To Tell of Thanksgrimby in the Old Day

Transcribed as part of the StoryCorpse Old Thankful Project

As Told by Granmaw Edna Embolina Rotisserie-Clogged-Duckpin

“Whin Novembra goes deep an yer getting down to the grimbles. Well then. Comes a time to please and thank goodness if a bear eatcha you got kin and community to mourn yer scraps. Also, got to give praise that Gods ain’t cut you down, even though they seen whatchu did in the woodshed. You oughta thanks up. Keep in the nice with yer Lurds. Plus eat while you can in case em gods change his mind.

“Why do the Thanksgrovel? Practical simple. Pure and purty. You ain dead yit and you hope not die til spring. Only got to last longer’n that pig yer raisin’. You got in yer front-eye memory the picture of who all dint make it through last winter’s Crimby Knife Fight Season.

“Mebbe you now say, ‘Okay, okay, Granmaw. So how you get on with the Thankspart of naGrimby?’ and I sez, ‘PIPE DOWN AND PEEL EM TATERS. WE AIN’T ON THAT PART YET. No bibble! Shaddap!’

“Yall impatiens. When I was cricket-size, I learnt me to have some patiens! You had to hold patiens in those day. Might have to wait six months with a dangletooth til Gareth the Wanderer wandered back into territory and puled it for ya. After that, ya might hafta miss a week of school laid up on whiskeyrest.

“Times were hard!

“Yet we had barely a thought in our topnotcher but thanks to be breathin. Yessir. Now the thanks git tricky. Yall know it best to grub up, look down and humble short and quiet. It ain’t good to dry out yer tongue with too much thankin. That’s why you need gravy after the thankin. Slick up yer tongue nice and good again.

“Horace Duckpin once started the Grimby with a three hour grace; and when he didn’t stop there, the menfolk decided he bin robbed of his sense. They turnt him upside down in a waterbucket, and he still blew Thankbubbles for bout five minnits. When Horace bobbed up he said the turkey he kilt possessed him. Made him gobble on. The preacher said he heard it happened once before in Jerusalem. Back when tuckeys looked more like armadillers or sumpin. What you hed to do in sech circumstances, the preacher done instruct, wuz rebuke each and every forkful before you et. Had to shout, “DEVIL TUCKEE I REBUKE THEE DAMN TUCKEY!” Then chew that tuckey piece righteous on down.

“Prob’ly one of the best Thanksgrimbys of my life. Nothin taste better than a Tuckey Rebuked.

“When that Demon Tuckey was goned, Twitchy Linda sed, ‘How’d we know the demon didn’t go into another Tuckey in the woods? I could rebuke another tuckey. Yes I could.’ Big Jim stood up, waved his knife and shouted, ‘I say Yeehaw! I could rebuke me five more tuckeys!’

“Some all agreed. I myself stood on my chair and threw a spoon.

“But then the Elders invoked Frenzy Law and sed everybody better get on home and in bed or they’d let Creepy Pappy off the chain.

“Thems were good old days. Thanksgrimby ended all cozy cuddled up in one bed. Maw sang us a lullaby and we braided her armpit hairs.

“Whew! It ain’t right to let your granmaw go on like this, child. Gimme a little gravy. I feel wore out! Cain’t squawk like I used to. Sweet Rebuked Tuckey! I might need me a whiskeyrest.”

Advertisements

Phone Call from Chief Herring

*monologue contains profanity & acknowledges sex*

Phone Call from Chief Herring

Narrator is hardboiled, male or female. (Or any gender identity.)

I’ve just wrestled Maggie out of her Spanx when

the phone rings.

Maggie hears the sound and sneers.

She says, “Don’t. You. Dare.”

But listen.

It’s the landline.

Maggie is naked on my kitchen table, ok? ‘Cept for stilettos and red nails and let me tell ya, it’s been a while–

but it was the landline. That old electronic giggle– dleeleeleeleelee–

Only the po call my landline. I’m a private investigator.

So I pick it up. I say, “What.”

It’s Chief Herring.

He says, “We got somethin weird tonight.”

Maggie, she’s red and white and mad all over.

[imitating Maggie] “Hang. Up.”

In my ear, Chief Herring, “We need your help.”

I say, “Whaat.”

I see Maggie’s takin off one of her stiletto heels. Phew. Fine. I don’t make her wear ‘em. She leaves um on cuz she thinks I like em. Really, she likes um. I fuck in fear of bein gored like a goddamn matador.

