The Wedding

Beneath the calm of a deadened plate of stars across the disc of matted earth
we lie;

Morsels of a cake wrapped in monogrammed cloth, hidden within the pockets of a rented tuxedo
we cheat;

Glances side-eyed and furtive through cerulean moonlight, stomachs full of mirth
we steal;

Thoughts of running away, swatting away the nascent promise like a mosquito
we kill;

The truth of it is we were never forever but the thoughts to the contrary
we betray;

For just a moment, sneaked away
our backs on the lawn and our paths gone astray
that our lives would mean something together

But just for a moment, then the moment is dead

 

Daniel the Iconographer, Chapters 1,2, and 3

DANIEL THE ICONOGRAPHER

1

There have always been aspects among us. I’ve met several. They’re weird. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, lording over every element and abstract fucking noun, clinging to their fiefdom of rocks or trees or euphoria or paperwork.

I met the Aspect of Limestone once. He wouldn’t shut up about how the fucking pyramids were built out of limestone. At the time I believed him, let him have the satisfaction of feeling important about his stupid rock. I didn’t have any reason to question it. He was an aspect after all, and the first one I ever met, at that. A person is really nervous, leading up to meeting an aspect. You get worked up into a lather thinking about it, is he going to be really tall? Do they look like people? I hope he’s not really tall, that makes me uncomfortable. Basketball players are freaks. But after you meet that first aspect, it’s a lot easier.

Some do look like humans. The Aspect of Stuffed Animals might be that woman with the peach fuzz mustache that sits across from you on the bus every morning wearing two pairs of socks and all her sweaters have cat faces on them. But others don’t really look like anything. Just an energy, like when you’re so bored you’re too bored to sit but when you stand you’re too bored to stand, so you end up rolling around on the carpet like a fucking idiot making mouth noises at your dog until even he goes into another room to get away from your annoying restless whining. That could have been an aspect.

Even other aspects are monsters.

The kind that myths warn us will devour our bones in one chomp, or will turn a person to stone and use him as a bird bath for fucking weird ass birds. Like birds with hair. They exist. The monstrous aspects, not the birds with hair. Well, they might exist too, but I’ve never met one.

It turns out the pyramids weren’t really constructed completely out of limestone. Apparently most blocks used by the slaves or aliens or giants or whatever were actually a mixture of limestone and clay, with water. So, you know, concrete.

The Aspect of Concrete is very quick to point this out.

I’m sitting in his living room, trying to listen. My eyes flick from his face, his grey eyes and square, stubbled jaw, to the television behind him. It looked like hockey but I couldn’t make out the teams involved or the score from this distance. I need glasses.

“So Lziyexci was lying to you. The pyramids are concrete. Just, like, concrete. All the way up to the tippy top. Good ol’ concrete.” He leaned over, obstructing my view of the television. Sure, this conversation is way more interesting.

“What was lying to me?”

“Lziyexci.”

“That’s just a noise. You’re just making noises.” I sip my coffee from the stone mug he chose for me earlier. And when I say chose, I mean he went through his cupboard for several minutes to find the perfect mug for the Iconographer. Apparently the perfect mug looks like every other fucking mug I’ve ever seen in the history of my life and mugs. I hope the Aspect of Mugs has a better fucking mug.

He leans forward slightly and I catch a scent of something wafting from his dusty grey clothing. Something I couldn’t re- oh no wait, I remember, it smells like a gravel driveway. The Aspect of Concrete smells like a gravel driveway.

“Lziyexci,” he says, this time slower, as if that makes any difference whatsoever.

“I still…I- nope.”

“That’s his name. The Aspect of Limestone. Lziyexci.”

“I never learned his name. And here I thought we were friends. Oh well.” I sip my coffee again and wish it was in a better fucking mug. I mean seriously, just a plain old stone ass mug. I’m the fucking Iconographer and he gives me this mug. I set it on the table and try to arch my neck to see around his dumb rectangular head. The sun is beginning to fade outside, its cast shadows sliding along his grey carpet like oil made from honey. Soon it will be dark, but I’ve got a long way to go tonight before I’m allowed to even entertain the thought of sleeping.

“Do you know what my name is?” he asks. His eyes have never left mine since the moment I knocked on his square door and showed him the sigil. Well, except for when he was looking for this ugly fucking sad excuse for a mug. Fucking mug.

“I do not. I’ve just been calling you Conky.”

He didn’t smile. He didn’t do much of anything, really. I realize then that I don’t think I’ve seen him blink. My hand instinctively dives into my coat pocket and my fingers wrap around the Culling Blade before I can tell them to stop being fucking babies about a guy who only blinks when I’m not looking. Or maybe he doesn’t blink. My fingers get a little tighter.

“Proeltizzzxirt.”

His face didn’t even budge. His mouth didn’t move. But I heard him, clear as my mug is ugly, but his mouth didn’t move. Did it ever? I should pay more attention. Lysander told me to pay more attention. He told me to pay all the attention. I’ve paid very little. Normally such frugality would be considered a virtue, but in this case, it may result in me being ground into bloody paste between a vengeful aspect’s granite fists and poured into a foundation for a fucking office building.

Some aspects lie, Lysander told me. Some aspects will see the sigil and try to eviscerate me on the spot. If I show the sigil to the Aspect of Evisceration, for example. Be careful. Look for the signs. Pay attention.

I was paying attention then, at least.

Proeltizzxirt doesn’t move, he just stares at me, not blinking. He doesn’t breathe, he doesn’t scratch his nose, he doesn’t fart. He just stares. I look down at the table, down at the mug. It might have been what a small child would have described when asked to describe the world’s worst mug.

“Do you know why I’m here, Conky?” My fingers grip the Culling Blade tightly in my pocket. The handle is hot, just like Lysander told me it would be. When it sensed it might be called into service, he said.

He didn’t answer for several long, bloated seconds. Then his voice begins to rumble up from nowhere. His mouth definitely didn’t move. I look right at the damn thing, his pallid lips pushed so tightly together they might have well been a carving in the side of a mountain. He is speaking to my brain, which, if you’ve never experienced, is uncomfortable.

“You want my icon.” The words turn in my head like the back of a cement mixer.

I nod. “Are you going to give it to me?”

He stares.

I raise my eyebrow. “Well? You don’t have a choice, Conky. You saw the sigil. You know what that means. You know what I’m doing, and you know that this day would come for you eventually. It comes for all aspects, big and small.”

Not even a fraction of a fraction of an inch of movement.

I get that feeling again, this time accompanied by a strange impulse. The Culling Blade was burning my hand, but I feel no pain, just the red hot handle beginning to blacken my palm as if it were preparing my nerve endings for pulping. The harbinger grumble again begins to bubble forth not in my ears but between them and quickly, like a beacon in a foggy night, one word coalesces: “No.”

My hand is out of my pocket before I realized what was happening. The Culling Blade moved not as a result, but as the cause, propelling itself from my coat and in an instant I’m standing, my chair flinging back from the force and skittering across the stone floor of his stone kitchen.

