Into the Arms of Angels, Part 6 of 14

Desk

Today, for your enjoyment — the sixth installment of my feature-length screenplay,”Into the Arms of Angels” (© 2005, 2016).

For Part 5, please click here.

For Part 1 and a glossary of screenwriting abbreviations, please click here.

(Each installment concludes with a link to its successor.)

 

INT. A BREAK ROOM AT COUNTY DAIRY – FRIDAY MORNING

Toby reads a newspaper. Otto and Jerri sip from mugs of coffee and flip through notes.

Joe walks in holding a mug and a clipboard and sits at a table.

TOBY

Morning, Joe.

 

JOE

Morning.

 

TOBY

Joe, I’ve been meaning to ask you something.

 

JOE

Shoot!

 

TOBY

Your family name’s Kleinschmidt. That’s German, isn’t it?

 

JOE

Yep.

 

TOBY

Then why’d your dad and your uncles pick an Irish-sounding name for County Dairy? Were all the German names taken or something?

 

JOE

I asked my dad that once, too. He said he had a great-great-grandpa who came over from Ireland.

 

TOBY

And they picked the name in his honor?

 

JOE

Maybe…Dad said the main reason was that it sounded cool.

 

JERRI

That’s good for marketing.

 

JOE

Yeah, I guess so.

 

Toby returns to his newspaper. Phil sweeps through the door and glides to the coffee machine.

PHIL

A full pot! What a blessed day!

 

Phil pours himself coffee and wanders over to Otto’s side.

PHIL (CONT’D)

Oh Otto and Jerri, thanks for all you did for Pulaski this week.

 

OTTO

You bet!

 

PHIL

We have been getting hints of an offer in the offing.

 

OTTO

Mmmm. That’s good.

 

PHIL

I’ve personally heard kudos for our marketing and financial reports. Not as much about ops, but that can change.

 

JOE

What’s wrong with ops?

 

PHIL

Really, the Pulaski show was a tremendous success. County looked strong except for some sectors –

 

JOE

Like operations?

 

PHIL

Yes, Joe, like operations, but not to worry. Pulaski has in mind some innovative changings for our post-merger co-creation –

 

JOE

“Changings?”

 

PHIL

Yes, Joe –

 

JOE

That’s not a word!

 

PHIL

I guess you don’t retain learnings from our professional growth seminars, so I will happily rephrase: Pulaski wants to revision paradigms of our operational responses –

 

JOE

And you criticize me for some adjectives!

 

PHIL

Yes –

 

JOE

None of that makes any sense to me.

 

PHIL

And since it doesn’t, you might need to be relocationed.

 

JOE

Moved?

 

PHIL

I prefer not to put it that way –

 

JOE

You’d move me?

 

PHIL

It wouldn’t be I, of course. It’s Pulaski’s call.

 

JOE

Pulaski would do that?

 

PHIL

It is on the table for them, yes.

 

JOE

Where to? Not their HQ?

 

PHIL

Heavens, no. And of course it’s tentative, pending the sale. In truth, Pulaski doesn’t know where to put you – maybe HR. But they do know they might need new leadership in operations.

 

JOE

How in the world could they know something like that? We’ve had the strongest year in a decade. Turnover’s at a three-year low. Because of Toby’s team, capital outlays have plummeted –

 

PHIL

All I can say is that Pulaski didn’t like what it saw Tuesday.

 

JOE

At your presentation.

 

PHIL

Yes, Joe –

 

JOE

And whose fault is that?

 

PHIL

Perhaps Operations’?

 

JOE

Phil, this is insane. Pulaski, and you, you’ve got it backwards. I just can’t let you –

 

PHIL

But how can you stop them, if it’s what Pulaski wants?

 

JOE

Otto, do you have that email from the other day?

 

OTTO

Yes, uh, right here.

 

Otto opens a folder and pulls a sheet of paper from a thick stack. He hands the paper toward Joe, who grabs it.

JOE

Thanks, Otto. Now Phil, are we married to Pulaski?

 

PHIL

Married, Joe? I’m not –

 

JOE

Have we committed ourselves to them?

 

PHIL

There’s nothing formal –

 

JOE

Have they committed to buy us?

 

PHIL

Not yet. They’re reviewing options, as well they should –

 

JOE

Do we even know for sure that they want to buy us?

 

PHIL

Well, no, but –

 

JOE

What have they said?

 

PHIL

The details really aren’t your concern.

 

JOE

Even if it costs me my job? So will Pulaski buy us or won’t they?

 

PHIL

I don’t know, but we should plan for the case that –

 

Joe holds up the piece of paper from Otto.

JOE

Then maybe these folks will.

 

PHIL

What, I mean, who – really, Joe,-

 

JOE

This is Bongo!

 

PHIL

Bong-who?

 

JOE

Bongo Foods, in New York. They tried to buy us a few years back, and now they’re trying again. Their market’s huge, even international, and they want us.

 

PHIL

Let me see –

 

JOE

These folks are eager – you might even say “enthusiastic.”

 

PHIL

Gimme that.

 

JOE

No can do, Phil. Can’t let you touch this one.

 

PHIL

It was not I who ruined it last time.

 

JOE

And it wasn’t me either. This time, though, I want to make sure Bongo can happen.

 

OTTO

Joe, wait. I thought –

 

JOE

So did I. Then Phil here went and lost me my job, and I can’t let him do that.

 

OTTO

Joe –

 

Joe stands and walks toward the door.

JOE

Excuse me, folks. Lots of work to do before I leave for New York.

 

PHIL

Joe, this is crazy.

 

In the doorway, Joe turns to face Phil.

JOE

Crazier than letting you present my department…

 

PHIL

As you did on Tuesday.

 

JOE

…so that I end up being “relocationed?”

 

PHIL

Pulaski won’t take this well.

 

JOE

They’ll have to if Bongo pays us more.

 

Joe leaves the room. Phil sits down at a table with Otto.

PHIL

What just happened?

 

OTTO

Bongo emailed me two days ago – a test balloon really, asking whether we’d entertain a deal.

 

PHIL

And you told them no.

 

OTTO

I didn’t tell ’em anything. That’s your department.

 

PHIL

I would have said “No,” outright. Absolutely. Just when were you going to tell me about it?

 

OTTO

I was planning to forward you the note today.

 

PHIL

Today.

 

OTTO

This morning, after coffee.

 

PHIL

And now Joe has it.

 

OTTO

Yes.

 

PHIL

And he won’t tell them no.

 

OTTO

No, I don’t think he will.

 

PHIL

That’s just great. Why would these Bongo folks be so keen on us, all of a sudden?

 

Otto shrugs.

PHIL (CONT’D)

I suppose Joe’s in his office right now, calling New York?

 

OTTO

Probably.

 

PHIL

We’re courting a second buyer when we’re nearly engaged to the first!

 

Otto nods.

PHIL (CONT’D)

And I can’t stop him?

 

OTTO

Probably not. He’s the senior VP, and he can get the board’s OK when they meet tomorrow morning.

 

PHIL

But, Otto, you know Joe – his work, his style. I’ll admit that I’m probably too harsh.

 

OTTO

Probably, Phil?

 

PHIL

OK, I rag on him more than he deserves. But really, Otto. Joe isn’t Gabriel. He doesn’t have the, I mean, he can’t –

 

OTTO

You think he’ll go out and fail.

 

PHIL

Candidly, yes.

 

OTTO

Maybe.

 

PHIL

But our standing in the industry – people talk – I mean –

 

OTTO

So I’ll go with him to New York. I’ll help him write his talk and then attend the meeting with him.

 

PHIL

Yes, that’s what to do.

 

Otto stands and walks toward the door.

PHIL (CONT’D)

Thank you for standing up for County, Otto.

 

Otto stops in the doorway and turns to face Phil.

OTTO

Actually, I’m going so that Joe doesn’t have to face it all alone.

 

INT. JOE’S OFFICE – LATER FRIDAY MORNING

Joe leans forward at his desk and speaks on the phone.

JOE

Mr. Roberts, my name is Joe Kleinschmidt. I manage operations at Country Dairy in Black Earth, Wisconsin…yes, well, I have here an email you sent to our former CEO, Otto Kleinschmidt …yes, he’s my uncle. He and my dad and another uncle, they formed County Dairy together …Uh-huh, I wanted to discuss that.

