FADE UP TO:
EXT. MASON STREET (MORNING) - SUMMER
The vast sidewalks of suburban Mason Street are lined with empty trash cans and remnants of the garbage that the trash collectors didn't pick up properly. There is a big couch down the street that did not get taken, along with an old tube TV and a rusty old propane tank.
CARL - mid-30's, skinny, timid, and obviously unconfident - steps out onto his section of the sidewalk wearing a bathrobe and nursing a cup of coffee. He stands beside his cookie cutter mailbox, which reads "37."
He looks to the right. And then down to the left. He turns around and then back to the left and right. He looks confused.
His neighbor GERALD from across the street walks quickly outside, grabs his own empty trash can, and briskly brings it back into his garage. He doesn't notice Carl standing across the street.
Next door, to the left, CINDY and NED - a married couple - pick up their two cans and place them inside their picket fence and hop in their car. They drive away.
Carl does another double take up and down the street. He looks very uncomfortable, when suddenly he gets intrigued. He suddenly notices the bottom end of a tin trash can peaking out from the opposite side of his neighbors' mini van. He starts to slowly walk toward the mini van, very cautiously.
When he gets to the other side of the mini van, ROSS - the young son of the family next door - abruptly pulls the can upwards. He gives a mean look up at Carl, who feels embarassed for being on the family's property. Ross begins to drag the can toward their garage, making a terrible screeching sound on the driveway.
Ross leaves the can outside the garage and darts for the front door of his home, where his father DONALD - an angry looking man - opens the door so Ross can run in. Keeping the door open, Donald looks down at his son who says something inaudible.
Carl is still standing at the end of the driveway. Donald looks over at Carl after his son talks to him. Carl gives an awkward greeting by tipping his coffee cup slightly. Donald grimaces at Carl and immediately shuts the door and closes the blinds to the door.
Helpless, Carl starts to return to his home. As he paces toward his house, more neighbors happily appear to retrieve their trash cans. He notices each instance and it is as if everyone around him is extra delighted to be bringing their empty trash cans in from the sidewalk.
Carl walks inside his house, a poorly decorated - but exceptionally clean - residence. He sits at his kitchen table by the window, lowering the venetian blinds so he can observe even more neighbors picking up their trash cans and going on about their day. He appears to be sweating slightly and has become paler than usual.
He sits quietly with his paranoid thoughts.
INT. ITALIAN RESTAURANT (EVENING) - SAME DAY
Carl is seated across from his date, NANCY - same age, wearing a conservative dress with a floral print. They are eating their own pizzas and each has a tall cup of soda. Nancy is telling a story in between bites of pizza.
NANCY: And at that point I had had it. I'd been filing that paperwork for 5 hours straight and I looked over to Janet and I said "this is the straw, Janet. This is the straw that has broken the camel's back." And she motions her eyes over to Larry. And you know what - I could care less if he heard me talking about him and the paperwork.
Carl shifts between looking at Nancy, to staring at the table aimlessly. He is not focused on her or her stories.
NANCY: Are you even listening to me, Carl?
NANCY: I said: Are you even listening to me?
CARL: (sighs) I'm sorry. It's just... Well, my trash can wasn't there in the morning. And, I just have this feeling it was stolen.
Nancy looks at Carl, not interested in his story.
CARL: I brought it outside after dinner last night and put it on the curb. It was there at 6:00 and then in the morning it had vanished. I went outside and, well, it must have been stolen. It isn't anywhere.
NANCY: (suddenly assertive) And you think that someone stole your trash can?
Carl looks at her with seriousness and an eagerness to have her engaged in his hypothesis.
CARL: Well... yes. What else could have happened? It wasn't accidentally tossed onto any of my neighbors' yards, and I have my house number stenciled in yellow on the can. It had to be stolen. I've had this awful feeling all day. It's like a, uh, uh, uh - violation. I keep picturing the thief, Nancy. I replay it over and over in my head. They pull up outside my house. You know, when it's really dark in the middle of the night. And one of them gets out of the vehicle while the other one leaves the engine running. They grab the can and put in the back. And they don't care that I own it. They don't care that I, you know, paid for it. They're heartless. They're animals.
NANCY: Carl... That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard in my life.
Her condescending stare lingers after the words leave her mouth.
The door to Nancy's car shuts and Carl has gotten out of her car outside his house.
NANCY: Don't call me again, Carl.
She quickly drives off, leaving Carl alone on the sidewalk.
He looks around and the lights begin to turn off in the homes in his neighborhood. He stands below a dimly lit street lamp in the stillness of the evening.
FADE UP TO:
EXT. MASON STREET (MORNING) - WINTER
Snow has covered the suburbs. Carl is sitting on his front porch in his robe, holding a fresh cup of coffee. He watches as Gerald from across the street gets out of his wagon and opens the trunk, revealing two brand new trash cans. His wife JUDY walks out to greet him with a huge smile, holding two bags of trash.
Judy places the bags into the new cans and she and her husband wheel the cans out to the curb together. They retrun to their front door holding hands.
Carl looks next door and suddenly sees Ross out at the end of the driveway beside his family's trash can. Carl gives an awkward grin. Ross returns the gesture with an icy stare. Carl looks to the right of Ross and sees Donald at the doorway, grilling Carl. Carl immediately looks away, feeling completely helpless again.
