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Mucking About

Dear Readership,

As I officially start to unwind after the semester, I thought it would be fun to share with you what a lot of my semester was like. I was lucky enough to get a spot in a very small class on playwriting with my ALL TIME favorite professor (joking-not-joking, if he started a cult I would probably join it). This class has stretched me as a writer and challenged my usual novel-esque techniques and crutches to make me better, bolder, more intentional, and to the point. Long and short, I LOVED it. So I present to you a copy of one of my short plays I wrote this semester. A lot of sweat, blood, and tears went into this project (by which I mean sleep-deprivation, coffee, and actual tears went into this project). I hope you like it!

If you’ll forgive me a small brag, my professor called it possibly the most ambitious play anyone had ever turned into him and used it as an example of my ability to write complexly when he wrote my letter of recommendation for grad school. *fan girl screams* it was probably one of the best compliments I’ve ever been paid by someone whose creative genius I idolize. All that to say, here t’is!

*Disclaimer* there is some language, especially towards the third scene. My deepest apologies if you find it distasteful.

~~~~

 

Mucking About

 

Cast of Characters

HARRY WELLINGTON:  32 years old, irritatingly pragmatic operative

WILLIAM FITZHERBERT:  29 years old, emotionally impulsive, Wellington’s partner

DEBORAH GEITZMAN:  45 years old,  The boss at Radar HQ

MAGNOLIA FLETCHA:  35 years old, the person in the chair at Radar HQ

ELMER MORRIS:   22 years old, the twitchy intern

Setting:  A Baltimore alleyway, early fall, 1855. Laundry hangs from lines overhead and various heaps of unwanted materials sit in the background — crates, pallets, a few garbage cans, and an old rug among them.  

At Rise:  The cobblestone streets are awash in the dim flickering glow of recently lit lamplight. There are two men onstage, neither of whom are moving. One, dressed rather raggedly, sits slumped against a wall with his eyes closed and head lolling to one side. The other, dressed much nicer, lies face down center stage in a pool of blood. Two more men enter in conversation. Both are well dressed, but beginning to look a little bedraggled.

WELLINGTON   

Quite frankly there is very little in this world I wouldn’t do right now for a hot meal and decent bed. Do you know I think I am actually getting fleas?

FITZHERBERT

I daresay you’ve always had them. But I agree! If I do not get a plateful of pork chops and gravy soon I may very well kill–

(both men see the body and stop short)

WELLINGTON  (sighs)

Not again.

FITZHERBERT  

Well, dammit all. This does complicate things, doesn’t it?

WELLINGTON  

What an imbecilic thing to go and do.

FITZHERBERT  

To die? That seems a mite unfair.

WELLINGTON  

Well he hasn’t just died now, has he? The idiot’s gone and gotten killed.

FITZHERBERT  

He couldn’t possibly have known it was coming, could he?

WELLINGTON  

Couldn’t he?

FITZHERBERT

Oh, I don’t know.  

FITZHERBERT  

What are we going to do?

WELLINGTON  

Well we can’t leave him here. He could ruin everything. We’ll have to find somewhere to hide the body.

FITZHERBERT  

Oh, no. This is a new waistcoat! I don’t want blood all over it.
(WELLINGTON gives him a dirty look)
No, of course. You’re right. Let’s get him out of here. I think the easiest thing to do is– I say! There’s someone else here.

WELLINGTON  (whips around frantically)

What?! We’ve been compromised. We’ll have to kill him.

(FITZHERBERT approaches the sleeping man and takes a deep whiff)

FITZHERBERT  

That seems hasty, this man’s drunk.

WELLINGTON  

Are you sure?

FITZHERBERT

I’d bet my life on it. I know the smell of spirits better than I know the smell of my own mother.  

WELLINGTON  

And?

FITZHERBERT  

And I don’t think we have to kill him. He’s intoxicated. From the smell of him, very intoxicated. I doubt he’s been aware of anything for quite some time.

WELLINGTON   

Things are complicated enough without overestimating his intoxication and creating a new loose end to deal with.  

FITZHERBERT

This is a human being, you know, not a loose end to be “dealt with.”

WELLINGTON  

Look at him! Does he look like much of a human being anymore to you? We’d be doing the poor wretch a favor by sparing him of the burden of living any longer.

FITZHERBERT  

Somehow I doubt he’d feel that way. Why don’t we just leave him while we deal with the body. If he wakes up and we are forced to do something differently, we will.

WELLINGTON  

I suppose that is a compromise I can live with. But if things go amiss, the paperwork is your problem.

FITZHERBERT  

As I recall, you always make the paperwork my problem.

WELLINGTON  

Shut up and help me think of something to do with this body.

FITZHERBERT

What, like put him in one of those rubbish bins?

WELLINGTON  

Unless you have intentions of hacking him up a bit, no full grown man is going to fit into a rubbish bin.

FITZHERBERT  

So, what? Should we stick him under the crates then?

