Thursday, January 15, 2004

Act III Scene 1

(It is March 23rd, four days after the commencement of the "shock-and-awe" campaign during Iraq War II. The 3rd battalion, 4th regiment, a component of the United States Marines 1st Expeditionary Forces is on the march to Baghdad. The Marines are in the southern desert, outside of the city of Basra, and far away from any sign of significant action.)

(A group of five young marines sit and eat their MREs calmly in front of an armored tank. PFC MARKS, LANCE CORPORAL IRWIN, PFC SANTANA, CORPORAL LANG and PFC EDWARDS are dressed in jungle camouflaged NBC vests and desert camouflaged gear - with their M-16s nestled in between their legs - on their first real break from the relentless mobilization.

(SGT. DRUDGE enters the stage and joins his men. There are knives strapped to his chest and ankles.

(The desert is silent except for its invaders. They are currently camped out in the open desert at night.)

DRUDGE - Continue.

IRWIN - (to Lang) - So you think it's some kind of conspiracy.

LANG - That's what I'm saying, y'know what I mean, I'm not saying he's definitely still alive, I don't have any proof just eyes, but I honestly truly feel that there's a chance.

IRWIN - Dude, you're way off base. That mutherfucker's deader than dead, anyone can download his autopsy picture from off the Internet and see big bullet holes, thug tattoos and his bald shiny head.

LANG - Get real, Hollywood. That shit was as fake as the Hitler Diaries. The key detail that makes me suspicious is that they supposedly had his ashes cremated. Tupac was a Muslim and Muslims don't believe in that shit.

DRUDGE - Shit, I've seen plenty of A-rabs set themselves on fire on the news. It's some kind of honor to the sick fucks.

EDWARDS - Wish every fucking one of them would save us the trouble and do us the favor.

LANG - Those are crazy-ass Shiites. Not the same. It's like comparing David Koresh and George Bush since they're both born-agains. Personally, I suspect Tupac went into the witness protection program because he ratted out Suge Knight.

IRWIN - You must be hallucinating due to withdrawal from blunts and forties.

(TED enters the scene, dressed identically to the Marines, toting his ever-present weapons - a notebook and pen - plus an opened MRE. At first, the Marines pretend to ignore his presence. Then EDWARDS and DRUDGE direct their best battle stares at him with contempt in their eyes.)

TED - (trying not to show that he is nervous) Mind if I sit down and eat with you boys?

(The lower-ranked men all turn to DRUDGE - the squadron leader.)

DRUDGE - That depends. Are you a Republican?

TED - No, but I'm circumcised.

(All the MARINES laugh except for EDWARDS and DRUDGE. IRWIN then gives SANTANA a playful push.)

IRWIN - Move over and give my dog some room.

(TED sits in the space provided him between IRWIN and SANTANA. EDWARDS redirects his attention to the contents of his MRE while DRUDGE continues staring and casually moves his M-16 so that it leans in the direction of TED.)

DRUDGE - You gonna take notes on us, civvie?

TED (thinks for a moment) - I'd never dare allow my nose to get in the way of six armed infantrymen and their well-deserved appetites.

DRUDGE (slightly smiles before making a show of moving his weapon) That's a well-found strategic assumption. This is our first chance for CST - copious spare time. A little more SMOP and you might make it out alive.

TED - Huh? Is that like mopping up?

SANTANA - Sarnt means Simple Matter of Processing.

MARKS - You mean Small Matter of Programming.

IRWIN - Or Stuff Mom Omitted in Preschool.

DRUDGE - Keep the chatter to noncombatant conversation. He was sent from the...(pauses to spit on the ground)...New York media and he'll take our nicknames and skew them for his liberal Jewish readers. Remember, unless you grant him individual consent he can't write anything but your name and hometowns.

(The MARINES digest DRUDGE's words and say nothing for about a minute until LANG breaks the silence.)

LANG - You write for New York City Magazine, right. I'm from Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

TED - I live in Clinton Hill.

LANG - That ain't too far. You qualify as a homey.