 

Outside the window of Joe’s office is a brilliant blue sky.

INT. WORLD FINANCIAL CENTER, MANHATTAN – FRIDAY – 2006

ROBERTS (O.S.)

They want to explore a relationship and make a case to us here.

 

Three men and two women sit at a conference room table.

The CEO sits at the head of the table with his assistant JOY (early twenties) on his right. ROBERTS (mid-forties) is on the CEO’s left. On Roberts’ left is JEANNE (early fifties.) On Joy’s right is VINCENT (early thirties, natty.)

CEO

Benefits, Stephen?

 

ROBERTS

Strong dairy; high quality; complements our snack and beverage lines.

 

CEO

Issues?

 

ROBERTS

Regional company with regional market. Product recognition in the northeast.

 

CEO

Risks?

 

ROBERTS

Viability of high-protein. Blend of corporate cultures.

 

CEO

Financials – Vincent?

 

VINCENT

Strong earnings growth. Gross revenue up four of five years.

 

CEO

Thoughts, Jeanne?

 

JEANNE

For us some new products; a safe and wise direction with current trends.

 

CEO

Sense of the table?

 

ROBERTS

Go.

 

VINCENT

Go.

 

JEANNE

Sure, I say go.

 

CEO

We’ll go then. Joy, arrangements for a day next week.

 

JOY

Should they come in before or after the other group?

 

CEO

Before. Definitely.

 

Joy rises from her seat and leaves the room.

 

Please click here to read Part 7.

 

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Into the Arms of Angels, Part 5 of 14

Desk

I hope you enjoy the fifth installment of my feature-length screenplay,”Into the Arms of Angels” (© 2005, 2016).

For Part 4, please click here.

For Part 1 and a glossary of screenwriting abbreviations, please click here.

(Each installment concludes with a link to its successor.)

 

INT. JOE’S AND CHRIS’ HOME – WEDNESDAY MORNING – 2006

Joe knots his tie in front of a mirror in the master bedroom. Chris applies make-up down the hall in a bathroom.

CHRIS

You and Toby playing racquetball?

 

JOE

No, not this week.

 

CHRIS

Isn’t Wednesday your usual night?

 

JOE

Yeah, but Toby’s got to meet a fridge vendor for drinks tonight.

 

CHRIS

Ah. What do you suppose they’ll talk about?

 

JOE

I dunno. Refrigerators?

 

CHRIS

Yes, dummy. But how? Why? What is there to say about refrigerators?

 

JOE

Maybe that’s why they’re also having drinks.

 

CHRIS

Maybe.

 

JOE

Actually, Toby’s meeting them ’cause we need to replace a couple units. He’s seeing what they have in our price range.

 

CHRIS

And that, my dear Joseph, answers my question.

 

JOE

So we switched racquetball for a game of pool last night.

 

CHRIS

I see. And afterward you played a round of blame-the-wife.

 

JOE

Huh? Chris, what are you talking about?

 

CHRIS

“Joe says that because of you he didn’t get to go to New York.” So I am the reason you missed that crazy trip, when Gabriel –

 

JOE

Christine! I didn’t say that! You’re right, that’s what Toby said; but I told him I had to stay here to close on the house.

 

CHRIS

And that’s my fault?

 

JOE

It’s the fault of your work. That’s what happened. Or don’t you recall?

 

CHRIS

Yes, that’s how it went.

 

JOE

OK.

 

CHRIS

You picked Tuesday night to get your guy-fix early in the week?

 

JOE

No, Chris, I picked Tuesday because I couldn’t pick Thursday.

 

CHRIS

Why? Wasn’t Toby available for male bonding on Thursday?

 

JOE

I couldn’t pick Thursday because Thursday’s our anniversary. We have a reservation at L’Etoile. Or did you forget?

 

CHRIS

Actually I’ve been looking forward to Thursday quite a bit. What would you like me to wear out to dinner?

 

JOE

Whatever you want, hon.

 

CHRIS

But I’m asking you. In what would I be alluring and irresistible?

 

Joe pauses for a long time.

CHRIS (CONT’D)

You’re not answering.

 

Joe continues to straighten his tie.

CHRIS (CONT’D)

Joe – Suggest something.

 

JOE

Like I said, Chris, wear whatever you want.

 

CHRIS

You’re being impossible!

 

JOE

I mean it. You always look best in what you like best. I like the way you look when you’re, you know, relaxed.

 

CHRIS

Then why do I have a closet full of dresses?

 

JOE

Because you like them?

 

CHRIS

Hmm. Joe, you are such a guy.

 

JOE

I try to be.

 

CHRIS

At that, my dear, you succeed. I gotta run, honey. I’ll grab a Slim-Fast for breakfast.

 

JOE

You don’t need Slim-Fast.

 

CHRIS

To fit into my dress I do. See you for dinner tonight?

 

Chris heads down the stairs.

JOE

Yeah.

 

CHRIS

OK, then. Have a good one!

 

Chris exits the house. Joe remains in the bedroom.

 

EXT./INT. SCHUBERT’S RESTAURANT – 2006 – ESTABLISHING

Schubert’s is a charming mom-and-pop restaurant in Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin, about 10 miles south of County Dairy.

A wide window faces the Main Street. A glass door is decorated with local notices. A display case is filled with Norwegian pastries. A chalkboard menu hangs over an old fashioned malt machine.

A waitress emerges from the kitchen carrying a tray.

 

INT. SCHUBERT’S RESTAURANT – 2006 – WEDNESDAY LUNCHTIME

OTTO (O.S.)

…They know the majority’s in favor, but they’re sitting on it. And why? Just for politics. I mean, do they think they make friends when they do stuff like that?

 

Otto and Joe sit in a booth. The waitress arrives and sets down their plates. The men thank her. She leaves. Joe and Otto take a few bites in silence.

OTTO (CONT’D)

Oh, you might want to see this. Look what was in my email today.

 

Otto pulls a folded piece of paper from his pocket and hands it to Joe. Joe squints at the address on top.

JOE

Stephen dot Roberts. Name doesn’t ring a bell. Do I know him?

 

OTTO

He’s President out at Bongo Foods – was VP until five years ago. Maybe you didn’t deal with them much. Gabriel did –

 

JOE

Yes, I remember. Gabe was courting Bongo, and they almost decided to buy us. So what do they want now?

 

Joe hands the paper back to Otto.

OTTO

It seems they’re interested again – or at least they want us to visit.

 

JOE

That’s a surprise. How do you know?

 

OTTO

I phoned him back. I know I’m semi-retired, and it’s no longer my call, but I was so involved the last time…I was curious.

 

JOE

And…

 

OTTO

If I had to guess, I’d say Bongo’s back on its feet. They want to expand, and our name was in someone’s old Rolodex.

 

JOE

And they want to buy County? What did they say?

 

OTTO

To be honest, the guy sounded desperate. He kept saying again and again how he’d like us to come out for a “get-to-know-you” session.

 

JOE

“Get-to-know-us?”

 

OTTO

Maybe what he really said was, “refamiliarize concomitant offerings, product potentialities, and market fractionalization,” but jargon doesn’t stick in my mind anymore.

 

Joe laughs.

OTTO (CONT’D)

They want to review our selling points again, reopen the process Gabriel started.

 

JOE

Me, I’d rather rewind that process if it’s all the same to you. Seriously, though, with Pulaski going, we probably shouldn’t lead Bongo on. Maybe Bongo’d offer more money –

 

OTTO

Yep.

 

JOE

And market share. But Chicago’s closer than New York. If County sends folks down to Pulaski’s HQ, that’s only driving-distance. Bongo, on the other hand – folks’d have to fly; and we’d probably have more lay-offs.

 

OTTO

We don’t want Bongo to cost us even more of our friends.

 

JOE

Definitely not. We ought to write to Bongo and tell them no.

 

Otto refolds the paper and places it into his jacket pocket.

OTTO

Then I’ll give this to Phil.

 

JOE

Why Phil?

 

OTTO

He’s VP for Administration. Letter like that should come from him.

 

JOE

Right. A letter from Phil will scare Bongo off if nothing else will.

