Notes from New Sodom

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

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Nowhere Town: Act TWO Scene IV

Act TWO Scene IV: Karaoke Night In Hell

The lights come up, but dimmer than before. JACK sits slumped at a table, stage-left, with the PROPRIETOR. Everything is very quiet and very still. CHORUS walks slowly to the piano. He takes the knife from his pocket.

SONG: It Was A Very Good Year

A jarring and dissonant jazz number based on the Sinatra number but twisted into a Tango beat.

CHORUS:

When I was seventeen
It was a very good year
It was a very good year for automobiles
That tore down the sun
The golden one
Now cut [flicks the knife open] from the scene
When I was seventeen

CHORUS wanders over towards JACK, singing directly to him.

When I was twenty-one
It was a very good year
It was a very good year for one lonely boy
Gone wrong in the head
Thought he was dead
And came undone
When I was twenty-one

When I was thirty-five
It was a very good year
It was a very good year to smoke cigarettes
And drink to get drunk
A sodden old punk
But still alive
When I was thirty-five

Now your days are gone
But I’m in the autumn of my years
I look back on your time as fine vintage wine
In beautiful glass [holds up his glass]
That’s shattered and smashed [hurls it to the ground]
A life sweet and clear
It was a very good year
It was one hell of a year.

The REGULARS clap, but the atmosphere is muted now. People seem tired, wasted, drunk; some of them are slumped in their seats, unconscious.

PROPRIETOR: Wonderful, wonderful! [to JACK] Lost his sister at a young age. Such a tragic story. But he sings about it so beautifully, don't you think?

JACK [grim]: I can’t take this. I can’t take this any more.

PROPRIETOR [hurt]: You’re not leaving us so soon? It’s cold out there, cold and dark.

CHORUS: If you can’t take it, then go. Just turn around, walk out that door and never look back.

JACK: I can’t leave. I can’t leave him here.

PROPRIETOR: “Never look back”. Easier said than done, my dear Chorus, as you know only too well, I think. It’s never that simple, is it, Jack?.

JACK [weary, defeated]: What time is it? How long have we been here?

PROPRIETOR: Don’t be so impatient, dear boy. He’ll come. Have another drink.

JACK: I’ve had enough. I’ve fucking had enough.

CHORUS lays the knife down on the table in front of him.

JACK [disturbed, shaking his head]: Where did you get that?

CHORUS: It was lying on the street outside the… what’s it called? I think there was a band playing a gig there earlier on tonight.

JACK: Tonight? Outside a gig -

PROPRIETOR [hastily cutting off Jack’s train of thought]: Chorus. You know we don’t allow weapons in here. [reaches towards the knife] I’m going to have to –

CHORUS places his hand over the knife and the PROPRIETOR stops mid-motion.

JACK: Hell has a weapons policy?

PROPRIETOR: We do value the security of our clientele.

JACK: They’re dead!

CHORUS: You don’t have to be dead to be in Hell.

PROPRIETOR: But it does help.

JACK looks from one to the other.

JACK: Am I…? That knife… I don’t remember. Why don’t I remember? [He looks at the palms of his open hands, as if he might see through them] Am I…?

CHORUS: What do you think?

PROPRIETOR: Don't tell me you've never had a blackout, Jack? Maybe you just don’t remember dying?

CHORUS: Or maybe this is all just some absinthe dream made from your own pain and heartache. Nothing more. Nothing less. You don't have to be dead to be in Hell, Jack. Hell is a state of mind as much as -

JACK: Am I alive or dead?

CHORUS: What does it matter? Think about it, Jack. What are you doing here if you’re not dead? Fuck it. What are you doing here if you are dead?

PROPRIETOR: What are any of us doing here, Chorus? Jack, you could leave any time you want. There’s nothing to stop you. And there’s a whole world out there, Jack… a whole world of town after town after town… of club after club after club. Drink after drink after drink. Go if you want. But of course... of course… it would be such a shame if you were to miss the rest of the show. Who knows who might come back to do an encore. And with the famous Jack Flash in the audience. I’m sure he’d be ecstatic to see you? Don’t you think it’s just delightful when one singer spots another in the audience and calls them up on stage for a duet. I know, I know, it’s corny and it’s trite but isn’t it really quite, quite touching? The two of you - now that could be something wonderful.

