Thursday, February 25, 2010

GODOT FINALLY SHOWS! ~ By Robert Crisman


     Given the cinematic theme AT THE BIJOU, I want you to know that this piece, based on Beckett’s play "Waiting For Godot", is also a screenplay, scheduled to be filmed early this summer. I submitted it in short story form because straight prose is easier and more fun to read than a script.

     Those who’ve actually seen Beckett’s play will realize at once that I never have. Like everyone else in the world, however, I do know Godot never shows and that’s pretty much the whole deal. The rest, the details, really don’t matter, and I felt quite free to shape the characters the way I wanted them to be.

     To cement the cinematic tie-in I want you to imagine the roles being played by well-known character actors. Vladimir is Kevin Spacey of course, best seen dead in any film I can think of.  Estragon is Steve Buscemi, down to the last snaggled tooth. Godot? Gary Oldman! In "True Romance" he talked like a brother who’d smother your mother, a truly sinister white boy, just like our hero has turned out to be…

     Okay, all that said, let’s get on with the show.
                                                           ~ Robert

By ~ Robert Crisman

        Vladimir and Estragon stood hunched on the corner of Ellis and Taylor. The Tenderloin, San Francisco. Bedraggled and spent, they looked dully around them at nothing.
     They could have been 30, maybe 100. Who could tell under all of the layers of soil, dust, toxins, and smog that begrimed both their flesh and the sewage they wore? They’d tramped through 30-odd countries, feeding on bread crusts and apples they stole, and now here they were at the end of the line, for them as for so many others.

    They’d finally said fuck it, Godot isn’t coming, not down the road where they’d waited for what seemed like decades. Fuck Beckett, they said, and left to get something to eat. In jail that night, having tried and failed to make off with some bread and some wine in the market in downtown Czkzloszog, they almost gave in to despair. Then, the next morning a postcard came for them in the mail. On the front, a Far Side cartoon, the one with the cows who just sit there lacking opposable thumbs and unable to answer the phone. On the back of the card were these words: “Wish you were here. Your good buddy, G.” The card was postmarked Dubuque

     Amazing? You bet! Especially in light of the fact that I had no other plausible way to keep this thing moving!

    Astonished, our heroes served their six months, then set out, determined to get to America too and track down the ghost of their dreams.

     In Dubuque, then in Butte, and then in Spokane and Seattle, the Far Side cartoons would arrive at the jails with a “Wish you were here” and a postmark.

    The Tenderloin now, 10 o’clock Sunday morning.   Godot was somewhere in town.

     Zombies dressed much like our heroes careened through the streets in slow motion. Up the street a ragged line formed, one hundred spectres shredded and torn, waiting to scarf a free meal in Grace Church’s basement.

     Winos, dopefiends, rockheads galore in this new, deeper level of hell…

     Estragon belched again and again, in a stream that seemed to go on forever.

     “My God,” Vladimir said, “what is that, a song to your ancestors?  Stop!” He spoke in the accent and rhythms of East Central Europe.

     As Estragon did. “Eat my mucous and spit, you thrice-raddled sow! Everywhere we go, across Europe and all the way to this shithole, you criticize me. The way I act, the noises I make. You, who’ve made dumpsters your home from Sevastopol to Seattle, and now in this place. And noises! You are a noise! A noise that squeaks when he shits!”

     “Says the man who unleashes the sounds of ruminants dying in bombing attacks each time he squats in a doorway! Wildebeests rumbling inside your bowels and then stinkbombs fouling the air like the last gasp of hell! I attribute this to your mother’s unfortunate penchant for coupling with diarhhetic baboons!”

     “Diarhhetic—? You syphlitic dog’s pimp! How is it you dare to speak of my mother this way?”

     “How do I dare? You exist do you not? And are you not your mother’s son? In all your simian glory? Quod erat demonstratum.”

     “Quod—what is this you say? I will kill you!”

     “Kill me? Hah! Toxic pestilence! You can’t even kill the stench you’ve carried from Bucharest! They had to evacuate Ploesti when you plodded through, noxious carcass, and—

     Estragon pulled out a gun and shot Vladimir dead.

     Just at that moment—Amazing timing!—Godot finally showed, turning the corner just as the echoes of gunfire drifted. White-bearded, dressed hip-hop, he bopped to a stop, looked at Vladimir sprawled in the doorway, then at Estragon holding the gun with a somewhat bewildered look in his eye.

     “Homes!” Godot said.

     Estragon gaped. “Godot, is that you?

     Godot laughed. “Who you think, man, Jay Leno?

