Elder Care by Annie Levihn (so far, and not formatted correctly)

INT – stage at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, 1985 – night

 

 

RICHARD PACKHAM, 35, a mega-popular Las Vegas singer who happens to be British, is singing with a soulful look on his face to Eric Carmen’s “All By Myself.” The song is about to end.

 

The auditorium at Caesars Palace is packed. RICHARD is obviously well-loved and he is theatrical in ending the song. His hair is longer, feathered in an ‘80s style, and he has a mustache, a la Tony Orlando.

 

 

RICHARD

 

(singing with emphasis)

 

All by myself, don’t wanna live all by myself anymore.

 

(the song ends)

 

Thank you! Thank you!

 

(bowing with hands in front of his chest like in prayer)

 

…thank you.

 

INT – a small track house in suburban Phoenix, Arizona, modern day – morning

 

 

 

RICHARD is bowing down at an altar he has built in his home. It has a photo of Frank Sinatra, a Buddha, some prayer beads, candles, etc.

 

 

RICHARD

 

(coming up from his bow)

 

 

Namaste.

 

 

 

RICHARD gets up and busies himself by getting ready.

 

He rubs on self-tanner/SPF (Ban de Soleil—an ‘80s brand), Speed Stick deodorant, Old Spice, and then proceeds to put mousse in his hair (Vidal Sassoon). Then, the piece de resistance, he blows his hair dry.

 

Taking off his Hugh Hefner-style robe, he proceeds to shimmy into a Speedo “banana sling” swimsuit, dons several gold chains and puts on flip-flops. Over that, he dons a white shirt embroidered with “Heavenly Acres STAFF—Dick P.” on it, and khaki pants.

 

It is obvious that RICHARD still lives a bit in the past with his “life of style” from the ‘80s and tries hard to hang on to what is left of his youth (he is a good-looking 63 and physically fit).

 

He goes through the motions of getting ready to start his day in the same way he has always done it-—with much preparation—-a throwback to his days in Vegas, where he would spend much time getting ready for an evening’s performance, albeit with the help of a stylist.

 

RICHARD is now a certified massage therapist. He was very popular on the Las Vegas circuit circa 1980-85 or so and wooed the crowds with glittering, showy stage acts that were akin to Burt Bacharach, Tony Orlando and Dawn—even Barry Manilow. He famously sang COVERS of all the favorites from the ‘60s and ‘70s, but never any original work.

 

RICHARD remains distant friends with a few of these stars, though, rather unfortunately, RICHARD gambled away his fortune, becoming a gaming addict and an alcoholic.

 

He’s over that now, but never quite recovered any fame and definitely not any fortune.

 

After his stint in rehab, which took place in Sedona, Arizona, (he had a vision on a vortex) RICHARD became smitten with the desert and now lives in a tract housing area outside of HEAVENLY ACRES retirement community, which sits outside Sun City and Phoenix, Arizona.

 

As part of RICHARD’s rehab, he learned a healthier lifestyle and took up the alternative healing practice of massage therapy as a way to make money.

 

 

 

(Opening credits roll to: “Love for Sale” by Jacqui Naylor.)

 

 

 

After RICHARD prepares to face yet another day, he seems a bit content to just be on his way and adds a spring to his step. Though he knows he’s stuck, he’s not really too unhappy and makes the most of his situation, getting into each moment in a playful way.

 

RICHARD grabs a pack, leisurely walks through his 900-sq. ft. tract home, and is out in the Arizona sunshine, amidst hundreds upon hundreds of homes that look just like his.

 

He pops around to the backyard and we notice that RICHARD’s tiny home backs up to HEAVENLY ACRES, in sharp contrast—but the retirement community is built with a huge fence (tastefully done, of course, but dominating) around it.

 

RICHARD hops the fence (or squeezes through somehow) and walks to the pool where there are literally dozens of Old Biddies swimming, doing water aerobics, drinking cocktails and wheatgrass, taking their meds served by well-dressed staff members and generally having a geriatric gay old time.

 

The women are in their sunbathing best, but it is very obvious this is an OLD crowd and RICHARD is the youngest by far, other than the staff, which is certainly out of age range for these women—of course there are a few men, but they are a rare breed.

 

RICHARD slowly walks past a well-kept row of fancy lounge chairs where one after one the Old Biddies eye RICHARD from head to toe and try to make eyes with him, but RICHARD’s eyes are covered by Ray-Ban aviator sunglasses and he seems to have a goal in sight.

 

He smiles knowing that every single Old Biddy is sizing him up, he saunters a bit and the last lounge chair holds JAMES, the exceptional male, who happens to be RICHARD’s best friend, and also happens to be gay.

