The Tin Farmer

By borlando

When mysterious WWII relief canisters start falling from the sky in 1945, a young Swiss man finds his fortunes change for the better, until this boon leads him down a dark road towards murder and deception.

I have a producer in NYC looking at this, but I posted this here because I feel like the main character is made for JGL. Of course, he would have to speak French. But that's no biggie, right?



A dark, empty living room. Light classical music plays from another room. The piece ends and an announcer comes on the radio.

That was Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony,
performed by the Swiss National
Orchestra. Now for today’s war update.
March 8th, 1945. In Japan U.S.
bombings have destroyed large
sections of the Imperial Palace.
Fleet Admiral Nimitz declared
yesterday that the bombings will
continue until Hirohito surrenders.

The announcements continue as a few photographs come into view. The photos show two young boys smiling next to their father.

In Russia, Stalin’s forces, 18 million
strong, continue to push the Germans
west, outnumbering the Nazis four to
one. Reports from Berlin indicate
Gestapo intelligence are beginning
to burn secret papers, while in
northwestern Germany the French
First Army, composed of French and
Swiss soldiers, continues to push
through the Siegfried Line. Reports
estimate the Allies will break the
line in a few days. Meanwhile in


In the dim light a hand sweeps out from a dark lump and knocks the radio to the floor, ending the broadcast with a crash.

Nicolas Grousch, a disheveled, underfed twenty-year-old man turns on the lamp next to the bed. His face shows serious signs of fatigue beyond just waking and he wears a few days of stubble. Nicolas rolls out of bed, rubs his eyes, steps on the radio.

Damn it!

He kicks the radio into the wall and quickly settles back into his depressed state as he walks out of the bedroom, through the small neatly-arranged living room and pulls a record album from the stack on the table, puts a classical album on the record player and walks into the kitchen.

He groggily opens one cabinet after another, fining nothing until he pulls out a tin of coffee. He opens the tin and turns it over but only a few brown grains fall to the counter, to which Nicolas has little reaction. In the bread box he finds a quarter loaf of bread and a can of corn. He knocks the stale loaf against the counter, opens the can, spreads the corn over the bread, grabs the cold kettle on the stove and pours the remaining sludge into a cup. He then wraps a blanket around his pajamas, walks to the door, replaces his slippers with boots and steps outside onto his barren farm, leaving the main door open as the music plays in the background.

Following the road to his left Nicolas walks through the overgrown fields, passing the dilapidated barn on his right. He carries the cold coffee in one hand, the corned bread in the other and sips and takes bites as he walks.

Finally he reaches a lone sickly cow standing, staring at him from the middle of a patch of tall weeds. Nicolas stops in front of the cow, takes another bite, another sip, puts the remaining bread in the cow’s mouth and waits while the cow chews. When the cow finishes the bread he lets her slurp the remaining coffee as the wind picks up, and in the background the door of the house slams shut and the music cuts off. For a few seconds he waits while the cow licks her lips.

Why don’t you go in the barn?

He pets the cow and waits for an answer, and when none comes he bends down and wraps his arms around the emaciated animal’s back. He tries to pull her towards the barn but the cow fights him.

Go to the barn!

After another few seconds he gives up, takes a deep breath and begins his walk back to the house. The wind is stronger. A whooshing that is separate from the wind begins to fill the air. Nicolas looks around and finally looks up as the giant metal canister attached to the giant parachute is about to crash into the ground, fifteen feet above him.

EXT - FARM HOUSE – (1943)


PEDER, Nicolas’ older brother, walks out of the house onto the small porch dressed in the uniform of an infantryman in the Free French Army. He has cropped hair and a chiseled face. He’s fastening the buttons on his uniform, looking around for something.

His father appears in the doorway.


My gun. It was here.

Peder looks at his father, raises his eyebrows and takes a deep breath and fights to calm himself. He starts to walk but turns back to the door and gives his father a sinister smile.

I’m going to tell him.

It won’t help.

He should know.

If you do this it will only be for

(whispers as his face
becomes hysterical)
And you let him do anything!

Peder walks around the house and turns right towards the barn. The fields are verdant and the animals plentiful: cows, goats, sheep, and the day is beautiful, clear and sunny. The barn doors are open and inside to the left is a big red tractor. There are other smaller machines and an old green pick-up truck to the right. The barn is filled but very organized, very clean. Behind the pick up truck Nicolas sits on a hay bale reading a Sherlock Holmes mystery. The gun is propped against the hay. Peder walks around the bale, scowls at Nicolas before grabbing the gun.

Nicolas lifts his eyes from his book.

I only wanted to get a closer look.

Peder’s face changes from anger to amusement. He grins and stares at Nicolas for a few seconds before turning away.


Nothing. I understand, that’s all.
I understand why you’re not coming
with us. It’s the same reason you
failed out of school.

We’re neutral, and I didn’t fail

Switzerland is neutral, and you were
going to. You’re a lazy sack of

(Angry and incredulous)
And you’re leaving Milia! You’re
an idiot.

It’s called a sacrifice. Do you
know what that is?

And do you know you’re fighting
because our uncle happens to be a
Nazi, because father feels ashamed
and you can’t bare to be away from
him for five minutes.

(steps back, looks
How do you know about Uncle Max?

Nicolas hops off the bale of hay. He and his brother are the same height. For a moment they stare until Nicolas drops his book and bends to pick it up.

It doesn’t matter. Father’s
prepared to die because of what Max
did, and you’re going right along
like a sheep. Bah, bah.