But Proeltizzxirt remains motionless. I hold the Culling Blade in front of me. Or more accurately, I hold its handle. There is no actual blade, until I need there to be. At least I fucking hope that’s how it works, since I’ve never used it.

“Well if you’re not going to give the icon to me then I have to take it, right? I can’t leave here without it. What are you doing? Why are you just sitting there? We have to battle!”

Intimidating, I know. Proeltizzxirt begins to rock slightly in his chair, almost imperceptibly at first, one way, then the other, then back again, a little further from center each time. His eyes never leave mine, and as the rocking intensifies, his pupils lock onto mine like a tether, and I feel the rumbling in my brain again.

“I’ve set.”

There was a tone in his voice, if you can call it a tone, that wasn’t present before. Embarrassment.

“What?”

“I’ve set. I can’t move. This happens.”

The Culling Blade tells my arm to relax and they fall together back to my side, the handle cooling rapidly. “Are you fucking serious?”

He keeps rocking, getting very near to the momentum required to topple completely from his chair. “I want to get you the icon, but…”

“But you’re a fucking telepathic lawn gnome and you can’t move. I nearly killed you!” I laugh, and one day I might actually think this situation was funny enough to think laughing right then wasn’t stupid. “Can’t you just tell me where it is and I’ll get it myself?”

Back and forth, and back. Almost there, almost out of the chair. And then what? The floor? Solid plan.

“I planned this wonderful gesture, I was going to present you my icon and it, I don’t have roses or anything, but, I mean, it would have been nice.” The grumble in my brain had become almost a whimper.

“Don’t worry about fucking fanfare, man, I have to get a lot of icons. I don’t need a promenade each time, I’d be dead before I finished collecting them all. Where is it?”

“You already have it.” His eyes leave mine for the first time since what seemed like the birth of the universe and land squarely on that fucking mug.

“You’re joking.”

“Why would that be a joke?”

His rocking is nearly there. Each lurch became a lunge and at the apex of each, there was a sign that maybe one more would be enough.

I pick up the mug from the table and turn it around in my hand, inspecting each terrible divot and imperfection, and thoughts of smashing it and then smashing the pieces and then building a rocket and then shooting the smashed pieces into the fucking sun begin to seep into my brain, but I immediately shut them away. Proeltizzxirt might see them. Or hear them. Or whatever.

“And what are you gonna do once you rock yourself out of that chair? Roll off like it was the third day of September?”

“I don’t get the ref-” And now Proeltizzxirt is on the floor. A cloud of dust poofs up, and as it clears, I see his limbs beginning to twitch.

I look at the television. Commercials. Outside the sun is completely cast away for the day, and the streetlights along the street have kicked on. I’m never going to sleep. This is my life now.

Before long, Proeltizzxirt is able to stand, and now that his face is capable of exuding emotions, its painted with a sour mix of shame and sadness. He speaks, and with his real voice this time, straight from his actual mouth hole. “I’m sorry, Iconographer. I was hoping that wouldn’t happen, it happens sometimes, I’m sorry.”

“It’s…it’s okay, man. Listen, I gotta go.”

He gestures toward the stupid ugly mug and I hold it up. He stares at it sadly, like I’m taking his childhood pet to go live on a farm. “Be bold, Iconographer. Be right and walk right. Take my icon and with all the others you will have the power you seek to call forth the One.”

“That’s the plan.” A few seconds pass. I shift my weight from one foot to the other, and he absentmindedly rubs the elbow he landed on . “So, I’ll go then?”

“Do you want some soup or something? For your journey? I made soup, it should still be good.” Proeltizzxirt crosses the room rigidly and opens the fridge. He turns around holding a plastic container filled with some sort of opaque liquid.

I shake my head and take a few steps toward the door.

“Oh, okay, right, you’re probably not hungry. But maybe a soda? I have Mr Pibb.”

“I’ll get something on the way.” A few steps closer. Almost there.

“Right, busy man and all that.” He chortles nervously.

I grab the doorknob. It feels like freedom. “I’ll see you around then, Conky.”

“Proeltizzxirt “

“Right.”

I open the door, step through it, and shut it behind me. The night air was hot and heavy, and the lightning bugs were beginning to fly around like little green analog systems in the haze of the streetlights. Summer air never felt so good after whatever the hell just happened in there. I walk toward my car, passing Proeltizzxirt’s mailbox, floral patterned, jutting up from the curb. I tell myself not to turn around.

Don’t turn around.

But of course I do anyway and I see Proeltizzxirt in the window, the glow of the television flickering behind him so sadly I want to buy it a lollypop. I wave halfheartedly, and he waves back.

This job is fucking weird.

2

I toss the mug into the backseat, where it comes to rest beside the pyramid paperweight. Two down, several hundred to go. So far this is easy. I shove the key into the ignition and turn, and the Charger’s engine roars to life. I dig the Culling Blade out from my pocket and try to toss it onto the dashboard, but it won’t leave my hand.

“Why are you sticky?” I shake my hand furiously, trying to dislodge the handle, but it remains stubbornly attached to my palm. “Get off of me.”

I’m almost overwhelmed by a feeling that seems both familiar and markedly different. What was a grumble with Conky is now a purr, a silken sound, or feeling, of what velvet might trigger when shoved into an ear drum so hard it pets the brain. I shudder.

“We need to talk,” the voice says in my head. It’s alarming, but also calming, reassuring, like waking up to see your mom in the kitchen making pancakes when your mom had been dead for several years.

“Who needs to talk? Who’s in my head now? This is getting shitty,” I say aloud, to no one. To the car. To the air. “People can’t just come into my head whenever they want.”

“I have one job. Protect the Iconographer. Be wielded in his, or her, in some cases, defense, strike down enemies, et cetera. I’ve stabbed a lot of objects. And I like stabbing. I’m good at it. I’m also quite talented in the realm of slashing, but I really consider my forte to be stabbing. Have you ever felt the warmth of a person’s bowels all around you as you sever vital connections and vessels and pierce organs and cleave bone aside like wrapping paper on a birthday?”

I turn the Culling Blade in my hand, still glued to my palm. I flex my fingers and wiggle my wrist, but unenthusiastically. I’ve been the Iconographer for less than a week, but if more than a week ago someone told me I’d be having a psychic conversation with a sentient sword that apparently checked the “extremely” box on the survey measuring job satisfaction, sitting in a car that some old guy just gave me, I’d wonder if that person were insane.

“I can’t say that I’m familiar with that feeling, no. I did get slimed once at a Nickelodeon show, but I doubt that’s similar.”

I feel the Blade pull itself to eye level, propelling itself somehow, and my arm is powerless to resist. I swear I can sense it looking at me, even though it doesn’t have a face, because, you know, it’s a sword handle.

“I am Grofgoz-Zxxrotj, Vanguard of Rrzxxrirr, Disemboweler of Krzxshh, Sentinel of Jkriyy and all that stands before it,” It compels my hand to move it downward slightly, then back again. “Pleased to meet you, Iconographer.”

“Yo.”

