Lou’s Conflict and Conflict Resolution
CHARACTER: LOU (live)
VOICES: NARRATOR (visual)
CANDY (phone voice)
CLIFFORD CRAWFORD (visual)
BETSY (phone voice)
GUNTHER RAGFOOT (visual)
ERIC (phone voice)
ANGELO (phone voice)
(Director’s notes: This is basically a One Man play. Voices on telephone and answering machine have been pre-recorded and the same goes for actors whose images flash on two video screens mounted above stage facing out to audience as they speak on the phone to the protagonist. Each conversationalist’ image flashes on a screen above and behind the actor as the audio plays at the appropriate moment. Their images remain on screen when they are placed on telephone’s hold.)
Narrator, whose prerecorded image appears in black and white on the stage is dressed like Rod Serling in the old Twilight Zone TV show him in suit and tie appears on the screen looking down and around the stage as he looks around passively with hands in pocket. He breaks the fourth wall and addresses the audience as he sizes up the apartment.
NARRATOR: The subject is conflict. Conflict nods its ugly head towards a poor lout who’s trying to juggle a stormy life. Let’s have an insider’s look at this sap’s dilemma and perhaps we’ll have the opportunity to measure the extent of his mettle as to resolve that ole nasty nemesis commonly referred to in thespian circles as conflict.
Narrator casually begins to exit. He stops briefly before departing and flashes a sardonic smile, a smirk and an evil sounding laugh.
LOU storms through his front door. He’s soaking wet, wearing a rain slicker, water is dripping off him everywhere. He looks perplexed. He rushes to the phone ‘cause it’s ringing.
JAMIE’S VOICE—OVER THE PHONE: Lou, It’s me! How’d it go with Timmy?
LOU: Where you been? How come you didn’t come home last night?
JAMIE: I don’t want to get into that right now. We’ll have to have a talk later. Right now I’m wondering how you are holding up?
LOU: I’m freaked! I lost my leather folder… You know, the one Billy G. gave me for my birthday.
JAMIE: Oh Lou, you do this all the time. Try not to worry it will show up. Say a prayer to St. Anthony.
LOU: Easy for you to say, maybe it will show, but if it doesn’t, I’m sunk. It has all the guys’ stats in it. I had it up at the Book Nook, when I was setting up displays. I may have placed it on some cardboard boxes. I must have left it there, when I blitzed out while trying to get Timmy back home.
JAMIE: Look, I only called, ‘cause I wanted to tell you I’m OK.
LOU: Is that it?
JAMIE: For now that’s it. As I said, we’ll have to talk.
LOU: Yeah, I’ve seen it coming. Who is it, the Yoga instructor?
JAMIE: C’mon, stop it. I’d rather talk when we’re face to face. What I’m doing right now is talking to Angelo, about us being so far behind in the rent.
LOU: Look, let me go. I’m still nuts from dodging all those potholes. Besides, there’s messages on the machine. Maybe the Book Nook called to say they found it. I’ll see you when I see you.
Lou hangs up and lights up a smoke. He looks down and pushes the blinking light on his answering machine.
LOU: To himself. Shiiiit!… I hope one of them says they found the folder.
Beep: Lou, Morty here. Where ya been you scongeil? Where’s my basketball stats, man? Call me as soon as you get in.
Beep-beep: Hi Lou, Betsy Engstrom. Just wanted to remind you about tonight, being the last night of class, I’m counting on you to read your assignment out loud. Remember, solid fiction has a good hook, dramatization atmosphere and don’t forget, conflict, conflict conflict. See you there.
Beep-beep-beep: Lou, Claude from Paperbacks Distribution. I shouldn’t have to tell you how important tomorrow’s K-Mart book signing is going to be. The turn out could make or break the book. If the novel doesn’t take off you’re out-of-there. So, you had better call everybody you’ve ever met in your entire life and tell them to show up between 1-4, and pray the advertising pulls.
Exasperated, while taking in the messages, Lou continues to tear the place apart in search of some paperwork.
