First-Place Winner, May – October 2006 Screenplay Contest – Teleplay/Short Series
Written by Diana Kemp-Jones
A lonely war veteran and a mysterious little boy explore the nature of miracles.
What is the nature of a miracle?
Decorated WWII veteran Harley Bruce exists among the shadows of the past. Ailing and alone, he faces a bleak end to his life. But at Christmas, a mysterious child appears. Billy may live in a derelict car on an abandoned lot, but his presence gives Harley more than just a reason to live--he gives Harley the gift of life itself.
INT. HOUSE/LIVING ROOM - DUSK - SUBJECTIVE CAMERA
We MOVE through a firelit room cluttered with World War II flyboy photos, medals and assorted memorabilia. On the mantelpiece, a miniature Christmas tree rests beside a lonely pair of greeting cards. In the background, we
HEAR Glenn Miller's American Patrol.
HARLEY BRUCE stands at a bay window and stares out at the wintry street. Stooped, wizened and bald, he is swallowed by a baggy lumberjack shirt and corduroy pants.
We HEAR the PIERCING WHISTLE of a kettle. Harley starts and shuffles stiffly from the window. He pauses by a cluster of framed newspaper articles and stares at a yellowed clipping of himself.
(shakes his head)
End the war in Vietnam--nobody heard you that day,
you old fool.
And there's damned well no one willing to listen to
an even older fool these days.
INT. KITCHEN - SUBJECTIVE CAMERA
Harley removes the SHRIEKING kettle from the grimy stove. He barely sets it on the counter when he doubles over in a violent COUGHING fit. GASPING for breath, he struggles to open the window and gulps in fresh air.
He catches his breath and surveys the derelict remains of what was once a neighborhood garage. Rusted car hulks litter the snow, but the skeleton of a red 1959 Chevy Impala rests apart from the others.
Jesus. Now I'm seeing things.
(retrieves his glasses from his pocket)
Damned if that doesn't look like Old Red.
We SEE a flash of movement behind the relic.
Tramps! How many times do I have to complain to the
city? Neighborhood's gone down the crapper as it
SERIES OF SHOTS - HARLEY INVESTIGATING OUTSIDE
A) Putting on outerwear hanging by kitchen door
B) Slowly moving down side of house
C) Finding collapsed section of chain link fence
I won't tolerate vandals on my property! Stay away
or I'm calling the police.
We HEAR a thin, REEDY wind. Something metallic BANGS from the abandoned lot.
(moves cautiously into the lot)
I'm warning you for the last time! Stay away from
His boots CRUNCH through the snow. His gaze fixes on a trail of small footprints crisscrossing the Chevy.
Hello? Is anyone here?
He approaches the derelict car and peers through a clear patch of the passenger window. We SEE an assortment of food wrappers, blankets and clothing strewn inside.
(continuing, struggles to open the door)
What in God's name is this?
He stiffly reaches for a battered, one-eyed teddy bear.
Dammit to hell, I just don't understand. Is this
what we fought and sacrificed so much for?
There's nothing to be afraid of. I'm not going to
Snow begins to fall. Harley shivers and COUGHS.
Please--you'll freeze out here--
We HEAR the wind MOAN. Harley shakes his head and trudges back to the house. As he retreats, we SEE the car door slowly close and CLICK shut.
INT. HOUSE/LIVING ROOM - NIGHT - SUBJECTIVE CAMERA
Harley sits in an armchair picking through the remnants of his dinner. The living room is lit only by flickering firelight and the glow of the television. We barely HEAR the MUTED voices of a war film he disinterestedly glances at.
Through the partially drawn drapes we SEE Christmas lights feebly glowing from the house across the street. Harley struggles to open a prescription bottle on the dinner tray.
(squints at the cap)
Dammit--where the hell did I leave those glasses?
Harley shuffles into the kitchen and dumps the tray on the counter.
(continuing, reaches for glasses resting
There you are, you buggers--
We HEAR distant BANGING outside.
He approaches the door and cautiously opens it. A veil of snow blows in.
Is anyone out there?
He ERUPTS in a COUGHING FIT. Stumbling against the door, it SLAMS shut. GASPING, he limps toward a dinette chair.
(continuing, catches his breath)
It's no use, Harley.
(wipes his lips)
This is one mission you're not coming back from.
Yet even as he recovers, he eyes the cupboard behind the dinette. He rises and removes various canned and packaged items.
EXT. KITCHEN DOOR - NIGHT
In the dull glow of an exterior light, we SEE a bulging plastic bag shimmy in the wind.
INT. LIVING ROOM - NIGHT - SUBJECTIVE CAMERA
Harley stands by the fireplace warming his hands. We HEAR Glenn Miller's Serenade in Blue playing from a radio. Harley retrieves a photo of a young brunette from the mantelpiece.
(gazes wistfully at photo)
Who would have guessed, eh, Frances? A Purple Heart
doesn't cure a broken one, that's for sure.
(wipes a tear)
An old fool is just a young fool who never had the
sense to realize he was wrong. If--if you're out
there somewhere, Frances, I wonder if you could
find it in your heart to forgive me—
INT. LIVING ROOM - DAY - SUBJECTIVE CAMERA
Sunlight filters through the living room window. Harley awakens and rises stiffly from the armchair.
