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.
Phil sure was out of control today. For a while there I thought he’d melt an o-ring.
You thought he was going to blow?
Well, he and you both.
Sorry about that. For some reason today – I don’t know.
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?
Yup. My dad and his mom and Otto were siblings. They and their dad started County Dairy. Gabriel and I joined out of school.
Were you and Gabriel friends?
Yeah. Starting as kids. He was three years older, and we lived a mile apart.
Toby waits. Joe does not continue.
So what was the deal you guys were arguing about?
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.
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.
Was he mad?
Nah. At least not about that. He said congratulations, and he couldn’t wait to see the house.
Did something else make him mad?
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.
And his sales pitch to the big firm?
Like I said, it didn’t happen.
But not because of something you did? I mean, what the heck was Phil going on about today?
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.
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?
For those of you awaiting Flight 617 to New York –
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.
I think that as of today I’ve just about had it with Phil. Where does that guy get off?
“I need results, Toby, with fewer prepositions and adverbs.”
The man’s a friggin’ machine.
Gears, wheels, microchips – maybe even a built-in spell-checker…
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,
“Toby, we must stay ultrasharp here at County.”
I explain that I’d had maybe four hours of sleep. He stares through those little round glasses of his and barks,
“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.
I seriously don’t know if I can take it much longer.
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.
Chris, Toby. Toby, Chris.
And this is my girlfriend, Suzette. Suze, this is Joe and Toby.
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?
It’s nice to meet you, Toby. Joe talks about you almost as much as he talked about Gabriel.
The group is awkwardly silent.
I’ve heard about you too, Chris. Just today Joe was telling me you were the reason he skipped a trip to New York.
He said what?
It wasn’t like that.
Like it was a bad thing?
No, not really.
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.
Don’t mind us, guys. I got a raise, and we’ve done some celebrating. We should probably leave you alone.
It was good to meet you.
Nice meeting you too, Toby.
Yes, Toby. Nice to meet you at last.
Enjoy the fruits of your raise, Suzette, but not too much, you know.
The group laughs nervously.
See you back home then, hon.
Yeah. Bye, Toby.
The two women depart for another section of the bar.
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.
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.