The Grave of Sam Baker
A New Ten Minute Play by Jon Vreeland
Thomas—Spirit of Thomas J., Grave Sentry, Accordion Player
Leo Baker—Robber of Graves, Faux-Ancestor of Sam Baker
D.J.—Leo’s Very Simple Friend
As the curtain rises an accordion bounces amiably into place, filling the air with its pirate like essence. The graveyard is ravishing: a Tim Burton-esque setting with one large tombstone protruding from the fog that hovers low to the ground, knee high to an average sized man to be precise, one tall vintage street lamp with a black post and sallow glow on the left of the stage, and a giant white jeweled moon that hovers up and to the right of the purple night sky. On the left of the stage, from a cloud of ashen smoke, appears a man named Thomas who is dressed in solid black for a look of transparency and he is holding his accordion on his chest and squeezing it like an infant child, making the melody bounce back and forth between A minor and E major as he ambles to the front and center of the stage. His black suit and fingerless gloves of the same darkened shade match his old cabby hat which rests just above his shadowed eyes. The man stands and tickles his squeeze box and guards the grave of Sam Baker, who was a soldier in the American Revolution; and if it weren’t for Sam Baker Great Britain may have been the victors, so Baker’s grave, to one of our forefathers, was so important that he vowed to guard the grave, dead or alive, and its secret that sleeps in that wooden box buried deeper than six feet. and the tall and battered tombstone reads:
Here lies Sam Baker
The bravest soldier and patriot
our country has ever known.
Thomas saunters to the center of the stage. He is playing his melody when he gives the audience a black and yellow smile from his rotting grill and prepares his declamation to begin the show. Thomas stops and flips up his cabby hat a little and puts his hand above his brow to block the light and scours the audience while mumbling under his breath…
Thomas: Well well well it looks like them people finally gave it up. (He takes his hand down and begins to play, a couple of bouncy chords then stops abruptly). Ya’ll know what I mean? Those damn thievin’ bastards who think they can just waltz in here and dig up whatever and whoever they please? And without my consent? Well let me tell you…not this one no way; (he suddenly stops his wagging finger and looks to his left). Wait a tick……..Shhhhh!!!…..(Thomas puts his hand to his ear and listens and even hushes the crowd again). You hear that? (After a few seconds he takes his hand away from his ear…) Ah, nevermind, probably just a damn weasel or some damn rodent or some other annoying nothing. Either way, nobody is gonna get in this-here-grave (He puts his hand on the tombstone) No sir I….(He stops because he hears the noise again). ‘Xcuse me, got some customers it looks like.
(He can see way down the trail two men and they are walking with shovels that are resting on their shoulders. The shorter one named Leo is holding a lantern with his right hand and leading the way and the taller man named D.J. follows close behind, looking as confused as ever and carrying a pick and shovel with a rope draped over one of his massive shoulders like an inert baby child with his mouth partially open. Both of their suits are dirty and tattered dark colors with white shirts underneath for the simple contrast and they have beanies on their heads because it is cold, but the site of their breath melts into the fog so you cannot tell—a mere infiltration while the men appear onstage and put their stuff down on the ground behind Sam Baker’s grave, not yet noticing Thomas and his accordion on the other side of the stage, standing and leaning against one of the other tombstones).
DJ: Uh, why are we here again Leo?
Leo: Just grab a shovel and start diggin’ ya big dope.
DJ: Uhh okay boss but I’m hungry boss.
Leo: Hungry? We just ate ya big oaf!
DJ: I know boss but I’m big boss. You always tell me that I can eat a horse and…
(Leo throws his head back and looks up at the sky and lets out a big sigh).
Thomas: How ya gents doin’ this evening?
(They both stop very abruptly and look around for the new voice with looks of severe ambiguity plastered on their faces.)
Leo: Who’s there?
(Thomas steps away from the tombstone he is leaning on and they see him; Thomas gives a little waist-high wave and the two of them look relieved that it’s just a dirty hobo with a squeeze box stuck to his chest).
Thomas: How ya doin’? Whatchya diggin’ for?
DJ: Yeah boss uh what are we diggin’ for boss?
Leo: (to DJ) Never you mind boy now dig!
DJ: Sorry…sorry boss.
Leo: (to Thomas with sardonic tone) Now…sir…I see that you are a man of…let’s say…intrigue. Well…I am what the science world calls…an ar-chae-ol-o-gist; and I have some business to handle for a museum out in D.C. ya see, so, if ya don’t mind!!…(He stops and turns to DJ) Not there ya idiot! (He grabs the big oaf by his shoulders and steers him to the proper grave). Here! Now dig! And don’t you stop until you hit something that ain’t dirt, understand?
DJ: Something that’s not dirt, yeah boss I get it boss.
Leo: That a boy.
Thomas: Well other than…
Leo: Look! (He catches his tone and stops himself and smiles at Thomas with his mouth closed). Can’t you see we’re busy?
Thomas: Oh sure. What’cha diggin’ up?
DJ: Yeah boss what we diggin’ up boss?
Leo: Dammit you DJ DIG! And you sir, I…I have to get to work.
Thomas: Looks like the big fellas doin’ all the work.
(DJ drops the shovel and stands tall and proud and puts his arms down to his side and looks straight ahead out over what would be the horizon; Leo lets out a big sigh and looks at the sky in severe vexation).
