike. As Stanley grabs his bike, joins Buster, starts to walk with him and Nub. Buster, without looking at Stanley, says--
BUSTER (CONT’D) Can you ever forgive me, boy? Stanley nods. BUSTER (CONT’D) You’re my best friend, son. Hell, you’re my only friend. As they come in sight of Buster’s house. BUSTER (CONT’D) From now on, you and me are together, won’t be no drinking. Promise you, boy. Stanley nods, drops the bike in the yard, and he and Nub and Buster go up the front porch steps. Narration overlaps current scene and into next. NARRATOR Summer days went by, and wasn’t anything said about Bubba Joe. Nothing. Then one morning. INT. DRIVE-IN/HOME --MORNING Jacob is at the table, reading the paper. Rosey is at the sink, washing dishes, and Gal is drying. Stanley is sitting at the table eating toast with Callie. Nub lies nearby. Jacob rattles the paper, lowers it. JACOB Rosey...Was Bubba Joe’s last name Hanson? Rosey pauses, turns, her hands dripping water. ROSEY Yes, sir. JACOB They found him. Dead. Washed up on the creek bank. Stabbed they think. Been dead a while. No suspects. Rosey bursts out crying, leaves the room. JACOB (CONT’D) What did I do? I thought she’d be happy. GAL Jacob. You have the brains of a can of green beans.
CALLIE Daddy. For goodness sake. Callie gets up and goes after Rosey with Gal. JACOB What? Jacob, exasperated, turns to Stanley. JACOB (CONT’D) (softly) Well, I’m happy about it. EXT. A HOUSE OUT BY THE RAILROAD TRACKS -- DAY Buster knocking on the door. He has a sack in one hand. A woman answers. Middle-aged, blonde. Little heavy. She looks at Buster. BUSTER Sharon? SHARON That’s right. You here for business? BUSTER Guess you could say that. SHARON Ten dollars. Buster starts to come in. SHARON (CONT’D) At the door. Buster pauses, gets out the ten dollars, gives it to her. INT. HOUSE It’s small. Not very tidy. A black man sits on the ratty couch smoking a cigar, feet up on a banged up coffee table. He nods slightly at Buster. SHARON My husband. He ain’t bothered by it. BUSTER You mother of Margaret, ain’t you?
SHARON (slow to respond) Was...What do you want? BUSTER Talk. I paid for it. MAN ON THE COUCH That’s not what you paid for. The man on the couch looks up. Buster looks at him, digs in his pocket. Comes up with five dollars, puts it on the coffee table in front of the man. BUSTER (to man on couch) There’s an extra five. What’s it to you? Money spends the same. Man on the couch shrugs. Sharon studies Buster a moment, then takes him by the arm. SHARON Come on. INT. BEDROOM As they enter, she slowly closes the door. SHARON Margaret is been long gone. BUSTER Me and this boy, we think we might can find out something...about who killed her. SHARON You and a boy? Buster knows how this sounds. He nods. SHARON (CONT’D) Ain’t no one ever cared before. Why do you? You and this boy? Buster opens the sack, takes out a small bottle of whisky, and the box of letters. He hands them to her. Sharon sits on the bed, puts the bottle beside her, opens the box, looks through the letters. Her eyes tear up.
BUSTER Boy found these. Out back where he lives. Stillwind house used to be there. Don’t think the boy would mind if you had them. Sharon, shoulders sagging. She is slowly looking through the letters. She pauses, opens the bottle, takes a swig. SHARON Margaret was different. BUSTER I read the letters. SHARON I didn’t exactly raise her in a perfect kind of setting. Guess I made her that way. BUSTER People that way all the time. No matter where they come from. SHARON Had a thing for that Stillwind girl. I told her wasn’t nothing in that gonna work out. Then Margaret wanted me to help them. Wanted me to abort Jewel Ellen’s child. Margaret didn’t say who got her pregnant, said it was someone shouldn’t have touched her. Figured I knew what that meant. Then Jewel Ellen turned up dead. Then...Margaret. BUSTER You think Jewel Ellen’s father made her pregnant? SHARON Think he killed her too? Think he didn’t want her to talk. Who else would do it? He done had one daughter got pregnant and run off. BUSTER Do what now? SHARON The older daughter. He packed her off to that London, England some many years ago.
