CRITTER: Backwoods hippie, late forties.
FLOYD: A little straighter, late forties.
RED: Redheaded farm woman, forties.
SARAH: Uniformed deputy, forties.
North Idaho; late 1990s.
Woods behind a rural cabin; after midnight.
CRITTER stands up to his hips in a pit, digging with a spade as fast as stealth will allow.
A battered hat lies nearby.
FLOYD stands some steps away—unobserved and watching. He holds a lantern, but it isn’t lit.
CRITTER shovels rhythmically, grunting out a song as he works:
CRITTER: Send up to the massa
I’m gonna strike the blow
Send up to the massa
I’m gonna strike the blow
I’m gonna bust my chains
And run away to Timbuktu
I’m gonna bust my chains
And run away to Timbuk-three
I’m gonna bust my chains
And run away to Timbuk-three
[Done digging, CRITTER climbs out from the hole.]
I’m gonna bust my chains
And run away to Timbuk-four
He bends down and, obscured by the dirt pile, grunts and groans. A muffled WHUMP.
He grabs the battered hat and tosses it into the hole.
Panting, he sets the shovel down. Reaches into his back pocket, extracts a can of Copenhagen snuff, wipes his fingers in his armpit, opens the lid, takes a pinch, and shoves it into his mouth.
FLOYD: Taking a break?
CRITTER: Yaaaaaaah! [Turning:] Jesus Christ! Jesus God! Holy Mother!
FLOYD: Jumpin’ Jehosaphat! . . . Jiminy Cricket!—huh? Great Caesar’s ghost!
FLOYD: Goddamn, Floyd. Goddamn, Floyd. You could’ve been a ghost.
FLOYD: Could still be.
CRITTER: Uh. Yeah.
FLOYD: Good evening, Critter.
CRITTER: . . . I understood you to be staying overnight in Coeur d’Alene.
FLOYD: I’m thinking otherwise.
CRITTER: I heard Blake Farmer at Aspen Collision say old Floyd Wells would be dropping off a driveshaft for him down in CDA.
FLOYD: Took it. Left it. Came back.
CRITTER: That’s ninety-nine miles of North Idaho. Weren’t the roads icy?
FLOYD: It’s only November.
CRITTER: I see. [Pause.] I think I had the timing of all this sort of misconstrued or something.
FLOYD switches on his lamp.
FLOYD: You want some light?
CRITTER: No! . . . I remember when your wife left you. Or supposably left you. What—seven kids? Wasn’t she a mail-order bride? I mean, I’m not surprised she left you. But how did you ever get a wife in the first place? Okay—by mail order. She arrived by mail. But why did she stay so long?
FLOYD: I guess if you’re digging in the dark, you’re digging in the dark.
CRITTER: Was there anybody actually to see her and witness her leaving you? Her and all them kids? Actually physically going away? Or were they just gone one day, and we kind of take your word on this sudden departure?
FLOYD: [peering into the grave] Who is it?
CRITTER: Who does it look like?
FLOYD: All I see is a roll of rug and . . . Jesus Christ. Ken Hubbard’s Cavalry hat.
CRITTER: I’ve dreamed and dreamed and dreamed of killing him. For years I’ve dreamed it. Every possible way.
FLOYD: It’s Ken Hubbard!
CRITTER: Shooting him, stabbing him, poisoning his beer, gutting him with a chain saw, running him over with the truck. Sometimes planning, sometimes just enjoying the fun of dreaming, the savage pictures of entertainment. You know what? TV isn’t violent at all. You should see the rating on my mind.
FLOYD: Ol’ Hubby.
CRITTER: You know what? I don’t even own a television.
FLOYD: He’s your uncle, isn’t he?
CRITTER: He’s my uncle, yeah. He’s only got about two years on me. [To Hubby:] I will be ketching up, though, won’t I! Are you done with your shit, you son of a bitch? Or is there something else you’d like to pull? . . . [To FLOYD:] He says, “Come on down to the house. Nobody’s home, I’m gonna show you how I do it to the ladies.” Nobody home, like he says. House is quiet as death on Sunday. In fact it was Sunday. His parents were at church.
FLOYD: I thought his folks had died years ago.
