Update: Screenwriting Challenge

In the last challenge, I placed third in my group. That gives me a total of 45 out of a possible 50 points so far.
Top ten in each group moved on to the next round.

My screenplay for this round is posted below.

genre: Historical Fiction
location: Fallout Shelter
object: cactus

I struggled hard to come up with an actual story. I had an immediate impression of an innocent, a young woman standing barfoot in the midst of cacti - as so many young people in the 60s stood innocent in the midst of the dangers of the time.

I imagined her making out in the backyard bomb shelter, a protest of the culture of life against the culture of death, and then hearing about one of the events of the era on the radio - Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy Assassination, Che's killing... but that still wasn't a story, more like a snippet.

But, after reading about events of the 60s, I finally came up with something, an historic meeting of sorts. I re-located it from a beach into the shelter. It's a direction I didn't expect to go, but once I thought of it, it really hooked me.

It's the meeting of Charlie Manson and Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme.

Several hours of research went into getting this initial exchange right, so I hope it works

She just seemed to really fit that opening image, the initial impression I had, of an innocent among the thorns.

Barefoot In a Cactus Garden


A cactus garden - several shapes and kinds, cluster around a concrete platform. In the middle of them rises a mushroom-shaped aluminum vent, the blades on top spinning.

LYN (18), her red hair in braids, walks by. The edge of her Indian-print skirt catches on a large prickly pear. She bends to disentangle the fabric from the cactus.

Charlie (33), looks around the yard, and scratches his stubbly beard.


Where is your pad, chickie?


Right here.

She frees her skirt, steps away from the cactus and onto the concrete, and points down.


Lyn maneuvers around a small couch at the center of the cramped space.

Shelves are stocked with dusty cans. An AM/FM radio in the corner. An ashtray filled with butts, and some empty cans litter the floor.

Charlie makes his way down the ladder.

Lyn sits, uncomfortable, on the edge of the couch. Charlie sits beside her, she nervously jumps up - then sits again.

Charlie cracks a smile, an elfin grin of both sympathy and amusement.


Tell me - what troubles you?


How - How did you know?


Up in the Haight, I'm called the gardener.

He reaches into a shirt pocket and pulls out a joint, then sticks it behind an ear.


I tend to all the flower children.

Lyn stands up now and faces him, but stays close.


Charlie. It's Charlie, right? I'm no delicate flower. And I don't need any gardener planting his seeds.

Charlie looks at her.


Lynette. Lyn. Even a cactus -

He grasps the edge of her skirt, where it had caught the cactus above, and finds a needle there.


-blooms once in a while. Flowers come in infinite variety. Some of them with thorns.

He pulls her arm out in front of her, opens her hand, and drops the cactus needle in her palm.


That makes it special when you can get close to them.

Lyn melts, and flops back onto the couch. She leans slightly toward him, then pulls back again.


I guess I dig what you're saying.


So, we're copascetic.

He pulls out the joint, and pats his pockets for a light. He stands, and starts looking through the stocks.


Over there. Matches are by the radio.

He lights the joint, then squats in front of her, and passes it to her. He waits for her to take a hit.


When did your old man kick you out?


Wh- uh - he. How did you know?

He just grins.

She laughs.


Any little thing and he'd go ape, man. So, you know, I figured it was time to split.

She starts to tear up.


Look, I've spent most of my life behind bars. Stupid shit mostly. Petty crimes.


Oh, that's golden. I've invited a criminal down here to get high. That's supposed to make me feel better?


I'm tryin to tell you, man, for a lot of years I was seriously down on myself.

He holds her chin in his hand. Curiosity overwhelms her fear.


Do you miss your daddy?

Lyn shakes her head no.

He holds her gaze a while longer.

She shakes her head yes.


You wanted daddy to hit you.

She pulls away. Pushing Charlie from her, but with no real insistence.


Fuck you, Charlie.


All little girls want their daddy's attention.

Lyn freezes. He gently pulls her into his arms, and strokes her hair.


Prison was like that for me. I hated it, but I wanted it.


Do you still?


No, man. I learned that the way out of a room was not through the door.

He taps his head.


It's up here. Just don't want out, and you're free.

They both laugh.


We've got a bus. Painted black, full of cushions and groovy people.


Yeah? OK.


We're going up north again. Into the woods. Maybe back to the Haight. Come with us.


I can't.

He pushes her away from him.

She tries to lean on him again, but he pushes her up.

He stands up, and goes to the ladder.


You're leaving already?

He shrugs and goes up the ladder.


Well, I can't make up your mind for you. Stay here with your Daddy if you want... But I think you'd love the Family.

She sits a moment, and looks at the cactus needle still clutched in one hand. She takes it and presses it into her fingertip, drawing out a small drop of blood.


Charlie? I'm coming.

She licks the blood from her finger, and follows him out of the shelter.