Based on the novel by
January 21, 1999 (Pink Revision)
ALL IS A BLUR...
...then WORDS appear, twisting and vaguely transparent,
reflected on the window GRADY TRIPP stands before as he reads
from a sheaf of NEATLY-TYPED PAGES.
'The young girl sat perfectly still
in the confessional...
INT. CLASSROOM - UNIVERSITY - AFTERNOON
Grady -- 45-year-old novelist, professor, and insomniac --
is in the midst of reading a story to the dozen college
STUDENTS who make up his Advanced Writing Workshop.
...listening to her father's boots
scrape like chalk on the ancient
steps of the church, then grow faint,
then disappear altogether.'
As he finishes, Grady ponders a PAIR of MAINTENANCE MEN,
perched on ladders in the quad below, stringing a LARGE BANNER
between two bare trees. The BANNER reads:
WELCOME TO WORDFEST
Grady turns, peers at his students. They look as if they've
been on a field trip to the DMV.
(a wave of the pages)
A GIRL with jet-black hair turns to a PALE YOUNG MAN sitting
at a desk in the back of the classroom. He is JAMES LEER,
19. Like Grady a moment before, he is staring out the window.
Let me get this straight. The girl
with the big lips is depressed
because, each night, when her father
goes off to work at the bakery, her
mother sneaks some mysterious lover
into the house. Not only does this
girl have to listen to her mother
working this guy in the next room,
she has to wash the sheets each
morning before Daddy gets home. After
a few weeks of this, she starts to
go a little nutty so Daddy takes her
to confession -- only, once she gets
in the box, she gets a whiff of the
priest and realizes he's the mother's
secret lover. Is that it?
James Leer says nothing, huddling lower in the PATTY OVERCOAT
I mean, Jesus. What is it with you
All right. Let's try to keep it
constructive, shall we? Howard, what
I hated it.
That's not exactly what I meant by
I think James should try to be more
constructive. This is my second
semester with him. His stories are
brutal, man. They make me want to
Grady glances at James, but his face remains impassive.
Then -- with a visible sense of relief -- Grady notices the
raised hand of the achingly beautiful HANNAH GREEN.
I think maybe we're missing the point.
It seems to me James' strength as a
writer is that he doesn't take us by
the hand. He treats us like adults.
He respects us enough to forget us.
That takes... courage.
Grady nods, smiles subtly. Appreciative.
Well put, Hannah. And a good note to
end on, I think.
(as the students rise)
Don't forget about WordFest this
weekend. And remember: those of you
driving V.I.P.s to tonight's cocktail
party need to have them at the
Chancellor's house no later than
Hannah Green gathers her things, pauses by Grady.
Thanks for that. He all right?
I think so... What about you?
Me? Sure. Why?
Grady watches her glide away in her CRACKED RED COWBOY BOOTS,
then starts to exit himself.
Turn out the light, please.
Grady pauses, studying the wan figure sitting at the back of
the classroom, then -- reluctantly -- hits the switch on the
wail, leaving James Leer alone in the DARK.
INT. STAIRWELL/CORRIDOR - AFTERNOON (MOMENTS LATER)
Grady hurries down the steps, then spies SARA GASKSLL, 45,
standing below. She is talking to a BOY with an armful of
(calm but firm)
No, Elliot, I said five hundred
programs for today. This means we
have no programs for the weekend.
This means that tomorrow morning, at
9AM, several hundred people will
walk into Thaw Hall and have
absolutely no idea where they are
(shaking her head)
It's all right, Elliot. I'll take
care of it.
Grady watches Sara take the programs, turn, and spot him.
There is the slightest of hesitations, then...
I got the message you called.
I got the message you called too.
This hangs in the air, awkward somehow, then both nod and
continue on, without so much as a backward glance.
INT. GRADY'S CAR - MOVING
The RADIO BLASTS as Grady pops the glove box, removes a JOINT
as big as his pinky, and wheels his DARK MAROON '66 GALAXIE
RAGTOP away from campus, cruising under another BANNER:
WELCOME TO WORDFEST FEBRUARY 26-28
EXT. GALAXIE - MOVING - PITTSBURGH
Grady cruises past the three rivers and modest skyscrapers
of downtown, sipping at the weed.
INT. PITTSBURGH AIRPORT
Grady rides the long, automated treadmill that runs half the
length of the terminal, until...
INT. ARRIVAL GATE - PITTSBURGH AIRPORT
...TERRY CRABTREE -- Grady's editor and friend -- exits the
tunnel with a STUNNING YOUNG WOMAN in a skin-tight black
dress, bright red topcoat, and three-inch spike heels.
Grinning devilishly, Crabtree whispers something in the
woman's ear, then spots Grady.
How are you, Crabtree?
Brimming. Say hello to my new friend,
Miss Antonia... uh...
I took the liberty of inviting Antonia
to tonight's festivities. You don't
mind, do you, Trip?
(a slight beat)
The more the merrier.
Terry was telling me about you on
the plane. It was all so interesting.
I was explaining to Antonia how a
book comes to be published. What you
do as a writer, what I do as an
I sweat blood for five years and he
checks for spelling.
That's exactly what he said.
We know each other pretty well.
So where's Emily?
Oh. We're picking her up. Downtown.
Perfect. Well then, shall we?
Grady nods, but lingers briefly -- studying the architecture
of Miss Sloviak's ankles as she CLICKS off in her spike heels,
arm in arm with Crabtree.
INT. BAGGAGE CAROUSEL - AIRPORT - MOMENTS LATER
Grady and Crabtree watch suitcases tumble as Miss Sloviak
sits across the way, inspecting her face in a compact.
Do you know how many times I've
boarded an airplane praying someone
like her would sit down beside me?
Particularly while I'm on my way to
Lay off Pittsburgh. It's one of the
If it can produce a Miss Sloviak
you'll get no argument from me.
She's a transvestite.
She's still a transvestite.
Crabtree ignores Grady's question, smiling placidly as he
watches the carousel spin.
So how's the book?
Grady stiffens. He had been expecting this, but not so soon.
He tries to act casual.
It's fine. It's done. Basically. I'm
just sort of... tinkering with it.
Great. I was hoping I could get a
look at it sometime this weekend.
Think that might be possible?
I don't know. I'm sort of at a
I thought you were tinkering.
I just mean...
Forget I asked. I don't want to
pressure you, Tripp. But...
...I get pressure. Know what I mean?
Grady ponders this, troubled by it. Suddenly, Crabtree's
face brightens again.
Ah... well now. What do you suppose
that would be?
Grady turns, watches an immense PONY HIDE CASE drop onto the
That would be a tuba.
INT. GRADY'S CAR - MOVING - LATE AFTERNOON
As the Galaxie emerges from a TUNNEL, GRADY watches the great
city of Pittsburgh reveal itself in the distance, then glances
in the rearview mirror.
That perfume you're wearing, Antonia.
It wouldn't happen to be Cristaile,
Why yes. How did you know?
You didn't actually purchase this
car, did you. Trip??
It was Jerry Nathan's. He owed me
He owes God money. You know, he
queered himself for good with Esquire.
Grady takes a joint from the ashtray, snaps a Scripto butane.
He said something about being between
Yeah, between a bookie and a pair of
EXT. OFFICE BUILDING - MOMENTS LATER
A YOUNG WOMAN with a crumpled PITTSBURGH STEELERS UMBRELLA
exits the building and -- seeing Grady parked in front of a
fire hydrant -- stops, a puzzled expression on her face. As
she approaches, Grady rolls down the passenger window.
(to the others)
This is Tanya. My wife's secretary.
Crabtree and Miss Sloviak smile and nod. Tanya smiles and
nods back, her eyes passing uneasily over Grady's joint.
Grady... Emily's not here.
Grady just smiles, nods.
Is there anything I can do for you?
Grady watches a tiny stream of water trickle through Tanya's
You're leaking, Tanya.
Tanya nods -- at a loss -- then turns away into the rain.
She left me. Crabs.
Left you...? Who? Emily?
This morning. I found a note in the
But. ...why didn't you say something,
Tripp? I mean, what are we doing
Grady gazes at the glittering scene beyond his windshield,
turns on the ignition.
I thought maybe I made it all up.
EXT. GASKELL HOUSE - EVENING
Through the windows, a rabble of writers, faculty and select
students can be SEEN, mingling under a haze of cigarette
smoke. Grady brings the Galaxie to a lurching halt across
the street, parks in front of another fire hydrant. As the
trio steps out. Miss Sloviak notices a GREENHOUSE, shimmering
quietly in the chill night air.
That's a nice greenhouse.
It's Mrs. Gaskell's. Her hobby.
I thought you were Mrs. Gaskell's
Piss off, Crabs. I lost a wife today.
Oh, I'm sure you'll find another.
You always do.
EXT. FRONT PORCH - GASKELL HOUSE
As the front door swings open, Sara Gaskell appears, riding
a wave of jagged party CHATTER onto the porch.
Well, hello, everyone. Terry, good
to see you again.
Chancellor. Don't you look ravishing.
Aren't you sweet to say so. I was
beginning to wonder if you were ever
going to -- oh!
As Sara steps forward, her heel-catches and she pitches
forward... into Grady's arms.
I'm sorry. It's these goddamned shoes.
I don't know how anyone actually
walks in these things.
Sara looks at Miss Sloviak, a faint glitter of scientific
curiosity in her eye.
I don't believe we've met...
Antonia. Antonia Sloviak --
Just then, a THICKLY-MUSCLED DOG with very strange EYES
skitters around the corner, BARKING SAVAGELY in the general
direction of Grady.
This wouldn't be Walter's dog, would
Poe continues to rage, his paws doing crazy eights on the
hardwood floor, until he's spun himself completely around
and is barking at the living room.
Who's he barking at now?
He's still barking at me. He's blind.
Poe' Hush! Now stop this. Honestly.
As Poe simmers to a deep growl, Grady leans forward.
I need to talk to you.
That's funny. I need to talk to you,
(strategy in her tone)
Perhaps you could put some of these
coats in the upstairs guest room,
I don't believe I know where the
upstairs guest room is.
Well then. I'd better show you. Terry --
We'll just make ourselves at home.
(kneeling by Poe)
Won't we, Poe? Yes, yes...
INT. UPSTAIRS ROOM
GRADY enters a room swimming in BASEBALL MEMORABILIA.
AUTOGRAPHED BASEBALLS abound, as well as PHOTOGRAPHS of famous
big-leaguers. In one somewhat-dated PHOTO a TRIM MAN IN HIS
FORTIES (a younger Walter Gaskell) stands with PITTSBURGH
PIRATE BILL MAZEROSKI at an old-timers game. As Sara eases
the door shut, Grady nods to a 1951 YANKEE'S PENNANT hanging
over the mantle.
Walter just got it back from the
Sara takes Grady's hand, drawing him away from the pennant
and down onto the coat-covered bed.
You go first.
All right. This morning --
A flash of LAUGHTER flutters from the living room below.
Grady starts to speak.
Well. This is... surprising. Does
I think Walter would find this a
little more than surprising.
Grady nods, getting her drift, then roils onto his back.
Emily left me this morning.
She's left before...
She's left the room before. She always
Sara nods. Considers this.
So. I guess we just divorce our
spouses, marry each other, and have
this baby, right? Simple.
Grady and Sara stare at the ceiling. Sara sniffs the coat
lying beneath her. Miss Sloviak's coat.
Is that Cristaile?
My God, I wear the same scent as a
transvestite. She IS a transvestite,
If she's not now, Terry will make
sure she is by the end of the evening.
Has he asked to see the book yet?
And? Are you going to tell him?
No. Maybe. I don't know. I don't
know what I'm going to do.
Neither do I.
Grady starts to pull up, but his arm is underneath Sara.
Sara, my arm. I'm stuck, honey.
I guess you're going to have to chew
it off then.
INT. LIVING ROOM - GASKELL HOUSE
Poe noses blindly through a forest of legs, pauses by Miss
Sloviak's high heels and scores a Rye Krisp. Crabtree,
returning with a pair of DRINKS, tiptoes around him, finds
Miss Sloviak chatting with a trim MAN in his 50's.
Walter! I see you've met my friend.
Yes. She's charming.
(taking her drink)
Walter's been telling me the most
fascinating things about Marilyn
Monroe and... who was it?
Joe DiMaggio. Simply put, Antonia,
it's my contention that their marriage
tapped into the very id of American
popular culture. Joe DiMaggio
represented, metaphorically speaking,
the Husband as Slugger... And, though
it may be controversial, I personally
believe every woman, in some way,
desires to be Marilyn Monroe.
Oh, I couldn't agree more.
GRADY works his way through the crowd, spies Walter, and
changes course. Directly ahead is an oddly commanding MAN
("Q"). From the behavior of the people in his vicinity it's
clear he is someone of interest. Presently, he is putting
the make on Hannah Green.
And while my latest has been on the
New York Times bestseller list for
40 weeks, I can't help but lament
that my first book, which contains
what I consider my finest writing,
was remaindered in less than five.
So, I find myself conflicted.
Ask him if he's conflicted about his
house in the Hamptons.
Q eyes Grady over his wine glass.
Q, Hannah's had two stories published
in The Paris Review. You'd best dust
off the 'A' material for her.
As Grady moves off, he sees Poe sniffing, and goes the other
way, heading directly into the crosshairs of a MAN IN TWEED,
who is talking to another, shorter MAN.
MAN IN TWEED
(to short man)
A supermarket for the mind, my ass.
I'm telling you, they're nothing but
a big, fat mob laundry. Have you
ever been to Davenport, Iowa? Let me
tell you, they need a 30,000-square-
foot bookstore like they need another
(as GRADY passes)
MAN IN TWEED
My God, I haven't seen you since,
what? The PEN/Faulkner Awards. That
was a big night for you, Grady.
(to his friend)
Grady was there for Arsonist's
The short man blinks, impulsively takes Grady's hand.
Douglas Triddly, Amherst. I kid you
not when I say Arsonist's Daughter
belongs in the pantheon of late
twentieth century fiction. I've had
it on my Graduate Studies syllabus
three years running.
No wonder it's still in print.
As Grady flees, he passes a WOMAN holding a cigarette.
WOMAN WITH CIGARETTE
...can take my word for it, writer's
are lousy fucks. Poets aren't bad,
but then you've got to deal with the
sweater thing. They'll discover the
cancer in your heart every time, but
God forbid they find a decent dry
EXT. REAR GASKELL HOUSE - NIGHT
Grady comes out the back: door and ferrets a JOINT from his
pocket, lights it. He takes a long draw, walks around the
side of the house. As he passes a window, a VOICE accosts
There you are.
Grady starts, but when he looks through the window, he sees
that the VOICE belongs to WALTER GASKELL and the person to
whom he's talking is Sara. They are standing in the kitchen,
near an elaborate WINE RACK.
I could swear I had a '63 Chateau
Latour in here. You haven't seen it,
I doubt I'd recognize a '63 Chateau
Latour if I was sitting on it.
You'd recognize it if you tasted it.
I doubt it, darling.
(angling & bottle to
Well, Q certainly will. And, given
that he will be addressing 500 people
in little over an hour...
You want to keep him happy.
If he's happy...
(kissing her as he
As Walter goes, Grady studies Sara as she stands alone in
the quiet little room, looking small and tired. Finally, she
takes a breath, steeling herself, and moves off, returning
to the clamor inside her house.
