Changes, Part 4

Continued from previous weeks…

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Mona, dusting herself off, is staring at the forest surrounding them.  “This is L.A.?”

Gary’s still lying on the ground, motionless with a hand covering his jaw.

The wino, temporarily shocked into sobriety, answers Mona..  “This was L.A.”

Ritchie throws his hands up.  “Where’s the beach?  Where’s mah house…even if the stairs are…were…will be broken?”  He glares at Gary.  “Not that far into the past, fool!”

Mona kneels to touch Gary’s face.  “Gary!  Gary!  Are you okay?”

The wino kneels beside Mona, lifting Gary’s hand off his chin.  “Bad bruise.”

Mona:  “Part of Ritchie’s house musta’ hit him.  When it fell apart and…”  She fights back a sob.  “And…  And…”

The wino finishes for her.  “And vanished.”  Then he frisks himself with violently shaking hands, diving into a baggy pants pocket to locate a bottle of wine, miraculously unbroken, and guzzle quickly.

Ritchie, running around in tight circles muttering to himself, pauses to roll his eyes at Gary’s bruised jaw.  “And of course it turns out that this dumb white boy, who’s caused all this trouble, has a glass jaw.”

Mona springs to her feet.  “Ritchie!  You didn’t!”

Ritchie wheels away in silence, kicking tree trunks and punching branches as he storms off into the forest.  Then he freezes.

Mona jumps to her feet.  “What now?”

Ritchie turns back toward her with a smile and starts to sing as he returns to her side.  “Baby, everything is all right.  Uptight, clean out of sight.”

Mona mimics Ritchie’s usual question.  “‘Say what?'”

Ritchie addresses the still-unconscious Gary.  “Hey, white boy, that’s some powerful pot you laid on me.  I’ve never hallucinated like this!”

“Ritchie!”  Mona punches a tree branch, hard, then holds up a bloody fist.  “This is real!”

Ritchie:  “Mona, baby, didn’t I see you take some of that ‘better than acid’ stuff?”

Mona points to the wino.  “You don’t believe me because I’m a girl…and not a blonde so it isn’t even worth your time to pretend you believe me.  But ask him!”

The wino staggers a bit, back to being drunk, but produces a filthy handkerchief to clean the blood off Mona’s fist.

Ritchie rolls his eyes and kicks another tree trunk.  “Not a damn splinter left of mah house, but the wino survives?  ‘The past.’  Me and my big mouth.”

Mona puts her free hand on Ritchie’s shoulder.  “Better a forest from the past than underwater after the California coast slips into the Pacific Ocean in the future.”

Ritchie kneels down to shake an unresponsive Gary while continuing to Mona.  “How we gonna get back to the present with this poor pathetic pale thing out cold?”

Mona, then the wino, join Ritchie kneeling around Gary.  Mona and Ritchie exchange a hopeless look.  The wino rolls his eyes, lovingly caresses his bottle, sighs heavily, and pours some wine into Gary’s open mouth.  Gary, choking, starts to come to.

Ritchie:  “Wake up, white boy!  The present!  The present!”

Gary opens his eyes.

Mona suddenly smiles.  “Gary, your pupils are back to normal!  You’re back to…”  She trails off as she glances at the forest surrounding them, then exchanges a second hopeless look with Ritchie.

Gary stares wide-eyed at the forest.  “The present…”

The forest remains unchanged.

Gary squeezes his eyes shut.  “The present!”  He opens his eyes to see the forest still there, then stifles a sob.  “I can’t do it anymore!”

To be continued next week…

Ink Splatters 3

 

Changes, Part 3

This is the third installment, continued from last week and the week before.

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“”Time.’  Yeah, yeah, I know, Gary.  It’s an illusion.”  Mona sighs heavily.

Gary’s still struggling to focus, but his eyes go wide.  “Everything‘s an illusion!  And time most of all!”

Ritchie:  “Jive dude!”

Mona sounds very tired.  “Gary, forget time.”

“Right!  Forget it!”  Gary suddenly grins like a kid on Christmas morning.

Waves crash sharply on the beach.  A gaggle of bikinied sunbathers rush by.  Ritchie gets up and stretches mightily, setting the porch’s floorboards to creaking.  He gives Gary a look of disgust, then puts a hand on Mona’s shoulder.  “Hey, baby, Gary’s back to jivin’ us.  And his pupils are smaller, so he must be coming down soon.”  Ritchie studies the bikinied sunbathers.  “Keep an eye on mah house, will ya?  I’m going for a swim.”

