This is a short screenplay based on a song I wrote called “Boots on the Ground.”
TOM: A thin, bright, nervous private, 18, who drums to internal beats constantly
JIM: A sergeant, level-headed, in his mid-20s, easy-going
SAM: A medic, late 20s, handsome and confident, with a sharp tongue
INT: The mess tent of a U.S. barracks at night in a war zone in the Iraqi desert
Music plays in the background
C’mon, Tommy, come see this!
[Tom moves to the door where SAM is leaning out]
TOM [leaning and listening]
Missiles flying. Like, from nowhere. Heading somewhere. You think they’ll hit here?
SAM [ignores him momentarily, moving back into the barracks and grabbing a cigarette]
Hey Jim. Need a light.
[JIM uses a lighter to light SAM’s cigarette.]
SAM [returning just outside the door and dragging on the cigarette]
Nah, kid, sirens and bombs and missiles all around. Just another day down.
You heard about the prisoners at Guantanamo, guys? We’re not looking any too good to the enemy already, and then this.
You got that right. But Navy’s getting here tomorrow. That’ll be a help. [Pauses] Come to think of it, not sure how, but we’ll see, I guess.
TOM [sitting inside, drumming the table with one hand, shuffling a deck of cards with the other]
I – I -I’m worried, guys. Bush, mission accomplished, history. It all seems so lofty until … until …
JIM [finishing it]
Until you get here? Don’t I know it. I just had the most — SAM [yelling] come in here before you get your head blown off!
SAM [coming in]
Yeah, Jim, what?
JIM [sitting at the table with TOM, voice cracking]
I just, I just had the most horrible day. Did you see that little girl, shot up for dead? And her father, trying to walk with her in his arms…
You know I did. [gets quiet] She, uh, she didn’t make it.
JIM [sobbing softly, then getting mad]
This … this freakin’ bin Laden, still hiding, or is he just a ghost? An evil sonofa–
[Another missile, louder than before, rockets overhead, shattering their conversation. They dive to the ground, then get back up gingerly]
SAM [pats JIM’s back]
It’s gonna be OK, soldier.
I know. I just … I just can’t wipe away these faces, this place, the sounds of bullets and machine guns, the way they’re hiding in the night, waiting to ambush us, and mining the roads —
You know diplomacy went AWOL, right, Jim? So terror seeks it’s own reward. You know that.
JIM [getting out of his stupor and playfully putting his arm around TOM’s shoulder]
When did you get to be so smart, buddy?
TOM [puts the cards down]
When I was home, gearing up for college. Never expected to be in this hell-hole.
SAM [authoritatively] TOMMY!
TOM [sheepish, but insistent]
Well, it is, you know.
Hey, am I the only one who’s gonna hold it together tonight? Jim, turn out the lights, let’s go get some shuteye.
… You said it Sam. Another day down.
[LIGHTS FADE AS THEY HEAD FROM THE MESS TENT TO THEIR BARRACKS]