The Eccentricities of a Night-Hawk
a play based on Christopher Marlowe's Edward II
“Nobody writes them like they used to
So it may as well be me.”
“Mal rasees, bien habillees”
The house and stage of the presenting venue double as the empty theatre at the prep school Daniel attends. Though not used as such in this scene, there is a white cyclorama or drop upon which images (the back wall of Michael's apartment, the apse of the Church of St John the Beloved) can be back-projected behind the stage proper as needed.
When the play begins, the houselights do not go down, nor is there any indication of the show starting till the action starts...
...which is when Daniel and Michael enter explosively from one of the sets of double doors at the back of the house. Once the door closes, there is one charged beat as they look at each other before Daniel takes out his iPod's earbuds and tucks them into a pocket. They begin to make out. With gusto rather elan. As they do so, they stumble rapidly towards the stage. They stop once or twice on a convenient armrest or empty seat to undo any stubborn fasteners (ignoring anyone real who may or may not be inhabiting the seat). When they get to the stage, they lean against it, Daniel with his back against the raised stage. They last another few seconds before they have to come up for air. When they do so, Michael has managed to get Daniel's blazer off his shoulders. Daniel's tie is also loosened and the first button (at least) of his shirt is undone. Michael's belt is undone. They pant for a few brief seconds before Michael tries to begin anew, but Daniel stops him. The tease.
[Daniel is 18, in his last semester at school. He is tall and lithe with a fringe of black hair (he spends hours to make it perfectly unruly) and has smooth, flawless, creamy skin all over. He has brown eyes. A few years ago, his over-all effect would be that of a boi Lolita, and his precocious understanding of sex far outstrips his emotional understanding. That, coupled with his privileged up-bringing, ensures that the first impression he gives is (charitably) of someone who knows exactly what he wants and almost ways gets it.
As the play opens, he is wearing his school uniform – dark blue blazer with the school emblem over the breast pocket, white shirt with a (now) exposed ribbed tank top underneath, black tie, matching pants. He's got a pair of Diesel Sweeties Red Robot pixel socks and vintage narrow, brown and burgundy, square-toed saddle shoes on his feet. He has a pair of frame glasses hanging outside his breast pocket. They're not used in this scene. He also has a small, silver loop earring.
Michael is a bit older, maybe 21 or 22. He's not quite as tall as Daniel, but is broader. Where Daniel is naturally built like a swimmer, Michael is built in a way that suggests he's built muscle through work, rather than the more technically perfect shape a gym regime gives. He has wavy brown hair – if it were ever allowed to grow out more, it'd be full-on curly, but under no circumstances is that allowed to happen – and dark blue eyes. The impression he gives is that of someone with an intelligently, elegantly and expensively put together front, but whose interior is far less easy to discern. This isn't at all off-putting. He is intriguing in a way Daniel initially probably doesn't realize yet.
Michael is wearing a black velvet blazer over a linen shirt with silver cuff-links. He has on expensively-cut designer jeans – dark, cross-cut denim – and black Beatle boots. He hasn't shaved in a few days. He doesn't shave his chest.]
(with an exquisite faux-innocence)
I'm pretty sure this isn't what my father intended.
I'm pretty sure his exact words were that I should 'take care of you'...(Daniel raises an eyebrow in a very pretty, well-practiced arch as he mouths 'take care?', then waits a beat and leans forward to kiss him. Michael returns it, then kisses slowly up from where Daniel's throat meets his shoulder up to his ear, nibbles on his ear, and then...)
Michael leads Daniel up the steps HL of the stage's thrust, then pulls across an arras-like curtain upstage: revealed is a niche on with several cubes spread with a crimson silk cover, with matching pillows in a slip. Another cube has a iHome (a device used to play aloud an iPod) and a crystal vase with a single rosebud.
(walking over to and stroking the rose, perhaps impressed)
But won't someone... notice?
(lounging against an onstage column)
You'd be surprised what people are willing to overlook for the son of a king.
(smelling the rose)
No. I wouldn't.
