house of gold

HOUSE OF GOLD

Michael Chabon


                                       ACT ONE

                                                                FADE IN:





            THE HOUSE - PITTSBURGH - PRESENT DAY





            5347 Parliament Avenue.  A brick Prairie-style box with a

            pillared porch, on a leafy street in Squirrel Hill.  A gray

            early-autumn afternoon.  Muted colors, drifting leaves.





            A panel truck pulls up:  PARDINI AND SONS, HOUSEPAINTERS.

                                                                FADE TO:





            THE HOUSE - 1976





            The colors grow more intense.  Autumn retreats, Pardini's

            truck vanishes.  The light turns sharper and more nostalgic. 

            Three children, twin brothers, 8, and a sister, 6, flank the

            fire hydrant in front of the house.  It has been painted to

            resemble a short, squat, red-cheeked George Washington.  The

            kids stand holding paintbrushes, grinning.  Posing for:





            A SNAPSHOT





            The moment we just witnessed, frozen, faded, silk-finished. 

            We pull back to reveal:









            INT. SID AND JENNY'S BEDROOM - LOS ANGELES - PRESENT DAY





            SID FOLLETT holds the snap in one hand, a book in the other. 

            Studying the memory for some hint of what was to come next.





            Sid is leaving.  He wears a wool jacket, and he's burdened

            with a duffel over one shoulder and a diaper bag over the

            other, from which an empty baby backpack also dangles.  He is

            not quite no longer young, tall, with a long, handsome face

            he has never been comfortable with.  The soul of a character

            actor in the body of a leading man. 





                                JENNY (O.S.)

                      What are you doing?  Ah.  





            JENNY BLOOM, Sid's wife, stands in the doorway, in a long

            winter coat.  She's 29, intense, voluble, zaftig, smart. 

            Trying not to get irritated is kind of a hobby of hers.





            Sid stuffs the picture into the book.  We glimpse the book's

            title:  History of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides. 





                                JENNY (cont'd)

                      I'd ask you if it doesn't get old after

                      the, what is it, the eighteenth--





                                SID

                          (sheepish)

                      Seventeenth.





                                JENNY

                      --after the seventeenth read, but I guess

                      that's the whole point isn't it?

                          (mocking)

                      It's old.  





            Sid slips the book into the diaper bag.  Sits there, knowing

            he should get up.





                                JENNY (cont'd)

                      I take it you're having second thoughts. 

                      About going home.





                                SID

                      No!  Nuh-uh.   I just--





                                JENNY

                      That's good.  Since our plane leaves in

                      an hour and our stuff is loaded into the

                      supershuttle.  Not to mention our baby. 

                      Who is out there wasting his A-material

                      on the Hmong driver.





                                SID

                      It's not--





                                JENNY

                      Plus, several dozen unsuspecting lawyers

                      are converging on the Pittsburgh Hilton

                      so that I can send them into a vegetative

                      state on Friday. 





                                SID

                      Jenny, I know.





                                JENNY

                      Which I never would have agreed to do-

                      have I mentioned that I'm going to SUCK?-

                      if you hadn't gotten this bug up your

                      butt about "going home to Pittsburgh,"

                      "mending the fences," "getting back to

                      your roots," and all that other bull-





                                SID

                      I know, I know!  All right.





            He just keeps...sitting.  Jenny's lips move as she counts to

            ten, tormenting the fringes of her scarf with manic fingers. 

            She makes it to eight.  Then she turns and starts out.





                                SID (CONT'D)

                      Jenny, wait...





            She turns back:  Sid has one last chance.  He gets up.





                                SID (cont'd)

                      I want to go home, but just now, I was

                      looking at that picture, and it hit me,

                      you know.  How am I going to deal with

                      everyone back home after so long?  With

                      seeing the house again, but knowing it's

                      for the last time?  





                                JENNY

                          (aghast)

                      What?  These questions are now occuring

                      to you for the first time?  After that

                      incredible display of existential moping

                      you've been indulging in for the last two

                      months? Jesus, Sid.  Come on.





