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THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY (chapter 17)

2006-07-09 16:41

  EXT. IOWA LAKEFRONT - NIGHT

  Michael and Carolyn have parked in a secluded area near a lake. Some place where the moonlight and the scenery create a beautiful backdrop. They sit on the ground, leaving the headlights and the radio on. They are getting drunk sharing a bottle of whiskey.

  MICHAEL I used to love this place. I used to take Kathy Reynolds down here.

  CAROLYN You never dated Kathy Reynolds!

  MICHAEL Not officially. Her and Steve Kendall were pinned at birth. But I was crazy about her. And for about three months,I managed to catch her during her“exploring” stage.

  CAROLYN I never knew that.

  MICHAEL(sadly)

  Nobody did.

  CAROLYN Was this during Betty?

  MICHAEL Everything was during Betty. God we were so young. Why did we think we had to do it all so fast? I've never cheated on Betty. Not once we were married, I mean.

  CAROLYN Did we want to?

  MICHAEL Only about a thousand times. What do I do now? “What's good enough for mom is good enough for me?”

  CAROLYN(pissed off)

  What gets me is I'm 46 years old. I've been in this crummy fucking marriage -

  MICHAEL Carolyn!

  CAROLYN(ignores him)

  —— for over twenty years because that's what I was taught —— you stick with it! Normal people don't get divorced. I can't remember the last time my husband made love to me so intensely that he transported me to Europe, for Christ's sake —— quite frankly, I don't think he ever did!

  And now I find out in between bake sales, my mother was Anais Nin!

  MICHAEL What about me! I feel really weird. Like she cheated on me, not dad. Isn't that sick? I don't mean I wanted to sleep with her or anything but —— ya know —— being the only son. You're sort of made to feel like you're the prince of the kingdom, ya know? And in the back of your mind,you kind of think your mother doesn't need sex anymore because she has you.

  CAROLYN You're right —— that is sick.

  They drink.

  MICHAEL If she was so unhappy, why didn't she leave?

  They look to each other without an answer. Then simultaneously they reach for the notebooks.

  MICHAEL (cont'd)

  Can I read it now? I think I'm ready.

  Carolyn offers him the book then lays back in a relaxed position in order to listen. Michael flips to an ear marked page.

  MICHAEL (cont'd)

  What paragraph were you up to?

  CAROLYN(casually)

  She just made him perform oral sex on the porch.

  Michael freezes. He loses his nerve. Carolyn helps.

  CAROLYN (cont'd)

  Go ahead, Michael. You've got to do this. Just think, “Today I am a man.”

  Michael nods and takes another swig. He reads:

  MICHAEL“I'd never had a man make love to me that way before.”(stops)

  Oh Jesus.(continues)

  “I couldn't believe the feelings bursting inside of me. As if I had opened some forbidden Pandora's box.”

  Camera begins to move to wide angle as Francesca takes over.

  FRANCESCA“It seems, thinking about it now,that in those few days I lived a completely different life as a completely different woman. What was recognizable as me before Robert was gone. We decided to spend Wednesday away from Winterset. Away from Madison County. Away from pastures and bridges and people too familiar and reminders too painful. We let the day take us where it wanted……”

  1965

  INT. DES MOINES MOVIE THEATER - DAY

  VIVIEN LEIGH is walking down a ships stairs in the 1965 film“SHIP OF FOOLS.” She is alone on screen. She walks, slightly intoxicated. Suddenly, Charleston music plays out of nowhere and she begins to dance, by herself, without any self- consciousness.

  In the movie theatre, Robert sits with his arm around Francesca like teenage lovers. Her head is nestled in his chest as she eats from a bag of popcorn. Robert barely keeps his eyes on the screen, staring at Francesca and stroking her hair.

  EXT. DOWNTOWN DES MOINES STREET - DAY

  Francesca and Robert walk hand-in-hand, window shopping and taking in the sights. For Francesca, it is as if she is seeing everything for the first time.

  INT. BOOK STORE - DAY

  Robert introduces Francesca to the photography section,showing her a book of one of his favorite photographers,Walker Evans. Francesca admires one photograph in particular—— a mother and child during the depression.

  FRANCESCA On that one is beautiful. Look at their expressions. As if the camera weren't on them at all. As if they had no strength left to hide what they were feeling.

  ROBERT He's a genius. They're not photographs —— they're stories, entire histories captured in moments.

  FRANCESCA I bet you could do a book.

  ROBERT No. I couldn't.

  FRANCESCA Why do you say that?

  ROBERT Because I already tried once.

  Francesca is surprised. She senses his disappointment.

  ROBERT (cont'd)

  It's no big deal. I know how to work a camera, how to make it “make pictures” —— but I don't know how to make it make art.(laughs)

  At least that's what six publishers said. To take what we see of this world and give it back with a bit of ourselves in it. It's a mystery to me.

  FRANCESCA(smiles, supportive)

  But you don't mind.

  ROBERT(smiles)

  No, I don't mind.

  She brushes his hair away from his face affectionately. As he looks at another book, she notices their reflection in a mirror. She puts her arm through his. They look like a couple to her —— two people who belong together.

  INT. FANCY RESTAURANT - DAY

  Francesca and Robert have an elegant lunch.

  FRANCESCA What were you like when you were younger?

  ROBERT(smiles)

  Trouble. Why?

  FRANCESCA(laughs)

  I just wondered. Why were you trouble?

  ROBERT I had a temper.

  FRANCESCA What were your parents like?

  Pause. Robert doesn't reply. She looks at him curiously.

  ROBERT I can't do this, honey.

  FRANCESCA What?

  ROBERT Try and live a lifetime before Friday. Cram it all in.(shakes his head)

  This is the first time either has mentioned their time clock. Francesca nods, understandingly.

  Across the room, Francesca notices A MOTHER having dessert with her FIVE-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER, a pretty little girl in a fancy yellow dress. The mother rises and exits to the ladies room while the little girl continues eating a large sundae.

  Francesca smiles. As the girl licks a spoon of fudge, she sees Francesca looking at her and smiles back. Robert watches the silent exchange as he eats. Francesca makes a funny face at her. The little girl giggles as she spoons more ice-cream. Unfortunately, she spoons too much and the ice-cream falls on her pretty dress. She tries to take it off her, but she slips through her fingers and stains her even more. She looks at Francesca as if she's about to cry. Francesca smiles.

  FRANCESCA Excuse me a minute.

  Robert watches her cross to the little girl and kneel beside her. He sees her consoling the little girl while taking a napkin and dabbing it in the water glass.

  She helps the girl carefully wipe away the mess, all the while calming her. The mother re-enters the scene and shakes her head at her daughter. The daughter is afraid of being reproached but the mother is smiling. She and Francesca begin talking. She thanks Francesca. Robert sees the two mothers exchanging a moment of common experience and brief friendship. The mother and daughter take their leave as Francesca says goodbye and returns to the table. Robert looks at her lovingly. Francesca returns to her meal, but suddenly she is no longer hungry. Robert senses something is upsetting her.

  ROBERT You're somewhere else, where?

  FRANCESCA Just that it's been a perfect day and that I'd like to skip my fancy dessert and go home after this.

  ROBERT Uh-huh. And?

  FRANCESCA(beat)

  You're right, you know. We don't have much time.

  Uncomfortable silence hangs between them. A waiter passes by.

  ROBERT Check, please.

  OS, as the MOTHER YELLS:

  MOTHER REBECCA! REBECCA!

  Both Robert and Francesca look to the voice.

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