Wonder Boys (2000) Script

♪ A worried man with a worried mind ♪

♪ No one in front of me and nothin' behind ♪

♪ There's a woman on my lap and she's drinkin' champagne ♪

♪ Got white skin Got assassin's eyes ♪

♪ I'm looking up into the sapphire-tinted skies ♪

♪ I'm well dressed waitin' on the last train ♪

♪ Standin' on the gallows with my head in the noose ♪

♪ Any minute now I'm expecting all hell to break loose ♪

♪ People are crazy and times are strange ♪

♪ I'm locked in tight I'm out of range ♪

♪ I used to care but things have changed ♪


(BELL RINGING)

MAN: (reading) "The young girl sat perfectly still in the confessional, "listening to her father's boots scrape like chalk

"on the ancient steps of the church, "then grow faint, then disappear altogether.

"She could sense the priest beyond the grate..."

On that particular Friday afternoon last February, I was reading a story to my advanced writer's workshop by one James Leer, junior lit major and sole inhabitant of his own gloomy gulag.

"She bit the flesh of her lip, "closed her eyes, mute."

James' stories were about as sunny as his disposition.

I was distracted.

Maybe it had something to do with the fact that my wife had left me that morning.

So, anyone?

Maybe not. Wives had left me before.

Carrie.

As usual, James' classmates, aware of a writer's inherent vulnerability, offered their sensitive, gentle opinions.

I mean, Jesus, what is it with you Catholics?

(LAUGHING) All right. All right.

Let's try to be constructive here, shall we?

Howard, what about you?

I hated it. (LAUGHTER)

His stories make me want to kill myself.

That's not exactly what I meant by being constructive, Howard.

Yes, Hannah?

I think maybe we're missing the point.

GRADY: Hannah Green.

A talented writer who rented a room in my house.

I knew her to be insightful, kind and compulsively clad in red cowboy boots.

I had, in fact, never once seen her without them.

He respects us enough to forget us, and that takes courage.

Well put, Hannah. And a good note to end on, I think.

Oh, don't forget about WordFest this weekend.

And those of you who are driving VIPs to the cocktail party this evening should have them at the chancellor's house no later than 5:30.

(CHATTERING)

Thank you for that. Is he all right?

I think so. How about you?

Me? Yeah. Why?

Just checking.

JAMES: Turn off the light, please.

It felt good to be in the car.

Alone. Where I could clear my head.

Tonight was the opening of WordFest, the university's annual three-day "gabathon" for writers and wanna-bes.

My editor, Terry Crabtree, was flying in for the event.

He alone had championed my last novel, Arsonist's Daughter, and its critical success had put us both on the map.

But that was seven years ago, and I still hadn't finished my follow-up.

I knew Terry didn't give a rat's ass about WordFest.

He was coming to town to get a look at my long-overdue book.

I had to keep him at bay.

Ah, Tripp.

Crabtree, how are you, my friend?

It's good to see you, Tripp.

Let me help you with this.

Say hello to my new friend.

Miss Antonia... Sloviak.

Nice to meet you. This way.

I took the liberty of inviting Antonia to tonight's festivities.

The more the merrier.

Terry was telling me about you on the plane.

It was all so interesting.

I was just explaining how a book comes to be published, what you do as a writer, what I do as an editor.

I sweat blood for five years, and he corrects my spelling.

That's exactly what he said.

We know each other pretty well.

And actually, it's seven years.

You know how many times I've boarded an airplane just praying that some gal like her would be sitting down beside me?

She's a transvestite. You're stoned.

She's still a transvestite.

So, how's the book?

Uh, it's fine. It's done.

Basically. I got a little tinkering I've still got to do.

Great! I was hoping I could get a look at it sometime over the weekend.

It's gonna be a little tough. I'm at a critical juncture right now.

I thought you were just tinkering.

Well, I am, but I have little details I've got to work on.

I'm not gonna pressure you. I just got off the plane.

I mean, I get pressure. You know? I get...

Know what I mean?

What the hell in the hootenanny do you suppose that would be?

GRADY: That would be a tuba.

TERRY: You didn't actually purchase this car, did you?

No, I got it from Jerry Nathan. He owed me some money.

Ah! He owes God money. Including my commission on that faux novel of his.

That perfume you're wearing, Antonia, that wouldn't happen to be Cristalle, would it?

Um, uh, yes, it is.

How did you know?

Lucky guess.

GRADY: The WordFest kick-off party was always held at Sara and Walter Gaskell's house.

She was the chancellor, which meant she oversaw the university.

Her husband, Dr. Gaskell, was the chairman of the English Department, which meant he oversaw me.

Isn't that a nice greenhouse?

It's Mrs. Gaskell's. It's her hobby.

I thought you were Mrs. Gaskell's hobby.

Piss off, will you, Crabs? I lost a wife today.

You'll find another. She'll be young, beautiful. They always are.

Oh, hello, everyone. Terry, good to see you again.

Chancellor. Don't you look ravishing.

Oh, oh. Easy. (CHUCKLING) Oh, I'm sorry, I'm sorry.

It's these goddamn shoes. I don't know how anyone can walk in these things.

Practice.

I don't believe we've met.

Antonia Sloviak.

(DOG GROWLING) Poe.

(BARKING) Poe! Poe!

Poe, stop! Poe!

That wouldn't be Walter's dog, would it? (BARKING CONTINUES)

Poe!

Who's he barking at now?

He's still barking at me. He's blind.

Stop this.

(CHUCKLING) Honestly.

Excuse me, I need to talk to you for a second, Chancellor.

I need to talk to you, too.

Maybe you could help me take these coats to the upstairs guest room, Professor Tripp.

I'd be happy to if I knew where the upstairs guest room was.

I could show you.

Terry.

Yeah. Oh, yeah. We'll make ourselves at home.

We'll let Poe show us around. Thanks.

That's new, isn't it?

Yeah, Walter just got it back from the framer.

You first.

(EXHALES)

This morning... I'm pregnant.

I'm sure.

Well, that's... That's very surprising.

Does Walter know that, uh...

I think Walter would find this a little more than surprising.

Emily left me this morning.

She's left before.

She's left the room before, but she's always come back.

So...

I guess we just divorce our spouses, marry each other and have this baby, right?

Simple.

Yeah, right. Simple.

(SIGHS)

Is that Cristalle?

Mmm-hmm. Oh, God.

I wear the same scent as a transvestite.

She is a transvestite, isn't she?

If she's not now, Terry'll make sure she is by the end of the evening.

Has he asked you about the book yet?

Yes.

And?

Are you gonna tell him?

No.

Maybe. I don't know what I'm gonna do.

Me either.

(SNIFFING)

WALTER: DiMaggio's record for hits in consecutive games is probably the most impressive feat in all of sports, and in my opinion, will never be broken.

Come here, big guy.

ANTONIA: His condition's so sad.

Yes, but even blind, he still gets around.

GRADY: I don't drink normally, but this was turning out to be one fucked-up day.

And now I found myself in close proximity to Sara's husband and his dog, Poe.

Walter, I see you've met my friend.

Oh, yes. She's charming.

Despite his much-vaunted Harvard education, Dr. Walter Gaskell didn't have a clue about his wife and me.

Simply put, DiMaggio represented, metaphorically speaking, of course, the husband as slugger.

Poe had been on to me since day one.

(GROWLING) WALTER: In fact, I personally believe that every woman in some way desires to be Marilyn Monroe.

Oh, I couldn't agree more.

MAN: I've had a lot of successes over the years.

Q. Q was rich.

Q was famous.

Q completed a novel every 18 months.

I hated him.

...finest work vanished in less than five.

So I find myself conflicted.

Ask him if he's conflicted about his house in the Hamptons.

