Stone Cold Dead Serious: And Other Plays

Overview

Recent plays from "one of the more daring young stylists working today" (David Cote, Time Out New York)

Adam Rapp's plays have captivated audiences across the country with their unflinching explorations of the good, the bad, and the ugly in America's heartland and cities. Gathered here are three of his latest works: Faster, in which two young grifters try to strike a deal with the devil during the hottest summer on record; Finer Noble Gases, a lament for a band of arrested ...

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Overview

Recent plays from "one of the more daring young stylists working today" (David Cote, Time Out New York)

Adam Rapp's plays have captivated audiences across the country with their unflinching explorations of the good, the bad, and the ugly in America's heartland and cities. Gathered here are three of his latest works: Faster, in which two young grifters try to strike a deal with the devil during the hottest summer on record; Finer Noble Gases, a lament for a band of arrested thirty-year-olds slouching toward adulthood amid East Village decay; and the Off-Broadway hit Stone Cold Dead Serious. An honest, strange, and humorous look at a blue-collar family struggling to survive in the face of disability and addiction, and the seemingly surreal lengths their teenage son will go to save them from themselves, the play prompted Bruce Weber to rave in The New York Times: "Rapp is very gifted, and, even rarer, he has something to say . . . Stone Cold Dead Serious [is] brave, compassionate, and . . . breathtakingly moving. It is the work of a playwright who is forging a real voice . . . Its rendering of the shared language of loved ones illustrates how families can remain intimate even when they are in shards. Its depiction of a working-class America that is unable to dream of anything beyond enduring is as sincerely sad a commentary on our culture as I've seen in recent memory. And its fear for young people is, unfortunately, deeply convincing."

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Rapp is very gifted, and, even rarer he has something to say . . . Stone Cold Dead Serious . . . is . . . brave, compassionate, and . . . breathtakingly moving. It is the work of a playwright who is forging a real voice . . . It's rendering of the shared language of loved ones illustrates how families can remain intimate even when they are in shards. It's depiction of a working-class America that is unable to dream of anything beyond enduring is as sincerely sad a commentary on our culture as I've seen in recent memory. And its fear for young people is, unfortunately deeply convincing." —Bruce Weber, The New York Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780571211395
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber
  • Publication date: 7/28/2004
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 471,534
  • Product dimensions: 8.06 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Meet the Author

Adam Rapp is the author of numerous plays, most notably Nocturne (Faber, 2002),

as well as six novels for young adults. He is at work on his first feature film, Winter Passing. He lives in New York.

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Read an Excerpt

Stone Cold Dead Serious

STONE COLD DEAD SERIOUS

Stone Cold Dead Serious was originally produced in Cambridge, Massachusetts, by the American Repertory Theater on February 6, 2002. It was directed by Marcus Stern; sets were designed by Christine Jones; costumes by Catherine Zuber; lights by John Ambrosone; and sound by David Remedios and Marcus Stern. The production stage manager was Jennifer Rae Moore. The cast was as follows:

WYNNE LEDBETTERMatthew StadelmannCLIFF LEDBETTERGuy BoydSHAYLEE LEDBETTER/SHARICEElizabeth ReaserLINDA LEDBETTERDeirdre O'ConnellJACK GAMRobert RunckRANDALL "THE RANDYMAN" ROCKEYJOHNPhilip Graeme

 

Stone Cold Dead Serious was subsequently produced in New York City by the Edge Theater Company at Chashama on March 28, 2003. It was directed by Carolyn Cantor; sets were designed by David Korins; costumes by Victoria Farrell; lights by Ben Stanton; and sound by Eric Shim. The production stage manager was Jeff Myers. The cast was as follows:

WYNNE LEDBETTERMatthew StadelmannCLIFF LEDBETTER/JACK GAMGuy BoydSHAYLEE LEDBETTER/SHARICEGretchen Cleevely ,LINDA LEDBETTER/SNAKE LADYBetsy AidemRANDALL "THE RANDYMAN" ROCKEYJOHNAnthony Rapp

CHARACTERS

WYNNE LEDBETTERsixteen, small for his age, a video game geniusCLIFF LEDBETTERfiftyish, Wynne's father, an injured window glazerSHAYLEE LEDBETTERseventeen, Wynne's sister, a runawayLINDA LEDBETTERmid-forties, Wynne's mother a waitress, exhaustedJACK GAMfiftyish, a salesmanSHARICEsixteen, Wynne's girlfriend, a fighterSNAKE LADYmid-forties, an East Village eccentricRANDALL "THE RANDYMAN" ROCKEYJOHNa hyperbolic Australian, a live- action death match pundit

SETTING

 

In and around the Chicago suburbs and New York City.

ACT I

 

 

SCENE 1.

THE LEDBETTERS

The living room of a small house on the outskirts of Chicago, somewhere near O'Hare Airport. Paneled walls. Drifts of coupons, empty cans of Old Style. A color console TV that doubles as a coffee table. Also on the coffee table is a block of shiny new knives. There is the sense that nothing ever gets thoroughly cleaned. Upstage of the living room a small kitchen visible through a cutout. Upstage left, a small staircase leads to the second floor. Downstage right, the front door and a window. The only light source other than the TV is the harsh kitchen overhead spilling into the living room.

 

LEDBETTER fiftyish, heavy, unshaven, is beached on the sofa, watching QVC. There are three or four pharmaceutical containers on top of the coffee table. He is awake but appears to be in a state of hypnotic sloth. Perhaps his mouth hangs open. Perhaps he drools. The two men on the QVC are narrating sales pitches having to do with baseball cards. CLIFF wears a housecoat, slippers, a white T-shirt. His hair is ridiculous. He has been farting continuously and without shame. Periodically, jets can be heard flying over the house.

 

In the kitchen the phone rings several times.

 

CLIFF continues staring at the TV, catatonic.

 

WYNNE enters through the front door, holding a paper sack. He bolts across the living room for the phone. In a blur we see that he is sixteen, small and thin. He wears corduroy pants, skater sneakers, and a rock-n-roll T-shirt. His hair is dyed blue. CLIFF continues staring at the soothing miracles of QVC.

 

WYNNE (from off ) Hello? ... Hey ... Yeah ... Uh-huh ... Hang on.

 

WYNNE enters the living room, holding the phone, the cord stretching from the kitchen, still holding the paper sack.

 

WYNNE Pop ... Pop ... Pop ... (covers the phone) Hey, fuckhead! (to phone) He ain't responding ... Yeah, he's up. I don't know ... I'll try it. (to CLIFF) Cliff ... Yo, Cliff ... Clifford Ledbetter ...

CLIFFORD LEMOYNE LEDBETTER! (to phone) Didn't work ... Yeah, he's been drinkin ... I don't know ... You want me to hit him? ... Like hit him hit him? ... Where? ... Ma, I ain't gonna punch him in the balls ... No way, he'll kill me, man ... Okay, okay, fine, I'll do it ...

 

WYNNE puts the phone down, takes a step toward his dad, sets the paper sack on the TV, hesitates a moment, and then punches CLIFF in the balls.

 

CLIFF Hey! You just punched me in the balls, man!

WYNNE Sorry, dude. Those were my instructions.

CLIFF From who?

WYNNE Ma.

CLIFF Thanks a lot, Linda!

WYNNE She's on the phone.

CLIFF Wha?

WYNNE The phone. She's on the phone.

CLIFF Who's on the phone?

WYNNE Ma. She wants to know if you want your potatoes baked or scalloped.