(Michael pulls Daniel close again – Daniel's eyebrow again raised – but rather than kissing Daniel, he pulls out his iPod from his pocket and begins to scroll through the artists, looking for something apropos.)
Here we go.
He plugs in the iPod to the iHome; Air's “Sexy Boy” begins to play. They begin to dance, slowly and rhythmically. Daniel lasts a few moments before he laughs:
How Queer as Folk is this?!
Michael doesn't know how to respond.
Daniel kisses him on the cheek, raking his hand over Michael's chest, and crosses over to the iHome, selects another song and starts it. He holds out his hand for Michael to take. As the music starts, it's the same song, but Franz Ferdinand's cover of it.
It takes them a second or two to find the right beat, but they settle into grinding dance, Michael behind Daniel. After the first or second “Sexy boy” lyric, Michael sings it along with it into Daniel's ear, running his hand along Daniel's flank. He does both for most of the rest of the song. For the rest of the lyrics, Daniel turns his head and sings to Michael. (The actual lyrics of Air's song – as slightly adapted below – should be used rather than... whatever it is Alex K. singing in the cover...) Between lyrics, they kiss and explore more. Michael is the first person Daniel's been with who is a full-grown man as opposed to another boy. The dancing for him is an exploration of just what's different about that.
Sexy boy, sexy boy ...
Où est mon héro au corps d'un athlète
Où est mon idole mal rasé, bien habillé
Sexy boy, sexy boy ...
Dans tes yeux des etoilles, dans tes sourires des diamants
Moi aussi un jour je serai beau comme un Dieu
Sexy boy, sexy boy ...
Apollon deux mille zéro défaut vingt et un an
C'est l'homme ideal charme au masculin
Sexy boy, sexy boy ...
After the last sung lyric, Michael turns Daniel around and they make out deeply and briefly. Michael tries to take off Daniel's shirt (his blazer was shucked at some point beforehand; mind the glasses), but, smiling wickedly, Daniel signals 'No'. As the iPod begins to play the next song (we'll assume Daniel started a Franz Ferdinand playlist), 'This Fire”, begins to play, Daniel unbuttons Michael's shirt and kisses down Michael's front till he is on his knees, ready to go down on him. Smiling, he breathes in deeply, sensuously taking in the smell. He looks up at Michael and licks his lips, then stands up and practically throws Michael over onto the cubes, straddling him, kissing his lips and again working down his chest. Just as Daniel is about to start in earnest on Michael, the backstage door stage right opens. A girl – Isobel – and a boy – Hugh – are framed in the light.
Michael tries to move, but Daniel, still on top of him, prevents it, the flat of his palm on Michael's chest. Daniel for a second is caught like a deer in headlights. Then he perceptibly changes over to a calculated “damage assessment” mode. For this, both he and Isobel stare at each other soundlessly. Then Isobel starts...
(somewhere between guilt, horror and betrayal and trying to back away)
I'm sorry, I didn't kno... I mean, I didn't think...
She runs off in earnest. Hugh is left there, also staring, swamped with desire but with no idea what to do with it.
He doesn't know whether or not to go after her.
(more derisively than he intends)
What, is she your girlfriend?
The song having ended, the music stops. The silence impels Daniel.
(by now, annoyed more than anything else)
No... I've gotta go. I'll be right back. (He kisses Michael hard and murmurs)
Keep that ready.
Daniel runs out past Hugh, who's still standing there. Michael looks down at his hard cock, then out into the (for him) empty house, and then finally at Hugh.
Daniel's arm is seen dragging Hugh off by the collar.
The kitchen/living room of Michael's apartment a few weeks later (in January). A coffee table, couch and kitchen counter at least to be indicated by black cubes and flats, but some other real objects, like a rug or a lamp should be around. One wall (the brick back wall of the kitchen?) is projected.
It's early on a weekend morning: Empty pizza box, empty wine bottle, abandoned wine glasses (eiswein, if it matters), Michael's abandoned clothes, TV left on but muted.
