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To be a Plebe: Part 2

by artemis15sc


Scene 3: Six days later. In one part of the stage is the barrack’s lounge. In another is the dorm room. Darkened. Erickson is sitting at table in the lounge, once again by himself, staring at his graded history essay. Torrez enters and takes a seat on the other side of the table. Erickson begins violently tapping his pencil on the table.

Torrez: Easy Private. That Pencil didn’t do anything to you.

Erickson: It’s not… Sorry, was I distracting you?

Torrez: Yeah, but I’ll survive. I’m still worried about your pencil though.

Erickson: I’m just stressed.

Torrez: You react that way every time you get stressed here you’ll run out of pencils. (A beat) It was just a joke, private. Gotta learn to embrace the suck if you’re going to survive here, you heard that phrase yet?

Erickson: No.

Torrez: We heard the Plebes say it all the time last year.

Erickson: You’re not a Plebe?

Torrez: No I am. I was at USMAPS last year. West Point’s prep school. I’m Torrez.

Erickson: Erickson.

Erickson begins tapping his pencil again.

Torrez: (A beat)What class is that for?

Erickson: History.

Torrez: The Comparison paper? How’d you do?

Erickson: Not great. You?

Torrez: Great. But I got a D on my pysch paper, so it evens out.

Erickson: I got you beat. Check it. (He shows his paper to Torrez.)

Torrez: Hold it up to a mirror it’s not so bad. You know, I can’t say for sure without reading it, but I’m guessing they wanted you to be more specific with your research. They’re big on specifics here. You know how many gallons are in the Lusk Reservoir?

Erickson: No.

Torrez: One of the Upperclassmen asked me that yesterday, and I didn’t know the answer so I just stood there with my mouth hanging open until he asked me why cadets cheered for Navy at the Army-Navy football game?

Erickson: You know the answer to that one?

Torrez: Yes. In 1943, Wartime travel restrictions kept the Naval Brigade in Annapolis. After losing a coin toss, the first Brigade learned the Navy songs and Cheers, and wore their white caps to the game to support Navy. Course I forgot to say Wartime travel restrictions kept the Naval Brigade in Annapolis, the first Brigade learned the Navy songs and Cheers, and wore their white caps to the game to support Navy, Sir, which made my whole answer invalid.Not exactly scoring high with the upperclassmen.

Erickson: Did Navy win that year?

Torrez: Yep.

Erickson: Figures.

Torrez: I’m just saying. Know your specifics, private.

Erickson: You know you don’t have to refer to Plebes by their rank. That’s only for the upperclassmen and officers.

Torrez: Yeah, well, old habits die hard.

Erickson: You’re a prior?

Torrez: One tour in Iraq.

Erickson: What made you decide to become an officer?

Torrez: Wasn’t going to, originally. I was going to do my time, get my school paid for and get out. But I found myself imaging a career in the Army, and then I couldn’t stop imagining it. And that led me here, eventually. What about you? Why you here?

Erickson: I want to serve my country.

Torrez: That’s what everyone says.

Erickson: You didn’t.

Torrez: Because it’s true for everyone. It’s not specific. So why are you here, specifically?

Erickson: Seemed like the right thing to do

Torrez: All right, I’ll give you that.

Erickson: (A beat) How do you do it?

Torrez: Do what?

Erickson: Manage stress?

Torrez: I don’t. I just get rid of it.

Erickson: Because it’s that easy.

Torrez: Of course not. But you’re going to screw up, private, no matter what you do. You can’t dwell on it. Especially not as an officer. So don’t.

Erickson: Sure.

(Razinski enters.)

Razinski: Erickson, there you are. Do you know how long I’ve been looking for you? What are you doing here?

Erickson: Working.

Razinski: Did you forget? We have our SAMI: Saturday Morning In—

Erickson: (Interrupting) –Spection.

Torrez: You forgot about SAMI’s?

Erickson: Did they come yet?

Razinski: No, I tried to fix your stuff for you but…

(Erickson and Razinski run to the other side of the stage, where the dorm room is set up.)

Torrez: (Calling)Don’t dwell on it!

(They enter their room. Erickson checks that his stuff is in order.)

Erickson: Where’s my razor?

Razinski: I don’t know. Where did you leave it?

Erickson: I didn’t leave it. I put it back. I always put it back.

Razinski: You sure? Because you didn’t put your hats back in the right order. I had to fix them for you.

(The Sargent enters, and they move to standing at attention by their beds. He inspects their room. Nothing is wrong, except he finds a razor on the floor by the closet.)