CRITTER: This was years ago. I was sixteen.
FLOYD: Okay. I get you.
CRITTER: He opens up the living room couch and says, “Come on now, hide in the fireplace.” I’m hiding in there breathing that soot till my lungs is black, and along up the drive comes this girl. He parks her on the hidey-bed and she don’t even see me. He lifts her skirt and yanks her panties down and tosses them backward right into my face. I didn’t like that. I wanted to leave.
FLOYD: Why didn’t you leave?
CRITTER: I wanted to leave.
FLOYD: Why didn’t you say so?
CRITTER: Well, I didn’t know how to say.
FLOYD: What happened?
CRITTER: What do you suppose?
FLOYD: You got some sex education.
CRITTER: I heard her screaming and sighing and laughing and bawling. I watched the backs of her thighs jiggling for seemed like half an hour without taking myself one breath. Watched Hubby’s pimply butt gyrating till I just about puked.
FLOYD: He was just having fun.
CRITTER: He violated my rights!—In fact, all right, I actually did puke. I gagged or made some such noise and she stopped the proceedings and raised her head and said, “Who’s that little boy in the fireplace?” He said, “Where? The fireplace?” She says, “The fireplace. That little boy.” He stared right at me and said, “There’s nobody there.” And she said, “Oh.” They went back to humping like monkeys, and I puked right down my shirt . . . Because why? Because it happened to be a young lady I recognized from my dreams. A young lady I instantly thought a great deal of, soon as I saw her. But after I watched his runty butt bucking between her jiggly old thighs I never had the . . . Had the time to talk to her . . . There you go, you bastard. I never told anyone.
FLOYD: But you’re telling me.
CRITTER: Well, anything can be told here.
CRITTER: Hey what.
FLOYD: Hey. He’s moving.
CRITTER: He’s not moving.
FLOYD: He moved.
CRITTER: He didn’t move. I strangled him for five minutes. I shot him and I strangled him and I cut his throat. [To Hubby:] And if you move again I’m gonna cut your head off!
FLOYD: Aah, I’m just kidding . . . WUP! [CRITTER jumps.]—Whoa. Ha-ha. Gotcha . . . Why didn’t he kill you with his arrer?
CRITTER: He couldn’t kill nobody with his arrer.
FLOYD: He’s a championship archer.
CRITTER: He ain’t no kind of archer. He killed one elk, one single elk by pure luck back in nineteen-I-don’t-know; then he’s never got one since. He can hit a bale of hay, and that’s it. If the light’s good. And he ain’t drunk. Except we put that all in the past tense, because he’s dead. We say he used to could, because he’s dead.
FLOYD: WUP! [CRITTER jumps.] Ha-ha.
CRITTER: He was a borderline retard. And so are you.
FLOYD: [mumbling] Asshole says, “What?”
What is Ken Hubbard doing in my yard?
CRITTER: Well, Hubby figured since he has been killed and is in need of a grave, and FLOYD already has a pack of graves right here in this yard, Hubby just figured he’d help himself to the territory. After all, when you get caught—if your graves get dug up by people looking for missing people like your wife and all those children—you’d soak up the blame for Hubby, too. Sorry. But hey, hey.
FLOYD: My graves?
CRITTER: I saw you burying your whole family out here in two big holes last August.
CRITTER: Second week in August.
CRITTER: Just when you said your wife left and all.
CRITTER: Halfway through last August.
CRITTER: I saw you digging like China had a hold of your balls. I’m sorry, but I walk up and down this road at night. I have a terrible lot of trouble sleeping, ever since the mercury. I was walking the night, and I saw you digging.
FLOYD: Of course you saw me digging. If you look at me any old time—50 percent of the time when I’m not sleeping, I’m digging. You don’t get the treasure until you disturb the earth. You must tickle the great mother. She’ll give it up if you tickle her proper.
CRITTER: Likely story.
FLOYD: True story. You know I’m after the gold.
CRITTER: Who was it you buried out here? It was your wife and kids, wasn’t it. Who’d you bury?
FLOYD: It was my two dogs. My two huntin’ dogs.
