Monday, September 30, 2013

The Gospel of Lazarus - an audio horror

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

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.

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, 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 **

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The 13th Step ~ a short comedy

Ron:     25-35 Gay male, “Leading Man” type.
Eliot:     25-35 Gay male, “Best Friend” type.
Other characters imagined by the actors.

Present day. Shopping mall, outside the Sharper Image store, across from JC Penneys.

Imagined by the actors.

Imagined by the actors.

(Walking in the mall together, Eliot abruptly stops them both)

Eliot:   I spy with my little eye…

Ron:    Is it a guy?

Eliot:   Yes.

Ron:    Is it a hot guy?

Eliot:   Yes.

Ron:    Where?

Eliot:   Behind us, over your left shoulder. Jeans.

Ron:    (looks) Eliot, you sure like ‘em tall and lean.

Eliot:   (inspecting Ron, who is also tall and lean) Well I do have my type. Damn! I can’t believe I’m at a shopping mall. It’s been, like, since Junior High? I didn’t even know they still had Sharper Image. I thought they all went the way of Blockbuster Video and Orange Julius. (Flirting with a passing shopper) Hi, I like your sunglasses… (ignored) Guess he can’t see me…sunglasses.

Ron:    I’m considering the purchase of some high-tech surveillance equipment.

Eliot:   (freezes) Uh. Muh. Gawd! Ronald Lewis Livingston,  what are you up to?  You know I will call your mother!

Ron:    I just want to check out some cutting-edge spy gadgetry. See if Sharper Image has those video cameras, the tiny ones they hide inside the TV set to catch baby-slapping nannies. And bugs. Just what are bugs, anyway? Are bugs for real? They must sell wireless bugs by now. Come on, let’s go inside.

Eliot:   Hold on a sec. Are you serious with this Spy versus Spy stuff?

Ron:    Yeah kinda. (goes inside, greeted by a sales boy) Thank you, yes I do need assistance. Let's say I was interested in wearing a wire, like under my clothes, to record conversations, does Sharper Image sell that sort of thing?

Eliot:   (To sales boy, who is rather cute, as it happens) Hi! Eliot. Excuse us, please. We’ll be right back. Bye-bye. (pulls Ron aside) Ok start talking. What in the Hail No is going on?

Ron:    I’m researching a part for a play.

Eliot:   Ron, we’ve spoken about this. What did I tell you about committing emotionally to your performances? That was totally unconvincing. Really! What are you really up to?

Ron:    (long beat) I think James is cheating on me.

Eliot:   Shut up your mouth.

Ron:    Really. With his Narcotics Anonymous sponsor.

Eliot:   Ut oh. The old 13th Step.

Ron:    The what?

Eliot:   You know. In the 12 Step Program, there’s an un-official 13th Step. It’s when you sleep with your sponsor.

Ron:    ‘Zactly. James is 13 steppin-out on me. I’m sure of it.

Eliot:   What?! Ron, you just said you think. Now you know for sure?

Ron:    No, ok. I don’t know for sure. But I think he’s cheating on me. I suspect it. That’s why I’m wanting to shop for surveillance equipment. (to the sales boy) Uh, excuse me. Hi again. Sorry for the interruption. So what I was asking, about wearing a wire? Oh you don’t sell that. Too bad. Ok, mind if we just browse for a bit? Which aisle has high-tech spy gear? Thanks.

Eliot:   (to the sales boy) If we need any more of your generous assistance, I’ll be sure to flag you down personally. Eliot. Bye-bye. (catching up to Ron in the spy gear aisle) What makes you think James is 13th steppin?

Ron:    (browsing the gadgetry) For example, after his NA meeting, James always has to “have coffee” with his Sponsor. Used to be, for just an hour or so. Now “coffee” lasts up to six hours!  Please tell me, Eliot, what in the Hail No do a couple recovering coke heads talk about for six hours!

Eliot:   Maybe they talk about you. Oh look! A tiny spy camera hidden inside a rhinestone tiara. Nobody ever suspects a tiara. (Touches the glass of the display case) Oh I can think of so many times that would be useful. *gasp* Imagine the porn!

Ron:    For SIX HOURS! James and I don’t even talk that much.