(irate and incredulous)
You’re going to insult him after he
let you stay here? Left you, you, in

Nicolas hops off the bale and turns to leave but his brother grabs his arm. Peder smiles.

It doesn’t matter that we’re
going to the front. You’re not
safe here. You’re useless.
You’re going to starve.

(narrows his eyes)
I bet you never even saw her
naked. Or did she see you and laugh,
and that’s why you’re leaving?

Peder’s face turns red, he starts to tremble but he takes a breath and calms himself. He leans forward and drops his voice to a whisper.

Since this might be the last time I
see you, I thought you should know
something about…

The two stare at each other for a few seconds.


Father didn’t think you could
handle it.

(shakes his head and
rolls his eyes.)

I’m not lying. Don’t you ever
wonder why you get away with
so much? Because she--

Nicolas tries to remain skeptical and cool but his façade begins to crumble.

He feels guilty about what you did

(in a calm but powerful
Peder. The truck is waiting.

Peder looks at his father, looks back at his brother, takes a breath, deliberates for a few seconds and finally walks out towards the road. Father enters the barn and stands next to Nicolas. He’s in his fifties, not as tall as Nicolas, short brown hair and a hard stoic face and burrowing eyes. He carries his hat under his arm.

You’re on your own for a while.

What did Peder mean about mother?

Peder is angry.
HANS MOYER will come over from time
to time to check on the farm. He’s
in the house now.

The father looks around, turns his eyes back to his son, and nods before walking outside. Nicolas stands for a few seconds before slowly following. By the time he’s outside his father is down the lane hopping into the back of a military truck. Nicolas takes a few steps towards the road.

(hands cupped around
his mouth)
I’ll keep everything running!
Don’t worry!

The father and brother watch but don’t speak. Finally they turn their backs to him as the truck pulls away down the long winding road. From the house Hans Moyer emerges, hobbles towards Nicolas while eating a piece of bread.

(with stoic expression)
You know where I live if you need

The old man keeps walking, following the path of the dust as Nicolas watches. In the distance the man yells.

Only an emergency!


Nicolas stands in the field dumbstruck as the capsule and parachute crash into the ground ten feet in front of him. He stumbles backwards as the parachute deflates but is still covered and falls under the fabric.

On his knees Nicolas crawls forward under the parachute, finally reaching the canister and then pulling back the fabric. He stands and unfastens the parachute from the capsule, steps back and searches for a latch. Circling the eight-by-ten foot canister he finds a crowbar inset into the metal.

He unhooks the bar and places the bar in a small hole, and pushes down hard and the capsule lid pops. He drops the bar and pushes the door off.

Mother of God

His eyes pop as he looks down into the canister and sees stacks of cans and boxes of powdered goods and hundreds of Hershey’s Chocolate Bars. He trembles as he sifts through the goods, tossing items left and right.

Suddenly he stops and looks around, paranoid. He jumps up into the canister, on top of the cans, and surveys the land, but he sees nothing, only the barren emptiness he’s used to: the weeds, the lone cow, the trees in the distance, his farm a disaster.

He jumps out of the canister and tries to drag the heavy mass but the canister won’t budge, and as he pulls his blanket gets caught under his boots. Taking a deep breath, Nicolas runs to the house, changes his clothes to jeans and a sweater and boots and runs into the barn and opens the two large wooden doors to reveal another disaster: on the left a black Audi sedan and everywhere else rusted tools and metal parts and rotted hay.

Nicolas jumps into the car and drives over the bumpy ground towards the canister. He backs the car up, jumps out and pops the trunk and begins loading. When the trunk is full he drives the car to the front door and unloads the goods in armfulls into the kitchen and living room and then assesses his new mess.

Good enough.

He drives back to the capsule, runs one load after the next into the barn, stacks the goods against the wall (the whole time eating bits of everything as he goes) and finally he drives back and tucks the parachute into the capsule, attaches a rope and uses the car to drag the capsule into the barn.

From all the snacking Nicolas feels sick. He grabs his stomach, leaves the car and capsule in the open barn and runs into the house, into the bathroom. He gives a deep groan of relief, while in the kitchen and living room piles of cans and boxes cover the floors.

Finally a flush, some running water and Nicolas stepping out in a bit of a daze, covered in sweat from his recent labors. He steps out onto the porch and begins to walk towards the barn when he sees, far in the distance, a plume of dust under the setting sun. He looks to the barn, then runs to the house, slams the door behind him and works like a mad man to hide his goods.

He dumps the cans and boxes into anything, cabinets, closets, dressers, that have doors. He carries loads to the hall closet and when that is full he runs to the bedroom, his father’s room and pushes cans under the bed. A few roll out and he drops these on the bed and pulls the blanket overtop. He looks around, his eyes frantic as the sound of the car engine becomes clear, as does the death of the engine and the car door opening and closing.

Nicolas walks to the door, opens it, steps out and sees a girl stepping out of her father’s dark blue Mercedes sedan. His shock turns into a smile.

Milia! I was going to stop by

Milia is medium height, nineteen, with a cute face and sausage curls. She is often chipper, which Nicolas mistakes for affection. She wears no makeup and her skin is pale. She’s dressed in a dark wool coat, grey wool skirt and thick white pantyhose and black leather boots. She walks to the steps and smiles but her smile fades to confusion and surprise as she looks at Nicolas.

Nicolas. You’re completely soaked.

Nicolas looks down at his clothes. From the recent activity and from the hurried last minutes he’s sweated through all his shirts and pants. He looks up, sheepish.

I was just exercising. I like to
run in the mornings.

