WHEN I WAS an English teacher in Hiroshima in 2008, I wrote a five-minute play. I thought I’d share it with you today instead of an essay.
But if you’re new here and really don’t feel like reading a dumb worm play, here are some essays from the moose archives for you to browse:
As for the rest of my dear readers, go get yourself a margarita and then take a dip in the pool — but be careful about that combo — and then pop back here next Sunday for a wormless, non-play essay.
Or don your brave reader hat and read a really dumb worm play, and then go do the margarita and the pool.
Or maybe just do the margarita and the play. That would be my preference, but you decide.
RAMEKIN: A bookworm assigned to the writing section in a library. He is intelligent, wears eyeglasses, and has a goatee.
PATRON: An anxious woman with writer’s block. She has an appointment with RAMEKIN.
CHORUS: Five deceased bookworms that speak in unison. They can only be seen and heard by RAMEKIN and the audience.
SETTING: The writing stacks of an old library, minutes before closing. It’s pouring rain outside. Wind rattles the library windows. Brass reading lamps sit on thick, wooden tables. A large grandfather clock ticks loudly in the background.
SCENE: The PATRON is mumbling to herself, and crumbled notebook paper is scattered on the floor and table. She noisily blows her nose into a flowery hanky and licks the tip of her pencil. Her clogs tap in unison to the ticking clock. She looks up at the ceiling and then writes some quick and furious notes, only to sigh loudly and throw down her pencil in exasperation.
At the loud gong of the clock, she abruptly stands up and tentatively looks around. From out of the writing stacks, a cultured male voice says:
RAMEKIN: Well, then. Shall we?
PATRON: (Turning toward the voice.) Are you … ?
RAMEKIN: (The sound of his ten little feet tap along a wooden shelf as he emerges from between two books.) … Ex-lax for blocked writers? Ernest Hemingway’s ghost? Snoopy’s secret lover before that stupid yellow bird ate him?
CHORUS: This can’t be good.
PATRON: Um, maybe. Well, yes?
RAMEKIN: (All four arms crossed, he glares at her.) Decidedly no.
RAMEKIN: This way, please. (He grabs a pulley and glides to the floor, hops on a miniaturized golf cart, and nods his head in the direction of a small, wooden box across the room.) The clock’s ticking. Over there, please.
PATRON: (Gushing, eyes bright.) I just want you to know how honored I am to be here with you. You’re in high demand, and I can’t believe it’s finally my turn. (Clears her throat.) So, I try and try to write and it all ends up on the floor under my chair, and then I cry and get really angry, and since I have red hair and am prone to pink coloration, well, I turn very pink when I cry, and then my cheeks get pimply and I have to spend the entire day with sliced cucumbers under my . . .
RAMEKIN: It’s best if you limit your speaking.
CHORUS: (Collective sigh.) Not good at all.
The PATRON is momentarily stunned into silence. She begins to tremble.
PATRON: But I waited over a year to meet with you. (Reaches into her skirt pocket.) Here, if you could just take a look at these notes and tell me what you think. My story is about this guy and girl who love each other, but Earth is about to be colonized by zombies from space. I don’t think that’s been done before. I just know in my heart — like, really deep inside my heart — that this story is a bestseller just waiting to be written, if only you can give me some guidance.
The CHORUS worms suck in their breath and sit on the edge of their seats. RAMEKIN pulls his body upright, takes off his glasses, and glares some more.
RAMEKIN: Go on.
PATRON: (Shoulders sagging.) But I only have this small pile of notes. I can’t seem to yank the words out of my head and slap them down on paper and write. My book (points at her head), it’s stuck up here.
PATRON: And my boyfriend just left me for his mother’s dog groomer, and the heater broke and it gets really cold in my old Victorian house, and I’m totally broke. But this book could be it, you know? Really it. You have to help me. I’m a middle-aged woman and am so tired of having to buy generic brands!
CHORUS: Now she’s done it. (They sit back in their chairs.) They never learn.
RAMEKIN: Nothing a million-dollar book deal can’t cure, right? Come closer.
