Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Chaos Factor

“The Chaos Factor”


Geoff Boccia

Feb. 2012

“The Chaos Factor”

Present day.
Black screen.
SOUND – Husker Du – Makes No Sense At All.
Title (blue, gray, red)



Minimal furniture.
Several cardboard boxes.
Short stacks of papers, photos.
A bass guitar.
Music, lower volume.
The front door opens.
Enter JANIE. (25ish, attractive)

Greg? Are you here?

Some banging sounds, shuffling of boxes.

(muffled) Minute!

Where are you?
(indicates boxes and photos)
What is this stuff?

ENTER GREG from hallway, carrying box.

Just a bunch of shit from the attic. Band stuff.

Band stuff? You mean from when you were
a kid? Like, school band?

(pointed glance)
Yes, gonna dust off the old Tuba.
No, my old punk band, Kaos Faktor.
I told you about that, right?

Um, no.
Punk band? Like, Sum41?

Jesus wept. No not that candy ass stuff.
Hardcore. Eighties shit.
I told you about this.

Yeah, no, you didn't.
When you said you were in a band,
I thought you meant like marching and stuff.

GREG stops rummaging through box, looks slowly up at Janie.

So the incessant Ramones and Minor Threat
and Clash records I play were no indication
to you that I was probably not a Glockenspiel player?

Records. HA! You don't even have any records.
You mean the MP3s you play, old man?
Never paid them any attention.

Hand me that photo album.
What, you never heard of them?
JANIE hands over photo album.

I've heard of them, I think.
Just never listened to them before.
I mean, the stuff you play, most of it
I don't really care for.

Get out of my house, heathen!
You would've freaked if you'd seen me then.
Probably crossed the street and hoped
I didn't get your scent.

JANIE sits in chair across from Greg.

Why are you pulling all this stuff out?

GREG shuffles through photos.

Happened across it while looking for my heavy coat.
It's been a while since I looked at this stuff.
Sometimes I just pull it out and go through it.

Does this have anything to do with that call you got
last night? The guy, the sick guy?

(not really listening, staring at photo)
Hmm? What? Oh, well, probably. He
was in the band. Look how young!

Do you want to go out tonight?
Haley and Ryan want to go to the Rubber Room.

Can I pass? I just don't feel it tonight.

(rolls eyes)
Whatever. I'm going out, though.

(absently) Oh, have fun.
Where's my damn phone? You seen it?

On the sofa, behind you.
You sure you don't want to go out?

JANIE stands.

GREG stands, puts up finger to indicate that Janie wait, dials phone.

(into phone)
Jared? Hey, assclown.
(laughs) Yeah, I know...

I'm gonna go get ready.

JANIE walks toward door.

GREG mouths goodbye, waves and turns away

(into phone)
What? Oh, nah, they're at their Mom's.
Hey, listen, you get a call from Leo?
No shit, damn shame, man. He says six months to a year.
So I was thinking, we should get together, all of us,
you know, one last time, as it were.

JANIE looks back angrily, leaves closing door behind her.

Don't ya think? Can you get up with Mikey?
I'll call Leo and ask him if he's up for it.
I guess we'll have to go up to Woodbridge, I
don't think he can travel much.
Yeah, you guys can drive down together, right?
Fuck yes, man. It'll be great, get his spirits up, maybe.

GREG sits on sofa, crosses legs, still on phone.



JARED spins in chair, phone at ear.

What's up, jerk-off?
What are you doin'?
Yeah? Sounds awful. That shit will kill you, you know.
So, I got a call from Jinx. You talk to Leo lately?
Yeah, I know, man. Bad shit.
What is it...amyloidosis, or something?
I never heard of it before. But it's taking his ass out.
I can't believe he only has six months or whatever.
Jinx thinks we should get together, man.
In Woodbridge, 'cause Leo probably can't travel.
I'll drive, dude. And get us a hotel room.
Ok, as soon as I know when, I'll call ya.
See ya, fag.

JARED drops the phone into shirt pocket. He rotates back and forth in chair. He stands, walks to a table. Picks up pill bottle, opens it, takes one pill. He looks into a mirror with dead eyes.



