Don’t Mess Up My Block

Read the first five pages of Don’t Mess Up My Block, a satire of the self-help industry.

——————

The biggest risk is never taking a risk at all.
– Oprah

EXT. CONVENTION CENTER – DAY

A black limousine glides to a halt in front a convention center.

Emerging from the limo is LAURENT CHRIST, 45. He has the polished look of a TV star stuffed with Botox and cosmetics.

Laurent slowly makes his way up a red carpet, shaking hands with CHEERING FANS.

Hanging over the convention center is a banner with a two-story photo of a Laurent staring into the distance with the heading:

“Laurent Christ – America’s #1 Self-Help Expert.”

At end of the red carpet awaits a PRODUCER, 25, holding a clipboard and wearing a headset. She ushers him into the building.

INT. BACKSTAGE – DAY

Laurent waits with the producer behind the curtain. We hear CHEERS and a NOISY BAND playing a rock tune to amp up the audience.

The producer holds up her hand: FIVE SECONDS.

EMCEE
(O.S.)
Don’t Mess Up My Block! The book that changed the lives of millions! The book that taught us to live for ourselves! The  sensation! And now the guru – Laurent Christ!

INT. STAGE – DAY

Laurent emerges from behind the curtain as the band breaks into “We Are Young” by Fun. He takes the stage confidently as a microphone is tossed up to him.

The CHEERS are wild and ecstatic.

Laurent holds his arms out and then slowly brings them down. The AUDIENCE obeys. SILENCE descends upon the auditorium.

On the massive screens behind him, we see the book cover of Don’t Mess Up My Block, his best-selling self-help book. The cover is bright, garish and filled with emblems of success, such as yachts, dollar signs and a leggy blonde.

Laurent waits until the room is perfectly still. Then he begins.

LAURENT
Don’t mess up my block.

The crowd APPLAUDS WILDLY. Laurent nods – it’s his signature catch-phrase.

LAURENT
Don’t mess up my block. To achieve success, you must remove the obstacles from you life, even if they’re friends, family, children. Especially if they are.

More APPLAUSE.

LAURENT
But you know all that. You read the book. You saw me on Oprah, Dr. Phil, The Today Show and the Oval Office. In the White House – can you imagine? The President listened intently. But, tonight, I have something new for you. Something big.

CHEERS.

LAURENT
Success. It is what you want. It is what I want. Success. It is what made America. We are unique, with a special destiny. Americans won’t stand for the status quo. We are not meant to bow to some king – we are not French! And we’re not meant to take orders from a boss. We are meant to lead, to seize power and rule like lions! You deserve better, don’t you? Don’t you? Tell me!

AUDIENCE
YES!

LAURENT
Good, good. That is the first step, the lesson of Don’t Mess Up My Block, the recognition that you deserve everything – the big house on the lake, the Maserati… the hot young thing on the side.

Laurent gives a playful leer and the audience LAUGHS.

LAURENT
You deserve that corner office! You deserve a fat retirement account. You deserve an erection lasting longer than four hours!

AUDIENCE
YES!

LAURENT
Tonight, I will teach you to be happy. For once I was just like you – a nobody with nothing in the middle of nowhere. But I found money, and love, and happiness and everything else, everything else… And you can too. You can too! Tonight, I will teach you the happiness secret, a proven method to be happy, no matter the circumstances. The secret to happiness is in my life story. It’s there, for anyone who will listen. Let me tell you the unbelievably true story of my life – from flyover country to the darkest jungles of Africa. Let me tell you my story…

EXT. NORTH DAKOTA – DAY

Two tiny figures labor at the end of a row of stunted brown corn. We see them from above, just little stick figures next to a tractor.

EXT. FARM – DAY

It’s 1989.

A teenage LAURENT, 17, slender and blonde, sits in the cab of a tractor. He’s wearing jeans, a Rush t-shirt and is listening to a Walkman.

We can hear the music faintly on the Walkman – it’s Love is a Battlefield by Joan Benatar.

LAURENT
(singing)
We are young… heartache to heartache, we stand.

His reverie is interrupted by OLAF, 52, his father. He’s wearing overalls and has the hard, tanned look of a person who has spent his entire life outside.

OLAF
Tools. Tools!

With a SIGH, Laurent pulls a red toolbox out from under the seat and hands it to his father.

OLAF
Come.

Laurent hops out of the cab and onto the dirt. The engine cover is up. Olaf peers into it.

OLAF
Wrench. Big one. Take that thing off.

He means the Walkman. Laurent takes it off, with another SIGH.

His father adjusts something in the engine.

OLAF
Watch. You gotta learn this.

But Laurent is staring up at the contrails of a jet streaking overhead

LAURENT
Flyover country.

OLAF
Eh?

LAURENT
Flyover country, dad. That’s what they call us.



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