Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Ohms of Resistance ~ a dramatic monologue

Setting:  Can be a bare stage. Action takes place in the Gulf South, inside a barricaded Power Relay Station.

Time: Current, any time of day or night.

Typed manifesto, heavily edited by hand.
Frayed wire.
Smart Phone (either on a tripod or held by hand.)

(Jess Tendrup, a slim young man, dressed like a small town Metal Head, adjusts the video feature of his Smart Phone. He often speaks directly to the video camera.
When ready to begin, Jess steps into the camera frame, composes himself, musses-up his hair, and reads a prepared statement.)

SOUND: off-stage battering ram, which Jess tries to ignore.
We take electricity for granted. Flick up the switch. There is light. We don't ask how. We simply will it. And it is. Like sorcerers, we bend electrical power to our own purposes. We harness wild current, direct its flow over long-distance cables right up to our own houses. Right up to the supermarket—where electricity, our ever faithful wizard's apprentice, keeps our pizza bagels frozen. Right up to the hospital, shopping mall, multinational conglomeration. Right up to the prison, where we depend on electricity for searchlights, sirens, electric fences and electronic locks. The humble light bulb is merely the physical form of Wired Society's combined will power. Flick up the switch. There is light.
(Forgets the prepared statement, speaking impromptu.)
So don’t tell me we can't do nothing about it. Don't tell me it ain't nobody’s fault!
“Well Brother Jess, that’s what to expect from God-forsaking, Hell-bent, Secular Humanist modern society.”
“But it just keeps on happening! Nobody can stop it. People lack the power. Politicians lack the guts. And the perps are the police themselves! Oh dear! The military!”
“That is because not enough righteous citizens are armed! Without more guns in the hands of heroes, nobody can stop this tragedy (that keeps on happening.) So nobody is to blame.”
Oh really? Well, I blame me! I blame all y’all! Blame us all for what happened. What keeps on happening! Only difference is, I am the only one with the will power to do something.
(Removes a frayed wire from his pocket.)
We can be humbled. In a single stroke, we can be made to tremble before the torrent of wild electrical current. I promise, I will stop the insanity. With more insanity.
But first, hoo! I should take a breath! Aw man, I get ahead of myself!
(Puts wire back into his pocket.
Adjusts the camera angle.
Musses-up his hair.)
I still need to record my final thoughts for posterity, my last Will and Testament, my video suicide note. My manifesto!

SOUND:  Off-stage battering ram.

Yes, yes. I hear y'all!

Homeland Security soldiers are outside the building right now, banging away at my barricades. Sounds more like they're banging at my brain. 

Sorry soldiers! Y'all will just have to wait! You can have the Power Station back when I'm done.
At the very least, these words spoken on this video blog, I want them to exonerate my family and defend other innocent folk from blame. Except for you, Pastor Roloff. You accept your blame, then go right ahead and die. Go to Hell, jump into the molten lake of eternal brimstone, and burn right up--Brother.
Hello, YouTube! This is Jess Tendrup. Howdy. 
(Attempts to read prepared statement again, but often digresses.)
I, Jesse Tyrelle Tendrup, being of sound body, as y’all can see (flexes muscles for camera). And of sound mind. Yes! I do know who I am—Jess Tendrup. Where I am—barricaded inside the Gulf South Power Relay Station. And what I plan to do.

