A call for coming-of-age submissions on Stage32 motivated me to at least start on a screen adaptation of my novel Silken Thread. Here’s a trial opening scene formatted in a style emulating James Cameron’s script for the movie Aliens.
- 1. INT. BREAKFAST IN THE AARENS HOME
Forbes Park subdivision, Metro Manila, July 1967. A spacious living/dining area with Danish Modern and Asian furnishings, high ceilings opening onto a lanai and garden. We meet a Dutch/American family of 3 served by a middle-aged Chinese woman. The teenage son arrives late, sits at the table.
“Mom, Pop, Lao Ma.”
David addresses Mrs. Li in <Mandarin>.
<How are you this morning?>
<Your father heard you come in late.>
She rolls eyes, pours tea.
<Ouch. I thought I was being quiet.>
“What time did you get in last night?”
“About 12:30. Sorry, Pop; I know I was …”
“Tell me you weren’t prowling downtown with Ramon.”
“We had his bodyguard along.”
“As if that makes a difference. Are you planning to run wild the whole summer? Ward; tell him about the job.”
“Gary Wallace needs a Chinese-language teaching assistant at the embassy. I told him you’d do it.”
“If it’s Cantonese …”
Mrs. Li gives David the bad eye.
“I’m not that good at it.”
<Maybe you learn to speak it better.>
“Mandarin. Eight to four, Monday through Friday, starting today.”
“I have a golf date!”
“Not anymore. Eat your breakfast; Rudy can take you when I go to Philips Lighting.”
- 2. EXT. ROXAS BOULEVARD
Establishing shot over Roxas Boulevard and Manila Bay.
- 3. EXT. BAY FRONT HOTEL
Jeepney traffic on Isacc Peral toward the bay
- 4. EXT. UNITED STATES EMBASSY
Drone shot of Cadillac at the embassy gate
- 5. INT. FRONT SEAT OF CADILLAC
David opens the passenger door, addresses the family driver in <Filipino>.
<Thanks. I’ll take a taxi home.>
<Okay. See you later.>
- 6. INT. LOBBY U.S. EMBASSY OFFICE BUILDING
David checks in with a Marine guard, gets directions.
- 7. INT. UNITED STATES EMPLOYEE ASS’N READING ROOM
David meets the class instructor, a slender, well-dressed Eurasian woman.
“Come, come; are you David?”
She offers a delicate handshake.
“I’m glad you’re early. Would you help move chairs?”
Jeanne moves a briefcase out of the way.
“Gary Wallace says you’re quite the linguist.”
“It’s mostly an accident; my nanny speaks more languages than I do.”
David arranges chairs in a circle.
“Is this a C.I.A. class?”
“It is. Our students are military, cycling out of active duty. Five U.S. Marines, male, one Air Force, female. They’re nice people; I think you’ll like them.”
Jeanne hands him a file jacket.
“We’re in section two of the course. Everyone’s reading Hanzi, kind of, and not even close to conversational. I hope you can help with that.”
“I’ll try. Can I ask about you?”
“State Department — before that, International Relations program at Georgetown. I’m part Han Chinese — my grandfather was the last French Catholic missionary ever to go to China. That’s my CV. Tell me about yourself.”
“I’m seventeen. I just finished eleventh grade at the American School. Dad’s a consulting engineer, Mom’s an artist. I play soccer, golf, piano, saxophone, sing in choir …”
“That’s impressive. How did you learn Mandarin?”
“Ma Li came on with us when I was two. Gave me Mandarin, Cantonese, a little Hokkien, Fukienese …”
“Picked up Filipino from the other servants, but mostly our driver, took Spanish for credit at school …”
“You have a talent.”
Shakes his head.
“I have a musician’s ear from my mother, good memory from Dad. Cantonese made me learn how to listen.”
David looks through the folder.
“It’s fun to sneak up on people who don’t expect you to speak it.”
“Good positioning for a work life in Asia.”
Close-up on a printed form in David’s hand. The heading reads, ‘United States Employee’s Association’.
“Oh; this is an actual job. I thought I was a volunteer.’
“Seven dollars an hour. Please turn in the application at the end of class. Do you have your social security card with you?”
“I know the number.”
He looks up to acknowledge a young woman standing in the doorway — attractive, shapely, 5’ 6”.
“The receptionist said there was a cute guy wandering around, but I didn’t think to look here.”
“Um … you’re kind of cute yourself. Would you look away? My freckles come out when I blush.”
“David; this is Barb Schneider.”
Offers a handshake. Her manner is flirtatious.
“Oh, my — you are blushing. How sweet.”
“Please; now I’m embarrassed.”
He looks past Barb to lift his chin at a man entering the room — classic Marine; 5’ 10”, muscular, close haircut.
“Thank God; reinforcements.”
“Come on, buddy — one Viking ought to be enough to handle this detail.”
He sticks out a hand.
“Mitch Gander. You’re the tutor?”
“David Aarens. I guess so.”
“Terrific. Barb, Jeanne.”
“Good morning, everyone.”
“Hi. I’m Tom. California.”
Remainder of class files in. Introductions are made.
“Settle in, soldiers. Today, you’re going to show Mr. Aarens what you’ve learned so far.”
- 8. U.S. Embassy seafront recreational facility
The Seafront officer’s club is busy for lunch service. David, Barb, Mitch and Tom wait for a table.
“Aren’t you overloaded with Dutch, English, Chinese, Spanish and Filipino?”
“I don’t have Dutch. Mom’s Dutch, and my grandparents on Dad’s side came from the Netherlands so Dad speaks it, but he was born in Iowa. We speak English at the house. What’s your story?”
“Four-year accounting degree. I was sick of the Midwest when I graduated, so I joined the Air Force. Did my time, then this thing came up.”
“What was your last job?”
“Contract auditing at the Pentagon. Before that, clerk typist and then purchasing at Edwards.”
“Clerk typist? With an accounting degree?”
“It took my C.O. a while to notice that.”
A server waves them toward a corner of the room. David moves to one side so Barb can get around him.
“What’s it like for women in the Air Force?”
Gives David a surprised stare.
“It’s a boy’s club; mostly it sucks.”
“I hear the Army is better, but not much. Give ‘em another twenty years, they’ll figure it out.”
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