The Contemporary Monoscript

(For Radio, or for Astonishing Your Neighbors Listening in the Next Apartment)

By Merle Harton, Jr.

"The contemporary monoscript—quite unlike the modern Karaoke and its savage cacophony—uses the melodic and versatile voice to enthrall listeners with stereotypical sounds that must, by a preternatural eventuality, evoke the full range of human emotion and experience. Its value as an eclectic art form is no less enhanced by its historical significance as the root of all literature, comedy, drama, and the common office memorandum. If anything can be said to be a laxative for the soul, it is this. It can shut up rappers, cures writer's block, and even removes corns and calluses. I heartily recommend it for the single person who pines for company." (Excerpted from The Five Greatest Things on Earth by Irmin Melville, Jr.)


BEN ARNOLD: Deep, coarse voice the voice of a man who is always angry about something, and who just may well have hemorrhoids.

MARGARET ARNOLD: Haughty, high pitched matronly voice, with an annoying accent that suggests an Oxonian or Bostonian upbringing, but instead masks an uppity faker from a farm town in the Dakotas.

ANNA ZUSAMMEN: A sultry voice, but with an accent that could belong to any female commandant of any World War II German stalag. (Try a young Marlene Dietrich.)

AHMED: You may disguise your voice using a Greek, Armenian, or Turkish accent, since no one will be able to tell the difference.

Props required: A spoon, two drinking glasses, and a basic stereo setup.


The scene begins in your living room. You have invited Ben and Margaret Arnold, your boss and his wife, over for wine and cheese. Mr. Arnold is not a nice man, but you kiss up to him because you want a raise and are willing to waste an evening—one that you could be spending with your new girlfriend, Anna Zusammen, an immigrant from Berlin, Germany, or with your best bud, Ahmed, a college student from Turkey—as you are forced to cater to the needs of his big boned, stuffy wife.

Versed as you are in the requirements and techniques of the contemporary monoscript, you have already prepared the scene. That is, you have already gone to the front door, quietly opened it, stood in the hall and knocked on the door very loudly; you would then have slipped back inside, waited a few seconds (or perhaps called out "Just a moment!" from an adjoining space), and would then have gone back to the door, opened it and loudly welcomed the Arnolds into your home.

(You know also that, as demanded by the contemporary monoscript, whenever a glass is used, you must whack it with one of your prop spoons; the opening of any bottle of wine or carbonated beverage is always accompanied by a loud popping sound, which you can make either with a kid's popgun or with your finger thrust from the inside of your cheek; the pouring of any liquid from a bottle is to be accompanied by a clug clug sound; finally, voices from different sides of a room require either your physical presence there or the quicker throwing of your voice via the cupped hand, giving your voice the effect of being where it is not.)


YOU: Please come in. Won't you have a seat, Mrs. Arnold, Mr. Arnold. Let me turn down this stereo. I've just put on Vivaldi's "Four Seasons." I hope you don't mind.

MARGARET ARNOLD: Not at all. It's very pleasant. You may call me Margaret.

BEN ARNOLD: Ah, go on, call me Ben.

YOU: Please have a seat.

BEN: Thanks. I will.

MARGARET: Thank you very much. What a lovely apartment you have. Exquisite art work. You must surely treasure your fine taste in beauty.

YOU: It's a talent I cultivated while traveling throughout Europe during the summer before college. It was a wonderful summer. I toured all the major cities of Belgium, France, Germany, Austria, and Spain. It was an exciting bicycle trip....

MARGARET: How interesting .... I am so sure.

BEN: Say, how about something to drink? You got something to drink?

YOU: Yes, sir, I do. For this occasion—this special occasion, with two very special people—I have taken the liberty of opening and decanting a red Bordeaux from the Chateau Mouton Rothschild, nineteen sixty four, with a label by Henry Moore.

BEN: Hey, Margie, take a look at this label. An original work of art, huh?

YOU: Would you like it? I have so many others.

MARGARET: May we have it? I'm a small collector of rare finery and I'd be delighted if I could add that label to my collection.

YOU: Of course, Margaret. Here—it's yours.

