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These fictional works are not intended
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Any similarities therefore are strictly coincidental.
Synopsis Written Prior
to beginning work on
"A Dishonorable Death"
A Dishonorable Death
The City council
Report the News
for a play
"Eight Glorious Months"
(Based loosely on a previously written short story)
A Play by:
Thomas E. Rutherford
Lieutenant Colonel A.P. Stevens: Recon Battalion Commander
Sergeant Steve Morris: Recon Team Leader
Corporal Tom Larkins: Sniper and Assistant Team Leader
Lance Corporal Bruce Lambert: Sniper
Private First Class Larry Harris: RTO and Sniper Spotter
Private First Class Bill Malcolm: Sniper Spotter
SCENES:Scene I: Recon Battalion Headquartersí Conference Room around midnight following the teamís extraction from their latest mission. The conference room has a huge Marine Corps emblem on the wall facing the audience. The rest of the walls are bare. There is a door on the right side. In the center of the room is a long, wooden conference table facing long ways towards the front of the stage. There are three chairs down each side and one at the head of table.
Scene II: Sergeant Steve Morrisí barracks room around two a .m. the same night. The room has a metal cot with a camouflage blanket neatly covering it. The bed is against the right wall with the head against the far wall. There are six folding chairs--one by the bed of the bed and one by the foot of the bed facing the left wall. This is the chair Morris ends up in at the end of he scene. The other four chairs are against the left wall facing the right wall. Thereís a pile of combat gear against the chair at the foot of the bed and a metal wall--locker against the back wall in the left corner.
Stevens is seated at the head of the long, wooden conference table facing the front of the stage. Morris is seated on his right at the side of the table and Larkins is seated at Stevensís left, opposite Morris. Allen is seated next to Morris and Malcolm is seated next to him. Harris is seated next to Larkins. As the scene opens, Stevens is holding several sheets of paper in front of him and is flipping through them for several seconds before speaking. The team members are all still in battle dress uniform with camouflage face paint on and their uniforms are sweat-stained, bloody, dirty and ragged.
STEVENS: (Looking up from the papers): Sergeant Morris, Iíve just finished reviewing your individual de-brief reports. I know you men have been through the wringer. I only have a few additional questions and some observations to make and Iíll get you out of here for some much deserved rest. First, Sergeant, explain to me why you compromised your teamís position and safety and charged into that village single-handedly to terminate your target at close quarters rather than wait for a clean shot?
MORRIS: Sir, itís like this. Weíd been on that hill for nine days. Our rations had run out. We were out of water. The target never presented a clean shot. They were killin' innocent folks down there in front of us. Slaughterin' 'em. The first day they killed nearly a dozen. I lost count after that. Anyway, we were closin' on our extraction day and since we were there I didnít want to just write those people of f and scrub the mission because the target didnít like sunshine. Anyway, sir, the mission was a success. We got the bad guys and we got out without any major injuries to the team.
STEVENS: Corporal Larkins, do you concur with the sergeantís decision and actions on this mission?
LARKINS: Yes sir. We all do. We talked about it and the sergeant went in first just like it says in those reports. We followed and enveloped the village. Sir, there were civilian bodies all through that village. Most of them had been mutilated pretty bad. The bad guys were nothing but a bunch of drug runners wearing military uniforms. Like I said in my report, Sergeant Morris took out five guys before we ever fired a shot. The rest were caught off- guard and we terminated all of them. Sir, honestly, we just couldnít walk away from this one. They were going to kill all those people.
STEVENS: Sergeant Morris, I want to talk to you more tomorrow about this and that other matter we discussed prior to this mission. Right now, you men go get cleaned up, get some real food and some rest, you deserve it. Congratulations on your tenth straight, successful mission. Iím not sure I agree with the way you conducted this mission, but you did get the desired effect. (Stevens stands and the team members all rise and stand at attention) Dismissed! (Stevens leaves the room through the door and the team members remain standing at attention).
Morris is seen pacing around his barracks room drunkenly. Heís holding a bottle of bourbon in one hand and a pistol in the other. Heís waving the pistol around and drinking from the bottle. Heís still dressed as he was in Scene One. Thereís a knock at the door arid Morris turns toward it.
MORRIS: Enter. (The other team members enter, cleaned up and wearing jogging shorts and t-shirts. Each has an open beer in one hand and a sixópack in the other. Morris waves the pistol around the room at the chairs.) Sit.
LARKINS: Hey, Sergeant. You still on the warpath? Whatís with the pistol?
MORRIS: Larkins, I donít want any of your crap. You guys just sit down and Iíll tell you whatís what. (Morris points the pistol in the direction of the bed at a letter laying in the center.) You see that. Itís a letter from my old lady back in Texas. Says sheís leavin' me. Well, I got news for her, ainít goin' to be nothin' to leave.
LARKINS: Sergeant, take it easy. Youíre still pumping after-mission adrenalin. Come on back down to earth with the rest of us. Letís kick back and drain sane beer.
MORRIS: Larkins, I ainít tellin' you again. Sit down and be quiet. What we got here is a question of loyalty. You guys loyal to the Corps and your old sergeant arenít you?
LAMBERT: You bet Sergeant. You know weíd do anything for you.
HARRIS: Yeah, Sergeant. You know we are. You ever need anything, weíre there for you.
LARKINS: Come on Bent, put the pistol up and relax. Here, have a beer. (He holds a beer out towards Morris).
MORRIS: Larkins (Morris points the pistol at Larkinsí head), I ainít tellin' you again. This is it. Sit down now. We got us a question of loyalty to consider.
LARKINS: Whatever you say Sergeant. (Larkins gives a mock salute and sits in the open chair against the left wall.)
MORRIS: (Pacing back and forth in the center of the room.) Marines stick together. This team sticks together. Our worldís all screwed up and I aim to take us out of it. No more bullshit for the best damned recon team the Corps, hell, the world, ever saw. Let me start over. What I want to know is if any of you Marines ever lost anything important to you? Well, have you? I mean really important.
MALCOLM: Sergeant, youíre the only one of us thatís married, so, no, none of us has ever had a wife leave us if thatís what you mean.