CLIFF Where the fuck's the phone?

WYNNE It's over there. Baked or scalloped?

CLIFF Scalped.

WYNNE And she wants to know on a scale of one to ten how your back is feelin. One bein the worst, ten bein the best.

CLIFF Four-fifty for a Tiger Woods rookie card. Must be blue book value.

WYNNE It's two payments of four-fifty

CLIFF Two payments?

WYNNE Yeah, man—it's called the Flexplan. That's nine hundred bucks.

CLIFF Well, I can't afford that.

WYNNE Nobody can afford that. The Flexplan is fuckin larceny.

 

WYNNE turns a lamp on.

 

CLIFF I went to school with a kid named Larceny. Larceny Dimitrovits. Drove a '64 Skylark. Hand-cleaned the engine every mornin in the parkin lot. Hood popped, shoulders hunched. Wiped her down with a warshcloth. Guy smelled like vinegar.

WYNNE Pop.

CLIFF I said scalped! Scalp the fuckers!

 

WYNNE crosses to the kitchen.

CLIFF Two payments of four-fifty. That ain't fair. I should write a letter and report those guys.

 

CLIFF stands up very slowly, using every part of the sofa. He turns a full circle, disoriented.

 

WYNNE (into phone) He said he likes em scalped ... Yeah, scalped—that's what he said ... No he wouldn't give me a number ... He's trashed again ... I couldn't help it, Ma, he takes em when he takes em! I ain't a fuckin nurse! ... All right, see ya in a few.

 

WYNNE re-enters.

 

WYNNE Pop, sit back down ... Sit down, Pop!

 

CLIFF starts to cry.

 

WYNNE What's wrong?

CLIFF I pooped again. It's goin all down my leg.

WYNNE Jesus Christ, man.

CLIFF I can't help it, it just starts comin out. Please don't tell Linda. If your ma finds out I pooped again she won't let me sleep in the bed with her.

WYNNE Stay there.

 

WYNNE exits to the kitchen, searches for CLIFF's diapers.

 

WYNNE What happened to your diapers?

CLIFF I ran out.

 

WYNNE You tell Ma?

CLIFF Yeah.

WYNNE No you didn't. You gotta tell her, man.

 

WYNNE re-enters with a wad of paper towels, hands them to CLIFF.

 

CLIFF Who're you, anyway?

WYNNE Who am I?

CLIFF I ain't never seen you before.

WYNNE Dude, I'm your son.

CLIFF My son don't got blue hair. His hair's black. Blackest hair I ever seen. His name is Wynnewood. Wynnewood Jericho Ledbetter. Who're you—Fuckhead Joe?

WYNNE Pop, it's me, man—Wynne.

CLIFF I wanna go to Cracker Barrel.

WYNNE You ain't goin to Cracker Barrel.

 

WYNNE exits to the bathroom, starts water in the tub.

 

CLIFF I wanna go to Cracker Barrel. Homemade Chicken-n-Dumplings. Hickory Smoked Country Ham. Grilled Tenderloin. Peach Cobbler with ice cream. Last year they had a punkin carvin contest. Big huge fuckers. Punkins the size of Cadillac Sevilles. They got em for sale under the old wilma tree. A million inna half punkins. Carve up the jackalanner. Put a candle in it, set her on the porch.

WYNNE (re-entering) Pop, we don't got a porch.

CLIFF Wha?

WYNNE We-don't-got-a-porch-man. That was in Kankakee when you were a kid. That tree's in Bourbonnais. You used to make us get out of the car and run around it. You'd race us. We stopped doin it after you sprained your ankle that time. Come on, Pop.

CLIFF What ever happened to the wilma tree anyway?

WYNNE Nothin happened to it. It's still there. I saw it last week when I went down to Carbondale with Palumbo. And it's willow, tree. Let's go to the bathroom, okay?

 

They exit to the bathroom.

 

The knob to the front door is jiggled. The failure of keys. Cursing from a young woman can be heard. Moments later SHAYLEE can be seen peering in through the living room window The window is lifted, she quietly crawls through. She is seventeen, pretty but sickly-looking. She wears old jogging pants rolled down at the waist, old running shoes. She carries a bag that contains the few fragmented parts of her life. She looks around the living room, runs upstairs, comes back down. Perhaps she limps a bit. She studies the labels on the pill bottles, She opens the bottles, takes a few, chases with Old Style dregs. She stares at the block of knives, removes a small paring knife, puts it in her bag.

 

She crosses to the living room shelves and starts to rummage through stuff, looking for money, anything valuable, puts things in her bag.

 

WYNNE enters, watches her. After a moment, SHAYLEE turns, stands. They are frozen.

 

SHAYLEE Hey.

WYNNE Hey.

SHAYLEE What's up?

WYNNE Nothin.

 

He looks around to see what she's taken.

 

SHAYLEE What?

WYNNE What?

SHAYLEE So gimme a hug, ya little dick.

 

He crosses to her. They hug. She goes for his pocket.

 

SHAYLEE Lend me five bucks.

WYNNE No.

SHAYLEE (digging in) Why not?

WYNNE Cause I don't got it.

SHAYLEE (really digging in now) Yes you do, Mr. Computer Fixer. Five fuckin bucks, man!

 

WYNNE pushes her away. Some loose change falls out of his pocket.

SHAYLEE desperately goes after the scattered change.

 

SHAYLEE Smells like shit in here.

 

WYNNE Where you been stayin?

SHAYLEE At the Y.

WYNNE What Y?

SHAYLEE The one in Franklin Park.

WYNNE Who's payin for it?

SHAYLEE This guy Ed.

WYNNE Ed who?

SHAYLEE Just Ed. I met him near the candy machines.

WYNNE Ma sees you here she'll call the cops.

SHAYLEE So?

WYNNE You're like shakin.

SHAYLEE (sitting) No I ain't.

WYNNE You look like shit.

 

SHAYLEE You look like a geek.

WYNNE You ain't eatin are you?

SHAYLEE I eat.

WYNNE You're so skinny.

SHAYLEE I just ate somethin the other day.

WYNNE What, you chewed an aspirin, drank some nose spray?

SHAYLEE I ate a banana.

 

WYNNE grabs the paper sack from under the coffee table.

 

SHAYLEE What's in the bag?

WYNNE Nothin.

SHAYLEE (mocking) Nothin.

WYNNE It's a Taser gun.

 

He takes it out, shows it to her.

 

SHAYLEE Where'd you get it?

WYNNE From this guy Palumbo knows in Libertyville.

SHAYLEE What's it for?

WYNNE Tasering. Ever been Tasered?

SHAYLEE No. Why, you wanna Taser me?

WYNNE No. It's for protection.

SHAYLEE How much was it?

WYNNE I scored it for eighty bucks. They go for two hundred on the black market.

 

He puts it in his back pocket. SHAYLEE pulls out a small box that contains many feeble cigarette butts, lights one, smokes.

 

WYNNE When'd you start smokin?

SHAYLEE I don't know. At some point I guess. Where's Ma been hidin her cigarettes?

WYNNE She quit.

SHAYLEE Bullshit.

WYNNE She did. Last month. She used the patch.

SHAYLEE (quickly rising, crossing to credenza behind the sofa, looting again) Fuckin over-the-counter bitch.

WYNNE Palumbo saw you in Joliet. He said you were on the casino boat and that you were with some rich Iranian dude who was wearin a popcorn bucket on his head.

SHAYLEE His name's Amir and it's called a fez. He's Moroccan. WYNNE Palumbo said you were playin slots.

