Prompt: Rewrite a scene from a classic movie. What classic is, can be your definition. Feel free to change anything about the scene including the characters.
Word Limit: 1969
Genre: In line with the classic scene you chose.
I managed to write two stories to the prompt this week. Combined they are under the 1969 word limit. The first is a rewrite of the emotional climax to “Titanic.” The second is and introspective look at the classice line from “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” I didn’t really rewrite a scene here – I just expanded on a small part of the scene that I’ve always liked.
My Cheese Will Go On (441 words)
She couldn’t believe how cold it was. The chill wasn’t just in the air but inside of her. Like her lover had been only hours before. Now she was freezing to death atop a piece of driftwood in the north Atlantic and he was holding on and trying to comfort her.
“J-j-j-Jack,” she said through the thick mist of her breath in the icy night air. She fought the shivers with all of her strength but there was no way to keep them at bay. “I l-l-love you J-Jack.”
“R-R-Rose,” he said. He was so brave. He was the one who had shown her how to live and was now giving his own life to save hers. “T-T-There’s something I-I-I h-have to tell you Rose.”
“No Jack. Just hang on-n-n-n.” Her teeth were chattering so hard she felt sure they would break. “T-There will b-b-be plent-t-ty of time later.”
“N-n-no there won’t R-R-Rose. I’m n-n-not going to make it,” he said. It was true. He was submerged in the water up to his shoulders. Hypothermia was already setting in. Few minutes remained in his short life. “I-I-I should tell y-y-you…”
“Sh-sh-sh, Jack,” she pressed a finger to his lips. She wanted to shush him with a kiss but she was too cold to move. It took all her strength to keep from freezing to death that very second.
“R-Rose,” he said. “I h-h-h-have syphil-l-l-lis.”
“What?” she said. Suddenly she felt heat rising in her. Beginning in her chest and filling her torso then her face in a wave of embarrassment.
“A-a-and a couple of other things t-t-too. I-I-I’ve g-g-got about four v-v-venereal diseases the last I checked.”
“B-b-but I thought-“
“That I j-j-j-just drew pictures of French prost-t-t-titutes? No. I sl-slept with all of them. And I n-n-never used a proph-f-f-lactic.”
“Why you little-“ the stutter was gone now. Hypothermia could wait. She was going to kill this little bastard first. She was a high class girl; this kind of thing didn’t happen to women like her.
“A-a-and,” he continued. He was down to nearly his last breath. “I t-t-took twenty dollars out of your purse to buy opium with.”
“You little bastard!” she shoved at him from her driftwood. He fought for a handhold.
“Rose! No Rose!”
She finally overpowered him. It wasn’t hard. His body temperature was quickly descending and his heart was barely beating. If it hadn’t happened this way his grip would have loosened in a matter of seconds anyway. As it was, she only had to hold his head under for a brief time before he stopped struggling and began his descent to the ocean floor.
Legend and Fact (866 words)
Print the legend, I had said. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend. But when exactly does the legend become fact? When did we decide that Prometheus’s voyage up Mount Olympus was the actual way that humans had discovered fire? When did Hercules become a real person and not just the protagonist in stories? When did we start believing in John Henry’s hammer?
That’s right. We never did.
We all know that George Washington never cut down the cherry tree and then said “I cannot tell a lie.” We learn that in junior high school. But it sells more books and makes for an interesting anecdote about our first president. Isaac Newton was never hit on the head by an apple falling from a tree. He just came up with the theory of gravity. But that isn’t very attention-grabbing.
So do I print the truth about Senator Stoddard or the legend? I had said they were one and the same out here in the west, but what do I know? There is a world of difference between a fact and a legend.
He told me the whole story about the Liberty Valance affair. I knew there was something fishy about that whole story. I always did. To look at Ransom Stoddard is not to look at a man that has ever fired a gun at another man. Though I believe what he said, I still find it hard to believe he actually took a shot at Valance, and I only believe it because of his own admission that he couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. With aim like his you only have to point at what you don’t want to hit to be sure you’ll miss.
It makes much more sense that Doniphon shot Valance. He’d done it to others. But what to write about it? I could reiterate the legend and talk up Senator Stoddard for a few paragraphs toward the back of the rag. Go on about his friendship with Tom Doniphon and how heartbroken he was over his death. Or I could dispel this whole vigilante myth that got the senator elected. I could unseat the guy. And that would be front page material.
I don’t particularly want to do that. I like Senator Stoddard. Not because I believed him to be the man who shot Liberty Valance but because of the good he’s done for the people of this state. He’s fought for us, each and every one. He’s passed some good legislation. He’s an honest and decent man, which is quite hard to find anywhere in the halls of congress or the city of Washington, D.C.
Few men ever really become legends and those who do rarely live up to the expectations. Would Kennedy have seemed as imposing in person as he does in the collective mind after his assassination. Would Lincoln? Or Franklin? What would it be like to have dinner with Bela Lugosi or Sargent York? And if you did, would you be eating with the man – or the legend? Is there a difference? There must be, otherwise I wouldn’t be agonizing over this.
But I’m a newspaperman. I’m the editor here in Shinbone. I owe it to my readers to tell them the truth and give them the information that they need to make informed decisions. If I keep this story to myself I’ll be deceiving all my readers. But if I give it to them Stoddard will be out on the street after the next election. Hell, they might not even wait that long. Once everybody finds out about this they might just call for blood. Kick the bastard out, they’ll say. Call a special election.
But they might not even believe me. Sure, I’m a reputable newspaperman but we always want to believe the legends don’t we? That’s why people still talk about and sing songs about Davey Crockett, Johnny Appleseed and Geronimo. It’s why we remember Bluebeard and Pecos Bill. It’s what keeps Jesse James and Ichabod Crane alive. And if I take that away from Ransom Stoddard what will be left of the man?
I don’t want to do that to the man. I like him. I endorsed him goddammit. But do I print the legend or the fact? They might not kick him out of office. They might let him finish his term. This isn’t like that Jefferson Smith affair they had back in the forties. That guy wanted to build the boy’s camp just so he could diddle all the little kids. He was a sick puppy. Stoddard just got caught up in a myth that everyone believed. Hell, until Doniphon told him the truth he didn’t know he was lying.
To lie or not to lie? That is the question. Do I keep Stoddard in office? Or do I lose the next election for him? He’s good for this county, I know that. So do I work for the good of the United States? Or do I work for the truth? Do I print what’s good for all my countrymen? Or my readers?
When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.
Never were more untrue words spoken.