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nev sweetdane

Story by Neville Cole

Robbie wanders aimlessly thru the 24/7. He has always seen the world from 30,000 feet. Where others see impediments and obstructions he sees the path of least resistance. When others are overwhelmed by the constant immediacy of change he can always see events unfolding beyond the horizon. But for the first time in his short life Robbie Marley is stumped.

“I’ll have a pack of Marlboro Greens, thanks.” Robbie says finally.

“Can I see some ID?”

“Seriously?” Robbie thought. “Of all the nights, this is the last thing I need right now…a convenience clerk with an attitude.”

“I’m just kidding, man,” the clerk laughed. “Pinners or blunts?”

“Blunts,” Robbie replies unsmiling.

“No problemo, hombre.” The clerk reaches for the pack then pauses once more before handing over the merchandise. “Sorry for busting your balls, Robbie. I just didn’t know you were an herbalist.”

“I’m not,” Robbie snaps, grabbing the pack from the moron’s hand and tossing $40 on the counter. “Keep the change, asshole.”

Robbie is more mad at himself than the idiot behind the counter. Ever since weed had become widely legal, he has been surrounded by stumbling grunts and precisely because of stupid twats like that clerk he always keeps his mind focused and busy. But tonight is no usual night. Tonight he would not be popping a Tramadol or an Adderall and staying up until 4am. His father’s life lays in the balance and tonight Robbie Marley is going to follow the path of his namesake and get wasted.

Robbie and his dad have never been close. How could he connect with a man who was either off circling the globe or shut up in his office planning his next adventure? Was he really supposed to feel affection for a man so wrapped up in himself that if he ever did come to Robbie to talk it sounded like nothing more than an all-out attack? Robbie’s dad spent his career traveling the world making documentaries and yet never taught his only son how to edit. Everything Robbie learned he taught himself. As a mentor and guide Dick Marley was less than useless and as a result Robbie felt little but open delight as he watched his father finally fall apart. Because of his father’s emotional rejection, Robbie had gleefully turned his parent’s dissolution into a comic farce for the world’s amusement. Because his parents were so clearly mismatched, he felt no guilt in pushing them past the brink and he secretly scorned them for so easily agreeing to accept their roles in his grand reality experiment; but yet, now, as the possibility of a surprise ending draws near he feels a longing he has never before experienced. Robbie Marley’s heart finally aches.

He takes a long hit of the greenie and closes his eyes. He sees a stage before him not a screen. Robbie is used to viewing his world as a film but this is old school dreaming. The curtain draws back to reveal a castle wall enveloped in fog and a bright full moon set against a dark night sky. He sees himself, dressed all in black, enter from stage right…and then the character on the stage begins to sing:

Stay with me,

Let time pass slow

Stay with me,

They bury you down below

Stay a while,

Hear my call

Stay a while,

This is the very last night of all

From far above the proscenium, Dick Marley floats into view and staring off at a distant horizon he joins his son in song.

The westward star far burns so bright

It stays with me throughout the night

The moon too soon will stalk away

And fade from white to blackest grey

I am shipwright frozen to the ice

On a sea of fire called paradise

The earth is hard, the air hangs cold

The world was made for men more bold

Robbie sings more urgently now, desperate to draw his father’s attention.

Stay with me

Why must you go?

Stay with me

There’s so much more to know

Stay a while,

Hear my call

Stay a while,

This is the very last night of all

Dick drifts slowly off stage left never once averting his gaze.

The morn I see is clad in red

The sun will rise to find me dead

My life is gone I stand alone

Nor wife nor child nor happy home

I must leave now for the eastward hill

My heart has stopped I’ve had my fill

I am too old to fight too weak to run

Where are you now, my sometime son?

Robbie leaps to his feet and rushes stage left, calling out sorrowfully after his dearly departed dad.

Speak to me

Ease my woe

Speak to me

See how my tears now flow?

Stay a while

Hear my call

Stay a while

This is the very last night of all.

At the last chord, Robbie collapses to the stage cries out: “Father! No further!”

“Hey,” Robbie chuckles. “Hamlet: the Musical. Not a bad idea.”