Grady. Well, Professor.

Q, for your information, Hannah already has two stories published in The Paris Review, so you better dust off your "A" material.

You didn't tell me you were a writer.

You didn't ask.

How did you feel about the adaptation?

I thought it was more literary than cinematic.

MAN: Grady.

Douglas Triddley, Amherst.

I've had Arsonist's Daughter on my graduate-studies syllabus three years running.

No wonder it's still in print.

WOMAN: Long time since Arsonist's Daughter.

WALTER: There you are.

I could have sworn I had a bottle of 1975 Lafite Rothschild for Q.

Given that he's going to be addressing 500 people in less than an hour...

You want to keep Q happy.

If he's happy, I'm happy.

(TWIG SNAPS)

James?

It's fake. It was my mother's.

She won it in a penny arcade in Baltimore when she went to Catholic school.

Well, that's very convincing.

I used to shoot these little paper caps, but they don't make them anymore, the caps.

It's just for good luck, you know?

Some people carry rabbit's feet.

You carry firearms.

No, thank you. I don't like to lose control of my emotions.

I'm not supposed to be here, in case you're wondering.

But the other night I was out with Hannah at the movies, and she asked me since she was coming, so, I ended up coming, too.

You and, uh, Hannah, you're seeing each other?

No! What gave you that idea?

James, relax.

I'm not her father. I just rent her a room.

She likes old movies like I do, that's all.

What's the movie you guys saw?

Son of Fury with Tyrone Power and Frances Farmer.

She went crazy, Frances Farmer.

So did Gene Tierney. She's in it, too.

Sounds like a good one.

It wasn't bad.

You're not like my other teachers, Professor Tripp.

You're not like my other students, James.

Look, James, about this afternoon in workshop, I'm sorry.

I think I let things get a little out of hand.

They really hated it. I think they hated it more than any of the other ones.

Well... Doesn't matter. It only took me an hour to write.

Really? That's remarkable.

I have trouble sleeping.

While I'm lying in bed, I figure them out, the stories.

(SHUDDERS)

You cold, James?

Oh, a little.

Why don't we go inside?

It's colder in there.

(CHUCKLES) I guess you're right.

Actually, I saw the greenhouse.

I thought I'd come outside and take a look at it. It looks like heaven.

Looks like heaven?

I saw a movie once.

Part of it took place in heaven. Everyone wore white.

Lived in crystal houses like that.

I really should be going.

Goodbye, Professor Tripp.

Hey, James.

James, don't go. No.

There's something I want you to see.

I'll miss my bus.

It's worth it.

Trust me.

HANNAH: Let me help you with that.

Thank you, dear. Thank you.

Come on.

Hey, you two. James, are you riding with me?

No, I'm going home... No, he's going with me.

Why don't you take Crabtree and his friend? All right?

All right. Where are they anyway?

Here we are.

Hmm. Well, hello there.

James, this is my editor, Terry Crabtree.

James. HANNAH: James'll know about George Sanders.

George Sanders?

Mr. Crabtree was saying how George Sanders killed himself, only he couldn't remember how.

Pills. April 25, 1972 in a Costa Brava hotel room.

How comprehensive of you. HANNAH: James is amazing.

He knows all the movie suicides. Go ahead, James. Tell him.

There are so many. Well, just a few, the big ones.

Pier Angeli, 1971 or '72, also pills.

Donald "Red" Barry, shot himself in 1980.

Charles Boyer, 1978, pills again.

Charles Butterworth, 1946, I think. In a car.

Supposedly, it was an accident, but, you know, he was distraught.

Dorothy Dandridge, pills, 1965.

Albert Dekker, 1968. He hung himself.

He wrote his suicide note in lipstick on his stomach.

William Inge, carbon monoxide, 1973.

Carole Landis, pills again. I forget when.

George Reeves, Superman on TV, shot himself.

Jean Seberg, pills, of course, 1979.

Everett Sloane, he was good. Pills.

Margaret Sullavan, pills. Lupe Velez, a lot of pills.

Gig Young, he shot himself and his wife in 1978. There are tons more.

I haven't heard of half of them.

You did them alphabetically.

It's just how my brain work, I guess. TERRY: Fascinating.

Say, come out with us after the lecture.

There's this place I always get Tripp to take me.

Actually, I just want to go home. Don't be silly.

No one your age just wants to go home.

Besides, faculty will be present. Just consider it a field trip.


JAMES: Is that really it?

That's really it.

The one she wore on her wedding day.

So I'm told.

Go ahead. Really?

Really.

She was small.

Most people don't know that.

The shoulders are so small.

It looks so perfect.

I bet it's the only time she wore it.

That day.

She must have felt so happy.

Must've cost Dr. Gaskell a lot.

I guess.

Walter never tells Sara the truth about how much he pays for these things.

You're really good friends with the chancellor, aren't you?

Pretty good.

I'm friends with her husband, too.

I guess you must be if you know the combination to his closet, and he doesn't mind you being in here in their bedroom.

Right.

(DOOR CLOSING)

(PEOPLE CHATTERING)

Drive carefully. Stick close to me in case it gets slippery, okay?

We better skedaddle. James...

(SNIFFLING)

You all right, James?

Oh. I'm sorry, Professor Tripp.

Maybe it's seeing that jacket that belonged to her.

It just looks really lonely

hanging there in a closet.

Maybe I'm just a little sad tonight.

I'm a little sad tonight, too, James.

You mean, with your wife leaving you and all?

Hannah mentioned something about it.

Yeah, well, it's complicated, James.

I think we should go now.

(METAL JINGLING)

(SNIFFING)

(GROWLING)

(GASPS) Easy, easy.

He's a good boy, Poe. Poe's a good boy. Easy, Poe.

Easy. Good dog.

(BARKING) (YELLING)

Jesus Christ! Get off!

(GUNSHOTS)

(PANTING)

Shit, James.

You shot Dr. Gaskell's dog.

But I... I had to, didn't I?

You could've pulled him off me.

No, the dog was crazy, Professor Tripp. He was attacking you!

The dog was attacking you... All right, calm down, James.

Calm down. Don't freak out, all right?

Okay. All right. Do you have a mirror?

It's the best way to see if someone's still breathing.

The dog is dead, James. Believe me.

I know a dead dog when I see one.

Oh, shit.

What are we supposed to do now?

First, you're gonna give me that little cap gun of yours.

Come on.

Professor Tripp, what are we gonna do with it?

(SIGHS) I don't know. I'm still trying to figure out how to tell the chancellor that I murdered her husband's dog.

You? Trust me, James.

When the family pet's been assassinated, the owner does not want to hear that one of her students was the triggerman.

Does she wanna hear it was one of her professors?

I've got tenure.

Hang on.

(GRUNTING)

It's still warm.

Let's try feet first.

(BOTH PANTING)

Yuck! That is a big trunk.

It holds a tuba, a suitcase, a dead dog and a garment bag almost perfectly.

Yep. That's just what they used to say in the ads.

Come on, Crabtree. I know you're holding.

Whose tuba is that anyway?

Miss Sloviak's. Can I ask you something about her?

Yes, she is.

So is your friend Crabtree...

Is he... Is he gay?

Most of the time he is, James. Some of the time he isn't.

What do we have here?

This looks like... (GRUNTS)

That's our old friend, Mr. Codeine.

That should take the old pinch out of the ankle. You want one?

No thanks. I'm fine without them.

Right.

That's why you were standing in the chancellor's backyard spinning that cap gun of yours.

You're fine. Yeah, you're just as fit as a fucking fiddle.

(COUGHS)

(EXHALES)

(SIGHS) I'm sorry, James. I'm sorry I said that.

