Saturday, May 30, 2015

Next of Kin

CHARACTERS

CHUCK
Patient’s same-sex husband.

AUNT BELLA
Patient’s middle-aged aunt.

RESIDENT
Fourth-year Medical Student, part of the patient’s care team. Female. Very young in comparison to other cast.

SETTING

Hospital room.

TIME

Early evening, during visitor hours.



(A hospital room, during visitor hours. A family is gathered around the unconscious body of Jimmy Catalano. Chuck, Jimmy’s husband, is comforting Aunt Bella.)


AUNT BELLA
Why don’t someone tell us something?! We been here 45 minutes and nobody will tell us nothing. Where is James’ friggin’ doctor? That nurse at the front desk won't tell us a damn thing.


CHUCK
She can’t. Nurses are forbidden from discussing a patient’s prognosis with family members. That’s the doctor’s job.


AUNT BELLA
Then where the crapola is James' doctor?

RESIDENT
Excuse me, may I come in?


AUNT BELLA
(Charging the Resident.)
Where the hell is Doctor LeDoux? We been waiting here one hour. I want James’ doctor to get in here and explain to us what the hell is going on!


RESIDENT 
I’m sorry you’ve been waiting so long. Doctor LeDoux is not available right now. She’s in the O.R. That’s why I’ve come in.


AUNT BELLA
And who the hell are you?


RESIDENT
My name is Veronica Melbourne, I’m a Resident. I’m part of the team that’s taking care of Mister Catalano.


AUNT BELLA
A Resident? We want a real doctor!


RESIDENT
I assure you I am a real doctor. I’m in my last year of Medical School, and residency is the final step in my training. As I said, I’m part of the team who’s been caring for…


AUNT BELLA
This is how Tulane treats families? We find James unconscious, unresponsive, with a tube down his throat. But no! The doctor makes us wait and nobody tells us nothing! Except that orderly. He walked by here, looked in and muttered “Oh, that coma guy”. Holy Mother of God! A coma?!


RESIDENT
I am so sorry that orderly said that. That is grossly inappropriate. I will personally follow-up with the orderly staff to find out who said that and make sure it never happens again.


AUNT BELLA
Appalling.


CHUCK
Is that what’s going on? Is Jimmy in a…a coma? Why is he in a coma?


RESIDENT
Sir, what is your relation to Mister Catalano?


CHUCK 
Jimmy is my husband.


RESIDENT
(beat) 
I have some difficult information to discuss with Jimmy’s…Mister Catalano’s legal next of kin. Does Mister Catalano have a…um, wife?


AUNT BELLA
Do you hear what Charles just said, young woman? He and James are married. Just as married as I was to my dear, departed Alonso.


RESIDENT
I understand that. Unfortunately, the State of Louisiana does not yet recognize same-sex marriage as legal. I mean no offense, but..


AUNT BELLA
We are offended! How would you like if YOUR husband was in a coma…


RESIDENT
I did not say coma. And my hands are tied on this matter. As a medical professional, I do have to work within legal guidelines. Does Mister Catalano have any adult children?


CHUCK 
No. We don’t have kids. Jimmy doesn’t have kids.


RESIDENT
I see. Are his parents alive? Does he have adult siblings?


AUNT BELLA
Charles and me are James’ only family. His parents kicked him out when he was 16 for being Gay. Then they died in a house fire—God have mercy on their souls—in their own bed. Now I am James’ only blood relative.


RESIDENT
Ma’am, your relationship to Mister Catalano?


AUNT BELLA
I am his aunt. James’ mother is my sister. James and Charles are practically my own sons.


RESIDENT
Then that makes you Mister Catalano’s legal next of kin. As I said, I mean no disrespect to you, Mister…??


CHUCK
Caldwell. Chuck…Charles Caldwell.


RESIDENT
(to Aunt Bella) And how may I address you?


AUNT BELLA
Mrs. Isabella Lorraine Alfaro. The boys, they call me Aunt Bella.


RESIDENT
Mrs. Alfaro, hello. Again, my name is Veronica Melbourne. Before we begin our discussion about Mister Catalano’s care, what would you like to happen right now? Should I discuss with you alone, or would you prefer Mister Caldwell to also be present?


AUNT BELLA
Are you retarded in the head? Of course I want Charles present! He is James’ husband! You have the moral responsibility to discuss James’ healthcare with James’ husband!


RESIDENT
Alright. As long we all understand that any decisions regarding Mister Catalano’s care can only be made by his legal next of kin. Please, may we sit down?


CHUCK
Is it that serious?


RESIDENT
What I came to discuss is difficult. Sitting down is a good idea.


AUNT BELLA
Sit here, Charles. No thank you. I will stand.


RESIDENT
Mrs. Alfaro…


AUNT BELLA
Please, include us both.


RESIDENT
Yes of course. Mrs. Alfaro and Mister…??


AUNT BELLA
He said Caldwell!


RESIDENT
Excuse me. I’m so forgetful with names when I feel nervous. Mrs. Alfaro and Mr. Caldwell, please prepare yourself for difficult news.


CHUCK
Is it a coma?


RESIDENT
Before I answer that question, can you explain to me what you understand about Mr. Catalano’s condition?


AUNT BELLA
James came here this morning to Tulane for knee replacement surgery. Now he won’t wake up. Got that tube down his throat.


CHUCK
I dropped Jimmy off myself. Bella and I came back now, together, to check on him. Assumed he would need to rest up a couple days, then we’d take him to our home. But we don’t understand why he won’t wake up.


AUNT BELLA
And that chooch in scrubs looked in and called him “the coma guy”!


RESIDENT
Again, that was inappropriate. Mister Catalano’s surgery did go well. Only a couple hours ago he was alert and speaking.


CHUCK
Is he in a coma now?!


RESIDENT
Not a coma, Sir. Please allow me to continue. I promise I will answer all your questions after I give you complete information. As I said, Mister Catalano was alert and speaking. Then the Charge Nurse informed the medical team that he was complaining of shortness of breath.


CHUCK
Oh my god.


RESIDENT
I was part of the team that rushed into the room to help Mister Catalano. By the time we arrived, he was unconscious and non-responsive. We started CPR and then requested a Code Team.


AUNT BELLA
A what?


RESIDENT
An emergency trauma team. They confirmed that Mister Catalano’s heart was not beating, and they took over the CPR.


CHUCK
His heart stopped beating? Why?


RESIDENT
After knee surgery, it’s common for a deep-vein thrombosis to form.


AUNT BELLA
Missy, you better start speaking English. We have every right to understand this. And we can. If you speak language we understand.


RESIDENT
Of course. I apologize for my word-choice. Let me back up a little. After Mister Catalano’s surgery, a blood clot formed in his leg. The clot broke away from the site of the surgery, and travelled in his blood stream to Mister Catalano’s lungs.


CHUCK
You said his heart stopped beating. He had a heart attack?