“There is something you have to understand about this arrangement. Father Lysander bequeathed me unto you because he believes you to be the 42nd Iconographer. He read through his books and consulted the oracle and baked his Thinking Cookies, and has decided you are the next in a long line of inept and ultimately fruitless crusaders. But I don’t trust so easily. Know that I will protect you if you remain true, Iconographer, but only if you do, and if you don’t, the last sensation you will experience is my body sliding deep within yours, my hot length filling you until your eyes roll back in your skull and you taste oblivion.”

“Listen, uh…Cully, you should rethink your threats.”

“My threats are terrifying and my name is not Cully.”

“Well I can’t pronounce the gobbledygook you people claim is words so I’m calling you Cully.”

I can sense Cully is offended.

“Well what’s your name, then, Iconographer?”

“Daniel.”

“Then I will call you ‘Dan’ because I can’t be troubled to pronounce your rightful name fully.”

“I can live with that.”

“Very well.”

“Good.”

I wonder for a moment if Conky is still sitting at his window watching, forlorn, like a war widow in the 1800s, but Cully interrupts. “Can you turn on the radio?”

I shake my hand again, and Cully remains stuck fast to my palm. I give him an eyebrow to prove my point. “Can you get out of my hand?”

“This is a fair negotiation. Very well. I will release you from my grip in exchange for the activation of the radio.”

I try to toss Cully into the passenger seat, and to my relief he actually leaves my hand and bounces gently onto the cushion.

I poke the radio and it begins to glow. Sound begins to emanate from the speakers and I glance at Cully, who is still a fucking sword handle and not a real person so I don’t know what I expected to see. But it seems he sees me, because as I glance, I hear his smooth, but firm, moist voice, and shit, I’m doing it too now.

“I demand you pilot the radio to death metal.”

My finger hovers over the button. “Cully, I don’t think the radio plays death metal.”

“Then I will settle for dance.”

“Are you some sort of Norwegian?”

“Your fleeting territorial distinctions are irrelevant to me, human.”

“Okay then,” I answer, and pilot the radio to dance. A kick drum begins to pulse on the impact of every beat, and for the briefest moment, I thought I saw Cully smile.

Which of course is stupid because he’s a fucking knife.

3

Before I became the 42nd Iconographer and was told my destiny and given a car and a quest and a per diem for food and stuff, I wasn’t much of anything. I was Daniel, I was 26 years old, and I gave up on shaving.

I’m still 26, and I still don’t shave, but beside that, things are a bit different. There’s a world inside our own that contains what can only really be described as existential horror.

Only one day of my previous life would be interesting to anyone, so I’ll start there. It was Halloween. I never get invited to parties, but that Halloween, in defiance of everything lawful and ordered about the universe, a coworker saw me overhearing him inviting everyone else, so against his better judgement invited me also. I told him I wasn’t going to go, because I’m a filthy liar.

So here I am. It’s Halloween. I’m standing in the bathroom of my apartment, scratching through the plaquey overgrowth on the mirror with a miniature decorative skeleton until there’s enough open space to bear a clear reflection. From the moment I became an official invitee of an event, I was building my costume, first in my head, then out of foam and cardboard and paint. Most people use Halloween as an excuse to become something different for one night, something apart from themselves, or to become something more akin to their truer self, the one kept locked up tight inside, only let out when the shades are drawn, the sun is down, the drinks are poured, and the board games are splayed out before them like a tilapia fillet for four to eight players. Most people dress as something fantastical or as a sexy truancy officer. But as the mirror became more and more like a mirror and not boring regular glass frosted over by years of water stains and haphazard toothpaste spit, I began to see myself as I truly was, what I wanted to be.

Fuck monkeys and Chomp-Chomps and fuck plumbers and not similarly fuck princesses because I’m Bowser.

I adjust my horns and fiery orange mohawk. Everything has to be straight. I realize I was only invited to this party out of pity, but Bowser doesn’t need pity. Bowser has a kingdom. Bowser has koopas. And all these luckless party-goers are going to be my koopas. And if they don’t like it there’s a yawning pit of lava they can take a swim in. I assume. I’ve never been to a party before.

I look at the time, then back at myself in the mirror. Bowser has a thick black beard tonight, and a pocket in his chest for stuff. This might not be canon, but practicality sometimes trumps authenticity, and I need somewhere to put candy. I adjust my spiked leather bracelets and my spiked leather arm bands and spiked leather collar and wonder for a moment if there isn’t a deviant sado-masochistic subplot to the grumpy turtle dragon that goes unmentioned. But there’s no time for that now. The party is about to start.

The door’s locked behind me and I drop my keys into my chest pocket. Each step is cautious, as my pathetic human legs are wrapped in thick foam stuffing shoved into bright yellow sweatpants. I mean Bowser legs.

After meticulously navigating the treachery of the dilapidated sidewalks of suburban Detroit I reach the bus stop. There are several other listless poor people like me, each chewing on fingers and shivering. Some are also in costume I assume. There’s no way a sexy doctor would ride this bus in reality. Sexy doctors make even more money than regular doctors, and regular doctors make a bunch of money as it is. No one that has money rides this bus.

I look up at the night sky, and breathe in the autumn air deeply. Across the street a cavalcade of children dressed as robots and vampires and whatever things are cool to children accost each homeowner for saccharine handouts like junkie Jehovah’s Witnesses. But none of them are Bowser because I’m fucking Bowser. I turn to the sexy doctor and tell her, “I’m Bowser.” She nods politely, smiles weakly, and buries her head so deep into her phone it could sprout roots. I try to imagine what she’s doing. Composing a text to herself reminding herself to wear headphones next time. Also what the fuck is a bowser? but the bus hisses to a stop and we all climb on.

I dig into my chest pocket for my pass and swipe it then take my seat. I have a good feeling about this night. Not only is there a window seat fee and open, it doesn’t even have unidentifiable biological fluid on it. I sidle in, my shell forcing me to hunch over uncomfortably, but I don’t care. I’m Bowser and Bowser’s down to party. There’s a woman across from me, staring at me. Crawling over my body with her eyes. Her peach fuzz mustache ripples softly with each exhale, and beside it whiskers radiate outward, drawn on with mascara. Painted calico stripes adorn her forehead and cheeks, and a stuffed cat is perched on her lap.

She smiles at me, and I try to smile back. Really my mouth contorts into something between a smirk and a grimace, since I never quite mastered the ability to be a normal socially adjusted human person. “Going to a party?” she asks.

My brain juggled a few snide responses that were meant to be clever and charming, but my mouth again went rogue and squeezed out “Yuh.”

“Me too. Some friends and me, we get together every Halloween. Only time we really see each other any more. I’m bringing Sadie.” She presents her stuffed animal proudly.

My brain continues cataloging various responses and quips and funny zingers and “I’m Bowser.” is pooped out involuntarily. I try to own it, like a dog that presents its master with the carcass of a beloved slipper.

“Mmm,” Cat-Face murmurs. “That’s a lovely costume, Mr. Bowser. I like that you paid so close attention to what I guess is detail.”

