SCREENPLAY- LOOK AWAY
Open INT on Boy Scout patrol, troop 19, Minneapolis, reciting the Scout Law and oath*. include MICHAEL age 11,GEORGE age 12 and scoutmaster WILL. They continue recitation in background as scene moves to EXT San Francisco about 1964; then to outline map of San Francisco 1981, and two subsequent maps, revealing numbers and locations of AIDS cases. 1981: 127 cases; 1984 1027 cases; 1996 20,756 cases.
INT BEDROOM EVENING. 1986 San Francisco Castro district.
noises of oxygen generator motor and O2 moisturizer
bubbling. Furniture sparse. A bookshelf. chair and table
with four battered brown spiral notebooks on top. IV stand,
2 bags of infusion, piggybacked. Hospital type wheeled
over-bed table. toilet commode. Bedside table with two pill
bottles on top, and bedpan, urine collector below. empty
wheelchair. Walker. TV on but with only a blank grainy screen
and static no signal.
GEORGE OLSEN of age mid 50’s with obvious severe
wasting illness sitting in recliner. Oxygen by nasal prong. IV. Breathes with effort. wet productive cough, spits into
Kleenex and pokes it at a paper bag. Is looking at blank TV
when MICHAEL MORSE same age medium
build, balding. enters carrying a tray with soda
crackers, a pitcher of water, glass, and soup.
Here. You look like you need this.
(waves him off, looks away and
speaks at the window shade.)
I can’t talk much let alone eat.
I’ve never heard of pneumo-whatzit.
Pneumocystis. Pneumonia but they
can fix it. A week maybe. Or three. Who knows. I won’t
live long either way.
Why? What is it, why didn’t you
Didn’t want to talk about it. Now I
do; In need to. I’m too sick not to. Or you can read it.
(waves at table, notebooks.)
In those notebooks. They go back a
I don’t read. It’s against my religion. Why can’t you just tell me?
What religion! You’re religious sausage. But I’ll try to tell you. The notebooks there, and my death, can speak for themselves. Res ipsa loquitor.
Shit.You always were a nerdy bastard! Your Death! I was shocked to hear from you after so many years, and were so sick. All I knew is you were a stock broker in San Francisco. Merrill Lynch? But OK I’ll read it. But for now eat something. What’d you write about? I didn’t know you liked to write.
(Picks up the notebooks and opens one.)
I don’t. Wrote what we all know but never speak of.
All know? Who all?
Don’t act dumb. It’s me, George! I know you know. You know I know. I know you know I know you know. Or something like that!
MICHAEL ( Looks away, slightly uncomfortable, and shifts focus of the conversation.) OK never mind for now. Eat. Let me read.
NOTEBOOK ONE: PATROL MEETING EVE a church basement. 1966 SCOUT TROOP 19, ELK PATROL, lineup of 7
boys age 11 or 12. partial scout
uniforms in various degrees of
disarray most with troop 19
neckerchief. They recite Scout Law
in ragged unison. WILL SURNUA,
SCOUTMASTER follows, pointing to
items on a large display. He is
5ft 7 in. Dark curly hair; voice
sharp, theatrically low pitched and
loud; ‘from the diaphragm’. Heavy
fleshed, full lipped, dark late day
beard; not unpleasant except when
he scowls darkly, as when barking
orders to scouts out of line;
otherwise speaks with studied
camaraderie and familiarity.
Addresses scouts by last names.
WILL is musical director for a
radio station and active in the
musical community and a well known
classical music and radio talk show host. Boys
reciting the Scout Oath, displayed
on a large display board as Will
points to items.
BOYS together recite:
A Scout is Trustworthy. Loyal. Helpful.
An inaudible aside causes a breakout of half suppressed laughter. Will sears them with a look but is silent.
Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty.
Latecomer, MICHAEL OLSEN, quickly slips to the end of the line.
Dammit, Morse, you’re 15 minutes
late. Again! This has to stop.
RICHLAND (another scout)
Fukin’ A! Or he’ll make you Patrol
I…I’m sorry, I had to finish up collecting.
(While Will launches into a longish talk, boys, don’t seem particularly impressed.)
Morse, here, is new. He needs to
know not only rules but reasons.
Let’s tell him. We have 40 acres
in the North Woods on Loon Lake.
