Ancient history: Music Review: Sleepercar – West Texas

Sleepercar (not to be confused with Sleeper Car) began with the demise of At the Drive-In.  Then a guitarist for At the Drive-In, Jim Ward conceptualized the idea of an alt-country in the waning days of ATDI, writing “Fences Down” at a sound check on their final tour.

For those not familiar with At the Drive-In, they were kind of crazy in an artistic way. The band was together for the better part of a decade before finally scoring a minor hit with “One-Armed Scissor” in 2000. Shortly after the subsequent world tour, the band broke up indefinitely.

Enter Sleepercar. With a sound nothing like At the Drive-In or his other band, Sparta, Jim Ward has created Texas’s answer to Wilco. Their forthcoming album, West Texas, is due out on April 22. West Texas tends toward the mellow side of alternative-country; possibly influenced by popular acts like Death Cab for Cutie.

“A Broken Promise” opens the album. Jim Ward overlaps melodic vocals with a persistent guitar line. Did I hear a tambourine? It is probably the most radio-friendly of the bunch, and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear it hit national alternative radio stations soon.

“Wasting My Time” follows, with the most powerful hook on the album. It’s alt-country with a little aggression. If it were my choice, this would be the direction of the genre.

“Fences Down slows down the album significantly, with country-bar steel pedal guitar. I genuinely feel like I’m sitting on a porch in a West Texas night listening to this song. I feel confident saying that it most likely inspired the album cover.

As a whole, I’m a little divided on my final verdict here. About half of the album is solid, making me hope for more. The other half is a little boring. If you don’t play a lot of it loud it’s very easy to tune out.

If you’re into sleepy music, this may be for you.

Recommended Downloads: “A Broken Promise,” “Wasting My Time,” “Kings and Promises”

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Ancient history: Music Review: Holiday Parade – To You. From Us.

I feel I need to preface this review. I am usually a big fan of acoustic efforts from talented bands. MTV Unplugged might be one of the five best shows to ever grace network television. Along with the Wonder Years, its absence from current daily programming baffles me.

That said, the acoustic scene is not for every band. Holiday Parade’s latest acoustic effort, To You. From Us, is good, but it’s also a good example of an unnecessary spin on music that is more powerful when it isn’t stripped down.

The album opens with the sad “Never Enough.” The empty sound here magnifies singer Andy Albert’s melancholy emotions, but it lacks the muscle of the fleshed-out version found on 2007’s This is My Year.

“Walking By” comes a little closer to success. The piano goes a long way toward balancing out the empty sound of the album, and Albert’s vocals fit in nicely. He manages to sound evocative and dejected simultaneously.

The album ends with the upbeat and live “My Philosophy.” I enjoy the background sound of the studio in this song. It reminds me a little bit of “Badfish” by Sublime. I also feel that the more buoyant sound here lends itself better to success on an acoustic album.

Overall, this is a solid effort from a young band, but I’d like to hear the amps cranked up to 11 on their next album.

Ancient history: Festival Review Bonnaroo 2008

Bonnaroo 2008 – Manchester, Tennessee – 6/12 to 6/15

It’s hard to tell just how much of this weekend was real. The 12-hour overnight car ride to kick things off kind of left me in a permanent state of delirium for the rest of the week. Between the sleeplessness, extreme heat, and lack of showers at the festival, I was kind of a walking zombie for four days. I’ve never had a better time in my life.

Just to give everyone a better idea of what the festival is like in general: About 90,000 converged on a collection of hayfields. Our campsite (the space behind where our two cars were parked) was a 1-minute walk from “Shakedown Street,” a gravel road with a bunch of vendors and porto-potties. From there it was a 10-minute walk to Centeroo, a collection of stages, tents, and vendors that represent the auditory core of the festival.

Thursday, June 12:

We kicked off the weekend with MGMT, a semi-psychedelic band out of New York. We were truthfully drawn simply to a fire show going off beside their tent, but their music brought us closer. I’d never heard of them before, but they brilliantly captured the mood of the festival.

Download: “Time to Pretend”

I caught bits and pieces of Grupo Fantasma (pretty chill) and The Sword (their billing as the next Wolfmother is a stretch) before walking over for the start of the Vampire Weekend set. VW met my expectations. The crowd was loving it, and I was happy to hear “A-Punk” and “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa.”

Friday, June 13:

I was under-whelmed by Drive-by Truckers and Fiery Furnaces before stopping in for Stephen Marley at the main stage. Despite the heat, I enjoyed his rendition of several of his father’s songs. In fact, if I didn’t know Bob Marley was dead, I’m not sure I would have even known that it wasn’t him singing.

