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The Butterfly














(pseudo-philosophical chatter concerning prison escapes)





Published by PORPHYRO at Shakespir

Copyright 2016 PORPHYRO


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(pseudo-philosophical chatter concerning prison escapes)



SETTING: A prison, of course.


CHARACTERS: William – Wants to leave.


Howard – Wants to stay.



The conversation has already started without us.




WILLIAM. —so basically, the short of it is: I can’t tell you. There’s just too much of a risk involved. (he waits)


(he waits)


(he waits)


(he waits)




…you know what I’m saying? (and waits…)


(he heaves a heavy sigh)


It feels shitty. Sure it does, of course it does—absolutely and certainly it does. How can it not? I would hate being you right now. There are some forms of curiosity that hurt, they really hurt. I mean, secrets are fine as long as you know the secrets, or as long as you don’t know there’s any secret at all, but if you know there’s a secret, and yet you don’t know what the secret is—GAH! It’s torture, it’s torture. Of course it is—absolutely and certainly it is. I agree with you there; oh yeah, I agree with you on that one, buddy, I really do. Heh-heh. …but I just can’t tell you my secret. I’m so sorry. It’s just too much of a risk.


(he blows his lips)














WILLIAM. (that’s all he’s going to say?!) Oh fuck you. Don’t give me that shit.


HOWARD. What shit? I understand.


WILLIAM. No you don’t understand. You can’t possibly understand.


HOWARD. Fine, then. I don’t understand. Whatever. (he shrugs)


WILLIAM. GAH! I hate you! I hate you! I really hate you sometimes.




WILLIAM. Sometimes you have this way of really getting on my nerves.


HOWARD. (he nods) Uh-huh.


WILLIAM. Look—I don’t know why, but whenever people find out about these type of things, they go wrong. They just do. One person knows what you’re up to—just one person!—and the whole thing goes to hell. It’s like they curse it or something. Just by knowing about it, they curse it.




WILLIAM. Oh fuck off.


HOWARD. Whatever. (he shrugs—and then he smiles; this is important: he knows he’s being an ass)


WILLIAM. Well I guess I’m also being kind of lazy about it, too. Because my plan is pretty convoluted. It involves lots and lots and lots of luck. And the set-up…. (he laughs to himself) It’s just too much. There are too many variables.


But it’s doable. It’s not impossible. And, really, isn’t that the key? That it’s doable? I certainly think that’s the key; if something’s doable, someone will do it. Eventually they will.


Well, why wait for eventually? Why wait for “someone”? >>>I<<< can break out of this place tomorrow. I really can. It’s not like I’m time-traveling out of this joint. It’s something much more sensible—I swear it is.


But since you’re not coming along or anything, why even go into it? It’d take too long to explain. You’d probably get bored listening to me go on and on and on about it. In fact, I’d probably even have to draw diagrams. And diagrams take effort—way too much effort. So why even tell you my plan? Just by you knowing, you might curse it. Plus, it would bore you anyway. (he looks at Howard expectantly)


HOWARD. Yeah, probably.


WILLIAM. I will give you one clue, though. If you pay attention to the guards—that new guy in particular…. They have routines. But the new guy doesn’t know his very well. I think they just sort of threw him into the job. Looks like they’re short of personnel and are more desperate for manpower than they are for smarts. Well, not smarts. You don’t need smarts to be a prison guard. But you do have to know your damn routine. Well the new guy doesn’t. Just watch him sometime. He messes up a lot. That’s all I’m going to say.




WILLIAM. …well, one more thing, all right?


HOWARD. Uh-huh. (he smiles)


WILLIAM. If you’re gonna strike, now’s the time. Because the new guy won’t always be a new guy. He’ll learn eventually.


HOWARD. I see.


WILLIAM. Ah fuck it. You wanna just hear the damn plan? (he waits)


Maybe I can get your advice on it, anyway. Maybe you can help me go over some of the details. Like I said, it’s pretty convoluted. (he waits)


(he waits)


(he waits)


(he waits)




…yeah, I think I’d really like your advice.





HOWARD. I’m not really good at the practical stuff.


WILLIAM. I’d still like your advice anyway.


