Season 1/Episode 1: Homecoming
by Jim McDoniel
Content Advisories for this episode can be found here,
This episode features: Shariba Rivers as Lily, Marsha Harman as Dot, Clint Worthington as Russel Epstien, Bethany Hart as Cynthia Harper, LaQuin Groves as Dale, Mark Soloff as an old man on the edge of town, Michael Turrentine as Wes, Pat King as Chester, Sebastian Orr as &$^#&$#, Ele Matelan as @&*@^$&. Voices by Alex Brown, Jeff Van Dreason, Eric Silver, Julia Schifini, Amanda McSweene-Geehan, Michelle Nickolaisen, Jack Pevyhouse, Paul Miscagave and Bridge Greene.
Written by Jim McDoniel, sound design by Ryan Schile, directed by Jeffrey Nils Gardner, music composed by Stephen Poon, recording engineer Mel Ruder, Theme performed by Stephen Poon, Lauren Kelly, Gunnar Jebsen, Travis Elfers, Mel Ruder, and Betsey Palmer, Unwell lead sound designer Ryan Schile, Executives Producers Eleanor Hyde and Jeffrey Gardner, by HartLife NFP.
Content Advisories. This Episode contains:
Animals in peril (but not hurt)
Uncomfortable social situations
EXT. NIGHT. THE GROCERY STORE.DOOR OPENS A LITTLE WITH THE JINGLE OF BELLS.
RUSSEL: I’ve got the door.
DOT: Thanks Russ.
RUSSEL: Lights out is in twenty minutes. Are you going to be all right getting home
DOT: I think I can handle the mean streets of Mount Absalom.
RUSSEL: If you’re sure. Good night Dot.
FOOTSTEPS WALKING AWAY. CRICKETS IN THE BACKGROUND TO SIGNIFY NIGHT TIME. DOT WHISTLING. SOUND ALTERS.
WE HEAR VOICES STARTING TO CALL OUT FROM THE DARKNESS
RUSSEL: (D) Goodnight Dot.
CHESTER: (D) Goodnight Dot.
VOICES: (D) Goodnight Dot.
Goodnight Mrs. Harper.
Goodnight Mrs. Harper.
Good morning Mrs. Harper.
DALE: (LOW, INTIMATE) Good morning Dottie.
VOICES: (GROWING STEADILY LOUDER.)
VOICES (CONT’D): Good morning.
DOROTHY AGNES, you get back here this instant.
A SEMI HORN! A TRUCK WHOOSHES PAST!
DOT: (CRY OF SURPRISE.)
FALLING! CRUMPLE OF PAPER BAGS. THUMP OF A BODY. CRACK OF A BONE. DOT ROLLING.
DOT: (GROAN OF PAIN.) Son of a bitch
FOOTSTEPS RUNNING DOWN THE EMBANKMENT.
WES: Dot, are you all right?
DOT: (WINCES) No. Definitely not. My ankle…
WES: Don’t try to move. I’ll…I’ll call an ambulance.
BEEPING OF A CELL PHONE.
What were you doing out here?
DOT: I was on my way home and…
CAR WHOOSHES PAST ABOVE THEM.
DOT: Where are we?
WES: Highway Five, out of town.
DOT: I must have got turned around.
WES: (INTO PHONE) Hello? Yes, um…I need an ambulance. Dot Harper fell and hurt her ankle. No…we’re on Highway Five about…a mile from the town line I think.
FADE OUT ON WES TALKING. A DEEP, THRUMING NOTE AS THE SCENE TRANSITIONS
DAY. CAR INTERIOR. THUMPING OF THE ROAD AS IT PASSES. WHOOSH OF OTHER CARS AND TRUCKS PASSING. THE CAR RADIO PLAYS AN AUDIO BOOK.
BOOK: …On my saying that I did not understand, she went on: “It is the eve of St. George’s Day. Do you not know that to-night,when the clock strikes midnight, all the evil things in the world will have full sway? Do you know where you are going and what you are going to?” She was in such evident distress that I tried to comfort her, but without effect. Finally she went down on her knees and implored me not to go; at least to wait a day or two before starting. It was all very ridiculous but I did not feel comfortable. However, there was business to be done and could allow nothing to interfere with it. I therefore tried…
BOOK CUTS OUT. REPLACED BY CELL PHONE RINGER ON THE CAR STEREO. BEEP OF IT BEING ANSWERED.