I wandered between a few smaller stages after Stephen Marley before stopping in for Les Claypool, the creative force behind Primus in the 1990’s (they wrote & performed the South Park theme and “John the Fisherman”). MAN, is this guy strange… But he’s also a brilliant musician and performer.

Download: “One Better”

I left Claypool on the second stage for the Raconteurs, who were just starting on the main stage. The Raconteurs were probably the single band I was most excited about, because I know Jack White is a great artist, but I’ve never had a chance to see him live. He justified my hopes, playing what would become my second-favorite show of the weekend (more on that later). Jack White and Brendan Benson both ripped off some crazy guitar solos during “Store Bought Bones,” revealing a fleshed-out version that I had never heard anything like. “Steady, As She Goes” followed, with White and Benson kicking it off with an extended soloing duel. White and Benson also contributed vocals. White seemed to be giving it everything he had, reaching for notes he wasn’t always capable of (but hey, it’s a rock show. Isn’t that part of the fun?). A few times he also sang into a mic that had kind of a “strobe-light” effect. I really, really recommend watching clips from their performance. It showed me a side of the band that I had never seen or expected.

Watch: “Store Bought Bones,” “Steady, As She Goes”

After the Raconteurs, I headed over to one of the smaller tents, where M.I.A was giving one of only two shows this year. Maya A., out of the U.K., was a surreal spectacle. When I got there, her stage was completely filled with dancing fans, and I’ve never seen a writhing crowd quite like this. I was not at all familiar with M.I.A’s music, but it quickly grew on me, with her eclectic use of sound effects (such as air-horns, which made me feel as if I was halfway between a concert and a Premier League soccer game). She had great stage presence, magnified by the multitude of fans dancing with her.

Download: “Paper Planes”

Chris Rock was a nice respite from all of the music. It wasn’t the best show I’ve ever seen from him, but he did have a few funny moments relating to the Bonnaroo crowd.

Saturday, June 14:

BB King showed exactly why he’s one of the legends of blues. At over 80 years old, the man can’t stand through a concert (he sat on a chair onstage), but he still had the crowd riveted as he ripped off riffs like he was 25.

Dweezil Zappa, of Zappa Plays Zappa, is a spitting image of his father, in both sound and appearance. His set harkened back to the 70’s, when rock was fresher, purer, and more fun.

Pearl Jam. Absolutely the performance of the festival (this answers the question put forth by my description of the Raconteurs set). They started off the show with “Hard to Imagine,” and proceeded into the best concert I’ve ever seen. Vedder himself seemed in awe of the experience, addressing the crowd with teary eyes as he said “There are a lot of emotions flying around out there… There was a time when we thought we’d never play another festival like this, and for good reason (referring to a 2000 festival in Denmark where 9 people were trampled to death). …But after seeing BB King and Jack Johnson, and Cat Power, it makes you realize how it can actually work and on top of that it’s a great fuckin night.”

Vedder’s voice was in fantastic shape throughout the show. It made me realize how much he must care about what he does, compared to someone like STP’s Scott Weiland, whose drug problems have scraped his voice away to a mere shell of what it once was. The condition of Vedder’s voice was particularly noticeable during their stunning rendition of The Who’s “Love Reign O’er Me.” He completely let it fly, and he sounded great. He pleased the crowd especially with “Black,” during which it appeared to me that he gave it so much emotion that he was close to completely breaking down by the end of the song. He seemed very touched and impressed by the size of the crowd during his performance of “Better Man,” when thousands of lighters revealed how far back the crowd actually stretched. Addressing the crowd, he expressed “That’s fucking beautiful, man.”

Mike McCready’s guitar solos were incredibly impressive. I’ve never seen any guitarist play so fast with so much dexterity. He sometimes ranged into sounds that were not pleasant-sounding, but it was rockin’ all the same.

The band ended up stretching a scheduled 2-hour set into a 3-hour epic performance, with two encores. They finally finished the show with Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower,” a fitting end to a show in which Vedder frequently asked the crowd to move for change. “It is welded into the Constitution that people have not only the right, but the responsibility to make change. It can’t get any worse. We’re right here in the middle of America. We can change the whole world. Do you agree that this is the time and place for this kind of talk? …Our music can’t change the world, but I do know one thing, that this many people, right here, can make a change.”

Ancient history: Naive poetry: The Rise and Fall of Bliss

I wrote this poem in two parts, two years apart. Parts I and II were written during a time I consider to be somewhat dark for me, mentally speaking. Parts III and IV were written as I was about to graduate from college, with a pretty sunny overall outlook.

