SCENE: A four-man CELL, open toward the audience, back of the cell are vertical steel bars, with a center cell door of bars facing a CATWALK to the rear. Two double steel bunk beds, one at LEFT, one at RIGHT, line the blank cell walls. A steel sink and seatless toilet is attached to the left wall between the bunks and the rear barred cell wall. A single spotlight shines into the cell from above. The effect of the open cell setting allows the audience an unrestricted view into the cell. Curtains extend from the left and right cell walls to stage wings left and right. Entry and exit from the cell is through the cell door at back. A steel mop bucket, wringer, and mop are in the rear right corner by the barred cell wall.
Skull and Tooty are playing cards, sitting on the right side bottom bunk. Buzzard lies on the left bottom bunk, reading a paperback book. Lester stands at the barred cell door, looking down the catwalk to the right.
LESTER: Jeeter! (waits a moment) Jeeter! (pause) Jeeter! Hey, buddy, you alive down there?
JEETER: (off-stage) Nah, man. I’m deader’n hell. Wha’ chu want now?
LESTER: Hey, Jeeter, old buddy, you got a cigarette I can get from you?
JEETER: A cigarette? You woke me up for a damned cigarette?
LESTER: I’m nicking bad, man. Can you spare one? I’ll be getting some money soon. I’ll pay you back.
JEETER: You been sayin’ that for a month. Bum one off your bunkies.
LESTER: Man, these assholes won’t do nothing for me.
SKULL: Watch your mouth, boy, you wanna see an asshole up close, keep that shit up.
JEETER: That you, Skull? Don’t fuck with that boy, don’t make me git wit’ you.
SKULL: Chill out, man, I’m just jokin’ with the dummy.
LESTER: Who you calling a dummy? I ain’t no dummy. I got a year of junior college!
SKULL: A lot of damn good it did you, too, you in here with us now.
LESTER: Yeah, you’re right, but as soon as my appeal comes through, all of y’all can kiss my ass goodbye.
TOOTY: Bare that white ass, sweet cheeks, and I’ll kiss it now. Back it on up!
LESTER: Don’t fuck with me, Tooty. I don’t fool around.
TOOTY: That’s what you say now. You get hungry tonight, want a glazed honeybun and some chocolate chips, you might jes’ change your mind.
SKULL: Fuck him, man. Deal.
(Skull and Tooty continue to play cards.)
JEETER: Don’t sweat it, Lester. When the runaround comes by, I’ll send you a smoke.
LESTER: Thanks, buddy. Send me your lighter, too.
JEETER: Jesus, you can’t even get a light outta them tightwads?
LESTER: (yelling) Erskine! Yo, Erskine! Runaround! Cell six! Hey, buddy, Erskine! Stop by cell six, man.
BUZZARD: You keep that up, that goddamn yelling, you gonna make me put my book down and shut your loud mouth up.
LESTER: Sorry, man. I’m just trying to get a smoke.
BUZZARD: You gonna get smoked if you don’t quiet down.
(Erskine enters from stage left, pushing a broom along the catwalk to the rear of the stage. He is also a prisoner.)
ERSKINE: Who’s yellin’ my name out like dat?
LESTER: That’s me, man. Hey runaround, do me a favor, get a cigarette and lighter from Jeeter. I appreciate it.
ERSKINE: Git me dis, git me dat, git me somethin’ all muthafuckin’ day an’ night long. You tink I’m yo personal do-boy? What ’chir gonna do fo’ me, dude?
LESTER: I’ll look out for you, I swear. Just get me that cigarette and lighter, man.
(Erskine pushes the broom toward stage right and disappears. He reappears from stage right moving left.)
ERSKINE: Sorry, dude. Ain’t no haps right now. Nurse Betty’s makin’ her rounds. Dat fucka Granger’s wit’ her.
(Skull jumps off the bunk, throwing down his cards, and dashes to the cell door, looking back to the right.)
SKULL: Nurse Betty? I gotta see that bitch. Mmm, mmrn, she’s tasty.
(Skull rubs himself.)
BUZZARD: (getting up) Hey, hey, you, you dumbass! Keep your goddamn pecker in your pants. Don’t go gunnin’ down the damned nurse. Show some respect.
