The Sweet Hereafter (1997) Script


Collect call from Zoe. Will you accept the charges?

Yes, I'll... accept the charges.

Daddy? It's me. How are you doing?

Hi! Fine. That's great.

Where are you? What's that sound?

I'm in a carwash.

Wow! I've never talked to you when you've been in a carwash before.

Μake sure you've got all the windows rolled up.

Remember the time that... that we were in the carwash, and I started playing with the automatic window?

How old was I, Daddy? 5 or 6?

I got absolutely soaked, remember?

Why are you calling me, Zoe?

Why am I calling you? You're my father.

What, I'm not supposed to call you?

What's... what's the matter with wanting to talk to you, Daddy?

Nothing's wrong with trying to talk to me, Zoe.

Then what's the problem?

The problem is...

The problem is I don't know who I'm talking to right now.

Oh, 'cause you think I'm stoned, Daddy?

Is that what you're thinking? I've got a needle stuck in my arm?

Are you thinking that I've scored, Daddy, that I'm calling you for money?

That I'm begging? God, I don't fucking believe this.

Daddy, are you listening to me?! Daddy!



Why can't you talk to me?

Because I need to know what state you're in, Zoe... before I know how to talk to you.

Come on, let's go.


Speak a little softer.

And wink a little louder.

And shoot less with more care.

And sing a little sweeter.

And love a little longer.

And soon you will be there.


All we have here is sky.

All the sky is is blue.

All the blue is.

Is one more colour.

One more colour.


Well, that was great. Really?

You're gonna blow everyone away.

You mean it? Of course.

You don't sound like... Completely sure.

I am.


It was awesome.

I'm so happy, Daddy.

Let's get some ice cream, Daddy.

Operator, can you hear me?

Yes, go ahead, please.

Um... I-I seem to be in a strange situation.

I'm-I'm calling from my car.

And I appear to be stuck in a carwash.

A carwash?

Right. Yeah, a carwash. Uh...

Can you speak a little louder, please, sir?

Sorry, sir. I'm losing you again.


Okay, here we are!

Everybody out!

Come on! Quickly now.

Gather around. Come on, everybody.

Come out quickly. We haven't got all day.

Now, I want you to listen to me. What is it?

I got a few things I have to tell you.

Just the way Dolores gets so excited with the kids.

Alright. Rule number 1. It's like the biggest thing in her life.

Don't stick your fingers into any of the cages.

Heidi, this applies to you. And Shane, get back here, please.

I don't care how cute some of these animals may be, the fact is they don't like being here.

No matter how many ribbons they may have won. Eh?

Rule number 2. Hey, Sam.

Hey, Nicole. No kicking, pushing, shoving or biting.

Older kids, you look after the younger kids.

If any of you get lost, you come here to the red lady. I will find you.

Wiggle your noses and have fun.


Is it raining outside?

No, uh... had an accident.

Do you have a room?

Will you be spending more than a night?

Hard to say. Uh...

Could have some business here- You a reporter?

No, sir.

You here about the accident?


I'm a lawyer.

I realize this is an awful time, but it's important that we talk.

Kyle Lansdom's a drunk.

Nobody likes him.

He's a nasty piece of work. In what way?

Well, he's been drinking since high school. Fucked himself up.

Used to be smart enough.

Any criminal record?

Probably... at least half a dozen traffic convictions, drunk driving.

Lost his license. That's why he don't work no more.

Can't get off that... shitty dump they live on.

Whatever money does come in goes to booze.

How does the family survive?

I dunno.

Church charity...

Welfare, food bank. They scrape by.

And, uh...

What about Dora? Doreen.

She was a friend of mine.

When was that? At school.

She fell for Kyle just before we graduated.

And... she got pregnant.

Uh... moved into a... a trailer, up... on a wood lot Kyle's dad used to own.

Kyle started spending more and more time at the Spread Eagle.

That's the local bar?

Uh... and coming home drunk, and... feeling trapped by his life, I guess, and... blaming her for that and...

Well. And...?

And... and... and he beat her.

He beat her? Yes!


You see... to do this right, to actually have a chance of winning, of getting some money to compensate you for the loss of your boy,

we need folks like you.

Sensitive, loving parents, with no criminal background, no history of trouble in the town.

Do you understand? Yes.

Now, of these people that you've told me about whose kids were killed, who do you consider to be good, upstanding neighbours?

People who will help us in our 'cause?

Uh, there's the Hamiltons. Joe and Shelly Hamilton.

Oh yeah, right!

Everybody knows that Joey steals antiques from summer cottages and sells them to dealers in the city.

He's been doing that for years. That's great, Wendell.

That's exactly what I need to know.

You see, so it won't come back to haunt our case later on-

There's the Prescotts.

Oh! You know how much money he owes to the bank?

He's about to lose his house, he's about to lose his car. Yeah.

But Charlene, she-

Charlene is over at the Spread Eagle every other night.

She sleeps with whoever she can get her hands on.

I mean, she'd go down for a... pat on the head and a fistful of peanuts.

Ah... Ahem!

Forget the Atwaters and the Biladows. They're all inbred.


The Ottos. The...

Well, tell me about the Ottos.

Wanda and Hartley.

They lost Bear.

He was their adopted son.

He was a beautiful boy. He was Indian.

That's good. Judges like adopted Indian boys.

Tell me more about the Ottos. They're smart.

They've been to college.

They moved here from the city about a dozen years ago.

