Wayfaring Stranger


eugene_icon.gif finch_icon.gif zach_icon.gif

Scene Title Wayfaring Stranger
Synopsis Finch has a family reunion!
Date June 10, 2021

A pickup truck winds down a dusty road between tall stands of pine trees. Scenic mountains loom in the distance, warm summer breeze blows through the truck’s open windows, and the instrumentation of one Johnny Cash strains out of the truck’s radio.

I'm just a poor wayfaring stranger

The truck driver glances in the rear view, watching the plume of dust he’s kicking up on the road, then plucks a cigarette from behind his ear. He pushes in the dashboard lighter with his thumb, whistling to the lilting melody.

Traveling through this world below

The cigarette lighter pops out a moment later, and the driver pulls it out of the dashboard and presses the glowing hot coils to the end of his cigarette. He takes in a deep, luxurious breath and exhales smoke out his nostrils in deep satisfaction. The lighter is returned to its place in the dash.

There's no sickness, no toil or danger

Up ahead, farmland is coming into view, and the driver drums his hands on the steering wheel to the slow beat of the song. Rambling pastures flank either side of the truck as he drives up on the small town, navigating the roads without so much as a thought. He could drive this route blindfolded.

In that bright land to which I go

And he turns on to a familiar side street, and up the long dirt driveway to a three-story white farmhouse with an attached barn. The driver slows to a crawl as he approaches, and three dogs come running out of the barn, barking excitedly with tails wagging on hearing his truck.

I'm going there to see my father

The driver brings the truck to a stop and throws it into park. It’s then he notices a young man emerging from the barn, no smile on his face. Instead, there’s a look of intense worry and a bristling, nervous energy.

And all my loved ones, who've gone on

The driver turns off the radio and steps out of the truck, leaving it idling. “Now don’t you look like a dog what got his bone stolen. What’s up?”

The young man who emerged from the barn glances over his shoulder, then back to the driver. “You listen to the news?” He asks. The driver scoffs at the notion.

“I ain’t gotta hear none of what them puffed up liars gotta say.” The driver grouses, tagging a drag off of his cigarette. “What’s got yer boxers in a bunch, boy?”

The young man shakes his head, looking at the farmhouse, then back to the driver. “I think it’s really happening.”

“What?” The driver asks, plucking his cigarette from his mouth. Now he can see the boy’s fear. Understands it. But he couldn’t anticipate his answer.

A civil war.

Ten Years Later

Bay Ridge
NYC Safe Zone

June 10
10:48 am

Morning light shines through the windows of a luxurious and cozy brownstone, with its rich hardwood floors, interior brick wall, fireplace, and—


Finch reflexively pauses on walking at a moving box. But it’s not cardboard; hard, molded plastic and sturdy handles. Rough and rugged, familiar in a way her past is. There’s a smell in the air, a mix of sea brine and something more acrid. Tobacco smoke.

Finch’s handler closes the door behind himself and turns to look at Finch, smiling contentedly. “Welcome home, Eloise.”

He gestures to direct Finch’s attention ahead, where framed by a beautifully arched doorway, a broad-shouldered man sits on a stack of weapon crates in what would be Finch’s dining room. A cigarette burns in his hand, trailing a tendril of smoke over his shoulder. He is backlit by the morning sun filtering in through the sliding doors behind him that go out to a fenced in yard.

“Been a long time, kiddo.” The older man rasps with a southern comfort sweetness, spreading his arms wide.

“Come give uncle ‘Gene a hug!”

In a moment between breaths, Finch looks defeated. She looks ahead of her as one by one, the tears that had threatened to fall finally streak their way down her cheeks.

She finds her ability to breathe again after she's already taken a large step forward, and before she knows it she's basically flinging herself into the offered embrace, hugging as tightly as her arms will let her.

Without letting go, a smile that is as much happiness as it is upset breaks onto her face, and she half-says half-sobs, "I didn't— know! Where you— I prayed for you!"