 

I.

Vision was blind, now is clear;

Hundreds of thoughts between two ears.

Truths were hidden, now revealed;

Revelations occurring, knowledge sealed.

 

What have I lost in the depths of ignorance?

 

II.

Hopelessly waiting for the distant sunrise,

Heart beating, blood stains my eyes.

Soul mutilated, twisted beyond all control,

No chance of survival, just paying the toll.

 

When did the days start passing me by?

 

III.

Years have passed, but you don’t leave.

Every interaction, every effort to breathe.

My closest friend, now departed from here

A once clear mind is clouded with fear.

 

How can I find the strength to end this strife?

 

IV.

Astounded by the foolishness of a wasted past,

Humbled by a life’s worth of poor decisions.

The long adrift has finally been found.

Reparations may take a lifetime to complete, yet

 

You have conquered millions and I stand unbowed.

Ancient history: Naive poetry: Kate

A keyhole

lies in a weathered door.

Faded and splintered, heavy on wrought hinges.

 

The young man

looks through the hole

in misery; he kneels painfully.

 

There she sits

before a shattered mirror

weeping but he doesn’t understand.

 

He looks left

center, right, up, down

tries to see the rest of the room.

 

Door blocks sight

he looks for the key

it was safe in a box but the box is lost.

 

She cries still

he wishes he could

come inside, the only place where she can smile.

 

But now the

paint peeling from yellowed

walls reveals crumbling mortar underneath.

 

Maybe if

he cleared his head

he could find his sachet and open the door.

 

He can’t leave

he sits in a barren hall

with a window six stories from the ground.

 

Behind him

the passage extends

into a cold white fog. He feels damp.

Ancient history: Naive Poetry: Rock

The rockabilly. The ironic laugh ‘til you’re silly. The dig down for the nitty gritty grunge rock. The alternative. The mainstream. The drug and sex fueled cock rock. The atmospheric prog-rock. The help-me-I’m-drowning-in-self-sacrifice rock. The disco. The Sisqo. The southern I’ll drink your face off and not take any of your shit rock. The I’ll love you through thin rock. The spiteful I’ll never forgive you until the day you die rock. The three part harmonies. The 10 minute guitar solos played with ease. The massive crowds pressed together, bound together by obsession. The Woodstock. The peace and love is all we need rock. The new-age. The advertised by web-page. The screaming girl teenie bopper rock. The black mascara gothic rock. The provactive. The pretentious. The I’ll play this until your ears bleed rock. The mellow let’s smoke some weed rock. The close your eyes and relax while it envelops your soul rock. The rock that isn’t the fabled rock, the rock of the church that stands on solid ground but isn’t the sound rock.

Ancient history: Stage Script: Spanish Castle Magic

This is probably the narrative equivalent of painting with your eyes closed.

 

Scene: A medieval-looking castle with modern attachments (movie posters, etc…). Dining hall. A long, wooden table. KING and QUEEN sit at the table with PRINCESS JESSICA and her suitor, LORD MICHAEL. All eat a primitive-looking feast with their bare hands. KING and QUEEN look amused as LORD MICHAEL stands before them, attempting to enthrall them with his tales and woo the disinterested-looking PRINCESS. He wears a cape and a sheathed sword around his waist.

LORD: (speaks like Errol Flynn) …so there I was in the middle of the most dangerous jungle in all of Africa, surrounded by three lions. I knew that the slightest betrayal of weakness would set them upon me. You see, m’lady, a true knight must have a heart of steel in the direst of circumstances. So I drew my sword from its sheath, raised it up to the gods, and with an earth shattering cry… “COME AND GET ME.” …I invited their atta…

PRINCESS: (yawning) And you slew them one by one. How brave and… masculine of you.

KING: Jessica, let the young man speak. Truly a man with such adventures is worthy of your time.

QUEEN: Yes, do go on, Lord Michael.

LORD: With pleasure, my lords. …I waited tensely for their attack, sword held high, but they never struck. One by one, they lay on the ground and began purring lazily. I had defeated them with my valor alone. My mind is a weapon every bit as sharp as my rapier. Exhausted, and now comfortable in the safety of their presence, I lay down among them and napped.

Princess attempts to hold in a laugh

LORD: (unabashed) With a start, I awoke to a cacophony in the trees among me. As the noise drew nearer, the lions awoke and abruptly ran off. Cowards. I rose and picked up my sword just in time to meet the herd of wild boars charging toward my clearing! I skewered all but one. This last, I looked in the eye and told, ‘run now, lest you meet the same fate!’ You see, Princess, even in mortal danger, I had the presence and fortitude to show mercy to so helpless a creature. The remaining 27 boars are the very ones I brought here, as my gift to you, my lords.

