LADY SCOUTINGTON: How’d it go?
SCOUT DURWOOD: What?
LS: THE COMPETITION!
SD: I went two seconds over time the last night and got a penalty that was just enough to knock me out of the competition, and then I drove through the night to get home.
LS: So you’re out?
SD: I’m out.
LS: Because you weren’t funny enough?
SD: Nope, because I flew too close to the sun and have poor time management skills. I had been cutting my song short at the end to be safe, because scores had been so close, I knew a time penalty would knock me out of the competition, but the last night, I decided to just go for it, and it backfired.
LS: That sucks.
LS: So…. now what?
SD: Well, now we move on.
LS: Aren’t you upset about it?
SD: Sure. I’m upset about all kinds of things in this world. Are you still living in the dark about ebola?
LS: Yes. I am a fictional character. I focus mainly on myself.
SD: “The sun came up over the crest of a canyon, and Scout laughed to herself, the phrase ‘ass crack of dawn,’ having popped into her head and not yet having had the chance to pop back out. The morning was still, and though she was exhausted, Scout did not mind the drive…”
LS: It took you until dawn to get back from San Francisco?
SD: No. This is about coming back from Arizona.
LS: When were you in Arizona?
SD: Thursday. I did a night at the Tempe Improv. Sunday I drove through the night back from San Francisco, Wednesday I went to San Miguel and back with Kristin Key, and then Thursday I drove to Phoenix for Queer Queens of Comedy and back for an audition at 11am on Friday.
LS: Look at you, Miss popular.
SD: I didn’t book it.
LS: You never book it.
SD: I’ve booked some things.
LS: We never dance anymore.
SD: We dance all the time!
LS: Name the last time!
SD: Last Saturday in Tahoe! And then we cried ourself to sleep.
LS: No, you cried. I was thinking about mermaids.
SD: I’m going back to my story. I find profound comfort in words.
LS: You would. Come get me when you’re ready to work on mermaids.
SD: Shoot! I forgot, we totally have to work on mermaids.
LS: No, no. Finish your little bloggy blog first. The mermaids aren’t going anywhere.
SD: Are you sure? I promise, this will be fast. It’s really just about a moment in the desert when I finally felt…
LS: Save it for the blog.
SD: Okay. I’ll be there in a second, and we can talk about the mermaids.
*Lady Scoutington disappears in a cloud of pink smoke. a moment of silence passes, then Scout goes to the mini fridge and pours herself a wine glass full of energy drink, her favorite flavors of which being orange and pink. she stares at her computer, then at the orange in the wineglass. she writes.*
SD: “Scout did not mind the drive, even though it was long. There was peace, for her, in motion. It felt good to be moving, even if it was just there and back. Scout was thankful for diet coke on tap in gas-station-big-cups and for cruise control, too, as bit by bit her tires swallowed Arizona highway miles in a landscape that was either immaculate or forgotten.
Scout had been ordering things in the mail more often these days because she was hungry for good news and liked to have something to look forward to throughout the day.
She was thankful for low-lying fences that hung snugly against the waist and thighs of highway hills, like a tango dancer and her partner dancing to familiar songs.
She thought about how on a three hour drive, the celebration begins with one hour to go, but on a six hour drive, it is permissible to celebrate at three.
Scout ate a carrot and adjusted the air conditioning. She was tired of gas station produce, but happy for the sun.”
LS: You write like hipster Hemingway.
SD: No I don’t, I’m Joyce.
LS: Because you didn’t start writing until your…
SD: So help me, Lady Scoutington, if you say my age right now, I will…
LS: Now we’re talkin! That’s the fire I like to see. Now about those mermaids…
SD: Yes. It is time to write about the mermaids.
LS: Great! I’ll get the music!
*Lady Scoutington plugs the pink jam box into Scout’s little blue computer and turns on a familiar song. Scout’s body feels heavy, but has not forgotten how important it is to dance.*
SCOUT DURWOOD: Scout left the room, defeated, and tired from all that dancing. She had gone from winning day one to not placing in the top five, day three and couldn’t help but worry that she had lost her funny, or, even worse, had mistaken it for luck the entire time. She couldn’t help but feel like trying and not trying were the same thing, only one involved pronounced disappointment and the other did not.
She resented the dress she thought was lucky. She resented dancing and split ends and crowds of 400 at a casino in Tahoe where the median age was over sixty five. She resented the casting assistant who had knocked her out of a program she wanted to be in for two years in a row. She resented wanting to be better at something at which she did not know how to improve. She wished she had wanted to be a basketball player, instead.
Mostly, however, she was just very sad, and so she went to bed, did not wash off her make up, and left her contacts in her eyes, the way a medieval catholic might wear a hair shirt to be made aware of her eternal shortcomings and of the pointlessness of it all.
She hoped her funny would come back soon, and also googled prices for cabins in Vermont, just in case it never did.
LADY SCOUTINGTON: Jesus, Christ. Indulgent much, Scout?
