That which separates men from boys is not time but the
significance of secrets.
FADE IN ON:
THE AMERICAN FLAG - DAY - LONG TAKE
This is not the washed-out flag of a World War II movie. We
CRANE DOWN from its bright, Crayola colors to a second FLAG,
which features a beautiful TALL SHIP and the legend "Ars
CRANE DOWN ON:
EXT. SMALL ELEMENTARY SCHOOL - MIDDAY
A small school for a small town. Kindergarten through 8th
grade, all in one pretty package. The sun shines, birds
sing. Ah, school days...
MAIN CREDITS - Simple, understated. Nostalgia.
PUSH IN THROUGH:
THE FRONT DOOR
to a long, empty HALLWAY lined with lockers and banners.
The calm before a storm. A CUSTODIAN looks at his watch and
suddenly vanishes into shadows. Perfect SILENCE.
TITLE CARD: "SQUATTY-BODY." A BELL RINGS.
Time for lunch...Complete chaos. TEACHERS struggle against a
tide of pubescent humanity. One TEACHER is visibly losing
TEACHER ON THE EDGE
(to a bemused COLLEAGUE)
God, I never had this much energy.
PUSH IN SLOWLY THROUGH:
Lockers slamming on Pee-Chee folders and teen-mag photos of
Sarah Michelle Gellar and the Backstreet Boys.
A hormonal seventh-grade BOY pretends to listen to a
developing seventh-grade GIRL's ongoing prattle, his gaze
flicking between her eyes and her chest as she crams papers
into her overstuffed locker. She's a good two feet taller
than he is.
So then Heather's like, "Omigawd," and
I'm all, "Whatever," and she's all like,
"Talk to the hand," and I'm just like,
"As if! Hel-luh!" So then Lacey comes
by, and I'm like, so, whatever, that
she's all goin', all, y'know, like, I
don't know, what's your problem, so I'm
For several beats his timing is perfect, nimbly catching her
face as she occasionally glances his way. But soon she
notices him ogling her training bra, and she decks him quite
effectively in the mouth.
DEVELOPING GIRL (CONT'D)
PUSH IN THROUGH:
A seventh-grade BULLY drags a LITTLE KID inexorably toward a
Come on, it's swirly time for you,
(the SCREAM of the damned)
PUSH IN AND PAN RIGHT WITH:
A NEO-HIPPIE SEVENTH-GRADER as he ducks around a row of
lockers for a surreptitious smoke. No sooner is the
CIGARETTE placed between his lips when...
...a BIGGER KID walks by and grabs the cigarette. No sooner
is the cigarette lit (via cheap plastic LIGHTER) when...
...the Teacher on the Edge walks past and calmly takes the
cigarette away. Bigger Kid freaks and bails.
The Teacher on the Edge turns one more corner, then takes a
long, desperate drag on the cigarette.
Upside-down LEGS with ratty-sneaker-clad feet flail and kick
from the business end of a trash can as bodies ebb and flow
MUFFLED WIMP VOICE
Let me out!
Ignoring the Wimp, another KID drops half a bologna sandwich
into the trash can on top of the kicking legs.
Hoagies and grinders. Navy beans, navy beans...
Some THIRD-GRADER laughs until milk shoots out his nose.
SIXTH-GRADERS use rehydrated mashed potatoes as paste to
stick their trays to the underside of a table.
Giggling GIRLS sneak furtive looks at boys, then toggle
origami fortune-telling hand puppets at each other.
JUNIOR HIGH GIRL 1
You're gonna marry Brian Castle!
JUNIOR HIGH GIRL 2
But he's so gay!
Behold that A.D.D. KID who's compelled to mash all the food
items on his tray together into one nauseating pile. Two
seventh-grade boys eye this sick little spectacle.
END LONG TAKE ON:
The first is ARMIN, a thin boy who could be Indian, could be
Jewish, could be black. It doesn't matter as long as his
hair's got a cowlick and his lunch bag holds a PB&J and a
Phantom Menace thermos full of strawberry milk.