IRWIN - HOO-AH! Sarnt and Santana are both Texans, and Marks is from Allentown, Pennsylvania, where they're closing all the factories down.

MARKS - Fucking Billy Joel.

IRWIN - Edwards is from deep, deep, deep South Carolina.

EDWARDS - I don't appreciate the superfluous deeps.

IRWIN - And as for me, I was conceived late at night under the Hollywood sign so you know where my future lies.

LANG - Skid row.

IRWIN - Keep it on the down low, but I'm really just here to do research for a role.

LANG - The role of dumbass?

IRWIN (to TED) - Hell, I can play myself in the movie they make someday from your reporting or I can even be a better looking you.

LANG - NFW. You stink worse than Brad Pitt's armpits.

IRWIN - How would you know? I ain't acting now. Although, honestly, I wouldn't mind playing Brad Pitt's cock so i can travel deep inside Jennifer Aniston.

SANTANA - HOO-AH!

MARKS - I wouldn't want to be anybody's cock.

EDWARDS - It'd be better than the big pussy you already are.

MARKS - Eat me.

IRWIN - Wait. Before he eats you we need to clear up if you're a pussy or a cock first.

EDWARDS - Three days in this crappy third world shit-hole full of sand niggers and I've yet to get some trigger time. So don't give me no reasons to take my aggression out on a fellow marine.

IRWIN - Lighten up, dog. We're only joking.

EDWARDS - This war is boring. And I'm starting to hate this country. Wait until i get a hold of a fucking Iraqi. No, fuck that, I won't get hold of him, I'll just kill him.

LANG - Man, all those years you spent in reform school must have robbed your sense of humor if you think you're the slightest bit funny.

EDWARDS - You New York City brothers know all about robbing; don't you?

LANG - Shit. I know my share of Brooklyn thugs that get off on crumbling whitebread crackers if you ever want to pay a visit.

MARKS - I've been to New York City. It ain't no big deal.

IRWIN - You can't read a map or dead-reckon for shit, so how do you know you were really even there?

MARKS - Fuck you. I went to an Ozzfest at Jets Stadium where I saw Limp Bizkit burn it up and raise the roof.

LANGS - The Meadowlands is in fucking Jersey and it's names after the Giants. My Jets don't have a home; they're foreign occupiers.

MARKS - I got a cousin that lives in New York City. He lives in Greenwich Village but he ain't a cocksucker.

DRUDGE - Then why does he live in the Village?

MARKS - I don't know but I know for sure he ain't no kind of fairy.

LANG - You just used a double negative. So your cousin must be fine and dandy.

MARKS - I can prove he's not a faggot.

IRWIN - Maybe he's just not into kissing cousins.

MARKS - When I went to his crib after the concert...(points at Ted) He had a copy of your magazine.

LANG - What the fuck is your point? He doesn't write for Penthouse!

MARKS - That's not what I'm trying to say. I know he comes from New York City Magazine.

TED - Did you read something I wrote?

MARKS - That depends if you help write the hooker ads in the back. Me and my cousin called us up one of those 'erotic services' and ordered up a ho.

IRWIN - Did you get one with anchovies?

SANTANA - Was she fine?

MARKS - Had an ass as fuckable as J-Lo's. She was even one of your kind, too.

SANTANA - Mexican-American?

MARKS - I don't know what exact tribe she comes from. But she had a fine ass and big titties and the juiciest pussy I ever tasted. Shaved cleaner than Tupac's head.

LANG - Ewww, that's disgusting. You stuck your tongue in a dirty prostitute's pussy.

MARKS - I made sure she washed the shit out first.

IRWIN - You mean washed the sperm out from the guys that got there first.

MARKS - Whores make you use rubbers.

LANG - Not if you pay them enough.

MARKS - Trust me. The bitch was clean as a...clean plate, and I licked that cunt's cunt through and through.

EDWARDS - Who gives a rat's ass? Did you stick your dick in her anywhere?

MARKS - Everywhere! And, dog, I ate that bitch's pussy so freakin' well that she rewarded me by giving it to me for free. Then I traded her off to my cousin.

LANG - No bitch that sucks dick for a living grants freebies. You're lying though your yellow teeth.