HOWARD. I don’t think it’ll do you much good. If anything, it might kill your excitement.


WILLIAM. Because every plan requires excitement to execute?


HOWARD. Sure it does.


WILLIAM. But don’t you think it’ll be better if I go through it all cold and analytical?


HOWARD. You might over-intellectualize it.


WILLIAM. Yeah, so what? If I overthink things…so what? I have nothing to lose. I’m already locked up in prison.


HOWARD. Just for a few years.


WILLIAM. “Just!” Ha! Get out of here, asshole! “Just!” There’s no way I’m serving “just a few years.”


HOWARD. Time passes for everyone. Even for prisoners.


WILLIAM. Yeah, but time is different for me. One of your months is like one of my days. I’m talking emotionally, philosophically, physically, and even geographically, too. Before I landed myself in prison, I was all over the place. All over. In the mornings, I’d wake up full of all this positive energy. I’d be so optimistic…oh you would have felt sick looking at my stupid smile. But then by the afternoon, all that joy would turn into rage. And by nightfall, I’d feel all suicidal and everything.


But then, listen to this: just before bed, I’d be feeling silly all over again, if not downright goofy.


HOWARD. Would you drink?


WILLIAM. Well, yeah. But even without alcohol that would happen. Not everyday, though. Some days, I’d wake up the angriest motherfucker and so on and so on. It wasn’t consistent, you know? Because there can be consistent inconsistency, you know? If I have the same fifty emotions in the same order every single day—that’s a type of consistency.




WILLIAM. It’s not just emotions I’m talking about, though. My ideas would change, too. And I’d put on all sorts of weight and I’d lose all sorts of weight, as well. In March, you might find be all thin and bones. And then by May, I might be a fat, fat, fat fuck. Real massive. Kind of like…. (he looks at Howard and catches himself) Well, no offense.


HOWARD. None taken.


WILLIAM. I’d move from city to city, state to state. I was never settled. Not until I came here. And that’s only by necessity.


Boy—if you tell some of those people I met a few months ago that I’d be in prison, they wouldn’t believe you. They just wouldn’t.


So you see? Time’s not the same for me. My minutes are much longer than yours.


HOWARD. But they pass anyway.


WILLIAM. Slowly.


HOWARD. But surely.


WILLIAM. The only thing I’m sure of is that I’m not staying in this fucking place.


HOWARD. If you get caught, they’ll add even more time. Better just to behave.


WILLIAM. If you got caught, nothing would happen to you, huh? You’re in here until the day you die. That fucking sucks, man. (he waits)


…but in a way, it’s kind of good, too. You’ve got nothing to lose.


HOWARD. That’s not true. Eventually, they give you parole. If you’re good enough, they give you parole.


WILLIAM. Yeah, in twenty years, maybe. You’ll be so damn old by then…. They’ll have taken your life. How can you let them do that to you? I mean, if they just put a bullet in your head, at least it would all be over with. In both cases, your life’s over. Might as well get done with it. But this method of killing? It’s cruelty, man. Just plain cruel. They take your life anyway, but they force you to suffer the years. It’s cruelty. Might as well put a bullet in your head. Jail is something else, man. It scares me it exists. I mean, doesn’t it scare you? You come into this life and someone can just lock you in here forever. It’s scary. It’s scary what others can do to you.


HOWARD. Some people deserve it.





WILLIAM. Yeah and some people don’t. Listen—before we get into all of this back-and-forth, back-and-forth, I just want to ask you a question: you wanna tag along? I’m serious.


HOWARD. Do I want to—?


WILLIAM. —yeah, man. Fuck it. It’s hard enough to pull my idea off with just one guy. With two guys…. (he whistles) Boy. Now we’re starting to reach that point of impossibility. But it’s still doable. And hey! Wouldn’t that be something? If we actually pulled it off? Me and you? I’d be hella proud if I got out of here. Pretty damn proud. But I’d feel like Jesus double-hockey sticks if I broke the both of us out. Oh man, that’d be something.




WILLIAM. Eh? What the hell do you mean, eh?


HOWARD. I’m not really interested.


WILLIAM. You don’t think my plan could work? You haven’t even heard it.


HOWARD. Even if your plan were flawless, I wouldn’t want to go along with it.


