Monday, April 27, 2015

Magic Hat: Scene from Tinhorns

 
Over the past week I began working on three different pieces for this blog and they had one thing in common: they were terrible. So, in a panic I raided my past work to find something I could put up here and came across this screenplay I was working on with a friend of mine. We began working on this a couple of years ago, but in the interim I started back up at school and he has been ridiculously busy with work, so it has been pushed indefinitely to the back burner. Still, it is something my mind wanders to pretty often. 

The story is about a father and son (Milo and Martin),  who have a strained relationship. Milo often reaches out to Martin, but Martin consistently pulls back. Martin decides to get his father out on the dating scene, so he will stop bothering him, but his plan works too well. Milo becomes involved with someone just as Martin's life begins to crumble. 

This scene is the first moment they meet in the script. The scene is way too long (a page works out to roughly one minute of screen time), so I am looking for a little feedback. Also, my friend and I have argued about the tone of the scene. He thinks that Martin should be more antagonistic to Milo, while I feel the animosity should be under the surface. When he writes the characters, they are much meaner and when I write the characters, they are much nicer. This is our compromise. So, hey, feedback on that, too would be great!

INT. MIDTOWN DINER - EVENING

Waitresses mill around, serving plates of food and cleaning tables to a mostly empty establishment.

Milo sits alone at a booth, sipping a cup of coffee. He notices that the OLDER MAN sitting in the booth in front of him is roughly his age, and is also sitting alone.

MILO

Hello.

The man smiles at him.

MILO

I always feel awkward eating alone. Well, I'm not going to be eating alone, exactly...

OLDER MAN

I like potatoes!

MILO

Yes. Yes, potatoes are good.

OLDER MAN

I like them.

 MILO

Right, yes. They're high in fiber.

OLDER MAN

Potatoes!

MILO

Yes, well...have a nice dinner.

Milo averts his gaze and studies the menu.

OLDER MAN

Potatoes! I like them mashed.

Milo nods awkwardly at the man, now fully ignoring him. The old man in turn leans over his booth to speak to Milo.

OLDER MAN

(whispers) I like them baked, too. Potatoes, that is.


Milo shifts his posture to give his back to the man. He then hears commotion coming from the entrance. A college age-looking WAITRESS laughs out loud with a YOUNG MAN who gently plays with her name tag. Milo ignores the flirtatious laughing. Stares out the window, at people walking past the diner.

OLDER MAN

I like potato chips! Kettle cooked.

A waitress places Milo's food in front of him.

MILO

I'm actually going to move to the booth over there. There's a bit of a draft here, and I also made the mistake of making small talk with a madman.

As Milo slides into another booth, he sees the YOUNG MAN at the entrance walking around, looking for a table. It's MARTIN. He's about to take a seat at an empty booth when he spots Milo out of the corner of his eye. He saunters over slowly to Milo's booth.

MARTIN

(looks at Milo's dish)

That steak doesn't look very cooked to me.

MILO

I know. I wanted it medium rare, but the girl brought this out. I think she's new. She doesn't know any better.

MARTIN

What is the smell in here? Do they cook with Febreeze or something?

MILO

What are you talking about? It smells like it always does. You going to sit or are you going to stand there judging everything all night like you're a Greek god?

Martin sits across from Milo, but on the edge of the booth.

MARTIN

Greek god. I like that.

MILO

I bet you do.

MARTIN

Jesus, how have you lived this long? Look at how you eat.

MILO

Look, it's not like I eat here every day. I really only come here once a year.

Martin reaches for a french fry. Milo slaps his hand.

MILO

What the hell? You insult my food then try to grab it? (beat) Thanks for making it out, by the way.

MARTIN

Yeah, well, I was able to get out of work early. Look, I can't eat here. Let's go to that Ethiopian place across the street.

MILO

Ethiopian? What is their specialty? Grubs? Besides, we're here for a reason.

MARTIN

Why? Because you like air freshener on your cuts of meat?

MILO

We haven't seen each other in a while. Indulge me-it won't kill you. Just order an appetizer or something.

MARTIN

I don't know. According to that "grade pending" sign on the wall, the jury is still out on that. Jesus, even the patrons here look sickly.


MILO

This place is New York institution. Never been a problem. We have eaten here plenty of times before. You clearly just want to push my buttons. All that I ask is you treat me with a modicum of respect on my 50th anniversary.

