The opening scene of a play worth making and seeing only if, like me, you dig pretending there’s nothing better to do.
Do the Hustle
Act I, Scene 1
Two men, younger A and elder B, sit at a two-person table. To one side of the stage is a drawer at waist height. There’s also a jukebox.
A: See, that’s the idea. A quick hustle, get in, get out.
B: Fuck em quick and disappear.
A: Toot it n boot it.
B: May I ask you a personal question, A?
A: While we’re talking business, B? Actually, I like to keep a line.
B: Who raised you?
A: Did you not hear me? Why’d you ask if you weren’t gonna listen? I hate that. When people ask, then don’t listen. Why ask? If you’re not going to listen? If you ask, then listen. Or don’t ask. I never understood that. Ask, then not listen. It’s a mystery. One of those mysteries that bothers me.
B: Fine. Forget it.
A: Thank you. (pause) Since you’re willing to stop asking, I’m more inclined to answer. Why do you ask?
B: At what point did your dad leave home? Nevermind, I know. Before he told you the one about what it means to be a grown man.
A: He was murdered by a home invader who also ravaged my mother. Then murdered her. I was old enough then to remember them now, as if they stand before me.
A’s parents enter.
A’s Father: Son, did I ever tell you the one about what it means to be a grown man?
Home Invader enters.
Mother: Oh no, a home invader! Son, out the office window to the Wings’ house. Fly like a bird! I’ll block for you.
A (to B): “Fly like a bird to the Wings’” meant take the path on the north side of the fence to Uncle Teardrop’s place. You heard that, you knew your future’d turned, but didn’t let that slow you.
His mother opens the drawer, pulls out two large kitchen knives, passes one to father, and both fight Home Invader, somewhat spectacularly.
Home Invader bests and kills father and knocks mother out.
An open window blows.
B: So you’re an—
Chorus of Voices, Singing: OR-PHAN!
B: Great to possibly work with you. But listen, the one about what the man said to the boy. This is why I could tell, is it’s Dad 101. You don’t have this, your dad never looked at you when he thought you were grown, or just about getting grown enough to talk to like you were grown. He musta been gone then.
A: I hope the story’s as long as the intro.
B: Father and son. Or, in some versions, Mentor and younger male. Old wolf and young wolf, or rams if you don’t think wolves fuck sheep. Could be rednecks. Or Scots. Shepherds from Wales – there are many versions of the story, so maybe you just didn’t recognize my reference and I should make it more explicit—
A: before actually telling it.
B: Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, is all I’m trying to say.
A: I wish I could start you.
B: I feel like everyone else has, is all. Heard this one before, not started me. …” You kin starmy up. You kin starmy up Olnevvastah. Olnevvastah. Olnevvastah, olnevvastah—”
A: I wanna believe you don’t believe it’s okay to toy with me. I won’t toy back with you here but you will die. Even if it’s of old age, I’ll see to it.
B: I’ll begin promptly, then, in the way I prefer. Elder Ram and Young Rambo—nothing to do with us. On a hilltop are speculating on a field of hot black and mixed-race sheep below. Rambo, grinding his curled horn into the ground—the curl has just grown to point forwards on each side—says “Elder Ram, let’s go hop a lamb.” To which the Elder Ram replies, “No, Rambo. Let’s go lamb-hopping.”
A: That is not how it goes.
B: You DO know it!!
A: “No, Son, we’re gonna walk down and fuck them all.”
B: What? That’s vulgar and profane.
A: You think that my plan for a short-term hustle is like … a young ram who’d rather … hop a lamb than lamb-hop.
B: That’s a much nicer way to put it. The kids today and their need to be crude! It’s a pathology. Yes, I’m saying that if one job spoils the next, then that’s a terrible resume you’re building. One job should lead to two. Two should lead to four: two to do and two on hold. After those, you should be able to choose a really big lamb to hop on.