(COUGHS)

How about we try that again?

WALTER: It is a great pleasure to introduce best-selling author Quentin Morewood, known to his friends simply as Q.

(APPLAUDING)

(APPLAUSE SUBSIDES)

I am a writer.

(APPLAUDING)

As a writer, you learn that everyone you meet has a story.

Every bartender, every taxi driver has an idea that would make a great book.

Presumably each of you has an idea.

But how do you get from there to here?

What is the bridge from the water's edge of inspiration to the far shore of accomplishment?

(LAUGHING)

Faith.

Faith that your story is worth the telling.

Faith that you have the wherewithal to tell it.

And faith that the carefully woven structure that you create won't collapse beneath you.

And faith that when you get to the other side, there will be someone waiting who gives a damn about the tale you have to tell.

I'll be back in a minute.

...like Whitman, I admit I worship at the shrine of formal construction.

But like Conrad, I confess that I have a secret sharer in my work.

My double, my other self.

I am haunted by this malignant, remorseless shadow...

(BREATHING DEEPLY)

(ECHOING) Grady.

Grady.

You had another one again, didn't you?

Is the thing...

Is it over?

Almost. Wanna sit up?

(GROANING)

What's wrong?

Nothing, I just twisted...

Sara, there's something I've gotta tell you.

Something hard.

Stand up, then. I'm too old for all this rolling around on the floor.

Give me a hand?

(GRUNTING)

Well, this evening... Don't.

I know what you're gonna say.

I don't think you do know what I'm gonna say, Sara.

You love Emily. Of course you love Emily. She's young, she's beautiful.

She's your wife. You have to stay with her.

(STAMMERS) But I don't have a choice. Emily left me.

She'll come back. That's why I'm going to...

(SOFTLY) To not have this baby.

You're not gonna have it?

No, there's no way. I mean, don't you think there's no way?

(BREATHES DEEPLY)

Well, I don't see any, but I know what it means to you.

No, you don't. And fuck you for saying you do, and fuck you for saying that there's no way.

Because there could be a way, Grady.

(DISTANT APPLAUSE)

They must be finishing. We should go.

Whose gun is that?

A souvenir from Baltimore.

It's heavy. Smells like (SNIFFING) gunpowder. Caps.

Pow.

You got me.

(WHISPERS) I love you, Grady.

Oh! The doors made so much noise.

It was so embarrassing. They had to carry him out.

Is he all right? He's fine. He's narrating.

They were going to the men's room, but would they make it in time?

Terry Crabtree and James Leer.

Leave it to you to make that mistake. Wait here.

I need a ride.

I'm your man.

There's an explanation.

Couldn't he have just thrown a shoe at the poor thing?

Antonia, listen...

Tony. Now that I'm home.

Tony, I'm sorry tonight didn't work out the way you'd hoped to with Terry.

Forget it. Your friend is just, I don't know, into collecting weird tricks.

I think he'd call it a habit.

I do get the feeling he's going through the motions a little bit.

You mean because his career is ruined and all?

Jesus, is that what he told you?

He said he hasn't had a success in over five years, and everyone in New York thinks he's kind of a loser.

But he said he's sure your book's so good that he'll be able to keep his job.

And you're not one of those writers who has a success and then freezes up and never has another one.

You can turn here.

(DOG BARKING)

Gotta go. I think I may have to rescue James Leer.

You know, Grady, maybe you should think about going home.

You look like you need a little rescuing yourself.

(R&B MUSIC PLAYING)

MAN: Hey, Grady. How are you?

(PEOPLE TALKING INDISTINCTLY)

Can I get a double Dickel on the rocks, please? I'm right over here.

Double Dickel. (CHUCKLES)

Is that just beer?

Primarily.

Although I gather that the two of you staged a little raid on the Crabtree pharmacopoeia.

GRADY: So where is everybody?

Well, Sara and Walter declined. I guess they just wanted to go home and curl up on the couch with Poe.

Jesus, he's out. He has a book.

I know. He started it in fall semester.

Finished it winter break.

So is he any good?

No, not yet he isn't.

Well, I'm gonna read it anyway.

Oh, Crabs, come on, will ya? He's one of my students, for Christ's sakes.

Besides, I'm not sure if he's, uh...

He is.

I'm sure. Take my word for it. I see myself in him.

Oh, I'm sure you do, but it's a little more complicated than that.

Besides, he's a little scattered right now.

He almost did something really stupid tonight.

I don't think he needs sexual confusion to mix up the stew a little more.

On the contrary, I think it might be just the ticket.

Double Dickel on the rocks.

"Oola"?

TERRY: Thanks, Oola.

(GLASSES CLINK) Cheers.

Cheers. (GRUNTING)

Oh, my goodness. Do you see what I see?

Look there. Let's go. You first.

President of the James Brown hair club for men.

He's a boxer. A flyweight.

No, no, he's a jockey. His name is Curtis, Curtis Hardapple.

Not Curtis.

Okay then, Vernon. Vernon Hardapple.

The scars are from a horse. He fell during a race. He got trampled.

He's addicted to painkillers.

Yeah, he can't even piss standing up anymore.

Lives with his mother. That's right.

And he's got a younger brother who's a...

Who's a groom named Claudelle. Yeah.

And his mother blames Vernon for Claudelle's death.

Great!

Because... Because...

Because... Because why?

(BOTH MUTTERING)

JAMES: He was killed when a gangster named Freddy Nostrils tried to shoot his favorite horse.

Claudelle took the bullet himself.

Vernon, over there, was in on the hit.

(JAZZ MUSIC PLAYING)

That was good.

Yeah, he heard everything we said.

Come on, teach. I want you to dance with me.

No. Come on.

So I've been rereading Arsonist's Daughter.

It's so beautiful, Grady.

It's so natural.

It's like all of your sentences always existed, just waiting up there in style heaven for you to fetch them down.

I thank you.

And I love the inscription you wrote to me.

Only I'm not quite the downy innocent you think I am.

I hope that's not true.

We need all the downy innocents we can get.

♪ And it's time to go ♪

♪ I need your love so bad ♪ What this boy could use is a nice, tall Coca-Cola.

Let me help. No, we got him. We got him.

I'll meet you two at the car. Oh, I see.

All right. Well, give me the keys to the trunk.

I gotta get my property out of there.

The trunk's a little sticky, Crabs. I gotta do it.

Whatever.

Professor Tripp.

Hannah, when you get James back to his apartment, make sure he's all right before you leave, okay?

I would if I knew where I was taking him.

Hannah, are you telling me you don't know where James Leer lives?

Some apartment somewhere. I've never seen it.

That strikes me as very odd.

Well, James is odd.

I know his aunt lives in Sewickley Heights. I dropped him there once.

Come to think of it, it wasn't even his aunt's house.

He said she worked there or something.

I don't remember. I need my knapsack.

What's he saying?

His bag. You know that ugly green thing he's always carrying around?

He must've left it inside.

(GRUNTING)

Aw, shit. He left it at Thaw. The auditorium.

Knapsack!

All right. Let him crash at my house.

HANNAH: Where should I put him?

In the shape that he's in, you could stand him up in the garage next to the snow shovels and he'd be all right.

(PANTING)

Grady, if you wanna talk later, I'll be up.

Hey, guy! Tripp, the trunk. You're killing me.

I'm gonna get it, all right? Killin' me!

MAN: You drivin' this car? Excuse me?

This 1966 maroon Ford Galaxy 500.

You drivin' this car? This is my car.

Bullshit! It's mine, motherfucker!

I'm afraid you're mistaken.

Bullshit! TERRY: Who is that?

Oh, Vernon, go home to your mother, will you?

What are you lookin' at?

I'm lookin' at you, fella.

