INT. RAWLINGS' HOUSE - DAY (MAY 1970)
GEORGE RAWLINGS, a tall overweight college senior, is studying, with books and papers strewn across the living room. Over his shoulder, through the kitchen door, his MOTHER (short, dumpy, and gray-haired) turns on the electric floor polisher, then flips on the black-and-white television with the volume loud. On the TV, scenes from Viet Nam are visible, but the words aren't distinguishable through the heavy static caused by the polisher.
Mom, can you shut that thing off?
She continues buffing the floor. With one hand Rawlings starts closing his books and with his other he signals to his mother to stop.
She continues buffing the floor. Rawlings shakes with frustration and indecision. Finally, he heaves a textbook, hitting the polisher and disconnecting the cord. At that moment the television image shifts to the scene of the Kent State massacre. The NEWSCASTER is clearly audible in VOICE OVER for a few moments until Mother recovers from the shock of her son's behavior and yells back at him.
... Kent State University.
Today National Guard troops opened fire
on students who were protesting the U.S
invasion of Cambodia. Four students were
killed and four seriously wounded.
My God, George! .Where did you
get that temper?
She turns off the television and glares at Rawlings.
Can you please hold off on the polishing
for a while?
A clean floor and a clean house are
important. Your father always said so,
God rest his soul. It's a matter of pride.
Don't they teach you that in college -- the
importance of pride and tradition?
Give me a break, please.
All right, all right.
She walks to the back door.
EXT. RAWLINGS' HOUSE - DAY
Mother walks out to fetch the mail from the mailbox by the street. MADELINE, a college-age girl who lives next door is walking out to her mailbox at the same time. She wears a halter, shorts and sandals, with lipstick and nail polish. She brushes her shoulder-length hair as she walks.
Mother finds an envelope from the Department of the Army addressed to "George Rawlings." She opens it. The camera focuses on the top of the letter, which reads:
DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
HEADQUARTERS, FIRST UNITED STATES ARMY
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, MARYLAND 20755
LETTER ORDERS NUMBER T-96-4433A
SUBJECT: Active Duty for Training
TC 165. By direction of the Secretary of the Army, the following named individual is ordered to ACTIVE DUTY FOR TRAINING (ADT), with his consent, for the period indicated.
Mother is shocked, motionless. Madeline notices and stops fussing with her hair.
Is something wrong, Mrs. Rawlings?
George's orders have come. Orders for active duty for training.
Madeline laughs and resumes brushing.
It's only the National Guard.
Yes, thank God, it is the National Guard.
INT. COLLEGE/LECTURE HALL - DAY
In a lecture hall full of students, Rawlings is sitting in the first row. He looks troubled. His text book is open, but in his notebook he is writing and crossing out and rewriting the opening lines of a poem:
"In May the bombs blossom.
The sweet aroma of gas fills the air..."
The PROFESSOR, balding, with glasses, is just finishing writing the following on the blackboard: "The Rubicon, we know, was a very insignificant stream to look at; its significance lay entirely in certain invisible conditions. Middlemarch"
The Rubicon was the boundary between Gaul and Italy.
In the back row, FRANK DELANEY has a stack of three letters and an open newspaper with stories on the Viet Nam War and the massacre at Jackson State. His face is gaunt and angular; his appearance deliberately unkempt. His words come fast and clipped. Always on his guard, he shadow boxes with the world.
The letters are from Princeton University, Digital Equipment Corporation, and the Dept. of the Army. He is reading the one from Digital as the Professor continues
to talk in VOICE OVER in the background.
By the simple act of crossing
that arbitrary line, Julius
Caesar irrevocably committed
himself to war with the Roman
Senate and changed the course of
Delaney's letter reads as follows:
We understand that you have been accepted by Princeton, but we would like you to consider going straight into industry.
Our PDP-11/20 has been an instant success. We can't keep up with demand and customers are clamoring for more powerful machines of the same kind. We are looking for dozens of young engineering graduates like yourself to work in computer design.
This would be a ground-floor opportunity with the hottest company in the computer business. Please come up and talk with us as soon as you can.
Remember, 16-bit minicomputers are the future.
Delaney sets that letter aside and opens the one from the Army. He glances at it, smiles, and passes it to the girl beside him, MELODY. She wears her hair short
and her clothes loose and un-ironed so she won't have to fuss about them. He jabs at her, and halts his fist right in front of her face. She doesn't react.
I did not.
She quickly kisses his fist, then focuses on the letter, and holds it so others can read it, too. Madeline who is sitting nearby, keeps playing with her hair as if she were watching herself in an imaginary mirror. The Professor is now seen from Delaney's perspective.
As George Eliot points out with this
historical allusion, man is by nature
a maker and breaker of rules. It's not
flashy aimless violence and sex that
moves this world. What matters is the
meaning we give to events, the symbols
we create by our action and inaction.
(to students beside him)
Sure, buddy, tell that to the
What was that, Mr. Delaney?
Delaney takes back the Army letter, looks at it again, holds it as if about to tear it up.
I'm trying to decide whether to
make a symbolic gesture, sir.
Well, if you wish to tear up
your draft card, please do not
do so in my class.
Everyone laughs. All eyes are on Delaney, and the temptation for him to make a grandstand gesture is great.
He hesitates, then shakes his head, and tucks the letter carefully in his book bag.
Your brother got his hands blown off.
Doesn't that mean anything to you?
Cool it. There's more than one way
to make a revolution.
EXT. SUBURBIA/BACKYARD - DAY
With stacks of lumber nearby, POWELL is using a fence-post digger. Powerfully, built, with a heavy stubble on his face, he's about 25. His voice is deep and authoritative. MRS. BRIGGS comes to the back door and calls to him. She's 30 -- a prim, trim suburban housewife.
Mr. Powell, your roommate just
called. An old letter just
arrived from the Army, forwarded
from your old address. It's your
orders for training. You've got
to report in three days.
Powell squats, puts one hand on a Bible on the ground beside him, and with the other grasps a frisbee. He stares off into space, then stands up, flings the frisbee high in the sky and catches it.
I guess now there's no way you'll be
able to build that jungle gym for us.
That's all right ma'am. I promised I'd
do it, and that's what I'll do.
EXT. SUBURBIA/BACKYARD - NIGHT
The backyard is illuminated with floodlights. Powell is still hard at work, alone, on a huge and elaborate wooden gym set.
EXT. SUBURBIA/BACKYARD - DAWN
Powell is still at work. From the upstairs window Mrs. Briggs stares at him in disbelief.
EXT. SUBURBIA/BACKYARD - NIGHT
Mrs. Briggs, MR. BRIGGS, and their six-year-old son FRANKIE watch in amazement as Powell puts the finishing touches on the amazing structure. After a final nail, Powell steps back, checks it from all sides, then signals to Frankie. The kid shouts with glee, runs up, jumps, and grabs hold of the ladder-like handbars, and
moves quickly across, hand over hand. Powell once again throws the frisbee high in the sky.
INT. HOUSE/BEDROOM - NIGHT
TOM BEAULIEU, a tall, husky senior at the University of Maryland, is in bed with his wife DEBBIE. She is as tall as he is, with long blond hair she uses to hide her expressive face. He snuggles up to her right shoulder and caresses her naked body in foreplay. He moves slowly, savoring every moment. She welcomes his touch, but is preoccupied with an unrelated concern. She has a piece of paper, crumpled and tightly clutched in her left hand, just out of his sight and out of his reach.
Sensing her tension, he redoubles his efforts to turn her on, which makes her even more tense and annoyed with herself. She wants to enjoy this moment, but can't.
Finally, she pulls away and asks the question that has been bothering her.
Tom, have you thought about
That's what you've been saying
for the last month. You know how
I feel. We can go to Canada and
start a new life.
And what's your hurry? It could
be another year before I get
called up for active duty for
training. I can finish up
college, and then...
No. We have to decide now.
She hands him the crumpled paper. He unfolds and tries to decipher it while she explains.
It's your orders. They arrived
nearly a month ago, just after
Kent State. I didn't want you to
know. I just wanted to get you out
of here. You're supposed to report
to Fort Polk, Louisiana, day after
tomorrow. I'm sorry, Tom. I'm sorry.
She throws herself at him passionately while he tries to read the details.
EXT. ARMY BASE - DAWN
A large billboard reads: "Welcome to Fort Polk, Birthplace of Combat Infantrymen for Viet Nam."
EXT. BESIDE BARRACKS - DAWN
The barracks is a white, clapboard, oblong rectangle, like hundreds of others, hurriedly thrown together during World War II. Bats hover above the barracks and vanish one by one into the eaves, as recruits line up for the first time, outside the barracks, with their duffel bags.
There are forty-seven men in the fifth platoon. Forty-three are National Guard and Reservists -- all white. Four are draftees -- all black and all "recycled" (ROBERTS, ARMSTRONG, JONES, and FRANKLIN). Others include Rawlings, Delaney, Powell, Beaulieu, HATHAWAY, SCHNEIDER, TAGLIATTI, WASLEWSKI, ALEC, COHEN, MACFARLAND, VASSAVION, SULLIVAN, SANDERSON, EVANS, and
ALVARDO. The DRILL SERGEANT is a 35-year-old short, stocky Mexican, with a pock-marked face.
What a pleasant surprise. This
cycle we have Reservists and
National Guard. In the middle of
a war, we take time out for a
little exercise in make-believe.
Armstrong, Roberts, Jones
and Franklin -- front and center.
The four blacks take their time following his order. They move fast enough not to be disobedient, but not so fast as to show any energy, enthusiasm or respect.
From Jackson State College, Roberts is tall, thin and athletic. Originally from
Memphis, Armstrong went to CCNY for a year, then panhandled for two years in New York City. He is medium height and out of shape. He wears wire-rim glasses and always has a paperback book in his back pocket -- a tattered copy of Marcuse's One Dimensional Man. Jones, from Raleigh, N.C., is the shortest of them. He often looks down, avoiding eye contact with anyone but his friends. Franklin, from Watts in Los Angeles, finds it painfully difficult to stay still and straight -- his feet and hands want to move all the time.
Look at these guys, you white
boys. They are going to be
sharing your barracks with you,
going through basic with you.
What they score in inspections
and training will affect the
whole platoon. But they don't
give a damn. And they've got
good reason not to give a damn.
They're draftees. They're in the
regular army. They've been through
basic before and failed. Roberts has
been recycled twice now, and he's
proud of it, aren't you boy?
He knows that as soon as he passes
basic, it's off to weapons school and
then to Nam. But you're going to pass
this time, aren't you? With these
reservists to inspire you and help whip
you into shape, I'm sure you'll make it
this time. Get back in line now.
They go back to their former positions.
Who among you has been in ROTC?
I know some of you went to state
schools and were required to take ROTC for two years. Speak
up. I'm looking for leaders. Who
has had two years of ROTC?
Hathaway, Beaulieu, Sanderson, Sullivan, MacFarland, and Vassavion raise their hands high. Rawlings lifts his reluctantly. The Drill Sergeant steps up to Hathaway, a muscular college boy from Alabama, and reads his name from his fatigues.
Hathaway, you played football.
Yes, Drill Sergeant. Second-string
quarterback for Alabama.
I'm sure you enjoy calling plays. Sorry
you won't be doing it here.
The Drill Sergeant walks down the row and stops in front of Beaulieu.
Beaulieu, you're a family man.
Yes, I'm married, Drill Sergeant.
You think being a leader might mean
a few extra dollars in the paycheck to
Yes, Drill Sergeant.
Forget it, kid. It won't make
any difference at all.
The Drill Sergeant goes to the back row and stops in front of Rawlings.
Rawlings, would you like to be
I'm sure there are other guys here
who would be better at it than me.
Yes. Maybe they would. You don't
look like a leader. That's why I picked
you. These guys have to learn to respect
and obey the rank, not the person. If I
give the job to a natural leader, they
learn nothing, and you learn nothing. If
I give it to you, they've got a challenge and
you do too. Congratulations, Mr.
MacFarland, you'll be
assistant platoon leader.
Caught by surprise, MacFarland groans, involuntarily. He's big, but flabby and out of shape. A heavy smoker, he's often out of breath.
Smile, MacFarland. That means
you and Mr. Rawlings, here, get
to share a private room. You have
no responsibilities, and you're
exempted from fire guard and KP
duties. You're in fat city, kid; which,
considering your gut, is the right place
Hathaway, Sanderson, Sullivan,
Vassavion -- you'll all be squad
Sanderson is a quiet, unassuming, college track star. Sullivan, who is big as Hathaway, is awkward on his feet, which he drags, as if he never learned to use them. But he can walk on his hands like a circus performer. He keeps a Swiss army knife in his pocket and fiddles with it at odd moments.
Vassavion has the flabbiness of a natural athlete who has given up exercise in favor of beer and repose. He has a filthy mouth and a ready wit, especially when drunk. He enjoys grossing out everyone.
The Drill Sergeant walks back out front, and turns to face the troops.
Remember, gentlemen, you're in this
together. Your little vacation time
here in the Army will be as pleasant
or hellish as you choose to make it.
You are fortunate to have the best
barracks in the company. Cycle after
cycle of trainees have treated this
barracks with respect and care. Their
hard work and genius is reflected in
the center aisle which has a polish
beyond compare. Treat it well, and
you'll win the company inspection
competition day after day.
Pick a team of men you can
trust with this treasure. One can run
the buffer, one hold the cord so it
doesn't touch the floor, and one tend
the plug. And never, absolutely never,
wear shoes when you cross that
yellow line into the center aisle.
That's my advice, men; and it's
only advice. When it comes to the
barracks, I expect you to govern
Delaney smiles. The Sergeant turns abruptly and glares at him.
Yes, Drill Sergeant!
Drop and give me ten.
Delaney drops to the ground and does ten pushups.
You college kids make me sick.
You hate the "system." What the
hell's the system? By the time
you're done here, you will be
EXT. PHYSICAL TRAINING AREA - DAY
One soldier after another attempts the ladder-like handbars. These are shown from the same angle as the ones at the Briggs' house in the earlier scene. The
rusted metal rungs spin freely in their sockets, making them hard to grip. One soldier after another goes a few rungs, then slips, in agony, holding his hands, bloody,
with the skin ripped off. Only Powell and Alec go all the way through, to the amazement of the rest. They, too, have the skin ripped off their hands, but continue
despite the pain. Alec is short and dark-complexioned. There's a bulge in his back pocket where he carries a blackjack.
How the hell do they do it?
I don't know about Powell, but Alec
there is cop from Chicago. A narc.
EXT. EXERCISE FIELD - DAY
Drill Sergeant walks between rows, while the Fifth Platoon does jumping jacks, counting in unison with each jump.
Down! Give me ten! Then up and
run in place.
Everyone drops to the ground and starts doing pushups, counting out loud. Roberts, Sanderson, and Powell finish quickly. Delaney and Beaulieu struggle, but make it. Rawlings and Schneider can barely do one; MacFarland two. Schneider is a fat farm boy from Iowa. He chews bubblegum and blows bubbles, even when trying to do pushups.
