"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 ]

"SLING BLADE"

Screenplay

by

Billy Bob Thornton



FADE IN:

INT. A MENTAL HOSPITAL DAY

A few patients sit around fumbling with themselves. One man
sits at a table scratching back and forth on a piece of paper
with a crayon. Another stands in a corner smoking a cigarette
and staring at the crayon guy. This is CHARLES. Another man,
KARL, sits in a chair staring at the floor and rubbing his
hands together. We cut back and forth between Charles staring
and Crayon Man scratching. After a moment, an attendant
approaches Charles.

ATTENDANT
You can't smoke in here.

Charles stares at him blankly for a moment and continues
smoking. He looks back to Crayon Man again for a moment then
looks over at Karl and then goes and sits down beside him.

CHARLES
A Mercury is a good car and that's
what I was driving that day. I've
owned a lot of cars. Different kinds.
Lots of different kinds of cars. She
was standing, this girl, on the side
of the street where there was a
chicken stand, not the Colonel, mind
you, but never the less a chicken
stand, and I pulled the Mercury over
and rolled down the window by electric
power. She was wearing a leather
skirt and she had a lot of hair on
her arms. I like that. I like it a
lot. It means a big bush. I like a
big bush. She said, "Are you dating?"
I said, "yes," and she got in the
car. We pulled to a remote location,
one that she and I both felt
comfortable with and she said, "How
much can you spend?" I said, "What
it takes to see your bush. I know
it's a big one." She said "twenty-
five dollars," which to a working
man is not chicken feed. I produced
the money and she put it in her shoe
and pulled up her skirt. There before
me lay a thin, crooked, uncircumcised
penis. You can imagine how badly I
wanted my twenty-five dollars back.

INT. A HALLWAY DAY

Two young women, MARSHA DWIGGINS, carrying a briefcase, and
THERESA EVANS, carrying two camera bags are being led down
the hallway by a GUARD.

THERESA
I don't know why you're so weirded
out, this is not San Quentin, it's
just a nut-house. Most of these people
don't even know where they are,
they're not gonna hurt you.

MARSHA
In a few minutes we're gonna be in a
room with a killer. That doesn't
bother you?

THERESA
Hey, you're the one that wanted to
major in journalism. Anyhow, wasn't
the guy something like twelve or
thirteen when he did it, it was twenty-
five years ago, he probably doesn't
even remember it.

MARSHA
(wrinkling her nose)
Do you smell shit?

THERESA
Yeah.

They reach a door and the guard ushers them through.

INT. AN OFFICE DAY

JERRY WOOLRIDGE stands up from behind the desk as they enter.
He's in his fifties and looks like a school teacher, shop
class or perhaps eighth-grade science.

GUARD
These are the people from that
newspaper deal.

WOOLRIDGE
Oh yeah, from the college?

MARSHA
Yes sir.

Woolridge shakes hands with them.

WOOLRIDGE
My name's Jerry Woolridge.

MARSHA
Nice to meet you. I'm Marsha Dwiggins
and this is Theresa Evans. She's
here to take the pictures.

WOOLRIDGE
Y'all have a seat. Is this all of
you?

MARSHA
Yes sir.

WOOLRIDGE
I think there must have been a little
mix up. I told your sponsor or teacher
or whatever he is, there couldn't be
any pictures. It's s'posed to be
just a little story or article or
something, isn't that right?

MARSHA
Well, yeah, it's for the school
newspaper. But it has pictures. I
mean it's a regular paper, you know.

WOOLRIDGE
Karl's real sensitive about having
his picture made. He wouldn't even
be on the bulletin board for the
Easter Collage.
(to guard)
Melvin, would you get me a good hot
cup with two sugar substitutes? You
girls want some coffee?

MARSHA
No thank you.

WOOLRIDGE
The other thing is I told your boss
on the phone to send a man. Karl
won't talk to women.

INT. REC ROOM DAY

CLOSEUP on Karl's face. Charles has started another monologue.

CHARLES
There was a young man named John
Liggit Hunter who was in the filling
station business and a good filling
station business. He was one of those
young men that we run across so often
in life. I'm sure you've run across
them, that didn't deserve the things
he had. One of those things was his
beautiful bride, Sarah. She was a
Georgia Peach. As a matter fact she
looked more like the picture I've
had in my head than any woman I've
ever seen. I took it upon myself to
take her away from John Liggit Hunter,
who didn't deserve her. I'm not sure
if I mentioned that he was a Frenchman
who claimed to be an Englishman. It
took some very strong nylon cord to
take her away from him. She was a
fighter as well as a Georgia Peach.

INT. WOOLRIDGE'S OFFICE

The girls look confused.

WOOLRIDGE
I don't know what to tell you. I'm
sorry. I made my self pretty clear I
thought. He probably got busy and
wasn't thinking. I know how that is.
I used to teach shop and eighth grade
science.

MARSHA
Well, what do we do? We drove all
the way out here.

THERESA
Let's just go, Marsha.

MARSHA
No, we have to get this story.

THERESA
I thought you'd be happy to leave.

MARSHA
Why won't he talk to women?

WOOLRIDGE
He has problems. You know. With all
that. He won't hardly talk to anybody
really. Just certain people. He's
very troubled.

INT. REC ROOM

CHARLES
(leaning in to Karl)
A shovel just makes too goddamn much
racket.

INT. WOOLRIDGE'S OFFICE

WOOLRIDGE
(takes a drink of
coffee)
I don't think he's talked to a woman
in twenty-five or 50 years. That I
know of anyway. That's why I said to
send a man. At least maybe he'd answer
a question or two for a man. I'm all
for helping the college out, believe
me. It might be a real good article
or story.

MARSHA
Can't you talk to him? Maybe talk
him into it. I'm a real good
interviewer. Just get me in the room
with him.

WOOLRIDGE
(to guard)
Melvin, go get Karl and take him
down to the old classroom.

INT. HALLWAY DAY

Woolridge and the two women walk down the hallway.

WOOLRIDGE
I'll talk to him and see what we can
do.

INT. CLASSROOM DAY

Woolridge is opening a door. He enters and the women follow
him in. he flips on a light switch and very bright florescent
lights illuminate the room.

WOOLRIDGE
You see, Karl, growing up, only knew
that sex was wrong and that people
who did it should be killed for it.
He couldn't really read but, well,
neither could his mother. But, his
father made sure that his mother
knew what the Bible said. And she
made sure Karl knew. You know he
slept in a hole in the ground under
a tool shed, right?

MARSHA
I knew he slept in a tool shed.

WOOLRIDGE
His mother told him that he was their
punishment. Hers and his father's,
from God, for having sex -

MARSHA
Before they were married?

WOOLRIDGE
I don't think so. Just period, I
think. She told him God gave them
the ugliest creation he could think
of. Karl has an entire book - a
notebook. On every page it says
"Franklin Chapter 1 Verse number 1."
He wrote that a few years ago after
he'd learned to write. His father's
name was Franklin.

MARSHA
That's really strange. What does it
mean?

WOOLRIDGE
One of his Daddy's Bible lessons I
imagine. Y'all pull up a chair. I'll
go out and talk to him.

INT. REC ROOM

CLOSEUP on Charles' face.

CHARLES
You have to make something explode
to truly understand it. You have to
examine the tiny particles while
they're on fire.

Off screen we hear FOOTSTEPS approaching. We pull back and
see MELVIN the guard.

MELVIN
Karl, I gotta take you down to the
old classroom. Mr. Woolridge has
some people for you to see down there.
Come on. Let's go.

INT. HALLWAY DAY

Melvin and Karl walk down the hallway. Woolridge stands
outside the door of the classroom. They reach him and
Woolridge talks quietly to Karl.

WOOLRIDGE
Karl, you know, do you remember when
I told you about those people from
that newspaper?
(pause)
They want to ask you some questions
about your release. They think it
would make an interesting story.
Will you talk to 'em? Get interviewed.
(pause)
Now, they're women. I think it might
be good for you to. You're gonna be
seein' all kinds of people when you
go on the outside. This'll help you
I believe.

INT. CLASSROOM DAY

It's just Woolridge and the two women in the room.

WOOLRIDGE
Well, it surprised the dickens out
of me. He said he'll talk to you.

Marsha smiles and looks at Theresa.

WOOLRIDGE
But, here's the thing. He'll only
talk to you. He doesn't want you to
ask him anything. And you shouldn't
stare at him.

MARSHA
How am I going to conduct an interview
if I can't ask him any questions?

WOOLRIDGE
It's the best you're gonna get. I'm
sorry.

MARSHA
Can I ask you a question? If he's so
troubled, why are you letting him
out? What if he does it again? It
happens all the time.

WOOLRIDGE
He's free. His time's up. That's the
rules. He's been treated and
reevaluated. He doesn't show any
signs any more.

MARSHA
Signs?

WOOLRIDGE
Homicidal signs. Oh, we're gonna
change the light in here for Karl. I
hope you can see to write.

Woolridge turns on a lamp on a desk and turns off the overhead
lights. He opens the door and Melvin brings Karl in. In the
semi-darkness Woolridge pushes a chair up and motions for
Marsha to sit. Karl stands beside Melvin motionless. Woolridge
whispers to Theresa.

WOOLRIDGE
You'll have to step outside.

Theresa starts to protest.

WOOLRIDGE
Please.

Karl sits down in a folding chair near a lamp as Melvin ushers
Theresa outside into the hallway. Karl sits staring at the
floor. Rubbing his palms together and breathing strangely,
as usual. He sits silent for what seems like forever.

INT. HALLWAY DAY

Theresa stands on one side of the door, Melvin on the other.

THERESA
Can I just sneak in there? I won't
take any pictures, I promise. I just
want to listen.

MELVIN
No ma'am. I'm sorry you can't.

Theresa takes a cigarette from her purse and starts to light
it.

MELVIN
You can't smoke in here. I'm sorry.

INT. CLASSROOM DAY

Marsha is staring at Karl. Karl, still breathing and rubbing
his palms, starts to speak. His voice is low and raspy, but
not just low and raspy; strange.

KARL
Well, I reckon what you're a wanting
to know is what I'm doing in here. I
reckon the reason I'm in here is
cause I killed somebody. But I reckon
what you was a wanting to know is
how come me to kill somebody. Well,
I reckon I'll start at the front and
tell you.
(pause; heavy breathing)
I lived most of my life out behind
my mother and father's house in a
little old shed that my daddy'd built
for me. They didn't too much want me
up there in the house with the rest
of 'em. I mostly just set around out
there in the shed all the time a
lookin' at the ground. It didn't
have no floor but I had me a hole
dug out to lay down in and a quilt
or two that I put down there.
(pause; more breathing)
My daddy was a hard workin' man most
of his life, not that I can say the
same fer myself. I most just set
around the shed and tinkered around
with a lawnmower or two and went to
school off and on from time to time
but the children there made quite a
bit of sport of me, made fun of me
quite a bit. Some of 'em roughed me
up sometimes so mostly I stayed out
back there in the shed. My daddy
worked down at the sawmill there,
down there at the planer mill for an
old man named Dixon. Old man Dixon
was a very cruel feller, he didn't
treat his employees very well, didn't
pay 'em much of a wage, didn't pay
my daddy much of a wage, just barely
enough to get by on. But I reckon he
got by all right, they come out one
or the other of 'em, usually my
mother, and fed me pretty regular.
At least I know he made enough for
me to have mustard and biscuits three
or four times a week. Old man Dixon
had a boy named Jesse Dixon. Jesse
was really more cruel than his daddy.
He made quite a bit of sport of me
and takened advantage of the little
girls around the neighborhood quite
a bit.
(pause)
He used to say my mother was a very
pretty woman. He said it quite a bit
from time to time, when I was at the
school house. Well, I reckon you
want me to get on and tell you what
happened so I reckon I'll tell you.
I was settin' out in the shed one
evenin' not doin' too much, just
kindly starin' at the wall and a
waitin' fer my mother to come out
and give me my Bible lesson and I
heared a commotion up in the house
there so I got up and run up on the
screened-in porch there to see what
was a goin' on, and I looked in the
kitchen window and I seen my mother
a layin' there on the floor without
any clothes on.
(pause; breathing)
And seen Jesse Dixon a layin' on top
of her having his way with her.
(pause)
Well, I just seen red. I picked up a
kaiser blade that was a layin' there
by the screen door, some folks calls
it a sling blade, I call it a kaiser
blade. It's just a long handle like
a axe handle with a long blade on it
that's shaped kind of like a banana.
Sharp on one edge and dull on the
other. It's what the highway boys
use to cut down weeds and whatnot. I
went in the kitchen there and I hit
Jesse Dixon up side the head with it
and knocked him off my mother. I
reckon that didn't quite satisfy me
so I hit him again in the neck with
the sharp edge and just plumb near
cut his head off. Killed him. Well,
my mother, she jumped up from there
and started yellin', "What did you
kill Jesse for? What did you kill
Jesse for?"
(pause; intense
breathing)
Well, come to find out my mother
didn't really mind what Jesse was a
doin' to her. I reckon that made me
madder than what Jesse had made me.
I takened the kaiser blade, some
folks calls it a sling blade, I call
it a kaiser blade and hit my mother
up side the head with it an' killed
her.
(long pause; breathing)
Some folks has asked me if I had it
to do over again would I do the same
thing. I don't know, I reckon I would.
Anyhow, they seen fit to put me in
here and here I've been for a great
long while. I've learned to read
some; took me four years to read the
Bible. I reckon I understand a good
deal of it. It wasn't what I expected
in a lot of places. I've slept in a
good bed for a great long while.
They've seen fit to put me out now.
They tell me they're a settin' me
free today. Anyhow, I reckon that's
all you need to know. If you want
any more details I reckon I can tell
'em to you. I don't know if that's
enough for your newspaper or not.

Suddenly Marsha speaks from the darkness.

MARSHA
Will you ever kill anybody again,
Karl?

