Housekeeping (1987) Movie Script

Grandpa was born in the plains.
It was absolutely flat, all around,
for hundreds of miles.
He thought the whole world
was like that.
Even the house
was dug out of the ground.
Then, one momentous day,
he found out about mountains.
He must have found
a picture in a book.
He was amazed.
It became an obsession.
He drew and painted mountains
Mount Fujiyama,
the Alps, the Rockies.
He painted mountains all his life.
Before we were even born, he was
lying at the bottom of Fingerbone Lake.
in the wreckage of a train.
There were lots of mountains there.
That's the way
the family story went.
It was a good enough story,
but there were other things
we wanted to know.
For instance,
where was our father?
Nobody even mentioned him.
Where are the seagulls, Lucille?
I don't know.
Let me put the bread
right down here.
Hi, Charlie!
You girls get inside.
Get inside, now.
If you get inside
I'll bring you some custard.
Okay, Bernice.
Guess what.
We're going to see Grandma.
In Bernice's car.
Didn't know I could drive,
did you?
You shouldn't be smoking, ma'am.
Nice kids.
Sometimes they are.
Sometimes I live in the town
Sometimes I take a great notion
to jump in the river and drown
What are you counting?
- Horses.
- And cemeteries.
Come on, girls.
Come on. This way.
Years later, Lucille and I still
talked about the trip to Grandma's
Lucille would remember one thing,
and I another,
until we'd pieced together
the whole journey.
We tried so hard that we ended up
not knowing what we really remembered
from what we had just imagined.
And we often fought
over the details.
Grandma's at church,
but you're gonna wait here
and give her a nice surprise.
She'll be home in a little while,
Where are you going?
I have to go
somewhere in the car.
But you're going to be good girls,
now, aren't you?
Here are some cookies.
And don't fight over them.
You'll stay inside, now,
won't you?
When Grandma comes home you
can tell her you've been good girls.
Now, tell me "Cheerio".
Can't we come, too?
But, then, nobody
would be home for Grandma.
Stay here.
Where's she going?
Oh, she was
about 5'8" and three quarters.
A little taller than I am.
Very nice looking.
Dark hair.
The little girl looks
quite a little bit like her.
Her features are much the same.
- I'll just ask them.
- I see.
What kind of car is Mummy's?
It's Bernice's car.
What kind of car is Bernice's?
I could use some help.
Could you boys give me a push
onto some solid ground?
Stick this under the wheel.
This, too.
- No, you don't want to waste that.
- Take it, it's okay.
No, we have some old clothes.
Sandy put your jacket
under the wheel on your side.
- No.
- C'mon Sandy.
I'm not moving
till you take this.
Use it!
Ah, yuck!
Thanks boys.
You've been a help.
Here. Take it.
I put the last of the white cake
on the table out there.
It won't last long.
Shall I fetch you a piece?
No, thanks, Etta.
The soup was enough.
How is she doing?
She's quiet enough.
Lucille and Ruthie.
No, George.
It's Ruthie and Lucille.
Have you shown the girls
the orchard yet?
Yes, we had a walk
in the orchard this morning
Have you shown them
your Indian knife?
Yes, I have.
Have you shown them
your Spanish coin?
No, it's in my other pants' pocket.
looked after us for seven years.
The paperboy was the only
person under 60 that we saw regularly.
It seemed as if,
all her life,
she was destined to be
braiding hair and whitening shoes.
And she worried for us.
Once, she told us she'd dreamed that
she'd seen a baby fall from an airplane.
And had tried to catch it
in her apron.
And once, in a dream,
she had tried to fish a baby
out of a well with a tea strainer.
She never talked about Mother,
or any of the family,
except Grandpa and his mountains.
It was only after she had died
that we were able to delve
amongst the treasures
in her room.
There, I found Mother
and her sister, Sylvie,
both banished
to the bottom drawer.
I had high hopes
of Grandma's treasures,
but most of the people in the photographs
remained strangers with no names.
I returned to the album often,
until the faces became familiar
and comfortable, like family.
It was comforting to find
Lucille and Mother and me there, too.
It seemed to suggest
that we belonged.
Although Grandma's death
made the front page of the Dispatch,
it was only because of her connection
with the spectacular derailment
that had widowed her
twenty years earlier.
It didn't even mention
the time or place of her funeral,
but every detail of
the Fingerbone wreck was retold.
My grandfather's death
had made him famous.
The disaster wasn't
strictly speaking spectacular
because nobody
saw it happen.
It took place midway through
a moonless night.
The train was about
a mile out on the bridge
when the engine
nosed over toward the lake
and then the rest
of the train followed it,
like a weasel
sliding off a rock.
The bridge was
built on submerged hills.
On either side, the lake
slid away to unknown depths.
Who could tell where
the train might've come to rest?
It might be sliding yet,
down and down.
All that was ever found was a suitcase,
a seat cushion and a lettuce.
All that day
the people of Fingerbone
were reluctant to leave
the hole in the ice.
It could only have been
out of politeness,
for there was really
nothing they could do
for the two hundred
souls on the train.
So, they built fires
and stood around
discussing how the train
might've settled in the lake.
Some imagined it
sinking like a stone,
while others saw it sliding
through the water like an eel.
By the evening, the ice
was already beginning to heal.
All in all, it was a memorable day
in the history of Fingerbone.
It was reported in newspapers
as far away as Denver and Saint Paul.
Relax your arms, Ruthie.
The stiffness goes
all the way down to your feet.
I hate those dogs!
