"In writing fiction, the more fantastic the tale, the plainer the prose should be. Don't ask your readers to admire your words when you want them to believe your story." - Ben Bova [ more quotes ]

"WONDER BOYS"

Screenplay by

Steve Kloves

Based on the novel by

Michael Chabon

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.

GRADY
'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.

GRADY
...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.

GRADY
(a wave of the pages)
So... Anyone?

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.

CARRIE MCWHIRTY
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
he wears.

CARRIE MCWHIRTY
I mean, Jesus. What is it with you
Catholics?

GRADY
All right. Let's try to keep it
constructive, shall we? Howard, what
about you?

HOWARD
I hated it.

GRADY
That's not exactly what I meant by
constructive, Howard.

HOWARD
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
kill myself.

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.

GRADY
Yes, Hannah?

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.

GRADY
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
5:30.

Hannah Green gathers her things, pauses by Grady.

GRADY
Thanks for that. He all right?

HANNAH GREEN
I think so... What about you?

GRADY
Me? Sure. Why?

HANNAH GREEN
Just checking.

Grady watches her glide away in her CRACKED RED COWBOY BOOTS,
then starts to exit himself.

JAMES LEER
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
SLICK PROGRAMS.

SARA
(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
going.
(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...

SARA
Professor Tripp.

GRADY
Chancellor.

SARA
I got the message you called.

GRADY
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.

CRABTREE
Tripp!

GRADY
How are you, Crabtree?

CRABTREE
Brimming. Say hello to my new friend,
Miss Antonia... uh...

WOMAN
Sloviak.

CRABTREE
I took the liberty of inviting Antonia
to tonight's festivities. You don't
mind, do you, Trip?

GRADY
(a slight beat)
The more the merrier.

MISS SLOVIAK
Terry was telling me about you on
the plane. It was all so interesting.

CRABTREE
I was explaining to Antonia how a
book comes to be published. What you
do as a writer, what I do as an
editor...

GRADY
I sweat blood for five years and he
checks for spelling.

MISS SLOVIAK
(indicating Crabtree)
That's exactly what he said.

CRABTREE
We know each other pretty well.
(to Grady)
So where's Emily?

GRADY
Emily?

CRABTREE
Your wife.

GRADY
Oh. We're picking her up. Downtown.

CRABTREE
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.

CRABTREE
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
Pittsburgh.

GRADY
Lay off Pittsburgh. It's one of the
great cities.

CRABTREE
If it can produce a Miss Sloviak
you'll get no argument from me.

GRADY
She's a transvestite.

CRABTREE
You're stoned.

GRADY
She's still a transvestite.

CRABTREE
Mm.

GRADY
Isn't she?

Crabtree ignores Grady's question, smiling placidly as he
watches the carousel spin.

CRABTREE
So how's the book?

Grady stiffens. He had been expecting this, but not so soon.
He tries to act casual.

GRADY
It's fine. It's done. Basically. I'm
just sort of... tinkering with it.

CRABTREE
Great. I was hoping I could get a
look at it sometime this weekend.
Think that might be possible?

GRADY
I don't know. I'm sort of at a
critical... juncture.

CRABTREE
I thought you were tinkering.

GRADY
I just mean...

CRABTREE
Forget I asked. I don't want to
pressure you, Tripp. But...
(pointedly)
...I get pressure. Know what I mean?

Grady ponders this, troubled by it. Suddenly, Crabtree's
face brightens again.

CRABTREE
Ah... well now. What do you suppose
that would be?

Grady turns, watches an immense PONY HIDE CASE drop onto the
carousel.

GRADY
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.

GRADY
That perfume you're wearing, Antonia.
It wouldn't happen to be Cristaile,
would it?

MISS SLOVIAK
Why yes. How did you know?

GRADY
Lucky guess.

CRABTREE
You didn't actually purchase this
car, did you. Trip??

GRADY
It was Jerry Nathan's. He owed me
money.

CRABTREE
He owes God money. You know, he
queered himself for good with Esquire.

Grady takes a joint from the ashtray, snaps a Scripto butane.

GRADY
He said something about being between
things.

CRABTREE
Yeah, between a bookie and a pair of
broken legs.

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.

GRADY
Hi, Tanya.
(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.

TANYA
Grady... Emily's not here.

Grady just smiles, nods.

TANYA
Is there anything I can do for you?

Grady watches a tiny stream of water trickle through Tanya's
sad umbrella.

GRADY
You're leaking, Tanya.

Tanya nods -- at a loss -- then turns away into the rain.

CRABTREE
Trip??

GRADY
She left me. Crabs.

CRABTREE
Left you...? Who? Emily?

GRADY
This morning. I found a note in the
kitchen.

CRABTREE
But. ...why didn't you say something,
Tripp? I mean, what are we doing
here?

Grady gazes at the glittering scene beyond his windshield,
turns on the ignition.

GRADY
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.

MISS SLOVIAK
That's a nice greenhouse.

GRADY
It's Mrs. Gaskell's. Her hobby.

CRABTREE
I thought you were Mrs. Gaskell's
hobby, Tripp.

GRADY
Piss off, Crabs. I lost a wife today.

CRABTREE
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.

SARA
Well, hello, everyone. Terry, good
to see you again.

CRABTREE
Chancellor. Don't you look ravishing.

SARA
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.

GRADY
Easy there.

SARA
I'm sorry. It's these goddamned shoes.
I don't know how anyone actually
walks in these things.

MISS SLOVIAK
Practice.

Sara looks at Miss Sloviak, a faint glitter of scientific
curiosity in her eye.

SARA
I don't believe we've met...

MISS SLOVIAK
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.

SARA
Poe!

CRABTREE
(mildly)
This wouldn't be Walter's dog, would
it?

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.

MISS SLOVIAK
Who's he barking at now?

GRADY
He's still barking at me. He's blind.

SARA
Poe' Hush! Now stop this. Honestly.

As Poe simmers to a deep growl, Grady leans forward.

GRADY
I need to talk to you.

SARA
That's funny. I need to talk to you,
too.
(strategy in her tone)
Perhaps you could put some of these
coats in the upstairs guest room,
Professor Tripp.

GRADY
(reading her)
I don't believe I know where the
upstairs guest room is.

SARA
Well then. I'd better show you. Terry --

CRABTREE
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.

GRADY
New?

SARA
(nodding)
Walter just got it back from the
framer today.

Sara takes Grady's hand, drawing him away from the pennant
and down onto the coat-covered bed.

SARA
You go first.

GRADY
All right. This morning --

SARA
I'm pregnant.

A flash of LAUGHTER flutters from the living room below.

Grady starts to speak.

SARA
I'm sure.

GRADY
Well. This is... surprising. Does
Walter...?

SARA
I think Walter would find this a
little more than surprising.

Grady nods, getting her drift, then roils onto his back.

GRADY
Emily left me this morning.

SARA
She's left before...

GRADY
She's left the room before. She always
came back.

Sara nods. Considers this.

SARA
So. I guess we just divorce our
spouses, marry each other, and have
this baby, right? Simple.

GRADY
Simple.

Grady and Sara stare at the ceiling. Sara sniffs the coat
lying beneath her. Miss Sloviak's coat.

SARA
Is that Cristaile?

GRADY
Hm.

SARA
(weary)
My God, I wear the same scent as a
transvestite. She IS a transvestite,
isn't: she?

GRADY
If she's not now, Terry will make
sure she is by the end of the evening.

SARA
Has he asked to see the book yet?

GRADY
Yes.

SARA
And? Are you going to tell him?

GRADY
No. Maybe. I don't know. I don't
know what I'm going to do.

SARA
(distantly)
Neither do I.

Grady starts to pull up, but his arm is underneath Sara.

GRADY
Sara, my arm. I'm stuck, honey.

SARA
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.

CRABTREE
Walter! I see you've met my friend.

WALTER GASKELL
Yes. She's charming.

MISS SLOVIAK
(taking her drink)
Walter's been telling me the most
fascinating things about Marilyn
Monroe and... who was it?

WALTER GASKELL
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.

MISS SLOVIAK
Oh, I couldn't agree more.

NEW ANGLE

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.

Q
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.

GRADY
Ask him if he's conflicted about his
house in the Hamptons.

HANNAH GREEN
(brightening)
Grady.

Q eyes Grady over his wine glass.

Q
Hello... Professor.

GRADY
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
goddamn cow.
(as GRADY passes)
Grady!

GRADY
Hello, Nathan.

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
Daughter.

The short man blinks, impulsively takes Grady's hand.

SHORT MAN
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.

GRADY
(pulling away)
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
cleaner.

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
him.

MAN'S VOICE
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.

WALTER
I could swear I had a '63 Chateau
Latour in here. You haven't seen it,
have you?

SARA
I doubt I'd recognize a '63 Chateau
Latour if I was sitting on it.

WALTER
You'd recognize it if you tasted it.

SARA
I doubt it, darling.

WALTER
(angling & bottle to
the light)
Well, Q certainly will. And, given
that he will be addressing 500 people
in little over an hour...

SARA
You want to keep him happy.

WALTER
If he's happy...
(kissing her as he
exits)
I'm happy.

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.

GRADY
James?

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 LEER
It's fake.

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.

JAMES LEER
It was my mother's. She won it in a
penny arcade in Baltimore when she
was in Catholic school.

GRADY
It's very convincing.

JAMES LEER
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.

JAMES LEER
It's just... for good luck. Some
people carry rabbits' feet...

GRADY
...You carry firearms.

As Grady exhales a plume of smoke, James' eyes pass briefly
over the jay. Grady notices, offers.

JAMES LEER
No, thank you. I don't like to lose
control of my emotions.

Grady nods, accustomed to James' weirdness.

JAMES LEER
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.

JAMES LEER
...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.

GRADY
Are you and Hannah seeing each other,
James?

