‘Happy Meal’

FADE IN:

 

EXT. MOTORWAY – NIGHT

Establishing shot of blurry, unfocused vehicle lights on a
busy motorway as they pass under the camera. Rain is
attacking the vehicles. A truck changes lanes as it
approaches the camera. The blue blur of an ambulance blasts
down the outside lane on the left. The truck pulls right
and comes into focus briefly as it slips out of shot onto
an exit ramp which leads to the service station.

 

INT. TRUCK – NIGHT

The driver’s silhouette contrasts with the truck’s lights
illuminating the road outside. The weather is obstructive.
The wind is sweeping and the rain is lashing the
windscreen, the wipers work furiously. Light pushes the
darkness back as the truck emerges at the service station.
Passing a busy public parking bay, the truck approaches its
empty designated area.

 

EXT. SERVICE STATION – NIGHT

On the left is the service station, the right the gas
station. There is a sense of perpetual motion, cars and
trucks are arriving and departing frequently, people are
hurrying to and from their cars. The truck is segregated,
isolated from the normal parking area. ADAM, 30 years old,
with an untidy beard, sits with his forehead leaning
against the top of the steering wheel.

 

INT. TRUCK – NIGHT

ADAM opens his log book, there are ticks next to the last
five days, four more remain without ticks. Written across
the weekend is the word “FREEDOM”. He discards the book
with visible disdain onto the floor. The inside of the
truck is a mess, papers and leaflets litter the cabin. On
the seat next to him is a recruitment agency leaflet and
several job advertisements are circled in a newspaper.
Above the windscreen is a family photo of ADAM, he’s
wearing a novelty hat with ear flaps. His wife SOPHIE and
their son AJ, who is dressed as BUZZ LIGHTYEAR, are also in
the photo. ADAM clicks his phone screen and it reads “10
MISSED CALLS FROM SOPHIE”. He puffs his cheeks and selects
to call her. His head is bowed and he constricts his body,
huddling into himself. We only hear ADAM in this call and a
muffled, almost distorted female voice – SOPHIE’s words are
indistinguishable.

ADAM
Hey Soph, it’s me. How are you?
How’s AJ doing?
(then)
I’m sorry, work hit me hard
yesterday.

ADAM’s left hand grips the steering wheel tightly.

ADAM (CONT’D)
Of course I wouldn’t – you know
how busy it can get.

His hand caresses the horn at first, but as he listens he
enters an almost trance like state and he pushes harder,
setting it off in response.

ADAM (CONT’D)
(Flustered)
What? No! I’m not driving. I just
bumped the stupid horn.
(beat)
It’s only a few more days…

ADAM sighs turning at a steering wheel which is now locked,
trapped in place.

ADAM (CONT’D)
We always manage.
(then)
Is AJ there?
(then)
Sure. I don’t mind. I guess I’ll
call back before I leave.

ADAM (CONT’D)
Yeah. Love you.

He holds his phone in front of the steering wheel. The
light on the phone dims, the background is a picture of
him, clean shaven, and SOPHIE. The phone screen darkens
completely.

ADAM puts on the hat he’s wearing in the family photo and
exits the truck.

INT. SERVICE STATION – NIGHT

ADAM walks through the left side of the service station.
Exiting on the right as he enters is a family of five. ADAM
watches the family as they pass. The husband and wife are
holding hands, the family are a unit and they interact
harmoniously. One of the children, a young girl of no more
than six years of age, with blonde pig tails and a pink
dress points at ADAM.

GIRL
Look Daddy, look at his hat!

ADAM pokes his tongue out at the girl and pulls the ear
flaps. The girl giggles, the father gives a nod of
appreciation and the family pass. They are followed by a
couple, with a man holding his arm around the woman. She’s
leaning in close to him. He looks at his phone background.
Distracting himself.

When he looks up he notices an advertisement. He approaches
it, it reads “IDEAL FAMILY HOLIDAY PACKAGES”. We see ADAM’s
reflection in the plastic covering over the advertisement.
The family in the advertisement look ecstatic, harmonious,
like the family he just passed. His reflection shows his
misery.