I gaze blankly at the flat grey buildings lurching by outside the bus and grunt softly. Each building is the same, restaurants and banks and bars and grocery stores and bars, one after another and infinite, endlessly, like Zubats in a cave.

“My friends…I wonder what wonderful costumes they’ll have? I just wonder.”

I grunt again. I’ve never been very talented with small talk.

The bus moans as it comes to a stop. From the window I see another cadre of indigent waiting to mount the chariot of the disenfranchised as they shuffle back and forth on Goodwill shoes. I find myself thinking less of this group than the one I was a member of only moments ago.

I see Cat-Face standing in the periphery of my vision but keep my face glued to the window. Small talk is bad enough, but I have a downright aversion to parting pleasantries. I don’t believe in saying goodbye to anyone. What if they died? I can sense her hovering over my shoulder for a moment and I try to see her reflection in the glass in vain. She wanted to say goodbye, that much is certain. I scratch my beard and pretend to be somewhere else, which is difficult, since I’m not somewhere else. I’m on this bus and no matter how hard I imagine otherwise I can tell Cat-Face is not convinced I’m not really there.

And then she does something that sends coiling bolts of nauseating oil dripping down my spine. She touches my shoulder and I snap my head around instinctively as I pull away. I look at her, her mustache shading her lips in the low light of the bus. She smiles again, warmly, genuinely, and I feel preternaturally at ease. The sick shock of her touch dissolves into something I assume is comfort.

“It was nice talking to you,” she says.

I look at her, like really look at her, and notice the tiny crags in the skin around her faded blue eyes, her thick, wild, kudzu eyebrows and dangling cat earrings and feel something solacing me, deep within the desolate wasteland of the part of my brain that controls how I am around other people. I nod to her and open my mouth to return the sentiment, because it was nice to talk with her. I haven’t really talked to anyone in a long time, not really. And I realize my conversation with her wasn’t exactly soul-baringly philosophical, but it was something at least. Right?

“Muh.”

She regards me with quizzical calm as my cheeks burn. I’m stupid. My brain is stupid and my words are dumb and I hate myself, but the brightness in her gaze softens the self-loathing for a glimmer and I can only hope that she can see in my eyes that Muh meant It was really nice talking to you, too.

“Have a good Halloween,” she says with another pat on my shoulder, and she disembarks the bus, not waiting for more conversational vomit from her seat partner. I watch her from the window as she begins to walk nimbly between trick-or-treaters along the sidewalk.

As the bus continues its circuit of depression, I hear another voice from Cat-Face’s now abandoned seat. “Oh, what’s this? Aww, a stuffed kitty!”

I turn to see a young girl, between two and fifteen, and I realize I really have no idea what size children are at specific ages. The girl is dressed like Princess Leia, complete with white dress and fake hair buns. She’s found something in the seat and immediately I recognize it as Sadie. The girl holds it in both hands, squeezing it. It looks like love at first sight.

“That’s not yours,” I mumble.

The girl tears her attention away from Sadie and looks at me sternly.

“What did you say?”

“I said that’s not yours.”

“Finders keepers.”

You girls are powerful quarry.

I lean closer to her and lower my voice to a whisper. “That belongs to my friend. Give it to me.”

She giggles and at that moment the hate I never thought I had for children reveals itself and begins to burn with the intensity of ten thousand roller coasters. Like the ones that go all upside down and shit. “No, it’s mine.”

I can do this. She is a child and I am an adult. I am superior. I will use my fully developed adult brain and trap her with sound logic and she will have no choice but to wilt to my demands. “Nuh uh!”

“Yuh huh!”

Okay, logic didn’t work. I stare at her for a moment and like a mongoose I strike, grabbing Sadie’s furry cotton head and snatching it from the girl’s grip before she could react. I am victorious and victory is sweet.

The girl’s bottom lip quivers slightly but I’m immune to her bullshit.

“Give that back!” she screeches, and several surrounding bussers turn their heads. This is the most exciting thing that will happen to them today.

“Shut your child mouth,” I retort, “Or you’ll end up like Alderaan.”

Tears begin to coalesce along the boundaries of her eyes. “Who’s Alderaan?” she asks through the haze of imminent sobs.

Disgusting. “You don’t deserve those buns.”

The tears begin to jump to their salty deaths and she lets loose a piercing wail that on this of all nights could have awakened the dead. Her little girl fists ball up and begin bouncing off her thighs in self-flagellant sorrow, but I don’t even care.

Other people do care, though, and a ragged man shambles up to our cloister of seats with the look of championing the suffering of others through gin-soaked haymakers. “You gonna just sit there, Turtle Man, you gonna take that little girl’s doll then just sit there?”

“What else am I supposed to do? The bus is still moving.”

“You gotta lotta nerve, buddy. Give her the doll back.”

“It’s not her doll.”

“Oh, it’s your doll then, huh? Grown man in a turtle costume got himself a doll?”

“It’s not a turtle costume, I’m Bowser.”

That’s when he hit me. The blow landed on the top of my head as if he was trying to whack a mole, the mole in this case being my brain. The padding inside the facsimile of Bowser’s face softened the impact, but the psychological damage was done. I was fighting. This was a fight. We are doing battle.

I stand to retaliate, and as I do, the bus squeals as the brakes lock up, and I’m thrown backward on top of my assailant. As we land, the putrid scent of week-old gutter rain and pilfered bathroom mints invades my nose and I resist the urge to regurgitate my preparty vodka cranberry all over his haggard face. It appears though that he wouldn’t have minded. In fact I think he was dead.

“Get the fuck off my bus you ninja turtle fucking fruitcake!” the driver bellows.

Fair enough. I try to roll off the unconscious transient but as I settle on my shell I’m unable to right myself. I rock in the the aisle helplessly, flailing my arms out in a desperate attempt to latch onto anything that could offer the leverage required. The little girl chuckles at my plight and I make a mental note to never feel bad again when I tell annoying children at the grocery store their parents never loved them.

The driver sighs hard enough to generate a few watts of electricity from a wind turbine and says, “For the love of God someone get him up.”

Hands reach down and propel me to my feet and I catch the driver’s gaze in the rear view mirror. “Now get,” he says, and pulls the handle for the door which opens with a hydraulic hiss.

I make my way out, Sadie tucked securely into my costume, and as I pass, the driver mumbles something about hating Halloween.

I step onto the pavement, satisfied with winning my first ever real life fight. I hear the bus door close behind me as I try to figure out where even the hell I am. I feel a yank and without warning I’m hauled down to the cold sidewalk. The bus speeds away as well as a bus can and from the ground I see my tail bobbing and weaving in the wind, waving goodbye to me as it fades into the distance, caught in the door. I feel the biting breeze of October air invading the hole where my tail once resided, my now exposed boxers the only defence my sensitive butt meat has against the elements. I sit up quickly, lucky not to have landed again on my shell. This time I landed on my left shoulder instead, which insulated my fall onto the hard ground by sustaining what felt like a sledgehammer blow. I flex my left arm and scowl. Something’s kicking around in there that wasn’t kicking around before.