JAMES LEER
No! What gave you that idea?

GRADY
Relax, James. I'm not her father. I
just rent her a room.

JAMES LEER
She likes old movies like I do, that's
all.
(glancing back at the
window)
Besides, she doesn't really know me.
She thinks she does, but she doesn't.
Maybe it's because she's Mormon and
I'm Catholic.

GRADY
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.

JAMES LEER
You're not like my other teachers,
Professor Tripp.

GRADY
You're not like my other students,
James. So what was the movie you two
saw?

JAMES LEER
Huh? Oh. Son of Fury. With Tyrone
Power and Frances Farmer.

GRADY
She went crazy, Frances Farmer.

JAMES LEER
So did Gene Tierney. She's in it
too.

GRADY
Sounds like a good one.

JAMES LEER
(a crooked smile)
It's not bad.

Grady considers James' fragile face.

GRADY
Listen, James, about this afternoon.
In workshop. I'm sorry. I think I
let things get a bit out of control.

JAMES LEER
They really hated it. I think they
hated it more than any of the other
ones.

GRADY
Well...

JAMES LEER
It doesn't matter. It only took me
an hour to write.

GRADY
(truly impressed)
Really? That's remarkable.

JAMES LEER
I have trouble sleeping. While I'm
lying in bed I figure them out. The
stories.

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.

GRADY
You cold, James?

JAMES LEER
(distant)
A little.

GRADY
So what are you doing out here?

JAMES LEER
It's colder in there.

GRADY
(laughing)
You're right.

James blinks, startled by Grady's laughter, startled that
he's said something funny. He looks back to the greenhouse

JAMES LEER
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
like heaven...

GRADY
Heaven?

JAMES LEER
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
remember it...

Abruptly, James glances at his watch.

JAMES LEER
I should be going.

James turns away, then stops. He stands like this a moment,
then turns back. Holds out his right hand.

JAMES LEER
Goodbye, Professor Tripp.

Grady hesitates, then shakes James' hand. James moves off
then, leaving the light of the house behind.

GRADY
James.
(as he stops)
Don't leave just yet. There's
something I think you ought to see.

JAMES LEER
I'll miss my bus.

GRADY
This is worth it.

James looks conflicted.

GRADY
Trust me.

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.

HANNAH GREEN
Hey, you two.

Grady stops, sees Hannah slipping on a coat in the foyer.

HANNAH GREEN
Are you riding with me, James?

JAMES LEER
No, I'm going ho --

GRADY
He's going with me. You take Crabtree.
And his friend. All right?

HANNAH GREEN
Ail right. By the way, his friend...?

GRADY
The answer's yes. I think. Yes. I
don't know. Where are they exactly?

CRABTREE
Here we are!

Crabtree appears at the top of the landing with Miss Sloviak.
Her lipstick is blurry.

CRABTREE
(spying James)
Nell, hello there.

Crabtree steps down the stairs, hand extended. James Leer's
pale fingers rise as if on a string.

GRADY
James. This is my editor, Terry
Crabtree.

HANNAH GREEN
James'll know about George Sanders.

JAMES LEER
George Sanders?

HANNAH GREEN
Mr. Crabtree was saying how George
Sanders killed himself, only he
couldn't remember how.

JAMES LEER
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.

CRABTREE
How comprehensive of you.

HANNAH GREEN
Oh, James is amazing. He knows all
the movie suicides. Go ahead, James.
Tell them who else.

JAMES LEER
There's so many...

HANNAH GREEN
Just a few then. The big ones.

James glances at the loose group of people around him,
watching, then...

JAMES LEER
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?

HANNAH GREEN
I haven't heard of half of those.

CRABTREE
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,
looks away.

JAMES LEER
That's just how my brain works, I
guess.

CRABTREE
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.

JAMES LEER
Actually... I just want to go home.

CRABTREE
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:

BLACK

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.

JAMES LEER
Is that really it?

GRADY
That's really it.

JAMES LEER
The one she wore on her wedding day?

GRADY
So I'm told.

James, in the presence of the holy grail of suicide garments,
stands speechless.

GRADY
Go ahead.

JAMES LEER
Really?

GRADY
Really.

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.

JAMES LEER
They're glass. The buttons.

GRADY
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.

JAMES LEER
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.

JAMES LEER
It's feels unreal, like butterfly
wings or... something. It must've
cost Dr. Gaskell a lot.

GRADY
I guess. Walter never tells Sara the
truth about how much he pays for
these things.

JAMES LEER
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.

GRADY
(carefully)
Pretty good. I'm friends with Dr.
Gaskell, too.

JAMES LEER
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.

GRADY
Right.

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.

GRADY
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.

JAMES LEER
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.

GRADY
Maybe. I'm feeling a little sad myself
tonight.

JAMES LEER
You mean, with your wife leaving you
and all?
(off Grady's look)
Hannah mentioned something about it.
About a note.

GRADY
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.

INT. HALLWAY

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.

GRADY
Okay. Easy now. Eee-zy...

Grady starts to take a step, when... Poe shoots forward and
sinks himself deep into Grady's ankle.

GRADY
Jesus!

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.

GRADY
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...

CRACK! CRACK!

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.

GRADY
Shit, James. You shot Dr. Gaskell's
dog.

JAMES LEER
I had to. Didn't I?

GRADY
Couldn't you've just pulled him off
me?

JAMES LEER
No! He was crazy. I didn't -- he
looked -- I thought --

GRADY
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.

JAMES LEER
Do you have a mirror? It's the best
way to see if someone's breathing.

GRADY
He's dead, James. Believe me, I know
a dead dog when I see one.

James looks miserably at Poe.

JAMES LEER
What are we going to do?

Grady rises awkwardly, holds out his hand.

GRADY
First you're going to give me that
little cap gun of yours.

INT. GALAXIE - MOVING

Grady and James stare gloomily out the windshield.

JAMES LEER
Professor Tripp? Can I ask you a
question?

GRADY
Yea, James.

JAMES LEER
What are we going to do with...

James glances in the backseat, where Poe lies, strange blue
eyes gleaming.

GRADY
I don't know. I'm still trying to
figure out how to tell the Chancellor
I murdered her husband's dog.

JAMES LEER
You?

GRADY
Trust me, James, when the family
pet's been assassinated, the owner
doesn't want to hear one of her
students was the triggerman.

JAMES LEER
Does she want to hear it was one of
her professors?

GRADY
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.

GRADY
Okay.

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.

JAMES LEER
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.

JAMES LEER
Yuck.

Grady grabs Crabtree's garment bag, frisks the pockets.

JAMES LEER
That's a big trunk. It fits a tuba,
a suitcase, a dead dog, and a garment
bag almost perfectly.

GRADY
(searching)
That's just what they used to say in
the ads. Come on, Crabtree, I know
you're holding...

JAMES LEER
Whose tuba is that anyway?

GRADY
Miss Sloviak's.

JAMES LEER
Can I ask you something about her?

GRADY
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
boxers.

JAMES LEER
Oh. So. Is -- is your friend Crabtree --
is he -- gay?

GRADY
Most of the time he is, James. Some
of the time he isn't. Now what do we
have here?

Grady rattles a prescription bottle, then shakes out a pair
of WHITE PILLS, each etched with a tiny numeral 3.

GRADY
Looks like... our old friend Mr.
Codeine. That should take the pinch
out of my ankle.
(handing the bottle
to James)
Have one.

JAMES LEER
No thanks. I'm fine without them.

GRADY
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.

GRADY
I'm sorry, James. I'm sorry I said
that.

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.

GRADY
How 'bout we try that again.

INT. AUDITORIUM - LATER

On the stage. Walter Gaskell stands alone at a podium.

WALTER
...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.

Q
Good evening.

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.

Q
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.

Q
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
audience)
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.

Q
...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.

GRADY
I'll be right back.

INT. LOBBY

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.

INT. CORRIDOR

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....

SARA'S VOICE
Grady? Grady?

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.

SARA
You had another one, didn't you? You
have to see a doctor, Grady. First
thing Monday morning. All right?

GRADY
Is the thing -- is it over?

SARA
Almost. Want to sit up?
(as he winces)
What's the matter?

GRADY
Nothing. I think I twisted my --

Grady looks at his ankle and feels a rush of guilt.

GRADY
I have to tell you something.
Something... hard.

Sara's face stiffens, becomes more Chancelloresque.

SARA
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.

GRADY
Well...

SARA
Don't. I know what you're going to
say.

GRADY
No, really, Sara, I don't think you --

SARA
You love Emily. I know that. And you
need to stay with her.

GRADY
I don't think I really have a choice
in, that. Emily left me.

SARA
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.

GRADY
Not have it.

SARA
No. There's no way. I mean, don't
you think there's no way?

GRADY
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.

SARA
(jerking away)
No you don't. And fuck you for saying
you do. And fuck you for "saying...
(quietly)
...for saying there's just no way.
Because there could be a way, Grady.

Somewhere deep in the building, APPLAUSE swells.

SARA
(composing herself)
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
floor.

SARA
Who's gun is that?

GRADY
It's -- it's a souvenir. Of Baltimore.

Before Grady can close his hand, Sara has it in her own.

SARA
Heavy. Smells like gunpowder.

GRADY
Caps.

She points it at Grady's chest. He smiles nervously.

SARA
Pow.

GRADY
You got me.

SARA
I love you, Grady.

Grady places his fingers gently over Sara's... and removes
the gun from her hand.

GRADY
I love you, too.

INT. LOBBY

The auditorium doors swing open and James Leer emerges, arms
draped over Crabtree and a LARGE STUDENT.

JAMES LEER
Woah! The doors made so much noise!

As they make for the restrooms, Sara and Grady appear.

JAMES LEER
This is so embarrassing! You guys
had to carry me out.

GRADY
Is he all right?