The second is SCHUYLER. Despite this unfortunate nom
d'ecole, he's a cool kid with frenetic blonde hair and
perpetual earphones. Someday all the girls will want him and
he'll be fine with that, but for now his days revolve around
just Armin, Beck, pre-algebra and mystery meat.
Schuyler notices something interesting across the room.
Hey, Armin, check out Mr. Weeks.
HERO CUT TO:
MR. WEEKS (47)
sits alone at a table. Brylcreamed, Grecian Formulaed, and
still dressed for a sock hop in 1999: White button-up shirt
with a '70s collar, knife-sharp pleats on black polyester
trousers, and thin black nylon socks that accordion down
around his hairy ankles.
He gazes off into space. Absentmindedly attempts to drink
from the unopened corner of a half-pint of milk.
OVERLAPPING CUT TO:
Oh my God, what a feeb.
It's a wonder he can see to find his food
with those Coke-bottle glasses of his.
Are you kidding? It's a wonder he can't
OVERLAPPING CUT TO:
who picks dejectedly at what might be this school's version
of turkey and gravy.
OVERLAPPING CUT TO:
Are you ready for Biology today? Totally
gross-out city again. Cutting up
Schuyler, please, don't remind me. I've
already been forced to look at that.
THE A.D.D. KID
who dumps cherry Kool-Aid on his ongoing recipe for
repulsion. PUSH IN on the mess (EXTREME C.U.)--
MATCH DISSOLVE TO:
A SIMILAR SOGGY MESS - EXTREME C.U.
The biggest, gooiest, formaldehyde biology FROG CADAVER
you've ever seen.
SMASH CUT TO:
INT. BIOLOGY CLASSROOM
Armin and Schuyler regard this ex-amphibian with queasily
I knew I shouldn't have eaten in the
lunchroom today...This is gonna be touch
and go, dude.
Yeah, that strawberry milk I just drank
is not sittin' right.
The class BELL RINGS.
This BIOLOGY LAB is a recent addition to the building, but it
still somehow looks as if it might have been built in the
late 1950s. Wally Cleaver might have studied here. The only
recent addition is a POSTER of Al Gore that says, "Learning
About Science Is Way Cool!"
Mr. Weeks' nasal voice CUTS THROUGH the students' CHATTER. A
giant MAGNIFYING MIRROR looms over him, another frog caught
in its unblinking stare.
All right, children, time to listen and
not talk. As you know, today we'll be
dissecting Rana catesbeiana, the common
He finds himself standing in front of Veep Al Gore, who is
almost (but not quite) as charismatic as he is.
MR. WEEKS (CONT'D)
...bullfrog. This will complete our unit
on the amphibian vertebrate.
INTERCUTTING - THE CLASS AND MR. WEEKS
The students pair up and prod queasily at their frog
cadavers. Each student has a work partner except for one
Japanese-American boy, TETSUO.
MR. WEEKS (CONT'D)
Next week, of course, we'll be examining
the reptiles, and after that, we'll move
on to the warm-blooded chordates. All
right, then. Are we all matched together
with our work partners?
Hormonal Boy stands wildly grinning next to Developing Girl,
who frowns and covers her chest with both arms.
Tetsuo stands alone, slump-shouldered. He sighs, resigning
himself to his lot in this life.
MR. WEEKS (CONT'D)
All right, then. The knife in front of
you is your scalpel. One of you take the
scalpel firmly by the handle--
The classroom door OPENS.
HERO CUT TO:
RALPH GASTNER (14)
Strolling in. Tall. Lanky. Long dark hair. The kind of
kid who could either turn into the next Howard Stern...or
your next wise-ass gas station attendant. H.O.R.D.E.
T-shirt. Combat boots.
SERIES OF CUTS
MR. WEEKS (CONT'D)
Well, good afternoon, Mr. Gastner. It's
thoughtful of you to fit us into your
busy schedule like this.
