Can’t Get No Satisfaction (Stageplay)

            French countryside, 1789.

SIR FONDS (34) and SIR JERMAINE (29) are fencing, WILLIAM (28) and DANIEL (34) watch.

FONDS

Hold, my man.

JERMAINE

What is it?

FONDS

I feel slightly winded, do you not as well?

JERMAINE

I suppose I do. What do you suggest?

FONDS

William!

WILLIAM

Sir?

FONDS

Take up sword in my stead for a moment.

WILLIAM

What…you…sir?

WILLIAM

Take my sword, you fool, and do me proud!

JERMAINE

Daniel, take mine as well.

William and Daniel unenthusiastically slap the swords together, trying to avoid hurting one another.

FONDS

What on God’s green Earth are you doing, William?

WILLIAM

Fighting, sir?

FONDS

No, no, no you simpleton. You do me a disservice with your display.

JERMAINE

You as well, Daniel. Where did you learn to fence like that?

DANIEL

I…never did, sir.

JERMAINE

Well do better, you fool.

FONDS

Yes, just pretend to be us and do us proud.

Daniel and William fence with more effort.

FONDS

Alright, alright! A second wind, I’ve caught. Give me that sword. We shall now finish your trouncing, Jermaine.

JERMAINE

Yes, we shall. Step aside, Daniel.

Fonds and Jermaine continue to duel, and soon Fonds stabs Jermaine, who falls over dead.

WILLIAM

A fine display, sir.

FONDS

Thank you, William my boy.

DANIEL

Sir Jermaine!

Daniel runs to his master’s side.

[To Fonds] Are you satisfied, now?

FONDS

Quite!

Fonds raises his saber, and there is a flash of light, and the crackle of thunder. Fonds falls over as stiff as a board.

DANIEL

Oh…is…what?

William kicks Fond’s foot. No reaction.

He’s dead!?

WILLIAM

Sounds about right.

DANIEL

Shall I…check him?

WILLIAM

That won’t be necessary – I’m sure my master is gone, too. You don’t really walk that off.

DANIEL

Then…they’re both dead…?

WILLIAM

So it would seem.

DANIEL

Then…who won?

WILLIAM

I haven’t a clue. Certainly not either of those two.

DANIEL

This has never happened before.

WILLIAM

I’ll say.

DANIEL

What should we do?

WILLIAM

Perhaps…bury them?

DANIEL

What…what about satisfaction?

WILLIAM

I’d imagine neither of them are very satisfied at the moment.

DANIEL

[To Jermaine] Oh you fool of a man! Why couldn’t you just let it go! They were only words!

WILLIAM

Not even that scathing of words, either.

DANIEL

[To Fonds] And you! Do you need to constantly look down on others?! Look where your pride got you!

WILLIAM

He can’t hear you, sir.

DANIEL

Is your worth as a man so weak that you must bring them down to your level? Oh you loathsome, detestable–

WILLIAM

Still can’t hear you.

DANIEL

Oh this world! This world where aristocrats think so little of their own lives.

WILLIAM

Honor is more important, despite coming much cheaper.

DANIEL

Is it so cheap?

WILLIAM

Cheaper than life; as people throw it around, using their own lives as tender to uphold what amounts to what other people think of you, and nothing more.

DANIEL

It’s not even what they think of you, only your name. One’s name is pulled through the muck, but the man himself is no worse for the wear. With all the dress and costume, would anyone even know an aristocrat if he had the look of a pauper?

WILLIAM

Or…would anyone know he was a pauper if he dressed as an aristocrat, and spent frivolously with their sizable purse?

DANIEL

What are you on about? You jest in a time of crisis, sir.

WILLIAM

I jest not in a time of crisis. Though if I did jest, this is exactly the kind of crisis I would jest within, given it is more a circus than anything else.

DANIEL

Then explain your ramblings.

WILLIAM

Hear me out this idea of mine: our masters are dead, may they rest in peace. They are both dead, and as their seconds, we are left. To the point: we take the identities of our masters, bury them respectably in this field where they seem quite comfortable as it is, and live the life of nobility until we grow old and die – whichever fate delivers to us first.

DANIEL

But I look nothing like my late master — may he rest in peace.

WILLIAM

Of course. And I, myself, have no real semblance to my master. May he rest in peace.

DANIEL

Then how exactly do you propose that we take their identities if we look nothing like them?

WILLIAM

We don’t need to look like them. We need only their identities.

DANIEL

Hand me a map, you’ve lost me.

WILLIAM

You said it yourself, sir: their name is what’s important. No one sees the man behind it, underneath the makeup, powdered wigs, and gaudy frocks. So, we appropriate only that which they already see. We don’t need their faces, only the face they care so much about saving, while hiding our own meager visages that no one pays any mind to.

DANIEL

Saying that I believe you – not that I do – but if I did, what do you propose we do?

WILLIAM

We take our late masters, dress in their frocks, bury them here in the field, and live the high life, travel about — to the New World!

DANIEL

Then what of the duel?

William kicks Fonds’ foot gently.

WILLIAM

I should think that’s very well resolved itself.

Daniel turns away in contemplation, and Fonds stirs, raising his hand. Surprised, William takes Fonds’ sword and stabs him in the side. William quickly takes Fonds’ hand as Daniel turns back around.