PRINCESS: (mumbling) Oh God…

PRINCESS pulls out her cell phone and begins texting someone. QUEEN elbows her in the shoulder.

KING: Bravo! And a fine feast it has been. I marvel at your skill, Lord Michael. I beg you to come hunting with me in the forest tomorrow. With you by my side, I won’t even need the royal guard!

LORD: With pride, my lord

Smiling smugly, the LORD sits at the KING’s left hand. While they chat animatedly, attention shifts to the PRINCESS and QUEEN.

PRINCESS: He’s such a pompous prig, mother. And that story… are there even wild boars in African jungles?

QUEEN: Give him a chance, darling. He’s handsome and rich, and, well… It might have been true…

PRINCESS: Don’t be ridiculous!

QUEEN: That’s beside the point, Jessica. You know how important it is to be well-protected and provided for in days like these. It’s not the good old 20th century anymore.

LORD MICHAEL lets out a hearty HA-HAHA as he stands up and shakes hands with the KING. He walks around the table to PRINCESS JESSICA and lifts her hand.

LORD: My lady, will you give me the pleasure of your company on a short walk through the courtyard?

PRINCESS: (looking at the expectant faces of her parents and smiling weakly) Um… Sure.

LORD and PRINCESS walk to the other side of the stage.

LORD: I would be happy to take you as my wife.

PRINCESS: Take me?

LORD: Surely princess, and in these evil times, I would protect you. I have slain many beasts and monsters of the night. Women stare serendipitously as I pass. You could be the lucky one, and bear their jealousy as a trophy.

PRINCESS: What an honor!

MICHAEL looks at her uneasily. An emergency weather siren sounds in the distance.

PRINCESS: The day is clear. Could it be another mass attack? I thought that most of the armies were long since destroyed. Only vestiges remain.

LORD: All but one, my lady. Check your phone.

PRINCESS: No service!

LORD: It is as I feared. I must fight them off for your king.

PRINCESS: Why don’t I have service? What the hell is going on?

LORD: The Foil Falcon Army is all that remains of the Kitchen Revolt of ’37. Their attacks are little known and documented because their swarms block all chance of phone contact. Get behind me, lady! Here they come!

(Lord draws his sword as crumpled up pieces of foil begin swinging across the stage;  screeching like nails on a chalkboard. He begins to swing wildly while ducking away from them, as the Princess ducks near him)

LORD: Ah! Cover your ears, lest they bleed!

PRINCESS: Hmm… this is strange.

LORD: Argh… They are so elusive. And the hunting dogs will be no help. Ever seen a dog’s face when it bites into foil?

PRINCESS: Yes, but… They don’t look very dangerous. Thank god we captured most of the Fork Army. They were devastating to our tomato crops.

LORD: Tomahto, princess. You know that pronunciation is impolite.(he continues to duck away and swing wildly)

Attention shifts back to the KING and QUEEN.

KING: Did you hear something?

QUEEN: Hmm… No.

KING: Must be my imagination.

Back to the LORD and PRINCESS.

PRINCESS: (now standing upright) Oh, and remember the Roller Pin Revolution? The Royal Gardener is still complaining about his flattened flowerbeds. He said he just found another one last week rolling around in his Petunias.

LORD: Really, princess. Ack! This is no time for reminiscing!

LORD MICHAEL whirls around and finally makes contact with a piece of foil. Another slowly approaches him. He lets out a high pitched scream and dives out of the way.

PRINCESS: Oh, and remember when the spatulas invaded the castle and flipped over all the furniture?

LORD: Run, princess! Their numbers are too great for me! Save yourself! The screeching is unbearable!

LORD MICHAEL runs around with one arm covering his head, not even looking now as he swings at the air above him.

PRINCESS: Well… I mean, I’ll walk inside and ask for help if that’s what you want.

LORD: I’m sorry princess! I am defeated!

LORD MICHAEL drops his sword and wraps himself up in a fetal position.

PRINCESS: (to herself) Good god. Is he serious?

PRINCESS JESSICA walks over to LORD MICHAEL’s sword. Brandishing it, she thrusts purposefully at the Foil Falcon Army hoard. Foil drops at her feet. 

LORD: Wh-what’s happening? A savior? Am I dead?

PRINCESS: I have yet to see the danger, but you are safe at my side, Lord Michael.

The attack subsides. LORD MICHAEL looks around dazedly before jumping to his feet.

