The Offbeats – Mike Covey

Act 1

Scene 1

Two young men are strolling down winding cobblestone streets in a pub
district of London, talking in cockney accent. The dark night streets vaguely
lit up by the interior lights of various pubs; various crowds milling about
talking drinking laughing leaning against the tables and the mossy stone
structures of ancient and gaudy decorated buildings.

Ben Myers dressed like a dandy in fancy clothes, pint in hand, not a care
in the world:

“The thing about writing…is to catch the eye of the reader. Get their
attention. Something…different. Something…I don’t know, they haven’t
seen before.”

Joe Ridgwell pint in hand, cigarette in the other; wearing ordinary clothes,
but trying to imitate the look of a young artisan:

“Yeah, yeah. But it has to be real. It has to…have an effect on them.
Change them. You know. Mean something. Mean everything. The rest is
just glitter fraud fake. A waste of time. If it doesn’t mean something…it’s
just sham. It isn’t real. It doesn’t mean anything. Know what I mean?”

Ben: “Of course, of course. But nobody’s gonna listen, if you don’t punch
it up a bit. Pitch it with the old pizzazz. Spring it on them from out of the
blue. Or maybe something…something totally new. Something wild…and
weird and foreign and startling. Make ‘em sit up and take notice. Make
‘em jump outta their chairs, crane their necks to get a peak at what you’re
up to. Make ‘em…come running from outta the shadows just to get a
glimse, a taste…”

Just then a young man comes running from the shadows, nearly colliding
with the two men. He grabs at them, catches himself, all outta breath:

“Did you see her?”

Ben: “Who?”

Young man: “My girl, my Melinda. She’s run off with a thong peddler
from Hollinshed!” Shouting now: “Did you see them?”

Joe, looking behind him and motioning toward the long dark alleyway,
nothing visible in the blackness of the night: “Down there, mate. Not a
moment ago.”

Young man, running off into the dark: “Thank you, thank you.”

Ben, looks at Joe, grinning at the obvious lie: “There, you see what I
mean? Action passion affairs of the heart, adventure, crazy zany off the
wall stuff. Run off with a thong peddler? His Melinda, huh? You can’t
make this up. It’s perfect.”

Joe: “Not if you’re him.”

Ben: “But that’s just the half of it, don’t you see? If it were my Melinda
…run off with…a shopkeeper from Trent . Nobody’d give a rat’s ass.
My troubles, my despair, wounded broken heart.” He clutches at his
chest and dramatically falls against the dark building. “and life’s over
and done with. The same thing, you see. But no punch to it. …a thong
peddler, no less”

Joe: “The quickest way to a girl’s heart…”

Both of them laughing in unison: “…is through her thong.”

Ben, pushing Joe away, and waving arms into the air, singing loudly into
the night: “thing me a thong…you’re the p’ano man. Thing me a thong
tonight.”

Joe, joining in the act: “Cause Melinda’s run off with a peddler. And
aint this a wonderful life.”

Fade out to piano music.

Act I

Scene II

The two young men push their way into a lit up crowded pub. Make
their way to a bare wooden table where another young man is seated.
Matthew Coleman, well-dressed well-heeled reading Rimbaud from a
small worn poetry book. Doesn’t look up when the others sit down
beside him.

Ben: “Hey Matthew! How’s the night life treating us?”

Coleman waves his hand detached still reading. Finally looks up,
acknowledges his two companions.

Joe: “How ‘bout some drinks over here?”

A pretty waitress approaches carrying a round of Guiness on a tray. Joe
grabs three pints and winks at the girl.

Joe: “Bring us some ale, when you get ‘round again, m’love.”

He pats her on the backside, lets his hand slide down to her leg. Ben
watches the path of his hand, bending down to follow.

Waitress: “And who’s gonna pay?”

She nods at the pints, plus a couple of glasses of wine already on the
table. Coleman looks at her then at Ben who reacts with open, empty
arms.

Coleman: “Him.” Nodding toward Joe.

Ridgwell makes a face like he’s used to it but none too pleased. Then
takes a long drink, half-emptying the pint, and lights up another cigarette.

Ben: “Can smoke in her, pal.”

Joe, unconcerned: “Yeah, she’ll probably mention it when she gets back
around.”

Ben, to Matthew: “Hey, guess what we just saw. You’ll never believe it.”

Before he can explain, a gorgeous young girl comes back from the
bathroom sits down beside Coleman. He looks at his two friends then
remembers he ought to make introductions.