JACK: It was.

PROPRIETOR: Three days. It’s really not enough, is it? You deserve eternity together. You never even had a chance. He never even had a chance. You know, if I’d had my one chance for happiness, for escape, just snatched away – all of those dreams just snatched away - I can’t imagine what it would do to me. I can’t imagine the despair.

CHORUS: Oh, don’t do yourself down. I’d say you know despair pretty damn well.

PROPRIETOR: That's the pot calling the kettle black, my dear Chorus. Oh, but the anger too, Jack. The anger would just eat away at you and eat and eat until there wasn’t any you left, just a hollow shell of rage and frustration. No love. No mercy. Oh, but how white-hot would be the hatred burning in your head? Is that how demons are born, do you think? A seed of anger nurtured and grown, incubated in despair, until one day… one day… the rage just spreads its leathery wings and out of innocence is born a thing of hell and fury that knows only how to hate the world and all that’s in it, for the innocence it murdered.

CHORUS: Life isn’t fair.

PROPRIETOR: But Death is just plain cruel. Tell me, Jack. What’s more horrific than an eternity of torture?

JACK: I don’t know.

PROPRIETOR: An eternity where all you know is how to torture others.

CHORUS winces. The PROPRIETOR stands, walks over to another table to speak to a drunken REGULAR.

REGULAR [bitter, broken, hopeless]: Fuck off, ya bas’a’d bitchin’ fugga.

CHORUS slumps down in the seat vacated by the PROPRIETOR

JACK [to CHORUS]: Why did you bring me here?

CHORUS [bitterly]: Misery loves company. You were already well on the way, Jack; I just thought you could use a native guide. Welcome to the Hellhole, Jack. Welcome to the rest of your life. Welcome to my -

He stops suddenly, shakes his head.

No bullshit. No more bullshit. I thought you might learn something from my... mistake. I can show you the way back now if you want. Do you want to go back?

JACK: Yes, but… I can’t leave here without...

CHORUS: Without what, Jack?

JACK: I just want to see him again. To speak to him. I just… we never had a chance…

CHORUS [speaking very clearly, very carefully]: You just want to see him again? [He leans towards Jack hopefully] That's all you want?

JACK: I can’t… I can’t leave here without him

CHORUS [slumps back in the chair, shaking his head]: Do you have a choice, Jack?

JACK: There’s supposed to be a deal. This is Hell, right? Where’s the Devil? I thought the Devil was supposed to give you anything you want in exchange for your soul. I thought –

CHORUS: What soul? [holds up a glass] This is the only real spirit you’ll find in here.

JACK: There’s supposed to be a deal.

CHORUS: Jack, our host may own this… club, but it’s a… franchise, you could say. And there are always regulations, licencing laws, company policy… An establishment like this is at the mercy of their suppliers and their stockholders.

JACK: So she doesn’t have the power?

CHORUS: Oh, don’t underestimate our host’s power, Jack.

He looks over to where the PROPRIETOR is leaning over one of the REGULARS.

REGULAR: Fu’ tha’ shit!

The PROPRIETOR picks up the REGULAR’s glass. The REGULAR looks panicked and pleading for a second, as The PROPRIETOR waits, eyebrow raised.

REGULAR [barely comprehensible]: Okay… I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’ll be a goo’ fuggin’ behave mysel’

The PROPRIETOR returns the glass and the REGULAR downs it desparately as if it might be the last he ever has. The PROPRIETOR looks over towards JACK.

CHORUS: Have you ever trusted in the powerful, Jack? Listen to me, Jack. You can bargain with any god or devil you want. But you can’t bargain with Death. That’s why he’s the only one of all the fuckers in this world that you can ever really trust. There’s only one way to deal with Death, Jack. And that’s to… deal with it.

JACK: Why should I fucking deal with it? Why should I fucking accept it? Fuck that shit.

JACK picks up the knife, turns it over in his hand.

