Tell My Bones; 2012 Screenplay

c – 2012 Marilyn Jaye Lewis [formatted by blog, sorry]

Ohio Independent Film Festival Screenplay Award Winner 2013

FADE IN:
EXT. RURAL BACK ROAD - DAY
WANDA STUBBLEFIELD, 45, an African-American woman, is behind the wheel of a 1999 Ford Fiesta. 
It's a grey day in early winter. On either side of the winding road, the land is dense with bare trees. 
Far back from the road, through the trees, Wanda sees dilapidated shacks -- homes abandoned long ago. 
As her car passes each forgotten shack, it flickers to life. 
Ghosts of the former owners, the descendants of slaves, appear on the porches. Some in their Sunday finest. Others, as if it were the height of summer, are heading out to the fields in work shirts and dungarees. 
They don't notice Wanda or each other, nor does Wanda see them. These are just glimmers of a world that used to be.
CUT TO:
EXT. 6TH STREET, MAYFIELD, KENTUCKY - DAY
Cramped houses with neglected yards line 6th Street. 
It is present day. Everyone is alive inside these houses but this world seems dead.
The short street dead-ends at a drab, one-story brick building. There is a large, open field beyond it.
NURSE'S AIDE (V.O.)
Here's your tray, Miss Helen. 
EXT. NURSING HOME - DAY
Through a large window, we see HELEN LAFRANCE, 91, sitting in a wheelchair, looking out. Her long, greying braids are tucked under a red bandana. She, too, descends from slaves.
A half-painted canvas is just visible behind her. What's on the canvas looks like something perhaps a talented child could paint.
INT. NURSING HOME - DAY
NURSE'S AIDE (O.S.)
Miss Helen? I've got your tray.
In the day room, Helen glances at the nurse's aide, who is holding her lunch tray. 
Helen looks out the window again. She is looking up at the tree outside the window.
HELEN
(quiet; joyful)
There are three squirrels.
NURSE'S AIDE
Miss Helen...
With her left hand, Helen slowly pushes her paints aside and makes space on the crowded table for her lunch tray. 
HELEN
(cold politeness)
Thank you.
With a keen gaze, Helen watches the nurse's aide walk away. She ignores her lunch and stares out the window at the squirrels again.
EXT. NURSING HOME - DAY
Through the window, Helen is staring up intently at the squirrels playing in the tree.
HELEN (V.O.)
I can't remember my grannie going to anybody's funeral. Uncle Charlie, now, he died - she didn't go to his funeral. Aunt Josie died first, though. Even when my mama died, she didn't go to her funeral, either.
CUT TO:
INT. HELEN'S TRAILER HOME, 2005 - DAY 
At a modest kitchen table, Helen and Wanda are having coffee. Wanda has a notebook and is making notes about Helen's ancestors. 
Helen speaks softly but she is vibrant and lively for 86. 
On the floor, leaning against the kitchen wall, are several of Helen's paintings that she has recently completed.
WANDA
I guess it upset your grannie too much when people died.
HELEN
For me -- after Pappy died, it was like my childhood ended. It changed me.
The camera closes in on the paintings that are leaning against the kitchen wall: "Bringing in the Cotton," "Tobacco Harvest," "Quilts in the Breeze," "Dry Goods Store," and "Wagon Full of Hay."
WANDA (O.S.)
Pappy was King Clay, right -- your grandfather?
HELEN (O.S.)
That's right, King Clay Liggon, the Second. I don't know why we called him Pappy but we did. I loved my parents and my grandparents, both, you know. But Pappy -- he made the world special for me.
The camera chooses "Quilts in the Breeze." 
Several homemade quilts are airing on a clothesline outside of a log cabin. Near the cabin sits an old, weathered barn. There are many tall trees around the house and barn. A split-rail fence separates a patch of green lawn from a dirt path. On the dirt path is a time-worn wagon, hitched to two horses. The wagon is full of hay.
The camera comes in close to the painting. Almost imperceptibly the quilts on the clothesline tremble in a light breeze. 
The painting flickers gently to life, as the story Helen is telling to Wanda unfolds in the painting.
DISSOLVE TO:
EXT. ORR FARM, 1919 - DAY
YOUNG HELEN  (V.O.)
I am Helen LaFrance Orr. I was born in a log cabin on my parents' farm in Graves County, Kentucky. My mama said it was a beautiful Monday morning when I was born -- on November 2, 1919. She said she could see a patch of sky at the top of the window; she was facing east, and she said it was a beautiful day.
INT. LOG CABIN - DAY
LILLIE MAE LIGGON ORR, 23, is in bed in the log cabin. The bedroom is in the front room, which also serves as the living room. The bed faces a window that has been draped with a sheet for privacy. At the top of the sheet, daylight is pouring in, filling the room.
Lillie Mae's mother, JESSIE, is in the room with her, along with Lillie Mae's younger sisters -- FANNIE and BOBBIE. 
All the women are tired and happy as a MIDWIFE gently hands over the swaddled infant to Lillie Mae.
MIDWIFE
Another girl, Lillie Mae. What do you suppose you'll name her?
LILLIE MAE
We don't know yet. We got so busy cutting the tobacco, you know. And then bringing in the hay.
JESSIE
The little mama is exhausted.
LILLIE MAE
(transfixed by her new baby)
She sure is a pretty thing.
Bobbie lays a fresh quilt over Lillie Mae. Fannie tucks in the quilt at the foot of the bed.
Jessie helps the midwife clean up and walks with her into the kitchen.
BOBBIE
(to Fannie)
I saw Roger in the dry goods store. You know, he is still talking about the war?
FANNIE
"Vive la France!"
BOBBIE
That's right. "Vive la France." Everyday, for a whole year now.
The two sisters talk between themselves as they tend to Lillie Mae's bedding.
Lillie Mae seems not to be listening.
BOBBIE (CONT'D)
Roger said that President Wilson is going to be making it a national holiday -- Armistice Day. So that we'll always remember.
FANNIE
Remember the end of the war?
BOBBIE
That, but mostly all those soldiers who died.
LILLIE MAE
(dreamily)
Vive la France. It was a joyful day unto the Lord when that awful war was over. 
FANNIE
Sure was.
LILLIE MAE
I'm going to name this baby after that joyful day. I'm going to name her LaFrance.  She will be a glory unto the Lord.
Fannie and Bobbie look at each other and try not to laugh. Lillie Mae is in a maternal trance.
BOBBIE
(kindly)
Lillie Mae, I don't think James is going to go for that.
FANNIE
I don't think he's going to go for that at all.
CUT TO:
INT. LOG CABIN - LATER THAT NIGHT
JAMES FRANKLIN ORR, 28, a tall, strapping farmer who has seen some of the world, sits on the bed next to Lillie Mae, his wife. She is holding the sleeping baby. Near them, in a small bed close to the floor, a two-year-old girl, HARRIET LEE, is sleeping soundly.
James built the log cabin with his own hands. There is no electricity in the cabin. The only light in the room is a fire burning in the fireplace. 
JAMES
We are not naming this baby LaFrance. What kind of name is that for a little girl? 
LILLIE MAE
What kind of name is Helen? It's an ordinary name. Everybody's named Helen.
JAMES
I'm not named Helen.
LILLIE MAE
Of course not, that would be crazy.
JAMES
Yes, it would. And who wants to grow up with a crazy name? Life's hard enough, Lillie Mae.
LILLIE MAE
But I want her name to be a joyful noise unto the Lord.
The infant wakes and begins to cry; it's feeding time. The crying baby wakes Harriet Lee.
JAMES
She'll make a joyful noise, all right, but the Lord's going to know her as Helen.
CUT TO:
EXT. ORR FARM, 1922 - DAY
Lillie Mae is sitting in the grass in front of the cabin. The cabin now has a second floor built on to it. Helen, almost 3, is sitting in Lillie Mae's lap. Lillie Mae is helping Helen hold a long twig dipped in berry juice -- a makeshift paintbrush. She helps Helen paint on a piece of scrap paper.
Near them in the yard, there are colorful quilts on a clothesline, drying in the September breeze. Harriet Lee, who is now 5, is playing in the yard. In the grass next to Lillie Mae and Helen, one-year-old ARTIE, another baby girl, is asleep on a small quilt.
LILLIE MAE
Helen, let's draw the barn.
Even at 3, Helen has a keen gaze. She stares thoughtfully at the barn up on the hill. Then, with Lillie Mae still guiding her hand, she traces an unsteady outline of it.
LILLIE MAE (CONT'D)
That's good, Helen! That's very good.
HARRIET LEE
Daddy's coming!
James is coming in from the tobacco field, followed by his father-in-law, KING CLAY, and Lillie Mae's two brothers, BIRKS and SLIM (also known as "UNCLE BROTHER.") They're tired but they're farmers and used to the hard work.
LILLIE MAE
Y'all ready to eat? It's kind of early for lunch, isn't it?
JAMES
We're nearly three-quarters done with that tobacco. 
LILLIE MAE
(scooting Helen out of her lap)
Oh, that's fine, James! That's much better progress than last year.
Lillie Mae picks up baby Artie and the quilt.
JAMES
Before the week's out, we can start cutting the hay.
Harriet Lee runs to her grandfather who swings her up into his arms and carries her.
HARRIET LEE
Pappy! Did you see all those butterflies flying up here from Tennessee?
The men laugh.
KING CLAY
No, I'm afraid I missed that.
HARRIET LEE
They were just here. Just before. And they were very pretty. What were they, mama?
LILLIE MAE
Monarchs... come on, girls. Come inside with me and help me put the lunch on the table.
King Clay sets Harriet Lee on the ground and she runs after Lillie Mae.
Helen hasn't moved. She is painting a picture of the barn.
James stands over her.
JAMES
Your mama spoke to you, Helen. You go on in now.
Helen gazes up at her father. She's not done painting. James is giant-sized compared to her. 
JAMES (CONT'D)
Go on... (sharply) Helen.
YOUNG HELEN (V.O.)
My father was against me learning how to paint. He said there was too much work to be done to fool with painting pictures -- especially when I wanted to paint pictures of people who wouldn't stand still. But my mama felt differently.
CUT TO:
INT. KITCHEN, 1924 - DAY
Another afternoon, in the kitchen of the log cabin. There is a wood-burning cook stove along one wall, its stovepipe exiting out through a hole at the top of the wall. There are pots of food cooking on the stove. A large wooden table is in the middle of the room. The kitchen door leads outside to the well, to a smokehouse and to a small henhouse. The door is flanked by two large windows framed by cheerful homemade curtains. 
YOUNG HELEN (V.O.)
When she was a young girl, my mama loved to paint and she was determined to teach me. She thought I had talent.
INT. KITCHEN - CONTINUOUS
Lillie Mae, who is pregnant again, is mashing up dandelions, then berries, and beets; she puts these into bowls for Helen to use as paints. Lillie Mae also pours out a small bowl of laundry blueing and sets it in front of Helen. 
Helen is 5. She sits at the large kitchen table, holding a piece of fraying walnut bark, which she uses as a paintbrush.
LILLIE MAE
Now don't let me forget about supper! I don't think your daddy would be too happy with mashed-up dandelions and beet juice.
Harriet Lee, now 7, walks into the kitchen, carrying a bible. She sits down at the table with Helen.
HARRIET LEE
I'm done, mama.
LILLIE MAE
You swept the whole room and made it look nice?
HARRIET LEE
Yes, mama.
LILLIE MAE
Good girl. Now open the bible to where it's marked from yesterday.
Harriet Lee opens the bible to the bookmark, while Helen continues to paint. Today, she is painting a picture of the cook stove. 
Lillie Mae is back to preparing supper.
LILLIE MAE (CONT'D)
Now read me what's at the top of the page -- the very top there.
HARRIET LEE
(slowly, sounding it out)
E... zee...
LILLIE MAE
That's right, go on.
HELEN
(shouting out)
Ezekiel!
LILLIE MAE
Hush, Helen; let Harriet do it. She's reading.
HARRIET LEE
(dismayed)
Ezekiel.
LILLIE MAE
That's fine, Harriet.
Lillie Mae stops what she's doing. She goes to Harriet Lee and helps her find her place on the page.
LILLIE MAE (CONT'D)
Right here -- you start reading right here. Do you remember this?
HARRIET LEE
I think so.
LILLIE MAE
You did such a good job yesterday -- didn't she, Helen?
HELEN
When is it going to be my turn?
LILLIE MAE
You just keep painting; you can read later on -- after supper.
HARRIET LEE
(painstakingly)
"The hand of the Lord was upon me..."
YOUNG HELEN (V.O.)
"...and the Lord carried me out in a spirit, and set me down in the midst of the valley, and it was full of bones."
As Young Helen narrates, a gentle breeze stirs the kitchen curtains and time passes imperceptibly. The people in the kitchen are aging. 
Lillie Mae is no longer pregnant -- another daughter, RUTH IDELYIA, has been born and sits at the table in a wooden highchair. 
It's the same kitchen, but something is different about it. The curtains are different, and the view outside the windows has changed. 
The camera follows the new world outside the cabin windows.
DISSOLVE TO:
EXT. LIGGON FARM, 1930 - DAY
We are on the Liggon farm now, but the camera pans down the road, to the Orr farm, as Young Helen narrates.
EXT. ORR FARM/LIGGON FARM - CONTINUOUS
YOUNG HELEN (V.O.)
My daddy, my Pappy, my Uncle Brother and my Uncle Birks took our cabin apart, log by log and plank by plank. 
We see the men dismantle the log cabin over a series of days. 

YOUNG HELEN (CONT'D)
They loaded it onto our old wagon and moved our whole cabin to Pappy's farm, which was just up the road.
Logs are loaded into the horse-driven wagon. We follow it up the road.
The Liggon farm is an impressive farm. There is a large barn for the horses and cows, and a smaller barn for drying the tobacco.
We see the Orr cabin reassembled near the Liggon farmhouse -- a large, white clapboard house with a front porch that extends the length of the house.
YOUNG HELEN (CONT'D)
Pappy and my daddy decided to move our house because Pappy's farm was right next to the schoolhouse -- right next to it. 
We see the split-rail fence that separates the Liggon backyard from the schoolyard, which is a patch of dirt.
There is a one-room schoolhouse, made of white-washed wood, at the far end of the patch of dirt.
In the Liggon yard is a lovely flower garden, just starting to bloom. There is a patch where vegetables have been planted. And beyond that patch is the outhouse, or "little house."
YOUNG HELEN (CONT'D)
They thought for sure that if we were right there next to it, they'd let my sisters and me go to school. 
CUT TO:
EXT. EDGE OF THE SCHOOLYARD - DAY
King Clay and James are talking to a white man, the SUPERINTENDENT. In the schoolyard is a white female SCHOOLTEACHER. 
