The Screenplay-novel Manifestos

Less is more vivid

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


If you want to see the past installments of "Truth Marathon", click here.


Paul has just locked his bike outside his house, on the porch. But then, thinking better of it, he takes the bike inside and leaves it in the hall.

He walks quickly upstairs, still happy and energetic.

His shared house actually is more of a shared apartment: it comprises the second and third stories of a narrow row-house situated on a busy street. He and three roommates occupy the upper floors. His landlord lives downstairs.

Paul and his roommates have a shared kitchen and bathroom. It, like the house, is narrow and cramped. It looks, for some reason, like the interior of an old ship: this isn't merely a result of its small size, but also a charactertistic of the walls -- they are painted a glossy, utilitarian white, and are uneven, like steel plates that have been exposed to repeated stress. But Paul looks at home here.

He takes off the backpack hes been wearing and takes out some food: whole grain bread, shrink wrapped chicken legs, some apples, celery, and a bottle of flax seed oil. Clearly, hes a healthy eater.

He fills a pot with water and sets it on the stove, which he turns to high. Then he opens the fridge and pulls out some potatoes. He washes and peels them, puts them in the water, and turns on the oven and begins washing and seasoning the chicken legs.

SFX: door slamming downstairs.

Paul continues cooking.

SFX: Footsteps ascending slowly, tiredly.

A young man around Pauls age enters. He is East Indian. He has a slim build, quiet manner, and strikingly handsome face: a hawklike nose, strong chin, and high cheekbones.

YOUNG MAN: Hey, Paul.

PAUL: [not really turning] Oh hey, Ramish.

RAMISH: Whats up?

PAUL: Nothing.

RAMISH: [looking over Pauls shoulder] Mmm. Chicken legs. Looks good.

PAUL: Yep. Cheap n delicious.


RAMISH: Did Rudy tell you about the rat?

PAUL: What rat?

RAMISH: the rat that was in the kitchen yesterday.

PAUL: Uh, no. He seems to have forgotten to mention it.

RAMISH: Yeah, well I got home last night and when I was coming up the stairs I heard this weird sound. Like paper being scrunched or something. It was pretty loud. I thought it was you. But then, when I walk into the kitchen, right on the shelf, right by Denise’s stuff, was this rat.

Paul turns to look at Ramish squarely.

PAUL: You cant be serious.

RAMISH: I am! A big honkin rat! It wasnt like the mice we had last winter. It looked like a cat. A small, evil cat, with a rats head, rats tail and little scratchy rat's legs.

PAUL: [looking at his food, clearly losing his appetite] Swell. Theres always something.

RAMISH: Rudy says hell get an exterminator next weekend.

PAUL: I sure hope so.

RAMISH: I mean, the weekend after this. Says he can get a discount from a friend of his.

Paul doesnt respond. He simply looks at his chicken. He seems undecided. Then, with an angry gesture, he grabs some cellophane wrap from a cupboard over the sink and wraps his food up.

RAMISH: Whassa matter? It wont come when were here.

PAUL: Ill stick to potatoes tonight.


Paul is on the phone.

Intercut, Paul and his mother.

PAULS MOTHER: Was the apartment okay?

PAUL: What apartment?

PAUL'S MOTHER: Dad's, of course!

PAUL: Yeah, it was fine.

PAULS MOTHER: How about the flooring?

PAUL: Parquet.

PAULS MOTHER: Cheap parquet?

PAUL: Parquet, mom. Medium range, not-too-shitty parquet. Its public housing.

PAULS MOTHER: Okay, okay. How about the water?

PAUL: Good.

PAULS MOTHER: Sounds wonderful, then! I talked to Esther Gomez today shes the one Ive been dealing with and she says your father can move in next month. Thats pretty soon, actually. Hell have to get cracking on packing. [beat] Maybe you could help him.

PAUL: Hes a grown man. He can do it himself.