RESIDENT
Not exactly. The blood clot blocked the major artery between Mister Catalano’s lungs and his heart. We call that a pulmonary embolism. Because of the blockage, his heart could not receive oxygen, and that’s why he had a cardiac arrest. His heart stopped beating.


CHUCK
But Jimmy doesn’t have heart problems!


RESIDENT
It was the clot, Sir. One possible risk of this kind of surgery is the formation of blood clots.


CHUCK
So why is he unconscious? Why the tube in his throat?


RESIDENT
The Code Team did CPR to get his heart beating again. After numerous attempts, they were finally successful. But although his heart did start again, in the meantime, Mister Catalano’s brain was also deprived of oxygen.


CHUCK
His brain? For how long?


RESIDENT
We don’t know for sure. Long enough that his brain suffered anoxic brain damage.


AUNT BELLA
English!


RESIDENT
Brain damage due to the lack of oxygen. That tube you see is helping Mister Catalano breath. The brain controls breathing. But because of the brain damage, Mister Catalano’s body cannot breath on its own.


CHUCK
People wake up from comas all the time.


RESIDENT
This is not a coma, Sir. The damage is more severe than that.


AUNT BELLA
What do you mean more severe than coma?


RESIDENT
We don’t believe Mister Catalano will wake up.


AUNT BELLA
He’ll wake up. Look, he’s breathing. I see him breathing!


RESIDENT
I’m sorry to tell you this bluntly, Ma’am. But what you see is a machine breathing for him. If we remove the machine, his body won’t breath on its own.


CHUCK
He will die?!


RESIDENT
I’m so sorry.


AUNT BELLA
James chose Tulane! He didn’t have to come here for surgery. He did the research. Tulane is supposed to be the best in Orleans Parish for this kind of knee replacement surgery. How could you let this happen?


RESIDENT
We are investigating right now how this happened. The best we can tell, after surgery, Mister Catalano should have received an anti-coagulant medication to prevent blood clots. He wasn’t.


AUNT BELLA
Wait, what? You were supposed to give Charles medicine to prevent THIS! And you didn’t? This is your fault!


RESIDENT
I’m so sorry.


AUNT BELLA
Sorry?? Sorry won’t feed a mockingbird! Sorry won’t wake up my nephew!


RESIDENT
Of course you’re shocked, angry, and grieving. I don’t claim to understand exactly what you’re feeling. But I am here to help you any way I can.


AUNT BELLA
Help us by waking up my nephew!


CHUCK
Bella, please. It’s not her fault. She’s the bearer of bad news. (to the Resident) You tried to save him. You gave him CPR. Thank you for that.


RESIDENT
I did everything I could, everything I know how to do.


CHUCK
And now Tulane rewards you by making you give us the bad news. You’re a very fine young doctor, Miss Melbourne.


RESIDENT
Oh! Thank you, Mister Caldwell. It’s my duty and my honor to be with your family at a difficult time like this. (beat) There’s more for us to discuss.


AUNT BELLA
God in Heaven! Are you kidding us?


CHUCK
Bella, please. Let her continue.


RESIDENT
Mrs. Alfaro, did Mister Catalano ever discuss what he would want if something like this ever happened?


CHUCK
What do you mean?


RESIDENT
How would Mister Catalano, James, want us to care for him? For example, we can keep him on the ventilator. And if he has another cardiac event, I mean, if his heart stops again, we could resuscitate him.


AUNT BELLA
Of course we want that. We want him to live!


RESIDENT
Is that what James would want? If his quality of life is compromised like this?


AUNT BELLA
My nephew wants to live! Tell her, Charles.


RESIDENT
Even knowing that he probably won’t ever wake up? Or if he did, he would not be the James you know?


CHUCK
I understand what you’re saying. Bella, she means withdrawing care. Withdrawing the breathing tube, letting Jimmy…

(Long beat.)


AUNT BELLA
Well, I want him to live! You said I’m his next of kin. His legal next of kin. You have to do what I say. I want him to stay alive!


CHUCK
Bella!


AUNT BELLA
I'm sorry, Charles! But I can't just do nothing. Let them pull the...I can't stand by and watch James... He's my boy! You're both my boys.


CHUCK
(to the Resident)
We cannot possibly make a decision like that. Not minutes after you just walked in here and dropped a bomb on us.


RESIDENT
Of course not. Mrs. Alfaro, you do not have to make any decisions right now. I’m introducing the topic. Begin to think about what I’ve said.


AUNT BELLA
Don’t ask me! You should ask his husband! Charles! Charles is his husband!


RESIDENT
Morally I agree with you. But you are the legal next of kin. Discuss it together then. Decide as a family the best course of action for Mister Catalano. What he would want. What the two of you together think is best.


CHUCK
Jimmy and I watched that whole Terry Schiavo fiasco in disgust. We never imagined it could happen to us.Never talked about what we would want. We both thought the real tragedy was that family’s grief put on display, held up to public scrutiny. Judged by Fox News and Facebook.


AUNT BELLA
Terry Schiavo! No! No!


RESIDENT
I know this is unthinkable, terrible news. But is there anything I can explain better? Do you have any questions for me right now?


CHUCK
No, not right now. Bella, Dear, any questions?


AUNT BELLA
Isn't there any hope?


RESIDENT
I can assure you he's in no pain.


CHUCK
My God! Oh my God! I don't want Jimmy to be in pain! Bella, I don't want him to feel pain!


AUNT BELLA
(Rushes to comfort Chuck) How can you assure us that?


RESIDENT
The most honest answer I can give you is Mister Catalano does not feel any pain. The part of his brain that experiences pain is not active.


CHUCK
Jimmy!


RESIDENT
Mister Caldwell, we also have medications we can give Jimmy to ensure he does not feel pain. Medication and other forms of palliative care...to ease his transition.

(long beat.)

Perhaps I should give you some time to talk and absorb this. I can come back any time you need me. If you do think of other questions, ask for me by name, Veronica Melbourne.


AUNT BELLA
Thank you, Miss Melbourne. We need time alone now, to talk...to grieve as a family.


RESIDENT
Of course. Again, I’m so sorry, Mrs. Alfaro. Mister Caldwell... (Attempts to touch Chuck's arm, hesitates, then exits)


AUNT BELLA
I don't understand what just happened to our family!

(The dam breaks, and Chuck finally has the break down he has struggled to hold back. Bella embraces and comforts him)

CHUCK
Jimmy is my husband!

_________________________________________________________________

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The First Thespian

Characters:
Thespis of Icaria, a Leading Man
Glaucus, a member of the Greek Chorus
Jerkus, a rival member of the Greek Chorus

Time:          6th century B.C.
Location:    Ancient Greece. On stage at Athens Amphitheater. 10 minutes until Curtain.
Props:         Sword. Sword belt. A mask of Tragedy and 2 masks of Comedy (Optional. Actors may pantomime those faces instead.)
Costume:    Matching togas. Thespis’ toga is too short. Glaucus’ toga is baggy and too large. Jerkus’ toga is just right.

__________________________________

Glaucus:     (Enters from wing, calling off-stage) Thank you, Ten!