MORRIS: No! (Morris yells, turning to Malcolm and placing the pistol to Malcolmís forehead.) Thatís not what I mean. And leave my wife out of this. She ainít got nothiní to do with this. I mean really important. Somethin' you just couldnít do without. Couldnít live without. Well, dirt bags, have you?
MALCOLM: Yeah. Stepper died when I was thirteen. I didnít think Iíd ever get over that, but I did, kind of.
MORRIS: Stepper? Who the hell was Stepper?
MALCOLM: My Doberman. We called him Stepper because... (Morris cuts him off.)
MORRIS: Who cares why you called your little doggie Stepper. And who cares if your dog died when your were a kid. You guys just donít get it, do you?
LARKINS: No, Sergeant. I donít think we do get it. Youíre not making sense. If youíre saying you want to kill us and then kill yourself, then I, for one, just sure as hell donít get it. Murder and suicide. Two not so very honorable things for a Marine to do. Let alone a Marine sergeant. Our sergeant. The man we trust with our lives. This has gone far enough. Put the pistol up, crash and weíll talk about this tomorrow.
MORRIS: Larkins, you talk about murder and suicide not being honorable. What the hell do you think we do for a living. We kill people, murder Ďem. Every mission we go on, we take a chance on getting killed, if that ainít suicide then you tell me what is. Itís what we do, who we are. And for what? Our country? Our families? Because itís honorable, or for the few hundred dollars a month they pay us? When you die, youíre dead. You think it matters if I kill you, if I kill myself, if someone else kills us? When youíre dead, youíre dead. Itís over. No more fun. No more gung-ho, all for one, one for all crap. Itís over. Just blackness for ever and ever.
HARRIS: Sergeant, I donít want to die. Not like this. Not no way. You donít know what youíre doing. Please put the gun down and let us out of here. You do what you want, but just please let us get the hell out of here.
MORRIS: Mr. Headhunter. You make me sick, Harris. Weíre behind you all the way Sergeant. You want somethin', anything, you can count on us. That was all a big bunch of crap, huh, Harris? Maybe you guys ainít what I thought you were after all. You guys are hell on fightin' but I donít think any of you know the meanin' of loyalty. Think :about that. Bentley paces around the room a few times, drinking from his bottle while the other team members look from one to the other.) I really thought we were a team to the end, but maybe youíre right. Maybe I do need to just crash out and sleep on it and see if tomorrow donít let a little sunshine into my dreary life. You guys hang around and weíll have that beer when I get back. (Morris leaves the room and shuts the door behind him. The team hears a gunshot and sits frozen for several seconds. Then all but Larkins rush out the door. Larkins goes over to the bed and picks up the letter. He opens it and reads it out loud while heís in the room by himself.)Dear Steven:
I know you feel like your whole worldís crashing down around you. But youíve spent the last twelve years in the Marine Corps and most of that away from home. Away from Stevie and me. Iím really sorry to hear you were passed over for promotion to staff sergeant again and that youíre being forced out of the Marines. But I canít honestly say that Iím not glad also.
Itíll give us a new start. Stevie will finally get to spend time with you and really get to know this great guy he has for a father. And, no, he wonít think youíre a failure for being discharged. Youíre his hero and mine.
Iíve got some good news for you too. Dad says your old job at his factory is waiting for you. The payís better than what youíre making in the Marines and youíve got a great future there.
By the time you get this, youíll probably be on that last mission you wrote about. I know youíll come through it just fine. You always have, and, like you always told me, youíve got the best team of Marines anyone could want.
Take care and weíll see you when you get home next month. Be careful.
With all my love forever,
(Larkins crumples the letter up and stuffs it in his shoe just as Harris comes running back into the room.)
HARRIS: Corporal Larkins, the sergeant is dead. He did it. Shot himself under the chin.
(Larkins and Harris leave the room. The team re-enters the room dragging Morrisís body with them and set him in the chair at the foot of the bed, let go of him and let him sag over onto the bed. Larkins leaves the room and returns with the pistol. He pops the magazine out.)
LARKINS: Shit. He didnít have any rounds in the magazine. Just one in the chamber. This is what he planned on doing all along. Harris, see if you can find a cleaning rag in that wall-locker. (Harris opens the locker and digs around for a few minutes, finds a rag and brings it to Larkins. Larkins takes the rag and places it in Morrisís left hand and gets it to hang from his fingertips. He places the pistol in Morrisís lap and lays his right hand over it.)
LARKINS: Listen, guys. Hereís the way it went down. We were all sitting around drinking and bullshitting and Morris was cleaning that prize pistol of his. He was drunk, we were drunk. He starts raising the pistol like he was looking for dust on the front sight or something and the next thing we know it went of f and Bentís dead. No way we can let them label our sergeant a loser and a suicide. Remember, everyone tells the same story. Marines stick together. Any problems?
ALLEN: No. No problem at all. Right, Malcolm?
ALLEN: Right, Harris.
HARRIS: (His voice quivering like heís about to break down.) Right. I guess thatís what we gotta do.
LARKINS: Alright. Malcolm, you and Harris get that blood cleaned off the walls and floor in the head. Hose it down if you have to, just clean it up. Allen, give them a hand and when youíre finished, go get the officer of the day. (Malcolm, Allen and Harris leave the room. Larkins goes over to Morris and places his hand on his shoulder and then crosses the room and sits in the chair opposite Morrisís body. He just sits there staring at his dead sergeant for about a minute. Finally he speaks the final words of Scene Two.)
LARKINS: Semper Fi, Sergeant. Even if you did forget the meaning of it. Semper Fi, Bent.
Back in the same conference room used in Scene One. Stevens and the team members, less Morris, are all seated as they were in Scene One. Morrisís chair is empty. Stevens is again holding several sheets of paper, looking them over intently. He finally looks up and slowly gazes briefly at each of the marines around the table before speaking.
