Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Here's the Problem Right Here

My pool was turning green so Nathan said he'd help me take the huge heavy hulking filter out to clean it out and we did it and the filter got all cleaned out, hosed off by me, and we put it back in. The next day my pool was better but still cloudy and arrgh, so I had to take the filter out again which requires unscrewing a tiny bolt which takes FOREVER  and then emptying like titanic amounts of water and lifting heavy paneled, keg sized, dirt filled filter, hefting it out. But I do it. I hose it again. I decide it is time to take it to the pool store to make sure nothing is broken on it, because after 14 years as the lone pool man here at my house, I know that it is the filter that isn't working, why the pool is green.

So I take Nathan and his friend Dylan who are always up for lifting heavy things and going to boring places like pool stores, and I take Lilly who is 10 and can't be left home alone (much), and we go to the pool store.

There are two dudes in there, one sort of fattish one and one sorta blackish one. There is also a pool basketball hoop and no one else in the store.

The dudes take the filter to the back, and Nathan and I follow while Lilly and Dylan immediately begin to ravage the store with a cutthroat game of display centered basketball.

"Oh here's your problem right here," the fattish one says, pointing out what looks like a rip in the filter. We touch it with fingers and the rip turns out to be just some pool dirt. He keeps looking, turning the filter over. "Oh, this is loose," he says, showing where a part of the filter may or may not have come out of alignment. He starts getting a wrench to loosen the one bolt on the filter, to fix this problem.

Nathan and I have been to this pool store before, a year ago, where a girl took apart the filter, brought out new panels that it needed, and then for an HOUR could not for the LIFE of her figure out how to put it back together.

Nathan looked over at me as they two dudes took the long bolt out of the filter, and began taking all the panels apart, peeling it apart like a giant artichoke Chinese puzzle.

At this point, a flash of panic is rising in both Nathan and I. And because Nathan is 17 and doesn't care that much about panic, and because I have decided not to jump in and direct and manage this oncoming disaster, we both decide to just see what these guys can do. Maybe it ISN'T going to end like the last time we were here, with that girl.

I sit down on a few giant white sacks of diatomaceous earth, shockingly comfortable when you decide you aren't going to put out this fire. Giving up is so easy. Look, there's even a soft place to sit.
"Here's your problem right here," the guy points out, as a chunk of DE dirt plops onto the ground as they take another leaf of panel off. Nope, I'm thinking. That's just dirt. But the clump is reassuringly large. Hey man. Maybe they know what they're talking about.

The guys take all the panels off. Now the filter is completely taken apart. It did resemble a complicated, cylindrical flower. Now its petals are all these curvy rectangles, strewn around on the floor haphazardly, disorganized, in a situation Nathan and I know too well. Getting the flower reassembled, bro, this is a bitch.

They examine every panel. There are no rips or tears. There is no broken stem, as they say. Good news, since this filter cost about $400 to fix last summer. It should last, and apparently it has.

Now the good boys of the pool store have decided it's time to put the thing back together.

Nathan wanders over standing exactly like he used to stand as a 2 year old, and stare at inept people. His arms limp at his sides, his chin out, silent. People working are interesting to Nathan. Except now, at 17, he knows something. He knows they're idiots.

I still do not move from my pile of DE. I hear the other two kids throwing the basketball and screaming happily. I wait for them to break something. The guys have put the panels back on and are wrestling it like an 80 pound trout to get the bolt back on. They have put it together wrong. They take it apart again.

Nathan and I watch. They put it together again. They turn it upside down. They take parts off. They put it on a table. They can't get it to line up. The flower petals seem longer. Why isn't this working. I sense the basketball game is becoming sweaty and on the verge of disintegrating. That feeling I'd get when my kids were toddlers and the ultimate breakdown was coming after 20 minutes of perfect behavior. We're skating on the edge of everything ending badly. I wait and wait some more. Then the  time is up. Doing nothing has not worked. It has just stolen time, I've done death row at the pool store. Not doing everything yourself? It's amusing, but it isn't worth it.

Nathan and I quietly step in to right this filter ballet, mangled by morons. We glide in, pool mentors, with hands brave and uncomplicated by matching khaki pants that must be where the brain stopped functioning with the two dudes. They LOOK like professionals. They have the PANTS.

But no.

Nathan and I quietly take apart the filter they have assembled wrongly. Nathan finds a video on youtube. A video of someone else who also can't put together his filter. We know the pool, and the filter. It is in our blood. We slowly put the panels back on, fitting them into the holes, and the gaps. We feather the panels straight. We fumble slightly, but then we're back on track, just like the Jamaican Olympic Bobsled Team. We fit on the little top, which also has to be weaved carefully with the panel tops. Everything in its little grooves. We put the bolt back in, and Nathan tips the whole filter carefully so we can line it up with the bottom cap. The blackish guy is a believer, and he has an open mind. He helps. The other guy, he just stands helplessly, washed away in the pool store universe where he'd be best hands off, answering the phone.

Nathan is laying on the floor with the filter on his face, finishing tightening the bolt while the helpful guy holds the top.

"Now I see why they pay $100 to clean these out," the helpless dude says from off to the side, puffily.

I blink at him, from the floor of the store. You should be paying ME $100 bucks.

The sweaty basketballers come check to see if we can leave yet. Since it's been a long hour.

We are done. We heft the filter out the door, cheerfully thanking them.

