About the Author

PULP of the MONTH

Kieran Shea

the Way of Our Now

FADE IN

EXT. RANCH HOME, RURAL GEORGIA – AFTERNOON

JACKSON, rough and pouchy, late-40's, smooths down his hair and settles a faded Atlanta Braves baseball cap on his head as his sister, AMANDA, tired but still vaguely pretty and early-30's sits on the front stoop of the house that has seen better days, scratching her arms. JACKSON steps past into the overgrown yard. He picks up a baseball bat and sweeps it like a sickle in the long grass eventually tossing it aside. He barely looks at AMANDA throughout.



JACKSON


I'm only saying what Seth and Rodney won't.


(beat)


I mean, they're scared. You're scared. But I figure you and Seth got it worse because you've got your boy. And Seth's fiancé is six and half months along.



A pickup truck approaches off-screen. The truck passes by the house on the muddy road in front, splashing through a pothole. The truck doesn't stop. Insects buzz.



JACKSON (cont.)


I know. You want me to say something different. You want me to tell you I'm making a joke, that all we've got to do is keep our heads and pray. Ride this thing out. But this thing does not negotiate, Amanda. It's a wildfire. It's on the wind. Just when you think it's out it starts up again.


(beat)


JACKSON (cont.)


As for Rodney … you and me know he's got his issues. Dumbass just wants things to go back to the way they were as if the way things were had been some kind of a prize. All Rodney really wants is to sleep, eat McDonald's, and jerk off in other people's basements between meetings.


AMANDA


Don't start on Rodney.


JACKSON


Did I miss something? Did we not grow up under the same roof? I've got a four-year bronze medallion in my pocket. Yeah, I fucked up and did some things that got me sent to Reidsville, I suffered with animals that'd sooner slit my throat than spit on me, and still I dealt with my shit. Hell, I'm still dealing with it. Forgiveness is hard, and Rodney is lazy. He's always been lazy.


AMANDA


Rodney is different.


JACKSON


Whatever. Fact is both him and Seth agreed that if I floated this with y'all they'd back me up. Guess them two got enough brains together to grasp the bigger picture. But for this to work all four of us got to toe the line. We got to be simpatico. Unanimous. Purge all the leverage.


AMANDA


You should listen to yourself.


JACKSON


What?


AMANDA


Purge all the leverage. So, what—this is one for all and all for one? Or is it none for no one because nobody trusts anybody in this family.


JACKSON


Trust has a shelf life, Amanda.


AMANDA


Oh, my word. It does? I'd no idea. Gee, you ought to put that on a bumper sticker, Jackson. Maybe fly a banner from the back of one of those airplanes. "Trust has a shelf life." That's poetry, that's what that is.


JACKSON


You finished being funny?


AMANDA


You're a monster, Jackson.


JACKSON


I'm your older brother.


AMANDA


Go to hell. You're a monster.


JACKSON


Yeah, well, you should read history sometime. Monsters get things done in this world.



AMANDA forces a pained grin and snaps her fingers over and over as JACKSON finally glares at her.



AMANDA


And the hits keep coming. I mean, if you really, really believe you can sneak Dad into that hospital—if you really, really think you're all Mission Impossible and won't get caught even with this road dog of yours you say who owes you, Daddy will bring that virus back here and I live here, Jackson. Your nephew lives here. Have you even thought about what'll happen if we get sick?


(beat)


AMANDA (cont.)


God, Momma never could listen to reason …


JACKSON


Concrete in her ears.


AMANDA


And that damn TV always on at full volume because Daddy's hearing is shot like hers too. You should have heard them. Know what she said to me before she took a fever? She said every sane person knows this Covid-19 ain't nothin' but a ruse. It ain't real. She said it's nothing but a Jew-liberal hoax. Democrats in cahoots with the socialists, and this with her cashing her check every month. She said she refused to wash her hands on principle. And of course she just had to go to church, as if Jesus gives a damn about an old cunt like her. Daddy is like a two-year-old. Shits his pants and has no idea what's going on. I'm holding down the fort here and I'm this close to losing my mind.


JACKSON


This can work, Amanda. We just got to be careful.


AMANDA


Careful? When was the last time you brushed your teeth or took a shower, huh, Dr. Hygiene? You of all people telling me about careful. I swear, I don't even know who you are anymore.


JACKSON


Momma ain't going to last. They're going to transfer her to ICU. We got to get Daddy in there to see her.


AMANDA


Will you please stop drowning me in all this sunshine? This is insane. Even if everything is buttoned up, if this gets out, we'll all be in Reidsville. Or dead.


JACKSON


It's the smart move.


AMANDA


It's wrong!


JACKSON


Wrong is personal. And for what it's worth, I think you deserve better. You've always deserved better, Amanda. I mean, what you've been shouldering since your divorce, hauling our folks' buckets, paying the bills—you want to talk wrong, that's wrong if you ask me.


AMANDA


You've no idea.


JACKSON


And you're still young. So you're furloughed, but one big blow out of the Gulf and you'll be back on. You still got prospects. The power company would be fools not to hire you back like that. You need to get your boy raised. If we do this it can reset things for you, your whole life.


AMANDA


Accelerate the inevitable.


JACKSON


Right. I'm just glad you talked sense into them years ago and had them make out a will.


AMANDA


Not that hard. Both feared the government was set to take the house and the shit they got.


JACKSON


And you got power of attorney. You can make life better for yourself, your kid, and Seth and Rodney too. Hell, if Dad still had his wits, he'd see the logic in it. He'd have done Mama and him in already with what's been loaded in the front hall closet all our lives. This is about survival.


AMANDA


What about you?


JACKSON


What about me?


AMANDA


What happens to you if this plan of yours goes right? What do you get out of this?


JACKSON


Satisfaction. Anyway, don't worry about me. If anything, I deserve what I've got ahead of me.


AMANDA


I could get cold feet.


JACKSON


And blab? To who—the law? Oh, sure. Like they don't have their hands full with all hell breaking loose. Besides, what would you say? That your older brother admires the hell out of you and laid out a way to get a new start?


AMANDA


You say that like I've already agreed.


JACKSON


You haven't?



They stare at one another for a long pause until AMANDA, at last, looks off.



JACKSON (cont.)


It's the smart move, Amanda.



The same pickup truck that passed by earlier approaches off screen. It passes by on the muddy road in front of the house, only faster this time, splashing through the same pothole and doesn't stop.

FADE OUT



Copyright © 2020 Kieran Shea.

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Kieran Shea once drank whiskey in the White House with Val Kilmer just before the end of the 20th Century and has had a pistol pointed at his face twice. He's written four novels and numerous short stories most of which should put him on some sort of watch list. His current psychiatrist is a rescue Greyhound named Thomas.

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