A Better Man (Original Concept)

SYNOPSIS

A recovering alcoholic, DAVE ZARAGOZA, attempts to reconcile with his most recent ex-girlfriend, CHERYL, after months of sobering up. But with their shared history, Cheryl refuses his attempts at closure. As he stumbles home that night, he’s attacked by a strange girl who he helps and eventually takes back to his apartment. But there’s more to her than meets the eye.


This one is definitely me digging deep into the vault. Real old story concept influenced heavily by Japanese urban legends. Simple and to the point, but I think there’s something to made of it. Not much more than a 30-minute ep or short, but something.

Be sure to join me each night over on Twitch to chat along as I type like a monkey at a keyboard. 


FADE IN:

INT. CLUB 7th HEAVEN – NIGHT

Club 7th Heaven is a “hipster-chic“ version of an old-town college dive joint with a luxurious speakeasy vibe. Antique chandeliers and sconces for ambient lighting, flocked damask wallpaper, pin-up girl accents, velvet curtains. Full bar, long and curving.

THE DANCE FLOOR

Bodies stretch and writhe on the strobe-lit dance floor to the sort of pulsating beat so heavy it could jar fillings from teeth. A man navigates through the sea of bodies, head slightly bent, disinterested in the gyrating couples grinding against him from all sides. He is a tired man with creases on his neck and brow and face. Hair thinning and without life. This is DAVE ZARAGOZA, an old dog among pups. And he’s making a beeline for--

THE BAR

MILES WARREN slings drinks from behind the bar.

MILES

Didn’t think we’d be seeing much of you anymore.

Dave saddles up to the bar.

DAVE

What can I say? I’m a man who defies expectations.

Dave place his hand down on the counter.

MILES

You know I can’t be serving you.

DAVE

Just take it.

Dave removes his hand, revealing a small, red chip. Miles takes this.

MILES

The shit is this?

DAVE

Defying expectations.

Miles sets the coin back down with authority, and slides it back across the bar.

MILES

I’m happy for you, Dave--really, I am. But you’ve got to leave before Cheryl catches you in here.

Dave returns the coin to his pocket.

DAVE

Well, I hope she does. I want to talk to her.

MILES

No. No chance.

DAVE

Five minutes.

MILES

That right? Way I remember things, the last time you two were alone one of you walked away with a black eye and the other was dragged away in cuffs.

Dave flinches, hissing through his teeth, rubbing his wrists.

DAVE

Yeah, that’s the way I remember it too.

MILES

Do you? Good. Then get to stepping before someone has you escorted out.

Dave slams his hand back down on the counter.

DAVE

Rolling Rock.

MILES

Seriously?

DAVE

Are you deaf and stupid? Yes, I want a drink.

An uncomfortable silence.

And then...

MILES

Fuck off. I have real customers.

Miles goes back to tending the bar.

Dave pulls a slip of paper from his pocket and tosses it on the bar. Miles ignores this, pours several drinks, turns to Dave, eyes the slip of paper, and then reads it.

MILES

My name’s on here. The shit is this?

DAVE

That, my friend, is a list of everyone I have ever hurt with my drinking.

MILES

And?

DAVE

“Step 9: Make direct amends to such people wherever possible.”

MILES

Dave...

DAVE

Five minutes. It’s all I need, okay?

MILES

And if she don’t want to see you?

DAVE

Then I’ll fuck off--peacefully, quietly. You’ll never see me here again. But if she does? Then I can at least try to make right by her.

MILES

One drink. Five minutes.

DAVE

Deal.

MILES

She’s on break. I’ll let her know you’re waiting.

DAVE

You won’t regret it.

MILES

Yeah, it ain’t me I’m worried about.

Miles walks off, leaving Dave to eye the crowd and the assorted bottles behind the bar. He clutches the red coin white-knuckle tight.

EXT. CLUB 7th HEAVEN/PATIO – NIGHT

People gather and huddle close, drawn to the warmth of the deck torches. Cigarette in one hand, drink in the other. The flames dance and flicker on the stainless steel, washing the patio in a soft glow.

An ALPHA MALE, dressed in a polo two sizes too small, accentuating the veiny masses of his upper arms, approaches a young COED. She smiles and feels his arms, her eyes growing big, and her smile growing even bigger. He grins. She laughs in that way that young ladies are want to do when they’re trying to flatter young men.

DAVE sits in a corner, nursing a can of Red Bull. His attention split between the awkward flirting of the Alpha Male and Coed and the door.

A YELP cuts through the loud chatter and music.