Grady sighs, guilt-stricken, then detects a FLICKER of LIGHT
coming from the darkness beyond. A FIGURE is watching him
from the retaining wail that leads to the Gaskell's garage.
GRADY blinks, chagrined that he's been caught eavesdropping,
then his eyes narrow and he steps off the porch.
James Leer wears the same nasty overcoat from class, a GREEN
KNAPSACK hanging off one shoulder. GRADY looks at what appears
to be a sliver of moonlight in James' palm.
James' face betrays his own fragile chagrin and Grady peers
more closely at what lies in his extended hand. The sliver
of moonlight is, in fact, a shiny PEARL-HANDLED PISTOL.
It was my mother's. She won it in a
penny arcade in Baltimore when she
was in Catholic school.
It's very convincing.
It used to shoot these little paper
caps, but they don't make them
anymore. The caps.
Grady reaches for the gun, but James closes his fingers and
slips the tiny thing back into his overcoat.
It's just... for good luck. Some
people carry rabbits' feet...
...You carry firearms.
As Grady exhales a plume of smoke, James' eyes pass briefly
over the jay. Grady notices, offers.
No, thank you. I don't like to lose
control of my emotions.
Grady nods, accustomed to James' weirdness.
I'm not supposed to be here, in case
you were wondering. I crashed. I
mean, not intentionally...
James nods toward the house, where Hannah Green can be seen
in a window, still fending off the determined Q.
...but the other night, Hannah and I
were together, at the movies, and
she asked me. Since she was coming.
So I ended up coming too.
Grady nods, ponders this over-elaborate explanation.
Are you and Hannah seeing each other,
No! What gave you that idea?
Relax, James. I'm not her father. I
just rent her a room.
She likes old movies like I do, that's
(glancing back at the
Besides, she doesn't really know me.
She thinks she does, but she doesn't.
Maybe it's because she's Mormon and
Maybe it's because she's beautiful
and she knows it and try as she might
to not let that screw her up, it's
inevitable that it will in some way.
James looks away from the window, at Grady.
You're not like my other teachers,
You're not like my other students,
James. So what was the movie you two
Huh? Oh. Son of Fury. With Tyrone
Power and Frances Farmer.
She went crazy, Frances Farmer.
So did Gene Tierney. She's in it
Sounds like a good one.
(a crooked smile)
It's not bad.
Grady considers James' fragile face.
Listen, James, about this afternoon.
In workshop. I'm sorry. I think I
let things get a bit out of control.
They really hated it. I think they
hated it more than any of the other
It doesn't matter. It only took me
an hour to write.
Really? That's remarkable.
I have trouble sleeping. While I'm
lying in bed I figure them out. The
As James gazes off at the gloaming greenhouse, Grady looks
down at the left front POCKET of James' overcoat.
Like a nervous tic, James' hand -- hidden -- twitches against
the modest bulk of the cap gun.
You cold, James?
So what are you doing out here?
It's colder in there.
James blinks, startled by Grady's laughter, startled that
he's said something funny. He looks back to the greenhouse
Actually, I saw the greenhouse. So I
thought... I thought I'd come out
here and take a look at it. You don't
see one of those every day. It looks
I saw a movie once. Part of it took
place in heaven. Everyone wore white
and lived in crystal houses. Like
that. At least that's the way I
Abruptly, James glances at his watch.
I should be going.
James turns away, then stops. He stands like this a moment,
then turns back. Holds out his right hand.
Goodbye, Professor Tripp.
Grady hesitates, then shakes James' hand. James moves off
then, leaving the light of the house behind.
(as he stops)
Don't leave just yet. There's
something I think you ought to see.
I'll miss my bus.
This is worth it.
James looks conflicted.
INT. LIVING ROOM - MOMENTS LATER
It's quieter now, the party winding down, as Grady sneaks
James past the departing guests and toward the stairs.
Hey, you two.
Grady stops, sees Hannah slipping on a coat in the foyer.
Are you riding with me, James?
No, I'm going ho --
He's going with me. You take Crabtree.
And his friend. All right?
Ail right. By the way, his friend...?
The answer's yes. I think. Yes. I
don't know. Where are they exactly?
Here we are!
Crabtree appears at the top of the landing with Miss Sloviak.
Her lipstick is blurry.
Nell, hello there.
Crabtree steps down the stairs, hand extended. James Leer's
pale fingers rise as if on a string.
James. This is my editor, Terry
James'll know about George Sanders.
Mr. Crabtree was saying how George
Sanders killed himself, only he
couldn't remember how.
Pills. August 25, 1972. In a Costa
Brava hotel room.
The few people within earshot glance oddly at James, but
Crabtree's eyes glitter with intrigue.
How comprehensive of you.
Oh, James is amazing. He knows all
the movie suicides. Go ahead, James.
Tell them who else.
There's so many...
Just a few then. The big ones.
James glances at the loose group of people around him,
Pier Angeli, 1971 or '72, also pills.
Charles Boyer, 1978, pills again.
Charles Butterworth, 1946, I think.
In a car. Supposedly it was an
accident, but, you know...
(a trace of irony)
He was distraught. Dorothy Dandridge,
she took pills in, like, 1965. Albert
Dekker, 1968, he hung himself. He
wrote his suicide note in lipstick
on his stomach. Alan Ladd, '64, more
pills, Carole Landis, pills again, I
forget when. George Reeves, Superman
on TV, shot himself. Jean Seberg,
pills of course, 1979. Everett Sioane --
he was good -- pills. Margaret
Sullavan, pills, Lupe Velez, a lot
of pills. Gig Young. He shot himself
and his wife in 1978. There are more
but I don't know if you would have
heard of them. Ross Alexander? Clara
Blandick? Maggie McNamara? Gia Scaia?
I haven't heard of half of those.
You did them alphabetically.
James turns, finds Crabtree's laser eyes on him. James blinks,
as if he had forgotten about Crabtree, then shrugs shyly,
That's just how my brain works, I
Fascinating. Listen, why don't you
come out with us after the lecture.
There's a place on the Hill I always
get Trip to take me.
Actually... I just want to go home.
Oh, don't be silly. No one your age
just wants to go home. Besides,
faculty will be present. Just think
of it as a field trip.
As he exits, Crabtree raises an eyebrow to Grady, as if to
say: "Bring him." Miss Sloviak follows, eyeing James glacially
as we CUT TO:
The dull PURR of a COMBINATION LOCK is HEARD, a DOOR opens,
and a triangle of LIGHT falls on a PHOTOGRAPH of MARILYN
MONROES JOE DIMAGGIO on their wedding day.
INT. CLOSET - GASKELL HOUSE
Grady and James Leer stand in the doorway. Just below the
photograph of Marilyn and Joe -- hanging next to a PIN-STRIPED
JERSEY bearing the number 5 -- is a SHORT BLACK SATIN JACKET
trimmed with an ERMINE COLLAR.
Is that really it?
That's really it.
The one she wore on her wedding day?
So I'm told.
James, in the presence of the holy grail of suicide garments,
James swallows, then goes to the jacket. Carefully, he reaches
out his fingers and touches the yellowed collar, barely making
contact, as though it might crumble to dust.
They're glass. The buttons.
Like the lady herself.
Grady says this airily, ironically, riding his buzz a bit,
but James nods solemnly, eyes transfixed on the jacket, as
if Marilyn herself were inside it.
She was small. Most people don't
know that. The shoulders are small.
(touching the satin)
It looks so perfect. I bet it's the
only time she wore it. That day. She
must've felt so... happy.
Grady studies James as he takes the fringe of the jacket,
lifts it lightly.
It's feels unreal, like butterfly
wings or... something. It must've
cost Dr. Gaskell a lot.
I guess. Walter never tells Sara the
truth about how much he pays for
You're really good friends with the
Chancellor, aren't you?
Grady's eyes slide, paranoid, but James' face remains
unchanged, consumed with the jacket.
Pretty good. I'm friends with Dr.
I guess you must be, if you know the
combination to his closet and he
doesn't mind your being here in their
bedroom like this.
A DOOR SLAMS downstairs and Grady and James jump. The CLICK
of a woman's HIGH HEELS sends Grady to the bedroom window,
where he watches Sara slide into a WHITE CITROEN DS23, turn
on the ignition, and motor away.
We, better skedaddle. Close that
closet -- James? You all right?
James is slumped on the Gaskell's white linen bed, knapsack
between his knees, head in hands.
I'm sorry. Professor Tripp. Maybe
it's seeing that jacket that belonged
to her. It just looks... really
lonely. Hanging there. In a closet.
Maybe I'm just a little sad.
Maybe. I'm feeling a little sad myself
You mean, with your wife leaving you
(off Grady's look)
Hannah mentioned something about it.
About a note.
Yes. Well. It's complicated, James.
I think we should go now.
Without thinking, Grady flicks out the bedroom light, leaving
James Leer in the dark for the second time today.
James just sits there, a shadow in a room of shadows.
A LOW RUMBLE freezes Grady as he enters the hail. A few feet
away, Poe lies belly to the ground, his blind blue eyes
trained, more or less, in Grady's direction.
Okay. Easy now. Eee-zy...
Grady starts to take a step, when... Poe shoots forward and
sinks himself deep into Grady's ankle.
Grady hops gracelessly, momentarily lifting Poe off the ground
as he swings his leg up. Poe, countering, rolls his head in
a snapping motion and drops Grady in a clumsy heap.
Get off of me, you son-of-a-bitch!
Poe regains his feet, but doesn't let go, whipping his head
back and forth, back and forth, over and over, growling low,
dark, and hideously from the back of his throat, until there
is a sharp...
Poe YELPS, goes perfectly still, then topples heavily onto
Grady's legs. GRADY turns. James Leer stands in the doorway,
posed with the little pearl-handled pistol like Steve McQueen.
Grady looks at James. Then Poe. Then back to James.
Shit, James. You shot Dr. Gaskell's
I had to. Didn't I?
Couldn't you've just pulled him off
No! He was crazy. I didn't -- he
looked -- I thought --
Okay, okay. Take it easy. Don't freak
out on me.
Grady roils down his sock. Apparently, Poe went through life
with a slight overbite.
Do you have a mirror? It's the best
way to see if someone's breathing.
He's dead, James. Believe me, I know
a dead dog when I see one.
James looks miserably at Poe.
What are we going to do?
Grady rises awkwardly, holds out his hand.
First you're going to give me that
little cap gun of yours.
INT. GALAXIE - MOVING
Grady and James stare gloomily out the windshield.
Professor Tripp? Can I ask you a
What are we going to do with...
James glances in the backseat, where Poe lies, strange blue
I don't know. I'm still trying to
figure out how to tell the Chancellor
I murdered her husband's dog.
Trust me, James, when the family
pet's been assassinated, the owner
doesn't want to hear one of her
students was the triggerman.
Does she want to hear it was one of
I've got tenure.
EXT. PARKING LOT -- THAW HALL (CAMPUS)
As sporadic APPLAUSE wafts from the high windowpanes of Thaw
Hall, Grady leans into the Galaxie's trunk, creates a space
between the tuba and a ZIPPERED SUITCASE.
James totters forward, arms hooked under Poe's front legs
looking like a sorry marathon dancer. Grady frowns, limps
forward, and takes the hind legs.
He's still a little warm.
They lay him down, push him deep into the trunk -- until
there is a SOUND like a pencil SNAPPING.
Grady grabs Crabtree's garment bag, frisks the pockets.
That's a big trunk. It fits a tuba,
a suitcase, a dead dog, and a garment
bag almost perfectly.
That's just what they used to say in
the ads. Come on, Crabtree, I know
Whose tuba is that anyway?
Can I ask you something about her?
She is. Ah. Here we go...
Grady unravels a pair of boxer shorts, finds an airplane-
size bottle of JACK DANIELS, then grabs another pair of
Oh. So. Is -- is your friend Crabtree --
is he -- gay?
Most of the time he is, James. Some
of the time he isn't. Now what do we
Grady rattles a prescription bottle, then shakes out a pair
of WHITE PILLS, each etched with a tiny numeral 3.
Looks like... our old friend Mr.
Codeine. That should take the pinch
out of my ankle.
(handing the bottle
No thanks. I'm fine without them.
Right. That's why you were standing
in the Chancellor's back yard twirling
that little cap gun of yours tonight.
You're fine, all right, you're fit
as a fucking fiddle.
Grady opens the tiny bottle of Jack with his teeth, drinks
down two number 3's, then looks at James.
I'm sorry, James. I'm sorry I said
Recklessly, James takes a pill, tosses it in his mouth, and
tips back the tiny bottle of Jack. Half a second later, he
spits it all out. Grady looks down, peels the soggy pill
from the lapel of his jacket.
How 'bout we try that again.
INT. AUDITORIUM - LATER
On the stage. Walter Gaskell stands alone at a podium.
...really needs no introduction.
Walk down the aisle of any airplane
or by the pool of any hotel and you'll
see his face beaming back at you.
You all know the name, you all know
the books, so welcome if you will,
the man those of us who know him
simply call... Q.
As the audience THUNDERS, Grady and James slink into the
auditorium. It's standing room only. As they head for an
open space against the back wail, Grady squeezes past a KID
with a GOATEE .who regards him warily.
Grady stares, over the gleaming sea of heads before him,
watching as Q pauses, ...for a very long moment... waiting
until the auditorium is consumed in a heavy, anticipatory
hush. Finally, he speaks again.
I am a writer.
As the audience EXPLODES with glee, Grady frowns. He glances
to his right, sees James' left brow crinkled with a similar
look of bafflement.
As a writer, one thing you learn is
that everyone you encounter has a
story. Every bartender, every taxi
driver, everybody has an idea or a
story that would make a "great book"
or a "great movie." Presumably, each
of you has an idea.
(gestures to the
But, how do you go from there to
here? How do you go from having an
idea to having a book? How do you
get across? What is the bridge, the
bridge that allows you to walk on
air from the shoreline of inspiration
to the terra firma of accomplishment?
Faith. Faith that your story is worth
the telling, faith that you have the
wherewithal to tell it, faith that
the carefully woven structure you
create won't collapse beneath you...
Grady glances at James, sees that his eyes are unblinking
and glazed, then sees, beyond him, Sara standing by the far
EXIT. A blink later, she is gone.
...and faith that when you get to
the other side someone will be waiting
who gives a damn about the tale you
have to tell.
Grady leans back, listening to the BEATING of his own HEART,
the soft GLIMMER of the chandeliers hanging by a thread forty
feet above his head...
Abruptly, James LAUGHS OUT LOUD -- some private amusement:
bubbling up from the bottom or his brain and out into the
auditorium. As Q looks and four hundred other heads turn,
James ducks down -- mortified. Crabtree, sitting a few rows
away, studies James with amusement, then winks at Grady.
Grady blinks, turns to James.
I'll be right back.
Grady bursts through the auditorium doors and into the lobby.
A PAIR of local BOOKSELLERS, chatting quietly behind a table
arrayed with the BOOKS of attending authors, glance up as
Grady limps toward the restrooms.
Grady stumbles down the sloping carper, but the corridor
begins to turn sideways on him and he stops, resting his
cheek against the cool... cool... wall... as... all.. goes...
BLACK FOR A MOMENT AND THEN....
Grady opens his eyes, finds Sara's face swimming above him.
He is lying on his back in the corridor, his corduroy blazer
bundled under his head like a pillow.