CRABTREE
(rolling his eyes)
He's fine. He's narrating.

JAMES LEER
We're going to the men's room. Only
we might not make it in time.

SARA
Terry Crabtree and James Leer. Leave
it to you to make that mistake, wait
here.

As Sara heads off after James, Grady turns toward the lobby...
directly into the hostile gaze of Miss Sloviak.

MISS SLOVIAK
I need a ride.

GRADY
I'm your man.

EXT. STREET

As the Galaxie's big trunk yawns open. Miss Sloviak stares
at what's wedged up against her suitcase.

GRADY
There's an explanation.

Miss Sloviak raises an eyebrow and then, leaning in, unzips
her suitcase.

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.

MISS SLOVIAK
Couldn't he have just thrown a shoe
at the poor thing?

GRADY
James is... I don't know...

MISS SLOVIAK
Disturbed. And when your friend
Crabtree gets done with him, he's
going to be even more disturbed.

GRADY
I'm not sure that's possible.

MISS SLOVIAK
Sure it is.

Grady watches Miss Sloviak peel the wig from her forehead.

GRADY
Listen, Antonia --

MISS SLOVIAK
Tony. Now that I'm home.

GRADY
Tony. I'm sorry if things didn't
work out so well for you tonight.
With Terry.

MISS SLOVIAK
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.

GRADY
He's writing his name in water.

MISS SLOVIAK
What's that?

GRADY
Like most editors, he really wants
to be a writer, but he's too busy
living a novel to bother writing
one.

MISS SLOVIAK
That sounds like a fancy excuse for
being a shit.

GRADY
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.

MISS SLOVIAK
You mean because his career's ruined
and all?

GRADY
Jesus. Is that what he told you?

MISS SLOVIAK
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.

MISS SLOVIAK
...loser. But I'm sure your book is
so good that he'll be able to keep
his job.

Hearing this, Grady looks troubled. Miss Sloviak points.

MISS SLOVIAK
Turn here.

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.

GRADY
That's nice. All we have is a Japanese
beetle trap.

MISS SLOVIAK
It's a bathtub. What she's standing
under.

The PORCH LIGHT conies on and a SMALL, WHITE-HAIRED MAN
squints through the screen door.

MISS SLOVIAK
There's Pop.
(turning)
Let me see it. The gun.

Grady reaches into his pocket, hands it over. Tony smirks.

MISS SLOVIAK
Figures. It's like the kind of gun
Bette Davis would carry. In a little
beaded purse?

Grady studies the gun in Tony's hand, then glances at the
front screen door. Pop is still there.

GRADY
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.

MISS SLOVIAK
You know, Grady, if I were you. I'd
think about going home. You look
like you need a little rescuing
yourself.

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
perfunctory pat-down.

BOUNCER
(kidding him)
Clean tonight, huh, Professor?

GRADY
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.

GRADY
Double Dickel on the rocks.

INT. BOOTH

As Grady arrives, Crabtree withdraws his hand delicately and
James' eyes flutter open, briefly, then close.

GRADY
Is that just beer?

CRABTREE
Primarily. Although I gather you two
staged a little raid on the Crabtree
pharmacopoeia. You missed a few
bottles, by the way.

GRADY
I'm sure. Where is everyone?

CRABTREE
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.

GRADY
Jesus. He's out.

Crabtree glances over, nods.

CRABTREE
He has a book.

GRADY
I know. He started it Fall semester.

CRABTREE
He finished it Winter Break.

Grady looks up, unable to disguise his surprise. He glances
at James' slack face tilted against the wall.

CRABTREE
So. Is he any good?

GRADY
No. Not yet he isn't.

CRABTREE
Well, I'm going to read it anyway.

GRADY
Come on. Crabs. Don't do this. He's
one of my students, for Christ sake.
I'm not even sure if he's --

CRABTREE
He is. Take my word for it.

GRADY
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
now.

CRABTREE
On the contrary, it could be just
the ticket.

WAITRESS
(ducking in)
Double Dickel.

GRADY
Thanks.

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.

CRABTREE
No sexual confusion there, eh,
Professor?

GRADY
Shut up and drink.

Crabtree grins, brings his bottle up, then stops.

CRABTREE
Oh my goodness. Do you see what I
see?

Grady follows Crabtree's glance and finds Oola again, but
it's not Oola Crabtree is eyeing, it's her CUSTOMER.

GRADY
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.

GRADY
(initiating an old
game)
He's a boxer. A flyweight.

CRABTREE
Huh uh. A jockey. His name's, um,
Curtis... Curtis Hardapple.

GRADY
Not Curtis.

CRABTREE
Vernon, then. Vernon Hardapple. The
scar's are from a -- from a horse.
He fell during a race and got
trampled.

GRADY
And now he's addicted to painkillers.

CRABTREE
He can't piss standing up anymore.

GRADY
He lives with his mother.

CRABTREE
And he had a younger brother who...
was... a...

GRADY
Groom. Named Claudell. And his mother
blames Vernon for his death.

CRABTREE
(stumped)
Because... because...

JAMES LEER
(sleepily)
... he was killed, when a gangster
named Freddie Nostrils tried to shoot
his favorite horse. He took the bullet
himself.

Grady and Crabtree turn to look at James Leer, who opens one
bloodshot eye to regard them.

JAMES LEER
Vernon, over there, was in on the
hit.

James' eye closes. Crabtree looks over at Grady.

CRABTREE
That was good.

GRADY
He heard everything we were saying.

Just then, Hannah Green bounces up in her red boots.

HANNAH GREEN
Come on, Teach. I want you to dance
with me.

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,
measured blues.

HANNAH GREEN
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.

GRADY
I thank you.

HANNAH GREEN
And I love the inscription you wrote
to me. Only I'm not quite the downy
innocent you think I am.

GRADY
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
Leer's forehead.

HANNAH GREEN
So what are you going to do?

GRADY
Do?

HANNAH GREEN
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.

GRADY
Are you holding me up or am I dragging
you down?

Hannah snuggles closer, lays her head on Grady's chest.

HANNAH GREEN
Shush.

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.

GRADY
Look, Hannah. When you get him home...
make sure he's all right. Before you
leave. Okay?

HANNAH GREEN
I would if I knew where I was taking
him.

GRADY
Hannah, are you telling me you don't
know where James Leer lives?

HANNAH GREEN
Some apartment somewhere. But I've
never seen it.

GRADY
That strikes me as odd.

HANNAH GREEN
James is odd. I know he has an aunt
in Sewickley Heights. I dropped him
there once, but...
(remembering)
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.

JAMES LEER
Mmhmmm... knap... sap...

GRADY
What's he saying?

HANNAH GREEN
His bag. You know that ratty green
thing he's always carrying around.
He must've left it inside.

GRADY
Hh-uh. Last time I saw it was...

Grady glances at the idling Galaxie across the street.

Crabtree and Q huddle inside.

GRADY
Shit. He must've left it back at
Thaw. In the auditorium.

JAMES LEER
(delirious, but
insistent)
Mmrrmmm... KNAP SAP!

Grady frowns in annoyance, opens the passenger door.

GRADY
All right. Take him to my place. He
can crash on the sofa.

HANNAH GREEN
The one in your office? It's the
best one for naps.

GRADY
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.

GRADY
Ail right. In my office.

As GRADY starts to turn away, Hannah's fingers graze his
face.

HANNAH GREEN
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.

Vernon Hardapple.

VERNON HARDAPPLE
You driving this car?

GRADY
Excuse me?

VERNON HARDAPPLE
This 1966 maroon Ford Galaxie 500.
You driving this car?

GRADY
It's mine.

VERNON HARDAPPLE
Bullshit. It's mine, motherfucker.

GRADY
You must be mistaken.

VERNON HARDAPPLE
Bullshit.

Grady shakes his head wearily, opens the door.

GRADY
Go home to your mother, Vernon.

INT. GALAXIE

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.

GRADY
All right, what's the matter?

Crabtree just keeps smiling.

GRADY
Christ, Crabs, what do you expect me
to do? The kid's practically in a
coma.

CRABTREE
Tripp.

GRADY
Yes.

CRABTREE
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.

Q
(squinting)
Oh my God! What is that?

It's Vernon, waving his arms, his shadow enormous in the
beams of light.

GRADY
What's this guy's problem?

CRABTREE
Just go around him.

Grady taps the accelerator, but each time, Vernon dances
back in front of Grady's grille.

GRADY
Shit.

CRABTREE
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.

GRADY
Now what?

Q
(mischievously)
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.

Q
What just happened?

Grady peers at the wrinkled asterisk on his hood.

GRADY
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.

GRADY
Wait here. I'll be right back.

CRABTREE
Where would we go?

INT. LOBBY

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.

JANITOR
It's open.

Grady pushes on the door and it opens.

JANITOR
Hey, Professor Tripp.
(off Grady's look)
Traxler. Sam. I took your class
freshman year. Then I dropped out of
school.

GRADY
I hope it wasn't my fault.

TRAXLER
(taking him seriously)
No. I guess you're here for the
backpack.

GRADY
Oh... yeah.

INT. AUDITORIUM

The knapsack is sitting on one of the metal folding chairs
as Sam and Grady enter the silent hail.

TRAXLER
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.

TRAXLER
Is it good?

GRADY
(reading)
I don't know. It might be...

CUT:

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.

TRAXLER
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
longer?

GRADY
Christ, Traxler. How the hell should
I know?

TRAXLER
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.

GRADY
Oh, right. Yeah, that's true. He
used to rub all kinds of things on
it. Paprika. Ground lamb.

TRAXLER
Sick.

EXT. SASKELL'S HOUSE - NIGHT (MOMENTS LATER)

Sam brings the car to a coughing idle across the street from
the Gaskell's house.

TRAXLER
Wow, check out that greenhouse. Is
that your wife?

