EXT. HOLLYWOOD SIGN/WINDSOR STREET - DAY

The white letters composing the "Hollywood" sign repose on the side of the mountain, enshrouded in a brown haze of smog.

Our view widens until we see two perfectly straight lines of palm trees cutting a path directly to the sign.  We are on Windsor Street in Hollywood.  Todd's blue Chevette comes driving up the street going toward the sign.

INT. TODD'S CAR - DAY

Todd looks all around, grinning.

                                                                 TODD
                                                           (to himself)
                                Cool.

EXT. 819 N. ALTA VISTA/APARTMENT BUILDING - DAY

This is an old style West Hollywood apartment building with sixteen units on the ground floor, eight on one side, eight on the other, all facing into a cement walkway.  There are about four medium steps between the door of apartment one and the door of apartment fourteen.  The front lawn is small, but landscaped with grass and hedges.  It's kind of quaint.  There is a sign stuck into the lawn that says, "Apt. For Rent."

Todd and the landlord, GEORGE, a thin man in his mid-fifties wearing khaki pants and no shirt, approach the building.

                                                                 GEORGE
                                It's really a lovely area here in West Hollywood.
                                Central to everything.  The Melrose strip is a
                                block that way...
                                                           (he points to his left)
                                ...The Beverly Center's a mile that way...
                                                           (he points straight ahead)
                                ...Hollywood Boulevard's a mile that way...
                                                           (He points to his right)
                                This is a nice, quiet street with a lot of friendly
                                young people living here, mostly actors, ya know.
                                The apartment is fairly priced and the building is
                                well maintained.

George and Todd have arrived at the door of apartment one, the front left door.  George takes a big ring of keys from his pocket and opens the door.

INT. APARTMENT ONE - DAY

The door opens revealing a one-room efficiency-12 X 14-with a small kitchen and a bathroom. There is a ceiling fan and a hardwood floor.  Todd takes one step in, glances into the bathroom, then takes three more steps and glances into the kitchen.

                                                                 TODD
                                No bedroom, huh?

                                                                 GEORGE
                                Nope.  No library, either.  That's what makes
                                it so cheap.

                                                                 TODD
                                Six hundred dollars?  That's cheap?

                                                                 GEORGE
                                For this area.

                                                                 TODD
                                                           (shakes his head)
                                In Michigan I was paying four hundred a month
                                for a two-story, three bedroom house with a
                                garage and a big backyard.

                                                                 GEORGE
                                But it would be a helluva commute everyday.

                                                                 TODD
                                                           (nods)
                                Yeah.

                                                                 GEORGE
                                So, what'dya think?  I got someone else coming
                                in an hour.  This apartment'll be gone by tonight.

                                                                 TODD
                                How much to move in?

                                                                 GEORGE
                                First, last and security.  Eighteen hundred.

                                                                 TODD
                                Unbelievable.  It's lucky I have a good job.

                                                                 GEORGE
                                If you didn't I wouldn't rent to you.  So…?

                                                                 TODD
                                So...
                                                           (shrugs)
                                ...I'll take it.

George squeezes Todd's shoulder, then leaves his hand there.

                                                                 GEORGE
                                You'll be happy here.  I can tell.  And if you
                                need some furniture, let me know.  I got a
                                lot of it.

Todd glances down at George's hand, then steps away.

                                                                 TODD
                                Thanks.

                                                                 GEORGE
                                                           (winks at him)
                                My pleasure.  Make it cash.  I don't like
                                checks.

INT. APARTMENT ONE (TODD'S APARTMENT) - LATER THAT DAY

The apartment now has a single bed, a desk painted with thick, white house paint, a wooden chair, and a dresser with cigarette burns on top.  Todd sits on the edge of the bed, his hands folded in his lap.  Two suitcases and a brown, cardboard file box sit beside him.  He stares out the window to the street and listens.

To the right of his building is the Christopher Robin Nursery School with fifty, three to five year old kids screaming.  To his left is a house full of long hair rockers blasting heavy metal music and a number of them are sitting on motorcycles and just revving them for no good reason.  Across the street is a Hassidic Jewish school and the kids are formed into a brass band and are loudly playing "Hatikva" (Israel's national anthem).  Beside that is an apartment building where cars keep pulling up, double-parking, people get out and run in, then quickly come back out and drive away.  Every now and then someone from that building will scream at the Jewish boys in the band.