SHAYLEE (crossing back to the sofa, sitting, trying to smoke) Amir was payin, I was pullin.

WYNNE Palumbo said he tried talkin to you but you kept sayin you didn't know him and that your name was Katrina.

SHAYLEE I guess I was Katrina that night.

WYNNE He said you were dressed like a whore.

SHAYLEE Little wop wouldn't know a whore if one walked up and spit on him.

WYNNE He said you had so much makeup on you looked dead. SHAYLEE Maybe I am.

WYNNE I love you, Shaylee.

SHAYLEE Good. Gimme five bucks.

WYNNE You should talk to Ma. Give her a call.

SHAYLEE Fuck that bitch.

WYNNE If you get your shit together she'd prolly let you come home.

SHAYLEE I don't wanna get my shit together.

WYNNE Pop misses you.

SHAYLEE So?

WYNNE He talks about you all the time. The other day he was in your closet holdin your nightgown.

SHAYLEE Boo-hoo-hoo, what a fuckin drag, huh?

WYNNE They kept your room just like it was. Your runnin trophies and everything.

SHAYLEE Tell em to rent it out, board it up, have a fuckin garage sale.

 

A beat.

 

WYNNE I'm goin to New York.

SHAYLEE For what?

WYNNE This video game competition. I'm one of the three finalists. If I win I get a shitloada money. I'll give you some. I could send it to you at the Y in Franklin Park. You could go to that place in Michigan and get clean. That place with all the maple trees.

SHAYLEE Gimme five bucks I'll show you my pussy (pushing the front of her jogging pants down) See?

 

WYNNE steps away, crosses to the kitchen. After a silence:

 

SHAYLEE Drinkin alone, huh?

WYNNE That's Pop.

SHAYLEE Where is he?

WYNNE In the tub.

SHAYLEE What's he doin home?

WYNNE He hurt his back.

SHAYLEE Last time I was here I saw his dick. I was hidin in the shower. He walked in and took a piss. It looked like a mushroom. Like somethin that gets left in a salad bowl.

What happened to his back?

WYNNE He herniated a disc.

SHAYLEE Stupid fuck. How'd he do that?

WYNNE Bendin over backwards glazin a window. He's sposed to have an operation to fuse his vertebrae but we can't afford it. He gets shooting pains down his legs. It fucks him up pretty bad. He shits his pants, has to wear diapers.

SHAYLEE Is he gettin workmen's comp?

WYNNE Yeah.

SHAYLEE You know where he keeps his money?

WYNNE Ma keeps it.

SHAYLEE Where?

WYNNE In her music box. But it's mostly checks.

SHAYLEE (starting for the stairs) I can cash checks.

WYNNE Don't take too many.

SHAYLEE I'll take whatever I please.

WYNNE Fine! Fuck it!

 

She stops halfway up the stairs, sits. WYNNE fiddles with his Taser gun.

 

SHAYLEE Guess what?

WYNNE What.

SHAYLEE I got hepatitis. My armpits are yellow, wanna see?

WYNNE No.

SHAYLEE I fucked this Chink in the back of the 7-Eleven in Elk Grove. I think he gave it to me. His dick stunk like shit. I'mgonna buy a gun, hunt the fucker down. Stick it up his ass and pull the trigger ... Got a girlfriend?

WYNNE Sorta.

SHAYLEE Who?

WYNNE She's one of the three finalists.

SHAYLEE What's her name?

WYNNE Why?

SHAYLEE Cause I'm jealous.

WYNNE It's Sharice.

SHAYLEE She a nigger?

WYNNE I don't know

SHAYLEE Why not?

WYNNE (mumbling) Cause I've never seen her.

SHAYLEE What?

WYNNE I've never seen her. I met her online. And so what if she was?

SHAYLEE Niggers are dirty. Trust me, I know. Where's she from?

WYNNE Crothersville, Indiana.

SHAYLEE Small-town nigger, to boot.

WYNNE If Ma heard you say nigger she'd fuckin die.

SHAYLEE So.

WYNNE So, you sound like one of those skinheads from Cicero.

SHAYLEE I like those guys.

WYNNE You're a racist.

SHAYLEE No I ain't. I just don't like niggers.

 

She descends the stairs, crosses to him on the sofa.

 

SHAYLEE Do you jerk off to her?

WYNNE To who?

SHAYLEE Shaniqua.

WYNNE Sharice.

SHAYLEE Sharice. You beat your meat to Sharice?

WYNNE Sometimes.

 

She administers a titanic titty twister.

 

SHAYLEE Cum on your stomach, think about tastin it?

WYNNE (wrenching away) Fuck no! ... What time is it, anyway?

SHAYLEE Time to fuck and buy drugs. Why?

WYNNE She's sposed to call.

SHAYLEE Phone sex.

WYNNE I'm in love with her, Shaylee.

SHAYLEE Nigger phone sex.

WYNNE We instant-message each other all the time. We're goin to New York together. I'm hitchin to Crothersville and then we're taking Greyhound the rest of the way

SHAYLEE Where the fuck is Crothersville?

WYNNE Somewhere in the middle of the state, offa 65. She's mute.

SHAYLEE How the fuck is she gonna call here if she's mute?

WYNNE She's got this thing that she types into. Some sorta transmitter. An electronic voice speaks into the phone based on what she types.

SHAYLEE (getting off the sofa) That's so fucked.

WYNNE I think it's cool.

 

SHAYLEE crosses to the kitchen.

 

SHAYLEE What if the voice is all macho or somethin?

WYNNE I don't care.

SHAYLEE What if she sounds like a cop?

WYNNE I really don't care. I think I'm in love.

SHAYLEE (from the kitchen) You better fuck her before you start talkin about love, Wynne.

WYNNE Why?

SHAYLEE (re-entering with a bottle of vodka) Cause her pussy might be dry.

SHAYLEE crosses to the sofa, sits. WYNNE follows her.

 

WYNNE I ain't in love with her pussy.

SHAYLEE What are you in love with, her e-mail address?

WYNNE I don't know, Shaylee. I don't have the slightest idea what she looks like and I'm totally in love with her. And tell me this isn't weird: You know how my e-mail address is dog on mars at mindspring dot com? Well, hers is dog on venus at mindspring dot com. Pretty fuckin trippy, huh?

SHAYLEE Romeo and Juliet.

WYNNE (sitting on the sofa) Mars and Venus, man.

SHAYLEE Romeoville and Joliet.

 

SHAYLEE takes a slug of vodka, almost retches.

 

SHAYLEE So you're still playin that video game, huh?

WYNNE Yeah. I solved it. That's why I'm a finalist.

SHAYLEE Fuckin genius.

WYNNE There's only three of us. They're gonna film the championship. Put it on cable.

SHAYLEE Wynne the boy genius.

WYNNE I ain't a boy.

SHAYLEE If I cracked your head open I bet your brain would be huge.

WYNNE If I win I'm gonna send you some money, Shaylee. You can go to that place in Michigan with the maple trees.

SHAYLEE Fuck the maple trees.

WYNNE You're gonna die if you don't get help.

SHAYLEE I met this guy at a truck stop. His name was Jesus. He looked like Art Garfunkle if Art Garfunkle was a spic. He told me my soul was floatin around somewhere in the stratosphere. He kept callin me a floater. I fucked him in Centralia while I was on my period and I had to go to this clinic cause I forgot to take my tampon out. This doctor had to remove it with salad tongs. Fuckin place was full of refugees and derelicts.

