Dead calm at Snark Is The Night; its four most infamous patrons have not yet arrived. KENT, alone save a few lonely art students having drunk themselves into a stupor at the end of the bar, works on his novel while somehow enjoying a Keystone.
Enter TERRY, who sits down at his usual spot.
TERRY: I see you’ve quit drinking.
KENT: It’s the only thing Dimitri lets me have on the job without having to pay for it.
TERRY: My boss tends to give me a good amount of breathing room to, ah, make the best of my various aptitudes.
KENT: Do you even have aptitudes?
TERRY: Good question. No. None, at least, that I find myself using at my job. I am, however, quite apt at faking it.
KENT: How do you fake aptitude?
TERRY: How do you?
KENT tries to decide if he should be offended or not.
KENT: I have an app. And it helps that I’m so personable.
TERRY: Relatively, at least. You’d probably be interested to know that Renee received a disciplinary censure.
KENT: What does that have to do with anything?
TERRY: Patience, young one.
KENT: I’m in grad school.
TERRY: Yeah, it shows. Anyway, it was because of her personability. See? I was building on something.
KENT: Get on with it.
TERRY: You don’t tell me what to do. Anyway, a very hungover Renee decided earlier this week that she wasn’t receiving enough from society, our school in particular.
KENT: This is something she just decided?
TERRY: That’s what I said. She told me, and I quote, “I’m not like all those other people who have become so used to having nothing that they’re okay with it.”
KENT: Isn’t that what Darryl Hannah said in Wall Street?
TERRY: I dunno; I don’t watch documentaries. The point is that she decided the production of Arcadia she’s directing was going to have to make do with a reduced budget.
KENT: The perfect crime.
TERRY: They’re making her TA a class open to non-theater majors. She’s been whining about it all week.
KENT: How’d she get caught?
TERRY: Wait for it.
The front door damn near falls off its hinges as RENEE storms in. Her eyes look like fiery death.
RENEE: You! I would call you a corpse-fucker but I don’t think you could even convince one to sleep with you! I would call you a fucking asshole but you lack the depth! I would call you a weasel but weasels are actually intimidating!
TERRY: They are?
KENT: Woman thing.
RENEE: I wasn’t talking to you, dickless. Terry, you utter shit. I hope you know you owe me fifteen hundred dollars.
TERRY: Because I did the responsible thing and turned you into the dean of the theater department?
RENEE: Don’t bullshit a bullshitter, Keane. You’ve never done a ‘responsible’ thing in your life.
TERRY: Once I killed a twelve year old Iraqi kid. I’d call that responsible.
RENEE: I – what?
TERRY: He had a Kalashnikov. I think. It looked real. I mean, I wasn’t court martialled.
KENT: Think I’ll hit the head while you two hash things out.
KENT leaves most expediently.
RENEE: Horrifying revelations aside, what the hell do you have to gain out of my never being allowed to direct a campus production again?
TERRY: For starters, I’ll stop feeling obligated to go to them. There are maybe three good actors in the entire program.
RENEE: This was not a matter of fucking taste.
TERRY: It was a little bit a matter of taste.
RENEE: I swear to God, if this ends up being one of your ‘because I could’ moves, I will personally see to it that every woman on campus learns about that night at the sorority house with the donuts.
TERRY: You have no power here.
RENEE: I needed that money, dammit.
TERRY: You needed shit.
RENEE: Please give it back.
TERRY: What, and you think I have it?
RENEE: Symbolically, you do.
TERRY: That was the stupidest non-Jason thing I’ve heard since the last conversation I had with my younger brother.
TERRY: I think you should note that you’re begging. Stop it. Haven’t you ever heard that money corrupts?
RENEE: That’s bullshit and you know it. Anyone who tells you different has obviously forgotten that money is a human invention. People corrupt. And in their corruption, they blame something as pure and innocent as money. It’s terrible of them. Like blaming your dog for shooting the neighbor’s cat when it was you who did it.
TERRY: You’ve obviously put some thought into this.
RENEE: And you have too. What, are you trying to teach me something?
TERRY: Money isn’t a good enough reason. It might not corrupt humans, but it corrupts our actions. Cheapens them. If you’re going to screw someone over, do it because a truly dick move is its own reward.
RENEE: Are you the Devil?
TERRY: Don’t insult me, Renee. The Devil would’ve been scared of you.
RENEE takes a minute to think about this.
TERRY: Don’t read too much into it.
JASON walks in with a broken nose and gauze covering his left eye.
RENEE: How was the NAACP meeting?
JASON: The world has a ways to go before transethnic people like myself are accepted amongst our brothers.
TERRY: They beat you up for wearing blackface, didn’t they?
JASON: No, they asked me to leave. I did, however, get into a bit of a scrape at the Metro earlier today, though.
RENEE: Who with?
JASON: The escalator. Turns out they aren’t really that longboard accessible. I blame the poor signage.