EXT. DRIVE-IN/HOME -- INSIDE LOT -- LATER IN THE DAY Rosey is sitting in one of the outside chairs, under the veranda. She has her head in her hands. Stanley comes up. He stands awkwardly for a moment, trying to find the right words. STANLEY I’m sorry about Bubba Joe. Rosey looks up at him. ROSEY Ought not be. He wasn’t no good. STANLEY Guess I’m sorry for how you feel. Not him. ROSEY (between sniffles) It only a matter of time ‘fore he ended up dead. I knew that. Your daddy right to be glad about it...I ought to be glad. And guess I kinda am...Mr. Stanley, you good hearted, and I thank you. But I done sent away your mama and sister. I don’t want to talk right now. Tomorrow, we start over. And in a week, I’ll be right as rain. Rosey puts her head back where it was, and Stanley moves away. EXT. HANGING HOUSE OUT BACK OF DRIVE-IN -- NEAR DARK Stanley is in the wooded portion behind the fence, not far from it. He’s climbed up on the hanging, iron staircase. He’s at the top. Just sitting there, thinking. Below, nearby in the woods, Nub is sniffling about. Suddenly the staircase shakes. Stanley has to grab at the railing to keep from falling. Stanley looks down. Sees below, Old Man Chapman looking up. He’s the one shaking the staircase. He’s doing it with one hand, holding a wicked-looking walking stick in the other. CHAPMAN You seen my boy?
STANLEY No, sir. Chapman shakes the staircase again. STANLEY (CONT’D) Please don’t do that, Mr. Chapman. CHAPMAN (wicked grin) That scare you? STANLEY Yes, sir. CHAPMAN You sure you ain’t seen him? Ain’t been home in a couple of days. Don’t want him over here. You people ain’t right with God. And it causes him not to be right. STANLEY He’s not here. You don’t see him do you? Stanley, starts to climb down. Chapman shakes the staircase. Stanley scuttles back to his vibrating perch. CHAPMAN You talkin’ smart to me, boy? The vines and limbs that hold the staircase crack as Chapman shakes it viciously, causing it to swing, and Stanley has to cling desperately to keep from falling. STANLEY (desperate) No, sir. He hasn’t been around. I haven’t seen him. Not in a while. Please stop. CHAPMAN I think you’re lying to me, boy. STANLEY (trying to sound brave) You better go on now. Chapman really starts to shake the staircase. Vines snap, limbs crack. The staircase drops until the bottom of it hits the ground, sags a little in the trees, nearly causing Stanley to fall. STANLEY (CONT’D) Stop it! Stop it! I’m gonna fall!
This screeching of Stanley’s alerts Nub, who comes charging out of the woods like a tiger, hits Chapman’s leg in mid-leap, GROWLING. Chapman SCREAMS. He brings the stick around and hits Nub, and Nub lets out a YELP and collapses. Chapman raises the stick, ready to strike the unconscious dog again. A rock hits Chapman just below the temple. He BELLOWS, turns, sees coming toward him-CALLIE, and she’s got a handful of rocks, and she’s furious, throwing as hard as she can, smacking him with a couple of shots. CALLIE Don’t you touch that dog. And leave my brother alone. Chapman, a little flinchy. CHAPMAN I’ll beat him to death. I’ll knock your Jezebel head off. Another rock. This one hits Chapman in the chest. CHAPMAN (CONT’D) You little hell spawn. JACOB, he’s coming through the open fence gate, and he’s walking fast. Chapman sees him, raises the stick. CHAPMAN (CONT’D) Now you ought not get in this, fella. I’m just teaching them some manners. Jacob is on Chapman before we can blink. He snatches the stick away from Chapman even as he’s bringing it down for a strike, tosses it, grabs Chapman by the shirt collar and begins to bitch slap him. Back and forth. This is the bitch slapping from hell. Ever blow moves Chapman’s reddening face half-way around his neck. JACOB You’re tough on dogs and kids, ain’t you? I got some manners for you, you little turd. Which side of the table does the goddamn salad fork go on? Jacob slaps Chapman so hard he falls to the ground. Blood spews from Chapman’s mouth. A tooth falls out.
JACOB (CONT’D) Wrong goddamn answer. How about the fucking dessert spoon? Where’s it go? Jacob kicks Chapman in the side, causing him to do a roll. JACOB (CONT’D) Wrong! Jacob jerks him up, and it’s BITCH SLAP CITY again. Jacob is so mad, he’s about to cry with rage. He yells at him as he strikes. JACOB (CONT’D) You goddamn weasel. You touch one of my kids, you look at one of them, I’ll hit you so hard in your fucking mouth, I’ll knock your teeth so far down, you’ll have to drop your pants to eat out of your asshole. Callie is grabbing at Jacob. CALLIE Daddy! Daddy! Don’t! Daddy, You’re gonna kill him. Jacob, more tired than convinced, shoves Chapman away from him. Chapman falls to the ground like a dropped puppet. Jacob looks up at Stanley. JACOB Come on down out of that damn thing. Callie is bending over Nub. Chapman has wobbled to his knees, is getting one foot under him. Jacob points a finger at Chapman. JACOB (CONT’D) This dog dies. He limps. He has a tick under his leg. A chigger. It’s your fault. And the undertaker will be wiping your goddamn ass. Chapman is up, starting to move off as fast as his addled brain will allow. CHAPMAN You ain’t right with God.
