Glorious (The Script based on The Ghost With The You Know What)

 

          

                    GLORIOUS

          A script based on the short story

          CAST OF CHARACTERS

          WILLIS P. ARMSTRONG

          SAM

          JOSEPHINE

          BARNEY

          ARLENE LIGHTNING BUG

          BUSINESSMAN

          ASSORTED MEN

          EXT: SIDEWALK OUTSIDE OF SAM’S COFFEE SHOP

          Sam’s Coffee Shop is a storefront on a small-townish Main
          Street, brown around a large dirty plate-glass window and a
          narrow door on the right-hand side. The door has a cheap
          ‘Open’ sign hanging on it. The words “Sam’s Coffee Shop” are
          painted in chipping old yellow above the big picture window.
          Behind the grime can be seen a few square brown cloth-less
          tables inside the diner with cheap metal chairs around them.
          The place has an aura of nausea about it. You wouldn’t want
          to eat there unless it was the end of the world and the only
          place left open.

          WILLIS P. ARMSTRONG, an unusually well-dressed young man,
          quite urban-looking in a light lime-colored suit, maroon tie
          and shiny brown shoes, looking out of place in this small
          town setting, is walking by when he comes to a sudden halt,
          apparently attracted by the coffee shop. He turns to face it
          directly, tilts his head first one way, then the other, then
          cautiously approaches, still staring. We can see nothing in
          the window besides the crappy interior of the diner. WILLIS
          rubs his chin, walks right up to the window, stretches out
          his hand but pulls it back as if he was about to do
          something rude. Abruptly, he turns away from the window and
          strides to the restaurant door. He goes in.
 
          INT: SAM’S COFFEE SHOP

          The coffee shop is as dirty and nasty inside as expected. It
          is also fairly dark and quiet. It boasts a long counter with
          occasional sugar and salt shakers distributed before
          red-plastic covered bar stools, with the open dining area
          and its four or five tables on the left. SAM, a short, fat
          middle-aged man, is standing behind the yellow formica
          counter top, rubbing the greasy stove top with a filthy rag.
          JOSEPHINE, his wife, is in the back of the diner, holding a
          broom, but not doing anything with it. She is the same
          general shape as SAM, but displays a luxurious head of fake
          black curls (a wig) in contrast to her husband’s utter
          baldness. At the counter, one lone customer sits, BARNEY, an
          old drunk hunched over with his head on the table and a half
          a cup of something in front of him.

          WILLIS enters, and immediately turns around to inspect the
          front window from the other side. He throws up his hands and
          speaks in a loud voice, pointing at the window.

                              WILLIS
                    Who is that? What is that?

                              SAM
                         (grunts)
                    Sigh

                              WILLIS
                         (walking over to the counter
                         but still glancing backward)
                    That girl. Is it some kind of
                    trick? You have a projection
                    machine or something? It’s good,
                    whatever it is.

                              SAM
                         (turning to face him)
                    Son, I have no idea what you are
                    talking about.

                              WILLIS
                    No idea? That girl! In the window!
                    The blond? Why, she’s beautiful.
                    That must drive ’em in like crazy.
                    Wonder why nobody else ever thought
                    of it first.

                              SAM
                    What girl? What window?
 
                              WILLIS
                    Why, she’s right there! Right there
                    in your own front window. Are you
                    telling me you’re not putting it
                    there?

                              SAM
                         (pointing at the front)
                    That window? My window?

                              WILLIS
                    Of course! She’s facing the street.
                    From here you can see her from
                    behind, which is a helluva view
                    too, by the way. It works for me, I
                    can tell you.

                              SAM
                         (calling to his wife)
                    Jo? Come up here for a second, will
                    you?

          Josephine reluctantly picks up her broom and shuffles to the
          front of the restaurant, still carrying it. She has yet to
          display any expression at all on her face except extreme
          weariness.

                              SAM
                         (to WILLIS)
                    Tell her what you told me

                              WILLIS
                         (looking around the whole
                         diner as if searching for
                         clues)
                    You people! It’s got to be some
                    kind of trick, it has to be. You’re
                    beaming that image from somewhere,
                    I know it.