WELLINGTON  

That is possibly the worst idea I’ve ever heard. You know what, here, help me grab that rug.
(the two men grab the rolled up rug and spread it out next to the body)
There. Now you grab his feet and lay him on the edge.

FITZHERBERT  (grunting)

God, he weighs a ton.

WELLINGTON
(also grunting but trying to seem fine)

Just lift him, you idiot. There! Now roll.

(both men roll the body up in the rug, struggle to carry it back to where it had been originally propped, and nearly drop it. They step back to examine their work, breathing heavily)

FITZHERBERT  

Somehow I feel like a body shaped lump in a rug isn’t really better than a body smushed under a stack of crates. It’s still pretty, uh –what’s the word — eye-grabbing.

WELLINGTON

Perhaps, but we’ve dealt with it as best we can. Now, back to the issue at hand – Elijah Knollwood was last seen in this general area. If we didn’t waste too much time here we may still be able to catch him and get home before supper.

FITZHERBERT

Right, of course. I think our best bet is going to be heading–

(WELLINGTON cuts him short by pulling his gun. He points to the drunk man who has roused just enough to retch on himself)

WELLINGTON  

Look! He’s waking up.

FITZHERBERT  

Stop! He didn’t see anything. You don’t have to do this!

WELLINGTON

Stand back! He could be the killer.

(WELLINGTON aims his gun at the bum, but FITZHERBERT jumps in the way and tries to take the gun from him. The two men fall to the ground and wrestle over it vigorously for a minute before a gunshot rings out. FITZHERBERT jumps back, surprised)

FITZHERBERT  (shaking his companion)

Wellington? Wellington! Oh no… It was me. It was my fault the whole time. I’m the killer.

(FITZHERBERT makes eye contact with the bum for a long second before bolting off stage. The bum looks around him bewildered. He looks at the body then at the audience, then passes out again. The stage is still for 10 very uncomfortable seconds)

(Enter WELLINGTON and FITZHERBERT)  

WELLINGTON   

Quite frankly there is very little in this world I wouldn’t do right now for a hot meal and decent bed. Do you know I think I am actually getting fleas?

FITZHERBERT

I daresay you’ve always had them. But I agree! If I do not get a plateful of pork chops and gravy soon I may very well kill–

(both men see the body and stop short)

WELLINGTON  (sighs)

Not again.

BLACKOUT

SCENE II

(Out of the darkness we hear an unfamiliar voice)

FLETCHA  

On September 22nd, 1855, Elijah Knollwood, a newspaperman and Baltimore socialite, killed his mistress, Eliza Matkins, and their two young children. He shot all three after an altercation in which Matkins threatened to expose Knollwood’s infidelity to the public and ruin his career if he didn’t divorce his wife. As tragic as the event was, the death of Knollwood’s younger son, Peter, was ultimately for the greater good. At age six Peter was no threat to society, but by age thirty-one he would travel to New York to meet, seduce, and eventually marry Jennie Jerome…

LIGHTS UP

Radar Headquarters, 2095.  There are no windows in the fluorescently lit room to indicate season or time of day. The insipid white walls and a long line of monitor screens give the overall environment a feel of government-issued sterility and high intelligence. FLETCHA sits at a desk with a file open in front of her and GEITZMAN stands behind, looking on.

GEITZMAN  

It’s been a long night, Fletcha, drop the theatrics and remind me why I care.

FLETCHA

Right, sorry. Well, Jennie Jerome –or as you probably know her –Lady Randolph Churchill is remembered by history for being the mother of Winston Churchill.  She was never meant to marry Peter Knollwood. The implications could be catastrophic.

GEITZMAN  

Wait, so you’re telling me this Peter kid doesn’t get shot in the head and suddenly Winston Churchill is never born?

FLETCHA  

Sort of. It’s not really that simple, but short answer  yes.

GEITZMAN

And why am I just now hearing this?

FLETCHA  

We had two operatives on the case already. Only, something’s gone wrong.

GEITZMAN  (sighing)

Doesn’t it always?

FLETCHA  

Somehow they’ve come across one of their own bodies.

GEITZMAN  

And?

FLETCHA  

And I’m not exactly sure what’s happening, but they’re stuck in a loop. If I’m reading these heat signatures correctly, they’ve discovered the body four different times now and each time they are unable to move past the anomaly without recreating it.  

(Enter MORRIS)

MORRIS  

Sorry to interrupt. One fat free latte — extra hot, and one large black coffee with two espresso shots and four pumps of sugar-free french vanilla.

GEITZMAN  

Geez, Fletcha, that’s a lot of syrup.

FLETCHA  

I’m sorry, I didn’t realize my coffee order was offensive to you. Besides, what’s the point of an extra hot latte?

GEITZMAN

They steam the milk longer.

FLETCHA

Okay, but ask yourself — do they really? Do you really think the barista on the fourth floor takes an extra 30 seconds on your steamed milk?

(GEITZMAN peers suspiciously at her cup)

MORRIS  

I — uh, I can take it back if you want?  

GEITZMAN  