Stanley is down from the staircase now, joins Callie next to Nub. Jacob bends down next to Nub. Nub whimpers, moves. As Jacob picks the dog up in his arms. JACOB Just stunned. INT. DRIVE-IN/HOME Table. All of the family, Rosey included, sitting in chairs, except Gal. Gal’s at the refrigerator, pulling an ice tray out. Jacob is soaking his bitch slapping knuckles in a pan of ice water. Rosey is leaning out of her chair, reaching into the pan, massaging Jacob’s knuckles. Gal dumps the ice from the tray into the pan. She puts the pan on the table, rests her hand on Jacob’s shoulder. JACOB Ouch. ROSEY (massaging Jacob’s knuckles) You got to get all the sore out of them, fore they stove up. JACOB Thanks, Rosey. What I can’t figure is what got into that dumb sucker. STANLEY He was looking for Richard. Thought we were hiding him. JACOB Hiding him? Stan nods. CALLIE (smiling) Daddy said some bad words. A lot of them. GAL (sarcastic) Find that hard to believe. STANLEY You should have seen him, Mom. Daddy whipped him good. Bloodied him up, knocked some of Chapman’s teeth out.
GAL That right, Jacob? JACOB He spat out something. Could have been gum. STANLEY It wasn’t gum. It was teeth. JACOB That’s enough, Stan. STANLEY And Callie hit him with rocks. Right upside the head. Boy, what zingers. GAL You could have killed him, Callie. That wasn’t very smart. CALLIE (justifying) He had it coming. He knocked Nub out. GAL How’s Nub? Stanley petting stroking Nub’s neck. STANLEY He’s okay. He’s got a knot. Callie, still reliving it all, makes a gesture with her arm, indicating how she threw a rock. CALLIE (proud) I hit Chapman first shot from way back. GAL That’s nothing to be proud of, girl. JACOB Oh, I don’t know, Gal. It showed good hand to eye coordination. DISSOLVE TO NIGHT:
INT. DRIVE IN HOME -- EARLY MORNING Stanley coming off the stairs, into the kitchen. He’s full dressed. Nub is with him. Rosey is frying some eggs. ROSEY I was just fixin’ me some breakfast. Didn’t expect you so early. STANLEY Couldn’t sleep. ROSEY Lots of excitement these days. You want something to eat? STANLEY Not just yet. Can I have some coffee? ROSEY You ain’t supposed to have coffee. STANLEY Just one cup. Rosey gives Stanley a look, sighs, complies by pouring him a cup from the pot on the stove. ROSEY You go on outside and drink that, so it don’t look like I know you’re doin’ it. Your mama come down, see you with that coffee, she gonna skin me. You worked up enough without it. Young like you is, drink that stuff your skin will come off and run along the floor. She goes to the refrigerator, gets milk, adds it to the coffee cup. ROSEY (CONT’D) We’ll milk it down some. Nub looks up at Rosey, turning his head from side to side. ROSEY CONT’D) Forget it, dog. You ain’t gettin’ none. Stanley takes the cup Rosey offers to him, and starts outside.
(MORE) STANLEY Thanks, Rosey.
EXT. DRIVE-IN LOT Stanley pushes back the sliding glass door, comes out into the lot with Nub. He goes to the little table, sits down with his coffee. Nub rushes straight to the projection booth, BARKING. Stanley watches, curious. He leaves his cup at the table. Nub is at the projection booth door now, trying to bite at it. Stanley gets up slowly, walks out toward the booth. Before he’s completely to it, he calls out-STANLEY Buster? You in there? No answer. Stanley eases closer, edges around to the projection booth door. Nub is still trying to grab at the bottom of it, growling as he does. STANLEY (CONT’D) Nub. Come here. Nub comes, but he doesn’t like it. He sits by Stanley. STANLEY (CONT’D) Stay, Nub. Stanley eases to the booth door. STANLEY (CONT’D) Buster? Hey, Buster. It’s Stanley. No answer. Stanley reaches out, cautiously takes hold of the door, pulls it open. Sees Richard. He’s curled up in a corner. His hair is a mess. He’s wearing overalls and no shirt. He’s covered in mud. His face is scratched up, puffy with bruises. Stanley steps-INSIDE THE PROJECTION BOOTH pulls the door shut. Richard sits up, leans his back against the wall. STANLEY (CONT’D) What are you doing here? RICHARD Climbed the fence last night when ya’ll closed up.
