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Saving Zero: Texas Roadhouse Steakhouse

Dan Burns and BenBy Dan Burns (read the full Saving Zero series as we are running it here.)


Saloon doors, wood plank walls, mirrored beer posters, back-lit rainbow bar, peanuts spilling out of tin buckets, country western band. BARTENDER and BARBACK go about their business. A DRUNK sits at the end of the bar with his head lying on arms crossed. EDNA, an older woman with her graying hair stacked high on her head plays honky-tonk on an old stand up piano. She is accompanied by an ELECTRIC SLIDE GUITARIST, a FIDDLER, a STAND-UP BASS PLAYER in a John Deer cap, and a DRUMMER behind a drum set, on which “Goat Ropers” is displayed. Two waiters -- MIDNIGHT COWBOY and NATALIA -- are performing a line dance: clapping hands, slapping thighs. MIDNIGHT COWBOY is a beardless youth, T-shirt cut to reveal his underarms, tight jeans, boots. NATALIA, the cowgirl, long flowing hair, green vest, thumbs hooked in her blue jeans pockets, shaking her breasts.

MIDNIGHT COWBOY picks up his waiter’s notebook and approaches the Hope Ranch table.

MIDNIGHT COWBOY: Howdy ‘pokes. Food’s on the way. Dessert?

ZERO: I’ll take the gull.


She’s not on the menu.

ZERO: A Gween Wussian then.


ZERO (grinning, cocky): I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.

The FOOD CART arrives. THE RANCH KIDS eat at the round table with MISTY.

VOICE OF JOSH (voice over): I was proud of the kids that night. That they did not act like inmates let loose from the asylum; that BENJY did not put peanuts in his ear; that GOAT BOY didn’t empty the ketchup bottle; that VAN GO did not insist on a McDonald’s hamburger and fries; that ANNIE did not scream or stomp or fidget. That HAMSTER did not climb on a chair and recite Shakespeare. That no one threw peanuts.

NATALIA brings the dessert cart with a food flamer. Zero scribbles his phone number on a napkin and hands it to her.

VOICE OF JOSH (continuing): And that the green-vested waitress bringing the dessert cart, Natalia, seemed amused by ZERO’S amorous overtures.

ZERO: Call me. I like meeting new people.

NATALIA: Yeah. (winks at Josh) You make a great first impression.

ANNIE (singing a tune from Disney’s Little Mermaid): Sha-la-la-la-la-la, Don't stop now, Don't try to hide it how, You wanna kiss the girl!

JOSH: She’s singing. It’s a miracle.

SLOOPY: It’s the neurotherapy.

NATALIA: Are you Annie?

ANNIE: Yes, dear.

NATALIA: I have a surprise for you.

NATALIA takes the top off the FOOD FLAMER, revealing a BIRTHDAY CAKE, CANDLES blazing.

BENJY: Ah. Bah. Gah.

BENJY leans over to blow out the candles but JOSH restrains him.

JOSH (to Benjy): Wait. (to Annie) What’s your wish?

ANNIE (smiling through tears): Friends.

JOSH (toasting): To friends.

ANNIE: You’re my hero, Mr. Josh!

JOSH puts one arm around Annie and one arm around Benjy.

JOSH: Happy birthday, Annie. Happy birthday, Hope Ranch. We’re going to live . . .

ANNIE blows out the candles and finishes the sentence.

ANNIE: . . . Happily ever after!

ANNIE: I want to sing.

JOSH: Now?

ANNIE: Right now.

ANNIE steps up on stage in front of the band. ZERO moves the MICROPHONE STAND from in front of the SLIDE GUITARIST to down center in front of ANNIE.

EDNA: What you gonna sing, honey?

ANNIE: Climb Every Mountain.

The band members look at each other and shrug their shoulders. EDNA plays by memory a beautiful intro like a classically trained pianist. The BARTENDER, like Simon Cowell auditioning Susan Boyle in Britain’s Got Talent, looks on skeptically. NATE opens a beer for ARTIE. The LOCALS drink and chat at the bar.