STEVENS: Marines. I read these reports each of you wrote. I personally think they are so much crap. But Sergeant Bentley was one of the best damned recon men I Ďye ever served with. A little too gung-ho, if thatís possible, for a recon sergeant. But definitely one of There wonít be an investigation. five eyewitnesses all saying they all saw the same thing. Iíve got the spooks sanitizing your barracks. No one will know that there was no blood splatter or round impact point in Bentleyís room. There was no one else in the barracks with the rest of the platoon out doing night fire training and the rest of your squad on R & R thereís no one to contradict your reports. So the Naval Investigative Services, at my recommendation, has dropped any further investigation. However, off the record, Corporal Larkins, do you want to tell me just what the hell happened in that room?
LARKINS: Sir, itís just like we said in those reports. Sergeant Morris was drunk. Hell, we were all drunk. You know what we had just been through. One minute we were sitting around drinking and carrying on and the nextÖ Anyway, Sergeant Morris had just told us a joke, I donít remember about what, and all the time he was cleaning that prize pistol of his. Then the next minute, he raises it up to check out the front sight or something and it just went off.
STEVENS: Thatís it then? Thatís the way youíre saying it really happened?
LARKINS: Yes sir.
STEVENS: Did you men know that that mission you went on was Sergeant Morrisís last mission? He was being discharged for being passed over for promotion to staff sergeant for the third time. You know if you donít make staff by your twelfth year in the Corps, they discharge you, donít you?
HARRIS: The sergeant never told us he was being kicked out, sir.
MALCOLM: Sir, why would the Corps kick out the best damn recon sergeant it ever had? With all due respect, Colonel, that just donít make sense.
ALLEN: Colonel, Sergeant Morris earned the Navy Cross, two Silver Stars, the Bronze Star and two awards of the Purple Heart, and youíre telling us that donít mean shit. I agree with Malcolm, sir, that donít make any kind of sense.
STEVENS: No, Marine, it donít make sense. But itís regulation. Nothing I could do about it either. (Stevens rises from his chair. The team at attention..) Dismissed Marines. (Stevens exits the room, leaving the team members at attention.)
A Play by:
Thomas E. Rutherford
Mayor Jim Hillman
City Attorney Barry Masters
Alderman Bob Graves
Alderman Ted Stinson
Alderman Gloria Cunningham
Alderman Jeremy Cooke
Alderman Jimmy Don Stills
Alderman Freddy Raven
Recorder Judy May Shannon
Reverend Jeremiah Giles
Water Department Manager Leroy Smith
Police Chief Mickey Shelton
Homeowner Martin Crowe
Student and Cameraman Jimmy Lee
SETTING:The Riverway City Council meeting is about to get underway in the municipal courtroom. Mayor Jim Hillman sits in the "judge's seat." To his right are City Attorney Barry Masters and Aldermen Bob Graves, Ted Stinson, and Gloria Cunningham. Seated to his left are Recorder Judy May Shannon and Aldermen Jeremy Cooke, Jimmy Don Stills, and Freddy Raven.
ACT I: THE REVEREND
The courtroom is packed with concerned citizens. The aldermen are visiting with one another while Mayor Hillman discusses the night's agenda with Shannon and Masters. After several minutes of this, Mayor Hillman calls the meeting to order.
MAYOR HILLMAN: Jimmy you got that camera working? Is it picking up sound okay? (Jimmy nods from behind the camera) In that case, Aldermen, ladies, and gentlemen, the October meeting of the Riverway City Council is now in session. On tonight's agenda we will be addressing the following issues in the order that I read them out to you. First up tonight we will hear a complaint against the street department from Reverend Jeremiah Giles. Reverend Giles will be followed by Water Department Manager Leroy Smith who will be presenting, for the council's consideration, a proposed rate increase. After Leroy we'll hear from Police Chief Mickey Shelton concerning the need for two new patrol cars. The last person on the presentation agenda will be Martin Crowe, a Riverway homeowner, who asked to address the council about the lack of police patrols in his neighborhood. Reverend Giles you may address the council at this time.
REVEREND GILES: Mister Mayor and you other folks of the council. What I want to talk to you about tonight has to do with the water main leaking in front of the church. It keeps our parking lot so wet that it's like taking a mud bath to come to church. The brethern and sisters of Holy Sebastian's Trinity Church are sick and tired of this condition which has lasted for nigh onto two years.
MAYOR HILLMAN: Reverend, let me interrupt just a moment. Have you brought this leak to the Leroy Smith's attention at the Water Department?
REVEREND GILES: Yes, I have Mister Mayor. I've brought it up and brought it up and it is still leaking like a sieve. We've tried asking, begging, demanding and even praying to get that leak fixed and ain't none of it worked. Mister Smith has gotten to where he ignores our phone calls and if we stop by the Water Department to discuss it with him in person, he is always in a meeting or otherwise unavailable. I hate to say this but I'm going to. If this was the white folk's First Assembly of God Church on Main Street that had a leak ruining their parking lot then I and my brethern and sisters are pretty sure it would done have been fixed.
MAYOR HILLMAN: Now Reverend, there ain't no call to make this a racial issue. (The mayor looks at Leroy Smith) Leroy, are you aware of the water leak at the Reverend's church?
LEROY SMITH: Yes, I am. But I don't think it's been leaking for two years. We've got it on the schedule to fix. This ain't one of those things you can just run out and slap a band-aid on and cure it. We had to get an engineer to assess the damage to the water line and he recommended that we replace the entire line from the intersection of Main and First all the way down to Main and Eight Streets. And Reverend for your information, I don't never avoid anyone who comes into the office to see me. In case you don't know it, keeping the city's water supply running is a demanding job. It requires me to meet with engineers, customers, suppliers, as well as with the department's employees. And I have talked with you about the leak at your church. But I just don't think it's been leaking for two years. I think you are just being impatient-- (Reverend Giles interrupts Smith by slamming his fist down on the speaker's podium where he has been standing).
REVEREND GILES: Mister Smith, I do not appreciate you calling me a liar in front of all these folks. I will not tolerate it now or at any other time. That leak has been going on for two years regardless of what you say. I have a copy of the letter we sent you dated one year, eleven months, and twenty-seven days from today. We sent this letter after you came down and looked at the leak with your repairmen. We sent it because it had been thirty days since you came and looked at it and we never heard anything else from you.
MAYOR HILLMAN: Reverend, Leroy, let's get this thing worked out like adults. Leroy, you say you have the repairs that's needed scheduled. Please tell us and the Reverend what day those repairs will be made so we can move on to other business.
