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Twenty-Four Hour Odyssey

Scriptapalooza Quarter-Finalist 2016

Filmmakers International Quarter-Finalist 2016

Screenplay – 110 pages

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Deja Vu

Motionless, her still body rocks slightly as the waves pound the shore pushing it back and forth. She has long black hair. Is she dead?

Dark gray hues fill the sky, rain is coming soon.

I continue fishing off the rocky dock.  Hungry, I pull out my half eaten peanut butter sandwich and devour it.  My soup went cold a long time ago, too hungry to care, I down it with two gulps. I wish it was whiskey.

I could have sipped it making it last longer, but that body makes me uneasy. Why now?

This is my time with the sea and sky.

I can make believe there is peace in this world.

A few hours of fishing with nature makes you believe anything is possible. How can it be so beautiful out here, yet, in there, it’s so horrible.

Is it too much to ask for peace?

This is my time away from the crazy hell of life and now I have to deal with this body.

The waves, bigger, choppier now.

The sun still trying to emerge, no luck.  Rain coming for sure.

I felt warm in my bundle of layers.  I know that body isn’t warm.

Hours pass and she is still there, only pushed further inland now.

My line didn’t tug at all.

No big deal, peanut butter sandwich for dinner.

A bit lighter now as the gray darkness fades out.  No matter, lighter gray hues fill the sky, dawn is upon us.

I reel in my line and pack up.

I carefully step off the rocky dock onto smooth sand. I place my chair down and contemplate.

I pace myself slowly toward the body. I’m getting nervous. For some reason, my heart is beating faster.

Clearly coming into view, covered in seaweed?

Is that black hair?  I could swear she has long black hair.

I’m closer now, a few more feet and I’m arms length, I don’t want to touch a dead body. I have to.

“Why do you have to ruin my night? Just do it, you can’t just walk away” convincing myself. I have to touch her, see who she is.

I touch her shoulder, give it a little tug, a sudden wave hits the body.

That’s all it takes for her face to appear…….

My head pounding drums, my heart racing.  Once again, I jump up drenched in sweat and throw my blankets to the side, ready to strike.

A picture on the wall, me and my sweetheart,  when life was good before the day at the morgue.

As I’m closing the trunk of my 2014 Honda Insight, my purse strap gets caught in the latch.  I try desperately  to jiggle the strap so it can become free but unfortunately I have to now place the Christmas packages that I just removed from my trunk,  on the wet ground so that I can use my hands to free the strap.

“Oh brother!, UGH, Dumb strap. OK, done!” I looked around as I’m muttering my unladylike frustration.

I grabbed the bags and continued to walk up my brother’s driveway when I noticed all the cars parked around his house and most of the lights in his house were lit.  I didn’t notice that when I was driving up to his house.

Hmmm, that’s funny.  He has company?  Maybe that’s why he declined?

As I’m approaching the front door, I heard Ariana, my sister.  She’s telling a joke about her last year’s Disney vacation how she tried to fit in a seat that was too small for her fat ass.  I hear the distinct roaring and hearty laugh of my other sister Irene in response.  Why is everyone here?  I stopped and proceeded to hunch down and started peeking in the window.  This was weird, I know. If anyone saw me slightly hunched down with my nose up against the window, I could definitely be tagged as a Peeping Tom.  Only now I’m feeling a bit neglected and the hurt is setting in like sand from an hour-glass quickly seeping through its narrow canal and filling my uneasy stomach.

I had to stay calm.  Think! What should I do?  Do I go in and act surprised?  Do I ring the doorbell and do I  say, “Surprise, I’m here”. Do I show my hurt?  Do I confront them?  Why did you all decline, you bastards? What?  Do I smell?  Are you holding a grudge from high school?  I didn’t take your prom date. I didn’t steal your lunch.  I always put back the sweater’s I borrowed from you.  I flushed the toilet, most of the times. What?  Why wasn’t I invited to your little very Merry Christmas get together, Rob?  Shit.  Let me think.

I hesitated, but I decided to go for it.  My hand with my fore-finger extended reaches for the door bell.  It’s done.

