FICTION: Death Rattle, A Three-Act Play


Onstage is a red curtain. There is water pooling beneath it. Behind the curtain is one of the remaining melting glaciers lit up on a rotating base. The center of the glacier has been hollowed out and carved into a buffet, bar, and dance floor. A sign lights up over the stage that reads Imported by the President of the United States in Akzidenz Grotesk font. The curtain is pulled away and a dark figure is revealed inside one of the booths. The figure is misshapen, inverted, like a crater or a pothole. Around where its neck should be rests a flower garland, like a prize winning racehorse. The figure sits smugly leaning against the wall of the booth. It reaches up, breaks an icicle off the ceiling, and takes a bite. Its arms stretch open, proud, towards the audience. The audience is horrified. The audience is appalled. No one in the audience says anything.


The dark cavity stands alone onstage with a towel wrapped around where its waist should be. The cavity has been gilded in specks of gold leaf. The dark cavity is daydreaming about the state of the country. The cavity thinks wouldn’t it be fun if every state had their own state gun. They each have their own state flower and bird, it thinks, but what’s more definingly American than guns? It knows Utah has already declared theirs as the Browning M1911. It thinks this is a good initiative. But shouldn’t each state gun accurately represent each state? Putting a gun-face to a state-name… An appropriate symbol, it thinks. The lights come up and the audience sees the cavity is in a bright yellow bathroom. The audience watches the dark spot drop a golden egg-shaped bath bomb into its steaming flaxen tub.

Onstage is the dark spot. It is giving a presentation to a large audience. The dark spot brings up a powerpoint projected onto a large screen. It has a map of the 50 states indicating famous movies, where they were filmed, and which guns were made famous for it. Some of the states have altered in shape to resemble their corresponding firearm. The state of Florida is now shaped like an Uzi instead of its usual handgun contour. It has a banner stretched out across it in black bolded lettering that reads “The Gunshine State.” Michigan is now a desert eagle. Louisiana, a Beretta 92. New Jersey has taken the likeness of a snub nose Smith and Wesson. The audience wonders how they never noticed the resemblance before.

A man in the audience in cutoffs fires the first shot. His double barrel blasts sparks into the sky like a roman candle. Suddenly, the whole crowd is armed and they’re popping them off like champagne bottles. Before long they’ve blasted a hole through the balloon net hanging above the stage. Thousands of colorful rubber inflatables with the dark spot’s face are freed and fall to the audience below.


The stage is painted to look like the inside of a colorful room. The audience can guess the greasy smear has found itself in the belly of a piñata. The greasy smear is confused at first. It walks carefully across the room and listens closely to the outside sounds. The audience watches as the greasy smear counts the hours passing by the way the light changes through the colored crepe paper. The greasy smear presses its fingers against the thick caverned walls to check for weak points. The scene ends when eventually the greasy smear finds there is no chance of clawing or kicking its way out.

Months pass as the audience watches the smear live off stale candy. The smear grows used to his soft paper prison. The smear begins looking at its confinement as a colorful vacation filled with tootsie roll armchairs and snickers bar footrests. It doesn’t take long before the smear fancies himself a carpenter and crafts some bed posts out of candy cigarettes. The smear unwraps a moon pie to sleep on and at night it keeps warm with a candy wrapper quilt. The smear even builds a home gym equipped with a cow tail pull up bar and blowpop dumbbells. The audience watches as the smear chalks its tiny horrible paws with crushed smarties before mounting its lifesaver gymnastic rings. The smear grows quite fond of its new home. The smear decorates the walls with candy necklace garland and tacks its favorite bazooka comic strips up with bits of chewed gum. The audience gawks as the smear lies in bed with its hands behind its head and admires the simple life it has built up around them.

The audience watches the stage like a TV. The smear is curled up spooning its marshmallow pillow. Suddenly the smear is thrown from its bed and smacks into the paper-mâchéd wall. The audience gapes as the stage splits open. The stage begins to sway and spin. The smear grabs the candy necklace garland with all of its strength but it slips and topples out with it. Out into the audience the smear flops. The audience is ready for this. They take out their baseball bats. What’s more American than baseball? The smear looks up just in time to see the audience surround and devour it.

Jazz De Nero is a poet and artist living in Buffalo, NY. Her work has appeared in BlazeVox, Ghost City Review, Peach Mag and Cosmonauts Avenue.

Image: Set Design, prologue to the staging of Satan's Diary (by L. Andreev), Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin, 1922

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