Best sleep I’ve had in a couple days. Was hiding out at the sawmill, but I had to leave to get food. Stole a watermelon. That was a day ago. I was going back to the sawmill, but daddy seen me, and I run back into the woods. Ended up here. STANLEY Why are you hiding? RICHARD Daddy took a whip to me. Wasn’t no real reason to it. Just did. I wasn’t gonna take no more beatin’s like that, so I run off. I was stayin’ for mama, but, she don’t care I take a beatin’ or not. So I ain’t stayin’ no more. Been thinking on catching a box car out. Go where it takes me. Be a hobo. I’d be a goddamn clown in the circus I had to. STANLEY Your daddy and mine had some words. They had more than words. Guess that’s why he was so mad, took it out on you. RICHARD Don’t take much to get him mad. Look sideways at him, he’ll take a strap to you...Stanley, you got any food? STANLEY Yeah. But you can’t hide out here. I want you to come inside. RICHARD I...I can’t. STANLEY No call to be embarrassed. Come on, now. Stanley holds out a hand and Richard takes it, and as Stanley pulls him up, we-CUT TO: INT. DRIVE-IN/HOME Richard sitting at the table with Stanley. There’s food in front of Richard, and he’s eating like a wolf. Rosey is holding a big bowl of mashed potatoes, and is scooping them onto Richard’s plate with a big spoon as Stanley watches and Richard consumes.
ROSEY Let me get some more on that a’fore you eat the flowers off the plate. RICHARD Yes, m’am. But he doesn’t slow much, keeps right on eating. ROSEY You eat all you want, Mr. Richard. Then, I’m gonna wash that hair of yours, and you gonna go upstairs and take a bath, get you some sleep. Stanley got some clothes you can wear. Richard nods gratefully, tears in his eyes. But he doesn’t stop eating. INT. PROJECTION BOOTH -- LATE AFTERNOON STANLEY AND BUSTER STANLEY He slept all day, and he’s still asleep. BUSTER Fear takes it out of you. Wears you out. I been scared before. I know....You know that little thing we been detectin’? STANLEY I thought you’d quit. BUSTER Me. Nah. I just had me a bad moment. I went and talked to Margaret’s mother. Want to know what I found out? STANLEY Sure? BUSTER The Stillwinds had an older daughter. They shipped her off to London, England. STANLEY So?
BUSTER Two daughters. One got shipped off before she finished high school, and another got burned up when she was a teen. STANLEY I still don’t get it. BUSTER Speculation. But now we’re getting into enough good facts, that if we can’t call it the truth, we can lean in that direction, see if there’s enough bricks in the theory to hold up the idea. Thing is, girl sent off like that, and another burned up, and them letters talking about pregnancy. I got to thinking maybe Stillwind ain’t quite right. STANLEY Quite right? BUSTER He got Jewel Ellen pregnant. STANLEY Her daddy? BUSTER (nodding) Probably got the other daughter that way. Sent the first one off, to get something done overseas. Get her out of the way of talking. But this other gal, Jewel Ellen, maybe she wouldn’t do that, was willin’ to talk. STANLEY So he killed her? BUSTER Could be. STANLEY What about Margaret? BUSTER Maybe Margaret asked for money not to talk. Or her mother did. She didn’t tell me that, but she’s a woman likes a dollar, so she might have. So, he kills his daughter--
STANLEY By burning his home down? BUSTER Desperate man will do desperate things. Tried to make it look like an accident. Then he killed Margaret...But somehow, that don’t fit. STANLEY He would have to drag the body off without anyone seeing him do it. Get her all the way to the railroad tracks. Course, he could have killed her first. Then Jewel Ellen. BUSTER Good boy. You’re thinking. But something about it don’t feel right. Can’t put my finger on it. STANLEY If we prove it, what can we do? BUSTER Why nothin’ boy. Just a game. Can’t never prove it, even if we get more facts. Stanley as he considers this. DISSOLVE TO: MONTAGE OF RICHARD helping at the concession stand. Picking up cups and such from the lot with a poker stick. Carrying out garbage. Helping Rosey scrub the floor. NARRATOR Richard stayed on with us, and we didn’t hear from his daddy or his mama. He helped around the place. Being used to hard work, he could do more than me and Callie put together. And I’m ashamed to say we let him do it. MAIN STREET -- DAY Stanley and Richard coming out of the drug store with sodas. They’re chatting it up. Nothing important. General stuff that we can’t really hear. But they’re having a good time.
Coming up the sidewalk is Chapman. He’s there before they know it. He pushes at Richard’s shoulder, causing him to go back against the wall and drop his soda. Chapman’s dark eyes are firey. He looks like a mad man. CHAPMAN So there you are. Should have known you’d be with these people. Had to do a lot of work by myself, boy. No help. Everybody else done gone off. Chapman starts to take off his belt. CHAPMAN (CONT’D) I’m gonna whip your little ass all the way home. Stanley steps between them. STANLEY Do and I’ll tell daddy. He’ll come to your house and beat you like a rug. CHAPMAN He will, will he? STANLEY Sure did the other day. Chapman slowly fastens his belt. CHAPMAN You awful proud, ain’t you boy? STANLEY Yes, sir. CHAPMAN Well, you ain’t got nothin’ to be proud of. When God calls his people home-RICHARD Shut up! Shut up, old man! Shut up and leave us alone! CHAPMAN (stunned) You ain’t no son of mine. RICHARD I wouldn’t never nothin’ but a field hand.
