Chapter 1, Scene 1: Red Clay

EXT. U-STORE-IT UNIT – LEXINGTON, KY – DAY

MITCH FIELDS, 49, stands behind an open 16-foot U-HAUL RENTAL TRUCK, peering into the loaded cavity. Mitch is tall and lanky but not slender, honest but not blunt, wandering but not homeless, and experienced but not wise.

We see some FURNITURE, several BOXES, a pair of BAR STOOLS, the end of a SMALL UPRIGHT PIANO, and a handful of POTTED PLANTS, all packed in, tight and efficient.

The late-summer sunshine has already warmed the asphalt beneath Mitch’s feet. Some distant ROAD NOISE floats in from the background to accent what may appear to be a moment of calmness.

His brow, dappled with beads of sweat mixed with dust, shows a tired but accomplished expression from underneath his well-worn BALL CAP.

He surveys the rows of concrete-block buildings, built to maximize the square footage on the lot while allowing efficient flow of trucks, minivans and gooseneck trailers.

He checks the time on his CELL PHONE – 11:17.

He takes the SUNGLASSES that hang from his similarly sweaty and dirty t-shirt and puts them on. He inserts EARBUDS into his hears and hits a button on the phone.

CUE MUSIC: FRANK SINATRA’S VERSION OF THEME FROM NEW YORK, NEW YORK.

He puts the phone in his pocket and pulls the rear door down, closing in the sum of material representations of his life.  He puts a PADLOCK on the latch.

WIDE SHOT: TRUCK PULLING AWAY FROM THE STORAGE UNIT.

       SINATRA (SINGING)
Start spreadin’ the news.
I’m leaving today.
I want to be a part of it.
New York, New York.

EXT. HIGHWAY – MOVING – DAY

The song continues as we see more SHOTS of the truck:

… ROLLING ONTO INTERSTATE-75

… THROUGH THE ROLLING HILLS OF NORTHERN KENTUCKY

INT. FRONT CAB OF U-HAUL TRUCK – CONTINUOUS

Mitch spies a RED-TAIL HAWK soaring high above him, just ahead. He leans forward to watch it through squinting eyes.  He smiles.

EXT. HIGHWAY – MOVING – CONTINUOUS

The truck merges onto the PENNSYLVANIA TURNPIKE.

INT. FRONT CAB OF U-HAUL TRUCK – CONTINUOUS

Mitch drives the truck. The earbuds still pump Frank’s voice into his head as he sings along.

       SINATRA / MITCH (SINGING)
These little-town blues
Are melting away.
I’m gonna make a brand new start of it
In old New York.
And… If I can make it there,
I’ll make it –

A RINGTONE cuts the music off abruptly.

He glances at the screen.

INSERT: CELL PHONE SHOWING CONTACT – “MOM”

He squeezes on the earbud cord to answer the call.

       MITCH
Hey.

       MOM
Well, how far have you got?

       MITCH
Almost to Harrisburg.

       MOM
Where’s that?

       MITCH
Pennsylvania

       MOM
Oh, you’re making good time.

       MITCH
I got out sooner that I planned.
Couldn’t sleep and I figured
instead of laying there thinking
about it, I might as well get it
done. So I was there about four
thirty this morning.

       MOM
Good lord.

       MITCH
I know.

Mitch notices another RED-TAIL HAWK perched on a tree branch off the side of the road as he passes by.

       MOM
Well, you be careful. Don’t fall
asleep driving.

       MITCH
I’m all caffeine’d up.

       MOM
In that big truck.

       MITCH
It’s fine. This ain’t my first
rodeo.

       MOM
I know. I’ve seen you drive them
things away before. You know.

       MITCH
Yeah.

       MOM
Surely you’re not driving it all
the way through tonight.

       MITCH
No. I’m about to get off and find
a room here soon.

       MOM
Good. I hope you can rest.

       MITCH
I can use it. Plus I want to drive
across the George Washington Bridge
in the clear light of day tomorrow.

       MOM
Lord, I wouldn’t even know where
that is either.

       MITCH
I know, Mama. It’s alright.

EXT. MEXICAN RESTAURANT – RURAL PENNSYLVANIA – NIGHT

The U-Haul sits outside of the ‘Su Casa, Su Casa’ restaurant.

INT. MEXICAN RESTAURANT – RURAL PENNSYLVANIA – CONTINUOUS

Mitch sits at the bar eating dinner. No one else sits at the bar, and the darkened restaurant is nearly empty. A half-full Margarita glass complements the dish.

The TV above the bar displays a soccer match; the Spanish speaking announcer calls the match over the boisterous crowd.

