A High-Summer Noon’s Duel: Or, No Midsummer for Old Men

{SCENE I: We open on a beaten down old village, long after the Civil War. There is a sign that reads “Wanted: Ryder Sloman. A picture of Sloman also appears. Enter MARSHAL, a tall man of 52 years.}

 

MARSHAL: Greetings to all who await a show,

But first the facts that you should know:

Here we set our story, here,

In a town not so far, but near,

To the long and flowing Pecos River,

Where men get drunk and harm the liver.

The threat of violence always waits,

To lay our humble town to waste.

But danger always has a tendency,

To call upon our great depency.

 

{Enter the short, stressed-out DEPUTY.}

 

DEPUTY: Wait, Marshal, that’s not a word!

 

MARSHAL: What? Depency? That’s just absurd.

 

DEPUTY: No Marshal, your poetry’s weak.

 

MARSHAL: Oh, as if you could hardly speak.

 

DEPUTY: That’s what I mean. If you don’t mind me saying.

You’re not rhyming so much as poetry slaying.

Let me tell the people, I went to school.

Let’s not treat them like a common fool.

 

MARSHAL: Please, Deputy. (pointing to his badge) Who’s got the star?

It’s like you have no sense of timing.

 

DEPUTY: But, Marshal, just now you were not rhyming

You didn’t even take words that spelled alike.

 

MARSHAL: Now, Deputy, try as you might…

 


DEPUTY: Just like that…

 

MARSHAL: Just like what?

 

DEPUTY: You’re couplets are becoming a royal pain in the-

 

MARSHAL: Rear?

 

DEPUTY: Exactly, let me tell the story back.

Before an outlaw can come to attack.

 

MARSHAL: Very well, deputy. You’ll have your way for now.

But, just remember: You didn’t work yourself to the top to be royally insulted.

 

{DEPUTY puts his face in his palm. He then turns to face the audience.}

 

DEPUTY: Now that we can be pleasingly straight,

I’ll let you know about the following fates.

There is one of four young people, quite poorly arranged.

But if the marshal has an idea, I’m sure these will change.

There is also the brave but foolish one to pass,

Who makes it true that “law is an ass.”

And finally there is the vengeful Ryder

(he points to the picture of Ryder Sloman).

 

MARSHAL: Who will show up noon, so cut the crap.

Or else you’ll end up a sorry sap.

At noon Ryder Sloman is coming to kill,

He swore vengeance on me, and is back for the thrill.

 

DEPUTY: See, Marshal. You’re improving.

 

MARSHAL: I did always think I was rather groovy.

 

{DEPUTY puts his face into his palm again}

 

{Enter TITWILLOW, the MARSHAL’s wife}

 

TITWILLOW: Harry!

 

MARSHAL: Oh, dear…

 

TITWILLOW: Harry, is it true? Is Sloman coming?

For it’s what the busy bees are humming.

 

DEPUTY: Indeed, he comes, by noon arrival.

But your husband has plans to ensure survival.

If you could just sit back and cease your whining…

 

MARSHAL: Stay out Tommy, you are ruining the rhyming.

 

{DEPUTY puts his face into his palm again}

 

TITWILLOW: You think your cloud has silver lining?

Or your marshal’s star can go on shining?

It’s just a matter of hours timing,

Before you’re shot and up both dying.

You should know that I’m done crying,

Over your violent ways of…

 

MARSHAL: Confrontation?

 

{Both DEPUTY and TITWILLOW put their faces in their palms}

 

TITWILLOW: And if you are going to fight him then you can bet,

That I will leave with no regret.

 

MARSHAL: Titwillow, if Sloman comes and I’m not ready,

Then the folks of town will all be dead… E.

 

DEPUTY (to himself): Just up put with it.

 

TITWILLOW: Well, if you plan to go out violently,

Then I will keep peace, triumphantly.

 

(TITWILLOW exits)

 

{SCENE II: Open on the north end of town. THE MAYOR is a portly middle-aged man who is at a podium addresing the citizens of the town. Also present are HERMA, his daughter, and DEMITRI, the rich boy.}

 

MAYOR: …And shoot him dead to the ground. So, there is the story folks. At noon, Ryder Sloman, the most feared outlaw our fine land has ever known, will ride into to town with his discpicable gang, and kill the marshal. The marshal has asked me to issue message (takes out a letter and begins reading) “That any and every one of the town’s able bodied men should come by the marshal’s office and join the enforcement committee to ensure the ultimate defeat, and apprehension of Sloman.” So, are there any volunteers?

 

(Nobody moves)

 

MAYOR: Very well, he said if that were the case (looking back to the letter) “You can all just show up and watch him die.” Or, maybe that was sarcasm, I admit it is hard to tell when it is written down. Anyway, now that that is out of the way we move to our next strategy: Who wants to be the next marshal?

 

(TOMBUTT leaps out of his chair and hops up down wildly raising his hand)

 

MAYOR: Anyone? Seriously? Please, anyone?

 

(TOMBUTT begins grunting and panting, while still raising his hand wildly)

 

MAYOR: Anyone who is FIT FOR THE JOB? Well, we will simply have to contact the governor and ask him to send one over.

 

TOMBUTT: (Grunt)!

 

(TOMBUTT storms off)

 

MAYOR: I swear the looneys in this town are gonna turn us into New York City. Well, that is everyone. Have an eventful day!

 

(The townsfolk depart, leaving only the MAYOR, HERMA, and DEMITRI)

 

DEMITRI: Mr. Mayor, if you do not mind I should be getting back to marshal’s office.

 

MAYOR: Oh, good, so you plan to help him?

 

DEMITRI: No, but I do plan to throw money at it until it goes away, and that seems to have solved most of my problems.

 

MAYOR: Good boy. You have established shallow character already. Surely, you are the perfect one to marry my daughter.

 

(They look over at HERMA. DEMITRI makes bug eyes and a bizarre hissing noise, to which HERMA cringes)

 

DEMITRI: All in a days work.

 

(DEMITRI exits)

 

HERMA: Father, why do I have to marry him of all people?

