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The Clowns Named Her Martha

by Lucia Linn 4 months ago in Short Story
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short screenplay

The Clowns Named Her Martha
Photo by insung yoon on Unsplash

FADE IN

INT. CAR ON THE HIGHWAY- NIGHT

MARTHA(18), a very small high school senior, dressed smartly in well ironed dress pants and a dark blazer, flicks at her hair as she drives, eyes fused to the road. Leaning back in the passenger seat with her heels on the dash, we see SOLA, an equally petite teen, a perfect doppelganger of her sister other than the stark contrast in fashion. Her thick bleached hair is in high pigtails and her outfit resembles Harley Quinn. SOLA groans unconvincingly.

SOLA: They’re SO selfish.

SOLA(19) glares at MARTHA, searching for a reaction but her sister’s mind is elsewhere. MARTHA’s hand moves from her hair to her chin and she mumbles under her breath, inaudible.

SOLA(CONT'D): They are such children. Why now? They knew this was my last night. SO freaking selfish.

MARTHA registers the comment and frowns.

MARTHA: Sola, Mom and Dad are in the hospital. Perspective, please.

SOLA: Exactly. Perspective! Have they ever had any? I’m totally missing my flight! All because the narcissistic clown show must go on. I can’t even believe we’re related to them. We probably aren’t. You should pay for a DNA test.

SOLA lowers her feet and thumps her forehead against the dash, eyes screwed shut, moaning. MARTHA sighs, massaging her own forehead.

MARTHA: Sol...

SOLA: The Japanese traveling circus waits for no one! This job is the opportunity of a life time, I can always pick up the parentals from the hospital next time I’m in town. You know they’ll be back in soon. They sleep there more than they sleep at home.

MARTHA lifts a single finger, teacher style.

MARTHA: Following the same reasoning, they’re in the hospital tonight and planes will still exist tomorrow.

SOLA ignores the comment with a lazy wave of the hand like she’s swatting a fly.

SOLA: They know this is my dream. Wow. I mean like, wow.

MARTHA glances out the window, narrowing her eyes. She snaps her fingers.

MARTHA : Hey Sol, mind writing something down for me?

SOLA: Sure, if you flip a bootleg turn and take me to the airport.

MARTHA purses her lips and leans to the side, snatching a large, saggy purse from the backseat and digs through it with one hand, keeping her eyes on the road. She yanks out a brand new #2 pencil and sticks it in her teeth, returning to fish through the bag. An orange sticky note pad catches on the lip of the purse as she pulls it out. She pulls the top note free and sticks it on the back of the hand that’s still on the steering wheel. She spits out the pencil, grabs it out of the air, and jots down some initials. SOLA watches with a grimace.

SOLA(CONT'D): Yo Martha, I’m too young to die. This is irresponsible driving.

MARTHA : Your fault. God knows.

SOLA : I don’t believe in God.

MARTHA : I don’t believe in Japanese traveling circuses.

MARTHA glances up and bounces the end of the pencil on her bottom lip.

MARTHA(CONT'D) : I need you to call Dulci...

SOLA: Why?

MARTHA : I have a showing for a starter home tomorrow and we need to go over the mold report. It’s not bad but people don’t like to be surprised by...

SOLA crosses her arm and slides lower in her seat, huffing.

SOLA : Why are you making this about you? I’m still the distressed one here, gosh.

MARTHA shrugs and writes another note, unsurprised.

MARTHA : Because I’m the only functional adult in this family and you might want me to square you noodle money when you’re in Japan.

SOLA: Rude.

MARTHA: You asked.

SOLA : But it’s not like I wanted to know.

(beat)

Although I will be needing noodle money.

MARTHA ignores her.

MARTHA : I’m gonna need a solid excuse to miss homeroom tomorrow if the showing runs long...

SOLA makes a series of faces at her sister, stretching her cheeks down with her finger and flailing her tongue.

MARTHA doesn’t look her way. SOLA grits her teeth and folds her arms tightly, shoulders hunched.

SOLA : You’re all so selfish.

INT. HOSPITAL LOBBY- NIGHT

MARTHA strides comfortably through the front doors, SOLA slumps behind her. A middle aged doctor with graying hair and sandpaper skin walks the other way and nods to MARTHA.

DOCTOR: Miss Smith.

MARTHA nods in response and approaches the reception. SOLA falls limp on one of the many chairs against the rough off white wall. DANNY(19), a tall and gangly small town teen with an ill fitting hospital uniform and a little silver tag reading ‘INTERN’ and a frizzy mullet, spots MARTHA and towers over his side of the counter, grinning.

