Read Riot Online

Authors: Walter Dean Myers

Tags: #United States, #Juvenile Fiction, #Historical, #Civil War Period (1850-1877)

Riot

BOOK: Riot
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[To Jackie Monahan O’Brien]

[Contents]

I.
Cast of Characters

II.
Screenplay

III.
Time Line

IV.
Author’s Note

V.
Period Photos, llustrations, and Map

[CAST OF CHARACTERS]

CLAIRE JOHNSON, 15, very pretty

PRISCILLA SKINNER, 15, her friend, dark skin, pretty

ELLEN JOHNSON, 37, her mother

ROBERT VAN VORST, 15, her friend, slightly overweight but handsome

LIAM, 17, an employee of the Johnsons’

MAEVE, 16, Liam’s fiancée

DENNIS RILEY, 17, member of the Dead Rabbits gang

TOMMY ENRIGHT, 19, member of the Dead Rabbits gang

BILLY EVANS, 12

OFFICER MCCLUSKER, 26, police officer

OFFICER BARNES, 29, police officer

JOHN ANDREWS, 41, a Southerner

JOHN JOHNSON, 40, Claire’s father

ROSIE LYONS, 14, a friend of Maeve’s

WALT WHITMAN, 44, poet

FARLEY, 11, Whitman’s servant

PRIVATE KELLY, 25, Union soldier

PRIVATE PARKER, 24, Union soldier

PRIVATE JOSHUA LANCASTER, 17, Union soldier

GRIFFIN, 15

CHARLES HICKEY, 28, police officer

KELLY, 19

MARY POOLE, 15

JOHNNY, 15

CAPTAIN ROBERTS, 32, Union army officer

MARGARET ADDAMS, 32, Matron of the Colored Orphan asylum

CAITLIN DONAHUE, 16

THE REVEREND CURRY, 46, pastor of a Baptist Church

[FADE IN]

EXT. NEW YORK CITY—JULY, PRESENT DAY

AERIAL SHOT. As the camera zooms in, we see the city below, with its skyscrapers jutting boldly into the sky high above the street-level chaos. As the camera comes closer, we see the blur of vehicles in the city streets.

The camera comes even lower, and we see rapidly moving traffic. The streets of Lower Manhattan are glutted with cars. We see pedestrians darting in between the cars and hear the blare of a hip-hop recording that matches the frantic pace of the traffic.

The camera zooms in even farther and focuses on a YOUNG WOMAN eating lunch on the white steps of a building. She is on her cell phone as the camera begins to zoom out, and we see the city as a rich mosaic of colors, which turns into an urban gray blur. The blur lasts for a few seconds.

EXT. NEW YORK CITY—MAY 1954

AERIAL SHOT, then zoom in. This time the buildings are not as stark, the traffic in the streets not quite so frantic. The cars are older. The camera focuses on a MAN eating lunch on a park bench. The newspaper he is reading has a headline about the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. the Topeka Board of Education. We see the date: it is 1954.

A YOUNG WHITE COUPLE is sitting down not far from the MAN reading the paper. The young man puts his hand on her knee, and she pushes it quickly away. We see her stand and start to walk away as the camera begins to zoom out. She turns to see if he is following as the shot becomes more distant and blurs.

EXT. NEW YORK CITY—JULY 1900

AERIAL SHOT, then zoom in again. The streets of Lower Manhattan are still clogged, but this time with horse-drawn carriages. Men in bowler hats chat amiably on one corner. On another corner two NEWSBOYS, one white and one black, fight as other boys cheer them on. The camera focuses on a YOUNG WHITE MAN reading an illustrated paper as he leans against a lamppost.

The camera pans away from the YOUNG MAN and
onto a crowded street on which we see pushcarts and Jewish vendors. Here we see a YOUNG BLACK GIRL feeding bread crumbs to pigeons. She tries to shoo away a larger pigeon. It refuses to move, and she stamps her foot, sending the small covey of birds into the air as the camera zooms out again to a blurred view of the area.

EXT. NEW YORK CITY—JULY 11, 1863

AERIAL SHOT, then the sound of music rises as the camera slowly moves in once again. The streets of Lower Manhattan are indistinct but sharpen gradually. We hear the clicking of telegraph keys, and words appear on the screen, moving from right to left:

July 11, 1863. Generals optimistic after Gettysburg. Losses heavy. Lincoln urged to call up more men.

Behind the words, we see the streets. There is a brief stop on a row of crudely built wooden dwellings. We see a heavy WOMAN selling fish on the streets and a YOUNG MAN getting a haircut from a sidewalk BARBER.

The camera pans past several streets, on one of which a number of YOUNG WHITE PEOPLE are arguing. Their dress is poor, the men in patched pants and ill-fitting shirts, the women in shabby long dresses, some with dirty aprons over them. The camera pans past, then
stops and returns to the activity for a long moment.