Dave snaps his attention back to

THE ALPHA MALE AND COED

are at each other’s throats. He has her arm firmly in his hand, fingers wrapped around the willowy limb.

COED

Step-off, will ya? Jesus, just step the fuck off!

ALPHA MALE

Cut the bullshit. Flaunting your tits like that, feeling up my guns the way you are? There’s no need to be such a fucking tease.

VOICE (O.S.)

Look familiar?

Dave turns his attention to the stunning woman beside him. Her name tag reads, CHERYL. She gestures to the seat, he nods, and then she sits. Close, but only close enough. They watch the events across the way play out.

DAVE

Was I really that bad?

CHERYL

Not always.

DAVE

But often enough.

CHERYL

We all have our demons.

DAVE

Yeah? And what was yours?

CHERYL

What can I say? I liked the bad boys. Something about when a man just took what he wanted from me...

(a beat)

Stupid me, though. Took a few visits to the ER to learn when enough was enough.

DAVE

Cheryl--

CHERYL

That’s my name. So, what’s your game? Miles says you’ve found Jesus, or some shit. Want to make right with me and the Lord. That about it?

Dave nods.

CHERYL

You and me? That’s long over with. I had enough time to worry about all that while I was laid up in the hospital, getting staples in my head.

DAVE

I’m sorry.

CHERYL

Me too. You know, I remember telling my mom, “I love him. I still fucking love him.” And she’d just go right on yelling at me, calling me a stupid piece of pussy for sticking with you for so long. All while they were stapling my head shut, too.

Dave puts a hand on hers. She reflexively pulls it back.

An uncomfortable silence.

And then...

Dave speaks, his words strictly paced and selected as if he’s reciting something from a not-entirely perfect memory.

CHERYL

That’s beautiful. You stand in the mirror when you practice that?

DAVE

Cheryl...

CHERYL

Dave. We’re done. It’s over with. That shit may go over a bit better with the other people on that little list of yours, but for me? It don’t do much, honestly.

She shows the scar on her head, a pale zig-zag void of hair.

CHERYL (CONT’D)

You did that. Hair hasn’t grown back in five years. You want to come in here and give me a little speech to help you sleep better at night? That’s fine. I hope you can one of these days. But if you’re thinking you can make up for all this? That ship fucking sailed off into the sunset a very long time ago.

DAVE

I didn’t mean--

Dave reaches for and touches Cheryl’s hand once more.

CHERYL

(panicked)

Don’t fucking touch me!

The air goes silent. The sounds of passing cars can be heard in the distance. The beat of the music trickles out into the night air.

All eyes are on Dave and Cheryl. The Alpha Male and the Coed have stopped and stepped apart from each other. Their eyes looking on at the two older people across the way in awe.

CHERYL

I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to get blow up like that. How’s about I get back to work, and you crawl back to whatever urine-soaked hellhole you came out of, okay?

Dave stands.

DAVE

Yeah. Okay.

He hopes over the fence and walks off.

CHERYL

Just move on, okay?

FADE TO:

EXT. DOWNTOWN FULLERTON – NIGHT

Dave walks the colorful, empty streets of Downtown Fullerton. He pops up the collar on his coat as a cool breeze picks up.

He comes to a stop a corner, looking around, admiring the silence, and soaking in loneliness as he waits for the light to change.

And then...

A NOISE.

He turns left, then right, and then left again. Nothing.

A beat.

And then...

The noise again, but louder--a whisper.

Dave turns around and sees

A WOMAN

stands several yards behind Dave, her coat hanging low, scarf wrapped tight around her face. Dark hair, long and straight. She stumbles and shuffles awkwardly in the chill night air, swaying side to side.

DAVE

Miss?

The Woman doesn’t respond. She continues stumbling forward, pausing mid-step, catching herself, and continuing onward. Repeat.

DAVE (CONT’D)

Do you need help?

A CHIRP cuts through the silence.

Dave turns to see that the light has changed, a flashing signal warns him that he has 35 seconds to cross. He takes a step forward, stops, turns back around, and--

BAM! The woman pounces on him, her dark hair flying everywhere. Her body pressing heavy against him, pushing him, squeezing a frightened yelp from him as he steps back in some act of self-preservation, right into the street. Right into the way of an oncoming car. Shit.

The car swerves, narrowly missing Dave, horn blaring into the once silent streets of Downtown. The DRIVER shouting something about Dave’s mother, gesturing with a hand out the window.

Dave composes himself, now on the far side of the road, looking across the divide to

THE WOMAN

stands at the opposite corner. Her hand now holding on to the light post, her body going limp.

DAVE

Jesus-God, lady! Are you out of your goddamned mind? You almost got me killed!

He looks behind him, seeing his apartment in the distance, and then back to the Woman.

DAVE (CONT’D)

Shit. You live around here?

She mutters something, another soft whisper, but inaudible.

DAVE

What’s that?

He crosses the road, looking both ways before he does.

DAVE (CONT’D)

You gotta speak up, lady. I don’t hear too good anymore on account of my tinnitus. Too many late nights at the bars standing by the jukebox, ya know?

He helps steady the woman. She mutters again, this time he hears it.

WOMAN

Beautiful.

DAVE

Yeah, real swell night out. And I’d love to soak up the ambiance a little more, but I got to get myself back home. You got a place near by, Lady?

She only repeats herself.

WOMAN

Beautiful.

DAVE

Bet you sweet talk all the boys.

He sets her down on a bus stop bench. He sits beside her and holds her upright. He looks her up and down. She’s dressed in fashionable but stained clothes. Her skin covered in patches of thick scars.

DAVE

I was a sweet talker too. Once. Bet you can tell by just looking at me, huh?

The Woman responds with a strange guttural sound.

DAVE

Right. Well, it’s true. I could sweet talk the panties off a girl while her pants were still on. Could get them to do just about anything I wanted, really--pay my rent, even got me a car once. But uh, I wrecked that sonofabitch one night coming home from the bar.

(beat)

My girl at the time--Cheryl was her name. Cheryl saw that thing and lit up like a Christmas tree. Eyes buggin’ out and spitting and swearing. And most times she got like that, we’d have it out for a few minutes and then start screwin’ on the nearest piece of furniture.

(beat)

But this last time, I dunno. Maybe it was the booze, maybe I was just sick of the game. Whatever the reason, I popped her one right in the side of the head--POW!

Dave pantomimes hitting Cheryl.

DAVE (CONT’D)

Didn’t even think to aim. Busted my hand open good enough, but her head? Wow. You’d think I went and cracked a bottle over her, she was bleeding so bad.

The Woman lurches forward and vomits.

DAVE

Christ, lady. You sick or something?

The Woman looks up to him, piercing blue eyes looking right at him.

WOMAN

Am I beautiful?

Dave looks at her, a sick mess. Vomit running down through her scarf. Thick chunks caught in her hair.

DAVE

Yeah, sure.

A bus pulls up, its door opening with a loud WHOOSH. The BUS DRIVER, a hefty man in his late fifties, looks at the two hopeless wrecks sitting on the bench.

DRIVER

Getting on?

DAVE

Nah. Just catching our breath. Thanks, though.

The Bus Driver shrugs, closes the door, and pulls the bus out and down the road. Dave watches it turn the corner some quarter mile down the way, then turns back to the woman.

DAVE

You got yourself a name, beautiful?

The Woman wipes her mouth.

WOMAN

Tien.

DAVE

Can I buy you a drink, Tien?

INT. APARTMENT – NIGHT

Dave’s apartment is a dark, cluttered by the broken remains of a wasted life and a failed relationship. Here, Tien pries into his life and Dave reveals a bit more of his dark past. She is disturbed, but also intrigued by his attempts to change.

Their talking turns to touching and the touching turns to sex. Tien, shows how uncomfortable and insecure about her scarred appearance by constantly asking for Dave’s reassurance that he finds her beautiful. She just wants to hear it, but Dave struggles to tell her, to get past her disfigurement. He grows frustrated and angry as she insists that she hear the words, poking and prodding at him when he fails to do so.

He excuses himself to the bathroom after losing his temper.

INT. APARTMENT/BATHROOM – NIGHT

He looks at himself in the mirror, hating the man staring back at him. Sickened by what he sees. After he composes himself, he steps back outside to apologize.

INT. APARTMENT – NIGHT

When he returns, she is silent on the bed, her back to him. She asks him one last time if he finds her beautiful...and he tells her, “No.”

And then she turns around, revealing her hideous appearance, and attacks him.

EXT/INT. APARTMENT – DAY

Miles arrives at Dave’s apartment to return Dave’s car keys/wallet. He discovers the door unlocked.

He enters to find a horrible sight, gore and blood splattered across the apartment. He finds Dave locked in the bathroom, his face horribly disfigured. He also finds Tien, dead in the bedroom, her body mutilated.

INT. CLUB 7th HEAVEN – NIGHT

As Dave’s story makes it through the media and his trial progresses, life continues on. And as Miles and Cheryl move on with their lives, they see a woman who looks suspiciously like Tien enter the bar, flirting with lonesome, drunken men who are happy to tell her she’s beautiful.

FADE OUT:

THE END

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