LORD: Ah! You are very brave to have picked up my sword, princess. But you are lucky they did not recognize your wish to fight. They would have devoured you! (beat) I can’t wait to tell your father how I fought off wave after wave of the ferocious Foil Falcons to save his helpless and frightened daughter!

PRINCESS JESSICA shakes her head and looks up to the sky in disgust. She pulls out her phone and begins texting. LORD MICHAEL moves to follow her.

LORD: Now, as I was saying, Princess… I am also rich… I have real, stationary silverware back in my castle, for example… and very high threadcount sheets… (continues talking at her as lights fade to black)

Ancient history: Stage Script: Dogs of War

My humble attempt at war commentary. I think this was also inspired by a short play that I read involving suitcases that spoke to each other. In the play, each suitcase had a personality that sort of matched the type/condition of the suitcase. So I thought, I want to do that with dogs.

Dogs of War

 

Characters:      Tobi: a mangy Border Collie, wears spots

Floyd: a thick, jet-black Labrador

Maya: a scraggly mutt; clothes/colors mismatched

Arbusto: a tall, commanding German Shepherd

Chummy: a fat, ill-disposed Bulldog

 

Outside in a rural area. Night.

Arbusto: …and when you’ve chased them long enough, they’ll be easy picking. Just make sure you all concentrate on the same one.

Chummy: And the females are less likely to give you a fight.

Arbusto: Yeah, but don’t be afraid to take down a buck if you find one. A few nights ago I watched one mark MY yard. I couldn’t even fix it until morning.

Chummy: And there’ll be more food for all of us!

Arbusto: So there you have it, men. Er, uh… folks.

Chummy: If there’s a repeat of last night, you all better start looking for a new pack.

Arbusto and Chummy exit while Tobi, Floyd, and Maya glance at each other.

Tobi: I’m so tired of running around.

Maya: Every night I think we’ll get a break.

Tobi: But then some other animal gets on Arbusto’s bad side.

Floyd: Listen, Arbusto is right. How would you like it if wild animals were using your yard?

Tobi: Hey, I don’t like it either, but it’s our people that forced them out of the wild in the first place.

Maya: They’re so hard to control. I see new yards popping up all over the place.

Floyd: You know as well as I do, those are mostly Cat-people. No self-respecting Dog would let his person tear down a forest full of animals. That’s just bad food moderation.

Maya: That’s true.

Tobi: You’re both missing the point. The animals feel threatened, so they lash out. Take away the threat, and what happens?

Maya: Just accidents, I guess. Except for the occasional Bad Animal.

Tobi: Exactly. And I think we could all live with that.

Floyd: Are you done with your preaching? You’re hungry aren’t you?

Tobi: God, yes. My person’s put me back on the dry food diet. It’s all I can do to keep it down.

Floyd: Then let’s go. It’ll make the Big Dogs happy.

Maya: He’s right Tobi. We can’t change those things. Let’s just make Arbusto happy.

Tobi: (reluctantly) Alright… lets go.

Lights fade.

 

Scene 2: Spotlight on Tobi, Floyd, and Maya, who appear to be crouching around and feasting on a large animal.

Tobi: Floyd, you have got to stop chasing the deer the second you see it. I’m the herder. I’ll tire it out and bring it around to you. Then YOU do the dirty work.

Floyd: I can’t help chasing. It’s in my nature.

Tobi: Well it’s pretty damn stupid to have the big, dumb, slow one chasing after a lightning-quick animal.

Floyd: Watch it, buddy. We got it, didn’t we?

Tobi: Only because I told Maya to come at it from the other side.

Maya: Hey! I was gonna do that anyway.

Tobi: (smiling at her) You did great. You can be a real bitch when you want to.

Maya: (smiling back) Awe, thanks Tobi. You know, you just looked adorable with your fur all ruffled when Floy…

Floyd: (sarcastically) Great! Puppy love… You know, why don’t you two let me know when you grow up. I deserve a little credit here. I mean, I did spot the thing.

Tobi: (laughing) Haha, poor Floyd. You know I’m just pulling your tail.

Arbusto and Chummy creep onstage. Chummy approaches the group.

Floyd: Well, when you and Maya are done sniffing each others’ butts, how bout a little back scratching. I’ve got a big knot from all that running.

Tobi: Ha, that’s what your person is for. (pause) Sh… Did you hear something?

Chummy: A postman could’ve snuck up on you fools.

Tobi: Ah! I thought I smelled compost. Been rolling around in the manure again, Chummy?

Maya: Tobi, don’t.

Chummy: Better listen to her, bones. I could tear you to shreds.