DJ: Oh I don’t mind! See I’m much bigger than Leo! And I love to sweat so I dig and work for the boss and he feeds me food and lets me play with the baseball and—
(Leo walks over to DJ and stands next to him and his face, not saying a word, shutting him up as he basks in frustration from the distracting stranger name Thomas, giving the now silent DJ the evil eye about three inches from his face before pointing at the grave, making DJ jump in an “oh yea” moment and grab the shovel and starts digging again. Now that Leo has had a little time to think of a story he turns to Thomas with decent eyes)
Leo: If you must know what we are doing…we are digging the grave of Sam Baker to retrieve his six shooter for a museum. He is my great great grandfather and I want to do it myself so nothing goes wrong.
DJ: I didn’t know you had—
Leo: Shut up! DJ…
DJ: Sorry boss, sorry sorry boss.
Thomas: Very interesting, very very interesting.
Thomas: You must have to get all kinds of paperwork to clear something like that I would think.
(Thomas takes a seat and leans on one of the tombstones and Leo turns around and looks at Thomas gives him another closed mouth sardonic grin)
Leo: Special privileges, ya know, family and all.
Thomas: I see…I…guess…
(Leo lets out another deep sigh and walks over to Thomas still sitting with the accordion and towers above him like a giant grizzly).
Leo: Look mister. I don’t know who you are or why you think disturbing this very high class, professional dig in honor of my great great great gramps is—
Thomas: Oh it’s three greats now…I see.
Thomas: Well the first time you said he was your great great grandfather, and now there’s an extra generation stuck in there.
(Leo stands and stares at Thomas with hateful eyes then turns his attention back to DJ who is still digging like a human shovel, sometimes humming or whistling the same pirate like melody the accordion was playing before they arrived on stage. Leo goes to say something to Thomas…and then it happens)
DJ: Boss boss! I hit something that’s not dirt boss boss!! It’s not dirt boss it’s hard it’s hard like stone boss!!
Leo: I hear ya pal I hear ya settle down now big boy.
(Leo jumps in the hole and pries open the coffin and you can hear the slow creak of Baker’s wooden bed opening. DJ climbs out and stands above the hole looking down. Thomas still sits with his accordion in the same spot. Leo cannot be seen, but is soon heard).
Leo: What in God’s name is this!?
DJ: What is it boss? Want me to throw the rope down boss?
Leo: What in GOD’s NAME IS THIS?!?! We’ve been ROBBED!!!
DJ: What ‘s wrong boss?! Who robbed us boss?
Leo: Come on and get me out of here ya big dumb ape!
(DJ reaches down to pull Leo up and out of the grave but Leo hands DJ the corpse instead. DJ holds it up to the audience for everyone to see that the corpse is a female in a blue and white dress with a rusted sword resting in a cruddy belt around the cadaver’s waist with a military hat on the skull and wooden spoon tied around its spinal neck. Leo crawls out of the grave with no help from the astonished DJ).
(DJ taps him on the shoulder and repeats himself)
Leo: Yeah I know ya idiot.
DJ: Uh boss I didn’t know your grandpa was a girl boss?
Thomas: Nobody does, and nobody ever will.
(Leo turns to DJ who just stares and has his mouth partially open, as usual).
Leo: Okay what’s going on here? What’s the gag old man?
Thomas: No gag, just nobody has ever known the real story of Sam Baker, and, I’m kind of the, well, protector of the grave.
(Thomas goes into a fit of laughter and in the interim pulls out a silver six shooter, the one Leo was looking for, and points it at the DJ and Leo).
Leo: You’re crazy old man. You know that you crazy son…?
Thomas: (Laughs and dances and plays a quick little lick on his squeeze box) Just doing my duties as an American. Sam the Baker was indeed a hero, oh by Nelly she really was! A god, damn, woman! A damn stinkin’ DAME! (He pauses and saunters the stage with a subtle and creepy giggle). And her real name was Samantha Jones and she was the best baker this side of the ‘Ol Miss, The ‘Ol Man I’ll give her that, maybe even the best shot too. So when Samantha The Baker led the men into battle just like Joan of Arc, us Forefathers knew that this was the beginning of the end. If the world would have known that a woman, a simple 26 year old female baker named Samantha led the American revolution and saved thousands and thousands of innocents, and all without killing a single soul!? This country would have been run by a goddamn witch….OKAY!! And nothing would have ever been right!! (He looks at the audience with desperation, pleading a grown man child). I mean…a woman as our Commander in Chief? And the prisons? They would be empty. No guns…No wars…What would we do with ourselves? The monotony. OH THE HORROR OF IT ALL!!! Really, can you imagine?? Well not on my watch!! (More creepy subtle laughter from Thomas).
Leo: You crazy son of a bitch, that gun is mine!
Thomas: Really? You sure about that?
Leo: Very sure.
(After a semi-long awkward silence Thomas cocks the gun, he waits a few seconds and pulls the trigger, twice, and Leo and DJ both fall into the grave, dead. Thomas puts down the gun and the fog starts to suddenly clear then stands up with his accordion and paces the stage, preparing to play the same ‘ol melody. He looks at the audience and smiles his bumble bee grin, again).
Thomas: Well folks, I guess the song will remain the same.
(He laughs and dances like an old fool in a cloud of protruding smoke and plays the same conversant, bouncy tune, while the curtain lowers to the ground).