BEN: Let me see that again. This is good, you know. It's got a bite. How about you, Margie? Have a glass!

MARGARET: Would you have a white wine, by any chance? Red wines give me such a headache.

YOU: Yes, ma'am, I do. I have been chilling a Clavoillon from the French village of Puligny Montrachet.

BEN: What did he say, Margie?

MARGARET: Ben, mind your manners! Of course, I think that would do nicely.

YOU: There you go, Margaret. Let me know what you think of the white.

MARGARET: Thank you!

BEN: Okay, everybody, bottoms up! Say, I'm going to pour me another, if you don't mind.

YOU: Make yourself at home.

MARGARET: This is delicious! Ooh! I say, you've also prepared a lovely array of cheeses.

YOU: Have some, please. Help yourself, Margaret, Ben.

BEN: Hey! What's this! Margie, did you take your shoes off again? Hah!

MARGARET: Ben, please. That's Port du Salut. How coarse you are sometimes. You mustn't mind my husband. He was wounded in the Korean conflict. A bullet right through the head. He hasn't been the same man since. I have to limit his drinking, too. When he gets drunk, he sees demons and starts calling out to his ancestors for help.

BEN: What are you telling the boy, Margie? Again with the story about the bullet? God, that sure hurt. Talk about in one ear and out the other.

There is a knock at the door. Remember your protocol as it concerns sounds from other parts of the room.

YOU: Excuse me, while I answer the door. Anna! Surprise! I wasn't expecting you.

ANNA: Oh, darling, I just could not stay away. I love you.

YOU: I have guests .... Come in. Let me introduce you. Ben, Margaret, I'd like you to meet my girlfriend, Anna Zusammen.

BEN: Hi, how are you, Anna. Did you ever get shot? I mean, right through the skull—kapow, kapow, zing, zing, zip—right through the old noggin? God, that sure hurt.

MARGARET: Ben, please. Put that glass down.

MARGARET: Miss Zusammen, I am so pleased to meet you. I'm Margaret Buttersmith Arnold; this is my husband, Benjamin Forthwith Arnold. Pay no attention to him. We're original Americans, born and bred. You have an accent. Where are you from, my dear?

YOU: Anna is from Germany—Berlin, Germany.

MARGARET: How nice, I'm sure. I'm so sorry that you've become another one of those displaced persons. So many of them around here. They get all the jobs, you know. That's why you've probably had no problem finding work. Things must surely be in a disarray back home, though, what with all those people still chipping away pieces of that big wall with little hammers. We have a piece of it, you know.

BEN: Margie, I told you already—that's a chunk of somebody's third floor office building!

MARGARET: We have a letter of certification.

BEN: Probably written by the same guy who certified that vegetable chopper of yours and those knives that never need sharpening—she loves buying one of a kind stuff—and that TV antenna that gives you cable reception without cable technology. And what about that state of the art whirlpool spa you bought from that guy over the phone? Boy did they use art of the statement in describing that thing! Jeez! You won't believe this. It's a little blower, like on a hair dryer, and it has a vacuum cleaner hose that you stick in your bathtub and it makes bubbles in the water. I can make bigger bubbles with the gas I get just thinking about you and those shakedowns.

MARGARET: Ben, you're horrible. That's it! No more wine for you.

BEN: Come on, Margie, just one more glass. Hey! This bottle's empty! What's the story here, anyway? You invite us over for wine and cheese—just look at this! An empty bottle!

MARGARET: Ben, stop it, now!

YOU: Anna, why don't you have a seat over there. Ben, let me get you another glass of wine. I have another bottle breathing in the kitchen.

BEN: And how about those diamonds you got in the mail? You got a letter of certification for those, too, didn't you? I keep telling you, there's some guy out on an oil rig off the Louisiana coast who's chipping those things off of deep sea drill bits. And those trolls with the colored hair! How many Chia Pets have we got now, Margie?

MARGARET: I will not listen to any more of this!

BEN: Fine. So tell me, Anna—take a look at this—have you ever seen a bullet hole in somebody's head before?

ANNA: Oh, my! Look at that. I can see through it, all the way to the other side. Does it hurt?

