21 TODAY - A Dramatic Monolog by Edward Crosby Wells
The CHARACTER is a young man who can easily be taken for twenty-one
He should be charming and likable
He is surrounded in dark, addressing the audience
I'm a regular guy. Regular things . . . sports, football, baseball, the ladies. I'm a
regular lady killer, know what I mean? I watch my share of TV, but I'm no couch
potato. I eat fast food, sometimes to excess, have a beer now and again, but
never to excess and I'm into cars. Regular guy stuff, know what I mean? I'm
really into traveling, seeing what there is to see, meeting folks along the way . . .
especially the ladies.
Drove coast to coast in my Jeep exploring the wonders of America. Lots of
wonders out there . . . New York City . . . not as bad as you heard. Disney World,
not as good as you heard. The mighty Mississippi . . . big, but mighty muddy.
The Rio Grande's not a river at all. Not by a long shot . . . a trickling stream, if
you was to ask me. Las Vegas . . . that was a whole lot like Disney World, but
with a lot of hookers. The Grand Canyon . . . that's a big hole in the ground, but
it's pretty grand alright. And L.A., the City of Angels. If there be angels in Las
Angeles they're not from where most people think they're from. You know, from
upstairs. They're the other kind, from another place altogether, if you know what
So, here's the big news: Twenty-one today. A magic number, huh? Twenty-one.
I like the sound of that. Sure seemed to take a long time. It takes a lot of years
when you go to adding them up. Know what I mean? And all the stuff you've
got to get through to make it from there to here.
There are so many moments in a life you can never forget no matter how hard
you try. They don't let loose. They're like scars. You look at them and you
remember how you got every one of them. There's no forgetting. Nope. They're
there and they never go away. The most indelible scars, those fucked up
moments in your life, are the ones you come face to face with when somebody
close to you dies . . . somebody you care about. You don't ever forget those
moments. They're tattooed deep beneath the skin, those moments of death.
They're always right there, staring you right in the face. Scars.
For instance, my mother. My mother and her fucking enemas. Fucking enemas.
That's funny, isn't it? I mean, it's funny when you come to think about it, if you
know what I mean. Ain't nobody that constipated. What the hell was she looking
for? You'd think I'd swallowed gold nuggets or gold plated Cheerios or
something. We all have our quirks, our little eccentricities, don't we?
Wells/21 TODAY 2 of 4
I hadn't yet reached puberty when I got my first taste of death . . . my mother, the
enema lady. You can be sure you'll never forget that sweet and pungent smell
associated with death . . . the perfume of flowers mingling with the unmistakable
odor of dead flesh into one overpowering scent. It stunk up the air in the parlor
filled with strangers I never saw before and some family I never saw before, and
they were all in mourning . . . all with their great big phony crocodile tears.
People . . . they treat you like shit when you're alive and the minute you bite it
they go all mushy and teary-eyed . . . then they go home, watch a little TV, go to
bed, get up the next day and they can't remember your face or where they met
you or who you were or why you were in their life in the first place. Just another
day in Deadwood. You can't help but love them, can you? No man's an island,
right? Some of the best times I ever had involved people. What are you going to
do without them, huh? You can't eat them, so you might as well love them.
So, there they all were wearing their solemn faces and such when somebody
came up from behind and escorted me to the coffin to kiss my mother goodbye.
Well, I didn't want to kiss that corpse, who the hell would? The hands that
administered the enemas lay crossed upon her bosom. No way was I going to
kiss them. Suddenly, a fat ham hock of a hand forced my head to bend and my
lips to press hard upon her cold, waxen cheek . . . and there it was. There was
that smell, sweet and pungent. Nobody is going to forget a thing like that.
Nobody . . . and I can guarantee it. There's no forgetting decay.
After her death I went to live with my grandparents 'cause the old man was still in
the army. They were good people, my grandparents. They tried to love me, but
they never quite got 'round to it. I figure they never really felt it deep in that place
that makes it real. You see, they couldn't accept that my mother committed
suicide. They refused to believe it and so they could never bring themselves
even close to saying the word "love" when it came to me. Not once did they ever
say that word. I guess I was a constant reminder of what they wanted to bury in
the back of their thoughts and so, at best, I became an object of their
ambivalence. What the hell, love's nothing but a word used so often, over and
over, it no longer means a thing . . . just another four letter word. But, we cry
waiting for somebody to say it anyway.