 

MAYOR: Well, he is shallow, egotistical, rich, rather creepy, and this is the 19th century and you are a woman. I cannot imagine any way you two are not right for each other.

 

HERMA: Maybe Helen would appreciate him more.

 

MAYOR: Herma, did your mother complain when her father told her she had to marry me?

 

HERMA: No, but she killed herself after I was born. She must have been unhappy.

 

MAYOR: Yes, but as you mentioned she killed herself after you were born, so I think she was probably more sad about having you in her life than me.

 

HERMA: Father, that is a terrible thing to say.

 

MAYOR: Yes, but it has already been said so I cannot take it back.

 

HERMA: I guess.

 

MAYOR: Exactly. You cannot fix something if it has already been done. And do not try saying that the engagement is stoppable because like I said this is the 19th century and you are a woman. You are going to marry Demitri, and that is that.

 

HERMA: But, what about…

 

MAYOR: And you will not bring up that Sander boy again.

 

HERMA: I am sorry, Father.

 

MAYOR: Better be. I have got to go now. I have got to find a new marshal as well dig a large whole to bury… somebody.

 

HERMA: What?

 

MAYOR: Nothing.

 

(MAYOR exits. SANDER enters)

 

SANDER: Let me guess, he used the classic “This is the 19th century and you are a woman” defense.

 

HERMA: He did.

 

SANDER: I have lost more girlfriends that way. Do not worry, Herma, this is screwball-fantasy, everything will work out in some preposterous way.

 

HERMA: Be careful. You know what Father says about breaking the fourth wall too much.

 

SANDER: Oh please I will dismiss that as quickly as the audience will.

 

{SANDER exits. HELEN enters.}

 

HELEN: I heard somebody breakin’ the fourth wall.

 

HERMA: Helen. Where have you been? You were supposed to help me convince my father that Demitri should marry you instead of me.

 

HELEN: Ah schucks, I hope this all works out right. I’d hate to go through life all alone while Demitri ends up with somebody else.

 

HERMA: Yes, about that, exactly what appeals to about a man who has not an idea in his head, has never worked a day in his life, and actually tries to woo dames by hissing at them.

 

HELEN: Aw, Herma, you’re so naïve.

 

HERMA: Never mind. Either way I have a plan, and I will need you to execute it.

 

HELEN: I think this is gonna work out just fine it is.

 

HERMA: Yes, whatever you say.

If we are dogs, that this shall be our day.

 

(HERMA and HELEN exit)

 

{SCENE III: TOMBUTT is laying outside the saloon passed out. Two RICH ASSHOLES enter.}

 

RICH MAN #1: I say, will you look at that, old chap. There seems to be a lowly scoundrel, lost his way to the bottle.

 

RICH ASSHOLE #2: Indeed, shall we give him a penny for his troubles?

 

R.A. 1: Nay. Then he will not have learned the value of the dollar any more than we have.

 

{RICH ASSHOLE #2 blows his nose into a $100 bill. TOMBUTT suddenly wakes up and whips out his gun.}

 

TOMBUTT: Who goes there?

 

R.A. 1: Someone of significantly superior social stature.

 

TOMBUTT: Very well.

 

{TOMBUTT holsters his gun.}

 

R.A. 2: So, he does know his place.

 

TOMBUTT: Nay, but I do respect the law.

 

R.A. 2: (sarcastically) Really?

 

TOMBUTT: Do not doubt me. In a dark and violent world such as this, the law is the final refuge. Thousands die on the plains of the old west, but there is always a star that shines where righteous men ride.

 

R.A. 1: Well, old chap, he is both poor and delusional. You simply could not ask for more.

 

TOMBUTT: Be silent! Lest you should provoke my anger, you should not speak to me in that regard. Do you know who I am?

 

R.A. 2: No, and should I care?

 

TOMBUTT: I am Tombutt! Son of the great western hero, Domsass!

 

R.A. 2: Who?

 

TOMBUTT: The greatest hero the west had ever seen. And when Ryder Sloman shot him down before my eyes, many years ago, I swore that I would offer battle to bad men near and far.

 

(RICH ASSHOLES laugh.)

 

TOMBUTT: How dare you insult my honor?! I will now…

 

{TOMBUTT suddenly keels over and collapses}

 

R.A. 1: Oh my, is he dead?

 

R.A. 2: Nay, he appears to be narcoleptic.

 

R.A. 1: What?

 

R.A. 2: When under severe stress his body cannot handle the pressure, so it simply shuts down and he falls asleep. I suppose we should extend a hand,

 

R.A. 1: But, alas, we have some other plans.

                                                                                                                

(RICH ASSHOLES exit, leaving TOMBUTT asleep.)

 

{SCENE IV: MARSHAL and DEPUTY enter.}

 

MARSHAL: And so none will come to help me fight,

And Sloman rides with murder in sight,

 

DEPUTY: It certainly is a mighty fright.

 

MARSHAL & DEPUTY: These troubles will not cease.

 

DEPUTY: And as if troubles could not adjust,

Your wife has left you to the dust,

A relationship needs more than trust,

 

MARSHAL & DEPUTY: If you can ever rest in peace.

 

MARSHAL: So here we are, my deputy.

They’ve left us barking up the wrong tree.

 

DEPUTY: Again, Marshal, wrong expression,

If you mean to comment on apprehension.

Barking up trees implies a doubt,

That we’re even looking where we shout.

 

MARSHAL: Enough of your critical trashing,

More important matters must be discussed.

The Mayor’s announced we will receive no help,

So, you and I will have to… uh…

 

(MARSHAL looks to DEPUTY for assistance)

 

DEPUTY: I have nothing.

 

MARSHAL: Ah, hell.

 

DEPUTY: What you mean to say is that we are done,

And we will die when that glowing sun,

Has reached the top of its day long run,

And we lay dying, by way of the gun,

 

MARSHAL: Wait, Tommy, here comes someone.

 

(DEMITRI and HELEN enter.)

 

DEMITRI: I will not go on with this business! Stop following me, or I will alert the authorities!

