The Man Who Wasn't There
"THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE"
Ethan Coen & Joel Coen
Yeah, I worked in a barbershop. But
I never considered myself a barber...
We track back from a barber's pole.
...I stumbled into it--well, married
into it more precisely...
We track back from a shopkeeper's bell triggered by an opening
door. The pull back and tilt down show the top of the head
of a customer entering in slow motion.
...I wasn't my establishment. Like
the fella says, I only work here...
We track along a shelf backed by a mirror and holding pomade,
aftershave, hair tonic, a whisk brush.
...The dump was 200 feet square,
with five chairs, or stations as we
call 'em, even though there were
only two of us working...
We track in on a big man in a barber's smock scissoring across
a lock of hair that he pulls taut between two fingers of one
hand. In slow motion, he laughs and chats.
...Frank Raffo, my brother-in-law,
was the principal barber. And man,
could he talk...
Another man in a barber's smock is running electric clippers
across a child's head. A cigarette between his lips.
...Now maybe if you're eleven or
twelve years old, Frank's got an
interesting point of view, but
sometimes it got on my nerves. Not
that I'd complain, mind you. Like I
said, he was the principal barber.
Frank's father August--they called
him Guzzi--had worked the heads up
in Santa Rosa for thirty-five years
until his ticker stopped in the middle
of a Junior Flat Top. He left the
shop to Frankie free and clear. And
that seemed to satisfy all of Frank's
ambitions: cutting the hair and
chewing the fat. Me, I don't talk
He plucks the cigarette from his mouth and taps its ash into
...I just cut the hair...
LATE IN THE DAY
The barbershop is empty of customers. Late sun slants in
through the front window. The two barbers--the narrator and
his brother-in-law--sit in two of the barber chairs, idly
Says here that the Russians exploded
n A-bomb and there's not a damn thing
we can do about it.
How d'ya like them apples?
Russians exploded an A-bomb.
(shaking his head)
Now, being a barber is a lot like
being a barman or a soda-jerk; there's
not much to it once you've learned
the basic moves. For the kids there's
the Butch, or the Heinie...
We cut to examples of the haircuts as they are ticked off:
...the Flat Top, the Ivy, the Crew,
the Vanguard, the Junior Contour
and, occasionally, the Executive
Contour. Adults get variations on
the same, along with the Duck Butt,
Ed trims the fringe around a balding head.
...and something we call the Alpine
He snips one long lonely strand of hair and carefully drapes
it across a bald pate.
...I lived in a little bungalow on
Napa Street. The place was OK, I
guess; it had an electric ice box,
gas hearth, and a garbage grinder
build into the sink. You might say I
had it made.
We float slowly toward a white bungalow on a quiet street as
a black coupe pulls into the driveway.
...Oh yeah. There was one other
We track in through a bedroom door to discover a woman putting
on a girdle.
...Doris kept the books at
Nirdlinger's, a small department
store on Main Street. Unlike me,
Doris liked the work, accounting;
she liked knowing where everything
stood. And she got a ten per cent
employee discount on whatever she
Close on her legs as she rolls up a stocking and clips it to
...make-up, and perfume...
Close on an atomiser misting her bosom with Jungle Gardenia
...She wore a lot of perfume.
Doris in a flouncy dress is setting coasters on a coffee
...Doris's boss, Big Dave Brewster,
was married to Ann Nirdlinger, the
department store heiress. Tonight
they were coming over for dinner--as
Doris said, we were 'entertaining'...
Ed sits on the living-room davenport in an uncomfortable
...Me, I don't like entertaining.
The doorbell rings.
Ed opens it to reveal a large man in a suit and his demure,
How ya doin', Ed?
OK. Take your coat, Ann?
The two couples are in the middle of the meal.
Japs had us pinned down in Buna for
something like six weeks. Well, I
gotta tell ya, I thought *we* had it
tough, but, Jesus, we had supply.
*They* were eating grubs, nuts,
thistles. When we finally up and
bust off the beach we found Arnie
Bragg, kid missing on recon; the
Japs had *eaten* the sonofabitch, if
you'll pardon the, uh... And this
was a scrawny, pimply kid too, nothin'
to write home about. I mean, I never
would've, ya know, so what do I say,
honey? When I don't like dinner,
what do I say?
Ann smiles wanly.
...I say, Jesus, honey, Arnie Bragg--
He roars with laughter.
Ed gives an acknowledging smile.
He dries his eyes with the corner of a napkin.
...Were you in the service, Ed?
No, Dave, I wasn't.
Ed was 4F on account of his fallen
Mm, that's tough.
Ed is standing alone on the porch, watching the sun go down.
Crickets chirp. From inside the house we hear laughter and
...Yeah... I guess Doris liked all
that he-man stuff. Sometimes I had
the feeling that she and Big Dave
were a lot closer than they let on...
He turns and looks through the screen door into the house.
Across the dim living room we can see a sliver of the brightly
lit kitchen. Big Dave, wearing a frilly apron, stands at the
counter drying dishes. His broad back heaves with laughter
while Doris, just hidden by the wall, chats away, handing
...The signs were all there plain
enough--not that I was gonna prance
about it, mind you. It's a free
Footsteps approach the front porch.
With the squeak of the screen door, Big Dave emerges.
Holding down the porch area?
Ed gives a half-grin of wry acknowledgement. Big Dave relaxes,
forearms against the porch railing, gazing out at the front
...That's quite a wife you got there.
She's a rare one.
How's business, Dave?
Couldn't be better. These're boom
times in retailing. We're opening
another store, Big Dave's Annex,
there on Garson. This is strictly
haberdashery--casual wear, pyjamas,
ladies' foundations and undergarments.
Matter of fact, I'm thinking of making
Doris the comptroller. How're things
at the, uh, the barbershop?
All right, I guess.
...Fine. Fine. Well, you might want
to drop by the Annex when we open,
update your suit--'course, you're in
the smock all day.
...Say, where do you get those things
Specialty store down in Sacramento.
There is a silence. At length, gazing out at the lawn, Big
Dave clears his throat.
Doris and I went to church once a
We are tilting down a long stained-glass window depicting
the resurrection of Christ.
...Usually Tuesday night...
Faintly, we hear an amplified voice:
Ed sits at a long table, staring at the window, a lit
cigarette in his mouth.
Doris wasn't big on divine worship...
Doris is concentrating on the six cards spread in front of
...and I doubt if she believed in
life everlasting; she'd most likely
tell you that our reward is on this
earth and bingo is probably the extent
Still focused on her cards, Doris mutters to Ed:
Watch your card, honey.
Ed continues to gaze off at the window, smoke pluming from
I wasn't crazy about the game, but,
I don't know, it made her happy, and
I found the setting peaceful.
Doris sucks in her breath.
Sun slants in through the big window at the end of the day.
Ed sweeps hair trimmings, looking intently down at the floor,
a cigarette dangling from his lip. Frank sits on one of the
vinyl waiting chairs, talking at Ed's back.
...so you tie your own flies, Ed. I
mean, if you're really serious. You
tie your own flies, you do a--I know
it's matickless, I know, people say,
hey, you can buy flies at the store--
but you can buy your fish at the
store, Ed, you see what I'm saying?
The point is there's a certain art
to the process. The point is not
merely to provide, and let me point
out, these fish are not as dumb as
you might think.
Sportsmanship! That's my point. June
fly, Ed? Mosquito? Which of these?
Well, what fish do you seek?
Sure, go to the store. Go there,
describe to the man where you will
be fishing, and for what, and the
weather conditions, sun, no sun,
whatnot, and so forth, and then you
might as well have the man go ahead
and sell you the goddamn FISH, Ed...
We see a black-suited figure approaching through the windows
at the far end of the shop. He is almost blown out by the
late-day sunlight hitting the window.
...My point is, this is a man who
knows nothing no matter how much you
tell him, so sell him the goddamn
The bell over the front door tinkles, and the swarthy middle-
aged man walks in. He is well dressed--perhaps a little too
snazzily for this small town--and has a sporty pencil
OK, boys, which of you gets the
We're just closing, friend.
Oh, happy days! I wish I was doing
well enough to turn away business!
More power to ya, brother! The public
Hey, what's your problem, friend?
This is a business establishment
with posted hours--
Ed cuts in with a jerk of the head.
I'll take care of him, go ahead,
Frank. Have a seat, mister.
Frank looks sourly at the stranger.
...You sure, Eddie?
Yeah, yeah--go home.
As Frank leaves:
In your ear, mister.
The stranger chuckles.
Oh, those fiery Mediterraneans. Say!
Not so fast there, brother--
Ed has switched on the clippers, but the stranger waves him
back; he lifts off a toupee.
...Pretty good, huh? Fools even the
experts. 100 percent human hair,
handcrafted by Jacques of San
Francisco, and I'd hate to have to
tell you what I paid for it.
Yes, it's a nice rug. I'm paying for
it down on the installment plan...
Ed starts to trim the stranger's fringe.
...A lot of folks live with the pate
exposed. They say the dames think
it's sexy. But for my money it's
just not good grooming--and grooming,
my friend, is probably the most
important thing in business--after
personality, of course...
He twists around to offer his hand.
...Creighton Tolliver, pleased to
Ed Crane. What brings you to Santa
A goose, friend. I was chasing a
wild goose. Ed, have you ever heard
of venture capital?
Well, it's the wildest goose there
is. Risk money. Very speculative.
Except, Ed, in certain situations,
it's not, see? I thought I had a
prospect here. Well, I make the haul
up and this lousy so-and-so tells me
his situation has changed--all his
capital's gonna be tied up in
expansion plans of his own. Thank
you, mother! Pop goes another bubble!
It's only the biggest business
opportunity since Henry Ford and I
can't seem to interest a soul!
It's called dry cleaning. You heard
me right, brother, 'dry cleaning'--
wash without water, no suds, no
tumble, no stress on the clothes.
It's all done with chemicals, friend,
and your garments end up crisp and
fresh. And here's the capper: no
That's right! Dry cleaning--remember
the name. It's going to revolutionize
the laundry industry, and those that
get in early are gonna bear the fruit
away. All I need is $10,000 to open
my first store, then I use its cash
flow to finance another, and so on--
leap frog, bootstrap myself a whole
chain. Well, me and a partner.
Cleanliness, friend. There's money
in it. There's a future. There's
room to grow... Say, that's looking
pretty good. Let's see it with the
It is evening. Ed leans against the bathroom doorjamb
contemplatively off, hands thrust into his pockets, a
cigarette between his lips pluming smoke.
The reverse show Doris soaking in the tub, reading a magazine.
...Was I crazy to be thinking about
it? Was he a huckster, or opportunity,
the real McCoy?
Ed takes the cigarette from his mouth, exhales.
...My first instinct was, no, no,
the whole idea was nuts. But maybe
that was the instinct that kept me
locked up in the barbershop, nose
against the exit, afraid to try
turning the knob. What if I could
get the money?
She lifts one leg and rests the heel on the rim of the tub.
Shave my legs, will ya?
Ed saunters over, perches on the tub and puts the cigarette
back in his mouth to free his hands. He picks up a bar of
soap and starts soaping the leg.