CRITTER: Oh yeah? Well I don’t know, but they were people I saw you burying, not huntin’ dogs. They were wearing clothes.
FLOYD: I wouldn’t bury somebody wearing clothes. Too easy to make the identity. They were dogs. And they were naked, just like a dog should be. And I’m gonna turn—you—in.
CRITTER: [wails] Is this another thing I misconstrued?
LOOK WHAT YOU GOT ME INTO NOW, YOU BASTARD! SON! OF! A! BITCH!—
CRITTER attacks Hubby’s corpse all over again, destroying it inside the grave with the shovel—
FLOYD: Stop that! What are you doing?
CRITTER: I’m giving him a goddamn good thrubbing!
FLOYD: He’s dead!
CRITTER: Lucky for him!
He leaps into the grave and manhandles the corpse.
FLOYD: You’re assaulting a dead man! A corpse!
Pause. CRITTER is calm.
CRITTER: I find it calming. Strangely calming.
FLOYD: Get up out of there. You’re sick. You need help.
CRITTER: Don’t use that kind of tone on me. This ain’t therapy. [To Hubby:] is it, YA STUPID-LOOKIN’ DICKLESS SHITPANTS RUNT . . .
Only one time I saw him looking stupider. Did you hear about that time when a bunch of us boys left off haying one time down at Hanson’s place, and we all lined up to stand on a stump and love on a cow? Ol’ Hubby gets his turn and he’s lovin’ on her like a penguin on a pogo stick.
Hanson’s boy, Nick, ol’ Nick Hanson, says, “Look out, that cow’s fixing to shit on you.” Hubby says—pant pant pant—“No she ain’t! I’m just getting good to her!”. . . That cow squoonches back and give a big ol’ groan and slops about a four-and-a-half pound pie right down between Hubby’s ankles, right down onto his undies and britches and his tennis shoes. His face just turned to tears, and he moans out, “Daddy’s gonna kill me . . .” and flopped off that stump and waddled over and jumped in the river. And it was cold . . . Jumped in the river.
FLOYD: Loving on a cow?
CRITTER: You did it, too.
FLOYD: I never touched one of God’s dumb creatures, not even in the hottest moment of my puberty.
CRITTER: Britches full of cow shit. I savor that moment.
FLOYD: Poor bastard . . . How could you smoke a poor bastard had that picture in his background?
CRITTER: Come on. You must’ve done it. What about a sheep? You ever get good to one of them ewes up at Hubbard’s farm?
FLOYD: “Get good”? I never touched one.
CRITTER: They were penned up pretty far from the house. Nice and private. In fact they still are. We could go on up there right now and teach ’em the missionary position.
FLOYD: I got good to just about anything that presented itself. Everything I looked at, I thought—what about that? Can I get good to that? I got good to my pillow. I got good to the toilet paper roll. I did the boogie with the mayonnaise, right out of the ’frigerator. Cold as heck. Everything my eye fell on I wondered could I possibly maybe figure out a method for getting good to it. But when it come to God’s creatures I never did a one of them no harm by getting good to it.
CRITTER: You got a yard full of bodies here. And you say you left God’s creatures alone. Aren’t your own wife and children God’s creatures?
FLOYD: You know, it seems to me this man did one or two boyish things you didn’t care for, and you nursed the hurt for thirty years and then killed him.
CRITTER: Oh, no. Oh, no, sir. I killed him for something quite recent. He’s lorded it over me since birth, but I held my peace. He locked a gate across my easement and built his fence four yards over the line on my property and never helped me for nothing and never once bought me a beer—but I didn’t kill him for that. I never even punched his fat face one or two times and broke his teeth, like I should’ve. But after a lifetime of rolling over me every time his wheels turned, he finally went too far. Last spring this son of a bitch, my uncle Ken Hubbard, who’s supposed to be my own blood, hiked nine miles up Sawyer Mountain to Razorback Ridge, crawled along it in the dead of night for another mile point six to the back side of Green Pine Lake, to the cliff overlooking it, rappelled down three hundred feet in the skinny light of dawn, swam five-eighths of a mile across the freezing waters of the lake to where it dribbles out into Whitman Crick, and kicked a ten-pound boulder in it. And that’s what changed the course of Whitman Crick to where it doesn’t touch my land, which it has crossed and blessed and nourished with its waters since before the first homesteaders, and instead now it sops over onto Hubbard’s land. He dug a pond ten acre-feet—a lake large enough to sink a church in—and stocked it with trout, and every day he walks around the edge with a big old sack tossing dog food out to those things, and they’re growing as fat as Chinese babies, and every drop they drink is theft.
