Pamela Schott’s The Passion of Minerva Mullen

The Passion of Minerva Mullen, a screenplay by Pamela Schott, is the Grand Prize winner of the 83rd Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition. You can read an extended interview with Pamela here, and view a full list of winners here. For complete coverage of the 83rd Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition, please check out the November/December 2014 issue of Writer’s Digest.

THE PASSION OF MINERVA MULLEN

Whatever you do, please don’t tell my mom about this screenplay. Because if she knew… If she knew that I was laying bare the story of a young girl, circa 1979, on the verge of womanhood, a smart ass middle child who has the unhappy distinction of being the product of 1) Catholic schools; 2) the military; and 3) a family that really knows how to take the “fun” out of dysfunctional, well… Let’s just say that she would wrongly assume that this is about her.

In truth, this story belongs purely, solely, and absolutely to the aforementioned school girl, one so-called Minerva Mullen (named for the Goddess of War; her father had big ideas) who has just about had it up to here with all the things she can’t control. Like nuns with rules (and rulers); a dad with orders that send him to sea with every turn of the tide; a posse of brothers who are left to navigate the road to manhood on their own; and a pill-popping, perpetually pregnant mother with a manic-depressive disorder that makes family life anything but livable. And this is the story of how, having stirred the wrath and ridicule of Holy Name school principal Sister Mary “Battle Axe” Bernard one time too many, Minerva lands in hot holy water and finds herself charged with the impossible task of mounting the school’s annual Christmas pageant to Sister’s satisfaction—complete with a real, live Baby Jesus—or face expulsion. But can Minerva keep the peace at home, the family in Holy Name’s good graces, and her own cool when a secret crush becomes her first true love?

For all the latch-key kids who remember what the world felt like when Iran took American hostages; who found the fun in a Slinky and Pet Rocks and Pong; who yearned for the first kisses, first cars and first place in the Spelling Bee; and who witnessed the advent of the self-help movement—watched, helpless, as their families fell apart, Minerva’s story is a story about what it’s like to go kicking and screaming into an uncertain future.

But it’s definitely, absolutely, and positively not about my mom. So, please. Whatever you do? Don’t tell her about this screenplay.

 

EXT. MILITARY BASE GATE, NORTHERN CALIFORNIA—MORNING—1979

A bright, early fall morning. Wind rustles EUCALYPTUS TREES and tall, colorless grasses that line the drive to the GUARD GATE.

Too fast, A DATSUN STATION WAGON approaches the GATE, braking at the last moment, tires crunching pavement.

As it stops, the GATE SERGEANT (early 20s) leans out of the guard shack, smartly salutes the COAST GUARD STICKER on the car’s silver bumper.

INT. STATION WAGON—MORNING

The driver, a very pregnant BRENDA MULLEN, early 30s, a pretty bottle blonde just this side of washed up, stubs her cigarette in the ash tray, rolls down her window.

Next to her is MINERVA MULLEN (15). Awkward, gangly, she’s got the bold-faced confidence of girls three times prettier, and a rebellious streak to match.

On Minerva’s lap is blonde, curly-haired PATSY KLINE (2). Patsy Kline munches Zweiback toast, works it through the web of her hands, into her hair. None wear a seat belt.

BRENDA
Good morning, Sergeant.

Sergeant rubs his gloved hands together, blows into them.

SERGEANT
Ma’am.

BRENDA
Looking good today, Sergeant. Very smart.

SERGEANT
Ma’am, yes ma’am, Mrs. Mullen.

BRENDA
Please, Sergeant. Mrs. Mullen is my mother-in-law, the old battle ax.

Sergeant eyes the BAGS of bread in the back of the car.

SERGEANT
Commissary out of bread this morning, Ma’am?

BRENDA
Can’t beat the day-old prices at the bakery. Girls, say good morning to the Sergeant.

MINERVA
Good morning, Sergeant.

Patsy Kline extends the mushy cookie, grins.

SERGEANT
No cookie for me, Patsy Kline. Still on duty.

BRENDA
(grinding the gears)
Always by the book, eh, Sergeant? That’s what I like about you. Stay

SERGEANT
(saluting)
Goodbye, Mrs. Mullen.

Brenda floors it, wipes Patsy Kline’s mouth with the corner of her sleeve, reaches to the dash to shove the CIGARETTE LIGHTER into place.

It’s a well-rehearsed orchestration of movements.

BRENDA
Grab me a cigarette, will you Minerva?

Minerva moves Patsy Kline off of her lap, straddles the seat to reach into the back.

Balance is precarious as Brenda takes the right angles of the base streets, rolling through each stop.

MINERVA
Why doesn’t the Sergeant ever say good morning to me?

BRENDA
You know how it is. The young ones always steal the show.

Brenda slows for another stop, pitching Patsy Kline forward towards the gear shift.

