One of the plays that first announced Sam Shepard as an original voice in American theater, Tooth of Crime is his thrillingly innovative rock drama, published here in a revised edition that is as fresh and provocative as the original was more than thirty years ago.
An aging rock star in a world in which entertainment and street warfare go hand in hand, Hoss must defend himself against Crow, a newcomer who battles him for fame. Combining musical styles and intense dialogue in an unconventional musical-fantasy, Tooth of Crime riffs brilliantly on rising stars and fading legends, and rock lived and died for.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
; August 2010
96 pages; ISBN 9780307498359
Download in secure EPUB
Title: Tooth of Crime
Author: Sam Shepard
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Scene: A bare stage except for an evil-looking dark chair with a high back, something like an Egyptian pharoah's throne but simple, center stage.
HOSS: Song: "Anything I Say Can and Will Be Used Against You"
ANYTHING I SAY CAN AND WILL BE
USED AGAINST YOU
People tell me I look like hell
Well I am hell
I got a torture chamber orchestra
At the Delirium Hotel
I got an hallucination rattlesnake
To twist my skill through
You're my friend
But I'm gonna kill you
Somebody's got to monitor all this darkness darkness darkness
Somebody's got to locate the bomb dot com
Somebody's got to breakout through the night so starless starless starless
Those who would overthrow the status quo
Soul like smoke hole in the sky
Gotta cry gotta cry gotta go gotta go gotta go
Target Arab chic MK ultra satellite blowup
Kill the pain let it rain let it rain
I will disengage your mastery
Until all you love is blasphemy
Then I'll break in through your idiocy
And twist your desire hideously
And when you're the object of complete derision
I'll make you a star on television
Then if you want fame at a greater strength
Speak to my girl Friday the thirteenth
Got no background
Got no files
Crawl through the cable black op ground zero no flight zone
All alone all alone all alone
This is a story which is based on a true story
Which is based on a lie
Don't jack with me Sahib
Don't jack with me Lucille
BECKY: Choogin, Hoss. Choogin. The short is on-line. Wanna peek at the toys?
HOSS: Yeah, let's have a look. Jeweler check 'em out?
BECKY: Clean and blue. Gave his little stomp of approval. You know how he gits.
(BECKY lays out the "weapons" on the floor: Strange looking devices; weird mixture of swords, guitar necks, microphones, CB's, pistols, etc.)
HOSS: Merc's set?
BECKY: Greased, lubed, and banging on all eight. Chaser slammed it up to 180 on the old Ventura Freeway. Said she didn't bark once.
HOSS: Yeah. About time he quit them quarter mile bursts. That double-throat's gotta git time to blow out. Holly made that carburetor back then for a reason. Old-time but it still hauls ass.
BECKY: No question there.
HOSS: Chaser fit?
BECKY: I don't gumbo with Chaser. You know that. He keeps to his own self.
HOSS: You watch him don't ya? Observe?
BECKY: I seen him chase his bacon around the plate with a fork this mornin. Asked him if that's where he copped his handle.
HOSS: So, how's he movin?
HOSS: Did he look inclined to Boogie?
BECKY: He's always got the horns on for Road Rankin, you know that.
HOSS: Then we're good to go?
BECKY: I'd best check the Chart Man if I was you, Hoss. The Gazer.
HOSS: How's that.
BECKY: Just an inklin. A tickle. Won't hurt.
HOSS: We ironed all that through, didn't we? Week ago? I thought Meera gave me a green lane? I don't need hesitation now.
BECKY: Shit shifts, you know. Every two seconds somethin's slidin. He can't suss it all. Tell you the damn truth, some a them chart patterns he's honkin go back to the late fifties. Meera's antique in a lota zones Hoss. I wouldn't bite the whole red apple he throws out, just cause it rolls.
HOSS: Git his ass down here!
BECKY: All righty. Don't sting my tail just for flaggin a dingo. I'm yer cold bitch, remember?
HOSS: Just buzz his booty! Now!
BECKY: Yabadaba Honk Man.
HOSS (alone): Chingaflack! Tickles, inklings, cross-information! I'm good to go, here! Can't get stoved up by bad help and superstition. I need the points! Can't they see that? I'm winning in three fuckin states! Controlling more borders than any a them punk Markers. The El Camino Boys. Bunch a slump chumps. Threw down on that whole raggedy tribe back—back when? El Monte Legion Stadium? La Puente? What was it? Done deal. They were sliming. Where's the history here?
(MEERA enters with BECKY. He carries his divining paraphernalia—strange boxes and electronic projection devices that look all jerry-rigged and somewhat outdated—maybe even an old 45 record player. MEERA gets completely tangled up in the wires and plugs of his equipment.)
HOSS (to MEERA): All right, slick face, what's the skinny? Can we move now? Becky tells me you're hedging.
MEERA: Pretty dicey, Hoss.