It’s evening.

Oh, right.

I didn’t know you jogged. Peder
said you didn’t care for

Peder often said, says … things.


I’m sorry. Come in, please.
Um, can you take off your shoes?

Nicolas slips out of his slippers while Milia quickly slips out of her boots. He steps back and allows her to pass. He looks towards the barn, scans his house and then steps in behind her.

I’ll be right back.

He quickly walks into his father’s room as Milia moves towards the sofa. Nicolas closes the door and pulls new pants and a shirt from the closet.

Isn’t that your father’s room?

Um, yes. I … hurt my leg a while
back and found it easier to avoid the

(from the living room)
I was at the Varning’s Café
yesterday. Even they have shortages
now, can you believe it? A bowl
of Mushroom Barley is two francs!

Things are bad. How soon will you
start working?

Oh the University lets me teach
at the local elementary school,
but I have one more year. I’ve
been studying Spanish.

What for?

I want to travel, that’s what

While they talk he looks towards the closet floor, sees a loose plank, papers sticking out. He bends down, tucks the papers under and slides the plank back into place. He buttons his shirt as he walks out into the living room and notices Milia standing in the kitchen, her hand on the open cabinet door, her back to Nicolas but he can tell she’s clearly staring at all the canned goods.

(voice has no confidence)
Can I get you something?
Milia jumps and lets go of the cabinet door. She turns and looks at Nicolas with relief and shame.

I wanted to see if you had any
coffee, and …

Nicolas walks over to Milia. For a while she stares at the floor, and he stares at the cans. He focuses on the condensed milk and takes Milia’s hand.

Milia. Let me show you something.


Just come with me. It will only
take a minute.

Milia appears a bit worried, but slips into her boots as Nicolas does the same. She hesitates but allows Nicolas to lead her outside, to the left away from the barn, towards the lone cow.

I like your coat.

Thank you. It was my mother’s.

They walk a few seconds in silence.

You didn’t know your mother,
either? At least, that’s what
Peder …

Nicolas gives her a closed-mouth smile.

She died when I was a few months
old. I don’t remember.

How did she—

An accident.

They stop in front of the cow as the cow tries to chew on the short frozen grass. It looks up at them with sad eyes and then continues chewing.

Your cow is starving.

I know. This is the last cow. I’ve
sold the others to pay for

You only brought two to my father,
and he’s the only butcher in town.

I went to Bern. I just … every
time I lose one I think of the
promise I made to my father, and
to Peder. Those cans in that cabinet
are what’s left of the last cow.

Milia pulls her hand free of Nicolas’s

I guess you need to find a way to
fix things, before they return.
It’s cold out here.

She turns and walks back to the house. Nicolas watches her leave, unable to believe her lack of sympathy for his plight. After a few seconds he follows. On the porch she stops.

Oh! I almost forgot why I

She pulls a folded envelope from her pocket.

This arrived for me yesterday.

Nicolas stares at Milia, doesn’t respond to her words.

From your father?

Nicolas smiles.

Of course. Um, how are they?

(shakes her head)
I write to Peder, beg him to write
the letters himself but it’s always
his father.

Peder panics when he has to use a
pen, but he tells father everything
anyway, so there really is no


Nicolas reaches for the letter, wraps his fingers around the paper, but Milia won’t let go. She smiles and finally realizes she’s holding on.

If it’s not a problem, could you
drop that off tomorrow? It came
with a flower and I like to
preserve everything in my book
as soon as possible.

Uh, of course. I’ll stop by
tomorrow after work.

Great. I told father I was going
to stop by Helena’s house after
Church. He’s probably wondering
by now.

Your father doesn’t like me,
does he?

No, he doesn’t.

She moves in as if she is going to give him a big hug but then she stops and simply puts her hand on his shoulder, smiles and walks to the car.

I might not be home in the evening,
but you can leave it with father.

Nicolas stands on the doorstep with his mouth open as Milia gets into her car, turns around and drives away. He steps into the house, removes his shoes, closes the door behind him, sits on the sofa and pulls the two pages from the envelope. He reads the first few lines out loud.

Dear Milia. We hope you and your
father are well. Tell Martino
to freeze some steaks to be ready
upon our return, ha ha.
(rolls his eyes)
The war now seems to be moving in
our favor as we head towards Rome,
but the end is not definite.
Yesterday Peder …

Nicolas skims the rest of the page, flips to the next. He finds what he’s looking for near the bottom.

If you see Nicolas, tell him we
won’t be much longer.

Nicolas drops the letters on the table.

Always the same, like a broken
fucking record.

He takes a breath, leans back, and moves his eyes from the actual letter to the envelope. He leans forward, lifts the envelope, stares at the typed letters, at the two stamps representing the French United Forces. He takes another breath, stuffs the letters into the envelope, leaves them on the coffee table next to neat stacks of mystery novels and record albums, and puts on his boots and walks out to the barn.

Grabbing a shovel from the wall he heads to the back of the barn, pushes the shovel in, steps on it and falls backwards. Unable to loosen the ground with the shovel, he walks back to the front of the barn, grabs a long pick axe and resumes his work.


The mist rises from the ground as the sun begins to rise above the distant trees.


Nicolas sits at the kitchen table eating a chocolate bar and cereal and a cup of steaming coffee next to the bowl and several open cans are scattered around him. He’s dressed in a dark gray suit. He’s freshly groomed yet he hasn’t shaved.