LEROY SMITH: Mayor, I can't tell you the exact date because our scheduling is really complicated.
MAYOR HILLMAN: Leroy, just tell us a drop-dead date. You know, when is the latest the Reverend can expect the repairs to be done.
LEROY SMITH: Again, I can't tell you that. All I can do is tell you it is scheduled.
REVEREND GILES: Mister Mayor, now you can see what we've been up against. This man ain't got no complicated scheduling system. What he's got is no scheduling system at all. That's why I wanted this brought up at this meeting so that we could get a firm date when the repairs are to be made. Now Mayor, Mister Smith works for you and you say you want him to do these repairs. I would think that all you, as his boss, would have to do is order him to make the repairs and when.
MAYOR HILLMAN: Reverend, it ain't that simple. Leroy is a city employee, but I'm not exactly his boss. He more or less works on his own and really answers to the Water Commission.
REVEREND GILES(Agitated): So you're sayin' this man is a city employee but he don't work for you. He just does as he pleases and there ain't nothin' you can do about getting him to take care of a problem that has been brought to your attention?
MAYOR HILLMAN: Now Reverend, just calm down. I think we can still work this out like adults. Leroy, have you got your repair schedule with you?
LEROY SMITH: No, Mayor. Didn't nobody tell me to bring it.
MAYOR HILLMAN: Leroy, we are going to recess for while you run next door to your office and bring in your repairs schedule so that we can resolve this thing once and for all.(Leroy leaves and several council members and spectators start pulling cigarettes and lighters out of their pocket as they follow Leroy out the door to take advantage of the break to smoke. The mayor, city attorney, and the recorder, unaware that Jimmy is still filming them, begin making fun of Leroy and the Reverend. The mayor imitates Reverend Giles gestures while the city attorney mimics Leroy. The recorder joins in and all three are laughing. The mayor glances at Jimmy and his mouth drops open.)
MAYOR HILLMAN: Jimmy, you're not still filming are you?
JIMMY: Yessir, Mayor. I sure am.
MAYOR HILLMAN(straightening out his tie and smoothing down his hair): Well, turn that thing off for Christ's sake. We're on recess here. You're supposed to go to a commercial or something when we take a recess.
JIMMY(turning off the camera): Well, nobody told me anything about no recess. All you said was to be sure and zoom in on you whenever you were talking and that's just what I was doing.
MAYOR HILLMAN: From now on, I'm going to tell you when to film and when not to film, just like you were a school kid.
JIMMY: Well, Mayor, I am a school kid. You know that. I'm a senior this year and plan to attend the state university and major in broadcasting.
MAYOR HILLMAN: Whatever. Just turn that thing on when I say and off when I say and remember to keep it zoomed in and focused whenever I'm speaking. Okay?
JIMMY: Sure thing, Mayor. Whatever you say.
Leroy reenters the courtroom. Spectators and aldermen who had stepped out to smoke began filtering back into the room. The mayor takes an exaggerated look at his watch for several seconds and then calls the meeting back to order.
MAYOR HILLMAN: This council meeting is back in session. Leroy did you bring your repairs schedule with you? (Jimmy nods assent) Good. Now looking at your schedule can you tell us when the repairs are scheduled for the water main at the Reverend's church?
LEROY: Well, Mayor, I still can't give you any kind of date or anything, but I can show you that those repairs are on the schedule.
MAYOR HILLMAN: Alright then, bring your schedule up here and show it to me.
Leroy walks to the front of counter behind which the mayor is seated. He lays the schedule down in front of the mayor and points to the last item.
LEROY: Mayor, see right here. There's the repairs for that water main by the Reverend's Church. See it. It's right there on the schedule just like I told the Reverend.
MAYOR HILLMAN: Leroy, what in the hell is this? Jimmy, turn the camera off for a few minutes.
JIMMY: The camera ain't on. Remember, you said I wasn't to turn it on or off unless you told me and you ain't told me to turn it on so it's already off.
MAYOR HILLMAN: You mean you haven't been filming anything since the recess ended?
JIMMY: No Sir. I sure ain't. I was just doing like you said.
MAYOR HILLMAN: Well, maybe it's just as well. Leroy, I'm going to ask you again. What is this?
LEROY: That's our repair schedule and as you can see the repairs the Reverend was talking about are right there at the bottom of the list.
MAYOR HILLMAN: You have six items on this list. The first one is to fix the leaking water faucet. The second one says to put the lawnmower in the shop. The third one says to request a raise for all Water Department employees. The fourth one fix parking lot lights. The fifth one says to place chemical order. The sixth one says to fix the Reverend's leak. Now, I'm going to ask you again, just what the hell is this?
LEROY: That leaking faucet is in the executive restroom of the Water Department. That second one is to get the department's lawnmower fixed so we can mow the grass around the building. The third--(Mayor Hillman cuts him off).
MAYOR HILLMAN: Leroy, I don't want to see your personal schedule of petty problems. I want you to fix that leak at the church tomorrow morning. I don't care what you have your repair people doing, they will stop whatever they are working on and get this leak fixed. Do I make myself perfectly clear?
LEROY: Yeah, I guess so. Will you authorize overtime so that we can take care of the stuff we have to let go to fix this leak?
MAYOR HILLMAN: What's so pressing that you'll need overtime to take care of it?
LEROY: Well, you know that Wednesday is our Christmas party. If we stop everything to take care of this leak, it's going to put us pretty far behind.
MAYOR HILLMAN: I don't want to hear about your Christmas party. I ain't authorizing any overtime. Just take care of this and whatever else you got to do that needs doin. If you have to cancel or postpone your party, that's your business. Not this council's business. Okay?
LEROY: We'll take care of it.
MAYOR HILLMAN: Reverend. That leak will be fixed tomorrow. Is there anything else you'd like to say?
REVEREND GILES: No, Mister Mayor. But I'll believe that leak is going to be fixed when I see a dry parking lot. Thank you, Mister Mayor and members of the council.
Reverend Giles gathers up his papers from podium and leaves the building. Mayor Hillman turns to Jimmy.