DALE: (D) Hey there Lilybelle.
LILY: Hi Dad.
DALE: (D) Just wanted to see how you were doing?
LILY: I’m fine. Though I feel like I should have hit the turnoff by now.
DALE: (D) From what I remember that exit is kind of tricky.
CYNTHIA: (D OFF) Ask if she’s using the hands-free device we got her.
DALE: (D) Your mom wants to know if you’re using that hands-free device we got you.
CYNTHIA: (D) Because it isn’t safe to use a cellphone and drive at the same time. I read that it’s the same as driving drunk.
CRINKLE OF A BAG OF CHIPS. CRUNCH OF CHIPS IN MOUTH.
LILY: (WITH A MOUTHFUL OF CHIPS) Both my hands are on the wheel.
CYNTHIA: (D) Good.
DALE: (D) Any idea of how long you’re going to be there?
LILY: Six to eight weeks according to the doctor. Maybe longer because of her…uh…
LILY: Her words, not mine.
DALE: Well, Cyn and I are here if you need us.
LILY: Thanks Dad.
MUFFLED DOG BARK.
CAR SWERVE AND EXTREME BREAK!
DALE: You okay? (PAUSE.) Hon?
LILY: Sorry. A…a dog ran out into the middle of the road.
CYNTHIA: Are you all right?
LILY: I’m fine. I have to let you go. I need to see if it’s hurt.
DALE: Okay. Give us a call back when you get there.
LILY: Will do.
HANG UP NOISE. SEAT BELT BEING TAKEN OFF. DOOR OPENS. DOG GROWLING.
LILY: Hey…big guy. Are you okay?
A FOOT HITS THE GROUND. A SINGLE BARK.
Yeah. No. You’re right. I should just stay in the car.
DOOR CLOSES. JINGLE OF KEYS. SCRAPE OF DOG CLAWS ON THE HOOD OF THE CAR AS A SECOND DOG JUMPS UP ONTO THE CAR.
LILY: Oh look. You brought a friend. A big…angry friend.
GROWLING FROM THE DOG ON THE HOOD.
Shoo. Go away.
SWITCH BEING FLIPPED. WINDSHIELD WIPERS MOVING. THE DOG BARKS IN RESPONSE. THERE IS A YELL IN THE DISTANCE, MUFFLED BY THE CAR
THE DOG OUTSIDE THE DOOR RUNS OFF BARKING HAPPILY. THE DOG ON THE HOOD ADJUSTS ITS FEET AND JUMPS DOWN.
OLD MAN: (Closer but muffled through a window.) You all right, miss?
CAR WINDOW GOING DOWN.
LILY: Are those your dogs?
OLD MAN: I’m terribly sorry. They ran off before I could stop them.
LILY: Well, maybe keep them on a leash next time.
OLD MAN: I very much doubt an old fella like me is going to stop them going wherever they want to go with or without a leash. How about you though? Anything broken?
LILY: I’m fine.
OLD MAN: Well thank the Lord for that.
DOGS PAD OVER.
OLD MAN: (TO DOGS) Hear that Don? Molly? You got lucky this time.
Again, I’m terribly sorry miss. You have a good day. Come on you two.
FOOTSTEPS AND DOG STEPS GOING AWAY.
LILY: Hey sorry, do you live here?
OLD MAN: Round abouts.
LILY: You wouldn't happen to know where the exit road to Mount Absalom is?
OLD MAN: Mount Absalom? Sure. You see that tree up ahead.
OLD MAN: Turn left.
LILY: That’s it?
OLD MAN: That’s it.
LILY: Well, I…kind of feel stupid now.
OLD MAN: The way is always clear once it’s been pointed out. Like the little girl in the woods.
LILY: What did you say?
THE WORLD FADES AWAY AS WE DRIFT INTO THE OLD MAN’S STORY.
OLD MAN: The little girl in the woods. It’s a story round these parts. A little girl gets lost in the woods. She spends days trying to find her way back home but to no avail. The woods will not give her back. So she sits down and thinks and prays. And as she looks up to the sky to ask God for help…she notices the tree she is sitting under has a single low branch. And so does the one next to it. And the one next that. And they all point in the same direction.
LILY: And she remembers that her father is a woodcutter who goes into the woods to cut branches for firewood. And she thinks maybe he would leave one branch to lead him out of the forest again. So she follows the pointing trees all the way home.
