Here’s a piece that actually needs some introduction. I invented the character of Stenky Gamuche in the eighties for the sketch comedy troupe ‘The Other White Meat’. The character was originally a very small role, the sidekick of another Character, Bill Grist. Bill was a middle aged loudmouth lout, played by the brilliant comic actress Deb Doetzer. Deb played men with real flair and bite, and said things that if I’d had a male actor say would have sounded flat out awful, as opposed to satiric and, you know, insightful. She made it okay for me to say some really horrible stuff. In his first outing, Stenky had few lines and was mostly a foil for Bill Grist’s yearning, wistful brutality. Stenky was supposed to be played by me. I was directing the show and I’m lousy at staging anything I’m in. I can’t see the whole picture or focus fully on the scene if I’m in it. So in early run throughs, I always used a stand in. Margaret Anne Brady stepped in to read my lines, and it was immediately clear she was much better at being Stenky then I was ever going to be, so we left it that way. Margaret inhabited the delusional French Canadian alcoholic to a degree that I think surprised us both. I have always loved writing for specific artists, it’s my favorite thing, but Margaret as Stenky somehow went beyond anything else I’ve ever written. I went on to write several monologues for Stenky over about a ten year period, both for ‘Other White Meat’ outings and for Margaret’s show with the equally amazing Dorothy Dwyer, “Mrs. Potato Head”. A couple of years ago, they started doing the occasional reunion show. Margaret asked me to write a new Stenky piece, but the first time around, though I tried, I couldn’t make it work. This last show I managed. I wanted something that would close out Stenky’s long debauched story. So, ‘Stenky’s Swine song.’
If you saw Stenky in performance over the years, good for you. I think it’s my best stuff, and Margaret called Stenky her King Lear. It was special, okay? Leave me alone. If you never saw Stenky on stage , this is going to be a little odd, because you’re starting at the end. Also I have no idea how this is going to work as just a piece of writing. It makes sense to me, I can hear it and I knew what Margaret would do with it even before I sent it to her. Alone on the page, it might just be an incoherent word mass. If so forgive me. But it’s not like I get paid for this ‘blog’, so I can pretty much do whatever the hell I like with it. Screw you, anyways. Here it is.
(Lights up on Stenky, deep in thought, seated at a bar stool, sipping a golden carbonated beverage with ice. After a moment he looks up. He’s heard something, or maybe only thought he heard something. He dismisses it and returns to thinking about whatever he’s thinking about. He hears it again. Looks around, eyes fix on someone.)
You talking to me?… Uhm… Yeah. Yeah, I’m Stenky Gamuche.
(long pause. Has anyone ever addressed him first in his life?)
Uh… not to be rude or nothin’, but… do I know you?… I do? Seems unlikely. I mean, a lot of people know me, or of me, I am a very well known fella, but I don’t… I can’t place your face. Wait a minute, wait a second, I know who you are! You’re that guy, you know, that guy that does that thing where he… where they… no, that’s not you, that’s that TV show where they get talking to some guy and see if they can get him, to, like, inculminate himself…. Jesus, I hope you’re not that guy. I done a lotta bad crap, but I ain’t never… NO! NO! I got it! McGuilicutty! Son of a bitch! How many years has it… how many… crap, I owe you money, don’t I? And not a small amount. Shit. Hanh? McGuilicutty’s son? Well that makes sense I guess. I was wondering how it was I ain’t seen you in a dogs age but you got younger. Thought you got yourself one of them lifestyle lifts or something, but I wasn’t gonna say nothing.
You remember me? Seriously? Well, that is flattering… not unusual or nothing, I’m known for being memorable on account of my being a raconteur of no small renown’ an shit… I do? Seriously? Well, thank you, young man. I s’pose I do look good… You know… comparatively. Considering I shoulda been dead like ten years ago I am DAMN GOOD LOOKING, AM I RIGHT? I look subtantially better than a decade old corpse. That is a solid truth right there. I should. I been on the wagon for some time now. No, no, no, no, I shit you not. I am ON… that wagon… which does not have booze service.
This? It’s Gingerale… Why? I’ll tell you why. ‘Cause 7 Up… is FOR PUSSIES!
(laughs outrageously, coughs)
Shit, I spilt 7 Up down my front… Oh…. WELL! CAUSE FOR A REFILL! AM I RIGHT? AM I RIGHT?! I am right. Oughta be on the house. Kid drops his ice cream cone, they give him another cone free. Just a friggin’ 7 Up, comes outta a god damn spray nozzle, I don’t see no reason they gotta be so damn cheap in this joint. I could take my custom elsewheres.