The black Audi sedan pulls out of the barn. Nicolas steps out of the car, closes the barn doors and gets back in and drives to the gravel/dirt road. When the car reaches the gravel Nicolas steps on the gas and the car disappears down the road and into the dust.


Inside a watch shop.

Nicolas sits at a small desk with an eye piece on his face, tweezers in hand taking apart a large pocket watch. He looks out the window while he works.

Outside he watches an old man (Milia’s father) crossing the street, talking to himself. Behind the man a horn blares and a bread truck skids to a stop at the only stoplight in town and the old man turns after three seconds of blaring horn and jumps back, and quickly crosses the street.

Nicolas turns away from the window, looks behind him at an old man focused on his own work. Nicolas looks at one of the many clocks on the walls, on the tables. The clock reads 11:45. He confirms this news by looking at three other clocks.

He sets down his tools, removes his eye piece, and glances at the owner, who is entranced in his work. Nicolas reaches for a small alarm clock to his right. He sets the clock, and carefully places it on the floor near his feet. He pretends to work. The bell rings and the owner nearly jumps off his stool.

Oh, that’s my fault. I’m sorry
Monsieur Stimson.

Stimson glares at Nicolas a few seconds before returning to his watch.

Do you see people opening that door?
Do you see people handing over their


No! You see charity for the poor
old Jew. A few watches, a few
clocks because they think they
know what happened in Munich. Well,
let them give me their watches that
don’t really need fixing, because
I do need the francs. What I don’t
need is a useless employee.

I’m going to take my lunch.

Fine, fine.

Nicolas walks over to the counter, places a chocolate bar in front of the old man. Stimson looks at the candy, then at Nicolas with bewilderment.

I was in Bern. I bought an extra one
for you.

Nicolas walks out of the store, slightly grinning with his back to the store as Stimson remains stupefied, staring at the candy bar as if it might be a trick.

Nicolas walks through the small Swiss town, the one-story houses and shops intermixed, the lemon trees just starting to sprout and a car every few minutes. He enters a small café.


Nicolas wipes his mouth and fixes his hair as he walks out of the café. He continues down the street and reaches the last house which has a large front window with the word “BOUCHERIE” (Butcher Shop in French).

He walks up the three stairs into the shop, onto a smooth stone floor and a long countertop a few feet from where Nicolas stands. Behind the counter is a man in his early sixties dressed in a white apron and covered in blood and guts. The man is short and stocky with a full head of grey hair. He speaks German with an Italian accent. The man has his hands on a large bloody cut of meat. He’s leaned forward and he’s looking at Nicolas with a deep glare. The hate is obvious.

Nicolas thinks about saying something but he decides the best option is a gesture, so he pulls the letter from his pocket, behind his back separates the letter from the envelope, tucks the envelope back in his pocket.

I only came by to give this to
Milia, Monsieur Martino.

Martino touches a metal device in his ear and leans forward.


Nicolas waves the letter. Martino wipes his hands and finally snatches it and looks it over.

When did she give this to you?

(caught off guard)
When? A few days ago. I saw her at
the bookstore.

Martino glares but doesn’t speak. After a few seconds he leans back and takes a deep breath.

She’s not here.

NICOLAS (a bit shocked)
But it’s only 12:30.

She’s at school.

She’s on break.

You don’t think I know where she
is? She went back this morning. I’ll
give her the letter.

Martino looks at the letter and shakes his head.

Why can’t they send letters to you?

Nicolas doesn’t answer for a while.

She’s his girlfriend.


I said she’s his girlfriend!

(leans forward)
His girlfriend you say? I know that.
Do you know that?

Nicolas looks down and walks out of the store and the chopping resumes behind him. And he now hears it through the walls, drifting slowly away. He realizes how little Milia cares about him but he doesn’t give up. He walks back towards the watch shop, turns left before the shop and gets into his car and drives off.


Nicolas’ Audi sedan flies past the Welcome to Bern sign and crosses a bridge into town.


Inside the central bank.

Nicolas stands in front of a young female teller.

Yes, all of it.

Is something wrong Herr Grousch?

No. Everything’s great.
(smiles sarcastically)

The teller, put off, walks away.


Nicolas walks out the door flipping through francs. He stuffs the Francs in various pockets as he walks down the steps and proceeds a few blocks until he sees a tavern. On his way to the tavern he passes a man in his forties walking with a man in his twenties.

The men walk past Nicolas, the older man (angry) speaking through gritted teeth. Nicolas doesn’t pay attention to the men and a second later turns into the tavern. The bartender, a middle-aged man with a mustache, nods.


The man glares and then turns away. Nicolas turns and observes the room, a few men playing cards at small square wooden tables. He looks at the clock above the bar that reads 1pm. The man returns with the beer.

One franc.

(sips beer)
Maybe you could help me.

I doubt it.

The bartender turns away and ignores Nicolas. Nicolas wants to talk but he loses his nerve, and simply drinks his beer.


Nicolas orders another beer and is already a little light-headed.

I have, I mean, I found a way to get
a hold of food, many cans of food.

The bartender glares, takes the money from the counter and helps another customer.


Sipping his beer (he’s lost count of the number), Nicolas sits in front of a younger man with brown beady eyes. Nicolas is tired and frustrated.

Listen. I just want to sell some
food. It’s not a big deal. It
needs to be a secret. Nobody has
food now, you know? There must be
a channel, right? Someone who
does that? Right? Right?

The bartender folds his arms across his chest and ponders the question.

I might know someone who can help.

(tipsy but still focused)
Really? Oh, you want some. . .
(looks around, to a
few men around the
bar, whispers)
You want some money?

