Hambone 1963

By R. Earle Harris
All rights reserved (c) 2015 (rearleharris@tuxfamily.org)


FADE IN:

EXT. HUNTSVILLE STATE PRISON - DAY

Establishing shot of Texas prison.

EXT. HAMBONE - DAY

In a wooden office chair sits HAMBONE, a heavy-set black man, thirty years old, his plain-looking face is almost sympathetic, almost brutal. His primary quality is an inability to censor what is inside him -- if he chooses to speak or act, it just comes out. PRESIDING OFFICER of his parole board speaks.

PRESIDING OFFICER (O.S.)
For the record. Your name, sir.

HAMBONE
What?

INT. HEARING ROOM - CONTINUOUS

Parole hearing. The parole board sits in judgment. On a chalkboard is, among other things, the number 86.

PRESIDING OFFICER
State your name, please.

EXT. HAMBONE - CONTINUOUS

Concentrates.

HAMBONE
Hambone.

INT. HEARING ROOM - CONTINUOUS

The board is less than sympathetic.

MAN
Your real name.

HAMBONE
Cleophus. Johnson.

PRESIDING OFFICER
Mr. Johnson, we are here to decide upon your probation. For the record: the year of your birth.

HAMBONE
Nineteen-sixty-three.

Presiding Officer looks at Hambone's file.

PRESIDING OFFICER
Here it says nineteen-seventy-three. You're thirty years old.

HAMBONE
Yeah. I mean. I wish I was born in 1963.

The board watches him, looking down on him.

HAMBONE (CONT'D)
It's the music. That was the first year we could be proud of ourselves.

WOMAN
We?

HAMBONE
My momma said that. She had the top 100 hits on the wall. So I learned the whole thing.

PRESIDING OFFICER
Did you?

HAMBONE
I did.

PRESIDING OFFICER
I suppose you could tell us what number one was, then. As if that mattered.

Hambone points to the number 86 on the chalkboard.

HAMBONE
I can even tell you what song was number that. Number 86. Walking the Dog. Rufus Thomas.

Audio up with Walking the Dog by Rufus Thomas --

MONTAGE

-- and cut to montage of black and white still photos of Hambone, his good-for-nothing father, his sad mother, his cousins, his uncles, his aunts, that forms the background of the opening credits until the song is over.

INT. HEARING ROOM - CONTINUOUS

Right where we left off. Hambone still pointing at number 86.

PRESIDING OFFICER
Put your hand down, Mr. Johnson. Your record tells us you have spent most of your time here on good behavior.

Hambone nods. Presiding Officer waits him out.

HAMBONE
Yes. Sir.

PRESIDING OFFICER
And you have been working in the prison library for the last five years--

HAMBONE
Yessir.

PRESIDING OFFICER
For the last five years.

SECOND WOMAN
You've been reading there? To further your education?

HAMBONE
No, ma'am. I don't really read.

MAN
You have a high-school education. Low grades. You don't read.

HAMBONE
I can't read.

MAN
But you graduated.

HAMBONE
They pushed us ahead.

SECOND WOMAN
Oh.

PRESIDING OFFICER
You were convicted of. Let's see. Aggravated assault. Armed robbery.

WOMAN
Tell us about that.

EXT. ALLEY - NIGHT

Black and white, like a home movie. Letter-boxed on screen. Hambone and cousin CHRIS are robbing a black someone who is in the wrong place at the wrong time. The someone puts up a little struggle. Hambone reacts strongly, violently overwhelming the victim, while Chris watches.

EXT. HAMBONE - CONTINUOUS

Right where we left off.

HAMBONE
I hurt somebody. Real bad. I took his money.

INT. HEARING ROOM - CONTINUOUS

Same.

PRESIDING OFFICER
The police report states that you had an accomplice.

HAMBONE
My cousin. Chris.

PRESIDING OFFICER
Yes. Your cousin. And the two of you robbed your uncle.

HAMBONE
My uncle Marcus.

PRESIDING OFFICER
Can you tell us why you were so violent towards a member of your own family?

HAMBONE
The day before that. He took all of Chris's money.

MAN
So you went to get it back.

HAMBONE
Chris asked me to help. It was a family thing.