Thespis:     (Enters from opposite side of Glaucus, doing vocal warm-up exercises...culminating with) DRACH-mah. drrrrach-ma. drach-MAH!

Glaucus:     Thespis, stop worrying. Tonight you will give an Olympian performance. If your voice fails, you can always rely on your lovely face.

Thespis:      But I'll be wearing a mask.

Glaucus:     Even wearing the mask of Tragedy, your unique talent shines through, my boy. Like a star in the heavens! No doubt, after tonight’s performance, Zeus himself will reserve a spot in the night sky for your soul to sparkle when you ascend.

Thespis:      Does my face look lovelier when I speak in this direction, (turns head in profile to audience) or speak in this direction?

Glaucus:     Where will your audience be seated? Speak in the direction of their ears.

Thespis:      But what if I misspeak, Glaucus?! What if tonight, in front of all the free citizens of Athens, I, Thespis of Icaria, flub history’s first line?

(Groups of ladies and men are arriving for the show.)

Glaucus:     Welcome to Athens Amphitheater, Senators, Ladies. Have you come to see tonight's Choral performance? Most excellent. We have a very special treat for you tonight. Very special indeed. (to Thespis) See how the nymphs look longingly upon you, and even the satyrs...

Thespis:     Satyrs! (Leading man smile.)

Glaucus:     ...much admire your comely good looks.

Thespis:     But tonight, Glaucus, will god-like beauty be enough?

Glaucus:     I said good looks.

Thespis:     I don’t want to be known merely as a glorious physique, an Adonis.

Glaucus:     (under breath) Narcissus more like.

Thespis:     I want to be remembered—nay Glaucus, celebrated down through history for my skill as …as an…what do we call this? Is it choric refrain anymore? With only one singer? We don’t have a word for this in Greek. Am I really the first...ever…to try this?

Glaucus:     To my knowledge, dear Thespis, which admittedly is not so vast as your own, I never before heard of a Chorus member who attempted a solo.

(Jerkus enters)

Jerkus:        Nor should it be attempted.

Thespis and Glaucus in chorus: (intense dislike) Salutations, Jerkus!

Jerkus:        Since the dawn of Chronus, there has always been a Chorus. We are the necessary foundation of a story well told. How else would the audience understand the playwright’s meaning? Without the Chorus to explain it to them? In song.

Glaucus:     But never before has a single member of the Chorus stepped forward by himself, under his own spot of torchlight, and spoken in the voice of another man or acted out the deeds of another man or pretended to be another. Indeed Thespis, what you are attempting is the birth of a new kind of theater.

Jerkus:        Don’t break a leg stepping under that spot of torchlight.

Thespis:     (acid) Why thank you, Jerkus, for your too kind words. (Stage whispering to Glaucus) But Glaucus, how does one person pretend to be another?

Glaucus:     Uhhh…alright, let's start with your name.

Thespis:     Surely you know me, Glaucus. We have sung together the stories of gods and heroes in wild, dithyrambic refrain for 8 years. Thespis. Of Icaria.

Jerkus:       Genius!

Glaucus:     Dear Zeus. Yes, I do know you, Thespis, my lovely boy. Now introduce yourself as the person you pretend to be.

Thespis:     Oh! Of course. Right! (grabs Glaucus by the forearm in a Greco-Roman handshake. Casually introduces himself as if to a business associate.) I am Pericles.

Glaucus:     You are? Really?! This is how an orator, a statesman, a general of Thrace greets his warriors?!

Thespis:      I am Pericles?

Glaucus:     Mean it. Again!

Thespis:      I am Pericles!

Glaucus:     More authority! Again!

Thespis:      I am Pericles! I am Pericles!

Glaucus:     (tents fingertips together and nods) Goooooood.

Jerkus:       That was good?

Thespis:     (to Jerkus) I shall instill fear and respect for Pericles in the audience.

Glaucus:     Not the audience. The armies of Thrace! If you pretend to be Pericles, then pretend to stand where Pericles stands. (Turns Thespis by the shoulders toward audience.) On a hilltop, above the valley where Thracian warriors have assembled to receive your command.

Thespis:     Yes, I see. And then, I shall roar like a fearsome lion. (Roars!)

(Jerkus roars in laughter, mocking Thespis.)

Thespis:     (ignoring Jerkus) To instill fear and respect in the audience...(catching on) the armies of Thrace!

(silence)

Glaucus:     (beat) I like where you are going. Choose something else.

(Thespis struggles to come up with a new idea.)

Glaucus:     For example, draw your sword, thus. Instead of roaring like an actual lion, speak your name…with a roar in your voice!

Thespis:     (draws sword) I…Am…Pericles!

Glaucus:     You make me shudder. You are so real. Honestly, Thespis, there should be a word, a name, for what you can do. Let us see...you pretend to be another person. You imitate or mimic the words and actions of a character in a story...

Jerkus:       Thus you are a pretender? An imitator? History's first mimicker?

Glaucus:     No, I don't like the implied guile of pretender. Imitator sounds cheap.

Thespis:     And mimicker? I can’t even pronounce mimicker without tripping. What about charmer? Because I charm the audience into believing that I am indeed Pericles.

(More guests arrive at the amphitheater.)

Glaucus:     Good evening, ladies. Oh yes, many good seats left. Just beyond the urinals. Upwind, I assure you! (calling after them as they pass by) Thank you for supporting local theater!

Jerkus:       Charmer sounds like spells and magic, a snake charmer. A charlatan.  

Glaucus:     (to Thespis) My dear boy, you are the leading man of the Chorus.

Jerkus:       Leading man? (beat) No, that will never catch on.

Thespis:     Will the audience accept me, Glaucus? Are they willing to accept that I, Thespis of Icaria, humble singer…

Jerkus:       Humble!

Thespis:     …of the Athens Amphitheatre Choral Company, speak for Pericles? That I truly am the Great Pericles?

Glaucus:     (ruminates) That depends on your motivation.

Thespis:     My what? What in the name of Melpomene is motivation?

Jerkus:       This I gotta hear.

Glaucus:     Motivation...is...uh? Ah! Motivation is “why are you talking? Why are you doing such-and-such?” In real life, when we talk or do something, it's because we want something. We are motivated to talk because we want something. What does your hero want that motivates him to say "I am Testicles!" (pronounced Testa-cleez)

Jerkus:       (raucous laughter) Oh Glaucus, the hero in this play is named "Pe-ri-cles". Good thing Thespis is history's first "Leading Man".

Thespis:     (movie star smile to more passing nymphs and satyrs) Thank you for coming tonight. Stay after the performance. I would be happy to autograph your papyrus. (rakish wink)

Glaucus:     Quite true! I have no mind for memorizing lines. I would flub history’s first line for sure if I were standing in your sandals. Instead of a Leading Man like you, Thespis, I am merely your follower. Perhaps I could be called history's first…uhh… Thespian?!

Jerkus:       History’s first…uh…Th-th-th-theth-pian. Malarckus!