            She grabs his arm and we follow as she drags him, talking,

            through their disorderly, drab, 1966-vintage Westdale ranch

            house, toward the front door.  





                                JENNY (cont'd)

                      You've been making us miserable around

                      here for months with this crap.  

                          (Hamlet done badly)

                      "Shall I go back to Pittsburgh, shall I

                      quit acting, do I really love my wife..."





                                SID

                      Jenny.  Jenny, come on.  Let's talk.





                                JENNY

                      We don't have time.  Time's up.





            She pulls open the door and starts to haul him through it. 

            Sid digs in his heels, jerks himself free.





                                SID

                      Jenny, I'm lost.  All right?  I feel

                      totally, utterly lost.  





            That gets her.  She lets go of him, stands looking out at the

            street, where the shuttle idles.  Through its open door we

            can see baby SOLOMON, 1, bundled into his car seat. 





                                SID (cont'd)

                      I don't know what to do with myself, I

                      don't know what to do about the baby, I

                      don't know how to act around you.  When

                      I'm around you.  Which is basically

                      never.  We have no life.  We have this

                      crummy rented house in this nothing part

                      of town.  You pull sixty and seventy hour

                      weeks, I'm like this, like, classic

                      failure, whoring all over LA for ten

                      years so I can play the salesguy standing

                      next to the salesguy who sells Angela

                      Lansbury a hat.  We spend our whole lives

                      doing all this crap and we have nothing

                      to show for it but a kid who's being

                      raised by his babysitter.





            SID'S POV.  We can only see the back of Jenny's head.  She

            sags a little.





                                JENNY

                      And you want out?  You want to--leave.





            Sid takes hold of Jenny from behind.  Puts his arm around her

            shoulders.  It's awkward with all their bags.  As he speaks,

            she leans back against him and they rock a little.  





                                SID

                      I am out.  This whole damn town is out.  

                          (half a beat)

                      I want in.  I want to get way in, dug in

                      deep.  I want to, like, burrow so far

                      into you and Solly and our lives together

                      that...that I...





                                JENNY

                      Lose consciousness from lack of oxygen?





                                SID

                      I wasn't going to say that, actually.





                                JENNY

                      Can I go get my baby now, mole man?





            Jenny slips free.  Sid follows her out the door.  Shuts it

            behind them.  Locks it.  Goes after Jenny down the walk.





                                SID

                      All right, let's go home.









            EXT. 5347 PARLIAMENT AVENUE - PITTSBURGH - SIMULTANEOUS





            BELLE GOLD, 74, stands on her porch, watching PARDINI and the

            advertised SONS lumber into the house with their gear.  Her

            expression critical, perhaps even hostile.









            INT. LAX - SECURITY CHECK - LATER





            Jenny helps Sid off with the backpack.  Carries Solly through

            the metal detector as Sid struggles to get the pack onto the

            X-Ray belt.









            INT. 5347 PARLIAMENT AVENUE - LIVING ROOM - SIMULTANEOUS





            Belle watches the Pardinis drape spattered tarps over the

            furniture.









            INT. BOEING 737 - LATER





            Sid and Jenny struggle down the aisle with backpack, baby,

            car-seat, etc.  The frame of the pack knocks off a man's

            Pirates cap. Sid apologizes.  When he turns around he sees

            that his baby has grabbed a woman passenger's necklace.  









            INT. 5347 PARLIAMENT AVENUE - HALL - SIMULTANEOUS





            A wall of framed family photos, comprising five generations

            and a hundred years.  Pardini grabs one off its hook, then

            another, then a third.









            INT. BOEING 737 - LATER





            The baby, safe in his car seat, sleeps between Sid and Jenny. 

            Sid reaches across Solly to take Jenny's hand.  Squeezes it. 

            They made it.  She doesn't look up from her legal pad.  Sid

            sits back, opens his Thucydides.  









            INT. 5347 PARLIAMENT AVENUE - SIMULTANEOUS





            The wall of photos is now a blank expanse of tiny holes. 

            Pardini starts to spackle them.









            EXT. PITTSBURGH AIRPORT - RENTAL CAR LOT - LATER





            Jenny snaps Solly into his car seat in the back of a generic

            white sedan.  Solly chews an airline safety procedure card.  









