Lacuna Misplaced

Lacuna Misplaced is a short story I wrote in 2016 for my publisher, Endever Publishing Studios. The story was published with the novel These Great Affects by Andrew Toy.

What is it about? I wanted to explore the ends of relationships, and whether there’s the possibility of a supernatural force that predetermines whether a relationship will end amicably or not.

But that’s the short answer. There’s plenty more to dissect within the story, and it’s only 2200 words, so I’ve tried to leave enough outside the story to dwell upon after a reading.

All comments & questions are welcome. Enjoy!

LACUNA MISPLACED

(title taken from a line from the poem “Thinking I Think I Think” by Charles Bernstein)

I kill the engine at the top of the parking garage; the old, towering one that overlooks a darkened Manhattan from Brooklyn’s crumbling coastline. You’re already there with a coffee for me and a still-hot pizza from Spadowski’s, inviting me over, not with words spoken, but simply by opening the grease-stained box. You place the box on the hood of the car and we sit on either side. The pizza smells fantastic, like sweet solace. This car hood, however, is freezing my ass off.

I motion toward a seemingly empty spot atop the steaming pizza. That slice there…it’s missing a piece of pepperoni.

You ask, Is it missing if it was never there to begin with? Then you take a slice from the box, folding it in half; the still-bubbling cheese now cradling the grease rather than merely acting as a slippery platter.

She did that too.

She was always bragging about her preference towards Chicago deep dish pizza but then I’d inevitably catch her cramming the thin, bi-folded slice into her mouth, eating like an honest-to-God real New Yorker.

She deceived me. Like the distance between the earth and the moon and the moon and the stars, she was deceptive. I have memories of her, but the memories are only fluid; it’s the dreams that are concrete.

You say, That’s backwards though, isn’t it? Aren’t dreams meant to be the more elusive of the two?

My dreams? They’re like a bridge that spans over everything else in my cityscape, casting an unremitting shadow, while leaving me wondering just where exactly it is they connect to. A bridge you’ve seen a thousand times from beneath but have never stepped foot on either side. One side always being the end, I suppose, while the other will always be the beginning. It doesn’t matter which direction you face; the two are always there. One cannot exist without the other: a symbiotic relationship; like cheese and pepperoni or her and me.

That girl, that girl. I could see the end of us, even from way back at the beginning. The end was always there, like a traffic light in the far distance. A red light that never changes to green.

But that was then. This is now. I don’t recall you agreeing to meet me at this squalid parking garage, but we’re both here nevertheless. Why you asked me about her after all this time I have no idea. It’s been months since it ended, but I guess you were just giving me my space. Or didn’t want to share the space I’ve been in. Maybe that’s more like it. I wouldn’t blame you, really. This place though: it plays in my mind like one of those intangible memories. Its smell sparks feelings I don’t like having. The dusty way its light and darkness play off one another: as though something murky here had done me wrong in the past. Whatever it could be though, I can’t place it.

Your space is your own. I wouldn’t impose, you say.

She told me something about space too. She once described her being in my life as filling all the empty spaces within me. So why do I feel more empty now than I did before? Like she took a little extra from me when she left.

Lucky to have extra to give, I suppose? You wipe your mouth with your sleeve. Mechanically, you seize another piece of pizza and begin anew. I finally take a slice for myself. You know, sometimes I get going and forget the little things I want. That coffee smells good too. Thanks.

Our beginning was improbable. She, a young, ambitious art dealer who already had a half-paid mortgage on her own apartment in Morningside Heights. She wrote what she labeled “a popular column” for The New Criterion, some intellectual critical periodical I’d never heard of before. Me, I was nothing more than a struggling student who had no idea what I was supposed to be studying and, sometimes, no idea where I might be sleeping the next night. But it was she who spoke first when we locked eyes on the subway. We had both – on a whim, it turned out – taken the 6-Train to Pelham Bay for no other reason than because neither of us had been there before. As it happened, the beach was terrible and the two of us bumped into one another, crestfallen while boarding the train back to Manhattan. Purposefully, she sat beside me and started blabbing. “The heart wants what the heart wants, I suppose,” is what she told me later when I’d asked her how it all happened. When I asked her why she would ever choose to strike up a conversation with a total stranger on the subway. She called it her opening move. Her gambit.

All gambits are opening moves but not all opening moves are gambits.

I suppose that might be true. Later that evening, after a lengthy meal at some expensive SoHo brasserie, we sat shoulder-to-shoulder out on the tip of one of those long Chelsea piers. There was a carousel glowing behind us, full of life – lights and laughter – on such a quiet night. It was then that I actually started to believe this could be something. Meaningful, like the way a relationship was supposed to be. I’d been in other relationships before that, so I must have felt the same way before, but I couldn’t recall. It doesn’t matter either, I guess.

It was also then that we spotted something skipping across the Hudson. A light, like an engorged firefly, darted in and out and in-between our senses. We saw it and we felt it. We relished it and we didn’t. At once, we prized it and resisted it. I know it sounds stupid but that light – that will-o’-the-wisp or whatever it may have been – disappeared inside of us. We absorbed it in a microsecond. Each of us knew the other had experienced the same phenomenon, but neither wanted to speak of it. Whatever it was, it was strange enough and weird enough to not want to admit to the experience to anyone else, even that person sitting right next to you the whole time.

And I was acutely aware that something else had entered the relationship then too. Some third party completely unknown to us.

You mumble something with your mouth stuffed. I don’t catch it though. You’ve already consumed a third piece of pizza, and you greedily reach for another.

She was the first thing I would think about upon waking. When I looked in the mirror she was there. Like any youthful relationship, I suppose. Before we’re too jaded to take them seriously anymore. It’s what we were like before we’d been burned one too many times. Or burned ourselves, seems closer to the truth.

But then things end, don’t they? It’s inevitable. Not all at once, of course. That would be too easy. And it would hurt a lot less.

You say, If it doesn’t hurt it doesn’t count, right?

Sure. Like I said: the end was always right there laid out before us. It was no secret. It never is. She had a breakdown one night about some older brother she’d never mentioned before and how he molested her when they were kids. It happened just like that: right out of left field. After that, I don’t think we had an evening that didn’t include some amount of tears in it somewhere. She admitted to wanting to be someone else because anyone else wouldn’t be her. I joked, “You’re crazy! Everything you are is perfect to me.” And then she seemed to take my joke literally. The being crazy part, that is. Through more tears, she blatantly informed me I wasn’t motivated enough to lose weight. I didn’t know I needed to lose weight. She accused me of the stupidest things: everything from swiping five bucks from her drawer to leaving a paper bag of dog turd on her doorstep and even hating minorities. Seemingly at random, she would become verbally abusive towards waiters and baristas and doormen.

I was desperately grasping at straws. I wasn’t sure where things had taken this turn or how to fix them. Eventually, I spoke with one of her gallerist pals to figure out if her current state of mind was in any way normal for her. Is she like this when she’s working? Is she bi-polar? I was expecting him to inform me that yes, she would frequently stop by to intentionally splatter wine on the paintings, or maybe throttle the neck of a potential buyer. But he suggested to me – and quite bluntly – that perhaps I should seek help. Maybe I was the crazy one in the relationship. I recall this colorful painting of a field on the gallery wall. Every time I glanced at it though, it appeared to be a picture of something else. For a tiny moment I considered the possibility that the man might have been right.

It was soon after when we finally reached that red light. When it ended. We’d gone for a walk together and wound up sitting on that same Chelsea Pier. The carousel had been closed for maintenance. We didn’t know what to do with ourselves and I suggested we return to Pelham Bay. I didn’t propose the idea as a last-ditch attempt at resuscitating the relationship. To get us off life support. I said, “Let’s go. Put on your best dress and we’ll hop on the 6-Train.”

“I don’t want to go back there,” she said. “That beach was terrible. I hated it there.”

“But that’s where we met!”

“Exactly,” she brazenly informed me. I think it was the first time in a long while that we’d spent the night together without any tears.

You ask, And that was that, wasn’t it? I’m curious to know how you could tell, and you only say that’s how the end always comes. There are never tears at the very end. If there were, it wouldn’t be over yet.

I’ve never noticed that before. Maybe I just hadn’t paused long enough to think about it. And it was also then – as she and I at once exhaled what we had left inside of us – that the light left. That strange, scuttling thing expunged itself, though we didn’t immediately notice. Then, when she turned to leave, I saw the entity, or whatever it may have been, skipping across the Hudson River once more, this time heading somewhere far away from me. Maybe back to wherever it came from in the first place. She must have sensed its disappearance eventually, but the two of us never spoke again after that. Not of supernatural occurrences and not to each other. I still don’t know what it was that happened.

What did you do with yourself once it was over between you?

What have I been up to? Just coping, really. There are still too many bad thoughts, too many illogical words rattling around inside my head. I want to say I hate her but I hardly even knew her. How can you hate someone you barely know? I drink a lot. And there’s too many bars around here to ever get too emotional about things. I did disappear up to Pelham Bay for some time too.

Was it as bad as you remember it being?

It was worse, actually. But I didn’t meet any psychotics on my way back this time around, so there’s that I suppose. Did you know there’s a place called Throggs Neck out there? I had no idea. That must be the strangest name ever.

I finish off my coffee in nearly one gulp, and I realize there’s only a single slice of pizza left now too. I met someone new the other day though neither of us are really that into each other. I dropped out of college but I do have a regular place to sleep now. You take the last piece of pizza without even asking, and then unconcernedly toss the empty box from the parking lot rooftop.

Listen, if you don’t replace some of those negative thoughts with a positive one or two, they’ll never go away. You must remember some of the good things about her?

If pressed, I might say her hair was orange like the sunset. She appreciated opening credits in movies; the order in which they appeared and how they might be presented. She once told me that love gives meaning to the stars, which I didn’t understand but it made a lot of sense at the same time. I really liked that.

You told me she deceived you. Do you still think so?

She wasn’t the person I thought her to be. Is that enough to qualify?

Are any of us, really? Maybe you were only mistaken. Perhaps she didn’t do any of those terrible things.

Then it’s obvious she’s deceived you too. You wipe your mouth with your sleeve again as I consider the idea of perceived deception. What supernatural element decides whether a relationship will end amicably or in anger? Why do we seem to conveniently forget about the good times? I don’t know if whatever she did to me would have happened regardless of whether we met or not, but I still find myself questioning my own sanity at times. I search myself for some truth to it all; some certainty that I’m still somewhat in control of who I am: my hopes and fears and heartaches.

I catch the light out of the corner of my eye; I see it just as it floats effortlessly off the rooftop. And when I turn to ask if you saw it too, if you caught this maybe-wonderful/maybe-portentous thing skipping away into the distance, you’re nowhere to be found.

Character Names

Have you ever read a novel where some of the character names really bothered you? Or maybe you found the name to be a perfect fit for the character? Have you ever kept forgetting who characters were? Confusing multiple characters with one another? I’ve been thinking a lot about my character names recently, and whether they really work for my book or not.

It’s a hard thing to realize that a name is just not working. As writers, we spend so long on developing our characters, and a name is part of that development. Sometimes we fall in love with a name so deeply that the idea of changing it would alter the entire story.

A few of the characters in my third novel, This Never Happened, have gone through name changes. Sometimes it’s other characters in the story who appear to fit a certain name better that precipitates a name swap. Sometimes they fall victim to the “same letter syndrome”, when two character (especially main characters) names begin with the same letter and causes confusion for the reader. As a writer you need to eliminate as much unnecessary confusion as possible.

Cepik “Epic” Small is the novel’s protagonist and obviously has a very unique name. Initially I wanted to simply name him Epic but this was slightly too unusual for a given name so I did some research into similar-sounding names that could use Epic as a nickname. I discovered the Polish Cepik (pronounced Seh-pick) and from there gave him a bit of family history that was not entirely necessary for the story but helped flesh him out a bit more. The name Epic originally tied into the first working title of the book: it was going to be called Epoch (as in an important event in history) and Epic sounded similar enough in pronunciation that there would be a common thread there. After much consideration this proved to be a little too far outside the box so some simplification was needed. The surname Small came to me via one of my favorite movies, When Harry Met Sally. There is a character with the line: “I’m Ben Small. From the Coney Island Smalls.” My book takes place in Coney Island and I just couldn’t shake the line out of my head, so it’s kind of an homage. Also, I like the juxtaposition between the words “epic” and “small.”