This seems to startle the very room itself Woolridge motions
for Marsha to shut up and Karl stops still. Very still. He
breathes hard for a moment then starts to calm down. He seems
almost at ease. He slowly looks up. From Karl's point of
view we barely see Marsha's face in the dim light. Karl is
looking straight at Marsha.

KARL
(slowly)
I don't reckon I got no reason to
kill nobody.

INT. HALLWAY DAY

Woolridge stands just outside the classroom door with Marsha
and Theresa. Karl stands down the way a few feet with Melvin.

MARSHA
Is he leaving right this minute?

WOOLRIDGE
We've got some paperwork to take
care of. Pretty soon. Don't worry,
you won't run into him in the parking
lot.

MARSHA
I didn't mean that.

WOOLRIDGE
I hope the best for you, Miss
Dwiggins, with your school and your
paper and all.

MARSHA
Where will he go?

WOOLRIDGE
Wherever he wants to. I think he's
going back to Millsburg where he's
from. It's just about twenty miles
from here.

MARSHA
Will he be supervised?

WOOLRIDGE
As much as anybody else is, I guess.
Y'all have a good rest of the day
now.

Marsha and Theresa walk toward the exit. As they pass Karl
he speaks to Marsha.

KARL
(looking down)
Thank you.

MARSHA
(immediately extends
her hand)
Thank you.

Karl doesn't take her hand. Karl continues to stare at the
floor until the women exit.

KARL
I reckon I'm gonna have to get used
to looking at pretty people.

WOOLRIDGE
Yes, I guess you are.

KARL
I reckon I'm gonna have to get used
to them lookin' at me, too.

WOOLRIDGE
You better go get your things.

KARL
I ain't got nothing but them books.

WOOLRIDGE
You better go get em.

KARL
All right then.

Karl walks slowly down the hallway.

EXT. BUS STATION MILLSBURG DAY

Karl steps off the bus carrying a few books by a strap. He
stands there for a moment staring at the bus station as the
few people around stare at him, then he starts walking.

SERIES OF SHOTS DAY

Karl standing in front of a barbershop looking through the
window at a man having his hair cut. In front of the police
station.

Staring at an empty school yard.

EXT. DAIRY QUEEN DAY

Karl stands and stares at the building for a moment. He sees
a woman take a tray of food from the window. When she's gone,
he walks up to the window. A pimply faced TEENAGED BOY comes
to wait on him.

BOY
Can I help you?

KARL
I was kindly wantin' somethin' or
'nother d'eat.

BOY
Well, what did you want?

KARL
You have any biscuits for sale?

BOY
Naw, we don't have biscuits.

Karl stands in silence for a moment.

BOY
Did you decide, sir?

KARL
What you got that's good to eat?

BOY
Well, I guess it's all good.

KARL
What do you like to eat here?

BOY
French fries. I like to eat them
pretty good.

KARL
French-fried potatoes.

BOY
Yeah.

KARL
How much you want fer 'em? I'll get
some of them I reckon.

BOY
Sixty for small and seventy-five for
large.

KARL
Give me the big'uns.

Karl digs in his pocket for money.

EXT. LAUNDROMAT DAY

Karl sits on a bench eating French fries. After a moment, a
twelve or thirteen-year-old BOY comes out of the laundromat
wrestling three or four big bags of laundry. He can't seem
to get a plan together for carrying them all. Karl gets up
and goes over to him. The boy looks up at Karl, a little
startled by Karl's strange figure looming over him.

BOY
These dang things are heavy. Hard to
carry, too.

KARL
What you got in there, warshing?

BOY
Yeah.

KARL
Ain't you got no mama and daddy to
tend to it?

BOY
I got a mama, but she's at work over
at Ben's Dollar Store. My daddy's
dead.
(pause)
He got hit by a train.

KARL
How far you going with them sacks
full of warsh?

BOY
About a half a mile I think it is.

KARL
I'll help you tote 'em if I don't
give out first.

BOY
Okay. You don't have to though.

Karl picks up two sacks and they walk away.

EXT. STREET DAY

They walk in silence for a while before the boy finally
speaks.

BOY
My name is Frank Wheatley. What's
your name?

KARL
Karl's my name.

FRANK (BOY)
What's you last name?

KARL
Childers.

FRANK
What are all them books?

KARL
Different ones. One's the Bible. One
of 'ems a book on Christmas. One of
'ems how to be a carpenter.

FRANK
How come you're carryin' them around
with you?

KARL
Ain't got nowhere to set 'em down.

FRANK
Don't you live somewhere?

KARL
I did live there in the state
hospital.

FRANK
Why'd you live there?

KARL
I killed some folks quite awhile
back. They said I wasn't right in
the head and they put me in there in
the nervous hospital instead of
puttin' me in jail.

FRANK
They let you out?

KARL
Yeah.

FRANK
How come?

KARL
They told me I was well. They had to
turn me loose.

FRANK
Are you well?

KARL
I reckon I feel all right.

FRANK
You don't seem like you'd kill nobody.

They reach a little white frame house and the boy turns up
the sidewalk.

FRANK
This is my house. You can just set
those bags on the porch.

Karl sets the bags down and he and the boy stare at each
other in silence for a moment.

FRANK
Do you like to play football?

KARL
I never was much count at it. I never
did get picked out for it.

FRANK
Me and the Burnett twins and some
boys plays down at the junior high
practice field all the time. If you
ever want to come by and play. We
ain't no good either. Well, I'll see
you later.

He goes inside leaving Karl staring at the front door.

INT. BUS STATION DAY

Karl stands at the counter. A middle-aged man is selling
tickets.

KARL
How does a feller go about gettin'
up to the state hospital?

MAN
You buy a ticket for fourteen dollars
and then set and wait for the four-
fifteen bus to Kelton.

KARL
All right then.

INT. MENTAL HOSPITAL DAY

Karl walks down the hallway carrying his books. A couple of
staffers give him 'Why are you still here' looks. He reaches
a door and goes in.

INT. WAITING ROOM DAY

There is no one at the desk in the outer office, so Karl
goes into Woolridge's office.

INT. WOOLRIDGE'S OFFICE DAY

Karl finds Woolridge doing paper work. Woolridge looks up
startled.

WOOLRIDGE
Karl, what in the world are you doing
here?

KARL
I want to come back and stay here.

WOOLRIDGE
Well, you can't do that. You're a
free man. You've been let out to do
as you please.

KARL
I reckon I don't care nothin' about
bein' a free man. I don't know how
to go about it.

WOOLRIDGE
Well, you have to learn. It'll take
some time. Don't you know anybody
down there to help you out?

KARL
Naw.

WOOLRIDGE
Your daddy's still livin' down there
from what you told me.
(pause)
I guess he wouldn't help you any,
would he? I wasn't thinking. You
don't know anybody?

KARL
Naw. Never did know too much of
nobody. Not to he'p me out anyway.

WOOLRIDGE
(sighs)
Listen, Karl, the truth is I don't
know where they expect you to go or
what they expect you to do. If it
was up to me, I'd let you stay here
if that's what you wanted. I'm just
doin' my job.

They sit in silence for a moment.

WOOLRIDGE
You follow me?
(no answer)
Listen, I know an old boy that runs
a fix-it shop deal down in Millsburg.
He used to go to church with me.
You're good workin' on small engines
and things. If I put my neck out for
you with him, will you work at it if
he'll hire you?

KARL
I'm pretty handy I reckon on
lawnmowers and whatnot.

WOOLRIDGE
I know, I've seen it myself. Would
you give that a try?

KARL
I reckon.

WOOLRIDGE
I can't promise he'll hire you. I'll
have to tell him about your history.

KARL
I never was no good with history.

WOOLRIDGE
No, I mean your past. About why you
were in here.
(pause)
I'll take you first thing in the
mornin'. You have anyplace you can
stay tonight at all? I just can't
let you stay here. It's the rules.
If something happened well, I'd be
liable.

KARL
I reckon I can just walk around till
the mornin'. Or set and read me a
book somewhere.

They sit and stare at each other for a moment.

INT. WOOLRIDGE DEN NIGHT

Woolridge, his WIFE, his teenage SON, BUBBA, and teenage
DAUGHTER sit in various comfortable chairs looking extremely
uncomfortable and staring at Karl, who is sitting on the
edge of a chair looking at the floor. After a long creepy
moment, Mom speaks.

MRS. WOOLRIDGE
Karl, would you like a muffin?

KARL
No thank you.

MRS. WOOLRIDGE
I understand Jerry is going to take
you somewhere else tomorrow.

KARL
I don't reckon I know nobody name
Jerry.

WOOLRIDGE
She's talkin' about me, Karl. That's
my first name.

KARL
He's a-carryin' me to look fer work
in Millsburg where I was borned.

MRS. WOOLRIDGE
Would you like some coffee?

KARL
Coffee makes me a might nervous when
I drink it.

DAUGHTER
Daddy, can I be excused to go to
bed?

WOOLRIDGE
Sure, honey. You sleep with Mama
tonight. I'll sleep with your brother
and Karl can take your room.

DAUGHTER
Why?

WOOLRIDGE
We have company. Now you go on.

INT. BEDROOM NIGHT

It's an all-American girls room. Everything is pink. There
are stuffed animals everywhere and posters of pop idols.

WOOLRIDGE
Well, Karl, there's plenty of blankets
and things there. Bathroom's right
there in the hall. We'll leave first
thing tomorrow.

Karl stands in the middle of the room holding his books.

Woolridge closes the door.

INT. WOOLRIDGE KITCHEN NIGHT

Woolridge walks into the kitchen where Mom and Son sit at
the table.

MRS. WOOLRIDGE
Jerry, why didn't you give him Bubba's
room? Sister's is kind of girly,
isn't it?

WOOLRIDGE
Yeah, I thought about that. No sense
in moving him now I guess.

BUBBA
Daddy, don't you think one of us
ought to stay up all night and kind
of guard or somethin'?

WOOLRIDGE
Why, hell no, son. What's wrong with
you?

BUBBA
Well, he's crazy. He's a nut ain't
he?

MRS. WOOLRIDGE
'Isn't' he, Bubba. Don't say ain't.

INT. WOOLRIDGE DEN AND HALLWAY MORNING

Woolridge, already dressed, walks through the den and down
the hallway. He knocks on the bedroom door.

WOOLRIDGE
Karl, you up?

KARL (O.S.)
Yes sir.

Woolridge opens the bedroom door and sees Karl sitting on
the edge of the bed beside his books. The light is on, the
bed still as it was the night before.

WOOLRIDGE
Didn't you go to sleep at all, Karl?
You been sittin' there like that all
night?

KARL
Yes sir.

WOOLRIDGE
Well, I guess we better hit the road.

INT. EXT. FIXIT SHOP DAY

Woolridge's car pulls into the parking lot. He and Karl get
out and walk toward the shop.

INT. FIXIT SHOP DAY

Two men, BILL COX, a large man in his forties, and SCOOTER
HODGES, a really country-looking guy in his thirties, look
up from behind the counter as Woolridge and Karl enter.
Woolridge goes to the counter, Karl stands by the door looking
at the floor.

BILL
Hey Jerry, how it's goin'. Good to
see you. Been a long time.

WOOLRIDGE
Good to see you, Bill. How's everybody
doin'?

BILL
Aw, pretty good. Kids are drivin' me
crazy and Phyllis is gonna put me in
the poorhouse. Can't complain other
than that. Wouldn't do any good if I
did.
(laughs)
Do you know Scooter, Jerry?

WOOLRIDGE
No, don't guess I do.

He shakes hands with Scooter who sort of smiles.

WOOLRIDGE
Scooter, good to meet you.

Woolridge leans in and gets confidential.

WOOLRIDGE
This is him, the one I talked to you
about on the phone. Now like I said,
I'll understand if you get nervous
about it. I'm not gonna lie to you
now, he did get in that trouble but
then he was real young.

BILL
I remember it real well. Cut them
folks to pieces. His mama one of
'em.

SCOOTER
And that ol' Dixon boy. Hell, I always
wanted to kill him myself. Asshole's
what he was. I remember that ol' boy
too.
(points to Karl)
Kind of retarded or somethin' back
in school.

WOOLRIDGE
Well, he seems pretty well-adjusted
these days. I don't think he'd ever
hurt anybody.

BILL
Don't look much like he could. You
say he can fix a small engine like
nobody's bidness.

WOOLRIDGE
He's a regular whiz at it. That's
all he did when he was a kid.

BILL
Well, I ain't scared of him workin'
here. You know me. I'm a church goin'
man. Forgivin' man. When your time's
up the Lord's gonna come git you.
You scared of him, Scooter?

SCOOTER
I don't guess. Can he talk?

WOOLRIDGE
Oh yeah. Listen I really appreciate
it. He needs the job. I don't know
what to do with him. He don't have
anybody really.

BILL
That old man of his still livin'
over there on Clark Street I believe.

WOOLRIDGE
He won't have anything to do with
him. Now you say it's all right for
him to stay out here in the back?

BILL
Fine with me. If he steals anything,
I'll take it out of your pocket
anyway.

Bill slaps Woolridge on the shoulders and wheezes with
laughter.

WOOLRIDGE
He won't steal. I'm tellin' you he's
a pretty good ol' boy. Keeps to
himself.

BILL
Well, I've got a roomful of work for
him to do. Can't get Scooter to do
any of it.

WOOLRIDGE
Karl, come over here. I want you to
meet your new boss.

Karl obediently shuffles over.

WOOLRIDGE
This is Bill Cox, runs this place.
Says you can work here and stay in
the back.

BILL
Good to know you, Karl.

KARL
Thank you.

BILL
Now it's minimal wage and there ain't
nothin' but a army cot and a toilet
back there.

Karl doesn't say anything.

WOOLRIDGE
That'll be fine. Karl, I'll go to
the car and get your books.

Woolridge exits. Bill and Scooter just stare at Karl and
Karl stares at the floor.

BILL
They say you're a whiz on fixin'
lawn mowers and things.

KARL
I've tinkered around on 'em a little
bit.

BILL
We order from Dairy Queen at noontime
usually. We can buy your lunch till
you get on your feet a little.

KARL
I like them French-fried potaters.