WE ARE BACK IN THE CAR.
OLD MAN: You know the story?
LILY: I heard it once. When I was a kid.
OLD MAN: You from around here then?
LILY: No…I’m…I’m visiting someone.
OLD MAN: Ah. Well. Have a pleasant visit.
WINDOW ROLLS UP. CAR STARTS.
BOOK: …I therefore tried to raise her up, and said, as gravely as I could, that I thanked her, but my duty was imperative, and that I must go. She then rose and dried her eyes, and taking a crucifix from her neck offered it to me. I did not know what to do, it seemed so ungracious to refuse an old lady meaning so well and in such a state of mind.
CAR BLINKER DRIVES DURING THE ABOVE. THE TURN SIGNAL BLINKS A FEW TIMES AND WE HEAR THE CAR MAKE THE TURN. SOMEWHERE IN THE DISTANCE WE HEAR THE DOGS HOWL.
BOOK: She saw, I suppose, the doubt in my face, for she put the rosary around my neck, and said, “For your mother’s sake,” and went out of the room.
BOOK FADES OUT AS WE TRANSITION TO THE NEXT SCENE.
THE FENWOOD BOARDING HOUSE. MID- AFTERNOON. THE CAR PULLS UP ON A GRAVEL ROAD AND STOPS. WE HEAR THE MUFFLED AUDIO BOOK FROM THROUGH THE CAR WINDOWS.
BOOK: (OFF D) …for when I had seen the view I explored further; doors, doors, doors everywhere, and all locked and bolted. In no place save from the windows in the castle walls is there an available exit. The castle is a veritable prison, and I am a prisoner!
CAR TURNS OFF. DOOR TO THE CAR OPENS. FOOTSTEPS STEPPING ONTO THE GRAVEL.
LILY: (LONG EXHALE.) Here we go.
FOOTSTEPS UP WOOD STAIRS OF A PORCH. KNOCKS ON THE DOOR. FOOTSTEPS FROM THE OTHER SIDE. DOOR OPENS SLIGHTLY.
WES: Can I help you?
LILY: Yes. My name is Lilian Harper. My mom is…
WES: Oh. OH! You’re Lily.
WES: Dot said you were coming. Come in. Come in.
DOOR OPENS AND THEY STEP IN. SOMEWHERE A CUCKOO CLOCK CHIMES AND HOOTS .
Sorry. Most people don’t knock, they just…come on in.
LILY: Right…because it’s a boarding house.
WES: Yeah. So…welcome home, I guess. Do you want something to drink or…?
LILY: I’m sorry. Who are you?
LILY: Sorry. I’m Wes. I work here. Part time. Part-ish time. Evenings and weekends mostly. More right now because school’s out. You know. I also run the ghost tour.
LILY: Ghost tour?
WALKS OFF TOWARD THE DESK. PULLS A PIECE OF PAPER OF A STACK AND RETURNS.
The most haunted house in Mount Absalom. (SPOOKY VOICE) Oooooooo… (REGULAR VOICE) Tour begins at dusk if you’re interested. Free of charge for you of course.
LILY: Of course.
WES: Oh shoot. I almost forgot.
RUNS BACK TO THE DESK.
WES: Here. This is for you.
THE SOUND OF WES LIFTING A DISH AND PULLING BACK TINFOIL.
LILY: A casserole.
WES: I made it myself. My mom said it was a traditional welcoming gift.
LILY: And how long has it been sitting under your desk?
WES: Oh. This probably should have been in the refrigerator.
WES: I’ll be right back.
FOOTSTEPS WALKING INTO THE OTHER ROOM. DOOR OPENS HESITANTLY.
CHESTER: (CALLING OUT) Hello?
LILY: Can I help you?
CHESTER: Hi. I’m looking for…Lilian Harper?
CHESTER: Chester Warren, assistant to Mayor Lopez.
CHESTER: I am your official welcoming party. On behalf of Mayor Lopez and the village assembly members, I am to offer a most sincere “welcome home.
LILY: And a casserole. Yay.
HANDING OVER THE CASSEROLE.
CHESTER: Not just a casserole. I also have a gift certificate for one free ice cream over at De Souza’s De Ice Cream, the best scoop in town. You’ll find that down on Main. If your car needs an oil change while you’re here, a certificate for a free oil change and tire rotation at Otto’s Auto. Also on Main. Don’t let the name fool you though, there is no Otto. Mary Lou just likes puns. Here is a coupon for one free movie rental from The Movie Knight…
LILY: Let me guess: on main?
