Laureen Vonnegut

Stuff That Bear

INT. TAXIDERMY LAB — EVENING
CLOSE-UP of FLORIN, (mid-twenties, wears oversized glasses, not quite handsome, slightly dorky), unfocused. As the camera finds focus, Florin clears his throat.
FLORIN
(in English with Romanian accent)
I was fifteen when I stuffed my first bird.
He steps toward camera and reaches forward. The frame widens to the right. Florin steps delicately back into focus and smiles broadly, proudly showing off his stuffed chicken. The lab is clean and white like a lab, but frayed around the edges.
FLORIN (CONT’D)
I stuffed my first dog when I was sixteen.
The frame widens to the left and he smiles big again and shows a stuffed dog. Suddenly there is a loud BANG; the camera shakes slightly, the smile drops from Florin’s face and DRAGOS (slightly older, good looking, confident) comes running in, holding something wrapped in a blanket.
DRAGOS
(also in English with Romanian accent)
Our ticket to the West.
He holds the bundle up in the air.
DRAGOS (CONT’D)
London! A pint of bitter, fish and chips, Britney Spears…
FLORIN
The white cliffs of Dover, crumpets and tea, the queen…
Dragos places the bundle on the ground.
DRAGOS
We’ve been waiting for years. Pa! Adio, Romania. (he taps the bundle with his foot)
DRAGOS (CONT’D)
A hundred million lei to stuff it.
FLORIN
Mount, not stuff. I don’t stuff things anymore.
DRAGOS
A fucking bear… (he starts to unwrap the bundle) Look.
Dragos looks around furtively, then lowers the blinds.
FLORIN
Why a hundred million?
DRAGOS
No permit, illegally shot. You’ll get all the girls you want with that money.
FLORIN
I don’t want all the girls.
DRAGOS
You’re not normal. A down payment, look.
Dragos pulls out wads of lei from pockets. Rubs money into crotch and tosses into air.
FLORIN
Where’s the rest?
DRAGOS
We have to go get it.
Florin looks down at the bundle.
FLORIN
It will take a month to dry.
DRAGOS
It can take a fucking century.
FLORIN
We have to freeze it.
DRAGOS
So freeze it.
FLORIN
Freezer is full.
DRAGOS
Well, empty it.
Dragos yanks open fridge — it is stuffed with frozen animals. A cat falls out and rolls on the ground.
DRAGOS (CONT’D)
Shit.
He pulls out several frozen animals and dumps them onto floor. Florin picks them up and sets them on the table.
FLORIN
But… what will I do with these?
DRAGOS
Bury them. Isn’t that what normal people do with dead animals?
Dragos starts shoveling out frozen animals with his hands.
DRAGOS (CONT’D)
I’ll tell you why you never get a girl, it’s this creepy job you have.
FLORIN
There’s nothing creepy about it. I’m raising the dead, giving them a new life. (picking up animals and stroking them) A second chance.
DRAGOS
Listen.
He looks at Florin who cradles a frozen animal in his arms.
DRAGOS (CONT’D)
You got a girl?
Florin stares at frozen animal in his arms.
DRAGOS (CONT’D)
No. And you need to smile.
He smiles broadly and insincerely.
DRAGOS (CONT’D)
Girls like that.
FLORIN
Girls like money.
DRAGOS
You’ll smile. Once you get a girl you’ll smile.
FLORIN
I’ll smile once I know what I want in a girl.
DRAGOS
What’s to want? A pretty girl is a pretty girl.
FLORIN
Maybe I don’t want a pretty girl.
DRAGOS
See, you are creepy. Everyone wants a pretty girl.
FLORIN
And pretty girls want money.
DRAGOS
Now you’ll have money.
Dragos picks up bear, still wrapped in the blanket, and tries to shove it into the fridge.
DRAGOS (CONT’D)
They’ll fall into your arms.
Florin looks at his skinny white arms outstretched.
FLORIN
It doesn’t work like that.
DRAGOS
Sure it does, for a couple of million lei, take Carmela.
FLORIN
Carmela’s your girlfriend.
DRAGOS
Carmela’s a whore.
Florin, visibly upset, starts to help push the bear into the fridge using a different angle.
FLORIN
You never said it like that before.

