Conversations with Death

Several years ago Dan (you’ll know about Dan if you read the first blog – he’s the artist who supplied the drawing accompanying this blog), gave me a call and asked if I wanted to work on a project with him. And of course I did, so he told me what he had in mind.

He was thinking about a series of stop-motion vignettes about Death. Maybe Death in a bar, talking to the bartender. Bitching about his job, being a regular guy – but of course he’s Death so it really isn’t regular at all. I thought it sounded fun, so I began coming up with concepts. Death and teenage girls, Death and the Darwin Awards, Death has a tough day at the office. We went through several iterations, and the scripts below represent a few of my favorites.

NOTE: In initial drafts I often insert little jokes to myself that not many people will get – I find it fun but I’m guessing a lot of readers would find that annoying. The reference to the “E-Ticket ride” is one of those. Some will get it, some won’t – but you can always Google it if you’re interested.

NO BONES ABOUT IT

Scene: The bar. BARTENDER is behind the bar, DEATH is sitting at the bar, one hand curled around a drink, a cigarette in the other, smoke curling up. The door opens (or maybe we don’t see the door, maybe HUNCH just walks in from offstage) and HUNCH walks in (HUNCH is a very small skeleton with small bones and is slightly hunched over) and sits down next to DEATH.

BARTENDER: What’ll you have?

HUNCH: Milk. And make it a double.

DEATH looks at HUNCH and doesn’t say anything, looks at the BARTENDER. BARTENDER sets down milk.

HUNCH: (Takes a drink.) Good for the bones. You know, exercise, strength training, extra calcium. Don’t want to get too brittle.

BARTENDER reaches out to HUNCH, wait a beat, then pokes a vertebra (probably through stomach under rib cage?) Slight cracking sound and HUNCH compresses ever so slightly.

HUNCH: HEY!

BARTENDER: Wow, that IS brittle. (Reaches out, pokes another vertebra. Slight cracking sound and HUNCH compresses just a little more.)

HUNCH: What the hell! Stop it! I’m not bubble wrap, damn it. (BARTENDER just laughs and starts to reach out again. HUNCH jumps up).

HUNCH: That’s it, I’m outta here. (HUNCH turns to leave. BARTENDER looks at DEATH. Without looking, DEATH reaches back and pokes HUNCH in the hip. Cracking sound and HUNCH goes down.)

BARTENDER: (Looking down over bar.) Nice.

HUNCH: (Pops back up on one leg.) I suppose you think that’s funny!

DEATH: No, not really.

(HUNCH hops out of the bar. Once offstage we hear a crack, then HUNCH speaks): DAMN!

BARTENDER and DEATH look at each other.

DEATH: Now THAT’S funny. (Holds up his drink, the BARTENDER picks up the milk and they click glasses. DEATH takes a sip, and the bartender tosses the glass of milk.)

 

A VERY DISNEY DEATH

DEATH walks into the bar, sits down and doesn’t say anything.

BARTENDER:  The usual?

DEATH:  Yes. Please. (Silence while BARTENDER gets drink. Puts it in front of DEATH who curls one hand around it.)

BARTENDER:  Tough day?

DEATH:  Not really. Just got back from a job in Florida.

BARTENDER: Retiree?

DEATH: No. Tourist. Wanted to get a photo of himself petting an alligator. It’s kind of nice when they make it easy.

BARTENDER: Oh. Right. (Pause while DEATH takes a drink. We hear a buzzing noise and DEATH pulls out his device and looks.)

DEATH: (Sighs.) It never ends. Back to Florida.

BARTENDER: Tourist? Retiree? Jousting mishap at Medieval Times?

DEATH: (Stands.) No. This time I’m headed for the Tragic Kingdom.

BARTENDER: Don’t you mean the Magic Kingdom?

DEATH: (Looks up.) Not when I visit. (Stands and puts device away.) I’ll be packing an 8.5 earthquake in my carry on.

BARTENDER: (Nods head.) Innovative. That’s the ultimate E-Ticket ride, eh? (Pause.) See you later?

DEATH: Count on it. (DEATH exits.)

(BARTENDER picks up DEATH’S glass, looks around, downs the rest of the drink. Wipes out glass with towel and puts glass back under bar.)

 

KNICK-KNACK PADDY WHACK

Set is completely empty except for DEATH, standing to the left of the scene, studying his fingernails.   A moment of silence.

We hear the sound of a dog barking, footsteps running, and panting.  SKELETON goes running through scene R to L with DOG chasing and barking (DOG is a skeleton dog with a perpetually wagging tail).  DEATH’S head turns to watch them goes by.  Goes back to studying his nails.

Sound of dog barking, running, wagging.  SKELETON runs by L to R.  As SKELETON passes DEATH, DOG jumps and grabs an arm bone – hand and all.  SKELETON shrieks and keeps running, DOG chasing.  DEATH watches, studies nails.

Dog barking, footsteps running and panting, wagging furiously.  DOG comes running by with arm in mouth (maybe hand is hanging and flapping?)  SKELETON chasing.

