Here’s the second of my three comedy sketches about Lewis and Clark that I’m posting in honor of Presidents’ Day. I’ve always been amazed how some people are naturally loquacious. I’m mostly quiet, at least until I’m two drinks into Happy Hour. At that point, it’s game on.
Three Cheers for Lewis & Clark
Three Comic Vignettes Celebrating What Might Have Happened Before, During, and After the Great Expedition
SKIT 2: STICK IT
CAPTAIN LEWIS – Male, quiet and introspective. He does not suffer fools easily; mostly a ray of gloom. His facial expressions speak volumes.
“CAPTAIN” CLARK – Male, incessant talker, a chatter box full of good cheer and optimism; mostly a ray of sunshine.
SETTING: On a hilly slope near the Pacific coast of what eventually becomes the state of Oregon.
TIME: Daytime, circa 1803.
AT RISE: CAPTAIN LEWIS and CAPTAIN CLARK trudge up a slope. Both dressed in rugged hiking gear. Lewis holds a surveyor’s telescope in one hand. Like a beast of burden, Clark is loaded down with a backpack. To help him negotiate his way amid the rocks and shrubs, he relies on a large stick, his walking staff.
CLARK: At first, I didn’t understand why we traveled all this way with forty others, only to leave them behind just before reaching our goal. Then I realized. You wanted all the others to remain back at camp so we could have a private, special moment viewing the ocean. Just the two of us. Breathe in the glory, well done, jolly good effort, bon ami and all that pats-on-the-back stuff. Right?
LEWIS: Something like that.
CLARK: We’re like heroic figures out of classic literature, Lewis. You and I. You are stoic, serious, quiet, introverted. A true visionary on a mission for the ages. And I your trusty, outgoing associate. When you think about it, our relationship is symbiotic. We back each other up. Like the birds on the back of a hippo in the Great Africa. You’re like, like Don Quixote de la Mancha. And I am your loyal Sancho Panza, without a donkey or a paunch. I’ll say one thing, all this trekking has been good for my health. I’m fit as a fiddle. Now, there’s an odd expression. How fit can a fiddle ever be? How do they measure a fiddle’s fitness for duty? No matter.
CLARK: Yes, sir. We complement each other. I’m the outgoing, gregarious, good-natured one. And you. Well, you always seem to have a lot on your mind. Like Don Quixote, you even wear the woeful countenance. More so since we had to hole up for that long winter with the Mandans in North Dakota. It was good luck for you and the others that I’m such a natural conversationalist. I kept us all entertained through the long, cold, dark days and nights. ‘Course it was unfortunate about Sargent Phillips, running out into the snow and shooting himself in the head like that. But the winter takes its toll. Especially in North Dakota. The winter takes its toll.
CLARK: I hate to continue harping on this, Lewis, but I still think we should name our trip the “Clark and Lewis Expedition”. After all, “C” does come before “L” in the alphabet and historians will need an easy way to catalogue our journey. It just makes sense. To do otherwise violates generations of good librarian cataloguing conventions.
LEWIS: Have you ever heard the expression “Silence is Golden”?
Long beat while Clark chews on Lewis’ comment. Then…
CLARK: Ever wonder where expressions like “Silence is Golden” come from? I mean, think of all the expressions we use. Haste Makes Waste. Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth. As Proud as a Peacock. A Bird in the Hand is Worth Two in the Bush. Every Cloud has a Silver Lining. I believe that one refers to the bright aura around the perimeter of a thundercloud. A Stitch in Time Saves Nine. In other words, if your garment starts to fray, hem it now before it’s too late to repair the damage.
CLARK: Let Sleeping Dogs Lie. Every Dog has His Day. Cats are included in several expressions. A Cat has Nine Lives. Curiosity Killed the Cat. Hmmm. If it was killed by curiosity but it has nine lives then what’s the big deal? Unless, of course, it’s too curious and gets killed nine times. I have a favorite cat expression. Ask me. Go ahead, ask me. No, wait. Guess. Try and guess it.
LEWIS (mumbles): In One Ear and Out the Other.
CLARK: What’s that? I didn’t catch it.
LEWIS: I give up.
CLARK: That’s okay. You’d never guess it anyway. My favorite cat expression is. Are you ready? IT IS A BOLD MOUSE THAT NESTLES IN A CAT’S EAR. I love that one. The image of that tiny critter curled up inside the unsuspecting feline’s head.
CLARK: Of course, it’s not just about the cat. In fact, it’s more about the mouse, now that I think about it.
CLARK: Now, here’s an expression I’ve never quite understood. Tell me if this isn’t a strange one. “The Moon is Made of Green Cheese.” Oh, really now. I mean, how do we know for sure? How do we know it’s not made of a crumbly Cheshire. Or a tasty, sharp Cheddar. Or even your basic but classic Stilton. For all we know it could be made of rock, not green cheese. Personally, I’ve never tasted green cheese, except but once, at the Snout n’ Gout Inn, the one by the Potomac, and I was sick for a week. So, someone out there, some “authority”, thinks the moon consists of rotten cheese and the rest of the world quotes him as if he knows what he’s talking about? I’m sorry but I just don’t see it. And how come people repeat that expression over other expressions? We could come up with better ones on our own. I’m convinced of it. Out here in the middle of nowhere.
CLARK: Say, there’s a thought. Why not? We can add ’em to our journal. Come on. What do you say, Lewis? Let’s create our own aphorisms. I’ll start. Let’s see. Something allegorical. Something with an animal in it. Maybe one of those prairie dogs we saw in Kansas. I have it. Here you go: A Prairie Dog Crossing Water is Wetter than a Cat in Church. (Beat)
CLARK: How’s that?
Lewis stops walking and holds up his hand, as if to tell Clark to stop.
Lewis walks slowly to the edge of the cliff (stage).
He bends down and grabs a rock. He lets the rock drop and watches it fall. Lewis turns, looks at the audience and smiles for the first time.
CLARK: Well. Yes. The important thing is to just get the basic sentiment down. I wanted a cat in there somewhere because they’re very popular across most cultures. A prairie dog crossing–is “fording” better than “crossing”? Let’s not dwell on the details. We can review our aphorisms later and tighten them up before publishing.
Clark sits and makes a note in his journal.
CLARK: Prairie dog. Cat. Okay. That’s one. Your turn.
LEWIS: Ah, we’re here.
CLARK: I must say, Lewis. I’m disappointed. That’s not a very creative expression. “Ah, we’re here.” Is that really the best you can do?
LEWIS: I mean to say we have arrived at the cliff. We are here. We have reached the ocean, the end of our journey.
CLARK: The end.
LEWIS: Yes. The end. Please join me over here on the cliff and experience the sweeping view.
Clark removes his knapsack and runs up to the cliff.
CLARK: The Ocean!!!
Clark leans on his walking stick and scans the horizon. For the first time, he is speechless.
Lewis walks back from the cliff. Then, he extends his telescope out from his chest, like a bayonet, and takes a run for Clark’s back. Clark turns suddenly and swings his walking stick, accidently knocking Lewis off the cliff (stage).
CLARK: Look. A whale!
Clark stares in disbelief for a couple of beats at the fallen Lewis, then turns to grab his knapsack.
CLARK: Well, that settles it. We’re calling it the “Clark Expedition.”
He starts to walk away, seemingly dejected then brightens suddenly, as he is struck by a thought.
CLARK: Hey, I have my second expression: A Stick in Thine Saves Mine.
He takes out his journal and makes a note. Lights down.
(END OF PLAY)