No, actually, I have a different job for you. Listen, we need a new variable in a situation on the field. Someone who can mix things up and change the inevitable so that we can get back to changing a different inevitable back to what it was supposed to be in the first place. God! Can you believe they thought the Cold War was tricky back in the day? What’s an atom bomb compared with trying to keep humanity from unraveling itself at the source?  

MORRIS  

Wait, you want me on the field? But-but I’m an intern.

GEITZMAN  

Right, and one they won’t recognize. You can’t directly confront someone who’s stuck in a time loop like that, it gets… complicated. You just need to be there once to observe what happens and once to change it, got it?

MORRIS  

But… how? Won’t they see me?

FLETCHA  

I’ve been thinking about that. They’re in a pretty unpopulated, rundown part of town. I’m pretty sure we can plant you somewhat inconspicuously. Say, as a bum? If we put you in period dress, rough you up a bit, and I don’t know, douse you in a fair bit of rum — they won’t suspect a thing.

GEITZMAN  

Perfect. What’s your name again?

MORRIS  (wounded)

What? I’m–I’m Morris. Elmer Morris.

GEITZMAN  (sighing)  

Right. Okay, well, come with me. I’ll debrief you and take you back. I don’t know how long we have to fix this and complete the original mission, but it needs to happen before the historic lag wears off. I’m not really interested in seeing the implications of a world without Churchill play out.

(both Exit)

BLACKOUT

SCENE III

Back in the original alley as we left it. MORRIS is passed out in a pool of his own vomit on the back wall and WELLINGTON is lying dead on stage. Enter MORRIS and GEITZMAN in conversation

GEITZMAN  

(looking at a hand held monitor of some kind)

Okay, hurry. We need to get you in place before they make their first appearance. Let’s put you over here against — shit. Is that already you?!

MORRIS  (whimpering)

Oh my god, am I — am I dead?

GEITZMAN  

Dammit. I guess we’re not the first versions of ourselves to think of this. Now what? God, I hate this job.

MORRIS  

Wait, if he’s me and he’s dead, why am I not dead?

GEITZMAN  

This is basic level stuff, Morris. If you die in your own current time on your own timeline, you’re dead. But if you die in the past, then only the you of that exact moment stops living. “You” as an essence continues on because technically you weren’t there for your death, you don’t overlap with yourself. Other alternative versions of you live your life and get up to the moment when you decided to go back in time and can decide whether or not to go back, whether or not to put themselves in the same position, make the same choices, etc.

MORRIS  (still whining)

Wait, so like alternate versions of me in alternate universes?

GEITZMAN  

Now’s really not the time for this lecture. Short answer yes and no. You are a never-ending stream of conscious beings making distinct choices, but on top of yourselves. You are all distinctive, but also not separate. Think like a stack of transparencies. Separate seethrough pages containing different information but overlapped into a single complex image. Now multiply how confusing that is by a million and you’ll have a glimpse into my job.  

MORRIS  

Oh. Um, okay. (to himself) Please don’t let me be dead.

(The two go over to examine the vomit covered MORRIS to determine whether or not he is dead. Once they get close, another MORRIS creeps out from behind some crates where he had been hiding and hits the newest MORRIS over the head with a brick, thus knocking him unconscious)

GEITZMAN  

WHAT THE HELL! Morris? How many times did we send you here?

MORRIS  

Too many, Geitzman! Too damn many.

GEITZMAN  

Why did you hit yourself — er, him?

MORRIS  

I’m not supposed to interact with other versions of myself, right?

GEITZMAN  

What? No, that’s not a real thing. Who told you that?

MORRIS  

Seriously? I don’t know who told me that! No one’s really told me anything!  You’d think for a department that is dealing with such highly sensitive material you guys would have a budget to, I don’t know, maybe train the interns? Or here’s a new thought — NOT SEND THE COFFEE BOY ON A LIFE OR DEATH MISSION. You do know it’s my fault Wellington is even dead, right? Or at least, it has been the last two times he died. Whatever happened before that is beyond me.  

GEITZMAN  

You were supposed to change the outcome. What happened?

MORRIS  

I did what you told me to — I sat here and I waited for them to discover the body. They did. And then they thought I was the murderer. I had to sit here and pretend to be unconscious while they argued over whether or not they were going to kill me. I was freaking out, right? And yeah, I lost my nerve and vomited. It happens. Then trigger happy Harry here tries to kill me, his friend gets in the way, they wrestled, and I don’t know… Maybe he accidentally shot himself? Maybe theother guy got the gun and killed him? I didn’t see, but boom. Mystery solved. I was all set to do a do-over when, wouldn’t you know it, you come walking in with another version of me. I thought I wasn’t supposed to see myself — thanks for nothing — so I hid and got to watch the whole thing happen again from behind a heap of trash. If that won’t mess a guy up, I don’t know what will.

