BEGGING FOR CHANGE: NOTHING GOOD COMES OF BAD MONEY
The classroom. Raspberry is sitting at her desk. An announcement comes over the PA system.
Anncr: Would Strawberry Fields come to the office. That’s Strawberry Fields, come to the office.
(Raspberry gets up, walks out of class and makes her way down to the principal’s office.)
Secretary: Raspberry, you’re mother has been attacked. You better go to the hospital right away.
(A bunch of kids come storming into the office.)
Kid 1: You said you were gonna play “Strawberry Fields” over the PA system.
Secretary: No I didn’t. I was calling a student to the office.
(The kids tear the office apart.)
The hospital room. Raspberry is sitting beside her mother’s bed. The TV is on.
Anncr: A woman was viciously attacked with a lead pipe today as she stood outside her apartment building. The perpetrator has been identified as Shaketa Nixon, a close friend of the victim who lives only two doors up the street from her. When reached for comment, Shaketa Nixon told our newsteam, “I am not a crook.”
(Raspberry’s father walks into the room.)
James Hill: I’m so sorry about what happened. I was at McDonald’s, you know, trying to collect all the Finding Nemo Happy Meal toys, and I saw it on the news. Well, I must be going now. Give Daddy some sugar, baby girl. (Raspberry kisses him) No, some actual sugar, for my coffee. The lady forgot to put any in.
Dr. Mitchell’s car. Raspberry is lying on the back seat.
Dr. Mitchell: Raspberry, do you want to stop for pizza before we take you back to our house for the night?
Raspberry: Pizza be fine.
Dr. Mitchell: All right, then.
(They pull up to the pizza place. Dr. Mitchell, Zora and Raspberry get out of the car and enter the restaurant.)
Spiros: Hey ugly man, hey beautiful ladies. What you want.
Dr. Mitchell: The girls will have the Greek pizza, and I will have the frog legs. Oh, and could I get that with a bottle of 1941 Chateau Le Vie de Rothchild?
Spiros: You got it. Before I can serve you the frog legs, though, I have to chase it down the alley.
Dr. Mitchell: Oh, I’ll help you do that.
Spiros: Right this way.
Zora: I’ll help you too, Daddy. Raspberry, watch my purse for me.
(Spiros, Dr. Mitchell and Zora exit. Raspberry takes a wad of bills out of Zora’s purse, then puts most of it back.)
Dr. Mitchell’s car. Dr. Mitchell pulls up to Raspberry’s apartment.
Dr. Mitchell: Now remember, just go in there, collect a few things and make sure the place is all right. Don’t take too long. (On the steps of the apartment building, Dr. Mitchell, Zora and Raspberry notice people smoking marijuana and drinking whisky) We’ll come back for your things some other time.
Raspberry: You was raised in the projects, Dr. Mitchell. Don’t you know how to fight?
(Dr. Mitchell gets out of the car.)
Dr. Mitchell: You wait here.
Girl 1: You better get back in your ride if you know what’s good for you.
Miracle Nixon: Hey Raspberry.
(She makes her way over to the car.)
Dr. Mitchell: Raspberry can’t talk to anyone right now.
Miracle: I just wanna see her, Pops. Hey Raspberry, tell your mother to chill and lay off Shaketa. (Bangs her fist on the roof of the car) You hear me, girl?
Raspberry: Everybody saw what Shaketa did.
Miracle: Your mother was always pickin on her, so she got what she got.
(People start throwing bottles at the car.)
Zora: (Opens door) Daddy! (A bottle comes flying through the door and smashes the window on the other side) I didn’t see that coming.
Dr. Mitchell: Lock the doors and windows, now. (To the people on the steps) You hit her mother with a pipe, and now you want to go after me and my kids?
(Zora dials 911 on her cell phone.)
Operator: Yo, 911.
Zora: My dad’s a cop, I mean a doctor, and he needs help.
Operator: Don’t worry, he a cop, he can take care of hisself.
Zora: No, he’s a doctor.
Operator: He a cop.
Zora: No, he’s a doctor.
Operator: Look, foo’, he a cop. He take care o’ hisself.
Shaketa: Look, it’s your mother’s fault for tryin to live like a decent human bein. She should be ‘shamed o’ herself.
(Dr. Mitchell gets back into the car and they speed away.)
May’s driveway. May, Raspberry and Janai are playing basketball.
Janai: Your family’s cursed.
Raspberry: A lot of black families are cursed.
(May’s mother and father enter.)
Mrs. Kim: We’re back from picking up the chicken feet and collard greens.
(They go into the house.)
Janai: Look at all the bad stuff that’s happened to you over the past few years.
Zora: Yeah, first your father went on dope, then you and your mother moved in with friends until y’all got kicked out. You were homeless for a while, then you moved into the projects and was robbed.
