Tuesday, March 30, 2010

On the Final Knight

Here is the problem, he said, moving the pieces around, letting the soft, heavy bases bump deeply against board. Your skewer is good, and it makes me make the move I did (more clicking here, she loved that sound) But after that, it's done. The rook is protected, and it's not worth sacrificing anything for. Take advantage of the position you're in.

She blinked at him and then stared at the board some, and after a while she moved a knight to fork the rook and his white-square bishop, a long queen's fianchetto back in the opening - he liked those indirect occupations.

No! She noticed he almost yelled now, and the way he touched his hair and then his ear, struggling, frustrated. He moved his rook and looked back up at her. The rook can move now, you have to-

She took his bishop and handed him the note, and then she left, because sometimes you just have to give up on a good thing.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


1 - Ext. Storage Facilities - Morning - 1

An early August morning - hot and humid. You know this kind of dawn, when the dew gets in the grass deep and your shoes get as wet as your armpits and the sun rises fast and ugly before six.

2 - Ext. HANK's Car - Morning - 2
HANK's 1989 Aries is parked outside the site's chain link fence. Its blue paint is faded and chipping.

3 - Int. HANK's Car - Morning - 3

HANK's cargo shorts are sticking to the driver's seat, his Hawaiian shirt soaked with sweat, a woven fedora doing little to conceal his shiny scalp and thinning, wispy hair. He's talking on the phone.

Listen man, you'll get the stuff or my name isn't Hank Havner.

A pause.

I know. I would have paid the rent last night if you had given me the cash, but now we lost the storage and I have to bid just like everyone el-

He is cut off. He listens. Whoever he's talking to doesn't sound happy.

Sorry - yeah - okay. I know, it's totally my fault. You don't have to do that.

A further pause.

I'll win the auction. It's all in boxes, and they're not allowed to open anything. No one will know any of it's mine or that it's worth anything. As long as I act casual, I'm just another bidder on some random crap.

A shorter pause, then:

Yeah, listen, they're about to start. I gotta get down there.

4 - Ext. Storage Facilities - Morning - 4

Wide shot. HANK gets out of his car and hustles down through the gate down towards where a crowd is gathered around outside of one the storage units.

Overlay on screen: STORAGE
Overlay on screen: FEATURING...

5 - Ext. Unit Eleven - Morning - 5

HANK approaches a group of around twenty or twenty-five people milling around outside storage unit eleven. He slows to a walk and examines the crowd. JAMES is standing on top of a milk crate right next to the unit's door, a head above the crowd.

Freeze frame on HANK. Overlay on screen: HANK HAVNER as THE PROTAGONIST.

On resuming: HANK bumps into LESLIE, who gives him a dirty look. She's a teenage girl with a prada purse and a scowl that could kill a plant. He doesn't notice and doesn't apologize.

Freeze frame on LESLIE, looking annoyed. Overlay on screen: LESLIE BRADFORD as THE OPPOSITION.

On resuming: JAMES glances at his watch.

Okay everyone, settle down.

Freeze frame on JAMES. Overlay on screen: With JAMES SHURGARD as THE AUCTIONEER.

On resuming: WAYNE, a maintenance man at the storage place, strolls by at the back of the crowd. He looks over at JAMES.

Freeze frame on WAYNE: Overlay on screen: And WAYNE HUGHES as THE TWIST.

WAYNE walks on away from the crowd.

Settle down folks! I'm not going to ask you again.

They settle down. JAMES looks pleased.

The unit up for auction today just defaulted yesterday. I'm going to open up the doors here in a second, but I'd just like to remind everyone of the rules.

A collective groan goes up from the crowd, except for HANK, who looks more confused.

You can't touch anything. Bid on what you see. After you win, you have until nine to get organized and clear everything out. Everyone understand?

There are murmurs of agreement.

Good. I'll give you a few minutes.

JAMES jumps down to open the garage door to unit eleven. As it slides up, the crowd quiets down. There finally settles upon them a stifling silence. They stare.

Inside: boxes. Boxes and boxes and boxes, all stacked and closed and sealed sight.

And labelled, too. Every one of them, in thick black sharpie and all caps: "HANK HAVNER".

The crowd wanders into the unit. There is not much to see - just more boxes. They whisper quietly.

HANK follows, hanging towards the back.

6 - Int. Unit 11 - Morning - 6

The fluorescent overhead lights flicker on. Another CUSTOMER meanders over by HANK. Both are taking stock of the boxes.

Weird lot, huh?

HANK (indicating the rest of the crowd)
Oh yeah, these guys? Yeah, the weirdest! Is this your first time also?

I meant the lot that's up for auction.

Oh, yeah. Yeah.

There is an awkward pause.

What exactly do you look for in a... lot?

Well, different stuff. If everything's messy, it means the owner had a chance to rush through it before they lost the locks got changed. Containers with locks mean valuables sometimes. I have no idea what to expect with these, though. The neatness will drive the price up a little, I guess.

HANK grimaces. The CUSTOMER continues.

Sometimes you get lucky and get some jewelry or something, but for all we know this is some guy's collection of old newspapers. Well, not some guy. "Hank Havner," whoever that is.