He sets down the soap and picks up a safety razor.
The razor takes long slow strokes along the lather, dark
bits of hair flecking the white foam.
...It was clean. No water. Chemicals.
He shakes the razor in the tub. Shavings float away across
the soap-slicked water.
(absently, as she
Gimme a drag.
Ed pulls the cigarette from his mouth between two fingers,
uses the two fingers to flip it over, and holds it for Doris
as she sucks.
He brings the cigarette, now marked with lipstick, back to
his own mouth. She murmurs:
...Love ya, honey.
We hear a voice, muffled through the door, breaking into
A hand enters to knock.
Yeah, come in.
The door swings open to show Creighton in his shirtsleeves
sitting on the bed, talking on the phone. A tray of room-
service dishes sits near him.
He is bald; his hairpiece sits on the pillow next to him.
(into the phone)
OK... yeah. I'll see you tomorrow.
He hangs up, looks quizzically at Ed.
...Oh, I thought you were the
porter... Can I help you?
Ed stands awkwardly by the door.
...I'm, uh, Ed.
The stranger's look does not show recognition.
...Ed Crane. Remember? Today?
Sorry, friend, I, uh, you got me at
I'm, uh, I'm--the barber.
Jesus! The barber! I'll be a
sonofagun. Why didn't you say so?
Ed nods, his smile faint and forced.
...I didn't recognize you without
the smock. Did I--damn--did I leave
something at the shop?
No. I might be interested in that,
uh, business proposition--
Creighton, surprised, quickly picks up his hairpiece and
arranges it on his head.
You got the dough?!
I can get it, yeah.
Come in, come in, siddown over there.
No. I--tell me--
What's involved, aside from putting
up the money? What're you looking
for the partner to do?
Do? Hell, nothing. Well, you'll want
to keep tabs on your investment, of
course, but I'm looking for a silent
partner. I've done the research,
I've contacted the vendors, the deal
is set. I'm just looking for venture
capital, friend. Disappear if you
want, check in whenever you like--I
want the dough; I don't take
And how do we share--
Fifty-fifty, straight down the line.
You and me. Finance and expertise.
So--you've got the dough then, do
I'll have it in a week.
Well, I'll be damned. The barber!
And I thought this trip was a bust.
He reaches for a bottle of bonded whiskey on the night stand
and hands Ed a glass.
...it just goes to show, when one
door slams shut, another one opens.
Here's to ya, uh...
They both knock back the whiskey. Creighton leans back and
gives Ed a heavy-lidded stare, a faint smile on his lips,
his hairpiece slightly askew.
Ed stares back.
After a beat, without taking his eyes of Ed, Creighton reaches
up and loosens his tie. An almost imperceptible wink.
...Was that a pass?
You're out of line, mister.
Creighton throws up his hands apologetically.
Way out of line.
Right! Strictly business.
CLOSE ON TYPEWRITTEN NOTE
I KNOW ABOUT YOU AND DORIS CRANE. COOPERATE OR ED CRANE
WILL KNOW. YOUR WIFE WILL KNOW. EVERYONE WILL KNOW. GATHER
$10,000 AND AWAIT INSTRUCTIONS.
A hand pulls the note out of a typewriter carriage.
I sent it to Dave the next morning.
And I waited.
We are looking down at the top of an eight-year-old's crew
cut as clippers buzz its perimeter.
Frank reads a magazine. The youngster reads a comic as Ed
works his head.
...You ever wonder about it?
I don't know... How it keeps on
coming. It just keeps growing.
Yeah--lucky for us, huh, pal?
No, I mean it's growing, it's part
of us. And we cut it off. And throw
Come on, Eddie, you're gonna scare
Ed shuts off the clippers and give the apron a flap.
OK, bud, you're through.
The kid hops down, still reading his comic, and ambles out
the door. Ed gives Frank a considering stare.
...I'm gonna take his hair and throw
it out in the dirt.
I'm gonna mingle it with common house
What the hell are you talking about?
Ed turns back to the counter to hang up his clippers.
I don't know. Skip it.
EXT. ED'S HOUSE
It is twilight. Ed lifts the latch on the front gate and,
cigarette in his mouth, heads up the walk.
Music filters out from the house.
INT. ED'S HOUSE
Ed walks though the living room, hands in his pockets. The
music emanates from a radio in the bedroom.
A track forward reveals Doris sitting at a vanity, doing her
hair. Her dress is half zipped at the back.
...Gimme a zip.
Ed walks over behind her.
Where you going?
Me? Us! The party at Nirdlinger's--I
told you last week, for the Christmas
We are close on the zipper as Ed's hand takes the tab, pauses,
the lowers it slightly. Her back blooms through the dark
fabric of the dress.
He slides the zipper up, and Doris reaches for a perfume
Come on, get ready. It's important.
Nah, go ahead. I'm not big on parties.
Oh, don't be a grump.
It is festooned with streamers.
Ed leans against a wall, one hand dug into a pocket, the
other bringing a cigarette to his lips.
Band music plays and Nirdlinger's employees whirl on the
dance floor. Bobby-soxed teenagers Lindy-hop and pass palms
over their knees.
A thin young man in a sports coat stands next to Ed, watching,
his Adam's apple bobbing.
He goes out onto the dance floor. Ed, left by himself, gazes
across the floor.
His view, broken by dancers' crosses, shows Big Dave worriedly
talking to Doris.
Doris reacts angrily.
Big Dave morosely absorbs the angry words from Doris. He
glances up toward Ed and notices his gaze with consternation.
He gives Doris a jerk of the head, and she too looks over.
You in ladies' wear?
The young man with the Adam's apple is back, looking out at
the floor, snapping his fingers.
Haven't I seen you up in ladies'
I don't work here. My wife does.
Uh-huh. Some beat, huh?
Check out the rack on that broad in
A hand is laid on Ed's shoulder. It is Big Dave; he leans in
Ed. Can I talk to you?
BIG DAVE'S OFFICE
Music from the party drifts in only faintly. The office is
built into a corner of the sales floor. It is dominated by a
large desk. A large window on the far side affords a partial
view of the floor.
Ed sits in a leather chair in front of the desk. Dave fumbles
nervously on top of the desk for a cigar. He trims the end
of the cigar with a short double-bladed knife with a steel
...Souveniered it off a Jap in New
He hands one cigar to Ed, takes one for himself, then drags
up a chair to face Ed's.
...I guess you're wondering what
Doris was so hot about.
The office is dark, the only illumination coming from the
window onto the bright sales floor behind Big Dave. Ed leans
forward for Dave to light his cigar.
...These're Havanas. Romeo and
Juliets. Private stock.
Dave, having lit Ed's cigar, draws nervously on his own.
What is it, Dave?
Dave breaks down, weeping. He buries his face in his hands,
the burning cigar in his right hand perilously close to his
Ed, I've been weak...
His shoulders heave.
...I've, uh... I've, uh... thanks.
Ed has taken Dave's cigar so that he won't burn himself.
...I've, uh... Oh, Jesus. I've been
carrying on with a married woman.
Uh, no one you know. And now the, uh--
what is it they say?--the--the--the
chickens are coming home to roost.
Ed awkwardly holds the two burning cigars.
Hell, I, I'm not proud of it. But,
uh, that's not the worst of it. I
got a note. A blackmail note. You
know, come across or everybody knows.
Well, you know what that would do to
I guess it would be pretty awkward.
Awkward?! Ann'd throw me out on my
keister! Hell, it's her family's
store--*her* store. I serve at the
indulgence of the goddamn ownership,
I only work here! And the lady's
husband would know... Oh, Jesus.
How much to they want, Dave?
$10,000! I don't know what to do,
Ed. I don't know what I *can* do.
Even though I know who the sonofabitch
...You know... who *who* is?
The sonofabitch. The blackmailer.
It's, uh, it's no one you know. It's
a businessman from Sacramento. A
goddamn pansy, Ed. He tried to rope
me into some crackpot scheme; I heard
him out and then told him to go to
hell. And the very next day, the
very next day, Ed, I get blackmailed
for the same amount.
Would he... it sounds pretty obvious.
Well, I guess he don't care that
Mm. How, uh... how did he know that--
He's staying at the hotel I've gone
to with, uh, with the lady in
question. Must've seen us.
Big Dave blows his nose, reaches to take his cigar from Ed.
He exhales with a long sigh.
...Why don't you just pay him, Dave?
That's my capitalization on the Annex!
*My* operation, Ed! Christ almighty.
That's what I was just talking to
Doris about, a way of getting the
money from the store that we could
hide from Ann.
Embezzling, Ed. From my own goddamn
He give a tearful chuckle.
...Doris, she was pretty hot about
that. God bless her. She doesn't
know I'm telling you this--she's mad
enough already. But Jesus, Ed, you're
the only one I can talk to. I'm, I'm
sorry I... I better get back to the
He rises and clears his throat as he rubs the tears from his
...I look all right?
He has left the office to wander through an adjacent room
lit only by spill from the party. It is the music department;
pianos and spinets are arranged across the floor.
In a way I felt bad for Big Dave. I
knew the ten grand was going to pinch
him where it hurt...
Ed sits on a piano stool next to a standing ashtray. He takes
out a cigarette, lights it off his cigar, stubs out the cigar.
...But Doris was two-timing me and I
guess, somewhere, that pinched a
His attention is caught by a distant knock of wood. Someone
is raising the key-guard on a piano across the room.
The person can only be seen only obscurely, from three-
quarters behind, through the sales floor's jumble of
haphazardly arranged instruments. The person begins to play.
Ed listens. The piece is slow, sweet, almost a lullaby.
The player, unaware that there is an audience, plays on, and
Ed listens, eyes narrowed against the smoke curling past his
The piece ends.
That was pretty.
The player turns, surprised. It is a young woman.
...Did you make that up?
Oh, no. That was written by Mr Ludwig
Ed nods recognition of the name.
That was quite something.
He wrote some beautiful piano sonatas.
That was something. I'm Ed Crane.
I know who you are, Mr Crane.
His look shows surprise.
...My father used to take me with
him when he got his hair cut. Walter
Ed's head tilts back in acknowledgment.
...I'm Rachel Abundas. Everyone calls
Sorry, I just didn't remember.
Oh, that's all right. You can't be
expected to remember every skinny
girl who comes in with her dad.
Ed give a wry smile.
...You don't like the music out there?
It's OK, I guess. No, I don't really.
I'm not big on music, ordinarily.
A woman calls sharply from offscreen:
Silhouetted in the doorway to the party room is Doris, coat
over her arm, purse in hand.
Doris and Ed are driving home.
Doris draws heavily on a cigarette, looking flintily out at
...What a knucklehead.
She waves angrily.
...Money problems. He's thinking
about canceling the Annex.
*That means I don't run Nirdlinger's!*
They ride in silence for a beat. Doris shakes her head.
...What a knucklehead.
As the car roars past and into the distance.
It is day. We are looking from inside a parked car toward a
hotel entrance. Big Dave emerges from the hotel, gets into a
Packard and drives off.
Big Dave did it, though...
Ed, sitting in his car, is watching.