                              JOSEPHINE
                         (in a monotone and some sort
                         of accent. German?)
                    What image?

                              WILLIS
                    The girl. The young lady. That
                    glorious vision right there in your
                    storefront.
 
                              JOSEPHINE
                    Describe, please.

                              WILLIS
                    Why, she’s perfect. Young, blond,
                    blue eyes. So shapely!

                              JOSEPHINE
                    Shapely?

                              WILLIS
                         (modestly gesturing an
                         hourglass figure with his
                         hands)
                    Up here, and down here. She’s
                    wearing a light blue sun dress, and
                    white shoes.

          At the mention of the dress, JOSEPHINE’s expression
          radically changes to one of alarm, even fear. She drops her
          broom and it clatters on the floor.

                              JOSEPHINE
                         (turning to her husband)
                    Barney said so too!

                              SAM
                         (gesturing at the drunk at the
                         counter)
                    Yeah, right, says he.

                              JOSEPHINE
                         (whispering)
                    It’s that girl!

                              WILLIS
                    What girl?

                              JOSEPHINE
                         (to her husband still, not
                         looking at Willis)
                    That poor dead girl!

                              WILLIS
                         (laughing)
                    The last thing that girl looks is
                    dead.
 
                              JOSEPHINE
                         (turning on him and hissing)
                    She died right there, not two
                    months ago now. Poor thing. Walking
                    along minding her own business and
                    then this truck …

                              WILLIS
                         (intrigued)
                    Yes? A truck?

                              SAM
                         (after a moment of silence,
                         spits out bitterly)
                    Some drunk drove his pickup up on
                    the sidewalk, smashed my fucking
                    window too! And the girl, she never
                    had a chance. Died on the spot, the
                    ambulance driver said. Didn’t feel
                    a thing. Fucking drunks! Uninsured
                    of course. I’m out two grand nearly
                    for that glass. You think I’ll ever
                    collect? Not a chance. Not me. No
                    luck at all. No fucking luck at
                    all.

                              JOSEPHINE
                         (shrugging and gesturing at
                         her husband, says to WILLIS)
                    He thinks HE has no luck, but what
                    about that girl. Seventeen she was.
                    A beauty queen too. Homecoming girl
                    what they call it.

                              WILLIS
                         (whistling and ogling the
                         window again)
                    I believe it! From what I can see.
                    She sure is something. You sure
                    you’re not pulling a fast one on
                    me? There’s a machine somewhere in
                    the back.

                              JOSEPHINE
                    It’s no machine. It’s that girl.
                    It’s her ghost. Barney saw it too.

                              WILLIS
                    And you?
 
                              JOSEPHINE
                         (shaking her head)
                    Not a thing. I don’t see nothing.
                    Him neither.

                              SAM
                    Tell you what the trick is! It’s
                    Barney, isn’t it? How much did he
                    pay you? I know what he’s like. Go
                    on, fun’s over. Get out of here.

                              WILLIS
                    I swear I’m not up to anything. I’m
                    just here for the day on business.
                    Tell you what, though. If that
                    really is a ghost, if that’s
                    something other people can see then
                    believe me, you’re going to have
                    your hands full. A girl like that.
                    Wow.

          WILLIS starts to leave but stops at the door, turns around
          and comes back and hands SAM a business card.

                              WILLIS
                    If that’s what she says it is, you
                    might need some help. I know a
                    person. Take this, just in case.
                    Call me if you need to.

          SAM takes the card and tosses it into the empty tip jar on
          the counter. He snorts loudly as WILLIS exits the
          restaurant.

          INT: SAM’S COFFEE SHOP

          The place is packed, with men. They are everywhere –
          occupying all the tables and all the seats at the counter,
          with several left standing as if on a crowded bus. Most are
          facing the front window, while chatting with each other from
          time to time. Loud conversational sounds fill the room, with
          occasional snatches audible, mostly lewd observations and
          suggestions concerning the ghost, her body and her age.
          JOSEPHINE is by at the cash register in the front corner of
          the counter, next to Barney, who has raised his bleary-eyed
          head.
 
                              JOSEPHINE
                         (muttering)
                    Disgusting beasts.

                              BARNEY
                    What you’d expect.

