“The Play’s the Thing…”

Deer Skull

Hi All-Permit me to break the fourth wall and speak to you directly for a moment. I appreciate all of your readership as I bounce around rather eclectically from poetry to obituaries, flash fiction about mobsters and drunken louts (but enough about my childhood) to woodland nymphs, spankings, femdom, snakes, buggery and all the other things that coil and roil through me.

When I decided to have a single blog that would incorporate all of my (our, if I include my queen) interests there were concerns about folks enjoying one genre (let’s say a Harry Crews homage) then screaming out loud when the next post would involve taking a malingering wife’s temperature without-ahem-putting anything under her tongue.

So now I’m trying something a little different. We workshopped this play a few years ago then set it aside when interests and priorities shifted. I’ve recently begun picking at it again. I’m not sure that WP is the right place to put it but figured you would tell me that.

I thought about parsing it out over a few days but it’s around 2500 words and it ran about 15 minutes at our last table read. Being a one-act I couldn’t figure how to effectively break it up.

So thanks for your patience and readership. Enjoy this-or don’t-that’s fine too. I’ll be back soon with more conventional fare-you know, the canings, spankings and buggery-but for now I give you:

GUTSHOT

 A One-Act Play

CHARACTERS

Hank………….A man

 Bill…………….A man

 The Price……That which must be paid. Seems beautiful and worthwhile at the time.

 PLACE

Everywhere

TIME

 Always

©TDR – 2017

 

An archery target is set upper stage left. The target consists of three or four bales of hay to which a silhouette of a deer has been affixed. Upstage right is a tree stand about eight feet high. Nothing elaborate but there must be a ladder of some type as well as-possibly-a cross piece for a railing three or four feet above the floor of the stand.

Lights rise we find Hank and Bill on stage. They are both hunters geared for archery: full camo coveralls, etc. A significant difference between the two it that Hank is wearing full camouflage makeup on his face and hands disguising his appearance while Bill wears none. Bill is hatless where Hank wears a camo hat.

Hank is turned slightly away from the audience shooting arrows into the target. They both use compound hunting bows.

HANK

(Shoots) Thirty two. GODDAM! Still pullin’ the SOB to the left…Sights gotta be….(shoots) Thirty three…gittin” a little better…practice all year and it comes time for the hunt…(Stops himself and breathes deep then shoots) Thirty four…oh yeah! Tonight’s the night! I can smell that ruttin’ bastard of a buck. Smell ‘im! You see the rub down along the meadow? Where we went in this mornin’?

BILL

On the dogwood?

HANK

(Releases) Thirty five. GODDAM! The sight’s GOTTA be off. There’s no WAY I keep pullin’ to the left like that.

BILL

Your grip’s too tight.

HANK

My what?

BILL

You hold too tight. You gotta….

HANK

AHHH! Save it. You’d think I’m listenin’ to ya for Chrissakes. First year inna woods. What do you know about it?

BILL

I know enough not to hold the bow like it was a rattlesnake trying to kill me.

HANK

(Releases) Thirty six. I shoot a minimum fifty arrows a night MINIMUM!

BILL

When I was in competition I did that to warm up. (Taking the bow). It’s not just the practice-you’ve got to have the technique. Hold it just so. Lightly. (As he draws) Draw so the pressure of the bow is resting against the heel of your hand. You bear down too much. Loosen the grip. (At full draw) You come to full draw and there it is. See? I can wiggle my fingers here and the bow won’t fall.

He sights down an imaginary arrow as he turns and faces the audience. Pauses. Looks out bewildered then over his shoulder to Hank.

BILL

Hank…you get the feeling we’re not alone up here?

HANK

(Taking the bow back) We ain’t seen another hunter since we been here.

BILL

Not hunters.

HANK

What, then? You think you’re bein’ watched?

BILL

Kind of….

HANK

This isn’t a tournament bucko. No audience.

BILL

I get that. Doesn’t seem right-me shooting at a target without a gallery. Without people watching me. That’s what gave me such a charge about competition. Everybody watching-watching your every move.

During this last, Bill has noticed The Price enter the rear of the theater. She is beautiful and wears a slinky white dress showing a lot of cleavage. She and Bill establish eye contact as she sits in a front row seat.

HANK

Not up here. Nobody watching but the woods.

BILL

The woods. And it’s been here forever.

HANK

Not this one. Not like this. The original forests covered all these states-giant oak, beech, walnut, maple…they say a squirrel could run from Maine to Ohio from tree to tree without ever touching the ground. They disappeared years ago to build houses and ships. Cut them all. Then, once we got settled, another forest grew and we cut that for farming and mining. Now this. You’re right, all we got are these little woods. Except for….