MARKS - I'll lay my hand on a bible.

DRUDGE - I better never see you put your dirty, stinking paws on top of God's words.

LANG - I second Sarnt. You can keep your filthy fantasy.

IRWIN - I doubt you got a freebie, it was probably a mercy fuck.

MARKS - You're all just jealous.

EDWARDS - Maybe I'd be if you titty-fucked her.

TED - I notice that you're all sporting identical tattoos.

SANTANA - Hoo-ah! They're tats of our dog tags. They've got everything that's written on them.

TED - I take it that they're for identificational purposes?

SANTANA - Fuck no! We did it for unification! Like the Musketeers, all for one and one for all.

(TED takes a bite out of the burrito in his MRE and spits it out to the ground.)

SANTANA - Don't waste that bite of food. You might need it later.

EDWARDS (grinning) - He’s probably too used to eating fancy French food at that Windows of the World joint.

LANG - You retard. That restaurant used to be in the World Trade Center. Unless you meant it as some other kind of crack.

MARKS- You think Saddam did it?

TED - Did what?

(TED might be clueless but the other MARINES understand. LANG and IRWIN make grimaces.)

LANG - You’re a mental defect as well. How many times do Irwin and me have to explain to you that Iraq had nothing to do with September 11th?

MARKS - I heard Dick Cheney say it.

IRWIN - Politicians always lie. Ronald Reagan swears he used to be an actor.

MARKS - Then why does the Colonel keep bringing it up?

IRWIN - To get us fired up! What the brass says to us isn’t important only that we do what they say. Marines follow orders.

SANTANA - Marines do all the dirty work.

IRWIN - That’s why USMC stands for United States Misgodded Children.

DRUDGE - Let’s not forget the reason we’re here. United by the memory of the heroes and innocent victims of September 11, we are a nation determined to triumph in the war against terrorism. This is the best and only way to honor our fallen.

(All of the MARINES stand up straight and bark out together.)

MARINES - Semper Fi! Hoo-ah!

(SANTANA points to TED’s MRE.)

SANTANA - What did you get for dessert?

(TED looks inside his MRE.)

TED - What do you know? Looks like a piece of crumb cake.

SANTANA - Trust me, you’ll like that part of our Most Revolting Eats. Anybody get the M & Ms?

EDWARDS - Yeah, and they're peanut but you ain’t getting any.

SANTANA - You won’t trade me even for some jalapeno cheese spread?

EDWARDS - Deal.

SANTANA - Hey.

EDWARDS - I only et a couple.

LANG - Who in their right mind would trade their jalapeno cheese spread?

SANTANA - I’ve had better.

EDWARDS - You mean back in Mexico. You’re just a Haji with a sombrero.

IRWIN (points away) - PFC Edwards, the enemy is "that-away."

SANTANA (explaining to Ted) - I was originally born in Mexico but my parents moved to Texas when I was twelve.

(TED becomes a reporter for the first time and asks his first real question of the day.)

TED - Are you a naturalized American citizen?

SANTANA - Not yet. But I’m hoping that after the war the government…

DRUDGE - If you die, they’ll be sure to make you one.

(EVERYONE else including EDWARDS become serious after DRUDGE speaks.)

TED - So, essentially, you’re fighting for a country that isn’t really your own.

SANTANA - Oh, I consider myself an American…and a Marine and a Texan and a Mexican.

LANG - As well as an idiot, dog, for trading away your cheese spread.

IRWIN - Maybe Santana's bucking for a Section 8.

SANTANA - You kidding me. I love this job! Do you guys think Saddam Hussein is still alive or dead?

EDWARDS - I bet they decapitated that rat-bastard on the very first night.

MARKS - I was heard that the attack was all President Bush’s idea. A last attempt to avert the war. Strike the head and the body will soon die.

(EDWARDS stands up in order to pantomime the action he describes.)

EDWARDS - Dropped a bunker buster –clunk – right on the king of the Hajis’ head.

(EDWARDS falls to the ground as if he were a dying Saddam. He is trying hard to prove he has a sense of humor but no one except DRUDGE really thinks he’s funny.)