Grady gazes at Sara, a vaporous blur in the greenhouse.

GRADY
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.

TRAXLER
Who's that guy?

GRADY
Her husband.

Traxler looks anxiously at the police car.

TRAXLER
What exactly are we doing here,
Professor Tripp?

GRADY
(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
room.

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.

JAMES LEER
(without waking)
Thank you.

GRADY
You're welcome.

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.

All net.

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:

(beat) 2611

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
James I...

Grady awakes with his back to the floor, James leer's
quizzical face floating like a cloud above him.

GRADY
I'm okay. I just lost my balance.

JAMES LEER
I put you on the floor.

GRADY
Oh.

JAMES LEER
I thought you might -- I don't know --
swallow your tongue or something.
(nodding to Grady's
robe)
I guess you really miss her, huh?

Grady peers down at the geraniums blooming on the pockets of
the robe, its overall fuzziness.

GRADY
Huh? Oh, no. This isn't Emily's. I
just write in it.

JAMES LEER
I guess there's probably a story
behind that.

GRADY
There is, but it's not that
interesting.

James nods. Down the hallway, in another room, the TELEPHONE
RINGS.

JAMES LEER
Want me to get that?

GRADY
Sure.

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.

JAMES LEER
(returning)
He didn't give his name.

GRADY
Who?

JAMES LEER
The guy on the phone.

GRADY
What'd he say?

JAMES LEER
He wanted to know if a Grady Tripp
lived here and drove a dark maroon
1966 Ford Galaxie 500 with black
interior.

GRADY
What'd you tell him?

JAMES LEER
Yes.

GRADY
Good, James. If the Zodiac killer
calls, be sure to mention the back
door pops open with a couple hard
shakes to the right.

JAMES LEER
I thought maybe you'd won a radio
contest or something. Is that single-
spaced?

James has noticed the towering stack of 20 lb. bond on Grady's
desk.

GRADY
Afraid so.

JAMES LEER
That's a big book you're writing.

GRADY
I think it's sort of writing itself
at this point.

JAMES LEER
Wow, Hannah always swore you were
working, but --

GRADY
But... ?

JAMES LEER
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
were...

GRADY
Washed up?

JAMES LEER
Blocked.

GRADY
Ah. I don't believe in writer's block.

James takes another glance at the mammoth manuscript.

JAMES LEER
No kidding.

A LOUD HACKING is HEARD. Grady and James turn, watch Crabtree,
wearing only a pair of striped boxers, materialize in the
hallway.

CRABTREE
Good morning, boys. James.

James waves feebly from beneath the sleeping bag.

GRADY
(re: James' "attire")
If you're planning on staying for
breakfast, I'd put on something a
little less comfortable if I were
you.

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.

JAMES LEER
Professor Tripp?

GRADY
Hm.

JAMES LEER
How did I get here last night?

GRADY
No one seems to know where you live,
James. Hannah thought you'd like my
couch.

JAMES LEER
And... and before that. Did I do
anything? Anything bad?

GRADY
Well, James, you did shoot the Head
of the English Department's dog and
steal his most prized piece of
memorabilia.

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.

GRADY
Do yourself a favor, James... hide.

EXT. FRONT PORCH

A POLICEMAN not much older than James Leer waits. As the
door opens, Grady appears.

OFFICER PUPCIK
Good morning...
(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
maybe...

EXT. FRONT PORCH

Grady is scratching his head in mock thought.

GRADY
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
jockey.

OFFICER PUPCIK
A jockey? You mean, like --

GRADY
Horses, right. Vernon something...
(thinking...)
Hardapple.

Pupcik stops on his pad, looks up.

OFFICER PUPCIK
Hardapple?

GRADY
I could be wrong. What happened
anyway?

OFFICER PUPCIK
Huh? Oh, someone pulled a B&E on Dr.
Gaskell's closet. And the dog's
missing.

GRADY
That's weird.

OFFICER PUPCIK
We figure the perpetrator let him
out. He's blind and we figure he
just wandered off and got run over.

GRADY
The perpetrator.

OFFICER PUPCIK
No, the dog.

GRADY
Just kidding.

Pupcik nods slowly, as if re-filing Grady under "Dealing
With Assholes."

OFFICER PUPCIK
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
you?

GRADY
I might have his number on campus.

OFFICER PUPCIK
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
and delectable.

HANNAH GREEN
I thought we were going to talk.
Last night.

GRADY
Oh. Well. I...

Hannah stretches and the t-shirt slides dangerously up her
thighs.

HANNAH GREEN
It's okay... I'm here when you want
me.

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.

JAMES LEER
What do we do now?

Before GRADY can reply, the TELEPHONE sitting on the table
next to him RINGS.

GRADY
Hello?

SARA'S VOICE
Grady, it's Sara. Thank God you're
there. You won't believe what's
happened.

GRADY
Could you hold on a minute, honey?

With a look of wonderment, Grady watches his hand ever-so-
gently... hang up the phone.

GRADY
How 'bout we get the hell out of
here?

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.

GRADY
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
steering wheel.

JAMES LEER
(as the engine roars)
How's that?

GRADY
Well done, James.

As Grady works, James' face comes into view, then... the
wedge SNAPS, splintering into the flesh of Grady's hand.

GRADY
Shit!

James blinks, pokes his head out the window.

JAMES LEER
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.

GRADY
Where exactly do you live, James?

James, in the midst of chugging from a 64-OUNCE JUG of ORANGE
JUICE, stops.

GRADY
Apparently not even Hannah Green has
a clue as to the location of your
apartment.

Grady tosses the tin of band-aids into a small plastic hand
basket, begins to move down the aisle.

JAMES LEER
I got kicked out. Well, not exactly
kicked out. I was asked to leave.

GRADY
I guess there's probably a story
behind that.

JAMES LEER
There is, but it's not that
interesting.

GRADY
So where have you been staying?

JAMES LEER
(a long pause)
The bus station.

Grady stares incredulously at James.

JAMES LEER
It's not so bad. I know the night
janitor. And there's a broken locker
I can put my stuff.

GRADY
(trying to fathom
this)
But James. I mean... How long?

JAMES LEER
A couple weeks. That's why... that's
why I had the gun. For protection.

GRADY
Jesus, James, you should've told
someone.

JAMES LEER
Who?

GRADY
I don't know...
(unconvincingly)
Me.

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.

GRADY
(the balloons)
What do you think of these?

James takes another chug from his jug, nods.

JAMES LEER
Nice.

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.

JAMES LEER
(the house)
Isn't this...?

GRADY
Hm.

Grady gets out, then pauses, glancing at the giant orange
juice jug between James legs. It's about half-down.

GRADY
You better ease off that stuff, James.
It's pretty acidic.

James takes a powdered donut that lies on his coat, studies
it curiously.

JAMES LEER
I can't help myself. I don't know
what's the matter with me.

GRADY
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.

SARA (O.S.)
Feeling guilty?

Grady jumps -- startled -- and turns. Sara has materialized
behind a ficus, large POTTING GLOVES on her hands.

SARA
I can't believe you hung up on me,
you dick.

GRADY
Totally. I'm sorry. A lot was
happening this morning. Can you talk?

Sara nods, moves the ficus to another table.

SARA
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,
too.

GRADY
I heard.

SARA
You heard? How?

GRADY
A twelve-year-old policeman came by
the house this morning.

SARA
Did you confess?

Grady looks up, mildly alarmed.

SARA
Your fingerprints were all over the
bedroom.

GRADY
Really? That was fast.

SARA
(frowning)
I'm kidding. Hello?

GRADY
Oh. Right. Ha. Listen, about last
night. There is something I need to
tell...

SARA
Are you limping? Why are you limping?

GRADY
Hub? Oh, well, that's part of what I
need to...

SARA
Did you pass out again, Grady? Did
you fall somewhere?

GRADY
No. I mean. Well, actually, yes.
Sort of. I don't remember. Listen,
Sara, I have to tell you something.

SARA
All right.

Sara settles back, folds her arms. Waiting.

GRADY
I...

As Grady stares into Sara's eyes, things begin to blur.

GRADY
...want to be with you.

Sara looks at him.

SARA
Gee, Grady, that sounded so heartfelt.
I don't know whether to swoon or
smirk.

GRADY
Really, Sara, I...

Sara holds up one gloved hand.

SARA
I believe you. I believe you want to
be with me. But this is not just
about me anymore.

GRADY
I know that. I know what's at stake
here...

SARA
No, I don't think you do. And
besides... I haven't decided yet.

GRADY
About the baby.

SARA
That... and you.

Grady goes still, watches Sara strip off the gloves, drop
them on a table.

SARA
I'm not going to draw the map for
you on this one, Grady. Times like
these you have to do your own
navigating.

Sara turns to leave, then stops, squinting far down the
street.

SARA
Who's that sitting in your car?

GRADY
James Leer.

SARA
What's he doing out there?

GRADY
I'm sort of helping him work through
some issues.

Sara raises an eyebrow, then pushes through the door.

SARA
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.

JAMES LEER
She seemed to take it pretty well.

GRADY
Yeah, well, actually...

James looks over.

GRADY
The moment didn't really present
itself.

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.

GRADY
You're not planning on puking in my
car, are you, James?

Nothing.

GRADY
Don't be proud, James. We're in
Sewickley Heights. We could find you
a nice golf course to barf on.

JAMES LEER
(sharply)
No.

Grady looks over, surprised by the James' tone. James blinks,
looks embarrassed.

JAMES LEER
I mean. I'm fine. I'm sorry. I just...

James peers out the window at passing landscape.

JAMES LEER
I've got a thing about, places like
this. I know what those houses are
like. I know what the people are
like.

GRADY
Your aunt?

James turns, eyes flashing with surprise.

GRADY
Hannah mentioned something about an
aunt.