Glaucus:     And here's Jerkus, history’s first critic! 

Jerkus:       Well I, for one, need the Chorus to back me up, to keep me in step with the group mind, to keep me in line!

Glaucus:     What you do, Thespis, is Art.  And Craft. It requires Art, Craft, and a courageous heart to step forward into the torchlight and stimulate our intellects, arouse our emotions, stir our psyches with only your words and actions.

Thespis:     Brother, you should be directing this whole show.

Glaucus:     What would that make me then? A Director?

Thespis:     No, a tyrant.

(All 3 share a knowing laugh. Pause. Laugh again.)

Glaucus:     Speaking of tyrants, (indicating Jerkus) Pericles wants to defeat a tyrant. That is his motivation. He stands above the battlefield, (indicating the  audience) addressing archers, spearmen, charioteers, and common soldiers, trying to rouse them to righteous indignation against an evil tyrant. Pericles appeals to their clan pride as Thracians! He wants to motivate them into fighting and dying for Thrace. When he says “I am Pericles!”, he is declaring, “Pericles has arrived! Let the fight begin!”

Thespis:     And this is motivation?

Glaucus:     If your motivation is true to real life, Thespis, if we recognize and sympathize, then yes, I believe the audience will accept you as the hero.

Jerkus:       They are lighting the torches. The flutes will start soon.

Thespis:     How is my hair?

Glaucus:     Tousled. Like a hero. Sword belt secure? (Thespis tightens his sword belt) Loins girded? (Thespis flashes his underwear under his toga) Good and good. Ok, here goes. Let us each don our mask.

Jerkus:       Don’t flub your precious line.

(They face audience side-by-side, with Thespis in the middle. All 3 solemnly pull down a mask from atop their heads. Thespis is Tragedy. Glaucus and Jerkus are Comedy. Actors may pantomime if no actual masks are available.)

All 3 in chorus:  Ahhhhhhh…. (Glaucus and Jerkus repeat chant over Thespis’ line.)

Thespis:     (with a roar in voice) I…Am…(draws sword)...Testa-cleez!

(Glaucus chokes on chant. He pulls up his mask. Now his face has become Tragedy. Jerkus pulls up his, but remains Comedy under his mask. Fade to blackout as the panting Thespis, oblivious of his flub, turns to Glaucus for approval.)

Friday, January 17, 2014

VitaminD

The Italian Mafia goes up against the Gay Mafia for control of VitaminD, the hottest new club drug in the 5 boroughs.

Setting: Late 1970s, Manhattan, Studio 54 nightclub

Characters:
Andy Warhol
Truman Capote
Halston
Tony Contralto
Christophuh Contralto

Props:
2 chairs
2 guns
Folded piece of paper containing white powder
__________________________________________________________________