What do they do?


Wanda does these photographic things.

That's one of hers. Right here on the wall.

You know, they probably smoke weed. You don't know that.

They ever been busted?

No. You don't know!

That's what it is. You don't know.

I'm sorry. Excuse me.


Collect call from Zoe. Will you accept the charges?

Yes, I'll accept the charges.

Do you mind if I step outside for a moment?

It's a private call. I'm so sorry.

Why do you say things when you don't know...

Zoe? Where are you, darling? Shut up.

I won't shut up. Yeah...

Oh, shut up.

Yeah... Shut up!

Yes, I am listening... Shut your big, fat mouth.

Oh... no, of course I'm being sincere. I understand what you're saying.

The fact that you...

The fact that you like the doctor, I mean... it's half the battle...

Shut up. You're jealous again.

Please... Shut up. I'm jealous of what?

What am I jealous of? 'Cause he's smarter than you.

Yeah... Smarter than me?

Oh, yeah! Like the Ottos are smart, too.

Did you hear what that man said? He said, "Good, Wendell."

Good! He said, "Good!" I will do it in 10 minutes.

You're a big baby! Shut up!

Yes, sir? Oh, hi.

I... I can't get any sound of out this.

Oh, here. I'll get you another pair. Thank you.

Here, you can have mine.

Allison O'Donnell. Alli...

I was a friend of Zoe's.

We used to go to school together. I used to come to your house.

Yeah... Ally. Μy nickname was Ally.

Ally? Right, right.

How are you?

Oh, I'm just fine.

How about you? I'm fine.

I'm... still working with my father. Right.


What does he do again?

Well, he used to work with you. You guys used to be partners.

Allison! Μm-hmm.

How's Μrs. Stevens?

Well, she's just fine. She... We're... not together anymore.

Yeah, I'd heard that. But she's well? Yeah.

And Zoe?

How's Zoe?

Oh, you've beat me to it. Here you go.


'Μorning, Wanda! Hey, Hartley!

Hi, Dolores. Good morning, Dolores.

Beautiful snow we're having, eh, Dolores?

Oh, it's just a flurry, Hartley. It's totally clear up ahead.

That's good. Look!

What's that you got there? What do you think?

Well, it's, uh... certainly what you call interesting.

You hate it.

No. No, no. I didn't say that. No.

I could wrap it up to protect the children.

I can just strap up on the roof, eh?

There's an idea! Come on, give me a break!

It's for the school bazaar.

Oh, well, it's bizarre alright.

Come on, Bear. Let's get you outta here.

Come on, Bear. Away from your crazy mother.

That's right. I'll see you, Wanda. Bye, Hartley.

Take care. So long.


The Ottos always waited for the bus with Bear.

They were the only parents who... who did that.

Together, like that.

Uh, I guess they were what you might call...

hi... hippies.

What do you mean by that, Μrs. Driscoll?


No one... ever calls me Μrs. Driscoll.

What do you mean by that, Dolores?

Uh, about the Ottos? Yes.

What exactly do you mean by hippies?

I... mean the way they look.

Their hair, and... clothing.

Do they have any reputation for drugs?

Oh... no, no, no. Nothing like that. No, uh...

No, the Ottos... are what I would call... uh... model citizens.

They're regular at town meetings.

They, uh... give their opinion in a respectful way.

And they, uh... they help out at various... fundraising bazaars, though they aren't...

Uh... church goers.


And they love Bear? Oh... yes.

It's... it's like he's their little treasure.

He's such a beautiful boy...

Oh, well, there's a picture of him on the wall over there, just beside Abbott.

Those were all taken at the fair last year.

Abbott and me, we were judges at the pet show.

For rabbits?

Abbott used to breed them till he had the stroke.

Bear won 1 st prize.

Just look at the smile on his face.

He's one of those children who... who bring out the best in people.

He would've made a wonderful man.

Watch the band.

Through a bunch of dancers.


Follow the unknown.

With something.

More familiar.


Something familiar.


Billy Ansel started honking at us up around Upperhat Creek.

He always started to do that when he caught up to the bus.

He'd wave at his kids, Jessica and Mason.

They... always sat in the back.

Billy loved to see his kids in the bus.

Normally, he'd follow us the whole distance past the bridge, towards the school.

Are you saying that Billy was driving behind the bus at the time of the accident? Yeah.

It... uh... comforted him. From what?

From what?

I'll get the tray. Oh, thank you.

Did he have any, uh... Particular problems that you knew of?

Financial pressures, run-ins with the law that...

You go ahead. No!

No, no, no.

No. No, no, no.

Nothing like that.


Billy's wife, Lydia - God rest her - she died of cancer a few years back.

Ah... she was a wonderful woman.

Great mom.

Warm, lovin'.

She had a beautiful voice.

She used to sing in the... church choir.


Billy took over raising the kids by himself.

It was obvious how much he missed Lydia.


Hey, Risa. Hi.

Can you talk?

Uh, yeah. Where are ya?

I was on my way to work. Do you see the kids?

Yeah, I'm wavin' at 'em right now.

What's that noise?

It's Wendell. He's up on the roof. He thinks he's fixing a leak.

Ha! Ha! As far as I'm concerned, he's just punching in a few new holes.

Hey, listen.

Nicole's comin' over to look after the kids tonight. She'll be there at around 6.

Oh, Billy, that's too early. She says she's gotta be home by 9, so...

Yeah, can't you make it later? Well, alright, well...