ANNIE (singing): Climb every mountain, Search high and low, Follow every byway, Every path you know.

The LOCALS turn their attention to Annie, who is stunning everyone with a fantastic performance.

ANNIE (CONT'D): Climb every mountain, Ford every stream, Follow every rainbow, 'Till you find your dream.

The BASS PLAYER has produced a BOW from nowhere. The DRUMMER strikes a beat and the SLIDE GUITARIST and FIDDLER join in sounding suddenly more like a symphony orchestra than a honky-tonk band. ANNIE takes the MICROPHONE off the stand and walks toward the audience.

ANNIE (CONT'D): A dream that will need All the love you can give, Every day of your life For as long as you live.

The music swells. VAN GO and BENJY stand up and sway arm in arm in rhythm. GOAT BOY joins in too. SIMON and the BARBACK are looking at each other: Can you believe this? The LOCALS put down their BEER BOTTLES and are transfixed. Even the DRUNK awakes from his stupor and looks up at ANNIE. ANGELA extends her hand and pulls MISTY into the group. MIDNIGHT COWBOY and NATALIA look at each other and sing along.

The bar door opens.  ANNIE’S MOM AND ANNIE’S DAD walk in just in time to catch the end of the performance. They stand at the door, transfixed.

ANNIE (CONT'D): Climb every mountain, Ford every stream, Follow every rainbow, Till you find your dream.

As ANNIE holds out the climatic notes, the DRUNK at the end of the bar wipes a tear from his eye. BENJY perfectly articulates the words he couldn’t quite get right before.

BENJY: Don’t. Give. Up.


SFX: As the music ends, ANNIE giggles over a black screen.



JOSH is at his computer at a card table in the corner of the common room, catching up on some paperwork. Dr. Buck Sanders’ straw cowboy hat is on the table beside him. A calendar on the wall says Shoal Creek Psychiatric Center. Zero walks past, in pajamas, barefoot, on his way to the fridge, carrying his empty dinner bowl.   

ZERO (cheerfully): Tonight’s the night.

Josh spots the dinner bowl.

JOSH: Fridge is unlocked. 

ZERO: The night I’m gonna kill myself.  

JOSH: First time?


JOSH: When was the last time?

ZERO: I was eleven.

JOSH: Why’d you do it?

ZERO: I was in the psych ward. It was the only way I could make 'em stop giving me dwugs. 

Zero opens the fridge and loads his bowl with leftovers. Barbecue beef and french fries.  

JOSH: Why now?

ZERO: My dad’s not comin’ back foh me. Is he?

JOSH: Nope.  He left this.

Josh holds up the straw hat that blew off Buck Sanders' head.

ZERO: Hey, that’s mine.

Zero snatches the hat. Josh grabs Zero by the wrist.

JOSH: Let me see your hand.

Josh takes the hat. Zero extends his hand to Josh, palm up. 

JOSH (tracing with his fingers): You have a double lifeline.  Here’s the split.  That’s today! 

ZERO: Wight.

JOSH: But look at this line.  It goes waaay down. You have a good long life ahead of you.

ZERO: Yeah. That's my next life.  After I slow down my hawt until it stops.  

JOSH: Power of the mind?

ZERO: Yep.

JOSH: Get some rest.  Big day tomorrow. Your job interview!

Josh puts the hat on Zero's head.

ZERO): I'm not comin' back.

JOSH: Fine. Leave your feet sticking out the end of the bed. Tomorrow morning I'll tickle your toes. If they don't twitch, I'll call 911 and have 'em dump your body in the creek. Close the fridge.

ZERO (walking off): Nobody bewieves me. 

JOSH: Don't make a mess.

Zero stomps off toward the bedroom, carrying his dinner bowl. We hear his door close. Josh speed dials Shoal Creek.

JOSH (into phone): Shoal Creek, Hope Ranch here. Get a bed ready.  (beat) Not yet.  Stand by.




Thats enough to think about for another week..

Pharma for Prison



I feel like I'm watching this on T.V. already! Where is Zero's lifeline taking him?

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