You had another one, didn't you? You
have to see a doctor, Grady. First
thing Monday morning. All right?
Is the thing -- is it over?
Almost. Want to sit up?
(as he winces)
What's the matter?
Nothing. I think I twisted my --
Grady looks at his ankle and feels a rush of guilt.
I have to tell you something.
Sara's face stiffens, becomes more Chancelloresque.
Then stand up. I'm too old for all
this rolling around on the floor.
Grady lets her pull him up, watches her light a cigarette.
Don't. I know what you're going to
No, really, Sara, I don't think you --
You love Emily. I know that. And you
need to stay with her.
I don't think I really have a choice
in, that. Emily left me.
She'll come back. That's why I'm
going to... to not have this baby.
Grady watches her flip her hand up, bring the cigarette to
her lips, and inhale... then grimace and drop it to the floor.
Not have it.
No. There's no way. I mean, don't
you think there's no way?
Well, no, I don't see any way.
(taking her hand)
And I know how hard it is for you to --
to lose this chance.
No you don't. And fuck you for saying
you do. And fuck you for "saying...
...for saying there's just no way.
Because there could be a way, Grady.
Somewhere deep in the building, APPLAUSE swells.
He must be finishing. We should go.
Grady looks sadly at Sara then stoops to retrieve his coat.
As he grabs it, James Leer's little pistol CLATTERS to the
Who's gun is that?
It's -- it's a souvenir. Of Baltimore.
Before Grady can close his hand, Sara has it in her own.
Heavy. Smells like gunpowder.
She points it at Grady's chest. He smiles nervously.
You got me.
I love you, Grady.
Grady places his fingers gently over Sara's... and removes
the gun from her hand.
I love you, too.
The auditorium doors swing open and James Leer emerges, arms
draped over Crabtree and a LARGE STUDENT.
Woah! The doors made so much noise!
As they make for the restrooms, Sara and Grady appear.
This is so embarrassing! You guys
had to carry me out.
Is he all right?
(rolling his eyes)
He's fine. He's narrating.
We're going to the men's room. Only
we might not make it in time.
Terry Crabtree and James Leer. Leave
it to you to make that mistake, wait
As Sara heads off after James, Grady turns toward the lobby...
directly into the hostile gaze of Miss Sloviak.
I need a ride.
I'm your man.
As the Galaxie's big trunk yawns open. Miss Sloviak stares
at what's wedged up against her suitcase.
There's an explanation.
Miss Sloviak raises an eyebrow and then, leaning in, unzips
INT. GRADY'S CAR - MOVING
As GRADY drives, Miss Sloviak finishes with the top button
of a man's shirt, then reaches into the zippered COSMETICS
BAG in her lap. Onto the open tray of the glovebox, she places
a JAR of COLD CREAM, a BOTTLE of NAIL POLISH REMOVER, and a
cloud of COTTON BALLS.
Couldn't he have just thrown a shoe
at the poor thing?
James is... I don't know...
Disturbed. And when your friend
Crabtree gets done with him, he's
going to be even more disturbed.
I'm not sure that's possible.
Sure it is.
Grady watches Miss Sloviak peel the wig from her forehead.
Listen, Antonia --
Tony. Now that I'm home.
Tony. I'm sorry if things didn't
work out so well for you tonight.
Forget it. I should've known better.
Your friend is just, I don't know,
into collecting weird tricks. Mind?
Tony angles the rearview mirror toward himself.
He's writing his name in water.
Like most editors, he really wants
to be a writer, but he's too busy
living a novel to bother writing
That sounds like a fancy excuse for
being a shit.
He'd call it habit. But now... I get
the feeling he's going through the
motions a bit.
Tony peels off a pair of false eyelashes, blinks.
You mean because his career's ruined
Jesus. Is that what he told you?
He said he hasn't had a success in
ten years and everyone in New York
thinks he's kind of a...
As Tony re-sets the rearview mirror, Grady gets a glimpse of
his own swollen eyes.
...loser. But I'm sure your book is
so good that he'll be able to keep
Hearing this, Grady looks troubled. Miss Sloviak points.
EXT. SLOVIAK HOUSE
GRADY pulls in front of a small brick house. On the front
lawn, a small statue of the BLESSED VIRGIN stands under a
little white BAND SHELL painted with stars.
That's nice. All we have is a Japanese
It's a bathtub. What she's standing
The PORCH LIGHT conies on and a SMALL, WHITE-HAIRED MAN
squints through the screen door.
Let me see it. The gun.
Grady reaches into his pocket, hands it over. Tony smirks.
Figures. It's like the kind of gun
Bette Davis would carry. In a little
Grady studies the gun in Tony's hand, then glances at the
front screen door. Pop is still there.
I'd better go. I think I may have to
rescue James Leer.
Miss Sloviak returns the gun, steps out of the car, and peers
in at Grady.
You know, Grady, if I were you. I'd
think about going home. You look
like you need a little rescuing
EXT. PARKING LOT - HI-HAT CLUB
Grady parks near a VAN that has KRAVNIK'S SPORTING GOODS
stenciled on the side. He watches a BOUNCER frisk a patron
in the PINK LIGHT of the Hi-Hat Club's entrance, then slides
James Leer's little PISTOL into the glovebox.
EXT. ENTRANCE - HI-HAT CLUB
As Grady steps to the door, the bouncer gives him a
Clean tonight, huh, Professor?
As a whistle.
INT. HI-HAT CLUB
Hannah Green is dancing with a sweat-drenched Q as Grady
enters this SMOKE-FILLED RHYTHM AND BLUES club. She beckons
with a finger, but Grady -- Nervous at the sight of her
glistening Mormon skin -- merely pantomimes an exaggerated
shrug and she points.
Crabtree and James Leer sit at a dark corner table. James
slouches, eyes half-closed, while Crabtree stares in the
general vicinity of the dancers, his hand extended beneath
the table, in the general vicinity of James' lap.
Grady, looking a little alarmed, grabs a passing WAITRESS.
Double Dickel on the rocks.
As Grady arrives, Crabtree withdraws his hand delicately and
James' eyes flutter open, briefly, then close.
Is that just beer?
Primarily. Although I gather you two
staged a little raid on the Crabtree
pharmacopoeia. You missed a few
bottles, by the way.
I'm sure. Where is everyone?
Sara and Walter declined. Guess they
wanted to go home and curl up on the
couch with the dog.
Grady cuts James a glance, trying to determine if he's copped
on Poe, but James is winking out. His head drifts back against
the wall, settles with a gentle... thunk.
Jesus. He's out.
Crabtree glances over, nods.
He has a book.
I know. He started it Fall semester.
He finished it Winter Break.
Grady looks up, unable to disguise his surprise. He glances
at James' slack face tilted against the wall.
So. Is he any good?
No. Not yet he isn't.
Well, I'm going to read it anyway.
Come on. Crabs. Don't do this. He's
one of my students, for Christ sake.
I'm not even sure if he's --
He is. Take my word for it.
I think it's more complicated than
that. Besides, he's a little...
scattered. He almost... did something
stupid tonight. At least, I think
so. Anyway, he doesn't need sexual
confusion thrown into the stew right
On the contrary, it could be just
Grady notices the waitress's nametag (OOLA) and realizes she
is conspicuously PREGNANT. He watches her disappear beyond
the blur of bodies on the dance floor, where Hannah Green's
slinky form seizes his attention.
No sexual confusion there, eh,
Shut up and drink.
Crabtree grins, brings his bottle up, then stops.
Oh my goodness. Do you see what I
Grady follows Crabtree's glance and finds Oola again, but
it's not Oola Crabtree is eyeing, it's her CUSTOMER.
President of the James Brown Hair
Club For Men.
Sitting alone in the dark booth is a SMALL BLACK MAN with
big hands, a face peppered with scar tissue, and -- most
noticeably -- a tsunami of hair sprouting from his scalp.
(initiating an old
He's a boxer. A flyweight.
Huh uh. A jockey. His name's, um,
Curtis... Curtis Hardapple.
Vernon, then. Vernon Hardapple. The
scar's are from a -- from a horse.
He fell during a race and got
And now he's addicted to painkillers.
He can't piss standing up anymore.
He lives with his mother.
And he had a younger brother who...
Groom. Named Claudell. And his mother
blames Vernon for his death.
... he was killed, when a gangster
named Freddie Nostrils tried to shoot
his favorite horse. He took the bullet
Grady and Crabtree turn to look at James Leer, who opens one
bloodshot eye to regard them.
Vernon, over there, was in on the
James' eye closes. Crabtree looks over at Grady.
That was good.
He heard everything we were saying.
Just then, Hannah Green bounces up in her red boots.
Come on, Teach. I want you to dance
INT. DANCE FLOOR - MOMENTS LATER
Grady and Hannah, reflected in bits and pieces in the jack
'o lantern wall of MIRRORED TILE, slow-dance to a sexy,
I've been re-reading Arsonist's
Daughter. It's so beautiful, Grady.
So natural. It's like all your
sentences always existed, just waiting
around in Style Heaven, or wherever,
for you to fetch them down.
I thank you.
And I love the inscription you wrote
to me. Only I'm not quite the downy
innocent you think I am.
I hope that isn't true. We need all
the downy innocents we can get.
Grady spies the corner table, watches Crabtree say something
to Q and then, casually, stroke a lock of hair from James
So what are you going to do?
I just mean, I -- I guess Emily isn't
going to be there when you get home.
Grady looks down into Hannah's translucent face, then catches
a glimpse of himself in the fractured, wall. The tile that
would reflect his head is missing.
Are you holding me up or am I dragging
Hannah snuggles closer, lays her head on Grady's chest.
EXT. PARKING LOT - HI-HAT CLUB (2 AM)
Grady, limping on his bad ankle, carries James to Hannah's
rumpled RENAULT, props him against the fender.
Look, Hannah. When you get him home...
make sure he's all right. Before you
I would if I knew where I was taking
Hannah, are you telling me you don't
know where James Leer lives?
Some apartment somewhere. But I've
never seen it.
That strikes me as odd.
James is odd. I know he has an aunt
in Sewickley Heights. I dropped him
there once, but...
Come to think of it, it wasn't even
his Aunt's house. He said she worked
there. Or something. I don't remember.
James MUMBLES, starts to slide onto the hood of the car.
Mmhmmm... knap... sap...
What's he saying?
His bag. You know that ratty green
thing he's always carrying around.
He must've left it inside.
Hh-uh. Last time I saw it was...
Grady glances at the idling Galaxie across the street.
Crabtree and Q huddle inside.
Shit. He must've left it back at
Thaw. In the auditorium.
Mmrrmmm... KNAP SAP!
Grady frowns in annoyance, opens the passenger door.
All right. Take him to my place. He
can crash on the sofa.
The one in your office? It's the
best one for naps.
I don't think it really matters,
Hannah. We could probably stand him
up in the garage with the snow shovels
at this point.
As Grady lowers James into the seat, he WHIMPERS, curls into
a ball. Hannah turns her puppy dog eyes on Grady.
Ail right. In my office.
As GRADY starts to turn away, Hannah's fingers graze his
Hey. If you want to talk later...
I'll be up.
Grady watches her fold her lovely self into the car and drive
away. He sighs, crosses to the Galaxie, and just has his
hand on the doorhandle when a TINY FIGURE appears.
You driving this car?
This 1966 maroon Ford Galaxie 500.
You driving this car?
Bullshit. It's mine, motherfucker.
You must be mistaken.
Grady shakes his head wearily, opens the door.
Go home to your mother, Vernon.
Grady slides in next to Q, puts the car in gear, and starts
to pull away. As he glances in the rearview, he sees Crabtree
smiling darkly in the backseat.
All right, what's the matter?
Crabtree just keeps smiling.
Christ, Crabs, what do you expect me
to do? The kid's practically in a
Hit your brakes.
Grady flicks his eyes from the rearview mirror just as a
SHADOW looms in his headlights. As he squashes the break
pedal, Q's EYEGLASSES go flying into the windshield.
Oh my God! What is that?
It's Vernon, waving his arms, his shadow enormous in the
beams of light.
What's this guy's problem?
Just go around him.
Grady taps the accelerator, but each time, Vernon dances
back in front of Grady's grille.
Back up. Go out the other way.
Grady throws the car in reverse, backs straight up, then
turns up a one-way street. He shoots down the alley behind
the Hi-Hat, turns onto the adjoining street... and watches
in amazement as Vernon materializes from behind the high
wooden fence that runs parallel to the Galaxie.
As Grady punches the brakes, Vernon grins.
You could always go over him.
Then, as the three men watch, Vernon rocks back on his heels
and -- with a gymnast's precision -- pitches himself onto
the Galaxie's big hood. He lands on his ass, slides smoothly
off, then takes a deep bow and disappears into the night.
What just happened?
Grady peers at the wrinkled asterisk on his hood.
I just had my car jumped on.
EXT. THAW HALL - NIGHT (TWENTY MINUTES LATER)
Grady stops the car in the red zone and gets out.
Wait here. I'll be right back.
Where would we go?
The JANITOR, the same shaggy-haired kid Grady saw rigging
the WordFest banner earlier, is struggling with a bulky FLOOR
WAXER as Grady steps up to the double doors and slaps his
hand against the glass.
Grady pushes on the door and it opens.
Hey, Professor Tripp.
(off Grady's look)
Traxler. Sam. I took your class
freshman year. Then I dropped out of
I hope it wasn't my fault.
(taking him seriously)
No. I guess you're here for the
The knapsack is sitting on one of the metal folding chairs
as Sam and Grady enter the silent hail.
I saw the manuscript inside. So when
you showed up, I figured...
Grady lifts the knapsack, peers inside. There is no title
page to the MANUSCRIPT, just the words The Love Parade and
then, halfway down, TEXT.
Is it good?
I don't know. It might be...
EXT. THAW HALL - NIGHT - A MOMENT LATER
Grady steps outside, closes the flap of the knapsack and,
hunching his shoulders against the cold... stops.
Crabtree. Q. The car. Gone.
INT. TRAXLER'S HONDA - NIGHT
Traxler gives Grady a ride in his Honda, one of the original
Hondas best suited for sidewalk driving. The backseat bulges
with a huge AMPLIFIER and BASS GUITAR.
Say, Professor Tripp, is all that
stuff true about Errol Flynn? How he
used to put coke on his dick. To
make himself, you know, like, last
Christ, Traxler. How the hell should
Well, jeez, you're reading his
biography, aren't you?
Sam points and GRADY glances at the knapsack riding on the
seat between him and Sam. A BOOK -- bearing ERROL FLYNN'S
PICTURE -- is tucked into the side pouch.
Oh, right. Yeah, that's true. He
used to rub all kinds of things on
it. Paprika. Ground lamb.
EXT. SASKELL'S HOUSE - NIGHT (MOMENTS LATER)
Sam brings the car to a coughing idle across the street from
the Gaskell's house.
Wow, check out that greenhouse. Is
that your wife?
Grady gazes at Sara, a vaporous blur in the greenhouse.
No, my wife's out of town.
Just then, the Honda FILLS WITH LIGHT. HEADLIGHTS loom, then
a POLICE CAR sweeps into the Gaskell's driveway.
Walter appears on the front steps.
Who's that guy?
Traxler looks anxiously at the police car.
What exactly are we doing here,
(staring at Sara)
Taking the long way home.