LS: I said, indulgent much? Go sing karaoke with your goddamn friends. Who cares about a stupid competition.
SD: Heather told me to win. I want to win.
LS: So win.
SD: I don’t know how. This isn’t basketball.
LS: Ah, basketball.
SD: I am very good at basketball.
LS: But you played soccer in college.
SD: And I hated it. The games were too much pressure for me. I just wanted to run around and play, but I was a goalkeeper, so I had to sit still during games and make very important tactical decisions with which I was extremely uncomfortable.
LS: Then why did you play goalie if you hated it so much?
SD: Because I was good at it. And I was different.
LS: But you hated it.
SD: I didn’t always hate it. Only when it got serious. Then I started to hate it. Before that it was fantastic.
LS: Great. I think we pretty much laid out that metaphor for everyone.
SD: It isn’t a metaphor.
LS: Scout, you always try to go the hard way.
SD: No I don’t. I’m just weird. That’s why I invented you. And a lot of good that did me.
LS: I’m wonderful!
SD: Yes, but you don’t matter.
LS: Excuse me?
SD: In the grand scheme of things, you have never mattered.
LS: You are PMS-ing, for sure.
SD: Yes, I am. And I’ve had two Jamesons, rocks, and I don’t know how to win a competition that I very badly want to win.
LS: This wasn’t your crowd tonight.
SD: No excuses.
LS: Then be funnier.
LS: More contouring on your eyeshaddow?
SD: Not funny.
LS: Apparently, that’s the trend for us tonight.
LS: I don’t know the answer. Quit if you want to. I don’t even get to come out and play anymore. What the hell do I care?
LS: So, what, is this the end?
LS: Fuck you for being dramatic.
LS: Ugh! I said, fuck you for being dramatic! No one cares that you don’t feel funny tonight. It genuinely doesn’t matter. Either be funnier or stop caring, but this blog post sucks.
SD: You suck.
LS: There you go! Fight back.
SD: Do you think room service delivers Jameson, rocks?
LS: I should goddamn hope so. It’s 2014.
SD: Fine. I’ll try again at the competition tomorrow. But if it doesn’t work then, I’m quitting.
LS: Whatever. I just want to end this conversation as it is very hipster and annoying.
SD: You know, anytime we start to feel anything negative at all, you say stuff just like that. You undercut our feelings because you don’t think they do or should have vale.
LS: Absolutely not. I am not letting you turn this on me. Go cry yourself to sleep, peaches. I’m going to watch a movie on hotel cable. I know it may not feel like it now, but there are people in this world do who end up with development deals, and I, for one, intend on enjoying their work.
LS: Goodnight, Scout.
SD: Goodnight, Scout.
LS: My name is Lady Scoutington.
LS: No way. You can’t take away the fact that I exist just because you are being a grump. I exist, and even if I don’t get to come back for seventeen years and when I do it’s on cable access, next to a woman in a pale blue pleather shirt talking about her life as a dog trainer, I am coming back. You are not getting rid of me no matter how hard you cry about it.
SD: Hello, room service? I’d like to order a Jameson, rocks.
LS: Ugh. Pass me the remote control. If I have to sit through one more minute of this sob fest, I’ll burst.
SD: Is there anything funny on TV?
LS: Always. Somewhere in the universe, there is always something funny on TV. You just have to be less judgmental and look.
SCOUT DURWOOD: “I’m so sorry, do you guys take cards?” Scout asked timidly, confused by the toll booth’s sudden and unannounced appearance in the middle of an otherwise uninterrupted highway.
“No, we don’t,” the toll booth operator said flatly. Scout had a thought to play the game she had learned from her boyfriend in college who used to make up pretend names for toll booth operators and was also the only man she had ever loved.
Then she looked helplessly at her wallet, and decided to stick to the task at hand. “But I only have four dollars,” she said. The toll was six.
“They’ll send you a bill in the mail in two weeks,” Talañya said, which is what Scout had named the toll booth operator, despite her best intentions not to.
“Who will?” Scout asked, and Talañya handed her a yellowjacket yellow piece of cardstock on which were printed a series of instructions. Once again, Talañya was annoyed. Scout looked at her wallet, then at the cardstock, then at Talañya, before reluctantly driving the rest of the way through the toll booth, ego bruised and confused. The yellowjacket cardstock read “Toll Evasion Penalties” and listed a $25 fine for a first offense.
“But I didn’t evade it. I just spent all my cash on a gas station salad at lunch. When did it become criminal to embark on a road trip with a debit card?” thought Scout. It didn’t seem fair to her that there was a law about which she knew nothing, and she was genuinely sad for having broken it, not to mention being forced to let go of all the other things she had planned for that twenty five dollars.
She imagined a ribbon tied around the city of San Francisco that she had broken through accidentally without permission. She imagined the ribbon falling slowly into the water as passers by commuted and watched, their side glances rich with judgement and silver lined from silicon valley.