SOUND: battering ram.
I, Jesse Tyrelle Tendrup, son of Mister and Missus Travis Tendrup, and a recent graduate from Maranatha Christian Academy, currently employed as a car detailer down at Big Sally’s Autobody—Hey Sal! As you can see, I won’t be coming into work today—I do herein and forthwith solemnly accept full and sole responsibility for my actions. Nobody but me needs to carry any blame on this. Not my useless mama. That's for sure. Not my sister, (her name chokes him) Melissa Grace. Not even my daddy, who really is to blame. Really, if y’all only knew. But not even my asshole daddy needs to carry any blame on this. And even though Pastor Roloff loaded up my head with hateful, fantasy lies, I, Jesse Tyrelle Tendrup, accept full responsibility for my own destructive actions. I know folks will get hurt. Some folks might, probably, die.
Sacrifices are expected with an Armageddon, a disruption of this magnitude. Not just the local grid. Folks, our town—we are the hub of the entire Gulf South! This Power Relay Station can bring down the whole region. Imagine the Gulf dark. Actually, in 10 minutes, y'all won’t need to imagine. Hospitals will go dark. Critical-care and life support machines shut off. Heart monitors stop beeping, beep, beeeeeee... Hearts stop. At the prisons, no more electricity for search lights, sirens, or electric fences. What good are electronic locks with no electricity? All the prisoners will escape, run amok, maraude the lowlands and the high ground, and savage the citizenry. But worst of all, at the supermarkets—where we are most vulnerable—pizza bagels will thaw.
Then there’s me! I’m a sacrifice too. A willing sacrifice, for sure, in order "to bring illumination to the masses." Right, Pastor Roloff? “Shine a bright light. So that the Righteous, groping in the dark, may see the uphill path to the Pure Land.” I am a martyr for the cause. Perhaps even, if you will allow, a victim? As much a victim as anybody else. That is, if y’all are willing to accept that a person can be both the victim and the villain in the same story, especially when he tells the story his own self.
Villain? Victim ? Martyr? Nah, what I truly am is Resistance. Over at the Autobody, Sal's been teaching me about a car’s electrical system. Sal taught me that Thomas Edison, the electronic scientist, proved that we need Resistance to make light visible. Resistance, measured in Ohms. Love that word! (chants like “om”) Ohhhhms.  I am the tungsten filament inside the bulb that resists the current, halts the mindless march-step of electrons, and makes them reveal their incandescence!
“But why now, Jess? What changed?”
Well, the Event changed…everything, changed me. I still feel those sirens whining inside my ears. My eyes still wince at the memory of strobe lights, blue and red, rotating on the rooftops of cop cars, fire trucks, a SWAT wagon, two ambulances. Was all that show of force really necessary for one terrified Black kid clutching a water pistol for dear life?
Where did all that smoke come from? Emerging from-out the smoke, TV news crews walked and talkedit seemed at the timein slow-mo. Everything in slow-mo. Click-click of Smartphone cameras echoing in the smoke. Click-click, click. (Turns phone toward audience.) Onlookers filmed Video Selfies in a slow arc, scanning the horror. 

Fucking gawkers! Uploading the Event from their Smart Phones directly onto Social Media, separating the actual Event in space and time from its truth. All via the alchemy of electricity—for us to Share and Like later on, at our leisure.
(Turns phone camera back toward self.) 

The Event completed my education in disillusionment, showed me the utter, moral bankruptcy of our Wired Society. To murder a child, film it, and say nothing. We are all nothing but a mountain-heap of dead batteries. Our potential expended. Useless and toxic.
The Event re-wired my brain's micro-circuitry. It radicalized me. Knocked free some electrons from their usual orbit. “This shit ain’t right!” I screamed at the cops, at the TV crews, the gawkers. “Stop this stupid fucking insanity!” And when the TV news and the gawkers turned their cameras on ME, that’s when it struck me. Sometimes it takes an act of stupid fucking insanity to stop stupid fucking insanity. To restore Order. Yank off the bandage, so the wound can breathe and finally heal.
(Reading manifesto.)
My act of resistance shines a bright light onto our collective, national passivity. Calls attention to the strangle-hold of special interest groups over Congress, such as the NRA, ACLU, NAACP, and probably NASA for all we know. My sacrifice—although it might seem senseless, insane—advocates for sanity. For good sense. Deprived of our electric light, may we see the true light of God’s judgment!
Most importantly of all, my resistance stands witness to violence. I am a lighthouse casting my beacon onto the rocks below, onto atrocities committed against us by those we trust!
(Directly to camera.)
I, Jesse Tyrelle Tendrup, witnessed a police officer gun down a child, a little-little kid, outside the Pump-Dump-and-Go gas station and convenience store. Just a kid, his small Black face is frozen forever in my mind in a mask of terror! Y’all never want to see terror like that on a boy’s face! No, I’m just a boy. He was a little-little kid, same age as my sister, clutching his plastic, water pistol to his heart.
I was only at the Pump-Dump-and-Go to buy a Scratch ticket and a PBR when I saw this cop gun down this kid over a toy gun painted safety orange! Other cops looked on. Said nothing. Turned a blind eye. Why are cops afraid to call out one of their own? Not even for murder? Of a kid? Too embarrassed, I guess. Nobody did nothing except take more Selfie photos and Selfie videos. So I guess all y’all are right. Nobody is to blame.
And Nobody has been investigated for this mur-der. Nobody tried. Nobody convicted. Nobody brought to justice. But a kid died, all the same. A kid with a name, Baltimore Ferguson.
Mama, I am talking to you right now! Keep Melissa Grace safe, you heard me? You know exactly what I am talking about. Since you don’t care nothing about yourself none, don’t even stand up to protect your own self, ever, you have only one job. Simple. Keep Melissa Grace safe from violence, safe from Daddy.
Now Melly, I don’t want you never to watch this video until you’re a grown adult woman. Mama, don’t let Melissa Grace watch YouTube! Melly, you don’t need to see your older brother, Jess, like this, in his last minutes alive on this Earth. But when you do grow up and you do watch this, Jess loves you. Sister. try to forgive him.