WYNNE You can take whatever you want outta my room.

SHAYLEE What would I take?

WYNNE Take my Playstation 2. You could prolly get fifty bucks for it.

SHAYLEE You don't want your fuckin Playstation?

WYNNE It's too easy

 

She smokes.

 

SHAYLEE This chick I met at the Y told me you can kill yourself by slashin your wrists in the bathtub. She said it don't hurt if you make the water warm enough cause it tricks your brain.

CLIFF (from off ) Hey!

 

They both sit up.

 

WYNNE You better go.

SHAYLEE You ain't gonna give me five bucks?

 

He goes in his pocket, produces two. She snatches the cash.

 

SHAYLEE I'll suck your dick for two more.

CLIFF (from off) Hey, fuckhead!

WYNNE You really gonna buy a gun?

SHAYLEE (mocking) You really gonna buy a gun?

CLIFF (from off) Hey, Fuckhead Joe, is somethin burnin? Smells like the house is on fire!

 

WYNNE takes SHAYLEE's cigarette, drops it in a beer can, starts to cross to the bathroom with CLIFF's pajamas.

 

WYNNE (turning back) Ma's music box is in her closet under Grandma Ruth's Christmas Eve quilt.

 

SHAYLEE kisses him hard on the mouth, exits quickly up the stairs.

WYNNE exits.

 

Moments later, WYNNE rushes back out, runs up the stairs, looks down the hall. The phone starts to ring in the kitchen. WYNNE runs for the phone. CLIFF enters from the bathroom. They meet head-on at the threshold of the kitchen. WYNNE is trapped between CLIFF and the wall. The phone continues ringing. WYNNE breaks free, lurches for the phone, answers it.

 

WYNNE Hello? ... (slamming the phone down) Motherfucker!

CLIFF Wha?

WYNNE I missed my phone call!

CLIFF What phone call? You don't get phone calls.

WYNNE Fuck off, man, I do, too.

CLIFF Who would call you?

WYNNE Forget it. Back to the sofa.

CLIFF I don't wanna go back to the sofa, I wanna go to Cracker Barrel.

 

WYNNE pulls the Taser gun on CLIFF.

 

WYNNE Pop, get back to the sofa before I Taser your fat ass!

CLIFF Where'dja get that?

WYNNE Don't worry about where I got it, I got it.

CLIFF I seen one of them on QVC.

WYNNE Well now there's one pointed directly at your grille. Back to the couch, man. Now!

CLIFF Okay, fine. Jeez!

 

They make their way back to the sofa, the Taser gun trained on CLIFF.

CLIFF sits. WYNNE puts the Taser gun back in his pocket, sits next to him. Only the sound of QVC. CLIFF farts rather explosively. WYNNE crosses to the chair.

 

CLIFF Who was here?

WYNNE What?

CLIFF Someone was here ... Shaylee. Was Shaylee here?

WYNNE No, why?

CLIFF I can smell her. Same smell she had as a baby. Like holdin your hand real close to your face. Holdin it real close like so. (he holds his hand real close to his face, smells) She was such a pretty baby. She squeaked. You sure she wasn't here?

WYNNE No one was here, Pop.

CLIFF She was so little. You could hold her right there in your hand. Talk to her like she understood stuff.

WYNNE Here, take a pill.

He gives CLIFF a pill. CLIFF swallows it dry.

 

CLIFF Hey, how old are you, anyway?

WYNNE How old am I?

CLIFF What are you now, seventeen, eighteen?

WYNNE I'm fuckin sixteen, man.

CLIFF When I was sixteen I worked.

WYNNE I work.

CLIFF You do?

WYNNE I fix computers, remember?

CLIFF Huh.

WYNNE That's your last bottle of painkillers, man. This shit is fryin your brain.

CLIFF When I was sixteen I joined a band of glaziers.

WYNNE I know. There were hundreds of you and you'd follow tornadoes around on a tour bus.

CLIFF That's right. We'd follow the tomatoes around.

WYNNE Tornadoes.

CLIFF We'd fix all the greenhouses. I used to read the weather maps. Look for the tomatoes. Few years later I met that guy from the movies.

WYNNE Sir Lawrence Olivier. I know, Pop.

CLIFF At the University of Indiana at Bloomington. In Bloomington, Indiana. Guy was sittin right there at the bus stop. I said, "Hey, Hamlet!" He gave me his autograph and then he got on the bus. Just like that. What a guy.

 

They watch the TV for a moment.

 

CLIFF My fuckin nuts hurt.

WYNNE That's cause I punched you in the balls.

CLIFF You did?

WYNNE Yeah, man. I broke your big ass down.

CLIFF Huh.

 

The sound of a car parking, car door opening and closing.

 

CLIFF Hey, where'd that cat go?

WYNNE What cat?

CLIFF That little cat we had.

WYNNE Pop, we never had a cat.

CLIFF Sure we did. Little fucker'd walk around, stare at you.

WYNNE That was my guinea pig, man. It's dead. Shaylee kept feedin it Dexatrim. Fuckin thing starved to death.

CLIFF I swear we had a cat.

 

LINDA enters carrying a tin of lasagna, a tin of scalloped potatoes, and a large sack of groceries. She is in her mid-forties. She is wearing a waitress uniform and has a smoker's voice. She sets her armload on the TV.

 

CLIFF Hey Linda, didn't we have a cat?

LINDA We had a guinea pig. Shaylee starved it to death with those diet pills.

CLIFF What she name it?

WYNNE His name was Jack. But everyone called it Cokehead.

CLIFF Cokehead! Here kitty-kitty!

WYNNE (carrying groceries to the kitchen) It was a fuckin guinea pig, man!

LINDA What was that awful name she tried givin it at first?

WYNNE (popping his head out of the kitchen) Dickburn.

LINDA Yeah, Dickburn. (kissing CLIFF on the crown of his head) How awful is that? Not in my house.

WYNNE His name was Jack.

CLIFF Jack Cokehead. Best goddamn cat I ever seen.

LINDA Hey, who was smokin in here?

WYNNE Nobody.

 

WYNNE enters the kitchen.

 

LINDA Someone was here and they were smokin.

CLIFF Smells like the fuckin house was on fire.

LINDA Wynne, was your sister here?

WYNNE I don't know.

LINDA Well, you've been home ain't it?

WYNNE Yeah, but I wasn't guardin the fuckin door.

LINDA Well, what the heck were you doin all day?

WYNNE I was down here with Pop.

CLIFF He left me alone. I almost died.

WYNNE Bullshit I left you alone. I was upstairs in my room.

CLIFF He went out. Left me alone to die.

LINDA Did you go out of the house, Wynne?

WYNNE What?

LINDA You heard me, smart guy.

WYNNE Yeah, but just for little while.

LINDA I thought I asked you not to leave.

WYNNE It was only for an hour.

LINDA You know what your sister's capable of.

WYNNE I needed some fresh air. It smells like farts in here.

LINDA Wynne, if you say you're gonna stay, then I'd appreciate you stickin to your word. You know your father's condition. The pills make him sleepy. If I knew you were gonna go out

I woulda called Marna and had her come over. For all weknow, your sister's upstairs right now robbin us blind.

 

LINDA starts for the stairs.

 

WYNNE (running to the stairs, cutting her off) SO I'LL CALL

NEXT TIME! I'M FUCKIN SORRY, OKAY?!

LINDA Was he smokin, Cliff? Wynne, were you smokin? Don't you lie to me.