EXT. FIVE POINTS AREA—SAME DAY (CONTINUOUS)

FIRST YOUNG WOMAN
From the way the papers are reading, I thought the bloody war was almost over. What do they need a draft for? Stealing our young men away for nothing.
SECOND YOUNG WOMAN
As long as they’re keeping it far away from Henry Street, they can do with it what they want is what I’m saying. The good Lord has his face turned away from the likes of us, and that’s for sure.
FIRST YOUNG WOMAN
Johnny McCall was down at the office where the government men pulled the names out of a drum. He said you would have thought they were pulling the names of the first men to waltz their way through the pearly gates, what with all the speeches and the chests sticking out. He said the firemen are hopping mad. Can you imagine the firemen having to leave to fight a war when we need them right here?
SECOND YOUNG WOMAN
Well, if I was a man, it would be over me dead body they’d be reaching for their tea! Imagine, poor men leaving their wives and homes to go fight while the rich men pat their bellies and wave them off with their silk hankies!
FIRST YOUNG WOMAN
Ay! And you can bet your sweet life on that, too.

The camera moves on, and we see a NEWSBOY selling a paper to a wounded SOLDIER. The SOLDIER is tall, gaunt. He carries a bundle stuck in his crutch. He looks up toward the camera and then quickly away.

INT. THE PEACOCK INN—JULY 13, 1863

The Peacock Inn is a shabby-genteel restaurant-tavern on Bedford Street, run by JOHN and ELLEN JOHNSON, who live upstairs with their daughter, CLAIRE.

CLAIRE JOHNSON (15) and her best friend, PRISCILLA SKINNER (also 15), are sitting at one of the rectangular tables. They are sewing a quilt.

CLAIRE is thin and pretty, with skin color light enough
to pass for Caucasian. She has soft brown eyes, sharp features, and chestnut-colored hair, which she has combed up until it almost forms a halo around a sweet face. She is wearing a flower-patterned cotton dress and a neat apron.

PRISCILLA is dark, obviously African American, and is dressed similarly. She is also pretty, with a round face that is quick to smile.

PRISCILLA
So, if you were feeling sick, would you let a doctor examine you?
CLAIRE
Are you feeling sick?
PRISCILLA
No, I was just wondering. What would you do if he asked you to undress?
CLAIRE
I’d do it—as long as he had his eyes closed and his hands behind his back and he was at least a hundred and twelve! And you?
PRISCILLA
I’d faint dead away, and then he could do whatever he wanted to me.
CLAIRE
Priscilla!

ELLEN JOHNSON (37), CLAIRE’s mother, enters with a mop and bucket. She looks somewhat older than her age but is attractive, and the resemblance between her daughter and her is clear.

ELLEN
And what are you girls up to?
CLAIRE
Priscilla’s got her squares wrong. I’m straightening them out for her.
PRISCILLA
They aren’t wrong, Mrs. Johnson, just different from what Claire had in mind. You know how bossy she can be.
ELLEN

(looking at the quilt)

So what did you have in mind?
CLAIRE
Priscilla was telling me how the slaves make quilts in the South that are really like maps. They have a star and paths that lead to the star.
ELLEN

(looking at PRISCILLA)

Priscilla, you were born in Brooklyn. How do you know about what the poor slaves are doing?
PRISCILLA
From my great-aunt Esther. She was born in Virginia. When the man who owned her died, her father ran off north with the whole family.
ELLEN
This the old woman who lives uptown in Broadway Alley?
PRISCILLA
Yes.
ELLEN
Sweet lady, she is. I don’t think the rowdies will get that far uptown.

ROBERT VAN VORST (15) enters. He is white and slightly overweight but handsome and well dressed, with dark hair combed straight back and a high forehead.

ELLEN
Are we having a convention? Everyone’s here!
ROBERT
I’ve just been down to the Grand Street draft office, inquiring whether I might apply for a commission. They obviously need good men, and I’m willing to go.
CLAIRE
I heard they were rioting near the waterfront.
ROBERT
Slackers. They’re actually protesting against the draft! Can you believe it? Father said that there was a police lineup across from the
Tribune
. They’ve thrown rocks through the windows of the stores along the side streets.
ELLEN
It’s not safe to be out and about. John says they were ugly this morning. He said the Dead Rabbits were running around as if they owned the streets.
ROBERT
Well, then, the army will just have to deal with gangs like the Dead Rabbits, won’t they? They’re mostly young drunks and old people, anyway. If I were commanding a battalion, I’d send a half dozen of my best men to put down the gangs.
ELLEN
Robert, they’re not having fifteen-year-olds commanding battalions.
PRISCILLA
I think they could, because you just have to tell the men where to go and what to do.
CLAIRE
You think they could because it’s your precious Robert who wants to lead them, Priscilla. Too bad he’s not a doctor.
PRISCILLA
Claire Johnson!
ROBERT

(full of himself)

She’s right, of course. Officers lead men and direct them to where they need to go. Like Meade at Gettysburg. Did you
read in the
Times
how his men held their positions against Longstreet?
PRISCILLA
What time is it? I have to get to the orphanage.
CLAIRE
Robert, you’re not carrying Priscilla’s books today. Do you think it’s really safe? I mean, they’re throwing rocks….
ROBERT
I’ll go with her to see she’s safe.
CLAIRE

(teasing)

And don’t forget to put your arm around her if you see any danger, Captain Van Vorst.
PRISCILLA

(gathering her reticule)

Claire!
CLAIRE
BOOK: Riot
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