Below are some of the other characters you will meet in This Never Happened who have unusual – but hopefully memorable – names:

  • Abigail “Abi” Ayr: discovers an unexplained connection between herself and Epic. Abigail is a pathological liar and may even have some rudimentary psychic abilities. Or maybe she doesn’t. It’s all part of the mystery. She loves video games and referencing games such as Minesweeper and World of Warcraft.
  • Gideon Flat: Epic’s new therapist, after his previous one (Doctor Griffin) dies.
  • Armand Bester: Epic’s friend, co-worker and would-be writer/playwright. His play – called The Duality of Three – is eerily similar to events in The Third (a fictional novel that Epic is reading).
  • Zoltan Lintzel: An odd scientist who is somehow connected to a MMORPG and is also strangely familiar with Epic’s past. He claims to be from Switzerland. Zoltan is Hungarian, Lintzel is German. I liked the idea of not really knowing the man’s origins.
  • Margaret “Margo” Asus: An actress from The Duality of Three; played the dead girl. Was the name of the waitress at the UnDiner until I felt it was a better fit here. Her name holds a connection to the mythological pegasus, with “Peggy” or “Peg” being a nickname for Margaret (therefore Margo Asus = PegAsus). This all sounds strange, but plays a big part near the end of the book.
  • Doctor Griffin: Epic’s former therapist, recently committed suicide. Just like the Margo character, the good doctor also holds a connection to a mythological creature (Griffin = lion/eagle hybird).
  • Lobstero: Abi’s father. His hands are deformed and have the appearance of lobster claws. Lobstero is a performer at the Coney Island Sideshows by the Seashore.
  • Wilma Dradtstl-Small: Epic’s mother, left them when Epic was only five years old. Practically the only thing Epic remembers of his mother is her oftentimes telling him he was “born ten thousand years too late.” But what did she mean by this? Read the book!
  • Dorothy: Waitress at The UnDiner, the Coney Island coffee shop frequented by Epic. Was originally Margaret Asus, then was momentarily known as Lorna before becoming Dorothy.

THIS NEVER HAPPENED from Endever Publishing Studios is scheduled for a Spring 2017 release.

The Underneath: Part 1

Endever Publishing Studios is a new publishing company with some bold and exciting new ideas for the industry. I’ll be posting more about them in the very near future.

For now though, I’ll share Part 1 of Endever’s new online serial, titled The Underneath.

Enjoy!

Endever Publishing Studios presents The Underneath Written by Coral Rivera and Andrew Toy

Source: The Underneath: Part 1

Tell Me Something I Don’t Know: The Falling (Chapter One.2)

Continued from HERE.

 “I don’t think I’m in love with Gene anymore,” Kate answered. Intuitively, both Jesse and Tommy reached their hands over and placed them on the tips of Kate’s fingers, which were still anchored to the tabletop. “I’d like to believe that I was in love at some point. But to be honest, I’m really not so sure now.” Her eyes darted back and forth between her two best friends. “I think I might have made a mistake.” Breaking her hand away from theirs, Kate slipped on her coat and wiped her eyes with one sleeve, just to make sure nothing incriminating had leaked out.

As much as I wanted to show early that Kate was never one to put up with anyone’s crap and that she was a strong female voice, I also wanted to show her vulnerable side, as slim a side as that is. There’s no way someone will want to cheer for Kate if she’s being a bitch right off the bat. It’s hard for her to admit she may have made a mistake, but it’s important for the story that she does.

The city itself breathes in with every tragedy: every obituary in the New York Times; every jackhammer upon its streets; every time a girl leaves a boy; every slight transgression that takes place within its invisible walls. And every time New Yorkers breathe a collective sigh of relief, every time they find peace in themselves, every time they find each other again, every time they bring new life into the world or enjoy a good book or put a fresh coat of paint on an old cracked wall, Manhattan exhales. The city breathes in. The city breathes out. Breathe in. Breathe out.

The city breathing was a device I added late in my first draft. I might add a “Breathe in” when something negative happens or is about to happen. Conversely, there might be a “Breathe out” alongside moments of relief and happiness. The above paragraph is the set up for this device so that later readers would quickly understand the use of the Ins and Outs. I like the idea that if our narrator is the city itself that there is also some minor omniscience there; a little bit future sight. It doesn’t feel as unnatural as if a character thought it, and it gives the readers a gentle guideline for the turns the story takes.

This brings us to the end of Chapter One. Soon I’ll begin chipping away at some of the ideas behind Chapter Two.

Tell Me Something I Don’t Know: The Falling (Chapter One.1)

So let’s get into this. The Falling: Chapter One. You can read it HERE, or head on over to GoodReads and download the entire book for FREE.

PART I: The Letter

First off, you’ll notice I’ve not only divided the book into chapters but into parts as well. There are five parts to The Falling, and the titles of each are homages to my favorite TV series: Seinfeld. In Seinfeld, each episode had very minimalist titles (“The Voice”, “The Opposite”, “The Contest”, etc) and I’ve laid out my titles similarly. In fact, two of these coincide directly to Seinfeld episodes: Part I: The Letter and Part III: The Revenge.

Chapter One: Tom’s Restaurant – Morningside Heights

An even more obvious Seinfeld homage. Tom’s Restaurant is, of course, the stand-in for Monk’s Coffee Shop. An exterior shot of Tom’s in New York was used in the show, with the interior shots coming from a sound stage in LA. Morningside Heights is one of my absolute favorite NY neighborhoods and once I got to know my main character Tommy a bit more there was no better place to have his favorite diner be situated. In fact, the working title for The Falling was originally TOM’S. I liked it; it was short and catchy. But the more I looked at as a title it the stranger it seemed. I had never actually been in the restaurant but when a couple of my friends were headed to NY I’d asked them to snap some photos inside so I could use them as reference, which they did. Thanks Mike and LeeAnn!

2004.

My decision to set the story in 2004 came about because of a few reasons. I wanted the novel to feel timeless, and the best way to do that is to have it take place at a point in the past. I don’t know why that is exactly, but I’d heard it said somewhere before. Also, a key chapter was to take place as a flashback, back to September 11th, 2001. I realized there had been – and still are – plenty of novels cashing in on the emotional events of 9/11, and I really wanted to avoid it, but the further my story went the more I knew it had to be there. Because of the nature of The Falling’s timeline following that day October, 2004 was to be the right moment for my story to take place.

I’ve known Thomas Mueller long enough to know most everything about him, except perhaps the most important thing of all. I watched Tommy that morning as he took a bite out of the big apple.

My narrator, as mentioned in a previous post, is meant to be the great city itself: New York City. The City watches over all of its inhabitants, following their ups and downs, good moments and bad. And even though readers will not explicitly know for sure who the narrator is, there is a feeling of comfort with having The City tell the story, as opposed to a traditional 3rd-person narration. The “most important thing of all” is the twist in the novel, which doesn’t reveal itself until Chapter 25 (Tommy and his identical twin brother were accidentally mixed up as babies, so he is not actually “Tommy.” Literally losing his own identity comes as a major blow to the character later). “…as he took a bite out of the big apple” is an obvious metaphor for Tommy’s self-perceived conquering of the city.

The CKY Grocery on Amsterdam had giant, bright red Spartan apples every day of the year

The fictitious Morningside Heights grocery store’s name comes from the name of a local grocery store I grew up down the street from. I don’t know what CKY ever stood for – and the place has since been demolished in favor of townhouses – but I had fond enough memories of walking there as a kid that I chose to use the name here.

He loved the four seasons, although autumn was easily the most anticipated. To Tommy, Central Park’s bright, almost copper hues in the fall were the epitome of orange. He loved the unique perfume of deli meats and subway steam. He loved the rain with such verve that every time it so much as drizzled, he would turn to the sky so he could feel the drops sprinkle onto his teeth. Because every raindrop that hit him had already experienced that much-envied journey from the tips of the skyscrapers all the way down to the cracked and foot-stamped sidewalks.

This was one of the very first paragraphs I wrote for The Falling. And using words like epitome and verve really helped set the tone and solidify the type of language I would use for the rest of the book. Even though this was to be my second novel I really didn’t feel like the use of language was too exciting in my first book. The Falling changed the way I write, and I still get that fuzzy feeling when I read excerpts from it. I’m proud of it and of the word choices that helped make the novel what it is. “the unique perfume of deli meats and subway steam” is one of my favorite lines from the whole book.

Everything was perfect in the city, and as long as things remained the
way he wanted them to, Tommy would continue to love the city forever.

This line is very obviously the crux of the story. It’s clear that things are bound to change, but could Tommy possibly ever fall out of love with his city?

Finding the letter in the mailbox was another reason for me setting the story in 2004. We still received letters from people in 2004! It almost seems too ancient a concept now. But having Tommy simply open up an email from Patrick rather than a letter felt too lifeless; less dramatic.

“You guys are not going to believe this,” Tommy said as he removed his coat and scarf. He sat down next to Kate and across from Jesse, placing the still not-quite-yet-brown apple core onto Kate’s empty plate. She hated that about him, how he’d walk into the coffee shop everyday as though he owned the place.
“Not now Tommy,” Kate interrupted. “Jess was just about to spill the details of his date last night.”
Jesse struggled, but managed his best ear-to-ear smile. Still, Jesse’s fake smiles were far more beautiful than most of the city’s genuine ones.

Immediately we are introduced to the three main characters: Tommy, Kate and Jesse. And I waste no time in having the readers really get to know them at their most basic. In three quick paragraphs we get a lot of information: Tommy is controlling and always assumes whatever thoughts are on his mind trumps whatever his friends might be discussing; Kate is brash, quick to voice her opinion and never afraid to tell someone to shut up; Jesse is a bit more socially awkward, but there’s no doubt he has a big heart and has a hard time disguising his feelings.

“Dinner?” [Kate] asked, with one of her infamous one-word questions. Kate didn’t like to waste words, unless of course it was to tell someone how disappointed she was in them.

The one-word question was intended to be something that resurfaced in varying forms throughout the book. As it happened, I probably only used it a couple more times. Partly due to me finding the right situation for it hard to nail down; Kate simply had too much to say most of time. She’s a chatty one. Still, I think it’s still an interesting character trait and the line above about not wasting words was too perfect to remove. It’s true that writers do find it exceptionally hard to cut their favorite lines sometimes.

Jesse sprinkled two packets of sugar into his steaming drink. He focused on the granules as they plopped in one by one. It was almost as though he was attempting to count each single glittering speck. The tiniest droplet of coffee arced from the cup to the letter on the tabletop. Observant as ever, Tommy was the only one who noticed. He rubbed the globule off with the back of his hand.

Coffee plays a big part in the book too; if you’re going to have a bunch of scenes with characters sitting around chatting what better prop to include than a cup of coffee? Movie directors do it all the time. You’ll see coffee pop up within scenes in The Falling many more times throughout. I wanted to note here just how observant Tommy is. He’s aware of everything and is always taking everything in. It’s part of what makes him a writer, and – as the main character in the book – it makes him the perfect character for the reader to live vicariously through.

The shadow from a crowd of people outside spread across the tabletop. “Hey!” Tommy banged on the window to get their attention. “Fuck off
already!” He cursed seemingly at random, but there was nothing arbitrary or illogical about it to Tommy. He did it all the time….On the other side of that glass were a million faces Tommy did not want watching him slurping coffee and stuffing breakfast sausages into his mouth. He banged his fist on the window again. The crowd scuttled away like startled spiders.

This was an idea that I always found amusing: if you have a famous location that lures throngs of photo-snapping tourists on a daily basis, how does that make its regular visitors feel? There was a story earlier this year about the “Goonies House” in Astoria, Oregon. This was the house used in the cult 80’s classic. So many fans (a thousand a day, the owners claimed) came by and would generally leave such a mess behind that the owners eventually just shut down public access to their home. It’s probably similar to Tom’s Restaurant in New York, with so many Seinfeld fans wanting to have their picture taken in front. Probably even standing by the windows where regular customers sit. Maybe even every day. Naturally, Tommy would find this extremely annoying and I think I turned it into a pretty funny character moment, one that could repeat itself in later chapters.