When Grandmother died,
the house and her savings
became Lucille's and mine.
Our great-aunts, Lily and Nona,
came from Spokane to look after us.
They were almost destitute and
appreciated the savings in rent,
but they didn't
take to Fingerbone at all.
This is much too late
for little girls to come in.
The time went by so fast.
We're really sorry.
You see, we can't
go out looking for you.
We might get lost.
Or fall in the ice.
There are no street lights,
and they never sand the roads.
Dogs aren't on chains.
And the cold is so bitter.
We feel it even in the house.
We won't come back
after dark anymore.
You weren't on the ice,
were you?
It's just a broken branch.
Oh, my!
It's just
a cable down. It happens.
Don't worry.
I'll fetch some candles.
Oh, dear!
If you dream
about somebody dead,
does it mean
they're haunting you?
I don't know.
It feels like it.
I don't want to sleep.
If you plan
not to sleep, we could play cards.
I don't think they'll
ever be happy here.
What's going to happen to us?
I don't know.
Well, it can't get much worse.
We could build a moondial
tomorrow in the snow.
Maybe Mom's sister
could come back home.
"Dear Mother,
"I can now be reached
care of the Lost Hills Hotel,
"Billings, Montana,
"or the Myrtle Rooms,
Portland, Oregon.
"Hope you are well.
"Write this time. S."
An itinerant.
She might've changed.
It's possible. People do.
Perhaps some attention
from her family?
A family can help.
Responsibility might help.
A sense of home.
It would be home to her.
Yes, it would.
It would.
She should be told
about her mother.
We began to anticipate
the appearance of mother's sister
with all the guilty hope
of Lily and Nona.
Sylvie would be
our mother's age,
and might amaze us
with the resemblance to her.
They'd grown up
in the same house,
eaten the same casseroles,
heard the same songs.
I bet her hair will be
brown like mother's.
Hers wasn't brown.
It was red.
No, it wasn't.
Oh, let me take that.
Must be heavy, dear.
Oh, so cold.
You walked?
You're Ruthie, and you're Lucille.
Lucille has lovely red hair.
Take off your coat, my dear.
You'll warm up faster.
Erm, I'll poach you an egg.
Or I could boil one.
Either way would be fine.
Oh, my, what a lovely dress.
Yes. You look
very nice, my dear. Very well.
So, was Mother's
funeral nice?
Oh, yes, very nice.
Very small, of course.
You should've seen the flowers,
the house was full of them.
Oh, she didn't want flowers.
She'd have called it a waste.
She didn't want a service.
I see.
We'll put you
in the hall bedroom.
It's a little close,
but that's better than a draft.
Oh, thank you.
Do you remember
Danny Rappaport?
Well, he died.
I don't know how.
The newspaper didn't say.
Just a photograph.
Not a recent one, either.
He looked barely nineteen,
not a line on his face.
The next morning,
Lucille and I were up early.
We shouldn't
wake her up too early.
It felt
a little like Christmas.
And we always prowled
the dawn of any significant day.
We can take her
coffee at nine.
It was nicer
with the light off.
Isn't that nicer?
D'you want a cracker?
Thank you.
I can hardly believe
I'm here.
You know, I was on
the train for eleven hours?
We just crept along,
through the snow,
for hours and hours.
Have you been on a train?
You haven't?
I love to travel by train,
especially the passenger cars.
Maybe I'll take you
with me sometime.
Where to?
Where would you
like to go?
Oh, someplace better
than that! Farther away.
Like maybe, erm...
Like Seattle?
Oh, but that's
where you used to live.
With our mother.
That's right.
Will you tell us about her?
Well, er...
She was nice.
She was...
She was pretty.
People liked her.
But what was she like?
Don't you remember?
We were little. Grandma wouldn't
talk about her.
Nobody would.
Well, she was very quiet.
played the piano.
She collected stamps.
I dunno, it's...
It's hard to describe
someone you know so well.
I didn't really see much of her
after she was married.
Tell us about the wedding.
Oh, that was very small.
She just did that
to please your grandma.
All right, erm, let's see...
She wore...
a sundress
made of eyelet lace,
and a straw hat.
See, she'd already been married by a
Justice of the Peace somewhere in Nevada.
Your father was from Nevada.
What was he like?
He was tall.
He wasn't bad looking,
it was just that he was...
awfully quiet.
I think that he was shy.
I think he sold some
sort of farm equipment.
I don't know.
I, I only saw him that one day.
Do you know
where he is?
Mother got a letter once,
but she torn it up.
She never even read it.
Well, what would you girls
like for breakfast?
- We'll make it.
- Yeah.
You like oatmeal?
Erm, I'm gonna
take a little walk around town.
I'll be back soon.
She should've borrowed a scarf.
She's not coming back.
I bet they told her to leave.
It'll be all right.
I know it'll be all right,
but it makes me mad.
You left your stuff
at our house.
Oh, no, I just came in here
to get warm.
Nothing else is open.
I forgot how early
the sun rises these days.
It still feels like winter,
doesn't it?
- Why don't you wear your gloves?
- Left 'em on the train.
Oh, boy, there's a newspaper.
Why don't you wear boots?
Well, I suppose I should.
I think maybe I should
stay for a while.
You know,
the aunts are so old, and...
Well, I think probably it's best
for now, at least.
- What d'you think?
- All right.
First thing we do
is get some pie at the caf.
Then, when the store opens,
you're gonna help me
pick out a scarf,
and maybe some gloves,
If I have the money.
Just a second.