                                                                 DEALER (O.S.)
                                                           (across the street)
                                Shut the fuck up!

A RABBI with a beard and a hat and a black suit yells back with an eastern European accent.

                                                                 RABBI
                                Neighbor!  Are you trying to ruin these
                                children's lives?  Watch your language!

                                                                 DEALER (O.S.)
                                I said shut the fuck up and I mean shut the
                                fuck up!

And so the sun sets on Todd in his new apartment.  He takes a slug from a pint bottle of peppermint schnapps, then grabs hold of the brown, cardboard file box and hoists it up onto the bed.  Removing the top reveals that it is solidly packed with comic books in plastic covers.  Todd quickly runs through them with the ends of his fingers until he gets to a specific one.  He delicately pulls it out.  It is an old, yellowed, Fantastic Four comic.

                                                                 TODD
                                                           (grins)
                                Number one.

He carefully puts it back in its place and closes the box.

EXT. DECADE 31 OFFICE BUILDING - DAY

At the top of a thirty-story office building is written the company name, "DECADE 31 REALTY."  Our view tilts down to the front of the building and we see Todd's car pull up to the meter.  Todd gets out wearing a suit and tie and carrying a briefcase.  The voice of his SUPERVISOR is heard.

                                                                 SUPERVISOR (V.O.)
                                You'll be working at a subdivision called Golden
                                Hills in Palmdale...

Todd steps up to the parking meter and puts in a quarter.  The meter buzzes and gives him seven minutes.  Todd can't believe his eyes.

                                                                 TODD
                                                           (to himself; outraged)
                                Seven minutes for a quarter?  That's outrageous!

He pumps in all of his change, then walks into the building.

                                                                 SUPERVISOR (V.O.)
                                ...There are a thousand units priced between
                                one hundred and fifty to two hundred and fifty
                                thousand dollars...

Todd comes out the front door.  He arrives at his car parked in front of the building.  He finds that his meter has expired and he has a ticket under his wiper.  He shakes his head and reads the back of the ticket.  His eyes go wide.

                                                                 TODD
                                                           (shocked)
                                Twenty-eight dollars!!?

He gets into his car and drives away.

EXT. HOLLYWOOD FREEWAY (101) - DAY

Traffic is moving OK on the 101.  Todd drives along with a piece of paper in his hand.

                                                                 SUPERVISOR (V.O.)
                                ...It's about forty-five minutes north-east.  It's
                                not a bad drive at all.  You take the Hollywood
                                to the Ventura to the 170 to the 5 to the 14 and
                                you're practically there...

Todd veers off the Hollywood onto the Ventura.

EXT. VENTURA FREEWAY - DAY

As Todd's Chevette merges onto the Ventura Freeway he finds a solid, unmoving mass of traffic, five lanes wide, stretching into infinity.

                                                                 TODD
                                                           (astounded)
                                Oh my God!

CLOSE-UP - GOLDEN HILLS BROCHURE

The photograph in the brochure shows a lovely two-story house sitting in a tranquil setting of green, grassy hills and big, shady trees.  The brochure is lowered to reveal...

EXT. HOUSE IN GOLDEN HILLS - DAY

...A house the exact same design as the photo only it is sitting on flat, cracked dry earth.  The air is filled with brown dust from bulldozers.  Beyond the house is the barren, endless expanse of the Mojave Desert.

Todd is standing in the street, holding the brochure, beside a middle-aged, female SALES MANAGER.

                                                                 TODD
                                Is that the Mojave Desert?

                                                                 SALES MANAGER
                                                           (nods)
                                Uh-huh.  Don't bring prospective buyers
                                out to this end of the complex.  Keep them
                                at the front end where all the landscaping
                                is.

                                                                 TODD
                                                           (amazed)
                                And people actually pay a hundred and
                                fifty to two hundred and fifty thousand
                                dollars to live here?

                                                                 SALES MANAGER
                                                           (a bit put off)
                                This is our seventh development in Palmdale.
                                People come from everywhere to live here.

INT. HALF-BUILT MODEL HOME - DAY

Todd and the Sales Manager are inside a half built house.  Todd is peering inside the wall.

                                                                 TODD
                                                           (disbelief)
                                One strip of half inch fiberglass and eighth-
                                inch dry-wall?  I've never seen a house
                                constructed of such cheap material.