At the car, Nathan and I heave it back in the backseat. Those guys were idiots, we grin.

We weren't sure we did it right. There seemed no other way to do it. I stuck the filter back in the tank at home. The filter works great now. The pool is clear. 

Next year, I know what the problem is.


Monday, May 07, 2018

All Your Lives in One Basket

Four years subbing and I am now itching for something new. It was challenging, it's now just a job, and inside of me things are rewiring. Where am I going? I'm itching.

Everything is running ahead of me - kids getting old and running off soon. I'm having feelings of running off. I think it is me inside, ballooning to a bigger self. I shall take the noon balloon and see where I land.

I'm Dorothy and there's the basket, and I have the dog and I got in the balloon basket and all I have to do is let go. Of course, where does she go? She goes home.

Maybe you can't outrun yourself when you're trapped in a life that has never let you down. But there are all those other lives. I want all the lives, in my basket.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Fork in the Toaster


In the art room with Ms Alice, we had the class I was subbing doing clay. The art room is a new thing, a whole room dedicated to getting messy, all the regular school day stuff cleared away to make room for only creative, open, living mess. Finally a room I understand.

Dubious, though, because twenty five 6 year olds with lumps of wet clay… It would be dubious with one 6 year old with a lump of clay. The amount of squish, and disaster and tragedy if it goes wrong and mess.

But Miss Alice is in charge, and she’s from Kentucky, all that blue grass, and she is artistic and yet strong, if she says we can do it, so I can merge into her and we can play these kids like our band, lopsided maybe, but clay can always be lumped back together and started over.

So we’re flattening clay into a little rectangle, there’s a paper with a large rectangle drawn on and they get to try and flatten their piece to the shape of the rectangle. There’s a clean paper for everyone. There’s water you can dip your fingers into to soften your clay. There’s a little wooden tool at each place for cutting, soft, light wooden knife like the kind Indians would carve carefully.

Most of the kids flatten their clay and try and reach the edges of the rectangle. Two of the kids just keep putting on water until they have a soggy lump and they just keep squeezing it and squeezing it. Keith does this. Of course he does this, he is the smallest kid in the class, he is smart but his youth is busy, the wiring zapping his body around to do things and say things and be all things at once. He is the most annoying, and perhaps the most still growing directly from the ground, zinging upwards. Annoying because he requires the most tending, fencing, reining in.  Fork in the light socket, because what would happen if?

We get the rectangles flattened, and then we press an insect mold into it, push hard, make fossil type impressions. They will become butterfly feeders, to hang on the fence, to collect dew for butterflies to land on and drink. It doesn’t matter what they are, or if they are perfect, or what is perfect with lumps of clunky clay hanging on a fence. What matters is, is the making fun, does it feel good, are you seeing yourself in the result, are you part of something bigger, creation.

I’m cleaning off little clay covered hands, and looking over at Keith who has to have his redone because he made the biggest mess. The majority of kids are getting their pieces to hang on the fence, lining up, chattering, like normal kids do. I hear Ms Alice saying Keith, I know you used the most water and added it to your clay and we made a little bit of a mess, but what that means to me is maybe you are an artist. Artists like to feel things. The free thinking Ms Alice, she can name things and see things others can’t. My heart breaks a little, because Ms Alice says the one thing that has flowered, and burdened my life forever. The feeling of things.

I don’t have to look at Keith to know he is up to his elbows in white clay, and that his clay is still a ball of complete goo in his hands and that he is squishing it. He is six and he won’t remember this day or this mess or the details of this room. He doesn’t have to worry about the 24 other kids or the fence waiting for us to put the clay on, or dinner to make, or working on his marriage. He is feeling the clay, because that feels good, and that is it.

The most annoying kid because he’s the one fully invested. I take them out to the fence, try to funnel them to the next step and they are all fairly responsible, some squabbles. But we are all these firings of thought and feeling and daylight and planes flying overhead and butterflies lofting past at random moments. Groups of children are impossible, unless they are singing.

I go to bed that night thinking about what Ms Alice said, in the middle of her work day. We aren’t getting paid that much, and there is so much chaos, and the neatness of the art room became the mess of the art room, but her thought was pure, and our art came out the way art comes out, okay, smashed, lumpy, funny, twisted. Occasionally we get the pure moment, in the midst of the chaos, of the most difficult person, with his arms wet with white mud, and his clay slobby and nowhere near successful or finished, and yet that’s what we’re doing it for, not the result. The experience.

Fork in the toaster. What would happen if. Maybe we don’t need death, exactly. But curiosity. Curiosity is science, and art, and thought, and living.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Trick or Treat


Seems like Halloween rolls around and my life spirals out of control. It must be the rolling round orange pumpkin takes all my inhibitions for the year and pops them and pumpkin juice gets everywhere. Seeds, pulp, goo.

My specialty seems to be terrible relationships, or maybe not terrible, just passionate, undirected, explosive, loving, well intentioned, alive.

One year I had to take a tv in to get fixed right after Halloween because it broke. The TV guy said what happened when I dropped it off. He had to put something on the fixit paper. I said you’ll never believe it. He said try me. He’d heard it all. I said a pumpkin melted on it.

His pen hovered over the page. He hadn’t heard that one.

