Screen Test

by Christina Dalcher

 

San Francisco. Fisherman’s Wharf. Docks. Closer angle to a wooden shack, tired brown and weathered gray, tilted. The characters are Lila and Bonnie, sisters, orphans. A voiceover tells us this is three months after the earthquake.

“See those seals, Bon-Bon?” Lila points out the whiskered pups, the closest kin to dogs now. “You keep your eye on them long enough, they’ll talk. They’ll say real nice things.”

Bonnie believes this. Five is an innocent age.

Interior shot. Lila in the shack, trading favors of the flesh for food. Two ragged hunks of dry bread. A fish she will later gut and roast until the stink is charred away. She would like to have oranges, but the man with the oranges hasn’t come today. Lila closes her eyes and pretends the hands roaming over her skin are ocean waves.

Fast forward to evening. In the fire’s glow, Lila and Bonnie share a single fish. Small bones stab at Lila’s gums.

The man with the oranges arrives. Close-up of his face shows tobacco-stained teeth, leather skin, a mole.

Lila leads her sister far out on the pier. “Did the seals talk to you today, Bon-Bon?”

“Nope.”

“You keep watching, honey. You ask them to bring you oranges tonight.”

Jump to sex-scene. We hear a man’s voice, greasy and grunting. A zipping sound. Now, Lila’s voice, arguing. The man with the oranges did not bring oranges. Maybe tomorrow, he says.

Lila leaves the shack, walks empty-handed along the pier. Fish-eye of the bay, Alcatraz in the background, a cold and lonely rock. On many days, Lila would like to swim to it, although she never has, never will.

Pull back. A silhouette of two sisters. One taller, with tired shoulders.

Bonnie is clapping at the seals and laughing as we fade to black. We never see Lila cry.