 

Joe picks up his knife and fork and resumes eating.

 

INT. A WEDDING DINNER IN A WHITE TENT – 1995

A knife and fork cut a chicken breast on a ceramic plate.

Inside a white tent, Gabriel stands at the middle of a long table which is covered with a white cloth.

Joe and Chris sit at Gabriel’s left elbow, Joe in a tuxedo with a large boutonniere and Chris in a wedding dress. Both Joe and Chris gaze up at Gabriel.

LAUGHTER and APPLAUSE rise from the assembled group.

GABRIEL

Joe and I were like that. I hatched the important schemes. Joe here made them happen, sometimes with disturbingly spectacular results. Somehow we shared the getting in trouble. Anyway, what followed that day you can easily imagine. Two boys. Mud. Projectiles. And ill-fated farming equipment. We completely forgot our plan to build a wall. If we’d been thinking, we’d have revised our mission to plastering mud all over, and under, and inside, Mr. Kleinschmidt’s tractors and combines. But were we thinking? Of course not! Then suddenly this enormous pair of leather boots appeared. Along with a rather imposing pair of legs. And wouldn’t you know, connected to those legs was Joe’s dad. Let’s just say he didn’t understand or appreciate our mission. Joe’s and my collaboration was halted that day, but not for long…For the last 15 months I’ve been honored to work with Joe for real, and for money, as we’re both finally part of our family’s business, County Dairy. Joe keeps me honest and well-fed (when I’m not home), and he always keeps me laughing. I can’t imagine working at County without him.

Gabriel raises his glass.

GABRIEL (CONT’D)

Joe, it’s been my great honor and greater joy to be your friend and co-conspirator for all of your 24 years. I love you like a brother. Chris, I’m here to tell you that the man you’re marrying today is wise, and patient, and thoughtful, with a kind heart. And he’d darn well better be good to you or he’ll hear about it from me. To Joe and Chris, great happiness always. And may God bless and guide them on the days when we can’t do it ourselves.

Joe and Chris link their right arms before they toast.

Gabriel smiles at his wife LUCY in the crowd. Lucy (with long black hair and Native American features) smiles back at him.

 

INT. CHRIS’ AND JOE’S LIVING ROOM – THURSDAY NIGHT – 2006

Joe and Chris share a passionate kiss. Joe sits to Chris’ right.

Chris wears a cocktail dress. Joe wears jacket and tie.

The kiss is intense and lasts for several seconds.

They pause to breathe, arms wrapped around each other. Joe then nips the end of Chris’ nose. She laughs and kisses his chin, his right cheek, and finally his right ear, where she lingers.

When Joe can take this no longer, he grabs Chris and plants another passionate kiss on her lips.

They pause and gaze into each other’s eyes. Joe pushes a few strands of hair off Chris’ forehead and caresses her cheek.

 

JOE

So am I good to you?

 

Another short kiss.

CHRIS

Good to me? Mmmm…right now, I’d have to say yes.

 

Another kiss.

JOE

What about not right now?

 

CHRIS

Not right now? I can’t say. Right now is where I am…

 

Short kiss.

CHRIS (CONT’D)

Except the part of me that’s thinking about later.

 

Chris laughs and kisses Joe again. Joe grins.

JOE

And what might that…

 

Another kiss smothers the end of Joe’s question.

CHRIS

Why are you asking, anyway?

 

Joe leans back into the couch cushion.

On a coffee table are two champagne flutes, an open champagne bottle, torn wrapping paper, and a jeweler’s box. A dozen roses sit in a vase nearby.

JOE

Oh, I guess I just remembered something Gabriel said 11 years ago today.

 

CHRIS

He gave a beautiful speech, didn’t he, really wonderful?

 

JOE

Mmmm.

 

Joe reaches with his left hand and strokes Chris’ right arm.

CHRIS

Gabriel was such a stunning speaker. He knew exactly what to say, and how. I loved to watch him holding a room, everyone just transfixed by his words and gestures. And then with one line he’d have us in pieces, laughing our heads off. He did that at our wedding, didn’t he?

 

Joe nods. He takes Chris’ right hand and kisses her fingertips.

CHRIS (CONT’D)

He really knew how to connect with an audience. What a gift that was.

 

Chris smiles. Joe puts his left arm around her. With his right hand, he gently strokes the top of her thigh.

CHRIS (CONT’D)

He could just grab someone without using lots of words.

 

Chris takes Joe’s right hand in hers, stopping his caresses.

CHRIS (CONT’D)

I’ll bet he did just super presentations for County. Everyone must have loved them. Maybe if you spoke more like him you’d be pitching to big firms, too.

 

Chris slides onto Joe’s lap. She reaches up with both hands, takes Joe’s face, and plants a kiss on his lips. After a few seconds, Joe sits up straight.

JOE

Maybe I would. Though, as I recall, I missed out on one because of you.

 

Chris freezes and then slides back slowly away from Joe.

CHRIS

What are you talking about?

 

JOE

The sales pitch in New York.

 

CHRIS

New York? You mean the trip with Gabriel –

 

JOE

Yes.

 

CHRIS

when he –

 

JOE

Yes.

 

CHRIS

Joe, what – I mean – Why are you saying this?

 

JOE

You brought up Gabriel’s brilliant speaking skills and said I should be more like him. I didn’t get that chance in New York.

 

CHRIS

Well, neither did he, Joe. How again is any of that my fault?

JOE

It was your schedule that made me skip the trip.

 

CHRIS

That’s right. And that was bad?

 

JOE

I gave up any opportunity to make that big sales pitch –

 

CHRIS

Which never happened, for God’s sake, get real!

 

JOE

This is real, Chris. How I wish that it wasn’t.

 

CHRIS

Joe, please, let’s not do all of this again.

 

JOE

Do it all again? Oh, what I wish I could do again. But I can’t do anything. Gabriel is gone.

 

CHRIS

Sometimes it feels like you made that trip anyway. I feel like I lost you on that day, too.

 

Joe throws up his hands.

CHRIS (CONT’D)

Joe, I’m deadly serious.

 

JOE

Yes, I know you are. As you always are when you say that.

 

CHRIS

And I mean it! We’ve had almost five years of your shock, and your rage, and your grief; you’ve been running off to help Lucy, or scrambling to catch up at County, or just staring off into space. Finally, with God’s help you put yourself back together, but it seems you missed a piece, a big one, that used to be here for me.

 

JOE

I did my best!

 

Joe and Chris are pressed against opposite ends of the couch.

CHRIS

Yes, I can see that you did. I loved Gabriel too, you know.

 

JOE

Yes. That was always true. Too bad Lucy got there first.

 

CHRIS

What in the world are you talking about? Have you gone completely nuts?

 

JOE

No, I haven’t, but I might if you go back into worship-Gabriel mode. Why did you have to go on and on and on about him tonight?

 

CHRIS

He was your best friend. You loved him like a brother.

 

JOE

Some brother! So busy hatching a scheme to move himself up and get away from all of us Cheeseheads.

 

Chris jumps to her feet.

CHRIS

Just stop it! Now. You know he’d never have said that. Gabriel loved the hills and the trees out where you and he grew up. He loved Otto, and he loved you! If he were here right now he’d tell you –

 

JOE

Well, he’s not here now, is he? And just why is that? Could it be-

 

CHRIS

Joe, stop!

 

JOE

…his ambition and his greed?

 

CHRIS

No, it’s not! I can’t believe this, you of all people disrespecting Gabriel’s memory.

 

Joe stands up.

JOE

And who brought his memory into our living room tonight? Thank you so very much for that!

 

Joe and Chris are both near tears.

Chris straightens her skirt. She turns to walk toward the staircase. Joe does not move.

Two or three steps up the staircase, Chris stops and faces Joe.

CHRIS

Actually, Joe, it was you.

 

Chris disappears upstairs. The bedroom door clicks closed.

Joe picks up a piece of wrapping paper and crumples it into a ball while walking around the table to the couch. He sits down and stares straight ahead.

 

Please click here to read Part 6.

Into the Arms of Angels, Part 4 of 14

Desk

Today, for your enjoyment, the fourth installment of my feature-length screenplay,”Into the Arms of Angels” (© 2005, 2016).