BILL
(long pause)
Yeah, me too.

SCOOTER
They make a good double meat burger.

INT. SHOP WORKROOM NIGHT

The place is cluttered with mowers, edgers, weedeaters, and
other equipment, most of it in pieces. A small cot is in a
little clearing in the corner by the bathroom. Karl is
sweeping up oil with sawdust and a push broom while Scooter
puts some tools away. Bill comes to the door.

BILL
All right then, I'll see y'all later.
Karl you done a good day's work.
They right about you. Scooter, he's
gonna knock you out of a job if you're
not careful. I'll see you tomorrow.

SCOOTER
Wait up, I'll leave with you and
lock up.

BILL
Karl, they's a blanket up in under
that cot and soap in the bathroom to
clean up with.
(pause)
Now there's one more thing. The way
we lock these doors at night, you
can't get out. You didn't want to go
anywhere, did you?

KARL
I don't reckon.

BILL
If it works out and all, maybe we'll
get you a key so you can get out at
night if you need to. See you later.

They leave Karl standing in the midst of the lawnmowers. He
sets the broom down and goes and sits on the cot. After a
moment, he gets back up and starts sweeping again.

INT. SHOP DAY

It's lunch time and Bill, Scooter, and Karl are sitting in
folding chairs behind the counter eating from their Dairy
Queen to-go bags. Karl has French fries.

BILL
Scooter, did I tell about the two
old boys pissin' off the bridge?

SCOOTER
I can't remember.

BILL
There was these two old boys hung
their peckers off of a bridge to
piss, one old boy from California
and one old boy from Arkansas. Old
boy from California says, "Boy this
water's cold." Old boy from Arkansas
says "Yeah, and it's deep too."
(starts wheezing)
Get it? That's a goodun.

SCOOTER
(laughing)
Yeah, that's a goodun. I believe you
did tell me that one before. I've
heard that a bunch. Long time ago.

BILL
Well, yeah it's a classic. You know,
Karl, I got to thinkin' about it
last night and it's just not Christian
of me to not let you have a key. I
mean you been in lockup so long, you
don't need me keepin' you locked up.
You need to come and go as you please.
Here, take this key, it'll get you
in and out that back door.

Karl takes the key and keeps eating French fries.

BILL
Them French fries good?

KARL
Yeah, they's good all right.

BILL
You got any money?

KARL
They give me fifty dollars when they
turned me loose. I spent up some of
it on ridin' the bus and eatin' French-
fried potaters.

BILL
Well, I'm gonna pay you today for
this comin' week, so you'll have
some walkin' around money. When you
get off this evenin' you better go
buy some toothpaste and cleanin' up
supplies to have back there. Some
hard candy and some magazines.
Somethin' to keep you busy at night.

KARL
All right then.

BILL
I'll let you off while it's still
daylight.

EXT. STREET DAY

Karl is walking down a residential street. He stops in front
of the house where the boy, Frank, lives and stares at the
house for a moment, then he walks up to the door and stares
at it. A curtain moves and the boy; face appears at the
window. He comes and opens the door.

FRANK
Hey there. I thought I heard somebody
on the porch. Wasn't your name Karl?

KARL
Yeah it is. Your name's Frank.

FRANK
Yeah. What you doin' by here?

KARL
You told me to come by.

FRANK
Did you want to play ball with us?

KARL
I ain't no good at it. I just come
by.

FRANK
Well, anyhow, I was just fixin' to
go see my mama down at Ben's Dollar
Store. She's workin' two till eight.

KARL
All right then. He starts to walk
away.

FRANK
Wait a minute. You want to go with
me? You can meet my mama.

KARL
I don't want to worry your mama with
company.

FRANK
Aw, come on. You'll like her. She's
real nice. She'll give us somethin'
if we ask her to. Candy or somethin'.

KARL
I was kindly needin' to do some
tradin'. Reckon they sell toothpaste?

FRANK
They sell some of everything. Come
on let's go. I won't tell her about
you bein' in the state hospital for
killin'.

INT. BEN'S DOLLAR STORE DAY

Frank and Karl make their way through the fairly crowded
store. It's sort of a mini-version of a Walmart. They find
Frank's mother in her red smock talking to a guy in a red
Ben's knit shirt. They are laughing together and pricing
some mouthwash. LINDA WHEATLEY is a short, plain woman in
her thirties. The man, VAUGHAN CUNNINGHAM, is in his forties,
with a neat flattop hair cut, glasses, and a paunch hanging
over his belt. They eye Karl suspiciously, as the boys
approach.

FRANK
Hey, Mama. Hey, Vaughan.

LINDA
Hey, sweetheart. What you up to?

VAUGHAN
Let me guess. You want a bunch of
candy and a pop.

FRANK
Yeah.

VAUGHAN
You're gonna rot your teeth that
way. But I bet I know what you would
like even better. I put potted meat
on special, four cans for a dollar
and they're not moving very well.
I'd sure let a few cans go for free
to the right boy.

FRANK
I don't like potted meat. Daddy used
to say it was made out of lips and
peckers and intestints.

LINDA
Frank, don't talk that way. Who's
that strange lookin' man behind you?
Did he follow you in here?

VAUGHAN
Can I help you, sir?

FRANK
Oh, that's Karl. I met him at the
laundrymat. Karl, this is my mama.
And Vaughan, Vaughan's the manager.
He lets mama off any time she feels
like it cause they're best friends.

LINDA
Nice to meet you, Karl.

KARL
(keeping his distance)
Pleased to know y'all.

There's an uncomfortable silence.

LINDA
Frank come back here with me for a
minute.

She shuffles him away and leaves Vaughan staring at Karl.

VAUGHAN
I don't think I've ever seen you
before.

KARL
Naw, I don't believe you have. I
don't reckon I never been in here.
This store didn't used to be here.

VAUGHAN
It's been here seventeen years. Did
you live here before or something?

KARL
I's borned and raised here up till
I's twelve year old.

VAUGHAN
What brings you back?

KARL
What's that you say?

VAUGHAN
Why are you here now?

KARL
They turned me loose from the state
hospital.

VAUGHAN
Is that right?
(pause)
Are you going to be staying here
long?

KARL
I reckon Mr. Woolridge got me hired
on to work for Bill Cox's outfit.

VAUGHAN
Do you have family here?

KARL
Not really to speak of.

Linda and Frank return from the back.

FRANK
Hey Karl, guess what. Mama said you
can stay with us. Our car won't fit
in there anyway. It's real neat.

LINDA
Frank told me about your situation.
And Frank loves company. You know,
especially after his daddy passed
and all. There ain't no sense in you
stayin' in that old greasy shop.
(to Vaughan, hushed)
He's mentally retarded, poor thing.

VAUGHAN
(hushed)
He just got out of the state hospital.

LINDA
(put out)
I know.

FRANK
Can we get some candy and pops?

VAUGHAN
Sure, go ahead.

They walk off down the aisle leaving Vaughan a little puzzled.

VAUGHAN
Are you sure it's safe to let him
around that guy?

LINDA
Frank's just crazy about him. He
likes the way he talks. He helped
him carry home the clean laundry.

VAUGHAN
He's been in the state hospital a
long time, something must be wrong
with him.

LINDA
He's retarded's all. You know he's
always after a father figure and
Lord knows Doyle ain't a good one
with his mean ass.

VAUGHAN
What about me?

LINDA
I don't think he sees you as a guy
guy.

VAUGHAN
(wrinkles his brow)
Karl is a guy guy?

EXT. WOODED AREA LATE AFTERNOON

Karl and Frank sit on stumps in a little clearing enjoying
the spoils of their Ben's Dollar Store visit.

FRANK
This is what I call my secret place
'cause I come out here when I feel
like bein' by myself. I used to come
here with Karen Cross. She's kind of
like my girlfriend, or used to be.
She says she likes Jerry Maroney
now. But I'm gonna get her back 'cause
I love her. We used to come here and
hold hands and talk and read books
to each other with a flashlight. She
didn't want to have anything to do
with me in front of other people
'cause I don't have any money. Well,
mama and me, I mean. She seemed to
like me a whole lot when we were out
here though. She said she loved me,
too. Out here. Settin' right on that
stump you're on. See, her daddy's a
dentist so they're rich. So's Jerry
Maroney's daddy. He owns the ice
plant. Was your folks well off?

KARL
Naw. Didn't have too much. Enough to
scrape by on, I reckon.

FRANK
They still around, your folks?

KARL
My mother's dead. My daddy's s'posed
to be around still. He don't want to
have nothin' to do with me though.

FRANK
How do you know?

KARL
He never did want to. I figure he
ain't changed his mind much.

FRANK
How did your mama die?

KARL
(long pause)
You don't need to know all of that.
You're just a boy. You need to think
about good thoughts while you're
still a boy. They'll be plenty of
time for the other.

FRANK
I've had a lot of bad thoughts since
my daddy died. Sometimes I wish I
was still real little and he was
still here. My mama's real good, but
I wish I had both of 'em.
(pause)
When we went to Memphis one time in
the car, it was rainin' so hard we
couldn't see the road. But I wadn't
scared because I thought as long as
daddy was drivin' nothin' could happen
to us. I feel that way about mama
now.

He looks at the ground for a moment.

FRANK
Mama has a boyfriend now. His name
is Doyle Hargraves. He works
construction so he makes a pretty
good livin'. He still don't help
mama out with any money though. He
ain't no good. He's mean to her. He
don't like me at all. Mama says it's
because he's jealous I belong to my
daddy instead of him. He stays with
us all night sometimes, but he's got
his own house. Somebody told me it's
so he can still have other
girlfriends. I like it on the nights
when he ain't at our house. I'm not
so nervous then.

KARL
How come her to keep bein' girlfriends
and all with him if he's mean to
her?

FRANK
She says it's for the times when
he's good to her. She's lonely since
daddy died. She said sometimes she
don't know why.
(pause)
He threatened to kill her if she
ever left him. My daddy would kill
him if he was here and somebody was
mean to mama. Vaughan, he's real
good to mama. Vaughan that you met.
But he's not able to do anything to
Doyle, he's funny you know. Not funny
ha, ha, funny queer. He likes to go
with men instead of women. That makes
him not to be able to fight too good.
He sure is nice though. He's from
St. Louis. People who are queer can
get along better in a big town. He
got transferred here to work. But
mama said the real reason he left is
cause his daddy hated him. For bein'
the way he is. I wish he liked to go
with women. I'd rather him be mama's
boyfriend than Doyle.

Pause as Frank looks at the ground again. He seems troubled.

FRANK
Karl.
(pause)
You know when I said daddy got hit
by a train.

KARL
Yeah, I remember you a-tellin' me
that.

FRANK
It ain't the truth. He shot hisself
with a shotgun on purpose.

KARL
Why did he do that, reckon.

FRANK
'Cause he didn't have enough money
to take care of us the way he wanted
to. That's what the letter said. He
got laid off from work and had to
just work odd jobs. I thought he
took care of us fine.
(pause)
Karl, did you really kill somebody?

KARL
Yeah, I did.

FRANK
Who did you kill?

KARL
Two people.

FRANK
Were they bad people?

KARL
I thought they was.

FRANK
Maybe they needed it.

KARL
I growed up and got taught it ain't
right to kill nobody.

FRANK
It's okay if you're lookin' out for
yourself. If it's self defense. Was
it self-defense?

Karl shifts around and makes a noise in his throat and doesn't
answer.

FRANK
My daddy was good. I think too many
good people die. It ain't right.
That's what I think.

INT. SHOP DAY

Karl is tying the strap around his books. His sack of
toiletries is on the bed. Bill Cox comes in.

BILL
Now, Karl, you sure you want to go
stay with these folks? You're welcome
to keep on stayin here. It's workin'
out real good.

KARL
That boy wants me to.

BILL
All right then. I'll see you bright
and early. How you comin' along on
that garden tiller?

KARL
I fixed it. Hit's a workin' pretty
good.

BILL
You done fixed it? I'll be damned.
Scooter told me it couldn't be fixed.
'Course Scooter's about as shitless
as one poor son-of-a-bitch can be.
You done fixed it. I'll just be
damned. See you tomorrow.

INT. WHEATLEY LIVING ROOM NIGHT

DOYLE is in the comfortable easy chair with adjuster handle
drinking beer. He's in his late thirties and dressed in his
construction clothes. Linda sits on the arm of the chair and
Frank stands before them.

DOYLE
Well, honey, I don't guess I give a
shit. I ain't here half the time
anyway. If you want a retard livin'
in the garage, I don't guess I care.
I've got a good tool box and socket
set out there I don't want stol'd. I
guess I could take it home with me.

FRANK
He's real honest. He wouldn't steal
nothin'.

DOYLE
Now son, I wadn't talkin' to you,
was I?
(pause)
Was I?

FRANK
No sir.

DOYLE
No sir's right. I'm talkin' to your
mama. This is your mama's decision,
not yours. I'm lettin' it go on
because she asked me, not you.
(to Linda)
Now is this the kind of retard that
drools and rubs shit in his hair and
all that, 'cause I have trouble eatin'
around that kind of thing. Just like
I am about antique furniture and
midgets. I can't so much as drink a
glass of water around a midget or a
piece of antique furniture. Same
thing with a droolin' retard.

LINDA
Doyle, you're awful. You shouldn't
be that way.

DOYLE
I ain't sayin' it's right. I'm just
tellin' the truth. What was he in
the nuthouse for?

LINDA
He's just mentally retarded, I guess.

DOYLE
He had of went nuts and did somethin'.
They don't put you in there for just
bein' a retard. They's retards all
over the place that ain't in the
nuthouse. Do you know, Frank?

FRANK
I ain't sure.

DOYLE
You might want to find out. He might
of hacked his family to pieces with
a hatchet or somethin'.

LINDA
Yeah, that's right, Frank, you better
ask him. I mean, don't hurt his
feelin's or anything, but it would
be good to know. I'm sure it's
nothin'. He seems real sweet.

DOYLE
You sure are hung up on people bein'
sweet.
(takes a long pull on
his beer)
Speakin' of which, where's your
girlfriend? I thought he was comin'
by here for something.

