Forsooth, Part 1: February
Chapter 1: Where We Lay Our Scene: Craigwritten by Shannanananana - illustrated by outofmypie and shiftly
My name is Craig Tucker, and I've lived my entire eighteen years of existence in a tiny Colorado mountain town.
Now, we may be backwater people, but we still value our education. We learn all kinds of fascinating tidbits for real-life applications, like "don't piss in the pool," "never listen when people come asking you for money," or more importantly, "don't fuck with kids' heads or they might end up putting a nine-ton sea creature on the moon." That one's a killer whale of a lesson, let me tell you.
But you know what? Here in South Park, we learn all the time. We never fucking stop learning. In fact, I learned something today.
Yeah. Today I learned the all-important "there's only so much light a dead iPhone can give off in the dark."
I can't help but congratulate myself on my absolutely amazing discovery. Clearly, it's the smartest thing I've done in my entire life.
Just seconds ago I was on the other side of this curtain addressing a rather large (well, I thought it was large) group of my peers, but they were (and still are) too busy texting or playing Angry Birds or whatever the hell they always do to pay any attention to what I had to say. I suddenly felt a tiny smidge of empathy for all the assistant principals and assembly speakers who have had to put up with this shit all their life until I remembered that those same higher-ups were the ones who practically forced us into this situation. Then the empathy lessened. And then, after re-remembering all the details of leading up to this "situation," it dawned on me that it was impossible to feel for those assholes because they are fucking assholes and blamed my passing change of heart on indigestion. Salisbury Steak just hasn't been the same since Chef.
Let me back up a little bit here to give you the context of today's lesson and my apparent confusion between emotions and bowel movements. So I'm currently backstage and of course the government-mandated emergency light in the corner burned out between now and the last time the Drama Club was permitted to use the stage, and of course those Glee Club douchebags — who rehearse here in the auditorium at least three times a week and have access to the lighting booth — would conveniently consider the burned out light to be the janitor's problem, so... here I am. Standing in the middle of the dark and too afraid to start walking in any direction because I might trip over one of their garish set pieces and die. Or worse, I might have to pay those bozos in the office (and that supreme asshole Choir teacher) because I got blood all over their precious stage.
Ha. Their stage.
I guess in order to fully explain why I'm back here learning the invaluable lesson of the iPhone, I'll have to let you in on a little secret.
Feel special. There aren't that many things I genuinely like enough to be so passionate to keep and share secrets about like some little prissy fourth grader. To say I hate absolutely everything in the world would be a lie. At least, I don't hate it in the Kyle Broflovski "Channel Your Misanthropy Into Studying And Occasionally Getting In Fights With The Fatass Who Called You An Anti-Semetic Slur" sense. Or the Goth Kids' "Everyone Is A Nazi Conformist Barbie Doll So Let's Just Sit In Coffee Shops All The Time And Perform Stupid Time-Consuming Monologues In Drama Class About How Our Hearts Bleed Black" way, either.
I'm pragmatic, not a raging Kosher firecrotch or a hypocritical wrist-cutting dipshit. Totally not the same thing. And for the record I am this way 'cause of yet another lesson I've learned in South Park: When your immediate family is as fucked in the collective head as mine is, you tend to either disown them (like my Uncle Skeeter did to us a couple of years back; I still hang out with my cousin Red from time to time but we can't let our parents know or they'd blow a gasket) or find a way to cope.
Ever since I can remember, my parents have hated each other. One my first memories is of my sister and I playing with my Red Racer action figures while my parents had a massive shouting match downstairs. I think I was... four? Maybe? Yeah, 'cause Ruby was still in diapers and chewed Red Racer's head off. I was pissed. Anyway, the shouting matches were to me like Barney to other kids — it played all the time until the folks got sick of it. And they did get sick of it — over the course of about a year or so, the constant arguing turned into this silent war of obscene hand gestures, which is where it's stayed ever since.
