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An exceprt from

CHOP by Brad McEntire

NOTE ABOUT QUOTE MARKS: This piece is designed to be performed by a single actor alone on the stage. The NARRATOR of the piece is speaking in his own voice except where quotation marks (“ “) appear. At these times, the narrator is playing a character/doing the voice of someone else in the story.

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Now, skip to one year ago. It’s my birthday – not the chronological one, the abandoned-by-parents one rings. It’s Alia. Phone rings. He picks it up. “Throwing a party. You’re invited.” Did you know it was my birthday today? “It’s your birthday?” Yeah. Today. “Is there smashed cupcake everywhere?” Yes. “Come over.” Click. She hangs up. I was invited to a party. My first party!
Excerpt of CHOP by Brad McEntire – p. 1

and I’m at

home and nothing is happening. Like it always does. The phone

Party music [Erik Satie] fades in… I could hear the music before I got within spitting distance of Alia’s place. For some reason she was playing Erik Satie music in the background at her party, which I think would have pleased Erik Satie. She met me at the front door. “You coming in or are you gonna hover for out here for another half hour?” I don’t charge right into the party and wade knee-deep into the throng of those more interesting, successful and desirable than I am, like some kind of bull in a China shop. No. I have my routines. I pace. I pace outside of Alia’s like a boxer working himself up for the ring. Psyching myself into it. After half an hour, I’m ready. “Come on in, Columbus. Welcome to the New World.” She opens the door wide. Deep breathe. I really like Alia’s party. It immediate strikes me as I imagine Parisian Salons must have been in the 1890s, except, you know, her’s is nowadays. There is great food and strong drink, but what makes it particularly amazing is the sheer number and mix of people. Alia is one of those unique mavens who knows everyone. Here I see: an architect, conceptual painter, clerk at the local liquor store, a tattoo artist, maybe a cosmetics girl

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who works the counter at Neimann’s. I instantly feel really out of place. Uh. Hello. “What’s that?” Hello. “Hello.” How do you know Alia? “We met in high school. She went down her path while I became a city planner. I work for the subway system trying to wrangle in urban sprawl. I‘m studying how the denizens of this megametropolis can get from one point to another in an efficient and ecologically clean fashion as possible. The report on my findings will likely be printed soon in an important national publication. I also write haikus in Gaelic and enjoy amateur mountaineering. What do you do?” The sounds of the party stops abruptly, perhaps as
if a needle is being pulled off a record.

What do I do? What do I do? What do I do? I walk away from the question. Sigh. I grab a drink from the buffet table. I think it is always wise to have something in your hands in situations such as this. That
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way they don’t hang there limply. That’s my default. Limply side-hanging hands. I’ve considered holding my hands in different positions… He tries different ways of holding his hands… all very awkward. But I’ve never found anything that has worked. So, to the side… limply, to the side, they hang. Default. Unless your hands are holding something. You can always excuse yourself from the beginnings of an awkward conversation to “refill” a snack platter or “top off” a drink. I do my best to stay out of conversations. I stick to the fringes of the party. I hover on the outer edges and catch little snippets of conversations already in progress… “You know those make-over shows? Where they take an ugly person and put them in new clothes and cosmetics and they become a new person? That’s what I think they ought to do with the economy. Give it a make-over. The only trouble is, we might not be able to recognize it afterwards...” I move on… “And I said to John, it just won’t work. We just don’t have anything in common any more…You’re a morning person and I want to see your head impaled on a steel railroad spike…” I move on…
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“Cannibalism is only taboo now, sure, but.... Fifty years ago the two martini lunch, racist jokes around the water cooler and heterosexuality were the accepted ‘in’ things. The pendulum is always swinging…” And I move on like this circling the party in slow laps. Always coming back to Alia’s wonderful, magical fondue table. I reached for a cube of pineapple and, suddenly, a pate knife comes to rest on my arm. You’ll have to cut pretty hard to get through the bone. “It is just like everything else, no? Just a matter of leverage.” I turn around and she looks me dead in the eyes. And at that moment I cannot turn away. An awkward beat passes. I’m just stuck there, locked into the deepest, darkest eyes I’ve ever seen. Her gaze doesn’t just look at me, but into me. She sees far back into me… We’re maybe ten inches from each other, which seems even closer. Alia walks over and introduces us. “I was wondering when you two were going to run into each other. This is Rosette. She goes by Rosy. She’s here in the U.S. for a while. I’m sure you two can find something to talk about.”