HOSS: What! I knew it! I knew it! Week ago you give me green lights! Solid. No question. Now, it's no slice. What's the sudden shift?
MEERA: Patterns, Hoss. Meshes. I'm sussing every way I can to keep up but some of my equipment is just getting blown away by all these new waves. I can't even read some a these ciphers. Watch. I'll show you.
(MEERA begins to set up his boxes, plugging them in, transferring wires, adjusting screens and keyboards, etc.)
HOSS: I don't wanna hear this! If we needed new equipment, why wasn't I informed? I'd be glad to pay for new equipment. I thought we were up to date here.
BECKY: A new Gazer wouldn't hurt.
MEERA: I'm the best there is. Hoss knows that.
HOSS: I don't know that! I'm running on faith ninety percent of the time. Wing & a prayer!
MEERA: Just take a look at what I've got. That's all I'm asking. It's come down to techno-improvisation, Hoss. That's the only way to play it. All the data's bastard-info now. Vague vectors. Nothing pure. No essence source. It's all been scarfed and scarred to the bone. Take a look.
(MEERA casts an image through his device.)
HOSS (staring at image): What's that?
MEERA: The El Caminos.
HOSS: I didn't bring you down here to look at pix of Roadkill! I'm ready for a Matar, man. A major Matar! I wanna move!
MEERA: You'll blow it.
HOSS: I'll blow it? What do you know. I've always moved on a sixth sense. I don't need your crossed up, half-assed chart mix! We might as well be staring at box tops from Quaker Oatmeal. Might be more current than this shit.
BECKY: You gotta play privey to the Charts, Hoss. You never went against the Charts before.
HOSS: That was before. When Charts were Charts. Everyone was tuned to E Major back then. The Killing Floor was level. I'm falling behind now! Maybe you don't understand that! I'm falling behind because I'm still tuned to E Major!
MEERA: Not true, Hoss. No verdo. Lookit this. Take a looksee. (He changes the image again.) The El Caminos are about six points off the shuffle. Mojo Root Force is the only one even close enough to flutter and Mojo's got no turn of foot. Never had that bottom gear.
HOSS: Mojo? That Fruitcake? What'd he conk?
MEERA: Phoenix, Hoss. He slipped it while the Caminos threw camp, thinking he was outa range.
HOSS: Phoenix? That's my Mark! I claimed that ticket! He can't take Phoenix!
MEERA: It's done, Hoss. Least according to this jibe.
HOSS: That's against the Code! That's an out and out cry-down against the Code! Didn't the Keepers chop him?
BECKY: Keepers are getting usurped too, Hoss. Everybody's on the buy-back.
HOSS: When did this shit happen? How come I'm the last to find out?
BECKY: We thought it'd rattle you too much.
HOSS: Rattle me! Nothing rattles me like knowing there's doo-dah going on behind my back!
MEERA: We weren't trying to keep it from you. Just treading for the right timing.
HOSS: I'm gonna git that chump. I'm gonna have him clean. Mojo Root Force. He knew Phoenix was on my ticket! He's trying to shake me. That's it, is it? Thinks I'll jump borders and scam suburban shots.
MEERA: I wouldn't give him a whole lota credit for strategy, Hoss.
HOSS: Well, I'm gonna crunch his bunker clean through. You watch.
BECKY: You can't bump against the Code, Hoss. Once a Marker strikes and sets up colors, that's his turf.
MEERA: Yeah, you can't strike claimed turf, Hoss. They'll pop you right outa the game.
HOSS: He did it! He took my mark! It was on my ticket!
MEERA: He'll just claim his wave system blew and he didn't suss it til it was too late.
HOSS: Well, he's gonna suss it now. I'll get a short fleet together and blow him out. He's gonna git so spun he'll think Phoenix is on the other side of the Antarctic.
BECKY: You gonna drop class? Is that it? Run with the Claimers? Sacrifice Solo Rights? You'll be a Gang Bopper again. A Punk Chump. Exile Bandito Trash. I ain't runnin with no Exile.
HOSS: I need the points! That Gold Record is not gonna wait for me to get straight with the Code. I'm not coppin to Ethical Suicide here, and miss a shot at a monster Matar. I need the fuckin points! I need a Kill!
MEERA: Best to hold steady, Hoss. This is a tender time. Lookee here. Just take a peep. Bits and choppers, but it scans.
(He throws more images on walls, screens, set, etc.)
HOSS: I don't need to visio more random road litter! I'm sittin on Ready!
MEERA: Just peek it. Timing. Wrong move'll set you back a year or more. Charts are moving too fast. Every day there's a new Star Marker now. You don't wanna be a Flyby. You want somethin durable, everlasting.
BECKY: He's choogin, Hoss. Loopy but choogin.
HOSS: He's dead meat. Look at this Vector shit on the wall! How do you make hide or hair outa this data mush?
