create | encounter

winning submissions & honorable mention pieces

Honorable Mention: Only Human

October 22, 2017

EXT. ABORTION FACILITY – DAY

 

A beautiful spring day.

 

A sign on a building reads: “Choice Clinic for Women.”

 

A 25-year-old biracial woman stands alone on the sidewalk. This is MAYA SONDER, best known for putting others first. She is petite, a late bloomer, with vibrant teal streaks in her hair. She holds a sign that reads: “You have other options. I will help you.”

 

INT. ABORTION FACILITY – CONTINUOUS

 

WAITING AREA

 

The waiting area is dated and small, but clean. It contains a reception desk and a row of simple chairs.

 

A patient, engulfed in an oversized sweatshirt, sits alone and absent-mindedly flips through the pages of a magazine. She clearly isn’t reading it. 

 

This is YESENIA, 22, pragmatic, resilient, suspicious. She believes that she is under constant scrutiny, and always falls short. She lacks formal education, but she’s plenty smart.

 

PROCEDURE ROOM – SAME

 

Like the waiting area, the procedure room is nothing special, but it at least appears clean. 

A tall curtain divides the room. The side closest to the door contains an exam table and some gynecological equipment, which is several years old.
 
A vacuum pump hums.

 

A bookish YOUNG WOMAN lies on the exam table, her feet in the stirrups. An OLDER NURSE with gentle eyes stands by the Young Woman’s side and holds her hand.

 

An elderly biracial man performs a procedure on the Young Woman. 

 

This is DR. ANDREW ZEF, 74, fiercely independent and stubbornly proud.

 

A flexible plastic tube emerges from between the Young Woman’s legs; on the other end of the tube is an opaque canister. 

 

The Young Woman emits a weak groan. 

 

DR. ZEF (O.S.)
Hold still. Almost done.

 

The Young Woman squeezes the Older Nurse’s hand.

 

WAITING AREA – CONTINUOUS

 

Yesenia nervously twirls her hair.

 

The CLINIC MANAGER, a no-nonsense woman in her 50s, appears from the back.

 

CLINIC MANAGER
(to Yesenia)
Follow me, dear.

 

Yesenia stands and follows the Clinic Manager out of the waiting area.

 

PROCEDURE ROOM – CONTINUOUS

 

The Older Nurse strokes the Young Woman’s hair.

 

DR. ZEF (O.S.)
Turning off the suction.

 

The hum of the vacuum ceases.

 

The Young Woman grimaces as Dr. Zef removes the tubing from her cervix. Her abortion is complete. 

 

DR. ZEF
You did great. 

 

OLDER NURSE
Just a moment longer and then I’ll get you out of those stirrups, okay sweetie?

 

The Young Woman nods.

 

Dr. Zef disconnects the canister and carries it to the other side of the curtain, shielded from the Young Woman’s view. On the other side of the curtain is a plain table and chair.

 

He places the canister on the table. Also on the table is a metal pan, with a layer of mesh to separate liquids from solids.

 

Dr. Zef sits down. He opens the canister and pours its contents into the metal pan. Dr. Zef’s body blocks the blood and guts from view.
    
He hunches over the table. Although the embryo’s remains are out of frame, it is clear that Dr. Zef is piecing them together. 

 

Satisfied, Dr. Zef pours the contents of the pan into a red plastic biohazard bag.

 

He drops the bag into a trash bin, which is labeled: “MEDICAL WASTE ONLY.” 

 

He peeks his head around the curtain and nods to the Older Nurse. The Older Nurse helps the Young Woman sit up and slide off the exam table.

 

INT. DR. ZEF’S ABORTION FACILITY – PROCEDURE ROOM - CONTINUOUS

 

The Young Woman is gone. The Older Nurse wipes down the exam table. 

Dr. Zef stands over a sink. He pushes a call button on the wall.

 

DR. ZEF
(into intercom)
Ready for the next one.

 

Dr. Zef turns on the faucet.

 

PREP ROOM – SAME

 

The prep room is bare except for a few plastic chairs. It only serves as a place to change clothes.

Yesenia stands in a medical gown and carries her clothes in her arms. She sets her clothes down on a chair.

