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                            "The Potato Creek Chair of Death"
                                     Copyright 2007
                                     By Robert Kerr

                INT. A GARAGE - DAY

                The empty front seat of a rust-speckled green Pacer. 
                After a moment, MICHAEL, an edgy seventeen-year-old with
                shoulder-length hair, throws a bag into the back seat,
                gets into the car and sits in the driver's seat.  For a
                moment he stares at his hands resting on the steering
                wheel.  He reaches into his jacket pocket and takes out a
                set of keys.  His hands shake as he selects a key and
                puts it into the ignition.  He gets a hold of himself and
                starts the car.  He presses the button on a garage door
                opener and the garage door opens.  Light fills the


                The Pacer backs out of the garage, down the driveway, and
                onto the street of a lower-middle-class neighborhood.

                Before he puts the car into drive, Michael looks back at
                the house.

                The house is weather-beaten and looks rather neglected. 
                The curtains are drawn; the house seems very dark and

                Next to the front step is a garden ornament—a bird with
                propellers for wings.  A breeze picks up and the
                propellers start to spin.

                Michael jumps at the sound of a voice through his half
                opened window.

                                      NEIGHBOR (O.S.)
                          Hey!  HEY!

                A NEIGHBOR across the street stands by his front door,
                holding a lunchbox up in the air.  He is speaking to his
                daughter, a small KINDERGARTNER in a bright yellow
                raincoat, who stands at the end of the neighbor's

                                      NEIGHBOR (CONT'D)
                          Your lunch.

                Michael relaxes a little and watches.

                Hunching over under the drizzle, the neighbor trots up to
                the kindergartner, places the lunch box in her hand, and
                kisses her on the forehead.  The kindergartner walks down
                the driveway and turns onto the sidewalk.  The neighbor
                turns toward the house, then stops, catching sight of

                Michael draws back slightly, watching the neighbor.

                The neighbor raises his hand, hesitates, then waves at

                Michael rolls up his window.  He puts the car in gear and
                starts to drive away.

                The Pacer approaches an intersection.

                The kindergartner stands on the street corner, watching
                the Pacer approach.  The kindergartner stares at Michael
                as he drives by.

                Michael is transfixed by the kindergartner's stare.  He
                accelerates the car as he finishes the turn.

                The kindergartner turns to watch as the Pacer speeds off
                down the street.

                EXT. THE ROAD - DAY

                A speed metal song plays on the Pacer's stereo as the car
                enters the freeway.

                The sky is still overcast as the Pacer passes a sign:
                "WELCOME TO TOLEDO."

                Michael watches the streets warily as he drives through

                The Pacer passes a sign: "NOW LEAVING OHIO."

                The sky brightens and the clouds break up.  The sky turns
                blue, then orange, then deep, dark blue, then pitch black
                as the Pacer passes more road signs:


                "SOUTH BEND WELCOMES YOU"


                Michael keeps driving, even though he has trouble keeping
                his eyes open.  The passing signs and oncoming headlights
                start to mingle with a waking dream.


                                                          INTERCUT WITH:

                EXT. A STARK LANDSCAPE - DUSK

                In the hallucination, Michael is in the middle of a
                stark, shadowy, endless landscape.  He looks around,
                lost.  There is an unsettling CRY in the distance. 
                Michael turns to see where the cry has come from.

                "NOW ENTERING IOWA"

                In the dream, Michael turns to see his house, which
                stands by itself in the middle of the landscape. 
                Scavenging birds circle above the house.

                The garden ornament stands next to the front step.  Its
                propeller wings spin wildly.

                "ONLY 623 MILES TO WALL DRUG"

                Michael tries to walk toward the house.  He cannot move.

                Michael attempts to lift his feet, but they are stuck to
                the ground.

                A red sign with white lettering:  "ON CURVES AHEAD"

                The dim, luminous outline of a path appears beneath
                Michael's feet.

                The path leads toward the horizon, away from Michael's

                Another red sign: "REMEMBER, SONNY"

                Michael finds he can lift his feet again.  He starts to
                follow the path.

                Michael stops and turns back toward the house.

                The scavenging birds start to descend on the house.

                "THAT RABBIT'S FOOT"

                Michael tries to walk back to the house.  Once more, his
                feet are stuck to the ground.

                Michael turns away from the house.

                He can lift his feet again.

