Friday, December 27, 2013

Fun Friday: The Case of the Missing Werecat

This is the last of my "plays" written for students in my writing classes. This was the smallest class I taught but an interesting collection of favorite fictional characters. I can tell by reading through these plays that they were written when the Pirates of the Caribbean was so popular, since Captain Jack Sparrow appears in most of them!

The Case of the Missing Werecat
Cast of Characters

Sarah-Jane Cooper (Three Cousins Detective Club)
Napoleon Dynamite
John Lawless (The Happiest Millionaire)
Captain Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean)
Puddleglum (Chronicles of Narnia)
Solembum (Eragon)

Scene 1   A street in town.  Enter SARAH-JANE  and NAPOLEON.

SARAH-JANE:  I really, really need your help, Napoleon.  My cousins, Timothy and Titus, are out of town this weekend, so the T.C.D.C. needs you.

NAPOLEON:  What’s a “teesy-deesy”?  Is that like a Ninja weapon or something?

SARAH-JANE:  No, no.  It stands for Three Cousins Detective Club.  We solve mysteries.

NAPOLEON:  But I don’t have any good skills.

SARAH-JANE:  What do you mean?

NAPOLEON:  You know, like numchuck skills, bow hunting skills, computer hacking skills.

SARAH-JANE:  Oh, don’t worry, we’re just trying to find someone.  Or something.

NAPOLEON:  Who?  Or what?

SARAH-JANE:  A werecat.

NAPOLEON:  Is that anything like a liger?

SARAH-JANE:  What’s a liger?

NAPOLEON:  It’s pretty much my favorite animal.  It’s like a lion and a tiger mixed.  It’s bred for its skills in magic.

SARAH-JANE:  I think a werecat is much more dangerous.

NAPOLEON:  More dangerous than a liger?

SARAH-JANE:  Oh, yes.  Plus they are rare and hard to find.

NAPOLEON:  Then how are we going to find it?

SARAH-JANE:  Him.  His name is Solembum.

NAPOLEON:  That’s a dumb name.

SARAH-JANE:  (Shrugs) Well, it’s the one he’s got.  Are you with me, or not?

NAPOLEON:  (Sighs)  I’m with you.

SARAH-JANE:  Good!  ‘Cause we need to get our other helpers.  (Enter JOHN)  Here’s one now.

JOHN:  (Cheerfully)  Top o’ the morning to you!

SARAH-JANE:  Hello.  Aren’t you John Lawless?

JOHN:  ‘Tis little ol’ me, as you can see.

SARAH-JANE:  I’m Sarah-Jane Cooper, and this Napoleon Dynamite.

JOHN:  Quite an explosive name, that is.

SARAH-JANE:  We need your help to solve a mystery.

JOHN:  I love a good mystery!

NAPOLEON:  We’re looking for a werecat.  It’s like a liger but more dangerous.

JOHN:  Well, now, that answers a whole slew of questions, don’t it?

SARAH-JANE:  Will you help us, or not?

JOHN:  (Shrugs)  An Irishman nevers backs down from a challenge.  Besides, it’s me day off.

SARAH-JANE:  Oh, good!  Come on, we need to find one more person.

(Enter Puddleglum, looking glum)

JOHN:  Good morning to you, sir.

PUDDLEGLUM:  Looks like rain before lunch if it doesn’t snow or hail first.

JOHN:  Well, sir, why so dull on such a bright morning?

PUDDLEGLUM:  The other Marsh-wiggles keep saying I’m too flighty.  They say I need to learn that there’s more to life than fricasseed frogs and eel pies.  How is that possible?

NAPOLEON:  I’m hungry, too.  You ever eat any tots?

PUDDLEGLUM:  Tots?  Do you bake them in a pie?

NAPOLEON:  No.  I just eat mine with ketchup.  By the way, I like your sweet hat.  I’m Napoleon.

PUDDLEGLUM:  Puddleglum’s my name.  But it doesn’t matter if you forget it.  I can always tell you again.

JOHN:  May I see your hand, sir?  (PUDDLEGLUM holds up his hand)  Why, you have webbing like a frog.  Is something wrong?

PUDDLEGLUM:  (Looking annoyed)  Nothing wrong with me.  Nothing frog with me.  I’m a respectabiggle.

