Howlin' Monck and the Death of Music

© 2003 Lisa Morton

(Lights come up on a dressing room, backstage somewhere in 
an amphitheater or arena.  There are flowers, half-
eaten platters of food, a counter, a make-up mirror 
surrounded by lightbulbs, a couple of chairs.  On the 
wall is a concert poster - it shows a guitar-player 
silhouetted by a gigantic moon, and reads HOWLIN' 

Occupying center stage is HOWLIN' MONCK himself.  He's 
wolfish - long hair, beard, mustache, dressed in blue 
jeans and studded leather.  He's agitated - thrash 
metal BLASTS from a boombox, and MONCK throws himself 
about the room, trying to lose himself in the music.  
The music ends, and MONCK stops, disoriented, then 
grabs a near-empty bottle of Tequila, finishes it off 
with a handful of pills.  When he realizes the bottle 
is empty, he hurls it against a wall, cracks a new one, 
takes a long pull.  He shivers as the pills go down, 
seems to almost convulse for a second.  He closes his 
eyes, fists clenched, jaw knotted.  Finally he opens 
his eyes, looks into the make-up mirror, slowly begins 
to smile... but there's nothing happy about this smile.  
It's ferocious, cunning, wild.

A knock at the door, and HARDY enters the room.  He's 
younger than Monck, wears an plastic security badge 
identifying him as one of Monck's roadies.)

MONCK:  Get the fuck out - !

HARDY: It's me.  Hardy.

(MONCK relaxes slightly, downing more liquor)

MONCK:  You shouldn't do that.  After all, you oughtta know 
	better than anyone else how easy it is for me to lose 	

HARDY:   Yeah, you're right about that.  It's too easy, 
	Monck.  Like you want to.  You let the change go 
	further tonight than ever before.  You even snapped a 
	string during the "Urban Vengeance" solo.

MONCK:  Yeah, and I finished it off with only five strings 	
	and claws, and it was great, so fuck you, Hardy.  Now, 
	what's on the menu tonight?

HARDY:  Monck, you promised me -

MONCK:  Oh Christ, Hardy, don't be so fucking pedantic, it's 
	just a figure of speech.

HARDY:  Oh, you mean like "I promise I won't let it happen 	
	again, Hardy"?  That kind of figure of speech?

MONCK:  C'mon, Hardy, this is L.A, right?  So what's one 	
	more guy out of control?

HARDY:  I'm not sure... I can do it any more.

MONCK:  You're in a bad mood tonight.

HARDY:  Happens to me sometime at the full moon.

MONCK:  Next thing I know you'll be asking for a raise so 	
	you can buy Tampons.  (A beat, as he drinks, then)  You 
	know, I don't even have to see the full moon.  I can 	
	feel it.   Here...

(MONCK hands HARDY the new bottle of Tequila)

HARDY:  No thanks.

(MONCK laughs, then drinks himself)

MONCK:  What's the matter?  Afraid you'll catch something?

HARDY:  How much of that have you had tonight?

MONCK:  This is the second bottle.  And a handful of 'Ludes.

HARDY:  That's not enough.

MONCK:  It'd kill anybody else.

HARDY:  Here...

(HARDY uncaps another pill vial, hands MONCK another 		

MONCK:  Hardy...

HARDY:  I'm not bringing her in here unless you take them.

(MONCK grumbles but complies, with another swig of the 	

MONCK:  Now that I've had my medicine, I want my spoonful of 

HARDY:  No.  First, we talk about Dallas -

MONCK:  So I made a little mistake.

HARDY:  - and Atlanta -

MONCK:  She was begging for it.

HARDY:  -and Miami -

MONCK:  She pulled pepper spray on me.

HARDY:  - and Charleston -

MONCK (exploding):  Who the fuck do you think you are?  In 
	case you've had a little lapse in reality lately, let 
	me clarify:  You are a roadie.  You are one 
	insignificant screw in the vast machine that is Howlin' 
	Monck - me.  You work for me, comprende?!

