Sreekumar Natarajan

In the Backyard of Loneliness

In the Backyard of Loneliness

By Sree Natarajan May 2009

MONTAGUE

SOFIA (VO) Juan wanted me to look pretty; I

looked pretty, Juan didn’t want a child, I agreed. Juan didn’t like me sad, I tried. (pause) Juan asked, promise me you never hurt yourself, (sigh)

FADE TO:

1. Vehicles zip by the highway as if trying to escape from some unknown.

2. An empty residential street, all houses have their blinds drawn and not a soul is out side.

3. A car stops in front of a house; a man gets out of his car and struggles to carry a TV that he was lugging in the trunk of the car.

4. A stray dog walks along the street.

5. An old man sits inside his garage and looks out into the street with suspicious eyes. He scratches his stubbles.

6. Back to the highway from a different angle.

INT. HOUSE – DAY A new day. The noise of the highway filters into the room. A clock ticks.

Sun breaks into a modestly furnished room with matching dresser, bed, and nightstand. Neatly arranged women’s makeup and ornaments.

A low wattage night lamp sheds a patch of light which now competes with profuse of sunlight filtering through the window curtain. The curtain flutters.

1.

Sofia lies on the bed on her side, he eyes are wide open and stares something on the floor.

CUT TO:

INT. HOUSE – DAY

A hand parts the window curtain. Sofia’s POV of the backyard. Apple tree, some apples lay on the ground. Ants go around decaying fruits.

Sun light is giving her a head ache or the last night?

Sofia notices the sprinklers she forgot to the previous night. She murmurs something

EXT. HOUSE BACKYARD – DAY

hangover from

turn off from and hurries.

CUT TO:

Sprinklers stop. Wet grass and patches of accumulated water enough to flood the lawn.

Sofia looks at the mess. She walks towards a rose bush and decides against plucking one.

A Crow cries from one of the branches of an overhanging tree.

By some instinct she pays attention to it and then goes inside the house.

CUT TO:

INT. MRS. HENDERSON’S HOUSE – DAY Camera pans over a dirty counter top. In the semi-darkness a lost soul tries to kill time.

2.

MRS. HENDERSON (OS) “let me give the glory unto him:

for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. 19:8And it was given unto her that she should array herself in fine linen, bright and pure: for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”

The crow’s craw stops a hand that was counting the prayer beads.

1 INT. HOUSE KITCHEN – DAY

Sofia makes coffee and looks through the window. She gets some hard liquor from the cupboard and mixes with it.

A Mexican man walks along the sidewalk unsure of himself as where to go.

A car passes by. She feels the stillness, the silence. CUT TO:

INT. ART ROOM – DAY

Sofia enters their private art gallery; she still has the liquor coffee.

Unfinished picture of Mayan woman on a hill side holding a basket of fruits.

Camera pans dried brushes, half finished paintings and the dust that slowly building up.

Sofia sits down on the crammed floor. She is lost in thought or in a stupor from the comforting effect of the liquor. Either way her eyes look lifeless.

Sofia cleans a cobweb that is beginning to form around the picture.

CUT TO:

3.

INT. MRS. HENDERSON’S HOUSE – DAY

Through the cobwebs we see a figure in silhouette walks towards a bright window.

INT. ROYAL LIQUOR SHOP – DAY

Sofia buys a good chunk of stuff. The Indian dude at the counter looks at her collection with bit of amazement.

Silently she pays without making eye contact with the dude, why bother.

CUT TO:

EXT. TRAM STATION EVENING- DAY

Sofia stands next to a pole. A stud stands few feet away pretending to be unaware.

A tram noisily approaches the station, when it leaves we see the stud has moved close to her.

CUT TO:

INT. CAR EVENING – DAY

Sofia drives, we focus on her. She has a strange fleeting smile across her face. Passenger seat is empty. The car drives along the highway.

A man, the same guy we saw at the tram station gets up from somewhere. He wears this funny womanish type of sunglass.

He is about to light a cigarette. SOFIA

Don’t. An uncomfortable silence and they remain quiet.

SOFIA My husband was a Latino. (pause)

He was an artist. Not very interested.

4.

MAN Oh. Where is he?

Sofia turns her face to look at him but doesn’t CUT TO:

INT. MRS. HENDERSON’S HOUSE – NIGHT A candle being lit, a weak sound says prayer.

say a thing.

of her

of her.

