Absolutely Historical – Chapter 2
Princeton Prof. Henry Nickels, his T.A. Josh Styles and grad student Mary Winthrop go on adventures to discover the true origins of America…
Chapter 2 – The Fountain Of Youth
(Professor Henry Nickels is pacing in front of a blackboard filled with garbled chicken-scratch in Lecture Hall B of Winthrop Hall on the campus of Princeton University. T.A. Josh Styles is doodling a picture of a girl in his notebook as the professor prattles on. Grad student Mary Winthrop rests her head on her desk in the back, half-listening…)
Professor: Contrary to popular belief, Spanish explorer Ponce De León did discover the Fountain of Youth in Florida. Its location and its spring waters’ mystical powers have been protected by the wealthy elite for nearly five centuries.
(The bell rings and the disinterested students quickly file out. Josh puts a hand on Mary’s chest and she smacks it away…)
Mary: You have to stop doing that.
(Josh nods at Prof. Nickels’ desk and she trudges over…)
Professor: What do you have planned for this weekend, Winthrop?
Mary: Well if you must know, I’ve actually got a date tonight. It’s the first time I’ve gone out with anyone since my boyfriend broke up with me a few mont–
Professor: Cancel it. We leave for Florida tonight.
Mary: But, professor–
Professor: (beams) I’ve found the Fountain of Youth.
(Mary stares at the crazed look in her professor’s steely gaze and sighs resignedly…)
(Mary and Josh are in the coach section of a packed flight heading south down the east coast…)
Mary: Don’t know why the professor gets to sit in first class.
Josh: (on his third gin & tonic) Well, he is the boss. Man, I can’t believe all these drinks are free!
Mary: They’re not. They’re six bucks a pop.
Josh: (finishes drink with a gulp) Oh…do you have any money?
(Mary pulls a Prius out of the rental car station with Professor Nickels in the passenger seat and Josh drunkenly snoring in the back…)
Mary: So the Fountain of Youth is in Tampa, Florida, eh Professor?
Professor: Everyone knows De León landed in St. Augustine. That’s where everyone’s been looking for centuries. But few know he didn’t stay in St. Augustine for long. He and a Seminole Indian guide ventured east until they reached what De León thought was the other side of the world; but was merely the other side of the state. There he found the Fountain. They say the Seminole guide is still alive today, standing guard over De León’s discovery.
Mary: (smirking, but going along) What about De León? He still ticking?
Professor: (shakes his head) He feared the Fountain’s power. Immortality is a frightening prospect to some. To still be alive long after the Sun has burned out.
Mary: What about you? If we find it, will you take a drink?
Professor: (stares out at the passing Tampa strip clubs and cash loan businesses) I tend to waffle on the subject. I suspect I won’t truly know until the waters are before me.
Mary: Well, I’m gonna pass. One lifetime is plenty enough as far as I’m concerned.
Josh: (shoots up out of his slumber) Waffles!
(After a dinner of chicken and waffles, the three retire to a Motel 6…)
Mary: One room? Seriously?
Professor: The grant money only goes so far.
(Josh tosses his bag down…)
Josh: Well, I guess the professor can take that bed and us students can share–
(Josh slumps onto the professor’s bed, turns the TV on and starts flipping channels. Mary and Prof. Nickels take the chairs in the corner…)
Mary: So the funding’s really that bad, huh?
Professor: We’re getting by. I mean, we did manage to fly all the way down to Florida, didn’t we? But the well is running a bit dry. Perhaps if we could find a wealthy benefactor to stem the flow.
(The professor stares at Mary expectantly and her ears pin back…)
Mary: Oh, no. I’ve gone twenty-three years without doing that. I am not asking my father for money.
Professor: Think of it as an investment. An investment in history. An investment in the truth.
Mary: That’s why you’ve been dragging me along on all these harebrained expeditions, isn’t it? You just want me here ’cause my dad is rich.
Professor: I want you here because you have a passion for the truth like me. The fact that your father is wealthy is just a beneficent bonus.
(Mary picks up her bag and storms for the door…)
Mary: I’m sleeping in the car.
(The door bangs shut and Josh keeps flipping channels…)
Josh: Ooh, Ice Road Truckers is on.
(The next morning Josh is steering the rental Prius toward the coast with Prof. Nickels in the passenger seat and a sulking Mary staring out the window in the back at the passing Tampa convenience stores…)
Professor: (glances in rear-view mirror) Mary, I’m sorry about what I said last night. I don’t want you for your father’s money. I just want you for you.
Mary: Fine. Let’s just find this stupid Fountain of Youth and get the heck out of Florida.
Josh: Man, I can’t wait to live forever! It’s gonna be awesome!
Mary: Is it, Josh? Watching all your loved ones die while you go on living. Everything you care about disappearing, leaving you alone with your thoughts. Forever.
Josh: Jeez. You’re morbid this morning, Mary. Maybe if you’d gotten a good night’s rest in bed with me–
Mary: Stop talking. So professor, who’s this source of yours who knows the location of the Fountain?
Professor: Tom Hanks.
Hanks: It’s actually Thom Hanks, with an ‘H’. No relation. Heh.
(The three stare at the scraggly-bearded filthy hobo, barefoot in tattered clothes…)
Josh: Are you…homeless?
Hanks: Yup. I’m a beach hermit. Spend my nights sleeping on the sand staring up at the stars.
Mary: (smiles) Sounds kinda romantic. (leans in, immediately leans back) Ooh, but you smell like old fish.
Professor: (frowns) But the emails. How did you–
Hanks: Internet cafe.
Hanks: Now. You wanna see this Fountain of Youth or what?
Josh: (exclaims) Or what!
(Thom Hanks the beach hermit leads Mary, Josh and the professor deep into the marshy swamp grass rising over their heads…)
Hanks: It’s right up ahead here. Through these reeds. I’ll let you have the honors, professor.
(Prof. Nickels beams and Mary and Josh follow…)
Professor: This is truly an historical moment.
(The sound of a switchblade clicks behind them…)
Hanks: Historical, no. Hysterical, yes.
(Mary turns around and sighs heavily…)
Mary: Are you kidding me?
Hanks: Gimme all your money.
Professor: But Thom, what about the Fountain?
Hanks: Don’t you get it, professor? There is no Fountain.
Mary: You dragged three strangers from New Jersey all the way down to Florida to rob them?
Hanks: (shrugs) I have a lot of free time on my hands; being a beach hermit and all. Now empty your pockets.
(Mary looks to the professor who shrugs, empty pockets turned inside-out…)
Professor: I told you the grant money was drying up.
Mary: (sighs, turns to Josh)
Josh: I spent all my cash on gin & tonics on the plane. Six bucks a pop, can you believe that?
Mary: Yes. Because I’m the one who told you that. In fact, I’m the one who paid for–just forget it.
(Mary hands all her cash to Thom Hanks, who scurries off into the Florida reeds…)
Professor: Now how are we going to fly back home?
Mary: (scowls, pulls out phone, stamps back to beach) I’ll call my dad.
Josh: (hollers after her) Watch out for snakes!
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