                "DIDN'T SAVE"

                Michael starts walking down the path again, away from the

                In the distance, at the end of the path, there is
                something under a bright light.

                "THE BUNNY"

                It is an old wooden chair.  Suspended in the air, above
                and slightly to one side of the chair, is a revolver.  If
                someone were sitting in the chair, the revolver would be
                pointing at their head.

                "BURMA SHAVE"

                Michael walks around the chair and gun, studying them
                from all angles.  A CAR HORN blares.

                EXT. A COUNTRY ROAD - MORNING

                Michael wakes up behind the wheel of the Pacer.  The CAR
                HORN blares again, over and over.

                The Pacer sits in the middle of the road.  It has come to
                a stop at an angle across both lanes of traffic.  It
                blocks the path of a delivery truck.

                Michael puts the car in gear and starts down the road.

                There is a sign ahead: "JACK 'N ELLEN'S - GIFTS 'N

                EXT. GIFT SHOP PARKING LOT - DAY

                The Pacer is parked in the lot.  A huge white Lincoln
                Continental pulls in next to it.  The Continental's door
                opens, and CEDRIC, a middle-aged man who resembles an
                overgrown infant in a ten-gallon hat, gets out and walks
                toward the gift shop.

                INT. GIFT SHOP - DAY

                A bell rings as Cedric strides in.  Michael and ELLEN, a
                thirtyish woman in jeans and an old sweatshirt, stand at
                the counter in the middle of a conversation.

                Cedric hovers in the doorway, listening.

                          This kid told me about it in second
                          grade.  It's a chair, out west somewhere,
                          and there's this gun set up in front of
                          it.  The gun's set to go off sometime
                          between now and the year 2010, but nobody
                          knows when exactly.  Here.  I drew a
                          picture of it.

                Michael flips through his notebook, looking for a page.

                Cedric approaches the counter.

                          Say, miss, you got any of those dashboard
                          things, you know, the little ladies with
                          the titties that light up?

                          Excuse me?

                          You know...

                Cedric cups his hands in front of his chest to suggest
                breasts, then flares his fingers in and out to suggest
                flashing lights.

                Ellen rolls her eyes.

                                      CEDRIC (CONT'D)
                          Or how about those tumblers, you put ice
                          in and the ladies' clothes disappear?

                          Aisle four, next to the musical dildos.

                Oblivious to Ellen's sarcasm, Cedric heads down an aisle.

                Michael has found the page he wants.

                          This is what I'm looking for.

                The notebook is open to a page with a pencil drawing of
                the chair and gun from Michael's dream.

                          Hey, miss, I don't see any little ladies,
                          any tumblers, or any dildos back here.

                          Listen, sir, I don't know what kind of
                          shop you think this is—

                          A souvenir shop.  I can read the sign.

                          Well, what you're looking for are not

                          Sure they are, if they say, "Hi from
                          Cedar Rapids."  According to this here
                          magazine you folks carry erotic

                Cedric shows Ellen a glossy magazine, "Extreme Tourism." 
                On the cover is a photo of a young, smiling, all-American
                couple.  They wear combat fatigues and have cameras
                around their necks.  Behind them is the world's largest
                ball of string.

                Ellen flips through the magazine.

                          Must have been the previous owners.  That
                          was ten years ago.

                Ellen gives the magazine back to Cedric and turns to

                                      ELLEN (CONT'D)
                          You were saying . . .

                          You pay fifty cents to sit in the chair
                          for one minute.


                Cedric peers over Michael's shoulder to look at the

                          It's like Russian roulette, I guess.

                          You're tempting fate.


                          I've never heard of such a thing.

                          Looks like the Potato Creek Chair of

                          You've heard of it?

                Cedric hands Michael the magazine.

                          Page 32, I believe.

                Michael opens the magazine to an article with the
                headline "Off the Beaten Track."  A subhead reads,
                "America's 100 Weirdest Tourist Traps."

                                      CEDRIC (CONT'D)
                          Decided I wanted to see all these places
                          since I won the Publishers Clearing House

                Ellen scoffs in disbelief.

                Michael turns the page.  Next to the number 37 is a
                heading in bold type: "Chair of Death."

                                      CEDRIC (CONT'D)
                          You don't believe me?  Here's a picture
                          of Ed McMahon handing me a giant check.

                Cedric shows Ellen a photograph in his wallet.

