A Really Bad Play
SETTING: A night in which, like many others, the elusive adoration
of wine hung heavy in the air; love was felt, yet could not be grasped.
Boys or men trudge through fluorescent snow, the utterly still night
air echoing back their laughter and their beloved wine staining the
ground bright crimson.
ONE: You know, said one, Plurality is a myth.
ANOTHER: Well, said another, That is what an myth would say.
THE FIRST: You’re right, said the first, You’ve gotten us.
Maybe There’s Nothing to Look At
It is late August, and raining just enough for you to want an
umbrella, but not enough for you to have one. Across the street from
the coffee shop that looks like a bookstore is a tall building. Inside,
someone has left the better part of a vegan burrito in the building’s
Anyway, it’s Tuesday, and raining, which makes it the type
of day where it’s Tuesday and raining. You, a person named Rachel,
are in the tall building. You walk past the Man at the Front Desk to
the elevator. You press the up button so that you could go up, and
wait for the elevator to come.
The doors open. The half-eaten vegan burrito is perfectly
framed by the track lighting in the elevator. It looks like the kind of
modern art you aren’t sure how to feel about. The Man Behind the
Front Desk dives and knocks over the landline.
“Are you okay?” You, Rachel, said to the Man Under the
The Man Under the Front Desk looked horrified, “Get down!
What are you doing!”
Rachel walked around the front desk and sat under it. “Who
are you calling—”
“A bomb squad!”
“Is there a bomb?”
“Yes! In the elevator!”
“Looks like a burrito to me.”
“Sure it looks like a burrito, but it’s obviously a bomb.”
“Is that common—”
“On the News! You see the sort of thing all the time. It’s a
terrorist plot— Hello, yes, there’s a bomb in the elevator of the Pearl
Street Building— great, okay— The bomb squad will be here in a few
minutes, but if it blows up in the lobby the whole building is going to
come down. Send it to the top floor!”
Rachel got on the elevator and pressed the button to go to
the 100th floor. The Man Peeking Out from Under the Front Desk started that annoying yelling again, “Get out of there! It could explode at any moment!”
“Well, there’s a yoga class up there, so I should probably tell
them to leave.”
“You’re crazy, woman, but you’re a hero,” said the Man
Crouched Partly Behind the Front Desk.
“It’s a burrito, Darek,” the doors slid shut.
The doors open to a room of white women stretching. The
room was mostly windows and hardwood. A sign on the wall says:
Yoga Cured My Depression!
One of the people in the yoga class is your ex, Jordan.
You move out of the elevator.
One of the women yells, “It’s a bomb!”
“It’s not a bomb!” You hear Rachel say.
“It’s a terrorist plot!”
“It’s a half-eaten burrito!”
“Somebody call a bomb squad!”
“They’re already on their way!”
The room cleared out quickly as streams of people rushed
down the stairs. Jordan is still there, eating a burrito. “Well, you can’t
stay here,” says the yoga instructor.
The slant of the sun on the 32nd floor makes it seem like
evening. “No, no, no!” Says the old woman in the chair. “We can’t
have bombs in the china shop!” The dark burgundy rolling chair is stained in places. Her face is twisted in an undulating frown of palpable rage like a woman giving a bad Yelp review. Her cats are the walls and shelves and are breaking all the china. She presses the up button
with the tip of her cane and the doors slide shut.
The doors opened on the 65th floor. Rachel stepped out onto
the spotless white carpet. It was perfectly quiet and with the muffled
floor, they could hear the burrito ticking. Almost.
“Are you the bomb squad?” Rachel asked the men and women in uniforms that said “bomb squad” on them.
“Yes,” nodded the men and women in uniforms that said
“bomb squad” on them.
“Is that safe to eat?” Rachel pointed at the half-eaten vegan
burrito. They picked it up and looked.
“Yes,” said the men and women.
They all crammed into the elevator.
“Do you want to get coffee at Pastel’s later?” the men and
women from the bomb squad said. They looked a little awkward, like
this was a thing they had been meaning to ask for a while.
“Oh,” Rachel said. “Sure. That’s that coffee-shop off Illinois?”
“It is. You can come?”
“I just have to finish up one thing here first.”
The elevator opened to the lobby. The yoga class, the yoga
instructor, the old woman, the cats, the accountants, the 18th century
literature enthusiasts, the preschool, the daycare, Ernest Hemingway, the environmentalists, the horticulturists, and every other inhabitant of the building were busy streaming down the stairs and out the revolving glass doors. Everyone stopped and looked at Rachel. Rachel
stood on top of the couch in the middle of the lobby.
“Hey!” Rachel said. “Maybe.” They held the burrito loosely and ignored the juice leaking down their arm and elbow onto the floor, “Maybe! There is nothing to look at!”
“What,” somebody said.
“There is no bomb, is what I’m saying.”
“But,” a different somebody said.
“Shh—! I, Doctor Rachel Blyth, am telling you, that this—”
Rachel raised the burrito slightly higher. One of its green sides
flopped over and some rice spilled out. “—is not a bomb or a terrorist
plot. It is a burrito and I am going to prove it to you.”
“What are you a doctor of?”
“Music!” Rachel took a big bite of the vegan burrito and
everyone gasped in simultaneous shock. Rachel ate all of it until it was gone. They balled up the tinfoil and threw it in the bin. Everyone blinked twice and said ‘oh,’ and went back to their business.
Rachel got down and retrieved her satchel from the front
desk. She went out through the middle-left revolving door to her
date with the bomb squad. Outside, the street smelled like rain and
maybe sugar cookies and maybe there was nothing to look at.
It has been almost eleven months since I wrote my grand-
mother’s eulogy. I didn’t cry when I wrote it. Perhaps I did when I read it in the sanctuary a few days later, but in the library, writing my
meager page and a half of memories, I was stoic.
I spent half of my life growing up in her 70s style split level
house. I still remember the slimy residue of artificial banana-flavored
popsicles coating my fingers and tongue and chilling me to the bone.
They were delicious and cold and always stocked up generously in the
over-full freezer. Sometimes the oldest, furthest back boxes would
even get freezer burn, like the forgotten frozen broccoli.
My grandmother was the neighborhood piano teacher.
There were at one point four pianos in her studio, which was the
entire lower tier of the split-level. A very old, brown, honky-tonk
piano where some of the keys wouldn’t press down all the way and
others were permanently pressed down. A very new Steinway piano,
whose keys also did not press all the way down either because they
were so closely guarded by her; that piano was saved for only her best
students to play, which I was definitively not one of. There was an
electric piano hidden underneath a black cover that her mean Maine
Coon liked to hide under and swipe at the feet of passersby during
her teaching hours. Finally, there was the Yamaha. The piano of all
pianos. The practicing piano. The perfect piano. Its keys pressed comfortably, and the sound was so beautiful even if you played poorly. The surface was so shiny that you could see your fingers stumbling across the keys as if it were a dark, elegant mirror made to show you
all of your mistakes.
All of my friends took lessons from her, up until they didn’t,
and we would share those same banana popsicles when I would take
them upstairs to show them my Looney Tunes quilt and the exclusive
access I had to the rest of the house. It was always a thrill when they
Once, when I was very young, I was doing homework on the
blue and brown striped couch in the living room while she vacuumed.
My grandfather was busy in the kitchen, carefully cutting me some
apple slices with no skin. It was early morning and even the loud
sucking whirr of the vacuum felt peaceful. She brought the vacuum down to where I was not so diligently working and I noticed she was in her undies. We laughed at this but it was okay, I didn’t mind. Her skin was soft and unintimidating and familiar. She smelled like baby lotion and her bra and panties were a matching white cotton. So, she continued to vacuum, and I continued to watch
her, giggling when she met my gaze and pretending to go back to my
worksheet of addition. Her skin, sagging and beautiful and smooth,
was a silly mystery to me, and I loved every inch of her gentle body.
Soon she finished up the living room with a teasing swipe at
my small toes with the nozzle of the device and took it down the next flight of stairs to clean her studio. At the second she crossed behind the wooden divider at the bottom of the stairs and entered the make-
shift threshold of her life’s work, my grandfather placed the bowl of carefully cut and peeled apple slices on my lap and disappeared back
into the kitchen. I heard the stiff shuffling of the newspaper, and
then, to my surprise, a scream that broke through even the noise of
the vacuum from downstairs.
I had never seen my grandmother move so fast in my entire,
granted short, life. She bolted up the stairs, breathing laboriously
and saying words I couldn’t process in my panic. What could have
At the same instance which I wondered this, my grandfather
followed swiftly up the stairs after her, to their room.
“Lois, what in the world happened?”
“My student is here, Gettys, he’s here!” she said, with some-
thing in her voice I had never heard before then: panic, I think it was. I couldn’t believe my ears. My cheeks were turning redder
by the millisecond until I started to feel feverishly hot. I felt like I
was eavesdropping. Would I get in trouble for knowing this horrible
secret? For knowing that someone other than me and my grandfather
had laid eyes on her vulnerable, pale body that day?
Regardless of this, or any other thought that may have
stopped me, I laughed. I laughed so hard that I cried. I think maybe it
was the first time I had laughed so much in my life. And I still laugh.
It’s funny, the things you remember.
That night, none in particular, really, Leslie dreamt of one of
the few good friends back home, a woman meriting all of the typical
clichés of beauty and even more those of wit. She worked harder
than hell and, aside from rent, spent her money unwisely. In school,
she was popular among the children Leslie admired; now, she was
popular among herself, and Leslie admired her too.
In the dream, he had rescued her from ominous blue men
in the steam-filled alleys of what could have been, surely was, the set
for some play; the whole thing was backlit, the steam unnatural, and
the blue men poorly cast. He figured it was Hell’s Kitchen, yet he had
never been—it just seemed like a fitting name that he conveniently
already knew, and he supposed that it was. The dream was a still
image, her on top of an old-fashioned taxi, looking mildly annoyed
and shocked, annoyed that she was shocked, at her rambunctious
blue captors-to-be, who were locked in some dance surrounding
her four-wheeled throne (she was, after all, generally quite regal).
They were bald, adorned in black turtlenecks, and moved in a most
aggravatingly dramatic manner, all the while exuding an imminent
sense of lethality; Leslie figured they were, inexplicably, from that
one musical ensemble that seems to haunt elementary schools across
the nation. He couldn’t remember rescuing her really, and he wasn’t
quite sure that that’s what he did, but he knew that he was there
and that his presence had been noted by her, and that was enough
to instill the emotion. She could rescue herself. Hell, she could have
Leslie had fallen asleep while chewing gum and awoke
right before dawn, or right before right before dawn, knowing only
that between his teeth was something relatively long, warm, and
solid, and that if it was not immediately expelled, he would surely
meet some form of untimely demise. The first image brought forth
by his blue-filled mind was that of a rather oblong cockroach, or a
spider curled up in that dying-spider way. Regardless that both have
quite different structural qualities than chewing gum, particularly
a distinctive minty freshness, Leslie mustered all the force he could
manage and launched the behemoth out of his mouth, then heard it
dully smack against the adjacent laptop screen left open on his bed.
Existing only in the ethereal, right-before-right-before-dawn way,
he found himself faced with the dilemma of immediate suicide or,
more loathsome, turning on the light and discovering the identity of
whatever foul pest had indeed been fraternizing with his molars.
Leslie, after the brief recollection of his fondness for
breakfast foods, offered the room the most dramatic inhale he could
muster, then barred his newly-impure teeth, assaulted the bedside
lamp-switch, and embarked on his frantic search for the beast in
question. He found on the laptop only minty-fresh irony and, having
finally solved the big riddle, rolled his eyes to the back of his skull
and fell against his pillow, emitting an audible Motherfucker!
Had he not been cruelly interrupted, he perhaps would have
awoken very much in love with the subject of his dream, desperate
for the two of them to return to the bond of a mutual annoyance
for such despicable blue men. He perhaps would have carried the
sentiment with him for the entire day. He could have been hopeless
for her. She could have reigned supreme, and he could have done his
best to stifle his emotion until it had faded, until he had some other
dream and fell in love, or back in love, with some other entity. But,
alas, it was not meant to be, for he was interrupted by an irrational
fear of spiders and cockroaches and things crawling around in
his dark pit of a mouth. The dream and memory was lost forever,
replaced by a reinvigoration of his deep hatred of orally-inclined
things with spindly legs. He threw the gum away, stowed the laptop,
and several months later fed a spider outside his home a stale cheeto,
in hopes of kindling some form of acquaintanceship.
Your chest is wet inside; you can feel the mucus in your lungs,
clogging everything up. You listen to a nice piano track, overlayed
with audio of a father talking to his daughter as she learns to ride
a bike. The song is titled “I Hope I Think Of Bike Riding When I’m Dying.”
You closed your window earlier today. You aren’t used to the
pollen here, yet. You wonder if it’ll be as bad next time around. You
wonder if you’ll be as bad next time around. You turned off the air
conditioning unit to listen to your music earlier. Now, your room is
too hot. But you’re enjoying your music still.
You watch the sunset through a dorm room window and branches.
It fades quicker than normal, you think. You blame it on the fact that
it rained today.
Time passes. It’s been three hours since sunset. You haven’t
left your bed; you haven’t turned on the air conditioning unit; you
haven’t opened the window. The sky is that shade of dark brown
that’s almost grayscale. The frames of your dorm room window and
the branches are dark against the sky.
You have a coughing fit.
Meet the Jorksons
Int. (A House.) A Tea Kettle is wailing on the stove. TECH, a young, choleric girl whose demeanor evokes a feeling of immeasurable ennui, enters and stops the kettle.
TECH: You don’t understand me.
It is unclear who she is talking to. A LAUGH TRACK plays. Our attention is turned to her sibling, UMBRELLA KID, a small, sarcastic child who is standing on the refrigerator.
UMBRELLA KID: Get off the fridge! (Umbrella Kid jumps off the fridge.) The LAUGH TRACK plays again, imperceptibly louder.
BECK, a woman with a cheerful aura and an insatiable appetite for destruction, enters.
BECK: Kids, time for breakfast!
UMBRELLA KID (following): Get off the fridge!
COMICALLY MISTIMED CARTOON SOUND-EFFECTS play as the kids follow Beck into the dining room. The tablecloth is nailed to the ceiling. They sit.
ROBBIE, a sentient child with normal, non-bendable bones, enters and sits on a chair, which breaks. The sound of the chair breaking is heard exactly three-and-a-half seconds later.
UMBRELLA KID: Bounce!
A door on the second floor emits two deafening thuds expelling BOUNCE, a small, pointy dog that is neither alive nor dead. It BARKS. It seems to be pulled by an invisible wire, which drags it through the second-floor railing. The dog gets some MAD AIR, landing with a THUD in the living room. The word “bounse” appears in lime gogurt Comic Sans over its body.
Robbie sits in a third chair, which is stable for two seconds and then collapses in a heap of wood next to the rest.
BECK: Tech, would you like some rye bread?
A LAUGH TRACK much more uproarious than the others plays. There is a distant COMMOTION and a new DOOR materializes in the floor. MISTER, a tall, shadowy figure, and NEW WEBSTER’S COLLEGIATE DICTIONARY, an adult with a big nose and a tweed suit, exit it. Mister opens their mouth and the sound of WET GRAVEL being shaken with a sieve but slowed down 200 percent is heard. The word “News” appears in bold mauve Times New Roman over Mister’s head.
NEW WEBSTER: There’s a potluck. (A small audience APPLAUDS feebly.)
BECK: I will make fruit.
NEW WEBSTER: We are signed up for dessert’s.
BECK: I don’t know how to make that.
UMBRELLA KID (earnestly): We could try using the Internet?
An uproarious LAUGH TRACK plays uninterrupted for 10 minutes.
Then the power goes out.
NEW WEBSTER: Now what?
The WET GRAVEL is heard again, but this time slowed by 400 percent. It is followed by a LAUGH TRACK. Mister is suddenly illuminated by purple light, as though they have cracked a glowstick. The BRADY BUNCH THEME plays in a minor key and Mister sinks slowly into the floor as if it were molasses. The lights come back on. Tech has wandered offscreen.
ALL IN UNISON:
C O S M O S P H E R E S.
(They collapse on the floor.)
Now there are GIANT INVISIBLE SPIDERS all over the house. A SIGN unfurls from the ceiling that reads: “Giant Invisible Spiders.” Tech comes out of the upstairs door.
TECH (bored): The shower drain is clogged with Manischewitz again.
Tech looks down at the Giant Invisible Spiders, does not react, then SCREAMS.
A new door manifests sloppily on the wall behind Tech. Mister opens it and beckons Tech inside.
Int. The realm of GEHENNA, bordering THE EXPANSE OF MARSHOREK
The door opens to a cavernous room of giant spider webs, interconnected like neurons in a massive, dead brain. The bowl in the middle of the room is filled with cookies. A sign above them identifies the contents as “dessert’s.” Tech takes the bowl off the pedestal and walks back to the door.
Ext. Evening. A Potluck
The door opens to a backyard somewhere else in the neighborhood. Tech crosses to a table and puts down the bowl of cookies. Robbie is squirming comfortably in the punch bowl. Two normal teenagers, ARIANA, a girl with glasses and a smile, and LILY, a girl with a neutral expression and a normal amount of teeth, intercept Tech.
ARIANA: Hi, you must be Tech, we’re also new here. I guess this is like a ‘get-to-know-you thing?’
Tech opens her mouth and plays 69 SECONDS OF BASS-BOOSTED STATIC.
ARIANA: Woah. That’s really cool.
LILY: Hey, I listen to Art Bears too, the experimental band from, like, the 80s right?
TECH: It is! My parents think it’s for normies, but I totally listen to it unironically.
ARIANA: Ha ha! Rad! (She actually says rad.)
(The three girls begin to talk and laugh with one another as our attention is re-focused on the punch bowl, where Robbie is amboling.)
THE COOKIES (multiple voices): Eat us, Robbie. We aren’t spider eggs. We promise.
Robbie, wide-eyed and still full of bones, approaches.
NEW WEBSTER (appears) No, nope. These are bad.
Beck opens a portal door to ASHGA’RNE, the demiplane of imprisonment. The bowl falls and the portal closes with a blast of heat.
A TOAST draws the attention of everyone at the party to two women. The first woman begins speaking:
WOMAN ONE (for she has no name): Hello, everyone, thank you all for—
WOMAN TWO (Woman two has become a doppelganger of Woman one): BOUNCE.
ALL PRESENT: BOUNCE. (There is no turning back.)
BOUNCE: BARK! (You’ve gone too far.)
ALL: BARK! (There’s nothing you can do.) Bounce’s simple visage engulfs the screen, its black eyes fill you with the fear of losing something you don’t yet understand.
BOUNCE (Probably voiced by John Mulaney): When the medium surpasses the artist, the art is immortal. When the artist surpasses the medium, the medium becomes irrelevant. I am neither artist nor medium. I am inevitable. I am neither creator nor creation. I am Bounce.
TECH: I heard Bounce voted for Jill Stein.
All the furniture in the yard combusts. The Jorkson’s Theme Song plays and the credits roll at a speed much too fast to process.