But there’s no time for that now. I’m late for a party.

 

Pun Skit

There’s a sign saying National Pun Guild Speed Dating Night  “The man of your dreams is the man of the hour!”

A woman is on her cell, talking.

WOMAN

Yeah, I’m here now. I can’t believe I let you talk me into this. Everyone says “not intended!”…yes, I know I said I like guys with a good sense of humor, but this isn’t exactly what I meant…I’ll try…I’ll call you later Suzy.

She hangs up. We focus on her table, no one across from her.  A chime dings. A man sits in front of her.

WOMAN

Hi.

MAN

Hello. I don’t usually do this sort of thing.

WOMAN

Me either. My friend dared me too. So what do you do for fun?

MAN

I like to read a lot.

WOMAN

Oh yeah? What sort of books?

MAN

I’ve been reading a book about anti-gravity and I can’t put it down.

WOMAN

Oh, that’s…funny.

MAN

I’m really into bird-watching too. Do you like bird-watching?

WOMAN

I-

MAN

The other day I saw a crow by itself eating crumbs on a sidewalk. Attempted murder?

The WOMAN sits in confused silence briefly before a chime sounds and the man gets up, replaced by another man.

WOMAN

Tell me about yourself.

MAN 2

Well, I’m a firefighter, but lately I’ve been thinking of changing professions.

awkward silence

MAN 2

Ask me why.

WOMAN

No.

MAN 2

Please?

WOMAN

(sarcastically) Why?

MAN 2

Things have been getting too HOT.

WOMAN

Is anyone interested in actually talking or is this just an excuse to make puns?

MAN 2

I don’t know what you mean.

WOMAN

Nevermind. What would we do if we went on a date?

MAN 2

I’d take you out somewhere real nice, like an archery range.

WOMAN

I don’t get it.

MAN 2

That’s not a pun. I just like archery.

WOMAN

That’s not really romantic though.

MAN 2

That’s true. There are always too many drawbacks to my ideas.

WOMAN

Suzy I hate you.

The chime. Another man.

WOMAN

Go ahead and say it.

MAN 3

Say what?

WOMAN

the stupid pun you’re itching to say. Get it out of your system and maybe after we can talk like human beings.

MAN 3

I’m not here to make puns. I’m here to meet nice girls.

WOMAN

(perks up) Well, I’m a nice girl. Tell me about yourself a bit.

MAN 3

Well, I’m inclined to be a laid back sort of guy, but I believe that in order to accomplish anything in this life you gotta pull yourself up by the bootstraps and get it done. I’m an entrepreneur by trade. I recently sold my business. I made shoes, well I wasn’t the sole owner, but I sold my portion of the company for a snug benefit. I’m thinking of investing in a paper stock company now, and my research seems to indicate wide profit margins, but my accountant would ream me if she knew the risk involved. I tried to invest in a gravedigging company once, but she told me it was a dying industry. What about you?

WOMAN

I really like to fish.

MAN 3

Yeah?

WOMAN

Give me your number, maybe in a few days I’ll drop you line.

Burglar and Thief

INT APARTMENT BUILDING, LIVING ROOM

The apartment has been ransacked. A distinguishing feature is the myriad potted plants all around.

We focus on the exterior door. The handle jiggles. It jiggles again. A long pause. We hear the rattling of lockpicks. After a moment, the door opens a crack. We see a gloved hand reach around from the outside and undo the chain. The door opens very slowly to reveal a BURGLAR, dressed as a burglar dresses, in the hallway. He slinks into the room and closes the door quietly behind him. He reattaches the chain and locks the door. He turns around.

Quick cut to THIEF, standing in the middle of the living room, eating a carrot, a look of confusion painted across his face. Next to him is a large bag full of pilfered items from the apartment.

BURGLAR and THIEF share a moment of awkward, silent staring.

Suddenly, the two simultaneously begin frantically searching through their pockets. THIEF drops the carrot from his mouth and utters an expletive as it bounces away.

Both retrieve their respective weapons at the same time and hold them out toward the other. BURGLAR has a gun, while THIEF has a knife. After a few seconds of silent confrontation, BURGLAR smiles.

BURGLAR

What chance!

THIEF

This is awkward.

BURGLAR

I’ll say. You have a knife and I have a gun.

THIEF

But I was here first.

BURGLAR

But you have a knife…I have a gun.

THIEF

This isn’t fair.

BURGLAR

What did the gun say to the thief in the apartment?

THIEF

What? I don’t know. I hate riddles.

BURGLAR

Guns don’t talk, dummy. Also life isn’t fair. Toss the knife.

THIEF

It’s my knife! I brought it from home.

BURGLAR

I don’t care if it’s the dagger from The Shadow starring Alec Baldwin.

THIEF

What?

BURGLAR

You know…the one that has the little face on the hilt with the nomnom shark teeth and the eyes and teeth?

 THIEF stares at him blankly.

BURGLAR

Nevermind. Toss the knife, please.

THIEF

But…it has my name on it.

BURGLAR

That’s cute.

BURGLAR pulls back the hammer of the gun. THIEF sadly lets the knife fall to the ground. It lands equally sadly on the carpet.

THIEF

What if we just, like, divvy it all up. You take half, and I take half.

BURGLAR

I’m a criminal, not a communist.

 

THIEF sits down on the couch sadly. He watches as BURGLAR goes through the bag. BURGLAR singles out an object here, and object there. He begins to make two piles. Suddenly, there’s a knock at the door. BURGLAR and THIEF eye each other.

BURGLAR

Throwing a candle party?

They both stand and go to the door. BURGLAR listens with his ear to the wood as THIEF watches.

THIEF

Say something.

BURGLAR

You say something.

THIEF

You’re the one with the gun.

BURGLAR

I carry a gun so I don’t have to use words!

THIEF

(sighing) (in a terrible woman voice) Hello?

VOICE

(from the other side of the door) Oh. Oh dear. Wendy, you sound awful.

THIEF

Oh yes, I’m so sick with illness. I am Wendy, haver of germs.

BURGLAR shoots THIEF an incredulous look, and THIEF shrugs.

VOICE

I heard a lot of yelling in there…is everything okay? Is Randy in there?

THIEF

No Randies here. I’m watching a TV show…about yelling.

VOICE

Oh thank goodness. I told you, girl, Randy is bad news.

THIEF

Stupid Randy.

VOICE

Well, I guess I’ll leave you alone then.

THIEF

Good. I mean, thanks. Goodbye. See you…tomorrow?

VOICE

Oh! So you changed your mind!

 BURGLAR shoots THIEF an exasperated look. THIEF shrugs harder.

THIEF

Uh, yes.

VOICE

Happy day! Oh, Wendy, you’ll love competitive knitting! As soon as you develop the tensile finger strength, you’ll simply love it.

THIEF

That sounds wonderful.

VOICE

I’ll see you tomorrow!

BURGLAR and THIEF listen a while longer. VOICE appears to be gone. As BURGLAR opens his mouth to speak, VOICE returns.