FLOYD: Fish don’t actually drink.
CRITTER: I watch him every morning with his sack of kibble and his idiot smile!
Then he filed for rights, and when the Water Resources put the advertisement in the paper, he come over and stole it out of my mailbox three Thursdays in a row, till the ad stopped running. So I could never file a protest. Certificate was signed and sealed and I never had an inkling till I got a copy in the mail from the Water Board. God, God, God! He stole my water.
FLOYD: Change back the flow.
CRITTER: You think I’m capable of climbing, crawling, rappelling, swimming? I’d need a helicopter, boy—and then you can’t get out.
FLOYD: How’d he get out?
CRITTER: Greed and envy and hatred powered him out. That’s all I can think of as to how he made it out. That water grab was a superhuman feat of evil. He should get the Congressional Medal of Dishonor.
He put a gate across the easement that crosses his land onto mine. He locked it tight. Every time I enter or exit i’ve got to climb down out of my truck and dig my keys out of my pants and locate the key on my keychain, rain or shine, dark of night or broad of day there’s no respite from the task, and fiddle with that padlock and drag that gate open and drive my truck through and climb on down out of it and lock that gate behind me, or else i’ll be jailed because he’s got an injunction out. He locked me in tight! He corralled me in! I struck a blow for freedom!
FLOYD: I’d say you struck a damn sight more than just a blow . . . Looks like he fell off Everest.
CRITTER: I told you I made a job of it.
FLOYD: Can’t tell his head from his feet now.
CRITTER: Are you gonna jump in and get good to him?
FLOYD: Why do they call you Critter?
CRITTER: Why do they call you Floyd?
FLOYD: Why don’t you kiss my ass?
CRITTER: Why don’t you suck my dick?
CRITTER shoves FLOYD into the hole and starts frantically shoveling dirt in after him. FLOYD pops up, sputtering.
FLOYD: Oh no you don’t!
CRITTER: Oh yes I do!
FLOYD: You don’t bury me!
CRITTER: Why not!
FLOYD:’Cause I ain’t dead!
CRITTER: Is that an invitation? Is that a CHALLENGE?
CRITTER raises the shovel to whang him in the skull.
FLOYD: Hey hey hey hey hey, we’re COUSINS.
CRITTER:. . . We are not cousins.
FLOYD: Second cousins.
CRITTER: No. I don’t think so.
FLOYD: Once removed.
CRITTER: What are you, an astrologist?
FLOYD: A what?
CRITTER: With the family tree there.
FLOYD: A genealogist.
CRITTER: We’re not cousins. And what does once removed mean? And why do they go around saying it? All you genealogists and gynecologists?
FLOYD: I don’t know.
CRITTER: Nobody knows. “Once removed.”
FLOYD: I’m not way down deep into it. I just happen to know that we happen to be second cousins once removed through your mother and my cousin Anselm, who everybody called Elmo, because they were cousins.
FLOYD: Therefore let me up out of this hole and let’s be friends. Or at least cousins. Or at least have a truce.
CRITTER: We’re having a truce.
FLOYD: We are?
CRITTER: A truce once removed. A truce once I remove your head from your neck with this shovel—
FLOYD: NO NO NO—Do you know what I have in my pocket here?
CRITTER: You can’t buy your way out of this.
FLOYD: You’re not a feller to go turnin’ down a drink, are you?
CRITTER:. . . No.
FLOYD: The seal ain’t broken. I hoarded it all day. I was gonna watch the boxing on the satellite tomorrow, and get a little bug on.
CRITTER: What’s the main card?
FLOYD: Jean-Jack St. Augustine and some guy named Sz-sz-sz. I can’t even pronounce it.
CRITTER: I never heard of ’em.
FLOYD: That wily little Jamaican guy and some East European borderline retard. Are you gonna share?