But Maggie is mad.

[Narrator into phone receiver] “Ok, ok, what?”

Okay, Maggie’s aimin the heel and I don’t like the direction this is headed.

Herring tells me, “Write down this address.”

I say, “Tell me. I’ll remember it.”

Maggie winds up. She throws her Mangle-O Blango, the damn heel, right at me! Wham! Hits the fridge.

Okay. Now I’m getting mad.

Ok! I’ll play.

I tell the Chief, all in my leisure, “You know what Chief? I will, in fact, write down that address after all. Hold on one second.”

I grab the notepad magnet thing from the fridge. Maggie lies back down on the table. Turns on her side.

What’s she doin?

She’s on her side, she opens her legs wide and- AUAUAOUouaugh!

Squeezes off two deadly farts! Two stinkin asshole farts! Aua! All the time lookin at me all premeditated in pure evil. All two, three, four nasty eyes of hers!

[Covers receiver, shouts to Maggie] “YOU FILTHY PIG!”

I say that. Yes, I say that, which, I know, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is about the worst thing you can say to the fat woman you love, especially when you owe her a big chunk of money. But I say it, and I say,

“I’m tryna take a goddamn call!…Go ‘head officer.”

I’ve barely written down 135 Rose Street- the address of the weird incident- when Maggie, she flops back across the table, reaches her arm back and grabs a gun out of the gardenias! Window was open, right? Nice night. She reaches out the sill into the windowbox. Stashed a piece in the flowers.

Cuz she was just that kind of girl.

I’m writin 135 Rose Street and now the gun is cocked in Maggie’s hand.

Maggie scootches her cootch to the end of the table. Eyes on me. All she knows is that she wants me to hang up. You better believe I know it too.

What Maggie doesn’t remember is that there’s a slippery golden puddle of supportive undergarment just under her feet, and she’s still wearin one Mangle-O Blango. She’s launchin herself off the table right onto the Spanx-

I slam the phone in the cradle-

Whoa! Wham! Blam! Stiletto skids on spandex. Maggie slips. Cracks her head on the tile. Gun goes off and Uuauauagh! Buries a bullet in my thigh!

The gun skitters across the floor into a roach trap by the sink.

I’m yodelin in pain. Clutchin my leg. I’ve never been shot before, ok? Let alone by someone I know! And Maggie, Maggie revives! Eyes wide, nostrils flared, revives! She is a goddamn bull! Keep that on the record! And she’s sittin up now, no, she’s on all fours. Dazed but murderous. Bare haunches shining with sweat, god help me.

You can object, you can object all you want, but I swore to tell the truth and nothing but.

So god help me when Maggie crawls over to where I’m half on the floor. I’m clutching kitchen cabinet knobs, tryin to stand.

Maggie grabs my shot leg, to raise herself up? Pull me down? Now we’re both on the floor. We’re scrambling towards the roach trap.

There’s a loaded gun on the floor of the trap, as you well know. But. There are also five Ben Franklins taped to the lid. You know, the domed lid on a roach hotel? Well, who’s gonna look under that thing, right?

Maggie takes a swing at the trap. Brutal! No finesse, this girl. Trap busts. Lid flies. Lands on its back like a turtle with no hope. Belly fulla hundreds all exposed.

Maggie ain’t lookin at the gun now. Maggie’s diggin a red nail under the tape and countin the money. I grab the gun. Roach shells splittin tween my fingers.

“You asshole!” That’s Maggie yellin.

While I’m tryna stand she’s throwin on her blue dress, about to hoof it. I point the gun. At Maggie, yes.

She says, “This isn’t even a quarter of what you owe me!”

She runs out the front door. I follow, limpy-gimpy. We’re out on the wet grass, in the dark, my lawn, as it were.

“Drop it or I shoot!”

She tells me, “You won’t.”

I say I fuckin will.

“Gun only had one bullet,” she says.

That’s when my shot leg, and something else, gives out.

“You fat worthless whore! You thieving cunt! Give it the fuck back! That’s all I’ve got!”

I’m already down, but that doesn’t stop her. Maggie leaps on me. Starts slappin me! Wrenches the gun loose, now she’s got it. She cocks it! It was loaded! The bitch!

I’m so mad, I’m not thinkin, I’m just tryin to get the gun back-

We’re rollin in the yard, wrestlin and howlin.

Mr. Stander, neighbor to the left, comes outside. He turns his garden hose on us, full blast.

