Notes from New Sodom

... rantings, ravings and ramblings of strange fiction writer, THE.... Sodomite Hal Duncan!!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Nowhere Town: Act ONE Scene III

Act ONE Scene III: The No Exit Lounge and Bar

Enter JACK through the doorway. He goes to the counter to get a drink from the BARMAN. A pianist sits down at the piano at the back of the platform, starts playing tinkly jazz.

JACK: You still serving? It’s not time yet?

BARMAN: Time?

JACK: Last orders.

BARMAN [smiles]: We keep irregular hours… for our irregular regulars. You OK there? You're looking kinda pale.

JACK puts his hand to his stomach, brings it up and looks at it, confused.

JACK: Well, you know, I felt a bit rough earlier on, but [throws his arms wide] finding this place just made me feel a whole lot better.

BARMAN: We can have that effect, sir. We surely can. So what can I get you?

JACK: A Rusty Nail.

BARMAN: Another one for the coffin, eh? [starts pouring] You haven’t had the pleasure of the No Exit Lounge and Bar before then?

CHORUS walks up to lean on the piano, flipping a coin.

JACK: Just passing through town.

BARMAN: On tour – I can tell - it’s always the musicians that end up here -- Janis, Jimi, Jim, we've had them all in here. Take Chorus, for example. Hey, Chorus, you going to give us a song, then?

JACK: “Chorus”?

CHORUS makes a little salute at JACK and the BARMAN, then leans over the piano to speak to the pianist. The tinkly jazz becomes the intro for That Great Big Sanatorium In The Sky.

JACK: So, what? Does he have a brother called “Verse”, then?

BARMAN: Actually… it was a sister called “Orchestra”. Tragic story. He sings about it wonderfully, though.

JACK [skeptical]: …Right. [takes a slug of his drink]

BARMAN: Yes sir. They all end up in here eventually. Musicians… poets… artists… writers…

JACK: Drunks?

BARMAN: Those too. So what’s the next stop on your tour, my friend? Where are you headed for now?

JACK [snorts] : I wish I knew, mate. I wish I knew.

SONG: That Great Big Sanatorium In The Sky

Tom Waits doing Brel or Brecht, this is a straightforward whisky-soaked blues number with just a hint of big band in the chorus.

CHORUS:

I’m a man who can’t afford
To splash out on Betty Ford,
So I’ll probably keep on drinking till I die.
Though I hope I’ve got a future
In a state that’s not dementia
And I know that I can make it if I try.
But there’s those twelve big steps to Heaven,
And I’m stuck on number seven
And I’m going one step forward, two steps back.
Though I’ve prayed so many times
It’s mostly been for one more dime
Just so’s I could buy another bottle of Jack.

But I know.
Oh, yes I know.
On that day, that day, that marvelous day.
When the demon drink don’t take me,
And the God above don’t forsake me,
Then I’ll wake me with a smile, by and by,
In that Great Big Sanatorium In The Sky.

He walks over to one of the REGULARS, puts an arm around his shoulder.

Now there’s a man who is unhappy
With the seven layers of crap he
Has to deal with every hour of every day.
He’s a bona-fide depressive
And there’s gradually less of
Him as he drinks his blues and his soul away.
Now I don’t have his excuses
But we share the same abuses
So I’ll buy for him one day and vice-a-verse
And we’ve shared so many jokes,
So many drinks, so many tokes,
That we’ll probably share the same damn funeral hearse.

Oh, but when?
Lord, when?
On that day, that day, that marvelous day.
When the demon drink don’t take me,
And the God above don’t forsake me,
Then I’ll wake me with a smile, by and by,
In that Great Big Sanatorium In The Sky.

There’ll be docs and nurses there
And all kinds of folks who care
Even when you really couldn’t give a fuck
And they’ll take you in at night
Though you rage against the light
That’s dying in the gutter with your luck
And they’ll raise you from your knees
And they’ll listen to your “Please
Don’t let me be the way I am, not any more.”
And amongst the drunks and junkys
There’s a burnin’ lovin’ hunk. He’s
In a jumpsuit and he’s waiting at the door.