SEVERAL WHITE CHILDREN are playing in the schoolyard. 
It is clear that the white children are very poor.
YOUNG HELEN (V.O.)
It turned out, though, that the law was the law. 
SUPERINTENDENT
I'm sorry, but this school is for white children.
JAMES
But there isn't a colored school around here for miles. You know that.
SUPERINTENDENT
I'm sorry, but the law's the law.
KING CLAY
(indicating the white kids in the schoolyard)
Even though my wife feeds those children? Those kids are so starving  and neglected half the time that their own parents can't even find them so much as a potato.
SUPERINTENDENT
Your Christian charity is commendable, son, but the law's the law.
JAMES
(disgusted)
The law's the law.
KING CLAY
You're saying it's okay for them to eat in our house, at our kitchen table?
SUPERINTENDENT
Now, there's no law against that.
KING CLAY
But they can't sit next to our kids when it's under your roof?
The school bell clangs; the short recess is over. The schoolteacher can be heard ushering the kids back inside.
SUPERINTENDENT
There's a perfectly good colored school over in Hickory.
JAMES
But that's how many miles away?
SUPERINTENDENT
You've got a good wagon.
JAMES
I have to work! I can't spend all day carting my kids to and from school. You have a school right here. And that's my house -- right there.
SUPERINTENDENT
And it's a fine house. I'm sure you coloreds are very proud. Seems you're living better than most of the whites around here these days -- with this Depression and all.
JAMES
(getting angrier)
We go to church and pray. Then we work very hard. Just like anybody.
SUPERINTENDENT
Well it seems to be working a bit better for you.
KING CLAY
(not wanting a fight with a white man)
Sir, we scrape by like everyone else. 
SUPERINTENDENT
No, not quite like everyone. Look at your farm compared to everyone else's. Seems like you got something special going on. I hear your wife puts out something pretty tasty. (Vaguely menacing now.) Her sweet potatoes. For the kids, I mean.
King Clay is taken aback by the threatening tone creeping in to the conversation.
James is getting angrier and visibly restraining himself.
JAMES
I just want my kids to go to a proper school. They're entitled to that.
SUPERINTENDENT
(outraged)
Entitled? 
King Clay grabs hold of James's arm; he sees the conversation going nowhere fast.
JAMES
They're entitled to an education. I pay school taxes here. I pay the poll tax and I vote. I know my rights. I've been around some.
SUPERINTENDENT
(unimpressed)
It's only a vote. It only entitles your kind to just so much.
KING CLAY
(physically leading James away)
Come on, let's get a move on here. We've still got work to do today.
The superintendent glares at James.
James is very angry, but he heads back to the farm with King Clay.
JAMES
My girls are bright; they need a real education. There is only so much Lillie Mae can do in a day. There's only so much I can do.
KING CLAY
And there'll be a lot less you can do if you're doing time for hitting a white man.
CUT TO:
EXT. LIGGON FARM - LATER THAT DAY
School is out and, like vermin, the poor white kids are gathering at the split-rail fence. There are about 6 of them.
They are very hungry. Most of them are also very unclean. They are pathetically neglected children.
Helen, 11, is in the backyard, pumping water from the well into a bucket. Artie, now 9, and Ruth Idelyia, who is 6, are playing in the yard. There are very healthy chickens and large white ducks in the yard.
Harriet Lee, 13, is sweeping off the back porch. 
Each of the girls wears a simple but pretty homemade cotton dress with a starched white pinafore. 
Helen eyes the white children guardedly as she pumps the water from the well.
HELEN
What do you all want?
A WHITE BOY
We just want to come over and play.
HELEN
(normally shy, but she has had enough)
You go play in your own yards. You smell funny.
As Helen says this, Jessie comes out on the back porch.
JESSIE
Helen, you be polite. If the children want to come over and play with you, they're allowed.
HELEN
Eat us out of house and home is more like it.
JESSIE
Helen, you get over here this minute.
Hauling the bucket of water with her, Helen reluctantly heads to the back porch. Chickens scatter out of her way. She sets the bucket down.
JESSIE (CONT'D)
Who in this house taught you to be so rude?
HELEN
Grannie, they just want to eat our food. There's barely enough for us anymore!
JESSIE
What did Brother Morris teach you in church last Sunday?
Helen glares at Jessie.
JESSIE (CONT'D)
Helen, I'm talking to you. What did Brother Morris teach you about the miracle of the loaves and fishes?
HELEN
That there's always enough. The Lord provides.
JESSIE
That's right; the Lord provides. Not you or me. The Lord. (to Harriet Lee)
You go invite those kids to come on in. (to Helen) And you go on inside and put some black-eyed peas and some sweet potatoes on some plates.
Angrily, Helen heads inside.
JESSIE (CONT'D)
(following Helen)
And while you're at it, you give thanks, young lady, that you aren't as starving as those poor bedeviled white children are!
The screen door bangs behind them.
Harriet Lee is at the split-rail fence. It is clear by the look on her face that the unclean children do smell bad.
HARRIET LEE
(trying her best to be polite)
Y'all come on in if you want, and have something to eat.
Eagerly, the white children scramble over the split-rail fence as Harriet Lee heads back to the house.
Artie and Ruth Idelyia are still playing in the yard.
A very young WHITE GIRL stops suddenly. Evidently not even owning a pair of underpants, she hikes her dress and squats down in the yard, sending some ducks scurrying.
ARTIE
(incensed)
What are you, some kind of animal?
In disbelief, Ruth Idelyia stares at the white girl. The white girl stares up at Artie blankly.
ARTIE (CONT'D)
(pointing at the outhouse, exasperated)
You do your business in there -- like anyone else!
CUT TO:
EXT. LIGGON FRONT PORCH - DAY
James and the three Liggon men sit on the Liggon front porch, joined by two MALE NEIGHBORS and WALTER, 35. Walter knows how to fix automobiles even though he does not own one.
This is a friendly gathering but the men are in earnest.
JAMES
We need to do something as a group -- somehow get our kids to the Hickory school.
A NEIGHBOR
You mean like switch off taking them all to school and back?
WALTER
None of our wagons is going to carry all our kids at once.
A NEIGHBOR 
And which of us can afford to miss a whole day in the fields?
ANOTHER NEIGHBOR
I have no time until fall, when the crops are in. And that's when I'm gone fishing for two whole weeks -- when I'm lucky.
The men laugh.
BIRKS LIGGON
We need a vehicle; that's what we need. 
KING CLAY
Something large.
A NEIGHBOR
We need a schoolbus -- that's what we need!
JAMES
Where on earth are we going to find a schoolbus?
ANOTHER NEIGHBOR
And who's going to pay for it?
Walter is staring off into space, thinking.
CUT TO:
INT. LIGGON FARMHOUSE - SAME DAY
In the kitchen at the large table, Jessie, Lillie Mae, Bobbie, and Fannie are working on a new quilt together.
YOUNG HELEN (V.O.)
Every chance I could get, I would stop what I was supposed to be doing and draw. 
On the floor, Harriet Lee is helping Artie learn to write numbers, while Helen has set her work aside and is drawing.
YOUNG HELEN (V.O.)
I dreamed of the day when I could have real paints and a canvas to paint on. 
The camera pans the room. It is a clean and cheerful room but with no modern conveniences. Even the wood-burning cook stove is outmoded by many years. Still, the women seem content as they sew.
YOUNG HELEN (V.O.)
Paints would take money, though. Even I knew that. And a job off the farm. Not many people could get one of those.
King Clay comes in from the porch. He surreptitiously swipes some fresh biscuits off a plate on the kitchen counter and sticks them into his pockets.
KING CLAY
Which one of you girls wants to take a walk with me? It's a beautiful day.
All four of the girls, even little Ruth Idelyia, are suddenly excitedly at his side.
ARTIE
I want to take a walk with Pappy!
RUTH IDELYIA
Me, too! I'm coming, too!
LILLIE MAE
Pappy, I had those girls studying. Do you know how long it took me to get them to quiet down?
KING CLAY
It's Saturday, daughter. And there's plenty of daylight this time of year. (to the girls) You'll study later on, won't you, girls?
The girls noisily agree as they follow King Clay out to the porch. 
Jessie looks up from her quilting and eyes the plate on the counter.
JESSIE
King, you come back here with my biscuits -- this minute!!
The other women laugh.
CUT TO:
EXT. LIGGON FRONT PORCH - SAME DAY
The men are still sitting on the porch talking as King Clay climbs down the porch steps, followed by his happy granddaughters.
HELEN
Are we going fishing, Pappy? Let's go fishing!
KING CLAY
No, we're not going fishing; we're just taking a nice walk.
King Clay walks out on the dirt path with the girls following him. The path leads up the hill through what appear to be miles and miles of spring fields. 
With a sly grin, he reaches into his pockets.
KING CLAY (CONT'D)
Who wants biscuits?
ALL THE GIRLS TOGETHER
(very excitedly)
I do! I do!
King Clay hands out the biscuits, then picks Ruth Idelyia up in his arms so that she can keep pace with them.
In his arms, Ruth Idelyia happily eats her biscuit.
King Clay is flanked by his other three granddaughters as they head up the hill.
The camera pulls back to capture the idyllic scene. The men are still on the front porch talking. We know the women are inside sewing.
KING CLAY
(from a distance)
Did I ever tell you girls about that mud turtle?
HELEN
(from a distance)
The one in the sinkhole?
KING CLAY
(his voice fading as he heads with the girls over the hill)
No, not that mud turtle. It was a different mud turtle -- but also in a sinkhole. I was working the bottom land that day with your Uncle Birks, puddles everywhere, when I spied this mud turtle. Luckily I had a shovel...
YOUNG HELEN (V.O.)
He was King Clay Liggon, the Second. His daddy was a slave who escaped to Canada during the Civil War. No one ever knew if he made it to Canada or not because he was never heard from again. I don't know why we called him Pappy but we did. I loved my parents and my grandparents, both, you know. But Pappy -- he made the world special for me.
CUT TO:
EXT. RURAL GRAVEYARD, 2005 - DAY
Helen, age 86, and Wanda are standing in front of a grave with a simple stone marker that reads: King Clay Liggon, II. Born: Unknown. Died: 1932
It is winter, but Helen places a small bouquet of fresh yellow flowers on her grandfather's grave. He has been dead now for 74 years.
HELEN
Yes, after Pappy died, my childhood was over. Life got harder for all of us.
The camera pulls back. Briefly we see other gravestones. They read: Jessie Dawson Liggon, Lillie Mae Liggon Orr, James Franklin Orr, Artie Mae Orr Trice and Baby.
Helen and Wanda walk a short ways in the old graveyard. Helen stops short at a grave that reads: Walter Woods, Born: 1895, Died: 1950
HELEN (CONT'D)
(chuckling suddenly)
My goodness, let me tell you about Walter and the old schoolbus! (turning to Wanda) You know, we finally got to go to school? All of us, on all the farms.
WANDA
You mean the school in Hickory? You went to the school for the black kids?
A winter wind kicks up and the two women hug their coats closer to them.
Wanda's old Ford Fiesta can be seen parked at the edge of the graveyard.
HELEN
Yes, we did -- for two years. Until the bus died. (she chuckles again)
CUT TO:
INT. HELEN'S STUDIO - DAY
Helen, 86, is painting a picture of black children of varying ages, playing outside a one-room schoolhouse. We watch her as she paints.
She is in her art studio. As the camera pulls back, we see that her art studio is in fact inside an old yellow schoolbus that sits on her property, next to the trailer home. 
Several more of her completed paintings can be seen inside the studio. They are very colorful: "Sandlot Baseball Game," "Yard Sale," "Pete's BBQ & Fish," and "Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic," among many others. At 86, Helen is a prolific painter.

HELEN (V.O.)
We had no idea what was coming.
There are faint sounds of children laughing, enjoying themselves. Helen is engrossed, concentrating on her new painting of the schoolhouse. 
The sounds of the happy children grow louder as the camera slowly pans away from the new painting.
HELEN (V.O.)
It was just this crazy -- sound! We'd never heard anything like it. 
The camera pans to "Sandlot Baseball Game" -- rural Black children play a sandlot ball game in the early 1930s.
CRACK! -- the sound of a sturdy baseball bat making contact with a baseball. We hear kids hollering excitedly, each rooting for their own team as the painting comes more tightly into focus.
An unusual chug--hiss--ping! sound is audible and quickly growing quite loud.
HELEN (V.O.)
(laughing gently; quite satisfied with her memories)
It was Walter.
Amid this happy cacophony, the BLACK CHILDREN in the painting come merrily to life.
THIRD-BASE MAN
(pointing; excited but awestruck)
Look! What's that?
Helen, 11, and her sisters are in a small group of children gathered at the fence behind home plate.  None of the children can believe their eyes when they see what's coming down the road.
HELEN
Look, it's Walter! What's that he's driving?
Walter is driving a makeshift "schoolbus" made of salvaged parts, based primarily on the 1928 Ford Model A "Woody" Station Wagon and Model AA truck. The steering wheel is on the right-hand side.
BOY IN THE GROUP
It looks like some kind of car.
ANOTHER BOY
That's no car.
HELEN
It's too big to be a car.
HARRIET LEE
It's not like any kind of car I've 
ever seen.
BOY IN THE GROUP
Well, it's not a truck.
The ball game breaks up as Walter and his strange, noisy vehicle come closer to the sandlot. All the children gather at the roadside.
Walter's vehicle brakes to a stop. It is still making quite a racket. He rolls down the window.
WALTER
(shouting over the noise)
How would you kids like to go to school?
Perplexed, the children are uncertain how to answer.
BALL PLAYER
(shouting back)
Right now?
WALTER
No, not right now. It's Saturday. What about Monday morning? This here schoolbus I built goes all the way to the Hickory school.
HARRIET LEE
(excited)
The Hickory school? You mean, we're really going to go to school?
WALTER
You're really going to go to school. Every one of you.
The children eye each other in cautious disbelief. 
CUT TO:
INT. SCHOOLBUS - DAY
Walter is happily behind the wheel of his makeshift bus. Driving the bus is a jolting choreography of foot pedals and gear shifting.
The kids are wearing their Sunday best and crammed tightly together in the schoolbus.
It is a very rough ride on an unpaved road.
In contrast to Walter, who is joyfully pleased with himself, the kids look slightly terrified.
WALTER
(shouting above the noisy motor)
Don't none of you worry, now! We'll be there in no time. Long before that school bell rings.
CUT TO:
EXT. HICKORY SCHOOLYARD - DAY
MISS HARPER, 22, an African-American schoolteacher, is poised to ring the bell to start the school day.