 

“Love for Sale” scratches as we do a double take on JAMES who peers over his sunglasses and eyes up RICHARD. But no sooner can we figure out the relationship between the two men (platonic…very), then we hear an Old Biddy cry out…

 

 

ROSE

 

 

“Woo hoo! Dickie! Over here!”

 

 

 

 

INT- DAY- Enclosed sun cabana at Heavenly Acres

 

RICHARD enters the cabana where a massage table is set up and ROSE is all ready to get a rubdown.

 

RICHARD has his routine and puts on some New Age music, situates ROSE underneath a sheet, puts on a belt that has two pump bottles attached to it (massage oil in one, Purel in the other…) and prepares to perform his job.

 

ROSE is talking excitedly about her lineup of activities for the day and RICHARD begins to work his magic fingers.

 

JAMES enters the cabana, but ROSE doesn’t see him as her eyes are closed. He rolls his eyes and is having a good time mimicking her. ROSE chats and chats and RICHARD soothingly tells her to…

 

 

RICHARD

 

 

Relax…forget your day…

 

 

 

 

Almost instantly, ROSE FALLS asleep.

 

 

RICHARD

 

(smiling at JAMES)

 

Works like a solid-gold charm every time.

 

 

JAMES

 

You do have that magic touch.

 

Now speaking of magic, Sylvia Pancenko passed on last night. I just heard it from one of the aids. I know it’s sad whenever someone crosses to the Other Side, but at our age—well, MY age anyway—you’re not doing anyone a favor by sticking around attached to an electrical outlet.

 

Everyone dies, end of story. Once you get over the heartbreak of the first…oh say half dozen or so…you start to realize that it’s all just a matter of time….anyway, that’s my philosophy. You have to find the good or you’d just be crying all the time.

 

Anyway! After she had that heart attack…I’m betting poor Sylvia would’ve wished she’d signed the DO NOT RESUSCITATE. Her children were in agony for nearly a year about pulling the plug. But then, POOF, the decision was made for them. 1:33 a.m. this morning.

 

 

RICHARD

 

Rest in Peace.

 

 

JAMES

 

Rest in Peace.

 

Now…

(looking mischievous)

 

…wouldn’t you have liked to get a finger in the pie of THAT family’s fortune, hmmm? Heir to the Sweetie Cakes empire….that Sylvia swore by those damn preservative-and-lard laden Mr. Fruit-eez pies and not to mention the Choco-Banana Sweetie Cakes, the Sin-A-Min Swirls, the Peanut Butter Crisp Stix, oh, and the Whoopie Delight pies. Gawd, at 49-cents a pop, who could resist such a bargain at the pump station?

 

 

RICHARD

 

You seem to know a lot about Sweetie Cakes varieties, James. One might think you actually eat them.

 

 

JAMES

 

Let’s just say, I’ve done my research.

(Hits his belly, which is actually quite firm for a man of his age.)

 

 

A man is curious, you know. I wanted to see what all the hype was about when they pulled Twinkle Dwinkles off the shelves a few months ago. Why, the Sweetie Cakes corporation was going bankrupt! Remember that on the news?

 

 

 

RICHARD

 

Everyone was running to QuikMarts to stock up, yeah, I remember. Nasty business.

 

 

 

JAMES

 

It just amazed everyone in the world how actually popular those damn things are; drove the stock price right back up.

 

While she was comatose, Sylvia was getting richer by the day.

 

 

 

RICHARD

 

Rest in peace.

 

 

 

JAMES

 

Yes, yes. Rest in peace.

 

You could’ve worked your way into that will, Richard, my friend.

 

Sylvia had a thing for your Fabulous Phalanges. Well (gestures to ROSE), they all do.

 

 

 

RICHARD

 

I just do my job.

 

 

 

JAMES

 

But you’re good at it. You’ve given me a squeeze or two, and I am very particular about who touches and how to touch my bod. Why, I work very hard to take care of these perky pecs, these golden gams, these brazen biceps!

 

 

 

RICHARD

 

I didn’t know biceps could be brazen, but good show, dear fellow, you’ve convinced me. And thank you, for the compliment.

 

 

 

JAMES

 

You’re welcome. And you know that I know that you’re damn good at more than massages. Why back in the day…

 

 

 

RICHARD

 

Ah, ah, ah! Mustn’t talk about Back in the Day.

 

 

 

JAMES

 

Pfffft.

 

 

 

RICHARD

 

I am who I am now. I’ve been a massage therapist for over a decade. I love making people relaxed. Happy. Satisfied.