Gary’s face is full of awe.  “No wonder there’ve always been people who could see into the future.  I’ve just never put it all together…”

Ritchie starts down the stairs leading from the porch to the beach.

Gary jerks, as if electrocuted.

There’s another crackle like lightning.  Suddenly everything warbles for a moment, as if underwater.

Ritchie stumbles.  “Mah stairs!  That fucking monster Gary conjured up before wrecked them!”

Gary:  “The past, the present and…the future.”

The stairs are fixed but the mid-sixties beach people are instantly replaced by mid-eighties beach people.

Ritchie:  “Say what?  Will you look at all the hair on those white girls?”

Gary:  “The far future.”

A massive earthquake rumbles.  The house shakes, starting to fall apart.  Water rushes in from everywhere.  They’re all struggling to swim.

Ritchie, a strong swimmer, joins the others.  “The San Andreas fault!”

The wino swims out from under the debris of the house.  “Earthquake!”

Unseen by the others, Mona is mostly underwater, occasionally flailing her way to the surface for a quick breath.

Gary’s wide-eyed with shock, frantically treading water.

Ritchie:  “The past, Gary.  What about the past?”

Gary repeats Ritchie blankly.  “The past.”

All four of them fall heavily onto dry ground in the middle of a forest.  There are no other people around, no buildings, and no roads.  Even the Pacific Ocean is gone.

Ritchie gets to his feet first.  “Where’s mah house?”

Mona:  “Where’s L.A.?”

The wino stands, stone cold sober.  “This is L.A.”

To be continued…

Ink Splatters 3

Changes, Part 2

This is the second installment of the “earplay” of mine that National Public Radio was all set to produce…until the funding fell through.  Again, I’ve modified the script format a bit for easier reading.

jbruce-butterfly-papilio-philenor-top

Continued from last week…

Mona:  “Are you all right, Gary?”

Ritchie:  “Gary’s beautiful, Mona.  Doin’ his thang.”

Something heavy, like a large piece of furniture getting knocked over, crashes inside the house.  Ritchie and Mona turn away from the beach Gary’s staring at.  From the porch they’re on with Gary, they can see the wino stumbling around inside the house.

Ritchie looks furious, dripping sarcasm like hot lava with every word.  “Mona, baby, so nice of you to invite that wino in.  So unreasonable of me to take exception to a wino still being in there bustin’ up mah thangs.”  Ritchie looks truly dangerous now, heading back into the house.  “I’ll just toss him over the porch railing.  With all that wine in him he won’t even feel it!”

Gary, oblivious, is still staring at the beach.  “That’s it!  Reality equals infinity minus one.  The one thing we expect.  But that one doesn’t have to be a beach.  It could be…”

Mona and Ritchie are still looking back inside the house at the wino, who’s just knocked a mug off a table that shatters on the floor.  Mona grabs Ritchie’s arm.  “Ritchie, don’t you dare touch that old beatnik!  Just because he’s a wino now, you think he’s nothin’?  Who knows?  Maybe someday our bell bottoms will be out of style…”

Ritchie:  “Say what?”

Mona:  “…and we’ll be the has-beens.”

Gary:  “…could be a desert.”

The beach is gone, replaced by a desert.  Wind blows the top of a sand dune across the porch.

Mona and Ritchie, still looking at the wino inside the house, don’t even notice the beach has been replaced by a desert, except to wipe the sand out of their faces.

Mona mutters, “Stupid sand.”

Ritchie, wiping more sand away from his face, starts to turn back toward what is now a desert instead of a beach, but Mona points inside the house at the wino.

Mona:  “Besides, look at that great beard.”

Ritchie smirks.  “Yeah?  And his crewcut?”

Mona tries to make light.  “He’d just get all snarled up in all your stupid splinters if you tossed him over the porch railing.  He’d never make it to the beach.”

Gary, totally disoriented, looks up at Mona’s last word.  “Beach…”

The desert with its dunes is gone.  The beach is back.

Mona turns back toward Gary.  “Gary?  Are you okay?”  She turns back to Ritchie.  “What are we gonna do?”

Ritchie’s annoyance turns to a contemptuous fear when he, too, turns away from the house and takes a good look at Gary.  “Oh, man, will ya look at this white boy?  Can’t handle dope no how.  Can’t maintain control.”