(CHUCKLING) Hit it, will you? Come on, killjoy, go!

Can we go now, den mother?

What's with you?

I wonder. Come on, Crabs. The kid was comatose.

Who started that? I was trying to calm him down.

Oh, yeah, you calmed him down, Dr. Feelgood. Q: Grady!

What? Hit the brakes!

Stop! Hey!

What's his problem?

Back up! Get out of the car! Hey!

TERRY: Go around, go around him.

I'm stopping you! I don't think so!

(WHOOPING)

Come back here!

What's this? TERRY: It's a one-way, guy.

(TERRY WHOOPING) (CAR HONKING)

Q: Go, go, go! Whoo!

TERRY: Look out! He's back!

Now what? TERRY: You owe him a book, too?

You could always drive over him.

What the hell was that?

I just got my hood jumped on.

Wait here. I'll be right back.

Where would we go?

(MACHINE RUNNING)

(SINGING INDISTINCTLY)

Hold on a second.

Professor Tripp.

I guess you're here for the backpack.

It's Traxler. Sam.

I saw the manuscript inside, so when you showed up I figured...

GRADY: The Love Parade. So it was true.

The little prick had finished his book.

Is it good? I don't know. It might be.

(BELL RINGING)

So there it was. Somewhere in the night, a Manhattan book editor was prowling the streets of Pittsburgh, best-selling author at his side, dead dog in his trunk.

Say, Professor Tripp.

Is all that stuff true about Errol Flynn?

How he used to put paprika on his dick to make it, you know, like, more stimulating for the chick?

Christ, Traxler, how the hell should I know?

You're reading his biography, aren't you?

Oh.

No, it's true. He used to rub all sorts of things on it.

Salad dressing, ground lamb.

Sick.

GRADY: Whenever I wondered what Sara saw in me, and I wondered more than once, I always came back to the fact that she loved to read.

She read everything, every spare moment.

She was a junkie for the printed word.

And lucky for me, I manufactured her drug of choice.

TRAXLER: Is that your wife?

No, my wife's out of town.

What exactly are we doing here, Professor Tripp?

Taking the long way home.

Take it easy, Professor Tripp.

Thanks for the ride.


(YAWNING)


GRADY: I told myself I needed to put everything aside for the moment.

Emily, Sara, the purloined jacket, and the dead dog, and work on my book.

It started out as a small book.

Probably about, oh, 250, 300 pages.

(DINGS)

It had gotten a little larger in scope.

(KEYS CLATTERING)

And the ending, it kept getting further away.

But the ending was there. I knew it.

I could almost see it.

James? I'm okay.

I just lost my balance.

I put you on the floor.

Oh. Thank you.

I thought you might swallow your tongue or something.

(SIGHS)

I guess you must really miss her, huh?

Hmm? Oh, this. No.

No, I just write in this. This wasn't Emily's.

I guess there's probably a story behind that.

There is, but it's not very interesting.

Is all of that single spaced?

I'm afraid so, yeah.

That's a really big book you're writing.

Wow. Hannah always swore you were working, but...

But? Nothing.

It's just... It's been a while since Arsonist's Daughter, and some people, some of the kids in workshop thought maybe you were...

Washed up?

Blocked.

Well, I don't believe in writer's block.

No kidding. (PHONE RINGING)

You want me to get that?

Please. Could you?

Glasses.

Thank you.

Hello?

(GRUNTING)

He didn't give his name.

Who? The guy on the phone.

Well, what did he want?

He wanted to know if a Grady Tripp lived here and drove a dark maroon 1966 Ford Galaxy 500 with black interior.

Well, what'd you tell him?

Yes.

Oh, good, James.

Well, I just thought maybe... (WHISTLING)

Good morning, boys.

Good morning, James.

Good morning.

(WHISPERING) Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy.

I'm gonna take a shower.

(WHISTLING)

(DOOR CLOSES)

Professor Tripp? Hmm?

How did I get here last night?

No one knows where you live, James.

Hannah thought you'd like my couch.

And before that, did I do anything?

I mean, did I do anything bad?

Well, James, you did shoot the head of the English Department's dog and steal his most prized piece of memorabilia.


Aw, shit.

Do yourself a favor. Hide.

Good morning. Good morning.

Professor Tripp? That's right.

I understand you attended an event at Sara and Walter Gaskell's house last night.

Yeah, what's this all about, anyway?

Somebody pulled a B&E on Dr. Gaskell's closet, and the dog's missing.

I was just wondering if you saw someone who seemed suspicious maybe.

I wouldn't say there was anybody particularly suspicious.

About this kid, student of yours, Leer?

James Leer? You wouldn't happen to know how I could get in touch with him, would you?

I think I have his number on campus.

That's all right. We'll find him.

Morning.

You have a good one.

There you are. I thought we were going to talk.

(STAMMERS) Well, I was... JAMES: Professor Tripp?

(PHONE RINGING) I heard what he said.

TERRY: Hey, Tripp! What time's breakfast?

What do we do now? Just one minute. Hello?

SARA: Grady? Sara.

Thank God you're there. You won't believe what's happened.

Could you hold on just a minute, honey?

May I ask you something, Professor Tripp?

Sure, James.

Where exactly are we going?

Well, there's a few things I've got to do today.

See my wife...

The one that left you?

Yes, that's the one...

Ow! Oh, shit! Son of a bitch! Whoa.

Ooh, you're bleeding, Professor Tripp.

No shit, James.

So where exactly do you live, James?

Apparently, not even Hannah Green has a clue as to the location of your apartment.

I got kicked out.

Well, not exactly kicked out. I was asked to leave.

I guess there's probably a story there.

There is, but it's not very interesting.

So where are you staying?

At the...

The, uh, bus station.

It's not so bad. I know the night janitor, and there's a broken locker I can put my stuff.

Jesus, James. I mean, uh, for how long?

A couple of weeks. That's why...

That's why I had the gun. For protection.

You should've told someone.

Who?

I don't know. Me?

GRADY: James' story was the stuff of bad fiction, and under other circumstances, I might've wondered where the page ended with him and real life began.

But I had other things on my mind.

The Gaskell house looked deserted, which figured since WordFest was in full swing on campus.

What are we... You ought to ease off on that stuff, James.

It's pretty acidic.

I can't help myself. I don't know what's the matter with me.

James, you're hung over.

What do you think's the matter with you?

I'll be right back.

GRADY: I knew I needed to have a heart-to-heart with Sara.

But until then, I'd just make a little gesture.

Feeling guilty? (YELPS)

(EXHALING)

I can't believe you hung up on me, you dick.

Sara, I am so sorry about this morning.

There was a lot going on.

Walter's a basket case.

Someone stole Marilyn's jacket last night.

And Poe's missing.

Oh, I heard.

You heard? How?

I, uh... A 12-year-old policeman came by my house this morning.

Did you confess? Your fingerprints were all over the bedroom.

Really? That was fast.

I'm joking. Hello!

Oh, right, right, right.

Look, about last night, there's something I have to talk to you about.

Okay.

(SIGHING)

Uh... I...

Well, I, um...

(SIGHS) I want to be with you.

Gee, Grady, that sounded so heartfelt.

No, really, Sara, I do. Honest. I...

No, I believe you want to be with me, but this is not good enough.

I know that. I mean, I know what's at stake here.

No, I don't think you do.

Besides, it doesn't matter. I haven't decided yet.

About the baby?

That, and you.

I'm not gonna draw you a map, Grady.

Times like these, you have to do your own navigating.

Why is your car over there? And who's that sitting in it?

(SIGHS) James Lear.

What's he doing here?

I'm sort of helping him through some issues.

Isn't he lucky?

(SOFT ROCK PLAYING ON CAR RADIO)

She seemed to take it pretty well.

