under the covers and down below under the covers and down below

TIM enters, yawning. He is still half-asleep, but he is also hungry, so he heads for the refrigerator. He takes out the ingredients for a sandwich: bread, meat, cheese, etc. Then, with care, he assembles the sandwich. A glazed smile appears on his face as he holds up the finished product and brings it toward his open mouth. There is a sudden scream from offstage, and, surprised, TIM drops the sandwich. He is momentarily conflicted with concern about the scream and for the ruined sandwich. COLLEEN enters, panicked.

TIM: Honey?
TIM: What? What, hey, calm down! What?
COLLEEN: Oh my god…
TIM: It's okay! What happened?
COLLEEN: In our bedroom, there's…

A look of recognition flashes over TIM's face, which he immediately suppresses.

TIM: There's what?
COLLEEN: You know.
TIM: What do you mean?
COLLEEN: You know, don't you? I saw that look!
TIM: I have no idea what you're talking about.
COLLEEN: Under the bed.
TIM: (pauses) Oh.
COLLEEN: Tim, there are monsters under our bed!
TIM: You saw them?
COLLEEN: One of them was rummaging through my clothes drawer!
TIM: That's completely against the rules.
COLLEEN: You knew? How could you not tell me?
TIM: I didn't tell you because I thought you'd freak out! I was trying to gently introduce the idea, slowly, over time…
COLLEEN: How do you "gently introduce" the idea that there are monsters living under our bed? Where we sleep? Every night?
TIM: I was going to start wearing Underoos for "The Dark Crystal" when I went to bed, but they're kind of hard to come by.
COLLEEN: How can I feel safe? This is like every fear I had as a child, confirmed.
TIM: Colleen, what happened was completely against the agreement I had with them. I promise you, we agreed, in no uncertain terms, that the monsters were not supposed to come out like that. I mean, I'm as mad as you are!
COLLEEN: You're not improving things for yourself.
TIM: Sorry.
COLLEEN: Get them out of here.
TIM: I can't.
COLLEEN: They could eat us!
TIM: They're not feral! You've got to believe me, I love you. I would never put you in a position where you might wind up getting eaten.
COLLEEN: Oh, well, thanks.
TIM: I can't just get rid of them. It's…not that easy.
COLLEEN: Why not?
TIM: They're part of a family curse, going all the way back to my great great great great great great grandfather Saul. He sailed with the Barbary pirates.

The lights go out. Immediately, there is the sound of thunder and rain. The PIRATES are onstage: GRIMBEARD commands, LOW DOG hoists sails and RICKETY JOE steers.

GRIMBEARD: Starboard!
LOW DOG: Starboard!
GRIM: 'Tis as rotten a night as I've ever seen on the high seas!
DOG and JOE: Arrrh!
GRIM: Even the thunder's telling scabby lies!
DOG and JOE: Arrrh!
GRIM: All the mermaids got the clap!
DOG and JOE: Arrrh!
GRIM: All the guppies are selling their mothers for a single piece of gold!
DOG and JOE: Arrrh!
GRIM: Heave away, boys!
ALL: Arrrrh!

SAUL enters, played by the same actor who is playing TIM.

SAUL: Hi. I'm looking for…(checks a paper) Grimbeard?
GRIM: Aye, you've found him.
SAUL: Green…?
GRIM: Grim.
SAUL: Oh. Hi. My name is Saul. I'm from the temp agency.
JOE: The temp!
PIRATES: Arrrrh!
SAUL: I hope I'm dressed okay. I wasn't sure how business casual translates to a pirate ship.
GRIM: This here's Rickety Joe, and this here's the Low Dog. Have you ever hoisted a sail in a monsoon, Saul?
DOG: Ran a man through in a drunken brawl over a game of two-bit poker?
JOE: Fired a cannon at an orphanage just because you woke up in a bad mood?
SAUL: No, I've worked mostly in clerical environments. My last job, I did a lot of media research on market presence, you know, things like that…
GRIM: Well, I'll tell you what you're going to be doing aboard my ship. You're going to feel the February rain against your cheek like bullets with knives in them…
SAUL: I actually have a very delicate complexion, so I don't know if that's…
DOG: You're going to break in all our new ropes, so as we don't get a rope burn when we swing into battle…
JOE: You're going to test the new plank we had installed, you're going to slurp the bottom of the rum barrel, and you're going to weep like a little girl!
PIRATES: Arrrrh!
GRIM: But first you're going down to the hold to pick the worms out of our salted beef.
SAUL: Oh, gross.
GRIM: Get to it, temp!
PIRATES: Arrrrh!

SAUL exits. The PIRATES resume their stations.

TIM: (offstage) It was a three month assignment. Saul wasn't really cut out for a pirate's life, but boy, that guy knew how to temp.
JOE: Captain, I just walked by your quarters. The temp's just sitting around in there.
GRIM: He's supposed to be filing our treasure maps.
JOE: I know! He was folding them into strange forms and throwing them around the room! Then when he saw me, he started acting like he had been working the whole time.
GRIM: Rickety Joe, tell that little jerk he gets back to work or I feed him to the crows.
JOE: Aye-aye.
TIM: (offstage) There was a bit of friction on-board.