TED - Guys…

(The MARINES look at TED.)

TED - I doubt very much that it was successful. (after a slight pause) Unfortunately.

(MARKS and IRWIN and SANTANA, LANG and EDWARDS turn to one another to argue and discuss what TED has just said. DRUDGE shoots TED with an icy glare.)

DRUDGE - How the fuck would you know? You’re out here in the dark like the rest of us. We can only see a little bit of the whole campaign. The war could be already over for all we know.

EDWARDS - You’re talking out of your shithole!

(TED can’t help justifying himself.)

TED - I know what I know because I have a satellite phone. I use it to dictate my stories back home but I also receive updates. My editor feeds me samplings from the press conferences in Washington and Qatar. My girlfriend relays unsubstantiated rumours from who-knows-where-or-by-whom on the Internet.

SANTANA - How come you didn’t tell us you had a phone?

IRWIN - I need to call my agent. All this might really be for real.

MARKS - You mean they’re all saying that Saddam’s still alive?

EDWARDS - Says who?

TED - Most are saying that. But the Pentagon continues to claim that he was at least wounded in that missile strike and that they have pictures to prove it, though they won’t release them to the public yet.

MARKS - Are we winning?

TED - We’ve dropped thousands upon thousands of bombs and they’ve shot off, maybe at most, a couple easily deflected rockets.

EDWARDS - I knew this shit would be a cakewalk.

MARKS - Were there chemical or biological agents in the rockets they shot so far?

TED (answering quickly) - No.

LANG - You sound like you don’t think they have any.

TED - That remains a projectable possibility.

DRUDGE - Rockets or SCUD missiles qualify as illegal WMD.

TED - Not necessarily, the UN allows for Iraq to maintain a supply of small arms for self-defensive purposes.

DRUDGE - Are you saying that when Saddam summarily executes people it’s because of extenuating circumstance but we’re here to commit a pogrom?

TED - I didn’t say anything close to that.

DRUDGE - Yes you did. You heard him, right, Edwards.

EDWARDS - Yes, sir. He said the program was a pogrom.

MARKS - What’s a pogrom?

TED - It generally refers to the massacre of defenseless Jews.

MARKS - I thought we were fighting the Arabs.

IRWIN - We are fighting the Arabs. Sarnt just used a Yiddish word.

MARKS - Who the fuck are the Yiddish?

DRUDGE - Keep your ignorant mouth shut and that’s an order! (to TED) Man, you can’t even be trusted to quote yourself honestly. God knows what you make up in your stories. I hope your editors do some major fact checking.

TED - Don’t you fret, I work for a prominent publication in New York City and they make sure everything checks out and is proofread. They don’t hire liars.

DRUDGE - So you’re not a liar. But are you a believer in the cause? Why do you think that this is named Operation Iraqi Freedom? We’re on a mission to help helpless people rise up and beat down their oppressors.

TED - I’m not against that mission.

DRUDGE - That’s not the applicable question. The real question is ‘are you for it enough?’

EDWARDS - Hoo-ah. As Lang would say ‘are you down with us?’

LANG - I might have said that if I were alive in the early seventies.

IRWIN - I can picture you with a monstrous Afro.

DRUDGE - Newsman, you’re not like us. You’re not really for anything, are you?

TED - I’m for justice. There’s no doubt in my mind that regime change in Iraq isn’t a worthy cause. I just can’t say, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Saddam Hussein still has WMD. We may have to just wait and see. It’s been speculated that there’s a so-called red line or red zone marked by the Republican Guard around the city of Baghdad and if and when it’s crossed, any biological or chemical weapons will be deployed.

MARKS - That’s why we got the NBC gear that will protect us.

EDWARDS - If the Commander in Chief says Saddam has ‘em, that’s good enough for me.

DRUDGE - I say it too. So, change the fucking subject.

SANTANA - Can I use your phone to call my girl?

EDWARDS - Why don’t you just send up a smoke signal?

LANG - Ignorance must be bliss to a cretin like you.