My boyfriend at the time and I had a tumultuous thing because he was organized and had a walkie talkie and was used to ordering things up and around, and I was kind of relieved to be ordered up and around, and liked it for awhile until I had my own ideas that couldn’t be ordered or around anymore, and then I went off with someone else. It had been close to Halloween, and we had a fight, and a week or so after Halloween I was back in his apartment in West Hollywood, a little nook of somewhat straight on super gay Harper street, and we’re back together for the moment and he comes out of the tiny strip of kitchen with this frozen pumpkin, steaming in the regular-degreed air.

When our fight had happened, we had carved a pumpkin, but I had missed Halloween, so he had put the pumpkin in the freezer to save it, just in case we worked things out, sweetly, so we wouldn’t actually miss Halloween. And now here was the pumpkin like the undead (not unlike our relationship, derailing into over) – the idea of the pumpkin was so sweet – he saved it for us, it was still possible, but the reality of the pumpkin was it was freezing, and had icicles, and it smelled weird and it was like preserving something dead. When he carried it out to me, I thought Ohhhh, in that sweet way, and the closer it got, the more scared I felt because it was a cold pumpkin, it was like an old body part, and Halloween was over.

You can’t freeze and then retry the relationship.

We did anyway, of course, because people do, because he had hope, and since he had a walkie talkie and seemed to know what he was doing all the time, and his apartment was cute, and I was 22, and I loved him, in the best version of love I had at the time, I had hope, so we put a candle in the pumpkin, put it on the tv, ate some candy (trick or treat), laughed and rolled around in the bed, watched a movie probably or went out with our little group of friends, and then went to bed.

The next day I woke up and the pumpkin had deflated, mashed down like a melted orange clown mask, disgusting, old, lumpy, and runny, right into and through the tv. He had to go to work on some show called China Beach where he sat in a lonely road all day and stopped cars from going when they were shooting, for 14 hours. Copy that. Hold traffic. Copy that. Release traffic. So he said can you take in the tv.  As he removed what was left of the pumpkin, in chunks, into the trash. Can you drop it off to get fixed.

I told all this to the fixit guy.

That is a new one, he said.

I never watched another movie on that tv. I don’t know if he ever got it back. The pumpkin was stronger than the tv could handle, even when it was off.

Probably some other girlfriend picked it up. I think her name was Heather. I think they were sitting on the road together, with the walkie talkies.  Sitting in their beginning, while I was in the middle of cleaning up the ending.

Then there was the famous Halloween 26 years ago when I fell in love with my friends. That’s been documented, explored, ruined, resurrected, and never quite lost.  We didn’t mean for that to happen either, it was a love match gone awry, and then I married one of them. Then I spent the next 26 years wondering how I could make that happen again . Trying to fill in the holes that relationship left, trying valiantly, like I’m a farm peasant trying to be Joan of Arc but no queen is knighting me. Then I’m not actually an heroic saint, turns out, just actually a farm boy with only voices in only my head.

And then this Halloween, and I’m demanding more from my life, I’m exploded open again. I’m searching around for how to gather the rest of me, all of me, and unite my one person, using the people that know me, my best audience from over the years. I have my tall leggy ex boyfriend who will play any  physical game with me – Frisbee, darts, surfing, bagel eating, writing, moviemaking but there is not the level I am looking for, it is one level and it’s satisfying, and maybe we’ll have a career. And then there’s the other old boyfriend, the poet nudging me – don't worry, it's just soul, listen to it talking to you. I listen to the poetry, that voice, and that is a strong force – have you listened to ee cummings? There’s not much else you can do, when you listen to ee cummings, except unfold yourself and offer yourself to God, to nature, to beauty. ee’s poems are recipes, but all of it is made by me, all of it is scripted, produced and acted in by me. And these are just the people I could remember best. And of course, none of it matters because aren’t I pretty much gay anyway?

I know where this is heading because I’m the producer. I’m trying like hell to run away from my life in increments, because the kids are running away, like they’re supposed to do. I’m trying what I always did, which was GET OUT FIRST, before the pain comes. There isn’t any sure way to outrun pain, there’s only different ways to be hit by it. If I disrupt my family because I need more, then my family suffers. I wrote to my friend, from one of the Halloweens,  I said I feel like I’ve been stuffing my life into all these holes and it keeps pouring out like sorry wrong number.

In reality, I have this thick and serious life, and everything is so important that it scares me.  Also I know I have more to me, and I know my time is ticking away, and I want to do it all, and I want to be able to afford it. I want ALL the love, and I want ALL the power, and I want ALL the beauty. I’m trying to slam on the brakes of my life, and accelerate at the same time. Good for writing, not good for all the good people surrounding me.

Halloween opened me up 26 years ago, and I have never recovered. Or maybe that’s what I’m here to do, which is write about why. Feel it all, and tell people what happened.

The point is, it doesn’t matter who you love, or how many ways you try, or if the great pumpkin flattens you, or melts, or tricks you into staying up all night with your two friends and feeling tangled with them forever.  It’s just Halloween, and we are all just kids dressing up and wandering in the dark, with some kind parents doing their best guiding us a little bit up the road. Sometimes the parents have whiskey in their coffee. Sometimes they can’t make the trip cause they’re too fat or they have diabetic feet. Sometimes there’s a massive leak at the house and someone has to stay and fix it instead of getting candy. Sometimes you get to walk in the dark in the clump of kids and community you created, walking those same three streets, getting to hold the neighbor’s dog, scooping out the candy in handfuls, the one weird night a year where everyone on the street cares about the same world series game because we’re in it, and everyone’s dressed the way they aren’t normally, or the way they want to be, and sometimes it’s scary, but it’s all just for fun, and if it isn’t exactly the way you planned it, you might as well love it.

