Jackson: A Screenplay

FADE IN:

1. INT. CAFÉ – AFTERNOON

JACKSON is seated at a table tucked away in the corner, twiddling a spoon and staring at nothing. His hair is long at the back and creeps around from behind his ears. There are dark bags beneath his eyes and his clothes are visibly dishevelled.

The background noise is made up of a GURGLING COFFEE-MACHINE, TWANGY SCOTTISH CHATTER and the SCRAPE OF CHAIRS.

KARLA, a heavy woman, bursts into the café. She clocks JACKSON after a few exaggerated turns of the head. She moves towards his table, handbag and clunky, candy-bright jewellery A-JANGLE. Her face is flushed and her breath AUDIBLE.

KARLA [Unravelling scarf and whipping off excessive layers of clothing]

Sorry, sorry. Traffic was hectic – absolutely horrendous!

JACKSON [Jolted out of his distracted funk as she plonks herself down on the opposite side of the table]

S’fine. A ordered you summat, but the damn waitress hasnae brought it yet.

KARLA

No need tae fuss. Am no too hungry, see, you’ll never guess what happened the morn. Tommy only went and spat up his brekky all over me. Again. Toddler spew – enough tae put anyone aff, believe you me!

JACKSON

Aye, well a ordered you a pasty –

KARLA [Talking a mile a minute]

And Mark, of course, just sits there like a spare part whilst all this is happenin’. A sais, ‘you not gonna help out, lend a hand?’ – sucked into his screen, a tell you – an’ he goes, ‘give me a minute.’ Give me a minute. A’ve got it all over me, Tommy’s wailing away, an’ all he has to contribute is give me a minute. Oh, an’ he thinks babysitting the now – which’ll be a measly couple hours at the most, as a’ve got tae get back an’ get the tea on – excuses him fae being such a useless sod.

JACKSON

Uh-huh.

KARLA

Shirking any responsibility tha’ he can now, the selfish prick…Anyhow. You look God awful. Again.

JACKSON

Was so wired a could barely sleep. Tossin’ all night long and the like.

KARLA

A sat and watched you drink aboot five cups a coffee, you dafty. That’ll be why!

JACKSON

Aye, coffee. That’ll be why. Coffee. That’ll be why! Not the plain and simple fac’ that, you know, Kate’s left me and there’s shit all a can do aboot it going round an’ round in my head. Coffee. That ‘splains it.

KARLA

Och, you’ve always been such a drama queen. Needing me tae come over and cheer you up at ridiculous o’clock, crying into your cup and all, and then the very next day on top of that, the cheek of it! Never you mind her. She’s always been a flighty one. A knew from the start, a said tae Mark – he didn’t listen either, see, she had you both fooled! – ken that Kate’s a wee missus, she’s a right madam –

JACKSON

Where the hell is that pasty a ordered?

KARLA

She was never right fae you Jack. You can really pick ‘em, you know that? [Shaking head] Now stop being silly. You’ll find a lovely new lassie in no time. Jus’ look around why don’t you fae Chrissake, ‘stead of sitting on your tod, drinking coffee with a lower-lip you could trip over.

JACKSON looks at KARLA with disdain. Is about to say something when KARLA’S phone erupts into TINNY RINGTONE. After flinging half the contents of her handbag onto the table in a CLATTER, she uncovers her phone, a device that shows she is behind the times, and answers the call.

KARLA

Helloo? Agh, you’re having a laugh! Please tell me you’re kidding on…Can’t even get away fae five flamin’ minutes tae meet Jack…Well how long is a ‘wee while’? OK, OK…a’ll set aff, jus’…Whet? It’s pasta…Be ready aboot six…Aye, well you try cooking and looking after a bairn…Right, cheerio then, bye…see you teatime, bye. [Slaps patterned phone case shut violently and rolls eyes] Typical, absolutely typical!

JACKSON

Was tha’ Mark, was it?