Yeah, yeah, well, the moment didn't actually present itself.

(SIGHS) You feel like taking a ride, James?

Yes.

Humboldt County?

Maybe.

My father, he gets it from his doctor.

Glaucoma?

Colon cancer.

Jesus, James. Wow.

It's a bit of a scandal. My parents live in a small town.

Where's that? Carvel.

Carvel? Where's Carvel?

Outside Scranton.

I've never heard of it.

It's a hell hole. Three motels and a mannequin factory.

My dad worked there for 35 years.

Your father worked in mannequin factory?

Seitz Plastics. It's where he met my mom.

She was a fry cook in the cafeteria.

Before that, she'd been a dancer.

What kind of dancer?

Whatever kind they wanted her to be.

Didn't you say that your mom went to Catholic school?

When we fall, we fall hard.

♪ I really love to watch them roll ♪

♪ No longer riding on the merry-go-round ♪ I thought you were the guy that didn't like to lose control of his emotions.

Maybe I just needed the moment to present itself.

♪ I just had to let it go ♪

Mmm. Mmm! (KNOCKING ON DOOR)

GRADY: I had come to the childhood home of my soon-to-be ex-wife to set things straight, to say something that would end things on the right note, to make Emily feel better about it all...

Or maybe to make me feel better.

Truthfully, I wasn't really sure why I was there.

Someone jumped on your car with their butt.

How can you tell?

Well, you can see the outline of a butt.

You want one? They're incredible. Incredible.

Smoke the rest of that joint, James, you can start chewing on the box.

Hey, maybe she didn't come here.

She came here.

We'll just wait.

In the meantime, I'm gonna need you to shimmy right through there.

Relax, James.

Emily hasn't used her keys since she was 15 years old.

Besides, your hips aren't much bigger than hers.

It's not that. Just reminded me of what's in the car.

In the trunk?

Oh, right, right.

Let's try not to think about that, okay?


Thank you. Mmm-hmm.

Feels really good in here.

Yeah, I know.

It's the kind of house you like to wake up in on Christmas morning.

I'll be right back. Uh, make yourself at home.

I'm gonna make a phone call.

Ah.

Mmm.

(CLOCK TICKING)

MAN ON TV: There's no such thing as a good influence, Mr. Gray.

All influence is immoral.

MAN: Why?

Because the aim of life is self-development, to realize one's nature perfectly.

That's what we're here for.

A man should live out his life fully and completely, give form to every feeling, reality to every dream.

GRADY: Sitting there among her things, I was reminded I didn't really know Emily at all.

Even though we had lived together as man and wife, it was when I left the house, when I was with Sara...

(RINGING TONE) ...that I felt like I was home.

WOMAN: University. Chancellor, please.

MAN ON TV: There's only one way to get rid of a temptation, and that's to yield to it.

Resist it and the soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself.

Thank you. (TV CONTINUES PLAYING)

(SWITCHING CHANNELS)

(JAZZ MUSIC PLAYING)

SARA ON PHONE: Hello? Sara? Hi, it's Grady.

Where are you?

Kinship. Listen, Sara, there's something I gotta talk to you about.

You're in Kinship.

Yes, but that's not why I'm calling you.

You're with Emily. What?

No, no, no. There's no one here. I'm just, uh...

Doing a little dusting?

(SWITCHES CHANNEL) WOMAN ON TV: ♪ Good mornin'

♪ We've danced the whole night through ♪

♪ Good mornin' Good mornin' to you ♪

(HUMMING) ♪ Good mornin' Good mornin' ♪

♪ It's great to stay up late Good mornin' ♪ Sara, I am not here... I'm not here to, uh, reconcile with Emily.

It doesn't matter.

How you choose to live your own life is your business.

♪ To say good night So good mornin' ♪

♪ Good mornin' Sunbeams will soon smile through ♪ Sara, you don't understand.

Probably not, but I have something to say.

And I want you to listen carefully, Grady.

Yes.

I can't wait for you because if I do, I could end up waiting forever, so...

I'm going to make this decision on my own.

Good-bye, Grady. (HANGS UP)

MICKEY ROONEY ON TV: Makin' a comeback.

Gee, it must be terrible to be a has-been.

JUDY GARLAND: Don't talk like that. It scares me.

We gotta work harder. Make a lotta dough...

(COUGHING)

Hello. Hi.

Ow.

It's infected. I can clean it up.

But then you need to see someone who knows what he's doing.

How would you like some hot chocolate and fresh cookies to go with it?

That sounds nice. Thank you. You're welcome.

(BARKS) This is really good hot chocolate.

HANK: He's one of your students, this boy?

(WHINING)

GRADY: Yeah, he's a good kid.

He's just a little messed up.

Oh, then I'm sure he'll be fine with the proper guidance.

WOMAN: So, you're at the university in Pittsburgh?

JAMES: I'm working in a steel mill while I finish my first novel.

So where's Emily, Hank?

I don't know if I should tell you that, Grady.

I don't wanna stalk her. I just wanna...

I wanna tell her that I'm sorry.

I'm not trying to get her back.

Things haven't been right with us for a while.

Well, all I know is Emily felt you weren't there for her, and she's felt that for a long time, Grady.

Right now, she's, uh... She's in Philadelphia visiting Linda Ashby.

For Christ's sakes, they went to Wellesley together.

Linda spent a week at your house.

Oh, Linda! Oh, oh. Yes.

I haven't been sleeping a whole lot lately, and I got my editor in town.

I'm trying to finish my book.

Ah, right. The book.

I hope it's really good, Grady.

I'm having a really good time, Professor Tripp.

I'm really happy for you, James.

Do me a favor. Lay off my dope.

That stuff's not for amateurs.

You're mad at me, aren't you?

You're mad because I shot your girlfriend's dog.

It wasn't her dog. It was her husband's.

Who said anything about a girlfriend?

Okay, James, I wish you hadn't shot my girlfriend's dog, even though Poe and I were not exactly what you call simpatico, that's no reason he should've taken two in the chest.

I don't know.

You just keep acting like a goddamn spook all the time, James.

Well, I guess that explains why all the kids in workshop hate me.

All the kids in workshop hate you because right now you're ten times the writer any one of them will ever be.

My stuff stinks.

You said so yourself last night to your friend Crabtree.

I didn't mean it like that.

And what does it matter what I think?

I mean, what does it matter what anybody thinks?

Most people don't think, James.

And if they do, it's not about writing.

Books. They don't mean anything.

Not to anybody.

Not anymore.

Arsonist's Daughter meant something.

It meant something to me.

It's the reason I came to school here.

To be taught by you.

It's one of the reasons I wanted to become a writer.

Well, for that, James, if nothing else, I'm really sorry.

What are we doing?

I'm gonna get you a nice meal, a couple of cups of coffee, then I'm taking you home.

Take me now.

What?

I'm not hungry. James, you've gotta eat.

I'll get something out of the vending machine.

Vending machine? What are you talking about?

At the bus station, they have these cheese sandwiches.

They're pretty good. It's better if you take me now.

That way, Carl won't get my spot.

Carl?

Never mind.

James, go get us a table, will ya?

I'm not letting the most talented writer in my class eat some week-old cheese sandwich, okay?

I'm not letting him sleep on some bench in a bus station.

So go on inside. I'll... I'll be there in a minute.

GRADY: C-A-R-V-E-L.

Yes, I'm sure, ma'am. It's outside of Scranton.

You have no listing.

Okay, well...

Lady, as we speak, I am looking at a resident of Carvel, Pennsylvania.

I'm sure he'd be pretty interested to learn that the good people at Bell Atlantic have misplaced his entire hometown.

