Boxcar by David-Matthews Barnes

Boxcar by David-Matthews Barnes

David-Matthew Barnes is the award-winning author of several novels and collections of stage plays, monologues, scenes, and poetry. His screenplays and teleplays have been official selections in the Hollywood Screenplay Contest, the Inspired Minds Short Film and Screenplay Competition, the Shore Scripts Screenwriting Competition in London, and the Film Makers TV Writing Competition in Los Angeles. He has been an arts educator for more than a decade. For more information, please visit http://www.davidmatthewbarnes.com.

 

 

BOXCAR

A screenplay for a short film

Adapted from the one-act play

 

EXT. AN ABANDONED TRAIN YARD; A SMALL AMERICAN TOWN – NIGHT

The night is providing a false sense of calm.

The hour is late.

Beyond a quiet, remote gas station is a cemetery for trains.

Stillness blankets the train yard. Empty, rusted rail cars litter the space, discarded and long forgotten.

Beyond the perimeter of a broken chain linked fence, the landscape is sparse and the horizon is endless. In the distance, a faint glow and flicker of lights indicates civilization exists in the form of a small town.

From opposite ends of the yard, two young men approach.

AUSTIN, 17, approaches from the left. He’s not as tough as he looks.

HARLEY, also 17, approaches from the right. Despite what he’s been through, he still has hope.

They meet in front of a rail car.

It’s clear they do not need words to speak.

Austin climbs up to the rail car. He reaches down and offers a hand to Harley.

INT. ABANDONED BOXCAR TRAIN – CONTINUED

The interior of the boxcar is dimly lit. Spill from the nearby neon gas station sign mixed with moonlight seeps in through cracks, creating an ethereal glow.

 

The boys find a place to sit.

AUSTIN

I think you had the right idea comin’

here, Harley.

HARLEY

When the whiskey kicks in, maybe it

won’t be so scary.

AUSTIN

What are you scared of?

HARLEY

Nothing. (Beat.) Coyotes.

AUSTIN

They won’t mess with you unless you

mess with them.

HARLEY

Tell that to my cousin Francine.

AUSTIN

What happened to her?

HARLEY

She got attacked by a pack of ‘em.

They almost ripped her face off.

AUSTIN

(trying to convince them both)

I don’t think there’s coyotes in the

train yard.

HARLEY

If you say so.

AUSTIN

You don’t believe me?

HARLEY

I think they’re everywhere.

AUSTIN

I wish some of ‘em would make their way

over to the dance. Devour those fuckers.

HARLEY

I wonder why they call it Homecoming.

AUSTIN

It has to do with football.

HARLEY

Doesn’t everything?

AUSTIN

Spirit week. You ever seen such a bunch

of idiots?

HARLEY

We grew up with them. We’ve known they

were dumb since childhood.

AUSTIN

You know…you could’ve gone if you

wanted to…to the dance, I mean.

HARLEY

Why would I?

AUSTIN

Everybody else is.

HARLEY

You’re not.

AUSTIN

That’s because…

HARLEY

Because?

AUSTIN

I’d rather be here with you.

(Beat.)

You feelin’ the same?

HARLEY

I think I’m feelin’ the whiskey now.

AUSTIN

It’s the cheap stuff. It’ll hit ya hard.

HARLEY

Lately it seems everything does.

AUSTIN

You gotta toughen up.

HARLEY

Like you?

AUSTIN

Yeah. Otherwise, those coyotes…

they’ll tear your heart out.

HARLEY

What would’ve happened?

AUSTIN

What do you mean?

HARLEY

If we would’ve gone to the dance tonight.

(Beat.)

Both of us.

(Beat.)

Together.

AUSTIN

I don’t wanna think about that.

HARLEY

You’d think we’d be dead my morning?

AUSTIN

No. (Beat.) By midnight.

HARLEY

I should’ve drank more whiskey.

AUSTIN

I wish we had a radio.

HARLEY

What for? Neither one of us can sing.

AUSTIN

Naw. But we can dance.