            INT. 5347 PARLIAMENT AVENUE - SIMULTANEOUS





            Pardini senior unspools a length of tape along the frame of a

            window.





            One of his sons taps a screwdriver with a hammer.  He's

            taking a door off its hinges. 





            The bare house looks haunted by the draped ghosts of chairs

            and tables.









            EXT. PITTSBURGH HIGHWAY - LATER





            Late afternoon.  The rental car emerges from the Fort Pitt

            tunnel.  Stunning view of the towers and hills and the hinge,

            dull-metal gray, that pins the three rivers.









            EXT. SQUIRREL HILL - LATER





            The rental turns into Parliament, and slows in front of: 





            THE HOUSE





            Twilight coming on fast.  The car comes to a stop.  









            INT. RENTAL CAR - CONTINUOUS





            Jenny and Solly are both asleep.  Sid puts the car in park

            but doesn't kill the engine.  He sits looking at the house,

            his face animated by memory.









            INT. 5347 PARLIAMENT AVENUE - KITCHEN - SIMULTANEOUS





            The pantry door is lifted off and set against a wall.  We see

            that it bears the irregular marks, like a ragged yardstick,

            of the heights of three children.    





            We follow the marks as they climb the door.  Each labelled

            with names and dates from 1971 to 1986.  Up to 1976 there are

            always three names, CARLIE, SID, and LIBBY.  After that we

            see only Sids and Libbys.









            INT. RENTAL CAR - SIMULTANEOUS





            ON SID, lost.









            INT. 5347 PARLIAMENT AVENUE - KITCHEN - 1975 - FLASHBACK





            Sid and Carlie jostle for position at the pantry door,

            pushing, nudging, having fun.  Their mother, MONA, lays the

            ruler across the tops of each of their heads and draws a

            pencil line.









            INT. 5347 PARLIAMENT AVENUE - KITCHEN - PRESENT DAY





            A paint brush trails a white wake along the edge of the door,

            obliterating the record of growth and disappearance.









            INT. RENTAL CAR - SIMULTANEOUS





            Jenny wakes.  Looks at Sid, then around.  Sees the house.





                                JENNY

                      Is that it?   That's it.





            Sid doesn't say anything.  





                                JENNY (cont'd)

                      The lights are on.





                                SID

                      Yeah.





            He starts to put the car in gear.  Jenny gapes at him.





                                SID (CONT'D)

                      We'll go, we'll go.  Just not yet.  

                          (beat)

                      Even from the outside, I can feel it

                      bringing back so many....





                                JENNY 

                      Memories?  Bad memories?





                                SID

                      Not bad or good... just... history.





                                JENNY

                      Your grandfather was so weird about us

                      staying.  It was like he didn't even want

                      us to drop by.





            Sid grunts; he agrees but he doesn't want to think about it.





                                JENNY (CONT'D)

                      I know they're painting everything but...

                          (worried beat)

                      I hope we'll be okay at your dad's.





                                SID

                      Depends on how you define "okay." 





                                JENNY

                      "Not drowning in weirdness and tension."





                                SID

                      I think that's a little too loose.





                                JENNY

                          (awash in dread)

                      Oh, man.  





                                SID

                      We'd better get over there.  Everyone's

                      waiting.





            Now he puts the car in gear and they pull away.









            EXT. 5347 PARLIAMENT AVENUE - CONTINUOUS





            The rental drives away, revealing: 





            THE FIRE HYDRANT.  It's painted a drab gray-green. 









            INT. 5347 PARLIAMENT AVENUE - CONTINUOUS





            Front hall.  The painters trudge past Belle, who stands tight

            lipped in her ghostly living room.





                                PARDINI

                      We got everything prepped, and we got a

                      start on the kitchen, Mrs. Gold.  We'll

                      be back first thing in the AM tomorrow.





                                BELLE

                      Fine.





            They stomp out.  Belle stands a moment, breathing.   Then she

            moves to a chair and snatches the drop cloth off it.  