Eugene throws his sweaty arms around Finch and wraps her up in that full embrace. He stands and lifts Finch off her feet, swinging her around like he had so many times over when she was much younger. “An’ look at what all that prayin’ did. I gotta tell you, kiddo, I think you made old man Jesus keep an eye out for ol’ Uncle ‘Gene more than once.”

As he sets Finch down on her feet, Eugene looks past her to Zachary. “You done good, boy.” He says with a smile, then turns that same expression down to Finch. “Now, I got some good news, girlie. You might wanna’ pop a squat for this one.” He says, motioning to the crate he was seated on earlier.

"Oh my gosh," Finch laughs brightly as she regains her balance, relief painting her words. When directed, she takes a seat immediately, sinking down with almost every ounce of her glad attention on uncle 'Gene, hands clasped in front of her face in excitement.

"Did you lie to me?" She asks of Zachary, shooting him the briefest look of judgment— one that her happy smile undoes effortlessly. Because how could she be upset right now? "More good news? I just…" She swipes away a tear from the corner of her eye, sniffling. "I don't know if I could handle more right now, Uncle Gene. Look at you! Here!" She gestures at him with both her arms and all of her joy.

Zachary doesn’t reply, so much as offer a hesitant smile and excuse himself to the mostly empty kitchen. Eugene, however, answers for him.

“Naw, don’t you go sassing Zachary there. That boy’s just gone and done what your mom and pops asked him t’do.” Eugene’s smile grows. “‘Cause guess what, kiddo?” Eugene says, starting to pace the room a little. “Your momma and daddy? They’re comin’ out here. Gonna be a big ol’ family reunion.”

Finch perks up with a surprised noise of further delight. Her parents!

It's… it's been a while. And this isn't a normal family. Hers has never fully been that, if Finch's time spent in the Safe Zone has proven anything at all.

She stills, really looking into Eugene's eyes and what of his soul might be beyond them to ask, "What's happening?" But she doesn't leave him space to ask, urgency on her voice. "You can tell me, I'm not little anymore, y'know that, right? I couldn't contact you, the phones— but…"

Her eyebrows slant with worry and a certain kind of readiness to act. "Is everything okay? With them? And home? And you?"

“It’s like yer old man said when we go out in the woods huntin’,” Eugene says, demeanor shifting as he talks to Finch. Because she’s right. She’s not little anymore, and the same means of sweeping her curiosity under the rug might not work. “You gotta be quiet or you’ll spook the deer.”

Zach crosses his arms and watches Eugene and Finch, stepping out of the latter’s peripheral vision. He grows quiet, like in the story Eugene is telling.

“Your momma and daddy, they’ve been workin’ for a while now.” Eugene says, dancing around the topic at hand. “Figurin’ out a way to, y’know, protect people. Like they protected us all those years at home. Nice and snug like a bug in a rug.” He flashes her a smile. He’s missing more teeth than she remembers. One is rotting. “They’re gonna come out here with a bunch’a our friends and, you know…” He scrunches up his face. “Be like the police.”

Trying to briskly move past the topic, Eugene reaches up and ruffles Finch’s hair as if she were little still. “They asked me t’keep a special eye on you, make sure nothin’ bad happens t’you. New York’s a dangerous city, y’know.”

Finch watches Eugene like he's her whole world, her eyes still wide when he goes in for the ruffle. A laugh escapes her despite an attempted sour look. He's family, he's allowed.

"Okay," she says when all goes quiet for a second too long. But her tone is floating somewhere between indecision and confusion when she continues to say, "Like the police." Finally, she cracks a wide smile, "That's really good! The city can really use that. It's got great spots!" She waves an arm out to the side as if she's inviting good ol' Uncle Gene to go see them with her right now if she wasn't presently busy rambling up a response first. "But it can be kinda scary when you're on your own? I had some friends, but I…"

She visibly shrinks into herself, lifting a hand to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear as she breaks eye contact and looks up, then straight down. "This is gonna sound real stupid but I had a nightmare-not-nightmare where I…. I kinda melted and… then people got together about it but they were all… special and I still don't understand?" Both of her hands now get slapped onto her face in shame, before she looks over the top of them back at Eugene, searching his face with an apologetic look on her own. Quietly, she adds, "I don't think I really understood dangerous until then, neither."

