A brief conversation with an old friend prevents a lifetime of confusion.
I used to stand in that big showroom window and wonder where all the customers were. People drove by but not many stopped in. Cassie, my wife, took care of the storefront and the books and I did the repair work in the garage in the back. We were a good team, at least that’s what I thought.
One Saturday night, when Cassie was visiting her sister in the city, my old buddy Hutch and I were watching the game. Between periods I was telling Hutch about how poorly the garage was doing and how confused I was about why it wasn’t doing better. I guessed that people in Marshallville didn’t think I was a very good mechanic and maybe I needed to find another line of work.
It’s not you.
What do you mean, Hutch?
It’s not your work that’s causing your business to fail.
Really? What is it then? (PAUSE)
It’s your wife. (PAUSE)
Cassie! What do you mean?
Cassie…exactly. To be blunt with you, my friend…people don’t like her. She came from the city and though you and she may not think so, she looks down on people here. At least that’s the impression she leaves. She’s not (PAUSE) small town stuff; she’s from (PAUSE) elsewhere, a square peg.
People treat me just fine, treat…us just fine!
They’re just being polite. How many times you two been invited over to anybody’s house but mine for dinner? I’m guessing, none. How often do you both go out to events in town? Almost never. People don’t see you anywhere but at the garage. You need to circulate, participate in the life of the town.
Cassie doesn’t like those kind of… (PAUSE)
As I got us both another beer, it was beginning to sink in but Hutch wasn’t done yet.
HUTCH (FAKE DISBELIEF)
Do you want me to believe that you moved to the city for a few years and forget how people around here think? What their expectations are? You come from here. It’s in your blood but you forgot. (LIGHT, A LITTLE TAUNTING) Love made you blind to what’s going on around you and to what’s always been going on here. It’s the same old story in this town. Nothing has changed, nothing ever will.
So…I…am a good mechanic?
People think so. I know so. It’s your situation that keeps you from succeeding here. You’re the rose and Cassie is the thorn. You cancel each other out in this town.
When Cassie got back from the city, we discussed our situation. A month later I started a real estate course, something I thought I’d be good at and I was. We moved to the city and had a happy and prosperous life together. I left that little town knowing I was a good mechanic but I never did tell Cassie what Hutch said.
I still feel enormous gratitude to my old friend for giving me the perspective I needed at exactly the right moment.
Sometimes friends save your life and don’t even know it.
The aging Narrator is recounting this story from his younger days. It recalls a milestone in his life, a pivotal moment. He tells his story with wistfulness yet reverence for its magnitude in his life. His gratitude to his friend is sincere and, perhaps, overdue.
Hutch and the Narrator were good friends at some point in the past and may still be. We don’t know. We do know that the Narrator is beholden to Hutch and feels that telling his story will help purge his gratitude, to find an outlet of expression that satisfies the depth and truth of his thankfulness.
The set-up in the first two paragraphs (under 130 words) is quick and simple. We get the characters, their relationship and the situation immediately in easy-to-understand terms. But don’t rush the audience’s understanding. Give the story room to move, to grow. Give the audience a chance to figure out what they are seeing.
As a counterpoint to the lonesome empty building, the tone of the actors is generally happiness, of friendship and sharing with good humour. Some drama occurs on Narrator’s part with his disbelief about the cause of poor sales but it, too, is good-natured and familiar. Deep in his heart, the Narrator knows Hutch is right and this is the moment he must end his denial and proceed with life. It’s truly a Get Real moment.
This is based on fact, sort of. A friend who grew up with me in Shoal Lake, married a city woman and they lived in the little town, with varying degrees of success. My story has a happier ending.
Wanting to reinforce the value of true friendship I came up with the story as a homage to lifelong relationships. Hutch, the old friend who didn’t leave home, says nothing ever changes in small towns but everything, all the changes we’ve just watched in every episode of The Lonesomes, refutes his words.
Dennis Scullard plays the grateful friend and eloquently brought the wisdom of the long view into sight. Watch Dennis’ demo reel. Dear friend Troy Buschman voices the younger Hutch.
This scene has a very structuralist feeling to it, an accidental modernist construct on a vacant building in a dying town.
The old garage is in Decker, Manitoba south of Shoal Lake. Several things appealed to me about the place: the greyness of the walls and boards, the smashed window with the perfect arc visible above the hoarding and the horizontal ladder. My two shots of the place were enough to accommodate the conversation. In the story, Marshallville is its location.
In the first and principal scene, we see the boarded up storefront of a long abandoned garage with a broken window covered by several planks and a horizontal ladder. As well as being an interesting solution to the broken window problem, the horizontal ladder is a large metaphor for lateral movement in small towns as they decline.
The second scene (above) is a medium close-up of the broken window with its perfect arc and the ladder dividing the scene a different way. The neutral dusted-out colours of the wood and the building suggest and reinforce the place’s and the town’s ongoing deterioration. Though dimmed by being reflected, the trees moving in the breeze are the only vivid colours, again suggesting what once was here.