 

HELEN: But, Demmy, I been following you all day, every day, for what been five years. You never once listened.

 

DEMITRI: Very well, say what you must, but make it quick. I have important flaunting to get to.

 

HELEN: I known Herma since we was both youngins’ and I know she ain’t gonna go through with the marriage. So, why don’t you give up on that, and let me in.

 

DEMITRI: (sarcastically) Oh, please.

 

HELEN: No, really. Ever since I was youngin’ I always done thought if I was to marry anyone, it’d be that charming fella who hisses people, and fire his guns at the homeless so they’d dance for him.

 

DEMITRI: What I do for entertainment is of no consequence. You can live out on that pathetic little pig farm of yours and wait for prince charming to show up, but believe me, your barking up the wrong tree.

 

{Enter TITWILLOW.}

 

DEMITRI: Hello, ma’am.

 

{DEMITRI hisses at TITWILLOW. TITWILLOW screams and runs away.}

 

HELEN: I know you never done hiss at me, but if you did, I would never run.

 

DEMITRI: I would say that is attributed less to sweetness, and more to a lack of common sense. Maybe you should try improving on that. I know plenty rich guys who like someone as dumb as brick. Cheerio!

 

{DEMITRI exits, leaving HELEN in tears.}

 

HELEN: Well, that’s how you want, you can flaunt yourself into the ground!

 

{HELEN exits, still crying.}

 

MARSHAL: Deputy, that was a real shame,

No man should say that to a dame.

 

DEPUTY: In all the world’s history and art,

There’s no greater mystery than the human heart.

Admittedly she’s rather dim,

But that should make no difference to him.

He is nothing but a rotten lad.

 

MARSHAL: Maybe we can help out a tad,

If we are to lose our lives,

Why not match husbands and wives,

I have something that gives a boot,

 

(MARSHAL pulls out a gun.)

 

DEPUTY: (in panic) She came onto me! Don’t shoot!

 

MARSHAL: What?

 

DEPUTY: Oh, that was nothing, just a wail.

 

MARSHAL: Well, sit back. I have quite a tale.

When I was a lad of twenty-one,

And I had bought this very gun,

I set my sights on Titwillow’s love,

And it went, for weeks, smoothly… kind of.

I could tell she was growing colder by the day,

And that she would leave me to go pray,

With her religious family, she’d be gone,

And I would live out my days alone.

 

DEPUTY: Marshal, those two words are spelled similarly, but they do not rhyme. Still, continue.

 

MARSHAL: And the night before she could tell me so,

She was looking at my gun, and it did blow,

I got her too the doctor, and when she woke,

She wanted to get married. I thought it was a joke.

But, here we are, thirty years past

And I realized the gun could do Cupid’s act.

 

DEPUTY: I see, it is a master plan,

That will fire upon that man,

And he will fall for the girl so sweet,

We may die, but the lovers meet.

 

MARSHAL: That is very good idea,

But mine was somewhat different. See, uh.

I was thinking shooting my wife again,

But we can do both, out here on the plain.

 

MARSHAL: You see Titwillow will not stand my fighting,

She thinks that God is sinner smiting,

But I will show her no one is pure,

Adultery, by the gun, is the best cure.

 

DEPUTY: Marshal, if we can form a love between,

The two young folk, our sins are clean,

Not to mention you and your wife of years,

It is all becoming so very clear:

We were put here to form together pairs,

And when we fall, there’s love to share.

 

(MARSHAL and DEPUTY give each other a handshake. MARSHAL hands DEPUTY the love gun, and both exit.)

 

SCENE V: {Outside of the SALOON, TOMBUTT wakes up. He appears very frustrated and angry.}

 

TOMBUTT: …make my name known! What?

 

{TOMBUTT looks around hopelessly.}

 

TOMBUTT: Again. Again. Again. Again! They come one after another! Always mocking, always laughing, always doubting. And then, before I can make my name, the illness takes over and I am on the ground, fast asleep. It is a curse. That I be given the desire to bring justice to these plains, greater than any man who has rode on them. And, yet, I am the one who is incapable. Unsuitable.

 

{TOMBUT takes out a letter.}

 

TOMBUT: “Your enthusiasm is unmatched among all of our applicants, Mr. Tombutt. That is why are sorry to inform you that you are unsuitable for this facility for law enforcement, due to your special needs.”

 

{Puts the letter away.}

 

TOMBUTT: Special needs? Father, I know you must be ashamed. When Ryder Sloman shot you down, I swore that someday I would take the righteous path, and prevent him from causing any boy the same pain he caused me. But, as they all say, I am unsuitable. I am given the character of a hero, and the role of a clown. All I need is an image for myself: Power, intensity, commanding nature. Then, then they will see that I can be that righteous man, who will fight for the good of the people. Somehow. I just need something to give me an image.

 

{Enter SALESMAN.}

 

SALESMAN: Well, I think that can be arranged.

 

TOMBUTT: Who goes there?

 

SALESMAN: Nobody, just a legitimate businessman trying to get some dead weight off his hands.

 

TOMBUTT: You are merchant of these plains, I see. What do you have to offer that are you pressing so much?

 

SALESMAN: Well, I am not guardian angel, but, hey, I know contrived path-crossings when I see them, and my boy, let me tell you, this is the best I have ever seen.

 

TOMBUTT: Explain yourself.

 

SALESMAN: I am salesman, indeed, but I was here to over hear your plights, and I think you and I found each other just at the right time.

 

TOMBUTT: (sarcastically) Oh, so you have something that will cure my bouts of sleep?

 

SALESMAN: No, you were born with and you have to live with it. But that is not really a problem. Is it?

 

TOMBUTT: Well, it makes it quite difficult to face tense situations, as they will always end up with collapsing and waking up hours later with the money stolen, or the farmhouse burned down.

 

SALESMAN: No, my boy. What you need is to change the perspective of the people. They are your employers, they are the ones that can get you your job as the sheriff once the Marshal has shuffled off this mortal coil.

 

TOMBUTT: They will never hire, that is the problem. They call me ‘unsuitable.’