EXT. ROADWAY - DAWN
The Fifth Platoon is running. Sanderson is in the lead by a hundred feet.
Roberts is second, fifty feet ahead of the rest. He throws in a few dance steps and back pedals to show off. At the front of the pack, little Evans struggles to stay even with Hathaway, Beaulieu, Powell, and Delaney. Rawlings and MacFarland are neck-and-neck at next to last. Schneider straggles far behind everyone.
The Drill Sergeant runs along with the middle of the pack and sings in cadence. Trainees join in on the refrain.
Trainees want a weekend pass
to get damn drunk
and chase some ass.
One, two, three, four! Sound off!
Cohen, an undergrad from Berkeley, booms forth a verse of his own before the Drill Sergeant has a chance to continue.
Sanderson can run like hell.
Schneider'd rather sit a spell.
Sanderson and Schneider are embarrassed. The Sergeant is ready to yell, then pleased with what he hears, smiles in encouragement, and leads the chorus.
One, two, three, four! Sound off!
EXT. OUTSIDE COMPANY HEADQUARTERS - DAY
Trainees line up to receive plague shots, one after the other. MacFarland winces in pain, even before the needle hits his arm. Delaney smiles until the needle is deep in his arm, then grunts in pain. Powell shows nothing.
EXT. PHYSICAL TRAINING AREA - DAY
Trainees -- all, even Powell, clutching their left arm where they received shots -- line up to go through the handlebars again. Scar tissue and calluses have partially replaced the skin they lost on the previous try. The bars spin again, and rip the skin again. The big guys -- Hathaway, Waslewski, Sullivan, and Vassavion -- all fall off, despite their best effort. Roberts (laughing) and Evans (with monumental effort) go all the way. Evans is very short -- an energetic, hard worker. While they are going through this exercise, Cohen, the Drill Sergeant, and the rest of the trainees are heard continuing the song in VOICE OVER.
Evans swings from bar to bar
Alvardo wants a brand new car
One, two, three, four! Sound off!
EXT. RIFLE RANGE - DAY
Trainees are prone on the ground, firing at human-silhouette targets. Both Evans and Vassavion hit the bull's eye time after time. The singing continues in VOICE OVER.
Rawlings grins from ear to ear.
Vassavion wants another beer.
One, two, three, four! Sound off!
EXT. IN CATTLE TRUCK ON HIGHWAY - DAY
Over a hundred trainees are crammed into a cattle truck meant for forty. Cohen sings and the others join in.
Delaney's talkin' politic.
His mouth is fast, his mind is sick.
One, two, three, four! Sound off!
EXT. PHYSICAL TRAINING AREA - DAY
Weeks have past. The platoon once again attempts the handbars. This time Powell, Evans, Sanderson, Beaulieu, Delaney, and Roberts make it all the way. .
Powell picks up a frisbee and throws it high over the barracks.
INT. BARRACKS/BUNKROOM - DAY (THURSDAY)
It's after supper on a Thursday in mid-summer after five weeks of basic training.
Delaney and Hathaway are spread out across their bunks, reading and writing letters. Other trainees are polishing boots, shuffling through their lockers, or lying stretched out on their backs either sleeping or staring upward. Powell very slowly and meticulously runs the buffer to polish the already highly polished center aisle. His attention is totally focused on this activity as if he were carrying out a sacred ritual. Tagliatti holds the buffer cord in the air, so it won't touch the center aisle. He's a college student of medium build, who is always reading old newspapers. Schneider holds the plug in place and makes sure the cord doesn't get tangled on beds or lockers. He waddles when he walks.
Beaulieu is also writing a letter, which is heard in VOICE OVER as the camera pans around the room.
Dear Deb -- The barracks is now in
better shape than when it was first built.
Cycle after cycle of trainees have kept it in
shape for inspections.
Some even made improvements to
get bonus points.
The camera shows the red rack for the red helmet liner that the fire guard wears each night; the magazine racks that hang on the latrine wall beside the toilets; the homemade plaque, which hangs over the water fountain and was presented by one group of trainees to their drill sergeant, 25 years before.
Next, a long shot shows the masterpiece of the barracks -- the red linoleum center aisle, which extends between two long rows of parallel bunks. Powell continues to buff it, going over the same spot again and again.
Thanks to the special efforts of
cycle after cycle of trainees,
the center aisle shines
mirror-bright. No other barracks
in Echo Company can hope to
match it. As long as we continue
to take care of it and don't get
gigs for foolish oversights, our
platoon would always win
inspections. That's a source of
pride and confidence -- feelings
that are hard to come by in
As Beaulieu continues in VOICE OVER, the camera focuses on Delaney and the text of the letter from Digital Equipment that he is reading:
We are still very interested in you. We understand that your active duty will end in just four months. When you get a weekend pass, please come up and visit. The sooner the better, because this kind of opportunity doesn't just sit around forever. You can learn computer design by doing it -- working with the best in the business and getting paid well for what you do. (I'm sure we can come to terms.)
It's fine to visit on a Sat. or Sun. Just let us know you're coming. This place is like a college campus. People are so wrapped up in what they're doing and so excited about it that they work crazy hours -- I think there are some who never go home at all.
At first it was an annoyance having
to walk all the way around to get to
a bunk that's just three feet away
across the aisle. But by now it's
Everyone in the platoon
takes his boots off at the door, but
even in stocking feet no one in the
platoon crosses the yellow lines that
define the center aisle.
No one, that is, but the chosen
few entrusted with taking care of it.
In this cycle of trainees, Evans
does the buffing upstairs. The
all-important downstairs floor is in the
keeping of Powell. Tagliatti helps him
with the buffer cord. Schneider tends
Sanderson suddenly comes racing in in his stocking feet and nearly slides onto the center aisle. Hathaway glares at him, but the buffers continue their work.
Have you heard the latest? Drill
Sergeant promised weekend passes
to the top three in the P.T. test.
A hell of a lot of good that
does me. You and the runt have
it made already.
Yes the runt -- Evans.
Everything's topsy-turvy here.
It's the big guys who are hurting,
guys like Hathaway, Waslewski,
Sullivan, and Vassavion -- the
football player types.
They're strong, but they've got a lot
of weight to lift for the handbars. It's
the little guys who have it easy. Evans
just missed a little on the grenade
throw and was perfect with the rifle.
It doesn't take muscle to squeeze a trigger.
Cool it buddy. You've still got a shot
at one of those passes if you do good
in the mile tomorrow.
Damn. You take this whole army
bit like it was some kind of
sports camp. Don't you have any
sense of justice?
Sure, fair is fair. If you can outrun
me, you can get a pass this
weekend. And, if we all keep up
the good work, the sergeant says
half the platoon, maybe even more
will get passes next week.
You're a goddamned political
As Delaney leave in disgust, Sanderson gives him the finger.
Up yours, too, buddy.
Powell, Tagliatti, and Schneider are seen -- intense and careful -- in a long shot as the camera follows Delaney, in his stocking feet, stomping out the door and quickly pulling on his boots.
EXT. FORT POLK - DAY
Delaney moves away from the barracks, toward the trees. No one is looking. He moves beyond the company area, across the road. No one is looking. He starts jogging up the road, past the PX, toward the commissary. He keeps looking over his shoulder. He spots Roberts, Armstrong, Franklin, and Jones, drinking beer off in the woods, beyond the company area. They see him. He speeds up.
They take off after him and soon catch up and run along beside him.
Going home, boy?
What do you think, brothers?
Should we cover for him?
Roberts gets in front of Delaney and backpedals, boxing him in and slowing him.
What the fuck are you doing?
We're vigilantes, man. You left
the company area without the
They crack up laughing and let him by. Delaney runs away.
EXT. FORT POLK/PHONE BOOTH - DAY
Delaney runs to a phone booth near the billboard that welcomes recruits to Fort Polk. He dials and gets connected to Melody at her dorm room.
EXT. FORT POLK/PHONE BOOTH - DAY (SPLIT SCREEN)
INT. COLLEGE/DORM ROOM - DAY (SPLIT SCREEN)
Delaney and Melody are shown talking to one another in split screen. The walls of her small college room are decorated with posters of Che Guevara and the Beatles.
The "Revolution" song from the Beatle's White Album is playing in the background. The floor is strewn with xeroxed political fliers that she is collating and folding as she talks.
Yes, Frank? It's you finally. No letters,
no calls. And you've been gone for
nearly two months.
Look, I don't have long to talk. I'm
not supposed to be of the company
area. I have to get back before they
notice I'm gone.
Come on, Frank. Forget the
cloak-and-dagger. What's happening?
Everything at once. I've got this job
offer from Digital Equipment.
What? You turned down grad school
at Princeton to join the struggle
against the war, and now you're
selling out to some computer
company? Who the hell are you?
I wish I knew. Sure, I believe in the
revolution. I'm doing everything I can
here to undermine the system from
within. That's why I joined the
Reserves. It's all working just as I
hoped. But, God, I could help design
the world's hottest computer. We
could get married.
Why not? Kids, the suburbs, the
But how could I marry you if you
don't believe in the cause?
But I do believe.
Then live it -- like you planned. We
all have to do our part. You know
that. Great movements are made up
of small pieces.
This scene dissolves into the next and Melody continues talking in VOICE OVER.
INT. BARRACKS/BUNKROOM - DAY
Beaulieu, Hathaway, and Powell are on their beds. Rawlings is coming down the stairs as Melody's voice continues in VOICE OVER.
People are dying every day. We
can't wait any longer. Do whatever
you can now. Remember what you
always said -- if everyone opposed to
war does something to disrupt the
system, the system will fall apart.
Something thrown slams loudly against the door. Then another one strikes. Hathaway and Beaulieu sit up. Sanderson, Evans, and Tagliatti come to look in from the latrine. Tag has a newspaper in his hand. Delaney enters, nearly bumping into Rawlings.
What the hell was that all about?
I'm tired, all right.
So we're all tired. Big deal.
Yes, it is a big deal. We get maybe
four hours of sleep a night. Our
minds have been reduced to pulp.
A soldier is entitled to eight hours
sleep. Officially it's always eight
hours from lights-out to lights-on.
Officially, it's our own doing if we
don't get enough sleep. But there's
always a half dozen chores that need
to be done after lights-out. And then
they wake you up for fire guard or CQ,
and you have to break the rules again,
getting up an hour before lights-on to
clean the barracks or we'd never win
Delaney takes a drink at the water fountain, then spits the water out into the bowl.
So without sleep, the mind loses the power
to control what it's thinking, to tie thoughts
together by anything more than simple
association. It becomes a passive inert mass.
What's eating you, Delaney? Why
the hell are you always whining?
Delaney turns on him, swings at his face, and stops just short. Beaulieu doesn't flinch.
The truth? My girl is pregnant.
Delaney cringes and nods.
What are you going to do?
I don't know. I just have to get back
there as quick as I can to sort it all out.
Why not ask for a pass for a
We're not married. She's not family.
So you're asking us to throw the race?
Delaney doesn't deny it.
Fuck you, buddy.
He walks out, and Evans follows.
I wish I could help.
Delaney ignores him. Others go back to what they were doing.
EXT. OUTSIDE BARRACKS BY TREES - NIGHT
Delaney, alone with Roberts behind a tree, slips him some money and whispers.
Just do like you did to me this afternoon.
That might be enough. If I get the pass,
you get double.
Roberts kisses the money and smiles broadly.
Hey, you're really into this race stuff,
aren't you? Yeah, you're real liberal.
EXT. PHYSICAL TRAINING AREA - DAY (FRIDAY)
Trainees lined up on starting line of circular track. They are in fatigues, with combat boots. The sun is bright. It's 100 F. Everyone is sweating heavily before the race starts. Drill Sergeant, staring at a stop watch, raises his hand, then lowers it quickly to signal.
Sanderson gets a fast start. Roberts, Armstrong, Franklin, and Jones sprint, trying to get ahead of him, but can't. Then they begin to slow the pace, shoulder to shoulder, blocking the rest of the field. They let Delaney through, but deliberately block the rest. The Drill Sergeant shakes his head and laughs to himself. Cohen, slowed to a jog by the trainees around him, sings.
A bucket needs water; a beggar a
quarter. The world needs order;
but just keep walking along, along,
just keep walking along.
One lap, two laps, three. Sanderson runs a full lap faster than the rest, catches up with the pack from behind, and is annoyed that he can't break through for a better time. Delaney is about 20 yards ahead of Roberts. In anger and frustration, Vassavion begins to chant.
Beer, beer, beer, beer, beer..
With one hand on Franklin and one on Jones, he forces his way through. Evans squirts through after him, before Franklin and Jones are able to close the gap. Evans zips by Delaney, and Vassavion lumbers past him, too, by a hair at the finish line.
EXT. OUTSIDE BARRACKS - DAY
Vassavion dances by, cheering, with Evans, like a little kid, on his shoulders. Sanderson runs past and slaps them both on the rear. Delaney follows after the others have moved out of sight, lecturing to Tagliatti, Alvardo, Waslewski, Hathaway, Alec, and Beaulieu, all of whom are not particularly happy at having lost.
Rawlings is a couple steps behind.
That's the system for you -- build up
the weak and tear down the strong.
But Vassavion's no weakling. And
Sanderson isn't either.
Delaney glares back, then continues to lecture.
That's how the system perpetuates
itself -- putting runts and cowards in
positions of authority. The system
promotes people who know that
their authority comes to them
not for any merit of their own,
but just because of the system.
Roberts comes into view, following Delaney from a distance.
System, hell. It was the blacks
-- Roberts and the others who
blocked us out.
Delaney stops so Roberts can catch up, and greets him with open arms.
Yes, the system. The system that has
oppressed them. The system that will
send them to Nam. The system that
they had guts enough to fight, by
botching that stupid race.
Delaney shakes Roberts' hand, slaps him on the back, and inconspicuously slips him more money. Roberts smiles broadly.
Yeah, man, that's a real good
system you've got there.
INT. BARRACKS/BUNKROOM - DAY (LATER FRIDAY)
The screen door slams, and Sullivan shuffles in. He's in his stocking feet and is obviously tired. Powell, Tagliatti, and Schneider are buffing in the background.
How should I know?
You're his squad leader, aren't you?
Yeah, but not his nursemaid.
He's got CQ from four to six.
Somebody's got to take it. Shit'll hit
the fan if only one guy's on CQ.
If you're so goddamned uptight, do it
yourself. You can't go anywhere anyway.
Powell has finished buffing, and is pleased. Tagliatti and Schneider carefully roll up the buffer cord during the following dialogue.
Hathaway goes back to his letter-writing. Sullivan steps toward the door.
Keep your goddamned feet off
that center aisle.
You treat this floor like a Mercedes.
It is, you asshole.
Sullivan stops short of the yellow line, kicks a footlocker, turns and plods and shuffles behind the bunks.
Pick up your feet.
