This blog post features a fake scene from a fake film. I am currently working my way through a free screenwriting course and one of the exercises instructed me to write a short piece of dialogue featuring a character eating some food, and the obstacles they encounter when doing so. I decided to write my scene as if it were part of an origins story biopic about Gary Yourofsky, the legendary (though now sadly retired) animal rights activist. It shall be called The Veganarchist, and it will never get made.
EXT. DAY – Highway Rest Stop, American Midwest
Establishing Shot of the ‘Dragoon King’ Chinese Buffet Restaurant. The faux jade rooftop decal has faded to a dullish green; one of the door’s s Lion statue guards is missing its head; the blown up comic sans in the window sign reads: All You Can Eat for $11.99! Family Rate of $50 for Five or More!
This is not fine dining. It is one of the last places on this sorry stretch of road that hasn’t been bought out by the Taco Bell/KFC/McDonalds/Wendy’s/Dairy Queen conglomerate.
INT. DAY – Dragoon King Restaurant
Overweight diners gorging on syrupy flesh crowd the formica topped tables of the dilapidated, heavily air conditioned restaurant. A CD of Authentic Oriental Music plays out of tiny speakers, only half of which still work. One family – our family – are being led to their seats by a geeky looking MAITRE’D, if he could be called that. MOM and DAD are middle aged, nondescript. GARY (17) is lean, dressed in black, a piercing though his nasal septum and a shaved head.
MAITRE’D: And here’s your table, folks. I’ll bring your plates over in a second here and you can get started. When you’re done, just go ahead and grab me and I’ll get your fortune cookies. We truly hope you’ll enjoy the Dragoon King dining experience.
The MAITRE’D gives a pathetic half bow in their direction, then shuffles off.
MOM: Well he’s nice.
GARY: (derisive) Charming.
MOM: Oh? Because you’ve been just the essence of charm on this trip so far, honey.
GARY: I told you don’t call me honey. How many times?
DAD: (laughs, downplays them) Alright, alright. We’re all hungry. We’re all tired. Me especially. Just settle. Please.
GARY: Yeah, we’re all hungry. But I’ll bet I’ll be leaving hungry, too.
MOM: C’mon Gary, I’m sure there will be something you can eat here.
GARY: I can eat anything. I choose not to.
DAD: We know bud, we know. Ah, here he comes.
The MAITRE’D approaches and clumsily sets down cutlery, plastic plates, disposable plastic chopstix, and plastic glasses.
MAITRE’D: Alrighty. So the water fountain is over there by the Samurai Buddha. As I said before, if you wanna use the soda machine that’ll be $2.50 each.
Unlimited refills, by the way.
MAITRE’D: If you need anything else, just say so. You may now….
…Enter the Dragoon!
Another puny tilt of the head with his hands clasped to his chest. He departs.
DAD: (impressed) I do love that movie. Chuck Norris was such a badass back then.
GARY: Nah Dad, you’re thinking of Way of the Dragon. Anyway, why is everything here Dragoon and not Dragon?
DAD: I think there’s a Dragon King chain in the Mid West, so Dragoon King probably have to say everything a bit different. It’s probably just family owned.
GARY: Fuckin’ cheap ass sons of-
GARY is admonished but only momentarily.
GARY: Sorry, Mom. But really if they’re gonna go and reference a Bruce Lee movie they could at least have some kind of fighting ring or something. Oh man, imagine a Bloodsport themed restaurant!
DAD: That’d be sweet! You’d have to break bricks to get your fortune instead of just eating a cookie.
MOM: I’d still want the cookie, though. It’s my favourite part.
The daughter, KATIE (sixteen and sulky) drifts slowly to their table, arms hanging by sides, and sits down without saying a word.
MOM: All cleaned up, baby?
KATIE: The bathroom here stinks.
GARY: Like, literally? Or is it just shitty, like the rest of this place? Or is it both?
KATIE: It’s shitty, and it stinks. But not of shit. Like… (thinks deeply) … Like dead stuff.
GARY: I see. Dead stuff. Like all the corpses they serve as food here, y’mean?
MOM: Oh come on, it can’t be that bad. And please watch your language at the dinner table.
GARY snorts at ‘dinner table’.
KATIE: It’s definitely more like lunch, Mom.
GARY: Let’s just hope we get back to civilisation by dinner time, otherwise I’ll starve.
MOM rolls her eyes.
DAD: I’m going up.
He rises, plate in hand, and moves off to the buffet aisles which are shrouded in steam.
The rest follow suit.
CUT TO: GARY’S disgusted face, staring down at the buffet food trays. He murmurs some expletives, not loud enough to hear over the music playlist and clamour of plates from the nearby kitchen. He sidles one tray along.
CLOSE UP: The ‘food’ Gary is seeing. A bubbling tray of deep fried Unidentified Floating Objects. The yellowing placard reads ‘Chicken Puff Balls’.
