“The Confession of Lee Harvey Oswald,” Act One (Part 2 of 6)

ACT ONE

INT.  STORE – DAY

A modest, mom-and-pop grocery store, 12:23 p.m.  A small bell above a door jingles as the Billy Twiggs enters the store.  He’s wearing Joe’s windbreaker, which is about two sizes too big for him.  The door closes quickly and it smacks him on the seat of his pants.  He seems shaky as a newborn calf.

The STORE OWNER, a large, hairy gorilla who looks like an ex-boxer/Italian/mafia-type, dressed in a bakery cap and white apron, gives him the nod of noncommittal hello, but is more intent upon hunching over his counter and twisting knobs on an old, transistor radio.

There are two other LADY CUSTOMERS in the store.  Billy heads toward the nearest aisle, trying to act nonchalant, trying not to let anyone see the sweat that’s forming on his upper lip.

The old radio finally grabs a signal:

RADIO ANNOUNCER v.o.
This is Bob Huffiger, 1080 A.M. News 4 Radio.  Right now the crowds have completely filled all the sidewalk space here in downtown Dallas, and they are packed from the buildings to the sidewalks….  You can see anxious heads poked out of open windows in all of the downtown buildings here all the way up to the top-most floors…

Billy peeks out from behind two columns of Ho-Hos.  Yes, they’ve been poisoning kids with those things for thirty years.  The manager is still humped over the counter with his ear against the radio speaker.  Behind the Owner are wire shelves full of Marlboros, Kools, Lucky Strikes, take your pick; only, take you pick when the Owner isn’t looking.

RADIO ANNOUNCER v.o.
By the way, any fear that demonstrations may have marred the presidential motorcade here in the downtown area, at this point, however, seems useless…

Billy steps around the corner aisle, so that he’s at least three feet closer to the counter, and pretends to read magazines, but the Owner still hasn’t left his spot by the counter.  He won’t leave that damn radio alone.

That’s when the door opens, and in saunters Joe Sadlow.  Sauntering is kind of his thing.  Acting cool, taking his time, and knowing how not to look guilty.  He brushes by Billy and gives him a hands-up gesture, “What are you waiting for?”  Billy replies with his eyes:  “I’m waiting for that big monkey to get away from the counter.”  Joe settles for another aisle, pretending to be interested in baby formula and All-New, Disposable Diapers!  Yes you can just throw them away!  (Not your kids, silly.  The diapers!)

RADIO ANNOUNCER v.o.
Here comes the first car with Police Chief Jeff Currey and Sheriff Bill Decker…

One of the Lady Shoppers comes to Billy’s rescue.

LADY SHOPPER
Mister Coricelli, can you help me?

Though he isn’t happy to do so, the store Owner peels himself off the counter to help the young woman decide between two types of toiletries.

Billy looks at the counter, then back at Joe.  Joe flags him on with a mad hand.

RADIO ANNOUNCER v.o.
And here is the President of the United States….  And what a crowd and what a tremendous welcome he’s getting now…

On the radio, a woman in the crowd screams; evidently she was standing too close to the reporter’s microphone and she just about blows out the four transistors on Mr. Coricelli’s portable radio.  Of course, this does nothing to calm Billy’s nerves.

Inching ever closer, he keeps trading glances between the rack of cigarette cartons and the manager, who is still engaged with the lady customer.  Joe, meanwhile, is pocketing some candy bars for good measure, just in case the smoke-lift goes down.

RADIO ANNOUNCER v.o.
And there’s Jackie!  She’s getting just as big a welcome.  And the crowd is absolutely going wild.  This is a friendly crowd in downtown Dallas…

A large convex mirror shows the manager ending his discussion with the lady customer.  One wayward glance is all it would take to end Billy’s early career in crime.  Billy has his one hand on a carton of cigarettes.

RADIO ANNOUNCER v.o.
The President’s car is now turning on to Elm Street, and it will be only a matter of minutes before he arrives at the Trade Mart.

On the radio, a horrible SOUND OF TIRES SQUEALING, and something that sounds tires being blown… three of them.

RADIO ANNOUNCER v.o.
It, it appears as though something has happened on the motorcade route…  Something, I repeat, has happened on the motorcade route…

The Owner rounds the aisle, listening to the radio, and sees Billy red-handed with the carton of cigarettes halfway up his sleeve.  But the Owner doesn’t even register this.  He directs his attention, instead, directly at the radio speaker.  Other customers, too, are drawn in.

RADIO ANNOUNCER v.o.
There’s numerous people running up the hill alongside Elm Street… Stand by… Stand by… Just a moment, please….  What sounded like gunfire… just rang out across Dealey Plaza…

The dazed adults in the store, including the Boxer-Owner, brush right by Billy and move toward the horrible news on the radio.  The first media moment.  Sirens compete with white noise screaming from the tiny radio.

RADIO ANNOUNCER v.o.
Put me on, Phil, put me on….  The motorcade is coming by here… The presidential car coming up now….  We know it’s the presidential car… I can see Mrs. Kennedy’s pink suit….  There’s a Secret Service man spread eagle over the top of the car….

The boys look at each other; so wide open are their mouths, that one could roll marbles around in them.