This takes us to about page ten. Stay tuned for the next part.

Tell Me Something I Don’t Know Series: The Falling (Novel Concept)

Hi all,

Today I’ll be starting a new ongoing series that I’m entitling Tell Me Something I Don’t Know. Here, I’ll be writing about where my ideas come from, specifically focusing on my second novel, This Never Happened. You might think of it like it were a DVD commentary track, as I’ll be (hopefully) going in-depth and chapter by chapter discussing the origin of every detail along the way.

My hope is that Tell Me Something I Don’t Know will help writers realize where ideas are found (Spoiler Alert: they’re everywhere!) and it may be a great resource for some of you who have enjoyed my writing and want to know more.

I shouldn’t have to warn those who haven’t yet read the book, but there will be SPOILERS APLENTY!

Let’s start with the actual concept of the novel.

Cover

THE FALLING [2012] tells the story of four friends who’ve grown up together, having moved to New York from Seattle upon graduating from high school. The book follows all four characters 11 years after their move and 10 years after one of them changed his mind and returned to the west coast. The Falling examines their relationships, loves, careers and decisions they’ve made in their lives, focusing specifically on their lowest points: their tragedies, their mistakes and their regrets.

Personally, I love a book that mixes humor, relationships, workplace hijinks and city-wide exploration (specifically New York). I love moments of melancholy and characters who feel the world is against them. I enjoy the mentioning of things that are dear to me (comic books, a good cup of coffee, ice hockey, etc.). I like a helping of meta-fiction with my contemporary fiction. And I love the interactions of great characters who all have their own thick layers of history. So this is what I focused on while plotting The Falling.

Each of the four characters are – in most ways – representations of certain aspects of myself: Tommy represents my dreams; Kate represents my raw emotions and recklessness; Jesse represents my creative side and optimism; and Patrick represents my analytical side and maturity. All of them go through moments of sadness, which has always played a key role in my life. Depression is very common among artists and writers and was no stranger to me growing up. The key to this story for me was harnessing some of those experiences and feelings from my past and transplanting them into my characters.

As part of my character research I conducted “interviews” with each of my main characters. I’d heard of this being done by one other person and it struck me as being weird, but I tried it anyway and it turned out to me a game-changer for my characters. I knew a bit about them all going into it, but by sitting each of them down individually into a Word document I was able to just ask them questions; anything that came to mind. By shutting the analytical part of my brain off they would eventually just answer my questions and spawn new ones I hadn’t thought of beforehand. Some authors claim that their characters will begin to take over their novels and act on their own, doing things the author had not intended. This was along the same lines but it was never part of the actual story: I was just getting to know them.

Most importantly to the story, Tommy is obsessed with New York City, just as I have always been for as long as I can remember. There’s a line in the novel that reads:

“Growing up in Seattle, he had never yearned to visit Manhattan; he only ever wished to live there. To Tommy, there was a very significant difference between the two, although no one else could ever seem to appreciate the dissimilarity.”

This is exactly how I’d always felt. In many ways I am most like Tommy, but I think that’s fair if he’s going to symbolize my dreams. After all, who doesn’t want to write about their dreams? Writing a book about New York (and I really mean “about”, not just “takes place in”) was something I’ve aimed to do since I began writing, and I think The Falling comes pretty close to where my intended target had sat. I’m exploring the neighborhoods of Manhattan that I love and sprinkling enough details within to really bring the environment to life (which was not easy considering I don’t live in New York, and haven’t been back there since 2007). The Falling was initially written in the 3rd-Person POV, but I made a decision close to the end of my first draft to switch the POV to 1st-Person. More like Omniscient 1st Person, actually, due to the fact that I decided to make the city itself act as my narrator. But the “I’s” and “my’s” are sporadic enough that the reader should never be bothered by questions like, “who the hell is telling this story, anyway?” I never outright say New York City is the narrator, and I don’t think I need to. The novel just flows naturally regardless of any POV concerns.

Juggling four main characters was also difficult, and since each chapter more or less highlights one of them at a time (while simultaneously involving the other three somewhere off-screen) I had to plan the timeline of the entire book out carefully. Where is Tommy when Kate is talking to Jesse? What’s Patrick up to while the other three are scheming against him? Where’s Patrick’s young son during all of this? What time do they work at their jobs? Can they realistically meet one another when I need them to and still work at various hours of the day? Not only that but the story skips ahead by a week at three different points in the book so each character should have had enough to do during that time, and enough happening to them to believably propel their individual stories forward. I created a multi-layered spreadsheet where I broke down everything that was happening in each chapter, and then breaking it down further to distinguish exactly what each character was doing in each chapter. Plenty of scenes were still deleted or moved around during the writing process, but the spreadsheet definitely helped me.

Well, this is a good enough start I think. From here I’ll dive right into Chapter One and we’ll see where all of this leads.

If you haven’t read The Falling and would like to, you can read it in its entirety for free here on my website or by downloading it to your eReader via GoodReads.

Thanks for reading.

Social Media: GoodReads

Okay, maybe I’m not making the biggest impact in the social media universe, but talking about myself and making daily new connections in life is not exactly my forte. I do, however, remain very active on GoodReads, the world’s largest site for readers, book-sharing and recommendations.

I try my best to rate and review every book I read, especially if it’s helped inspire me to write or made some other impact in my life. If you share a love of books, I encourage to head on over and check it out.

One of the more interesting aspects of GoodReads is their Author Program, a completely free feature designed to help new and established authors promote their work and find an audience. Here, you can control your own profile, add a blog, post video, and publicize upcoming events.

On my own author page, you will not only find my first two novels but you can download them COMPLETELY FREE! You can download each as PDFs and open them as iBooks on your iPad. Easy! You can find my books by clicking on the following widgets:

Goodreads badge add plus

MOLT

Goodreads badge add plus

THE FALLING

And then find the “READ BOOK” button:

Goodreads MOLT

So easy! The books are free (and great, of course!), and all I ask in return is an honest review! Recommend them too if you know folks who would also enjoy.

Swing on by. Read my books. Ask me a question. And thanks for your support!

Progress?

So maybe it’s not going exactly as hoped. Upon completing my third novel (This Never Happened), I began work on my query letter. A query letter is what an author will send to literary agents in an attempt to get them excited about reading their work. Perhaps my query letter need a bit of refining. Here are the initial stats in my query attempts:

Queries sent: 93.

Responses: 29.

Manuscript Requests: 2.

Of those two requests, I received a pass from one, though with some helpful critique. Specifically, the literary agent “had trouble seeing the genre elements of the work shining through” and found that “the first person point-of-view felt claustrophobic.” This was one of the first queries I’d sent out; in it, I labelled my book as “Science Fiction,” but have since reconsidered my genre and began querying under the genre heading “Speculative Fiction.” I think this may have eliminated the first constructive comment.

The claustrophobic comment made me stop and think a bit. I had to interpret what the agent meant as best I could. What does a claustrophobic point-of-view actually mean? The best I could do was presume it was maybe too much time inside my main character’s head; maybe too many internal thoughts. As I was considering this, the idea of switching my POV came to me. Since one of the premises of my story is that the main character dreams of things that are actually happening to his alternate world counterpart, then there already exists a symbiotic bond between the two. If the story was told in a Second Person Point-of-View then the reader could be guessing at the true nature of the narrator, along with all of the other pieces of the literary puzzle they’re already trying to put together.

So, I’m beginning the process of rewriting my manuscript. I’m still hoping there’ll be a bite or two from my first batch of queries, but I think I’m getting closer to having the book where it’s meant to be.

This Never Happened: Chapter One

With my first draft complete I thought I’d share my first chapter. This is more of an intro chapter, short with a few clues as to where the story is going but without much plot.

Hope you like it!

(EDIT – 12/12/2016: I’ve since merged chapters one and two into my opening chapter, and as such the following version will be changed a lot heading into the book’s release date. Still, it’s fun to see how the book was originally planned out.)

CHAPTER ONE: TEN THOUSAND YEARS TOO LATE

Some mothers tell their sons they will be someone special someday. Some tell their sons they are the smartest in their class. The most handsome, maybe. My mother enjoyed telling me I was born ten thousand years too late. I’m not sure I ever knew what she meant by that. I remember how she would say it with a kind of crooked smirk on her face, sometimes after a little joke I never understood. Always when my father wasn’t home. “Oh, you wouldn’t get it,” she’d say. “You were born ten thousand years too late to understand.” I always wondered if there was some great event that occurred ten thousand years ago; something worth my mother’s blasé indifference and flippant comments, but I have no idea what that might have been. I know that in 8018 BC the world’s population was around four million. In 7219 BC mankind was beginning its transition from hunters and gatherers to farmers. I’m not sure where I might have fit amongst those Neolithic people, but I do know that I’ve never once felt as though I belonged where I actually was. Just like most young men, I suppose.

People say it’s impossible for babies to remember the moment of their birth, but I remember the light that day. It wasn’t a brilliant, bursting flash, a soft luminous luster or anything else that might come to mind when one thinks of light, but I know that’s what it was. I remember it easily because it has haunted my dreams countless times. And when I’m not dreaming it, sometimes I’m reminded of that wonderfully frightening flash when the F-Train bursts out over 4th Place. Or when the sun is caught within the steel web of the Parachute Jump. I can’t help from remembering. People will tell me they don’t remember the day they were born. They can’t comprehend what it must have been like to see that light – the light that bathes us all in our most vulnerable moment – for the first time. I don’t have the heart to tell them I remember every horrible second of it. Do you know what it is? It’s the same light they tell you to walk towards when you’re dying.

In 7103 BC people were building their world’s first cities. Earth’s citizens began living in mud-brick domiciles. They were just starting to learn how to deal with noisy neighbors and domestic disputes. I live in Coney Island, just a subway ride away from Manhattan. I sleep in a crusty apartment on Mermaid Avenue and I imagine it has approximately the same dimensions and appeal as those original mud homes. I have neighbors on either side of me, above and below. I know them as well as most anyone can really know their neighbors. The woman who lives on the top floor of my building runs a yoga studio in her bedroom and she claims the amount of psychic energy her students generate is enough to calm all the world’s aching souls. I don’t imagine that could be true since the world has as many problems as it does but maybe it’s my fault for not being able to comprehend. Or perhaps she just doesn’t know how to harness all that psychic energy she’s got bouncing around up there.

Living in New York confuses me. It’s not the politics of the city itself, nor does it have anything to do with the pressures or expectations its people place upon one another or the images one must try to maintain in order to fit in. It’s the little things, like how do the parking meters know exactly how much change you’ve dropped in? Same with the pay machines in the subway stations. I don’t understand how computer servers can store as much information as they do. When the U.S. Census reports that Manhattan has nearly two million residents, I cannot fathom how that’s even possible. How do two million people fit on one island? How do they keep from constantly bumping into one another?

When I’m working, I work for a laundry and linen supply company. Brooklyn Whites, it’s called. Sounds like a racist sports team but it’s really not. I pick up and deliver tablecloths and napkins and uniforms and floor mats from restaurants all over the city. It’s mindless, but I don’t ask for much. When I’m not working I’m usually on my bed. I like to dream. In my dreams, I’m not cleaning up the mess that others have left behind. In my dreams I don’t live on Mermaid Avenue. In my dreams I live in the country. Not like the Hamptons, but more like somewhere in Kentucky. Maybe Bowling Green or Elizabethtown. In my dreams everything is perfect; I’m just as I want to be. I’m everything I missed along the way to where I am now. It’s only when I wake up that I seem to experience this backwards reality.

In 7462 BC the English Channel was formed. In 7855 BC wild horses completely disappeared from Great Britain. In 8080 BC Earth’s last glacial period ended; our world’s last Ice Age. Up until this point, all of the food humans ate came from wild plants and animals. It wasn’t until much later that people began to think about domesticating their food supply. In 8002 BC people began to cultivate grains: wheat, rice, rye, oats, millet, and barley. My mother told me I was born ten thousand years too late. In my dreams I don’t have to try and believe her. In my dreams my mother didn’t leave us.