KENT returns with a fresh Keystone.
KENT: Are we done talking about war crimes?
TERRY: It wasn’t a war crime. My actions were deemed justified. They even gave me a medal. Wanna see? It has a short little stick figure in a crosshairs on it.
RENEE: I’m not drunk enough for this. Gimme an Organ Grinder.
JASON: I could use something numbing; the aspirin is starting to wear off.
TERRY: Imperial Fizz. Extra rum.
KENT: Will do. Where’s the wasp?
RENEE: He mentioned something about a date tonight. I filed it under “Depressing Lies,” right between “Damned Lies” and “Devious Lies,” but he’s usually here by now.
TERRY: You have a filing system for lies?
RENEE: It’s usually just for personal reference; I lose track of all the ludicrous claims I stake otherwise.
JASON: I find the best way to avoid that sort of thing is to believe your own lies. You never have to keep track of the things you think are true.
RENEE: Jason, I think you just wrote your own autobiography in two sentences. And managed to prove that a statement can be at the same time be hope-crushingly stupid and oddly intelligent, in a “Calvin and Hobbes” sort of way.
JASON: I like when he goes to space in a flying saucer. How did he get funding for that, though? Isn’t he, like, six?
TERRY: It was a government grant. They love to see young people take an interest in shooting aliens. You should apply; I know how much you love Halo.
JASON: Who doesn’t love Halo? It invented the First Person Shooter. Really, what surprises me is that more people don’t apply.
TERRY: Go figure.
RENEE looks at TERRY incredulously.
RENEE: I don’t know how, but I think a kitten just died because of you.
TERRY: I’m sure you could figure it out if you did the legwork.
KENT slides the three of them their drinks.
KENT: You were saying about Vic?
TERRY: I actually know where he is. Intrinsically, it’s not very exciting, but the story behind it is.
JASON: What’s that?
TERRY: He’s holed up in his dorm-
JASON: No, I mean what’s that word?
TERRY: What word?
TERRY: Intrinsically. It means ‘of or relating to the indicated context without involving or referring to outside circumstances.’
JASON: Cool. What’s a circumstances?
RENEE: Things related to the situation.
JASON: What things?
RENEE: Any things. You asked for a definition.
TERRY: You’re actually looking for a definition of the word ‘definition.’ Am I getting this right?
JASON: As far as I can tell.
TERRY: Fine. A definition is a blurb that spells out the meaning of a word or term. Can I define anything else for you?
TERRY: Patsy. Noun. A – oh, fuck you.
JASON: I’m not as dumb as you think I am.
RENEE: Impressive. Most impressive.
TERRY: As I was saying, Vic is holed up in his dorm studying. See, he thinks we believe his stupidly implausible claims, like that he can get a date.
RENEE: Or that his great uncle is President Jed Bartlet.
JASON: Or that there actually is a ‘New’ Hampshire that he’s from. You can’t just add ‘New’ to the names of counties on the southern coast of England and expect people to believe that-
RENEE: It’s real.
JASON: Yeah, that it’s – wait, it is?
TERRY: Borders Canada. Highest concentration of Republicans per capita than any other state in New England. John Adams was born there.
JASON: See, now look who’s being naive. John Adams was Paul Giamatti. It’s all made up, Terry. You’ve gotta be able to separate fantasy from reality.
TERRY: You taking this down, Renee?
RENEE (furiously jotting down notes in a diary and voicing them): ‘Doesn’t think either New Hampshire or John Adams are real; still decides at random whether what he watches on HBO is fiction, documentary, or a mix of the two.’ Got it.
JASON: That’s a pretty big diary.
TERRY: Yes. Yes it is. By the way, I’ve been meaning to tell you that Will McAvoy won’t be resigning.
JASON: What? But he lied to us! He lied to me! There was no such thing as ‘Operation Genoa!’
KENT overhears this and rejoins the conversation.
KENT: You know, they told us that in the season premiere.
JASON: You’re damn right they did. So if they knew from the beginning that it was, then why did they pursue the story?
TERRY: Good god. You’re going to make me explain to you what a framing device is, aren’t you?
JASON: I told you, Terry, I’m not as stupid as you think I am.
RENEE: And yet. Wait.
RENEE: I got distracted when Jason walked in. Your ass still owes me fifteen hundred.
TERRY: Tell you what. I will pay you fifteen hundred dollars to do something spiteful and awful for its own sake, not for the money.
RENEE: How is it possible for such an act to qualify with that much money at stake?
TERRY: You’ll know. And when it happens, you’ll come to me and I will be able to sense the truth in your voice when you tell me what you did and why.
KENT (Imitating Darth Sideous): Yeees, everything is proceeding as I have foreseen.
TERRY: Laugh it up, bitch.
JASON: I wonder. You know what would have made the prequel trilogy better?
KENT: A lot of things. It actually seemed to me like you’d be of the opinion that those movies were, well, good.
