Stewed Pork Tacos and A First-Hand Tragedy

(A cubicle and swivel chair sit in the middle of the sparse office. There’s a computer, a phone and stacks of papers on the desk. Enter Colin, hip office worker, whose expression weighs between dejected and sardonic. He holds an envelope in one hand and a letter in the other.)


It’s lucky number thirteen and I’m starting to think  — I don’t know if it’s going to work out. (He takes a seat and crosses his legs.) Now don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful to be a part of this marginalized community and I’d really like to keep living like this, but thirteen is a lot to take. Thirteen rejection letters over the span of a career, I can understand, but this is like thirteen in six months.  And I just don’t think I can take another  (He looks down at the letter and reads.)“Dear Colin, Thank you for submitting your screenplay”, (He looks up from the letter.) which by the way they can’t seem to ever remember the name of, (He looks at the letter.) “to our festival”, (He lowers the letter.)which by the way, I wouldn’t know the name to because I’ve been rejected by twelve others and they’re all starting to blur together.  (He pauses.) It gets me thinking; (He hunches over and knocks on his head.) I’m starting to wonder if they’re looking for something else. Not so much a screenplay, but something entirely different. (He stands up and paces.) Like, remember those eight years, not so long ago, when we the people, were asked to pick a President? Registered voters over the age of eighteen hit the polls and twice in a row they picked something absolutely contrary to the desired. (He stops and addresses the audience.) It was some like large-scale ruse, where out of all these qualified and intelligent men and women that fit the criterion, in a fluke of events… drum roll please… And the winner, hailing from Nepotistic, Texas, with a backwoods twang on his New England-educated tongue and dreams of cocaine and baseball in his head… (He sits resignedly and bows his head) a demagogue slipped through well-oiled ranks. (He raises his head and smiles.) Pun intended. (Pause.) I’m wondering if it’s something like that. (He shrugs.) And so the letter continues  (He looks at the letter.) “Your story was read” was READ?! (He pops out of the chair and stands.) Wait, I’m supposed to think that you possibly just deposited my forty-dollar check and called it a day? Is MY LACK of being someone of relevance’s nephew, (Pauses.) is that grounds for not even opening my self-addressed stamped envelope included document? And maybe I should mention, the forty dollars that you just gave your assistant to go on a run to buy you a seared ahi steak served over a bed of spinach with fresh ginger and the low sodium soy teriyaki glaze, that was my forty bucks, man! (He sits in the chair and spins around.) And me and your assistant both know one thing that you don’t! A forty-dollar entrance fee is four hours before taxes or five hours after taxes of waiting for you and or someone like you, to boss us and around and you may not even have flipped through my script? But the letter goes on, (He holds the letter out in front and squints while reading.) “Your screenplay was read and carefully reviewed by our literary staff and management.” (He puts the letter on the desk and looks at the audience over his shoulder.) The best is when you they list their readers: Joshua Horowitz from 110 Percent Management, Producer Leslie Livingston, TBA agent Ricardo DeSonya, Writer and Producer Ryan Sportello, WHAT? Who are these guys?! (He faces the audience.) I’m able to laugh after getting vetoed that a bunch of no-name agents and managers just rejected me, but can you imagine if it was the other way? (He puts up his pointer finger and spins around to pick up the phone.) “Hey Mom, great news! What is it? Well, I don’t know how in the loop with the biz you are, but a very PRESITIGIOUS group of Managers, namely, Gold-Clad Management read my script and just offered to represent me. (He fist pumps.) In fact, I just got back from a meeting a their office in Woodland Hills!” (He hangs up the phone, grabs the letter and turns to the audience.) Alas, I must trudge on, “Unfortunately, your screenplay did not fit this year’s category selections for the Screenwriter’s Competition.” (He flips the letter and cocks his head.) Didn’t fit? (Pauses.) Was there an error? Can I get my forty bones back? Because it sounds like someone made a mistake. Did my heartbreaking story of a guy with Lou Gehrig’s disease overcoming all odds by becoming the first non-Swedish World’s Strongest Man, accidentally get filed into the Sci-Fi category? And whose blunder was that? (He stands ups.) I’ve got a thing or two I’d like to say the people at the Frames In Motion Screenwriters Competition. There’s been an error! Something is rotten in the state of Culver City! On two accounts. (He counts on his hand.) One, the obvious, they owe me forty U.S.D., which I’ll take back in the form of cash or cash because I’m still using your highway robbery entrance fee as a tax write-off, while also not reporting that I retrieved the funds. Then, after that’s taken care of, well, (He reaches back for the letter.) I’ll read on, “We hope to see more of your work in future competitions. Best regards, Danette Estrada, Festival Coordinator.” (He throws the letter down.) Danette, now I can put a name to the foot that kicked my teeth in. Now when I hear, (He raises his arms in the air.) “Ride of the Valkries” blaring and I see my silhouetted foe coming over the hill on horseback, coming to slaughter my dreams – Now I know that western-saddled tyrant is Danette! La femme fatale Danette! (He shakes his head and retrieves the letter.) I’m sorry. (He addresses the audience waving his arms.) Forget I said that Danette, I’m just going to start over. Amigo a amigo, writer to omnipotent reader. Danette, when you said, (He references the letter.) “We hope to see more of your work in the future,” this is exactly what I’m talking about. Our future together. I don’t know you, you don’t really know me. What we have before us is