SARAH-JANE:  Well, I like you even if you seem to be a wet blanket.  Will you help us find a werecat?

PUDDLEGLUM:    Got to start by finding it, have we?  Not allowed to start by looking for it, I suppose?

SARAH-JANE:  Oh, we’ll have to look for it first.  And I know just the man who can help us.  Will you come?

PUDDLEGLUM:  Might as well go as not.  Might catch some victuals while we’re at it, as long as we don’t faint with hunger first.

SARAH-JANE:  Great!  We’ll make a great team.  Let’s go!  (Enter SPARROW)  Jack Sparrow!  Just the man I wanted to find.

SPARROW:  Captain, love.  Captain Jack Sparrow.

NAPOLEON:  I thought we were looking for a werecat.

SARAH-JANE:  We are.  But we need Captain Sparrow and his boat.

SPARROW:  Ship, love.  The Black Pearl is a ship.

SARAH-JANE:  Aren’t you going to Tortuga today?

SPARROW:  Who wants to know?

SARAH-JANE:  I’m Sarah-Jane Cooper.  These are my friends, and we’re looking for the werecat Solembum.

SPARROW:  Solembum, eh?  What’s in it for me?

SARAH-JANE:  I have four dollars.

NAPOLEON:  I could get you some tots.

PUDDLEGLUM:  If I could catch some eels, I’d bake you a pie, but they take a mortal long time to cook.

SPARROW:  You call that treasure?

JOHN:  Not all treasure is silver and gold, mate.  You look like a man who appreciates a good drink.


JOHN:  Better than rum.

SPARROW:  Can you sail under the command of a pirate?

ALL:  Yes.

SPARROW:  Do you have the courage and fortitude to follow orders and stay true in the face of danger and almost certain death?

ALL:  Yes.

SPARROW:  Good.  I can always use extra hands.  Let’s be on our way.


Scene 2   Deck of the Black Pearl.  Enter SARAH-JANE, NAPOLEON, JOHN, and PUDDLEGLUM.

SARAH-JANE:  We need to review what we know about werecats.

NAPOLEON:  I only know about ligers.

JOHN:  I’ve heard o’ werewolves.  Are they anything like that?

PUDDLEGLUM:  Well, you can review what you know about werecats if you want, but I’m afraid very little has ever been known about them.

SARAH-JANE:  Can’t they change their shape?

NAPOLEON:  You mean, like a shape-shifter?  Sweet!

JOHN:  Since a werewolf changes from a man to a wolf, I assume a werecat changes from a man to a cat.

PUDDLEGLUM:  That’s fairly obvious, though not as obvious as one might think.

SARAH-JANE:  I’ve been told that when Solembum changes from being a cat, he’s a boy with slanted eyes and shaggy black hair, and he weaves a sprig of holly into his hair.

JOHN:  Like that young fellow there?  (Points to SOLEMBUM who is walking past.)

SARAH-JANE:  (Gasps)  Excuse me, we’d like to talk to you.  (SOLEMBUM keeps walking.)

JOHN:  Hello there, young man with the holly black hair.  (SOLEMBUM turns around.)

SOLEMBUM:  Are you talking to me?

NAPOLEON:  Do you see anyone else with holly in their hair?

PUDDLEGLUM:  Perhaps you could tell us your name, unless you don’t care to tell us.

SOLEMBUM:  I go by many names. 

JOHN:  Just your proper name, if you please.

SOLEMBUM:  If you are looking for my proper one, you will have to look elsewhere.  However, you may call me Solembum.

NAPOLEON:  Yessssssss.

SARAH-JANE:  I knew it!  We’ve been looking for you!

SOLEMBUM:  There was no need.

SARAH-JANE:  But are you all right?  Angela has been worried about you.

SOLEMBUM:  I have been visiting my sister.  I am now returning to Alagaesia.

PUDDLEGLUM:  I hope that’s not too close to Narnia.

NAPOLEON:  What kind of skills do you have?

SOLEMBUM:  I catch rats.  (He changes into a cat.)  Purrfectly.  (He walks away.)



SPARROW:  Lawless!

JOHN:  Yes, sir.  You yelled, sir?

SPARROW:  Why is the rum gone?