He approaches the fast food court but before entering he
stops, noticing some BUZZ LIGHTYEAR’s in a claw crane
vending machine filled with toys. He puts a pound in and
starts playing. The first attempt comes up empty handed.
He’s visibly irritated, shaking his head as though the
machine is the against him. In his next attempt the machine
hooks the head of a BUZZ LIGHTYEAR but the toy falls before
it barely lifts from the floor. ADAM’s short lived joy
transitions to anguish. His third and final turn sees him
clutch a BUZZ LIGHTYEAR’s arm and lift it from the ground.
The claw lifts it towards the exit slot but the arm starts
to slip, the claw loses its grip and the toy slips through
its grasp. ADAM fumes and aggressively hits the machine
with the bottom of his palm. The noise takes him by
surprise and he has a quick look around as he shuffles off
sheepishly into the food court.

 

INT. FAST FOOD COURT – NIGHT

ADAM glares at the customer in front of him on his phone.
He’s boring a hole in the back of the customers head, his
frustration is visible, he strokes and scratches at his
beard, it’s almost tangible,

CUSTOMER
Babe, it was the chicken nuggets
you wanted, right?

ADAM crosses his arms, still staring.

CUSTOMER (CONT’D)
And a strawberry milkshake, my
love?
(then)
I’ll be back out in five minutes.
Love you.

ADAM turns his head away, rolling his eyes and thrusting
his arms out to each side in frustration.

CUSTOMER (CONT’D)
Love ya babe.

Customer hangs up his phone.

CUSTOMER (CONT’D)
Did you get that, yeah? Thank you
so much.

ADAM moves to the front of the queue.

ADAM
I’ll have a Happy Meal with a diet
coke, please.

ADAM (CONT’D)
With extra cheese.

 

INT. – FAST FOOD COURT – NIGHT

ADAM places his tray down at an empty table of four. There
are several families sitting at other tables. They
comfortably outnumber three other men, like ADAM, sitting
at empty tables.

He pauses before he starts to eat his meal, watching the
customer who was ahead of him in the queue rushing out into
the main area of the service station, nearly juggling the
meals and drinks he purchased. He shakes his head and
smiles wryly. ADAM spots a Father and his son at the
machine he was playing outside the food hall. They
celebrate and hug as the Dad produces a BUZZ LIGHTYEAR from
the machine for his son. ADAM takes an emphatic bite out of
his burger.

ADAM puts his burger down and removes the toy from his
Happy Meal, examining it briefly before taking another
bite. He then takes his wedding ring off and holds it up.
It’s as if he’s appraising it’s value. Is this job worth
the cost? He spins it on the table, it wobbles slowly
towards stopping flat on the table, flirting with the end.

Just before it does, he swipes it and puts it back on his
finger.

He holds the toy from the Happy Meal in one hand as he
empties the remains of the meal into a bin and exits the
fast food court. Before leaving the service station he
checks his phone again, lingering on the background of him
and SOPHIE before snapping a photo of the holiday
advertisement and sending it to her.

 

INT – TRUCK – NIGHT

ADAM leaps into his truck and slams the door shut. The rain
has subsided. His breath lingers. He places the toy next to
a row of other, similar, happy meal toys on the dashboard.
He phones SOPHIE again. This time we see and hear her. This
signifies that this conversation will be the beginning of
the end of ADAM’s familial isolation, triggered by the idea
of this holiday. It’s time find another job, to reward
themselves, time to enjoy being a family instead of working
in isolation to exist. The two are communicating. We get a
side-by-side, split screen view of the two.

ADAM
Heya Soph.

Adam is relaxed, he holds the picture of the family in his
left hand.

SOPHIE
What’s this picture you sent me?

Sophie is sitting with AJ on her lap, combing his hair
while he watches an iPad.

ADAM
Budget holidays. I saw the ad’ and
I think we should book one.

SOPHIE
Adam… are you sure we can?

ADAM
We deserve it.

Beat.

SOPHIE
Lets discuss it more when you get
home then.

ADAM
Just think, the three of us on the
beach…

SOPHIE
He’d still make you wear the hat.

They share a laugh.

ADAM
Is he there?

Sophie offers the phone to AJ.

SOPHIE
AJ, Daddy’s on the phone, want to
say hello?

AJ glances at Sophie

AJ
DADDY!

Then returns his attention to the iPad.

SOPHIE
Looks like that’s all you’re
getting.

ADAM
(raising his voice)
I’ll see you at the weekend big
guy!

SOPHIE
Drive safe Adam. Love from us
both.

ADAM
I love you too.

The split screen lingers as they both hang up. SOPHIE
kisses the top of AJ’s head, her eyes widen and she pulls
him in tighter. ADAM returns the photo to its spot above
the windscreen. The split screen is gone. We see his
reflection as he looks at himself with the hat on,
grinning. ADAM picks up the circled job advertisements and
dials a number.

 

END

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