by Matthew M. Lug

Cast of Characters:

Butch - A prisoner about to be executed

(BUTCH is sitting in a chair in the middle of the stage. The rest of the stage is empty. Lighting is dim, and BUTCH speaks calmly, without emotion, as if stating facts and nothing more.)

We found him on the side of the road. A car ran him over. My father blamed me. If I had taken better care of him his tail would still be wagging and he wouldn't have been crushed and covered in blood. His belt would teach me a lesson, that's what he told me. A lesson I would never forget. And I never did. The leather and metal, cracking on flesh, burning and stinging long after the mark is made. How can someone ever forget that? The neighbors' dog disappeared that night. It was never found. Why should one dog be killed while another one so close by is left unharmed? It didn't seem fair. So I evened it out. The dog didn't feel a thing, it died instantly. I didn't have anything against the dog, but its death was necessary in order for balance to be restored. I had learned my lesson alright. Life isn't fair, you have to help it along sometimes.

They said it was the perfect job for me. I could see the world, defend democracy, and learn discipline and leadership skills. It would make me a man. How could I say no? They taught me the basics, how to kill, the nature of death, the evils of communism. I don't know what I was expecting when I got there. The thing that struck me the most wasn't the military activity, the hostility, or even the military rations. It was the climate. Hot, wet, inhospitable. I thought the first ones I killed were lucky. They didn't have to deal with the many annoyances a climate like that has to offer. I learned to survive though, and it wasn't long before I was being praised for my actions. Courage under fire. Quick thinking in constantly changing circumstances. The ability to unleash death on the enemy without letting it strike back at me. I was a hero. Your countrymen will be proud. You have served your nation and the entire world with bravery and with honor. That's what they told me. I wasn't proud. I did what was necessary. There was no need to congratulate me.

I left there a hero, but I arrived here a murderer. They said I was a willing participant in an immoral war. I slaughtered innocent people. I destroyed a peaceful civilization. I did what I was told, and I was rewarded for it. I had done what I was told, and I was insulted because of it. They hadn't been there. They didn't know what it was like. Nobody was trying to kill them day and night. They didn't walk by the med tents and catch a glimpse of that day's horrors. They didn't smell blood mixed with fire and smoke. But they were better than me, they made sure I was aware of that. I was now the enemy.

They ran straight at me. I don't know if they were running away from something, or toward me, or if it was something else, but they were coming straight at me. I reacted like anyone would. The first one went down like he didn't know what hit him. He never made a sound, he just hit the ground and stayed there. The second one had some sense though, and tried to fight back. I could tell he had no real experience, because he just stood there moving his arms to block me. I got tired of it after a while and took him down. He screamed a bit on the way down, but he was quiet after his head hit the curb with an audible crack. For some reason I was expecting a lot of blood, but there was only a little trickle. It was then that the other one started moving. I kicked him in the head, and he didn't move any after that. I didn't want to get caught up in whatever it was they were doing, so I left. I never thought about that afternoon again.

I wanted to get her something nice for her birthday. She always complained that I never got her anything, that I never did anything for her, that I was worthless and a waste of a human being. I wanted her to shut up. The guy behind the counter showed me the necklace, and handed it to me right before the phone rang. I looked at it, and I knew she would like it, even though she would probably say it was ugly and wouldn't dare wear it in public. She would never admit to liking something I picked out. The guy behind the counter went into the back room to take the phone call, and he never came back. I was just standing there, until I saw the time. She would have a fit if I was late, I knew that much. I walked out of the store, forgetting that I still had the necklace. I realized this when I got back home, but I didn't want to risk going back and getting arrested for such a stupid mistake. I never did give it to her, I just kept it hidden away, too ashamed to do anything with it.

I had almost finished stacking bags of charcoal when he walked over to me. Times are tough, he said. Costs are up, sales are down. It just isn't cost effective to have so many employees at such a small store. I'm afraid I'll have to let you go. Give me a call if you need a reference. And could you lock up after you finish unloading the charcoal? Oh, I finished unloading the charcoal alright. I can still smell it in the trunk of my car sometimes. I had a barbecue every weekend that summer. I never did take him up on his offer. What could he say about me? That I could lift heavy objects? That I would endure any indignity for a paycheck? That I did what I was told without complaints, even after losing my job? He took away my income without giving me so much as a handshake in return. What more could he do for me?

She was yelling at me, like she always did when something didn't go right for her. At least it started with yelling. Then she started hitting me, lightly at first, then harder, (Louder) and harder, (Louder) and harder, (Louder) and harder! (Calm again) At first I didn't mind, but it started to hurt. She wouldn't stop, she was just out of control. I tried to hold her back, but she would just wriggle free and hit me again. Her eyes were clouded with tears, her hair was matted to her face. I don't think she could see anything. Finally I couldn't take it any more and I hit her back. I didn't want to, but I had no choice. She staggered backward, and I hit her again. She fell back onto the sink, and that's when she spoke. She said that she didn't care what happened to her, because her brother was on his way over to take care of me. She kept on telling me all the things he was going to do to me, and she just wouldn't shut up. I grabbed the fire extinguisher we keep next to the stove and hit her just above the jaw. She shut up.

I heard a knock at the door. It was her brother. He didn't sound like he was in a good mood. I went into the closet to get my pistol. I kept it loaded just in case I needed protection, and that was definitely the case. The knocking turned to pounding as I slipped the steel from the leather. When I got back to the door the frame was starting to break. The pounding was more incessant as I disengaged the safety and cocked the pistol. The door frame split apart and the door swung in. I fired before I even saw his face. I fired again after I saw his face. He fell to the floor, but not fast enough, so I shot him again. The next two shots were for no particular reason. I saved the last three just in case I needed them.

They said I was evil. They pointed out every flaw, every mistake, every misfortune and used them against me. No redeeming qualities. That was their conclusion. Sane, criminal, no redeeming qualities. Not fit to be a member of a civilized society. No definite concept of right and wrong. They might as well have painted a target on my chest and let each member of the jury take a shot at me. I didn't put up much of a defense. Most of what I had to say was used to show how criminally deranged I was. The very same qualities I had been instilled with so many years ago were now proof that I was a monster. Detachment. Calmness. Precision. Quick and thorough action. It was different then, or so they said. It's worse when you kill someone you know. It shows that you have no control. That you can't establish personal ties with members of society. That I must not be allowed to live.

They said that it's worse when you kill someone you know. Maybe that's why they didn't try to learn about who I really am, who I really was. But they didn't want to know that, they only wanted to know what they could use to condemn me. I had to be a faceless murderer in order for their consciences to be clear. So they could send me to my grave and then go play with their children and laugh about how funny the world is. I mean nothing to them, but they still need to see me dead. To make the world safe for decent people like them. People who would never harm another living soul, except for mine of course. But they won't have to worry about it much longer. I'll be gone soon, and the world will once more be safe for civilization.

(Lights dim.)


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