Will you hold out your hands?
- Oh...
- Wow!
Is that a candy wrapper
or a dollar bill?
It's a dollar bill.
Looks like I need to do
some spring cleaning.
Oh, I have something for you.
This is for you.
Oh, thank you.
And this is for you.
We're loaded!
Look at all this!
Do you still have friends here?
Well, the truth is, I never
did have many friends here.
We knew who everyone was,
that's all.
When's your birthday?
April. When's yours?
June eighth.
I'm November twenty sixth.
That's was my cat's birthday.
Here you are.
What a day to go walking.
And hardly dressed!
Oh, well, Ruthie and I woke up early
and decided to go out
to see the sun come up.
We went clear downtown.
Sylvie got worried,
so she came out looking for us.
Oh, I'm surprised at you girls.
I hope Sylvie gave you
a good talking to.
Poor Sylvie.
Come into the kitchen
and warm up, my dear.
That same evening,
Lily and Nona fled.
You better go inside.
You'll catch your death of cold.
their savings in rent,
they were taken by a friend of
my grandmother's back to Spokane,
and we and the house were Sylvie's.
The very next day
it started to rain.
The ground and the lake
were still frozen solid,
and the water
had nowhere to go.
Rain just then was a disaster.
It rained for four days.
Grandmother had always boasted
that the floods never reached our house,
but that year they did.
The photographs!
I hardly know any of them.
I don't even know her.
This is how we used to kept warm
when I sold Xmas trees in Denver.
We'd take these big hot rocks
and put them in our pockets.
Everybody but Alma.
She wore two shirts and three coats.
She was always trying to impress people.
- Was that your real job?
- One of 'em.
Oh, boy.
I haven't been in here in years.
- Was this your room?
- Uh-huh. And your Mom's.
Sylvie and Helen.
We had both the beds
by the window.
Oh, it's so funny being in here.
Uh-oh! There it is.
"Helen Foster ten years' old,
She wrote it so tiny
because of Grandma.
We were frightened for weeks
that she'd find it.
God, it still gives me a shiver to see it.
And Grandpa's mountains.
- I like them.
- Yeah.
He grew up in the plains,
where everything was flat.
Then Sylvie told us the old story
about Grandpa and his mountains.
We wanted to hear
more about Mother,
but we listened politely
and smiled in the right places.
After all,
there was plenty of time.
Already we had
great plans for Sylvie.
How did he get here?
Well, when he was sixteen,
he walked to the railroad,
he jumped on a train and he said,
"Just let me off at the mountains."
That's how we all ended up
in Fingerbone.
Then he married Grandma
and he built her this house.
He was always restless, though...
Oh, my...
I've never seen such a thing!
He must've been such a strange boy.
It sounds like the bridge is breaking up.
It's just the ice.
The Simmonds' house
isn't where it used to be.
Oh, it's so hard to tell.
Those bushes used to be on the other side.
Maybe the bushes have moved.
It is a shame.
Well, he's mixed up, anyway.
So, what do you say
to a game of crazy eights? Hm?
No, I don't really want to.
Okay, well, what do you want to do?
I want to find some other people.
Well, tomorrow.
We could wade up
to the higher ground.
There must be lots of people
camping up there.
Well, we're fine here.
I mean, we can cook our own food
and sleep in our own beds.
What could be better?
I'm tired of it.
Oh, it's the loneliness.
Yeah, it bothers a lot of people.
You know, I once knew this woman
who was so lonely,
she married an old man with a limp
and had four children in five years
and none of it helped at all.
She was still lonely.
Why didn't you have children?
Well, I dunno.
I guess it just wasn't in the cards.
Did you want them?
Well, I always liked 'em.
But, did you want to have them?
You must know, Lucille,
that some questions aren't polite.
I'm sure my mother must have told you that.
She's sorry.
It doesn't matter.
Let's just get some warm bricks
and then play some crazy eights, okay?
Hi, Mr. Wallace.
I'm looking for Moses,
Mrs. Watling's dog.
He came back into town
two nights ago.
How are things here?
Well, we heard some dogs during the night,
but nothing's come by.
Not even a cat.
Oh, er, I'd ask you to sit down,
but the couch is full of water.
Oh, that's all right.
I'd better find that Moses.
Would you have
some coffee beans?
I had a whole little sack
just float away.
You were lucky up here.
I'm looking for Dash.
Has he been around?
Lucille disliked
school even more than I.
Her ears turned red
just at the thought of it.
Just after school took up again,
she was wrongly accused
of cheating in a history test
and had to stand out in front
of the whole class.
She stayed home for a week.
Sylvie didn't seem
to mind or worry
because Lucille's symptoms never
included fever or loss of appetite.
Listen to this.
"Please excuse Lucille's absence.
"She had pains in her wrists and knees,
"a buzzing in her ears, a sore tongue,
"faintness, a stomach ache
and double vision,
"but not fever or loss of appetite.
"I did not call the doctor
"because she always seemed quite well
by nine-thirty or ten in the morning."
Well, we'll have to get her
to write another one.
Say you lost it.
What if they call her?
She never answers the phone.
I'm not going to school.
What'll you tell Sylvie?
Maybe I won't go home.
Where will you go?
Down to the lake, maybe.
It'll be cold.
I'll go, too.
Then we'll both be in trouble.
This prospect seemed
oddly familiar and comfortable.
We expected someone to step out
from behind a rabbit hutch
or the sheets on a clothes line
and question us,
but no-one did.
We spent every day
that week at the lake.