On an empty stage, Warhol is pacing, massaging a migraine. Capote anxiously awaits Warhol’s response. Halston, hip cocked, studies Warhol critically.
Warhol:    As much as I am loathe to admit it, at least this time, I have to agree with Tru. We must do something. We can't just recline on our chaise lounges, drink Cosmopolitans, and allow these New Jersey mooks to sweep us away. All our hard work, our reputations.
Halston:   Your hair is just awful. How bold!
Capote:    (speaking with an effete Southern drawl) Miss Halston, will you please shut your damn corn hole! Our dear Andrew is deathly serious. The Contralto family poses a significant threat to our cozy little “Velvet Mafia” and to our interests in New York. These so-called "mooks" are coming to Studio 54 today, before it opens. With guns, most likely. We need some semblance of a plan.
Halston:   What do you suggest, Truman? Blackmail? Murder? In cold blood perhaps? Why not simply slay them, as we always do, with devastating style, an arched eyebrow, and biting wit?
Tony and Christophuh Contralto enter, unseen by Warhol but seen by the others.
Warhol:   Those thugs are probably not intelligent enough to appreciate wit, Halston.
Capote:   (whispering) Andrew dearest…
Warhol:   And it will take more than a belted, camel-hair trench coat and an eyebrow pencil to get these mobsters off our backs.
Tony:      Mobster is such an unkind word.
Warhol:   Oh my God!
Chris:      We prefer the term “Consultant”.
Warhol:   We were not expecting company so soon. We were just…having a private conversation. Um, good afternoon. My name is Andy Warhol.
Tony:      Right, Warhol. I seen your paintings. Giant soup cans.
Warhol:   Yes, exactly. Soup cans. Very expensive, giant soup cans. And this is the internationally famous writer…
Capote:   I prefer the term “raconteur”.
Warhol:   Truman Capote.
Chris:      In Cold Blood! Right on. That movie was truth, man.
Capote:   Charmed, I’m sure.
Warhol:   And fashion designer, Halston.
Tony:      (to Halston) You, I never heard of.
Halston:   (inspecting Tony’s clothes) I would never have guessed.
Tony:      (to the group) Please excuse the intrusion. I am Tony Contralto. How do you do? This is my associate, Christophuh Contralto.
Chris:      How you doin?
Tony:      Christophuh is the amiable one in the family.
Warhol:   Welcome to Studio 54.
Tony:      Thank you. You understand what I am saying, when I say “family”?
Warhol:   Yes we do.
Capote:   Although to us, “family” means something entirely different. Do they seem like “family” to you?
Warhol:   (indicating Tony) He is definitely not family.
Halston:   (indicating Christophuh) Although he might be.
Tony calms an offended Christophuh with a slight gesture.
Tony:      We come under the flag of parlay, to tawk to youz, have a sit-down, family to uh, “family”.
Capote and Halston carry in two chairs. Tony and Warhol sit, facing each other.
Warhol:   Mister Contralto…
Tony:      Please, Tony is fine.
Capote:    Mister Tony. I am sure that your family and our family can reach a mutually beneficent agreement.
Tony:      I am sure we can. In fact, I know we will.
Warhol:   Mister...um...I mean, Tony, what we currently have in place is a fair deal for everyone concerned. The Contralto family continues to sell the street drugs and all the organics: marijuana, heroin, opium, cocaine…
Capote:   And of course, crack cocaine.
Warhol:   Exactly. But we control the designer drugs. Anything engineered in a laboratory.
Halston:   Anything with a designer label, spelled with initials: LSD, PCP, XTC, X, MDA.
Warhol:   MDMA, GHB.
Capote:   K.
Warhol:   We’ll even let you have crystal meth. Although technically meth is made in a laboratory…
Capote:   But Crystina can be such a bitch.
Halston:  We don’t like how she accessorizes. Crystina often arrives at social events with guns.
Capote:   Uh! And all her meth-labs keep exploding. Oh my, so untidy.
Warhol:   Hard to part with such a reliable cash-earner as crystal-meth, but we’d be willing to let it go…if things can stay the way they’ve been. Your territory. Our territory.
Tony:      (uncomfortably long deliberation) Used to be. But you crossed the line with VitaminD.
Warhol:   Well, VitaminD is our biggest seller in the discotheques.
Halston:   Studio 54 alone accounts for a quarter of the citywide VitaminD demand, in all of New York!
Capote:   It’s the hottest new club drug in the 5 boroughs! Oh my, Miss Liza Minnelli herself cannot get through a single Tea Dance without a double-dosage of VitaminD. And poppers.
Tony:     I know. That is why the Contralto family wants a cut of the action. Half.
Chris:     And thank you for the crystal-meth business. We’ll be taking that too.
Tony:     See? The amiable one.
Chris:     Until you piss me off.
Tony:     Until you piss him off.
Capote:   Oh Dear, let us not piss off Mister Christopher then. Ladies, conference.
The 3 Velvet Mafia gather to discuss in private, away from Christophuh and Tony.
Chris:      You ever been inside a Manhattan discotheque like Studio 54 before?
Tony:      Nah. What for? I seen that movie “Saturday Night Fever”. What do I want to do the Hustle for? Like this buncha finnochios?
Chris:      (singing) Awwww, do the Hustle! Doot doot doot, doo-doo, doo-doo, doot doot…
The 3 Velvet Mafia members re-approach.
Tony:      Christophuh, shut yer damn corn hole.
Capote:    (approves of Tony’s word choice) Ah! Another raconteur.
Warhol sits again. Tony remains standing.
Warhol:   Mister Contralto, um, Tony, after careful deliberation, we, the Velvet Mafia have decided—unanimously—to respectfully decline your request. We cannot share the proceeds of our VitaminD business. VitaminD is our territory.
Chris:      I don’t feel so amiable no more.
Halston:   It has a designer label. Engineered in our laboratories. Sold in our discotheques and night clubs.
Capote:   Enjoyed by our family.
Tony:     (grabbing Warhol’s shirt) You think you can say no to Tony Contralto? No to the entire Contralto family? Who da fuck are youz? Three bippity-boppity-boo fairies from Sleeping Beauty? You will all be sleeping beauties when Christophuh gets tru with youz.
Chris:     Ha! Bippity-boppity-boo.
Capote:  Oh shut your damn corn hole.
Chris:     You shut your damn dick holster, faggot!
The 3 Velvet Mafia members do not like the word “faggot”.
Halston:  Faggot?! We are not merely some department store, ready-to-wear, off-the-hanger faggots. I’ll tell you who we are. We are the Velvet Mafia, the Pink Mafia, the Lavender Mafia, the Gay Mafia. We are the cultural elite, taste makers. We decide whose little black dress your wives will wear to your funerals—a year in advance!
Tony:     He said, shuddup. Before we stuff your dick holsters…with our guns.
The 2 Italian Mafia guys pull out guns.
Capote:   Guns. I knew it. Oh my.
Warhol:   (standing) You came to Studio 54 under the flag of parlay! No weapons. Just talk.
Chris:      Tawk time is done. Weapons now.
Tony:      Well fellas, looks like it’s bullets versus high fashion.
The Velvet Mafia share a silent deliberation.