As he sits on his porch, more neighbors begin to bring out their trash cans to the sidewalk. In the background, along the picket fence that divides Carl's house with Cindy and Ned's home, a pile of full trash bags is slightly visible in Carl's yard. They are chaotically stacked.
EXT. SUBURBAN INTERSECTION (LATER IN THE MORNING) - SAME DAY
Carl is driving along and stops at a red light at an intersection in the commercial district of the town. He picks up the newspaper from his passenger seat and browses the local news stories in Section B. His eyes drift past the newspaper and he suddenly sees a white van pull to the side of the road the next street over.
His eyes return to the paper, only to glance past it again to see a large man in a hooded sweatshirt exit the van and pick up a trash can on the side of the road. He waddles back to the van, opens the van, and hands the can to another man in the back. The larger man climbs in and slams the double doors behind him.
The van's tires squeal as it pulls away from the side of the road.
Carl is stunned. Thoughts are racing through his mind.
Suddenly instinct takes over and he immediately turns right, almost hitting a car. The car beeps at him, but he is dead set on following the van. He is several cars back, but has it locked in his sight.
He begins to strategically hang back a few cars and follows the van as it drives toward the highway.
EXT. INTERSTATE (AFTERNOON) - SAME DAY
Carl's car is still trailing the van on an interstate.
Signs begin to come and go - "NOW ENTERING INDIANA," "WELCOME TO PENNSYLVANIA," "YOU HAVE ENTERED THE EMPIRE STATE."
EXT. DIRT ROAD (EVENING) - SAME DAY
The van travels down a dirt road on the outskirts of New York City. It travels toward a rundown warehouse and pulls into a parking space in a parking lot populated by 4 other vehicles.
Carl turns his headlights out as he drives down the dirt road. He pulls over to the side of the dirt road about 20 yards from the beginning of the parking lot. He turns off the ignition and squints to make out what is happening with the van.
He watches as 3 men unload 5 trash cans from the van. They close all the van doors and walk into the warehouse through a single door on the side of the immense building.
Carl sits still, nervous. He timidly contemplates what to do.
Finally he decides to exit his car.
The tension rises as he approaches the facility. He is walking with extreme caution, quietly stepping toward the warehouse. With each step, the suspense builds.
When he arrives at the side door the men had entered, he gulps. His breaths get more frequent and they are visible in the chilly air. Finally he impulsively opens the door and enters.
The warehouse is vast. It's rather dark, illuminated by the glow of orange and yellow light. The warehouse is lined with aisles of junk and debris, as far as the eye can see. Screams and shrieks can be heard, echoing throughout the building. Shadows of people begin to be seen on the walls and ceiling, and the glow appears to be produced by flames. As the light comes and goes, Carl is able to see what the rows of junk actually is. He sees old lawn mowers, car engine parts, decrepit appliances. The heaps of garbage go on forever it seems.
Carl looks terrified.
The screams start to increase. There are all kinds of industrial sounds increasing in volume.
Carl walks with extreme caution and walks to the wall on the far right. When he reaches the last row of garbage, he slowly peaks around the corner. His eyes widen with fear.
He can see looming shadows of men forcing a body into some kind of machine. The shadows shift as the glow of fire sways from side to side. The screaming increases and echoes even louder throughout the building. Carl moves his head around the row of debris a bit more and sees a conveyor belt of fiery lava-like substance traveling toward the middle of the warehouse. It looks like something out of a steel mill, only there are large chunks of metallic junk in the lava, including what appears to be tin trash cans from time to time.
The agonizing screams continue and "No! No! Noooooo!" can clearly be heard over the industrial soundscape.
Carl starts to tremble.
As the fear increases, Carl begins to creep backward. He motions to turn around and suddenly freezes in his footsteps, for the next aisle over he sees his tin trash can amidst a heap of garbage and broken down machinery. "37" is prominently spray painted in yellow.
He steps toward it, looking around to see if anyone is around.
As he approaches, the suspense increases.
When he is in front of the can he looks down at it. He slowly starts to reach for it as the tension builds. Suddenly his arms are around it.
EXT. WAREHOUSE (NIGHT) - SAME DAY
Carl is sprinting frantically through the parking lot, clutching his trash can with all his might.
Once inside his car he slams on the gas and accelerates away from the warehouse, barreling down the dirt road and kicking up rocks and dirt with his tires.
EXT. MASON STREET (MORNING) - EARLY SPRING
The snow has begun melting in Carl's neighborhood. Familiar faces start to put their trash cans out to the curb, and the population of the neighborhood is as happy as ever.
Carl places his trash can right beside his mailbox. He looks next door and both Ross and Donald are at the end of their driveway. They each give Carl nasty looks and walk to their front door. Ross walks in first and Donald closes the door behind them, eyeing Carl with a hostile stare.
Carl grins to himself as he places the lid on his trash can rather triumphantly.
He takes a sip of his cup of coffee and looks around the neighborhood just before walking back toward his house, as other neighbors continue to file onto the sidewalk and leave their trash cans on the curb.
The CAMERA pulls back from a medium shot of Carl's "37" trash can, revealing months and months of white trash bags piled at least 7 feet off of the ground, filling Carl's entire front yard as the sun shines down on the neighborhood of Mason Street.