BEN: It used to. God, that sure hurt. Right through the skull—kapow, kapow, zing, zing, zip!

YOU: Here, Ben, try this. Margaret, may I pour you another? More cheese?

MARGARET: Well, if you insist.

BEN: This is good stuff. Let me see that bottle!

YOU: Anna, try a glass of this.

ANNA: I love you. Thank you.

BEN: What the hell is that?

YOU: What, sir? Where?

MARGARET: Ben, put that glass down!

BEN: Over there, by the door! It's a giant Chia Pet! With rotten seedlings dripping brown ooze down the side! I can smell that stink from here! You didn't say you had a pet!

YOU: Sir, there's nothing there.

BEN: I have to call my Great Grandfather Seth Forthright. Quick! Hand me that phone. Margie, what's the number?

MARGARET: Ben, you've had too much to drink. It's time we said good night.

BEN: What's this? A hair? There's a hair growing out of my hole!

ANNA: Let me see, Mr. Ben. Oh, that's a hair from your head and it has curled into your bullet hole.

BEN: Thank God for that. The next thing to come out of there would be funny colored hair. You'd like that, wouldn't you, Margie? You could brush it out and it would keep growing and you would keep brushing it out.

ANNA: You are a true hairy one. I could get scissors and cut that little curl.

MARGARET: You will do no such thing, young lady. I know how you people are! Well, you cannot get away with that in this country! In America we wear our hair in ways calculated to display respect for the diversity of good people who have labored hard, and have given up their lives, so that we all might at one time or another sit with people who think that a green card and a relative with postage stamps are all that stand between them and the old fashioned American Dream. Present company excluded, of course.

BEN: What she means, my dear Anna, is that my hair has to look like everybody else's or her friends will think I'm entertaining radical notions. Some carry over from the American Revolution, I think. Besides, she has this thing about Ulysses, who cuts my hair, who walks around with his hands hanging real limp at the wrist, like this.

MARGARET: Ben, please behave yourself.

BEN: I keep looking, I keep looking. One day I'm going to find a real barbershop, with girly magazines lying around and a barber who will cut my hair for the money I've got in my pocket. My old dead dad would turn pale if he ever saw me writing a check for a damned haircut.

ANNA: I understand. But you know, I can put my finger right inside that hole. How interesting it is.

BEN: That tickles.

YOU: Anna, here, try this wine. I recommend the brie.

ANNA: I love you. I love everything about you.

YOU: I love you too.

BEN: Margie, what's the number for General Thadeus Arnold III? I can't seem to recall it. Where's the phone?

MARGARET: That does it! We're leaving.

ANNA: But I have just arrived. Please do not leave. We can party.

There is another knock at the door. Remember your protocol.

YOU: Now who could that be? Excuse me, please.

AHMED:: Hey, bud, it is I. I have the taxi parked out front and make it look like I pick up person here. What's happening, bud?

YOU: Ahmed, look, it's not a good time. Anna's here and I've got guests—

AHMED: —Hey, a party. You did not invite me, your best bud in whole world? Hey, who is good looking woman? My name is Ahmed. What is your name, wonderful woman?

MARGARET: Why, um, I am Margaret Buttersmith Arnold. But everyone calls me Margie. Benjamin, move over, let this young man sit—here, beside me.

BEN: Oh, no. Now I know why you invited me over here. You do have an animal. A mean one, too. God, it looks just like one of Margie's pet rocks.

YOU: Ben, that's a chunk of gouda cheese.

BEN: Cheese! What kind of host are you? This bottle's empty! I don't want cheese! Did you bother to ask me what I would like?

YOU: Yes, sir. I have other bottles in the kitchen. Will a California red be satisfactory?

BEN: At this point, I couldn't tell a Mogen David from a Chianti. Have you got a bottle with a big handle on it?

YOU: Excuse me, Ben. I'll be right back.