It's not like I'm making this up as we go...

Never mind. It's my mistake.

(HANGS UP PHONE)


JAMES: You want a bite? No, thanks.

That's why you're having them, your spells.

Spells?

Jesus, James, you make it sound like we're in a Tennessee Williams play.

I don't get spells.

What would you call them, then?

I don't know. Um... Episodes.

Uh-huh. I just worry about you, that's all.

You just worry about yourself, okay?

Where you going? Nowhere.

You just stay here and eat. I'll be right back.

Good evening.

Professor Tripp. Grady.

Fred Leer. This is my wife Amanda.

Well, looks like I dashed a wonderful evening here.

We were on our way to a benefit, but as luck would have it, the club was on the way, so we were able to put in an appearance.

I just thought it would be good for James to be with his family this weekend.

Oh, well, of course we can understand that.

Right. Okay, I guess, uh, I'll go get James.

A...

I hope you don't find this forward, Amanda, but I wonder if I might ask.

Did you ever go to Catholic school?

Excuse me?

I'm not going with them.

Things are a little weird for me right now, James.

Things are a little weird for me right now, too.

I know, but I got my editor in town, I gotta finish my book, and there's some extenuating circumstances... I won't bother you.

I won't even talk to you.

James, like it or not, those people out there are your parents.

They're not my parents. What?

They're my grandparents. My parents are dead.

James, the man is obviously your father. You look just like him.

There's a reason for that.

Oh, get out of here.

No. That's why she hates me.

That's why she makes me sleep in the basement.

Crawl space. With the rats and the cask of amontillado, right?

Well, it's true! They treat me like a freak!

Well, you are a freak, James.

All right? Welcome to the club.

You don't understand. You don't know what it's like.

You're right, I don't.

Don't expect me to feel sorry for you, all right?

Because I don't know who you are.

Let me ask you something, James.

In the past 36 hours, have you told me one thing that's true?

One thing that comes from you?

I just wanted to stay with you for a little while, that's all.

I'm a teacher, James. I'm not a Holiday Inn.

Thank you, Professor Tripp.

(ENGINE STARTING)

♪ Old man look at my life ♪

♪ I'm a lot like you were ♪

♪ Old man look at my life ♪

♪ I'm a lot like you were ♪ Hey!

Hey.

♪ Old man look at my life ♪

♪ Twenty-four and there's so much more ♪

♪ Live alone in a paradise ♪

♪ That makes me think of two ♪

♪ Love lost such a cost ♪

♪ Give me things that don't get lost ♪

♪ Like a coin that won't get tossed ♪

♪ Rolling home to you ♪

(CLAMORING)

Crabtree. Jesus.

(ROCK MUSIC PLAYING)

(INDISTINCT CONVERSATION)

Do you mind?

(DOOR OPENS)

Grady! Hey.

Uh, I know I shouldn't have, but there it was just in the open, and I couldn't resist.

No, no. I just can't believe that I left it out like this.

TERRY: Tripp, where are you?

Has Crabtree been in here? Has he been snooping around?

I don't know. Maybe. I don't think so.

Let's put this away.

TERRY: Tripp!

Oh, shit.

No. One ...

Don't go. I've been waiting all night for you.

I'm really flattered, honey, but this just isn't...

(DOOR OPENS)

I'm sorry. Am I interrupting a teacher-student conference?

No offense, Tripp. You're not exactly the most attentive host.

Well, you've been taking good care of that, huh, Crabs?

Sometimes we have to improvise.

Where the hell have you been anyway?

I took a drive with James Leer.

He popped the chancellor's dog, didn't he?

What?

Yeah. First the police thought he just ran away, but this afternoon, Dr. Gaskell found blood spots on the carpet.

Oh, Jesus.

Most everyone figured it was an intruder, but right off Terry said it sounded like something James would be messed up in.

Has anybody else come up with this brilliant deduction?

Well, not yet, but they will. It's just a matter of time.

Come on. You don't even know James.

Who does?

I do. I do now.

I spent some time with him, and I read something of his.

His book? You read his book? Yes.

Is it good? It's good. It's very, very good.

It's... It's true.

I knew it. So where is he now?

I sent him home with his parents.

What? What? His parents?

Mmm-hmm.

Why? Why did you do that for?

Because under the circumstances, I thought it was the best thing for him, but...

I'm beginning to think maybe it was the best thing for me.

I just, uh... I wasn't there for him.

Imagine that.

Hannah, don't you remember where you took James that day?

Was it his aunt's?

Yes.

I told you, Sewickley Heights.

What was the address? Mmm-hmm.

I don't know. He had me drop him on a corner.

Call the university. I'm sure they know where the guy lives.

Little late to call admissions.

Is it a little late to call the chancellor, hmm?

I don't know. Maybe. Hmm?

God, you really have just made an awful, stinky little mess of everything, haven't you?

Is that it?

Do not even think about it.

Don't go near it. No, no, no.

Never without your permission, but that is a lot of book. 262 Baxter Drive.

They're in the book.

I'll drive. I'll drive.

TERRY: "The Love Parade."

I got a feeling about this.

Look, I feel this kid in my bones.

Only in your bones.

I've had this feeling before.

Remember?

It's been a long time, but...

How bad is it for you, Crabs?

(SIGHS) It's pretty bad.

They've had enough of me.

They look at me like I don't work there anymore.

I guess I just don't fit the new corporate profile.

Which is? Uh, gosh...

Competence.

(BOTH LAUGHING)

♪ Down on the highway ♪

♪ Is a byway ♪

♪ All alone ♪ GRADY: This is it.

(ENGINE TURNS OFF)

GRADY: I had no business trudging up to James Leer's parents' house in the middle of the night, not when all that really mattered was trying to make things right with Sara.

But we had decided to rescue James Leer.

I wasn't quite sure from what because I was pretty much convinced that everything that came out of James' mouth was basically horseshit.

Yikes. Must be two dozen windows.

How are we supposed to find his?

I told you. They keep him chained in the basement.

GRADY: But maybe that didn't really matter.

Sometimes people just need to be rescued.

♪ More than glad to be unhappy ♪

♪ Unrequited love's a bore ♪

Rodgers and Hart? Yeah.

James Leer. James Leer.

(TYPING)

(TYPEWRITER DINGS)


Hey. What are you guys doing here?

Shh. We're springin' you, Jimmy. Put on some clothes.

Whoa. Well, I... I love what you've done with the place.

When's Captain Nemo moving in?

I cannot believe that you made fun of my bathrobe.

The candelabras were my great grandmother's.

Please. Don't start with the family history, all right?

I'll leave you right here.

I just want you to know I heard everything, all right?

The parents and grandparents and the whole Chinatown thing.

I believe you. That's why we're here. Now go get dressed.

I mean, do you mind if I wear this again, Professor Tripp?

Wear whatever you want to.

He's so modest. (WHISPERING) He's so sensitive.

Tripp, why don't you cut the kid some slack?

These are all overdue library books, every one of them.

Then it looks like our Mr. Leer is facing some monster late fees.

I just can't believe all the shit he spins.

Just once I'd like to know if the little bastard's telling the truth.

Hey.

Check this out.

"Finally, the door opened. It was a shock to see him

"shuffling into the room like an aging prizefighter, limping, beaten."

Does that sound like anyone we know?

"But it was later when the great man squinted

"into the bitter glow of twilight..."

"Twilight." This kid definitely needs an editor.

"And muttered simply, 'It means nothing.

"'All of it. Nothing.' That the true shock came.

"It was then that the boy understood

"that his hero's true injuries lay in a darker place.

"His heart..."

His heart what?

"His heart, once capable of inspiring others so completely, "could no longer inspire so much as itself.

"It beat now only out of habit.

