a real nice night
(mourners are paying their last respects to a dead body that is lying on a table.
MARTY and ZEKE stand off to the side, uncomfortable. they are wearing grey sweaters
with ties underneath. MARTY has a white shopping bag by his side)
MARTY: This is depressing.
ZEKE: Yeah, Marty. That's what funerals usually are.
MARTY: Well, when you said you had to go to a funeral, I didn't know you meant a funeral.
ZEKE: What did you think I meant?
MARTY: I don't know, like swing night at one of those substance-free frats.
ZEKE: The black clothes didn't tip you off?
MARTY: Could've been goths.
ZEKE: And the dead body?
MARTY: I wouldn't put anything past those people. I saw this thing on the news...
(an officious looking man, RODERICK, approaches them. he holds a stack of papers)
RODERICK: Pardon me, I'm looking for...(checking papers) Ezekiel?
MARTY: Ezekiel? Never met him.
ZEKE: I'm Zeke.
RODERICK: Ah. Good, you're here. We'll be getting started shortly.
MARTY: Hey, guy. Great funeral you've got here.
RODERICK: Excuse me, who are you?
MARTY: My name's Marty.
RODERICK: (checking papers) Let me check the invitation list. Martin...Martin who?
MARTY: That's what I've been asking myself. I don't know who this Martin guy is, but I get mixed up with him a lot. It's kind of annoying.
RODERICK: It's under Martin?
MARTY: It's beyond me.
RODERICK: (confused) Alright, then.
MARTY: If you run into him, tell that Martin guy to give me a call. I want to know why he's following me around everywhere.
RODERICK: I have a few things left to get in order before we begin reading the will, so if you'll excuse me...(exits)
MARTY: Hey, Zeke.
MARTY: That was pretty smooth how you pretended to be that Ezekiel guy. You completely fooled him.
ZEKE: He's the executor of my uncle's estate, Marty.
MARTY: (knowing nod) Oh. One of those guys. I've heard about them.
ZEKE: Have you ever been to a funeral, Marty?
MARTY: Nah. My family's big into burials at sea.
ZEKE: But they live in the Midwest.
MARTY: I know. I've got great-grandparents who are still alive solely out of politeness.
ZEKE: (shaking his head) Wow. All my relatives are here. I haven't seen some of these people since I was five years old.
MARTY: (pointing towards a woman) Who's she?
ZEKE: That's my aunt Diane.
MARTY: (calling out) Diane! Looking good, girl! Love the hair!
ZEKE: (hisses) Marty!
MARTY: (still calling) Some things may be dead around here, but that sass is alive and kicking!
ZEKE: (louder) Marty!
MARTY: What? I'm just trying to be friendly!
ZEKE: They're not here to meet people. They're here to mourn my dead uncle Stu.
MARTY: Was he married to your Aunt Diane?
ZEKE: No, Stu was divorced. He got married like eight times. It was kind of crazy. Diane's divorced, too.
MARTY: So I've got a chance with her?
ZEKE: I'm never going to feel clean again.
MARTY: Sorry about your uncle dying. Were you close?
ZEKE: Uncle Stu was alright. He ran a huge hot dog business. He was pretty rich, I guess. Sometimes if we were out shopping my mom would take me to get a hot dog from his stand. He'd let me see inside the stand. That was sort of neat. He'd charge me for the hot dog, though. But he was an okay guy. Once he came to my school play. Got there early, stayed until past the end. The rest of the cast was mad at me because he tried to sell hot dogs during the show. We were doing "Hamlet". He talked the lead into buying a hot dog while he was onstage. It held up the show because the lead was really indecisive what toppings he wanted, and then he couldn't figure out how to ask for mustard, relish, and onions in iambic pentameter. Uncle Stu meant well. He was really encouraging to me after the play. Said I wouldn't always be that ugly, I had nowhere to go but up, really optimistic stuff like that. He'd always give out the best presents at the family Christmas gathering. Of course, he charged us for those too. But he gave us a discount. He said that was the present.
MARTY: Interesting guy.
ZEKE: Yeah. He was never all that happy. He felt like he had a lot to live up to. His father had run the hot dog stand before he did, and his grandfather too...went back in the family a long ways. Stu was like the fifth.
MARTY: Which one is he?
ZEKE: The dead body on the table.
MARTY: Oh, him?
MARTY: He's dead?
MARTY: That explains it.
ZEKE: Explains what?
MARTY: I was yelling at that guy a few minutes ago for laying on the table like that. I thought he might be in the bean dip.
ZEKE: So you yelled at him?
MARTY: He didn't say a word, so I figured he was being passive-aggressive.
ZEKE: No, Marty. He was dead.
MARTY: Well, I know that now. I just hope it's early enough to cancel the appointment I made for him with a psychiatrist. (looking around) So where's the bean dip?
ZEKE: I don't think there is any.
MARTY: Huh. Remind me to have word with the goofball who organized this shindig. (scoffs) No bean dip, indeed.
