Darkness, shadow, dawn.
An occasional amber light...sunlight.
A cassette is inserted into an old grey Sony Walkman. A boy’s hand, fingers dirty, some of them taped, he presses down the play button. The cassette’s wheels spin.
Music plays, a little cracked, Joy Division’s “Disorder”.
The year’s 1984, the location’s somewhere north. Pennsylvania perhaps, green mountains, a hanging fog.
A lone road cuts a snaking path amongst the evergreens, no traffic, no signs of life. Its double yellow line is faded, its concrete cracked.
Someone walks, worn-out blue Nike’s.
He stops, reaches down to tie the frayed laces. Fingerless woolen gloves, nails dirty, a few of his fingers bandaged. Cold breath escapes the boy’s mouth. The laces break.
The boy stares down at his shoes, his light eyes collected.
His name’s Felix, he’s 16.
Felix un-threads the laces two holes down and knots them again. He rights himself crooked, resembling a runaway, a rag-tag hoodie and coat, a woolen beanie, an old pair of headphones. In front is an old-time gas station.
It seems closed. Felix adjusts the large backpack on his shoulders, the straps duct-taped together. He crosses the road.
Felix peers inside the convenience store, cupping his hands, his breath fogging the dingy window. He wipes away the grime with his sleeve and peers again. The tape stops.
The music too.
Felix removes the grey Sony Walkman from his inner jacket pocket. Opens the case, flips over the tape, pops it back in, shuts the lid, presses down PLAY.
A new song blares.
Felix picks up a wooden chair and hurls it at the front door, shattering the glass, the “teacher’s” chair pirouetting on the old concrete floor, coming to a stop a moment later, seat-back hunched like an old man.
Felix enters, his hands and arms tucked in, brushing the glass.
Felix emerges from inside the convenience store, stepping over the broken glass. He walks back to the road, lights up a smoke, a new pack of Camels.
Felix tucks the pack into his chest pocket, cracks open a Cherry-Pepsi, gulps it down. A noise!
Felix freezes, his eyes wide open over the soda can. Slowly and near silent he reaches down and stops the tape.
Across the road, near the woods, is a beautiful buck.
Felix and the buck eye each other, neither moving.
Felix bites down on the lid of the soda can freeing up both hands. The deer takes a step back.
Felix carefully removes something from his back pocket. The deer moves again. Felix freezes.
He slowly squats and dumps out Sunflower seeds in a pile beside his rotting sneakers. He takes a few steps back, watching the deer all along.
The deer stares at the food, up at Felix.
Felix remains silent but his face says it all.
The deer fakes a step forward, but then scatters off.
Felix watches, following it’s every move, the deer leaping elegantly, muscles snapping, disappearing into fall’s woods.
Felix remains put for a while, staring at the quiet that is the empty.
He then proceeds to sweep the seeds back into their bag.
An old road, hanging foliage, afternoon.
The calming sound of the wind through the trees.
The bright sun canvases the long gravel path like heaven’s spotlight finding the hidden, swaying trees on either side.
Music, cracked, at first at a whisper, it then grows louder.
Felix emerges from down the road. First the headphones, then beanie, head, chin tucked into his chest, hands deep in the coat’s front pockets. He passes, the music stops, he keeps on going as if entranced.
Further down he suddenly stops. Felix looks down, retrieves the tape player, switches over the tape, hits play...nothing.
Felix swings off the backpack, sets it on the ground, unzips the heavy zipper and removes: a woolen blanket US-ARMY issue, a dented water bottle with a worn out label, beef jerky, first aid kit US-ARMY issue, a hammer, an old shaving knife, candy, duct-tape, a stack of old photographs held together with a rubber band.
Felix grows frustrated trying to locate something, he rummages in the bag until finally finding...
In his hands are two batteries, the light catches them, Duracell.
Felix stares at the batteries, then into the near empty bag.
Again at the batteries. He then looks back behind him, down the way he came.
Felix peels back the duct tape covering the Walkman’s battery cavity. He removes two old batteries, pops in the new ones. Seals the cavity once again, pressing down the duct tape, smoothing its curled edges. He pushes PLAY.
The cassette’s wheels spin.
Felix adjusts his headphones.
He then packs up his bag, taking his time, inserting everything in the same order with which it was retrieved.
The Pines Resort, evening.
A rusty grated fence. The sun breaks through it, setting, red. An old sign, hung crooked off its beam: “THE PINES FAMILY RESORT”
Felix, headphoned, stares at the sign for a while, his hands clutching the fence.
He blinks, looks past the sign.
An old tennis court, its green a pale yellow, the white lines near vanished. Felix stares at the court for a while, perhaps remembering, perhaps trying to.
The sound of metal to metal, it’s rhythmic.
Clang, clang, clang!
Felix sits on his bag, beside the post at the side of the net, hammer in hand, staring out at the empty court.
He beats the hammer once again against the rusted post, clang!
Clang, clang, clang.
Felix tracks the imaginary ball left, right. Clang! Clang!
Clang, clang, clang, clang, clang!!!!!
Felix throws his arm in the air, he cheers.
Felix lowers his arms, sets down the hammer, he lights up a cig, smokes.
With the shaving knife Felix cuts down the net at one of the posts.The cig dangles in his mouth as he saws away, the blade’s nearly dull.
He finally succeeds, the net droops and falls to the ground.
Felix walks over to the other post, flicks away the cig, kneels by the net, starts cutting it.
Felix doesn’t seem to hear it.
Another rustling, this time louder. Felix perks up, stops sawing.
He tracks the sound, squints, the sun in his eyes.
