Captain Spaulding on Skull Island

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It seems like, in the late-80’s/early-90’s, a lot of the playwrights I knew (especially male) went through a phase where they imitated Sam Shepard.  Almost every evening of short plays that I saw had at least one Shepard imitation.

I was always jealous of that.

I love Shepard’s plays, especially the earlier idiosyncratic ones like “4-H Club” and “Cowboy Mouth” and “Back Bog Beast Bait.”  I always wanted to write something like him, but it wasn’t my milieu.

This is the closest I ever came.

R.I.P.

 

Lizard Heat

-a Sam Shepard pastiche-

by John Weagly

 

(Lights up.  A room in a run-down motel next to a desolate highway.  It’s 2:37 in the morning.  The room is disheveled, particularly the bed.  RANDI stands at the window.  She is in her early-thirties and, like the room, tousled and a little unkempt.  She smokes a cigarette as she watches life outside.  After a moment, TROY enters from outside.  He is also in his early-thirties, rugged and worse-for wear.)

 

RANDI

Where do you think they’re all going?  Those people out there on the highway, going past.  Somewhere sunny, I bet.  Sunny and warm.  Did you know you can get sun burnt on the water?  That’s odd to me.  I can picture being in the desert and getting burnt and dry and chapped.  That makes sense.  But on the water?  You’re floating on a raft in the middle of the ocean and you can get burnt to a crisp, even though you’re surrounded by wetness.  You could even be in the water, floating around, letting your arms and legs flow back and forth, moving with the currents, and you could get burnt.  That’s odd to me.

 

TROY

The sun is the same over the desert and the ocean.

 

RANDI

I suppose.

 

TROY

It’s always the same.  The sun is always hot.  It’s the sun.

 

RANDI

Even with ice.  You could be at the North Pole or Antarctica, surrounded by ice, and get sun burnt.  Assuming the sun’s out, of course.  You could feel your skin blistering and burning, popping, growing scaly – all while you’re slowly freezing to death.

 

TROY

What are you even talking about?

 

RANDI

I just wonder where they’re all going, that’s all.  All those people going past.

 

TROY

There’s nobody out there.

 

(Pause.)

 

RANDI

Where were you?

 

TROY

I went out for a walk.

 

RANDI

I thought you’d left.  I nodded off and when I opened my eyes again you were gone.

 

TROY

I’m right here.

 

RANDI

Did you turn up the thermostat?  It’s awfully warm in here.

 

TROY

There’s always heat.

 

RANDI

What’s that mean?

 

TROY

Do you ever walk at night?  Late at night?

 

RANDI

Not this late.

 

TROY

I always expect to see stars.  I walk and look up at the sky, trying to find them.  I think the more I walk, the more I’ll see because the later it gets, the more stars come out.  I don’t know why I think that, I don’t think there’s any scientific reasoning behind it.  It’s probably something from my childhood.  Anyway, it never works.  I walk and walk and walk for hours and I don’t see any stars.

 

RANDI

There are too many lights.  You’re too close to civilization.  That’s why you don’t see them.

 

TROY

Maybe.  Maybe they’re just not there.

 

(TROY walks into the bathroom.  We hear a faucet turn on.)

 

RANDI

I can name all the constellations.

 

TROY (Off-stage.)

Okay.

 

RANDI

Don’t believe me?

 

TROY (Off-stage.)

No.  That’s stupid.  Nobody can name all of the constellations.

 

RANDI

I bet someone can.

 

TROY (Off-stage.)

When I look in the bathroom mirror and stare into my own eyes, looking deep, going down into them, into my eyes, I try to see into my brain so I can see the thoughts I’m having.  When I can do that, when I can see my thoughts and ideas and meditations, when I can see the reasons for why I think what I think, that’ll be something.  That’ll be the next level.

 

RANDI

How about ten?  Believe I can name ten constellations?

 

(TROY enters from the bathroom.)

 

TROY

Maybe.  I can’t.  I doubt you can.

 

RANDI

Cassiopeia.  And Virgo.  And Orion.  And the Big Dipper.  And Ursa Major.  And Ursa Minor.  And…

 

TROY

I don’t think the Big Dipper is actually a constellation.