For the beer, twenty francs.


You want help?

Nicolas digs out the bills, places them on the table.

(grabs the money)
Go to 31 Octoberstrasse, it’s a
shoe-repair shop. Tell the man—

Which one?

There is only one. Tell him Goran
said he could help. Okay?


Nicolas finishes his beer and stumbles out the front door. Outside he begins to walk but one of the men in the bar comes out, begins to walk alongside Nicolas. The man is in his twenties, black hair medium length with thick eye brows and a soft, friendly face.

That bartender was lying. He doesn’t
know anything.

(slows but doesn’t stop)

You have food, but . . . I was
not expecting to see you, sorry.
(takes a long look at
Nicolas, shakes his
head and laughs)
Never mind. You came to this place
because you thought it is where
‘those’ type of people frequent.
You are not alone, and the bartender
has seen others like you. That
shoe-shop? The man is his uncle.
They’re in on it together.

In on what?

A scam, a trick, taking advantage of
someone who’s stumbled upon an idea,
like you.

Why should I believe you?

Because ‘those’ kind of people do
hang out in ‘those’ kinds of
places. I am one of them. And I
heard you have food. Food these
days is as big as heroine.

Nicolas furrows his brow and begins to walk faster. The young man catches up.

(speaks as if repeating
a well-worn joke)
Listen, my boss is an honest man
in a dishonest world.

Who’s your boss?

It doesn’t matter. My name doesn’t
matter. Your name matters because
my boss will check you out, make
sure you’re not part of the Swiss

I’m not part of the Swiss Police!

(ignoring the protest)
Otherwise, names are not important,
but I can see you don’t believe. So,
you have food? Do you have enough for
a dry run?

What do you mean?

Get a postal box at the office on
Rugenstrasse Norte, I give you an
address, you drop off, say, fifty
kilograms of goods along with the
number of the new box, and the next
day you receive your earnings.

How much?

One franc for every two kilograms

That doesn’t seem like very much?

I imagine compared to nothing it’s
a lot. Or, you could keep shopping
around. That seems to be working for

Nicolas stops, takes a deep breath.


Young man pulls out a card.

All the information is on the card.
If you need something, you deliver a
note to the address. Don’t look
for me. Don’t return to that tavern.
You hear me? Don’t return. Ever.

The last three words come from a different man, and Nicolas
steps back, a bit disturbed.

Yes, sure. I’ll never go back.

Young man smiles, turns and walks in the opposite direction. He turns back.

Just remember, this is an
objective market. Nothing

Nicolas stares confused for a few seconds and then walks/staggers back to his car, but he decides to first detour towards the bear pits.

At the fence he puts his face against the bars and looks down at the three black bears in the pit below. Two people pass on the other side of the pit, while a small boy stares down, his stomach over the wall. The bears take turns trying to climb the walls. When a brown bear tries to climb the twenty feet towards Nicolas, Nicolas pulls out two francs and smiles and drops them. The bills trickle down the wall and the bear stops the bills with its hands and eats them. Nicolas walks away.

The little boy, eight or nine, across the pit, screams.

Hey! You just threw two francs
into the pit. You threw away

The little boy starts to run. Nicolas realizes what’s happening and takes off down the street. He’s a block ahead of the boy, turns the corner, digs for his keys, opens his door and steps on the gas as the boy rounds the corner and stares, angry. Nicolas can’t help grinning as he pulls out into the street and drives away.


The black Audi turns onto Main Street with the sun rising behind it, the milkman delivering milk to the grocer. Nicolas walks towards the watch shop and opens the door. The old man sits behind the counter sipping coffee and working on a small wooden table clock.

Monsieur Stimson.

Stimson looks up, mildly interested.

I’m sorry I didn’t come back after
lunch. I found out my aunt was on
her way.

The watchmaker sets his coffee on the counter with a loud “clack.” He’s stunned.

Margarit? Is coming … from

Stimson looks down to think about things.

I didn’t know you knew my aunt.

(looks down and shakes
his head)
And Max. I’ve been here longer
than I’ve known you, Nicolas.
(with slight disgust)
Is Max returning?

No, no. The courier only said

Not her daughters?

Oh, yes, of course. Bea and Iris.
Naturally. Anyway, I have to wait
for her, so I may not be in for a
few days.

Why doesn’t she tell you when
she is coming.

She said she would explain when
she, they, arrive.

Well, tell Margarit she is welcome
to stop by.

(backing out of the
Of course.
(smiles and turns and
rolls his eyes as he
walks out the door)

For your missing days, I won’t pay
you, of course.

Nicolas walks to his car and drives off.


Nicolas drags his suitcase out of the trunk, drags the load of cans down an alley, to the end, turns to his right and turns the handle of the door. He steps inside, into a small room with one other door. He looks around, walks to the next door and turns the knob but this door is locked. He drags his suitcase into the room, walks out, closes the door behind him. He considers something and then walks back into the room, pulls out a paper, and pen and writes a note.

He said I could ask for anything.

He puts the note in the bag and leaves.


The dust swirls in the air as the Black Audi flies over the gravel and dirt back towards the farmhouse. As the car gets closer Nicolas squints and takes a breath as he realizes another capsule has fallen from the sky.

Nicolas stops in front of the capsule and gets out and looks around. He laughs and pries open the lid and begins hauling canned goods into the car. He takes out a few cans of corn and some chocolate and unfastens the can opener that came with the goods, and walks through the field, stops in front of the cow, opens the cans with the opener and feeds the animal by hand. After the cans are empty he drops them in the field and stands for a moment before walking away. He turns back and takes the cow’s collar. The cow resists.