A summer camp, canoes, docks, the works. That requires
money. How do we get the money. Anyone?
JAMGOT (another scout)
We bust our ass all year. Rent camp to other troops in summer.
We door to door sell tickets to the
Operetta. We are in the performances.
Right! A Scout is Thrifty. We work
and save for camp. The operetta
this winter is ‘The Desert Song’
All of you need to take part. (Boys
What about the canoe trip?
Those who help raise funds. Work in the operetta.
Attend construction camp. Become a senior scout and work in the
regular camp sessions. Then. Then it happens.
(A long fart erupts.
Michael pays close attention throughout, while many of scouts
are scuffling, giggling.)
(losing it) QUIET! We can do
without that sort of crap. Get on
with the oath.
A Scout is Brave. Clean.Reverent.
OK enough for now. We need to do knots.
All week I want you to work on
knots; every day a half hour.
Because I want you all, every one,
to complete that merit badge next
When is camp?
Every year, after school
is out, we work three weeks at camp
construction. After, we have 4
weeks of regular camp. Then
the senior scouts go on a three week canoe
trip to the border waters. A few have to go up sometimes in winter
to clear the snow off the roofs so they don’t collapse, and do repairs for winter damage.
OK. To the knots!
And Be Advised: No Farting
for the rest of the night!
(Scouts break up, roughhousing,
commenting about who it was who
farted, making armpit farty
variations.) cut to:
NOTEBOOK S CHAPTER TWO: REHEARSAL
INT EVE SAME CHURCH BASEMENT. First rehearsal of DESERT SONG
SIGMUND ROMERG AND HAMMERSTEIN.
You mean Rpgers….
No, Romberg. Before Rogers.And we have permission to use or that old stuff.
(Throughout film selected songs
heard from this operetta and from NEW MOON, same authors.
About 30 people, including scouts from Elk patrol, including
Michel, George, Jamgot, and Leonard. There are ten or more
high school age girls. 8 or 10 older boys, former troop
members, 7 or 8 experience or professional adult singers, who will sing roles of the principals, the Red Shadow,
& Margot, pro bono. A pianist. Open on Will, in his
obviously low pitche authoritative public voice. He is leading
the diverse group of singers in his traditional vocal
warm-up. Few of the scouts or youngsters are very serious or attentive.
That was pathetic, people. We have
been here 20 minutes already. But
we’ll do this again and again until
we all take part and do it right.
(nods to pianist.) An A please.
(sound of A note from piano,
repeats several times.)
Sing with the mouth ROUND, and open wide. Way
back in the throat! From the gut! And look
happy to be here! RICHLAND you sing like a corpse! TOGETHER NOW:
Now on the downbeat, (They sing a old warm-up series)
DA MO NI TI PO TU LA BE (each iteration a note higer.)
Much better. Again:
Good. One last time: All!
OK lets move on. We will start with
Act one scene one… principals,
forward; chorus in the
NOTEBOOKS, CHAPTER THREE CONSTRUCTION CAMP
JULY MORNING THE FOLLOWING SUMMER. CAMP NEAR CANADIAN
BORDER ON HIGHWAY ONE. Older scouts working in a clearing.
forested area next to a camp mess hall and kitchen. a rustic
but substantial log structure. cement mixer running.
material for mortar. shovels. large barrel of water. in the
distance a lake, dock, canoes on racks, paddles stored
upright on rack. rowboats beached. Opposite direction are
scouts, framing the side walls for cement floored, canvas
topped quarters adequate for four cots. MICHAEL is on
a scaffold where quart sized rocks of various shape are
stowed; he is troweling mortar onto selected rocks, placing
them carefully one searching for the next rock to fits the
Looks good, MORSE. Have you done that before?
Last year. Remember? Not much though.
Oh. Yeah. Well, be careful about falling, and
keep your hands out of the mortar.
It eats the skin. A shirt wouldn’t
hurt either; you are red as a
dogprick, and will be bellyaching
about the pain if you don’t.