 

SALESMAN: I am telling you, what you need is a change of image. Change of image leads to change of perspective, and change of perspective leads to change of how the people respect you. Is that not what you are after?

 

TOMBUTT: More than anything, my fellow man. My father did earn that respect, being the great hero that he was. All I wish, as his son, is to carry on his legacy.

 

SALESMAN: See, there it is. You are quite well spoken, with no image to back it up. Tell me, what is the one thing you can never see a cowboy without?

 

TOMBUTT: I do not know.

 

SALESMAN: You need a horse. You think Wyatt Earp took the railroad to take out the baddies? No, the horse demands presence, and you your ‘butt’ on top of one.

 

TOMBUTT: ‘Tis an image I have long dreamt for myself. But, I cannot find one.

 

{Looks over at the SALESMAN}

 

TOMBUTT: (catching on) Aye. There is the solution. You have a horse to sell?

 

SALESMAN: Precisely, he is just around that corner. I will go fetch him.

 

{SALESMAN starts walking to the side of the stage.}

 

TOMBUTT: Oh, so excited! The time is now. At last I will be vindicated. At last will I live up to the proud of Domsass, my father. I once held my manhood cheap, but now I shall covet honor no further! And many an outlaw will quake in fear, and whimper to their mates, and respect the name of Tom—

 

{TOMBUTT keels over and collapses.}

 

SALESMAN: That prophecy did come to pass,

If he is law, then law is an ass.

 

{SALESMAN exits.}

 

{SCENE V: Outside of TOWN HALL. Enter SANDER and HERMA.}

 

SANDER: If it were done when ‘tis done, twere well it were done in a sophisticated manner. In a few moments, Demitri will show up here, and I will face him myself.

 

HERMA: But what if he challenges you to a duel?

 

SANDER: (rolls his eyes) You really think some creepy rich kid has ever dueled anybody before? The most he uses his gun for is to shoot the homeless so they dance.

 

HERMA: But, Sander, we already used that joke, two scenes ago.

 

SANDER: (rolls his eyes) If we are to have a successful relationship, I have agreed to be less smug, but you seem to have forgotten that you have to undermine me less.

 

HERMA: Sorry.

 

SANDER: That’s better. Now, run along, I have important business to attend to.

 

{HERMA exits. Enter DEPUTY with Cupid Gun, who hides upstage.}

 

DEPUTY: Now, properly shielded from sight,

And perched here waiting ‘til time is right.

When the rich boy does cross this path,

I’ll make sure he shows no wrath.

And so the wait begins to crawl,

As I crouch from atop the fourth the wall.

 

SANDER: Who was that?

 

{Sander looks around}

 

SANDER: I can hear your soliloquies!

 

DEPUTY: Don’t be breaking this fourth wall,

Or it will collapse and I will fall!

 

SANDER: Oh, please! Once I find you I will bash your spying nature harder than the critics will bash my character!

 

{The fourth wall breaks and the DEPUTY is revealed to SANDER.}

 

SANDER: Who are you?

 

DEPUTY: Oh, I be nobody of any worth.

I simply was here to witness a birth,

Of any event that would unfold,

And—

 

{Enter DEMITRI and HELEN.}

 

DEMITRI: Helen, you will stop following now!

 

HELEN: Don’t leave me, Demmy!

 

DEPUTY: ‘Tis the boy I’ve come to shoot,

 

{DEPUTY pulls out the cupid gun.}

 

DEPUTY: Then he won’t be such a brute!

 

HELEN: Look out! He’s got gun!

 

SANDER: Stand back, everybody! You will not be shooting anybody.

 

DEPUTY: Don’t come closer, just here me,

I am just the deputy!

 

SANDER: A minute ago you said you were nobody.

 

DEPUTY: Uh—

 

SANDER: Do not move.

 

{SANDER advances and the DEPUTY panics. The DEPUTY shoots SANDER in fear. SANDER falls over.}

 

HELEN: Ahhhh! Herma’s bodyfriend!

 

{HELEN runs over to check on SANDER.}

 

SANDER: Sander! You okay, y’all!

 

{SANDER wakes up and looks up at HELEN. Everyone pauses for a minute.}

 

SANDER: Hello stranger.

 

DEPUTY: Oh, I have blundered, shot the wrong man.

I have screwed up now, but I’ll do all I can!

 

{DEPUTY shoots DEMITRI, and he falls over.}

 

HELEN: Demmy!

 

{HELEN runs over to check on DEMITRI.}

 

HELEN: Demmy, you hurt? You alive?

 

{DEMITRI wakes up and looks up at HELEN.}

 

DEMITRI: Helen. What a pleasure it is to wake up to you.

 

HELEN: You making fun again?

 

DEMITRI: Do not insult me by suggesting it. If I were to wake up in the middle of the desert, dying of thirst, I would happy if you were there.

 

SANDER: Hey, Demitri!

 

{DEMITRI and HELEN look over.}

 

 SANDER: Do not think you can merely swoop in here. Helen, really would you bother chasing this shallow, nasty rich boy?

 

HELEN: I dunno.

 

SANDER: That is because you believe you have to follow the arc of the play. I am telling you now, that I will break predictable arcs, because I am mad about you!

 

HELEN: (flattered) Huh. How nice.

 

DEMITRI: Stay back, Sander! She has been chasing me forever, and for some reason of poor judgment on my part, I could never see that was playing the fool. I may be shallow, but I am not stupid. Helen, I am ready for you now!

 

HELEN: Uh…

 

{They both get up and advance on her.}

 

HELEN: Now, I’m flattered, really. Y’all been real nice since, what, five seconds ago? Now, you better stop all this right now.

 

You two is playin’ a joke on me.

 

DEMITRI: Oh, nothing could be farther from the truth. If you ask me, I will fight him for you.

 

SANDER: Not if I fight him first!

 

{DEMITRI and SANDER begin to circle one another like boxers. Enter HERMA.}

 

HERMA: Uh, Sandy! What is going on? Have you convinced Demitri to back off yet?

 

SANDER: Not now, I am trying to fight him over your friend.

 

HERMA: What?

