Sreekumar Natarajan

A Girl in the Swamp

A girl in the swamp

By Sree Natarajan


A lonely swamp somewhere in the outskirts of the city. A swollen stream almost hidden away in vegetation gracefully runs through it to nowhere. Some birds chirp, a bored cricket made a stucco of chatter and then broke into silence.

The camera slowly tracks against the flow while meditatively observing reflections of the sky and rays of the evening sun peeks through the branches.

At a distance on the stream a tiny spec of white object struggle to float it appears to be tangled into a reed. We slowly zoom into it and slowly it becomes clear that it is a girl’s panty.

From some distance away we hear sound of someone walking along the water towards the camera; we wait and observe a man with a pair of rubber boots walks past the camera in the opposite direction. The boots make waves in otherwise quiet stream.

The ripples from the waves circles around the reed and gently toss the panty. When the panty moves rhythmically up and down a thin stream of blood encircles the area as if the panty itself is bleeding.

We pause forward. descends sight of reeds have been trampled and left behind are few fading foot marks on the mud. We see her naked legs stretching into the water and blood channels through it and spread into the stream.

One ballet shoe partly covered in mud lies closer to the body.

We pull back and lookup along the path we traveled, we see the man at a greater distance climbing out of the bank with a black plastic bag and he wears a city cleaning crew jacket.

Sky is getting darker and we hear slight thunder in the horizon. In the background we hear: Walt Whitman’s poem:

for a moment at this strange sight and continue to move Suddenly we are arrested on our tracks. A silence

like a wet curtain. We are thrown back at the ghastly a girl’s dead body partly covered in bush. Surrounding


4 In the swamp, in secluded recesses,

A shy and hidden bird is warbling a song.

Solitary, the thrush, The hermit, withdrawn to himself, avoiding the settlements, Sings by himself a song.

Song of the bleeding throat!

Titles rollover.


A dreary winter day, rain pours down.

Rain socks a yellow ribbon tied to an enormous tree in the front yard near the sidewalk. We see that along the street several trees in the neighborhood also adorn the yellow ribbon, a symbol of hope perhaps.

We turn to a house next to the tree; there also a ribbon has been tied to its door.



The camera pans gently inside the kitchen of a semi affluent middle-class family. As we slowly moves in the background we hear a phone rings, few rings later it stops.

Camera stops at various objects. The phone rings again, this time it goes to the answering machine.

FEMALE (VOICE) Sorry I am not here to take your

call, please leave a message…

Call is interrupted. No message is left, answering machine beeps.


We look at framed pictures of a smiling teenage girl prominently placed on the kitchen counter and few other family pictures taken obviously during some happy times.

A samovar on the range spews steam. A healthy indoor plant in a vase stands next to the range.

Heavy rain splatters the window panes incessantly. We hear someone sobs softly and we pan towards it.

Mother sits by the window facing away from the cooking range. She must have been sitting there alone for some time.

Some news papers are scattered over the table, a cup of coffee remained half drunk.

Her eyes are eagerly pinned on the road, as if waiting for someone, every passing vehicle seems to be giving her a fleeting ray of hope only to be dejected a moment later.



Mother wipes her tears and walks slowly towards the photo of her daughter.

She looks at the picture and stays there; her face shows an explosion of emotions.

We very slowly zoom into her. The entire monologue is in whispers.

MOTHER I made a promise to myself; I am

not going to make you unhappy ever. You can color your hair, blue is fine. I am not sure Rick smoke, but you can still bring him home. (pause)I wouldn’t ask you to practice ballet everyday, only on Saturdays that too after watching TV.(pause) When you come home I want to hold you tight one whole night, please don’t tell me not to. I hope you are not cold or


Door bell

rings. She is startled.


hungry. Mom is not proud any more I am not going to scold you for putting your mom through this test(pause) I know when you come back, I can forget all my sad thoughts.

When the door opens Ed folds his umbrella and wipes wetness from his face.

He takes off his raincoat and places both on the verandah, wet hair sticks on his forehead.

We look at his rubber boots for a beat. With a broad smile he opens the door ajar and enters.