WILLIAM. …what?


HOWARD. Even if your plan were flawless—


WILLIAM. —are you just bullshitting me right now? Is this another one of those abstract pieces of crap you do just for the sake of argument? “Imagine we’re on Mars.” But I won’t. This is Earth. Get real with me. I’m being serious now.


I want you to come along. Hey, man. Come on. (he nudges Howard) I can’t leave you behind. With your mind…shit. The world really is your oyster. You’re letting your brain go to the dumps in here. It sickens me.


HOWARD. (he shrugs) I want to stay.


WILLIAM. No you don’t.


HOWARD. OK then.


WILLIAM. Are you fucking serious?




WILLIAM. You realize that would make the stupidest fucking fairy tale, right?


HOWARD. Me staying?


WILLIAM. Yeah. It would go something like this. (he puts on a proper voice)


‘There once was a prisoner who could have escaped, but didn’t.

‘Or, well, he might have—who knows? All prison sentences end eventually, I suppose. Even prisoners can’t stall the years forever. Yes, even for prisoners, time passes on and on. It doesn’t seem like it does, but it does. It does.

‘But that’s not really escaping prison, is it? Letting time pass on and on? That’s more like waiting prison out. Or like beating patience at its own game.

‘Escaping prison—I mean, actually escaping prison—that’s a tad more radical. That involves hacksaws and foils and trickery and mischief and danger and cooperation and oh, just so very much. Waiting’s just waiting. Waiting—you can do that as you sleep. But escaping prison? No, no, no. That takes so very much. You can’t sleep through it. You—’


HOWARD. Alright, alright, alright.


WILLIAM. Yeah, I got sidetracked. But so what? You’re being fucking stupid.


HOWARD. If that’s what you think. OK. Sure.


WILLIAM. So you’re telling me—


HOWARD. —yeah.


WILLIAM. No. Fuck this. Let’s talk about it.




WILLIAM. Why the hell would you stay?


HOWARD. Because—


WILLIAM. Listen: we’re talking about ideal conditions. I’m not talking about my plan with all of its risks and everything. I’m not talking about spoiling your parole. I’m talking about ideal conditions, OK?


HOWARD. Because it’s all the same. It wouldn’t matter.


WILLIAM. What’s all the same?


HOWARD. Prison. No prison.


WILLIAM. …it’s all the same?! You mean being out there versus being in here?




WILLIAM. No fucking way! You’ve got to be kidding me. Now I know you’re nuts.




WILLIAM. Explain yourself.


HOWARD. I don’t think you’d like what I have to say.


WILLIAM. Because it’s hopeless? Because it’s bleak and miserable and depressing? Because you don’t really believe it? Because you’re forced to think it after being locked up in here for so long? “It’s all the same.” Sounds like defeat.


HOWARD. Listen: I don’t want to discourage you. If you think you can escape, and if you think that’s what’s best for you, then by all means—go. Just don’t insist on me coming with you.


WILLIAM. You think you can convince me? Is that it?


HOWARD. Yeah, I guess.


WILLIAM. (laughing) So you think if we sat here and hashed it out, I’d come away thinking like you?


HOWARD. Yeah, probably.


WILLIAM. And you think I wouldn’t want to escape anymore?




WILLIAM. Ok. Challenge accepted. Let’s hash it out. I fucking dare you to convince me! (he laughs) There’s no way.







WILLIAM. Yeah, let’s go. Come on. Hit me with it. Go on, you weird fuck. You demented mope. What do you have to say for yourself? If my plan was absolutely perfect—


HOWARD. OK. For starters, think of a butterfly.


WILLIAM. …think of a butterfly. (he chuckles) That’s just like you. “Think of a butterfly.”


…OK. “Think of a butterfly.”




I’m thinking of a small one with pure, white wings. An angel of an insect. Graceful as a lily.


HOWARD. Yes, very good. Now tell me: how high does your lily fly?


WILLIAM. My butterfly? God. That’s kind of a strange question. How high does a butterfly fly…? Weird fucking question. It does to your brain what it does to your mouth: muddles it. “How high does a butterfly fly.” Fly fly. That’s stupid.


HOWARD. You’re getting distracted.