I'm sure to everyone else we seemed like a typical (albeit slightly taller) household. But unbeknownst to the rest of podunk South Park, my dad started drinking. And drinking. And drinking.
He never beat us or touched us inappropriately. He never even raised his voice. He just didn't give a shit about anything other than chugging that six-pack of Coors and watching the Rockies game after a long day at the construction site. My mom didn't yell anymore after that, either. In fact, I don't recall a time after I was seven where she didn't try to pretend like everything was completely normal. If (who am I kidding? Not if, when) Dad passed out in the recliner, she'd give him the ol' One Finger Salute (like he'd even see it — good thinking, Mom) and get on with her cleaning as quietly as possible.
Sometimes I think she raised three children.
The only indicator to the outside world of our "trouble at home" (Mackey's words, not mine) was that Ruby and I, having no concept of what the middle finger actually meant at the time, flipped everyone off constantly. I still did it for a while even after one of the teachers finally sat down with me and explained why I kept getting in trouble, which was, besides the fact that I had a near-constant middle-finger erection, mainly because I thought swearing was sooo cool and I felt sooo rebellious and if I could yell "tampon dick shit" in the classroom I would be sooo happy... I was a weird kid. I probably still am.
Fuck that, I know I still am because all of those things are definitely still sooo cool.
But enough with the Lifetime Movie of the Week.
Hmm. Tampon Dick Shit would be a good band name.
The lesson was about coping, right? Well, as I was saying, the way my sister and I manage to cope with our situation is sarcasm. Sarcasm at everything. I'll be the first person to admit it isn't the best defense mechanism in the world, but hey, it beats shooting up heroin in an alley while anonymous politicians snort lines of coke off our asscracks. Not that we've tried it. (Well, I can't actually speak for Ruby, so I'm kind of just assuming here that that's not her scene.)
So, as we slowly get closer to the reason I'm telling this story, that's why most people at school think I'm a dick and don't pay attention to me the one time I'm trying to be genuine about something. That, and, according to Bebe, I have a "fucked up since of humor." (Okay, so I made Clyde watch Human Centipede 2 with me so I could record his reactions and put it on Youtube. Why is that so strange? It's what bros do.)
Seeing as you're going to be reading this, you should know I get a little sidetracked now and then. Just a warning.
My English teacher hates all of my papers. "Not properly structured" or "incoherent" my ass. If you don't like what I turn in, don't give me a piece of shit book to write a paper on and expect a wad of fucking gold to spew out, you old hag.
See? I'm doing it again.
Let's cut the bullshit.
I'm president of the Park County High School Drama Club. How people considered me the best member for the job, I have no idea, but deep down it's one of the few things in life I do care about. (Also marijuana, but that's a story for a later date.)
Whatever, so I care about theatre. Secret's out, sue me. Except don't really.
Unfortunately, those in charge of molding young minds do not share my feelings. For the past three and a half years, our Drama teacher/advisor was Mr. Slave. I mean, who knew, our fourth grade teacher's assistant/ex-gay lover only took that job to help pay for his Masters in Theatre Education? (Insert painfully obvious BDSM joke here.) At first, everything was going okay. I'd write the plays and everyone else would perform them. So people didn't really show up in droves to see it. Big whoop. Like I said, it's South Park. The only people coming to my — our — shit were our families (or at least the moms) and kids who have to make up days for teachers who don't wanna deal with the same class-skipping delinquents next year.
But last year, this guy from the Post came and wrote an article about us. You'd think that would get some of the hoity-toity Boulder hipsters/Denverites to drive 90 minutes out and watch a bunch of high school kids make offhand Arthur Miller references for two and a half hours, but no.