"It beat now only...

"...because it could."

JAMES: I'm ready.

You all right, Professor Tripp?

He's fine, James. Now, can we go before granny comes down here and boils your bones for breakfast?

That could be a problem.

She's been coming down here every half-hour or so to check up on me, and if I'm not here, she might call the police or something.

Okay. Decoy.

We'll put couple of your pillows and a little teddy bear under the spread.

She won't know the difference.

Like in Against All Flags, only they used a couple of gigantic hams.

No, no, no, no. I got a better idea.

Good night, sweet prince.

(GRUNTS)

♪ Shadows are fallin'

♪ And I've been here all day

(CLEARS THROAT)

TERRY: Let's go upstairs.

Bad vibes down here.

Things must've picked up after we left, huh, Grady?

♪ Feel like my soul has turned into steel ♪

(CAN RATTLING)

♪ I've still got the scars that the sun didn't heal ♪

♪ There's not even room enough ♪

♪ To be anywhere ♪

(LAUGHING)

♪ It's not dark yet ♪ Good night, bro.

♪ But it's gettin' there ♪


(CLATTERING)

(DIALING)

(RINGING TONE)

(RINGING CONTINUES)

SARA ON MACHINE: You've reached the home of Sara and Walter Gaskell.

Neither Walter or I can take your...

WALTER ON PHONE: Hello. Walter?

Grady? Oh, Christ, Grady, do you know what time it is?

Yeah. I got, uh, 8:15.

I don't think that's right, though.

It's 3:30, Grady.

Well, this is important, Walter.

Oh?

(SIGHS) I, um ... I ...

What is it, Grady?

I'm in love with your wife.

Excuse me?

Sara. I'm in love with her.

Are you drinking, Professor Tripp, right now?

No.

Nevertheless, I'd like to see you in my office Monday morning.

(HANGS UP)

Oh, boy.


Sara, what... I tried to call, but...

It seems there's something wrong with your phone.

It appears one of our students is missing, and his parents found a dead dog in his bed.

It's my fault. I'm sorry.

I've been trying to tell you...

I'm not feeling very happy with you right now.

And more importantly, Walter isn't very happy.

He's gotten the police involved.

They seem to think James Leer is somehow responsible for all this.

You wouldn't happen to know where James Leer is, would you?

He's inside.

And Marilyn's jacket?

Oh, it's in my car.

Somebody stole my car. Oh, man!

Honestly! Somebody stole my car!

I parked it right there last night!

Are you sure it was parked right there?

Of course I'm sure! It was...

Oh, Christ. Here comes the puberty police now.

Okay, okay, I'll deal with this. You go dig up James.

(SIGHS)

Is he awake?

There's a police officer on the porch, and he's not going away.

That same guy? Same one.

No offense, Professor Tripp, but you look sort of crappy.

He's right. I mean, you do look horrible.

It's the chancellor.

We're fine. We're just fine.

JAMES: Fine, right.

Fit as a fuckin' fiddle.

James, come on.

Uh, James, this book of yours?

It's not bad. It's not bad at all.

Thank you. You're welcome.

(WHISPERING) I wanna publish this.

I think with the proper editorial guidance, this could be brilliant.

Aw, that's great. That's great.

Between Officer Pupcik and you, he can be the next Jean Genet.

Been a long time since somebody wrote a really good book in jail.

Don't you worry, James. We're gonna figure something out.

I'm not worried. You're not worried, are you, Professor Tripp?

I'm a little worried, James.

Don't be. I don't care if they expel me.

I probably should be expelled.

Well, let's hope it doesn't come to that.

Professor Tripp...

Yes, James?

Even if I end up going to jail, you're still the best teacher I ever had.

I wonder if this is what the university has in mind when it promises a liberal education.

Walter wouldn't really press charges, would he?

We'll know soon enough.

In a couple of hours, he's gonna sit down with the police and James' parents, and he was a wee bit prickly this morning.

You didn't happen to call our house last night, did you?

I think I might have, yes.

What do you think you might have said?

I think I might have said I was in love with you.

He told you.

He told me.

And what did you say?

I said it didn't sound like you.

(ENGINE STARTING)

TERRY: Hey, Tripp! (WHISTLING)

So, what do we do now?

Find the jacket!

Exactly how do we do that?

I've got an idea where it is.

We could ask Hannah if we could borrow her car.

Sure. Keys are on the desk, next to your book.

I didn't finish it. Fell asleep.

Oh, it's that good, huh?

It's not that. It's just...

It's just what?

(SIGHS)

Grady, you know how in class how you're always telling us that writers make choices?

Yeah.

And even though your book is really beautiful, I mean, amazingly beautiful, it's...

It's, at times, it's very detailed.

Uh...

You know, with the genealogies of everyone's horses and the dental records and so on and...

And I could be wrong, but it just, it sort of reads in places like...

You didn't really make any choices.

At all.

And I was just wondering if it might not be different if...

If when you wrote, you weren't always under the influence.

(CLEARS THROAT)

Well...

Well, uh, thank you for the thought.

But shocking as it may sound, I am not the first writer to sip a little weed.

Furthermore, it might surprise you to know that one book I wrote, as you say, "under the influence" just happened to win a little something called the PEN Award, which, by the way, I accepted under the influence.

(CHUCKLES)

Hey, let me help you with that.

Don't touch it. Okay. I'll drive.

Let me get this straight.

Jerry Nathan owes you money, so as collateral, he gives you his car.

Only I'm beginning to think that the car...

(HONKING HORN) ...wasn't exactly Jerry's to give.

Ah, so whose car was it?

My guess? Vernon Hardapple.

The hood jumper?

He said a few things that lead me to believe that the car was his.

Such as?

"That's my car, motherfucker."

All right, so we find Vernon, we find the car.

We find the car... We find the jacket.

(TRAIN WHISTLE BLOWING)

Wow. Christ! How'd you know, Tripp?

Oh, I don't know. Let's just call it a hunch.

I call it genius.

Good to know I'm still talented at something.

Careful.

Keep that motor running.


I know you.

Double Dickel on the rocks.

Oola.

I never forget a drink.

I never forget an Oola.

VERNON: Forget me?

Vernon?

Go inside, cupcake. He's got a gun.

GRADY: Who's got a gun?

You've got a gun! Drop it!

Uh-oh. Vernon, relax.

Why is he calling you Vernon?

Why is he sitting in my car?

He's crazy, that's why! He probably calls everybody Vernon.

Now drop that gun! Oh, dear.

It's a souvenir. They don't even have caps for this thing.

It's a souvenir. Bullshit!

I know a gun when I see one!

And that's a gun! No! No, really.

(GUNSHOT)

(OOLA SCREAMING) TERRY: Oh, God! Oh!

Give me that gun! Are you crazy?

Can't you see the condition my girl's in?

Get out! Get out!

Hey! Stop! (HONKING HORN)

Cupcake, you okay?

(ENGINE STARTING) Tripp, run!

VERNON: Who in the hell is that? (HONKING CONTINUES)

Oh, shit!

Vernon, don't... No! Don't shoot!

Oh, no! Don't! (SCREAMING) Don't shoot!

Come on, Tripp! Jump in! Run!

He's a crazy man.

(HORN HONKING)

(TIRES SCREECHING) (HORN BLARING)

Oh, my God.

GRADY: I take it back.

Shoot him.

Naturally, you have copies.

I have an alternate version of the first chapter.

You'll be all right, then. Look at... Look at Carlyle when he lost his luggage.

That was Macaulay. Oh.

Well, what about Hemingway when Hadley lost all those stories?

He was never able to reproduce them.

Look, Tripp, I don't wanna depreciate the loss here.

But maybe, you know, in a sense, it's for the best.