Incidentally, do you think you can
Learn.I want you to cook at
construction camp next year. You
be Eagle Scout. I hope you
can come with us to the Quetico in
MICHAEL (Smiles but doesn’t
respond at first) That a threat or
promise? I went last year. I
really like paddling against the
wind; setting camp in the
dark; leeches; portages; burned
pancakes; boiled orange peels with
sugar when we run low on food;
electric storms and green tornado sky. But;
OK, I’ll cook at construction, but nix on cooking for the canoe trip!
You know the story of the cook?
Draws the short straw, and is
cook. Whoever complains has to be
the new cook? Weeks pass and
finally he prepares a mooseshit
pie, crust and all. When the first
camper tastes it he spits it out
and says ‘ Mooseshit!… But real
Heard it. A few times. Maybe
Get back to work, smart ass!!
5:30 AM SAME CAMP ANOTHER DAY.
George is at the lake shore. He walks the dock and looks at
the predawn sky for a while. There is no wind. The
water, sky, and a thin fog are one. Loon calls in the distance. George walks back to the canoe rack, pulls down a canoe. daylight invades the sky slowly. He very quietly moves canoe to water’s edge, places a paddle and life preserver inside, and pushes off as he hops on. moves softly, silently on still dark water.
The distant woods appear slowly as mist yields and
the lake surface becomes a sheet of yellow gold shimmering in the
NOTEBOOKS CHAPTER FOUR: WINTER CAMP REPAIRS.
WINTER NIGHT. SAME YEAR. THE CANVAS COVERED REAR OF A LARGE
CANVAS COVERED TRUCK BED DRIVING NORTHWARD IN MINNESOTA.
Scouts George, Michael, Richland, Jamgot are fully dressed for arctic cold typical of that season and place; they are lying on and in sleeping bags, among lots of gear; duffel bags, tool boxes, Styrofoam food carriers, snow shovels. They are singing:
“The wind and rain had come that night And washed it half
away, What was left upon that sign Made that billboard say:
Bay Rum and Coca Cola, We have the best in town, Castoria
cures the measles If you pay five dollars down Teeth
extracted without pay a little at a time, And you can soon
be sleeping on The Sunday New York Times.”
MICHAEL then ALL
Qui qua moni moni tish nick, Um qua qui,Um qua Quo (repeat)O
nicoremo, O galli galli amo (repeat) O nicoremo O galli
galli amo, O nicormemo O galli gall UM QUA, UM QUA, UM QUA
99 Bottles of beer on the
shelf, 99… OW! cut to:
A MESS HALL at camp where the boys are sleeping on wire spring cots, three cot mattresses each. large room with 12 table/bench one piece combinations, a modest commercial kitchen, cupboards, sinks, gas stove etc.They sleep ranged around a large space heater.
(loud stage whisper) Mike! …. Hey Michael! I gotta take
a crap. (No response. Repeats
Christ, can’t you wait?
No. Really. NO.
Well. Go to the outhouse.
It’s too cold; and too far. The hole
will freeze my ass. Stick like a tongue on a froze flagpole.
Damn. Don’t you know anything? Take
the blowtorch. Light it here. Take
a roll of bunwad. Drop a lot down
your a hole. Warm up the seat with the torch.
Light the TP. Want me to wipe your ass too?
What if I start a fire?
Shit don’t burn too good. It ain’t
what they call flammable.
(George climbs out of his
sleeping bag, shivering,
dresses laboriously, picks up
the blowtorch, lights it,
and exits to a path through 2 ft of
snow.) cut to:
A FROZEN LAKE AT NIGHT
About 9PM. NEXT NIGHT. 30 below zero. full moon no breeze. Michael walking alone on the ice near shore. The shifting ice
groans and cracks in the brittle air. He ventures farther and
farther onto the lake. A particularly strong cracking causes
a loud boom but he doesn’t stop. After a few minutes he
turns back, his steps making high pitched sounds only heard in
below zero temperatures. cut to:
TABOGGANING BENHIND A TRUCK AT 60 BELOW ZERO
2 PM next day. road bordered by 5 ft snowbanks on recent soft plowed snow. truck rolls at about 25 MPH, towing a careening toboggan on a long rope. All boys are aboard, we don’t see the driver, who
swerves, speeds up, slows down. cut to:
INTERIOR TRUCK BED EN-ROUTE SOUTH. SAME DAY, SUNDAY LATE
EVENING,BOYS IN SLEEPING, BAGS. SAME SORT OF DISARRAY AND SCATTERED MATERIAL AS BEFORE, exhausted, faces wind
and cold burned.