DANNY : Welcome back, shorty.

MARTHA puts her chin on the counter and frowns.

MARTHA : I see my complaints about the counter height weren’t taken seriously.

DANNY : Oh, they just averaged out your height and mine to make it inconvenient for us both.

MARTHA (sarcastically): You’re hilarious.

DANNY : Tell that to Netflix. I’m ready for my special.

MARTHA glares and taps the counter.

MARTHA : Any chance my folks did any of the paperwork?

DANNY folds his long spaghetti arms and leans on the counter, raising an eyebrow.

DANNY : What do you think?

MARTHA sighs and tugs at a loose strand of hair.

MARTHA : Mind grabbing it for me?

DANNY: ‘course.

MARTHA turns around and leans against the counter as DANNY stumbles away. SOLA moans.

SOLA : This all still sucks. Why can’t you take me to the airport and then do this?

MARTHA : Call an Uber. Oh, wait. This is Idaho. Steal a horse.

A door opens and a pleasant nurse with dark hair pulled tight back and little bat stud earrings holds it open for MARTHA’s parents. Both have filthy, ridiculous clown makeup on and frizzing wigs. MOM’s wig is cotton candy blue and she has a nose bandage and arm cast with sling. DAD’s wig is red and he has acquired crutches and a leg cast and white eye patch and is wearing his comical red nose. SOLA’s expression flips to exaggeratedly cheerful and she springs up to hug them both.

SOLA : Mama! Daddy! I was sooo worried!

(To Martha) Can we go now?

SOLA sniffles and turns back to her parents.

SOLA (CONT'D) : I’m even missing my flight to Japan to be here!

DAD starts to cry as well.

DAD : Sweetpea! You don’t have to do that!

MOM: My baby!

MOM grabs SOLA’s cheeks, her serious expression a stark contrast to her painted on grin.

MOM (CONT'D) : You shouldn’t have done that. That circus might be the most important thing in your life!

SOLA shoots MARTHA a smug ‘I told you so’ look. DANNY returns, grimacing at the parents, and hands MARTHA a clipboard. She fishes out a pencil and gets scratching.

MARTHA: Thanks, Danny.

DAD : My princess! My Sola! I wuv you so much!

MOM : You shoulda bin there, honey!

MOM claps excitedly.

MOM (CONT'D): When that bull came at me, my adrenalin went through the roof!

MARTHA gets a text, checks her phone. It’s from SIMON.

SIMON : Oi Mart u so busy want me to run sc meeting tmrw?

MARTHA sticks the pencil in her teeth and replies rapidly.

MARTHA: No thx. Got it.

MARTHA returns to the papers and mumbles to herself.

MARTHA(CONT'D): I always got it.

SOLA : I wanna be just like ya’ll when I grow up! Now can we... please... go! If Mart would hurry, I could still make my flight!

DANNY hunches over the counter and snorts, rolling his eyes.

MARTHA : Never gonna happen, Sol.

DANNY : Mart,I know it’s none my beezux, but their insurance is long gone. Can your parents afford this?

MART doesn’t look up.

MARTHA: I can.

MARTHA digs out her insurance card and slides it across the counter. DANNY stares.

DANNY: You’re kidding.

MARTHA: Nope.

DANNY : Damn it, Mart. You should be kidding. This help anything. You can love your parents without being THEIR frikin parent.

MOM: Mart, baby!

MARTHA glances back. MOM smiles girlishly and waves. DAD is still crying and hugging SOLA who is looking a little over it. MARTHA walks over, taking the clipboard with her.

MOM(CONT'D): My little girl is acting so big! But we really need to think of your sister.

MARTHA : School night, mom. And I have an early showing. Told Sol to get a ride from the start. And now you two are broken and high on pills.

MOM : But baby, this is her dream. And I’m not high.

(beat)

Wait. No. Yep. No, I’m not.

MOM bounces her wig curls with her fingers playfully.

MARTHA’s phone rings. It’s DULCI.

MARTHA: I have to take this, mom.

MOM puts her hands on her hips, frowning through the makeup.

MOM : Young lady, we are having a conversation!

MARTHA shrugs, answers the phone and continues the paperwork.

MARTHA: Hey, Dulci...

MOM snatches the phone from her hand and hangs up. MARTHA flinches and relaxes, lowering her eyebrows.

MARTHA(CONT'D): I need that back.

MOM : Work, work, work. Enjoy your youth. Leave the adulting to me and your father. You be the kids. We’ll be the parents. Now let’s get Sol to the circus. Where are your keys?