Cause I know.
Oh, yes I know.
On that day, that day, that marvelous day.
There will be Elvis.
There will be Elvis.
There will be Elvis to meet me when I die.
And he’ll take me, and lead me, as my guide
To that Great Big Sanatorium In The Sky.

CHORUS and JACK both down what they have left of their drinks at the same time. CHORUS walks up to the bar.

JACK: That was very… uplifting.

CHORUS [equally ironic]: No matter how today is, there’s always tomorrow.

CHORUS and JACK nod at each other, then both turn to the barman, simultaneously.

BOTH: Absinthe.

They look at each other. The BARMAN pours two glasses. JACK and CHORUS clink glasses in a silent toast.

JACK: What are we drinking to?

CHORUS: Don’t know about you but I’m drinking t’ the dawn.

JACK: I’m drinking t’ I pass out

CHORUS: Tried that once. I didn’t make it.

JACK: What happened?

CHORUS: No idea. It’s all a bit of a blur. Cheers.

JACK: Cheers… so what are we drinking to?

CHORUS: Whatever it is we’re drinking for.

JACK: I’ll drink to that.

CHORUS: To that!

They drink in silence for a short while.

CHORUS: So what brings you here at this god-forsaken hour of the morning?

JACK: On tour, mate. Just finished a gig. Needed a drink. Rehydration, mate.

CHORUS: You do look like you've lost a lot of... fluid.

JACK: Blood, sweat and tears, mate. Blood and sweat and tears.

CHORUS: So you’re a musician, then?

JACK: I don’t know if I’d go that far.

CHORUS: Ah… a singer.

JACK: More of a shouter, actually. I used to be a singer.

CHORUS: What happened?

JACK: No idea. It’s all a bit of a blur. Cheers.

CHORUS: Cheers. You know, you remind me of myself when I was your age.

JACK [wry]: So… you’re what I’m going to be when I’m your age?

CHORUS shrugs. They look at each other for a second, their postures mirroring each other, then down their drinks together and turn to the BARMAN.

BOTH: Absinthe.

The BARMAN refills their glasses and CHORUS lifts his in a toast.

CHORUS: Well, here’s to the singers with the sad songs, and the lovers who been wronged, and the jokers who been gonged.

JACK: And the tokers who get monged.

CHORUS: “Monged”?

JACK: Wrecked, plastered, blitzed, wasted, caned, stoned, smashed, whacked, fucked… monged. You never heard of “monged”?

CHORUS: It’s a new one on me.

JACK: So where you from?

CHORUS: Ah, here and there.

JACK: Yeah? I think I passed through there once… Sometimes I even wish I could go back.

Silence… JACK takes a drink of his absinthe. A gentle piano melody begins in the background.

CHORUS [quietly]: We’ve all been there at some time or another.

JACK: You know what they say… never look back.

CHORUS: They, my friend, are full of shit.

JACK: I’ll drink to that.

JACK raises his glass, but CHORUS catches his arm.

CHORUS: We’ve all been there at some time or another. But it’s different for all of us. We all have our own stories.

JACK: Shit happens. People die. What else is there to say.

CHORUS: “Love sucks.” is an old standard.

JACK laughs, but it’s a sad and bitter laugh.

CHORUS: You know, I’ve never been sure which one of them was crueller, Love or Death.

JACK [closing his eyes]: For me… for me, the two of them were in on it together.

JACK steps forward to the front of the stage, facing the audience. Behind him, CHORUS and the REGULARS begin the scenery change for Scene Four. They place stands loaded with records in front of the piano and instruments on the platform. The BARMAN exits and is replaced by FAY, in shadow.

JACK: It was… five years ago... heh... seems like fifty… and I was -- what? -- seventeen years old. Fucking seventeen years old. I mean, what do you know when you’re seventeen years old? Fucking recordshops? You think you know everything and you don’t know fucking shit. Until one day… one day… you fucking meet someone… and they’re so… well… Puck. That’s what I called him. Puck. How do you describe someone like Puck? It’s… it’s like they’ve got this spark inside them but they just don’t know it. And all you want to do is fuckin show them – just… show them… for the rest of your life…

JACK lifts his glass.

JACK: To Puck.

CHORUS lifts his glass but flourishes it stage-right, an introduction.

CHORUS: To Puck.

***

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