The Crackerman, Story Synopsis

The Script
Part Two


H.C. (a warning)
Putt--

GLORIA (directly to H.C.)
Number 12, two and a half inch hex heads, with washers and nuts.

H.C. sorts nuts and bolts out of a warren of small bins, and drops them into a paper bag.

H.C.
Well, you give your great-granddaddy my best.

BO
A hundred years old. That's somethin' special. I ain't never heard a' that.

PUTT
What d' ya feed 'im to grow 'im to a hundred.

GLORIA
He ain't a cow or a pig, Putt. What d'ya feed yourself?

H.C. (holding out the paper bag)
Miss Gloria, shall we put these on account?

GLORIA
Yes sir, Mr. Henry, that'd be fine.

PUTT
Miss Gloria, you find you be needin' somethin' else, I'll be happy to--

H.C.
Putt, shut up.

Gloria takes the bag from H.C., grabs the hinges on the counter, and heads for the front door.

CUT TO:

THE CASH REGISTER Where Cherry's still talking, Lila still listening. Cherry hands Gloria another bag.

CHERRY
Here you are, darlin'. H.C. get you everything?

GLORIA
Yes ma'am, thank you. Miss Lila, Nice seein' you.

CHERRY (as Gloria heads out the door)
Gloria Turner, don't you hide yourself, hear? (To Lila) That girl's got to find herself a husband 'for she's too old for kids. Tell her Mason'll be in church Sunday, Lila, tell her... Girl, don't you ever speak up?

CUT TO:

THE TRUCK

Gloria yanks open the hood, reaches down, strides around to the driver's side, cranks it. It starts. She slams the hood closed, climbs in and slams the door behind her.

INSIDE
She clenches short a GROWL of frustration, muscles the transmission into reverse, backs onto--

MAIN STREET
And heads out of town.

CUT TO:

THE OAK TREE With the rope swing. Now, in the shade of its branches is a raucous looking orange and red firecracker stand. BIG BANGS FOR LITTLE BUCKS reads the hand-lettered sign; and tied to the roof at either end, is a cluster of red balloons.

GLORIA'S TRUCK
Rolls into view and slows, and comes to a stop.

GLORIA
One hand on the steering wheel, shifts in her seat and cranes to look at the stand. Nothing moves. She watches, considers. A car goes by. The balloons, swinging in a light breeze, flash at her. She looks down at the box of sparklers on the seat beside her.

GLORIA
Man don't live to be a hundred without
somethin' special to mark the day.

THE TRUCK
U-turns, and pulls onto the shoulder. Gloria climbs down, raises the hood to stop the engine, lowers it. She finds a place to cross the roadside, but stops and once more considers the stand. GLORIA Come on now. Do somethin' you ain't never done before. And she steps off the road and heads across the

THE FIELD
Toward the stand. As she walks, she undoes the collar of her shirt, rolls her cuffs back and pushes them above her elbows. CICADAS SING OUT in the heat, and leap out of the new mown grass ahead of her.

GLORIA
Walks up, stops. Not a soul around. Beneath the plunging roof is a counter. Nothing on it but a can of paint. She leans over and looks inside. On the floor, asleep, is a man,

HANK.

There are boxes around him from head to foot. For a moment, she watches him sleep. Then, catches herself, backs a step or two. She turns to the truck, stops, then back to the stand. She combs her hair with her fingers, moistens her lips, smooths her shirt and leans over the counter.

GLORIA
Mister?

HANK
Yawns, stretches, and sits up. He smiles up at her with lazy eyes that have a smile of their own. His hair is ribboned with shreds of paper from the boxes. He rises, shakes his head like a wet dog and shreds fall to the counter. He brushes them back inside the stand, smiles again.

HANK
You lookin' to blow up the world?

GLORIA (surprised, laughing)
You got enough for that?

HANK (smiling back)
You'd be surprised. What can I do for you?

GLORIA
I guess what I need is some advice.

She pauses. He just looks at her.

GLORIA
My Great-Grandpa was born on the Fourth of July, and I'm lookin' to do somethin' special... All I can afford bein' he's lived a hundred years.

The balloons stir in the breeze, SQUAWKING as they rub against each other.

GLORIA
Am I crazy or what?

HANK
Not in my judgement you wouldn't be. A hundred years is a major thing.

GLORIA (fanning herself with her hand)
Well, I ain't never done anything like this before... It's turnin' hot already.

