Tom comes to a general store and enters. A man is paying for his purchase of candles, telling the storekeeper "There's a lot of dark." As he leaves, we can see on the opened door a homemade sign saying Stop Collective Foods - Dance - Fund raiser. Tom tries to use the pay phone but the line is dead. The storekeeper explains that the switchboard is down and that the power is out all over town. The postal phone still works because it is a direct hook-up. He says "They got the electrical company and the switchboard, but even they don't have what it takes to go against Ma Bell." Tom repeats the word "They?" "They" are Collective Foods, whom the storekeeper describes as feeding America through extortion.
He lets Tom use the post office phone. As Tom waits for an answer, he unfolds a photograph of a soldier whose face is turned away from the camera. He speaks to an investigator named Bert, who tells him he has a military identification number and a lady at the registrar's office who's about to roll over for him. He's very close to getting a current address. Tom notices that the storekeeper is trying to listen, but the man steps away. Bert wants a number to reach Tom. He says it will be hit and run; there may not be incoming telephone service where he's going. Tom is startled by the crash of an object nearby. Bert is exasperated when Tom hesitates, saying that when Tom paid him he had said finding this guy was a matter of life and death. Why should he be busting his ass if Tom isn't busting his? He has already spent Tom's money. The best Tom can do is give him the post office phone to leave a message, leaving Bert still disgruntled because he says he needs Tom to be by the phone when he calls. The storekeeper comments that it's a little cold to be camping and Tom says that it's the best he can do at the moment. Tom asks if there's any chance of getting a job around there. The storekeeper tells him that most of the farmers don't have enough work for themselves. There is always Collective Foods, but if Tom works for them he had better stay out of his store.
A pickup truck pulls up to a chain link fence. The sign on the gate says "Property of Collective Foods. No trespassing. Danger. Keep out." A man comes out of the prefab shack inside carrying a shotgun. He heads out the gate complaining to the newly arrived man about what a waste of time it is, that he spends every night walking in circles. Tom climbs down the side of the trestle and sets up camp in the woods below. With a fire already started, he gathers more firewood. The guard hears the crackling of the leaves. He snaps the shotgun up and fires in the direction of the sound. We see first Tom's campfire, then his hand falling limply into view, the fingers stained with blood, and finally Tom himself, blood spreading over his blue shirtfront.
A young blond woman rides through the woods, passing beneath the trestle. She calls for her dog, Maggie, who has run on ahead. Maggie barks until the young woman catches up and discovers Tom unconscious beside his still smoldering fire. She yells for help, hoping someone can hear her.
Tom lies on a travois pulled by the horse, the young woman's coat draped over him. She drags him into her house and fills a basin with water. She mops the shivering Tom's forehead and tells him she has to go get help. She'll have to take the truck because the phones are out. When the doctor comes, he tells her that the bullet tore up Tom's side and he has lost a lot of blood. The bleeding has stopped, but he's not out of the woods yet. She wants to take him to the county hospital at Taylor County, but the doctor says that the trip would kill Tom because Collective has torn up most of the roads between Sweetridge and Taylor. At any rate, the less he is moved the better. He tells her Tom is her responsibility now. She wants to know what he means by that and he answers that if Tom pulls through this, she's going to end up with a man on her hands. She rests her head on her hand, apparently bemused by this suggestion. Later, a still unconscious Tom has been put to bed with a quilt over him. She sponges his forehead saying "Who are you, Mister, and why'd you end up in my life?"
She reads by lantern light, watching over Tom. He is delirious, mumbling incoherently in his sleep. She leans close to catch one word: Alyson. The next morning she is at the general store, snatching up bandages and various first aid items. When Toby, the storekeeper, sees what's in her basket, he asks if she has hurt herself. She says no, it's "just in case". He unfolds a pair of boxer shorts from her basket, repeating "Just in case?"
She is cooking on a small propane camp stove when she hears Tom calling "Hello. Is there anybody there?" She enters his bedroom where she finds him trying to pull himself up to lean against the headboard. She puts her arms around him to help him up and apologizes when she causes him pain, saying "It's different when you're awake." He asks who she is and she says she feels like they already know each other, introducing herself as Emily Noonan. He doesn't answer her question of who he is, asking instead where he is and what happened. When he finds out he has been there four days, he asks if there is a general store with a post office and says he has to get to town to check on an important message that can't wait. She tells him that if he bleeds to death, the message will still be sitting there. She asks if he's being coy or does he not have a name. He finally tells her "Tom ... Tom Veil." She explains that he had been on Collective Foods' private property. The situation had been very tense lately and they had hired a couple of "yahoos" to guard the place. Tom had run into one of them. She begins to spoonfeed Tom. Aware of his nakedness, he asks her what else she had to do for him over the last four days. When she answers "Pretty much everything you would expect", he chokes on the soup.