For Part 1 and a glossary of screenwriting abbreviations, please click here.

(Each installment concludes with a link to its successor.)

 

INT. A SUBURBAN MADISON TAVERN – TUESDAY EVENING – 2006

A cue ball breaks a set of pool balls.

Joe and Toby play pool and chat. Each nurses a glass of beer.

 

TOBY

Phil sure was out of control today. For a while there I thought he’d melt an o-ring.

 

JOE

You thought he was going to blow?

 

TOBY

Well, he and you both.

 

JOE

Sorry about that. For some reason today – I don’t know.

 

TOBY

What was all that about Gabriel and a deal, if you don’t mind my asking? Gabriel was your cousin, right? And he used to work at County?

 

JOE

Yup. My dad and his mom and Otto were siblings. They and their dad started County Dairy. Gabriel and I joined out of school.

 

TOBY

Were you and Gabriel friends?

 

JOE

Yeah. Starting as kids. He was three years older, and we lived a mile apart.

 

Toby waits. Joe does not continue.

TOBY

So what was the deal you guys were arguing about?

 

JOE

Oh, Gabe found a big firm out east that wanted to buy County. The timing was a disaster, and the deal fell through. He flew out there for a meeting, which ended up not happening. I was supposed to go with him, but I didn’t.

 

TOBY

Why not?

 

JOE

It was a freak thing, really. Four days before Gabe left, Chris’s work schedule changed. She needed to cover a different shift. We had to move our house closing to the day of the trip. So I stayed back here in town.

 

TOBY

Was he mad?

 

JOE

Nah. At least not about that. He said congratulations, and he couldn’t wait to see the house.

 

TOBY

Did something else make him mad?

 

JOE

Oh, something I did got under his skin. He bawled me out on the phone after he left. But in the end it was OK. He forgave me. I think.

 

TOBY

And his sales pitch to the big firm?

 

JOE

Like I said, it didn’t happen.

 

TOBY

But not because of something you did? I mean, what the heck was Phil going on about today?

 

JOE

His Blackberry thumb was acting up? C’mon, I need another beer.

 

Laughing, Toby and Joe walk from the pool table to the bar.

 

INT. CHICAGO O’HARE AIRPORT – 10 SEPTEMBER 2001

Passing an airport bar, Gabriel walks quickly through O’Hare. He cranes his neck to check a departures list. He is listening to voicemail on his cell phone. Gabriel frowns and mutters to himself and then dials his phone.

GABRIEL

Hey Joe. Yeah, I got your message. Listen, how in God’s name did you forget to give me that disk? We weren’t running late. We had loads of time…You’re sorry. OK. I believe you, and I accept that. But how in the world does that help me? I’d hate to change my talk – it’s perfect as it is! But now it looks like I’m gonna have to. Listen, are you sure you really want this deal to happen? First you skip the trip, and now – Look, Joe, I can’t help thinking that…Uh huh… Yeah, OK, yes, you were there, for many hours…Yeah, lots of prep, you’re right…Of course. I didn’t mean…I know, it’s what I said…OK, I retract my statement, or insinuation, or whatever the hell it was. For the umpteenth time you’ve caught me speedtalking, and I’m sorry…Yes, I am. I’ve got an awful headache. And every time they call a flight, you know, the overhead page, it just splits my brain in half. Anyway, Joe, I do appreciate all the work you put into my talk. I guess I’m jumpy today. It’s weird. About that disk, can you email me the files?

 

OVERHEAD PAGE

For those of you awaiting Flight 617 to New York –

 

GABRIEL

Hang on, Joe, that’s my flight… Damn! …Oh, just a long delay. They say it’s pouring rain in New York, so we’ll have to sit here for a few hours. It turns out I could’ve driven to O’Hare by the time we get to leave…Yes, please email me the files, and I’ll download ’em tonight. Oh, and Joe, I wanted to tell you, I heard the craziest thing from the guy sitting next to me out of Madison…

 

INT. A SUBURBAN MADISON TAVERN – TUESDAY EVENING – 2006

Joe and Toby sit in a booth with nearly-empty beer glasses.

 

TOBY

I think that as of today I’ve just about had it with Phil. Where does that guy get off?

(mimics Phil)

“I need results, Toby, with fewer prepositions and adverbs.”

 

Joe chuckles.

TOBY (CONT’D)

The man’s a friggin’ machine.

 

JOE

Gears, wheels, microchips – maybe even a built-in spell-checker…

 

TOBY

The best was last week Wednesday. Phil calls me in, about 6 PM, and I’m just dragging. I’d been at work ’til, like, midnight fixing a coolant leak and back in at 5:30 AM in the morning. As Phil drones on, my eyes start to glaze over, so he says to me,

(mimics Phil)

“Toby, we must stay ultrasharp here at County.”

 

Joe laughs.

TOBY (CONT’D)

I explain that I’d had maybe four hours of sleep. He stares through those little round glasses of his and barks,

(mimics Phil)

“You need more than four hours? That’s often enough for me. In fact, I never get more than five.”

 

Joe laughs heartily. Toby remains pensive.

TOBY (CONT’D)

I seriously don’t know if I can take it much longer.

 

CHRIS (O.S.)

Joe! Gosh, I didn’t expect you’d be out here. I thought for sure you’d be downtown tonight.

 

Chris and Suzette walk up to the table. Chris puts an arm around Joe’s shoulder.

JOE

Chris, Toby. Toby, Chris.

 

TOBY

Good evening.

 

CHRIS

And this is my girlfriend, Suzette. Suze, this is Joe and Toby.

 

SUZETTE

Hi there, Toby. Joe, it’s great to finally meet you. Your wife’s told me a whole lot about you. I mean, good stuff, ’bout your job and whatnot. You look just like your pictures, only cuter. You don’t mind me saying that, do you Chris?

 

CHRIS

It’s nice to meet you, Toby. Joe talks about you almost as much as he talked about Gabriel.

 

The group is awkwardly silent.

TOBY

I’ve heard about you too, Chris. Just today Joe was telling me you were the reason he skipped a trip to New York.

 

CHRIS

He said what?

 

JOE

It wasn’t like that.

 

CHRIS

Like it was a bad thing?

 

JOE

No, not really.

 

CHRIS

Not really? Good. ‘Cause it really is best you skipped that trip.

 

Chris and Joe stare at each other. Suzette puts a hand on Chris’ arm.

SUZETTE

Don’t mind us, guys. I got a raise, and we’ve done some celebrating. We should probably leave you alone.

 

TOBY

It was good to meet you.

 

SUZETTE

Nice meeting you too, Toby.

 

CHRIS

Yes, Toby. Nice to meet you at last.

 

JOE

Enjoy the fruits of your raise, Suzette, but not too much, you know.

 

The group laughs nervously.

JOE (CONT’D)

See you back home then, hon.

 

CHRIS

Yeah. Bye, Toby.

 

The two women depart for another section of the bar.

TOBY

That settles it. I’m a dope.

 

Joe reaches across the table and rumples Toby’s hair. Both men grin and drain their glasses.

 

EXT. A FARM YARD IN WISCONSIN – 1982

A patch of mud sits in front of the open door of a machine shed. Water runs from a hose into the mud.

Blonde, chubby ELEVEN-YEAR-OLD JOE and tall, dark-haired FOURTEEN-YEAR-OLD GABRIEL run into the frame and stop at the edge of the mud patch.

Excitedly, both boys declare that the mud is “ready.”

Joe runs out of the frame to turn off the hose.

Gabriel forms three rounded mud blobs and sets them in a row.

Gabriel grins and holds a mud blob to his chest. He moves to his left and crouches.

 

ELEVEN-YEAR-OLD JOE (O.S.)

Hey, Gabe! D’you think we should find some hay to hold the bricks together? My dad prob’ly wouldn’t let us. Maybe grass would do. Or they might be OK without.

 

Joe enters the frame, stops in front of the shed, and squints to look for Gabriel.

Gabriel rises from his crouch.

 

FOURTEEN-YEAR-OLD GABRIEL

You can find out for yourself, Squirt.

 

Gabriel lobs his mud blob at Joe. Joe hops to his right. The blob sails past him and lands with a “splootch” on a combine. Mud splatters over several sharp edges of the machine.

