To Suckle Fools
A Short Story by Lukas Sherman
Written using the suggestion "Kennedy"
Originally featured on 08-21-2007
As part of our series "In Presidence"

“It’s off-off Shakespeare in the park,” Bronson North, self-styled underground theater impresario/director/actor explained, clutching his martini glass and cigar. “In fact, it’s not even in a park. It’s in an elementary school parking lot in NoPo.”

“Where will people sit?” asked the failed Chinese-American adult film actor Mick Hung.

Bronson paced thoughtfully for a moment and replied, “They won’t. It’ll be like the Groundlings. We’re putting theater back in the street for the people. Literally. Yanking it, kicking and screaming, from the posh, hallowed halls of the respectable ‘theater.’” He threw his cigar on the ground to punctuate his point.

The two were standing in front of the Shaw Building, a drama co-op, waiting for it to open. Bronson had packed a picnic lunch consisting of a martini thermos (Sapphire gin, splash of vermouth, stirred not shaken, 2 olives), several cigars, and Popeye’s chicken. He was dressed entirely in white, except for a paisley ascot. Mick wore tight polyester trousers, a wife beater, and faded loafers. He had a thin moustache and large aviator glasses.

Bronson poured himself another martini and said, “There’s a writer that I want to work with our company…”

“You mean with you and me?”

“Yes,” Bronson said with irritation. “Remember, it’s not the size of the company, but the company in the size. Or something. Chekov said that.”

“Size was always my problem,” Mick said with a shrug. “What they say about there being no small parts, only small actors is doubly true in the adult industry. I should know. I really though I had a shot at XXX-Men. I wanted to play Cyclops. I was almost an extra though.”

Bronson rolled his eyes. “Anywho, this writer, Sal Cashew, is really edgy, writes a lot about sex and, well, sex. I haven’t read anything of his personally, but the hiperati have embraced him and my friend Annette has set up a meeting.”

“And we need to sex up Othello?”

“Just a little.”

Mick looked at the sign on the door. “Hey Bronson, they’re closed on Mondays.”

“Goddammit, I needed some money. We’re broke.”

“Should I try to sell my blood again?”

“We’ll see Mick, we’ll see.”

 

Two days later, Bronson and Mick met for sushi with Sal Cashew, the author of the book of short stories, Tales of Funk Band Decadence. Sal wore a v-neck t-shirt out of which his dark chest hair spilled. He chain smoked and scratched his soul patch.

“I gotta tell you B-dogg, the theater really ain’t my cup of joe, but I want to diversify my art and I do like this street theater. It’s fuckin’ rock ‘n’ roll, like my stories. By the way, did you see the review of my book in The Oregonian?”

“Uh, no, I don’t read it, Sal…”

“Call me Savage Sal, my fans do.”

“OK, Savage Sal…”

“Oh, I almost forgot,” Sal said, reaching into his bag. He pulled out a hardcover copy of his book and slid across to Bronson with a wink. “I autographed it.”

Bronson opened it. “How kind. ‘Dear Bronson: Read Naked Man!’ Hmm. Not sure if I want to read naked, but thanks just the same” He cleared his throat.

“Don’t knock it till you try it my man.”

“Right. Let me tell you what I have in mind…”

Othello with sex,” Mick proudly interjected. “Oodles of it.”

Savage Sal nodded. “I dig it.”

“And all the characters are based on the Kennedy administration.”

“What?” Bronson asked. “No…”

Savage Sal held up a hand. “Wait, B-train, let him finish. He’s riffing.”

Mick grinned and cracked his knuckles. “So Othello is Kennedy, right? Obvious parallels-soldier, leader, lover, victim. His wife, whatshername-“

“Desdemona,” Bronson said quietly.”

“Right, well, she’s Marilyn Monroe and Iago, get this…” Mick paused for dramatic effect and then whispered. “Iago is Jackie. And she’s crazy jealous, right? And the problem with Othello is you never knew why Iago was hatin’ on Othello. But now you do. Beast with two backs y’all!” He put his hand up for a high five. Bronson ignored him.

Savage Sal stubbed out his cigarette and nodded. “Man, that shit is tight.” He pulled out a small black moleskin notebook and jotted a few things down. “Fuckin’ punk rock is what that is. Like my myspace page. I just put up some pictures from the book tour.”