JOHN:  Do ye not remember I had something better than rum?

SPARROW:  But why is the rum gone?

JOHN:  Here, try me Irish coffee.

SARAH-JANE:  May I have some, please?

JOHN:  Sorry, me girl, it’ll be a mocha latte for you.

NAPOLEON:  Irish coffee sounds retarded.  I’d rather have a coke.

PUDDLEGLUM:  I suppose you wouldn’t happen to have any eels just lying about.

SARAH-JANE:  Captain Sparrow, we have found our missing werecat with your crew.

JOHN:  Have you noticed a decrease in your rat population aboard ship?

SPARROW:  Well, I hadn’t really noticed, but that is a good thing.  Fewer rats, fewer holes in my ship.

JOHN:  For Sarah-Jane to find the missing werecat and the Black Pearl become rat-free both in the same person, that’s fortuosity!

NAPOLEON:  Then all our wildest dreams have come true.

SPARROW:  I love a happy ending!  Drinks all around!

JOHN:  No shilly-shallyin’, no dilly-dallyin’, let’s ‘ave a drink on it now!

SARAH-JANE:  Drink up, me ‘earties, yo ho!

PUDDLEGLUM:  And really bad eggs.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Worst Christmas gift. Ever.

When I was eight years old I lived in Arlington, Virginia very close to my maternal grandparents, so they saw firsthand my great interest in science. My entire third grade year I alternated between wanting to be an archeologist and an astronaut, and being good grandparents, they wanted to encourage those interests. I still have the microscope my Grandpa gave me that year for Christmas.

But I'll never forget the great horror I felt when I opened my gift from Gammies (as I called my sweet, very-much-a-grand-lady grandmother). It was a replica SHRUNKEN HEAD, complete with stitches holding the lips together! I already had problems with bad dreams after a strange reaction to aspirin which gave me a 12 hour LSD-type nightmare. Now I had a waking one as my younger sister (four years old and absolutely fearless) had no problems PICKING UP that horrible head and chasing me around the house with it, she laughing and me screaming.

Of course my grandmother was horrified I was so freaked out. I can still hear her telling my mother, "I'm so sorry; I thought she would like it." I can't even imagine where she found such a thing. Maybe the Smithsonian gift shop?

So, my fellow grandparents, please be careful what you give your grandchildren for Christmas. It may have a lifelong effect upon their tender little hearts.

What was YOUR worst nightmare, er, I mean worst Christmas gift?

Friday, December 20, 2013

Fun Friday: The Twelve Days of Christmas--by the numbers

I've always liked this song, but in the last few years I've wondered if the "true love" wasn't sending subtle messages by his choice of gifts.

After all, his lady received not one but a total of twelve partridges in pear trees (1 x 12 days = 12).  Did he think she needed to plant a pear orchard?  Did he hope she'd invite him over for roast partridge or scrambled partridge eggs?

Those two cooing turtle doves became twenty-two (2 x 11 days = 22).  Either he's sending another culinary message or he really doesn't understand what a MESS all these birds will make.  He should have given her a subscription to the New York Times so she'd have plenty of cage liners.

Three French hens (3 x 10 days = 30).  Why French hens?  Leghorns and Rhode Island Reds are proven egg-layers, if that was his intention.  These 30 messy, less-productive hens will merely add to the cacophony of noise, loose feathers, and droppings, driving our poor heroine to tears.

Four calling birds (4 x 9 days = 36).  What is a "calling" bird?  From what I've been able to discover, the word was originally "colly" or "collie" which means black, so probably blackbirds.  Hmm, maybe this "true love" is the same guy who tried to bake "four and twenty blackbirds" in a pie for the king, but his oven wasn't hot enough and the birds began to sing.  I can't imagine blackbirds could sing very well.

Five gold rings (5 x 8 days = 40).  At first glance you might think the true love has finally redeemed himself.  After all, the poor lady can keep one and sell the other 39 to pay for the birds' upkeep.  But why did he give her 40 rings?  Maybe he's a burglar and robbed a jewelry store.  If he was wealthy enough to purchase 40 gold rings (a small 14K one might be found for $200, so that's $8,000 at least) he certainly could have given her something more practical than flocks and flocks of messy birds.