James nods vaguely, then reaches into the ashtray, takes a
JOINT between his fingers, sniffs it.

JAMES LEER
Humboldt County?

GRADY
(surprised)
Maybe...

JAMES LEER
It's my father. He gets it from his
doctor.

GRADY
Glaucoma?

JAMES LEER
Colon cancer.

GRADY
Jesus, James. Wow.

James puts the joint back in the ashtray.

JAMES LEER
It's a bit of a scandal. My parents
live in a small town.

GRADY
Where's that?

JAMES LEER
Carvel.

GRADY
Carvel? Where's Carvel?

JAMES LEER
Outside Scranton.

GRADY
I never heard of it.

JAMES LEER
It's a hellhole. Three motels and a
mannequin factory. My dad worked
there for thirty-five years.

GRADY
Your father worked in a mannequin
factory?

JAMES LEER
Seitz Plastics. That's where he met
my mom. She was a fry cook in the
cafeteria. Before that, she'd been a
dancer.

GRADY
What kind of dancer?

JAMES LEER
Whatever kind they wanted her to be.

GRADY
(in disbelief)
James Leer, are you telling me your
mother was a stripper?

JAMES LEER
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.

GRADY
Didn't you say your Mom went to
Catholic school?

JAMES LEER
When we fall, we fall hard.

GRADY
Amazing.

Grady takes the joint from the ashtray, lights it, then
notices -- with surprise -- James has his hand out.

GRADY
I thought you were the guy who didn't
like to lose control of his emotions.

JAMES LEER
Maybe I just needed the moment to
present itself.

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.

JAMES LEER
This is so nice. It's like where
Andy Hardy would live. What's it
called again?

GRADY
Kinship.

JAMES LEER
Kinship. And what's here?

GRADY
Unless I miss my bet... my wife.

James' heavy eyelids flutter with surprise.

JAMES LEER
The one that left you?

GRADY
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.

JAMES LEER
Someone jumped on your car with their
butt...

GRADY
How can you tell?

JAMES LEER
You can see the outline of a butt.

As GRADY nods, James holds out the donut box.

JAMES LEER
Want one. They're incredible.
Incredible.

GRADY
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.

JAMES LEER
Maybe she didn't come here.

GRADY
She came here. We'll just wait. In
the meantime, I need you to shimmy
through.

James stares at the "Doggy Door" cut into the back porch
door.

GRADY
Relax. Emily hasn't carried a house
key since she was twelve years old.
And your hips are as slim as hers.

JAMES LEER
It's not that. It just reminded me
of -- you know -- of what's in the
car. In the trunk.

GRADY
(a pang of guilt
himself)
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.

JAMES LEER
It feels really... good... here.

GRADY
I know. It's the house you want to
wake up in on Christmas morning.
(moving off)
Make yourself at home. I'll be right
back.

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
day.

INT. DEN

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.

GEORGE SANDERS
There's no such thing as a good
influence, Mr. Gray. All influence
is immoral...

INT. UPSTAIRS BEDROOM - SAME TIME

Grady, a PINK PRINCESS PHONE to his ear, lies on the bed
next to a huge TEDDY BEAR.

GRADY
(into phone)
Yes, I' m looking for the
Chancellor... I don't know. She should
be in the main hall... Thank you.

INT. DEN

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.

GRADY
Sara? Hi. It's Grady.

SARA'S VOICE
Where are you, Grady? An elevator?

GRADY
I'm in Kinship. Listen, Sara, there's
some things we need to talk about...

SARA'S VOICE
(evenly)
You're in Kinship?

GRADY
Yes. But that's not why I called...

SARA'S VOICE
With Emily?

GRADY
What? No. There's no one here. I'm
just... just...

SARA'S VOICE
Just what? Doing a little dusting?

As GRADY endeavors to respond, TWO YOUTHFUL VOICES, CHEERFULLY
SINGING, rise from below.

CHEERFUL VOICES
Good Morning! Good Morning!

GRADY
(yelling)
James! For Christ sake, will you
turn that thing down!

SARA'S VOICE
James? He's still with you?

INT. DEN

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.

JUDY/MICKEY
We talked the whole night through!

INT. UPSTAIRS BEDROOM

Grady shakes his head, carries the phone toward the bedroom
WINDOW.

GRADY
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.

GRADY
...reconcile with Emily.

SARA'S VOICE
Are you there to not reconcile with
her?

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.

SARA'S VOICE
Goodbye, Grady.

GRADY
No. Sara, you don't understand...

SARA'S VOICE
Trust me, I understand. I just want
to say something to you, Grady.

GRADY
(dreading it)
Yea?

SARA'S VOICE
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.

INT. DEN

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.

JAMES LEER
Hullo.

FOOTSTEPS are HEARD on the staircase and Grady hobbies into
view. He tries a smile.

GRADY
Mom. Dad.

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.

HANK
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.

HANK
So he's one of your students, this
boy?

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.

GRADY
Yes. He's a good kid. Maybe a little
messed up.

HANK
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.

GRADY
What made you pull out that old thing?

HANK
(shrugging)
I was thinking of you.

GRADY
And?

HANK
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.

GRADY
Maybe I should read it.

HANK
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.

GRADY
Where's Emily, Hank?

HANK
I don't know if she'd want me to
tell you that, Grady.

GRADY
I'm not going to stalk her. Hank. I
just... want to know where I stand.

Hank looks up, incredulous.

HANK
Where you stand?

GRADY
(embarrassed)
I -- just want to say I'm sorry.

HANK
She's in Philadelphia seeing Linda
Aahby. The neurologist.

GRADY
Neurologist? Why? What's wrong?

HANK
(frowning)
Nothing's wrong. They went to
Wellesley together.

GRADY
(sheepishly)
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 --

HANK
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.

GRADY
Listen, Hank, I'm sorry about all
this. I didn't come here to upset
you and Irene. I want you to know
that.

HANK
Why did you come here, Grady?

Grady gestures vaguely.

GRADY
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."

HANK
Give me a break, Grady.

Hank snaps off the tape, slaps Grady's ankle.

HANK
You're done.

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.

JAMES LEER
I'm having a really good time,
Professor Tripp.

Grady glances over, sees James burrowing into the Ziploc.

GRADY
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.

JAMES LEER
I just wanted a little sip.

GRADY
(squinting at him)
I just wanted a little sip? Tell me,
James, exactly what point was it
that you turned into Serpent Boy?

JAMES LEER
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.

GRADY
Jesus...
(thinking, then...)
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)
...we abstain.

JAMES LEER
You're mad at me, aren't you?

GRADY
What?

JAMES LEER
You're mad because I shot your
girlfriend's dog.

GRADY
It wasn't her dog. It's her husband's --
(stopping)
Who said anything about girlfriend?

James eyes shift slowly, as if to say: Who are you kidding?

GRADY
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.

JAMES LEER
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
act.

GRADY
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.

JAMES LEER
So, why did you take me up there?

GRADY
(feeling for the heat
again)
I don't know, James. I don't know
why I do half the things I do. Who
does?
(looking over)
Why do you wear that coat?

James looks down, a little defensive.

JAMES LEER
It's warm.

GRADY
James, fall semester, first day of
class, it was 95 degrees and you
were wearing the coat.

James just blinks, no ready answer available.

GRADY
That's why they all give you such a
hard time in workshop.

JAMES LEER
Because of my coat?

GRADY
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.

JAMES LEER
(smirking)
Jealous? Of me?

GRADY
Not you. Your talent.

James' face hardens. He looks away.

JAMES LEER
You're lying.

GRADY
The hell I am.

JAMES LEER
Yes you are. My stuff stinks. I know
it. You said so yourself.

GRADY
I never said that.

JAMES LEER
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.

GRADY
I didn't mean it that way.

JAMES LEER
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 --

GRADY
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.

JAMES LEER
But, last night...

GRADY
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
some slack?

JAMES LEER
(quietly)
I'm sorry.

GRADY
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.

GRADY
Let me spell it out for you, James.
Books don't mean anything. Not to
anybody. Not anymore.

JAMES LEER
Arsonist's Daughter meant something.

Grady smiles contemptuously.

JAMES LEER
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.
(quietly)
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.

GRADY
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.

JAMES LEER
You coming?

GRADY
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.

GRADY
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.

GRADY
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.

GRADY
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.

JAMES LEER
Want a bite?

GRADY
No thanks.

JAMES LEER
That's why you're having them. Your
spells.

GRADY
Spells? Jesus, James, you make it
sound like we're in a Tennessee
Williams play. I don't have spells.

JAMES LEER
What would you call them then?

GRADY
I don't know... 'Episodes.'

James shrugs, spears a fluffy chunk of pie.

JAMES LEER
It's because you don't eat.

GRADY
I eat.

JAMES LEER
When?

GRADY
When nobody's looking.

Grady watches a pair of headlights approach...

JAMES LEER
(mouth full, garbled)
I just worry about you, that's all.

...then pass. James' words finally register. Grady looks at
him.

GRADY
You just worry about yourself, James.
Okay?

JAMES LEER
Okay.

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.

JAMES LEER
Where you going?

GRADY
Nowhere. You just sit here and...
eat.

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
sun visor.

MAN
(eyeing GRADY dubiously)
Professor Tripp?

GRADY
Grady.

MAN
Fred Leer. This is my wife Amanda.

GRADY
(re: their clothes)
Looks like I've dashed a wonderful
evening.

FRED LEER
Hardly.

AMANDA LEER
We were on our way to a benefit.
But, as luck would have it, the club
was on the way, so...
(snapping shut the
visor)
We were able to put in an appearance.

FRED LEER
Otherwise we would've been here
earlier.

GRADY
Ah. Well, that's all right. James
and I had a little dinner.

FRED LEER
Well, certainly we'll reimburse you.