Halston, Warhol, and Capote in unison:         You lose.
The 3 Velvet Mafia members begin a fashion show cat walk from one end of the stage to the other, passing in front of the bewildered Italians. Capote struts first.
Halston:   (stage-whispering to Capote) Chin forward. Squint your eyes like you hate us.
Sitting down again, Warhol pretends to scribble notes for a review.
Halston:   Truman is modelling last season’s look for the short, stout, has-been writer of novellas and true crime fiction. His fedora rakishly angles across tiny, bloodshot, piggy eyes. While his jaunty cape is flung over a shoulder with careless abandon, as if to say, “Who are you, Manhattan, to laugh at me…”
Toward the end of Halston’s babble, Capote and Warhol both attempt to run off stage, in opposite directions. Tony and Christophuh stop them in their tracks, threatening them with guns.
Tony:      Stop this faery crapola now! Get back over there, you three sissies. And let me tawk for a while. It’s my turn to tawk.
Chris:      Yeah! Just shuddup and listen, why don’tcha.
Tony:      What we have here, Christophuh, is a failure of communication. We are all using the same English words, but mean something different. For example, when you and I say “family”, we mean the Italian Mafia. An organized crime syndicate with deep pockets, loads of guns, rifles, oozies, and ammo. And plenty of politicians, cops, and judges on our payroll. But when they say “family”, they mean sissy finnochios who take it up the butt.
Chris:      (to Capote) You probably never even had a whiff of cooz.
Capote:    Oh dear, I am feeling nauseous. Halston, please ask our guests to leave now.
Tony:       Or for example, when I say “give us half the VitaminD business,” they say “No.” But what I hear is “ok Tony, yes. Take half the VitaminD business.” See my confusion?
Chris:       I can, Tony. I can see your confusion.
Warhol:    Yes, you are both very confused.
Tony:       (gun to Warhol’s temple) Damn Gays, always acting like they are better than everybody else. Like their shit don’t stink like shit.
Capote:    I have been told that mine smells of jonquils and orange flower blossoms.
Tony:       I said shuddup! Christophuh.
Responding to his name like a one-word command, Christophuh pushes Capote onto his knees, gun to his head.
Tony:       Our guns say that one Christophuh is better than all 3 of you princesses put together. Now, if all the backtalk and sarcasm are done, let us return to our earlier discussion regarding VitaminD. You 3 Marys will continue to sell VitaminD to your discothèque “family”, to all your queer-boy faggots and their fag hags. “Miss” Liza Minnelli, Bernadette Peters, Cher, whoever. You sell. Your territory. We take half the profit. Our territory. Capisce?
Halston:   Why should we agree to this extortion?
Chris:       Cuz my gun says so.
Warhol:    Might makes right?
Tony:       (pressing his gun more firmly against Warhol’s head) Don’t it?
Halston:   Get a load of tough, macho Rock Hudson and James Dean. Only hetero.
Chris:       Rock Hudson ain’t Gay!
The Velvet Mafia share a look.
Capote:    Can I get off my knees, please? I have a condition.
Halston:   Sometimes Truman’s blood alcohol level gets dangerously low.
Capote:    And then I get dizzy, with palpitations.
Christophuh pistol-whips Capote, knocking him unconscious with a blow to the head. Capote crumbles to the floor.
Chris:       Still dizzy?
Tony:       (finally removing the gun from Warhol’s temple, he sits on either of the chairs) One more time. Give us half the profits from the sales of VitaminD.
Capote rouses himself. Stands, wobbly, and reaches out blindly, in delirium.  
Chris:       (to Capote) Whatcha say to that, “raconteur”.
Capote:    I need a doll. I need a goddam doll! Don’t y’all know who I am?! I am Neely O’Hara dammit! Someone bring me a goddam doll!
Warhol:    Please let us give Tru some VitaminD. Otherwise, he’ll never shut up.
Tony and Christophuh silently confer, then agree. Warhol removes a folded paper from a pocket, opens it, and smears the white powder inside all over Capote’s nose and face. Capote perks up.
Capote:    (Performs some impressive dance-like karate, his accent changing from Southern effete to bad mock Asian.) Woo-chah! Hi-yah!
Tony and Chris:          What da fuck?!
Halston:   (imitating Capote’s effete Southern) Oh dear. Where are my manners? Gentlemen, please allow me to introduce…Miss Yakuza...
Capote:    (more karate) Ninja Transvestite Assassin!
Tony:       You have got to be fucking kidding me. Christophuh, you believe this shit?
Chris:       If she’s a real ninja, Tony, then I am gay.
Halston:   I told you.
Capote really feels the VitaminD pumping. Making various karate shouts, he rushes Christophuh, smacking the gun from his hand with a karate chop. Crouching low, he kicks the feet out from under Christophuh, knocking him to the floor.
Capote:    (jumping upright into a karate stance) Who dizzy now, mudda-fuckuh?!
Chris:       You bitches are crazy!
Tony, in a panic, jumps up, pointing his gun at each of the Gays in turn, trying to regain control of the situation.
Capote:    Ayyyyyyye!
Capote does an insane cartwheel, landing behind Tony. Capote karate chops the back of Tony’s knees, causing Tony to buckle to the floor on all fours, the gun flying out of his hand. Halston and Warhol grab the 2 guns that are now on the floor. Capote is about to karate-chop the back of Tony’s neck, but Warhol calmly stops him.
Warhol:   That’s enough for now, Miss Yakuza. Thank you.
Capote restrains himself, slowly pulling both fists toward his torso while exhaling forcefully between pursed lips. He puts his palms together in prayer, inhales slowly, and bows to the audience.
Warhol:   Ah Contraltos, now that our roles are reversed, we can return to our earlier discussion. We, the Velvet Mafia, stand firm in our resolve to retain all 100 percent of our VitaminD profits. And because you have behaved so un-amiably today, we will also take back our crystal-meth business as well.
Tony:      Fuck youz. We’ll just come back here tomorrow with more guns iz’all.
Halston:   Tomorrow is the weekly Tea Dance at Studio 54. Can you imagine 400 sweaty Gay men…
Capote:    (back to his effete Southern drawl) And Miss Liza Minnelli.
Halston:   …all high on VitaminD? All believing that they too are ninja transvestite assassins?
Tony and Christophuh do not like those odds.
Warhol:   Stand up! Hands up!
Tony and Christophuh return to their feet, hands on their heads.
Warhol:   The next time you mooks decide to leave Jersey City, or West Orange, or East Orange, or whatever New Jersey rock you live under, and decide to drive the Holland Tunnel over to Manhattan to threaten the Velvet Mafia, the Pink Mafia, the Lavender Mafia, the Gay Mafia, just remember one thing…
Halston:   Warhol, and Capote in unison:       Fags bash back!
Capote:    Gentlemen, show us your catwalk strut—(imitating their Jersey accents) da fuck outa our nightclub!
Tony and Christophuh cautiously exit backwards.
Halston:   (stage-whispering to them as they exit.) Chins forward. Squint your eyes like you hate us.


