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Man Alive

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Shiny – Down on his luck safecracker

Lester – Head of crime ring, friend of Shiny





ACT I

SCENE ONE
(SHINY is a man of 30. He is stocky and short, wearing a plaid shirt, and has slicked-back hair swept to a side with his comb. He is sitting in a bar and has clearly been on a bender. He is sweaty, with bags under his eyes. He is yelling at the TV screen where a boxing match is going on. Veins are popping out of his forehead. He asks for another drink, gulps it down and then falls on his face. LESTER comes out of his booth. He is a balding man in his 40’s. He is wearing an overcoat and puts his fedora on his head as he walking over to SHINY. He is also holding a large attaché briefcase)

(LESTER lightly kicks SHINY’S sleeping body.)

LESTER
Come on slugger.

(SHINY bats his eyes and slowly gets up.)

SHINY
Oh, god. My head is throbbing...

LESTER
It doesn't surprise me that I'd find you here, drinking bathtub brewed blotto in a joint like this.

SHINY
Oh... I must have had...

(He trails off and slumps to his side.)

LESTER
Wake up dreamer, you'll find the trash heap you're in much less appealing than counting sheep.

SHINY
No. I'll wake up. I'll... yes. I will...shall...
(SHINY groggily gets up.)

LESTER
You know what I'm inquiring about.

SHINY
Not a clue...no. No.

LESTER
Come on little boy blue; get it through your thick skull.

SHINY
I will... if you stop tying me up in knots...and let me speak.

LESTER
The money, how much did you spend on this swill?

SHINY
I bought one for everybody, one for everybody...on the house...from me. Right, boys?

LESTER
All of them? All of them? How much was it?

(Shiny is struggling to stand up. He braces himself against a table)

SHINY
300 greenbacks.

LESTER
(Getting more and more angry)

How thick could you possibly be? You spent 300 dollars on drinks for a roomful of strangers?

SHINY
The money is clean, right? The jewelry was given to the fence and is being laundered through Joe’s Produce.

LESTER
How could you be such a chump? Joe's Produce isn't a big buck business yet! Are you expecting that the taxmen aren't going to notice that the owner is practically burning money? We're going to have to beat out of here, perhaps to another continent if you make another foolish mistake like this one.

SHINY
Hush, the IRS won't notice anything.

LESTER
How about your sled over there? A Cadillac Coupe? That's not exactly a grocer's car. To add the frosting to the cake, I’ve also seen your wife recently. She’s very happy about her new bungalow.

SHINY
Enough nagging. It’s been a month since the heist. And why bug me? How about Rocky and Flynt? Are you saying they haven’t spent any dough at all?

LESTER
Of course they have, but not in excess like you. You didn’t seem like a man that has no control at all. For the best box man west of the Mississippi, I expected a little more than a useless bag of bones like you.

SHINY
Ease off, old man. I cracked the safe and saved your skin on numerous occasions, I deserve at least a little bit of credit. If you’re going to be so down on everything I do, then I’ll spill it to Tsaoussi. Why shoot for peanuts with you when I can get the bigger bucks with Tsaoussi.

LESTER
I didn’t think you could sink to that low. You wouldn’t…

SHINY
(Glares at LESTER.)
Yes, I would.

LESTER
No, I’ll help us all out of the heap of trouble you’ve gotten us into. Luckily for you, I pull the strings for every flatfoot in LA. Turns out, all you have to is flash a little money, and the true boys in blue will do just about anything.
(LESTER goes into the phone booth while SHINY waits at the bar. Most of the customers are gone now, leaving LESTER and SHINY alone in the foyer with two other people.)

SHINY
Old Granddad on the rocks.

(LESTER gets out of the phone booth and walks to the bar to stand next to SHINY, out of earshot from the customers.)

LESTER
(Sotto voce)
Uncle Lester saves the day as usual. Two cops will come down here with their squad car and escort us inconspicuously to the airport, along with Rocky and Flynt. We’ll pay them a hefty amount of dough and both parties will go their separate paths content. I’ve called a flight to Mexico where we’ll get out of dodge until this thing blows over. I've got the money with me as well, just as a precaution.
(LESTER holds the Attaché case close to him.)

SHINY
(Look of disbelief)
Wait, what? Mexico?
LESTER
That’s what I was here to tell you. There’s this up and coming, spick and span cop who was put on the case. He’s combing the books for evidence and putting a cop on every corner.