 

YESENIA
All right, universe. Give me a sign.

 

Yesenia’s cell phone rings. The caller ID reads: “Detention Center.”
 
There is a knock on the door. The Clinic Manager cracks the door open. Yesenia quickly turns off her phone.

 

CLINIC MANAGER
It’s time.

 

EXT. DR. ZEF’S ABORTION FACILITY – CONTINUOUS

 

Maya is on the phone.

 

MAYA
No, no saves today. You can pick me up whenever. ... ‘kay, love you. 

 

She hangs up and sighs.

 

PROCEDURE ROOM – CONTINUOUS

 

Dr. Zef washes his hands.

 

The room slowly tilts. Dr. Zef grabs the edge of the sink for balance.

 

OLDER NURSE
Everything all right?

 

Dr. Zef shakes off his dizziness and the room returns to normal.

 

DR. ZEF    
Yeah. Fine.

 

Dr. Zef finishes scrubbing up. 

 

Dr. Zef uses his back to push open the door to the

 

NARROW HALLWAY

 

and calls down the hall for the Clinic Manager.

 

DR. ZEF
Come on, we don’t have all –-


He is suddenly overcome by nausea and vomits in the hallway.

 

The Clinic Manager rushes to him. Because the hallway is so narrow, she navigates deftly to avoid slipping on the vomit.

 

CLINIC MANAGER
Doctor Zef!

 

DR. ZEF
I don’t know what came over me.

 

Yesenia peers out the door of the prep room and takes in the scene in the hall. 

 

YESENIA
Ugh, gross!

 

The Clinic Manager frantically motions for Yesenia to stay in the prep room. Yesenia does so and closes the door.

 

The Older Nurse appears behind Dr. Zef and places a damp washcloth on his forehead.

Dr. Zef leans against the wall and takes a deep breath.

 

OLDER NURSE
Something you ate?      

  

DR. ZEF
I haven’t had anything unusual. Feels more like the flu.

 

CLINIC MANAGER
I thought you got a flu shot.

 

DR. ZEF
Well, if preventative measures worked one hundred percent of the time, we’d all be out of a job.

 

CLINIC MANAGER
Glad your sense of humor is still healthy, Doctor.

 

DR. ZEF
How many more?

 

CLINIC MANAGER
Just the one. I’ll take care of it. Go lie down.

 

WAITING AREA - LATER

 

The Clinic Manager sits in front of a computer at the reception desk. Yesenia, back in her street clothes, leans on the other side of the reception desk.

 

Yesenia impatiently drums her fingers.

 

CLINIC MANAGER
We’re terribly sorry for the inconvenience.

 

YESENIA
I’m already fourteen weeks. I can’t hide this bump forever.

 

CLINIC MANAGER
I have an opening on Wednesday.

 

YESENIA
I have to work. Saturdays are my only day off.

 

The Clinic Manager scrolls through the calendar, looking for Saturday openings, but finds none.

 

CLINIC MANAGER
Right, tell you what. Just come in on Saturday, a week from today, and we’ll squeeze you in.

 

YESENIA
You’re sure?

 

CLINIC MANAGER
Absolutely.

 

EXT. ABORTION FACILITY – CONTINUOUS

 

Maya is still on the sidewalk with her sign.

 

Yesenia walks out the front door. Maya sees her and beams.

 

MAYA
You didn’t go through with it! Congratulations!

 

Yesenia looks puzzled. She approaches Maya.

 

YESENIA
How do you know that?

 

MAYA
Your posture, your expression, the timing between you and the last one... I’ve been at this for a while. 

(smiling)
I’m so glad you chose life. 

 

YESENIA
Are you, now.

 

MAYA
Life is messy, and hard, and amazing. If there’s anything at all I can do to help, I’m here for you.

 

YESENIA
You’re serious?

 

MAYA
Yes, of course.

 

YESENIA
I didn’t “choose life,” exactly. The doctor barfed in the hallway so I have to come back in a week.

 

MAYA
Oh.

 

YESENIA
Yeah.

 

An awkward silence.

 

MAYA
What’s your name?


