Site hosted by Angelfire.com: Build your free website today!

Don Brown's Body by Jean Kerr
This is actually an excerpt from Please Don't Eat the Daisies, a book by the same author, obviously. It's a very amusing book and I highly recommend it.


     After one of those evenings in the theater, an evening that happened to be devoted to a staged reading of Stephen Vincent Benet's John Brown's Body, I worked out my own little entertainment:
     The curtain--if there is one--rises on a vast blue sky, relieved only by a chaste white balustrade in the fore-ground. A chorus of pretty girls and pretty boys is seated on the folding chairs at one side. Before them, and menacingly near us, stand four lecturns on which scripts that no one will ever look at have been placed. The readers enter, with a dignity that will be theirs to the very end. The first reader begins, however, with a shy, boyish smile.

FIRST READER
In recent years there has been a marked revival of interest in the art of dramatic reading. We have dipped into the treasures of Charles Dickens, George Bernard Shaw, and Stephen Vincent Benet, among others. Yet there is an entire facet of our culture that has never been tapped. I am speaking now of that special genre known as detective fiction, where, as some authorities have pointed out, the interest has lately shifted from "who done it" to "wit what". There has also been an increasing emphasis on violence and--the woman across the hall has an awfully good word for it--

He glances at a note in his hand,

--sex.

     As every schoolboy knows, many of these works were written not to be read, but to be inhaled. With this in mind, we offer you Don Brown's Body--by Mickey Spillane.
WOMAN READER
Mike Hammer's tune.
FIRST READER
I'm Mike Hammer. I don't take slop from nobody. Like this guy. He ankles up to me on the street. He opens his big ugly yap, and says---
THIRD READER
Pardon me. Have you the correct time?
MIKE
So I kicked him in the mouth and his teeth dropped all over the sidewalk like marbles. Like I said--I don't take slop from nobody.
THIRD READER
Sally Dupre's tune.
WOMAN READER
I know I'm just a broad, Mike. I'm a round-heeled babe with a dirty record. My type comes two thousand dollars a dozen. But I'm clean inside, Mike.
MIKE
I picked her up in Jimmy's bar. She was lying there, so I picked her up. She was in pretty bad shape.
CHORUS
Chanting in unison

Sally Dupre, Sally Dupre,
Her eyes were neither black nor gray,
They were black and blue.
MIKE
I was on a case. When I'm on a case nobody or nothin' takes my mind off it for a minute.
     We went up to her place.
     She lived on the St. Regis roof. Sooner or later some wise guy of a cop is gonna find her up there and make her come down. But tonight was ours. She opened her good eye. There was no mistaking that invitation. Her lips were like fresh ketchup on a white tablecloth. My heart was throbbing like a stabbed toe.
     She was waiting for me, a hungry thing. Now there was nothing between us but us. I spoke:
     "You were a member of the Carney gang at the time that One Finger Matthews put the finger on Soft-Spot Sullivan, who was at the time going under the name of Samuel X. Sullivan and who knifed Maurie Magnusson in the back of the Easy-Way Garage. The Queen Mary docked at eleven forty-six on the twenty-third, and Joey Jacobson was found in an abandoned milk truck two years later. What do you know about Don Brown?"
     Her eyes found mine. Down below, the great idiot city went it old familiar way : birth and death, love and lust, Martin and Lewis. A long time afterwards she spoke:
WOMAN READER
Don Who Brown?
MIKE
That took me back. The first time I saw Don Brown was in the locker room at the "Y". He was in my locker.
CHORUS
Not in the good green fields, Don Brown.
Not in the laomy earth, Don Brown,
Under the spike-eared corn--
But in a locker, a long green locker, a lonely long green locker
At the "Y".
MIKE
He'd been dead about three weeks then, judging from the condition of my tennis racket. I reached for a butt.
I was pretty cut up.
CHORUS
Ah, yes, Mike Hammer--ah, yes.
But you were not cut up as Don Brown was cut up.
MIKE
Who'd be next, I wondered? I looked in the next locker. Bill Brown was in that one. One thing was clear. Somebody was going to have to clean out those lockers.
I went out to the street.
CHORUS
Tramp . . . tramp . . . tramp . . .
MIKE
I passed this kid sucking a lollipop. Don Brown dead, and him sucking a lollipop. I rammed it down his throat. I hate injustice.
     I walked for hours.
CHORUS
Don Brown's body lies a molderin' at the "Y"---
WOMAN READER
Don Brown's song.
THIRD READER
Wish you were here, wish you were here, wish . . .
MIKE
I went back to the place I call home.
CHORUS
Tramp . . . tramp . . . tramp
MIKE
The Hairy Arms, Apartment 3-D. I put the key in the lock. I opened the door. A gun smashed into my skull. Heavy boots ground into my spine. A pair of fists tore into my throat.
     I saw something coming toward me. It was a fly swatter. This was no ordinary killer.
     I knew then they were after me. And I knew one other thing, as they threw me over the third-floor railing : they were afraid of me.
     I hit the second-floor landing.
     I hit the first-floor landing.
     I hit the cigar counter.
     The girl behind the cigar counter looked up. There was no mistaking that invitation. She was naked beneath that reversible. She reversed the reversible. She was still naked. A long time later she spoke:
WOMAN READER
Bring me your tired, your poor, your huddles masses . . .
MIKE
I went to the office.
CHORUS
Tramp . . . tramp . . . tramp . . .
MIKE
My secretary, Josephine was there. She looked up at me.
     She was made for me. I tried to be good to Josephine. I used to let her kiss my fingertips every once in a while. But now I carefully put my fingertips in my pockets. Josephine would have to wait. There was only one thing on my mind these days.
     "What's new on the Don Brown case?"
JOSEPHINE
I checked this morning. He's still there.
CHORUS
Nothing is changed, Don Brown. Nothing is changed.
But men are beginning to notice.
In the locker room at the "Y", they're beginning to notice.
It will grow stronger, Don Brown!
MIKE
We went outside.
CHORUS
Tramp . . . tramp . . . tramp . . .
MIKE
My heap was parked at the curb. I had a strong feeling it was wired. I asked Josephine to get in first. She put her foot on the starter.
Boy!
CHORUS
Come Josephine in my flying machine
As up we go, up we go . . .
MIKE
A long time afterward, she came down. I didn't wait. I knew Josephine. She'd pull herself together.
     The patrol wagon went by. I thought of Sally. I called her up.
"Sally?"
WOMAN READER
"Mike?"
MIKE
"I'm sweatin' for you, Sally."
WOMAN READER
"I'm clean inside, Mike."