No matter what you do, or who you are, it will always roll around again next year.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Play Dough

I have a friend reading poetry to me when I feel city trapped, and desperate for beauty. This is a kind thing. The poetry, and the laughter. The poetry makes me love words, and the words weave together in my brain like a hot towel, sunlit. I feel steadied, a cat on a couch, curled up strong and content.

I have another friend who is playing Frisbee with me. We meet in a park and we are like Labradors. We are serious Frisbee-ers. Perfecting our throws. Far apart. Concise. Lofty. Straight and level. I like to play until I'm so thirsty I have to stop. We cuss and say stupid stuff, and the grass is always wet on my bare feet. I like especially running for the Frisbee, it's the only time I think of running. It's spinning and flying and I have to get it and I turn into a deer.

I've been needing to play. I spend so much time tending, and trying to keep up, I got a little lost. I'm rebalancing.

The playing has helped me write, which is also playing.  I hope the writing will turn into money. This is my goal. Play=dough.

In the meantime, I gather all the poetry and playing that I can stuff into myself.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Home on the Range



Home on the Range
a short play by Juliet Myfanwy Johnson

(Dark. The Old West, 1880. A rooster
crows. A bare wooden room with a
fireplace and a loft. HATTIE and
KENNETH, 28, modern thinkers in an old
time, sleep under a quilt below the
loft.)
KENNETH
Oh my God.
HATTIE
It's not that bad.
KENNETH
Fuck it isn't.
HATTIE
Kenneth. The children.
KENNETH
Ughhh.
(Rooster crows again)
KENNETH
(continuing)
Can't we just eat that thing? Then we could sleep
longer. No one would know.
HATTIE
It's God's alarm clock.
KENNETH
Oh my God, why'd we have to come here?
HATTIE
Was it better in Boston?
KENNETH
Hell yeah it was better in Boston. You know what
they were building right before we left? Walkways.
By the side of main street. Sidewalks, they were
calling them. To keep your feet out of the dirt.
(A cow MOOS)
HATTIE
Oh fucking hell.
KENNETH
I told you.
HATTIE
There's gotta be an easier way.
(Kenneth grabs a broomstick and bangs
on the ceiling)
KENNETH
Helen! Helen wake up and milk that cow!
2.
HATTIE
Kenny, she's four.
KENNETH
You had her fixing the roof yesterday!
HATTIE
That was Clark.
(bangs on ceiling)
Helen! Clark! All you kids! You heard your father!
(He sits up as some light is cracking
in the window. He acts like the light
is burning him)
KENNETH
Ahhhk! I'm the undead!
HATTIE
The pastor wouldn't approve of that talk, Kenny!
KENNETH
The pastor has been in the outhouse with the postal
lady. I saw them.
HATTIE
I think she's been in the outhouse with everyone.
(Kenneth contemplates his feet)
KENNETH
There just has to be an easier way.
HATTIE
This is the easy way. Out here without family
interference. The open road.
KENNETH
The open road?? See, now that I'm late, I'm gonna be
the 3rd wagon on the road. I'll be coated in dirt by
the time we get to town. Billingsly first, Evans
second, me last. Billingsly plans it that way.
Billingsly is always first in and could be dressed
in white and never a mark on him.
HATTIE
He lives with that brother of his.
KENNETH
I don't think that's his brother.
HATTIE
I don't either!
KENNETH
I think that's a woman. Except I saw him naked. In
the creek.
3.
HATTIE
Everyone's seen him naked. He prefers to be naked.
It does get really hot here.
KENNETH
I'm just sayin. There's something un-biblical about
that relationship.
HATTIE
What?
(thinking about it)
Oh my God.
KENNETH
Right?
HATTIE
He's so pretty.
KENNETH
Right.
HATTIE
That would never happen in Boston.
KENNETH
Fuck if it wouldn't. And I think it's required in
Pennsylvania. Sheep can be pretty too. I'm not
speaking from experience.
HATTIE
Where are they from?
KENNETH
Who cares, we're all in hell now. We're going to
boil here and die at 35 if I can make it that long.
HATTIE
Maybe we shoulda kept going. Maybe Oregon's nicer.
KENNETH
Oregon's FARTHER.
HATTIE
I just couldn't cross one more river. The wagon
floating off, the kids drowning.
KENNETH
It's a good thing we had a few more right away.
HATTIE
God smiled on us.
KENNETH
Yeah, I guess.
HATTIE
It's beautiful here, too.
4.
KENNETH
I have to take a pee and I don't wanna go outside.
HATTIE
Well you can't pee in the house!
KENNETH
I don't wanna get my shoes on. Cause going outside
means work. I would like a job where I get up, and
the work is all right here. The food is already
made, a few of my friends are here that I like, and
we make stuff that doesn't hurt my back, like --
HATTIE
Like what?
KENNETH
I don't know, like future things. Light things. Like
things made out of paper, paper products. Paper --
towels, or something.
HATTIE
Paper towels??
KENNETH
Yeah.
HATTIE
They would just crumble!
KENNETH
Yeah, but maybe you throw it away and have a fresh
one.
HATTIE
That would take FOREVER!! We have rags.