We had no choice
but to wait until we were caught.
Every day
the situation grew worse,
until we began to find a giddy
and heavy-hearted pleasure in it.
I suppose the very worst thing
would be the sheriff.
Yeah, that would be the worst.
We were cold,
bored, lonely and guilty,
and longing to be caught.
Why does she buy
these stupid shoes?
She likes the colours.
I don't mind them.
Rosette Brown's mother takes her
to Spokane just to buy shoes.
And she gets ballet lessons.
Her mother sews all the costumes.
There's Sylvie.
She's looking for us.
But Sylvie only
looked out across the lake,
or up at the sky if a gull cried,
or at the ground at her feet.
She didn't seem to notice us.
We'd been waiting all week
to be caught.
Sylvie's behaviour
was annoying.
Then it became frightening.
Ain't our business.
I had no idea it was so late.
I thought it would be hours
before school got out.
School isn't out
Oh! Then I was right
after all.
The one thirty-five just came through,
so it must still be pretty early.
Oh, boy, I've been wanting
to do that for the longest time.
You know, I'm sure I could
feel it shaking.
What if you fell in?
Oh, I was pretty careful.
If you fell in, everyone would
think you did it on purpose.
Even us.
I guess that's true.
I, I didn't mean to upset you.
Really, I thought you would be in school.
We didn't go to school this week.
But, you see, I didn't know that.
It never crossed my mind
that you'd be here.
Sylvie's attitude to
our truancy was... unsatisfactory.
As Lucille said,
"Any decent person would have
dragged us back to school by the ears."
Sometimes it felt that
we were looking after Sylvie,
instead of
the other way around.
- The beads are so pretty.
- Yeah.
Oh, it fits!
But no matter how much
Lucille and I worried about Sylvie,
we didn't talk about her.
We were afraid to
put our thoughts into words,
but we watched her...
very closely.
Clearly our aunt was
an unusual person.
Happy birthday to you
- Happy birth...
- Sylvie!
...birthday dear Ruthie
Happy birthday to you
When we did go back
to school, nobody questioned us.
They said our circumstances
were special.
This was a relief,
but it meant that Sylvie was
already drawing attention to herself.
As soon as the weather allowed,
we stopped going to school altogether.
Although we still left home every
morning, as a courtesy to Sylvie.
I felt an odd affinity with the hoboes
who gathered at the bridge.
There we all were
on a chill spring morning,
in unsuitable clothes,
wordlessly passing the time
by the lake,
like the marooned survivors
of some wreck.
When summer came, we would spend
whole days high up in the woods.
We remembered
Grandma telling us
she had gone there to hunt for
wildflowers with Edmund, her husband.
He used to wear a necktie and
Sunday suit even to stalk the forest.
Tra la la, tweedle-dee dee-dee
It gives me a thrill
Gone are the days
When he would take me on his knee
And with a smile.
He'd change my tears to laughter.
Oh my papa
So funny, so adorable
Always the clown
So funny in his way
We shouldn't be here.
We should be doing
other kinds of things.
What things?
We're just hiding up here.
Usually we started for home
when we smelled the hoboes' supper.
A little like fish
and a little like rubber.
And so we would return to the house
that had become Sylvie's.
Where we would find her
"enjoying the evening",
which is how she described
her habit of sitting in the dark.
It was pleasant when she remembered
to scold us for coming home late
or getting our shoes wet.
What did you do today, Sylvie?
Oh, I walked around.
Collecting newspapers.
Oh, I met a really nice lady
at the station.
She was travelling all the way
through from South Dakota
to Portland to see
her cousin hanged.
Why do you get involved
with such trashy people?
It's embarrassing.
I didn't get involved.
She couldn't even
come for supper.
You asked her?
She was afraid she'd
miss her connection.
They're always real prompt
about hanging people.
See, she's his only relative,
except for his father,
and he was the one
that got strangled.
I thought it was very
kind of her to make the trip.
I wouldn't say "trashy",
She didn't strangle anybody.
Where's your husband, Sylvie?
I doubt he knows where I am.
How long were you married?
Well, I'm married now, Lucille.
Why don't you live with him?
Well, you can't be good at everything.
Pass the ketchup, please.
Where is he?
Is he a sailor?
Is he in jail?
Mmm, you make him sound
so mysterious.
So, he's not in jail.
We've been out of touch
for some time now.
I don't think you ever
had a husband.
Think what you like, Lucille.
My husband, Lucille,
was a soldier when I met him.
He fought in the Pacific.
Actually, he repaired
motors and things.
I'll find a picture.
At first, Lucille imagined that our
uncle had died or disappeared in the war,
and that this had deranged
Sylvie with grief.
But, after what happened the very
next day, she forgave Sylvie nothing.
You just don't make friends
with people like that, Ruthie.
People that ride around on their backs
underneath trains to go see hangings.
It is so trashy.
Don't look at the ground so much.
Oh, no!
What do we do?
Wake her up, I guess.
You wake her up.
What a nice surprise.
And you know what?
I just happened to have
a surprise for you.
That still your favorite? Chomps?
Oh, Ruthie, look at this.
There's this woman
in Oklahoma
and she lost her arm
in an aircraft factory
and, look, she still
manages to support
six children by
giving piano lessons.
Where's Lucille?
Home, I reckon.
Well, that's fine, actually.
I'm glad to have
a chance to talk to you.
You're so quiet, it's hard
to know what you think.
I suppose I don't know
what I think.
Well, maybe that'll change.
And maybe it won't.