...I sent a note telling him where
to drop the money...
Ed emerges from a stairwell and goes to a standing ashtray
by the elevator.
...and he did. He came across.
Ed reaches into the trash hole in the ashtray column and
pulls out a Nirdlinger's bag.
He goes back to the stairwell.
Ed emerges from the stairwell, goes to a door and knocks.
The door swings open.
Yeah, good, how are ya, come in...
Ed follows him into the room.
...You bring a check?
He gives Ed a look.
...Usually we do this kind of thing
with a bank draft. But cash--that's
fine--it's all the same in the end--
dough's dough, huh?
I got the paperwork here. Partnership
papers here, they reflect our
agreement: fifty-fifty on the net, I
supply professional services, you
supply the capital. I'll give you a
receipt on the dough there, huh?
Pretty straightforward, but I don't
know if you wanna show this stuff to
Yeah, screw 'em, huh? Pay 'em to
tangle it up and then you pay 'em to
untangle it, what's the point?
He perspires as he counts the money.
...Just a second here, I'll give you
a receipt on the, uh... Whoa,
Nellie... Oh, by the way, we didn't
talk about this, I, uh, I think I'm
gonna call the place Tolliver's,
after me, you know, I didn't think
you were much interested in, uh--
That'll be fine.
Yeah, good. Lemme just, uh...
He wipes his brow, finishes counting.
...Yeah, that's it. As per our
Creighton hands Ed an executed agreement and a receipt.
Well, there it is. Writ large in
legal escriture, next step is--
Look, uh... Creighton...
He gives Creighton a level stare, smoke pluming from the
cigarette planted in his mouth.
...You're not gonna screw me on this?
*Screw* you--Jesus! Take it to a
lawyer! No, I insist! This is *dry*
cleaning, this is not some fly-by-
night thing here! I must say, I've
been an entrepreneur for thirteen
years and I've never--
And I've never been asked--Look, you
want the dough back? You know who I
Creighton mops his brow again.
So, uh... Tolliver's is OK then?
Ed drives with the usual cigarette in his mouth. Doris sits
next to him. Rural scenery slips by in the background.
The next day was Saturday. We were
going to a reception for Doris' cousin
Gina, who'd just married a wop vintner
out near Modesto. Doris didn't much
feel like going, and I didn't either,
but, like she said, we had a
Doris gazes stonily out at the road. At length:
...I hate wops.
Ed gives her a brief glance. Doris glares at him.
...What's so damn strange about that?
I didn't say a word.
She looks back out at the road.
...*You* didn't have to grow up with
This brings nothing from Ed. Doris shakes her head.
BY A BARN
Wops in Sunday clothing greet each other around tables piled
A small child runs up to his mother, yanks on her dress and
He's ridin' Garibaldi! Uncle Frankie's
Surrounded by cheering children, with a jug of wine slung
over his shoulder, Frank is riding an enormous pig. He slaps
at the pig's ass with a large straw hat.
That was when she started drinking.
Doris is standing by one of the tables, drinking red wine
from a water glass. Ed stands nearby.
A large woman hugs Doris.
How you doin', Doris, you been OK?
How're you, Constanza?
Oh, you know, I got my healt'. And
how you been, uh...
Ed. How's a business?
He's a barber, right? It's a good
trade. So how come you got no kids?
A group of kids pulls Frank, laughing, by the hand toward a
picnic table set out with pies in a row.
Uncle Frankie's gotta join! Wait for
No, come on, kids--I just ate lunch!
No, no--Uncle Frankie's gotta join!
An old man stands by with a stopwatch.
He clicks the timer.
Frank and the line of children plunge their faces into the
line of blueberry pies.
The other picnickers cheer them on.
Ed and Doris approach the innocent-looking young couple
Doris, holding her empty glass, is not a happy drunk:
'Gratulations, Gina. It's so goddamn
Life is so goddamn wonderful, you
almost won't believe it.
It's just a goddamn bowl of cherries,
Ed tries to lead her away.
Doris calls back over her shoulder:
Congratulations on your goddamn
As Ed and Doris recede we hear her petulant:
...Leggo my goddamn elbow.
In a long shot we see Frank at the crest of a hill, staggering
slowly, painfully, toward a tree. In his right hand he
clutches a trophy.
When he reaches the tree he swings his free hand up against
it, leans forward, and vomits.
Late afternoon, driving home.
Ed drives. Doris sits in the front passenger seat, snoring
lightly. Frank sits in the back seat hugging his trophy to
his chest, eyes closed, murmuring:
I never wanna see another blueberry
...I never even wanna hear those
...Don't says those words, Ed.
It is twilight. Ed's coupe is parked in the driveway. He is
just rounding the back of the car to open the passenger-side
door. He pulls Doris from the car, half asleep, half drunk.
The door swings open and Ed stumbles in supporting Doris,
who has one arm draped around his neck. He helps her into
the bedroom and eases her onto the bed.
He sits on the edge of the bed and looks down at her.
Shadows from branches just outside wave across her face. She
is breathing through her open mouth; her face is moist with
I'd met Doris blind on a double-date
with a loudmouthed buddy of mine who
was seeing a friend of hers from
work. We went to a movie; Doris had
a flask; we killed it. She could put
it away. At the end of the night she
said she liked it I didn't talk much.
A couple weeks later she suggested--
A harsh jangle from the telephone. Doris moans but does not
wake; Ed rises and does to the living room and picks up the
Ed, it's Big Dave. I gotta talk to
I'm at Nirdlinger's. Let yourself
He hangs up.
He nudges Doris.
She rolls away and burrows into a pillow.
Ed opens her purse and pokes through it.
We are looking over Ed's shoulder as he hesitantly swings
open a door.
It reveals Big Dave's office, quiet and rather dark.
A down-facing banker's lamp on the desk illuminates Big Dave's
hands on the desktop.
Come on in.
Ed enters, sits.
An awkward silence.
...What's the problem, Big Dave?
His hands writhe on the desktop.
...It ruined me. This money. No annex.
I'm all shot to hell.
So you paid the guy?
Big Dave stares without speaking.
After a long beat:
...What kind of man *are* you?
What kind of man *are* you?
I'd understand if you'd walked in
here. Socked me in the nose. Whatever.
I deserved it.
I'm not proud of what I did. But
No one talks.
Big Dave sighs.
...Yeah, I paid up. As you well know.
And then I went and found the pansy.
He looks at Ed.
...Got nothin' to say, huh? Yeah,
well, you already know the story. I
didn't, I hadda beat it out of the
pansy. *Your* money.
...What kind of man *are* you?
Big Dave rises.
He crosses around the desk and adds, sadly:
...I'm all shot to hell.
Ed starts to rise, but Big Dave is already looming over him.
Big Dave bear-hugs him and then spins him into a wall.
Ed hits the wall and bounces off, back into Big Dave. Big
Dave wallops him in the stomach. Ed doubles over.
...What kind of man *are* you?
Big Dave hurls him against the desk, then slams his face
against the desktop. Ed's hands scrabble at the top of the
desk as Big Dave grabs him by the neck and lifts. He slams
him face-first into the window between the office and the
dark sales floor.
Ed twists around, the back of his head now pressed against
the glass. Big Dave's hands lock around his throat.
Big Dave sweats and strains.
A crack shoots up the pane of glass.
Ed's hand sweeps up and plunges something into Big Dave's
Big Dave grunts and turns away, gurgling. His hands go up to
Ed watches. He is holding Big Dave's cigar trimmer.
Big Dave takes a couple of deliberate steps backward, his
head twisted away.
He falls back, tripped up by a chair, which spins him face-
down onto the floor.
Big Dave crawls away face-down across the floor, on his knees
but with his hands still at his throat. His face and knees
awkwardly support his weight as if he were pushing something
across the floor with his nose.
He reaches a corner but still pushes forward, wedging himself
in, legs still scraping away as if to push himself through
the wall. Blood is pooling out from under him.
Big Dave's legs are still working. His gurgling continues.
Big Dave's legs start to move furiously. They convulse. His
whole body shakes as he goes into shock.
Big Dave stops shaking. He remains wedged awkwardly into the
corner, face-down. He is still.
The room is very quiet.
Ed looks down at his hands.
He walks across the room, pushes the door open and walks
across the darkened sales floor.
Ed walks to his car. He does not look about, is not
particularly furtive. He gets into the car. He starts the
He pulls up, sits motionless for a beat. Gradually, something
draws his attention; he cocks his head and looks up through
A branch creaks and sways in the breeze.
Ed gets into bed next to Doris. He stares at the ceiling.
Wind rustles outside.
The shadow of a branch on the ceiling nods in time with the
He looks at Doris.
Her face is still lightly sheened with sweat but her mouth
is closed now, her breathing more peaceful. The leafy shadows
play over her face.
...It was only a couple of weeks
after we met that Doris suggested
getting married. I said, Don't you
wanna get to know me more? She said,
Why, does it get better? She looked
at me like I was a dope, which I've
never really minded from her. And
she had a point, I guess. We knew
each other as well then as now...
He is gazing at her.
...Anyway, well enough.
Sound and image face.
The next day.
Ed cuts hair, a cigarette between his lips.
Holy-moly, do I got a headache.
Frank is giving a haircut as well.
...How you today, Ed?
You don't got a headache?
Damn, I got a headache to beat the
Ed sits in his chair, hands folded in his lap, head tilted
back, eyes closed.
We hold on Ed as we hear a clipper buzzing and Frank talking
to someone in his chair.
Ya can't pump it. Did ya pump it?
That'll just flood it.
Ya gotta pump it. Ya can't just hold
it down. *That'll* flood it.
You crazy? You pumped it?
Well, ya can't hold it down.
There is the jingle of the door bell. Ed opens his eyes.
Two men in fedoras are entering.
Ed starts to rise.
Come on outside.
The two men are staring at the sidewalk, smoking, hesitant
to speak. One of them finally comes up with an icebreaker:
...So you're a barber, huh?
I'm Officer Persky. This is Krebs.
Ed nods toward their car:
Ed holds up one hand with its smoking cigarette.
Right. Uh... Pete's got some news
His partner gives Persky a dirty look.
...Look, pal, it's a tough break,
but, uh... well damnit, your wife's
They sent us to tell ya.
They sent us to tell ya. We pulled
Yeah, uh, they brung her to the county
Well, embezzlement. And homicide. A
guy named David Brewster. He's, uh...
He's the decedent.
I don't understand.
He's the dead guy.
Ed stares at him.
...Yeah, it's a tough break.
Visiting ends at five. Too late today.
You can see her tomorrow.
Sorry, pal. They sent us to tell ya.
He shakes his head.
It is evening. Ed is pulling up to a house on a tree-lined
street similar to his own. He gets out of his car and goes
up the walk, and a man sitting on the porch swing holds up a
hand of greeting.
He steps up on the porch.
The man is holding a tumbler of whiskey and ice that clinks
as the swing moves. His skin glistens with drinker's sweat,
and he has the slightly expansive manner of someone who's
put at least a couple away.
Have a seat.
Ed glances around but the swing is the only seat. He sits
next to Walter.