GRADY
That's not necessary. I just felt...
it might be good for James to be
with his family this weekend.

FRED LEER
Well, of course, we can understand
that.

Grady considers the two glittering ghosts before him.

They seem to be waiting. Just waiting.

GRADY
Well. Let me go get him.

GRADY turns for the coffee shop, then stops, looks back.

GRADY
I hope you won't consider this forward
of me, Amanda, but I wonder if I
might ask... did you ever attend
Catholic school?

Amanda Leer's eyes narrow ever-so-slightly.

AMANDA LEER
Excuse me?

INT. BOOTH - COFFEE SHOP

James is glowering at the parking lot as Grady returns.

JAMES LEER
I'm not going with them.

GRADY
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?

JAMES LEER
I'm not going, with them.

GRADY
James, like it or not, they're your
parents.

JAMES LEER
Parents? They're not my parents.
They're my grandparents. My parents
are dead.

Grady stares at James wearily.

JAMES LEER
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.

JAMES LEER
I swear. My father was a senior vice
president at Dravo. My mother was a
socialite. Her maiden name was
Guggenheim.

Grady starts to protest, then pauses.

GRADY
I remember that. Five or six years
ago.

JAMES LEER
Six. Their plane went down right
outside Scranton.

GRADY
(sardonically)
Near Carvel?

JAMES LEER
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.

GRADY
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.

JAMES LEER
There's a reason for that.

Grady's addled brain grapples with this dark little riddle,
finally deciphers what James is suggesting.

GRADY
Get out of here.

JAMES LEER
That's why she hates me. That's why
she makes me sleep in the basement.

GRADY
In the crawl space, with the rats
and the casks of Amontillado. Come
on. Up.

As GRADY lifts him from the booth, James attempts a plaintive
tone, but his heart's not in it.

JAMES LEER
I swear.

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.

FRED LEER
Thank you. Professor Tripp.

GRADY
Take care of him.

AMANDA LEER
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
Hey!

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.

GRADY
(softly)
Hey.

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.

GRADY
(knowingly)
Crabtree.

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.

GRADY
(entering)
Hey.

HANNAH GREEN
Grady!

She slaps the page she is reading back onto the stack at her
thigh. Grady stares. The manuscript. It's his.

HANNAH GREEN
(embarrassed)
I know I shouldn't have, but there
it was, just sort of lying out, and
I couldn't resist and -- and -- I
suck.

GRADY
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?

HANNAH GREEN
I don't know -- maybe -- I don't
think so.

Grady's mind races with unfortunate possibilities, but only
briefly: his immediate thoughts are elsewhere.

GRADY
Listen, Hannah. You don't remember
where that aunt worked, do you? James'
aunt.

HANNAH GREEN
He shot the Chancellor's dog, didn't
he? The blind one.

GRADY
Actually, He's not the Chancellor's --
What?

HANNAH GREEN
At first the police thought he just
ran away, but this afternoon Dr.
Gaskell found some blood spots on
the carpet --

GRADY
Jesus.

HANNAH GREEN
Crabtree said it sounded like
something James would be messed up
in.

GRADY
Crabtree? He doesn't even know James.

HANNAH GREEN
Who does?

Just then, Crabtree's VOICE bellows in the hallway outside.

CRABTREE (O.S.)
Trip?! Where are you?

GRADY looks anxiously toward the door.

GRADY
The aunt, Hannah. Where did you take
James that day?

HANNAH GREEN
I told you, Sewickly Heights.

GRADY
But where? I need the street.

HANNAH GREEN
I don't know, Grady. I just dropped
him on a corner.

CRABTREE (O.S.)
Tripp?!

GRADY
Shit.

As Grady starts to turn away, Hannah hooks her finger inside
his belt buckle.

HANNAH GREEN
No! Don't go. I've been waiting all
night for you.

Grady looks at Hannah's hand, where it rests. He looks
terrified.

GRADY
Listen, Hannah, I'm flattered, really,
but right now I --

CRABTREE
(bursting in)
Tripp, where the hell...

Crabtree stops, takes in the tableau before him.

CRABTREE
Oh, I'm sorry. Am I interrupting a
student-teacher conference?

Grady delicately removes Hannah's hand from his buckle, points
at Crabtree.

GRADY
You stay there.

CRABTREE
What? Ohhhh. Is that... it?

Crabtree cocks his head toward the reams of paper stacked on
Grady's desk.

CRABTREE
Honestly, Tripp. Do you actually
think I would sneak in here and read
your book without asking you?

GRADY
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.

CRABTREE
Sometimes we have to improvise.

GRADY
(ignoring him)
Think, Hannah. Does James have any
friends. I mean, besides you and...
me?

CRABTREE
James? My James? What's happened?

GRADY
Nothing, he's just been sort of, I
don't know... kidnapped.

CRABTREE
Kidnapped? By who?

GRADY
His parents.

CRABTREE
Good God. Let's go rescue him.

GRADY
Good idea, Crabs. Only one problem.
I don't know where they live.

CRABTREE
Ah. Wait a minute. The university
must know where he lives.

GRADY
It's a little late to call Admissions.

CRABTREE
Is it a little late to call the
Chancellor?

GRADY
Maybe... I don't know.

HANNAH GREEN
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.

HANNAH GREEN
They're in the book.

INT. GALAXIE - MOVING - TEN MINUTES LATER

CRABTREE snaps James' manuscript closed.

CRABTREE
You know -- based on what I've read --
this is a very exciting piece of
material, this Big Parade.

GRADY
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
methamphetamines.

CRABTREE
I've been doing this a long time,
Tripp. I feel this kid in my bones.

GRADY
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.

CRABTREE
No. I think I might be right. I've
felt it before...

As Crabtree's voice trails off, Grady studies him.

GRADY
How bad is it for you?

CRABTREE
Bad enough. And God knows I don't
exactly fit the new corporate profile.

GRADY
Which is?

CRABTREE
Competence.

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.

CRABTREE
So tell me about you and the
Chancellor.

GRADY
What's to tell?

CRABTREE
Plenty, I'm sure. But, for what it's
worth...

Crabtree fishes out the biography of Erroll Flynn, gives it
a look.

CRABTREE
...I like her.

Grady peers at the stars, his voice barely audible.

GRADY
Me too.

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.

GRADY
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.

CRABTREE
Jesus. There must be two dozen windows
on that thing. How are we supposed
to find his?

GRADY
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.

WOMAN SINGING
Why should I care though he gave me
the air? Why should I cry, heave a
sigh, and wonder why? And wonder
why?

CRABTREE
Doris Day.

Crabtree and Grady look at each other.

GRADY/CRABTREE
James Leer.

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.

JAMES LEER
Hey. What are you guys doing here?

CRABTREE
We're springing you, Leer. Get some
pants on.

As they step inside, GRADY gives James' PJs the once-over.

GRADY
I can't believe you made fun of my
robe.

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.

CRABTREE
I like what you've done with it.
When's Captain Nemo moving in?

JAMES LEER
The candelabras were my Gran's.

GRADY
Oh, Christ, don't start on ol' Gran
or we'll leave you here.

CRABTREE
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
get dressed.

James scoops up the shirt GRADY lent him. this morning.

JAMES LEER
Can I -- I mean -- do you mind -- if
I wear this again. Professor Tripp?

GRADY
Ah, wear whatever you want.

James flinches, stung, then disappears into a bathroom.

CRABTREE
So modest.

GRADY
So sensitive.

CRABTREE
(nosing around the
room)
Oh, come on, Tripp. Cut the kid some
slack.

GRADY
It's just ail that crap he spins
out. Just once I'd like to know if
the little bastard is telling the
truth.

CRABTREE
The truth. I know that's always been
real important to you. Okay, check
this out...

Crabtree leans over an old ROYAL TYPEWRITER, reads from the
freshly-typed PAGE curling from the carriage.

CRABTREE
'Finally, the door opened. It was a
shock to see him, shuffling into the
room like an aging prizefighter.
Limping. Beaten.'
(with an amused smile)
Sound like anyone we know?
(resuming)
'But it was later, when the great
man squinted into the bitter glow or
twilight...
(frowning)
Bitter glow of twilight? This kid
definitely needs an editor.
(resuming)
...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.

GRADY
Yes? 'His heart...'

Crabtree hesitates, then... reads on:

CRABTREE
'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 LEER
I'm ready...

James stops, sees the two men looking at him.

JAMES LEER
You all right, Professor Tripp?

CRABTREE
He's great. Come on, let's blow before
lo' Gran decides to boil your bones
for breakfast.

JAMES LEER
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
or... something.

CRABTREE
Hhhuh. So we decoy her. Stick a couple
pillows and one of your teddy bears
under the spread and she won't know
the difference.

JAMES LEER
(brightening)
Yeah. Like in Against All Flags.
Only they use a couple big hams.

GRADY
No.

Crabtree and James turn.

GRADY
I've got something better than a
teddy bear.

CUT TO:

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.

GRADY
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.

CRABTREE
Things must've picked up after we
left.

Crabtree pats Grady's cheek, heads upstairs.

INT. HALLWAY

Crabtree's door is closing as Grady hobbles into view.

GRADY
Crabtree.

CRABTREE
(sticking his head
out)
Ye-es?

Grady looks down, sees James Leer's black brogues sitting on
the floor outside Crabtree's door.

GRADY
Nothing.

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.

VOICE
Hey.

A HEAD cranes over the sofa. It's the Goatee Kid from Thaw
Hall.

GRADY
How are you -- is it Joe?

GOATEE KID
Jeff. Sorry. I didn't even know this
was your house until about an hour
ago.

GRADY
Don't sweat it. Well. 'Night, Jeff.

GOATEE KID
Oh, Professor Tripp? You know, last
semester, what I said that time in
office hours -- I hope there's no
hard feelings.

GRADY
No...

