A Glimmer of Intuition – Jen Mierisch

FADE IN:


INT. COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT OFFICE - DAY

In a cubicle, BETH FISHER (late 20s), sits staring at a computer screen, chin resting on her hand.

RICK (O.S.)
(from the next cubicle)
You catch Law & Order last night?

BETH
No, it’s on my DVR. I was out last night.

RICK MYERS (late 20s), pops his head over the wall between his cubicle and Beth’s.

RICK
You were out?

BETH
(startled)
Jesus, Rick, you’re like a demented gopher.

RICK
Hot date?

BETH
Lukewarm date.

RICK
So ditch him and watch it with me. It was a great episode. Stabler meets this guy who has a -

BETH
No spoilers, Rick!

DOLORES WARD (early 50s) walks into Beth’s cubicle. Rick’s head vanishes. Beth sits up straight and turns to face her.

DOLORES
Just spoke with Dr. Greene at County General.

BETH
More lung infections?

DOLORES
Eight this week, six retirees and two kids. Same pattern, acute symptoms, quick recovery. Several cases have occurred in the Long Pines retirement community.

BETH
Guess I’m going on assignment.

DOLORES
Three households agreed to be interviewed. I’ll send you the names and addresses.

Dolores walks back down the hall to her office.

Rick walks to Beth’s nameplate on the wall of the cubicle. He pretends to write on the nameplate with a marker.

BETH
What are you doing?

RICK
Just changing your name to Lieutenant Olivia Benson.

Beth tosses a package of tissues, hitting Rick, who laughs.

BETH
Be serious, Rick. As much as you’d love it, we work for the health department, not the NYPD.

RICK
(imitating the iconic Law & Order sound effect)
Dun-dunnn.

Beth rolls her eyes.


EXT. LONG PINES RETIREMENT COMMUNITY - DAY

A car, whose door reads “County Health Department” on the side, turns off the main road, driving past a sign that reads “Long Pines Retirement Community”.

The car pulls to a stop in front of a neatly landscaped house. Beth exits the vehicle.


INT. ELAINE MCAULEY’s HOUSE/LIVING ROOM - DAY

Beth stands with primly dressed ELAINE MCAULEY (late 60s) in Elaine’s tidy living room.

BETH
Please don’t go to any trouble.

ELAINE
Oh, no, I insist. Make yourself comfortable.

Elaine exits the room. Beth sits on the couch, looks around, and makes a few notes.

Elaine re-enters the room and sets down a tray holding a teapot and two cups. She sits and pours tea. Both women sip tea while they talk. Beth takes notes.

BETH
Thanks for speaking with me, Ms. McAuley. I’d like to take a look around your home today and ask you some questions about exposures you might have had.

ELAINE
Happy to help, sweetheart.

BETH
Do you have any pets?


ELAINE
Just my Frisky. He’s at the doggy salon for his weekly grooming. I had a cat, but poor Poppy passed on, goodness, two years ago now.

BETH
Have you used any new products recently? Air fresheners, anything in the kitchen or bath?

ELAINE
Hmmm. Well, I did put in a new Glade Plug-In last week. Hawaiian Breeze. Doesn’t it smell nice?

BETH
Does anyone in the home, or any visitors, smoke cigarettes or marijuana?

ELAINE
Certainly not. Now, my next-door neighbors, well. Let’s just say some people never really left the sixties. The smoke drifts over to my porch. Makes it impossible to sit and enjoy my evenings.

BETH
Mind if I take a look at the household cleaners you use?

They get up and walk into the kitchen. Elaine indicates the cupboard beneath the sink. Beth opens the cupboard and takes notes.

BETH
Are you aware of any weed killers being used in the neighborhood?

ELAINE
The association books those people. But I’ve lived here five years and never had any issues after they did their spraying.

They walk into the dining room. The table is covered in scrapbooking paraphernalia: scissors, glue, cartons of patterned paper, rolls of decorative trim, a shiny green box, ticket stubs, photographs.


ELAINE
(smiling)
My hobby. To remember my wild and crazy trips with the girls!