Eliot:   Well, that’s saying something right there. (beat) Look, a sponsor is supposed to be someone you can talk to, open up to, share your darkest secrets with. So is a boyfriend. But if James is not getting that kind of intimacy at home, I can see why he might be tempted reach out to someone else.

Ron:    (too loudly) Right, they’re fucking!

Eliot:   Shut up your mouth! I never said that. I meant, reach out for intimacy. Not for sex.

Ron:    And what’s the diff?

Eliot:   Oh my dear, dear Ron. Where do I even begin?

Ron:    And so later, when James finally does come over my place, after his meeting, after his 6-hour tete-ta-tete with his sponsor, it’s late at night but James says he’s too amp’d up to come to bed, from all that emotional talk he says. He just paces around my living room, talking a mile a minute, then splits. On his way out he apologizes, saying he’s too amp’d up emotionally for sex. With me! I am an all-you-can-eat, 24-hour, sex buffet.

Eliot:   Yes, I remember that about you. But I also remember that you’re not big on talking about emotion, sharing feelings, listening. I mean, sure, on the stage “somewhat,” but not in the living room.

Ron:    The curse of the actor. A brash and bold exterior, hiding a sensitive, tender, hungry soul within. You wouldn't understand. You’re not an actor.

Eliot:   I guess. But you’re sure not big with the touchy-feely. So before you get all amp'd up on jealousy and suspicion, before you run off, concocting this elaborate, hair brain scheme to spy on your own boyfriend—which, by the way, is a bad, bad idea—check your own self. Are you sure James has no reason to look for intimacy elsewhere?
Ron:    Intimacy, intimacy! Fully commit! God, like you know what it’s like in my relationship!

Eliot:   I do remember what it was like in our relationship.

Ron:    (beat) Ok! I won’t spy on my boyfriend. Anymore.

Eliot:   Ronald Lewis Livingston! What did you do? Did you hack his emails? Check his browser history? Read his text messages? Incoming and outgoing call record? I swear I will call your mother.

Ron:    No! I did not. Although, those are all very good ideas. I checked out his Facebook friends, to investigate who his sponsor is.

Eliot:   Sponsor identity is supposed to be anonymous. And for the record, that is called Facebook stalking.

Ron:    All from the comfort of my own laptop! Turns out, James only has about 40 Facebook friends, so it was easy to narrow it down to one suspect. I’m pretty sure the sponsor’s a Gay guy, because James goes to the LGBT NA meetings. A couple times, he’s mentioned his sponsor’s name, like when they’re talking on the phone.

Eliot:   Were you eavesdropping?

Ron:    But only his first name. Chass. Not Chaz, like a proper coke head. No. Chasssss. James had two Facebook friends named Charles. I looked them both up. On the Profile page for the second Charles, he had “liked” the Narcotics Anonymous page and Marriage Equality. He “liked” Broadway actress Megan Mullaly and the original cast recording of “Rent”. Gay guy, screaming ‘mo, right? And the books in his Good Reads include “The Power of Now,” “Codependent No More,” and a bunch of titles by that white lady who’s also a Buddhist nun, Pema something unpronounceable.

Eliot:   Wow. Have you considered reading those books yourself?

Ron:    That’s got to be the guy! In his Profile picture, he looks older than us. Like 40, but not a troll. Handsome, in that weathered, tired-around-the-eyes kind of handsome.

Eliot:   Honey, if James was 13th steppin-out on you, I am sure it would not be for a handsome face. It would be, more like, emotional intimacy he was after.

Ron:    Yeah, but a handsome face helps.

Eliot:   Yes. Yes, it does. And let the record show, your face is off-the-charts handsome. Shut up your mouth! I am just saying, I doubt James would be turned around by just another handsome face. He’d be searching for something he doesn’t already get at home.

Ron:    Either way, it doesn’t matter! I don’t want some other guy being emotionally intimate with my boyfriend. That’s worse than fucking. No, it’s not. But still. (Flagging down the sales boy) Excuse me again. Hi. Does Sharper Image sell, like, a wireless, hidden microphone? Something small? ‘Zactly! A wireless bug! Awesome. (Follows the sales boy)

Eliot:   (Touches the display case containing the tiara) I will possess you. (Rushes to catch up to Ron) This guy Chass, or Chaz or whatever, is James’ NA sponsor. They are supposed to have an intimate relationship, by definition.