Ralph strolls through the classroom doing his ritualistic
daily meet-and-greet with the class.
How's it hangin' there, Squatty-Body?
This elicits nervous LAUGHTER from the students because,
well...the nickname sort of fits. Ralph is two inches taller
than Mr. Weeks.
We'll discuss this after class, Ralph.
For now just stand with your work
partner. Don't actually do anything, of
course...Just stand there.
Tetsuo, a smart kid, is none too happy about being paired up
(affably nudging Tetsuo)
Ralph finally gets a good look at the ex-frog in front of
Whoa, hey, what have we here?
Frog day, of course, is a license to kill.
Tetsuo fidgets as Ralph hops up to sit on the dissection
All right. Now. What you want to do is
make one very shallow cut right up the
center of the abdomen, from the ...where
the cloaca would be...to the middle of
the throat. Then go over that cut with
the scissors until you've cut through the
skin--Are you listening, Mr. Gastner?
Ralph is using the frog as an action figure, dancing it
around the table and making it punch at Tetsuo's face. He
tosses it messily back onto the table.
I'm all ears, Mr. Squatty-Body.
Armin leans over and whispers into Schuyler's ear.
He's gonna give Mr. Weeks a nervous
Schuyler lifts one earphone, which faintly warbles TOOL.
MR. WEEKS (OVERLAPPING)
Now you want to use the scissors to make
a cut from side to side between the
anterior legs, the front legs.
The A.D.D. Kid stabs the frog like Norman Bates with the
scalpel as his pigtailed work partner looks on in horror.
MR. WEEKS (CONT'D)
Now do the same for the posterior or rear
legs. Are you getting this, Mary?
Ralph holds the frog up with one hand and saws grimly at the
carcass with the scalpel in the other. MARY, a freckled
cutie, sees this and covers her mouth with both hands.
I think I'm gonna throw up!
You're excused to the ladies' room, Mary.
Mary flees the grisly scene past Ralph, who makes his frog
Tetsuo has given up and sits some distance away making a
house out of baseball cards. He doesn't even flinch when
"the frog" knocks it over.
MR. WEEKS (CONT'D)
Mr. Gastner, please make some attempt to
avoid spraying the entire contents of
your frog over every square inch of this
classroom. It's unsanitary.
(pinning the frog down)
Sure thing, Squatty-Body.
Mr. Weeks pushes his glasses farther back on his beak of a
nose. Continues resignedly.
Now, you'll want to separate two flaps of
skin from the muscle tissue below so he
has a little vest, like this, you see?
And then pin the flaps of skin down at
the sides of the frog...
Most of the teams are working perfectly.
Ralph, however, grabs both flaps of skin and yanks them apart
like the trench coat of a stereotypical flasher:
(to a female student)
Hey, little girl. Bwaha!
(starting to shake)
Mister Gastner, we are attempting to
perform a very complicated task. Would
you please let your fellow students
complete their assignment in peace? If
you don't want to learn today, that's
fine. But please don't subject us to all
your perversions in one day.
You've got a lot of pent-up anger there,
I wonder why. Now, as I was saying,
you'll want to cut through the thin
abdominal muscles, much the same as you
cut through the skin, up the center of
Meanwhile, Ralph has his T-shirt up over his mouth and nose
like a surgical mask. He has two compass points jabbed into
the frog like chopsticks and uses them to jolt it off the
table like a defibrillator.
(makes a defib sound effect)
More suction, nurse! We're losing him!
Get me George Clooney stat!
Mr. Weeks' teeth are grinding together like a nutcracker.
Be careful not to damage the organs
Not damage the organs?
Ahh, horse piss!
(looking up; grinning)
...Um, as my dear departed granddad used
to say. What a character!
You can do this assignment later, Tetsuo.
No points deducted.
Man, I'm hungry. Hey, there, Tetsuo-san,
you up for some fresh Cajun food?