Mother looks apparently happy to see Ed but she does not show any emotions, she walks back to her chair and see a pile of unopened mails. She picks them up and begins to sort disinterestedly.

He comes very closer to her. ED

hi Not too enthusiastic.


hi Mother looks at one piece of mail.

ED I have been calling you since this

morning, why didn’t you pick up the phone?



Mother still focusing on the mail.

MOTHER I am tired of sympathy calls.

Ed’s becomes serious.

ED This is ME, calling.

MOTHER You call ten times a day.

His face is very closer to hers, she never turns her face, her mouth is little open, and she is enveloped by an uncomfortable feeling.

Mother picks up a half-full coffee cup from the table and walks towards the sink.

Ed pulls a chair and sits. Very low voice.

ED When I was stationed in Fort

Irwin, my neighbor’s daughter, may be 7 or 8 that time, went missing. We searched all over the place, day and night. Few days later she was found with her estranged father, in Montana.

She turns while washes the cup.

A beat. Without looking up.

Minnie is Low voice.

MOTHER not with my ex-husband..her head adjust a lock of hair fallen on her face

ED Maybe not, but how can you be so



Mother slowly walks from near the sink towards him. She stops; she has a serious look on her face.

Low voice.

But he is A long beat, Mother

ED a dangerous man.

looks at him

She walks

MOTHER It doesn’t surprise me what you

said about my exhusband, but something else you said really surprised me.



MOTHER Misha Lansdrom.

ED Who is Misha Lansdrom?

few more steps closer.

MOTHER (pause, looking straight into his

eyes and very clearly) They didn’t find her in Montana; they found her body (lips tremble) in Mojave desert,(pause) less than 15 miles from Fort Irwin.

MOTHER Lots of bad things happen to

people; my ex-husband was the worst that happened to me. (Pause) But whatever it is he loved my daughter.

Ed looks incredulous.

ED Where did you get that news?


MOTHER What you think I am doing, day and

night? It is all there on the internet.

Ed is eager to defend his position.

ED No…no…this is not the same. They

never report happy endings. You must have mistaken with someone else…

Phone rings, she walks out of the frame. Ed turns his head as she walks off. To himself.

ED …she was a Mexican girl

Ed’s eyes wander in the room, perhaps bit relieved at the momentary break from super charged atmosphere. His glance falls on Minnie’s picture; he gets up and walks towards the picture.

As he stares the picture his face shows some discomfort and it grows as the time goes.


He is startled, from behind; he his head:


and becomes aware that Mother is watching him regains his composure, without fully turning


MOTHER (OS) What was the last thing my

daughter told you?

MOTHER Erika, you know the girl in her

ballet class, called me just now, she said you went to Minnie’s class that day.


A beat.

ED I stopped by on my way to Home

depot, just to say hi to her. (pause)

MOTHER What else are you hiding from me?

ED (no response)

Mother looks pale; somewhere in her mind fear has started growing.

ED Why? I would…n’t do anything to

hurt you…

MOTHER Why didn’t you tell me.

ED Because she was very upset.

MOTHER Why was she upset?

A long beat, replies in a low voice.

ED I guess, she didn’t want me moving

in with you. Mother doesn’t buy that statement.

She walks towards the window. She opens the blind and looks outside.

A long beat.

Ed follows walks into the frame and stands closer to her. He smells her hair and he puts his hands over her shoulder.

ED I know this will all pass, she

will come back. (pause) I never


She turns Following

had anybody in my life; this is the first time…

her head to look at him and moves away from him. lines are talked in a very low voice.

MOTHER Don’t look at me.

ED I need you.

to get away from him, the earlier she could do the

She wants better. She turns her head away from him and continues to look outside.

He makes an attempt to come near her. She turns and looks into his eyes.

MOTHER You are suffocating me.

He stops on his tracks. A beat.

MOTHER I need to be alone.

I long beat, something in his heart just snapped. He slowly moves away from her.

He looks at her; in his mind some decisions have been made.

He slowly moves out of the door. She closes the blind and quickly turns off the light. She peeks through the blind to see if he is gone.

A car drives away.