Oh it’s different all right, but not so much as different as I thought it’d be. Which when you think of it is not a huge surprise. See, it’s like they say; “You can’t change a cucumber… No, no, wait, not a cucumber, a pickle, you can’t take a pickle, right, and… and… like… make it go back in time until it’s a cucumber again. ‘Cause time travel and such… is NOT possible… without an object of such IMMENSE mass… that it would… lit’rally crush the SHIT out of your pickle… Do not be fooled, my friend, stackers are not time traveled pickles. They’re just… you know, sliced real thin… so your sandwich won’t be… like, all… lumpy. OK, look, it’s simple, the point is, once something is pickled, that’s it, there’s no going back, and I surely… WAS… PICKLED! I may not be soaking in brine no more, but there is NO doubt I was soaking more than long enough to get pickled. MORE than long enough. I’ll tell you this for free, though, you go to the grocery, buy yourself a bottle of pickles, shove it way back in the fridge and forget it’s even there for like three years, re-discover it, and that pickle is still pretty much okay. One time I forgot I had some cucumbers in the crisper? For, like, a month? That was a bag of grayish green liquid I could not even PRETEND was Jagermiester, and I am not ashamed to say I pretended pretty damn hard… well, okay, I’m a little ashamed… no, no, not ashamed, REGRETFUL, because that was NOT Jagermeister in ANY way whatsomever. Boy, if wishes was horses, than wishes would… would… require a lot of space. And hay… oats and shit.
How’d I do it? What, you mean, get off the sauce?… I don’t really know and that is the God’s own truth. I din’t have no choice, and like my old man used to say, “Stenky, there is… NO trick to doing something you don’t got no choice about”… Cause, cause the things you don’t got no choice about, right? They ain’t gettin’ done BY you as much as they’re gettin’ done TO you. But I done this… to Myself. So it was both. Know what I mean? Pro’lly not. I don’t.
Anyways, my Doctor says to me, you’re gonna love this, I love my Doctor, he’s all old school and shit, like this crusty old country Doctor type with a very dry, AMAZING sense of humor, and he says to me, check this shit out, you will laugh your ass completely off, he says… “Stenky, ol’ pal, Stenky, your LIVER… is… like some… horrible, old, gigantic, dead catfish… that some GUY… has tried to, like, jam down their crapper, who knows why, to hie it? From who? I don’t know. And of course it won’t flush on account of it’s WAY too big, it is a simple impossibility of PHYSICS to get a dead fish the size of a friggin’ German Shepherd puppy down a pipe sized for a normal human bowel movement, so he’s, like… POUNDING away on that catfish with a plunger, just HAMMERING until the damn fish carcass is TOTALLY jammed up to the point where nothing is getting past it ever again, that toilet is FINISHED as a toilet for GOOD, it’s just a, a housing now for a GIGANTIC dead CATFISH that is actually YOUR LIVER, Stenky Gamuche, you son of a BITCH, and I swear to the sweet Baby Jesus… that… that… wait a sec… wait a sec, now, here… I don’t even have a Doctor… I was at the ‘mergency room… the waiting room of the ‘mergency room… and it was Dr. OZ on the TEE-VEE!… And he was talking about this… like… cleanse. A, a juice cleanse or somesuch… where you don’t eat nothing and just drink juice for, like, a month, which quite frankly seems pretty unhealthy to me. It made me hungry as hell and I went to go get some chow without even seeing a doctor, so I don’t think that was what got me to quit drinkin’. I mean, why the hell would it have, right?
I did do AA for a while. Someone suggested it to me. Like some friend of mine who’d wised up… maybe it was a policeman… no, no, not a policeman, that other thing, whaddaycallit, in a bathrobe, a JUDGE! A very angry judge an’ he’s all “If I ever see you in this courtroom again” which was weird, ‘cause I do not recall this gent at all and I got one of them eidetic memories for faces… anyways now I think of it, it was not so much a suggestion as a, a, like… precondition of release. Whatever, I gave it the old college try, the coffee was flat out terrible, but it turned out to be a great place to bum cigarettes. A lot of good stories, though, I will say that, and I am a man acclaimed for a finley crafted anctedote, I mean I got STORIES that would FRY the tiny hairs on your FOREARMS, I was tellin’ this one story, right, this is HILLARIOUS, ‘bout how I was SO drunk this one time I could have sworn up down and SIDEWAYS I was explaining the finer aspics of parliamentary procedure to a group of very refined college ladies, and I’m going “Point of order, college ladies, point of order” and they’re like, putting their fans in front of their faces and giggling up a storm about how charming I am when what’s actually happening is I’m upside down in an ice cold shower in a YMCA locker room, fully clothed, screaming like a chollicy infant and this completely ancient JANITOR is, like getting’ SOAKED trying to drag my ass out of there, and I’m slappin’ him and he’s yellin’ “YOU HAVE TO GET OUT OF THERE, WE ARE CLOSED, HOW DID YOU EVEN GET IN HERE, IT IS TWO IN THE MORNING!”