You’re going to die out here.
C’mon, let’s . . . go.

He pulls and the cow finally turns to him and moans and tries to bite his hand. Nicolas pulls back, shakes his head and returns to the canister.


A light cello and accompanying strings floats into the background as the sun disappears and slow time lapse shows the sun rising again, and setting and rising to show another day passed and the farm house gets bigger and bigger as the record skips.


On the coffee table there are pens of different shapes and sizes, along with metal stencils and rulers and scissors and letters and envelopes and on the sofa Nicolas sits, passed out with an envelope in his hand. To the right the record player skips.


Nicolas walks up the stairs to the post office, walks through the door, to the right. He enters a room with thousands of boxes, pulls out his key and opens the box and finds an envelope. He pulls out the envelope, looks around, and opens it, and fingers through the francs. He then pulls out the note inside.

Hester Gardener? Edgar?

He looks around, closes his box and walks back into the main room, walks up to the main counter. He smiles at a young woman filing through papers.

Excuse me. I need to speak with
Hester Gardener.

The woman doesn’t seem to believe Nicolas. She pushes her lips together.

And who are you?

I’m Edgar.

Her son from Spain?

Something happened so if you don’t
mind …

The woman still seems annoyed but leaves her chair, walks through a door and disappears. A few seconds later an older woman, mid forties, with short hair walks out another door into the main hall. She is fit but her curves are the curves of an older woman fighting time. She walks forward and hugs Nicolas. She leans into his right ear.

Walk with me outside. Don’t speak.

Nicolas follows the woman across the street to a small café.

Order me a large coffee. Cream but
no sugar.

Nicolas slowly nods while she finds a seat. He brings the coffee to the table.

The woman takes the coffee, sips, shakes her head, seemingly disappointed.

So. They tell me you want to
redirect the mail? Don’t say
anything. Write down the To
and From on the back of that note.

Nicolas pulls the note from his inside pocket. The woman slides him a pen.

I didn’t think they’d respond so
quickly after my note.

When there is money involved…

I don’t know exactly who it comes
from, the Postal stations change,
but I know it always routes through
Paris, France.

Didn’t I tell you not to talk?
Write it down. And fifty francs
now, twenty every time a letter
appears in your box
(the woman grabs the
note as Nicolas fishes
out the cash)
instead of hers.
Thanks for the coffee.

The woman gives him another smug grin and walks out of the cafe.


The day is clear as Nicolas returns home in his Audi.

Just have to wait now. Think and
wait. Don’t do anything stupid,
spontaneous. You just have to be
convincing and …

Nicolas squints towards something in the distance. His left eye begins to twitch as he gets closer to the object until he breathes a deep breath as the object comes into view, the sickly cow, and not another capsule.

Nicolas shakes his head and laughs as if shaking off a dream, drives into the barn and walks back to the house. He is near the front door when he hears a “whoosh” and hard metallic thud behind him. He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath and shudders as the canister crashes down behind him. This unexplainable boon is beginning to become a burden.


The barn is dark except for the lantern that shows Nicolas pushing the last cans into the pit, covering the pile and tamping it down. He walks, dirty, sweaty, tired, and dazed, towards the door, pushes it open to reveal the new light of the next morning. He can barely keep his eyes open, the steam is rising from the fields. He drops the tools against the wall, weakly closes the barn doors and walks to the house, opens the door as he hears the sound of a car getting closer.

(through gritted
Son of a bitch.

He turns to see a military jeep emerge from a dust cloud. He sighs, lets the front door close behind him as he walks out to meet the vehicle. They are French Military. There are three.

The driver, in his twenties, steps out, as does the passenger, a man fifteen, twenty years older, a bit slumped, but fit. These are the two arguing men who passed Nicolas on his way to the first bar in Bern. Neither has facial hair, except the older man has more of a shadow. In the backseat a man in his fifties, frail and stoic, doesn’t move. He just sits there.

The older man smiles and steps forward and extends his hand.

Monsieur Grousch, Nicolas Grousch?

NICOLAS (hesitates)

Good morning. My name is
Lieutenant Demus, and this is
Sub-Lieutenant Vilmeine, and over
there is Commandant Grousch, the
same name as you, no?

If that is his name.
(tries to pull back
the irritation)
What’s the word on the front?

Good, good, we have the Germans on
the run. Except in some places they
still won’t move, stubborn like mules,
they remain between us and some of our
people, our soldiers. We can
communicate with our men, you see,
but they are still cut off.

(glares at younger
man and then turns
to Nicolas)
Have you seen anything strange around
here say, in the last few days?

(looks frightened)
Like Germans? Are the Germans
fleeing through the region?

No, not Germans. Not men.
(looks around)
In Boncourt they say this is
your farm?

That’s right.

So do you raise crops, or simply

The French soldiers exchange laughs. Nicolas looks to the jeep where even the old man smiles.

The animals did not fare so well
over the winters. I am trying to
plan for the spring, but things
aren’t looking good.

The older man Demus stares at Nicolas, who is soaked in sweat, his eyes red and watering.

You haven’t seen anything from
the sky, then?

A split second of shock appears on Nicolas’ face.

From the sky?

Relief canisters. We’ve sent
several to a few of the small
towns ten miles from here, across the
border. They are long metal canisters
attached to parachutes.

Nicolas furrows his brow and looks up as he pretends to think and tries to recover. After a while he lowers and shakes his head.

I haven’t seen anything. I don’t
usually look up. Do you?