WYNNE I wasn't.

LINDA Let me smell your breath.

WYNNE Back off, Geraldo.

LINDA Your father wasn't smokin, was he? Cliff, you better notta been smokin. It took me two months to get off the Merits. I spent half my tip money on patches. You know I start cravin cigarettes if I'm around em. (to WYNNE) Look at this house. It's a dang pigsty. Wynne, help me clean up.

 

WYNNE starts to gather beer cans. LINDA retrieves the food from the TV, crosses to kitchen. Halfway there she drops the lasagna. It spills on the floor.

 

LINDA Oh, crymie! That lasagna cost me seven dollars! Cliff, stop diggin in your nose.

 

LINDA goes into the kitchen, comes back with a rag, starts scooping the lasagna back into its tin.

 

LINDA Who put the air conditioner on the kitchen table?

WYNNE I did.

LINDA What the heck for?

WYNNE I was tryin to fix it.

LINDA What's wrong with it?

WYNNE I don't know, it stopped workin.

LINDA Whattaya mean it stopped workin, it's a dang Maytag. Maybe it needs Freon. A lot of em need Freon.

WYNNE It ain't the Freon.

LINDA How do you know?

WYNNE Cause I checked.

LINDA That thing ain't even a year old. I got it at Kresge's just last summer.

WYNNE The thing that holds the fan belt's all fucked up. I called customer service and they said it would cost more to fix it than it would to buy a new one.

LINDA But it's under warranty.

WYNNE No it ain't.

LINDA It is too.

WYNNE Ma, you didn't get the warranty.

LINDA I did so.

WYNNE No you didn't, Ma. I was with you when you bought the thing. It was an extra twenty bucks and you didn't wanna pay it.

LINDA I shoulda went to Service Merchandise and got mine when Donna got hers. I ain't goin to Kresge's no more.

 

She cleans. CLIFF farts rather explosively.

 

LINDA Excuse you.

CLIFF Ha.

LINDA You're the Ha. (to WYNNE) Did that guy from the bank call again? Mr. Worrell?

WYNNE Yeah.

LINDA What'd he say?

WYNNE He said what he always says. We're late on the mortgage, when are we gonna pay, this can't keep happenin. Same old shit.

LINDA He's actually a really nice man. I saw him at the restaurant with his family. They got a little girl and she's so cute. WYNNE He's a fuckin vulture, Ma!

LINDA (cleaning) He's just doin his job. That ain't no easy job, Wynne, houndin folks for their mortgages.

WYNNE How short are we?

LINDA We're short.

WYNNE How short?

LINDA Four hundred dollars. If your father didn't buy those dang knives we'd be okay this month.

CLIFF Cutco Cutlery. Best knives in the world.

LINDA Nothin like a little QVC to ruin your summer. If you see your father with my bankcard again you take it away from him.

 

WYNNE reaches into his pocket, removes a knot of money, hands it to

LINDA.

 

LINDA Where'd you get that?

WYNNE I've had it.

LINDA You've had it from what?

WYNNE I fixed that guy's hard drive.

LINDA What guy?

WYNNE That guy who I met at the restaurant. The guy from Rosemont.

LINDA Alvin?

WYNNE Yeah, Alvin. The rich guy with the hair.

CLIFF Alvin and the Chipmunks.

LINDA That guy's a little weird, Wynne. He's always tryin to get one of the chefs to go for a ride in his Lexus with him. Sally thinks he's a homo.

WYNNE He ain't a homo.

LINDA How do you know?

WYNNE Cause he's married.

LINDA He's too good-lookin to not be a homo, Wynne. And besides, what does he do anyway?

WYNNE He works at the stock exchange. He's got a seat on the floor. You're the one who introduced me to him.

CLIFF He's a homo!

WYNNE Pop, you don't even know the dude!

CLIFF Everyone's a homo! I'm a fuckin homo!

LINDA You didn't go in his Lexus with him, did you?

WYNNE I told you I fixed his hard drive. It wouldn't spin down right, I fixed it.

LINDA You're tryin to tell me he gave you four hundred bucks for fixin his computer?

WYNNE Just take the money, Ma.

 

She takes it, folds it into her bra. She starts to cry.

 

WYNNE Ma.

 

She tries to stop.

 

WYNNE Don't cry, Ma.

LINDA I did a dang double today. Eighty-four lousy bucks on a double. Fat-ass Glenn's yellin at all the gals. "Stop socializin! Bus your goddamn tables!"

WYNNE That guy's such a dick.

LINDA Sweatin all over the food! Fat-ass Glenn! (wiping her face) I'm sorry. I shouldn't get like this in fronta you.

WYNNE It's okay, Ma. Here, take some more.

 

He produces some more money. She takes it.

 

LINDA Thanks, honey.

 

LINDA rises, kisses WYNNE, crosses to the kitchen.

 

LINDA Now ask your father what he wants to drink. I got bug juice and chocolate milk ... It's so dang hot in here.

WYNNE Pop, you want bug juice or chocolate milk?

CLIFF Old Style.

WYNNE We're outta Old Style.

CLIFF Eight ninety-five a case at the Day-n-Night.

WYNNE I ain't goin to the fuckin Day-n-Night.

CLIFF Eight ninety-five a case. Milwaukee's Best for seven in a quarter.

 

LINDA brings the tin of scalloped potatoes and three paper plates out to the top of the TV. She exits and returns with a thin roll of paper towels, three forks, a serving utensil, sets stuff down, exits again, returns with three glasses and a gallon of bug juice. LINDA pours bug juice into each glass.

 

WYNNE scoops potatoes onto each plate, hands a plate and glass of bug juice to CLIFF, grabs his own plate, sits on the sofa between his parents.

 

LINDA I got chocolate milk in the fridge, too.

CLIFF claps twice so that the lamp next to the sofa turns on. They all begin eating. After a silence:

 

LINDA I think we should start goin to church again.

WYNNE Why?

LINDA Whattaya mean why. Does there gotta be a why?

WYNNE Yeah.

LINDA Well, for one thing, we're sposed to be Catholic and your Grandma Ruth's been gettin on my case about that. We have certain responsibilities.

And Marna's been collectin these portraits of the saints. She's been bringin em into work to show the gals. They're the most beautiful things. There's this one of St. Christopher and he's carryin the Baby Jesus across this stream on his shoulders.

What a handsome guy that St. Christopher was. By the way, what happened to that picture of St. Anthony of Padua we had hangin over the kitchen table? The one where he's sittin in the gazebo holdin a sea bass?

CLIFF They got chicken gumbo at Cracker Barrel. Best gumbo around.

LINDA Gazebo, do-do brain. Not gumbo. (to WYNNE) Marna was tellin me the most interestin things about St. Anthony of Padua. Did you know he lived in a cave in Italy and that he spoke in multiple tongues and that legend says he was such a good public speaker that even the fish would listen? That's prolly why he's holdin that sea bass. Cliff, get your dang hand outta your pants! CLIFF Fuckhead Joe punched me in the nuts.

LINDA Oh, ha your nuts. I wonder what the heck happened to that picture. I wanted to show it to Marna.

WYNNE Ma, what's with the sudden religious trip? We don't even say Grace, man.

LINDA I know, but we used to.

WYNNE We did?

LINDA Sure we did, ain't it, Cliff?

CLIFF Wha?

LINDA You were too little to remember, Wynne. Shaylee would say it. Bless us O lord, for these Thy gifts—

CLIFF (lucid) Which we are about to receive, from Thy bounty, through Christ our Lord, Amen.