Six geese-a-laying (6 x 7 days = 42).  So they're proven egg-layers, but what does the lady need with 42 of them when she already has way too many partridges, doves, hens, and blackbirds?  Unless the true love has given her the goose that lays golden eggs, her goose will be cooked trying to feed all these big honking birds and then clean up after them (which is the real meaning of "loose as a goose").

Seven swans-a-swimming (7 x 6 days = 42).  So an equal number of two equally large bird species.  I sure hope the poor lady has a large lake on her property.  Just imagine the noise, and the mess, and the feed bill.  Is the true love trying to drive her insane???

Eight maids-a-milking (8 x 5 days = 40).  Here's the rub:  our heroine must already have milk cows, or she wouldn't need milkmaids.  But even if she has a very large herd, there won't be enough work for 40 milkmaids, so they'll start a union and fight over who gets first milking rights and the poor cows will explode or dry up waiting for disputes to be settled.  This true love has poor business skills.

Nine ladies dancing (9 x 4 days = 36).  This sounds much nicer, doesn't it?  Live entertainment, maybe performances of The Nutcracker and Swan Lake?  Have you ever coordinated a group of 3 or 4 performers, much less 36 of them?  That's a huge job in terms of choreography, costumes, music, etc.  Plus even dancers like to eat now and then.  Start scrambling those eggs!

Ten lords a-leaping (10 x 3 days = 30).  What kinds of lords?  The British Parliament's House of Lords currently has 763 members, but how many of them can leap?  WHY are they leaping?  Can you picture thirty Lords of Parliament playing leapfrog, or far worse, leaping about in ballet tights?  Maybe they want to join the dancing ladies, but I'm sure they also like to eat.  More eggs, please!

Eleven pipers piping (11 x 2 days = 22).  I play piccolo.  Even though it's a small instrument, it must be played carefully because its high notes can pierce through the entire orchestra.  Twenty-two playing at one time is just . . .ridiculous.  And what if the true love means bagpipes?  Twenty-two bagpipes???  Well, I guess they'd drown out the birds.

Twelve drummers drumming (12 x 1 day = 12).  A good drumline is fun to watch and listen to, as long as they're OUTSIDE. 

Hmm, maybe if lover boy is just clueless and not secretly trying to drive the lady insane with the birds and the labor disputes and the noise, he's a Scot, and he's just encouraging her to support his pipe and drum corps.  That could also explain the dancing ladies and leaping lords—they're Scottish dancers who canna keep their feet still when they hear the merry sounds of pipe and drum. 

Air do slĂ inte! ("To your very good health!") And Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Fun Friday: Cast Offs

Here's yet another "play" I wrote for writing students after asking each one to tell me who was their favorite fictional character (book or movie).  These are crazy fun to write but even more fun to watch the students as they "voice" their favorite character who is in a completely weird setting.

Cast Offs


Forrest Gump
Pippin Took
Professor Julius Kelp
Susan Pevensey
Edmund Pevensey
Uncle Max Detweiler
Jack Dawson

Scene:  Beach on a deserted island.  FORREST GUMP is sitting on a stump holding a volleyball.

GUMP:  It’s such a nice day, Wilson.  Something is bound to happen.  Like Mama always said, “Life is like a box of chocolates.  You never know what you’re gonna get.”

(Enter UNCLE MAX, stumbling a little)

MAX:  (Rubbing his eyes)  How?  Where?

GUMP:  My name’s Forrest.  Forrest Gump.  What’s yours?

MAX:  Uh, Max.  You may call me Uncle Max.  I think.  Where am I and how did I get here?

GUMP:  Well, I don’t know myself, so we might as well get comfortable and sit a spell.

MAX:  (Sitting)  How long have you been here?

GUMP:  I don’t rightly know.  If Wilson could talk, he could probably tell you.

MAX:  Who’s Wilson?

GUMP:  (Holds up ball)  This here’s Wilson.  Says his name right here. (points to ball)

MAX:  (Nods with a worried smile)  If you say so, Forrest.  What is there to eat around here?

GUMP:  (Shrugs)  The ocean’s full of fish.  And shrimp.  Wish I could catch me a shrimp.

(Enter SUSAN and EDMUND, looking disoriented)

EDMUND:  This isn’t Narnia.

SUSAN:  That’s a brilliant deduction.

