Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Howard's Boy


Howard's Boy
Joseph McConnell
Copyright 2018 08 08

A short play in 1 act


Howard's Boy character list

HOWARD, 40s, white, supervisor of some sort of work team. Possibly the first in his family to rise above laborer. Blunt and colloquial in speech.

KURT, a peer of Howard's. Just an audience for the story Howard is telling.





Howard's Boy

SCENE 1

(Interior: A break room or "coffee room" at Howard's place of work. Cheap folding table and chairs. Low, repeated, vaguely industrial noises off. As we open, Howard is speaking to Kurt.)

              HOWARD
Boy came to the house yesterday. Just walked in. Asked if he could come and stay for a while. The people he'd been living with booted him out.
              KURT
Oh, yeah?
              HOWARD
Yeah. I didn't really want to hear it, you know. Didn't want to be easy on him. But my wife talked to him. Sat down with him and tried to, I don't know, find something we could do. To help. Or see if she could talk to the parish or something. Get him a place to live by himself. She was going to talk to Alice, down at the grocery, see if he could box things or stack things, make a little money. But he didn't seem to hear any of it. Just kept shaking his head, saying he'd tried that.
              KURT
That's a shame.
              HOWARD
It's hard to ... to think of things. To know what to do for somebody. I don't know what he's been doing. Where he's been. Who's his friends or, hell, enemies for that matter. Has he been in jail? Has he been, you know, taking something? His clothes were a mess, too.

              KURT
Sad. That we, I mean, all of us, let that sort of thing happen to a boy, but still ...
              HOWARD
I know. But it finally just got to be ... just obvious. Just nothing we could say would really, I guess, reach him. At the end of it, I gave him a twenty dollar bill. I let him have that. And we said, both of us, that he couldn't stay with us, anyway. There was just nothing we could do if he wouldn't try.
              KURT
So he took that?
              HOWARD
He did, finally. Just left. Took the money.
              KURT
Wasn't that kind of cold, though? On your part?
              HOWARD
I didn't like it. I didn't sleep very well last night. Or my wife, either, I suppose. But what other things we could have done, I don't know.
              KURT
But ... I mean, just tossing him out. You know, family and all. He is your son, after all.
              HOWARD
What? He's not my son. We don't have any children. I never saw this kid before. He just came to the door.
              CURTAIN

Friday, February 2, 2018

Senator Kreek Speaks on Groundhog Ceremonies



Good morning! Always a pressure ... pleasure ... to meet with members of the press gang. I didn't know that the proud traditions of American journalism went back that far. Or that it had much to do with recruiting. But you learn something new every day. I do, anyway. Problem is remembering what it was, the next day. That's why I have all these people who follow me around. To help me with things like that.

Now, I had some prepared remarks for you, but sadly, they got over-prepared in an honest misunderstanding regarding the coffee maker and a copy machine. And so, in honor of national ground hog day, I'll share with you my personal, secret recipe for sausage.

What? But this feller here just said it. He said ground hog. I heard him, as clear as I hear anything, which, to be perfectly honest, isn't all that clear. So he might have said pound smog, I suppose. Makes almost as much sense. But to an honest old Ishpeming boy like myself, ground hog means sausage. Period. Except when it's used in the vituperative voice. You know, the one your mother used to get you to stop bothering the hogs.

Groundhog? All one word? Well, why not say so in the first place? Why waste a perfectly good space between 'em? Nothing I hate more than a waste of space, especially in governmental affairs. And I should know.  But if we're gonna play by those rules, okay, what's the difference between ground-space-hog and groundhog all-one-word? Sounds like splitting bears, to me.

That, sonny, is a woodchuck. Don't try to pull them fancy Rogers City games on me. If there's one thing I'm at least reasonably certain about, it's wild critter taxonomy. You know what taxonomy is. It's that science thing the Party of Limpkin is always trying to juggle. No, I don't mean Lincoln. He's dead, and he wasn't a bird. Limpkin is a bird, Aramus guarauna, and it's indigenous to parts of our beloved south. I use beloved advisedly, there, in as much as I've been advised against using it at all.