Sullivan stops, and stands on his hands. A Swiss Army knife drops out of his pocket.
Shit. You know you're not
supposed to have that thing.
Sullivan gets down, puts the knife between his teeth, then walks out on his hands.
Hathaway picks up a football and heaves it at the entranceway in a perfect spiral.
Schneider is walking by with Tagliatti, carefully carrying the buffer.
He's only trying to do right.
No, I don't mean Sullivan. I mean Roberts.
Why the hell'd they ever put draftees in this
company? And why did they have
to stick us with them?
You know -- they were recycled.
Yeah, four fucking fuck-offs,
and we got all of them.
Hathaway keeps writing as Beaulieu walks quietly behind the bunks, into the latrine.
INT. BARRACKS/LATRINE - DAY
Beaulieu enters. Straight ahead are the platoon's two washing machines, with dozens of bags of laundry lined up waiting their turn. Beside them stretch a row of sinks, leading to the showers. Along the other walls, on the periphery of view, are urinals and a line of toilets, about two feet apart, without partitions.
All but one toilet is occupied, like seats in the reading room at a college library just before exam time. The occupants are Tagliatti, Waslewski, Cohen, Alvardo, Sullivan, and Delaney. The camera pans from face to face.
Tagliatti is reading an old tattered newspaper.
Waslewski sweats profusely. He's powerfully built, but has a large beer-belly. He goes to college nights, and during the day does physical labor in a sheet-metal factory.
Cohen is drumming out a rock tune on an overturned wastebasket.
Alvardo, an Hispanic college student, is reading an old issue of Road and Track.
Sullivan is writing a letter.
Delaney is reading a well-worn copy of Marx -- The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844.
Roberts is standing by a sink, staring at himself in the mirror as he carefully shaves the top of his head.
Hey, Roberts, you're supposed to
be on CQ.
Well, what are you doing then?
Giving myself a haircut. Got to
look pretty for the sergeant.
Roberts keeps shaving his head.
Well, they're looking for you,
Roberts. Don't say I didn't tell you.
Yeah, everybody's looking for
the old Bob tonight. I got me a
date. Got me a couple of them.
I'm going to have me a big night.
He slaps the pocket where he put the money.
You're going to have big trouble
is all, if you don't hightail it
over to CQ.
No, man. It's you who's got
trouble -- not me, but you.
INT. BUNKHOUSE/RAWLINGS' ROOM - NIGHT (FRIDAY)
In total darkness, several people in stocking feet walk quietly into Rawlings' room. A flashlight turns on to reveal closeup of Rawlings face. He is sound asleep, with his mouth wide open. Three sets of hands reach into the light and spray shaving cream into his mouth. The light goes out and the feet scramble as Rawlings, wakes, chokes, then spits. He stumbles toward the door and turns on the light. Only then does he realize what has happened.
What the hell!
MacFarland feigns sleep in the other bunk. Laughter breaks out in the bunkroom down below. Rawlings picks up a book and heaves it at the wall. The sound of that just prompts more laughter. MacFarland (barely containing his own laughter) still pretends to be asleep.
INT. BARRACKS/BUNKROOM - NIGHT
Laughter in the dark is interrupted by Delaney.
(from nearby upper bunk)
What's your problem?
Roberts is gone. His bunk is empty.
Hell. We'd better report it to CQ fast.
Are you kidding? And fuck everything
for everybody? No passes, no nothing?
We've got to shut up and not draw
attention to the barracks. He just might
slip back before the
sergeant knows he's gone.
INT. HOUSE/LIVINGROOM - DAY (SATURDAY)
The doorbell sounds. Debbie opens the door and finds Beaulieu. He lifts her and kisses her on the breasts, while she hugs him He carries her to the sofa, and begins undressing her. She starts undressing him, then suddenly freezes.
My God! You're AWOL. Can we get
to Canada before they catch you?
Hell, no! I got a pass, a fucking weekend
pass, a pass to fuck all weekend.
But how? Why? I didn't know
they gave out passes in basic.
Look, lady, you're married to a genius. You
should see me on those handbars.
And boots -- nobody can spit and
polish boots the way I can. I've
got such great spit, I may make
a career of the Army.
She stares at him in disbelief and pinches herself.
I couldn't call ahead. I'd have missed the
plane. They didn't give me much warning,
and the connections are lousy. I've only
got a few hours before I have to head back
to the airport again. The bastards.
And is this the same gentle, sweet-talking
husband who left here just six weeks ago?
You're fucking right it is.
Then let's not waste any time,
my foul-mouthed soldier boy.
She reaches to unbuckle his trousers and finds a letter in his pocket. It's addressed to "Debbie Beaulieu." She opens it. He takes it away.
Not now, pumpkin. We've got
serious business to attend to.
You can read that when I'm gone.
But I want it now, soldier boy.
She pulls down his trousers.
You wouldn't deny me that, would you?
I want you to read me that
letter with all its filthy words
while I get reacquainted you.
She licks his belly button.
While he reads, she caresses and kisses him.
Dear Debbie, It's a crazy world, that makes
such crazy places as this, reducing men to
chunks of sweating, aching flesh. Even
trying to shit hurts.
If you were near and I could see you,
sleep with you, it would be tolerable. With you,
I could tolerate most anything. We could just
lie together and laugh about it. It's just one
huge practical joke. I'm sure that's the
way the Drill Sergeant takes it -- like a fraternity
initiation. Cohen manages to see it that way too,
manages to bring out the humor in things.
But it's degrading. The
only way to release all this pressure, aside
from taking a poke at somebody (which would
land you with an Article Fifteen
or a court martial and get you
recycled and stuck in this
damned army for months) is to
masturbate. There's just no
other way, and it's so damned
degrading. You try to do it
quietly, in a barracks full of
guys, the bunks no more than
three feet apart, the firelight
and stair light on all the time,
and the fireguard pacing back
And somebody else is in the
upper bunk getting shaken by
your every move. That's one hell
of a way to get a release -- lying there
stock-still, squeezing yourself with a sheet.
But it works, after a fashion.
The imagination takes
charge, and I'm far from here.
This place never existed. I'm
holding you so warm and close.
Damn it, I'm horny as
hell, and it'll be at least three months
before I see you again. You can't imagine
what this place does to a guy. I
think of you constantly,
whenever we get a five minute
break, and I can lean against a
tree and shut my eyes, or even
when I'm running laps around the
block at 5 AM, before breakfast,
and the thought of you gets me
away from this place, and it's
something to look forward to --
the next moment when I'll be
able to let my mind drift to you.
My muscles stop aching as
they remember your shape, the
pressure of you close to me, the
texture of your skin, the delightful,
unexpected ways you move. My eye
muscles relive with my hands the fullness
of your breasts. I remember directly,
completely, not like before, the
electric touch of your fingers, the playful
flip of your tongue, the way you toss back
your head to toss back your hair, your
long legs rubbing softly against mine.
Debbie pushes him onto the sofa and climbs on top of him.
Don't stop or I'll stop.
The camera focuses on her now as he continues reading.
Her eyes are shut as she savors the sensations of rubbing her body against his.
Damn it. I need you. My body needs you.
The pulp that was my mind needs you. Hell,
you'd hate me the way I am now. I hate
myself the way I am now. I can't even write
you a decent letter. All I do is write about
the shit around me. But damn it, darling, I'm
caught up in this shit. All those stupid rules
they threw at us five weeks ago are now a
part of me. I take this nonsense seriously.
My joys, fears, hopes, and miseries all stem
from this world they've thrown me in. My
body remembers your every move vividly.
But it's hard for me to imagine the world
we used to live in. It's unreal and far away.
The only world I've got is this shit.
And I hate this shit. And I hate myself for
letting myself be reduced to this.
Damn it. I love you and miss you, and
I'm sorry this is the way I write and the way I
think, but they've done it to me, damn it.
They've reduced me to this. When I get back
it'll be different, and I'll be different. And
I'll be able to forget all this and go back to
being me -- whoever that was.
But wherever I am and whoever I
am, I love you.
She looks down and sees she's clutching a sheet. She crumples it up and throws it in anger.
Tom, why the hell aren't you
here? Why did you do this to
me? Why didn't we go to Canada?
She sits down and starts scribbling a letter on the nearest scrap of paper. She says aloud, slowly, the words that she is writing.
Dear Tom, Will this war at home and
abroad ever end? If it does, I hope our
children don't ever have to go
through anything like this.
Seeing the same scene, we hear Delaney's voice saying the same words in synch with Debbie. Gradually, Debbie's voice gets fainter and Delaney's stronger, until all we hear is Delaney in VOICE OVER.
Let it end. Let it end for good. Lord, I
hope I never have to see another film clip
of bombing raids, or of student protesters
getting hauled off to jail.
INT. BARRACKS/BUNKROOM - DAY
Beaulieu, in fatigues, is lying on his bunk, clutching a sheet. He wakes up, embarrassed. Only Powell is in the room, and he is concentrating on reading his book. Beaulieu turns toward the latrine, puzzled, and focuses on Delaney's voice, which is coming from there.
Come home and fuck me.
Laughter from the latrine.
Fuck this whole world away. Make it all
simple and beautiful. Come. Come to me,
for me, in me. Come.
Love forever. Debbie.
Beaulieu charges toward the latrine, slipping in his stocking feet, banging his knee on a locker, and bouncing off the wall.
INT. BARRACKS/LATRINE - DAY
Cohen is putting his laundry in the washing machine. Waslewski, standing wrapped in a towel, just got out of the shower. Delaney, Schneider, Sanderson, and Tagliatti are on johns. Schneider is chewing bubblegum and blowing bubbles. Tagliatti is reading his newspaper. Delaney is still holding the letter he was reading.
Beaulieu enters and grabs the letter from Delaney.
Hey, wait a minute buddy. I just
borrowed it. No harm meant or
done. Just a few laughs.
Beaulieu stuffs the letter in his trousers, then swings wildly at Delaney. Delaney ducks and falls on the floor.
Hey, cool it buddy. Can't you take a joke?
Anybody who lies around beating his meat
in broad daylight ought to expect a little
joshing. You've got no right to be self-righteous.
Don't talk to me about rights.
Read your own damn mail.
I would if I had any.
Well, keep your filthy hands off mine.
Beaulieu kicks Delaney in the stomach.
Delaney grabs Beaulieu's leg and pulls him down on the floor. They roll, kicking and punching, on the space among the johns. Responding to the noise, Powell rushes in. The screen door slams loudly, and Hathaway enters, too. Hathaway takes hold of Delaney, and Powell lifts Beaulieu. They pull the fighters apart.
Let me kill the fucking bastard.
Not while you're in my platoon.
I don't give a damn who started
this or why. It's ending right here.
He looks around and spots Sanderson.
Sanderson, were you planning on
Yeah. But only five miles. I thought I'd
take it easy today. After all, it's Sunday.
Well, take these guys with you. It looks
like they have extra energy to burn off.
Got it, Delaney and Beaulieu?
You run. You run hard. Maybe you talk a
little on the way and work out your
differences. But if you go at each other
again, believe me, I'll take it straight to the
Drill Sergeant and you'll both get an Article Fifteen.
Hey, why should you care? If this
Neanderthal loses control and we bash
each other up, so what's it to you?
We all get punished for what one guy does.
Besides, we're at the limit of our patience.
This is like a woodshed in a drought. We
don't want lightning. One stupid fight
could become a free-for-all. I don't want to
end up in the guardhouse.
I don't want to be stuck in this fucking army
any longer than need be. Keep it cool.
Cohen starts humming and softly singing the tune from West Side Story, drumming out the beat on a sink.
I don't see how that Sanderson
does it, running laps in this heat.
He thrives on this shit.
That's what I said -- he's nuts.
EXT. COMPANY AREA - DAY
Delaney and Beaulieu jog side by side, around the company area. Sanderson runs ahead, far faster. He laps them while they talk.
You sound like a fucking SDS radical.
What the hell are you doing in the reserves?
Better here than Nam.
Look. Level with me. You took a couple years
of ROTC. Radicals don't take ROTC.
Well, you see, my brother's in the
disarmament movement. He joined ROTC,
went to Nam and had his arms blown off.
I found that rather discouraging. We were
both in ROTC because that was the only way
to pay our way through school. When
Dan came back the way he did, I quit,
and got a job working nights in a
Sorry about your brother. Life's tough. I
work at McDonald's and my wife does
tempo office work to pay my way through
school. We get on somehow. We don't
expect much more. It's no big deal.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not much different
from you. I don't believe in the war, but I
haven't done a damn thing, yet, to end it.
Don't lump me with you. I'm not
against the war, and I'm not for
it either. I just want to get on
with my life, with a minimum of
hassle. I'm no protester.
Beaulieu runs on ahead.
INT. BARRACKS/SHOWERS - DAY
Delaney and Beaulieu are side by side in the shower lathering up, relaxing their exhausted bodies. Delaney is turned toward Beaulieu, who is turned away.
Look, Beaulieu, I'm not a protester either.
I didn't burn my draft card or join SDS. I
played it safe, like you. I found a Reserve
unit to avoid the draft. Now the least I can
do is to try to undermine the system from
within. No bombs, no big deal -- just whatever
I can do with my wits to screw things up,
without throwing away my future.
I've got a girl back home named
Melody. She's sure I'm going to do
something dramatic for the cause. She
thinks I'm going to be some kind of hero,
and I know I'm just a piece of shit, who'd
gladly sell out for a good job with a future.
Great combination, huh?
Hell, it's crazy living this lie.
She doesn't write and doesn't want me
to write because she's sure Big Brother
would read our mail, and I'd be nailed
as a rebel.
Beaulieu turns toward Delaney.
Debbie's more naive than that.
She thinks I'm the only one who
reads what she mails me.
INT. BARRACKS/LATRINE - DAY (SATURDAY)
Beaulieu shaves at a sink. The camera focuses on him. Some of the rest of the room is visible in the mirror. Laundry bags are stacked high around the washer and dryer. All the toilet seats are occupied -- by Tagliatti, Cohen, Waslewski, and others. Tagliatti is reading a newspaper, as usual.
(between razor strokes)
Hey, Tag, are you through with the sports?
Yeah, but it's four days old.
Well, that's two days better
than anything I've seen.
Alec enters the latrine. ALEC
Yeah, Alec, it's a full house. Maybe you
can catch the next show.
Bunch of damned exhibitionists. Got to
spend the whole day in the latrine.
A good crap's one of the few pleasures
allowed us. Even a cop like you can
Then shit and get done with it.
This place looks like a library.
I say, sir, are the libraries
like this in Chicago?
Get off it, Cohen.
When I'm done, I will, indeed, get off it.
But right now that's a bit premature. I might
risk staining this immaculate concrete floor,
the pride of the fifth platoon latrine crew.
Cut the bull.
Me Big Chief Shitting Bull.
Cohen starts drumming on the wall -- an Indian war dance.
