Josh Becker

Based on a story

Josh Becker
Bruce Campbell


A FEMALE REPORTER steps up in front of the White House holding a microphone and speaking directly into the lens.

                                                                 FEMALE REPORTER
                                As election fever heats up, President Joseph K. Burton,
                                the Republican candidate, seems to be having some
                                problems . . .

NEWS MONTAGE: In stills, video tape clips, and political commercials we see PRESIDENT JOSEPH K. BURTON, forty-two years old, dark-hair, salt and pepper at the temples, square-jaw, tall, and handsome. Sort of like Dan Quayle, but a little more on the ball. We see the headline: "BURTON WINS LANDSLIDE VICTORY; 2nd Youngest President Since Teddy Roosevelt".

                                                                 FEMALE REPORTER
                                . . . President Burton scrupulously followed the Republican
                                party line, cutting funds to health care, education, and affirmative
                                action. He increased spending on military, jails, and police.
                                In the three and a half years that have elapsed since taking
                                office, crime rates are up, more illegal drugs are being smuggled
                                into the country annually, the jobless rate is up, the homeless
                                rate is up, but the prime rate is down. The Republicans are
                                so pleased with Joe Burton's performance that they have
                                vigorously gotten behind him as he makes his bid for reelection.
                                Then why isn't he doing better at the polls? Quite frankly,
                                President Burton is acting rather, well, odd, I guess is
                                the best way to put it . . .



President Joe Burton's eye twitches. He reaches up and rubs it, but it doesn't stop. He looks up the long, mahogany conference table where there sit two long rows of men, some in suits, some in military uniforms, all facing him and all the men are pretending like they're not looking at his twitching eye, which they are. A big, barrel-chested black man in a general's uniform, GENERAL SEAHOLM, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks:

                                                                 GENERAL SEAHOLM
                                By only having nineteen stealth bombers, we are
                                limited to merely being able to destroy the world
                                only four-point-four times. Whereas, if we had a
                                twentieth stealth bomber, we could effectively
                                destroy the entire world five times! That is a huge
                                increase of destructive capability for basically a
                                very small investment.

Joe interjects, his twitching eyebrow raised:

                                Ah yes. How much is this very small investment,

General Seaholm turns to his aide and exchanges whisper and papers.

                                                                 GENERAL SEAHOLM
                                Twenty billion, Mr. President.

                                And where, may I ask, is this twenty billion dollars
                                coming from?

The tall, wiry, gray-haired, Secretary of State, HENRY HARRISON, stands up with a document in his hand.

                                From a very simple cut in unneeded and wasteful
                                health care spending.

                                What kind of unneeded and wasteful health care
                                spending, Secretary of State Harrison?

                                Does it matter?

                                I think it does.

                                Very well then, from over-staffed, under-used, county
                                hospitals and clinics for the poor. It will never be missed
                                in that morass of wasted money, I assure you. Besides,
                                not only do the poor not vote Republican, they don't
                                vote at all!

This gets a chuckle from the assembly. Joe turns to General Seaholm.

                                                           (nods; considering)
                                And you say we need this twentieth stealth bomber,

                                                                 GENERAL SEAHOLM
                                Desperately, Mr. President.

The bill is slid forward and a pen is put into Joe's hand. Joe looks up the long table at the eager, expectant faces all gazing back at him. Joe hesitates, unsure. Secretary of State Harrison leans over Joe's shoulder.

                                It's the right thing to do, Mr. President. God Bless

                                God bless America.

Joe still hesitates. His eye twitches. Everyone stares at him in unflinching silence.

                                God bless America.

There is a general sigh of relief from the multitude. Joe looks at the military men crowding around him and smiles. They all smile back. Joe puts the point of the pen to the line marked "President Joseph K. Burton." The pen tip forms the letters one by one that spell Joe's name,
"J-O-S-E-P-H K-. B-U-R-T-O-N . . . "

A red rubber stamp slams down on the front page of the document stating, "PASSED."

The document is placed in a copier, the top is slammed down, the light flashes, and collated copies begin firing out of the machine.

Copies of the document are twisted into plastic containers, which are fed into pneumatic pipes and sucked into the various government buildings around Washington, D.C.

The document is taken out of its plastic container and dropped into a bin marked, "IMMEDIATE BUSINESS."

Mighty redwood trees crash to the ground.

Spinning blades rip the wood to pulp.

Bundles of paper come off the conveyor belt and are automatically wrapped.

Copiers of every shape and size create thousands of duplicates.

Fax machines spit the document out in curved ribbons.