KENNETH
I don't think it's good to use the same rag for
everything. I think there's a way to make things
simpler.
HATTIE
This is pretty simple.
KENNETH
In the future I bet you can just sit around and
there isn't even a cow to milk. There's just milk.
HATTIE
That's impossible. There has to be a cow.
KENNETH
I bet someday people would think it would be weird
to keep a cow.
5.
HATTIE
And they pee in the house, and their food is already
made. And they don't have to wear shoes. And they
use paper towels.
KENNETH
You married me cause I was a forward thinker.
HATTIE
I married you cause you had a wagon and a nice dog.
And you were leaving, and I wanted to get the hell
out of Boston.
KENNETH
I did have a nice dog.
HATTIE
Yeah. I'm sorry about that bear.
KENNETH
I don't know why it had to eat Maryann.
HATTIE
You did hunt it down. We ate well that month.
KENNETH
I guess technically, then, we were eating Maryann.
HATTIE
She was a good dog.
KENNETH
Better than some of these kids.
HATTIE
We can get another dog.
(Crash at the front door)
Ahhk!
KENNETH
Shit! Get the shotgun.
(He leaps forward to get the shotgun)
HATTIE
Maybe it's the family of that bear!
(He's wrestling the shotgun down)
KENNETH
Shit, I hate this thing, it's all rusty.
HATTIE
Fell in the water during that flood. I didn't want
the kids to clean it anymore after Feldus got his
foot shot off.
6.
KENNETH
Shut up, it's okay, God, I don't wanna think about
that -
(crash again)
RUPERT (O.S.)
Ahhhk! HELP!
KENNETH
Was that a human?
HATTIE
It's the undead.
KENNETH
Jesus, Hattie!
HATTIE
I knew you shouldn't a made that joke!
RUPERT (O.S.)
Help! Help! Kenneth!
HATTIE
It knows your name!
KENNETH
It's a guy!
HATTIE
Maybe it's a guy getting eaten by an angry bear.
KENNETH
Jesus, is this what you do all day when I'm not
around?? I think it's just a guy!
(He throws open the door. RUPERT falls
in, 18, gorgeous, and naked)
HATTIE
Ahhk!
KENNETH
He's naked.
HATTIE
It's him!
KENNETH
Huh?
HATTIE
The cute one.
KENNETH
Oh my god, get some clothes on, man.
7.
RUPERT
Help! You gotta help!
(Hattie throws a blanket around him.)
KENNETH
Are you allright??
RUPERT
It's Boo Boo.
KENNETH
Huh?
HATTIE
He has a boo boo.
RUPERT
It's Billingsly. Billingsly!
(starts crying)
KENNETH
Did you run here?
RUPERT
I don't know how to ride. I'm scared of the horses!
He does all the horse stuff.
KENNETH
You ran 10 miles naked?
(impressed)
RUPERT
He was up in the barn rafters I guess getting the
hay and the pitchfork fell down and he tried to
catch it and he fell between the cows and they
trampled him! The cow was just sitting on his face!
(Kids gather at the top of the loft)
CLARK
Daddy?
KENNETH
Clark, go milk the cow. Deke, get on your chores.
(Kids start climbing down and
scattering)
HATTIE
Clark can't even hold a bucket.
KENNETH
He was on the roof with a hammer.
8.
HATTIE
I'm just saying.
RUPERT
What am I gonna do. What am I gonna do??
KENNETH
You might start with getting some clothes.
(yelling)
Adeline, get him some clothes off the line.
RUPERT
He died! He died between cows!
KENNETH
I'll have to go over and check it out.
RUPERT
Oh it's awful. I left him there! Those cows are
really heavy! I couldn't move it! There was shit
everywhere!
(clutching him)
What am I gonna do? I'm out on the frontier alone!
Boo Boo was the only person I knew!
(They look at him. He starts crying.)
KENNETH
I'll hitch up the wagon. Guess I'm not going in to
work.
HATTIE
Guess you're not 3rd in line on the road anymore.
You just got bumped up.
KENNETH
That's sick!
HATTIE
That's success.
(Kenneth leaves.)
RUPERT
I don't know what to do. I didn't know what to do.
HATTIE
Well. Clearly you need clothes.
RUPERT
He was teaching me everything. I was sort of going
to do all the - house stuff. I just don't like the
animals! Unless they're the cute ones, like the
kittens.
HATTIE
Where's your family?
9.
RUPERT
No one's here. Boo Boo was all I had.
HATTIE
...Is Boo Boo a kitten?
RUPERT
Boo Boo. My...my...
(Hattie looks at him like
"your..your...?")
RUPERT
(continuing)
My...my...
(chokes)
My...my...
(She's still waiting)
RUPERT
(continuing)
My brother!
HATTIE
Billingsly.
RUPERT
(crying)
My dead brother.
HATTIE
This is kind of a problem.
(clothes get thrown in from the front door;
yells at kid)
Hey! Bring it in next time!
(under her breath)
Next time. There's a naked guy. In the kitchen. Why
are you always naked?
RUPERT
I was running. I was running so fast, and I kicked
off my boots, I tore off my shirt, I couldn't run
with everything on. I wanted to be the wind, I
thought if I got here faster, it would turn back
time, I would save his life, it wouldn't be true.
HATTIE
But you're always naked. You're like, famous.
RUPERT
I know, I'm so hot! Working outdoors is really hot!
HATTIE
Yeah.
10.
RUPERT
I mean, how do you wear this? This is like WOOL.
(feeling her dress)
And then you have a petticoat under that, and some
bloomers and some stockings and a corset, I mean,
Jesus, why don't you just shoot yourself.
HATTIE
In winter it keeps you from freezing to death. In