CRITTER: That’s kind of tasty to suck on.
FLOYD: Don’t be stingy . . . Most excellent!
CRITTER: Wish I had a reefer.
FLOYD: I don’t know nothing about needles, or pellets, or left-handed cigarettes. I just know I like a drink. Prohibition’s over.
CRITTER: We’re not gonna end up pals. If I did have a little pot, I wouldn’t share. I’d just dip my ash on your head.
FLOYD: I always liked old Hubby.
CRITTER: Yeah, well, that’s his face you’re standing on right now.
CRITTER: Yep. You’ve crunched his nose and destroyed his eyeballs and every other damn thing.
FLOYD: I thought it was a rock.
CRITTER: It ain’t.
FLOYD: I thought it was a big old rock.
CRITTER: Nope. It’s somebody’s face.
FLOYD: I thought his head was down the other end. This is disgusting! Let me up outa here, Critter. Please. Let’s negotiate.
CRITTER: It’s all pointless.
FLOYD: We’ll figure a way.
CRITTER: Once you’re out of my sight, I’m in your power. You can snitch me any time. No, it doesn’t work. I’m sorry, Headless. You’re standing in your own grave.
FLOYD: We’ve known each other a long time.
CRITTER: We can’t help running into each other, that’s all.
[He sips, sighs, and sings:]
When you’re lost in the rain in Juárez
And it’s Eastertime too
And it’s yeah, yeah, yeah—yabba yabba—
[Scats ad lib for several measures, then:]
Listen, Floyd. I’m sorry. But due to this unfortunate misunderstanding about things and due to the stars and the fates, what choice do we have here? It’s you or it’s me. Sometimes it’s just nobody’s fault, but it’s still you or the other guy. Do you remember when Dave Driesen chugged down a half gallon of vodka in less than ten minutes? Down by the torn-down bridge? And he just stopped breathing? And we were all scared that night and we poured diesel fuel all over him and tried to cremate him?
FLOYD: Jesus, he went up like a torch.
CRITTER: Went up like gunpowder.
FLOYD: I peed my pants.
CRITTER: I shit my pants. One entire half gallon of Popov vodka in his gut.
FLOYD: That fireball roared outa his mouth. Wow.
CRITTER: Out his ears, out his nostrils—
FLOYD: He won the bet, though.
CRITTER: No, the bet was eight minutes.
FLOYD: Ten minutes.
CRITTER: Could he drink it in eight minutes.
FLOYD: That there was a load of trouble.
CRITTER: I haven’t seen too much of you since then.
FLOYD: Well, they dragged me off to the war. What about you? Did you get in the service?
CRITTER: You know I’m not the military type.
FLOYD: Didn’t they draft you?
CRITTER: I was too short.
FLOYD: From down here you look tall enough to me.
CRITTER: These are custom boots.
FLOYD: Custom? How much?
CRITTER: Several inches.
FLOYD: How much did you pay?
CRITTER: Will you stay outa my business?
FLOYD: It ain’t your house you’re standing behind. It ain’t your yard you’re digging a dungeon in. Go to find out it’s my business somebody’s in, and not the other way around.
CRITTER: What is that? Scotch?
FLOYD: It was.—Aaah!
CRITTER: Fuggin’ alcoholic. You got some more?
FLOYD: In the house. Go get it. We’re rollin’.
CRITTER: No can do. It wouldn’t be strategic.
FLOYD: We’ll call it a time out. [Pause.] I’ll stay right here. [Pause.] I’ll stay in the hole.
CRITTER: I’d like to believe that.
FLOYD: I’m offering my word.
CRITTER: Where is it?
FLOYD: It’s in the freezer. Right on top of everything.
I won’t go back on my word.
CRITTER starts shoveling dirt in around FLOYD, working hard.
FLOYD: What’s the deal, guy?
CRITTER: I’m gonna trap you.
FLOYD: I gave you my word.
CRITTER sticks the shovel in the mound with a grunt and starts to exit, stops.