Thanks. Thanks for seeing me, at
Oh, hell. Drink?
Sure you don't need one?
OK. Boy. Jesus!
Yeah. What do I, uh...
Well, of course, I, uh, it's out of
my league, criminal stuff. I do, uh,
probate, real estate, title search,
uh... I'd be absolutely worthless,
something like this. Absolutely
'Scuse me, just finished dinner. Um.
Frankly, Doris'd be better off with
the county defender.
He a good man?
Bert's OK, sure, he's a good man. I
won't kid you though, Ed, nobody
around here has any experience with
this kind of, er... And I hear they're
bringing a prosecutor up from
Sacramento. Capital offense. Taking
it seriously... Hmm...
Taking it seriously.
So, who should I--
The front door opens and someone speaks through the screen:
You want any coffee, Dad?
Ed looks around at the voice.
Oh, hello, Mr Crane.
She steps out: it is Birdy Abundas.
Ed rises, and they awkwardly shake hands.
I'm so sorry... I was sorry to hear.
I'm fine. Thanks.
No thanks, honey.
OK. Nice to see you, Mr Crane.
They watch her go back in.
Damnit! She's a good kid.
...So, uh, who should I--
Well, there's Lloyd Garroway in San
Francisco. Probity--you know, no one
ever said anything iffy about Lloyd
Garroway. Conservative. Jury might
like that. Might like that here.
He takes a sip of his drink.
Uh-huh. Is he the best then, for,
Well, the best, the money-is-no-object
best, for a criminal case, any lawyer
would tell you Freddy Riedenschneider.
Out of Sacramento. 'Course, I don't
know how you're fixed for money.
Uh-huh. He's the, uh...
Yeah, the best.
...Yeah, Riedenschneider. Wish I
could tell you more. Hell, I wish I
could handle it myself. But I'd be
absolutely worthless for this kind
He takes a musing sip.
...Criminal matter? Freddy
...No question about it.
ED AT A TABLE
It is a long table with chairs stretching down both sides,
one side for prisoners, the other for visitors. The room is
empty except for a guard and an elderly woman who sits across
from a younger woman at the far end of the table. The younger
woman, in a prison smock, is wailing. The elderly woman is
holding her hand.
Ed sits across from an empty chair, clutching a flower-printed
toiletries kit. There are echoing voices suggesting large
spaces outside the room.
He sits and waits.
The door opens. A large prison matron steps aside to let
Doris looks lost in a prison-issue jumper that is too big
for her. Her hair is uncurled and bedraggled. Not only is
she not made-up, she has a couple of bruises and a cut on
As Ed stands, she gives a hollow look around.
Honey... I brought your make-up.
She looks at him.
How are you?
I don't know what's going on. I--
What happened to you?
She shakes her head.
...I don't know what happened to Big
Dave. I know some of it.
Irregularities in my books, they
said. Can I explain it.
You don't have to--
I helped him cook the books, Ed. I
did do that.
You don't have to tell them anything.
We're getting you a lawyer.
Doris doesn't seem to be listening. She sighs:
I know all about that. But I don't
know how much to tell them.
Don't tell 'em anything. We're getting
you Freddy Riedenschneider.
Doris finally looks at him.
Should I... should I tell you why?
You don't have to tell me anything.
Her gaze drifts away again. She notices the sobbing woman.
Doris looks around and laughs.
...My books used to be perfect. Anyone
could open them up, make sense of
the whole goddamn store.
I knew we'd pay for it.
Ed sits in a waiting-customer chair, wearing his smock. Frank
paces in front of him. He smacks a fist into his palm.
This is what family is for, Ed! This
is when ya come together!
Close ranks! Goddamnit! Those sons
Frank, uh, you know I'll try to
contribute, but, uh--Freddy
I don't care what it costs! This is
when ya come together!
That's very generous.
The hell with it, Eddie!
Ed and Frank sit waiting on a bench in the high-vaulted lobby.
Frank looks uncomfortable in an ill-fitting suit. As they
wait, he looks nervously about.
In a hushed voice:
They're just people like you and me,
Ed. Remember that.
Just people. They gotta put up the
big front so that people will trust
them with their money. This is why
the big lobby, Ed. But they put their
pants on one leg at a time. Just
like you and me.
They too use the toilet, Ed. In spite
of appearances. And their money will
be secured by the barbershop. A rock.
A *rock*, the barbershop. I mean,
how long has *this* place been here?
A door opens. A conservatively dressed man of late middle
Frank hops to his feet.
Could you come with me please?
Sure. Can Ed come too?
The man looks dubiously at Ed.
Crane. Ed Crane.
You also have an interest in the
He's a barber.
Not an owner.
No, he's family, he's my brother-in-
Ah-hah. It would be best if he waited
He goes to the glass-paned doorway to his office, Frank
trailing dejectedly behind. They enter, the door closes, and
we hear their muffled voices from inside, the sense of the
Ed sits and watches the two men perform their pantomime of
business: Frank nervously reads documents with one hand cupped
to his forehead for concentration; the banker passes
successive documents across his desk with a word of
explanation for each as Frank signs.
Ed takes out a cigarette and lights it, watching impassively.
The barbershop. Doris and Frank's
father had worked thirty years to
own it free and clear. Now it got
signed over to the bank, and the
bank signed some money over to Frank,
and Frank signed the money over...
TRACKING POINT OF VIEW
It is midday. We are tracking along the sidewalk toward a
long cream-colored Packard parked at the curb. A couple of
kids have stopped to peer into the car's windows; the car is
no doubt the fanciest in town.
...to Freddy Riedenschneider, who
got into town two days later...
Ed, coming up the sidewalk, looks up at the storefront: a
restaurant with a large window with a plush red drape that
obscures the interior. Gilt lettering on the window spells
...and told me to meet him at
DaVinci's for lunch.
TRACKING POINT OF VIEW
Inside the restaurant. We are tracking toward a table whose
lone occupant sits with his back to us holding open a menu
as he orders from a facing waitress:
...not fried, poached. Three of 'em
for two minutes. A strip steak medium
rare, flapjacks, potatoes, tomato
juice, and plenty of hot coffee.
He flips the menu over.
...Do you have prairie oysters?
Then bring me a fruit cocktail while
He looks up at Ed.
...You're Ed Crane?
Barber, right? I'm Freddy
Riedenschneider. Hungry? They tell
me the chow's OK here. I made some
No thanks, I--
The waitress sets a fruit cocktail in front of
Look, I don't wanna waste your time
so I'll eat while we talk. Ya mind?
*You* don't mind. So while I'm in
town I'll be staying at the Hotel
Metropole, the Turandot Suite. Yeah,
it's goofy, the suites're named after
operas; room's OK though, I poked
around. I'm having 'em hold it for
me on account of I'll be back and
forth. In addition to my retainer,
you're paying hotel, living expenses,
secretarial, private eye if we need
to make inquiries, headshrinker should
we go that way. We'll talk about
appeals if, as and when. For right
now, has she confessed?
No. Of course not. She didn't do it.
Good! That helps. Not that she didn't
do it, that she didn't confess. Of
course, there's ways to deal with a
confession, but that's good!--one
less thing to think about. Now.
Interview. I'm seeing her tomorrow.
You should be there. Three o'clock.
One more thing: you keep your mouth
shut. I get the lay of the land, I
tell *you* what to say. No talking
out of school. What's out of school?
Everything's out of school. I do the
talking; you keep your trap shut.
I'm an attorney, you're a barber;
you don't know anything. Understood?
Good! Any questions give me a ring--
Turandot suite; if I'm out leave a
message. You sure you don't want
He points a finger at Ed.
...You're OK, pal. You're OK, she's
OK. Everything's gonna be hunky-dory.
The waitress puts down a plate of steak and eggs.
...And the flapjacks, honey.
DRIVING POINT OF VIEW
We are looking at pedestrians on the sidewalk through the
windshield of a moving car.
All going about their business. It
seemed like I knew a secret--a bigger
one even then what had really happened
to Big Dave, something none of them
On Ed, driving.
...Like I had made it to the outside,
somehow, and they were all still
struggling, way down below.
ED IN BED
Arms folded behind his head, staring at the ceiling.
On the ceiling is the moving shadow of a tree limb.
A distant, muffled knock.
Ed turns his head.
Ed opens it as he finishes cinching a bathrobe.
The woman waiting on the front porch is dressed in black: a
black dress and a black veiled hat that is too big for her
Wind rustles in the trees behind her.
She stares at Ed.
For the first time, we hear her speak, in a low, tremulous
Ann. Will you come in?
She shakes her head.
...No, No, it's very late.
After an uncomfortable beat, through which she continues to
...I'm so sorry about your loss.
Yes. Thank you.
Of course, you know, Doris had nothing
to do with it. Nothing at all.
She lays a black-gloved hand on his arm.
Oh, I know. Don't worry, Ed. I came
to tell you...
And you should tell Doris...
She falls silent. The trees behind her rustle.
She gives a wary look back. Then, confidingly, to Ed:
...You know how Big Dave loved
camping. And the out-of-doors.
Ed is puzzled:
We went camping last summer. In
Eugene, Oregon. *Outside* of Eugene,
She gives him a searching look, hoping, it seems, that he
will find this significant.
At night, there were lights--we both
saw them. We never told anyone,
outside of our official report.
A spacecraft. I saw the creatures.
They led Big Dave onto the craft. He
never told anyone what they did,
outside of his report. Of course he
told *me*. No one else.
The government knows. I cannot repeat
it to you. But this thing goes deep,
Ed. This was not your wife. I goes
deep, and involves the government.
There is a great deal of fear. You
know how certain circles would find
it--the knowledge--a threat. They
try to limit it, and--
Ann, will you come in, sit down,
maybe have a drink?
Sometimes knowledge is a curse, Ed.
After this happened, things changed.
Big Dave... he never touched me again.
Ed says nothing.
She touches his arm.
...Tell Doris not to worry. I know
it wasn't her. Perhaps this will
bring it out, finally. Perhaps now
it will all come out.
She turns and heads down the walk.
Her high-heeled footsteps echo on the walk, then the sidewalk,
then are lost in the rustle of leaves.
Ed watches her go: a small black figure, growing smaller.
PRISON MEETING ROOM
It is an unadorned room with a simple wooden table and chairs.
One high window lets in a shaft of sunlight.
Ed and Doris sit at the table; Freddy Riedenschneider stands
to one side staring up at the high window, hands dug into
All three are motionless for a long beat. Finally:
But it's true.
I don't care it's true, it's not
true; it stinks. You say he was being
blackmailed; by who? You don't know.
For having an affair; with who? You
don't know. Did anyone else know
about it? Probably not; you don't
I knew about it. Big Dave told me
about it, and the spot he was putting
himself in by getting the money.
Terrific. Your husband backs you up.
He starts pacing.
...You've gotta give me something to
work with. Freddy Riedenschneider is
good, but he's not a magician. He
can't just wave his little wand in
the air and make a plausible defense
materialize. Look. Look at what the
other side is gonna run at us. They
got the company books, prepared by
you--*cooked* by you--that's Motive.