Black children of varying ages are playing in the schoolyard.  All are dressed in clean but modest clothes. 
A few yards from the school is a Baptist church for Hickory's rural black congregation. Beyond the church and the school is a peach orchard in full bloom, and above it, a beautiful blue Kentucky sky.
Everyone in the schoolyard stops and stares as Walter's noisy vehicle pulls to a stop.
Walter shuts off the motor and cheerfully gets out of the bus.
WALTER
Good morning, Miss Harper. These here are the children I spoke to you about on Friday. 
As the children nervously exit the schoolbus, Miss Harper tries not to panic. The size of her class has just doubled.
MISS HARPER
Oh my. We will certainly be cozy.
CUT TO:
INT. HICKORY SCHOOLHOUSE - DAY
MISS HARPER (O.C.)
Since there are only a few weeks left before summer vacation, we'll have to share the books we have until school starts up again in the fall. 
We see two orderly rows of wooden desks near the blackboard. The children sitting at the desks are already hard at work, each quietly attempting to solve simple division problems written on the blackboard.
MISS HARPER (CONT'D)
Just scoot your chairs together for now.... That's right. 
The camera pans to students who are sitting in two rows of wooden chairs without desks that are in front of the teacher's desk. 
Miss Harper is talking to these children as they scoot their chairs together to share their books. They are preparing to begin the History lesson.
MISS HARPER (CONT'D)
Now, turn to page 92, at the bottom -- we'll return to the issue of slavery.
Helen and Harriet Lee are sharing their first real schoolbook. They are obviously transfixed.
MISS HARPER (CONT'D)
Jane, for the benefit of the students who weren't with us on Friday, please explain to everyone where we left off.
JANE, 12, stands up.
JANE
We learned about President Lincoln. About how, even though he was born here in Kentucky, he was despised here as a President because he had so many bad ideas.
MISS HARPER
Not bad ideas, Jane -- unpopular ideas. There's a big difference.
JANE
Unpopular ideas.
MISS HARPER
Thank you, Jane. You may be seated. Charlie, can you tell us about any of those unpopular ideas?
Charlie, 10, quickly rises.
CHARLIE
He wouldn't let the South be a country, and then he freed the slaves, so there wasn't no one to bring in the crops.
He quickly sits back down.
MISS HARPER
"Anyone," Charlie. There wasn't "anyone." Good. All right, then. Who'd like to start reading for us today?
Several children raise their hands. Miss Harper chooses GLADYS, a girl Helen's age. Gladys stands up and then carefully reads aloud.
GLADYS
"Since the time of Egypt, there have been masters and slaves. While no people wish to be slaves, slavery was still an important part of civilizing the Negro race."
Helen silently reads along but looks increasingly astonished by what is written in her history book.
GLADYS (CONT'D)
"Though slaves worked hard and did have to wear chains, they often sang and danced and were permitted to have their own church services on the Sabbath. They also learned farming skills which help many Negroes to this day."
Gladys takes her seat again.
Miss Harper, aware that Helen is staring at her, checks a rough seating chart on her desk to learn Helen's name.
MISS HARPER
Yes, Helen? Do you have a question?
HELEN
(nervously)
It's just that our Pappy's own daddy was a slave and I've never heard the story told like this before.
MISS HARPER
When you're called on, Helen, you stand up to speak. That way, we can all hear you.
Uncomfortably, Helen rises. Harriet Lee looks worried.
HELEN
It's just that our parents and grandparents told us all kinds of stories from the slave days and they didn't sound anything like what's in this book.
MISS HARPER
Well, Helen, here in school, not only do we learn to read and write and to do arithmetic, we also learn how to think. These textbooks come to us all the way from Frankfort, our state capital. These books are used by all the schools in the state of Kentucky. Are you saying that you think the books might have gotten it wrong?
Helen is very nervous now, but she believes what she believes.
HELEN
I think so.
MISS HARPER
And why do you think that, Helen?
HELEN
Because I don't think that my Pappy or my mama and daddy would lie to us.
MISS HARPER
I see. Tell me, Helen, do you know what the Fifth Commandment is?
HELEN
(confused)
Yes.
MISS HARPER
Why don't you recite it for us, then.
HELEN
Right now?
Harriet Lee squirms in her seat.
MISS HARPER
(smiling patiently)
Right now.
HELEN
"Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee."
MISS HARPER
Very good, Helen. (she rises, coming around to the front of her desk) Do you understand what that commandment means?
HELEN
It means that God wants me to listen to my father and my mother.
MISS HARPER
That's right. It means that God wants all of us to listen to our fathers and our mothers. Isn't that right, class?
THE CLASS
Yes, Miss Harper.
MISS HARPER
We listen to our fathers and our mothers. And we also listen to their fathers and to their mothers -- and we never forget this. But while we're here in school each day, we'll read aloud from this history book. Because reading helps us do what, class? Anyone -- shout it out.
A GIRL IN THE CLASS
It helps us think!
MISS HARPER
(very pleased)
That's correct. Reading helps us think. You may sit down, Helen. Now, who would like to read next?
Slowly, the camera pans the room, but we sense that time has stopped. A wood-burning stove for heating, its stovepipe extending up to the ceiling, sits cold in the center of the room. An American flag, with only 48 stars, adorns one of the schoolhouse walls; framed prints of Presidents Lincoln and Washington are on another wall. 
HELEN (V.O.)
That Miss Harper -- she sure did teach us how to think. For two whole years, I had plenty of thoughts, I can tell you.
Outside the school windows, we still see the peach orchard in bloom. We see the alphabet tacked to the wall above the blackboard; we see the kids doing their math problems, but all is motionless. 
We suddenly realize that we are looking at Helen's painting, "Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic."
CUT TO:
INT. HELEN'S STUDIO, 2005 - DAY
Wanda is sitting near Helen, again casually taking notes as Helen continues to paint the picture of the schoolhouse.
WANDA
That was how long Walter's schoolbus lasted -- two years?
HELEN
(chuckling)
Yes. But also, you know, we were all getting bigger. Pappy was gone, my aunts and uncles were getting married and moving away. My family needed us on the farm to help with the crops. 
WANDA
Good thing slavery had taught you all how to work on a farm.
HELEN
Child, isn't that something? You know, it wasn't until years later that I found out it was actually against the law around here to teach white and black kids out of the same schoolbooks. 
WANDA
Lord, don't tell me there was an actual law. 
HELEN
There was.
WANDA
(making a note)
All that segregation.
HELEN
(quietly; detached and dignified as she keeps painting)
Yes. And then it turned out that the books meant for black kids were teaching us all kinds of "unusual" facts. It made me so angry when I found that out.
WANDA
Those Jim Crow laws were very degrading. I can remember some of those times.
HELEN
It wasn't just that -- back then, I had never known anything else. It was always blacks with blacks and whites with whites. But I'd been so excited about finally getting to go to a real school. Then, come to find out they'd done everything in their power to try to keep us from learning anything.
A car can be heard on the gravel road leading to Helen's property. 
HELEN (CONT'D)
Someone's coming.
WANDA
Maybe they want to buy a painting.
HELEN
Maybe.
Helen stands up and looks out the schoolbus windows.
CUT TO:
EXT. HELEN'S DRIVEWAY - DAY
For a moment, we see the shimmer of a ghost car in summer, a green, 1994 Ford. The ghost image of Helen's grandson, JUNIOR, is getting out of the car, smiling; he waves. Junior's ghost is in his late-20s, a black man in the prime of life. In reality, Junior has been dead for several years.
CUT TO:
EXT. HELEN'S STUDIO - SAME DAY
We see Helen, looking out of the schoolbus windows. From her expression, it's clear she is wishing she were seeing her grandson Junior, alive again and coming to visit.
I/E. HELEN'S DRIVEWAY AND HELEN'S STUDIO - SAME DAY
It is still winter. A green Cadillac, driven by EILEEN, a well-to-do, middle-aged white woman, has pulled up Helen's graveled drive. 
As Helen watches her, expressionless, the white woman parks and gets out of her car.
Inside the schoolbus, Wanda gets up and looks out the windows, too.
HELEN
It's that white lady, Miss Eileen. Come for a painting I did for her. Come on. I'll introduce you.
CUT TO:
INT. HELEN'S TRAILER - DAY
Helen, Wanda, and Eileen are in Helen's kitchen, where her completed paintings are in stacks against the wall.
EILEEN
(holding the painting "Quilts in the Breeze")
Miss Helen, I can't get over the detail. (to Wanda) Look how tiny everything is! And how it goes on for miles -- clear to the horizon. Look, you can even see the miniature people in the windows.
WANDA
Miss Helen is awful talented. And she never had a single lesson. Just come natural to her.
Helen stands by quietly. She appreciates praise but is modest about receiving it.
EILEEN
So, Miss Wanda -- are you and Miss Helen related in some way?
WANDA
No. Miss Helen knew my parents and my grandparents.
HELEN
And her great-grandparents.
WANDA
And my great-grandparents! I just recently come back to town, to find out more about where I come from. 
EILEEN
Uncovering your roots. How marvelous.
WANDA
Well, I know who I come from -- I just wanted to know more about how they lived. Miss Helen, here, remembers everything. 
EILEEN
Oh, I'm sure she does.
WANDA
I'm writing a little history about it, just so that folks don't forget.
Clearly, Eileen wonders why anyone would want to remember such a hardscrabble life, but good breeding shines through. 
EILEEN
(admiring her painting)
It was such a charming, simpler way of life, wasn't it? I mean, look at it: so serene. So idyllic.
Eileen's eye wanders to the painting, "Local Carnival," that's resting against the wall.
EILEEN (CONT'D)
Miss Helen, look at that! Talk about charming!
HELEN
Which one?
EILEEN
Why, that carnival at night. You outdid yourself. It's breathtaking, all that detail.
WANDA
That's one of my favorites, too.
We see the painting of a carnival at night. A starlit sky looks down on a very lively carnival, full of tent shows and brightly lit amusement rides. There are circus animals in cages aboard flatbed trucks. Trailers that hawk hamburgers.
However, it also depicts the days of the Jim Crow laws. Everyone working and attending this carnival is black.
WANDA (CONT'D)
I'd sure love to know the memories behind that one.
HELEN
(guarding her secrets for a change)
Nothing particular. Just a carnival I remember.
WANDA
(to Eileen)
It looks like such a happy time, doesn't it?
EILEEN
(perhaps she has her own carnival memory)
Yes, it does.
CUT TO:
EXT. RURAL CARNIVAL, 1937 - NIGHT
Helen, almost 18, dressed in a starched cotton summer dress, is with her sisters at the carnival. They are starry-eyed from the excitement.
They run into MARCUS and LIONEL, in their early 20s -- cousins who have moved from the country into the town of Mayfield. They're with FRIENDS who are also from town, including ELVIS LYNN, age 21 -- Helen's future husband.
MARCUS
(introducing his friends to his cousins)
This here's Harriet Lee, Artie Mae, Ruth Idelyia, and that quiet one there is Helen LaFrance.
Elvis Lynn immediately catches Helen's eye. Sparks are igniting. Elvis is tall, lean, and very masculine.
ELVIS
(to Helen alone)
LaFrance? That's an unusual name.
HELEN
(smitten, more shy than usual)
I know.
Elvis waits, expecting a more detailed reply. The silence between them is charged with the electricity of the carnival going on around them.
ELVIS
(coming closer)
You live around here?
HELEN
Uh-huh. On the farm.
Elvis smiles and shakes his head.
ELVIS
You country girls sure are choosy with your words. 
Harriet Lee comes seemingly from out of nowhere and breaks the spell. She grabs Helen by the arm and pulls her away.
HARRIET LEE
(playfully)
That's not all we're choosy about, Mr. Lynn. You go on and join your friends.
ELVIS
(calling after them)
Hey! What's your hurry? 
The girls don't answer him.
ELVIS (CONT'D)
You look awful pretty in that homemade dress, Miss Helen LaFrance!
Helen turns around as Harriet Lee is dragging her away. She smiles at Elvis.
CUT TO:
EXT. ORR FARMHOUSE, 1938 - DAY
There is a black wreath on the Orr family's front door. It's January. All the surrounding trees are bare.
CUT TO:
INT. ORR FARMHOUSE - SAME DAY
In the front room, Jessie and the four Orr girls are dressed in black. They have all been grieving. Lillie Mae has died unexpectedly at age 42.
HELEN
Grannie, why won't you at least come to the church?
JESSIE
I'll just work here in the kitchen until y'all come back. Folks'll be hungry by then.
HELEN
But she was your own daughter.
HARRIET LEE
(interceding gently)
Grannie doesn't like funerals, Helen. You know that.
HELEN
(verging on tears)
But it's mama...
James comes in the front door. He is dressed in his Sunday best. His eyes are deep with grief.
JAMES
Girls, the horses are ready. Uncle Brother and I will take your mama to the church in the wagon. Artie and Ruth, you'll ride with us. Harriet, you and Helen will have to squeeze in the buggy with your Uncle Birks. Bundle up. It's cold out there.
Jessie starts crying again.
HELEN
(helpless)
Oh, daddy!
CUT TO:
EXT. ORR FARMHOUSE - SAME DAY
We see James and Uncle Brother lift a plain wooden coffin up onto the back of a wagon. Artie and Ruth Idelyia are already bundled in the wagon as their mother's coffin slides in up to them.
Harriet Lee and Helen climb into Uncle Birks' buggy with him; it is only meant to seat two.
CUT TO:
INT. BAPTIST CHURCH - DAY
It is a tiny one-room church, filled with NEIGHBORS and FAMILY; everyone is black.
BROTHER MORRIS is on the pulpit. The coffin is in front of him as he faces the congregation. The pulpit is very plain and just a simple step up from the rest of the room.
BROTHER MORRIS
Brothers and sisters, it is with heavy hearts that we gather here today to say goodbye to our dear sister, Lillie Mae Dawson Orr. A woman of profound character, charity, and humility...
Helen stares at Brother Morris stoically, so empty that she can no longer cry.
DISSOLVE TO:
EXT. UNCLE BIRKS' BUGGY - DAY
Helen is once more staring stoically, but she's alone now in the buggy with her Uncle Birks. It is one month later.
HELEN (V.O.)
After mama died, Harriet Lee got married. Artie and Ruth moved into the other farmhouse  with grannie, and it was decided that I was going to have to go into town and work. 
As Helen narrates, we see the buggy on the road and the town of Mayfield coming closer. Even at the farthest edge of town, it is already another world -- a world of cars and pickup trucks, of traffic lights and telephone polls. Of modest, wooden houses, side by side.
HELEN (V.O.)
Arrangements were made for me to live with a colored family in town. A family much better off than we were, but that didn't mean a whole lot.
