by Kitty Kavey
Short screenplay - drama/animation.
INT. GIRL’S BEDROOM - DAY
A young girl’s bedroom; small, sparsely furnished. Accents of pink try to hide worn, second-hand furniture. Gray walls contain only a small print of a dancer. A single window reveals rain as it streams down, condensation hides the view beyond.
MELISSA, 12, a thin, petite girl with brown eyes and long, dark hair, sits in a chair, stares out the window, chin in hands. You can see her from the waist up, shadows hide the floor of the room.
She sighs, frowns. There is no sound for a moment, but for the rain as it pelts against the window. Her eyelids droop over her eyes, her hair spills forward over her face.
She startles to attention, awake, eyes wide. An idea! She leaps from the chair, a pretty skirt swirls around rubber boots. She grabs a bright raincoat, puts it on. She swings the casement window open, clambers through.
EXT. FARMHOUSE - CONTINUOUS
Melissa steps out of the window of an old, quaint farmhouse onto lush, green grass. Rain patterns a small pond. A team of DUCKS waddle up a pebble pathway. Fields decorate the distance with mountains as a backdrop. It’s picturesque.
Melissa imitates the ducks, they waddle closer to each other, unafraid. A warm spring rain wets her hair. She twirls, pirouettes; a dance of delight. Her smile appears, grows, beams forth, transforms the gray rainy day into a bright celebration. The ducks are happy, they join her dance.
Melissa frolics and leaps; a ballerina, a gymnast. The ducks follow, less graceful, but they don’t hold back. They move together, a carefree dance of energy and freedom.
INT. GIRL’S BEDROOM - DAY
Melissa slumps forward in her chair, eyes closed. Her hair is dry. Her chin slips from her hands, startles her awake. The rain streams down the window. She tries to peer out, can’t. She rubs some of the condensation off, reveals a single pane window, bars on the outside. A narrow alley and a blank, dilapidated wall of a neighbor’s house looms through the rain. Her eyes go wide. An idea!
She reaches down, picks up disability crutches, uses them to rise from her chair. She’s not wearing a pretty skirt, but cheap polyester pants and orthopedic shoes. She awkwardly crosses her room. A grimace of pain flits across her face. She reaches her bedroom door, opens it, leaves.
INT. MOM’S BEDROOM - DAY
A tattered curtain allows some light into a small, gloomy room. A cluttered night table next to a double bed supports a pile of tissues, prescription pill bottles, old takeout containers and empty booze bottles. The outline of a woman under the covers is in one side of the bed, the other side holds old newspapers, dirty clothes and riffraff.
A soft KNOCK on the door.
Silence. No movement from the bed. The door opens, Melissa enters, maneuvers around half-open cardboard packing boxes.
The shape stirs, a head pops up, peeks out from under the covers. MOM, 30s, thin with short, dyed hair and tired, puffy eyes. She looks as if she’s been ill or crying.
Her voice is weak, unsure.
I’m going out to play, ok?
Mom lies back down. Silence.
She sounds louder, more irritated now.
Melissa turns on a light atop a dresser, illuminates a framed family snapshot: Mom, healthy, happy, a younger Melissa with her crutches, and a man with his arms around them both, smiles proudly.
Mom sits up, blinks against the light, frowns, rubs her eyes with a wad of tissue. She’s in oversized, stained sweats.
Mom, please. Come outside. It’s been weeks since... since you’ve been out of this room.
Melissa waits. Mom doesn’t answer, wipes her nose. Melissa turns towards the door.
Turn out the light, please.
Mom lies down, pulls the cover up. Melissa turns off the light, leaves the room.
EXT. DILAPIDATED HOUSE - DAY
The neighborhood was nice once, but time has not been kind to cheap construction and years of apathy. Cookie-cutter houses in equal states of disrepair slump together in a uniformly gray block. Big city sounds of hustle and traffic filter in from the distance.
Melissa exits the house, wears an oversized windbreaker and her orthopedic shoes. She carefully clumps her way off a leaking portico, rickety stairs, and into the front yard; a concrete slab half-enclosed by a patched, chain-link fence.
Two people are nearby; a TEEN GIRL in a hoodie loiters on the corner, and a FAT MAN pushes a cart filled with groceries down the sidewalk. Their expressions are as gloomy as the weather.
Melissa looks up at the cloudy sky, closes her eyes against the rain. She smiles, just a tiny hint of a grin that grows until it is a beam that spreads across her face.