Yeah. Can’t sleep.
Me too. Tobogganing was terrific!
I’d so much on I couldn’t hardly move. but y’konow? It wasn’t cold even at 30 per!
At home it’s different; we take a short run, then
climb up and go again. But only
about 2 or 3 times, ’til we have to
quit because someone can’t get
up. Nothing like this! We were out an more than an hour!
For sure! I always like it here. Winter, Summer, doesn’t matter. Even like walking in the night on the lake ice. It talks, complains, groans,
creaks. It’s 3 feet thick, can’t break, can take a
truck; but it’s alive.
You go alone?
Yeah. I like it that way….It’s like discovering, exploring a new world.
You’re crazy. I’d rather be with friends, building stuff like we do at construction. Even those dumb operettas, the fund raising. I need people. But not right now. I gotta sleep, catch
the streetcar at 6, and we won’t get back until after 10, and I’ve homework.
I don’t want to sleep. Being up here so far from home is something i like to take in a little at a time. It’s like a big Hershey bar in the fridge; take a little bite every afternoon so it lasts.
JeeZus you guys. Shut up! If I found your damn Hershey bar I’d eat it up quick.
Me too! Your Hershey would be gone in 2 minutes. Mike you talk as much as that asshole Will.
He’s sort of an asshole. But you know how much he spends on this camp? He just bought this truck to go back and forth, take stuff, and us. No one else would put in the time and money he does. For what! Scouts?
A bunch of the parents had a meeting last Spring. A bout Bill. Something was up, but nothing came of it. I never did get what the problem was, sort of hush hush.
OK, but he´s still a prick. He sure can be a pain in the ass. You like him to call you that? Jamcrotch?
It’s a joke dickhead.
Maybe. But some of his jokes are sick. I’d say most all of ’em. My dad says his brother’s another single scoutmastard. Got that? He doesn’t trust them. But he says at least Will does do all this, camp stuff, and the canoe trips. I give him that.
You guys are all pricks. Shut up and go to sleep. I got to get up early.
NOTEBOOKS CHAPTER FIVE :THE OVERNIGHT
INT SAME TRUCK LATER SAME EVENING. AT RICHLAND’S HOME,
DRIVEWAY. Richland gets out and takes his gear.
Don’t forget to bring
my Geometry book tomorrow.
Thanks. I won’t wear it out
tonight. So long.
Move it Richland, it’s late!
INTERIOR TRUCK. LATER. DRIVEWAY JAMGOT’S HOME
We’re to my house. It’s been fun.
Yeah. In spades.
I think you… (hesitates, looks
If you… (truck pulls into
driveway and stops.) Nothing. I
have to go.
What were you going to say?
Move it Jamcrotch. We haven’t all
(Hesitates, then looks away.)
Nothing.(louder) OK. See ya tomorrow, Mike.
(puzzled.) Of course. What
ABOUT 12:30 AM. DRIVEWAY, Will’s house. Typical upscale
terraced Minneapolis three story lakeside home. Will opens
rear panel of truck.
We have to stop here for a minute, Morse.
I have to make a couple of calls.
And I’ll call your folks so they
don’t worry. Come in a minute.
(Micheal gets out of truck.camera follows them into house
to kitchen. Will opens refrigerator puts milk and cookies
Help yourself. I’ll make the calls
and be right back. Exits.
Michael,eating cookies and milk, walks around kitchen and into LR. Artzy decor w prominent erotic material, statues,
paintings,a grand piano, musical instruments, stands, drums. Will
Your dad says you have
your school books, and you can stay
here tonight; I’ll drop you off at
school on my way to the station.
(doubtful) I have to get something
I’ve plenty! You can’t imagine how
much stuff kids leave around at
camp. I never can find who left it,
but i wash it and save it just in
case. No problem there! I’ll put
out a towel so you can shower if
I have to make my lunch. And take
$2.00 for …
Nonsense., Morse! I’ll take care of the $2.
I’ve all the lunch makings! (turns
abruptly and exits not waiting for
any further comment.)
1987 INT GEORGE’S APARTMENT, A SPRING AFTERNOON The room is similar to before but absent oxygen generator, wheelchair, and IVs.