My name is Cepik Small. That’s pronounced “Seh-Pick” if you’re going to keep track. Like septic without the T. It’s Polish, though I have no idea which of my ancestors were the last to actually step foot in Poland. I doubt I could even point to it on a map. Friends call me Epic for short even if it’s the exact same number of syllables. But I don’t know many friends anymore. It’s all part of the same story. Some forgotten friends. A stupid name. A crummy apartment. An uninspired career. A broken heart. It might sound like I’m alone, and it’s true. But I’m not really lonely. At least not all of the time. I’m not sure what I was meant for, but I know it’s not what I’ve been given. My father told me he wished I would have everything I ever wanted in life, yet his own life seemed so barren and meaningless. We barely had enough money to get by. I’ve always felt as though I was a spectator, rather than a participant. I’ve felt this way in everything I’ve done and every place I’ve been. In my dreams I am definitely a participant. In my dreams, I wasn’t an outcast in high school; I was just normal enough to go unnoticed. In my dreams, I fell in love. In my dreams, I’m everything my mother and father really wanted me to be.

Your Underwear’s Showing [2015]

YOUR UNDERWEAR’S SHOWING is a stage play I wrote for a high school acting class. The students were all boys, hence the lack of female characters. It is a comedy, a superhero farce with tons of great lines and interestingly layered characters. If you happen to be interested in this script as a performance piece, please do not hesitate to contact me.

YOUR UNDERWEAR’S SHOWING

a Stage Play

CHARACTERS [20]

CORVID-MAN / MAYOR BARRY NAIZE : Brooding member of Hero Team; secretly, he is also the City Mayor.

VINCE VENGEANCE : Leader of the Doom Gang; lately he’s been off the mark, he’s just not feeling as evil as he used to.

JEFF O’MALLEY : The Police Chief’s son; tried his hand as Corvid-Man’s sidekick, KID CROW, for a while but it didn’t work out; not really interested in all this superhero stuff anymore; he just wants to be a normal kid again.

CARL VENGEANCE : son of (well, clone of) Vince Vengeance; has a penchant for breaking out in musical theatre at the oddest of times.

MIKE SOMETHING : Friend of Jeff and Carl; loves super heroes more than anything.

CHIEF O’MALLEY : The City’s Chief of Police, Jeff’s father and good friend of Corvid-Man’s; not the sharpest tool in the shed.

MISTER EVERYTHING : Leader of Hero Team; has the power to do basically anything; always believes everything anyone tells him.

THE SNORKLER : Fairly useless member of Hero Team; recently self-published an autobiography called “Beyond the Snorkel.”

DOCTOR WIZARD : Hero Team’s resident magician; best known for always plugging the team toilet.

BLACKBEARD : The Doom Gang’s pirate member; recently shaved his beard off.

GORDIE N. KNOTT : Enjoys riddles and can’t help leaving clues behind for Hero Team, which they always solve, foiling the Doom Gang’s plans over and over again.

THINK-BOT-5000 : Mechanized member of the Doom Gang; Vince Vengeance relies on Think-Bot for all of his villainous calculations.

MRS. O’MALLEY : Member of the Doom Gang; the brain of Jeff’s mom in the body of a realistic robot. Consequently, she gets hit on by Think-Bot-5000 a lot.

MISTER LISTER : High school math teacher.

MUSEUM GUARD : Corvid-Man creeps him out.

REPORTER #1 : Wants to know everything about the museum heist.

REPORTER #2 : Seems to only be interested in the Mayor’s relationship to Corvid-Man.

REPORTER #3 : Just likes being there.

MOBSTER #1 : Generic mobster.

MOBSTER #2 : Ditto.

ACT 1

Scene 1

INTERIOR MUSEUM – NIGHT: A rock-like object sits on a pedestal, a glass dome over it. A THIEF IN SHADOWS [actually CARL VENGEANCE] sneaks across the stage, lifts the glass, removes the rock and sneaks back from where he came.

 

Scene 2

INTERIOR MUSEUM – DAY: A MUSEUM GUARD walks on-stage approaching the now-empty pedestal. He notices the object is missing and looks around for clues, though not really putting too much effort into his search. He scratches his head wondering what to do next. He walks off-stage.

Scene 3

INTERIOR MUSEUM – DAY: The MUSEUM GUARD, POLICE CHIEF O’MALLEY and CORVID-MAN walk on-stage approaching the pedestal. Corvid-Man inspects the empty pedestal with an over-sized magnifying glass. He wears a dark costume & cape, very similar to Batman.

CHIEF O’MALLEY (To Guard)

You say this is exactly how you found it this morning?

MUSEUM GUARD

Yes sir.

CHIEF O’MALLEY

And no other guards saw anything suspicious last night?

MUSEUM GUARD

No sir.

Corvid-Man inspects closer, making confused grunting noises. He pulls a device from his belt, a scanner of some sort, and holds it above the surface.

CHIEF O’MALLEY

Well, I’m sure we’ll have an answer soon. Corvid-Man here is the city’s greatest detective!

Corvid-Man grunts some more. He inspects all sides of the pedestal, up and down and all over.

CHIEF O’MALLEY

Yes indeed. There hasn’t been a case yet that Corvid-Man hasn’t cracked!

Corvid-Man stops and turns to the Police Chief. He speaks in a scary, gravelly voice.

CORVID-MAN

Except for the murder of my parents. And my doggie. And that one time in the second grade when someone stole my lunch money.

(Slams his fist upon the pedestal; the Museum Guard and Chief O’Malley jump back, startled)

I swear I’m gonna find that guy yet!

CHIEF O’MALLEY

Easy, big fella. I’m sorry. I know that’s a sensitive subject for you.

CORVID-MAN

It haunts me still, Chief. Every night. You know it was chicken finger day too, don’t you? God, I loved those chicken fingers.

With his cape, Corvid-Man wipes tears from his eyes and then returns to his investigation, this time using both the magnifying glass and the scanner.

MUSEUM GUARD

What’s with the name, anyway? CORVID-MAN? I mean, what’s a corvid?

CORVID-MAN (Answers without looking up from his investigation)

A corvid is a bird. Like a crow, raven or jackdaw.

MUSEUM GUARD

Isn’t that confusing though? I mean, why not just CROW-MAN?

CORVID-MAN (Stops investigating so he can explain)

I tried that. But my teammates made fun of me. They called me Crow-Magnon-Man. Yeah, REAL funny guys.

MUSEUM GUARD

What about just THE RAVEN then?

CORVID-MAN

Raven? Like the poem?

MUSEUM GUARD

I suppose so.

CORVID-MAN

I hate poetry. Poe was a hack.

MUSEUM GUARD

And you’re doing so much better?

Corvid-Man ignores the comment and gets back to work.

MUSEUM GUARD (To Chief O’Malley)

Why’d you call this guy anyway? Every time there’s a museum heist you send this creep.

CHIEF O’MALLEY

He’s the BEST, that’s why.

(Beat)

Plus, we were meeting for breakfast this morning anyway.

MUSEUM GUARD

You eat meals with the guy too?

CHIEF O’MALLEY

Oh sure. He’s a great tipper.

They stand and watch Corvid-Man work for a moment.

MUSEUM GUARD

Where you going? For breakfast, I mean.

CHIEF O’MALLEY

Joe’s.

MUSEUM GUARD

Oh. Nice.

(Beat)

CHIEF O’MALLEY

Yep. Best eggs in town.

Corvid-Man puts his tools away and stands up straight.

CORVID-MAN

Okay Chief. After breakfast I’ll take these scans back to the lab and fire up the old super-computer. Then we’ll see what we’ve got. Let’s get back to the Corvid-Mobile and head on over to Joe’s. I don’t know about you but I’m working up a real chicken-finger-sized hunger over here.

Corvid-Man dramatically swooshes his cape around him and exits off-stage. Chief O’Malley follows him.

MUSEUM GUARD (To himself)

God, I hate super heroes.

Scene 4

EXTERIOR MUSEUM – DAY: MAYOR NAIZE stands at a podium making an announcement in regards to last night’s museum heist. Also standing amongst the CROWD are three reporters, REPORTER #1, REPORTER #2 and REPORTER #3. VINCE VENGEANCE is within the crowd too, anonymous for now.

MAYOR NAIZE

Last night, the city museum fell victim to a heinous act. A crime of passion, perpetrated by spineless cowards too afraid to show their faces.

REPORTER #1

Mister Mayor, sir? In their defense, why would someone want to show their face if they were going to steal something? Wouldn’t that ruin the whole idea?

MAYOR NAIZE

      Next question.

REPORTER #2

Is there any substance to the rumours that have been circulating?

MAYOR NAIZE

      What rumours are those?

REPORTER #2

The rumours that Mayor Naize and Corvid-Man are actually the same person?

MAYOR NAIZE

      Poppycock! That’s what I say to that.

REPORTER #2

That’s exactly what Corvid-Man would say too. Actually, I think that’s his catchphrase.

REPORTER #1

      I thought his catchphrase was, “Prepare to eat crow!

REPORTER #3

      I thought it was, “Stop in the name of the CAW.”

MAYOR NAIZE

Can we move along here? I’m a very busy man. Are there any questions that actually relate to what happened at the museum last night?

REPORTER #1

Are you at liberty to tell us what was stolen? Was it a Rembrandt? A Picasso? An (insert school art teacher name)?

MAYOR NAIZE

Those paintings are garbage. No, the item in question was an otherworldly artifact: a meteorite! Or, to be more precise, a fragment of a meteorite.

REPORTER #1

A meteor fragment? Can you elaborate on its purpose?

MAYOR NAIZE

I’ll do you one better. How about I allow the City’s very own Hero Team to elaborate? In case you’re not familiar, let me introduce…

(MISTER EVERYTHING, THE SNORKLER and DOCTOR WIZARD all enter, and approach the podium next to Mayor Naize)

MAYOR NAIZE (Cont’d)

Mister Everything! The Snorkler! Doctor Wizard! And Explodo-Girl!

Mister Everything leans in close to the Mayor.

MISTER EVERYTHING

      Actually Mayor, Explodo-Girl died on our last mission.

MAYOR NAIZE

She DIED?!? What? How?

MISTER EVERYTHING

We were trapped in Dimension X and fighting the Bio-Dinosaurs. I know…again! And Explodo-Girl… she…um…ah, exploded. Ironically.

DOCTOR WIZARD

T’was gruesome! I’m still picking pieces of her out of my beard.

MAYOR NAIZE

      Well that blows.

(To Crowd)

      Are there any more questions?

REPORTER #3

Does anyone know if lunch is being served after this?

REPORTER #2

Excuse me, Mister Everything? Where’s the rest of the team? Does anyone else not find it suspicious that Corvid-Man is always missing whenever Mayor Naize is present?

MISTER EVERYTHING

Not at all! Corvid-Man couldn’t be here today for personal reasons; what I like to call a “Me Day.” He told me he wasn’t feeling well. Thinks he’s coming down with something.

REPORTER #2

      And you believed him?

MISTER EVERYTHING

      Of course. Why wouldn’t I?

Mayor Naize gives a big ‘thumbs up’ to the crowd.

 

REPORTER #3

      I was sick last week. It was brutal!

MISTER EVERYTHING

Rest assured Corvid-Man is a true hero! And a true hero is ever-vigilant! Even as we speak, Corvid-Man is back at our headquarters; his super-computer is examining the evidence from the museum heist. Running the numbers. Scanning the database. Stuff like that. I’m not very computer-y. I know it was making a lot of beeping and booping noises.

(Turns to Doctor Wizard and The Snorkler, looking for some affirmation)

Is that something?

Doctor Wizard and The Snorkler shrug their shoulders.

REPORTER #1

Do you think this is the work of Vince Vengeance and the Doom Gang?

DOCTOR WIZARD

We cannot rule it out. Vince Vengeance has been a thorn in our side for FAR too long now.

REPORTER #3

Doctor Wizard, do you realize you just said “fart”? That was funny!

MAYOR NAIZE

Have no fear, citizens! My computer — I mean, CORVID-MAN’S super-computer will find the identity of our crook soon enough!