But to bring things back onto the track, looking both ways first like Mom always said, so it's groundhog day? And this is somehow involved with the weather? Phil, did you book me into one of them damn climate denier festivals, again? Those people are nuts. If you want to deny the climate, go somewhere where there is one. This ain't a climate. This is a Fiasco.

Fiasco, smarty pants, is an Eye-talian car. They look nice, can't start worth a damn in the winter, September on through June. And most of 'em are so small, the road commission finds dozens in the snow banks every spring.  Still got people in 'em, living a primitive existence, eating woodchuck jerky and fake Eye-talian leather upholstery.

So, enough of this witty repartee, what did you want to ask me about wood hog day, or whatever it is? Hurry it along, too, I got to get back to DC. Missing an impeachment party.
Copyright 2018, J. F. McLuggage

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Senator Kreek Changes Parties


All right now, Sonny, I'm here. Stop foolin' with my collar, and let's get this damn thing over with.

What? It's alive, Mike? Who's Mike? This?! It's alive? Ewww! Get it off me!

Oh, all right. Why didn't you just say so? Don't know why it'd be turned on, but to each its own. As long as it doesn't bite, I don't care about its personal preferences. So ... start holdin' up the cards, and let's see if we can get this done in one fake. Take, I mean.

I have had a long and successful career representing the interests of my constituency ... anybody ask them about this? ... constituency, as a member of the Democratic Loon Party. I became a loon early in my life, and as long as I paid any attention to politics, it seemed to me that the DLP and I were made for each other. But now, in this here crisis of coincidence ... what? ... confidence, I feel that my efforts to uphold the principles of whatever it is my voters want upheld would be best served if I were to shift my allegiance into drive and ... I don't have an Allegiance, it's a Peugeot. Oh. Shift my allegiance TO a new alliance ... are you sure we're not talking about cars, here? ... to a new alliance of common interests, and they don't get any more common, I assure you, which we have decided to call the Injured Party.

Now I know some of you out there are asking yourselves, "I thought I googled panda porn. How did I get this nonsense?", and you might be right. Quite a few of you seem to be, lately. But I assure you there's a clear, logical, and compelling explanation for the change, and when we figure it out, we'll let you know. For now, let me just say that we hope we'll garner sympathy votes with this name.

Having thought of the name, incidentally, while reading a couple of fascinating subpoenas sent to one of my colleagues in the Senate, it occurred to us ... I say us, because my assistants usually read things to me while I take copious notes ... that our press releases and bar tabs would be much more appealing to the general public ... especially over at the Pentagon where they're all generals, more or less .. if they were to start out "The Injured Party testified ..."

Incidentally, in case any of you are concerned over the state of my health, physical or mental, preposterous as that may be. let me assure you that I've never been any more robust, healthy, wealthy, and wise ... healthy and committed ... to the institutions of our great system ... nation than I am today. In other words, there's no change. Spare or otherwise, climate or ... primate.

Sorry, lost the thread there. The bubble, as they say. But still, I'm sure that you, the proud members of the National Association of Rutabagel Producers, will agree that a vote for me or my opponent either, for that matter, is a vote for something. And that's easy for me to say, especially since I just thought of it now. My old mother always used to tell us "A new thought is a blue thought," and while no one knew what she meant by that, we all agreed that she was deeply whatever it was that she was. And you better believe it.

So in collusion ... conclusion ... I want to assure you that regardless of name, those of me who make up the core of the corps of the Injured Party will do our downleft best to include you in the growing conglomeration of those who are deeply injured. Thank you, and have a hippy ... harpy halidays.

J. F. McLuggage, 2017

Sunday, April 23, 2017

From Driven by the Trades, Now Available on Kindle

The Trade Winds

"21, go ahead." The older officer responded to the radio. There'd been nothing for him or his trainee for almost an hour. The joint city/county dispatcher was going back and forth with a sheriff's deputy about a robbery out in the Township, but Ann Arbor was being law-abiding or at least getting away with its crimes unnoticed.