SKULL: Fuck, you, man! I ain’t gunnin’ the bitch down. I just wanna look at her.
BUZZARD: You heard what I said.
LESTER: Here she comes. Nurse! Nurse!
(Granger, a guard, enters stage right. He swaggers along the catwalk.)
GRANGER: Who’s doin’ all that goddamn yellin’? It sounds like a fuckin’ nuthouse down on this end. You cocksuckers shut up or I’m gonna bring that pepper spray, give you assholes a dose of jalapenos.
SKULL: You ain’t gotta do that, Officer Granger. We got everything under control. You know how it is, the pill lady comes by, everybody gets nervous a little bit.
GRANGER: I’ll nervous your asshole.
(Betty enters stage right, pushing a small pill cart.)
BETTY: Martin, are you ready for your thorazine?
SKULL: Yes ma’am.
TOOTY: Martin? Martin? Are you ready to go to la-la land for a few hours?
SKULL: Shut up. I’m ready.
BETTY: Get your water. I have to see you take it. No saving up.
SKULL: Yes ma’am. (He grabs a cup, fills it with water, reaches his hand through the bars. Betty hands him a pill. He takes it, drinks the water, opens his mouth wide, sticks out his tongue, almost to his chin.)
BETTY: Oh my! (squinting her eyes and turning her head) That’s a furry tongue! Martin, when you brush your teeth, you should try brushing that yellow coating off your tongue. Your breath smells terrible!
SKULL: I don’t brush my teeth. It’s not good for you. It wears down the enamel and your teeth rot out.
GRANGER: Looks like it’s too late for that, boy. You ain’t got 20 teeth left in your head now.
SKULL: (grabbing his crotch) I got your boy right here, fat dude!
GRANGER: (grimacing, pointing his finger) You and me got us an appointment with mister pepper spray, you say one more word.
SKULL: Nurse Betty! I’m in pain! I gotta swelling and a rising, it hurts something fierce. I need some jock itch powder, too. Look!
(Skull starts to unbutton his pants.)
BETTY: Now, now, Martin, you just keep your pants on. We all know you’re so proud of that little thing you want everyone to see it. But we’ve all seen it before, and nobody is impressed.
SKULL: Come on, Nurse Betty, I’m not like that.
GRANGER: Git back on yer bunk and jest shut up.
BETTY: Is everyone else all right? Nobody needs anything? Okay.
(Betty and Granger exit stage left. Erskine enters stage right, pushing his broom.)
ERSKINE: Hey, dude.
LESTER: Where’s my cigarette?
ERSKINE: Your buddy Jeeter’s conked out, man. He’s down for the count.
LESTER: Man, that’s fucked up. I need a cigarette. Jeeter!
BUZZARD: I told you to hold that shit down!
LESTER: Okay, okay. (wanders around the cell, watches Skull and Tooty play cards) I’m really sick of this shit. If I knew how to do it, I’d escape this hole.
SKULL: (throwing down his curds, turning toward Lester) Escape? Did you say escape? Dude, you just said the magic words. You wanna escape? I know just how to do it.
(Buzzard puts down his book. Everybody watches Skull.)
TOOTY: How you gonna do it? I’se sick a’ dis shit, too.
SKULL: It’s simple. Look at my arms.
(Skull’s arms are crisscrossed by dozens of scars and crude tattoos.)
LESTER: All I see are a bunch a’ scars, looks like a lion or a bobcat ate your ass up. How are we gonna escape?
SKULL: We commit suicide, dude. We slash our wrists.
TOOTY: Suicide? I ain’t slashin’ my muthafuckin’ wrists. Are you crazy?
SKULL: Yes, my friend, actually I am crazy. I’ve been in four nuthouses in three states. I’ve been ruled incompetent to stand trial by reasons of insanity six times. I’ve tried to kill myself a hundred and twenty times.
BUZZARD: You’re such an idiot you can’t even kill yourself.
SKULL: Fuck you, old man. You don’t get it? I didn’t want to kill myself. I know how to do it. I’ve escaped from three emergency rooms. You don’t want to kill yourself, you just make it look good, these assholes get all freaked out when they see all that blood.
LESTER: So how do you do it?