BEN: And bring the phone when you get here! I have to call my Great Great Aunt Prunella Arnold. I've got to tell her of the invasion here, of the kitchen geese. Geese on the clocks, geese on the wallpaper, geese on the floor mats, geese on the spice rack, geese on the hand towels, little magnetic geese on the refrigerator. I'll bet if I fell asleep I'd wake up with a goose pecking out one of my eyes. Say, young man—Amen, was that your name? Did you ever get shot in the head—kapow, kapow, zing, zing, zip—right through the skull? Check out this hole!

AHMED: Sir, my name is Ahmed.

BEN: Amen—that's what I said. Say, did you know that everybody calls out your name at the end of every prayer. I bet that drives you crazy. Or were you clearing your throat? How about that libation! And the phone!

YOU: Your wine, sir.

BEN: Give me that bottle!

MARGARET: Benjamin! Put that bottle down. I think we really must be going!

ANNA: Oh, Mr. Ben, please let me have a drink.

BEN: Sure. But wipe the rim after yourself. When I get around to drinking out of the bottle—which will be soon—I don't want it all spitty.

AHMED: Margie, why don't we all go for a ride in my taxicab. I have a very big taxicab. We can party at one hundred clubs I know.

MARGARET: My, you do get around.

YOU: Ahmed, I really don't think—

AHMED: —Oh, you are the big poop of all parties. Let us go for ride in my taxicab. We go to one hundred clubs.

BEN: Poop? First you say you don't have a pet, and then it shows up all over the place in different guises—each one more horrible than the next—and now you want me to slip and kill myself on its excrement!

ANNA: Ooh, please, let's go to the clubs!

MARGARET: Well, we really do have to be going, and a taxicab—especially if locked from the outside—would put Benjamin at a distance from alcoholic spirits. I say we go!

ANNA: Oh, good. Then we go!

YOU: If you all insist.

BEN: Enlist? I tried that once and all I got was shot right through the skull. Into the old noggin and out the other side. On a windy day, I get slapped by every pretty girl who thinks I'm whistling at her.

MARGARET: Ben, put that bottle down. We're going now. Your Great Grand Cousin Horace is expecting us.

BEN: Horace? Good. I can't wait to tell him about that pooping pet rock. Bet he's never seen one of those before.

YOU: Well, off we go!

ANNA: Darling, I am so happy!

MARGARET: Tell me again, Ahmed, how many clubs will we see tonight?

AHMED: One hundred clubs! We will see them all!

BEN: The mall? What about my Great Grand Cousin Horace? He's expecting us. In fact, I hear him calling me now.

MARGARET: I'm sure you do. Come along, now.


Admittedly, the contemporary monoscript can become a zany affair, but that is perhaps why it is unparalleled among the winsome art forms.

You did not like the ending? Change it, then. Or make additions, for it does not have to end here. The contemporary monoscript continues as long as you desire, as long as your talent for voice and mimicry will withstand the workout, so long as sleep does not overcome you.

You did not like the characters? Kill them off. Shoot them all dead. A handful of firecrackers does great duty as a hot .45 in the hands of a homicidal sociopath. Your neighbors have called the police? Invite the police in; show them around; you have nothing to hide. Explain simply that you are an artist of the contemporary monoscript, that you have been practicing your craft and carefully exercising your exceptional skills. The police are curious? Invite some more police over. Hey, for that matter, invite the Chief of Police—and the State Attorney General, too. Perhaps the discussion is getting heady, academic, and ethico legal terms fill the conversation. No problem. Invite over a couple of U.S. Supreme Court Justices.

And guess what else? Should you ever—I mean, ever—encounter critics of your contemporary monoscript, you can roast them well in your script; you can just shut them the hell up, and so belittle and demean them that they will beg to be featured in a more favorable role in your contemporary monoscript. Trust me on this. If you play your cards right, the contemporary monoscript will give you more friends than you ever dreamed possible. Your room will be filled with money. You will have travel tickets to anywhere in the universe. You have but to snap your fingers and important people—Senators, the President, Madonna—will come to you, and love you, and want to act beside you in the contemporary monoscript.

What is the best way to end the contemporary monoscript? Certainly, I have my own decided opinion on the matter. Say, why don't you step in and we'll discuss it ....

"The Contemporary Monoscript"
Copyright © 1994 Merle Harton, Jr.  All rights reserved