You miss too much school.
Childhood doesn't last forever,
you know,
and you might be sorry someday.
Boy, pretty soon you're
gonna be as tall as I am.
Now we find you
asleep on a bench!
Lucille, I wasn't sleeping.
Probably nobody saw her.
In the middle of town?
And the middle of the afternoon?
She's leaving.
She always does that.
She just wanders away.
What if she really leaves?
It could be worse.
I don't know what keeps her here.
I think she'd really rather
jump on a train.
It's not a country.
I was afraid you'd already
gone to bed.
I left these on the park bench.
They're all over
down at the station.
You see, I had
an idea about pancakes.
Your mother and I used to go
to that same place.
We were close, then.
Like you two.
We always forget Latvia.
We always forgot
Or Andorra.
Or San Marino.
Is she leaving?
No, she's just going to sleep
in the orchard.
I was pleased when Sylvie took
to washing the mountains of tin cans
that had collected around the house,
Perhaps Sylvie thought they
gave particular offence to Lucille.
Or maybe she just
liked the effect of her work.
They looked very bright,
and sound and orderly.
I was touched by her efforts.
It was an improvement
in its own way.
Put a dress on. I'll fix your hair.
Not that.
Sit down and I'll fix your hair.
Your hair is like straw.
Don't move.
I didn't.
Well, don't.
We'll get some setting gel
at the drugstore.
- Do you have any money?
- Forty five cents.
I have some.
My hair has curls already.
It curls the wrong way.
My, you both look so nice!
You just make people notice it more.
Notice what?
Why don't you keep up with me?
Then we can talk.
What about?
What do other people talk about?
Anyway, you look strange
following me like that.
I think I'll go home.
Don't go home.
I brought money for Cokes.
Hi, Georgette.
Can we sit down?
Er, sure, go ahead.
What do you think, Lucille?
I'm going to make a one-piece
with big white buttons
all the way down the front.
That's a really nice cloth.
Marie has the same in blue.
I'm making a jacket.
But I've never done shoulders before.
Oh, boy!
Are shoulders difficult?
They have pads and things.
It's a lot of sewing.
So, what are you doing
with your hair?
Oh, it's just a wave-set.
I think I might cut it some,
Oh, yeah,
that would suit you.
Right off your shoulder.
Kinda like this.
Neat, eh? You could
wear it longer if you wanted.
What do you think, Ruthie?
We should get this, huh?
I just wanna go home.
Don't! That's
Sylvie's house now.
We have to improve ourselves,
starting right now.
Well, I'll talk to you
about it later.
Come here, Ruthie.
I'm making a skirt and jacket.
It can be a two-piece,
or the jacket can be worn
with different skirts
like a brown or a cream.
The skirt can be worn
with a blouse.
It'll be coordinated.
It'll go with my hair.
You'll have to help me.
The instructions'll tell us
how to do it.
We'll need a dictionary.
Look up 'pinking shears'.
What are you doing?
The dictionary's full of flowers.
He put them in the right places.
The pansies are at 'P',
and the roses at 'R'.
Let me see it.
Pinking shears.
What'll we do with the flowers?
Why won't you help me?
You just don't wanna help.
I want to keep the flowers.
Fine, I won't help.
Well you were never going to!
You were just looking for
an excuse not to help,
and you found it!
Very nice. Thanks a lot!
I can do it myself, you know.
You're no help, anyway.
All you ever do is stand around
like some stupid zombie!
I can't hear you, Lucille.
You'll have to speak a little louder.
Oh, right. Very funny.
Really clever.
What's gotten into you girls?
Don't come in, Ruthie.
I didn't even bother
to take the pins out.
I'm really sorry.
It's not your fault.
You wouldn't've been
any help, anyway.
I'm much worse at those things
than you are.
I'm not mad anymore.
Neither am I.
I know you can't help
the way you are.
I know you can't help
the way you are, either.
I don't have to.
I'm not like that.
Like what?
Like Sylvie.
It wasn't just a fuss about
some old flowers, Ruthie.
It was more than that.
We've spent
too much time together.
We need other friends.
I need other friends.
I can't wait to leave this place.
- The house?
- The whole town!
I think I'll go to Boston.
No, you won't.
Why Boston?
Because it isn't Fingerbone.
That's why.
I've tried to help you,
But the problem is you spend
too much time looking out of windows.
When you're tired of that,
we could go to the lake.
Go away, Ruthie.
I'll lock myself in the bathroom
if I have to, Ruthie.
On the first day of school,
Lucille slipped out of the house
early without me.
I saw her,
far ahead of me,
in her bright white Oxfords
and crisp white blouse.
"Well," I thought,
"she's alone, too."
You girls missed
half a year of school last year.
What are we going to do
about that?
You can give us extra homework
We can catch up.
Well, you're bright girls.
What we really have to hope for
is a change of attitude.
My attitude has changed.
So you don't need to hear
my little sermon, Lucille?
No, I don't.
And what about you, Ruth?
I mean, I guess not.
You guess not?
I don't know if she'll
work harder this year or not.
She will or she won't.
You can't really talk to her
about practical things.
They don't matter to her.
She's growing up.
Education should matter.
What does matter to you, Ruth?
That's what I mean by
a problem of attitude.
She hasn't figured out
what matters to her yet.
She likes trees.
Maybe she'll be a
botanist or something.
Are you going to be
a botanist, Ruth?
No. I don't think so.
You're gonna
have to learn
to speak for yourself and
think for yourself, that's for sure.