"21, suspicious person, walking south on State, 2000 block, up near the buildings. Male, possibly black. East side of the street."

"Good example of the crap we get this time of the morning," the officer said, speaking to the young man next to him. It was 4:49 AM, according to the dashboard clock. "A guy's walking along in the rain, and somebody calls it in."

"Let's go see him." The patrol SUV turned south off the residential street where they'd been waiting for the morning's traffic accidents to start.

Along the west side, there was no way for a pedestrian to walk suspiciously. The university's athletic buildings and fields and golf course were more than adequately secured, and they butted right up to the sidewalk. The light at the railroad crossing was green, and they went on past Stimson Street on the east, then past the Produce Station and a sausage shop. A vacant lot followed, then a body shop, and finally, back from the street, a small office building.

"There we go," said the driver. There was a man walking along the front of the building, partly shadowed from the street lights by the second floor overhang. There was a driveway just beyond it, and they pulled in, effectively blocking the man's path.

They got out. The older officer, Kurt, greeted their subject. "Good morning, sir. You're getting kind of wet, aren't you?"

"Yes, sir," said the man. He was, in fact, African-American, and he looked old, almost elderly. "Naturally, it'd start rainin' now."

"We just wondered if you were all right. Someone saw you, thought maybe you might need some help."

"No, sir, no. I'm just walkin' home."

"Home? Where's that?"

"Why, up there, off Ellsworth. In the apartments."

"That's a long way."

"Yes, sir. It is. But I'm used to it. I work for the university."

"Okay. Any reason why you'd be walking up close to these buildings? Not out on the sidewalk?"

The man smiled. "Oh, yes, sir. Plenty of reason." He held out his hand, palm up, and the rain splashed on it. "Keepin' out of the rain."

"I see. Do you have some ID I could look at?"

"Oh, sure." His coat came about to mid-thigh, and instead of hiking it up in back, he unzipped it and pulled it open. "I'm just reachin' for my wallet, now. All right?"

The younger officer had stepped slightly sideways, and he could see where the man's hand was going. He said, "Yes, go ahead."

The driver's license the man produced was current, and the address was a street Kurt knew, lined with townhouses. Across from the city's main landfill, in fact. "That's what, two miles or something?"

"Well, more like a mile and a half, sir. I cut over on Eisenhower, go down to Stone School and get over the highway there. I do it every day."

"Okay. Well ... it's just going to keep on raining, apparently. Can we give you a ride?"

"Oh. Well, that would be very nice of you, sir. Very nice. I'd appreciate it."

The man got in the back of the SUV, and they took him home, going the formal, right-angle way, crossing the freeway on State, then around the traffic circle and east on Ellsworth. They dropped him off, watched as he went up to a door and opened it with a key.

"You know, Mike," the older cop said as they turned the vehicle around, "he had a UM facilities uniform, ID, and everything. Walking two miles home in the dark, ducking under awnings to stay dry. And somebody called him in as 'suspicious'. What if he'd been white? Think we'd have ever heard of him, let alone stopped him?"

"If he'd been a deer, we'd have had SWAT out here." The city had just gone through a nasty period of shaming and counter-shaming among citizens and council members over a project to reduce the whitetail deer population.

"Oh, well. At least we could give him a lift home." They turned right out of the complex, headed back west toward State. The radio woke up again.

In the next few seconds, the early morning collapsed away on each side, tunneling into a narrow path, smoothing and streaking and blurring at the edges. The important features were lights falling away behind them as they sped up, rain hitting the windshield with increasing force, drops smearing with the wind and smearing the world. Things became more of a shooting script than a narrative.

The view shifted to a higher point, looking downward at the SUV as it slid out its rear wheels going around the traffic circle. North on State, with the flashers making the Quick Lube a surreal red and blue work of public art. No traffic on the other side of the boulevard, ominously empty. They went through the light at Research Park, a car braking hard to let them by. A glimpse of the driver's startled face, tinted blue. The radio still babbling. A U Haul office snapping by on the right. Ahead, the road going up to cross the freeway. Cresting the overpass. "Holy shit!"

To the left, at the westbound entrance ramp, two cars upside down. A third visible down the ramp, burning hellishly. A Pittsfield Township patrol car, sideways across the southbound lanes of State, both officers out with long guns. Fire trucks coming in from both directions. State police coming from the east on the freeway, bouncing over the shoulder and getting jammed up in the ditch. Our two officers out of their car, running in, side-arms drawn. A man weaving toward them, on foot, with his clothes on fire. In close-up, a woman standing in the rain, her arms over her head, and her face twisted into a grimace of sheer horror. Shouting. Sirens. And above all of it, rain, dark clouds, and a flash of lightening.

Two and a half hours later, Mac MacArthur set down his plate of toast and the first cup of coffee. He perched on a kitchen stool, got his phone out, and unlocked it. As he usually did, he opened the Detroit Free Press news site first. "Jesus H. Christ!" he said, aloud. His dogs looked up, surprised at his tone. Colleen MacArthur looked up, too. "What now?" she asked him.

"Look at this," was all he said, passing her the phone.

From Driven by the Trades Copyright by 2017 Joseph McConnell

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Sen. Elijah Kreek's Healthcare Bill


Ann Arbor, June 3, 1915 (WCNS) US Senator Elijah Kreek (L, Michigan), spoke at a press conference this morning in Washington, held to announce his plans to introduce a completely new national healthcare bill. Senator Kreek's address is reproduced here.

Hello? Is this thing Ron? I mean, Ron, is this on thing? The thing, you know, is it on? Okay. Good. Don't want to waste anybody's time, talking to some off thing.

Now, about that word, off. I've been usin' it for years, off and on, and you know, I wonder why I haven't ever stopped. Stopped to wonder, that is. Wait. Who wrote this foolishness? I stop to wonder all the time! Oh, about the word off, eh? Well, why didn't you say so? I did. Just then.

Anyway, what do we mean off? I tried to giggle it on the Internet, but all I got was some nonsense about bug repellent. I've known plenty of bugs in my time, and most of 'em were repellent enough without having some goop sprayed on 'em. And lizards? Don't get me started.

Healthcare. That's what it says on the card that young fella's holdin' up. No, wait. There's more. It says Healthcare Bill. I don't know anybody by that name, though. Used to hang around the Orgone Box with old Wilhelm Reich. Some people called him Healthcare Bill because they thought he needed some. The Orgone Box was a cafe' and hookah bar in North Lansing, by the way. I always thought those DEA fellas were too hard on 'em. The owners.

Now he's gone and written something on the card. Your Healthcare Bill it says now. Oh, My healthcare bill? He's nodding his head. Up and down. You oughta get that looked at, Son. You're too young to have your head flopping around like that.

I recall once, up in Ishpeming or somewhere like that, I went to a doctor. A veteran, he was. Said so right on his sign. Spelled it wrong, but I won't hold that against him. Anyway, I wanted him to do something about my rheumatiz. "Where is he?" the doc says. Well, the conversation went downhill from there. He ended up putting a big cone-shaped thing around my neck. I wore it for a while, but it was hard to see where I was goin'. Still have it, though. I wear it instead of a necktie when I go to embassy dinners. Helps me understand what the foreigners are sayin'.

But when I got the bill for all that, I said to myself and three or four other people, "This here healthcare bill is incomprehensible!" And they couldn't understand it. Incomprehensible. They didn't know what it meant. Means stupid, by the way, if you don't know what it means, either. And that got me all up on my high horse about it.

After I fell off, as I usually do, I got up on my short horse and rode over to the Senate. The Senate was another hookah bar, you understand. And we talked about it, healthcare, that is. The bartender and I. And he said, "You oughta do something about it." And so I did. I am. Now, finally.

What's that? Oh, he's pointin' at the card again. Now it says Explain it. What? I was explaining something, there, but you made me lose my thread. Now he's back to Healthcare Bill, again. You know, I'm not sure I recognize him. I usually do, those kids who hang around and sort of give me a shove in one direction or another. But this one ... I don't know, he might be a demonstrator or a perpetrator or one of those "ator" types. There's usually a lot of 'em around, holdin' up signs, I notice. In fact, I was coming through the airport just yesterday, and there was a guy protesting something called the "Kardashian Party". I don't really know any of those Russian types, but a party is a party so I said ...

What? Oh, good. Time's up. Anyway, vote for me or even this Healthcare Bill fella, whoever he is. I'll see you all back at the Senate, those of you who are old enough, anyway.
 Copyright 2015, ProcArch Press, Sen. Elijah Kreek

Senator Kreek Addressed the Ann Arbor City Council

There are a lot of people wanderin' around my office these days. Some of 'em, I even recognize. This one young gal, for example, is the one who's always giving me pieces of paper. I keep tryin' to tell her I have plenty of paper, thanks, you keep it. But she doesn't. She makes me keep it. It's gettin' hard to see around the stacks of it. But it dawned on me, maybe it's a security measure. Givin' me something to hide behind, you know. In case that Trump fella busts in or maybe one of my constituents.

Anyway, this morning she handed me another piece of paper. She wanted to know what I thought of it. "Well," I said, "it's flat. And sort of white. Got nice black ink on it, too."
That wouldn't do, though. She said she meant the content of it. What it said, you know. Why didn't she say so in the first place, is my question. But so, I read it.

Turns out, it was all about these guys in Ann Arbor and how they're all worked up over managin' deer. With my eyesight bein' what it is, I read it as "beer management" at first, but the young lady straightened me out on that. And she said it'd be a good idea if I could address the issue. So, here goes.

First of all, I hear that they got some kind of college there in that town, and that a lot of people hang around it, talkin' about management. Now, I didn't know that managin' deer was that much of a problem, with regard to the nation's economy, but I can't see, if it is, why it's any more difficult than managin' anything else. As my old pal, Walt Kelly, suggested, time was when a worker'd be happy if you gave him fifty cents and a pat on the back with a shovel. But I guess with deer, it'd be a little ambiguous just where to deliver the feedback. They're pretty fast, too.

Another thing I noted is that somebody in that town don't know how to spell. I had to read that word, "cull", five or six times before I got it. For your future guidance (as they say to me a lot around the Senate), that's spelled with a "K" and an "I". I looked it up. College town like that, you'd think they wouldn't make that kind o' mistake.

But then, I got to the real crucks of the matter. That's "crucks". A cross between "crocks" and that Ted Crux fella. Throw in "crooks", too, while you're at it. Perfectly good word.
Anyway, the crucks of it is in the details, as it usually is. Details without a crucks is like a candidate without voters. Like Rick Perry. Or Millard Fillmore. Yeah, I know he's dead. So's Rick Perry. But my point is, they're gonna have these sharkshooters, runnin' around after dark, with silenced gums, trying to cull things. Now, that may sound sensible to you. It did to me, for a while. But then I looked up Ann Arbor on a map, and dang if it ain't a long way from anywhere you'd expect to find sharks. Twenty, thirty miles, at least. So I went back to the woman who brought this up, and I said, "This here is incomprehensible to the ordinary mind. And where we gonna find one o' them?"

"Sharp," she said. "Sharp shooters." So I went back and re-read it with my glasses on. But I still couldn't make head nor tail of it. If you can, well, I suppose you could talk to the lady in my office. I'd give you her phone number, but I can't remember her name. Or if she has one. A phone, I mean. So probably the best thing is just to hope it goes away. I know I do.
 Copyright 2016, ProcArch Press, Sen. Elijah Kreek