“Carnival” by Merchant, Natalie from Tigerlily
BRAD sits at a diner table, a cup of coffee cooling in front of him. A cigarette in between two fingers in his left hand. He smokes it now and then, but mostly he just holds it as the smoke curls towards the ceiling. He occasionally rests his head in his hand, rubbing his forehead.
BRAD (sighing heavily)
In the play within the play in Hamlet, humans are compared to actors and life compared to stage work. You know the bit. “Full of sound and fury signifying nothing”?
He snuffs out that still mostly still unsmoked cigarette and lit another, taking in a shallow pull of it before opening his mouth and letting the grey smoke tumble out.
All due repsect to Big Willy Shakespeare, that’s bullshit. Life’s not (adopting a high faluting accent) the theatres. (ends accent) Life’s a damn traveling fair.
Think about it. We’re all basically just freaks—and I don’t mean freaks like the bearded lady, that’s a hormonal thing, not her fault. I mean freaks like people who can’t fit in because they don’t…”get” it. Or worse, we’re the charlatans, the barkers, or the rubes.
BRAD takes a swill of coffee and grimaces. Perhaps it’s gone fully cold, perhaps coffee at a little visited diner after 10:30 at night on a Tuesday is kind of bad.
I mean, if you think about it, it would be great if life was a play. That’s high art. But no, it’s the thing that pulls into town, all rickety and seemingly about to fall to pieces. Staffed by the dangerous, the unwashed, and the sociopathic. We attend not because we really want to but because, well, it’s a tradition, right? It’s what we do because what else are we going to do?
Oh stop that! I can see from your face that you just think I’m some pretentious sad sack. Or some English major who’s gotten way into applying symbolism to real life. Fine. Ignore the reality that life is a slog that we’re repeatedly told is fun! Capital F, capital U, capital N! And yet, everywhere we look, the rides are broken down, the games are fixed, and the other people around us seem to be more interested in exploiting us than helping us. Go ahead and write me off so you don’t have to think about it.
BRAD bitterly ticks ash off the end into the ashtray.
BRAD (taking a deep breath and starting again)
Once I got that, living off the grid got much easier. If all of this is just a colossal, horrible mess, what’s the reason to participate? Why bother paying for the overpriced tickets and the undercooked fried dough, you know?
So I got the cabin, figured out how to run the generator on water from the river, got some solar panels as a secondary power source, stole cable and internet, learned to grow a garden and hunt….boom. Separate from society. No taxes. No rules. No fake-ass carnival. Just me, my wits, and my skills. As God and nature intended.
Gestures towards someone, presumably the waitress, with his coffee cup, indicating he’d like more.
So..what I guess I’m saying is…you know I love your daughter. And you can see I’m a real straight shooter who can provide a life for free from self-delusion and government interference. And therefore…if you are both ok with it…I’d like to…I’d be honored to…with your permission…ask your daughter to marry me.