MAYOR HILLMAN: Jimmy, turn off the camera. We're going to take a short recess before hearing from Leroy about a rate increase.
JIMMY (Shrugging his shoulders): Mayor, the camera is already off. You never told me to turn it back on.
MAYOR HILLMAN (Red-faced): You mean you didn't get that on tape and broadcast? Quick, someone go try to catch the Reverend so we can replay where I solved his problem for him for all the folks at home who are watching this.
Jimmy goes out the door and returns several seconds later.
JIMMY: Mayor, Reverend Giles already drove off.
MAYOR HILLMAN: Shit. Jimmy, when I say the council is back in session you start filming and when I say we're going to a recess you stop. That's all you have to do. You got it?
JIMMY: Yeah. Just film all the time the meeting is going on and don't film when it's not like I always used to do before you changed policy?
MAYOR HILLMAN: Just don't miss anymore of my problem solving deals. Those are voters out there watching us. Okay, now we will take that short recess since we've got the damn broadcasting policy ironed out.
(Lights dim and curtain closes as some spectators and aldermen start leaving their seats and milling around.)
ACT II: LEROY SMITH
(This act opens with the aldermen and spectators just taking their places and Leroy Smith standing behind the speaker's podium.)
MAYOR HILLMAN(pounds his gavel like a judge): This meeting is now back in session. Leroy you're up.
LEROY: Well, Mayor, as you well know our water treatment plant is more than thirty years old. We're running out of time to meet the EPA sanctions imposed on the city to upgrade it. Therefore, I'm requesting the council pass a rate hike to pay for the upgrade. (He leaves the podium and approaches the mayor with a stack of papers.) I prepared this cost analysis to show how much the required upgrades are going to cost and the amount of money we're going to need. I know that the rate increase seems like a lot, but you got to realize we haven't had a major increase in more than thirty years. Surrounding cities our size have rates as much as double and triple what we currently charge our users. What we're proposing is to cycle in the rate increase over the next two years. But the first increase of thirty percent needs to be done immediately or we won't have the money to meet our bond payment next quarter. We are currently operating in the red as it is.
ALDERMAN BOB GRAVES(clearing his throat): I don't think we can afford a rate increase right now. You realize that several members of this council including myself and the mayor are up for re-election this fall don't you. You might just as well ask us to resign now as to ask us to up folks' water bills. If I'm reading this proposal right you're asking us to pass an immediate thirty percent rate hike now and then additional thirty percent rate hikes for each of the next four quarters. You think folks in this town are going to stand still for a one-hundred-and-fifty percent rate hike on their water bills in little more than a year? Mayor, what's your reading on this?
MAYOR HILLMAN: Well, Bob, now let's don't be hasty. Leroy sure seems to have done his homework here. But I have to agree that this kind of rate hike is going to be mighty unpopular with folks. Especially since the Water Department just built that new 2.5 million dollar office and all. They're going to want to know why that money wasn't used to upgrade our system if it's in that bad of shape rather than giving ya'll a fancy place to work. And too, Leroy, it don't help when you and one of the secretaries over there drive them new Cadillacs to work everyday.
LEROY: Mayor, you know that the money we spent on the new management facility was earmarked for building not for general repairs. Why if we hadn't spent that money for the new water department offices then we would have lost the matching funds we used in building the place.
ALDERMAN GLORIA CUNNINGHAM: Mr. Smith, not only is this rate hike going to be unpopular, but the new building is a slap in the face for the elderly black folks that live on three sides of it. They barely get by on their social security and their homes all need lots of work done to them and they have to get up every morning and see this modern 40,000 square foot monstrosity their tax dollars helped build. Now you want us to tell our constituents that we are going to have to more than double their water bills because we don't have the money to make necessary repairs. I think there's more at issue here than a rate hike. I think your department has grossly mismanaged its funds. I, personally, would like to see an independent audit done on your department before we could even consider a rate hike.
MAYOR HILLMAN: Now Gloria, just calm down. I think most of us here agree with you. That building may not of been the wisest use of money but it's built now and we can't just tear it down and get our money back. Besides Leroy sort of inherited it when he took over as department manager. You know that building was half-way finished when he got promoted over there.
ALDERMAN CUNNINGHAM: Yes and he would still be the number two man over their if his good old Uncle Bill hadn't had that heart attack and had to retire. Now that you've brought him up, I think we should look at how many other relatives Leroy has working at the water department.
LEROY: Miss Cunningham, you know as well as I do that my Aunt Clettie is the payment clerk and that two of the line plumbers are my cousins. I don't show them any more favoritism than Uncle Bill showed me when he was manager and I was assistant manager. Why I didn't even have a real office until he retired.
MAYOR HILLMAN: Folks, I think we have gotten way off base on the issue here. We're supposed to be considering a water rate hike, not discussing Leroy's family tree.
ALDERMAN FREDDY RAVEN: Since we ain't had time to think this thing through, I make a motion we table this issue until the next meeting and everyone come prepared to roll up their sleeves and get down to business on coming up with a solution that our constituents can live with.
ALDERMAN JIMMY DON STILLS: I second that motion. All agreed say "aye."
LEROY: Aw, Uncle Freddy, Uncle Jim, this is the second meeting you've done that to me. How am I ever going to run the water department if I can't get the city council to appropriate the money I need to bring it up to speed.
MAYOR HILLMAN: Leroy, Jimmy Don, both of you is out of order. Leroy, you know you ain't supposed to talk when a motion has been made unless you're a council member. And Jimmy Don, how many times do I have to tell you that if you second a motion, that's all you get to do. It's my job to take the vote and on an issue this important we got to do it right so it's all recorded and everything. Judy May call the roll and record the vote on the motion to table the issue of a water hike until our next meeting.
RECORDER JUDY MAY SHANNON: Cunningham.
RECORDER SHANNON: Stinson.
RECORDER SHANNON: Graves.
RECORDER SHANNON: Cooke.
RECORDER SHANNON: Stills.
RECORDER SHANNON: Raven.
MAYOR HILLMAN: Judy May you don't call my name unless there's a tie. That's the only time I vote. Do I have to tell you that every time we vote?
RECORDER SHANNON: Well, you know I been doing this for nearly twenty years and the old mayor always voted on every issue whether it was a tie or not.
