Omniality: Screenplays

Cygnet

Selection From The Screenplay
About This Film

INT. PORT AUTHORITY BUS TERMINAL - NIGHT

Lines snake about, converging every which way around the boarding floor. None of them move an inch. It’s heat and grime and all poor sweat: whining; crying; angered pre-dawn anxiety built to fervor from waiting all night. A WALTZ PLAYS ON THE P.A. SYSTEM.

A BUS OPERATOR sticks his head out of GATE 64; BELLOWS:

BUS OPERATOR

Anyone on this line going to ALBANY! ALBANY ONLY!

Manic re-shifting of lines occurs. SHOUTING. SHOVING. SWEARING.

Bus Operator, tired, waves away his frustration and disappears back behind the door. A SCRUM at the door he leaves, like rats after food.

MARCUS BIRCH has seen better days. Clothes shabby, face puffy. Permanently wrinkled with worry. Appears to be hanging back, but in moments slips through the unattended doors of Gate 60.

INT. GARAGE, PORT AUTHORITY BUS TERMINAL - NIGHT

BUS OPERATOR tears off paper billets as people emerge from inside in a trickle, having muscled their way through.

MARCUS pulls his ticket from his duffel bag and jogs to him.

SHOUTS OF INJUSTICE INSIDE; OTHER RIDERS are just happy to get on.

MARCUS

Albany?

Bus Operator waves him on. So he boards.

EXT. PORT AUTHORITY BUS TERMINAL - DAY

Finally dawn. The bus CHUGS OUT of the garage into the still-quiet of Midtown, and rumbles down the freshly-plowed street.

HOLD HERE, as it pulls away from us and makes a turn, out of sight.

INT. BUS - DAY

Marcus rides, seated by a window. His finger idly plays with the condensate as the Bus Operator makes his announcements:

BUS OPERATOR (V.O.)

(filtered)

Good morning, everyone: this is Bus 2209 to Albany. Albany ONLY. We’re gonna make one stop for gas, but you gotta be headed for ALBANY. Otherwise, lemme know.

No one on the bus speaks up.

BUS OPERATOR (V.O.) (CONT’D)

Be advised we’re riding with the storm as it moves north. Should be about four, four and a half hours to our destination. Thank you for choosing Greyhound.

P.A. CLICKS OFF.

Marcus settles into his seat, and shuts his eyes.

CELESTE (V.O.)

Well, where is she?

We find Celeste speaks in:

INT. CYROS DINER, MURRAY HILL - DAY

... Where she interrogates someone via pay phone near the entrance. She blows into raw hands (bandage still there). She’s red-faced and wrecked, soggy and strung-out.

CELESTE

I wanna know.

(beat, listening, then quieter)

Tell me, god damn it; I have a—

(even quieter)

—I have a fucking right to know.

Clock reads 7 AM. The COUNTERMAN turns on the TV above the dessert case. ON IT, LOCAL NEWS COVERAGE OF THE BLIZZARD.

CELESTE (CONT’D)

Did she go to her sister’s?

(beat)

She went to her sister’s.

(beat)

I can hear it in your voice, asshole.

COUNTERMAN busies himself. He can hear her, no matter how far away he moves.

EXT. SECOND AVENUE - DAY

Snow still falls, but lighter.

At the end of the block, we see the diner. But up here, Susan shovels. Salts. Shovels. Salts. Faster. Faster.

INT. CYROS DINER, MURRAY HILL - DAY

Still on the pay phone, Celeste pulls out her cell. Tries to work it but it drips water.

CELESTE

Y’know what? We’re done.

(beat, listening)

Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Don’t call me anymore to fix your piddling bullshit, you rat fuck.

(beat, listening)

Fine. Fine. Fuck you. Fine.

SLAMS the receiver on its hook. Tugs her coat, for lack of something heavy to throw.

Counterman watches as she walks past him to the bathroom.

CELESTE (CONT’D)

Irish coffee; pancakes. Booth in the corner.

Counterman NODS.

Throws her hands into the bathroom door to open it.

EXT. SECOND AVENUE - DAY

Susan sucks wind, trying to relax. The stoop and walk are shoveled and salted, but she drips with sweat and whips her hat off to wring it out. Pants. Tosses the shovel under the other side of a bush. Leans against the gate. Holds onto it.

INT. BATHROOM, CYROS DINER, MURRAY HILL - DAY

Celeste WHACKS the trigger of an automatic dryer with the butt of her fist, and it ROARS. She runs her phone under it. Peels the ragged bandage off her hand. Grimaces. From here, we’ll see just the bad burn.

INT. CYROS DINER, MURRAY HILL - DAY

Counterman walks the coffee to Celeste’s booth when Susan enters. He knows her.

COUNTERMAN

Mornin’, sweetie.

BEAT. Susan looks about, and picks a seat at the counter. Away from the presumed stranger.

COUNTERMAN (CONT’D)

You alone?

SUSAN

I was always the smart one. You know that.

Counterman returns to his post without a retort, writing up another order, unbidden, and sending it into the kitchen.

SUSAN (CONT’D)

He never listens.

Counterman nods absently. In a moment, we hear FRYING.

Celeste breaks out of the bathroom, squinting at the change in light. Susan and the Counterman, having turned to the noise of her exit, return to the TV. When Celeste sits behind her coffee, she sinks into the seat. Shuts her eyes.

Susan can see her from her counter perch. Looks over only briefly.

Celeste takes the coffee perfectly in hand without opening those eyes. And she sips. And she’s further dispirited. Opens her eyes.