RADIO ANNOUNCER v.o.
We understand that Governor and Mrs. Connelly are in the car with President and Mrs. Kennedy…  We can’t see who has been hit, if anybody has been hit… But apparently something is wrong here, something is terribly wrong…  I’m in behind the motorcade and it looks as though they’re going to parkland hospital….  It appears that the President has been shot… I repeat, the president has been shot!

The big store Owner looks right down at Billy, and through him, who is standing there looking up at him with a carton of cigarettes still in his ten-year-old hands.  The big, tough, boxer-looking guy looks as though he’s about to cry, when–

CRASH!  A tremendous sound of breaking glass and wrenching metal from the street.  The manager rushes to the window, looks out, mouths something we cannot hear, and rushes out.  The women customers follow him quickly clacking their high heels on the high-polished linoleum.

Billy is about to follow them blindly out the door when Joe stops him by the collar.  They look at each other, and then at the empty store.  A smile mirrors both their faces.  What luck.  Joe starts stuffing junk food down his own plaid shirt like they’ll stop making Ho-Hos tomorrow, and into Billy’s fills his shirt and pants as well.  Anywhere they can find a pocket or a sleeve or a torn lining to fill, they do it.

Only then step out the door and into the sunlight.

EXT.  STORE – DAY

Two cars have locked heads in the middle of the street–a full front-on collision.  They were going in opposite directions but now they’re going in the same direction, nowhere.  Their two front bumpers are wrapped around one another in an almost loving embrace.  Radiator grills like chipped front teeth hang out and gnaw at the pavement.  Both cars are venting steam.

The boys, now about a hundred pounds heavier, are wading out of Coricelli’s Grocery, almost waddling, unable to walk, they’ve got so much stuff jammed down the front of their pants.  They look like miniature, over-inflated versions of tomorrow’s The Michelin Man. 

The DRIVER of one car throws open his door, pushing and kicking it with his foot.  The right front quarter panel is a mess of mingled metal.  Scratching his head and throwing his arms around wildly, he stalks over to the driver’s side door of the other car, ready to rip the head off of the guy who caused this accident and piss some fire down his neck.

DRIVER #1
What in sam-hell are you doing?

DRIVER #2
Shhh!

The second driver, obviously the one at fault, is too busy re-tuning the dial on his A.M. Radio to take any heat from the other.  He was listening to a live report of the shooting when he drifted off into the other lane.  Mister pissed-off driver, plus a small crowd of day-shoppers, gather in to tilt an ear.

DRIVER #2
Shh, listen!

He points to radio, probably the only thing that still works.  From that drifts a static voice:

RADIO ANNOUNCER v.o.
And just now, we’ve received reports here at Parkland Hospital that Governor Connelly was shot in the upper left chest and the first unconfirmed reports say the President was hit in the head.  That’s an unconfirmed report that the President was hit in the head.  A priest has been ordered and emergencies supplies of blood have been rushed to the hospital.

It’s a odd sight along this small side street, this accident in the middle of the road with all the these muted adults, like mourners at some funeral, standing around two wrecked cars and, rather than arguing who’s at fault, listening to the radio instead.

Mr. Coricelli, the store owner, too, steps off curb and joins the huddle.

Billy and Joe are both surprised, to say the least, and perhaps a bit taken aback by this not-your-everyday sight.  Billy’s collar is taken in a tight, pink fist as Joe Sadlow pulls on it hard.

JOE
Come on.

Watching the crowd as they go, the boys back down the sidewalk on their heels, and walk blindly into a man coming up in the opposite direction.  Joe is apologizing before he even turns around, looks up at the night-black uniform–utility belt, pistol, holster, badge, nameplate, silver P.D. collar pin–until his eyes meet the green, aviator glasses of OFFICER SCOTT TURNBOUGH, an Dallas Police patrolman.

Turnbough has just left a small diner next door.  He likes to eat here, where there are no radios or TVs, because he can get away from the stresses of his DAY  For that reason, he has not heard any reports, police or otherwise, within the last half-hour.

He squats down, turning pinstripes which run up both legs into sharp, accusing triangles; he looks at Billy right through the eyes.

TURNBOUGH
Billy, does your mother know where you are?

Billy counts cracks in the sidewalk.  Obviously not.

TURNBOUGH
And my old pal Joe Sadlow.  Whenever there’s trouble, you’re always around.

Scott sees something poking out of one of Joe’s sleeves, and pulls out a candy bar slowly as if revealing a magic trick.

TURNBOUGH
And what’s this?

The store manager, almost in tears, comes stumbling over and waving back at the accident.

OWNER
Officer.  Officer.  Come here.  You’ve got to hear this.

He pulls on Turnbough’s shirt sleeve until the man begins to move.

TURNBOUGH
You two, stay here.

Back at the car wreck, officer Turnbough hears the report on the radio for the first time, and gets caught up in it like all the others.

RADIO ANNOUNCER v.o.
What was a wonderful welcome in downtown Dallas, has become a scene of indescribable horror as hundreds of people crowd outside the back door of the emergency room here at Parkland Hospital.  Faces are ashen white and people are wondering: is our President going to live…

The two boys of course don’t wait around to get busted.  Joe grabs Billy’s collar and they turn and run down the block, both disappearing around the far corner.

Scott turns and sees them go, but he’s got more important things to deal with.  Or so he thinks.

FADE OUT.

END ACT ONE

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