Chapman gives the boys one last hard look, stalks on down the street. And as Stanley and Richard watch him go away... INT. STANLEY’S ROOM -- NIGHT By lamp light. Stanley tucked in bed with Nub. Richard has a nice pallet on the floor. STANLEY I’m ready for school. How about you? RICHARD Never. STANLEY Guess I’m bored. Richard gets up from his pallet, grabs his pants. Stanley takes surprised note of this, but before he can say anything. RICHARD I got to go get my bike. STANLEY From your place? Now? Richard is tying his shoes. STANLEY (CONT’D) You can ride mine. RICHARD I’m gonna get it before daddy sells it. After today, that’s what he’ll do, it ain’t already done it. STANLEY I don’t know, Richard. RICHARD You ain’t got to go, but I’m goin’. It’s my bike. Stanley sighs, throws back the covers and slides out of bed.
EXT. CHAPMAN PLACE -- NIGHT The two boys, on foot, Stanley carrying a Hopalong Cassidy flash light that isn’t turned on. Nub is with them. They are standing out in the dirt road near the house. The Chapman house is dark. We can see the old bike lying up next to the porch in the wilted grass. RICHARD Ain’t no dog to bark, so I can get a shovel out of the barn. STANLEY Shovel? RICHARD To dig up Butch. STANLEY What? But, Richard is already moving. Stanley and Nub follow. THE BARN -- MOMENTS LATER Stanley’s flash beam bobbing around. Finally the beam settles on the wall, on pages of the Bible torn out, tacked there. They are finger-smeared with something dark. STANLEY (CONT’D) What’s that all about? RICHARD This is his church. He makes all them folks work for him come here on Sunday, and he preaches. Made me and mama memorize verses. Didn’t say em right, he took a plow line to us. Richard goes over and grabs a shovel leaning against the wall, and Stanley follows along with Nub. Stanley puts the light back on the pages. They pause. STANLEY What’s that smeared on them? RICHARD Blood.
(MORE) STANLEY Blood...What kind of blood?
Richard studies the pages in the light. RICHARD Chicken mostly, I reckon. Daddy believes you make sacrifices to the Lord. Just like all them people in the Bible done. The three of them are moving toward the barn door now, the light showing the way. STANLEY Mostly chicken? RICHARD He brought blood on me and mama a few times with that plow line. Smeared it there. As they slip out of the barn door-STANLEY Jesus. A TRAIL IN THE WOODS -- LATER Stan and Richard tromping along. Richard carries the shovel resting on his shoulder. STANLEY (CONT’D) I thought we were going to get your bike. You didn’t say nothing about digging up a dead dog. RICHARD It just come to me. They’re going off the trail, led by Richard, pushing through some brush and low hanging limbs. Sticks and leaves are snapping under their feet. STANLEY Why would you want to do that? RICHARD Because Butch meant so much to him. I once’t pulled cotton all day. Near had sun stroke. I bet I pulled more than two men. And I was nine years old. I was proud I’d done it. And you know what, he didn’t say one word of thanks.
Complained cause I got sick hot and couldn’t work the next day. He ain’t never cried over me. STANLEY I don’t see how this helps. They’ve come to the spot. RICHARD It helps me. I’m gonna dig that dog up and put it on the porch. He went to all that trouble to bury, and I’m gonna unbury it. He’ll know who done it. Richard has started to dig. STANLEY That’s what I’m afraid of...Where’s Nub? RICHARD (pausing) He went off ten minutes ago. Huntin’ is my guess. He’ll come back. Richard brings up a shovel full of dirt...and something else. RICHARD (CONT’D) Butch’s head done come off. Stanley pokes his flashlight at the contents of the shovel, which Richard is holding out on display. It’s a dirt covered ball of something. Richard turns the shovel over, drops the wad to the ground. He gets down on his knees for a look, and Stanley puts the light on it. Richard begins to brush back the dirt. A skull. STANLEY That doesn’t look like any dog skull. RICHARD Ain’t. Give me that light. Richard stands, takes the flashlight from Stanley, shines it around on the ground. We can see that there are a number of old dirt mounds, some covered in leaves, some with greenery growing up through them.
Richard grabs the shovel, starts digging around in other spots. Bones come up with almost every plunge of the shovel. RICHARD (CONT’D) It’s a graveyard. Another poke of the shovel, and as Richard turns the dirt over-RICHARD (CONT’D) Oh, God. It’s a fresh grave, and what he has revealed is a withering face. RICHARD (CONT’D) That fella was working for daddy just last week. Richard starts frantically digging, and we MONTAGE TIME as he digs. We see revealed graves, a number of complete bodies in them. Some contain nothing more than bones. Butch is there too, looking a lot worse for wear. END OF MONTAGE as Richard rolls out his shovel, drops it on the ground, the light on it. It’s a dirty mess, tooth, and foremost, a silver tooth a damaged skull on and Stanley shines but we can see the shining in the light.