Gary:  “Control?  You wanta see control?  How would you like it if instead of that harmless wino breaking up your stuff it was a 40-foot monster?”

Loud splashing can be heard on the beach.

Ritchie’s looking at Gary with pity.  “Hey, man, you know me, I didn’t mean nothin’ by it.  Everything’s groovy!”

People are screaming on the beach.  Thunderous footsteps are approaching.

Mona, oblivious, is leaning over Gary.  “Poor thing!  Look how flushed he is, Ritchie!”

Now the people on the beach are screaming louder and running.  The thunderous footsteps are closer.

Ritchie puts a gentle hand on Gary’s shoulder, talking to Mona.  “Think we should get him some Librium?  Help bring him down?”

The screaming and footsteps can no longer be ignored.

Ritchie:  “Oh what is all that noise?  Dumb-ass ‘poor pale things’ on the beach, trying to get as dark as the righteous folk they still lynch in the south.  Pain in the…”  He trails off when he looks up.  “Sweet Jesus!”

A 40-foot monster, looking like a ridiculously cliched cross between Godzilla and the Creature from the Black Lagoon, is approaching their porch stairs.

Mona stares in shock, first at the monster, then at Gary.  “How about…a 20-foot monster?”

Gary, staring vacantly:  “…a 20-foot monster.”

The monster is now 20 feet high, but is starting up the porch stairs, splintering them.

Ritchie:  “My stairs!”

Mona:  “A…a 10-foot butterfly.”

Gary:  “…10-foot butterfly.”

The monster is replaced by a magnificent, though huge, butterfly, flying up the stairs.

Ritchie:  “Not a butterfly, Mona!  They can fly!”

Mona:  “Can fly…away!”

Gary:  “…fly away.”

The butterfly, sparkling in the sunlight, flies away over the Pacific Ocean.

Ritchie:  “He takes the acid and we hallucinate?”

Mona:  “I’m…not sure we were hallucinating.”

Gary groans and tries, very unsteadily, to get to his feet.

Ritchie:  “Easy, white boy.  Don’t try to get up or nothin’.  Take yo’ time!”

Gary:  “…time.”

There’s a crackle, kind of like lightning, but the sun is still shining.

To be continued next week…

Ink Splatters 3

Changes, Part 1 (this one sold, but then the funding fell through)

Originally this was an “earplay” that was going to be produced by National Public Radio as part of a Twilight-Zone-like series.  I’ve modified the script format some for easier reading.

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It has been said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  What about kindness?  What about truth?  What about reality?

Reality.  A stable word meant to imply immutability beyond question.  But what if that immutability depends on our believing it’s beyond question?

If reality could be shaped by our beliefs, would we want to know?  That could lead to…

CHANGES

Three hippies are smoking pot on the porch of a rundown California beach house.  An older, inebriated man stumbles around inside the house, visible through open glass doors.  Cars whiz by on a nearby highway.  Waves pound the beach.  Seagulls cry.

Ritchie, the only black on the porch, kicks a cheap transistor radio back into life:  “And in Memphis, Tennessee, James Earl Ray, charged with the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr., met with his lawyer, Arthur J. Hanes of Birmingham, to chart his defense.  And now back to the Wolfman Jack show on this beautiful, balmy day of summer ’68…

Wolfman Jack howls, then continues in his throaty voice.  “Hey there, kiddies, let’s catch the Birds.”

The Birds start in singing “Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man.”

Ritchie turns the radio off.  “Fay white boy don’t care none about Dr. King.”

Gary, a scrawny intellectual, chokes on the pot he just inhaled.  “Wolfman Jack’s white?”

Ritchie rolls his eyes.

The drunk inside the house knocks something particularly noisy over.

Ritchie:  “Hey, Mona!  You let that wino into my house again?”

Gary:  “Yeah!  Get him out of here!  He’s gonna bring me down!”

Mona:  “Aw, hang loose, you two.  You’re the ones putting out the bad vibes, not him.  Nobody let him in.  He just comes in like the tide.”

From inside the house comes the sound of someone opening the refrigerator.

Ritchie:  “The tide don’t go through mah refrigerator!”

Wino, from inside the house:  “Where’s the mayonnaise?”

Mona:  “Aw, come on.  Last night I bought enough groceries to feed every sunbather in sight.”