He ducks out of the stand with a folding chair, snaps it open, takes a step back.

HANK
A lady talks business is got to sit.

GLORIA
I don't want to take up your time.

But she sits down. On the road, a car comes by, slows, and moves on.

HANK
It's good for business, folks see you settin' here, pretty like that.

He snakes a small note book and a pencil stub from the pocket of his shirt. He tosses the stub in the air, catches it, and looks down at her. She tries to keep the conversation on track.

GLORIA
It's gotta be somethin' special. Real special if you know what I mean. You got somethin' good?

HANK (smiling again)
Might cost you more than you want.

A balloon POPS. She jumps.

GLORIA
That a publicity stunt?

HANK No ma'am. Sometimes a customer sets one off.

GLORIA
I'm a business woman. I ain't goin' into this blind. I got to know exactly what and how much.

HANK
Let me give you my card.

He hands one to her, and she slides it into her shirt pocket without looking at it.

HANK
My policy is the pay up front.
I generally start with the basic things.

GLORIA
I want it plenty loud. You got somethin' loud he could maybe hear?

HANK
For racket, a cherry bomb can't be beat.

GLORIA
Fine, I want a lotta them. And somethin' pretty up in the sky. His eyes ain't good, but they still work.

HANK
Well, rockets come in two main types. Oriental style, it makes a flower up in the sky. Italian style is precision-like, with more comin' and then some more. Unless you got a particular cravin', I'd like to give you a mix of them.

GLORIA
That's fine with me.

HANK
There's 'Love in Bloom' for color and beauty and eally sweet. Recommended for anyone on in years. Carry him back to sweet sixteen and guaranteed. I could give you a honey called 'Grapes of Wrath.' Blow his hostilities off the map. Just in case he got some o' 'em stored up. Lotta folks has, but don't recall what set 'em off. I'm talkin' psychological now, but fireworks is a mix o' that, and sound, and light... For somethin' spectacular, hard to beat, I definitely go with Watermelon Bustin' on the Way to Heaven.' Give him a thrill, I guarantee. I generally finish off with 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot' to bring 'em down. Pull the customer back to earth, all in a sweet and easy way.

GLORIA
That the best you got?

HANK
You aimin' to do this all by yourself?

GLORIA
I can strike a match.

HANK
Reason I ask -- (looks out at the woods) -- woods is dry, trees and grass. My personal service comes with the rest. No extra charge. It gettin' close to the day, I already got some strong requests, which I ain't said if I would or won't.

GLORIA
Well, I didn't look for that. Like I say, I can strike a match.

HANK
Ma'am, sometimes it can make a difference.

She looks at him steady.

HANK
You got to take into account this is my profession. I give it study. I give it practice and dedication. Dedication is what it takes... I feel like with you and your kin hittin' that even one hundred mark, I want to be satisfied it's right. I never done it for a hundred before. Ma'am, it would be a privilege for me.

GLORIA
I reckon you wouldn't knock off for the privilege?

HANK
As it is, I got it pared down to the bone.

GLORIA
I'm kiddin'. What else you got?

HANK
There's a beauty that takes some handlin' --the best there is. A rocket I'm callin' 'Stars Alive.' For color and beauty and stayin' power. Keeps explodin' 'til you wouldn't believe. You think the end of the world is here. I might call it the 'End of the World,' but it ain't a name that'd sell as good.

GLORIA
How much?

HANK
Just one? Reason I ask, I got a special on two today
.

GLORIA
It's as good as you say, one is all I need

HANK (he nods and smiles)
Seventy, even.

GLORIA
For one little pop?

HANK
What I'm tryin' to say, it's a awesome thing! You are witnessin', ma'am, the end of the world and the start of another. It's like you died and was born again. It's a religious experience ma'am. I don't mean nothin' disrespectful to God... I'm tellin' it straight. It's a question a' money, I'd cut the rest and shoot my gravel on 'Stars Alive.'

GLORIA
I don't know. Is it plenty loud?

HANK
It ain't long on loud. It's got so much else, you don't miss that. But I might give him a cherry bomb first, just at the start to warm 'im up. Then I guarantee, if he's got any eyesight left in his head, that sight
will carry him clear to heaven. Had a woman once so moved by it, she wrote a will and left her belongin's to the Nazarenes. Before that experience I was able to provide, Sunday was just another day to her.

