Secondhand Magic, Part II

The second half of my 15-page entry. Does it make you wish for more?

EXT. WHARF –- DAY

Mort has his notepad at the ready, talking to a crusty old DECK HAND.

INT. SMITH’S CAR

Harry Smith, feet up on the dash, binoculars on Mort.

EXT. WHARF

MORT: Have you seen anything suspicious, anything out of the ordinary?

DECK HAND: No, I can’t say I have.

MORT: Really? Do you- well, I mean have you- Do you know if there are any gangs around here?

A sudden commotion gets their attention.

EXT. BOAT

A crowd of people in various stages of confusion and shock. Mort tries to make his way through the obstacle course but can only glimpse pieces of the boat below the wharf.

CROWD (ad lib): What the… Some kind of prank. Call the cops!

Mort tries to negotiate his way through.

MORT: Hey, give an old man a break!

His dignity notwithstanding, Mort carefully goes to his knees and crawls inside the huddle.

The view is worse. But he’s able to wiggle through bit by bit, gradually gaining ground.

He sees the deck. The edge of the fish net sprawled open. The dark, scaly tail flowing out of the net.

INT. SMITH’S CAR

Smith looks up from his crossword, can’t find Mort.

EXT. BOAT

A foot shifts, crushing Mort’s hand under it. He cries out and hits the offending leg with his free hand.

The foot quickly moves and a head looks down.

MORT: Watch it!

MAN: Sorry.

Scooting forward in the inches that the shuffle has afforded, Mort can see the whole of the fishing deck, its crew milling around the strangely captivating catch.

For a moment, all Mort can see is the long tail extending outside the huddle of fishermen. Presently they shift enough to reveal what looks like…

A MERMAID.

Sprawled across the net – lifeless – wet hair plastered across her scaly face, back and arms.

Mort stares in disbelief.

SUE (OS): Mister Glover?

He looks up and sees Sue.

INT. SUE’S HOUSE — DAY

The front door opens to a tiny kitchen. Sue leads the way, wiping her feet and banging through to the adjoining room.

SUE: My car’s in the shop, but I can drive you back sometime after five o’clock. Hello! Dad, you home?

Mort enters more sedately, glancing around the small galley kitchen with dishes in the sink and worn linoleum.

Sue is back.

SUE (CONT,D): It’s just us, have a seat. You want some coffee?

Mort eases into one of two chairs squeezed into a makeshift breakfast nook. Sue gets the coffeemaker started.

MORT: Sure. Y’know I bet that mermaid froze to death.

SUE: It is October.

Mort observes the CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS in the window.

MORT: You’re worse than the department stores. Christmas already?

SUE: Can’t help it, I LOVE Christmas. I start planning December twenty-seventh. By January first, I know exactly where I’ll be and what I’ll do on Christmas Day.

MORT: That’s very impressive. And a little bit nuts.

Sue flops down opposite him as the coffee pot percolates.

SUE: Stick with me and you’ll hear yourself saying those words a lot. What about you?

MORT: Nah, I’m just nuts.

SUE: No, I mean what are you doing for Christmas? Oh. (catching herself) I probably shouldn’t ask you that the day your wife gets stabbed.

For some reason this makes Mort laugh. Sue joins him.

INT. SUE’S CAR – DAY

MORT: My wife was a cold woman. She could hold a snowball for hours and it wouldn’t melt. That’s how cold she was. Like a fish.

Mort is showing her a WEDDING PHOTO of Maxine and him at 30. Mort grins from ear to ear, while Max is more demure.

SUE: She’s pretty.

MORT: I worshipped the boots she walked in. Well, at first anyway.

He flips to a more RECENT SHOT of Max alone.

MORT (CONT,D): Marriage has a way of showing you what you don’t want to see when you’re head over heels for a good lookin’ girl.

SUE: Think we’re being followed.

Mort looks back. Sure enough, Harry Smith is behind them, trying to look nonchalant.

SUE (CONT,D): Hang on, I’ll lose him!

MORT: What? Oh- oh boy.

As Sue pulls a daring 180 and ducks into an alley amid a flurry of horns honking and annoyed shouts. Smith stops just short of an accident, cursing.

Sue laughs and Mort looks impressed.