Rob, opened the door and without any hesitation yelled out, “Hey everybody,  look who finally showed up, it’s Olivia.”

With a big smile, he grabbed my arm and pulled me inside. I could swear on a stack of bibles that tug was just a bit sadistic with an underlying violent intention.    My feet were heavy with fear and I almost tripped over as he pulled me in from the cold.  My stare was obvious and the panic of embarrassment in my face was easily detectable.

Everyone screamed out with laughter.

“Is this April Fool’s Day?” I tried to put on a big smile.

“Santa’s helper is here on April Fools, oh how lovely.” Rob said.

“We thought you’d never get here”. Ariana immediately replied.  “Did you think we would have Christmas without you?

“I don’t know, it seems like you are”. My tone changed to irritation.

“You silly goose, here have a drink”, as Irene grabbed my presents, she shoved a glass of white wine in my hand.

“We were going to give you until 4:00 pm and if you didn’t show up, we were all going to come to your house with the food and presents, we swear.   But, you’re here, so you’re a trooper and you know what they say, payback is a bitch.  You didn’t think I was going to let you get away with your little prank over Thanksgiving , huh?”  Rob said.

My stare transformed to puzzlement as I was trying desperately to remember what prank I pulled on him?

“On common, don’t tell me you can’t remember?  Bathroom?  Occupado for 4 hours?  Does that ring a bell?  Little sister, putting chocolate laxatives in my hot chocolate, was evil.  Did you think I was going to forget about that?  Did you honey?” Rob’s smile was sinister.

Geez, I thought he forgot about that. My prank was priceless and my initial denial was Oscar-worthy! Unfortunately, we lost track of how many times he had to run to the bathroom that day. However, there were a few hours where we didn’t see him.  That must be the four-hour stretch he was referring to. The downstairs bathroom was off-limits to anyone but if you had a gas mask, you were welcome to use it.

“Alright, alright, you got me, I’ll make sure I don’t confess next time, big brother.”  At that moment, I desperately was thinking of my next outrageous prank. Just wait and see big brother!

The Night We Left

We established the time.  It would be 2:00 am and we agreed that by that time, all the girls would be asleep.  Everyone would be deep in their slumber.   Any careless racket or bumping into bed posts or sloppy tiptoeing we made during our nocturnal escape, no one would be conscious or alert enough to realize that someone is indeed walking the halls of Dorm III and Dorm V.

It was a big TV night at the dorms, it was the night of the “Miss USA” broadcast.  The dorm head mistresses allowed the girls to stay up late and watch the show.  It wasn’t often that favors were granted. These girls were misfits.  They were confused and often ended up in some sort of trouble.  Their families didn’t really know what to do with them.  A couple of drug addicts, some runaways, one girl was in a house fire and her face was disfigured.  She learned to deal with it and ignored the scars.  That’s what she told us.  I wasn’t quite sure why she was here.  I wasn’t sure why I was here.

I was nervous, but I had everything planned in my head and I was determined that the plan would go smoothly.  In a few hours, we would be far away from St. Vincent’s Boarding School for Girls. The school felt medieval. The main house was reminiscent of a grand fortress during the day. But as night fell, it was dark and Victorian, with a pitched roof and stained glass windows.  The stone structure had a sinister, eerie feeling.  We all joked there were vampires in the basement and dare not go to the main house for anything at night for fear that you’ll never make it out.  How cliché. Right at that moment, I saw a glimpse of myself six months ago. Scared, unsure of what was happening to me, my stuff was packed, and I was getting into my uncles 1980 Chevrolet for the ride up to St. Vincent’s Academy for Girls. I try to let the image go, but the image reignited my loathing and repulsion I felt for them for allowing this to happen. I must not dwell right now, I thought. First things first. I have to get out of here first.

It was time. I got up quietly, put on my socks and sneakers.  My loose pajamas hid my sweatshirt and jeans underneath, which we agreed we would sleep with.  I reached for my backpack which was filled only with necessities and was underneath my bed. I slowly pulled it towards me trying to lightly lift it off the floor so that it would not make a sound.  I looked toward my roommate.  Her leg was sticking out of the blue heavy blanket, slightly twitching but she was asleep.

