The Hitchhiker

(An American Pastoral)

by James Douglas Morrison

        THE SCREEN IS BLACK. We hear a young man's voice in
        casual conversation with friends.

                No, this guy told me you can go
                down across the border and buy a
                girl and bring her back and that's
                what I'm goin' to do, I'm gonna go
                down there and buy one of them and
                bring her back and marry her. I am.

        An older woman's voice

                Billy, are you completely crazy?

        We hear the good-natured laughter of the woman, a man
        and another friend as Billy's insistent voice rises through

                No, it's true. Really. This guy told
                me. It's true. I'm really gonna do it.

        The film changes to COLOR. A couple sit at a small table in
        a simulated border town nightclub. It is a CLOSE shot,
        reminding us possibly of Picasso's "Absinthe Drinkers." The
        atmosphere is suggested by peripheral sounds such as bois-
        terous young voices, curses in a foreign language, the tin-
        kling of glasses and music from a small rock band. Perhaps a
        dancer is visible in the background. Perhaps topless. An
        anonymous waitress could enter the frame and leave, serving

        The HERO is drunk and he's trying to persuade an attractive
        Mexican girl, a waitress in the bar, a whore, to cross the
        border and marry him. The girl tolerates him. She is work-
        ing, hustling drinks, and has to listen but also she likes him.
        In some way, he interests her.

                I bet only reason you won't come
                with me is because I ain't got any
                money. Well, listen. I'm tellin' you.
                I'm gonna go back up there and get
                me some money, lots of it, maybe
                even ten thousand. And then I'm
                comin' back for you. I'm comin'

        He weaves offscreen, determined, drunk, camera hold on
        girl, smiling wistfully and ironically after him. Then she
        grabs another young American and pulls him down beside

                              THE GIRL
                Hey, man, you want to buy me a


                          THE HITCHHIKER
                      (An American Pastoral)

        Film changes to BLACK and WHITE. It is dawn on the
        American desert; it's cold, and he stands hunched in his
        jacket, by the side of the highway. The sun is rising. We
        hold on him as a few cars go by at long intervals. We hear
        the car coming, watch his eyes watching, he sticks his thumb
        out. CUT TO profile shot, as a car swishes by. The third
        car stops and he runs, not too energetically and get inside.

        INTERIOR car. Middle-aged man in a business suit. He asks
        the hitchhiker where he is going.


        He is obviously reluctant to do any talking.

                            THE DRIVER
                I can take you as far as Amarillo and
                then you'll have to go on from there.

                    (No reply. No recognition.)

                What are you going to do when you
                get to L.A.? Have you got a job lined

                (No answer. He is beginning to nod.)

        The man drives on. We see glimses of the American land-
        scape out the window of the car. The man glances sideways
        occasionally at Billy who is sleeping.

        CLOSE UP of the man's right hand moving snake-like to-
        wards the hiker's left leg. He hesitates and then touches it
        above the knee. Immediately, a .38 revolver appears from
        Billy jacket and points at the driver.

                Pull over.

        Profile of car, left side, extremely long shot. We hear a shot.
        The hitchhiker comes around the rear of the car, opens the
        door, and pulls the driver toward camera, his corpse that is,
        to the gully, and, after stripping his wallet of all the cash,
        gets into the car and drives away.

        The kid is standing beside the car with his thumb out. The
        hood is raised. The engine has failed. A State Patrolman (we
        learn this from his uniform, western hat, and badge) stops in
        his own unmarked car. Billy gets in the car. The sheriff is
        friendly. He talks a lot. He tells Billy that he's just getting
        back home after delivering two lunatics from his local jail to
        the state asylum.

                I had to put them both in straight-
                jackets and throw them in the back
                of the wagon. I had to. They were
                totally uninhibited. I mean, if I let
                'em loose, they just start jerking off
                and playing with each other, so I had
                to keep them tied up.

        The killer is trying to stay awake. He's strung out on ben-
        nies, and also just plain exhausted, and he's fighting to fol-
        low the man's conversation. The sheriff rambles on. Billy is
        in that weird state between what's being said in reality and what
        he hears in his dream. The sheriff asks a question. He an-
        swers and then jerks up suddenly to realize that he's been
        inventing his own dialogue inside his head. Finally, he can
        take it no longer. He pulls the gun out and orders the sheriff
        to pull over to the side of the road. Then he forces him to
        unlock the trunk, orders him inside and slams the lid.