If there are no further questions, some of us need to get back to, um…business. And other stuff.

Mayor Naize and Hero Team leave, exiting off-stage, but The Snorkler stays behind. He pulls some books out from under the podium and clears his throat.

THE SNORKLER

And now, if you’d all be so kind, I’d like to take this opportunity to promote my new self-published book, “Beyond the Snorkel.” I have copies for sale and I’ll now open up the floor for questions.

REPORTER #2

I have a question! What can you tell us about the relationship between Corvid-Man and Mayor Naize?

THE SNORKLER

Does anyone have a question that relates to my book? Again, it’s called “Beyond the Snorkel” and it’s in stores now.

REPORTER #2

Is there a chapter about Corvid-Man’s secret identity in your book?

THE SNORKLER

      Forget Corvid-Man! What about me?

REPORTER #3

      How do you spell ‘Corvid’?

(Looks up the answer on his iPhone)

      Oh, never mind. I got it.

The Crowd begins dispersing now and The Snorkler yells at them as they leave.

 

THE SNORKLER

      You know, it’s not easy being the swimming guy!

(Lowering his voice)

It’s not easy.

(Walking away from podium)

Oh God, I never even got the chance to tell Explodo-Girl how much I loved her…

There is only one person from the Crowd left on-stage now: Vince Vengeance had been hiding the whole time. He LAUGHS a SINISTER LAUGH, and turns to the audience. He wears a suit and an eye patch.

VINCE VENGEANCE

As usual, Hero Team hasn’t a clue what’s going on! But this time, somehow, it is not I Vince Vengeance who is behind the felony in question. Someone else has stolen the meteorite fragment. But who? And why didn’t I think of it first? I’m usually pretty on-the-ball with things like this.

(Thinks about it)

But I’ve been feeling a bit…off lately. It’s hard to put my finger on it. To be honest with you – and why wouldn’t I be honest? I mean, I’m only the leader of the Doom Gang, the most dastardly collection of evil the City has ever seen – but to be honest, I’m just not feeling as evil as I used to.

(Looks around, trying to pinpoint his feelings)

It’s not like I don’t have plans. I do! And man, they are some wicked plans! TOTALLY immoral! I’m just not excited by the idea of stealing another priceless artifact. Or zapping Mister Everything into nether space. Or tricking his fiancé into marrying me instead. Me! Isn’t that absurd?

(Giggles to himself just thinking about it)

I mean, why would sweet ol’ Jennifer Juniper marry ME? She wouldn’t! That’s why it’s so brilliant! But I’m just not feeling the evil and malice I once did. Have I been in the game too long? Am I simply numb to it all?

(Leans in close, ready to share a secret)

Let me be straight with you. Lately, the only things that have gotten me REALLY excited…are buddy films and show tunes.

God, I…I even feel the urge to sing about it now!

(Some Broadway-style music starts up, but he puts a stop to it quickly by waving his hands emphatically)

      But I won’t! I can’t! Evil masterminds just don’t do that   kind of thing.

So why do I feel the way I’m feeling? I think the only way to find out where my heart TRULY lies is to find that meteorite fragment for myself!

(Looks around)

But how will I beat Corvid-Man and Hero Team to it? There’s got to be a way.

(Pounds a fist into an open palm)

I’m Vince Vengeance, dammit! I transformed Earth’s atmosphere into nacho cheese! Surely I can steal a meteorite from some unsuspecting jackass!

(Evil laugh)

      And so it begins!

(Runs off-stage, laughing still)

Scene 5

INTERIOR O’MALLEY HOME – NIGHT: CHIEF O’MALLEY and his son JEFF are at home, eating dinner together at the kitchen table. A framed picture of Mrs. O’Malley sits on the table between the two of them. Chief O’Malley still wears his uniform. Jeff is slouched over, quiet, and picking at his food slowly. There is an awkward silence.

CHIEF O’MALLEY

      How was school today, Jeff?

JEFF

      Okay, I guess.

CHIEF O’MALLEY

      How’d you do on that math test?

JEFF

      It was physics, dad. Thanks for paying attention.

Awkward silence.

JEFF

I think I did pretty well on it.

CHIEF O’MALLEY

      That’s great!

Some more awkward silence.

CHIEF O’MALLEY

Maybe we should have celebrated with dinner out instead of eating Alphagetti at home?

JEFF

It’s okay.

CHIEF O’MALLEY

So, did you catch that press conference with the Mayor? Who do you think is responsible for stealing the meteorite from the city museum?

JEFF

Why are people even wondering? I mean, I’m no super detective with an awesome computer but I’m guessing it was probably the Doom Gang. They seem to be responsible for basically everything bad that happens around here.

CHIEF O’MALLEY

      Hmm. That’s very astute, son.

Awkward silence.

CHIEF O’MALLEY

They say the meteorite is supposed to be very powerful. Like someone could use it to make themselves stronger or smarter, or something like that. Doctor Wizard was explaining it but it all sounded like a bunch of weird mumbo-jumbo to me.

JEFF

I don’t know. I don’t really care about all that. I just want things to be normal around here.

CHIEF O’MALLEY

      Like back when your mother was still here?

Jeff turns to the framed picture of his mother.

JEFF

Hey, I miss mom but I wouldn’t say it was normal around here. I mean, she was kidnapped by Vince Vengeance every other week in order to draw you and Corvid-Man out into the open.

CHIEF O’MALLEY

(Thinking about it)

Yeah, I guess she was.

JEFF

But then the last time, when the Doom Gang attempted to cut the moon in half and accidentally blew mom into sub-atomic particles with their giant gerbil-powered plutonium laser –

CHIEF O’MALLEY

      Jeez. Sometimes I forget about all of that.

JEFF (cont’d)

– well, things definitely changed around here. Sometimes though, I wonder if it isn’t EASIER now.

CHIEF O’MALLEY

      Easier? How can you say that?

JEFF

What I mean is things really weren’t that great when mom was alive. They were just…different. What I want is for everything to just be NORMAL. None of this good guy/bad guy/hero/villain stuff.

CHIEF O’MALLEY

Well, unfortunately that’s my life. Like it or not. I can’t change that Jeff. Now come on, let’s just finish our Alphagetti.

Jeff rises from his chair, taking his plate and glass with him.

JEFF

I AM finished. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got one whale of a marine biology final exam to study for.

And they’re Zoodles dad! How many times do I have to tell you? Those aren’t W’s? They’re monkeys! MONKEYS!

Chief O’Malley looks at his plate, amazed. He pokes at his food with a spoon. Before Jeff can leave there is a KNOCK AT THE DOOR. Jeff opens the door and we see CARL and MIKE. Carl is carrying a backpack.

CHIEF O’MALLEY

      Hey Carl! Mike! Come over here.

(Holds up his spoon)

      Does this look like a monkey to you?

Mike walks over to the table. Carl and Jeff remain standing together. Mike takes a noodle from the spoon and tastes it.

MIKE

Doesn’t taste like monkey. I think they’re just noodles, Chief.

Hey, what can you tell us about that museum heist? Did you talk to Corvid-Man yet?

CHIEF O’MALLEY

      We did more than talk. We had breakfast together!

MIKE

      NO WAY! Awesome!

CHIEF O’MALLEY

      No kidding. He even paid, too.

MIKE

      Whatta guy! Hey Carl! Did’ja hear that?

CARL

      Yeah, that’s super.

(To Jeff and Mike)

Come on guys. We’ve got that big test we need to study for.

Jeff picks up a pile of books from the kitchen counter.

 

JEFF

Let’s go outside to the old treehouse. Man, that biology exam isn’t gonna know what hit it!

 

Jeff and Carl hi-five. The three boys head for the door together.

 

MIKE

See ya, Chief!

 

CHIEF O’MALLEY

      Hit the books, boys!

The three boys exit. Chief O’Malley sits alone at the table. He picks up the framed photo of Mrs. O’Malley and SIGHS heavily.

CHIEF O’MALLEY

Oh Mary. If only Mister Everything hadn’t saved you that time from Vince Vengeance’s Metamorphosizer Ray. You could have lived out a peaceful existence as a simple dung beetle rather than have been blown to smithereens by the Doom Gang’s Plutonium Laser.

(Sighs again, then looks at the food on his spoon)

      God, I can’t believe I bought Zoodles!

Scene 6

INTERIOR TREEHOUSE – NIGHT: JEFF, CARL and MIKE enter the Treehouse behind the O’Malley Home. This is where the three boys have grown up together, and much of their boyhood is still hanging on the walls in the form of posters, maps, toys and books.

Jeff and Mike sit at the large table in the centre of the Treehouse as Carl prepares to deliver some important news to them.

 

MIKE

Man, I miss this place. The old treehouse headquarters of the Thunderous Three! Super villains beware! Bad guys were sure afraid of us, weren’t they?

JEFF

What bad guys? The Thunderous Three was a joke. We were just three idiot kids who had nowhere else to hang out for fear of getting beat up.

MIKE

Well, my mom said we were awesome. And she’s awesome too so I gotta believe her.

CARL

You’re delusional Mike. You’ve always been way too obsessed with super heroes.

MIKE

Obsessed? Give me one example.

JEFF

You’ve collected every one of their trading cards.

MIKE

Okay, fine. But that’s only ONE example.

JEFF

You memorized all the stats and origins and superpowers on the backs of the cards.

MIKE

Fine. Two examples.

JEFF

And you keep them all hermetically sealed and filed categorically in a secured, off-site storage locker.

MIKE

My mom says they’ll be worth something someday!

CARL

All right guys, shut up. I’ve got something important to share with you.

JEFF

      Wait, aren’t we going to study for the final exam?

CARL

      Not quite. This is serious.

JEFF

Serious? How’s this for serious: if I don’t get at least ninety percent on this test I’m gonna seriously ruin my chances at Ivy League.

Carl plunks his backpack onto the table and unzips it.

CARL

      Maybe not.

Carl reaches into the backpack and pulls out the stolen meteorite fragment, placing it in the middle of the table.

CARL

Boys, we may not have to worry about things like grades anymore. Not with THIS in our possession.

JEFF

      What is THAT?

MIKE

(Sarcastically)

      Wow, a rock. That’s real impressive Carl.

CARL

Don’t you watch the news? This is the meteor fragment that was stolen from the museum last night.

JEFF

Are you out of your mind, Carl?

MIKE

Why on Earth would you break into the museum and steal a meteor?

CARL

WHY? How about: because I CAN? Is that enough of a reason for you guys? Listen, this rock is supposed to grant awesome power! It can make us stronger, faster, SMARTER!

Don’t you see? With this in our hands we no longer have to worry about school, homework, superheroes or ANYTHING anymore. It’s is our big chance to ditch this dead-end town. To get out of the rat race!

JEFF

What rat race? We’re sixteen!

CARL

(Really excited now)

Exactly! We’ve got our whole lives ahead of us, boys! Why stay here and keep wasting them? It’s never too soon to grab a hold of our dreams! And we’ve got to grab ‘em like they’re free donuts on Sports Day! And I’m talking Boston creams!

You have dreams, right? Don’t you guys ever feel like singing about it? I know I do!

The lights dim and a spotlight shines on Carl, as he breaks out into a brief Broadway-style song and dance routine.

CARL

(Singing)

      No more mid-terms to re-write

No more poems to recite

Forget the schemes

I have my dreams!

Now stand back boys, watch them ignite!

No more sleepless, wasted nights

No more washing darks with lights

Say so long tears

It’s my premiere!

I’m outta here, I’m outta sight!

JEFF

What the hell was THAT?

MIKE

(To Carl)

And YOU think I’M delusional?

CARL

It’s called having FEELINGS guys!

JEFF

I dunno Carl. I think I’d rather just hit the books. Find success the traditional route, you know? Without all the singing and dancing.

Out of curiosity, Jeff picks up the meteor and inspects it closely.

JEFF

What are you supposed to do with this thing anyway? How does it work? Just crack it open?

Jeff bangs the meteor on the edge of the table, with no effect. Mike holds his hand out and Jeff passes it over.

MIKE

Maybe you’re supposed eat it?

(Carefully licks the meteor with the tip of his tongue; reacts unfavorably, spitting and rubbing his tongue with his sleeve)

Yee-uck! Could use some hot sauce maybe.