GOATEE KID
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.

GRADY
It's cool, Jeff. Really.

GOATEE KID
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-
Faulknerian nobody.

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
his lap.

MAN (O.S. )
Hello? Hello...?

The VOICE is groggy. It is Walter Gaskell's voice.

GRADY
Walter?

WALTER'S VOICE
Yes?

Grady says nothing, as if wondering what he's doing.

WALTER'S VOICE
Who's this ?

GRADY
It's Grady, Walter.

WALTER'S VOICE
Grady?

GRADY
GRADY Tripp. English Department.

WALTER'S VOICE
I know it's you, Grady, I just...
Christ, Grady, do you know what time
it is?

GRADY
(looking at his watch)
I have... eight-fifteen. That's not
right, is it?

WALTER'S VOICE
It's three-thirty, Grady.

GRADY
This is important.

WALTER'S VOICE
Oh?

GRADY
I... I...

WALTER'S VOICE
What is it, Grady?

GRADY
I'm in love with your wife.

WALTER'S VOICE
Excuse me?

GRADY
Sara. I'm in love with her.

Silence. Then Walter's VOICE returns: even, administrative.

WALTER'S VOICE
Are you drinking. Professor Tripp?
Right now.

GRADY sips on his roach, responds in a pinched voice.

GRADY
No.

WALTER'S 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
the window.

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...

GRADY
Sara.

SARA
I tried to call, but apparently
there's something wrong...

Sara leans down, replaces the uncradled phone.

SARA
...with your phone. Unfortunately,
mine was ringing loud and clear this
morning.

Grady doesn't know what this means, but he's pretty sure
it's not good.

GRADY
Oh?

SARA
It seems one of our students is --
missing and his parents found a dead
dog in his bed.

GRADY
(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.

SARA
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?

GRADY
Inside.

SARA
And the jacket?

GRADY
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.

GRADY
Someone stole my car.

SARA
Grady.

GRADY
Honestly. Someone stole my car. I
parked it right there last night.

SARA
Are you sure you parked it there?

GRADY
Of course, I'm sure. Ah, Christ, the
puberty police are back.

Sara turns, sees Officer Pupcik cruising to the curb.

SARA
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.

GRADY
(swinging in)
Is he awake?

CRABTREE
I'm afraid he's pretty worn out,
poor kid.

GRADY
Nevertheless. There's a police officer
standing on the porch and I don't
think he's going away.

JAMES LEER
(from under the covers)
That same guy?

Crabtree peels back the blankets and James Leer opens one
eye.

JAMES LEER
You snore.

CRABTREE
So I hear.

JAMES LEER
(studying Grady)
No offense, Professor Tripp, but you
look sorta crappy.

CRABTREE
He's right, you look horrible.

GRADY
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.

JAMES LEER
It's the Chancellor.

CRABTREE
Ah, right. Well, I gave you my
opinion.

GRADY
And we both thank you for that, but
we're... we're... fine.

JAMES LEER
I'm fine, right. Fit as a fucking
fiddle.

Grady squints at James as he pulls on his pants.

GRADY
Shut up, James.

CRABTREE
So what's the problem?

GRADY
(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.

SARA (O.S.)
How's it coming back there, Professor
Tripp?

CRABTREE
Who's that?

GRADY
Who do you think it is?

CRABTREE
The Chancellor's here? Now?

GRADY
Evidently.
(calling)
Coming!

JAMES LEER
Does she mean -- does she know
about... her dog?

GRADY
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.

CRABTREE
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.

JAMES LEER
Thank you.

CRABTREE
You're welcome.

As James shuffles off into the hail, Crabtree looks at Grady,
his eyes dancing with excitement.

CRABTREE
I want to publish this. I've got to.
I think they'll let me. With a little
editorial guidance it could be
brilliant.

GRADY
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.

PUPCIK
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.

GRADY
Don't worry, James, I'll figure
something out.

JAMES LEER
I'm not worried. You're not worried,
are you. Professor Tripp?

GRADY
I'm a little worried, James.

JAMES LEER
Don't be. I don't care if they expel
me. I probably should be expelled.

GRADY
Well, let's see if we can keep that
from happening.

James nods and Grady starts to step back from the car.

JAMES LEER
Professor Tripp...?

GRADY
Yes, James.

JAMES LEER
Even if I end up going to jail....

James smiles his crooked grin.

JAMES LEER
You're still the best teacher I ever
had.

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.

SARA
This is not what the university has
in mind when it promises a liberal
education, Grady.

GRADY
Would Walter really press charges?

SARA
It's within the realm. He takes his
souvenirs pretty seriously. And he
was just a wee bit prickly this
morning.

Grady, detecting something in Sara's tone, turns, watches
her take a drag on her cigarette.

SARA
You didn't happen to call the house
last night, did you, Grady?

GRADY
I think I might have.

SARA
And what do you think you might have
said?

GRADY
I think I might've said I was in
love with you.

Sara's face remains unchanged.

GRADY
He told you.

SARA
He told me.

GRADY
And what did you say?

SARA
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."

CRABTREE
So -- what do we do now?

GRADY
Find the jacket.

CRABTREE
Oh! Huh. Exactly how do we do that?

GRADY
First I see if Hannah will let me
borrow her car.

CRABTREE
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.

GOATEE KID
I'm telling you, the tango is all
about latent homosexual love. Look
at the way they dance -- it's sodomy.

HANNAH GREEN
(laughing)
Stop it.

Hannah looks up, sees GRADY in the doorway and blushes.

She pulls the sheet up, gives an oddly formal wave.

HANNAH GREEN
Grady. Hi. What's up?

Jeff eases off the bed, past GRADY uneasily.

GOATEE KID
I'll be... somewhere else.

GRADY
Hey, Jeff. If you're really interested
in discussing that business with the
tango, try the guy at the end of the
hall.

Jeff nods -- puzzled -- then goes. Grady smirks.

GRADY
He cribbed that from Borges.

HANNAH GREEN
It beats 'What's your major?'

Grady nods, detecting a new aloofness in her voice.

GRADY
Right. Anyway, I was wondering if I
could borrow your car. Mine's sort
of out of commission.

HANNAH GREEN
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.

HANNAH GREEN
I uh, I didn't finish, I... fell
asleep.

GRADY
That good, huh?

HANNAH GREEN
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.

HANNAH GREEN
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...
(with trepidation)
...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
the influence.

GRADY
(stung)
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
influence.'

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.

CRABTREE
Want some help with that?

GRADY
(passing by)
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.

CRABTREE
Let me get this straight. Jerry Nathan
owes you money. So, as collateral,
he gives you his car.

GRADY
Only now I'm starting to think the
car wasn't exactly Jerry's to give.

CRABTREE
So whose car is it?

GRADY
My guess -- Vernon Hardapple.

CRABTREE
The hood jumper?

GRADY
He said a few things that lead me to
believe the car's his.

CRABTREE
Such as.

GRADY
'That's my car, motherfucker.'

CRABTREE
Uh huh. So. We find Vernon, we find
the car. We find the car...

GRADY
...we find the jacket.

CRABTREE
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.

GRADY
No wonder he screwed us over.

CUT TO:

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.

CRABTREE
Christ, Tripp. How did you know?

GRADY
Call it a hunch.

Parked in front of KRAVNIK'S SPORTING GOODS is the white
van. A few feet behind, the battered Galaxie.

CRABTREE
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.

GRADY
It's good to know I'm still talented
at something. Keep the motor running.

EXT./INT. GALAXIE

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,
SOFT BLUR...

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.

CRABTREE
What the hell...

INT. GALAXIE

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.

MARILYN
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.

MARILYN
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.

GRADY
Oola.

OOLA
I never forget a drink.

GRADY
I never forget an Oola.

Suddenly, there is a HEAVY CLICK.

MAN'S VOICE (O.S.)
Forget me?

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.

GRADY
Vernon.

VERNON
(to Oola)
Move away, cupcake. He's got a gun.

GRADY
Who's got a gun?

VERNON
You've got a gun, motherfucker. Drop
it!

GRADY
Relax, Vernon...

OOLA
Why's he calling you Vernon?

VERNON
Why's he sitting in my car? He's
crazy, that's why. He probably calls
everybody Vernon.

GRADY
Not true. You're the only Vernon I
know. Actually, I'm wrong. I once
knew a Vernon Peabody at Penguin
U.K.

VERNON
Shut up.
(to Oola)
Cupcake. Please. Inside.

OOLA
You' re not going to shoot him, are
you?

VERNON
I'm going to shoot him. If he doesn't
put that gun down.

GRADY
It's just a souvenir. They don't
even make the caps anymore.

VERNON
Bullshit. I know a gun when I see
one. And that's a gun.

GRADY
No, really...

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.

CRABTREE
Holy shit.

EXT. KRAVNIKS

Vernon stands half-hunched, stunned.

VERNON
Are you crazy!

The gunshot seems to have cleared Grady's head. He stares at
the gun, watches Vernon wrest it from his hand.

VERNON
Get out! What's the matter with you?
Can't you see the condition my girl's
in?

As Grady gets out of the car, Vernon places his hand on Oola's
tummy.

VERNON
You all right, cupcake?

OOLA
Who's Vernon?

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.

VERNON
What the...?

Gears GRINDING, tires smoking, Crabtree fish-tails wildly,
then kicks open the passenger door.

CRABTREE
Tripp! Run!

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.

VERNON
Who the hell is that?

GRADY
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,
and Oola.

VERNON
Woah.

Vernon steps into the street, levels the German Nine.

VERNON
Pull off, you crazy motherfucker!

Frantic, Grady steps between Vernon, the German Nine, and
the oncoming Crabtree.

GRADY
No! Don't shoot! He's just a lousy
driver.

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.

GRADY
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
River.

GRADY
(to Vernon)
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.

