INT. TUCK'S APARTMENT, LIVING ROOM - NIGHT
A fork CLINKS against a plate. It's dark but light enough for eyes to adjust. A SHADOW OF A BOY hunches over a table - If he could disappear, he would. CRANE (15) a plain-looking Black boy plays with the meatloaf slopped on a dish. He sits on a painted STOOL. One of the legs has a crack in it. He pierces the meatloaf with his fork, and blood seeps out.
Crane's uncle, TUCK (40's) Black, watches TV. A skirt of yellow light is projected off the TV onto Tuck's sunken face.
TUCK: Eat the damn food.
CRANE: I'm not hungry.
TUCK: I made it. Eat it.
Crane picks up the clump and chews it.
TUCK (CONT’D): How is it?
Crane notices Tuck smirking at him. Tuck rubs his lanky fingers on his greasy lips. Everything about him is greasy.
TUCK: You like the taste of meat, huh?
Crane clinches his teeth. Tuck unbuckles his belt. His glossy eyes stare into Crane's.
TUCK (CONT’D): Come here.
Crane's body stiffens. A lump in Cranes throat forms.
Tuck mutes the TV. The yellow light projected on his face fades into a faint orange, then red.
CRANE (CONT’D): You said you were sorry, you said-–
TUCK: I say a lot of things.
CRANE: This is a sin! What you're doing—
TUCK: You go to church a few times, and you think you've found heaven? I'll tell you what; once I'm done, I'll make sure to repent. Get over here.
Crane fights back tears. His eyes are fixed to the floor. He walks to Tuck's bare feet.
TUCK (CONT’D): You know what to do.
Tuck lies back in the armchair as Crane fidgets with Tuck's jeans. The tears escape and roll down Crane's cheeks. The sound of a ZIPPER TEARING open.
INT. CRANE'S BEDROOM - NIGHT
A PICTURE of young Crane and his mom painting a stool sits on the nightstand.
Crane is restless in bed. He opens a window. The bleached moon gazes at him.
EXT. NEIGHBORHOOD - MORNING
Crane sits on the curb. His legs bounce as he looks back at the apartment building.
PEYTON (16) a Black boy with gold gauges in his ears, pops a wheelie on his bike while riding up to Crane.
PEYTON: Hey Big Bird! Where were you this weekend? Too good for counseling?
CRANE: Stop calling me that.
PEYTON: Whatever. Get on.
Crane hops on the pegs on the back wheels of Peyton's bike.
CRANE: Where are we going?
PEYTON: School. It's Monday. You good?
CRANE: I just don't want to go to school.
PEYTON: Where you trying to go?
EXT. PIPE CULVERT - DAY
Crane and Peyton sit in the culvert underneath a road. Peyton takes a hit of a blunt and passes it to Crane.
CRANE: (coughs) How do you do it? Stay so... You after losing your parents?
Crane hands the blunt back. Peyton takes a hit.
PEYTON: It’s different. Your parents are... My parents are still...
Crane looks down the dark hole.
PEYTON (CONT’D): What I’m saying is, your parents loved you. Mine treated me like shit, but they always knew how to put on a good face... It's not so hard to go through life without people who didn’t want you in theirs in the first place.
CRANE: But you got out. I'm stuck with my uncle. I wish he would die already.
The pipe tremors as a car goes by.
PEYTON: That's harsh, man.
Crane shuts his eyes. Peyton smokes and stares at Crane amorously. The silence's broken when Peyton yells...
PEYTON (CONT’D): What the hell!
Crane opens his eyes. A LIZARD crawls up Peyton’s leg.
CRANE: You’re afraid of a little lizard?
PEYTON: When it crawls on me, yes!
Crane plucks the lizard up by its tail and watches it dangle.
CRANE: You’re in Florida, get used to it.
The lizard’s tail pops off, and it scrambles away. Peyton squirms and dusts off his pants frantically.
CRANE (CONT’D): Isn’t it cool how a lizard can drop a tail and grow it back?