Sargent Koffman: This where your razor goes, plebe?

Erickson: No, Sergeant.

Sargent Koffman: Then why was it there, Plebe?

Erickson: No excuse, Sargent

Sargent Koffman: (A beat)Fifty minutes.

Erickson: Yes, Sergeant.

Sargent Koffman: Razinski?

Razinski: Yes, Sargent?

Sargent Koffman: No complaints

Razinski: Thank you, Sargent.

(The Sargent exits. Erickson examines the razor.)

Erickson: This isn’t mine.

Razinski: What’d you say?

Erickson: This isn’t my razor.

Razinski: You sure?

Erickson: It’s yours. (Indicate to the one in the closet.) That one’s mine. You took my razor.

Razinski: No.

Erickson: Then how did it end up on your shelf?

Razinski: I don’t know.

Erickson: So you’re going to lie on top of steal?

Razinski: I didn’t take it. I found it on the floor and thought it was mine.

Erickson: I didn’t leave it on the floor.

Razinski: That’s where I found it.

Erickson: I didn’t leave it on the floor!

Razinski: All right. Then maybe I knocked it off when I was trying to fix my stuff.

Erickson: You knocked it off?

Razinski: I was in a bit of rush. I didn’t think you’d forget. And it’s not like I could call and find out where you were. Stupid no cell phone rule. (A beat) Hey, I’m sorry I took your razor.

Erickson: You’re sorry.

Razinski: Why are you taking it out on me? I was trying to help you. You’re the one who forgot. (A beat) Don’t stress about it too much though, veteran, you can’t always be perfect.

Erickson: Stop calling me that.

Razinski: Yeah. Okay. Fine. (A beat). What does he mean by minutes?

Erickson: I get to march back and forth holding a rifle for fifty minutes.

Razinski: You serious? Got to love the Army.

Erickson: Yeah. Got to.

End Scene

Scene 4: West point grounds, four weeks later, 5:30 in the morning. Erickson, Carpenter, and Stimola are preparing to run. Razinski enters.

Razinski: I finally found you Erickson. When you’d get so good at sneaking out?

Stimola: Razinski, you sure you don’t need any more beauty sleep?

Razinski: I think I’ll manage. It’s cool if I join you, right?

Stimola: Yeah. We’re only going a mile. You should be able to keep up.

(They run off-stage. Indicate time passing. Then re-enter, having completed their run. Razinski comes first, followed by Carpenter and Stimola. Erickson comes in last.)

Razinski: (As Erickson comes in behind him) Man Erickson, no wonder you do this every morning.

(Erickson doesn’t respond. They engage in cool down stretches)

Stimola: You should do cross country, Razinski

Razinski: I’ll be too busy once Basketball season starts.

Stimola: You’re on the team?

Razinski: Part of why I came here. They wanted me to play.

Stimola: Beat Navy.

Razinski: How many days until the game, Stimola?

Stimola: 81.

Razinski: We’d better get it this year.

Stimola: You said that wrong. You’re supposed to say, “We will get it this year.” No conditionals. As a fact.

Razinski: I’m just saying. Navy’s winning streak is getting kind of embarrassing. You’d think the most important military branch be able to win one little football game.

Carpenter: I’m umm… standing right here. In case you forgot.

Stimola: Course we will. Those seamen have nothing on us.

Carpenter: Still standing here.

Erickson: Not to be blasphemous, but win or lose Army still trumps Navy.

Carpenter: The brotherhood between the military branches is so inspiring.

Razinski: Just seems like it should be easier than we’re making it, that’s all. Oh, Erickson, remember that we’re in charge of calling out minutes tomorrow.

Erickson: I remember.

Razinski: Just making sure. You know this guy forgot about our SAMI?

Stimola: You’re kidding.

Razinski: Nope. Sergeant Koffman gave him minutes. Army’s exactly like it looks like in the movies, isn’t it? All yelling and marching and ridiculous amounts of discipline. I can’t believe they still make us touch the wall and look straight forward when we walk. It’s so frustrating it hurts.

Erickson: Yeah, it’s really hard having to keep our hands in fists and our mouths shut while we walk. So much harder than getting fired on or having to avoid IED’s in the street.

Stimola: (A beat)Well, I’m heading in. You coming, Carpenter?

Carpenter and Stimola exit. Erickson continues stretching.

Razinski: Look man, I didn’t mean…

Erickson: Sure.

