Thomm Quackenbush, author

Snorkel

Int. Resturant night

KAREN, a fortyish woman in a business suit is sitting by herself at a table in a dimly lit resturaunt. She checks her watch and looks around somewhat impatiently. Her daughter EMILY, a younger woman, twenty at the oldest, walks in and sits with her.


KAREN

Did you enjoy your walk over, honey?


EMILY V/O

I knew why she was asking that, of course. She had offered to pick me up from college and bring me to the restaurant, but I told her I preferred to walk.


EMILY

It was good. Fresh air.


Emily picks a menu up from the table and scans it quickly. Shortly thereafter, a waitress comes and gets their drink orders then walks away.


KAREN

So, how are classes?


EMILY

Same.


KAREN

(saccharinely)

What is your favorite?

EMILY is distractedly playing with her napkin and does not hear her motherís question.


KAREN

Honey?


EMILY

(startled)

What?


KAREN

(sighing)

Never mind.


The waitress comes and puts the drinks down. Emily immediately piles sugar on top or the ice in her iced tea.


EMILY V/O

I liked to watch the sugar collect on top of the ice cubes, and then gradually sink down and fall through my iced tea. It reminded me of the snow things that you shake and watch the snow fall. I imagined a small Christmas time village in the bottom of my glass.


fade to

Ext. iced tea village day

It is a village that is under an ocean of iced tea.


EMILY V/O

The people wore snorkels except when they were thirsty, then they took the snorkels off and drank some of the iced tea.


You can see people going about normal daily business, except they are all wearing snorkels. Occasionally, someone will take off the snorkel, gulp some of the iced tea, and replace the snorkel.


fade to


Int. restaurant same

KAREN is talking about something and EMILY is looking at her with complete disinterest. You can hear the words "work," "paycheck," "job," etc. But everything else it indistinguishable from the background noise. EMILY looks back at her glass.


fade to


Ext. Iced tea village same

People are going about their business as before. We close up on one of the snorkel girls as a large, clear cylinder appear above her head and suck her up. The shot follows her as she goes up the tube.


EMILY V/O

When I took a sip from my iced tea one of the little people got sucked into my straw and I swallowed her. I thought it was pretty funny until I saw that her boyfriend was sad that she was gone...


Medium shot of a very sad boy wearing a snorkel and looking skyward.


EMILY V/O

...so I very carefully positioned the straw, and sucked him up too. I hope they find each other in my stomach.


fade to


Int. restuarant same

Same scene. Karen has gone through several drinks while Emily has only sipped a little of her iced tea. Emily is gazing into her glass.


KAREN

...and that neighborhood boy keeps pestering your poor little sister. What is she supposed to do? I mean...


EMILY moves her straw around and then sucked some tea up quickly.


EMILY V/O

I ended up sucking the girl's parents and siblings into my stomach too. But now the boyís family looks so sad. I bet they miss him a lot. Iíll suck them up too so they can all be happy together.


KAREN

...so how is your 8:30 class, Emily? Do you really get up for it?


EMILY

Sometimes I do. Not all the time. (to herself, quietly) There goes his mom.


KAREN

And how is it?


EMILY

Pretty easy, I guess.


KAREN

Do you have any grade in it?


Emily takes a quick slurp.


EMILY

(to herself)

There goes his father. (to Karen) No, not yet. But the midterm is soon.


KAREN

(seriously)

Emily, I need you to listen to me very carefully for a moment, and don't say anything or draw any conclusions until I'm done. Okay?


EMILY

(to herself)

I managed to suck up his brother and sister in one slurp!


EMILY looks up from her iced tea to her motherís face. KAREN looks like she is on the verge of tears.


EMILY

(worried)

Whatís up, mom?


KAREN

A old friend of mine from college might meet us here, just to talk a little bit because he knows a little bit more about what may be upsetting you...


EMILY looks away from her mother, who continues to talk.


cut to


Ext. iced tea village same

The village seems slightly emptier than it was before. Less people are milling about.

EMILY V/O

Now all the people that had been friends with the girl, her boyfriend, and their respective families were sad too. I could see that this would be a never-ending task if I continued like this. I wasn't even sure that they were all finding each other in my stomach. I sure hope they were. I considered a moment, then sucked the girl and boy's respective best friends into my stomach, then stopped. I drew the line there. An arbitrary line, but that was that. The girl's best friends's best friend pleaded with me silently, but I could not be budged.


cut to


Int. restaurant same

Same as before.


KAREN

...so that hopefully next year you can feel better about things.


Emily looks down at the table.


EMILY

(sadly but firmly)

Iím not going back next year.


KAREN

Why not?


EMILY

Iím just not.


Emily looks over at the glass.