Tag, can you toss me the toilet
Tag throws it, and Waslewski catches it, circus-style, on his big toe. He uses some, then tosses the roll to Alec and stands up.
Here you go, Alec. It's all yours.
Just shit right down and write
yourself a letter.
Cohen drums in cheerful imitation of a trumpet call.
Self-control, my boy. That's the first lesson
of the Army. Potty-training 101. It's all part
of basic training. We must learn to adapt to
Well, you don't seem to have learned it --
with that goddamned diarrhea of the mouth.
Everyone clears out quickly.
EXT. EXERCISE FIELD - DAY (SATURDAY)
All five platoons of Echo Company line up quickly on the exercise field. Roberts doesn't show up for this formation, nor do Sanderson, Evans, and Vassavion, who have passes, and Sullivan who is on CQ. The CAPTAIN of Echo Company presides as the five DRILL SERGEANTS read their rosters and check off the names quickly and mechanically. The Captain is just a couple years out of college --
not much older than the trainees. This is his first command. Like the trainees, he's self-conscious and awkward. All the sergeants read at the same time, but only the DRILL SERGEANT from the fifth platoon is clearly audible.
Here, Drill Sergeant!
Here, Drill Sergeant!
On CQ, Drill Sergeant!
On pass, Drill Sergeant!
Schneider accidentally swallows his bubblegum, then answers loudly.
Here, Drill Sergeant!
On CQ, Drill Sergeant!
The Drill Sergeant stops for an uncomfortably long time and looks around.
Here, Drill Sergeant
On pass, Drill Sergeant!
Here, Drill Sergeant!
SERGEANT 3 (O.S.)
All present or accounted for, sir!
Hathaway starts to speak, then stops himself.
SERGEANT 4 (O.S.)
All present or accounted for, sir!
On KP, Drill Sergeant!
All present or accounted for, sir!
Platoon! CAPTAIN (O.S.)
Most of the trainees race to the mess hall to line up and wait for dinner. Some straggle off in small groups. Alec rushes to the barracks. Tagliatti, Waslewski, MacFarland, Delaney follows, more slowly. Rawlings is left alone on the exercise field. He looks lost.
INT. BARRACKS/BUNKROOM - DAY (SATURDAY)
Trainees enter the previously empty barracks. Alec heads straight to the latrine. Tagliatti, Waslewski, MacFarland, and Delaney stretch out on their bunks. Halfway down the aisle, Powell sits on his bed, his powerful frame bowed, a Bible on his lap. The temperature is over 95o. Everyone is sweating heavily.
Goddamn. They treat prisoners of war better
than this. I'd like to shove that Bill-of-Rights
crap right up that Drill Sergeant's ass.
That's the system for you. Here we are, free
citizens, and they've revoked our civil rights
and subjected us to this torture without there
ever having been a declaration of war, without
the express consent of Congress.
All I want is a goddamned beer. There's a PX
a block away. And we can't go there.
Have a drink of water.
Water? You call that piss "water?" All I
want's a goddamned beer.
Okay, Waz, okay. We're all in the same boat.
Good thing Sarge can't count. It
sounded funny with three guys on CQ.
And me, with my big mouth, I
said he was on KP.
Where the hell is Roberts?
(licking his lips)
Maybe he just slipped over to
the PX for a beer.
Yeah if nobody sees him, it'll be all right.
Don't anybody tell Rawlings.
That bastard would turn him in.
Here comes Rawlings.
Rawlings enters. Everybody but Powell leaves the barracks in a hurry. Screendoor slams.
They sure got hungry fast.
Powell smiles, then goes back to reading his Bible. Rawlings turns to the water fountain, takes a swallow, and spits it out.
The water ought to get cool while everybody's
at supper. It needs a rest. We all need rest.
Rawlings hesitates, uncertain whether to leave or stay.Powell puts down his Bible and speaks.
Would you like to play frisbee?
Rawlings grins from ear to ear.
EXT. EXERCISE FIELD - DAY
Rawlings and Powell throw a frisbee back and forth as the conversation goes back and forth between them. Powell throws it up, so it curves down at Rawlings at an unexpected angle. Rawlings throws it level and direct. They are both good at it.
You have a way about you. It's like you have
this inner strength and know just what to
do and say. Even when you say nothing at all,
you seem so decisive.
Appearances are deceiving. Sometimes I wish
I were either fighting the war or fighting
against it. The world is multi-colored and
complex. There isn't any single answer, and
maybe our reservist compromise is the best
choice. I distrust people like Delaney who
see everything as just black and white,
conservative and liberal, right and wrong,
good and evil. I believe that yes-or-no
attitude is what leads to war.
I think I know what you mean. There's this
girl back home -- Madeline -- who was
always on my case because I was neither a
hawk nor a dove. I'd always see both sides
of an issue. Her worst insult was to call me
Well, I don't think anybody's ever called me
that. Certainly not my parents when I dropped
out of med school and became a carpenter.
Rawlings falters and misses a catch, then picks it up awkwardly
and hesitates before throwing it back.
Why the hell did you do that?
One morning driving to school after an
all-nighter, I fell asleep on the expressway.
I woke up with a jolt ten miles past my
exit so scared I was more alert
than I had ever been in my life.
What did you do?
I just kept driving. I ran out of gas a
couple hundred miles later near a
carpenter's shop. The owner was kind
enough to give me a job.
But how could you possibly? Med
school -- you must have worked
hard for years to get as far as
you were. How could you just
throw it away like that?
I felt like I'd been sleepwalking for years.
I needed to understand. I couldn't just
live. I needed to know why I was
living. I'm still trying to understand. It
He heaves a dazzling sky-high curve.
INT. BARRACKS/BUNKROOM - DAY
As Rawlings climbs the stairs, Delaney enters, followed by Armstrong, Alec, and Cohen. Powell is still on his bunk, on the far side of the aisle, quietly reading the Bible. Beaulieu is sitting on bunk, near the entrance, writing a letter. Delaney slides up to Beaulieu (in stocking feet) and makes a fake jab at his face.
Cut the third grade shit, Delaney.
Ease off, soldier. Can't you take a joke?
Next time you do that, I'll kick
you in the balls.
Delaney fakes fear and exaggeratedly protects his crotch, then with a laugh turns to the others, who have gathered by the water fountain.
Okay, Armstrong, where's Roberts? You're
his bunkmate. You should know.
He said he was going home.
Home? Is something wrong at home?
Somebody sick or something? He should
have told somebody. They'd call the Red
Cross and have them check it out. If it was
really bad, they'd give him a pass.
Nobody's sick. He just said he
was going home.
Freedom, Delaney. You talk a lot about
freedom. Well, there's your freedom. He
wants to go, so he goes. And what can
they do to him? Send him to Nam? He's
eleven bang-bang. Mortars. He's going to
Nam all right. No place but Nam. There's
your fucking freedom -- being so low you've
got nothing to lose.
That's really profound, Alec.
(starts to sing softly.)
"Freedom's just another word for
nothing left to lose..."
Is he coming back? Did he say he
was coming back?
He'll be back. When he's good
and ready, he'll be back.
He's got thirty days. I heard a hold-over
talking about it -- one of the guys waiting
for court-martial. Thirty days and you're still
AWOL. But one minute more, and you're a
deserter, and they'll have the FBI after you.
FBI? These days there are so many
deserters the FBI can't hope to touch them.
But when the Drill Sergeant finds out that
Roberts is gone, he'll have all of us
low-crawling from one end of the company
area to the other. And we can forget about
ever getting PX privileges or
passes. Damn it. I can't take
four more weeks of this hell-hole.
You're not going to rat on him,
are you, Delaney?
Hell, no. What's to gain by
ratting on him? As soon as they
know he's AWOL, we've had it.
But if we can cover it up till
he gets back, we'll be all right.
Alec whips out his blackjack and slams it against the wall in anger.
That little bastard.
How long do you figure he'll be, Armstrong?
Don't know. But I do know that Jackson,
Mississippi's a long ways from here.
Alvardo barges in, angry and anxious.
I think he's still on CQ.
Then fuck him. I've got to get
this wash done tonight.
Cool it, buster. My bag's ahead of yours.
Fuck. All my fatigues stink. The
sweat's been fermenting on them
for weeks. Sometimes I think
they're more alive than I am.
Well, don't blame it on me. Mine
stink just as much as yours do.
It's the fucking system's fault,
giving us one washer for
forty-seven stinking guys.
When I get out of here, I'm going to
write a book about this shit-hole.
Sure, why not. Just don't make a big deal
about it. It isn't like we're going to be shipped
to Nam. This isn't your usual basic training.
Yeah, we've got it easy. The system has
given us a few advantages, and we've
taken them, so we've got a stake in
the system. We don't have as
much of a stake as the runts and
cowards, but we can be counted
on not to shout too loud, not to
be too violent. That's how the
system perpetuates itself -- by
giving us things we'd be afraid
to part with. We have to be
willing to lose everything, to
destroy everything, if we ever
hope to attain freedom.
That's what's holding us
here, you know -- our compromises
with the system. There aren't any walls
or armed guards -- just imaginary lines.
One step beyond the line from
this tree to this building and
you're AWOL. One step over that
yellow line into the center
We don't worry about the
Drill Sergeant anymore. It isn't
a question of what he'd do to
us. We've internalized it all.
We react automatically. It's
like they took out our minds and
replaced them with machines. Or
rather, we did it to ourselves
so we could be good little boys
without having to think about
it. We form 'good habits,' like
good little boys.
Delaney, Alec, Armstrong, Cohen, and Alvardo go outside. The screendoor slams. Beaulieu waits till they are out of earshot, then walks down to Powell's bunk.
Did you hear that shit? Do you
believe that Delaney guy?
Powell sets aside his book and looks toward Beaulieu with concern.
Why do you listen to him?
Some of what he says makes
sense, but I just don't trust the man.
What is it that he says that attracts you?
The camera follows Powell's point of view as he studies the center aisle and the reflection of the sunlight on it. Beaulieu's mirror image is seen distorted on the
center aisle as he continues talking.
When I first got here, I thought
I'd found moral simplicity. The
world was reduced to just this
barracks. We were all confronted
with the same simple rules and
orders. You obey or disobey. You
cross the line or you don't. The
setup was like a sociology
experiment. And here's Delaney
talking about basic principles
-- freedom and rights, the
system and war.
While Beaulieu is talking, Powell takes out his handkerchief, spits on it, and carefully and slowly -- his face near the floor -- buffs one little imperfect spot.
He's good at making complex
issues look simple. Lots of what
he says makes sense.
So what's your problem?
Delaney himself, I guess. He uses words
and ideas not to understand better, but to
persuade people. When he's done
lecturing, I get the uncomfortable feeling
that I've been changed in some way. I feel
manipulated and used.
Powell, his head still near the floor, turns and looks Beaulieu straight in the eye.
Yes. Delaney is dangerous. He, not Roberts,
is the one who poses a threat to all of us.
INT. COLLEGE/DORM ROOM - NIGHT (SATURDAY)
Melody is stretched out studying, with the Simon and Garfunkel album "The Sound of Silence" playing in the background, when Madeline arrives unexpectedly.
Madeline? On a Saturday night?
I thought you had a date?
He decided to go to an anti-war rally
instead of the movies. So I dumped him.
So what brings you here?
I just got a crazy letter from George. He
mentions you. I thought you might get a
kick out of it.
Since when do you write to George
Rawlings? I thought you couldn't stand
his guts. You called him an intolerable bore.
And he is. He writes to me even
though I don't write back.
But sometimes he comes up with
Frank Delaney? You mean they're
in the same unit?
Do you miss him?
Yeah, I guess I do, even though he drives
me batty with that fake jab of his, always
playing the "flinch" game, no matter how
many times I tell him I hate it.
The last time he did it to me, I asked if he
did it because he had a sick sense of humor
or because he needed practice
pulling his punches.
I'll have to remember that line. He can get so
uptight and tense, like half of him wants to let
loose and the other half keeps holding back.
Don't you wonder what would
happen if he let go?
Hmmm. That could be interesting.
And some day he will, I'm sure. MADELINE
Do you love him?
I don't really think about him that way.
With the war and politics -- personal feelings
just don't seem that important. It would be
cheating to just go off and enjoy your life.
Well, in that case, I'm all for cheating.
Melody takes the letter and reads it out loud.
Dear Madeline, I know it must seem funny
getting these letters from me. Sure we parted
as "friends." I haven't forgotten. But you
have no idea what it's like here, what hell it
is. I need someone to write to, someone to
dream of. Just to keep my sanity, I need it.
Please let me delude myself a bit. Please
don't keep hitting me over the head with a
sledge-hammer. Afterall, how can either of
us know what things will be like in three
months? People change. Just let me
believe there might be a chance.
God! What an idiot! I can just
imagine him scrunched up in bed
with his fantasies.
Sometimes I regret ever having gotten
myself into this mess. I should have
paid a dentist to put braces on my teeth
and avoided the military altogether.
But I've always planned to go into politics
after law school. I hate the Army. I know
there's no moral justification for Nam.
But to get elected to a position of
authority so I can do something to prevent
future Nams, I have to have served in
the military. It's one of the unfortunate
facts of politics, one of the compromises
that have to be made.
He's always had noble ambitions.
He makes his mother proud.
Yeah, it's reasoning like his that keeps
this war going. So many people who don't
believe in it support it with their actions.
The platoon hates me for not standing up
to the Drill Sergeant, for not voicing their
wants and opinions. And the Sergeant is
riding me for not being more strict with the
platoon, for not asserting my authority,
for not giving him the names of slackers
so he can punish them. He claims there's
no excuse for me getting gigs in
inspection, that I should have the others
make my bed, straighten my area, check
and recheck. But I can't see
burdening them with my problems.
They've got little enough time
to do their own work.
There's nobody here I can
talk to, except Powell and maybe
Delaney. You know Frank Delaney
is here in the same platoon.
He and I weren't close back at
school, but we knew one another
by name, which makes me feel
closer to him than anyone else
here. I haven't had a chance to
talk much to him yet. But I may
need to soon.
Things are looking bad, and I'll need every
friend I can get. Frank says Melody's pregnant.
Melody pauses, with a quizzical look, then continues.
Remember Melody from English class?
He's deeply concerned and wants to get
home as quickly as he can to be with her.
You could see the love in his eyes.
Clearly, it pained him to say anything
about it. But he needs a weekend pass, and
the only way to get one is to beat others who
are better than him at the mile run. I'd throw
the race, but I'm not his competition. I can't
do anything to help him.
(nosey and curious)
Have you decided?
Whether to have it, of course.
What are you talking about? I'm not pregnant.
I don't know why he's feeding those guys that
kind of bologna.
Well, what's it sound like?
It sounds like he's desperate to come running
home to me. But that's just not like Delaney.
That's as crazy as that phone call I got from him.
Yeah, on Thursday. The same day
this letter was written. He said
something about taking a job with a
computer company and getting
married, settling in the suburbs and
And you don't find that romantic?