LINDA
He'll be here in a little while,
he's takin' me to get an ice cream.

DOYLE
Ain't that the sweetest thing. What
am I supposed to do about supper
with you traipsin' around with that
fag?

LINDA
You're not crippled. Get in there
and make somethin'.

DOYLE
Boy, ain't you somethin' else. Talkin'
back and everything. It kinda makes
me horny when you talk back.

LINDA
Frank, why don't you go off and play
in your room if Doyle's gonna talk
nasty.

FRANK
I want to watch T.V.

DOYLE
Yeah, honey, let the kid watch T.V.
Hell, let's all watch T.V. like a
family till your retarded friend and
your homosexual friend gets here.

EXT. PORCH NIGHT

Karl is standing on the porch with his bag and his books
staring at the door. After a moment, we hear a car door slam
and footsteps on the porch. Then we hear Vaughan's voice.

VAUGHAN
Karl?

Karl turns to face Vaughan.

KARL
Yes sir.

VAUGHAN
So, you're really going to stay here?

KARL
That boy wants me to.

VAUGHAN
Did you knock on the door yet?

KARL
Naw, I ain't.

VAUGHAN
How long have you been standing here?

KARL
Quite a spell, I reckon.

VAUGHAN
Listen, before you get very used to
staying here, I think you and I need
to talk about a few things. Can I
take you to lunch?

KARL
I done et just a little bit ago.

VAUGHAN
I mean tomorrow or the next day.

KARL
I reckon I can stand to eat a little
somethin' or 'nother at noontime
tomorrow. Bill Cox generally gets me
a box of Frenchfried potaters. But I
reckon he can lay off doin' it
tomorrow.

VAUGHAN
Okay, I'll come by Mr. Cox's and get
you at noon.

They stand there for a moment. Vaughan doesn't really know
exactly what else to do, so he knocks on the door. After a
moment, Frank answers the door.

FRANK
Hey. Y'all come on in.

INT. LIVING ROOM NIGHT

Vaughan ushers Karl in and they stand behind the sofa. Doyle
looks up and grins.

LINDA
Hey, Vaughan. How are you, Karl?

KARL
Tolerable, I reckon.

LINDA
(in a hurry to get
out)
Karl, this is my boyfriend, Doyle.
Frank, why don't you and Karl go out
in the garage and fix him up a place
or play a game or somethin'. Vaughan,
you ready to go?

VAUGHAN
Sure, I guess.

DOYLE
Don't rush ever'body, honey.

She starts to get her things together.

LINDA
(to Frank)
Maybe you and Karl want to go with
us.

FRANK
Naw, I don't want to. Me and Karl
got things we need to do.

DOYLE
Hey, Vaughan, you know what I heard?
I heard you been puttin' it to Albert
Sellers that works over at the funeral
home.

VAUGHAN
I know Albert. We're friends.

DOYLE
I heard you was more than friends. I
heard Dick Rivers caught y'all all
bowed up and goin' at it in the same
room with poor, little, old Mizz
Ogletree and her dead as a doornail
layed out on a gurney.

VAUGHAN
That's ridiculous. That's just a
total lie.

LINDA
Let's go, Vaughan.

They start for the door.

LINDA
Frank, we'll be back in a little
while. I'll bring you back somethin'.
You're food's in the oven warmin'
over.

DOYLE
See, you made him somethin'. Hey
Vaughan, I was just goin' on with
you, jokin' around, buddy.

VAUGHAN
(smiles a little)
Yeah, I knew that. You're a card all
right.

Linda kisses Frank on the forehead and they leave.

DOYLE
So, Karl, come have a seat, talk to
me.

Karl sits on the couch.

FRANK
Come on, Karl, let's go out to the
garage.

DOYLE
Goddamnit, I'm talkin' to the man.
You set right there, Karl.

Frank leans on the sofa arm beside Karl.

DOYLE
What's in your bag?

KARL
This and that. Toothpaste and whatnot.

DOYLE
What's all them books?

KARL
Different ones. The Bible's one of
'em.

DOYLE
You believe in the Bible?

KARL
A good deal of it, I reckon. Can't
understand all of it.

DOYLE
Well, I can't understand none of it.
This one begat this one and that one
begat this one and begat and begat
and begat and lo somebody sayeth
some shit or another. Just how
retarded are you?

FRANK
Stop it, Doyle!

DOYLE
You be quiet, Frank, we're talkin'.
The adults are talkin'. Were you in
the lockup for cuttin' somebody up
with a hatchet?

KARL
I ain't never used no hatchet that I
remember.

DOYLE
You're just crazy in a retarded kind
of way then.
(pause)
It wouldn't matter to me if you did
do violence on somebody 'cause I
ain't afraid of shit. You think I'm
afraid for you to stay here. You're
just a humped over retard it looks
like to me. Not really, I'm just
jokin' with you. Welcome to our humble
home, buddy. Frank needs all the
friends he can get. Frank's a real
weak little kid. His daddy taught
him how to be a pussy.

FRANK
Stop it, Doyle! Don't talk about
daddy, you hear me!

DOYLE
(mocking)
Don't talk about daddy. Y'all go on
to the garage and let me be.

Frank is crying now.

FRANK
Come on, Karl.

They get up and walk away.

DOYLE
(yelling to Frank)
Don't tell your mama we had a little
spat. She don't need to be worried
with your ass.

INT. GARAGE NIGHT

Karl sits on an old sofa and Frank sits on an upside down
paint bucket, still upset.

FRANK
I'd like to kill that son of a bitch.
I hate him.

KARL
You ort not to talk that way. You're
just a boy.

FRANK
Well, I hate him.

KARL
He ort not to talk that away to you
neither. He ain't no count. He's
mean to you and your mama.
(pause)
Yore mama and that feller that's
carryin' me to get somethin' d'eat's
gonna be back here directly.

FRANK
Will you stay here with us for a
long time?

KARL
I reckon if you want me to.
(pause)
I got some of that potted meat and
sodie crackers left over if you want
some.

FRANK
I don't see how you can eat that
stuff with all those insides it's
made out of.

KARL
I reckon it tastes pretty good to
me.

FRANK
I like the way you talk.

KARL
I like the way you talk.

Karl starts to put together a cracker and potted meat delight
as we:

INT. HAMBURGER ESTABLISHMENT DAY

Vaughan is carrying a tray of food as Karl follows him to a
table and they sit and immediately start to eat. After a few
bites, Vaughan starts to speak in an official manner.

VAUGHAN
Okay, Karl, the reason I brought you
here was to talk to you about
something that is on my mind.

Pauses for a response, instead Karl eats French fries and
stares at the table.

VAUGHAN
I guess I'll put it right out on the
table. Where do I start. Linda and
Frank are very important to me.
They're like family. My own family
was never like family. They're
horrible people. As a matter of fact
I prayed every night for years that
my father would die. I finally
realized through a lot of therapy
that I was wasting my energy on hating
him. Now I just don't care.
(pause)
You see, you and I are a lot alike,
strange as that may seem. I mean not
physically or even mentally really,
just well, maybe emotionally or
actually the hand we've been dealt
in life. We're different. People see
us as being different anyway. You're -
well you have your affliction or
whatever and I, well mine's not as
easy to see. I'm just going to say
it. I'm gay.
(waits)
Does that surprise you?
(waits)
That I'm gay. You know what being
gay is, don't you?

KARL
I reckon not.

VAUGHAN
Homosexual. I like men. Sexually.

KARL
Not funny, ha, ha, funny queer.

VAUGHAN
Well that's a very offensive way to
put it. You shouldn't say that. You
were taught that, weren't you?

KARL
I've heard it said that way.

VAUGHAN
Anyway, it's hard to live gay, that's
the right way to say it, in a small
town like this. I've wanted to leave
many times, but my love for Linda
and Frank and another certain person
that we won't go into have kept me
from it. Anyway, I'm rambling. If
you're going to live in the Wheatley
garage you need to know that it won't
be easy. Doyle is a monster. Not
just a closed minded redneck, but a
monster. A dangerous person. I've
told Linda that one day that man is
going to really hurt her or that
boy. Maybe even kill one of them. I
see it in his eyes. I'm very in tune,
maybe even psychic. Doyle will make
your life hell. You're a perfect
target. When I first saw you I was
afraid of you. Not really afraid, I
guess, just taken aback. But also, I
felt a real sensitive feeling from
you. And for some reason, Frank has
adopted you. Much like a stray animal.
I'm sorry, I didn't mean it like
that. In a good way. Anyway, I just
want you to know what you're in for.
I have a good feeling about you.
You're good for Frank. Maybe it's
that he can have an adult friend on
a child's level. I'm sorry, I didn't
mean it in a bad way.
(pause)
There's one more thing. It's none of
my business why you were in the state
hospital. Everyone has something in
their past, maybe you tried suicide,
maybe you did something-terrible.
But what I see before me is a gentle,
simple man. All I want you to promise
me is that you're capable of being
around Linda and Frank. You know.
You would never hurt them under any
circumstances, would you?

KARL
I wouldn't never hurt them.

VAUGHAN
That's what I thought. I hope I
haven't offended you in any way. You
seem like a thinker. You seem to
always be in deep thought. Tell me
something. What are you thinking
right now?

Karl looks up and stares for a moment.

KARL
I was thinkin' I could use me another
helpin' of these potaters.

VAUGHAN
Oh. How about before that?

KARL
Before that I was thinkin' it'd be
good if I could get another three or
four cans of that potted meat if you
got any extry.

INT. WHEATLEY KITCHEN NIGHT

Linda, Frank, and Doyle are eating.

LINDA
How come Karl won't eat here with
us?

FRANK
I don't know. He just said he'd eat
out there.

DOYLE
Well, I wouldn't let it get to you.

LINDA
I just feel sorry for the poor thing.

DOYLE
Who could eat with him settin' there
makin' that goddamn racket with his
throat.

LINDA
He does make some funny noises.

FRANK
I sure like the way he talks. It
sounds like a race car motor idlin'.
It makes me not be nervous.

LINDA
I'm glad of it, honey.

DOYLE
What have you got to be nervous about?
You're a damn kid. You ain't got any
bills to pay or bidness to run or
old lady to stay on your ass all the
time.

FRANK
I get nervous, that's all I know.

They eat in silence for a while. Linda and Frank know where
this conversation could lead and know when to leave well
enough alone.

DOYLE
You know what, by God?

LINDA
What.

DOYLE
You know what we ought to do tonight?

LINDA
Please Doyle, don't.

DOYLE
Have a damn party! Call Morris and
them and get the band together and
just party our asses off. I'd like
to show that fuckin' Karl to the
guys. They'd get a kick out of that.
Don't you know they would.

LINDA
Please don't. Not tonight. I'm not
up for it. They always stay till
mornin'. I'm just give out, Doyle.

DOYLE
You don't have to do anything but
pour some potato chips in a bowl and
bring beers out when we get low.

FRANK
Last time you got mad and run Morris
and them off and said to stay away
from here.

DOYLE
That ain't none of your damn bidness.
Besides that's the way friends do
one another. Fuck it, I'm gonna go
call 'em. Honey, find my guitar, I
think it's out there in the garage
with that loony tune.

INT. GARAGE NIGHT

Karl sits on his cot eating from the plate Frank brought
him. Frank and Linda come through the door. Frank comes and
sits beside Karl. Linda gets a guitar case down from a shelf
and comes over and stands in front of Karl.

LINDA
Karl, now listen, there's gonna be a
party tonight here at the house.
Doyle's invited his music-playin'
buddies over to make a bunch of racket
out on the patio.

FRANK
They ain't even no good. The only
one can play is Randy Horsefeathers.
He claims he's an Indian. His real
name's Randy Collins and he works at
the feed mill. He can at least play
guitar.

LINDA
He's no more an Indian than I am
though. Anyhow, Doyle's gonna try
and tease you and be mean to you to
show off to his friends. Just like
he does to Frank and me sometimes.
You just ignore it. Or stay out here
away from 'em if he'll let you. He's
an okay guy till he gets drunk but
tonight he'll get drunk. I guarantee
it.

FRANK
He ain't ever okay to me.

The garage door opens and Doyle appears. He seems really
happy.

DOYLE
Well, it's on! We're gonna rock.
Linda, call Vaughan. Tell him to get
over here. I'd like him to be here.
I owe him a good time.

LINDA
No Doyle. Vaughan don't want to come
to a party with you.

DOYLE
Too late, Honey. Fooled you. Done
called him. He'll be here.
(grins)
Or I'll go get him. Come on Karl, I
need you to help me ice down a tub
of beer, you and Frank.

INT. BACKYARD NIGHT

White Christmas tree lights are strung above the patio. Karl
sits to the side in a kitchen chair staring at the ground
alongside Vaughan, Frank, and Linda. The "band" is set up on
the patio. The band consists of MORRIS, a heavyset guy in a
military uniform on tambourine, TERENCE, a skinny guy in a
wheelchair on bass, RANDY, a long haired younger guy who's
not an Indian on guitar, Doyle on a guitar which he can't
play and MONTY "The Johnson" Johnson, a large guy with a ZZ
Top beard on drums. A tub of beer is in front of them. They're
all hooting and hollering and drinking. They've obviously
been at it for a while. Doyle steps forward to address the
'crowd.'

DOYLE
Okay ladies and gentlemen.
(Points to Vaughan)
It's come to the time in our show
when we like to introduce the band.
Over here on lead guitar Mr. Randy
Horsefeathers. Come on hit a hot
lick, Randy.

Randy plays a lick.

DOYLE
Well, come on, y'all are supposed to
clap now. Come on!

They clap a little except for Karl.

ANGLE ON LINDA

LINDA
Karl, you better clap your hands or
he'll just keep on.

Karl claps his hands a little.

