Life in a Shell By Alea Williams
INT. CHURCH - DUSK MAIN HALL PIPER, a girl of about five, enters the main hall of a modern church, holding the hand of her MOTHER. Piper walks with a bounce in her step, twisting her head from side to side to take everything in. Her plain clothes are rumpled and her cheeks rosy, pigtails whip around as she moves her head. A pink PURSE bounces against her hip. Piper looks around he room and marvels a display of key chains in assorted bright colors and pays little attention to a circle of folding chairs were adults of varying ages and styles and qualities of dress mingle. Her attention is soon caught by a refreshment table; She runs over to grab a cookie. The mother frowns but doesn’t say anything to Piper. Instead she turns away to greet some of the adults and introduce herself to others. Piper stands alone, eating a chocolate chip cookie. The mother comes to collect Piper. HALLWAY Together they enter a dimly lit hallway through a side door.As they make their way through the hall, Piper gazes at drawings and pretty posters that cover the walls. SCHOOL ROOM The enter a Sunday School room. There are many brightly colored, but well worn toys strewn about in cubbies and bins. Along the back wall is a sink and several dingy counters, as well as a door. A window in the door reveals a playground beyond. MOTHER It’ll only be about an hour or so, Piper, think you’ll be okay? She deposits her daughter at one of the tables, and from a cabinet in the far corner, retrieves a basket of dirty markers and a stack of coloring books. She places the supplies on the table in front of Piper, kisses the girl on the head and hurries from the room.
2. Piper watches her go, absent mindedly scribbling in the coloring book. After her mother shuts the door, Piper waits for several beats before getting up from the table. EXT. PLAYGROUND - DUSK Piper climbs the steps of a small slide. Sounds of the meeting inside the church occasionally drift through an open window. Piper giggles as she slides down the slide. She seems oblivious to the squalor around her, having the time of her life as she runs around, trying each piece of equipment. EXT. PLAYGROUND - NIGHT Piper is crouched over at the door of a small plywood castle, the paint faded and chipping. She watches a BOX TURTLE slowly make its way across the ground, crossing from shadow into a sharp light shining through the window of the church. PIPER You’re all alone. Is this your castle? It needs painted. Uncle George could paint it for you. He painted my room once and it’s really nice. She smiles picks up the turtle. PIPER (CON’T) I think you’d be happier if you weren’t alone, though. Your castle’s too big for you, it must be scary. I’ll be your friend. We’ll be Piper and Shelby, the best friends. Piper puts Shelby into her bag. She climbs onto the monkey bars, carefully swinging from one bar to the next. About a quarter of the way across, a particularly rusty bar cuts open her hand and she SHRIEKS. She falls to the ground. Her hand is bleeding. She cries. In the background, the sounds of the meeting drifting through the window fall silent. Piper pulls Shelby out of her bag. The turtle has withdrawn into its shell. Piper, fearing that she’s killed the turtle, wails.
MOTHER (O.S. through window) I’m sorry, excuse me. Go on, I’ll be right back. Piper’s head whips around to look at the window. She dashes back toward the church. INT. SUNDAY SCHOOL ROOM - NIGHT Piper and her mother enter the room at nearly the same time. Piper clutches her turtle to her chest with her bloody hand, using the other to pull the door shut behind her. She cowers slightly as her mother approaches. MOTHER (shouting) What were you doing out there? Who told you you could go outside? What are you doing with that thing?... She continues to shout as Piper’s eyes well up with tears. The mother snatches the turtle from Piper’s hands, and, opening the door, tosses the turtle out. The mother slams the door shut and pulls Piper over to the sink. She jerks Piper roughly off the floor to wash the bleeding hand. FADE INT. CHURCH MAIN HALL - NIGHT Piper sits on the floor next to her mother’s chair. Her bottom lip trembles and her knees are pulled up to her chest. Her hand is wrapped in gauze. Around her the adults rise, their chairs scraping loudly across the linoleum floor. GROUP OF ADULTS (slightly off screen, in unison) God, grant us the serenity to except the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Piper remains seated, starring blankly into the distance. FADE TO BLACK