Beep-beep-beep-beep:(A chirpy voice) Aloha, this is the Maui Bulletin, Candy speaking. Just wanted to tell ya, this week’s edition of the Bulletin won’t be arriving on time. The barge from Honolulu’s a day late, all because of the weather, so the advertising won’t be hitting Maui until Saturday. It’s been totally frustrating with the rain and all. The only advice I can offer is what we preach here at the Bulletin ‘no blues, just good news. Oh Well, tomorrow’s another day… bye now.
Beep-beep-beep-beep-beep: dry voiced) Uh, Gunther Ragfoot here, IRS Honolulu. I have the ruling you inquired about. I will call back or you can call me at 555-3000 in Honolulu.
Beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep… Clifford Crawford, Maui News. Apparently at your request, our entertainment editor had me write a review of your novel, if that’s what you call it. I thought I’d offer some profession courtesy and warn you that the review is not going to be positive. I found the wordy yarn a mishmash of garbled baby talk. Didn’t you take English grammar in grade school? Let me give you some friendly advice. Don’t quit your day job.
Lou grits his teeth. The phone rings and startles him. He snatches it off the cradle.
MORTY’S: Morty. What’s happening? How am I doing in the tournament?
LOU: Tournament? Oh yeah. Well, I’m-a, not so sure. I’ll-a, I’ll have to check your sheet and your stats. I’ve been kind of wrapped up . . .
MORTY: Wrapped up! How can you be wrapped up in the middle of March Madness, shit for brains? Seventy-five guys are counting on you, buddy boy. We dished out the dough. So where’s the stats?
LOU: Well to tell you the truth Mort things been kind of crazy, there’s the book’s debut tomorrow and at the same time I’ve been attending a writing seminar. On top of that I’ve been spending the last couple of days trying to entertain my son—you remember, Timmy. It’s the first time in a couple of years his bitchy mother permitted me to spend time with him. Actually I’ve heard through the grape vine he’s been asking to see me on his own. He spent the last couple of nights at the condo. With the rain we haven’t had the chance to do much. He’s mostly been riding shot-gun with me while on errands and the poor kid’s probably been bored stiff.
MORTY: Well, why don’t you just drop him off at the fun factory with a ten-spot?
LOU: That would be easy, but I was hoping we could have quality time together, rather than just forking over money. Besides, I’ve had little time, getting ready for the book signing, placing the ads, then schmoozing the book guys just to put the damn thing inside stores and then kiss everybody else’s ass to put up my displays, displays that cost me a bundle. You know with discount-store managers, everything’s so chicken shit.
MORTY:(sighs as if he could care less:) Yeah-yeah tell me all about it some-other time. But what the fuck, what about me; how am I doing in basketball? And make it fast ‘cause I haven’t even began to press you on the G-note you owe me and Gus from the other night. We gotta square up tomorrow. Who the hell gives points to Bobby Knight at home anyway other than a schnorer like you?
Lou’s call-waiting service interrupts in the midst of his lament. A lament custom lipped to hold off and appease Morty
LOU: Hold on Morty, let me catch this incoming call.
MORTY: I don’t want to—
Morty is still visible on screen now split in two. Direction of him to come later when on hold as other characters
JOHN’S VOICE: Hello Lou, this is John from KAKA radio.
LOU: Hey, howz’t John? I’m glad you called. I’ve been meaning to ask you about me being a guest on the Wendy Salos talk-show, you know, for some last-minute publicity.
Lou decides to keep Morty waiting just a bit longer on the other line while he talks to John.
JOHN: Oh, really.
LOU: As you know, I called last week. Remember?… I was offering to barter copies of my debut novel for radio time.
JOHN: Yeah, I remember and I was considerate enough to offer you some public-service spots, and did so as aloha. I’ve already scheduled spots this weekend. One thing intrigues me though, I thought you told me you had no money for advertising…So what’s the first thing that hits me in the face when I open up today’s Maui News? Why it’s an expensive newspaper ad with your name on it.