EXT. GRADY'S HOUSE - NIGHT - A LITTLE LATER
As Traxler drives away, Grady mounts the porch with James
Leer's knapsack hanging from one shoulder. He reaches above
the door, feeling for a key, but his fingers come away with
only dust. He stands, dispirited, then an idea strikes. He
takes the doorknob, turns it. It opens.
INT. HALLWAY - GRADY'S HOUSE
Grady enters, closes the door quietly behind him.
INT. LIVING ROOM
The room is dim but the TV is on, throwing crazy slashes of
light onto the wails and ceiling. As Grady limps by, he finds
a sleeping Hannah Green, bundled in a blanket, T-shirt, and
little else. On the floor, near her dangling hand, Woolf's A
Common Reader lays open next to a Diet Coke.
Grady considers the smooth geography of her body, but his
eyes are most powerfully drawn to... her feet. He steps
forward, lifts the blanket gently, but finds -- to his
disappointment -- only the red cowboy boots.
He picks up the remote, turns off the TV, and exits.
INT. GRADY'S OFFICE
James Leer slumbers on a green sofa, draped in an old sleeping
bag. Grady drops behind his desk, lets James' knapsack slide
to the floor. He lifts his cuff, inspects his ugly ankle,
then glimpses something in the knapsack.
Something yellow. Something soft.
Grady reaches down and, slowly -- like a magician producing
a magical scarf-extracts MARILYN MONROE'S WEDDING JACKET
from James Leer's ratty green knapsack.
Grady glances at the young man on his sofa, then, looking
very tired, reaches for the desk lamp... and turns out the
light on the both of them.
EXT. FRONT PORCH - SATURDAY MORNING (NEXT DAY)
Grady steps outside in a WOMAN'S CHENILLE BATHROBE and plucks
the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from the second porch step. He
fishes out a charred ROACH, starts to light it, then notices
the Galaxie sitting in the driveway.
INT. GUEST BEDROOM - MINUTES LATER
As Crabtree SNORES thunderously, Grady eases open the door,
spots the CAR KEYS on the dresser, grabs them.
INT. LANDING - CONTINUOUS
Grady eases the door shut, starts to turn, then stops, his
eyes drawn to the door just across the landing from Crabtree's
INT. EMILY'S OFFICE
Grady pushes open the door with the tips of his fingers,
lets it glide open. The room that is revealed is bright and
well-ordered, in direct contrast to the lazy clutter of
Grady's office. There is a DRAFTING TABLE and a COMPUTER,
pads and pens neatly arranged alongside.
A BULLETIN BOARD hangs on one wall, bearing an intricate
mosaic of multi-colored index cards. There are PRINTS, framed,
from various art exhibits, and two of Grady's DUST JACKETS --
including, most prominently, Arsonist's Daughter.
There are PHOTOGRAPHS of EMILY too. In a black turtleneck
with friends. In a sundress with Grady. In a billowing
Burberry, floating like a dark butterfly against a BLUR of
YELLOW TAXIS on a street in Manhattan.
Smiling brilliantly. Beautiful.
INT. GRADY'S OFFICE
Grady enters with a THERMOS -- pauses -- redistributes the
sleeping bag over James Leer's pale body.
Grady sits at his desk, pours himself a cup of coffee from
the thermos, then sets the cup directly in the center of a
galaxy of previous coffee rings. Next, he takes a clean piece
of paper, balls it up, and -- with ritual precision -- strokes
it into the MINIATURE BASKETBALL HOOP that crowns the rim of
the WASTE BASKET across the room.
A 9-VOLT CROWD ROAR belches from the hoop and, without further
ceremony, Grady turns to the blank page curling from his IBM
SELECTRIC and SPACES to the top right corner, TYPES:
In other words: Page 2611.
CLOSE UP - THE TYPEWRITER PAPER -- darkening with WORDS, the
KEYS SNAPPING faster and faster, a CRAZY CLAMOR that grows
and grows until, finally, it just... Stops.
Grady awakes with his back to the floor, James leer's
quizzical face floating like a cloud above him.
I'm okay. I just lost my balance.
I put you on the floor.
I thought you might -- I don't know --
swallow your tongue or something.
(nodding to Grady's
I guess you really miss her, huh?
Grady peers down at the geraniums blooming on the pockets of
the robe, its overall fuzziness.
Huh? Oh, no. This isn't Emily's. I
just write in it.
I guess there's probably a story
There is, but it's not that
James nods. Down the hallway, in another room, the TELEPHONE
Want me to get that?
As James shuffles away in the sleeping bag, Grady rises
delicately and turns toward the window, just in time to see
a POLICE CAR roll slowly by on the screen below.
He didn't give his name.
The guy on the phone.
What'd he say?
He wanted to know if a Grady Tripp
lived here and drove a dark maroon
1966 Ford Galaxie 500 with black
What'd you tell him?
Good, James. If the Zodiac killer
calls, be sure to mention the back
door pops open with a couple hard
shakes to the right.
I thought maybe you'd won a radio
contest or something. Is that single-
James has noticed the towering stack of 20 lb. bond on Grady's
That's a big book you're writing.
I think it's sort of writing itself
at this point.
Wow, Hannah always swore you were
working, but --
Nothing, it's just that, well, it's
been awhile since Arsonist's Daughter,
and some people -- some of the kids
in workshop -- thought maybe you
Ah. I don't believe in writer's block.
James takes another glance at the mammoth manuscript.
A LOUD HACKING is HEARD. Grady and James turn, watch Crabtree,
wearing only a pair of striped boxers, materialize in the
Good morning, boys. James.
James waves feebly from beneath the sleeping bag.
(re: James' "attire")
If you're planning on staying for
breakfast, I'd put on something a
little less comfortable if I were
As Grady moves to his desk to reacquaint himself with the
page curling from the typewriter, James continues to stare
into the emptiness of the hallway. The sight of Crabtree
seems to have made him suddenly queasy.
How did I get here last night?
No one seems to know where you live,
James. Hannah thought you'd like my
And... and before that. Did I do
anything? Anything bad?
Well, James, you did shoot the Head
of the English Department's dog and
steal his most prized piece of
As James contemplates this, the DOORBELL RINGS. Grady looks
up, sees the POLICE CAR he noticed earlier, now parked at
the bottom of his driveway.
Do yourself a favor, James... hide.
EXT. FRONT PORCH
A POLICEMAN not much older than James Leer waits. As the
door opens, Grady appears.
(eyeing Grady's robe)
Professor Tripp? Sorry to bother
you, sir, but I understand you
attended an event at Sara and Walter
Gaskell's house last night and were
one of the last to leave...
INT. LANDING - SAME TIME
James lurks at the top of the stairs, swaddled in the sleeping
bag, straining to hear.
OFFICER PUPCIK (O.S.)
...was just wondering if maybe you
saw anyone. Someone you didn't know.
Who seemed out of place. Suspicious
EXT. FRONT PORCH
Grady is scratching his head in mock thought.
Well, there's always people you don't
know at these things, but I can't
say there was anybody particularly
suspicious... Wait. There was one
guy. Tiny fella. Claimed to be a
A jockey? You mean, like --
Horses, right. Vernon something...
Pupcik stops on his pad, looks up.
I could be wrong. What happened
Huh? Oh, someone pulled a B&E on Dr.
Gaskell's closet. And the dog's
We figure the perpetrator let him
out. He's blind and we figure he
just wandered off and got run over.
No, the dog.
Pupcik nods slowly, as if re-filing Grady under "Dealing
One other thing. About this kid,
this student of yours -- Leer --
James Leer. You wouldn't know how I
could get in touch with him, would
I might have his number on campus.
That's all right. We'll find him.
Pete Pupcik smiles, tips his big blue police hat, and turns
away. Grady frowns, starts to close the door...
HANNAH GREEN (O.S.)
There you are...
Grady stiffens, then turns to find Hannah Green across the
room in her t-shirt and cowboy boots, looking all dewy-eyed
I thought we were going to talk.
Oh. Well. I...
Hannah stretches and the t-shirt slides dangerously up her
It's okay... I'm here when you want
Grady stands frozen as Hannah smiles sleepily, pushes through
the swinging door into the kitchen. A THUMPING is heard as
James, tangled in the sleeping bag, hitches down the last
few steps of the stairway. He watches Pete Pupcik drive away
in his big police car.
What do we do now?
Before GRADY can reply, the TELEPHONE sitting on the table
next to him RINGS.
Grady, it's Sara. Thank God you're
there. You won't believe what's
Could you hold on a minute, honey?
With a look of wonderment, Grady watches his hand ever-so-
gently... hang up the phone.
How 'bout we get the hell out of
EXT. GRADY'S HOUSE - MORNING (MOMENTS LATER)
James, now wearing one of Grady's flannel shirts beneath his
ratty overcoat, follows Grady-to the Galaxie, knapsack
swinging from his shoulder. Grady tosses him a ring of KEYS.
You start her up.
As Grady runs a plastic WEDGE over the GLAZE of ice blanketing
the windshield, James stares curiously at the keys, as if
they were some strange artifact, then slides behind the
(as the engine roars)
Well done, James.
As Grady works, James' face comes into view, then... the
wedge SNAPS, splintering into the flesh of Grady's hand.
James blinks, pokes his head out the window.
You're bleeding. Professor Tripp.
INT. AISLE - MARKET - MORNING (LATER)
Grady and James stand in the sundries aisle of a neighborhood
MARKET. Grady has a TIN of BAND-AIDS open and is presently
plastering his ragged thumb.
Where exactly do you live, James?
James, in the midst of chugging from a 64-OUNCE JUG of ORANGE
Apparently not even Hannah Green has
a clue as to the location of your
Grady tosses the tin of band-aids into a small plastic hand
basket, begins to move down the aisle.
I got kicked out. Well, not exactly
kicked out. I was asked to leave.
I guess there's probably a story
There is, but it's not that
So where have you been staying?
(a long pause)
The bus station.
Grady stares incredulously at James.
It's not so bad. I know the night
janitor. And there's a broken locker
I can put my stuff.
(trying to fathom
But James. I mean... How long?
A couple weeks. That's why... that's
why I had the gun. For protection.
Jesus, James, you should've told
I don't know...
Grady drops the basket at the check-out counter and, abruptly,
finds himself face to face with a BABY, lolling on the
shoulder of the woman before him. The baby is staring,
spellbound, at a display of... Q'S LATEST PAPERBACK.
Grady frowns, then detects the true source of enchantment: a
spray of SHINY MYLAR GIFT BALLOONS.
A thought evolves.
What do you think of these?
James takes another chug from his jug, nods.
EXT. GASKELL HOUSE - MORNING
Grady, squinting through the ten-inch panel of cleared ice
on the windshield, rolls slowly up onto the curb in front of
Walter and Sara Gaskell's house... then off.
INT. GALAXIE - CONTINUOUS
Grady pops the glovebox, takes out a PEN, and scratches
something on the GIFT CARD attached to the BALLOON. James
glances briefly at a plump ZIPLOC OF POT stashed in the
glovebox, then peers at the house.
Grady gets out, then pauses, glancing at the giant orange
juice jug between James legs. It's about half-down.
You better ease off that stuff, James.
It's pretty acidic.
James takes a powdered donut that lies on his coat, studies
I can't help myself. I don't know
what's the matter with me.
Shit, James, you're hungover. What
do you think's the matter with you?
As Grady turns away, James ponders this, then considers the
ring of white sugar imprinted on his coat and re-sets the
donut in precisely the same place.
INT. GREENHOUSE - MOMENT LATER
Through the steamy panes, we SEE Grady approach with the
balloon, enter. He crosses to a high table, sets the balloon
down, and steps back, considering the placement.
Grady jumps -- startled -- and turns. Sara has materialized
behind a ficus, large POTTING GLOVES on her hands.
I can't believe you hung up on me,
Totally. I'm sorry. A lot was
happening this morning. Can you talk?
Sara nods, moves the ficus to another table.
Walter's on campus, being the good
soldier for WordFest. But he's a
basket case. Someone stole Marilyn's
jacket last night. And Poe's missing,
You heard? How?
A twelve-year-old policeman came by
the house this morning.
Did you confess?
Grady looks up, mildly alarmed.
Your fingerprints were all over the
Really? That was fast.
I'm kidding. Hello?
Oh. Right. Ha. Listen, about last
night. There is something I need to
Are you limping? Why are you limping?
Hub? Oh, well, that's part of what I
Did you pass out again, Grady? Did
you fall somewhere?
No. I mean. Well, actually, yes.
Sort of. I don't remember. Listen,
Sara, I have to tell you something.
Sara settles back, folds her arms. Waiting.
As Grady stares into Sara's eyes, things begin to blur.
...want to be with you.
Sara looks at him.
Gee, Grady, that sounded so heartfelt.
I don't know whether to swoon or
Really, Sara, I...
Sara holds up one gloved hand.
I believe you. I believe you want to
be with me. But this is not just
about me anymore.
I know that. I know what's at stake
No, I don't think you do. And
besides... I haven't decided yet.
About the baby.
That... and you.
Grady goes still, watches Sara strip off the gloves, drop
them on a table.
I'm not going to draw the map for
you on this one, Grady. Times like
these you have to do your own
Sara turns to leave, then stops, squinting far down the
Who's that sitting in your car?
What's he doing out there?
I'm sort of helping him work through
Sara raises an eyebrow, then pushes through the door.
Isn't he lucky.
Grady watches her ripple across the glass, head for the house,
and wave. James, slumped low in the Galaxie, offers a limp
hand in return, but it's too late.
She's already gone.
INT. GALAXIE - MOVING - LATER
Grady cradles the wheel in his bandaged paw, while James
sits stiffly, the orange juice jug bobbing between his thighs.
She seemed to take it pretty well.
Yeah, well, actually...
James looks over.
The moment didn't really present
James nods, unsurprised, then turns back to the window,
staring at the landscape, still sitting oddly still. Grady
glances at him. At the orange juice jug.
You're not planning on puking in my
car, are you, James?
Don't be proud, James. We're in
Sewickley Heights. We could find you
a nice golf course to barf on.
Grady looks over, surprised by the James' tone. James blinks,
I mean. I'm fine. I'm sorry. I just...
James peers out the window at passing landscape.
I've got a thing about, places like
this. I know what those houses are
like. I know what the people are
James turns, eyes flashing with surprise.
Hannah mentioned something about an
James nods vaguely, then reaches into the ashtray, takes a
JOINT between his fingers, sniffs it.
It's my father. He gets it from his
Jesus, James. Wow.
James puts the joint back in the ashtray.
It's a bit of a scandal. My parents
live in a small town.
Carvel? Where's Carvel?
I never heard of it.
It's a hellhole. Three motels and a
mannequin factory. My dad worked
there for thirty-five years.
Your father worked in a mannequin
Seitz Plastics. That's where he met
my mom. She was a fry cook in the
cafeteria. Before that, she'd been a
What kind of dancer?
Whatever kind they wanted her to be.
James Leer, are you telling me your
mother was a stripper?
I'm telling you what I was told by
my uncle. And he should know. He ran
half a dozen men's clubs in Baltimore
before he skipped town on a bad debt.
Didn't you say your Mom went to
When we fall, we fall hard.
Grady takes the joint from the ashtray, lights it, then
notices -- with surprise -- James has his hand out.
I thought you were the guy who didn't
like to lose control of his emotions.