     “Godot! My God! We have been looking for you through two continents! Where have you been? We waited by the side of that road for three decades!”

     “Don’t get your bowels in an uproar, my man! I had people to meet an’ connections to make an’ I met ‘em an’ made ‘em, an’ now here I am. It was tough scufflin’ too. Paris, New York, an’ then all those cowtowns… I got hung up in Chi Town in wintertime, man! Don’t ever get stuck in Chi Town in winter! Make you wish you’d’ve tipped up to Moscow instead.

     “Anyway, man, I finally made it to Frisco, got hip in a hurry, an’ now here I am, cool as a fool who made it through school.”

     Godot, smiling, stepped back, indicating the clothes he had on with a flourish.

     “I got cash an’ talk trash. I’m dressed an’ pressed an’ shined for success. I got bling an’ damn near everything. They call me on time for dinner! You know I’m a winner! Hos’ pet an’ pimps’ fret, that’s me! My autograph’s an investment ‘cause I got a hall-of-fame name an’ plenty of game, competition is lame an’—“

     “Yes, but Godot! We are here, starving, broke, Vladiimir and myself in this city, although Vladimir is now dead as you see. And you, I am happy for your good fortune, but—“

     Godot laughed. “My man, my man!” He threw an arm around Estragon’s shoulder. “It’s you an’ me now, my Romanian cousin! Throw you under a shower an’ scrub your ass up an’ you an’ me are gonna go out an’ make all the ladies start fussin’ an’ cussin’! Fishin’ an’ wishin’ an’ wantin’ some kissin’, see what it is that they all been missin’! It’s double-your-fun day, right here an’ now! You don’t even have to ask how! You know they’re gonna give you the yum, make you cum, an’ ream you an’ steam you, out through the door an’ then right back for more, don’t even have to keep score! You’ll be Smackwater Jack in a Cadillac, Mac, SUV, VIP, like it’s free for the world to see, with a blonde in the front seat an’ two in the back, an’ a punk in the trunk if you like it like that!”

     Estragon stared at Godot, mouth gaped, blinking polyrhythmically now, as if he’d just gotten the news they’d been whisked to the Planet Zarandax.

     Godot laughed again. “Estragon, baby! Don’t worry! I got it covered! You worried about money? I am the bank an’ I got the honey an—“

     “Godot, please! I am needing subtitles already! I—“

     Godot stepped back and regarded his friend. Dropping the bop, he began to speak slowly, solemnly now, in the accents and rhythms of East Central Europe. “Okay, my friend, it is need-to-know time. So, real story, okay?”

     “Yes, Godot, thank you.”

     Godot indicated the street with a sweep of his arm. Armies of dopefiends and rockheads  shuffled and scuffled around them.

     “Do you see this, my brother?”

     “Yes, Godot, I see this.”

     “Tell me, what do you see?”

     “I see The Night of the Living Dead, Godot.”

     “Indeed you do, brother. Dopefiends and dopefiends for days upon days. Homeless for miles. Eighty-year-old women with tin cups in doorways. The sick, the wounded, the dead, the wish-they-were-dead, they are all here.”

     Estragon stared, wide-eyed and blinking.

     “These people make me look like the Czar of the Russias, Godot! We were told San Francisco was a city of gold! What happened here?”

     “Crack, AIDS, budget cuts, a corporate erasure of freedom and hope. This is a city in freefall, my brother. Like all of America, right down the tube. And the people no longer bother to care! Hurray for me and fuck the whole world is their mantra! Look all around you! This is a nightmare cartoon! Corrupt, ugly vicious, and doomed!”

     Godot’s laughter now pealed like doom’s soundtrack.

     Estragon stammered. “Yes, but, but—why did we come here then, brother? Merely to watch people die? We saw such as this in Berlin in the rubble after the war. Why come here now?”

     Godot laughed again.

     “Estragon, Estragon! Come awake, my dear brother! Berlin, yes, the rubble. Nothing but rubble! But America! Hah! Do you know what lies under the shit that you see? Can you guess? Milk and honey, my friend! As our Chinese friends say, this is Gold Mountain! Like always!”

     “Gold Mountain? My God, Godot! You mean goat shit and piss! Look at this, brother! This is the basement of hell!”

    “No, brother. Gold mountain! Rivers of milk and the honey drips like the dew. It is poisoned, of course, but people here pay for their poisons. They’ve come to believe that shit tastes like candy. And I am the candyman, brother! And now you! We shall feed all these people their candy!”