        INTERIOR of car. The hitchhiker is driving on.

        As the car slows down for an upgrade, the trunk flies open
        and the sheriff tumbles out into the dust. Billy sees it in the
        rearview mirror. He slams on the brakes, jumps out of the
        car and runs back to the spot. From off in the desert, we see
        the sheriff racing insanely toward the camera. He suddenly
        leaps and throws himself flat on the ground behind a sand
        dune, next to the camera. From this point of view, the sheriff
        crouched and breathing in heavy gasps, we watch the kid
        stand on the side of the road, stare out into the desert and
        finally get back into the car and drive away.

        Billy is hitchhiking again. Obviously, he has ditched the
        sheriff's car somewhere along the way. A car pulls over.
        There is a young man driving and in the back seat are his
        wife and two small children, a boy and a girl. The driver is
        friendly, tells him he used to hitchhike a lot himself and
        volunteers the information that he has just returned home
        from two years in Viet Nam, where he was a pilot. Billy
        pulls out the gun and lets them know immediately that he
        wants them to take him anywhere he wants to go. Other-
        wise, he'll kill them.

        It is NIGHT. They pull into a gas station. Billy is hungry,
        so are the kids. So he goes with the ex-aviator into a small
        country store that's part of the station. He warns the family
        to keep quiet or he'll kill everyone.

        INSIDE the country store. A seedy old man behind the
        counter. They ask him for a bunch of ham sandwiches. In
        close-up, we watch him slice the meat, the knife hesitating
        minutely, deciding on the thickness of each slice. The two
        men stand there watching him. Suddenly, the husband
        wheels around and gets a grip on the hitchhiker from behind.
        They whirl madly around the store, the father screaming for
        the proprietor to call the police.

                              THE MAN
                Stop him! He's got a gun!! He's
                gonna kill us!!! Help me!!!!

        Billy somehow manages to get his gun out and forces the
        man to the car. The store owner stares after him, mouth
        agape, then picks up the receiver to call the police.

        MORNING. A young boy finds the car, pulled off on a side
        road, splattered with blood. He opens the door and sees the
        little girl's baby doll, the naked, flesh-colored rubber kind,
        and in close-up, we see blood on it.

        The EXTERIOR of a run-down shack in the country. We
        hear the sounds from inside. INTERIOR of shack. Televi-
        sion and radio and newspaper reporters, including an attrac-
        tive woman with a notebook, are interviewing the killer's
        father. He's a very old man, an alcoholic, who is slightly
        pleased to be thrust suddenly into the spotlight, but who
        treats the situation with a grave sense of public image and
                             THE FATHER
                He was always a pretty strange boy,
                specially after his mother passed
                away. Then he got real quiet. He
                didn't have many friends. Just his
                brothers and sisters.

                           GIRL REPORTER
                Mr. Cooke, is there anything you'd
                like to tell your son?

                Yes, there is. Billy, if you can hear
                me, son, please turn yourself in.
                Cause what you're doin', it just ain't
                right. You're not doin' right, son.
                And you know it.

        During this appeal, the camera has moved slowly into a
        CLOSE-UP of the old man's face.

        INTERIOR. Car. Night. Rain. A car radio. The light glows
        yellow in the dark car. The radio is playing a country gospel
        hour. A revival meeting. The preacher and his flock. As Billy
        listens, we flash back into his past, over the rain and wind-
        shield wipers. We see an old man and a young boy in the
        woods. The man is Billy's father and the boy is Billy himself
        at about age seven or eight. The father teaches his son how
        to shoot a gun. He tell him to aim at a rabbit.

                             THE FATHER
                Don't be afraid, son. Don't be afraid.
                Just squeeze one off.

        We see a rabbit pinioned in a rifle's telescopic sight.

        A small town high school, 3:30, bell rings, school is out. The
        kids gush from the building and flow like a human stream to
        the favorite drive-in restaurant.

        INTERIOR of car. Billy is eating a cheeseburger and Coke.
        Through his windows he watches the movements of one of
        the carhops. She is wearing slacks and with him we watch
        her ass and thighs. When she comes to collect, he asks her to
        come for a ride with him. We hear him say this but the
        ensuing dialogue is shown in pantomime. The actual voices
        are drowned out by the sounds of radios, kids talking.