Raspberry: Zora, you’re not helping. Besides, your family got problems too, like … all those problems you have.
Mrs. Kim: (Sticking her head out the door) Why are you two being so mean.
Zora: We didn’t mean—
Mrs. Kim: Go make yourselves useful. Come help me unpack the groceries. The collard greens don’t look so good, but if you scrape off the hard and wilted parts they aren’t so bad.
May: They’re completely hard and wilted.
Mrs. Kim: Oh, never mind, then.
(Janai follows Mrs. Kim into the house. )
Raspberry: It’ll be time to go soon. Mama should be done her catscan by now.
(May sinks a basket. Her sleeve rolls up, revealing a brand new tattoo which says ONE HUNDRED PERCENT BLACK.)
Zora: Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, when did you do it.
May: Got it done yesterday. Don’t touch it. It still hurts.
(Janai comes out of the house and notices the tattoo.)
Janai: What you wrote on your arm ain’t even true.
May: It’s like, a joke or something.
Mr. Kim: (From the kitchen) May, you have branded yourself like a slave.
Janai: Like you would know about that.
Mr. Kim: Actually,
many centuries ago and made the people their slaves.
Janai: (Running away) Aaahhhhhh, knowledge.
The hospital room. Raspberry enters. Her father is there. There is a man sleeping on the bed.
James: Hey, baby girl. This Shabooboo. Shabooboo, wake yo’ butt up. This my daughter, Raspberry.
Shabooboo: Hey, there. Your father and I went to high school. Who’da thought we’d end up on the streets together? Regular pals. Friends for life. Partners in our success.
James: Well, we better get out of here soon.
Virginia never could
stand no riffraff. Do you wanna use her shower and her toothbrush before we go?
Shabooboo: Sure, I do dat shortly.
James: Not before me, you ain’t
(He goes into the bathroom.)
Shabooboo: Well, while your father’s in the shower, we might as well get this party started. We gonna crank up the godfather of soul, Mr. James Brown.
(He pulls a small cassette recorder out of his pocket. An old James Brown cassette starts to play. Shabooboo pulls out a bottle of whisky, drinks and starts dancing around wildly. Raspberry passes out.)
Outside Raspberry’s apartment building. Raspberry and Sallow are hanging out. Raspberry is drinking a pop.
Raspberry: I’m so thankful the local TV station held a telethon for Mama and me. It raised five thousand dollars.
Sallow: Yeah, yo’ mama probably down at the car dealership right now buyin a new ride.
Raspberry: Ha, yo’ mama don’t even have a car. She walkin. In fact, isn’t that her walkin down the street right now?
Sallow: Jeez, it is. How about a sip of your pop.
Raspberry: No. I don’t want your germs.
Sallow: Give me your ****ing pop. (He playfully takes it from her and runs down the street. Raspberry chases after him. They run two blocks in about five seconds) Shoot, I’m all out of breath. Let’s sit down over here on this rusty old car.
(Sallow sits on the car and it collapses.)
Sallow: Shoot, I think somebody lives in there.
Raspberry: You owe me fifty cents for that pop.
Sallow: Screw you. You got money.
The courtroom. The judge, the district attorney and Shaketa’s lawyer enter.
Shaketa’s Lawyer: So, what sentence do you think would be most appropriate for this girl given all the publicity it’s gotten?
Judge: Well, since the court system is so overburdened to begin with, I think it’s best if we find some way to avoid this matter going to trial altogether.
D.A.: What do you suggest. I mean, this girl’s records as thick as a phone book
(Holds up a phone book.)
Judge: No, Mr. District Attorney, that is an actual phone book.
D.A.: Well, regardless.
Shaketa’s Lawyer: How about we flip a coin.
Judge: That sounds like a good idea. Heads it goes to trial, tails it doesn’t.
D.A.: But what’ll we tell Shaketa, the victim and her daughter and of course the media?
Judge: Just say something like too many technicalities or some bull like that.
D.A.: OK, here we go.
(He pulls a quarter out of his pocket, throws it in the air, catches it, and turns it over to the back.)
Shaketa’s Lawyer: Well, that’s settled. Let’s play battleships.
Outside of Raspberry’s apartment building. Raspberry comes up the street. Her mom is sitting on the front steps, planting flowers in pots.
Raspberry: Hi Mama.
Virginia Hill: Hi, sweetheart.
Raspberry: What are you doing?
Virginia: Oh, I’m just planting some flowers. I told the old lady across the street her snapdragons looked really nice so she wanted me to take her down to the store to get some more. Oh, by the way, I have some good news.
Virginia: I got a new job. I’m goin to be workin down at the mental institution buzzing people in and out. Well, I have to go get dinner started.
(Raspberry’s mom goes into the house. Miracle comes over.)