DOYLE
On the bass, give it up for Terence
"One Ball" Atkins.
(more half-assed
clapping)
On the tambourine and lyrics Morris
Hobbs the fuckin' genius of the group.
(claps)
On drums "The Johnson."
(claps)
And last and most importantly, Doyle
Hargraves on rhythm guitar and
business affairs and the only
motherfucker with a truck big enough
to haul this outfit on the next world
fuckin' tour. Come on, a big hand
for these guys. They're workin' their
asses off here.
(pauses for a slug of
beer)
Okay I'd like to dedicate this next
one to some very special people in
our audience tonight. To my lovely
female companion Linda, her lovely
son Frank, our new boarder Karl.
What's your last name Karl?

KARL
Childers.

DOYLE
Karl Childers just in from the state
facility. Make one of them gruntin'
sounds Karl or whatever it is you
do.
(nothing)
Oh well, Karl's a little retarded,
he don't know what the hell I'm
talkin' about. And to Vaughan who
fucks a mortician in the rear entrance
right in front of his clients. Now
that takes balls. Our number one
tune for the folks, boys. Kick it
off Johnson!

They play "Walk Don't Run" while the audience of four sits
in motionless silence. They finish the song and hoot and
holler and drink some more and say nasty things to each other.

DOYLE
You like that Vaughan?

VAUGHAN
Sure. It sounded like a number one
tune all right.

DOYLE
You enjoying yourself, Karl?

KARL
I reckon.

We hear the voice of an OLD MAN NEIGHBOR in the near distance.

VOICE (O.S.)
I wished you all would lay off for
tonight. I can't hear myself think
for that racket. It's nighttime, now
let folks be! I'll call the law!

DOYLE
(hollers back)
I told you already three times, the
laws on my side. I play cards with
J.D. Shelnutt, chief of police. Get
fucked you old bastard!
(to the party)
Okay now, Linda, you and the kid
clean up and get a tarpaulin over
this instruments. Me and the boys
are goin' to the county line. We're
out of liquor and beer. Come on Karl,
you and Vaughan are goin' with us.

VAUGHAN
I'd better go on home now, it's late.
I have to work tomorrow.

DOYLE
Come on, don't be a pussy. Everybody
has to work.

LINDA
He don't want to Doyle. Don't go
Vaughan if you don't want to. You'll
wreck Doyle, you're drunk.

DOYLE
(very sincere)
But honey, I'll be good. I promise.
I love you sweetie. I'm just tryin'
to help these two be part of things.

INT. DOYLE'S TRUCK NIGHT

Doyle is driving, Vaughan in the middle, and Karl by the
window. Doyle cranks up the truck and pops in a cassette
tape. The first few notes of "Ghost Riders in the Sky" play.

VAUGHAN
Are you sure you can drive? You've
really had a lot of alcohol.

DOYLE
Shhhh! This is the national anthem.

They take off tires screaming on the pavement as the song
goes louder.

EXT. STREET NIGHT

The truck fishtails into the night and we see the rest of
the "band" in the back of the truck trying to control
Terence's wheelchair as it rolls back and forth.

INT. TRUCK NIGHT

DOYLE
(points to tape player)
Not that you afflicted sons of bitches
would know anything about it, but
this is art.

They are stopped by a red traffic light. A police car pulls
up beside them and Doyle looks over at the RED FACED COP on
the passenger side and turns down the music.

DOYLE
Hey Freddy, what's goin' on boy. I
seen your pitcher in the paper for
catchin' that big-ass bass.

FREDDY
Yeah she was a big 'un. You ain't
drunk drivin' are you Doyle?

DOYLE
Yeah.

FREDDY
I figured that. Well you better be
careful with that cripple in the
back. You'll throw him out. Looks
like you got a wagonful.

DOYLE
We run outta somethin' to drink.
Goin' to the county line. You want
to race?

FREDDY
(laughing)
You know better than that. We're on
duty. Catch me in that Camaro next
week one night.

DOYLE
Catch you later Freddy!

Doyle peels out and the music blares again.

DOYLE
I bet you like sittin' between two
men in a dual wheel truck don't you?

VAUGHAN
Oh, yeah, I'm thrilled.

DOYLE
Sarcastic right?
(pause)
You know the boys in the band are
probably gonna stay over tonight.
We'd be glad to have you.

INT. LIVING ROOM NIGHT

Doyle slouches in his chair drinking whiskey from the bottle.
Terence and Morris are sitting facing Karl and Vaughan who
are on the sofa. Randy and The Johnson are sitting across
the room in straight-backed chairs drinking beer. They really
stocked up at the county line and beer and liquor bottles
are strewn everywhere. Morris is in the middle of a monologue,
which has obviously been going on for awhile.

MORRIS
Anyhow I'm not sure if you follow me
on those particular points, but it's
not really important in the smaller
picture, which is where most people
dwell anyway. Not that being manager
of Ben's Dollar Store is
insignificant. Or that making it
through years of incarceration in a
state supported facility is any small
feat.

THE JOHNSON
Morris, he's the only one in the
band that went to college.

RANDY
I'm in junior college right now over
in Westfield.

THE JOHNSON
That ain't no college, that's trade
school. Auto repair ain't ever made
a genius out of nobody.

MORRIS
Holidays are for campers.

RANDY
What do you know about bein' a genius,
Johnson. You can't even hardly keep
a steady beat on that high-price
drum set.

TERENCE
I think y'all play really tight
together, Randy. Y'all shouldn't
throw off on one another.

MORRIS
Anything that has to be discussed
can't mean anything.

DOYLE
You got that shit right.

VAUGHAN
What exactly do you mean by that? I
don't understand.

MORRIS
Exactly the point, my young
levelheaded friend.

VAUGHAN
I don't get it.

MORRIS
I rest my case.

TERENCE
Morris is real smart with philosophies
and things. That's why him and me
are the songwriting team of our group.
I make up good tunes or melodies as
we call them and Morris is the lyrics.

MORRIS
Not unlike Gary Brooker of the
Protocol Harum.

RANDY
We don't ever play any songs that
y'all wrote. I never even heard one
of 'em. Y'all just talk.

THE JOHNSON
We don't even play any songs with
words at all that I remember. We
ain't got no fuckin' microphone. Or
speaker set up.

TERENCE
We wrote one last night standin'
outside Mini-Mart. Morris called it
"Stuart Drives a Comfortable Car."
Then, you know, like on country songs
in parenthesis it says "There is
usually someone in the trunk." I
came up with a tune just humming.

DOYLE
See Vaughan, you shouldn't question
a genius. Morris is a modern day
poet like in the old days.

MORRIS
Our latest composition is as follows:
entitled: "The Thrill" "I stand on
the hill. Not for a thrill but for a
breath of a fresh kill. Never mind
the man who contemplates doing away
with license plates. He stands alone
anyway. Baking the cookies of
discontent. By the heat of a
laundrymat vent. Leaving his soul"
Then like in poetry I have dot dot
dot then drop down to the next line
kind of off center. "Leaving his
soul parting waters. Under the medulla
oblongata of...
Then dot dot dot again.
...mankind."

Silence for a moment as everyone in the room just stares at
something other than Morris.

TERENCE
I don't think that's right. I believe
dot dot dot come between medulla and
oblongata or something like that.
(Morris stares at him)
Well it did. It wasn't before mankind,
I know that much.

MORRIS
The dots are where I say they are.
Melody and tune. That's your trade.
You're a tunesmith Terence.

VAUGHAN
I don't really understand the meaning
of the words.

DOYLE
If y'all don't shut up I'm gonna go
out of my mind. And plus you're liable
to bust a spring in Karl's head.
He's already off balance.

TERENCE
That wadn't the way you made it up
before, Morris. That's all I know.

RANDY
We don't need fancy words, we need
to practice. We don't ever rehearse.

THE JOHNSON
We need some payin' gigs instead of
just messin' around on first one
patio and then another'n.

RANDY
Morris, you should just be the
manager, you can't play nothin'
anyway.

Doyle jumps up and throws his whiskey bottle through the
window. He has changed from groggy drunk to a wildeyed madman
in a flash.

DOYLE
We don't have a goddamn band! Y'all
just shut the fuck up! We don't need
no practicin' or managers cause we
ain't no fuckin' band! Morris ain't
no genius and the rest of you are
just losers. Am I the only one sane
human bein' around here? Just get
the hell out of my house and don't
come back!

VAUGHAN
It's not your house, Doyle, it's
Linda's.

DOYLE
I'll kill you, you fuckin' faggot!
You mind your own business. Now get
out! Now, before I get too mad to
turn back.

TERENCE
What about our instruments?

Doyle grabs the handles of Terence's wheelchair and pushes
him right out the screen door. We hear the chair clatter
down the steps and a cry of pain from Terence.

DOYLE
Now!

They all file out the door except Vaughan and Karl who sit
frozen on the sofa.

THE JOHNSON
(turning back)
You ain't right Doyle. Somethin's
wrong with you. Nobody needs your
shit.

MORRIS
(stops at the door)
The dots just look good on paper.
You don't sing 'em anyway. You're
showing your true Aries colors now.

DOYLE
Get out of my goddamn face, you
fuckin' buzzard!

He slams the door and turns to see Vaughan and Karl on the
sofa and Linda and Frank, in their nightclothes, standing in
the doorway.

DOYLE
I thought I told everybody to get
out of my house. That includes
cocksuckers and retards. Get off
your asses and go.

LINDA
This is not your house, Doyle. This
is my house and I'll say who stays
and goes. You've got a house, why
don't you go get one of your
girlfriends and go home to it.

DOYLE
You know better than to talk like
that when I'm hurtin'. Don't make me
knock the piss out of you.

VAUGHAN
Doyle, don't you lay one hand on
her.

DOYLE
That's funny.
(to Linda)
You go to bed and take snot nose
with you.

Linda walks up to him with Frank close behind. Vaughan gets
up also. Karl stares at the floor rubbing his hands together.

LINDA
You're not stayin' here tonight. Go
get sober before you come back. I'm
tired of my child seein' this. Now
you get yourself straight or I'll
lock your ass out of my life for
good.

DOYLE
You know what I told you, you even
think of leavin' me, I'll kill you
dead as a doornail.

LINDA
That might be better than this.

VAUGHAN
I'm a witness. I heard you threaten
her life.

DOYLE
I thought I told you to keep out!

LINDA
Leave.

DOYLE
Don't tell me what to do.

LINDA
Leave.

DOYLE
Don't tell me what to do.

LINDA
Leave.

DOYLE
Don't tell me what to do.

LINDA
Leave.

DOYLE
(an inch from her
face)
Don't tell me what to do.

She shoves him in the chest and he slaps her hard in the
face. Vaughan starts looking for a weapon and Frank goes
wild. He starts throwing anything he can find at Doyle. Empty
cans, bottles, a lamp stand. He connects with an encyclopedia
to the head. Doyle goes to the door. His face has changed
from angry to sad, almost pitiful.

DOYLE
Okay, I'll leave and sober up.
Everything's botherin' me, that's
all. I'm hurtin' Linda. I love you.

FRANK
I hate you!

DOYLE
Well, I hate you, too. No I don't. I
love your mama. Nobody understands
what I go through. I'll leave. You
bunch of freaks have fun. I'll call
you tomorrow honey. I'm sorry. You
can kiss my ass, really.
(to Frank)
You ever hit me again you little
bastard and I'll make you sorry your
daddy ever squirted your little ass
out.

He leaves and slams the door. Frank goes to Linda's side, as
does Vaughan.

FRANK
You all right, Mama?

LINDA
I'm fine, honey. Let's just try and
forget about tonight.

FRANK
We don't need to think bad thoughts,
do we Mama?

LINDA
No, honey, we don't.
(pause)
I'll make some coffee and start
cleanin' up this mess. Karl, you
want some coffee, huh?

KARL
No, ma'am. Coffee kindly makes me
nervous when I drink it.

INT. LIVING ROOM NIGHT

Linda cleaning up the last of the mess. Frank comes in sleepy-
eyed in his pajamas.

LINDA
What are you doin' up again, Frank?
You need to get a little sleep.

FRANK
Did Vaughan go home?

LINDA
Yeah, he has to go to work in a little
while. I do too.

FRANK
Did Karl go to bed?

LINDA
I guess. He went to the garage. Poor
thing, he's probably never seen such
a crazy mess. He probably wants to
go back and live in Mr. Cox's shop.

FRANK
I bet he don't. Karl likes me.

LINDA
I know he does.

FRANK
Mama?

LINDA
Huh?

FRANK
Is everything gonna be all right
someday? I just stay nervous all the
time just about.

LINDA
Yeah, honey, someday everything's
gonna be all right.

FRANK
Doyle wouldn't really kill you, would
he?

LINDA
I promise we're gonna get away from
him. The time has to be right, that's
all. I'd rather him get tired of me
and leave me. Then he wouldn't want
to hurt me. He wouldn't care then.
We'll be fine. I promise. You go to
bed now.
(she hugs him)
I love you.

FRANK
I love you, too, Mama.

He goes to his room.

INT. KITCHEN NIGHT

Linda goes into the kitchen and pours a cup of coffee and
sits at the table. After a moment, she looks up and is
startled to see Karl in the doorway.

LINDA
You scared me.

KARL
I didn't aim to.

LINDA
Want to sit down? Did you need
somethin'?

KARL
No ma'am.

Karl just keeps standing there and Linda keeps staring.

KARL
Two fellers was on a bridge a takin'
a leak and one feller says the water
was cold and the other said it was
deep water. One of 'em came from
Arkansas, I believe.

LINDA
(puzzled)
I'll be dog.

More silence.

KARL
Do you reckon you can make me some
biscuits?

LINDA
Right now?

KARL
Just whenever you take a notion to.
I don't aim to put you out.

LINDA
Well, it is nearly breakfast time
anyway. I can't go to sleep. I have
to be at work in three hours. You
know how it is when you just sleep
an hour or two, you feel worse than
if you hadn't slept at all?

KARL
Yes ma'am.

LINDA
Well, set down and I'll make some
biscuits and gravy.

KARL
Mustard's good on 'em to me.

LINDA
Okay.

Karl sets at the table and Linda starts to make the biscuits.

KARL
Thank ye.

