The shimmering white-hot Southern New Mexico sun bleaches the earth and reflects off the towering thunderheads looming on the horizon. Nothing stirs. Jack rabbits and rattlesnakes are hidden beneath the barbed wire branches of mesquite. Wooden telephone poles stretch to the horizon, silent sentinels in perfect formation. The narrow barely-paved road dips and curves and disappears around the bend or hundreds of miles beyond. The only visible road sign is riddled with bullet holes, obliterating whatever message was intended for pilgrims or those who lost their way.
Just west, an RV breaks the perfect seam where sky meets land, nestled among the desert brush down a dirt road, a loaded clothes line strung between sentinel pole and windshield, no breeze stirring the work clothes and summer dresses long dried in the blaring sun. From inside the RV, the middle-of-nowhere silence is broken by one quick and alarming pop. Nothing moves.
Out of the waves of a heat mirage clinging to our narrow black-top, emerges a leather clad figure astride a screaming motorcycle. A man, he slows, reaches inside the satchel slung across his body, gingerly pulls out a box as the motorcycle sputters and dies, out of fuel. He re-packs the box into his canvas bag, stands high on his cycle’s pedals and spies the only hope of help, the now silent and solitary RV with recently cleaned wardrobe bright against sand, hills and heaven. With a resigned sigh, he rolls his quiet and lifeless machine toward hope of refuge.
Darryl Tripp, high school English teacher, had sped on his motorcycle in the noon-day sun an hour from work and home, down that seemingly endless road to toss his still-born novel to the four winds, shedding ambitions of literary greatness and embracing the self-loathing which lurked just beneath his skin. Despite his determination to bury his novel and perhaps himself along with it, with whatever hope might still have existed in his heart and mind, he chose, instead, in that instant on the road, to put off the inevitable and refuel. He parks his motorcycle adjacent to the RV, knocks, announces himself as a desperate traveler but gets no answer despite signs that the RV is someone’s home. He opens the unlocked door, steps into the half-darkness, and takes shelter from the heat.
After a brief cell-phone conversation with his fiancée and deputy district attorney, Helen Kaufman, Darryl promises to be home in time to finalize preparations for their engagement party that evening. He sits, stares at the bulging satchel with the corpse of his lifeless novel, and decides to end it all by choking himself to death. As he nears an oxygen deprived blackout, out from the shadows emerges a woman, Amelia Philips, hospice nurse and current owner of the RV, interrupting the trespasser’s suicidal machinations and challenging him with the threat of death of her own making, a loaded Glock. They are at an impasse when Amelia announces to Darryl, “I have to take you with me.” Amelia is on the run and it’s impossible to argue with a loaded gun and win. Darryl moves to the driver’s seat and the road trip begins.
Surprises await at every turn as the RV leaves its mooring and Amelia and Darryl embark on a road trip through New Mexican desert, mountains, farmland and orchards and discover that refuge is not necessarily found in a place, but more often in a person. REFUGE – produced by Ginger Perkins; starring Linda Hamilton, Chris McDonald, Chris Payne Gilbert and Lena Georgas; written and directed by Mark Medoff. It’s a comedy.