Summer, 2006 — the script
Episode 5 of The Dog Is Dead.
The dog is dead. You sit in your car in the parking lot, emptied and silent after the madness of graduation day. The little red hut, “the dog”, the Salty Dog, the cutesy name for the drive thru hot dog stand which has become a staple for most high schooler’s evenings — sits quiet, vacant, but for the neon light buzzing above.
It’s late, one of those single digit hours of the morning. You touch the square graduation cap in your passenger’s seat, grinding the cheap tassel between your fingers.
/graduation noise, music/
The ceremony lasted way too long today, which you should’ve expected with the size of the school and all the nonsense they have to talk about. It’s nothing to celebrate. There was the constant chatter from everyone in the bleachers,
Charlie Pendleton gave his student body president speech with his classic too-cool sarcasm and cliche Dr. Seuss quotes, Valerie Sneed proclaimed about looking towards the future (she should as Valedictorian), Mr. Greenbaum stomped down the aisles, trying to stop a bunch of beach balls punted around, a memorial was announced for that Trevor kid in the car accident, the top 20 GPA’s came up, the after-school club awards, and on and on.
And how could you forget, most of all, Christine pulling you aside at the end, and letting you know it’s probably best if you both just see how things go, after all, you’ll be in different colleges and you know how these things usually turn out.
You wanted to agree with her, but you don’t know how these things go, and neither does she, you think, she’s never been through high school before, though she’s had relationships, but instead you hug and kiss and leave and she’s texted you twice like nothing is different and you responded like your brain isn’t a bowl of microwaved spaghetti.
You run when things get you down, when you need space, or time. But it’s been hours, and the thoughts return. You want to feel better, but you don’t know what’s making you feel bad. What did you expect? What do you want? You’re sad, because, well….you are. Tonight seemed like a good time for a drive to an abandoned parking lot at an unholy hour.
You stare at the hot dog hut, the lone drive thru speaker on a pole out front, like a lighthouse guiding lost souls to cheap, processed bliss. The one darkened window of the hut creaks against the faded wood planks.
/car starts, driving up/
You pull up to the speaker and unroll your window.
“Hey…uh, Salty Dog building. I know you don’t know me. I’ve never been to this stupid shack, I guess I wasn’t cool enough to hang out here, but now that I’ve graduated, you know what, lemme get, uh one chili dog, maybe some of that spicy relish. Actually, give me two hundred chili dogs. I’ll take a time machine, maybe take me back twelve hours. Or, uh….this is so dumb. Can’t we just try? What the hell am I supposed to do this whole summer? Yeah, right, then don’t text me!? She’s had time to think about this. Of course this is what happens to you. UGGGGHHHH.”
*“Sorry, I missed the first bit. I think I can do everything but the time machine.”*
*“Not even close.”*
You look up to the hut ahead, and see a figure inside. An older guy, speaking into a mic, waves at you through the window. He looks tired, but you can see the goofy grin past his mustache and the reflections on the window.
He’s been in the hut? When do they close? Why were the lights off?
*“I’ve got a great two for one deal. You get both, or you get nothing. I’ll be honest, I bought too many dogs this month, and most people can wolf down two and not regret it.”*
*“I’m just messing with you kid. The grill’s all shut down. Look, I’m about to head out, but for what it’s worth, I think you’ll be all right. Get home safe, take a day. Write things down instead of talking to a drive thru maybe. Or, you know what…come on by if you want later this week. Now get out of here, or I’ll call the cops for trespassing. Not really, but you never know.”*
You look back to the window. He gives you a “move along” gesture, and waves.
You leave, and drive around some more before heading home.
/car driving sounds. pulling up, stopping, unroll window/
/crickets, neon sound/
Uh, I uh…are you in there, Mr. uh, Salty Dog? I know it’s super late, but I figured you’d be busy with the summer now in full swing and, so, you said I could come by, it’s me, the kid from a few weeks ago. Are you, uh, hello?
*“Yeah, oh man, whodah thought. Yeah, see me wavin? I’m just counting up the totals. You’re good right there. Talk to me. What brings you to my lowly hot dog hut on such a night as this?”*
So it’s…I just…
*“Mhmm…yeah…spit it out.*
I don’t — I don’t even know why I’m here.
*Because you wanna talk, that’s fine. Sorry. — I offered. So talk, I’m listening.*
It’s about this girl, still. We were dating, are dating, and it’s confusing. I guess I thought it was over, or not, but it’s, ugh I’m not good at these sorts of things.
People, I guess.
*Nobody is, kid. We just get better. So…this Christine ended it, and what?*
I don’t know. I like her. Love her?
But it’s not like some high school thing. Like everybody says things are a certain way, that’s why she didn’t want to keep going, but it’s not. Or I don’t think. I want things to be good. I’m not good.
*Nothing wrong with that. What happened with her tonight?*
How do you know something happened tonight?
*Well, I’m an old man who’s been through high school. And you came here the last time something happened. I’m also part genius. So what’d you do?*
/pool party sounds/
It’s this pool party. We’d been texting back and forth. It’s at Evan’s house, not that you’d know. A good amount of people, seems like most know we’re taking it easy, but she’s beautiful, and it’s the water, and she’s on my shoulders ’cause of course Steven calls for a chicken fight, and she’s laughing above me, and we stay in the pool past everyone else, the stars are out, we’re wading by the steps. She splashes at me, and in her eyes, I see everything I’ve seen for the past few months, and I don’t say anything. She just looks at me, it’s all on again, and says she’s happy. But there’s the pit in my stomach. She says that she’ll always know me. But that’s it. She gets out of the pool. She’s resigned to it. Like there’s no choice.