He uses the scalpel to hold up a messily severed frog leg.
Tetsuo puts his head down on his desk and tries to sleep
behind folded arms.
I was born in San Diego.
Mr. Weeks continues grimly with the scholastic equivalent of
the gruelling Bataan Death March. A single BEAD OF SWEAT
runs down the side of his face. In the mirror, a frog's
innards are expertly exposed.
Now when you get to just below the front
legs, you'll feel--
Two students wrestle clumsily with their frog cadaver.
--resistance. Those are chest bones.
Just turn sideways with the scissors to
cut through them.
Ralph has his frog laying open on its back, a gory mess.
"They can never take...our freedom!"
MR. WEEKS (OVERLAPPING)
Then make horizontal cuts through the
muscle at the front and back legs--
Twenty-eight seventh-grade Dr. Kildares make very little
sound as they mutilate fourteen ex-Kermits. Armin and
Schuyler are doing masterful work of their own.
--like you did with the skin...
Ralph has stabbed through his frog's back with a pencil and
now spins the cadaver like a pinwheel. He stops--This
maneuver has given him an idea.
Use the forceps and scalpel to separate
and pin back the little folds of muscle.
Mr. Weeks continues speaking but watches Ralph out of the
corner of his Palomar glasses. The sweat has now reached his
chin and hangs precariously like a climber on K2.
You can also do the same--
Ralph reaches into his backpack...
...The bead of sweat falls from Mr. Weeks' chin at last. We
almost hear it...
...Ralph withdraws a SHURIKEN--the so-called Ninja Throwing
Star. A thin, black metal snowflake with eight sharpened
points. In the center is a red Chinese GLYPH that means
Mr. Weeks spots the shuriken.
MR. WEEKS (CONT'D)
--to the small triangular flaps of muscle
loose at the neck...
Ralph pins the frog down on its back, legs splayed. Slowly
rolls the star up toward the frog's crotch.
(as Sean Connery)
"Do you expect me to talk?"
(as himself, only happier)
No, Mr. Frog! I expect you to--
The star is SNATCHED AWAY fast as a lightning bolt.
HERO CUT TO:
(holding the star)
Mr. Weeks is silhouetted by dusty shafts of warm afternoon
sunlight. For a moment he's like some stunted caricature of
Indiana Jones, gnomelike but impressive nonetheless.
You have discovered the limits of my
tolerance, Mr. Gastner. Congratulations.
Armin stares in open-mouthed astonishment. Even Schuyler
takes off his earphones and turns off his Sony Discman.
Blammo-cam push in on...
(quietly, to himself)
Ho-lee crap. He's gone postal.
The entire room falls utterly silent.
(recovering his composure)
Hey, that--that's mine!
Mr. Weeks carries the star toward his lab table, dragging it
with a squeal across a nervous student's desk.
Not anymore it isn't--
He STOPS COLD. Turns to look at Ralph. Lifts the shuriken.
You don't even know what you have here,
Sure I do, Mr. Squatty-Body. It's a
Chinese throwing star--
It's a shuriken. I studied shuriken-do
at the feet of Master Shirakami in Kobe,
1972 and '73. Where did you study,
You can throw that?
I've put up with your antics for twelve
weeks now, and enough is enough. The
other students want to learn. But
everyday it's "horse piss" this and
"Squatty-Body" that with you and the
truth is, you've just worn out my last
Ralph figures he's danced this little cha-cha before.
All right, I know, go to Admin...
Mr. Weeks suddenly shoves Ralph back down in his seat. The
hand holding Ralph down is a vise, which he vaguely tries to
shoo away but can't.
You're not going to Admin this time.
They don't know what to do with you
there. See, actually, you haven't fooled
anyone. All your teachers know how smart
you are, Ralph, but you don't want to be
thought of as a nerd, some kind of
misfit, unless the lack of conformity is
on your own terms.
Thanks a lot, Dr. Freud--
Shut up. I'm not through with you yet.