summer it is sort of like walking around wrapped in
a sweaty armoire.
RUPERT
I was making a new outfit for Boo. So he didn't have
to wear the same thing everyday, those hard work
clothes. I was making something silky, that he could
lounge at home, on the porch with. I think he was
wearing it in the hay loft. I think the satin - the
fabric - I think he slipped on it!
(sobs)
I think fashion killed him!
HATTIE
Sounds like YOU killed him. Accidentally. We ate a
dog, accidentally. It seems to sort of happen. We're
not bad people.
RUPERT
Right?
HATTIE
I mean, so you're naked. You were born that way. Why
do we have to wear clothes anyway? Except to keep
the bugs off.
RUPERT
My name's Rupert.
HATTIE
I'm Hattie.
RUPERT
You've got a million kids.
HATTIE
Some drowned in the river. On the way here.
RUPERT
I wish I had never left New York.
HATTIE
I wish you hadn't either.
RUPERT
It just seemed like an adventure. The wild west. You
know. Where anything is possible.
11.
(They sit and listen to the outdoor
sounds)
HATTIE
Well anything is still possible. Except for
Billingsly. He's done. Like that whole thing that
was your whole life? That's all finished. I guess
you want some food.
RUPERT
I should probably go back with him.
HATTIE
Kenneth?
RUPERT
I should help him with Boo Boo. I should be there
for Boo Boo.
HATTIE
Okay. You could go help with the horses.
RUPERT
I can't do the horses. I can help pack a snack.
HATTIE
It's just old cornbread. Maybe I'll wrap it in a
paper towel. That's what my husband wants to do.
RUPERT
A paper TOWEL? That would take forever, to make. And
just to be a towel?
HATTIE
My husband says he's thinking of the future. He's a
forward thinker. My father thought he was just an
ass.
(She's helping Rupert on with some
clothes)
HATTIE
(continuing)
Chased us down the road with a shotgun. He was
screaming. It was the most I heard him say since I
was born.
RUPERT
What was he saying?
HATTIE
Not "goodbye Hattie," "safe journey," no. It was
mostly "no daughter of mine," I think. And "if you
think you're coming back here," and "good riddance."
Stuff like that.
12.
RUPERT
(eyes tearing)
I miss the east.
(Hattie's standing him up, as they hear
the wagon scraping up out front)
RUPERT
(continuing)
Seriously, things were right out there. They were so
right I thought they were boring. I thought it was
the same everywhere. That's why when I saw
Billingsly, when he came into the tavern, and he had
that white cowboy hat on, and all that leather, his
gloves were the softest, softest leather, and he
made them, himself, he said. Out of LOVE. And out of
a little three legged calf with the gentlest brown
eyes. Beautiful, he said. But a dead one. He said.
I thought for the first time, the west. The west
will be like here, but so much more. It will be
space and time and new. East, but new. We'd bring
the east with us. I brought all my fabric.
HATTIE
That's how you met him?
(Rupert nods, eyes shining)
HATTIE
(continuing)
Your brother? That's how you met your brother? In a
tavern?
(Rupert's eyes dull slightly with a
tremor. His voice cracks)
RUPERT
Our family was... separated at birth. We had
different fathers.
HATTIE
Different mothers maybe too huh.
(He pales)
HATTIE
(continuing)
You didn't look much alike.
(remembering)
You probably don't look alike much at all, now.
(Rupert's hand flies to his mouth)
RUPERT
(whispering)
What am I going to do?
13.
(The door bangs back open, and Kenneth
is outlined by sunlight. A man of the
soil. Covered in soil, covered in
manliness. Rupert looks at him like a
god. Hattie looks at him like she's
tired.)
HATTIE
Kenneth! You're crapping up my floor.
KENNETH
Oh jeez. Sorry mother.
HATTIE
Scoot now. Go clean up the murder. I got him all
ready.
(She shoves Rupert a little on the butt)
HATTIE
(continuing)
Bring something back shot. If any of those cow
pieces are good once you heft em off what's left of
Boo Boo! Shovel em into the wagon!
KENNETH
I hear you Hattie, of course I'm not going to waste
good dead cow.
CUT TO:
(Out front, Kenneth is setting to pull
himself into the wagon. A tiny little
kid is standing holding the horses. )
(Rupert fritters around like he
dooesn't know how he's going to get up.
Kenneth pauses)
KENNETH
What's the matter, son.
RUPERT
Where do you want me.
(He giggles freakily, distraught and
girlish)
KENNETH
You never got in the wagon with -- with Boo Boo?
RUPERT
He gave me his hand.
(Kenneth stares at him. Adjusts his
hat. Pulls his thick leg down off the
wheel, goes around, over to the other
side of the wagon.
14.
Holds a hand out to help Rupert up.
Shoves Rupert's whole body up while
Rupert giggles)
KENNETH
You aint weigh nothing.
RUPERT
I'm a vegetarian.
(Kenneth gets up on the wagon right
behind Rupert, climbing over him
roughly to get to his seat. Rupert
likes the manhandling.)
KENNETH
What the heck, is that a new fangled religion? Keeps
you off the food?
RUPERT
I don't eat animals.
KENNETH
Well that's crazy.
(gathering reins)
Out the WAY, Curtis!!
(The little boy scoots out the way of