It just wasn't like him to forget his
responsibility to the cause. I figured
their brainwashing must be getting to
him. He just didn't sound like himself.
Melody, you're incredible. Why fight
war with war? You'll only end up
What else can a responsible person do?
Madeline looks at herself in a mirror from her purse, and gives her hair a quick brush stroke before answering.
Why not make love instead?
INT. BARRACKS/BUNKROOM - DAY (SUNDAY)
Hathaway and Schneider are on their bunks. Alvardo and Cohen are standing by the water fountain. The screendoor slams, and Alec walks in. He has a blackjack in one hand and keeps hitting the palm of his other hand with it.
Put that blackjack away. It
makes me nervous.
For me, it's just the opposite. It calms me.
It relieves the tension to know I've got
something familiar to fall back on.
Better not let the Sergeant see you with that.
We're not likely to see him on a Sunday
afternoon, now are we? Look, Alvardo,
I can take care of myself, thank you.
Delaney enters, wrapped in a towel.
By any chance, were you one of the
cops who bashed the heads of
students at the Chicago convention?
No, I was a student myself then.
I was on the receiving end.
Alec hits his palm very hard with the blackjack.
Yes. They change real fast.
Alec, take your boots off.
Don't be a pain in the ass. It's
Sunday. Cool it.
I don't give a damn if it's
Doomsday. Take off those boots.
Go ahead, Alec. We all do it. HATHAWAY
And get your damned foot off that
center aisle. What do you think you are?
Special or something? Everybody
else walks around, and you can, too.
The barracks door slams again. Rawlings enters, wearing boots.
Hey, Rawlings, take off your boots.
Okay, already. I'm just going to my room.
No exceptions. You know that.
Okay. Okay. Just a minute.
Schneider heads for the latrine. Walking past Rawlings, he blows and pops a bubble.
Schneider, please. That bubblegum
drives me crazy. What was I going to
say? Yes. Where's Roberts? Has anybody
seen Roberts? He isn't on CQ.
KP. Remember. He got night KP
for a week.
Rawlings heads upstairs, without taking his boots off.
Quick thinking, Delaney. I forgot
about that. That's where he should be.
Yeah. He should be on KP. And he
should be on CQ. And he should have
gotten somebody to fill in for him on
one or the other. But nobody's seen him
since Friday, and we don't know where he is.
INT. BARRACKS/RAWLINGS' ROOM - DAY (SUNDAY)
Rawlings enters, tired and dragging, with his boots on, and discovers Powell sitting on his bunk, carefully polishing his display boots for him.
What are you doing? There's no
need for that?
Well, a little extra spit and polish won't
hurt. You get enough grief as it is.
Well... thanks. Thanks for doing it and
thanks for being here. I do need to talk to you.
I feel like I passed the exit miles ago, and
there's no point in going back.
I've decided not to go to law school -- at
least not now. And I'm not sure whether
I want to pursue politics as a career.
Is this some form of personal protest
against the war and the "system"?
No. I just feel I've got a lot of growing
up to do. I have to understand a few
things before I can go ahead.
What kind of things?
Roberts and Armstrong and Franklin
and Jones, for instance. I'd like to know
why they pulled that block-out
routine so Delaney would have a
chance to win a pass to go home
to his pregnant girlfriend. I'd
like to know why they had the
sensitivity and the courage to
do that, while the rest of us didn't.
Why don't you ask them?
Maybe I will if I can get up the
courage to. It's not easy for me
to talk to blacks. I've got a few
generations of guilt behind me.
He picks up a boot that Powell just finished and admires the shine.
My great-grandfather had a
plantation in Tennessee and owned a
hundred slaves. My parents were proud
when they told me that, and I was proud
of it too.
I never paid much attention to
news reports about civil rights
demonstrations. That was all far away,
down south. When Martin Luther King
was shot, I didn't know who he
was. When Watts and other black
neighborhoods burned, I just
changed the channel and watched
something else. Let those white
bigots and Negro radicals fight
things out on their own. It didn't
affect me. Why should I care?
And what's different now?
I'm in charge here. I didn't ask to be
made platoon leader. It's a burden,
not an honor. But I take it seriously.
I'm responsible for those four blacks
in this platoon, along with everybody else.
They're going to be shipped off
to Nam as soon as this is over, while
the rest of us go back to college and grad
school and jobs. And I don't even know
how to talk to them. I don't think I've
ever had a conversation with a black
person in my life. Not that I'm
prejudiced. I've just never been in that
kind of social situation. And I must admit I
feel awkward, and, yes, guilty toward them.
I think I know what you mean. I was
trained by my parents to feel moral
responsibility and guilt, not only for
what I did, but for what I should have done
and didn't do.
Right. "The sins of omission," my
mother calls it. I think back at all the
occasions when I could have stood up
and said something to fight prejudice and
support civil rights, or could
have gone a couple steps out of
my way to make a friend.
It sounds all too familiar. It
reminds me of the story of that
knight who was looking for the
Holy Grail, and once it passed
right in front of his face, only
he didn't recognize it. All his
life he felt the burden of guilt
for what he had not done -- for
not having seen it and chosen
it, and done the right thing.
And he kept hoping vainly for a
Yes. That's it. I'm not sure
when or how, but I missed the
Grail -- I missed that chance
to be a true and caring human
being, to make the world a
little better for someone else.
Sure, I'm a "bleeding
heart liberal." I'm probably
just plain stupid. But I feel
responsible for these four
blacks I hardly know, and I want
a second chance. And I think,
I've found a way to help them.
INT. BARRACKS/LATRINE/SHOWER STALL - DAY (SUNDAY)
Little Evans enters, leading the huge, lumbering Vassavion, who clutches a six-pack of beer to his chest and is magnificent in drunkenness.
All hail to Caesar! All ale to me!
With considerable effort, Evans pushes Vassavion into the stall, turns on the water, and leaves.
Three cheers for King Richard!
And three beers for me!
Vassavion leans his head back and lets the water hit his face, then stumbles out.
INT. BARRACKS/LATRINE - DAY
MacFarland, Sullivan, and Beaulieu are waiting to do their laundry. Vassavion comes staggering in, soaking wet.
(to himself in mirror)
At great personal risk, and exercising
considerable self-restraint, I have brought
you a six-pack -- six bright, sparkling,
lukewarm, unopened, certified virgin cans
of Schlitz. The fruits of that precious
week-end pass I was so blessed with.
Waslewski comes rushing in and grabs a can.
Drink up, my boy, drink up. I
feel the thirst coming on me.
Man lives not by bread alone.
Give me one of those cans.
He throws down his half-empty can. He stumbles to one of the empty johns and vomits. Waslewski opens a can for himself.
You lucky bastard. I'd give my
right ball to get out of this place.
Tagliatti enters, carrying his newspaper.
Evans? He was with me a minute
ago. While I was painting the
town, he was looking for paint.
He has the soul of an artist.
Rawlings enters the latrine and nearly trips over a beer can. Vassavion greets him with a magnificent bow.
Welcome, Prince Hal.
Then be ye crowned king already? A
hollow crown and an empty noodle.
'Tis true 'tis pity, and pity 'tis 'tis you.
Amen. And hallowed be thy name. And
hollowed be thy head. Howl, howl, howl,
the beer is foul. A foul ball. We had a ball,
and the beer was foul. Out of line, your
highness, most definitely out of line. But I'll
go straight from honest to goodness. Don't
'arry me, me boy; I'll do it at me own speed.
(standing at a urinal)
Please stay out of sight.
Rawlings quickly buttons up his fatigues and leaves. Vassavion chugs a beers and shakes his head.
I do believe the old boy's pissed off. He has
no sense of humor, no sense at all.
Vassavion stretches out with his head on a laundry bag and immediately falls asleep, with a cherubic grin on his face. Tagliatti, MacFarland, and Sullivan each grab a can of beer, finishing off the six-pack. Waslewski picks up the empties and pours the few remaining drops down his throat, then absent-mindedly crushes the cans in his hand, as if they were paper cups. Sanderson and Cohen come in.
Evans, would you believe that Evans?
He never so much as tasted a beer. A
weekend pass. That runt had thirty-two
hours of freedom, thirty-two hours in
the land of bars and brothels.
And he spent it chasing after
paint so he can pretty up the
barracks. What a waste.
(looks up from letter)
Yeah. And that ain't the half of
it. You know what color he got?
What the hell can he paint yellow?
The lines. The fucking lines for the center
aisle. Those fucking lines we're not supposed
to step over. He wants to repaint them so they'll
be neat and pretty. He thinks it'll be worth
bonus points for inspection. Bonus points.
God, that runt's out of his ever-fucking mind.
Waslewski trips on a laundry bag, then sits down on it and stretches out on the long line of laundry bags, beside Vassavion. He swallows the last drop from the last can, then pounds the floor with the can.
You know, that's not a bad idea.
Going for bonus points. We're
going to need plenty of bonus points.
You mean because of our little
problem with Roberts?
I mean our problem with all four of the
draftees. They just don't give a damn.
Whether it's inspections or PT or rifle
range they could care less. And they pull
down the score of the whole platoon.
Hell, yeah. If they got in gear, the whole
bunch of us could have passes next weekend.
And the weekend after that.
Beaulieu kicks the floor with his heel.
God, I could use a pass.
Vassavion's such a lucky bastard. There he
lies -- shit-faced drunk and half-way to heaven.
Yeah, Vassavion sure knows how to use a pass.
Oh, the sweet oblivion of drunkenness.
Is that a song?
No, but it should be.
Waslewski pounds on the wall with both fists.
If I don't get a pass soon, I'm
going to pound this wall to dust.
Cool it, Samson. We're all in
the same boat.
INT. BARRACKS/RAWLINGS' ROOM - DAY (SUNDAY)
Rawlings is on his bed, writing a letter, with his boots still on. The screen door slams three times in rapid succession.
Yo! Roberts! You back yet?
Cool it, Armstrong.
Rawlings gets up, quickly goes to the door of his room and shouts.
Armstrong! Could you come up here
for a minute please. And bring Roberts,
Franklin, and Jones, if they're around.
Armstrong, Franklin, and Jones enter and linger awkwardly near the door .
Come on in. Make yourselves comfortable.
He removes the writing paper from his bed. Armstrong and Franklin sit down. Jones stays by the door. Rawlings stands by the window.
You're probably wondering why I
asked you up here.
(cautious and ironic)
The thought had occurred to me. Yes,
I thought we ought to get to
know one another.
Armstrong stands up, stretches out his arm, and shakes hands with Rawlings. Meanwhile Franklin picks up the boots Powell just polished and admires the shine.
Sam Armstrong here.
Pleased to meet you. This is Ben Franklin
and Jimmy Jones. Thanks for the hospitality.
We be on our way now.
Wait. ... Please.
Yes, siree, by George. By George
Rawlings, indeed, sir.
As a nervous gesture, Armstrong takes the paperback book out of his back pocket (One Dimensional Man) and flips the pages with his thumb. Franklin tries on the boots and gives them a little extra spit and polish.
You come from the South?
My, what discerning ears you have. Yes,
I hail from Memphis. Ben, here is from
Raleigh, North Carolina. And Jim comes
from Los Angeles. You may have heard of
the thriving community known as Watts.
You've been to college?
Another point for the platoon
leader. I spent one year at the City
College of New York. And I spent
two more years in that fine city in the
university of the streets.
We don't know where he is.
No idea at all.
I mean, did he go to college, too?
Yeah, for a while. Then he had
to take off for a year to earn more
money for tuition, and he lost his
student deferment and got drafted.
No harm done. It's a lot safer
here than at Jackson State.
You mean the one...
Yeah, where the National Guard shot up
the women's dorm. Right after Kent State.
Two people were killed.
Yes, you do read your newspapers, don't
you, sir. But don't you worry your head
over it. Roberts is a lucky son of a bitch.
He can take care of himself. He got away
from college, with all that nasty anti-war
warfare, and hid out here in the peaceful
confines of the Army. But then again,
aren't you and your friends National Guard?
Just joshing, sir.
I'm against the war.
No, kidding. It does my heart
good to hear that, sir.
Seriously, Armstrong. The country is
going through trying times.
Yes, I keep trying, too.
All these Reservists and National
Guard, we must seem strange to you.
Let me explain. We aren't hawks and
we aren't doves.
And you aren't fish and you aren't fowl.
Seriously. The conservatives all went
into ROTC or volunteered for Nam.
The radicals are conscientious objectors
or went to Canada or burnt their draft
cards and went underground. We're the
excluded middle -- neither conservative nor
radical. And neither side recognizes our
right to exist. To the conservatives, we're
cowards, seeking a safe way out. To the
radicals we're traitors. At college, just after
Cambodia and Kent State, someone I had
always considered a friend cornered me
and threatened that I'd be one of the "first
ones against the wall when the revolution
starts." He didn't say "if" the revolution
starts, but "when." He and lots of
others are certain that it is
I'd have never guessed that he would go
that way. His father has millions, and
here he is an advocate of a Marxist
The poor boy, suffering all the
trauma of reverse poverty.
It's some law of human behavior that in
time of crisis, everyone hates a reasonable
man. You must take sides. If you're not for
me, you're against me.
Makes sense to me.
I'm rationally opposed to the war in
Viet Nam, and I'm sure most of the
Reservists and National Guardsmen
here feel the same. We don't oppose
war in general. We could imagine
circumstances in which we would
have to go to war against different
enemies and for different reasons. We
wanted support political efforts to end
the war, but we couldn't justify the more
radical solutions that many students were
turning toward. We were a small and
dwindling minority, unorganized, with no
sense of solidarity with one another. We
were identifiable only by our failure
to conform with one or the other extreme.
We were loners in a world governed by
Here we find ourselves internalizing
the system we opposed, becoming the
symbols we wanted to stand up against.
We feel compelled to rebel, but have
no one to rebel against but ourselves.
Armstrong makes the sign of the cross and bows solemnly.
Bless you, my son. You are
forgiven. Now, may we go?
I don't seem to be making my point.
Yeah, the score's still nothing to nothing.
Franklin slaps hands with Jones.
Right on, man.
Roberts seems to have natural
Are you a scout for some football team
or something? I'm pretty good, too, you
know, when I go all out.
That's what I want.
I want you to go all out -- all four of you.
I want you to give it your best at PT and
on the rifle range, and even in inspections.
You mean this is just a pep talk? You
think with a few well-chosen words you
can get us to bust our butts so you guys
can get weekend passes? You want us
to go flying right through basic to Nam,
so you guys can get shit-faced drunk
and fuck whores. Sure, buddy, sure. And
you believe in the Tooth Fairy?
Yeah, why should I bust my butt?
I can make it worth your while.
You got drugs?
Now, let me get this right. You want us to
jump through hoops like good little soldier
boys. And what are you going to pay us for that?
One thousand dollars a piece.
Are you crazy, man?
Are you filthy rich like your
friend the Marxist?
No. But I have saved up four thousand
dollars for law school, and I would like
to give it to you three and Roberts.