LOU: True John, I said, I had a limited budget, and no money for radio. Hey, on this one, I’ve even put off paying my taxes and have rolled my net worth into the book project. Besides, Waldenbooks and K-Mart paid for that very ad you’re looking at. I had no say.
JOHN: You could have sold them on radio.
LOU: Sorry John, I’m a writer not a radio salesman. To tell you the truth, I did pitch your station, but the discount-store managers aren’t hot about radio, not just your station but radio in general.
JOHN: Well then, I hear through the wireless coconut that you’re running full-page ad in the Maui Bulletin this coming week.
LOU: John, the Bulletin ad is gratis… a gift from the publishers to me. Remember, I used to write for the Bulletin. They’re making an attempt to help jump-start my career.
JOHN: So, I’m the only sucker hey, Lou. You can forget the aloha, forget the PSA spots, and forget about getting on Wendy’s show. Get yourself another boy.
LOU: No John, it’s not that way! Could you please hold on just a second, I have another guy on hold, let me just get rid of him and I’ll be right back.”
JOHN: Bullshit! Hear me out! I don’t particularly care for your tone, Lou, and furthermore—
Lou’s already off the wire trying to retrieve Morty.
Click . . . click.
LOU: Morty, you still there?
MORTY: Lou, you fucking creep! What the fuck’s with the basketball? What do you think I’m some schlemeal or something? I want my stats!
LOU: Then just hold on buddy. I’ll be right back, I got another guy on the other line. Let me get rid of him.
MORTY: You mean you’re going to shine me. How many times do I have to call? You promised this was going to be fun. Whatcha call it, fellowship? Bullshit, my ass!
Lou clicks the receiver to retrieve John. He’s gone. Before Lou gets a chance to click Morty back, the phone suddenly rings again. Lou answers. It’s Timmy’s mother.
TAMMY: TIMMY’S MOTHER: So, you call that a visit? Timmy said all you did was keep him stuffed up in your condo or had him riding around aimlessly inside that pig-sty car of your’s. Alls he said went on, was him listening to you talking on the phone, and him riding all over the island in the rain no less! Some cheap skate you turned out to be! You could have at least taken him to the fun factory! I don’t know why I let him talk me into calling you in the first place!
LOU: Say, Tammy, can I call you back? It’s just that I’m in the middle of something right now, once I resolve it, I’ll call you right back. I promise!
TAMMY: That’s your problem, Lou, you’re always in the middle of…
LOU: Christ, Tammy, what the hell do you want? You’ve gotten your money every month without fail for the last nine years and my god-damned name ain’t even on the kid’s birth certificate!
TAMMY: You’re god-damned right your name isn’t on Timmy’s birth certificate, and it never will be ‘cause you’re not reliable! You’re a stupid dreamer who thinks he’s a writer. You couldn’t write a post card.
LOU: That’s bullshit! I sent you one from Vegas remember? Then, I’ve been there every Christmas, every birthday. You’re the hussy who caused my divorce. I had to sell the house. Then, all of a sudden, you call from out of nowhere, giving me less than 12 hours to prepare for my son—a son you’ve kept away from me for five years. It’s just my luck it’s pouring rain for three-solid days and that we’re cooped up. And it may not matter to you but I’ve gambled on my work and got every dime to my name invested in this book promotion, including what I set aside for taxes. And from what I hear from Timmy—all you really wanted was a baby sitter—so you could run around with that new wind surfer you just met. Besides, I think we had a good time.
TAMMY: Screw you Lou! Hire a lawyer. Hire a squad of lawyers if you like. See if you’ll ever hear from or see your son again!
Lou hears the receiver slam down from the other end.
LOU: To himself: Ah shit! Mort?
LOU: Morty, you still there?
MORTY: Jesus Christ, Lou! Where the fuck you been? All I wants is my stats! I swear, if I don’t get my stats your name’s gonna be mud all over this island!
LOU: I’m sorry man, it’s just been—
MORTY: It’s just been my ass. Everybody’s got fuckin’ problems. I’d cry you a river if we needed the rain, but enough already. What about my basketball stats, Sherlock?