MEERA: Patterns, Hoss. Matrix Mesh out there that needs new modes to conjure. I'm playing all this off the wall. Same as the rest.
HOSS: You're not comin up with an action! A Kill! You're fartin around in Info-Retard Land while my blood's on Go!
BECKY: Gotta listen to Management, Hoss. Fingering is everything.
HOSS: Management? This Zoombah can't even figure out the wiring anymore. Lookit him! Pathetic. Crawling through radio voltage from some lost World War his Daddy can't remember. Git his ass gone! I need me a Forward Man. Git me a Dee Jay or something. One a the Stand Bys.
MEERA: A Dee Jay?
HOSS (to MEERA): Git gone, Gazer. You've iced up in this crib.
BECKY: You're not firing him?
HOSS (to BECKY): You're the one told me he was buckled!
BECKY: Yeah, but you can't just shunt him out on the Lone PrayerEE. They'll dice him up for quick snacks.
MEERA (gathering up his equipment): I'll pack it. I was daydreaming a change of scenery anyhow. Stagnation never was my cup of meat.
HOSS (still sitting): I forged all my early Marks on Ruthless Culls. Ruthless. I'm not going soft now. Gotta kick out all the scruples. Go against the Code. That's what they all used to do. The Big Guns: Little Richard, Jerry Lee, Duane Eddy, Gene Vincent. They all broke Codes.
BECKY: But they were playing Doo-Dah, Hoss. They weren't Matando. You're a Killer, man. You're in the Big Bang.
HOSS: So were they. Cold Killers. Jerry Lee was called "The Killer." He even called himself that. Ask Meera. Go ahead, ask him. Ain't that verdo Meera?
MEERA (searching for a piece of equipment): What? Have you seen my loodo adapter? Little blue job. I'm lost without it.
BECKY: You're rompin treason against the Game, Hoss. You could get the Carcel for less than that.
HOSS: Treason, shit. I know my power. I can go on Gypsy Kill and still gain status. There's a whole underground swell going on. Lots a Gypsy Markers comin up. Ain't that right Meera?
BECKY: Why do you keep consulting him? You just gave him the ax.
HOSS: I'm not consulting! I'm firmin up.
MEERA (collecting his gear): I tell you what, Glib Man. This is free. Just before I hit the two-lane. I got nothin to lose by giving you the straight shit now. Shit you probably already got crawling through your skin. Reason you're so damn itchy and hot to trot. Yer day is down booga. Yer day is already been stepped on.
HOSS (to meera): I might just have your heels chained to a pickup and drag you to Tijuana my own self.
MEERA: That won't stop it comin. The Game's bustin up. Any wrench-head can see that. The Game's too small now. Can't contain true genius. Next genius is gonna be a Gypsy Killer. You sussed that down the middle. What you omit though, and for good dang reason, is the Mark itself. That, you left neatly clean outa the picture.
HOSS (to BECKY): Get this dogmeat outa here!
MEERA: That Mark is you, booga. None other. It's already in the jam. Done business.
HOSS (to BECKY): I want a Dee Jay in here! One a the big ones! No stand-by. An original. Kidnap him if you have to! Get him here.
(BECKY goes to escort MEERA and his equipment off stage.)
MEERA: It's been sweet, Hoss Man. A sweet run. Some dandy kills that I could trace my brand to. I can see me getting minced soon's I cross the moat. That's only natural. But it's gonna be a waltz in daisies compared to what you got comin.
HOSS: Get him gone!
(BECKY escorts MEERA off. HOSS left alone.)
HOSS (alone): Not premonition! Don't get tagged in that key. Not suspicion! Shadow mode. Bring it back. Bring it home, Hoss. Murder. Just plain murder. Blood. It's simple. Do the simple thing.
(HOSS goes into Song: "Make the Metal Scream.")
MAKE THE METAL SCREAM
I see telepresence
Birdcage on a loop baby
I feel greed infection
Tears of steam
It's the Jesus channel baby
Make the metal scream
I see blowdown damage
Mean square displacement baby
Just for a thrill
I got no protection
Come electrocute me baby
Make the metal scream
I've seen his face so many times
I know him blind
Not enough action
Not enough satisfaction
By the time I trace this shakedown
I'll be redesigned
I got all the angles
In deformation baby
I got no reflection
Come and lacerate me baby
Make the metal scream
Make the metal scream
Make the metal scream
(BECKY enters with RUIDO RAN, the Dee Jay who carries with him a whole different collection of ramshackle electronic divining equipment.)
BECKY: Snagged Ruido, man. Straight off the ruffle. Didn't have my patch out there two seconds and bam, he comes in loud and clear.
HOSS: Ruido Ran and the Radio Jam!
RUIDO: That's him, Slim. Heavy duty and on the whim. Back slappin side trackin, finger poppin, reelin rockin with the hot tips on the picks in the great Matando!
From the Trade Paperback edition.