YESENIA
Yesenia.

 

MAYA
I’m Maya. I’d still like to help you, Yesenia. You don’t have to have to come back. You don’t have to have an abortion.

 

Yesenia sizes Maya up. She notices Maya’s engagement ring.

 

YESENIA
(hostile)
Engaged, huh. 

 

MAYA
(flustered)
Yes. Actually, today’s our anniversary.

 

YESENIA
You probably have some sickeningly romantic meet-cute story.

 

MAYA
No, we met... weird. How about you? Are you seeing anyone?

 

YESENIA
We’re standing outside an abortion clinic. Take a wild guess how my relationship is going.

 

MAYA
That’s fair. I’m just trying to figure out what kind of support system you might have. 

 

YESENIA
My family lives in Miami, my job sucks, and I have the world’s shittiest apartment. 

 

MAYA
That is not true.

 

YESENIA
How do you figure?


MAYA
Because I have the world’s shittiest apartment.

 

Maya sees an opportunity to build rapport. Yesenia is determined to one-up her.

 

YESENIA
Oh, I doubt that.

 

MAYA
My refrigerator door closes with a bungee cord.

 

YESENIA
My upstairs neighbor is a heroin dealer.

 

MAYA
My upstairs neighbor’s daughter is learning how to play the clarinet.

 

INT. ABORTION FACILITY – CONTINUOUS

 

Dr. Zef, better but still a little nauseated, walks across the 

 

WAITING AREA 

 

toward the front door. He looks out the window and stops in his tracks. Yesenia and Maya gesticulate wildly MOS. They appear to be in a heated argument. 

 

DR. ZEF
(alarmed)
No, no, no.

 

Dr. Zef rushes behind the reception desk and flips a switch.

 

EXT. ABORTION FACILITY – CONTINUOUS

 

YESENIA
You couldn’t possibly understand --

 

Suddenly the sprinklers go off. Maya realizes the hard way that she is standing directly over a sprinkler head. 

 

Maya screams. In a matter of seconds, she is drenched.


Yesenia is dry. She dashes around the sprinklers and runs away.

 

Dr. Zef gazes out the window at his handiwork and smiles.

 

A car pulls up in front of Maya. The window rolls down; it’s Maya’s fiancé, NATHAN BENNESON.

 

NATHAN
What happened to you?

 

Maya resignedly gets in the car without a word.

 

Nathan looks in Dr. Zef’s direction and snarls.

 

INT. FANCY RESTAURANT – FOYER - NIGHT

 

The restaurant is the perfect setting for a romantic anniversary dinner date.

 

Nathan strides through the entrance. Maya follows reluctantly. Her dress is still wet. She shudders from the sudden blast of air conditioning.

 

Nathan puts an arm around Maya and they approach the MAÎTRE D'.

 

NATHAN
We have a reservation.

 

The Maître D' looks at Maya and scoffs. The Maître D' turns to Nathan with an expression that says “Are you serious?”

 

Nathan stares the Maître D' down.

 

NATHAN

Benneson, for two.

 

INT. FANCY RESTAURANT – TABLE - LATER

 

Maya and Nathan sit at a candlelit table. Nathan savors every morsel of his steak. Maya manages a bite of her pasta here and there but is clearly preoccupied.

 

MAYA
Over which one of us has the shittier apartment, of all things.


NATHAN
(jovially)
Well of course you do, darling, it’s no contest.

 

MAYA
I know you’re trying to make me feel better, but a child is going to die because I said the wrong thing.

 

NATHAN
(seriously)
Whoa. We don’t know that. Okay? You can’t think like that, you’ll drive yourself crazy. There’s still time.

 

MAYA
She did say she’d be back in a week.

 

NATHAN
See? You have a whole week to rehearse what to say.

 

MAYA
I guess.

 

NATHAN
(deadpan)
Now, did you remember to mention the clarinet?

 

Maya stares at him incredulously. Nathan tries to keep a straight face, but quickly fails. He cracks up laughing. 

 

Maya caves and joins in the laughter.

 

MAYA

Dammit, Nathan. Stop being so charming.

 

NATHAN
Can’t be helped.

 

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