LEO sits on bed, hands on knees, shirtless. He is fighting nausea. His face is pale and lined. A large bandage covers his right side, below his ribs. With great effort, he stands and walks to bathroom. SOUNDS of RETCHING. A phone RINGS.

Fuck. Just a minute, goddammit.
LEO staggers from bathroom to beside table. Picks up phone, checking caller id. Smiles warmly.

(into phone)
What's up, hero?
Oh, fine. Just doing some therapeutic vomiting.
No, the cure, man. Makes me feel like shit.
But it looks like this is my last round of chemo, thank God.
What? When?
Oh, man, I'd love that, sounds great.
All of you nut jobs? In one place? I'll warn the mayor.
No, man, I'll be fine, seriously. Just get down here. It'll be fuckin' awesome!


Coffee cups
Duffel bags

JARED is driving.
MIKEY D. is passenger.

This should be fun, man! Been a long time since I've seen either of those two.


Long pause.

What's he gonna be like? Not all gnarled and fucked up looking, I hope.
I can't imagine him like that.

Who, Jinx? He's always been gnarled and fucked up looking.

Don't be an asshole. Leo. I mean, he is fucking dying.

You can't be all fucking morbid when we get there, man. I'm sure that is the last
thing he needs. You fucking ex-junkies are always thinking about death and shit.

I am a recovering junkie, dude. Not such thing as an ex-junkie. Anyway, what's the
deal on his disease or whatever? No cure?
Jinx told me there isn't anything left for them to do. He is done. Sucks.

He can't go to Europe or India or some shit? I hear they have experimental shit
we can't have here in the States.

I'm pretty sure he's thought of everything he can. Besides, you don't want to go to
some backwards-ass quack who injects you with elephant semen or whatever...

What the fuck, dude? Elephant semen?

I read that some psycho doctor in Bulgaria or someplace was injecting elephant
jizz in his patients. True shit, man.

Forget that shit, dude.

You can't. It's elephant semen.

You're retarded. Seriously, I don't know, man. I don't know if I can handle seeing him...
dying. I mean, that is fucking black, man, as black and bad as anything I can think of.
He was a killer singer, this crazy screaming lunatic, always jumping all over the place.
More alive than anyone. I don't know, dude. It just hits you in the gut.

You gotta stop talking like that. Don't be so fucking selfish. He is the one dying, not you.
Give him a good send-off, not a bunch of morbid stupid shit. I don't like it either, dude, but
we can't go in there and be like “Wow, man, this really sucks! You are gonna be dead in a few
months. Pass the salt.” Get your shit together.

You're right, I know. Just sucks, is all.

They ride in silence for a long moment.

Elephant jizz. What the fuck, man.


MIKEY D. and JARED are standing at the reception desk speaking with the hotel attendant. MIKEY D. is looking around the lobby in mild embarrassment, JARED is pulling out credit card and signing hotel receipts. They both have duffel bags slung on their shoulders.

(to hotel employee)
Can I get a room on a lower floor?

I don't think we have anything else, sir. Let me see...
(pauses, types on keyboard, looking at screen)
No, nothing lower, sir. We have a convention this weekend.

Oh yeah? Of what?

The blind, sir.


(smiling thinly)
The blind, sir. Persons who cannot see.

I know what blind means, thanks. But they have conventions? I mean, that is surprising. I can't imagine for what. Like a support thing? “Hey, I'm blind, too. Let's drink coffee and tell blind stories.”?

I think it's more of a convention for blind persons to see new things to make their lives a bit easier.
Feel things.

I'm sorry?

Feel things. You said “see” things. They are blind. You might want to remember that when someone comes up and asks you for directions to the can.

Oh, I see, yes. So far they have been very easy to deal with.

You were expecting what, a riot? Attacks on hotel personnel? “Yes, officer, there is one of the culprits now, wrestling that Ficus tree to the ground. Pepper spray him!”

Does pepper spray work on blind people?

I don't know. Good question. We should ask one of them.