BRENDA (cont’d)
Whoa, there, Patsy Kline!

Minerva finds the SALEMS, climbs back to her seat.

BRENDA (cont’d)
You grow into those knobby knees of yours, that Sergeant’ll be
noticing you soon enough. Mark my words. And ‘Nerve?

Minerva peels the plastic from the pack, expertly smacks it against the heel of her hand, pulls a cigarette out.

BRENDA (cont’d)
Didn’t we have an agreement about those bangs?

Patsy Kline reaches for the cigarette.

MINERVA
No, Patsy Kline.

BRENDA
(to Patsy Kline)
Not till you’re 18, darlin’. 16, if you don’t let your daddy know you’re

doing it.

The LIGHTER disengages with a crisp, metallic POP! Minerva lights the cigarette, avoids Patsy Kline’s grab.

MINERVA
No, Patsy Kline.
(to Brenda)
I like my bangs.

The cigarette lit, Brenda takes a long drag, down shifts.

They bounce onto the driveway and into the carport of a one-level, nondescript cinder block medley of grey and greyer, just like every other house on the block.

Brenda exhales as she studies Minerva.

BRENDA
In your eyes, you like them?

Minerva adjusts the rear-view mirror, studies herself.

MINERVA
I’m trying to grow them so they can feather. Laura Cooper? At school?
She has the perfect feather.

BRENDA
She’s got the right hair for it, ‘Nerve. Blonde and thick. Gorgeous hair.

Brenda brushes the bangs from Minerva’s eyes.

BRENDA (cont’d)
We’ll cut these this weekend. Remind me, okay?

MINERVA
Not gonna happen.

BRENDA
Minerva.

Brenda hoists herself out of the car, leaving Minerva to scrutinize in the mirror.

She’s not happy with what she sees, but this isn’t the first time.

BRENDA (cont’d)
Bring those groceries inside, I’ve got a surprise for you.

As Brenda waddles to the kitchen door, Patsy Kline in tow, Minerva dutifully begins unpacking the car.

BRENDA (cont’d)
(calling into the house)
Boys, you better be up and ready. Frankie? Sammy? Let’s go.
Reveille, reveille!

Minerva struggles with the bags, kicks the car door closed, moves to the other side where she shoves her hip into Brenda’s door to close it, heads towards the kitchen door.

Remembering something, she moves back to the car, peers into the back passenger window, taps on the glass.

MINERVA
(SIGNING)
Come on, Sammy.

Momentarily, SAMMY MULLEN (6), HEARING AIDS IN BOTH EARS, emerges from the car, obediently follows Minerva inside.

 

INT. MULLEN BASE HOUSE, LIVING ROOM—LATER

CLOSE ON three squirming PAIR OF FEET, each sporting identical pairs of DAY-GLO ORANGE AND BLUE ADIDAS TRACK SHOES. Atrocious.

Brenda double-ties Sammy’s shoes, sits back on her heels, scratches her distended belly.

As she does, we get a look at the living room: the tattered FURNITURE, B&W T.V. SET, old UPRIGHT PIANO, PHOTOS crooked on the wall.

ON ONE PHOTO, a recent family portrait, where we see COAST GUARD LIEUTENANT COMMANDER BECK MULLEN, mid-30, surrounded by Brenda and the children, dressed in military WHITES. He is handsome, and proud.

BRENDA
Hey? What do you think?

From her angle, we see Minerva and Sammy, plus FRANKIE (16), all dressed in Catholic school uniforms, and humiliated beyond belief.

Fair like his father, movie star good looks, Frankie is Brenda’s favorite. He’s also a closeted homosexual who’s trying desperately to be straight.

Next to Brenda, Patsy Kline chews on a sponge that has yet to clean the mess on her face.

BRENDA (cont’d)
Got those on close out at Big Five. Adidas, guys! Brand name, right?

MINERVA
No one wears Adidas.

BRENDA
No one?

Frankie drops to one knee, cuffs his pants.

FRANKIE
They’re not so bad if you know how to wear them.

BRENDA
Isn’t that a little, you know…?

Brenda makes her wrist go limp.

BRENDA (cont’d)
(whispered)
…queer, Frankie?

FRANKIE
No. Ma, it’s “Grease”!

MINERVA
Anyway. It’s Nikes now.

Brenda takes the sponge from Patsy Kline, wipes faces as Frank wordlessly undoes his cuffs.

When it’s her turn for the sponge, Minerva moves so her face is out of reach. No way.

BRENDA
Then the Mullens get to start a new trend

MINERVA
God, you are so wrong about so many things. Did you even go to
school, Mom?

BRENDA
Don’t push my buttons. I’m having a good day so far and I don’t want
you ruining it.

