Mark Anderson — “Sounds of War” (a short film script)

Synopsis

This short film script is a fictionalized adaptation from an article that appeared in The Oregonian. It’s about a family who receives a cryptic call from their son in the midst of battle in Afghanistan.

The Work

SOUNDS OF WAR

Written by Mark Anderson

 

FADE IN:

INT. RANCH HOUSE – NIGHT

BILL PETERSON, 40s, polishes the chrome on his HARLEY in a garage as LED ZEPPELIN blares from a RADIO. 

A mounted deer head displayed prominently over the FlatScreen TV, a VIDEO GAME is in progress. On the fireplace mantle are stuffed squirrels positioned for home invasion.DOUGY PETERSON

, 16, slouches in the worn recliner, working a game controller. An EXPLOSION goes off on-screen.WOMAN (O.S.)

Dougy, turn that down!

Before Dougy can reach for the remote,

ROSE PETERSON, 40s,grabs it, points it at the TV until the Game is barely

audible.

Dougy’s about to say something when Bill comes in from the

garage. He sees Dougy and his Game, winces.

BILL

(to Rose)

They’re waitin on us at the Legion.

Rose smooths her polyester shirt, smiles politely at Dougy.

ROSE (WOMAN)

There’s hot pockets in the freezer

if you’re hungry.

(to Bill)

We need to stop at the store first.

BILL

What for?

ROSE

Flowers. It’s customary.

(off Dougy’s look)

We’re meeting Brandon’s parents for

his one year, his one year…

BILL

Jesus Christ, just say it. He died

a year ago, a god-dammed war hero.

Rose looks away, bites her lip. Bill nods to the computer in

the corner of the room.

BILL (CONT’D)

(to Dougy)

Did you get that Skype thing workin

yet?

DOUGY

You’re all set.

Bill smiles for the first time all night. Dougy brightens.

BILL

Good. We’ll call your brother

tomorrow.

(to Rose, smiling even

broader now)

God, I miss that son of a bitch.

EXT. RANCH HOUSE – NIGHT

Dougy waves as his parents back out of the driveway in Bill’s

Ford Ranger. As soon as the truck is out of sight, Dougy

holds his cell phone to his ear.

DOUGY

Where are you?

(beat)

Shit the bed, yeah!

EXT. RANCH HOUSE (BACKYARD) – NIGHT

Dougy and his friend

JAMES, 16, are on lounge chairs near thecheap metal fire pit, drinking long necks.

JAMES

What’d they say about you winning?

DOUGY

I haven’t told em yet.

JAMES

Are you shittin me? My mom nearly

cried. Hell, my dad practically

told me I was a fuck up because I

came in tenth.

2.

DOUGY

A stupid high-school science fair

isn’t exactly on their radar these

days. Nathan’s MP unit moved into

Afghanistan this week.

JAMES

You placed first in the Regionals.

You’re going to State. Don’t you

think they’d wanna know that?

DOUGY

They don’t even know I entered.

INT. RANCH HOUSE – NIGHT

Dougy sleeps on the couch, the TV plays an infinite loop of

GAMING background music as the START image is etched on the

screen.

Bill and Rose walk in from the garage. Bill sees Dougy asleep

on the couch, waves him off, pissed. He stumbles toward the

kitchen.

Rose quickly finds the remote, turns off the TV.

BILL (O.S.)

Caller ID says there was a message

from Nathan!

INT. RANCH HOUSE (KITCKEN) – NIGHT

Rose and a sleepy Dougy walk in the kitchen to join Bill near

the answering machine.

DOUGY

I must’ve slept through it.

Bill shoots Dougy a look, hits the PLAY button.

The answering machine announces in a tinny robotic voice:

“One new message. First message, sent at ten fifty five PM -”

Loud GUN SHOTS are heard. Chaos and screaming echo in the

distance.

NATHAN (O.S.)

I need more ammo!

A piercing scream is heard, almost non-human.

Dougy glances at the deer head on the wall.

3.

NATHAN (O.S.) (CONT’D)

More ammo, god-dammit! Get me

another barrel!

