JOHNNY SCARPONE is a young man tormented by ghosts from his past; a past he has been hiding from for ten years. It isn't until a random chain of events brings him back to Coaldale- a small backwater town in Pennsylvania's colorful 'Coal Region'- that he is confronted with the events of a summer long-past, events that made him leave Coaldale without looking back.
With his car being worked on by the local mechanic, Johnny finds himself stranded in his old hometown for the afternoon. As he walks the streets, he remembers events from his childhood and the many adventures he had shared with his menagerie of friends: stealing cigarettes from Mr. Girardi's market, trying to impress girls at the Bowl-A-Rama, and saving his friend Vinny Romero from his abusive, alcoholic, Star Trek-obsessed father...a man who makes all who enter his home speak only in Klingon.
Even though Johnny's walk around Coaldale is filled with happy memories, he is drawn into the woods, to the spot where he would be forced to come to terms with the defining moment of his youth.
Ten years earlier, Johnny had come to these woods with his friends Vinny, Ryan "Penny" Jones, and Jason "If it burns, smoke it" LaMotta to celebrate the beginning of summer the way all teenagers in Coaldale do: with a case of illegally purchased beer from Verducci's Beer Warehouse and Taxidermy Studio ("Have a beer while we stuff your deer" proclaims their sign). From a hilltop deep in the woods, the boys spot something strange in the valley below.
A few days later, Johnny and Vinny decide to solve the mystery of the strange object, and it turns out to be an abandoned trailer. Inside, the young boys stumble upon the mummified remains of Fern Hatzel (an escaped patient from the Ashland Home for theFeeble-Minded and Mentally Ill), and her very-much-alive teenaged daughter, a young mute girl named Misty.
Johnny and Vinny spend the rest of the summer making secret visits to the trailer, befriending the girl and encouraging her to rejoin society. However, there is a budding romance growing between Johnny and the young girl, and this drives Vinny mad with jealousy.
After a fistfight with his father, Vinny Romero expresses his anger by climbing atop the Coaldale Pharmacy and pelting the townsfolk with pellets from an air rifle, which lands him in the mental hospital in Ashland. With Vinny out of the picture, Johnny uses this opportunity to get closer to Misty, and the two teenagers fall deeply in love.
When Vinny is released from Ashland a few weeks later, it doesn't take him long to discover that his best friend had betrayed him, and in a fit of jealousy he pays a visit to the trailer and forces himself upon the young girl. Misty attempts to fight off her attacker, but the incident ends with Vinny bludgeoning the young girl to death with a metal pipe.
Johnny Scarpone arrives at the scene a moment too late and races off into the woods to avenge the death of his young lover, and after a confrontation with Vinny, the mild-mannered Johnny finds himself with blood on his hands and the body of a former best friend to dispose of...which he does in a nearby abandoned quarry.
The present-day Johnny finds himself at the scene of the forgotten crime, where he wrestles with his inner demons and attempts to purge himself of the guilt he has been living with by saying a final tearful goodbye to his one true love.
"Monkeyweed" isn't your average coming-of-age story; it is an irreverent romp through the rough-and-tumble hardscrabble mining towns of Pennsylvania and a young boy's experience dealing with death, drugs, and forbidden love. Young Johnny may have gotten away with murder, but only years later at the site of his forgotten crime does he learn the true cost.