DRAGOS
It’s just you I’m offering her to, none of the other idiots. She’ll probably do it for free, she makes more in one night than I do in a month. How does that make me feel?
FLORIN
Does it matter?
DRAGOS
Of course it matters, I’m a man, what’s wrong with you?
The bear won’t fit so they wedge a chair in front.
DRAGOS (CONT’D)
Let’s go get our cash. Grab an animal. You know, to prove your talent.
FLORIN
Which one should we take?
They look around the room at the various frozen animals.
FLORIN (CONT’D)
The goose? The wildcat?
DRAGOS
No, think big… BIG…
He spreads his hands wide.
DRAGOS (CONT’D)
Think bear.
They both spot the dog.
EXT. STREETS OUTSIDE LAB — EVENING
The dog’s head is sticking out of a blanket tucked under Dragos’s arm like a rugby ball, as the two men rush out of the lab. They flag down a taxi which locks wheels and skids over the curb. A burly TAXI DRIVER is crammed behind the wheel.

INT. TAXI — EVENING
DRIVER’S POV: REAR VIEW MIRROR SHOT OF DOG.
TAXI DRIVER
No dogs.
DRAGOS
It’s dead.
He knocks his knuckles against dog’s head.
DRAGOS (CONT’D)
It’s mounted.
FLORIN
Stuffed.
The Taxi Driver scowls.
EXT. STREETS — EVENING
The taxi drives through streets, holes, strays, gypsies, the massive People’s Palace. Dialogue always audible.
FLORIN
What will you do with your millions?
DRAGOS
I told you.
FLORIN
You really mean it?
DRAGOS
We’ve talked about it for years. Dad’s dead and Mom’s crazy. What’s stopping us?
The taxi swerves sharply to avoid a pack of stray dogs and sends a mountain of sidewalk rubbish flying.
INT. TAXI — EVENING
DRAGOS
Don’t look at me like that. She doesn’t even recognize us anymore.
The Taxi Driver regains control of the vehicle.
TAXI DRIVER
Fucking dogs.
FLORIN
We can’t just… leave (he strokes the dog).
DRAGOS
Why not? Tomorrow. It’s all arranged. Over the border into Hungary, and from there it’s straight to London.
FLORIN
You’re crazy. Calm down.
EXT. GATE HOUSE — NIGHT
As night falls, they arrive at the gate house of a massive villa. They stop in front of the automatic gate and gawk.
INT. TAXI — NIGHT
FLORIN
They’ll never let us in.
Dragos reaches into front of taxi and honks horn, but the horn doesn’t work, so he rolls down the window and yells.
DRAGOS
Buna sera. Hello.
A uniformed GUARD strolls over arrogantly and peers in.
DRAGOS (CONT’D)
We have a meeting. Let us in.
Guard shakes his head and walks back to the guard hut.
DRAGOS (CONT’D)
Come on, the American, call him.
(In the hut, the Guard picks up a newspaper) Asshole. Where’s that money?
They take handfuls and start counting. The Taxi Driver adjusts mirror to see money.
TAXI DRIVER
It is extra for the dog.
He rolls his shoulders and cracks his knuckles.
DRAGOS
(in Romanian)
Shit.
Dragos starts a second pile.
EXT. GATE HOUSE — NIGHT
Dragos gets out, walks to the guard hut and hands the money over. The gate opens and Florin gets out of the taxi. Dragos throws money into the taxi, which now backs away.
Florin and Dragos walk through the gate…
EXT. POOL HOUSE – NIGHT
… and along a sandy path through some trees. LOUD MUSIC and YODELING from further down the path.
A delicate hand dangles in the air, holding a martini glass, swaying gently. We see a young woman, dressed in Heidi uniform, sprawled in a hammock strung from two trees.
In a nearby swimming pool, plastic ducks bob up and down.
They turn a corner in the path and see an enormous Pool House, with a fixed outdoor bar, lit by torches and festooned with balloons.
A tall, skinny AMERICAN wearing short lederhosen stands on a coffee table yodeling with three girls dressed in Heidi outfits and plaits, singing to “The Sound of Music”.
AMERICAN
Hey, hey, come here. You’re missing all the fun. (a pause) Who are you?
DRAGOS
It’s me. The bear?
AMERICAN
Bear? Bear? (looking at dog under Florin’s arm) That’s not a bear.
DRAGOS
The bear you shot today, in the mountains.