KARLA

He can’t keep doing this tae me! A jus’ can’t handle it. Agh, nightmare! A only just got here…still, s’pose you don’t really need me peeling you aff the floor. Am no your mother, an’ you’re a grown man after all. At the drop of a hat too! A’ve got my ain life, ain problems tae worry aboot.

JACKSON

A ken, a ken, an’ a respect that, a do. A jus’ feel lost. A mean…a wasnae perfect but…she jus’ left so suddenly…

KARLA [Petting his hand fondly in an attempt to appear less hurried than she actually is]

You’ll be fine. And a’ll see you soon – mind, no too soon, eh? [Chuckling at her own joke] A’ll see you. Chin up!

Upon uttering the two least comforting words known to man, she flaps her hands at the items on the table until they’re at her end. Keys slide and an empty packet of baby wipes skids across the surface until they are swept into her bag, which she slings over her shoulder.

As she crashes out of the café in a flurry, JACKSON is left to his spoon.

The waitress arrives, seemingly materialising out of thin air, with KARLA’S pasty. JACKSON stares at the plate, which she holds in the foreground.

JACKSON

Well that’s real helpful now.

Waitress smiles guiltily.

JACKSON

It’s fine. Just gees summat tae wrap it up with.

DISSOLVE TO:

2. EXT. KATE’S HOUSE – LATER IN THE AFTERNOON

The sky is bruised with clouds. JACKSON can be seen walking through a constellation of people. MUSIC KICKS IN – Chewed Up by Saffron Collins. JACKSON lurches forward and steps into a puddle. POV SHOT as his reflection, muddied by the murk of the water, stares up at him.

He hesitates half-way up a small set of stairs that lead to KATE’S bottle-green door. CLOSE-UP of the deliberating thought-process plain on his face.

J-CUT: JACKSON hears a TUNELESS WHISTLE behind him. He turns to see MARK, a man with a drab shirt, tan trousers and greying beard, who startles at the sight of JACKSON, his whistle wavering to a THIN, REEDY SOUND. The two men stare at each other in a LONG-SHOT as cars rush by.

MARK [Eyes shifty in their sockets]

Oh-hi-there-Jack. Scared the bejeezus ootta me. Karla was tellin’ me all aboot her pure miserable endeavour tae…console you last night, heh.

JACKSON

Mark…what are you doin’ this side of town?

MARK [Swallowing hard so that his Adam’s apple bobs up and then down again like the puck on a high-striker]

A was eh…poppin’ in to see Kate.

JACKSON

Whassat behind your…are those flowers?

CUT TO:

3. INT. KATE’S HOUSE – SAME

KATE potters through to the vestibule on hearing voices outside the door. She sips a G&T, careful not to smudge her painted lips. MUSIC – Making a Fool of You by HOMESHAKE – accompanies action.

She pouts at her reflection critically in the mirror on the wall, leaning in close to evaluate the sheeny quality of her foundation and smooth the product out over small, uncovered blemishes. She rakes a hand through ombré curls, methodically starting at the scalp and scrunching from the roots downwards.

Once satisfied, she shoots the rest of her drink and leaves the glass on a counter, then proceeds to open the door.

CUT TO:

4. EXT. KATE’S HOUSE – SAME

Door sweeps open and KATE leans out smilingly as if expecting someone. Her whole face sours when she sees JACKSON.

KATE

Now look Jack, this really isn’t a great time…

JACKSON [Still facing MARK]

Nah, nah this isn’t funny. Seriously, what are you doing here?

There is a moment of SILENCE.

MARK

A was pals with both of yous…jus’ calm down. She wanted some advice aboot the separation, a’ight?

JACKSON

Nah, this doesn’t add up. [Whirling around] You an’…you and Mark, Kate?

KATE [Eyes to the sky]

You always did have an incredibly fertile imagination, Jack. Please. Mark has just come over tae…tae…

MARK

Offer advice. Like a said.