Ron:    But this is more than NA intimate. This is SIX HOURS intimate. This is 13th Step kind of intimate.

Eliot:   Well, what about us two? Aren’t we 13th Steppin?

Ron:    What?! (to the sales boy) Thank you for your assistance. We’ll let you know if we need more help. (to Eliot) What the Hail No are you talking about?

Eliot:   (to the sales boy) Bye-bye. (To Ron) Intimacy. All this time, I’ve been talking about this kind of intimacy, between you and me. We’ve known each other so long, shared all our darkest secrets, our fears, our escapades. I know everything about your sex life, in lurid, graphic detail—thank you very much. I know all about your anxious childhood and your rage-aholic dad. But James might ask, are you cheating on him with me?

Ron:    Well that’s just ridiculous! You’re not my…I mean, we were once…when we were…

Eliot:   Don’t strain yourself, Honey. I’m not threatening to rekindle our sputtering old flame. But you have to admit, we are pretty intimate. We’re old friends, good friends, best friends, sisters, but more. It’s like sometimes I’m your parent. And I’m your partner in crime. And I’m your go-to guy when you’re disappointed, or upset, or FREAKING OUT. Is that what you fear is happening between James and his sponsor?

Ron:    Yes.

Eliot:   Then be the go-to guy for James. Fully commit, emotionally. Talk to him. When he says he’s too amped up for sex, then ask him how he feels. You don’t have to eavesdrop. Just listen.

Ron:    It’s funny, getting relationship advice from an ex-boyfriend! (Offended, exits the store)

Eliot:   Well, who would know better?


Ron:    (Attempting to leave the mall in a huff, but keeps bumping into other shoppers.) Pardon me, Ma’am. Oh, I am so sorry. No Sir, my bad, really... (and so on, until he spots James in the mall, in the JC Penneys across the hallway. Clumsily attempting to hide, a few times, Ron rushes back into Sharper Image.)

Eliot:   (Decides to stay in Sharper Image. Taps the sales boy’s shoulder) So hey there. Hi again. I didn’t get your name? Tucker! Hi, Tucker. Eliot. Thanks for all your help, Tucker. Yeah….Tucker. any chance you’re into Downton Abbey? I know right!? Uh Muh Gawd!

Ron:    (to sales boy) I’m sorry, what’s your name?

Eliot:   Tucker!

Ron:    Please excuse us. I just need to borrow my friend a moment, won’t be a tick, hold that thought. (drags Eliot aside) I just saw James! Here, in the mall. James! Shopping across the hallway in the JC Penneys.

Eliot:   Oh I hope he’s not buying a gift for you. Just saying. JC Penneys…

Ron:    You can see him right through the open doorway. No don’t stare! Lean and look. (in unison, they affect a casual lean and look) Lean and look…

Eliot:   I don’t see him.

Ron:    Fine. Just don’t face the Penneys head on. I don’t want us to be recognized. Let’s uhhh…let’s look at the neck massagers.

(They move downstage, to the neck massagers aisle, out of sight of the open doorway)

Eliot:   Righhhhht…they’re for massaging…your neck! Well, was James with anyone? Chass? Someone else?

Ron:    I don’t know. Looked like he was alone. But the other guy could’ve been in the john, snorting a line of blow off of some strange guy’s rock hard cock.

Eliot:   Gentle now…

Ron:    What the Hail No is James doing at the mall? At JC Penneys? He’s supposed to be “having 6 hour coffee” with his Sponsor. That’s why I wanted to come shopping now, cuz I knew he’d be “having 6 hour coffee” with his…

Eliot:   We get it already. So quit stalling. Go over and talk to him. Ask him why he’s here. Especially if he’s alone.

Ron:    Don’t be perverse! How am I supposed to explain us being in the mall too?

Eliot:   Maybe with the truth, for starters.

Ron:    Ok. I’m shopping Sharper Image for surveillance gadgetry so I can high-tech spy on my possibly 13th Steppin’ boyfriend?

Eliot:   Ok, maybe not. You are buying him a surprise gift, a happy sobriety gift, but you can’t tell him what it is.

Ron:    Oh that is good. You’re devious good.

Eliot:   Wonder why we’re such good friends? (kisses Ron on cheek) Go get him, Tigger.