a blank slate of a future. What we’ve got is a chance! (He starts pacing.) Sure, you may have read my feature; you may even remember the name, Against AL Parenthetically S Odds. Get it? Of course you get it, you’re great baby. (He stops and points at the audience.) Say, do you remember the part where, the protagonist, Joachim, is crying about his lack of Nordic Heritage and his concern about being accepted on P-COOL, the Professional Circuit of Obscure Objects Lifters? And his father cuts in and says, (He clears his throat.) “Son, not being Swedish is the least of your concerns.” And they smile and laugh and then cry because they both know after he’s lifted his last SubZero refrigerator, which no one thought he could and he’s hoisted up on to the shoulders of monstrous Swedes, as brethren, where he shivers, in his spandex tank top and neon glasses to his death in a sea of love at only twenty-seven years old! (He sniffles.) I’m starting to tear up just thinking about it and I wrote it! He was supposed to be dead at 23! (Pauses.) So Danette, you see I’ve got talent! I mean, a story like that, with a miracle like that! That’ll rip your guts right out! Just try and shut off your tear ducts when Joachim, all atrophied, is training with his eighty-year-old father in the dead of an Arizona winter. (He swings.)Cutting cacti, (He jogs.) running in temperatures dropping into the low seventies, eating tremendous amounts of high protein turkey pesto wraps, all in the hope of being the champion that no one says he can be! (He walks towards the audience.) I mean, Danette, if that doesn’t make you cry, make you want to be the best you can be, if that doesn’t make you want to give your kid a hug and tell him to eat less sugar so he doesn’t get juvenile diabetes, then I don’t know if I want to be a part of your inhuman contest! I don’t know if it’s the place for an artist such as myself because we live in a cold world of car bombs, no-fly lists and a paralyzing fear of consuming mercury-laden FISH! (He takes a deep breath then retreats back a few steps.) You know what, Danette. Keep my forty-bucks. If you’re gonna be like that… if you’re gonna be the type of person that slams the door on a stranger instead of saying, “Come on in. Care for a bit of grappa or maybe a sliver of swordfish?” (He wags his finger.) Fine, I want nothing to do with your silly contest and its trivializing and preposterous selection process. I remember 2000 and 2004 all too well and if you don’t get it now, I’d be very surprised if in the next few years I hadn’t been recognized as writing the scripted equivalent of a black President. Very surprised. (He takes a seat and shuffles a few papers on the desk.) Thirteen letters, huh? That’s not so bad. I know a couple guys with more. (He turns his chair to the audience.) My neighbor collects them. He actually enters contests just for the rejection letters. He’s even started asking me for mine. I told him sure, but why? “Come and see what I’m working on,” he said. So I walked across the hall, he opened, his door, didn’t offer me swordfish or anything, but you get the gist. “Look” he said pointing at his living room wall. And I look and I’m like, “Damn.” He says “It’s good, right?” And I’m like, “damn.” “Yeah,” he says. He walks over to what he’s (He makes quotations with his hands.) “created”, we’ll call it and he puts himself in. It’s basically one of those things you see at amusement parks and other touristy places that are cut-outs of really buff guys or cartoon characters and you stick your head through and take a picture. (Pauses.) Well, he’s got one that’s a trough of sorts that you get onto your knees and above it is a wall-spanning guillotine created solely out of the words, “We regret to inform you.” Over and over again. So I tell him, “Wow, you’re really on to something.” But he can’t hear me, because he’s like in the middle of the literary French Revolution of Rejection. I mean he’s just dying, (He winks.) dying for the slow, rusty blade of rejection to put him out of his misery. (He stands up and pushes in the chair.) I like going over to my neighbors every once in awhile. I do it just so I know where I stand. If crazy is a sliding scale, which I believe it to be, I always feel a lot better standing next to my neighbor versus some guy I went to college with who became an errand boy for someone important. (He tightens his tie and rolls down and buttons his shirt sleeves.) I get your game Danette. Your Dear Colin, your best regards, etcetera talk. And now that I think about it, I think I might just beat you at your own game. If it’s all about making the person that’s in charge of your unofficial, but self-proclaimed destiny feel important then I’ve gotta stop writing about conquering hurdles, overcoming odds, or doing the right thing. As far as I can tell, I remember one squirrelly Texan putting in a solid ocho anos without getting one thing right while the current man in the blue slash red tie, who is perpetually trying to do the right thing, doesn’t look like he’s going to get to run a second lap. (He puts his hands behind his back.) Danette, I don’t agree with it. I can’t, it’s against my principles, but I think just this once, against my better judgment, against God and country, I’ll write for you. I’ll write just for you so I can hear you purr back to me in the Scarlett Johansson rasp of yours. (Pauses.) I’ll do the blank page dance and pound the keys until it’s raining checks all over my laptop and I am winning so many contests that every debatable agency slash management company slash producer of some film, no one has ever heard of is banging on my apartment door like the police wondering if (He holds up an imaginary poster.) I’ve seen this man. I might get so rich, I might stop eating those totally delectable stewed pork tacos that come from Taco Truck #42. I said maybe. (Pauses.) The only trouble is, I don’t the slightest idea where to start. Maybe I’ll do something about post-partum disorder or about being a soldier in Afghanistan, I hear first-hand tragedy is really in right now.


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