     Estragon blinked and stared at Godot.  “Do you mean…”

     “Yes, brother, I do.” Godot laughed. “When I left Europe?”

     “Yes, brother. We heard it was Gehlen who bought you safe passage.”

     “It was Skorzeny, my friend, and ODESSA. And the Americans, of course. Down the ratlines we came with no one the wiser, at least none who’d tell, and voila, we were new men, and free. And then the Americans put us to work.”

     “Put you to work? Doing what?”

     “Fighting the communist bastards, my brother! Everywhere in this world, from Tehran to Tegucigalpa, Medellin to Marseilles, Kandishar to Kabul—the frontlines of freedom, my friend. And I was there every step of the way in the trenches!”

     Godot smiled. “Wars, my brother! Covert, proxy wars, in Laos, Angola, you name the place. Afghanistan, brother, the first time! We brought in Osama to take out the Russians! We trained him and then turned him loose and the next thing you knew the Russians retreated to Moscow and died!”

     “Yes, brother, but—“

    “And, brother, this is important. Do you know how we paid for these wars?”

     “No, brother.”

     “With candy, my brother! Heroin in Laos and Saigon! Cocaine in the Andes! Heroin again in Afghanistan, brother! Congress is cheap and my Masters said, get the job paid for and done, and we did!”

     “Yes, Godot, but—what war is there here?”

    Godot laughed long and loud. “What war is there here? My God, look around you! Where have you ever seen carnage like this?”

     “The South Bronx.”

     “Yes! And in Camden, Detroit, East St. Louis, Chicago’s west side, on and on. It’s all the same war, Estragon!”

     “What war, Godot?”

     “The war of the rich to stay rich on the backs of the poor!”

    “The—I don’t see—“

    “Yes, Estragon! Divide and conquer! The white from the black! So the rich can keep fucking on both sides of town!”

     “By selling these people candy, Godot?”


    “How is this, my brother?”

     Godot swept the street with his eyes. “Do you see all these dregs? These black and brown dregs that litter the streets like the spawn of some plague?”

     “Yes, brother, I do. White dregs too.”

     “Yes, but no one cares about them. They’re white trash, windblown, forgotten. Crime, drug addiction—it’s all been dressed up in blackface by people who feed us our nightmares.”

     “Which people are those?”

     “The ones who bring us the Six O’Clock News and who finance campaigns for high office. The ones who rant about crime and keeping the middle class safe in their beds late at night in their exurban enclaves.”

     “Oh yes, those people. I’ve seen their TV…”

    “Yes indeed, those people, brother. They scare all the white folks to death. All dark-skinned people in this world have been turned into gangbangers, dopefiends, terrorists, Muslims, thugs with big dicks who have come for your wife—or you for that matter! The media spinners have given us monsters to play with! And as a result, all those whites who shiver in closets have given it over to people like me to save them from hordes here at home and all over the world, to defend what they call their culture, their honor, their blood! And, oh yes, their oil

     Godot grinned, the grin like a hot-buttered knife. “It is war to the death, Estragon! In Afghanistan now and here on these streets that you see with your eyes. War to the death—and I am a knight, a hero sent to slay dragons!”

    Godot the candyman. Hero? A knight sent to slay dragons?

    “You are a rogue out to line your own pockets, Godot! Estragon, getting hip quick…

    Godot laughed again. “Yes, of course! What else would an American hero be? Their God tells them, blessed are the rich! John Wayne is dead! The mask has come off and behold the fangs!”

    “Godot, they will catch you and throw you in jail! Are you mad? Selling heroin, crack—“

     Godot sneered. “They will never do that, Estragon. Do you want to know why?”

    “Yes, Godot, please tell me why.”

     “My Masters would not want it known what we’re doing. They don’t care what we’re doing, money is money, all for the wars, and we work off the books, but the blacks would make noise, and even the whites would not understand why it is that we feed the streets candy. Candy has turned the streets into nightmares. And it’s what we have told them we’re trying to stop in Afghanistan now as we speak. The Taliban, dope-dealing devils and so forth, do you understand?”

     Godot laughed again. Estragon blinked and stared at Godot.

     “And,” Godot said, “if by some rare chance we got caught, so what?” He shrugged. I have a get-out-of-jail-free card, my friend, signed, if you will, by my Masters, who never allow their loose ends to dangle, especially in jail, if you know what I mean.

     “Besides, as I told you, I am a hero. A villain, yes—but what is a hero these days but a villain, on TV, the movies, and everywhere else? People recognize ‘good guys’ these days as cartoons, Never-Never Land’s own, myths for small children. Adults roll their eyes. What matters to them is who wins. All they want now is a winner, someone who can help them believe that they too might win as they sink in the quicksand that passes for life all around them.