Now a copier fires out sheet after sheet of pink paper.

White-coated doctors, nurses, and orderlies open envelopes revealing the pink slips -- they're all fired.


The county hospital in Akron, Ohio is a deco, late 1920's building in a bad part of town. A sign in front says, "Akron, Ohio, County Hospital."


A DOCTOR in a white coat with a stethoscope around his neck walks up the hospital corridor with a pink slip in his hand. He passes the nurses station where all the nurses and orderlies are studying their own pink slips. The Doctor enters a hospital room.


This is a large room for ten, pathetic-looking patients in various states of disrepair. In a corner bed is KEVIN GROVES, forty-two years old, but missing all of his hair. Beside Kevin's bed sits his attractive though sad, thirty-six year old, wife, MOLLY, and his bespectacled, nerd, eight year old son, DELBERT. The Doctor steps up, holds out the pink slip and sadly sighs.

                                But, doctor, what about my husband?

                                You'll have to continue the treatment privately.

                                But Kevin's been bed-ridden and out of work for
                                two years. We don't have any money. Delbert
                                and I are running the farm ourselves now.

                                                           (honestly sorry)
                                I'm very sorry, Mrs. Groves, but they're shutting
                                the whole facility down. I'm out of a job, too.

                                I'm sorry, doctor.

The doctor looks at this sad little family and shakes his head.

                                I'm sorry, too, Mrs.Groves.

Kevin looks around in a confused, dying daze.


A little farmhouse sits on the hilly Ohio ground, bathed in moonlight. Beside the house are a tilled field, a barn, and a broken windmill.


Molly and Delbert sit in very similar positions around Kevin's sickbed -- both are asleep. Kevin opens his eyes, reaches upward and begins to moan. Molly and Delbert both wake up. Molly jumps to her feet. Kevin reaches toward her, his bloodshot eyes wide open.

                                We gotta get those seeds in the ground before
                                the storm comes!
                                                           (he points at Delbert)
                                You! Put the combine in the barn!
                                                           (Points at Molly)
                                You! Put the chickens in the coop! We gotta
                                be ready!!!

Kevin's hand drops to the bed, his head droops over and he dies. Molly takes hold of her dead husband, drops her head on his chest and cries. Suddenly, Kevin bursts awake, sits up and grabs Delbert's shirt, frightening both he and Molly.

                                Is the combine in the barn? Tell me the combine's
                                in the barn?

Molly shakes her head yes to Delbert, who nods.

                                Yeah, sure it is.

                                Thank God.

Kevin dies again, this time for keeps.


It's a sunny summer day at the White House.


Joe Burton and a Presidential AIDE, a sharp young man, finish going over his correspondence. Joe looks weary.

                                Is that it?

The aide holds yet another pile of envelopes.

                                Just this unimportant, personal junk, Mr. President.

The aide sets the mail down and leaves. Joe glances at the top envelope, the return address coming from Akron, Ohio. Joe smiles.

                                Akron, that's my hometown.

Joe opens the letter-it's an invitation to Kevin Groves' funeral. Joe's eyes widen in horror.

                                Kevin was my best friend. He's dead?

There is an accompanying note which Joe reads:

                                " . . . My name's Molly, I was Kevin Grove's wife.
                                I know Kevin was a boyhood friend of yours. Even
                                though you guys haven't seen in each other in twenty-
                                five years, Kevin was always very proud of your
                                friendship. Sadly, Kevin died when they closed
                                the county hospital which had him on a special treat-
                                ment. We couldn't afford the treatment privately, it
                                would have been thousands of dollars . . . "

Joe glances at the Washington Post sitting on his desk, the headline stating: "MILITARY GETS 20TH STEALTH BOMBER." The sub-headline reads: "Massive Cost Overrun; Bomber Costs $60 Billion!" Joe holds his aching head.

Joe looks up and his eye starts to really twitch.

                                                           (still reading)
                                " . . . Anyway, hope to see you at the funeral, 10:00
                                A.M., June 9th . . . "

Joe glances at the calendar: June 6th.

                                Three days.
                                                           (continues reading)
                                " . . . Love, Molly Groves."

Joe pushes the button on his complicated phone system.

                                                           (into speaker phone)
                                Get me Secretary of State Harrison, please.


A very, very old black man, the white house washroom attendant, SAM WILSON, answers the phone.

                                                           (into the phone)


Joe looks at his phone hatefully.

                                Damn this thing!

                                Mr. President? That you?

                                Yes, Sam, it's me.