Rose covers her mouth in horror as the sounds of metal

clashing metal permeate the midnight silence. No one makes a

move as the sounds of grunting and combat fill the air.

MAN (O.S.)

Incoming RPG!

A loud blast rings out, and then – CLICK. The machine’s robot

voice announces: END OF MESSAGE.

Bill, Rose and Dougy look at one another, confusion mixed

with fear on their faces. Without warning, Bill grabs Dougy

by his shirt.

BILL

Why didn’t you answer the fucking

phone!

ROSE

Please! Stop it!

Dougy tries to pull away but he’s no match for his father,

sober or otherwise. Rose bursts into tears, reaches for the

machine, Bill pushes Dougy away, grabs her hand.

BILL

Don’t!

Wide-eyed Dougy slowly backs out of the room as his dad hits

the play button to listen to the message again. As the

message plays for a second time, Dougy turns and runs out the

door.

EXT. RANCH HOUSE – DAY

The morning sun reflects off Bill’s bike helmet as he straps

it on, slowly pulls out of his driveway on his Harley and

drives away.

INT. RANCH HOUSE (KITCKEN) – DAY

Rose sits at the kitchen table, turning Kleenex into coils as

she listens to the tape over and over again. Dougy peeks his

head around the corner.

DOUGY

You goin to work?

4.

She nods, tears brimming, slowly stands. She holds the table

for support.

DOUGY (CONT’D)

You could always call in.

ROSE

And do what, wait?

DOUGY

They’ll find em.

ROSE

(forcing a smile)

You want a ride to school?

DOUGY

Nah, I feel like walkin.

Rose walks mechanically toward the garage door. Suddenly she

looks back at Dougy, at the machine.

ROSE

Don’t –

DOUGY

I’m not gonna touch it.

She smiles gratefully, leaves. Dougy eye the message machine

with curiosity.

INT. RANCH HOUSE (KITCKEN) – DAY

Dougy and James stand at the kitchen counter, crouching in to

hear the message.

JAMES

Holy fuck! Is he okay?

DOUGY

(shrugs)

Nobody’s callin us back.

JAMES

That’s harsh.

(beat)

We better go.

Dougy has the look of a man with an idea.

DOUGY

Can you help me with somethin

first?

5.

INT. RANCH HOUSE – DAY

Doug sits at the computer desk while James holds a microphone

next to the answering machine. Dougy takes a drink from a

glass of soda.

DOUGY

Let’s see if we got it.

James tosses down the mic. On the computer monitor is the

YouTube logo. Dougy threads his fingers together, cracks his

knuckles. Hits ENTER.

The YouTube screen plays back the phone message with screechy

background feedback. Dougy quickly shuts it down.

DOUGY (CONT’D)

Shit!

JAMES

(looks at his watch)

We’re about to miss Third.

DOUGY

Wait! I got it.

Dougy types on the keyboard, and hits ENTER. The computer

dials a phone number in rapid fire. Almost immediately the

home phone rings, making James jump.

JAMES

What the –

The answering machine picks up, and the computer screen

illuminates to reveal a MESSAGE being downloaded into an MP3

recording. When the recording stops, the phone disconnects.

A proud Dougy types in several new lines of code and hits

ENTER.

On the YouTube page, to the visual aid of a large, billowing

United States flag, is Nathan’s crystal-clear, cryptic phone

call.

JAMES (CONT’D)

Brilliant! But it needs a title.

DOUGY

(typing)

Brother’s Combat.

He hits the enter key again and sits back.

6.

DOUGY (CONT’D)

That outta get someone’s attention.

He pulls the tape out of the machine, inspects it.

DOUGY (CONT’D)

Who woulda thought when they first

started makin these, we’d be goin

digital. How long have we been usin

tapes –

Before Dougy can finish his question, James accidentally hits

Dougy’s arm, sending the tape flying out of his hands and –

you guessed it – into the soda glass. Dougy watches it fizzle

and sink to the bottom.

JAMES

Your dad’s gonna –

DOUGY

– fuckin kill me.

INT. SCHOOL OFFICE – DAY

Dougy sits in a chair, arms clenching his stomach, waiting.

He looks out the window and sees his dad’s Ford Ranger

screech to a halt in front of the school.