 

SHAYLEE appears on the staircase, watches them.

 

LINDA See? We said Grace.

WYNNE Did he just pray? Pop, did you just fuckin pray?

CLIFF Wha?

LINDA We could start goin to church again. Whattaya say, Cliff, I think it would be good for us. Lainy the new cashier says there's this really nice parish in Aurora. Our Lady of Good Councel. She says they're real welcome to new folks comin in.

WYNNE Church is for cowards.

LINDA No it ain't. Why do you say that?

WYNNE Buncha guilty people actin like wimps about it.

LINDA Wynne!

WYNNE God don't give a fuck. He's an asshole, man.

LINDA No he ain't.

WYNNE He's an asshole and people go to church cause they're fuckin scared of him.

LINDA No they don't either.

WYNNE Why do they go, then?

LINDA Well, some go to pray. Some go just to think or take communion and get rid of their sins. I personally like singin the hymns and stuff.

WYNNE What a waste.

LINDA It ain't a waste! Wynne, when you were a little boy you used to pray!

WYNNE That's only cause I wanted toys.

LINDA That don't matter. You still prayed.

WYNNE Well, you can start goin to church again, but I ain't.

LINDA Why not?

WYNNE Cause I'm leavin.

LINDA You're leavin?

WYNNE Yep.

LINDA You're leavin for where?

WYNNE Ma, I got an announcement to make.

LINDA You do?

 

WYNNE rises off the sofa, stands.

 

WYNNE Yeah, man. So pay attention

LINDA Okay.

WYNNE Pop, you listenin?

CLIFF Wha?

WYNNE Stop eatin—I'm makin an announcement.

CLIFF Okay.

 

CLIFF stops eating. They stare at WYNNE.

 

WYNNE I'm goin to New York City.

CLIFF Ha.

WYNNE I am, you fuckin sloth!

LINDA Wynne, you can't go there.

WYNNE Yes I can, Ma.

CLIFF New York City—ha.

WYNNE You know that video game I been playin for the past six months—Tang Dynasty?

LINDA Yeah.

WYNNE Well I solved the fucker and there's a Tang Dynasty Superchampionship in New York City and I'm a finalist. There's only three of us. Only three people in the whole goddamn country solved it.

LINDA Well, congratulations, honey, but you can't go there.

WYNNE I'm one of the three they invited, Ma, and I'm goin. My shit's packed and I'm leavin tonight.

LINDA Whattaya mean you're leavin tonight? You can't leave tonight!

WYNNE Watch me.

LINDA And how are you plannin on gettin there exactly?

WYNNE I'm gettin a ride to Crothersville, Indiana.

LINDA You're gettin a ride from who?

WYNNE Palumbo's droppin me off where 65 connects with 80/94 and I'm hitchhikin.

LINDA You can't hitchhike, Wynne! Hitchhikin's so dangerous anymore. It's like suicide.

WYNNE I can protect myself.

LINDA Oh yeah, how?

CLIFF He's got a Taser gun.

LINDA You got a Taser gun!

CLIFF Got it off QVC.

WYNNE I did not get it off QVC. That's your trip, man.

CLIFF Sat right here and watched him. Called em up and everything. Fuckhead Joe.

WYNNE You're the fuckhead, Pop.

LINDA Wynne, if you used my credit card to buy a dang Taser—

WYNNE Ma, I got it from this guy Palumbo knows! He sells em down in Carbondale. Pop's talkin outta his ass again.

LINDA Well, what the heck's in Indiana?

WYNNE That's where I'm hookin up with one of the other finalists. I'm spendin the night and in the morning we're taking Greyhound the rest of the way east. The finals are gonna be broadcast on TV

CLIFF TV, huh?

WYNNE Yeah, man. T-motherfuckin-V You guys can sit here right on the sofa and watch me win.

LINDA What do you win?

WYNNE Money.

LINDA How much money?

WYNNE A shitload. Winner gets a million bucks.

LINDA I don't believe you.

WYNNE I got the contract upstairs in my room. I can go get it if you want.

CLIFF I knew a guy who won a million bucks once. He bought condos down in Florida. Turned out to be swampland. Nothin but alligators and toilet water.

WYNNE If I win I'm gonna use the money to help Pop get that operation and pay off the rest of the mortgage.

LINDA Well, that's thoughtful.

WYNNE Maybe start my own business fixin computers. Incorporate and everything. Ma, you could like do my books and shit.

LINDA I like bookkeepin. Sometimes I help out at the restaurant when Glen's busy with stuff.

WYNNE I was gonna maybe give some to Shaylee, too. Help her get clean.

LINDA Well that's a laugh.

WYNNE Why is that a laugh?

LINDA Cause, honey, one has to wanna get clean. Shaylee don't wanna get clean.

WYNNE She might, though. If I came back with some money she might wanna get clean.

CLIFF Shaylee was the cleanest kid I ever knew. Cleaner than Christmas, that kid.

WYNNE Well, anyway, that's what I'm doin. And I'm leavin tonight, as soon as we're finished eatin.

 

SHAYLEE goes back upstairs. They eat to QVC.

 

CLIFF Potatoes are fuckin good, Lin.

 

CLIFF farts like a French horn. WYNNE scoots toward LINDA. She hugs him close.

 

LINDA I don't think I can let you go, Wynne.

WYNNE I'm goin.

CLIFF Let him go, Linda. Let the kid go.

LINDA Thinkin about you on that highway.

WYNNE I'll only be gone a few days.

LINDA But who's gonna help your father?

WYNNE Call Marna.

CLIFF Yeah, call Marna. I like Marna.

LINDA I guess I could call Marna.

CLIFF Marna takes me to Cracker Barrel.

LINDA Well, what exactly happens at these finals?

 

WYNNE rises off the sofa again, excited.

 

WYNNE Three of us go to this unnamed site in the East Village and we have it out.

LINDA What's the East Village?

WYNNE It's in New York. It's like a neighborhood.

LINDA Whattaya mean you have it out?!

WYNNE I mean we compete, man. Except, insteada playin the video game it like comes to life. The three Tang Dynasty Broadswordsmen actually enter and we go hand-to-hand.

LINDA Three Tang Dynasty Broadswordsmen enter where exactly?

WYNNE An armored room in an undisclosed location in the East Village, that's all we know. Whoever kills the Broadswordsman with the golden sun on his chest wins the million and gets a blue star tattooed to his head.

LINDA You're fighting guys with swords?!

WYNNE Yeah, and they're like these totally ripped expert mercenaries, too.

LINDA Well, that's not fair! Cliff, does that sound fair to you?

CLIFF I say shoot the fuckers! Taser their macaroni asses!

WYNNE Mercenaries, man!

LINDA How do they expect you to defend yourself?

WYNNE They give us each a wakizashi. So it's totally fair.

LINDA What the heck's a wakizashi?

WYNNE It's a sword. The blade's like a foot and a half long.

CLIFF Kawasaki makes a good motorcycle, Lin.

LINDA He's talkin about a sword, Cliff! A goddang sword!

WYNNE And we get one optional weapon of choice. That's how come I got the Taser gun. So I'll have the wakizashi and the Taser.

CLIFF Why don't you take a machine gun? Pack some fuckin heat, man!

WYNNE No firearms allowed. Stun guns, Tasers, and pepper spray were our three options.

LINDA Crymie, Wynne, you can't participate in somethin like that! It don't even sound legal!