We see Helen being helped out of the buggy and meeting her new employers, MR. AND MRS. WHITFIELD, mid-30s, and their THREE YOUNG CHILDREN. Helen's Uncle Birks kisses her goodbye. The buggy pulls away.
HELEN (V.O.)
I was there to help them keep their house clean, but there was barely any room for me.
Helen is taken upstairs with her one suitcase. At the end of the hallway is a single bed.
HELEN (V.O.)
All they could give me was a bed out in the hall. I didn't even have a room. They were nice enough people --

MONTAGE - HELEN COMES TO WHITFIELD HOUSE
INT. WHITFIELD HOUSE - DAY - CONTINUOUS
-- Helen learns a new way of life. There is indoor plumbing, there are modern appliances and a radio. 
-- Helen spends her days cleaning and helping around the Whitfield house.
HELEN (V.O.)
-- but everything I'd come to know about life was gone. Seems like I had to learn everything from scratch; I had to keep pace with a whole new world. And I worked from sun up to sun down, six days a week. I sure missed our farm and all the love we had there.
END MONTAGE
CUT TO:
INT. WHITFIELD HALLWAY - NIGHT
Helen is lying alone in her single bed in the upstairs hall.
The camera pulls back and we see how cheerless her new existence is. 
HELEN (V.O.)
I didn't even have a pencil of my own, or a pad of paper to draw on. All that I had in the world was tucked under a narrow bed at the end of a hall. 
CUT TO:
INT. WHITFIELD HOUSE - DAY
Helen and Mrs. Whitfield are in the kitchen. It is several weeks later.
MRS. WHITFIELD
You think you know your way around town well enough that you could go to the market for me today?
Helen is eager to be on her own, away from the house, even for a few minutes. 
HELEN
I'm sure I could, ma'am.
MRS. WHITFIELD
That would be such a help. I'm really falling behind today. Here's a dollar. Now you pick me up a pound of coffee -- make sure they grind it, you hear? And pick me up a loaf of bread, a pound of bacon and a pound of butter.
HELEN
Yes, ma'am.
MRS. WHITFIELD
And you bring me back my change. We're not made of money, you know.
HELEN
Yes, ma'am. I know.
CUT TO:
EXT. MAYFIELD STREET, 1938 - DAY
Jim Crow laws are in full force. At this end of town, everyone is black. 
Helen is on her way to the market -- more like a general merchandise store. It's clear she is exhilarated to be out on her own, walking.
There is a single gas pump in front of the store. Most people walk to the market, as Helen does, but a few local residents own cars. It is nearing the end of the Great Depression.
Helen is about to go into the store when she hears someone from inside one of the parked cars call her name.
ELVIS
Miss Helen LaFrance! 
HELEN
(excited to see him, but hiding it for propriety's sake)
Mr. Lynn. 
Elvis works as an auto mechanic and owns a used Studebaker.
ELVIS
(getting out of his car)
What brings you all the way to town?
HELEN
I live here now -- I have a job.
ELVIS
Do you? Well, isn't that some good news! Doing what?
HELEN
I live in with a family.
Elvis walks Helen up the step and holds open the front door for her. But she holds back, allowing SEVERAL OTHER CUSTOMERS to come out of the store first.
ELVIS
So, is this your day off?
HELEN
No. I'm working right now -- I'm running an errand for Mrs. Whitfield.
ELVIS
Whitfield, huh? And when does Mrs. Whitfield give you a day off?
HELEN
(secretly thrilled with this interest in her)
On Sunday -- when I go to church.
As Helen finally goes into the store, Elvis gently grabs her by the arm. 
ELVIS
I know you're an angel, but surely you're not in church all day. What do you do after church?
Helen is swept away by Elvis's attention. He smiles at her. She surprises even herself now with her sudden boldness.
HELEN
I reckon I do what I want.
ELVIS
(really smiling now)
Is that so? Well, maybe we'll do it together. What do you say?
CUT TO:
EXT. MAYFIELD STREET - LATER
Helen is walking back to the Whitfield house with the groceries. She is clearly on cloud nine.
I/E. MAYFIELD STREET AND WHITFIELD HOUSE - CONTINUOUS
The wind is picking up as rain clouds gather, but it doesn't break the spell: Helen is falling in love. She goes into the Whitfield house.
In the kitchen, Helen cheerfully puts away the groceries. 
MRS. WHITFIELD
Did you have any trouble, Helen?
Helen is in her own happy world and doesn't answer. She goes into the mud room, off the kitchen, where the laundry has been wrung out and is waiting to be hung up to dry. Mrs. Whitfield follows her.
MRS. WHITFIELD (CONT'D)
What in the world has gotten into you, child?
CUT TO:
EXT. WHITFIELD BACKYARD - MOMENTS LATER
Helen goes outside to hang the Whitfield laundry on a clothesline, still grinning from ear to ear. 
Mrs. Whitfield, beside herself, is at the back door, watching this.
MRS. WHITFIELD
Child, what on earth is the matter with you? Bring those clothes in this minute. Don't you know when it's raining?
HELEN
(seeing that it is indeed raining, she scrambles to bring the clothes inside)
I'm so sorry, ma'am. My mind was someplace else!
CUT TO:
INT. HELEN'S TRAILER, 2005 - DAY
EILEEN
Miss Helen! I said, how much will you take for the carnival painting?
HELEN
I'm so sorry, Miss Eileen. I'm afraid my mind was miles away.
EILEEN
Well, how much do you want for it? I'll take both paintings.
HELEN
I'm sorry, but that one's already sold. I'll paint you one just like it, though. Come back in a couple weeks.
EILEEN
(to Wanda)
Isn't she precious? And at her age! A couple weeks -- and she'll paint me another one just like it. Well, I will take you up on that, Miss Helen. (seeing herself out since the trailer is small) You ladies have a wonderful day now, you hear?
HELEN
You, too, Miss Eileen. Enjoy your painting. And thank you so much.
CUT TO:
INT. NURSING HOME, PRESENT DAY - NIGHT
Helen, 91, is helped out of her wheelchair and into her nightclothes by a NURSE'S AIDE from the night shift.
We see now that Helen is paralyzed on her right side.
NURSE'S AIDE
And how was your day today, Miss Helen?
When Helen doesn't reply, the aide tries again.
NURSE'S AIDE (CONT'D)
Did you get some painting done? We all know how you love to paint.
HELEN
(quietly; staring off)
It's never the same anymore. 
Coaxing Helen into a conversation becomes too time-consuming for the nurse's aide. She focuses on her task instead. As the aide gets Helen settled into her hospital bed, we see that Helen shares the room with another elderly patient. This woman is sound asleep. 
NURSE'S AIDE
'Night, Miss Helen.
Helen doesn't reply.
The aide turns out the light and leaves the room.
We see Helen lying in bed, eyes wide, cheerless.
As voice-overs, we hear a younger Helen and Elvis Lynn in Helen's head. They're quarreling. 
HELEN (V.O.)
Why do you always have to give in to her?
ELVIS (V.O.)
She's my mother! She's all alone now.
HELEN (V.O.)
She's not alone -- she lives with your brother!
ELVIS (V.O.)
You know what I mean, Helen -- my father's dead.
HELEN (V.O.)
But she's interfering. She never leaves us alone. I thought I was marrying you -- not you and your mother.
ELVIS (V.O.)
Why do you have to be so impossible, Helen? I'm trying to love you.
HELEN (V.O.)
I'm trying to love you, too.
The voices abruptly stop. 
Helen WHISPERS in her hospital bed. 
HELEN
(sadly; lost in time)
How I did love you, Elvis Lynn. I tried.
In defeat, Helen closes her eyes.
DISSOLVE TO:
INT. LYNN HOUSE, 1940 - DAY
The house isn't much more than a three-room, rented shack, but it's home.
Helen, 21, and Elvis, 24, are newly married and sleeping in bed together. The sun is coming up. Helen opens her eyes and looks at Elvis with true joy.
HELEN
(quietly to him)
I love you, Mr. Lynn.
Elvis sleepily opens his eyes and smiles.
ELVIS
Why, Miss Helen LaFrance -- what are you doing here in my bed?
HELEN
(playfully)
I own it now.
ELVIS
Do you?
HELEN
I do. (she wiggles her finger with the simple band of gold on it) The preacher slipped me this last night when you weren't looking.
Reaching for her, Elvis is getting amorous.
ELVIS
Oh, I was looking, woman. I'm always looking.
CUT TO:
EXT. PETE'S BBQ & FISH - NIGHT
We see factories with smokestacks -- clearly the poorest part of town. Beyond the smokestacks, there is a sliver of moon in a starry, black sky.
In front of the large brick buildings sit very old wooden shacks, weather-beaten and grey -- homes to some of the town's poorest black people. 
Yet this is also a lively intersection, for here is Pete's BBQ & Fish. The place to be on a Saturday night.
There are more cars at this end of town, but we also see MANY PEDESTRIANS milling about. As they greet each other, we hear talking and laughter. Everyone is dressed as fine as their meager paychecks allow.
CUT TO:
INT. PETE'S BBQ & FISH - NIGHT
ELVIS
What're you having tonight, honey? I'm buying!
We see Elvis and Helen sitting across from each other at a table inside the crowded restaurant.
A jukebox is playing lively jazz. A glass of beer is on the table in front of Elvis. Helen does not drink.
HELEN
I'll have the fried fish sandwich, thank you.
The camera pans slowly to Elvis's side and we see his mama (MRS. LYNN), a forty-ish widow, an uneducated woman, sitting next to him at the table. She also has a glass of beer. Standing next to her is the WAITER.
ELVIS
And you, mama?
MRS. LYNN
Pulled pork.
There is something about Mrs. Lynn's demeanor: She seems to ignore Helen while fawning over her son. 
ELVIS
(to the waiter)
And I'll have the ribs. Give me some slaw and the corn bread with that, okay? Thank you very much.
As the waiter walks away, Mrs. Lynn lights a cigarette.
Helen is mortified. She doesn't approve of women smoking, least of all in public. Helen looks away.
MRS. LYNN
(to Elvis)
What is bothering her now?
ELVIS
Mama, it just gets a little smoky in here, that's all. It's hard on Helen.
MRS. LYNN
(already confrontational)
Is your wife asking me to put this out?
ELVIS
No one's asking you to do anything, mama.
Helen is very uncomfortable now. She always tries hard to be polite to Mrs. Lynn but only because she's Elvis's mother.
MRS. LYNN
Because I don't see one bit of difference it would make for me to put this out when everyone else in here is smoking.
ELVIS
Mama, no one is asking you to put it out.
Mrs. Lynn takes a few puffs defiantly, but then angrily stubs out her cigarette in the ashtray.
Helen is relieved to see that the waiter has brought the food now, anyway.
ELVIS (CONT'D)
(to the waiter)
Thank you.
HELEN
(quietly)
Thank you.
For a moment, the three eat in silence.
MRS. LYNN
Why doesn't that child speak? It's Saturday night and I want to have fun.
ELVIS
We're having fun, mama. Helen's just quiet, you know that.
MRS. LYNN
Quiet? For God's sake --(she catches herself, too late). No, don't tell me, Helen: I took the Lord's name in vain again. Watch out -- the sky's falling!
ELVIS
No one said anything, mama.
MRS. LYNN
She didn't have to -- I saw that evil Baptist eye.
Helen eats her fish sandwich in silence. 
CUT TO:
EXT. PETE'S BBQ & FISH - LATER THAT NIGHT
Helen and Elvis have parted with Mrs. Lynn for the evening.
HELEN
I don't think your mama likes me.
Elvis drapes an arm over Helen's shoulders as they stroll in the direction of home. It's a beautiful evening.
ELVIS
Of course she likes you, Helen. She's just like that.
HELEN
I'm trying, Elvis. I really am. I'm trying to make a nice home for you. But she picks on me all the time.
ELVIS
She's just used to getting her way, is all. Be patient, baby. We got each other, right? And I got me a good job fixing cars, and you don't have to work no more.
HELEN
How do you do it?
ELVIS
Do what?
HELEN
Make all the bad things go away?
He smiles at her as they keep strolling.
When they are out of the frame, we see the restaurant as it stood in 1940. It solidifies into Helen's painting, "Pete's BBQ & Fish."
CUT TO:
INT. LAFRANCE ART GALLERY, 2008 - DAY
"Pete's BBQ & Fish" hangs on a wall in Helen's art gallery in downtown Mayfield, along with many of her other paintings. At 89, Helen is at the height of her success as a painter.
An OLDER BLACK GENTLEMAN has been admiring the painting. He turns to ANOTHER PATRON in the gallery.
OLDER GENTLEMAN
I remember this place! I hung my hat there so many times, it felt like home. 
ANOTHER PATRON
It looks like it was a very lively establishment.
OLDER GENTLEMAN
It sure was. She's sure captured the feel of it. After World War Two, it completely changed. But up until then-- mm mm mm; good food, good music, that special someone.
Helen overhears this conversation as she stands nearby.
CUT TO:
EXT. PETE'S PLACE, 1952 - DAY
Not only has the restaurant changed, the entire block has come into the 20th Century. The old grey shacks have been razed and replaced with more substantial brick buildings -- a Five & Dime, a dry cleaners, and a fish market with plate glass windows.
Pete's Place is just an ordinary bar now.
Helen, 33, walks past Pete's Place. She is wearing somber church clothes. We see her enter a funeral home where MANY NEIGHBORS, all of them black, are mingling outside.
CUT TO:
INT. FUNERAL HOME - DAY
FRANK MAYNARD, 35, greets Helen just inside the front door to the funeral home. He's the older brother of the bereaved.
FRANK MAYNARD
(very quietly)
Miss Helen, so nice of you to come.
HELEN
Mr. Maynard.
FRANK MAYNARD
My brother is wanting to speak to you, Miss Helen. Make sure you seek him out, you hear? 
HELEN
(on her guard now)
Me? All right, I will. I'm so sorry for your loss -- for his loss.
FRANK MAYNARD
A sad, sad affair. To lose her like that. At least they saved the baby, but to lose his wife, and so young? Such a sad affair.
HELEN
I know. We lost my sister Artie Mae that way -- but we also lost the baby.
FRANK MAYNARD
(heavy sigh)
I remember hearing about that, Miss Helen. Poor thing. Some kind of hemorrhaging, wasn't it, and the doctor couldn't come quick enough?
HELEN
Yes, that's right. We buried her with the little baby in her arms.
FRANK MAYNARD
Such a sad affair.
HELEN
Yes, it always is.
Helen walks into the funeral chapel. The young woman, BELINDA, dressed in white, is on view in the modest casket. CHARLES MAYNARD, age 30, the widower, is standing next to the casket, gently grieving.
