Thursday, February 22, 2007
THE LONG PUSH III
He was my best friend.
Brendan, it’s okay to feel how you feel, whatever that is. It’s okay.
How you doing?
Good! Better now.
So what’s the plan?
I thought, dinner at my place?
Sounds yummy, I’m in.
Okay! Do I need to come get you, or—
It’s a small burg, gimme your address, I’ll get there—
EXT. CITY STREET – NIGHT
Brendan walks up to the main entrance of an old brick apartment building in a middling part of town. He checks the names on the door listing, buzzes up.
JODI (over the intercom)
Okay, it’s open—
The door clicks and Brendan steps inside.
INT. JODI’S APARTMENT BUILDING – SAME
Brendan steps off the elevator, walks along the hallway to apartment 408, knocks on the door, waits. The door opens – Jodi stands there looking a knockout in a mini-skirted outfit.
JODI (smiling seductively)
Come on in.
Brendan has to turn sideways to get by her, she plants one on him in the doorway.
(heading back to the kitchen)
Oh gosh, don’t look at those too closely, please, they’re not—
Who’s the other girl?
That’s my roommate— (poking her head around the corner, mischievous)
But don’t worry, she’s not here tonight, not at all.
Jodi winks and pops back into the kitchen. Brendan sips his water, still looking at the photos.
Why shouldn’t I look too closely at them, at the photos?
JODI (calling back)
Oh, they’re just... me trying to be normal, I guess.
Jodi steps around the corner with a tomato sauce-covered ladle in her hand.
I’m not normal. Haven’t you noticed that yet?
(the ladle drips) Oh rats—
She scurries back into the kitchen holding the ladle over her hand to catch the drips. She returns quickly and wipes up the drip that landed on the floor, she smiles shyly at Brendan, returns to the kitchen.
Brendan steps to the corner, looks around it at Jodi stirring spaghetti sauce on a small stove-top. There are splatters of sauce all over, but so far none on Jodi.
JODI (concentrating on the sauce)
Oh, I’m making a mess—
Smells normal, like a normal spaghetti sauce.
She looks at him like he’s challenged her. She sets the ladle across the lip of the saucepan, turns the burner off, takes the glass of water from his hand and sets it on the counter. She takes his hand and leads him back into the living room, around in front of the sofa. She pushes him down and he sits.
Jodi leans over Brendan and kisses him – a big, wet, hot, porno kiss. Brendan’s hands climb to her sides, she breaks the kiss and grabs one of his hands and shoves it up under her mini-skirt, Brendan’s eyes bug.
She hikes up her skirt – no undies – and humps his hand, her eyes hood over.
(husky) Ohhhh... stick your fingers in me, stick your—
She catches her breath as he obeys. She hunches over him, grinds and grinds then shudders. She plops down in his lap and buries her face in the crook of his neck. Brendan holds her, gently caressing her, waiting for whatever is coming next. Jodi sits up and looks him in the face, very close, her cheeks wet with tears.
(losing it) Is that normal? Is it? Can you tell me because I have no clue, no idea, none, no—
She sobs uncontrollably and collapses against him. He holds her tight, whispers to her.
BRENDAN(over and over)
Shhh, shhh, it’s gonna be okay, it’s gonna be alright, it’s okay—
Brendan and Jodi are huddled at one end of the sofa, Jodi is curled up tight and Brendan has his arms around her, protective.
[...] Nearly ten years. I remember watching TV, a show about some girl on a date, her first date I think it was. I remember thinking, what is that like, a date? She was... I mean they’re always primping and changing their clothes and putting on makeup and excited about the date, and everything’s new and shiny to them, new and shiny. It’s because they don’t know what it all means, what it’s for. I do. (struggling) How can I ever go on a date? How can I ever be with a boy and just... wonder about it? About what might happen with him, if he really likes me, if I’m normal, being normal instead of being a freak, a freak, a—
She turns her face to his chest, sobbing, he holds her tight, tighter. She pushes up out of his embrace, stares at him, her face spinning through emotions like a TV with the vertical on the fritz.
Am I normal? Tell me I’m normal, Brendan, tell me I’m normal, tell me—
She kisses him, his cheek, his chin, nibbles his ear.
You’re normal, you’re normal—
(in between kisses, almost manic)
Show me. Show me normal, show me—
Brendan lifts her face and kisses her softly on the lips, she sputters and tries to pull away but he holds her face rigid in front of his. He kisses her softly again, and again and again, she vibrates with the intensity of this simple repeated action.