PEYTON: I wouldn’t say cool.
CRANE: Nothing can hold it back.
PEYTON: Until someone else traps it, and it no longer has a tail to snap off.
Crane creeps out to the edge of the pipe. Peyton pops his head out.
PEYTON (CONT’D): What we looking at?
Crane doesn't break his gaze.
CRANE: I don't know what it is, but leaving this dark tunnel into this... All of this, it's like everything around us is yawning.
PEYTON: That's me yawning. It’s too early.
Peyton exits the pipe.
PEYTON (CONT’D): Let's ride!
EXT. NEIGHBORHOOD - MOMENTS LATER
Crane's arms are wrapped around Peyton’s neck as they ride the bike. Peyton increases his peddling.
Crane grips tighter. He leans his head on Peyton's shoulder, marvels at the sky; pink and yellow bleeds into one another.
CRANE: The sky looks like pink lemonade and orange juice. Like God spilled His drink.
PEYTON: I don’t know about God, but I'm thirsty now.
Peyton looks up. The sun and the moon hang in the heavy sky.
PEYTON (CONT’D): That's weird as hell.
PEYTON: The moon and the sun in the sky at the same time.
CRANE: Yeah, they don’t have a name for it. There's a name for the tip of a shoelace. There should be a name for this. (beat) It feels like eyes peering down at us.
EXT. CHURCH - LATER
A wooden cross rest on top. Crane scans the empty parking lot. He hops off the bike and walks to the door. It's locked.
CRANE: It’s closed. Why are we here?
PEYTON: I know another way in.
Crane follows Peyton to the back. A window’s open.
CRANE: I’m not breaking into the church.
PEYTON: Isn’t God supposed to welcome you with open arms?
CRANE: Don’t play with God.
Peyton hoists himself into the window. He reaches for Crane's hand. Crane reluctantly takes it and climbs inside.
INT. CHURCH - CONTINUOUS
Peyton leads Crane downstairs to the—
CRANE: What're we doing here?
Peyton pulls out a box labeled "Communion Wine". He takes out a communion cup filled with wine and peels back the seal.
PEYTON: Getting lit.
He tosses it back like a shot.
PEYTON (CONT’D): If you want some crackers, they got a buttload!
Peyton holds four cups and drinks them simultaneously.
CRANE: This... Feels wrong.
PEYTON: Take a couple of shots with me, and it'll start to feel right.
CRANE: Do those even have alcohol in them?
Peyton tosses one to Crane.
PEYTON: Find out.
Crane drinks one.
INT. CHURCH, BASEMENT - LATER
Crane and Peyton's faces are just inches away. They sit cross-legged, staring into each other's eyes. Crane leans in closer until... Peyton blinks.
CRANE: You blinked!
Crane and Peyton are sitting on the floor, covered in empty communion cups and cracker crumbs. Suddenly, Crane's phone RINGS. Crane's stuck staring at his phone. It's Tuck. The call ends. RINGS again.
PEYTON: You gonna answer, or?
Crane ends the call.
PEYTON (CONT’D): Guess not.
CRANE: He's a piece of shit.
PEYTON: Woah. What happened?
CRANE: I... Tuck, he's...
Crane can't bring himself to say it.
CRANE (CONT’D): Do you have a pen?
INT. CHURCH, BASEMENT - CONTINUOUS
Peyton reads what Crane wrote in a notepad, freezes. Crane looks ashamed.
PEYTON: I'll fuck him up!
Peyton stands, ready to brawl.
PEYTON: You gotta fight back.
CRANE: He's my Uncle.
PEYTON: Exactly! Look, I gotchu. He still at the house? We can go right now!
CRANE: So, we beat him up, then what?!
PEYTON: Report that sick motherfucker!!
CRANE: Who's going to believe me?!!
Peyton grabs Crane's shoulders.
PEYTON: Fuck, Crane, I would!
Crane shoves Peyton off.
CRANE: Don't touch me!!
PEYTON: Dude, I just—
CRANE: Don't ever touch me!!!