Oh, right, the Mr. Slave thing. When we came back from Christmas Break a few weeks ago, we were informed that Mr. Slave quit and we would be stuck with a substitute "until further notice." Nobody'll tell us why, but Bebe thinks it has something to do with Queermo and the Gleek Squad. And honestly, if it does, I'd be just as surprised as I would if I found out these set pieces threatening to trip me back here were giant rainbow-colored cocks that jizzed out glitter every five minutes. Which is to say, you know, that I wouldn't be surprised in the slightest.
But soft, what light through yonder curtain breaks? (Translation for those of you who can't read Shakespeare: someone just opened the curtain.)
I spin around and spot the top of Bebe's altitude-enhanced frizz a split second before the curtain closes and everything goes pitch black again.
"You can't do this every time the crowd sucks. You just can't." She holds her phone up to (literally) cast some light on the situation.
Bebe's always been one of the tallest girls in school, but having to look down to talk to her still takes some getting used to. I'm not exactly sure why, though. I mean, we've been friends since the ninth grade (we knew each other beforehand, though; I've known Clyde since we were 2 and she's dated him on and off pretty much since then) and I have to do it all the time for everyone else, not just her. I'm kind of tall. Like my house.
I frown even deeper than usual. I'm going to get wrinkles prematurely, I know. "Then what else am I supposed to do? Just keep on keeping on and hope that someone out there is listening?" Seriously. She was the one who convinced all these people to show up. They came here expecting her, not me.
"That is exactly what you're supposed to do." A wrinkle to answer the ones on the corners of my mouth forms in her forehead as she scowls. "How was this not an issue all those times we put on your plays?"
"'Cause I wasn't the one up here being ignored." Oh, and, let's see, um, we weren't considered budgetary excess then. Because the arts totally don't enhance reading and writing and cultural awareness. Yeah, like I said at the beginning, we fucking value education here.
She sighs. "I know being onstage kind of... irks you."
Understatement of the fucking century. I hate it. I hate how hot the lights can get. I hate having to cake on layer upon layer of makeup and talk loudly and remember cues (let's just say I make Ben Stein sound like Pee-wee Herman) and all that shit, but Goddamn if I don't love seeing other people do it.
"But...?" I say, hoping whichever religious deity in charge of fallen Catholics is listening and decides to intervene.
"We made a deal. I got them to come to this thing, so..." She holds the curtain open a sliver just in time for me to see two members of the basketball team try to make their way towards the left aisle.
"And there they go," I mutter.
"Just get out there," she scoffs, shoving me into the lion's den.
I freeze up. It looks like around half the people realized there were better things to do than sit around waiting for some asshole to overcome his stage fright, so they made like a kid trying weed for the first time and blew this joint. I spot Clyde off around the third or fourth row grinning like a goon at his phone. Probably texting that chick he was talking about at lunch who gives head, according to him, "like a fuckin' Dirt Devil." To his right is Token, already knee-deep in AP Whatever homework with Testaburger to his right. Clyde's theory is they have some sort of secret fuck buddy thing going on, but I know better. Token's what you'd call a "serious relationship" kind of guy, and Testabitch (I know the nickname was Cartman's invention, but I gotta say, Lardass hit the nail on the pink beret. Not that I would ever admit that outside of my head) is leaving this town two nanoseconds after we toss our hats in June. I don't think either are them are up for a long-distance relationship. Also, Bebe would have said something.
Speaking of whom, I hear her clear her throat from behind the curtain in a "start-talking-or-I-will-inflict-violence-upon-thee" kind of way.
"Uh... hey, guys," I say to the crowd.
Nobody looks up. No one. Not even that douche with the dreadlock ponytail sitting front and center.
"Volume," Bebe whispers loud enough for me to hear her.
Whoops. That came out more menacing than I intended it to be. Now everyone has the same deer-in-headlights expression on their face and I'm trying hard not to crack up. Craig Tucker Fun Fact Number 786: I have a tendency to giggle uncontrollably when I'm nervous. I guess that's kind of why I don't do it that often. That and my laugh sounds like a... somewhere between "mad scientist" and "porpoise on helium" is the most accurate description.
