Mortar

Lisa DeCook

 

     EXT. DRIVEWAY - DAY

KEN navigates a huge company pick-up through a narrow driveway.   He sticks his head out the window and tries to maneuver his way to the backyard without hitting anything.

It's hot and Ken takes off his hat, wiping the sweat from his forehead and face.

He adjusts the side mirror and continues backing up slowly.   There is a LOUD SCRAPING and CRUMBLING.   Ken stops the truck and hits the steering wheel.  

KEN

Shit.

Ken gets out of the truck and SLAMS the door.   He walks around to the side and kneels down near the edge of the house.  

Broken pieces of brick lay at his feet and he picks up a handful, shaking his head and letting a heavy breath out of his mouth.

He walks around to the back of the truck and opens the bed.   A child's LAUGH is heard and RUBY runs around the truck to Ken.   She wraps her arms around his legs and looks up at him.

Ken bends down, hugs her, and messes her hair.

RON walks up after the girl, on the side opposite from where the bricks are broken off.   He doesn't see the damage.   He stands on the side of the truck bed and leans his arms up on the edge.

RON

What's this?

Ron looks down, reaches a hand in the truck, and lifts a handful of woodchips and looks at them.   He looks at the yard, briefly, then lets the chips drop back onto the pile.

KEN

     For the swing-set we talked

about last night.

RON

     We talked about a lot of things last

night, didn't we?

Ken stands up straight and wipes his hands on his pants.   He taps Ruby on the back.  

                    KEN

          Go see if those flowers are up next to

          the garage, Rube.                    

     Ruby runs into the backyard.

                    RON

          They don't need this.

Ron walks over to where Ken is standing and gets too close to his face.

RON

Brian was my only son--

KEN

I know.

RON

  -and Maria and Ruby are the only family

I have.  

KEN

I know.

RON

So, that's clear?

KEN

Sure.

After a moment of uncomfortable silence, Ken walks towards the open garage, looking around for something to put the woodchips in and Ron walks back out to his car.

RON

(shouting)

Ruby?   See ya later, honey.

Ken finds a small wheelbarrow and starts unloading.

 

     EXT. FRONT PORCH - DAY

Ken walks up to the front door.   He brushes off the woodchips sticking to his arms and shirt.   He takes his hat off and twists it front of him.   He rings the bell.

MARIA answers the door and sticks her head out between the opening of the screen door.

She smiles and puts a finger up to her lips.

MARIA

She's sleeping.

She motions for him to come in, but he shakes his head.

KEN

(whispering)

No, you come out.

Maria lets the screen close and crosses her arms over her chest.   She tilts her head and smiles.

MARIA

Why?

Ken leans close to the screen and talks through it.

KEN

(whispering)

I want to show you something.

              

Maria pauses, raises an eyebrow, then steps out onto the porch; hands on her hips.

MARIA

What?

                    KEN

Around back.

Maria sticks her head back inside the house for a second.   She listens for Ruby briefly and then comes back out on the porch.

                    MARIA

          I have to hurry.

They walk quickly down the front porch and around to the back.   Maria sees the woodchips and smiles.

                    MARIA

          You really didn't have to do this.

                    KEN

          It's for a swing set.

                    MARIA

I won't be able to pay

you anytime soon.

Ken stands in mock horror, his hands over his mouth and his eyes wide.

Maria tries not to, but she smiles and hits his arm a little.

MARIA

I'm serious.   You do too much.

Ken shoves his hands in the pockets of his work pants and sways, slightly nervous, from side to side.

KEN

If you try to pay me you'll be sorry.

MARIA

Oh really?   Will I?

Ken smiles and shrugs.

KEN

Yep.

Ken, nervous, pulls out a receipt from one pocket and a small candy bar from the other.  

MARIA

Oh, you're so sweet.

Maria makes a grab for the candy bar and Ken pulls it close to his chest.

KEN

     Hell no.   This is mine.   You got

woodchips for Christ's sake.

Maria laughs.  

They stand for a moment and look at the pile.

