in the city

(the scene opens on the confident HARVARD and the nervous CARMEN)

HARVARD: Carmen "Twinkie Fingers" Ramirez. You've got a lot of nerve coming here.
CARMEN: I'm supposed to come here. You're my parole officer.
HARVARD: All the same, slimeball. All the same. (reads the file for a moment) What've you been up to since I saw you last, Carmen?
CARMEN: Oh, this and that. Nothing much.
HARVARD: Get specific, punk. I'm Harvard Bronson, parole officer, and I'm in charge of filling out form #78C4. The only way you're gonna see sunlight is to go through me, and I'm in a brick wall of a mood. Get it?
CARMEN: Yes, sir.
HARVARD: You're only on the outside because I say you're on the outside, understand? I could have you back in jail with a word. Or a gesture. Or a post-it-note. I can send you down the river by wearing a certain color tie to work, and believe me, my laundry cycle's at a point you don't want to mess with. (pauses to skim the file) Commit any crimes recently, Twinkie Fingers?
CARMEN: No, sir.
HARVARD: Got a job?
HARVARD: You've got to have a job. It's part of the parole requirements. Now, let me ask again before I start disliking you even more and break out form #78D4, because I ain't got no qualms about that. I'll stamp and file your ass in a file cabinet so deep in the Payroll Department you won't ever be found, and let me tell you, they're pretty thorough in Payroll, because we have to show all of our receipts at tax time, so that gives you a sense of how deep it'll be. So let me ask again, and I better get a good answer this time. Do you have a job?
CARMEN: Yes, sir.
HARVARD: Tell me about it.
CARMEN: I get fired out of a cannon.
HARVARD: At the circus?
CARMEN: All sorts of places.
HARVARD: Well, whatever. Getting fired out of a cannon is honest work. You keep that job, hear me? Idle hands, Carmen. The devil eats that shit right up.
CARMEN: The devil eats shit?
HARVARD: Watch your mouth.
CARMEN: The devil eats poop?
HARVARD: Get the hell out of here.

(CARMEN starts to walk away)

HARVARD: Oh, and Carmen? Leave a message on my voicemail when your next performance is. I intend to be there. If I don't get a good show...well, I'm liable to rain hell into a fax machine, which will by extension rain hell down on you. I've got all kinds of fax numbers and an index finger just itching to dial them.
CARMEN: Yes, sir.
HARVARD: I'm a tough man, Carmen.
CARMEN: Yes, sir.

(CARMEN walks away and encounters BOB, whose hand is on the back of JOE's neck)

CARMEN: Hey, Bob.
BOB: How'd it go?
CARMEN: Not so good. Who's this guy?
BOB: Oh, this is Joe. I'm using him as a ventriloquist dummy. Check it out.
JOE: Hi! I'm Bob.
CARMEN: Wow, that's really good. Your lips aren't moving at all, Bob.
JOE: I know. So what happened in there? My source said he's a sucker for circus-related stuff.
CARMEN: He is. I told him I get fired out of a cannon and now he wants to see it.
JOE: Where are you going to get a cannon? I know a few arms dealers, but cannons aren't easy to come by.
CARMEN: I don't know. I'm stuck.
HARVARD: Where the hell is my 2 o'clock appointment? My daily planner says I've got a 2 o'clock, and I'm gonna get all kung-fu crazy if someone makes my daily planner a liar!
JOE: Sucks to be you, Twinkie Fingers. I gotta go.
CARMEN: (sighs) Yeah, see you.