Many more bottles of pills on bedside stand. George has
mottled skin patches and is pale. TV is on, but muted.
He sits in his recliner. He speaks easily and clearly,
has gained a little weight. Michael in a chair. Notebooks stacked on shelf nearby.
Goddamn pills make me sick but keep me alive. Don’t know whether to be grateful or outraged. they’re all poison. You digested the notebooks?
Think you’ll live longer with all those pills?
Sure as hell seems like it!
I will say you look a lot better. more like yourself.
I am. Did you finish reading all the notebooks?
Yep. It’s a complicated theory you have. I’m not sure I
buy it or understand. You think Will is a
pedophile, and that he molested scouts; that he taught him a prostate was, and fucked some. They learned, and when AIDS hit they were likely to get it. Like you.
Yep. You got it pretty much.
OK so I get the idea; but how do you know? Did you keep track of all the scouts?
I don’t know. Not for a fact. And I don’t keep track. Several are here in San Francisco, several around the country. Put it this way: We were all unwitting participants in an unplanned experiment. That experiment lasted several decades, and the results are in. But. Nobody has
looked at the results.
What are you talking about. All in an experiment?
I don’t get that you don’t get it. We were abused by Will. EVen though no one, not one of us so far as i know, ever said a word to anyone.
That amazes me. YOu were just lucky. Or too ugly! Kids, from the beginning of time have been at risk abuse. Of all sorts. They are particularly available for timeless, faceless
limitless sexual abuse. Even, maybe especially, in what we call advanced societies. We are a sex crazed society. That includes pedophilia. You see it now right here. Everywhere, and in literature and art anal is ‘in’. Not just porn. In the best homes and the worst. Man Boy Love and the rest. We see it; and look away. Hell, Socrates and lots of Greeks were pedophiles, the men anyway.
What does that have to do with an
Just this: Will’s a pedophile. Maybe a decent one in some ways, but all the same he abused boys. I think lots of us. So those abused are in the study group.
You lost me.
If MSM people, or anal sex people, are born that
way, a certain preset percent would have been exposed to AIDS when it
exploded on the world. Because that’s a fine way to spread it.
But if MSM is to some degree a learned sexual
preference, call it BSM, then
early imprinting or learning would
increase the percent of MSM in
the study group compared to the control group, and also increase
the percent of AIDS.
BSM? Like Boy Scout Manual? Whoah!
Just a stupid joke. Boy Sex with Men.
You think young boys, when exposed to BSM become more
likely to prefer MSM?
Maybe. That’s what I’d like to know. By looking up the history of
our whole troop. Hundreds over the years, and comparing it to another similar group. There would be a significant difference.
(Turns, looks away. Then turns back
but avoids looking directly at George.
Redirects the conversation.) What
about Will? Do you know where he
He’s not well. Diabetes, not AIDS;
MICHAEL ( Somewhat vehemently or bitterly , as if over reacting.)
You don’t get AIDS from abusing nice clean virginal boys!
Do you know where he is?
Yeah. In a convalescent hospital. With an amputated leg and kidney trouble.That’s why i called. I want to ask you a favor, Mike. Go see him.
Say you want to tell him you want to organize a reunion. For him, or for us doesn’t matter.
Ask him for a list of names of the boys in our troop.
(looking again at the closed window
shade) But you are better now.
Couldn’t you go?
He’d be suspicious. Actually it’s better for
someone he didn’t molest. I
understand that’s you. You still say you qualify?
(walks toward the closed
window shade. Turns back but
answers at the TV. It should be
clear to us that Michael is not
telling all.) Not much. He only
kissed me. A thick fleshy ugly beard scratch
thing on the lips. The worst.
MICHAEL ( again looks away while answering)
I asked my father in there was ever any suggestion Bill was a pedophile. He said that there were some hints of it, and some discussions among the scout parents.
You asked? I didn’t know they talked about it! What came of it?
They decided there wasn’t any clear evidence; unless there was the scout experience in our troop was so extraordinary that gossip of that sort couldn’t be allowed to interfere.
MICHAEL ( Again, inappropriately angry)
Typical! I don’t suppose anyone asked the scouts!
If anyone had asked you about
Will would you have told them?
I doubt it. Would you have told anyone he kissed you
No. No one asked.
