(S)KILLS

IMG_1714

(S)KILLS

A SHORT MUSICAL

by

Ron Campbell

SETTING:

A Best Buy store and the adjacent parking lot.

The present.

CAST OF CHARACTERS

Chet…………………………….Tough guy in his 30’s with a soft center, Iraq war                                                               veteran.

Doris……………………………Nerdy chick in her 30’s with glasses and member                                                                 of the Geek Squad at Best Buy.

Deeds…………………………..A gaunt man in his 50’s, the shadowy                                                                                          representative of an even shadowy-er company.

(Lights come up to reveal Chet walking amongst the aisles at a Best Buy store. He addresses us:)

CHET

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was watching the Steelers lose again on the tube. This is back when TV’s weren’t flat and women weren’t either. Watching the game. And then those adds came on. You know the ones. Every timeout. Every damn commercial break. “Be all you can be” they said. The promises. All those shots of smiling guys working with computers. “Get today’s life skills from today’s army.” Yeah right. I got some skills alright. But they weren’t the living kind. They were the killing kind. By the end I had more confirmed kills than than a big rig’s windshield on a cross country haul.

I thought I’d get some hands on training. Instead I got hand to hand training. I wanted to make something of myself. Instead they made something out of me. They turned me into a weapon. A sniper. A cold remorseless machine.

And computers? Fat chance. I can crush a windpipe with two fingers but I don’t know how to work this damn iPhone.

And that’s why I’m here. Back in the world. In Best Buy. At the Geek Squad counter. Trying to figure out how to get this damn thing to work.

(He waves around his iPhone.)

And maybe it’s the PTSD talking but these flimsy things with their “software updates” and “password protections” make me want to reach down Steve Jobs throat and pull his pumping heart out. And now I could. I know how. Quite easy really. It’s all in a twist of the the wrist. But it’s too late now. Jobs already took the dirt nap. Sometime when I was still back in Iraq. In the suck. With all the other would-be computer whizzes going door to door searching for bad guys to shoot, stab or otherwise put out of commission before they did the same to us.

And the kid I was? The one watching commercials and hoping for a better life? Gone. Disappeared.

(He sings to the tune of But Not For Me:)

THERE’S LOTS OF GOODIES HERE, BUT NOT FOR ME

HOW BOUT THAT SLICK CURVED SCREEN TV

IF I COULD ONLY STASH

A DECENT WAD OF CASH

I’D FEEL I’M HOME AT LAST, I GUARANTEE.

I’ve been back for three months. Dead broke. No job. No prospects. Girls take one look at me and run. Maybe they can smell it on me. Death. It doesn’t wash off, you know. No amount of Old Spice and Irish Spring can cover the scent of it. I wear it. It’s in my pores. Sunk down to my bones. Like a virus. Yeah, like one of them computer viruses that makes things go all wonky. That’s me. All wonky. And talking to myself. In the middle of a Best Buy. On a Sunday afternoon. Holding an iPhone I can’t figure out.

DORIS

Can I help you?

CHET

(Turns on her suddenly- but composes himself just in time.)

Oh. Yeah. Help. Yes, I could use some help. This thing. It’s …wonky.

DORIS

Let’s take a look.

(She hums a couple bars of Some One To Watch Over Me as she works. After a few quick swipes of the screen:)

Hmm. Looks like you just need to download the latest operating system.

I can do that for you if you like.

CHET

I would like. I’m all thumbs when it comes to these things.

DORIS

Don’t worry. You’ll get the hang of it in no time. It’s a learning curve.

CHET

(Aside:)

I’d sure like to learn her curves.

(Back to DORIS:)

You seem to know your way around that thing pretty good. Look at your fingers go.

DORIS

Oh this. This is nothing. I’m just helping out. My real thing is data. Data retrieval actually. Finding stuff that people think they’ve lost.

You’d be surprised what you can bring back. Even things people want to bury. But if it was there once, it can be brought back. And finding it is the fun part. At least for me.

(Hands him back the iPhone.)

There you go. Restored.

CHET

Hey, it works. Thanks a lot. Sorry I’m such a doofus. I think the last time I had a phone it was attached to a cord. (Off her laugh:) I’m Chet, by the way.

DORIS

I Know. I just signed into your account, remember? But don’t worry. I’m nobody. Just glad to help out a veteran.

CHET

Wait. How did you know I’m a vet?

DORIS

I don’t know. Something about the way you carry yourself. I guess I’m a bit of a snoop. Sorry if I’m being nosy.

CHET

No worries. I like the attention. It’s the closest I’ve come to human interaction since I’ve been back. Plus I like your smile.

DORIS

(Blushing:) Thanks.

CHET

Say, I’m going to go out on a limb here. But I have to ask. What are you doing after work? How about I take you for a nice dinner? A thank you for fixing up my phone.

DORIS

I don’t know. We’re not supposed to-

CHET

C’mon. I’m harmless. Didn’t you see my account? Plus I’d really like to see you out of that uniform.

DORIS

(With a laugh:) I beg your pardon!

CHET

No- I don’t mean naked. I mean, you know, in a dress or something. Oh hell. Now I’ve blown it. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I’m out of practice. Forget I said it. Thanks for the help. I’ll get out of your hair now. Crawl back in my foxhole. Sorry.

DORIS

I’d love to.

CHET

What?

DORIS

I’d love to. Dinner. With you. I’ll even wear a dress.