As the scene begins, someone is hammering relentlessly on the apartment door house-keeping style, stage left. Michael enters from the bedroom, right, in a ribbed grey tank top, pulling up a pair of jeans over black silk boxers. He may be hung over; he certainly was expecting a few more hours' sleep. He mumbles to himself as he crosses, but “Hold On” emerges from the chaos. It has no effect on the knocking.
(undoing chain or lock)
Who the fuck are you and what the fuck do you want at...
glances at a clock somewhere
...seven AM?! Damn.
[It's Rowan. He's the same age as Michael, if not a little older. By his carriage and his attitude, he's clearly an ex-fratboy. He's just past the point where he looked as good as he ever will. His straight, straw-colored hair hasn't quite started its retreat but is just too long and just too kempt to be really fashionable. The body that he kept up with basketball in college is devolving back into a gut.
He has a “close, personal relationship with his savior Jesus Christ”, not because he has strong religions convictions, nor because he never managed to think too hard about religion (or much else) but even through the beer haze, he could see it was an important issue for success in his father's political arena. Without his family connections, he probably would have settled out as an insurance salesmen or used-car dealer; he has the forced, greasy charm of one. As it is, he's tolerated by most people with the same regard as something unpleasant found on the bottom of a shoe. He, of course, has never once picked up on this and considers himself very popular.
He's wearing the Young Republican “relaxed” standard: ice-cream colored polo shirt over a t-shirt, khakis, hush puppies and a shit-eating grin. Personally, he's disgusted at Michael's relationship with the prince because it's homosexual, but this is at odds with his almost professional appreciation for what they've gotten up to. He's clearly come to deliver bad news to someone he hates.]
As Michael opens the door, Rowan pushes past him, tapping his chest with a scroll of paper sealed with wax and ribbon. In his other hand in some manner of crumbly donut. Trailing crumbs, he goes over to the couch, sits down, feet on the coffee table, and uses the remote to un-mute the TV and flip through channels. He settles on NASCAR, or possibly cartoons. As he does so, he laughs and says:
You really did it this time. (Actually looking at Michael this time)
I mean, the king's son? The heir apparent? (Back to the TV)
So why is it you're here?
(Tossing him the scroll, which he deliberately throws short of Michael)
That little trip to Aspen turned out to be just a little too much for his majesty. Especially when you were supposed to be off fighting.
Michael says nothing. He is too busy breaking the seal of the scroll and reading it to pay attention. After a second, Rowan grows bored waiting for him to read the whole thing and wanders over to the refrigerator. He begins to dig around for something more to eat. Finding nothing, he eventually searches a cabinet and finds some Pop-Tarts. Frosted cherry. He gets crumbs all over himself.
And the king liked you, too. Thought you were a good example for little Danny. Teach him all the things a good knight should know... I bet you taught him something, though, right?
It's not like that. (Rowan guffaws.)
You ever meet that little fag hag of his? I'd teach her something. One arm around the neck and right up against the wall. Mmmmm... (He takes a second to enjoy his hand wandering over her virtual body. But that's interrupted as his ears prick up when he hears the shower come in the bathroom. He grins wolfishly.) Now, if you just had the sense to hit that, instead of (off gestures off towards the bathroom) you'd... Well, you'd be a lot more popular than you are now. I'll leave you to uhh, break the news. Enjoy Texas, hoss. (Exit, trailing crumbs and clapping Michael's shoulder)
Michael crumples up the writ and tosses it in a bin. He then crosses over to the counter and rest his elbows on it, head in hands. He sighs, trying to puzzle out his next move. After a while, the shower cuts off. A few seconds later, Daniel enters from the bedroom reading. He is wearing a pair of Michael's blue and green plaid cotton boxers and one of his t-shirts (a brown Franz Ferdinand reverse-image logo shirt); both are just small enough to be short on Daniel, leaving a ring of exposed skin between the boxer tops and shirt-tail. It was not the first shirt Daniel put on. His glasses are on. As he crosses over to the couch, Michael's gaze brushes over the exposed flesh with a gratefulness just tinged with lasciviousness.
(Still reading, and picking up the remote control to switch off the television. He looks up and wrinkles his nose when he recognizes NASCAR. He switches it off and resumes reading)
Who was that?