LOU: I’ll fax them right out. I promise. What’s your fax number?
Once again the phone clicks, indicating another incoming call.
Morty: What the fuck?
LOU: Mort please! Just hold on for a moment. I’ll be right back to get the fax number, I’ve seemed to misplaced it. I promise not to be long.
MORTY: It’s on my entry sheet. (click -click) Don’t you remember, empty head, you had me write it down. Fuckin’ hurry man, ‘cause I wasn’t born to be kept on hold. I want my stats, asshole.
CLAUDE:Lou, Claude from Paperbacks. Look buddy I got some bad news. With the weather the book inventory didn’t make it over on Young Brothers’ barge. I’ve got no books for K-mart. It does us no good; even if a million people show up. We’ll have to cancel.
LOU: Can’t you fly them over? What about all the advertising? It’s already out. I’ve spent the budget.
CLAUDE: Too late, our warehouse is shut down. We don’t have anybody to drive them down to the airport, plus the airlines don’t accept airfreight after 3:30. Too bad, baby, no books, no signing. Caio for now.
Claude’s off the line
LOU: Morty, you still there?
MORTY: C’mon, I ain’t got all day. What’s a guy to do for stats? I need ‘em baby, I need ‘em.
LOU: If you’ll just let me get settled here without all the interruptions. I’m going to take care of everybody.
MORTY: Ok, prick face, you got five minutes. I’m not gonna move and stand right by the phone, and if you don’t call me back with my stats, the word is going out you’re a chump stiff and see if you can write yourself out of that one, Shakespeare. You won’t even get invited to gay bars even if you have am 11-inch schlong.
Lou begin to ruffle through papers and doing fast tabulatiosns. The phone rings. Lou just looks at it, it rings again and again, and again. Lou picks up.
IRS: Louis Christine?
IRS: Gunther Ragfoot here, IRS Honolulu.
IRS: About that inquiry you made to our office regarding capital gains verses certain business expenses.
Lou starts to look a little shaky.
LOU: And, a, you’ve come up with a ruling?
IRS: We haven’t really, but it’s clearly pointed out in IRS regulation 272-5, if the recipient of a capital gain from a real-estate transaction doesn’t reinvest the said gain in a two-year period, that’s 24 months, for a more-expensive property than the one sold, then the entire gain is subject to immediate federal taxes.
LOU: Yes, I know that, but I was under the impression, because of my accountant, that if other expenses and investments are accrued over that time, then those expenses could be deducted as a whole from the declared capital gain and then deducted over all.
IRS: I wouldn’t bank on it. According to the code, and especially for something as questionable as book-selling scheme. Even in Hawaii you’d be treading on thin ice Mr. Christine.
LOU: Well could you tell me why?
IRS: To be precise. It’s the difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion. Real-estate gains are treated as a separate entity; unrelated expenses aren’t deductible. We’re used to all those wisenheimers with their exaggerated home office expenses, it’s all a crock to get over on our government; it makes for some fiction writing Mr. Christine.
The call waiting system begins clicking to interrupt their conversation.
IRS: What’s that?
LOU: Oh nothing. It’s my call-waiting service.
IRS. Do you have to talk on another line?
LOU: No that’s alright. Let it go. This is more important.
The service continues click.
IRS: As I was explaining Mr. Christine. I pulled your file. Says here you sold the property for $450,000 and you purchased the said for $250,000. As you know, the two-year grace period expired five months back. For all intent and purposes taxpayers are required to reinvest prior to December 31st of the said year or to immediately pay the tax bill. I hope for your sake you orchestrated the later.
LOU: Well of course I did, but I wanted to check further, cause I was under the impression, a-hum, you know because my accountant said so, that maybe I could file a revised tax return.
IRS: Impossible, that’s out of the question. Then again, right now the computer doesn’t register that you have either filed last year’s return or paid a real-estate capital’s gain.