                                                                 S. M.
                                                           (offended)
                                This is California, Mr. Holman.  There's no
                                winter here, unlike Minnesota where you're
                                from.

                                                                 TODD
                                Michigan.

                                                                 SALES MANAGER
                                                           (walking away)
                                What's the difference?

Todd follows after her.  As they walk through the house Todd reaches up and softly touches a light fixture on the wall.  It dislodges from the thin drywall and dangles from its wires.  Todd tries to put it back but it won't go.  He turns and finds the Sales Manager glowering at him.

Todd smiles awkwardly.

EXT. FREEWAY INTERCHANGE, 14 AND 5 - DAY

Todd merges from the 14 freeway to the 5 and finds a dead stopped traffic jam.  Todd moans helplessly.

EXT. TODD'S APARTMENT BUILDING - DAY

Todd pulls up in front of his building and stops the car.  He takes a deep breath, shakes his head and gets out.  He is holding his jacket and large sweat circles under his arms staining his white shirt.

Sitting on the front lawn in a director's chair is a chubby Asian girl in shorts and a halter top reading a book on engineering.  She is LINDA.  Todd steps up to her.

                                                                 TODD
                                Hi. I'm Todd.  I just moved into number one.

Linda hardly glances up and speaks in a quiet, spiritless tone.

                                                                 LINDA
                                Linda.  Number three.

                                                                 TODD
                                Would you mind if I used your phone?  Mine
                                hasn't been installed yet.  I'll reverse the
                                charges.

                                                                 LINDA
                                                           (not looking up)
                                Go ahead.

                                                                 TODD
                                                           (smiles)
                                Thanks.  Nice to meet you.

Linda doesn't answer.

INT. LINDA'S APARTMENT - DAY

It's pretty barren: a bed, a desk and computer, a bookshelf with all technical books and a phone on top.  Todd dials the phone.  It rings once, then beeps and an OPERATOR comes on.

                                                                 OPERATOR (O.S.)
                                A.T.& T.  May I help you?

                                                                 TODD
                                I'd like to reverse the charges on this call.
                                My name is Todd.

                                                                 OPERATOR
                                Thank you, Todd.

It rings.

INT. THE HOLMAN HOUSE - NIGHT

Mr. and Mrs. Holman both have their coats on and are at the front door.  They both stop as they hear the phone.

                                                                 MRS. H
                                Oh shoot.

                                                                 MR. H
                                Forget it.  Let's go.  We're late already.

                                                                 MRS. H
                                Hold on.

She goes for the phone.  Mr. Holman shakes his head.

                                                                 MR. H
                                Goddamnit.

Mrs. Holman picks up the phone.  The Operator speaks to her.

                                                                 OPERATOR
                                I have a collect call from Todd, will you
                                accept the charges?

                                                                 MRS. H
                                                           (explaining)
                                We're just on our way out.  We're late.  You'll
                                explain, right?

                                                                 OPERATOR
                                Then you won't.  Thank you.

The Operator clicks off.

INT. LINDA'S APARTMENT - DAY

The Operator tells Todd.

                                                                 OPERATOR
                                I'm sorry, they don't accept.

                                                                 TODD
                                                           (totally shocked)
                                What?!

                                                                 OPERATOR
                                Thank you for using A.T.& T.

The Operator clicks off.  Todd stands there holding the dead receiver.

                                                                 TODD
                                They don't accept?  My own parents?

Todd hangs up, then quickly picks up the phone and dials again.

                                                                 OPERATOR
                                A.T.& T.  May I help you?

                                                                 TODD
                                I'd like to make this call collect.  My name's
                                Todd.

                                                                 OPERATOR
                                One moment.

The phone rings and rings and rings...

INT. LAURA'S BASEMENT - NIGHT

Laura has a hamper full of wet laundry that she's loading into the dryer.  She hears the phone ringing upstairs and looks up.

                                                                 LAURA
                                                           (exasperated)
                                Oh, no.

She sets down the hamper and dashes for the stairs.  She bolts up the stairs two at a time.

INT. LAURA'S KITCHEN - NIGHT

Laura comes around the corner, strides across the kitchen and grabs the receiver of the wall phone.  All she gets is a dial tone.

                                                                 LAURA
                                Hello?  Hello?

