Sunday, October 01, 2006


Here's something I started...god knows how many years ago. Just found it, buried on my hard drive. I think it was the start of what was supposed to be a short film script. Hell if I know. (I am getting old, aren't I?)

Anyway, for what it's worth...


It’s a road like any of the thousands that criss-cross America’s ample mid-section: a little dusty, not all that well-traveled, lined on one side with trees. It has a timeless feel to it. One can’t tell at first glance if this is the 21st or the 19th century, and the same thing could be said about the black man slowly ambling down it.

JONAH FREEMAN is ancient. Not feeble, mind you, not decrepit. He’s old like the lions in front of the New York Public Library are old: hewn from the kind of rock they just don’t quarry any more. Both he and his brown suit have been around the block, and then some, and right now he’s in no particular rush to get anywhere.

Jonah strides past a road sign announcing the presence of a town not too far ahead; a town that isn’t, shall we say, packed to the gills.

Just past the sign, on the side of the road, is an old junker of a car with the hood up. Sitting on the roof of the junker is a 10-year-old boy, ISAAC, who’s throwing small rocks at a bigger rock on the other side of the road. They regard each other carefully as Jonah gets close enough to see a pair of legs jutting out from beneath the car.


Afternoon, son.

You’re not my dad.

You’re somebody’s son, right?


Good enough.

Jonah takes off his stetson and wipes his brow.

What’s your name?


What day is it?

July third.

Got any fireworks in this town, Isaac?


Want some?

A voice comes from underneath the car. A female voice.

What did I say about talking to
strangers, Isaac?

That I shouldn’t.

And why not?

Because I’m liable to ramble.
(to JONAH)
I have a rambling problem.

ETHEL slides out from under the car. There ain’t nothing wrong with Ethel, if’n you don’t mind your women with grease under their fingernails, forearms like knotted wood, and a face that’s squinted through 38 years worth of sunrises. Life has been hard on Ethel, and she’s been hard on it right back.

That he does. Of course, he’s just
filling in the conversational space
left empty by most of the idiots
in this town. Name’s Ethel MacGillicudy.
Most folks call me Mac.

Names are a serious thing, Miss
MacGillicudy, usually better left
untrifled with. I’ve been called
many of them, but most days I
only answer to Jonah Freeman.

Good to meet you, Mr. Freeman.
You gonna be in town long?

Only through the fireworks. Then
I expect I’ll be movin’ on.

We don’t have any fireworks.

Now you do.

I suppose you’ll have to talk
to the mayor about that.

If someone would be kind enough
to point the way. And it’d be
nice if that way led past a hotel.

I can show him. I’m a bit
tired of banging rocks together.

And I’m a bit tired of hearing
them. Go on, then, and be home
in time for dinner. You’re
welcome to join us, Mister Freeman.

I will. Thank you, kindly.

Jonah and Isaac start walking down the road.

So how did you get here?

I walked.

From where?

San Francisco.

Why not fly?

Listen to me, and listen good.
The one and only thing that holds
this world together are bargains.

Like sales?

No, bargains. Deals. Pacts. Accords.
Agreements. One party agrees to do
one thing for another thing in
return. Most times, it’s money. Even
more times, it’s blood. Thousands
of years ago, the first sailors
sacrificed anything they could get
their hands on to the sea, to
guarantee safe passage. A bargain
was struck. That bargain is still
in effect. Even today, sailors
treat the ocean with the respect
it deserves. Not so with the sky.
No one thinks twice about puncturing,
polluting, desecrating the air
for the sake of cutting a few days
off of a trip. Someday, the sky will
take its price and I, for damned sure,
won’t be up there. What are you studying?

About how Lincoln fought the
Civil War to free the slaves.

Bullshit. Lincoln freed the slaves
because we told him to. Because we
told him that we wouldn’t help him
win the war of Southern Aggression
unless he freed our brothers. He
made a bargain. He did his
part, and we did ours.

Who’s we?

The wizards. America’s wizards. I
won’t say that all of us are black,
but I can say that none of us
are white.


Anonymous said...


marc bernardin said...

me? oh yeah. very. so racist, sometimes I find it hard to focus on everyday stuff, like making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and buying comic books.

Anonymous said...

You may not be, but, the script reads that way.

Also, although I do not know any racists, I am sure that at least a few eat PB&J and buy comics.

marc bernardin said...

how, exactly, does the script read as racist? And against which race?

And consider your self lucky that you don't know any racists...though I suspect that you do, and just don't know it.

Piers said...

Er... Racism, anonymous? Don't see it myself.

Liking that excerpt.

Anonymous said...

Look, just for the sake of a mental exercise, swith up the color distinction.

The wizards. America’s wizards. I
won’t say that all of us are white,
but I can say that none of us
are black.

Does that make you feel different about the tenor of the story?

marc bernardin said...

not if that is a statement of fact. If I said that while not all of our presidents have been Protestant none have been Jewish, would that make me an anti-Semite?