They got a murder scene *you* had
access to. That's Opportunity. They
got that little trimmer thing he was
stabbed in the throat with--a *dame's*
It was Big Dave's.
--don't interrupt me--that's Means.
They got a fine upstanding pillar of
the business community as a victim,
and then they got *you*, a disgruntled
number-juggling underling who on the
day in question was drunk as a skunk
and whose alibi for the time in
question is being passed out at home,
*I* was with her.
Riedenschneider gives him a hard look.
...Like I say, it stinks.
Another long pause.
...I killed him.
Riedenschneider eyes him. Wheels start turning.
OK, we forget the blackmail. *You*
killed him. How come?
He and Doris... were having an affair.
Doris eyes him. His manner does not reveal anything.
OK, how did you know?
I... just knew. A husband knows.
Riedenschneider rolls his eyes.
Will anyone else say they knew?
I don't know. I don't think so.
How did you get into the store?
I took Doris's keys.
Will anyone say they saw you there?
On your way there? In there? On your
...I don't think so.
Will anyone corroborate and goddamn
part of your story at all?
Ed returns Riedenschneider's stare. Riedenschneider resumes
...Come on, people. You can't help
each other like that. Let's be
realistic now. Let's look at our
options. Well, frankly, I don't *see*
A nod of the head indicates Doris:
...I cannot present Story A.
Another nod indicates Ed:
...I cannot present Story B. I could
plead you for a nutcase but you look
too composed. I could offer a guilty
plea and in return they don't give
you the juice, but I don't think you
want to spend the rest of your life
in Chino and I know you didn't hire
Freddy Riedenschneider to hold your
hand at a sentencing hearing. Hell,
you could've gotten Lloyd Garroway
for that. No, we're not giving up
yet; you hired Freddy Riedenschneider,
it means you're *not* throwing in
the towel. I litigate, I don't
capitulate. All right, no options,
we gotta think. All right, we go
back to the blackmail thing. It
titillates, it's open ended...
His pacing becomes more animated.
...And it makes *him* the bad guy--
ya dig around, ya never know,
something unsavory from his past, he
approaches you to help with the money,
it's too late, his past comes back
to haunt him, who's to say...
He is heading for the door.
...Yeah. OK. Forget the jealous
husband thing, that's silly; we're
going with the blackmail. I'll be in
The door slams.
The camera drifts in toward the reception desk. Ed talks to
the clerk behind the desk, but the scene plays silently; we
hear only Ed's narration.
Of course, there was *one* person
who could confirm Doris's story, or
plenty of it: the dry-cleaning
The desk clerk is shaking his head.
...But he'd left the hotel, skipped
out on his bill...
It is a rooming-house hallway. A stern middle-aged woman is
on the hall telephone. This too plays silently under the
He'd also disappeared from the
residence he gave me...
ED'S LIVING ROOM
We are drifting in toward Ed, who nods at the telephone and
then cradles it. He stares down at the business card he holds.
...owing two month's rent. How could
I have been so stupid. Handing over
$10,000. For a piece of paper. And
the man gone... like a ghost...
PULLING BACK FROM ED
In a different living room. He sits on a sofa, hands clasped
behind his head, listening. For the first time, as the voice-
over continues, we hear atmosphere from the scene: piano
...disappeared into thin air,
vaporized, like the Nips at Nagasaki.
Gone now. All gone. The money gone.
Big Dave gone. Doris going. How could
I have been so stupid?
The continuing pull-back reveals Walter Abundas on a nearby
chair, also listening as Birdy plays.
Walter holds a drink in one hand; he is nodding; his eyelids
droop. As the piano piece reaches its mournful conclusion
his chin alights on his chest, his eyelids tremble closed,
and he starts lightly to snore.
The distinctive buzz of electric hairclippers bangs in at
the cut. Ed and Frank stand behind their respective chairs,
The customer in Ed's chair is in white shirtsleeves that do
not hide rolls of fat. He has a hot towel over his face that
does not slow his speech, although it does muffle it to some
She makes this stuff, she calls it
gatto, it's got egg in there, it's
got sugar, it's got--it's cake,
basically, except she calls it gatto.
Like if you don't call it cake maybe
you won't put on any weight, like I
need to eat gatto, you know what I'm
saying? This stuff, if I've had a
square meal, I've had my steak and
potatoes, I can just have another
cup of coffee afterward, I won't ask
for the desert if it's not there...
His voice turns into a drone under the narration.
Sooner or later everyone needs a
Got the recipe from a magazine,
We were working for the bank now. We
kept cutting the hair, trying to
stay afloat, make the payments, tread
water, day by day, day by day...
Inside a courtroom we boom down toward the defendant's table,
the fat customer's drone turning into the drone of the bailiff
reading an indictment. Doris stands next to Freddy
Most people think someone's accused
of a crime, they haul 'em in and
bring 'em to trial, but it's not
like that, it's not that fast. The
wheels of justice turn slow...
...did willfully and with malice
aforethought take the life of one
David Allen Brewster, a human being...
They have an arraignment, and then
the indictment, and they entertain
motions to dismiss, and postpone,
and change the venue, and alter this
and that and the other. They empanel
a jury, which brings more motions,
and they set a trial date and then
change the date, and then often as
not they'll change it again.
What say you to these charges?
Our boom down has ended close on Doris. We hear Freddy
We plead not guilty, your honor.
Booming down toward the fat man.
And through all of it we cut the
I say, Honey, if you're gonna make a
cobbler, make a little bit of cobbler,
don't put a whole pan in front of me
and tell me it's not gonna be any
good when it's cold...
We are panning photographic portraits of opera singers in
character, wearing the wardrobe of different eras, armies,
dukedoms, and boudoirs, and displaying the heights and depths
of various emotions, their mouths stretched wide in song. We
pan off the pictures to discover that we are in a hotel room,
floating in toward a bed on which Freddy Riedenschneider, a
mask over his eyes, slumbers.
...Meanwhile, Freddy Riedenschneider
slept at the Metropole...
Tracking in toward Freddy Riedenschneider, who sits twirling
spaghetti with a fork against a spoon.
...and shoveled it in at DaVinci's.
From inside a car. Pedestrians bustle along a sidewalk. Among
them scurries a weedy little man who has one hand clamped to
the crown of his hat to keep it in place in a stiff wind.
He'd brought in a private investigator
Moving the opposite way. A different day, but again a crowd
moves along the sidewalk, and among them the little man
scuttles in the opposite direction, hand still raised to his
hat, his forearm and the tilt of his head largely obscuring
...to nose around into Big Dave's
PUSHING IN TO ED
In the Abundas living room again, again listening to Birdy
at the piano, but now the two of them are alone.
I found myself more and more going
over to the Abundas's. It was a
routine we fell into, most every
evening. I even went when Walter was
away on his research trips. He was a
genealogist, had traced back his
side of the family seven generations,
his late wife's, eight. It seemed
like a screwy hobby. But then maybe
all hobbies are. Maybe Walter found
something there, in the old county
courthouses, hospital file rooms,
city archives, property rolls,
registries, something maybe like
what I found listening to Birdy play.
Some kind of escape. Some kind of
The piano music ends in a sustain which begins to fade, but
then is snapped by a sharp clang.
PRISON DOOR SWINGS OPEN
We are pushing into the high-windowed prison meeting room.
None of its three occupants is moving.
The tableau consists of Doris staring down at the table; the
private investigator sitting on a straightbacked chair tipped
back against a wall, his arms folded across his chest, his
fedora pushed back on his head, a toothpick clamped between
his teeth; and Freddy Riedenschneider, standing, hands clasped
behind his back, gazing with a distant smile up into the
shaft of light that slants through the high window.
A warder shuts the door behind Ed.
Doris and the private investigator turn to note his entrance;
Riedenschneider does not.
Ed pulls out a chair across from Doris, clasps his hands on
top of hers.
She looks at his hands on top of hers.
A long beat.
Still gazing up into the shaft of light, Freddy
...They got this guy, in Germany.
Fritz something-or-other. Or is it.
Maybe it's Werner. Anyway, he's got
this theory, you wanna test something,
you know, scientifically--how the
planets go round the sun, what
sunspots are made of, why the water
comes out of the tap--well, you gotta
look at it. But sometimes, you look
at it, your looking *changes* it. Ya
can't know the reality of what
happened, or what *would've* happened
if you hadden a stuck in your goddamn
schnozz. So there *is* no 'what
happened.' Not in any sense that we
can grasp with our puny minds. Because
our minds... out minds get in the
way. Looking at something changes
it. They call it the 'Uncertainty
Principle.' Sure, it sounds screwy,
but even Einstein says the guy's on
His gaze up at the window breaks. He strolls around the room,
...Science. Perception. Reality.
He stops to examine a bur on his fingernail.
...Reasonable doubt. I'm sayin',
sometimes, the more you look, the
less you really know. It's a fact. A
proved fact. In a way, it's the only
fact there is. This heinie even wrote
it out in numbers.
He looks up at the private detective.
With a slight weight shift, Burns tips his chair so that its
front legs slap down onto the floor. He fishes a small
notebook from an inside pocket.
His boredom is profound; his only concession to performance
is to move the toothpick from one side of his mouth to the
other where, perhaps, it will less inhibit speech.
Subject: David Allen Brewster. Born:
Cincinnati, 1911. Father: insurance
salesman; mother: homemaker. One
year Case Western University on
football scholarship. Flunks out.
1931: retail appliance salesman in
Barnhoff's department store,
Cincinnati. 1933: meets Ann
Nirdlinger, married later that year,
moves here. 1935: arrested on an
assault complaint; complainant, an
organizer for the ILGWU, has a broken
nose, couple of ribs, wife's family
intercedes, some kind of settlement,
charges dropped. 1936: another assault
beef, bar altercation--
Yeah, yeah, couple of fistfights. Go
to his service record.
Burns looks at him sourly. He flips a couple of pages.
...Inducted March 15, 1942, assigned
to fifth fleet US Navy, petty officer
first class, serves in clerical
capacity in US naval shipyards in
San Diego, one fistfight broken up
by MPs, no court martial, honorable
discharge May 8, 1945. Since then
he's been clean.
Riedenschneider nods, smiling.
...Thank you, Burns, get lost.
Burns pockets his notebook, adjusts his hat, jams his hands
into his pockets, and ambles out of the room.
The slam of the door leaves quiet.
Riedenschneider's fixed smile now fades.
So? *So?!* This could be your dolly's
ticket out of the deathhouse, so!
Ed and Doris look at each other.
...I don't get it.
Look, chum, this is a guy, from what
I understand, told everybody he was
a war hero, right? Island hopping,
practically liberated the Pacific
all by himself with a knife in one
hand and a gun in the other and twenty
yards of Jap guts between his teeth.
And now it turns out this dope spent
the war sitting on his ass in some
boatyard in San Diego. You asked for
blackmail, let me give you blackmail:
Mr Hale-Fellow-Well-Met, about to
open his own business here, has been
lying to everybody in this town for
the last four years, probably
including half the people sitting on
that jury. Well, it finally caught
up with him--these dopes, it always
does; someone threatened to spill
it. Somebody knew his dirty little
secret, just like your wife says.