Carl grabs the meteor from Mike and stuffs it into his backpack, zipping it closed.

CARL

I don’t know how it works, but I’m gonna go figure it out. And then I’ll be on my way to Broadway!

(Slings his backpack over his shoulder and heads for the door)

      And if you guys were smart you’d stick with me.

Carl exits abruptly. Jeff and Mike stand in silence for a moment before Mike heads for the door too.

JEFF

You’re not actually going with him, are you?

MIKE

I’m just gonna give that rock one more lick.

(Licks at the lingering taste still on his lips)

I’ll call you later Jeff!

Mike exits, leaving Jeff alone. Jeff sits at the table and opens one of his textbooks.

JEFF

      Well, this test isn’t going to study itself!

He reads for only a moment before CORVID-MAN enters through the treehouse window. He enters quietly and stands motionless across the stage, watching Jeff.

JEFF

(Still with his head down)

I know you’re there. I can hear your nose hairs rustling in the wind.

CORVID-MAN

      I need your help Jeff.

JEFF

Let me guess: the case of the missing meteorite? Why not get those Hero Team buddies of yours to help?

CORVID-MAN

They’re all idiots. You know that. They won’t listen to me.

JEFF

You just want someone to boss around again, is that it?

CORVID-MAN

Come on Jeff. Don’t be like that.

JEFF

It’s true though. There’s no other reason you’d be here now.

CORVID-MAN

Poppycock! I know you can help me! And you’re the best kid for the job!

JEFF

What could I possibly do that Mister Everything can’t? He can do ANYTHING.

CORVID-MAN

Believe me, he reminds me every three minutes. Apparently Mister Everything KNOWS everything too. God, that guy really chaps my hide.

JEFF

He’s a moron all right. A real dunderhead.

CORVID-MAN

Dunderhead? Who says dunderhead?

JEFF

Sorry, I guess I used to say things like that all the time when I was your plucky, wide-eyed sidekick. Some of those stupid words still creep out sometimes.

CORVID-MAN

Maybe you should dust off the old costume then? Become KID CROW again! Don’t deny your true identity!

JEFF

(Pointing at himself)

THIS is my true identity! I’m not your sidekick anymore. Kid Crow died the night my mom was atomized by the Doom Gang!

I just want to be a normal high school kid for once. Do you know that I’ve never even talked to a girl who didn’t wear a spandex uniform?

CORVID-MAN

What’s wrong with THAT?

Jeff and Corvid-Man both throw their arms up in the air, each of them realizing it’s no use.

CORVID-MAN

Well, you don’t have any solid leads by any chance, huh? Heard any good rumours around school? My computer’s still processing the data from the museum. Stupid PC’s. I know all signs point to Vince Vengeance but there’s something not right here. There’s more to it than that.

Jeff thinks for a beat, wondering if he should rat out Carl.

JEFF

Sorry.

CORVID-MAN

Well, if you change your mind you still remember how to flash the Corvid-Signal, right?

JEFF

My dad’s still got it up on the roof of our house. I’ll let you know if I hear anything.

Corvid-Man climbs back out the window.

CORVID-MAN

I know you’ll do what’s right.

Corvid-Man swooshes his cape around dramatically and then disappears. Jeff sighs heavily and returns to his studies.

Scene 7

INTERIOR HERO TEAM HQ – NIGHT: MISTER EVERYTHING and THE SNORKLER are sitting at the Hero Team meeting table. Mister Everything is reading the newspaper and The Snorkler reads a copy of his own book, Beyond the Snorkel.

Corvid-Man’s super-computer is beeping and blinking in the background.

MISTER EVERYTHING

      So how are the book sales going?

THE SNORKLER

Horrible. Nobody seems interested in the real life of a real life superhero.

MISTER EVERYTHING

Yeah. Or YOU.

THE SNORKLER

Ha ha.

MISTER EVERYTHING

What do you think: should we just call the Doom Gang and ask them if they’re responsible for the museum heist? You know, put ‘em on the spot.

THE SNORKLER

That’s a terrible idea! Those guys lie for a living. That’s what they DO. Plus, you’ll just believe whatever they say.

MISTER EVERYTHING

No I won’t.

THE SNORKLER

Yes you will. You think everyone is good and honest and pure of heart. You believe EVERYTHING.

MISTER EVERYTHING

(Tries to think of a clever response)

No I don’t.

We hear a TOILET FLUSH from off-stage, and DOCTOR WIZARD enters the meeting room.

DOCTOR WIZARD

      Methinks yon toilet is plugged once more.

MISTER EVERYTHING

Don’t worry about it Doc. We really just need to get a new one.

THE SNORKLER

You see? This just proves my point. You believe EVERYTHING. Doctor Wizard ALWAYS plugs the toilet! It’s obviously HIS fault!

MISTER EVERYTHING

      He says it wasn’t.

Doctor Wizard just shrugs in The Snorkler’s direction.

 

THE SNORKLER

      Can’t you just use your magic to fix it?

DOCTOR WIZARD

Magic doesn’t work that way. Don’t you have a plunger in that costume of yours?

The Snorkler waves an arm, dismissing the comment, and goes back to his book.

CORVID-MAN enters the meeting room, walking directly to the computer.

THE SNORKLER

      Hey, Crow Guy! Doc Wiz plugged the crapper again.

CORVID-MAN

Not now, morons. I think my super-computer has finally finished its calculations.

Corvid-Man pushes some buttons on the computer as the rest of the team continues to talk amongst themselves.

THE SNORKLER

What do you guys think?

(Pointing at Corvid-Man)

Do you think him and the Mayor are really the same person?

MISTER EVERYTHING

WHAT? No way.

THE SNORKLER

So where was he during the Mayor’s public address this morning?

DOCTOR WIZARD

Maybe t’was HE who plugged yon crapper!

THE SNORKLER

Nice try Doc.

Doctor Wizard sinks down in defeat.

MISTER EVERYTHING

If we were to call the Mayor right now I guarantee you he’d DEFINITELY answer.

THE SNORKLER

Why don’t we do that then?

MISTER EVERYTHING

Okay. Prepare to blow a big fat apology out of that snorkel of yours.

Mister Everything pulls his cell phone out of his pocket and dials. Corvid-Man’s phone starts BUZZING, he looks at the number and then looks over to the table and then cancels the call, putting his phone back and returning to his work.

MISTER EVERYTHING

      I just get some weird out-of-office message.

(Puts his phone back in his pocket)

      Well, that doesn’t mean anything.

Corvid-Man takes a print-out from the super-computer and brings it to the table.

CORVID-MAN

At last! The results are in and all fingers point to Vince Vengeance.

Still, I can’t shake the feeling that I’m missing something here…

MISTER EVERYTHING

I knew it! Why were we wasting so much time discussing it?

(Pulls out his phone again, starts dialing)

What do you say we give the Doom Gang a call?

THE SNORKLER

For a superhero team we sure sit around a lot making phone calls…

MISTER EVERYTHING

Oooo! It’s ringing!

Scene 8

INTERIOR DOOM GANG SECRET HIDEOUT – NIGHT: The Doom Gang is gathered for a meeting of their own. Standing around the meeting table are VINCE VENGEANCE, BLACKBEARD, GORDIE N. KNOTT, THINK-BOT-5000 and MRS. O’MALLEY.

VINCE VENGEANCE

All right, fools! I hereby call this meeting of the Doom Gang to order. First things first: let’s take roll call.

Naturally, I’ll start with myself. As you all know, I’m Vince Vengeance! Genius-level mastermind and arch nemesis of Hero Team! And not too bad looking either.

(Motions towards Blackbeard)

Next up: Blackbeard the Pirate! Deranged plunderer of the Seven Seas, as well as some small, mostly uninhabited islands on the Pacific west coast from time to time.

(Motions towards Gordie N. Knott)

Gordie N. Knott! Master of riddles and other assorted conundrums. Still not entirely sure what kind of threat he poses to anyone.

(Motions towards Mrs. O’Malley)

Mrs. O’Malley! Deceased wife of the Chief of Police. They all thought she died but we’ve preserved her brain in this super-realistic robot body. She’s our ace-in-the-hole for some future scheme! Until then, however, she’s mostly just taking up space at our table.

(Motions towards Think-Bot-5000)

And finally: Think-Bot-5000! The Doom Gang’s mechanized wonder! His computer brain is so advanced we don’t even have to write down the number for that pizza place anymore. Plus, he can calculate tips too!

GORDIE N. KNOTT

Why do we still do intros at the beginning of every meeting? We all know each other. Our roster hasn’t changed for years now.

VINCE VENGEANCE

That’s not true, what about Holy Cow? The Hindu Cow God? Whatever happened to HER?

THINK-BOT-5000

Correction. Holy Cow was most definitely a HE. Think-Bot-5000 looked one time. Cannot delete image from data bank.

VINCE VENGEANCE

REALLY? But he was a COW. That doesn’t make any sense. Whatever. Let’s address the elephant in the room here: Blackbeard, where the hell is your beard? That’s your thing, dude. You’re Black-BEARD.

BLACKBEARD

      (Scratches at his chin with his hook)

Arr! You be rememberin’ that scheme we was hatchin’ on the alternate reality world of Xanthum-17? We was attacked by killer wasps and those insects be buildin’ a nest in me beard. Had to shave it off, mate.

GORDIE N. KNOTT

But you could have changed your name to Beard of Bees! That would’ve been so perfect!

VINCE VENGEANCE

Without a beard, what are you offering us?

BLACKBEARD

I be growin’ it back, okay? It’s just taking a while.

(Scratches his face some more)

And man, does it be itchin’. I keep poking me face with me hook!

THINK-BOT-5000

Think-Bot-5000 suggests Blackbeard change name to Captain Hook.

Blackbeard raises his hook and sword in anger.

BLACKBEARD

That be not funny! You know I hate that blubbering wannabe! Take it back, you computer hack!

VINCE VENGEANCE

Stop it fools! Break it up. All right, moving along here –

Gordie N. Knott interrupts.

GORDIE N. KNOTT

(Pointing at both Vince Vengeance and Blackbeard)

Hey, since we’re on the subject of accessories, don’t you think it’s time one of you lost the eye patch? Two villains with eye patches on the same team is too much, man. Plus, neither of you guys even NEEDS an eye patch!

VINCE VENGEANCE

I’ll have you know, my first evil act ever was cheating on the Third-Grade spelling bee. I wrote the words on the back of an eye patch so I could win. And I did! And I haven’t stopped winning since!

(Laughs triumphantly)

Plus I liked how it looked so I just ran with it.

Blackbeard angrily raises his sword and hook again.

BLACKBEARD

An’ I’m BLACKBEARD THE PIRATE! No bogus buccaneer is gonna tell ME what to do!

GORDIE N. KNOTT

Hey, you guys made me ditch the monocle and top hat when Doctor Peanut was on the team! That’s all I’m gonna say.

VINCE VENGEANCE

All right! Shut up, all of you! This is why these stupid meetings always take so long.

Why can’t you all be more like Mrs. O’Malley over there?

The villains all turn to Mrs. O’Malley who is filing her nails. She is very stiff, prim like a 1950’s secretary.

 

MRS. O’MALLEY

One day women are gonna say enough’s enough and do away with all you chauvinist pigs. You’ll see.

THINK-BOT-5000

You’re so hot. How about giving Think-Bot-5000 a call sometime?

Think-Bot-5000’s PHONE RINGS. He has an old rotary-style phone attached to his body.

 

THINK-BOT-5000

            Yes! That’s what Think-Bot-5000 is talking about!

VINCE VENGEANCE

            Calm down, Think-Bot.

 

Vince Vengeance walks over to the robot and picks up the receiver.

VINCE VENGEANCE

            Hello? Who is this?

(Wait for response)

Mister Everything! How nice of you to call.

(Wait for response)

Did I WHAT? Steal a meteor from the city museum? It’s nice of you to think of me Mister E, but I assure you that I had nothing to do with it.

(Wait for response)

What’s that? You believe me? Just like that? Well, okay old chum. It was nice chatting –

Gordie N. Knott is waving at Vince Vengeance, trying to get his attention. He wants to speak to Mister Everything.