INT. LINDA'S APARTMENT - DAY

Todd stands there with a dead receiver in his hand, nodding his head and looking distressed.  He hangs up the phone and dials again.

                                                                 OPERATOR
                                A.T.& T.  May I help you.

Todd stupidly mouths the words as he hears them.

                                                                 TODD
                                This is collect.  My name's Todd.

                                                                 OPERATOR
                                Thank you, Todd.

The phone rings...

INT. ED AND JEANINE'S HOUSE - NIGHT

Ed is helping his incredibly pregnant wife down the stairs, a suitcase in his other hand.  She is obviously in labor.  The phone rings.

                                                                 ED
                                You wanna have the kid in the house?
                                Is that it?

                                                                 JEANINE
                                The contractions didn't seem real.

                                                                 ED
                                You're two weeks overdue.  How real do
                                they have to be?

                                                                 JEANINE
                                Get that, would you?

                                                                 ED
                                Maybe you'd like me to wax the kitchen floor
                                now, too?

                                                                 JEANINE
                                Just get the phone.

Ed hesitantly lets go of his wife and answers the phone at the foot of the steps.  Jeanine continues to waddle across the room looking very unbalanced.  Ed watches, highly unnerved.

                                                                 ED
                                Hello?

                                                                 OPERATOR
                                I have a collect call from Todd, will you
                                accept the charges?

Jeanine looks like she's going to fall over.

                                                                 ED
                                I can't.

He hangs up and dashes for his wife.

INT. LINDA'S APARTMENT - DAY

Todd stands there holding the phone, an incredulous look on his face.

                                                                 OPERATOR
                                I'm sorry, they don't accept the charges.

                                                                 TODD
                                I heard.  Thanks.

                                                                 OPERATOR
                                Thank you for using A.T.& T.

                                                                 TODD
                                                           (stunned)
                                No, thank you.

Todd hangs up the phone with a dazed look.  Suddenly, Todd's expression completely changes.  Something is touching his ankle.  He looks down and sees the head of a boa constrictor winding up his leg.  Todd's terrified eyes follow the body of the snake five feet across the room where it's tail is still under the bed.  Todd has frozen into a pillar of salt.  His mouth is open, but nothing comes out.  The snake continues winding around his leg.

Linda steps into the apartment, sees the snake, steps up to it and grabs it, pulling it off Todd's leg.

                                                                 LINDA
                                                           (scolding)
                                Oh, Rosie.  Leave him alone.

She takes the snake by the neck, turns the head around to her and kisses its flickering tongue.  She then turns the head around to Todd's ashen face.

                                                                 LINDA
                                Todd, this is Rosie.  She doesn't like men.

                                                                 TODD
                                                           (croaking)
                                Right.  That's very good to know.  Thanks for
                                the use of the phone.

Todd quickly leaves Linda's apartment.

EXT. TODD'S BUILDING - NIGHT

The full moon hangs in the black sky above Todd's building.  Todd's open window in the front of the building is dark.  An outrageously loud motorcycle roars past, then another, then another.

INT. TODD'S APARTMENT - NIGHT

Todd lies in his bed wearing only boxer shorts.  His eyes are open and his forehead is beaded with sweat.  He has a slightly freaked-out expression.  From the other apartments he can hear a TV set blaring, music playing, the washer and dryer running, the heavy breathing and groans of sex, as well as someone ripping loud, long farts.

A car alarm goes off, the kind that goes from honking to whooping to buzzing to snarling, then repeats and repeats, ad infinitum.

Led Zepplin's "Kashmere" can be heard getting louder and louder and louder.  Todd can see through his window a jacked-up Chevy Nova pull up in front of the building across the street.  Someone gets out the car and runs inside.  The music is deafening and totally distorted.

                                                                 TODD
                                                           (to himself)
                                No, no, turn it up.

The guy in the Chevy obliges.  A moment later the guy comes running out and gets in the car.  They burn rubber and split.

Zepplin diminishes until it's gone.  Now it's just the sounds from the building again.  Then there's the sound of a helicopter approaching.  The whub, whub, whub of the rotors gets louder and louder until the chopper is directly overhead and begins to circle.  The noise is overwhelming.  And it goes around and around and around, then suddenly the street is brilliantly illuminated by a bright white spotlight.