Two weeks after the old lady went to greener pastures, if you believe in that kind
of stuff, the old man was discharged from the army. That man would sooner kick
you in the head than rub it. He really got off on torturing me. Tied me up, beat
me up and bloodied me up. No respect for kids, if you know what I mean. I sure
as hell don't know what made him so cruel, but he was one mean sonofabitch.
So getting his comeuppance wasn't a surprise or a sad affair to anybody. He
must have really rubbed somebody the wrong way 'cause his battered body with
its smashed-in face not even a mother could recognize was found less than half
a mile from the house . . . down by the watercress pond. Anyway, he was
beaten to death with the bloody rock the police found a few feet from his body.
His killer was never found. They looked alright, but he hasn't yet been found.
And that's how I became acquainted with death and the smell of it.
Love, too, has a smell of its own. There was a blond girl with emerald eyes in
junior high. One fall day after school she lured me down to the brook where the
high school kids went to smoke during lunch hour. Nobody ever went there after
school. Said she had something to show me. I told her I had something to show
her too. She smelled like bubble gum and soap, yet her skin tasted like salt and
freshly mowed grass. I know, 'cause . . . well, I don't have to tell you, do I? And
her eyes . . . oh boy, those eyes . . . wide and unblinking, trying to figure me out, I
guess. Her watery eyes with tiny golden flecks sparkled in the light of the setting
sun as I watched her watching me. She was twelve. That's another magic
number, isn't it?
Anyway, where was I? Oh, telling you about love. Years later love was in a
clearing in the woods behind the old tire factory, long since closed and boarded
up. The raven-headed girl lay on the ground silently as my hands reached under
her dress and pushed her legs apart. She was trembling and she started to cry,
but willing . . . maybe she was scared. You can never tell about a thing like that.
This was all new to her and she wasn't sure what was going to happen next. You
could smell the blood between her legs . . . like rusty iron. And the taste . . .
tinny. It's a taste you don't forget. She was fifteen.
Year after year passed on my way to twenty-one and the girls became more
frequent. The years were filled with the scent of sweet breath, peaches, moss,
straw, cheap perfume and the tinny taste that lingers and, if only in the mind,
never quite goes away.
All the girls had their own scent. That's how I remember each and every one of
them. Every now and again I catch a whiff of déjà vu.
The girl without a smile, with the twisted foot and braces, was the saddest of all.
I don't think anybody had ever touched her before. She gave herself over to me
as if I were an angel come to save her . . . to take her away to a fairy castle and
love her forever after. I like the thought of me being an angel, but I know better.
Anyway, it didn't turn out that way. No castle, I couldn't save her and no love
forever after. Fantasies and dreams of forever after never do come true, do
they? I felt her sadness and pain and I almost told her that I loved her and, even
though I did, I couldn't bring myself to it. She smelled like medicine . . . like the
smell of a hospital room where a body lays waiting to be discovered. She was
Finally, late last night, early morning really, there was the tattooed girl who reeked
of beer, urine, sweat and crack. What a shame. How does a person fall that far?
What causes a person to care so little for themselves? She stumbled out the bar
and I saw that she needed somebody to comfort her, to give her a sense of worth,
but when I tried she ran like a wounded rabbit . . . screaming all the while,
trying to get away, but she never did. They never do. When I caught up with her
in the stench of the alley I grabbed hold of her . . . offered her my arms . . . and
with a gripping embrace and a quick twist of her neck until you could hear it
snap . . . breathlessly, her head fell forward . . . her dead body went limp and I let
it fall to the ground. Then I shoved it into a dumpster and closed the lid. She
was number twenty-one . . . twenty-one today.
Well, that's the story of my life. I'm just a regular guy who loves the ladies.
Would you repeat that back to me?
"Regular guy, honest, dependable and never lies, loves moonlit walks, sports,
traveling and good times, looking for same to share mutual interests. Willing to
relocate for the lady of his dreams and to kill her with kindness." Perfect. That'll
run in tomorrow's classifieds, right? What? Nothat's it. Nothing else. Thank
you very much.