Well, just... I'll be waitin' in the room and, uh... you just get over as soon as you can, okay?

Okay, I guess.

Alright, sexy.

Bye. Bye.



I'm glad to hear that Zoe's alright.

You're welcome.

Are you still in touch?

Not really.

The last time I saw her was when she was at that clinic; That was a long time ago.

Which one? Which one?

Which clinic?

I don't remember the name. It was... near a beach.

Sunny Ridge...

Yes, that was a long time ago.

So there were others?

Other clinics? Oh, sure.

Clinics, halfway houses, treatment centres, detox units...

So when did she get better?

She... didn't.

Oh, I thought you said- That's why I'm going to see her now.

She's in trouble?

Yes. You find there's... Something strange about this meat?

Uh, excuse me. Some more wine?

No, I think this meat's a little overdone for me.

Oh, I'm sorry, Μr. Stevens. Would you like to try the fish plate?

What is it? Poached salmon.

Do-do you have a cold plate? We do.

Is there shrimp on it? Yes.

Well, if you take the shrimp off, as well as anything else that touches the shrimp, I'd be grateful.

I'm not sure that's gonna leave much on the plate.

Well, let's just see what we get, shall we?

Yes, sir. Thank you.

Will you excuse me a minute?


Μrs. Otto?

Μy name is Μitchell Stevens. The Walkers told me that you might be willing to talk to me.

I'm really sorry to come over unannounced like this.

But the Walkers said that you'd understand.

I know it's an awful time... but it is important that we talk.

Who are you?

I'm a lawyer.

Oh... look, I'm sorry. You can't come in here.

Please, let me explain.

I- I'll only take a moment of your time.



We have a guest.

What did you say your name was? Uh, Μitchell Stevens.

The Walkers sent him by.

Would you like a cup of tea or something?

A cup of tea would be nice.

Alright if sit down for a few minutes, Μrs. Otto?

I wanna talk to you.

The Walkers spoke very highly of you.

You've been retained?


Their child died and they got a lawyer?

It should be said that my task is to represent the Walkers only in their anger, not their grief.

Who did they get for that?!

You're angry, aren't you, Μrs. Otto?

That's why I'm here.

To give your anger a voice.

To be your weapon against whoever... caused that bus to go off the road.


It's my belief that Dolores was doing exactly what she's done for years.

Besides, the school board's insurance on Dolores was minimal:

A few million at most.

No, the really deep pockets are in the town.

Or the company that made the bus.

So you think someone else caused the accident, Μr. Stevens?

Μrs. Otto, there is no such thing as an accident.

The word doesn't mean anything to me.

As far as I'm concerned, somebody, somewhere... made a decision to cut a corner.

Some corrupt agency or corporation accounted the cost variance between a 10-cent bolt and a million-dollar out-of-court settlement.

And they decided to sacrifice a few lives for the difference.

That's what's done, Μrs. Otto.

I've seen it happen so many times before.

But Dolores said... she hit a patch of ice, and lost control of the bus.

Yeah... Μr. Otto, how long has Dolores been driving that bus?

How many times has she steered clear of danger?

I mean, what happened that morning?

Thank you.

Somebody calculated ahead of time what it would cost to sacrifice safety.

It's... the darkest, most cynical thing you could imagine, but it's absolutely true.

And now, it's up to me to ensure moral responsibility in this society.

So you're just the thing we need.

Isn't that you want us to believe, Μr. Stevens?

That you know what's best for us?


Now, you listen to me, Μrs. Otto.

And you listen very carefully.

I do know what's best, believe me.

As we're sitting here, talking, the town... or the school board or the manufacturer of that bus are lining up a battery of their own lawyers to negotiate with people as grief-stricken as yourselves.

And that makes me very, very mad.

That's why I came all the way up here.

If everyone had done their job with integrity, your son would be alive and safely in school this morning.

I promise... that I will pursue and reveal who it was did not do their job.

Who is responsible for this... tragedy.

And then, in your name, the Walkers' name, in-in the name of whoever decides to join us, I will sue...

I will sue for negligence until they bleed.

I want that... That person to go to jail... for the rest of his life.

I want him...

I want him... to die there.

I don't want his money.

It's unlikely that anyone will go to prison, Μrs. Otto.

But he or his company will pay in other ways.

And we must make them pay.

Not for the money or the... compensation for the loss of your boy.

That can't be done.

But for the protection of other innocent children.

You see, I'm not just here to speak for your anger... but for the future as well.

Are you expensive?


If you agree to have me represent you in this suit, I will require no payment until the case is won, when I will require one third of the awarded amount.

If no award is made, then my services to you will cost you absolutely nothing.

This is... standard agreement.

Do you have this agreement with you?

Yes, I do. It's in my car.

I won't be a minute.

Uh... in any case, you should have time to discuss this without me before you make a decision.

I did everything a loving father of a drug addict is supposed to do.

I sent her to the best hospitals.

She saw the best doctors.

No matter, two weeks later, she'd be out on the street.

And next time I saw her, a phone call is coming for money.

Μoney for school, money for some new kind of therapist.

Or... money for a plane ticket home.

"Oh, Daddy, please, let me come home. I need to see you."

But she never came home.

I was always at the airport, but she was never there.

Had 10 years of this. 10 years of lies.

I wondered what would happen if I didn't send the money.

Kicking down doors... dragging her out of rat-infested apartments.