Floyd: Yeah, and what would you do to me?

Arbusto: Well, well, well. (all slink back as Arbusto moves past Chummy and stares them down) Started the feast without me, did you? Very bold of you. Lets see what we have here.

Chummy: Probably nothing but a fawn.

Arbusto pushes past and looks down at the animal on the floor.

Arbusto: Well, Chummy, I think you owe our friends an apology. This is the very deer that soiled my lawn not two days ago.

Chummy: Hmphh.

Arbusto: Well, friends. I think I may have some work a little more befitting of your prowess. Listen closely.

(all lean in as lights fade)

 

Scene 3: Next night. A white wooden fence.

Tobi: I can’t believe we’re out here. This is crazy.

Maya: Deer are one thing, but bulls? This is getting dangerous. Even with Floyd here.

Floyd: I’m not scared of any cows. Slow as molasses.

Tobi: They aren’t that slow. See how it feels to have one chasing you down a hill. Those suckers can really get going.

Maya: Oh, wow. And all that momentum… If they fell they’d roll you right over. Even a big guy like you would be a pancake, Floyd.

Floyd: We’ll see about that. I bet they can’t turn very quick.

Maya: Look at those horns! They could impale any one of us with a flick of the neck

Floyd: So stay away from the horns, doofus. I thought you were some kind of tough bitch.

Tobi: Floyd, it’s not the danger I’m worried about here. Does this feel right to you?

Floyd: Sure, I guess… Arbusto said he didn’t find that buck sooner because it was hiding out on this farm. They deserve it.

Tobi: Do they? Do you really think those cattle had any control over a farm this big?

Maya: I never thought of it that way…

Floyd: Stop with your idealism, Tobi. These are Bad Animals.

Maya: I don’t remember them doing anything to us. Or Arbusto. How could they? They’re inside the fence.

Tobi: Exactly. Don’t you see, Floyd? Arbusto just wants the land so he can run around as much as he wants without being bothered. It’s all about power and greed.

Floyd: No. Chummy told us they have an escape plan.

Maya: That’s right! Tobi, what if they have an escape plan?

Tobi: Then nothing. They have never tried to hurt us before. Why would they now?

Maya: But they never got out before!

Floyd: Don’t you realize how much damage a herd of cattle could do if they were let free? They could destroy each one of our yards. And then they could destroy another pack’s yards. And another’s.

Tobi: Yeah, I heard the speech. Thanks for the recap.

Maya: Tobi, he’s just telling the truth.

Tobi: No. He’s telling us what Arbusto and Chummy think. How would they know about an escape plan anyway?

Maya: Well, Chummy said they had spies in the farm.

Tobi: Spies! Who, the sheep? And they would tell us the truth after Arbusto ravaged a whole herd of them last year?

Floyd: You think they’re setting us up?

Tobi: I think Arbusto doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about! Like I said before, it’s all about power!

Maya: He’ll exile us if we don’t do it, Tobi. Look what happened to Comet last month.

Floyd: Oh, I do miss her. She was so beautifully stubborn.

Tobi: Maybe I’d rather be exiled! This isn’t right. We can’t just start killing cattle because we think they might be dangerous.

Floyd: They probably are dangerous. They were pretty close to the sheep Arbusto slaughtered. Sometimes they even roamed the same field.

Tobi: So one sin begets another. And here we are, about to begin the process of wiping out thirty cattle, proof be damned.

Floyd: It’s for the pack, Tobi. It’s for the pack, that’s what he said.

Tobi: (reluctantly) Alright. I’m coming with you. Not because I think this is for the pack. Because I don’t want to see you dead when I wake up tomorrow and go out to get my person’s paper.

Floyd: You’re a true patriot. You’ll see. We’re doing the right thing. (walks ahead)

Maya: (to Tobi) I don’t know if you are right or not, but I really admire you right now. It takes a lot of guts to say what you really mean, especially to a bull-headed dog like Floyd.

Tobi: (smiling wistfully) We have to have an opinion. To blindly follow without questioning is worse than agreeing with Arbusto altogether. I just hope Floyd realizes it before it’s too late.

Maya: Hey, don’t talk like that. It’ll turn out alright.

Tobi: I always feel better with you here with me, Maya. You could brighten up a piece of coal.

Maya: (trying to hide a big smile) Oh, that was so bad.

Tobi: You liked it.

Fade to black

 

Scene 4: Spotlight on Floyd and Maya on the left side of the stage, standing over a downed bull.

Maya: Floyd, we did it! I don’t believe it; that was so exciting. First we were chasing one, then another one was chasing me, and POW! You come out of nowhere and take out its back legs! I thought I was done for.