Razinski: This is going to prepare us for stuff like that though, right? I mean, we’re not going to be like the other soldiers who get… we’re going to be more prepared than them. That’s what this place is preparing us for, right?

Erickson: No. It’s preparing us to keep those other soldiers from dying. At least it’s supposed too.

Razinski: (A beat)You really were built for this, weren’t you?

Erickson: Hooah.

Razinski: Oh, you’re cool to do the history presentation with me, right?

Erickson: That’s not due for another month.

Razinski: I know. Just thought, since were roommates and buddies and all, it be convenient.

Erickson: Yeah, sure.

Razinski: (A beat) So… have you thought about majors yet?

Erickson: A little.

Razinski: Yeah me too. Did you know they have a leadership major?

Erickson: Yes.

Razinski: They weren’t kidding when they said they emphasized leadership.

Erickson: It is kind of their purpose.

Razinski: Still though, don’t you think that’s a little, I don’t know, hyped up? How do you major in leadership? I don’t think it’s something you can teach exactly. Just seems kind of stupid.

Erickson: You really enjoy finding all the Army’s flaws, don’t you?

Razinski: Well isn’t that our purpose? To try and make it better? Good leaders don’t just follow orders. They forge new paths. And you have to admit some of their traditions are kind of archaic.

Erickson: I dare you to say that to an NCO.

Razinski: (Laughing) Yeah that would go over well. Are you ready to head in? (Erickson stops stretching). Oh, and if you want I could train with you more often. Help you improve that mile time.

Erickson: Thanks, but I got it.

Razinski: Yeah, yeah, sure.

(They exit).

End scene


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Tue Feb 17, 2015 7:29 am
Rubric wrote a review...



Generally:

I really enjoyed the development in the Razinski-Erickson dynamic in this scene, particularly the first glimmers of serious and abiding dysfunction. As a reader I’m wondering how aware Razinski is of the buttons he’s pushing, and I’m guessing he’s pretty clear on it. It’ll be intriguing to see how intensive this rivalry becomes, and how treacherous Razinski will prove to be.

Specifics:

“You react that way every time you get stressed here you’ll run out of pencils”
This sentence would be clearer if it began with “If” or had an “and” between “here” and “you’ll”. As direct speech, it’s not a big issue, grammatically, as people do talk like this. Just a question of clarity vs realism.

“Course I forgot to say Wartime travel restrictions kept the Naval Brigade in Annapolis, the first Brigade learned the Navy songs and Cheers, and wore their white caps to the game to support Navy, Sir,”
Great anecdote, and I honestly can’t decide if the long repetition makes it better or drags it out too long. Might be worth reading it out and deciding for yourself.

“Erickson: I want to serve my country.
Torrez: That’s what everyone says.”
Another great line, especially in light of the “greater specificity” discussion immediately prior. Another sign that Erickson’s struggling.
“Torrez: (Calling)Don’t dwell on it!”
Great lines, keep them coming

“Razinski: You sure? Because you didn’t put your hats back in the right order. I had to fix them for you.”
A good call back, highlights that the advantage of Erickson’s preparation from coming from an army family has basically run out at this point.

“Erickson: It is kind of their purpose.”
I can’t make this call, but given that Erickson is gung-ho for embracing the army-family tradition, is this the language they’d use. The somewhat equivocal language of “kind of” certainly clashes with the certainty of the “no excuse” line he gives the sargent. Different circumstances I guess.

Great chapter. Any questions or comments, hit me up via pm or on my wall.

Cheers,

Rubric.




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Sun Feb 15, 2015 4:27 am
anabelsinclair wrote a review...



This is fascinating, quite an interesting foray into life behind the barrack walls. I admire and respect your use of this medium, chiefly because you are painting an entire picture solely through with minimal descriptions. But you do it quite well, in my opinion. If the point of this chapter was to portray the characters' personalities, biases and challenges, then the point is well taken.

I haven't read the preceding chapter, and admit that my exposure is thus limited. Right off the bat, I like Erickson. He comes off as forthright and levelheaded, in contrast to Razinski. I also like how you use the exchanges to really describe the emphasis placed on rules, order and routine in the military, not to mention to necessity of this emphasis (on the battlefield). This is something that the 'veterans' understand and appreciate, versus the greens.

The pace of this chapter is steady, yet you manage to maintain a fine edge of tension underneath. I just find this amazing, what with the medium.

And I liked the little dig about the winning streak (Go Navy!)

Thank you!





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— P. D. Ouspensky