INT. PROHIBITION BAR
The Prohibition Bar is an old-school joint. Wooden furniture, grizzled patrons and stained glass fixtures for booths. It’s a quiet night, with only a few scattered patrons around.
At the bar, resting his weary head in his left hand, and nursing a lowball of whiskey with his gun hand, DAVID stares vacantly at the football game on TV.
Grizzled, world-weary and cynical, David is a man at the end of his tether, tired of his job and his choices. Despite his depressed outlook however, there is an air of dangerous alertness surrounding him, his “off-duty” cop look subconsciously warding people away from him as they saunter past to order more drinks.
As the crowd scream vacantly at David through the TV, celebrating a goal, the door behind the bar opens to issue in MICHAEL the Bartender of Prohibition.
David merely nods and stays silent. Michael slides in front of David and motions to the wall of liquor behind him.
Want another drink?
In his mid-40s, Michael is classy, politely cheerful and a safe voice for many bar confessions. He had seen it all, and knew what a depressed cop looked like whilst on his break. He already knows the answer to his question.
(tips the glass back) Yes. Same one, thanks.
Michael pockets the cash and pours another finger of whiskey out for David.
(slides glass across) Long day, partner?
(raises glass in an ironic salute) Absolutely miserable.
Michael nods sympathetically and examines the whiskey bottle which only has a few dregs left in it.
On the house, partner.
David is awakened out of his state by the generosity.
Michael nods graciously and stats cleaning the glasses.
(scoffs) You know, you’re the first person today to actually give me anything without strings attached. So thanks.
Don’t mention it.
If I don’t, who will? That’s half my life … delivering misery to folks who were happy before they saw me in red and blues.
So why stay?
You know what I am right? Of course you do, you clocked me the moment I sat down at this bar.
You’re a first responder.
First responder. You know, out of all three emergency services, we’re nicknamed last contacts because we’re the one that got to deliver the bad news. Not the fireys or the paras … us. Funny isn’t it? Last contacts cos fifty fuckin’ percent of the time, we’re the last ones to see the dead alive and drawing down on us. Last contacts cos we’re the last people that knew of their dead son or daughter. It’s always us that get the shit end of the stick.
Sorry, partner. I assume you saw a lot this week …
7 families in 3 days and it’s only fuckin Wednesday. Christ … I used to think that my gun and badge would make a difference, but nothing has changed in the past 5 years. It’s only me that’s taken the brunt of it …
You got a family?
Divorced. Chose the job over the missus. Probably the stupidest thing I could have done. But I couldn’t switch off at night, not even around her. So we called it quits. And no … before you ask, it wasn’t bad. Just two people going their separate ways. Probably better than I deserve, the way how she put up with me for 4 years.
Well at least you’re not a total cliche, partner.
(scoffs) So I’ve been robbed even of that …
Hey now, consider that a compliment. It’s not right for anyone to be ticking all the bad cop cliches.
Honestly, I’m just damn tired. I’m a has-been, without ever once feeling I had a moment. Shrinks aren’t working, the woman is gone, and I’m talking to a stranger, while staring down a bottle, wishing I could drown in it. What has it all been for? I’m washed up, out and left out to dry.
At the end of the day, I’m the guy no-one wants to see. I deliver death either via gun or letter and am only called upon for tragedies. Name me one time, you were happy to see a cop and I’ll show you a liar.
I serve the community in the worst way possible … reminding them of all the ills in the world and how it can randomly reach out and touch them at their happiest or lowest point.
So tell me … partner … after all I’ve done, all I’ve sacrificed … what thanks do I get?
Michael is stunned into silence. The mood is considerably darker after David’s outburst.
Yeah … exactly that. Not a word of gratitude. Now I’m going to leave this for some other poor bastard.
David grips the bottle of whiskey and tosses it back, before taking out his service pistol and in a fluid move, blows his brains out all over the bar.
There has been a pile of drafts that have been slowly accumulating on my blog. It took a bit of a personal loss for me to really get my writing mojo back. I know, it’s such a cliche, the tortured artist, but I made the silly mistake of linking my emotional state to the act of writing many years ago, so alas, I’m paying the price for it now.
This story was always meant to be dark in tone, and really .. it was a exercise on how cynical and nihilistic I could write dialogue, whilst keeping it mildly surreal and engaging.
I didn’t realise that David was heading towards suicide until near the end, when I noted that, by mentioning his “off-duty” cop look, I had to bring it back full circle and introduce his pistol, something that he would always be carrying whether he was working or not. Something that he has defined himself by while living and working and now, will be defined by in his suicide.
I made the bartender use the word “partner” a lot, to show how a well-meaning exchange can invoke a negative reaction in people, if you are not careful with reading the situation. Michael is deliberately created to be obtuse and while he is sympathetic, he is blinded by his belief in himself and his maturity, to realise how dangerously close to death door David is.
The famous axiom: the road of hell is paved with good intentions, is probably the main driver behind this story. Michael should have read the situation better and not given David more drinks and engage him in idle small talk. David … should have been more prepared to deal with the trials and tribulations of police work and not blame himself quite so much or give in to nihilism.
Remember, good intentions aren’t the same as good actions. Motive matter little to the dead.
Thanks for reading such a cynical screenplay and I hope you never ever give in to nihilistic thinking.