She has her own ways.
That was the only time
Lucille and I spent together at school.
I saw her often,
but she avoided me.
It's getting cold again,
isn't it, Ruthie?
You've got
a fish in your pocket.
Yes, yes, I do,
and I'm gonna fry it up
right now.
Where's Lucille?
Lucille didn't
eat with us anymore.
Sylvie was sad
about this, clearly,
for she had no stories
at all to tell me.
It really was cold today.
There's more soup.
Oh, no.
Have a good time,
Don't stay out too late.
I have somewhere
really pretty to show you.
You do?
- I do.
- What?
it's this little valley
where somebody's built a house
and an orchard,
a long time ago,
and it hardly gets any sun,
so the frost stays
on the ground all day long.
The grass actually cracks when you
walk on it, the frost is so thick.
You might like it.
- Where is it?
- North.
See, I found this little boat.
I don't think anyone owns it
and it doesn't leak or anything.
I mean, not much.
- I'd like to go.
- You would?
- Yeah.
- Tomorrow?
I have to study tomorrow.
How about Monday?
I could write you a note.
Monday I have a test.
That's why...
- That's why I have to study.
- Oh, okay.
Another day then?
- Yes.
- Okay.
Are you going to study tonight?
I have a book report to write.
You know, I should read.
I don't know why I stopped.
I always enjoyed it.
Do you think I could
sit with you?
All right.
Hi Ruthie.
Hi Lucille.
Was the dance nice?
It was okay.
Well, tell me about it.
I'm really tired.
I'll sleep downstairs.
You should at least
throw something over her.
Are you there, Lucille?
Lucille had gone in her
dancing dress and apricot slippers
to the home of Miss Royce,
the Home Economics teacher.
She had walked around the house rapping
at the windows until she woke her up.
I tried phoning all morning,
Mrs. Fisher.
Huh, that's strange.
They talked through the night
about Lucille's troubles at home,
and Miss Royce gave her
the spare room.
In effect, she adopted her,
and I had no sister after that night.
She said
you could have her things.
She doesn't want any
of her clothes.
Maybe she doesn't
plan to be gone long.
Maybe she doesn't.
Poor Ruthie.
Maybe we'll be better friends.
There really are some things
I wanna show you.
But that's Monday.
You can write me a note.
All right.
We're gonna have
to leave really early.
I'll make some food tonight
and we can go to bed
right after supper.
All right.
Get up.
Time to wake up.
Wake up, wake up,
wake up, wake up!
I bet you're glad
you kept your clothes on. Huh?
Come on.
- Do we have to hurry?
- Yes, we have to hurry.
The boat's not where I left it.
Well, we're just gonna
have to look for it.
Sometimes it takes a while,
but I always find it.
Let's try over there.
Sometimes it's covered
with branches.
Someone's trying to hide it.
I know. Can you believe it?
I always put it
right back where I find it.
I don't care if other people use it,
just as long as they take care of it.
Don't worry, Ruthie.
We're so early,
nobody could've gotten here first.
Oh, there it is!
Boy, someone sure
went to a lot of trouble.
There's a man yelling at us.
Oh, I know.
I have to sit in that seat.
You come back here, lady!
Lady, you come back here!
Ignore him.
Lady, come on back.
He always does that.
Lady, will you come back!
He thinks someone's watching
and he just carries on even more.
- Come on back here!
- It's pitiful.
He's going to have
a heart attack some day.
It must be his boat.
Either that or he's...
he's some sort of lunatic.
Come on back!
I'm certainly not
going back to find out.
Lady, you come on back!
Sylvie's coat
and shoes were soaking wet
from our bare escape
from the shore.
I found myself wondering if that was why
she came home with fish in her pockets.
The dawn reminded me
of Grandpa's paintings.
Sylvie thought so, too.
You wouldn't believe how many people
live out here in the mountains, Ruthie.
Sometimes you'll see
a little smoke in the woods.
There might be a cabin there
with ten children in it.
Have you ever seen any?
Sometimes if I think I see smoke,
I go walking towards it.
And, now and then, I'm pretty sure
there's children around me.
I can practically hear them.
That's one of the reasons
I always keep crackers in my pockets.
And you can hear them?
You're gonna think I'm...
a little crazy, but...
I tried to catch one once.
Not trap it, but, you know...
lure it out with marshmallows
so I could see it.
I mean, what would
I do with another child?
So, you have seen them?
Well, I stuck these marshmallows on
these twigs of one of the apple trees,
and then I just sort of
sat to the side and waited,
but it never came out.
I was a little bit relieved, actually.
I mean, a child like that
might claw or bite, you know.
But I did wanna look at it.
Now you're in on my secret.
Maybe you'll have better luck.
I'll try.
At least we don't have to hurry.
It was always so hard
getting back for you and Lucille.
It's pretty, isn't it?
It's pretty, but I don't see how
anyone would want to live here.
Oh, it's real pretty
when the sun gets here.
You'll see in a little while.
It's kind of cold.
But you wanna watch
for the children?
Oh, yes.
Well, then I think
you'd better just stay in one place,
and be very, very quiet.
It was an odd place
for a homestead.
The sun could barely
reach over the mountains to it.
I told you it was pretty.
I knew why Sylvie felt
there were children in the woods.
I felt so, too.
But I didn't think so.
I knew that if I turned around,
however quickly, they would be gone,
even if they spoke just at my ear.
And those children around me
were light and spare and wild,
and thoroughly used to the cold.
It was almost a joke to them
to be cast out in the woods.