BILL

Still feels…

HANK

Sure it does. That’s what I’m talking about. The ghosts. The original forest is still here. Cut above the ground so you can’t see it, but the roots-the whole underground network is here. The roots of every tree ever on this land is still here (Stamps his foot). That’s what you’re feeling. There’s nobody up here-but there’s somethin’. This ain’t the target range. This ain’t no tournament. It’s just us and we’re the ones doin’ the watchin’. It’s us sittin’ up in the tree decidin’ which deer go by and which ones don’t. WE are the ones doin’ the choosin. And something might not be too happy with our choices. Don’t grip too tight, huh?

BILL

(Coming back) Yeah. Lightly.

HANK

(Releases) Thirty seven. Feels strange.

BILL

It will in the beginning.

HANK

Hey-are there woman archers?

BILL

Sure.

HANK

Groupies?

BILL

You wouldn’t believe…I got more women when I was shooting that you…could…believe.

HANK

Maybe you’re not as dumb as you look. (Nods to Bill’s bow) Why don’t you fling a couple?

BILL

Don’t need to.

HANK

Shootin’ at a deer inna woods’s a lot different than the target shootin’ you’re used to.

BILL

Far as I can see, that’s a target.

HANK

Balls! (Releases) Thirty eight.

BILL

Shooting’s shooting.

HANK

You miss a bull on a target you come back and get it on the next shot. Here there ain’t no next shot.

BILL

It’s not an overriding passion with me.

HANK

Then why bother? (Releases) Thirty nine.

BILL

Just good to get away from it all. This is a beautiful time to be in the woods.

HANK

Then take a hike. Sit on a log. This is a hunt.

Bill has moved downstage and grabbed eye contact with The Price. She smiles and Bill decides.

BILL

Maybe I will shoot abit.

He takes his bow and takes a shooting stance beside Hank.

HANK

Like I told you yesterday, pick out a certain spot on the deer. Just like the bull on the target. Right there…behind the shoulder. Always find a spot. Don’t just shoot at the brown.

BILL

Don’t worry. I’ll hit it.

HANK

Hittin’ ain’t killin’. You gutshoot it, it’ll travel for miles. May never find it. And I promise you, if you pull me outta my stand to trail a gutshot deer and I miss my buck, I’m liable to gut your ass and tie you to the roof of the car.

BILL

We only have two more days up here.

HANK

And I ‘bout got that eight point figgered. Him or that four point I saw yesterday. Eleven years runnin’ every year I’ve got me a buck. This one won’t be no different.

BILL
Buck, doe…one shot, two.  I don’t see the point of putting so much pressure on it.

HANK

Pressure.

BILL

Sure…don’t you come up here to get away from that?

HANK

You never get away from it. (Releases) Forty! You want pressure? Out there are a lotta deer. Livin’ breathin’ creatures just like you. Some ways smarter, some ways dumber. Right now, this time a’ year they’re mostly dumber. (Releases) Forty one. You know why?

BILL

Here, let me shoot.

HANK

Cause the only thing they’re thinking about is fuckin’ That’s it! Their minds are on romance boy! While they go about their matin’ dance-which is older’n dirt-we’re sittin’ up in the trees like vultures just waiting to put a hole in ‘em. (Bill releases his shot). Not bad, but not a heart shot. Out there is a buck who thinks he’s George Fuckin’ Clooney and I’m gonna put an arrow through his heart. Kill him dead. That’s that. But, you see, if I miss his heart-if I don’t put the arrow exactly in the right place-then I’m only gonna wound him. I’m gonna gutshoot him. I’m gonna tear a hole through his guts big enough to put your fist through and that poor sucker is gonna agonize all through these woods while his insides fill up with blood and shit…(Draws to shoot)

BILL

(Sarcastically) Please…

HANK

(Releases) Forty-two. That’s the pressure. You do it right and it’s over in minutes. The deer population is kept in check and you got nice clean venison to eat all winter. You let your mind wander-you lose your focus-then you unleash a world fulla sufferin’ on a beast that don’t deserve it.

BILL

So maybe I won’t even shoot. Maybe I’ll just stay up in the tree and watch them go by.

HANK

Then why even come out? (Releases) Forty-three. You could go to a pettin’ zoo.

BILL

First day-I didn’t tell you-I was up in the stand. I heard a ‘pop’…a little crack over next to the highwall. You know, that’s the thing I can’t get used to. You always think deer are going to be quiet in the woods but they’re not. They can run through like a train. Anyway, I heard this pop and looked over and here comes a little four-point. Probably same one you saw. Pretty little guy. I just watched him…

HANK

How far off?

BILL

Right there! He walked right under my stand and was gone. Never knew I was there.

HANK

Why didn’t you shoot?

BILL
First day-figured I’d get other shots.

HANK

Bullshit! You ain’t no hunter pal. Tournament shooter. A friggin’ tourist out inna woods.

PRICE

A voyeur.

BILL

(Startled) A voyeur?

HANK

You wanna be a hunter you gotta kill somethin’. Simple as that. (Releases) Forty-four.

As Hank shoots, The Price enters the scene.

