EXT. ABOVE FOREST—DAY
SUPERIMPOSE OVER ACTION: “JULY 28, 1985 – TENNESSEE”
A rusty, grey water tower stands atop a distant rolling hill. The word, “SPRINGFIELD” fades behind layers of graffiti. The largest spray painted stain reads, “Cougars Rule.”
Among the closer trees a pair of kids move through the brush.
We cut in to ongoing conversation between the two boys as they break a new trail across the golden brown carpet of pine needles.
The first is Jack Knott, age 10. He wears ripped jeans, hand-me-down leather boots, and a black T-shirt with the angled yellow letters, “Twisted Sister” scrawled across his chest.
The second is Reuben Sanders, age 10. He wears All-Star Hitops, faded blue jeans, and a light-blue T-shirt with the jagged words, “Incredible Hulk” screened onto the front and the iconic green monster on the back.
Holy cow! Look at that.
Wow, how did it get out here so deep in the woods?
Don’t know, but it looks really old.
Yeah, I bet it belongs to that mean old coot, Crabtree.
(looking off into the dense woods)
You know he don’t like us on his property and you don’t want him hearing you call him Crabtree.
(puffing out his chest)
I ain’t afraid of him.
Course you is.
Come on, let’s take a look.
Shot from bottom of gully, watching the two boys work their way between the trees and down the slope.
(brushing his hair out of his eyes)
What is it?
Don’t know. I ain’t ever seen one like it.
CLOSE ON CAR TAILFINS:
Each boy runs a hand along a rounded tailfin as they walk around the car on opposite sides.
(checks the drivers side door, grins)
Sound creaking of car doors as they swing open. Both boys climb in and sound screech of car doors closing and click of door latch.
Must have been a get-a-way car from a bank robbery.
No way, it never would have fit between those trees.
Maybe it was a long, long time ago. Before the pine trees was there.
No, the car’s old, but trees take a long time to grow. That would make it ancient and the car and would be a rust bucket by now.
(looking around for answers)
Then maybe it’s a spaceship disguised as an old car and it landed out here between the trees from outer space.
No, that’s not it either, or we wouldda been zapped by aliens already.
(grips the steering wheel)
I can’t wait till I’m old enough to drive.
Look at that radio, it’s antique.
Reuben presses the worn, silver buttons and watches the white line glide back and forth behind the glass.
Anything in the glove compartment?
Reuben tries to push and twist the T-handled knob.
Don’t know, it’s locked.
Jack leans forward and reaches under the seat.
CLOSE ON JACK’S HAND:
It creeps deeper along the grit-covered floor. The fingers settle on something smooth in the shadowed darkness. They hesitate and pull back, then reach even further, grasp the thin, strap-like material, and pull it forward.
CLOSE ON FLOODBOARD BETWEEN JACK’S FEET:
A glass bottle rolls out. “Golden-Brand Sarsaparilla” is written across its clear thickness.
(frown turning to an excited grin)
Look, a gun belt.
Wow, that’s cool.
Sound outside, a loud, nearby rap, rap, rap on the passenger-side window.
JACK AND REUBEN
CLOSE ON PASSENGER-SIDE WINDOW:
An old, wrinkled face fills the window. It glares white against the black, animal fur hood that outlines it. Dark-brown eyes look at them from sunken sockets that emphasize the man’s skull and his dirty, yellow teeth gritting in an evil sneer.
How many times have I told you boys not to be playing on my property?
Crabtree shakes his hand at the two boys.
Sound, dreadful, repeated thunk of two dead rabbits striking the window as they dangle from Crabtree’s hand.
Jack drops the leather gun belt to the floor.
Honest, Mister, we wasn’t playing. We was just cutting through a corner of it.
Well, you be sitting in my car and messing with everything. So’s I be thinking you is playing on my property.
Crabtree shakes his hand with the dead rabbits again. They swing in the air, threatening to strike the window again.
Now, don’t be opening your mouth no more and spouting your lies.
Jack looks down at the front seat.
Now, you boys stay right wheres you is for a minute.
Sound, loud rap, rap, rap on the shotgun barrel.
Crabtree glares at them a moment longer.
That’s right, you stay where you is while I get something out of the trunk.
Crabtree walks to the back of the car and leans the shotgun against the side of the car.
Jack reaches for the door handle.
CLOSE ON JACK’S HAND:
It travels along the door interior until the fingers find a vacant hole, no handle. Jack sticks his finger in the hole.
Crabtree fumbles with a ring of keys. He finds the one he’s looking for and opens the trunk.
CLOSE ON REAR WINDOW:
Crabtree’s shadow moves along the one-inch gap below the monstrous trunk lid.
There’s no door handle on this side. I can’t get out.
What about the window?
Jack pries his eyes off the old man and looks down. He gives a withering stare back at Reuben and shakes his head.
(mouthing the word silently)
CLOSE ON REAR WINDOW AND THE OUTLINE OF CRABTREE’S EYES SCOWLING AT THEM THROUGH THE GAP
Sound outside nearby scrapping reverberates through the car of things being moved in the trunk.