MARIA

I have to go back.

KEN

I'll stop by tomorrow to finish.

     Maria nods and jogs back to the front door.

Ken inspects the candy bar he pulled from his pocket.   He brushes it off, and smoothes the wrinkled wrapping.

He walks back around to the front of the house and up onto the porch.   He places the candy bar on the mailbox lid and hops down the porch steps.  

INT. NEIGHBORHOOD BAR - AFTERNOON

Ken walks in and lets a flash of bright sun into the dusty bar.

A few middle-aged men sit at the bar and Ken takes a seat near the end.

BARTENDER (FRANKIE)

Tonic and lime?

Ken taps the counter.

KEN

     You know it.   Nothin' but the good stuff, Frankie.

Ken pulls his wallet out of his back pocket and notices Ron sitting by himself in a corner booth.

He takes his drink and walks over to him.   Ken leans over the table and Ron keeps his head down.

KEN

Hey, Boss.   Why so lonely?

Ron lifts his head and his eyes are red and puffy.   He stares at Ken and raises his glass of whiskey to his lips.

He takes a drink and then holds his glass out to Ken.

RON

Don't you want some, buddy?

Ron swishes the dark brown liquid around.

RON

Nice and smooth.   You sure?

Ken straightens up and takes a step back away from the table.   He laughs a little.

KEN

No, I'm good, Ron.   You know I'm good.

RON

That's right, you stopped.   How

perfect of you.

Ron raises his voice as he talks and starts directing his comments to other customers in the bar.   Anyone who'll listen.

RON

     It's been what?   Three years?   Wow.

Good job.   We should congratulate this young man.  

    

Ron stands halfway, stuck inside the booth, and salutes Ken.   He's drunk, sways a little, and has to grab the table to keep from falling.

               RON

I salute you and your efforts.  

Maria tried to get Brian to stop.  

He told me about it.   Said he

couldn't go two days.   And look at

you, Mr. Goody Goody.   Three

years.

    

Ken stands closer and puts a hand on his shoulder, making sure he doesn't fall.

  KEN

          What do you say we get out of here?

Ron jerks away from Ken.   People stare, but Ron doesn't notice or care.

RON

     What do you say you stop trying to get in my daughter's panties?

               KEN

She's not your daughter.

    

               RON

          What'd you just say?

                    KEN

          Come on.   Let's just go.

Ken reaches over and grabs Ron's arm again. More forceful this time. The bartender stands at the end of the bar and watches.

Ron shrugs off Ken's hand and pushes him weakly in his drunken state.   He looks Ken in the eye.

               RON

What did you just say?

Ken moves back and keeps his head down, avoiding eye contact.   He shakes his head and shoves his hands in his pockets.

               KEN

I don't know, Ron.   It's just she's

not your daughter.   I know she

would've been, but the wedding never

happened.   That makes a difference,

right?

    

     Ken looks up at him and shrugs again.

                    KEN

          Let's just get the fuck out of this

          bar, huh?

Ron stands completely still and watches Ken grab his drink and hat off the table.

RON

          (confused)

You tell me the other night that

you're in love with her.   Now, you

stand here saying she's not my daughter?

               KEN

     They're about to call the cops if

we don't get out of here.

     Ron leans close to Ken and grabs his arm.

                    RON

          You were his friend.

Ken holds onto Ron's arm and helps him walk out of the bar.  

                    RON

     I saw you busted that brick on

the front corner of the house.  

Take care of that, will ya?

     He nods to the bartender on the way to the door.

                    KEN

               (to Ron)          

          First thing.

     INT. KEN'S HOUSE - NIGHT

Ken walks into a dark house.   An old, heavy clock TICS on the mantle.   He takes his hat off and hooks it on a hook in the front hall.   He kicks his shoes off.  

BILL sits at the kitchen table in the dark.   Ken doesn't notice him when he comes into the room.   Ken opens the refrigerator, nothing.   The door of the refrigerator is covered in pictures being held up by magnets.   Pictures of Ken with his mom and dad.   Birthdays, vacations, holidays.   He goes to the cabinet, takes out a glass and runs the tap.  