EMILY V/O

The parents of the best friends that I had sucked up were crying now, but I had made my decision and stuck to it. Some of the people who knew them were muttering through their snorkels about the unfairness of bureaucracy.


cut to


Int. Restaurant same

EMILY grips the side of the table.

EMILY

(suddenly aware)

Did you say that a friend of yours was meeting us here?


KAREN

(sighing)

Yes, honey. He might be able to help you feel better.


Close up on EMILYís hands gripping the table. The knuckles have turned white.


EMILY

I thought it was just going to be you and me.


KAREN

It was, honey, but I decided to ask him along because I think talking to him would help you.


EMILY

(getting angry)

You told me that we would be alone.


KAREN

(sharply)

Well I obviously changed my mind.


EMILY

I didn't agree to this.


KAREN

What's the big deal?


EMILY

(affronted)

The big deal is that you lied to me.


KAREN

I didn't lie. When I talked to you it was going to be just you and me.


Emily gets a faraway look in her eyes and lets go of the table.


cut to


ext. iced tea village same

We are close up on a house in the Iced Tea Village. In the front yard, a young girl in a yellow sun dress is singing and dancing. Her parents are within the house talking.


EMILY V/O

Her father was explaining to her mother that in order for society to be maintained rules must be made and there couldn't be any exceptions to them.


The little girlís mother shakes her head sadly as she watched the little girl playing.


EMILY V/O

From the way they were talking Iíd think there was something wrong with the little girl.


JOSHUA

Hi.


cut to


int. restaurant same


EMILY looks around completely startled and jumps in her seat. JOSHUA is a tall man with brown "puppy dog" eyes and a soft thoughtful face. He is standing in front of EMILY.


KAREN

Joshua!! Itís so good of you to meet us here.


JOSHUA

(to Emily, not Karen)

Itís my pleasure, really.


Emily looks at her glass distraughtly.


cut to


Int. ice tea glass timeless

There is nothing within the glass except iced tea, ice, a straw.


cut to


Int. restaurant same

JOSHUA seats himself. A waitress brings him a menu.


JOSHUA

(to waitress)

Coffee.


EMILY is still looking into the glass, nearly crying. JOSHUA seems not to notice. JOSHUA extends his hand.


JOSHUA

Emily, I assume?


EMILY

(begrudgingly)

Yes.


JOSHUA

Iím Joshua, as you may have gathered.


EMILY looks away from JOSHUA and taps her fingers on the table. The waitress comes with JOSHUAís coffee and takes his order. He puts milk and sugar into it.


EMILY V/O

I resented the way the cream flowed and swirled into his coffee and the sugar disappeared as soon as it hit the surface.


JOSHUA

How are you?


EMILY

Iím all right. How are you?


JOSHUA

(warmly)

good.


The three look at each other. After a moment, KAREN gets up to go to the rest room herself to go to the rest room.


KAREN

Excuse me, I need to visit the ladies room.


EMILY V/O

I hate it when people are dainty about things like that. It's a bathroom for Christ sakes, not a "ladies" room. It's not a place where the woman of high society gather to sip their tea and gossip, it's a pee place.


JOSHUA turns and looks intently at EMILY.


JOSHUA

How are you really?


EMILY

Just as I said... How are you really?


JOSHUA

(amused)

Just as I said... I want to ask you something. Now be honest. Do you want to be here right now?


EMILY

Why are you trying to get so personal with me? You don't know me at all. Are you a shrink?


JOSHUA

I work as a school counselor. Emily, I'd like to get to know you. Your mother asked me to help you and I can't do that if I don't hear about how you really feel and think.


Emily rubs her forehead.


EMILY

Iím tired, okay?


JOSHUA is excited that he has gotten a response.


JOSHUA

What are you tired of?


EMILY

(quietly but intently)

I'm tired of everybody asking me these stupid questions.


Joshua

(slightly taken aback)

Fair enough.


Karen returns from the rest room just as the waitress brings Karenís And Emilyís food.


WAITRESS

(to Joshua)

Yours will be out in a few minutes.


Emily is staring at her motherís steak as blood drips from it. Then she looks at her own pasta and red sauce with disgust.


KAREN

Arenít you going to eat, honey?


Emily

Um... I feel sick.


Emily gets up and exits through the nearest door.


fade to


Ext. restaurant night

She is outside the small, brown brick building. As soon as she gets out, she takes a huge breathe of air. Shaking, she lights a cigarette. After taking a few drags she coughs and makes a disgusted face. Then she throws the cigarette away. She sticks her hands in her pocket and walks around the building, clearing her head. After a while, she returns to the restaurant.


Int. restaurant night

EMILY returns to her table and sits down. She looks into the iced tea while JOSHUA and KAREN talk to each other, unintelligible.