                                Ya know, I been the washroom attendant here
                                at the White House nay unto fifty year now. I
                                started under Harry Truman, then come, uh . . .
                                Uh . . . Who come next?

                                Eisenhower, look, Sam, we'll talk later, OK?

                                Tha's right, Eisenhower, good ol' Ike. Ya know,
                                he was a General first before he was president.
                                He was the commander of the Axis armies.

                                Allies, Sam. I'll talk to you later.

Joe hangs up. He studies the phone closely, then deliberately pushes a button. An OPERATOR comes on the line.

                                Yes, Mr. President?

                                Get me the Secretary of State, please.

                                Yes, sir.

The door to the oval office opens and Henry Harrison enters. Joe looks surprised and hangs up.

                                That was quick.

                                No, actually it was rather slow with all the traffic. .

                                So, Henry, how do my next three days look?

Harrison looks in a date book.

                                Actually, hellish would be the word I'd choose, although
                                brutal might also be appropriate. If you weren't such a
                                robust young man I don't know how you'd get through
                                an overloaded schedule like this: rallies, meetings, inter-
                                views, speeches, and more speeches. Me, well, I haven't
                                got the strength anymore. In fact, lately I've had a sharp
                                pain in my Gluteus Maximus . . .
                                                           (Harrison winces; Joe's eye
                                                           continues to twitch)
                                Do you feel all right, sir?

Joe sits down and wipes his brow.

                                A little light-headed, perhaps.

                                It's not the appropriate time for a summer cold, sir,
                                you haven't got a minute to spare.

                                Thank you, Henry. Could I have a moment, here.

                                Certainly, sir.

Harrison exits. Joe pulls the funeral invitation out of his pocket

                                                           (sighs sadly)
                                Sorry, Kev, it doesn't look like I can make it.
                                I guess I never could make it for you, not when
                                you got married, or when your kid was born, or
                                even when you died. I'm sorry, buddy.

Joe's eye keeps right on twitching. Joe picks up the phone and punches the button.

                                Get me an outside line, please.

Sam, the washroom attendant, answers.

                                . . . Then, after Ike come, uh . . . uh . . .

                                Damn this phone!

                                . . . Uh . . . Ford?

                                No, after Ike was Kennedy, Sam.

                                Yeah, that's right. Good ol' Jack Kennedy. Ya
                                know, sometimes he'd go see Marilyn Mon-roe,
                                and when he come home he have her lipstick all
                                over his collar --

                                                           (cuts him off)
                                -- I'll talk to you later, Sam.

Joe disconnects. He studies the phone with his twitching eye, then pushes a button. The female operator returns.

                                Yes, Mr. President?

                                I'd like an outside line, please?

                                . . . Why?

                                Do I have to have a reason?

                                But you've never asked for an outside line before.
                                I'm not sure it's wired that way. I might have to
                                get a repairman out to fix it.

                                Oh, for goodness sake! Why don't you just try first.

                                All right, sir, I'll try.

Joe hears a series of weird electronic noises, culminating in . . .

                                . . . Then, after Kennedy come, uh . . . Ford?

                                No, not Ford. After Kennedy came Johnson.

                                Oh, yeah. LBJ. He was from Texas, ya know. Me
                                and him didn't get on too well. I don' think he like
                                colored folk much.

                                I'm sorry to hear that, Sam, I'll get back to you.

Joe disconnects. His eye is really twitching now. Joe taps his finger for a second, then pushes the button on his phone. The Operator comes back on.

                                Yes, Mr. President?

                                That outside line, please.

                                Oh, you didn't get it?


                                I'll try again, sir.

Magically, Joe gets a dial tone. He looks at Molly's note, which has a telephone number, and Joe dials it. It rings several times, then a recording kicks in.

                                I'm sorry, the number you have dialed has been
                                disconnected. No new number is available. Please
                                hang up and try your call again later. Thank you
                                for using Ohio Bell/Tele/DigiCom Systems, where
                                we're pleased to help you.

Joe forlornly hangs up.

                                                           (to himself)
                                What have I done?

And his eye keeps right on twitching . . .



Joe looks like hell as he wearily disrobes beside a big bed. With his pants off, wearing under-shorts, a shirt and a tie, Joe opens the bathroom door on the left side of the room, goes in and shuts the door behind him.

The bathroom door on the right side of the room opens and out steps Joe's wife, the First Lady,
an attractive, forty-year-old, diminutive, blonde named NORA. She is wearing a white nightgown and rubs cream into her hands. Having too much cream left, Nora goes back into the bathroom on the right.

