June 11, 2006

A Play A Day #59

Bad Marks

Exclamation Point

Setting: One table, four chairs, bare lightbulb overhead. Curtain on one wall. Period and Semicolon on one side of the table in whatever hardbiled poses they want. Exclamation Point is looking aggravated and groggy on the other side of the table.

Period: You heard a shout?

Exclamation Point: More like a shout! You know, louder!!

. : And you were where at this time?

! : At the end of the sentence, like I said before, man...

. : Careful! That's a lot of me to throw at the end there.

! : (not sorry at all) Sorry!

Semicolon: You know what; my friend's being awfully nice to you. I think you know something you're not telling us; I'm gonna find out what that is.

! : I already told you everything I know!

; : Yeah, well, my memory ain't so good; why don't you let me know what you know one more time.

. : Hey! I throw up my hands at this one, Exclamation Point; I learned long ago not to get between Semicolon and his need to parse out matters.

; : Just you and me, Exclam. Alright? Let's see what the story is this time...

! : Fine, but I already told ya everything...

; : Sure you did; so it won't hurt to share it again. It's a nice story, if my memory serves me correctly.

! : Fine! I was out late. I got kinda rowdy with some of the guys at the Puncto; nothing big, we're just a loud bunch, ya know? I got back to the sentence pretty early in the morning. I take my place after the last word, close my eyes for, I don't know, fifteen, twenty minutes tops, and I'm jolted awake by this loud shout. I put on some things, get out of place and walk up and down the line, then I see it: 'l' and 'r' are gone. In their place there this comma thing, standing where they used to be, but he's up high, not down where he usually hangs out. I asked him, "What's going on?" He didn't say anything; so I just figured it was best to leave him alone, and I left.

; : Yeah, really brave, man! Two letters down, and you, the biggest puncmark in the book, just sorta sidle away, whistling.

! : Damn straight! Think I'm about to get my dot cut off by some thug? I don't hafta be here, man!

. : You're right; you're right. But, we hope you'll stay for just a bit longer, alright?

! : Yeah, I'll stay; just keep your dog on a leash here!

. : O.K. Ex, now here's a line up we've assembled based on the description you gave to the investigators at the scene. (curtain is parted to reveal a line-up of five nearly-identical commas) Which one would you say was at the scene tonight?

! : Man! Tough one; they all look so similar, and it was kinda dark, you know? Plus, I'd had a few with the guys...

; : (jumping forward, viciously) Just pick one!

! : Alright, alright! Geez, man... settle... fine, I think the second one is closest to who I saw tonight.

; : Wasn't so hard now, was it? Now, wait outside; we might need you later.

! : Yeah, yeah... Whatever, man! (exits SL, Period exits SR, returns with Comma that was just fingered in the lineup)

. : Come on in, Comma.

Comma: I don't what you guys are doing here.

; : Well, lucky for you, we do. Now, sit down.

, : Listen, I been at my home sentence all night; I got two words can vouch for me.

; : We heard different from a witness. He says he heard you bump off a lowercase 'l' and 'r' and then kinda hover there, over where they used to be. Witness says he spoke to you, but you played it silent.

, : "Hover"? I don't hover! You guys go the wrong mark!

. : Maybe we do, comma, but our witness just picked you out of the lineup. He says you look like the mark that was there tonight.

, : Listen, Period, and Semicolon, you too. I don't hover! Never have! I don't know what the witness is talking about!

; : Whatever, Comma, just admit it, man.

, : No! I can't admit something I never did!

. : Crap, Semicolon! You know what; we might be hashing the wrong mark here! Just remebered a bulletin came through the wires a couple weeks ago.

; : What bulletin?

. : Hey, Comma, what do ya know about a guy name of "Apostrophe"?

, : Yeah, yeah! Looks a lot like me; really tall, though!

; : Oh yeah! I remember that bulletin. Tough character, been slangin' up the neighborhood somethin' horrible the past couple months!

. : Right, what was the word that took the stab tonight?

; : It was an "alright".

. : Let's see, Apostrophe comes in, takes out 'l' and 'r', stands there, leaving what?

; : I don't know, man; this street slang changes so fast...

, : Hey guys, it leaves "a'ight"

: : "A'ight"?

. : Hmmm... "A'ight"?

, : Yeah, kids been using it a lot lately. Apostrophe always gives 'em the first one for free, ya know?

; : I can't even pronounce it.

. : We don't need to know how; but I think we got our mark! Let's roll!

(lights out, back up on Period and Semicolon interviewing a very tough-looking Apostrophe)

Apostrophe: I don't know what you're taking about, and neither do you!

; : Listen, we know you been givin the shit out to all the kids for free, building up your market base.

' : Can I help it if the kids love me?

. : The kids shouldn't love you, pal!

' : They love the slang, and I'm handy in that regard.

; : Know any "alright"s in the neighboring paragraphs?

' : I seen a few. Old words.

. : Yeah, not what the kids want, huh?

' : Maybe not.

. : So, you figure you'll take care of that for them.

' : You mean "a'ight"? Shit! I wish I had moved in on that word when I had the chance.

; : "A'ight" is exactly the word we're talking about. Seems a certain "alright" was slanged tonight, 'l' and 'r' taken out, in cold type.

' : Yeah, like I said; I wished I'd moved on that when I had the chance.

. : What do ya mean?

' : Not my word, just a mark who looks a lot like me... really tall too, name of Single Quote.

. : Never heard of him.

; : Listen, Apostrophe, we'll play along. I'll have Dispatch put out the word. Meanwhile; the three of us are gonna have a nice cozy chat, alright?

' : A'ight.

. : Watch yourself, smartass.

(lights out)



Brendon Etter said...

I actually had a youngish person tell me that I couldn't use that term, because I was too old. I said "A'ight."

Just a reminder about the play reading on this Tuesday at 7 pm at the Downtown Arts Guild building... don't worry "Support" won't be one of the plays that is read.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious about costuming for plays such as "Bad Mark." I realize you're the writer and not the costumer, but you must have some opinions. When I read this I imagine a bunch of big purple punctuation marks a la Sesame Street--you know, the purple tights and the oval cut out for the face. Is this accurate, or is there something different that you have in mind?

Brendon Etter said...

You could do it anyway you wished. Me, I see actual trained punctuation marks, speaking English, and they're just really in the moment, ya know?

Gotta dream.