I looked around the dark room to make sure I had everything.  I tiptoed to the door that led to the hallway, opened it slowly to make sure no one was up.  I closed it again and tiptoed to the window, turned the lever so that I can unlock it and then pushed the window outward. I immediately felt the gust of the winter air in my face.  I reached over and put the backpack on the grass outside the window and then I carefully climbed over the window sill.

I’m outside, I thought with a sense of accomplishment.  I pushed the window inward as to appear closed from the inside.  I hunched down and tried to catch my breath. I felt light headed and my heart was beating fast.  I was trying to hold every once of air inside me as I had walked cautiously around the room earlier and now I think I’m going to pass out. I am sitting on this damp, mushy ground.  I don’t feel the frigid cold immersed in the midnight air. It’s as if I was in a pocket of nothingness.  No one would detect anything until early morning.  That gives us plenty of time, I thought. There are unknowns that we are faced with, but what we are leaving behind is much worse.  Somehow, it would work out, we just didn’t know what that was yet.

I took a big sigh, and saw the cloud of air exiting my mouth, dissipating before me. Is it too late to change my mind?  I have time to call this off, I thought hesitantly.

I now started to feel a bit cold. I waited patiently.  Jo wasn’t here yet.  Where was she?  We agreed that by 2:15am we would meet outside my dorm window.  My teeth were beginning to tremble and my body jerked uncontrollably.

I don’t even know her last name, I thought.  I just know that she likes her nickname.  Should I call out to her?  I decided to wait a bit.  That’s all I could do is wait.  There wasn’t a plan for a change of plans.  Oh brother! This was a mistake, I thought in anguish.

2:30am, WHERE IS SHE?  I looked down at my ripped sneakers.  I started counting my loop holes so that I won’t think about the time.  I could hear the night animals in the quiet surroundings of the tall trees. Despite wind rustling branches and other night sounds, the silence was overpowering.

2:45 am, I heard rustling leaves.  I was afraid to yell out her name.

“Jo”? I softly called out.

“Yes!” She answered huffing and puffing in a loud whisper.  “Who do you think it was, Ms. Illinois?!! As usual sarcasm which I’m going to miss.

“I overslept.” as she pushed herself through the shrubs and fell on her knees.  We both started laughing quietly.

The dorms were separated by eight foot fences in the rear.  We forgot about that.  Jo had to climb over one fence that separated her dorm from my neighboring dorm. Now she was standing right next to the fence, too tired to climb over it.

“I’m too tired to climb over another fence.”  She groaned. “And, I’m cold!

Couldn’t we pick the spring to get the heck out of here? I’m complaining to the headmistress!”

We both started laughing with our hands up against our mouths.

We both looked up at the top of the fence and then looked toward the hill.

“We could just walk side by side down the hill; I think it should be fine.” We both shrugged.

The moonlight was bright as a sunny day.  Making it down the hill may be challenging, but light was on our side.

The overgrown bush hid muddy path ways and rocky, steep declines. Unknown paths with jagged edges were some of the unknowns. What you thought was a smooth pebble walkway, was masked with thick thorny bushes. Are we delusional about what waits for us ahead? Is it possible that what we are leaving behind, we will find ahead?  We started our descent to the main road and our freedom.  The silence was so loud. We walked with determination jumping over rocks, and obstacles, sometimes loosing sight of each other. We knew we both had to deal with our issues separately.  Will we best friends forever? No matter what side of the fence we walked, our paths were different, but the same. Life as we didn’t know it just yet.

“The one thing you need to know about leadership, is that there is more than one thing you need to know about leadership!” That was the author’s response to a young, eager college student when the student asked him to quickly get to the bottom line about the 21 Laws,  “What is the one thing I need to know about leadership?” he asked.  Is there a fast approach and quick lesson in leadership?  Not at all. Leadership skills are a balance between your inner and outer core. There are some natural instincts that all of us are born with and some you have to develop.

