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 *

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