SHINY
I know. I’ve been through…
(Long pause as SHINY steadies himself on the table. He hiccups.)
…the roadblocks on the Grapevine and the Santa Monica Freeway.

LESTER
What I’m saying is, if Mr. Bookworm at the station looks at you, a famous box man just off parole and sees that you’re already a self-made man, it’ll raise some eyebrows. And next thing you know you’re wearing pinstripes in San Quentin. You’ll bring us all down with you, because we both know you’d squeal at the thought of serving more time. So the best plan of action is to split to Mexico were no one will be able to follow us.

SHINY
I’d find a way to mess it up. Knowing me, I’d practically be leaving breadcrumbs to follow everywhere I go….
(Stuttering. Averts gaze.)
You…you should leave me behind. I’ll keep my mouth closed if they catch me. Besides, what more is left but the bottle?
(SHINY picks up a bottle and inspects it)

LESTER
Don’t feel so sorry for yourself. Follow me and I’ll give you a second chance, a new life, shed the old one and live the new. We’ll be multi-millionaire strangers in a place where nobody knows us, where we’re far away from the hemp collar and everything else about this rotten town.

SHINY
Really no, like you said I’m compulsive. It’s better without me.

LESTER
I’m not leaving you here. I have to take you with me.

SHINY
Time is wasting, Lester. The real cops will arrive soon, not your paid goons. Lose your selflessness and save your own ass.

LESTER
No, Shiny. No one left behind, no one.
(LESTER balls up his fist)
I’ll knock you out and drag you there if you don’t come yourself.

SHINY
Your own words: you’re only a liability. If I’m just a liability, then why drag me along?

LESTER
Because I care Shiny. Because your life is in the shitter because you brought it to this. And if you follow me then you can start over again. I know it sounds sappy but a blank slate is what you need. As it is, things must seem pretty grim to you.

SHINY
Things are in the shitter and they’ll stay that way. Whenever I befall some money I blow it all on booze.

LESTER
That may be true for now but it’ll get better. Remember when we had our first job together? You were sober and kept the money for longer than a month without spending it on alcohol. You never felt the need to get knockout drunk in some back alley bar somewhere. Now come on, you know cops check the bars that the suspect frequents, second to your house, which has probably already been searched. Perhaps, your wife has already talked about how you always are here late on Friday nights, always dredged up by the bartender and brought back with a terrible hangover.

SHINY
Do I need to tell you why things are this way? Or are you going to keep chastising me like I'm a kid with my hand in a cookie jar. You know exactly why I'm on the bottle, exactly why I've become all defeatist, why I always feel like dying, being planted in a pauper's grave along with Mike and Kay. With a blank tombstone, an unattended funeral.
(SHINY gulps down his drink and pauses for a while.)
These are hardscrabble times, Lester. And your offer, all those years ago, of endless riches and life beyond the law sounded good to me. It was good. There was the gang and we'd meet. We'd bat the breeze all afternoon about this and that, drink prodigious amounts of gin.
(SHINY pauses to drink more.)
That Diner heist ten years ago, that’s when things went wrong, very wrong. When we were putting the soft touch on a couple places across the country. It was one of those jobs that you’d never think anything bad would happen, a hundred dollars at most. Who knew the owner would be packing a gat. Remember when Kay was going to ask for the money? It was all going to go without a hitch. Then the owner pulled out a shotgun and blew him away. He squeezed off two shots…

LESTER
I know Shiny, I was there.

SHINY
Lemme talk. You weren’t there. You were out in the car counting money. You were the one who drove away when the shots were fired. He killed the old gang, Mike and Kay. He clipped me, right in the side. And you left me bleeding there, lying there, onto the dirt. I know it’s all forgiven and forgotten but I still can’t help thinking back on that. This is what this is, isn’t it? Paying me back for that, paying me for those ten years you robbed me of.

LESTER
It was a mistake, Shiny! I had all the reason to believe you were dead. Three shots, three people. I made haste and got out of there like any other man would.

SHINY
No man left behind. That's what you said yourself. No, you snapped. You took off and ran, your indomitable sense of honor dried up like a desert lake when you saw yourself on the ground in a pool of your own blood. There were no cops for miles, there was me, two dead men, an armed cashier. That was it. You could have gotten me, but you didn't, you ran like a hare from hunters.