FLOYD: Ain’t a man’s word worth half a shit no more? [As CRITTER exits again:] Goddamn the evil of this age we’re living in. [Left alone and buried up to his waist, FLOYD sighs, wipes his face. Clears his throat . . . Sings:]
When you’re lost in the rain in Juárez
And it’s Eastertime too
Dum da dum . . .
[Scats ad lib.]
[SOUND of ransacking from the house.]
IT’S IN THE FREEZER IN THE FREEZER IN THE FREEZER!
Goddamn, can’t you tell booze from . . . From burger?
When you’re lost in the rain in Juárez,
The rain in Juárez . . .
[Scats for three or four measures.]
CRITTER returns with the bottle. He scats along with FLOYD until they hit on the ending of a verse.
CRITTER AND FLOYD [together]:
La la la la . . . La la ’nother shot
AND MY BEST FRIEND, MY DOCTOR,
WON’T EVEN SAY WHAT IT IS I’VE GOT.
CRITTER sits. They pass the bottle and drink . . .
CRITTER: Yeah . . . You’re real skinny and your wife was real fat. [Sings, same tune:]
Have you ever seen
I mean, I’ve felt the appeal . . . Fat girl in a short skirt . . . Real fat girl in a real short skirt.
FLOYD: “Crow Man.”
CRITTER: You want me to get up and kill you with this shovel?
FLOYD: Crow Man . . . Right?
CRITTER: It’s not my name anymore.
FLOYD: What? Ain’t you a hippie no more?
CRITTER: Least I didn’t wait for the U.S. Army to get my young ass. Least I had some balls to make a move. Sixteen years old. Three candy bars in my pockets and my thumb in the air.
FLOYD: Went off and turned into a hippie.
CRITTER: I didn’t go off and turn into a hippie. I went to Mexico. I went to Hollywood. To San Francisco.
FLOYD: And come home with a band of hippies.
CRITTER: That’s right. Come home leading a whole commune. I was the scout that led them here.
FLOYD: That was back before you were Critter.
CRITTER: No. I was Critter then. Then I adopted my pagan name. Then, you know, that faded. Crow Man faded. Then I was Critter again.
FLOYD: A band of hippies don’t know their own names. Took your own funny name, didn’t you, Crow Man? You’ll always be Ralph to me. Your commune didn’t last. Rock and Cloud are Sam and Jenny again. Ain’t they.
CRITTER: I believe, perhaps. I haven’t been in touch.
FLOYD: Rock works for the Highway Department and his name is Sam. Cloud is the dispatcher for the sheriff and she’s Jenny again.
CRITTER: The ground was frozen two inches down. I’m surprised. It was warm this afternoon.
FLOYD: Warm tonight, too.
CRITTER: Yeah. Warm enough. But it’s still froze-up in the ground.
FLOYD: You picked a shady little spot is why. You’re all thawed out right over there by the porch.
CRITTER: You oughta know. Huh?
FLOYD: My wife and kids are up in Saskatchewan. I think.
CRITTER: I was a roadie for Frank Zappa.
FLOYD:. . . When did he ever go on the road?
CRITTER: I helped out around his house.
FLOYD: Zappa? The rock-and-roll dude?
CRITTER: There’s quite a bit more to his music than rock and roll. Zappa was totally avant-garde. He had a whole European thing going. He dabbled in the French composers.
FLOYD: I’m stunned into silence.
CRITTER: I went to Mexico. I went to Hollywood and San Francisco. I was a roadie for the Mothers of Invention.
FLOYD: The silence continues.
CRITTER: The Mothers of Invention. Zappa’s band.
FLOYD: You weren’t no roadie. Never knew him.
CRITTER: I worked around the grounds in various capacities. I did various chores.
FLOYD: You’re nuttier’n a squirrel turd.
CRITTER: When you work for a rocker in any capacity, that makes you a roadie.
FLOYD: Yep . . . Your brain is diseased. Ever since that plague at the commune.
CRITTER: It wasn’t any plague. It came from the environment.
FLOYD: “It Came from Outer Space.” Starring CRITTER the madman.
CRITTER: From the tailings out of old mining operations up above. The mercury and copper and—the mercury, mostly.
FLOYD: The mercury and the madness.
CRITTER: I know. It was horrible. Have I ever told you that? Or anybody? Have I ever just sat down and admitted how horrible it was?