AMERICAN
Ah, yes, shhh, not in front of the ladies.
He leads them inside.
INT. BEDROOM — NIGHT
The American points to the dog.
AMERICAN
What is that?
DRAGOS
That is dog. A sample of our work, (pushes Florin forward) here is my brother, he is a fine mounter…
FLORIN
No, stuffer. This one is stuffed.
DRAGOS
Stuffer of bears…
FLORIN
(interrupting)
No, no…
The American steps back and tries to focus on Florin.
AMERICAN
I love dogs.
FLORIN
… your bear will be mounted.
AMERICAN
(increasingly worried)
He looks like my dog.
FLORIN
No, no, he’s just a… a stray. He is a lucky one. He got a new life.
Dragos kicks Florin and glares at him.
AMERICAN
Shit, I love dogs.
The American looks sadly around the room, depressed. There is a GIGGLE from the next room and he brightens up.

AMERICAN (CONT’D)
The girls! Come enjoy the girls.
DRAGOS
But…the money.
AMERICAN
I paid you, didn’t I? I’m sure. Where’s the girls?
The American leaves and Dragos follows. At the door, Florin grabs Dragos’ arm and speaks quietly.
FLORIN
I can’t buy the chemicals if he doesn’t pay us first.
EXT. POOL HOUSE — NIGHT
AMERICAN
Heidi, give us a drink.
All three girls start toward the bar.
AMERICAN (CONT’D)
Wait… Heidi number two. Heidi numbers three and one, give this boy a cuddle.
Heidis Three and One grab a cocktail knife and a lemon from the bar and approach with thinly-veiled menace.
HEIDI NUMBER THREE
(sotto voce in Romanian)
Get lost loser…
HEIDI NUMBER ONE
(sotto voce in Romanian)
… This is our goldmine.
They smile sweetly. [CU] One cuts off a twist of lemon in a particularly menacing way.
DRAGOS
(sotto voce in Romanian)
Now, now. You’d better be nice or we’ll stay all night.
AMERICAN
What are they saying?
Dragos cuddles Heidi number three close to him.
DRAGOS
(in English with Romanian accent)
They say we have a wonderful time.
AMERICAN
Wonderful! Girls, more treats.
Takes out a wad of bills and stuffs dollars into underwear with teeth as girls shimmy around.
[“Where’s your buddy? He needs to yodel too”]
INT. BEDROOM — NIGHT
Florin looks in the mirror, making a composition similar to the opening shot.
FLORIN
Sex, sex, sex.
He pets the dog. Then he leans down and speaks into ear.
FLORIN (CONT’D)
Sex, sex, sex.
As he does this, he spots a duffel bag on the floor. He reaches to examine it and Dragos enters. Florin stands and tries to block Dragos’ view of the bags.
DRAGOS
What are you hiding?
FLORIN
I want to go yodel.
DRAGOS
Out of the way.
He pushes Florin aside and opens up a duffel bag.
DRAGOS (CONT’D)
Dollars. All ones.
He puts his hand in another.
DRAGOS (CONT’D)
This is all fives. Why are you hiding these from me? It’s perfect.
FLORIN
No.

DRAGOS
He owes us.
FLORIN
Stop it. We can’t steal his money.
DRAGOS
You can’t steal his bear. You have to finish what you agreed to.
FLORIN
I didn’t agree to anything. And I haven’t started anything.
DRAGOS
You’ve already spent the deposit.
FLORIN
I what?
DRAGOS
The deposit: to the taxi, bribing the guard… and a little down payment for the truck driver who will take us over the border and on to London.
FLORIN
[Wait, wait…] Truck driver?
DRAGOS
How did you think we would go, BA First Class? It’s all arranged. Dimitrov’s meat truck.
FLORIN
I can’t ride in a meat truck. Not all the way to London.
DRAGOS
Why not?
FLORIN
It’s full of… dead animals.
DRAGOS
You work with dead animals all day.
FLORIN
It’s different. My animals have their skin on.

