Animal Crackers

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Sunny afternoon.
A town square.
In the middle of the town square a burlap sack covering someone, or something. A crowd gathered around the sack.
MAN #1
Do you know who he belonged to?
WOMAN #1
We don’t know that it’s a he.
MAYOR
We don’t know anything right now, so let us not speculate.
(pause)
Who found him. Her. For now let’s go with the masculine pronoun. Him.
WOMAN #1
We always go with the masculine pronoun.
Arguments ensue among the crowd.
MAYOR
People, people, please. “It.” Let’s go with “it” for now. Who found “it?”
FLOYD
I did, Mayor.
MAYOR
Just like this?
FLOYD
Exactly like this. I was making my morning rounds and . . . there it was.
MAYOR
This is the fourth one . . . like this. Every one of ‘em covered in this kind of sack.
FLOYD
Burlap.
MAYOR
What’s that?
FLOYD
The kind of sack, it’s burlap.
MAYOR
Burlap, yes, okay, thank you, Floyd. And I’m going to assume there’s a child under there…
FLOYD
I think that’s a reasonable assumption, what with the size of the sack and all.
MAN #1
What else could fit under there?
WOMAN #1
She might be a small grown-up, someone short, a grandma—
GRANDMA BARKER
Hey, I take offense to that—
WOMAN #1
Sorry, Miss Barker.
MAYOR
Okay, okay, let us for a minute assume that it is a child . . . has anyone’s child gone missing?
WOMAN #1
You mean, like literally?
MAYOR
Yes, I mean literally gone missing.
Crowd patter: nope, uh-uh, not mine, they’re still around, etc.
MR. BATES
You know, Mayor, there could be nothing under there.
MAYOR
Oh, there’s something under there alright.
MR. BATES
But how do you know? Maybe . . . maybe we should take a look.
Crowd looks at MR. BATES, as if what he’s suggested is absolutely crazy.
MAYOR
We don’t look, Mr. Bates. We never look.
MR. BATES
I know, but—
MAYOR
There’s nothing to see, you understand? We more or less know what happened.
MR. BATES
We do?
MAYOR
Well we might not know what happened, but we are fairly certain that under that sack is a child, a boy or a girl, and she or he is no longer among the living.
Silence.
MISS MARY breaks out crying.
MAYOR
What is it, Miss Mary?
MISS MARY
I think . . . I think that might be Jonah under there.
MISS MARY’S HUSBAND
Dear, it can’t be Jonah under there, he’s at home, we left him at home, we were just with him fifteen minutes ago, remember?
MISS MARY
I know, dear, but it still might be Jonah under there.
MR. BATES
Why don’t you look?
MAYOR
No one is to look under that sack.
(beat)
Miss Mary, if you’d like, I can send someone to fetch Jonah and bring him here and then you’ll know that it’s not him.
MISS MARY
Not him?
MAYOR
Not him under the sack.
MISS MARY
No, Mayor, I don’t want anyone to fetch Jonah. Leave him where he is. I just want to grieve my Jonah.
MISS MARY continues weeping.
WOMAN #1
That could be Wilhelm under the sack—
MAN #1
It might be Jessica—
WOMAN #3
Delaney, my poor sweet innocent Delaney.
People in the crowd begin crying for their “lost” loved ones.
MAYOR
Everybody, please, please, it is not your child under the sack. Do you understand what I’m saying? It is not your child under there, so please stop grieving.
(Silence)
Order and composure returns to the crowd.
FLOYD
Well, Mayor, what do we do now?
MAYOR
What we always do, Floyd.
FLOYD
Should I water it first?
MAYOR
We always water it first, Floyd.
FLOYD
Yes, sir. And then the concrete?
MAYOR
Then the concrete.
FLOYD
Okay.
MAYOR
People, as I said the other four times, and will probably keep on saying so long as these burlap sacks keep appearing—A tragedy of unspecified origins, with a victim of unknown identity, has come to us. We don’t know why, but what we do know, what we most assuredly do know is that we must continue to cherish the living, to cherish our loved ones, and to keep the faith that all is as it should be.