                              JOSEPHINE
                    Me? What I’d expect is a little
                    respect, not to mention it’s a
                    child.

                              BARNEY
                         (gesturing)
                    That … is not a child. And she
                    seems to like the attention. You
                    see? She’s smiling.

                              JOSEPHINE
                    I don’t see, and by law she was. A minor! And these,
                    these filthy …

                              BARNEY
                    Gloria Gattuso

                              JOSEPHINE
                    What’s that?

                              BARNEY
                    Her name. You remember her father,
                    Gary. Used to come in here.

                              JOSEPHINE
                         (snorting)
                    Another old drunk, like you.

                              BARNEY
                    Not old, not like me. He only
                    looked it. Man was young once too,
                    like that, like her. Good-looking
                    he was but never a chance. No way.

                              JOSEPHINE
                    Why’d you say that?

                              BARNEY
                    Born that way. Dead loser from the
                    moment his lips touched beer.

                              JOSEPHINE
                    You men always have an excuse.
 
                              BARNEY
                         (shrugs)
                    We always need one.

          SAM appears at the cash register corner, out of breath and
          huffing. He is wiping his sweaty brow and growling.

                              SAM
                    How’m I supposed to do it, huh?
                    Tell me that! All this rabble. And
                    of course they want service.
                    They’re wanting food and drinks,
                    like rats they are.

                              JOSEPHINE
                    It’s a damn diner after all.

                              SAM
                    I want it back the way it was. I
                    can’t take it like this.

                              JOSEPHINE
                    Maybe we should sell. Be a good
                    time for that.

                              SAM
                    Sell? Sell MY business? Never!

                              JOSEPHINE
                    Then I guess you got to make it
                    work.

                              SAM
                    What I got to do is get rid of that
                    whatever-it-is.

                              BARNEY
                    So you believe me now?

                              SAM
                    Must be something there, the hell!
                    I can’t see nothing, but some of
                    you can.

                              JOSEPHINE
                    Just the men, did you notice? Not a
                    girl or woman can ever see the
                    thing.

                              BARNEY
                    Hey, that’s true.
 
                              SAM
                    Damn thing’s a curse. What’d I do?
                    Did I drive the damn truck? No! Did
                    I deserve all this?

                              JOSEPHINE
                    So hire some help. Most people
                    wouldn’t complain about money
                    pouring in.

                              SAM
                    I don’t want any help. I don’t want
                    any of their damn money, pouring,
                    dripping, drizzling or otherwise.
                    Look at ’em all! Even out there on
                    the sidewalk still.

                              BARNEY
                    It’s the cops who make ’em come
                    inside. Most would rather be out
                    front, where the view is, how to
                    put it?

                              SAM
                    Where you can see the damn thing’s
                    tits!

                              BARNEY
                    You put it!

          All at one the crowd disperses rapidly, all pushing past
          JOSEPHINE and out the door.

                              JOSEPHINE
                    Right on time, there they go.

                              BARNEY
                    Morning viewing time is over.

                              JOSEPHINE
                    Why? I’d like to know. Every day at
                    10 and 4, half an hour each time.
                    Who can explain it to me?

                              BARNEY
                    Who can explain any part of it?
                    It’s a mystery.
 
                              SAM
                    It’s a goddamn pain in the ass. Now
                    look at this. I got to clean up all
                    these cups and plates.

                              JOSEPHINE
                         (walking away)
                    So? I get to do the tables and
                    floor. It’s our coffee shop,
                    remember? It’s what we do, what
                    we’ve done for god how many years?

                              BARNEY
                    Twenty-seven years.

                              JOSEPHINE
                         (shouting back)
                    You hear that? Twenty-seven years.

                              SAM
                    Don’t I know it. I just want it
                    back the way it was, the way it’s
                    supposed to be.

                              BARNEY
                    Empty.

                              SAM
                    Damn straight.

                              BARNEY
                    What about that fellow the other
                    day?

                              SAM
                    What fellow? One of that crowd?

                              BARNEY
                    No, the first one. First one after
                    me I mean. Came in here all suit
                    and tied.

                              SAM
                    You were passed out if I remember
                    right.