            Still carrying the cloth, she pounds up the stairs.  Belle is

            small, wiry, the kind of women who as she ages burns with a

            steadier, hotter flame.  We sense resolve hardening in her

            with every step.  





            We follow her up the stairs, then down the hall.  She goes

            into a small bedroom.  snatches the cloth off a neat pile of

            mirrors, pictures, etc., in the center of the room.  Then she

            goes out into the hall again, into the next bedroom.









            INT. SID AND CARLIE'S OLD BEDROOM - CONTINUOUS





            She snatches the tarps off the bed, the dresser, the night

            stand.  She pushes the dresser back against the wall.  She

            picks up the mirror.  There's no hook, just a blotch of fresh

            spackle.  She stands the mirror on the dresser. 

            She picks up a handful of framed photos from the floor, sits

            down on the bed.  Breathing hard now, getting hold of

            herself.  She looks down to her lap at:





            THE FIRE HYDRANT PHOTO.  An 8x10 enlargement.  





            Belle looks up.





                                BELLE

                          (firmly, ending an argument)

                      I'm not ready.









            EXT. THE BENIGN TUBER - PITTSBURGH, PA. - NIGHT





            An Oakland storefront at dusk.  Chairs upended on the tables. 

            A solitary man does a sad little dance with his mop.  





            We TILT up, past the sign with its eponymous potato smiling a

            Siddhartha smile, and look into the second-floor apartment.









            INT. KIP FOLLETT'S APARTMENT - CONTINUOUS





            LIBERTY FOLLETT leans against a door jamb, torn between

            amusement and horror.  The little girl in the snapshot is now

            27.  Her hair and clothes aspire to studied unconcern but

            flirt dangerously with hoboism.  We don't see the scene she's

            observing with such alarm, only her reaction, wide-eyed,

            fidgeting, snapping her gum.  The door at her back is ajar.





                                LIBBY

                      Is it fixed?





                                SID (O.S.)

                      Shut up.  Is Mom here yet?





                                LIBBY

                      Do you hear her?  









            INT. KIP FOLLETT'S APARTMENT - BEDROOM - CONTINUOUS





            Sid crouches on the floor, operating with a screwdriver on a

            camcorder.  Scattered cogs and pins all around him.  





                                SID

                      Your boyfriend seems sweet.





                                LIBBY (O.S.)

                      He is sweet.  Very sweet.





                                SID

                      I noticed he was...wearing a turban.





            We INTERCUT between him and loyal Libby guarding the door.





                                LIBBY

                      Well, he's a Sikh, you know, they--





                                SID

                      Sikhs are sweet.  





                                LIBBY

                      A non-practicing.  He makes films.  





                                SID

                      Films like yours?  





                                LIBBY

                      What do you mean "like mine?"





                                SID

                      Do they induce seizures in mice?





                                LIBBY

                      Shut up.  





                                SID

                      You look happier than I thought you'd

                      look. 





                                LIBBY

                      That's cause you're home, normally I'm

                      suicidal.





            Sid is touched by this.  She lets it sink in, then--





                                LIBBY (cont'd)

                      It's about time you showed up to catch some of

                      the crap.  Left me here for seven years to deal

                      with these people on my own.





            Sid looks at her, guilty.  She pops him on the arm, hard.





                                LIBBY (CONT'D)

                      Panjit just put on the turban for

                      tonight.  For special occasions.  It's

                      like a cummerbund.  It's like a tallis.





                                SID

                      Only it's a hat.





                                LIBBY

                      Actually I made him wear it.  I was

                      hoping it might irritate Dad.





                                SID

                      Are you in love?





                                LIBBY

                      Are you?





                                SID

                      What do you mean?





                                LIBBY

                      I don't know.  You guys seem...

                          (thinks better of it)

                      Nothing.





                                SID

                      What's Jenny doing?





                                LIBBY

                      Using the baby as a human shield.





                                SID

                          (sighs, gets the implication)

                      Uncle Dave?





                                LIBBY

                      He's doing his frame-by-frame of the

                      Zapruder film.  Come on, just leave it. 





                                SID

                      I have to fix it.  I promised Dad.





