The Really Ultimate Common Ground (First Draft)

By Dan Coshnear

She glances at him demurely with her eyes. She glances at him pointedly with her eyes. Her eyes sweep over him like a God damned street sweeper (note to self: WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW). Her eyes roll over him like the rear tires of her Subaru pickup.

His puny voice belies his large, huge stature; frequently. To look at him, those masculine hands and forearms, you’d never guess he breeds hamsters. Max is volatile, yet self-possessed. Max has the most perfect hair.

She sweeps, leaps, saunters across the ballroom floor. (Write What You Know!) She leans in the doorway of the claims adjusters’ office (no). She first meets him at the high school – Soccer Awards Night. She is carrying an aluminum tray of baked potatoes (too boring?) potatoes au gratin? (is she possibly French?) He’s sharpening knives and he gives her a lusty glare. He has barbecue sauce on his apron (no). He has blood on his apron!

“Name’s Max,” he says, defiantly.

Background: She is the mother of triplets, boys, soccer stars. She gained twenty-five pounds since the divorce three or eleven months ago, since the breakdown and the Zyprexa (no, no, no). She has a tall handsome boy named Clifford. Cliff is the product of an artificial insemination. She never met the boy’s father, but she knows he was a genius. Cliff’s father was a famous concert pianist, an astronaut, the most renowned dermatologist west of the Mississippi. Cliff’s father died in a freak accident on an archaeological dig. The Olduvai site (Tie this in later)!! Cliff has a learning disability (no). Cliff has a lazy eye. She volunteers at the school when she is not working as a claims adjuster. (note to self: when would that be?) Her name is Veronica.

“My friends call me Veronica,” she says, persistently. He extends a meaty hand. Her liquid hazel eyes suddenly drop to the floor.

“Where is your husband?” he offers (no).

“I like what you’ve done with those potatoes,” he announces.

“It’s unusual to see a man in the kitchen,” she shoots back.

“Well, ever since my wife died in a freak accident …” His steel blue eyes drop to the floor.

“I’m terribly sorry.” She places her slender hand upon his neck (or back, or wrist). As her eyes find his, an alarm sounds like a buzzing sound.

“That’s the meat,” he confides.

“I was just searching for a napkin,” she confides.

Flash Forward: “I remember the day we first met,” he grins, as he rises from her four-poster bed with the very expensive lace canopy. He knows how to please a woman. He is capable of mind-numbing sex, but lately… He professes, “I knew there was something special about you,” as he dons a pair of socks, cotton-wool blend.

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” she breathes, as she plans for another day at the claims adjusters’ office, while she fixes her sandy hair in a perky bun. “What’s wrong lately?” she queries.

“What do you mean?” he intones.

Things that might be wrong, i.e. The Plot: 1) Cliff suffers from kleptomania, narcolepsy, low self-esteem. 2) Max met someone else – her best friend Monica. 3) She saw lipstick on his collar (no). She saw lipstick on his sleeve (no). 4) Cliff hates Max, especially the way Max pats his hairy belly and belches at the breakfast table. (Change Max to Don?) Change Cliff to … (no). 5) Cliff visits porn sites on Don’s computer (no, definitely no). 6) Don wants the family to go to Aruba, to counseling, to church (Hmm!). Cliff might be a homosexual (Hmm!). Change Cliff to … (no).

“I’ll tell you what’s wrong,” Max/Don blurts.

“Do you even love me?” she hisses as she lights a cigarette (note: she quit three or eleven months ago).

“Of course I love you,” he intimates, as he puts his tongue in her mouth (stale tongue?).

“I’m worried about (?)”

“Cliffie hates me.”

“That’s just his lazy eye. Everybody thinks that,” she consoles.

“I don’t think this is working out.” Don’s eyes drop to the floor.

Things that might be wrong, i.e. The Plot: 1) Cliffie maybe got a girl pregnant. 2) Max/Don’s wife didn’t really die or there’s another ex or something. 3) Max/Don reminds her too much of her ex, a.k.a. The Pig. 4) Everything is fine, but Veronica has a breakdown anyway (notes to self: fuck Atkins, fuck Max/Don, be kind to Cliffie, no more fiction writing classes).

“Mom,” Clifford protests, “I want to be an archaeologist like my real father who I never met.”

“Oh honey,” she tucks him under the chin, slugs him on the shoulder, “I don’t believe there are any digs here in Rohnert Park, California, and besides, I know you’ve been cutting school for the last three months.”

“But Mom, I want to go to the Olduvai site and find the remains of my real father who died there.”

Suddenly a light goes off (goes on?) in her head. “But honey, this is about Max/Don, isn’t it?”

Clifford’s eyes (one of Clifford’s eyes) drops to the floor.




“Mom” (note: develop this section).

Some additional background: Every time Veronica meets a man, Clifford obsesses about his real father, and specifically about visiting Olduvai (good! symbolic!)

Possible themes: We are all related if you go back far enough. The past continues into the present. All men (and women) are mortal.

Possible titles: Roots! (Been done) Bones! (Hmm?) The Ultimate Common Ground!

Climax/resolution: Max/Don is standing on the tarmac (at an airport). Thick hot tears roll down his manly cheeks. He looks at Veronica with a meaningful look. The air is thick and hot with tension.

“This isn’t about you, Max/Don, and it never was,” Clifford insinuates as he tugs the sleeve of his mother’s very expensive Gortex pullover.

“But I think my hamsters are dying,” offers Max/Don, his wet eyes locked on her dry ones.

“This isn’t about hamsters dying,” she retorts.

Max/Don visibly suffers from the pain of heartache and humiliation (need to show this!)

“What about your job?” Max/Don grovels. “What about your pets?” (may need to bring this in sooner) “Oh, Veronica, babe, what about us? Isn’t this about us?”

She experiences a slight catch in her throat. Her eyes drop to the floor, tarmac. “This isn’t even about us,” she volunteers.

“This is about flying to Africa,” Clifford replies robustly as the co-pilot beckons them from the rapidly closing door of the plane. “This is about returning to places we’ve never been.”

“What can I say,” pleads Max/Don while evaluating the situation.

“Love really stinks sometimes,” Veronica manages.

“Love can really smell awful,” Max/Don concurs.

She rubs her slender hand through his perfect hair. “Just wish us good luck!”

“Dig deep. Be brave,” exhumes Clifford as they sprint to the rolling staircase.

“Good luck,” shouts Max/Don, “in finding the ultimate common ground."