MAYOR HILLMAN: Well, I know that. But I'm not the old mayor, I'm the new mayor and we're going to do it my now if you don't mind.
RECORDER SHANNON: Very well then. I'll just record "No Vote" by your name this time, it that's okay with you that is.
MAYOR HILLMAN: Whatever. We're going to take another small recess before Jimmy Don lights that ink pen up and tries to smoke it. Jimmy turn that camera off now. It was on, wasn't it?
JIMMY: Yessir, Mr. Mayor. It was rolling the whole time.
MAYOR HILLMAN (waving a hand in Jimmy's direction): Good, good.
(Everyone stands and again the smokers begin going out the door to light up. Everyone else is congregates in small groups talking. The mayor, city attorney and recorder are back at their game of making fun of folks, this time they are imitating Leroy begging his uncles to "let him be the boss." Lights fade out. Curtain.)
ACT III: The Chief of Police
(The act opens with the aldermen and spectators just taking their places and this time Chief Mickey Shelton is already standing behind the speaker's podium.)
MAYOR HILLMAN(Again pounding away with his gavel): This session is once again open. Chief tell us what's on your mind.
CHIEF SHELTON: Mayor, like I told you in your office the other day, my department needs two new patrol cars and I would like the council's authorization to buy them as soon as possible.
MAYOR HILLMAN: Chief, it seems like just the other day we authorized you to purchase four new cars. That happened after I took office and I ain't been mayor that long. Can you tell the council why we are all of a sudden needin' two more new cars?
CHIEF SHELTON: Well, you know the crime rates gone up quite a bit lately and folks are complaining my officers aren't patrolling enough. I figure if we add two more patrol cars to the stable we could put some of our reserve and part-time officers running up and down the streets at night. You know, to sort of let the bad guys know we're out there watching them. Also it helps the citizens rest better at night if they can see a patrol unit come by their residence a few times between supper time and bed time. My regular duty officers are too busy keeping the teenagers off the parking lots and what not to bother with just riding up and down city streets all night. You might re-think that curfew I mentioned last time. If we could get those kids home where they belong at a decent hour, it would free up my regular officers where maybe they could spend more time in the residential areas.
MAYOR HILLMAN: Chief, it's like we told you before, folks ain't gonna stand for us telling their kids they gotta go home before midnight. Some of them complain now about us shooing them home at midnight. We passed that public parking lot loitering ordinance and the midnight curfew for the ones who's under eighteen. That's about all we are gonna be able to do on that score. So let's quit beating that dead horse once and for all.
ALDERMAN CUNNINGHAM: I agree with the mayor on that. Now, Chief, tell us just what these reserve and part-time officers are going to do if they see a crime happening. Are they trained and experienced enough to handle any situation they see arising? Can you assure us that we won't be exposing our citizens to undue hazards by having them out running up and down the streets as you call it? What kind of liability are we looking at if they make a wrong judgment call?
CHIEF SHELTON: Miss Cunningham, I've been a police officer all of my adult life and I don't need you or anyone else telling me how to run my department. I won't even answer those kinds of question. Mayor, can we just stay with answering my request for two more patrol cars?
MAYOR HILLMAN: Chief, you apologize to Miss Cunningham right this minute. You can't just waltz in here and treat a council member like they was one of your latest arrestees. Until you do that, I won't even ask this council to consider any request you might make.
CHIEF SHELTON: Ma'am, I'm sorry if I was a bit short with you. It's just that we've had a real stressful week trying to bust up that carjacking ring that's been hitting the store parking lots. I can assure you that I always have the city's best interests at heart when I send my officers out on duty whether they are regular, reserve, or part-time officers.
(Alderman Cunningham nods towards the chief but doesn't comment further.)
ALDERMAN BOB GRAVES (with a mischievous grin): It appears to me Chief that maybe what you could do is station several of your reserve or part-time officers out at the Freeway Diner. That way while your regular officers is doing their paperwork, drinking coffee, flirting with waitresses, or whatnot, those old boys could use their cars and do some of that patrolling and save the city a barrel of money. I know for a fact that your officers spend more time there than most of the diner's employees.
MAYOR HILLMAN: Okay, Bob. This is not the time to be getting your digs in at the chief. We all know you're still sore about that speeding ticket your niece had to pay a little while ago. People, let's stay on course here with business and quit letting our personalities get in the way.
ALDERMAN RAVEN: Jim, I make a motion to pass an ordinance appropriating the necessary funds to purchase two used vehicles for the police department contingent upon the Chief getting us an exact quote so we can let bids.
CHIEF SHELTON(jumping to his feet): Used vehicles! You want my people to entrust their lives to used vehicles to...
MAYOR HILLMAN: Chief, you're out of order here. You've had your say now it's the council's turn. Do I have a second on the motion?
ALDERMAN STILLS: I second it.
MAYOR HILLMAN: Ms. Shannon. Call the roll and record the votes.
RECORDER SHANNON: Graves.
ALDERMAN GRAVES: Nay.
RECORDER SHANNON: Stinson.
ALDERMAN STINSON: Nay.
RECORDER SHANNON: Cunningham.
ALDERMAN CUNNINGHAM: Nay.
RECORDER SHANNON: Cooke.
ALDERMAN COOK: Nay.
RECORDER SHANNON: Stills
ALDERMAN STILLS: Aye.
RECORDER SHANNON: Raven
ALDERMAN RAVEN: Aye.
RECORDER SHANNON: The ordinance fails with a vote of four against; two for.
MAYOR HILLMAN: Chief, better luck next time. On behalf of the council, we do appreciate the hard work your department does.
ACT IV: What About the Citizens?
(The act opens with the aldermen and spectators just taking their places and this time Martin Crowe is standing behind the speaker's podium.)
MAYOR HILLMAN (Again pounding away with his gavel): This session is once again open. Mr. Crowe, I've asked the Chief to stick around and hear what you've got to say since it has a bearing on his department. You've got the floor.