We’re fightin, he’s sprayin, “Stoppit, dammit, you damn dogs!” He’s yellin. His eyesight wasn’t so great.

I dunno. I dunno anything, I’m so crazy with pain. I knee Maggie in the crotch. That’s how I get the gun back.

If she was mad before-

She bites me! Fuckin bites me! Right on the boob! The pectoral! Straight through the flesh and a little to the left! She chomps down on my fuckin heart!

I seize up involuntary! I spasm! I scream! I squeeze!

I squeeze the trigger.

It was not intentional. It was impossible to know where my hand was pointed. I knew nothing but pain and rage. You know it was an accident. A moment of passion. I didn’t mean it.

It was a tragedy the moment Maggie bit my heart, but that’s beside the point. I squeezed the trigger, the bullet left the barrel, made its trajectory across the lawn–and straight into Mr. Stander’s brain.

I know it is  no consolation that he was killed instantly. He croaked, um, passed instantly, and it musta been pretty quietly too, cuz it took a coupla seconds, minutes really, after the gun went off for me and Maggie to realize that the hose wasn’t sprayin us anymore. For a hot moment, I thought we were both dead, locked in some eternal hell-fight together. Then we heard the sirens and the cops pullin up.

As a professional private investigator- I am licensed, I remind the jury- I consider this whole incident a personal failing of mine. I paid little attention to Mr. Stander when he was alive and I’m not afraid to admit that I should have talked to him more. Noticed things. Then again, nobody could have guessed he had so many people buried in his cellar.

That said, I’m sorry I pulled the trigger before I even had a hint of suspicion. I wouldn’t call myself a hero, really. But I’m glad to have done my duty to society, even by accident.

What I resent is Maggie goin around tellin people it was her who pulled the trigger.

Even in the hazy moments of this episode- the fact that she bit me and that I pulled the trigger is clear.

Tell her that, she’ll say she roundabout shot the gun with her teeth.

It’s just not right for Maggie to take credit like that. Especially since whatever I owe her is five hundred dollars less now. If you see her, tell her that.

And, ladies and gentlemen, you can tell her I’d take that phone call again.

 

Note: This is one monologue from a larger collection of ‘Mystery Monologues.’ Seek my contact info by clicking on the “What?” at the top of this page regarding performance rights/permission. 

Grab Your Torch and Pitchfork! We’ll All Be Healed!

“We’re here to see the Horsehead, Horsehead, Horsehead

We’re here to see the Horsehead like be-fore!”

A  hungover musician optimistically called ‘The Band’, also called ‘Joe’, is leading us through the opening number. He grabs the mic and mumbles a verse. Joe is wearing tight black jeans, a pinching suitjacket and a messy tie. He pushes his sunglasses up and gestures to the audience. The group of strangers follows his lead. We mumble and shift nervously on the edge of our  Yard Theatre seats.

David and I are sitting in the center of the front row. Chanting. We’re getting into it. So is the rest of the crowd. The murmur builds into a low roar.

“We’re here to see the Horsehead, Horsehead, Horsehead/

We’re here to see the Horsehead, like be-fore!”

Neither David nor I  have any idea who The Horsehead is, or what he’s done. No one knows. But we are all in this together.

The Leader of the Community is chiming in with approval. This man in a tux wears wild eyes. He’s got the build and poise of a young Orson Welles. He speaks with rich, desperate authority. He is the one who organized this “Reconstruction” of the terrible crimes committed by the Horsehead. We, the audience, are his captive community. The Leader has lost a loved one to the murderer. He tells us that we, the audience, also know victims of the Horsehead’s crimes. The Leader of the Community hopes we will all learn something from this reconstruction. Everything is broken after the tragedy, but this performance will make it all whole!

The Band and The Projectionist are in The Community Leader’s employ.  An old-school overhead projector beams the lyrics to the ‘Song to Summon the Horsehead’ against the white wall of the theatre. The Projectionist handles the song lyric transparencies during the show. The Projectionist, a weedy, sullen character in a navy blue sweater, is also the puppeteer. He shines hand-drawn scenes and characters against the walls during the reconstruction. He moves them with Q-tips and gives them silly voices.

“Louder!” commands the Leader of the Community.

“We’re here to see the Horsehead, Horsehead, Horsehead-“

Yes, every soul who tromped through the icy drizzle to this post-industrial corner of London repossessed by art, every single soul, is implicated. Everyone who bought a seat to the first show of The Yard’s N.O.W. ’14 series this Tuesday night in February becomes a witness. The audience is a crucial part of Horsehead: A dark, rollicking satire; a weird, compelling ritual;  one of the most cohesive, inventive and fun pieces of theatre I’ve seen in a long time.