Counterman slides a cup of tea to Susan. She nods a thanks, but glances again to Celeste.

CELESTE

Excuse me?

He turns. Celeste jerks a thumb up into the air a couple times. He retreats to his post.

Susan watches him get the bottle of Jameson, return to Celeste’s booth; pour another shot.

COUNTERMAN

Pancakes in just a moment.

He heads back. Celeste stirs. Glances at Susan. So Susan looks back up at the television.

A PRESS CONFERENCE ON SCREEN, sporting the “LIVE” label. The MAYOR, speaking at a sanitation depot behind a podium, surrounded by deputies, including AIDES #1 and #2.

MAYOR (V.O.)

All indication is that the tri-state area’s avoided the worst of the blizzard, but that’s not saying much. Twenty-two inches have been recorded in Manhattan going back to early yesterday; twenty-five in Queens and Brooklyn. Department of Sanitation and Department of Transportation officials report that all our primary streets have been cleared, and the secondary and service roads will be cleared by the evening rush.

Susan stirs her tea. Pours some milk. Stirs some more. Takes a careful sip. Peeks over.

Celeste has been watching her, not the TV.

Susan doesn’t immediately turn away.

CELESTE

Can I help you?

SUSAN

(back to TV)

No.

BEAT. Celeste looks Susan over, very carefully.

CELESTE

You’re a reporter.

SUSAN

(beat)

Photo editor for the News. Used to be.

Celeste swallows, then looks away. Straight ahead. Tosses her wet hair as best she can. Drinks.

CELESTE

Shouldn’t you be working?

SUSAN

I left.

(sips, shakes head)

Can’t forget you, though.

Celeste’s pancakes arrive before she can ask what that’s supposed to mean.

SUSAN (CONT’D)

(to COUNTERMAN, quietly, sweetly)

Can I get the phone?

Now Celeste is on high alert. She slides the coffee away, the plate away; sits in the booth like she’ll leap out of it if Susan calls the wrong person.

Counterman brings Susan a cordless handset, and Susan dials, paying no attention to her fellow diner.

SUSAN (CONT’D)

Thanks.

She dials, perching on the stool.

Celeste sweats. Glances at her drink. Back at Susan.

Susan waits to hear something; seems frustrated, too. Then, success:

SUSAN (CONT’D)

(into phone)

Hey. It’s Susan.

(beat)

Did I wake you? ...Oh, okay... No, yeah, I know, it’s crazy... yeah... yeah... yeah...

Celeste reaches for the drink.

SUSAN (CONT’D)

So, listen... I’m wondering if I can maybe borrow your car.

(beat, listening)

...I gotta go get Marcus. He’s headed up to... yeah. ...YEAH. It’s REALLY fucking stupid.

Celeste relaxes considerably, sitting back where she was, surveying sadly the breakfast before her. She chooses the pancakes. Pours some syrup. A bite.

SUSAN (CONT’D)

(chuckles ruefully)

Up north... yeah... yeah... I know I shouldn’t... well, they said...

Her voice catches. And that catches Celeste’s attention.

SUSAN (CONT’D)

Yeah... true; you’re right. No problem... sorry to bother you... Bye.

Celeste has perked up again. Turns to stare. Exasperated, Susan hangs up.

SUSAN (CONT’D)

Shit.

(to COUNTERMAN)

Thanks.

The Counterman delivers a plate of eggs, sausage, and hash browns. Susan dusts the eggs with pepper, and cuts into them.

Celeste watches Susan eat.

Susan feels the gaze.

SUSAN (CONT’D)

Can I help you?

CELESTE

How far north you going?

SUSAN

‘Scuse me?

CELESTE

How far north?

Susan glances up again at the television. Celeste takes a drink.

SUSAN

I’m not going anywhere. Can’t.

Glances over.

Celeste raises an eyebrow.

SUSAN (CONT’D)

Central Massachusetts.

Jackpot. Celeste sits straight.

CELESTE

Know how to get to Arlington, Mass from there?

SUSAN

Sure. Why?

Celeste picks up her whole production, and joins Susan at the counter. Sits. Sets her plate aside. Susan’s caught off-guard.

CELESTE

I have a car.

SUSAN

(beat)

And you’ll lend it to me.

CELESTE

If you take me where I need to go.

SUSAN

Drive yourself.

In answer to a tonal question, Celeste takes another drink.

SUSAN (CONT’D)

Wait ‘til you’re sober.

Celeste shakes her head no, and cuts into the pancakes. Susan sighs, mulling. Looks about. While she does, Celeste checks out her putative driver’s body. Stops when she sits back.

SUSAN (CONT’D)

No.

CELESTE

Why not?

SUSAN

Pick a reason. They’re all good.

CELESTE

Here I thought you were desperate.

BEAT. Susan stews.

CELESTE (CONT’D)

Whatever. Sure you’ve got other options. And it doesn’t even matter. Marcus’ll be fine.

BEATS. Susan knows what Celeste is doing. She doesn’t care.

SUSAN

(beat)

I’d need to do my thing first.

CELESTE

Your thing quick?

SUSAN

Hopefully.

CELESTE

Then we shouldn’t have a problem. Long as we beat the storm.

BEAT. Susan’s wary.

Celeste’s gaze now roams over Susan. Openly this time. Now Susan’s even more mistrustful. Opens her mouth (to take back her decision), but glances up at the television.

A WEATHER MAP on the TV shows a blanket of white bearing down on New England. Massachusetts in its cross-hairs.

SUSAN

It’s not a stick shift, is it?

CELESTE

It’s not a stick shift.

***