MOM strikes a mature pose, with her hand on her husband’s shoulder. MARTHA raises an eyebrow and the clipboard.

MARTHA : You want to pay for this?

Her parents fall silent. SOLA’s eyes widen. MARTHA takes her phone back from her shocked MOM’s hand and glances away.

MARTHA(CONT'D): Sorry.

She walks back to the counter. Her parents sigh with relief.

MOM : We forgive you, sweetie. You’re just stressed.

DAD : The little doll babe’s tired.

DANNY ruffles his hair, glares, and whispers.

DANNY : Why the hell did you just apologize?

MARTHA hands him the clipboard and puts away her pencil.

MARTHA: See at school.

DANNY: Sure, sure...

MARTHA throws her purse on her shoulder and a smile on her face as she turns to her family.

MARTHA : Let’s get to bed, huh?

SOLA: No! No! No!

DAD : How ‘bout a little tipple or two at the old Slurp & Burp first just to take the edge of these pills?

INT. BEDROOM- DAY

Sunlight shines directly through small windows onto MARTHA’s frizzy bed head, partially under the covers. A lawn mower hums in the distance. MARTHA groggily opens her eyes, then jerks up. She lunges for her phone and stares in shock at the time. 1:30.

Her breath catches in her throat and she jumps out of bed and scrambles around the room, snatching up dress pants, notebooks, and her purse. Flustered, she drops them in a pile and throws herself into her desk chair and flips open her computer. It’s dead.

MARTHA : What the hell...?

She runs her hand through her hair and chokes back panicked tears. Her desk is tidy, but overflowing. Differently colored folders are stacked in one corner with a few files and notebooks in front of them. A mirror propped against the wall in the other corner. Martha flies out of her chair, sending it crashing to the ground and grabs her phone from its plug in the wall, a notebook from the pile, and her pencil from her purse.

MOM opens the door to her room, leaning casually against the wall with partially applied clown makeup on her face and a saggy makeup bag in her hands.

MOM: Oh, you’re up, honey bear.

MARTHA stares at her, a picture of anxious confusion

MARTHA: It’s 1:30...

MOM cocks her head.

MOM : Yeah, I came in and turned off your alarm this morning.

MARTHA : Why would you do that?!

MARTHA sets her chair back upright, sits, and opens her notebook and her phone, gasping frantically. MOM leans over her shoulder and looks in the mirror, applying her comical lipstick out to her cheeks.

MOM : You were so uptight last night, Sola told me to let you sleep.

MARTHA screws her eyes shut and balls her fists on the desktop.

MARTHA : Sola! You can’t... I can’t! I have... had work! And school and a student council meeting...

MOM purses her lips and closes her lipstick. She straightens and pats MARTHA’s unkempt head.

MOM : Too stressed, babe. Breathe. We’re all in the circus, honey. Easier if we play along.

MARTHA ignores her and calls DULCI. DULCI picks up.

DULCI (OFF SCREEN): What the hell, Mart?!

MARTHA: Sorry, Dulci. Extenuating circumstances. Full parental sabotage!

MARTHA massages her forehead and leans on the desk.

DULCI : Buyers are backing out! Something about being stood up must of reflected poorly on the company, ya think?! That and a mold report ambush.

MARTHA : Okay. Okay. I know, okay?! Sorry! Just give me their numbers and I’ll deal with it! I’ll deal with it. I’ll explain. My parents are insane. They’re insane.

MOM: DULCI:

Baby, one day of freedom won't Whatever. (beat) kill you. Want less, stress less! 208-324...

MARTHA writes rapidly trying to hear DULCI over MOM.

MOM(CONT'D): Your teen years won’t last forever. You’ll have skin like last year’s raisins if you don’t loosen up. DULCI(CONT'D) ...8430. If you lost us that sale, don’t bother coming back in. It was nuts to think a high schooler could do this job anyway.

The pencil snaps and MARTHA freezes. Her breathing slows as she looks around the room, at MOM, and at herself in the mirror. She sets the broken pencil down carefully and opens a file labelled SAVINGS and scans to the bottom line of the top statement. It reads

MARTHA : Dulci, actually scratch that. I found a new buyer.

DULCI : For reals, girl? That was fast. Who is...?

MARTHA hangs up without answering and turns to MOM, her painted on smile failing to hide her nervous expression.

MARTHA : Mom, I think we need to talk.

FADE OUT- THE END.

Short Story

About the author

Lucia Linn

”Some days I feel like playing it smooth and some days I feel like playing it like a waffle iron.” -Raymond Chandler

Bits of fantasy and poetry and whatnot here, comedic comics on Instagram @mostlymecomics

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