Everyone bows their heads.
MAYOR
Let us now return—
Suddenly, a CHILD in a plastic monkey mask that covers his/her entire face emerges from the crowd and makes its way toward the burlap sack.
MAYOR
Whose child is that?
MONKEYCHILD stops. Does a little hopsteppy happydance, with his arms overhead, hands swaying back and forth.
MAN #1
What’s he doing?
WOMAN #1
I don’t know.
MAN #1
Who does he belong to?
WOMAN #1
Or she.
The MONKEYCHILD stops dancing. Lies down on top of the sack, embracing whoever or whatever is beneath.
The crowd is in a state of shock, disbelief.
MAYOR
(to MONKEYCHILD)
Don’t touch it. Don’t . . . touch it.
MONKEYCHILD rises to standing. Takes another monkey-mask out of the satchel he/she’s carrying. Removes the burlap sack enough to reveal the face of whoever’s beneath. We, and the crowd, do not see the face.
MONKEYCHILD places the monkey-mask over the face of the corpse. We, and the crowd, now see the monkey-masked face of the corpse.
MONKEYCHILD tucks the burlap sack neatly around the corpse’s neck and shoulders, a ceremonial flourish.
MONKEYCHILD goes over to a nearby flowerbed, picks a white daisy, and places it on the chest of the corpse.
Then MONKEYCHILD skip-dances around the corpse, Ring-around-the-Rosey-style.
MONKEYCHILD stops skipping. Stares at the crowd. And stares.
FLOYD
Do you still want me to water it?
MAYOR
No, I don’t think . . . no.
MAN #1
Who does this child belong to?
WOMAN #1
Which one?
MAN #1
The monkey one.
WOMAN #1
They’re both monkeys now.
MAN #1
The living monkey one.
MISS MARY
Well it’s not Jonah, he’s at home.
WOMAN #1
Wilhelm doesn’t own a monkey-mask.
WOMAN #3
Delaney doesn’t dance like that.
FLOYD
So what you’re saying is, the child belongs to no one?
GRANDMA BARKER
It’s a wild thing is what it is.
MAN #1
Did you see the way it skipped? Like something out of a horror flick.
MISS MARY
And it’s staying there with the body, it’s just . . . staying there.
MISS MARY’S HUSBAND
And staring at us. Like it wants something.
MAYOR
People, as your Mayor, I’ll tell you how we’re going to handle this.
(stares at the MONKEYCHILD)
We’ll confront it. When the time is right. But for now, let us continue with our day as if everything is as it was.
Crowd begins to slowly disperse, still wary of the MONKEYCHILD.
Soon it is just the MONKEYCHILD and the corpse.
MONKEYCHILD rests his/her masked face against the masked face of the corpse.
MONKEYCHILD then skip-dances around the corpse three times.
The CORPSE reaches its hands up.
MONKEYCHILD takes the CORPSE’S hands and helps him/her to stand.
The two MONKEYCHILDREN hug, and then begin skipping in a circle as an electronic remix of “Animal Crackers” begins playing.
Camera slowly zooms out.
Fade to black.

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About John Biscello

Originally from Brooklyn, NY, writer, poet, spoken word performer, and playwright, John Biscello now lives in Taos, New Mexico. He is the author of three novels: Broken Land, a Brooklyn Tale, Raking the Dust, and Nocturne Variations, and a collection of stories, Freeze Tag. His fiction and poetry has appeared in: Art Times, nthposition, The Wanderlust Review, Ophelia Street, Caper, Polyphony, Dilate, Militant Roger, Chokecherries, Farmhouse, BENT, The 555 Collective, Instigator, Brass Sopaipilla, The Iconoclast, Adobe Walls, Kansas City Voices, and the Tishman Review. His blog--Notes of an Urban Stray--can be read at johnbiscello.blogspot.com. Broken Land, a Brooklyn Tale was named Underground Book Reviews 2014 Book of the Year.
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