Okay? Okay, now?
Jodi ducks into the bathroom. Brendan shakes his head, grabs his jacket, heads out.
INT. APARTMENT HALLWAY
Brendan closes the door to Jodi’s apartment, he pulls on his shoes and ties them.
An apartment door opens down the corridor and a Goth dude in black sunglasses steps out, locks the door behind him. He ambles down the hallway, steps wide around Brendan, gives him the devil-horn salute in passing.
The Goth dude continues on to the stairwell door, pushes through and heads down. Brendan hops up, gives his shoes a few test-flexes, then walks on to the stairwell door. He pushes it open, listens, heads down the stairs.
EXT. DOWNTOWN STREET CORNER – MORNING
Brendan talks on a payphone across from the city library, he
eyeballs the main entrance, a few people are waiting outside for it to open. BRENDAN (into phone)
No, I’m fine... at a friend’s house, look it’s no big deal and I’m sorry I didn’t tell you... yes, I had breakfast... yeah, I’ll be in school today, sure—
Across the street, a library worker opens and locks down the crash bar on the front door, welcomes in the people waiting outside.
Mom, I gotta heel it, I’ll talk to you later—
He hangs up, stares at the phone for a moment.
He crosses the street and enters the library.
INT. CITY LIBRARY – SAME
Brendan sits at one in a row of computer terminals outside the main stacks, pulls out his list of names, starts at the top. At the Google search page he types: “BIRTH NOTICES”.
Brendan starts punching in surnames, he grabs more scratch paper as results pop up, weeds through them, copies down names and ages. Soon he has an expanded list, covering many slips of scratch paper: every person from his original list has two younger siblings except for two, “JONATHAN KAPLAN” has just “SIDNEY” and “HEIDI VETTS” has none. Only “MAY SODERLUND” has an older sibling, “RAYMOND,” and next to his name Brendan has written: “MARINES”.
Brendan looks closer at the pattern of younger siblings: all of the middle children – including Sidney – are between the ages of eight and twelve, while all the younger children are two to five years old.
He stands suddenly, paces, hyperventilates. He stops just as suddenly, takes the rubber ball out of his pocket: it’s the one with little gouges covering it. He hears laughter, looks over at a couple of grade-school aged kids laughing and running across the library’s main foyer into the children’s collection. Brendan drops the ball like it bit him.
EXT. SUBURBAN STREET – DAY
Brendan sprints down the street to the Brain’s house, turns up the driveway still at a dead run, slams against the front door, fumbles with the knob, opens it.
INT. THE BRAIN’S HOUSE – CONTINUOUS
Brendan dashes into the foyer, glances into the living room: Chloe is seated there on a sofa and looks at him curiously but does not get up, a half-empty bottle of booze and various pill bottles litter the end table beside her.
Brendan continues on upstairs, down the hall to:
INT. SIDNEY’S ROOM
Brendan throws open the door, Sidney is seated in the middle of the floor with a Raggedy Ann doll in her lap, she looks up at Brendan, dark circles under her eyes.
I waited for you—
Brendan drops to his knees and hugs her tight.
I’m sorry, Sidney, I’m sorry—
82. EXT. MANAGER’S OFFICE – SAME
Brendan walks up to a display map outside the manager’s office, he locates the unit he’s looking for on the map.
EXT. TOWNHOUSE CLUMP
Brendan follows a curvy concrete trail to a townhouse clump of four units set on the edge of the property, he walks around to the parking slots in front – no sedan, and no other cars in any of the parking slots. He walks up a set of steps to the end unit’s front door, rings the bell, waits. The door opens and Kara stands there in a sexy/chic business suit, she smiles at him, Brendan tries to hide his surprise and keep his cool and fails.
Hello, Brendan. I was hoping you’d show up.
Let’s not hash over old times on the doorstep for every Tom, Dick and Harry to see, come in—
The door opens wider and two thugs reach out and grab Brendan and haul him inside and slam the door shut.
INT. STEVE’S CONDO
Kara walks ahead, the two thugs drag Brendan into the darkened living room, he tries to break free and one of the thugs slugs him in the gut, Kara turns.
Manners, Brendan, manners. We’re grown- ups now after all—
The two thugs strip off Brendan’s jacket, they find the revolver and bullets and set them on the coffee table. They throw him in a wooden armchair and duct tape him to it, wrapping his ankles to the chair legs and his wrists to the arms of the chair.