DRAGOS
Shut up and help me.
He shoves money in his pockets. Not much fits. He shoves some in his socks, etc, but soon runs out of places.
DRAGOS (CONT’D)
We need something to carry it in.
Their eyes move to the dog.
DRAGOS (CONT’D)
Unstuff it.
FLORIN
I can’t unstuff the dog.
DRAGOS
Come on, it’s a reverse stuff. What’s inside it?
FLORIN
Moss, it’s stuffed with dried moss…
DRAGOS
Good, good. We toss the moss out the window. No evidence.
FLORIN
Evidence?! This is not a crime.
DRAGOS
Yeah, yeah. Take some from each bag.
The room is clouded by a flurry of flying moss and dollar bills being removed, stuffed, hidden, etc.
INT. SITTING ROOM – NIGHT
[35 – START ON CU HANDFUL OF DOLLARS ON CUT]EXT. POOL HOUSE — NIGHT
AMERICAN
My friends. Take these, give them to the girls, they like that…
He pulls a handful of dollars from his pocket and holds them out to Florin. They both step back as if bitten.
DRAGOS
No, no, he is ill. Very ill.
The American peers at the dog.
AMERICAN
What a beautiful dog.
DRAGOS
We must go quickly.
AMERICAN
God I love dogs. Bye-bye Fido.
Gives dog slobbery kiss.
EXT. STREETS — NIGHT
They try to flag down a taxi. Florin is holding the dog and strays start chasing them. [Florin starts running, and Dragos chases after]
EXT. STRIP CLUB — NIGHT
They enter stealthily with dog.
INT. STRIP CLUB HALLWAY — NIGHT
Raucous activity and semi-naked women in the big room next to them. They tiptoe down a dark hallway, screened with black curtains. At the end, they peer through.
INT. PRIVATE ROOM — NIGHT
A MAN sits in a chair with CARMELA dancing over him. She is a controlled beauty with gelled hair and lots of makeup. The stuffed dog parts the curtains; her attention is broken. Then she sees the faces of Dragos and Florin; she falters and loses rhythm. Dragos waves handfuls of bills. She gets back into the rhythm and finishes.
INT. DRESSING ROOM –– NIGHT
CARMELA
You idiots. (kisses Dragos) What are you doing here?
DRAGOS
Idiots? And we have come to take you to dinner.
CARMELA
Where did this money come from?
DRAGOS
A miracle.
CARMELA
I like miracles. (now looking at Florin) Have I told you about this cat?
FLORIN
A dead cat?
CARMELA
Not dead. Why does it have to be dead?
DRAGOS
(impatiently)
What about it?
CARMELA
It’s the biggest cat in the world.
FLORIN
The fattest cat in the world lives in Istanbul. I’ve seen a picture.
CARMELA
You haven’t seen this cat, the size of it. Not fat. Big-BIG. His head is bigger than mine.
She holds her head in her hands as a measure, then drops her hands to her hips.
CARMELA (CONT’D)
Do you think I have sex appeal?
She half turns her body and looks over her shoulder.
DRAGOS
Jesus Christ, look at you.
CARMELA
No, that’s not it. When I was young, I stayed with a French family and they were always talking about sex appeal. Who had it and who didn’t. Sex appeal, Sex appeal.
DRAGOS
Carmela, men pay money to fuck you.

CARMELA
Bastard.
DRAGOS
Not a bastard comment, it’s a fact.
CARMELA
You just don’t get it. One night I asked the master of the house about this sex appeal and he said, mademoiselle, you have no sex appeal. But you do have looks, and that will help you more.
DRAGOS
Florin, is she sexy? Do you want her? Remember my offer?
CARMELA
Florin is not interested.
DRAGOS
Maybe Florin is into something kinkier than you can provide.
They stare at him for a moment.
FLORIN
It’s not that.
DRAGOS
Well, why not? Isn’t she sexy?
CARMELA
Urghh. Sex appeal comes from inside (she taps her head with a finger) not the outside (she cradles her breasts with her hands).
DRAGOS
Baby, I don’t know about your inside, but your outside is fine with me.
CARMELA
Exactly.
A delicate bell tinkles from a speaker on the wall.
CARMELA (CONT’D)
Este clientul meu preferat, every Monday.
Carmela peers into compact and dabs on powder.
CARMELA (CONT’D)
Dinner later?
DRAGOS
Pizza?
CARMELA
Too greasy.
DRAGOS
Indian?
FLORIN
There’s that new place. Take-away curry.
DRAGOS
Too new.

FLORIN
How about the old place near the church?

DRAGOS
Good. Let’s get take-away curries and confess our sins.
Carmela bends over and fluffs her hair.
CARMELA
Poor Florin, he’s got no sins.
She walks out the door. Dragos folds his arms across chest and looks at Florin intensely.
DRAGOS
You’re not going, are you?
FLORIN
I am… but I can’t just leave the bear. I’ve got to…
DRAGOS
Then you can have her.
Florin stares at Dragos in shock. Dogs BARK outside.
INT. ABANDONED RADIO CENTRE — NIGHT
Carmela and Florin walk slowly through a huge, unfinished government building. They have take-away containers in their hands; Carmela has a soft drink with a straw.
Dragos, empty-handed, buzzes insatiably around them.
DRAGOS
Did you hear what I said?
Carmela takes a sip of her drink.