 

{SANDER and DEMITRI still circle each other, but still not actually fighting.}

 

SANDER: Listen, Herma, I think we have known this was not going to work out from the start.

 

HERMA: (now angry) What is that supposed to mean?

 

SANDER: Well, you rarely seem to appreciate my own fourth wall references. Maybe it was jungle fever.

 

HERMA: It could not be jungle fever because we are this is the old west, and we are racists!

 

SANDER: Maybe you just are not bright enough to grasp the situation.

 

HERMA: (referring to HELEN) Oh, what and she is?

 

HELEN: I didn’t do nothing.

 

HERMA: Oh, I am sure.

 

{HERMA chases HELEN offstage. DEMITRI and SANDER attempt to follow, but stop to bicker.}

 

SANDER: Do not think this is over, Demitri.

 

DEMITRI: Oh, please, I was hissing women while you are delivering pigs. We shall see who can out the other in this situation.

 

SANDER: Oh, we shall see. Let our rivalry begin!

 

DEMITRI: We meet in one hour for a duel!

 

{Both SANDER and DEMITRI exit, still staring each other down.}

 

{SCENE VI: TOMBUTT lays asleep in front of the SALOON. His legs are chained up to something offstage. He wakes up and sees the chains.}

 

TOMBUTT: Oh, I would place a wager on my assumption that you are laughing at me for this.

 

{pause for laughter}

 

TOMBUTT: Yes, I will endure it. Well, I guess if there would be no one else for miles I would still be treaded upon. I am fully aware of how easy that is.

 

I thought for a long time that my story would make a compelling one.

 

{Gets up and starts pulling the chains.}

 

TOMBUTT: It would… move people; give them a brand new way to view their own lives. It would… let people see that mine… is a story of… constant frustration.

 

{The chains begin to pull on an item offstage.}

 

TOMBUTT: That there is… nothing… funny… about… my… misfortune.

 

{He falls over pulling, resulting in the chains pulling a DONKEY onstage. TOMBUTT looks up and sees the DONKEY.}

 

TOMBUTT: Go ahead.

 

{pause for laughter}

 

TOMBUTT: Well, is this not just the dandiest image: an ass with his ass on an ass. I was meant to be likable one. The one to move the audience. And they laugh at my misery. Poor Tombutt.

 

{Gun shot is heard. TITWILLOW falls onstage.}

 

TOMBUTT: Oh my!

 

{TOMBUTT tries to run over but the chains pull and he falls over. DONKEY walks over to look at him. TITWILLOW wakes up and sees the DONKEY.}

 

TITWILLOW: (flirting) Hello stranger.

 

{TOMBUTT gets up.}

 

TOMBUTT: Good morning ma’am.

 

{TOMBUTT gets on the DONKEY and rides over to TITWILLOW, who won’t stop staring at the DONKEY.}

 

TOMBUTT: Did you manage to see who hit you?

 

TITWILLOW: Nay, but your presence here assists,

In helping me recover, as quick as this.

 

TOMBUTT: (puzzled) Well, you are indeed welcome. My apologies about my donkey, but as you see, we are chained together.

 

TITWILLOW: Ay, it doesn’t bother me at all,

(whispers to DONKEY) Between you and me, my husband is two inches too small.

 

TOMBUTT: What was that?

 

TITWILLOW: (giggling) Oh, ‘twas nothing of any matter, now.

If you don’t mind, I find your donkey very…

 

TOMBUTT: Wow. An excellent rhythmic timing, you have. Tell me, do you always speak in couplets.

 

TITWILLOW: My husband spoke them when we met,

And now, they’ve hardly become a sweat.

 

TOMBUTT: Your husband speaks in couplets? You must be the marshal’s wife, Titwillow. Tell me, do you have any plans to appoint anyone after Ryder Sloman kills him?

 

TITWILLOW: Probably, but he told not to bother,

If you would try to avenge your Father,

Through the righteous act of law,

You see, you’re unsuitable to…

 

TOMBUTT: Aha. I have heard these claims many times, Miss Titwillow. They are all too familiar, with me and I was hoping that someone such as yourself would be more accepting.

 

TITWILLOW: Now, what could you encounter that would expend,

A great amount of pity to satisfy your end?

 

TOMBUTT: What have I endured? That is a story that is too disturbing for anyone to hear.

 

TITWILLOW: Well, I’m a woman of the church you know,

And God will bear witness to your show.

And maybe, after that you’ll find,

That you have been all along, blind.

 

{SCENE VII: MARSHAL is waiting by his office, staring at the poster of RYDER SLOMAN.}

 

MARSHAL: It’s but 11:30, with a half-hour to remain,

As aid escapes my prospects, with not a chance refained.

I do hope that made sense, for this is my last right given.

If I end up mucking this poem too, then I’ll end up misdidriven.

 

{DEPUTY enters.}

 

DEPUTY: Sorry, Marshal, but that was a verbal schism.

You spoke a word that didn’t exist, or was malapropism.

 

MARSHAL: If you don’t mind, I’m having stressful moment,

Tell me, have you used the gun to fulfill our goals proponent.

 

DEPUTY: I won’t correct that malapropism,

Because I have no right to flaunt.

It seems that the wrong men shot each other,

And the poor girl they both want.

 

MARSHAL: Ah, prairie shit! You’ve left us without a paddle.

Now, I die, and leave to the town, with termites in its saddle!

 

{DEPUTY exits. MARSHAL throws his hat down, stomps on it, then exits.}

 

{SCENE VIII: SANDER enters holding the Cupid gun. He paces across the stage, stopping occasionally to scratch himself with the gun barrel. DEMITRI enters, carrying a shotgun.}

 

DEMITRI: Farm boy! I have my weapon! You have yours! I have a heart stronger than yours! Let us begin!

 

SANDER: As you wish.

 

{SANDER shoots DEMITRI, who falls over clutching his leg. He keeps his eyes shut due to the pain.}

 

DEMITRI: How was that legal?!

 

SANDER: You never said the duel would be fair. Now, I will finish this.