            If ever you want a guide to set you on a path of success, gaining personal satisfaction, pursuing personal achievements, building self-esteem, stirring self-motivating and confidence building initiatives, and yes, become a leader or become a better leader, the author guides you through sound points that naturally forces you to evaluate your character.  In every law that Stephen Covey identifies, you will see a little bit of yourself yearning to break free and tell the world that the author just described who you are.  However, you still need to work on the rest of the ‘laws’.   It is certain that all of us possess leadership qualities, when used properly, these qualities have the power to transform us to be good leaders.  Even if you don’t want to be a leader, you are bound to become a better person with vision and purpose.  

            The 21 Irrefutable Laws start with a series of character identifying traits. Traits that one realizes he/she has or recognition that quite possibly your habits may be classified as leadership potential.

  1. The Law of the Lid: means taking it to the next level. Example: McDonald’s Ray Kroc[1].  He had the vision of a hamburger empire, and made it happen.
  2. The Law of Influence:  You must follow and develop deep, respectable relationships. Mother Teresa[2] influenced millions and not everyone agreed with her. Yet, she was respected.
  3. The Law of Process: Understand there is a process of self- discipline and perseverance. Anne Scheiber[3] was 101 years old when she died in 1995.  She lived on a small fixed income, yet she amassed $22 million dollars investing wisely and meticulously. She left this money to Yeshiva University in her will.
  4. The Law of Navigation: Have a vision for getting to your destination. Plan ahead. Do not minimize obstacles and be realistically objective.
  5.  The Law of Addition: Adding Value leads to adding profits and loyalty.  Value the people around you and they will value you.
  6. The Law of Solid Ground: Trust, you must have a trustworthy character. People must know they are on solid ground with you.  President Nixon[4] lost solid ground and was forced to resign as a president due to the Watergate scandal.
  7. The Law of Respect: If you don’t have respect from your peers, you’re in trouble.
  8. The Law of Intuition: You can’t teach this trait 100%. You must possess the ability to use the resources, part intuition, part fact.   President Lyndon Johnson[5] said that “when you walk into a room, you don’t belong in politics if you can’t tell who’s for you and who’s against you.”
  9. The Law of Magnetism:  Who you are is who you attract.  “Birds or a feather, flock together.” Our mothers were right.  Attract people with good values and good energy.
  10. The Law of Connection:  “You can’t move people to action unless you first move them with emotion.”  Frederick Douglas[6] is said that he can make them “see the humiliation of a black maiden ravished by a brutal slave owner.”  Work hard to connect with your people.
  11. The Law of the Inner Circle: Use the talents of your team.  Mother Teresa said, “You can do what I cannot do. I can do what you cannot do.  Together we can do great things.”
  12. The Law of Empowerment:  Leading is also about giving others the power to lead. By not empowering others, you create barriers.  ‘Great leaders gain authority by giving it away” as quoted by James B. Stockdale.[7]
  13. The Law of the Picture: Picture your vision and don’t lose track of it.
  14. The Law of the Buy-In: Will your followers “buy into you?”  Mahatma Gandhi[8] was able to change the course to freedom with non violent protests.  His followers believed in him and his belief in ‘non-violent civil disobedience’.
  15. The Law of Victory: When defeat is not the answer.  Figure out what has to be done to achieve your victory. 
  16. The Law of The Big Mo: Momentum is your friend.  It’s like being on a winning streak.  “Success is exaggerated by momentum”.  During this phase, one never worries about the small problems, and the big problems seem to get resolved.
  17. The Law of Priorities:  Be prepared to set priorities and know what’s next.
  18. The Law of Sacrifice:  Leadership always requires sacrifice.  You must be willing to give up in order to climb up.  Whether it’s sacrificing 4 years of your life for a degree, or training long hours to be the best football player, it takes sacrifice.
  19. The Law of Timing: One has to master the art of timing.  You have to be able to do the right thing at the right moment.
  20. The Law of Explosive Growth: Leaders or non leaders can influence others in being leaders.  Corporations can reduce costs, increase moral, see greater profit margins, just by creating an atmosphere of a can-do attitude and instill the leader in their employees.
  21. The Law of Legacy: We are all here for a period of time and we only have one chance at it.  Life.  Jackie Robinson[9] said, “A life isn’t significant except for it’s impact on other lives.” 