Like a mirage something emerges in the woods, heading his way, silhouetted by the setting sun. Felix stands, his breath smokes. The figure nears. Felix removes his headphones. The figure becomes visible. The knife slips from Felix’s hand, his eyes light up.
Facing him, and about his size and age, is another boy.
They stare at one another for a while in silence, until finally Jake speaks.
“What are you doin’?”
Jake stares at the net, the knife, he wears a puffy navy vest, large on his skinny frame, a woolen beanie, his hair dark, eyes too.
Felix stands frozen, unable to move let alone answer. Jake steps forward, picks up the knife. Felix watches him.
Jake squats and proceeds to cut the rest of the net.
From afar, the net is seen falling, the boys dwarfed in a sea of faded green. Jake looks up at Felix, Felix down at Jake, both malnourished, both handsome in an eerie way.
Jake places the cut end of the net in Felix’s hands. He then walks off, Felix watches him.
Jake reaches the other post, picks up the end of the net, starts rolling it towards Felix.
Felix snaps out of it and does the same, the two rolling the net towards each other like a giant blanket. They meet in the middle of the court, the net between them, face to face, Jake slightly taller than Felix, the sun sets.
“Today’s my birthday.”
Inside the lobby of the Pines Resort, night.
An old ceiling fan, warped blades. A broken roof, moonlight piercing through it. Tall pines reach to the heavens, swaying with the night’s breeze.
“What’s your name?”
Something’s dragged heavy, moved, dropped.
Lights flicker on, the fan kicks in, moonlight refracting off the rusted blades.
The boys stand shoulder-to-shoulder watching the oscillating fan, surrounded all around by yellow Christmas lights. Jake taps Felix’s shoulder.
They look at one another.
The boys lay beside each other on the water stained carpet. Jake makes “fireflies” with the cherry of his cig. Felix watches.
Jake stops moving the cig, looks over at Felix.
“That’s my brother’s name.”
Jake gets up.
Felix looks over behind him, watches Jake walk over to the glass facade of the lobby and pee through a broken panel.
Jake stares at the Walkman, the cassette’s wheels spinning. Felix notices, his headphones on. He removes them and offers them to Jake. Jake takes the headphones, about to put them on, he stops, looks past Felix, smiles.
Felix follows Jake’s gaze.
The two fiddle with a large old stereo, desperately trying to get it to work.
They hit PLAY, nothing. Flip some switches, nothing. Felix makes a strange face.
“You take’n a shit?”
They crack up laughing...
“Nothing works anymore!”
Jake kicks an old gas mask that’s on the floor, walks off sullen, hands in his coat’s pockets. Music kicks in!
Fuzzy, cracked. Jake whips around.
Felix stands by the wall, by the socket, the radio plugged in, he smiles big.
Jake bobs his head to the beat. He lights up two smokes, dances his way over to Felix, hands him one of the cigs.
Jake turns up the radio way loud, starts dancing.
He pulls Felix up by the hands, the latter surprised by the touch, his face reddens.
“No, no, no.”
Felix yells over the music.
“Who’s gonna see you?”
Jake yells back.
“C’mon?! It’s over. It’s all over!”
Felix shies back his hands. Jake eyes him.
Jake dances by himself, spinning round and round, making figure 8’s with his cig, Christmas lights sparkle all around him. Felix watches, hands in his pockets, beanied, small.
The sound of paper, pages flipped. The glass facade is covered with grime and moss. The fan’s stopped dead, the Christmas lights still flicker.
Jake flips through Felix’s photos, his back against the wall.
Jake lowers the photo, shows it to Felix who’s lying beside him, the two on a cruddy mattress, old blankets: US-ARMY.
The photo is of two parents, an older boy and one younger one - white-collar yuppies posing by a tennis court, the 70’s sign behind them: “THE PINES FAMILY RESORT”.
Felix nods. Jake points at the older boy.
Jake sets down the photos. He lays down beside Felix, crossing his arms behind his head.
Felix turns on his side, faces Jake.
He awkwardly hugs Jake with one arm. Jake looks down at Felix’s arm across his chest.
Felix burrows his head into Jake’s puffy coat.
Jake hesitates but puts his arm around Felix, then shuts his eyes.
The dew sweats on the cracked glass. The sun shines beautiful.
Felix’s eyes are closed, he sleeps peacefully. Birds chirp.
Felix wakes, opening his eyes slowly, he blinks.
His eyes quickly settle and stare fixed.
Felix lies on his side, scrunched up, knees to chest, shoes off, socks holed. Beside him there is no one. Jake gone as if never existed.
Felix sits with his back against the wall. He attempts to light a cig but his hands shake.
Felix buries his head in his legs, hugging his knees, fingers intertwined, squeezed so tight they redden. Muted gasps escape his lips, his back heaves up and down.
Felix rights himself, wipes the tears from his face.
Felix collects his things. Tucks in the pack of smokes into his chest pocket, slips into his shoes. Felix folds the blanket, stuffs it into his backpack. He then tucks the bundled photographs carefully. Felix ties the one good shoe, then duct tapes the other one, tearing the tape with his teeth.
Felix throws on the backpack, adjusts the straps. Puts on his beanie and heads out, removing the Walkman from his pocket. He stops.
Stares at the rolled-up tennis net lying on the ground.
Felix stares at it for a noticeable time.
He puts on his headphones.
Pops in a tape into the old Sony Walkman covered by shadow and the occasional amber sunlight. Fingers dirty, some of them taped, Felix presses down PLAY.
The cassette’s wheels spin...
Music plays, a little cracked, Joy Division’s “Disorder”.