SCENE: It’s 1985. Mitch BERG – just out of college, hair waving in the breeze and his elbow resting on the sill of his open driver’s side window – barrels down North Dakota Highway 200 at 85 miles per hour in his 1973 Chevy Monte Carlo. Over the deafening racket of his small-block 350 engine (whose muffler fell off some time earlier, to BERG’s penurious horror but aesthetic delight) a boom box with a cigarette-lighter adaptor blasts a cassette of John Mellencamp’s Scarecrow. The Monte Carlo, covered in rust to the point where the driver’s side door panel flaps in the slipstream, wobbles and loudly grinds during BERG’s rare applications of brake. But it’s a beautiful summer day in east-central North Dakota.
BERG, dressed in a plain white v-neck T-shirt, an army-surplus dungaree shirt and black straight-leg jeans, has a filterless Chesterfield dangling from his lip. The coal on the end of the cigarette glows as BERG draws in a puff – and then almost instantly blows it out into the slipstream, studiously avoiding any inhalation. In the back of the car are three guitar cases, a Fender amplifier, and two duffel bags full of clothes.
Suddenly, he notices a blueish smoke cloud in the distance. He squints, tosses the half-smoked cigarette out onto the roadway, and shuts off the cassette.
Gradually, he makes out the shape of a 1979 Subaru wagon. It is parked outside the access road to a Minuteman missile silo, which sits about 200 yards north of the two-lane highway, encircled in chain link fence and razor wire. A lone figure climbs out of the Subaru. As BERG slows to a stop by the Subaru, we recognize a much-younger Avery LIBRELLE. LIBRELLE’s car is festooned with anti-nuclear bumper stickers; the cargo area and back seat are crammed with signs demanding an immediate nuclear freeze, and declaring you can’t hug children with nuclear arms. The Subaru, idling, continues to belch blue smoke.
BERG pulls into the access road and brakes the Chevy to a stop by LIBRELLE’s car in a squall of metallic grinding, indicating the rotors and shoes direly need repair and replacement. He turns off the engine, and the prairie is silent, but for the wind.
BERG: Hey – what’s up? Something wrong with your car?
BERG: Well, it looks like you’ve had a bit of a fire.
LIBRELLE: What makes you say that?
BERG: Um…the smoke cloud? It looks like a grass fire cominig across the prairie. And it smells like burning oil…
LIBRELLE: Huh. Haven’t seen anything. And I think Subarus come from the factory like that. Everyone in Minneapolis has ’em.
BERG: Huh. OK – well, it looked like you needed some help…
LIBRELLE: Oh, I do! I do! I need people to carry these signs (points to stack of hundreds of Nuclear Freeze signs in the back of car) to protest the US Military’s race to armageddon, and demand that we allow the peaceful leadership of the Soviet Union to co-exist with the peace-loving people of the earth! Which is all they want!
BERG: And you came up here from Minneapolis…
LIBRELLE: …looking for people to protest with me.
BERG: And how’s that going for you?
LIBRELLE: Not great, so far.
BERG: Huh. Well, people around here have a lot on their minds. There’s farm crisis going on, and most of the locals are trying to hang on and survive. And most of ’em pretty much support the Air Force, anyway…
LIBRELLE: So I’m finding out. But you’ll help (LIBRELLE grabs a sign hopefully)
BERG: No, no, sorry – I just thought you were, y’know, on fire or something. I’m actually moving to the Twin Cities.
LIBRELLE: Oh, yeah? Why?
BERG: Well, I just graduated with a BA in English, and I want to be a writer and a musician, and there’s no much opportunity for that here. In fact, there’s not much opportunity at all around here. Job market’s kinda slow even for diesel mechanics and custom combiners, to say nothing of tortured starving would-be artists. So I’m going to move to Minneapolis to try my luck at…well, writing, or technical writing, or music, or something. Anything, really. I have no idea what I’m gonna do. I just know that unless they, I dunno, strike oil or something… (both BERG and LIBRELLE chuckle at the absurdity) …it’s never gonna happen here for me. This place is never gonna be an economic powerhouse.
LIBRELLE: But you can live the ideal life out here! Be a hunter-gatherer! Be in touch with the land!
BERG: Er, no. Looking for…
LIBRELLE: The train!
LIBRELLE: They’re going to build a light rail train down Hiawatha Avenue from downtown to the Airport! They tore down all the buildings along Hiawatha Avenue twenty years ago to make way for it, and it’s going to get built any day now!
BERG: Er, OK (starting to fidget)
LIBRELLE: You’re a creative who’s moving to Minneaoplis because of the train!
BERG: Um, what now?
LIBRELLE: Mass transit! It’s what draws creatives to the city!
BERG: Er, no. That’s what I have a car for. No, I’m moving there for opportunity – a chance at doing some things that really only occur in major cities. I mean – huh? Moving somewhere because there’s a train? Thats just weird.
LIBRELLE: Lalalalalalalalalalalalala! The Met Council has spoken! LALALALALALA! (LIBRELLE grabs a Nuclear Freeze sign and hands it to BERG)
(BERG takes the sign, throws it into the front seat of his car, and starts the engine, which roars in unmuffled glory).
LIBRELLE (Starts to picket the missile silo) No More Nukes! No More Nukes!
BERG: (Yelling over the din from his engine). Hey, you know there aren’t actually any people in that silo, right? That’s just where the missile is. The people are in the command silo, which is somewhere else…
LIBRELLE: (Yelling back over the din): Yes, I know there’s a feeble line of reasoning for fissile weapons. A feeble line they don’t believe themselves…
BERG (Yelling): No, er…yeah. Yeah, that’s it.
(BERG steps on the gas. The Monte Carlo accelerates, as BERG turns the cassette deck back on).