                                LIBBY

                      Why don't you just come sit out in the

                      living room--





                                SID

                      I don't want everyone watching me. 





                                LIBBY

                      Oh, yeah, I've heard that about actors.





                                SID 

                      Shut up.  What's Jenny doing now?





            UNCLE DAVE drones on about exit wounds.  Libby's had enough.  





                                LIBBY

                      Why don't you just get out here and see

                      for yourself, butthead.





            She shoulders the door open, jolting Sid.  He fumbles with

            the camera, drops it.  A BAD SOUND.  





            Libby closes the door behind her.  Surveys the wreckage.





                                LIBBY (cont'd)

                      Admit you're just cowering.  





                                SID

                      I'm not cowering...  I... I just... I

                      didn't think they were going to make such

                      a big deal.  What do they want from me?  





            Libby sinks comfortably to the floor beside him.





                                LIBBY

                      You should be flattered.  We haven't all

                      got together like this is in like a year.  





            This thought pains them both.  A melancholy BEAT.  





                                LIBBY (cont'd)

                      I can't believe I didn't know Cousin Kyle

                      did a month in jail.  Nobody talks.  

                      Nobody tells me anything.  I haven't seen

                      Dad in months.  





                                SID

                      There!  





            He holds up the camcorder.  The tape bay door falls off.  





                                SID (cont'd)

                      Fixed.





                                LIBBY

                      Great.  Okay.  Let's go.





            They both sit there, not moving.  





                                SID

                      Okay, so I'm cowering. 





                                LIBBY

                      It's nice.  





                                SID

                      We're having problems.  Jenny and me.  





                                LIBBY

                      Huh.  Well, it's hard when you have kid. 

                      So I hear.  It changes everything.





                                SID

                      So they say.  You would think so.





                                LIBBY

                      Not true?





                                SID

                      I wasn't looking for everything.  I just

                      wanted it to change me.  I thought I was

                      going to have to really, finally, you

                      know.  Grow up.  





                                LIBBY

                      A similar theory was bandied about around

                      here, too, as I recall.





                                SID

                      Instead I feel like I'm the same stupid

                      guy doing the same stupid things I've

                      been doing for the last ten years.  The

                      call backs, the headshots, the pretend

                      jobs.  I'm never home.   Jenny's never

                      home.  There is no home.  There's no

                      marriage.  We're just two people who

                      periodically coordinate their Dayrunners. 

                      The whole thing--marriage, fatherhood, my

                      career, Los Angeles--it's all just a

                      theory. 





                                LIBBY

                      Have you ever--you could always--nah.





                                SID

                      Don't even say it.





                                LIBBY

                      Move back.





                                SID

                      I've been missing things.  Things I never

                      thought I would miss.  Gray winters, with

                      every so often one of those cold, cold

                      sunny days.  That river smell on a summer

                      afternoon.  My little sister. 





            Libby reaches for his hand and squeezes it.





                                SID (CONT'D)

                      Why, is that what everyone thinks?  That

                      I'm thinking of moving home?





                                LIBBY

                      That's one of the theories.









            INT. KIP FOLLETT'S APARTMENT - ENTRY - CONTINUOUS





            MONA ZMUDA glides in, grand, stately as a parade float.  She

            favors theatrical, post-hippie getups.  She looks around the

            living room as she comes in, smiles huge.





                                MONA

                      Look at this.  Everyone all together.





            The smile falters a little.  We see what she sees, namely the





            LIVING ROOM 





            A bunch of people, of various ages, standing around.  An

            introductory meeting of Weight Watchers.  A DMV waiting room. 

            Nobody is talking except for Sid's UNCLE DAVE, who has Jenny

            cornered on the couch.  She's nursing Solly.  





                                MONA (CONT'D)

                          (recovering)

                      And there he is!  My little boy!   





            She rolls across the room to Jenny, who passes Mona the baby,

            only too glad for the interruption.  





                                MONA (cont'd)

                          (to baby, in a baby voice)

                      Look at you, you're so big!  I can't

                      believe I've already missed more than

                      half of your life!  Yes!  Because your

                      mommy keeps you and your daddy three

                      thousand miles away, yes she does!  