WILLIAM. Yeah, cuz I don’t know. How high does a butterfly fly? I don’t know. You tell me.


HOWARD. You’ve never watched butterflies?


WILLIAM. Not really, no. Is that really so bad?


HOWARD. You mentioned you’ve been all over the place. That one of your days is one of my months. That you’re unsettled and utterly free. Well what does your freedom get you if you haven’t even watched a butterfly? What have you ever enjoyed with all of your time?


WILLIAM. Different tastes, man. Just because I didn’t waste my time watching butterflies doesn’t mean I misused my life or anything.


HOWARD. I think it does mean that. You crave to be outside, and yet you don’t even know what’s out there. You only have the vaguest idea—the impression of an impression. You know butterflies exist out in the world, but you’ve never really seen one. You believe they have two wings, but you’ve never stopped to confirm it for yourself. They could have three wings. How would you know?


And so it is with your freedom. You think you want to be out there, but you’ve never really seen it, have you? The world? You’ve never stopped to study it. To consider it. So how could you really know?


WILLIAM. How could I know I want to be outside? Because it’s miserable in here.


HOWARD. And you weren’t miserable out there?


WILLIAM. …yeah, but it was different. I’d rather be miserable out there than miserable in here.


HOWARD. Wouldn’t you rather just rid yourself of misery altogether?


WILLIAM. No. Nuh-uh. (he shakes his head)


HOWARD. And why not?


WILLIAM. Because I know where you’re going with this. It’s fucking stupid.


HOWARD. Where am I going with this?


WILLIAM. You’re going to try to convince me into some sort of prison Buddhahood. Well fuck that. That’s how you get China.


HOWARD. …China?


WILLIAM. Yeah, China. For all of your shitty talk about butterflies, you’ve never been to China. Well I have. I’ve seen more of the world than you have.


HOWARD. What’s wrong with China?


WILLIAM. The whole lot of them are all prison Buddhas. Their country sucks. It smells like shit and you can never see blue skies. Never, ever, ever. There’s always this perpetual smog that covers everything. But you know what? No one complains. They just go on and accept it. Just like a damn Buddha. No attachment. All of that stupid stuff. Well fuck that. That’s how you get a country full of lung cancer. If every Chinese person went on strike until the smog was fixed, the smog would be fixed.




WILLIAM. But that’s not the point. That’s not the point. I don’t want to get into all of that. I want to hear more about these butterflies of yours.


So how high do they fly?


HOWARD. Butterflies tend to stick pretty close to the ground.




HOWARD. That’s right.


WILLIAM. So what?


HOWARD. It’s a habit they acquire from being a worm. Even after they’ve broken out of their shells, they’re still used to the ground. Even after they’ve acquired wings, they still yearn for the floor. They can’t break out of that habit. They can’t. The soil is too comfortable. Butterflies can soar. They can go high, high, high up into the clouds. They can make the mountains their home. At the very least, they can live on the tips of the trees. But they don’t. They never choose to do that. What they choose is the same old stuff they’ve always known: foliage and dirt. This is despite their wings. And aren’t we like that, too? Whatever comforted us as children comforts us now. We look back on those times and we wish we were looking forward. We’re always wishing we were children again. But we don’t remember how desperately we wanted to grow up. That part we forget. Life is a perpetual pining. This is true for the worm, for the butterfly, and for us. If the caterpillar knew what was coming, it wouldn’t ever choose to make its shell. (he thinks) Or perhaps it would. Perhaps it would spin itself into a grave and lie there fast asleep until it dies. Yes, that is what it would do if it were wise. Because the cocoon stage is the only happy stage in life. We sleep and cruel hope does, too. Because hope is cruel. It is. It feels good to hope. It’s not life that feels good, but hope. If it weren’t for hope, we wouldn’t live. The anticipation of the thing is better than the thing itself. We are creatures of fantasy; it is our subsistence. And perhaps it is the butterfly’s subsistence, too. Yes, yes—I’m sure the butterfly hopes it can figure out a way to spin its way back into a worm.