JASON: I’m allowed to have taste, Kent.
KENT: Fair enough; speak your peace.
RENEE: This promises to be interesting.
JASON: So, people whine all day and all night that they made Darth Vader into kind of a whiny pussy in the prequels with a bogus motive for turning to the Dark Side.
TERRY: This is known.
JASON: Right, but they never come up with a better one before they start going on about George Lucas ruining their childhood. So instead of lambasting the prequels, why don’t we look at the original trilogy.
RENEE: You used the word ‘lambast’ properly.
JASON: Hush. Vader, in the original trilogy, had a lot of gravitas, yes, but he lacked concrete motives. Or he seemed to. Listen to the impassioned speech he gives to Luke towards the end of Empire. He talks about bringing order to the galaxy and ending the destructive conflict that’s consumed it.
JASON: And though we see him ice a few fuckers, most of whom were Imperial officers who’d probably done something or another to deserve it, Vader wasn’t the one who gave the order to destroy Alderaan. That was Grand Moff Tarkin. The worst we ever see him do was order the invasion of Hoth. And really, that wasn’t a ten-second genocide. Just war.
KENT: What are you getting at, here?
JASON: Gimme a second. In Jedi, we see that Vader is, indeed, redeemable. Hell, he proves it by redeeming himself. In his mind, though, he’d seen no other way but that of the Dark Side and that of the Emperor. So what do we get when we put the pieces together? We get the picture of a man who saw a galaxy in chaos and ravaged by war, a man who did what he had to do and became what he had to be in order to bring peace to the calamity. But it hurt him to do so, and though death and violence were his friends, never quite let himself become the monster that Sideous was. Luke saw that, and saw that, in Vader’s soul, his good intentions outweighed the brutal methods that had characterized him for so many years.
JASON: So, I don’t think they should have fucked around in the prequels the way they did. What they should have done is have the Clone Wars be something that was already happening when Episode I began and have had it continue on until the end of Episode III. Obi-Wan and Anakin should have been two badass Jedi from day one who faced increasingly impossible odds. Anakin, he should have been an idealistic go-getter whose innocence was destroyed over the course of the movies until he just gave up on the Light Side as impotent and unable to change anything. This, of course, would lead to him abandoning it in favor of the Dark Side and, at the cost of his humanity and, is able to put an end to the Clone Wars. In doing so, though, the Republic becomes the fascist regime we know of as the Empire. The Jedi die or are otherwise driven into hiding when they stage a last-ditch coup and are crushed.
KENT: What about Luke and Leia?
JASON: What about Luke and Leia? Take that whole damn Padme subplot and smush down to twenty minutes. She took off when Anakin went psycho and hid the kids. Vader found her and killed her. Done. He never bitched about her half as much as you’d expect him to in the original trilogy.
JASON: No, that’s a statement.
RENEE: Whatever. This is all getting pretty specific.
JASON: That’s still a statement. Why do you say ‘question’ if you keep making st-
RENEE: I was building to something. My question is, have you written this down?
JASON takes a long time to answer.
JASON: I mean, one night I was kinda bored. Wifi was out. You know how it is.
RENEE: But you wrote it down?
RENEE: Tell me, in what format did you write it down? Just text walls? Screenplay?
JASON: You can’t expect me to write something in screenplay format. I can’t keep track of that many margins and tabs and format changes.
RENEE: So not screenplay.
RENEE: What, then?
There is another long silence. TERRY has a mile-wide grin, having just figured out where RENEE is going with this.
JASON: I don’t think it matters. I can’t even remember. It was a long time ago.
RENEE: Was it narrative prose?
JASON: Maybe? Like I said, I can’t remember.
RENEE: Who knows about it besides us now?
JASON: No one. No one knows.
TERRY: Your ear just twitched. That’s your tell.
JASON: I might have…perhaps published it online. But I doubt anyone read it.
RENEE: So what we’ve come to now is that you’ve not only written fan fiction, but you’ve published it.
JASON: It’s not fan fiction. It’s my own creative vision.
RENEE: And not even that. You, in discussing your ‘creative vision,’ have done the only thing worse than writing and publishing fan fiction. You are actively discussing said literary work of blasphemy with people, real people, in open conversation.
TERRY: This is the sort of thing you have to confess to. I would assign you ten Lord’s Prayers and five Hail Mary’s.
JASON: I’m not Catholic.
TERRY: Neither am I anymore. This is the gravity of your crime.
RENEE: Terry, you killed a kid.
TERRY: It was deemed justifiable! And weren’t we on him?
KENT: I dunno, I think he might be on to something.
TERRY: Just for that, you don’t get a tip tonight.
KENT: Oh no. What will I do without the three bucks you give me on an eighty dollar tab?
RENEE: Hey, that’s, like, two candy bars right there. With enough left over for a gum ball.
KENT: Stop talking and drink.