"It's better to have nothing, "
they were saying.
"It's better to have nothing."
It's good if they see us eating.
I couldn't quite see them.
Another time.
Another time.
Come here.
Why are we staying out here,
We're waiting for the train.
It shouldn't be long now.
Sylvie had no awareness of time.
For her, hours and minutes
were the names of trains.
We were waiting for
the ten fifty-two.
Oh! I was just wool-gathering
and all then, of a sudden,
it was right there on top of us.
Wasn't it loud, though?
I wish you'd sit down.
You know what?
I think the train might be
just about under us here.
They threw a wreath in the water
after the ice had gone.
And all those people
came in from the hills.
It was like the fourth of July,
but the bunting was black.
Ruthie, don't worry,
there's nothing to be afraid of.
Nothing at all.
The lake must be full of people.
I've heard stories all my life.
You can bet there were a lot of people
on that train nobody knew about.
You know, I never
thought about it as stealing.
You know, you just find yourself
an empty place, out of everybody's way.
No harm done.
No-one even knows you're there.
Everybody rode that train, Ruthie.
It was almost new, you know.
It was really famous.
At least, everybody
said they'd ridden on it.
There must've been a lot
of people in the freight cars.
Who knows how many.
All of them sleeping.
Let's think of a song.
All right.
Oh, what a day, what a day!
I used to know this woman
who said that all the time.
She said, "What a day!"
And she always
made it sound so sad.
Where is she now?
Oh, who knows?
I wish I had a piece of pie.
Er, I wish I had a hamburger.
Well, I wish I had...
a mink coat.
Erm, I wish
I had a hot water bottle.
Stop gamblin',
stop your ramblin'
Quit staying out late at night
Come home to your wife
and your family
Sit by the fireside bright
Irene, goodnight
Irene, goodnight
Goodnight, Irene
Goodnight, Irene
I'll see you in my dreams
Get a moon tan.
Come on, Ruthie.
Come on. Hurry.
Come on, girl.
She's getting growed.
She's a good girl.
Like you always said.
Don't mind if they stare, Ruthie.
Just ignore them.
Go on!
Oh, God...
Oh, I'm too tired to eat!
Oh, here.
Sleep is best
when you're really tired.
You don't just sleep...
You die.
Can we talk somewhere?
Yeah, sure.
I'm worried about you.
We could go to the drugstore.
No, let's go somewhere else.
Do you come here a lot?
On my way home.
It's just a place, Lucille.
Sylvie packed a lunch.
We roasted marshmallows.
It was fine.
But you were out there all night,
and everybody knows.
That was just because
of the wind.
There was only
this much water in the boat.
- You were sinking?
- No!
It was fine.
We sang songs.
I bet she loved it.
- Being stranded.
- She was fine.
Any decent person
would have been scared.
I can't explain it to you,
I just want the best for you.
You can't stay with her.
Don't worry.
I can't explain it,
but everything's fine.
Hello, Ruthie.
School out?
Then everything's all right here,
and you aren't wanting for anything?
No, not a thing.
But, thank you.
Tell you what.
I think I'll ask Mrs. Jardine and
some of her ladies from the church
to come up here
just to say "Hello".
Oh, no, no, that
wouldn't be necessary.
I, er... I think I'll do that,
Mrs. Fisher. Would that be okay?
But, see, there's
really no need at all.
Really, we're fine.
Well, I...
I think I'll do it, anyway.
Can I help you move this sofa?
Oh, no.
We're just airing it out.
But, thank you.
What do you think?
I don't know.
I don't know what to think.
Do you think she grows them?
I don't know.
- Sylvie?
- Hello.
- How are you?
- Hello.
- Hi.
- How are you?
Fine, thank you.
You don't remember us.
I'm Mrs. Jardine.
- Mrs. Walker, Mrs. Paterson.
- Selina.
- We went to school together.
- Hello.
Er, we've brought you
a few things.
Can we come in for a little visit?
Er, well, no,
I'm just doing some cleaning.
Oh, we'll only be a minute.
I've brought a casserole.
I'll just bring it in.
Er... could I get you
some coffee?
Oh, don't bother, dear.
We just came by to leave the things.
There's a nice scarf
and some mittens in here.
Would you like to take a seat,
at least?
So, how are you getting on
out here on your own, Sylvie?
Have you made any friends?
We, er, haven't seen you in church.
Well, it's quiet,
but I don't mind that.
There aren't so many
people your own age around here.
It's true.
But you
and Ruthie are together a lot.
Oh, yes.
All the time now.
She's like another sister to me.
She's her mother all over again.
Do you hear anything
from their father?
Or Mr. Fisher?
Your husband, dear.
Do you know why we're
asking all these questions?
Some of us feel that Ruthie,
that a young girl,
needs an orderly life.
She's had
so much trouble and sorrow.
So much.
Yes, she has.
It's the Lord's truth. It's a pity.
Really, she's all right.
She looks so sad.
She is sad.
I mean, she should be sad.
I don't mean she "should be",
but, I mean, who wouldn't be?
That's how it is with family.
Like now,
when I look at Ruthie,
I can see Helen, too.
And my father, you know.
I can't even remember what
he was like when he was alive, and...
ever since, it's...
It's Papa here and Papa there,
and dreams...
I lost my girl sixteen
years ago in June.
And her face is before me now.
Families should stay together.
But, Sylvie, you have to
keep her off the freight trains.
- What?
- Well, she shouldn't be riding
around in freight cars.
Oh, no!