SKELETON:  Come back here with that!  I need that!  That’s my arm dammit!

(Stops in front of DEATH, panting.  DOG is nearby, growling, taunting with arm, still wagging.)

SKELETON: (Looks at DEATH.) It’s my neighbor’s dog.  Barks all night, craps in my yard, and keeps taking my extremities.  He buried my damn leg last week and I had to hop all over for days before I could find it.  Left his damn teeth marks in my fibula.  (Holds out his leg for DEATH to see.  DEATH looks leg up and down, goes back to nails.)

SKELETON:  You ever have this problem?

DEATH: (Looks at SKELETON, then at DOG.) Play dead.  (DOG drops into a pile of bones.  DEATH picks up arm bone and hands to SKELETON, who puts it back on.)

SKELETON:  Thanks.  (Pause.) Huh, I had no idea that dog could do tricks.  (Walks off.)

DEATH: (looks down.)  Good dog. (The tail slightly poking out from the pile of bones wags back and forth.)

Welcome to Endolye

So let’s get it out of the way – a lot of you are probably thinking that Endolye is a terrible name for a blog. Maybe so. It didn’t actually start out as the name for my blog, it started as the name of a place. A fictional place I created many, many years ago.

I’ve been writing for … let’s just say years. I wrote my first short story when I was about seven and if I’m remembering correctly it was about a girl who had a collie dog, and liked to climb the avocado trees in the orange grove near her house. Yes, somewhat autobiographical although the collie was complete wishful thinking – or artistic license depending on how you look at it.

By the time I was in Junior High (that’s right, there was no such thing as Middle School back then), I decided I loved playing with words. In addition to stories I began writing poems. Most of which were really sing-songy, rhymey, non-substantial stuff. But I had fun with them and by the time I was in high school I was writing at least one a day.

Next came college, and who knew you could actually major in creative writing? It would be fun to say I have BFA, but honestly I have a Bachelor’s in English with a concentration in creative writing. Let’s just call it a BA in creative writing (I usually do), and we’ll leave it at that.

After college I didn’t write regularly but I still wrote quite a bit. Over the last … let’s just say years, I’ve accumulated a lot of bits and pieces. Nothing that really screams “publish me,” and I have a great knack for never quite finishing what I’ve started, but it’s still a good bit of work. So why didn’t I do anything with it? I could give you a lot of reasons, but I think honestly it’s a combination of being lazy and a lack of ambition (or are those both manifestations of the same thing? Discuss.). For many years, the only way to get your words out was to find an agent, get a publisher, and cross your fingers. Times, my friends, they have indeed changed.

First came self-publishing outside the vanity press industry. That was – let’s face it – still a lot of work. Then came online publishing, which seemed easier but it felt like you still had to learn quite a bit to do it right. Next came social media, You Tube, and this lovely tool I’m using called WordPress. Honestly, there’s no real reason to keep much of anything to yourself anymore. Well, o.k., apparently there ARE reasons you SHOULD keep some things to yourself (it seems some people have a really low TMI tolerance level), but my point is if you’ve got something to say there’s definitely an easy way to say it to the world.

So here I am. After years of feeling like I haven’t really taken my writing where I should (see above), I’ve finally got an easy, inexpensive way to share my work. So that’s what I plan to do. I plan to dig into my archives and start blogging some of the bits and pieces I’ve written over the years. And I’m sure I’ll occasionally have something new to say as well.

Anyway, back to Endolye. About … let’s just say years ago, I reached out to an old friend who’s an AMAZING artist, Dan Handler. I wanted us to work on a project together, and we had the idea to create a cross-over picture book. A story that felt like it was for a younger audience, but would appeal to adults as well. With wonderful illustrations for most of the pages. The story is about young girl named Dante (don’t start with me, her name is Dante), who doesn’t quite fit in and finds her way to a strange land (one of the first things you learn when you study creative writing is that there are no original ideas). Anyway, the place she ends up is called Endolye. The name comes from the taking the phrase “end of the line,” and saying it over and over, faster and faster. Eventually the word “the” drops out and you have Endolye. Fortunately for me, Dan has also saved a lot of work in his archives, and has agreed to provide me with some of his illustrations to make my blog more visually interesting (I’m guessing, based on this first entry, that’s going to become really important). I’ll be pointing those out along the way as well. For instance, the one for this blog comes from a 2001 New Year’s postcard, and shows one of Endoyle’s main characters, Addis.

Finally (yes, I’m coming to the end at last), I’m given to parentheticals, neologism, and using as many words as possible to get my  point across (you’ve probably guessed that by now), so there’s a good chance a lot of my blogs will go off on some tangents, include some made-up words, and be longer than the average human attention span (which is now less than a goldfish’s – true story, look it up), but hopefully if there’s too many words you can still enjoy the pictures (thank you Dan).

I appreciate you stopping by, and hope you’ll find your way back at some point. Maybe you should just go ahead and bookmark it now. Because, Endolye. Who’s going to remember that?