Narrator #4: He sits on a park bench. He reconciles being lively with being alive. He stares at girls walking by, at the way their t-shirts hug their sides above the hips, same hips which could be said to slide or slither rather than bounce or waddle. He thinks about hiplines and belts, the way they look different on certain people, a slim curvature thinning just a tick crookedly inward that he appreciates. He sits and scares off birds with quick, abrupt gestures of his hands, like somebody throwing dice. The sun’s poking through some sleek blue-bottomed clouds, and he thinks about standing up and dancing in the sudden burst of it as if it were a spotlight. He doesn’t though. He sits. He crosses his legs at the ankles, shoves his hands deep in his coat pockets, shows off his socks, and leans back. A car alarm chatters at the sleepy afternoon with a high-pitched whine, an electric screech that hastens the calm from his thoughts. He thinks, “Everybody is going to die, and there’s nothing any of us can do about.” This thought pleases him immensely.
Narrator #7: The wind was shelling the pink blossoms from all the street-side trees. Somehow the parked cars got away with murder while the sidewalk closed its eyes and pretended to be calling long distance, and in the meantime a few of the least publicly known of the Lyme disease victims took a furlough day. Some kid named Doss cataloged the whole thing on the back of picture-less postcards. “Flunked in,” the Henny Youngman impersonator said. “We who live lavishly, and who do not grow our own food. We who depend on the services of others. Lousy. Lousy. These bucks I keep. Take my wages, please, don’t take my stage away. If you need me in the meantime, I’ll be in the gutter drinking cheap champagne with somebody else’s wife.”
Narrator #111: There goes Misty.
(scene change…a hole grows in the upper left corner of the film stock until it burns away what’s left of the screen)
Narrator #23: ‘I am hapless, not hopeless,’ she thinks as she sits on the park bench rearranging the pebbles in the dirt with her pink-and-white Adidas Cross Trainers. ‘There are no more homilies left to match my socks to.’ She then gets up and decides it is Low Time — something which she calls the late afternoon, a time just a tad before vespers, when she gets overwhelmingly glum and etiolated. ‘A dying leafless stem of a girl,’ she thinks as she stands there wishing she could get herself to at least twirl around a few times, or even crack her neck or pull her tortoise-green socks up. But she is tired, and, she thinks, ‘Feverish?’ It is difficult to tell. She wishes there were somebody around to feel her forehead for her, to tell her, “There, there. Everything’s okay, Dear.” But there isn’t. She doesn’t know anybody in the park. She wonders if anybody else in the history of the planet, ‘has ever felt so all alone.’
(scene change…a small room in a dilapidated apartment building)
Lyle: This place is burning. I can smell it.
Journey: You can smell no such thing, Dick.
Lyle: Grease fire. It’s out of the cards. Use flour, right? No. Baking soda.
Journey: Asshole. Asshole. There is nothing on fire around here. We’re just…
Journey: Fuck that. Fuck all that shit. I’m camping happier than any of those wildflower jerks out there, let me tell you.
Lyle: I’m letting you tell me. Go right on ahead.
Journey: You see this face I’m making? This is me seething. I am seething. See?
Lyle: Sure. Sure. Hey, you absolutely pos-o that this place is not on fire, that we’re not all burning down here?
Journey: Less than bright.
Journey: No, tigers in the night. That’s all.
Lyle: Oh. Don’t got it.
Journey: You’re an idiot. A real unadulterated idiot.
Lyle: I take that as a compliment.
Journey: Spine by me.
Narrator #9: The whole building, quite suddenly, burns to the ground. Abstain and indulge, kids. Abstain and indulge.
(scene change, followed by another scene change)
Anonymous Narration: I remember being in love, that day, and drinking Hot Toddies at a table in the clean wide window of a high room overlooking all the cold-weather clouds scudding in over the bay. Harry Nilsson was playing in a corner, somewhere, barely amplified from a boombox’s lowest volume, softer than I’d yet known things could be. I squashed a spider that’d been crawling on the underside of the table with my thumb; I remember that. Some dimwitted incursion into the unpleasantness of being pleasant. I also became acquainted with the casual effects of long-term non-commitment. Oprah Winfrey was not in my living room. I was safe.