Int. ice tea glass timeless

The small girl in the yellow dress was sitting in the middle of the glass all by herself. There were no houses, no other people, no grass. She was sitting with her knees drawn up to her chest, as though crying. After a moment, she looks up and fades away. The glass is empty again, except for the iced tea and straw.


cut to


Int. restarant night

Same scene as before, except KARENís mascara is smudged as though she had been crying. Throughout the scene, they are all eating.


JOSHUA

Emily, I want to apologize to you for being here without you knowing ahead of time that I would be. I was under the impression that you were looking for someone to talk to. But I'm not going to expect you to talk if you don't want to.


EMILY

Oh... thanks.


KAREN

Emily, honey, do you want to tell Joshua a little bit about why you dislike school so much?


EMILY

It's just not what I want to be doing right now. My classes are pointless and you have to do things the way the professors want them done to get good grades. I don't feel like playing that game anymore. Sure, I could get good grades. But what for? They're hollow. Proof that I know how to play along with a system that shouldn't even exist. Right now I just don't want to be tied down by schedules and things. Go to class at this time. Read this book. Well maybe at that time I feel like eating cookies and milk in bed and reading Doom Patrols. I want to be able to do that.


JOSHUA

Read what?


EMILY

Doom Patrols. It's the book I'm reading right now. Itís about society.


KAREN

Honey, that's just the way life is. What about a job? Work is the same way. That's something that you have to deal with throughout your life, and the sooner you learn to deal with it, the better.


EMILY

I know that Mom. But I just can't right now.


JOSHUA

Why not?


EMILY

What?


JOSHUA

Why canít you?


EMILY is visibly thinking.


EMILY

Because... I... can't.


KAREN

(tentatively)

Well, when can you?


EMILY

(trying to contain her anger)

Later.


KAREN

But when? You can't just keep putting it off until what? Until you end up a bum lying in a gutter somewhere?


EMILY

(voice shaking)

I just need some time off and I'll be fine. I'm not going to be a bum can't you just...


All three are very tense. After a minute of this, EMILY stands up.


KAREN

(alarmed)

Where are you going?


EMILY

I gotta pee.


dissolve to


Int. bathroom timeless

The bathroom is filthy. After peeing, EMILY washes her hands and looks blankly at her face in the mirror.


dissolve to


Int. restaurant night

JOSHUA is holding KARENís hand. When EMILY sits, JOSHUA drops KARENís hand.


EMILY

So, what else do you guys want to hear about?


JOSHUA

(carefully)

Well, what about that class that you failed last semester?


EMILY freezes.

EMILY

You mean about the nails?


JOSHUA

(uncomfortably)

Um... yeah.


EMILY

Well, it sounds like you already heard about it.


JOSHUA

(glancing at Karen)

Well, yes, but I wanted to hear you tell it.


EMILY takes a drink of her almost empty iced tea.


JOSHUA

(fearfully)

But if you don't want to talk about it that's okay.


dissolve to


Ext. building day

As EMILY describes the setting, it appears on screen as though from a dream (I donít know how better to describe this effect).


EMILY V/O

No, it's okay. My Social Problems class was held in this one building. It's an old building, and probably one of if not the most beautiful on campus. There's just one problem. There's this little ledge right above the doorway into the building, and I see it every time I go to enter. On this ledge is a row of nails. All along the ledge in a line with the pointy part sticking straight up. The metal is bright and glistens when the sun shines on them. I guess they're supposed to keep birds from landing on the ledge and pooping down on the building or people or something. I don't know, that's what somebody told me anyway. I just couldn't stand walking underneath those nails twice a week. It was like entering a house of death or something.


The camera shifts to EMILY sitting behind a window in the building.


EMILY V/O

I didn't tell them about the time that I did go to class and the teacher told us about her friend in Vietnam who was talking to one of his buddy's in the trenches and he turned away for a second and when he turned back around his friend's head had blown up. And how she said that the guy tried to piece his friend's head back together again. And how I ran out of class, the nails mocking my horror. I didn't talk about these things.


cut to


Int. restaurant night

Same as before


JOSHUA

Is that all?


EMILY V/O

Is that all? I couldn't believe my ears. The single most horrifying thing in my life and he asks is that all?


Emily get up to leave.


EMILY

Yes, and now I have to go do some work. (to Joshua) It was nice meeting you. (to Karen) I'll be talking to you soon.


As she reaches the door, she turns back for one last look at KAREN and JOSHUA. She sees something moving in her empty iced tea glass. The camera zooms in on the glass. There we see the girl in the yellow sundress trying to climb out of the side of the glass, but she falls back into the glass. Closer in, you see that her hand is grasping a small nail.


Fade to black


Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings.


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Works by Thomm Quackenbush

Anthologies

Find What You Love and Let It Kill You by Thomm Quackenbush
Pagan Standard Times: Essays on the Craft by Thomm Quackenbush
A Creature Was Stirring: A Twisted Christmas Anthology by Thomm Quackenbush
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