HARDY:  Work?!  Monck, what I do for you is not part of any 
	job description I know.

MONCK:  They why do you do it?

HARDY:  You know why.

MONCK:  Say it.

(HARDY looks away for a beat, flushed, then)

HARDY:  You know, it's just sheer dumb luck the papers 
	haven't picked up on the connection yet.  Dallas, 
	Atlanta, Miami, Charleston... and they still haven't 
	found the ones from Albany and Detroit.  But they will, 
	Monck, no matter how well I buried them, they will find 
	them sooner and later.  And sooner or later someone 
	will put those cities together with the dates of this 

(MONCK smiles to himself, then)

MONCK:  You never did tell me what you thought of that 	
	"Urban Vengeance" solo tonight.

HARDY:  It was good.

MONCK:  Just good?

HARDY (shouting back):  It was brilliant, goddamnit, 
	alright?!  The best I've ever heard.   The live album 
	of this tour's gonna be one of the greatest fucking 
	albums in all of rock'n'roll.

MONCK:  So I'm still the best?

HARDY (reluctantly):  You still blow Van Halen and Clapton 	
	out of the water, Monck.

MONCK:  Good.  Now we know why you do it, right?

(Again, no response)

MONCK:  And since we've answered that question, it's time to 
	bring in contestant number one.

(HARDY, abashed, complies.  He goes to the door he entered 
	through, exits briefly, then returns with ASHLEY.  
	She's young, dressed for a concert, obviously awed in 
	the presence of MONCK)

ASHLEY:  Oh my god, it is you.  (She indicates HARDY)  When 
	he came up to me in the audience and said Howlin' Monck 
	wanted to meet me after the show, I couldn't really 
	believe it.  But...

(She giggles, at a loss for words)

HARDY:  This is Ashley.

MONCK:  Ashley.  What'd you think of the show tonight, 	

ASHLEY:  What'd I think?  It was - it was awesome.  You 
	know, some of my friends think you're like this old guy 
	still playing guitar, but when I listen to your CD's, I 
	feel like you're talking to me through your guitar, 
	like I'm the only other person in the world and you're 
	talking just to me - shit, I promised myself I wasn't 
	gonna weird out over this, and I know that must sound 
	psycho -

MONCK:  I don't think that sounds psycho at all.  Do you, 	

HARDY (tightly):  No.

MONCK:  No what?

HARDY:  No, it doesn't sound psycho at all.

MONCK:  You see, Ashley?  I am talking to you.  

ASHLEY:  Like that song "Lost Souls", where you say "All the 
	lost ones will flock to darkness", and then you do that 
	scream?  That gives me shivers, and it's like you're 
	screaming for me, because I'd like to scream like that 
	sometimes, but I can't... and now hear I am talking to 
	you in person.  This is like - godhood.

MONCK (to HARDY):  You hear that?  You should be worshipping 

HARDY:  What do you call this?

MONCK:  Well, then, we should get started with the mass.  	
	Communion first.

(MONCK takes another pull off the Tequila bottle and passes 
	it to ASHLEY)

ASHLEY:  Thanks.  (She swigs, coughs, then hands it back)  	
	It would be really cool if I could bring my friends -


(MONCK and ASHLEY both stare at his outburst)

HARDY:  I mean, they left already anyway.

ASHLEY:  I could call them -

MONCK:  Sure, why not?  Hardy, get her a phone -

HARDY:  Goddamn it, no!  Ashley, this was a bad idea.  See, 
	Monck's not feeling too good, maybe you should leave -

MONCK:  No no, Ashley here's gonna make me a feel a lot 	
	better, aren't you, sweetheart?

(He pulls her onto his lap)

ASHLEY:  Sure, Monck.  You know, I used to listen to you, 
	and sometimes I'd feel bad because it was like, you 
	were giving me so much through the music, and there was 
	nothing I could give you...

MONCK:  So you're not just another starfucker, collect 'em 	
	and trade 'em with your friends?