They called, they demanded money...
He is looking at Doris.
...Did Big Dave mention that it was
something about his war service? I
don't know, I wasn't there, *you'll*
have to tell *us*. Maybe he specified,
maybe he didn't; I'm not putting
words in your mouth; the point is
that this liar, this cynical
manipulator, this man who through
his lies sneered and belittled the
sacrifice and heroism of all our
boys who *did* serve and bleed and
puke and die on foreign shores, and
who made a fool out of this entire
town, turns to *you* to help him out
of his jam. Fat-assed sonofabitch!
So... who... who actually--
Who? *Who?!* I don't know who! But
the point is that if Mr Prosecutor
over there had devoted half the time
he's spent persecuting *this* woman
to even the most cursory investigation
of this schmoe's past, then we might
*know* who! But we can't *know* what
really happened! Because of Fritz,
or Werner, or whatever the hell his
name is! And because Me Prosecutor
is *also* a lazy fat-assed sonofabitch
who decided it's easier to victimize
your wife! Because it's easier *not*
to look! Because the more you look,
the less you know! But the beauty of
it is, we don't *gotta* know! We
just gotta show that, goddamnit,
*they* don't know. Reasonable doubt.
Science. The atom. *You* explain it
to me. Go ahead. Try.
He chuckles as he heads for the door.
...Yeah, Freddy Riedenschneider sees
daylight. We got a real shot at this,
folks. Let's not get cocky.
The door shuts behind him.
Doris stares down at the table, as at the head of the scene.
A silent beat; a smile starts to tug at the corners of her
The smile twitches, and then stays. Doris starts to laugh.
Her laughter builds, almost to hysteria. Finally it subsides
and, still staring at the tabletop and smiling, she shakes
What a dope.
ABUNDAS LIVING ROOM
Ed sits listening as Birdy plays. She talks, after a moment,
her eyes on the sheet music:
He was deaf when he wrote this.
Beethoven. He created it, and yet he
never actually heard it. I suppose
he heard it all in his head, somehow.
Over her continued playing:
So maybe Riedenschneider could get
Doris off. Maybe it would all work
out. And I thought--I hoped--that
maybe there was a way out for me as
The cardboard sign on an easel says "COME ONE, COME ALL /
PETALUMA HIGH SCHOOL TALENT SHOW / WEDNESDAY APRIL 29, 1949,
The girl had talent, anyone could
see that. And *she* wasn't some fly-
by-nighter, she was just a good clean
A young man holding a saxophone is just leaving the makeshift
stage to a smattering of applause. Birdy walks out to the
baby grand that has been set out center stage.
...If she was going to have a career
she'd need a responsible adult looking
out for her...
We track up the rows of folding chairs that have been set
out on the gym floor for the audience of students and parents,
many of whom fan themselves with programs. We come to rest
...some kind of... manager. She'd
have contracts to look at, be going
on tours, playing on the radio maybe.
I could help her sort through all of
that, without charging her an arm
and a leg, just enough to get by...
Birdy begins to play for the quietly attentive audience.
Ed is among the crowd streaming from the gym into the warm
summer night. He looks around the parking lot.
...I could afford to charge less
than the usual manager, not having
to put up a big front like a lot of
these phonies. And I could be with
her, enough to keep myself feeling
A trace of a frown as he spots her leaning against a car,
laughing, passing a cigarette back and forth with another
...Why couldn't that work?... Why
Birdy's easy smile remains as Ed approaches, but the boy's
drops; he puts on a face more suitable for meeting adults.
Hi, Mr Crane.
Hello, Birdy. I thought that was
Oh, in there? I messed up a little
bit in the scherzo. I guess, if nobody
noticed, it's OK. Mr Crane, this is
Tony, a friend of mine. Tony, Mr
Silence. The teens wait for the adult to direct the
conversation; Ed has nothing to say. At length, he clears
...Well, congratulations. I guess
I'll be getting home.
Nice to meet you, sir.
It is morning. We are tracking past an unmade bed toward the
bathroom, where we hear water running.
...Anyway, that's what I was thinking
about in the days leading up to the
trial. It seemed like once that was
over, I'd be ready for a new start.
Freddy Riedenschneider was very
optimistic. He was busy preparing...
We have rounded the open bathroom door to find Riedenschneider
hunched over the sink, toothbrush in hand, spitting out water.
He rises, looks at himself in the mirror, sprinkles some
tonic in his hair.
...And finally it came... the first
day of the trial...
Riedenschneider runs his fingers through his hair.
...What Riedenschneider called the
He straightens his tie, gives his neck a twist.
We are close on the back of Riedenschneider's gleaming hair.
He is sitting at the defense table.
There is a murmur of a crowd that has yet to be called to
Where's the judge? How come there's
Ed and Frank sit next to each other in the first gallery row
directly behind Riedenschneider.
...Where's the judge, Ed?
Ed shrugs. Frank looks at Riedenschneider's back.
...How come the judge doesn't come
The judge comes in last. He'll come
in when Doris gets here.
So where's Doris? I thought we started
at ten. Hey, Riedenschneider, where's
Riedenschneider is curt:
Late? How can she be late?
Riedenschneider doesn't answer; Frank turns to Ed.
...She's in prison, Ed. None of *us*
are in prison, and yet we're not
late. We're on time, Ed. How can
Doris be late? What, they don't have
The murmur of the crowd subsides as a door behind the judge's
bench opens and the judge hurriedly enters.
The gallery rises but the judge quickly waves them back down
and, rather than seating himself, leans forward over his
desk to give a peremptory beckoning wave to Riedenschneider
and the prosecutor.
Riedenschneider, puzzled, approaches the bench, as does his
counterpart from the other table. The judge, still leaning
forward, speaks to them in a low voice that is not audible
from the gallery.
The crowd has started murmuring again, also in hushed tones.
Frank leans in toward Ed.
What's going on, Ed? I thought there
would be arguments. The bailiff, and
Ed, also puzzled, is watching Riedenschneider, who suddenly
stiffens. As the judge continues to talk, Riedenschneider
looks back over his shoulder at Ed.
...Ed, what is this? Is this
The two lawyers nod at the judge and walk back to their
respective tables. The judge now summons a uniformed man
standing to one side.
As the judge and the bailiff confer, Riedenschneider looks
down at his desk and, for something to do, straightens various
I don't understand... We had a real
shot at it... We could have won this
The Bailiff Announces:
In the matter of the State of
California versus Doris Crane, Case
Number 87249 assigned to this Superior
As the bailiff drones, Riedenschneider shakes his head.
...It doesn't make any sense...
Late afternoon sun slants in.
The shop, not open for business, is very still. Ed, in his
courtroom suit, sits in one of the vinyl chairs that line
the wall, hunched forward, forearms on his knees.
Frank, also still in his suit, is up in one of the barber
chairs, one hand cupped to his forehead, weeping.
She'd hanged herself. I'd brought
her a dress to wear to court and
she'd used the belt. I didn't
understand it either. At first I
thought maybe it had something to do
with me, that she'd figured out
somehow how I fit into it and couldn't
stand it, couldn't stand knowing...
Night. Ed is in bed, staring at the ceiling.
...That wasn't it, I would find out
later. For now, everything just seemed
Riedenschneider is at the cashier's desk, checking out. Behind
him a bellman's cart is piled high with his bags.
...Freddy Riedenschneider went back
to Sacramento still shaking his head,
saying it was the biggest
disappointment of his professional
Day. Frank's kitchen.
Frank sits at his kitchen table, staring, in a bathrobe thrown
over his pyjamas, unshaven.
...Frankie fell to pieces. I suspect
he was drinking; anyway, he stopped
coming to work...
Ed, in his smock, works on a customer.
...That left me to keep the place
going, or the bank would've taken
As he uses the electric clippers, a cigarette plumes between
his lips. He squints against the smoke drifting past his
...*I* was the principal barber now.
I hired a new man for the second
Ed's former chair is indeed being manned by a newcomer, a
gangly young man who animatedly chats up his customer.
...I'd hired the guy who did the
least gabbing when he came in for an
interview. But I guess the new man
had only kept quiet because he was
nervous; once he had the job, he
talked from the minute I opened the
shop in the morning...
It is evening. Ed is locking the barbershop as, next to him
on the sidewalk, the new man continues to chat, gesticulating
to illustrate his store.
...until I locked up at night. For
all I know, he talked to himself on
the way home.
Ed walks along the sidewalk.
...When *I* walked home, it seemed
like everyone avoided looking at
Indeed, none of the passers-by establish eye contact; their
averted eyes make the crowd a faceless throng.
...as if I'd caught some disease.
This thing with Doris, nobody wanted
to talk about it; it was like I was
a ghost walking down the street...
As Ed lets himself in.
...And when I got home now, the place
He sits on the couch and, after a beat, takes a cigarette
pack from his pocket and taps out a smoke.
...I sat in the house, but there was
nobody there. I was a ghost; I didn't
see anyone; no one saw me...
Ed is in his smock again, operating the clippers.
...I was the barber.
The drone of the clippers has continued over the black. A
voice fades up:
So two blocks later I look at the
change she gave me and, golly, I'm
two bits short.
Two bits short.
So I walk back over to Linton's,
find this gal--big argument; she
doesn't even recall the transaction.
Doesn't recall the transaction, no
recollection, so I said, Look, dear...
We are looking at a magazine story. Its headline, over an
illustration of a cresting wave, is: WAVE OF THE FUTURE.
Underneath are black-and-white photographs of heavy equipment
and racks of clothing on motorized tracks. Subheadlines read:
NEXT TO GODLINESS - Dry Cleaning Sweeps The Nation - The
Thoroughly Modern Way To Clean.
Ed sits in one of the vinyl chairs, staring at Life magazine.
The offscreen conversation drones on as the new man works on
...go ahead, look at the menu, if
you're in before six o'clock it's
the, whatchamacallit, the--
Early Bird Special.
What? Yeah, the Early Riser...
Ed flips the pages of the magazine, and stops on a photograph
of a dark desert landscape with one bright light hovering in
the sky. The caption underneath: ROSWELL, NEW MEXICO.
Ed looks up.
A man in a black suit and fedora has directed the question
at the new man, who looks up from his gabbling, momentarily
My name is Diedrickson. County medical
Just came for an informal chat...
Diedrickson looks around uncomfortably.
...Why don't I buy you a drink?
Ed rises from his chair and, as he unbuttons his smock,
addresses the new man, who still gapes.
Dwight, you OK here for a few minutes?
Whuh--uh, yeah, sure Ed, take your
It is late afternoon, dusty and empty.
Ed and Diedrickson sit on adjacent stools, Diedrickson cocking
his hat lower to its man-sitting-at-a-bar position.
As the bartender approaches:
You sure you don't want something
Ed shrugs and shakes his head.
Coffee it is.
He leaves. Diedrickson interlaces his fingers on the bartop
and stares at them. After a beat:
...County M. E. does an autopsy on
anyone who dies in custody. I don't
know if you knew that. It's routine.