Both hang up.
MIKE
We could talk forever and never get it all said. I was still in the booth when the phone rang. On a hunch, I answered it. It was the killer. He laughed at me. That was all. Laughed at me.
     I was no longer a man, I was an ugly thing. I wanted to get his skull between my hands and crack it like a cantaloupe. I wanted to scramble that face like a plate of eggs. I wanted to work him over till his blood ran the color of coffee. That's when it came to me : I hadn't had any breakfast.
     I was going into Longchamp's when this tomato waltzes by. She was a tomato surprise. A round white face with yellow hair poured over it like chicken gravy on mashed potatoes. Her racoon coat was tight in all the right places.
     I watched her as she disappeared into a doorway. She shut the door. There was no mistaking that invitation.
     I followed her in. Inside it was inky darkness. I groped my way across the room. Her lips were warm. Her nose was warm. She barked.
     I spoke.
     "Down, dammit, down!"
     I went back to my place, good old 3-D. I no sooner opened the door than they were at me again. This time I was ready. I smashed my eye into his fist, I forced my ribs into his boot, and the first thing he knew I was flat on my back in the hall. He was standing above me now. He spoke.
THIRD READER
Look, buddy. You do this every night. This is not your apartment. You're in 3-D. This is 3-A.
MIKE
After that, everything was like a nightmare. I was sittng in this bar with Sally.
     "What'll you have?"
WOMAN READER
"Straight Clorox". I'm clean inside, Mike.
MIKE
Then I was in this strange room with this strange blonde. How did I get here? What kind of a girl was she?
CHORUS
Tramp . . . tramp . . . tramp . . .
MIKE
Then I was in another strange room with another strange blonde. She had just stepped from the tub. There she was as God made her, a mess.
     Our eyes were riveted together. I took a step towards her. Then I took another. I fell over the coffee table.
     The next thing I know they had me surrounded. Blondes, brunettes, redheads . . .
THIRD READER
There was no mistaking that invitation.
WOMAN READER
Mike Hammer was a man in a million.
Mike Hammer had the strength of ten.
Mike Hammer spoke.
MIKE
No, girls--no!
CHORUS
Astonished and exultant

"Glory, glory, hallelujah! . . ."

With a swell in the music, the lights fade.
To home we go!