PATRON: (Looks at her feet.) My left leg fell asleep from sitting in a chair all day. I can’t move.
RAMEKIN: Then leave it behind. It’s holding you back.
PATRON: What, the chair?
RAMEKIN: No, your leg. (Pause.) Now, get over here.
PATRON: (Pushes her sleeves up, throws back her hair, and juts out her chin.) Look, worm, are you going to help me or not, because Pretty Little Liars is on tonight, and the last bus leaves in ten minutes, and if you haven’t noticed it’s pouring bighorn sheep out there, which means my organic veggies are going to be a soggy mess if I can’t stretch some plastic over them, and that has to be done before I can take my bubble bath and give myself a pedicure (takes off a shoe) because look at these toes, will you, they’re practically sprouting turnips …
The clock ticks louder. The CHORUS excitedly mumbles to each other.
RAMEKIN: Silence, woman. You tire my ears. (Lifts the lid on the box.) Curious?
The PATRON steps closer, massaging her leg.
RAMEKIN: Only this can help you find what you seek.
PATRON: That tiny box? You’ve got to be kidding. That’s what I waited a year for? But you’re supposed to consult with me, get to know me, and lead me to the right source of inspiration that will help me write my book! Do you even know my name? It’s Phyllis. My name is Phyllis!
RAMEKIN: (Pulls a small card out of his pocket.) You are appointment number 469,329. Pleased to meet you. Would you like some tea and honey-baked ham?
CHORUS: Well, he never was one for small talk.
PATRON: Why, I … it’s just that … See, I thought that ….
RAMEKIN: Well, you’re wrong.
The PATRON dabs at her nose with her hanky, steps closer and peers inside in the box.
RAMEKIN: What do you see?
RAMEKIN: Nothing at all?
PATRON: Well, just that pile of dust.
RAMEKIN: Worm dust.
PATRON: Worm dust? Like, dust from worms?
CHORUS: Astute, that one.
The PATRON scratches her head and throws her hands up in the air.
PATRON: Worm dust is going to help me write my book? Worm dust? Are you freakin’ nuts?
RAMEKIN: Perfectly. You are appointment number 469,329, after all.
PATRON: Okay, I give up. Where’s the hidden camera? Something’s just not right about this, about you. This is like some strange kind of Twilight Zone hell for distraught writers.
RAMEKIN: They were cremated.
PATRON: What? Who are you talking about?
RAMEKIN: The five bookworms that preceded me.
CHORUS: Oh, dear. Worms, prepare yourselves.
The PATRON slowly backs away, speechless. The clock ticks even louder.
PATRON: But you can’t cremate a worm. It would evaporate.
RAMEKIN: Not true. You’re looking at the proof. Here, touch.
PATRON: (Looks at the clock.) Gee, will you look at the time? Really, I must get going.
RAMEKIN: Just sprinkle a pinch of the worm dust in your bath water, and your book will practically write itself. You’ll be rich and famous and your kids can go to a Harry Potter boarding school in England.
The PATRON gets really quiet and stares at her feet. She takes a deep breath and then looks up.
PATRON: Uh, you know. I’ve been thinking …
RAMEKIN: And you can spend half of the year at your own private villa in the south of France, whipping out book after successful book in between dips in the Mediterranean and sipping rare vintages of Cabernet Sauvignon, and then you can …
The PATRON relaxes her shoulders and lets out her breath.
PATRON: … um, maybe go home, turn off the stupid television, save the pedicure for another day, and just bloody write? (Pauses and pushes a strand of hair out of her face.) Is that what this is about, then? Turn off the distractions, stop making dumb excuses and throwing paper on the floor, and just write already?
CHORUS: Oh, he’s good, worms. (Leaning forward in their chairs.) He’s good!
RAMEKIN: Well, then. What are you waiting for? More worm dust?
The PATRON shoves her notebooks and pens in her backpack and gathers up the crumpled papers and crams them in the backpack, too. She makes for the exit and then turns and looks back at RAMEKIN, half smiles, and leaves.
The CHORUS jumps up and applauds. RAMEKIN takes a bow.
RAMEKIN: I haven’t lost one yet, gents.