The Damnable Tragedy of Hercules Blackson

Act 1 Scene 1

Hercules Blackson: Twenty terrible years have I mouldered in this prison cell/ everyday a burning, living hell. Forsaken, forgotten, I waste away like an abandoned dog in abandoned basement; my skin peels, my bones chill; barking, baiting for sunlight and the wind’s soft release. And for what? Because I was born in Detroit, because I was born poor, because I had the audacity to strike out when the world tried to box me into an urban deathtrap; I grew up with knives, guns and gangsters as my parents and guides. When love’s sweet care should have cradled me to bed each night, the sounds of gunshots and street-war strangled me to sleep. No! No! I will not let white bastards pencil my fate lightly in an obscure book; I am the master of my destiny. Since I could not be a civil man, a good, hardworking American, who kisses his children to sleep, mows his lawn contently, arrives early to work, fake smiles all-round, I am bound to righteous self-damnation. Since I could not live, I am determined to die. But before the blackness, before the night of no-return, my cunning will make love to havoc, and from her rotting belly will burst my last bastard of tragedy. Jackson, Rob, Bill. Jackson Rob Bill. Yes it must be done. How sweet has the sound of their names rung, when I have imagined a long, sharp knife sliding down their backs. Or in my dreams when my good friends swim in a pristine lake, gorgeous and calm, amid a flaming sunset, and I waving, smiling, start pouring gasoline and burn them as they drown. I will make them pay, all of them! By means quiet, deceitful, treacherous and downright evil I will blot out their meaningless lives. I have watched and I have waited. My vicious plans are set. For years, painstaking years, eternities of revenge have replayed themselves in my head. And now the clock has stopped, and hell has begun. But quiet my raging heart, for here comes Jackson my oh so lovely guard. (Picks up Hamlet and starts reading)

Jackson: Still reading Shakespeare after all these years, Martin. I will never understand how you can read and re-read him, day after day. Maybe try something more lighthearted like Roald Dahl huh.

Hercules: Call me by my name and I will respond baby.

Jackson: Don’t call me that, and don’t get me started on that bullshit again, okay. I called you by your name.

Hercules: You called me by that coward who died a long time ago in these lonely halls. I’m a changed man.

Jackson: Jesus, how many times? Your name is Martin. No matter how hard you try, you will always be Martin. Martin who like a retard shoplifted on his 2nd strike and now is a prisoner for life (snickers cruelly)

Hercules: I was 16.

Jackson: And I was 18 when I first fucked. No one gives a shit.

(Awkward silence, Hercules grins unexpectedly from an insult, looking distracted by a pleasant thought)

Hercules: To answer you, I read him because he is the best. Why bother with amateurs, when you have the music of the bard.

Jackson: Amateurs, music of the bard. You speak differently you know that. All them big words and fancy phrases. I remember when you sounded like just any other plain gangster. “Yeah wassup, my g” “What’s cracking” and all that dumb shit. Yours is quite a remarkable story. A man who has never read before enters prison and becomes a Shakespeare scholar.

Hercules: I owe a debt to James. (Soliloquy) The only white man I pitied.

His greatness was wasted by this prison chaplaincy. In those brief 30 minutes of free time us prisoners are allowed in the library, when we can walk beyond these dreadful cages, he would recite to me with awed wonder the words of the Bard. I can still remember the smiling curves of his face, those brimming blue eyes, full of the life I so desperately craved. An illiterate sixteen year old black boy and a white Anglican priest comb over the works of Shakespeare together, the perfect picture of racial harmony and prison rehabilitation.

Jackson: It does sound good.

Hercules: We actually should have taken a picture, used it for the advertising — ” Alabama, St Claire’s Correctional Facility — Home of love and generosity”. This place could use better brand marketing. Hard to sell a product composed mostly of shankings, rapes and murders. Yes (thinks to himself) but then again you have quite the captive market.

Jackson: (Grimaces uncomfortably) I preferred you when you couldn’t read

Hercules: Oppressors regret small acts of benevolence. First the slave is allowed to see sunlight and feels warm. Next he is allowed to read that which contradicts his master. Finally, he cuts his master’s neck in the dead of night.

Jackson: Jesus, you are one despicable son o’ a bitch, what has gotten into you since James died.

Don’t think I haven’t noticed your ramblings to yourself at night, or the phrases written on the wall. What does this even mean(points to a phrase on the wall) “The prison’s the thing wherein I’ll break the conscience of my sting.” It sounds really familiar.

Hercules: This is just poetry and the drivel of a madman, don’t mind it. A play on Hamlet.

Jackson: Yes, Hamlet! I once read it. I can’t remember much except for the ending. Everyone who mattered (starts talking slowly and wearily) died in the end. Real nasty business that play — all revenge. I’m surprised you aren’t more depressed reading that shit in this hellhouse (laughs cruelly)

Hercules: The want for revenge is natural. (long pause) Now whether I agree with it is another story. Peace, love and hugs seems oh so boring and unrealistic. Who would even want to live in a world where you can’t kill your enemies (laughs while Jackson looks uncomfortably). I’m joking whitie, don’t take yourself so seriously. Besides these bars were made for a reason (winks). No, I kid again. Martin Luther King has converted me. Love, and truth, and happiness and joy is what I stand for now. Come give me a hug Jackson; let me show my love for the fair-skinned boys. (reaches his arms beyond the bars.)

Jackson: ( Pulls away quickly) Get away from me faggot. I could send you to solitary for that shit. Goddamn, am I happy you’re fucked for the rest of your life.

Hercules: Oh come on. I only wanted to express my thorough commitment to non-violence.(smirks) Besides you wouldn’t be talking to me unless you cared. I’ve always been a good friend to you. Always been here everyday for you.

Jackson: You’re here against your will.

Hercules: But I choose to be present. I could while away my time, dreaming of fucking. But instead I listen to my white guard, soothe his wayward ways. You don’t know how lucky you are that I landed in prison. Without me, you would be so lonely, fuck, who knows maybe you’d be fucking sheep out in whatever backwards hill-billy den you came from.

Jackson: (infuriated) I’m warning you boy, one more comment out of that black mouth and I’ll…I’ll send you to solitary for the rest of your life.

Hercules: Do it you pussy. I prefer jacking off without you watching.

Jackson: AH! You… (hides a tear and paces off into the distance).

Hercules: (Soliloquy) So the plan begins and chaos wins. Tommy! Get out of that corner and come here.

Enter Tommy, another guard

Hercules: What is the news? What have you got in those dirty hands?

Tommy: ugh, but… boss you promised. I need it, I can’t go on.

Hercules: One more whine, boy. One more whine. I said what do you have in those hands?

Tommy: Sorry, sorry I didn’t mean it. It’s a note from Darnell and Terrell.

Hercules: Hmmm, (reads) “we here.” So they can write, impressive. Excellent, excellent. Well, Tommy since you’ve been such a good, good boy. Here’s a snack (Hands Tommy crack)

Tommy: OH BOSS, th…thank you.

Hercules: Not all at once. This is your last snack for a while. Nod if you understand, crackhead.

Tommy: (nods head ridiculously like a dog)

Hercules: Scurry away now you rat

Tommy: What’s sc..uh..ree?

Hercules: fuck off

Tommy: Sorry, sorry (runs away)

Hercules: (Soliloquy) Oh what a dream! Everything coming together like the last seam. Step, by step, Hercules Blackson. Jackson is too distracted to see what’s coming, consumed by the pains of his repressed homosexuality. Solitary awaits, as does my first victim’s fate. Now my labours begun, the web is spread and spun!

Writer, poet, philosopher,

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