(no scene change, then a scene change, then, perhaps, another one)
Stranger On The Bus #7: This guy’s irate. He’s all up in the face of this like concomitant woman, who is bereaved and beneath herself with grief moans and the likes, like a sprinkler factory, misters instead of a fireworks display, like the 5th of July, or something. She’s almost like rending her motherfucking garments and shit, you know? But I keep what’s left of my reserved and docile nature out of it. There aren’t too many battles left I’d choose to fight, you know? Name your antidote, and all that, and whatever Jesus said. But the irate guy’s making mutton cake out of pro-rated stops in Button-Down Town, and the whole damn thing stinks like something gamey, like baked armadillo or something. I don’t like it six bits. Pour me a reason to die; tell me butter disputes are coming back with the last surviving milkmen. It’s a bottleneck day-old special that’s anything but pricey, the way I was adjusting my guts about it then, or to it, I guess, if you go in for all that cock-a-doodling without any do. Always just three left turns away from being back home, you know? Wasn’t it last April — shit, a year ago now — that I phoned about gaining fame with interesting Compositions For A Flea Circus stuff? Well, who remembers much about any of that shit, now, now? Shit. Not now. Every last cut-rate bonehead who sits meek on the bus and tries not to wander his or her eyes. Shit. I’m just an At All, now. Now. Shit. But this irate Son Of A Gunslinger is not beyond getting all groovy with others’ waxy waning. I’m eyeing this Griever Of Grief, this Stalled Moped of a chick, you know, just to make sure she’s getting by alright and all and everything. I’m completely irresponsible when it comes to such stuff. I catalogue it away for later. I make use of it, maybe. Shit. The weeks just swim by now, you know? Doing the backstroke and passing me up while I’m treading water, barely staying afloat in this choppy water, you know? And what the hell do I care about some irked guy’s shrieking? What’s it all got to do with me? Everything, you’d say. Shit. Everything has to do with everything. That’s all, right? But anyway, this pissed-off dude is getting all up in this moping chick’s grill, and she’s not really sweating it or nothing. It’s all a blur, sort of, the way I saw it then. I was checking the windows for a sign. But I was only getting the scrapes of shifty trees branches and the, like, nil satisfaction of buried smiles. That’s the usual, though, you know? Pass my gas and get the hell out. There’s not a reason to stick around longer than need be for sticking. That’s what they say…and what they don’t too. I am not a scoffer or a washed dish when it comes down to getting what need be got, but let’s be fantastic about it. Let’s get up and clean instead, okay? An interruption’s a curtain call sometimes. And I’m nestled in the bower of somebody else’s dreams for the bit part of it. Irate or not, he’s just some guy with a filter problem, and there ain’t a damn thing to be done about it in private or public, if you ask me. Shoot all the mistake makers in the front. Get the chest pounding over with. I’m done with it. Yes or no or maybe so. Fuck all this, and that too…and that too.
Narrator #39,411: A parallel set of circumstances sets him apart. He is standing in line at the hotel bar, awaiting some sign of hope to arrive in the form of a pint glass. A jarring seller-beware attitude drifts and plumps pillows in his head. He is not completely in his mind and not quite out of it.
Guy In Hotel Bar: My ex-wife, she’s dating a gay midget now. What? That’s not the proper nomenclature? Little person? Huh. Sure. Okay. Well, my politics have never been less correct. Who the hell cares? Somebody, I guess. Should be me. Could be. I’ll try to call it less like I see it more, and more like I want to present myself as having seen it. But I’m fed up with dealing. I cry reading the names written in the sidewalk and scream, “Albuquerque!” at strangers. Sinning doesn’t have to be ugly, you know? It’ll take two to know some more, and some more too. Let me get it from you crooked and partly stewed. It’s digesting’s ugly kid sister, and I’m all out of sugar and spice. Nothing’s pleasant around these parts, or those, apparently. Here’s the gist of what’s crumbing up the works of me, lately. Suckered to all her punches, you know? A sucker for it all, as always, whatever way her scent’s chasing me around these days. Whatever’s getting me plastered with remembering. No more bickering for the shoulders of it for me. I’m hapless for the most part, and, well shit, there’s not a placard in the place that says less for what I just can’t wrap my inebriated soul around, for the most. Talented lack, or otherwise over-punched in the think-tank thin of it, I’m just rolling gutterballs down sleazy avenues, and I’m all-for-not foretold and bread-crumbed flails barking nonsense at that not-so-great ump in the sky, a blind blue that’s really missing a wonderful game down here where we’re all roaming and gimping around. Shit, and now this Estelle woman’s got a rusty pocket knife, and she’s carving my name into the drawing board of her life with it. I can’t make out what’s hungrier, or musked with some quite disciplined silence, some dealing, you know? Should’ve would if I could. Shoot. Aw. It’s a pleasing stem of pluck that gets me mashing and churlish, and in…shit…in decline as well. But there I go. There I go and go, you know? Pour me a ravaged way of seeing all this murder in my blood, in my set sights, in my untold hungers after lean privacy and public nuisances. Pour me more lost inhibitions. Pour me down the drain. Poor, poor me. I’m through.