Dougy slowly gets to his feet, tries to walk toward the door

on his watery legs.

INT. FORD RANGER – DAY

Bill stares straight ahead as Dougy gets in the truck.

EXT. FORD RANGER – DAY

The truck squeals away from under the School Marquee that

reads: CONGRATS STATE FINALIST, DOUGY STEPHENS!

INT. FORD RANGER – DAY

Bill continues to drive in silence as Dougy tries to make

himself as small as possible in the passenger seat.

DOUGY

I’m really sorry.

(beat)

Have you heard anything?

7.

Bill shakes his head.

BILL

I told you not to touch it.

DOUGY

It was an accident. Again, I’m –

BILL

Save it.

(under his breath)

Useless piece –

EXT. RANCH HOUSE – DAY

The truck makes its way slowly past a NEWS truck on the

street, past a few

MEDIA CREW on the sidewalk, and up intothe driveway.

Bill rolls down his window.

BILL

(stricken, to the Media)

What happened?

INT. FORD RANGER – DAY

Dougy braces for the worst. More Media Crew approach the

truck. One of the

CAMERA MEN says something to his dad.Bill finally turns to Dougy.

DOUGY

(to Bill)

Did they find him? Is he okay?

BILL

Somethin about a postin on YouTube.

EXT. RANCH HOUSE – DAY

The Men exit the car and make their way to the front door. On

the steps are flowers. Before they can open the door, Rose

opens it and steps out.

ROSE

(nodding to the flowers)

Oh my god, there’s more! You should

see inside!

8.

She ushers Bill and Dougy into the house as two more TV

trucks arrive.

INT. RANCH HOUSE – DAY

On the fireplace mantle the squirrels look buried alive among

the bouquets and wreathes of flowers. Pages of typed paper

line the kitchen counter. Rose picks up one of the sheets of

paper.

ROSE

These are all the posts from

Dougy’s YouTube video.

BILL

(to Dougy)

What’s she talkin about?

DOUGY

I tried to tell ya –

ROSE

(reads)

I am so glad that you are okay,

posts JERSEY28. Even though I am

against the war, I will always

admire our soldiers. Thank you for

protecting us.

Bill picks up the pages, reads, looks to Rose, to Dougy.

BILL

Who are these people?

ROSE

Dougy’s message on YouTube got all

kinds of attention and the next

thing you know people are

everywhere, offering their support.

In the background, a KNOCK on the door.

MAN (O.S.)

Can anyone inside comment on the

Brother’s Combat video?

BILL

(to Dougy)

That’s our personal business! You

had no right –

On the computer, the odd ring tones announce a SKYPE call is

coming through. The family makes a mad dash for –

9.

INT. RANCH HOUSE – DAY

– the family room. The computer screen illuminates the still

image of a MAN IN FATIGUES. With his parents crowding behind

Dougy, he clicks ANSWER in the Skype dialogue box.

A grainy live-stream video of NATHAN, 20s, fills the monitor

screen.

DOUGY

Dude!

Rose breaks into sobs.

BILL

You okay, Son?

NATHAN

Sorry for callin like that. It

must’ve gone off on its own.

(embarrassed)

Don’t let Grandma hear it.

ROSE

How’s Steve? And Ben?

NATHAN

They’re all okay. Everyone’s fine.

Please tell the others if you can.

ROSE

Of course!

NATHAN

Figured I better call since

everyone’s been talkin about

Dougy’s posting.

BILL

Yeah, well, I hope he didn’t

compromise anything by doin that.

That was one hell of a stunt he

pulled.

NATHAN

Doesn’t surprise me –

(to Dougy)

Future State Champ.

Bill and Rose look at each other, baffled. Dougy laughs.

DOUGY

Where’d you hear that?

10.

NATHAN

I keep up on the local news. Have

you Googled yourself lately? I got

a lotta money ridin on you, Bro.

Don’t make me look bad.

The brothers smile at each other in equal admiration.

DOUGY

I won’t, Dude. I won’t.

FADE OUT.

11.

EXT. BLUE COLLAR NEIGHBORHOOD – NIGHT

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