INT. BILOXI BASE COMMANDER’S OFFICE—DAY

You come in through the window.  Nothing in the sill.  You go past the flags.  The decorations on the wall.  Popovitch behind his desk.  In uniform.  Smoking a cigar.  And a chair centered perfectly in front of the desk.  Johnny sitting there.  And then David.  Just a hint of an image of them coming in at attention to report.  And the salute as they leave.  Like that part was edited out.  Only the residuals left.  Ghosts paying a visit to an old man.

POPOVITCH

Tuskegee?  I don’t think so.  You made yourself a friend so stick with your friend.  Now that you’ve been guests in my prison you can be guards there.  I’m expecting a shipment of prisoners next week.  German officers—pilots shot down over England.  The papers have already gone through.  You report to duty tomorrow. 

Johnny leans forward in the chair.  And David sits back.  The same chair.  Formalities now.  The passing judgment.  In the clear sunlight coming from the window.

DAVID

(mixed with Johnny’s voice)

          But we did nothing wrong.

POPOVITCH

No, you did nothing wrong.  But you’re not being rewarded from doing something right either.  You fled authority…  Here’s your guitar back.  The contraband’s been confiscated.  What we found in my daughter’s car.  I don’t know where you found it, but your new CO has been informed.  We better not smell it on you.  POW’s are your responsibility now.  And don’t think you won’t see war.  I made a note in both your files.  Infantry assignments for both of you, an anti-tank battalion, when our involvement escalates in Europe.

DAVID

          It’s missing a string.

POPOVITCH

You shouldn’t leave things behind you don’t want to be used.  Just be glad you got it back.  It belongs to you—doesn’t it?  You can’t escape what belongs to you.

JOHNNY

(mixed with David’s voice)

          Did you find him?  Did you find Nina’s murderer?

POPOVITCH

There was nothing to find.  He killed himself.  Case closed.  And this is my last official act—dealing with you two.  My letter for early retirement has been accepted.

DAVID

          I heard he was an old man.  An old man like you.

POPOVITCH

Age means nothing when you’re dead…  Do you like baseball?  I don’t watch it that much, but to me it’s a very interesting game.  Psychological.  You steal another man’s hope, another man’s faith, and you practice not to let another man steal your faith, your hope.  This done for one simple reason.  Done for the love of the game…  You’re not going to get anything.  I don’t know what you expected.  Some ending other than this.  Some magic to my words.  Some revelation…  Necessities.  That’s all you’ll find here.  Everything that’s happened leads to this—now.  Barren of what all you may have imagined…  And is it too simple for you?  This is your life.  Your life and what comes next decided this way, here in rooms like this.  Because I have the power and you don’t.  That’s the secret.  And if that makes me an old man then I guess I am…  You can leave now.  And take your papers with you.

     EXT. MISSISSIPPI CROSSROADS—DAY

You see the back of a Model T Ford.  The back window as it drives over the next hill.  Leaving the crossroads behind.  And the lonesome tree there.  The back of David’s head.  Centered perfectly.  No music.  No sound.  As it and the car disappears.

JOHNNY (V.O.)

Don’t believe in nothing that makes you feel bad.

DAVID (V.O.)

And I knew it wouldn’t hold them, but I did it anyway—after seeing that car—what it reminded me of.  Like it had already happened.  Because it had happened before…  No, I didn’t need that guitar no more.  I knew it before I did it, and somehow I knew I knew I would know—ya know?  That feeling you get sometimes about how time really works.  Your whole life already happened… making it happen… so it can happen.  Like your death is in your birth, and your birth is in your death.  That line we perceive in between somehow curving in on itself—parabolic—parallels meeting somehow because they begin and end the same—in something lasting forever…  It was like I was seeing myself in a mirror, in broken glass, but it was someone else being me, and yet I still knew it was me, it being already a memory, a memory of something going to happen…

 FADE OUT

12

            And did the curtain really close?  What was it?  What was this mind movie—in two parts—it’s ending naked and bare, a repetition of something already spoken…?  That day.  That day Johnny Tribout and David Threnody were judged.  Their future judged.  That day was just a day.  All the words in between—the thoughts and emotions—containing the ending in them.  So when the ending comes you’re left with only memories.  The ending itself empty.  No voice.  No voice to speak it.  This the surprise of everything new.  And the words for the next chapter.

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