Tom is sitting at the table, hungrily eating his breakfast. Emily watches him and he wonders if he's doing something wrong. She says it's just been a while since she's had anyone to cook for. She asks if he's a photographer and his face freezes. She explains that she looked in his bag trying to find some identification. He asks if she discovered anything else when she was looking, but then apologizes, saying he would have done the same. She goes outside to talk to two men who have driven up in a white car. She begins "Go away, Mr. Daniels!" They are trying to persuade her to sell her farm. Daniels tells her that if she refuses to sell, her neighbors will get rich while her place goes under. The other man is a process server who serves her with papers, saying she has 30 days to convince a circuit court judge that she's not standing in the way of progress. He tells Emily that a pretty girl like her shouldn't being be living all by herself anyway. Tom joins them, carrying a shotgun. He denies he's trying to threaten them, saying that he's found that some people don't hear so well. The gun is just a hearing aid.
Emily and Tom are at Alders general store. Toby asks if Tom has had any luck finding a job and wants Tom to know that he hasn't forgotten about the message, but there hasn't been any yet. As Tom starts to leave, Toby says loudly "I hope those underwear I sold to Emily fit OK." Tom looks sheepish and says "Thanks."
There is an emergency meeting in the church. Ed Durant, who owns the biggest lot on the tract of land Collective Food wants is thinking of selling out. The other townspeople are angry, saying they had all agreed to stick together. Ed defends himself, saying he's doing it because he's guaranteed a buyer and won't have to worry about his mortgage any more. Others argue that he will still have to make ends meet, that if he had a bad year they could sell the land from under him. He says if that happens he'll still be in good shape with the money they had agreed to pay him. A woman tells him he's in good shape because he owns 40 percent of the land they want. She and her husband own only two percent. The land is not only their livelihood-- it's also their heritage. Emily stands up and tells Ed that there are other values here besides the price of land. He's not just selling land, he's selling out. She tells him he can't do this to them, that "we've worked too hard for this." He throws the "we" back at her, angrily telling her that she had had run away from her farm and her family ten years ago and didn't come back until it was too late. He says she doesn't know what they've been through because she wasn't here when some of them barely survived. He calls her as much of an outsider as Collective.
Back home, Emily doesn't want to talk about her folks. Tom says it seems to him that that's what is standing between her and the others listening to her point of view. She becomes angry, saying that she would like to know a few things too, including who he is and where does he come from. She doesn't know a damn thing about him. He says he was only trying to help, but she replies she doesn't need his help. She has been doing fine on her own. She says "fine" when he offers to get his stuff and get out, but then mutters "just like a man." His being there has reminded her why it was so nice not having one around the place. He walks over to her and asks what she wants. She wraps her arm around his neck and kisses him, then seems chagrined by her momentary weakness. After she walks away a slightly dazed Tom murmurs "I see."
The next morning she braces herself and goes into his bedroom, beginning "Look, I'm sorry", only to find the room empty. She finds Tom in the barn milking the cow. She is amused watching him, especially when the stream gets away from him and sprays his leg. She apologizes for yesterday, but Tom tells her there's nothing to be sorry for. She tells him he doesn't have to do this, but he says he has a hospital bill to work off and anyway, it feels so normal to him. She asks who Alyson is. He tries to deflect the question but finally answers that she was his wife. He tells her that it's difficult to explain, that he's been living in a world where he can't trust anyone or anything. The minute something seems familiar to him it becomes suspicious. It just doesn't seem like there's any safe place to turn. She asks if he thinks he's the only one who has these feelings . She assumes this has to with the photograph of a soldier in his negatives. His face freezes, but she tells him not to look so shocked; it was all that he was carrying. He apologizes, explaining that it becomes second nature. She asks if the message he is waiting for is tied up with the photograph, and he tells her he may have a lead on the man in the photograph. It may tell him nothing, but at least he'll know more than he does now. She asks him how it feels to trust someone. He thanks her again and they share a tender kiss.