 

{SANDER points the gun at DEMITRI.}

 

DEMITRI: Wait!

 

SANDER: Why should I wait?

 

DEMITRI: Helen is not here yet. There is no point in finishing me unless she can witness your victory.

 

SANDER: Hmm… good point.

 

{SANDER lowers the gun, and stands, waiting. DEMITRI, still on the ground in pain, begins to roll across the floor.}

 

SANDER: So, how about that railroad?

 

{HELEN enters, running in panic.}

 

HELEN: Oh, god! She gonna kill me!

 

SANDER: Ah! Helen, you are here! Well, Demitri, it has been nice knowing you, but I have lots of chickens to decapitate.

 

{HERMA enters. SANDER aims the gun at DEMITRI and fires. The gun explodes in his face, knocking him over.}

 

HERMA: Sander! A misfire!

 

{HERMA runs over to SANDER and bends over to examine him.}

 

HERMA: Sander! Are you all right? Is there anything I can do? Are you okay?

 

{SANDER wakes up and looks up at HERMA.}

 

SANDER (breathing heavily): Everything is all right, as long as you are in my sights.

 

{HERMA helps SANDER up. HELEN revives DEMITRI, who also gets up.}

 

DEMITRI: Helen! You did come after all…

 

HELEN: Are you okay?

 

DEMITRI: I am fine as long as you are here.

 

HELEN: You dun’ mean that?

 

{DEMITRI hisses at HELEN. They hug each other. DEMITRI stands up.}

 

SANDER: Well, Herma, he is not as bad as you made him out to be. I was expecting a male Abigail Williams.

 

DEMITRI: No. I am but a romantic fool.

 

SANDER: A fool certainly.

 

{DEMITRI and SANDER shake hands.}

 

SANDER: Well, I think we can put this business to rest.

 

DEMITRI: Absolutely, bye.

 

{DEMITRI and SANDER try to exit, but HELEN and HERMA, respectively, both stop them.}

 

HERMA: Wait a minute, boys. You have both been causing quite the amount of chaos.

 

HELEN: You both gonna have to do something mighty big to be all forgiven.

 

SANDER: Herma, please, we have put our differences aside…

 

HERMA: Wait, I have got it. You two are going to go help the marshal and the deputy fight Ryder Sloman.

 

DEMITRI: What! We could be killed?

 

HELEN: Oh, what? You afraid now?

 

DEMITRI: Certainly not! I would face any challenge great enough if it kept you with me.

 

HELEN: Then you better go help the marshal fight his nemesis!

 

SANDER: I would like to think that both of you were smarter than to order two experienced men who had just been shot to fight the greatest outlaw the west has ever known. But consider how we have been of late, you have every right to. [to DEMITRI] Demitri! I say that the two of us will show these girls what we have got.

 

DEMITRI: And, if we die, we can blame them!

 

{Long, awkward pause.}

 

DEMITRI: I got into the university on legacy rules, please excuse my misuse of words.

 

SANDER: Come, friend, we have a challenge ahead greater than financing a…

 

HERMA: No, more wall breaking!

 

SANDER: (sigh) Come on. We will go fight this wretched man,

And help the marshal increase his lifespan.

 

{All exit.}

 

{SCENE IX: TOMBUTT, THE DONKEY, and TITWILLOW all remain sitting.}

 

TOMBUTT: And there it remains. I feel as though I have the desire to carry on my father’s work, but I am cursed to live as I am, being locked by body’s limitations to work beyond my vile existence, at this point.

 

TITWILLOW: Now, noble Butt. You have over-thought.

You’re letting a son’s pride lead off to naught.

Think but that your father is dead and buried,

He has no mind in your work or wary.

 

TOMBUTT: Yes, I know that but that is not where my problem comes. You see I have always wanted this above all things. But it is as if life has given me the desire, and not the means to carry it out. And what’s worse, life is constantly laughing at this. It is as if this is but a cruel joke to played on my behalf.

 

TITWILLOW: How do you mean this? How do they laugh?

And if so, how will it be upon your behalf.

 

TOMBUTT: Listen, can you hear them? They sit out there focusing on your husband and the Deputy as they go to fight, and I am stuck here, always wanting them on my part. I am the most driven individual on our town, and yet I am left to be the clown!

 

TITWILLOW: Ha! What a needy man you are!

What pathetic thing to say!

How can one hope to get anyway far,

When one cannot support themselves.

 

TOMBUTT: That did not rhyme!

 

TITWILLOW: Whatever!

If you should waste your time on those who love you least,

Then you should not bother whining how they tease.

If you cannot support yourself in this,

Then you will dig your own abyss.

 

TOMBUTT: How dare you tell me that I lack that which supports me! I am made of nothing but that confidence you speak of! If I lacked that, I would nothing to stand on, nothing to support myself, nothing to keep me from slipping out of… consciousness. Damn. I think you got me.

 

TITWILLOW: What be the matter now? Have you anymore?

Your speech seems to have dropped in formality from before.

 

TOMBUTT: Nah, that’s just the way I talk to present myself to people. When you pose no threat as a law enforcer, you have to speak eloquently. I guess you were right. I just feel like without a town supporting me, where can I go? What law enforcer could just waltz in and fix the problems while the citizen’s laughed at him behind his back?

 

TITWILLOW: Ay, but there lies the difference between what you see,

The difference between a sheriff and a vigilante.

Many would say the sheriff is the sheriff only due,

To the fact he fights to what he’s appointed to.

While the vigilante is but a common jerk,

Who asks as if he has the sheriff’s work.

 

TOMBUTT: So, what? I should just wander around town shooting people and acting like I’m the cop?

 

TITWILLOW: Nay, you haven’t let me finish my phrase,

What I stated is somewhat true, but only on the neater days.

In that case, look to my husband and the duel awaiting.

He will fight Sloman, but himself is baiting,

To his own death, he seeks, but no matter to him,

Although people have left, still he sings his hymn.

 

TOMBUTT: So what you’re saying is that even though the town pretty much considers me a joke, if I want to be like your husband, the marshal, I should protect them anyway.