PAULS MOTHER: I know, I know! But you know how he is. He loves to disappoint people. I just dont want any last minute wrinkles.

PAUL: By the way, the super told me something about Dad signing forms. You know about that?

PAULS MOTHER: What forms?

PAUL: I dont know. Forms. Dads gotta sign them to make it all legal. Like a lease, I guess.

PAULS MOTHER: What was the supers name?

PAUL: [reaching for wallet] Just a sec. Ive got his card here.


Paul is in his room. He is sitting upright on his bed while watching the news on a small black-and-white TV and sipping a beer.

SFX: A strange sound from far away. Paper being crumpled.

Paul, hearing this, sits up.

SFX: More noise.

Paul gets gingerly off his bed. He takes a final swig from his beer, then turns the bottle around in his hand so he can hold it like a weapon. Thinking better of this, he opens a drawer to a storage box at the foot of his bed, puts down the beer, and pulls out a hammer.

Slowly, cautiously, Paul makes his way down the hall toward the kitchen.

SFX: The strange sound is louder.

Paul enters the kitchen.

He looks around.



A hallway.

The hallway is packed with students: smiling, happy, noisy students, all talking at once and calling out to each other.

Paul makes his way against the flow of pedestrian traffic. He wants to get to the teachers room.


Marty is there, as is Sarah, the teacher that Jae-ok maladroitly tried to hit on when he was put up to it by Luis.

MARTY: [loudly] Hey, dude. Whats up?

PAUL: [not making eye contact] Not much.

SARAH: [in an easy, friendly tone] How is your class?

PAUL: [looking at her, clearly touched by something in her voice] Good. Its good these days.


SARAH: You know, one of your students told me youre very kind.

PAUL: Oh yeah?

SARAH: Yes. Shes a quiet Korean girl. I guess she confided in me because Im a kyopo. Her names Sun-hee.

PAUL: Oh, sure, I know Sun-hee.

MARTY: Yeah, Ill bet you do!

SARAH: [amused] Oh, come on, Marty. Shes just a sweet, innocent person. [beat] Not the type youd understand at all.

MARTY: Thanks.

Paul looks at Sarah with more interest. He's clearly attracted to her, but his facial expression now also displays admiration which is, in a sense, another, more subtle kind of attraction.

SARAH: [picking up her teaching materials] Anyway, gotta go!

She leaves.

MARTY: Yeah, Id better get back to class. Friggin brats. Id like to electrocute em today.

He leaves.

Paul hovers by the phone. When he figures the coast is clear, he picks up the handset and dials.

PAUL: Its me.

PAULS MOTHER: [O.S.] Hi, dear. I talked to Esther again this morning. Theyd like it very much if we could bring your father to do the documents this evening. The office closes at seven, so we have time. And it cant be tomorrow because its a civic holiday. And we need to get everything processes before next Wednesday.

PAUL: Whats the rush?

PAULS MOTHER: We have to move quickly, dear. These units are hard to come by. Your father had to wait more than two years.

PAUL: Okay, okay, I got it. So can I just tell him where to go?

PAULS MOTHER: Why dont you go with him, dear? It would make it a lot simpler.

PAUL: Not for me, it wouldnt.

PAULS MOTHER: You know what Im saying.

PAUL: Mom, look. I appreciate everything youve done. You deserve a medal considering youre not even married to the guy. But Im so bushed. Im tired. And youve got a car. Cant you pick him up? [quickly] Just to bring him there.

Beat. A few teachers enter the room. Paul, meanwhile, has the expression on his face of someone expecting an axe to fall.

PAULS MOTHER: [with studied reasonableness] Ive got to manage the store until 5:00 and Im way out in Markham. Youre on Yonge Street. You can get to Sherbourne much more easily, and you remember the public housing, dont you? Its just over on Church.

PAUL: Yeah, but


PAUL: Im on my bike.

PAULS MOTHER: [laughing] I didnt expect you to double him.