HANK nods and wipes some sweat off his brow.

Over on the other side of the, LESLIE, on the phone, laughs loudly.

HANK (indicating LESLIE, to the CUSTOMER)
Who's that girl?

Leslie Bradford, daughter of the guy who owns the First Federal Bank down on Broad Street. She's not here to resell any of the winnings. She just likes pawing through people's old stuff. She's turned a lot of people off coming to these auctions because the only ones she loses are the ones she's not interested in. If you'll pardon my French, that girl is a real female dog!

HANK laughs weakly, nervous.

JAMES, from the outside, calls in.

Alright, guys! Let's get this thing started.

The crowd moves back outside.

7 - Ext. Unit 11 - Morning - 7

As usual, we're starting the bidding at a hundred fifty dollars, increments a' ten going up. Do I hear 150?

Someone raises a hand.

150, do I hear 160 - 160, we have 160. 170?

HANK bids.

170. 180? Who wants 180?

The bidding continues like this for a little while. As it reaches around 250, HANK turns to the CUSTOMER again.

What do - ah - what do most lots go for usually?

The CUSTOMER ponders the question.

If nothin' valuable's in sight, I'd estimate probably around three or four hundred dollars.

HANK raises his hand.

Four hundred dollars!

JAMES is surprised.

Four hundred dollars! We're up to four hundred dollars here, do I hear more?

The crowd grumbles at JAMES. A few people walk off.

Four hundred fifty.

HANK is bothered.

Five hundred!

LESLIE (on his heels)
Five fifty.

There is a pause. HANK and LESLIE make tense eye contact, then turn to JAMES.

Six hundred.

LESLIE freezes. She looks over at HANK again.

What do you know that we don't, guy?

HANK laughs nervously.

HANK (weakly)
Oh, just curious, that's all.

Seven hundred dollars!

Eight hundre-

WAYNE (interrupting)

There is silence. HANK looks around. WAYNE is standing outside the storage site's offices, dressed in his uniform, looking at disbelief at the crowd.

WAYNE (yelling, running over)
Oh my gosh, Hank! I thought I saw you. Jeez, man! I haven't seen you since high school. What are you doing back? I thought you moved.

HANK looks down, around, anywhere but at WAYNE, who is now walking right up to him.

WAYNE (mock-scolding)
Don't pull that on me, Hank Havner, I'd know that little red face anywhere!

HANK looks at LESLIE, who is open-mouthed with shock and joy.

WAYNE (incredulous, shaking his head)
Hank Havner. I don't believe-

Freeze on WAYNE, overlay: STORAGE.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Roland Meinl was always good with his digits, but when he switched from clarinet to drums his fingers jammed up and the math wouldn't slot quite right in his head. 12-8 time was the biggest problem - he had trouble getting the cymbal strokes tight. He knew what it should sound like, but he couldn't fit it in when he was doing everything at once.

In the mean time, though, he is focusing on his fiction.

"Just throw some symbolism in there," Euterpe says, settling down at the table across from him with a pop, "English teachers love that kind of stuff." She plays double-flute and used to sit next to Roland in the select band before he moved to the back with the rest of the hitters. They hang out in her kitchen a lot.

Euterpe hesitates. "Sorry. I don't mean to sound crass or demeaning or anything. I don't write much. I'm just saying it's about consistency. Pander to your audience."

That night, Roland tries to compose in his head while he works out that damned rhythm: tap-rest-tap-tap-tap-rest-tap-rest-tap-rest-tap-rest. After an hour his wrist is sore and his head is aching but he's somewhere, at least.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


So here’s my advice: burn everything. Burn it all. Enjoy high school while you’re here, get the most out of it, and then get all the papers you wrote and learned from and just burn everything. Reasoning from history was always a bad idea; I don’t care what Alexander Keyssar says. I imagine the good stuff will stick with you, but don’t bother with evidence and for God's sake don't leave a legacy.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Azrael Pearlman: Harbinger of Death

In March, Azrael Pearlman plays percussion in the pit orchestra for his school's production of Into The Woods. He likes the bass drum part the best - during the second act, when he shakes the earth with the giant's footsteps, when he crushes protagonists held so dearly in the hearts of the audience. He sees imperfection in the witch's character, trying to remain distant but growing attached regardless. Even the giant has its reasons for destruction, but those feet - those feet remain as unfeeling and detached as the fuzzy mallets that sound them out.

In April, Azrael's life returns to normal. He is glad for the extra time in the afternoons, but - and though he'd never tell you - he misses all the dread and silence that that drum brought in its wake. It's the kind of power you'd never give up if you didn't have to.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Notation Jokes

Fianchetto was a beekeeper by trade and lived alone on his father's farm. After many years of solitude, he decided to teach his bees to play chess. There were too many of the insects to teach individually, of course, so he just showed the rules to a few and then let the word spread.

A few weeks later, Fianchetto played a game in which his opponent, a youthful worker drone, castled incorrectly on his king-side. The beekeeper knew that the older bees knew the rules very well, but he made a mental note to tell the Qb2+ on the younger ones.