*Damn, you writing this stuff down? It’s like poetry. So, what do you want?*
For things to be good. For us to be together. Or for us to be happy. For this lump in my throat to go away. I just…people say to want what’s best, but I’m not being arrogant, but I feel like I know what’s best. And then, in thirty seconds it’s all wrong in mind again. I….UGH. I don’t understand.
*What’s wrong with that?*
What do you mean, “what’s wrong with that?”
*Look. I think you’re a fine kid. It’s okay to be upset. I’m not gonna tell you what’s best, I don’t know this girl, your relationship. But can I ask you something?*
*You want things to be good?*
*And you wanna be happy?*
*Well. It just might take some time.*
Oh great, thanks. Everybody says stuff like that. It’s not that simple.
*I know. But it’s also not that complicated.*
/start car up/
*Hey, look. Whatever people say, keep your chin up. And don’t forget, we’ve got a two for one deal all summer, it’s really something else.*
/drive away, fade out intercom, roll up window, put on radio station/
/music fades out/
/car pulls up, people ambience, roll up window/
Hey, It’s me, are you closed?
*My man! Yeah, I ran out of dogs. People are sticking around for the fireworks at the ball field. Didn’t think about this as prime real estate years ago, I should sell tickets, but I’m a nice guy, ya know? What’s up?*
I…uh, I’m sorry about last time. I’ve been doing more thinking.
*All good kid. How’s you and you-know-who?*
She’s on vacation with her family. It’s still been pretty weird.
*Look son, I’ve been thinking too. I don’t know too much about what’s on between you two.*
I know, it’s okay. We were texting more, move in days are coming up. But I think we’re at a good place.
*So you want this thing to work out in college?*
Yeah, that’s what I mean by thinking more. I want it to work out.
*Have you told her?*
I think she knows how I feel, I’m sure I made that clear.
*I’m proud of you for figuring out what you want. I don’t know if it’s right. But you at least gotta be honest. Face to face.*
Yeah, well she’s not gonna be back for a bit, I told you.
*I don’t want to sound like cliche old man, because I know you hate that, but you also gotta be prepared for her answer.*
This summer’s taken it back around, don’t worry. I’ll tell her when she comes home from the beach.
*I’m glad, kid. Happy for you.*
Oh, you’re right. This is a great spot.
/fireworks fade into thunder/
/thunder, patter of footsteps/
Hey. Hey! You there? I see your car.
*Jesus. Must dozed off. Where’s your car?*
I ran. She’s moving across the country, and that’s it.
*Ah, I’m sorry. Tough break.*
She doesn’t even care!
*It’s how you felt kid. You didn’t ruin it.*
This whole thing is stupid.
*No it’s not. Don’t wake me up and then insult me, kid.*
I’ll do whatever I want to.
*I’m sorry she said no. But you tried, man. It’s sad.*
It’s stupid. It doesn’t have to be like this. If she just thought about for more than three seconds.
*Look, I don’t even know this girl, but don’t go down that path.*
Stop telling me what to do. You said you’d listen. You don’t matter. It’s not better.
*I didn’t say it’d be better. I’m just trying to help, kid. Don’t be mad at me.*
Well, I am. I could’ve fixed this. And now I’m gonna go to college all messed up and pissed at life and you and her. Thanks for nothing. I mean it. Bye.
*Don’t leave, Trevor.*
*Sorry, not you. My son. Oh god. He’s right.*
*Just go. He’s right. You’re right.*
/footsteps. on pavement/
/knock on window/
Sir? Hey, uh, hey?
/screen door open/
/rain recedes, footsteps on floor/
You enter the small red hut, dark, but for a small light in the corner, a small grill along the wall, and a small man in a chair, doubled over, head in his hands.
You stand, staring at him, as he looks up at you, and in spite of his reddened eyes, you’ve seen this man before. You saw him at the graduation ceremony, standing on stage for the memorial, for that kid, the one who drove off the road and killed himself. Trevor.
Trevor’s dad looks at you. He’s sorry Christine ended things. He’s sorry he doesn’t matter, he’s sorry he doesn’t matter, he’s sorry he doesn’t matter, he’s sorry he doesn’t matter.
He says he doesn’t understand. He’s trying to, he’s really trying. He doesn’t want to. And he works, and he sits in this hut, and he doesn’t come home, and he doesn’t understand.
He crumbles into the chair, and you urge him — like an uncontrollable heartbeat — he matters, the recognition of real, as you reach around his heaving shoulders, past the outer shell of a man, holding tight the core of a soul.
It rains, and you hold, and he holds. You cry because he cries because you cry. There is too much for one, and so you hold, and wait.
And as you cradle this stranger in the rain, you tell him you don’t understand. But he’s trying. You’re both going to try. And there it is.
He looks up, and you sit on the floor across from him. He nods, a grin. The lump in your throat is gone. He puts his hand on your shoulder. It’s not stupid. Things are not good. But things are not bad.
Two for one, that’s the deal. You get both, or you get nothing. It’s worth it.
He fires up the grill. Puts the dogs on.
And you give it time.
The Dog Is Dead is written, narrated, and edited by Taylor Zabloski.