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And there is a whirl of details… Rosy. European. Over here doing some sort of research for her graduate degree. All the while, I haven’t looked down at the rest of her. I haven’t looked anywhere. I can’t. I’m just caught right there in her face, her eyes burrowing into me. Alia excuses herself and after what seems like a miniature eternity, Rosy takes a few steps back. I immediately realize this is the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen. Perhaps it was her tattoos… Rosy was wearing a green strappy top. On her arms, chest, shoulders and back danced images in ink. Dragons and butterflies, some Asian symbol that I was to later learn meant harmony, a heart and key, a star, the aurora borealis over an Arctic moonscape, a sunrise over a mountain range... Yes, the tattoos were definitely a part of it. They led me down her arm where to her hand. Her pinky finger was wrapped in thick gauze. He stares. “You are staring.” She smiles Can I ask you a personal question? About your… ah…?

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She holds up her wrapped pinky finger “Butcher knife.” Really? “ Long story.” Okay. Awkward beat. What to do with one’s hands? Then blurting… I’m an office temp. Stupid stupid stupid… “A temporary worker. So like life, yes?” Right there. I am hooked. I don’t know what to say. That’s not unusual, but in this case, I want to say something. Something amazing and witty and fascinating. She is charming and exotic and beautiful and though I’ve just met this woman, I think someday I’d like to do something, anything I can for her. You know how Einstein described the Theory of Relativity? He said sitting on a hot stove for two minutes can seem like two hours, while talking with a beautiful woman for two hours can seem like two minutes.
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That’s how those next few moments passed. Here’s the weird part. She is flirting with me, hitting on me. I can see this. I’ve read about this. I like this. I do… And I do… nothing. Why? Why do I do nothing? His bafflement beats him up for a moment. Pardon me. I’m just going to step into the men’s facilities. Maybe I’ll talk with you later. “I do hope you do.” He heads for the restroom. At mirror Pull it together. Pull it together. Pull it together. Please be water and not drool. Alia meets me outside the restroom. “Your face is all red. Your shirt’s wet. Are you okay?” She follows my gaze over to Rosy and then looks back at me. “Just be yourself, champ. Talk to her. Listen to her. You never know. She might be into whatever it is you’ve got.” Whatever it is I’ve got. I got a whole truckload of nothing, with a bunch of nothing sprinkled on top. Deep breath.
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In the corner of the room I can see Rosy. He moseys over. Hey, this must be the alcoholic’s corner, I say, immediately realizing it is not nearly as witty as it seemed in my head. Rosy was speaking to a German girl with dark eye make-up standing rigid, like a guard on duty. She scowls at me as I approach. “Scheisskopf.” I do my best to ignore her. The Scowling German then wanders out of earshot and I am left there alone with Rosy. There are a few awkward silent moments, but then she starts the conversation up with something about doing laundry in American Laundromats and driving in rush hour. An Einstein minute passes. As she is making a gesture to demonstrate exactly how she had cut someone off in traffic that morning, Rosy’s bandaged finger begins to turn deep red. I think you’re bleeding. “It’s okay. I may stop driving altogether. Maybe I’ll get a bicycle. With rainbow tassles on the handlebars…”

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Your hand is really bleeding. “It’s nothing, ignore it…” Are you sure? It looks kinda serious. “Forget it. Just a scatch…” As she says this, her pinky finger falls off. # © 2010. Brad McEntire
All rights reserved. Do not copy without permission.

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