GLORIA
Well, he's my only kin. I reckon you can throw it in with the rest.

He turns away from her, bends over the counter top and totes up the figures in his notebook. She looks at his back, the line of his jaw. He turns, hands her a small sheet of paper.

GLORIA
Two eighty-five?

HANK
Ma'am, I got it pared to the bone. And satisfaction is guaranteed...

She nods, considering, then stands, looks up into his face, drops her eyes and sticks out her hand. They shake.

HANK
Call me Hank. You mind I know your name?

GLORIA
It's Gloria Turner.

HANK
You married, Gloria Turner?

GLORIA (laughing)
Not me. My great grand-pa is enough for me.

HANK
He take up all your time? He's got that smile again. She glances at him with her own, defiant and cool.

GLORIA
I raise hogs for a livin'.

HANK
Now you surprised me with that.

GLORIA
How come?

HANK
How come? Well, you're a pretty girl. You don't look up to handlin' a hog. I can see you bakin' bread.

GLORIA
I do that too.

 

He looks at her a moment. Up on the road, another truck pulls in behind Gloria's. LAUGHING, two kids leap down from the bed and bound across the field to the stand. Mom and Dad follow at a slower pace. Gloria looks away from the noise of the arrival, back to Hank.

GLORIA
I'm at the north end o' 22. Back in the trees.

HANK
I'll find it. Look for me 'bout an hour 'fore dusk.

She smiles her goodbye, and starts toward the road. The kids run past on either side of her, and she turns to watch them go, walking slowly backward toward the truck. Hank's still looking at her, but the kids demand attention.

BOY
Mister, you got bottle rockets?

 

GIRL
How 'bout 'Black Cats?'

Hands on his hips, Hank looks down at them with a grin.

HANK
Now who's lookin' to blow up the world?

Gloria turns from the scene and walks toward her truck. She takes his card out of her pocket.

BANK ON HANK FOR FIREWORKS," it reads.

GLORIA
I reckon I'm doin' just that.

CUT TO:

THE FARM

Gloria's truck comes down the road a little faster than usual --a cloud of dust swirling in its wake. It skids to a stop, and she swings out of the cab, pops the hood and stops the engine. She crosses the yard and takes the front steps at a bound.

CUT TO:

THE LIVING ROOM

As Gloria, excited, comes through the door.

GLORIA
Grandpa, I just met -- He bolts upright from a doze
.

 

GRANDPA
Ho! Yes sir!

 

GLORIA (softer)
Oh Grandpa, I didn't think you'd still be asleep.

She backs out of the room, but bumps into the table and a picture CLATTERS to the floor.

GRANDPA
Soldier, face front.

GLORIA
Grandpa, I'm sorry. You--

GRANDPA
Army don't win goin' backwards.

She picks up the picture and sits on the edge of his bed.

GLORIA
You go on back to sleep.

She smooths his hair. His eyes lock on her face. All at once he's in the moment.

GRANDPA
Gloria?

GLORIA
Yes, Grandpa?

GRANDPA
I'm glad you're here.

GLORIA
Grandpa, thank you. I'm glad you're here--

GRANDPA
I don't remember. Your Momma and Daddy here?

GLORIA
No sir.

GRANDPA
You got any family, 'sides me?

GLORIA (shakes her head)
No sir. They look at each other a moment.

GRANDPA
Well, you sure grow'd up nice.

GLORIA (surprised, pleased)
Grandpa, I wanna tell you about this man gonna--

The light of recognition slowly fades from his eyes.

GRANDPA
I'm tired now.

And he lies back down and goes to sleep. She looks at him a moment, then rises slowly and walks out of the room.

CUT TO:

SHAFTS OF LIGHT
Angle through the chinks in the barn and set the dust motes glowing. Off, is the rhythmic WHIR of a hand drill.

THE DRILL BIT
Comes up clear of the wood. This isn't the first time the hinges have been replaced. Around the silvery metal, the lumber's old, split and rust marked. Gloria brushes the shavings away from the hole, and slides a last bolt in place. In the dappled light of the barn, she's got the gate up on sawhorses, fitting the hinges. She spins the nut, tightens it, and the old wood CREAKS under the pressure. She tucks a loose strand of hair behind her ear, bites her lower lip in consideration. With a shrug, she puts down the wrench.

GLORIA
Well, maybe one more year outta this old thing.