ASHLEY:  No.  I like you, Monck.

(MONCK chuckles and begins nuzzling her neck.  She looks 	
	over his head and sees HARDY watching uncomfortably)

ASHLEY:  Umm... Monck...

MONCK:  Yeah?

ASHLEY:  Does he have to stand there and watch like that?

(MONCK looks up at HARDY)

MONCK:  Oh don't worry about Hardy.  The only thing that 	
	turns him on is a guitar riff.  

ASHLEY:  That's okay.

MONCK:  Really?  That'd turn you on, if I played for you?

ASHLEY:  Oh my god, Monck, that'd be the ultimate!

MONCK:  Okay, then...

(He sets her down, rises, indicates another door)

MONCK:  In here.  I wanna show you my axe.

HARDY (warningly):  Monck...

MONCK:  Oh chill out, Hardy, you've already seen it.

(MONCK gives HARDY a wink and exits into the other room with 

ASHLEY (offstage):  So where is it?

MONCK (offstage):  Where's what?

ASHLEY (offstage, giggling):  Your guitar.

MONCK (offstage):  Oops, looks like they packed it away 	
	already.  Guess I'll just have to show you some real 	

(HARDY is pacing indecisively)

ASHLEY (offstage, seductively):  Ummm, like what?

(We hear MONCK laugh, then offstage kissing, ASHLEY 		
	murmuring encouragement, etc.)

MONCK (offstage):  You know when you said you wished you 	
	could give me something?

ASHLEY (offstage):  Yeah...

MONCK (offstage):  I put my life into that music.  What 	
	could you possibly offer me in return?

(ASHLEY moans softly, in pleasure - then cries out sharply)

ASHLEY (offstage):  Ow - Monck, that -

(Sound of ripping cloth)

MONCK (offstage):  What?

ASHLEY (offstage):  You're hurting me -

MONCK (offstage):  Really?  What about - THIS?!!

(A horrible sound - something being shredded, followed by 	

MONCK (offstage):  Does THAT hurt?!

ASHLEY (offstage):  No, stop - what are you - ?!

MONCK (offstage);  Now Ashley, if you wanna be a real 		
	groupie you're gonna have to take a certain amount of 	
	pain -

(And that's the last coherent word from offstage.  The rest 
	is a hideous sequence of unintelligible snarls, roars, 
	shrieks, rippings, poundings, wet splatterings.  HARDY 
	races to the doorway, too late - he takes one look 	
	inside and staggers back, gagging.

	At last the worst of the sounds are over; all that's 	
	left is - eating.

	A few beats later MONCK appears in the doorway.  He's 	
	covered in blood, his face, his hair his shirt.  He's 	
	sucking on the fingers of a severed hand - ASHLEY's 	

MONCK:  Finger-lickin' good.

(He hurls the hand back into the room and staggers to the 	
	chair, so sated he can hardly move.  HARDY is clutching 
	himself tightly, rocking back and forth on his heels)

HARDY:  Oh god... oh god... Monck, you promised...

MONCK:  Yeah, and you were dumb enough to believe me, so 	
	who's fault is that?

(A beat, then MONCK wrinkles his nose in disgust)

MONCK:  Clean up the leftovers before it starts to stink, 	
	will ya?  (When there's no response)  C'mon, Hardy, we 
	don't have all night...

HARDY:  What if I say no this time?

MONCK:  Yeah, just like all the other times.

(MONCK throws a bunch of 55-gallon black plastic trash bags 
	at HARDY)

MONCK:  Now stop your bitching and moaning and get to work.

HARDY:  It's too much, Monck.  Don't you see that?  It was 
	bad enough when they were hitchhikers picked up on some 
	lonely stretch of backroad, some stray camper out in 
	the woods.  But the last five have been girls like 
	Ashley, ones you wanted out of the audience.  

MONCK:  C'mon, Hardy, I'm not a complete idiot.  I read the 
	papers, I know they think they're lookin' for some 
	ucked-up nutcase with a hungry pet doggie.  They'll 
	never connect it to us.