LOU: (Beginning to get the quivers, his cigarette shaking as he puts it to his lips) Oh, you know computers, they probably haven’t posted it yet.
The call service clicks again.
IRS: Frankly I had lost your number, but your ex-wife was kind enough to provide your girlfriend’s, or I guess I should say your ex-girlfriend’s Tammy’s number, so we had a chat and she gave me your number. Who knows, you may have never gotten an answer? (Click-click) Are you sure you don’t want to get that incoming call Mr. Christine?
LOU: Nah, that’s OK.
IRS: So you have to understand, such could be construed as a pre-meditated conspiracy against IRS and under certain circumstances, depending on the perception, such could be interpreted by our department of enforcement as fraud and lead to criminal prosecution. Surely you wouldn’t want to take the chance on that.
LOU: Surely not, Internal Revenue can count on me! No way, Mister Ragfoot. But let me ask. Let’s just say, if someone (ha-ha) would have been foolish enough to attempt what might be perceived as illegal deductions, I mean, I’m just a poor writer and don’t know much about such things, especially with child support and all, and let’s say some fool, a real Morton with similar figures as mine had to pay the price for being stupid, what would the tax be?
IRS: $200,0000 is a substantial gain Mr. Christine, but if some Mr. Morton, like you say, were to pull such a stunt, and if you’re talking about the bottom line, and you’re asking about the settlement of a tax liability to alleviate further penalties, interest etc. etc.?
The call-waiting service again interrupts.
LOU: Just ignore it Mr. Ragfoot. Go on… Wait! What about the divorce settlement, she got half the profit?
IRS: Your divorce lawyer placed the property exclusively in your name. Your wife had some foresight so she’s out of the loop. It’s a moot point. I’ll do some calculating and make an estimate. Your gross tax would be 28% on a $200,000 dollar profit. You know the tax payer is charged the maximum-tax rate, that’s mas or menos $56,000, take into account what’s due to Internal Revenue would be retroactive, so there would be a $4,000 penalty for each quarter passed, estimating, if someone would have been that tardy, in this instance we’d go back nine quarters, that’s another $36,000 and then the compounded interest calculated tabulates at 15% owed Uncle Sam.
LOU: 15%! You got to be kidding!
IRS: The IRS never kids Mister Christine. We’re not a lending institution, and not subject to the restraints of the prime rate (call waiting interruption) Your government has no choice; there are unscrupulous dead beats and scoundrels trying to bilk the federal government Mister Christine. We have to take precautions. The tacking on of the interest is a rightful subsidy as to guard your government against such scoundrels. (call waiting clicks, visual Morty calling and phone ringing with no answer) Oh, I see how that call-waiting service is distracting and a menace; remind me never to sign up for it. Back to the equation, interest is compounded monthly, hmmm looks like about 29 months here, multiply the twelve by the net, oh I’d say the debt service comes to around $68,000, not withstanding—
LOU: Not withstanding what? (He’s cowering)
IRS: Not withstanding, someone in such a fix might be libel, then with legal-and-court fees being the responsibility of the accused, yet, Mister Christine, we know you’re too smart for those shenanigans you being a writer and all, so back to your question, if that were the case all-and-all we’re talking about $162,000 up to the present. That would be a hefty price to pay Mister Christine, but then again in your case if everything is kosher as you say, you have nothing to worry about, not so for Mister Morton I’m afraid.
LOU: Oh I have nothing to worry about alright.(He becomes more kinetic)
IRS: Good-good, then Mr. Christine, as a service, I’ll keep your file open and on my desk, just to see you get proper credit for your payment, since right now it isn’t showing up on the computer.
LOU: Oh you don’t have to go through the trouble. I know you’re busy. I appreciate the insight and interpretation. Thanks for looking out for my interest Mister Ragfoot, you don’t really have to go further out of your way since I was just inquiring.
IRS: It’s a free service to the tax payer Mister Christine, we try and be of service. Is there anything else I can help you with?
LOU: No, not at all. Thank you.(call-service interruption) I’m going to get off the line now and answer the other line. Thank you again.