No one important. (Daniel glances up, eyebrow raised for the response. Michael smiles in response.)
It was Rowan Mortimer.
(returning to the book)
(digging through the refrigerator)
Want something to eat? I could probably throw something together... an omelet, maybe, and some...
(again not looking up)
..you could use some of that cheese in there, too
Good idea. He begins to cook. What're you reading?
This translation of All Ovid's Elegies. (Stops reading) You know, I never really noticed all the books in there.
There are a lot. (Pause)
Wait. You notice the cheese in the fridge but not the books? What does that say?
(ignoring the crack)
Good books, too. You must be smarter than I thought. (He realizes just how tactless that was and tries unsuccessfully to dig himself out.) I don't... I don't think you were stupid, or anything, but we haven't exactly, like, been into hard-core literary discussions, and I know you didn't go to... (groans)
(bringing over two omelets, silverware and some toast in a caddy)
To college. Don't worry. It's okay. I think the books are my way of making up for that. Besides, you
never struck me as the literary type, either.
(munching, and trying not to laugh)
Yeah, I get that. I mean, I see where you're coming from. But I /get/ that, too. People say that to me all the time, you know. People know I like to fuck around, so people think that's all I'm into, getting cock.
Which is ironic, considering.
(almost shyly, and looking away, but not quite willing or able to change the subject)
So why not?
(looks him right in the eyes for the next line, and then looks away after, and becoming a little more guarded and with forced lightness)
Because I like you.
Gotta keep you interested, you know. Like Mom says, why buy the cow. Don't think I didn't see you check out the skin, by the way. (He gestures to it)
Michael picks up the book and reads to Daniel. After a while, Daniel begins to watch him read and smiles a genuine smile. Michael does, too. He finishes up a stanza:
You know, there's no reason we have to stay in today. If you like this, I know this great shop downtown where they've got a copy of Hero and Leander translated by the same guy.
Yeah. We can make a day of it. Take down the train down there, hit the store, grab a late lunch, see a matinée of something.
There's this great record shop on Dundas Street, Avalanche Records. Ever been there?
Sounds like a plan, then. He gets up to go put on some clothes. Half-way there, he comes back and kisses Michael. And we'll have some fun when we get back, yeah?
Michael's apartment, again. Later the same evening. As much disarray as can be minimally suggested. The door is hanging crookedly from its hinges. The King (whom, for some reason, I always imagine as looking a lot like Paul Scofield in Branagh's Henry V, but not syphilitic) is seated in the middle of the couch watching TV; there is a soldier at each end of the couch. The Bishop of Winchester (think Miles Malleson from Asquith's The Importance of Being Earnest) is behind the counter reading a used paper-back of The City of God. Everyone is thoroughly bored. Mortimer is unsuccessfully trying to build a house of cards out of Michael's vintage set of nude male cards. He's eating Salt and Vinegar chips and standing in a pile of crumbs. Underneath the scene music plays, “I'm Your Villain”.
After a while, Michael and Daniel return from their day out.
Both wear dark jeans. Michael wears the Franz Ferdinand shirt from the previous scene and a brown suede overshirt witch matching slip-on shoes. Daniel has a Herschl the Hook-Up Hare t-shirt and a green corduroy jeans-style jacket with a small “Less Cowbell” badge and an up-side down Belle and Sebastian badge. Michael is carrying a bookseller's bag with several books and an LP in it. Daniel has a drink cup with a straw.
They can be heard talking or laughing off, but become silent when they see the door. Michael is the first one in, entering carefully. Without looking up, the King signals to the guards. They take him by one arm each and pin him to the wall.
(without looking up)
One of the soldiers takes a hunting knife from his boot and prepares to cut his throat.
Father, are you crazy?!
(Every word he says and every action he makes are incredibly and almost painfully deliberate)
The soldiers freeze. The King stands up, pulls his clothes straight and walks slowly over to the dustbin. He withdraws the writ, flattens it out and hands it over to Daniel. Daniel reads it with mounting fear.