CUT BACK TO: Gary sidles along one more. Face contorts in horror, mouths ‘what the fuck’. Along one more. Disgust intensifies. Along one more, then another. He comes to the end of the aisle.
We now see GARY’s parents piling on the meats and the egg noodles and the spicy sauces, while GARY looks on, shaking his head in disbelief like an eighty year old watching the evening news. KATIE goes in for salad. Several obese customers are collecting thirds or fourths. He has no intention of eating, but he cannot keep from looking. This is fascination with the abomination.
Behind and above GARY’S shoulder now as he sidles along. Our eyes feast on ‘Broiled Pork Tongue’, ‘Beijing Lobster Fillet’, ‘Black Eyed Beef’, ‘Sweet and Sour Pork Loin’, ‘Braised Lamb Rumps’, ‘Sweet and Spicy Crab Stew’, ‘King Pow Chicken’, ‘Mandarin Fishsticks’, ‘Dragoon Noodle Typhoon’, Etc. etc. etc. Browned fleshy chunks swimming in reddish brownish goo, each one indistinguishable from the next.
GARY: (to self) Fuckin’ holocaust, man.
KATIE pulls up alongside him.
KATIE: Dude, just get some rice. Put some soy sauce on it or something.
GARY: Fuck that! This is disgusting. How can anyone eat in a place like this? It reeks like an Auschwitz gas chamber. We ought to burn this fucker down. Just burn this fucker right down to the ground, y’know?
KATIE: You say that every time we make a stop.
GARY: (clenching fists) I mean it this time. These people don’t deserve to live!
KATIE: Relax. The staff here didn’t kill the animals, Gary. It all just comes in, like, a pre-made package and they just take it out of the freezer and microwave it.
GARY is peering suspiciously at another row of steaming trays.
GARY: I wasn’t expecting BBQ Seitan Deluxe, but they could have some boiled tofu at the very least. I’m asking if they have anything I can eat.
KATIE: Good luck. I wouldn’t bother if I –
GARY storms off towards the MAITRE’D, who is trying (and failing) to spin chopstix between his fingers and thumb. He looks up as GARY approaches.
MAITRE’D: Hi there, everything Feng Shui with your guys’ meals I hope –
GARY: Yeah, uhhh, no. Do you have any edible food here? Like anything that wasn’t recently alive, or anything?
MAITRE’D: Alive? I…
GARY: And ‘Feng Shui’ instead of ‘OK’… are you kidding me?
MAITRE’D: Sorry, I’m a little confused. What did you mean by alive?
GARY: I thought you were gonna say ‘Confucius’ for a second there. What I mean by alive is living. A living creature. An animal. Do you have any dishes here that weren’t stabbed in the throat and chopped up into little pieces? Apart from leafs.
MAITRE’D: Sir, please watch your tone. I (stammers) I am not prepared to take abuse from –
GARY: Were the animals you sick fucks serve up with corn syrup prepared to die? No. But I suppose you think it’s fine to eat them, huh?
GARY steps closer. MAITRE’D backs off and looks behind GARY, hoping to lay eyes on a manager.
GARY: I’m reporting this place to the FDA. You’re going down like flushed shit.
MAITRE’D: (clears throat, starts speaking in monotone) If there is a problem with the service please take it up with the manager on duty. We are sorry for any inconveniences.
GARY: Whatever, man. Hey, you ever been to a slaughterhouse?
MAITRE’D: What? I… No?
GARY: (sighs) Just go get your manager, dude.
MAITRE’D scuttles off like a beetle.
GARY slips behind the counter to the staff computer, whips out a CD from his jean pocket and ejects the ‘Authentic Chinese Restaurant Music Mega Mix’. He slips in his own CD, marked ‘Meat is Murder – The Smiths’. A thin smile creeps over his face as the opening audio of the track – the sound of buzz saws and cows groaning in agony – fills the restaurant.
ZOOM IN ON: MOM and DAD mid-mouthful at the table, set their plastic chopstix down slowly, look at each other.
DAD: Oh shit.
MOM: He did it again. Godammit, he actually did it again.
DAD: Oh shit.
A UFO food lump drops from the corner of DAD’s mouth onto the plastic topped table. Customers are looking around, bewildered. A small boy begins to cry.
MOM: I can’t believe he actually did it again!
They see MAITRE’D running towards the till, with a manager right behind. GARY stands in a wide defensive stance, shielding the Dragoon King’s computer with his body.
DAD: Oh shit.
INT. DAY – Family SUV
DAD grasps steering wheel, fuming silently. KATIE has headphones in. MOM, riding shotgun, has her arms folded, looking stern.
Right in the back seats sits GARY, eating pretzels, contentedly looking out the window.
And now, an anti-racism rap from Gary Yourofsky circa 1992, four years before he became an animal rights activist. He was only 13 at the time of this recording.