PRICE

There’s a price to be paid out here Bill.

HANK

Forty-five.

BILL

Price?

PRICE

Down there-in the world-you can get away with lies. You can’t get away without them! And the bigger the lie, the better. That’s how they keep score down there. The biggest liar wins.

She has approached Hank and is running her hands over his body. He ignores her and keeps shooting.

HANK
Forty-six.

PRICE

See? Nothing…(Moving toward the target) To some there is only the vision.

She stands in front of the target and pulls her neckline lower. Hank draws and prepares to shoot.

BILL

(Jumping at Hank) NO!

Hank doesn’t get the shot off. He turns on Bill savagely with hunting knife drawn.

HANK

You ever do that again, I’ll cut your fuckin’ heart out!

BILL

Hank!

PRICE

(Laughing throatily) The vision can be a powerful thing.

HANK

That might have been IT! That might have been my perfect shot. That might have been one step closer to perfection. THAT’S my life. (Stalks toward the target to gather arrows) You’re on a lark out here. Out inna woods pissin’ outta your tree stand.

PRICE

Maybe you’re ready now.

Still standing in front of the target she opens her dress again to give Bill a good target.

HANK

You don’t shoot at deer-you don’t know what you’re doin’ up here. You think buyin’ a huntin’ bow and comin’ out here a couple a’ days makes you a hunter? Down there you can get away with watching and not playin’. Not up here. It’s time to fuck or call a cab.

During this last, Bill is watching The Price closely, struggling with what to do.

BILL

(Breaking the spell) Hunting makes you a hunter. I’m hunting.

HANK
You ain’t even here!

BILL

This isn’t your backyard Hank. You got no claim to this place. I asked to come with you. That’s fine. I could’ve come up by myself.

HANK

(Releases) Forty-seven. You never coulda. Never woulda. Get you out in the woods alone you wouldn’t know what way is up. Five minutes you’d walk off a cliff and bust your ass.

The Price laughs and moves toward Bill.

PRICE

You don’t have your people here Bill. There’s no gallery pulling for you-telling you how great you are. (She rubs his neck and cups his face in her hands) Nobody here to impress. Isn’t that true?

HANK

(Releases) Forty-eight. You better know what you’re about before you come into these woods lover.

Before Bill can respond, The Price drives her knee hard up into his crotch. He doubles and falls into a heap. Hank takes no notice.

PRICE
You want to be a hunter, you have to kill something. Simple as that.

HANK

There’s always a price.

Bill struggles to his feet.

BILL

I think I’d better shoot a bit.

HANK

Too late. You’re here. That’s it. You don’t get it while you’re in the woods. You gotta bring it in with you.

PRICE

Do you know any hunters Bill?

BILL

Plenty! Some of my friends…

PRICE

…Are target shooters. Putting holes in paper for points. Lying through life.

She reaches behind her neck and unsnaps her dress. It falls to the floor.

BILL

No….I….

She reaches over and unzips his coveralls. She begins to take them off, pushing them over one shoulder, then the next.

PRICE

You’re just like them. Watching. Sitting and pretending.

During Hank’s speech, The Price strips Bill down to his underwear. She puts on his camoes and paints her face as a hunter would.

HANK

Couple years ago I shot a little buck. Four-point. Little sucker bolted when I released and I hit him high-must’ve nicked his spine. He ran a bit, then went down. Wasn’t mortally wounded but paralyzed in back. By the time I got to him he was trying to run on this front legs draggin’ himself along. So I had to finish him off. (Releases) Forty-nine. Damnedest thing. He was layin’ in this pool a’ water so’s I couldn’t get a true heart shot with him splashing around-kept shootin’ high. Put four arrows in him and he’s layin’ there live as you and me, watchin’. And screamin’. You ever hear a deer scream? Sounds like it wants to whinney like a horse but it just sorta coughs…specially when it’s got an arrow stuck in it’s neck. On my last arrow I heard a lung go-sorta like a whoosh sound-and I knew it was dyin’. So I just watched it lay it’s head down.

PRICE

There’s always a price.

The Price takes Bill’s bow and climbs up in the tree stand.

HANK
(Releases) Fifty. That’s that. Time to get my buck.

BILL

I don’t belong here.

HANK

(Walking off) Who does?

BILL

Hank-don’t go!

PRICE

(In the tree stand she nocks an arrow) Do you know how to lead a deer? A deer that’s running? You put the pin where you want to shoot and you’ll gut shoot him.

She draws on Bill. He screams and runs off.

PRICE

You have to lead him by a good three, four inches.

She releases off, in Bill’s direction. Scream off. She scampers out of the stand and walks off following.

PRICE

(Off) There-got you.

Re-enters dragging Bill on a rope with an arrow lodged in the middle of his back. Much blood. She leaves him center stage and approaches the target. Nocks an arrow and draws.

PRICE

(Releases) One….

FADE

END

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