RICHARD (CONT’D) Most of these people worked for daddy. He said they run off, or quit. But he murdered them. CHAPMAN (O.S.) I didn’t murder none of them. The boys startle, whirl to face Chapman pushing his way out of the brush. He is wearing overalls and no shirt, his hat, shoes without socks. He has a scythe in his hands. He glares at Richard. CHAPMAN (CONT’D) You can’t sneak around in my yard, boy. I heard you when you come up. I can hear a cat run across the yard. You know that. And I can follow sign. Little hard at night, but I can do it. And I don’t need no flashlight. Not when I got the moon. Chapman comes closer, looks out at the bodies. He zeroes in on Butch.
CHAPMAN (CONT’D) Ought not to dug Butch up boy. I laid him to rest. Richard is leaning on the shovel protectively. Stanley has let the light drift toward the ground. RICHARD (trembling) You murder him too? He bark when you didn’t want? CHAPMAN Butch never let me down. I can’t say that for you. Did you know, when you were a boy, God come to me, and he wanted me to sacrifice you. Your mama didn’t think I should, but I told her it was God’s will, and she had to go along with that. I took you out squirrel hunting. I was gonna shoot you in the back of the head, boy. Call it a hunting accident. But God and I would know it was a sacrifice. RICHARD Why didn’t you do it? Chapman has started to come closer, causing Richard and Stanley to step back. Richard pulls the shovel from the ground, holds it protectively. CHAPMAN God came to me. It was a test. Wasn’t your time. But what God wanted to know was was I willing. And, of course, I was... You’re gonna turn me over to the infidels, ain’t you, boy? RICHARD Why? Why would you do this, daddy? CHAPMAN Takes money to run a farm. Wages, they sap you. These people, who are they in the eyes of the Lord? HE wanted me to continue on my way. To run my ministry-RICHARD A bunch of bloody Bible pages in a barn? That’s not a church. That’s nothing.
CHAPMAN Where we gather in his name, that’s a church. You never understood that, boy. STANLEY That skull with the silver tooth...That’s Margaret Woods, isn’t it? CHAPMAN Such a pretty thing. Witnessed to her, down by the railroad tracks. But she was a whore. Tempted men. Tempted me. Ran with that Stillwind girl in a way women aren’t meant to be. I know. I seen them together out there. Doing what God never meant...It was God’s will. She was the first sacrifice. He holds out the scythe and shakes it, as if to identify it as the tool of sacrifice. This causes the boys to step back. STANLEY Then Jewel Ellen. She was next. CHAPMAN (disappointed) Should have been. But no. God took care of her. Cleansed her with fire. Chapman steps forward, and as he does, Richard scoops the shovel down, capturing Margaret’s skull on the blade, tosses it into Chapman’s face. Chapman stumbles back, sputtering dirt from the skull, rubbing at his eyes with his free hand. RICHARD Run, Stanley! Run! The boys are running like their tails are on fire. And behind them, Chapman. The boys gain the advantage, break out of the woods, slam on across the trail they were on earlier, dash into the woods on the other side before Chapman can arrive. They pause in a small clearing, hands on knees, gathering their breath. They look up, hoping they’ve lost him. They look ever which way, trying to control their breathing. No Chapman. A WHIZZING SOUND. The scythe CUTTING through brush. Chapman pushing through the greenery.
He runs right at them. Even in the moonlight, we can see he is frothing at the mouth. The scythe blade winks silver. The boys bolt toward the foliage across the way. Richard crashes through, but Stanley strays left, drops to his knees to scuttle under some entanglements that are gapped like a rabbit’s warren. Chapman SWINGS the scythe. Stanley crawls through just as the blade cuts vines and undergrowth above his head, shaving some hair from his scalp, but missing the flesh. The boys together again, running, CRASHING through brush. Chapman behind them, pushing, slashing limbs aside. Boys getting face-whipped by branches. They stumble. They pant for breath. They break through into a large clearing. And we SEE what they see in the NEAR DISTANCE. THE SAWMILL. It’s only a pause, and they’re running again. They look over their shoulders as they run. Chapman. He’s coming on hard, carrying the scythe. CHAPMAN (winded as he runs) And the Lord will smite the wicked. The boys are almost to the little sawmill hut. Richard has gained the lead. He dives under the upraised building, scuttles up the ladder. Stanley is almost there, looks back at Chapman charging toward him, the scythe clutched in both hands, and then he sees flying OUT OF THE WOODS, Nub. He’s zipping along like a bullet. A dog on a mission. Stanley, stops abruptly. STANLEY Nub. No! Nub hits Chapman’s leg. Hard. It’s almost enough impact to knock Chapman down, but he only stumbles. The little dog is ferocious. Chapman hops around, trying to get the scythe in position to chop the dog off his leg. STANLEY (CONT’D) NUB! COME BOY! COME! Nub breaks loose with a growl, darts toward Stanley, happy as a pig in shit. The scythe WHISPERS in the air right above him.