Don't know how that question will go over, dude. Might make them a tad nervous if you go over there and ask that. Besides, they can smell ex-junkies. Excuse me, recovering junkies.

HOTEL EMPLOYEE looks sharply up, alarmed.

Oh, don't worry. He was addicted to gay sex. He's in recovery now.

Jesus Christ, Jared! You asshole.

I am his sponsor. I will make sure he doesn't rub up against any of the blind people. Or the Ficus

He is kidding.

That's true. I can't keep him away from Ficus trees, no matter what I try. I suppose I'll have to
get the horse tranquilizers. Only thing that can keep a gay sex addict from Ficus molestation is
strong horse tranquilizers.


MIKEY D. turns and walks to middle of lobby, muttering. Jared is completing the check-in.


A blind man walks toward MIKEY D. who nods, then winces.

Good afternoon.


JARED approaches carrying hotel papers and key.

Ok, all set. Let's get up to the room and...

From behind MIKEY D. and JARED

Look at these two degenerates!

GREG walks in. JARED and MIKEY D. turn toward him.

Look at you, man! You look good, dude. Happy.

Jinx! You old fucker.

No, not Jinx. Not for a long time, anyway. Call me Greg, man.

Don't know if I can do that. It'll take some getting used to.

MIKEY D. hugs GREG. JARED spins GREG around, hugs him.

So you guys decided to come a day early as well, I see.

Yeah, I want to go back to the old stomping grounds, see the sights...

And I can stop in on a client. Haven't seen the guy face-to-face in a couple of years.

We should grab dinner somewhere, then. I wonder if Filomena's is still open. Get some gnocchi
and some risotto.

Shit! I remember that place. You took us there a couple of times. They always made us sit in the
little alcove thing in the back by the kitchen. Good food, though.

I don't remember that place. Where was it?

Wisconsin Avenue. Just off M street. Next to the canal.

Hmm. Doesn't ring a bell. But, hey, I was fucked up most of the time.

I'm gonna check in. Meet you guys in the lobby?

Ok, cool.



GREG is unpacking his suitcase.

SOUND – a cel phone RINGS

(looking at caller id)
(answers phone)
Yeah? Stop. What, now? Ok...
Hmm. I'm sorry, but I am in DC. (pause) Well, that's not my fault. I should have told you?! (pause) No, that's not how this works. You said you had to take the kids to your Mom's this weekend, so I decided to take a little road trip to see Leo. I do not have to “run things by you”. We are divorced. (pause) Look, I gotta go. Bye.

GREG angrily disconnects. He throws open suitcase on the dresser, turns, walks toward window.

SOUND – cel phone RINGS

GREG checks caller id. He looks up, shaking his head.

(answering phone)
Hi, sweetie! (pause) Well, no, honey, I am in DC. I wish I could. You know I always want to spend time with you, but I am visiting some people. (pause) No, Mommy didn't tell me that.
(pause) I'm sorry, kiddo. I'll be back in a couple of days, we can be together then, ok? (pause)
Ok, honey. Kisses for you and your brother and sister. Bye.

GREG makes as though to throw the phone against the wall but checks himself before he releases.




JARED is hanging shirts in the closet. MIKEY D. is sitting on the bed flipping through television channels.

So, Jinx looks good. I thought he would be a little more, I dunno, stressed out looking.

Well, it's been a year since the divorce. He's gotten over it.

Well, he told me he still loves her, a couple months ago on the phone.

Yeah? Well, that ship has sailed, apparently. He should get a girlfriend, get laid.

He has one. Jennifer or something. She is younger. He said she is dumb as a pair of pink panties.

The best kind. Is she hot?

I guess. But he says he doesn't want to see her anymore. Says she's too much trouble.

They always are. Plus, with his kids and all, I bet that makes it harder. He worships those kids.

Yeah. They are amazing kids, I mean, really smart and capable.

And this surprises you? He is one of the smartest people I have ever known. Too bad he can't do
something with it. He should be a novelist or a film-maker or a teacher. But he just can't deal
with the shit in his life.

Yeah, he is definitely smarter than the rest of us. But that'll kill him eventually. Never
met an angrier person in my life.