Fade out.

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Gospel According to Lazarus

History’s first zombie, Lazarus of Bethany, debates with archangels, Raphael and Lucifer, over whether or not Lazarus should create more zombies.
LOCATION
Present, behind the flood-wall of the Mississippi River, under moonlight.

CHARACTERS:
Lazarus, a zombie. Male.
Light zombie effect face-makeup, especially dark shading on the temples and hollow eyes. Contemporary clothes.


Raphael, an archangel. Male or female.
Dressed in jeans and a hoodie.


Lucifer, the Fallen One. Male or female. African-American.
Dressed like a Jazz musician. Fedora, pencil-thin beard, and an awful Hawaiian shirt partially unbuttoned to reveal a tropical colored wife-beater tank top.


Goth kid, a willing victim. Male. Boyish looks.
Dressed in black shreds with sparkly, white mica powder on his face and heavy black eyeliner like an Egyptian pharaoh.

PROPS:
Small gel packs of blood for Lazarus to bite.


_____________________________________
Under a cone of blue moonlight, the archangel Raphael stands powerless (on an apple box?) above Lazarus and his young victim, unable to prevent a murder.
Raphael:  Brother, restrain your hatred! El Azar, please, stay your hand!
Lazarus:  (panting from dragging the drugged body of his victim) Get thee hence! Or stay my hand yourself, if you have any meaningful power. First Clarion of the Order of Seraphim! Ha! Despite your exalted title, Raphael, all you can do is lecture, beg, and nag. Go ahead, stay my hand! What's that? You can't physically interfere in the affairs of humans because you have no corporeal body? Angels--even Archangels--cannot touch. (Grabs the boy’s throat.) Only God can stop my revenge. But he won't!
Raphael:  Do not commit this mortal sin!
Lazarus:  But without a soul, Raphael, how can I sin? Ever since my “miraculous resurrection”, I can only recall the memory of morality. I know my actions are destructive. But why should I care? I do not die, Archangel. What Hell is there to fear?
Raphael:  A Hell of your own making.
Lazarus:  God created Hell. It says so in the scriptures. And His son created my Hell on this Earth. That, I know. I was there when he did it.
Raphael:  Do not kill this boy!
Lazarus looks down at the pale face cradled in his arms, sparkling in the moonlight with a white mica powder that Goth kids use to imitate the latest Hollywood vampires. Kohl-blackened eyes, like a pharaoh of long-dead Egypt, see only Lazarus, looking up at him with complete trust. 
Lazarus:  But this one wants to die. Why should I deny him the blessed (pronounced bless-sed) rest the Creator intends as reward for surviving life? Why delay his reward? 
Raphael: His people will grieve. 
Lazarus: For him? New Orleans overflows with his kind. Homeless, by the stink of him. A run-away, 14, maybe 15? Easy to misplace. He's like me. Forsaken. (Scrapes his teeth over the boy’s face. The boy pants eagerly.) Should I kiss his cheek or bite it off? Look at him, Archangel. He knows he is about to die. He is eager to give up the struggle. To give up his ghost. Look how he welcomes me! I am his Messiah! (to the boy) What kind of squalid life do you live, Friend, that you choose the damnation of suicide? 
Lazarus: This is not suicide! This is murder! 
Lazarus: I may be the instrument of his destruction. But this boy longs for death. As do I—ah, but God will not let me to die, right? (to the boy) Stupid animal. I am not your Redeemer. I will destroy you utterly. 
The boy smiles with beatitude.
Raphael:  Your argument is with God. Not one more victim to your hatred for God!
Lazarus:  (Looks up from the boy’s eerily calm, sparkling face to taunt the archangel) But Raphael, I am God’s victim. Even the betrayer, Judas Iscariot, died by his own rope. He was allowed—by God—to rest. Oh that simple sleep enjoyed by all God’s other creations, from the humble single-celled fungi to these stinking apes I feed on.  Judas Iscariot! The betrayer who led Christ to his killers, he no longer suffers among the living! But I do. For what crime am I punished to wander eternity with no destination, no end, not even a rope to hang myself? Was I nothing more to God than an object lesson, a demonstration of His infinite power?
Raphael:  The symphony of ocean waves, the flight of birds, and all the natural wonders of His divinely-wrought world demonstrate the infinite power and glory of the Creator. Amen.
Lazarus: Then is the son so insecure in his divine parentage that he must curse a servant, a loyal friend, with undying life? I was made a monster by the son of God!
Raphael:  El Azar, how you blaspheme!
Lazarus:  My whole existence is blasphemy! (To the boy, who remains non-responsive to the conversation happening around him, happily drugged.) You understand what I mean. (The boy nods dreamily.)
Raphael:  Then you both misunderstand the purpose of your existence. Your apparent immortality must be part of His grand design. God does all things according to His own inscrutable logic, for His own divine ends.
Lazarus:  I have yet to see any evidence of “Intelligent Design” at work in my life. But plenty evidence of neglect. For all practical purposes, God is the absentee dad of the whole world. And for the past 2000 years, God has certainly been dead to me.
Raphael:  Foul blasphemy!
Lazarus:  Lightning never strikes. I can blaspheme all I want. Shout blasphemy from French Quarter rooftops! God is dead! God is dead! (To the boy.) See? The stroke of Grace never falls from on high.
With a shrieking of cats and saxophones, Lucifer enters, dressed as a Jazz musician with fedora, pencil-thin beard, and an awful Hawaiian shirt partially unbuttoned to reveal a tropical colored wife-beater tank top.
Lucifer:   Well said, Cuz. But don’t just kill that skinny boy. Turn him. Make him into another one, like you, Laz. Eat of your flesh. Turn him. We all know you are lonely.
Lazarus(to the boy) An angel on one shoulder and the Devil on the other, eh?
The boy only has eyes for Lazarus, his Redeemer, oblivious to the angels.
Lucifer:   Raphael baby, alright. You look well. Maybe a little tired around the eyes.
Raphael:  Fallen One.
Lazarus:  Lonely! I have not felt lonely since my resurrection.  Loneliness is a sickness of the soul. Without a soul, I can never feel lonely. What does the Devil know about loneliness?
Lucifer:   Hey man, I am lonely for God. For true. You lonely for God too, if you just admit it.
Lazarus:  Don’t be perverse, Lucifer. I hate God! (Out of spite, starts to bite the boy’s skull, but stops himself. Anticipating his imminent death, the boy is disappointed.) I was at peace. Four days, I had been dead. My sisters, Mary and Martha, a week ago had sent word to Jesus the Nazarene. “El Azar, whom you love, is ill.” But instead of rushing to Bethany, Jesus—who supposedly loved me—remained where he was for 2 more days before he even began the journey. After 4 days in my tomb, the entire village assumed my soul had departed from my body, welcomed into the bosom of Abraham, and could surely never return. But then, He arrived in Bethany, Son of the Almighty, thronged by crowds of followers, his apostles, and villagers. And then, in history’s most shameless public relations stunt, Jesus the Nazarene commanded my corpse to walk out of my tomb. “El Azar, come forth!” Jesus was my friend! He was my Messiah! I did as the Messiah commanded. I came forth. I stumbled out of my tomb, out of death, blinking, tangled in my grave-clothes. The entire village of Bethany beheld the miracle and wondered! But afterwards, my public usefulness complete, my role in his passion play over, Jesus the Nazarene forgot to kill me again. And the writers of the Gospels never mentioned my name after that event. Forgotten. Jesus used me to aggrandize himself; but Old Lazarus is the one shunted from history, an embarrassment in afterthought!
Toward the end of the preceding speech, Lazarus chokes the boy’s throat with two hands. The boy’s face tenses, but he is delighted. The boy’s lips gasp, “Yah…!” But Lazarus will allow no air. With leaden gaze, Lazarus stares into the boy’s bulging eyes.
Raphael(distraught over the murder) There is no shame in longing after God!
Lucifer:   On this, Archangel, we agree. (Adjusts his fedora, smoothing the brim, mildly entertained by the choking happening right in front of him.) I may be guilty of over-reaching pride, but I am not too proud to admit that I am lonely for God. Cuz, you cannot imagine what it was like for me. I began my existence in God’s own presence, basking in His divine light. But then, hello!, abruptly I was cast aside, thrown down from Heaven, pearly gates all locked on me, forbidden even to glimpse the magnificence of His hem. What theologians write is true, Laz. Hell is the absence of God. No lie. An unquenchable thirst, a longing that goes eternally unanswered. The kind of loneliness that turns easily into hatred.
Lazarus(Releases his choke-hold.) I am not like you, Satan.
Raphael(relieved) The Fallen One knows the true meaning of Hell.
The boy wants death. He tries to wrap Lazarus’ hands around his throat again. Lazarus is too caught up in his argument with the angels to notice.
Lazarus:  The true meaning of Hell?! For 2000 years, I have been the wandering Jew, forsaken, forgotten, undead. In this world, but not of it. But never a word from God. Cursed by his absence! So I curse Him back, Raphael. I curse all God’s creation. If God won't kill me, then I will kill all that He loves!