CHORUS: You know, one of the great fags of history, the artist Caravaggio, had a knife inscribed with the motto, Nec Spe, Nec Metu – No Hope, No Fear. [picking up a glass of absinthe and staring down into it] When hope dies, Jack… when the last of your hope truly dies… it can be a very liberating experience.

JACK: Yeah. Sounds like a real positive outlook on life.

CHORUS: It can be. [he looks at the PROPRIETOR] It could be, I'm sure. [pauses] You know how Caravaggio died, Jack? Stabbed in the street. Like Marlowe, another great artistic fag. Both of them picked fights with ugly little street thugs and found themselves on the wrong end of the knife. You should take that as a lesson.

JACK [tense, changing the subject]: So what would happen if you killed yourself in Hell? Can you die if you’re already dead? That would be kind of ironic, wouldn’t it?

CHORUS: There are worse things than death. [He takes a drink] Ah. Absinthe. Just like misery, and just like love, and just like music. You can lose yourself in all of them. You can lose three minutes in a song, three days in love… three years in drunken misery.

JACK looks at the PROPRIETOR, who is strolling from REGULAR to REGULAR checking up on them quite… proprietorially. Then looks at CHORUS.

JACK: So what? Sometimes I wish I could lose every fucking hour of my life in this stuff.

CHORUS: And think of all the chances that you’d miss. So one three minute song isn’t an eternity… but a lot of things can happen in three minutes. [takes a coin out of his pocket, flips it and catches it.] That’s the nature of chance. [flips it again] Chance is just one coin toss after another. [flips it again] Heads, you fall in love. [flips it again] Tails, he falls in love. [flips it again] Heads, he dies. [flips it again] Tails, you die. There’s always one more chance, Jack, but don’t fool yourself. Only outcome ever guaranteed is death.

One of the REGULARS stands up suddenly, knocking over his chair, turning belligerently on the PROPRIETOR. CHORUS continues flipping the coin.

REGULAR: Lea’ me ’lone.

PROPRIETOR: Settle down, dear boy.

REGULAR: Fu’in’ whores and mu’fu’rs! Fu’in… [pushes the table away]

PROPRIETOR: Now that’s enough of that.

REGULAR: Fu’ you!

The REGULAR lunges at the PROPRIETOR, who sidesteps easily and pushes the REGULAR to the floor. She gestures to the BARMAN, who comes over.

PROPRIETOR: If it’s a fight that you want. [waves a hand and the BARMAN starts kicking the prone REGULAR]

JACK: Fucking… hey! [JACK stands up, knife in one hand, glass in the other. CHORUS catches the coin in the air and holds his fist clenched around it.]

PROPRIETOR: Now, now, Jack, don’t involve yourself in other people’s problems. Sit down and have another drink. [automatically waves a hand for the BARMAN, then looks back to where the BARMAN continues to kick the REGULAR, viciously, over and over again] Ah, of course.

JACK: Fuck you. You can’t let him do that. You can’t fucking tell him to do that.

CHORUS stands up. He starts flipping the coin again.

PROPRIETOR: The man was asking for it. It’s just his usual night out on the tiles… drink till you’re hammered, pick a fight, go home via Accident & Emergency. He seems to enjoy it. He’s here often enough.

JACK pushes past her, shoves the BARMAN away from the REGULAR.

JACK: That’s fucking enough!

BARMAN [leaning away from the knife still in JACK’s hand]: Hey!

The PROPRIETOR leans in close and snatches the coin from CHORUS.

PROPRIETOR: Oh, your boy’s finally showing a bit of mettle. Care for a wager? Heads or tails?

CHORUS just brings another coin out of his pocket and starts flipping that one silently. The PROPRIETOR turns back to JACK and the BARMAN, disappointed.

PROPRIETOR: Jack, I’m going to have to ask you to give me the knife. We really can’t have people brandishing weapons in the Hellhole.

JACK [unaware that he’s waving the knife around]: Fuck you. You’re fucking crazy. You’re all fucking crazy. [The REGULARS all look wary, edging away from him. The one on the floor drags himself away.]

PROPRIETOR: Come on now. Jack. Let’s all be reasonable.

JACK: Fuck you. [He looks around, wild-eyed] Where’s Puck?