Todd can't believe it.

                                                                 TODD
                                                           (to himself)
                                What's next?  A napalm strike?

He reaches over and grabs a fifth of peppermint schnapps.  He takes a big slug.

                                                                                                       DISSOLVE TO:

EXT. BETTER BUSINESS SUPPLY - MORNING

The sidewalk in front of Better Business Supply is covered with snow and pedestrians bundled up in thick winter coats hurry by.

INT. BETTER BUSINESS SUPPLY - DAY

Ed, wearing a suit and tie, restocks the pen shelf.  Ed picks up an unopened box of pens.  He snaps the seal and pulls out a pen.  It's an interesting, contemporary design in bright turquoise.  Ed admires it.

                                                                 ED
                                                           (impressed)
                                Cool.

The door opens and the bell above it rings.  Ed turns with a warm smile and holds up the pen.

                                                                 ED
                                Todd...

But it's an old man.

Ed's smile fades and he lowers the pen.

                                                                 ED
                                May I help you?

                                                                                                       DISSOLVE TO:

EXT. VENTURA FREEWAY - MORNING

Bumper to bumper traffic.  Thousands of cars sit inert in the blazing California sun.  The sun glares off all the windshields and chrome.

INT. TODD'S CAR - MORNING

Todd sits at the wheel rubbing his stinging, bloodshot eyes, wincing at the glare, then coughs hoarsely.  He reaches down and picks up a box of Thrifty decongestants.  He takes two pills and swallows them dry.

INT. SALES OFFICE/GOLDEN HILLS - DAY

A middle-aged MAN and WOMAN sit facing Todd at a desk.

                                                                 MAN
                                How's the drive into L.A. from here?

                                                                 TODD
                                                           (uncomfortable)
                                Uh, fine... Not bad... Uh, it could be worse,
                                I guess.

                                                                 WOMAN
                                How long does it take?

                                                                 TODD
                                Twenty, uh... Half... Uh, less than an hour,
                                sometimes.

This wasn't what the couple wanted to hear.  They look at each other and frown.  Todd shpritzes Afrin nose spray up his nose, then wipes it with a tissue.

An older HUSBAND and WIFE in their sixties now sit across from Todd.

                                                                 HUSBAND
                                My wife loves gardening.  How's the soil?

                                                                 TODD
                                                           (uneasy)
                                Well, uh... It's pretty good.  I mean, with a
                                lot of irrigation you could grow any number
                                of types of... cactuses.

That's not what the older couple wanted to hear, either.  They look at one another unhappy.

Todd sighs and drips Murine into his stinging eyes.

Now a YOUNG HUSBAND and WIFE sits across from Todd looking very eager.

                                                                 YOUNG HUSBAND
                                Would you say that the houses are well-
                                constructed?

                                                                 TODD
                                Oh, definitely… By southern California standards.

                                                                 YOUNG HUSBAND
                                                           (suspicious)
                                What does that mean?

                                                                 TODD
                                Well, it never gets very cold out here so there's
                                no need to build a house the way they'd build it,
                                say, back east.

                                                                 YOUNG HUSBAND
                                So then what you're saying is that it's cheap
                                materials, right?

                                                                 TODD
                                                           (at a loss)
                                Uh... Not exactly.

The young husband and wife look at each other with a displeased expression.

EXT. GOLDEN HILLS - DUSK

Todd and the Sales Manager walk through the subdivision.  She looks perturbed and Todd is rubbing the knotted muscles in his shoulders.

                                                                 SALES MANAGER
                                Mr. Holman, you haven't sold one house
                                in six weeks.  I thought you were a top
                                salesman back in Missouri?

                                                                 TODD
                                                           (sighs)
                                I was. But this is a whole different market
                                with completely different product.

                                                                 S. M.
                                What do you mean?  You were selling houses
                                there and you're selling houses here.

                                                                 TODD
                                But they're not the same.  The houses I used
                                to sell were well-constructed, made of solid
                                materials.  Some of them had stood for fifty,
                                seventy-five or hundred years.  These houses
                                look like they'll fall down if you sneeze.

At which moment Todd sneezes.  Both he and the Sales Manager turn and look at the house for a brief, expectant moment.  It doesn't fall down.

                                                                 SALES MANAGER
                                                           (angry)
                                There's absolutely nothing wrong with these
                                houses, Mr. Holman.  I expect to see a drastic
                                improvement in your performance in the up-
                                coming weeks.