 

You moved in here just a couple years ago, Jimmy. I’ve been at Heavenly Acres since they opened. We’ve talked about this.

 

 

 

JAMES

 

True…You’ve been here awhile.

 

 

 

RICHARD

 

And I like my gig here. I make a lot of ladies happy here…a few gents…

 

 

 

JAMES

 

Huh…and more than a few gents if some of them would admit it…

 

 

RICHARD

 

…via my occupation, and I’m proud of where I am now. I’m not the past. I mean…I am the past, but I’m not going to live there. I’ve made my peace.

 

 

INT – stage at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, 1983 – night

 

FLASHBACK to RICHARD onstage. He sings CAT STEVEN’S “Peace Train” in a fanfare-ish manner with his backup singers.

 

 

RICHARD

 

Oh I’ve been smiling lately, dreaming about the world as one

And I believe it could be, some day it’s going to come

 

Cause out on the edge of darkness, there rides a peace train

Oh peace train take this country, come take me home again

 

Now I’ve been smiling lately, thinking about the good things to come

And I believe it could be, something good has begun

 

Oh peace train sounding louder

Glide on the peace train

Come on now peace train

Yes, peace train holy roller

 

Everyone jump upon the peace train

Come on now peace train…

 

 

 

INT- DAY- Enclosed sun cabana at Heavenly Acres

 

The flashback ends, and we are back in the cabana with RICHARD and JAMES and ROSE.

 

 

 

RICHARD

 

Huh?

 

 

 

JAMES

 

(whispering) I said, “Rose is waking up!”

 

 

 

RICHARD

 

Oh. Yeah. Right-o.

 

(To Rose; massaging her head)

 

There. And….time’s up!

 

 

 

ROSE

 

Oh my! I feel as though I’ve fallen asleep! That was absolutely gorge-ous! Dickie, darling, I a-DORE massages with you. Now next time will you do an in-room massage service, darling? Please?

 

 

 

RICHARD

 

Let’s see, Rose. I’ll look at my calendar and let you know. Take your time getting up. Be sure to drink plenty of water the rest of the afternoon. Take it easy.

 

 

(JAMES exits and ROSE sits up. Her hair is quite messy.)

 

 

 

ROSE

 

Oh, I’m up! I’m up!

 

 

 

RICHARD

 

And, you look smashing after all that, darling. Just smashing!

 

(ROSE is flattered.)

 

Ta-ta! Off to my next appointment.

 

 

(RICHARD exits the cabana.)

 

 

 

JAMES

 

Mrs. Hurley. Condo 240P. “P.” That’s PENThouse.

 

 

RICHARD

 

Thank you, James for reading my schedule book.

 

(Grabs his schedule book from JAMES.)

 

 

 

JAMES

 

Just looking to see if there’s any hot prospects for you. You don’t even get tips at this place, Richard! The No Tipping Please policy can’t be doing much for your retirement fund. What you need is a nice little old biddie who’ll take you on as her surrogate son and leave you a nice chunk of an extensive & deep mutual fund investment over her 50-year working career.

 

Nellie McGilligan. Now there’s a prospect. She’s not in Assisted Care yet, but will be soon, I bet. She was walking last week, but now she’s in a wheelchair…

 

Owned a commercial concrete supply company right here in Phoenix. She was here before Scottsdale practically existed. All the malls, the subdivisions…they’re all made from HER concrete. Funny how big money can come—quite literally—from dirt.

 

 

 

RICHARD

 

Ah James. Ever looking out for me. But you know, you’re sick.

 

 

 

JAMES

 

Lovesick. There’s Doug now.

 

(Motions and waves to DOUG, who sits on a bench surrounded by scads of flowering shrubs.)

 

He must be taking a break from Charlene.

 

 

 

RICHARD

 

Jolly good. Gotta go. Love Doug. Love Dot Hurley. I’m afraid her dementia is getting the best of her, but she’s still a party girl to the bone. Cheerio, Jimmy. Find something productive to do.

 

Like work on your tan.

 

 

 

JAMES

 

Well, now I have something productive to do. Gonna say, “Hey” to my main man.

 

(He runs over and joins DOUG on the bench.)

 

 

 

 

INT – DAY – DOT HURLEY’S gorgeous penthouse condo overlooking a golf course

 

 

It is obvious DOT has a lot of money. DOT is pretty, 78 years old, and dressed with what looks like an expensive robe. She is at a mirror applying lipstick, but it gets a little off-kilter. She spritzes a cloud of perfume (though pressing the nozzle is a bit difficult; she fumbles a bit) and walks through it.

 

 

(RICHARD enters.)