Oh, butterflies are sad creatures. It makes me sad to watch them. But the saddest creatures are moths. Can you imagine what that’s like? Here you are, a caterpillar just like any other. You look at the skies and you see all of the dazzling butterflies: purple ones, and blue ones, and green ones, and reds. They dazzle you, just dazzle you. You can’t wait until you become one of them. So you eagerly rush into your cocoon. No one has ever spun theirs faster than you spin yours. And what happens when you come out? You’re a moth—brown, and gray, and dull to look at. Whatever bright future you thought you had just isn’t there. And there’s nothing you can do to change that.


Hope doesn’t guarantee a thing. (he points at William) You hope that once you get out of prison, your life will be something else. Well, there’s a reason you landed yourself in here. Whatever your life once was—expect it to continue. You might escape only to return again.


WILLIAM. Wait just one goddamn minute. None of that shit is even true. I just remembered something.


HOWARD. What’s that?


WILLIAM. Butterflies migrate. Just like birds.


HOWARD. And? What’s your point?


WILLIAM. They have to fly thousands of miles. Thousands. They go from like…Nebraska to Mexico or some shit. And I’m sure they don’t stick close to the ground, either. They probably rely a lot on the wind. Because there’s no way they’re getting all the way from Nebraska to Mexico with sheer flap power. No way. I mean, I can’t even run from my house to the convenience store without feeling like death. And that’s only—what? Half a block away? There’s no way butterflies go from Nebraska to Mexico on their own. No damn way. Not with those thin little gossamer wings they don’t.






WILLIAM. But I don’t care. I don’t care. Your example sort of sucks, but so what? I get the point. You think that once I have my freedom, I won’t enjoy it. Just like a butterfly supposedly doesn’t enjoy its wings. (How the fuck would we know?) I get it.


HOWARD. I don’t think you do.


WILLIAM. No, no. I get it. You’re projecting onto me. (he stares at Howard) Oh shut the fuck up! Don’t look at me like that. You totally are.


HOWARD. Did you even hear anything I said?


WILLIAM. Yeah, you condescending prick. I’m just getting rid of all of the fluff. I see right through you, friend. You’re projecting onto me.


HOWARD. I don’t think you heard anything.


WILLIAM. Well, fuck. Don’t say it all over again. For Christ’s sake. It was quite a mouthful.




WILLIAM. —you have to admit it was a mouthful.


HOWARD. How am I projecting onto you?


WILLIAM. Because you’re depressed and so you think everyone else feels the same shitty way about things as you do. Look—I get it. I’d be depressed too. Your wife divorced you, your parents just died. I get it. Out there, there’s nothing to live for.


HOWARD. Mmm. (he shifts about uncomfortably)


WILLIAM. Sorry. I’m sorry. But come on now. You have to see how ridiculous you’re being.




WILLIAM. You can’t be too much of a pessimist without starting to sound completely ridiculous. I mean, sure. Things can be pretty bad. Pretty damn shitty, in fact. I get it. But is it that bad? Really?


The problem with you people who try to make sense of everything is that things don’t really make sense. The universe is more complex than you are. By trying to squeeze it into that little box—your brain—you cut off all the infinite edges. And so you start to sound deranged. The only way the world makes sense is if it’s not the world at all.


Enjoying life—you’re going to need less philosophy for that.


You’re trying to build yourself a solid boat made out of reason. And you’re trying to steer it upstream to the original source.


But fuck that. You’re just being a contrarian. You don’t even need a raft. You don’t even need a paddle. Downstream, the water’s pretty gentle. All you need to know is how to float on your back. Things make sense that way. Go more with the flow, man. Don’t be such a dick. Don’t be such a contrarian. When you say shit like “prison’s just as bad as life,” you have to know it in you’re gut you’re wrong. You have to.


HOWARD. Float on my back? That’s how I’ll enjoy my life, eh?


WILLIAM. Fuck yeah, you will. Bring a six-pack of beers with you, too. They’ll float right next to you.


HOWARD. Now that we’ve gotten personal—


WILLIAM. Have we? (he looks at Howard for a moment and then scratches his neck) Yeah, I suppose we have. Sorry about bringing up your ex-wife and all of that. I was just trying to make my point really felt, you know?


HOWARD. You went to college, right?


WILLIAM. Yeah. Didn’t get much out of it, but yeah.


HOWARD. Why did you go?


