ST. ELMO’S FIRE: THE ROUGH DRAFT*
(Billy, played by Rob Lowe, has just entered the apartment of Jules, played by Demi Moore. Jules is sad because she is broke and has been fired from her job. She is sitting in the middle of her empty apartment with the windows open, trying to freeze herself to death.)
JULES: Do you know what I’ve been doing every day since I got fired?
JULES: I’ve been sitting in the hospital with my step-monster. We’ve had the best talks we’ve ever had. Of course, she’s in a coma, which really pisses me off. Because all that time…I just waited… for one word from that woman… about why my father hates me so much.
BILLY: Jules, you know… honey, this isn’t real. You know what it is? It’s St. Elmo’s fire.
JULES: It’s what?
BILLY: St. Elmo’s Fire. An atmospheric disturbance and strange weather phenomena. Luminous plasma is created from a coronal discharge. It’s caused by the electric field in the atmosphere, such as you might find during a thunderstorm or a volcanic eruption.
JULES: Yeah. So all my problems are like a thunderstorm or volcano?
BILLY: Not exactly. You see St. Elmo was one of two names for St. Eramus. The other was St. Erasmo. He was the patron saint of sailors. Some sailors considered St. Elmo’s Fire to be good luck. Still others considered it an omen of bad luck because it would interfere with their compass readings.
JULES: You know what? I maxed out all my credit cards and slept with my boss.
BILLY: Uh-huh. Physically, St. Elmo’s Fire glows blue or violet and is occasionally accompanied by a buzzing sound. You can see it on lightning rods, aircraft wings and even cattle horns.
JULES: What is… I’m so confused. Is this a metaphor?
BILLY: It is.
JULES: I’m not sure I understand it.
BILLY: You see, in ancient Greece, a single flame from St. Elmo’s Fire was called a Helene. And Welsh Mariners called it a “spirit candle.”
JULES: So you’re saying that I need a “spirit candle” and that’s what you are? Are you my spirit candle?
BILLY: No. On May 9th, in 1605, during the second voyage of John Davis who was under the command of Sir Edward Michelbourne, an anonymous writer described it thus, “”In the extremity of our storm appeared to us in the night, upon our maine Top-mast head, a flame about the bigness of a great Candle, which the Portugals call Corpo Sancto, holding it a most divine token that when it appeareth the worst is past. As, thanked be God, we had better weather after it.”
JULES: So it’s like… now that I’ve seen St. Elmo’s Fire, everything’s going to be okay. The worst is past.
BILLY: Not really.
JULES: Okay, well fuck you then because I don’t understand this metaphor at all.
BILLY: Just listen. I know you’ve got some self-created drama going on. But it’s nothing. Just like St. Elmo’s Fire is nothing.
JULES: What do you mean, nothing? You just said St. Elmo’s Fire was a luminous volcano or something.
BILLY: Not quite. It’s a fire that isn’t actually a fire. Do you see?
JULES: So that’s why I was “fired” then? I’m so confused.
BILLY: No, no, no. You’re not getting it. St. Elmo’s Fire is a symbol.
JULES: Yes, I know it’s a fucking symbol. I got that part. Then you crashed into my apartment and I told you all my problems and then you started in on this metaphor and I was really patient and listened because I figured it was going to make sense at some point but you are not making me feel better.
BILLY: St. Elmo’s fire is reported to have been seen during the Siege of Constantinople by the Ottoman Empire in 1453.
JULES: Stop it! You need to simplify your metaphor! This is too complicated! You are stressing me out! I just tried to kill myself!
BILLY: You weren’t trying to kill yourself. You were just following your flame. Your St. Elmo’s Fire flame. But it was glowing in the air and you saw it and were following it, but then the thunderstorm came…
JULES: You are making this shit up as you go along! What is wrong with you! Your metaphors make no sense!
BILLY: Of course they do!
JULES: I just got out of college! I know what a metaphor is! It’s when there’s this thing and it’s in a story and it means something bigger and you relate to it because it means something.
BILLY: Okay, that’s the worst definition of a metaphor I’ve ever heard.
JULE: Oh, well please talk more about St. Elmo’s Fucking Fire then, because that’s the most eloquent, fascinating thing I’ve ever heard!
BILLY: Fine! In Ann Radcliffe’s 1794 novle “The Mysteries of Udolpho,” the character of Emily says “And what is that tapering of light you bear? See how it darts upwards,—and now it vanishes!”
JULES: OH MY GOD I HATE YOU SO MUCH!
BILLY: I’M TRYING TO HELP YOU WITH A METAPHOR! IF YOU HATE ME, THEN YOU MUST HATE LITERATURE AND SMARTNESS!
JULES: I do not hate smartness. I just hate people that come up with bullshit metaphors!
BILLY: Oh, does that happen to you a lot? Does it? Maybe it’s you then. Maybe you just have this attitude like “Someone tell me a bullshit metaphor.” You ever think about that? I’ll bet it’s your fault!
JULES: That is not a real problem that anyone has! There aren’t people that attract bad metaphors! There are only people who use bad metaphors and can’t seem to let go of them!
BILLY: Fuck off! St. Elmo’s Fire is an awesome metaphor!
JULES: It is not! It is lame! It makes no sense!
BILLY: Then how come Brian Eno has a song called “St. Elmo’s Fire” on his third studio album featuring King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp??? You have an answer for that, smart lady?
JULES: SHUT UP, SHUT UP, SHUT UP!
(JULES runs across the room and jumps out the window.)
BILLY: Jules! Jules!
NEXT SCENE: BILLY is in the St. Elmo’s Bar with the others.
BILLY: I tried my best, but it wasn’t enough. In the end, I guess Jules was just too sad to go living.
LESLIE: Poor Jules.
ALEC: I’m gonna miss her.
BILLY: She’s still out there, guys. Leading us all like ships through the storm. You know what she’s like?
WENDY: Is she like Jesus?
BILLY: No. She’s like St. Elmo’s Fire.
WENDY: Oh. Because the whole “ships through the storm” thing sounded like you were going to say Jesus.
BILLY: No. She’s definitely like St. Elmo’s Fire. Do you guys want to hear how she’s like St. Elmo’s Fire?
ALEC: Oh, wow! Look at the time. I have to…do this thing…
KIRBY: Yeah, I’ve got this crush on an older woman still, so I’d better…
BILLY: That older woman is your St. Elmo’s Fire, Kirby.
KIRBY: Okay. Wow. Gotta run.
WENDY: Yeah. Getting late.
(They all leave, leaving BILLY alone)
BILLY: (to himself)
“ To every article.
I boarded the king’s ship; now on the beak,
Now in the waist, the deck, in every cabin,
I flamed amazement: sometime I’ld divide,
And burn in many places; on the topmast,
The yards and bowsprit, would I flame distinctly,
Then meet and join.”
FADE TO BLACK
*Special thanks to the screenplay of ST. ELMO’S FIRE as well as the Wikipedia page for St. Elmo’s Fire.