She tilts the gate off the sawhorses, and it slides to the ground with a heavy THUD.

GLORIA
'Course I didn't have to spend a whole pig on fireworks. Too much to carry, she drags the gate, one step, one tug at a time.

GLORIA
That's different. It leaves a furrow in the dirt.

AT THE ENTRANCE TO THE BARN


She manhandles the gate into place on top of some make-shift blocks.

GLORIA
'Mounts to the same thing, though. Ain't got what you want to do what you need.

With a grunt, she lines up the top hinge and pins it in place. The bottom hinge, and she backs away to look at her work.

GLORIA
Maybe, I ain't got what I need to do what I want.

She swings the newly hung gate open and closed, testing her work.

GLORIA
What's that supposed to mean? (closing it behind her) Means every now and then I get tired bein' on the wrong side o' the gate.

Inside the barn, beyond the gate, she gathers her tools.

CUT TO:

THE FARMHOUSE
From an angle on the kitchen porch, the next morning. Gloria pulls a towel off the line. SNAPS IT. She shakes the wrinkles out, folds it, and drops it into a basket. Again, yank, SNAP, fold. Shirts, fall on top of sheets, towels and jeans. She props the basket on a hip, yanks the screen door wide and sidesteps in. The door BANGS behind her.

CUT TO:

TWO IRONS On the kitchen stove. Without breaking stride, Gloria snags one on her way past, and sashays the basket --still on her hip-- into-- THE LIVING ROOM Where an ironing board's at the foot of Grandpa's bed. He's propped up on pillows.

GLORIA
Well, I got the cake in the oven, the laundry off the line--

She sets the basket down, CLICKS on the radio, spins the dial to a patriotic SOUSA TUNE. His eyes follow each movement.

GLORIA
--an' the radio music on. I bet you're wonderin' 'bout all this buzzin' round.

She spreads a shirt out on the board, and --THUD-- hits it with the iron.

GLORIA
A man named Hank is comin' today. Strictly business, all it is. I'm obliged to ask him have some cake. Okay with you? (he nods) Strictly business is all it is. You ever knowed someone named Hank?

GRANDPA
Leg blowed off.

GLORIA
Well, this un' got both his legs.

 

GRANDPA
Got hisself kilt.

 

GLORIA
This un's plenty alive, an' he'll be here 'fore you know it. It's the Fourth o' July, Grandpa, an' we gonna have you a birthday cake an' candles, an' on top o' that a big surprise.

She flips the shirt. Iron again --THUD.

GRANDPA (grins, shouts)
Parade!

 

GLORIA
Ain't quite, but you'll like it.

She wraps the shirt around a hanger, and hooks it over a bedpost --

GLORIA
Oh, I forgot...

-- and bustles back to the kitchen.

A HANDFUL TEA BAGS

Drop into a two gallon jar. Water pours in and floats them to the top. A towel covers the mouth of the jar and with two hands, Gloria hefts it to the windowsill.

WE HEAR HER RETURN to the living room.

GLORIA (off)
Grandpa, how you think I look in that blue blouse?

DISSOLVE TO:

THE KITCHEN WINDOW

From outside. Midday shadows are short, and the tea's begun to brew in the sun. Off, the RADIO'S STILL PLAYING. Gloria's head pops above the level of the sill --checks the tea-- then ducks out of sight.

A WASH RAG

Makes circles on the kitchen floor. Gloria's on her hands and knees. Grandpa's in his chair at the table, slowly polishing a silver spatula. His deliberate movements contrast with Gloria's haste.

GLORIA
Lift.

She scrubs under his feet.

GLORIA
Down. How'd it get this dirty? You just don't see it 'til it's time for company. Then it looks different. (rinses the rag) How long it's been? ... Well, not countin' the man run the 'lectric wire, was Aunt Shirley and Uncle Ben 'fore the war ... Long time.

GRANDPA
Long time.

GLORIA
With all this socializin', Grandpa, we better get us a maid.

CUT TO:

THE PIG PEN

The piglets squeal and grunt to get the feed in the trough. Gloria's bustles out of the pen to the--

CHICKEN COOP

Where she throws feed down for the hens, turns, and trots across--

THE YARD

To the barn. She hurries out behind a wheelbarrow load of hay, but as she makes the turn to the corral, something breaks. The barrow dumps out of her grasp. From where it drops, she forks hay over the fence.

CUT TO: