(PART ONE OF TWO)
PAGE 1: 3 panels. Top tier consists of two half-page-deep, equal-sized panels. Bottom tier consists of one half-page high, page-wide panel.
NOTE: This prolog takes place in 1947 (Summer); clothes, cars, etc. should reflect that.
PANEL 1: Close on a sinister-looking grinning Stage Magician. No top hat, but dark, gleaming (Mandrake the Magician) hair and neat black beard that comes to a sharp point. We’re looking at him straight on, and he seems to be staring directly at us; his eyes, more than anything else (including his tux) are what cue us to his profession. He holds a short wand in one hand and is passing it over a series of five ordinary playing cards fanned out on an inclined plane in front of him—a royal flush: Ten, Jack, Queen, King, Ace. (This is an illustration/linecut from a newspaper ad and is not in the realistic style of the book.)
CAPTION 1/STAN: “…I’D PAY YOU BACK!”
CAPTION 2/MOTHER: “FORGET IT, STANNY.”
PANEL 2: We pull back to see that the Magician’s face is an image on a magic kit (a rectangular, suitcase kind of thing), and that the kit is part of an illustrated ad in a newspaper that’s folded lengthwise and lying on a kitchen table (in the foreground). The ad (with copy that reads: “AMAZE YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS WITH THE ART OF DECEPTION!”) is from the Toys ‘n’ Novelties Store, and the kit costs $12.95. The table is covered with a checkerboard oilcloth, and—besides the newspaper—there’s a box of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, an empty milk glass, a cereal bow with soggy bits of corn flakes floating in a residue of milk. No one is at the table, and the small kitchen is deserted.
CAPTION 1/STAN: “BUT IT’S ONLY THIRTEEN BUCKS!”
CAPTION 2/MOTHER: “ONLY. LOOK, CAN WE TALK ABOUT THIS ANOTHER TIME? I’M LATE.”
PANEL 3: We’re now outside the house, a middle-class, middle-American small-town clapboard house. A huge black 1940s automobile is facing us; it’s parked in the concrete driveway, and a woman in her 30s (Stan Carlisle’s Mother) is in the car behind the wheel; she looks peeved, snappish. Stan Carlisle, 13 years old, lean and blond, is standing by the driver’s door; he’s bent forward from the waist, one arm draped on the car roof. Jammed into his back pocket is a comic book rolled into a tube. We glimpse the open garage behind them. Tree foliage—as well as Stan’s short-sleeve polo shirt, dungarees and sneakers—tells us that it’s high summer. Stan’s mother wears a summery dress, cats-eye sunglasses and a kerchief on her head. Stan’s dog Gyp, a small, short-haired spaniel, sits on his haunches in the driveway behind Stan; Gyp looks alert, ready to take off running.
STAN: SO WHERE YOU GOIN’? GOT ANOTHER SINGIN’ LESSON?
MOTHER: GOD, YOU SOUND LIKE YOUR FATHER. YES, I ‘GOT’ ANOTHER SINGING LESSON. ‘GOT’ ANY OBJECTIONS?
PAGE 2: is the reverse of Page One’s layout—top tier consists of 1 half-page deep, page-wide panel; bottom tier consists of 2 half-page-high, equal size panels.
PANEL 1: Another, closer angle on the car in the driveway. Stan’s mother is leaning her head through the open driver’s window, giving Stan her cheek to kiss. Now that we are nearer, we can see that she’s very pretty and made up with Mildred Pierce-type cosmetics, including dark lipstick. Stan is leaning down to kiss her on the cheek.
STAN: NO, MA, I WAS JUST ASKIN’.
MOTHER: GOOD. NOW GIMME A KISS SO I CAN GET OUTTA HERE.
PANEL 2: The car is rolling toward us, down the driveway to the street, and as we look through the windshield we see that Stan’s Mother has one hand on the steering wheel (at 12 o’clock) and that she’s pressing a car cigarette lighter to the cigarette between her lips. Some rippling musical notes and a bit of lyric from Hoagy Carmichael’s “Ole Buttermilk Sky,” a 1947 hit record, is floating out of the car window, from the radio.
LYRIC (use as much or as little as you need): OLE BUTTERMILK SKY/I’M TELLIN YOU WHY/KEEP IN MIND TONIGHT/KEEP ON BRUSHIN’ THOSE CLOUDS FROM SIGHT
PANEL 3: Stan, following Gyp, is racing down a grassy slope—almost a Hallmark Card image of a kid enjoying his freedom; ahead of them we glimpse woods; behind them, the rooftops of a suburban neighborhood.
CAPTION (no quotation marks around it; letterboxed at the bottom of the panel): I’M MEASURING YOU FOR A COFFIN—RIGHT NOW!
PAGE 3: 3 panels—top tier consists of 2 half-page-deep, equal-size panels; bottom tier consists of 1 half-page-high page-wide panel.
PANEL 1: Close on a comic-book panel (it’s the right-hand panel, top tier of a typical 3-tier comic-book page); the panel is drawn in a clunky/nourish late 40s crime-comics style and shows a hatted detective delivering an uppercut to a thug wearing a newsboy’s cap. The thug’s gun is discharging straight down.
The comic book is folded so that the panel, rolling off into the stapled gutter, is slighted distorted. Stan’s hand—mostly his thumb—conceals much of the previous (left) comic-book panel, but not enough that we can’t see that the image shows the thug aiming his revolver at the detective or read some of the dialog from that panel’s balloon (I’M MEASURING YOU FOR A COFFIN—RIGHT NOW!).
DETECTIVE (lettering hasty and semi-professional; this is a typical 40’s comic-book balloon): SORRY—BUT I THINK YOUR MEASUREMENTS ARE OFF!
PANEL 2: Pull back, and we see Stan perched along a low branch of sturdy tree in the woods. He has a cigarette clipping in one hand, and he’s just turned from reading his comic book (in his other hand) to glance down at Gyp, who looks excited, ears back, and is facing off into the woods.
STAN: WHATSA MATTER, GYP? HEAR SOMETHING?
SFX: low GROWL from the dog.
PANEL 3: Down shot: we’re in the tree, just above Stan; we—and he—watch Gyp go racing off through the trees. Stan is rubbing out his cigarette on the tree trunk (sprinkling coals) as he swings his legs over the branch in preparation to jumping to the ground.
STAN (calling): HEY GYP—NO! WAIT UP!
PAGE 4: 3 equal-size, page-wide horizontal rectangles, one on top of the other.
PANEL 1: Stan is running (left to right) at high speed down a path in the woods; we see him in the middle-distance, and we’re looking at him through the tree trunks in the foreground; accentuate the denseness of the woods.
PANEL 2: Low angle: Close on Gyp crouched in tall grass/bushes, his tongue lolling out; he’s staring directly at us. Some more rippling musical notes and a bit of a lyric are wafting in the air over Gyp, coming from a scene outside the panel. The song is the Inkspots’ mid-40s hit, “Street of Dreams.”
LYRIC: LOVE LAUGHS AT A KING/KINGS DON’T MEAN A THING/ON THE STREET OF DREAMS…
PANEL 3: Stan is now crouched behind the dog; he looks winded, his hair is tousled. We get the idea that he’s just arrived and dropped to his knees, and see him at precisely the moment when he catches sight of what Gyp is looking at through the brush; his expression, then, is in the midst of changing from one of annoyance to one of startlement. His eyes are wide open. (We should see that Stan and the dog are both concealed in pretty good natural camouflage.)
STAN: JEE-ZUS, GYP, WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU—!
Page 5: 4 panels. Left side of the page is one half-page-wide vertical rectangles; the right side consists of 3 equal-sized stacked panels.
PANEL 1: A dramatic down-shot, looking from Stan’s point of view through grass and brush at the same huge 40s automobile we saw earlier being driven by his mother. The car is parked in a clearing/glade in the woods; its front doors are open, the car is empty. On the ground next to the front passenger’s door we glimpse a couple of soda bottles and a square of waxed paper with a sandwich on it and a pair of sunglasses. (These things will be very tiny, of course, probably unrecognizable—but they will be made distinct in the next panel.) And we can see, leading away from the car, beaten-down grass, marking the car’s passage through the glade. The Inkspots song lyric is coming from the front of the car/the car radio.
LYRIC: …GOLD, SILVER AND GOLD/ALL YOU CAN HOLD IS IN THE MOONBEAMS…
PANEL 2: Tight on a couple of soda bottles, empty, lying on their sides and pinning down some waxed paper with a half-eaten sandwich on it and a pair of cats-eye sunglasses. The bottles and waxed paper, etc. are on the grass just beside the car. Wafting above the soda bottles, etc., and coming from the car radio, are further lyrics from the song.
LYRIC: POOR, NO ONE IS POOR/’LONG AS LOVE IS SURE/ON THE STREET OF DREAMS…
PANEL 3: An almost abstract image: we’re now very, very close on a rounded, undulant, hairy…something. (It’s part of a man’s naked back and shoulders—but it shouldn’t be obvious.)
NO DIALOG OR CAPTIONS
PANEL 4: Stan’s face: his eyes are wide, wide open; he looks horrified.
NO DIALOG OR CAPTIONS
PAGE 6: 3 panels. Top tier consists of a half-page-deep, horizontal rectangle; bottom tier consists of two half-page-high panels, the left is slightly wider than the right.
PANEL 1: Now we finally see the scene in the glade no longer fragmented but as a complete picture: the big car (to the left) parked with its doors open, the music lyric still wafting out, the soda bottle, waxed paper, etc., on the ground—and further to the right of the car, lying on a blanket we see a half-naked man on top of a woman; they’re fucking. The man’s shirt is off (and tossed aside) and his trousers are down around his calves; his shoes are still on. We can’t see much of the woman, just her arms around the man’s lover back, and her legs jutting out. Her dress is rucked up around her hips.
LYRIC (coming from inside the car): …DREAMS THAT’RE BROKEN IN TWO/YOU CAN MAKE ‘EM JUST LIKE NEW/ON THE STREET OF DREAMS…
PANEL 2: Zoom in on the man and the woman. The woman (now we see clearly that it’s Stan’s Mother) is suddenly trying to disengage herself—she’s thrusting up and looking afraid, startled; she’s heard something. We see the man’s face in profile; he’s turned to look where she’s looking; he’s bracing himself on both arms, elbows locked.
MOTHER: WHAT’S THAT?
PANEL 3: Sharp angle upward—as though from the man and woman’s point of view; looking upward at the high grass and brush; the brush is shaking, but we see no trace of Stan or the dog; they’re gone.
CAPTION (with quotes): “NOW GIMME A KISS SO I CAN GET OUTTA HERE GIMME A KISS GIMME A KISS”
PAGE 7: 3 panels. Top tier consists of two half-page-deep equal-size panels; bottom tier consists of one half-page high, page-wide panel
PANEL 1: Stan’s house. We’re looking through an open second-story window into Stan’s bedroom (the vantage is as though we’re sitting in a tree close to the house). Through the window we can see Stan sitting up in his bed; he’s propped against his headboard, leaning forward, hugging his knees to his chest. Gyp is on the foot of the bed, curled up asleep. Shadows and change of light suggest that it’s later in the day.
NO DIALOG OR CAPTION
PANEL 2: Inside Stan’s bedroom. He’s still in bed, staring straight ahead, looking dead-faced, his bottom lip pooched out. Alongside him on the bed is the newspaper that we saw earlier on the kitchen table, still folded lengthwise and clearly showing the magic kit ad. On the wall over Stan’s bed is a crucifix.
Gyp has stirred, his ears are perked up, and he’s glancing off toward the open window.
NO DIALOG OR CAPTION
PANEL 3: Still in Stan’s bedroom, but we’re by the open window. We see Stan (partly) looking down into the driveway. From his vantage, we see that his mother’s car has returned and is now parked in the driveway behind another 1940s car. Stan’s mother is walking along a flagstone walk toward the front door of the house.
NO DIALOG OR CAPTION
PAGE 8: 2 equal-size panels, one on top of the other.
PANEL 1: Inside Stan’s house, downstairs. We’re looking out from the arched doorway of the parlor into the front hallway. And we’re looking over the shoulder of a stocky, balding, but strong-looking man: Stan’s Father. His dark suit coat is off, and he’s wearing a white dress shirt, dark suit pants. He’s looking at Stan’s mother in the hall; she’s just finished glancing through some mail that she picked up from a table inside the front door, and now, surprised, is looking up and toward her husband
STAN’S FATHER: WHERE THE HELL’VE YOU BEEN?
PANEL 2: Stan’s father has stepped out into the hall and is now standing, with legs belligerently set apart, a few feet away from, but directly opposite, Stan’s mother. She looks annoyed, he looks furious. She’s still holding the mail in one hand. Behind them we can see the staircase: the newel post at the bottom and the first few stairs going up. The floor in the hallway is hardwood. Framed store-bought paintings are on the wall.
MOTHER: AT MY LESSON. I TOLD YOU—
FATHER: YOU TAKE YOUR LESSONS OUT IN THE WOODS NOW, DO YOU? DO YOU?
PAGE 9: 4 equal-size panels, 2 per tier.
PANEL 1: Stan’s father is rushing toward Stan’s mother, one arm lifted as though he intends to backhand her across her face; she seems off-balance, leaning away from him; the mail has fallen from her hand—some of it is already on the floor, other pieces are still dropping.
FATHER: SALLY WIER SEEN YOU AND THAT ‘VOICE TEACHER’ DRIVIN’ OUT PAST THE LAKE THIS AFTERNOON. GONNA TRY AN’ DENY IT—YOU LITTLE TRAMP?
PANEL 2: In the foreground, the mother and father have turned, startled, to look at Stan. He’s now standing on the staircase, on the bottom step. One hand is on the newel post, and the other is holding the rolled newspaper, which he’s tapping against his leg.
STAN: BUT I WAS WITH ‘EM, DAD. MOM AND MR. HUMPHRIES TOOK ME ON A—ON A PICNIC.
PANEL 3: Stan’s father has gone to Stan (who’s still on the stairs); he’s gripping the boy roughly by the shoulders. Stan, with just the smallest smile on his lips, is looking past his father at his mother (not in panel).
FATHER: YOU SURE OF THAT?
STAN: ‘COURSE I’M SURE. WE HAD SODA AND SANDWICHES AND WE LISTENED TO THE CAR RADIO…OUT IN THE GLADE.
PANEL 4: Side view of Stan’s mother (left side of panel) and we see her glancing down at the rolled newspaper, which Stan is still tapping against his leg. Stan is staring directly at his mother, and his expression is a definite smirk: he’s just blackmailed her and he knows she knows it. Stan’s father has let go of Stan and is standing off to one side, looking sour, perplexed, maybe ashamed; at any rate, he’s scowling.
STAN: JUST MOM, MR. HUMPHRIES…AND ME.
PAGE 10: 4 panels, 2 per tier. Panels 1 and 3 (left-hand panels) are narrower than panels 2 and 4 (right-hand panels).
PANEL 1: Stan’s bedroom. Moonlight is striping Stan asleep in his bed. He has a smile on his face. Once again, Gyp at the foot of the bed, has stirred, his ears are perked up. Instead of looking off toward the window, though, this time he’s looking in another direction: toward the bedroom door (not shown).
NO DIALOG OR CAPTION
PANEL 2: Silhouette of Stan’s mother. She’s come into the bedroom and is carrying something rectangular/suitcase-shaped. We see her in the foreground, and Stan, sleeping, in the background. Gyp is standing on the bed, staring at Stan’s mother.
NO DIALOG OR CAPTION
PANEL 3: Stan’s mother (in silhouette) is bending over, about to lay the rectangular box (shadowed) down on Stan’s desk; the moonlight illuminates the top of his small student’s desk.
NO DIALOG OR CAPTION
PANEL 4: Close on the rectangular object that Stan’s mother has just placed on the desk. We see now it’s the magic kit, and that the kit is made of shiny metal. On the lid is the same image of the grinning magician we saw in the first panel of page one—except that the cards fanned out in front of him are now Tarot cards: the Fool, the Magician, the High Priestess, the World, the Empress.
CAPTION (with quotes, at the bottom of the panel): “HE HAS THE BODY OF A HUMAN, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, BUT INSIDE—IS THE HEART OF A BEAST!”
PAGE 11: Two panels: the top tier consists of one 1/3-page-deep page-wide horizontal panel; bottom tier consists of one 2/3-page-high panel.
NOTE: The following part of the story takes place in 1956, and clothes, backgrounds, etc. should reflect this.
PANEL 1: Establishing shot: a rural ball field,/fairgrounds; in the foreground, parked haphazardly, are a number of early to mid-50s cars and pick-up trucks; in the background we see carnival tents and booths. It’s a clear summer day.
CAPTION (with quotes): “…A BEAST, MY FRIENDS! INSIDE THAT HEAVING CHEST BEATS THE BLACK HEART OF A SAVAGE BEAST!”
PANEL 2: We’re on the midway of a traveling carnival. On a raised platform outside a large tent (housing the 10-in-1 show), Clem Hoately—an old-time carny boss who resembles Burgess Meredith and wears a flannel shirt and baggy trousers—is in the middle of his spiel. He’s gesturing lavishly with one arm while talking through a megaphone. Standing behind him and to one side of the platform is Stan Carlisle, now 22. Stan is holding a square chicken-wire crate, inside of which is—a chicken.
Stan should be recognizable as the same kid from the prolog, now grown into a tall, lanky, good-looking young man. He’s a carny hand—everybody’s go-fer and assistant. He’s wearing a short-sleeved shirt and jeans, and, throughout this section, he will appear to be just about the only male who pays any attention to his appearance. His hair is combed, he’s clean-shaven; he looks in good shape.
In the foreground, we see a number of carny-goers moving toward a kind of wooden vat. To further reinforce the change in time here, some of the teenaged guys in the crowd might sport Elvis-style D.A. haircuts; some of the girls have pony-tails and are wearing short-shorts. And there might be a small boy riding on his father’s shoulders; the boy could be wearing Mickey Mouse Club mouse-ears or a Davy Crockett coonskin cap.
The geek’s vat might almost remind us of the kind of thing people used to climb into so they could stomp grapes. The vat is directly below Hoately’s platform. So the picture plane, running from foreground to background is this: carny-goers, walls (roughly 5-feet high) of vat, the platform with Hoately and Stan and the chicken-wire cage, wall of the big tent. (The tent should suggest carnival life, maybe with scalloped edging, maybe with freak images painted garishly on it.)
HOATELY: FOLKS, IF YOU’LL JUST STEP RIGHT UP, YOU’LL SEE ONE OF THE GREATEST MYSTERIES OF THE UNIVERSE LIVIN’ AMONG THE WORLD’S MOST VENOMOUS REP-TILES!
PAGE 12: 3 panels; top tier consists of two half-page-deep, equal-size panels; bottom tier consists of one half-page high, page-wide panel.
PANEL 1: Close on Stan (almost full-length) holding the wire crate; he’s staring off at the crowd (not shown) and his expression is one of amused contempt. It’s clear in this panel (if it wasn’t in the previous one) that there’s a live chicken in the crate.
HOATELY (off panel): STAN, WE’RE GONNA FEED HIM NOW—SO HAND ME THE BASKET.
PANEL 2: Hoately has grabbed the chicken (by its neck) from the wire crate held by Stan, and is waving it above his head; we can just glimpse the rim of the vat below his feet, and see two bent-fingered filthy hands reaching up from it.
HOATELY: I RECKON YOU ALL KNOW WHAT THIS IS! YOU AND ME—WE’D PLUCK IT AND COOK IT. BUT THE GEEK, HERE, CAN’T BE BOTHERED!
PANEL 3: A dramatic overhead shot: we’re looking down and can finally see the Geek in the vat. He’s on his knees and reaching up to grab the chicken that Hoately has flung—in a whirl of feathers—toward him. The vat is a bed of mud crawling with snakes. The geek has long, wild hair, a grimy face, and he’s thin as a rail. We can see the backs of some carny-goers’ heads, straining to look at the geek. Stan is staring at the carny-goers, still smiling that odd smile.
CARNY-GOER AT THE FRONT OF THE CROWD: GET ‘AT OLE SHICKEN, BOY! GO GET ‘AT OLE SHICKEN!
PAGE 13: 4 equal-size square panels, 2 per tier
PANEL 1: Inside the geek’s vat: we’re looking up at him squatted on his haunches in the mud, savagely biting the head off the chicken; feather’s fly, blood squirts every which way. We should be able to glimpse the amazed/repulsed/giddy faces of some carny-goers overhanging the rim of the vat.
HOATELY (off): AND THIS IS JUST A SAMPLE OF THE MANY WONDROUS SIGHTS THAT AWAIT YOU INSIDE THE 10-IN-1 SHOW!
PANEL 2: Long, high-shot looking over the crowd in the foreground toward Hoately, on the platform and talking into the megaphone; with his free hand, he’s pointing toward the entrance to the 10-in-1 show-tent. Some of the crowd members are looking that way, some are looking at Hoately, some are still clustered around the vat, peering in. The small child (with the Mickey Mouse ears or Davy Crockett cap) seated don his father’s shoulders has turned and is looking behind him (toward us) and is openly bawling.
HOATELY: SO HURRY UP, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN—AND HEAD ON IN!
PANEL 3: We’re on the platform now with Stan and Hoately, looking out on the midway, which has a few straggling carny-goers, some wandering away from outside the 10-in-1; there are no carny-goers now in front of the platform. Hoately is wiping a sleeve across his face; the wire crate is on the platform floor and Hoately has one foot on it. Stan is at the edge of the platform peering down into the vat. (But we can’t see what’s going on in there right now.)
HOATELY: SO WHAT D’YOU THINK, KID? YOU BEEN WORKIN’ HERE ALMOST A MONTH—STILL LIKE CARNY LIFE?
PANEL 4: We’re back inside the geek vat/pit. The geek is seated with his back against the wall; the dead chicken is lying in the mud with the snakes. The geek has his head back and his holding a mud-smeared whiskey bottle tipped to his lips. He’s drinking greedily.
STAN (off): SURE, MR. HOATELY, I LIKE IT FINE. REAL FINE…
PANEL 1: Stan is still at the edge of the platform, but his face is turned to the side, watching as a couple of carny workers roll away the geek’s vat (we now can see that the vat is on wheels; we couldn’t see that earlier when the crowd was surrounding it). Hoately has moved around from behind Stan and is about to go down the few short steps leading from the platform to the midway. He’s looking over at Stan; his expression is one of mild surprise.
STAN: BUT CAN I ASK YOU SOMETHING? HOW DO YOU GET A GUY TO GEEK?
PANEL 2: Stan is gesturing with one hand as he asks his question.
STAN: I MEAN—IS HE BORN THAT WAY?
PANEL 3: Hoately has come up behind Stan, who’s still at the edge of the platform. We’re tighter on them, and can no longer see the geek’s vat or the workmen. Hoately has one arm slung paternally across Stan’s shoulder.
HOATELY: NOT HARDLY. YOU DON’T FIND ‘EM. YOU MAKE ‘EM!
PAGE 15: 2 half-page-deep/high panels, one on top of the other.
NOTE: Besides advancing the story, the panels on this page are meant to visually introduce the reader to the side-show within the 10-in-1 tent. I’ve tried to create some images that will do the job, but if you have any others, just drop ’em in.
PANEL 1: Stan and Hoately are now inside the 10-in-1 tent, ambling down the aisle in-between raised platforms. They should be the focus of our attention, but around them some carny-patrons are either ambling by or stopped to gaze, or to point, at some performers on the platforms. The tent has been pitched directly on the ball field or fairgrounds, so it’s a grass or dirt “floor.”
On one of the platforms we see Joe Plasky performing on acrobatic rings. The upper part of Joe’s body is a muscleman’s, but his legs are withered by infantile paralysis. The painted backdrop at his platform announces him as “THE HALF-MAN ATHLETE.” If possible, we can see Sailor Martin, the tattooed man, on another platform—he’s stripped except for abbreviated trunks, and his body is completely covered by tattoos. He might be hunkered at the edge of his platform, and carny-patrons might be clustered close for a good inspection. His backdrop reads “THE LIVING PICTURE GALLERY.” Depending on how you arrange or angle this panel, you might also include the Strong Man lifting barbells, on the bar of which the World’s Smallest Living Human is perched, doffing his hat to the patrons.
HOATELY (to Stan): YOU PICK UP A GUY AND HE AIN’T A GEEK—HE’S A BOOZE HOUND. SO YOU TELL HIM, I GOT A JOB FOR YOU. TEMPORARY THING. JUST TILL WE CAN FIND A REAL GEEK.
PANEL 2: Stan and Hoately—Hoately is grinning, Stan looks like the scales have just dropped from his eyes; they’re farther along in the tent. With his thumb, Hoately is gesturing toward Zeena, performing on a raised platform behind them. She’s a tall, full-figured woman in her early 40s dressed in a flowing white gown with astrological symbols embroidered on the hem; she has a “cascade of brassy blonde hair, and a band of gilt leather studded with glass jewels around her forehead.” Depending on the angle, we might see that her platform, unlike the others, has a rounded prompt box at her feet. The canvas backdrop behind her says: “MADAME ZEENA, MIRACLE WOMAN OF THE AGES!” The backdrop is decorated with cornball astrological symbols similar or identical to those on her gown.
HOATELY 1: SO THE DRUNK LIKES THIS FINE. BUT AFTER A WEEK YOU TELL HIM, SORRY, PAL, WE FOUND A REAL GEEK—YOU’RE THROUGH. SO HE PANICS AND PLEADS—AND YOU GOT HIM. YOU GOT YOUR REAL GEEK.
HOATELY 2: BUT ENOUGH GAB, KID. GO HELP ZEENA. MAKE YOURSELF USEFUL.
PAGE 16: Same panel layout as page 15: 2 half-page deep/high panels.
PANEL 1: We’re on stage with Zeena as she addresses the small crowd assembled before her platform. From this vantage we can see the empty prompt box at the edge of the platform in front of her. Out in the crowd, Stan is passing among the patrons, handing out white envelopes.
ZEENA: …DON’T BE BASHFUL—JUST ASK! MY YOUNG ASSISTANT IS PASSING AMONG YOU WITH LITTLE CARDS AND ENVELOPES. JOT DOWN ANY QUESTION YOU’D LIKE ANSWERED ABOUT YOUR FUTURE—ANYTHING AT ALL!
PANEL 2: Reverse angle: we’re down in the crowd now, looking back toward Zeena on the platform. She’s beckoning to Stan to come to her. Stan, among the crowd, has one arm raised, so that Zeena can see a bunch of sealed white envelopes in his fist. The angle here should be wide enough that we can see a curtained entryway on one side of the platform.
ZEENA: I SEE THAT MR. CARLISLE HAS A GOOD HANDFUL—SO IF HE’LL BRING THEM UP HERE, WE CAN START THE READINGS.
PAGE 17: 4 panels, 2 per tier. They can all be equal-size panels, but if you feel you want to make one or two larger for an effect, go ahead.
PANEL 1: We’re behind the curtained entryway that we just saw in the previous panel, and looking toward Stan coming through the curtains. In the foreground, several wooden steps in silhouette lead up to the platform. (This area is totally cut off from the view of the carny patrons.) Stan is parting the curtain with one hand; in his other hand he’s clutching the envelopes.
NO DIALOG OR CAPTION
PANEL 2: Close on the wooden steps: we’re facing toward the steps and risers. There is a cut-out in one of the risers, and behind it we can see Pete’s eyes and part of his grizzled face, peering out (as though he’s looking at us, but he’s actually looking at Stan, not shown).
NO DIALOG OR CAPTION
PANEL 3: Stan (at the right side of panel) is leaning forward from the waist, placing his envelopes into one of Pete’s hands, stretched out through the open riser; Pete’s other hand is pressing some identical envelopes into Stan’s free hand.
NO DIALOG OR CAPTION
PANEL 4: On the platform again. From Zeena’s position (she’s half-turned, facing toward right side of panel), we see Stan coming off the top step and onto the platform. Beside Zeena (or slightly in front of her) there’s a low table with a wok-type bowl, a bottle of alcohol, and some long fireplace matches on top of it. Zeena is extending an arm toward Stan.
ZEENA: HERE’S THE MAN WITH YOUR QUESTIONS—SO LET’S GET GOIN’
PAGE 18: 3 panels. The first panel is a vertical half-page-wide rectangle. Panels two and three sit atop one another on the right-hand side of the page. Panel two is smaller than panel three.
PANEL 1: Zeena (facing us/the crowd; the crowd is not shown) is pouring alcohol from the bottle onto the envelopes which are now inside the wok-type bowl. Stan, beside and slightly behind her, is watching closely.
ZEENA: PEOPLE ASK IF I HAVE SPIRIT AID—AND I ALWAYS TELL ’EM THE ONLY SPIRITS I CONTROL ARE THE ONES IN THIS BOTTLE—SPIRITS OF ALCOHOL!
PANEL 2: Tight on the envelopes burning in the bowl; we can see one of the long fireplace matches, the head flaming, as Zeena drops it into the bowl after igniting all of the envelopes.
ZEENA (off): AS YOU CAN SEE, FOLKS, I DON’T EVEN HAVE TO TOUCH YOUR LETTERS—IT’S ALL IMPRESSIONS!
PANEL 3: Low angle: we see (to the left of the panel) Zeena’s feet (she’s wearing sandals) and the decorated hem of her dress. The focus is on the prompt box, though, where we now see Pete’s haggard face framed. He’s giving a wink and a smile, and his grizzled, boozy face is turned up at Zeena.
ZEENA: …AND I’M GETTIN’ SOME ALREADY.
PAGE 19: 4 equal-size panels, 2 per tier.
PANEL 1: Close on the prompt box, where Pete is holding up a large piece of cardboard in front of his face. His grimy fingers clutch each side of it. Printed clearly but crudely on the cardboard, it reads:
MR. J.E. GILES
ZEENA (off): IT’S STILL CLOUDY, BUT IT’S COMIN’ CLEARER—WAIT!
PANEL 2: Zeena, seen full-length on stage, in right-facing profile; her eyes are clearly glancing downward. The wok bowl is now drizzling black smoke and wafers of ash, and the envelopes are nothing but charred paper.
ZEENA: I GET THE INITIALS…J…E…G. IT’S A GENTLEMAN, AM I RIGHT? MR. GILES!
PANEL 3: We’re down in the crowd; among the carny-goers assembled below Zeena’s platform (not shown) is a hayseed farmer-type in coveralls (Mr. Giles). He’s smiling. His arm is lifted like an eager schoolboy with the correct answer. Beside him, a short, stocky, gray-haired woman wearing a shapeless dress (obviously his wife) is squeezing his arm and looking at him with almost childish delight. Around them both, other carny patrons have turned to look at Giles with curiosity.
GILES: BY GOD, MA’AM—RIGHT HERE!
PANEL 4: Zeena, seen almost full-length; the composition is angled so that we can see the crowd, and Mr. Giles listening intently. Zeena has pressed the fingertips of one hand firmly against her temple, in counterfeit deep concentration. Her eyes are squeezed shut.
ZEENA: MR. GILES, I SEE—ROLLING LAND. PLOWED FIELDS. AND IN ONE OF THOSE FIELDS, I GLIMPSE…A WAGON.
PAGE 20: 3 panels. The top tier is comprised of two half-page-deep, equal-size panels; the bottom tier consists of one half-page-high, page-wide panel.
PANEL 1: Same view of Zeena from previous panel—only we’ve moved in much tighter on her. We see just her head and her torso, and now both of her hands are raised, their fingertips pressed against her temples. Her eyes are still closed tight.
ZEENA: I BELIEVE YOU’RE NOT SU RE WHETHER TO FIX THAT OLD WAGON OR BUY A NEW ONE.
PANEL 2: Very close on Zeena now; just her face. Her eyes have snapped open, and there’s a glint of merriment and enjoyment in their lights. Up this close, we can see that she’s very attractive but there are definitely signs of age on her face: crow’s feet around the eyes, a sag to the chin, some lines in her forehead. She’s smiling and it’s a winning smile.
ZEENA 1: MY ADVICE? FIX THE OLD ONE—AND WITH THE MONEY YOU SAVE, TAKE THAT NICE WIFE OF YOURS ON A VACATION!
ZEENA 2: NOW, I’M GETTING’ ANOTHER IMPRESSION…
PANEL 3: Wide angle to take in the entire platform: Stan (smiling), Zeena (glancing down inconspicuously), and—clearly—another/different piece of cardboard being held up by Pete in the prompt box. The vantage point is from on stage, looking toward the crowd. In the crowd we should see—but not necessarily lock on (yet), a tall, gaunt, middle-aged woman; she might look like a dirt-poor Depression-era woman from a WPA photograph.
The new piece of cardboard in the prompt box reads:
MRS. R. L.
IS MOM O.K.?
ZEENA: I SEE THE LETTERS R…L…
PANEL 1: We’re in Pete’s dark, cramped sweatbox, under Zeena’s platform (the platform floor is the sweatbox’s ceiling). A slightly built physical wreck in his 50s, Pete is seated hunched on a milking stool. The MRS. R.L. (etc.) cardboard is now lying across his knees. The other cardboard (…FIX WAGON? etc.) has been discarded on the ground but is clearly evident. Also scattered around are some torn-open white envelopes.
Crammed into the enclosure with Pete is a very low table (the legs have probably been sawed off); on the table are more white envelopes, some torn open, others unopened, several black chunky crayons, a shaded lamp (the illumination is directed down into a small focused pool of light on the table), and a bottle of whiskey. The floor is beaten-down dirt/grass. Pete looks sick and exhausted, and he’s sweating.
ZEENA (off; the balloon tail is pointing through the prompt-box opening): …NOW, I GET THE IMPRESSION YOU’RE WORRIED ABOUT YOUR MOTHER’S HEALTH…
PANEL 2: Back on the stage platform with Zeena. From this angle, we can see the crowd standing in front of the platform, and our attention is directed (because of where Zeena is staring, and possibly pointing) to that woman-of-constant-sorrow referred to in Panel 3, page 20. This is the woman who’s asked the question being answered now; she has placed her hand cautiously to her lips and is listening intently.
ZEENA: BUT ALL SHE NEEDS IS A GOOD LONG REST. THEN JUST YOU WATCH HER HEALTH IMPROVE!
PANEL 3: Back in Pete’s sweatbox underneath the platform. Pete has dragged his milking stool over to the cut-down table; he’s sitting bent over the table, his head cradled in his folded arms. The whiskey bottle has been moved and is directly in his reach, illuminated by the cone of light from the shaded lamp.
ZEENA (off): …NOW, FOLKS, I HAVE HERE A SET OF ASTROLOGY BOOKLETS. AND SEEIN’ THIS IS OUR LAST DAY IN YOUR FINE TOWN, WE’RE DROPPIN’ THE PRICE TO A MERE 25 CENTS. FIRST COME, FIRST SERVED…
PAGE 22: 3 equal-size horizontal panels, one on top of the other.
PANEL 1: Night. Heavy rain. Medium-long shot of a caravan of carny trucks in the ball field/fairgrounds, ready to move out. The carny has been dismantled. On the side of one of the bigger trucks we can read the name of the carnival printed in old-fashioned script: THE ACKERMAN-ZORBACH MONSTER SHOW
At one of the smaller trucks in the caravan, Stan is leaning in talking to the driver. He’s wearing a rain slicker, and it’s not necessary that we identify him here; nor do we know yet who the driver is (it’s Zeena). On the side panel of this truck—in less fancy, non-professional script—it says:
MIRACLE WOMAN OF THE AGES
ZEENA (from inside the truck): WANNA RIDE UP HERE WITH US? PLENTY O’ ROOM.
PANEL 2: Close on Stan, outside Zeena’s truck. He’s hunched down. Zeena is talking to him through the half-rolled-down driver’s window. We can glimpse a rider alongside of her in front. (It’s Molly; and this will be our first look at her: she’s just a vague silhouette now). The rain is crashing down, bouncing off Stan’s head and rain slicker; maybe everything is weirdly illuminated by a flash of lightning.
STAN: WHERE’S PETE?
ZEENA: IN BACK, HAVING A SNOOZE. COME ON, STAN, SQUEEZE IN.
PANEL 3: Inside the cab of Zeena’s truck. Stan has climbed in the passenger side and his hand is still on the door handle, having just pulled the door shut. Left to right, it’s: Stan, Molly in the middle, and Zeena behind the wheel. We’re looking at them all straight on, and their faces and clothing are speckled and runneled with snake-like rain-on-the-windshield shadows. Stan’s face is turned to Molly and Zeena; Zeena is looking over at him and she’s smiling. Molly is also looking at Stan, but more at his wet clothing than at him; possibly she’s put a hand on his wet coat sleeve.
This is our first real look at Molly and she’s a beauty—although she’s an innocent, scrubbed-looking beauty. She’s wearing a cloth raincoat, but it’s unbuttoned and we can glimpses her abbreviated spangled/metallic stage costume underneath.
STAN: THANKS, ZEENA. HIYA, MOLLY.
MOLLY (to Stan): HEY, YOU’RE SOAKIN’! WHYN’T YOU TAKE OFF THAT WET COAT?
PAGE 23: 3 panels; top tier consists of two half-page-deep, equal-size panels; bottom tier consists of one half-page-high, page-wide panel.
PANEL 1: We’re still in the cab of Zeena’s truck. Close on: Zeena driving; she’s looking straight ahead but laughing.
ZEENA: HEAR THAT, STAN? MOLLY DON’T WANT YOU TO CATCH COLD. SOUNDS LIKE SHE GOT HER EYE ON YOU. CAN’T SAY I BLAME HER!
PANEL 2: Still in the truck cab: Close on Molly and Zeena now. Molly, like an embarrassed teenager, is lightly punching Zeena’s arm. Her expression is also one of adolescent embarrassment (as though somebody’s just said, “Molly’s got a boyfriend, Molly’s got a boyfriend”—that kind of thing). Her eyes are wide, but she can’t quite suppress a smile.
MOLLY: OH, YOU’RE TERRIBLE, ZEENA! I’M NOT LOOKING TO HITCH UP WITH ANYBODY!
PANEL 3: Exterior: Zeena’s truck following the carny convoy in the pouring rain. We see that the trucks have moved away from the fairgrounds/ball field and are on the rural highway. Maybe there’s a billboard off to the side of the road—and maybe, through the driving rain, we can see it’s a fundamentalist Christian ad: JESUS SAVES!
MOLLY (balloon arrow pointing to Molly’s position in the truck): I’M TOO YOUNG EVEN TO THINK ABOUT THAT!
ZEENA (balloon pointing to driver’s window): WHO YOU KIDDIN’? YOU’RE 19. ME AND PETE WAS MARRIED WHEN I WAS 17.
PAGE 24: 3 page-wide horizontal rectangles, stacked one on top of the other
PANEL 1: We’re in the back compartment of Zeena’s truck now, and see Pete lying on his side, asleep on a bed of rumpled old blankets; we should see clearly that this is the same man we saw earlier under Zeena’s platform. He’s got his whiskey bottle clutched in both hands, like a security blanket.
Above him there is a lozenge-shaped opening to the truck cab, and we can see the back of Zeena’s, Molly’s and Stan’s heads in silhouette.
ZEENA (balloon arrow pointing through the opening between back and cab, toward Zeena): THOSE WERE GOOD DAYS. HE WORKED THE STAGE WITH HIS CRYSTAL BALL AND I WORKED THE AUDIENCE…
PANEL 2: Back in the truck cab: Zeena, driving, looks wistful; Molly has taken out a hairbrush and is brushing her hair. Her raincoat has fallen open further in front, and Stan is glancing down at the deep cleavage exposed by her costume.
ZEENA: …WE HAD THE BEST CODE ACT ON THE CIRCUIT. THEN PETE’S NERVES STARTED TO GO…
PANEL 3: Exterior: Zeena’s truck, behind others in the caravan. It’s still pouring rain. The trucks are now passing through a small Midwestern town, along Main Street. We can see some storefronts—a dress shop, a drug store—and we can also see the local movie theater, The Palace, with its light-bulb-ringed marquee. On the marquee it reads:
KING & I
STARTS THURS LOVE ME TENDER
ZEENA (balloon tail pointing to driver’s window): …BOOZE AND MENTALISM DON’T MIX.
PAGE 25: 3 panels; top tier consists of one 1/3-page-deep, page-wide horizontal rectangle; bottom tier consists of two equal-size, ¾-page high vertical rectangles.
PANEL 1: Establishing long shot: the carny at its new location, another ball field, a different fairgrounds. It’s early morning, and the rain is over. The sky has cleared and is brightening. The erection of the carny is just about completed; we see game booths, tents, some rides, and the roughnecks still at work, carrying poles, hoisting up a big striped tent, etc. The field is hellishly muddy.
NO DIALOG OR CAPTION
PANEL 2: Stan, looking bedraggled, tired, and mud-smeared from his all-night work with the roughnecks, is perched on a striped wooden barrel, smoking a cigarette. We see him in the middle-ground. In the foreground, Zeena, dressed in clean street clothes—different clothing than she wore in the truck—is approaching him. She’s carrying a heavy aluminum thermos.
ZEENA: LONG NIGHT, HUH KID? YOU LOOK BEAT. HOW ’BOUT SOME COFFEE?
PANEL 3: In the foreground there’s sloughy black mud, and the barrel Stan was just perched on. In the middle distance, Stan and Zeena are walking away from us, down the newly assembled (and mucky) midway. Stan is turned to look at Zeena as he pours coffee from the thermos bottle into its cap.
STAN: AWFUL NICE OF YOU…
ZEENA: DON’T MENTION IT. ’S GOOD HAVIN’ YOU AROUND. MOST OF THE ROUGHNECKS WORKIN’ HERE GIMME THE CREEPS. BUT YOU’RE DIFFERENT.
PAGE 26: 4 equal-size panels, two per tier.
PANEL 1: Stan and Zeena walking on the muddy midway. But now they seem to be walking directly toward us. Stan is raising the thermos cap to his mouth; he’s holding the thermos in his free hand.
STAN: YEAH, I LIKE CARNY LIFE. ONLY I’M NOT TOO CRAZY ’BOUT BEIN’ EVERYBODY’S GO-FER.
ZEENA: SO WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO?
PANEL 2: Closer on Stan and Zeena; they’ve stopped walking and have turned to face each other. Behind them is a game booth. Stan’s leaning against the counter, where he’s set the thermos and, right next to it, the thermos cap, which show a little steam coming off the coffee. The prize shelves inside the booth are all empty.
STAN 1: WELL…I WAS ALWAYS INTERESTED IN MAGIC. SINCE I WAS A KID. SO I’M WONDERING…
STAN 2: IF MAYBE YOU COULD—TEACH ME.
PANEL 3: Closer still on Stan and Zeena. They’re still facing one another, and they’ve moved imperceptibly closer. Zeena is laughing. Stan is staring at her intently.
ZEENA: MAGIC’S JUST MISDIRECTION, HONEY. YOU DON’T NEED NO FANCY EDUCATION.
STAN: NO, I’M SERIOUS—SHOW ME HOW!
PANEL 4: Zeena has leaned closer to Stan. She’s placed a palm flat on his cheek, and has cocked her head a little, teasingly; she’s smiling, and her expression is precisely what the anthropologists mean by the term “copulatory gaze.”
ZEENA: THAT COULD BE ARRANGED.
PAGE 27: 4 equal-size panels, 2 per tier.
PANEL 1: Zeena has walked around Stan and is emptying the coffee from the thermos cap into the mud. Stan is staring away from her, he looks tense, shoulders a little hunched, fingers curled toward the palms.
STAN: HOW ’BOUT WE START THE LESSONS…NOW?
PANEL 2: Stan, looking chagrinned, is standing with his back to the game-booth counter, staring after Zeena who’s walking away, picking her way through the mud. She’s turned, smiling, to talk to him over her shoulder. The thermos, with the cap back on top, is pinned under one of her arms.
ZEENA: DON’T BE SO EAGER. WE’LL GET TOGTHER REAL SOON. PROMISE.
PANEL 3: Stan has walked after Zeena, so we’re now in a different part of the midway. He’s stopped by a Tilt-a-Whirl ride. Zeena has gone around the ride and is moving away.
STAN: THIS AFTERNOON?
ZEENA: CAN’T. I GOT TO MAKE PETE SIT DOWN AND PAY SOME BILLS—IF I CAN KEEP HIM AWAY FROM THE BOOZE. MAYBE TOMORROW.
PANEL 4: Stan, looking forlorn, is walking alone, heading toward the 10-in-1 tent at the end of the midway. In the foreground is the strongman we saw earlier in the tent, only now he’s dressed in carpenter’s coveralls and is lugging a stack of lumber on one shoulder. He and Stan are oblivious to each other.
CAPTION/PETE (with quotes): “WELL—LOOKIT WHO’S HERE. HEY KID, GIMME A HAND HANGIN’ THIS?”
PAGE 28: 3 panels: the top tier consists of one half-page-deep, page-wide panel; the bottom tier consists of two equal-size panels.
PANEL 1: Inside the 10-in-1 tent. We’re on Zeena’s stage platform. Stan is on a ladder, holding a hammer in one hand; he’s just finished hanging up Zeena’s backdrop banner, and he’s kind of sighting along it, checking that it’s hanging straight. (The banner reads: MADAME ZEENA, MIRACLE WOMAN OF THE AGES; we saw the same banner in the earlier sequence.)
In the foreground, Pete is seated on a ladder-back chair, talking at a crystal ball that he’s holding in one hand: kind of like Hamlet holding the skull of Yorick. Right beside Pete’s chair is a steamer trunk, its sides decorated with astrological symbols identical to those on Zeena’s stage gown. Jumbled inside the trunk are some of Zeena’s wardrobe—other gowns, a circlet, maybe a pair of shoes: all that’s important is that the contents are clearly perceived to be Zeena’s.
PETE 1: …SINCE THE DAWN OF HISTORY, MANKIND HAS SOUGHT TO SEE BEHIND THE VEIL WHICH HIDES HIM FROM TOMORROW…
PETE 2: CHRIST, I HAVEN’T USED THIS OLD CRYSTAL IN MUST BE TEN YEARS.
PANEL 2: Close on Pete’s arm and his hand as he drops the crystal ball back into Zeena’s open trunk; we get a closer look at some of the things in the trunk…and somewhere in there, almost buried, we see the neck of a bottle.
PETE 1 (off): DON’T THINK I COULD GET UP IN FRONT OF THE MARK ANYMORE—NOT LIKE I USED TO.
PETE 2 (off): HEY STAN—HATE TO ASK, BUT COULD YOU SPARE A FIN?
PANEL 3: Stan has come down off the ladder and he’s standing beside the open steamer trunk, sticking the hammer back inside it. Pete is in the background now, looking up at the newly hung banner.
STAN: SORRY, PETE. PAYDAY’S STILL—
PETE 1: YEAH—S’OKAY. NOT A PROBLEM.
PETE 2: ‘MIRACLE WOMAN’—SHE’S THAT, ALL RIGHT. I’D BE LONG DEAD BY NOW, WASN’T FOR ZEENA.
PAGE 29: 3 panels: panel one is a half-page-wide, top-to-bottom vertical rectangle; panels two and three, on the right side of the page, are equal-size, one on top of the other.
PANEL 1: In the background, we see Pete, full-length, with his back turned to us; he’s facing the banner and has reached both arms straight up into the air, like some jubilee preacher; he’s reciting/performing the old spiel. In the foreground (large), Stan’s arm comes from the left side of the panel, and we see his hand digging around inside the open steamer trunk, his grip closed around the neck of the bottle. (The bottle should be identical to the one that Zeena used to burn the envelopes in the earlier scene; it has no label, but the shape should ring a bell, maybe, with the reader.)
PETE 1: ALL THROUGH THE AGES CERTAIN MEN HAVE GAZED INTO THE POLISHED CRYSTAL AND SEEN. VISIONS COME. SLOWLY SHIFTING THEIR FORM, VISIONS COME. HA! VISIONS. I COULD STAND SEEIN’ A FEW MYSELF. RIGHT NOW.
PETE 2: STAN? HOW ’BOUT A DOLLAR?
PANEL 2: Stan is offering the bottle to Pete, who looks astounded and is grinning thirstily.
STAN: HOW ‘BOUT A DRINK?
PANEL 3: In the foreground, left side of panel (large): we see Pete’s right-facing profile. His attention is fixed on the bottle which he is raising to his open lips. In the background, we see Stan leaving, his back to Pete, one hand raised in a lazy farewell.
PETE 1: YOU’RE A GOOD GUY, STAN. BUT DON’T TELL ZEENA ’BOUT THIS—PROMISE? SHE’LL GET MAD.
PETE 2: GOOD GUY…
PAGE 30: 3 equal size horizontal rectangles, one on top of the other.
PANEL 1: Exterior; establishing shot. We see Stan crossing a street in a small Midwestern town, heading toward a brick 3-story hotel. He’s changed clothes, bathed, his hair is brushed; he’s spiffed himself up. A vertical HOTEL sing hangs down the front of the building. It’s a nice summer afternoon, and there are some pedestrians walking along; maybe a car parked at the curb. Parking meters along the street.
NO CAPTION OR DIALOG
PANEL 2: Interior of Zeena’s hotel room. Zeena, wearing a quilted robe, is stretched out on top of her bed, a glossy magazine open on her lap. She’s just glanced up from reading, is looking toward the door, directly opposite the foot of the bed. Maybe we can see a chair, a table. (If we do see the table, we should glimpses some cards spread out on top.)
ZEENA: PETE? DOOR’S OPEN, HON.
PANEL 3: Zeena, looking annoyed (but not angry) is rising from the bed. She’s tossed the magazine to the foot of the bed, and we can see, now that’s closed, that it’s “LOOK” magazine. Stan has entered the room and shut the door behind him. He’s grinning widely—it’s a grin and a self-satisfied smirk.
ZEENA: I THOUGHT I TOLD YOU—
STAN: PETE’S NOT GONNA BOTHER US. I SEEN HIM IN THE TENT—PASSED OUT COLD. HE MUST’VE FOUND SOME BOOZE.
PAGE 31: 4 panels. Top tier consists of 2 panels, the left panel narrower than the right; the bottom tier consists of 2 panels, the right panel narrower than the left.
PANEL 1: Stan, displaying some new-found aggression, is leaning onto the bed, one knee on the mattress, the other leg stretched out behind hm. He’s clutched Zeena—who looks startled but not displeased—by her shoulders and is forcing her back onto the bed, under him.
STAN: SO WE GOT TIME NOW—FOR THOSE MAGIC LESSONS.
PANEL 2: We’re back inside the 10-in-1 tent, on Zeena’s platform. Pete is seated on the ladder-back chair, which has been repositioned to the rear of the platform, directly under the banner than Stan hung earlier. We’re looking at Pete from the front of the stage, some distance away from us (say, 10 feet). His eyes are open and he’s staring straight ahead (seemingly at us). His arms hang loosely down, and in one hand he’s clutching the bottle that Stan gave him.
CAPTION/ZEENA (with quotes): “WAIT, STAN, WAIT—NOT YET. KISS ME SOME MORE FIRST.”
PANEL 3: Come in very close on Pete’s face now—and we see that his eyes are just open, they’re blank. His lips are parted. (Jesus, we think, is the guy dead? Looks it, but we’re not…quite…sure.)
CAPTION/ZEENA (with quotes): “TAKE IT EASY AND SLOW, STAN. YEAH, LIKE THAT—SLOW AND EASY…”
PANEL 4: Close on the side and legs of Pete’s chair and on one of his dangling hands, the hand that held the bottle. His fingers are open, slack, and the bottle has dropped. It’s lying on its side on the platform floor, and leaking its contents.
CAPTION/ZEENA (with quotes): “NOW, BABY! LET YOURSELF GO! LET IT GO…”
PAGE 32: 3 panels. Top tier consists of one half-page-deep, page-wide panel; bottom tier consists of 2 equal-size panels
PANEL 1: Zeena’s hotel room. Zeena (in background) is sitting up in bed, propped against a pillow, and covered by the sheet; she’s drawn her legs up under the sheet. She’s smoking, and is staring at Stan (in foreground, left side of panel). Stan is buttoning his shirt back on (or if he’s been wearing a t-shirt, he’s just pulled it down over his head and is tugging it toward his waist. As he dresses, he glances down at the small table/hotel writing desk in front of which he’s standing. The same 5 tarot cards we saw at the end of the prolog are laid out there, and the rest of the deck is beside them. He’s obviously intrigued by what he’s just noticed.
ZENNA: SORRY TO KICK YOU OUT, HONEY—BUT WE GOTTA BE CAREFUL.
STAN: I HAVE TO GET BACK ANYHOW. HEY ZEENA—WHAT ARE THESE?
PANEL 2: Closer on Stan: he’s leaning over the table, his arms stretched out bracing himself, hands flat on the table (desk) top. He’s studying the arranged tarot cards with a quizzical expression.
ZEENA (off): THE TAROT. THEY’RE FORTUNE-TELLING CARDS.
PANEL 3: Close on one of the cards that Stan has scooped up from the top of the deck. We see it held in his hand: the card’s image shows a young man suspended head-down by one foot from a T-shaped cross. The youth’s hands are tied behind his back. A halo of light shines above his head.
STAN 1: I SEEN THESE BEFORE…SOMEPLACE.
STAN 2: WHAT’S THIS ONE CALLED?
PAGE 33: 4 panels. Top tier consists of 2 half-page-deep panels, the left wider than the right; bottom tier consists of 2 equal-size panels.
PANEL 1: Downstairs in the hotel. We’re positioned slightly beside/behind the desk clerk (whom we can see, in the foreground), looking out into the shabby hotel lobby. There, we see Molly, dressed in street clothes, hurrying across the lobby, moving from right to left, and heading toward the staircase. She looks very grim.
CAPTION 1/ZEENA (with quotes): “WHICH CARD? LEMME SEE.”
CAPTION 2/ZEENA (with quotes): THAT ONE’S CALLED ‘THE HANGED MAN.’ BUT I WOULDN’T WORRY ABOUT IT, STAN…”
PANEL 2: A very narrow panel, showing The Hanged Man tarot card in close detail, partly obscured on the lower left corner by Stan’s thumb.
ZEENA (off): …YOU WERE NEVER BORN TO HANG. NOW, GET GOIN’…
PANEL 3: In the hotel hallway: Molly is knocking on Zeena’s room door.
MOLLY: ZEENA? I GOTTA TALK TO YOU! SOMETHING’S HAPPENED!
PANEL 4: Inside Zeena’s hotel room. Zeena, wearing the same robe that we saw her wearing when Stan arrived, is now pushing Stan through the bathroom door; through the open bathroom doorway, we glimpses the sink, part of the tub or toilet. Stan looks worried; depending on how much we see of him here, we might or might not notice that he still has The Hanged Man tarot card clutched in one hand. Zeena is shoving Stan with one arm, and her body is twisted half-around; she’s facing off to the left, toward the room door, addressing Molly (still outside in the hall).
ZEENA: BE RIGHT THERE—ONE SECOND!
PAGE 34: 2 side-by-side panels, each a page high, half-page-wide vertical rectangle.
PANEL 1: We see Stan full-length in the bathroom, pressed sideways—and looking very anxious—against the bathroom door, listening. (The door is cracked open about an inch.) One of his hands is on the door knob; his other arm dangles; in his hand, pinched between thumb and first finger, is The Hanged Man tarot card.
ZEENA (balloon tail pointing through the doorway, into the hotel room): PETE? WHAT’RE YOU TELLIN’ ME? HE’S DEAD? PETE’S DEAD?
PANEL 2: We’re in the hotel room, and can see the almost closed bathroom door in the background. In the foreground, Zeena is crumpling with grief. She’s being held up by Molly.
MOLLY: I’M SO SORRY, ZEENA…
PAGE 35: 3 panels. Top tier consists of a half-page-deep panel; bottom tier consists of 2 equal-size panels.
PANEL 1: In the bathroom. Stan is now standing with his back to the bathroom door, his arms spread wide: it looks half-like a crucifixion and half-like he expects someone to come barging in and he wants to block that from happening. His expression is one of stunning horror, as he realizes what he’s done.
MOLLY (balloon arrow pointing through the bathroom door): …SOMEHOW HE GOT HOLD OF THE WOOD ALCOHOL—THE BOTTLE YOU KEEP TO BURN THE PHONY QUESTIONS.
PANEL 2: Very, very tight on Stan’s horrified face. Eyes wide with panic and fear.
NO DIALOG OR CAPTIONS
PANEL 3: Still in the bathroom, but close on one of Stan’s shoes; beside it on the tile bathroom floor is the twisted/crumpled Hanged Man tarot card which has just fallen from Stan’s grip. (The impression should be that Stan clenched his fist in rage/fear/panic, and that this is the result. But the card should be recognizable for what it is.
CAPTION/CARNY MAN (at bottom of panel, with quotes): “YOU KNOW, FELLAS, I MISS THAT OLD RUM POT. PETE WAS A GOOD GUY…”
PAGE 36: 3-page-wide horizontal panels. Panel 2 is deeper than panels 1 and 2, which are equal-sized.
PANEL 1: Exterior. We see a train—engine followed by a coal car, a baggage car, then some passenger cars, and a caboose-rushing through a clear night, rounding a curve in the tracks. Painted on the baggage car we see the Ackerman-Zorbach Monster Show logo. There is a strip of light showing around the baggage-car door.
FIRST CARNY MAN (off; balloon arrow is pointing toward the baggage car): HE WAS THAT, ALL RIGHT. A GOOD GUY AND A SWELL TROUPER.
SECOND CARNY MAN (off; balloon arrow pointing to the same place): YOU HEAR ANYTHING ’BOUT WHO’S GONNA WORK THE ACT WITH ZEENA NOW?
PANEL 2: Inside the baggage car. Four carny men—the midget, the acrobat with the withered lower body, the tattooed man, and the strong man/giant—are sitting around an upended crate playing cards by lantern light. Wooden crates, baggage, rolled tents, etc. are stacked everywhere. The midget is grinning salaciously.
ACROBAT: STAN CARLISLE—S’WHAT I HEAR.
TATTOOED MAN: WHO’S STAN CARLISLE?
MIDGET: THE KID—YOU KNOW, THE GO-FER. ZEENA’S TEACHIN’ HIM THE OLD 2-PERSOSN CODE…
PANEL 3: Stan and Zeena stretched out alongside one another in bed inside a cramped upper-berth in one of the train cars; it’s dim, the only light is a small low-wattage bulb in a small fixture on the wall above their heads. (A heavy curtain is drawn along the edge of the berth; it’s the only thing separating them from the public corridor of the passenger car.) Zeena’s cloth shoulder bag is hanging on a peg on the inside wall of the berth. Stan has braced himself on one elbow and is leaning over Zeena, who looks to be asleep. She’s wearing a plain white cotton nightgown. He’s wearing a strap t-shirt and briefs.
CAPTION/MIDGET (at top of panel, with quotes): “…AND THAT AIN’T ALL SHE’S TEACHIN’ HIM.”
PAGE 37: 4 equal-size panels, two per tier
PANEL 1: Close on Stan (left side of panel) kneeling up in the berth, speaking intently to Zeena. His hand rests on her shoulder. She’s just been roused from her sleep, looks bedraggled, a little cranky, and her full age.
STAN: PETE’S NOTEBOOK—COULD I SEE IT AGAIN?
ZEENA: AT TWO IN THE MORNING?
PANEL 2: Still inside the upper sleeping berth. Zeena has sat up and taken her cloth bag down from the wall hook; she’s withdrawing her hand from inside the bag, and in it is a small black notebook.
STAN: I WANNA STUDY THE CODE SOME MORE—SO WE CAN TURN THIS ACT INTO SOMETHING SPECIAL.
PANEL 3: Still in the sleeping berth; different angle. Zeena, looking a little suspicious, maybe disappointed, maybe anxious, is handing the book to Stan.
ZEENA: SOUNDS LIKE YOU’RE STARTIN’ TO HAVE BIG IDEAS, MR. CARLISLE.
STAN: I’M JUST…THINKIN’. THAT’S ALL.
PANEL 4: In the train corridor. We see Stan climbing down the ladder from the upper berth into the corridor; he’s now wearing jeans and a work shirt, and shoes. The notebook is in one hand. We see where they’ve been, and that the top sleeping berth is curtained off; and we can see identical berths, upper and lower, extending down the car. Zeena’s face, disgruntled, is framed by the curtains as she peers out of the upper berth and down at Stan.
ZEENA: DON’T YOU LOSE THAT BOOK, HONEY, OR ZEENA’LL CUT YOUR BALLS OFF.
CAPTION (at the bottom of the panel, and done in Pete’s messy but readable handwriting; no quotes): HUMAN NATURE IS THE SAME ALL OVER. SAME TROUBLES, SAME FEARS…
PAGE 38: 4 panels. Top tier consists of one narrow left-hand panel and a wider right-hand panel; bottom tier consists of two equal-size panels.
PANEL 1: Stan is slumped in a window seat in the smoking car of the train, his attention focused on the notebook in his lap; the window beside him is black and reflects Stan’s face. He’s smoking.
CAPTION (top of panel, in Pete’s handwriting: this is what Stan is reading; no quotes): YOU CAN CONTROL ANYBODY BY FINDING OUT WHAT THEY’RE AFRAID OF AND THEN HIT THEM RIGHT WHERE THEY LIVE.
PANEL 2: We pull back to look down the long, deserted smoking car, and see Stan, still reading, in a seat about midway down the car. There’s no one in the aisle seat beside him. Approaching him from behind is Molly, dressed in a blouse and skirt. She has her hand on the back of one of the seats, to keep her balance, and she’s looking toward Stan; he hasn’t seen her yet. In her free hand, she’s holding her pack of cigarettes and a square lighter.
CAPTION (top of panel, in Pete’s handwriting, no quotes): THEY’RE AFRAID OF SICKNESS, POVERTY, BOREDOM, FAILURE…
PANEL 3: Molly is standing in the aisle beside and slightly behind Stan’s seat; she’s leaning down, greeting him; she’s smiling. He’s just glanced up and around; he’s surprised and pleased to see her.
MOLLY: I CAN’T EVER SLEEP ON TRAINS. MIND IF I SIT?
STAN: PLEASE! I WAS JUST READING PETE’S OLD NOTEBOOK. IT’S A GOLD MINE. HE MADE A CODE LIST FOR ALL THE QUESTIONS THE CHUMPS ASK MOST.
PANEL 4: Molly seated on the aisle-seat, beside Stan. We’re looking at her from over/above Stan’s shoulder, and she looks a little taken aback—a slight frown on her forehead. Stan, meanwhile, is leaning toward her excitedly, waving the book.
STAN: GIVE YOU AN EXAMPLE. SUPPOSED SOMEBODY WANTS ME TO ASK ZEENA IF HER DAUGHTER’S ALL RIGHT. THAT’S QUESTION, UM, 55, AND THE CODE IS—
PAGE 39: 3 panels. Top tier consists of a narrow left-hand panel, and a wide right-hand panel. The bottom tier consists of one half-page-high, page-wide panel.
PANEL 1: Close on Stan’s face: we’ve made a temporal and location change, but it shouldn’t be apparent till the next panel.
STAN: …WILL YOU KINDLY ANSWER THE LADY’S QUESTION AT ONCE?
PANEL 2: We pull back to see Stan among the patrons standing down in front of Zeena’s platform in the 10-in-1 tent. He has his hand lightly on the shoulder of a dark-haired woman who seems a bit flustered to be the focus of attention. The other carny patrons are turned to look at Stan and the woman. Stan is dressed in a dark suit, and we should somehow get the impression that he’s aged a bit, gotten slicker somehow. We see Zeena standing up on the platform, looking down at Stan.
ZEENA: WELL, NOW, I GET THE IMPRESSION THAT THE LADY IS WORRIED ABOUT SOMEONE NEAR AND DEAR TO HER…
PANEL 3: Reverse angle: we’re now on stage with Zeena, as she answers the question. She also should look slightly different—healthier perhaps, or more robust, and she’s wearing some bangled new wrist jewelry. The impression should be that she has been revivified by the new, more successful version of the act.
ZEENA 1: IT’S YOUR DAUGHTER YOU’RE THINKIN’ OF, ISN’T IT? WELL, SHE’S DOIN’ FINE…AND SHE THINKS ABOUT YOU, TOO. SO WHYN’T YOU JUST CALL HER UP—LET BYGONES BE BYGONES.
ZEENA 2: NOW, WE HAVE TIME FOR JUST ONE MORE…
PAGE 40: 4 panels; top tier consists of two panels—the left-hand panel is much narrower than the right-hand; the second tier consists of two panels, the left is slightly narrower than the right.
PANEL 1: Close on Stan, speaking. (We’ve made yet another temporal/location jump—this one relatively slight—but it’s not apparent yet.)
STAN: THIS GENTLEMAN HAS AN IMPORTANT QUESTION IN MIND—WOULD YOU PLEASE ANSWER IT, PLEASE.
PANEL 2: We pull back to find that Stan and Zeena are by themselves, in a kind of dressing/changing area directly behind their platform’s backdrop. Zeena, in just her long line bra/girdle, is in the foreground, seated at a table. On the table is her headband/circlet and a round hand mirror. She’s using a towel to blot perspiration from her neck. Her stage dress is hanging on a simple clothes tree. (The back “wall” of this changing area is actually the wall of the big tent.) She’s smiling as she speaks.
Stan is behind Zeena, staring down at her, dully. He doesn’t look happy. Perhaps he’s seen Zeena as she really is: a flabby middle-aged woman. He’s holding Pete’s book in one hand, both his arms are dangling at his sides. He’s taken off his jacket, and untied his tie. (They’re “relaxing” between performances.)
ZEENA: AND THE QUESTION IS…WILL I GET A JOB SOON? OH HONEY,YOU’RE DOIN’ FINE. YOU KNOW THAT CODE INSIDE OUT.
STAN: YEAH, WE GOT A PRETTY GOOD ACT, I GUESS.
PANEL 3: Zeena has turned in her chair and is looking toward Stan with her head cocked quizzically. The towel is balled in her hands now. Stan, with his back turned to Zeena, has wandered off and is standing at a heavy canvas backdrop (the back of it, the blank side); he’s parted it slightly with one hand; he’s peering off at something.
ZEENA: PRETTY GOOD? WE’RE KILLIN’ ’EM!
STAN: FOOLIN’ A BUNCH OF CHUMPS EVERY DAY—BIG DEAL.
PANEL 4: Still in the changing area, behind the platform’s canvas backdrop. We move in closer on the canvas backdrop. Stan’s hand (to the right of the panel) is holding it open slightly, and through the gap, we have a direct view across Zeena’s platform to an adjacent 10-in-1 platform. There, Molly is on stage, dressed in her abbreviated, spangled costume; she’s taking a bow, and we should get the impression that Stan’s eyes are locked on Molly’s deep cleavage. From this vantage, we can just glimpse part of the electric chair beside Molly; we shouldn’t be able to clearly identify what it is yet, though.
STAN: AW, FORGET IT, ZEENA. I’M JUST A LITTLE…TIRED.
PAGE 41: 3 panels: the top tier consists of one half-page-deep, page-wide panel; the bottom tier consists of two equal-size panels.
PANEL 1: We’re on Molly’s platform now—and for the first time we get to see what she does in the show. She’s seated in a stereotypical Big House wooden electric chair. One of her arms has already been strapped onto an arm of the chair. Clem Hoately is now strapping her other arm down. There are straps around her ankles, and a metal cap on the top of her head. Off to one side is an almost comically large “executioner’s switch,” with wires running from it to the chair. Draped across the back of her platform is her banner: MAMZELLE ELECTRA.
Hoately is talking toward the front of the platform as he’s bent over adjusting the strap. We should glimpse—just catch a glimpse of—some carny-goers on the ground in front of the platform.
HOATELY: ON THIS PLATFORM YOU SEE ONE OF THE MOST AMAZING LADIES THE WORLD HAS EVER KNOWN! STRAPPED IN AN EXACT REPLICA OF THE ELECTRIC CHAIR AT SING-SING!
PANEL 2: We’re back on Zeena’s platform. Stan has come out from the backdrop curtain and is standing with his arms crossed, staring off at Molly’s platform. We see that Zeena, now wearing an ordinary bathrobe, is framed in the split canvas at the rear of her platform. She’s staring at Stan, and there’s worry in her expression; we should be able to read her mind: Stan is transfixed by the beautiful Molly, and Zeena realizes that she’s no physical competition. It’s not a jealous look, just a sad, resigned one.
HOATELY (off; balloon arrow pointing toward where Stan is staring): …15,000 VOLTS OF ELECTRICITY WILL PASS THROUGH HER BODY WITHOUT HURTING A SINGLE HAIR ON HER HEAD!
PANEL 3: On Molly’s platform. Angled to focus on Hoately, standing now with his hand gripped on the big executioner’s switch. We should see part of Molly, strapped into the chair: her mouth is a straight line, her eyes are fixed wide open, she looks pretty damn nervous.
HOATELY: LAY-DIES AND GEN-TLE-MEN! MAMZELLE ELECTRA—THE GIRL WHO DEFIES LIGHTNING!
PAGE 42: 4 panels; the top tier consists of two panels, the left narrower than the right; the bottom tier consists of two equal-size panel.
PANEL 1: We’re now in the crowd assembled before Molly’s platform (we can’t see the platform); the composition is angled so that we appear to be looking up at the Sheriff, so that he’s given a powerful, slightly towering aspect. The Sheriff is a “big, white-haired man with a badge pinned to his denim shirt.” His hat is pushed back, his thumbs are hooked in his belt. He’s wearing a gun. And reflector sunglasses. There are some carny-goers milling around the Sheriff, glancing at him.
SHERIFF: HOLD IT RIGHT THERE! NOBODY’S GONNA DEFY NOTHIN’—LEAST NOT TILL I SAY SO.
PANEL 2: Back on Molly’s platform; angle showing Hoately approaching the front of the platform, intending to talk to the Sheriff. One of Hoately’s hands is raised, the palm turned outward, as if he’s gently waving somebody off (actually, he’s dismissing the crowd). We can see the Sheriff, and the carny-crowd…but the space around the Sheriff is emptying fast, as carny-goers begin to drift away.
HOATELY 1: FOLKS, THIS’LL CONCLUDE OUR PERFORMANCE FOR THE TIME BEING.
HOATELY 2 (to the Sheriff): CHIEF, WHAT CAN I DO FOR YOU? NAME’S HOATELY—I’M OWNER OF THIS ATTRACTION.
PANEL 3: We’re looking at the Sheriff from the side; he wears a pugnacious expression, and is crooking one finger, beckoning to Hoately, who (at left of panel) is on the platform stage above the Sheriff, but is leaning forward from the waist, obsequiously.
SHERIFF: WELL…FIRST THING YOU CAN DO, MR. HOATELY, IS GET YOUR ASS DOWN HERE. NOW.
PANEL 4: We’re now on Zeena’s platform, across from Molly’s. Stan and Zeena (in her robe) are standing together, looking toward the Sheriff and Hoately. (Sheriff and Hoately need not be visible in the panel.) Stan looks worried; Zeena, turning her face to Stan, is wearing a smirk.
STAN: WHAT HAPPENS NOW?
ZEENA: HOATELY DOES SOME REAL POETIC TALKIN’—AND SOME MONEY CHANGES HANDS. YOU STIL GOT A LOT TO LEARN ABOUT THE CARNY.
PAGE 43: 4 equal-size panels, two per tier.
PANEL 1: Hoately (left) is facing the Sheriff. Hoately is using his hands to plead with the Sheriff; the Sheriff is jabbing a forefinger at Hoately.
HOATELY: WE GOT NO GIRLIE SHOWS AND NONE OF OUR GAMES ARE RIGGED. YOU CAN CHECK ‘EM FOR YOURSELF.
SHERIFF: SAVE IT. I GOT ORDERS TO CLOSE YIZ DOWN AND ARREST ANYBODY I SEE FIT. SO I’M ARRESTING YOU…
PANEL 2: Molly, alone on her platform, strapped in the electric chair and looking as though she’s struggling against her arm restraints. Her eyes are bugged in fear.
SHERIFF (off): …AND I’M TAKIN’ IN THAT WOMAN THERE, FOR INDECENT EXPOSURE. YOUNG LADY, GIT OFF THAT CONTRAPTION1
PANEL 3: On Zeena’s platform. Stan, looking angry, is at the edge of the platform, about to jump down to the ground. Zeena is reaching a hand after him, trying to stop him.
ZEENA: STAN! DON’T GET MIXED UP IN THIS! STAN!
PANEL 4: Hoately and the Sheriff. Hoately has lifted one arm to point behind him at Molly (not shown), while the Sheriff bears down on him (angle showing the superiority of the Sheriff), and places a hammy hand against Hoately’s chest, to shove him.
HOATELY: SHE’S GOT TO WEAR A COSTUME LIKE THAT, OR ELSE—
SHERIFF: SHUT UP! MAKES ME SICK WHEN I SEE A GIRL THAT AGE ALL DRESSED UP LIKE A WHORE…
PAGE 44: 3 panels: top tier consists of one one-third-page-deep horizontal rectangle; bottom tier consists of two equal-size 2/3-page-high vertical rectangles.
PANEL 1: On Molly’s platform. Stan is on the platform now, alongside Molly; he has gripped the executioner’s switch and is yanking it downward. The Sheriff is on his way up the steps to the platform; he’s pointing at Stan and his mouth is open wide, yelling. We might see Hoately still standing below. The steps are on the left side of the platform.
SHERIFF: HEY! GET AWAY FROM THAT!
PANEL 2: Molly “frying” in her electric chair; we’re looking at her straight-on. Her black hair is standing straight up like a halo around her. Jittery electric waves are jumping across her body, from one arm to the other.
CAPTION/STAN (with quotes, bottom of panel): “NOW D’YOU SEE THE REASON FOR HER METAL COSTUME, SHERIFF? THE ELECTRICITY WOULD SET REGULAR CLOTHES ON FIRE.”
PANEL 3: Still on Molly’s platform—but a wider, more inclusive angle. The electricity has been shut off, and Molly’s hair is all awry. Stan has gone around Molly’s chair and is now standing facing the Sheriff. Stan is leaning toward the Sheriff, reaching a hand to pick something out of the Sheriff’s shirt pocket. The Sheriff looks peeved. Molly, to the right of them both, is watching, looking anxious.
SHERIFF: LISTEN, WISEGUY—
STAN: EXCUSE ME, SHERIFF…BUT THERE’S SOMETHING STICKING OUT OF YOUR POCKET.
PAGE 45: 3 panels: top tier consists of two half-page-deep, equal-size panels; bottom tier consists of one half-page-high, page-wide panel.
PANEL 1: Stan is drawing a long scarf from the Sheriff’s tunic/shirt pocket; the Sheriff watches in astonishment.
STAN: VERY PRETTY. A GIFT FROM YOUR DAUGHTER. SHE’S ABOUT 19 NOW—ISN’T SHE?
PANEL 2: The Sheriff is staring down at his open, upturned palm, over which Stan (not shown) has draped the scarf.
SHERIFF: HOW…HOW’D YOU KNOW I GOT A DAUGHTER?
PANEL 3: From behind, we’re looking at Stan and the Sheriff starting to go down the platform steps together. Stan has draped one hand around the Sheriff’s shoulder. They’re both facing each other. Stan is on the left, the Sheriff on the right. Stan is clearly leading the way. In the foreground, we see Molly still strapped in her chair.
STAN 1: WE SCOTS ARE OFTEN GIFTED WITH WHAT YOU MIGHT CALL SECOND SIGHT…
STAN 2: AND MY SECOND SIGHT IS TELLIN’ ME RIGHT NOW THERE’S SOME THINGS IN YOUR LIFE THAT’RE WORRYING YOU…
SHERIFF: WELL, NOW THAT YOU MENTION IT, YOUNG FELLA…
PAGE 46: 4 panels; top tier consists of 2 half-page-deep panels, the left-hand panel is considerably wider than the right-hand panel, which is very narrow; bottom tier consists of 2 equal-size panels.
PANEL 1: Zeena is on Molly’s platform, bent over and unfastening one of her arm restraints. From this angle, we can look off the platform and see, some distance away, Stan and the Sheriff standing and talking as they walk toward the exit of the 10-in-1 tent.
ZEENA: LET’S GET YOU OUTTA HERE ’FORE THAT GUY REMEMBERS HE WANTS TO PUT YOU IN JAIL.
PANEL 2: We’re looking from Zeena’s and Molly’s point of view (we don’t see them) down the 10-in-1 tent: we see Stan and the Sheriff (small, even silhouetted) in the distance, still talking.
CAPTION 1/MOLLY (with quotes, at top of panel): “I DON’T THINK I GOTTA WORRY ABOUT THAT ANYMORE. THANKS TO STAN…”
CAPTION 2/MOLLY (with quotes, below caption 1): “…BUT HOW’D HE KNOW THE SHERIFF HAS A DAUGHTER MY AGE?”
PANEL 3: Molly is slipping on a robe over her costume. She’s standing now and looking at Zeena. Zeena is staring off (toward Stan, out of frame).
ZEENA: FROM THE WAY THAT BASTARD REACTED TO SEEIN’ YOU. LIKE HE WAS TAKIN’ IT PERSONAL. IT WASN’T MIND READING—IT WAS PSYCHOLOGY.
PANEL 4: Molly, looking starry-eyed and smiling, is now staring off (at Stan, out of frame), and Zeena is looking at Molly. Zeena’s expression is wistful; she knows what’s coming.
MOLLY: GEE, THOUGH, ZEENA—STAN’S GOOD, AIN’T HE?
ZEENA: YEAH, HE’S GOOD, ALL RIGHT. A REAL QUICK LEARN.
PANEL 1: Stan and the Sheriff are standing on the midway outside the 10-in-1 show tent. It’s dark. There’s a moon in the sky. Not much activity on the midway…but we do glimpse, here and there, some carny workers looking toward Stan and the Sheriff; possibly Hoately is among them. Stan has one hand lifted and is wagging a finger toward the Sheriff, as though lecturing (or preaching) to him. The Sheriff is intently listening, rubbing his jaw with one hand.
STAN: …WILL HAPPEN—GUARANTEED!—IF YOU FOLLOW YOUR HUNCHES AND DON’T LET NOBODY TALK YOU OUT OF OBEYING YOUR OWN GOOD JUDGEMENT.
PANEL 2: The Sheriff is walking away from Stan, heading down the midway. But he’s turned back to wave at Stan. Stan looms large in the foreground, his back to us.
SHERIFF 1: YOUNG FELLA, THANKS FOR THE ADVICE! I WISH I’D MET YOU A LONG TIME AGO.
SHERIFF 2: WELL, GOOD NIGHT—AND I WOULDN’T WORRY ABOUT HAVIN’ ANY MORE TROUBLE IN THIS TOWN. I’LL SEE TO THAT!
PANEL 3: We’re looking at Stan straight on, as he watches the Sheriff (out of panel) walk away. Stan’s arms are folded across his chest and he’s smirking, feeling very cocky at his success.
STAN (to himself, so lettered small): ’NIGHT, CHUMP…
PAGE 48: 2 panels—each a half-page deep/high, page-wide panel.
PANEL 1: Outside the 10-in-1 tent on the midway. Stan is surrounded and being congratulated by all the carny folk—all except Zeena and Molly. We see the acrobat with the withered legs (using crutches), the midget riding on the giant’s shoulders. The tattooed man, and others we may not’ve seen before now (a fat lady, a bearded lady, and some “regular”-looking roughnecks). Clem Hoately is shaking Stan’s hand and grinning widely. Stan is enjoying all the attention.
HOATELY: STAN, BOY, YOU SURE DONE NOBLE! IMAGINE THAT—GIVIN’ A COLD READIN’ TO A COP AND GETTING’ AWAY WITH IT!
MIDGET: YOU’RE REAL CARNY, KID, AND NO MISTAKE!
PANEL 2: Molly has pushed her way through the crowd, and is kissing Stan on the cheek. The other carny types are laughing, winking, etc. Stan is still smiling—but his eyes are cut downward, once again ogling her cleavage.
MOLLY: GOD A’MIGHTY, STAN, YOU WERE GREAT! YOU’RE GREAT!
PAGE 49: 4 equal-size panels, 2 per tier.
PANEL 1: It’s just Molly and Stan now, still on the midway outside the 10-in-1 tent. Molly is half-turning back toward the entrance to the tent. Stan is snatching at her robe sleeve.
MOLLY: HEY, HOW ‘BOUT WE GET ZEENA AND GO CELEBRATE?
STAN: MOLLY? HOLD ON…
PANEL 2: Very tight on Stan’s face, and he should look extraordinarily intense, ultra-confident—and this should be a shock, unsettling.
STAN: …HOW ABOUT MAKIN’ IT JUST—THE TWO OF US.
PANEL 3: Inside the empty 10-in-1 tent: we’re looking at Zeena seated on Molly’s platform, in the electric chair. She’s wearing her robe, and one leg is stretched out in front of her (she’s barefoot); the other leg is hitched up, the foot (hidden under the robe) is hooked by the heel on the edge of the chair. She’s smoking a cigarette. The lighting is kind of like that sad/sentimental lighting Sinatra used whenever he’d perform a torch song. There are some crushed cigarette butts on the platform in front of the chair—to indicate Zeena’s been chain-smoking.
CAPTION 1/MOLLY (with quotes): “BUT, STAN, I THOUGHT—”
CAPTION 2/STAN (with quotes): “YEAH, I KNOW. EVERYBODY DOES. BUT ME AN’ ZEENA JUST—WORK TOGETHER…”
PANEL 4: Zeena has stood up from the chair and is walking down the stairs of Molly’s platform. We’ve pulled back to show how empty the 10-in-1 truly is. She’s alone.
CAPTION/STAN (with quotes): “ZEENA’S OKAY, BUT—CHRIST, SHE COULD BE MY MOTHER. SO HOW ABOUT IT—DO WE GOT A DATE?”
PAGE 50: 5 panels. Top tier consists of 3 panels, each a half-page deep; the left-hand panel is a half-page-wide, vertical rectangle; panels 2 and 3 are half-page-wide small squares, one on top of the other. Bottom tier consists of 2 panels—the left-hand panel is slightly wider than the right-hand panel.
PANEL 1: Zeena is walking down the empty aisle in the 10-in-1 tent; we see her in profile, she looks sad, resigned. In the background is her own platform (we can see her banner draped across the back), and, directly to the right of the platform, is the curtained-off entryway to the stairs that Stan used when he was switching envelopes with Pete.
CAPTION 1/STAN (with quotes): “HEY MOLLY…YOU EVER THINK ABOUT GETTIN’ OUT O’ HERE—TRYIN’ FOR THE BIG TIME?”
CAPTION 2/MOLLY (with quotes): “NOT REALLY. DO YOU?”
PANEL 2: We’re looking at the curtained-off entryway beside/attached to Zeena’s platform. We’ve moved in tighter on it. Zeena is out of the frame.
CAPTION/STAN (with quotes): “BET I DO! THE WHOLE WORLD’S GONNA BE MINE. COULD BE YOURS,TOO, MOLLY…”
PANEL 3: We’ve gone through the curtain and we’re looking, head-on, at the wood steps going up: we see the cut-out riser where Pete’s face once appeared.
CAPTION/MOLLY (with quotes): “YOU MEAN IT, STAN—REALLY?”
PANEL 4: We’re behind the stairs and under Zeena’s platform, in what used to be Pete’s sweatbox. This should play as unreal, surreal, supernatural: we should realize that this moment is outside the reality of the story, a commentary on it. (Just as the last panel in the prolog as, when the playing cards on the magic kit became tarot cards.) We’re looking down on Pete’s tabletop. A whiskey bottle stands off to one side, and the focus of our attention is on the series of tarot cards fanned out. We can see the faces of the cards: Resurrection of the Dead, The Emperor, The Hierophant, The Moon. And there is a shadowed, bulky figure seated at the table. In fact, we’re looking over the shoulder of that figure. But we shouldn’t make him out, not till the last panel.
CAPTION/STAN (with quotes): “SURE. I GOT THE TECHNIQUE—AND YOU GOT THE SHAPE. TOGETHER, WE GOT A FUTURE!”
PANEL 5: Still under Zeena’s platform, in Pete’s old sweatbox. We’re looking, head-on, at the grinning Magician from the magic kit, come to life. He’s seated at the table, the tarot cards spread out in front of him, facing him, but upside down to us. His long-fingered hands are hooked around the edge of the table.
CAPTION/MOLLY (with quotes): “OH, STAN, I’M SCARED, BUT—LET’S DO IT!”
PAGE 51: 1 large panel.
PANEL: We’re in a nightclub/supper club. It’s a legitimate place, there’s nothing really too swank about it; in fact, it might have some kind of corny—but not too corny—decorative motif; vaguely Hawaiian or Tahitian. This is a far cry from the sophisticated nightclubs of the 1940s, a ghost of that sort of place. For sure, in May every year, high school graduates pile into this place on prom night, coming by limo.
The clientele in this scene, however, is strictly middle-class couples, probably from the suburbs. Maybe they’re here after they’ve gone to see a Broadway musical. There are round tables with white table cloths and little lamps or candles on top; the tables ring a small parquet dance-floor, where Stan, dressed in a tux, is standing. He has aged somewhat—four years have gone by; he’s gotten stockier, perhaps his hair has begun to thin, his jawline is softer. Molly is standing by one of the tables, leaning down to listen to a seated woman who is whispering into her ear. The woman is at the table with a man; both she and the man are in their early 40s, dressed up. The seated man is smiling, looking at Molly. Molly is still very, very attractive, but she has aged, too: her face is rounder, her makeup in more sophisticated. She’s dressed in a sexy, glittery gown. Her hairdo is changed—perhaps swept up on her head in an early-60s primitive bouffant with a flip at the bottom (same as Laura Petri/Mary Tyler Moore wore her hair in the old “Dick Van Dyke Show.” Molly has her head cocked, listening to the woman, but she’s facing back toward Stan. She’s stumbling in her speech and should look a little (not a lot) flustered.
NOTE: It’s now October, 1960, and everybody’s clothing, etc. should reflect that.
MOLLY: STANTON, COULD YOU—EXCUSE ME, WILL YOU TELL…WILL YOU PLEASE TELL THIS LADY WHAT SHE’S THINKING ABOUT?
PAGE 52: 1 panel.
PANEL: Same scene, different angle—the focus more on Stan than on Molly. Molly has stood up to her full height, and while Stan speaks, she stands there (by the couples’ table) with her eyes lowered, biting her bottom lip: she looks uncomfortable, perhaps ashamed. (We’ll find out next that she’s botched the code…again, and knows that Stan will chastise her.)
From this slightly different angle, we see different couples and foursomes at the tables ringing the parquet dance-floor/stage; at some of the tables, people are laughing, or clapping; at one of the tables, a drunk-looking man has one arm raised in the air like a schoolboy and he’s leaning forward on his other arm, and he’s calling to Stan. Stan is directing his words to the seated woman who just whispered something to Molly.
STAN 1: OF COURSE. SHE’S BEEN WONDERING ABOUT JOINING A CERTAIN…ORGANIZATION. AND SHE’S NOT QUITE SURE IF SHE OUGHT TO. WELL, I WOULD ADVISE HER TO GO HER OWN WAY, DOING THOSE THINGS SHE KNOWS IN HER HEART ARE RIGHT.
STAN 2: NOW, IS THERE ANOTHER QUESTION—?
DRUNK (the balloon positioned so it’s clear he’s responding to Stan’s 2nd remark): HEY! GREAT STANTON—WHO’S GONNA WIN THE ELECTION? NIXON OR KENNEDY?
PAGE 53: 3 panels. First panel is a half-page-wide vertical rectangle running from top to bottom of page; panels 2 and 3, on the right-hand side of the page, are smaller half-page-wide vertical rectangles, one on top of the other.
PANEL 1: In Molly and Stan’s dressing room backstage at the nightclub. Molly is standing behind Stan; she’s still dressed as she was on stage. Molly’s posture and the way she holds her hands, and her expression, are all tentative, nervous: a little girl afraid she’s going to be yelled at. Stan is seated at the dressing table, his back to Molly. We can see Stan’s face, and some of Molly reflected in the dressing table mirror. Stan is in his undershirt and tuxedo trousers; his suspenders are down off his shoulders, dangling. He’s wiping off his face with a towel.
MOLLY: …YOU STILL MAD AT ME, STAN?
PANEL 2: Stan has half-turned on his chair, to face Molly (who is out of the panel); he has the towel balled up in both hands, and there is a ferocious look on his face: he’s more than a little scary.
STAN: AFTER FOUR YEARS,YOU STILL BLOW IT! 86! WHAT’S 86?
PANEL 3: Molly has stooped, and is pleading with Stan. Stan looks down at the top of her head without any softening of his attitude.
MOLLY: I’M SORRY, I’LL TRY—
STAN: 86: ‘SHALL I JOIN SOME CLUB, FRATERNITY OR ORGANIZATION? 8: WILL. 6: PLEASE. WILL YOU PLEASE TELL THIS LADY WHAT’S SHE’S THINKING ABOUT. GOT IT?
PAGE 54: 3 panels. Top tier consists of one half-page deep, page-wide panel; bottom tier consists of 2 equal-size panels.
PANEL 1: Molly is now standing beside/slightly behind Stan, who’s got to his feet and is slipping his arm into a fresh white dress shirt. Molly looks cowed. Stan, his jaw firm and his mouth a thin line, is not looking at her.
MOLLY: SURE, STAN. I GOT IT. SURE, I GOT IT.
STAN: YEAH? HOW ’BOUT 43? 57? WHAT’S 14? QUICK!
PANEL 2: Molly, looking overwhelmed and browbeaten, is pressing her head between her hands, trying to think. Stan is not in the panel.
MOLLY: WHEN YOU COME AT ME ALL OF SUDDEN LIKE THAT, I CAN’T THINK. JUST LET ME THINK…
PANEL 3: Now Stan (with his fresh shirt buttoned on, and his suspenders back up) is viciously grabbing Molly’s chin in one of his hands, and he’s squeezing so hard that her lips bulge out and her face looks distorted; her eyes are wide with fear.
STAN: YOU KEEP SCREWIN’ UP, I’LL SEND YOU BACK TO THE CARNY. YOU WANT THAT? NOW, ANSWER ME: WHAT’S 14? 14! 14!
PAGE 55: 2 panels; each tier consists of one half-page-deep/high, page-wide panel.
PANEL 1: A taxi is pulling away from the curb into heavy midtown traffic. It’s night, and we’re in New York City. We can see the nightclub where Stan and Molly have been performing; a sandwich board on the sidewalk flanking the front door announces:
THE ROB COLOMBO ORCHESTRA
“THE GREAT STANTON”
A grizzled old news dealer, selling his papers from a low curbside bench, is glancing after the departing cab.
MOLLY (balloon tail pointing to the back of taxi): …WHO POISONED THE DOG?
STAN (balloon tail pointing to back of taxi, opposite side): GOOD. NOW TRY 31.
PANEL 2: Interior of the cab. Stan and Molly are seated in the back, behind the driver, who has a quizzical look on his face, from eavesdropping. Both are wearing jackets (lightweight jackets, though; it’s autumn). Molly looks happy—she’s just gotten the “right answer.” Stan is stone-faced. On his lap is a tabloid newspaper he just bought; his hands are folded on top of it, so we can’t read the headline.
MOLLY: 31? INHERIT! WILL I GET MY INHERITANCE? SEE? I H AVEN’T FORGOTTEN.
PAGE 56: 2 panels; same layout as p. 55; each tier consists of one half-page-deep/high, page-wide panel.
PANEL 1: In the taxi. Molly is leaning toward Stan flirtatiously—trying to distract him. Stan remains solemn, though; determined. We’re tighter on the two of them now, and can’t see the driver in front. Stan has intercepted her hand as it moved toward his face to stroke him; he’s holding it by her wrist. We can read the tabloid (New York Daily News) headline on the paper on his lap:
YANKS FIRE STENGEL
MOLLY: AH BABY, GIMME A BREAK.
STAN: LOOK, MOLLY, DON’T CRAP OUT ON ME NOW. WE’RE FINALLY GETTIN’ NOTICED AND I’LL BE DAMNED IF I’M GONNA LET YOU BLOW IT FOR ME.
PANEL 2: Exterior, night. We see the taxi coming down a side street on the Upper West Side; lovely turn-of-the-century brownstones line both sides of the street; the trees, here and there, have lost most of their leaves; some leaves in the gutters and on the sidewalks.
MOLLY (balloon tail pointing to back of cab): BUT WE’RE ALWAYS WORKING. TWO SHOWS A DAY, THEN PRIVATE PARTIES. WHEN’RE WE EVER GONNA HAVE FUN—LIKE YOU PROMISED?
STAN (balloon arrow pointing to back of cab, opposite side): THIS IS IT, DRIVER. PULL OVER.
END OF PART ONE