HARDY:  Monck, nobody comes to a concert alone.  These girls 
	have all had friends, friends who saw me, who know you 
	and I were the last ones to see these girls alive.  I 
	mean, yeah, the kids are pretty stoned, but still...

(Just then a moan comes from the other room - from ASHLEY.  
	HARDY goes ashen)

HARDY:  Oh jesus... she's not dead, Monck...

MONCK:  Well, fuck me.  Maybe Ashley's little brain is so 	
	pickled it hasn't realized it's dead yet.

ASHLEY (offstage):  Help... help me...

HARDY:  Oh Monck, this is bad, this is really fucking bad -

(MONCK comes up with a knife, which he offers to HARDY)

MONCK:  Here.

(HARDY doesn't take the knife, just stares)

MONCK:  If it bothers you so much, go finish her off.

HARDY:  I can't kill her.

MONCK:  Twice, you mean?

HARDY:  Monck, I can't.  I can't do it.

MONCK:  Fine.  Let her suffer, then.

ASHLEY (offstage):   Please, god....

MONCK:  She's not gonna live anyway, you know.

(HARDY grabs the knife)

MONCK:  Think of it as a rite of passage, Hardy.  Your 	
	introduction into manhood, courtesy of Howlin' Monck 	
	himself, thank you very much.

(HARDY turns towards the door, gritting his teeth.  Finally 
	he goes offstage)

ASHLEY (offstage):  Mister, you gotta help me, he's crazy, 	
	he's not human...

HARDY (offstage):  No, he's not.  I'll help you.  But you 	
	gotta close your eyes.

(After a beat - a THUD, followed by a last cry from ASHLEY.  
	Then HARDY stumbles to the doorway, staring at the 	
	blood on his hands and the knife he still clutches)

MONCK:  There, finally popped your cherry.  How'd you do it, 

HARDY:  The heart...

MONCK:  Ahhh, you broke her heart.  Don't you feel like a 	
	man now?

HARDY:  I feel sick.

MONCK:  Believe it or not, I felt the same way the morning 
	after my first time.  When I saw the blood all over the 
	sheets... and the floor... and the walls...

HARDY:  It's over, Monck.  No more.

MONCK:  You're starting to sound like old vinyl, Hardy, 	
	stuck in a bad groove.

HARDY:  I mean it.  I'm not doing it this time.  I'm leaving 
	her here for them to find.

MONCK:  Uh-huh.  Do I need to remind you that if I fall, you 
	go with me?   You're an accomplice, after all.

HARDY:  I don't care any more.

MONCK:  Oh really?  Well, chew on this:  They won't be able 
	to hold me.  Come the next full moon, I won't stop the 
	transformation halfway.  I'll let it go, let it go all 
	the way, no booze, no pills, all the way until they 
	have a snarling, frothing beast that chews through 
	steel bars and can't be stopped by boring old lead 
	bullets.  How many policemen do you think I'll kill 
	then, Hardy?  Ten?  Twenty?  More than a couple of 
	groupies, I should think.  And all the while you can 
	sit rotting in your own little jail cell, thinking 
	about all those family men I've killed because of you, 
	and knowing that your turn is coming soon.

(A long, tense face-off... interrupted finally by a knock on 
	the door)

MONCK:  J-Boy?

(The door opens and J-BOY enters.  He's another of Monck's 
	roadies, like HARDY sporting the plastic i.d. badge.  
	Strangely enough he doesn't seem the least bit 
	disturbed by the blood on either MONCK or HARDY)

J-BOY:  Everything okay here, boss?

MONCK:  Fine, J-Boy.  Oh - take a look at what's in the 	
	other room there.

(HARDY stares in mute disbelief as J-BOY crosses the room 	
	and looks onto the unseen remains of Ashley - and 	
	giggles slightly)

J-BOY:  Oh wow, man, that's gnarly.

HARDY:  J-Boy... ?!

J-BOY (to MONCK):  You want me to... ?