ZEKE: Marty, my grandmother is coming over here. Try to stay under control.
MARTY: Won't say a word.
GRANDMOTHER: Oh, Ezekiel...
ZEKE: Hi, Grandma.
GRANDMOTHER: It's good that you could come. You were always Stu's favorite.
ZEKE: Thanks, Grandma.
GRANDMOTHER: Is he (indicating MARTY) your homosexual lover?
ZEKE: No, Grandma. This is my friend Marty.
GRANDMOTHER: Homosexuals often wear matching clothes like that. I saw it on the news.
ZEKE: Oh, no, it's a coincidence...we didn't mean...(looks at MARTY, who shrugs, runs his finger across his lips, and walks away) No way to, well, um, we don't coordinate...
GRANDMOTHER: Don't feel bad, Ezekiel. I've been around the block a few times myself.
GRANDMOTHER: Sometimes in the nurses' quarters during W-W-2...
ZEKE: Grandma, I think cousin Elroy is playing with matches again.
GRANDMOTHER: Oh, dear. Elroy! (exits in a hurry)
MARTY: (returning) Why do your relatives keep mistaking you for this Ezekiel guy?
ZEKE: Don't worry about it.
MARTY: When I was over there, I reserved us some corpse time for eight.
ZEKE: (sighs) Thanks, Marty.
MARTY: No problem. I'm starting to get into this whole funeral scene. It's a little weird, but it's got an interesting vibe. (reaches into the shopping bag. he turns it around to reveal the words "Party Kit". he takes out a case of Schlitz and sets if off to the side, then holds up a board game and calls out) Alright, who's up for some Balderdash?
MARTY: Sorry. Old instincts die hard.
MARTY: This is obviously a Trivial Pursuit crowd. (calling out) Sorry, everyone! I've got Trivial Pursuit out in the car! Does anyone have a Genus preference?
ZEKE: No games!
MARTY: No games?
ZEKE: No games. Just mourning.
MARTY: All they want to do is stand around and be miserable?
MARTY: They are goths, aren't they?
RODERICK: We're going to begin reading the will of the deceased, now. If everyone outside of the immediate family will please depart?
(most people exit)
MARTY: Time for the "executor" to do his thing, huh?
MARTY: Okay. You keep him stalled. I'll be right back.
(MARTY exits. now remaining onstage are the following: ZEKE, RODERICK,
AUNT DIANE, GRANDMOTHER, and the smug COUSIN ELROY)
RODERICK: As the executor of the estate, I have called you all together for the reading of this, his last will and testament.
ELROY: Yeah, yeah, old man, get on with it!
GRANDMOTHER: Patience is a virtue, Elroy.
ELROY: Patience sucks. I want the money.
RODERICK: Now, as you all know, the deceased left behind quite a substantial business enterprise. He controlled close to ninety percent of the hot dog carts in every major city.
AUNT: And some minor ones, too. Don't leave any out.
GRANDMA: I'll see your minor one and raise you three.
ZEKE: (gently) Grandma, we're not at bridge club.
GRANDMA: (shaking her head) Diane's cheating again, Ezekiel.
ZEKE: I'll make sure she doesn't cheat.
GRANDMA: You're such a good boy.
RODERICK: And, as you know, Stuart left behind no male heirs. Therefore, he decreed that his hot dog company should be left to one of his nephews.
AUNT: My boy Elroy!
GRANDMA: You don't know that yet, Diane!
AUNT: Oh, sure. Who else is going to run it? Zeke?
ZEKE: I don't want to run it.
AUNT: See? Elroy's the only choice! (pauses, sighs) Elroy, stop chewing on that chair.
ELROY: This chair tastes like crap.
AUNT: We'll get you another.
ELROY: When I'm in charge of the hot dog empire, I'm going to have them make a whole chair out of hot dogs! And a car! So if I was driving, and I got hungry, I could just eat the steering wheel!
AUNT: That's a wonderful idea, Elroy!
ELROY: And instead of windshield wipers, it could squirt mustard! And relish!
AUNT: Oh! Such vision! Such keen business sense!
ELROY: And the doors could be the bun!
AUNT: Brilliant, Elroy!
GRANDMA: Ezekiel won an honorable mention in scholastic bowl during high school.
ZEKE: Thanks for sticking up for me, Grandma.
GRANDMA: He has a very unique blood type, too! Tell them!
AUNT: Elroy is the man for the job. Zeke's no hot dog king. Just look at him.
ZEKE: Am I supposed to feel bad about that?
AUNT: Sign the business over to Elroy and...(notices ELROY is chewing on the chair again) Elroy, dear, please, we'll get you a sandwich in a minute...
RODERICK: I've heard enough. As executor of the estate, I will now...
MARTY: (from offstage) Hold it!
(MARTY runs onstage, accompanied by RADCLIFFE BRONSON)
MARTY: Quick, Radcliffe! Before he executes anyone else!
RADCLIFFE: (aiming a gun at RODERICK) Don't make a move, wise guy.