 

TITWILLOW: Exactly, you may die upon the plain,

And died a clown with their shame gone through,

You will have made a stand for a more important name,

The fainting, clumsy, but always ready, you.

 

TOMBUTT: I’m going to have to think that over a couple of times to figure out exactly what I said. But, you know what, I’ve made up my mind.

 

{TOMBUTT gets up, and TITWILLOW attempts to hop on the DONKEY, but it kicks her in the face. TOMBUTT falls over.}

 

TOMBUTT: Arghh…

 

{TOMBUTT starts walking, and the chains slip off, separating him and the DONKEY. He looks at the DONKEY, bewildered, and shrugs.}

 

TOMBUTT: I’m gonna go help the marshal and the deputy defeat Ryder Sloman. Not because it’ll gain anyone’s respect, but because it’s what any decent man would do.

 

{TOMBUTT exits. TITWILLOW gets up, the DONKEY looking directly at her, and slowly backs away, clearly terrified.}

 

TITWILLOW: The corny lines that were just spoken,

Have left my memory in pieces, broken.

If I were mistaken from my state of being,

I have lied here, and I had a dream.

 

{TIWILLOW exits.}

 

{SCENE X: MARSHAL and DEPUTY enter.}

 

MARSHAL: Well, I’ve come to the end of this heinous trek,

And, as we say in the west, it was a colossal train wreck.

 

DEPUTY: Marshal, you cannot give up now, when Sloman rides.

If you do not fight, he will kill us and wear our hides.

Perhaps there is something that can still be done.

 

MARSHAL: Wait, someone approaches, hold your tongue.

 

{TITWILLOW enters.}

 

TITWILLOW: Harry!

 

MARSHAL: Titwillow, you’ve come back to support me through this fight?

 

TITWILLOW: I had had a vision from God that changed my mind.

In this dream, I was with a donkey! And he was trying to have his way.

 

MARSHAL: Well, that’s not something you hear everyday.

But, anyway, you’ve decided to take a second glance?

 

TITWILLOW: I think the donkey would be my other chance.

And as you know, I am not for that.

 

MARSHAL: Your rhyming is failing, but I will assist.

 

DEPUTY: Actually, Marshal, that’s a job for me.

You know your strengths lie not in poetry.

But, either way, we have a job to do.

Those young people have come to help you.

And there is even the narcoleptic man.

They have all come to make your final stand.

And as you know, I stand by you until the end.

Even if I could not call you my friend.

 

MARSHAL: Tommy, if there’s one thing I can count on, it’s you bailing me out.

Come one, come all. It’s time for our bout!

 

{ALL exit.}

 

{SCENE XII: MARSHAL, DEPUTY, SANDER, DEMITRI, and TOMBUTT all enter carrying guns. TITWILLOW, HERMA, HELEN, and MAYOR enter and move upstage.}

 

TOMBUTT: I can smell the air, and it smells like napalm.

 

SANDER: Which we all know, is the smell of victory, as anachronisms point out.

 

HERMA: Sander…

 

SANDER: Sorry dear.

 

{HERMA and HELEN go down stage to their respective partners.}

 

HERMA: Sander, be careful, do not let Sloman get a clear shot at you. He never misses.

 

SANDER: Don’t worry I have this.

 

{SANDER takes off his jacket to reveal a bright red target painted on his shirt.}

 

SANDER: I was hoping it would confuse him long enough to return fire. Do not worry, I have prepared for this for nearly twenty-five minutes. If that is not enough preparation, than nothing is.

 

HELEN: Demmy, don’t you go off an’ killed out there. Promise you come back safe now.

 

DEMITRI: Baby, if I have learned anything at all, it is that I have been in weirder situations than this.

 

{HERMA gives SANDER a kiss. DEMITRI hisses creepily at HELEN, which she reacts to with glee. HERMA and HELEN go back upstage.}

 

DEPUTY: Marshal, after all the challenges we have faced,

And now that we are falling to place,

I think that I should speak my mind,

And let you know that all our time,

Has been an honor to all my work,

And…

 

{DEPUTY pauses to come up with a line.}

 

MARSHAL: You know longer feel the need to smirk.

 

DEPUTY: Good one.

 

MARSHAL: Gentlemen,

Although it seems the end is near,

You still should not fret, or fear.

We will stand on this frontier…

 

RYDER SLOMAN: (offstage) AS NOW THE RYDER WILL APPEAR!!!!!!!!!!

 

{The women scream in terror. RYDER SLOMAN enters on a horse. He rides in with FOUR other outlaws, all on horses. They are HITCH ‘EM HIGH HERB, SUPER-FIGHTING JOE, LITTLE BIG JIM, and CECIL B. DEAD. RYDER appears to have a large mustache, and a heavily scarred face. His clothes are shabby, but he is equipped with many different guns, and looks at the MARSHAL with hate in his eyes. RYDER and HIS MEN dismount their horses, and align themselves for battle.}

 

RYDER SLOMAN: Look now! Who has gathered here,

You bring your townsfolk to watch your rear?

Oh, you should have now that fear,

 

RYDER and HIS MEN: We’ll finish this so promptly!

 

RYDER SLOMAN: And, now you Marshal, should prepare,

When I’m done, with this here square,

They won’t be able to make hide or hair,

 

RYDER and HIS MEN: Of your mangled body!

 

MARSHAL: You may have brought your violent pack,

But, I have friends to watch my back,

It’s time for the odds to all re-stack.

 

MARSHAL and HIS MEN: Prepare to face the law!

 

RYDER SLOMAN: Well, if you are so eager to die,

 

MARSHAL: And as the noon is high as high.

 

RYDER SLOMAN: It is time to set this town awry.

 

MARSHAL: So…

 

RYDER SLOMAN: Grab…

 

MARSHAL: Your…

 

RYDER SLOMAN: Guns…

 

MARSHAL: And…

 

ALL: DRAW!!!

 

{ALL FIRE, as bullets fly and guns explode. The various men on either side roll around, run, fall, and do whatever they can to shoot and avoid being shot.}

 

TITWILLOW: Well, I’d say this duel is off to an excellent start.