Ed doesn't answer. Diedrickson, after some more staring at
his hands, plows on:
...Doesn't become a matter of public
record unless there's foul play.
However. I don't believe I'm
*prohibited* from telling you this.
I guess I'm not obliged to tell you,
either. I don't exactly know. But
if *I* were the man, I'd want to be
I, uh... thanks.
The bartender has set down the drinks.
Diedrickson waits for him to leave. He takes a hit from his
...I'm sorry to add to your burden,
Crane, but I'd want to know it it
was me. Your wife was pregnant. First
...Well, there it is.
He mutters to himself:
...Hell, I hope I've done the right
My wife and I had not... performed
the sex act in many years.
...Well, that's not really my
He is hastily digging for money.
...I'm sorry. Well, there it is.
He leaves a couple of bills on the bar and mumbles as he
...Good luck, Crane.
His retreating footsteps echo down the bar.
It is a dingy hallway lit by bare bulbs. Ed stands in the
middle background, knocking on a door.
Doris and I had never really talked
much. I don't think that's a bad
thing, necessarily. But it was funny:
now I wanted to talk--now, with
everyone gone. I was alone, with
secrets I didn't want and no one to
tell them to anyway.
The door opens and Ed is admitted by the unseen tenant.
We hear a low murmuring as we slowly pan the apartment. It
is overfurnished with heavy, ornate chairs, sideboards, chests
too big for the space and all going too seed. Surface areas
are covered with yellowing lacework or exotic brocades; the
one lamp has a veil thrown over it to further scrim down its
Our pan brings us onto Ed seated at a small card table across
from a small elderly woman in a shawl who is the source of
the murmuring. Her eyes are squeezed shut in concentration
as she mumbles.
I visited a woman who was supposed
to have powers in communicating with
those who had passed across, as she
called it. She said that people who
passed across were picky about who
they'd communicate with, not like
most people you run into on this
The woman opens her eyes and looks at Ed.
Giff me your hant.
Ed places his hand in the center of the table.
...so you needed a guide who they
didn't mind talking to, someone with
a gift for talking to souls...
Ed looks at the woman's spotted and vein-lined hand as it
rests upon his. Her mumbling resumes.
...Well, first she told me that my
wife was in a peaceful place, that
our souls were still connected by
some spiritual bond, that she had
never stopped loving me even though
she'd done some things she wasn't
Ed looks up at the old woman.
...She was reading me like a book.
She is stealing a glance at Ed to check his reaction.
...And then she started talking about
'Dolores' this and 'Dolores' that
and was there anything I wanted to
tell 'Dolores,' and I knew I'd just
be telling it to the old bat. And
even if somehow Doris could hear, it
wouldn't be on account of this so-
Ed is leaving.
She was a phony. Just another gabber.
Ed emerges from the building.
I was turning into Ann Nirdlinger,
Big Dave's wife. I had to turn my
back on the old lady, on the veils,
on the ghosts, on the dead, before
they all sucked me in...
Ed disappears into the night.
It is night. We are looking through the screen door. Walter
Abundas sits in yellow lamplight by a small table on the
side of the staircase, over which papers are strewn. He is
murmuring into the telephone as he examines the papers,
glasses halfway down his nose, a drink in one hand.
Ed's hand enters to rap on the door. Walter looks up, sets
the phone down and comes to the door.
Ed, how're you holding up?
I'm OK, Walter, thanks.
Walter opens the door to him.
I'm so damn sorry about your loss.
Terrible thing. Just damn terrible.
Birdy's in the parlor--I'm on long
Sure, Walter. Thanks.
Birdy also has papers spread across a table in front of her:
homework. She looks up at Ed's entrance.
Hello, Mr Crane.
We haven't seen you since... I'm
Ed sits across from her.
We've certainly missed you.
Birdy, I've been doing a lot of
thinking. There are a lot of things
that haven't worked out for me. Life
has dealt me some bum cards...
He is loading a cigarette into his mouth.
...or maybe I just haven't played
'em right, I don't know. But you're--
Pop doesn't like people smoking in
Ed stares. This takes a moment to register.
Birdy lowers her voice:
Sometimes I have a cigarette in here
when he's away. Never when he's in
the house. He can smell it a mile
Ed is pocketing the cigarette.
Sure... Sure, it's his house.
That's what he keeps telling me.
Ed smiles thinly.
Anyway, uh... my point is you're
young. A kid really, your whole life
ahead of you. But it's not too soon
to start thinking... to start making
opportunities for yourself. Before
it all washes away.
Well, sure, I guess. Pop says so
too. I work pretty hard at school.
That's swell. However, the music, if
you want to pursue it, well, the
lessons from Mrs Swan, they'll only
take you so far. There's this guy in
San Francisco, I've made inquiries,
everybody says he's the best. Trained
lots of people who've gone on to
have big concert careers, symphony
orchestras, the works. His name is
Jacques Carcanogues. I'm not sure
I'm pronouncing it right. Anyway,
he's a Frenchman.
You've got talent, anyone could see
that. And he's the best. If he thinks
a student has talent, he'll take 'em
on for next to nothing. You're a
cinch to be accepted, I could cover
the cost of the lessons, like I said,
it's pretty modest--
Oh, Mr Crane--
I have to do it. I can't stand by
and watch more things go down the
drain. You're young, you don't
Geez, Mr Crane, I don't know. I hadn't
really thought about a career or
I know you haven't. Look, just go
meet him as a favor to me. I talked
to this guy. Hope I pronounced his
name right. He sounded very busy,
but he's not a bad egg; he loosened
up a little when I told him how
talented you are. He agreed to see
you this Saturday. He said maybe you
were a diamond in the rough. His
Geez, Mr Crane.
Just see him, as a favor to me.
STUDIO WAITING ROOM
It is a small square room with straightbacked chairs set
against the walls. At the far end of the room a door leads
to a studio from which piano music dully emanates; it is a
fast and difficult piece of music.
Ed sits waiting. He is the only adult; two or three youngsters
of different ages sit apparently waiting for their lessons.
Ed looks at one of the waiting boys in a white shirt and bow
tie. He is perhaps eleven. His hair is greased back in a
Another boy, in a cardigan sweater, sports a Butch.
The piano piece is ending. There is the murmur of voices.
The studio door swings open.
A small man in a rumpled black suit smudged with cigarette
ash is bowing Birdy out the door. He has a goatee and a
knotted foulard. His eyes flit over the waiting room and
settle on Ed.
...You are ze fahzer?
No. Uh... family friend.
I am Carcanogues.
He smiles at Birdy.
...You wait, my dear?
Sure, Mr K.
A jerk of Carcanogues' head bids Ed rise.
Ed enters, uncomfortable. He looks around, taking in the
high-ceilinged space, which is dominated by a grand piano.
Carcanogues has followed him and now runs water from a tap.
I speak to you on ze phone, non? You
have a special interest in music?
Ah yes, a music lover.
Well, I don't pretend to be an expert.
He uncaps a small bottle of pills, shakes two into his palm,
tosses them back and washes them down.
He twists a cigarette into a long holder, sticks it in his
mouth and lights it.
Well? How'd she do?
This elicits a Gallic frown of consideration.
Ze girl?... She seems like a very
nice girl. She *plays*, monsieur,
like a very nice girl. Ztinks. Very
nice girl. However, ztinks.
I don't understand.
Is not so hard to understand. Her
playing, very polite.
Did she make mistakes?
Another gallic moue:
Mistake, no, it says E-flat, she
plays E-flat. Ping-ping. Hit the
right note, always. Very proper.
I don't understand, no mistakes,
she's just a kid--I thought you taught
the, uh, the--
Ah, but that is just what I cannot
teach. I cannot teach her to have a
soul. Look, monsieur, play the piano,
is not about the fingers. *Done*
with the fingers, yes. But the music,
she is inside. Inside, monsieur...
A two-handed gesture, indicating his heart.
...The music start here...
He waggles his fingers:
...come out through here; then,
His wave takes in the heavens:
...she can go up there.
Well, look, I don't claim to be an
Then you listen to me, for I am
expert. That girl, she give me a
headache. She cannot play. Nice girl.
Very clever hands. Nice girl. Someday,
I think, maybe, she make a very good
We are driving through the rural countryside of northern
California. It is a two-lane road with little traffic. Sun
strobes the car through the passing trees.
Ed drives, glaring. Birdy, next to him, seems unperturbed,
...I stank, didn't I?
He didn't say that.
But more or less.
Look, I'm no expert, but--
It doesn't matter, Mr Crane.
I'm sure there's a dozen teachers
better than this clown. More
qualified. Goddamn phony.
But it doesn't matter. Really, I'm
not interested in playing music
Ed looks at her.
...I'm not certain I'll have a career
at all, and if I do, I'll probably
be a veterinarian.
I do appreciate the interest you've
Ah... it's nothing.
I'm only sorry that I didn't play
better for you. I know it would've
made you happy. You know what you
You're an enthusiast.
Huh. Yeah. Maybe...
He loads a cigarette into his mouth.
...I guess I've been all wet.
But I do appreciate it, Mr Crane...
She reaches over to touch his thigh.
...I wanted to make you happy.
She is leaning over his lap.
...I want to do it, Mr Crane.
Ed is shocked:
He reaches awkwardly, wanting to push her away but not wanting
to be violent.
Please, Mr Crane, it's OK, please--
The blare of an oncoming horn.
Ed looks up, one hand struggling with Birdy, the other on
The oncoming car.
Ed swerves, tires screech into a skid, Birdy screams.
CRASH: the car hits a roadside tree.
Time slows down right before an
accident, and I had time to think
about things. I thought about what
an undertaker had told me once--that
your hair keeps growing, for a while
anyway, after you die...
A hubcap is skipping in slow motion along the road and then
off the road, down an embankment.
...and then it stops. I thought,
what keeps it growing? Is it like a
plant in soil? What goes out of the
soil? The soul? And when does the
hair realize that it's gone?
We are high, looking down at Ed, who is motionless, head
resting on the steering wheel of the stopped car. We boom
down toward his, slowly rotating as we move in. As we move
we lose focus; Ed becomes more and more blurry.
The blurry shape is now slowly spinning away from us, a bright
revolving disc spinning up into the darkness until it
disappears, leaving only black.
Ed sits on the front porch of his bungalow, smoking a
cigarette in the late afternoon light.
A dog barks next door; a distant screen door slams; children
are playing somewhere up the street.
Ed looks down at his watch. It is 5:30.
Something attracts his attention: at the foot of his driveway
stands a man in a cream-colored suit and hat. He is a small
figure, perfectly still, staring at the gravel driveway.
After a beat he lifts up a small clipboard, squints at the
house, and jots something down.
He finishes writing, screws the lid back onto his pen, and
is sticking it into a breast pocket when he realizes he is
being watched. His manner instantly warms.
The man starts up the walk.
I notice you still have peastone in
Well, of course, you don't have to
rejuvenate that once every couple of
years, don't you, when the peastone
...Where does it go, huh? Like the
odd sock. But you *know* where it
goes--you probably pick pieces of it
off your lawn all the time, churn it
up with your lawn mower, sweep it
off the walk here--pain in the neck.