Ron crosses stage to talk to James. Eliot taps Tucker’s shoulder.)

Ron:    Hey, James! Well what in the world are you… (They hug. Then it’s awkward.) Thought you were at your NA meeting tonight. Why not? For how long? Does Chass know? Yeah, Chass, your Sponsor. Oh really?! (Grabs James’ arm and drags him upstage to a more private part of the store. His back to the audience, we can still overhear Ron.) For how long? (Listens to a sorry explanation from James.) What about your kid? What about your job? And what about us? Yeah, you and me! Us! (More bewildering explanation.) Then why all the sneaking around and secrecy? I thought we agreed to build our relationship on trust. Well, you’re damn right I don’t approve. I don’t want any part of that in my life. You have to choose. (James storms off, downstage, Ron in pursuit.) James! James wait! James! (Watches James retreat.)

Eliot:   Tucker, hey! So, my friend changed his mind about the surveillance gadgetry. He’s just gonna ..uh… Why did he want surveillance stuff? Oh, well actually… Ha! That is exactly right, Tucker! Jealousy and suspicion. You get a lot of that at the Sharper Image? Oh really? Jealousy and suspicion keep Sharper Image in business! Well, go-go-go jealous lovers! Cuz if you decide to start hanging out with me, Mister Tucker, you are gonna need that steady income. (Leads sales boy to downstage corner, opposite to where Ron and James are moving.) Let’s talk over by the..uh..neck massagers. You know, Missy Eliot likes a man who can afford to treat me right. A man who would lay a crown on my brow, say, a rhinestone tiara. Oh yes! Missy Eliot deserves to be maintained in the high lifestyle to which I someday hope to become accustomed. (Through the open doorway, hears Ron shouting after James) Cuz love may not cost you nothin’, but it sure ain’t free. Sorry. (Leaves Tucker to attend to his best friend)

Ron:    He’s using! James is fucking using again. He’s not 13th steppin’ me. He’s not any steppin’ anybody. He’s using fucking drugs, right now, all amp’d out of his gourd on coke and I don’t know what all, crystal meth.

Eliot:   What?!

Ron:    James has not been going to NA meetings for the past month, not since he started using again. He’s not meeting his Sponsor for 6 hour coffee. They’re never meeting at all anymore. James ignores his phone calls.

Eliot:   That’s crazy! So what was James doing at the Mall?

Ron:    I’m too ashamed to say. I think James was here…to shoplift. To support his fucking addiction. At fucking JC fucking Penneys! I’m not sure which makes me more ashamed. That he’s using, lying, shoplifting!

Eliot:   Or where he’s shoplifting from! I mean, no, definitely the other stuff. And let the record show, there is nothing at all for you to be ashamed about. James is the one who’s using, lying, shoplifting, not you. You are the trusting boyfriend, bewildered about the state of your relationship, and trying to fix things. Your methods might be a tad CRAY-CRAY, but James is the one literally blowing it all away.

Ron:    Go ahead, Eliot. Tell me you told me so.

Eliot:   Well I would gladly, if I had. When have I ever told you so?

(They share a tense beat)

Ron:    Just seems like the sort of thing that gets said right about now, in these situations. The sort of thing a best friend says.

Eliot:   I don’t think so. Right about now, in these situations, a best friend says, Fuck That Guy! Coke head! Totally don’t deserve you. You can do way better. I Hate Herrrrr! Ass maroon!

Ron:    Ass maroon? What the fuck is ass maroon? Is that even a thing?

Eliot:   I don’t know. But now I see this image of a movie poster, James and the Giant Coke Snorting Ass Maroon.

(Ron laughs. Ron cries. They hug through end of play.)

Ron:    Hey, that Sharper Image sales boy…

Eliot:   Tucker?

Ron:    Seriously, Tucker? Ohhhhhh-kay. Well, Tucker is spying on us.

Eliot:   Of course he is.

Ron:    He’s standing over by the spy gadgetry aisle. His back is toward us, but he’s holding up that rhinestone tiara like he’s inspecting it for damage. The rhinestones are sparkling right in our direction.

Eliot:   Oh the bitter irony!

Ron:    Tucker is totally spying on us hugging. He probably thinks we’re lovers.

Eliot:   *sigh* So what else is new?

* END *