(looking at the gun) My my, that is adult, isn’t it? Is it new? Looks new.
The thugs back off, done with taping Brendan to the chair.
83. KARA (cont’d)
Funny us meeting here, huh? I think it’s funny anyway... but you don’t look very amused, you look downright angry. Cat got your tongue? That’s alright, sweety, you just sit there, and we’ll do a special class-in-session for you. Fill in all the blanks. You came here, loaded for bear, looking for Mr. Steve. Guess you figured out what his little racket is... Perfection. Or maybe not? Well, we’ll leave that for now.
(gesturing at the mostly empty space)
As you can see, it’s rolling-up time, not much left to do, just a few odds and ends. And one last party. Mr. Steve’s going out in style tonight, sooner than he intended perhaps, but can he help it if some people just can’t do their part? Pulling the cord, punching out, taking the Big Adios... that’s the kind of attention that can tank an operation like this.
What’s your piece in it, procurement?
Ha ha ha, very funny, little man. No, I’m more of a sideline interest, seems not everybody likes them young. And let me tell you, Brendan, wrapping a CEO around my finger, even for an hour, is so much better than freshmen, you just wouldn’t believe. I graduated early, so to speak. And who do I have to thank for that? Who downed my play on campus, made me a pariah when I was queen? You. You did, Brendan. When I heard you were sniffing – oh, we’ve kept tabs – I knew if I just waited, you’d drop in. And we could have our chat.
Sounds more like a monologue, but conversation never was your strong point.
Again with the yuks. You’re killing me, Brendan, stop it. No, we’re done here—
She walks off to the kitchen, comes back with a small leather case.
I just wanted you to know, while you’re tied up here, the last hurrah will be
blasting off into orbit. Once more, you’re too late the hero. Poor little Brendan, can’t save anybody. But don’t fret— (she opens the leather case, takes out a syringe) Here’s a little something to keep you all nice and cosy warm. Where’s a veiny-vein? (Brendan struggles) There’s one—! (she jabs him and shoots him up) Nighty-night.
Did I ever tell you how much I— (as the cocktail hits him) ... truly despise you?
KARA (making baby noises at him) Ohhh, boo boo boo boo boo—
She grins at him, Brendan’s eyes roll back into his head.
Brendan’s eyes slit open, he hears distorted voices.
KARA (sounding like Rex Reed)
Don’t leave that there—
Brendan closes his eyes.
Brendan’s eyes open, his face is slack with the high, his head lolls around, the room is empty, the gun is gone. He looks down at his taped wrists, notices on the one arm only his cast is taped to the chair, he grins a little, goofy.
Brendan starts breathing deep through his nose, shakes his head – he’s still higher than a kite but can see a little straighter. He wiggles his fingers poking out the end of his cast, quite a bit of play there.
Brendan smiles, grits his teeth. He starts twisting his hand in his cast, weakening the already-cracked plaster, he giggles with the pain but keeps at it, widening the cracks into splits. He rotates his arm in the cast, he cries out but doesn’t stop. He slowly pulls his arm from the cast, the last few inches at an extreme angle, he screams but his arm comes free.
Brendan slumps in the chair, exhausted, his broken arm lying limp in his lap. Slowly, painfully, he starts pulling at the tape on his other hand – this is even more excruciating. He tugs and rips at the tape, bounces in the chair, grunts
through the pain of it all. With a last rip of the tape and a big pull and a mighty yell his other hand pops loose.
Brendan bends and rips the tape from his ankles, he stands – and is immediately dizzy and sits back down in the chair, he accidentally bangs his broken arm in the process and cringes. He looks at the cast still taped to the chair, he pulls the tape off it and carefully fits it back on his arm, uses the tape to bind the split parts.
Brendan sucks in a breath, stands again, he wobbles but stays on his feet. He staggers to the kitchen, opens cupboards and finds a glass, goes to the sink and drinks down a couple glassfuls of water. He opens drawers – and finds the revolver and box of bullets in one. He shakes his head, pulls them out and sets them on the counter.
Brendan goes back to the living room, parts the drapes: the sun has set, still a little blue left in the sky. Brendan sits back down in the chair, he pulls the scraps of paper from his pocket with the names on them, flips through them. In his head he hears:
I just wanted you to know... the last hurrah will be blasting off into orbit—
He flips up the paper with Brad Bramish’s name on it, grins a small wry grin.
