Fragments of a Shooting Script by Ryan Black

by Leslie Anne Mcilroy


iv.


collision and confusion occur when paths come together, writes Lipsitz, but the crossroads is also a place where decisions need to be made and choices matter.

JOHN (mid 30s) (V.O.)

In the early morning, December 20th, 1986, Michael Griffith, a 23-year-old black man, was killed in Howard Beach. It wasn’t a noble death. He didn’t die for a narrative. He was beaten, run out into the Belt and hit by a car. The cops stood around the body like tired politicians. They interviewed the driver, they radioed the precinct. They waited. What’s he doing here? they thought.
(beat)
Some wouldn’t name it what it was. Called it an accident. Unfortunate. Said some shit about turf. Or dumb luck — Dumb luck — Dumb luck Michael Griffith drove with Cedric Sandiford. And Timothy Grimes. And Curtis Sylvester. Dumb luck the car broke down on Crossbay Boulevard. Dumb luck a busted water pump, dumb luck three niggers — Sylvester stayed behind, and Griffith, Sandiford and Grimes went looking for a pay phone.

Photograph by Clay Walker

Photograph by Clay Walker

At New Park Pizza they were met by a bunch of whiteboys carrying tree limbs, baseball bats, tire irons. There was William Bollander. Harry Buonocore. Salvatore DeSimone. And there was Thomas Farino. And Thomas Gucciardo. Scott Kern. Jason Ladone. Jon Lester. Michael Pirone. And James Povinelli. Robert Riley. John Saggese. You don’t belong here, they shouted. This ain’t Bed-Stuy. Then one of them felt brave. Motherfucking Stagger Lee, he might have said, lunging at Sandiford — Grimes pulled a knife, broke away and ran. Griffith and Sandiford were caught; they were beaten with branches, beaten with tire irons, baseball bats. Sandiford made it to the ER, but they killed Michael Griffith. They ran him out into the parkway. Killed him there.

DISSOLVE TO:



54 EXT. CROSSBAY BOULEVARD – HOWARD BEACH – DAY

A march, the congregation of OUR LADY OF CHARITY. JOHN holds his mother’s right hand, RYAN holds her left. It’s winter; the boys are ten. They’re bundled in hoodies, jackets, baseball caps. CLARA REDDICK pulls them close to her body. CAMERA HAND HELD. A 3 SHOT. Shoulders, arms, legs push into SCREEN RIGHT, SCREEN LEFT. THE CAMERA JOSTLES, SOUNDTRACK THRUMS with shouting.

CONGREGATION
(chanting)
We are an African people.

OC MALE VOICE
Go back to your crack dens.

CONGREGATION
(chanting)
We are an African people.

A BOTTLE shatters at JOHN’s feet. He’s startled, jumps back. A WOMAN grabs RYAN by the shoulder.

WOMAN

You don’t belong here.

OC MALE VOICE

Fuck Sharpton. Fuck Brooklyn.

RYAN looks back at CLARA, who’s on her knees, wiping her son’s jeans with a handkerchief.

CONGREGATION
(chanting)
We are an African people.

Author photo of Ryan Black

Author photo of Ryan Black

Ryan Black has previously published or has work forthcoming in AGNI, The Journal, Ploughshares, The Southern Review, Southern Humanities Review, TriQuarterly and elsewhere. He teaches in the English Department at Queens College/CUNY.