The bathroom door to the left reopens. Out steps Joe holding a toothbrush, a bent tube of toothpaste, and a ribbon of red toothpaste gel on his white shirt. The bathroom door on the right opens and out steps Nora, now with tissues stuck to the dried cream on her hands. She and Joe confront each other across the bed.


                                Who were you expecting, the Joint Chiefs of Staff?

                                Don't start with me, mister. I don't have the where-
                                withal to deal with you now?

                                Did you ever?

                                Quite frankly, no. You've always bored me.

                                Then why did you marry me?

                                Because my uncle, the former President, felt it
                                would be a good match; that it might lead to another
                                Presidency. Well, he was right. It did. And who
                                cares, I'd like to know?

                                You did at first; so did I.

                                Well, the party's over and it's time for all good
                                men to come to the aid of their own lives.

                                What does that mean?

                                That means, Mr. President, that I want to see some
                                changes in you, and soon, or I'll make so much
                                trouble that you'll never get reelected.

                                Oh, my heart's breakin', lady. You think this is
                                such a great job and you got ripped-off 'cause you're
                                the wife of the President instead of being the damn
                                President yourself? Well, I'd give it all to you
                                in a second if I could. But I can't. And you
                                couldn't handle it, anyway.

                                I couldn't, huh? Not like you? Joe, look at yourself,
                                you're a wreck. You're tip-toeing on the edge of a
                                nervous breakdown. You'll never make it to the
                                elections at the rate you're going.

                                Jump in a lake.

                                No, you!





                                                           (going for it)
                                Yeah, well . . . you're unattractive!

                                Oh, yeah??!!

At which point the First Lady begins throwing things at the President. She grabs knick-knacks off a bookshelf and hurls them at Joe. A plaque above the bookshelf reads: "The knick-knacks of Martha Washington, 1777." The little ceramic pieces explode against the wall as Joe ducks and sways in his under-shorts, shirt and tie. Suddenly the President's two Secret Service AGENTS burst out the bathroom door on the left with their pistols drawn. They both take aim at the First Lady.

                                                                 AGENT #1
                                Drop it!

                                                                 AGENT #2
                                You heard the man, drop it!

Just then, the First Lady's two Secret Service AGENTS burst through the other bathroom door aiming their weapons at the other two agents.

                                                                 AGENT #3
                                Aim those weapons away from the First Lady, if
                                you please, gentlemen!

                                                                 AGENT #1
                                I'm afraid not, Bob. Not until she stops threatening
                                the President of the United States.

                                                                 AGENT #3
                                You threaten the First Lady, Ted, you're threatening
                                me. You know that.

Nobody moves. It's a stand-off.


We're back in the White House conference room with it's long Mahogany table. General Seaholm is addressing the assembly, facing the President at the end of the table. We see that not only is Joe's eye twitching, his eyes are also bloodshot, he hasn't shaved, and he keeps rubbing his nose.

                                                                 GENERAL SEAHOLM
                                . . . And that's why I feel we need another BEEZWACS
                                surveillance jet. With a twenty-fifth BEEZWACS jet, not
                                a creature will stir on this planet that we in the American
                                military won't know about, ready to swoop down and
                                annihilate them at a moment's notice.

Suddenly, Joe shoves his baby finger deeply up his nose and starts to seriously dig around. Everyone at the table acts like they're not seeing what the President is doing. Joe doesn't get anything very good out of his nose, looks at his finger, then goes back at it, vigorously.

                                And how much will this jet cost, General?

                                                                 GENERAL SEAHOLM
                                Well, sir, the BEEZWACS surveillance jets are quite a
                                bargain at only fifteen billion dollars each.

                                You told me the stealth bomber would cost $20 billion,
                                but, in fact, it cost $60 billion. That was some bargain,

There is a hushed silence. General Seaholm looks embarrassed.

                                                                 GENERAL SEAHOLM
                                Where did you hear that, sir?

                                It's the headline of the newspaper, General.

Joe holds up the newspaper. Everyone at the table laughs.

                                                                 GENERAL SEAHOLM
                                You don't actually believe everything you read in
                                the newspaper, do you, sir?

                                Are you trying to tell me that it didn't cost $60 billion?

                                                                 GENERAL SEAHOLM
                                Why, that's nothing but an exaggerated smear-job from
                                the lily-hearted liberal press.

                                Well, then, how much did this stealth bomber cost?

The General checks his notes.