He sips from the Margarita and tunes into the soccer match.  The referee issues a red card to an enraged player. The offending player slings animated gestures at the referee as his teammates attempt to restrain him.

Mitch chuckles at the scene.

       MAN’S VOICE (O.S.)
He’s in a mood, isn’t he?

       MITCH
Yes, he is. Hot blooded, I guess.

Mitch turns to find RON SMITH, early 60s. Ron is a bit heavy-set, but jolly in every aspect of his appearance.  His smooth white hair frames his round, warm face.  His voice is deep and velvety smooth, and with just the right amount of genuine Kentucky accent to put anyone at ease.

       RON
Just like the thoroughbreds. It’s
all about the blood.

       MITCH
I must have seen about a dozen
hawks today, so I figured it was
about time you showed up.

       RON
You know I’m never far away.

       MITCH
Please. I’m sure there are plenty
of other souls out here you’re
looking over. I’d imagine they
keep your dance card pretty full.

       RON
Not at all. You must be needing to
talk.

       MITCH
A little reassurance wouldn’t hurt.

       RON
When I was fresh out of college, I
was driving Senator Cooper around
eastern Kentucky with his campaign,
and – have I ever told this?

       MITCH
Only about a hundred times.

Ron flashes a gleaming smile.

       RON
It’s worth telling again. I was in
line for a staff job, either in
Lexington, or maybe even in
Washington. Life was all planned
out for me. But somewhere deep
down, I knew my future wouldn’t be
in politics, and it wouldn’t even
be in Kentucky. When I gave him my
resignation letter, he said
something that I’ll remember
forever.

       MITCH
You’re dead, Ron. All you have
left is ‘forever’.

       RON
It was both the easiest and yet the
hardest decision I ever made. And
he knew that. He shook my hand,
put his other hand on my shoulder
and said, “Ronnie, no matter where
you go, you know you’ll never get
that red clay off your boots.”

       MITCH
He was right. I brought a big
handful of that red Kentucky clay
all the way to Dallas and threw it
in the open grave before they
lowered you down into it.

       RON
I know. And I imagine he knew
you’d do that too, even back then.

       MITCH
Is this some kind of “time folds
back onto itself” thing?

       RON
You tell me. Is that what’s
bothering you? Time?

       MITCH
It’s been almost eight years.

       RON
Flew by, didn’t it?

Mitch shakes his head.

       MITCH
Shit, Ron. That seems like an entire
lifetime ago.

       RON
Then there’s your answer. How many
lifetimes are you going to get?

       MITCH
Only one more. Back to square one,
I suppose.

       RON
I wouldn’t say that. You’ve got a
couple of bright, beautiful squares
to show for it.

       MITCH
Yeah. Good squares.

       RON
And remember, they have their
lifetimes, too. In fact, they’re
both pretty good at it, so far.

       MITCH
It’s been a lot to overcome.

       RON
That’s what I miss so much about
being here: the challenges.

       MITCH
Yeah? Well, I’m up for a big one
now, my friend.

       RON
What’s a climber without a
mountain?

       MITCH
Yeah. A good mountain.

Mitch smiles.

Ron stands from the bar stool and moves to Mitch’s side. He places his left hand on Mitch’s shoulder.

       RON
I know you’re not a red-clay kind
of guy, but you have your own
version… or should I say, you
have two of them. And they’ll
always be on your boots.

Ron’s smile widens again, and he winks at Mitch.

WIDE SHOT OF THE BAR, and we see only Mitch sitting there, gazing off into the distance.

He picks up his cell phone and punches up the text-messaging app, which shows a previous group-message conversation with REBECCA and CHELSEA. He types up a message.

       MITCH (VIA TEXT)
Good night, my sweet girls. Talk
to you soon.

And hits SEND.

INT. MOTEL ROOM – NIGHT

The door opens from the outside, and Mitch enters, tosses his keys on the side table. We see his small suitcase and backpack on the bed, with a few items already unpacked and lying around.

NEXT: Mitch, in a t-shirt and pajama pants, brushes his teeth at the sink.

NEXT: He plops down on the bed, grabs the remote and turns on the TV. The movie I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry has just begun. He shows a slight smile of acceptance, maybe even peace, and he lets out an exhale which allows his shoulders to relax.

NEXT: The movie still plays, somewhere in the later half, and we see that Mitch has fallen asleep.

END OF SCENE

6 thoughts on “Chapter 1, Scene 1: Red Clay”

  1. Love this. What a great way to share your life experiences! Full of courage and acceptance so far.
    I can’t wait to read the next scene.

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