CU of two prayer.

feeble hands shaking in the intensity

MRS. HENDERSON Oh Father who art in Heaven. You

showed me the light while I was going through this dreadful darkness, Father forgive my son it is not his fault..A shadow quietly moves inside the house unaware

FLOOR CREAKS AS IF SOMEONE WALKS, CAMERA FOLLOWS THE SOUND INTO A ROOM WE SEE A CLOSET GENTLY CLOSING FROM INSIDE.

Sound of the night faintly audible.

EXT. MOTEL FALMINGO – NIGHT

CUT TO:

Yet another pathetic place, the usual boasting of HBO, and Cable in the room. We linger on the sign.

CUT TO:

INT. MOTEL FLAMINGO – NIGHT

The stud has no shirt and sits on a chair and snorts powder. Sofia lies on the bed covering herself with the Motel comforter and look at him admiringly.

5.

SOFIA What a strange name for a motel,

it is something erotic, isn’t it? The man glance her for a beat and goes back to his activity. Sofia talks as if she is in trance.

SOFIA Do you bring other women here?

The man rolls his eyes.

SOFIA Juan used to say cheap motels

arouse him (sigh) he never took me any where.

We focus on her wedding ring as she turns her hand.

The man is high now, he has a strange look, perhaps he even contemplates violence on her?

CUT TO:

INT. HOUSE – NIGHT Sofia returns home, disheveled.

She throws her bag and shoes and falls into the couch. She sobs silently.

It is all you leave

INT. HOUSE – DAY

SOFIA your fault Juan. Why did me alone?

CUT TO:

Another morning. Sofia gets up with severe head ache; she searches the cupboard for any left over bottles. Her hand shakes, finally she finds half finished Vodka. She fills a shot of Vodka and empties it on the rock.

She looks into a mirror in the kitchen, and unexcitedly ties her hair.

6.

She walks towards the backdoor.

EXT. BACKYARD – DAY

CUT TO:

Sofia steps into the backyard and lazily strolls in mild breeze.

She notices a broken rose stump near the fence and walks towards it. Suddenly she is arrested as she hears kids playing from across the fence.

Sofia’s face lights up as she listens.

SUDDENLY something crashed, a kid scream in pain and everything falls quiet.

Sofia looks perplexed. She moves closer to the fence and listens, nothing.

She bends down and peeps through a small hole in the fence. CUT TO:

EXT. NEIGHBOR’S BACKYARD – DAY

Weed infested and overgrown backyard. It doesn’t even look like anybody has stepped there in ages let alone kids playing.

CUT TO:

EXT. SOFIA’S BACKYARD – DAY

A thoughtful look on Sofia’s face. She briskly walks towards her neighbor’s house.

Sofia adjusts her shawl across her shoulder to protect her from the mild chill outside.

CUT TO:

7.

EXT. NEIGHBOR’S HOUSE – DAY

Sofia hesitates, blinds are drawn, no car on the drive way. No sign of life.

Sofia knocks the door, no response. She stands there for a few seconds and decides to go back.

She walks half way along the empty drive way and stops. From there she could see the gate to the backyard.

She approaches the gate and stretches herself to look at the backyard. When she touches the gate it creates an ungainly creaky sound.

SOFIA Anybody home?

Something doesn’t seem right, she wants to leave. Suddenly she senses a movement behind the window, she is alert.

When she turns to walk back she notices the same Mexican man we saw earlier stare her from the side walk. God knows what his business is. He frowns and runs away and disappears behind the adjacent house.

Everything is quiet for a long beat.

She hears

EXT. MRS.

someone from inside the house.

MRS. HENDERSON (OS) As long as you’re not here for a

donation, back door is open.

HENDERSON’S HOUSE – DAY

CUT TO:

Sofia walks opens the wooden gate and steps into the backyard from there she can see the door.

CUT TO:

INT. MRS. HENDERSON’S HOUSE – DAY

Sofia opens the door and steps inside. In the semi darkness she sees someone sits on a couch facing away from the door.

8.

MRS. HENDERSON There’re no garage sales of any

kind going on here.

SOFIA I heard some noise.

MRS. HENDERSON

I didn’t!

SOFIA I wanted to check and see if

anyone was hurt. I live right behind your house.

A moment of silence.

Mrs. Henderson turns in her chair, now we see a TV where a home video is paused.

SOFIA It must have been the TV.

A long beat.

MRS. HENDERSON Goodness, Did I wake the whole

neighborhood? I accidentally sat on the remote (chuckles)

Sofia notices the TV.

SOFIA Aren’t they beautiful!

Mrs. Henderson smiles.

MRS. HENDERSON My grand children.