Maybe I just needed the moment to
EXT. NEIGHBORHOOD (KINSHIP) - DAY (ONE HOUR LATER)
Grady glides down the graceful, tree-lined streets of a
modest, but well-kept neighborhood. James still has the JOINT --
now only a tiny nub-pinched between his fingers.
This is so nice. It's like where
Andy Hardy would live. What's it
Kinship. And what's here?
Unless I miss my bet... my wife.
James' heavy eyelids flutter with surprise.
The one that left you?
That's right. That one.
EXT. FRONT PORCH - WINTERS FAMILY HOUSE
Grady RAPS on the front door, then cups his hands against
the glass of the living room window, squints inside.
Nothing. As he turns away, Grady sees James sitting on the
hood of the Galaxie with the box of powdered donuts. He's
sitting in the indentation.
Someone jumped on your car with their
How can you tell?
You can see the outline of a butt.
As GRADY nods, James holds out the donut box.
Want one. They're incredible.
Smoke the rest of that joint, James,
and you can start on the box.
EXT. BACK PORCH - BACK YARD (MOMENTS LATER)
As GRADY steps onto the back porch, James follows.
Maybe she didn't come here.
She came here. We'll just wait. In
the meantime, I need you to shimmy
James stares at the "Doggy Door" cut into the back porch
Relax. Emily hasn't carried a house
key since she was twelve years old.
And your hips are as slim as hers.
It's not that. It just reminded me
of -- you know -- of what's in the
car. In the trunk.
(a pang of guilt
Oh. Right. Well, let's try not to
think about that.
James takes another sad glance at the little door, then drops
onto all fours.
INT. LIVING ROOM - WINTERS HOUSE - MOMENTS LATER
Grady leads James through the house. Everything about it
speaks of family. Even the furniture seems arranged so that
people will gather together, light a fire, talk.
It feels really... good... here.
I know. It's the house you want to
wake up in on Christmas morning.
Make yourself at home. I'll be right
INT. UPSTAIRS BEDROOM
Grady, laboring badly on his ankle, enters and finds a DUFFEL
BAG open on the floor, its contents a tangle of quickly-packed
clothes. Everything else in the room feels of another time.
PHOTOGRAPHS are everywhere, documenting a PRETTY GIRL'S life,
from first recital to cap and gown.
One photograph lies face down. Grady turns it over and finds
the pretty girl grown into a beautiful young woman, standing
in a white gown next to a younger Grady -- on their wedding
James enters, FRENCH ROLL in hand, and sees a REMOTE CONTROL
atop the BAR. Taking it, he points it at the WIDE-SCREEN
TELEVISION imbedded in the opposite wall and, seconds later,
GEORGE SANDERS walks into his CLOSE-UP.
There's no such thing as a good
influence, Mr. Gray. All influence
INT. UPSTAIRS BEDROOM - SAME TIME
Grady, a PINK PRINCESS PHONE to his ear, lies on the bed
next to a huge TEDDY BEAR.
Yes, I' m looking for the
Chancellor... I don't know. She should
be in the main hall... Thank you.
James runs through the channels, pauses on MARTIN MILNER and
GEORGE MAHARIS, riding in their curvy Corvette.
INT. UPSTAIRS BEDROOM - SAME TIME
A Nelson Riddle's THEME FROM ROUTE 66 BOOMS from below,
Grady cups a hand over his ear.
Sara? Hi. It's Grady.
Where are you, Grady? An elevator?
I'm in Kinship. Listen, Sara, there's
some things we need to talk about...
You're in Kinship?
Yes. But that's not why I called...
What? No. There's no one here. I'm
Just what? Doing a little dusting?
As GRADY endeavors to respond, TWO YOUTHFUL VOICES, CHEERFULLY
SINGING, rise from below.
Good Morning! Good Morning!
James! For Christ sake, will you
turn that thing down!
James? He's still with you?
James, in the midst of pouring himself a tumbler of Bushmills,
smiles as JUDY GARLAND and MICKEY ROONEY sing their hearts
out in Babes In Arms.
We talked the whole night through!
INT. UPSTAIRS BEDROOM
Grady shakes his head, carries the phone toward the bedroom
Look, Sara... I'm not here... I'm
not here to...
As Grady watches, a late-model PONTIAC BONNEVIlLE turns into
the driveway below him.
...reconcile with Emily.
Are you there to not reconcile with
The Bonneville's trunk pops open, revealing THREE BAGS OF
GROCERIES, and HANK and IRENE WINTERS, both in their 60's,
get out. An enormous NEWFOUNDLAND vaults from the backseat.
Sara, eating phone static this whole time, interprets Grady's
silence her own way.
No. Sara, you don't understand...
Trust me, I understand. I just want
to say something to you, Grady.
How you choose to live your own life
is your business. But you be careful
with that boy, Grady. With James. He
belongs to somebody else.
As the line goes dead, Grady watches Hank and Irene Winters
disappear below him.
James -- Irish whiskey in one hand, the pride of Humboldt
County in the other -- watches with deep absorption as Judy
and Mickey have a heartfelt conversation. Then, sensing
something... he turns.
Hank and Irene Winters, grocery bags in arm, stand frozen.
FOOTSTEPS are HEARD on the staircase and Grady hobbies into
view. He tries a smile.
INT. DEN - WINTERS HOUSE - (A BIT LATER)
Hank Winters emerges from the bathroom with a roll of tape,
a bottle of alcohol, and some cotton wool.
Well, it's infected, I can tell you
that. I'm just going to clean it up
a bit. It's up to you to find someone
who knows what they're doing. Here.
Put your foot up.
Grady puts his foot up on Hank's lazy-Boy, then notices a
BOOK lying face down on the seat. The AUTHOR on the back
cover looks as if he's trying very hard to look consequential.
To his surprise, Grady realizes the author is himself.
So he's one of your students, this
Grady glances into the living room, where James and Irene
sit on a long couch together, sipping something hot. James
is looking out the window, a curious expression on his face.
Grady looks out his own window, sees the Newfoundland sniffing
curiously at the Galaxie's trunk. When he glances back into
the living room, he and James make brief eye contact, then
blink, look away.
Yes. He's a good kid. Maybe a little
Well, I'm sure with the proper
guidance he'll be fine.
Grady tries to read Hank's face -- is he messing with him? --
but Hank gives nothing away. Grady nods to the book.
What made you pull out that old thing?
I was thinking of you.
It's no Arsonist's Daughter, but I
guess you know that. It's a young
man's book. It got me remembering
how it felt to be young.
Maybe I should read it.
Oh, I don't think there's any danger
of you aging prematurely, Grady.
Grady doesn't have to read Hank's face this time.
Where's Emily, Hank?
I don't know if she'd want me to
tell you that, Grady.
I'm not going to stalk her. Hank. I
just... want to know where I stand.
Hank looks up, incredulous.
Where you stand?
I -- just want to say I'm sorry.
She's in Philadelphia seeing Linda
Aahby. The neurologist.
Neurologist? Why? What's wrong?
Nothing's wrong. They went to
Oh. Right. Linda... I haven't been
doing a lot of sleeping lately. My
editor's in town and I have the book
to finish and --
Ah, right. The book.
Grady starts to continue, then stops, cowed by something in
Hank's tone, something dismissive. Instead, he looks away,
toward the living room, and catches sight of James again,
sitting alone now with his big cup of cocoa.
Listen, Hank, I'm sorry about all
this. I didn't come here to upset
you and Irene. I want you to know
Why did you come here, Grady?
Grady gestures vaguely.
I -- just wanted to see her, I guess --
Emily. And to see you too -- you and
Irene. And to let everyone know that,
even though it may be difficult to
comprehend now, this -- everything
that's happening -- it's not forever.
It doesn't mean "Goodbye."
Give me a break, Grady.
Hank snaps off the tape, slaps Grady's ankle.
INT. GALAXIE - MOVING - DUSK
Grady glowers darkly at the road, then puts his hand up
against the HEATING VENT which, apparently, is not putting
out any heat.
I'm having a really good time,
Grady glances over, sees James burrowing into the Ziploc.
I'm really happy for you, James. But
do me a favor, will you? Lay off my
dope. That stuff's not for amateurs.
James looks at Ziploc as GRADY fiddles with the heat LEVER.
I just wanted a little sip.
(squinting at him)
I just wanted a little sip? Tell me,
James, exactly what point was it
that you turned into Serpent Boy?
Probably about the time you gave me
the codeine pills last night.
Grady stops with the heater, glances over at James, whose
face bears not the slightest trace of irony.
Look, James, you appear to possess --
like many an aspiring writer before
you, by the way -- a rather ardent
affinity for the stuff of which dreams
are made. However, I think it's best
if, for the moment at least
(taking the Ziploc)
You're mad at me, aren't you?
You're mad because I shot your
It wasn't her dog. It's her husband's --
Who said anything about girlfriend?
James eyes shift slowly, as if to say: Who are you kidding?
Okay, James, I wish you hadn't shot
my girlfriend's dog. Even though Poe
and I weren't exactly what you'd
call simpatico, that's no reason for
him to take two in the chest. Still,
the fact remains that I'm the one
who took you up into the Chancellor's
bedroom. I'm the one who has to take
the blame. I don't know what the
hell I was thinking.
Sure you do. You were thinking:
'That's no cap gun in that kid's
overcoat.' You were thinking 'I can't
let that kid get on the bus alone --
he might never get on the bus again.'
You were thinking: 'I've got to find
a way to distract this kid.' So you
did. It was -- in its way -- a noble
Thanks for the halo, James, but I've
never done that much thinking ahead
in my life -- ever.
James looks out the window, pondering this.
So, why did you take me up there?
(feeling for the heat
I don't know, James. I don't know
why I do half the things I do. Who
Why do you wear that coat?
James looks down, a little defensive.
James, fall semester, first day of
class, it was 95 degrees and you
were wearing the coat.
James just blinks, no ready answer available.
That's why they all give you such a
hard time in workshop.
Because of my coat?
Because you act like a goddamn spook
all the time. Not to mention the
fact that every last one of them is
jealous of you.
Jealous? Of me?
Not you. Your talent.
James' face hardens. He looks away.
The hell I am.
Yes you are. My stuff stinks. I know
it. You said so yourself.
I never said that.
Yes you did. Last night. To your
friend Crabtree. "Is he any good?"
he said. And you said: "Not yet he
isn't." I heard you myself.
I didn't mean it that way.
It's okay, Professor Tripp. Carrie,
Howard, the others -- they're right.
My stories are annoying. They go on
and on and on, and the longer they
go on the more annoying they become,
until finally you just want to grab
something heavy and --
Shut up, James. You're annoying.
Carrie and Howard don't know what
the fuck they're talking about, okay?
The entire class combined -- including
the lovely Hannah Green -- has about
one tenth of one percent the talent
you have, okay?
James stares blankly at Grady, then turns his face to the
window. He ponders Grady's words, the praise inherent in
them. A hint of pleasure glints in his eyes.
But, last night...
Who cares what I said last night,
James I -- I was drunk, I was stoned.
I'd been bitten by a dog. My wife
had left me. How 'bout cutting me
And don't be so goddamn sensitive.
Who cares what anybody thinks anyway?
You want to be a good writer? You
want to be a great writer? Then stop
giving a damn what other people think.
Most of them haven't thought in years.
James turns, studies Grady's face as it flickers in the first
headlights of the evening.
Let me spell it out for you, James.
Books don't mean anything. Not to
anybody. Not anymore.
Arsonist's Daughter meant something.
Grady smiles contemptuously.
I mean it. It means something to me.
It's one of the reasons I came to
school here. To be in your class. To
be taught by you.
It's one of the reasons I wanted to
become a writer.
Grady stares ahead, watching the darkness tumble away before
the wide sweep of the Galaxie's headlights.
Well, for that, if nothing else,
James, I'm sorry.
EXT. COFFEE SHOP/MOTEL - OFF THE HIGHWAY - EVENING
Grady rolls into a space near the coffee shop and James slides
out. Grady stays put, hands still on the wheel.
In a minute. Get us a table.
James nods, pushes past the glass doors into the coffee shop,
and a big REDHEAD in a waitress cap leads him to a table
with a view of the highway. Grady watches James -- stick
figure in black brogues -- slide into the booth and open his
big, laminated menu.
Finally, as if concluding some internal debate, Grady kicks
open his door, steps out.
INT/ EXT. PHONE BOOTH - PARKING LOT - MOMENTS LATER
GRADY rests his forehead against the PAYPHONE as he speaks.
C-a-r-v-e-l. That's right, Carvel.
Yes, I'm sure. It's outside Scranton.
Grady straightens up, takes a peek at James, sitting by
himself on the far side of the coffee shop.
You have no listing. Okay, well,
lady -- at this very moment, as we
speak, I'm looking of a resident of
Carvel, Pennsylvania. I think he'd
be pretty interested to learn that
the good people of Bell Atlantic
have misplaced his entire hometown.
It's not like I'm making this up as
I go along --
Grady stops, his own words ringing in his head.
Never mind. My mistake.
EXT. GALAXIE - PARKING LOT
Grady upends James' knapsack, sifts through: An AUTOGRAPHED
POSTCARD of FRANCES FARMER. A wrinkled box of CHICLETS.
Nothing. Then he notices ERROL FLYNN'S eyebrows peeking at
him from the knapsack's side pouch.
He takes the book, opens it. Bingo. A library notice: James
Seiwyn Leer is three weeks overdue. Under ADDRESS it says
only: "On File." But if one was to dial the PHONE NUMBER,
odds are it won't be the night janitor at the Greyhound depot
who picks up.
INT. BOOTH - COFFEE SHOP - NIGHT (LATER)
The remains of a FRIED CLAM SANDWICH sit before James as he
turns his attention to a GIANT PIECE OF LEMON MERINGUE PIE.
Grady sips only coffee, stealing glances at the cars that
whip by on the highway beyond the window.
Want a bite?
That's why you're having them. Your
Spells? Jesus, James, you make it
sound like we're in a Tennessee
Williams play. I don't have spells.
What would you call them then?
I don't know... 'Episodes.'
James shrugs, spears a fluffy chunk of pie.
It's because you don't eat.
When nobody's looking.
Grady watches a pair of headlights approach...
(mouth full, garbled)
I just worry about you, that's all.
...then pass. James' words finally register. Grady looks at
You just worry about yourself, James.
Just then, a long, pale WAND of LIGHT splinters against the
coffee shop windows and a CAR sweeps into the parking lot.
Grady follows it with his eyes, rises.
Where you going?
Nowhere. You just sit here and...
Grady moves off, then stops, looking back at James and his
giant piece of pie, still troubled by his words.
EXT. COFFEE SHOP/MOTEL
As Grady limps out of the coffee shop, he finds an OLDER MAN
in a TUXEDO standing in the open door of a gleaming BLACK
MERCEDES. Beyond him, in the front passenger seat, a WOMAN
in MINK examines her eye shadow in the tiny mirror of the
(eyeing GRADY dubiously)
Fred Leer. This is my wife Amanda.
(re: their clothes)
Looks like I've dashed a wonderful
We were on our way to a benefit.
But, as luck would have it, the club
was on the way, so...
(snapping shut the
We were able to put in an appearance.
Otherwise we would've been here
Ah. Well, that's all right. James
and I had a little dinner.
Well, certainly we'll reimburse you.
That's not necessary. I just felt...
it might be good for James to be
with his family this weekend.
Well, of course, we can understand
Grady considers the two glittering ghosts before him.