                                                                 TODD
                                When do I get paid?

                                                                 SALES MANAGER
                                For what?  You're on straight commission.  Sell
                                a house and you'll get paid.  See you Monday.
                                And have a nice weekend.

                                                                 TODD
                                Thank you.  You, too.

Todd gets into his car and watches the Sales Manager walk away.  He reaches into his glove box and removes a pint of Jack Daniels.  He closes his eyes and takes a big slug.  He exhales the hot fumes, opens his eyes and sees the Sales Manager looking right at him.  She frowns, shakes her head, turns and walks away.

                                                                 TODD
                                Oh, fuck.

He turns the key and the starter revs and revs and after a long, strained minute, finally catches.

INT. TODD'S CAR - DUSK

Todd is caught in a traffic jam and winces at the glare.  He coughs several times, then sneezes.  He rubs his aching head.

EXT. TODD'S BUILDING - MORNING

Todd steps out of his apartment in his suit and tie looking bleary-eyed.  He takes a deep breath of morning air, then coughs violently.  He walks around to the front lawn and squats down before a couple of scraggily-looking plants growing in the dry soil beneath his window.  Todd scrutinizes the plants and feels the yellowing leaves.  He shrugs helplessly and steps over to the coiled hose.  He turns on the faucet and begins watering his plants.  The landlord, George, steps up behind him.

                                                                 GEORGE
                                                           (pissed)
                                What the hell're you doing?

                                                                 TODD
                                                           (startled)
                                I'm watering my plants.

George grabs the hose.

                                                                 GEORGE
                                We're in the middle of a Goddamn drought
                                here, buddy.  If the tenants in my building
                                use too much water I get fined.  The hose
                                is off limits.

                                                                 TODD
                                But there's only a couple of plants here and
                                I just water them every other day.

                                                                 GEORGE
                                Not anymore.

                                                                 TODD
                                Fine.

George coils up the hose, disconnects it from the spigot and takes it away.

Todd looks down at the plants.

                                                                 TODD
                                It's you and me, guys.  Survival of the fittest.

Todd walks away and the dying plants continue the sag.

                                                                                                       DISSOLVE TO:

EXT. EVERGREENS - DAY

Big fluffy flakes of snow float down from the sky and settle of the limbs of Evergreen trees.  Our view moves over to...

EXT. HOLMAN HOUSE - DAY

Snow covers the roof and driveway.  The sound of a football game on TV is heard as well as a straining electric motor from the garage door.

INT. HOLMAN HOUSE - DAY

Mrs. Holman comes in from the garage wearing a big winter coat and gloves.  She steps into the living room where Mr. Holman sits in an oversized easy chair watching the football game and drinking a beer.  There is a big, decorated Christmas tree in the corner.

                                                                 MRS. H
                                The garage door's snowed in, I can't get it
                                open.

                                                                 MR. H
                                Where do you need to go on a day like this?

                                                                 MRS. H
                                Shopping.  For food.  You keep eating the stuff.

                                                                 MR. H
                                You're right.  I like food.  Get more.

                                                                 MRS. H
                                But I can't get out of the garage.

                                                                 MR. H
                                Well I'm busy.  Get Todd to do it.

                                                                 MRS. H
                                Todd's gone, remember.

Mr. Holman's face goes slack.

                                                                 MR. H
                                Right.  I forgot.
                                                           (stands up)
                                I'll do it.

As he walks past his wife the two of them look into each other's eyes for a moment with concerned expressions.

                                                                 MR. H
                                You think he's OK?

                                                                 MRS. H
                                Remember when Roger first moved out?  We
                                didn't hear from him for at least six months.

                                                                 MR. H
                                Yeah, but he was eighteen and went away
                                to college where at least I knew what he was
                                doing part of the time.  This kind of thing from
                                Todd makes me nervous.

                                                                 MRS. H
                                Todd could always take care of himself.  I'm
                                sure he's all right.

Mr. Holman doesn't look convinced.  Mrs. Holman walks away.  Mr. Holman gets his coat and gloves, but remains standing there with a furrowed brow.  He looks over at the Christmas tree.

Bing Crosby singing "White Christmas" fades in.