     “They want winners! And believe it, my brother, the people like me? We are the ones who are winning!”

     Estragon stared at Godot. Godot grinned and grinned.

     “So, Estragon. Are you with me?”

     Estragon chewed his lips, looked around once again at the streets. He seemed to shudder.

     “Yes, Godot, I am with you.”

     Godot laughed. “As soon as we bathe you, my friend, then you are with me!”

     “Yes, yes, of course, but—“

    Estragon looked at Vladimir’s body.

     “What about Vladimir?”

     Godot glanced down at the body. “Collateral damage, my friend. A casualty of the war. There are thousands just like him littered in doorways all over this town. We let the police do their jobs.”

     Godot took Estragon by the arm. “Come now, my friend. We’ve business elsewhere.”

     They walked arm in arm down the street.
(c) 2009 ~ Author / Playwright Robert Crisman

Robert Crisman? You want Me, Absolutely*Kate who believes in believers, to dance a little two-step around this feller's bio-background? Well, he sure sees it as it is and writes it as he calls it and there's no turning'back a turnaround there. More visionary than cynic in spaces and places his true gritty from roughened toughened streets of  any city comes to tell a tale . . . darkly, memorably well. His noir shadows the night in heaps and bounds (I counted 24), over at A Twist of Noir and he etches edgey over at 6*City, I mean Six Sentences, too. This guy's got films in production, novellas of seduction and words, rants, essays, his says, cut-through-illusion scrawls in just about any literary site he sets his keyboard to. 

And now he's come in the front door
  AT THE BIJOU, closing up Beckett's back door
of potential symbolism in one fell Frisco swoop.
How'm I doin' Rob?

ROBERT:  Not that shabby A*K, but are you gonna tell the folks who come read around this joint that ~ in writing crime and noir fiction, Robert Crisman spent 15 years on streets in downtown Seattle and has some idea of what really goes on in these realms. He has stories scheduled on Yellow Mama and Darkest Before Dawn. A movie he scripted, Chasing the Dopeman, is currently in post-prod down in L.A. and, with luck, it’ll be ready to go sometime this fall. He maintains a blog, chock full of stories, at 6S.

ABSOLUTELY*KATE:  How can I top the razzamatazz of that horn well trumpeted, Rob? You just hit all the high notes and covered all bases sliding a run into home. Mixed metaphors aside, I'm thinkin' you left the folks AT THE BIJOU with a heady awareness of what your shouts are all about.

for cinematic flair o'flare
at our humbly vibrant
presentation theatre

~ Absolutely*Kate
and the fine staff of renown
 getting ready for Oscar's Greatest Night 
~ Stars twinkling, spotlights blazing.


Carrie Clevenger said...

Okay, unfamiliar with script but what amazing dialogue. Your time spent out in the cold really nails the environment and pacing of this existence. Thanks for the great short this morning.

Salvatore Buttaci said...

Robert, what a romp! You are damn good, my friend! Did I mention how many long years I had been waiting for Godot? Would you believe 52? The wait is over!!

Jelena said...

'Collateral damage' may be one of the devil's most favorite phrases.
Sharp, great write.

Robert187 said...

Carrie, Sal, Jelena,
Thanks for your comments. Really glad you dug Godot. Sal, you may wind up wishing the fucker'd stayed missing.
Carrie, read your blog and saw that you like your own stuff. Right on! You are an artist worth her salt. Love it to death!

Anonymous said...

Robert, I don't believe I've read your work before. But! I will read it again.

Anonymous said...

This read so smoothly, it is definitely a great read. Your dialog was spot on. It's pieces like this that keep me returning to read your work.

Keep this up and you will soon have a whole slew of followers.

Michael Solender said...

This is hilarious, I d like to see it staged

Kate Pilarcik ~ absolutely said...

It's actually being filmed this summer, MJ. Should the copious copacetic author Mr Crisman who rocked away Mr Beckett's tenets send us tickets ... we can view it where it begins its WestCoast claims to fame.

A very street-wise take around the near'side of the globe and the FarSide of the postcard communiques in your fresh Frisco cell-ular delivery, oh crisp Mr Crisman ... good thing you always have more works stacked up to show.

THANKS! ~ Absolutely*Kate and the fine staff of renown, AT THE BIJOU

Paul D Brazill said...

Ah, now that's meaty stuff. Clever but not smartass. Meaty stuff.Sam would grin, I think.