VOICE

Tomorrow then!

THIEF

Yes, tomorrow thank you goodbye.

VOICE

Taa-taa… (trailing off)

BURGLAR

It isn’t enough to steal all the things, you have to make day plans?

THIEF

Oh, Mr Big Bad with his scary gun, drawing the line of etiquette in petty theft.

BURGLAR

Go over there and put all that stuff back in the bag.

THIEF

(going to the bag) But you took it all out (he looks back to BURGLAR, who waves the gun) and you have the gun and blahblah. (He begins to put everything back into the bag angstily)

BURGLAR

Why are you even here?

THIEF

To clean the windows.

BURGLAR

The windows are still dirty and oh, you’re being facetious.

THIEF

Why are you here? Didn’t you see the hangar on the knob?

Quick cut to flashback of BURGLAR first arriving at the door. He notices a hangar hanging from the doorknob. He takes it off and tosses it to the side. Cut back to present.

BURGLAR

No.

THIEF

That’s the problem with you burglars. No manners. No respect for the art of breaking and the science of entering.

BURGLAR

I have respect. It’s bullet-shaped.

THIEF stands and heads to the door.

THIEF

If we’re done here, I’m leaving.

BURGLAR

You can’t leave! You’ve seen my face!

THIEF

You gonna shoot me for having that misfortune?

BURGLAR

Maybe I will!

THIEF

Good! Do it then! My life is terrible anyway! I resort to petty crime! And even with that I get outclassed!

BURGLAR raises the gun menacingly. THIEF winces. Tension is high. Suddenly, BURGLAR’S cell phone rings. BURGLAR holds out a finger to THIEF, telling him to wait a moment. He answers the phone.

BURGLAR

I’m kind of in the middle of something, sweetheart.

(-)

No, I’m nowhere near your house. I don’t have time to water your stupid plants.

(-)

No, I want them to shrivel and die. I actively desire that.

(-)

Ugh! For the last time I’m not learning how to knit! You’re the worst person!

(-)

(softer) Aw, baby, you know I don’t mean it. You’re not the worst person. There are worse than you.

(-)

Idi Amin?

(-)

He loved hats and genocide- you know what, nevermind. Listen, I gotta go, all right? When are you going to be home?

(-)

(exclaiming) What do you mean “pulling in now”? Like right now?!

(-)

I – uh…no reason. Gotta go bye.

He hangs up the phone and shoves it into his pocket. He looks back at the door. THIEF is not there. He looks around and sees THIEF inspecting a framed portrait featuring BURGLAR (Randy) and WENDY. THIEF holds it out to BURGLAR with an inquiring look in his eye.

THIEF

You’re robbing your girlfriend?

BURGLAR

So are you!

THIEF

She’s not my girlfriend!

BURGLAR

I certainly hope not!

THIEF

What kind of person robs his own girlfriend?

BURGLAR

The kind that has to buy his wife expensive jewelry!

THIEF

What kind of man buys his wife jewelry with money he got by stealing?

BURGLAR

The kind that has a girlfriend!

The doorknob starts to jingle. BURGLAR and THIEF freeze, panic in their faces. We hear voices in the hall.

VOICE

Oh, Wendy! Feeling better already?

BURGLAR dumps out the bag of things and THIEF run around the apartment, Scooby-Doo style as we hear the voices in the hall. BURGLAR and THIEF hurry to return all the items to where they belong.

VOICE

You sounded like you had man-voice.

(-)

Only a few minutes ago.

(-)

But Wendy! We’re still on for knitting right?

(-)

You can’t keep toying with my heart like this! I’m your next door neighbor. That’s a sacred bond!

Wendy swings the door open and closes it behind her quickly with a sigh. She looks up and we see a confused look wash over her, that quickly shifts to elation. We pan 180° to reveal BURGLAR, holding a pitcher of water, sloppily pouring it into a plant.

WENDY

You do care!

We see them embrace, BURGLAR still holding the pitcher and pan away. We track over the knife on the carpet to the window, which is open.

TO BE CONTINUED…?

Geoff’s Woods (WiP)

EXT – Daylight. Woods. Springtime.

Sweeping views of the trees and leaves. Flowers are blooming and woodland creatures frolic without a care in the world. Butterflies flitter and birdies chirp. The picture of idyll bliss. The camera pans to a downed tree.

With a start, GEOFF sits up suddenly from behind the tree. Leaves and dirt stick to his face and hair. As suddenly as he sits up, he cradles his head and rubs his eyes. He picks leaves off his face and looks around. He checks his watch but he is not wearing it. He struggles to stand, using the downed tree to lift himself up.

The camera backs away revealing his entire body. He wears business casual clothing, a polo and khakis. He is missing a shoe. He begins padding his pockets and seems dejected at the lack of discovery. He runs his hands though his hair. He squints at the ground and finds his glasses, which he stoops to pick up.

The camera cuts to his glasses in his hand. They are missing a lens. He sighs and puts them on.

He looks around again. We see him from afar, with a birch in the middle ground. He spies something suspicious on the birch.

He walks gingerly to the suspicious object.

He arrives at the birch, the camera positioned behind his shoulder. It is a sandwich bag nailed to the tree with a note inside. He removes the bag and reads the note. We read over his shoulder. The note says “I stole your shoe. Do something.”

He lets his arms drop to his sides, the note fluttering to the ground. He sees something was written on the back, and he picks it back up to read. We read over his shoulder again. The other side says “You have one hour. We are watching you.”

He starts frantically scanning the area, discovering nothing. The camera pans wildly from tree to tree following his line of sight, focusing on random plants and small animals.

He begins to hurriedly trek out of frame. The camera remains fixated on the downed tree. He comes back, trekking through the frame and out the other side. The camera remains. He treks back again and this time sits on the downed tree and raises his arms in a gesture of bewilderment.

CUT TO: INT – SECURITY ROOM. DARK. We see the silhouette of a man from behind, illuminated by monitors. A keyboard is in front of him. On these monitors we see GEOFF’S bewildered gesture.

 

MARTIN

(O.C.)

 

Stealing his shoe is one thing, but taunting him about it? Really?

 

The silhouette, TOBIN, giggles. He sips a coffee.

 

TOBIN

 

Can I release the spiders?

 

MARTIN

 

Already?

 

TOBIN

 

It’s my favorite part.

 

MARTIN

 

No, not yet. Give him Care Package One.

 

TOBIN

 

Aw, really? How about the bear? Can I release the bear?

 

MARTIN

 

Every time you release the bear it just wanders down to the river and takes a nap.

 

TOBIN

 

Ugh, fine.

 

TOBIN presses a button on the keyboard.

 

CUT TO: GEOFF’S TREE.

 

GEOFF remains on the tree, idly fingering at the bark. We hear the noise of something falling from above, snapping branches. GEOFF stands with a start. The noise of the falling object stops and we hear a hard landing in the brush nearby. He moves to investigate. Behind the birch, he finds a duffel bag. He crouches to unzip it. He removes the objects one by one, placing them in a row on the ground. First, a sheathed knife. Second, a map. On the map, we can see an area is circled in red with the words “DON’T GO HERE” scrawled beside it. Third, a walkie talkie. Fourth, a compass. Lastly, another note. This one, he reads aloud.