GUMP:  You’re not from around here, are you?

SUSAN:  No, sir.  But exactly where is “here”?

GUMP:  I don’t know.  But my name’s Forrest.  Forrest Gump.  And this here’s Uncle Max.

MAX:  Max Dettweiler.  Pleased to make your acquaintance.

SUSAN:  Susan Pevensey, and this is my brother, Ed.

EDMUND:  (Glaring at Susan)  Edmund, if you don’t mind.

MAX:  You don’t by chance have any more siblings?  And sing together?

SUSAN:  We have another brother, Peter, and a sister, Lucy.  They were right behind us in the wardrobe.  I can’t understand where they could have gone.

EDMUND:  But we don’t sing.  Not very well, at least.

MAX:  Are you still in school?

EDMUND:  Only when we’re in England.  I’m King Edmund the Just when we’re in Narnia.

MAX:  I beg your pardon?

SUSAN:  And I’m Queen Susan the Gentle.  But only in Narnia.

(Enter PROFESSOR JULIUS KELP and PIPPIN TOOK, looking like they always do:  clueless)

KELP:  Excuse me but I found this little fellow here and need to get him back to his parents.

PIPPIN:  I’m not a child!  I’m a Hobbit.

EDMUND:  (Aside to Susan)  Look at his feet!  They’re huge and they’re hairy.

SUSAN:  It’s not polite to talk about others like that, Ed.

GUMP:  Hi.  My name’s Forrest.  Forrest Gump.  Who are you?

KELP:  I’m Julius Kelp.  Professor Julius Kelp.  Actually, I don’t know who this little fellow is, he hasn’t said much.

PIPPIN:  I’m Pippin.  I need to get back to the Shire.  It’s past time for elevenses.

GUMP:  What’s elevenses?

PIPPIN:  I’d just had first and second breakfast and hadn’t got my elevenses yet.

GUMP:  First AND second breakfast?

PIPPIN:  That’s not all.  After elevenses is luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner, and supper.

MAX:  You eat that often every day?

PIPPIN:  Well, of course.  Don’t you?

MAX:  Certainly not.  I’d not be able to fasten my clothes if I ate that much.

GUMP:  Where do you put all that food?  You’re such a little fellow.

PIPPIN:  (Folds arms and frowns)  If you’re going to keep insulting me, the least you can do is find me some pipeweed.

GUMP:  There’s some seaweed over there.

MAX:  I’d like to see him put that in his pipe and smoke it.

KELP:  Well actually you’d have to cure the seaweed and process it before it would work well in a pipe and even then it would smell pretty fishy I think.  I know a little about kelp, after all.

(Enter JACK DAWSON and MURTAGH, looking wary)

JACK:  Wow!  How did I get here?

MURTAGH:  Where is here?

GUMP:  Hi.  My name’s Forrest.  Forrest Gump.

JACK:  Jack Dawson.  I was treading water near the sinking Titanic and so frozen I couldn’t feel a thing.  (Looking around)  Now this is paradise!

MURTAGH:  I would call it something other than paradise.  Especially since I know none of you and have no idea where I am.

KELP:  Well, actually, I think I may have figured that one out.  Judging by the latitude and the direction of the equatorial breezes and the alignment of the solar plexus I think this is, ah, the Kapingamarangi Atoll.

MAX:  Where on Earth is that?

KELP:  About 600 miles northeast of New Guinea.  As, uh, the seagull flies.

PIPPIN:  How far is that from the Shire?

EDMUND:  Are we anywhere close to Narnia?

KELP:  Is that in the Pacific Ocean?  Because, actually, that’s where we are.

MURTAGH:  Has anyone explored this island to see if there is a way off?

GUMP:  I ran all around it.  It’s just a little bitty island, but it has a pretty beach.

JACK:  It has a great beach.

MURTAGH:  If only Thorn were here, we could all fly away.

SUSAN:  Who is Thorn?

MURTAGH:  My dragon.

EDMUND:  You have a real dragon?

MURTAGH:  Yes.  I am a dragonrider.

EDMUND:  Capital!  Does it fly?  Does it breathe fire?  What does it eat?

SUSAN:  Not now, Ed.