BILL

There's leftover chicken on the counter.

Ken jumps and drops the glass in the sink.   It doesn't break, but it makes a LOUD BANG against the aluminum.  

KEN

Jesus, Dad.  

Ken turns the water off and grabs the bucket of cold chicken off the counter.   He takes it over to the kitchen table and sits down across from his dad.

KEN

Sitting in the dark.   Real normal.

Ken bites into the chicken and sips his water in silence for a few seconds.

BILL

How was work?

KEN

Whatever, you know?   What'd you do all day?

BILL

Your mother got mail this morning.

KEN

Really.   Five years late, huh?

BILL

     Yeah, from a credit card.   Said

"Make your dreams happen."  

               KEN

I wonder if they consider being deceased a sign of good credit, bad credit, or no credit?

Bill laughs and leans back in his chair.   The moonlight coming through the wooden blinds on the kitchen window illuminates the room in a soft, blue glow.   Bill watches Ken eat.

BILL

Did you tell Ron?

KEN

I don't want to talk about it.

BILL

Didn't take it very well, did he?

KEN

Really, can we talk about something

else?

BILL

Something else?   She's all we ever

frickin' talk about.

KEN

Well, I don't want to right now.

BILL

     Probably said he doesn't want you going over there anymore, right?

KEN

     Let's see...why don't we talk about whether you looked for work today or not?

Bill shakes his head and pushes his chair back from the table.   He is a big man and walks with a heavy limp.   He struggles to pull himself up and walk towards his bedroom.  

BILL

Fuck off.   I'm just trying to help.

KEN

(mumbling)

Worry about helping yourself.

Bill continues walking with his back turned to Ken.   He hears what Ken mumbles and sighs.   He raises a hand and lets it fall dismissively before he turns into the hallway.

EXT. MARIA'S BACKYARD - DAY

Ken works on his knees pushing the woodchips to the edges of a sectioned off area he's made.  

Ruby kneels across from him pushing like he is.   She mimics his movements and he plays with her.   He lifts some woodchips she lifts some, he drops them and so does she.  

Her hair sticks to her in the heat and she pulls long stings of it up and off of herself, away from her eyes.

Maria walks up behind him and watches the two of them pretend to swim through the chips.

She holds two glasses of lemonade.

MARIA

The ice won't keep in these,

but they're cold now.  

Maria shakes what is left of the ice around in the lemonade.   It CHINKS against the glass.

MARIA

          Drink quick.  

 

Ken stands and brushes the dirt off of his arms and front.

Ruby runs and holds her hands up to her mother, up to the lemonade.   Maria gives her a glass and tries to rub the dirt off the girl's face with some saliva and her thumb.

KEN

Sorry, she's kinda dirty.

Ken stands behind Ruby and brushes the dirt from her shoulders.   Her tries to pull her hair away from her face, straighten her up.

MARIA

No, it's good to see her happy.

Ruby takes her lemonade and sits with her back against the pine tree next to the house.

KEN

She's a great little girl.

MARIA

It's been a bad year for her.

KEN

Yeah.   No kidding.

Ken takes the straw out of his glass and drinks the whole thing in one long sip.   He wipes his mouth and forehead with the back of his hand.  

Maria keeps her eyes on Ruby, watching her dig her fingers into the mud at the base of the tree.

MARIA

Bad for everybody, but--

KEN

I know.

MARIA

I'm just so tired of explaining,

you know?

Ruby runs into the back door and Maria turns to Ken and holds up a hand to block her eyes from the sun.   

MARIA

Come inside for a minute.

Ken follows her inside.

INT. ENCLOSED BACK PORCH - DAY

    

Maria walks over to her purse on the window ledge and reaches inside.

                    MARIA

          I have something for you.

              

Ken turns away from her and backs up towards the door.   There is a picture of Brian and Ken hanging on the wall.

Ken points to it.