AUNT: What the hell is going on here?
RADCLIFFE: A little bit of ketchup and a whole lot of murder, lady. You don't know the half of it. This man is a killer.
RODERICK: I am not! This is an outrage!
RADCLIFFE: I'm Radcliffe Bronson, private investigator, and I'll be the judge of that.
ZEKE: Radcliffe Bronson? Are you...
RADCLIFFE: Yes. (to RODERICK) What'd it take, sicko? Did you relish killing the hot dog king?
RODERICK: Obviously there's some sort of misunderstanding going on...
RADCLIFFE: Oh, I don't think so. I've seen a few suckers pucker up and get kissed with hot lead in my time. When some poor sap takes a bullet in his hot dog bun, it's usually got a pretty clear meaning: murder. Look, pal. I'm going to let you plot out the rest of this dime novel. Does the weasel confess before or after the detective puts a first class beating in the mail? Why did you do it? Was it for the money? Did he make you mad?
RODERICK: He died of cancer, you madwoman.
RADCLIFFE: Oh, I knew that. I'd figured it out before you did. The only question still twisting in my head is how much you had to pay cancer to do it.
AUNT: You can't pay cancer! It's a disease!
RADCLIFFE: Everyone's got a price. Lee Harvey Oswald was an epileptic nun before the ASPCA paid him to kill Kennedy.
ZEKE: Marty, what did you do?
MARTY: You said that guy was an executor, so I hired a detective.
ZEKE: I meant...he's in charge of dividing up the estate. Roderick was my uncle's friend.
MARTY: Your family hangs out with executors? No wonder your Christmas gatherings were so messed up.
RODERICK: I'm going to call the police...
RADCLIFFE: No, you're about to have the worst thirty seconds of your life.
(RADCLIFFE shoves RODERICK offstage and proceeds to beat the shit out of him. loud, extended cries of pain can be heard until finally he cries out from offstage)
RODERICK: Diane did it! It was her!
RADCLIFFE: (returning) Got anything to say for yourself?
AUNT: Are you accusing me...
(RADCLIFFE grabs her, throws her offstage, and beats her senseless as well)
GRANDMA: Go get 'em, sport!
MARTY: Radfliffe's the best detective I've ever seen. It takes Sherlock Holmes like two hours to figure out what's going on, and even then he has to get Watson to help him. Radcliffe worked it out in like two minutes. That's efficiency for you.
ZEKE: Yeah, Marty.
MARTY: I learned about efficiency in my Econ class.
RADCLIFFE: (returning) And obviously the old woman's angle in this...
(RADCLIFFE throws her offstage as well, although it takes a
noticeably longer time before GRANDMOTHER passes out)
MARTY: Your grandmother has really impressive endurance.
ZEKE: Elroy, I'd suggest leaving.
ELROY: I don't want to.
ZEKE: Somewhere out there, there's a naugahyde chair with your name on it. Find that chair, Elroy. Live your dream.
ELROY: Will my mom get mad?
ZEKE: No, she's pretty well numb by now.
ELROY: Okay. Bye. (exits)
MARTY: (looking at a paper) Hey, Zeke. Have you looked at this yet?
ZEKE: No, what is it?
MARTY: It's the dead guy's will. It says ownership of the hot dog business is transferred to you, but you have to find someone else to run it.
ZEKE: I know just the guy. I'll be right back. (exits)
MARTY: (to RADCLIFFE, who returns) Hi there. (she just stares) So, ah, what do you plan on doing with all of these people?
RADCLIFFE: What do you mean?
MARTY: Are you going to call the police, have them sent to jail, what's the deal?
RADCLIFFE: (growls) I don't know what the hell you're talking about.
(ZEKE returns with FREE HOT DOG MAN - a character from another Potted Meat sketch)
FHDM: You want me to sign a paper?
ZEKE: Yeah. Right here. (hands FHDM a piece of paper, and he signs it)
FHDM: What's this all about?
ZEKE: It means you're in charge of around ninety percent of the hot dog carts in the nation.
(FHDM hugs ZEKE)
FHDM: I'll do my best.
ZEKE: I know you will.
MARTY: I like funerals. They're kind of like negative parties. Lots of people get together to be quiet and somber instead of loud and happy, the naked drunk guy that everyone watches at a party is the dead body at a funeral. We should go to these more often.
ZEKE: Let's go home.
(MARTY starts to pack up the Party Kit. he picks up the Schlitz)
RADCLIFFE: Where do you think you're going with that, pal?
MARTY: (carefully) Nowhere, ma'am. Nowhere at all. (sets the Schlits down) You have a nice night now.
RADCLIFFE: It'll be a real nice night. Just me, some booze and the memory of my dead pal taking an express train six feet under. Real nice night.
ZEKE: But you didn't even know my uncle Stu.
RADCLIFFE: That's why I drink to forget.
ZEKE: I'm not sure I follow you, but good luck with that.
RADCLIFFE: (slams one down) Real nice night.
a real nice night by marc heiden october 1999