This was written as part of the ’28 Plays Later’ challenge, where participants have to write a play each day for the month of February.
For this one, we were given the opening line, and there was a bonus for ending on the given last line. As you can imagine, these are written under quite a lot of pressure of time (most participants have full time jobs) and what can be defined as a ‘play’ is pretty broad.
Shuzbutt: Take off the girdle, Gertl, and tell me everything about Onun’s onions, or else little Dicklberg here will get it with this!
Gertl: Take off the girdle? Are you crazy?
Shuzbutt: Oooh, Dicklberg, she says I’m crazy. Am I crazy, Dicklburg?
Dicklburg shakes her head frantically.
Gertl: Shuzbutt, you leave her alone, do you hear. I’ll tell you whatever you want to know about Onun’s onions, but I don’t think you’re going to like it.
Shuzbutt: Is that so? Ooh, that’s not going to be good news for Dicklburg, is it, Dicklburg?
Dicklburg looks more terrified.
Gertl: Wait, wait. You haven’t thought this through, Shuzbutt. We both know that there’s no way I’m going to take the girdle off. That would be the end for me.
Shuzbutt: Oooh, she doesn’t seem to care about you Dicklburg. Ain’t that a kick in the head?
Gertl: If I tell you about the onions, Shuzbutt, you’re going to do Dicklburg anyway, just the same as if I don’t. So what’s in it for me?
Shuzbutt looks momentarily confused.
You didn’t graduate Blackmail 101, Shuzbutt, did you? You have to give me two options, one of which is the thing you want me to do, the other the thing you’re threatening me with.
Shuzbutt: You don’t think this is a threat?
Gertl: Sure it is, Shuzbutt, but it’s lose lose for me. Well, if I care about Dicklburg.
Shuzbutt: She says she doesn’t care about you Dicklburg.
Gertl: On the other hand, while you’re doing Dicklburg, that gives me a window of opportunity. You can’t do her and keep your eyes on me.
Shuzbutt: You wanna try me?
Gertl: Oh, I know, all right. I’ve been here before.
Shuzbutt: Oh you have, have you?
Gertl: You know I have, Shuzbutt. Or didn’t you do your research either? Flunking school all round, aren’t we?
Shuzbutt: Listen, you tell me about the onions, okay. Then maybe we can negotiate about the girdle.
Gertl: I told you, the girdle’s non-negotiable. Do Dicklburg if you have to, but you can forget the girdle. And if you do here, the onions will remain forever a mystery. And then what will you tell Onun?
Shuzbutt: Onun? You think I’m scared of Onun?
Gertl: Aren’t you? We’ll see.
Shuzbutt: Just tell me!
Gertl: Put it away, and then I’ll tell you.
Shuzbutt: I’ll put it away, just as soon as you take off the girdle.
Gertl: I told you, the girdle’s not up for grabs.
Shuzbutt considers his options. This isn’t going the way he planned.
So what’s it to be?
Shuzbutt hesitantly lowers his weapon. Dicklburg seizes her opportunity and flees to Gertl’s side.
That was the right move, Shuzbutt. Now put it away completely. No one wants to see that.
Shuzbutt: I’m not putting it away until you tell me. I reckon I still have a chance to do one of you, however this goes.
Gertl: You wouldn’t dare, Shuzbutt. You know what Onun would do. Not after last time.
Shuzbutt: (suddenly furious) Who told you about that?
Gertl: Never mind who told me, Shuzbutt, the writing’s on the wall.
Shuzbutt looks at the wall in panic.
It’s a figure of speech, Bozo. This isn’t Belshazzar’s Feast.
Shuzbutt: What does he know about it?
Gertl: Enough. You were there.
Shuzbutt: The Feast? You know I was.
Gertl: I know. That’s why I said it.
Shuzbutt: I prefer to forget it.
Gertl: Of course you do. Onun hasn’t forgiven you, you know.
Shuzbutt: Why should I care?
Gertl: You think you can afford to ignore Onun? The greatest chef the world has seen?
Shuzbutt: (derision) So they say.
Gertl: You were the only one to arrive empty handed, Shuzbutt. The only one. Out of the 51 Lords of Meso-America, you were the only one.
Shuzbutt: (irate) It said nothing on the invitation.
Gertl: You have to have everything spelled out for you? Could you even read it if it did?