Helen takes a seat a polite distance away. When Charles sees her, he pulls himself together and goes over to her.
CHARLES MAYNARD
Miss Helen.
HELEN
(she stands)
Charles. I was so sorry to hear about Belinda. So sad.
CHARLES MAYNARD
It is -- so sad. And I have that baby boy now. And I'm all alone. I just don't know what I'm gonna do.
HELEN
The Lord is not going to forsake you, Charles. You have to have faith.
CHARLES MAYNARD
Miss Helen, you always were one to abide in the Lord's grace. I wish I had your strength.
Helen is sincere, but these are just words for Charles Maynard.
HELEN
If you'd start coming to church more often, I know you'd find your strength.
CHARLES MAYNARD
I know you're right -- I certainly will try. Miss Helen --
Helen knows something is coming.
CHARLES MAYNARD (CONT'D)
-- now just hear me out. You were Belinda's closest friend. You know that.
HELEN
I suppose I was. Which is why it cut like a knife when I heard what happened to her.
CHARLES MAYNARD
The doctor made me choose, Helen -- don't you see? I had to choose. It was Belinda or the baby. That baby meant so much to her. She would have wanted it to live. Who can make a choice like that? But I had to.
Helen is angry but also compassionate. She knows it was an impossible decision for Charles to have to make.
CHARLES MAYNARD (CONT'D)
And now I don't know what I'm going to do. Please take the boy, Helen. 
HELEN
(astonished)
What?
CHARLES MAYNARD
Give it a good home -- at least for a while.
HELEN
Me? Why me?
CHARLES MAYNARD
No one in Belinda's family is speaking to me anymore. They think I killed her. They won't come near the baby.
HELEN
But, Charles, I'm alone now. Elvis and I are divorced -- you know that. How am I supposed to raise a baby? I live in a boarding house. I have a job. 
CHARLES MAYNARD
You can move into my brother's house. He has plenty of room.
HELEN
Move in with your brother Frank?
Some distance behind them, we can see Frank Maynard coming into the funeral chapel.
CHARLES MAYNARD
Yes -- why not? You can be in a real house again. You can do some of that painting you like to do -- if you leave the factory, you'll have time again. You won't have to work anymore. Frank'll take care of you. And the baby can be with you then and also with family.
HELEN
Are you out of your mind?
CHARLES MAYNARD
(desperate)
Yes. Yes, Helen I am. I'm out of my mind. I need you to help me with this -- please.
Beside herself with anger and confusion, Helen decides to leave the funeral home.
Charles makes eye contact with his brother, Frank, who then intercepts Helen before she makes it out to the front door.
FRANK MAYNARD
(catching up with her)
Miss Helen, Miss Helen -- wait. This is so very important to Charles -- to the baby. And I have plenty of room. You've seen my house.
HELEN
Scheming -- that's what's been going on here. Scheming. Belinda's barely cold yet. First get Belinda out of the way, and now the baby?
Frank is genuinely shocked by this.
FRANK MAYNARD
Miss Helen, it was not that way. 
HELEN
Him drinking 'til all hours, playing cards, shooting dice -- he should have been home looking after her, making sure she had food to eat. To keep up her strength.
FRANK MAYNARD
(trying to calm her)
Miss Helen, that baby needs a woman's touch. Please. Help us out, if only for a little while. Or for as long as you want. But please. 
HELEN
(exasperated)
Why me?
FRANK MAYNARD
You're a good Christian woman, Miss Helen. Who else could we ask 'cept you?
HELEN
That's right, I'm a Christian. And you're suggesting I share a house with you -- a grown, single man -- and take care of a newborn baby?
FRANK MAYNARD
Well you could paint. You'd have time to paint.
HELEN
You two stop talking about my paints! Paints take money -- you're asking me to give up my job. And painting takes time -- babies leave you precious little of that!
FRANK MAYNARD
Then think of God, Miss Helen. He must have had some kind of a plan, here. There's a tiny baby that needs a woman like you. Belinda loved you.
Something in Helen seems to give way; something noticeable in her surrenders.
FRANK MAYNARD (CONT'D)
I promise, I will help you in whatever way I can.
HELEN
I know you believe that, Mr. Maynard, but unfortunately I've been around some.
CUT TO:
INT. MAYFIELD BAPTIST CHURCH - DAY
HELEN (V.O.)
I married Frank Maynard. 
It is six months later. Helen and Frank Maynard are getting married. There are TWO WITNESSES, one man and one woman. 
During the ceremony, six-month-old JOHNNY is held in the arms of the female witness. 
HELEN (V.O.)
Not because I loved him the way I loved Elvis Lynn -- it turned out, I would never love anyone the way I loved Elvis Lynn. But I moved into Frank Maynard's house to take care of little Johnny...
A BAPTIST MINISTER performs the marriage ceremony. It is a modest and rapid affair, but still a cheerful one.
HELEN (V.O.)
...and within a month, Charles Maynard was long gone. Frank was so considerate, so kind to both me and that tiny boy, that when he asked me to marry him, to make a proper family for Johnny, I said yes.
Helen and Frank are pronounced man and wife. They kiss each other and prepare to leave the church.
CUT TO:
I/E FRANK MAYNARD'S HOUSE - SAME DAY
Frank helps Helen out of the car. She's holding Johnny. There is no honeymoon, not even a party -- just a simple ceremony in the eyes of God.
Helen narrates as they walk up to the small front porch and go into the tiny house.
HELEN (V.O.)
How do you measure regrets? Can you weigh them? Do they become more profound, one over the other, the heavier your heart feels? 
Helen takes Johnny into the kitchen; she prepares to feed him. Also in the kitchen, Frank fixes himself a drink.
FRANK MAYNARD
(playfully)
Now I know you don't drink, Mrs. Maynard, but you're sure you don't want to join me in a toast to this happy occasion?
HELEN
No, you go ahead. I'm going to feed Johnny.
Helen tries not to show her disapproval of alcohol as she works around Frank to get Johnny's meal prepared.
HELEN (V.O.)
I left Elvis Lynn after ten years of marriage because his mama wouldn't give me a moment's peace. 
Once Frank Maynard and I were married, though, I saw that it was useless to marry without love. 
CUT TO:
INT. FRANK MAYNARD'S HOUSE - NIGHT/DAY - CONTINUOUS
HELEN (V.O.)
Frank took to drinking like nothing I'd ever seen. 
We see Frank. It is some months later. He is up late in the small front room; all the lights are blazing. A record blasts on the phonograph player. 
Helen has a crying Johnny in her arms as she tries to soothe him in all that noise.
HELEN (V.O.)
But there I was -- with a tiny baby; the only mother it had in the world. I couldn't leave. What Hell would that child have known then?
We see Johnny in his highchair in the kitchen. As Helen is trying to fix Johnny's meal, Frank picks an argument with Helen, who is reluctant to engage him. We see him shove her hard against the kitchen counter. Johnny starts to cry.
HELEN (V.O.)
I'd learned enough about Hell already to know that I would always find my way to the Lord. But what chance has a little boy got if you abandon him before he finds his own way?
CUT TO:
INT. HELEN'S BEDROOM / HALLWAY - DAY
Helen is dressed for church. She now shares a bedroom with Johnny, who is six years old. She has just dressed him for church, too.
HELEN
You be sure to come sit by me after Sunday school, Johnny, you hear?
JOHNNY
Yes, ma'am.
HELEN
Stick close to Mrs. Rayburn after class, like you did last week, and she'll help you find me.
JOHNNY
Yes, ma'am.
Helen leads Johnny out into the hall. As they pass through the front room to leave the house, we see Frank passed out in a worn-out easy chair.
CUT TO:
EXT. MAYFIELD STREET - SAME MORNING - CONTINUOUS
Helen walks to church with Johnny. It's spring -- a beautiful Sunday morning. Helen narrates as she and Johnny walk along the quiet streets.
HELEN (V.O.)
I stayed until Johnny started high school. I'm not sure how I lasted that long without love. I was forty-six when I left Frank Maynard. I was forty-seven when I ran into Elvis Lynn again. I knew I still loved Elvis, but people's stories get told; after a while, you see how it's going to go. It was over between Elvis and me, and I could see that. He died not too long after. He was standing in line to get his pay and just died. Just like that. Somewhere in Illinois. Far from me.
CUT TO:
INT. MAYFIELD TOBACCO DRYING PLANT, 1972 - DAY
We see blacks and whites together now, working in the same facility; however, they still tend to segregate themselves.
Helen, 53, is taking her lunch break outside, far away from her fellow workers. She eats a lunch she has packed herself. While she eats, she sketches on a pad of paper: Christ being baptized in the wilderness by John the Baptist.
She is approached by another African-American woman, LENA, around Helen's age.
LENA
Hey there, grannie! How you doing today?
HELEN
(smiling shyly)
I'm still not used to it. Not quite sure how I could be a grannie.
LENA
You're the only mama John had, Helen. Now he's got a boy of his own. That makes you a grannie.
HELEN
(chuckling)
Lena, I know that part. I just don't feel old enough to be called anybody's grannie.
LENA
Ain't that the truth? It just kinda sneaks up on a gal, don't it? What's that there you're drawing now? For the church mural?
Helen is polite but she wants to get back to her sketching before the lunch break is over.
HELEN
Yes.
LENA
Is that Jesus with John the Baptist?

HELEN
Yes.
LENA
Tell me something. When you're finished painting them murals, what happens to the leftover paint? 
Helen raises an impatient eyebrow.
LENA (CONT'D)
For heaven's sakes, I don't mean that you steal from the church. I just thought maybe it could be a kind of tip, you know? Paint is expensive -- you could use it.
HELEN
I don't take tips from the Lord.
The whistle blows, indicating the lunch break is over. Lena hurries away. Somewhat forlornly, Helen gathers her things to head back inside.
CUT TO:
INT. MAYFIELD METHODIST CHURCH - DAY
Helen is painting the mural of Christ being baptized by John the Baptist. It is on the wall behind the pulpit. She is alone while she paints, thoughtful and joyful.
CUT TO:
EXT. JOHN'S HOUSE - DAY
Helen knows how to drive now and she owns an old light blue, 1961 Ford Fairlane. 
As she pulls up to JOHN SR.'s house, he is just pulling in the drive, coming home from work as a laborer. He is 20 years old now. He gets out of his car and greets her.
JOHN SR.
Mama, how are you?
HELEN
Oh, I'm fine. Thought I might come see the baby again, if your wife doesn't mind.
JOHN SR.
Of course not, you come on in. How's work been going?
They walk together up the short front walk to the small rental house.
HELEN
Just fine.
JOHN SR.
I hear the mural at the church turned out real good.
HELEN
Is that what you hear? If you went to church more often, you wouldn't have to rely on hearsay.
JOHN SR.
But, mama, that mural is in the Methodist church.
HELEN
I see. Otherwise, you'd go...
CUT TO:
INT. JOHN'S HOUSE - SAME DAY
The house is meager, appointed with second-hand furnishings.
Helen sits alone on the sofa, holding John Jr. (JUNIOR), only a few weeks old. It's a private moment and Helen is very happy.
HELEN
(quietly; only to Junior)
Aren't you a pretty thing? What a happy little baby you are. Such a little bundle of love.
Just behind Helen is a picture window. Outside the window, we once again see the shimmer of a ghost car in summer, a green, 1994 Ford. The ghost image of Junior is getting out of the car, smiling; he waves. Junior's ghost is in his late-twenties, a black man in the prime of life. 
CUT TO:
EXT. TRAIN DEPOT - DAY
A train rushes past a deserted depot on the outskirts of town. The whistle screams.
CUT TO:
EXT. JOHN'S HOUSE, 1980 - DAY
A close-up of a sparkling pitcher of lemonade. Lemon slices and ice cubes float in the glass pitcher. 
It is a sunny summer day.
We are in John Sr.'s backyard. He now has four children -- two boys (Junior and JOSEPH) and two girls (MISSY and SARA). A picnic table is decorated for a modest family birthday party. Junior is 8 today. His youngest sibling, Sara, is a newborn.
JOHN SR.
(to Helen)
Mama, you want a piece of cake?
Helen, 60 years old now, hands Junior his birthday gift. It is obviously a painting, wrapped in tissue paper and a bow.
HELEN
I would love to have a piece of cake, thank you. If it's okay with Junior, that is.
JUNIOR
Why does it have to be okay with me?
HELEN
Because it's your cake. It's your day, your cake.
Junior finds this funny. 
JUNIOR
You can have some cake, grannie.
John Sr. cuts the birthday cake and hands the plates around, while Junior unwraps his present. 
It's a painting of a steam locomotive barreling along the rails on the outskirts of town.
HELEN
You remember that day, Junior? We saw that old train?
JUNIOR
I sure do. Some day, I'm going to drive one of these trains, grannie. I'm going to be an engineer.
HELEN
Well, I hope so.
MARY LEE, Junior's mother, comes over to see the painting of the train. She's holding Sara.
MARY LEE
It's lovely, mama. You thank your grannie real good for that gift, Junior. She worked hard at the plant in order to buy that canvas and those paints for you.
HELEN
Oh, it's nothing. I wanted to do it.
JUNIOR
Thank you, grannie.
HELEN
You're welcome, honey. And one of these days we'll get you a frame to go with it.
MARY LEE
(sitting down next to Helen)
Mama, what's this we hear about you leaving the church?
HELEN
There's not much to tell. They asked me to leave.
Both John Sr. and Mary Lee are stunned.
JOHN SR.
They asked you to leave?
MARY LEE
But you're the most devout woman in this whole town. Why on earth would the church ask you to leave? 
HELEN
We no longer see eye to eye. I know my bible. And I don't think they've read it in a long time. They want to drip a little bit of water on someone's head and call them baptized. I disagree. You need to go down to the creek to do that, put the person in the water -- and I told them so.
John and Mary Lee eye each other and smile.
JOHN SR.
I bet you did, mama. Something tells me you told them so loud and clear.
While the other two children eat their cake, Junior takes this all in. He's proud of his grannie.
MARY LEE
But what'll you do now? A woman like you can't just sit home on Sundays.
HELEN
I'll go to the other Baptist church and see if maybe I like it a little better. (she takes a bite of cake)
MARY LEE
(shocked)
But mama, white folks go to that church.
HELEN
I know, but black folks go, too.
JOHN SR.
Black folks are "allowed" to go, mama, but I don't think any of them actually do.
HELEN
Well, I'll let you know next Sunday because I reckon I'm going to find out for sure.
CUT TO:
INT. JOHN'S HOUSE - LATER THAT NIGHT
Junior is in bed in the room he shares with Joseph. The painting of the train is propped up near his bed where he can see it in the moonlight. It's a hot summer night. 