EXT. 5 FREEWAY - DAY

It's a solid traffic jam, as usual, on the 5 Freeway.  Todd's car is one of thousands inching their way along in the blinding sun.

INT. TODD'S CAR - DAY

Todd is already sweating as he sits in traffic.  The car has developed a disconcerting shudder every couple of seconds.  Der Bingle's voice begins to slow down like molasses are being poured down his throat.  Then it stops completely.  Todd ejects the tape, but it won't come out.  As he angrily jabs at the eject button, suddenly all of the red lights on his dashboard come on and his car stalls.

                                                                 TODD
                                                           (scared)
                                Oh no.

He tries to start it and it revs, but slower and slower and won't catch.  Meanwhile, traffic has inched forward and the cars behind him start to honk.

EXT. TODD'S CAR ON FREEWAY - DAY

Todd gets out of his stalled car, his flashers blinking, and opens the hood.  He looks at the engine but hasn't a clue what anything means.  Cars pour around him like a rock in a stream.  Many drivers express their dissatisfaction with the situation.

                                                                 DRIVER #1
                                Dumb asshole!

                                                                 DRIVER #2
                                Get the fuck off the road!

                                                                 DRIVER #3
                                Buy a real car!

Todd's eyes go completely dead.  Something important in his head has just snapped.

EXT. GOLDEN HILLS - DAY

A taxi pulls up in front of the sales office.  Todd gets out holding his jacket.  He's a total sweaty mess.  He goes around to the driver's window with his wallet in his hand.  The CABBY turns to Todd.

                                                                 CABBY
                                Sixty-eight fifty.

An expression of shock makes its way through Todd's new deadened look, but quickly disappears. Todd pays up.

INT. SALES OFFICE - DAY

Todd enters the sales office putting on his jacket.  He finds a new SALESMAN seated at the desk beside him.  Although the guy is dressed well, there's a sleazy, predatory glint in his eyes.  He is speaking to a middle-aged couple, MAN and WOMAN.

                                                                 SALESMAN
                                These homes are constructed of the finest
                                materials in the world and are assuredly the
                                most affordable homes in the Los Angeles
                                area.

                                                                 MAN
                                Just how far outside L.A. are we?

                                                                 SALESMAN
                                Fifteen minutes, and that's if the traffic's bad,
                                which it rarely is.

                                                                 WOMAN
                                I just love growing flowers, but the soils seems
                                rather dry.

                                                                 SALESMAN
                                It's not.  It's irrigated constantly.  You can grow
                                anything here: flowers, shrubs, grass, rice,
                                asparagus, anything.
                                                           (the man and woman look
                                                           at each other very impressed)
                                So, what'dya say?  This is the best deal you're
                                gonna find.  And you'd better not wait 'cause
                                these low prices won't last.

The man and woman look deep into each other's eyes, exchange unspoken words, smile and turn to the salesman.

                                                                 MAN
                                We'll take it.

                                                                 SALESMAN
                                Excellent.  A wise decision.

Todd can't believe what he's just seen come down.  The Sales Manager steps up behind him looking perturbed.

                                                                 SALES MANAGER
                                                           (sarcastic)
                                So, Mr. Holman, you finally decided to grace
                                us with your presence.  What was it?  A rerun
                                of "Green Acres" on you just couldn't miss?

                                                                 TODD
                                                           (flat tone)
                                Yeah.  That's it.  How'd you know?

                                                                 SALES MANAGER
                                Don't joke with me.  You'll regret it.

She steps up to the middle-aged couple and leads them to her office.  Todd watches her go, then turns and finds the new salesman staring at him.

                                                                 TODD
                                What're you looking at?

                                                                 SALESMAN
                                A loser.  The Sales Manager told me all
                                about you.

                                                                 TODD
                                                           (offended)
                                Well, hey, well fuck you and the horse you
                                rode in on.  And just by the way, you can't
                                grow asparagus here.

                                                                 SALESMAN
                                Who gives a shit?  I made more money today
                                than you made in the entire quarter.

                                                                 TODD
                                But you're a liar.

                                                                 SALESMAN
                                I'm a salesman.  I sell.  You tell the truth and
                                you don't sell.  Think about it.  I'm goin' to lunch.
                                Selling two houses in one morning makes me
                                hungry.

The salesman stands and leaves.  Todd watches him go, then stares morosely down at his desk.

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