Miracle: Apparently yo’ mama didn’t learn not to stick her nose in other people’s business.
(She pulls the flowers out of the pots and scatters them over the sidewalk.)
Raspberry: What’d you do that for?
Miracle: I’m black. Since when do I like anything beautiful. Think about it. We prefer to live in cities with crime and absentee fathers and drugs all over the place. We hate beautiful things like classical music and flowers.
The bus. Raspberry and Janai are sitting together.
Raspberry: So did you hear what happened to May?
Janai: No, what?
Raspberry: Someone snuck into her house and cut off her hair. Then they hung a sign up in the girls bathroom saying HARD TIMES AT HOME, THREE BAGS FOR $2.50.
Janai: That’s awful. It’s like I always say: when you hear a suspicious noise at night, yell FREEZE AND SMILE.
Raspberry: Well, you don’t know it was a black person. It could have been someone else disguised as a black person.
Janai: Someone in blackface? Those racists!
Raspberry: I mean it could have been a white person. There always makin trouble for us. I mean they kept us as their slaves as recently as a hundred and forty years ago.
Janai: Or it could have been the Asians themselves, making it look like a black person did it. They always tryin to get us just because are people like to order Chinese food and beat up the drivers.
The apartment. Raspberry and her mom are sitting on the couch. Ming’s father enters.
Ming’s Father: Hello, Mrs. Hill. I was so sorry to hear about what happened. I hope you are feeling better.
Virginia: I’m feeling much better, thank you.
Ming’s Father: Sorry I didn’t come visit you in the hospital. Hospitals aren’t my thing. I figure people don’t want you to come and sit with them for hours and try to make conversation when all they want to do is recover. I didn’t even go into the hospital when my mother was dying. I mean, what would I have said? So, Mom, you’re dying. How is that working out for you? Well, I must be going now. Goodbye.
(Shaketa’s lawyer enters.)
Shaketa’s Lawyer: Mrs. Hill, I am the lawyer representing Shaketa Nixon. I just came over to let you know that the judge has decided not to prosecute her.
Virginia: Why on earth not?
Shaketa’s Lawyer: No reason.
(Shaketa, Miracle and her friends can be seen down on the street starting to have a party. They are smoking weed and drinking wine.)
Shaketa: Let’s celebrate the way blacks always do. Let’s burn down the neighbourhood.
Miracle: I wouldn’t have wanted you to go to jail. You’re my sister.
Miracle starts crying. Virginia comes outside with a carioke machine.
Virginia: OK, there’s only one song that’s appropriate for a black girl on a wine crying jag because her sister has escaped going to jail.
(Virginia puts a CD in the carioke machine. “Sometimes When We Touch” comes on. Miracle starts singing. Everyone else joins in.)
White Man: Hows she goin? What’s goin on?
Shaketa: We’re celebrating because I’m not going to be charged for beating this woman with a lead pipe.
Miracle: You lookin for a fight, white boy?
White Man: Yeah, I’m always lookin for a good time. (He pulls the cork out of a bottle of wine with his teeth and drinks) Hey, did I ever tell yous about the time I went to
Daddy Joe’s Restaurant. Raspberry, Janai, May, Ming, Sallow, and Q are sitting around a table.
Raspberry: It sure was a good idea you had, May, skippin class to come here.
May: Well, I wanted to get the chance to see all you guys before I went to
for the summer.
Janai: Why you goin to
May: Oh, my parents are sending me there to live with my father’s side of the family because I’m pregnant.
May: Yeah, it’s gonna suck being around Koreans all the time. They get The Korean Black Channel. It shows all this black-oriented programming in Korean, and they walk around saying snatches of black slang to each other all the time.
(A waitress comes over.)
Waitress: So what do you wanta eat?
Sallow: Why don’t we just get a big plate of barbecue chips with vanilla pudding for the table.
Waitress: Right, then. It’ll be here when it gets here.
The apartment. Raspberry is sitting on the couch. James and a friend enter.
James: Hi, baby girl. Do your mother got any money, or do you think she’d mind me takin a few of her precious things?
Raspberry: Who’s your friend?
Friend: My name is Abduala Mohamed Husain Omar Said Ben al Akbar Khan. I am a black Moslem.
James: So how ‘bout it? I need money bad.
(He goes into the bedroom. Raspberry and the friend follow. He lifts up the carpet and starts pulling money out.)
Raspberry: Hey, daddy, that’s ours. Mama and I worked real hard for that money.
Friend: Sorry, little girl.
James: Yeah, we need some crack bad.
Raspberry: Wait, isn’t smoking crack against the tenants of Islam?
Friend: Shut up.
James: Smoking crack is my career. How dare you try and hinder me in my career.
James and the friend exit.
Based on “Begging for Change: Nothing Good Comes of Bad Money” by Sharon Flake.