CHET

Really?

DORIS

(Taking his phone, after a quick glance around:) Here. I’ve plugged in my number. Call me. This Friday. I get off at six. (She hands back the phone.)

CHET

(Reading phone:) Doris?

DORIS

That’s me.

CHET

Thank you, Doris. I’ll call you Friday at eighteen hundred. Sharp.

DORIS

Okay soldier. Take it easy. It’s just dinner.

CHET

Just dinner. Right. (His phone rings.) Hey. This thing really does work. I better answer this. But one more question. What do you like to eat?

DORIS

Lobster’s nice. (She goes.)

CHET

Lobster. Great. (Answers phone:) Hello?

(On the other side of the stage lights reveal DEEDS. A gaunt man in his 50’s. He speaks into a Bluetooth earpiece.)

DEEDS

Good Afternoon. Am I speaking to Chet Davis?

CHET

Yes.

DEEDS

Chief Warrant Officer Special Forces Recon Unit E7 Black Ops Operator Chet Davis?

CHET

Who is this?

DEEDS

My name is Deeds. I work for a company. A company that would like to hire you. We understand you have certain …skills that could be of use to us. We have a job for you. A job you are particularly suited for. A very lucrative job.

CHET

Lucrative?

DEEDS

Fifty thousand dollars.

CHET

(Looks at his empty wallet. Thinks about lobster.) I’m listening.

DEEDS

Fifty thousand dollars for fifteen minutes work. Guaranteed.

CHET

What do I have to do? And when?

DEEDS

This Thursday. The target will be crossing the parking lot adjacent to the Best Buy you are at right now.

CHET

How do you know I’m at Best Buy?

DEEDS

The GPS. On your phone. We know a great many things about you, Chet Davis. We know where your mother lives. And your sister. Your whole family. Don’t make me spell it out for you.

CHET

But you still haven’t told me. What do you want me to do?

DEEDS

What you do best. Kill somebody.

(Lights fade on Deeds. Chet addresses us:)

CHET

And he was right. What else was I qualified for? And it was good money. They even supplied me with the ordinance. A Heckler and Koch PSG 300 with long range sight and minimum recoil carbon silencer. Nice weapon. The best.

(Again, to the tune of But Not For Me:)

I’VE BEEN A WORLD AWAY FROM EVERYTHING

THE STUFF THAT MAKES YOU FEEL LIKE YOU’VE GOT BLING

BUT TO PAY FOR THIS DATE

WHY NOT ASSASSINATE?

PUT LOBSTER ON HER PLATE, I’LL DO THIS THING!

(Chet and Deeds climb separate ladders on either side of the stage. Chet has a sniper rifle. Deeds carries binoculars. They wait.)

Four days later I was in full camo in one of the trees on the perimeter of the Best Buy parking lot. So still for so long a bird built a nest in the crook of my arm. Locked and loaded. Awaiting a call on my phone from Deeds. He was to give me final ID on the mark. Once the kill was confirmed the payment would be transferred to my account. How they would confirm the kill I had no idea. I figured they must have a spotter somewhere in the kill zone but I hadn’t been able make him. Yet. But he was out there. I could feel it. You don’t spend two years in Iraq and Afghanistan doing black op sorties without picking up a bit of the old spider senses.

Seventeen hundred rolled around and still no call from Deeds. Seventeen thirty. Still nothing. I was beginning to wonder. Was it all a hoax? Would I never get my orders? Or my cash? I thought about Doris. I’d already made reservations at the Carlyle for the following night. Corner booth. I was daydreaming about her and her little white polo shirt with the Geek Squad logo when my phone buzzed to life. Deeds? That you?

DEEDS

Get ready. The mark will be coming out of the store in fifteen seconds. The mark will proceed to the Volkswagen bug just below your position. You’ll have a clear line of vision.

CHET

What’s your twenty?

DEEDS

Never mind that. Just follow your orders.

CHET

I need to know your twenty.

DEEDS

You want your money or not? You want to see your parents alive again or not? Buckle down soldier! Ten seconds.

CHET

At least tell me what the mark is wearing. I don’t like taking out collaterals.

DEEDS

White polo shirt, black pants. Five seconds.

CHET

Wait-

DEEDS

Four.

CHET

A-

DEEDS

Three.

CHET

Fucking-

DEEDS

Two.

CHET

Minute-

DEEDS

One.

(Doris comes out of the shop. She is humming Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me. Deeds speaks in a fierce whisper:)

Fire! I said fire! Now! Take out the Mark, soldier. Fire!

CHET

And that’s when I saw it. The glint. In the adjacent tree. Just North of my blind spot. The lens of a pair of high powered binocs. My spotter. Deeds.

(Doris is still humming, approaches her car. Deeds is apoplectic.)

DEEDS

This is a direct order, soldier. Now fire!!

(Chet suddenly swings the business end of the rifle in Deed’s direction)

CHET

Yes. Sir.

(Chet squeezes the trigger. There is silence. But Deeds crumples and falls off his ladder. Doris has stopped her humming. She listens, thinking she might have heard something in the bushes. After a moment she shrugs and gets in the car. As she drives away she sings:)

DORIS

THERE’S A SOMEBODY I’M LONGING TO SEE

I HOPE THAT HE TURNS OUT TO BE

SOMEONE WHO’LL WATCH OVER ME.

End of Play.

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