Joe yells and leaps into the mud patch, splattering himself all over. He bends to build a mud blob of his own just as Gabriel throws a second blob, which sails over Joe and lands on the grille of another large machine.

Joe and Gabriel run around the patch, each grabbing mud blobs and heaving them at the other. Many blobs land on machines in the shed. Others land on the boys.

At the corner of the shed, a pair of large male legs in dusty jeans and mud-caked boots walks into the frame.

The boys continue to wrestle in the middle of the mud patch.

Joe freezes and stares at the corner of the shed. After a few seconds, Gabriel also freezes, with his back to the shed. Gabriel stares up at Joe.

The boys stand at the center of the mud patch. Following Joe’s eyes, Gabriel slowly turns his head and shoulders.

The legs do not move. The boys’ faces convey both sheepishness and fear.

 

Please click here to read Part 5.

Into the Arms of Angels, Part 3 of 14

Desk

I hope you enjoy the third installment of my feature-length screenplay,”Into the Arms of Angels” (© 2005, 2016). For Part 1 (and a glossary of screenwriting abbreviations), please click here.  For Part 2, please click here.

 

EXT./INT. ST. MARY’S HOSPITAL, MADISON – 2006 – ESTABLISHING

MONTAGE

The facade of St. Mary’s Hospital, centered on the hospital’s sign.

Patients, relatives, drivers, and care-providers generate a buzz of activity at the hospital entrance.

One visitor walks through the main doors and across the lobby to a bank of elevators. He pushes a call button.

 

INT. A CARDIAC CARE UNIT – ST. MARY’S HOSPITAL – SATURDAY

CHRIS (O.S.)

Sometimes it seems that Joe and I get stuck in a loop – the same conversations again and again, repeating all the same words.

 

Electronic patterns repeat constantly on a monitor screen.

CHRIS (O.S.) (CONT’D)

Like we have a script we go through first thing in the morning, another for dinner at night. Suze, we even have a script for when we argue.

 

At a nursing station, Chris and SUZETTE (a tall, striking African-American) sit watching a cardiac monitor.

CHRIS (CONT’D)

I guess the details do change sometimes, especially about his work — but even there we end up repeating.

 

SUZETTE

Repetition can be good, Chris.

 

CHRIS

Maybe for two-year-olds.

 

SUZETTE

And grown-ups too! I read somewhere that couples with rituals also have happier marriages – you know, same night each month for a date, same dessert every anniversary. They said it means, “I love you so much that I really want to keep doing this.”

 

Chris laughs.

CHRIS

Oh, Suze, you are precious! Wouldn’t that be nice? We’re not stuck in a rut but actually sending each other love vibes! Seriously, Suze, I hate to say this, but it’s not about sending messages as much as keeping something hidden, as though there’s something we can’t say, or even get close to.

 

Chris looks up suddenly and then checks her watch.

SUZETTE

Hey, don’t you and Joe have an anniversary coming up soon? Like this Thursday?

 

CHRIS

You are right, Suze. I wish I could borrow your memory.

 

Chris stands up.

SUZETTE

Any plans? A long weekend? A romantic trip to the Caribbean?

 

Chris pulls on a white cardigan sweater and laughs.

SUZETTE (CONT’D)

How ’bout a posh Manhattan hotel? Strawberries and champagne?

 

Chris glances across the nursing station and smiles.

CHRIS

My guess would be somewhere close to home. Joe’s not comfortable flying, and he doesn’t like New York.

 

Chris sighs and grins at Suzette. She glances across the room at two nurses who stand waiting for her.

CHRIS (CONT’D)

My new floats are here. I gotta see who needs them most. Liz has admissions to finish, so I’ll go to her first. Back here in a bit. Suze, you’re a rock.

 

INT. DANE COUNTY AIRPORT – 9/10/01 – JOE’S SECOND DREAM

MONTAGE

Joe and Gabriel walk through the airport’s main entrance.

Joe and Gabriel ride an escalator up to the gate level.

Joe and Gabriel speak light-heartedly in the gate waiting area.

Joe’s face conveys a mix of emotions.

Gabriel walks down the jetway toward his plane, turns back at the final corner, and waves at Joe with a radiant smile.

 

INT. JOE’S AND CHRIS’ BEDROOM – TUESDAY MORNING – 2006

Joe opens his eyes and blinks several times before getting up.

 

EXT./INT. COUNTY DAIRY HEADQUARTERS – TUESDAY – ESTABLISHING

MONTAGE

County Dairy’s main sign displays the cheese-shamrock logo.

Joe enters through the front door.

A milk truck pulls up to a loading dock.

Toby talks with several workers about cheesemaking machines.

A door from the factory floor leads into a lobby.

Joe crosses the lobby, walks down a corridor, and turns to enter a conference room.

 

INT. A CONFERENCE ROOM AT COUNTY DAIRY – TUESDAY

Joe, OTTO (fair, mid-sixties), ERIK (early 40s, dark Austrian coloring), and JERRI (in her late 20s, dyed-blonde with moussed hair) sit around a table. Joe cheerfully recounts a news story.

JOE

The cop grabs some bags, goes to the car, and asks if the guys want to buy, which they do. From a detective. With a swarm of police searching the house.

 

OTTO

The guys in the car are busted?

 

JOE

So busted you wouldn’t believe.

 

Otto and Joe laugh. PHIL (soft, mid-forties, with wire-rimmed spectacles) bursts in and closes the door.

PHIL

Otto, Joe, great to see you fired up and ready to deliver for the team. We’ve got a lot to cover today, and we’re gonna need every ounce of that energy for our focus. On site today is Mr. Alan Hancek, representing the future of County Dairy. Alan of course is with Pulaski Prairie Fine Foods, which you all know wants to bring County into its superlative product family –

 

JOE

By which you mean they want to buy us.

 

PHIL

They, as well as I, prefer to call our venture a merging of complementary strengths. And it is exactly our strengths that we want to showcase when we meet with Alan today.

 

Toby abruptly opens the door and enters. He carries a coffee mug and a large clipboard. Otto and Joe smile at Toby. Phil glares. Toby sits down and pulls his chair up to the table.

PHIL (CONT’D)

Toby, you know I simply cannot accept your chronic and inconsiderate tardiness.

 

TOBY

Sorry, Phil. Got here soon as I could. A cooler malfunctioned, and then a leak in the vat –

 

PHIL

Toby, it doesn’t matter if there’s a leak in the john. You’re responsible for monitoring County’s manufacturing processes, meeting time-management metrics, and modeling corporate learnings. I find I have to remind you every single week that what I need from you is results, not excuses.

 

TOBY

Yes, Phil.

 

PHIL

I mean, tell me straight, Toby, should I be more direct in my management? Do I need to place more emphasis on focus? You’re still new, of course, after only two years, and your adjustment fits the new-employee paradigm, but your continual tardiness falls well outside our corporate standards.

 

Phil gives a half-smile and shrugs with his hands.

TOBY

I guess you’d call me outside of the box, then.

 

PHIL

And a smartass, even though I’m deadly serious. Tell me, in your own words, that you hear me.

 

TOBY

I hear you, Phil. I’ll try to be here on time next week, as long as the machines –

 

PHIL

Results, Toby –

 

TOBY

Not excuses, Phil.

 

PHIL

Back to business. Alan Hancek is here from Pulaski, and I want to show him County’s greatness.

 

JOE

I think we saw him Saturday, the Pulaski guy. He stopped in at the Market, didn’t he, Toby?

 

Toby nods.

JOE (CONT’D)

He introduced himself, saw the merchandise, told us he’d be here today…and a lot of other stuff. Man, can that guy talk –

 

PHIL

How’d we sell this weekend, Joe? Any changes or trends?

 

JOE

Compared to the last three weeks, we moved the same volume of whole cheese, more packaged snacks, and less yogurt –

 

PHIL

Gross sales?

 

JOE

About one percent up from last week. Specialty cheese, especially Mexican, moved well –

 

PHIL

Up by only one percent?

 

JOE

Yeah, about one, and –

 

PHIL

I wanted an increase of three or four percent. What went wrong?

 

JOE

Huh?