Gary:  “Man oh man, Calley-fornia!  Observe the stiffs stretched out on the beach.  Where else but L.A. can an entire population escape reality by broiling in their own beta waves all day?  It’s a wonder anyone can make a decent living peddling dope around here.”

Mona smirks.  “You’re too hard on them, Gary.  Someone moved down there, not 15 minutes ago.  Don’t be such a cerebral snob.  You’ll have a bad trip when the stuff that ‘poor, starving dope dealer’ sold you comes on.”

Gary snorts.  “He was a clothes horse!”

Mona sounds sincerely concerned.  “I don’t want to watch you freak out.”

Gary:  “You won’t have to, baby.  He ripped us off.”

Mona:  “What time is it?”

Gary:  “Three o’clock!  I dropped that…’super acid’…an hour ago.  You dropped yours, Mona, maybe 15 minutes later.  By now that bleached-out beach should be crawling with hallucinations.”

A bleached blonde with teased, bouffant hair bounds halfway up the stairs from the beach, smiling up at Gary.  “Ritchie?”  She’s holding a new record album and practically jumping for joy, gorgeous in a string bikini.  “You Ritchie?  I’m not a nark or anything.”  She giggles a lot at that.  “Donna next door said you have a boss stereo, and that you wouldn’t mind if I tried my new…”

Ritchie comes into view, leaning over the railing and smiling at the sight of her.  “I’m Ritchie.  Come on up.”

But she looks surprised at the sight of Ritchie.  “You’re Ritchie?  The guy who owns this house?”  Her face falls and she backs down the stairs.  “Never mind.  There must be some mistake.”

Ritchie:  “Come on up!  I’ve got a ‘boss’ stereo.  KLH speakers!”

But she’s running back down the beach.

Gary:  “Sorry, man.  Sometimes I’m ashamed of my own race.”

Ritchie, visibly hurt as he watches her go, mutters, “Sometimes?”  Then he juts his chin out, acting tough.  “You jivin’ me?  No loss, baby, no loss.  That wasn’t real blonde hair.  Bleached.  Ratted.”

The wino calls from inside the house, “Blondes will be the death of you, Ritchie!”

Mona puts a hand on Ritchie’s arm.  “All that bleach must have dripped into her eyes…damaged her vision.  Otherwise she couldn’t possibly have resisted your black-is-beautiful self!”

Gary sounds breathless as he stares out at the beach.  “Wow!”

Ritchie:  “Say what?”

Mona stares at Gary in shock.  “Stuff comes on hard!  Look at his eyes!”

Ritchie looks into Gary’s eyes.  “Umm, umm, ummm.  You gonna wish that clothes-horse dope dealer did rip you off!  What did you two take?”

Mona wrinkles her brow with concern.  “Acid.  We dropped some kind of acid.  Gary scored it right off the street.  Some slick hustler on the Strip.  Never saw him before.”

Ritchie:  “Yeah, yeah.  So many people peddling dope on Sunset Strip nobody knows them all.  What kind of acid?”

Mona shakes Gary.  “Gary, what did you take?  What did you say before?  ‘Super acid’?”

Gary, a wreck, struggles to concentrate.  “No…no…that’s not exactly what he said.  He said it was ‘better than acid.'”

Mona:  “‘Better‘ than acid?  I didn’t even want to take acid, but you didn’t want to trip alone and I…always…”  She trails off, hanging her head.  “And now it turns out you don’t even know what we took?”  Looking up, she grabs Ritchie.  “Look at the size of his pupils!”

Ritchie laughs.  “Any bigger and he’d be dead.”

Mona:  “That’s not funny.”

Ritchie leans toward Gary.  “Hey, man, what d’ya see out there?  Are you hallucinating?”

Gary sounds flat…distant.  “No.”

Mona and Ritchie exchange a look of disbelief.

Gary suddenly looks lucid, but still has trouble talking.  “What if…”

Mona:  “What if…?”

Gary:  “What if…  What if there really isn’t a beach out there?”

Ritchie looks relieved and turns away.  “He’s going ‘intellectual’ on us again.”

Gary:  “What if the only reason we see a beach out there is because we all think there’s a beach out there so we refuse to see…”

Ritchie:  “Say what?”

Mona:  “It’s not his fault.  His mother was a ‘beatnik’ intellectual.  He grew up in the West Village.  Cut his teeth on existentialism.”

Gary continues, oblivious of the others.  “…so we refuse to see all the other things that could be out there instead of a beach!”

To be continued next week…    

Ink Splatters 3