"So, uh... now that I've gotten your attention..." Barely. They all have that same glazed-over look in their eyes they get when listening to Mr. Garrison prattle on about Remington Steele instead of the French Revolution like he's supposed to be doing. (Yet another amazing employment decision brought to you by the Park County Board of Education.) "Let me cut to the chase. The superintendent's thinking of cutting Theatre Arts completely, and I'm pretty sure the school board's going to slash funds from the other art electives as well. Why, you ask?"
I pause to see if anyone would. And... nope.
"For one, we can't find another Mr. Slave. And two..." I really wish I had made a PowerPoint presentation. "...I'm not a hundred percent certain, but something tells me the Gleeks are playing a major part in this."
I look around. Only two or three people are acting like they're not listening, but they're dicks who probably came here to see Bebe's tits, so who gives a fuck? Well, except Bebe herself. And Testaburger. Maybe.
"You're doing great," Bebe whispers.
I turn around just in time to see her head disappear from the curtain. "Why are you still back there?"
She pops back up again. "So I don't detract from your speech."
"And this isn't detracting?" I turn back to the audience.
Bebe mutters a "sorry" and I hear a rustle as she removes her head from the curtain a second time.
"Anyway... the only way we can prove to the School Board that we are actually worthy of being a program just as much as those douchecanoes is to do something people are willing to pay a couple of bucks to see. So that's why we're doing... uh, drumroll, I guess?"
"Wait, hold on, there's an app for that." Bebe says.
"I was making a joke."
"But it's a big deal!"
Someone clears their throat. "Hey, Craig? Uh..."
I turn around and immediately spot Broflovski in the far right section with his hand sticking up in the air.
"Not trying to sound like a dick or anything, but..." Of course you don't have to try when you are one. "...can you hurry this up? Some of us have Jazz Band in, like, five minutes."
I let out a long, exasperated sigh. "Fine. Okay." I pause to collect my thoughts. "We're doing Romeo and Juliet."
Bebe says something like, "I had just found it, too," but it's hard to hear her over the sound of everyone's groans.
"Conformist," I hear the girl Goth at the tail end of the first row grumble loud enough for me to hear.
"What are we, freshmen?" Marsh asks rather loudly.
"Oh, go eat a bag of dicks!" I hear Ruby holler from one of the back rows. I squint my eyes and barely make out her and her best friend Karen up in the back right section next to the lighting booth stairs. Needless to say, I've never been more proud of my own sister than I am now.
"But seriously, Craig, what are we, middle schoolers?"
I take that back.
"I'm out," Guy In The Front Row Who Looks Like The Guy From The Counting Crows Only More Of A Douche (Like That's Even Humanly Possible) says as he slings his Bob Marley messenger bag over his shoulder and leaves.
"Like you would have gotten a part," I murmur in response.
"Will everyone just shut the fuck up?!" I hear my partner-in-crime intervene, and she takes over the entire scene with her wrath.
Why the fuck wasn't Bebe willing to do this three minutes ago? She steps out of the curtain and carefully sits on the edge of the stage while the crowd dies down. Apparently tits tend to have that effect on people. Not that I'd know.
"Look..." she says while flinging her legs. "I don't think you guys understand. We're already pretty low on funding as it is, so we can't exactly perform something like, say, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf without having to pay their publishing companies."
"Uh, Bebe..." I sit criss-cross to her right. "That isn't a play our generation knows about."
"Okay. Um. Our Town? Anyone heard of Our Town?"
"Death of a Salesman?"
"Ohhhh..." I see Clyde and a couple of other people nod in comprehension.
