Act IV, Scene I
I wasted time, and now doth time waste me. ~ King Richard II, Act V, Scene V
The aroma of last night's Chinese takeout hung heavy in the air after being reheated for this afternoon's early supper. The wonton soup didn't smell quite right. Or maybe it was the egg rolls? Still, they tasted fine as leftovers, lacking of course their original zest. And the smell DID cover the reek of cigarette smoke that had been infused into every permeable surface in the room.
Bob had requested checking into a non-smoking room after a few days of the stench brutalized his sinuses, but no such luck would befall him. Only eight of the motel's twenty-six rooms were designated non-smoking, and all eight had been booked solid ever since he'd checked in over two weeks ago. The one time a non-smoking room opened up, it had been immediately given to a new arrival, which infuriated Bob since he had specifically asked not two days earlier to be upgraded at the first opportunity.
The past few days were a blur. There was no seam to separate day from night behind the thick curtains; only a barely discernible transition from gloom to even darker gloom. Alcohol smoothed out any rough surfaces, perfecting the haze in which Bob had resigned himself to live in. This dingy motel room had become his self-imposed prison cell, himself his own coldly indifferent warden.
Sprawled out on a bed in a stained wife beater and black-soled socks, he resembled a degenerate Al Bundy with a remote control in one hand and the other tucked comfortably under the waistband of his boxers. He retained his sophistication and dignity by watching the BBC, National Geographic and various other intellectual channels, as if somehow that would combat the constant assault of alcohol on his brain cells.
He'd gone and put in an application at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant a few days earlier, and had been contacted promptly to schedule an interview with plant owner C. Montgomery Burns. Bob reasoned that if Homer Simpson (aka 'any idiot') could get a job there, then certainly he, Robert Underdunk Terwilliger, Jr., Yale graduate, esteemed classical actor and champion of high culture, would have no difficulty acquiring a position worthy of his lofty credentials. Despite his confidence, as the days wore on leading up to his interview, he found himself sinking into another pit of apathy and depression.
Now here he lay, in soiled underclothes, on a soiled bed, neither of which had been changed in days, surrounded by empty bottles, greasy takeout boxes, torn Playboys, crusts and crumbs and wrinkled, unwashed clothes. A severe case of bed head made his hair even more unruly than usual, and four days' worth of stubble gave his long face an aged look. Tomorrow was his interview with Mr. Burns, and he would arrive looking his finest, but until then, he couldn't care less about anything. Even himself.
He reached for the half-empty bottle on the nightstand, unscrewed the lid, and took a drink.
Life had been a gradual downhill slope ever since he'd become Krusty the Clown's unwitting sidekick. Always being pushed and pushed and pushed too far by one thing or another, it seemed, until one day he'd snapped and pushed back, framing his employer for armed robbery. Being foiled by a mere child, he'd snapped again, and pushed back even harder. Bob had always had anger issues, had always lashed out at the world one way or another. Why? He'd never given it much thought until recently, when he'd been cast out of paradise by his faux family and the fair-weather citizens of Salsiccia. It had been one blow too many, and in the end he'd realized that he had no one to blame but himself.
He took another swig.
It would have been far too easy to have murdered Bart Simpson, Krusty - anyone who'd ever crossed him. He was far from inept. He'd practiced archery, fencing and various other sports and hobbies that had honed his physical prowess. He was a skilled marksman and swordsman, and even without those talents he could have ended many lives effortlessly. Anyone can fire a gun or wield a knife. Bob COULD have been a murderer. But he wasn't. No matter how much his rage consumed him, he'd always held fast to a shred of sanity, enough to keep him from taking that final step into that black void from which he could never return.
He took another large gulp. The vodka stung his throat.
After all he'd done, all the chances he'd had, he'd never harmed a single hair on Bart Simpson's head, and no one who'd truly paid attention could ever accuse him otherwise. Thoroughly terrorizing the boy had been sufficient, yet it was never enough to conquer his own demons, only to keep them at bay a little while longer. It just wasn't in him to take a life, and all along some part of him had known that. It was that little part of him that spared the world from the wrath of Sideshow Bob.
Why, then, did he always allow himself to get caught? Was it some deeply rooted desire for attention? To punish himself? Or perhaps to stop himself before he did something truly abhorrent? Was that his subconscious way of safeguarding the world from his rage? He'd ask the man in the mirror, if he could only find the courage to face him. Mirrors had become enemies, things he couldn't bear to look at half of the time for fear of the monster that lived inside. This was no way to live. He had to make a new life for himself, become a brand new Bob - starting tomorrow, with his interview at the nuclear power plant.
He drained the bottle and drifted off to sleep.
When Bob awoke again, the world beyond the curtains was a soft pearly blue fading into grey. A sliver of the motel's neon sign could also be seen flickering to life. From where he lay he could make out the one functioning letter E and the dark space beside it where its twin had died out, rendering the Sleep-Eazy Motel the more aptly nicknamed 'Sleazy Motel'.
As if to lend credence to this moniker, the sound of girlish giggles preceded a shapely figure passing by Bob's window. A second, more rotund figure followed. Their footsteps slowed and halted just outside his door. At the sound of a key card being swiped, Bob sat bolt upright in bed. The door swung open and he found himself staring at none other than Springfield's infamous Mayor Quimby. Clutching his arm was a busty blonde in a clingy red cocktail dress. She had a flamboyant hairstyle that clearly belonged in the eighties, which, judging by her apparent age, was most likely older than the girl herself.