      We inspire other people with our actions and sometimes we are inspired by others who have chosen to share their vision with us.  In addition, we are also inspired by inactions. Those inactions and injustices witnessed by determined visionaries have changed our world for the better.   Mahatma Gandhi and Winston Churchill[10] are two great examples of visionary leaders who changed history because they responded to inaction.  Winston Churchill practiced the Law of Victory by continuously rallying the British with his eloquent inspirational speeches referring to the Nazi’s and all of Europe’s inaction “for without victory, there is no survival, victory at all costs.”  Gandhi’s subconsciously practiced the Law of the Buy-In. It wasn’t easy to relay his non-violent vision for gaining freedom, but he successfully accomplished this and sums it up with his speeches, “Victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat for it is momentary, an eye for an eye, makes the whole world blind.” 

      Whether our purpose is to invent, lead, develop, teach or raise a family, we all use the laws of leadership every single day in our lives.  We all have a purpose in life and it’s not always meant to lead publicly. Possibly attaining an education because one wants to just ‘know more’ and expand their knowledge.  It may be the start of a more enriching life that you may want to attain with your children or family.  Whatever the case may be, being aware of the 21 Laws of Leadership and practicing these laws in our everyday lives is an excellent choice. We are all lifelong students and the learning and developing never stops.  

 


[1] http://www.biography.com/people/ray-kroc-9369349.  Businessman who purchased McDonald’s restaurant and food preparation standard in 1961.

[2] http://www.biography.com/people/mother-teresa-9504160  Catholic Nun and missionary, she dedicated her life to the poor and sick.

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_Scheiber Lived in extreme frugality, but invested wisely.

[4] http://www.whitehouse.gov/about/presidents/richardnixon 37th President of the United States.

[5] http://www.whitehouse.gov/about/presidents/lyndonbjohnson 36th President of the United States.

[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Douglass American social reformer and anti-slavery writing.

[7] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Stockdale One of the most highly decorated US naval officers.

[8] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Stockdale Indian leader who’s belief in justice inspired the world.

[9] http://baseballhall.org/hof/robinson-jackie The first African American to play Major League Baseball.

[10] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winston_Churchill Prime Minister of England who rallied the British against the Nazi’s.

I can only see modesty.  A character trait owned by people who serve their country.  A young man’s life comes to an abrupt end and the only reference to a life lost is, “when I died, they washed me out of the turret with a hose”.  So powerful is the modesty I perceive.

In this short poem by Randall Jarrell, a World War II turret gunner was gunned down by enemy warfare. As stated in the third sentence, “Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life, I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters. When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.” The last verse is just so matter of fact.   Absent of emotion or tears.  These are the unsung heroes. 

However, they don’t want to be called heroes. To us, they are heroes.  For them, it’s their promise to protect and promise to fight the enemy.  Faced with death and danger, the likelihood their life will not be fully lived is very real. 

Four condensed sentences describe the short life of this young soldier. His chances to live as an adult were gone instantaneously; “loosed from its dream of life.”  Transformation from the safety of his mother’s womb to soldier came quickly as stated in this verse; “From my mother’s sleep I fell into state.” Fell into the state of war before he even lived life.   The turret is his womb as stated; “and I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze”.

While hunched and sleeping in its belly, he woke only to see life flash before him, “Loosed from its dream of life, I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.” His short journey of life was from his mother’s womb, to the states womb, to death.

“They washed me out of the turret with a hose.” How did they know it was him otherwise? The sole remaining proof is probably his dog tags.  

Significant is the message of a baby in a mother’s womb, transforming into a young man now in the State’s womb, once again transforming into his duty’s womb, the turret and finally dying in its womb. 

“Loosed from its dream of life”, “they washed me out of the turret with a hose.” Evidence of life never lived. The turret womb succumbed to death by the miscarriage of war.

The womb can only be washed down with a hose after a miscarriage such is the case when a mother miscarries.       

The heroes of war fight for their country with modesty and bravery.  Traits one can only be born with.  In my eyes, this short poem signifies the modesty and humility of this soldier.  Soldiers possess bravery during life and modesty at death.

