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Stories

Rick James Meets Fay Wray in Heaven (A Very Short Play)

America lost two great artists this week, musician Rick James and actress Fay Wray. Writer and playwright JOHN MOE sits in on their introduction at the pearly gates.

[A vacant, airy place. Thousands of low, wooden benches are scattered throughout the area in no apparent order. A massive brownish wall looms in the background with a single door in it. RICK JAMES sits on one of the benches. He is waiting, but not impatiently.]

[FAY WRAY walks in tentatively, sees RICK JAMES, and advances no further.]

[Several minutes pass.]

RICK: You want to sit down? There’s some…there’s lots of benches.

FAY: No, thank you. I’m standing. I couldn’t do this before. I’m going to stand. I will stand.

RICK: Well, OK. Good. Hi, I’m Rick James. [FAY nods slightly but says nothing.] I’m…I guess that doesn’t mean anything to you.

FAY: I’m sorry. Should it?

RICK: I’m a musician. A singer. I was popular. Kind of popular, actually. Well, no, for a while I was really popular. And I was hoping that maybe again I would find a way to… Well, so anyway…umm…“Super Freak”?

FAY: [confused and a little startled] What?

RICK: Sorry. I’m sorry. I’ve just been waiting here a while and with just these benches. It’s all kind of strange. I don’t know what’s happening here. I don’t know. I can’t seem to finish any thoughts.

[Three months pass with neither person saying anything.]

FAY: I’m Fay Wray! I appeared as an actress in nearly 100 motion pictures, starring alongside Gary Cooper, Ronald Colman, and Spencer Tracy. I was an actress in the golden age of Hollywood.

RICK: Hello, Fay. Rick James. Wait, where do I know you from? What was the big movie you were in?

FAY: [with a degree of resignation] King Kong. I played Ann Darrow, the blonde ingénue. The ape falls in love with me.

RICK: Right! And he carries you up to the top of the Empire State Building and he’s swatting at the planes and you’re screaming.

FAY: Yes.

RICK: That was great! That must have been really something to be a part of.

FAY: It wasn’t a real ape. It was special effects.

RICK: Well, yeah, I know. I know that.

[A year passes.]

FAY: But yes, it was wonderful. That film changed my life. It changed history.

RICK: OK.

FAY: And what was your song? “Superman”?

RICK: Freak. “Super Freak.”

FAY: Like circuses? Freaks?

RICK: Oh! No. No no. It’s…it’s not like that at all. It was like, you know, sex.

FAY: I see. Well. Excuse me.

[A few seconds pass.]

RICK: Did anyone tell you anything coming in? About what we’re supposed to do here?

FAY: No. I left the bed, and then I was here. Have you tried that door?

RICK: No. [A few minutes pass.] Do you want to go try it?

FAY: No.

[They both cry for a week. Then the door opens and MARLON BRANDO comes out.]

MARLON BRANDO: Hi. How are you both? Listen, we’re really sorry to keep you out here so long but I hope the benches have been comfortable.

RICK: Yeah, sure. They’re great benches.

MARLON BRANDO: Great. We’re sort of almost ready for you here. It’s just going to be a little while longer. Well, I guess if I say “a little,” I should say…no, a little. Just a little. Ms. Wray, would you like to sit?

FAY: I’ll stand.

RICK: She likes to stand up.

MARLON BRANDO: OK. Can I get you something to drink? Fresca? Squirt? Diet Sprite? Diet Squirt? Safeway Brand Lemon-Lime soda? Surge? Diet Mountain Dew? Regular Sprite?

RICK: Do you have 7-Up?

MARLON BRANDO: No.

RICK: I’ll have a Diet Squirt.

FAY: Yes. I, as well, will have a Diet Squirt.

MARLON BRANDO: Coming up. Soon. Thanks. [He goes back through the door.]

[A month passes.]

RICK: Would you like to dance?

FAY: Oh, yes.

[They do.]

[Curtain]

John Moe writes stories for public radio audiences, short humor pieces for McSweeney’s, plays for tiny groups dispersed many years ago, and books for all the good people of the world. He lives in St. Paul, Minn., pretty much. More by John Moe