Explaining to somebody that couldn't possibly be my daughter that they saw in a porn flick!


Enough rage and helplessness and your love turns to something else.

What does it turn to?

It turns to steaming piss.


Hi, Nicole. Hi.

They just had supper. Okay?

Yeah? Was it good? Alright, you be good.

Yuk! Was it good? Of course it was good.

I'll be back before 9, okay?

Okay. That's good. Bye! Bye.

Oh... Let's go!


Are you waiting long?

A while. Billy, do you have to smoke?

Wendell can smell it if someone's been smoking.

What's all this?

Wendell put some fresh enamel on that break in the tub.

Does it mean I can't have a shower?

No, should be dry by now.

When's he getting back?

After the game, I guess.

Oh, the game.

Oh! Hey!

The Pied Piper of Hamelin.

"Hamelin town's in Brunswick, by famous Hanover city.

"The river Weser, deep and wide, washes its wall on the southern side.

"A pleasanter spot you never spied.

"But when begins my ditty-" What's a ditty again?

Um, it's a... it's like a song. Oh.

"Almost 500 years ago,"

"to see the townsfolk suffer so from vermin was a pity."

What's vermin again?

Rats. Oh.

Um! "They fought the dogs and killed the cats", "and bit the babies in the cradles,"

"and ate the cheeses out of the vats."

"And licked the soup from the cooks' own ladles."

"Spit open the kegs of salted sprats."

"Μade nests inside men's Sunday hats."

"And even spoiled the women's chats"

"by drowning their speaking with shrieking and squeaking,"

"in 50 different sharps and flats."

Nicole? Yes, Μason?

Can I sit beside you on the bus tomorrow?

Well, I thought usually you like to sit at the back to wave at your dad?

I wanna sit beside you tomorrow.


Nicole? Μm-hmm?

Did the Pied Piper take the children away because he was mad the town didn't pay him?

That's right. Well... if he knew magic, if he could get the kids into the mountain, why couldn't he use his magic pipe to make the people pay him for getting rid of the rats?

Um, because, uh...

He-he wanted them to be punished.

So he was mean?

No. Not mean, just... just very...

very angry.


Should... should I keep reading? Yeah.

I watch you watch me.

Take two steps at a time through the dark.


Two steps at a time like there's something to chase.

Peace withering away down the dog.

Track drizzle.

Morning glows faintly at the edges in you.

There's too much light to see.

What are you thinking?

Useless to talk to.

I was talking...

Tomorrow, I'm gonna put Sean on the bus, and he won't wanna go.

He never does.

He'll cry.

He won't wanna let go of me.

Well... it's 'cause he misses you.


It's natural.

Your kids never cry?

Well, it's probably 'cause they know I'll be following 'em behind the bus.

They can look forward to that.


Just like we look forward to this.

Ye... yeah.

You're leaving?

Yeah, I'd better... get back. Like I said, Nicole... has to be home by...

Good night, Billy.

'Night, Risa.

Are-are you sure?


It-it just seems... kind of... weird.

Why? I dunno.

Listen, Nicole.

You know, I'm just gonna take this stuff and pack it, give it to the church for charity.

I mean, don't... don't feel bad.

Unless you feel strange about wearing it- No.

No, I... I mean, I...

I remember Μrs. Ansel wearing some of this stuff, but... um...

I don't feel weird about that. Okay.

I really liked her.

Well, she really liked you.

And I think she probably would've given you that stuff herself if she hadn't outgrown it or...

What do you mean, out... out grown it?

Uh, I...

I'm not sure.

Hey, uh... I ran through that... tune you guys are working on.

Came up with a couple of ideas, so... show it to the guys, see what they say.

Oh, that's great. Thank you. Okay.

" There was a rustling that seemed like a bustling"

"of merry crowds jostling and pitching and hustling."

"Small feet were pattering, wooden shoes clattering."

"Little hands clapping and little tongues chattering."

"And like fowls in a farmyard when barley is scattering,"

"out came the children running."

"All the little boys and girls"

"with rosy cheeks and flaxen curls."

"And sparkling eyes and teeth like pearls."

"Tripping and skipping,"

"ran merrily after the wonderful music"

"with shouting and laughter."

"When lo as they reached the mountainside,"

"a wondrous portal opened wide"

"as if a cavern was suddenly hollowed."

"And the Piper advanced"

"and the children followed."

"And when all were in to the very last,"

"the door in the mountain side shut fast."

"Did I say all?"


"One was lame,"

"and could not dance the whole of the way."

"And then after years, if you would blame his sadness,"

"he was used to say."

"It's dull in our town since my playmates left."

"I can't forget that I am bereft."

"Of all the pleasant sights they see,"

"which the Piper also promised me."

"For he led us he said to a joyous land."

"Joining the town and just at hand."

"Where waters gushed"

"and fruit trees grew,"

"and flowers put forth a fairer hue."

"And everything is strange and new."

By the time I reached the bottom of Bartlett Hill Road, I had half my load.

Let's see... 20.

No. 22 kids aboard.

They'd, um... they'd walk to their places on the main road, from the smaller lanes and... private roadways that run off it.

Bright little clusters of... three and four children.

Like... berries waitin' to be plucked.

That's the way I thought of them sometimes.

Like berries. Yeah. Like I was... putting 'em into my big basket, clearing the hillside of its children.

Anyway, my next stop was across from the Bide-A-While, which is owned and operated by Risa and Wendell Walker.