                              BARNEY
                         (pointing at his skull)
                    Barney sees and knows.
 
                              SAM
                         (rummaging in the still nearly
                         empty tip jar)
                    Left his card here, didn’t he? Said
                    he knew someone. Ah, here it is.
                    Willis P. Armstrong. Los Angeles.
                    Shit! That’s long distance!

                              BARNEY
                         (searching his pockets)
                    Think I got a dime in here
                    somewhere

                              SAM
                    Keep your dime. I’ll make the call.

          EXT. SIDEWALK OUTSIDE SAM’S COFFEE SHOP

          It is early morning and the coffee shop is not yet open. The
          sidewalk is deserted except for two people: WILLIS P.
          ARMSTRONG and ARLENE LIGHTNING BUG. WILLIS is extremely well
          dressed, in a light blue pastel suit, purple tie and shiny
          brown shoes. ARLENE is a contrast, a short, dumpy
          black-haired woman of indeterminate age (forties through
          sixties), covered in layers and layers of black lace
          wrappings and wearing heavy black combat boots. Her
          wide-brim black cowboy hat is also draped in lace. This
          color scheme is only broken up by a string of large turquoise
          beads around her neck. They are looking straight forward –
          the glass-plated front of the coffee shop would be where the
          audience is. Arlene is pointing directly a little to the
          side.

                              ARLENE
                         (in a crackly voice)
                    So that’s where she is?

                              WILLIS
                    No Arlene, there.

          WILLIS guides her arm to point straight ahead, and we notice
          that ARLENE is, if not completely blind, at least mostly so.

                              ARLENE
                    Ah! Yes. I can feel something, yes.

                              WILLIS
                         (takes a step back)
                    Just tell me what I can do
 
                              ARLENE
                         (waving him off)
                    It’s all right now. I’ve got a fix.
                    Now, where did I put my tinctures?

          ARLENE feels through her robes and after a search brings
          forth a clutch of small vials. She rubs them together
          between her hands and then, one by one, she shifts a bottle
          to one hand while still holding the others in the other
          hand, and brings it to her nose and sniffs briefly, until
          she has identified all of them by their smell. Then she
          slowly kneels down on the sidewalk and carefully places them
          in a half-circle pattern in front of her. Alternately
          muttering and chanting, she begins to open the bottles and
          splash some of each onto a different spot on the sidewalk in
          front of her. Each bottle contains a different colored
          liquid.

                              ARLENE
                         (speaking out loud now)
                    You see, Willis, life is sticky.
                    Whatever comes to you, stays with
                    you, until you shake it off. Shake
                    it off!

          ARLENE throws her arms around wildly as she says the second
          “shake it off” and then begins to laugh in a crazy-sounding
          cackle, very witch-like.

                              ARLENE
                    Sometimes it sticks so hard it
                    nails you down, right to the spot!
                    You can’t get away no matter how
                    hard you try. You are this, and
                    this you are.

                              ARLENE
                         (clucking)
                    She was such a pretty girl.

                              WILLIS
                    Everybody says so. I asked around.
                    Even as a very little girl, it was
                    always “oh how pretty she is”.
                    “Isn’t she precious?” A baby beauty
                    queen! They dressed her up in those
                    pageants, you know. Later on, the
                    whole thing, cheerleader, of
                    course. Prom Queen.
 
                              ARLENE
                    And now this.

                              WILLIS
                    Practically a tourist attraction.

                              ARLENE
                    So, we set her free then.

                              WILLIS
                    You think you can?

                              ARLENE
                    Someone’s coming.

                              WILLIS
                    Yes, it’s almost time.

          A businessman arrives and inspects the two newcomers with a
          frown.

                              BUSINESSMAN
                         (pointing at ARLENE)
                    Excuse me, but that’s my spot.

                              WILLIS
                    Not today, pal.

                              BUSINESSMAN
                    I don’t know who YOU are, but that
                    IS my spot.

                              WILLIS
                    Ladies first.

                              BUSINESSMAN
                         (sniffing the air)
                    And what’s that awful smell?

                              ARLENE
                    Tools, my friend.

                              BUSINESSMAN
                    I’m not your friend, and that’s my
                    spot.