PAUL: [looking over his shoulder, now aware of other teachers in the room half-listening to his conversation] Thats not the point.

PAULS MOTHER: Then what is? He can walk, cant he? Or take a taxi. [Grudging beat] Ill pay.

PAUL: [sighs] Okay. Fine. See you then.

Paul hangs up. Jennifer enters.

JENNIFER: Oh there you are! Youre the only one I havent seen yet! Did you hear? About the meeting this aft?

PAUL: Sorry, what?

JENNIFER: [laughing in a you-know-how-things-are-around-here way] I didnt know myself until 10 this morning. Peter wants to have, you know, one of his [making quote marks with her fingers] brain-storming sessions. It just came out of the blue.

PAUL: Youre not serious.

JENNIFER: No, no, its a joke. Of course Im serious!

PAUL: [pinching the bridge of his nose; a headache is coming on] What time?

JENNIFER: Just after youre finished. Five-oh-five.

Paul swears under his breath.

JENNIFER: Thats not a problem, is it?

PAUL: Well, Ive got this thing.

JENNIFER: [unconvincingly] Well, if you're busy, I guess you just can't.

PAUL: [suddenly anxious that he's making a bad impression] Uh, never mind. Thats okay. Ill be there. But Ill just get the basic, okay. I cant stay for more than 20 minutes, okay?

JENNIFER: Oh, well be done by then Im sure!

PAUL: Great.

Jennifer grins and sits down in front of her computer screen.

PAUL looks the photocopy machine, as if hes trying to think of what he needs to do next. His expression is unfocussed, helpless.


Most of the teachers are already in seats. Then a youngish guy with a white, unbuttoned shirt and sunglasses hanging from the front of his shirt enters. He looks tanned and relaxed.

GUY: Hey, everyone!

VARIOUS: [unenthusiastically] Hey, Peter.

PETER: Thanks for coming on such short notice. [Smiles.] Look, there are a bunch of things Id like to discuss today: a new bonus scheme, brainstorming for teaching ideas, that sort of thing. But the most important thing is, well [salespersons chuckle] Im in a bit of a pickle. Theres an agent I deal with in Seoul. And he can get me correction, he claims he can get me -- 200 Korean students for next semester. Thats bulk. And these are quality students. Theyre from Yonsei, a really class operation. But Im going to have to ask sort of a favor of you.

[beat. All look down.]

PETER: Its nothing drastic. But the guys got big ideas about himself. Thinks he some kind of professor or something. And he wants what he calls a statement of purpose from the school. Says it should be 3 pages, minimum. And, um, Im sort of busy. But I’ll need this by Friday. Is there anyone here whos good with words? Anyone whos a quick study? I just need someone to volunteer to whip this off.

A TEACHER: [with bratty smile] What about Lucille?

LUCILLE: [to bratty teacher] Thanks, Leslie.

LESLIE: [same smile] Just trying to help.

PETER: [judiciously] We cant ask Lucille. Shes busy with orientation.


LUCILLE: Maybe Sarah could do it.

Several teachers looks first at Lucille, then Sarah.

SARAH: Why me?

LUCILLE: Well, youre from Seoul, arent you?

SARAH: My mom was. We left when I was pretty young.

LUCILLE: I dont know. I just thought you could give a Korean touch to it.

SARAH: I really dont know what Id have to say. Im a terrible writer.

PAUL: [loudly] Okay, are there any writers here? Youre all teachers, right? Some of you must know how to write. [He laughs at his witticism] Maybe someone could work with Sarah.

Sarah looks at Lucille, then around the room. She clearly feels a little trapped.

PAUL: [slowly, mechanically, his arm begins to raise] I will.

Peter looks at him.

PETER: Sorry, whats your name again?

PAUL: Paul.

PETER: Paul! Right! Great!

Sarah glances at Paul with gratitude and smiles. Its a very beautiful smile the sort of smile that penetrates a mans heart.

Paul smiles back. But just as he does, he notices Marty also looking at him, giving him a knowing smirk.