Enraged by 2000 years of rejection, Lazarus bites into the boy’s skull. The boy whimpers, screams a little, but is entirely compliant. The boy shudders and moans sexually as his blood spurts hot into the zombie’s mouth.
Lazarus:  Ah-ah-ahhhh… (Breaks a gel-pack of blood inside his mouth.) Holy Manna!
Lucifer:   (cold laughter during the murder) Turn him, Lazarus! Before he dies full out, make that skinny-ass boy eat a tiny morsel of your flesh!
Lazarus feeds, ignoring his surroundings, hypnotized by the ambrosia of gore. But he manages to wrench his bloody mouth away just in time to catch the fading light in the boy’s eyes—the look Lazarus lives for. The boy is smiling in quiet gratitude.
Lazarus:  See how the light fades. The miracle of death! These are the moments when I see myself best, in the mirror of newly dead eyes, the inescapable reflection of my monstrousness. My own eyes are cold metal. They reflect no light. My hair and nails continue to grow, dead cells in a perpetual state of dying. (Wipes blood from his lips onto the boy’s white forehead.) And when the Angel of Death passed over Egypt, Moses commanded that all the Israelites should wipe the blood of lambs over their doorways, as a sign that Death should pass over. This is the true meaning of blessed (pronounced bless-sed). To be marked by blood.
In a huff of thunder, the archangel leaves, disgusted once again. Definitely not for the last time.
Lazarus:  He’ll be back to pester me soon enough, when the hunger seizes me again. But I don’t care. I have done what I have done, and I am proud of it. I destroyed another of God’s favorites. And if God won't stop me, then no one can. Not even myself. (The limp corpse of the teenage Goth boy slips from his grip, thumping onto the stage floor. Lazarus starts, worried someone might have overheard.)
Lucifer:   Relax, Cuz. Nobody but “First Clarion of the Order of whats-it-whos-it”, yawn, and Ol' Scratch are witnesses to your murder-slash-suicide. You always manage to elude detection. For 2000 years! Damn, Cuz! Always choose your kill spots with care, hidden from public view, yesss..like behind this flood wall of the River. You got skills. 
Lazarus picks up the body again, and step-by-step turns and drags the corpse upstage, out of the cone of moonlight, toward “the industrial pier.”
Lucifer:   Be careful to avoid the searchlights of the Harbor Patrol. Oh they won’t find this one for days, way on far downriver. The churnin’ currents of the Mighty Mississippi are awaitin' his splash. If you real lucky, that paddle wheeler might dismember and grind up the evidence for ya.
Lazarus(calling back, over his shoulder) He’s dead, Lucifer. Why are you still here?
Lucifer:   I enjoy a senseless slaughter now and then. Most excellent technique. Eating brains? Never thought of that one. You know eating brains don't mean you're eating his soul. That's just an old wives tale. Ah but such a waste! Now Lazarus, why didn’t you turn him, like I told you?
Lazarus:  Because you won’t be content with just one! (Leaving the body, steps back into the cone of moonlight) He might eat of my flesh and maybe become like me, cursed to wander the Earth, undead, undying, soulless. But then you will want more of us, and then more, until we become an army of the undead, outnumbering the living. You just want my help to accelerate the End of Days and bring on your precious Armageddon.
 Lucifer:  Lazarus…Cuz…we both want the same thing. To bring down upon God that same powerful sorrow He brought down upon us. To crush God’s favorites! Oh I am so feeling ya, for true, y'all! So why not accelerate the End of Days with companions like unto yourself? And ease your loneliness while you’re at it? Start with one, and double your kill rate.
Lazarus:  No!
Lucifer:   You front like you hate God and all humanity. Shit!
Lazarus:   (Remembers the corpse and steps back out of the light. Stands over the body, facing the audience.) Jesus had been long dead, resurrected, and already ascended into Heaven. His apostles and their apostles spread his fame over the entire known world, as far as Rome, then Britannia, then this new continent, and eventually the entire planet. But after the first 200 years, still there had been no message from God, no revelation or illumination that would explain His silence or my persistent existence. I was bitter, Lucifer! And what about his followers? The souls he had Redeemed? In the streets of Cairo, followers of the Christ tore each other limb-from-limb…over the doctrine of the Trinity! Is God one with 3 aspects, or 3 Gods? Over this debate, followers of the Christ slaughtered each other with bare hands. In the Coliseum of Rome, martyrs threw away their lives with gleeful abandon over splintered, conflicting perversions of His original message of love. I saw the universal church grow to became a tool of political corruption wielded by Caesars and then bishops. In only 200 years, I had witnessed murders, abuses of influence, and even war in the name of the Christ. I was disgusted. Food became loathsome. I lost all appetite for human food. Instead, I craved the lives of humans. I craved their souls! I craved their brains, where our souls reside.
Lucifer:  Wives tale.
Lazarus:   I ate my first human brain, a bricklayer from Corinth. Then I became a plague upon Europe, a red death.
Lucifer:   The miracle of death is wasted on these primates! You know it. I know it. But it's not enough to merely kill them. Curse humanity to the same walking death as you, Lazarus. Rob them of their lives, yes; but rob them also of the peace in death which God in his inscrutably wise, grand plan denies you. The dead shall walk the Earth, Laz. (sings a Gospel ditty) Armageddon train is a'coming! Is a'coming round...
Lazarus:  (interrupting) I don’t want any part of your Armageddon! I will not create your army of undead killers just because the Devil and his demon minions cannot touch humans. Stick to what you’re good at, Lucifer, whispers. Topple an economy here. Corrupt a generalissimo there.  If you need Armageddon so bad, bring it on yourself.
Lucifer:   But you and I, we should join forces, combine our talents. Now it is just plain wrong not to use the gifts that God has granted us.
Lazarus:  I refuse to be counselled on right and wrong by anyone who claims moral authority over me, angel or devil.
Lucifer:   Hell no! I don't claim no moral authority. I just been at this game a few more eons than you. Together, we can hasten the end. I mean, the end of our subjugation under the foot of an uncaring God. End our suffering. And start our own dominion over Creation.
Lazarus(shouting to Heaven) Are you even listening?! (to Lucifer) I don’t want that. I don’t want dominion.
Lucifer:   Then what do you want, Fool? I offer you death, Lazarus. Finally. For true.
Lazarus:  Slither back into that Godless Hell of your own making! You don’t have that kind of power, Prince of Lies! Only God can take or give life. Humans believe they take a life in war or create a new life through sex. But it is God who lights the candle and God who blows it out. The lives I steal, God allows it. God never stops my hand.
Lucifer:   Then what do you hunger for, for real, “El Azar”? Ha! “God is my help!” What do you want?
Lazarus:  Get thee hence, Satan.
His dignity offended, the Devil buttons his shirt front.
Lucifer:   The Devil travels abroad like a roaring lion, wherever he wills. I leave you now—because I will it, not because you command. (muttering) Get thee hence, my ass. Think on what I said, Lazarus. End of Days. Oh, it's on like Donkey Kong! In the meantime, while you mull it over, I shall savor s'more of that French Quarter nightlife. Bask in its rituals of debauchery.
And with a shrieking of cats and saxophones, Ol’ Scratch splits.
Lazarus talks to the corpse he is dragging down-stage center, back under the cone of blue moonlight.
Lazarus:  The Fallen One and that nagging First Clarion are gone, finally. Now I can admit to you, Friend...I am lonely. The only one of my kind, a man who rose from the grave but cannot die, the original, true substance of horror stories. I am lonely.
Directly under his spot of moonlight, Lazarus lays down the corpse.
Lazarus:  But I dread Lucifer's idea. It’s unthinkable! Eat of my flesh?! Would my flesh re-animate another corpse? I will never try it. No matter how hard I discriminated among the elite of the freshly dead, my children would create more undead children. And so on. Eventually, they would become sloppy. Corpses in all manner of advanced decay would roam the world, suffering for eternity the pain of rotted organs, rotted eyes, brains devoured by worms. These revenants, they would lack a soul, like me, but they would also lack a mind. They would endure blind, perpetual, inexpicable torment. Their weird shrieks, their growls would inspire a whole new breed of nightmare. But, Friend, they would never truly be like me, not merely another man damned by God. Something more horrific. A greater abomination than I am.
Cradles the dead boy like Mary cradles the dead Christ in Michaelangelo’s Pieta.
Lazarus:  I cannot deny I am lonely. But not, as the Fallen One wrongly asserts, for God.  (shouting to the sky) God is dead! (Nothing happens. To the corpse) The danger is denial, in pretending we do not feel hunger at all, that we don’t all hunger for Holy Manna. Peace is what I want. Silence. The stroke of Grace that never falls.
Lazarus eats more of the dead boy’s brain, grunting and smacking (and bursting another blood-gel packet), as the moonlight fades to blackness.



** End **