 

 

DOT

 

Sweetheart, Dickie. Come over here.

(opens arms for a hug)

 

 

 

RICHARD

 

(To the nursing aid)

Well, must be a good day, she’s remembering my name.

 

(The aid smiles and nods.)

 

Dorothy, you smell like a summer garden in…well…not in Phoenix.

 

(Smiles.)

Reminds me of a walk out in the English countryside.

 

 

(DOROTHY looks at the bottle and reads it, slowly.)

 

 

 

DOROTHY

 

“Yard-ley’s.” Oh, of course, it’s Yardley’s. Of London, you know. “English Lavender.”

 

 

DOT sprays another cloud (again, she has difficulty pressing the nozzle) and walks through it. The perfume is getting a little strong now. She has obviously forgotten she just put it on.

 

 

 

RICHARD

 

(stifling a cough)

 

Here now, let me take that for you.

 

So,

 

(turns to aid) Usual today?

 

 

 

NURSING AID

 

I think so, Mr. Paxton.

 

(turning to Dorothy)

 

Mrs. Hurley, the usual arm-and-hand massage?

 

 

 

DOROTHY

 

Oh yes, these…

 

(gestures to hands; looks them over thoughtfully; she has forgotten the word she wants to use)

 

these are no good.

 

 

 

RICHARD

 

Ah, they are SO good, Dot! Let’s have a seat and get started.

 

(RICHARD sets up a massage chair and has DOROTHY sit down.)

 

 

 

DOT

 

Ahhh…

 

…Richard.

 

 

 

RICHARD

 

(a little startled that she uses his real name)

 

Ahem, yes Dorothy.

 

 

 

DOT

 

Did I ever tell you about my father? You know he was a railroad engineer.

 

 

 

RICHARD

 

(He has heard this before but continues…)

 

No. You didn’t ever tell me. Did you ride on the train with him?

 

 

 

DOT

 

Oh yes. We would ride from Peoria, Illinois all the way to the desert. To Arizona. I love Arizona.

 

 

 

RICHARD

 

That’s good, because you live there.

 

 

 

DOT

 

(Confused.)

 

I live in Arizona?

 

 

 

RICHARD

 

Yes, you live in Phoenix.

 

 

 

DOT

 

 Oh that’s right. That’s right. Arizona.

 

(DOT relaxes. She sighs.)

 

Did I ever tell you about my father? He was a train engineer. And we used to ride the train…all the way to Arizona! And one time…one time when I was only nine, they let me go in the dinner car and sell peanuts. I’d say, “Get your hot goobers! Hot goobers here! Only ten-cents for the best goobers this side of the Mississippi!”

 

And I’d run up and down that dinner car until I was sweating like a dog.

 

 

 

RICHARD

 

I can imagine you were quite the salesperson. I would doubt too many girls that age were riding trains from Peoria to Arizona.

 

 

 

DOT

 

Oh, are YOU from Peoria, too?

 

 

 

RICHARD

 

Oh no. I’m…I’m from Bristol. Bristol, England. See here? Says it on my nametag.

 

 

 

DOT

 

Hmmm…hmmmm…

 

(She is falling asleep.)

 

 

 

 

(In walks KATIE. She is DOT’S niece, but has not seen her aunt in 15 years. KATIE is pale and dressed drably—a bit out of place for Arizona.)

 

 

KATIE

 

Is this Dorothy Hurley’s apartment?

 

 

 

RICHARD

 

Yes, it is.

 

(DOT snores.)

 

 

 

KATIE

 

Oh my goodness! Okay…um,

 

 

(DOT’s nursing aid enters.)

 

 

 

NURSING AID

 

Oh good. You found her. Looks like she passed out! Dick, you work wonders.

 

(Turning to KATIE)

 

Well, ma’am, here’s your aunt’s living quarters. We can arrange to get some fresh linens in the guest room and deliver an extra meal for dinner. Any diet restrictions?

 

 

 

KATIE

 

(Fumbling; embarrassed)

 

You know…I’m kind of a raw foodist…but oh…you know one meal isn’t going to make or break me. Anything is fine.

 

 

 

NURSING AID

 

Excuse me, what was your name again?

 

 

 

KATIE

 

I apologize. Katherine Bryant. Katie, actually.

 

 

 

NURSING AID

 

Katie, this is Dick Paxton. He’s our resident Massage Therapist. At Heavenly Acres—as you can see—our clients are well taken care of. Very well taken care of. We have everything from golf to tennis to yoga to tai chi.

 

Our clients participate—on a regular basis—in spa treatments, acupuncture, herbal therapy, colon therapy, infrared sauna…you name it.

