Awards, Honors and Commissions
Weasel in the Icebox (excerpt)
by Chris White
INT. PLUSH LIVING ROOM -- NIGHT
A CONTENTED MAN sits in front of an enormous flat screen tv with a remote in his hand, enveloped in SURROUND SOUND, clicking from Lord of the Rings to a Brazilian soccer match to The Apprentice.
These days, we can do pretty much what we want, the way we want. We can record, rewind, and interact with a thousand channels.
INT. OPERATING ROOM -- DAY
A WOMAN lies peacefully under A DOCTOR’s knife, accompanied by the BEEP of the heart monitor - little dotted lines marking her breasts where his scalpel steadies to cut.
Change our faces, our bodies, our genders, our names...
EXT. PASTURE -- DAY
CLOSE ON: A SHEEP BLEATING happily.
We can clone our livestock...
EXT. VERANDA -- NIGHT
TWO BEAUTIFUL MEN MOAN, passionately entwined.
...have sex however and with whomever we want.
EXT. CITY -- DUSK
We pull away from an imposing series of buildings, over the water that borders the city, and up to a jet that ROARS elegantly across a purple sky.
We can get degrees, swim with the dolphins, fly across the globe in the middle of the night...
INT. POSH BAR -- NIGHT
AN ELDERLY MAN on his I-Phone grabs a matchbook from a table in a bar-
...and access information like grabbing a matchbook from the coffee table.
Then lights a cigarette. A YOUNG WAITRESS hurries him out the door to the sidewalk...
There are a couple of minor exceptions...
EXT. PROSPECT PARK, BROOKLYN -- DUSK
A SPADE CRUNCHES into gravelly soil.
We can’t bury our own dead, for one. We’ve got to go through the system, or we’ve got to go against the law.
Two thirtyish women in shorts, sneakers, and tee-shirts, lurk surreptitiously under a leafy oak tree, a duffle bag against its trunk. Gangly, with red-rimmed misty eyes and sporadic curls sticking damp to her forehead, MAY labors with the shovel, HACKING at a salad bowl-sized hole in the ground.
TINA, fit, hip, and ash blonde, is just as intent on their enterprise - but vigilant, on the lookout. They speak in hushed tones.
You’re making too much noise. Don’t dig so loud.
There’s rocks. It’s like a... shitload of rocks in here.
She gestures abruptly at A HAPPY COUPLE strolling ten yards from them. May throws down the shovel with a THUD. She and Tina feign casual stances, smiling, looking about at the passing birds. Tina LAUGHS loud and false; May shoots her a look, annoyed.
EXT. PROSPECT PARK--DUSK
Tina carries a stiff calico cat to the hole, lowers her in, wraps a scarf around her, and steps back. May sadly, and a little fearfully, approaches the grave while Tina looks on.
We were both living in the city then. Before I moved back to Indiana in the fall of 2001.
EXT. PROSPECT PARK -- DUSK
May and Tina walk, arm in arm, away from the burial site, the shovel bobbing behind Tina, poking out of the bag.
Anyway, I didn’t want Muffy cremated, and I didn’t have a yard. But it is illegal to bury an animal in a city park.
BEGIN MONTAGE (fast, brief almost comic intercuts between a CREMATORY, an EMBALMING ROOM and, finally, A HOSPITAL):
Human family members can’t be buried even on our own property in most states. Whether we want to bury or to burn, we’ve got to go through them - the morticians, and the funeral directors, the crematoriums and the cemeteries.
1) A MALE CREMATOR stands next to a NAKED FEMALE CORPSE in a cardboard box near a furnace in a crematory; he closes the box.
2) A NAKED MALE CORPSE lies on a metal slab over a drain in an EMBALMING ROOM. A FEMALE MORTICIAN stands wiping the body down like a surfboard.
3) The Cremator PULLS a squeaky lever and the box tips then SLIDES into a fiery oven.
4) The Mortician stands by as blood flows through the tube into the embalming floor drain.
We do it their way and we pay their price. Why? Well, the people providing the services have a long-standing relationship with the people making the laws, as we know. We don’t seem to have any choice.
5) A GRIEVING WOMAN writes a check in a FUNERAL HOME OFFICE.
6) A GRIEVING MAN writes a check in another FUNERAL HOME OFFICE.
7) Embalming fluid flows into the male corpse through an artery in the neck.
8) The Cremator SWEEPS the burnt remains of the corpse from the bottom of the oven (chunky bone fragments, a couple of fillings, maybe a piece of steel from a hip replacement...).
But with all our insistence, on all our freedoms, you’d think attending to our own dead would be the kind of exception we’d be unwilling to make.
9) The burnt remains are funneled into a machine that PULVERIZES them into sand-like ‘ashes.’
- Ashes are POURED into a plastic box.
10) The Mortician POPS a plastic eye cap under an eyelid.
- Glues the mouth closed like a school project...
Not so. We want it at a safe distance. There’s just too much fear, too much disgust, too much... helplessness. We hate that.
11) A PAIR OF FORCEPS, that at first look like one more embalming tool held by a latex-gloved hand, push into a VAGINA then pull out the MATTED MISSHAPEN HEAD OF A NEWBORN, accompanied by a FULL-THROATED SCREAM from A BIRTHING WOMAN.
This is the other exception.
INT. HAMILTON COUNTY HOSPITAL MATERNITY WING BATHROOM -- DAY
The TINKLING SOUND of urine as Tina, now a few years older, squats over the hospital toilet, trying to see over her seven and a half month pregnant belly. She’s trying to fill a sample cup with urine, but it’s going everywhere but in, dousing her hand and the cup.
Death..., birth... These are the little freedoms we blithely give away.