PROPRIETOR: He’s coming back, I tell you. He always comes back. In the meantime… let’s all sit down and have a drink together.

JACK throws his glass to the floor.

JACK: No. [He starts to stalk around the room, some of his old fire returning]

PROPRIETOR: Then something else to pass the time. My boy, it’s open mike night and we still haven’t had a song from you.

JACK [pointing with the knife]: Fuck you.

The BARMAN tackles him and knocks the knife out of his hand. It slides across the floor to CHORUS, who puts his foot on it. The BARMAN and JACK continue fighting until JACK head-butts him and the BARMAN goes down. JACK starts kicking him, equally as savage.

JACK: See how you fucking like it! You wanna fucking kick someone around? Eh? Eh? Ya fucking son of a bitch. I’ll kick your fucking head in. I’ll fucking kill you!

CHORUS [voice cutting across everything]: JACK!

JACK stops. He staggers back, shocked at what he’s done.

PROPRIETOR: Well, well. Jack strikes back.

JACK [menacing]: Where’s Puck? [He moves towards the PROPRIETOR]

PROPRIETOR: As I said, Jack. We haven’t had a song from you, yet. [backing away] And right now it looks to me like you’re in just the right mood to sing one. How about "Nowhere Town", Jack? Too painful? Bring back too many memories? [vicious, prodding] How about "Nothing In My Sight"? I hear you’ve encored that one every gig for the last three years. Come on, Jack. One more time.

JACK: Fuck that shit. Where’s Puck?

PROPRIETOR: Be patient, Jack. Just wait a little while longer. Sing us a song or two to pass the time.

CHORUS: Just remember, Jack. An encore here can last forever.

PROPRIETOR: Nonsense. How long does one little song last? Three minutes?

CHORUS: Three days? Three years?

The PROPRIETOR continues to back away, moving around the table so that it is between them, as JACK advances slowly towards his host.

PROPRIETOR: Go on, Jack. Give us a blast of "Nothing In My Sight". No gods. No masters.

JACK: Shut up! I’m sick of that fucking song. It’s bullshit. They’re all bullshit. I’m never singing that shit again.

PROPRIETOR: Oh, one more time, for old time’s sake. Just one more time.

CHORUS: And then another and another and another. How long are you ready to wait here, Jack?

PROPRIETOR: True love doesn’t care about time. I’m sure Jack will wait here just as long as it takes.

CHORUS: Are you really that fucked-up, Jack? Eh, Jack? [mimicking the PROPRIETOR] Have another drink, Jack. And another and another and another. I’ll match you drink for drink, Jack. Come on. Let’s you and me get wasted.

JACK sweeps the glasses off the table.

JACK: You want a song?

He throws the table over and the PROPRIETOR moves to the side, backs away towards the platform.

PROPRIETOR: Just one little song to brighten up our long dark journey into night. Jack, oh, Jack. You’re such a little firestarter. Jack Flash, Antichrist Superstar. Our little Puck could learn so much from such a rebel as you, so full of sound and fury…

JACK: Aye, and signifying nothing. You know what? I don’t believe in this. I don’t believe in bullshit like this. I don’t believe in Hell.

CHORUS: Come on, Jack. Tell her that you're out of here. Tell her -

JACK: You can shut the fuck up as well. You want a song? I’ll give you a fucking song.

PROPRIETOR: Come on, Jack. Give us some of that old frazzle-dazzle! Give us some of that old time belligerence. Give us that houdoo that you do so well!

JACK: I’ll give you a fucking song.

PROPRIETOR: Give it to me, Jack.

The PROPRIETOR backs away from JACK until one heel kicks the edge of the platform.

JACK [leaning in close, reaching past her to grab the mike]: I’ll give you everything I’ve got, cause, baby, it ain’t worth shit to me.

SONG: The Shape Of Things To Come Again (21st Century Boi)

A deliberate pastiche of the bragging, blustering rock song, with riffs thrown in as references, nods to the greats. Sung with utter contempt.

JACK:

I got the Devil on my mind,
I got God on my dick.
An inferno in my head,
Paradise in my prick.
I’m a retro-fitted one-man toy.
I’m your 21st Century Boi.