Sorry, Is the Only Word

The feel of cotton up against my chin felt soft and comforting.  I punched the pillow softly on its side to move the fill precisely under the side of my neck and curled up my legs like I was in the safety of my mother’s womb, free of all responsibilities of life.  
The sound of the rain drops hitting my window soothed my core and sleep came immediately as I closed my eyes.   I opened them lazily once more just so I can look at the rain drops, hitting the window more rapidly now.  I succumbed to the heaviness of my eyelids and surrendered to slumber.  I have no idea how long I was asleep, it may have been a minute or an hour, but I was awakened by a creaking noise. I slowly opened my eyes again and tried to focus.  I knew that noise. I laid still so that I could hear it again. There it is! It’s that creak on the first step of the stairs.  I looked at the time, it was 2:00 am. I stopped breathing so that I could clearly hear in case I was mistaken.   I could swear I heard that familiar noise. I waited, but nothing. I must be getting paranoid.  The smallest of sounds are intense in the middle of the quite night. I usually hear the humming of the refrigerator, the rain drops falling on the garbage cans, the wind howling, but now I thought I heard that familiar creak, like someone coming up the stairs.

But, there! I heard it again! I held my covers tightly.  I was frozen with fear. My inaction was astounding. I couldn’t even go for my baseball bat or for my phone.  I laid in bed, paralyzed with absolute, disgusting fear.  I heard the footsteps getting closer and more precise.  I could not move. My heart was pounding. My fists were clenched holding the blanket tightly. I felt my nails piercing into my palms.  I didn’t want to look toward the doorway. I was numb. I heard the footsteps getting closer to my bed and then…nothing. It’s as if I was a little child. Kept my eyes shut tight and the boogeyman will go away,

It was awfully quite, when suddenly, I felt a hand on my clenched fists.  I then felt a hand slide under my back. I was being lifted.  Still holding on to the blanket, unable to unlock my grip from fear, I looked up to see who this stranger is.  I could not see a face but I could see his lips.  He said, “Do not be alarmed.  Do not be afraid.  I will take you where you want to go.”

I felt a calm overtake my body immediately. I did not question him.  I trusted him. He wrapped me in his wings and we ascended into the dark sky and headed east, over the Atlantic Ocean.  I could see the moonlight shining over the Atlantic and its waves illuminated by the moon. I wasn’t cold.  We were flying toward the sunrise. The sun rays were coming through the clouds.  I was beginning to see blue skies.  I could now see land.  We were flying over Portugal and Spain. We were now above the Adriatic Sea. I could see the little island of Pantagonia.  We began our descent.  I could now see the clusters of mountainside villages.  White houses with blue shutters, with their distinct clay rooftops.

I knew exactly where he was taking me. He knew exactly where the cemetery was.  He knew exactly where he was buried.  He lowered me gently onto the ground.  I was facing the tombstone now.  I touched his name. I slid my fingers back and forth over the engraving. I knelt and looked at his name for a while.  The dirt underneath my knees was hard and packed.

“I’m sorry”, I said.  “I’m sorry you died alone. I’m sorry that no one was there for you. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I am so sorry.”

” Sorry doesn’t cut it anymore, does it? Please, forgive me.”

I sat there motionless. I put my head down. It’s just too late now.

I looked around. I wanted to see a sign from him.  I was numb. There is nothing I can do now. It’s too late. Maybe he will give me a sign.

The angel said, “It’s time to go.”  I paused and I looked at his name one more time.  I reached out and touched it. Just maybe I may feel something.  I kissed the cold, marble tombstone and kept my hand on the smooth surface for a moment.

He took my hand to help me up and wrapped me in his wings.   We ascended slowly into the heavens.  I looked down to see the cemetery, I could now see the little island becoming smaller and smaller.  I was protected in his wing.  We were over the Atlantic now and approaching darkness.  Soon we were going up the eastern shoreline. My home was soon into view.  We began our descent.  He lowered me into my bed.  I was between my covers now. I thanked him.

My thoughts were numb. I can only wish for a sign that I am forgiven.

Sorry seems to be the only word.

Goodnight Dad.