Scene 7 From Sarcoxie & Sealove
By Sander Hicks.
Sealove back in his dad’s kitchen, Dad is eating a snack, looking at Washington Post. Ghost of Coby Benton is rummaging through the fridge.
Sealove Hi. What are you doing up?
Tom I never sleep through the night any more. Where’s Sarcoxie? I thought she drove.
Sealove She did. She’s spending the night at a friend’s.
Tom Someone in the band? How was the concert?
Sealove The show. It was good. She has a great voice. As you know, she’s grown. She’s writing new material. I’m trying to get her to take more risks.
Tom Ah, Risk. The soul of capitalism.
Sealove Oh, boy. Are there any beers left (he looks for some in fridge) Risk is a myth! There is no interest in new, exciting, different forms of production in the mass media, the big money doesn’t want to risk anything on substance, danger, dissent. When was the last time you tried to present a vibrant alternative to the boring status quo, and got shot up? I am risk. Capitalism hates me.
Tom Oh, you had a small anti-establishment newspaper for a relatively short period of time. You appealed to a niche, a small, limited market, how could venture capital really find that to be scalable?
Sealove I don’t want to be in a niche! I want to liberate the masses.
Tom But the masses want big TVs, they don’t want to talk about politics.
Sealove You’re from working-class people, but when was the last time you TALKED to working-class people? You can think that, about big TVs, but you should have been there today, Hunter, the master carpenter, after the show said some incredible, smart things. He knew more about politics than I thought. Working-class people are brilliant, but they are misinformed.
Tom What about carpentry? Have you ever thought about really buckling down and getting serious about that? I mean, you’re 32, you’ve got to be serious about something. I mean, I wouldn’t mind, even if it was the carpentry. But something.
Sealove turns to Coby Benton.
Sealove He doesn’t know me.
Coby What am I chopped liver?
Sealove (to both) I can’t be a carpenter all my life. I keep daydreaming of things irrelevant to building houses, and then BAM, I’ve driven a hammer staple through my thumbnail, I’m squealing like a girl, and cursing my thoughts. (To CB) What was your death to him?
Coby Probably not that much of a surprise, really.
Sealove What was your writing? What was that newspaper?
Coby Shit, not the “crusade” you made it. But he read it in the papers when they said you were making a “crusade” about me and my writing. He loves you, Sealove, we all do. Remember that.
Tom What about graduate school? American Literature? Then you could teach. You’d be so good.
Sealove I know I often think about that , but in a university, I’d feel cut off from the fights of history. It’s nothing without a fight. Your daughter sang that today. And now I feel better about my life. Finally.
Tom You have no money, and at this rate, you never will. You have no savings, what if you met someone, and you wanted to settle down? It’s a hell of a way to live, son, a hell of a way to live.
Sealove How would you know? You turn on the television and sarcastically say “let’s see who we bombded today” but do you speak out against the bombing? Years ago, you said you would come with me to the counter-march protesting the Gulf War parade. But when the day came, you suddenly couldn’t make it. You’ve got a suspicion about your own life, but then the cynicism breaks across you like a wave, and the suspicions are washed away. With a joke, or a sharp comment.
Coby Remember, also, to say:
Sealove I love you. But in this family, love has always been critical, an argument, a harsh assessment Hey, there’s a protest against the IMF/World Bank downtown in exactly 2 weeks. Come out and join us. March. Speak out. You’re of two minds, I’m talking now to the better part in you.
Tom Those crazies? They don’t know what they’re talking about. They don’t know economics.
Sealove But some of your brightest colleagues have crossed the line, men you always found frank, friendly, down to earth. The world economic system needs serious repair, it needs your sober criticism. Joe Stiglitz is calling to you from the other side of the ravine. It’s not easier over here, but it’s better for the soul.
Tom (while getting up) I decided long ago that Jesus Christ didn’t really rise from the dead, he was drugged by the disciples. They revived him to pull off the biggest scam in history. There are no messiahs, there is just science, and hard work. I tried to do the best I could with my life. I think I did all right. Poverty’s not gone, but we put a dent in it. I’m OK with that. I think I can sleep now. (gets up) I would say I love you but you make me so mad.
Ghost of Coby Benton sits where Tom was sitting
Coby Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.
Sealove No surprises.(S goes to fridge for another beer.)
Coby We need to sleep too. You’re gonna be off your schedule, partner. You’re gonna be a bear to wake up at 6 on Monday.
Sealove It’s Saturday Night! Or it was.
Coby Sleep. Dream of me. I will tell you secrets.
Sealove You’re dead. You only have the past. You’re like him. I’ve heard the jokes a million times.
Coby But you love them anyway. You love your old man, for his loyalty to what he believes in.