LINDA
It's all right.
(pause)
You know I was thinkin' there's this
girl that works with me. She's real
heavy, but she's cute in the face.
Well, you know, she's slow. She's a
little bit, I think. She's not
retarded, just - it don't matter,
listen to me. I thought you might
like to meet her. Vaughan wants to
have a little supper over at his
house and we could invite her. Would
you like that?

KARL
I wouldn't mind a havin' supper.

LINDA
Vaughan's "friend" will be there,
too. He works at the funeral home.
And Frank. You know Frank likes you
a lot. He says you make him feel
calm.

KARL
I like Frank. He's a good boy. Me
and him's made friends.

She keeps working.

KARL
Hit ain't right for me to keep from
tellin' you how come me to be put in
the state hospital.

LINDA
That's okay. It's not really my
business. I have wondered though.
Why was it? Was it like a nervous
breakdown?

KARL
I killed my mother and a old boy
name Jesse Dixon. I thought they was
a-doin' wrong. I was about your boy's
age. They say I'm well now from it.

Linda stops working and turns to Karl, a little shocked, but
not as much as you would think.

LINDA
Was that you? I remember that. I was
only three or four, but I always
heard about it growin' up.
(pause)
They say you're well?

KARL
Yes ma'am.
(pause)
I like your garage.
(pause)
I wouldn't never hurt you or your
boy. I'd lay my hand on the Bible
and say the same thing.

LINDA
I believe you. I really do.

EXT. COX'S PARKING LOT DAY

Bill Cox is standing beside a garden tiller with an old man.
Bill is trying to crank it up, but it won't start. A car
pulls into the parking lot and Gerry Woolridge gets out of
it and comes over to Bill.

BILL
How 'bout you, Jerry.

WOOLRIDGE
How are you, Bill.

BILL
Doin' pretty good. Got a sick tiller
here. What's got you down this way?

WOOLRIDGE
Just thought I'd check on Karl and
see if everything's working out.

BILL
Well, he's pretty quiet. Except for
them rackets and breathin' things he
does. Ain't threatened me with a
killin' or anything.
(laughs)
But boy you couldn't of been more
right about him fixin' things. That
son of a bitch is a regular Eli
Whitney on a lawnmower. Loves French
fries. Eats four larges and don't
even so much as belch. I'm proud to
have him.

WOOLRIDGE
Is him stayin' here workin' out?

BILL
He's gone to stayin' over with that
Wheatley boy and his mama in their
garage. I think that little boy
adopted him damn near like a mascot.
But he's got a key here to come and
go as he pleases. Everything's worked
out good.

WOOLRIDGE
Can I see him?

BILL
Sure.

Bill looks over at Scooter, who is putting up a sale sign on
new mowers in the front window.

BILL
Scooter! Run get Karl for me.

EXT. PARKING LOT DAY

Woolridge and Karl lean on the hood of Woolridge's car. In
the background, Bill and the old man tinker with the tiller.

WOOLRIDGE
Are you sure you're okay staying
with that woman and boy?

KARL
Yes sir.

WOOLRIDGE
Do they know about you?

KARL
My history.

WOOLRIDGE
Yeah.

KARL
I told 'em about it. They know I'm
well. That Mizz Wheatley made me
some biscuits.

WOOLRIDGE
I'll be.

KARL
That boy, he's my friend. He likes
the way I talk and I like the way he
talks.

WOOLRIDGE
I knew you'd do all right. Well, I
just wanted to check on you. I'll
say bye to Bill and get on back.

They walk over to Bill.

BILL
Karl, see if you can figure out what's
wrong with this thing. It won't crank
up and ever'thing seems to be put
together right.

Karl squats beside the tiller.

WOOLRIDGE
I'll see you, Bill.

BILL
Okay, stop back by. Don't worry about
your boy here, he's doin' good.

Karl looks up from the tiller holding the gas cap.

KARL
Hit ain't got no gas in it.

BILL
See there. Thinks of the simplest
thing first.

INT. VAUGHAN'S DINING ROOM NIGHT

Vaughan, ALBERT the 'friend,' Linda, Frank, Karl, and MELINDA,
the Dollar-Store girl, are seated at the table. Karl and
Frank are going at the delicacies while Melinda shyly picks
at hers and the others are engaged in idle chit chat. This
goes on for a few moments, then Albert's attention turns to
Karl.

ALBERT
So Karl, do you intend to stay in
the lawnmower business for a while
or do you have other plans?

KARL
I reckon.

VAUGHAN
I think Karl is going to be a writer
or a librarian eventually. You should
see all the books he has. He must
read constantly.

KARL
I ain't read 'em yet except two or
three of 'em. I can't understand a
lot of what I try to read. My mind,
hit wonders off to somethin' else
when I try to read.

ALBERT
I'm the same way. Of course, in my
line of work, I stay too busy to
read. But at least I have job
security. People may stop doing a
lot of things, but one thing is for
sure, they won't stop dying.

LINDA
(looks at Frank)
Why don't we talk about something a
little more festive.

VAUGHAN
Does everyone like the food?

Nods and yeses.

VAUGHAN
Good. I haven't decided yet if I'm a
good cook.

LINDA
Hey Karl, you know what? Melinda was
voted employee of the month at the
Dollar Store last February. Isn't
that somethin'?

KARL
Yes ma'am, I reckon.

MELINDA
Well, when you like pricing items as
much as I do, I guess it's just bound
to happen sooner or later.

VAUGHAN
Karl, maybe you and Melinda might
want to take a walk or something
after dinner. It's a nice night.

LINDA
Vaughan, don't get pushy.

VAUGHAN
I'm sorry.

KARL
I like walkin' quite a bit from time
to time.

MELINDA
I stay on my feet all the time at
work. I just can't find shoes that's
comfortable.

ALBERT
Hospital shoes might be the answer.
Nurses' shoes.

VAUGHAN
Or the kind old ladies who work in
the school cafeteria wear.

ALBERT
Same difference.

MELINDA
I get real mean when my feet hurt.
It's the only time I don't like
checkin' out the customers, when my
feet hurt.

LINDA
Frank, you and Karl aren't talkin'
much, you boys must really like that
food.

FRANK
I just don't have anything to say
about shoes.

Silence for a moment.

VAUGHAN
Listen everybody, I know this may
sound corny, I've had a few glasses
of wine and that kind of makes me a
little emotional, but I'm going to
say it anyway. It just came over me
in a rush. I want you all to know
that I care about each and every one
of you at this table.

LINDA
That's very sweet of you Vaughan. We
care about you, too. Don't we y'all?

Nods, grunts, "sure do's".

VAUGHAN
Also, Melinda, please don't tell
anybody at the store that Albert was
here tonight, okay.

MELINDA
Why?

VAUGHAN
Well, a lot of people in town talk
and spread cruel rumors.
Unfortunately, I have to keep certain
parts of my life private.

MELINDA
You mean about y'all bein' together
in "that" way?

VAUGHAN
Yes.

MELINDA
I think everybody at the store knows
that already. They always talk about
it. Maureen Ledbetter told a awful
story about why you ain't allowed
over at the First Baptist Church no
more.

LINDA
Karl, why don't you and Melinda go
take a walk. It's nice out.

KARL
All right then.

He gets up and walks toward the front door. Melinda gets up
and tries to catch up.

EXT. SIDEWALK NIGHT

Karl and Melinda are walking in the moonlight. It seems a
little hard for Melinda to keep up.

MELINDA
You walk fast, don't you?

KARL
I reckon.

They walk a little farther in silence.

MELINDA
These is the worst shoes I own for
walkin'. How far did you want to go?

KARL
I ain't really thought about it too
much I don't reckon.

They walk until they disappear into the darkness.

INT. COX'S SHOP DAY

Karl is on the floor working on a mower with Scooter, they
are ad-libbing semi-technical lawnmower things. Bill Cox
appears in the door.

BILL
Hey Karl, they's somebody out here
to see you. Some gal holding a nice
bouquet.
(Karl doesn't move)
Come on now, she wants to talk to
you. Don't just set there.

Karl gets up and goes to the counter followed by Scooter.

Melinda stands on the other side of the counter holding a
cellophane wrapped store-bought flower assortment. Nobody
says anything for a moment.

MELINDA
Hi, Karl, I'm on lunch break. These
was on sale cause they're not fresh.
Two ninety-nine a bunch plus my ten
percent employee discount. Since I
didn't bring you anything to our
date last night, I thought you'd
like to have 'em.

She hands them to him.

KARL
Thank ye.

BILL
Scooter, let's me and you go over to
Dairy Queen and pick up a few things
for lunchtime.

SCOOTER
I can go. You don't have to. You
don't never go.

BILL
Goddamnit, Scooter, come on. Pardon
my language, ma'am.

They start to leave. At the door, Bill Cox turns and winks
at Karl. They exit leaving Karl and Melinda staring at the
counter. They are silent for a while.

MELINDA
Well, I just thought I'd give you
them. I liked walkin' with you. I
got a blister the size of a quarter
on one heel. Well, I'll see you
sometime, I guess.

She walks to the door and stops as if she expects Karl to
say something.

KARL
A blister shore can hurt.

MELINDA
Yeah.

KARL
Flowers is pretty. I've always thought
that.

MELINDA
Me, too.

She leaves and Karl goes to the window holding the flowers
and watches her walk away.

EXT. SIDEWALK DUSK

Holding the flowers, Karl is walking down the sidewalk toward
the Wheatley house when he sees Frank coming out the front
door with a book and a flashlight. He sees Karl.

FRANK
Hey Karl, you off work?

KARL
Yeah.

FRANK
Where'd you get them flowers?

KARL
That gal that made employee of the
month give em to me for awalkin'
with her.

FRANK
I was goin' to the secret place. I
borried one of your books to take
down there. You ain't mad, are you?

KARL
Naw. You can look at all my books
you want to.

FRANK
It's name's A Christmas Carol.

KARL
That's that un on Christmas I was
tellin' you about.

FRANK
You want to go with me?

KARL
Yeah.

EXT. SECRET PLACE NIGHT

Karl and Frank sit in the clearing, Karl on the stump, Frank
on the ground. Frank is shining the flashlight on the book.
He finishes reading a few lines and turns off the flashlight.

FRANK
I'm gettin' tired of readin' for a
while.

KARL
All right then.

FRANK
Boy, folks sure had it rough back a
long time ago, didn't they?

KARL
Yeah, I reckon they did. Hit like to
tore me up when I read about that
pore little cripple boy.

FRANK
Yeah, me too.
(pause)
That was nice of that woman to give
you them flowers.

KARL
Hit was right thoughty of her.

FRANK
I was wantin' to ask you somethin'.

KARL
All right then.

FRANK
You know that girl I told you about.
The one I love.

KARL
Yeah, I recollect it.

FRANK
Would you go see her with me? I kind
of thought I might take her some
flowers like that woman done you.

KARL
If you want me to.

FRANK
I ain't got no money to get 'em with
but I bet Vaughan will let me have
some of them flowers at the store.

KARL
I bet he will. I got a little money
if he don't. I'll get 'em for ye.

FRANK
I usually get run off by her mama or
daddy if they're home. Reckon why
they don't like me?

KARL
They ort to. You're a good boy.

FRANK
Just 'cause I'm not rich don't mean
I don't love her.

KARL
Naw.

FRANK
And I don't try to touch her. You
know, in a bad way. Foolin' around,
sex and all.

KARL
That's real good. You ort not to if
ye ain't married to somebody. Bible
tells you that much. Hit tells some
things that don't seem right too, I
reckon. I guess a feller ort to foller
it close as he can, though.
(pause)
You don't touch yourself, do you?

FRANK
What do you mean?

KARL
Pull on your works. Your privates.

FRANK
Oh, jackin' off?

KARL
Yes sir. You ort not know that
language.

FRANK
I didn't know till here while back a
year or two ago when I spent the
night with Ronnie Smart one time. He
said just tug on your peter and think
about your mama. I tried it, but I
felt funny thinkin' about my mama.
So, I switched over to thinkin' about
his mama and then what he told me
would happen, happened. It sure
tingles, don't it?

KARL
You ort not to pull on yourself that
away.

FRANK
I kind of like you tellin' me what
to do and not to do. Just like my
daddy. I didn't mind him tellin' me.
I hate Doyle to tell me what to do.
Mama said the only way to ever get
away from him is for him to get away
from us. That we can't leave him or
he'll try and hurt her.

KARL
He ain't no count.

FRANK
You don't seem like a daddy. You
seem like a brother.
(pause)
Wonder what makes you like somebody
right off when you don't even know
'em like what happened with me and
you.

KARL
I don't reckon I know.

FRANK
And then some people you don't like
right off. It's funny.
(pause)
You know why I want you to play ball
with me?

KARL
Naw.

FRANK
'Cause it's fun. It don't matter if
you ain't no good. It takes your
mind off of everything else while
you're doin' it. When you run real
fast tryin' to make a touchdown you
don't think about anything else. I
ain't no good, but my daddy always
said he was proud of me when I threw
a ball or ran with it. Did you have
any brothers and sisters growin' up
to play with?

KARL
I had one there for little bit. Hit
didn't get old enough to play with.

FRANK
Why not? It died?

KARL
Yeah.

FRANK
Why?

KARL
Hit was borned a little too early
on. My mother and father made hit
come too early some way or other. I
reckon they changed their mind about
havin' another'n. I was about six or
eight year old then and they didn't
care too much for me so I reckon
they didn't need somethin' else to
worry 'em with.

FRANK
So it died when it come out?

KARL
My daddy come to the shed out back
and got me and said throw this here
away and handed me a towel with
somethin' in it. I went for the trash
barrel there and opened up the towel
to see 'cause they was a noise and
somethin' movin in it. Hit was bloody-
like around that towel. Hit was a
little ol' bitty baby, no bigger
than a squirrel.

FRANK
It was alive?

KARL
Yes sir. Right then it was.

FRANK
A boy or girl?

KARL
A little ol' boy.

FRANK
You threw it in a trash barrel?