What the fuck? You give up law school
so these dumb-assed honkeys who hate
your guts can get a couple of stinking
weekend passes? What kind of dope are
you on, man?
Yeah, let me have some of that.
Share the wealth.
I'm trying to share the wealth. I wish I
could do more. But that's all I have. I realize
it's nothing next to the sacrifices you are
making going to war. I realize it's nothing
next to the prejudice and poverty you've
had to endure. But it's all I can do, and I
want to do it.
Hold on now, boys. I do believe this man
speaks the truth. I hear the true voice of white
liberal guilt. He actually means to pay us that
money. That's his blood money, his sacrifice
to a guilty group conscience. I've seen other victims of this
strange disease while panhandling in New York.
Cool it, Sam. Don't bite the
hand with the golden egg.
Don't worry, Ben. He won't
change his mind. He likes it
when I insult him. Hell, he'd
wear a hair shirt now, if he
could find one. He'll pay. You
can be sure, he'll pay.
You understand that I want you
to do your best.
Hell, for a thousand bucks? I'm starting
to love this fucking army. If the gooks
don't blow me up in Nam, I think I'll re-up.
Yeah, man, I'll be a fucking first-class soldier.
You want us to perform as we as Roberts
can? Sure, man, we'll out-Robert Roberts.
And Roberts is good, believe me. Why he
could run all the way home to Jackson,
Mississippi and back in just one night, that's
how fast he is.
Yeah, man, I'm pretty fast myself. Why if I
turn it on, I bet I can beat Sanderson at the mile.
Jones shakes Franklin's hand in agreement.
Five bucks it is. You've got a bet, brother.
Only one condition.
Uh oh, here it comes.
Don't tell anyone about this agreement of
ours, except Roberts; or the deal is off.
Whatever turns you on, buddy.
Then we have a deal?
You most certainly have a deal.
They all shake hands.
EXT. BARRACKS/JUST OUTSIDE DOOR - DAY (SUNDAY)
Delaney, Hathaway and Beaulieu are huddled together outside, near the barracks' door. Armstrong, Franklin, and Jones come running down the stairs and outside..
(in mock subservience)
Don't forget to tell Roberts!
We shall most certainly follow
your wishes with religious zeal.
You can bet on that one.
Hathaway signals them to follow him away from the building, over toward the trees.
What was that all about?
Come on. What's Rawlings' interest in Roberts?
The boss man thinks Roberts is a fine athlete.
He wants to recruit him for the Dallas Cowboys.
Cut the horse crap. We all know Roberts has
gone AWOL. Is Rawlings fixing to turn him in?
And us, too, for covering up?
AWOL? I don't know any AWOL.
Jim, do you know any AWOL?
Must be some other Roberts he's talking about.
Only Roberts I know is on KP.
And ASAP. And PDQ. He's a well-lettered
man. A good friend of mine. Known him
for weeks. Why I'd trust him a long ways.
I'd trust him as far as Jackson, Mississippi.
There's no point in talking to them. They've
copped some kind of deal with Rawlings.
Beaulieu kicks the ground in frustration.
We've got to get to Rawlings, and fast.
What are you going to tell him?
Not me, you.
Delaney, you knew him in college, didn't you?
Maybe he'd listen to you.
No, Hathaway's the one with authority around here.
He turns to face Hathaway.
Everyone respects you, even
Rawlings. Find out if he's
already ratted on Roberts.
And if he hasn't, talk him out
of doing it. He's no hot-head
radical militarist. He's an
intelligent, educated guy.
Appeal to his reason.
INT. BARRACKS/RAWLINGS' ROOM - DAY
Rawlings is stretched out on his bed again, reading, when Hathaway knocks at the door. Rawlings gets up and opens it for him.
Come in. Come in.
Rawlings shakes Hathaway's hand with enthusiasm.
I'm very glad you came up. I've
been wanting to talk to you for
weeks. You're clearly the one
the men respect the most -- the
real leader of the platoon. And
I wanted to thank you, for the
fine job you've been doing.
He reaches out and shakes Hathaway's hand again. Hathaway is puzzled.
And what brings you here now?
Or is it just Sunday afternoon
sociability? Not that I want to
discourage sociability. No, indeed.
I need all the friends I can get.
Actually, I was wondering about Roberts.
That's a coincidence. I was just talking
to his three friends about him. Yes, Roberts
has fine potential. They all do, if given a
chance. And I'd like to see them given a chance.
You mean you'd like to recruit
him for the Dallas Cowboys?
That would be a fine idea, if I
could do it. Why he reminds me
of Calvin Hill, that fine
running back from Yale.
Running back? You'd like to see
him running back? Shit, what a
wise-ass you are!
Hathaway stomps out and slams the door behind him, leaving Rawlings bewildered.
EXT. BARRACKS/BY THE TREES - DAY
Hathaway rejoins Delaney and Beaulieu.
What did he say?
Running back. Shit. He just
mocked me and talked nonsense.
He knows damned well about
Roberts. But he wouldn't admit
it. And he wouldn't let on what
he's doing. Shit.
Delaney! Delaney! Could you
come up here for a minute, please?
Now we're screwed. Royally screwed.
INT. BARRACKS/RAWLINGS' ROOM - DAY
Rawlings holds the door open as Delaney enters. Then Rawlings checks the hall to make sure no one else is within earshot and shuts the door.
Hathaway was just here.
There seems to have been some
misunderstanding. I want to make
sure it's set right, and quickly.
Well, what are you doing about Roberts?
Did they tell you, already?
They told me exactly nothing. But you were
just shouting down the hallway about Roberts.
All right. I'll tell you. I need to tell you.
I need your help, to set the record straight,
but not too straight. I've been meaning to
talk to you for some time. I've been meaning
to do a lot for some time. Now I'm finally
He laughs nervously.
God! I'm finally doing it.
Well, isn't it about time you thought of
someone other than yourself? There are
46 people in this platoon you're
But I am. I am. That's the point of it.
The point of what?
Can I confide in you?
Are you trying to make some kind of deal?
I have made a deal. I made one
with Armstrong, Franklin, and
Jones. Roberts will be in on it,
too, once they tell him about it.
So Roberts gets off scot free?
You're only interested in the coverup?
I'm not trying to cover anything
up. I want to level with you,
explain to you what I've done
and why. And I want you to let
the others know what my
intentions are -- that I'm out
to help them -- without giving
them the full, embarrassing details.
What the shit are you talking about?
First, you have to understand
where I'm coming from. All my
life I've planned on going to
law school and then getting into
politics. I dreamed of becoming
a Congressman one day.
Law. Of course. I should have
seen it coming.
Then you understand? I can't tell you how
relieved I am. I've been under a lot of pressure.
The Drill Sergeant has been on my case, and
I've been struggling with this question. You
might say, I'm obsessed with it, and not
entirely acting like myself. It's disorienting to
suddenly change the direction of your life.
Are you going to slit your
wrists or something?
No. No. I'm giving up law school. I'm giving
the money I saved for law school to the four
black draftees in our platoon. This is
something I need to do.It's a personal
sacrifice, a penance. You see, if I didn't do
this I would forever feel hypocritical and
dishonest. Maybe, having done this, someday
I will be able to go into politics, crazy as that
You're giving them money?
A thousand dollars a piece. I
know it's crude and selfish of
me. It's like in the Civil War
when the rich, if they were
drafted, could pay the poor to
take their place. They are
taking our place, you know --
going straight to Nam. I wish I
could do more for them. But it's
all I have.
And that's what it's all about?
That and the fact that in exchange for the
money, they've promised to go all out to help
the platoon win the company competition.
Four thousand bucks to charity? Sure. Sounds
great. As long as it's your money.
I realize it sounds strange.
That's why I'd prefer to keep it
confidential. I just want to do
it. I don't want to be razzed and
humiliated for it. Will you help me?
Talk to Hathaway. Let him know
that I have the best interests
of the platoon at heart. Let him
know that I've talked the draftees into
giving their all in the competition. Let
him know that if we all pull together
this week and next, there's a good chance
we'll all get weekend passes. Just don't tell
him or anyone else about the money.
Have no fear.
Delaney takes a fake jab at Rawlings' face.
Delaney does it again.
You flinched again.
Why do you always do that?
I'm just practicing. Practicing self-control.
That's not easy in a crazy place like this.
The tension builds up, and you just
want to let loose -- "Full steam
ahead and damn the torpedoes."
He boxes with his own shadow on the wall.
Okay, you let loose by giving away all
your money. Me? Who knows? Maybe
I'll bust a few heads. Maybe I'll bust yours.
He swings again at Rawlings, who ducks. Otherwise, the punch would have hit him.
Good move, George. Good move.
I don't understand you at all.
Come on, George. Haven't you ever
wanted to walk into the principal's office
and tell him just what you think of him?
Haven't you ever wanted to go up to your
boss and tell him he could stuff that stupid
job? Haven't you ever wanted to forget all
the responsibilities that tie you up? There
is no tomorrow. You're over the brink.
You've crossed the Rubicon. There's nothing
more to lose. All bets are off. Everything is
permitted. There's no control at all.
Have you ever wondered what it would
feel like to be free -- totally free?
Rawlings backs off, cautiously.
Cut the bullshit, Delaney. Will
you keep your word?
Yeah, I probably will, George. I probably
will. Until all fucking hell breaks loose.
And that could be any minute now.
INT. BARRACKS/BASE OF THE STAIRS - DAY (SUNDAY)
Hathaway is waiting for Delaney as he comes downstairs.
What did he say?
Nothing. He just danced around the subject,
like he did with you. He's into some kind of
power trip, trying to scare us. Lord only
knows what he's after.
Delaney goes into the bunkroom.
INT. BARRACKS/BUNKROOM - DAY (SUNDAY)
Powell and others are on bunks. Delaney enters as Cohen confronts Evans by the water fountain.
What the hell's this nonsense about paint?
If you've got to play the game,
why not play to win?
God, I don't see how you can
take this crap seriously.
But I don't So they say, don't cross that
line. What the hell should I care? Do I
really need to cross that line? Hell no. If
it were something important, that would
be different. But this is all nonsense. So
why not play along and beat them at
their own game?
Don't you have any guts? You just buckle
under and do everything they tell you.
Don't you have any self-respect? Damn
it, why don't you stand up for
yourself sometime. Rebel.
Rebel? What the hell for? Why the hell
should you want to walk there? Why make
a big deal of it? It only takes a minute to
walk around. If they're dumb enough to
want to make a rule about it, okay -- humor
them a bit. If you see it as a game and get
into the swing of it, you can have some fun,
instead of just griping all the time.
You sound like you want to break
rules just because they are rules. Hell,
Cohen, get the team spirit. With freshly
painted lines, we'll win the Monday
inspection by a wide enough margin to win
for the week. That'll give us three
weeks we've won and two ties.
One more win after that, and
we'll have clinched the barracks
competition. The second platoon
will probably take the PT
competition. But we have a good
shot at the rifle and the G3,
and a damn good chance to come
out best overall platoon.
Maybe you've got a stronger
stomach than me.
Maybe you can eat more shit than
I can without getting sick.
Maybe you can even learn to love
eating shit. But I've reached my
limit. Just one bit more and I'll... I'll..."
Gripe some more?
Cohen clenches his fist, then laughs and starts drumming a Beattles tune on the wall.
"So, you want a revolution. Well, you know...
we all want to change the world..."
Beaulieu enters from the latrine.
Not a bad idea, Cohen. Not bad at all.
Beaulieu leans over the water fountain, takes a swallow, and spits it out.
That water's hotter than piss.
And just as tasty. But it's wet.
Give it credit for being wet.
For once, I'd just like to get
some simple satisfaction,
Cohen switches to drumming the song "Satisfaction."
(sings, then hums)
"I can't get no... Satisfaction..."
I mean there's got to be some place in
this world where you can just live in peace,
and be with the people you care for.
Nothing fancy -- just a place where the
water is cool, and you can sleep at night
and you can be yourself.
The screen door slams. Sullivan enters.
Has anybody seen Roberts?
Keep it down. He's AWOL. We're
hoping he'll come back tonight.
But what if he doesn't come back? We
can't cover for him forever, and it's a serious
offense if they find out we've been covering
Yes, indeed. And Rawlings is liable to rat
on him and us. And then we'll all get
screwed. Just cool it, and hope, kid.
Cool it and hope.
He turns to Beaulieu and speaks louder.
What were you just saying, Beaulieu?
Just that somewhere there's got to be a good
place to live, where you are free to be yourself.
No, don't kid yourself. It's Catch-22.
The world of business and the
world of the army. Milo
Minderbinder runs the whole
show. The army is big business,
an equal opportunity employer --
with all the bureaucracy, waste,
and impersonal cruelty of big business.
Read the papers, man.
They want junior officers for
management positions. Foremen
are no different from sergeants.
They are sucked in by gradual
increments in pay, pension
plans, and all that crap. From
the outside, the Army looks like
a bunch of guys who shoot and
get shot at. But from the inside
it's padded with bureaucrats
trapped in a web of slowly
accruing benefits. All you've
got to do to be able to cash in
your chips at retirement is
cover your ass. You never have
to do anything that might
stretch your mind or sap your
energy. Just never make a
blunder without covering up.
Sullivan takes out his Swiss Army knife and sharpens a pencil over the wastebasket.
The whole setup breeds paranoids. The
Army is full of security-hungry paranoids,
following the letter of the regulations and
passing the papers to the next desk. It's
dangerous to make a decision. Any change
is dangerous, shifting the rhythm of covering
up activities. You might miss something.
The Army's probably the most
conservative institution in the world. It has
carried the tendencies of big business to
their natural conclusion.
If you feel crushed and oppressed here,
if you feel they've torn you out of your
world and thrown you naked and helpless
into a world of their making, well, that's
just a model of what goes on in business --
what you're going to go back to.
Alec enters, with blackjack in his hand.
(continuing, to Alec)
Between you and Sullivan, we've
got a regular arsenal here.
Excuse me. I mean you.
Nothing like a sense of solidarity and
comradeship to make the best of a rotten
In my book, you've always got to look out
for number one. Then you can think about
spreading the wealth.
That sounds like a fine Marxist principle.
Yeah. Groucho Marx.
When will you people ever be ready?
Delaney leaves, and loudly slams the screendoor behind him.
EXT. FORT POLK - DAY (SUNDAY)
Delaney moves away from the barracks, toward the trees. He moves beyond the company area, across the road. No one is looking. He starts jogging up the road, past the PX, toward the commissary. He keeps looking over his shoulder and around, to make sure no one is following or watching him. He spots Armstrong, Franklin, and Jones, drinking beer off in the woods, beyond the company area. They see him. He speeds up. They take off after him and soon catch up and run along beside him.
You run away.
You left the plantation without
the boss's permission.
Armstrong gets in front of Delaney and backpedals. He slows down and forces Delaney to slow down.
You runaway slave.
We gotta bring the runaway slave back.