CHESTER: It’s all coming back now, isn’t it? Like you never left. Now this…(PAUSE)…this has expired
CRUMPLES THE PAPER.
LILY: I’m sorry. How did you know I was coming?
CHESTER: Dot mentioned it.
LILY: To the mayor?
CHESTER: No. But…small town. You know how it is.
CHESTER: Oh and the biggie: one free admission to the celery festival.
LILY: Right…the celery festival.
CHESTER: How long has it been?
CHESTER: Since you attended the celery festival?
LILY: I really couldn’t say…
CHESTER: Fifteen years?
LILY: Give or take.
CHESTER: Hopefully more give then take. That’ll be on Labor Day weekend. Do you think you’ll still be in town Labor Day weekend?
LILY: Honestly, I don’t know.
CHESTER: Well…you should definitely try, it’s always a heck of a time.
LILY: I’m sure.
CHESTER: Anyway, I should let you settle in. It was a pleasure to meet you Lilian and again, welcome home.
FOOTSTEPS. DOOR OPENS AND CLOSES. MORE FOOTSTEPS AS WES RETURNS.
WES: Was that the door?
LILY: That was Chester Warren.
WES: OH. And another casserole.
LILY: Yeah. Look is my mom here?
WES: Hmmm…sorry, yes. I’ll take you…
LILY: No! Thank you but… just tell me where she is.
WES: She’s decorating room three for a new boarder. That’s…
LILY: Third floor…I know.
FOOTSTEPS ON STAIRS.
WES: Right…I’ll just put your casserole away then…
FOOTSTEPS ON STAIRS. FOOTSTEPS ON LANDING. ONE FLOORBOARD CREAKS PARTICULARLY LOUDLY.
LILY: Right. You.
ROCKS BACK AND FORTH ON THE CREAK.
LILY: I remember you, you snitch.
LOUD RATTLING OF PIPES AND WATER FLOW IN A WAY THAT SOUNDS LIKE A WAILING BEAST
Yeah, I remember you too.
LOUD THUD FROM ABOVE.
DOT: (OFF) MOANING.
RUNNING FOOTSTEPS ACROSS THE LANDING UP THE STAIRS.
DOT: (OFF) Lily?
DOOR IS THROWN OPEN.
DOT: Lily, you made it.
LILY: Are you? Is everything all right?
DOT: Of course. Why wouldn’t it be?
LILY: It’s just…it sounded like…
APPROACHING RUNNING FOOTSTEPS.
WES: Dot? Dot?
(OUT OF BREATH) What…?
BEEP BEEP OF A STOP WATCH.
DOT: Forty-five seconds. Not bad response time. Now, let’s see you resuscitate the bag of potatoes.
WES: I thought you were hurt.
DOT: And let that be a lesson to you: if I were actually hurt, there’d be a good deal more swearing.
FOOTSTEPS AS WES WALKS AWAY.
WES: Crazy old bat.
DOT: Bitch dear. If you’re going to work in this house sooner or later you have to learn to cuss. (PAUSE.) You forgot the potatoes.
PAUSE. FOOTSTEPS COME BACK.
WES: I hate you.
DOT: Lift with your legs.
SOUNDS OF EFFORT AS IT IS LIFTED UP.
WES: (GRUNTING WITH EFFORT) How did you even get this up here?
DOT: A magician never reveals her tricks.
LABORED FOOTSTEPS AS WES LEAVES.
So…Lily. What do you think?
LILY: Same as always.
DOT: The room? I just painted it.
LILY: Oh. Right. The room. Um…is a kid coming to live here?
DOT: An astronomer. Plans to fix up the old Observatory on Chapel Hill. Thought he’d like to look up at the stars at night.
LILY: And did he ask for sheets with planets on them?
DOT: That is the personal touch that only Fenwood House Boarding Services can provide. It’s good to see you Lilybelle.
LILY: It’s been a while.
DOT: Fourteen years.
LILY: Yeah well…things have been….you know…
DOT: Right. Well, let me show you your room.
WE HEAR DOT’S CRUTCHES AS SHE GOES TO THE DOOR.
LILY: You can just tell me which one is empty and...
DOT STOPS. PAUSE.
DOT: Let me show you your room.
LILY: Fine. Show me my room.