                In the magazine there is a photograph, obviously staged
                and shot in a studio, of a smiling, wholesome-looking
                tourist sitting in a chair, a gun pointed at his head. 
                Below the photograph is a caption: "Probably a Myth."

                Ellen studies the photograph in Cedric's wallet.  Her
                skepticism fades.

                                      CEDRIC (CONT'D)
                          That check isn't real, of course.  It's
                          just for show.  They send me the money in

                With his finger, Michael traces an arrow pointing to a
                map of the United States.

                                      CEDRIC (CONT'D)
                          Since I won I quit my job, sold my house,
                          and now I'm traveling around the country
                          with my Mama.

                Michael's finger comes to rest at the end of the arrow. 
                He moves his finger, revealing the words "South Dakota."

                                      CEDRIC (CONT'D)
                          Want her to see all these weird things
                          before she dies.

                Michael hands the magazine back to Cedric.

                          Do you sell maps here?

                          Looks like we're out.  We might have some
                          in back.  There are tons of boxes back
                          there we haven't touched since we bought
                          the place.

                Ellen goes into the back room.

                Cedric amuses himself with a miniature snowscape.

                Michael goes to the window and looks outside.

                Cedric's white Continental sits in the parking lot. 
                Through the windshield, VALERIE is visible.  She is a sad
                looking, elderly woman.

                Cedric puts down the snowscape.  Something else has
                caught his eye.

                It is Michael's notebook, still open to the picture of
                the chair of death.

                Cedric checks to make sure Michael isn't looking.

                Michael continues to look at the Continental.

                Cedric turns a page in the notebook, revealing an
                intricately detailed picture, drawn with a number two
                pencil, of a skeleton with a long, flaming sword raised
                above its head.

                Cedric flips a couple more pages.  The same skeleton
                appears in different poses on the next few pages.  In
                each successive drawing, the skeleton looks progressively
                more mechanical and robot-like.

                Cedric flips rapidly through the pages.

                There are more drawings in the notebook, as well as
                verses of poetry and song lyrics.

                Cedric closes the notebook and looks at the skull drawn
                on the cover.

                Cedric regards Michael for a moment.

                Michael is still staring out the window.

                A moment passes.  Barely visible through the windshield,
                Valerie stirs, perhaps turning to look at Michael.

                          Who is that, in the car?  Your mother?

                          Why do you want to know?

                Michael shrugs.  Cedric walks over to stand next to
                Michael.  He looks out the window at the Pacer.

                                      CEDRIC (CONT'D)
                          That your car?


                          Piece a junk.

                INT. BACK ROOM - SAME

                Ellen stands among several open cardboard boxes in the
                back room.  She opens another box and takes something

                It is a tumbler with a picture of a tan, muscular man
                wearing only bikini briefs.  Ellen turns the tumbler. 
                Lettering spells out, "Hi from Cedar Rapids."

                INT. GIFT SHOP - SAME

                Cedric and Michael gaze out the window.

                          You're from Ohio, then.

                          How'd you know?

                          Your plates.  Boy are you jumpy.  What
                          are you doing in Iowa all by yourself? 
                          Run away from home?

                          Never mind.

                          Look at that.

                Cedric points at something.

                EXT. GIFT SHOP PARKING LOT - DAY

                An Iowa state patrol car comes to a stop a short distance
                from the Pacer and the Continental.

                INT. GIFT SHOP - DAY

                Michael turns toward the back room.

                          Haven't you found it yet?

                                      ELLEN (O.S.)
                          I'm looking!

                An Iowa state TROOPER emerges from the patrol car.

                In the back room, Ellen opens a box and looks inside. 
                She finds a road map.

                The trooper is circling the Pacer.

                Cedric observes the trooper as well as Michael's

                Ellen emerges from the back room carrying a road map.

                                      ELLEN (CONT'D)
                          I found one.  I don't know if it's any
                          good, though.  It's at least twenty years

                The trooper looks closely at Michael's license plates.

                          I don't care.

                          The roads have all probably changed.

                The trooper starts walking toward the front door of the

                                      ELLEN (CONT'D)
                          There's an Amoco just down the street.  I
                          bet their maps are—

                Michael slams a bill down, takes the map from Ellen, and
                starts around the counter.

                                      ELLEN (CONT'D)
                          Wait, wait.  Where are you going?

                Michael goes into the back room.

                                      ELLEN (CONT'D)
                          That's employees only!

                In the back room, Michael looks around for a way out.

