Strychnine

By Elijah Cobb

LORZ - A tall, lanky man. This isn’t his first run. Distant in conversation. Doesn’t quite pick up on emotions

CARI - Young runner, inexperienced. Excited to be there.

TAU - Race Organizer, empathetic and knowledge about what to do. Could have once been a runner, not much anymore.

A street in St.Louis. Two people, dressed in modern athletic gear and wearing a number on their chest, are running in the middle of the stage. A water station sits to stage right.

LORZ: Running?

CARI: Yep.

(A long pause while both stare forward, running. LORZ pulls out a flask and takes a hardy sip)

CARI: I don’t think they allow alcohol on the course.

LORZ: Oh don’t worry, this is just strychnine.

CARI: Ah okay.

(A pause to process that information)

CARI: Wait Strychnine?

LORZ: Yeah, rat poison. There’s some brandy in here for taste too.

CARI: Why are you you drinking rat poison in a half marathon?

LORZ: It’s nothing more than just a very powerful energy drink. Caffeine is basically the same thing. This stuff isn’t that strong. And I’m taking a lower dosage.

CARI:  Lower dosage than what?

LORZ: Thomas Hicks, first American to win the Olympic marathon. Right here in St.Louis.

CARI: But he didn’t win. If he was taking performance enhancing drugs his win would be taken away.

LORZ: But he did win. Cheaters get away with things all the time.

CARI: How did he get away with it?

LORZ: He was carried across the finish line.

CARI: Carried across?

LORZ: Yeah, by his trainers.

CARI: And that’s okay?

LORZ: It was at the time.

CARI: This will kill you.

LORZ: It’s a smaller dose remember.

CARI: Well you’re breaking the rules.

LORZ: What rules?

CARI: They don’t allow alcohol on the course.

LORZ: (angrily) Cheaters get away with things all the time. (he turns confused) How many miles do we have left? 20? Man I’m already pooped. (determined) 50 more miles let’s do this. (now happy) Ms. Roosevelt it’s great to meet you in person. (scared) My throat is filled with dust. I can’t – no true frenchman would quit – do this. I’m not a frenchman anymore, I’m an American. I win. I will win. (singing) And I will run 500 miles. And I will run 500 trillion more. Just to be the A-mer-i-can who will fly –

(LORZ dramatically falls to the ground, muscles tense and shaking. CARI stops and helps him.)

CARI: We need to get you an ambulance, someone get the organizers, call 911.

LORZ: Keep going please. I’m just taking a nap. Running right?

(A race organizer TAU comes out to check on LORZ)

TAU: What the hell happened here?

LORZ: (distant) Yep. A long pause while both stare forw–

TAU: You’re muscles are tense. You’ve ingested Strychnine.

CARI: You know about it too?

TAU: This isn’t the first time this has happened. Some idiots think they can be great if they reenact history–

LORZ: (Now very drowsy) I don’t think they allow alcohol on the course.

TAU: People think it will be different for them. It never is. The guy who ran that olympic marathon in 1904 was a mile away from the grave.

LORZ: Oh don’t worry, this is just strychnine.

(LORZ goes unconscious)

TAU: And it seems he is too. The ambulance is here. Can you help me get him to the sidelines.


(
They carry LORZ off stage on their shoulders. Even unconscious LORZ’s body still makes soft running motions. TAU and CARI return.)

TAU: Keep on running, you’re a mile away.

CARI: Um. I don’t think I can. Is it okay if I take a rest for a moment. I think I’m done running for today.

TAU: Tell you what. I’m running that water station over there. You probably need hydration.

CARI: Thank you.

TAU: You know what’s funny? The way the course goes that ambulance is going to cross the full marathon finish line.

CARI: I guess he found the real way of beating us all.

TAU: Well, some of the people who want to reenact that marathon do actual get in a car. You think that rat poison is cheating? Try driving 10 miles in the stinking marathon.

CARI: Driving?

TAU: Yep.

CARI: What in the world was that marathon.

TAU: A curse.

CARI: Pardon me?

TAU: It’s a curse. Not by some magic stone or witch, something even stronger. Something that could cause even that guy to break himself. Stubbornness. Stubborn racers who ran in 95 degree heat on the most humid day of the year. Stubborn organizers who tested to see how long people could last without water while running a marathon. Stubborn coaches who kicked dirt up with their cars. A stubborn city that stole the Olympics from Chicago. That marathon was filled with idiots, racists, psychopaths and a few good people all with one common trait. Suffocating stubbornness.

CARI: That’s kinda what a marathon is, stubbornness.

TAU: I guess you're right. If we relaxed the rules your friend there would actually be winning the race.

CARI: It’s more than that. I got up and decided to run 20 kilometers just to prove to myself that I could. We respect that in society. I respect that. Stubbornness isn’t a curse.

TAU: Yeah tell that to mister rat poison. The thing is, we reward the winners. Many lose with more stubbornness but worse luck. We remember the guy who crossed the line being literally carried by his coaches. not the one who ran digitantly two miles off course by a pack of dogs.

CARI: Did that really happen in the same marathon?

TAU: Look okay, most people will never learn about the first to black africans to race an Olympic marathon. Maybe the first one to win, but those two who came to this very city to… well why the came to St.Louis is unimportant. What’s important is that they were here and they gave it a shot but society didn’t reward them because of where they came from....

One of them was also happened to be chased off course by dogs, but only one mile.

CARI: So what you’re saying is –

(CARI breaks and starts to leave the stage in desperation and fatigue)

CARI: It’s meaningless. My legs are crumpling below me and my lungs are somehow stabbing themselves. I never should have started running. It was just fine before. I’m getting a bottle of brandy. (chanting) AND I WOULD WALK 500 MILES

TAU: No! Finish this race. Please. You don’t have to go fast, but there is something still to be said for trying. Maybe you won’t be remembered, but you will remember it yourself. There’s one more story from that marathon that I think more people need to reenact. Andarín Carvajal.

CARI: (grandiose) Let me guess. Valiant sportsman who faced adversity but finished and brought home his glory to his hometown with a big wonderful parade!

TAU: No, he would conned his country, Cuba, into sending him to Europe and America. He then lost all his money gambling in New Orleans. He hitchhiked to the Olympics– No, he wasn’t valiant.

But he lived how we should all live. He ran the race in street clothes that didn’t breathe. He hadn’t eaten for 2 days. He wasn’t going to win the race so he took his sweet time. Talked to spectators, stole some peaches, stole some apples from an orchard, ate the apples, got sick from rotten apples, took the nap in the middle of the race and continued on his way.

CARI: And got last while living his life. I get it know.

TAU: Well he actually got 4th out of 21 runners. It was a really weird race. But yes, he lived his life. You should too, however you need to.

CARI: Right. I got this. Slow and steady gets at least 4th?

TAU: Under current marathon rules he actual would have gotten 2nd. The finish line is one mile that way. Pick up an apple before you get there.

(CARI walks back to the area where they and LORZ were running earlier. They begin to run at a slower pace. They run out of the running area and off-stage into the audience. They walk towards the doors but take a moment and stop to talk to an audience member. The stage goes black while TAU stands at the water station. CARI exits out of a house door. Light pours in.)