They seem to be waiting. Just waiting.
Well. Let me go get him.
GRADY turns for the coffee shop, then stops, looks back.
I hope you won't consider this forward
of me, Amanda, but I wonder if I
might ask... did you ever attend
Amanda Leer's eyes narrow ever-so-slightly.
INT. BOOTH - COFFEE SHOP
James is glowering at the parking lot as Grady returns.
I'm not going with them.
James. Listen. Things -- things are
a little weird with me right now and
I -- well --I have enough blame to
shoulder these days without having
to take the blame if something bad
happened to you. And if you hang
around me long enough, something bad
is going to happen, trust me. That's
why I need you to go home. Understand?
I'm not going, with them.
James, like it or not, they're your
Parents? They're not my parents.
They're my grandparents. My parents
Grady stares at James wearily.
I swear. My father had his own
airplane he used to fly up to Quebec.
One Christmas, he and my mom were
flying up to our house in the
Laurentians when the plane went down.
It was in the newspaper.
Grady doesn't flinch, unpersuaded.
I swear. My father was a senior vice
president at Dravo. My mother was a
socialite. Her maiden name was
Grady starts to protest, then pauses.
I remember that. Five or six years
Six. Their plane went down right
I'm sorry about all that. I just --
I don't like to talk about my family.
They treat me like a freak.
(nodding towards Amanda)
She makes me sleep in the basement
of my own house. It's mine. My parents
left it to me.
Grady glances toward the parking lot, studies the contours
of Fred Leer's face. Frowns.
James, come on. That man is obviously
your father. You look just like him.
James looks down at the table, takes a deep breath, and speaks
in a voice heavy with implication.
There's a reason for that.
Grady's addled brain grapples with this dark little riddle,
finally deciphers what James is suggesting.
Get out of here.
That's why she hates me. That's why
she makes me sleep in the basement.
In the crawl space, with the rats
and the casks of Amontillado. Come
As GRADY lifts him from the booth, James attempts a plaintive
tone, but his heart's not in it.
EXT. COFFEE SHOP - MOMENTS LATER
As Fred Leer SLAMS the back door of the Mercedes, Grady waves
vaguely, peers into the darkness of the back seat.
Thank you. Professor Tripp.
Take care of him.
Oh, don't worry. We'll take care of
him. You can be sure of that.
Fred Leer hits the gas and swings the Mercedes around in a
tight little arc, feathering Grady's pants -- from the knee
down -- with a pudding of ICE and MUD. Grady glances down at
his spattered self, then notices, sitting on the front
passenger seat, James' knapsack. Grady grabs it, turns.
GRADY'S POV - REAR WINDOW
as the Mercedes begins to pull away and James turns, elbows
on the back dash, his pale face slack. Spying Grady, he raises
one limp hand, and then -- as if it were held by a string --
lets it drop.
EXT. PARKING LOT - MOTEL/COFFEE SHOP - A BIT LATER
Grady sits in the GREEN GLOW of the radio dial, smoking a
joint. He glances at the knapsack, sees James' MANUSCRIPT:
The Love Parade
He reaches in, takes the manuscript and, in the light that
rains from the PARKING LAMP overhead, begins to read.
EXT. GRADY'S HOUSE - NIGHT (LATER)
Grady's HOUSE looks like a three-dollar whore on a block
full of nuns. MUSIC BLARES, LIGHT BLAZES from every window,
and there are so many CARS Grady is forced to leave the
Galaxie in the middle of the street.
INT. GRADY'S HOUSE - MOMENTS LATER
Times Square before the ball drops. GRADY enters, scans the
room, then shoulders his way to the stairs.
INT. GRADY'S OFFICE
Hannah Green sits on the sofa, twisting a long strand of
hair around her finger as she reads a THICK MANUSCRIPT.
She slaps the page she is reading back onto the stack at her
thigh. Grady stares. The manuscript. It's his.
I know I shouldn't have, but there
it was, just sort of lying out, and
I couldn't resist and -- and -- I
No, it's okay. I just can't believe
I left it out in the open like that.
Crabtree hasn't been in here, has
he? Poking around?
I don't know -- maybe -- I don't
Grady's mind races with unfortunate possibilities, but only
briefly: his immediate thoughts are elsewhere.
Listen, Hannah. You don't remember
where that aunt worked, do you? James'
He shot the Chancellor's dog, didn't
he? The blind one.
Actually, He's not the Chancellor's --
At first the police thought he just
ran away, but this afternoon Dr.
Gaskell found some blood spots on
the carpet --
Crabtree said it sounded like
something James would be messed up
Crabtree? He doesn't even know James.
Just then, Crabtree's VOICE bellows in the hallway outside.
Trip?! Where are you?
GRADY looks anxiously toward the door.
The aunt, Hannah. Where did you take
James that day?
I told you, Sewickly Heights.
But where? I need the street.
I don't know, Grady. I just dropped
him on a corner.
As Grady starts to turn away, Hannah hooks her finger inside
his belt buckle.
No! Don't go. I've been waiting all
night for you.
Grady looks at Hannah's hand, where it rests. He looks
Listen, Hannah, I'm flattered, really,
but right now I --
Tripp, where the hell...
Crabtree stops, takes in the tableau before him.
Oh, I'm sorry. Am I interrupting a
Grady delicately removes Hannah's hand from his buckle, points
You stay there.
What? Ohhhh. Is that... it?
Crabtree cocks his head toward the reams of paper stacked on
Honestly, Tripp. Do you actually
think I would sneak in here and read
your book without asking you?
Gee, I don't know, Crabs. I don't
seem to remember you actually asking
me if you could invite 200 people
over to trash my living room.
Sometimes we have to improvise.
Think, Hannah. Does James have any
friends. I mean, besides you and...
James? My James? What's happened?
Nothing, he's just been sort of, I
don't know... kidnapped.
Kidnapped? By who?
Good God. Let's go rescue him.
Good idea, Crabs. Only one problem.
I don't know where they live.
Ah. Wait a minute. The university
must know where he lives.
It's a little late to call Admissions.
Is it a little late to call the
Maybe... I don't know.
Two-sixty-two Baxter Drive.
Grady and Crabtree turn, see Hannah sitting on the corner of
Grady's desk with the WHITE PAGES open on her lap.
They're in the book.
INT. GALAXIE - MOVING - TEN MINUTES LATER
CRABTREE snaps James' manuscript closed.
You know -- based on what I've read --
this is a very exciting piece of
material, this Big Parade.
Love. It's Love Parade -- and what
do you mean 'based on what you've
read'? You skimmed two chapters at
80 miles an hour while gargling
I've been doing this a long time,
Tripp. I feel this kid in my bones.
Only in your bones?
Grady smirks, glances at Crabtree, but gets a surprise;
Crabtree offers no snappy come-back, no antic wordplay. He
just stares out the window, his voice distant.
No. I think I might be right. I've
felt it before...
As Crabtree's voice trails off, Grady studies him.
How bad is it for you?
Bad enough. And God knows I don't
exactly fit the new corporate profile.
Grady and Crabtree look at each other a moment, then Crabtree
smiles, gives a little shrug, and picks up James' knapsack,
rummaging through the contents.
So tell me about you and the
What's to tell?
Plenty, I'm sure. But, for what it's
Crabtree fishes out the biography of Erroll Flynn, gives it
...I like her.
Grady peers at the stars, his voice barely audible.
EXT. RESIDENTIAL STREET - SEWICKLEY HEIGHTS
The battered Galaxie floats up a narrow road, gliding through
a canyon of mansion walls and the occasional winding drive.
Up ahead a stone post marker with the numerals "262." Grady
kills the headlights.
This is it.
EXT. LEER HOUSE - MOMENTS LATER
Grady -- limping like an aging prizefighter -- leads CRABTREE
up a steep incline toward an enormous three-story house.
The Leer's Mercedes gleams in the shadows.
Jesus. There must be two dozen windows
on that thing. How are we supposed
to find his?
I told you. They keep him chained in
the basement. Come on.
EXT. REAR - LEER HOUSE
LIGHT GLOWS from a low BASEMENT WINDOW. From one side, a
WOMAN is HEARD SINGING. Grady and Crabtree pause, listen.
Why should I care though he gave me
the air? Why should I cry, heave a
sigh, and wonder why? And wonder
Crabtree and Grady look at each other.
Grady moves to the window and RAPS on the glass. A moment
later, James peeks out. Seeing Grady, his face brightens
briefly, unguarded, then quickly resumes its usual Leerian
aspect. He motions with his hand, as if to say, "That way."
EXT. BASEMENT DOOR
The DOOR swings open to reveal James Leer, decked out in a
pair of RED, INK-STAINED PAJAMAS sagging badly in the seat.
He looks like one of Santa's elves.
Hey. What are you guys doing here?
We're springing you, Leer. Get some
As they step inside, GRADY gives James' PJs the once-over.
I can't believe you made fun of my
INT. JAMES' ROOM - BASEMENT
Electric CANDELABRAS light a large converted cellar whose
walls are crowded with MOVIE POSTERS and LOBBY CARDS. There
are STACKS of what look suspiciously like LIBRARY BOOKS and
an enormous BAROQUE BED, complete with CANOPY.
I like what you've done with it.
When's Captain Nemo moving in?
The candelabras were my Gran's.
Oh, Christ, don't start on ol' Gran
or we'll leave you here.
Hey, I heard all about it -- the
parents, the grandparents, the China
town thing -- and I believe you,
okay? That's why we're here. Now go
James scoops up the shirt GRADY lent him. this morning.
Can I -- I mean -- do you mind -- if
I wear this again. Professor Tripp?
Ah, wear whatever you want.
James flinches, stung, then disappears into a bathroom.
(nosing around the
Oh, come on, Tripp. Cut the kid some
It's just ail that crap he spins
out. Just once I'd like to know if
the little bastard is telling the
The truth. I know that's always been
real important to you. Okay, check
Crabtree leans over an old ROYAL TYPEWRITER, reads from the
freshly-typed PAGE curling from the carriage.
'Finally, the door opened. It was a
shock to see him, shuffling into the
room like an aging prizefighter.
(with an amused smile)
Sound like anyone we know?
'But it was later, when the great
man squinted into the bitter glow or
Bitter glow of twilight? This kid
definitely needs an editor.
...and muttered simply, "It means
nothing. All of it. Nothing," that
the true shock came. It was then
that the boy understood that his
hero's true injuries lay hidden in a
darker place. His heart...'
Crabtree stops abruptly.
Yes? 'His heart...'
Crabtree hesitates, then... reads on:
'His heart, once capable of inspiring
others so completely, could no longer
inspire so much as itself. It beat
now only out of habit. It beat now
only because it could.'
Grady nods, his face unreadable, then James returns.
James stops, sees the two men looking at him.
You all right, Professor Tripp?
He's great. Come on, let's blow before
lo' Gran decides to boil your bones
Oh, well, that's just it. She's been
coming down here, every half hour or
so, to, sort of, check on me. If I'm
not here, she might... call the police
Hhhuh. So we decoy her. Stick a couple
pillows and one of your teddy bears
under the spread and she won't know
Yeah. Like in Against All Flags.
Only they use a couple big hams.
Crabtree and James turn.
I've got something better than a
POE -- as he's lowered delicately onto James bed.
INT. JAMES' ROOM - BASEMENT (A FEW MINUTES LATER)
Grady strategically arranges the coverlet, gently adjusting
Poe's head so only a TUFT of FUR shows. He steps back, joining
Crabtree and James for an assessment.
Sweet dreams, Jimmy.
EXT. GRADY'S HOUSE - LATER
The lights are still blazing, the front door is wide open,
but not a soul remains.
INT. LIVING ROOM
A quiet disaster, the only sound an LP playing meekly on the
STEREO. James passes through first, ignoring the TORTILLA
CHIPS POPPING under his shoes, then Crabtree and Grady appear.
Things must've picked up after we
Crabtree pats Grady's cheek, heads upstairs.
Crabtree's door is closing as Grady hobbles into view.
(sticking his head
Grady looks down, sees James Leer's black brogues sitting on
the floor outside Crabtree's door.
The door closes, the LATCH CLICKS, and Grady is left alone,
the bossa nova floating softly in the air.
INT. HANNAH'S ROOM
Hannah Green lies tangled in the sheets, surrounded by little
colonies of Grady's manuscript. Grady studies her, then
detects something on the floor. The red boots.
Delicately, he lifts the sheet. Hannah Green's feet -- finally
revealed in all their naked glory -- prove to be thick, wide,
and ordinary. Grady sighs.
INT. GRADY'S OFFICE
The TV is on. Grady steps to the doorway, pauses.
A HEAD cranes over the sofa. It's the Goatee Kid from Thaw
How are you -- is it Joe?
Jeff. Sorry. I didn't even know this
was your house until about an hour
Don't sweat it. Well. 'Night, Jeff.
Oh, Professor Tripp? You know, last
semester, what I said that time in
office hours -- I hope there's no
I mean, I was breaking up with this
girl at the time and my car was ail
fucked up and -- well -- I was pretty
bent in general.
It's cool, Jeff. Really.
I just want you to know that's why I
dropped your class and said all that
shit about the university stealing
my money and you being a pseudo-
EXT. PORCH - GRADY'S HOUSE - NIGHT (A BIT LATER)
Grady sits quietly on the porch steps, a joint burning in
his fingers. To his left, perched atop a Haagen-Dazs
container, is a TELEPHONE. As he pulls it into his lap, a
LAMP in the living room pirouettes clumsily, spins free of
the cord, and SHATTERS on the floor.
Grady blinks, looks away, and DIALS, just as... the CLATTERING
COUGH of an ENGINE is HEARD and a VAN appears.
Stenciled on its side panel is:
Kravnik's Sporting Goods
The van slows, almost coasting, then abruptly bursts past
Grady's house and disappears around the corner. Grady frowns,
then realizes a MAN'S VOICE is coming from the RECEIVER in
MAN (O.S. )
The VOICE is groggy. It is Walter Gaskell's voice.
Grady says nothing, as if wondering what he's doing.
Who's this ?
It's Grady, Walter.
GRADY Tripp. English Department.
I know it's you, Grady, I just...
Christ, Grady, do you know what time
(looking at his watch)
I have... eight-fifteen. That's not
right, is it?
It's three-thirty, Grady.
This is important.
What is it, Grady?
I'm in love with your wife.
Sara. I'm in love with her.
Silence. Then Walter's VOICE returns: even, administrative.
Are you drinking. Professor Tripp?
GRADY sips on his roach, responds in a pinched voice.
Nevertheless, I'd like to see you in
my office Monday morning.
As the line goes dead, Grady stares at the phone, wondering
if he has, in fact, just done what he thinks he's just done.
EXT. GRADY'S NEIGHBORHOOD - SUNDAY MORNING (NEXT DAY)
A CAR rattles down the street, NEWSPAPERS pinwheeling from
INT. GRADY'S OFFICE - SAME TIME
A heavy THHNK hits the driveway outside and GRADY blinks.
Sitting in his pink robe, bleary-eyed, he reconsiders the
piece of paper curling from his typewriter.
GRADY'S POV - OF THE PAGE
It's obvious he's been sitting like this for some time.
Just then, the DISTINCTIVE PURR of an ENGINE is HEARD.
Grady peers through the window, watches a CAB glide to the
curb below. A Citroen DS23. Sara.