IRS: Have a wonderful day Mr. Christine.
LOU:Yeah sure, same to you.
Lou looks into the phone and it’s buzzing. Instead of answering he just clicks off the phone; he rests it on the hi-fi’s speaker. He becomes spastic grabs a chair and grabs the telephone line throws part of it over an exposed beam and he wraps the rest of the telephone line around his neck. He stands on the chair. The phone rings and the machine answers. Lou holds up on his suicide if just a moment to listen.
Lou now appears on the screen above darkened stage with the noose around his neck. The phone rings an answering machine picks it up.
Beep. Lou this is Eric, at Book Nook. We found your folder with a bunch of paperwork in it. Hey, it’s pretty nifty with real pigskin and the NFL monogram and all. Say, that’s some inscription that’s written on the inside. Wish some of my friends thought that much of me. I thought about keeping it for myself, nah, just kidding. I’ve put it away for safe keeping ‘til you’re around again. By the way, you’re book is already selling like hotcakes.
Lou dismisses the call with a wave, like too-little too-late. He tightens the knot around his neck and kicks away the chair. The upper part of him is not exposed. His legs kick. Another call. The machine catches it too.
VOICE OVER THE PHONE: Lou, Paperbacks Distribution Honolulu—we’re flying over ten cases of books for K-Mart especially for you. Seems you got friends in high places. They’ll be in K-Mart on time for the signing. Best of luck, I’m sure it’s going to be a resounding success, maybe a best seller.
There’s a sound of anxiety as if maybe he’s made the mistake of his life. His legs now kick more.
ANOTHER MESSAGE ON THE MACHINE
Hey Piezanne, it’s your landlord Angelo here. Look, don’t worry about the rent. How can I evict the next Pulitzer-Prize winner? Jamie gave me a complimentary copy. I’ve already started to read it. You’re a lucky man, that girl loves you to death. I should be so lucky. (a moan) Come down the office and autograph my copy before you’re a big deal.
His legs kick frantically.
ANOTHER MESSAGE: Lou, Crawford Maui News. Looks as if you dodged a bullet. Seems our editor-in-chief is in some stupid sport’s league of your’s. He shit-canned my review. Seems these days it’s better to be lucky than good. He’s rewritten the book review himself. He hasn’t much literary sense and for reasons that befuddle me, he actually liked your book, praised it to the high heavens. Some people have taste for insipidness I suppose.
ANOTHER: (Morty’s voice) Lou! I’m still waiting here like a schmuck. I’m coming over to kick your ass! (a growl from Lou)
ANOTHER MESSAGE: Mr. Christine, Ragfoot again, Looks like your trusty accountant was correct. I just found a provision, a rarely-used, obscure loophole if you will, which indicates how a capital gain, even in real-estate deal can be parlayed into a legitimate deduction, (Lou’s his legs really begin to kick) that’s if IRS-form 86 is properly filled out and the business receipts are in order, and the funds are invested into an enterprise that propagates the arts, I assume your writing is an art form, surer than April 15th, it’s written in the by-laws and it’s all legal and permitted, if done so in compliance 36 months after the said gain. With what it says here, you’ll be able to post the deduction and receive a nice rebate if you chose to do so. By the way, you’re a lucky guy to get rid of that Tammy woman, she began to give me a headache. Hey, you’ll have to tell me where I can pick up a copy of your novel. Best of luck to you and have a nice day Mr. Christine.
Lou’s legs cease to move . . . Narrator casually appears on a split screen looking toward the other split screen of Lou hanging dead.
NARRATOR: Conflict is resolved. The means may-or-may not justify the end. Winners at times are losers and losers become winners, as in both drama and life, the will of the universe is usually subjective.
With Lou hanging lifeless the entire cast comes beneath his lifeless stillness and the music of the BGs “Staying Alive,” begins to play. They dance beneath the dead corpse and the credits of each appear with their image as they dance.
We then see the narrator easing off the stage hands in pocket whistling Staying Alive.