LESTER
Yes, I did panic... and for that I'm sorry.
(Looks at SHINY with apologetic eyes. SHINY stays incredulous, averting his gaze.)
Making a rumpus about old news like this is helping no one. I understand how you feel and I'm sorry but you're doing the same thing that I did all those years ago. You're panicking and that's helping no one. Gather up your marbles and get out of here. Follow me and you won't have to worry about anything.

SHINY
No apologies. Like you said, it's old news. I don't get why you're still ragging me to get out of here. Just leave! Dangle! Scram! I'm past saving. I've spent ten years of my life in San Quentin and the other half drinking and spending money on that insatiable dame of mine. This fairy tale plan you have laid out for me will never work. Anyway, one day my old war wound from that fateful day at the Diner will act up again and I'll just die. Or my liver will seize up and explode.

(Sounds of sirens draw nearer.)

LESTER
Come on. Enough with this kind of talk. You won't help anybody by staying behind, you're just acting out of bitterness. Just take-


SHINY
No, no, no. I'm enjoying having your life in my hands. You're bound here by your boy scout code of honor. You can't leave me again, the way you left me before. You think you have all the angles, you think your my better.
(Imitates LESTER. Puts on a nasally voice.)
Shiny is no better than mud, a square john who could be bought easy with these bullshit promises of a better future. Shiny's veins course whiskey and he thinks only of returning to the bar to drink till he falls flat out on his face.
(SHINY is infuriated. He is no longer his old dopey self and is wagging his finger in LESTER'S face. His face is taut with anger.)
The way you came in here with your superior airs and disapproving look. And of course, that's not all. That's what tipped me over the edge. I bought a coupe and a bungalow I knew I could barely afford and the cops swarmed like flies to a carcass. They made a deal, a wonderful deal. I give you in, close all the cases you've been involved in, giving the LAPD golden boy his shining moment, and taking off a considerable amount off my sentence. I've been all buddy-buddy to you but I've been plotting your downfall all along. It's easy, no grand scheme, just spend money like the worlds ending, and being who I am, just out of jail, somebody'll notice and the cops'll come knocking sooner or later. Make a quick deal and sit cozy with the cops so the judge can go easy on me. I sung like a canary, just to land your chicken s*** band of thieves in the iron hotel.
(SHINY has an air of pride. His anger lightens as he is filled with satisfaction. He downs more alcohol. Smacks his lips.)
Simple as socks.
(LESTER looks shocked. SHINY is now calm. He is toying with LESTER and enjoying it.)
I’ve got you in tenterhooks now, don’t I Lester? Didn't expect a stab in the back, did you Lester? Especially from me, all our past differences forgiven and forgotten. We go way back, when you were a two bit hood and not a big shot like you are now, begging for scraps from Tsaoussi, that fat, Greek bastard.

LESTER
(Exasperated, pleading.)
No, you wouldn't. You would bring yourself down to that. You wouldn't do that.
(LESTER grabs SHINY'S sleeve. All the power he held before has gone out of him. He is sniveling and begging. SHINY smiles malevolently.)
That was ten years ago, you got your cut, you got everything. I got your lawyer, I made sure you had your day in court, a proper defense.
(He speaks fast, struggling with words.)
I shaved five years off your sentence. Come off it, Shiny, find it in you to just leave this all behind.

SHINY
I'm an ex-convict and a boozehound and there's no place in the world for that kind of person. Except behind bars. And being behind bars won't be that bad when I know that you'll be there too. Of course you can still save yourself, just take off running. You had no trouble leaving me before, back at the diner. What's stopping you now, is it your clear consciousness, Mr. Upstanding Citizen? Is this your access to heaven, helping poor me, a lamb led astray, taken to the bottle and fallen into a life of crime? Well chew on this, Mother Teresa.
(SHINY is delirious. Swaying on his feet, he rams an incriminating finger into LESTER'S chest. LESTER looks at him, still shocked. Then SHINY speaks up again with severity, slowly, annunciating each syllable so that tension hangs on each word.)
I’ll stay on the sinking ship.
(SHINY'S words slow down as he walks backwards, turning around and grabbing his hat off the coat hanger. He turns to LESTER, sharpening his eyes and staring at him.)
You can just run off with the rats.

(Sirens are right outside. SHINY walks out the door. LESTER looks beat. With a final glance at SHINY, LESTER looks down at the counter sadly.)


CURTAINS CLOSE



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