Sealove It’s become obsolete.
Coby You have to love him because he allows you to be your own man.
Sealove Most of the time
Coby And philosophize freely about a better world. You should tell him that sometime. He won’t be around forever.
Sealove I know.
Coby Sleep. I will tell you stories.
Sealove But I don’t want anymore of your stories! That’s all you are, stories! The guy at Rolling Stone wrote the story on you that’s so weird now he can’t get it published. He told me he can prove that you made up the Candidate’s cocaine arrest story. I don’t know, he won’t show me the piece. Why are you such a weirdo magnet? Every month I get a new email from mysterious beings who cluck and coo how they KNOW Coby Benton didn’t commit suicide, they just KNOW he got whacked by shadowy figures working for the President. I tried to get the story on you first-hand by going to your own home town in Arkansas two months after you checked out. I met the man who found your body in the hotel room with the note. He was the only cop who would really talk to me like a human being. His story held together- Credit Card fraud, alcohol abuse, massive amounts of antidepressants, $800 cash in your pocket and a BMW in the hotel lot when you wrote, “it’s time for me now to go take my pills. Just remember, I am a good man who got caught in bad circumstances. I regret I won’t walk little Adrianna down the aisle some day.” I’d rather crack open a beer and sit here, alone, and think with the last dying lights of sobriety, or at least awakeness, then sleep, then dream, then go somewhere with YOU, and listen to more stories.
Coby Sealove, I thought you were the independent publisher with the balls, the stones, man, some courage. I thought you were the man. I am sorry, because I was sorely mistaken. You can believe what you want, because the note sure looked like my handwriting, didn’t it? Or can they fake that? And it was written the way I write, right? Or could anyone pick up my style by reading my emails, those long winded speeches I gave you so many late nights.
It sucks being dead. I can’t find new facts for you. But I can remind you of the sordid little facts you may have forgotten. My life was threatened after I survived the first media barrage. They didn’t like that I was back, and that my stories would be republished in your paper. On the phone, they said, ‘watch your back, watch your wife, watch little Adriana.’ As easy as phoning in a bomb threat to your high school, and we’ve all been there, right? But I’ll be damned if I didn’t take it seriously. Hell, it was on my mind when I took the pills, and drank the OJ with two thirds of that liter of Smirnoff. That last night in the Days Inn, I was thinking, well, the effect is the same. Watch your back. When he said that, hell, I started to have one eye on my back all the time. It became their eye. They have an eye in my head. It could even still be here, in my ghost head.
Sealove You’re still drunk on vodka and clomazipan.
Coby Yeah, it’s great, isn’t it?
Sealove What’s your point?
Coby Well, I know you’ve got an event coming up.
Sealove What event?
Coby The Big Protest.
Sealove Oh, the demo, the concert
Coby Gonna sell a lot of newspapers?
Sealove No, I don’t run the paper anymore. And I don’t write anymore.
Coby Oh, right, right. But you’re gonna make a big splash in the media with sis’s little combo.
Sealove I’ve got nothing to say to the big media. Both of their eyes have been replaced with hard boiled eggs. I would rather speak with the people in the streets.
Coby Oh great, great, maybe you’ve learned. OK then, but think about this. Sarcoxie’s big show, right? And you’re a big help, big brother, aren’t ya, gonna give the old message some more oomph, more weight, sharpen the saw, and then, well who knows what? She could be next? Would you be able to read the warning signs this time? Would you be able to guide her down better if she was too high up a tree? Are you ready to risk your family? Hell, I sure wasn’t I called my lawyer, I was like, Craig, cancel the contract, but he said, Coby, we can’t, the kid has the stories now and wants to go forward. Would you cancel the show if her life had been threatened? By someone?
Sealove You’re dead. Go to bed and sleep it off.
Coby I’m dead. But buddy I will always be with you. You become what you are not. Out of some thing comes its opposite. Out of my death comes a new life, a new purpose for you is emerging, isn’t it. Well you owe me that. You owe me your new life. I will be with you forever, my ghost will fade a little, sometimes, but then a whole new wave of suspicion will break across your brain like a drink in the face, you will wonder again how I died, and I will be alive.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sander Hicks is a playwright, journalist, songwriter and activist. Hicks founded Soft Skull Press, Inc. in 1996, was lead singer in White Collar Crime from 1996 to 2003, and started Vox Pop/Drench Kiss Media Corporation in 2003. Vox Pop is New York City’s only union-shop, fair-trade coffeehouse/bookstore. Vox Pop recently published Hicks’ new book, The Big Wedding: 9/11, The Whistle-Blowers, and the Cover-up. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife Holley Anderson, and their son, Coleman.
First published in 3:AM Magazine: Saturday, August 10th, 2002.