The painting makes Junior smile. Distantly, we hear the train rushing along the tracks. More loudly, we once again hear the whistle scream.
One window curtain ruffles in a sudden breeze.
CUT TO:
I/E. SECOND MAYFIELD BAPTIST CHURCH - DAY
A STEADY STREAM OF WHITE PEOPLE are going up the front steps of the church. They are joined by Helen.
No one appears hostile towards her, although everyone regards her with curiosity.
Inside the church, Helen is greeted with a friendliness that borders on obsequiousness.
CHURCH USHER
Good morning! And how are you today?
HELEN
(quietly; not wanting to attract attention)
I'm just fine, thank you.
The usher proudly leads Helen towards the front of the large church. 
CHURCH USHER
And what brings you to our church on this fine Sunday morning?
HELEN
I thought I might pray.
CHURCH USHER
Why, of course you did!
He stops at the second pew.
CHURCH USHER (CONT'D)
Mr. and Mrs. Liles, you don't mind scooting over just a bit so that our friend here can have a seat? She's come a long way to join us this morning!
MR. AND MRS. LILES are happy to squeeze over and make a space so that Helen -- their one and only black congregant ever -- can have a seat in the second row.
MR. LILES
And just how far have you come, little lady?
HELEN
I drove here from Washington Street.
MR. LILES
(to his wife)
Why, that's not such a long way.
MRS. LILES
I think he meant spiritually, dear.
It becomes undeniable that the congregation is looking at Helen and whispering.
A white and seemingly mild-mannered YOUNG PASTOR comes out onto the pulpit. He is discreetly alerted by a DEACON of the church as to Helen's presence in the second row. The pastor seems genuinely pleased with this development, this leap into the modern age.
In direct contrast to his mild-mannered appearance, however, the pastor has a distinct fire-and-brimstone approach. He mounts the riser to the podium and begins his sermon.
PASTOR
(booming suddenly into a microphone; looking & pointing directly at Helen)
SINNER! Make no mistake: You can not save yourself from the pains of Hell if you continue to reject Christ!
Helen visibly jumps in her seat.
CONGREGATION
Amen!
CUT TO:
EXT. SECOND MAYFIELD BAPTIST CHURCH - LATER
The pastor is just outside the front doors of the church, saying goodbye to his congregation as they depart. His YOUNG WIFE is beside him. 
As Helen leaves the church, the pastor and his wife are exceedingly friendly to her.
PASTOR
We certainly hope we'll see you again next Sunday.
PASTOR'S WIFE
We sure do!
HELEN
(shyly)
I'm sure I'll be back. Thank you so much.
CUT TO:
INT. HELEN'S CAR - LATER THAT DAY
Helen has Junior in the car with her. They're going fishing. 
JUNIOR
Did you go to that new church today, grannie?
HELEN
How did you know I was going to a new church?
JUNIOR
You were talking about it on my birthday.
HELEN
I suppose I was. Well, yes I did go.
JUNIOR
Did you like it?
HELEN
I'm not sure. They're awful friendly there.
JUNIOR
But that sounds good.
HELEN
I know it sounds good, honey, but sometimes a good thing can make you sick to your stomach -- when there's just too much of it.
Junior considers this.
JUNIOR
You mean, like cake?
HELEN
Yes, honey, just like cake. 
We follow the car down a beautiful Kentucky back road on a sunny Sunday in summer.
CUT TO:
EXT. AN IDYLLIC CREEK - SAME DAY
Helen and Junior are fishing in a secluded, peaceful spot.
HELEN
I'm going to tell you something that I haven't even told your daddy yet, Junior.
JUNIOR
(keenly interested)
What's that, grannie?
HELEN
What would you say if I told you I've gone and bought myself a nice piece of property out in the country? And that I got myself a house to go with it? Well, not a proper house, like what you have, but a trailer that feels like a house inside. There's even a big old schoolbus on the property that I can use to paint pictures in.
JUNIOR
Is it very far away?
HELEN
Not too far.
JUNIOR
If I had a bicycle, could I ride there on my bike?
HELEN
No, honey, it's a little too far for that. Your mama or daddy will have to drive you, or you call me and I'll come get you. 
JUNIOR
And when I have a car of my own, I can come see you anytime I want.
HELEN
That's quite a jump from a bike you don't have to a car you don't have, either. Cars cost a lot of money, you know. You'll have to get yourself a job.
JUNIOR
But I'm only eight!
HELEN
(chuckling)
I know, child. Yes, you come see me anytime you want -- whether you have a car or a bike or a pair of rusty old roller skates.
A fish catches on Junior's line.
HELEN (CONT'D)
Look, Junior! You caught a fish!
CUT TO:
I/E. HELEN'S PROPERTY - DAY - CONTINUOUS
We see Helen settle on to her new property. The whole family is there to help, but the grandchildren are mostly just getting under foot.
HELEN (V.O.)
I never really liked living in town. It felt so good to be back in the country after forty years. And to own my own land, finally. It meant everything to me. I could have a garden again, grow my own vegetables.
As Helen narrates, we can see that time is passing. Helen is growing older. Her long braids are now completely grey. We see her walking past her gardens, between the trailer and the schoolbus.
HELEN (V.O.)
At first, I didn't like living in that trailer. But after a while, it really was home. And I  sure liked being able to step outside my front door and go into that old schoolbus and paint.
We see Junior pull up in his father's car. He is old enough to drive now. Helen is in the schoolbus, painting.
HELEN (V.O.)
It sure got hot in that old bus in the summertime, but I could open all those little windows and the squirrels and even the birds would come inside the bus and visit with me.
JUNIOR
(coming into the bus)
Grannie, it's like an oven in here. How do you stand it?
HELEN
I guess I don't really notice it. (she gets up and hugs him) Hi, Junior. Should we go into the house? You want something cold to drink?
JUNIOR
No, not yet. You stay here and paint if you want. I'm going to pull some of your weeds here today, cut some of the grass. It's getting long.
Helen follows him off the bus anyway. 
HELEN
They're closing the tobacco plant.
JUNIOR
No -- are they?
HELEN
That's what they say. I've decided that I'm going to go ahead and retire. You know what that means?
Junior smiles. He knows very well what that means.
JUNIOR
It means you can paint all day.
HELEN
(smiling broadly)
It means I can paint all day. All day -- just think of it, Junior. I am almost 70 years old, and now I can paint all day.
JUNIOR
You do that, grannie. You deserve it. And don't you worry about your garden or all this land -- I'm going to take care of it for you. You just paint.
They go into the trailer together.
HELEN (V.O.)
That Junior -- from the minute he could drive, he had himself a job. And he always found time to come out to the country and look after me.
CUT TO:
EXT. HELEN'S PROPERTY - NIGHT
It's nighttime. We see Helen alone in the trailer. The lights are on. She opens the screen door and sets out a tin plate of food scraps, then goes back inside.
A raccoon and her young cubs come from out of the darkness and gather around the tin plate.
The lights in the trailer go out.
CUT TO:
EXT. HELEN'S PROPERTY AND HELEN'S STUDIO - DAY
HELEN (V.O.)
It was like heaven on earth for me, to stay home all day and paint. Soon, I had so many paintings, that I started bringing them into town with me and giving them to the folks at church. It wasn't long before folks from town were driving out to the country to buy my paintings.
Helen is standing inside the schoolbus, looking out the windows. More time has passed.
We see Junior, fully grown, pulling up in his brand new car: A green, 1994 Ford. 
HELEN (V.O.)
Junior fell in love, got married and started raising a family of his own. Things didn't go so well for his brother, Joseph, though. Joe wrecked his car on the highway and broke his back. It never did heal right. They tried everything but he was always in a lot of pain.
JUNIOR
(calling up to Helen in the bus)
Hey, grannie! I hear they kicked you out of church again!
HELEN
(calling down to him)
Oh, they did not. I quit -- before they had a chance to. And I tell you what, I'm done with it. I'm going to have my own church from now on, right out here on my land and I don't care what people say. 
JUNIOR
Is that so? You want me to build you a church, grannie? I could build you a little shed or something. It could be your church.
HELEN
Would you do that for me? Would you really, Junior?
JUNIOR
Of course I'd do that for you. I could build something like that in a weekend. And I could bring the kids over and you could read to them from the bible, like you used to do with me -- if you can get them to sit still long enough.
Helen is delighted by the prospects of having her own little church and of reading aloud from the bible to her great-grandchildren.
She gets out of the bus.
JUNIOR (CONT'D)
So what happened this time?
HELEN
Just more of the same. Everyone showing up to church in shorts and flip-flops. This one's sleeping with that one's wife. And that one's sneaking whiskey out back, and everybody knows it. No one has any respect for the Lord anymore.
JUNIOR
That really is a shame, grannie. It really is. But don't you worry, I'll build you that little church in no time. Now come on over here. Take a look at my new car. I bought it with my own money. Paid cash -- not credit.
Helen follows Junior over to his new car. 
HELEN
I'm so proud of you, Junior. I mean that.
CUT TO:
INT. LAFRANCE ART GALLERY, 2008 - DAY
Wanda is helping Helen, 89, at the gallery. Helen is being honored by the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights (KCHR) and being inducted into their Gallery of Great Black Kentuckians. 
A reception is being held in the LaFrance Art Gallery for the occasion. It is filled with GUESTS, both whites and blacks. The walls are lined with Helen's paintings.
At a makeshift podium, a SPOKESPERSON for the KCHR is speaking, flanked by TWO HELPERS.
SPOKESPERSON
We are honored today to place Helen LaFrance in our Gallery of Great Black Kentuckians. Her life and her work are testaments to the highest caliber of excellence and commitment.
The two helpers unroll the official poster of Helen LaFrance.
The audience politely applauds.
SPOKESPERSON (CONT'D)
To help raise awareness of human and civil rights here in the Commonwealth, our posters are displayed in schools and libraries statewide to help teachers and librarians educate our children on the importance of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act.
Helen is led up to the podium and presented with her own copy of the poster.
The audience applauds again.
SPOKESPERSON (CONT'D)
(to Helen)
This program was established in 1970 to help recognize the achievements of African-Americans -- such as yourself, Helen -- who have been neglected in traditional histories of the state, and to introduce Kentucky African-American History to our classrooms. Would you like to say a few words today?
Helen is overwhelmed by the applause as she stands in front of the microphone at the podium.
HELEN
(softly)
Thank you -- everybody. I'm not sure what to say. I just do what I do. I thought if I kept doing it, one day I'd do something worthwhile.
There is more applause as Helen leaves the podium.
CUT TO:
INT. LAFRANCE ART GALLERY - MOMENTS LATER
The guests circulate and congratulate Helen. Simple food and beverages are passed among the guests by TWO WHITE CATERERS.
Here we see the older black gentleman and another patron as they admire "Pete's BBQ & Fish."
On a wall near where Helen and Wanda are standing, are the paintings "Bible Study" and "Church Picnic: Homecoming."
WANDA
(quietly)
Congratulations, Miss Helen. I'm so happy that I could be here with you for this honor. 
HELEN
Thank you, child.
WANDA
I wonder what old Walter would say if he knew your poster was going to be hanging in schools all over Kentucky? I bet he would be so proud.
A WHITE GUEST approaches Helen, pointing out the paintings on the wall behind her.
GUEST
Now, this is an interesting juxtaposition. The austerity of this one (reading the titles) "Bible Study" against the frivolity of this other one, "Church Picnic: Homecoming." Was that done purposely?
HELEN
They were both my churches. They belong together.
GUEST
(with interest)
Your churches?
HELEN
Yes, this large one here was my church when I was a girl. And this one here was the church I had in my backyard.
The guest is speechless.
Wanda and Helen both smile politely.
CUT TO:
EXT. HELEN'S PROPERTY, 1994 - DAY
Junior has finished building Helen's little church and, as promised, has brought his TWO SMALL CHILDREN to attend the first Sunday service. 
Everyone, including Helen, who is 75, is dressed in good Sunday clothes. They walk into the church together.
CUT TO:
INT. HELEN'S CHURCH - MOMENTS LATER
There are several folding chairs inside the church and a painting of the Three Crosses on Calvary on the front wall.
There are two windows and the late morning light is streaming in through lace curtains. The room looks peaceful.
Helen goes to the chair at the front of the room and sits down. When Junior and his two children are seated, she begins reading from the beginning of Genesis.
HELEN
(serenely)
"In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth..."
It's an idyllic scene: The children aren't fidgeting, everyone looks engaged as Helen reads aloud.
HELEN (V.O.)
Junior got a job working for the railroad. It made him so happy. One morning, he stopped over at my house to tell me they needed him up in Louisville right away -- to work for a whole month.
CUT TO:
EXT. HELEN'S DRIVEWAY - DAY
We see Junior's green, 1994 Ford. He is getting out of the car, smiling; he waves. 
CUT TO:
EXT. HELEN'S STUDIO - SAME DAY
We see Helen, looking out of the schoolbus windows. She sees Junior and happily waves back. She gets out of the bus to go to him.
HELEN (V.O.)
It turned out that the minute Junior was born, a train had left a station somewhere; pulled out of a depot and started heading for its destination. That train had been coming the whole time.
We see Helen and Junior talking next to his car. Junior is excited. Helen looks happy for him. They hug and kiss goodbye and Junior gets back in his car.
He drives away.
Helen, smiling, waves after him.
We hear a train chugging along a distant track. 
HELEN (V.O.)
That day, that very same day, he was unhitching a car from the end of a train in the railway yard in Louisville.
We see Junior unhitching a train in a railway yard. Behind him, on the track next to his, another train is backing up, moving slowly. 
We hear a distant train picking up speed on a distant track.
We see Junior, distracted by what he is doing, as he steps too close to the other track.
We see a phantom steam locomotive rushing along its tracks. We hear its whistle scream.
CUT TO:
EXT. HELEN'S PROPERTY - LATER THAT DAY
Helen is working in her garden.
John Sr. pulls up her driveway in his car. He gets out quickly and goes to her. He is clearly distraught.
HELEN
Son, what's the matter?
JOHN SR.
Junior's dead, mama. He's been crushed by a train in Louisville. He's dead, mama. Our boy's dead.
HELEN
He's not dead. He was just here. Just a couple hours ago. You relax. You have to have heard wrong.
Helen stands up.
JOHN SR.
(beside himself)
I didn't hear wrong, mama. They called us from Louisville.  Junior is dead. They're sending his body back on a train. It's in a wooden box.
Helen stares at John, blinking nervously and chewing her lower lip.
John holds her.
She wails suddenly and collapses in his arms.
CUT TO:
EXT. HELEN'S PROPERTY - LATER THAT NIGHT
A full moon shines keen in a wide, black sky. It is mirrored below by a single light in a window in Helen's trailer.