MINERVA
What about my day? Do you know what’s going to happen to me the
minute we set foot on campus?

FRANKIE
Leave it, Minerva.

BRENDA
You watch. You wear those Adidas today, everyone’ll be wearing them
tomorrow. Nikes’ll be a thing of the past.

MINERVA
Fat chance.

BRENDA
Grab your lunches, let’s go. You know how Sister Mary Joseph
Bernard gets when we’re late.

MINERVA
(to the others)
Do not, under any circumstances, call attention to yourselves. Or
your feet. Especially your feet.

 

FADE TO:

EXT. HOLY NAME ACADEMY, CA—LATER

SR. MARY JOSEPH BERNARD, 50s, full black and white robes—
RULER strapped to her belt, ROSARY hanging at her side—stands at the foot of the school stairs, hands warming under her robes.

Above her is a mammoth-sized STATUE OF JESUS.

Eagle eying all commers, he extends one hand out before him, points the other to his heart. Long hair flows in two plates over each shoulder, as if waiting to be braided.

The Datsun slides to a stop as the LAST BELL RINGS. Brenda gets out, opening car doors to release her brood.

Mullens tumble out, race up the steps past Sister.

FRANKIE
Morning, Sister! Looking lovely today! That black and white on you?
Heavenly!

Then, spotting his best friend, HENRY (16), handsome in his Clark Kent glasses, Frank hurries up the steps.

FRANKIE (cont’d)
Henry! Wait up.

The day-glo ADIDAS catch Sister’s eye as he goes.

Sammy is next to tumble out of the car. When Sister sees the ADIDAS on Sammy’s feet, she has to smother a smile.

Sammy hurries past Sister without a word, but she grabs him by the collar, literally sweeping him off his feet.

SISTER MARY JOSEPH BERNARD
“Good morning, Sister Mary Joseph Bernard.” Say it. Say it!
(under her breath)
I know you can talk, you little brat.

Blushing furiously, Sammy MUMBLES something incoherent, breaks free of Sister’s grasp, tears up the stairs.

Back at the car, Brenda licks her fingers, wets Minerva’s bangs, slicks them back away from her eyes. Minerva brushes her off.

BRENDA
Now, ‘Nerve, remember…

Brenda thrusts her chest out, wiggles her shoulders.

BRENDA (cont’d)
Right?

MINERVA
Oh my God.

Minerva hurries past Sister, who notes Minerva’s day glo ADIDAS.

BRENDA
Just… try. Please? We’ll go bra shopping at the Commissary this
weekend, just so we’re ready. Okay?

Beyond humiliated, Minerva disappears into the CROWD of STUDENTS.

Sister arches an eyebrow at Brenda

BRENDA (cont’d)
Not all of us are called to be Brides of Christ, Sister. Landing a man’s
the next best thing.

Brenda gets in the car, moves Patsy Kline from the window.

ON SISTER as the Datsun pulls away, an idea brewing before she marches up the stairs, garments billowing.

 

EXT. SCHOOL COURTYARD—LATER

The restless STUDENT BODY, a mass of K through 12 STUDENTS, is assembled outside the Mission-style school for morning prayers. They stamp and paw at the ground against the cold.

At the front of the assembly is a PODIUM on which stands a small AMERICAN FLAG.

Behind this is a LARGE WOODEN CROSS.

Momentarily, Sister emerges from her office, strides up the center aisle as if assessing troops.

SISTER MARY JOSEPH BERNARD
Francis Mullen, please.

Frankie moves to the podium, takes the FLAG from its stand. This is a familiar routine.

SISTER MARY JOSEPH BERNARD (cont’d)
Samuel Mullen?

Moving noiselessly to avoid attention, Sammy complies.

A PUZZLED WHISPER ripples through the student body as the Mullens line up at the front.

SISTER MARY JOSEPH BERNARD (cont’d)
Who are we missing? Oh, yes. Minerva Mary? Will you join us?

Minerva emerges from line, reluctantly joins her brothers. She throws Frankie a questioning look, but he shrugs it off.

Nothing from Sister, who watches the assembled students, waiting for what she prays is coming.

Finally, a STIR in the crowd, then SNICKERS and GIGGLES as the students get Sister’s unspoken message.

It’s the shoes.

In the morning grey, with the Mullens shoulder to shoulder, the day glo awfulness of the three pair of ADIDAS is glaringly obvious.

Sister lets the commotion ride, poker faced, a few delicious moments longer, then:

SISTER MARY JOSEPH BERNARD (cont’d)
Excuse me, Holy Name students, is this how we behave at morning
assembly?

SILENCE once again. Sister closes her eyes, is the epitome of reverence.

SISTER MARY JOSEPH BERNARD (cont’d)
On this, the first day of Advent, we pray… In the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

ALL but Minerva bless themselves.

ALL
Amen.