               KEN

Remember that stupid ass hat he

bought last summer at the Cubs game?

Maria smiles and nods, holding her purse to her chest.   She walks over and stands next to him looking at the picture.

MARIA
So dumb.

KEN

It's made of foam, right?

MARIA

They were giving them away, weren't

they?   I can't imagine he paid

money for it.

KEN

     He wore it to the bar for weeks after

that game.   Let it just sit on top of his head.  

     Ken laughs and looks at Maria.

                   

                    KEN

That big foam hat balancing up on his

huge head.

               MARIA

You were both ridiculous.

    

Ruby runs past them, out the back door, letting it SLAM LOUD.   Maria watches her through the window throwing rocks up at tree limbs.

MARIA

She misses him.

KEN

I bet.

MARIA

You do too much for us Ken.

KEN

Stop.

Ken turns towards Maria and sees her unzip her purse and look inside.

               KEN

          Maria, please.

                    MARIA

     I feel like an asshole, Ken.  

                    KEN

Don't give me anything.

Maria pulls a small white envelope from her purse and walks over to Ken.   She grabs his hand and presses the envelope into his palm.

                    MARIA

          It's nothing.   Please take it.

Ken shoves the envelope in his back pocket and turns to leave.

MARIA

Thanks.

Ken nods and keeps his back to Maria.

KEN

Sure.

Ken walks out the back door and waves at Ruby who runs in circles around the butterfly bush running her hand over its tiny yellow flowers.   She waves back.

Ken walks down the gangway and pulls the envelope from his pocket.   He opens it and pulls out several wallet-sized pictures of Ruby taken at a mall somewhere.   She's in front of a cheap waterfall, her hair in a crooked ponytail.  

Ken laughs and returns the envelope to his back pocket.   He gets to his truck and opens the passenger's side door.   He leans in and rummages through the glove compartment.  

He finds another small candy bar, same as the one before.   He makes sure it's in one piece, looks okay, and takes it over to the porch.

He steps quietly, and gently places the candy bar on the mailbox.

He jogs briskly back to his truck, gets inside and drives away.

EXT. FRONT PORCH - DAY

KEN climbs the front stairs and lays his toolbox next to the old porch swing that leans up against the side of the porch, tattered with one chain completely unattached.  

He holds the chain up and stands on the porch ledge to reattach it to the ceiling.

MARIA steps outside and accidentally lets the screen door SLAM shut behind her.

Ken stumbles.

                    KEN

               (surprised)

          You're not at work?

Ken wobbles and Maria moves closer to him, raising her hands to steady him.   She laughs.

               MARIA

     I got off early.

    

     Ken grabs the side of the roof and regains his balance.   He jumps, carefully, from the ledge back onto the porch.

                    KEN

          I didn't see your car.

                    MARIA

          You don't have to do this, Ken.

                    KEN

          You get a ride?

     Ken turns his back to her and leans over his toolbox.

Maria comes up behind him and jabs her fingers lightly into his sides.

                    KEN

               (nervous)

          Come on now.   Trying to fix something

          here.          

Maria lifts both of her hands above her head in exaggeration.  

                    MARIA

          Geesh, I tell ya.   When's he gonna quit?

                    KEN

          I can fix a porch swing for you.  

          It's not a big deal.

     Maria walks over to Ken and puts a hand on his shoulder.

                    MARIA

          I'm making lunch.   You want something to eat?

     Maria goes into the house and lets the screen door SLAM behind her.

MARIA (O.S.)

     I'll have to make sure I save some

room for the candy that a little fairy's

been leaving me.   MMM,MMM

Ken wipes his hands on his jeans and reaches into his pocket.   He pulls out a white necklace box and opens it.   He takes another look at the thin silver chain with the purple stone.   He closes it, taps the lid, and puts it on the mailbox.   He closes his toolbox and walks down the porch to his truck.

EXT. CONSTRUCTION SITE - DAY

Ken and Ron work together on-site building an addition on a single family home.   They carry large pieces of debris from inside the house to a dumpster in the alley.