A: See, I don’t really see this as a word-of-mouth business. But I do have faith that brand now opportunities will always present themselves. It’s a logical faith. Just consider the area of earth’s surface, then the density of quick-score marks within any one county.
B: You’re telling me you’re an orphan who’s never been hungry.
A: Oh. Please. If I told you what I’ve eaten? To survive?
B: Rotten meat?
A: Until I learned to smell for it.
B: Moldy bread?
A: You pick that shit off.
B: Rotten fruit?
A: Rotten produce.
B: Shit and salsa?
A: Never that.
B: And with such a diet still fresh on your breath, you suggest I adapt your business model?
A: It’s not a model I’m suggesting you adapt. It’s a job I’m interviewing you for.
B: Fine. Run me through it one more time, please. This time in your own words.
A: Not here.
B: It was you who said a public place would be more private.
A: I will continue to stand by that, somewhere else. My spider sense, it tingles.
B: My plan, then, as an interlude: we move slowly and go for everything.
A: That sounds like a serious commitment. Does it come with free time? To just, like, be yourself?
B: Cover can get deep. You need a strong sense of self. So yes, it’s a commitment. But again: it’s for everything.
A: Now you’ve lied to me twice. Or you’re playing sudoku with the alphabet. Cuz you’re crazy. I call “bullshit” on “everything.” I’m out if your so-called counter-plan is to not pull out before that. Greed is the Grim Reaper in this game, that’s the one thing I have learned for sure. A family can support only so many martyrs before it goes extinct.
B: You got any kids, man?
A: Well, since professional boundaries are shattering—uh, what was your full name again?
A: B, I have like five kids. Dozen. I spread my seed. Most recently this morning. Incidentally, with a psychopath.
B: Impressive. Like five kids dozen, you say?
A: Tons of mamas. Literally. They all keep the baby weight on, it must be me. So rendition me, I like curves. But none of my babies are at that age you’re talking about yet. I haven’t really raised them, but I want to.
B: The long game provides its own defenses. You multitask: you’re also designing some exits. But I hear you. That can’t be a maybe, and let’s not gamble and lose.
A: I may be a small stakes player, but I work the angles. I’m never worse than a coin toss and usually eighty to ninety percent good, for stakes I can afford to lose but that pay at say 10-1. It’s tiring or invigorating, depending if a lot of action keeps you focused and happy or stresses you out. I’m mainly the former but sometimes, yeah, it does feel like work, a cycle, like I may as well be a mouse in a maze. Prairie dog looking over the top of a cubicle: do I smell predator? Get back to the phones and spreadsheets.
B: And sometimes I feel like I’ve committed to writing a novel and the structure is turning to sand in my fingertips.
A: Oh yeah? Shit. Really?
B: It’s a kind of marriage. Gotta take the long view. The inclination to build, to see things through, while moment to moment to get a kick out of the bricking and mortaring, the plaster on each other’s faces, the shiny spots where you’ve kissed the dust off each other’s lips. You’re married to the game. But also to a girl. To look normal. Both are my preference. You don’t have to do either. One can lead a man to pussy but one can’t … make it stink, I don’t know. What was I talking about?
A: I could meet you halfway. Short-term/long-term-wise.
B: That’s just what I was thinking. I think this could be a great partnership.
A: I must admit I was skeptical about the whole idea behind the website that matched us.
B: Let’s trade numbers and make this happen. I’m excited.
A: Me, too… Yeah, let’s do this.
B: Do the hustle.
A: Do the hustle. That makes me want to hear that song.
B: Try the jukebox. It’s pretty gay, too.
A goes to the jukebox. Puts in a dollar, which gets rejected, puts it in again, presses buttons.
A: I’m just gonna pretend this is happening really as I feel it.
B: I’ll join in.
“The Hustle” plays. A disco ball drops; there are colored and strobe lights and the floor fills with sexy disco people, more female than male. They all do the real Hustle line dance.
The song ends; the other dancers depart. A and B sit back down at their table.
B: You’re an interesting cat.
A: Where’s that fucking waitress?