The Great Griffith

Matthew Lederman

8/6/90

INT. KITCHEN. NIGHT.

JOHN Griffith sits in an old wooden kitchen chair front of a computer set on a kitchen table. A daisy-wheel printer and a pile of paper feeding through it sits at the other end. A plate of half- eaten food sits on the table. Books are piled on the rest of the table, some open face down, some being used as bookmarks in others. The sink behind him is filled with rinsed dishes. A tall symmetric pile of empty beer cans reaches from the counter up to the ceiling. A pile of mail sits on the floor at John's feet. John types rapidly, stops and reads the computer screen. He hits a few keys, activating the printer. The printer clatters noisily. John walks over to the refrigerator, takes out a can of beer, pops the top and takes a long slug. He slides open a desk drawer and takes out a huge revolver. He examines it, snaps the cylinder open, inspects the bullets, snaps it shut and walks over to the printer. He cocks the gun, reads the page as it is being printed, scowls and lets the hammer down lightly. A door slams. He turns quickly toward the noise then looks around quickly and slips the revolver under the paper coming out of the printer.

JOHN

(casually, but warily)

Hello? Hello?

No one answers. The printer stops. John advances toward the door warily. ELSA Meredith slinks through, smiling brilliantly behind her black Wayfarers. She is dressed entirely in black, stretch pants and leotard under a skin tight short shirt and some engineered black lingerie draped carelessly over her shoulders. Her black hair is pulled straight back away from her face. White powder and bright red lipstick give her face a slightly ghoulish look. She looks around the room, moving her head in an exaggerated fashion so that John knows she is examining it even though her eyes are hidden behind the sunglasses. She moves her head so that her face is pointed directly at John's.

ELSA

What's the matter?

JOHN

(sullenly)

With what?

ELSA

With you, darling. You look upset.

JOHN

Nothing. I was expecting someone else.

ELSA

(laughing)

I haven't even left town yet.

JOHN

(angrily)

It wasn't that....

ELSA

I know. Don't be so sensitive.

Elsa takes her sunglasses off and looks at the pile of paper that covers the end of the table. She smiles and turns to John.

ELSA

(continuing)

You've been writing.

JOHN

(angrily)

No!

The smile vanishes from Elsa's face. Her face trembles like she is about to cry. John reaches toward her. He smiles crookedly, embarrassed that he shouted. Emboldened, Elsa smiles thinly and points to the pile of paper.

ELSA

What is that?

JOHN

Just notes. Notes for something I'm going to do.

ELSA

Can I see them?

JOHN

(angrily)

No!

(contritely)

Sorry. You'll see it later.

ELSA

(meekly)

How much later? Remember I'm going to Los Angeles tonight.

JOHN

(sarcastically)

I've been trying to forget.

ELSA

(teasing)

Jealous? I knew you were.

JOHN

(pompously)

Me? Remember this, Elsa, when you're sitting in an airless cubicle with a bunch of semi-adolescent surfers writing bad dialogue for a forgettable movie, remember that you're a screenwriter and I'm a novelist. Remember that....

ELSA

(tiredly)

Remember that I'm a whore and you're an artist?

(sarcastically)

Is the mark of artistry the number of rejection letters you've received? Is it the number of unpublished pages that you've torn out of the torment of your burning soul? Is it the number of published novelists that you're contemptuous of? The number of critics you can't stomach? The number of journal and reviews and magazines that don't measure up to your lofty conception of art?

JOHN

(deflated)

Yes. Something like that.

ELSA

(smiling apologetically)

Sorry, John. That was cruel.

John lets out his breath loudly.

JOHN

Yes. Cruel. Cruel but true.

ELSA

I'm sorry, John.

JOHN

Don't worry about it. You know, what you should really remember is that someone is paying you to write a script. That's all. I can understand how you could be excited about that, but keep it in perspective. It's not like you won the Nobel Prize for literature....

ELSA

(sarcastically)

This from the man who stays up late to write speeches declining that particular honor.

JOHN

That's better than writing about heroines with trembling breasts....

ELSA

(angrily)

At least someone reads what I write.