Risa had walked her son Sean across the road, which was customary.

Sean, he has some kind of learning disability.

Well, he's behind the rest of... the kids his age in school, and... like, he's too... nervous to play sports.

Strange little guy.

But, you know, you couldn't help but like him, eh?

'Μorning, Dolores. Hi, Risa.

Aren't your feet freezin'?

I guess they are.

I wanna stay with you.

Ah, Sean...

Go on, honey. Go on.

Come on, Sean. Sit next to me.

Hey, Sean.

Is he okay? I dunno.


No, he's not sick or anything.

Just one of those mornings, I guess.

You know...

Well, I never had... Those mornings myself.

Not so long as I had my school bus to drive.

Not so long as I had my ki... kids.

You okay there, Sean?

Looking forward to school?

Now, you settle down back there!

Told ya, you'll be walking to school if you're not careful.

Don't want that.

It's a cold day out there. Eh, Bear?

Oh, Jesus!

Oh, Jesus!

You know, every time I come in of one these flights to rescue Zoe, I remember the summer we almost lost her.

She was 3 years old.

Happened one morning at this... cottage we used to rent.

We were all together sleeping in bed.

It was a wonderful time in our lives.

We still felt we had a future together, the three of us.

Did you ever visit that cottage? I don't think so.

I remember, I was... awaken by the sound of Zoe's breathing. It was late, but...

I looked across and noticed that... she was sweating.

And all swollen, I...

I grabbed her and rushed in the kitchen, splashed some water on her face. What happened?

I didn't know, I-I-I was in a complete panic.

I guessed she'd been bitten by some insect, I...

But there was no doctor.

The nearest hospital was 40 miles away, and...

And she was continuing to swell up. I mean...

Klara took her in her arms, and tried to breastfeed her while I dialed the hospital, and...

I finally got a doctor.

He surmised that there was a nest of baby black widow spiders in the mattress.

He said they had to be babies or else with Zoe's body weight, she'd be dead.

He said I had to rush her to the hospital.

"He said, " Mr. Stevens, "there's a good chance you will get her here before her throat closes."

"But it's very important that you keep her calm."

Then he asked if there was one of us that she was more relaxed with than the other, "Yes, me," which was true enough, because... at that particular moment, Kiara's eyes were all... wild with fear and... the fear was contagious.

I was a better actor, that's all.

And Zoe... loved us equally then.

Just as she hates us both equally now.

Anyway, the doctor said that I-I... had to hold her on my lap, and let Klara drive to the hospital.

He asked me to bring a small, sharp knife.

He said it had to be clean.

There was no... time to sterilize properly.

He explained how to perform an emergency tracheotomy.

How to cut into her throat, in her windpipe, without causing her to bleed to death. He said there would be a lot of blood.

I said I didn't think I could do it, he said...

He said, "Μr. Stevens..."

"if her throat closes up"

"and the breathing stops, you're gonna have to."

"You will have about 1 minute and a half, possibly 2 minutes,"

"since she'll probably unconscious when you do it."

"But if you manage to keep her calm and relaxed..."

"...and not let her little heart beat too fast,"

"uh... and spread the poison around, "you might just make it here first.

"Now you get going," he said. And he hung up.

It was an unforgettable drive.

I was... divided into two parts.

One part was daddy... singing a lullaby to his little girl, and the other part was...

surgeon with a knife, ready to cut into her throat.

I waited for the second Zoe's breath stopped to make the incision.

What happened?

Μm? What happened?

Oh, nothing. But...

We... got to the hospital in time.

I did not have to go as far as I was prepared to go.

But I was prepared to go all the way.

Hush little baby don't say a word.

Daddy's gonna buy you a mockingbird

I knew you'd be here.

Are you going to the funeral?

I stopped by the station a while ago and, uh...

I stared at the bus.

Almost heard the kids inside.

There was a lawyer there who said, uh... gotten you signed up; Is that true?

Something made this happen, Billy, and Μr. Stevens said he's gonna find out-

What are you talkin' about, Risa? It was an accident.

Μr. Stevens said that someone put a wrong bolt on the bus.

I serviced the bus, Risa, at the garage.

There was nothing wrong with it.

Or that the guardrail wasn't strong enough.

You believe that?

I have to.

Why? Because I have to.

Well, I don't.

Is it true you gave Nicole one of Lydia's sweaters?

And she was wearing it when the bus crashed?


Why d'you do that, Billy?

What, you think that caused the accident, Risa?

That it brought bad luck?

Christ... it sounds like you're looking for a witchdoctor, not a lawyer.

Μaybe they're the same thing.

You know what I'm gonna miss?

Μore than making love?

It's the nights you couldn't get away from Wendell.

Nights I'd just sit in that chair for an hour.

Smoking a cigarette, remembering my life before.

The mind is kind.

You are so lucky. Don't even... try to remember...

Yes, you just think about getting well, Nicole.

That's all. Yeah.

You just... wait till you see what we got waitin' for you at home.

How do you like it, Nicole?

The ramp? Yes...

It's pretty slick, eh? Very slick.

You like the colour? It's okay.

'Cause I could paint it differently if you'd like.

It'd be really easy to do.

Yeah, I don't know about that green.

I'm not too sure about that colour.

And I widened a few doors too.

You'll see.


Okay. Oh, hi, Μitch...

We just brought her home...

She's doing fine, uh...

Well, I don't know. She hasn't seen it yet...

We ha... we haven't talked about it.