WYNNE Ma, it's totally legal. I signed a waiver sayin I was responsible for my own life and everything. It was part of the contract.

LINDA Wynne, this is such a nightmare. Cliff, ain't this a nightmare?

CLIFF I think it's pretty fuckin cool.

WYNNE Ma, I've been trainin for this for the past six months. Check out my abs, man.

 

He pulls his shirt up, revealing his abs.

 

WYNNE Punch me.

LINDA Oh, crymie.

WYNNE Come on, Ma, punch me.

 

LINDA taps his stomach.

 

WYNNE Harder.

 

She taps his abs harder. WYNNE quickly crosses to CLIFF.

 

WYNNE Come on, Pop. It's time to render me inoperable. Blaze a hole in my abs.

 

CLIFF tries to punch WYNNE, but WYNNE evades it swiftly, mock attacking him, then patting him on the back.

WYNNE See? Me and Palumbo have been goin to Zion every Sunday to play paintball and this Japanese dude from Norridge has been teachin me kendo.

LINDA What Japanese dude from Norridge?

WYNNE His name is Slice. He's a total badass. He trained me on the wakizashi. I'm a fierce and brutal weapon of death.

LINDA You are not a fierce and brutal weapon of death, Wynne, you're a dang boy!

WYNNE Ma, the other day I cut a pineapple in half while it was in the air. A pineapple and a Maxwell House coffee can.

LINDA Who the heck's this kendo?

WYNNE Kendo ain't nobody. Kendo's the Way of the Sword, man. Slice taught me all about it. How to conquer my ego and keep my mushin up. The way of the Samurai.

LINDA The way of the who?

WYNNE When a cow drinks water it becomes milk. When a snake drinks water it becomes poison.

LINDA What the heck are you talkin about?!

WYNNE The way of the Samurai is a natural way of the Universe, Ma, and to learn it, one must live one's life from first to last in self-control. I know all about that stuff now.

LINDA I want the phone number of this Slice fella. Someone needs to talk to his parents.

CLIFF I played Keno in Nevada once. Nevada, Las Vegas.

LINDA (lunging at WYNNE, clinging to him) You can't go, Wynne! I ain't lettin you go!

WYNNE Ma ... Ma ... Let go, Ma!

 

WYNNE pries himself loose. LINDA goes after him. WYNNE pulls out the Taser gun.

 

WYNNE Back off, Ma, or I'll Taser your ass!

LINDA (freezing) Do somethin, Cliff!

CLIFF Do what?

LINDA I don't know! Talk to him! He's your son, too!

CLIFF That ain't my son. My son's hair ain't blue, it's black. That's Fuckhead Joe ... Lin, you're blockin the TV

 

LINDA moves.

 

WYNNE Wish me luck, Ma.

LINDA Good luck, Wynne.

WYNNE Wish me luck, Pop.

CLIFF Ha!

WYNNE Sunday night, Channel Thirty-seven. I'm comin home with a blue star tattooed on my head, okay?

LINDA Okay

WYNNE Stop cryin.

 

She tries to stop crying.

 

WYNNE Make sure to give that cash to that dude from the bank.

LINDA Okay.

WYNNE And don't worry about the air conditioner. I'll take care of it when I get back. In fact, throw the fuckin thing out. After I win, we're gettin central air.

 

LINDA nods.

 

WYNNE Man, you gotta stop cryin. I ain't leavin like this ... Pop, you got potatoes all over your face.

CLIFF wipes his face.

 

WYNNE And Ma, make sure to get him a new thinga diapers.

LINDA I'm goin to K mart tomorrow.

WYNNE One finds life through conquering the fear of death within one's heart. You gotta empty the mind of all forms of attachment, make a balls-out, go-for-broke charge at your opponent, and destroy him with a single, decisive slash. Togo Shigekata said that. Or somethin like that. I love you guys.

 

WYNNE lowers the Taser gun, exits.

 

LINDA crosses to the door, stares out, crosses back to the sofa, begins to clean. Lights fade.

SCENE 2.

LATER THAT NIGHT. A NEW YORKER.

The Interior of a Chrysler New Yorker. A MAN, fiftyish, is driving, the light from the dash glowing on his face. He wears a white shirt and an expensive tie. He is clean-shaven and well-kempt. WYNNE is sitting in the passenger seat, holding his gym bag. It is raining.

 

MAN So where you goin again?

WYNNE Crothersville.

MAN Crothersville, huh? What's in Crothersville?

WYNNE Um. A friend.

MAN Well, we could all use a friend, now and then, God knows that. (pause) You from around here?

WYNNE I'm from Chicago.

MAN That's what I thought. I seen you over there on the shoulder and I says to myself I says I'll bet two paychecks and a box of Chiclets that this poor fella's from the Windy City. Chicago, Illinois—now there's a town. You got the Sears Tower. The Lake. Navy Pier and all that ... So why are you hitchhikin, you broke?

WYNNE I got money.

MAN A solvent hitchhiker. Interesting.

WYNNE I just felt it was somethin I needed to do.

MAN I can understand that. The need to do a thing.

WYNNE I'm sorta on this journey.

MAN Aren't we all, aren't we all.

 

A silence.

 

WYNNE Um. You got a radio in this thing?

MAN The Chrysler New Yorker? Are you kidding me, stranger?

 

The MAN turns on the radio to some Chuck Mangione. They listen for a moment. WYNNE turns the dial, finds some Wu Tang Clan or something like that. After a moment, the MAN turns the radio off altogether. A silence.

 

MAN Wanna smoke a joint?

WYNNE Um, you're like drivin, dude.

MAN Oh, I'm used to it. Helps relax me. Stressful job.

 

A pause.

 

MAN Aren't you gonna ask me what my job is?

WYNNE Um. What's your job?

MAN Well, I sell cutlery, actually.

WYNNE Like knives?

MAN That's right. I drive around with a trunk fulla knives. But it's not just knives. It's all sortsa stuff. What's your name?

WYNNE Um, Danny.

MAN Hi, Danny. I'm Jack. Jack W. Gam, Junior.

JACK extends his hand. WYNNE regards it, shakes.

 

JACK Nice to meet you, Danny.

WYNNE Watch out!

 

They swerve.

 

WYNNE Jesus, man! Holy shit that was close! You want me to drive?!

JACK Oh, that won't be necessary.

WYNNE Dude, that was a fucking semi!

 

A pause.

 

JACK As I was saying: It's not just knives, Danny. It's utility shears, serving implements, barbecuing utensils. Cutco Cutlery encompasses a vast and versatile strata.

WYNNE You sell Cutco?

 

From some unknown region, JACK produces a steak knife, hands it to WYNNE.

 

JACK Best cutlery in the world.

WYNNE My dad bought some of those knives offa QVC.

 

WYNNE tries to hand the knife back.

 

JACK Oh, you can keep it. It's a sample.

 

WYNNE drops the knife in his bag.

 

JACK lights up, takes a hit from his joint, offers it to WYNNE, who declines.

 

JACK You sure you don't want a hit of this? It's Hawaiian.

WYNNE I'm on a journey, dude. Tryin' to stay pure.

JACK That's right, you're journeying.

 

JACK takes another hit.

 

JACK So tell me about this journey.

WYNNE You ever hear about Samurai warriors?

JACK Weren't they those guys who would disembowel themselves?

WYNNE It's called seppuku.

JACK Seppuku, huh?

WYNNE Yeah, man. It means to prove the purity of one's heart and soul. The truest Samurai is more afraid of shame than death. Seppuku is this totally noble act. It like protects your honor.