See, if you were just some moron with an
attitude problem I wouldn't bother. I'd
have you drummed out of school and peel
off laughing when you got stuck serving
me tacos at some drive-through fast food
restaurant. But you have an excellent
brain in that meter-thick skull of yours,
Gastner. And I'm tired of watching you
let it go to waste because you never
learned proper discipline.
Of course, Ralph is at least a bit anxious...but he can't let
that show in front of kids his own age.
Oh, and I guess you're the one who's
gonna teach me?
Mr. Weeks stares Ralph down. Lifts the shuriken purposefully
and holds it up about an inch from Ralph's face. Ralph isn't
In one sudden practiced move, Mr. Weeks' right arm arcs to
extend outwards. This bullwhip spin is imparted to the
shuriken, which flies outward from his fingers like some
SIDE ANGLE ON:
...Ralph and Mr. Weeks as the star spins toward CAMERA like
the destroyer at the beginning of Star Wars, a lethal
...with the shuriken as it saws through the air, floating
past the dropped jaws of Armin and Schuyler, lazily banking
onto its side...
"SHURI-CAM" PUSH IN ON:
...the Al Gore poster, as we jet toward his wooden face with
the shuriken spinning just beneath us...
The shuriken STABS into the wall like a guillotine, sticking
deep into plaster right between Al Gore's eyes.
(an awestruck CHORUS)
Ralph is silent...profoundly subdued. Pants-wettingly
The class sits waiting. You could hear a pin fart.
The A.D.D. Kid stands dumbstruck in the act of mashing up the
innards of his specimen. There's a gory length of frog leg
clenched in his teeth like a corncob pipe.
(scared; to Mr. Weeks)
No, not this time, Mr. Gastner. And not
ever again. I've seen kids not much
older than you blown to pieces because
they didn't know when to mouth off and
when to listen.
Mr. Weeks clutches his own self-control with white knuckles
and an iron will.
My best friend when I was your age...
Nathan Pankow...Half his family were
military. He had a dad who was a
brigadier general...but that didn't save
him in 'Nam. We were marching toward
what would turn into the Battle of Hue,
one full month in '68 to take back land
we lost during the Tet Offensive. Are
you listening to me, Gastner?
Nate was funny like you...a real cut
up...and smart. Just like you. But one
morning he took his eyes off the road to
crack wise about something or other, and
the next thing I knew Cong snipers blew
his head clean off his shoulders. I
tasted blood in my mouth...Arterial spray
from his carotid was in the air like a
Mr. Weeks now seems to tower over Ralph.
Hey, you want to learn some more cool
biology? Here's a weird biological fact
for you, Ralph. The human head can live
for seconds after its forcible removal
from the torso. Nate's looked at me,
Ralph. Then he looked at his body, and
back at me, and he knew. He looked
terrified. And then his eyes...it's like
someone turned out the lights...I don't
mind you mouthing off, Ralph. What I
mind is that you never seem to know when
you're close to the edge. Well, today
you shot past it. But there's no going
back now. You'll get your shuriken back
at the end of the semester...one way or
another. Do your work and behave, and
I'll probably just hand it back to you.
But you keep pushing me, Ralph...and I
can push you right back. Nothing scares
me anymore. Are we perfectly clear on
Y...yes, sir. I...I'm sorry, sir.
Take your seat, Mr. Gastner.
Ralph sits carefully and tries to get a firmer handle on what
could've possibly just happened to him.
Armin and Schuyler look at Ralph, then Mr. Weeks...
...then at the shuriken, which still sticks resolutely in the
plaster-hard forehead of Al Gore.
(returning to the chalkboard)
Now, let's look at the various organs and
organ systems in these specimens. The
large brown organ is the liver...
Kids fairly dive into the ventilated guts of dead frogs.
With Armin and Schuyler's nervous glance, we gaze over at...
TIME DISSOLVE AS:
The light in the room changes slightly.