DOT AND LILY HEAD DOWN THE HALLWAY.
DOT: This way.
DOT MAKES HER WAY SLOWLY UP THE STAIRS. FOOTSTEPS UP AS LILY FOLLOWS HER UP THE STAIRS.
LILY: Do you need help?
DOT: I’ve got it. I’ve got it.
DOT: Are you still working at that alpaca farm?
LILY: Not for a year and a half. I work at a call center now.
DOT: A call center?
LILY: For Spoodle.
DOT: Doesn’t sound as fun as the alpaca farm.
LILY: Yeah, well. Getting bit by an alpaca makes you reconsider how important boring little things like health insurance are. (PAUSE) How long has “Wes” been working here?
DOT: A year or two.
LILY: Is that even legal?
DOT: I’m not screwing him.
LILY: You know what I mean. He’s like twelve.
DOT: He’s sixteen Lilybelle. And yes, he comes with all his papers and his shots. Unlike someone who I recall somehow worked four jobs in a single summer.
LILY: That was different.
LILY: I was seventeen.
DOT GOES UP TO A DOOR. THE DOOR OPENS.
DOT: Your room.
SLOW FOOTSTEPS WALK IN.
LILY: You didn’t. You saved my room?
DOT: Of course not. I’ve got a business to run and this is prime real estate. But I saved all your things and when you called, I took it out of storage and put it back just as you left it. Embarrassing amount of stuffed animals and all.
LILY: It’s …exactly the same.
DOT: I took pictures of where it all went.
LILY: You are a crazy old bat.
WES: (OFF FROM THE STAIRS BELOW) Hey Dot.
WES: Look out the window.
DOT: The window?
What in the…?
SHE UNDOES THE LATCH AND STRUGGLES TO LIFT THE WINDOW.
DOT: Give me a hand, will you.
DOT: This thing does not like to move.
THEY BOTH PUSH THE WINDOW UP. IT CREAK/SLIDES OPEN VERY SPECIFICALLY. FROM OUTSIDE WE HEAR THE SOUNDS OF A DOZEN OR MORE PEOPLE MILLING ABOUT.
RUSSEL: Dot! Hi! Did your daughter arrive yet?
DOT: Yeah, she’s here.
RUSSEL: Lilian! Russel Epstein. Hi. We are the official unofficial town welcoming party. And as you can see, we come bearing gifts.
CROWD: (MOSTLY INAUDIBLE.) Yes. Yes. See. Look. Here. Etc affirmative mumblings.
LILY: Yes. I do see that.
DOT: We’ll be right down, Russel.
(TO LILY) Hope you like casserole.
DOT CROSSES AWAY.
DOT: (OFF) Welcome home.
LILY: Sure. Home.
A MOMENT LATER HER FOOTSTEPS FOLLOW. WE HEAR THE BREEZE BLOWING THROUGH THE OPEN WINDOW.
A CARDINAL FLUTTERS DOWN ONTO THE SIL, TWEETS TWICE, AND FLIES AWAY. THE WINDOW SLOWLY CREAK/SLIDES SHUT. THEN LATCHES. AGAIN WE HEAR THE RUMBLE WAIL OF THE PIPES.
VOICE: Goodnight Dot.
A THRUMMING BASS NOTE TRILLS INTO SILENCE. AFTER A SECOND, THE THEME SONG COMES IN- STOMPING FEET, RHYTHMIC GUITAR, AND PRONOUNCED BANJO.
CREDITS: This episode features: Shariba Rivers as Lily, Marsha Harman as Dot, Clint Worthington as Russel Epstien, Bethany Hart as Cynthia Harper, LaQuin Groves as Dale, Mark Soloff as an old man on the edge of town, Michael Turrentine as Wes, Pat King as Chester, Sebastian Orr as [DISTORTED], Ele Matelan as [DISTORTED].
MUSIC BREAK- A HAUNTING SUNG NOTE
Written by Jim McDoniel, sound design by Ryan Schile, directed by Jeffrey Nils Gardner, music composed by Stephen Poon, recording engineer Mel Ruder, Unwell lead sound designer Ryan Schile, Executives Producers Eleanor Hyde and Jeffrey Gardner, by HartLife NFP.
THE STRANGE BASS NOTE RETURNS
According to disputed filings in the State Historic Preservation Office, the Fenwood House is the oldest, continually inhabited residence in all of Ohio.