(scene alters, some, and then continues in a sporting manner, and then dives into the mundane flatulence of existence)
Man In The Stands #2: This guy’s got a strike zone the size of a breath mint. And I’m the sort, you know, you know, you know, who gets asked for directions everywhere he goes.
Man In the Stands #3: To whom it never concerns, albeit plagued by moths camping out in suit pockets, this airy messenger decks out your somber worrying in plaid.
Man In The Stands #2: Risk basking in a bad case of the post-game jitters. Think about it. A nervous man in a 4-dollar room. A thing about machines. There it’ll get you, and maybe the rest of us too. A tussle in foul territory; a fistfight in the nosebleed seats; a timorous batboy sleeping on the dugout steps. Me? I think I’ll just work on my pickoff move until I forget what it’s like to balk in the winning run.
Man In The Stands #1: Let’s go, Dip Shits! Let’s go, Dip Shits!
Man In The Stands #3: That’s more like it.
Man In The Stands #2: More like it, or less not like it?
Man In The Stands #1: It doesn’t matter. It’s all hand-clapping and hooting and four-wheeling it out of the park, and the places to play day games are shitty with crepuscular resistance. The lights can be blinding, you know? Let’s go, Fuck Heads!
Man In The Stands #2: What he said.
Man In The Stands #3: Take me out to the shit show. Take me out to the rain. Buy me some vodka and Raisinets. I don’t care if my IBS comes back.
Man In The Stands #1: Pretty much.
Man In The Stands #2: We’re stuck with these things that are always just what they are, and never even an iota more. Never. The chalk’s laid down crooked on the grass’s edge; it’s loopy and askew, and we’re here trying to stay fair for as long as we can, but the bunts are all lying soft in no-man’s land, and we’re scared to pick them up…just in case the wind changes its mind about these things. Nobody’s recruiting scabs yet, at least.
Man In The Stands #1: And it sure doesn’t help that the guy toeing the slab, the soft-toss junker on the bump, is a felonious miscreant who wears flower-print yellow socks with his stirrups. Nobody bother me. I’m going for more over-priced cheap beer in plastic cups.
Man In The Stands #3: The concession stand blues.
Man In The Stands #2: Let’s not forget where all of this is going to end, and how.
Man In The Stands #3: And how.
Woman In Red Dress: Shut it, fellaheens. I’m trying to listen to the radio.
Man In The Stands #2: Sorry. We’re not used to being in public. And the sunshine here is less than true.
Man In The Stands #3: That’s what everybody said.
Woman In Red Dress: Oh, Lord On Loan. What happened to the good old days, the Royal Rooters, The Cranks; Rube Waddell, Babe Adams, and Eddie Cicotte’s first curve? I want Veeck’s Chicago shorts and the Pirate’s yellow-striped hats from ‘77. No more arbitration and none of this inter-league garbage either. Give me purity or give me rubella. I’m holding tight to my scorecard.
Man In The Stands #1: Watered-down beer! Get your ten-dollar piss in a cup here!
Man In The Stands #2: Finally. You’ve got no idea the sort of bullshit we’ve been putting up with and enduring since you left.
Man In The Stands #3: The lady protests far and wide…and holy.
Woman In Red Dress: Ignore me. It’s easier for all involved.
Man In The Stands #3: That sounds like a plan.
Man In The Stands #1: Who’s on first?
Everybody Else: Shut it.
(scene change: a rent party)
Narrators #4 & #7: We’ve got plenty of girls, tall and slim, and they can do the Rumba ‘til it’s too bad Jim.