Yeah, smart doesn't mean shit if you just don't do anything with it.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Pen (short story, unfinished)

Light, all syrupy, entered through a small slit in the blinds, full of motes, and settled in a swath across her crib. She could hear the Big Ones but could not see them. They made sounds like a happy song, she thought, and smiled. She also made a sound which surprised her, made her stop and wonder at it. She made a few more to see if she could repeat it but could not. She reached for the light, it felt warm and different. She liked it.

Movement caught her eye and she turned to see the Big Ones, noisy and fuzzy. They stopped at her crib, like they always did, and made funny noises, like they always did. But there was a new thing: the light glinted off of something on one of the Big Ones, sparkled there, so beautiful. But then it was gone and they reached for her, startling, heart jumping just for a moment, she flew up to meet them and threw her tiny hands into the soft top-part of the singing Big One, ecstatic and peaceful.


Evie's Daddy was sitting at the big, wooden desk as he always did on Saturdays, hunched over a stack of paper. The papers were the kind Evie was not allowed to touch, the special ones, her Daddy had told her. She and her Mommy had been out at the dance studio all morning and had stopped to get lunch at Mr. Don's place, and had only just gotten home.

The afternoon sun shone in from the back windows, cutting through the curtains, playing off the sun-catchers Evie had made, colorful and warm. A gap between the curtains allowed a shaft of light to cross her Daddy's desk right where he was writing in his little book. As he wrote, the sun glinted off the pen in his hand, the one he always had, everywhere he went. It sparkled in the beam, almost too brightly to look at.

"What are you doing, Daddy?", asked Evie, crossing the study to stop at his desk.

"Hmm?", her Daddy looked up once he finished writing a word. He smiled big at his little girl and reached out to touch her cheek.

"Oh, just paying bills, little bug. Big, grown up stuff.", he leaned close to her and whispered candidly, "It really is a stinky thing to have to do."

Evie laughed and hugged her Daddy's arm, "May I hold your pen?"

"This pen?", he held it up so that the light played off it again. "This is a very special pen, Evie. I got this from a beautiful lady."

Evie, cocked her head, a smile playing on half her mouth, "Was it Mommy?

Evie's Daddy laughed and mussed her hair, "You guessed it, li'l  bug."

For some reason, that pen seemed special to Evie. She didn't know why. It just...well it just was special. It didn't need a reason to be special, she guessed. She had never written with it, only held it once or twice, in fact, only saw it from time to time when her Daddy used it. Like when he payed bills or wrote a check at the hardware store or wrote a note to her Mommy. But every time he did use it, she watched it, how it danced, how it sparkled, how it looked heavy and solid and real. And her Daddy always put it very carefully in his shirt pocket, making sure that the clip snugged it to the cloth.

Her Daddy handed the pen gently to her. She held it, this mysterious instrument, twisting the barrel to make the nib go in and out, felt the ridges that lined it. It was warm in her hand. She glanced up to see her Daddy looking at her, a small smile on his lips, his eyes alive like fireflies. She handed it back.

"It is very special, Daddy. It is pretty.", she said solemnly.


Evie waited for the school bus, kicking pebbles in the street. It was probably a little too cold to be wearing her light jacket but she hated the big, fluffy one. She turned at an engine growl to see her Daddy backing down the driveway. he waved when he saw her and rolled the down the window.

"Evie, you little booger! Why don't you get your heavy coat?", he chided.

"No, Daddy! I like this one.", she said petulantly, stamping her foot on the gravel.

Her Daddy shook his head, a funny smile on his lips, then turned the truck and drove off. Evie regretted the way she talked to her Daddy. She knew he was just trying to tell her that it was cold outside, and now that she thought about it, it was pretty chilly. She felt the wind find the gap in her hood, chilling her, causing her to shiver and jam her hands into her pockets a little deeper and shrug her shoulders to cover her neck. She was about to walk back to the house to get a heavier coat when she saw the bus coming up the street, a loud, yellow caterpillar coming to haul her to her friends and lessons.