FLOYD: Your system doesn’t process out the mercury. Once it’s in you, it’s in you. It’s like a curse.
CRITTER: “The Curse of the Mercury Madness.”
FLOYD: It caused you to become psycho. Psycho forever.
CRITTER: You knew me since elementary school. Do I seem any different?
FLOYD: No . . . You always have been psycho, come to think. Maybe you got poisoned way back in the time, and before the time. Maybe you ate a mercury thermometer in the womb.
CRITTER: Everybody said we cooked up a batch of bad acid. We never cooked up any acid. We didn’t know how. Any acid we got, somebody had to hitch to Seattle and pay for it and hitchhike back. Usually they’d eat half of it on the way. We were terrible hippies. We were terrible hippies. After Jim and Jeanine left, we just went to ruin . . . Nobody there to keep us in line . . . Jim and Jeanine . . .
FLOYD: I could’ve done a lot of acid in ’Nam. Anything you can think of, in limitless amounts.
CRITTER: You really didn’t bury some folks back here one night, while I was walking past?
FLOYD: Nope. My dogs got fever and died, and I buried them.
CRITTER: Dogs with clothes?
CRITTER: Kind of like Snoopy Dog. He wears clothes.
Snoopy don’t wear clothes.
CRITTER: Sometimes he does.
FLOYD: Snoopy don’t wear clothes. And neither did my dogs.
CRITTER: Nudists, eh? Nudist dogs. I approve of that.
FLOYD: Well, it wouldn’t be nothing if I did kill my wife. I’ve killed a lot of wives. And quite a large number of children. And been decorated for it. But killing and burying an American family—it wouldn’t be exactly the same. I mean, for one thing, over there I never bothered with burying anybody. I don’t care what you say about God’s creatures, or the brotherhood of what. They’re not entirely human. They’re very close, but not all the way.
Raping and pillaging, torching hooches, slaughtering elephants—actual elephants, with a .50-caliber machine gun, actual elephants.
CRITTER: [singing] Raindrops keep fallin’ on my head . . .
[To Hubby:] WELL, THE WATER’S ALL MINE, AIN’T IT ASSHOLE . . .
FLOYD:. . . Plus, you’re servicing his wife.
CRITTER: That redheaded prostitute he shares a bed with?
FLOYD: The very one.
CRITTER: Red? She’s crazy.
FLOYD: Maybe that’s what calls to you.
CRITTER: “Crazy in the head, crazy in the bed.”
FLOYD: Everybody knows about it.
CRITTER: Nothin’ to know.
CRITTER: Seems like you used to take her down by the river, back in the day.
FLOYD: I don’t recall.
CRITTER: I guess you didn’t take her down there to drown her, did you? Elsewise she’d be drowned.
FLOYD: Red wasn’t so crazy and ugly back in the day.
CRITTER: Ain’t it the truth. Back in the day even I could tell my face from my ass.
FLOYD: Well, somebody’s doing her.
FLOYD: Somebody besides ol’ Hubby.
CRITTER: How do you know?
FLOYD: I’ve heard she sneaks down the road in that putt-putt four-wheeler of theirs just as soon as Hubby goes off to town. He don’t make it five miles past MacDougal Bridge before crazy old Red goes scooting along down in the same direction on an errand of grace and mercy.
CRITTER: Well, you know damn well I live right up behind ’em on the mountain. If it’s me she wants, she could walk on up.
FLOYD: Would you do her?
CRITTER: Okay, Red’s ugly, and she’s crazy, but you can stare at a person and see their young, original self. Otherwise nobody would stay wrapped up with anybody else past the point of a few wrinkles. Stars and celebrities don’t realize this. They’re always having themselves surgically removed.
FLOYD: You got the hots for her.
CRITTER: Yeah . . . I saw old Hubby bangin’ away on that cherry from LA.
FLOYD: It was Red.
CRITTER: Sixteen years old and puking in the fireplace.
FLOYD: She was the one you were in love with.
CRITTER: Not true.
FLOYD: When did your incident happen?
CRITTER: I don’t know. ’Long about when we still were kids.
FLOYD: How old?
