All the Young Joans

Afternoon in a park.
Wide shot of charred patches of grass.
Cut to a hand, in a fingerless glove, reaching down to touch the grass.
Cut to teenage girl, JOAN #1, kneeling, her fingers moving through the grass. Her friend, JOAN #2, standing next to her.
JOAN #1
This is where it happened.
JOAN #2
I know.
#1
This is exactly where it happened.
#2
Yea.
#1
Why don’t you touch it?
JOAN #2 kneels down and runs her fingers through the grass.
#2
It feels weird.
#1
Yea.
(beat)
Weird like how?
#2
Weird like . . . it feels lonely.
#1
(softly, meditatively)
Lonely.
JOAN #1 closes her eyes, smooths her gloved hand over the grass.
Both girls rise to standing.
#1
Wanna swing?
#2
Sure.
Cut to the girls swinging.
Alternating close-ups on whichever girl is speaking.
#1
You’re not having second thoughts are you?
#2
No.
(beat)
No.
(beat)
Are you?
#1
No.
(Silence)
#2
Do you know how many Arc-angels there were in the last burning?
#1
Fourteen.
#2
How many us will there be?
#1
Seventeen.
#2
That’s a lot.
#1
Yea.
Silence, as the girls continue swinging.
Cut to the girls on the see-saw.
#2
Are you scared?
#1
Yea, a little. Well more than a little. But I think of St. Joan. She was scared and brave at the same time.
#2
(flatly)
Yea.
#1
What’s the matter?
#2
Nothing it’s just . . . I was thinking that . . . well Joan didn’t have a choice. She didn’t want to be burned at the stake.
#1
But in a sense, she did. Her convictions brought her to that point, you know? It was her choice to fulfill a higher destiny. Like us.
#2
(smiling)
Yea, like us. All the young Joans.
#1
(smiling)
Yea. Arc-angels united.
The girls stop see-sawing, continue sitting.
#2
Remember this is where we first met? At Jillian’s seventh birthday party.
#1
I remember. And remember the pinata incident?
#2
Yea, when Billy went to whack the pinata with a bat and hit you instead and you were crying—
#1
And you came over to me and hugged me and we didn’t even know each other. You were so sweet.
#2
I was, wasn’t I?
(beat)
Whatever happened to Gillian?
#1
She moved away.
#2
That seems like such a long time ago.
#1
Different lifetime.
Cut to the girls sitting in the sandbox.
JOAN #1 drawing in the sand with a stick.
#2
Are you . . . are you going to leave a note of any kind?
#1
No. This isn’t about me. This is about us, all of us.
(Silence)
#1
Are you going to leave a note?
#2
Maybe. You know, my mother and father…
#1
Yea I know.
Cut to the girls sitting on a park bench.
#1
(reading the inscription carved into the bench)
Billy and Tiffany Forever.
(beat)
You think that’s our Billy? Pinata Billy?
#2
Could be.
Both girls laugh.
#1
Listen to this one
(reads another bench-message)
This bench saved my life—Steven.
#2
Wow. I wonder how the bench saved his life.
#1
Let’s find out.
(switches to news reporter voice, pretends to be wielding a microphone)
Bench, do you remember Steve? He was this man, or boy, possibly even a girl, who claims that you saved his or her life. If so, can you tell us how you did it?
(beat)
No comment? None at all? Well, okay, thank you for your time.
Laughter.
#2
Benches know how to keep secrets.
Staring out.
#1
Look at those clouds.
#2
Yea I know.
#1
(pointing)
That one looks like a wooly mammoth.
#2
It does. A snowy wooly mammoth.
#1
Yea.
(Silence)
#2
I’m going to miss this.
#1
Me too.
(Silence)
#2
I’m scared.
#1
About the burning?
#2
Yea.
#1
Me too. You know what helps me?
#2
What?
JOAN #1 reaches into her back-pocket and produces a postcard.
Close-up on a copy of the Joan of Arc painting by Jules Bastien-Lepage.
#1
I look at her. And I remember.
#2
Can I see it?
JOAN #1 hands JOAN #2 the postcard. JOAN #2 studies it.
#1
Why don’t you keep it?
#2
But don’t you need it?
#1
No, it’s fine, I have tons of other Joan images. That one’s for you.
#2
Thanks.
(Silence)
#2 (cont.)
How come there are no kids in the park today? It’s beautiful out.
#1
I know, it’s strange. No one’s here. Maybe it’s because of the burning.
#2
Yea, now this is like the haunted park.
Silence, cloud-staring.
#1
(pointing)
That one looks like a bird, some kind of giant bird.
#2
I don’t see it.
#1
See, the beak is right there, and there are the wings.
#2
Oh yea, yea, I see it now. A giant bird. Or an angel.
#1
Or an angel, yea.
The girls continue to talk about the clouds, their voices low, inaudible, as the camera zooms out.
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About John Biscello

Originally from Brooklyn, NY, writer, poet, spoken word performer, and playwright, John Biscello now lives in Taos, New Mexico. He is the author of three novels: Broken Land, a Brooklyn Tale, Raking the Dust, and Nocturne Variations, and a collection of stories, Freeze Tag. His fiction and poetry has appeared in: Art Times, nthposition, The Wanderlust Review, Ophelia Street, Caper, Polyphony, Dilate, Militant Roger, Chokecherries, Farmhouse, BENT, The 555 Collective, Instigator, Brass Sopaipilla, The Iconoclast, Adobe Walls, Kansas City Voices, and the Tishman Review. His blog--Notes of an Urban Stray--can be read at johnbiscello.blogspot.com. Broken Land, a Brooklyn Tale was named Underground Book Reviews 2014 Book of the Year.
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