"Okay, so when people think of plays, the first ones that usually come to mind are the things we've been forced to read in English class. And, actually, most of those plays are Shakespeare's, like Hamlet or A Midsummer Night's Dream. Or, obviously, Romeo and Juliet. And since his works are public domain, we can perform them as many times as we want without having to obtain the rights beforehand. But, you know, enough about that." I think Bebe tries to get me to talk first because every single time we do stuff like this, be it Drama Club meetings or end-of-the-year banquets, she goes into Rambling Impromptu Monologue Danger Zone. "The point of this meeting is to let you guys know that auditions are next Tuesday and Wednesday with callbacks being posted Thursday morning and happening that afternoon. Hopefully we'll have an advisor by then—"
"Wait..." Testaburger looks up from her textbook and says, "You guys don't have an advisor yet?"
"Uh, yeah, that's kind of what she just said," I reply.
Bebe punches me in the arm.
"Thank you," Testabitch smirks.
"But really, don't worry about the advisor thing. We're working on it."
There's an uneasy silence for a couple of seconds until Broflovski starts.
"Yes, you guys can go now," I say begrudgingly. He and his girlfriend Cotswolds manage to get their things, leave their seats and make their way out of their row hand in hand. If it weren't so sickeningly cheesy, I'd be impressed.
They turn around in the middle of the aisle.
"What, Bebe?" Broflovski says, slightly annoyed.
"You guys can't tell anyone in Showchoir or Glee Club, alright?"
"Or Cartman," I add. There's no fucking way I'm letting that fatass ruin this production. I'll go to Peru and get a fucking army of guinea pigs to stop him if I have to.
Broflovski looks at me like I'm stupid. "Why the fuck would I tell Cartman?"
Bebe turns to me and shrugs. "He's got a point, Craig."
"It's a small school," I reason. "Just... please don't talk loudly or... internet about it until auditions are over."
"I wasn't aware ‘internet' was a verb."
"I wasn't aware your face was a—"
"Craig!" Bebe says.
"I'm making it one. No Facebooking, no Tweeting, no emails about Lizzy Thompson's asscrack—"
I didn't know she was even in here.
"Oh, come on," Marsh says, "that was one time—"
"Shit!" Broflovski glances at his watch and he and Cotswolds resume their sprint towards the door. "Later, guys!"
Marsh turns around and shouts, "Wait! Kyle! I need help with my—"
"Text me later!"
Actually, no, I shouldn't say "lovebirds."
I'll admit, I don't have much of a reason to hate Cotswolds. She's pretty quiet and tends to keep to herself, which is totally fine by me. The less annoying people there are in the world, the better.
If anything, I feel a little bad for her, 'cause one of these days her boyfriend's gonna run off and have gaybys with Mr. Overly Sensitive Quarterback. And, you know, the only people on the face of the earth completely oblivious to this fact are her and, well, Broflovski.
Marsh, on the other hand... word on the street is he's the mayor-elect of Closetville. By "word on the street" I mean, "he totally hit on me at Token's birthday party." Or something.
Okay, so he was partaking in his weekly tradition of getting completely sloshed and making an ass of himself, meaning I might not have been the only victim, but I don't exactly make it a habit of mine to ask Token or Clyde if any of their teammates just so happened to mumble something to them about butt fucking right before he ralphed all over the limited edition Red Racer Vans their grandma bought them for Christmas (which I would have sent Marsh the receipt for if I were sure Granny could ever find it. I love her and all, don't get me wrong, but I swear to God that lady would lose her head if it were detachable).
My train of thought is derailed by the sound of Bebe obnoxiously tapping her fingers on the stage. I've found out she does this a lot when her patience is waning. "Anything else you wanna go over?"
"I, um, yeah." I unsuccessfully try to clear my throat without sounding like a pretentious dickhole. "Lucky for you guys, you don't have to actually be a member of the Drama Club to be in this thing. And, y'know, if acting isn't really your thing, or if you have a billion things to do after school and you can't be here every day and even if you get a lead, you won't be here every day we're always accepting volunteers. We'll have a bunch of different crew positions availab—"
Someone's phone begins to ring somewhere in the audience.
This is going to be a long fucking meeting.