 

GEOFF

(reading)

 

I bet you’re wondering what’s up. You totally are about to be murdered, hopefully by bears. You have less than one hour to prevent this. I hope you fail-”

 

He stops reading for a moment and looks around, a look of hurt on his face. He continues reading.

 

CUT TO: TOBIN’S CONTROL ROOM.

 

We see MARTIN, making himself a sandwich. We hear GEOFF reading the note, his voice quiet and tinny, coming through speakers.

 

MARTIN

 

Can you take this seriously?Please?

 

TOBIN swivels around in his chair.

 

TOBIN

 

Hey, make me one!

 

MARTIN sighs and grabs another few slices of bread.

 

CUT TO: GEOFF’S TREE.

 

GEOFF

 

But other people hope you succeed for some reason. Hence all that survival-y stuff you have there. Turn the walkie to channel 5.”

 

He grabs the walkie and flips it on and to channel 5.

 

CUT TO: TOBIN’S CONTROL ROOM

 

TOBIN is holding another walkie. He presses the button and speaks.

 

TOBIN

 

Can you hear me?

 

GEOFF

(O.S.)

 

Y-yeah. Who is this?

 

CUT TO: GEOFF’S TREE

 

TOBIN

(O.S.)

 

My name is Tobin.

 

GEOFF

 

What’s happening to me?

 

TOBIN

 

You’re in the woods.

 

GEOFF

 

Uh, yeah. Why?

 

CUT TO: TOBIN’S CONTROL ROOM

 

MARTIN is eating his sandwich as TOBIN continues his conversation.

 

TOBIN

 

You have to figure that out for yourself, Geoffrey.

 

GEOFF

(O.S.)

 

Can’t you just like, tell me?

 

TOBIN

 

No.

 

GEOFF

 

I’ll pay you.

 

MARTIN laughs, then nearly chokes on his sandwich. After he recovers, MARTIN speaks.

 

MARTIN

(whispering)

 

Ask him how much.

 

TOBIN

 

How much?

 

CUT TO: GEOFF’S TREE

 

GEOFF

 

I don’t know, how much do you want? I own my own business!

 

TOBIN

(O.S.)

 

You mean your shitty car wash? At 493 East Sycamore St? Yeah, we burned that shit to the ground.

 

GEOFF stares at the walkie.

 

RAPID CUT TO: TOBIN’S CONTROL ROOM

 

TOBIN and MARTIN both laugh loudly.

 

RAPID CUT TO: GEOFF’S TREE

 

GEOFF still stares at the walkie.

 

TOBIN

(O.S.)

 

But seriously, we don’t want your money.

 

GEOFF

 

We”? Who’s “we”?

 

TOBIN

 

You know, like my friends and stuff.

 

GEOFF

 

Just tell me how I get home.

 

TOBIN

 

We burned that shit down too.

 

GEOFF

 

Oh come on!

 

CUT TO: TOBIN’S CONTROL ROOM

 

MARTIN sits in the chair next to TOBIN and peers at the second set of monitors.

 

MARTIN

 

Tell him to start walking East.

 

TOBIN

 

Geoffrey, do me a favor and start heading East, okay buddy?

 

GEOFF

(O.S.)

 

East? Why East?

 

TOBIN

to MARTIN

 

I really don’t like this guy. Spiders?

 

MARTIN

 

Not yet! Save the spiders for when he finds the Castle.

 

TOBIN

 

Ugh, fine.

 

GEOFF

(O.S.)

 

Uh, hello? Why East?

 

TOBIN

(into the walkie)

 

Because where else you gonna go, dick? Over and out.

 

CUT TO: GEOFF’S TREE

 

GEOFF stares at the walkie for a few seconds, then stuffs it in his pocket. He picks up the knife and puts that in his back pocket. He picks up the map and inspects it more closely. He appears to attempt to figure out his location on the map. He apparently fails. He folds it up and stuffs it into his pocket also. Lastly, he retrieves the compass, determines in which direction East lies, and begins to walk that way.

 

CUT TO: TOBIN’S CONTROL ROOM

 

TOBIN spins idly in his chair as MARTIN does a crossword puzzle in the newspaper.

 

TOBIN

 

I hate this part. So boring.

 

MARTIN

 

Six letter word for “balancing on the brink”.

 

TOBIN

 

Shut up with your word game. I’m booorrreeddd…

 

MARTN

 

The first letter is T.

 

TOBIN

 

The word is Tshut up nerd.

 

MARTIN

 

Clever.

 

TOBIN

 

You’re clever.

 

MARTIN

 

Apparently not enough.

 

TOBIN

 

Fuck it, I’m releasing the bear.

 

TOBIN sits up and presses the button before MARTIN can object. MARTIN flops the newspaper on the console dejectedly.

 

CUT TO: WOODLAND STREAM.

 

GEOFF continues walking East until a small river blocks his way. It’s not exactly raging, but it’s too wide and deep to cross on foot. GEOFF stops at the water, kneels, and cups his hands. He takes a cautious sip. Satisfied, he dips his head in and drinks his fill.

 

We hear rustling in the bushes. GEOFF looks up. We see a figure dart through the bushes and flee. GEOFF pursues for a few feet, and trips over another duffel bag. He kneels to investigate. It is empty, save for another note. He reads this aloud.

 

GEOFF

 

Dear Geoffrey: Please help! I’ve been kidnapped. I’m scared. I’m lost. Help. Sincerely, That figure darting through the bushes you just saw.”

 

GEOFF looks around. He begins to mutter to himself.

 

GEOFF

 

This is making no sense.

 

GEOFF rubs his eyes and returns to the river bank.

 

DR. GRIZZLY

 

(O.C.)

 

Looks like you’re having quite the day there, pilgrim.

 

GEOFF looks up, across the river. On the other bank, a man in a bear suit lounges lazily in the sun.

 

DR. GRIZZLY

 

Oh, you’ll be okay, I think. Just keep that chin held high.

 

GEOFF

 

Who are you?

 

DR. GRIZZLY

 

Well, I’m a bear. Who are you?

 

GEOFF

 

I’m Geoff. Geoff Finkel.

 

DR. GRIZZLY

 

Well, it’s just an absolute pleasure, Geoff Finkel.

 

GEOFF

 

Are you gonna eat me, bear?

 

DR. GRIZZLY

 

Oh, heavens no. I went down that road before…(ashamedly, but also satisfied)…some girl scouts, camping…(laughs)…well, I’m still not sure what a Brownie is, but I ate them.

 

GEOFF

 

You’re a monster!

 

DR. GRIZZLY

 

Uh, no, I’m a bear. Monsters aren’t real.

 

GEOFF

 

You stay over there, you freak!

 

DR. GRIZZLY

 

Or what? Are you going to polo shirt me to death?

 

GEOFF looks at his shirt, slightly ashamed.