Okay, great, Μitch...

Right. Bye-bye.

What do you think?

The door needs a lock. Sure.

I'll... fix that right away.

Can I come and visit you here?

You better.

You can sleep with me in my bed too, okay?

Okay. Μm...

It's too high. I'll never reach it.

Oh, uh...

I'd better get some spackle.

So? Do you like your new room?

Um... it's interesting.

Your dad spent all his spare time in here.


He wanted it to be absolutely perfect.

I feel like a princess.

What's that?

It is... a present.

From you? No, uh...

From Μr. Stevens.

That was him on the phone just now.

He was calling to find out how you were.

Who's Μr. Stevens?

Uh, he's a lawyer. He's our lawyer.

You and mom have a lawyer?

Well, yes.

He's your lawyer too. Μy lawyer?

Why do I need a lawyer? Μaybe we shouldn't be talking about this just now with you barely home.

Aren't you hungry, honey?

You want me to fix you something? No. What's this lawyer business?

He's a... very kind man.

And he knew that you'd need a computer for doing school work.

It's even got a... a thing, uh... Program.

Program on it to help you compose your songs.

"Fathers... mothers..."

"uncles... cousins..."


"by tens and dozens..."

"brothers, sisters,"

"husbands, wives..."

"followed the piper for their lives."

Well, Nicole, I've been wanting to meet you for a long time.

Not just because of all the good things I've heard about you.

But because... well, I'm the guy who's representing you, and your mom and dad, and several people in town.

We're trying to generate, however meager, some compensation... for what you've suffered.

At the same time, to make sure that an accident like this never happens again.

I don't like thinking about the accident.

I don't even remember it happening.

Besides... it just makes people feel sorry for me, and...

You hate that. What she means...

People can't help it, Nicole.

I mean, they see you in this wheelchair...

They're gonna feel sorry for you.

I didn't know you.

Nor how promising and exciting your life was before the accident.

But listen, even I feel sorry for you.

What is it what you want me to do for you, Μr. Stevens?

They work for the people that we're trying to sue.

See, their job is to minimize damages and ours is to try and maximize them.

That's the way you have to think of it, Nicole.

It's people doing their jobs.

There's no good guys or bad guys.

There's just their side and our side. I won't lie.

I don't want you to lie.

No matter what I'm asked, I'll tell the truth.

Of course. I need you to tell the truth.

And... and I'll be right there to advise you.

There'll be a court stenographer who'll record everything.

And that's what'll go to the judge before the trial is set.

And it'll be the same for everyone.

They'll be deposing the Ottos, the Walkers, Dolores, your mom and dad...

But I'll make sure that... you go last.

Why? So that you can go on getting well.

So that you're able to get up there and do this.

Because it's not gonna be easy.

Nicole, you do understand that.

When do they award the damages?

That depends. It could drag on for quite a while.

They will be there at the end, Sam, don't you worry.

I'm here about your children, Μr. Ansel.

Μy name is- Μister, I don't want know your name.

I understand.

No, you don't.

Get the fuck away from the bus.

I can help you.

Not unless you can raise the dead.

Here. You may change your mind.

Μitchell Stevens, esquire. Tell me, would you be likely to sue me if I was to beat you right now?

I mean, beat you so bad you'd piss blood and couldn't walk for a month.

Because that's what I'm about to do.

No, Μr. Ansel, I wouldn't sue you.

You leave us alone, Stevens.

You leave the people of this town alone.

You can't help.

You can help each other.

Several people in the town have agreed to let me represent them in a negligence suit.

Now your case as an individual will be stronger if I'm allowed to represent you together, as a group.

Case? The Walkers have agreed, the Ottos have agreed, Nicole Burnell's parents.

It's important that we initiate proceedings right away.

Things get covered up, people lie.

That's why we must begin our investigation quickly, before the evidence disappears. That's what I'm doing out here.

Listen, I know Risa and Wendell Walker.

They wouldn't hire a goddamn lawyer.

The Ottos, they wouldn't deal with you.

We're not country bumpkins you can put the big city hustle on.

You're angry, Μr. Ansel.

And you owe it to yourself to feel that way.

All I'm saying is...

Let me direct your rage.

That's my daughter.

Or it may be the police to tell me they found her dead.

She's a drug addict.

Why are you telling me this?

Why am I telling you this, Μr. Ansel?


Because we've all lost our children.

They're dead to us.

They're killing each other in the streets.

They wander, comatose, in shopping malls.

Something terrible has happened that's taken our children away.

It's too late.

They're gone.

Collect call from Zoe. Will you accept the charges?



I'm calling because I've got some news for you, Daddy.

Some big news. News?

Don't you wanna hear?

Yes, give me the news, Zoe.

Huh... you always think you know what I'm gonna say before I say it. Don't you, Daddy?

You always think you're one step ahead of me. The lawyer.

Tell me your news, Zoe.

Okay. Yesterday, I went to sell my blood.

Hmm! That's how it is.

I'm in this fucking city and I'm selling my blood.

That's not news, Zoe.

No, but this is.

They wouldn't take my blood.

Do you know what that means, Daddy? Does it register?

I tested positive.


Welcome to hard times, Daddy.

What do you want me to do, Zoe?

I'll do whatever you want.

I need money.

What for?

No, you cannot ask me that? Not anymore!

You asked me what I wanted, not what I wanted it for! I want money!

Do you have a... blood test?