GEITZMAN  

And then what? You knocked that version of yourself out same as this one when we got here?

MORRIS  

(MORRIS points disgustedly to the version of himself still passed out in vomit)

Who, him? No. This guy’s such a pantywaste he got scared shitless and passes out on his own. And next thing I know, you’re here with a NEW me! Any chance you want to explain that?

GEITZMAN  

Shit. Did I explain the process for getting back to your current time?

MORRIS  

NO! Do you think I’d still be here if I knew how to go back?  

GEITZMAN  

I totally forgot that you couldn’t stay here without real-time communication with the present without running the risk that the newest versions of ourselves would make the decision to come here.  

MORRIS  

You are literally the worst director I’ve ever heard of. So, what? There are just three of me now? Are we all separate entities? If I kill them is it murder or just a purging of my own consciousness?

GEITZMAN  

That’s complicated. We probably shouldn’t keep talking about this here. Wellington and Fitzherbert will be here any minute.

MORRIS  

It’s all complicated, isn’t it? But how do I go back to there just being one of me?

GEITZMAN  (distractedly)

Huh? Oh, that part’s not that hard, really. All three of you just need to simultaneously converge on your most current self when you go back. You’ll probably merge seamlessly.

MORRIS  

Probably is not my favorite word in this context.

GEITZMAN  

Shut up. They’re coming. We need to move.

(Both step out of view of the approaching operatives but stay in view of the audience)

(Enter WELLINGTON and FITZHERBERT)

WELLINGTON   

Quite frankly there is very little in this world I wouldn’t do right now for a hot meal and decent bed. Do you know I think I am actually getting fleas?

FITZHERBERT

I daresay you’ve always had them. But I agree! If I do not get a plateful of pork chops and gravy soon I may very well kill–

(both men see the body and stop short)

WELLINGTON  (sighs)

Not again.

MORRIS  (harsh whisper)

I don’t understand, why can’t they see us?

GEITZMAN  

Have you met Wellington? The man’s good at his job but he’s an absolute ass. He won’t take help from anyone. If we directly confront him about being stuck in a loop he’ll become unbearable. It’s easier to redirect him than to deal with his fragile male ego.

MORRIS  

(Pause) … I really hate you.  You fractured me into like four versions of myself and traumatized at least two of them to avoid an unpleasant conversation!?

(MORRIS steps out into full view)

MORRIS  (con’t)

DON’T SHOOT. My name is Elmer Morris, I’m a Radar intern. The two men passed out over there? They’re me too. You’re going to want to kill them. Please don’t. I don’t think I can handle it emotionally. And neither can Fitzy here which is how you end up dead, Wellington, so calm your trigger finger. There are literally four of your dead bodies hidden in a fifteen foot radius of me right now and I’m over it. You’re stuck in a loop or whatever that even means and meanwhile Winston Churchill gets closer and closer to not existing out there. All of you need to get your shit together. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get my selves together– like physically together — get us the hell back to the present, and hightail it to Georgetown University where I will officially be declaring my major as accounting. That’s right, accounting. I thought time travel would be cool, but it’s not. It’s scary and confusing and terrible and I took so many physics classes just to be here right now and let me tell you — not worth it. I quit.

(MORRIS snatches handheld monitor thing from GEITZMAN, puts it in his pocket, and drags both other MORRIS bodies off-stage)

WELLINGTON

Well — I — uh, I’m a little confused.

FITZHERBERT  

I killed you?

WELLINGTON  

Apparently.

FITZHERBERT  

And the intern?

GEITZMAN  

He grows a spine like that every so often. Not to worry. Nothing a little tinkering with his head won’t make him forget. He’s proven himself pretty much invaluable in our research on the effects of times travel on the human psyche. Now, if the two of you could stop mucking about and causing problems, you have a timeline to correct. It wasn’t easy talking Knollwood out of the murder, but if I can do it so can the Russians. They’re only a matter of years away from a breakthrough and we need to have all our bases covered.

BLACKOUT

~~~~~~

Anyway, this about sums up my semester. This is a work in progress that I plan to expand, so I’d love some feedback!

Until next time,

Adieu

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Categories: Uncategorized

Sierra Patterson

I'm nobody with the urge to be somebody and a gift for telling stories. My hope is to use this site to hone my writing for a wider audience than college professors and family friends. So cheers to you, dear reader! Please let me know what you think

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