 

RANDI

It is.  It’s made of stars.

 

TROY

Yeah, but it’s not an actual constellation.

 

RANDI

Then what is it?

 

TROY

It’s just a bunch of stars.

 

(Pause.)

 

RANDI

I can’t think of any more.

 

TROY

That’s only five.

 

RANDI

You interrupted me.  I could’ve done it if you hadn’t interrupted me.

 

TROY

It’s still only five.

 

(Pause.)

 

RANDI

Why did you come back?

 

TROY

What do you mean?

 

RANDI

Why not just leave, sneak away.  It’s not like you owe me anything.  I don’t even know your name.

 

TROY

It’s Troy.

 

RANDI

Mine’s…

 

TROY

Randi.  You told me.  I remember.

 

RANDI

You don’t owe me anything.

 

TROY

I guess I didn’t want to be a jerk.

 

RANDI

I would’ve.  I’d have left, snuck out.

 

TROY

You still can.  I won’t stop you.

 

(Pause while RANDI thinks about leaving.  She decides to stay.)

 

RANDI

What do you do?

 

TROY

Telling you what I do for a living will make this less anonymous.

 

RANDI

We already know each other’s names.

 

TROY

Lizards.

 

RANDI

Lizards?  Really?

 

TROY

Lizards.  Reptiles.  Exotic pets.  I raise them and sell them with tender loving care.  Iguanas.  Geckos.  Chameleons.  Skinks.  Basilisks.  Tuataras.  Chuckwallas.  Horned Devils.  Bearded Dragons.  That’s what I do for a living.

 

RANDI

Really?

 

TROY

Why would I lie to you about lizards?

 

RANDI

Where do you get them?

 

TROY

Some I breed.  Some I pick up here and there.

 

RANDI

Is it true they grow back their tails?

 

TROY

They do.

 

RANDI

Regrowth.

 

TROY

Is that what you want?

 

RANDI

What?

 

(TROY approaches RANDI.)

 

TROY

If that’s what you want, I’ll chop off your tail little lizard.

 

RANDI

Stop it!

 

TROY

I’ll chop off your tail, we can see if it grows back!

 

RANDI

Cut it out!

 

(TROY chases RANDI around the motel room.  He chants as she giggles and squeals.)

 

TROY

Chop it off!  Chop it off!  Come here little lizard!  Chop it off!  Chop it off!  Chop it off!  Come here!  Chop it off!  Chop it off!  Little lizard!  Chop it off!  Chop it off!

 

(TROY finally catches RANDI.)

 

RANDI

Don’t they use their tongues, too?

 

TROY

For what?

 

RANDI

To hear or smell, or something like that?

 

TROY

Something like that.

 

RANDI

Something like that.

 

(TROY flicks his tongue in and out, licking RANDI, teasing her.  They flick their tongues on each other.)

 

TROY

They can sit around, flicking their tongues in and out, figuring out what’s going on around them.

Some of them do that.  Flick!  Flick!  Flick!  Some use their tongue to catch food.  They’ve got a rough, sticky surface and they can use it to catch insects and bugs and birds.

 

RANDI

Birds?

 

TROY

Small ones.  Big lizards, little birds.

 

(RANDI pushes him away.)

 

RANDI

I like birds.

 

(RANDI goes back to the window.  Pause.)

 

RANDI

I’m married.

 

TROY

Are you?

 

RANDI

It’s very hot in here.

 

TROY

Take it in.

 

RANDI

Seven years tomorrow.  Married for seven years.

 

TROY

Happy anniversary.

 

RANDI

I just… It’s such a long time.  After a few years of marriage you get… cold inside.  The blood, the bones, the heart – they all get cold.  You feel yourself turn into a distant, bitter, icy nothing.  I don’t know if it happens to all married people, but it happened to me.

 

TROY

Do you love him?

 

RANDI

I don’t.

 

TROY

No?

 

RANDI

I need love.

 

TROY

Leave him.

 

RANDI

I can’t.

 

TROY

Why not?

