INT. BALLROOM PODIUM – NIGHT – MINUTES LATER
I’m a little nervous, but here we are.
Thanks for coming, and thank you for inviting me.
I’m glad I got on that plane. It’s been a while.
He talked so much about all of you, and late at night
I’d often hear the typing of one of his long detailed
letters, answering a simple question in 30 single-spaced
pages. Always on Saturday, that was his day to type
letters. Saturday was the day he devoted to you. And
how right that today is a Saturday.
SHOT OF KNOWING LOOK
on an on-lookers face.
And there was the shorthand of a long marriage.
We were complete opposites – and it worked.
Hollie withdraws the microphone from the podium stand and begins to walk. (She is the first to use any part of the stage, and the first to realize the microphone was cordless all along.) And in that moment, she comes to life, speaking from her heart. Even the tone of her voice sounds different, less guarded, more free.
There are three islands of security in this world.
Health, love and work. I lost them all in a single
phone call. I am a widow.
SHOT OF BILL BANYON
watching. Where is this going?
SHOT OF HEATHER
getting her footing on this stage, as thoughts begin to come out of her, sans editing.
The plan was to send my son here to represent us.
I was terrified that you’d look at me and see – the
Woman From California . . .
The one who took him. And though we only lived
as a family for eighteen months twenty-seven years
ago . . . I’ve always felt it. I’m the one. He was your
boy, Mitchie, on his way home from the war. And
somehow I hijacked him, and took him to . . . Disneyland!
A little bit of forced laughter.
He didn’t come home. Didn’t start the business with
Left the military to be a father to Drew . . .
Didn’t marry the person everybody thought he
would . . .
who watches HOLLIE with curiosity and no small jealousy.
And we never talked about any of it, we just
built layers on top of layers and we argued
about the layers. Layers of bullshit.
shaking his head – no – trying to catch Hollie’s attention.
who doesn’t see it.
All because I was standing in an elevator in Tokyo,
and a handsome Captain walked in, on the way back
to Elizabethtown, and . . . he was engaged and I was
engaged too! And . . . something happened between
us, that was not (God forbid) “part of the plan.”
A rampant silence has filled the room.
But we were in love.
And I know the rap on me. I’m a humorless
liberal Catholic and I never took the time to know
all of you, and for that I’m sorry. And I criticized
somebody’s cooking on my last visit here, but as I’ll
tell you in a moment, I’m now a struggling cook
myself, I know how hard it is, please forgive me,
and I say that as a humorless liberal Catholic who
is apparently . . . still humorless.
ON THE FACES OF DREW AND HEATHER
horrified that she is actually trying to make jokes. Somewhere, another cough.
She is only starting to warm to the occasion. She’s finding her voice now, confiding in the audience.
Let me tell you about life without Mitch.
I tried to learn about Mitch’s car. It actually ate me.
I went to the bank. The teller looked at me strangely
and when I got home I looked in the mirror. My face
was still green from a facial mask I forgot to take off.
I called the Insurance Man of thirty years, whose
son Mitch helped get into West Point, to tell him Mitch
was gone. He didn’t call me back for two days.
The car. The bank. The Insurance Man. The world.
Nobody truly cared. Not like us.
Hollie pauses, almost loses her way, then regains her footing.
And then there was daylight.
as the spotlight crosses her vision.
I knew what the answer was. The answer was joy.
That’s what Mitch wanted.
I always wanted to learn to tap-dance. So I took
lessons. And I wanted to cook, organically, so I
attempted that. And I fixed the toilet. All by myself.
How are we able to put a man on the moon and
toilets are still as bad as when I was a kid . . . the
suction ball that keeps flapping! That damn suction ball!!
Well, I learned to fix it.
There is genuine laughter, and it surprises her.
And I wanted to learn to laugh. Why wasn’t I
this funny when he was alive?! Best I can figure . . .
It takes time to be funny. It takes time to extract
joy from life.
SHOT OF SOMEONE
who nods in quiet agreement.
So I enrolled in Comedy School.
Big laugh. Hollie rolls with it, laughs a little herself at the irony.
SHOT OF STERN-LOOKING MAN
who still isn’t buying it, though all around him is laughter.
I was the oldest one in the class. And I was told
to tell one story, a true story, about real life, something
that happened to me. So I got up there, and talked
a little about my husband and the love he left
behind. A few days after Mitch died, the next-door
neighbor, one of Mitch’s good friends, Bob, saw that
I was going through the gate and he said, “I’m so
sorry for your loss.” And I knew he needed to feel
that loss, and share it. And I wanted to help him.
He put his arms around me, cradled me, and his embrace
tightened. Finally, here was someone who truly cared.
And who you are in times of crisis is who you really are.
Then I felt something else.
She lets the moment hang, as slow knowing spreads through the crowd.
A huge . . . well, let’s just say it . . . a boner.
That’s what I get for trying to do everything
who turns to DREW, with eyes wide. What is happening?
Boner Bob. My neighbor.
People handle grief in different ways!
Laughs quadruple. She laughs herself. These are big, big laughs.
watching, stunned, in disbelief.
Mitch believed in people. Some let him down.
SHOT OF BILL BANYON
William Banyon. You know what you did. And I
know what you did. And I’m an inch . . .
(it’s not easy)
. . . or two inches away from forgiving you.
SHOTS OF GROUPS OF PEOPLE
watching. Feeling her words.
But some didn’t let him down. Sometimes those thirty
page letters helped his friends get rich, or gave advice
or just made ‘em happy. He rooted for all of you. And
he loved his family, my patient daughter and my busy
son. And he was not bitter. He was more playful
then maybe some of you knew –
listening to these words which strike home.
But here’s advice I can give to you –
She gestures around the beautiful ballroom.
Give all these gifts to the living. Do it now.
Be embarrassing. Don’t wait for the perfect
time. Mitch is gone, and Boner Bob lives on.
She shakes her head, laughs to herself. Deep, knowing laughs surround her.
I may need your help. I haven’t been single since
I was 18. And that was . . . that was a couple years ago.
Big forgiving laughs.
One last Mitch story. We were walking one night
and I asked him – “what should I do if, God forbid,
something happens and you go before I do. How
do you want to be buried?” And he looked at me
and smiled and said –
Appreciate laughter, and some applause.
This would have surprised him.
She addresses the slide-portrait of Mitch above the podium.
And I’m going to surprise you, too. I love you.
She gives her signal for the music.
This is for you. Your favorite song. On a
It’s Henry Mancini’s “Moon River” instrumental . . . and Hollie begins to tap-dance. Slowly, with basic moves. Lights reduce to a single spotlight and it is her moment of absolute grace. Hollie reaches a wobbly cresendo to huge applause. The strange, sad freedom of her movement is fearless, and funny, and quite beautiful. Finally, finally, they understand Hollie, the woman Mitch married. The sound of a standing ovation rings over onto . . .