CRABTREE
Naturally you have copies.

GRADY
I have an alternate version of the
first chapter.

CRABTREE
You'll be all right then. Look at
Carlyle, when he lost his luggage.

GRADY
That was MacCaulay.

CRABTREE
Or Hemingway, when Hadley lost all
those stories.

GRADY
He was never able to reproduce them.

CRABTREE
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.

GRADY
Kind of a sign, you're saying.

CRABTREE
In a sense.

GRADY
I don't think so. In my experience,
signs are usually a lot more subtle.

VERNON
Let me get this straight. All that
paper that went into the river. That
was the only copy?

GRADY
'Fraid so.

VERNON
(glowering at Crabtree)
And you're saying it's some kind of
sign? What the fuck's the matter
with you?

CRABTREE
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
a problem.

Vernon stares at Crabtree as if he's from another planet.

VERNON
I'll tell you the problem. You behind
the wheel. There's your fucking
problem.

CRABTREE
That's pretty simplistic, don't you
think?

VERNON
Hey, pal, you don't start doing crazy
eights in the middle of the street
none of this happens.

CRABTREE
Excuse me. Did you, or did you not,
have a gun to his head?

VERNON
He was trying to steal my car!

GRADY
Ail right, all right It's done.
There's no need to talk about it.
It's done.

They ride in silence for a moment, then Oola turns, glances
at Grady and his little sheaf of pages.

OOLA
So what was it about?
(as GRADY looks up)
Your book. What was the story?

Grady stares into Oola's sweet, brown eyes.

GRADY
I don't know...

Oola's brow wrinkles. Crabtree glances at his old friend,
genuine compassion in his eyes.

CRABTREE
What he means is, it's difficult to
distill the essence of a book
sometimes. It lives in the mind.

VERNON
Yeah, but you gotta know what it's
about, right? I mean, if you didn't
know what it was about, why were you
writing it?

GRADY
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.

GRADY
Hey, Vernon. Can I ask you a question?

VERNON
Shoot.

Grady glances at little round Oola.

GRADY
Boy or girl?

VERNON
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.

GRADY
Right. Well, thanks. For the lift.

VERNON
No sweat. Only do me a favor?

GRADY
Sure.

VERNON
Stop calling me Vernon.

Crabtree leans into Grady, WHISPERS.

CRABTREE
The jacket, Tripp. We need the jacket.

GRADY
Oh, right. Oola. About that jacket...

OOLA
Yea?

Grady looks at the waitress in her pink jersey dress, snuggled
up in the silk wedding jacket.

GRADY
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.

VERNON
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.

CRABTREE
You mind explaining what you just
did?

Grady watches the shrinking Galaxie sail under a drooping
NORDFEST BANNER, lost in thought.

GRADY
Came to my senses.

CRABTREE
Ah. Well. Congratulations. Meanwhile,
what is James supposed to do? Pray
for Walter Gaskell to come to his?

GRADY
Walter Gaskell isn't going to send
James Leer to jail, Crabs. I know
that.

CRABTREE
Do you know he won't expel him?

GRADY
No. But I don't think that matters.

CRABTREE
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.

GRADY
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.
(ruefully)
Of course, it helps if you know where
you want to go.
(thoughtfully)
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.

GRADY
As for James, he doesn't need me
anymore...

Without warning, Grady tosses Crabtree the knapsack.

GRADY
He's got you.

Crabtree stares at the saggy green canvas in his hands,
watches Grady walk away.

CRABTREE
Me? What can I do?

GRADY
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.

CRABTREE
I'm sorry, Tripp.

Grady stops, turns.

GRADY
You peeked, didn't you?

CRABTREE
I peeked.

Grady considers this. Nods. It doesn't seem to matter anymore

CRABTREE
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.

GRADY
You're not just trying to make me
feel better?

Crabtree looks directly at Grady, his old friend.

CRABTREE
Scout's honor.

Crabtree and Grady stare into each other's eyes. Both are
acutely aware of the subtext of this conversation.

GRADY
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
first crease...

EXT. QUAD

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.

GRADY
Sara!

Sara turns... as the door glides shut. As Grady hustles
forward, Q, wine glass in hand, intercepts him.

Q
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
breathless.

GRADY
(pushing past him)
Thanks, Q. I felt the same way about
the bank teller's breasts in your
last one.

INT. BACK ROW - AUDITORIUM - THAW HALL

Grady enters, but Sara is... gone. He picks his way behind
the back row, scanning the aisles.

GIRL'S VOICS
Hey, Professor Tripp.

It's Carrie McWhirty, James' tormentor from workshop.

Grady takes another look around, then drops into the seat
next to her.

CARRIE MCWHIRTY
If you're looking for Hannah, she's
on the aisle.

GRADY
No...

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.

CARRIE MCWHIRTY
Who's that guy she's with? Didn't he
used to be in workshop?

GRADY
Jeff. He comes from a long line of
tango dancers.

INT. MAIN STAGE

Walter turns over the last page of his prepared notes.

WALTER
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.

WALTER
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.

WALTER
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.

WALTER
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.

CARRIE MCWHIRTY
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.

CARRIE MCWHIRTY
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.

GRADY
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.

GRADY
(softly)
Wonder Boy.

WALTER
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
American Marriage.

Wild, obsequious APPLAUSE. GRADY smiles cynically, watches
Walter take a brief, dignified bow of his own.

WALTER
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.

GRADY
Sara!

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.

GRADY
Yo, Traxler.

TRAXLER
(looking up)
Hey, Professor Tripp.

Grady considers the Ziploc in his hand, looks down again.

GRADY
Do you get high, Sam?

TRAXLER
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.

TRAXLER
Holy shit. Are you serious?

GRADY
As a heart attack.

TRAXLER
Thanks -- Whoa, Professor Tripp,
careful here...

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.

SARA
Grady, what are you doing, you idiot?

Grady looks up into Sara's freckled face.

GRADY
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
outside.

The DOOR SQUEALS, a SHADOW ripples across the blue, then the
curtains part and a RESIDENT with a clipboard appears.

His NAMETAG says GREENHUT.

GRADY
I passed out.

GREENHUT
You did.

GRADY
I've been doing that a lot lately.

GREENHUT
So I hear. You've also been smoking
a lot of marijuana, I understand.

GRADY
Do you think that's why I've been
having these...
(grabbing James' term)
...spells?

GREENHUT
How long have you been having them?

GRADY
The last month maybe.

GREENHUT
How long have you been smoking
marijuana?

GRADY
Spiro T. Agnew was vice president, I
believe.

GREENHUT
That's probably not the problem,
then. What about your lifestyle. Any
major changes recently?

GRADY
I've been trying to finish a book...

GREENHUT
And your wife left you.

GRADY
Is that in my chart?

GREENHUT
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

GRADY
I know.

GREENHUT
(tapping the glucose
bottle)
You need to see a doctor, Mr. Tripp.
An internist. And I think you really
ought to consider seeing a therapist,
as well.

GRADY
She told you about...

GREENHUT
Her dog, yes.

GRADY
Actually, it was her husband's dog...

Greenhut glances up, looking GRADY in the eyes for the first
time, and GRADY stops.

GREENHUT
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
experiencing lately.

GRADY
They're anxiety attacks? That's a
little disappointing.

GREENHUT
Better luck next time.

GRADY
So is my friend... is Sara still
here?

GREENHUT
No. There's no one here.

GRADY
I have to see her. As soon as
possible.

Greenhut studies Grady, calibrating the desperation in his
eyes, then takes a quick glance at his watch.

GREENHUT
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.

GRADY
I wonder if you could show me
something.

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.

GRADY
Are these the only ones you have?

The nurse's eyes crinkle.

GRADY
Kidding...

EXT. GASKELL HOUSE - LATE AFTERNOON

GRADY pays a TAXI CAB DRIVER, then turns, looks at the Gaskell
house.

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.

EXT. STREET

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
silence.

NEW ANGLE - GRADY

...still sitting with the gun in his hand.

GRADY
(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.

GRADY
I'm so glad to see you, Sara.

SARA
I believe you. Did that nice doctor
let you out? Or is this you
improvising again, Grady?

GRADY
I'm through improvising.

SARA
Terry told me about Wonder Boys. Is
it true? Did you lose it all?

GRADY
I lost it all.

SARA
Oh, Grady. You're such a putz.

GRADY
I know.

SARA
And you're old.

Sara strokes his scalp, takes a gray hair between her fingers.
Yanks.

GRADY
Ouch. How many?

SARA
Dozens. It's very sad.

Sara smiles at Grady, but the mischief leaves her eyes when
she looks into his, and she glances away.

GRADY
I went and looked at some babies
just now.

SARA
Oh?

GRADY
(trying to make her
laugh)
I guess you have to go on faith.

SARA
(she doesn't)
Some times...

Grady studies her as she traces her finger around the HOSPITAL
BRACELET still encircling his wrist.

GRADY
Did you tell Walter?

SARA
I told Walter.

GRADY
Does he still love you?

SARA
It didn't come up.

Grady studies Sara's freckled cheeks, her anxious profile,
then turns her chin gently toward him.

GRADY
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
again.

Sara cocks her head.

SARA
Did you just make that up?

GRADY
(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.

GRADY
Even so... it's still true. Every
word.

Sara just nods, looks away, her face unreadable.

GRADY
Sara, I promise, even though
commonsense might tell you...

Sara turns, puts a finger on GRADY's lips...

SARA
Don't write a page when a paragraph
will do.

Grady nods, takes her hand. Looks at it as he speaks.

GRADY
You don't deserve me, you know.

SARA
I know, but sometimes...

Sara turns, looks at Grady. Her eyes are glistening.

SARA
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.

THE END

Contact | Disclaimer
Copyright © WeeklyScript.com | Scripts Copyright © their respective owners