Beth does a double take at a photo, glued to a sparkly scrapbook page, showing Elaine and two other elderly ladies wearing sunglasses and bikinis and holding tropical drinks.

BETH
Ahem. Well, I appreciate your time, ma’am. Would you be willing to complete a diary of public places you visited recently? It’s online. I can send you the URL.

ELAINE
Sweetheart, what’s a “URL”?


INT. PADEREWSKIS’ HOUSE/LIVING ROOM - DAY

GEOFFREY and LORNA PADEREWSKI, a couple in their mid 70s, walk through their living room with Beth. A large, shaggy DOG follows them.

Nearly every surface in the room is covered with posterboard, markers, flyers, and petitions. Homemade protest signs, taped to yardsticks, lean against walls. On the floor are reams of paper, stacks of clipboards, a shiny green box, and containers full of stickers and buttons.

BETH
I take it you’re involved in... political activities?

LORNA
Yes. That Senator Dankworth will stop at nothing to take away rights from women and LGBT folks.

GEOFFREY
He’s pushing for another purge of the voter rolls. It’s our civic responsibility to get that fool out of office. He’s making the rest of us Boomers look bad.

BETH
Do you folks do any smoking, vaping, marijuana?

Geoffrey and Lorna look at each other.

LORNA
(to Geoffrey)
It’s legal now, hon. Just tell her.

GEOFFREY
I enjoy a smoke from time to time. But it never caused me to cough up blood before. And when I got sick, I hadn’t smoked in about a week.

BETH
Hey, no judgment here.

Beth makes a note.

LORNA
(to Beth)
Do you think toxic chemicals could be to blame? I saw some people on TV who got pneumonia after they used one of those Glade Plug-Ins.

BETH
Possibly. Did you use any new products in the home around the time you got sick? Cleaning supplies, potpourri, lotions?

GEOFFREY
We did have the house painted a couple of months ago.

LORNA
Wait, we did buy a new product. The hemorrhoid cream. Remember?

GEOFFREY
And that jock itch spray. That stuff really did the trick!

BETH
Well, you folks have been a big help! I’ll send you the follow-up questionnaire tomorrow.



INT. KESSLERS’ HOUSE/LIVING ROOM - DAY

JOHN and SHEILA KESSLER, a couple in their mid 70s, walk through their living room with Beth.

JOHN
(to Beth)
Yeah, I smoke. Same brand my whole life. She makes me go outside.

SHEILA
It’s a nasty habit. I’ve never cared for it.

JOHN
I didn’t get sick, though. Only Sheila did. Guess the cigarettes toughened up my lungs.

SHEILA
John, if you’re the Marlboro Man, it’s only because you’ve given them enough of your money to be a major stockholder.

They pause at an art easel, set up in a sunny corner.

BETH
Who’s the painter?

SHEILA
That would be me.

JOHN
She’s very good. Sold two landscapes just last month.

BETH
Where do you typically get your paint and supplies, ma’am?

SHEILA
Andy’s Art, down on 10th.

They descend a set of stairs to a finished basement.




INT. KESSLERS’ HOUSE/BASEMENT - DAY

Children’s toys litter the room. A craft table sits against one wall. On its surface are markers, crayons, glue sticks, cartons of construction paper, a shiny green box, and half-completed drawings covered in glitter and cut-out shapes.

BETH
How old are your grandkids?

SHEILA
Let’s see. Maisie is seven, the twins just turned six, and then our daughter has a two-year-old.

BETH
That’s nice. Congratulations.

JOHN
Do you folks check for that Chinese drywall? Want to make sure we don’t have any in the house.

BETH
We don’t, sir, but if the home was built before 2000, don’t worry.

JOHN
Good. What about that black mold?

SHEILA
There’s no mold in this house, John. Remember, we had it checked because of Maisie’s allergies.

BETH
Thank you, folks. Here’s a copy of the follow-up questionnaire.


INT. COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT OFFICE - DAY

Beth sits at a conference room table, laptop open, papers spread around. She appears deep in thought. Rick walks in and sits across from Beth.

BETH
It doesn’t make sense.

RICK
Show me what you’ve got.