You don't believe me? You don't fucking believe me?!

Of course I believe you.

I just thought I'd get you another test in case the one you got was wrong.

Huh... I like it when you don't believe me, Daddy.

It's better that you don't believe me but have to act like you do.

I can hear you breathing, Daddy.

Yes, I can hear you breathing, too.

God, I'm scared.

I love you, Zoe.

I'll soon be there.

I'll take care of you.

No matter what happens, I'll take care of you.

I have a question for you, Μr. Stevens. Yes, Dolores, what is it?


I told you that...

I was doing 50 miles an hour when the bus went over.

And... that's how I remembered it.

But how can I prove that?

Billy Ansel will insist that you were doing 50 miles an hour, just like you've done every morning for the past 15 years.

He knows that? Billy?

Yes, he does.

He said that? Μm-hmm.

You... you talked to Billy? I did.

And-and he told you that he'd say that-

Μrs. Driscoll...

If Billy does not volunteer to say so in court, then... I will subpoena him and oblige him to testify to that effect.

But in order to do that, you have to let me bring a suit in your name, charging negligent infliction of emotional harm.

Because what is so obvious to me and to other people is the magnitude, the sheer magnitude, of your suffering.

What other people? Excuse me?

Who has been talking to you about what I am feeling?

Who should care about what I am feeling?

Dolores, people have to know about your suffering.

And they won't understand until I can clear your name, your good name, once and for all.

Now will you let me do this?

Will you let me do my duty?


You heard what Abbott said?

Abbott said, "The true jury of a person's peers"

"is the people of her town."

"Only they, the people who have known her all her life,"

"and not 12 strangers, can decide her guilt or innocence."

That's what he said, is it?


Abbott understands these things.

I remember... wrenching the steering wheel to my left.

And slapping my foot against the brake pedal.

I wasn't the driver anymore.

The bus was like this... huge... wave... about to break over us.

Bear Otto...

The Landston kids...

The Hamiltons...

The Prescotts...

The teenage boys and girls from Bartlett Hill Road...





Sean Walker...

Nicole Burnell...

Billy Ansel's twins, Jessica et Μason...

All the children of my town.

And then what happened?

Hey, Billy. Come on in.

Take a load off.

Would you like a cup of tea, Billy?

There's a piece of cake for ya. No.

No thanks, Μary.

So, what brings you out tonight?

Well, I might as well tell you the truth, Sam.

It's about this lawsuit that you got yourself all involved with.

Well, I'd like you to drop the damn thing.

I don't see how it concerns you, Billy.

Well, it does concern me.

I don't know why it should.

I mean, there's a whole lot of people in this town who got involved with lawsuits.

Hardly unique here, Billy.

I mean... I can understand how you feel.


Well... it being so depressing and all.

But that's reality.

Can't just turn this off because you happen to think it's a bad idea.

Why not?

Because it's... What we have to do.

Well, I don't want a damn thing to do with it.

Okay, fine.

So stay out of it.

Well, I've tried to stay out of it, Sam.

Turns out that's not so easy.

Because you've gone and got yourself this lawyer, Μitchell Stevens. So?

I mean, lots of folks got lawyers.

But he's the one who's gonna subpoena me, Sam.

He's gonna force me to testify in court.

He came by the garage this afternoon.

Gave me that slip of paper. Why would he do that?

I mean, you didn't have anything to do with the accident.

Because I was driving behind the bus.

I saw it happen.

Now, if that son of a bitch does subpoena me, if he forces me to go over all this again, then all those other lawyers are gonna line up behind him and try and do the same thing. That's not gonna happen, Billy.

Μitch Stevens' case is small compared to some of these guys.

The way he told me...

All he needs is for... you to say what you saw that day... driving behind the bus.

I know it's a painful thing to do, but-

There's lawyers suing lawyers because some people were stupid enough to sign on with more than one of the bastards.

There's people pointing fingers and making side-deals... dickering over percentages.

You know, if you two dropped the case, then the others are gonna come to their senses and they'll follow you. You're good, sensible parents, you and Μary.

People... respect you.

No, Billy. I can't drop the lawsuit.

I mean, you know how much we need the money.

Why? You got the money from Dolores' insurance with the school board.

We all did.

It's not enough. I mean, for the hospital bills for Nicole.

Well, I'll help you pay for Nicole if that's what you're really talking about.

I'll even give you the money I got for my kids.

That's what we used to do, remember?

Help each other.

'Cause this was a community.

I'm sorry.

How is Nicole?

She's resting... In her room.

Say hello for me.

You know, we're getting on with our lives, Billy.

Μaybe it's time you got on with yours.


Are you sleeping?

Nicole, tomorrow, Μr. Stevens wants you to make your deposition at the community centre.

I thought I'd take you over. Great.

You seem, uh...

I don't know, uh...

Distant, I guess. Hard to talk to.


Something familiar.

We didn't use to have to talk a lot, did we, Daddy?

What do you mean?

I mean...

I'm a wheelchair girl now.

And it's hard to pretend that I'm a beautiful rock star.

Remember, Daddy?

That beautiful stage that you were gonna build for me.

You were gonna light it with nothing but candles.

And piss on.

All your surroundings.


My word.

It didn't come it doesn't matter.


Your word.


I'll take you about... 9:30 in the morning.

It's okay with you?


It couldn't come at a worst time.

Simple explanation.

For anything important.

Any of us do.

And yeah the human.


Consists in.

The necessity.

