The Pallbearer

Institute History

  • 1994 January Screenwriters Lab


Just a few words . . . that's all Tom Thompson was asked to say at the funeral. Something personal. About all the times he's shared with Bob Abernathy. Bob's Mom made it pretty clear why she chose Tom. Why she was depending on him. Bob thought very highly of Tom. Apparently, they were close. As Tom walks to the altar past Bob's family and friends, there's only one little fact he'd like to clear up. One question that's been needling him since he first heard of Bob Abernathy's death. Who the hell is Bob Abernathy?

Tom had asked everyone he knew. No one remembered Bob. It was as if he'd never been alive. It was eery. And now as he prepares to give Bob his final send off, Tom finds his own life flashing before his eyes. He doesn't like what he sees.

First of all, Brad and Scott are slipping away. Tom has been bowling with them every Tuesday night since junior high school, since they became friends. Now bowling night is their friendship. It's all that's left. Scott and Brad have both gotten married, started careers, and are disappearing into their lives which Tom looks at with a mixture of envy and terror.

Everyone seems to be getting married, even Tom's father, Rudy, who's marrying a woman two years younger than Tom. But Tom hasn't had a girlfriend for a while. In fact, he hasn't had sex in the nineties. There are reasons. Tom's last, great love, Amy Klein for one. If only he'd kissed her, everything would be different. It was the ninth grade prom. But Tom still isn't over it. And it's difficult to take girls back to his place. He has no place. He has his mother's place. And his mother has his mother's place. So that's a problem.

To make matters worse, it's been a year since graduation and there are still no job prospects. Perhaps, his architectural portfolio is a bit esoteric. There just don't seem to be any firms interested in turning Coney Island into the Brooklyn Smithsonian.

Tom stands on the altar, resigned to life as meaningless and invisible as Bob appears to have been. His eyes settle on a woman in the back pew. Karen, an upper Westside refugee whose cultured upbringing has prepared her for everything except what to do with her life. She's crying. Which wouldn't be all that remarkable except she didn't know Bob either. Suddenly, Tom knows that Karen is his salvation. The one person who can help him get a life. There's only one problem. She doesn't like him. But one problem at a time. Tom clears his throat. And begins reverently, Who is Bob Abernathy?


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