She stands in the semi-dark and then walks towards the phone. She dials some number and waits.







In the neon lit exterior of the motel some homeless people huddle along the wall unable to find enough money to enjoy the comfort inside. The fortunate ones however move in and out of the decaying relics of the motel where they redeem their soul for weekly or monthly rent.

(OS) A phone rings in one of the rooms



A booze party is in progress, half empty hard liquor bottle and two empty glasses compete for whatever little space left on the night stand with Chinese takeout food in different stages of completion.

A middle aged man must have had a dignified life at one time but now looks beaten down sits on the edge of the bed and scratches couple of days of stubble with resigned interest. Tonight however he got a woman and booze, can’t ask for more. He wears an old pajama and t-shirt with Grateful Dead logo.

He puts down his drink and stares the annoying telephone which keeps ringing. He looks at it for a long beat and then picks it up. He searches for his reading glass among the messy table top as if he needs it for talking on the phone.

He puts the phone to his ears and listen, his face changes. CUT TO:


INT. HOUSE Mother holds the phone to her ear.

MOTHER Is that you…?




INT. MOTEL ROOM – NIGHT Annoyed. Mark talk in a hush voice.

MARK Were you expecting someone else?

MOTHER (OS) Is there somebody with you?

Mark’s eyes dart towards the bathroom and slowly glance on the cheap shoes and purse left on the bed.



At that very moment we hear someone flushing the toilet, Mark deftly covers the phone.

A smoky voice from the bath room.

WOMAN (OS) Who is on the phone? (pause)

(complain loudly) You piss me with your fucking hush talk.

MOTHER (OS) I want to talk to you.

MARK I thought we settled everything in

the court.

MOTHER (OS) Our daughter, did you settle that

too? No response.

WOMAN (OS) (loud)Are you talking to that

bitch ex-wife of yours? Mother fucker you promise me…

When it gets too annoying he slowly walks out of the door with the phone in his hand and closes the front door slowly behind him.





Mark struggles to hold on the phone because the phone cord is not long enough, he shivers.

In trembling voice.


A beat.

MARK Cops came here this morning, what

did you tell them. (firm)I love my daughter.

MOTHER (OS) I know you loved her; I didn’t

call you to dispute that.

MARK (pause)Why did you call me?

Mother hesitates.

A beat.

MOTHER (OS) No…nothing, I shouldn’t have

called you.

MARK I know you didn’t call me this

late to say nothing.

A beat. Low voice.

MOTHER (OS) I called you on an impulse, a wild

impulse that is. (pause) I want to surprise Minne when she comes home, (pause) I thought what could surprise her the most?

A long beat. Wait…wait…what are you saying?




9 INT. HOUSE – NIGHT Very low voice.

MOTHER I wanted to say something…I don’t

think I can (pause). A long beat. Mark sighs.

MARK (OS) It is too late.

Sadly resigned. You think so? (pause). Bye.

10 EXT. MOTEL – NIGHT Feeling immediate remorse.

MARK God damn it.


He is about to put the phone down by some urge he stops for a beat and then slowly brings it closer to his ear.

In a very calm voice.

MARK Stephanie, are you still there?

A long pause, he continues to hold the phone. CUT TO:

11 INT. HOUSE Mother holds the phone closer to her ear,

MOTHER I am still here.





A beat.



We look her from outside and see her hold the phone and open the blind.



Mark puts the receiver back and opens the door. There she stands, the woman. She was obviously listening to his conversation.

He doesn’t like her posture.



Mark places the phone back on the night stand and sits down. The woman stands back and stares.

What… Sarcastic, very



WOMAN will be no happily ever for you asshole.


There after

MARK What are you talking about

WOMAN I am talking about the blood in

your hand.

MARK What the fuck is that.





She grabs sounds of


WOMAN Love my daughter.(pause) That girl

looked sad when she left here yesterday, she wanted to say something, you didn’t even listen a fucking thing the whole time. (pause) How could you remember such small details you fucked up alcoholic?

MARK Get the fuck out of here.


Fuck you.

her stuff and leaves in a hurry. The door bangs and it on Mark’s face.