Floyd: Tobi was right though, that was much harder than I though it would be. Those animals are a thing to behold when they get moving. Frankly, we were in over our heads. Why would Arbusto take a chance like this?

Maya: It’s kind of like he didn’t think it out at all

Floyd: Scary that we’re taking orders from someone so short-sighted. What if Tobi was right about everything else?

Maya: He’s pretty sharp. (looks suddenly concerned) By the way, where is Tobi? We broke apart when that bull started chasing us. He was barking like crazy, trying to get it to follow him.

(lights rise on the rest of the stage, revealing Tobi, covered in blood)

Floyd: Oh, god…

Maya: Tobi!

(both rush over to him, where he moves weakly)

Maya: What happened!?

Tobi: Farmer… shot… glad you’re okay.

Floyd: I knew that POW! was more than broken legs. I’m so sorry, buddy. You were right. Arbusto didn’t think this out at all. You were right about the whole thing… I;m so sorry. I should’ve listened.

Tobi: Stop… oaf… doing… thought right…

Maya: You’re going to be alright, Tobi. We’ll get you back to your people. I love you; I’m not going to lose you now. (looks hopefully at Floyd, who looks away)

Tobi: (smiles weakly) Oh… that… was… so bad…

Fade to black

 

Scene 5: Next night. Spotlight on Arbusto, lying alone on the ground, slumbering. Floyd enters.

Floyd: Wake up you son of a bitch!

Arbusto: (yawning) Oh… Aren’t we all

Floyd: This is no game. Tobi is dead and you are going to pay for it.

Arbusto: (laughs haughtily)  Well then, come on you overgrown beast.

Floyd and Arbusto begin fighting. Floyd pins Arbusto on the ground with a hand(paw) raised, ready to strike. Chummy enters.

Chummy: (snarling) You’d better drop that paw unless you want to lose it.

Floyd’s shoulders slump, visibly defeated. He jumps off Arbusto and turns to face them both as Arbusto slowly rises beside Chummy

Floyd: (smiling now) Nothing like a fair fight.

Chummy: You’re done for, lout.

Arbusto: Wait. (to Floyd) You insolent brute. It takes sacrifice to protect a pack. A mangy herding dog like Tobi is an insignificant loss. It was for the greater good. You don’t know anything about what it takes to lead. Now, you can fight, or you can leave forever. What’ll it be?

Floyd: What good is a world where I have to watch my back every time I go outside?

Arbusto: You won’t have to. We’ll destroy the entire farm and set up a republic. The world will be peaceful.

Floyd: Ha. What will I tell my pups when they ask what happened to all of the innocent cattle who died here?

Chummy: They were planning an escape and harbored the very deer that was terrorizing Arbusto’s yard!

Arbusto and Chummy stare at Floyd, waiting for submission. Suddenly, Maya leaps out of the shadows and tackles Chummy. Chummy, outweighing Maya by quite a bit, quickly turns the tables and bites at Maya’s face. She goes limp.

Floyd: Maya! No!

Floyd brushes past Arbusto and knocks Chummy aside.

Chummy: The price of disobedience.

Arbusto: This all could have been avoided.

Floyd: You’re right. This could have been avoided. But you insisted on blindly and ignorantly stabbing at power. You care nothing for your pack. You only care about yourself. I’m leaving and taking Maya with me.

Arbusto: Go! You of no faith! You are no patriot!

Floyd: Good luck defending yourself against the herd without anyone but Chubby here to protect you. You’ve turned the world against you, Arbusto. I hope you’re ready.

Fade to black as Floyd carries Maya off the stage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ancient history: Stage Script: Something Amiss

A door stands on the left side of the stage. On the right side of the door, a rug lays on the floor in front of a couch. An end table sits to the right of the couch with a book bag on it. Linda, 45-ish, sits on the couch with a book. Brandon, 17,  enters stage left, rummaging through his pockets anxiously. He looks around confusedly and creeps up to the door, gently grabs the handle and eases it open.

Mae: (looks up from her book) Where were you?

Brandon: (looking surprised) Mom! What are you doing up?

Mae: Well, I couldn’t find you and I was worried. Where were you?

Brandon: Oh, uh… I just ran out to help Matt with some homework.

Mae: You know better than to leave late at night without telling me.

Brandon: I know, I’m sorry. I thought it’d only be five minutes, but (pause) um, I couldn’t find my notebook, and I was looking for it. And I realized I left it here.

Mae: You carry all your school stuff in that bag. How did you forget that?