Why should they, Mike? Anyway that ugly little kiss
doesn’t qualify for an abuse medal, Mike.
So will you ask him for the names?
MICHAEL (avoiding the question.)
I was precocious. Very immature and insecure. I had to start college shortly after that. Then my breakdown. But the shrink has taken me off medication for some time now. Mostly.
You’ve been depressed?
Off and on. Said I was very angry about something. But then all they do now is give you pills that make you sleepy and fat.
Yeah. But will you talk with Bill for me, see if you can get some records?
I hate rest homes. Old
urine. New shit. Stirred with air
( Again with out of proportion anger)
Well, I’ll see him. Ask him. But I’d rather see him dead!
Why do you say a thing like that?
Oh… just if he affected you that way… and others. Maybe over reacting. I’ve forgotten about it all. But when i think about it, i get… (looks away)…
AT THE NURSING HOME
INT. AFTERNOON A WEEK LATER. PRIVATE ROOM.
Will is in a chair dozing. TV on but muted. Will is gray
haired , fleshy and sag faced, but with only minor aging, well kept. Michael is at the door,haggard, unshaven, uncharacteristically disheveled. He approaches,looks at Will for a time, and little by little approaches closely. Of a sudden Will sits up, opens his eyes looking directly at Michael and
(drawing back,suddenly, inordinately offended)
You were pretending to be asleep!
(Smiling broadly, happy with the effect)
Yes, they told me you were here!
Can’t have just any asshole dropping
by! I just decided to ambush you,
put you off balance, fuck with you.
( angered by this seemingly innocuous ruse)
You son of a Bitch! Like you ambushed me
when I stayed at your house!
Poor baby! (Laughs, mockingly;
then, more concerned, becomes a bit defensive)
But come on! What are you so pissed
about? I didn’t corn hole you or
anything; or did I? I can’t remember. Maybe I should have! You
just disappeared. Never saw you again until this minute!
(loses all composure) That’s right! With good reason! I never told anyone about you! I’m still ashamed of that. But you know it ! To me; not just me either! You didn’t corn hole me?
You only fucked my mind.
(Michael realizes he has blown the chance to get information about the rest of the troop members; he has betrayed his promise to George which makes him even more irate .)
A scout is Clean! You filthy hypocrite! The Scout Law!
I’m going to teach you something! Fuck you!
(He pulls out a pistol he has brought, points it first at Will’s head, then hesitates and aims at Wills genitals; shoots. Then places the barrel to his own mouth and pulls the trigger a second time.
THE LAST NOTEBOOK
A LARGE CHURCH. AFTERNOON TWO MONTHS LATER. Will survived but is now dead. The place is filled, crowded, SRO. A big media event. Many of Will’s old associates are here to honor him. Among these are of his now older scouts. George is here in a wheelchair copying names and addresses from the guest registry, entering them in a new red spiral notebook. In the background we hear snatches of voices eulogizing Will. It is evident that he was a driven, brilliant, dynamic man, very successful, much respected in the world of radio, music and theater. We may suspect that he was conflicted about his alleged pedophilia and pederasty, but we have no evidence, beyond what we have heard.
As the eulogies come to an end, George enters the chapel, slowly rolls his wheelchair down the central aisle, reaches the microphone, and proceeds to speak.
I am filled with emotion as I think of this great and admired, beloved man who impacted the lives so many boys like I once was. He devoted the
biggest part of many and many a day and night to his scouts and he will
always be with us. With that in mind I would like to ask your help
in organizing a reunion of Will’s scouts in the near future.
There is a red spiral notebook next
to the guest register. I ask you, before leaving, please leave any
names, addresses and phone numbers, or information that can help me reach Will’s former Scouts. If any of us are here today please see me. If you know of any of Will’s boys have passed away, please let me know who can be reached for information that we can share among us in memory of one another, and of our Scoutmaster Will.
During credits, George continues
taking down info in his notebook.
Music is the Song of the Riffs then
other Romberg-Hammerstein songs
from The Desert Song or New Moon.
 Boy Scout Oath or Promise
On my honor, I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.
Boy Scout Law
A Scout is:
- and Reverent.
Boy Scout Motto
Boy Scout Slogan
Do a Good Turn Daily!