SISTER MARY JOSEPH BERNARD
Today we begin the season of waiting. Waiting for the Baby Jesus to
be born, in our hearts, and in our world. As we take that first step on
the road to Bethlehem to meet Jesus in the manger, will we walk, sure-
footed in our fine, shiny shoes…

The STUDENTS GIGGLE.

MINERVA
I’m gonna kill her.

SISTER MARY JOSEPH BERNARD
…or stumble, pitifully, over our own egos. Our inequities. Our shame.
As we ready ourselves for the birth of our Savior, wash us clean of all
our sins, clean as bright, unsoiled new shoes…

MINERVA
So help me God, I’m gonna kill her.

SISTER MARY JOSEPH BERNARD
…that we may so walk forever in your Grace. In Jesus’ name.

ALL
Amen.

SISTER MARY JOSEPH BERNARD
Now, Minerva, if you would lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance?

Minerva slices Sister a look of pure hatred, steps forward, raises the FLAG.

MINERVA/ALL
I pledge allegiance to the flag…

CLOSE ON SISTER as a small smile plays around her lips.

O.S., the CHURCH BELL CHIMES.

 

FADE TO:

EXT. FRONT OF SCHOOL—AFTERNOON

The clock tower BELL CHIMES three times.

Minerva and Frankie huddle on the wall for warmth in front of the school, Sammy on Minerva’s lap.

The last to be picked up, they wait for Brenda, who’s very late. Minerva eyes the CLOCK TOWER, the STATUE of Jesus.

MINERVA
I can’t wait to get the hell out of here.

FRANKIE
Minerva.

MINERVA
What’re you gonna do, tell Mom on me? What does she have against
us, anyway?

FRANKIE
Sister? She knows we can’t afford to be here. Not really. She knows
we’re vulnerable.

Sammy gets Minerva’s attention, SIGNS a question.

MINERVA
What Frankie means is, Sister isn’t a good person.

Minerva sees Sammy isn’t understanding.

MINERVA (cont’d)
(signing)
She’s mean, Sammy.

Minerva eyes the STATUE again, an idea dawning.

Then, she lifts Sammy off her lap, places him on the wall, jumps down, begins untying her shoes.

MINERVA (cont’d)
Mean, and nasty, and so much fun to mess with.

FRANKIE
What are you doing?

Minerva takes her shoes off, grins from ear to ear, ties them together with the shoelaces.

MINERVA
Do you remember what the Three Wise Men brought Jesus for his
birthday?

FRANKIE
Gold. Frankincense. Myrrh.

 MINERVA
Totally useless gifts. Like, he’s a baby. In a manger. What’s he gonna
do with Myrrh?

FRANKIE
I don’t even know what Myrrh is.

MINERVA
Exactly my point.

Frankie and Sammy watch in disbelief as Minerva approaches the STATUE, swings the shoes in a high arc… and lets go.

ON THE SHOES as they fly through the air, catching on Jesus’ outstretched hand, winding around his fingers.

The blue and orange DAY GLO stripes are a bright contrast against the marble statue.

Sammy laughs, thrilled at what Minerva’s done as Frankie stares, wide-eyed.

FRANKIE
You are so busted.

MINERVA
Yeah?

FRANKIE
She’s gonna know it’s you.

MINERVA
And…?

Frankie slips his backpack over his shoulder, grabs Sammy’s, too, gives Minerva a wary shake of the head.

FRANKIE
Let’s go, Sammy.

Frankie takes Sammy’s hand, begins walking.

MINERVA
Hey, Frank?

FRANKIE
Yeah?

MINERVA
When’re you going to get your own wheels?

FRANKIE
Soon as I can, ‘Nerve. Soon as I can

Minerva hangs back, suddenly aware she’s got to walk home without shoes.

MINERVA
Hey, guys? Guys?

Minerva hoists her backpack, gives one last look to Jesus, beams as she considers her handiwork.

Then, hobbling in her stocking feet, she hurries to catch up.

MINERVA (cont’d)
Ow. Ow. Ow.

 

INT. MULLEN KITCHEN—LATER

Minerva enters the kitchen, drops her backpack on the floor below the row of HOOKS where the family’s book bags hang.

From somewhere in the house, Patsy Kline CRIES.

MINERVA (cont’d)
Mom?

Frankie enters, a SOBBING Patsy Kline on his hip, gives Minerva a dark look.

MINERVA (cont’d)
What—no. Again?

Minerva looks past Frankie to the hallway.

MINERVA’S POV: THE CLOSED DOOR at the end of the hall.

ON THE KITCHEN, where BOWLS, CEREAL BOXES, MILK from breakfast crowd the counter. This is not a good sign.

Minerva sighs, moves to take the baby from Frankie.

You might also like:

  • No Related Posts

COMMENT