Crane continues shoving Peyton, each one harder than the next. Peyton isn't fighting back, he's crushed. Crane rams Peyton into a wall and starts swinging on him. Peyton snaps, he gets one good punch in.
A RINGING SOUND oozes in... Crane's sprawled out on the floor.
PEYTON (muffled): Why'd you have to— I'm sorry.
Peyton exits. Blood from Crane's nose freckles his cheeks.
EXT. CHURCH - DAY
Crane sits on the curb. Remnants of his blood are smeared on his face. Crane folds his hands to pray, almost squeezing the circulation out of his fingers.
CRANE: Are you real? I mean, I think you are but–– why did you take my parents, and why did you put me here? I was doing fine before–– I feel too dirty to be around people after what Tuck did like people can smell it on me, and you just let it happen... If you wanted to help, you would've done it already.
Crane blinks his eyes open. He hears nothing.
EXT. NEIGHBORHOOD - LATER
Several birds sit in a nearby tree. One takes flight and weaves through the ripples in the sky.
Crane's walking down a vacant street. He sees the same tailless lizard scurry by. Crane stares at it with unwavering, concentrated eyes, then turns from it.
Only the sun's in the sky. Now the sky has one eye visible as if winking at Crane. Feeling bothered by this, he runs home.
INT. TUCK'S APARTMENT, LIVING ROOM - DAY
Crane attempts to sneak to his room, but right as he does... A plate hits the wall above his head. Shatters. Crane's stunned. He turns to see Tuck.
CRANE: What the hell?!
TUCK: You know what my day consisted of? Me talking to your principle about why you weren't at school today!
Tuck kicks the TV stand, and the TV crashes to the floor.
TUCK (CONT’D): Making me look bad. Got them asking me all these questions, like I'm some goddamn monster!! You told them about what we do?!
Tuck's demolishing anything in his way. He picks up the stool, strikes it against the wall.
CRANE (CONT’D): STOP IT!
Tuck doesn't stop. Two of the legs snaps off.
Crane swings at Tuck. Tuck violently seizes Crane. Crane fights hard but can't break away. Tuck's eyes: wild, darting.
TUCK: Have you lost your damn mind?!
CRANE: FUCK YOU!!
Crane's almost in tears.
A light switches off in Tuck, he loosens his grip.
TUCK: You’re lucky, I'm not a monster.
INT. CRANE'S BEDROOM - LATER
Crane tries to reattach the leg onto the seat. The legs are smashed in; there’s no way to fix it now. Crane forcefully beats the chair on the floor. The third leg breaks off.
Crane swings the window open. The air’s quiet. The sky’s still winking at him. Crane picks up the fragmented stool. He hurls the seat out the window and watches it hit the ground. He hurls the three legs out the window one-by-one and watches it hit the ground...
... He sits in the window, his feet hang out. Crane HEAVES himself off and tumbles down, then... freezes in mid-air. He's catching flight.
FADE TO BLACK.
Listen to Kandace talk about "Crane" below:
KANDACE JAMES (she/her) is a graduate student attending Kennesaw State University, working towards her MA in Professional Writing. She creates stories about the African American experience, gender, and sexual orientation: the intersectionality of their lived experiences, the exclusion of identity within these groups, and the silencing of their voices. Her screenplay "Cutting Teeth" was an official selection at the Short. Sweet. Film Festin 2020 and Scriptapalooza Screenplay Competition & SHORTS Competition. It won the 2019 Laurel Award for Best Screenplay at the LA Live Film Festival and for Best Drama Screenplay Short at the Georgia Shorts Film Festival. Her short script, "Crane", was featured on the Six-Page Script podcast. Another podcast she joined was The Movie Lovers Unite podcast, discussing her short screenplay turned film, "No Heartbeat". She is currently a Web Designer and Social Media Manager for Josephine Quarterly, as well as an Assistant Prose Poetry Editor for Pithead Chapel. You can find Kandace's work at www.kmeshgallery.com.