You suggesting it's some kind of sign?

In a sense.

In my experience, signs are usually a little more subtle.

Let me get this straight. All that paper that blew away back there, that was the only copy?

I'm afraid so, yes.

And you, you're saying that it's some kind of a sign?

Man, what in the fuck the matter with you?

Don't.

All I'm saying is that sometimes, subconsciously, a person will put themselves in a situation, perhaps even create that situation, in order to have an arena in which to work out an unresolved issue.

It's a covert way, if you will, of addressing a problem.

I'll tell you the problem.

You behind the wheel, there's your problem.

Excuse me. Did you or did you not have a gun to his head?

OOLA: Watch the road, please. He was trying to steal my car.

Let me ask you a question. Did you or did you not have a gun to his head?

OOLA: (YELLING) Watch the road! (ARGUING)

All right! All right!

That's enough! That is enough!

What is done is done! I don't wanna hear about it anymore, okay?

So what was it about, your book?

What was the story?

I don't know.

What he means is it's difficult to distill the essence of a book sometimes because it lives in the mind.

VERNON: But you got to know what it was about, right?

If you didn't know what it was about, why were you writing it?

I couldn't stop.

(BELL RINGING)

(TIRES SCREECHING)

Vernon, can I ask you a question?

Boy or girl?

(GIGGLES)

As long as it looks like her, I really don't care. You...

You know what I'm saying?

Yeah.

Thanks for the ride, Vernon. Anytime.

And another thing. Yeah?

Stop calling me Vernon.

Okay.

(WHISPERING) Jacket, Tripp. What?

We need the jacket.

Oh, right.

Oola, about that jacket...

Yeah.

It used to belong to Marilyn Monroe.

Really? Mmm-hmm.

She had small shoulders.

Just like you.

A lot of people don't know that.

Thank you.

Man, that book of yours must have been one nutty ride.

Come on, baby, let's go.

Would you mind explaining to me what you just did?

Came to my senses.

Oh. Congratulations. Meanwhile, what's James supposed to do?

Pray that Walter Gaskell comes to his?

Walter Gaskell doesn't wanna send James Leer to jail.

He's up in his office right now.

He's talking to his parents, local police, trying to find a solution.

Tripp, the least they're gonna do is expel him.

(SIGHS) It doesn't matter.

That's very enlightening, Professor.

It's comforting to know that America's children have you for a teacher.

Nobody teaches a writer anything.

You tell 'em what you know.

You tell 'em to find their voice and stay with it.

You tell the ones that have it to keep at it.

You tell the ones that don't have it to keep at it, too, because that's the only way they're gonna get to where they're going.

Of course, it does help if you know where you wanna go.

Helping my students figure that out, that and Sara, that's what's made these last years worthwhile.

As for James, well, he doesn't really need me anymore.

He's got you.

Me?

What can I do?

Oh, I don't know, Crabs.

Improvise.

You're pretty good at that.

Tripp.

I'm sorry.

Improvise.

GRADY: As for me, I was through improvising.

I knew what I had to do. I had to find Sara.

I had to convince her that she was my choice.

That, in fact, she had been from the very beginning.

(AUDIENCE APPLAUDING)

And now, as those of you who've been with us in previous years know, we have a tradition of sorts here at WordFest.

I'm speaking, of course, of the plums, those fortunate local writers who have successfully placed their manuscripts with visiting publishers' representatives.

This weekend, Susan Lowery of North Braddock found a publisher for her children's book, The Loneliest Prawn.

Stand up, Susan.

(ALL APPLAUDING)

Now, this next one is, I think, very exciting to announce because it concerns a student here at the university.

Our own James Leer, sophomore in English Literature, has found a publisher for his first novel, which I believe is called, The Lovely Parade.

(ALL APPLAUDING)

Love Parade. Love Parade.

James?

Stand up. Go on.

He's a real alien probe, if you know what I mean.

Take a bow, James!

(ALL CHEERING)

Wonder boy.

And finally, and perhaps not least importantly, Terry Crabtree of Bartizan has also decided to publish my own book,

a critical exploration of the union of Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe and its function in American mythopoetics, which, tentatively, I have entitled, The Last American Marriage.

(ALL APPLAUDING)

So, until next year, thank you, everyone.


Grady, I took another look at The Arsonist's Daughter the other night.

That description of the bald cypress left me breathless.

Thanks, Q. I appreciate that.

(DOOR CLOSES)

(DOOR CLOSES)

(PANTING)

Sara!

(DOOR OPENS)

(FOOTSTEPS APPROACHING)

(TRAXLER HUMMING)

(SIGHS)

Yo, Traxler.

(WHISTLES)

Hey, Professor Tripp.

You get high, Sam?

Only when I'm workin'.

Holy shit.

Are you serious?

Careful there, Professor Tripp.

Whoa.

GRADY: I didn't fall.

Not then, not ever again.

Once the Monongahela River swallowed my never-ending opus, there were no more spells.

James Leer didn't get expelled or go to jail, thanks to Crabtree's wheeling and dealing.

But he quit anyway, went to New York to rework his novel for publication.

Hannah Green has decided to take a position as a junior editor when she graduates.

And Crabtree, well, Crabtree's gone right on being Crabtree.

As for me, I lost everything.

My wife, my book, my job, everything that I thought was important.

But I finally knew where I wanted to go.

(CAR APPROACHING)


And now I had someone to help me get there.


 ♪ A worried man with a worried mind ♪

♪ No one in front of me and nothin' behind ♪

♪ There's a woman on my lap and she's drinkin' champagne ♪ 

♪ Got white skin Got assassin's eyes ♪

♪ I'm lookin' up into the sapphire-tinted skies ♪

♪ I'm well dressed Waitin' on the last train ♪

♪ Standin' on the gallows with my head in a noose ♪

♪ Any minute now I'm expecting all hell to break loose ♪

♪ People are crazy and times are strange ♪

♪ I'm locked in tight I'm out of range ♪

♪ I used to care but things have changed ♪

♪ This place ain't doing me any good ♪

♪ I'm in the wrong town I should be in Hollywood ♪

♪ Just for a second there I thought I saw something move ♪

♪ Gonna take dancing lessons Do the jitterbug rag ♪

♪ Ain't no shortcuts Gonna dress in drag ♪

♪ Only a fool in here would think he's got anything to prove ♪

♪ Lot of water under the bridge ♪

♪ Lot of other stuff too ♪

♪ Don't get up, gentlemen I'm only passin' through ♪

♪ People are crazy and times are strange ♪

♪ I'm locked in tight I'm out of range ♪

♪ I used to care but things have changed ♪

♪ I've been walkin' 40 miles of bad road ♪

♪ If the Bible is right the world will explode ♪

♪ I've been trying to get as far away from myself as I can ♪

♪ Some things are too hot to touch ♪

♪ The human mind can only stand so much ♪

♪ You can't win with a losing hand ♪

♪ Feel like falling in love with the first woman I meet ♪

♪ Putting her in a wheelbarrow and wheeling her down the street ♪

♪ People are crazy and times are strange ♪

♪ I'm locked in tight I'm out of range ♪

♪ I used to care but things have changed ♪

♪ I hurt easy I just don't show it ♪

♪ You can hurt someone and not even know it ♪

♪ The next 60 seconds could be like an eternity ♪

♪ Gonna get low down Gonna fly high ♪

♪ All the truth in the world adds up to one big lie ♪

♪ I'm in love with a woman who don't even appeal to me ♪

♪ Mr. Jinx and Miss Lucy They jumped in the lake ♪

♪ I'm not that eager to make a mistake ♪

♪ People are crazy and times are strange ♪

♪ I'm locked in tight I'm out of range ♪