It’s the shape of things to come again.
I don’t care where. I don’t care when.
I got my money shot 15 seconds of fame.
And it’s the shape of things to cum and cum again.

JACK picks on one of the REGULARS – a fetish type - and starts singing to them, overtly sexual and provocative.

Got boybands in boxers,
Stripped to the waist.
Got nu-metal teen-goths; [makes a devil’s horns sign with his fingers]
Just gimme a taste.
It’s the soul punk rock funk ‘Real McCoy’.
It’s the 21st Century Sexy Boy. [mimes masturbation … “yer all wankers”]

And it’s the shape of things to come again.
I don’t care where. I don’t care when.
It’s a ripped-off, stripped-off gender-bend.
Cause it’s the shape of things to cum and cum again.

JACK picks on a more conventional-looking REGULAR for the next verse.

I got the riffs that I’ve stolen,
And I’m fingering my gun.
So, mothers and fathers,
Lock up your sons.
I got a loaded weapon to deploy.
I’m your 21st Century Boi.

It’s the shape of things to come again.
You won’t know where and you won’t know when.
I’m the backlash, Jack Flash, without shame.
And I’m the shape of things to cum and cum again. [circling a finger– yah de yah]

JACK puts one foot up on the platform, as if to step onto it, leering at the PROPRIETOR.

I’m a spring-heeled ripper,
Out on the hunt.
I’m a jack flash fire flash gordon flash flood flash harry flash point flash cunt.
I’m the fucking Pink Panther; I’m a groovy cat.
A gentleman, a scholar and an acrobat.
A little bit shy, a little bit coy.
But I’m your 21st Century Boi.
And there’s a little bit of Iggy in my head
And there’s a little bit of Ziggy in my bed
There’s a little bit of Kurt splattered on my shoe
And there’s a little bit of me in every one of you

It’s the shape of things to come again.
We don’t care where, don’t care when.
I got hydrochloric acid running thru my veins.
And it’s the shape of things to cum and cum again.

JACK steps down to sneer right in the PROPRIETOR’s face.

Armageddon is over.
Millenium’s here.
And you can keep your damnation,
Cause, fuck you, I’m queer.
And they can curse my sin, but they can’t destroy
God’s Own 21st Century Boi.

He spits in the PROPRIETOR’s face.

It’s the shape of things to come again.
I don’t care where. I don’t care when.
It’s just the same old broken record that never ends.
And it’s the shape of things to cum and cum again.

JACK throws the microphone down and stands, staring down the PROPRIETOR who claps slowly and mechanically.

PROPRIETOR: Bravo, Jack. Bravo.

JACK: Fuck this shit. I don't know what kind of twisted game you fuckers are playing but I don’t need you. I don’t need either of you. I’ll fucking find him myself.

He turns and walks to the doorway, where he stops for a second on the threshhold.

PROPRIETOR: One more for the road, Jack?

JACK: Life’s too short.

Exit JACK.

PROPRIETOR: Well, that went well, I thought.

CHORUS: He spat in your face.

PROPRIETOR: Yes. How very original.

CHORUS: Sometimes… sometimes the old ones are the best.

CHORUS walks towards the doorway.

PRORIETOR: Come back soon, now, my dear Chorus. You know, you’re always welcome here. You know you can't stay away.

CHORUS turns, pauses as if about to deny it, but can't.

Exit CHORUS.

The PROPRIETOR walks over the table, puts it right way up, bends down to the floor, to pick up the knife dropped by JACK and lays it on the table. Starts to flip the coin snatched off CHORUS, beckoning the BARMAN over.

PROPRIETOR: Be a good man and go find young Puck. Tell him I have a public appearance lined up for him. I want him to meet his number one fan. [The BARMAN departs] Oh, you’ll get your Puck, my boy… lying on the street in his own blood if I have to cut his heart out myself. [looks around at the REGULARS] It’s just so much more romantic when they do it to themselves, though, don’t you think?

The PROPRIETOR catches the coin with one hand, slaps it down on the back of the other hand, peeks at it, turns to one of the REGULARS.

PROPRIETOR: What do you say? Heads, I win; tails, you lose?

Lights go down.

***

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