        They are driving up a mountain road. The Rolling Stones'
        "I Can't Get No Satisfaction" comes on the radio. Billy sings
        along with the record with wild abandon and squirms in his
        seat like a toad.

        The car is parked on a rocky view overlooking the ocean.
        He gets out of the car and dances around it, acting crazy, and
        howling like an Indian. He ducks up and down, appearing
        and reappearing in different windows. She laughs at his

        The couple are in the back seat, vaguely we see their move-
        ments, hear them whispering, laughing, talking. CUT TO
        outside of car. They get out of the back of the car, hair and
        clothes disarranged and move side by side into a rough ter-
        rain behind some rocks. Camera holds on the rocks. A pri-
        meval rock formation. At a rhythm that is peculiarly
        excruciating, we hear three gunshots.

        A rest room in an LA service station. EXTERIOR. Billy
        enters rest room.

        INTERIOR rest room. Billy shaves with soap in rest room
        mirror, runs his wet hands through his hair.

        EXTERIOR, downtown LA. Camera follows him from a
        car, as he wanders through the downtown crowds of Broad-
        way and Main Street. Many times he is lost to our view. We
        see him in an arcade, where he plays a pinball machine.

        CLOSE-UP of pinball game in progress.

        Billy in photo booth. Flash of the lights.

        CLOSE-UP of four automatic photos: flash flash flash flash.
        Four faces of Billy.

        Billy in downtown hamburger stand. He is eating, seen from
        behind, Gun enters frame left. He turns and sees it, stares
        back blankly.

        CUT TO EXTERIOR, street. In hand-held confused close-
        up sequence, we see him dragged and shoved into the back
        seat of a car (police car). He is kicked and beaten. During the
        struggle, we hear many men's voices, gloating righteous ex-

                So you're the little bastard that
                killed all those people! (Kick) You
                had a good time, didn't you? (Kick)
                You really killed 'em, didn't you?

        Hands cuffed behind his back, he looks up with a confused
        expression and says:

                But I'm a good boy.

        The men laugh.

        Film switches to COLOR. A montage of extant photo-
        graphs representing death. The body of Che Guevara, a
        northern Renaissance Dutch crucifixion, bullfight, slaugh-
        terhouse, mandalas and into abstraction. A nature film of a
        mongoose killing a cobra, a black dog runs free on the beach.

        EXTERIOR night. On the steps of City Hall of Justice we
        see the hitchhiker descend dreamlike in slow motion, move
        languorously across a deserted city square toward the camera
        until he covers the lens and seems to pass through it.

        Seen now from behind, as he moves away from lens, he
        enters a desert outskirt region where he finds an automobile
        graveyard. He is wandering in Eternity. In the junkyard,
        three people squat around a small fire. They're cooking po-
        tatoes in the coals, an older man named DOC pokes the fire
        with a stick. There is an older woman, funky, glamorous,
        and the third person is a young boy, a mute, of indeterminate
        age. He is slightly made up with white makeup. They are
        hoboes in Eternity and are not surprised to see him. He nears
        the fire.

                Well, how ya doin', kid? I see you
                did it again. Ya hungry? There's
                some food here if ya want it.

        Billy doesn't speak. He stares at the moon. The woman has
        kept her head down, her hair covering her face.

                Billy's back. Blue Lady, didja hear
                me? I said Billy's back.

        She looks up for the first time.

                             BLUE LADY
                Hi, Billy.

                Hello, Blue Lady.

        He looks at the boy.

                Hiya, Clown Boy.

        CLOWN BOY claps his hands and nods, his face contorted
        grotesquely in greeting. They sit for a while like this, and
        stare at the fire. They eat the potatoes. Then Doc rises and

                The sun's gonna be up in a while. I
                guess we'd better move on.

        Slowly, one by one, the other two rise. Doc puts out the fire
        with dirt and says:

                Ya comin' with us, Billy?

                          (thinking hard)
                I don't know, Doc, I just don't know.

        Doc smiles.

                Well, we'll see ya later, kid. The rest
                of the gang will be real glad to see
                ya. They sure will. Well...

        Doc, Clown Boy and the Blue Lady start moving toward
        the rising sun into the mountain desert. Every now and then
        they turn and wave, Clown Boy leaping up and down madly
        and waving good-bye.

        As they slowly disappear, camera changes focus to Billy, the
        hitchhiker, the kid, the killer, hunkered over the dead smol-
        dering fire.

                              THE END