Gaveston had eight hours to leave this country. He chose not to. His life is forfeit.
(walking towards where Michael is pinned; Winchester and Mortimer close in expectantly like vultures)
...But even though he did not go – even though he (taking the writ from Daniel) chose to ignore an writ that every one of his superiors subscribed to – I will still be kind. If he leaves right now – on the instant – and swears never to come back to this country, I'll let him live.
(Trying to find the right words, he ends up with the simplest.)
You can't do this. I...
(laughs once, drily)
Spare me. I could care less that you think you love him. You're too young to know any better. I should have trusted my instincts about him. I should have thought about my country.
Instead I thought about you.
I thought, “Here's someone who's dragged himself up from nothing. Here's somebody who knows how to work. Here's someone grateful to his country and to his King, who knows how to give back” God knows, you needed some of that to rub off on you, so I introduced you. I hoped you'd be friends.
And I wasn't wrong. He knew how to give back, all right.
(Picks up some DVDs off the floor from the mess in front of the TV. He holds them up to Michael. Quietly but very dangerously.) Believe me, if I had known about “Bareback Thrill Ride” or “Frisky Summer 2” or “Raw Luck” (he drops each one to the floor after he says their name), you'd never have gotten near my boy.
(He still has one disc left. It is a home-burnt CD, but it isn't actually porn.) Now I know just what it is you've done to my boy. That can't happen again. For my kingdom. For its future.
I'll be putting Daniel into therapy to help him, to straighten him out. Make sure he's not... confused.. (Winchester steps forward to Daniel to try to lead him away. He puts his hand on Daniel's shoulder, but can't make it not creepy. Daniel flicks the hand off his shoulder without looking at the Bishop. He doesn't move.)
No, Dad, you don't understand. We never... I mean he never... Ever.
(The King hits Daniel savagely)
I have a whole school to tell me differently!
(back – just – in control)
Don't you have any shame? Any respect?
(He turns back to Michael, ignoring Daniel on the floor)
And you? I know young people. “Out of sight, out of mind”. You'll be far away, working very hard for me in an oilfield, Deep in the Heart of Texas. And within a few weeks, you, my little social climber, will be forgotten. By everyone. And heaven help you if you trying anything with a pretty little boy over there (patting his cheek). Good-bye, Gaveston.
Come on, Daniel, there's nothing left here for you.
(Daniel runs over to Michael to embrace him. The King intercepts him; Daniel raises his hand to strike the King, but the King, smiling, easily catches the fist and forces it down to Daniel's side. As if to teach him a lesson, the King hits Daniel again. At this, Daniel finally begins to break.)
(His eyes are bright with tears but he never actually weeps, but he may sink to his knees)
Michael – I'll call. I'll write. I'll... whatever. I can... You.. You can't go. I won't...
(quietly and calmly)
Take the books with you.
(gesturing to the book he dropped when they first walked in and the Elegies still on the couch )
Take the books and leave. Don't make a more of a scene. He won't be around forever.
The King walks over and peers at him, taking his chin in hand and looking at both sides of his face, like he may just being realizing that he has underestimated Michael. He then hits Michael in the mouth as hard as he can. The guards let Michael drop, and the King kicks him savagely in the gut. The Bishop jerks Daniel out of the way.
My peers will be.
(Rowan laughs snortingly and grossly inappropriately. A look from the King silences him.)
(he presents his royal ring in front of Michael)
When Michael doesn't, his guard kicks him in the back. Michael bends down and prepares to kiss the ring, but rather than kissing it, he begins sucks the finger it's on like a cock. The King kicks him again and then turns and exits out the door. The guards and Mortimer follow.
As Michael begins painfully to stand up, Daniel runs over to help him. When he's all the way up, Daniel gets some hair that has fallen over Michael's eye out of the way. He looks for a place on his face that isn't tender and kisses him there. He whispers something in his ears like “I understand.”
He then gets the books and walks out, not looking behind him, the Bishop at his heels like a sheep-dog.
Michael uses his knuckle to wipe at a trickle of blood that comes from his mouth.