HARLEY

You’re outta your mind.

AUSTIN

I am. (Beat.) That’s why you like me.

HARLEY

Among other reasons.

AUSTIN

Name ‘em. The reasons.

HARLEY

You want the entire list?

AUSTIN

Top five.

HARLEY

You’ll have to settle for three.

AUSTIN

Fine. I’ll take what I can get.

HARLEY

I like you because you do my World

History homework for me.

AUSTIN

That’s because it takes you too long. I

finish it so we can spend more time

together.

HARLEY

I like you because I’m the only person

who’s ever seen you cry.

AUSTIN

Now, don’t go tellin’ people about that.

I’ll deny it. You hear me?

HARLEY

I like you because you’re good to me,

Austin. You take care of me.

AUSTIN

Always have. Always will.

HARLEY

I like you…because you’re still here.

You’re still alive.

(Beat.)

You didn’t die on me.

AUSTIN

That’s four things. You said I was only

getting three.

HARLEY

I’ll tell you the rest later.

AUSTIN

There’s no rush. We got all night.

HARLEY

And then what?

AUSTIN

The sun comes up.

HARLEY

And it’s just another day.

AUSTIN

Hey, at least we got each other.

HARLEY

If anybody ever found out…

AUSTIN

Did you hear that?

HARLEY

No. What was it?

AUSTIN

I think it was a coyote. Outside.

HARLEY

In the train yard? I thought you said…

AUSTIN

Maybe it’s hungry. I bet he’s looking

for food.

     (Beat.)

You want me to hold you?

HARLEY

Why?

AUSTIN

Because you looked scared.

HARLEY

Not as scared as you do.

AUSTIN

I’m actually hungry.

HARLEY

Yeah, I forgot to eat dinner, too.

AUSTIN

In the morning, let’s go to Marie’s.

We can get glazed donuts and chocolate

milk.

HARLEY

Okay. They open at five a.m.

AUSTIN

Even on a Saturday?

HARLEY

Oh, shit. Maybe they open later on the

weekends. I don’t know.

AUSTIN

We’ll go by there when the sun comes up.

HARLEY

Are we spending the night here?

AUSTIN

Yeah.

HARLEY

Together?

AUSTIN

You don’t wanna be with me?

HARLEY

Of course I do. It’s just…we’ve never…

AUSTIN

I think I’m ready now.

HARLEY

I think I am, too.

     (Beat.)

Maybe.

AUSTIN

Oh yeah?

HARLEY

You should’ve brought a radio.

AUSTIN

Or a gun.

HARLEY

Why would you say that?

AUSTIN

Not for me. To protect us. From the

animals.

HARLEY

Who’s going to protect you?

AUSTIN

I don’t have anyone else.

HARLEY

Exactly. So, don’t go doing any more

crazy shit like last weekend.

AUSTIN

I’m okay now.

HARLEY

No, you’re not.

AUSTIN

It’s only because I wanted to take you

to the dance. It’s not fair.

HARLEY

We don’t make the rules. We gotta go

some place where love is legal.

AUSTIN

When do we get to have a say in somethin’?

HARLEY

Once we get the hell outta here.

AUSTIN

(after a moment)

I tried.

HARLEY

I know you did.

(Beat.)

But you left something behind.

AUSTIN

I’m sorry.

HARLEY

We made a promise. Doesn’t that mean

anything to you?

AUSTIN

It kept me alive.

HARLEY

I didn’t see it coming, Austin. I knew

you were sad and fucked up over the shit

you had going on at home. But I didn’t

know how bad it was for you. Cecilia

said something was wrong with you. I

told her, “Yeah, but that’s why I like

him so much.” She told me to keep an eye

on you, to look out for you. She didn’t

realize you were doing that for me. That

I couldn’t even take care of myself, let

alone you.

INTERCUT – MONTAGE

As Harley speaks, we see the following sequence of events unfold:

-VERONICA, also 17, rushes into and through Harley’s ramshackle house, searching for him. She is frantic when she finds him in his bedroom. Immediately, Harley knows something is wrong.