All the way back from Jackson,
Okay, guys, okay. Let me by.
What do you think, brothers?
Should we cover for him?
Cut the crap. Didn't you get paid?
How'd you know about that?
I don't have time to haggle. I'll talk to
Roberts as soon as he gets back -- if he
Armstrong moves aside and Delaney races by. He's almost out of earshot by the time Armstrong replies.
No need to do that. We're going
to cut him in.
EXT. FORT POLK/PHONE BOOTH - DAY (SUNDAY)
Delaney runs to a phone booth near the billboard that welcomes recruits to Fort Polk. He dials and gets connected to Melody at her dorm room.
EXT. FORT POLK/PHONE BOOTH - DAY (SPLIT SCREEN)
INT. COLLEGE/DORM ROOM - DAY (SPLIT SCREEN)
Delaney and Melody are shown talking to one another in split screen.
It's me again.
Twice in three days. My God, this must be
true love. Or are you calling to apologize
for besmirching my reputation.
You've been telling the world
you got me pregnant. DELANEY
Damn that Rawlings.
Yes, Rawlings. He wrote to Madeline, and
everyone in six states probably knows by now.
So what shall we name our kid?
Sorry. I just wanted a pass, really bad.
That's touching. I mean, really it is. I
underestimated that side of you -- the
sentimental side, I mean. And I was glad to
find out that you felt that way. It got me to
What do you mean?
I mean revolution and love. Make love not
war. We'd lost the original sense of that.
We were becoming the very thing we were
trying to stop. We were becoming the system
in trying to fight it. I looked at myself in
the mirror this morning and didn't like the
person I saw there.
Please understand. I don't have long to talk.
Yeah, you're not supposed to be out of the
company area. Come on, Frank. Forget that
baloney. I don't need it and don't want it.
You've been gone for nearly two months.
Same difference. I miss you. All
right. I admit it. I miss you.
Honestly, there's no time for that sort of talk.
The pass was just for the job -- to get an
interview to get the job.
I know. You said before -- to get married
and have kids. I thought they'd brainwashed
you, but now I know you're wonderful,
and yes -- do it. I'm ready. I'm with you.
But that was all wrong. You were
right. We have to do our part.
And I am. The situation is
becoming critical. The whole
platoon is near the breaking
point. The explosion could come
at any time.
Good God, Frank. Take that
record off the turntable and
play the other one, the one about
the world's hottest computer and
what it means for us.
It's not a game, Melody. Soon,
maybe even tonight, I will start
a riot and get a dozen of these
guys thrown into the guardhouse.
What the hell for, Frank?
I'm undermining the system from
within, just like we hoped and
planned. It's all working out.
And what's going to happen to
I don't know. That's why I'm
calling. This may be the last
you hear from me for a long
INT. BARRACKS/RAWLINGS' ROOM - TWILIGHT (SUNDAY)
As Rawlings is licking and sealing the envelope for a letter to Madeline, he glances down at the floor beside his bed.
(softly to himself)
Where the hell are the boots?
His boots are missing -- the ones Powell polished for him, his second pair of boots, the ones he never wears, the ones with the special glossy shine for inspections, the ones that every morning he has to dust off or he'd get a gig.
He stands up suddenly, drops the letter on his bunk, gets down on his belly and crawls under the bed. He reaches again and again through empty space.
He checks MacFarland's boots. They have MacFarland's name tag.
He checks his own wall locker.
MacFarland's wall locker is locked.
He checks his footlocker. He knows the boots couldn't be there, but he checks under the underwear he's never worn, so carefully rolled for inspection. He checks under the handkerchiefs he's never used, behind the shaving cream, under the razor he's never used, under the shaving brush that he wouldn't know how to use.
He can't find his boots.
Where the hell are my boots?
The whole barracks falls silent.
INT. BARRACKS/STAIRCASE - TWILIGHT (SUNDAY)
Rawlings stands at the top of the stairs as Sullivan, Cohen, and Alvardo gather below. They are all puzzled.
This has gone far enough. I want
my boots back.
Beaulieu and Schneider enter from the latrine.
(voice is getting shrill)
Where are they?
Where are what?
My boots, you fool.
Sullivan slips the Swiss Army knife out of his pocket and plays with it while he talks.
On your fucking feet. Why didn't you leave
them at the door like the rest of us?
Everybody but Rawlings breaks out laughing. Attracted by the laughter, the crowd grows larger. Rawlings slowly and deliberately comes down the stairs.
Of course, I'm not looking for the ones I wear.
I'm missing my inspection boots -- the spit and
polish boots. Where the hell are they?
No one answers.
Where is MacFarland?
MacFarland enters from the bunkroom.
Right here, Fats.
A few trainees laugh.
Well, give them to me.
Rawlings stands face-to-face with MacFarland. The rest of the platoon crowds in close.
The boots. Give me the boots!
MacFarland stares him hard in the eye. Rawlings starts shifting his weight from foot to foot, clenching and unclenching his fists.
(shouts, from the front steps,
where boots are left)
Give him boots! The boss wants boots!
Suddenly, dozens of boots come flying through the door at Rawlings. One hits him hard on the side of the head. He loses his balance and falls backward. Rather than catch him or cushion his fall, the crowd backs away. His back hits the floor. His head hits the bottom step. He grabs the banister and pulls himself to a sitting position.
Where are my boots?
I bet Roberts has them.
Or maybe the boots have Roberts.
Yeah, I hear the boots went AWOL
and took Roberts with them.
Just where is Roberts, anyway?
He pulls himself to his feet.
Where is he?
Cohen leans on the screen door, holding it open, and drums a tune on the screen as he softly sings.
"Freedom's just another word for
nothing left to lose."
Yeah, man, Roberts is free. Free as a bird.
Down with the king! Give me
liberty, or give me MacBeth!
Oh, shut up!
Now is the summer of our discontent.
EXT. BARRACKS/NEAR DOOR - TWILIGHT (SUNDAY)
Bats come out from under the eaves and fly away.
Tagliatti, Waslewski, and Alec are standing outside, near the door. Cohen is just inside, holding the screendoor open. Tagliatti is holding a rolled up newspaper.
Delaney arrives, out of breath. He just got back from the phone booth.
Been jogging again, Delaney? Are you
becoming a running nut like Sanderson?
What's going on?
We're giving Rawlings the boot.
You almost missed the revolution.
Didn't Lenin have the same problem?
And you, Tag, are you going to rebel?
I'm not ready yet. Just give me time.
Always more time. Yeah, we're just
reservists. The rebels are somewhere
else. The hawks are somewhere else.
This is limbo.
INT. BARRACKS/BASE OF STAIRCASE - TWILIGHT (SUNDAY)
Rawlings is standing near the base of the stairs. Sullivan, MacFarland, Cohen, Alvardo, Beaulieu, and Schneider are near. Delaney, Tagliatti, Waslewski and Alec enter from outside. Alec is playing nervously with his blackjack. Sanderson and Evans push forward into this crowded space from the latrine. Hathaway and others stand at the entry to the bunkroom.
Then Armstrong, Franklin, and Jones start to push in from outside. They are awkwardly pulling off their boots while others, unseen, push them from behind, nearly knocking them over.
Hey, watch it back there!
What's your hurry, buddy? This
ain't no rock concert.
The slow surge of people forces Rawlings and others into the bunkroom.
INT. BARRACKS/BUNKROOM - TWILIGHT (SUNDAY)
Powell is still on his bunk on the far side of the aisle. His Bible and frisbee are beside him.
Hathaway backs off to let Rawlings back in. The crowd follows Rawlings in.Some move to the other side of the aisle. Everyone but Rawlings is in stocking feet. They all respect the center aisle and do not cross the yellow line.
More and more trainees crowd in. Some, including Armstrong and Franklin, climb on upper bunks for a better look. Most line up three and four deep all up and down both sides of the aisle. Their feet are all just back of the yellow lines. Everyone is facing toward Rawlings, who has his back to the aisle and has been forced to the edge of the line.
The silence is ominous.
Schneider, who is standing near Rawlings, blows a big bubble. Alvardo, beside him, pops it with a finger and laughs, breaking the silence and the tension.
Rawlings, distracted, stumbles backwards into the center aisle.
Others fill the space that Rawlings had occupied.
Rawlings is all alone, in his boots on the sacred aisle.
Come on, Rawlings, get off the
aisle! You're ruining it.
Stepping very carefully, Rawlings goes this way and that, trying to get off the aisle, but people behind pushing forward to see won't let people in front step aside to let him in.
What are you waiting for? Move it!
Sullivan stands on his hands. The knife drops out of his pocket. Delaney picks it up quickly and puts it in his own pocket.
Sullivan walks along the line on his hands.
Way to go, Sullivan! Way to go!
Mocking Sullivan, Cohen walks the line behind him in stocking feet, doing dance steps forward and backward. He hums the tune to the Beattle's song "Revolution."
Meanwhile, someone picks up Powell's frisbee and flings it across the aisle, narrowly missing Rawlings. Someone on the other side catches it and throws it back. And, in the background, the frisbee keeps going back and forth, up and down from one end of the bunkroom to the other.
Someone else picks up a football and starts it going the same way.
Trying once again to get off the aisle, Rawlings shoves Vassavion.
Vassavion shoves back.
Rawlings moves toward Vassavion and shoves Hathaway by mistake.
Hathaway swings wildly.
Rawlings ducks and rams his shoulder into Hathaway's belly.
Vassavion pounds Rawlings on the back, and Rawlings falls.
Lying in the aisle, Rawlings makes eye contact with Armstrong and Franklin on an upper bunk.
Deal or no deal, we ain't your
It's all right, Sam. Do what you want. I
don't expect you to support me. My side
of the bargain holds, regardless.
Now, that's what I call a deal.
Cohen dancing by Rawlings, still staying on the line, drums on Rawlings' back to the tune of "Revolution."
God! It's going to take a lot of spit and
polish to clean up this mess.
Waslewski spits a huge gob on the center aisle.
You've got that all wrong,
Evans. That's spit and Pole-ish.
It's fine Polish spit we need.
He spits again. This one lands on Rawlings. Rawlings, on his back, swings his legs wildly and trips Waslewski, Vassavion, and Hathaway. They all roll and slide onto the center aisle.
Straining to look, the crowd moves forward, toppling Cohen and hand-walking Sullivan onto the aisle.
Alec nervously hits his palm with the blackjack. Tagliatti hits his hand with a rolled up newspaper. The frisbee and rubber football keep flying from hand to hand.
Delaney jumps up on a footlocker and raises high a fist, like a lightning rod.
Power to the people!
Down with all pigs!
VOICE IN CROWD
Kill the fucking bastard.
Some laugh nervously.
Rawlings tries to stand up, and is tripped by Waslewski.
Hathaway dives on top of Rawlings, pinning arms with knees, and starts slapping his face back and forth, harder and harder.
VOICE IN THE CROWD
Give him one for me!
And for me.
Give him one for the Gipper!
Everyone laughs, so Cohen grabs two boots lying on the floor, pulls them on untied, and starts jumping and dancing like a cheerleader.
Go team, go! Push him back,
push him back, way back.
Vassavion stumbles to his feet, waving his arms drunkenly.
For mine is the power and the glory!
Go get him, Vass!
VOICE IN THE CROWD
Give him that boot he wanted.
(throwing a boot)
"Give him this one!
Vassavion pulls the boot on his right foot, and stands, unsteadily between Rawlings' spread-eagled legs, his toe near Rawlings' crotch.
VOICE IN THE CROWD
Give him a Vass-ectomy.
Suddenly, the room is quiet, except the slap of palm against cheek, as Hathaway keeps hitting Rawlings, mechanically and rhythmically.
Everyone watches, both hoping and fearing that Vassavion -- the drunken giant with the boot -- will kick. The quiet becomes oppressive.
With a surge of strength, Rawlings shoves Hathaway off him and scrambles to his feet, ready for a fight.
Hold that line! Hold that line!
When no one responds to his attempt to get attention, Cohen takes three running steps and slides heels-first down the center aisle, tumbling into Waslewski, who knocks over Vassavion. He leaves a long ugly gash down the middle of the floor.
Delaney raises his hands high.
The time has come!
The attention of the crowd focuses on Delaney.
The time has come!
He pulls out the Swiss Army knife, opens it, and approaches Rawlings.
Football and frisbee keep flying by.
Hathaway catches the football and holds it.
Delaney jabs at Rawlings' face with the knife. Rawlings pulls his head back just in time.
A few trainees laugh, nervously.
Delaney steps forward. Rawlings steps back.
Delaney jabs again. Rawlings pulls back.
Delaney jabs again. Rawlings, fearful, with open mouth, pulls back.
The frisbee flies by, and Rawlings looks, just as Delaney jabs again. The knife punctures Rawlings' cheek and sinks in up to the hilt.
Delaney, shocked, lets go and steps back.
The knife hangs there -- the blade visible inside Rawlings' open mouth.
After a long, shocked delay, Rawlings pulls the knife out, then heaves it at the wall, where it sticks and quivers.
Cheek bleeding, fists clenched, Rawlings faces Delaney.
Delaney grabs the blackjack from Alec and again advances on Rawlings.
(from a distance)
Delaney keeps advancing with deadly seriousness.
Beaulieu with a boot held high as a weapon, and Tagliatti with his newspaper follow Delaney. Others fall in behind them.
Jones suddenly steps in front of Beaulieu.
Hold it. Give the man a fighting chance.
Armstrong and Franklin jump off the bunk and lock arms with Jones to hold back the mob.
Meanwhile, Delaney slowly moves toward Rawlings, looking for an opening, while Rawlings backs up, defensively.
On the far side of the aisle, Schneider spits out his bubblegum and turns to Powell.
Why don't you do something?
Blessed are the peacemakers.
Hell, if you're a conscientious
objector, why are you in the reserves?
Powell turns away, picks up his Bible as if to read it, then whirls around and flings it, like a frisbee, at Delaney. It hits Delaney in the face and knocks him off balance. He drops the blackjack.
Right on, Powell! Throw the book at him!
From the other end of the bunkroom, Hathaway heaves the rubber football. It hits Delaney from behind. He falls face-first and his head bangs the floor.
Hathaway steps forward, and picks Delaney up, pinning his arms behind his back.
Then he pushes Delaney onto a footlocker, where Delaney crouches with his aching head in his hands.
Schneider helps Rawlings and coaxes him away from Delaney. Tagliatti fetches a first-aid kit from his locker. Powell quickly takes over and starts treating the wound.
I told you so. I told you about the system...
The screendoor slams. A SQUAD LEADER from the second platoon enters.
An hour till lights out!
Silence. Tagliatti and Schneider move to shield Rawlings from sight, as Powell continues his treatment.
God. What the hell happened?
Nothing, buddy. Nothing at all.
Just turn yourself around and
get the hell out of here.
God, looks like you had an
explosion or an orgy. Somebody
sabotage the place or something?
Get your goddamned boots off
that center aisle.
You've got to be kidding.