WILLIAM

[Checking Fonds’ wrist for a pulse] Yes, that’s…he’s…that’s death.

DANIEL

But what of the people who know there was to be a duel? How do we explain the outcome if both our masters are still alive and well?

WILLIAM

After a mutual drawing of blood, both parties were satisfied. We can even explain an absence in town for a few weeks as time taken to convalesce. Then we take our leave with their names and coin.

DANIEL

And what of their coffers? I know of the location of Jermaine’s, but but do you know where Fonds kept his coin?

WILLIAM

Fonds’ detestable sister arrives now and again for money, so she must know. I will send her an invitation to a masquerade, hide my identity with costume, and she will surely draw me to the coffer.

DANIEL

You have this all planned out, don’t you?

WILLIAM

It’s all just coming to me, honestly. Dare I say you’re considering?

DANIEL

I’m afraid I am.

WILLIAM

Chin up, ‘Sir Jermaine’! This year, in the Lord’s 1789 and onward, is going to be our time!

Transition to:

            Fond’s French mansion.

William and Daniel enter the mansion as the servants THOMAS (23), MARTHA (32), and CHARLES (46) approach.

CHARLES

William! You return, what of the duel?

WILLIAM

I bring you odd tidings, gentlemen and lady.

MARTHA

Odd tidings? Who is this?

Daniel bowed slightly.

DANIEL

Forgive me madam, I am Daniel–

WILLIAM

This is Sir Jermaine’s manservant, or rather, this is Sir Jermaine.

THOMAS

What mean you, William? Where is Sir Fonds?

WILLIAM

Our lovely master has fallen, may he rest in peace.

MARTHA

Dear lord.

THOMAS

Who would have thought Jermaine could follow through on his challenge?

WILLIAM

That’s the beauty of it, Thomas. Jermaine did not survive the battle.

CHARLES

But you say this man here is Sir Jermaine.

WILLIAM

That he is.

MARTHA

But he said his name was Daniel.

WILLIAM

Aye!

DANIEL

Start making sense to the poor souls.

THOMAS

Yes, whoever he is he speaks sense. Out with the truth.

WILLIAM

Alright, follow me now — Sir Jermaine was felled in the duel by Sir Fonds, who was then struck by an errant bolt of lightning.

CHARLES

What an odd turn of events.

WILLIAM

You have the right of it.

DANIEL

Brace yourselves, for it gets odder.

WILLIAM

In the wake of such an odd tragedy, we realized–

DANIEL

You realized, you addle-brained schemer.

WILLIAM

Yes, yes. I realized that we had a duel that took the lives of both masters, but their names remain intact.

MARTHA

But they’re dead.

WILLIAM

The man are, yes. However, their estates are alive and well.

MARTHA

But they’re dead.

WILLIAM

The acoustics of this foyer create an echo. Yes, Martha my sweet, they are dead, but no one but Daniel and I, and now you three, know of it. Their reputations, as well as their fortunes remain.

THOMAS

What is your aim here?

WILLIAM

Daniel and I are to take our respective master’s places.

MARTHA

But you have only a passing resemblance to the man!

WILLIAM

Come now Martha. We all know that the face Fonds showed to the world was more powder and paint than flesh. And the same goes for Sir Jermaine. All the aristocrats in their gawdy dress and mountains of makeup pale in comparison to one another.

CHARLES

I get you.

WILLIAM

Good! You’re as sharp as you are old.

CHARLES

Watch it, Sir Fonds.

THOMAS

I think I follow, but again I ask, what is your aim? Nothing too good can become of impersonating a nobleman.

DANIEL

I’m glad to know others in this house have their senses about them.

WILLIAM

The next part of our plan is to amass our estates in coin, sever ties in this land, and make for the New World as soon as possible, where no one is the wiser.

MARTHA

And your fellow servants are to simply go along with such a plan?

DANIEL

[To William] HA!

WILLIAM

Come now, Martha. We are all to take a cut of the fortune, and in return you help us abscond. Plus, you will do oh-so-much less work around the estate.

THOMAS

Less work for a split of the fortune? You’ve got my help!

CHARLES

Aye, mine as well.

All look to Martha.

MARTHA

I guess I have no choice in the matter. What do you need of us?

WILLIAM

I am correct in assuming none of you know of where Fonds kept his coffer, yes?

Everyone nods.

WILLIAM

Then we must ready the estate for a small party.

THOMAS

Ho! You promise us a lack of work and then tell us to make ready for a party?

WILLIAM

Worry not, it serves a grander purpose than a simple celebration of our scheme. We call upon Fonds’ money-grubbing sister as a guest, for she will lead us to the coffer.

MARTHA

You risk more people knowing our new little secret with a party, and then you want to invite Evelyn, who will most undoubtedly recognize he who is not her brother.

WILLIAM

My friends, you all worry so! Daniel you’re in good company. No no, this small party with be a masquerade — all identities hidden save for those we put to the front. As Sir Fonds I hide behind the mask and play the part of the man I’ve followed all these years. That dull-witted Evelyn will be none-the-wiser.

MARTHA

My lord, where do you come up with these schemes?

WILLIAM

They really just come to me, I swear.

MARTHA

It’s worrisome they do.

WILLIAM

Martha my sweet! You mustn’t worry so. The New World awaits us beyond one silly little party.

MARTHA

William, I am with you, but your enthusiasm is not contagious.

 

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