Ed shrugs again.
Doesn't bother me.
Well, have you ever considered tar
Macadam? People think it's just for
public works and commercial purposes,
roads, parking lots, so forth...
A car pulls into the drive.
...but we have the technology now to
bring it to the homeowner, the
individual consumer, at a very
Doris emerges from the car.
...Mind if I show you the
Doris gives him a hard look.
What're *you* selling?
The man gives a practiced laugh.
Well, ma'am, I was just telling your
husband here about tar Macadam, for
your home driveway here--these are
Doris takes the brochure he has pulled from a small case.
...It's the modern way to--
Doris tears the brochure in half and hands it back.
The man gazes at her. His smile fades fast and he and Doris
stare at each other, two hard cases.
He turns stiffly and stalks off.
Once his gaze has broken, Doris turns as well. She stalks up
the stairs to the porch and bangs through the screen front
door of the house, letting it slam behind her.
Quiet, early evening.
Ed sits, smoking.
At length he rises and goes in to the house.
It is dim, no lights on yet. We hear banging and clomping
from the kitchen.
Doris emerges with a clinking sound, chasing ice cubes around
a drink with a swizzle stick. Her face is still hard-set.
With a groan of its old upholstery springs she sits onto the
Ed sits as well. He draws on his cigarette, drags an ashtray
closer on the coffee table.
She sips. He puffs.
Nah, don't say anything. I'm alright.
The sit. The light is failing. The clink of ice cubes.
In the black we hear machine noise of indistinct origin. As
the noise becomes more defined we also hear shouting, faint,
Are you there? Are you awake?
A blurry white disc is fading up. As it focuses it resolves
into the reflector worn by a white-robed doctor, leaning in
He leans away, murmuring:
He's coming around. Can you talk,
sir? These men have to talk.
Ed is lying in a hospital bed. His face is bandaged and one
side is grotesquely swollen. The machine noise is life
...Sir? Are you awake? He's awake.
Two police officers, Persky and Krebs, lean in.
Are you awake?... Is he awake?
Crane? We have to tell you, as soon
as you're conscious--is he conscious?
His eyes are open.
Uh... you're under arrest.
As soon as the doctor lets us, we
gotta move you. Does he understand
that? We're supposed to tell him.
Are you conscious?
You'll go to the prison hospital.
Under arrest for murder.
Ed's speech is thickened by injuries and anesthesia:
Birdy... I didn't mean to--
What'd he say?
Birdy. The girl. No, the girl's OK.
The doctor leans in.
...That's the collarbone, Crane.
Broken. She's OK though.
So he understands? He's under arrest
What'd he say? Does he understand?
He said OK. Is that what he said?
Krebs raises his voice:
You're under arrest for the murder
of Creighton Tolliver! Do you
The voices are fading away:
...Does he understand?...
Light glimmers in water. We are drifting down, down, down.
We bring in languidly waving arms--the arms of a child, waving
to keep himself submerged. It is a ten-year-old boy staring,
wide-eyed, at something in front of him. Bubbles
intermittently stream from his open mouth.
The pansy. A kid diving at a waterhole
outside of town had found his car...
The reverse shows the car, also submerged, with Creighton
Tolliver inside, also wide-eyed, his hairpiece attached at
only one corner, the rest of it waving free.
...They'd winched it out...
We are tracking laterally across a line of faces: seated
men. The men rise.
...and found he'd been beaten, just
like Big Dave said--beaten to death...
We arc around a judge entering the chamber through the small
door behind his raised bench.
...Inside the briefcase were the
partnership papers I'd signed...
The judge seats himself and we resume out lateral track on
the jury, now reseating itself.
...showing that I'd given him ten
grand. For the district attorney...
In response to a prompt from the judge the district attorney
rises to read the charge. His voice plays distantly, muted,
the words not discernible under the continuing voice-over.
...that made it fall into place: I'd
gotten Doris to steal the money, the
pansy had gotten wise somehow, and
I'd had to kill him to cover my
tracks. I was in a spot. I called in
Riedenschneider rises into frame at the defense table. As he
listens to the charge:
...and signed the house over to him.
He said he didn't ordinarily work
that cheap, but he figured he owed
me something since the last one hadn't
The drone of the D.A. has ended and Riedenschneider's echoing
voice drops into the hole:
Not guilty, your honor...
I tried to tell him the whole story,
but Riedenschneider stopped me. He
said the story made his head hurt,
and anyway he didn't see any way of
using it without putting me on the
hot seat for the murder of Big Dave...
Riedenschneider claps Ed reassuringly on the shoulder as he
sits next to him. Ed still wears a cast on one arm and one
...He told me not to worry, though,
said he'd think of something, Freddy
Riedenschneider wouldn't let me down.
We are tracking in on Ed, lying on the bunk in his cell.
...They put me on twenty-four-hour
A reverse track shows a guard on a tilted-back straightbacked
chair, outside the cell door, staring at Ed.
...so that I couldn't Cheat Justice
like they said my wife had done...
The district attorney is rising again, this time to address
...But in front of the jury they had
it that Doris was a saint; the whole
plan had been mine, I was a Svengali
who'd forced Doris to join my criminal
The district attorney is pointing at Ed.
...cynically used his own wife as a
cat's paw in a scheme of diabolical
On and on it went, how I'd used Doris
and then let her take the fall. That
stuff smarted because some of it was
close to being true...
The district attorney seats himself. The jury's eyes turn to
Freddy Riedenschneider, who studies the tabletop in front of
him, either digesting the D.A.'s opening statement, or seeking
inspiration for his own.
...And then it was Freddy
Riedenschneider rises, paces, begins to talk.
...I gotta hand it to him, he tossed
a lot of sand in their eyes. He talked
about how I'd lost my place in the
...a puny player on the great world's
...how I was too ordinary to be the
criminal mastermind the D.A. made me
out to be, how there was some greater
scheme at work that the state had
yet to unravel, and he threw in some
of the old truth stuff he hadn't had
a chance to trot out for Doris...
...who among us is in a position to
...He told them to look at me--look
at me close. That the closer they
looked the less sense it would all
make, that I wasn't the kind of guy
to kill a guy, that I was the barber,
for Christ's sake...
We pan the jury, solemnly listening to Riedenschneider.
...I was just like them, an ordinary
man, guilty of living in a world
that had no place for me, guilty of
wanting to be a dry cleaner, sure,
but not of murder...
Riedenschneider is striding energetically into the foreground
to point a finger directly at Ed's face.
...He said I *was* Modern Man, and
if they voted to convict me, well,
they'd be practically cinching the
noose around their own necks. He
told them to look not at the facts
but at the meaning of the facts, and
then he said the facts *had* no
meaning. It was a pretty good speech,
and even had me going...
A tap on the shoulder turns Ed around.
...until Frankie interrupted it.
Frank socks Ed, sending him clattering to the floor.
A bailiff immediately restrains him, but Frank looms over
Ed, bellowing through tears:
What kind of man *are* you? What
kind of man *are* you?
Riedenschneider interposes his body between Frank's and Ed's,
Move for a mistrial, your honor!
Move for a mistrial! This outrageous
display cannot help but prejudice...
Ed moves to get up, but Riedenschneider, with a sidelong
glance and furtive gesture, motions for him to stay on the
...and inflame the passions of these
twelve fine men and women...
...Well, he got his mistrial, but
the well had run dry. There was
nothing left to mortgage;
Riedenschneider went home and the
court appointed Lloyd Garroway...
Ed is now standing next to a distinguished older gentleman
who enters the plea in the new trial:
Your honor, we plead guilty, with
...who threw me on the mercy of the
court. It was my only chance, he
said. I guess that meant I never had
The judge starts droning the sentence:
...a menace to society... a predator
on his own wife, his business
associates, on an innocent young
girl... social contract... line
crossed... the offender forfeits the
right to his own life... I hereby
order that you be taken to a place
We are tracking down the hall.
He wasn't buying any of that Modern
Man stuff, or the uncertainty stuff,
or any of the mercy stuff either.
No, he was going by the book, and
the book said I got the chair...
Ed is in the cell at the end of the hall, lying on his bunk,
hands clasped behind his head.
...so here I am. At first I didn't
know how I got here. I knew step by
step of course, which is what I've
told you, step by step; but I couldn't
see any pattern...
Ed sits at the little table next to his bunk, writing.
...Now that I'm near the end, I'm
glad that this men's magazine paid
me to tell my story. Writing it has
helped me sort it all out. They're
paying five cents a word, so you'll
pardon me if sometimes I've told you
more than you wanted to know...
Recent issues of the magazine, Gent, and its sister
publication Nugget lie on the little desk. Their lurid covers
depict feature stories like I WAS ABDUCTED BY ALIENS and
AFTER TEN YEARS OF NORMAL LIFE, I DISCOVER I AM AN ESCAPED
...But now, all the disconnected
things seems to hook up.
Ed sets aside the pen, lies down on his bunk, and closes his
...That's the funny thing about going
away, knowing the date you're gonna
die--and the men's magazine wanted
me to tell how that felt...
We hear a pulsing treble hum. Ed opens his eyes.
The door to his cell is open.
He rises and goes through the door.
Ed, alone, walks down the hallway. The pulsing treble hum is
...Well, it's like pulling away from
the maze. While you're in the maze
you go through willy-nilly, turning
where you think you have to turn,
banging into dead ends, one thing
Ed emerges into the empty prison yard ringed by high stone
walls. A hard spotlight shines down from above. Ed squints
...But get some distance on it, and
all those twists and turns, why,
they're the shape of your life. It's
hard to explain...
The spotlight is from a hovering flying saucer. We see its
revolving underside and, as it irregularly cants, a bit of
its top bubble.
After spinning briefly, it tips and flies away, carrying the
tremolo hum with it.
...But seeing it whole gives you
Ed turns and re-enters the prison.
Ed is lying on his bunk, eyes closed, hands clasped behind
his head. A hand enters to shake him awake.
Three men loom over him: two guards and another man wearing
a surplice and holding a bible.
...The men's magazine also asked
about remorse. Yeah, I guess I'm
sorry about the pain I caused other
He is walking the last mile.
...but I don't regret anything. Not
a thing. I used to. I used to regret
being the barber.
A door at the end opens:
An electric chair. Straps open, and waiting:
...I dont know where I'm being taken.
Ed is placed in the chair.
...I don't know what waits for me,
beyond the earth and sky. But I'm
not afraid to go.
A man stoops at his feet. He has a bucket of water and a
He waggles the razor in the water and starts shaving a patch
of Ed's calf.
...Maybe the things I don't understand
will be clearer there, like when a
fog blows away...
Ed watches as the razor makes the trip from his leg to the
bucket of water, which begins to spot with small floating
...Maybe Doris will be there.
They are strapping him in, connecting the electrodes.
...And maybe there I can tell her...
The men withdraw.
...all those things...
A thin man in a dark suit and fedora stands by the switch.
As he reaches for the switch, Ed looks up into the light.
...they don't have words for here.
Man Who Wasn't There, The
Writers : Joel Coen Ethan Coen
Genres : Comedy Drama Crime