Institute History

  • 1997 January Screenwriters Lab


SALT – writer/playwright: Migdalia Cruz

It’s Christmas Eve, 1999, and some of God’s creatures are stirring.

Belilah Love has made a little family for herself. Two kids, Grace and Vasques, came the usual way. But the other three – Belen, her twin brother, Guadalupe, and LuLu – Belilah just lucked out with them. Those three get plenty of dates, a lot more than Gracie (who’s plain) and Vasques (who’s dwarfish). Now Belilah has enough money to get an apartment with walls and a door. No more burrowing in the salt for her.

In this allegorical tale, a family-by-necessity carves their lives in and around the road salt mounds dominating the post-industrial wasteland at 95th and Mackinaw, in the southside of Chicago. They are in strange company. It is here that eight nurses were strangled, one little boy was beaten to death by two rich college students, and hundreds of Pottawatomie Indians were massacred. All of these souls call it home. But some still dream of getting away.

If Grace can just teach Lupe how to read. The key is to read the map. Once Lupe can figure out a route, he’s taking the dearest Belen out of there to a house where they can raise potato babies and never be out on the street again. But Belen wants to take LuLu, and LuLu won’t go without his doll, Angie, who’s disappeared. Grace tries to manipulate LuLu into killing Belen so she can have Lupe to herself. Vasques watches the whole thing, praying he won’t have to get rid of any more small bodies – the furnace is getting so full.

Into the lives of these five desperate children comes two men on a fierce spiritual journey: Father Jan Czekaj, tired of waiting in his empty church for God to give him a sign – or at least a parishioner or two; and Rocket, a mysterious man who may be a janitor – or may be the Messiah. Rocket’s named after the cartoon squirrel and is addicted to holy water, good tequila, and disco.

“Last dance. Last chance for love…” Everyone parties on New Year’s Eve.

And the horrible part is that it’s beginning to snow.


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