CRITTER: Fuck off.
FLOYD: About sixteen? About two days before you left?
CRITTER: I’d never be talking about this if you weren’t standing in your grave.
FLOYD: You loved Red Hubbard!
CRITTER: I wasn’t in love with her, really. I never saw her before that day.
FLOYD: You fell in love with her at that moment. Plunged headlong.
CRITTER: I was a slip of a boy.
FLOYD: You left town.
CRITTER: Puke on my shirt and snot on my face and my thumb in the air. What a Whore of Babylon. Fucking on a Sunday.
FLOYD: I bet she hollered.
CRITTER: Screamed like a sow in the chute.
FLOYD: Yeah man, I bet she—“Come on, baby!”
CRITTER: “Come on, baby!”
FLOYD: Rockin’ and rollin’!
CRITTER: Howling and writhing and slinging slobber—
FLOYD: “Do it you old do it you big do it you—”
CRITTER: “Come on you come on you come on you big critter you BIG CRITTER YOU BIG CRITTER . . .”
FLOYD: You big what?
I didn’t catch that . . . I think you said “critter” . . . “Come on, you big critter.” [Pause.] “Critter, oh you critter, oh you, come on, you big critter . . . ” So maybe you felt she was calling to you, she was meant to be.
CRITTER: No. They didn’t call me Critter then.
FLOYD: That’s why you took the name!
CRITTER: Bullshit I took the name! The name was give me. The name was laid on me by Frank Zappa. By none other than Frank Zappa.
FLOYD: Your bullshit is unending. Hogwash, bullshit, and jive.
[CRITTER whangs him with the flat of the shovel.]
[CRITTER whangs him again.]
Wham with the flat of the shovel, over and over:
CRITTER: DING! DONG! DING! DONG! . . . DING! DONG! DING! DONG! DING! DONG!
[FLOYD sinks into the grave.]
[CRITTER drops the shovel, retrieves the bottle, sucks at the last few drops.]
Jesus Christ, Hubby . . .
[He sets up the bottle as a kind of a headstone.]
Now look what you made me do. Look what you’ve brought about. Take a look at . . . [Grabs the shovel, starts filling the grave.] Behold . . . The position you’ve forced me into.
I’ve had to take this guy down. Old Floyd. This wasn’t his fault at all!—Even dead, you keep right on working your bullshit.
[He throws off his jacket and shirt as he flails at the mound of loose dirt.]
The evil of you just keeps percolating
Down and through the universe to hell!
Evil contamination percolation!
[Pause . . . CRITTER speaks to Heaven:]
KENNETH HUBBARD! I call you on the other side to watch me now. See what I do. See how I answer your evil with evil.
Watch me walk the road from here to your house. I’m gonna strip down naked and slaughter your sheep and bathe myself in their blood. And i’ll march into your bedroom and gut the harlot you’ve cleaved to your bosom these last twenty years. Then I’m gonna take your prize compound bow and arrers and shoot your horses. Then I’m gonna dynamite your pond and wash myself clean in the flood of the very waters you stole from my inheritance! Then i’ll drag your sow’s corpse back here to couple with you in the grave. Along with FLOYD, of course. Which I feel bad about. Which I consider an unavoidable mistake. But anyhow. He killed some people over in ’Nam, so it’s justice. A little backwoods karmic retribution.
See how I answer your evil with evil until the end of time!
CRITTER exits, howling.
FLOYD: GAAAACK! AHACK AHACK AHACK.
[FLOYD rises up.]
[He stands himself upright, reeling, and hauls himself from the hole and looks down at where he’s been.]
I’ve stood on a few dead faces in my day,
dead faces I made dead for the doubtful
sake of someone else’s chickenshit
and bubblegum idea of freedom.
But I just wanted freedom to hunt for gold . . .
[Finding the bottle, he raises a toast.]
Critter, I’ll make you eat your karma.
Splooey. Ptuck. Bleah.
You killed my jug and left me nothing to cut
the dust of the grave.
This is the first scene in Denis Johnson’s one-act, six-scene play Psychos Never Dream, published in its entirety in issue number 8. To read the rest, click here to order the issue.
Photo: Gribben Art