SKULL: Nothing to it. We do a mass suicide attempt. All of us slash our wrists, we yell for the guards, they call the ambulances, they rush us to hospital, we act like we’re almost dead, they sew us up, then we jump the guard and haul ass. Easy.
BUZZARD: What’s this ‘we’ shit? You speakin’ French? You leave me outta your hare-brained bullshit. You try to cut my wrist, I’ll cut your fuckin’ throat.
SKULL: Okay, you ain’t gotta go. You stay here while we steal a car, knock off a 7-11, and head south for Miami Beach.
LESTER: Miami Beach? I’ve always wanted to go there.
TOOTY: I’d druther go to Hawaii.
SKULL: Fine. You surf your way to Hawaii. Me and the moron are headin’ to Miami Beach.
BUZZARD: You ain’t got outta this damned cell yet, boy genius.
LESTER: I ain’t no moron.
SKULL: Anybody gotta razor blade? No? (yelling) Runaround! Yo, runaround, where you at? Runaround?
ERSKINE: (entering stage left, pushing his broom) Who’s yellin’ my damned name? What ’chu assholes want now?
SKULL: (next to the bars, lowering his voice) Look here, Erskine, my man. I needa big favor.
ERSKINE: (skeptical) A favor? From the fruitcake? I don’t know. You’re a wacko.
SKULL: (pulling out a pack of cigarettes and setting it on a horizontal bar) I don’t want somethin’ for nothin,’ my man. (Erskine pockets the cigarettes) Just bring me a nice, sharp razor blade.
ERSKINE: A razor blade! Are you outta your monkey-assed mind? Uh uh. (puts the cigarettes back in the bars) I don’t want no part a’ dat shit. (pushes the broom toward stage left)
SKULL: Hold up, dude. This is bidness. These are Marlboros, man. You know how much these bitches are worth? (shaking the cigarette pack in the air)
(Erskine stops, looks around, the coast is clear, backs up.)
ERSKINE: Look here. I can’t git no fuckin’ razor blade. Dey keep dat shit locked up. Dey count ’em. Forgit it.
SKULL: Okay. No razor blade. (thinks) How ’bout this? You can git in the kitchen, can’t you?
SKULL: They served them green beans tonight. They come in those big gallon cans, right?
SKULL: They use a can opener, take out the steel lids, dump the green beans. That’s it. Bring me one a’ them can lids, sharp metal, that’ll work. How ’bout it?
ERSKINE: A can lid. You ain’t gonna snitch me out?
SKULL: Nah, man, I wouldn’t do that. Here, take the cigarettes.
(Erskine pockets the cigarettes and exits stage right.)
SKULL: (turning his back to his cell mates) All right, it’s a done deal. Tooty, you and shit-for-brains are in. Buzzard’s out.
LESTER: Don’t call me shit for brains. I went—
SKULL: Yeah, yeah, I know you went to junior college. Whoop de do. Big deal. I used to sell drugs and break into cars at the university. So what?
(Erskine enters from stage right. He tosses in a steel vegetable can lid through the bars into the cell. It clangs and rolls. Skull chases it.)
ERSKINE: Dere’s yo’ fuckin’ lid. Don’t cut yo’self. Dat muthafucker’s sharp.
SKULL: That’s exactly what I’m gonna do, my man. You feel faint at the sight a’ blood, I suggest you hop your rabbit ass outta here.
(Erskine hurries away stage left, pushing his broom.)
SKULL: Okay, who’s first? You, Lester, or Tooty?
LESTER: Why don’t you go first, Skull, show us how it’s done. I ain’t never done no shit like this.
TOOTY: (hesitant) Yeah, good idea. I don’t know about cutting myself, dude. I don’t even like cleanin’ fish.
SKULL: Nah, nah, you punks ain’t pussying out on me now. We’re makin’ a move. You gonna slice your fuckin’ wrists, or I’m liable to go berserk, flip out, start choppin’ on youmutherfuckers for the hell of it, like Jack the muthafuckin’ Ripper.
LESTER: Okay, calm down. I’m just saying. I don’t know how to do this.
SKULL: Tell you what. You just squat down here, hold your arm out. I’ll slice it for you, make it look good. Then I’ll cut Tooty’s arm, then mine. Fair?
TOOTY: Go ahead. Him first. I ain’t lookin,’ though.
