THE BOY WHO ATE PHLEGM
A one-act morality play for four performers
by Scott Peterson
INT. SUBURBAN KITCHEN – DAY
Mrs. Porter bakes brownies as her son Johnny, a happy-go-lucky six-year-old skips into the kitchen.
Well, hello Johnny. Back so soon?
Yeah, I got tired of beatin' on Fido wit da sink.
Well, that's fine. I just... Johnny? What's that
on your lip?
CLOSE on Johnny. He has white goo on his lip.
That white, pussey-looking substance on your
JOHNNY slurps up some of the goo.
There ain't nothing on my lip, mah.
TWO SHOT: MRS. PORTER grabs JOHNNY.
Don't try to hide it. I can see it right there.
That disgusting mucousy blob of creamy fluid.
My God! You've been eating phlegm again.
No mah, I swear I ain't. My nose musta been
runnin' or somethin'.
Don't lie to me, Johnny. Oh God, it's bad enough
without you lying to me. Howard! Howard, get
in here! Now don't you move an inch, young man.
MR. PORTER (O.S.)
Where are you, Marge?
In the kitchen, Howard! Hurry!
WIDE as MR. PORTER enters, smoking a pipe.
Well, what is it? I heard you...
My god! NO!
TWO SHOT: MR. PORTER drops to his knees beside his son.
Johnny! How many times have we told you,
warned you, counseled you, begged you not to
eat that awful stuff?
I... I know dad, but I gotta.
Now you know we're going to have to punish you.
Up here on my knee.
JOHNNY bends over his MR. PORTER’S knee.
MR. PORTER (cont’d)
Howard? What is it?
TIGHT on JOHNNY’S BACK POCKET - MR. PORTER pulls out a flask.
He... he's got a flask of it in his back pocket. An
entire decanter... filled with... phlegm!
MEDIUM on MRS. PORTER as she turns away dramatically.
Where did we go wrong? We've failed him, Howard.
We've failed him. Sometime when he was an infant I
must have dropped him. Maybe I shouldn't have
gone to work and left him in day care centers for so
many years. Maybe I should have breast fed him. Maybe I...
WIDE as MR. PORTER grabs his wife, Johnny small in the background.
Now stop it, Marge. It isn't going to help to blame
yourself. Can't you see you're upsetting the boy?
I'm sorry. Really I am.
GRANDPA, a gentle Jimmy Stewart type, enters.
Wh-what's going on here?
Oh, Father, what are we going to do?
Don't tell me he's been at the phlegm again?
ANGLE ON THE TABLE as Mr. Porter throws the flask onto it.
Yes, granddad, I'm afraid so. Oh, it's a dark
day in the life of the Porter family.
ON GRANDPA as he squints at Johnny.
Well, why don't you let me have a talk with the
TIGHT on Johnny’s hand as Mr. Porter grabs it.
Oh, it won't do any good. Look, he's got the
sticky stuff under his fingernails too. Probably
been clawin' at the back of his throat for more.
WIDE as Grandpa ushers the Porters out.
Well, let me just have a try with the boy. You and...
You and Marge just take a break and I'll have a go
Oh, I should've seen it coming. He's been drinking
so much orange juice lately. I should've seen it coming.
I should've seen it coming…
Her moaning fades away as MRS. PORTER and MR. PORTER exit.
Let me tell you a little story about when I was a kid.
Here, hop up on my lap.
TWO SHOT: JOHNNY hops up.
Don't drool any of that phlegm onto my shirt though.
There. Well, let me tell you this story. I was a lot like
you when I was your age. I thought phlegm was
better 'n ice cream.
EXT. PASTURE – NIGHT – (FLASHBACK)
Grandpa assaults a cow.
I used to sneak out into the pasture at night
and scrape the phlegm off the back of cow's
throats... told people it was yogurt.
EXT. TOWN SQUARE – DAY
Grandpa struts down the street, white goo dripping from his chin.
I must've eaten a gallon a day. Was tryin' to prove
something. Tryin' to prove I was grown up, I reckon.
Trying to prove I was a man. Yes sir, a man.
EXT. MOVIE HOUSE – DAY
TIGHT ON Grandpa hocking up a loogie…
And one day I was walking past the old movie house,
clearing my throat to get a big clump of the thick,
stringy mucous, and a young lady named Mary Sue
came up to me.
WIDE as Mary Sue walks up to Grandpa.
TIGHT on Grandpa’s eyes sparkling.
TIGHT on Mary Sue, glowing through a soft-focus filter like in an old time movie.
Well, I was smitten with her the first time I saw her.
Blonde hair. Blue eyes. Sticky white fluids dripping
down her throat.
ECU on Mary Sue’s throat… slick with mucous.
INT. KITCHEN – PRESENT DAY
TWO SHOT – Grandpa and Johnny
And do you know what she said to me, Johnny?
She said to me, "Bobby," course everybody called
me Bobby back then. "Bobby," she said, "Bobby…”
EXT. MOVIE HOUSE – DAY (FLASHBACK)
TWO SHOT – Grandpa and Mary Sue. Her mouth moves but we hear Grandpa’s voice through the voice over.
“How's about you and me go and get naked." Well, I
was so excited I clean forgot about the phlegm on
the back of my throat and I hollered as loud as I could.
Grandpa hollers, coating Mary Sue in phlegm.
Mary Sue was buried in a giant wad of my own throat
secretions. We tried to get her out but it was too late.
She had suffocated.
Paramedics, firemen, and keystone cops labor over her body. Grandpa weeps.
INT. KITCHEN – PRESENT DAY
TIGHT TWO SHOT - Johnny’s mouth drops open, his eyes like saucers.
And I realized then what I want to pass on to you
now, Johnny. Phlegm don't make a man. Pride,
integrity, guts, determination: they're what make a
man. Not phlegm. Do you understand what I'm
I think so, grandpa.
Johnny thinks long and hard for a moment, and then:
Grandpa, can I ask you somethin'?
Well sure, Johnny.
Did you ever get to taste Mary Sue's phlegm?
Heh heh heh. Go on and play, Johnny. Go on and play.
Grandpa shakes his head at the incorrigible lad as Johnny runs out to play.