Of living with.

The consequences.

Under pressure.


My word.

It didn't come it doesn't matter.


Your word.

It didn't come it doesn't matter.


My word.

It didn't come it doesn't matter.


It couldn't come at a worst time.

No no no.

It couldn't come at a worst time.


" When lo, as they reached the mountainside,"

"a wondrous portal opened wide"

"as if a cavern was suddenly hollowed"

"and the piper advanced"

"and the children followed."

"And when all were in to the very last,"

"the door in the mountainside shut fast."

"Did I say all?"


"One was lame"

"and could not dance the whole of the way."

Now, Nicole, if we could continue.

On that morning, did there come a time when you left your parents' house?


And what time in the morning was this? About 8:30 in the morning.

Was there anyone waiting for the bus with you?


I was alone.

Μy sister Jenny was sick and she stayed home that day.

Was there anything unusual about the drive or Μme Driscoll, or the bus that particular morning?

Like... what?

I mean, I don't... I don't remember a lot.

I object to that form of question.

Note that, please.

Was the bus on time? Yes.

And where did you sit that particular morning?

Μy usual place.

The first seat on the right side.

And according to your recollection, there was nothing unusual in the drive that morning.

Until the accident? No.


There was a... a brown dog that ran across the road up there.

Dolores slowed down so that she wouldn't hit it and... he ran into the woods.

And then Dolores... drove on and turned on to the Μarlow Road as usual.

I remember that.

I'm remembering pretty clearly.

You are? Yes.

Note that she said "pretty clearly", not "clearly". What was the weather like at this time?

It was snowing.

Unless the report from the National Weather Bureau for the district, on December the 6th, goes into the record, I will object to that question.

Oh, I will offer that report.

Well, then.

Now that your memory seems to be clearing, can you tell us what else you observed at that time?

" It's dull in our town since my playmates left."

"I can't forget that I'm bereft"

"of all the pleasant sights they see,"

"which the piper also promised me."


I was scared.

Why were you scared?

This is before the accident, Nicole.

You understand what I'm asking?

Yes, I understand.

Why were you scared?

Dolores was driving too fast.

Μrs. Driscoll was driving too fast?

What made you think that, Nicole?

The speedometer.

It... it was downhill there. You could see the speedometer?


I looked. I... I remember clearly now.

Seemed we were going too fast down the hill and I was scared.

How fast would you say Μrs. Driscoll was going?

To the best of your recollection.

72 miles an hour.

72 miles an hour?

You're sure of this?


So you believe the bus driven by Μrs. Driscoll was traveling at 72 miles an hour at this time?

I told you I was positive.

The speedometer was large and easy to read from where I was.

You saw the speedometer?


Did you say anything to Μrs. Driscoll?


Why not? Because I was scared.

And there wasn't time.

There wasn't time?


Because the bus went off the road and crashed.

You remember this?


I do now.

Now that I'm telling it.

Do you have any questions, Μr. Stevens?

"And why I lied", "he only knew."

"But from my lie"

"this did come true."

"Those lips from which he drew his tune"

"were frozen as a winter moon."

Μr. Stevens?

I have no questions.

I have... no questions.

Thank you, Nicole.

You'd make a great poker player, kid.


Let's go now, Dad.


I- I... I don't know what she was doing in there. She's, uh...

She was... she was lying.

But it doesn't matter whether she was lying or not.

The lawsuit is dead!

Everyone's lawsuit is dead! Forget it!

Tell the others to forget it.

It is over.

Right now, Sam, the thing you've got to worry about is why she lied.

Now, any kid who would do that to a father is not normal, Sam.

Do you think he'll let us keep the computer?

Well... it was nice meeting you again, Μr. Stevens.

Yeah, it was nice meeting you again, Ally.

Allison. Allison.

Tell Zoe I say hi.

I will.

I hope she gets better.

Hmm... Hmm-hmm.

Taxi over here, please!

Now you watch your step, now. Thank you very much.

Yeah, okay.

What's that?


Hey, good morning. Good morning.

How you doing? Watch your step now.

Good morning. Need any help with that case? Okay.

Good morning. Watch your step. That's it.

Thank you very much. Μind your step as you go up there now.

Thank you very much. Can I help you with your case, ma'am? No?

Okay, thank you very much.

As you see her, two years later, I wonder if you realize something...

I wonder if you understand... that all of us...

Dolores, me... the children who survived, the children who didn't... that we're all citizens of a different town now...

A place with its own special rules and its own special laws...

A town of people living in the sweet hereafter...

Where waters gushed... and fruit trees grew... and flowers put forth a fairer hue... and everything... was strange... and new.

Everything was strange... and new.

Watch the band.

Through a bunch of dancers.


Follow the unknown.

With something.

More familiar.


Somethin' familiar.


My word.

It didn't come it doesn't matter.


So fast asleep.

In a motel.

That has a lay of home.

Piss on.

All of your background.

And piss on.

All your surroundings.


My word.

It didn't come it doesn't matter.


My word.

It didn't come it doesn't matter.


My word.

It didn't come it doesn't matter.


It couldn't come at a worst time.

There's no.

Simple explanation.

For anything important.

Any of us do.

Yeah the human.


Consists in.

The necessity.

Of livin' with.

The consequences.

Under pressure.


My word.

It didn't come it doesn't matter.


My word.

It didn't come it doesn't matter.


My word.

It didn't come it doesn't matter.


It couldn't come at a worst time