(BOB and JOE approach HARVARD)

HARVARD: Bobby "Speak and Spell" Johansson. You've got a lot of nerve coming here, punk. (indicating JOE) Who the hell is this?
JOE: I'm his ventriloquist dummy!
HARVARD: Hooked on ventriloquism, Bobby? It's a gateway drug.
JOE: Don't worry, sir. I plan to walk that fine line on the side of truth and good comedy.
HARVARD: Tell me a joke.
JOE: Hey, Bob. I went into Taco Bell the other day. They've got these new "Yorboopas", have you heard about them?
BOB: Sure have, Joe. It's like the Gordita and the Chalupa, except with this one they deep-fry the lettuce.
JOE: Right. So they've got three kinds, the Baja, the Santa Fe, and the Supreme. What's the deal with the Supreme? How does it attain supremacy? Is it by divine right, or do they hold elections, or...
HARVARD: Fucking political humor. Pack your bags for Attica, Johansson. I'll see you in forty years.
BOB: (slapping JOE upside the head) Forty years? That means I'll have to miss my dentist appointment next week. Way to go, jerk.

(BOB and JOE exit. focus returns to CARMEN, who is moping. a BUM enters)

BUM: Can I have a dollar? My sick baby ran out of gas in Rantoul.
CARMEN: Sorry. I'm on hard times myself.
BUM: You think you've got it bad? I ran out of blood to sell last week so I had to sell my head.
CARMEN: You sold your head?
BUM: I only got five dollars for it. That would have hurt my feelings but I sold my central nervous system too.
BUM: Got ten dollars for that.
BUM: Want a spleen?
CARMEN: I've got one. But thanks.
BUM: What's your story?
CARMEN: I'm a human cannonball, but I don't have a cannon.
BUM: That's a problem.
CARMEN: If I don't come up with a cannon by next week, they'll revoke my parole and send me back to jail.
BUM: Sorry to hear that.
CARMEN: Yeah, well, those are the breaks.
BUM: Don't tell anybody, but I didn't really have a baby.
CARMEN: You didn't?
BUM: No. I was just saying that so you'd give me money. I don't want you to feel guilty, though.
CARMEN: That's okay.
BUM: I know what'll make you feel better. Come on.

(the BUM takes out a fishing pole and the two climb up on a ledge above the stage)

BUM: Urban fishing. You can catch some interesting things.

(LINDA walks across the stage, talking into a cell phone)

LINDA: Mauve! I must have mauve! (listens) As many baby seals as it takes!

(the BUM puts a lemon square on the line and casts it)

BUM: Lemon squares. Great bait.
LINDA: (to the phone) Hold on a moment. (looking) Ooh. Lemon square. Obviously I can't. My diet and all. (eats it, is stuck, drops cell phone) I'm stuck. Hey. Hey!
BUM: Some you have to throw back. Like minnows.
LINDA: (breaking away) Oh my god! (looking at her watch) Oh my god, I'm late! (exits)

(PASTOR JONES enters with a baseball bat)

PASTOR: A cell phone! Die, machine! (smashes it)
BUM: This one, however, is a keeper. (puts a Bingo card on the line and casts it)
PASTOR: (examining the card) Hey! I've got a Bingo! Yeah! (the BUM begins to reel the line in. PASTOR JONES won't let go) I've got a winner here! Scorekeeper! Scorekeeper! (to the BUM, now up on the ledge) Are you the scorekeeper?
BUM: Hi there. (hits PASTOR JONES over the head) I've been wanting to add a priest to my collection for ages. Go ahead and have a try while I put him in water.

(CARMEN casts her line. PAC MAN goes chomping across the stage, bites the fishing line, and keeps on walking until CARMEN drops it)

CARMEN: Sorry. I couldn't hang on to it.
BUM: Don't feel bad. Pac-Man's an elemental force of nature. There's no helping it.
CARMEN: This has been fun. Thanks. I still don't know what I'm going to do about finding a cannon, though.
BUM: We might find you a job as a human cannonball yet. You can catch lots of things when you're fishing in the big city, you know. You might get a priest, you might get a private eye. And every once in a while, a legend walks across the street.
CARMEN: You think so?
BUM: I know so. Just keep fishing. You never know who might wander by.

in the city by marc heiden october 1999