There's nothing I could do to it
that hasn't been done already.
Whoever did that sure did a hell
of a job. Was it the first
platoon? Did they sabotage you?
It sure is a break for us. You
guys used to be unbeatable. But
believe me, it wasn't us who did it.
Hathaway picks up the Squad Leader by the shoulders of his fatigues.
Okay, okay, I'm going. It wasn't
me who did it. You don't have to
take it out on me.
The screendoor slams behind him.
Powell keeps working on Rawlings. Delaney staggers to his feet. And quiet, subdued, without anyone having to give the orders, the other trainees push the bunks back to the walls and get on with their chores. Schneider, Tag, and three others get on their hands and knees rubbing a new coat of wax on the floor, while Evans carefully repaints the yellow lines.
INT. BARRACKS/STAIRCASE - NIGHT (SUNDAY)
MacFarland keeps washing and rewashing the same clean, easily reachable windowpane, just trying to look busy. `Now and then he glances about guiltily; and when he thinks someone is looking, he makes a show of putting tremendous effort into the cleaning of that one clean windowpane.
The latrine crew walks past the staircase, on their way to work on the johns and urinals. They put masking tape across the latrine entrance behind them.
Alec, Alvardo, and Delaney go to work on the stairs with toothbrushes, scrubbing away at the corners and crevices. Delaney looks weary. There is a bad bruise under his left eye. It is swelling.
Whistling "Revolution," Cohen walks by to join the latrine crew.
Hey, Delaney, that eye's turning
black already -- Bible black.
He laughs. When nobody laughs with him, he takes a jab at Delaney. Delaney ducks.
Now everybody laughs, except Delaney, who grimaces in shame. So Cohen pokes again and again. Even Alec, Alvardo and MacFarland join in the fun. Delaney flinches and ducks, but doesn't fight back. Eventually, they lose interest, and Cohen steps over the masking tape, into the latrine.
Those damned shitheads have closed off
the latrine again. One damned urinal and
one damned john is all they ever leave us.
Shit. When I have to shit, I have to shit.
That's the system for you. They have barracks
inspections theoretically for the sake of
hygiene. But in the Army, what matters is the
looks, not the facts -- just what can be neatly
filled in on an official form.
Seeing he has an audience again, he warms to the subject and slips back into his old lecturing tone.
That latrine will be spotless. But to keep it
as clean as we have to, we can only use it
half the time. The rest of the time, we've got
to go piss under the trees. So we pollute the
one bit of shade where we can rest for a
break, and end up sitting on our own piss.
Damn it, Delaney. I think we've
had enough of your lectures.
But that's how the system works. We wind
up seeming to do this to ourselves. And we
are, afterall, guilty -- guilty of going along
with the game, playing by their rules. And
every time we do, we wind up sitting in our
own piss. Let's face it, only Roberts is
Wake up, Delaney. You nearly killed a guy.
You're damn lucky he's not pressing charges.
That's freedom, Delaney -- not having to
spend the next 20 years in Leavenworth.
Enjoy your freedom.
Humbled, Delaney avoids eye contact and returns to his scrubbing with redoubled energy.
INT. BARRACKS/RAWLINGS' ROOM - NIGHT (SUNDAY)
Powell is sitting on the bed, once again polishing Rawlings' dress boots, when Rawlings enters, with a thick bandage on his cheek.
I just love these boots.
You're incredible... Thanks.
They took care of you pretty
quick, didn't they?
Well, the folks at the post hospital said it
was a strange kind of wound to get from an
"accident." But nobody wanted to press
the issue because they didn't want to have
to deal with the paperwork mess they might
get themselves into. You wouldn't believe
how fast they stitched me up and pushed me
out of there.
(shaking his head)
Lord, that was some moment -- I
didn't know whether to cry or
laugh when I saw that knife
dangling from your cheek.
You did a heck of a job with that first-aid
kit -- probably saved me a few stitches, or
so they said. You're good at that stuff. You
ought to go back to med school.
Yes, I believe I will. It's time.
Yes, it's time for me, too. I feel a lot older
now than I did this morning. I don't dare
look in the mirror for fear of seeing
gray hairs. I'm going to go straight to law
school when I get out of here. I'll borrow the
money somehow. An old man like
me can't afford to wait.
Here we are planning the rest of
our lives, and we've got four
more weeks of this to go.
Well, then don't stop polishing.
Those blessed boots, those
useless, never-to-be-worn boots,
those boots that are just for
show have got to pass inspection
in the morning.
Yeah, so much of this Army
routine is just for show. So
much of life is just for show.
And just or unjust -- the show
In May, just after Cambodia and
Kent State, I wrote a poem to
express my frustration. I'd like
to be able to think like a
college student again, to be
self-righteous and clever and
have all the answers. But now
I've been at Fort Polk, slept in
the same barracks, shat in the
same johns, low-crawled over the
same field as men who died in
that war I wrote so cleverly
about. God, those words would
sound hollow now. It's just as
well I gave the only copy to
Madeline, the girl-next-door,
who probably threw it out. She
thinks I'm a bore, and she's right.
Here I am, sitting on easy
street. What right do I have to write
crap like that? Just a few more weeks
of this hell and all of us -- all but Roberts
and Armstrong and Jones and Franklin
-- will be going home.
Who can blame Roberts for
running? Chances are that in a few
months he'll be in the jungle waiting for
the booby trap or bullet that'll turn him
into rotting meat.
Rawlings crosses himself, then goes over to the window and stares out at the row of barracks and the scrub-pine forest beyond.
INT. COLLEGE/DORM ROOM - NIGHT (SUNDAY)
Melody and Madeline are in Melody's room. Melody has a sheet of paper in her hand.
You say George actually wrote
this? There's a lot you never
told me about this guy.
As Madeline leans forward to look, her hair falls in her face, but she doesn't brush it back and doesn't seem to notice.
Yes, maybe there is. Hearing you read that
letter from him yesterday got me to thinking.
I dug this out of a drawer and
read it for the first time.
Are you going to write back to him?
Yes, I think I will. He wrote this poem in
history class, sitting in the front row, as he
In May the bombs blossom.
The sweet aroma of gas fills the air.
me down to sleep,
and pray the Lord
(what else can one
the press of the crowd,
men giving orders
on the borders
a neutral nation,
at least officially,
but everyone knows
is an archaic term
waiting for trial,
by hook or by crook,
we'll pull this
to a hard
and on and on and
in defense of freedom is no
Nixon, Mitchell, Agnew,
and a fourth horseman of the
to be announced,
so stay tuned
to loony tunes,
on most of our network stations,
brought to you by,
is a warm gun,
in the age of hilarious,
who cannot wash away our sins
with a flood
for there was a limited supply
the bombs blossom.
INT. BARRACKS/BUNKROOM - NIGHT (SUNDAY)
As everyone continues their cleaning, Beaulieu finds a letter under Delaney's bunk, and sits on the bunk to read it. Meanwhile, in the background, Cohen starts singing again, softly, until others join in. Even Sanderson joins in. They sing snatches of such songs as "I got to get out of this place..." "Oh Lord, how I want to go home..." "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose...", and "Power to the people..." Alvardo marches back and forth, using a broom as a mock rifle and imitating the Drill Sergeant instructing the troops. He holds out the broom.
(mocking Drill Sergeant)
Remember, men. This is your rifle.
He at grabs his crotch.
And this is your gun.
Sometimes he sounds more like a drill
sergeant than the Drill Sergeant does.
Sullivan takes down the plaque to polish it and looks it over.
Shit! It's all here. The same damned wisecracks.
They scribbled them here on the back with all
their signatures. This thing must be nearly thirty
years old, and they were making the same dumb
wisecracks we do.
The room is starting to look good. The floor still has to be buffed, but first the wax will have to sit for a while, and the paint will have to dry. There is just one jagged scratch in the middle of the center aisle that the wax doesn't mask.
Beaulieu taps Delaney on the shoulder. Delaney flinches.
I'd like to have a word with you outside.
Delaney hesitates, not wanting a fight. But Beaulieu gestures insistently and goes out the door. Delaney reluctantly follows.
EXT. OUTSIDE BARRACKS NEAR TREES - NIGHT (SUNDAY)
Delaney and Beaulieu walk in and out of moon-cast shadows. In the background, the songs and other barrack's noises continue. Delaney moves cautiously, ready to duck, expecting Beaulieu to start a fight. Instead, after a few awkward moments, Beaulieu hands him a piece of paper.
What the hell is this?
A letter of yours I found when
we were cleaning up.
You read it, I presume?
Yes, but not to the entire platoon.
So you know about the payoff?
And that your girl isn't pregnant and you're
thinking of taking a job with a computer
company instead of saving the world.
But you didn't say a word.
Those guys are going to give you hell for the
next four weeks anyway.
Delaney tears up the letter into very small pieces. Beaulieu picks up pebbles and tosses them at the trees.
By the way, which will it be? Are you still
going to save the world?
Well, I've certainly made a botch of things
here. I don't know what came over me.
Somehow we all got caught up in it. That's
why we're all going to ride you hard --
because we all were guilty.
Thank God the wound wasn't serious.
Do you think that computer
company could use a writer?
I don't know. It wouldn't hurt for you to try
them. Maybe I'll see you there.
Maybe I will, or maybe my wife and I will
hitchhike around the world instead. It's time
for a change.
He pauses to throw a few more pebbles.
Do you know when we got married?
Of course not.
It was Saturday, August 28, 1965. We were
fresh out of high school. We'd been going
together for a couple of years, and our
dream was to just take off, the two of us.
We'd live together -- no need to get married --
and we'd bum our way around the world.
But she was afraid I might get drafted, and
married men were exempt. So we planned
to get married first -- a big church wedding
to make our folks happy. Only they changed
the law right before the wedding, and
only marriages before August 26
counted for the exemption.
That meant the only way to get
an exemption was to go to
college. So I talked my way into
a state school for that fall. I
got a part-time job at
McDonald's and Debbie did tempo
work to pay the tuition and make
ends meet. When the war dragged
on, and it looked like I'd be
drafted when I got out of
school, I found a reserve unit.
That's why I'm here.
More or less, that's why we're all here.
We never really had a chance to
get started, to do any of the
things we dreamed of.
Everything's been on hold.
That's the system.
Yeah. You're right about the system and
what it does to people. Just five weeks, and
it's like I've never been anything but a soldier.
I never cease to be amazed at how
adaptable people are to the craziest sets
of rules. It's like we're afraid what we might
do if we didn't have rules -- any rules at
all -- to guide us. Shit, we might end up
stabbing one another for no good reason.
He laughs, awkwardly, self-consciously.
Yeah, individual freedom is important, but
it's only half the story. In the big scheme of
things, we as individuals don't amount to
much. For a little while, this is our drill
sergeant, our barracks, our army, our
country. But just for a little while. There
have been millions before us. There'll be
millions after us.
So what are you getting at?
There's nothing particularly noteworthy
about us and what we say and do. Yes,
we scuffed up the floor a bit. But by the
time Powell gets done with it, it'll
all be good as new, almost -- all but that
one jagged mark down the middle. He
can't get rid of that. That's what we'll
leave for posterity: a jagged
scratch on a piece of linoleum.
Sounds like you're a great
admirer of the center aisle.
They start walking back toward the barracks.
Well, silly though this competition is, it 's
a shame to leave a blemish like that for
the next cycle of trainees. The guys who
came before us did such a great job
that we hardly had to touch that
center aisle for it to come out shining,
unbeatable. I wonder how much work
went into that, how many years of work
by generations of trainees who
never met each other and knew
they never would meet, but who
left this as a legacy to whoever
might come after them.
And they left this fragile shine that was
a source of comfort and security and pride
So what does that have to do with thumbing
your way around the world?
Well, to me, that kind of travel is freedom.
And freedom's the first half of what it's
like to be a human being -- you were right
about that. But the second half is pride,
respect, tradition -- feeling connected to
the past and the future.
Yeah, I have to admit I hope
that Powell can do something
with that nasty gash.
Well, if anyone can patch it up
or hide it, Powell can. And
we've got four weeks left. Maybe
by then it'll be all right, and
the next cycle will get it good
as new, as good as we got it, as
good as if we'd never been here
and messed things up. Maybe a
little better, with those yellow
They look in through the window toward the center aisle.
Yes, I must admit, it does look
really sharp with those bright
INT. BARRACKS/BUNKROOM - NIGHT (SUNDAY)
Everyone is still at work. The screendoor slams.
Five minutes to lights out! God, it looks
good now. Shit! When the buffing's done,
you guys could be in good shape again.
How the hell did you do it?
Nobody answers. He leaves.
Maybe there won't be an inspection.
Yeah, you can count on it. If we get the
place in shape, they won't inspect it.
And if we didn't, they would. We'll be ready.
I just hope those damned bat exterminators
don't come again.
Have you grown to like the bats?
We can live with bats. I just don't want
the exterminators messing the place up.
We can still win tomorrow.
INT. BARRACKS/BUNKROOM - NIGHT
Hours later, long after "lights out," the barracks still hums with the buffer and clanks with the opening and closing lockers. Everybody has something that still has to be done. The room is dark except for fire and stair lights. The screendoor closes softly.
The Drill Sergeant's coming.
Word that the Drill Sergeant is coming echoes and re-echoes through the muffled scrambling of feet and creaking of bedsprings. Whispers follow, racing up and down both sides.
He's going upstairs.
It's Rawlings he's after. Rawlings. He's going
to bawl out Rawlings.
Now the shit's going to hit the fan.
He probably heard all about our
little party here tonight.
Quiet. I can almost make out what he's
saying. It's something about Roberts.
You say Rawlings is ratting on Roberts?
That goddamned Roberts.
Goddamned my foot. Roberts is the only
one of us with an ounce of guts.
Loud footsteps go down the stairs. The screen door slams shut. A full minute of absolute silence. Cohen is nearest to the door.
God! It's Roberts, Roberts himself.
(one after another repeats)
In the conflicting shadows of the fire light and the stair light, Roberts enters the bunkroom and slowly rubs his freshly shaven head with his towel.
Quick, Roberts, catch the Drill Sergeant.
Rawlings just ratted on you. You're in a
heap of trouble. Catch him, and let him
know you're here.
He knows I'm here all right. What's this
bit about ratting, man? What've I done
that somebody's ratting on me?
This is the Army. You don't just
go home when you feel like it.
Home? Who the hell went home?
Well, where've you been?
Taking a shower.
Yeah, but where've you been all night?
Look, man, cool it. I just got off KP.
And where did you sleep last
night and the night before?
Hell, I was bone-tired. How'd
you like KP three days in a row?
I just sacked out in the kitchen.
Well, then what was the Sergeant
pissed off at?
He saw me in the shower. You
know, man -- no showers after
lights out. But I'll be damned
if I'm going to bed stinking of
garbage and shit. Hell no, man.
There's your freedom, Alec.
There's your dignity.
Yeah, damn it, I didn't have
guts enough to take a shower.