Granted, in this excerpt, I haven't gotten to the point in the story where I explain why America's wizards are only people of color--because the Native Americans, Africans, and Chinese were displaced from cultures that believed in a mystical relationship between man and the world around them while the white colonists were overwhelmingly empirical in their beliefs, and overwhelmingly Christian--but that statement in and of itself places no perjorative on any one race.

So, there's that.

And I'm glad you dug it, Piers.

Anonymous said...

It can not be a "statement of fact" because it is fiction.

You are making it up.

Granted, I am assuming that the "wizards" in this story are going to be considered the protagonists in the story. However, even if they are not, you are creating a story in which people of certain races are granted special powers, superior to members of another race, solely by virtue of their race.

This is racism in fiction.

Regarding your further elaboration, is your plot asserting that whites can not have a "mystical relationship" with the world by virtue of their race? Similarly, are you suggesting that blacks can not be "rational" by virtue of their race? It seems so. This, again, is racist.

marc bernardin said...

within the story logic, it is a statement of fact. The character isn't saying "I hate white people," he's saying "to the best of my knowledge--which is extensive, and if this were a courtroom I'd be an expert witness--there are no white wizards."

And why? Because they've fallen out of touch with the land. It is not so much because of the color of their skin, but the direction that an industrialized society takes. And, it so happens, that most industrialized societies, especially 400 years ago or so, were run by white men.

And why can't, in works of fantasy, which this clearly is, one "race" have powers that another can't? While some may label Tolkien a racist (though I can't speak to it from first-hand experience or extensive research) because there are no black folks in Lord of the Rings, his imbuing Elves with a certain facility with magic, and Dwarves with skill in the mines doesn't equate to racism.

And special powers doesn't make any one person superior to another. That guy in the corner can run a 4.4 40-yard dash. I can't. Does that make him better? I've got a 165 IQ, while that guy's a dullard--am I inherently superior? No. Smarter, yeah, but not better.

Of course, maybe I'm just enlightened. Or not.

But thank you, whoever you are, for a sprited debate.

Anonymous said...

By thanking me, are you asserting that your point has been made and the debate has been concluded?

I suppose in a polite society I should take it as so. But, this is the "wild, wild west" of the internet.

Short and sweet:

Racism does not have to entail "hate" it merely entails an assertion that there is a distinction between peoples solely by virtue of their race. People can take that distinction and imbue it with hate, but, it is not a necessary component of racism.

Your work of fiction created a world in which people of color are imbued with superior powers, a trait not available to whites. Does that make the people of color in your story "superior" to whites? Of course it does. Don't be silly. Someone who can shoot fireballs or raise the dead with magic is superior to someone who can not.

If you have an alleged 165 IQ you are superior to others in your intellectual capacity. All other things being equal (physical abilities, looks, etc.), you are superior to them by virtue of you having a higher IQ. This is not racism. However, if you assert that, because you are black, you have an IQ of 165, this is racism.

But, with that, I will let the subject lie.

Anonymous said...

P.S. If the point of your story was that, approx. 200 years ago, the people of the industrialized world, which was predominantly white, lost the ability to become wizards because they lost touch with the land, it would not be racist so long as people of all races and creeds who got caught up in the industrializd world lost the ability to become wizards.

Your plot, and your elaboration of it, assumes that all white people of the industrialized world lose touch with the land while people of color, even though they are part of the same industrialized world, did not. It is for this reason it is racist because people of all races and creeds were all part of the industrialized world.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah... and I call shenanigans on your explanation.

Jonah specifically states that wizards were the cause of the outcome of the Civil War (War of Southern Aggression?!?). If the exposure to the industrialized world caused people to cease to become wizards, that would not have happened until about twenty or thirty years before the civil war, when things began to get industrialized. Without doubt, a person with an IQ of 165 would not be placing the industrial revolution in the 1600s.

Surely, with the industrial revolution taking place in the early 1800s, there should have been SOME white wizards still alive at the time of the civil war which took place in the 1860s. Especially since Jonah say "we" in his explanation, implying he, himself, was there.

marc bernardin said...

I think it's clear that we are never going to agree on this, and so it's probably left as such.

But I will say this: There is a vast difference between a people who create and nurture an industrialized society and people who are dragged into it against their will, kicking and screaming. Literally.

(And to think that there are not physiological differences between the races is naive. Sickle-cell anemia, for example, is far more prevalent in African-Americans than any other race, while skin cancer is far less so.)

Anonymous said...

OK, lets just say factual history does not jive with your explanation of the plot's hypothesis and write it off to a plot idea that did not go under the "fact testing" phase of the work.

But, since you left it out there, what do physiological differences have to do with antyhing?

Adam Freeman said...

You two sure do talk perty.

marc bernardin said...

yep...prettier than a two-dollar whore.