I haven’t seen a lawman as good since the sheriff Bart.

 

{All members take turns taking center stage as the duel rages around them. TOMBUTT and HITCH ‘EM HIGH HERB take center stage. TOMBUTT and HERB shoot at each other sporadically. HERB gets a shot on TOMBUTT who falls over.}

 

MAYOR: You see, he has fallen asleep again.

 

{HERB approaches TOMBUTT, who suddenly awakes as sweeps his feet}

 

MAYOR: Or not.

 

{SANDER and CECIL B. DEAD take center stage, both taking refuge behind stalks of hey. SANDER takes a shot, then CECIL takes a shot, and so on and so in this fashion.}

 

HERMA: Oh, look out Sander, honey!

 

{SANDER and CECIL continue to take turns firing on each other.}

 

SANDER: Wait, a minute.

 

{SANDER shoots but doesn’t duck down again, and simply shoots CECIL as he rises.}

 

HERMA: Eeeeeh!!

 

{DEMITRI and LITTLE BIG JIM take center stage, where LITTLE BIG JIM is punching DEMITRI repeatedly.}

 

HELEN: Don’t let him beat you now Demmy!

 

{DEMITRI continues to be punched.}

 

DEMITRI: Wait a minute! Wait a minute!

 

{LITTLE BIG JIM stops punching as DEMITRI catches his breathe. DEMITRI punches JIM. JIM begins to punch DEMITRI and they take turns punching each other.}

 

{DEPUTY and SUPER-FIGHTING JOE take center stage, trying to out-maneuver each other to land a clean shot. DEPUTY takes the high ground, and JOE takes the low ground. They go on like this until JOE fires at the DEPUTY. DEPUTY ducks and slides down to the ground, shooting JOE in the foot. JOE falls on the DEPUTY, who begins to lift him of him. MARSHAL and RYDER SLOMAN fire at other people back to back, when suddenly SLOMAN turns around.}

 

RYDER SLOMAN: Hey, Marshal!

 

{MARSHAL turns around and SLOMAN shoots him in the gut. The MARSHAL falls over. DEPUTY is trapped under JOE and cannot help. SANDER and DEMITRI try to run to his aid, but CECIL and JIM pin them to the ground. TOMBUTT punches HERB in the face, knocking him out. SLOMAN walks up to the MARSHAL and points his gun directly at him.}

 

RYDER SLOMAN: You may have put up quite a battle.

But, now, you won’t be climbing back in your saddle.

 

{TOMBUTT gets up.}

 

TOMBUTT: He’s gonna shoot the Marshal! No!

 

{TOMBUTT runs at RYDER SLOMAN who turns around to see him. All of a sudden, TOMBUTT keels over.}

 

TOMBUTT: Oh, not again.

 

{TOMBUTT keels over and falls asleep, collapsing directly on top of RYDER SLOMAN, pinning him to the ground and sending his gun sliding away.}

 

RYDER SLOMAN: Get this man off of me!

 

{DEPUTY lifts JOE off of him, and runs over to SLOMAN.}

 

DEPUTY: Not today, Sloman, though you tried your best.

As Deputy of this town, I place you under arrest.

 

{DEPUTY handcuffs RYDER SLOMAN, and rolls TOMBUTT off. SANDER and DEMITRI manage to overpower JIM and CECIL, and pin them to the ground. DEPUTY handcuffs JOE, CECIL, HERB, and JIM. HERMA and HELEN run over and hug SANDER and DEMITRI, respectively. TITWILLOW runs over to the MARSHAL, who she helps to his feet, still clutching his wounded gut. The MAYOR walks over to the MARSHAL.}

 

MAYOR: Marshal, you did it, you defeated Ryder Sloman, the greatest outlaw the west has ever known. You saved the town!

 

MARSHAL: Well, I’m flattered you extend this honor onto me,

There is someone else who deserves it infinitely.

Here, Tombutt, who saved my life,

As brave as a hero, and as sharp as a knife.

He is the one you should be thanking.

 

MAYOR: Well, of course.

 

{MAYOR hoists up TOMBUTT, who is still asleep.}

 

MARSHAL: Tommy, would you agree?

 

DEPUTY: Indeed, Marshal, absolutely!

 

MARSHAL: I hereby resign, from my marshal’s life.

I think it would sit better with me wife.

For I have served this town enough,

With honor, valor, and all that stuff.

But this town will need a hand,

[referring to Ryder Sloman] In keeping scum like this off the land.

For that reason, and for my wounded gut.

I hereby name our new marshal, Tombutt!

 

{MARSHAL takes off his tin star, and pins it to the chest of the still sleeping TOMBUTT, snoring away. All cheer.}

 

MARSHAL: And as this tale comes to a end,

I leave you with this, my humble friends.

In all the stories across this land so bending,

This one, I feel the greatest honor in attending.

We’ve seen these four youngsters bound,

They will make great couples, for our great town.

We’ve seen the hopeless rise to the top,

And all he needed was someplace to hop.

If I enjoy one thing in a play,

A happy ending can make my day.

But enough, you all have heard me spew.

I say we celebrate, and ring in the new!

 

{ALL but DEPUTY and TOMBUTT exit}

 

DEPUTY: If we have offended you,

Then simply take this to be true,

That this was all a fleeting vision,

Of your mind’s great indecision.

Sure it is a used and tired piece,

But it solves our problems, to say the least.

Please, do not look back in rage,

This house is of freedom, not a cage,

From your normal daily done routines,

You have had this splendid dream

And if you should call false at this,

Then real-insights you have yourself missed.

Enjoy yourselves, come one, come all…

 

{TOMBUTT suddenly wakes up and sits up frantically.}

 

TOMBUTT: Wait Deputy!

 

{He looks down to his tin star, and laughs to himself.}

 

TOMBUTT: Ha! (sigh) Do not break the wall.

 

{TOMBUTT falls back to sleep, and the DEPUTY drags him by his feet offstage.}

Jonathan Shapiro
Age 17, Grade 11
Saint Ann’s School
Gold Key

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