MARTIN

Great anniversary restaurant. No wonder Mom wanted out.

MILO

Why did you even come here? You have skipped out on this for the past ten years. Why now?

WAITRESS

Uh, more coffee?

MILO

Yes, thank you.

WAITRESS

(to Martin)

Can I get you anything?

Martin simply shakes his head no. The waitress leaves

MARTIN

I got out of work early and I thought I'd do something nice. I should know by now how that works out.

MILO

Look, I know you miss her. I know this is upsetting for you. But...

MARTIN

No. This isn't upsetting for me. I don't live in the past. Mom's dead and it sucks, but that was a decade ago. I don't dwell.

MILO

Well, act like an asshole all you want, I'm still glad you're here.

MARTIN

Great.

MILO

You still living downtown? Near that brunch place.

MARTIN

Still there.

MILO

Heh. Don't know if I ever told you this, but I used to frequent that neighborhood back in the 60's. Back then, that brunch place was actually a quite notorious, seedy bar run by this big Italian brute of a man. What was it called?

Milo stares out the window. It seems like his mind is wandering.

MILO

The "Kiwi Cooch"! That was it! Such a bizarre name. You would think it serves tropical drinks or something, but no. A real whiskey or beer type of joint. Despite that, every Sunday evening thet would have poetry readings and I would sit in a corner to write or listen.

MARTIN

It was called "Kiwi Cooch"? How did they get a way with that? Did that word mean the same thing then as it does now?

MILO

What? Kiwi?

MARTIN

(exasperated)

No, cooch.

MILO

What does cooch mean?

MARTIN

You know,

(whispers)

vagina?

MILO

(loudly)

Cooch means vagina?

MARTIN

Jesus, Dad, keep it down. I don't think the table of nuns down their heard you.

OLDER MAN

(Off camera)

I like potatoes!

MARTIN

I take back what I said earlier, this place is real normal.

MILO

It's eccentric. So, short day at work today?

MARTIN

Yeah. Really short.

MILO

My day was pretty calm. I went to the park, read. Pretty much it it. Oh, I picked up these flowers

Milo reaches into his bag and pulls out the carnations he purchased earlier in the day. They are all crunched up.

MARTIN

Jesus, Dad, they're all messed up.

MILO

Well, they were in my bag all day.

MARTIN

Why did you even buy them? Even if Mom was alive, you couldn't give her flowers like that.

MILO

Eh, she wasn't too particular,

MARTIN

Yeah, I can see.

MILO

Do you have any plans next weekend? I read about an exhibit at...

MARTIN

Busy.

MILO

Well, maybe we can have dinner later in the week.

MARTIN

Dad, I...have a bunch of shit going on right now, I won't be able to commit to much. I'll call you.

MILO

Okay, okay. Just thought I could spend some time with my only son. Nothing crazy.

MARTIN

Yeah, yeah. I'm sorry, okay? This place is making me crazy. I think the smell of antiseptic is giving me a headache. You wanna get out of here?

MILO

Fine, fine. I'm done eating anyway. I don't mean to push. I just want to see you. I want to know you better. I don't even know if you're seeing anyone.

MARTIN

I know.  I'm just a private person, okay?

MILO

I'm you're father! I don't think it's crazy that I ask about our love life.

MARTIN

Well, what about your love life? Have you been with anyone since Mom?

MILO

I'm 72 years old, Martin! The only companionship I get at this age is from a Sear catalogue.

MARTIN

You know, there is free porn on the internet, right?

MILO

I'm too old for that. Have you seen what these men do to those women? When I watch, all I can think about is how heartbroken their parents must be.

MARTIN

Well, that's hot.

MILO

I did meet a woman recently.

MARTIN

(his interest is piqued)

Really?

MILO

The woman I bought the flowers from. She works at the farmers market on the Upper West Side. She was quite flirty, I thought.

MARTIN

You old so and so! Did you ask her out?

MILO

What? No. I just rambled then left.

MARTIN

Hey, great. You almost had an interesting story, there.

(Martin thrown a couple of Twenites on the table)

Dinner's on me. Now, let's get the hell out of here.

Martin walks away. Milo gathers his thoughts and looks across the diner at the corner booth. The old man from before is now with a middle-aged woman, seemingly his daughter. They bond affectionately. Milo averts his gaze again.

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