-Austin is working in a retirement home, serving food to the residents. It’s clear he likes his job. It’s clear they like him.

-Austin is leaving a military recruiter’s office, defeated.

-Veronica is driving Harley to the hospital. The mood is tense. Veronica chain smokes, while Harley fears the worst.

-Harley and Veronica arrive at the hospital. Eventually, they take an elevator to the seventh floor. There, Harley approaches a locked metal door. Austin’s sad eyes appear in a narrow, small window in the door, pleading for love. They two boys speak with their eyes.

          HARLEY (V.O.)

So, when Veronica showed up at my

house that morning, I had a feeling.

I knew she’d been crying and we both

know she never cries. I thought maybe

something had happened to her aunt or

maybe Rico and Candi had broken up

again. I never imagined it was you.

She said afterschool on Wednesday you

went to the recruiters downtown because

you were planning to join the Army. I

called her a liar because you promised

me you’d never leave me behind in this

place. I told her you loved working in

the cafeteria at the old folks home

because you know they need you there.

You know how to make tapioca just the

way they like it. She said the Army

rejected you. They turned you down. They

didn’t want you. Is that why you did it?

Or was it because people are figuring it

out? They know what’s going on between

Do we even have a word for this, for

what me and you are to each other? What

do you call us, Austin? In your head, I

mean. In your dreams. The wild ones. I

went with Veronica to the hospital

because I didn’t believe her. I had to

see you with my own eyes. We drove their

in her uncle’s big ass car. She chain

smoked and we listened to the radio. I

don’t remember what song was playing

because all I could think about was you.

Finally, Veronica said, “Talk, Harley.

Say something. Anything.” So, I did. I

told her I realized there was no way in

hell you’d ask me to go to Homecoming with

you. I was better kept as a secret, tight

HARLEY (V.O.)

     (cont’d)

and hard, close to your chest. I told her, “Austin said I was the best kisser. He

wants to spend forever in each other’s

arms and blah, blah, blah.” She wasn’t

listening to me. She was thinking about

her brother who blew his head off

last Christmas Eve. She told me once

she found him underneath the tree.

(Beat.)

I felt empty when we got there. We got

lost in the hospital looking for you.

Then, some nurse told us you were in

the psych ward on suicide watch on the

seventh floor. As we rode the elevator

up, I remembered it was spirit week at

school. Nobody cared about nothing except

that stupid football game and the dance

that’s happening right now. I had more

important things on my mind, like why was

I watching my friends get pregnant, flunk

out, overdose, be banished away to

boarding schools by step-mothers whose

smeared lipstick says it all.

 

END OF FLASHBACK/MONTAGE

We are back in the boxcar.

   HARLEY

They wouldn’t let me in to see you. But

you were there on the other side of that

metal door. All I could see were your

eyes through that small window. Just a

little rectangle of glass. But that was

all I needed. To see your beautiful eyes.

And then I knew. The sadness inside of

you was too much for you to bear.

AUSTIN

It still is.

HARLEY

I know.

(Beat.)

That’s why I’m here.

AUSTIN

I can’t make sense of it sometime. Of

what I feel for you.

HARLEY

Then I guess it’s a good thing we got

each other.

AUSTIN

I would’ve asked you…if we were at

Homecoming…I would’ve asked you dance.

(Beat.)

What would’ve you said?

HARLEY

I probably would’ve said you’re a crazy

son of a bitch.

AUSTIN

We already know that.

HARLEY

You know I can’t say no to you.

Austin stands. He extends a hand down to Harley. It’s an invitation.

 

AUSTIN

Then don’t.

Harley accepts the unspoken invitation by placing his hand in Austin’s. He stands.

Slowly, the two men begin to sway together, as if they were dancing to a love song only heard by them.

In the distance, the haunting cry of a wild coyote is heard.

They ignore the warning.

                                                                                  FADE OUT

Anna Dore
Anna Dore
Editor-in-Chief at New Plains Review
Managing Editor and Blog Editor for The New Plains Review.

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