CROWE: Mr. Mayor, members of the council, ladies and gentlemen, I'm Martin Crowe. I live in the Evergreen Addition. In the past five weeks my neighbors and I have had lawn furniture, potted flowers, porch swings, and trash cans stolen from our yards and carports. I've spoken with the Chief twice and we've had officers come out and take reports numerous times. The Chief and his officers have promised us they would institute extra patrols through the neighborhood at night. I've spoken with all of the residents in the addition this week and none of them, myself included, have seen a patrol car come through our addition at night, or any other time for that matter, since these promises were made.
MAYOR HILLMAN: Mr. Crowe, let me interrupt you here for a minute. Chief, if you promised Mr. Crowe and his neighbors extra patrols through their neighborhood, why aren't your officers doing that?
CHIEF SHELTON (rising to address the council): First of all Mayor, we're talking about twenty-three houses on a circle drive in a town of more than three thousand homes, not counting apartments and such. My officers are busy until midnight playing babysitter to all the juvenile delinquents on the strip who are vandalizing property and drinking and everything else. I believe I told Mr. Crowe I would look into getting extra patrols in his neighborhood. I didn't promise anything. Besides, from the stuff that's been taken, I think most of the stuff taken has been done by kids with too much time on their hands and parents that don't know how to make them mind.
CROWE (Addressing the audience with a sweep of his hand): That's the problem as I see it. Ever since the chief's been in charge he's blamed the teenagers of this town for all the problems his department can't handle. We didn't have curfews and such before he got here and our kids didn't cause problems then. Now, they got nowhere to hang out in this whole town. If they try to get together and socialize, then they're accused of being a gang, or dopers, or troublemakers. That's what's killing this town. Running our young people off the streets so they have to go out of town. If the chief's curfew idea is such a hot idea and his officers are capable of doing their job, then how can he stand here and say teenagers are taking our stuff between midnight and daylight? That's what I want to know.
CHIEF SHELTON: Mr. Crowe, you don't know the first thing about law enforcement....
CROWE (cutting off the Chief): Don't tell me what I know and don't know Shelton. I spent more than twenty years in the Marine Corps and twelve years as a federal agent. I believe my law enforcement credentials are definitely better than yours. So don't...
MAYOR HILLMAN (Interrupting): Gentlemen, gentlemen. This is not the place. Settle down. Chief, I think you need to get your officers pulling those extra patrols in Mr. Crowe's neighborhood and Mr. Crowe, I apologize that they haven't been doing that.
CHIEF SHELTON: Very well then. I'll get them patrols through that neighborhood every hour from midnight to six every morning for the rest of the week Don't come blaming me if the rest of the town gets looted. (Spinning on his heel, the Chief leaves the room and slams the door behind him).
CROWE: There you have it folks. Our PRO-FESSIONAL PO-LICE DEE-PARTMENT at work!
MAYOR HILLMAN: Mr. Crowe if that's all you have please take your seat. Ladies and Gentlemen I know we have more on the agenda, but due to the complex matters that've been brought up tonight, I think we need to call it a night. Maybe we can get together and talk about this before the next meeting and get some of these issues solved.
ROBERT MORRIS: Mayor, are you suggesting that you and the council members "get together" between meetings? You do know that violates the Freedom of Information Act, do you not?
MAYOR HILLMAN: Robert, Robert. You know better than that. Me and some of the council members meet informally from time to time and just kind of get a game plan together. We don't conduct any kind of official business or anything.
ROBERT MORRIS: Mayor, that's clearly a violation of the FOIA. I'm going to report this to the state attorney general.
MAYOR HILLMAN: You do what you think you ought to Robert. Maybe old Dan Livingston'll bring it up this weekend when me and him go fishing. You do know that back when Dan was in college we was roommates? Course you didn't. Anyway, just cause he's the state AG now don't mean he's forgot his friends, if you know what I mean. Jimmy! Turn that camera off. We gonna have to work on your camera skills. Do I have a motion to close this here meeting.
ALDERMAN GRAVES: I motion we close this meeting.
ALDERMAN STINSON: I second that motion. Let's make like sheep and get the flock out of here.
A Play by:
Thomas E. Rutherford
Jason Roberts -- Publisher
Jim Hardie -- Editor
Jerry Glover -- Photographer
Margie Moore -- Advertising Manager
Teri Graves -- News Reporter
Johnny Wells -- News Reporter
Lonnie Hines -- Sports Reporter
Cherylynne Baker -- Receptionist
Clyde Hankins -- Circulation Manager
Unidentified Man -- Doorway shouter
Newsroom of the Rivercity Daily News. Jason Roberts has just assumed his new job as publisher of the Daily News. He's holding a meeting, the first of many, to get his staff headed in new directions. He's standing next to Jim Hardie with the rest of the staff in a semi-circle facing them. From the left is: Glover, Moore, Wells, Graves, Hines, Baker, and Hankins.
ROBERTS: Folks, as you know, I'm your new publisher. In case any of you have been wondering about my qualifications, I've worked in virtually every newspaper position at every paper owned by Southern Newspaper Alliance, Incorporated. I've been with the company for eighteen years now. When we closed the deal buying your newspaper last month, Tom, that's Tom Roberts, my uncle, decided to send me in as publisher to get things rolling. I have a lot of ideas I want to try out at this paper. I believe strongly in unbiased reporting and I want this paper to become a model of that for SNA. I'll be visiting with each of you individually, but Jim, as editor, why don't you briefly introduce the other staff members.
HARDIE: Okay Mr. Roberts, this...
ROBERTS (cutting Hardie off in mid-sentence): Jason, just call me Jason. We don't need to be formal here. SNA is a family owned corporation and we, all of us (sweeping his arms out wide), are a part of that family. You go ahead now Jim.
HARDIE: Well, uh, okay Jason. This is Jerry Glover. He's our photographer. He also runs the darkroom and helps in layout and the pressroom.
ROBERTS (crossing the room and shaking Jerry's hand): Good to meet you Jerry. I've been looking at your work. Good photos. Kind of static, but great quality. I've got some ideas I want to share with you later. Also, I'd like to free you up around here so you can concentrate solely on your photography.
GLOVER: Great. Sounds like a winner.
HARDIE: Next Mr. Roberts, uh, I mean Jason, we have Margie Moore. She's been the ad manager here forever.