EXT. DILAPIDATED HOUSE/FARMHOUSE - DAY (FANTASY)
Melissa opens her eyes, looks down. Her crumbling concrete yard appears to be lush green grass, the people in the neighborhood are ducks; a big fat one and a smaller duck.
Melissa dances, freely, without reserve. Her dilapidated house becomes the quaint farmhouse. She twirls like a ballerina, wears a beautiful skirt and a bright raincoat.
EXT. DILAPIDATED HOUSE - CONTINUOUS
The people stop, stare. For a moment the rain and Melissa’s dance is the only movement.
The Teen Girl leaves the corner, approaches, enters Melissa’s yard.
Hey. New here?
Melissa clumps around, awkwardly “dances,” but with such a smile of joy, it seems less gray right there in her yard.
Melissa stumbles, trips on a crutch. The Teen Girl catches her, supports her gently.
Want me to show you some moves?
The Teen Girl releases her.
C’mon, let’s work this out.
The two youngsters put their heads together, figure out how to get Melissa’s crutches to work with her dance abilities.
The Fat Man props his cart against the fence, watches.
The youngsters quickly coordinate a combination of hip-hop and kung-fu crutch moves, create an impressive dance.
Melissa giggles, her joy spreads through the block. While the sky stays gray, shades of color appear; first at Melissa’s house, then in the rest of the neighborhood.
The Fat Man claps along in rhythm for the youngsters, waddles into the yard, sits on the edge of the portico.
INT. MOM’S BEDROOM - DAY
Mom pulls the covers down, sits up in bed. She hears the rhythmic claps and children’s laughs. She shrugs on an oversized man’s shirt, gets up stiffly, goes to her window.
She draws the tattered curtain aside, peers through a barred window. Her daughter and the teen dance in the rain, soaked. She draws in a sharp breath, drops the curtain, hurries from the room.
EXT. DILAPIDATED HOUSE - DAY
Mom rushes out the front door.
She sees the Fat Man sitting there, stops short.
Sorry, I didn’t see you. I thought it was just the kids out here alone.
The Fat Man gets up, extends a hand, they shake politely.
I’m Bob. No worries, Mrs..?
She drops his hand, wraps the oversized shirt around her.
Ms... Uh, just Karen. My husband... passed.
Mom takes a step back towards the door. Melissa clomps up behind the Fat Man, he steps to the side.
You’re soaking wet!
I know. Wanna see what we can do?
They are really fun to watch.
Mom attempts a more polite expression.
I don’t know why you’re so... happy.
Melissa’s body slumps, she looks down, her smile wavers.
Y’know what? It doesn’t matter. Go, show me.
Melissa straightens, beams, clomps off, joins the Teen Girl. They start their coordinated dance.
The Fat Man sits back down, pats a spot for Mom to join him. She sits, and a small smile builds on her face as she watches. She and the Fat Man clap along in rhythm.
EXT. FARMHOUSE/DILAPIDATED HOUSE - DAY (FANTASY)
Melissa doesn’t see the dilapidated house, the patched chain-link fence, or the decaying, seedy, neighborhood.
She dances with her new friend, wears a beautiful skirt, dry under a bright raincoat. She leaps and twirls, dances with a young duck in the rain, carefree.
Her feet prance over fresh green grass next to a quaint farmhouse. Her world is bordered by trees and mountains.
The two adult ducks watch from under a leaky portico. The sky stays gray. Melissa’s dance of joy brings it’s own brightness and color to one tiny, dilapidated concrete yard, radiates out through the neighborhood.
Melissa clomps over to the portico, tailed by the teen girl.
Mom, can we all go in for juice and cookies?
Everyone reacts as if that’s a great idea, save for Mom. A moment of dismay flashes across her face. She covers with a smile, gets up, grasps the wall discreetly for support.
I’ve got some extra sodas.
He gets up, retrieves his cart of groceries.
Uh... sure. Thanks.
I’m Melissa, this is my mom. We moved here in March.
A flurry of introductions and handshakes ensues. The Fat Man discovers soda and paper cups in his cart.
Enough for everyone. Even got some cups here.
It’s okay, Mom?
For a moment, Mom looks as if she will say no.
I’ll lead, you follow.
Melissa strikes a traditional partner dance pose, crutches dangle from her arms.
Mom inhales deeply, stands up straight, squares her shoulders.
Okay. Go ahead.
Melissa leads the way inside. The Fat Man and Teen Girl follow, engrossed with smiles and friendly chatter. Mom is last. She looks at the dilapidated house, now filled with new friends. She doesn’t see the worn facade or the leaky portico. She chuckles, enters. The door of a quaint farmhouse closes behind her.