From a distance, we see Helen pacing in and out of the lighted room inside the trailer.
HELEN (O.C.)
(utterly heartbroken as she paces in and out of view)
"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Dogs encompass me. Evil-doers enclose me. I tell all my bones -- O Lord, be not far off!"
We hear a sob come up from the center of Helen's soul and fill the night.
CUT TO:
EXT. GRAVEYARD - DAY
The family has buried Junior. Everyone is wearing black. Because of a back injury, Joseph uses a cane. Helen is grieving. John Sr. holds her steady.
HELEN (V.O.)
When Junior died, I cried so long and so hard; I cried until every tear was gone. Until I was empty. I knew I would never cry again. 
CUT TO:
I/E. HELEN'S TRAILER AND STUDIO  - DAY
HELEN (V.O.)
Fall came and went, a number of times. I painted.
We see Helen, bundled in a sweater, as she takes a cup of morning coffee with her from the kitchen out to the schoolbus to paint.
The studio is filled with completed paintings.
A 4 x 4 pulls up Helen's driveway. She no longer gets up to see who it is.
We see A WHITE MAN get out of the vehicle and he steps up into the schoolbus.
CUT TO:
INT. HELEN'S STUDIO - DAY - CONTINUOUS
WHITE MAN
Hello there, Miss Helen. I'm here for the paintings.
HELEN
They're right here for you. Thank you so much.
When the man leaves, Helen continues painting. She is working on "Church Picnic: Homecoming."
HELEN (V.O.)
People from big cities began to come around and buy my art. It was more money than I'd ever seen. I didn't know yet that my paintings were selling for thousands of dollars up north and making other folks rich. I was just happy to have plenty of paint and so many canvases to paint on.
DISSOLVE TO:
INT. HELEN'S STUDIO - SAME
A TELEVISION CREW has come to interview Helen while she paints. She is still painting "Church Picnic: Homecoming."
INTERVIEWER
We're here with Helen LaFrance, a Kentucky folk artist who is a Memory Painter. Helen, can you explain to us what that term 'Memory Painter' means? 
HELEN
(reluctant to speak on camera)
I paint from my memories, from what I remember. I don't use a live model.
INTERVIEWER
Is it true that you never had a lesson, never went to art school?
HELEN
That's right. My mama taught me how to paint when I was three. I think my first painting was of a little grey rabbit.
INTERVIEWER
And you're 82 now?
HELEN
That's right. I'll be 82 this November.
INTERVIEWER
What's this you're painting today?
HELEN
It's the church picnic we always had, way back when, on the second Sunday in June. It was called the Homecoming Picnic. Folks came from all over -- Gary, Indiana, from Chicago, Detroit. Everyone who had moved away, came home once a year to attend the Homecoming Picnic. Some years there were as many as two hundred people. We'd spread our blankets on the ground, end to end, and everyone brought food. Fried chicken, potato salad -- you know. Those were very happy times.
CUT TO:
INT. HELEN'S TRAILER - NIGHT
The painting is completed and propped up on a chair in Helen's trailer.
In her robe and slippers, she admires the painting one last time before going off to bed.
CUT TO:
INT. HELEN'S BEDROOM - NIGHT
Helen is asleep in bed. 
CUT TO:
EXT. CHURCH PICNIC - DAY
Helen is dreaming. Her painting of the Homecoming Picnic has come to life. Helen is still 82 but her family is young and everyone is alive again: Pappy, Lillie Mae, James; all the neighbors and the neighbors' children. It is a dreamlike combination of the 1930s and the 1940s. Even Elvis Lynn is there. Everyone is enjoying the church picnic, unaware of Helen, walking among them all.
With increasing urgency, Helen is searching for Junior among the people at the picnic. They do not see her. They do not share her plight. Helen wanders through hundreds of people. There are cars from the 1940s, and horses hitched to old wagons. Young people playing relay games. All around her, people are happy and talking with each other.
HELEN
(frantic)
Junior! Junior, where are you?
Helen wakes up with a start and stares into the dark.
CUT TO:
INT. HELEN'S TRAILER, 2005 - DAY
Helen looks out the kitchen window as a light dusting of snow falls.
Stacks of completed paintings lean against the walls in the kitchen.
CUT TO:
EXT. RURAL BACK ROAD - SAME DAY
Wanda is behind the wheel of a 1999 Ford Fiesta.
The snow has stopped falling. On either side of the winding road, the land is dense with bare trees. 
Far back from the road, through the trees, Wanda sees dilapidated shacks -- homes abandoned long ago. 
We see her pull up Helen's long, graveled drive.
CUT TO:
INT. HELEN'S TRAILER - MOMENTS LATER
Helen is painting inside the trailer. It's too cold to paint out in the schoolbus.
She knows someone has come up her driveway. She doesn't know who it is, but she's not concerned. She gets many visitors now who want to buy her paintings.
WANDA (O.C.)
(knocking on the door and calling out)
Helen LaFrance? Miss Helen? Are you at home?
Helen puts down her paintbrush and slowly walks to the door. She is 86 years old.
HELEN
Hold on, I'm coming.
CUT TO:
EXT. HELEN'S TRAILER - MOMENTS LATER
We see Helen as she opens the front door.
INTERCUT - CONVERSATION AT FRONT DOOR
HELEN
Can I help you, honey?
WANDA
Miss Helen, my name's Wanda Stubblefield -- I used to be Wanda Whittemore.
HELEN
Carrie Whittemore's child?
WANDA
Grandchild. Carrie Whittemore was my grannie.
HELEN
Your grannie? Whew, I'm getting old.
WANDA
I moved away a long time ago, but now I'm back and most of my family is gone.
HELEN
(concerned for her)
Are you looking for a place to stay?
WANDA
(smiling)
No. I'm married, Miss Helen. We got us a house in town. I was looking for someone who might know more about my people -- who could share some memories with me, you know? Folks in town mentioned you so here I am.
HELEN
(not needing to think twice)
Of course -- you come on in here, child. We'll have ourselves a good talk. I remember the Whittemores very well. In fact, I knew your great-grandparents, too.
Wanda goes inside the trailer and Helen closes the front door.
CUT TO:
EXT. GRAVEYARD - DAY
Joseph drives up to the cemetery in his brother's old 1994 Ford (the car is 11 years old now). Joseph's back injury has never healed; he is always in pain. Although he is only 31, he uses a cane to get around. Today, he is clearly over-medicated.
It is nearing Christmas and Joseph has brought a modest wreath for his brother's grave.
We see a headstone that reads: John Maynard Jr., 1972 - 1999. With difficulty, Joseph places the wreath on Junior's grave.
JOSEPH
Junior, you sure did have it figured out. If you're gonna go, just go, brother. None of this hanging around being crippled, barely living. I sure hope you're having a good Christmas, wherever you are.
Teetering slightly on his cane, Joseph stares off into space. The cold wind whips at him.
CUT TO:
INT. HELEN'S TRAILER - DAY
Helen and Wanda are at Helen's kitchen table. They've been having lunch.
HELEN
(resigned)
Of course, over time there has been a lot of loss; that's life, though, isn't it?
WANDA
I suppose so. That's what happens. He comes for all of us eventually.
HELEN
At this point, I've outlived my whole family: Parents, aunts, uncles, sisters -- even Junior, one of my grandsons. I outlived him and that kind of thing is never supposed to happen.
Wanda feels Helen's sorrow. She's not sure what to say.
WANDA
Miss Helen, you have so many interesting stories.
HELEN
You haven't even heard the half of them, child.
WANDA
I would love to write them down, if it wouldn't bother you none. Something you could leave behind, you know? Along with all your paintings.
Now Helen isn't sure what to say. It's clear, though, that she's touched by this.
CUT TO:
EXT. JOHN'S HOUSE - NIGHT
John Sr., 53 years old now, bundled in a winter coat, comes up his front walk and onto the small front porch. 
Reminiscent of his childhood in the house of his Uncle Frank, John now finds his son, Joseph, without a coat on in a narcotic stupor in an old patio chair on the porch. 
JOHN SR.
Son, wake up... Joseph, get up. You'll catch your death out here -- it's freezing. Where's your coat?
Joseph barely stirs. John can't conceal his disappointment in his son.
JOHN SR. (CONT'D)
(dragging Joseph up out of the chair)
I said get up and get inside. You'll catch pneumonia out here.
Joseph is dead weight. Somewhere he's lost his cane.
JOHN SR. (CONT'D)
Jesus, son, how many pills did you take this time? I know you're in a lot of pain, boy, but you're gonna kill yourself.
John walks him toward the front door, and with difficulty, helps his son inside.
CUT TO:
EXT. HELEN'S PROPERTY, 2008 - DAY
It's a few years later and houses are being built across from Helen's land, spoiling her view and impeding on her privacy.
Wanda and FOLKS FROM TOWN, both whites and blacks, are helping Helen pack up her possessions and move.
A sporty foreign car pulls into her driveway. A WHITE MAN AND WOMAN get out of the car.
MAN
Can any of you tell us where we can find the painter, Helen LaFrance?
WOMAN
We were told she lived out here.
HELEN
That's me; I'm Helen LaFrance. But as of today, I no longer live out here. They've destroyed my view.
Helen, 89, has her grey braids tied back in her now-customary red bandana. She is helping load boxes into a van, but moving a little slower than everyone else.
MAN
Miss LaFrance, we've come all the way from Michigan to meet you.
Helen is never rude, but she's unimpressed by white strangers in fancy foreign sports cars.
HELEN
It's either Miss Helen or Miss Orr.
MAN
Pardon me?
HELEN
My name is Helen LaFrance Orr. LaFrance is my middle name.
MAN
(ingratiating himself)
Excuse me. Miss Helen, then. As I said, my wife and I have come all the way from Michigan to meet you. We bought a painting of yours in a gallery up there and we'd love to see more of your work. We're eager to buy something else.
Helen stops what she's doing, but everyone around them continues to pack up the van.
HELEN
I didn't know my work was for sale in Michigan. 
WOMAN
We bought a darling painting. An old white farm house. Some quilts hanging on a line.
HELEN
My Pappy's old farm. Yes, I've painted a lot of those. Do you mind me asking how much you paid for it?
MAN
About seven thousand dollars.
The people within earshot stop what they're doing and look at him.
MAN (CONT'D)
Did I say something wrong?
HELEN
No, I'm sure you bought the painting fair and square. It's just that these folks here know what I got paid for a painting like that -- it wasn't anything close to seven thousand dollars.
WOMAN
Well, that's criminal. Doesn't the gallery have an arrangement with you?
HELEN
Not all of them. I'm afraid I didn't always understand copyrights. I painted because I loved to paint. And I sold the paintings because I thought people loved the paintings. Turns out, some folks are more in love with the dollar sign. 
WOMAN
Well, we certainly love your painting.
HELEN
Thank you. 
MAN
Like I said, we're here to buy another.
HELEN
I appreciate that. But I have a gallery in town now. All my current paintings are hanging in there. But you can go on out there. A couple of my grandkids are watching the gallery today because, as you can see, I'm moving.
MAN
Yes, I see that. Where is the gallery?
HELEN
Back from where you came. Right downtown, on West Broadway. You can't miss it.
MAN
Thank you very much, Miss Helen.
HELEN
You're welcome. Thank you for coming all this way.
CUT TO:
INT. LAFRANCE ART GALLERY - SAME DAY
Helen's granddaughter, SARA, is minding the art gallery. Joseph is there with her, but he sits in a chair by the window, holding his cane, and doesn't move. He doesn't even smile.
The man and woman enter the art gallery. 
MAN
(enthusiastically)
We're here to buy some art! We've come all the way from Michigan.
SARA
Well, come on in.
JOSEPH
That your car out there?
MAN
Yes it is.
JOSEPH
(with little joy or enthusiasm)
That's a very nice car.
SARA
Do you ever get to Ohio? Our grannie's got a big show going on up there pretty soon.
Sara hands them a flyer from the front desk. 
SARA (CONT'D)
All kinds of paintings that we don't have on display here today.
WOMAN
(with genuine excitement)
Is that right? We're not too far from Ohio. You must be so proud of your grandmother.
SARA
We sure are. Aren't we, Joseph?
Joseph barely acknowledges that he's been spoken to.
SARA (CONT'D)
I say, we're proud of grannie, aren't we, Joe? (to the man and woman) She even has paintings hanging in museums in New York.
MAN
(without irony)
We'd better hurry up and buy something, then, before the price goes up.
Joseph stares at him.
CUT TO:
INT. HELEN'S NEW HOUSE - NIGHT
It's a modest house but well-appointed, with modern conveniences. Helen is all moved in.
Wanda has been visiting, but she is preparing to leave. The two women are in the small front room. For the first time in a long time, Helen is not surrounded by paintings. They've been sent up to Ohio for her show.
WANDA
I know you don't like living back in town, Miss Helen, but it's an awful cute house. There's plenty of folks who'd trade places with you in a heartbeat. 
HELEN
(tired)
I know it. That's true.
WANDA
And look at the bright side: You can walk to your gallery from here. Your own gallery.
HELEN
But I miss the quiet of the country. And all the animals coming and going. I miss the way the light looks in the morning, too -- it's different out there in the country, you know.
WANDA
I know it is, Miss Helen. But let's think about tomorrow instead. You got a big show in Ohio -- a one-woman show. A show all to yourself, and folks are flying in from all over. Think of it! How exciting. Things are sure getting better, Miss Helen. All the way around. 
Helen manages a smile.
HELEN
I miss my paintings, though. It feels so empty in here.
WANDA
You'll see them tomorrow. 
HELEN
But when I get back here, I'm going to have to start painting a whole bunch all over again.
WANDA
(she knows Helen is tired)
There's a whole lot worse things that could happen than for a painter to sell all her paintings!
Helen chuckles. She knows Wanda is right.
WANDA (CONT'D)
I gotta scoot now. But I'll be back first thing in the morning to get you. We all got a long drive ahead of us.
Helen sees Wanda out.
HELEN
Good night, child. And thank you.
CUT TO:
INT. HELEN'S NEW BEDROOM - NIGHT
It's a simple bedroom. Plainly furnished, without a "lived-in" look yet. 
Helen's old bible sits on the night table next to her bed. 
She gets into bed and turns out the light. Within moments, she turns the light back on, takes a pad of paper and a pencil from the drawer in the night table and begins to draw.
HELEN (V.O.)
Ever since I was twenty years old, I have been trying to draw the visions of God from the Book of Ezekiel. 
We see Helen sketching as she narrates.
HELEN (V.O.)
"And out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had the likeness of a man."
As Helen sketches, the night fades and the sun comes up. 