EXT. SEA VILLAGE MARINA — DUSK

Sue’s little two-door sedan pulls up to the marina lot.

EXT. MORT’S FLOATING HOUSE

Sue walks Mort to the door.

MORT: Thanks for the ride. And the coffee.

SUE: Sure. Take care, Mister Glover.

She watches him go inside, then looks the house over curiously.

INT. MORT’S FLOATING HOUSE — NIGHT

Everything is quiet and dark. Mort flips on the row of light switches by the front door, turns the corner and comes face to face with MAXINE.

Mort cries out and stumbles back in shock.

EXT. MORT’S FLOATING HOUSE — NIGHT

Sue is creeping around the deck to the back of the house where a RED STAIN marks the wooden floor. She flips her PEN LIGHT around the area, but nothing seems out of place.

She continues carefully around the edge of the house and is suddenly GRABBED FROM BEHIND. A hand over her mouth covers her scream.

JACK: Shh!

Jack turns her so she can see it’s him and takes his hand away. Sue is mad.

SUE (whispers): What are you doing here, you-

Jack grabs her again, finger to his lips. Voices.

INT. MORT’S KITCHEN

Mort is sitting at the kitchen table, head in his hands.

Maxine/Claire finishes pouring tea and sits opposite him.

CLAIRE: I know it-it’s hard to believe. But truly, I’m not Maxine, I’m-

MORT: Claire. I heard you the first time, I’m not deaf, I just… I saw you-

CLAIRE: You saw Maxine, Mister Glover. She is dead, I’m- I’m so sorry.

Claire looks anxious and conflicted. Beyond them, two faces appear at the sliding glass door – Sue and Jack.

EXT. MORT’S HOUSE

Sue and Jack exchange incredulous looks.

SUE (whispers): Isn’t that his wife?

MORT (OS): And the mermaid they found this afternoon… you expect me to believe that was you?

SUE: But how can- shush, I can’t hear!

CLAIRE (OS): –body I’ve had for the last forty years. Yes.

INT. KITCHEN

CLAIRE (CONT,D): I know it sounds crazy, but I need your help. You’re the only one I can turn to.

With distaste she produces a gun.

A gasp draws their attention to the glass door. Jack and Sue duck out of sight, but it’s too late. Claire looks distressed.

CLAIRE: Oh! It’s empty.

Mort opens the door and the two guiltily enter.

SUE: We were spying. Sorry.

MORT: Don’t be.

CLAIRE: I didn’t mean to frighten anyone. But I’m desperate. I’ll do anything if you’ll help me get to Florida. That’s where I met Maxine forty years ago.

Max is pouring tea for the new arrivals.

MORT: Max never went to Florida. She hates the ocean, I could never get her to go with me.

CLAIRE: Well yes, but I think that’s because she knew I’d find her if she got anywhere near it. See I was out on the water by myself one morning and this mermaid shows up. I couldn’t believe my eyes, I thought: what a wonderful thing to happen to me, to see a mermaid.

Sue and Jack glance at each other.

CLAIRE (CONT,D): She told me how she’d been watching humans all her life and how she had longed for just one day on land. I was so moved, or just plain gullible, I agreed to switch.

SUE: Switch bodies?

CLAIRE: Switch bodies. She could live my life for a day and I’d live hers. I mean I was kinda curious, you know?

MORT: Lady, today I’ve seen a stabbing victim, a dead mermaid and a resurrected body. Don’t you think I got enough problems?

He bangs the kettle down on the stove.

MORT (CONT,D): And how the heck am I supposed to listen to a person who committed murder?

SUE: Mister Glover, I think she’s about to explain.

Mort throws up his hands and starts pacing.

CLAIRE: It wasn’t murder, Mortimer. It was self defense. You see Maxine never came back. She left me there in her mermaid body for forty years.

Mort stops pacing and turns to look at her. Jack whistles.

CLAIRE (CONT,D): Turns out there was one little detail Maxine left out of her sad story. The only way to switch back is if one of us dies.

SUE: So you had to kill her! Otherwise you could never get your body back!

Mort freezes. The room falls silent. Beat.

MORT: Florida, huh?

Claire looks hopeful.

MORT (CONT,D): Hey Jacky. You ever sailed a floating house?

 

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