CARMELA
I’d like to go to India.
FLORIN
Lots of soul searching in India.
CARMELA
Not for me, if I soul search I might have to quit my job and I haven’t reached my goal yet.
FLORIN
You don’t have to go to India to soul search.
DRAGOS
(impatiently, simultaneous)
Carmela, I said we’re leaving. Tomorrow. Tomorrow!
Carmela pulls a cardamom seed out of her curry and sucks on it.
CARMELA
(simultaneous)
Where shall we say bon voyage?
DRAGOS
Gara du Nord. Nine in the morning.
CARMELA
(simultaneous)
How about now?
DRAGOS
Now?
CARMELA
Bon voyage, darling.
Dragos stands and looks back and forth at them. She gives all of her attention to Florin.

CARMELA (CONT’D)
Remember the massive cat I told you about? The biggest cat in the world? Today this cat saw a Rotweiller on the street and ran up to it. The dog froze. It’s not every day a dog sees a cat like that.
DRAGOS
Carmela, I’m leaving and you’re still talking about this damn cat?
CARMELA
Darling, what would you like to talk about?
DRAGOS
Nothing, nothing.
CARMELA
Anyway… they sniffed, the cat twitched its tail, sat down in the middle of the street, and began to lick itself. The poor dog hung its head.
Dragos leaves. She looks off in the direction of Dragos’s departure.
Carmela flicks the seed in Dragos’s direction. It lands in the water, the ripples spread…
DISSOLVE TO:
EXT. BEND IN THE RIVER –- NIGHT
Water rippling still. Carmela and Florin walk along the riverside. Lights reflect on the water.
CARMELA (CONT’D)
This cat, he’s got these little yellow eyes, like Buddha eyes…
She peers into Florin’s eyes.
CARMELA (CONT’D)
… and they really look at me… into me. They tell me…
FLORIN
Carmela…

CARMELA
I don’t think he ever liked me.
CARMELA (CONT’D)
He just liked getting something for free.
FLORIN
The cat told you this?
Carmela puts her head into her hands and stares out at the water.
CARMELA
Sometimes I think the universe spins around him.
EXT. APARTMENT BLOCK — MORNING
A typical Bucharest apartment block.
INT. CARMELA’S APARTMENT — MORNING
The door is open and Carmela is sprawled face down on the carpet. Her clothes are tossed all over the room, the way a snake sheds its skin. Her hair is lank and disheveled. No make-up. The soles of her feet are dirty; she wears a greyed and frayed bathrobe.
Florin’s mouth moves but nothing comes out. He crouches beside her and holds on to his head as if there were pressure in it. He picks her up by the hair. She sits up and screams. He screams and jumps back. Florin looks carefully around the room.
FLORIN
He left?
She stares without moving. A red bra hangs over the fish tank, one strap in the water; a fish nibbles at the strap.
CARMELA
He’s gone.
FLORIN
I’m sorry.
CARMELA
In his place was a new one, a little grey one sitting in the sun. White under his chin and on the tip of his tail. He was so small. And his eyes… I can’t stand it if my Buddha cat is gone. Who will tell me things?
(bites bottom lip)
We stopped making love.
FLORIN
I… I don’t know why you said that.
CARMELA
Because it’s true. He’s ashamed to be dating a… (pause) dancer.
FLORIN
No, no, it doesn’t matter to him. You know that.
CARMELA
Yes, I know.
FLORIN
It’s always like that. Men like an element of newness. Things slow down after a while.
CARMELA
This was not slowing down, this was stopped.
CLOSE-UP OF CARMELA. Her face is ordinary, without any colors or powders on it. She looks away from Florin. She picks up a swizzle-stick with the Union Jack.
CARMELA (CONT’D)
You’ll miss the truck.
FLORIN
Listen, I didn’t answer you yesterday.
Same shot of his white arms. He settles next to her. With his left hand, he reorganizes the hair on her neck, while the right hand brushes the hair away from her face. There is a big smile on his face like the opening shot — but with more real affection. He takes off his glasses and touches her with his other hand.
FLORIN (CONT’D)
You do have great sex appeal.

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