KARL
I didn't feel right about doin' that.
I takened a shoe box from there in
the shed and emptied out some
screwdrivers and nuts and warshers
from it and put the little feller in
that and buried him in the corner of
the yard there. That seemed more
proper to me, I reckon.

FRANK
It was still alive when you buried
it?

KARL
I heared it cryin' a little through
that box.

FRANK
That don't seem right. It seems like
you should have kept him alive and
took care of him if he was your
brother.

KARL
I wadn't but six or eight. I reckon
I didn't know what to do. I didn't
know how to care for no baby. Mama
and Daddy didn't want him. They
learned me to do what they told me
to. These days I figure it might of
been best to give him right back to
the Good Lord right off the bat
anyhow.

FRANK
That makes me feel real sad. Couldn't
you have done somethin', Karl? I
would have. I wish I would of had
him. He'd be here right now. Livin'.

KARL
Hits been hard thinkin' about it.
They ain't a day goes by I don't
think about it. I kindly have a
picture of it up in my head that I
see. Hit makes me sad, too. I have
bad thoughts on it. I wished they
was somethin' I could of did, too.
Shouldn't no bad things happen to
childern. All the ol' bad things ort
to be saved up for folks that's growed
up, the way I see it. I shouldn't of
told you about that. A boy ort not
hear about such things. It just kindly
come out.

FRANK
I didn't mean to say anything bad
about you. I know you're good. You
didn't mean no harm.
(pause)
Did you ever think about killin'
yourself on purpose like my daddy
did?

KARL
I've studied about it. The Bible
says not to or you end up goin' to
Hades. Some folks calls it Hell, I
call it Hades.

FRANK
Bible says the same thing about
killin' others, too.

KARL
Yes sir, I reckon it does.

EXT. RESIDENTIAL NEIGHBORHOOD DAY

Frank, flowers in hand, and Karl approach a very nice two
story house. They get to the door and Frank rings the
doorbell.

FRANK
I always get nervous when I hear
that doorbell. I'm okay just walkin'
over, but somethin' about that dang
doorbell. They have one room where
you can't walk on the carpet or sit
on the furniture. I don't see much
sense in havin' it.

The door opens and we see an older black lady, the
HOUSEKEEPER.

HOUSEKEEPER
(eyes Karl)
Son, I don't know why you keep comin'
over here. You know these folks don't
want you here. They run you off ever'
time. Don't keep doin' this to
yourself. You a sweet boy. Now go
give them flowers to somebody that'll
enjoy 'em.

FRANK
Ma'am, I really want to give them to
Karen.

HOUSEKEEPER
(to Karl)
You his daddy?

KARL
No ma'am.

HOUSEKEEPER
Well, whoever you are, you ought to
talk some sense into him. That little
old girl is way too fast for him and
don't wanna see him no way.

FRANK
Will you get her for me. Please. I
really want to see her. She'll want
to see me, too, 'cause we re not in
public. Just don't tell her folks
I'm here.

HOUSEKEEPER
(sighs)
Okay.

She disappears and a moment later KAREN appears. She's
thirteen, pretty and very neatly dressed.

KAREN
(put out)
Hey Frank. You shouldn't be coming
over here. My parents really don't
want you to.

FRANK
I wanted to bring you some flowers.
They're pretty good ones.

KAREN
They're from the Dollar Store. I'm
not an idiot. Besides we have a garden
full of flowers.

She eyes Karl.

FRANK
I wanted for you to meet Karl, too.
He's my new friend. But I feel like
I've always known him. I thought you
should meet him.

KAREN
Why? Hi, Karl.

FRANK
He's gonna be around a lot and I
hope you are too, so...

KAREN
Here give me the flowers, I'll do
something with them. Thank you. Now
you better go. Maybe I'll see you
down at the secret place one day in
a week or two or something. I have a
boyfriend now you know. And we're
pretty serious. He gave me a ring.

She proudly displays the ring.

FRANK
Can you go there with us now? Me and
Karl. We could just hang out. Karl
has some cool books.

KAREN
Frank, I just like you as a friend.
Only at the secret place. Okay? I
can't go there now. I'll see you
later.

FRANK
But maybe just for awhile

KAREN
I'm closing the door now. I told
you, I'll see you later.

She closes the door. They stand there for a moment, then
walk away down the sidewalk.

FRANK
She said she'd see me later. That's
kinda good, right?

KARL
I reckon.

EXT. WHEATLEY HOUSE DAY

Frank and Karl walk up the steps to the house. Frank opens
the door and they enter.

INT. HOUSE DAY

As Frank and Karl enter, they see Doyle sitting on a footstool
facing Linda who's in a chair. Doyle is holding both her
hands and talking very softly to her. He sees the guys and
looks up.

DOYLE
Well, I'll be damned, there's the
boys. I'm glad y'all came in. I wanted
to talk to y'all, too. I was just
tellin' Linda here-Oh hell, I'll
just start over, set down you boys.

They do, on the couch.

DOYLE
Well, what it is, I just, well I
took off work early today and your
mama was good enough to do the same
so we could talk. I guess you'd say
I'm really here to apologize, which
ain't easy for me to do, about the
way I acted the other night. I was
just drunk and kinda got a little
too worked up and one thing led to
another. I care about y'all a lot, I
do. I don't mean to be so damned,
assholish I guess the word would be.
Now Karl, I don't believe I hit you,
did I? So no apology needed there I
guess, but Frank, I'm sorry. I'm
sorry I hit your mama. I'm just
jealous of her. I don't like her
life or the way she runs it. I don't
like homosexuals and she buddies
with one. I don't like little wimpy
ass kids or fuckin' mental retards
and she's got one of each livin'
with her.
(laughs)
I was just kiddin'. But really I
guess people need to get along even
if they have differences.
(pause)
You see, I work construction. I build
things. Do you realize how important
that is to the world? I have a lot
of pressure on me. The upshot is,
I'm gonna spend a lot more time over
here and we're gonna get along. Like
a family should.
(to Linda)
I may even surprise you one day and
pop the question.
(he gets up)
Well, I'm goin' back to work. I just
wanted to give y'all some little
piece of happiness today.
(kisses Linda)
See you tonight honey. Karl. Be a
good boy, Frank.

He leaves.

LINDA
Well, at least he's tryin'. But who
knows for how long.

FRANK
He's lyin' Mama. He ain't gonna do
better.

LINDA
I know honey. Just remember what I
said, we'll bide our time. You just
steer clear of him as much as you
can. Doyle's had a real hard life.
It's just about run him crazy I think.

FRANK
We've had a real hard life, too,
Mama.

Linda moves to the couch and puts her arms around Frank.

LINDA
You're a hell of a boy, Frank. Someday
you're gonna get all the good things
you deserve. And Karl here's gonna
get some more biscuits tonight. What
do you think about that?

KARL
I could shore use some. Thank ye.

INT. SHOP DAY

Karl is cleaning some parts in a bucket of gasoline. Bill
comes to the door.

BILL
Hey there Karl, can you come unload
a generator for me?

Karl wipes his hands on a shop towel and starts outside.

EXT. PARKING LOT DAY

A MAN and a TEENAGE BOY stand by a pickup truck. A small
generator is on the tailgate.

BILL
Karl, lift this thing down and carry
it to the back. It's on the blink.
(to man as Karl unloads
it)
We'll have it for you in a day or
two, Walter.

WALTER
Y'ont us to he'p you there liftin'
that?

BILL
Oh no, that dang Karl can lift a
bulldozier. Fix anything, too.
(confidentially)
He's mentally retarded, but he's a
whiz on small engines. Lord works in
mysterious ways.

Karl carries the generator toward the shop. He turns and
watches the man and boy talking and laughing with Bill. The
man playfully puts an arm around his son's neck and tousles
his hair.

WALTER
Hell, he didn't just make the team,
Coach says he's probably gonna start
at end on defense. He's a chip off
the old block. Ain't you, Steve?

STEVE
I guess so.

Karl turns and goes in the shop.

INT. WHEATLEY GARAGE DAY

Karl is on his cot reading a book. Frank comes in. he looks
very depressed. He sits beside Karl.

FRANK
What you readin'?

KARL
Readin' on this book on how to work
carpentry. I aim to learn how to
build things out of wood one of these
times. I've always been partial to
wood buildings and cabinets and
whatnot. These drawin's they got
here don't make no sense to me so
far.

He looks directly at Frank, which he seldom does.

KARL
You seem like yore tails a'draggin'
a might. You got somethin' wrong
with ye?

FRANK
Seems like Doyle's wormed his way
back in. Mama said he's stayin' over
tonight and he's talkin' about movin'
in for good. We ain't ever gonna be
happy. We'll always be nervous, won't
we Karl?

KARL
I don't reckon I know. I ain't found
no way yet and I'm three or four
times as old as you. Might be that's
just the way folks is.

FRANK
I feel sad about Karen Cross, too. I
just make like to myself she loves
me. I know better, though. It just
feels good to me when I imagine it.

KARL
Make believin' always made me feel
good too from time to time.

They sit in silence for a moment.

KARL
Bill Cox is goin' to a funeral for a
Mister Turner tomorrow and aclosin'
up shop early.

FRANK
Is that right?

KARL
I'll play ball with ye. I reckon if
neither one of us is no count it
won't make no difference.

FRANK
You will? For sure?

KARL
Yeah.

FRANK
We'll be on teams, me and you?

KARL
Yessir.

EXT. JUNIOR HIGH FOOTBALL FIELD DAY

It's the practice field, so it's not very well kept. Karl,
Frank, and two other boys around Frank's age are huddled up.
Four boys are lined on defense. They break the huddle and
come to the line. They are on about the fifty-yard line.
Frank hikes the ball to one of the boys. He laterals it to
Karl who stands there for a minute as the defenders run toward
him. Then he takes off like the wind. He runs funny, kind of
humped over and pigeon-toed, but fast. All the others are
chasing him. Two of the other team's boys catch him on about
the fifteen-yard line, but he drags them along. Karl sees
Frank out of the corner of his eye and tosses him the ball
just as Karl bites the dirt. Frank goes into the end zone
untouched. There are cheers from Frank and the other boys.
Frank runs over to Karl who's still on the ground.

FRANK
Way to go, Karl. We got a touchdown.
That was a good lateral, man. That
was just like the Wishbone.

KARL
I dern near had me a touchdown till
them boys got a-hold of me there so
I figured I better give it off to
you. I seen you over there follerin'
me.

FRANK
We're liable to win if we keep this
up. For somebody like you, you sure
run fast.

He grabs Karl by the hands and helps pull him up.

FRANK
Come on, let's kick off to 'em.

EXT. SIDEWALK DAY

Karl and Frank, dirt, grass stains and all, walk toward home.

FRANK
I know you could of scored them three
touchdowns by yourself instead of
throwing 'em over to me.

KARL
Them boys was tryin' to pull me down
pretty hard.

FRANK
You're strong though. You let me
make them touchdowns so I'd feel
good. My daddy used to do that kind
of thing.

They walk in silence for a moment.

FRANK
It don't matter to me about us losin'
does it to you?

KARL
No sir.

FRANK
It was fun, anyhow.

KARL
I wadn't thinkin' about nothin' else
just like you told me I'd do.

FRANK
Can we play ever' Saturday?

KARL
If I ain't too stove up. I ain't
like you. I'm old and give out.
(pause)
I'm proud of ye.

INT. GARAGE DAY

Karl sits on his bed rubbing his hands together, deep in
thought.

EXT. STREET DAY

Karl is walking down the street past rundown houses. He comes
to an old gray wood frame house. It is in bad repair, the
paint is peeling, the yard is grown up. There is an old wooden
shed in the back yard. He stands looking at it for a moment
then walks through the yard and opens the door to the shed.
He's motionless for a moment, then goes inside.

INT. SHED DAY

Sunlight comes through the cracks in the wood. The shed has
nothing but dirt for a floor. A few tall patches of grass
shoot up between boxes and rusty lawnmowers. A few old garden
tools hang on the wall. In the center is a low circular spot
in the ground and a few tattered shreds of an old quilt.
Karl stands looking at the hole for a moment, then turns and
walks out of the shed.

EXT. YARD DAY

Karl walks across the yard to the house.

INT. SCREENED-IN PORCH DAY

Karl goes onto the screened-in porch, looks through the
kitchen window and goes inside.

INT. KITCHEN DAY

The place is a mess. Dirty dishes are piled in the sink and
on the table. It's not just clutter, but filth everywhere.

INT. LIVING ROOM DAY

Karl walks into an equally filthy living room where an OLD
MAN in overalls sits slumped in a chair looking at his lap.
Karl stands facing him for several moments.

KARL
I'm ye boy.

OLD MAN
I ain't got no boy.

KARL
I'm ye oldest boy name Karl.

OLD MAN
I ain't got no boy.

KARL
They turned me aloose from the nervous
hospital. Said I was well.

No response.

KARL
I got hired to work for a Mr. Cox
fixin' lawnmowers and whatnot.

No response.

KARL
That grass out in the yard's all
growed up. I figured I might cut it
fer ye.

OLD MAN
I told you, I ain't got no boy, now
get on out from here and let me be.

Long silence.

KARL
I learned to read some. I've read on
the Bible quite a bit. I don't
understand all of it, but I believe
I understand a good deal of it. Them
stories Mama and you told me ain't
in there. You ort not to of done
that to ye boy.
(pause)
I've studied on killin' you. But I
don't reckon they's no reason fer it
if all you're gonna do is set there
in that chair. You'll be dead soon
enough I reckon and the world'll be
shut of ye.

Karl walks toward the kitchen and turns back to the old man.

KARL
You ort not to of killed my brother.
He ort to have had a chance to grow
up. Sometimes he would of had fun.

EXT. YARD

Karl walks out of the house and across the yard to a hedge
in the corner and kneels down. He pushes some grass aside to
reveal a rock about afoot tall and a foot across. In front
of it, the ground is raised a little. He stares at the rock
for a moment and touches it.

KARL
Little feller.

EXT. A LARGE OLD WOODEN SLAT BRIDGE DUSK

Karl stands on the side of the bridge looking into the river
below.