 

PHIL

Labor Day weekend should be an absolute scorcher for us. We should close out the summer with strong numbers. Why didn’t you achieve that?

 

JOE

Um –

 

TOBY

Well we had to compete with Bratfest, the Taste of Madison –

 

PHIL

With foodies swarming all over our beautiful capital city, we should have filled all their shopping bags with cheese. So why didn’t you?

 

JOE

Well, I –

 

PHIL

Joe, as VP of Operations, you’re paid to operate. At the Farmers’ Market you operate by selling. So why didn’t you sell more on Saturday?

 

JOE

Phil, we stayed so busy. That whole day I hardly stopped for a moment –

 

PHIL

Then your problem is extra movement. You take too many steps to meet a customer. If you’d let them come to you, you’d reduce your need to walk, thus packing more into the day.

 

Phil pauses. Joe “winds up” to respond but has no opportunity.

PHIL (CONT’D)

Joe, it’s precisely these shortcomings, i.e., your inability to adapt to change by incrementing your strategies – or, in short, your lack of creativity – that I want to minimize and keep out of Pulaski’s view today.

 

Phil slides papers across the table to each of the attendees.

PHIL (CONT’D)

Here’s the plan. Otto, you open with County Dairy’s history – you’ll be able to do that, won’t you?

 

OTTO

Since I co-founded the company, I certainly should be.

 

PHIL

Good. I’ve written your talk. You need only to read it and change up the slides when it says. Erik, you have sales – honest but upbeat. And Jerri, of course, you’re marketing. I’ll do future plans and operations; and that takes care of assignments. Now for points of style –

 

JOE

You’re doing operations?

 

PHIL

Yes. I am, and –

 

JOE

But I’m in charge of ops. I know the staff and the equipment. I meet with Toby every day. I can cover ops better than anyone –

 

PHIL

And you use far too many adjectives. This presentation demands concision.

 

JOE

Adjectives? What the heck does that have to do with operations?

 

PHIL

Nothing. And that’s why I’ll use few of them when I present today.

 

JOE

But you don’t know operations. You’re not out on the floor. You just…administrate all day.

 

PHIL

I can, and will, present a glowing review of our operations. I can, and will, communicate our efficiency and productivity. I can, and will, impress Pulaski with my knowledge of our processes. After all, they might decide they need a new leader in ops.

 

JOE

Oh, they might, might they?

 

PHIL

And they won’t care who is the son of a founder.

 

JOE

Neither do I. I just do my job.

 

OTTO

Phil, you’re totally out of line. You’ve no right to blindside Joe like this. Everyone who’s sitting here today was expecting-

 

PHIL

Do not lecture me, Otto, as if I were one of your nephews. I am not Joe, and I’m not the other one — Gabriel.

 

JOE

You sure got that right.

 

PHIL

Joe, I don’t see that you compare too favorably with your shining cousin. Gabriel could think. He could speak. He could dazzle. And he wanted to take us big.

 

Phil pauses. The group remains silent.

PHIL (CONT’D)

I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that you’d torpedoed all that, Joe.

 

JOE

What’s that supposed to mean?

 

PHIL

Maybe the deal that he’d spent several months nurturing –

 

JOE

Jesus, Phil, you know why that deal went south!

 

PHIL

Sure I do. But it might have failed anyway. Be honest, a part of you –

 

OTTO

Phil, you’ve gone too far.

 

PHIL

…probably wanted to scuttle it, any way that you could,…

 

JOE

No.

 

PHIL

…even if he was your best friend, or maybe because he was. In truth, you really didn’t want that deal to happen.

 

JOE

No!

 

PHIL

Maybe a part of you wasn’t too sorry when something got in the way.

 

Joe jumps to his feet.

PHIL (CONT’D)

Well, I mean, sorry, of course. But not completely bereft, if you know what I –

 

JOE

Phil, just shut up! Shut the hell up, please!

Phil folds his hands and looks up at Joe.

 

JOE (CONT’D)

Since you won’t be needing me for Pulaski, please excuse me. I’ve got a factory to run.

 

Joe leaves the room. Toby rises from his seat.

TOBY

That refrigerator’s still off-line. I need to get it up again.

 

Toby follows Joe out of the room and rushes to catch up. Phil stares after them, then shifts his attention back to the group.

PHIL

Now then, style points…

 

The doorway from the conference room to the hall remains open.

 

INT. A CONFERENCE ROOM AT COUNTY DAIRY – 3 SEPTEMBER 2001

Gabriel appears in the doorway, jubilant and bursting with news.

PHIL (O.S.)

Gabriel. To what do we owe the pleasure?

 

GABRIEL

I’ve got it! It’s fantastic! Look, I know I’m interrupting, but I just received a call I’ve been waiting for from Bongo – you know, humongo Bongo Foods, the New York conglomerate…You’re right, they’re not humongous yet. But have you been watching them this year? They’re gobbling up small fry like goldfish crackers, and as of today they want us, too! If we play it right they’ll make us a very rich offer…Yes, they’d keep the plant open. They want all our lines to continue, especially that high-protein line in R&D – they think it’ll catch on…I s’pose they might have to trim some items, but can you imagine the market share we’d gain, in an instant, with just a few signatures?…The next step’s a trip to Bongo’s headquarters in New York. We present County to them in the best possible light and show them beyond a doubt that there’s no way they can do better in this millennium (which, as Phil often reminds us, started this year and not last). So Bongo needs a big show. I gotta go write it now. And if I nail it, maybe they’ll move me to New York to oversee their dairy lines. That would be so cool. Lots of work to do first, though. Don’t look so sad, Joe. I want you to come with me next week. I’ll need you there for operations. Come by after the meeting so we can brainstorm. It’ll be fun!

 

Gabriel starts to leave but turns back at an inaudible question.

GABRIEL (CONT’D)

The when? Right! I forgot. We fly out there on Monday, and the presentation’s Tuesday. That gives us all of a week. Gotta go!

 

Gabriel smiles broadly and walks away. He crosses the lobby and passes the open factory door.

Two factory employees are bent over a broken machine.

Sound: MACHINE NOISE blends the thumping sounds from the Naudet documentary made in World Trade Tower 1 on 9/11. (According to the filmmakers, each thump was the impact of a falling body.)

 

Please click here to read Part 4.

Into the Arms of Angels, Part 2 of 14

Desk

Today I offer for your enjoyment the second installment of my feature-length screenplay,”Into the Arms of Angels” (© 2005, 2016).

For Part 1, please click here.

 

EXT. COUNTY DAIRY STAND – FARMERS’ MARKET – SATURDAY

Two slender, upper-middle-class women in their 40s (BARB and JANE) stand at the County Dairy counter. They inspect the products and talk quietly to each other.

Toby stands at a respectful distance, ready to wait on them.

Joe catches his breath after his encounter with Vic and Brett. Barb holds up a package of Superpro cheese and speaks to Jane.

BARB

My neighbor Beth, the one whose husband’s a developer, absolutely swears by this Superpro. She says she eats it for lunch and every day as a snack, and it melts well and makes great sandwiches, on low-carb bread, of course.

 

JANE

Is this the cheese recommended in that diet book, the one Shelly’s reading that she swears she’s lost 10 pounds from, though, to be honest, it looks only like five?

 

BARB

No, but my friend Christie’s husband Dave says Superpro tastes just as good as that one, and the packet’s easier to open in the car.

 

Barb addresses Joe.

BARB (CONT’D)

Do you sell a lot of Superpro?

 

JOE

Yes, ma’am, we do.

 

BARB

Really? How much can I get at once?

 

TOBY

We have 8-ounce, 12-ounce, and 16-ounce bags.

 

BARB

Great, I’ll take three pounds. I also need low-salt jerky, and cashews for my husband’s poker group. D’you have that here?

 

Toby begins to gather cheese for Barb.

JOE

No, sorry, I don’t carry them yet; I will, though, by next spring.

 

BARB

Really? Have other people asked before me? Or did you use some marketing survey?

 

JOE

Uh, neither, actually. See, County might be bought pretty soon by an outfit from Chicago. Once we’re with them, I’ll offer a range of nuts and meat snacks.

