Ryan Runs for His Life: untitled screenplay

30 Apr

In effort to re-ignite creativity, I’ve been rummaging through old story ideas — novels, short stories, screenplays — and found a few things I’d forgotten. Below is an excerpt from my first attempt at a screenplay. Might make good story fodder for another project in the works.


Ext.Artist’s porch.Day

Sound of motorcycle roaring down the dirt road from the cabin to the highway.

RYAN, arms crossed, is leaning against the railing, his back to the view. He’s looking down at an old willow rocking chair; the tip of his boot on one of the rockers keeps the chair in motion.

Coffee in one hand, an old paint rag in the other, THE ARTIST watches him through the screen door, shakes his head, then pushes open the door and steps onto the porch, letting the door slap closed behind him. THE ARTIST steps to the rail, tucks the paint rag into his back pocket, and sips his coffee while looking out at the view.


(not looking up)
“Thanks for your loyalty. You’re the best person I know. And, oh, by the way, I hired the hitman.”

Yeah, but did you tell her everything?

Ryan looks aside, toward the dirt road. The motorcycle’s roar has faded almost to nothing. Shoving his hands into his pockets, Ryan steps to the side of the porch.

Clouds are more colorful than people think.
(gestures with his mug)
There’s white, sure, but then there’s blue, pink, gray, ocher…

Ryan looks up at the sky. It’s pristine, not a cloud in sight.

…a little red, umber, maybe some green…

Ryan looks over his shoulder with a quizzical expression.

…a hint of purple. And black. Definitely black.

Frowning a little, Ryan turns around, leans against the rail, wanting to ask what the heck the old man is talking about, but

Without the shadows, there’d be no dimension, nothing to give the clouds shape.

c2013, KB

c2013, KB

The artist sets the coffee mug on the top rail, takes a chunk of wood from a collection of rough shapes lining the lower porch railing, then pulls a folded knife from his pocket. He opens the knife, holds the wood close to his face, and starts shaving off pieces.

Ryan watches for a couple of beats.

What’ll you do when you finally can’t see?


He runs a thumb over a surface his knife has just smoothed, then he turns the shape, studying it, and starts carving again.

How much do you get for one of those?

Fifteen, twenty dollars.

A couple years ago, I bought one of your early landscapes. _________ Mountain. Quarter of a million.

I heard about it.

Had to move a doorway to hang it.

You know where my money went? Everybody else. I drank. Gambled. Other stuff. Landscapes looked more and more like abstracts, and portraits could have been painted by children. I lost my family. But when I started losing my sight, that’s when I remembered how much I missed the details.
(a beat)
I came home.

So going blind is a good thing.

My hands still work.

Ryan strides to the opposite end of the porch and looks up the hillside. The peak of a weathered shake roof rises from the ridge: the old studio.

If he’s anywhere around, he’ll follow the bike. He’ll know the rider isn’t me, but he’ll follow her anyway.

If he’s around, he’s probably up in those trees somewhere with a rifle, and you’re giving him the perfect shot.

If he was here, he would have already done it.

The newspaper lays headline-up on the porch swing, forgotten from the earlier argument: “Playboy Billionaire Still Missing”, and a smaller headline, “No Ransom Demands”. The caption under a photo of Ryan’s distraught housekeeper includes the phrases “survivalist hike” and “presumed dead.”

He picks up the paper, looks up at the hillside again, drops the paper back onto the swing.

Got any plans for that studio?

Give it back to the forest.
(pauses his carving)

c. KB


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2 responses to “Ryan Runs for His Life: untitled screenplay

  1. Johne Cook

    April 30, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    Fun. I’d be interested in reading more.

    I recently watched a B movie with a similar concept called Emmett’s Mark starring Scott Wolf (Party of Five, V). “In order to avoid the debilitating effects of a terminal illness, a young detective orders a hit on himself.” The twist here is that the terminal illness was the result of switched lab results and the side effects of some other non-life threatening illness. Gabriel Byrne plays an unscrupulous former cop who’s not above arranging a hit if is means more money in his pocket. But the real work here is done by an understated Tim Roth as an ex-con trying to walk the straight-and-narrow as an overnight security guard and finding that his life as a law-abiding citizen is choking his life out faster than his life in prison. This was a really rough B movie that gradually drew me and finally arrived at an interesting place. I can’t recommend it but I can’t stop thinking about it, either, and that’s more than I can say about much better, fluffier A movies.

  2. Keanan

    April 30, 2013 at 8:12 pm

    Although the storyline was suggested by a contest topic, I don’t even remember where I was going with this one — but I do know I like this particular scene. There’s more to the screenplay, but I haven’t found all the pieces yet. (You’d think I’d keep all the scenes in one place, but that’s the hazard of working on two computers at the same time, a few years back.)

    Now that you mention it, I think I saw Emmett’s Mark many moons ago. I may have to revisit it.

    Hero-hires-his-own-hitman has become a film noir / suspense tradition. (The first time I encountered this concept was in a novel from the 50s or 60s.) If I do finish this story, the hitman might be ditched, or his/her role in the plot will be tweaked.

    One thing I do recall about the original contest topic: the audience wasn’t supposed to like the protagonist at first, but they were supposed to have sympathy for him by the end.


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