TO A STRANGER
by MOLLY HOOPER
The screen is dark.
MUSIC: Minimalist but evocative, a plaintive violin and a piano. A quiet guitar joins in.
CREDIT CARD: SHERLOCK HOLMES
CREDIT CARD: JOHN WATSON
TITLE CARD: To a Stranger
CREDIT CARD: an Ang Lee film
INT. PRINCESS MARGARET CANCER CENTRE – A HALLWAY. DAY.
SMASH CUT TO:
MARK, twin brother of JAMES, is waiting on a comfortable bench in the starkly-lit hallway of the hospital while his brother is in surgery. Mark is miserably, weightedly weary. He is on the far left, seated alone, knees together, hands on his thighs, looking straight ahead. The frame is empty of anyone save him.
Slow pan out.
Slowly, the hallway grows busy – people rushing by, their faces out of frame. The world seems to be moving in fast-forward; Mark is living in slow-mo. Every gesture is a struggle through molasses.
A NURSE knocks the small table beside the sofa. the nurse catches a vase of flowers before it upends. A double-headed hydrangea blossom falls out on to the floor.
Mark picks up the flower and contemplates it.
James’ surgeon BENJAMIN comes to stand in front of MARK. His back is to the camera. He is cool and aloof, and waits for Mark to look up.
Mark takes his time raising his eyes to meet Benjamin’s, afraid of what the surgeon is about to say. He sets aside the hydrangea.
I’m Doctor Benjamin Cummings. I’m–
I know. James?
A beat. Benjamin isn’t discomfited so much as annoyed that Mark has thrown him off his spiel.
Your brother is out of surgery, and has been moved into a recovery room.
And the surgery? Did you… did you get it all?
Another long moment of silence. Benjamin doesn’t answer.
I… I see. Ah. Thank you. Doctor.
Visibly attempting to hold back tears, Mark stands up to shake Benjamin’s hand. Benjamin does not take it.
Mark drops his hand and jams it into his pocket, uncomfortable. Benjamin checks his clipboard and launches into his previously aborted spiel:
The surgery was, as far as I am allowed to say, a complete success. The cancerous tumors were
removed via laparoscopic surgery. While this form of cancer can metastasize, I am confident that
Mr. Farthing will fully recover and have a complete remission. That said, I would like to consult
with his MDTeam and schedule a follow up appointment to discuss a course of targeted
chemotherapy to prevent reccurance.
Mark is poleaxed, unable to follow what Benjamin is saying.
I… alright. I can… I can schedule an… an appointment.
See that you do. Once Mr. Farthing is awake we will be moving him into a private room.
You will be taking him home in two days.
Yes. The incision was under his left armpit, so as his caregiver you must ensure that he wears loose
clothing and does not rotate or lift his arm extensively for at least one week. This includes no video games,
no driving, and no reaching or lifting, no submersion in water until the skin has closed. Change the
butterfly bandage only after the first three days, and once per day thereafter.
But, the lump… I mean, you can’t give someone with no tits a mastectomy…
Benjamin offers Mark a scathing look.
Consult with his physiotherapist for a recovery regime.
But the breast tissue…
Mr. Farthing. With all due respect, there is a reason that I am head of the oncological surgery team here.
Ah. Yes. I just… I read–
On the internet, I presume?
Well, yes. James wanted me to ask about–
Then your brother may ask me when we meet for his followup appointment. Now, if you’ll
excuse me, Mr. Farthing, with all due respect this has been a very long day and I should like
to check up on your brother and then end it.
Wha…? Yes. Of… of course. Thank you–
Mark raises his hand to shake again, but Benjamin doesn’t even wait for him to finish his sentence before turning on his heel and walking off.
INT. PRINCESS MARGARET CANCER CENTRE – JAMES’ ROOM. DAY.To A Stranger