Back at the store, Tom is buying shaving cream, razors and after-shave. He plans to take Emily to the fund raiser dance. She doesn't think it's a good idea, but he tells her to let him be the doctor now and her the patient. Toby asks dryly "No boxer shorts?' He reminds Tom he hadn't asked about his messages. None has come, but Emily immediately looks fearful and forlorn.
At the fund raiser, Tom and Emily dance, looking deep into each others' eyes. The room is lit with the soft glow of lantern light, but suddenly electric lights snap on all over town. A man bursts in saying he has bad news: Ed Durant has sold out. Tom tells Emily that explains the lights; Collective is trying to break down the townspeople's resolve. After listening to people saying they are finished, Emily finally bursts out that there is still a way that they can win. Collective may have 40 percent of the land, but the townspeople have 60 percent. They are still bigger. Her idea is to form their own cooperative to compete with Collective. All they have to do is fight together. A man throws back at her "Until you give up on us again and decide to pick up and leave town?" She faces him steadily as she tells him that she means together. She admits she has made her mistakes, but asks if any of them hadn't ever made a mistake. "Haven't any of you here ever left something behind only to realize that it was more important than you could ever imagine?" A woman speaks up in support, but another tells Emily that they don't know the first thing about forming a co-op. Emily says they can find out, that they can do down to Taylor and find a lawyer. She says they are all frightened by what they don't know. They can either let it stop them or go on with their lives and beat it. Toby tells her she must know she had nominated herself for the job.
Back home, Tom tells her how good she had done. Emily says she couldn't have done it without him, that she had been very unlike herself since Tom had been here. She never wants to forget what tonight feels like. It's "like magic, like someone left a gift for me in the woods and I just want to open it up and look inside." She says she wants to know everything about him, but something in his face stops her. The mood changes as she says he isn't finished running yet. She is hurt and angry, saying that she actually thought he liked it here. Tom tells her he loves it here but what she is asking him to give up is who he believes he is. He says Emily acts like he had a choice. She tells him everyone has a choice; it just comes down to priorities. He says she can't understand his priorities, and she replies that she had thought the same thing ten years ago but she had been wrong. Desperation in his voice , he says "I had a life. I had friends. I had things that I care about as much as you care about this farm. My entire past was taken from me." She rages back that the past is taken from everybody. "Yesterday is exactly where it's supposed to be-- a memory!" He tells her she's wrong, that the answers are out there someplace. She cries "The answers are staring you in the face. Life isn't out there. It isn't something you can chase or catch up with. How long do you think you can do this? How far are you going to get when the only feeling you have is doubt and the only emotion that you can trust is fear?" He says he can't give up his life. She answers that he already has. She is asking him to start living again.
They wake up in bed to the sound of the rooster crowing. She explains how she had hated it there and at age 17 had ran off, "nowhere, everywhere, chasing bliss." When word came that her parents had been killed out in the field, she had come home to bury them and sell the farm, but she couldn't sell it because it was so deep in debt. She was told that her parents had been looking for her for years for her help. Out of guilt, she stayed and worked off the debt, saving the farm that she hated. Tom says that it's "amazing how far you have to go to get back to where you started."
The phone rings in the post office of Alders store and the storekeeper takes a message for Tom. He pins it up on a board and then is called to the back to receive a truckload delivery. Tom and Emily pull up, Tom asking her if they would really be gone more than a week. She says it will be more like two, according to the attorney. When she asks if he's in a hurry, he quips "If you've got the boxers, I've got the time." They can't wait for Toby to finish in the storeroom and leave the money on the counter, Emily calling back that they'll get the change when they return. We can read the message: "Tom Veil. Important. Call Bert." Tom rolls up the window of the pick-up and begins to back out.
Suddenly the storekeeper is there hitting the window to get Tom's attention. He gives him the message and tells him he had better call right away because there are very few phones between there and Taylor. Emily looks straight ahead, the movement of her throat betraying her struggle to maintain her composure. Tom looks over towards her, but she can't look at him. The truck door closes behind him as she walks away. She slides over and grips the steering wheel with both hands, a breath of pain escaping her. As he punches in the numbers to make the call, she drops his bag out the door of the pick-up and drives away.
The pick-up speeds down the highway as we hear Bert's voice telling Tom he has terrific news. He says Tom will be very happy with what he has found out. The episode ends with Tom once again on foot, crossing the trestle that had brought him into town.
Synopsis © 1995 Marge Brashier
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Used by permission.
December 14, 1995