EXT. FRONT PORCH - GRADY'S HOUSE
Grady steps onto the porch, unintentionally punting a BOTTLE
of Iron City Beer onto the front lawn...
I tried to call, but apparently
there's something wrong...
Sara leans down, replaces the uncradled phone.
...with your phone. Unfortunately,
mine was ringing loud and clear this
Grady doesn't know what this means, but he's pretty sure
it's not good.
It seems one of our students is --
missing and his parents found a dead
dog in his bed.
(slumping to the porch)
I'm sorry, Sara. I've been trying to
tell you. It's all my --
Sara raises her hand, silencing him.
I'm not very happy with you right
now, Grady. But more importantly,
Walter's not very happy and he's
gotten the police involved. They
seem to think James Leer is somehow
responsible for all of this. You
wouldn't happen to know where James
is, would you, Grady?
And the jacket?
Over there. In the backseat of the...
Grady's hand hangs in mid-air, gesturing pointlessly to the
driveway, where the only thing that exists is an oil stain
roughly the shape of North Dakota.
Someone stole my car.
Honestly. Someone stole my car. I
parked it right there last night.
Are you sure you parked it there?
Of course, I'm sure. Ah, Christ, the
puberty police are back.
Sara turns, sees Officer Pupcik cruising to the curb.
I'll deal with this. You dig up James.
INT. CRABTREE'S ROOM - MOMENTS LATER
Crabtree sits in bed, flipping through the pages of The Love
Parade while stroking a tiny TUFT of HAIR that is the sole
visible part of James Leer.
Is he awake?
I'm afraid he's pretty worn out,
Nevertheless. There's a police officer
standing on the porch and I don't
think he's going away.
(from under the covers)
That same guy?
Crabtree peels back the blankets and James Leer opens one
So I hear.
No offense, Professor Tripp, but you
look sorta crappy.
He's right, you look horrible.
Thank you, Frankie and Annette.
James swings his pale little legs to the floor and walks
bare assed across the room to retrieve his BVDs.
It's the Chancellor.
Ah, right. Well, I gave you my
And we both thank you for that, but
we're... we're... fine.
I'm fine, right. Fit as a fucking
Grady squints at James as he pulls on his pants.
Shut up, James.
So what's the problem?
(a tad tense)
There is no problem. Did I say there
was a problem?
As James' head pops through Grady's fully-buttoned flannel,
he and Crabtree exchange a knowing glance, at once referring
to and excluding Grady.
How's it coming back there, Professor
Who do you think it is?
The Chancellor's here? Now?
Does she mean -- does she know
about... her dog?
It's Walter's dog and yes, she does
know. But let's spare her the details.
Come on, your shoes are in the hail.
James. This book of yours. It's not
bad. Not bad at all.
James stops, considers this piece of news with a look of
deep seriousness, then nods.
As James shuffles off into the hail, Crabtree looks at Grady,
his eyes dancing with excitement.
I want to publish this. I've got to.
I think they'll let me. With a little
editorial guidance it could be
Great. Between you and Officer Pupcik
out there he can be the next Jean
Genet. It's been awhile since somebody
wrote a good book in jail.
EXT. GRADY'S HOUSE - MOMENTS LATER
Sara and Grady stand by as Pete Pupcik deposits James in the
back of the squad car, SLAMS the door.
As I told the Chancellor, Professor,
I'm just going to run James here
over to the university. It'll be up
to Dr. Gaskell where we go from there.
Grady nods, leans in the window to James.
Don't worry, James, I'll figure
I'm not worried. You're not worried,
are you. Professor Tripp?
I'm a little worried, James.
Don't be. I don't care if they expel
me. I probably should be expelled.
Well, let's see if we can keep that
James nods and Grady starts to step back from the car.
Even if I end up going to jail....
James smiles his crooked grin.
You're still the best teacher I ever
On this, Pete Pupcik pulls away, leaving GRADY standing on
the curb, watching the back of James' head, framed in the
rear window of the police car, growing smaller.
This is not what the university has
in mind when it promises a liberal
Would Walter really press charges?
It's within the realm. He takes his
souvenirs pretty seriously. And he
was just a wee bit prickly this
Grady, detecting something in Sara's tone, turns, watches
her take a drag on her cigarette.
You didn't happen to call the house
last night, did you, Grady?
I think I might have.
And what do you think you might have
I think I might've said I was in
love with you.
Sara's face remains unchanged.
He told you.
He told me.
And what did you say?
I said it didn't sound like you.
Sara tosses her cigarette in the gutter, gets into her car,
and dives away. Grady looks after her sadly, then turns,
sees Crabtree standing on the porch wearing a shirt which
claims "Ativan Chases the Clouds Away."
So -- what do we do now?
Find the jacket.
Oh! Huh. Exactly how do we do that?
First I see if Hannah will let me
borrow her car.
It seems to me that girl would let
you borrow her pancreas.
INT. HANNAH'S ROOM - LATER
Hannah, wrapped loosely in cotton sheets, SMILES as she
listens to the Goatee Kid, who sits cross-legged at the foot
of-her bed, fully clothed.
I'm telling you, the tango is all
about latent homosexual love. Look
at the way they dance -- it's sodomy.
Hannah looks up, sees GRADY in the doorway and blushes.
She pulls the sheet up, gives an oddly formal wave.
Grady. Hi. What's up?
Jeff eases off the bed, past GRADY uneasily.
I'll be... somewhere else.
Hey, Jeff. If you're really interested
in discussing that business with the
tango, try the guy at the end of the
Jeff nods -- puzzled -- then goes. Grady smirks.
He cribbed that from Borges.
It beats 'What's your major?'
Grady nods, detecting a new aloofness in her voice.
Right. Anyway, I was wondering if I
could borrow your car. Mine's sort
of out of commission.
Sure. The keys are on the dresser
next to... to your book.
The hitch in Hannah's voice hangs in the room like a cloud.
I uh, I didn't finish, I... fell
That good, huh?
No, it's not that, it's...
Hannah glances at the huge stack of paper sitting on her
dresser, then, hesitantly, looks back to Grady.
It's just that, you know, I was
thinking about how, in class, you're
always telling us 'that writers make
choices -- at least the good ones.
And, don't get me wrong. I'm not
saying the book isn't really great --
I mean, really great -- but at times
it's, well, very detailed, you know,
with the genealogies of everyone's
horses and all the dental records
and so on -- and I don't know, maybe
I'm wrong, but it sort of reads, in
places, like, well, actually, like...
...you didn't make any choices at
all. And I was wondering if it might
not be different if, maybe, when you
wrote, you weren't always... under
Uh huh. Well, thanks for the thought,
but, as shocking as this may sound,
I'm not the first writer to sip a
little weed. And furthermore, it
might interest you to know that one
book I wrote, as you say, 'under the
influence,' happened to win a little
something called the PEN award which,
by the way, I accepted 'under the
Hannah nods, averts her eyes, and immediately Grady feels
ridiculous. He starts to say something, but instead gathers
his manuscript and exits.
INT. LIVING ROOM - MOMENTS LATER
Crabtree, dressed now, studies the freight in Grady's arms
as he reaches the bottom of the stairs.
Want some help with that?
Don't touch it.
INT. HANNAH'S RENAULT - MOVING
Crabtree sucks on a Kool, driving Hannah's rattling Renault
too fast, shifting gears apparently at random.
Grady rides shotgun, still wearing the robe over his clothes,
the Wonder Boys manuscript sitting like a watermelon on his
lap-looking, all in all, fairly pathetic.
Let me get this straight. Jerry Nathan
owes you money. So, as collateral,
he gives you his car.
Only now I'm starting to think the
car wasn't exactly Jerry's to give.
So whose car is it?
My guess -- Vernon Hardapple.
The hood jumper?
He said a few things that lead me to
believe the car's his.
'That's my car, motherfucker.'
Uh huh. So. We find Vernon, we find
the car. We find the car...
...we find the jacket.
There's only one problem, Tripp. We
don't know his real name. We just
made it up. In fact, we made the
whole guy up.
No wonder he screwed us over.
BILL MAZEROSKI legendary Pittsburgh Pirate second baseman,
large as a Macy's Day float, his weathered image scaling
three floors on the BRICK face of a RIVERFRONT STOREFRONT.
INT. HANNAH'S CAR
Crabtree takes a corner recklessly, immediately slows, and
blinks in amazement.
Christ, Tripp. How did you know?
Call it a hunch.
Parked in front of KRAVNIK'S SPORTING GOODS is the white
van. A few feet behind, the battered Galaxie.
I'd call it genius.
GRADY steps out, strips off the robe, and drops the lumpy
leviathan that is his manuscript on the front seat.
It's good to know I'm still talented
at something. Keep the motor running.
Grady peers into the backseat, squinting against the WIND
that swirls around him. Errol Flynn's face leers back at
him. But no jacket. Grady slides in, pops the glove box, and
frowns at the ZIPLOC of Humboldt County. He pockets it anyway,
then spies something else.
James Leer's little PEARL-HANDLED PISTOL.
Grady takes it, rotates it-in his palm. SUNLIGHT GLINTS off
the chrome barrel and everything slowly turns to a SWEET,
INT. HANNAH'S RENAULT
Crabtree stomps on his Kool. Grady looks very much like a
man who has pulled off the road to take a nap.
What the hell...
As Grady lolls behind the steering wheel, a CLOUD appears,
hovering, then slowly mutates, and Grady realizes it's not a
cloud at all, it's MARILYN MONROE standing by the side mirror,
wearing a bright pink dress under her wedding jacket.
I know you...
Marilyn's face swims before Grady's eyes, but there's
something wrong with it. This girl's eyes are brown and
besides, she's... fat.
Double Dickel on the rocks.
The last of the fairy dust evaporates and GRADY finds --
standing before him in a pink jersey dress and Marilyn
Monroe's wedding jacket -- 0ola, the pregnant waitress from
the Hi-Hat Club.
I never forget a drink.
I never forget an Oola.
Suddenly, there is a HEAVY CLICK.
MAN'S VOICE (O.S.)
Grady starts to turn, but his head won't move: largely
because the BARREL of a GERMAN NINE is pressed to his temple.
Grady's eyes slide.
Move away, cupcake. He's got a gun.
Who's got a gun?
You've got a gun, motherfucker. Drop
Why's he calling you Vernon?
Why's he sitting in my car? He's
crazy, that's why. He probably calls
Not true. You're the only Vernon I
know. Actually, I'm wrong. I once
knew a Vernon Peabody at Penguin
Cupcake. Please. Inside.
You' re not going to shoot him, are
I'm going to shoot him. If he doesn't
put that gun down.
It's just a souvenir. They don't
even make the caps anymore.
Bullshit. I know a gun when I see
one. And that's a gun.
Grady lifts his arm, points the little pearl-handled pistol
to the DARK CLOUDS overhead.
INT. HANNAH'S RENAULT
Crabtree jumps as the tiny pistol at the end of Grady's arm
FLASHES, makes a FEEBLE POP in the wind.
Vernon stands half-hunched, stunned.
Are you crazy!
The gunshot seems to have cleared Grady's head. He stares at
the gun, watches Vernon wrest it from his hand.
Get out! What's the matter with you?
Can't you see the condition my girl's
As Grady gets out of the car, Vernon places his hand on Oola's
You all right, cupcake?
A rude SQUEAL breaks the silence -- rubber scratching asphalt --
and Grady, Oola, and Vernon turn to see Hannah Green's
rattling Renault lurching awkwardly toward them.
Gears GRINDING, tires smoking, Crabtree fish-tails wildly,
then kicks open the passenger door.
Grady doesn't move an inch, watching in mute amazement as
Crabtree whistles by, proceeds halfway down the block, then
turns back for another pass.
Who the hell is that?
A Manhattan book editor murdering a
Mormon girl's clutch.
The car bucks crazily, picks up speed, and Crabtree -- swiping
aside a flutter of MANUSCRIPT PAGES that have taken flight
inside the car -- begins to veer right toward Grady, Vernon,
Vernon steps into the street, levels the German Nine.
Pull off, you crazy motherfucker!
Frantic, Grady steps between Vernon, the German Nine, and
the oncoming Crabtree.
No! Don't shoot! He's just a lousy
Crabtree fans the wheel wildly, goes into a slide and the
passenger door snaps wide, releasing what looks to be a FLOCK
OF WHITE DOVES into the wind-whipped sky.
Only, these ain't birds.
Oh... my... God!
These are PAGES. Seven years of pages.
Crabtree goes into another slide, one-hops the curb, and
smashes flat into the weathered GLOVE of BILL MAZEROSKI
painted on the front wail of KRAVNIK'S SPORTING GOODS.
As Hannah Green's RADIATOR EXPLODES, Crabtree steps free of
the car and looks skyward. It's a ticker-tape parade all the
way down the street, ending in the frigid waters of the Ohio
I take it back. Shoot him.
INT. GALAXIE - MOVING
Vernon drives, Oola at his side. In the back, Crabtree puffs
philosophically on a Kool while Grady sits grimly with the
sad remains of his manuscript: SEVEN RUMPLED PAGES, one of
which bears the watermark of a shoe print.
Naturally you have copies.
I have an alternate version of the
You'll be all right then. Look at
Carlyle, when he lost his luggage.
That was MacCaulay.
Or Hemingway, when Hadley lost all
He was never able to reproduce them.
Bad examples. Look, Tripp, I don't
want to depreciate the loss here,
but perhaps -- in a sense -- this --
(nodding to the pages)
is for the best.
Grady's eyes shift, study Crabtree.
Kind of a sign, you're saying.
In a sense.
I don't think so. In my experience,
signs are usually a lot more subtle.
Let me get this straight. All that
paper that went into the river. That
was the only copy?
(glowering at Crabtree)
And you're saying it's some kind of
sign? What the fuck's the matter
I'm just saying that sometimes,
subconsciously, a person will put
themselves in a situation -- perhaps
even create that situation -- in
order to have an arena in which to
work out an unresolved issue. It's a
covert way, if you will, of addressing
Vernon stares at Crabtree as if he's from another planet.
I'll tell you the problem. You behind
the wheel. There's your fucking
That's pretty simplistic, don't you
Hey, pal, you don't start doing crazy
eights in the middle of the street
none of this happens.
Excuse me. Did you, or did you not,
have a gun to his head?
He was trying to steal my car!
Ail right, all right It's done.
There's no need to talk about it.
They ride in silence for a moment, then Oola turns, glances
at Grady and his little sheaf of pages.
So what was it about?
(as GRADY looks up)
Your book. What was the story?
Grady stares into Oola's sweet, brown eyes.
I don't know...
Oola's brow wrinkles. Crabtree glances at his old friend,
genuine compassion in his eyes.
What he means is, it's difficult to
distill the essence of a book
sometimes. It lives in the mind.
Yeah, but you gotta know what it's
about, right? I mean, if you didn't
know what it was about, why were you
I couldn't stop.
EXT. CAMPUS ENTRANCE
Grady, James Leer's hollow knapsack in hand, stands with
Crabtree at the campus entrance as Vernon and Oola prepare
to leave in the Galaxie.
Hey, Vernon. Can I ask you a question?
Grady glances at little round Oola.
Boy or girl?
As long as it looks like her, I don't
care. You know what I'm saying?
Grady watches Vernon give Oola a kiss on the forehead.
Right. Well, thanks. For the lift.
No sweat. Only do me a favor?
Stop calling me Vernon.