No, that was just that one time.
We were so tired, you know.
You see, we'd been out all night
and that was the fastest way home.
Out where?
On the lake.
In that little boat?
It's a perfectly good boat.
It doesn't look like much,
but it's all right.
Well, we won't
keep you any longer, dear.
Do you collect newspapers,
What d'you keep them for?
Do you read them all?
Yes, I do.
Or you can use 'em
to light a fire.
Or roll them up to swat flies.
Or for insulation.
A lot of things.
Did you hear what they said?
Well, what d'you think now?
Well, we could fix it up
around here.
Some of the stuff would go
in the shed, I suppose.
It might be an idea.
This is nice.
What a mess it was.
I was up the whole night.
sit down
and eat your breakfast.
You'll be late for school.
Shouldn't I stay home
and help?
No, Ruthie,
you go to school.
Now, let's see. Erm...
I'll help you
brush your hair out,
and I'll iron your skirt.
They'll like that.
You've got to look nice,
Just a sec.
Now, stand up straight.
Smile at people.
There'll be a hearing, Mrs. Fisher.
That's about all
we can say right now.
Good evening.
Hello, Ruthie.
Excuse us grown folks.
We have to talk.
It would be a terrible thing to do.
There'll be a hearing.
D'you know what they wanna do?
I don't think they can.
Do you?
I don't know.
No, I don't think so, either.
It would be terrible.
They know that.
Just because we spent
the night out on the lake.
Well, I'll just explain it to them.
Don't worry, Ruthie.
I'll explain it all to them.
We burned papers and
magazines until well after dark.
Again and again,
Sylvie stepped out of the firelight,
returning with armfuls
of things to be burned.
We felt that the whole of
Fingerbone was watching us,
aware of everything we did.
Sylvie couldn't help
acting to this unseen audience
gathered somewhere
beyond the firelight.
I don't know why
we didn't do this months ago.
This isn't the sort of book
you should be reading.
I don't even know
how it got in the house.
It was a library book.
We'll buy some clothes.
We'll get you something
in very good taste, like...
Like, maybe, a suit?
Well, you're gonna
need it for church, anyway.
- What?
- That's right.
And, let's see, erm...
We'll set your hair.
When you fix yourself up,
you make a very nice impression.
You really do, Ruthie.
Oh, and I'll order
a chicken for Thanksgiving.
I was thinking maybe
we could invite Lucille.
And Miss Royce, too.
We should go in now.
- It's getting cold.
- You're absolutely right.
You go on in and I'll just
put some more dirt on the fire.
Ruthie, are you upstairs?
Come in!
Come in where it's warm.
I'll get you something
good to eat.
Mrs. Fisher?
Mrs. Fisher?
Mrs. Fisher?
Mrs. Fisher?
Oh, evening, Mrs. Fisher.
Everything all right here?
I seen all the lights.
Yeah, everything's all right.
The little girl is fine?
Yeah, she's fine.
With her light on?
Yeah, I guess so.
Don't usually see the place
all lit up like this, this time of night.
Yeah, well...
Could I see the little girl?
- Could you what?
- Could I see Ruthie?
- She's upstairs sleeping?
- That's right.
Well then, it can't hurt
if I just peek in the door.
No, see, she's a very light sleeper,
and it would wake her up.
I'll just go upstairs
in my stockin' feet.
It won't be no bother,
I promise you.
Where is she, Mrs. Fisher?
She's round the house somewhere.
Well, then, I'll just step in,
say "Good evening" to her.
No, she's not inside.
She's outside.
Oh, I think she's probably in the orchard.
I was just looking for her.
You can't find her?
No, see...
She won't let me. It's, er...
Well, it's like a game.
Ruthie, would you like to come
home to my house tonight?
I got lots of room.
The missus sure would be
glad for your company.
I'm just on my way
down to Lewistone.
They got the Cranshaw boy.
He stole a car down there.
I'll be gone half the night.
I wanna stay here.
- You're sure now?
- Yes.
Let's go inside.
What were you doing
out in the cold,
with no coat on,
in the middle of the night,
with school tomorrow?
Come on with me
to my house.
My wife is a heck of a cook,
I can tell you that.
- We got apple pie at our house.
- No.
No, thank you.
No, thank you.
I don't have to tell you
to get to bed now, do I?
I'm gonna be
keeping my eye on you.
I wanna see you in school
tomorrow, y'hear?
I want you to be here
tomorrow, now.
I wanna talk to you
Yes, sir.
That was worse than useless.
We had to leave.
We have to hurry.
Get the suitcases.
I couldn't stay, and
Sylvie wouldn't stay without me.
Now, truly, we were
cast out to wander,
and there was
an end to housekeeping.
Oh, no, look.
They'll find out right away
we're not inside,
come looking for us.
Come on.
Oh... Oh...
What a mess!
We can hide in the woods.
They'll use dogs.
One thing we could do.
Cross the bridge.
The dogs wouldn't dare follow,
and nobody'd believe
them anyway.
Nobody's ever done that.
Crossed that bridge.
Not that anyone knows of.
We gotta go, if we're goin'.
Are you buttoned up?
You should have a hat.
It's not the worst
thing, Ruthie,
moving around.
You'll see.
You'll see!
What if a train comes?
There's no train till the morning.
Let's go.
Come on, Ruthie.
We'll catch the six-ten
to Spokane.
And be in Portland
by noon.
There are trains to everywhere
from Portland.
Come on, Ruthie.
It's not so bad.
She always does that.
She just wanders away.