PRESIDING OFFICER
Can you tell us why you were so unrestrained in your violence? Towards your own uncle?

EXT. ALLEY - NIGHT

Home movie. The violent part again.

INT. HEARING ROOM - CONTINUOUS

Same.

HAMBONE
No. It was his fault.

WOMAN
His what?

HAMBONE
Fault. My Uncle's fault. I told him to give the money back.

PRESIDING OFFICER
Mr. Johnson. If you were to be released, with whom would you live?

HAMBONE
With my momma. In San Antonio.

WOMAN
But according to this, your mother is no longer there. Our efforts to contact her met with no response.

HAMBONE
She's still there. All our family's there. I'll live with her.

OTHER MAN
Your father is still in San Antonio. What does he do?

INT. LIVING ROOM - NIGHT

Black and white, like a home movie. Letter-boxed on screen. Hambone's father is beating up his wife in front of his son.

EXT. HAMBONE - CONTINUOUS

Same.

HAMBONE
He beats my mother. That's why he don't live with us anymore.

INT. HEARING ROOM - CONTINUOUS

Same.

PRESIDING OFFICER
Your mother. Assuming she is still there. What does she do?

HAMBONE
She cleans white people's houses.

PRESIDING OFFICER
And she can afford to support you? Until you have legitimate employment in accordance with the guidelines of your parole?

HAMBONE
I'll live with my momma.

INT. OUT-PROCESSING - DAY

Hambone and two officers are processing him out of Huntsville. Hambone is dressed in street clothes now too small for him. FIRST OFFICER is behind cage. SECOND OFFICER is handing Hambone his effects.

FIRST OFFICER
You look like ten pounds of shit in a five-pound bag, son.

Hambone puts his silver bracelet on, his wallet in his pocket.

SECOND OFFICER
He'll be back. All the stupid ones come back.

HAMBONE
I'm not stupid.

FIRST OFFICER
Sure you are, son.

First Officer points to a simple sign on the wall.

FIRST OFFICER (CONT'D)
What does this say?

HAMBONE
I can't read.

SECOND OFFICER
You can't read. Here. Sign for this.

Hands him the tiny amount of money prisoners are given on discharge and a bus ticket.

HAMBONE
What's this?

FIRST OFFICER
You can't read. You know what kind of work you can get with a skill like that?

SECOND OFFICER
Bus ticket. San Antonio.

HAMBONE
I have a high-school degree. And I don't need a ticket. I've got family picking me up. They know I'm getting out.

FIRST OFFICER
A high-school degree ? Ooh.

SECOND OFFICER
You'll be back. C'mon, boy.

Second Officer leads Hambone to a gate.

EXT. EXIT AREA - DAY

Second Officer is escorting Hambone out of the prison.

SECOND OFFICER
Don't look like nobody's comin' for you, boy.

HAMBONE
They coming. They be here at ten.

SECOND OFFICER
You best hang on to your bus ticket, boy. It's too damn hot to walk to San Antone.

HAMBONE
I ain't no boy.

SECOND OFFICER
You'll be back.

He releases Hambone into the world.

HAMBONE
Hey. What time is it?

SECOND OFFICER
They ain't coming. It's ten-thirty-eight.

HAMBONE
Thirty-eight. Heat Wave.

Audio up and over with Heat Wave by Martha and the Vandellas --

EXT. HUNTSVILLE - DAY

-- as Hambone waits for family to pick him up. (Song continues until he boards bus below.)

EXT. HUNTSVILLE - DAY

Early afternoon. Hambone still waiting. Bus comes and goes.

EXT. HUNTSVILLE - DAY

Late afternoon. Hambone still waiting. He goes over and checks the bus stop's schedule.

EXT. BUS - EVENING

Hambone uses his ticket to board the bus. Song ends.

INT. BUS - CONTINUOUS

Hambone takes a window seat next to an empty aisle seat. Plain, young WHITE GIRL watches him sit down. Bus rolls on. White Girl gets up and sits down next to Hambone. He looks away as if she's trouble.

WHITE GIRL
What's your name?

Hambone ignores her. She pokes him


Screenplay truncated at 500 lines.