SOFIA I am Sofia Parker.

Suddenly realizes. Mrs. Henderson. Please come in.

MRS. HENDERSON

9.

.

Forgive here…

Mrs. Henderson is ill at ease.

MRS. HENDERSON me; it is bit messy

too eager to show her hospitality, Sofia is

A beat.

MRS. HENDERSON You live in that house (pointing).

SOFIA

Yeah.

MRS. HENDERSON I am not sure if I saw you’re kid;

I see a lot of them sneaking into my front yard. I don’t know what on earth are they looking for?

SOFIA I don’t have kids.

MRS. HENDERSON You are still young.

SOFIA My husband passed away last

December.

MRS. HENDERSON I am so sorry… (pause to say something but decides against)

SOFIA (Just look at her).

MRS. HENDERSON Come have a seat. Can I get you

something?

SOFIA I am fine, thank you.

MRS. HENERSON Why don’t I make some coffee uh?

10

.

Mrs. Henderson tells her it is okay and fumbles into the kitchen.

SOFIA Don’t bother Mrs. Henderson, (give

up) sure.

Sofia sits on the sofa and from there she can see partially what Mrs. Henderson is up to.

Mrs. Henderson finds the coffee powder and puts in the filter and pours water.

Sofia gets up and looks around, the house is irrecoverably decaying. Everything inside the house looks ancient and feels that time has stopped ticking.

Sofia looks at the poor thing’s eagerness in making the coffee. Sofia walks towards the kitchen and stands by the door.

SUDDENLY SOFIA HEARS SLIGHT CREAKING OF THE BEDROOM DOOR BEHIND HER. SOMETHING HAS MOVED OR FELT LIKE MOVED. SHE SPINS HER HEAD TOWARDS THAT DIRECTION. PERHAPS FOR A BRIEF MOMENT SHE SAW A MAN QUICKLY CROSS THE DOOR AND NOTHING MORE. SILENCE PREVAILS.

She turns to Mrs. Henderson

Mrs. Henderson does not seem to have heard the sound as she is trying hard to get the last biscuit out of an old box.

Mrs. Henderson looks at Sofia, then back to her activity.

MRS. HENDERSON My son lives in LA with his

family, he almost forgotten me (chuckles).

SOFIA Who is with you now?

Mrs. Henderson raises her head, for a beat.

MRS. HENDERSON (Low voice) No one.

Sofia thinks.

11

.

Mrs. Henderson puts the cup and the single biscuit on a tray. She is about to walk and SUDDENLY something happened the tray and coffee fell down from her hand with a bang!

Sofia is startled.

MRS. HENDERSON Oh goodness, again.

Sofia quickly comes to her rescue and tries to comfort her but somehow Mrs. Henderson is deeply hurt. The single biscuit lay on the floor soaked in coffee.

Mrs. Henderson and Sofia clean the mess. While they pick up the pieces Mrs. Henderson talks.

MRS. HENDERSON (chuckles) Yesterday I saw someone

standing right there next to that door.

Sofia sits down on the floor and looks at the feeble almost fragile Mrs. Henderson.

SOFIA

Who?

MRS. HENDERSON Bob, my husband, he looked rather

pale. He whispered “don’t be afraid, everything gonna be ok”, then just walked away.

A long beat. Suddenly rather unexpectedly with a seriousness.

MRS. HENDERSON You think I am crazy?

Sofia feels very unsettled. SOFIA

Oh no…

MRS. HENDERSON There were times dear, I thought I

was going crazy, I hear noises , human like presence that I

12

.

couldn’t’ explain; It is now , I know Bob is with

SOFIA That is so great.

all clear me.

MRS. HENDERSON It is dear; it is like all of a

sudden a purpose (pause) to continue.

Sofia can’t take this anymore, she gets up briskly. Her eyes have welled up.

MRS. HENDERSON Do you believe in such things?

Too quick. NO.

SOFIA

MRS. HENDERSON I never used to.

In one breath she says these words and heads towards the door.

SOFIA Mrs. Henderson, I must be going.

Thanks for everything. It was nice meeting you.

MRS. HENDERSON It was a pleasure meeting you too.

Sofia briskly walks out; before she reaches the door she turns and looks at the bed room door. The door remains open as before.

CUT TO:

INT. SOFIA’S HOUSE – NIGHT

Sofia has a strange glow in her eyes. She has dressed up very nicely for a party or something.

13

.

14 deliberates, but a sudden urge

from the cabinet and a glass

two, and then three. She feels

She comes to the kitchen and overpowers her.