 

DR. GRIZZLY

(continuing)

 

But seriously, you seem lost. Not much for the outdoors, are you?

The Way Up

The Way Up

A man, PETE, and a woman, LISA are sitting at a fold out table with a bunch of worthless kitsch surrounding them. There’s a sign on the table that says “PAY HERE” and a metal lockbox. The woman is dressed in whatever is popular that day, and the man is dressed like the opposite. She sips a tall, fruity drink, and he sips a cheap beer.

PETE

None of this crap will sell.

LISA

You keep saying that.

PETE

It’s truth.

LISA

You don’t know that. You’d be surprised what people will buy. I mean, some of it’s pretty cute. Your mother had…taste…I’ll give her that.

PETE

Oh, you’ll give her that?

LISA

Yeah, I’ll give her that.

They sit in silence for a few moments. A man, BILLY, approaches the table, holding a strange useless object that some might consider art.

BILLY

How much?

PETE

Did you look at the tag?

LISA

Ugh, don’t be rude, Peter.

PETE

I’m not being rude. It’s got a tag on it and he asks me that and come on, it’s got a tag.

(PETE crosses his arms and leans back with a huff. BILLY looks at the tag.)

BILLY

Says ten cents.

LISA

Well, a dime and it’s yours.

BILLY

No, I didn’t want it. I just wanted to know how much it was.

PETE

Well if you didn’t want it then who cares how much it is?

LISA

Peter, please.

PETE

But…seriously?

LISA

Stop it. (To BILLY) Oh, well, it’s ten cents.

BILLY

Thanks!

Billy leaves.

PETE

How can you be nice to people like that?

LISA

I’m not being nice, I’m just being normal.

PETE

That’s not normal. That guy is an idiot. Treat him like an idiot.

LISA

Just stop it, you’ll embarrass me.

PETE

Embarrass you? Who cares what these people think?!

LISA

I care.

PETE

Why?

LISA

Because.

PETE

Because because because. You don’t even know why.

LISA

If you’re going to be like that, just go in the house.

PETE

No. Someone’s gotta sell all this crap. My parents die and leave me with a house full of flea market junk. When I went through it all I expected to find love letters between them, or sex toys, or a skeleton, or porn or something. Anything that showed they were people, and not just piles and piles of useless kitsch.

LISA

Don’t be so melodramatic. They were old people who did old people stuff.

PETE

They weren’t always old.

LISA

Yes they were.

PETE

And then one day we’ll be old people and we’ll have our own house full of shit. Hell, why sell it all now? Might as well keep it, get started early.

LISA

Shut up.

BILLY returns, carrying another useless object, a statue of a clown.

BILLY

What’s this thing?

PETE

It’s a butt plug.

LISA

Peter!

PETE

How the hell should I know what it is?

BILLY

It looks like a clown to me.

PETE

Well, congratulations. You found the secret clown. You get the secret clown prize.

BILLY

What’s the secret clown prize?

PETE

You get the secret clown. Now get the hell out of here.

LISA

Peter, I swear to god, stop being an ass.

BILLY

But I don’t want it.

PETE

Then why are you carrying it around?!

BILLY

Just wanted to know what it was.

PETE

Oh, I see. Give me that for a second.

LISA

Peter…

BILLY hands him the statue. PETE throws it against the ground, breaking it.

PETE

There! Now nobody gets the secret clown. Way to go! What’s your name?

BILLY

Me?

PETE

Oh my god, yes you. What is your name?

BILLY

Billy.

PETE

Of course. A grown fucking man named Billy. Well guess what Billy. You made me do that because you’re an idiot. All the Billys of the world make all the Petes of the world smash clown statues because Billys are stupid and Petes just can’t fucking take it.

LISA

Peter, calm down. (To BILLY) I’m so sorry, sir. He’s just…under a lot of stress lately.

PETE

Billy, I’m gonna level with you here. I wish you were that clown. I wish I could smash you. But that would just embarrass my wife and put me in jail.

BILLY

I’m not a clown. I’m Billy.

LISA

Billy, did you see all the hummel figurines over there under the tree? I bet you’d like those, Billy. You should go look at them.

BILLY

I already did. They’re eyes seem like they follow me when I walk by.

LISA

Well go look at them again!

BILLY leaves.

PETE

I can’t do this, Lisa. I just can’t.

LISA

Do what?

PETE

Be a person that coexists with people like that.

LISA

Then don’t. Go live in a cave. Why did you break that clown?

PETE

It made me feel feelings so I smashed it.

LISA

That doesn’t sound very mature, does it?

PETE

I don’t want to be mature. I don’t want to be old and respectable and dead. I want to make a pillow fort.

LISA

Well, make one then. Who’s stopping you?

PETE

Billy.

LISA

Billy? Billy’s trying to hide from the hummels behind the tree. Billy isn’t stopping you from doing shit, Pete. What’s this really about?

PETE

Things disappear, and they don’t leave anything behind. Then they’re forgotten. Might as well never have existed in the first place.

LISA

They aren’t forgotten unless you forget them.

PETE

You can’t stop it. Things just fade away.

LISA

So you’re going to hide from the cruel march of time inside your pillow fort, cursing the Billys of the world until you disappear too?

PETE

Yes.

LISA

Well, I think you’re already fading away. I can see right through you.

PETE

Exactly.

LISA

Ugh, listen, I know things are tough and you’re emoting all over the yard right now, but feeling sorry for yourself won’t fix that clown or kill Billy dead. It’s just going to make you annoying to be around. So if you want to play king of the down feather castle, fine. Go for it. But do it alone.

BILLY returns carrying something gigantic.

LISA

Goddamn it Billy, go away!

BILLY leaves.

PETE

I don’t want this.

LISA

No one does.

PETE

Billy does.

LISA

You care what Billy wants?

PETE

I didn’t think so.

LISA

You care. You care because you want to be the opposite of Billy, and you need Billy to be over there so you can be over here.

PETE

But Billy keeps coming over here.

LISA

Then go somewhere else. Go somewhere Billy can’t follow.

PETE

There will be more Billys there too.

LISA

Then climb higher and higher until you get so high all the Billys suffocate from lack of oxygen.

PETE

Would you climb up there with me?

LISA

Are you going to keep smashing clowns?

PETE

Maybe a few. That thing was really ugly.

LISA

Yes it was.

BILLY returns carrying all the hummels in a basket.

BILLY

We talked about it, and we came to an agreement.

LISA

You…and the hummels?

BILLY

Yeah. They kept staring, but it turns out their faces are just made like that.

PETE laughs.

LISA

Ah, right. That makes sense.

BILLY

How much for the lot of them?

PETE

How much money you got, Billy?

BILLY sets down the basket and counts his money.

BILLY

27 dollars, and a coupon to KFC.

PETE

Deal.

PETE takes the money and stands.

PETE

(To Lisa) Come on.

LISA stands.

PETE

(To Billy) Enjoy the hummels, Billy. Enjoy all this shit. It’s yours. Enjoy your life down here.

LISA

Where are we going?

PETE

Up.