                                JENNY

                          (pissed, smiling)

                      Hi, Mona.  You look great.  





                                MONA

                      You look nice and plump, that's what we

                      like to see in a nursing mother.  When

                      are you going to wean him?  Where's Sid?  





                                SID

                      Hi, Mom.





            Sheepish, holding the camcorder.  He ducks a look from Jenny.  





                                MONA

                      You shaved the beard.  Thank God.

                          (as if asking about his job at

                           Dachau)

                      How is the acting? 





                                SID

                      Okay.  Good.  I had a pretty good call

                      back yesterday, for a feature.  But

                      lately I've been trying to decide--





                                MONA 

                      What's this, my God, is your father still

                      holding on to that thing?





                                SID

                      I guess he wanted to get this on tape.





            Sid and Mona look around at:





            Dave and CHRISTINE GOLD (Sid's uncle and aunt), their grown

            son KYLE (Sid's cousin), Kyle's wife DEANNA and their SULLEN

            BROOD.  Sid's grandfather, LEON GOLD, 79, sits in a big

            recliner in the corner, reading Food Service Weekly. 

            Someplace else entirely.  Libby has rejoined her boyfriend,

            PANJIT SINGH, an handsome young man in a turban, and they

            stand laminated in the perpetual odd impression they make.





                                MONA

                          (not quite sotto voce)

                      For obvious reasons.    

                          (loud)

                      Come here, Dave.  Hold the baby.





            Dutifully Dave rises, takes the baby.  Holds him like he's a

            bag of wet socks.  Mona goes over to Leon.





            Sid leans down to kiss Jenny but she ducks it. 





                                JENNY

                      Where have you been?  

                          (sniffs)

                      Getting high?





                                SID

                      No!  I was just...

                          (how lame)

                      fixing this.  What's the matter?





                                JENNY

                      Nothing.  I've just been hearing all

                      about how Ben-Gurion wanted Kennedy dead

                      and, you know.  Freely indulging my

                      passion for the smell of Bac-Os.





                                SID

                      I know.  It's bad enough my dad owns the

                      damn places, I can't believe he moved in

                      right over top of one.  





                                JENNY

                      We can't stay here, Sid.  I can't.





            Aunt Chris listens with rapt attention.  Sid pulls Jenny off

            the couch, away to one side.  She glances back at: 





            Dave, who dangles the baby in front of the three little Gold

            cousins, KAILEY, COLBY, AND SCHUYLER, 9, 7, and 5.  They

            regard him with homicidal lack of interest.





            Jenny turns back to Sid.





                                JENNY (CONT'D)

                      Can't we just stay at the Hilton?  I'll

                      be able to nurse the baby between

                      sessions... Your dad will understand.





            Sid tries to look as though they're not arguing.  Jenny

            doesn't bother.





                                SID

                      We have to stay here, Jen.  Dad made a

                      such a big thing about it.  He bought

                      sheets.  He bought formula, I know that's

                      of, like, absolutely no value to us but I

                      mean, for him...





            ACROSS THE ROOM 





            Mona bends over Leon, kisses the top of his head.  





                                MONA

                      Hi, Daddy.  





                                LEON

                          (doesn't look up)

                      How are you, dear?  





                                MONA

                      Did you have the open house last weekend?

                          (no answer)

                      How did it go?





                                LEON

                          (doesn't look up)

                      Terrible.  Only a bunch of Realtors came.





                                MONA

                      That's how it's supposed to be, silly. 

                      It was an open house for Realtors.





                                LEON

                          (doesn't look up)

                      So it wasn't terrible, then.  I loved it.





                                MONA

                      Where's Ma?  





                                LEON

                          (doesn't look up)

                      She's coming.  She's with the painters. 





                                MONA

                      You're having it painted, that's good.

                          (no answer)

                      What are you reading?





            Mona peels back the cover of his magazine.  He tugs it away. 





                                LEON

                      Who's reading?





            ON LIBBY AND PANJIT AND SID AND JENNY





            Libby takes the baby from Jenny.  Solly starts to whimper. 