                              ARLENE
                    I’ll give it back. I promise.
 
          The BUSINESSMAN sighs and takes up a position just behind
          and to the left of ARLENE. Other men begin to arrive, greet
          each other familiarly, and take up their own positions in
          what has clearly become a morning ritual. Many of them have
          coffee cups and breakfast rolls in their hands. There is a
          lot of chatter and banter as the day brightens, time passes
          as the sidewalk fills, and then the scene quiets down as the
          men begin to shush each other and a sort of awe comes over
          their transfixed faces. Gloria has appeared in the window.
          ARLENE reaches into her folds and brings out a box of wooden
          kitchen matches. She begins to light them, one by one,
          tossing each onto one of the little stains she had created
          on the sidewalk. As they land, the matches flare up in
          bright colors like little fireworks, followed by vivid curls
          or smoke in the color of the various liquids rising from
          those spots. The expression on the men’s faces change as
          some form oohs and aahs and there are mutterings about how
          “she’s never done that before,” and “what’s going on?”.
          Their eyes lift (apparently moving from Gloria’s chest to
          her face). WILLIS smiles with satisfaction and looks at
          ARLENE, who puts away the matchbook and brings out a mirror
          which she holds up facing directly ahead. She speaks in a
          steady, quiet voice now.

                              ARLENE
                    This is what they see.

          ARLENE pauses. We see, in the mirror only, the image of the
          beautiful young woman as described earlier, but only
          faintly. The image vanishes as ARLENE adjusts the mirror
          slightly. This is the only glimpse of GLORIA throughout.

                              ARLENE
                         (slowly, and pausing several
                         seconds between each sentence)
                    This is what they see, and this is
                    what they think they see. This is
                    what they know, and this is what
                    they think they know. This is who
                    you are, and this is who you think
                    you are. This is what you were, and
                    this is what they thought you were.
                    This is what’s within you, and this
                    is what they think you are.

          WILLIS starts to move forward but ARLENE holds out one arm
          to keep him back. The other still holds the mirror forward.
          There is utter silence.
 
                              ARLENE
                         (as before, incanting and
                         pausing between phrases)
                    This is what I was, and this is
                    what they thought I was. This is
                    what I am, and this is what they
                    think I am. This is how I looked,
                    and this is how they saw me. This
                    is how I look now, and this is how
                    they see me now. This is what’s
                    within me, and this is what they
                    think I am. This is what’s within
                    them and this is what they know
                    they are.

          The men around ARLENE become uncomfortable and start to
          shift in their places. One by one they show embarrassment and
          turn their faces away. Like ‘the wave’ at a ballpark, it is
          as if they are each in the spotlight in turn, as if GLORIA
          is looking at each of them now and not in a good way.

                              ARLENE
                         (her voice still calm and
                         steady)
                    You are not your body. You never
                    were. No one is. You are not your
                    hair. Your are not your face. You
                    are not your legs. You are not your
                    breasts. You are not the surface of
                    your skin.

          As she lists the various body parts, some of the men begin
          to back away, to turn away. Unexpectedly, the BUSINESSMAN
          opens his mouth and speaks, but not in his voice. He speaks
          in GLORIA’s voice.

                              BUSINESSMAN
                    What am I, then?

                              ARLENE
                         (as ever, pausing between
                         phrases)
                    You, like each of us, are one
                    expression of an infinite. One
                    shade. One light. One moment. One
                    truth. You are your self.
 
          A murmur ripples through the crowd as various voices are
          heard saying things like “Where’d she go?” “What happened?”
          “What did the old woman do?” “Where is she?”. “I guess she’s
          gone”. “It’s over”. “Do you think she’ll be back”? As the
          men are saying these things, WILLIS comes forward and takes
          ARLENE’s arm (she has put the mirror away), and they walk
          off to the side. One by one, the men disperse until the
          sidewalk is back to normal again, just people passing by
          like usual.

          (If a film, the scene could circle around to show SAM’S
          COFFEE SHOP, its picture window vacant, and no one inside
          except a smiling SAM, a slumped over BARNEY, and a grumpy
          JOSEPHINE, as in the beginning).

                              THE END
                   
                   

         
                   

                             

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