The sun is bright and they both wear heavy gloves and sweat in the heat.

RON

(breathing heavy)

You fix that brick work you fucked up

at Brian's?

KEN

Not yet.

They coordinate a swing and throw a bunch of drywall up into the dumpster.   They walk back in silence and grab another load.

Another laborer, STAN, passes them and fakes like he's about the run into them.   They drop the wood they are carrying.

KEN

Prick.

Stan laughs at them and stops long enough to watch them pick up what they dropped.

STAN

You ladies still having a little

disagreement?

Ken and Ron ignore him and continue on their way to the dumpster.

STAN

Do everybody a favor and grow the

fuck up, huh?

Neither of them acknowledges Stan, but Ron looks up at Ken before they throw the last load in.

RON

Fix my boy's house, Ken.

Ken nods and dumps the last load into the dumpster, takes off his gloves and walks back onto the house.

 

INT. KEN'S TRUCK - NIGHT

Rain pours on the windshield and Ken sits in the driver's seat facing Maria's house.  

He turns on the accessories to get the windshield wipers to clear the rain off the glass.  

The warning bell DINGS in the car and Ken lets it go, watching the house and taping his fingers on the steering wheel.

KEN

Okay, okay.   You're good.   Same

as usual, no different.

Ken nods, takes a few deep breaths and opens his door.

EXT. FRONT OF MARIA'S HOUSE - NIGHT

Ken runs through the rain trying to cover his head with his hands.

EXT. MARIA'S FRONT PORCH - NIGHT

Ken stands outside Maria's door and shakes the rain off his shirt.   He runs his hands over is hair and tries to shake out some of the wetness.

He looks at the mailbox, nods and takes another deep breath.   He rings the doorbell and waits.

Maria answers the door and stands with the screen door closed in front of her.

She CLICKS the porch light on and Ken covers his eyes.   Maria is completely invisible in the blackness of the screen.

MARIA

You're wet.

Ken holds his hand above his eyes and squints in the brightness of the overhead light.   He squats a little to try and get a better view of her.

KEN

Yeah.   It's pretty bad out here.

They stand in silence for a moment.   THUNDER is heard.   Heavy RAIN POURS out of the gutters, and light RAIN TAPS on the aluminum awning.  

KEN

I just came by to -

MARIA

I know, Ken.

Maria opens the screen and sticks just her hand outside.   She holds out the thin white box.

MARIA

Just take this, okay?

Ken keeps one hand on his forehead and reaches for the box with the other one.

MARIA

I can't.

Maria closes the door and Ken stands for a moment and looks at the box in his hand.   He slides it into his back pocket and walks down the porch and to his truck, slower this time through the rain.

EXT. MARIA'S DRIVEWAY - DAY

Ken kneels in the driveway next to the place where he damaged the brick.  

He is surrounded by trays full of cement, tools, and bricks.   He mixes some water into the cement tray and tries not to spill it onto the driveway.

His hands are covered in cement and it is splashed all over his shirt, in his hair, on his shoes.  

A car door SHUTS and Ron walks up to the house.   He is dressed nice, for Sunday.   He wears a button down shirt and some khaki pants.  

Ken notices the noise of the car door and looks in Ron's direction.   He stands up and tries to wipe some of the mortar on his pants.  

Ron stands with his hand on the porch railing, watching him.   He nods.   Ken nods back and the two go back to what they were doing.   Ron walks up the front door and a DOORBELL is heard.  

Ruby runs to the door and her feet POUND on the wood of the porch.   Ken listens to them for a second, and then goes back to working.

EXT. MARIA'S FRONT PORCH - EARLY EVENING

Ken leaves his brick repair equipment at the foot of the stairs and wipes his hands again on his jeans.  

He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a small candy bar.   He looks at it, smoothes out the wrinkles, and walks up the porch.   He hesitates.  

He looks from the mailbox to the door and back again.   He lays the candy down and walks down the porch.

He picks up his tools, and goes to his truck.

The End.