ROBERTS: Margie. You've built up quite an advertising base here for a newspaper this size. You'll have to let me know your secret.
MOORE (talking non-stop and not giving anyone a chance to interrupt her): Well, Jason, you see my father's Hobart James of James Chevrolet, the largest dealer in the county. He's also on the city council, director on First Citizen Bank's board, and a member of the County Industrial Commission. My husband's a VP at First Citizen, in charge of commercial accounts, and my father-in-law owns Tri-Plastics, that's the big factory you see when you first come into town from the freeway. It employs sixty percent of the working folks in the county. Sooo, although I consider my sales skills superior, most businesses hereabouts welcome the chance to advertise in our paper. You know the old saying: You got to go along to get along -- that's always been sort of my motto, if you know what I mean.
ROBERTS: I see, Well, we'll visit more about that later. Jim.
HARDIE: Right. This is Teri Graves and Johnny Wells. They're our reporting staff. Teri covers the city and Johnny covers the rest of the county.
ROBERTS(while shaking hands with each): Good to meet you two. Teri, I liked that piece on the crooked wrecker driver you did last week. How did you tumble onto that?
GRAVES: Mrs. Moore gave me a lead and some background on it. He was charging lower prices than the wrecker her Dad's dealership opeates and she told me her Dad suspected he had to be doing something illegal to be able to affort such low rates. So we had my car towed to my apartment saying it wouldn't start and then Mrs. Moore had me drive it to her Dad's dealership to be checked out and, sure enough, some of the parts on my new car had been replaced with older parts. So, then Mrs. Moore called Larry Moore, he's Mrs. Moore's brother-in-law and the chief of police. Chief Moore went over to the diner where Vinton Murdock, the owner of Murdock's Wrecker and Used Parts, was having lunch. He called me from there to come out and take some pictures. And, sure enough, there in a box on the back of the wrecker were several parts that the chief said came from my car. Murdock claimed he didn't know how they got there, but there they were.
ROBERTS: I see.
GRAVES: I'll be covering the trial too. Judge Slayton, that's Mrs. Moore's uncle, gives us a lot of leeway for pictures and interviews and stuff in his courtroom.
ROBERTS: Okay. And Johnny, that was a good article about the illegal dumping on private citizen's property out in the south end of the county.
WELLS: Thank you, sir. Mrs. Moore's cousin, Jeremy Winger, owns that property so Mrs. Moore tipped me off to the story.
ROBERTS: Well, Margie, seems you contribute as much to the news gathering efforts of the paper as you do to the advertising.
MOORE: I like to think they go hand in hand Jason.
ROBERTS: I see. Well Jim, go ahead.
HARDIE: Yessir. This is Lonnie Hines, our number one, and only, sports reporter.
ROBERTS (shaking his hand): Lonnie, good to meet you. I like the action you convey in your articles. Good action photos too. We have, what, three high schools in the county? I know we're the Riverside Daily News, but I assume we have county readers too. Why so little coverage of the two outlying schools' sports events?
HINES (slouching insolently): Well, most of our advertisers' kids and grandkids go to Riverside so Mrs. Moore feels we should give them the lion's share of coverage so to speak. Besides, in case you ain't noticed we're a small staff and I'm just one person so I can only cover one game at a time. All the schools' games are always on the same night, whether it's football, baseball or basketball. I just get stats from the other schools' coaches and throw them together to give them some coverage. And, like you said, we ARE the Riverside Daily News.
ROBERTS: Yes, we are. We'll talk more about our sports coverage later.
HARDIE: This is our receptionist, Cherylynne Baker. She's the heart and soul of the paper. She keeps us all lined out and on schedule, as well as taking care of subscriptions, classified ads, and walk-in traffic.
ROBERTS (stepping forward to shake her hand): Cherylynne, good to meet you. I just want to say that that front counter and the reception area is the most professional I've seen during my time in the newspaper business.
BAKER: Why, thank you, Jason. Welcome to our little corner of the world.
HARDIE: And finally, this is Clyde Hankins, our circulation manager. Clyde also runs the press, does the mail-outs, with help from Cherylynne, and makes sure our deliverers get the job done.
ROBERTS (shaking Clyde's hand): Clyde, good to meet you. We might see about getting you some part-time help with all those jobs you're doing.
Hankins (frowning): Who says I need help!?! I've been doing this job for fifteen years and I ain't never had any complaints, let me tell you. Besides, help would just get in my way. I'd have to train 'em and all and I ain't got time for a lot of nonsense like that. Now, if you'll excuse me, I got work to do and it ain't gettin' done by its ownself, let me tell you! (Clyde turns to the left and stalks off towards the back of the paper.)
ROBERTS (standing speechless for a few minutes watching Clyde's back as he leaves): Well, that about covers everything I wanted to cover right now. I'll let you folks get back to work and, like I said, I'll be visiting individually with each of you as our schedules permit.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN (leans in the door and yells): Jim, thought you might want to send someone over to Tri-Plastics! Got a big fire over there! (The man lets the door go to as he leaves)
JIM: Teri, go see if you can find out what happened. Call me as soon as you can if it's something we need to hold the front page open for. Jerry go get us some photos and then get back here with the film quick in case we need to run it today.
TERI: On my way. (Grabbing a notepad, purse and keys and heading for the door)
JERRY: I'm with you. (Shouldering his camera bag and following Teri out the door)
ROBERTS: I think I'll ride out to the plant and have a look-see. It'll give me a chance to see our folks in action.
JIM: We'll hold the fort down.
MARGIE: I'll call Ben, that's my father-in-law, at the plant and let him know you're coming.
ROBERTS: No need. I'm sure he's got enough on his hands with the fire and all. (Roberts leaves the office)
MARGIE (picks the phone and starts dialing): Hello, let me speak to......
Lights dim and scene ends.SCENE II
Opens with Teri at her computer typing. Margie's sitting next to her reading a first draft of the fire story. Every so often she lines through words and sometimes whole sentences. She interrupts Teri often to point out changes. Jim is at his desk going through mail and sorting it into two places -- a bin on his desk and the waste basket. Johnny's got his back to the audience playing solitaire on his computer.
More to come soon!!!