Nub runs on, jumps into Stanley’s arms. Chapman is coming again. There’s nowhere to go but inside the shack. Stanley, clutching Nub in one arm, tries to go up the ladder. A rung BREAKS. He nearly falls. Chapman is almost on him. He pulls himself up above the broken rung, pushes Nub inside just as Chapman’s hand misses his ankle. INT. THE SHACK Stanley pulls himself up with both arms, lands rolling on the floor as Chapman’s arm reaches up through the trap, just missing him again. Richard Stanley backing appears is in the corner, his back against the wall. grabs up the struggling, barking Nub , starts toward Richard, watching as Chapman’s hatted head through the gap. RICHARD (doomed) I trapped us. Like rats. Chapman is all the way through now, pulling the scythe up with him. He looks pleased with himself as he steps onto the flooring. He eases forward, enjoying the moment. As he puts a foot down-CHAPMAN You have just given yourself to God’s mercy. --and the board’s SNAP AND CRACK. Chapman’s leg goes through the flooring, a barb of wood catches him in the crotch, and his supporting leg, bends, cracks and twists in a way that’s hard to look at. Chapman drops the scythe clattering to the floor, lets out with a SCREAM. The boards BREAK under his weight. Chapman GROANS, almost goes all the way through, is left supporting himself with his hands, trying to manage his way back up. Richard springs forward, grabs the scythe. Chapman and Richard exchange looks. CLOSE ON RICHARD. His face is one of grim determination. STANLEY (soft, pleading) No, Richard. Don’t do it.
But the scythe is in SWIFT MOTION, SLICING through the shadows, the blade GATHERING UP MOONLIGHT. The blade seems to pass in front of Chapman. But no. A squirt of dark liquid. The body falls through the hole and is gone. Richard stands holding the scythe. Slowly, carefully he moves across the CREAKING FLOORBOARDS toward the gap in the floor. Stanley puts Nub down, works his way over, the boards creaking as he goes. THEY LOOK DOWN and see the body of Chapman. Headless. BACK TO THE BOYS as they look across the way, into a corner. A GLIMPSE of what’s there in the shadows. CHAPMAN’S HEAD, his hat lying on the floor nearby. An owl hoots in the distance. DISSOLVE TO: CHAPMAN’S GRAVEYARD -- DAY Men in cowboy hats, wearing badges. They are digging with shovels. We can see sheet covered bodies all over the place. It’s quite an operation that’s going on. NARRATOR There were a lot more bodies than we had found. Maybe twenty. Some were just pieces. Like Margaret. A head. An arm. A leg. It had been going on a long time. EXT. CHAPMAN HOUSE -- NIGHT It’s burning, as is the barn. NARRATOR When word got around about Chapman, his wife moved off quickly, and late one night the house burned down. No one knew who set the fire. EXT. DEWMONT SCHOOL -- DAY Stanley standing with his books under his arm, waiting out front of the school. Children are running this way and that. We OVERLAP DISSOLVE, and Stanley is still standing there. But there’s no one else. Slowly, Stanley starts to walk away.
NARRATOR (CONT’D) Richard lived with us for a while, but one day, after school, I waited for him, to walk home together. He never showed. And I never saw him again. PROJECTION BOOTH -- NIGHT Stanley is walking to the booth, behind him, on the screen, a movie is playing. He walks more certain than before. NARRATOR (CONT’D) I thought maybe he caught a train out of town, like he told me once. Whatever he did, he took my Roy Rogers boots with him. At the booth door. It’s wide open. Buster is inside. He looks at Stanley. BUSTER Come in, boy. Shut the door. Stanley does just that. He picks up a book lying on the table, face down, open. It’s ERNEST HAYCOCK’S BUGLES IN THE AFTERNOON. BUSTER (CONT’D) You haven’t been around. Stanley, without loosing Buster’s place, puts the book face down again. STANLEY Haven’t had the chance. Not after what happened. And school. BUSTER You’re quite the hero. STANLEY (shaking his head) No. No I’m not. It was all just an accident. I’m not much of a detective at all. And I don’t think Chapman had anything to do with Jewel Ellen. I think you were right about who killed her. BUSTER Guess it doesn’t matter. Old Stillwind, he died the other day. You know that?