WILLIAM. Uh…because why the fuck not?


HOWARD. It’s something your generation does, right? Go to college?


WILLIAM. Yeah, I suppose that’s right.


HOWARD. Without really thinking about it much? You boys just tend to go, right?


WILLIAM. Sure. At the very least, you get to meet plenty of girls.


HOWARD. Mmmhmm.


WILLIAM. Yeah? So what?


HOWARD. What have you done since?


WILLIAM. Since graduating from college?


HOWARD. Yeah. What have you done?


WILLIAM. I suppose I’ve gone from job to job. So what?


HOWARD. And why did you take those jobs?


WILLIAM. Uh…because why the fuck not? I needed money.


HOWARD. And those jobs just happened to be there, right?




HOWARD. You didn’t really seek them out, right? You just saw an opportunity and went for it. But you didn’t actively hunt those jobs. You didn’t actively create them. You saw them posted on some website. Right?


WILLIAM. So what?


HOWARD. That’s floating, right? Just going with the drift of things?




HOWARD. And how happy has that made you?


WILLIAM. Oh fuck you. I’ve been plenty happy. I just got myself in prison is all.


HOWARD. You’re listless.


WILLIAM. I’m young. I don’t want to box myself into some miserable life I can’t escape.


HOWARD. Look around.


WILLIAM. Oh fuck off. I took a risk. So what? I don’t regret it. I learned. (he sniffles) I’m just trying to figure out who I am is all.


HOWARD. You know exactly who you are.


WILLIAM. (he laughs) Oh yeah? And what’s that?


HOWARD. You have a clear idea of heaven. The feeling is there.


WILLIAM. (he’s momentarily stunned) …now that’s a fucking riot! (he laughs and laughs and laughs) I’m religious now, am I?

HOWARD. You can’t really express what you’re after, though, can you? You have the idea, you have the emotion—you have your arrows and they’re sharp.


But you don’t have the target. You can’t picture it. You can’t put it into words. It’s there, nonetheless. And it’s strong. And it bothers you. There’s nothing more that you want.


But what is it? It’s like being in love with a girl you can’t remember. You spend all of your hours gazing at the passersby, hoping you’ll see her face someday among the crowd. But you never will.


WILLIAM. Wait what?


HOWARD. The reason you’re listless is because you’re seeking out paradise.


WILLIAM. …I’m…. Wait what? Oh man, oh man, oh man…. I really do think you’re going nuts.


HOWARD. Listen: you’re probably happiest just before you start to put your plans in action, huh?


WILLIAM. What do you mean? What the hell are you talking about?


HOWARD. All right, you’re going to play stupid. Then let’s play fucking stupid.


WILLIAM. Don’t get so mad, mate. Calm down. You’ve really gone crazy. Sympathize with me, friend. Even better—empathize. You’re all gibberish. I can’t help my ears.


HOWARD. Then let’s baby you and use a bunch of metaphors.


WILLIAM. No! Fuck no. Please. At the very least, use similes.






HOWARD. You’re like a painter who has all of these wonderful ideas. It makes you just giddy thinking about them. Every single idea feels like it’s going to be the one. The masterpiece. The cornerstone of your towering fame.


And you’re still pretty happy once you start sketching these ideas. But it’s a self-deception sort of happiness. It’s not too genuine.


And so once you start to actually put real oils on your canvas, you begin to despair. It starts slowly a first. Tiny mistakes you think you can fix later on. But stroke by stroke, it builds and builds into a certain sorrow. Eventually, you invent some excuse or another and give it all up.


But in order to live with yourself, you have to start dreaming again. You have to start hoping. And so you fantasize about new paintings.


WILLIAM. This is me?


HOWARD. Or something like it, yes.


WILLIAM. …because I can’t hold down a job?


HOWARD. Because you can’t hold down anything. You’re restless. You go from thing to thing, hoping it’s the one—the first step towards paradise.


Well, wherever you go, however long—you’ll never find it.





WILLIAM. …so I might as well stay in prison then?