Narrator #70: Presenting, for your horrific pleasure, Scudder’s Dime Museum Has Gone To PT! Sold. And gone. But now, let me tell you this. You see, yes, for many years in the basement of the Playland Arcade (in Times Square! In New York City!) Hubert’s Museum featured acts such as sword swallower Lady Estelene, Congo The Jungle Creep, a flea circus, a half-man half-woman, and magicians such as Earl “Presto” Johnson. This museum has been documented in photography by Diane Arbus, who sadly met her end all curled up and bleeding from the wrists in a bathtub. Later, in Times Square, mouse pitchman Tommy Laird opened a dime museum that featured Tisha Booty “The Human Pin Cushion”, and several magicians including Tommy Laird, Lou Lancaster, Criss Capehart, Dorothy Dietrich, Magician Dick Brooks, and well, some others. But now, there are no more carnival sideshows left to show; and now, no more phone booths. There are no more calls to make, collect; no more dial tones or numbers to punch; and we’ve swerved in our single-file lives long enough. The tip’s entering the Mounted Butterfly room, going by the men’s smoker, the powder room, the cigarette machine, the Coca-Cola machine, the candy machine, the apple pie machine. And look! There’s Mildred The Alligator Skin Girl, Larry Love The Human Canary, The World’s Tallest Cowboy, and a Russian dwarf called Andy Potato Chips. Come all. Come one. Come on! Let us go and tear the roof from the barn and call it a day. Somebody rescue my gin from the strongman, and get this poor sucker a straw. The blowoff ain’t worth my time, Eastern Standard or whatever you will. My snakes have all been un-charmed, and this here door stays locked for a reason. Worst of luck to you, all for you, and all through the night too.
Impromptu Disembodied Narrator Voice #11: “The language of texts upsets me, sometimes,” she says as the ashtray slides from her lap. Without a favor to her name, she lets go of her phone, muttering, “Everything just seems too far away.”
A distant plop is heard, then a rumbling, then a busy signal, then the pulsed note of a text tone, then nothing.
Narrator Voice of Alec Baldwin Impersonator: Mae’s taken to imagining herself in other people’s lives. She’s hunched over on a park bench, scoping out the day’s traversers for a person to believe herself into, to make-up a world around, to exist as for a suitable amount of time. She spots a prime candidate in a dog walker. It’s a scraggily looking man in a maroon jacket who’s wearing white canvas shoes without socks and black jeans. The dog’s not scraggy at all, a tricolor basset hound with a curious nature. And she thinks of the dog as being the leader in this expedition, tugging along the man with each dart into a hedge or divot in the grass, its long ears flopping as it moseys around. “Perhaps,” she thinks. “But there’s never time, so I just cram and jam all this sloppily crafted junk together for effect. Clarity eludes me like a good night’s shuteye.” Then she stops herself from thinking anymore about any of it. She softly sobs her way home as it feels as if her head is filling with pus and cotton. A whirring pop in her ears is followed by a dull ringing that starts like a shriek and the mellows to a flat steady whine.
A sleepiness overcomes her. Airy and light, all she can do is float to her bed, stuffed-up and enervated and way too drowsy to even care about any of it anymore.
A crane in her neck, now, and it’s all blurs and mattress tosses, a hellstrom chronicle of terror and forestalled bliss. Awake but not aware. Surmising is eloquence’s edge, and she kicks at it, somnolent and greedy for longer sips of rest. At worst she’s aligned with remiss assonance in her roundabout curtailing gulp of ways. Everything’s fluff.
Smokers clear the air. Divorcees get knocked off their sneakers. Stripped of all cards and cares. None of us are here to wrestle. The turnbuckle of it gets twisted into whispered paragraphs.
Her plants need watering. Her popcorn machine has gone kaput. There are seamstresses sighing in her tap water. Too many delinquent things to deal with, here. She nods off while thinking about the implications in the word “Kaput.”
(scene change, the Chopin nocturnes playing)
Anonymous Narration: I was propping up my head with the business end of a rifle when I heard something explode out in the hallway. I went outside to reconcile what I needed with what I was always getting, and see why what I wanted kept turning out to be nothing. It was not late enough to be nighttime. The racers were in the wires. My pajamas were ripped from the ankle to the knee on one leg. “The trouble. The trouble,” I said to myself, over and over. It was a way to keep myself moving out into the hall. When I got to the hall I stopped. I held what I could of my breath. Something decked me, and soon I was out cold. This is not the way to end what I’m telling. This is trouble. I get in; I get out. We all do.