JACKSON

Offer advice, aye. Offer flowers and a quick shag more like.

MARK

A told you, it’s a plant, a housewarming present fae her moving back into her ain hame!

MARK thrusts flower-pot towards JACKSON to stress his point in a CRACKLE OF CELLOPHANE.

JACKSON

Aye right! Yer lying, bare-faced liars, the both of yous!

KATE [As if dealing with a very small child]

What is it exactly that you want? A told you that we’re through and that a didn’t want tae see you.

JACKSON

A came round tae see if we could talk it oot. Now things are makin’ a lot more sense, falling into place like.

KATE [Finished with him]

Pu-lease. Mark only has a wee while, so if you’d be so kind as tae move

MARK

A can come round another time, Kate, if it’s tae much hassle –

KATE

No, it’s fine. He’s leaving. Aren’t you Jackson?

JACKSON

Seems a don’t have much of a choice.

MARK moves past JACKSON in a sheepish semi-circle to head up the steps. JACKSON backs down slowly, out of the way, his hand still on the railing for support.

KATE ushers MARK inside, waits until he heads in, lets out a luxurious, wide-mouthed YAWN, and then shuts the door on JACKSON with a careless waggle of her fingers. 

DISSOLVE TO:

5. INT. KARLA’S KITCHEN – EVENING KARLA spoon-feeds TOMMY yoghurt and banana whilst coaxing him to speak. She switches the TV over to a children’s channel. The

PATRONISING HOST’S VOICE and OBNOXIOUS SOUND-EFFECTS reverberate throughout the flat.

KARLA

Ma-ma. C’mon, say mama.

TOMMY

Nahna.

KARLA

A know, bananas, bananas, a know you can say bananas, very impressive. Try ma-ma.

TOMMY

Nahna.

KARLA

Ma-ma. Ma-ma. Da-da. Although da-da’s never bliddy here, is he?

DOORBELL RINGS. KARLA sighs with languish, airplanes the last of TOMMY’s dessert into his mouth, and, wiping yoghurt-y hands on jeans, goes to answer.

KARLA [Scoffing on discovering JACKSON is the unexpected visitor]

This is what you call ‘no too soon’? Christ, you smell like a distillery.

JACKSON drunkenly staggers in, proffering KARLA the pasty from earlier.

JACKSON

A brought you this.

KARLA

Bit on the stale side now, is it not?

She accepts the pasty and stands aside so he can manoeuvre into the hallway.

KARLA

Look, you don’t have to make up wild excuses tae see me – watch me vase! – am sorry a was short with you this afternoon.

JACKSON

You weren’t, you weren’t –

KARLA

A was. Yer havin’ a difficult time and it’s only natural to feel upset. C’mon through and see Tommy. There’s pasta leftover. Shoes aff, mind, am no having you treading dirt.

JACKSON takes his shoes off and scratches the back of his head uncertainly. He follows KARLA through the hall, his socks making a STATICKY, SHUSHING SOUND on the linoleum. The whole hallway TICKS.

JACKSON

Is…is Mark…?

KARLA

No – bastard hasnae even got back yet. Working overtime my arse!

JACKSON

A saw him earlier.

KARLA

Oh?

JACKSON [Slurring his words together]

Near Kate’s old…near Kate’s place.

KARLA

Fancy that. P’rhaps he was pickin’ up nappies at the shop up the road fae her – chance’d be a fine thing! You seen the bakery they’ve opened up in there, mind? The cakes on display in the windae? Doesnae bode well fae the waistline, am telling you…

Her voice is drowned out by TOMMY CRYING as she enters the kitchen to pander to him.

JACKSON pauses by the entrance, watching KARLA cluck affectionately at TOMMY. Seeing this, JACKSON turns and leaves KARLA’S flat the way he came, snatching up his shoes as an after-thought.

FADE OUT

Published by Imogen Robinson

Second-year English Studies student at the University of Stirling

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