LADY SCOUTINGTON: Scout! What the hell do you think you’re doing?
SD: Telling a story!
LS: I can see that, but who in the world is that main character?
SD: It’s me. I am. It’s a story about me!
SD: Well, I’ve always wanted to be a fictional character, and…
LS: I AM YOUR FICTIONAL CHARACTER! That’s why you invented me! To be your fictional character!
SD: Yes, but you don’t really get to come out very much anymore. Los Angeles has been a very different economy for us, and…
LS: Just show me the stage!
LS: Goddamn this city is tough. Los Angeles is a black hole for theater.
SD: Listen! I have been having just the hardest time writing anything lately, Lady Scoutington. It’s like, I could start a whole bunch of things, but then I kept getting stuck, so I had all these half stories and half songs, and I was feeling really sad about not having anything to show for all my hard work…
LS: Which explains my recent lack of material.
SD: Exactly! Without you having to perform every night like we did in New York, we had to evolve. I had to evolve.
LS: So now you get to be the main character in the story?
SD: Yes. I think so. Yes.
SD: You still get to sing.
SD: Except for some of these sad songs I’ve been working on, which may not make sense for you, considering your temperament…
LS: That’s fair. I am overwhelmingly indulgent. Genuine emotions fall flat coming from me.
SD: So… can I get back to the story about me?
LS: I guess so. But if at any point you need someone to wear a bunch of feathers…
SD: Don’t worry. I’ll call you.
LS: Great. Well, get to it, I suppose.
SD: Great! Now, let’s see… where was I…
LS: You had just arrived in San Francisco for a Comedy Competition…
SD: Yes! “Defeated, Scout made her way through what was fastly becoming the longest leg of her journey. Along with its aggressive toll booth evasion rules, San Francisco had many unmovable stretches of highway to overcome, which Scout found neither welcoming nor familiar.
A part of her already wanted to give up.
She arrived at the competition and was immediately underwhelmed. She slowly made her way through Haight Ashbury, and couldn’t help but notice how many people were dressed like lesbians. There was one man in a peacoat and tailored pants who looked like a rat who had been turned into a man to operate Cinderella’s stagecoach on its way to a ball. Scout parked her car, Janet, and walked to the theater, afraid her ukulele case would make her blend in and she would be mistaken for one of them.
“Look at all these people in jackets! Why, it’s only September,” she thought, anxious to return to her beloved Los Angeles where the only seasons were pilot and love.
There was an awkward orientation when she arrived. Also, a pop up crepe stand, which was filled with gluten, and of absolutely no use to Scout, who was hungry and angry at having just mysteriously ruined her favorite sweater with an unmovable black stain. Possibly exploded mascara. She made a note to check her make up bag when she returned to Janet, her car.
“How far away is Tahoe?” she asked the guy who appeared to be in charge. Not being a fan of fine print, she hadn’t yet looked at the competition schedule and was finding out that her Saturday show was in Tahoe for the first time.
“Four and half hours, give or take,” he said. Scout was visibly upset. She had just driven all this way, had to drive again, and next week had to drive even more.
For the second time that night, Scout wanted desperately to give up. The results of the competition would be announced at the end of every night. At the end of each show, they would announce the top five winners, and at the end of the weekend, they would announce the top five overall who would advance to the semi finals for the chance to win $5,000.
For the third time that night, Scout wanted to give up. Comedy is subjective. She was afraid of losing, and so, did not want to compete.
“Win,” a friend text her. “Just win.”
Scout stared at her phone blankly in the lobby of the stupid theater. Her friend was right. The only way out of this was to win.
“But what about?”
“Win. Just be the funniest and win.”
Scout was not swayed when they did not take cards at the bar. She offered the bar patron four of the seven dollars she owed them, and was awarded a glass of white wine at a friendly discount of three dollars.
She walked in to the competition, determined to be funny, and she won. The ribbon around San Francisco was lost completely in the water by the time she crossed back over the bridge to her uncle’s house in Marin. That night, she decided to change her life entirely. Rather than give up, she was now resigned to win.
I wonder if the reason we start wars is that sadness is inevitable, and we need something to back it up. Do we pick fights because we are too far chicken to remember being eggs?
(Eggs preceded, by the way. They have been around since since feathers lacked function as well as form. I have never understood that particular debate. Still, no need to start a war.)
I wonder if we kill each other because we would feel sadness either way, which makes us angry, which makes us sad.
The world has been sad this week. My world has been sad. We lost a friend who made us laugh. One of our bravest knights fell on his sword, leaking sadness into a place that used to keep sadness away.
But sun yields shadow.
So, I wonder, if there was no war, if we neither gave nor received awards, if there was no such thing as success, what we would find in our lives that was hard.
When I was poor, poverty seemed unbearable and mean.
When I was out of love, the only solution seemed to get back in it.
But I still get sad sometimes.
So I wonder, do we as humans create tragedy because tragedy innately lives within.
Do we come up with ideas, or do we simply write them down.