Stanley shakes his head. BUSTER (CONT’D) Passed in his bed. He did anything, ain’t no one going to call him to account for it now...Ever hear from Richard? STANLEY (shaking his head) He left a note. All it said was “Thanks”. He took my Roy Rogers boots. BUSTER That’s not good...But, you got to figure he needed them a lot more than you. You got lots of things. What Richard’s got is them boots. Buster gets up to adjust the reel. Finished with his work, pauses. STANLEY Mr. Stillwind and Chapman, killing the girls on the same night. It bothers me. I read in a mystery book there’s no such thing as coincidence. BUSTER (smiling) They’re wrong. Life is full of coincidence. There’s so much of it, you sometimes trip over it. STANLEY Well, not knowing for sure, it’s not very satisfactory. BUSTER Life is like that. You ain’t gonna know the answer to a lot of things, no matter how hard you try. And some of the answers you know, they ain’t worth learnin’. Thing is, we live on a fine dark line between good and bad, and sometimes, we ain’t so sure which side of the line we’re standin’ on. HOLD ON BUSTER smiling at Stanley, and then we DISSOLVE into Stanley standing in Buster’s place in the-PROJECTION BOOTH -- ANOTHER NIGHT
Stanley is working the projector. He gets up, changes a reel. He knows what he’s doing. NARRATOR I saw less and less of Buster as school went on. And I began to work more around the theater, in the concession stand. Then one night, Buster didn’t show and I ran the projector the way he’d showed me. MAIN STREET -- MORNING Stanley is walking into Buster’s yard with Nub, stepping up on his porch. NARRATOR (CONT’D) He had been drinking less as of late, but it occurred to me he might have fallen off the wagon. Stanley knocking on the door. No answer. STANLEY Buster? Stanley tries the knob. Nothing. He goes to the window, presses his hands against the glass, looks in. He pushes at the window. It slides up. He looks around, to see if anyone is watching. No one. STANLEY (CONT’D) Stay, Nub. Stanley steps-INSIDE BUSTER’S HOUSE SEES BUSTER immediately. Lying on his little bed. Stanley eases over close, looks down. Buster is lying there, holding his blanket as if he has just pulled it up to his chin. It’s obvious. He’s gone. Stanley sighs. NARRATOR That was some years ago. EXT. FRONT OF THE DRIVE-IN -- YEARS LATER
It’s the same place, but it’s ragged. Grass has grown up. The dewdrop has fallen over on the roof. The mural is faded. Paint is stripping in places.
The marquee sign says: SWAP MEET HERE SATURDAY. But even this sign is old and worn. A car pulls up. A middle-aged man gets out, leans against the car, looks at the weather beaten drive-in. He’s taking it all in. We realize when the Narrator speaks, this is Stanley, grown. And we let the camera play slowly over the drive-in, lovingly. And for a moment, we see it anew, and we can see the young Stanley riding up on his bike, dropping it in the yard, racing for the door, and then...it all fades, and we see the drive-in as it is now. NARRATOR Buster is gone. Nub is gone. Rosey is gone. My parents are gone. I graduated high school, moved off, got a job. Sometimes I even forgot all about Buster and Rosey and that time long ago. But now and then I go back, look at the old drivein. Word is it’s going to be torn down, to make room for a shopping mall. ON OLDER STANLEY. He looks wistful. Slowly he returns to his car, drives away. EXT. SAWMILL -- DAY The sawmill is torn down, and the lumber from it is being stacked by workers. A man driving a back hoe is moving the sawdust, lifting it up into a dump truck. We go CLOSE ON THE SCOOP in the back hoe shovel, watch as the driver drops a pile of darkly stained sawdust into the dump truck. NARRATOR (CONT’D) As I grow older the past is more important to me than the present. Things were more intense then. The sun warmer. The wind cooler. Dogs better understood. SLOWLY GO CLOSER ON THE CONTENTS OF THE DUMP TRUCK NARRATOR (CONT’D) Buster wasn’t always right. But something he said sticks with me. That life isn’t always satisfactory, that we live on a fine dark line between right and wrong, and in the end, dirt and flesh are pretty much the same.
A light wind kicks up, and as it moves the dust, blowing the upper coating of it away, we go even CLOSER, and SEE something under the dust. NARRATOR (CONT’D) One curious note. I read it in the paper. It’s identifiable now. Bones. Leg bones to be exact. NARRATOR (CONT’D) It said while cleaning up an old sawmill in Dewmont, the remains of a skeleton was found in the sawdust. Sawdust continues to blow, reveals more, and what it reveals are what the bones are sticking into. Worn out boots. Roy Roger’s face is still recognizable, smiling up at us across all those years. As the sawdust continues to peel away and reveal the other boot, a bony leg poked down into it-NARRATOR (CONT’D) And with it, a pair of Roy Roger boots. HOLD ON THOSE BOOTS, the wind gently plucking the sawdust away, revealing them more and more, and then, we-FADE OUT SLOWLY
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