EDMUND:  Yes, Mum! (Sticks out his tongue at Susan)

PIPPIN:  I don’t really care what the dragon eats, as long as it isn’t Hobbits.  What I’d like to know is what are WE going to eat?

JACK:  We can make a net and catch some fish.

GUMP:  We might even catch some shrimp.

MAX:  Wouldn’t it be more profitable if we worked together to get off this island?

MURTAGH:  My thought exactly.  I have important business elsewhere.

PIPPIN:  I say we eat first so we’ll have the strength to rescue ourselves.

JACK:  Why do you want to leave?  It’s nice and warm here.

GUMP:  My Mama always said you've got to put the past behind you before you can move on.

MAX:  (To Murtagh)  So, what do you have in mind to effect our escape?

MURTAGH:  I’m going to look around and see if there’s any wood to make a raft.

GUMP:  There’s 33 live palm trees and 52 dead ones.

MURTAGH:  You counted them?

GUMP:  No, Wilson did.

(Max and Murtagh look at one another and shrug)

KELP:  I have been examining these palm fronds and, actually, they appear to be sturdy enough to make a net.  Does anyone have a sharpened metal implement?

EDMUND:  A what?

JACK:  He means a knife.  I have one in my pocket.  (Hands it to Kelp)

KELP:  (Sawing with the knife)  It appears that this, ah, plant fiber is, ah, really sturdy.  (Drops knife)  Ouch!

SUSAN:  What happened?

KELP:  The knife slipped.

SUSAN:  Are you hurt?

KELP:  Well, if a man with an ulcer and a splinter in his finger and a nail in his foot was then struck by lightning, if you could say that man was hurt then yes you could say I'm hurt.


SUSAN:  If only Lucy were here, she could use her cordial and heal your finger.

GUMP:  When I cut my finger I just wrap it up ‘til it stops bleeding.

KELP:  Thank you very much, young man.  But fortunately there is something here even better for cuts.

EDMUND:  What?

KELP:  Salt water.

SUSAN:  Look, Professor.  There’s something moving on the sand.

GUMP:  There are lots of those mud bugs.

JACK:  Those aren’t bugs, they’re crabs.

PIPPIN:  Are they good to eat?

JACK:  The best.

EDMUND:  I’ll get one.

SUSAN:  No, Ed.  It could be dangerous.

MURTAGH:  Do not take chances.

KELP:  Well, don’t just do something.  Sit there.

GUMP:  Here, use a rock.  (Hands one to Edmund)

EDMUND:  Thanks.  (Hits the “crab”)  I got it!  (Picks it up)  Ewww.

SUSAN:  That does not look edible.

MAX:  It’s so, so, pink.

JACK:  We have no way to cook it.

PIPPIN:  I don’t think even a starving Hobbit could that eat that.

KELP:  Well, actually, if we could focus the tropical sun’s rays in such a way as to create enough heat, we could, uh, cook this crab in its own shell.

PIPPIN:  You mean, build an oven with rocks or something?

GUMP:  Sometimes there’s just not enough rocks.  This is one of those times.

SUSAN:  (Shading her eyes)  I’ve been watching that bird for the last few minutes, and it looks like it’s heading this way.

EDMUND:  (Looking up)  It’s enormous.  What kind is it, Professor?

KELP:  (Squinting)  Well, ah, in this part of the Pacific you can actually find very large albatrosses.

JACK:  That’s no bird.

KELP:  Well, actually, an albatross IS a bird.

MAX:  Is it a plane?  Not a German one, I hope.

MURTAGH:  No, it’s Thorn, my dragon.

PIPPIN:  Your dragon’s not hungry, is it?

MURTAGH:  No.  Thorn must have followed me.  We can all get off this island now.

JACK:  But I don’t want to go back to sure death.  I’ll take my chances here.

SUSAN:  All alone?

GUMP:  He won’t be alone.  Wilson will stay with him, won’t you, Wilson?

SUSAN:  Well, Ed, as Aslan says, “Once a king or queen of Narnia…”

EDMUND:  “Always a king or queen of Narnia.”

KELP:  That definitely sounds better than “king or queen of the Kapingamarangi Atoll.”

JACK:  You’re right.  I’ll just be king of the world!

PIPPIN:  Great!  Where are we going?

ALL:  Home!