(adapted fr. The Road, pgs. 84-85)
EXT: HOUSE PORCH (NIGHT)
VERY WIDE SHOT. A single-family house with a wraparound porch, ordinary-looking in the darkness except for the unmistakable absence of vertical banister rods, an eerie lack of pattern. Rails intact, there is a sense that the rods are mere decoration and have nothing to do with keeping a rail up. A sound like a thin twig snapped in half is heard, nothing more. A small fire burns to the right of the entryway. Vivid against black, orange flames quiver in meager intensity, their height hardly meeting the window frame’s bottom sill. It is these low flames alone that makes two figures visible in the darkness. Hooded, THE BOY leans into the left-most corner of the doorframe, presumably a cozy position against the force of random evening wind gusts. Drowning in an oversized red sweatshirt, THE BOY stands with his arms crossed, holding his middle. THE BOY hovers over THE MAN. In a half-squat, his legs unsteady as he kindles the fire, THE MAN is viewed in profile.
THE BOY’S POV: THE MAN’s flame-lit eyes wander over the flames, preoccupied with more than the task at hand: turning over cornmeal cakes the size of half-dollars, imperfect shapes like hand-broken chunks of a crumbly cookie. Again, silent except for an occasional wet sniffle from someone’s runny nose.
MEDIUM SHOT. Both figures seen from behind THE MAN. There is a considerable distance from the doorframe to the fire.
OVER-THE-SHOULDER SHOT. As if surprised to see him, THE MAN turns his head towards THE BOY and puts his prodding spoon down into a pile of looted silverware. He rises, uncrumpling from his squat position. We notice for the first time the irony of his outfit. He’s wearing what we understand to be a rummage find – a crisp button-down shirt, grime-free except for black smears near the cuff area. It is only the top layer of clothing. THE MAN is bloated with layers.
Stay put, okay? Don’t eat yet.
MEDIUM SHOT. THE BOY, thin, is not compelled to move as THE MAN walks through the narrow doorframe space. We see THE MAN’s back disappear into the house. Through a light drizzle, THE BOY’s eyes squint curiously forward at a point invisible to us.
VERY WIDE SHOT. THE BOY’S POV: The house across the street, larger than the one THE BOY occupies and with no porch. Tall trees loom above the roof and continue indefinitely backward into dense woods.
A flash of white – the body of THE OTHER BOY swaddled in what looks like bedsheets – suddenly turns from facing the house belonging to THE BOY and THE MAN. THE OTHER BOY, reacting to his discovery by THE BOY, runs into the woods behind the house.
CLOSE UP OF FACE.
VERY WIDE SHOT. THE BOY is at full sprint towards us. Excess fabric from the sweatshirt sleeves whips back, resembling wings as THE BOY hurtles forward, passing the corner of the frame.
(repeating, only louder this time)
THE BOY’S POV: The driveway of the opposite house is wet like the road. Footprints are impossible to detect in the dark. The cream-colored house glows. Light drizzle has transformed into a steady rain.
FRANTIC CAMERA PAN OF THE WOODS AHEAD. Standing in the driveway, THE BOY walks a few uncertain steps in no direction. It is unclear if this is a sign of numbing paralysis or of the return of his senses.
WIDE SHOT FROM ABOVE, AS IF FROM THE WINDOWS OF THE OPPOSITE HOUSE.
(face wet with tears, mouth in a deep pout, calling out)
Come back. I won’t hurt you.
Sound of rubber sneakers hitting wet pavement.
(gruff and barely audible through the rain)
What are you doing? I told you to stay put.
A sudden emergence, THE MAN scoops THE BOY up in his arms. Both figures exit the frame. An empty driveway remains. Sound of steady rain.
There’s a little boy, Papa. There’s a little boy.
VERY WIDE SHOT. THE MAN rushes THE BOY to the lighted house. Paranoid, he looks far ahead to the left and behind while crossing the road.
I just wanted to see him, Papa. I want to see him.
VERY WIDE SHOT. The opposite house is blank and undisturbed. There is the possibility that THE OTHER BOY does not exist.
MEDIUM CLOSE UP. THE BOY and THE MAN rush up the house steps. THE BOY’s arms are rigid above his head as if in shock, his fingers oddly contorted. His eyes, filled with tears, stare at the opposite house. There is no attempt to grip his father’s neck.
(gently putting THE BOY down onto a scrap of tarp near the fire)
There’s no one to see. There’s no one, okay? We’ve got to go.
CLOSE UP OF FACE. THE MAN, his face shadowed, busies himself with collecting the leftover cornmeal cakes.
(suddenly angry although choked up himself)
Do you want to die? Is that what you want?
I don’t care. I don’t care.
MEDIUM SHOT FROM BELOW. THE MAN wipes grit from his eyebrow, blinks too long, finally opens his eyes, stops the movement of his hands and turns into the light of the fire.
MEDIUM SHOT. THE MAN sits down next to THE BOY, lifts his weightless body and cradles his head. THE BOY burrows into THE MAN’S shoulder. THE BOY’s arms are limp at his sides.
I’m sorry. Don’t say that. You musn’t say that.
WIDE SHOT. We see the back of THE MAN from the distant end of the porch. Sound of rain breaking on an aluminum gutter and THE BOY’s muffled sobs. Through the black void in the banister, faint is the road to the overpass.