Crabtree leans into Grady, WHISPERS.
The jacket, Tripp. We need the jacket.
Oh, right. Oola. About that jacket...
Grady looks at the waitress in her pink jersey dress, snuggled
up in the silk wedding jacket.
It used to belong to Marilyn Monroe.
She had small shoulders, like you.
Most people don't know that.
As Oola smiles, pleased, Vernon shakes his head.
Man, that book of yours must've been
one nutty motherfucking ride.
Vernon points an imaginary gun, fires a friendly cap into
Grady, and pulls away. Crabtree stands stunned.
You mind explaining what you just
Grady watches the shrinking Galaxie sail under a drooping
NORDFEST BANNER, lost in thought.
Came to my senses.
Ah. Well. Congratulations. Meanwhile,
what is James supposed to do? Pray
for Walter Gaskell to come to his?
Walter Gaskell isn't going to send
James Leer to jail, Crabs. I know
Do you know he won't expel him?
No. But I don't think that matters.
That's very enlightened, Professor.
It's comforting to know that America's
children have you for a teacher.
Grady blinks, ponders this briefly, then looks toward the
buildings of the campus, his VOICE still distant.
Nobody teaches a writer anything.
You tell them what you know. You
tell them to find their voice and
stick with it, because that's all
you have in the end. You tell the
ones who have it to keep at it and
you tell the ones who don't to keep
at it, too. Because that's the only
way to get where you're going.
Of course, it helps if you know where
you want to go.
Maybe that's the only thing -- that
and Sara -- that's made the last
seven years worthwhile.
GRADY slides James' knapsack off his shoulder, smiles
cryptically as he considers it.
As for James, he doesn't need me
Without warning, Grady tosses Crabtree the knapsack.
He's got you.
Crabtree stares at the saggy green canvas in his hands,
watches Grady walk away.
Me? What can I do?
Gee, I don't know, Crabs...
(over his shoulder)
Improvise. You're good at that.
Grady continues on, leaving Crabtree to stand alone, as he
walks toward the buildings in the distance.
I'm sorry, Tripp.
Grady stops, turns.
You peeked, didn't you?
Grady considers this. Nods. It doesn't seem to matter anymore
It really had the makings, Tripp.
There was a lot to admire. I've...
never read anything quite like it.
If there was a Kentucky Derby for editorial bullshit,
Crabtree's last three utterances would finish win, place,
and show. And Grady knows it.
You're not just trying to make me
Crabtree looks directly at Grady, his old friend.
Crabtree and Grady stare into each other's eyes. Both are
acutely aware of the subtext of this conversation.
Well, thanks for that, Crabs.
INT. HALLWAY - ENGLISH DEPARTMENT
Dead quiet. Gradually, STEPS are heard, coming from the
stairwell, then Grady limps into view.
INT. GRADY'S CLASSROOM - MOMENTS LATER
Grady surveys the room. Empty chairs. Empty desks.
He walks to a WINDOW, the same window he stood at two
afternoons ago when reading James Leer's story. A chill breeze
pitches the fabric of his shirt as he studies the barren
benches and icy walkways of the quad. Finally, he turns away,
settles behind his desk and, reaching into his pocket, removes
the seven remaining pages of his manuscript. He considers
them, then folds them in half length-wise. He continues,
folding the top right corner down into a triangle along the
A moment. Then -- from the third floor window -- a PAPER
AIRPLANE glides into view, soaring then dropping, soaring
then dropping, again and again, graceful as a dove.
INT. LOBBY - THAW HALL - LATER
Grady hobbles into the lobby just as one of the auditorium
doors swings open. APPLAUSE SWELLS and he spies Sara standing
inside, talking to a STUDENT USHER.
Sara turns... as the door glides shut. As Grady hustles
forward, Q, wine glass in hand, intercepts him.
Grady. I have to tell you. I took
another look at Arsonist's Daughter
the other night. There's a description
of a bald cypress that left me
(pushing past him)
Thanks, Q. I felt the same way about
the bank teller's breasts in your
INT. BACK ROW - AUDITORIUM - THAW HALL
Grady enters, but Sara is... gone. He picks his way behind
the back row, scanning the aisles.
Hey, Professor Tripp.
It's Carrie McWhirty, James' tormentor from workshop.
Grady takes another look around, then drops into the seat
next to her.
If you're looking for Hannah, she's
on the aisle.
But Grady looks anyway. Hannah sits a dozen rows down the
aisle, hair pulled back in a clip, glorious skin gloaming.
The Goatee Kid sits close beside her.
Who's that guy she's with? Didn't he
used to be in workshop?
Jeff. He comes from a long line of
INT. MAIN STAGE
Walter turns over the last page of his prepared notes.
And now, as those of you who've been
with us in previous years know, we
have a tradition of sorts here at
WordFest. I'm speaking, of course,
of The Plums.
An anticipatory BUZZ sweeps through the audience as Walter
begins to read from a separate list.
This weekend, Susan Lowery, of North
Braddock, found a publisher for her
children's book. The Loneliest Prawn,
Susan, stand up.
INT. BACK ROW - THAW HALL
As a CHUBBY WOMAN stands to acknowledge the applause, Grady
cranes his neck, searching the sea of seats. To his surprise,
he finds Crabtree sitting prominently in the front row, in
his shirtsleeves, smiling his spookily complacent smile.
James is next to him, now wearing CRABTREE'S METALLIC SPORTS
COAT over Grady's flannel shirt.
And Robert Wilkenson -- who many of
you know for his City Beat column in
the Post-Gazette -- has found a home
with Putnam for his new Three Rivers
thriller. Blood Patterns. Robert.
A SHORT, BALDING MAN stands briefly then Walter's VOICE takes
a shift in tone.
Now, this next one, I think, is
especially exciting to announce,
because it concerns a student here
at the university. Our own James
Leer, a sophomore in English
literature, has found a publisher
for his first novel, which I believe
is called The Lovely Parade.
Grady blinks, leans forward, and watches Walter smile warmly
toward the front row. Crabtree gives James a jab in the ribs
and slowly, awkwardly, James rises. Stunned, Carrie McWhirty
turns to the GIRL next to her.
I have a class with him.
James hangs like a scarecrow from a nail, waiting as the
APPLAUSE slows, then sputters, then dies out altogether.
The guy's kind of an alien probe, if
you know what I mean.
Grady, in a last attempt to save James from himself, cups
his his hands around his mouth.
Take a bow, James!
James turns, spots Grady in the back row, then -- a sheepish
grin on his face -- spreads his arms, hangs his head, and
takes his first sweet public bow.
And finally -- and perhaps not least
importantly -- Terry Crabtree, of
Bartizan, has also decided to publish
my own book -- a critical exploration
of the union of Marilyn Monroe and
Joe DiMaggio and its function in
American mythopoetics -- which,
tentatively, I've entitled The Last
Wild, obsequious APPLAUSE. GRADY smiles cynically, watches
Walter take a brief, dignified bow of his own.
Until next year. Thank you, everyone.
The LIGHTS come up. As the auditorium empties, Crabtree shakes
Walter's hand and Jeff and his goatee escort Hannah Green
down the aisle, where she drapes her lovely arms around James.
Grady watches them all, sitting alone in his row, when
suddenly Sara appears over James' shoulder. She says something
congratulatory, turns, and exits out a side door.
Grady blinks, scrambles up.
INT. CORRIDOR - THAW HALL - MOMENTS LATER
GRADY bursts into the corridor.
Its empty. Quiet. Grady pauses. Somewhere, a HEAVY METAL
DOOR CLOSES. Grady rushes on.
INT. NEW CORRIDOR
Grady, limping badly, turns a corner and sees a DOOR. He
moves to it, pushes past...
INT. STAIRWELL - CONTINUOUS
...and finds himself standing in a stairwell. He leans out
over the railing, peers down. It's a steep drop, very, steep,
ending in a small rectangular space, a kind of basement
office, with VENDING MACHINES, PLASTIC CHAIRS, and a
COLLAPSIBLE CARD TABLE.
Grady turns back to the door he came through, pushes against
it. Locked. He sighs, looks back at the stairs, his ailing
ankle, then sits. He fishes out the Ziploc of marijuana,
considers the perfectly rolled JOINT floating atop the bag
of buds, but, for once, isn't up to it. The SOUND of FOOTSTEPS
echoes far below and, hopeful they're Sara's, Grady pulls
himself up, peers over the railing.
It's Traxler, with a broom, a big plastic bag.
Hey, Professor Tripp.
Grady considers the Ziploc in his hand, looks down again.
Do you get high, Sam?
Only when I'm working.
Grady hangs over the railing and lets fly the Ziploc. It
pinwheels through the vortex of stairs, lands at Sam's feet.
Holy shit. Are you serious?
As a heart attack.
Thanks -- Whoa, Professor Tripp,
Grady is still hanging over the railing but looking dizzy
now. His eyelids flutter and he tips forward -- a Steinway
on a window ledge -- and as he starts to drop...
...there is a SHARP JERK on his -- COLLAR, a SHIRT BUTTON
caroms off his cheek, and slowly, he is hauled back.
Grady, what are you doing, you idiot?
Grady looks up into Sara's freckled face.
Looking for you.
He wants to say more, he opens his mouth, but then... ALL
GOES BLACK AS SARA'S VOICE CALLS...
faintly at first, then more forcefully, calling Grady's name,
calling so insistently that the earth seems to RUSH upward
until we see that she is...
KISSING him or something, and all goes softly... Blue.
INT. HOSPITAL ROOM - DAY
Grady lies in a powder blue paper gown surrounded by blue
plastic curtains in a blue room. Through a gap in the
curtains, he can see the bottle of GLUCOSE that drips slowly
into his arm, and beyond, a window. Flakes of SNOW fall
The DOOR SQUEALS, a SHADOW ripples across the blue, then the
curtains part and a RESIDENT with a clipboard appears.
His NAMETAG says GREENHUT.
I passed out.
I've been doing that a lot lately.
So I hear. You've also been smoking
a lot of marijuana, I understand.
Do you think that's why I've been
(grabbing James' term)
How long have you been having them?
The last month maybe.
How long have you been smoking
Spiro T. Agnew was vice president, I
That's probably not the problem,
then. What about your lifestyle. Any
major changes recently?
I've been trying to finish a book...
And your wife left you.
Is that in my chart?
I spoke with the woman who saved
your life. You're lucky she came
along when she did.
Grady considers the larger ramifications of this statement
(tapping the glucose
You need to see a doctor, Mr. Tripp.
An internist. And I think you really
ought to consider seeing a therapist,
She told you about...
Her dog, yes.
Actually, it was her husband's dog...
Greenhut glances up, looking GRADY in the eyes for the first
time, and GRADY stops.
Look, Mr. Tripp. You have a drug
problem, all right? On top of that,
you have a bite on your ankle that
is severely infected. We pumped you
with antibiotics so you'll be fine,
but another day or two and you might
have lost the foot. As for your
spells. I'm guessing they're a result
of the anxiety you've been
They're anxiety attacks? That's a
Better luck next time.
So is my friend... is Sara still
No. There's no one here.
I have to see her. As soon as
Greenhut studies Grady, calibrating the desperation in his
eyes, then takes a quick glance at his watch.
Look, Mr. Tripp. If you really want
to leave, I can't stop you. But I'm
going to write you a prescription
for a course of ampicillin and I
want you to follow it to the end no
matter how stupid you decide to be
with everything else. All right?
INT. HOSPITAL/BRIDGE WALKWAY - AFTERNOON
Grady sits in a WHEELCHAIR, watching the snow fail around
him as a NURSE escorts him through the tunnel of glass that
connects one building to another.
I wonder if you could show me
EXT. NURSERY - HOSPITAL - MOMENTS LATER
Grady stares through the glass. There are only TWO BABIES on
display, heads dented from natural delivery, skin purple and
crazy with veins.
Are these the only ones you have?
The nurse's eyes crinkle.
EXT. GASKELL HOUSE - LATE AFTERNOON
GRADY pays a TAXI CAB DRIVER, then turns, looks at the Gaskell
EXT. FRONT DOOR - MOMENT LATER
Grady KNOCKS. Nothing. Peers into the living room window.
Dark. He stands helplessly, then spies the greenhouse,
standing ghostly across the yard, feathers of snow drifting
onto its roof, melting.
EXT. GREENHOUSE - MOMENT LATER
Grady hobbles to the greenhouse, puts both hands to the glass
as he looks inside. Quiet. Empty. Dispirited, he pulls away,
but not before leaving...
...the IMPRINTS of his hands, perfectly etched in the frost
of the glass.
The snow continues to fall as Grady lumbers down the street.
Finally, wearily, he stops, sits his crippled self on the
curb. He plunges his fist into his jacket and.
...straight through the lining, James Leer's silly little
pistol at the end of his hand. He considers the pistol, then
looks up into the sky.
GRADY'S POV - of the SKY...
...dark and menacing. Suddenly, a THUNDERCLAP shatters the
NEW ANGLE - GRADY
...still sitting with the gun in his hand.
(as if addressing God)
Is that a suggestion?
Grady sits, blinking the snow out of his eyes, then TWO SHAFTS
of LIGHT dance across his shoes. A white Citroen DS23 appears.
It passes. Slows. Stops.
Grady stares at the car, burbling at the curb, then lifts
himself up and makes his way to the driver's window. Sara
makes a face, bugging her eyes a little mad at him, but not
without humor. Then she rolls down the window.
I'm so glad to see you, Sara.
I believe you. Did that nice doctor
let you out? Or is this you
improvising again, Grady?
I'm through improvising.
Terry told me about Wonder Boys. Is
it true? Did you lose it all?
I lost it all.
Oh, Grady. You're such a putz.
And you're old.
Sara strokes his scalp, takes a gray hair between her fingers.
Ouch. How many?
Dozens. It's very sad.
Sara smiles at Grady, but the mischief leaves her eyes when
she looks into his, and she glances away.
I went and looked at some babies
(trying to make her
I guess you have to go on faith.
Grady studies her as she traces her finger around the HOSPITAL
BRACELET still encircling his wrist.
Did you tell Walter?
I told Walter.
Does he still love you?
It didn't come up.
Grady studies Sara's freckled cheeks, her anxious profile,
then turns her chin gently toward him.
Well I do. I've always loved you,
Sara. I didn't know it at the time,
but I'd always been waiting for you.
My whole life. Because you're who I
need. Because nothing makes sense
without you. Because the best moment
of every day is the moment I first
see your face. And because when you
leave a room, there's no reason to
be in it any more. It's just a room
Sara cocks her head.
Did you just make that up?
(shaking his head)
In the hospital. I was kind of excited
about it at the time, but then I was
on pretty heavy painkillers.
She frowns good-naturedly.
Even so... it's still true. Every
Sara just nods, looks away, her face unreadable.
Sara, I promise, even though
commonsense might tell you...
Sara turns, puts a finger on GRADY's lips...
Don't write a page when a paragraph
Grady nods, takes her hand. Looks at it as he speaks.
You don't deserve me, you know.
I know, but sometimes...
Sara turns, looks at Grady. Her eyes are glistening.
You just go on faith.
Grady looks into her eyes, then rises, and we do too, drifting
above the streetlights as Grady limps to the other side of
the car and gets in. As Grady snaps shut his door, the car
drifts off, gradually losing itself in the soft veil of
falling snow. After a moment, Grady and Sara are lost too,
nothing more than a blur.
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