the big horses.)
(They drive out)
KENNETH
(continuing)
What do you eat then?
RUPERT
Everything else. Oh God. What am I going to eat.
Billingsly did everything. The shucking, the
boiling, the hoeing.
KENNETH
Talk in town is that you was just mostly naked.
RUPERT
In the east that's fairly normal.
KENNETH
Gets a might cold there in winter too.
RUPERT
The Chinese use silk to keep warm, and protected.
KENNETH
Well then the Chinese have never run into a hornet's
nest on a plow.
(more)
15.
KENNETH (cont'd)
(clucks to horses)
No, I aint been much on being naked myself. Like to
keep a sheet between me and missus, like God
intended.
RUPERT
You never take evertying off.
KENNETH
Just move it aside, mostly. Temporarily. Then when
it needs a washing, straight in the creek. Splash
around, climb out and dry on the bank. Good as new.
RUPERT
That's why the whole town smells like cheese.
KENNETH
Well shoot, actually, that's the Swansons from
Wisconsin. They're all into the cheese. They got all
the kinds, the yellow ones, and even the one that's
mostly holes which I don't care fer. I like cheese
in my cheese. But on a sweaty day, I don't like a
sweaty cheese.
RUPERT
I feel better with you up here now.
(Kenneth clucks the horses)
RUPERT
(continuing)
I'm high up. I can see everything. You're strong and
capable. The horses are cute.
KENNETH
Well that one there's called Badger, cause he killed
a goat that got into his pen that looked like a
badger. We called him Badger Killer, but shorten it
to just Badger. He's territorial. The other one is
Little Bit, because she aint in no hurry, wherever
she's goin she's gonna get there in a little bit.
Call her Bitsy. My one daughter, the fourth one we
lost in the creek, she loved her to bitsy.
(he straightens up)
Can't get too attached. Specially in a overfull
wagon in a strong current. That little bitsy lover,
though, she was cute. Can't remember her name. Only
had her a short spell.
RUPERT
Do you think it will be awful.
KENNETH
What's that now.
RUPERT
The... the... Inside the barn.
16.
KENNETH
Your brother you mean?
(Rupert covers his mouth, stifling
cries)
KENNETH
(continuing)
I reckon it will be mostly flat. Some loose innards
you might want to step clear of. I figure the cows
have done their work, they're not an intelligent
creature, they'll lay, sit and spread around
anything.
RUPERT
Do you think I did it. Do you think it was my fault.
KENNETH
Now I think that's between you, Boo and the Chinese.
CUT TO:
(Inside the barn. Kenneth stands over
the mooing cows. A hand on one's butt.)
(Rupert hovers by the door, with a fine
shawl draped over his shoulders, the
fringe gathered in his hand which
hovers near his mouth)
(Kenneth is looking down between cows)
RUPERT
Kenny?
KENNETH
What?
RUPERT
Kenny, is it bad?
KENNETH
Well now, you're talking to someone who saw a
buzzard eating the eyes out of one his children.
(looking around, seeing the pitchfork, wading
over to get it through cows)
Nobody calls me Kenny.
RUPERT
Oh but you look like a Kenny.
(sees him with pitchfork)
That's what he was going to get. When he fell.
KENNETH
(taking some gunny sacks off the stall door)
Well I'll just shovel him up. If that's okay Hubert.
17.
RUPERT
Rupert.
KENNETH
(shoveling)
RUPERT
Oh my god.
KENNETH
Kinda a name is Rupert.
RUPERT
It's a family name. It's English.
KENNETH
You and Billingsly English?
RUPERT
Rupert Billingsly.
(chokes)
He was American.
KENNETH
Well ashes to ashes. That's kinda what you guys did.
And now he's mostly dust to dust. With some
hoofprints in him.
RUPERT
We had some plans.
KENNETH
Well the frontier is no place for a couple of
..brothers. Hell, it's no place for anybody. Turns
you savage, or kills you from exhaustion. We built
that home we have too damn far from town, because
the wife wanted the view. Now the view is all gone
cause we stuffed the house with kids. Can't see over
em.
(shovel hits something hard)
Oh there's his head.
(takes his hat off)
RUPERT
(reverently, also taking his scarf off his head)
Oh do you think we should say a few words?
KENNETH
Oh.
(leaning down)
Sure. I was just gonna try on his hat. It's a damn
fine one.
(Kenneth gets the blood stained hat and
fits it on his head. It fits smooth
like butter)
18.
KENNETH
(continuing)
Whew. Now that is a nice hat.
(a cow bumps him)
Now get along now Bessie.
(holding a hand to the hat, to Rupert)
Unless you wanted it -
RUPERT
Please.
(shakes his head)
No.
(Kenneth seems happy about this. Leans
on the shovel, looking up at the
rafters.)
KENNETH
You see the problem is right there. No guard rail on
the loft there. I'm thinking in the future, there
will be a machine that takes the hay down like a
pitchfork, a giant pitchfork, with big prongs on it.
Brings it straight down. So a man doesn't have to
get up there and get himself all killed and whatnot.
RUPERT
A machine.
KENNETH
Yes, that might run on oil and some kind of
explosive element to give it energy.
RUPERT
Wouldn't that be dangerous, and explode?
KENNETH