Try your door.
Reuben moves his hand to the shiny, chrome handle. Jack sees the fingers shaking before he takes another glance at the narrow opening. He sees a dirty, wrinkled hand holding a long—barreled, silver pistol.
Wait, stop. He’s got another gun.
Reuben swivels his neck around just in time to see the old man pulling a long—handled shovel out of the trunk.
Are you sure you saw a gun?
Yeah, I saw it. This is bad.
Sound outside, nearby thud of trunk lid slamming shut.
CLOSE ON REAR WINDOW, AS CRABTREE SLINGS A CANVAS BAG OVER HIS SHOULDER, GRABS THE SHOVEL, AND WALKS BACK ALONG THE SIDE OF THE CAR
He’s gonna kill us and bury our bodies out in the woods, so no one can find us.
Sound outside, nearby crunch of shovel stabbing into the ground. Crabtree’s animal fur covered body fills the passenger-side window and a bone-white hand reaches for the door handle.
Sound creaking of car door swinging open.
CLOSE ON REUBEN SLIDING ACROSS BENCH SEAT AND NOSTRIL FLARE AS THE SMELL OF CRABTREE’S SWEAT BLOWS INTO THE CAR
(matter of fact tone)
Now that you boys have found my car here in the woods, I figure it’s only a matter of time before you’d vandalize her; break the windows, smash the headlights, or even light her afire.
No, Mister, we wouldn’t do that.
Stop your griping, boy.
Crabtree opens his animal fur jacket and pulls two silver pistols from the waist band of his dirty jeans.
But, honest, we wouldn’t do that. Let us go and we’ll never come back.
Crabtree leans into the doorway, his skull-like features more evident in the darkened shadows.
I don’t think so.
Crabtree leans back and stands tall in the doorway.
I knew that someday you boys would be trouble and I’d have to deal with you. Today’s good as any, I suppose.
Sound outside, overhead clunk of the pistols on the car’s roof.
Crabtree pulls a ring of keys from a pocket and fumbles with them.
Sound clinking of keys.
Reuben shoots Jack a scared, helpless look.
(mild, almost friendly)
I’m going to give you boys the key to this here car.
JACK AND REUBEN
You heard me. Here’s the key.
Crabtree holds out the key.
You got my permission to come out here anytime you like.
(intent on the key)
(closed lip grin)
That’s right. Now take the key.
Reuben reaches for the key, careful not to touch the dark, dirty fingertips that don’t let go. A small tug of war moves the key a fraction of an inch before Reuben stops pulling.
(serious, but brighter smile)
All I ask, is that you take care of this beauty. She’s a 1954 Pontiac Chieftan, and is filled with years of good times.
Now say it, I will take care of the car.
JACK AND REUBEN
(simultaneous, serious, mimicking)
I will take care of the car.
Crabtree releases the key, then points.
Open the glove box.
Reuben inches forward and inserts the key. He turns it and pulls the door down.
Those are now yours.
CLOSE ON GLOVE BOX AND A ROUND, METAL CAN WITH THE WORD “PABLUM” WRITTEN ON THE OUTSIDE
Reuben pulls it out.
(a younger man’s smile)
They’re real soldiers.
Made of lead and painted by hand. Not like those garbage plastic green soldiers they sell today.
Reuben opens the can and looks inside.
CLOSE ON PABLUM CAN AND THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR SOLDIERS, BOTH UNION AND CONFEDERATE
(focused on Jack)
As for you, Jack Knott, you might as well pick up that gun belt you dropped earlier. Cuz, these here genuine Lone Ranger pistols go with it.
How’s he know my name?
Jack reaches out and takes the pair of white-handled, silver guns from Crabtree’s hands.
There’re not real guns. Just toy popguns.
I don’t even know if you can buy the red-paper, gun powder caps for them anymore.
These are so cool.
Jack slides the toy guns into the gun belt holsters.
Reuben puts the can of soldiers down on the seat and pulls a stack of comic books wrapped in newspaper out of the glove box. He glances at the date.
1944. Wow, that’s old.
I didn’t even know they had comics back then.
That, young man, is the Sunday newspaper from the day my boy Johnny was born.
I’m sure you’ve heard of Thimble Theater starring Popeye.
Crabtree laughs, and a color comes to his white face.
Popeye, yes. Thimble Theater, no.
Reuben leafs through the comics.
Dick Tracy, Green Lantern, and Archie.
Well, you kids are now responsible for keeping this car safe. I’ve got some work to do with this here shovel, so I’ll be getting on my way.
Crabtree lifts the large canvas bag over his shoulder and grabs the shovel.
Yeah. Thanks, Mister.
Crabtree turns and walks away.
Jack glances at the old man leaving and grabs Reuben’s shoulder, then points out the front window. They both read the block- letters printed in faded black across the canvas bag.
Springfield Bank Deposits.
Beyond the line of trees, Crabtree turns and looks back at them. He gives a wink and disappears into the forest.
The two boys look at each other and grin.
JACK AND REUBEN