Bronson frowned and said, “Well, I don’t’ know how far we want to go with the whole JFK angle…”

“Far,” Mick said with a gleam. “Very far.”

“So far bro. Gimme a pound.” The two bumped fists. “I think we should just scrap the script and I’ll do total rewrite. How about this, an orgy sequence with maybe Bobby, Sinatra, LBJ, Marilyn, and like three Thai strippers? I know some because I’m down with that. Did you see my article about strip clubs in The Portland Mercury?”

Bronson shook his head, as he contemplated his production being turned into a Kennedy-era sex fest. “No, I don’t read it.”

“In fact, I think we should do some research right now! Sake shots all around!”

“Research bitches!” Mick shouted, raising his hands.

“I’ll text my entourage. You gotta love the artistic life,” Savage Sal said. “Ain’t that right B-bomb?”

 

A week later, rehearsals commenced at a condemned warehouse in south east. The cast had expanded to include Mick as both Kennedy and Oswald (“They’re like each others’ dark twin!”), a stripper named Peppermint as Jackie, a female impersonator from Oaxaca named Espiritu as Marilyn, and Savage Sal himself as Sinatra (“I’ve always wanted to act.”). All vestiges of Othello had been purged. Savage Sal had written the script in a booze, pills, and prostitute fueled 48 hour period. It was currently untitled, but he wanted to call it either Came-a-lot or Ridin’ Prezzy.

A free-punk guitarist friend of his had come in to provide “ambient” music. He sat on a milk crate in the corner, wearing a homemade “Les Punques” shirt, his battered guitar lazily feeding back. A meth addled hobo they found living there was slumped next to him. Mick wanted to cast him as the chorus, but all he seemed able to do was read from Scientology and Jehovah’s Witness tracts.

Bronson stood despondently in the corner, sipping a martini. His suit was rumpled and stained. Savage Sal was nowhere to be found. Mick was practicing his Kennedy accent.

“Hey Broson, how’s this: ‘Ask not who your country can do for you, ask who you can do for your country’?”

“Brilliant. You’d make Burton green with envy.” Bronson ate the two olives in his drink and picked his teeth with the tiny plastic sword.

“What’s wrong?”

“Everything! This production. Sure, I wanted a little sex, wanted him to make it a little more contemporary, but this isn’t a play anymore, it’s pornography!” The rest of the cast stopped what they were doing and looked over at him.

“It’s art esse,” Espiritu said.

“Oh shut up Espiritu. You’re playing Marilyn in drag. You look like a failed experiment. And, by the by, our sponsor pulled the funding.”

There was a collective moan.

“Can we keep the shirts?” Peppermint asked, pointing at her cropped Maniac X-Treme energy drink t.

“Where the fuck is that douchebag Sal so I can yell at him for ruining my play?”

“I’m right here bitch.” Broson spun around to see Savage Sal, one arm clasping a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20, the other clasping a blonde girl in a leopard spotted leotard. “You got something to say to me B-boy? I been out all night, soaking in the street, keeping it real! And you’re talking shit? Can you walk that shit motherfucker?” Sal let go of the bottle, which shattered on the cement floor.

“Will you stop talking like that? You’re not cool asswad! I tried to read one of your stories, it sucked. It’s all bad gimmicks, like this stupid play! It’s not about anything! It’s a clusterfuck of half-asssed irony, pop culture references, and bad sex!”

“So you’ve become the green eyed monster. Oh, it’s so on.” Sal shoved the girl at him. Bronson stepped aside and threw the rest of his martini in Sal’s face.

“Ah, it burns!” Sal swung again and got Bronson in the mouth.

“Goddamn man jewelry!” Bronson yelled, spitting blood. “Look, an underage Thai hooker!” Steve let his guard down just enough for Bronson to kick him in the crotch, which dropped him like a sack of potatoes.

Bronson calmly wiped the blood off his mouth and smoothed out his jacket. “I am quitting this debacle. I hope you fail miserably. I hate you all. Adieu.” With that, he walked out. There was a long silence before someone spoke.

“OK gang, the show must go on!” Mick said, standing up on a box. “Everybody take off your clothes, we’ve got a play-and each other- to do!”

Read More By Lukas Sherman

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