|house of gold
HOUSE OF GOLD
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.
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:
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.
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.
I'd ask you if it doesn't get old after
the, what is it, the eighteenth--
--after the seventeenth read, but I guess
that's the whole point isn't it?
Sid slips the book into the diaper bag. Sits there, knowing
he should get up.
I take it you're having second thoughts.
About going home.
No! Nuh-uh. I just--
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.
Plus, several dozen unsuspecting lawyers
are converging on the Pittsburgh Hilton
so that I can send them into a vegetative
state on Friday.
Jenny, I know.
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-
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.
She turns back: Sid has one last chance. He gets up.
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?
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.
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..."
Jenny. Jenny, come on. Let's talk.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Lose consciousness from lack of oxygen?
I wasn't going to say that, actually.
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.
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
INT. 5347 PARLIAMENT AVENUE - LIVING ROOM - SIMULTANEOUS
Belle watches the Pardinis drape spattered tarps over the
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
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
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:
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
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.
Is that it? That's it.
Sid doesn't say anything.
The lights are on.
He starts to put the car in gear. Jenny gapes at him.
We'll go, we'll go. Just not yet.
Even from the outside, I can feel it
bringing back so many....
Memories? Bad memories?
Not bad or good... just... history.
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.
I know they're painting everything but...
I hope we'll be okay at your dad's.
Depends on how you define "okay."
"Not drowning in weirdness and tension."
I think that's a little too loose.
(awash in dread)
We'd better get over there. Everyone's
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.
We got everything prepped, and we got a
start on the kitchen, Mrs. Gold. We'll
be back first thing in the AM tomorrow.
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.
(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.
Is it fixed?
Shut up. Is Mom here yet?
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.
Your boyfriend seems sweet.
He is sweet. Very sweet.
I noticed he was...wearing a turban.
We INTERCUT between him and loyal Libby guarding the door.
Well, he's a Sikh, you know, they--
Sikhs are sweet.
A non-practicing. He makes films.
Films like yours?
What do you mean "like mine?"
Do they induce seizures in mice?
You look happier than I thought you'd
That's cause you're home, normally I'm
Sid is touched by this. She lets it sink in, then--
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.
Panjit just put on the turban for
tonight. For special occasions. It's
like a cummerbund. It's like a tallis.
Only it's a hat.
Actually I made him wear it. I was
hoping it might irritate Dad.
Are you in love?
What do you mean?
I don't know. You guys seem...
(thinks better of it)
What's Jenny doing?
Using the baby as a human shield.
(sighs, gets the implication)
He's doing his frame-by-frame of the
Zapruder film. Come on, just leave it.
I have to fix it. I promised Dad.
Why don't you just come sit out in the
I don't want everyone watching me.
Oh, yeah, I've heard that about actors.
Shut up. What's Jenny doing now?
UNCLE DAVE drones on about exit wounds. Libby's had enough.
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.
Admit you're just cowering.
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.
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.
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.
He holds up the camcorder. The tape bay door falls off.
Great. Okay. Let's go.
They both sit there, not moving.
Okay, so I'm cowering.
We're having problems. Jenny and me.
Huh. Well, it's hard when you have kid.
So I hear. It changes everything.
So they say. You would think so.
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.
A similar theory was bandied about around
here, too, as I recall.
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
Have you ever--you could always--nah.
Don't even say it.
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.
Why, is that what everyone thinks? That
I'm thinking of moving home?
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.
Look at this. Everyone all together.
The smile falters a little. We see what she sees, namely the
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.
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.
(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!
Hi, Mona. You look great.
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?
Sheepish, holding the camcorder. He ducks a look from Jenny.
You shaved the beard. Thank God.
(as if asking about his job at
How is the acting?
Okay. Good. I had a pretty good call
back yesterday, for a feature. But
lately I've been trying to decide--
What's this, my God, is your father still
holding on to that thing?
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.
(not quite sotto voce)
For obvious reasons.
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.
Where have you been?
No! I was just...
fixing this. What's the matter?
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.
I know. It's bad enough my dad owns the
damn places, I can't believe he moved in
right over top of one.
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.
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
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.
(doesn't look up)
How are you, dear?
Did you have the open house last weekend?
How did it go?
(doesn't look up)
Terrible. Only a bunch of Realtors came.
That's how it's supposed to be, silly.
It was an open house for Realtors.
(doesn't look up)
So it wasn't terrible, then. I loved it.
(doesn't look up)
She's coming. She's with the painters.
You're having it painted, that's good.
What are you reading?
Mona peels back the cover of his magazine. He tugs it away.
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.
You are better looking, Sid, than in the
commercial we saw.
Well, he was playing toilet rust.
Libby said your name is really Greek?
Uh, yeah. It's really Thucydides.
I have read him, a little bit.
No one calls me that, though. Except
sometimes my dad, he has a Ph.D. in
history. He named our brother after
I've seen pictures. He was your twin.
That must be...that must have been...
It's all right. Really. I remember him
so well. He's not dead to me.
(tender, touching his arm)
No, he really doesn't seem to be.
Sometimes it's like there's just no gap
between then and now at all. I'm still
back there. He's still here.
This is like history. Everyone thinks
history to be something that stopped a
long time ago. Wars, popes, who got
burned at the stake.
I always liked that Diet of Worms thing.
But it's all still happening. It's an
He's smart, this guy.
(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.
Ah, but don't forget the all-important
Thank you, Panjit.
Libby gives up and hands the baby to Panjit.
He doesn't like me. Babies don't like
No, Libby, he's just like that.
The baby immediately falls silent in Panjit's arms.
Honey, when can I take off the turban?
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
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.
I hope everybody is hungry for baked
potatoes. God knows I am.
Son. I'd, er, I'd hug you but...
He looks down at the tray in his hands, apologetic.
That's okay, dad. Don't want to overdo
Libby comes over and gives him a hug. Panjit hangs back.
Daughter. Hello, Panjit. You can take
off the hat now, I'm suitably horrified.
Gratefully he unwinds it, letting down a long braid that he
unwinds into a dark glossy mass. He's quite gorgeous.
Uh, Dad, we uh, we're all settled in--
(nervous glance at Jenny)
but I couldn't fix the camcorder.
Maybe Belle can do it. Where is she?
I don't know. Grandpa? Where's Grandma?
Leon looks up at last from his magazine.
Whatever...broccoli. And cheese.
She's on her way, dear. Hello, Kip.
Hello, Mona. I like what you're wearing.
No, you don't.
Didn't I see you on Babylon 5?
© Michael Chabon. All rights reserved.