(kneads his lower back)
You're getting too old to be sleeping in the
We HEAR the distant GROAN of plumbing. Harley reaches for a sweater draped over the armchair.
Sounds as bad as me--
Harley puts the kettle on to boil and opens the kitchen door. Outside, we SEE a trail of small footprints lead to the Chevy nestled in a snowdrift.
EXT. DERELICT LOT - DAY
Harley trudges around the Chevy. Food wrappers litter the snow.
(touches smooth, rust-free panels)
Now my eyes are playing tricks on me.
He reaches for the door. It CLICKS open easily.
(continuing, stumbles back)
Huddled beneath a blanket on the back seat, a small BOY stares wide-eyed at Harley. No more than seven, he has dark, sweet features and wears a scruffy blue parka and jeans. He clutches a packet of saltines.
Don't be scared, boy. I'm not going to hurt you.
But I think you know that already.
The boy stuffs a few crackers in his mouth. Harley surveys the Chevy's battered interior.
This is no place for a child. What are you doing
out here in the dead of winter? Surely you have
somewhere to go?
The boy merely stares.
Did you run away? Was someone hurting you?
The boy CHOMPS a mouthful of crackers.
Do you at least have a name, for God's sake?
Well, Billy, how did you end up here?
Harley turns away as a phlegmy COUGH RUMBLES from his chest. Billy intently watches Harley struggle for breath.
Hey, Mister, you sick?
(grips door to steady himself)
I'm afraid so, Billy.
(pats the blanketed seat)
Do you have a name, Mister?
(smiles weakly and sits)
Yes. That much I do have. My name's Harley--Harley
(offers Harley a cracker)
(shakes his head)
I brought them for you, though God knows if I had
any sense I'd call the police. You certainly can't
stay out here.
Why not? What can they do?
(wipes his lips on his coat sleeve)
Guess I wonder myself, sometimes. I spent years
fighting for what I believed in--for what I thought
was right, but when I look around I don't see much
to believe in anymore.
(affectionately pats Harley's hand)
Don't be so sad. I'm not. Being sad all the time is
like having a stomach ache that never goes away.
How can you say that? A child shouldn't be living
alone in some derelict car! You should have a home,
a family that loves you. Most of all you should
have a future.
Billy grins. We SEE the car's interior brighten. Harley blinks and rubs his eyes.
I can be your family, Uncle Harley.
(gazes wistfully at Billy)
It's been a long time since I had a family, Billy--
too long. I'm afraid I can barely look after myself
It's like riding a bicycle, Uncle Harley. Once you
learn, you never forget.
Now that's something else I haven't done for a
(reaches for the door handle, murmurs)
Damned if this doesn't look like Old Red--
You say something, Uncle Harley?
I--was saying that the kettle just boiled. How
about a nice mug of cocoa?
Hey, that would be great!
Harley climbs out of the car, but Billy does not follow.
Okay, then. You wait here and I'll be back in a
(nods and gobbles the last cracker)
Sounds good, Uncle Harley.
INT. HOUSE/KITCHEN - DAY - SUBJECTIVE CAMERA
Harley pours the steaming cocoa into a thermos. He stirs it and throws in a few marshmallows.
There we are. Nice and hot—
CUT BACK TO:
EXT. DERELICT LOT – DAY – SUBJECTIVE CAMERA
Harley strides through the snow toward the Chevy carrying the thermos. He PANTS for breath by the time he reaches the car.
(opens passenger door)
Here we go, Billy. Brought you some--
(stares at empty car)
INT. HOUSE/KITCHEN - DUSK - SUBJECTIVE CAMERA
Harley fills another plastic bad with packaged food. We HEAR the wind BELLOW outside. The lights flicker and go out.
We HEAR the CLANG of flatware and utensils as Harley rummages through drawers. A CLICK, and the glow of a flashlight weakly illuminates the kitchen. Harley rests it on the counter and dons his outerwear.
CUT BACK TO:
EXT. DERELICT LOT - DUSK
Harley shines the flashlight ahead in the snow. Buffeted by the HOWLING wind, he struggles to keep his footing while clutching the plastic bag. Even in the twilight, the Chevy gleams a candy apple red.
Billy! It's going to storm tonight. Please, come in
with me now.
Dammit, boy, this is no time to play games! You
can't stay out here.
He opens the passenger door and stares at the immaculate upholstery and gleaming dashboard. A pair of fuzzy red and white dice dangle from an intact rearview mirror.
(continuing, sets the bag on the seat)
What the hell is going on here?
A GUST of wind catches him off balance. He erupts in a violent COUGHING FIT and stumbles into the snow. Bloody phlegm sprays from his mouth.
GASPING for breath, Harley crawls toward the car. His hand brushes against shining chrome hubcap. He grips the new tire and attempts to rise, but his legs buckle.
Oh, God, not now--not here--
We SEE a small gloved hand reach out from the back seat.
Come in from the cold, Uncle Harley.
Harley reaches for the boy's hand. Billy effortlessly pulls him into the car and guides him onto the seat. We SEE the door close with a GENTLE CLICK.
Where were you? I was so worried--
(snuggles against Harley's chest)
Feel better now, Uncle Harley?
Let me just close my eyes for a moment--