When Evie got home that afternoon the sun had warmed the world a bit and she ran up the driveway, jacket tucked in her backpack, excited to see her Mommy and tell her about her day. She noticed that there was an unfamiliar car in front of the house and the front door stood open. She paused in her sprint, wondering at these things, these signs. For a moment, she had a cold feeling in her tummy. Something is not right, here. This is not the routine. 

Evie pushed the door wider and stepped into the foyer. She could hear voices in the kitchen, muffled, low, like when Daddy was talking to Mommy early in the morning so as not to wake her up. One voice was deep, a man's voice, sounding very soothing and a little sad. Evie had never heard this voice before. She wondered to whom it belonged.

When she steeped into the kitchen, Evie saw her Gramma sitting at the little table, holding a glass of water. She looked red-eyed and tired and sad. A man stood by the kitchen sink, very solemn looking but he smiled when he saw Evie. Well, he smiled with his mouth. Evie slowly took her backpack off and let it slide to the floor.

"Hi, sweetie.", Gramma said, extending her hands and flapping her fingers, beckoning her to a hug.

"Where is Mommy?", Evie asked, falling into her Gramma's arms. She felt a tiny kiss on her head.

"She...she is at the doctor's, sweetie."

"Is she sick?", asked Evie, worried now.

"No, honey, she is fine. She is there to see your Daddy. He an accident. The doctors are helping him get better. Don't worry, I am sure everything will be fine.", her Gramma spoke very quietly, soothingly.

Evie pulled back to look at her Gramma's face. She couldn't be sure, but she felt that her Gramma was telling a little lie. When she looked in her Gramma's eyes, they were wet and glistening. Evie buried her head in her Gramma's neck and cried.

"Shhh, Evie, shhh. It's going to be ok. Shhh.", Gramma stroked her hair, whispering to her. "It's ok, baby, it's ok."

The man leaning against the sink cleared his throat and said, hoarsely, "I should head on out, Mrs. Freddo. I will have someone call you from the, uh, from the doctor."

"Thank you.", Gramma replied, squeezing Evie a little bit tighter.

The rest of the afternoon Evie spent with her Gramma. She fell asleep for a little while and when she woke up, Gramma was sitting right there next to her on the sofa, staring at her. It was starting to get dark outside and Evie felt a little shiver.

"I am hungry, Gramma. When are Mommy and Daddy going to be home so we can eat dinner?"

Gramma's face looked very pale. She didn't blink, she didn't move at all. She looked frozen, a little scary.

"What would you like to eat, sweetie? You want some pasta? How about some soup? Soup is nice on a cold night.", Gramma was barely audible, her voice small and tight. She still didn't move.

"I guess soup. I don't care.", Evie replied. She was spooked by the strangeness in her Gramma.

Gramma stood, slowly, and walked woodenly toward the kitchen. She paused along the way to pick up a tissue that was on the floor and passed through into the kitchen. Evie could hear the clang of a pot and then the whir of the can-opener. After a few moments, she smelled something cooking. She stayed on the sofa, tucked in the afghan, eyes wide, staring at a dust mote descending through a beam of light from the foyer, agonizingly slow. Evie imagined that it was a tiny explorer from some far away and very small place parachuting in to the wilds of the living room, mapping it for future explorers.

Her reverie was broken when Gramma spoke from the kitchen. It was so oddly quiet in the house. Gramma didn't even raise her voice to call her for dinner. She padded into the kitchen in sock feet, very hungry now. Gramma had set a bowl on the table with some crackers and a glass of juice.

"You aren't hungry, Gramma?", asked Evie, climbing onto the vinyl chair.

"No, honey, I'm not. I think I'll just sit here with you and have some tea.", Gramma replied, smiling with her mouth but with a dull eye.

Evie ate, crushing her crackers and dropping them into her soup. She was so hungry that she didn't speak, just steadily spooned soup, pausing to sip from time to time from her juice glass. When she was finished, Gramma took the bowl and placed it in the sink along with the pot she had used to heat the soup. After a brief pause, she threw the dish rag in after the dishes and leaned on the sink, eyes closed tightly, breathing slowly.