"Oh! Excuse me!" Quimby muttered, taking a step back out of the room. He glanced at the numbers on the door, then back at Bob. "Er, uh, isn't this room sixteen?"
"No, it isn't." With a frustrated sigh, Bob stood up and walked to the door. "It's nineteen. See?" With a slender finger he turned the tarnished brass '6', which hung loosely by a single screw, over and upward until it stood level with the number 1. It was now very plainly a 9.
Quimby looked embarrassed by his mistake. "Ah, yes, well... I, er, uh, I thought they were those, uh, fancy slanting numbers."
Bob nodded but made no remark about how their key card had somehow been programmed to unlock HIS door. He glanced around at the other doors, suspecting that they could all be opened with the same key card. It was half tempting to make a round of all the rooms and try out his own card on them just to see if he was right.
He took his finger off the brass number and it slid back down to hang in its previous position. The blonde gasped and placed her finger on it next. "Look at that, Joe! It's a six! And now it's a nine!" She twirled it up and down. "Six. Nine. Six. Nine. Six. Nine - OH! I totally get it now!" She turned to Bob with a grin that was both childlike and sultry. "Hey mister, do YOU know why they call it a sixty-nine?"
Bob stared at her, resisting a smirk. "No. Why?"
Before she could answer, the brass 9 fell off the door, clattering on the concrete walkway. The girl bent over to pick it up, giving Bob a brief but enticing view of her cleavage. When she stood up again her hair brushed the front of his boxers. He stepped back a moment too late.
"Wow, mister, you've sure got big feet!" she exclaimed, handing him the 9. "You know what they say about guys with big feet, dontcha?"
Again Bob stared at her, incredulous. "No. What?"
She shrugged. "I don't know either!"
Mayor Quimby cleared his throat. "Er, come along now, Syphilis," he mumbled, taking her by the elbow. "I, er, think we've disturbed this gentleman long enough."
"It's Sylvia Phyllis!" the girl protested. "Not 'Silly Philly' or whatever you just called me!"
Bob sighed and shut the door, this time using the manual lock to prevent another key card from gaining access to his room. A few minutes later, and after what sounded like an ugly altercation with a drunk they'd intruded on, Quimby and his date finally located their own room, which, unfortunately for Bob, happened to be right next door.
The sound of moans and squeaky bed springs traveled through the thin wall that separated his room from theirs. Bob maxed the volume on the remote, but it did little good as the TV was currently featuring a soft-spoken drama on the BBC channel. Unable to tune them out, he soon found himself bothered by the scandalous noises in more ways than one. Fishing a Playboy out from under his pillow, he flipped it open to the centerfold (who bore a convenient resemblance to Quimby's date) but his heart wasn't in it.
Some of his cellmates had teased him for not subscribing to more explicit adult magazines, but frankly he'd found most of them to be nothing but stomach-churning smut. Was it not enough for most men to simply appreciate the beauty of the female form without tainting the image with bodily fluids and foreign objects crammed where they don't belong? Perhaps he WAS too sophisticated for his own good, which explained why the ruckus next door failed to arouse him.
His thoughts wandered from the act itself to the people involved. MAYOR Quimby, now there's a joke! Bob snorted. How that sordid excuse for a mayor managed to avoid bloody impeachment was nothing short of an undeserved mercy. He cared nothing for the citizens of Springfield, unless they were stuffing his pockets or sleeping with him. Bob, on the other hand, had been a very personable mayor, faithful to his 'wife' and to all appearances had been a doting father. What cruel irony that HE should be robbed of his post while that doltish philanderer in the next room remained in office!
And that bimbo... what self-respecting woman would be caught dead in the same bed with Quimby? Not counting the former Miss Springfield, whose giggles were like sandpaper on the eardrums. No self respect there. Not a drop. Francesca, on the other hand... she was a strong-willed, intelligent woman, someone Bob could have easily admired, were it not for the fact that she'd had too much self respect. She'd walked all over him in her delusions of grandeur. And he'd allowed it. If he wasn't playing the role of villain, he was playing the victim.
He rolled over and opened the drawer on the nightstand. Inside lay an unopened bottle of Bacardi next to an unopened Bible. He reached for his poison, then paused, eyeing the book beside it. His hand moved toward the latter as if deciding on its own, but stopped again. His fingers trembled, and he suddenly felt as though touching either one of them would scald his flesh. With a sigh he shut the drawer and went to get a drink of water from the bathroom sink instead.
Somewhere between villain and victim, and slightly above, was a role Bob knew he was destined to fill. No great highs, no deep lows. Just a normal human being. He forced himself to look at his reflection in the bathroom mirror, glaring hard at the man he both loved and loathed like no other. He'd lived at both ends of the spectrum, and both came with their hefty price. He was sick and tired of having to play the role of someone else, to don another's facade and act the part of jester or king, traipsing across the worldly stage in shoes that were either far too large or far too small. It was high time to stop pretending to be something he wasn't and to start living his own life. It was time to start being Bob.
ACT V: [link]
Sorry if that wasn't the most entertaining chapter. It wasn't until after I'd posted Act III that I realized I wanted to write a little something on Bob's inner struggle, and from what I've got plotted out, there was no place it would fit into the story except right here.