                In the front of the shop the BELL sounds as the trooper
                opens the front door.

                Michael sees a door and dashes for it.

                                      ELLEN (O.S.) (CONT'D)
                          You forgot your change!

                Ellen comes into the back room, just in time to see the
                back door closing behind Michael.

                EXT. GIFT SHOP PARKING LOT - DAY

                Michael walks around the side of the building, stops at
                the corner, makes sure the coast is clear, then walks
                quickly to the Pacer.  He gets in, starts the car, and
                drives away.

                Valerie watches as the Pacer speeds off.

                Cedric and the officer appear in the doorway of the shop,
                watching Michael's car disappear.  Cedric looks down at
                something in his hands.

                It is Michael's notebook.

                EXT. A HIGHWAY - AFTERNOON

                Cedric is driving the Continental.  Valerie sits in the
                passenger seat.

                          You are a teapot, short and stout...

                Cedric waits for Valerie to respond.  She doesn't.

                                      CEDRIC (CONT'D)
                          Come on, Mama.  Sing the other part.

                          I don't remember.

                          Sure you do.  The bit about the spout. 
                          "You are a teapot, short and stout..."

                          And you are the spout where the tea comes

                          That's right.  "You are a staircase, long
                          and tall."

                Valerie looks at Cedric.  Her irritation is starting to

                Cedric nods to urge her on.

                          And you are the rail so people don't

                          You are a mailbox, made of tin.

                          And you are the postcard that gets put
                          in.  Remember this one?  You're a tomato
                          in a row.

                          And you are the water that makes me grow.

                Cedric laughs.  In spite of herself, Valerie smiles.

                                      CEDRIC (CONT'D)
                          Do you remember any more?

                          That was at least thirty years ago.

                          Must've come up with at least fifty
                          different verses.  Wasn't there one about
                          an outhouse?

                Valerie notices Michael's notebook sitting on the seat
                beside her.  She picks it up and flips through it.

                          What is this?

                          It belonged to the kid at the gift shop. 
                          He left it behind when he took off.  Now,
                          what was the one about the outhouse?

                Valerie opens the notebook to one of Michael's drawings. 
                In this drawing, a boy stands with his head bent forward
                so that his long hair hides his face.  Behind him a man
                and woman sit in easy chairs watching television.  They
                are viewed from behind; only the backs of their heads,
                their arms and their feet are visible.  The man holds a
                can of beer and the woman holds a cigarette.  The
                television screen shows a mechanical skeleton wielding a
                flaming sword.

                Intrigued, Valerie turns the page.

                In the next drawing, the man and woman face the
                television in the same pose.  The boy is in the
                foreground, his face now turned upward.  His hands cover
                his ears, his eyes are tightly closed, and his mouth is
                open in a scream.  In the background, the cyborg skeleton
                bursts out of the television, swinging its sword at the
                man and woman in the easy chairs.

                          Did he draw these pictures himself?

                          How would I know, Mama?

                          They're amazing.  He's really talented.

                          Really sick, if you ask me.  The kid
                          ought to see a psychiatrist.

                          Because he likes to draw skeletons?

                          Exactly.  What kind of kid gets his
                          jollies from that?

                          I'm sure it's just a phase.  Like that
                          phase you went through when you were his

                          What phase was that, Mama?

                          When you kept stealing the underwear from
                          Mrs. Shumacher's clothesline.

                          I did that once, Mama.  Once.  On a dare.

                          You think I didn't know about the hatbox
                          full of panties under your bed?

                Cedric is speechless.

                                      VALERIE (CONT'D)
                          I'm just saying that's the kind of thing
                          teenagers do.  You stole panties, this
                          boy draws flaming skulls.

                          Don't compare me to that hooligan.

                          What was his name?

                          I don't know.  He's just some punk who
                          ran off with his parents car.  I never
                          took anything of yours.  I was a good
                          kid.  Still am.

                          He writes poetry, too.  Listen—

                Cedric snatches the notebook out of Valerie's hands and
                flings it into the back seat.

                                      VALERIE (CONT'D)

                          You'll get nightmares looking at that

                Valerie starts to reach for the notebook.

                                      CEDRIC (CONT'D)
                          No, Mama!

                Startled, Valerie stops reaching for the notebook.  She
                stares at the road ahead.

                                      CEDRIC (CONT'D)
                          You don't understand.  That boy was
                          weird.  Mama?

                Cedric tries to catch Valerie's eye, but she won't look
                at him.