VINCE VENGEANCE

Hold on Mister E. I think Gordie wants to speak with you.

Vince Vengeance hands the phone over to Gordie N. Knott.

GORDIE N. KNOTT

            Hello hero!

(Wait for response)

What? No, I didn’t steal it either. But I’ve got a little riddle for you to solve. See if you can answer this one, Mister Everything:

“You’ll find me when you need the time,

My eyes are yellow, orange and lime,

The limits of my reach are vast,

My socks, though clean, still smell like ass.”

Gordie N. Knott LAUGHS and hangs up the phone.

BLACKBEARD

Blubberin’ idiot! Why you keep doin’ that? You know they’ve solved every riddle you’ve ever given ‘em.

GORDIE N. KNOTT

Not EVERY riddle.

BLACKBEARD

Yes, EVERY riddle! They’re probably on their way here right now.

GORDIE N. KNOTT

I can’t help it. It’s my thing! You guys all have YOUR things!

THINK-BOT-5000

Correct. But our things are all cool.

GORDIE N. KNOTT

      (Pointing at Mrs. O’Malley)

Really? The robot with the dead chick’s brain? Is THAT cool?

VINCE VENGEANCE

SHUT UP! Oh my God guys, are you serious? Let’s get rolling here. The purpose of this meeting was to address the issue of the stolen meteorite. WE didn’t do it, so WHO DID?

BLACKBEARD

I’m bettin’ it be the mob! Those landlubbers are always tryin’ to steal our booty.

VINCE VENGEANCE

Yes…the mob.

(Turns to Think-Bot-5000)

Think-Bot?

THINK-BOT-5000

Running data.

There is a seventy-five percent probability of the mob being responsible for the museum heist.

(Turns to Mrs. O’Malley)

And a ninety-nine-point-nine percent probability of Think-Bot-5000 being free tonight.

Mrs. O’Malley continues to ignore him.

VINCE VENGEANCE

So we attack the mobsters, steal the meteorite fragment from them and then use it for our own nefarious purposes! It’s perfect! This almost makes me want to sing about it –

Vince Vengeance is suddenly interrupted by TWO MOBSTERS kicking down their door. They are holding guns and smoking cigars, just like mobsters are supposed to do.

MOBSTER #1

We’ve found ‘em! Give it up Doom Gang! We know you’ve got that rock here!

VINCE VENGEANCE

Well, isn’t this perfect timing?

MOBSTER #2

Yeah, so hand it over.

(Notices the meeting table in the room. This is the same prop used for the O’Malley Home, the Treehouse and Hero Team’s HQ)

Say, that’s a nice table.

BLACKBEARD

      Thanks, mate. ‘Tis real mahogany!

MOBSTER #1

You fancy-pants super villains are a joke. Have been for years!

MOBSTER #2

Yeah, and your underwear’s showing!

The two Mobsters laugh and snicker to themselves.

 

GORDIE N. KNOTT

(Standing proudly)

Show’s what you know. Our underwear’s supposed to be showing!

MOBSTER #1

Face it, you morons don’t stand a chance against the mob!

VINCE VENGEANCE

What, all TWO OF YOU?

 

The Mobsters look behind them. Crap. We’re the only two guys who showed up.

Blackbeard attacks them with his sword while Think-Bot-5000 fires some sort of invisible laser. The two Mobsters fall to the ground dead.

 

THINK-BOT-5000

Correction. There is now an eight percent probability of the mob being responsible for the museum heist.

GORDIE N. KNOTT

All right, so if it wasn’t those idiots, which idiots was it?

Vince Vengeance stops to think. Suddenly a brilliant idea comes to him.

VINCE VENGEANCE

Doom Gang, I think I know where we might get some answers!

Cue music: “Du-du-dun!”

 

VINCE VENGEANCE

(Motioning to the dead bodies floor)

            But how about you guys get these bodies out of here first?

Blackbeard, Gordie N. Knott, Think-Bot-5000 and Mrs. O’Malley carry the bodies of the two Mobsters off-stage.

Scene 9

INTERIOR HIGH SCHOOL CLASSROOM – AFTERNOON: JEFF, CARL and MIKE are seated in math class. Carl keeps his backpack close to him, in his arms on his desktop. There are other STUDENTS in the classroom as well as their teacher, MR. LISTER, who is at the front of the room. He talks in a very slow monotone.

MISTER LISTER

Now class, if you would please open your texts to page one hundred and eighty-nine you will find some of the very exciting problems we’ll be working on this morning.

CARL

            Man, this guy couldn’t possibly be more boring.

MIKE

So Carl, have you figured out how to harness the power of that meteor yet? Feeling any stronger?

CARL

No luck so far, Mike.

(Motions to his backpack)

But I’m not letting it leave my sight until I do.

MIKE

Have you tried flying? That’d be the first thing I’d try!

CARL

No offense Mike, but that’s probably the worst place to start. You jump off a roof and then what?

 

MIKE

You FLY man! You fly!

(Motions to Carl’s bag)

Can I lick it again? Please?

JEFF

Would you guys keep it down? I’m actually trying to learn something here.

CARL

Sorry, Copernicus. We can’t all be as interested in this snooze-fest as you.

JEFF

Come on, Carl. I just –

MISTER LISTER

(To Jeff)

Mr. O’Malley? Is there something you’d like to share with the rest of the class?

JEFF

Sorry, Mr. Lister. Carl here was just saying he wanted to take a stab at question four.

MISTER LISTER

Fantastic. Carl? If you’d be so bold?

CARL

(Opens his textbook to a random page and starts reading)

Uh…okay. So John F. Kennedy leaves the Lincoln Memorial at 8:00 AM. Abraham Lincoln gets off a plane at JFK airport to meet up with Kennedy to watch Oliver Stone’s JFK at the Lincoln Theatre at…

Jeff and some of the other students snicker.

CARL

I’m sorry, am I on the right page here?

MISTER LISTER

Please turn to page one hundred and eighty-nine.

There is a knock at the door and Mr. Lister goes to open it. BLACKBEARD, GORDIE N. KNOTT and THINK-BOT-5000 enter the classroom.

MISTER LISTER

      May I help you gentlemen? Are you parents?

BLACKBEARD

      Sufferin’ seagulls! Do we look like parents?

MISTER LISTER

      I wouldn’t know. Mine abandoned me when I was only three.

GORDIE N. KNOTT

Sucks for you, Teach! And it sucks for Jeffrey O’Malley too ‘cause he’s coming with us!

(Pulls Jeff out of his seat)

Let’s go kid.

JEFF

(Struggling)

Hey! Let go of me!

MISTER LISTER

Gentlemen, we’re trying to have a class here. This is very rude of you. If you don’t have a riddle of your own to contribute I’ll have to ask you to leave.

GORDIE N. KNOTT

You want a riddle, do you? Finally someone who can appreciate my talents! Here you go: How do you fit seventeen manatees in a mailbox?

Chew on that one!

The criminals exit the classroom, dragging Jeff out with them.

MISTER LISTER

Okay class, simmer down. It’s only a kidnapping. Nothing to get excited about.

MIKE

(To Carl)

What are we gonna do? Do we go after them? We’d never be able to take on the whole Doom Gang on our own!

CARL

I don’t know, Mike. Let me think! Why would they kidnap Jeff? Because he’s the police chief’s son? Or is there some other reason?

CORVID-MAN enters the classroom.

CORVID-MAN

      How about you let the professionals figure that out?

MIKE

      Corvid-Man! AWESOME!!

CARL

      What are you doing at our school?

CORVID-MAN

Following some leads.

(Sniffs at Carl, as though he knows Carl is guilty)

The evidence brought me here, and now I know why.

(Sniffs again, closer to the backpack)

Which way did they go, kids?

CARL

The riddle guy said something about a mailbox and seventeen manatees?

CORVID-MAN

The manatees in the mailbox riddle? Crapping crows! That’s the easiest one in the books! Gordie N. Knott has really got to stop leaving riddles behind. I mean, we solve them EVERY TIME! If he’d just keep his mouth shut the Doom Gang would probably get away with a lot more.

(To Carl and Mike)

Let’s go kids.

MISTER LISTER

(To Corvid-Man)

Come now. These interruptions are altogether very impolite. I have students who want nothing more than to learn.

The Students all pelt Mr. LISTER with paper and pencils. Amid the chaos, Corvid-Man, Carl and Mike exit.

Scene 10

INTERIOR DOOM GANG SECRET HIDEOUT – AFTERNOON: VINCE VENGEANCE and MRS. O’MALLEY sit at the table, waiting for the rest of the Doom Gang to arrive. BLACKBEARD, GORDIE N. KNOTT and THINK-BOT-5000 enter, dragging JEFF along with them. Jeff is still struggling.

 

JEFF

      Put me down, you goons!

 

The villains let him go and Vince Vengeance stands up in front of him.

 

VINCE VENGEANCE

Welcome to the Doom Gang’s secret lair, Jeff O’Malley.

JEFF

If you really wanted to keep this place a secret you should’ve thought to blindfold me.

VINCE VENGEANCE

(Motioning towards Gordie N. Knott)

Trust me if I was worried about staying hidden I wouldn’t have THIS jackass on the team.

GORDIE N. KNOTT

Hey! I told you, riddles are my THING!

VINCE VENGEANCE

Gordie, listen. Have you ever thought that this maybe isn’t the right line of work for you? Ever considered a different career path? Maybe writing Sudoku’s for the newspaper? You’d be good at that!

GORDIE N. KNOTT

(Dismisses Vince Vengeance immediately)

The Daily Bungle is a rag!

You know what? I don’t need this anymore! And I don’t need the Doom Gang. I’m going solo!

Gordie N. Knott walks off-stage.

VINCE VENGEANCE

(Yelling after him)

Good luck with that!

Gordie N. Knott comes back on-stage.

GORDIE N. KNOTT

On a side note, should I forward you my new mailing address?

VINCE VENGEANCE

Yeah. Can you send me that in the form of a riddle?

Vince Vengeance, Blackbeard, Think-Bot-5000 and Mrs. O’Malley all LAUGH. Gordie N. Knott stomps off-stage again.

 

GORDIE N. KNOTT

      Screw you guys!

JEFF

So what do you want from me anyway?

MRS. O’MALLEY

Jeffrey, don’t talk to Mr. Vengeance so rudely. And tuck your shirt in! My goodness, we’re guests here.

      JEFF

(Turns to Vince Vengeance, not really bothered by the fact his mother is here)

Come on. Did you seriously turn my mom into a robot again? When are you ever going to stop with this crap?

VINCE VENGEANCE

      I’ll never stop!

(Leaning in closer to Jeff)

I know about you. About your past. Your…alter ego.

JEFF

(Trying to play innocent)

I…I don’t know what you’re talking about.

VINCE VENGEANCE

Stuff it! I know you were KID CROW. Corvid-Man’s trusty sidekick!

MRS. O’MALLEY

(Clicks her tongue in disappointment)

      Jeffrey! Keeping secrets from your mother.

Jeff dismisses her; keeps talking to Vince Vengeance.

JEFF

Yeah, well. So?

VINCE VENGEANCE

So here’s the rub, kid: I didn’t steal that meteorite. I’m actually quite embarrassed to admit that I have no idea who did. But I AM willing to bet that your old babysitter has some leads, and YOU’RE going to tell me what he knows.

JEFF

Corvid-Man doesn’t know anything.

VINCE VENGEANCE

Come now. Do you really expect me to believe the city’s greatest detective hasn’t cracked the case yet?

JEFF

That’s what I’m saying.

Vince Vengeance leans in closer to Jeff, inspecting him carefully.

VINCE VENGEANCE

But YOU do know, don’t you Kid Crow?

I admit that I was always a tad jealous of you, the junior detective tagging along with Corvid-Man on all of his adventures. Solving mysteries together. Signing autographs together. Accepting keys to the City.

JEFF

You mean “doing good?”

VINCE VENGEANCE

Dammit, yes! Doing good.

JEFF

But you’re a BAD GUY! You’re Vince Vengeance. You’ve got the eye patch and everything.

VINCE VENGEANCE

(Meekly)

It’s not too late to change is it?