TED - Sure, I don’t see why I couldn’t let you make some phone calls home. Let me just find the satellite. (waves the sat phone around) There. Do you know how to use one of these thingamajigs?

SANTANA - Ear here and mouth there.

TED - That's about the size of it.

SANTANA - Baby, can you hear me? It’s me.

(After TED’s finished, LANG takes him aside so they can talk out of earshot of the other MARINES.)

LANG - It’s no secret; I’m a black man. I was born with an instinctive distrust for government. I only enlisted so I can finish up college. Marines, typically, are not like regular people. They’re trained to hunt and kill that’s why we call each other dog. But most of the time, I know when to keep my mouth shut so they grudgingly accept me.

TED - Then why did you pick the Marines?

LANG - What can I say? I hated planes even before September 11th, the ocean makes me blow chunks and I have an old-school uncle who served in ‘Nam that put the fear in me that the Army was racist as a mutherfucker.

TED - Yeah, and you guys clearly live in interracial harmony.

LANG - Sure there are rednecks like Edwards but soldiers in wartime traditionally demonize the enemy and it’s more about hating them than me. It’s not easy to kill a human being. Every person knows that the Marines are renowned bad-asses so maybe it’s just the gangster in me.

TED - I might have a bit of that myself.

LANG - Well then, you must be real O.G. and keep it hidden. But, son, when I signed my life away I sure the fuck wasn’t expecting any shit like this. Clinton was in office and I never thought Gore would lose… (pauses) Which y’all know he actually didn’t…so I thought I’d be a million football stadiums away from harm.

TED - We all used to be.

LANG - Ted, I’d like your thoughts on something that’s been bugging me out. But forget my name, hometown and especially color because this is strictly off the record.

TED - You have my word.

LANG - I read some stuff on the Internet about pox shots. How it may give you the Gulf War sickness that killed lots of vets. I even had a buddy back in boot camp that refused the shot. They arrested him and threatened him with a lengthy imprisonment on account of refusing orders but, luckily, he got off with just a dishonorable discharge.

TED - That's reasonable.

LANG - Flipping like that ain’t gonna get me money for school so I had to bite the bullet. Do you think I should worry? You took it too, right?

TED - I’ve heard that there may be some unintended negative health consequences but the effects of being attacked with it are horrifyingly evident.

LANG - So even with all your doubts about Iraqi WMD, you still believe that we may face a chemical weapons attack.

TED - Between you and me, honestly, in all probability, speaking strictly from my gut – no. But anything is possible. And it might not be long before everyone in America receives inoculations anyway.

LANG - You really think?

Ted - Remember the anthrax attacks of 2001. Those were mainly directed at the Media but it was normal people and mailmen that suffered most.

LANG - You’re right about mailmen. They ain’t like normal people, either.

TED (chuckles) - I didn’t intend to say that.

LANG - Thanks for keeping it real. It relieves me to know that a man as well informed as you can display such prudence. I’ve read a lot of crazy shit on the Internet. It’s hard to know whom to believe.

TED - Anytime.

LANG - I’ll pay you back with some safety tips that they didn’t get to learn you in your one-week boot camp. First thing every morning, rub Vaseline jelly all over your thighs so they don’t chafe when you’re crammed into the tank.

TED - Thanks. My legs feel like they're on fire.

LANG - I have some jelly in my gunny that I can lend you. Second, but in a much higher caliber, some friendly words of advice: learn to watch what you say. Always remember with vigilance that Marines are trained to kill, not think.

TED - I'm learning when to back down.

(LANG grips TED’s shoulder in affection.)

LANG - You do that. Our asses belong back in the safe confines of Brooklyn.

(DRUDGE snatches the phone away from SANTANA to use it for himself.)

EDWARDS - I can’t wait to get a better look at the awesome shock and awe campaign.

IRWIN - We saw it from Kuwait before we began our march in country. The shit was just like the opening scene in Apocalypse Now.

EDWARDS - I wanna see what it looked like on the TV. I wanna be able to see the Hajis blowing up in close-ups.

(The LIGHTS GO OUT and the CURTAIN FALLS DOWN.)

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