 

BARB

From Chicago, huh? I love to shop there. I hope that won’t mean Chicagoans moving here. I mean, you know, the drivers –

 

JOE

No, ma’am. They’ll want us to continue to run our operations.

Barb turns to pay Toby for her purchase.

 

JANE

You’re not gonna outsource, are you? You know, I can’t buy Superpro if people making it aren’t getting a living wage.

 

JOE

Oh no, ma’am. The factory stays as it is. The only jobs that might move are a couple of managers’, and they’d go only to Chicago.

 

BARB

I see. Oh, and do you know where I can find low-salt jerky?

 

Toby finishes the sale and leans his elbows on the counter.

JOE (O.S.)

Around the corner to the left, fifth stand up. They also sell wheat grass.

 

The women leave. Toby stands behind the counter and watches the milling crowd. Joe turns to straighten a display.

TOBY

Hey Joe, did I hear that County almost got bought a few years back?

 

JOE

You might have, Toby, ’cause it’s true.

 

TOBY

Was it this Chicago group that’s looking at us now?

 

JOE

No, a bigger company. From out east.

 

TOBY

Didn’t work out?

 

JOE

Nope. Timing was off. Deal got killed.

 

TOBY

Killed how?

 

JOE

By 9/11.

 

TOBY

Oh.

 

INT. THE COUNTY DAIRY BREAK ROOM – 9/11/01 – 9:28 AM CDT

A group of anxious County Dairy workers fills a break room and stares at a television. Joe stands in the front row.

The TV screen is not visible. Shifting light from the television plays across the stunned faces.

Sound: Reporters’ and bystanders’ screams of horror as the north World Trade tower collapses.

Joe falls to his knees.

 

EXT. COUNTY DAIRY STAND – FARMERS’ MARKET – SATURDAY – 2006

ALAN (O.S.)

Excuse me, are you Joe Kleinschmidt?

 

A businessman (ALAN) stands at the County Dairy counter. Joe and Toby both turn to face him.

JOE

Yes, sir, I am.

 

ALAN

I remember your face from the dairy expo last year.

 

JOE

That was a good meeting –

 

ALAN

You have a distinctive look.

 

JOE

Is that a fact?

 

ALAN

Has anyone ever told you that?

 

JOE

I don’t think so, sir.

 

ALAN

Well I’m Alan Hancek, VP North Central, of Pulaski Prairie Fine Foods. Here is my card.

 

The man hands his card to Joe. Joe squints at it.

ALAN (CONT’D)

The other side’s in English.

 

Joe slides the card into the pocket of his apron and nods.

ALAN (CONT’D)

I understand that we may soon be family. There’s a big meeting on Tuesday out at County Dairy, and I wanted to meet you here and see your stand and inspect your wares, since they may soon be our wares too. You seem to do a good business; that’s all great!

 

Three customers appear. Toby waits on the first person in line.

ALAN (CONT’D)

No need to concern yourself with signage, layout, and traffic flow this week. We’ll have lots of time to clean that up when the deal’s done. We’ve got a huge staff of talented people who can help you refit your visuals. You’ll like them. They’ll help you move more product. Speaking of that, I can see you’re busy. ‘Til Tuesday, then. Good luck with your sales today!

 

Joe begins speaking to a customer. Alan steps away awkwardly and then strides off against the prevailing direction of foot traffic.

A fire truck passes, O.S., with its SIREN blaring.

 

EXT. A FARM IN SOUTHWESTERN WISCONSIN – 1974

Blonde, blue-eyed THREE-YEAR-OLD JOE, wearing a fire helmet askew, runs gleefully in circles, waving his arms and narrating. He trips and sends his helmet flying. He stoops to pick up his helmet and resumes a circular run.

Dark-haired SIX-YEAR-OLD GABRIEL climbs a tree while carrying two coiled-up jump ropes. Three-year-old Joe runs in the background. Gabriel’s family home is behind them.

 

SIX-YEAR-OLD GABRIEL

Big Gabe Jenkins, captain of Rescue 29, climbs up the fire escape. Flames are blocking the front and back doors, and he has to get to the people through the back window. He’s got all his gear and 100 feet of hose –

 

Gabriel drops one of his two jump ropes.

SIX-YEAR-OLD GABRIEL (CONT’D)

Oops, ninety feet of hose, and a Halligan tool. He climbs steep superstructure around the thick smoke –

GABRIEL’S MOTHER appears at a doorway.

GABRIEL’S MOTHER

Gabriel, be careful! And keep an eye on your cousin. Joe should stop that running, or he might throw up again.

 

Gabriel’s mother turns and steps back into her house.

SIX-YEAR-OLD GABRIEL

Oh he’s fine, Mom…Captain Jenkins reaches the window and sees flames 20 feet away. He reaches out the hose to douse the fire and…and…wuhhaaah!

 

Grasping a narrow branch about four feet up, Gabriel extends his other hand and a jump rope handle to “squirt water on the fire.” The branch snaps, and Gabriel falls to the ground, landing on his back.

Joe ambles over to Gabriel to check him out, pulls off his helmet, places it over Gabriel’s face, and walks away.

 

Please click here to read Part 3.

 

 

Into the Arms of Angels, Part 1 of 14: A Novel Approach to a Screenplay

Desk In the age of Charles Dickens and Anthony Trollope, authors routinely published their work piecemeal in magazines, doling out their treasures to readers one chapter at a time. Beginning today and continuing for the next six weeks, I will employ a similar approach, serializing my feature-length screenplay, “Into the Arms of Angels” (© 2005, 2016). The story’s logline:

Devastated by the death of his closest friend five years earlier in the Twin Tower terrorist attacks, an emotionally crippled Wisconsin dairyman travels to New York City in September of 2006 and through intense suffering reaches an epiphany of healing and insight.

First, a few notes about formatting:

  • “O.S.” means “off-screen.”
  • Scene headings are in ALL CAPS. Each is preceded by either “INT.” or “EXT.” to indicate that the scene takes place inside or outside, respectively.
  • A scene described as “ESTABLISHING” might be a series of exterior shots that implies a location for a subsequent interior scene (e.g., a shot of a police station’s facade that precedes an interview with a suspect.)
  • When a character is introduced, his or her name appears in all caps.
  • Descriptions of sounds (e.g., “A CRASH OF GLASS”) are also in all caps.
  • A “MONTAGE” is a series of shots without dialogue, most likely accompanied by music.

Today’s installment is Part 1 of 14.  I hope you enjoy it.