(looks at Demus,
then up at the sky)
No. I guess I don’t.

(glaring at VILMEINE)
We’ve narrowed the search
parameters, you see, so we think
we’re getting closer.

Demus looks around and scratches his head and pulls out a card from his pocket.

Well, if you see anything, call us.

I don’t have a phone.

(gives a knowing smile)
But you have a car.

They say you traded your tractor
for it.

The French Military men slowly walk back to the jeep, turning and scanning the surroundings as they walk, while Nicolas turns and walks back to the house. Once inside he crouches down behind a window and watches the jeep slowly move down the road. He moves to the sofa, sits down and thinks. He begins to rise from the couch but yawns, and in another minute falls asleep. He jerks awake.

Just one minute.

He eyes the Raymond Chandler mystery on the top of the stack, picks it up, looks at it, sinks into the couch and falls asleep. This time he doesn’t wake up.


Nicolas’ eyes pop open, he sits up and looks around, sees the darkness through the window, sees the clock, which reads a few minutes before eleven pm. He rubs his eyes, walks to the bedroom, pulls out a suitcase, scavenges the cans from the different hiding places, puts them in the suitcase.

They know.

He puts on his boots and drags the suitcase out the door.


House is empty for a few seconds until the door opens and Nicolas walks through, sweaty and dirty and exhausted. He removes his boots and walks across the room, puts on a record of classical, glances at the clock, which reads 6:08 AM, and trudges to the bathroom, turns on the shower, strips down and steps in.


Nicolas steps out of his father’s room in his father’s robe, carrying a shoe box. He sets the shoebox on the coffee table, walks over to the kitchen, brews some coffee and walks back to the table. From the couch he picks up the box, removes the lid and pulls out the stencils and the letter he’s been working on, pulls out the envelope he stole from Milia and his envelope, compares the two. His is still not finished. He sets to work.


Nicolas, still on the couch, sips the last of the coffee in his cup and holds up the finished products, compares the stamps on the envelopes, the style of the letters. He nods and tucks one envelope in his pocket, walks to his father’s bedroom, into the closet, crouches and opens the secret compartment plank. He pulls out a stack of letters addressed to Claude Grousch from Margarit Grousch. Nicolas opens one and begins to read it.

Claude, I can no longer reason with
Max. He ignores me, ignores the
girls, tells us we can’t see the
bigger picture. Last night I heard
about his troop taking a family of
Jews out into a field, shooting
them! Even the little girls, in the
head. He denied this. He’s not
who he was. I know you are ashamed
of your brother, but going off to
fight won’t change a thing.

Nicolas pauses and looks at a picture of his father across the room.

(to the picture)
That’s what I said.

Nicolas resumes reading.

Stay on your farm. Be there when
I come with Bea and Iris, please.

He looks at the date of Margarit’s letter. He shakes his head.

The day before they left. Too late

He returns the letters to the secret compartment, adds the stolen envelope and replaces the plank. He then walks to the bathroom, washes his face, changes his clothes, puts on his shoes and walks out the door.


Camera scans the large black and white photograph posters and paintings of far-off places. To the right Nicolas stands against the wall reading a pamphlet with pictures of beaches and clear gentle water and palm trees. There’s no one else in the store except a bored middle-aged woman reading a book behind the counter. Nicolas turns to the woman.

It says at the bottom that for an
extra fee you will make in-depth

(surprised and annoyed)
You want to go somewhere?

Nicolas walks to the counter, lays flat the brochure, pulls out a pen and starts writing while he talks.

I want to know the cost of two one-way
tickets to Buenos Aires. I want to
know the price of a hectare of
beach-front property. I want to
know the average yearly income and
the conversion into Francs, and
I want to know the availability of
teaching jobs.

Teaching jobs? Are you craz-
Sir, we don’t usually—

And I want the information in two

(irritated, pushes her
book onto counter)
I don’t think you know what this
entails. I’d have to call and
that’s not cheap. And I don’t
speak Spanish.

Nicolas stares at the pictures while the woman talks. When she stops he looks up, unfazed.

Tell me how much this will cost,
and when we agree you can start.

The woman wants to argue more, but she doesn’t. She stares at him for a minute and then begins to mumble as she grabs a piece of paper from under the counter and begins calculating. The woman pauses and looks up.

Are you sure you have enough to—

I have enough. Please continue.


Nicolas pulls a suitcase from the trunk. The suitcase falls next to another large suitcase. Nicolas opens the back door of the sedan, leans in and pulls the seat away, revealing a secret compartment for more suitcases of cans. Nicolas removes one, then the next, and begins dragging the suitcases the length of the alley. In the distance the bears in the bear pit roar.


Nicolas talks to a man at the counter.

I’m here to see my mother.

And who is that?

Hester Gardener

Edgar, from Spain?

Man glares for a few seconds before turning and walking through the door behind him. After another few seconds Hester Gardner emerges, smiles and leads Nicolas outside.

Do you really have a son named

The two walk down the stairs of the post office. At the bottom step the woman pulls out a cigarette. Nicolas watches a young woman across the street. Hester watches Nicolas and moves her mouth into the slightest grin.

You have something to give me?

Nicolas nods and reaches into his pocket but she grabs his hand.

Not here.

She begins to walk. Nicolas looks around and then follows.


Dark room. It takes a while to adjust to the dark, but the the sounds of panting and moaning and a bed frame rocking are clear. As the light creeps in through the drawn shades we can see the figures under the sheet, and then the sheet falls partly away and we see Hester bucking on top of Nicolas.