EXT. BRAD’S HOUSE – NIGHT
The mailbox pillar out front, decorative rocket ship blasting off above: “THE BRAMISH’S”.
Brendan walks up the driveway, right up to the front door and knocks. Thug 1 from Steve’s condo opens the door – and Brendan clubs him in the face with the revolver and he falls backwards.
Brendan’s eyes tear up, he starts to lose it.
He turns: Jodi is running to him from the far end of the field, he stares at her, dumb-struck, she reaches him and almost knocks him down with the force of her full-on
JODI (cont’d) (breathless and happy)
Omigosh, Brendan, I’m so happy to see you! Oh— (pulls back, looks up at him, concerned) Where were you last night? I waited and waited for you to call, finally I drove to your house and parked out front but I was too scared to see if you were home, and then I fell asleep, right in my own car, how silly is that? Darn birds woke me up, and I just felt so embarrassed, I thought I’d come over wait here for you, see if I could catch you on your way in or something— (hugs him tight again) Oh God I missed you! And you better have a good excuse for standing me up like that... (gives him a shake) Hey, are you alright?
So, where were you—?
Something hardens in Brendan’s eyes, to granite.
You can drop the act, the bulls know everything.
Huh? The what—?
They’re at your apartment right now. It’s over, all of it.
What, what are you talking about?
Stop. The. Act. It’s over, you played your part but it’s done, planted. You were good too, by the way—
What, you were parked outside my house all night, the birds woke you? That’s a nice story, want to hear another one? Bendix put you on me at the hospital after I got too close to Bramish, he was afraid I’d flip to the whole setup on blind luck and wanted some insurance in case I did – involve me in it, tie me up tight with you, with him, it didn’t matter as long as I was dirty.
What are you—
Did Kara give you pointers, get you up to speed on me?
Who are these people you’re talking—
BRENDAN (yelling in her face)
Stop lying! Stop—
JODI (yelling back at him)
Don’t shout at me! Brendan, I swear to God I don’t know what you’re talking about, what, what is it you think I’m a part of, what—
The hospital. Somebody had to make sure any medical records, abuse histories, injury reports... that the documentation was kept under wraps for as long as possible. Somebody had to be inside, have access to the paperwork. It was you.
I don’t have that kind of... what paperwork, injuries, I don’t understand—
Drop the dumb act already! If those kids are seen, if injuries get compared, connections made, then poof! Pack it all in and move on to the next town fast, cuz Johnny Law is gonna be fast on your heels. It’s the big fear, child in danger, everybody’s knee jerks to it... you know all about that, huh?
... children? This is about children, and— (putting it together)
You think I, you think I could do that? Be a part of—
You were. You are.
JODI (backing up, not dealing)
No, no, no, stop it—
You were the shill, and now you’re going to jail for a very long time and I hope you rot—
Stop it, stop it! Think what you’re saying... is this who you are, is this what you think I am?
JODI (sobbing, still backing up)
No, no, stop... what are you doing to me, what are you doing to me—
She turns and staggers away, gutted. Brendan stares after her, drained, he watches her all the way to the end of the field, past the fence... and she’s gone.
Nelly steps up beside him, Brendan hardly notices her. She looks after Jodi, shakes her head, considers him, reaches up and drapes an arm on his shoulder, friendly like.
Did you know, Heidi Vetts is her roommate. She called me from the pokey this morning, gave me the scoop—
Brendan’s face slowly shifts to something raw, he turns to look at her, she steps back, rocks on her heels, having a good time.
Yeah, she’s also my half-sister. Betcha also didn’t know she’s a CNA, like Jodi, it’s how they hooked up, got to be roomies and all. Except Heidi works pediatrics. Couldn’t help over- hearing your little spat and buddy, are you a dope—
(pointing her thumb down the field) She doesn’t know anything, she’s as thick as they come, straight up. No act, just another sad, messed up Twinkie-brain. Way damaged goods, and you just dropped her off the deep end.
(chucking him on the chin) Good job, sport. I’ve been your shadow, not her you putz. Nearly popped a synapse when I saw you bouncing that ball in the cafeteria, where’d you get it, your friend?
Figures. He was one smart cookie.
Yeah, he was.
NELLY (flicks open a switchblade)
Came here to do you a bit of mischief, on my way out of state... but now I don’t think I really have to. (folds the switchblade away, winks at him)
You have a nice life with yourself.
She walks quickly away towards the parking lot. Brendan stands there, utterly defeated.