Oh sure there'll be that kind of thing too. Why stop
at the hay when you could explode other things. Well
back to work. I got a million ideas.
(He's shoveling scraps of Billingsly
into the gunny sacks. Grunting
occasionally from the weight of it)
KENNETH
(continuing)
He was a big man.
RUPERT
Yes.
KENNETH
He covers quite an area down here.
RUPERT
Oh god.
19.
KENNETH
Well at least in his last few moments, he was flying.
(Rupert breathes; Kenneth takes a minute,
pushes the bloody hat back to scratch)
I mean it starts over here... but then he's really
just smeared all over the place. Cows can really
track a person up.
(he picks up a piece of bloody white material)
RUPERT
Oh god, that's it.
KENNETH
This is the Chinese, huh.
RUPERT
He did slip on it.
KENNETH
These look like damn fine jammies.
RUPERT
I made them! They fit him so well.
KENNETH
Well not too well, cause they killed him.
(investigating the pants leg)
Maybe shorten the cuff here.
RUPERT
(averting his eyes)
Point taken.
KENNETH
You know, next time.
RUPERT
No one will have me. There's no next time.
KENNETH
It's just a design flaw.
RUPERT
I killed my lover
(corrects, loud)
my BROTHER. My home on the range.
KENNETH
My other idea is in the outhouse, it just isn't
economical to use corn cobs every time after a
bowel. There should be a little bar to hang a
material you can use, to wipe.
RUPERT
That would be terrible.
20.
KENNETH
No you throw it away down the hole.
RUPERT
That's just dumb. What will you do with all your old
corn cobs then. Just throw them away, I guess?
KENNETH
I think so.
RUPERT
That's crazy. No one's gonna waste corncobs. Now
you're just being crazy.
(Kenneth looks at him like he's a
narrow thinker. Finishes the shoveling)
KENNETH
Someday when people die, they won't be shoveled into
feed bags all jumbled up with their guts exposed.
Someday they might be wrapped in something fancy -
RUPERT
Like sillk -
KENNETH
And taken away proper like, in a formal vehicle.
(Rupert nods.)
KENNETH
(continuing)
You want me to throw him in the gulley behind the
creek?
RUPERT
That would be fine.
CUT TO:
(Back home at night, Hattie and Kenneth
in bed. The moon in the window.)
KENNETH
I can't get it out of my mind.
HATTIE
What.
KENNETH
Well I SAW most of his mind, all over the floor. And
the rest was in his hat.
HATTIE
I soaked the stains out, it's a fine hat.
KENNETH
Aint it though.
21.
HATTIE
Yes sir.
KENNETH
Worth the effort. Can't unsee the pieces though. Of
my day.
HATTIE
Did you give him a proper burial.
KENNETH
No. My arms were aching from shoveling. We threw him
in the ditch. Those sacks were heavy. Had to hitch
the horses to drag the sacks over there. Filled up
three sacks with Boo Boo.
HATTIE
Boo Boo sacks.
(He starts giggling)
HATTIE
(continuing)
That sounds funny.
KENNETH
Boo Boo sacks. Sounds like a friend of Santy Claus.
(They're laughing and Hattie's shushing
him. She cuddles up)
HATTIE
I don't want any of them to wake up. I only have hot
broth cause you didn't bring any cow home.
KENNETH
I brought that crow I ran over with the wagon.
HATTIE
I like when it's just us under the blankets.
KENNETH
(torn)
I like it too, but then it always ends up later with
someone new under the blankets, like exactly 10
months from now.
HATTIE
I know.
KENNETH
Someday there will be a easy way to keep the woman
from giving birth to more young uns.
HATTIE
You mean like cutting her parts out.
22.
KENNETH
No I picture a magic pill. You can eat it, or put it
just right here, in her arm. And then no more babies.
HATTIE
In her arm. Maybe they'll just use paper towels to
fix everything.
KENNETH
(listening to the quiet)
Do you like it out here Hattie?
HATTIE
(snuggling in)
Sure. Sure I do. That Boston was a pile of Boo Boo.
(they giggle uncontrollably)
KENNETH
Do you think he'll be allright.
HATTIE
I'll go and check on him tomorrow. Get the preacher
out, and put some flowers on the shallow grave.
KENNETH
First I better dig a shallow grave. I was just too
tired.
HATTIE
Well there's only so much shoveling a man can do.
KENNETH
He wouldn't help me. He made some kind of tea, he
said.
HATTIE
Tea?
KENNETH
Tasted like balls.
(She giggles)
HATTIE
I think someday, after my lady parts are all cut
out, or I use a magic arm pill, you and I might have
us a good time. Just because.
KENNETH
(looking at her thoughtfully)
Heck, let's have us a good time anyway.
(arms around her)
FADE OUT

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Doggedly

Today I was running the book fair, which is me standing in front of kids emptying out bags of change and in back of them is screaming and throng.

I squeeze farther and farther inside myself during emergencies like these. Especially after teaching all day.

I do it for the books, man. Kids get to get books. This is my purpose.

After an hour the volcano of children erode away, and I leave the library shaky, from the loud.

Bess, who is 9, and her friend Luke, who is 10, are tripping along behind me. Chattering.

"Wanna pretend to be dogs when we get home?" She says.

"Yeah!" He says.