INT. WHEATLEY HOUSE NIGHT

All the lights are out. We see a shot of Frank in his bed
asleep, but tossing and turning. Then a shot of Linda in bed
staring at the ceiling and Doyle beside her snoring. Suddenly,
the lights come on and Linda lets out a little yelp and sits
up, which wakes up Doyle and he sits up with a start. From
their POV we see Karl standing in the door holding a hammer.

DOYLE
What in the goddamn hell are you
doin'? It's the middle of the night.

LINDA
What do you want, hun?

KARL
I want to be baptized.

DOYLE
Baptized? Well, get baptized then. I
don't give a shit. Call a fuckin'
preacher, goddamnit! I can't baptize
you.

LINDA
We'll go to church and get you
baptized, tomorrow's Sunday. You go
on back to bed.

DOYLE
What are you doin' with that damn
hammer?

KARL
I don't rightly know. I just kindly
woke up a-holdin' it.

INT. CHURCH DAY

We see a shot of Frank and Linda and Vaughan in a church
pew. The church is pretty full. From their POV we seek Karl
in a robe standing in the baptismal tank. The preacher takes
Karl and dunks him under the water and brings him back up.

INT. WHEATLEY LIVING ROOM DAY

Doyle is in his favorite chair as Linda, Frank, and Karl
come through the front door.

DOYLE
How'd your baptizin' go?

LINDA
It went real good.

DOYLE
Well, that's good. It's about time
to eat and you know what I'm cravin'?
Some of that take out chicken. Why
don't you run get some of it, honey,
for lunch?

LINDA
(to Frank and Karl)
Would y'all like that?

FRANK
Yeah, I guess.

KARL
Yes ma'am. I like a fried chicken
leg.

LINDA
All right, y'all gonna go with me?

DOYLE
Naw, hell, let them stay here with
me and do men things. There might be
some kind of ball game on we can
watch. You go on.

LINDA
I'll be back in a little bit then.

She leaves and Doyle walks up to Karl and Frank.

DOYLE
I really just wanted to git your
mama out of the house for a minute
so we can have a talk. Y'all set
down.

They sit on the couch and Doyle kneels in front of them.

DOYLE
Now here's the deal. Now that I'm
gonna throw my entire life away doin'
what I want to come live here with
y'all, we have to get a few things
straight. See, Frank, me and your
mama wouldn't have any problems if
it wadn't for you. We'd never have a
bad word between us. But since you
do exist, if I'm gonna be here as
the head of the household, we'll
have to live by my rules. And my
rules are you don't speak unless
you're spoken to. Stay out of my way
and do what a regular kid does. You're
a weird little shit. I don't get
you. So wake up. Face what they call
reality. We're gonna be a family
now. And it's my family. I'll be
payin' the bills so you got me. But
I ain't your daddy. You just treat
me like I am. I'm the boss, okay.
And the other thing is your friend
Karl has to go. We can't have a normal
family with him livin' in the garage
and comin' in the bedroom at four in
the mornin' with hammers and shit.
See?

FRANK
Karl can stay if he wants to. Mama
said-

Doyle slaps him across the face and Karl grabs Doyle's arm.
Doyle shakes him off

KARL
Don't hit that boy no more.

DOYLE
You shut up you, fuckin' retard. Get
your shit and get out of here.
(to Frank)
That was a wake-up slap, Frank.
Remember. Reality, like I said. Don't
forget any bit of what I said to you
and we'll be fine.

Frank jumps up and runs from the house and Doyle sits back
in his chair and pops a beer. Karl gets up and goes to the
garage.

INT. GARAGE DAY

Karl ties his books up with his strap and gets a bag from
his bed and leaves.

EXT. DRIVEWAY DAY

Karl is walking away as Linda pulls up in her car and gets
out with fast food bags.

LINDA
Where are you goin', Karl? Didn't
you want some chicken and things?

KARL
No ma'am. I'm a'goin' off sommers.

LINDA
Well, okay. I got you some.

KARL
Frank, he went off, too. He ain't
gonna be in there when you get
indoors.

LINDA
Where'd he go? What's goin' on?

KARL
He wanted to go off and play, I
reckon.
(pause)
You go in there and you and that
Doyle eat ye dinner. You don't have
to worry yourself none.

LINDA
All right then. Well, I'll see you
later. If you see Frank, tell him to
come on back home. I don't get to
see him all day except Sundays. He
can play tomorrow.

KARL
Ma'am?

LINDA
Yeah.

KARL
You're a good mama to that boy. You
care for him. You work hard fer him
to take care of him. You light him
up in his eyes, I've seen it. He
wouldn't know what to do without ye.

LINDA
Well thank you, hun. That's real
good of you to say. I wouldn't know
what to do without him either.

KARL
You've been real good to me, too. It
ain't ever'body that'd make biscuits
in the middle of the night. You and
that boy has give me a good feelin'.

LINDA
We sure like havin' you.

KARL
Thank ye.
(Karl walks away,
then turns)
I'm just getting around to tellin'
you, but I fixed your warshin'
machine.

EXT. SECRET PLACE DAY

Frank is on the ground digging a trench in the dirt with a
stick. He hears footsteps in the leaves and looks up and
sees Karl coming toward him.

FRANK
Hey, Karl. How'd you know to come
out here?

KARL
I knowed you'd be here.
(Karl sits on the
stump)
What are you a-doin' digging with
that stob?

FRANK
Just diggin'.
(pause)
I ain't ever gonna be happy now. Not
with that son of a bitch movin' in
for good. I wish me and you and Mama
could just run away. But she said he
would find us wherever we went. He's
crazy. Sometimes I think it would of
been better if I wadn't ever born.

KARL
I'm glad of it you was borned.
(pause)
I reckon I ain't gonna be there in
the garage no more.

FRANK
You have to Karl. You have to look
out for me. You don't let that son
of a bitch run you off.

KARL
You're just a boy. You ort not to
use that sort of language.

FRANK
Karl, I ain't tryin' to say nothin'
bad about you, but why don't you
stop Doyle when he gets that away?
You're older than him. You're strong,
too. My daddy wouldn't let him do
that to me and Mama.

KARL
That feller's a whole sight meaner
than me. He'd just whup the tar out
of me.

FRANK
Yeah, I guess so. I'm real tired,
you know that. A kid my age shouldn't
be tired of things.

KARL
I'm tired, too, Frank.
(pause)
If I ain't around no more, it don't
mean I don't care fer ye. I care for
ye a good deal. I care for you more
than anybody they is. We made friends
right off the bat.

FRANK
I care for you, too. But you'll be
around, don't say that.

KARL
Hit don't make no difference where I
was to be. We'll always be friends.
There ain't no way to stop that.
(pause)
I aim for you to have these books.

He hands him the books.

KARL
Maybe you can make more sense out of
them than I can. I made you a little
old book marker and stuck it in that
book on Christmas.

FRANK
You don't want to give away all your
books.

KARL
I aim fer you to have em.

FRANK
Man. Thanks.
(pause)
You know when you get a feelin' and
you don't know why?

KARL
Yes sir.

FRANK
I've got a feelin' today.

KARL
Reckon what kind of a feelin'?

FRANK
Like something different. I don't
know.
(pause)
You're leavin' ain't you, Karl?

KARL
Will ye do somethin' for me if I ast
you to?

FRANK
You know I would. Whatever you want.

KARL
Don't go home tonight and stay with
that Doyle. He's got it in for ye
tonight. I got me a feelin', too.
Feels like to me you ort not be there
in that house with him liquored up
and mean. Ye mama neither. When you
get up from here, I want you to go
to that feller's house. Your mama's
friend. I want you to give me your
word on it.

FRANK
Okay. I give you my word. Is
ever'thing gonna be okay? Are you
all right?

KARL
Ever'thing's okay, boy. I kindly
want to put my arm around ye for a
minute and then I'm gonna go on and
leave here.

FRANK
Okay.

Karl lays his arm on Frank's shoulder and Frank puts his
hand on Karl's arm. They sit like that for a few moments,
then Karl gets up with his paper sack and walks away. Frank
takes the book marker out of the Christmas book. It is just
a folded piece of notebook paper. On it is written 'You will
be happy.' He looks up at Karl who is now thirty yards away
in the trees.

FRANK
Karl!

Karl turns around and he and Frank stare at each other through
the trees.

EXT. VAUGHAN'S HOUSE DAY

Karl knocks on the door. After a moment, Vaughan answers in
a pair of big shorts and a sweatshirt.

VAUGHAN
Karl, what are you doing here? Come
in.

KARL
I ain't a-stayin'. I need to ast you
fer a favor.

VAUGHAN
Okay.

KARL
This evenin' I want you to go get
Mizz Wheatley and that Frank and
have them stay with you tonight.

VAUGHAN
What's wrong? Is everything okay?

KARL
That dern Doyle is in a bad way again
with that drinkin' and bein' mean to
folks. Will you give me your word
you'll do it?

VAUGHAN
Well, sure, okay. He hasn't hurt
them, has he?

KARL
Naw, not yet.
(hands the bag to
Vaughan)
I want ye to give this to Mizz
Wheatley. Hit ain't much, but maybe
there's a little somethin' to hep
out. Hits what I've earned fixin'
lawnmowers and whatnot fer Bill Cox.

Vaughan takes the bag.

VAUGHAN
What about you, Karl? Do you want to
stay here?

KARL
I don't reckon you have to go with
women to be a daddy to a boy.
(pause)
You've been real square dealin' with
me. The Bible says two men ort not
lay together. But I'll bet you the
Good Lord wouldn't send nobody like
you to Hades. Some folks calls it
Hell, I call it Hades.
(Karl starts away)
That boy lives inside of his own
heart. Hits an awful big place. You
take care of that boy.

Vaughan watches Karl walk away.

EXT. BUS STATION NIGHT

Karl stares at the bus station door.

EXT. WHEATLEY HOUSE NIGHT

Karl stares at the house from the sidewalk.

EXT. OLD WOODS BRIDGE NIGHT

Karl stares into the river.

INT. COX'S SHOP NIGHT

Karl has a lawnmower blade sharpening it on a grinding wheel.

EXT. WHEATLEY HOUSE NIGHT

Karl carrying the blade walks onto the porch and enters the
living room.

INT. LIVING ROOM NIGHT

Doyle is in his chair drinking beer and watching TV. He looks
up as Karl comes around and sits on the sofa.

DOYLE
Where's ever'body else? You seen
'em?
(no response)
I thought I told you to get the hell
moved out of here anyway.

KARL
How does a feller go about gettin'
ahold of the police?

DOYLE
Pick up the fuckin' phone and call
'em, I guess.

KARL
What numbers do you punch?

DOYLE
I told you to get away from here,
didn't I? I'm tryin' to relax and
look at TV.
(notices blade)
What are you doin' with that piece
of iron? I swear to God you're the
weirdest son of a bitch I ever heard
of.

KARL
I aim to kill you with it.

Doyle keeps drinking and watching TV.

DOYLE
Yeah, okay. Well, to get the police
you push 911. You'll need to tell
'em to send an ambulance, too. Or a
hearse. You fuckin' idiot. You're
gonna kill me.
(laughs)

Karl gets up and walks slowly toward Doyle out of frame. We
see the flickering light of the TV on the wall. OFF SCREEN
we hear one short dull thud.

DOYLE (O.S.)
Oh God! Oh God!

We hear one more thud, then the sound of Doyle's body hitting
the floor. Karl appears in frame again and we follow him to
the kitchen where he picks up the wall phone. He stares at
it for a moment, then pushes 911. He has a few specks of
blood on his face, hand and shirt.

KARL
(into phone)
Yes ma'am. I need the police over
here at the Wheatley house.
(pause)
I've killed somebody with a mower
blade.
(pause)
Yes ma'am, I'm right sure of it. I
hit him two good whacks. That second
time just plumb near cut his head in
two.
(pause)
Hits a little old yeller house right
on the corner of Marigold Street and
some other street. They's a red pickup
truck out front says "DOYLE HARGRAVES
CONSTRUCTION" on it. I'll be a settin'
here waitin' on ye. Beside sendin'
the police, Doyle said you might
want to send a ambulance or a hearse.
Thank ye.

He hangs up and goes to the refrigerator and takes out a jar
of mustard. He gets a knife out of the drawer and sits at
the kitchen table and pulls back a table cloth that is
covering up some leftovers. He picks up a biscuit and opens
the mustard jar and runs the knife around it. There's hardly
any mustard in it. He dabs a little on the biscuit and takes
a bite and relaxes to wait for the law.

CLOSEUP OF CHARLES THE NUT CASE

He's in the middle of one of his sick monologues. We pull
back and see we 're in the recreation room of the hospital
again with Karl in his usual chair listening to Charles.
Karl is now wearing the hospital issue clothing.

CHARLES
On the third day I washed her. She
wasn't very clean. I got all the
right spots. She was the first one I
ever kept for any length of time,
you see I get bored easily, I have a
short attention span. I can't say
she enjoyed her stay, although the
washcloth in her mouth held in place
by good duct tape kept any complaints
to a minimum. I don't really like
people who talk a lot. I like to do
the talking. I guess that's why I'm
so fond of you. You're so easygoing,
although I do sense a little tension
in you sometimes. By the way, how
was it out there? Did you have any
fun? Make any new acquaintances?
Tell me what it was like.

KARL
They was a boy. We made friends.

CHARLES
I bet you did. I was never bent that
way. I'm bent the other way. So, you
liked it out there in the world.

KARL
It's too big.

CHARLES
Well, it's not too big in here, is
it?
(pause)
I feel very generous today. I feel
like listening. I'm sure you have
plenty to tell me. And please bore
me with the details.
(long pause)
Come on Karl, who did you kill? Was
it the boy?

KARL
Don't say nothin' about that boy.

Karl looks him right in the eye for the first time ever.

KARL
Don't you say another word to me. I
ain't listenin' to you no more.

Karl gets up and goes to the window and looks out at the
grass that separates him from the next building. He stares
out the window, as we:

FADE OUT

THE END

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