                                                                 GENERAL SEAHOLM
                                Well, that is, uh, not quite $57 billion, sir. And the
                                reason the aircraft doesn't fly has nothing to do with
                                the cost overrun.

                                It doesn't fly?

                                                                 GENERAL SEAHOLM
                                Not as yet, sir. It will soon. And we are going to hold
                                the most diligent hearings ever convened to discover who
                                is responsible for installing one of the engines backwards.
                                I'm telling you, sir, as an eyewitness, it was not a pretty
                                sight when that aircraft started its engines and began spiral-
                                ling like a pinwheel. It's Goddamn lucky more people didn't
                                get killed.

                                How many people got killed?

                                                                 GENERAL SEAHOLM
                                Just two, sir. Minor in the scheme of things. Luckily, they
                                were only civilians.

                                Only civilians!?

Secretary of State Harrison jumps up, interjecting:

                                Thank you, gentlemen, that will be all for today.

Everyone rises to their feet, collecting their notes. Harrison produces a portable electric shaver from his briefcase, holding out to the President. He flicks it on with a buzz.

                                Nice, eh? Got it from the Sharper Image Catalog.
                                Works in zero G's. Would you like to use it?

Joe swats the shaver away.

                                Get that thing out of my face, Harrison! I know what
                                you're up to, don't think I don't. I'm onto your every

Joe stomps out of the room, slamming the door. Harrison turns to all the other men at the table, the buzzing shaver in his hand. All the men cough simultaneously, shutting their briefcases.



The Presidential Aide looks at a notebook while standing before an unshaven Joe at his desk.

                                It seems that your next meeting has canceled, sir.
                                You have ten clear minutes. I'll leave you to your
                                Presidential thoughts.

The Aide exits.

                                Joe's weary, blood-shot eyes twitch. He hasn't shaved in several days.                                 Although he's wearing a suit and tie, when he crosses his legs we see that he's                                 wearing brown leather bedroom slippers, which he's flicking on his toe                                 nervously.

                                I'm surrounded by imbeciles. What does my average
                                constituent think is important? That's what matters.
                                                           (looks around)
                                Where on Earth is a phone book?

He looks all over and finally spots a phone book on top of a tall bureau. Joe grabs an old chair with a brass plaque which Joe reads:

                                "From the White House of Andrew Jackson, 1802."

Joe steps on the wicker seat of the chair and puts his foot right through it.

                                                           (rolls his eyes)
                                Of all the . . .

He pulls his foot out of the chair, losing his slipper. Joe grabs another chair, this one has a brass plaque reading:

                                "From the White House of Abraham Lincoln, 1862."
                                No kidding?

Joe sets the chair down, then knocks on the seat with his fist -- it's solid wood. He puts his foot on the seat and, once again, goes right through.

Joe grabs yet another chair, the brass plaque on this one reading:

                                "George Washington's favorite chair, 1776."

Joe stands on either edge of this chair, grabs the phonebook, then the chair beneath him collapses completely. Joe falls backwards on a table. Joe glances at the brass plaque on the table he's just smashed:

                                "The actual table where the Declaration of Independence
                                was signed."
                                I'm sure.

Joe takes the phone book to his desk, opens it at random and points. Once again, Joe attempts to make a phone call with his overly complicated telephone.

                                Get me an outside line, please.

                                Hello, Mr. President. Now where was I? Oh, after
                                Johnson come, uh . . . uh . . . Ford?

                                No, Sam, it was Nixon.

                                Oh, yeah. Very friendly man, Mr. Nixon. Religious,
                                too. Damn shame about that Whitewatergate business.

                                Right. Look, Sam, you're an average guy, wouldn't
                                you say?

                                Hell, I'm the only black man I know of been consistently
                                employed for over fifty year at better than minimum wage.
                                That makes me plenty odd right there. I'm ninety-six years
                                old, I've known eleven presidents, and I've spent seventy
                                years in a bathroom, there ain't nothin' average 'bout me.
                                But what'dya wanna know, maybe I can he'p anyway.

                                Well, Sam, what'dya think the average person wants out
                                of life?

                                Well, I'd have t' say, to be happy, healthy, free o' debt,
                                and not die screamin'. 'Course, most people don' get
                                that much. Ya know, it's like president Henry Ford
                                done said, "A chicken in every pot."

                                That was Gerald Ford. I mean, it wasn't Gerald
                                Ford, it was FDR.

                                FDR was in a wheelchair, ya know. But that man
                                sure could get around. Whoops, gotta go. Bye.

Sam hangs up. Joe's eye is twitch-twitch-twitching away.

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