They rock together for a few more seconds before Nicolas shudders and Hester moans. Nicolas collapses and then Hester slides off. She takes a deep breath, slides out of bed and walks naked across the room, grabs a white robe on the back of the door and continues into the hall.


Hester’s back is to the camera as she makes coffee and smokes a cigarette. Nicolas appears fully dressed, a stunned, zombie-like look on his face. Hester turns, sees his face and wears a slight grin.

I haven’t since my husband died, and
you …
(stares at Nicolas,
then turns back to
the coffee)
obviously haven’t in a while.

Nicolas sits at the kitchen table.

I shouldn’t have. I have a girl.

The girl whose mail you’re
stealing? Don’t worry.
(slight grunt)
I don’t want to know.

Hester pours two cups of coffee and delivers them to the table, and sips, and smokes her cigarette. Nicolas gives her a half smile, half cringe as he takes the cup.

In this world, though, and I’m
(reaches into his coat
pocket and pulls out
about this world, you can’t be a
romantic. The two don’t mix.

Nicolas drinks the coffee as fast as he can. When he finishes he rises from the table.

Thank you for the coffee, and
… do you know what to do with—

It will arrive on Friday.

She’ll be at school. She’ll
need time to hear about it,
come home. Can you send it faster
than three days?

(shows Nicolas her
smug grin)
It will arrive at her doorstep
on Thursday for an extra ten

Nicolas nods, sets the money on the table, walks to the door, opens it.

(from kitchen)
If you need anything sweetie…

Hester trails off into a laughing cough.

Nicolas freezes at the door while Hester laughs through her cigarette inhale. Finally he closes the door and walks down the hall.


A few people walk the streets of Boncourt as a light breeze rustles the trees. Nicolas steps out of his car, and shivers, while across the street a young man steps out of a bread truck in front of the grocery store. Nicolas walks into the bookstore, passes a few people looking at books in the aisles.

He pulls a Sherlock Holmes from the shelf, and hears “Hello Nicolas” and jumps and turns. A thin, nervous middle-aged woman stands behind him. The woman has blonde hair in pigtails and glasses but the look is too young for her, making her look more ridiculous.

Hello Ingrid. Seems like you have
a steady business.

Mostly people trade their used books
for other books. Nobody buys.

Well if you have any new mysteries
I might buy those.

(smiles and walks
I just shelved two new Chandlers
but I have copies at the counter.

Nicolas follows her through the aisles. They pass a few customers.

(still walking)
Have you heard anything about
your family?

Before he answers she continues.

The last letter from Norman came
in February, but sometimes they
simply have no couriers from the
battle fronts. Sometimes there’s no
way to communicate. For months.

Yes, I’m sure that’s the case.

Ingrid reaches the counter, flips through a pile of books and finally finds the two new novels. She gasps.

I just remembered, I heard
something about Margarit
returning? God, how did I forget.
Is it true? Is she back?

Nicolas stares at Ingrid for a moment, quickly covering his annoyance.

Unfortunately she’s waiting in
France for a route to open up.
Right now there are blockades.

Where is she?

You know I have it written
down but right now... Some very
small town.

And the children?

Yes, the girls too.

She is about to ask him something else.

No, not Max.

Ingrid smiles and nods but her face takes on a worried look as she hands over the books.

You are sure you can afford these?

I’ll manage.

Nicolas hands her three francs. She is stunned by the three bills, and she’s about to talk but he Nicolas speaks first.

Start a credit for me. Thank you

Nicolas walks out of the store and leaves Ingrid thinking of many things.


He walks two blocks and turns into a small café. His hand on the door, he sees Herr Martino in the distance crossing the street. This time the bread truck stops in plenty of time but still the butcher continues on unaware. Nicolas shakes his head and walks into the café which is inhabited by a dozen people. All are drinking. Only two are eating.

Nicolas sits near the window at a small circular table. He opens his book and hears “Hello Nicolas” and turns and sees a tall thirty-something lean man with a beard, combed black hair in a dark, worn suit.

Hello Eric. Can I have a coffee
and … what is the special?

Eric furrows his brow.

Lamb chops and cream of potato
soup. Haven’t seen you in
months, Nicolas. How is the farm?
Fine, the farm is fine.

And your father, and brother?

Good, good.

(leans in)
I heard Margarit—

(leans away from
I’m sorry, Eric, but I don’t
really want to talk, right now.
I’m very hungry.

(eyes bulge but his
face settles)
Sure, of course. Sorry. You’re
meal will be right out.

Eric walks away, glancing back once as Nicolas opens one of his books. Nicolas settles back and tries to read, but he cannot help overhearing an old couple a few tables away. The old man is bald, pale with a nose that takes over his face. And he is drunk, talking to an old woman across from him, who wrinkles her face more and shakes her head and waits to tell him he’s wrong.

Yes! The Argonne Offensive, broke
the Germans’ backs.

(head shaking)
That doesn’t mean it’s over.

(almost pleading)
I told you the German’s are broken.

And what do you know?

(looks around,
You know I couldn’t serve because
of my condition.

Your narcolepsy? Oh, calm down
Louis. I’m saying you’re a
buffoon, not a coward.

Just wait, Sarah. Any day,
I’m telling you. And when
Michael walks through the front
door I’ll say ‘I told you so’ and
laugh in your face.

The old woman shakes her head. She grabs a passing waitress.

Julia, can you get my husband his
food so he’ll stop talking.


The Tin Farmer

Created: Jul 19, 2010

Tags: feature length screenplay

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