As Helen narrates --
DISSOLVE TO:
I/E. HELEN'S NEW HOUSE - MORNING
It is dawn. We see Wanda arrive, as well as John Sr. and Mary Lee, Missy and Sara, and Junior's children. Along with Helen, they all pile into cars and head out to the highway.
HELEN (V.O.)
"And every one had four faces. And every one of them had four wings."
CUT TO:
EXT. LAFRANCE ART GALLERY - MORNING
The sun is up. We see that Joseph has stayed behind to look after Helen's gallery. We see him with his cane as he unlocks the front door and lets himself inside. 
He turns around the OPEN sign so that it faces the street.
HELEN (V.O.)
"As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like coals of fire, burning like the appearance of torches."
CUT TO:
EXT. HIGHWAY - DAY
We see a blue sky ahead and green rolling hills at either side of the highway that extend for miles. There are occasional bridges over waterways and rivers.
HELEN (V.O.)
"There was brightness to the fire. The living creatures ran.  I beheld the living creatures, the appearance of the wheels. They four had one likeness, as it were a wheel within a wheel."
A large sign reads "Welcome to Ohio."
CUT TO:
INT. LAFRANCE ART GALLERY - EVENING
Joseph uses a key to unlock a drawer of the front desk. He removes a debit card, then re-locks the drawer.
He turns out the lights. We see him turn the sign around to CLOSED. He stands at the door, staring out. He appears tormented.
HELEN (V.O.)
"When those went, these went. When those stood, these stood. The wheels were lifted up beside them, for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels."
CUT TO:
INT. OHIO GALLERY - NIGHT
Helen's one-woman show is a great success. The gallery is well-lit and filled with people. It's a dressy, upscale affair, worlds away from Graves County, Kentucky.
We can see that most of the paintings lining the gallery's walls have SOLD tags on them.
It is a very happy occasion for Helen as well as the guests.
CUT TO:
INT. OHIO GALLERY - LATER THAT NIGHT
Wanda and John Sr. are with Helen in the gallery's office. With them are the GALLERY OWNER and HELEN'S MANAGER (both white men). The party has wound down.
Helen, 89 and very tired, is seated. Everyone else stands.
GALLERY OWNER
Off the top of my head, I'd say we sold fifty thousand dollars worth of paintings tonight, Helen.
MANAGER
Did you hear that? Congratulations, Helen. It's about time.
JOHN SR.
Mama, did you hear that?
HELEN
Yes, son, I heard it. I don't believe it, but I heard it.
GALLERY OWNER
Of course the gallery takes its cut, but it's still an awful lot of money, Helen.
WANDA
Miss Helen, I'm so proud of you.
HELEN
I could live the rest of my life off money like that.
MANAGER
You can, but don't rest on your laurels yet -- once you get home, you start painting again! We need some more to sell.
HELEN
(chuckling)
I sure will. You can count on that. For one thing, I don't like those bare walls.
JOHN SR.
Now, how is my mother supposed to handle all that money?
GALLERY OWNER
Don't worry about that part. We'll have it wired directly into her account -- a direct transfer. She won't have to worry about it at all. 
HELEN
I'll just wake up one morning, and it'll all be right there. Just like that. I'll be rich.
JOHN SR.
An overnight sensation, mama.
HELEN
Eighty-nine years later!
Everyone laughs at that.
CUT TO:
EXT. MAYFIELD STREET - LATER THAT NIGHT
Joseph is behind the steering wheel of the old 1994 green Ford, but the car won't start. It's at the curb and the street is empty.
JOSEPH
(disgusted)
Junior, it was a fine car fourteen years ago... Well. It looks like I'm walking.
With difficulty and the aid of his cane, Joseph gets out of the car. Once he's out of the car, he leans against it. We can see now that he is over-medicated again. As he leans against the car, he pops another pill in his mouth. He pulls a half-empty pint bottle of bourbon from his coat pocket to wash the pill down.
As we see this, we hear voices from a distant past:
LILLIE MAE (V.O.)
You start reading right here. Do you remember this?
YOUNG HARRIET LEE (V.O.)
I think so, mama. (painstakingly) "The hand of the Lord was upon me..."
YOUNG HELEN (V.O.)
"...and the Lord carried me out in a spirit, and set me down in the midst of the valley, and it was full of bones."
CUT TO:
EXT. MAYFIELD STREET - NIGHT
We see Joseph swaying, held up by his cane. He is at a street-side ATM. He puts in the debit card.
CUT TO:
EXT. MAYFIELD STREET - DAY
It is some days later. We follow Helen as she walks to a local pharmacy to get her prescriptions filled.
CUT TO:
INT. PHARMACY - MOMENTS LATER
Helen is at the counter, handing the PHARMACIST a debit card to pay for her prescriptions.
The pharmacist runs the card through the machine.
PHARMACIST
Is this the right card, Miss Helen? Maybe you have another account?
HELEN
It's the only account I have, why?
PHARMACIST
The card's been declined. I've tried it twice.
HELEN
It can't be declined. There's all kinds of money in there.
PHARMACIST
Let me call the bank. Hold on a minute, all right?
Helen waits as the pharmacist calls the bank. Very soon, he comes back over to Helen. He has a cordless phone.
PHARMACIST (CONT'D)
They say there's no money in that account, Miss Helen. Do you want to talk to the bank? (he hands her the phone)
Helen is in shock. She takes the phone. 
HELEN
(on phone)
This is Helen LaFrance. There has got to be some mistake. There is plenty of money in that account to cover my prescriptions and then some ... But how can that be? How can there be no money in there? ... How many withdrawals? ... What are you talking about? ... My grandson? You mean Joseph?
Helen grows increasingly upset during the course of the phone call. The phone suddenly drops from her right hand. She stumbles and cannot speak.
PHARMACIST
(very alarmed)
Miss Helen? Are you okay? Miss Helen?
Helen falls against the counter and slides to the floor. OTHER CUSTOMERS hurry to her.
The pharmacist runs out from behind his counter. 
PHARMACIST (CONT'D)
Sherry, call an ambulance! Stand aside, everyone. Miss Helen...
CUT TO:
INT. HOSPITAL ROOM - DAY
Wanda sits down by Helen's bedside. Helen has regained her speech, but she is paralyzed down her right side.
WANDA
Miss Helen, Joseph's come back -- he's come back home. 
HELEN
He has?
WANDA
Yes. I hate to be the one to tell you this.
HELEN
Go on and tell me, child. How much worse can it get?
WANDA
He's got himself a new car, but all the rest of the money's gone.
HELEN
It's all gone?
WANDA
Yes, ma'am. It seems he drove down to one of them riverboat casinos that leave out of Nashville. 
HELEN
You mean to say he gambled all my money away?
WANDA
Yes, ma'am. I'm so sorry, Miss Helen.
Helen looks toward the window. The view is dismal.
HELEN
I never cared much for Nashville, you know?
WANDA
Miss Helen, what are you going to do?
HELEN
About what? My money's all gone. Most of my paintings have been sold. I can't move my arm -- my right side's paralyzed clear down to my toes. I'll never paint again. I'm going to lose my gallery, my house... I'll be ninety years old come November.
Wanda is silent for a moment. She is heartbroken for Helen.
WANDA
I know, Miss Helen. (tactfully) But what are you going to do about Joseph?
HELEN
Nothing.
WANDA
Nothing?
HELEN
Child, it's like Cain and Abel. The Lord saw fit to take Junior from me and left his brother here to try my soul. But the Lord marked Cain, you know. The Lord said, "Whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold." I know my bible.
WANDA
I know you do, ma'am.
HELEN
God sent Cain to live in the Land of Nod, east of Eden. To live out his days. It isn't up to me, child.
WANDA
But you deserve restitution, Miss Helen. You've lost everything.
HELEN
Restitution from where, from what -- a stone? That boy is the one who has nothing. He needs help. It's between him and God now, for all the rest of his days.
WANDA
Yes, ma'am.
CUT TO:
I/E. HOSPITAL AND NURSING HOME - DAY - CONTINUOUS
We see Helen wheeled from the hospital room, and taken by ambulette across town to the nursing home. 
She is put in the farthest room, in a bed in the corner: A room where an elderly white woman, nearly comatose, is already living.
The room's only saving grace is that outside the window is a beautiful tree and a view of the sky beyond.
CUT TO:
INT. NURSING HOME - DAY
John Sr. has come to visit Helen. She is dressed and in a wheelchair. The two are sitting in the day room.
JOHN SR.
(distraught)
Mama, I just don't know how to handle this, I don't know how you can be so resigned. You took me in when my mama died, and now look at the ruin I've brought you.
HELEN
You didn't bring me this, John.
JOHN SR.
I did, mama. Joseph's my son.
HELEN
Junior was your son, too, and he brought me a lot of joy. Don't ever forget that.
JOHN SR.
But Junior's gone, mama. I feel like I brought you that loss, too.
HELEN
Don't play God, son. 
JOHN SR.
I'm not playing God, mama, I'm looking at the facts.
HELEN
(quietly, almost in defeat)
There are always new ways to look at facts, John. You've got to walk all the way around a thing. For instance, look at this. (she holds up her left hand) I have a perfectly good hand here. I never gave it much thought for almost ninety years. But now I'm going to teach it how to paint.
JOHN SR.
Mama, are you serious?
HELEN
Son, what else am I going to do? I'm a painter. I'm still alive.
MONTAGE - HELEN LEARNS TO PAINT AGAIN
INT. NURSING HOME - DAY - CONTINUOUS
-- Helen is in the wheelchair in a corner of the day room by a large window. With her left hand, she struggles to guide the paint brush on a poster board that is propped on an easel.
-- Another day. She still struggles, but her hand is getting steadier.
-- Later. In momentary defeat, she sits with her back to the easel. She stares out the window at the large tree as the squirrels play.
END MONTAGE
CUT TO:
I/E. NURSING HOME, PRESENT DAY - DAY
Wanda drives up to the nursing home. She has a new car -- a used 2008 Oldsmobile.
Wanda goes into the nursing home.
We follow her to the day room at the end of the long hall. In the corner, by the window, sits Helen at her easel, painting with her left hand. She is painting the tree outside the window.
The painting looks like something perhaps a talented child could paint, but at least Helen is painting.
WANDA
Miss Helen, good morning! I got the most wonderful news!
HELEN
(pleased to see her, but she doesn't stop painting)
Good morning, child.
WANDA
I said, I have the most wonderful news.
HELEN
(chuckling)
Well, sit down and tell me about it. Don't tell me you're going to have a baby? How old are you now?
WANDA
(as she sits down)
Miss Helen, I'm fifty-two. I sure hope I'm not going to have a baby. The good news is about YOU.
HELEN
Me?
WANDA
You. I've just received a phone call from the Governor's office. We're going to Frankfurt, to the State Capital. You're being honored with the Governor's Award.
Helen stops painting.
WANDA (CONT'D)
They've even brought together a collection of some of your old paintings to exhibit for the event.
HELEN
They have? (she looks at the meager painting of the tree on the easel in front of her) I haven't seen them in such a long time.
WANDA
Miss Helen, isn't it so exciting?
HELEN
Yes, child. It is.
CUT TO:
INT. STATE CAPITAL BUILDING, FRANKFURT - NIGHT
Wanda is wheeling Helen into the great marble hall where the award ceremony is underway. Many people are here, including John Sr. and Mary Lee, Missy and Sara, Helen's manager, and members of the local PRESS and national art magazines.
On a small dais at the front of the room, a podium has been set up. AN ASSISTANT TO THE GOVERNOR is speaking at the podium. We hear her in the background only.
ASSISTANT
The Governor's Awards in the Arts are the Commonwealth's highest honor in the arts, recognizing extraordinary and significant contributions...
Wanda wheels Helen past a row of display easels, each exhibiting a painting of Helen's that we've seen before.
Helen is mesmerized by them.
HELEN
(to Wanda)
I haven't seen these in such a long time.
The camera takes Helen's POV as she passes the paintings.
We see "Quilts in the Breeze" and something magical happens: Almost imperceptibly the quilts on the clothesline tremble in a light breeze. We hear distantly:
LILLIE MAE (V.O.)
I'm going to name her LaFrance.  She will be a glory unto the Lord.
BOBBIE (V.O.)
Lillie Mae, I don't think James is going to go for that.
FANNIE (V.O.)
I don't think he's going to go for that at all.
Helen passes "Wagon Full of Hay," "Bringing in the Cotton," and "Tobacco Harvest." We hear: 
HARRIET LEE (V.O.)
Daddy's coming!
JAMES (V.O.)
We're nearly three-quarters done with that tobacco. 
LILLIE MAE (V.O.)
Oh, that's fine, James! That's much better progress than last year.
There is "Reading, Writing and Arithmetic" and "Yard Sale." At "Sandlot Baseball Game," we hear the CRACK of a bat making contact with a baseball, and:
THIRD-BASE MAN (V.O.)
Look, it's Walter! What's that he's driving?
We see "Dry Goods Store," "Local Carnival," and "Pete's BBQ & Fish."
ELVIS (V.O.)
You look awful pretty in that homemade dress, Miss Helen LaFrance.
As Helen is wheeled up to the ramp at the dais, she is overwhelmed from having just encountered all her paintings. 
We faintly hear the audience applauding. 
The final painting we've seen is a variation of the steam locomotive.
JUNIOR (V.O.)
Some day I'm going to drive one of these trains, grannie. I'm going to be an engineer.
The GOVERNOR has already been introduced and is at the podium. We join his speech in progress.
GOVERNOR
Miss Helen LaFrance.
We hear the audience applaud more loudly now. The Governor is also applauding. Helen is wheeled next to the podium, where a lower microphone has been erected for her.
As she is handed her award, Helen is still overcome from seeing the paintings. Appropriately, she appears to be overcome by winning the award.
HELEN
I want to thank everybody very much. This is quite an honor.
GOVERNOR
(jovially)
I hear you have a birthday coming up next month -- is that right?
HELEN
Yes, that's right.
GOVERNOR
Want to tell us how old you're going to be?
HELEN
I will be ninety-two years old.
GOVERNOR
Isn't that great, folks?
The audience applauds loudly.
Wanda steps up to retrieve Helen. She leans over to talk directly to her.
WANDA
Congratulations, Miss Helen. We're all just so proud.
HELEN
(indicating her paintings)
Take me back to see my old friends -- one more time.
WANDA
Sure, Miss Helen.
The audience begins mingling as refreshments are being served. Music is faintly playing.
Wanda wheels Helen, who holds her award, down to the row of paintings again.
HELEN
(to Wanda)
Oh, child, go slow. I might never see them again.
FADE OUT.

The world of author Marilyn Jaye Lewis

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