Please understand, Melly. It’s better he leaves now. Before he hurts somebody again, before he hurts you. No, Jess would never hurt you! But he did already punch Mama. Punched Mama right in her dumb, useless face, the same way Daddy punches her. She didn’t do nothing to defend herself—from her own son!

Jess thought he inherited the family curse, the family disease. The Tendrup appetite for violence. But now, after Mama and Daddy and all their shit, after the Event, after the murder of Baltimore Ferguson, now he believes it’s the whole world’s disease. The strong hit the weak.

You, Daddy. What the fuck, old man, you’re a mean asshole. I hope this video breaks your heart, Fucker, but we both know you don’t got one. I hope my action today chokes you with shame. Be the first time in your goddamn life you felt ashamed, even though you got plenty to be shameful for.

All y’all watching this YouTube video, I want it publicly known that Travis Tendrup, my father, didn’t just beat me up over and over to prove he's stronger than a kid. He touched me too. TOUCHED me. There, I said it!

And if you EVER touch Melissa Grace, I will claw my way back up from Hell with a demon army to drag you, ass-fucker, down into damnation with me!

As for you, Pastor Roloff, only good thing I ever learned from all your sermonizing was eloquence. How to string together pearls of pretty words. Nuance 'em, only hint at deeper meanings. So here comes some eloquence. Brother, fuck you. Ain’t no such place as the “Pure Land” except in your bigoted, mother-punching imagination. Lay off the Apostle Paul’s hate-gospel for a while, huh? Get back to Jesus. Less righteousness and a lot more love. Amen, Pastor?

Fuck eloquence. I blame YOU, Pastor Roloff! Because your mind is sick! Your values are sick! Your hateful attitudes are what makes it ok for cops to kill Black children, for fathers to kill…to kill their sons. And you said nothing, Pastor. Turned a blind eye. 

The ones we trust to protect us don't. I am Baltimore Ferguson too!

And uh, Big Sally—Sal, by the time you see this, guess you already figured out I won’t be coming into work the rest of this week. Sorry about leaving y’all short-handed at the Autobody. You deserve better. Thanks, Sal. For everything you done for me and tried to do.

One final word:  To the Homeland Security soldiers outside my barricade. I know your long silence means pretty soon y’all are planning to escalate to explosives. Right about the time I make the world go dark, BOOM! Y’all will bust into this Power Station and stumble upon my charred remains, smoldering between the negative and positive terminals. Fellas, I am truly sorry to spoil y’all's day. You ain’t the cop who shot Baltimore Ferguson. Sorry about the smell too. Burnt hair and yeah, burnt poo.

Big Sal told me, when the Electric Chair first was invented, scientists protested. The whole scientific world up and protested. God's truth. Because they believed that the Electric Chair degrades "the mysterious dignity of electricity," while mocking the very science that makes it possible to electrocute killers to death.

At the very least, we can all agree I spared taxpayers the expense of frying me in the Electric Chair. These days, the high cost of electricity is shocking! 
(Removes the frayed wire from his pocket.)
(chants like “om”) Ohhhhhhhmssss…. Hope I don’t really go poo.
(Puts the frayed end of the wire into his mouth.)
SOUND:  Pfzzt.


SOUND:  BOOM! and then rubble falling as soldiers bust in.