            Throughout the bit that follows, he cries louder while Libby

            dandles him, kisses at the air around him, tries to cope.





                                PANJIT

                      You are better looking, Sid, than in the

                      commercial we saw.





                                JENNY

                      Well, he was playing toilet rust.





                                PANJIT

                      Libby said your name is really Greek?





                                SID

                      Uh, yeah.  It's really Thucydides.





                                PANJIT

                      I have read him, a little bit. 





                                SID

                      No one calls me that, though.  Except

                      sometimes my dad, he has a Ph.D. in

                      history.  He named our brother after

                      Thomas Carlyle.





                                LIBBY

                      Carlie.





                                PANJIT

                      I've seen pictures.  He was your twin. 

                      That must be...that must have been...





                                SID

                      It's all right.  Really.  I remember him

                      so well.  He's not dead to me. 

                          (to Jenny)

                      Is he?





                                JENNY

                          (tender, touching his arm)

                      No, he really doesn't seem to be.





                                SID

                      Sometimes it's like there's just no gap

                      between then and now at all.  I'm still

                      back there.  He's still here.





                                PANJIT

                      This is like history.   Everyone thinks

                      history to be something that stopped a

                      long time ago.  Wars, popes, who got

                      burned at the stake.





                                LIBBY

                      I always liked that Diet of Worms thing.





                                PANJIT 

                      But it's all still happening.  It's an

                      ongoing story.





                                SID

                          (to Libby)

                      He's smart, this guy.





                                LIBBY

                          (irritated by the baby)

                      Just because he's read Thucydides or

                      Carlyle doesn't mean he's smart.  Look at

                      you.  Look at dad, for that matter. 

                      You're both a couple of idiots.





                                PANJIT

                      Ah, but don't forget the all-important

                      "savant."





                                SID

                      Thank you, Panjit.





            Libby gives up and hands the baby to Panjit.  





                                LIBBY

                      He doesn't like me.  Babies don't like

                      me.





                                JENNY

                      No, Libby, he's just like that.





            The baby immediately falls silent in Panjit's arms.





                                PANJIT

                      Honey, when can I take off the turban?





                                LIBBY

                      Give it another few minutes, sweetie.  I

                      want my dad to see you in it.  





            The door BANGS open.  KIP FOLLETT walks in, carrying a huge

            foil-wrapped tray.





                                KIP

                      Ta da.





            It's the man we saw in the Tuber, romancing his mop.  Trim,

            with weary, intelligent good looks.  A ruined professor. 

            Swims in irony like a hand in a jar of formaldehyde.





                                KIP (cont'd)

                      I hope everybody is hungry for baked

                      potatoes.  God knows I am.  





                                SID

                      Hey, Dad.  





                                KIP

                      Son.  I'd, er, I'd hug you but...





            He looks down at the tray in his hands, apologetic.





                                SID

                      That's okay, dad.  Don't want to overdo

                      the hugging.





                                KIP

                      Right.





            Libby comes over and gives him a hug.  Panjit hangs back.





                                KIP (CONT'D)

                      Daughter.  Hello, Panjit.  You can take

                      off the hat now, I'm suitably horrified.





                                PANJIT

                      Thank you.





            Gratefully he unwinds it, letting down a long braid that he

            unwinds into a dark glossy mass.  He's quite gorgeous.





                                SID

                      Uh, Dad, we uh, we're all settled in--

                          (nervous glance at Jenny)

                      but I couldn't fix the camcorder.





                                KIP

                      Maybe Belle can do it.  Where is she?





                                SID

                      I don't know.  Grandpa?  Where's Grandma?





            No answer.





                                UNCLE DAVE

                      Dad!





            Leon looks up at last from his magazine.





                                LEON

                          (plainly guessing)

                      Whatever...broccoli.  And cheese.





                                MONA

                      She's on her way, dear.  Hello, Kip.





                                KIP

                      Hello, Mona.  I like what you're wearing.





                                MONA

                      No, you don't.





                                KIP

                      Didn't I see you on Babylon 5?

Michael Chabon. All rights reserved.