BETH
They have nothing in common. Messy house, clean house. Pets, no pets. Pot, no pot.

RICK
Asbestos?

BETH
No, the homes were all built after it was banned. Something in the environment? A pine tree disease?

RICK
How did the trees look?

BETH
I don’t know. Green?

RICK
Insightful observation, Benson.

BETH
There must be a common element.

Rick passes a piece of paper to Beth.

RICK
I came to give you this. Details about those two kids who got sick.

BETH
(reading)
Kessler? Same last name as the folks I just interviewed. I think I’ll go back over there and have another chat.


EXT. LONG PINES RETIREMENT COMMUNITY - DAY

Beth parks the health department vehicle in front of the Kesslers’ house.

As she exits the car and steps onto the sidewalk, she sees a POSTMAN (40s) pushing a mail cart in her direction. Among the parcels in his cart is a shiny green box. She squints at the box as if it has jogged a memory.

POSTMAN
Afternoon! County Health Department, eh?

BETH
I’m investigating an illness that has cropped up in this area.

POSTMAN
Nothing I can catch from breathing the air, I hope!

Beth gestures at the green box.

BETH
That’s certainly eye-catching. What company makes those?

POSTMAN
That’s the Glitter Gurus. Popular product. I deliver their items quite a lot.

FLASHBACK MONTAGE - BETH REMEMBERS

-- ELAINE’S HOUSE – Beth spots a green box, and a glittery scrapbook page, on the dining room table.

-- THE PADEREWSKIS’ HOUSE – Beth sees a green box on the floor in Geoffrey and Lorna’s living room.

-- THE KESSLERS’ HOUSE – Beth sees a green box on the craft table in the basement, next to a glittered piece of paper.

END FLASHBACK MONTAGE.

BACK TO SCENE

Beth’s face now wears a look of recognition. She grabs the Postman’s right hand in both of hers and shakes it.


BETH
Thank you!

Beth hurries to her car and speeds away.

Watching the car, the postman shakes his head, puzzled.


INT. PADEREWSKIS’ HOUSE/LIVING ROOM - DAY

Geoffrey and Lorna sit on their couch watching TV. She flips through cookbooks. He taps at a laptop.

GOVERNOR HEATHER HAYNES (50s) appears on the TV screen. Geoffrey and Lorna glance up as she starts speaking.

GOVERNOR HAYNES
More than 20,000 types of glitter are sold commercially. Some newer varieties have particles small enough to cause lung infections when inhaled. That’s why I’ve signed an executive order to outlaw so-called “glitter bombs” used by activists.

GEOFFREY
Well, damn. What’re we going to do at Dankworth’s rally next week?

Lorna holds up a cookbook, open to a page showing a cream pie recipe.

LORNA
How about an old-fashioned pie in the face?


INT. COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT OFFICE - DAY

Beth exits the elevator and walks toward her cubicle.

Several of Beth’s co-workers, including Rick, burst out from an office, greeting Beth and cheering. They slap her on the back and shake her hand.

MALE CO-WORKER
Nice detective work, Fisher!

DOLORES
She was my hire. Just saying.

FEMALE CO-WORKER
Come on. Your cake’s in the conference room!

The group moves down the hall. Rick walks beside Beth.

RICK
Well done, Lieutenant Benson.

BETH
Thanks.

RICK
So, is the perp in jail?

BETH
Couldn’t hold him. It was like he floated off into thin air.

Beth enters her cubicle and starts to set down her coat and purse. She stops short as she notices a stuffed unicorn sitting on her computer keyboard.

BETH
Rick!

Beth hurls a packet of tissues at Rick, who laughs and jumps to the side. She exits the cubicle after him.

The unicorn sits facing Beth as she walks away. It wears a T-shirt that reads “Law & Order: Glitter Victims Unit.”

FADE OUT.


Jen Mierisch’s first job was at a public library, where her boss frequently caught her reading the books she was supposed to be shelving. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in HAVOK, Horla, Funny Pearls, Little Old Lady (LOL) Comedy, and elsewhere. She lives, works, and writes just outside Chicago, Illinois, USA. Read more at http://www.jenmierisch.com.

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