When the horse-headed boy whinnies and charges into the theatre, the Leader of the Community traps him in a ‘municipal chalk circle.’ From his cage, the parameters of which are literally chalk lines drawn on the floor, the Horseheaded Boy (Steven) is forced to re-enact the atrocities he committed.

What atrocities? Tramplings. Steven used his booted human feet in equine fury.

The motive? Sexual shame, social isolation and, well…horse brains.

We, the audience, chant! We pray! We sing hymns! We boo! …Some of us.

David was easily the loudest and quickest to break into the catchiest ditty, “We burn monsters/OH/We burn monsters!”

The man is always up for an adventure; he’s a dream audience member. Yet, his face crumples into a compassionate grimace when asked to boo the Horsehead boy.

The Leader: “Shall we boo him, ladies and gentlemen? BOOOOOOO! BOOOOOOO!”

David leans over,”I…I don’t want to boo him! This feels so wrong!”

“BOOOOO! BOOOOOOOOO!”

“I kno-ow!” I whisper back, “The liberal arts have ruined us!”

“I SAID SHALL WE BOO HIM, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN?”

Despite the chants, and the strange, enticing sense of community, there is no sense of victory at the play’s end.

The Leader of the Community cradle’s Steven’s severed horse head in his arms with a glazed look of shock in his eyes. The Leader’s voice no longer booms. He is unsure. His last command, for the audience to sing a hymn and take a ‘victory lap’ around the space, is issued in a daze.

It seemed to me that The Leader of the Community felt lost without the firm roles of the reconstruction. Perhaps, he had been doing the reconstruction over and over again- only this show was the show when he lost control and killed the captive Horsehead.

Now it was all over.

What had been put back together?

The audience’s ‘victory lap’ around The Leader of the Community and the horse head was funereal, and equally unsure. What did we just do? What was that all about? David and I weren’t certain, but the spell cast by the Horsehead has lasted weeks after we saw the show.

Over beer at The Yard bar, David said he saw a satire of “provincial English council meetings” in the show: the shabbiness, the shaming, the forming of mobs and designating of scapegoats. He talked about how becoming part of the mob was irresistable as well as uncomfortable. We discussed Frankenstein, fear of monsters, and the desire to create a sensible narrative, that is self-justifying and self-preserving in the wake of tragedy.

For me, the play also evoked the ritual played out after every atrocity committed by a ‘monster.’ The Theatre of Atrocity Coverage. I thought of the Boston Marathon bombers. I thought about the DC Metro area snipers. The school shooters. The outraged, wounded community, in addition to due process, demands a reconstruction. What exactly happened? Scenes are played out again and again in the media and over dinner conversation.

Who was he? There is always a sense that if the life and motives of the monster can only be explored and understood, answers will emerge. The victims will discover a crucial separation between their own humanity and the monster. So often, both the pitiable humanity and the inhumane monstrosity of the perpetrator emerges, muddying as well as clarifying the portrait of a killer.

Justice will be served!…What kind of justice? And will it be cathartic? Is there any release, any satisfaction?

Horsehead brilliantly explored all the elements of the reconstruction in the wake of tragedy- the pain and righteousness behind it;  all the complicated, perverse, problematic relishing that can come with it; the ambivilance, relief, or lack of relief…It is about that staged transformation between something broken and the inevitable way life continues. Does the transformation always occur? If we perform the ritual and it doesn’t, what does that mean?

The show was a rough-hewn, well thought out crucible for both incorporating and alienating the audience as a community. The audience members were both participants and observers in a mob, placing the consequences of the play solely in their own hearts and minds. I’m sure that the crowd reaction and feeling varied with each show.

It was fucked up. It was funny. It was sad. I was never sure what was going to happen next. To me, those are the marks of a good show.

Most importantly, Horsehead is a piece of theatre that has haunted me.

I think about it often. Walking around London, the catchy tunes sometimes float, unbidden, into my brain and match the beat of my boots on cobbles. I hear my own voice in the chorus echo at the strangest moments: When I read the news headlines; when the pub conversation turns to politics; just as I sit down in a completely different theatre to watch a completely different play…

“We’re here to see the Horsehead/Horsehead/Horsehead/

We’re here to see the Horsehead, like be-fore!”