Into the Arms of Angels, Part 1

INT. AN AIRPORT – JOE’S DREAM MONTAGE Fuzzy, brightly-lit images from an airport (a bag lifted onto a steel table, a waving security wand, an upward-moving escalator, a hand on an escalator railing.) A tall man in his mid-thirties (GABRIEL) smiles and waves from an airport jetway. He has dark hair, fair skin, even features, and a magnetic smile. A smoky room is lit by irregular reddish flashes of light. In the smoky room, Gabriel looks to his left for a few seconds and then looks hard over his right shoulder. Behind him and to his right are the remains of a shattered window suspended between two steel support columns. Tendrils of smoke waft around Gabriel’s anguished face. Sound: Begins with unintelligible VOICES and airport PA ANNOUNCEMENTS; becomes a blend of pre-attack RADIO BROADCASTS from 9/11, followed by a blend of early post-attack REPORTS, followed by the horrified SCREAMS of bystanders as victims jump from the Twin Towers. Ends with the voice of a news anchor: “America, say a prayer.”   INT. A BEDROOM – WISCONSIN – SATURDAY – 2006 The TEXTURE OF VOICES fades and becomes a single RADIO VOICE. As the soundscape clears, the scenery comes into focus. A curtained window on the left admits pre-dawn light. RADIO VOICE …a sunny start for this Labor Day weekend. It’s now 4:30, and to all you early birds –   The radio abruptly shuts off. CHRIS (a sensible-looking, slim, towheaded woman of about age 34) lies on the right side of a bed. Having turned off the radio, Chris looks at her husband JOE (mid- to late-thirties, fair, blue-eyed, compact build). Chris stifles a yawn and grins. Joe, on the left side, looks back at Chris and smiles.   JOE Good morning.   EXT. A FARMERS’ MARKET – ESTABLISHING MONTAGE A sign reads “Dane County Farmers’ Market, Madison, Wisconsin.” Thousands of customers circulate among hundreds of vendors surrounding the dramatic white marble state capitol building. Joe and TOBY (mid- to late-thirties, small, fair, and blue-eyed) arrange merchandise at the County Dairy stand, which offers many varieties of cheese, yogurt, fresh milk, and cream. The County Dairy logo, which appears prominently on the stand, is a shamrock fashioned of Swiss cheese. At a bread vendor 40 feet from the County Dairy stand, two women complete a purchase.   EXT. BREAD VENDOR – FARMERS’ MARKET – SATURDAY SHERRY (mid-thirties, in expensive-shabby dress, with short ash-blonde hair) pays for two loaves of bread and places them into a cloth shopping bag. SUSAN, in her late 20s, is conservatively dressed.   SHERRY After two years of marriage I finally got your brother to try whole grains.  I mean, no offense to your family, but, holy God, he was so Wonderbread.  It was a sin — so embarrassing to introduce him to my friends.  (You won’t tell him that will you?  I mean, like I said, no offense, but he ate like an absolute Philistine.)  Anyway, enter Golden Harvest Organics and their stand here at the Market.  I was thrilled when he finally tried their five-grain baguette.  And, wouldja’ve guessed it, he’s totally hooked.  I never thought I’d say this, but he won’t eat any sandwich that’s not on 12-grain Farmer’s.   The women stop at a vegetable stand. Sherry examines a squash. SHERRY (CONT’D) So is this really your first trip to Madison?   The women resume walking. Susan gazes up at nearby buildings. SUSAN Um, actually, it is, though I’ve always heard such great things about it.  I mean, there’s so much here, with the campus and the lakes, and the capitol’s just gorgeous.  I’ve heard there’s a lot of art and theatre here too.   SHERRY Yeah, you wouldn’t expect this much culture in the Midwest, but our creative community just thrives.  There’s so much diversity.  It’s so open and inclusive.  Madison really celebrates difference.   SUSAN Didn’t I see Madison was in the top ten for something – I can’t remember what now – Maybe I heard it on Fox News –   Sherry stops and turns to stare at her companion. SHERRY You watch Fox News?   SUSAN Um, yes.   SHERRY Well you’d better keep that to yourself here, or you’re likely to be cussed out.   EXT. A COFFEE STAND – FARMERS’ MARKET – SATURDAY Joe pays for a cup of coffee.  He is adding cream when VIC and BRETT, two coastal-urban-looking young men, walk up to him.   VIC ‘Scuse me, d’you have a stand here?   JOE Yes, I’m here most every week.   VIC Have I talked to you yet?   JOE I don’t believe you have.   Joe walks slowly toward his stand.  The young men accompany him. VIC Cool. Well, I’m Vic Roberts, and this is Brett Wald.  Brett and I are working this summer for the Southern Wisconsin chapter of “Support the Farmers.”  “Support the Farmers” is a nonpartisan non-profit community activist organization that supports and empowers family farmers in asserting their rights to work the land and resisting threats from factory farms.  Is your company local?   JOE Yessir, it’s in Black Earth.   Vic and Brett stare blankly. VIC Black Earth. That’s near…   JOE Just west of here about 20 miles.   VIC OK, I’ll try to remember.  I mix up the towns.  Anyway, I’m here to ask you to buy your produce only from local farmers.  I strongly urge you to do so because of the immediate impact your decisions can have on farmers near…Black Earth.  So – who do you buy from?   JOE A co-op of suppliers from Dane, Sauk, and Iowa Counties.   VIC That’s around here?   JOE Completely.   VIC Cool.  Great.  Thanks, man.  You do a lot of good for your community and the global agri-sphere.   The trio reaches the County Dairy stand.  Vic spots the cheese products for sale and throws up his hands. VIC (CONT’D) Dairy!  Phee-ew – A pox on it all!  Brett, we gotta do something to stop the spread of dairy toxins.  This stuff, all the cheese and whatnot, it kills people, you know.   Joe walks behind the counter, smiles, and laughs. JOE Well, I sincerely hope not.  If cheese kills people then I’m out of business.   Vic suddenly realizes that Joe works at the dairy stand. VIC Well you should be out of business!  All you mucus merchants should be forced to stop poisoning the public.   JOE Really, that’s enough.  I need to get to work.  Good luck with what you’re doing.   VIC Murderer!  You’re a freaking food terrorist, man.  You’ll personally kill more people this week than died on 9/11.  You’re almost as wicked as –   JOE Enough!   Nearby customers and vendors fall silent. JOE (CONT’D) Go, please.  Now!   Vic and Brett back up.  Brett stops short.  Vic bumps into him. VIC We should come back and get this stand.  And any others.  They can’t be allowed to continue polluting the food supply.   Both young men walk double-time away.  Brett turns and yells. BRETT Fascist!   Please click here to read Part 2.

Separating the Wheat from the Chaff: Ten Social Media Tips for the New Year

Quill_Pen

I hope 2016 has debuted on a positive note for you!

Over the holidays, I found the relatively quiescent social media world so restful and refreshing that I decided to seek continued peace by changing my online habits.

How best to optimize one’s social media time?  This is necessarily a personal calculation, but I would like to offer ten guidelines that I plan to follow in the New Year.

Output

Posting or tweeting in haste can land one in a quagmire of vitriol, escape from which can cost both time and emotional energy.

  • Do not tweet or post while angry.  If you feel compelled to respond to a provocative missive, jot your thoughts down in a text file and save them (or write them in an email to yourself only).  Wait an hour, and then reread your words before posting anything.

Exception: if a journalist gets his or her facts wrong, send a correction, but keep the message clear of emotion.

 

  • If you feel compelled to argue with someone, pause and ask yourself what in your own life you need or want to work on.  Redirect your energy toward improving yourself instead of firing off a response.

 

  • Similarly, before you criticize a public figure who has no power over your life (such as an athlete or an actor), redirect your energy toward your own goals.

Note that this reasoning applies to misdemeanor irritating habits and other small offenses.  An athlete who violates the rules of his or her sport, breaks the law, or grossly misbehaves merits reasonable public criticism.

 

  • If you disagree with a political post written by an “ordinary citizen” who is neither a journalist nor a member of the political class, keep in mind:(a) the author of the post with which you disagree has only one vote;(b) the author probably wants what’s best for his or her nation and the world but operates with a set of premises different from your own; and(c) the author is not your enemy.

It does no good to send an incendiary message to a relatively powerless citizen who happens to disagree with you about politics.

Exception: journalists and politicians have vast reach and influence.  Go ahead and correct them if they get their facts wrong.

 

  • If you find yourself in an online conversation that turns negative — for example, a cycle of “it’s so terrible that…” — either exit the conversation, or change its tone by saying something positive.

Life is too precious to spend time wallowing in the negative.

 

Input

While it is always tempting and natural online to add new connections, network growth can trigger an explosion of one’s news feed.  Not every post is a good use of time, and what is useful on one day might be a thief of time on a busier day.

Although for reasons of delicacy you may not want to Unfollow an online acquaintance, it is your right — and indeed your responsibility — to manage the volume and content of your news feed or timeline.

  • Don’t be afraid to use the Mute feature on Facebook or Twitter.  You are not obliged to read everything posted by your connections.  If one of your Friends generates an overwhelming volume of posts, or if a Friend posts messages whose tone or content is offensive to you, use Mute either for just a few days or for the indefinite future.

 

  • Similarly, “Turn off Retweets” on Twitter can reduce clutter from acquaintances who might forward too freely for your tastes.

 

  • For the occasional hothead, uninvited guest, or unpleasant personality whose posts or other activity you don’t wish to see, the Block feature is a blessing.

 

  • To quickly check highlights of your Twitter timeline when you are pressed for time (e.g., on a holiday, a travel day, or a busy workday), create a private List that includes only your “must see” feeds.

 

  • Sometimes the best way to cut down on social media time is to shut it off completely.

 

Very best wishes for health, happiness, and success in 2016!

More soon.

 

Quotes for Today

Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time; for that’s the stuff life is made of. — Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanac, 1746

Lost time is never found again. — Benjamin Franklin