Her eyes are getting redder.

She picks up a liquor bottle rather abruptly.

She sits down and downs one, her bare legs.

SOFIA (VO) What an idea, (slightly pant) I

was convinced that woman was crazy, there is nobody out there (verge of a sob). You can fool your mind, however you want, even pretend death is a mere curtain, all you need is pull hard, of course you will see what you want to see.

She walks hears someone breathe heavily, it could as well be hers but in her state of mind it sounds otherwise. She listens.

towards the bath room. Then stops and listens. She

Her cat follows her.

INT. BATH ROOM – NIGHT

CUT TO:

She pees and then gets up and looks into the mirror, her face is glowing with a dangerous idea.

She looks herself again on the mirror. SOFIA

Pathetic…

She picks up the razor blade and sits down at the edge of the tub and puts her leg in a position to shave.

CUT TO:

.

INT. BATH ROOM – NIGHT

She turns on the tap.

She fiddles with the razor blade.

Her cat walks into the frame and looks at her rather sadly.

In a sudden urge she brings the razor closer to her wrist and about to cuts her vein.

SUDDENLY

stand and

EXT. MRS.

look at it.

MALE VOICE Sofy, why are you

(OS) hurting you?

cat makes a sound and goes off

FADE OUT.

puts a finished picture on the

Soft. She raises her head; the to a side.

SOFIA

What?

INT. SOFIA’S HOUSE – DAY Sofia cleans the art room; she

SOFIA (VO) After that meeting with Mrs.

Henderson I didn’t think about her for several weeks, until I saw a flier stuck on my door, Mrs. Henderson’ house was on sale. I was curious.

CUT TO:

HENDERSON’S HOUSE – DAY

Realtor puts down an ‘Open House’ board and heads back to the house.

SOFIA Excuse me.

15

.

REALTOR 1800 sq ft, hard wood floor, great

school, under priced to sell. Hi I am Sheila Williams.

SOFIA Do you know anything about Mrs.

Henderson?

She looks conversation.

REALTOR I am sorry I don’t know anything

about her.

SOFIA Why not? She was living here.

REALTOR I deal with the owner, he lives in

LA.

SOFIA Can I get his number?

REALTOR Are you some kind of …?

SOFIA Some kind of what?

REALTOR There is lots of stuff going on

with this house. I can’t give my client’s phone number, if you are interested in the house you can talk to me.

SOFIA Can’t you just give me a simple

piece of information?

REALTOR One thing I know is, she’ll be

at Sofia and didn’t really want to continue this

safe now. What you mean?

SOFIA

16

2

REALTOR Considering the stuff she has gone

through, (hesitates) I can’t talk to you any more about my client.

SOFIA I am worried about Mrs. Henderson,

she is a good friend.

REALTOR You know, she wasn’t all there,

there was somebody was living in her house, she never knew it, weird uh? I guess he was kind of…some homeless guy.

SOFIA

Really?

REALTOR I thought everybody knew it, it

was even on TV. I guess you didn’t know.

SOFIA

No

EXT. NURSING HOME – DAY

Mrs. Henderson sits in a wheelchair and struggle to focus on something on the ground; she has aged a lot in few days. Her eyes looked sunken and lusterless.

A bit far away a nurse stands and watches.

Sofia walks into the frame and approaches by Mrs. Henderson’s wheelchair. They stay quiet.

Sofia holds Mrs. Henderson’s hand. Sofia has sense of contentment on her face

NURSE (OS) Mrs. Henderson, sorry to interrupt

your concentration. It is time to go.

Sofia gets up and asks the Nurse.

.

17

.

SOFIA

May I? Sofia pushes the wheel chair towards the building.

Soft.

MRS. HENDERSON I was happy at my home.

SOFIA You are safe here Mrs. Henderson.

MRS. HENDERSON But I have nothing to believe

(chokes) it is hard.

SOFIA Who knows Mrs. Henderson, there

maybe someone out there watching over us.

A long beat.

MRS. HENDERSON Do you believe that?

A moment of thought on Sofia’s face. Soft.

EXT. MRS.

SOFIA Maybe I do…

HENDERSON’S HOUSE – DAY

CUT TO:

SOFIA (VO) Well, my new neighbors have moved

into Mrs.Henderson’s house, they came by to ask what I think about replacing the old backyard fence, I thought about it too, probably it is time.

Y-Haul truck parked outside and someone unload boxes and bring into Mrs. Henderson’s house

18

19

.

FADE OUT.

END