 

RANDI

Are you married?

 

TROY

No.

 

RANDI

Ever been married?

 

TROY

No.

 

RANDI

Then you wouldn’t understand.

 

TROY

Just go.

 

RANDI

What?

 

TROY

Sneak away.  From me.  From your husband.  From all of this, whatever all of this is.  Go out there, get on the highway and see where you end up.

 

RANDI

Like all of them.

 

TROY

There’s no one out there.

 

RANDI

It wouldn’t be enough.  I need change.  Real change.

 

TROY

Real change isn’t anything.

 

RANDI

I need to change.

 

TROY

That’s what you want?

 

RANDI

It’s hot in here.

 

TROY

What about your husband.

 

RANDI

My husband doesn’t matter to me.

 

TROY

That’s cold-blooded.

 

RANDI

I know.

 

TROY

Maybe it is time for you to change.

 

RANDI

Regrowth.

 

TROY

Is that what you want?

 

RANDI

I want to change.  Leave it all behind in the dust and sorrow.

 

TROY

You’re cold-blooded, Randi.

 

RANDI

No.  I just…

 

TROY

Like a lizard.

 

RANDI

No.

 

TROY

A reptile.

 

RANDI

It’s not that…

 

TROY

You’re a lizard, Randi.  Cold-blooded!

 

RANDI

No.

 

TROY

A lizard, Randi.  A reptile.  A lizard.

 

RANDI

I love.  I need love!  The stagnation.  It kills it.  The normal of the every day after day after day.  It’s not me.  It’s not my fault.  It’s not my husband’s fault.  I’m someone else.

 

(RANDI starts to move around; twirling, spinning, dancing; interpreting their words through movement.)

 

TROY

You’re a lizard, Randi.  A reptile.

 

RANDI

Cold-blooded.

 

TROY

Yes!

 

RANDI

No!  No, no, no!

 

TROY

Cold-blooded.  A lizard.

 

RANDI

The lizard of love!

 

TROY

You’re a lizard, Randi.  A lizard!

 

RANDI

I’m not!  No, I’m not!

 

TROY

Cold-blooded!  Cold-blooded!

 

RANDI

No.

 

TROY

A lizard.

 

RANDI

No!

 

TROY

Yes!  Yes, Randi.  Yes!

 

RANDI

No!  Please, no!

 

TROY

A lizard.

 

RANDI

The lizard of love!

 

TROY

You’re a lizard.

 

RANDI

A lizard.

 

TROY

A lizard, Randi.  A lizard.

 

RANDI

The lizard of love.

 

TROY

Yes, Randi.  Yes.

 

RANDI

A lizard.

 

TROY

Yes.

 

RANDI

The lizard of love!

 

TROY

Yes!  Yes!

 

RANDI

I’m a lizard.  A reptile.

 

TROY

Yes.

 

RANDI

Cold-blooded.

 

TROY

Yes.

 

RANDI

The lizard of love.

 

TROY

Cold-blooded.  You’re cold-blooded.  Cold-blooded.

 

(RANDI has evolved into a lizard.  She lays on the bed as though sunning herself on a rock.)

 

TROY

There was this pond.  In a pasture.  Next to a barn.  I was driving past, on a highway somewhere in the Midwest.  The pond was frozen.  And the first snow of the season had fallen, covering the pond with a cold blanket.  I pulled over and got out of my truck, hopped a fence and walked out on this dock that extended into the pond.  I swept away some snow with my hand and sat down, looking out at all of that unblemished white.  It was cold.  I looked up at the sky and saw hundreds of thousands of millions of stars.  I sat and watched them.  They didn’t do anything, but I sat and watched them, watching my breath cloud in the frozen air when I exhaled.  After a while, I stood up from the dock.  My frozen bones gave off icicle cracks.  I got back in my truck and turned on the heat.  The heat felt nourishing.  I continued on my way, leaving the pond and the pasture and the stars behind me.  I didn’t know the constellations then and I don’t know them now.  But there is always heat.

 

(TROY lies down on top of RANDI, embracing her as the lights slowly fade.)

 

-the end-

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