JOHN

(shouting)

People read cereal boxes, too.

Elsa spins away and storms out of the room.

JOHN

(shouting louder)

And with more enjoyment.

The door slams.

INT. KENNEDY AIRPORT. NIGHT.

Crowds of people wander aimlessly around the terminal. Elsa, wearing the same black clothes as before, pushes a large leather bag along the floor to a bank of pay telephones. She slides the bag into the booth, plugs in a quarter and punches in a number. She stands impatiently, looking out into space through her sunglasses.

INT. KITCHEN. NIGHT.

John sits at the computer typing. The telephone is ringing insistently in the background. He reads the screen, hits some keys, activating the printer, stands up and takes a long drink out of a beer can. He walks over to the printer. He reads the page being printed, looks at the clock and picks up the revolver and cocks it. He reads some more, scowls, looks at the clock and lets the hammer down gently. The telephone stops ringing. He takes another drink of beer, puts the revolver down and sits down and starts to type again. A door slams. John looks around, grabs the revolver and slips it under the pile of paper. He blanks the screen and stands up. MARTIN, a big burly red-headed man in a buffalo plaid shirt and filthy blue jeans bursts into the room.

MARTIN

(shouting excitedly)

John! Sorry I'm late. I met these two women....

JOHN

(interrupting)

It's OK. I actually wanted to do something before you got here....

MARTIN

You're busy? I left them at a bar. I'll be back in an hour.

JOHN

Well....

Martin sees the paper in the printer on the table.

MARTIN

(happily)

You've been writing. Is the bitch gone?

JOHN

(sullenly)

The bitch is winging her way merrily to Los Angeles at this instant.

MARTIN

Good. That soulless parasite is gone and you've started to write. All is right with the world.

Martin stomps over to the refrigerator, gets a beer and takes a long drink.

MARTIN

(continuing)

Let's get drunk.

Martin strides toward the table. John steps between him and the printer.

MARTIN

(angrily)

Let me see it.

JOHN

Later.

MARTIN

Are you ashamed of it?

JOHN

No. It's just not ready.

MARTIN

(contemptuously)

Bullshit.

JOHN

No. Really. I think writers should exercise a little self-censorship....

MARTIN

(teasing)

Did the bitch take something of yours?

JOHN

No. I mean we should hold ourselves to some standard of quality. We shouldn't publish something until we think it measures up in some way to the rest of literature....

MARTIN

Jesus! The bookstores will be empty.

JOHN

(ignoring him)

I take everything I write and compare it, as objectively as I can, with The Great Gatsby and if I think it's not as well written, I file it away and start something new....

MARTIN

(impatiently)

Look. Are you done? You want to come down to the bar with me? These are some women I got. Yours is missing her front teeth, but the rest is OK.

JOHN

No. Thanks. I've had my quota of toothless women for the month.

MARTIN

(shrugs)

OK. Let me just paraphrase the Scot who governs my creative output, then.

(in a bad brogue)

One to beam down.

Martin strides toward the door, then stops and turns back to face John.

MARTIN

(continuing)

What did you want to see me about, anyway?

JOHN

(shaking his head sadly)

Never mind.

EXT. SWIMMING POOL. DAY.

A woman lies face down on a float in a brilliant blue swimming pool surrounded by garden apartments. There is no one else in the pool. She wears a bright red swim suit. She is tanned. Her hair is light brown, streaked by the sun. The City of Los Angeles is visible in the valley below. She paddles languidly over to the side of the pool, and hops off the raft. She is wearing black Wayfarers. She picks up a towel and starts to dry off. A deep male VOICE calls from off camera.

VOICE

Elsa! Elsa!

She turns slowly toward the sound.

ELSA

(unsmiling)

Yes?

INT. KITCHEN. NIGHT.

John stands in front of the printer reading the page that is being printed. He holds the revolver to his temple, finger on the trigger, hammer pulled back. He scowls at the page, takes the gun away from his head and lets the hammer down gently.

Copyright 2005 Matthew Lederman. All rights reserved
Contact: matt@matthewlederman.com