                                      CEDRIC (CONT'D)
                          I'm just trying to look out for you. 
                          Like you always looked out for me.

                Cedric turns his attention to the road ahead.  They drive
                on in silence.

                EXT. A CROSSROADS - NIGHT

                The Pacer comes to a stop at a crossroads.  A sign
                pointing down one road reads "U.S. HIGHWAY 67."  The
                other sign reads "STATE HIGHWAY 42."

                Inside the car, Michael is looking at the road map under
                the car's interior light.  Apparently the map isn't much
                help; Michael sighs and folds it up.

                He looks first at one sign, then the other.

                He takes a coin from his pocket and flips it.  He checks
                the result.  He puts the car in gear.

                The Pacer turns down Highway 42.

                Michael drums on the dashboard, making up a song.

                          It's the last time
                          I have to listen to you.
                          It's the last time
                          I have to put up with you.
                          It's the last time
                          I have to look at your face.

                The Pacer accelerates into the night.

                EXT. HIGHWAY - NIGHT

                The Continental passes a sign reading "HIGHWAY 42."

                Cedric is driving.  Valerie gazes out the window.

                          How soon do we stop for the night?

                          Next Motel 6.

                          Why don't we stop somewhere nice for
                          once?  Get a suite so I could have my own
                          room?  We can afford it.

                          What do you need your own room for?  I
                          don't have anything you haven't already

                Valerie is uncomfortable.

                                      CEDRIC (CONT'D)
                          What's wrong with Motel 6?  They've got
                          those funny commercials on the radio.

                They drive in silence for a moment.

                                      CEDRIC (CONT'D)
                          Listen, Mama, we'll compromise.  We can
                          stay at a Holiday Inn.  It's a step up
                          from a Motel 6.

                Light shines on Cedric's face, reflected by the rear view
                mirror.  He looks up at the mirror.

                INT. THE PACER - SAME

                Michael, in his car, is still singing.

                          Whatever I said
                          It was never enough.

                Michael sees the tail lights of a huge white car ahead of

                                      MICHAEL (CONT'D)
                          COME ON!

                Michael flashes his headlights.

                INT. THE CONTINENTAL - SAME

                The flashing headlights, reflected in the rear-view
                mirror, pulse on Cedric's face.  Cedric looks out the
                rear window.

                A pair of headlights loom just behind Cedric's car.


                The Pacer follows closely behind the Continental.

                Michael flashes his lights a couple more times.

                          Whatever I did,
                          It was never the right stuff.

                Cedric's eyes are fixed on the rear-view mirror.

                          Ought to slam on the brakes and teach him
                          a lesson.

                          Settle down, Cedric.

                The Continental slows down and starts hogging the road. 
                The Pacer bears to the left.  The Continental bears to
                the left, blocking it.  The Pacer bears right, and the
                Continental also bears right. 
                Finally, the Pacer pulls sharply onto the shoulder and
                starts to pass the Continental.

                Michael continues singing over the sound of the engine.

                          Wherever I went,
                          You were riding my back.

                The two cars speed down the road, side by side.

                          So he wants to race.

                Cedric accelerates.

                                      CEDRIC (CONT'D)
                          I'll show him what this car can do.

                          Let him pass.

                The Pacer and Continental are neck and neck.

                Michael looks for an opportunity to pass.

                          Well it's over.
                          It's over and done.

                There is an S-curve sign ahead.

                          Cedric, slow down.

                          No one passes me, Mama.

                          There's a curve ahead.

                          Good.  Maybe next time he'll think twice

                          Slow down or I'll never speak to you

                Cedric eases off the gas and exhales in frustration.

                The Pacer passes the Continental.

                          Cuz it's the last time,
                          The last time.

                As the Pacer pulls off the shoulder and back onto the
                road its tires spit gravel up in the air.

                The gravel bounces off the Continental's windshield. 
                Cedric winces.

                          You happy, Mama?  I could have passed
                          him, if...

                Cedric looks ahead just in time to see the Pacer before
                it disappears around the curve.  He catches sight of

                                      CEDRIC (CONT'D)

                Cedric sees the Pacer's license plate.

                                      CEDRIC (CONT'D)
                          Ohio plates.


                          Nothing.  Goddamn kids.

                Michael continues accelerating.

                          Goddamn old people.

                The Pacer leaves the Continental further and further
                behind as it races into the night.
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