(laughing fit quickly turns into coughing jag)
Oh, screw you, that story is a pisser. It killed at “The Moth”. Pro’lly it was The Moth… It may have been a bus stop, now I think on it. Truth be told, them folks at AA didn’t totally appreciate it. They was all, like, “Stenky, sit down, it is not your turn, that story was awful and also more importantly you can not drink during an AA meeting.” And I’m, like, “Excuse me, have you seen these metal folding chairs? ‘Cause my ass cannot tolerate two hours in one unless it is thoroughly hammered. And that, my good friends, takes maintenance. They’re all ‘Oh, Stenky, you’re not ready, you haven’t hit bottom.”… And I’m like “Au Contraire, chumps, I am on the bottom, I live on the bottom, I am a, a, human CATFISH in a TOILET and I STILL put a smile on my face because that is what you DO with life, if you don’t do that, it gets done to you for SURE and that is the GOD’S own… God’s own… It’s a true… ism… Is what it is.
So I guess what I’m saying is it wasn’t my AA experience that got me off the sauce.
Why the hell did I stop?… ‘Cause it ain’t easy… it is the opposite of easy, is what it is.
I should pro’lly stop hangin’ out in bars. Turns out that was a harder habit to break then the drinkin’. HAH! What about them apples? No, no, I come here… because it’s more difficult… and I am doing this. It’s important.
Okay, okay, this is gonna sound weird an shit, what with all the stuff I done in my life… The CIA, being a undercover cop and a stunt double for… for… I wanna say Pierce Brosnan? That don’t seem right. No, no, that other guy, that MASH guy, but after Trapper John goes home, that fat ,bald Charles guy DAVID OGDEN STIERS!… David Ogden Stiers… Why the hell would David Ogdan Stiers need a stunt double? I am never gonna understand Hollywood… What? OH! Right, well, see, the point is, despite all that, I feel like I ain’t done anything of… significance in my life… I know, crazy, right? I’m a whadayacallit… a striver. Anyway, I feel like I’m old and I ain’t done shit. I thought about an insane amount of shit, but I ain’t…. I ain’t never done… none of the shit I thought about… got… done.
And this guy, right, I was livin’ with this guy, like he was a roommate, Sikorski, and I just wanna say we was not friends, that man was no friend of mine, mostly because he was a complete rat bastard with nothin’ nice to say to nobody, not one time ever. He was an awful, awful son of a bitch, and vindictive, and skulky and back stabbin’ and that was on a good day. So we was living together. We known each other… a considerable long time. Ran in the same circles. And at some point, we was the only ones still running in ‘em. On accounta every one else from our circle being dead. Which is, you know, what will happen when the circle you runs entirely around joints like this. This place is actually pretty ritzy compared to most of the places we ran around. Most of us din’t even like each other, irregardless of the fact we had a lot of laughs. And we did have a lot of laughs. That is undeniable. Just, it wasn’t always funny.
Shit… Your Dad was in that group, wasn’t he? Crap. I am so sorry. I totally forgot he croaked… away. Passed away… Listen, my condolences, your dad was a good Joe, not like them other sacks of crap. He was… How could I have forgot that? I am seriously sorry. That was a faux pas. I do them.
So that fuck Sikorski takes me in. I had nowhere to go and he’s like ‘You stupid jackassed son of a bitch, you’re too friggin’ old and moronic to live on the street and survive it’ so he gives me his couch. An long story short, one day I come home and he’s on the couch and I’m like ‘get the fuck off the couch, Sikorski, where the hell am I gonna sleep?’ and he can’t ‘cause he’s dead. Don’t look at me like that, it’s not a twist ending, it’s the same ending every story has, am I right? I am right. But wait. That ain’t the end… of the story. Turns out he owned the place he lived in and now it’s mine. Like, legally… Total unreformed drunk on his last legs who spent his whole adult life busting my balls with a friggin’ sledge hammer every chance he got, at some point takes the time to do the papers so I get his joint when he dies. What the hell is that? What the hell is that? Bastard.
An’ I get to thinking… that was… undeniably… a thing to do. Know what I mean? An’ I’m the last one left… And I ain’t never done… nothing. So I’m doing this. I am doing… this. And not for him. Sikorski… my current living circumstances notwithstanding… was a butt.
I been back to meetings once or twice… thought it might help, you know, shore up my resolve an’ shit. And they’re all, like, “Stenky, you’re still a drunk, you’re a whaddayacall ‘dry drunk’, you’re white knucklin’ it.” Well, you know what I figured out by still being alive for so friggin’ long? We are all white knucklin’ it. Every day. Human beings have some god damn white knuckles. Maybe not about booze. But something. Everybody got white knuckles about something. And they got ‘em every day, and the trick is, do you go ‘Shit, look how god damn white my knuckles are, holy crap!’ or do you just give your knuckles a cursory glance and keep friggin’ moving.
Which is what I oughta be doing. I am a considerable distance from home for a gentleman of my advanced years… Hanh?… Well, yes. Thank you. Yes, I would like a ride home, Son of McGuillicutty. I would certainly like that very much.
(The slowly begins to exit. Lights begin to fade)
Oh, hey, listen, also for old times sake, do you think you might loan me a ten? 7 Up tastes like bee piss, but it ain’t free.