PULL BACK ON:
THE BIOLOGY LAB - CLASS DISMISSED
The frogs are gone, cut up, catalogued and sent off properly
to that great big lily pad in the sky.
Students file past Mr. Weeks into the hallway. He nods at
each of them in turn. Ralph's star prominent, still stuck
fast in our nation's Second Skull.
Ralph stops briefly and gazes at the shuriken longingly.
Good day, Mr. Gastner. I'll expect you
and Tetsuo's report first thing
Wednesday. Fair enough?
Ralph regards Mr. Weeks sadly. A broken horse.
Now his irritating edge is all gone--He just seems humbled.
The last two kids to leave are Armin and Schuyler.
(whispering to Schuyler)
You gonna ask him?
(rearranging his Discman)
Are you out of your mind?
Was all that stuff you said true? About
your friend and all? Vietnam?
What do you think? Do you think it was
I think part of it was...maybe all of it.
It was true that I once had a good friend
He sits slowly at his desk.
...and it's true he had his head blown
off his shoulders on the way to Hue. But
no, I wasn't there. I just didn't think
Ralph Gastner would listen to some
conscientious objector who got stuck as
an orderly for a hospital in Oakland.
"Conscientious objector"...You mean you
don't believe in war?
Not in that one. After watching Nathan's
mother go through what she had to go
You were too scared to go.
Armin throws his buddy a hard elbow, but Mr. Weeks doesn't
appear to notice or mind.
(glaring at Schuyler)
He just said he wasn't scared, doof!
No, I was scared, but that's not why I
didn't want to go. I didn't want to make
some stranger's mother cry like that.
But boys, sometimes you have to tell a
fellow the truth in a way that'll make it
stick. And that's the way I had to tell
it to Ralph.
And the star? When you stuck it in the
poster, was that just lucky? It was,
I wouldn't have thrown that shuriken in a
classroom if I didn't know exactly where
I was throwing it. I have a black belt
in judo, and I learned shuriken-do as an
adjunct to my training.
You have a black belt?
Sure do, second-degree. I have a life,
Armin--Do you mind if I call you Armin?
The boy is touched by the simple respect of this gesture.
Sure, Armin's okay, Mr. Weeks.
And you don't have to call me Mr.
Sackmann anymore, either. Call me
Schuyler. It kinda sucks--I mean, stinks--
as a name, but it's kinda cool, too.
Well, it's certainly better than Squatty
The three fellows share a laugh.
I have a wife and two kids, I go fishing
on Sundays--I have a life, just like you
boys, outside of class.
We never see that. We just see teachers
Do you know, you're right about that,
Armin. And I really ought to change
that. I appreciate the advice.
Armin actually seems to blush a bit with pride. He's been
treated like a grown-up, by a grown-up he respects. It's a
milestone of a day he will never forget.
Mr. Weeks gets up and walks to the shuriken.
So are you really gonna give Ralph his
At the end of the semester, as I told
him...one way or another.
Mr. Weeks gives the boys a jaunty wink. He pulls the star
from the wall and tucks it neatly in his starchy white shirt
pocket, right beside at least three pens.
Now you boys had better get to your next
class. I've kept you over.
You're pretty cool, Mr. Weeks.
Let's get going. Mr. Gans is gonna pin
us to the wall if we're late for P.E.
The boys file out into the hall, Schuyler reaching to turn
the Discman back on. The boys exit to the faint strains of
Armin's head pops back into the room.
If you really do kill Ralph, can I please
have his star?
I'll even show you how to throw it, once
I've pried it from his cold bloody
Armin grins back and shuts the door.
Mr. Weeks is left alone. A self-satisfied sigh.
He gathers papers and shoves them into a secondhand
briefcase. Zips it shut.
Takes the shuriken from his pocket. Looks it over. Shrugs.
Smiles. Tosses it into the air once and catches it...
...and flings it directly into CAMERA.
END TITLES, WHITE OVER BLACK