JEETER: (off-stage) Lester, yo, Lester, watch y’all doin’ down there? You still want that cigarette?
LESTER: Yeah, in a little bit. We got somethin’ goin’ on right now, bro.
SKULL: Gimme that arm.
(Skull takes Lester’s arm, center stage of the cell. Buzzard looks on. Tooty has his head turned away. Skull holds a rag in his hand, grasps the steel lid, and cuts deeply across Lester’s forearm. Blood spurts out.)
LESTER: (staring at the gaping wound) Oh, fuck! I’m fucked! Damn, man, you fucked up my arm!
SKULL: Nah, you’ll be alright. Let it bleed some, make it look good.
BUZZARD: You stupid son of a bitch. (turns back to reading his book) Don’t drip no blood over here. Get your happy ass by the door.
SKULL: Tooty, come ’ere. Next customer. Let’s do this quick.
LESTER: (yelling down the catwalk) Jeeter! Jeeter! You there, man?
JEETER: I’m here, little buddy. What ’chu got?
LESTER: My arm’s fucked up, man. That fucker cut my arm half off, like he was slicing salami or somethin’. Man, I’m bleedin’ like a stuck hog. I might be dyin’.
SKULL: Shut up! You ain’t dyin’! Come on, Tooty, gimme your arm.
(Tooty extends his arm. Skull grasps it, slices across the forearm, deeply. Blood pours out.)
TOOTY: Goddamn! Shit! What da fuck you tryin’ to do?
SKULL: It’s gotta look good, man. Don’t sweat it. See here, I’m gonna do mine, now.
(Skull makes a shallow longitudinal cut above his wrist, afew inches. Blood appears. He squeezes his arm,forcing a little flow of blood.)
LESTER: Man, that’s bulishit! You didn’t even get hardly a scratch.
SKULL: I gotta overpower the guards, fuck-face. You gotta act like you’re dyin’. We all got our roles, here. I may be crazy, but I ain’t stupid.
TOOTY: No shit. I am dyin’, mothafucker. Dere ain’t no actin’ about it.
LESTER: Jeeter! I’m feelin’ real weak, here. I need some help.
JEETER: Guard! Guard! Nurse! Dammit, somebody git down here! Guard! Nurse!
(Erskine enters from stage left, sees the bleeding arms, freaks out, drops his broom, and runs stage right.)
ERSKINE: Officer! Officer Granger! Help! We got a bad’un down here in six! Nurse!
JEETER: Hang on there, buddy. You okay?
LESTER: (looking down at the pool of blood on the floor from his arm) I’m fucked up, man. I ain’t gonna make it.
SKULL: Shut up, pussy boy. You ain’t hurt.
GRANGER: (running from stage right) Oh, shit! Nurse Betty! (fumbles for his keys, unlocking the cell door) Get out here, goddammit! Jesus Christ. What the hell happened in here?
(Lester, Tooty, and Skull file out of the cell onto the catwalk. Nurse Betty hurries on stage from stage right.)
BETTY: Oh, you boys have been bad! (examines Lester’s wound) Oh my, all the way to the bone! (examines Skull’s scratch) Oh, that’s nothing. You can stay here. You two boys have to go to the hospital.
SKULL: Oh no, Nurse Betty! It’s deeper than it looks. I got internal bleeding. I swallowed some razor blades. I gotta have surgery.
GRANGER: Razor blades? Where’d you get razor blades?
SKULL: That damned runaround gave ’em to me for a pack of Marlboros.
GRANGER: Wait’ll I get that sumbitch!
BETTY: Granger, let’s get these boys to the infirmary till the ambulance gets here.
GRANGER: (locking the cell door) Okay, c’mon you fuckin’ assholes. I hope all three a’ you bleed to death. (He hurries them offstage, stage right.)
END SCENE ONE
Two hours later
OFF-STAGE VOICES: Ohh, ohh! Ohh! Ohh
(Granger enters stage right, followed by LESTER, Tooty, and Skull. Their arms are bandaged. Granger unlocks the cell door, ushers them into the cell, locks the cell, and exits stage right.)
BUZZARD: Well, well, well. What happened to the escape from Alcatraz? You dumbasses decided against Miami Beach and Hawaii?