 

I haven’t met a diet yet that seems outrageous—from lacto-ovo to gluten-free to absolutely no vegetables to vegan to…yes, a raw food diet. Our chefs are prepared to prepare anything that a client wants.

 

So…how about a fresh kale-and-cucumber salad with nopales relish with cashew loaf and marinated carrots? Chef David makes this raw carob-coconut dessert timbale thingie that’s out of this world too.

 

 

 

KATIE

 

(Overwhelmed and impressed.) Wow. “Nopales.” I had no idea. This is amazing. I am officially hungry now!

 

 

RICHARD

 

I happen to know what carob is, and I would like to stick around to see if you think it actually tastes good.

 

 

(KATIE and RICHARD’s eyes connect.)

 

 

INT – stage at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, 1980 – night

 

FLASHBACK to RICHARD onstage. He sings DORIS TROY’S “Just One Look” with his backup singers.

 

 

 

RICHARD

 

Just one look and I fell so hard

In love with you, oh-oh, oh-oh

I found out how good it feels

To have your love, oh-oh, oh-oh

 

Say you will, will be mine

Forever and always, oh-oh, oh-oh

Just one look and I knew

That you were my only one

Oh oh-oh oh!

 

 

 

INT – DAY – DOT HURLEY’S penthouse condo

 

 

RICHARD returns from his FLASHBACK.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NURSING AID

 

 

(Interrupting the moment between RICHARD and KATIE)

 

Alright then. Katie, make yourself comfortable. I assume you’ll be staying for at least a little while?

 

 

 

KATIE

 

Yes, oh yes. I’m not sure how long it will take to get all the legal and medical documents together.

 

(looking at her aunt)

 

I had no idea Aunt Dot was…in such a state. You know, you just assume your family is getting along fine without you. I’m…(looks back at Nursing Aid)…I’m just glad Heavenly Acres was able to find me so I can help out.

 

 

 

NURSING AID

 

Well, it isn’t that uncommon to suddenly find out that—at least—all the legal documents aren’t quite set in place when someone gets to the stage your aunt is at. We knew Dorothy didn’t have any children, but her brother—your father, correct?

 

 

 

KATIE

 

Yes, Stephen. Her only sibling. That was my father.

 

 

 

NURSING AID

 

Stephen passed away overseas and we…just never found out until…recently.

 

 

 

KATIE

 

(clearly upset)

 

So much disconnect. I’ve been living in Montreal for over a decade. I…had no idea, really…

 

(Looks at Richard)

 

 

 

RICHARD

 

I’m…I’m so sorry. I’ve known your aunt for…quite some time and I rarely heard her mention her brother. I knew her family was small.

 

 

 

KATIE

 

Well. It’s just me. My parents are both deceased.

 

(composing herself)

 

Thank you, Ms. (looks at her nametag) Butler. You’ve done so much already.

 

 

NUSRING AID

 

I’ll be back later to check on Dot later. Take care settling in and getting reacquainted with your aunt. Alzheimer’s is a strange thing.

 

You’ll find she may not recognize you at first. But you never know. What always surprise me most with Alzheimer’s is that there are what we call “moments of clarity.”

 

I observe patients all the time who could be out of it and very, very confused for days…months…and then something clicks and the patient can suddenly rattle off a laundry list of their life’s facts and maybe their short-term memory starts to kick in… for a brief time. Strange. But it’s interesting to observe.

 

Just remember Katie, it’s hardest on the loved ones, not on the patients themselves.

 

(To Richard)

 

We’ll see you tomorrow.

 

 

 

RICHARD

 

(Looking with concern at Katie) Yes. I will be here tomorrow, same time.

 

 

(The NURSING AID exits. Richard starts to pack up his things, but he obviously can’t take his massage chair as DOT is asleep in it.)

 

 

 

KATIE

 

Oh. Do you have to go? I…I’m not sure I want to be here alone when my aunt wakes up.

 

…and I have a question to ask you.

 

 

RICHARD

 

I’d be happy to stay. I don’t have another appointment until 3 p.m.

 

What’s your question?

 

 

KATIE

 

What the hell are “nopales”?

 

 

RICHARD

 

(Laughs.)

 

Cactus. Edible cactus. Delicious, actually. Nothing like carob.

 

You’re in the desert now, Mrs. Bryant.

 

 

KATIE

 

Ms. Bryant. “Miss” I suppose. Oh…whatever. It’s Katie. Cactus? Do you have to worry about the…oh…

 

…I think my Aunt Dot is waking up.

 

 

DOT stirs and begins to awaken.

 

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