Shuzbutt: Hey! I can read, just fine.
Gertl: Everything but the writing on the wall.
Shuzbutt sharply looks up at the wall again.
Not this wall, Bozo.
Shuzbutt: Which god-damned wall, then?
Gertl: Everyone had clear instructions. They weren’t in the invitation, but they had them. Everyone else managed it, but not you.
Shuzbutt: What kind of feast is it where everyone has to bring their own food.
Gertl: Not their own food, Shuzbutt. You never heard of a ‘bring a bottle’ party? Doesn’t mean you only drink your own.
Shuzbutt: I always do.
Gertl: Yes, I kind of guessed you were that kind of a guy, Shuzbutt. The whole point of the ‘bring some produce’ Feast was so that Belshazzar would not fall foul of the stringent international sanctions against him. You had one job, Shuzbutt, and you blew it.
Shuzbutt: That’s not true. How was I to know? How was I to know?
Gertl: You didn’t get it did you? What did the invitation say?
Shuzbutt: I’ve got it. I’ve got it here!
A lightning bolt flashes from Gertl’s girdle and Shuzbutt is paralysed.
Gertl: Nice and slow, please Shuzbutt. The last thing any of us want is to see you trying to use that so-called weapon of yours.
Moving painfully slowly, Shuzbutt puts his hand to his pocket, and extracts a crumpled, gold-edged card.
Read it then, genius.
Shuzbutt: (slowly, with difficulty reading)
Of the 51 Lords of Meso-America, you, Shuzbutt are called.
No excuse but you shall attend, and your presence is demanded.
If you should satisfy us, your rewards shall be plentiful
Or, if you should fail, the punishment shall be swift.
Now, bring to us what the leaders say, and do not fail.
Sumptuous and bounteous shall be the feast.
Gertl: You don’t get it do you?
Shuzbutt: Bring us what the leaders say? What leaders?
Gertl: You didn’t think there was something odd about the invitation? The way it was set out? The way each line begins with a capital letter? Why not just say ‘Come to my party’?
Shuzbutt: The leaders? There is no leader but Belshazzar!
Gertl: The leaders – of the lines.
Shuzbutt: The lines? What are you talking about Gertl? This is just more of your witchcraft!
Gertl: It’s not witchcraft, Shuzbutt. It’s called ‘not being totally dense’. Even Dicklburg could work this out, and she’s barely even sentient.
Dicklburg looks up with a frown.
I’ll explain later, darling.
Shuzbutt: Please. Just tell it to me straight. What did I miss?
Gertl: Why were you ‘weighed in the balance and found wanting?’
Shuzbutt: I didn’t even know what it was they wanted to weigh!
Gertl: You must have wondered what the other 50 lords were bringing.
Shuzbutt: But how did they know?
Gertl: They read their invitations carefully, Shuzbutt. You can’t just tell someone ‘bring onions’ when importing onions into Coracao is punishable in international law by death. We have to use code.
Suddenly Shuzbutt’s eyes open wide.
Yes. Now you get it. Read the invitation again. But this time, just go down the first letters of each line…
Shuzbutt: O…N…I…O… Oh my God.
Gertl: You had one job. Your failure ruined Onun’s preparations. Ruined Belshazzar’s Feast. The other Lord’s brought the beef, the herbs, the spices, the wine. But how can you serve Boeuf Bourgignon without onions?
Shuzbutt: I saw them getting on the plane. They had nothing!
Gertl: Oh Shuzbutt, can you be this naïve? That would have aroused suspicion. Do you think it was really necessary to make a stopover on such a short journey? A stopover in a neighbouring country?
Gertl: Yes. A neighbouring country free of all the sanctions, and where supplies were plentiful, and where the customs guards were easily bribed.
Shuzbutt: I didn’t even get off the plane.
Gertl: You didn’t even think that you might be missing something?
Shuzbutt: I thought they were going to the toilet.
Gertl: That wasn’t where they were going, Shuzbutt. All of the Lords on that plane had a special reason for wanting to get off, Shuzbutt. And now, say your prayers. Onun sent me to be your assassin. He doesn’t forgive lightly, Shuzbutt.
Shuzbutt: So there really were 50 of them, buying groceries in Panama!
A lightning bolt flashes from Gertl’s girdle, and Shuzbutt falls to the ground.