JACK And how does that work exactly?

WYNNE Let's say you ambushed my platoon and I was about to become your prisoner of war.

JACK Okay.

WYNNE Before you could get your shit-smeared paws on me I'd pull out my sword and perform seppuku.

JACK I guess that would be honorable.

WYNNE It would be the only option, man. Honor over everything else at all costs.

JACK But what I always wondered was why do they have to slash away at their own stomachs with a sword? I mean, wouldn't it be easier to jump off a bridge or put a bullet in your head?

WYNNE The ancient Japanese believe that your soul exists in your abs.

JACK Really?

WYNNE Yeah, man. It's your spiritual center. So cutting your stomach like frees your soul.

JACK But I can't imagine the suffering that would result from that. I mean, the blood and the gore. All your guts spilling into your lap.

WYNNE You have to fight the fear, man.

JACK And wouldn't it be hard?

WYNNE Dude, it takes a huge will and the physical strength of an NFL lineman. But that's part of what makes it so honorable. The most popular way to do seppuku is called ZyumonziBara—crosscut style. According to my training master, this dude called a Kaisyakunin has to be present to cut off your head at the end of the ceremony.

JACK What a job.

WYNNE I know, right? And he better have a kick-ass sword or else things can get pretty gory.

JACK So how does one actually do this seppuku thing?

WYNNE You wanna know like step by step?

JACK Just the general stuff.

WYNNE Well, when you're all set up you sit erect with your legs folded under you on this mat thing called a tatami. In front of you is your wakizashi, which is a foot-and-a-half-long sword that makes your Cutco bullshit look small and sad. So when the moment of purity happens, you loosen your kimono and expose your abdomen—

JACK My second wife had a kimono. She'd wear it around the house with nothing underneath. Go on.

WYNNE So when the moment of purity happens you expose your abdomen and seize your wakizashi and stab yourself at the lower left corner of your stomach and slowly cut across. Then you thrust all treacherous and vertical to the upper abs, and punctuate with a swift slice down toward your balls. As soon as this is done the Kaisyakunin dude chops your head off and your soul like totally leaps through your neck and gets to chill for the rest of time.

JACK Huh.

WYNNE Huh, what.

JACK I thought you said the Japs believe that your soul lives in your stomach.

WYNNE They do, dude. And it does. That's where you free it. It's freed there. But when it leaps out of you it goes through the gorge in your neck.

JACK Are you aware that your hair is blue?

WYNNE Um, yeah.

JACK How did that happen?

WYNNE I like dyed it. I'm actually gonna ask my girlfriend to shave my head tomorrow.

JACK Got a girly, huh?

WYNNE Yeah, dude.

JACK Is she this quote-unquote friend down in Crothersville?

WYNNE Um. Yes, actually. She is.

JACK What's her name?

WYNNE Sharice.

JACK Pretty name.

WYNNE I know, right?

JACK You like her a lot, huh?

WYNNE Yeah, man, she's my girlfriend. I love her.

JACK She good-lookin?

WYNNE She's beautiful.

JACK Nice figure?

WYNNE Yeah. She's stacked, why?

JACK Sharice, huh? I like that name a lot.

 

JACK smokes, exhales.

 

JACK Can I ask you something, Danny?

WYNNE What?

JACK Does Sharice like to give you blow jobs?

WYNNE What?

JACK Blow jobs. Fellatio. You know what a blow job is, don't you?

WYNNE Of course I do.

JACK Huh.

WYNNE What the fuck kinda question is that?

JACK A pretty simple one, I'd say. I sure like em.

WYNNE Are you like hinting at somethin, Jack?

JACK I don't know, Danny, am I?

WYNNE Dude, you're a total freak, aren't you?

 

JACK slows down, pulls the car over.

 

WYNNE Why are you pullin the car over?

JACK It's awfully wet out there.

 

Only the sound of rain.

 

WYNNE Dude, I'll suck your dick for a hundred bucks, but I want the money up front and if you blow your load in my mouth I'll Cutco your fuckin balls off.

 

JACK pulls back onto the road. He reaches into his pocket and peels off a hundred-dollar bill, hands it to WYNNE.

 

JACK You ever done something like this before?

WYNNE ... Maybe.

JACK I'm driving along and I see this kid and I says to myself I says now there's a young fella who's done something like this before.

WYNNE So I'm sposed to do this while you're drivin eighty miles an hour?

JACK I'll take her down to sixty-five. Just think of it as being part of the journey. And no teeth now or I'm taking fifty back.

 

JACK undoes his pants and turns the radio back on: Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass this time.

 

JACK So ... (flipping tie over shoulder) whenever you're ready.

 

WYNNE stares down at his lap. Lights fade.

SCENE 3.

THE LEDBETTERS.

CLIFF is on the sofa watching QVC.

LINDA (from off) Cliff, this saint stuff is just so interesting. Today Marna was telling the gals about St. Veronica. The story about this Veronica goes that when Christ was on his way to Golgotha he got tired and fell in the road and this woman—this Veronica gal—wiped his face with a towel. Apparently some sorta image of Jesus remained on the towel. Can you imagine that, Cliff? Gettin your towel back with a dang face on it? Now if that ain't miraculous I don't know what is.

I guess this Veronica became the patron saint of laundry workers and photographers. I swear to God, they got a patron saint for everything.

 

CLIFF stands suddenly, teeters a bit, turns a full circle, as if he doesn't know where he is.

 

LINDA (from off) I asked Marna if there's one for back pain. She was gonna look it up in her index thingy and tell me tomorrow.

CLIFF takes his robe off, starts to fashion and hold the top part of it as if he is trying to hush a crying infant.

 

LINDA (from off) She brought in a portrait of St. Dymphna, too. Oh, that Dymphna gal is so beautiful, Cliff. She looks just like Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet. She's wearin this dress with puffy sleeves and she's holdin this pink rose. They put a glow around her head and everything.

 

CLIFF lies down on the sofa, stomach first, and falls asleep, using his housecoat as a blanket.

 

LINDA (from off) Marna didn't get into Dymphna's story cause she had to go pick up her daughter from choir practice, but she did say that this Dymphna gal is the patron saint of the insane and that you're sposed to pray to her if you think you or someone you love is goin crazy.

Dang, I wish I knew where that picture of St. Anthony of Padua was. I really wanted to show it to Marna. She don't believe me that he's holdin a sea bass.

 

SHAYLEE appears at the head of the stairs. She is wearing a white nightgown. She is soaking wet and she has slit her wrists. There is also a gash in her leg and her dress is bloody. She is holding on to the paring knife. As she descends the stairs she starts to recite dinner grace.

 

SHAYLEE In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen. Bless us O Lord for these Thy gifts which we are about to receive from Thy bounty through Christ our Lord, amen. Bless us O Lord for these Thy gifts which we are about to receive from Thy bounty through Christ our Lord, Amen ...

 

SHAYLEE crosses to the sofa, inserts the paring knife back into its slot in the block, and climbs on top of CLIFF, blanketing his sleeping body with hers.

 

LINDA Oh, there it is! How bout that! It musta fallen off the dang wall when we put the leaf back in the table—

 

LINDA enters with the picture, sees SHAYLEE sprawled on top of CLIFF, blood seeping from her wounds, then drops the picture. Blackout.

Copyright © 2004 by Adam Rapp

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Table of Contents

Stone cold dead serious 1
Faster 99
Finer noble gases 173
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