Brandon: (nervously) Yeah, pretty funny right? (moves past her to the bookbag, looks at her, looks at it, then picks it up and turns his back to her as he rummages through it).

Mae: I think we need to have a talk, Brandon.

Brandon: (looking more alarmed and frantic while searching as she speaks. He drops the bag on the floor) Mom. (pause) You didn’t go through my stuff, did you?

Mae: No, but I think I would have a right to. You’ve been acting so distant lately, Brandon. Your father and I barely see you anymore. You’re out with your friends almost every night.

Brandon: (sighs and looks slightly relieved while still looking around for something) So, I’m not supposed to have a social life? I just want my privacy, okay mom?

Mae: (turns and looks at him quizzically as he continues to search) It wasn’t in there?

Brandon: um (pause) it was, but I’m looking for something else. Did anyone else open my bag while I was gone?

Mae: I can’t imagine why you think we would want any of your school stuff.

Brandon: Yeah. Mom, I’ll be right back. (to himself) Maybe I dropped it outside.

He rushes out the door. He pauses and scans the ground in front of him. His eyes light up as he seems to spot something and rushes to the left side of the stage and stoops down to grab something from the ground. He holds up a plastic bag filled with something leafy and green, smiling.

 Brandon: Thank God!

Screeching tires and the ‘Whooooop’ of a truncated police siren. A door slams shut. Brandon looks to stage left, mortified.

Brandon: Oh, shit. (sheepishly) Hello, officer… (fade to black)

Ancient history: Stage Script: Thanks a Lot

George, roughly 45 and stocky, sits sleepily on a living room couch. He’s watching TV while his very young nephew plays on a rug in front of him. Cheers erupt from the television as someone apparently scores a touchdown. George rolls his eyes in disgust. 

George: Ugh! Are you kidding me? That was a catch like I’m a rhinoceros.

(looks around for some distraction and sniffs the air) I wonder if the turkey’s almost ready. I’m about sick of watching this game. And I am starving. If there’s one good thing about the whole family being here, it’s that I don’t have to cook anything. I can’t wait for mom’s stuffing.

(laughing from off the stage)Meh. Sounds like the guys are back from the annual pickup “Turkey Bowl.” I’m sure they’re all going to have stories to tell about full field touchdown returns and one-handed grabs. Like any of us care.

This whole day is more trouble than it’s worth. We make awkward conversation with people we don’t like. We repeat the same god damn short story about the last year to everyone that asks. We listen as if we’re interested. And the worst part: before anyone is allowed to touch any food, we go around the table saying what “we’re thankful for.”

“I’m thankful for a miserable life.” Ha-Ha.

(George glances at his nephew, who has a delighted look on his face as he “revs” a truck on the carpet. He sighs.) He looks so happy. If he only knew what life had in store for him. Decades of heartache. Bad investments. Failed marriages. Expanding waistlines. Yet, he’s so happy in his ignorance. Why can’t we all be that way?

(the nephew holds up the truck to his uncle. George manages a smile) Vroom. Heh. Is this your daddy’s truck? (smiling genuinely now at his nephew’s turn to shyness. He hands it back) I used to play. This isn’t me. Its just, so much has happened. I used to be happy, and now I’m bitter at everything. Look at me. I’m sitting alone in here while everyone else is having fun and enjoying company.

 

It’s not really fair, that I’m here like this. They probably don’t understand. I know they don’t. None of them know what its like to cry your their brother’s shoulder when the stock market leaves you broke at 35. None of them had to move in with their sister for a month after a marriage that ended so badly they couldn’t take care of themselves anymore. None of them had parents give them an intervention when the drink took hold of their lives. None of them.

A wheel falls off of the truck the young nephew has been playing with. He immediately begins crying and holds it up to his Uncle George. George, visibly concerned, takes the truck and wheel in his hands and tinkers a bit.

Here, here. Timmy, it’s alright, see? Good as new. You don’t need to cry; I’m here to help you.

(George pauses as he mulls something over in his head) I’m here to help him. And my family has always been there to help me… I guess I’m really lucky. I’ve had someone there looking after me, caring about me the whole time. I’ve had people there. Even now, they still invite this old curmudgeon when the holidays come around. How can they do that? How is that possible? I must be the luckiest man in the world to have a family that cares this much.

From the TV: “and that’s it folks, Dallas 27, Detroit 17. From everybody here at NBC, have a Happy Thanksgiving!”

George stands up and stretches out. He looks down at his nephew and smiles as he picks him up.

Hey Timmy, let’s go find your mommy and daddy. Its dinnertime, and I think I finally know what I’m thankful for.