Eugene and Zach share a long look during Finch’s story about her dream. “Naw, don’t you worry none,” Eugene says, putting a hand on her shoulder that transitions to her back, “we ain’t gonna let no Slice funny business hurt you. You know your momma and daddy’d put whoever tried t’hurt you right in their place, they would.”

“We need to meet with the others soon,” Zach interrupts, giving Eugene a pointed look. “There’s a lot of ground to cover.”

Yeah, yeah,” Eugene grouses, shifting his hand on Finch to affirm a gentle but controlling grip. He looks down at her with a warm smile. “So, Zach here’s right, I’ve gotta go meet some friends of your folks’. Business talk, y’know.” He glances at Zach, and the younger man turns to move for the door. “But ol’ Eugene ain’t gonna leave you alone.”

Letting go of Finch’s shoulder, Eugene takes out a dog-eared business card from his pocket. “You need t’reach me, you need anythin’ at all?” He flicks it out toward Finch. “You give my momma a call and she’ll move heaven an’ earth for you.”

The card reads EILEEN’S CAFE in large print and has a drawing of a tiny bird drinking out of a teacup. Below is the address of a basement vendor stall in the Red Hook Market. On the back of the card, Eugene has written “Eleanor.”

“Now,” Eugene says, taking a knee so he has to look up to Finch. “You need anythin’ before ol’ Eugene leaves you to your new place? We’re gonna put all this stuff somewhere else soon, get you some real furniture. But there’s a nice bed upstairs, an’ some friends’ll be by later t’help you move your stuff in their truck when y’ready.”

Finch sits prim and proper, fumbling to catch the card and holding it carefully in both hands when she does.

Between the sudden prospect of moving, seeing her family again and the sinking feeling in her stomach about what it might mean to be 'like the police', she looks a little… stunned as she stares Eugene in the face. Like she's heard the party popper go off but she's still waiting for the streamers and confetti to tell her that it is, in fact, time to celebrate.

Maybe she just has to trust that they will. Trust in the familiarity of family. Holding her card tight and breathing out a big sigh that removes most of the tension in her posture, she suddenly launches herself forward and flings both her arms around Eugene for one last hug before he goes.

Already clearly weepy again, she answers, "Just come back is all I need."

“Aw, you ain’t gotta worry about ol’ Uncle Eugene,” he says with a toothy smile, reaching in to ruffle Finch’s hair like she’s six. “Uncle Sam filled me with patriotic pride an’ a billion dollars of love.” He adds, laughing wheezily.

Eugene.” Zach says with an urgency, but not enough to come across as snappy. Even still, Eugene looks at Zachary like a kid that spoke up at the adults table on Thanksgiving. “I’ll be out in the car,” he adds, giving Finch a look with a weary smile before showing himself out.

With Zach gone, Eugene takes a knee beside Finch. “C’mon buttercup, you’re usually all sunshine an’ rainbows t’see me.” There’s earnest concern there, if tempered by other less genuine things. Living in the Safe Zone as long as she has, having the separation from her old life that she does, Finch had never realized how infantilized her family kept her. “You need anythin’ from ol’ Eugene before he gits?”

The look Finch sends Zachary as he leaves is quick and suddenly alert, but… once she's got her eyes back on Eugene, she smiles and shakes her head.

"I'm just in shock, uncle Gene," she lies, the heavy weight of a decision waiting to be made shoved deeper down inside her. "Get…" She stalls, but laughs in seeming apology and sucks in a deep breath before the rest of the sentence makes it out in a much brighter tone of voice. "Get settled, first. I can take care of myself. Especially now!"

She spreads her arms — she's got a whole place! Then, those same arms are bent at the elbows for a mighty flex of capable-for-their-size but arguably less than mighty muscles. "And if there's anything I can do, let me know, okay? I'm stronger now than I've ever been."

Eugene’s smile grows, looking down proudly at Finch. He cups a calloused hand at her cheek, then lets it fall down to her shoulder. “Ain’t we all, kiddo?” He says with that smile growing.

Ain’t we all?

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