Coleman: “Melinda.” Then looking at her “couple a ruffians from the
street…joining us for a drink. You don’t mind?”

The girl looks at the two, sees a warmth in their eyes though a bit of a
hungry stare from Ridgwell: “Course not, the more the merrier I always
say.” Picks up her wine glass and finishes it: “Cheers.”

Ridgwell looks at Myers, wondering about the coincidence in names.

Ben: “So…how’d you two meet?”

Melinda: “Oh…it was lovely. Out on the bridge, Derek offered me a pair
of thongs for my feet. Said it was a gift. Didn’t even have t’pay for
‘em.”

Ben, looking at Matthew: “Derek?”

Coleman, still reading, looks up from his book: “Oh…yes, what?”

Before he can continue, a red-cheeked young man pushes through the
crowd and confronts them fists clenched: “Melinda! There you are.”

He grabs her, pulls her up then reaches for Coleman’s throat grabbing
onto the lapels of his coat. Ridgwell gets to his feet in front of the angry
young man.

Joe: “Hold on now, mate…”

Myers jumps up and grabs the man from behind freeing his grasp from
Coleman. The man swings his arm back throws Myers to the side then
punches Ridgwell in the mouth. Myers flies into him from behind knocking
him down on top of Joe. Coleman gets up grabs his glass of wine, decides
to take a pint of the Guiness too. Casually makes his way through the
crowd and out the door.

A couple of large bald-headed or crew-cut bouncers grab Myers and
Ridgwell escort them out the side door of the pub pushing them into the
dark alley. They regain their footing and find Matthew seated at a table
toward the front of the alley.

Ben: “Thanks Matthew. What was all that about?”

Coleman looks up, nonchalant: “Lover’s quarrel I imagine. Was
wondering how I was gonna get rid of that girl.”

The two sit down. Ridgwell picks up the pint of Guiness and empties it:
“Get rid of her?”

Coleman: “Great girl marvelous in bed. But that’s all she wants to do.”

He looks at the others, sees there’s need for further explanation: “Had
to call in sick from work barely had time for lunch. The girl’s crazy.
Just wants it…all the time.”

Joe, mulling it over: “What’s her last name, phone number?”

Coleman waves it off with his hand: “Not your type, Joseph. No…
artistic nature. No, appreciation for the classics.”

Joe: “I could teach her…”

Matthew: “Tried that. In between…but, was like I was talking French or
something.”

Ben, looking at the poetry book: “Maybe you were.”

Coleman: “Ah…yes, but doesn’t really matter does it? You could tell by
her eyes. Sorta glazed over all the time.”

The angry young man finds them in the alley his girlfriend in tow. Sheepish
look on his face now. Extends his hand awkwardly to Coleman. Melinda
having explained things.

Young man: “Sorry mate. Didn’t know you’s her cousin.”

Coleman exhuberantly: “Not a problem my good fellow. We all make
mistakes, no?”

They leave and the waitress comes out with a round of ale.

Waitress: “It’s on him. The bloke who just left.”

Ridgwell: “When you getting off, m’dear?”

Waitress, sternly: “I don’t want to see any of you’s back here again.
Stirring up trouble.”

She turns to go then looks back at Joe: “Around midnight , love.”

They watch her leave. Coleman casually drinks his pint as if nothing’s
happened. Starts to open up his book then thinks of something else.

Matthew: “That reminds me. Lee Rourke’s reading some of his stuff
tonight, at seven or so. I’m supposed to be there.”

Ben looks at his pocket watch, chained to his rumpled vest: “It’s nine-
thirty.”

Matthew: “Good. He should be done by now. Let’s go round and see.”

The three of them pick up the pints from the little table and make their
way down the busy street, up the hills toward Covent Garden . Along
the way taxi’s weave in and out of traffic, people push by on crowded
little sidewalks hurrying to and fro. Ridgwell drains his beer leaves the
empty glass on the window sill of another pub along the sidewalk.
Hurriedly lights up a cigarette as they approach their objective, an artsy
looking side-street bar.

Act I

Scene III

They enter just as Lee Rourke is finishing his reading to polite
applause.

Coleman clapping his hands loudly: “Bravo, bravo, well done.”

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3 comments

  1. Pingback: … the everyday is always unrealized in its very actualization which no event, however important or however insignificant, can ever produce. Nothing happens; this is the everyday. But what is the meaning of this stationary movement? | The gin mill cowboy

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