SAUL enters, carrying a bucket, and idly begins throwing lemons overboard.

GRIM: What are you doing?
SAUL: Throwing lemons.
GRIM: Fucking stop that! We need those to prevent scurvy!
JOE: Scurvy!
DOG: Arrrrh!
SAUL: Sorry.
GRIM: Have you finished painting our logo on the mast yet?
SAUL: I've been working really hard. I'm on break.
GRIM: You don't get breaks.
SAUL: No breaks?
SAUL: You're a mean pirate.
GRIM: And don't forget to untie the prisoners after you throw them in the hold or they won't be able to fight off the giant rats for food.
SAUL: I'll get to it.

SAUL exits.

TIM: (offstage) And the weeks dragged on, until one day…
GRIM: These decks should have been swabbed hours ago. Where the hell is that temp?
DOG: He's below deck. Whenever he thinks I'm not looking, he starts jumping around on the empty barrels, pretending he's a monkey.
GRIM: That fucking guy…alright. Bring him up here. And bring the prisoner, too.
DOG: Aye-aye, sir.

LOW DOG exits.

GRIM: I sent a message in a bottle to that agency voicing my strong displeasure with his work. Let me tell you, Rickety Joe. If you ever get a ship of your own, steer clear of Indentured Staffing. Those guys are the worst.
JOE: Arrrrh.

LOW DOG returns with SAUL and the MISSIONARY, who is tied up.

DOG: Here you are, sir.
GRIM: Thanks, Low Dog. You (to the MISSIONARY) are going to recant all that Jesus stuff, or you walk the plank. You (to SAUL) should have swabbed these decks hours ago.
SAUL: I was working on…the other thing.
GRIM: What other thing?
SAUL: You know, the…thing…with the papers.
GRIM: I'll deal with you later. Alright, padre. Are you ready to recant?
MISSIONARY: I can't do that, Grimbeard.
JOE: You'll be sorry…
MISSIONARY: Grimbeard, when you plunder these ships and burn these villages, don't you realize that you're making the baby Jesus cry?
GRIM: No, I don't realize that. I'm a pirate!
JOE and DOG: Arrrrh!
MISSIONARY: Try using it as a helpful guide whenever you're considering a course of action. Would the baby Jesus cry if he saw me doing this?
GRIM: Fine, then. You can go overboard for a little swim, and when we bring you back up, maybe you'll feel differently. Throw him over, boys.
JOE and DOG: Arrrrh!

RICKETY JOE and LOW DOG begin pushing the MISSIONARY toward the plank. SAUL just watches until GRIMBEARD hits him, and then SAUL goes over to help.

MISSIONARY: You're making a big mistake. Those villagers put a protective spell on me. A terrible curse will be visited upon any man who harms me!
GRIMBEARD: The plank!
JOE and DOG: The plank!
MISSIONARY: Baby Jesus crying!

The MISSIONARY is pushed overboard. The PIRATES watch after him.

JOE: I like this new plank.
DOG: Good recoil.
GRIM: Well, that ought to scare him.
JOE: He'll be re-canting in no time!
DOG: (pause) Why isn't he coming back up?
JOE: I don't know. He said he could swim.
GRIM: The temp untied his hands, right?

The PIRATES look at each other, then at SAUL.

SAUL: What?
GRIM: Why weren't his hands untied?
SAUL: You wanted me to untie his hands?
GRIM: I told you, specifically, when you process the new prisoners, untie their hands. We just wanted to scare that guy.
SAUL: Oh. Uh, sorry. I'll get that next time. (pause) Can you sign my timesheet?
GRIM: Arrrrrh.

Lighting and thunder; the PIRATES exit. SAUL becomes TIM, and COLLEEN returns.

TIM: So, technically, great great great great great great grandfather Saul's lack of a work ethic killed the missionary, and he wound up with the curse.
COLLEEN: But why do you have to be cursed? That was so long ago.
TIM: Well…you have to understand, these monsters have been living under the beds of seven generations of my family. They're kind of domesticated now. They don't know how to fend for themselves in the wild.
TIM: (calling offstage) Nyarlathotep? Come in here for a moment, please.


TIM: Colleen, this is Nyarlathotep. He's one of the monsters under our bed.
COLLEEN: Nyarlathotep, the writhing nuclear chaos?
TIM: Well, it's been a while. He's more of a writhing nuclear disorganization now.
TIM: He's sorry about your clothes drawer. He was looking for a magazine to read.
TIM: So? What do you say?
COLLEEN: I…oh, I can't kick this little guy out. When I married you, I married everything that comes with you. Good and bad, happy and sad, angels and demons. The monsters can stay.
TIM: I love you.
COLLEEN: I love you too.

Lights out.


under the covers and down below
by Marc Heiden, September 2001