WILLIAM. That’s like saying I’ll never win the lottery and so I should go off and become a beggar. That’s nonsense. I can be pretty damn content without finding exactly what I want. I mean—what the fuck? This is what I’m talking about with your “philosophers.” It’s either all or nothing. The ideal or…fucking prison. Jesus Christ. Can you imagine what dating would be like in your world? No one would ever get married. Even the prettiest girls have their flaws.


HOWARD. Your body is your prison.


WILLIAM. Prison is my prison.


HOWARD. Did you ever ask to be born?


WILLIAM. I certainly never asked to be in prison.


HOWARD. You were born on a ship, my friend. An enormous ship.


WILLIAM. What? The planet Earth?


HOWARD. And though you don’t know its destination, you know nevertheless it moves. It’s a steady line down deep, deep waters. A river of discontent.


WILLIAM. Now you’re just saying things to sound nice. “A river of discontent.” My ass. (he thinks and chuckles to himself) That diarrhea you had last month—there’s your river of discontent—


[* HOWARD. -- *]you go from the aft to the bow to the forecastle. You stay starboard for months, then you go face down on the deck. Then you get up and ramble around portside for some days before going back to the stern. You try anything and everything. And why? All in efforts to steer the ship.


Once you realize you can’t, you’ll jump into the frigid waters.


WILLIAM. You mean I’ll kill myself?


HOWARD. Yes. If you don’t find peace, I think eventually you will.


WILLIAM. And what’s “finding peace,” according to you?


HOWARD. Being a happy passenger on this ship.


WILLIAM. Sitting nice and still? And quiet and everything?


HOWARD. Yes. Accepting fate with quiet dignity.


WILLIAM. Fuck that.


HOWARD. What a compelling argument.


WILLIAM. I think every man needs to be the helmsman of his life. It’s a damn requirement. Watch a guy for two minutes if he thinks someone has him by the balls. The government, the wife, the kids. Anyone. Two minutes. Look at his face. Study it. Look how miserable he is. He’s like you. Big gut and everything. And he sounds just like you, too. Two minutes is all it takes. Maybe even two seconds.


And then take a peep at the lithe girl who’s convinced herself she’s captain. Might not be true. Whatever. But the feeling’s still there, yeah? Yeah?

HOWARD. And you call running being the helmsman? Yeah? Yeah?


WILLIAM. I’m not trapped on some damn ship. I refuse your stupid metaphor.

HOWARD. Friend—if you find a way to stick it out in here, you’ll come out a completely different person. Someone who’ll survive.


WILLIAM. Well I don’t want to survive. I want to thrive.


HOWARD. And this is thriving?


WILLIAM. I already told you. This is the result of taking a risk. I took a shot in life. So what? I’m proud.




WILLIAM. And if I come out of all of this a failure, so what? I tried and there’s no shame in that. The shame comes from just sitting and waiting and bending over and letting the man stick it to you.


HOWARD. I see you’re getting excited again. (he sighs) Friend, reality will never come close to matching your fantasies.


WILLIAM. I don’t need it to match my fantasies. I just need to get out of here.


HOWARD. I fear for you, friend. I really do.

WILLIAM. (laughing) And I feel the same way about you. Listen, buddy—this is going to be our last night together. When I’m out there, just know I’m happy. I don’t care how long it lasts. I don’t care if they find me eventually and throw me back in. Or if I die on the run. I don’t care. If you hear that I’m dead, just know that I died happy. Cuz I took control, and that’s all I’ve ever needed. I may want a lot of things, sure. But freedom’s all I ever need. That and food, of course.


HOWARD. (he sighs) You would find your freedom here.


WILLIAM. OK, then, buddy. (he laughs) Well, fuck. Now I’m drained. It’s too early to go to bed, though.


HOWARD. Feeling anxious? (he smiles)


WILLIAM. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Quit your knowing smile.


HOWARD. It’s just a few hours, friend. You’ll soon be making your “attempt.” Come on, now less than 24 hours.


WILLIAM. Less than 12. (he fidgets)


HOWARD. Stay cool. Stay calm.


WILLIAM. How can I? Even 6 hours is just too much.



They carry on with their conversation, but there’s no need to keep on listening.






The Butterfly

  • ISBN: 9781370612222
  • Author: Porphyro
  • Published: 2016-08-23 00:20:11
  • Words: 5525
The Butterfly The Butterfly