Paul and Sarah are talking in the hall.

SARAH: Thanks so much for saying youd help me.

PAUL: Its no problem. How should we arrange it?

SARAH: [shrugs]

PAUL: Maybe we could use one of the staff computers after work.

SARAH: Sure. That sounds good. How about tomorrow?

PAUL: [smiling, almost as if hes scored a date] Ill see you.



Paul is escorting his father to a taxi.

PAULS FATHER: Im happy where I am.

PAUL: You know what weve got in our house? Our-not-so-different-from-your-house house?

PAULS FATHER: [a little disoriented by this remark] Pardon?

PAUL: Weve got rats, dad. Fucking rats. Get yourself a nice apartment.

They get into the cab.

PAUL: The Richardson Co-op. Sherbourne just south of Bloor.

The cabbie gives a second look to both Paul and his father. The car pulls into the traffic.

PAULS FATHER: Im happy where I am.

PAUL: Yeah. Well, now youre going to be happier. Mom and I worry about you in that place. Its a dump.

PAULS FATHER: All my files are there.

PAUL: Theyre just files. You can move them.


PAULS FATHER: something might happen.

PAUL: Whaddaya mean?

PAULS FATHER: I might lose something valuable. Ive spent years collected that. Every piece counts.

PAUL: Dad, theyre clippings! A) Youre not going to lose anything. And b), even if you do, its replaceable.

PAULS FATHER: I might be one of the few people on the planet who has this information. You dont realize the stakes that are involved.

PAUL: [turning away, under his breath] Oh, for Petes sake.

PAULS FATHER: [getting into a state] You dont get the big picture, do you son? Faulkner said it best: the past isnt dead; sometimes it isnt even past.

PAUL: [still looking out car window] Okay.

PAULS FATHER: If they can lie about Pearl Harbor, they can lie about anything. Think about that! Think about it in the current political context

PAUL: Bush lied. Everyone knows that already.

PAULS FATHER: No, no, you dont see. Every situation is different, but the patterns are similar. Even Bush getting caught fibbing about WMDs isnt the real story. The real story is that the [he makes finger quotation marks] "Long War on Terror" is just a mask for something else. Do you honestly think the American government is stupid enough to just focus on a bunch of underfunded and suicidal celibates? This isnt about Islam at all! It’s about a New American Empire!

PAUL: I thought we had an American Empire already.

PAULS FATHER: This is newer.


Paul, his father, his mother, and Frank Doucette are walking around the small but essentially nice apartment. Paul walks to the window and looks outside.

PAULS MOTHER: This is wonderful! Dont you think so, Jerry?

PAULS FATHER: [shuffling, mistrustful of his new surroundings] How much?

PAULS MOTHER: You dont worry about that! Its no problem! Your checks will cover it! Just dont spend too much on [laughs] tea!

FRANK DOUCETTE: Lady? You or your husband --

PAULS MOTHER: [quickly] Ex-husband!

FRANK DOUCETTE: [raising an eyebrow] One of you are gonna hafta sign this. [He holds a clipboard with a document.] Paul's mother walks to the super and takes the clip-board from him. As she's busy doing this, Paul's father, in the background, begins to shuffle toward the door.

PAUL: [turning to all] This isn't so bad, you know. [Spotting father leaving] Uh, Pops, where you headed?

PAULS MOTHER: [seeing Paul's father as he exits the apartment] Jerry! Paul rushes forward and takes his father by the arm just as the latter tries to run (as fast as he can) down the hall.

PAUL: Dad. Come on. You can't do this.

PAULS FATHER: [looking down at his shoes, like a petulant little boy] I don't like it. Too much light.

Paul looks up at his mother and the super, who are regarding them with a mixture of perplexity and rage.


Paul's father is waiting a few meters away by the elevators. The super has already gone.

PAULS MOTHER: [pulling Paul aside and whispering to him sharply] Your father is going to be the death of me!!


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