(Stamps his feet)

I wanna be a super hero!

JEFF

You killed my mom!

VINCE VENGEANCE

(Pointing to Mrs. O’Malley, who’s gone back to filing her nails)

      Not her brain!

Well, what if I promised to never kill your mom again? Pretty please? Pinky swear!

Vince Vengeance holds out his hand for a “pinky promise” but Jeff simply swats it away.

VINCE VENGEANCE

Fine. Well, if YOU can’t tell me who stole the meteorite, who can?

CORVID-MAN, CARL and MIKE enter. Carl is holding the meteorite now.

CORVID-MAN

      This is the end of the line, Vince Vengeance!

THINK-BOT-5000

Running data.

There is a ninety-nine percent probability of Corvid-Man knowing the whereabouts of the meteorite.

Blackbeard whacks Think-Bot-5000 with his hook.

VINCE VENGEANCE

Thanks, Think-Bot. You’re a big help.

So, to what do I owe the honour of having Corvid-Man show up at my doorstep?

CORVID-MAN

You can thank Gordie N. Knott for giving away the location of your hideout.

VINCE VENGEANCE

I’ll thank him the next time that fool comes crawling back because he’s run out of toilet paper.

(Notices the meteorite in Carl’s hands)

Well, well. What have we here?

CARL

      Hi dad.

EVERYONE (Confused)

      “DAD?!?!”

THINK-BOT-5000

      Does not compute!

CORVID-MAN

      Poppycock!

JEFF

      What are you talking about, Carl?

CARL

Vince Vengeance is my dad. Well, sort of.

JEFF

How come you never said anything before?

CARL

Guys, my name is Carl VENGEANCE. Haven’t you ever thought that was weird?

MIKE

You know, I never made that connection before now. Never even thought about it.

VINCE VENGEANCE

It’s true. Sixteen years ago I cloned myself in an attempt to win the heart of Jennifer Juniper. Of course, I failed. Like I always do.

(Hangs his head in defeat)

So instead of marrying Mister Everything’s girlfriend, I decided to just send my clone to school as my son. I mean, what am I gonna do with a kid hanging around here all day? It’s not like there are any toys to play with! Not since that time we melted all our Legos down and built that giant plastic crab monster.

CARL

And yet I still managed to turn out like you, dad. I’ve been shoplifting licorice and cigarettes from the corner store since I was five.

MIKE

(Put his arm around Carl)

We all have been Carl. We ALL have been.

CARL

And that’s why I broke into the museum. I can’t help stealing. It’s in my genes. LITERALLY!

VINCE VENGEANCE

I’m torn Carl. I want to be proud of you for following in your old man’s footsteps, but I also think I should scold you. You’re grounded, young man!

(To himself)

Oh! That felt good! Parenting’s a real rush!

(Back to Carl)

But WHY steal the meteor? What were you planning on doing with it?

CARL

I’m going to light up Broadway, dad!

(Holds up the meteorite)

With this rock I can dance like Baryshnikov! I can sing like I’m auto-tuned! I’ll be a superstar!

VINCE VENGEANCE

You sure you don’t want to be a surgeon or a lawyer? Maybe something with a little more job security?

CARL

I’m sure dad. I’ve never been more sure! And you can come with me. Bust out of the doldrums!

(Looks around)

I mean, LOOK at this place! It sure isn’t very inspiring.

MRS. O’MALLEY

      I’ve been telling these guys the same thing forever.

(Gets up from her seat, EXITS off-stage)

            Always the same thing with these men…

BLACKBEARD

Actually, we’ve been meaning to get some plants to add some colour around here.

THINK-BOT-5000

Lilacs are wonderful this time of year.

CARL

            All I know is I want to be HAPPY.

(Motions to Corvid-Man)

Not all brooding and serious like that guy over there. Why so dark and scary? I mean, crows aren’t even all that brooding, you know?

CORVID-MAN

      Crows can be brooding.

VINCE VENGEANCE

I’ve never considered crows to be brooding.

CORVID-MAN

Well, I’m sure somewhere at some point throughout the history of crows there had to have been at least ONE who agonized over SOMETHING. One of them had to have had a bad day.

CARL

I dunno. They seem pretty happy to me. They talk too much though. You definitely don’t talk too much, so that doesn’t really work either.

CORVID-MAN

YOU talk too much.

CARL

Come on man! All this superhero stuff’s taken the fun out of you!

 

The lights dim and a spotlight shines on Carl. Again, he breaks out into a Broadway-style song and dance routine. He TOSSES THE METEORITE TO VINCE VENGEANCE.

 

CARL

(Singing)

Where’s that light gone?

You used to shine!

Where’s that smile?

You’re disinclined!

You’ve got to chin up, cheer up!

Before you blow up, erupt!

JEFF

(Yelling)

Stop it Carl!

BLACKBEARD

            ‘Tis awful!

(Covers his ears, poking himself with his hook hand)

OW! Me ear!

CORVID-MAN

(To Carl)

You sing too much too.

VINCE VENGEANCE

Well, Carl. If this is your dream then the best I can do as a father is support you.

CARL

            Thanks dad!

Vince Vengeance and Carl hug. Everyone stands around confused. There’s a moment of awkward silence.

CORVID-MAN

            So, where does that leave us? What do we do now?

 

Before anyone answers, GORDIE N. KNOTT enters once again.

GORDIE N. KNOTT

Sorry guys, one last thing. I just forgot my brolly in my cubby. Also, I’m moving back in.

(Looks around at everything that’s going on)

Wait, what’s happening here? What did I miss?

CHIEF O’MALLEY and MISTER EVERYTHING enter now too.

CHIEF O’MALLEY

Well now, what have we here? Looks like Corvid-Man’s solved another one boys.

(Shakes Corvid-Man’s hand)

You truly are the BEST!

MISTER EVERYTHING

(Sees Vince Vengeance holding the meteorite)

YOU! So, you had the meteor all along? I can’t believe you lied to me!

VINCE VENGEANCE

It…it wasn’t me! It was, uh…

(Points to Gordie N. Knott)

It was HIM!

(Points to Blackbeard and Think-Bot-5000 now too)

      It was ALL OF THEM!

GORDIE N. KNOTT

WHAT?! Man, you totally threw us under the bus!

THINK-BOT-5000

Not cool.

CHIEF O’MALLEY

Take ‘em away boys!

MISTER EVERYTHING and CORVID-MAN take GORDIE N. KNOTT, BLACKBEARD and THINK-BOT-5000 off-stage.

VINCE VENGEANCE

Oh man! Being a superhero – AND a super DAD – is totally awesome!

(Looks down at the meteorite fragment in his hands)

Well, I guess the next thing to do is return this to the museum?

CHIEF O’MALLEY

I’ve got bad news for you. Doctor Wizard informed us that this thing is worthless. It’s not even a meteorite fragment; it’s just a rock that a local hobo dug up from the dog park.

Vince Vengeance holds his arm out, turning his nose up at the thought of what he’s holding. Ew.

CHIEF O’MALLEY (Cont’d)

It doesn’t actually have any sort of magical or extra-terrestrial power. You can keep it.

MIKE

(To Jeff and Carl)

Well, I’d say the Thunderous Three have done it again! I’m proud of you guys!

JEFF

Mike, all that actually happened was I got kidnapped by a pirate and rescued by Corvid-Man. Plus, Carl broke into private property and stole what turned out to be a dog turd.

MIKE

But we learned a valuable lesson, didn’t we? Guys? I mean, we DID learn SOMETHING, right?

CARL

(Thinking)

I don’t think so.

MAYOR NAIZE ENTERS. He’s holding a medal in his hands and walks over to Jeff. Corvid-Man’s cape is clearly visible, hanging out from underneath his coat.

MAYOR NAIZE

Jeff O’Malley, on behalf of the entire city I’d like to personally thank you for risking your life to recover the stolen artifact!

Please accept the city’s official Medal of Courage and Honour and Other Stuff!

Mayor Naize places the medal around Jeff’s neck.

JEFF

But I didn’t actually DO ANYTHING! All I wanted to do was study for my marine biology final exam, which I’m probably going to fail now.

MAYOR NAIZE

(Turns around and walks back off-stage)

Well, good luck with that!

MIKE

      I FEEL like we should have learned SOMETHING here today…

CHIEF O’MALLEY

(Holds arms out wide; everyone moves in for a group hug)

      Well, I’m still proud of you guys. ALL of you.

VINCE VENGEANCE

      Aw, thanks dad.

Scene 11

INTERIOR O’MALLEY HOME – DAY: JEFF, CARL and MIKE are in the O’Malley Home. Carl is packed up, ready to leave to pursue his dreams.

 

CARL

      I can’t believe school’s over already. Man, that went fast!

      How’d you guys end up doing on that biology final anyway?

JEFF

(Ecstatic)

I scored a ninety-two. Aw, yeah! (insert name of lousy local community college), here I come!

MIKE

Hundred percent.

JEFF

(To Mike)

How on earth did YOU do so well on the test? As far I know you didn’t even study.

MIKE

I don’t know. It certainly couldn’t have been from licking that meteorite so much…

CARL

Mike, we’ve told you a hundred times: that wasn’t a meteor. It was dog feces.

Mike simply shrugs his shoulders like it was really no big deal.

A car horn HONKS outside the house.

CARL

(Picks up bags)

Well guys, my cab’s here. I’m finally off to Broadway to pursue my dreams! The next time you see me I’ll be the star of…MESOPOTAMIA THE MUSICAL!

JEFF

That really doesn’t sound very promising.

CARL

It’s like Cats but set in ancient Mesopotamia.

MIKE

That sounds even worse.

(Hoping to change the subject)

Hey! Where’s your dad? Doesn’t he want to say goodbye?

CARL

(Calling)

DAD!! I’m leaving!

VINCE VENGEANCE comes running in. He’s wearing a new costume: he’s become the new Kid Crow, Corvid-Man’s sidekick. The costume is a bit small though, being the same one Jeff wore when he was Kid Crow.

VINCE VENGEANCE

            Sorry gang! I was just monitoring criminal activity in my hideout!

JEFF

            You mean the treehouse in my backyard?

VINCE VENGEANCE

That’s the one. Boy, being Corvid-Man’s new sidekick is a real rush!

(Strikes a kung-fu pose)

And the all-new Kid Crow is a force to be reckoned with. I’m a real dandy!

JEFF

Well, I’m just happy you could make use of my old costume. You sure it’s not too tight?

VINCE VENGEANCE

(Obviously in discomfort, but trying to hide it)

Not at all! It’s hugging in all the right places!

Outside, the car horn HONKS once more.

VINCE VENGEANCE

My Crow-Sense is cawing! There’s trouble afoot!

CARL

Dad, that’s a car horn. My cab is here. It’s time for me to get going.

(To everyone)

Well good luck with everything guys. See you in the funny papers.

Group hug. Then Carl exits.

 

VINCE VENGEANCE

Hey Jeff, old buddy? You mind showing me how that police scanner works again? Ever since Think-Bot-5000 got thrown in the slammer I can’t figure ANYTHING out! I miss that guy.

JEFF

(Sighs)

All right. One more time.

VINCE VENGEANCE

To the treehouse!

VINCE VENGEANCE and JEFF exit, leaving Mike alone.

Mike LAUGHS a little to himself before turning to the audience.

MIKE

They all thought me so stupid. You probably did too, didn’t you? Mike Something! The idiot member of the Thunderous Three. Well, would an idiot continue to lick away at dog feces so unapologetically?

(Pulls out the “meteorite” from his pocket. It’s much smaller than it was before)

Until it’s nothing more than a wet nub?

(Takes another lick)

Well I wouldn’t have aced that biology exam without it. I wouldn’t have aced ALL of my exams without it!

(Looks around suspiciously)

And I’ve got super powers now. Some pretty good one too! At least I think I do.

They all thought it worthless. USELESS! And just threw it away like it was nothing more than a bag of cat pee. But it’s not cat pee; it’s dog poop! Magically delicious dog poop! And now it’s MINE! ALL MINE!

(Laughs maniacally)

Now I’m gonna go jump off a roof!

MIKE runs off-stage LAUGHING.

END.