MONCK:  Not yet.  Maybe tomorrow night.  

(This exchange has not escaped HARDY)

HARDY:  What's tomorrow night?

MONCK:  J-Boy, why don't you tell Hardy what you found in 	

J-BOY:  Oh yeah.  Found this chick's shredded dress in the 	
	dressing room trashcan, man.  Not too cool, Hardy.

HARDY:  You found... ?

MONCK:  You've become undependable, Hardy.  It's been 
	building for a while, so I've had J-Boy checking up on 
	you, seeing to it that you don't miss something - like 
	leaving behind an obvious clue.  If I didn't know 
	better, I'd think you did that intentionally.

HARDY (to J-BOY):  You're my replacement, aren't you?  Are 	
	you supposed to knock me off first?

MONCK:  You see, Hardy, J-Boy has one big advantage over 
	you:  He does it for the money, not like you, with your 
	ridiculous notions about loving the music and loyalty.

HARDY:  It's not ridiculous, Monck.  Your music saved my 
	life when I was 15.  I'll never forget the first time I 
	heard "Urban Vengeance", and "Tatter Me", and "Dying 
	for You." I probably would've od'd, blown my own head 
	off, but instead I lived to listen.  I would've done 
	anything for you - hell, I've gotten you drugs, I used 
	to stand by you every full moon, before you learned how 
	to control it.  I risked my life once a month because I 
	loved the music, I still do, but... it's not worth it 
	any more.

J-BOY (turning to go):  Monck, do I gotta hear this 		

MONCK:  I don't think any of us do.

(J-BOY glowers at HARDY and starts to go, but HARDY won't 	
	let him, he grabs him by the arm, restraining him)

HARDY:  Do you really think you can do this?!!

J-BOY (through gritted teeth):  Get your hands off me or 	
	you're dead now.

(J-BOY shrugs him off and starts out again)

J-BOY (over his shoulder to MONCK):  I'm right outside if 	
	you need me, boss.

MONCK:  No problem.

(J-BOY exits.  HARDY turns to face MONCK)

HARDY:  Why, Monck?  Why did I have to kill her, when you 	
	could've had your bulldog there do it?!

MONCK:  Ever heard of last chances, Hardy?  And you just 	
	blew yours.

(HARDY nods, considering - then reverses his hold on the 	

HARDY:  Maybe I'm not the one who blew his chance.

MONCK (uncertain now):  What are you talking about?

HARDY:  It's time to end this.

(HARDY begins to advance on MONCK, who rises from his chair)

MONCK:  Well, if it isn't my own little Mark Lindsay 		
	Chapman.  Get real, you little shit, you can't kill me.

HARDY:  Why not?

MONCK:  That blade's not even good steel, let alone silver.  
	So you might kill me tonight, but in 28 days - at the 	
	next full moon - I'll just resurrect.

HARDY:  Sure, you can get out of whatever specially-designed 
	coffin you've already got in the will.  But you're 
	wrong, Monck - you will be dead.  Because if I kill you 
	here tonight, I'm gonna make sure the whole world knows 
	about it, and that they know the whole story - the 
	girls, the hitchhikers, all of it.  Oh, you can come 
	back - but not as Howlin' Monck.  

(A tense beat - then HARDY throws himself at MONCK!  They 
	grapple for a moment, then HARDY manages to drive the 
	knife into MONCK.  MONCK staggers back, living up to 
	his name - howling.  J-BOY bursts into the room)

J-BOY:  Holy shit - !!

(MONCK finally collapses, dead.  J-BOY just looks at him, 	
	then paces in agitation.  HARDY stands by, panting)

J-BOY:  Oh man, this is fucked, this is fucked -  (He turns 
	on HARDY in rage)  You killed him, you asshole!  You
	fuckin' killed him!!

(But a strange serenity descends on HARDY as he stares down 
	at the corpse)

HARDY:  No.  I killed the music.  It won't matter if he 	
	comes back, because... I killed the music.

(Lights fade out slowly)