SKULL: Fuck you, man. (He sidesteps all the blood on the cell floor, sits on his bunk.)
LESTER: My arm is so fucked up.
TOOTY: Dis has gotta be the dumbest shit I ever pulled in my life.
JEETER: (off-stage) Lester! Oh, Lester? You all right, buddy?
LESTER: No, I’m not all right. (tries to climb into his top bunk)
BUZZARD: Hold up there, Lester. Don’t get in that bunk yet. You got work to do.
LESTER: Work? Whaddaya mean, work? I gotta lie down.
BUZZARD: (rising up) You see all that damned blood on the floor? You see that mop bucket and mop? You’re gonna clean up that mess or I’m gonna fuck you up worse than that idiot with the lid. Do it! Now!
LESTER: Okay, okay, I’m on it. (Lester takes the mop and begin mopping the floor. Tooty and Skull sit on the other bottom bunk.) Ohh, I’m hurtin’!
JEETER: Lester! What happened, buddy?
LESTER: (mopping) It was a cluster fuck, man. Those cocksuckers had us chained up worse than Houdini. Halldcuffs, leg irons, waist chain. I could hardly walk. We didn’t have a chance.
JEETER: Where’d y’all go?
LESTER: The hospital. They woke up some fuckin’ Hindu doctor, couldn’t barely understand a word he said. How come they let people like that in our country? He took the bandages off, looked at my arm, started laughing.
LESTER: That ain’t nothin’. He got this big needle out, some black thread, scrubbed the shit outta my arm, thought he was gonna tear it off.
JEETER: No shit!
LESTER: Then that fucker told me, “You no use novocaine when you cut yourself, I no use novacaine when I sew you up.”
LESTER: Damned straight! They had to hold my ass down, I was screaming so loud.
SKULL: You’d think somebody was fuckin’ him with a donkey dick! (laughs)
LESTER: Fuck you! You and your bulishit escape plot.
JEETER: Did they give you anything for the pain later?
LESTER: Hell no! That fucker enjoyed it. (finishes mopping) I’m gonna lay down now, man.
JEETER: Okay, bro. See you tomorrow.
END SCENE TWO
BETTY: (entering with her pill cartfrom stage right) Hello, boys. How are we feeling today?
TOOTY: Not worth a shit.
LESTER: My arm won’t quit throbbing.
BETTY: What do you expect? You cut it half off!
LESTER: I didn’t cut it. That damned Skull did it.
SKULL: Shut up. Nobody likes a snitch.
LESTER: Snitch? Who snitched out the runaround? He’s in lockup ’cause a’ you.
SKULL: Fuck him if he can’t take a joke.
BETTY: I got some nice Tylenol.
TOOTY: Tylenol! I need some morphine.
BETTY: Sorry, Tylenol’s the best we have.
GRANGER: (entering from stage right, holding some papers) Lester! Yo, Lester!
LESTER: What do you want?
GRANGER: (reading the papers) You’re Gerald Wayne Lester?
LESTER: What of it?
GRANGER: Get dressed. Get any personal property you wanna keep. (unlocking the cell door) Get your silly ass outta here.
LESTER: Where am I going?
GRANGER: You see these? (shaking the papers) Your mama and daddy are downstairs.
LESTER: Downstairs? What are they doin’ here? It’s not visiting day.
GRANGER: You’re goin’ home, you stupid sumbitch. Are you comin’ with me, or you gonna stay in there with those assholes?
SKULL: Who you callin’ an asshole, asshole?
GRANGER: You the asshole. You’re stayin’. I’m leavin,’ and he’s leavin’. Goddammit, hurry up. (Lester stumbles out of the cell. Granger locks the cell door.)
LESTER: (looking at his bandaged arm) Ohh! My arm! What am I gonna tell my mama about my arm? Why did I do this crazy shit? I must a’ been outta my mind.
SKULL: Join the club, dude. Hey, you goin’ home, do me a favor. Send me some money and some dope.
GRANGER: Hey, you, shut up. Let’s go.
(Granger, Betty, and Lester exit stage right. Skull and Tooty sit on the bunk and play cards. Buzzard reads his paperback book. The spotlight goes out. The stage is dark.
END SCENE THREE