Slaves – Episode 101
Episode 101 – Euphoria
(Michael Booker rests his weary back against an oak pillar on the back porch of the sprawling Dukesbury Plantation in rural Magnolia, Mississippi in June of 1863. James Cooper joins his friend on the porch, wiping flour on a frilly apron..)
Cooper: Bundt cake, bundt cake. All that kid wants is bundt cake!
Booker: Tilled fourteen acres this morning.
Cooper: “It’s your birthday, Henry Jr. You can have anything your heart desires. What do you want?” “Bundt cake.”
Booker: Mighty tough soil this summer. Too hard for tillin’.
Cooper: I mean really, it’s just about the worst possible cake.
Booker: Back’s actin’ up again. Doc told me to take it easy this afternoon.
Cooper: Carrot cake’s pretty bad. Any fruit cake, really. But bundt cake?
Booker: I tell Doc, “Don’t see how. Need to till another fourteen acres by sundown!” Doc just laugh, shake his head.
Cooper: What is “bundt” anyway? I mean I should know, right? I’m cookin’ the damn thing.
Booker: Looks like rain ’bout to come.
Cooper: Anyway, I need to run up to the store and get candles and brown sugar. Wanna tag along?
Booker: (nods) I s’pose.
(The black man from Sierra Leone and the white man from East Florida get up and make their way toward the stables when they’re intercepted by Overseer Robinson Tafford..)
Tafford: Now just where in the hell do you niggers think you’re going?
(James puts a hand in front of an advancing Michael..)
Cooper: Whoa. Easy with the language, Tafford.
Tafford: I don’t need to listen to a negro slave like you, Cooper!
Cooper: First of all, how many slaves do you know that get a sunburn? I don’t know how many times I have to go over this with you people.
Tafford: (holding his hands up) Whoa, “you people”? How dare you talk to a white man like that!
Cooper: (throws his arms out) I’m white! We’ve been over this a thousand times! Look at this pigmentation! Look at how pale I am! (shuffles his feet) Look at how terrible a dancer I am!
Tafford: (shaking his head) Nice try, Cooper. Your black magic might work on the others; got you in there doin’ housework. But me and Mr. Henry know the deal. We both know you’re a rare African Albino. Rarest in the land. Fetch a pretty penny on the open market if we ever were to sell ya. You keep mouthin’ off like that and we just might do it.
Cooper: African Albino. Would you listen to yourself, Tafford?
Booker: (puts a hand on James’ shoulder) Leave it be, James. (turning to Tafford) We’re just runnin’ into town to fetch some supplies, Mr. Tafford.
Tafford: Well, alright. Just be back by five for Henry Jr.’s party.
(Tafford turns to leave and the two slaves continue toward the stables..)
Cooper: Stupid Overseer. More like Over…stupid.
Booker: (glances sideways at James as they mount their horses)
Cooper: I had a better one earlier.
(Michael and James exit G&M General Store with candles and streamers..)
Cooper: I just don’t know why you let that jerk Tafford walk all over you, Mike. He’s an asshole.
Booker: Yeah, and you a slave. You might have a death wish, but I got a kid I wanna see again someday. I gotta lay low until the time is right. And you best do the same.
Cooper: You believe I’m white, right Mikey?
Booker: I sure hope so. Else you makin’ all us black folk look foolish.
Cooper: I would never do that, Michael. I respect the African-American community far too much.
Booker: The what now?
Cooper: You like that? I just came up with it. Hey look, it’s Professor Rollins. Hey, Prof. Rollins!
(A bearded, bespectacled old man comes around the bend on a horse-drawn carriage and hops down..)
Rollins: Boys! Boys! You must see my new invention! It’s the latest in communication convenience. I call it a “cellphone”. You can take it everywhere you go and use it to contact anyone at anytime, anywhere in the world!
Cooper: Wow, that sounds incredible. Take it everywhere, huh? What do you do, just put it in your pocket?
Rollins: No, you ride it.
Rollins: Well, it’s a very complex device. It’s right here behind me.
Booker: In the carriage?
Rollins: My boy, it is the carriage.
Cooper: Oh, that’s…convenient?
Rollins: Indubitably! Here, let me set it up. You just have to take this cord and attach it to the nearest telegraph line. This will just be a moment.
(A half-hour later, Prof. Rollins is climbing down off a nearby telegraph pole..)
Rollins: (to himself, fiddling with knobs) Just equalize the modulator here.
Cooper: Professor, we’ve really gotta be getting back.
Rollins: Nonsense! Here we are, I’ll just speak into the receiver….Hello there, distant traveler!
Robotic Rollins Voice: Hell-lo. Hell-lo.
(Michael and James glance at the house across the street and see Old Lady Cumberland waving at them..)
Cooper: Wow, that sure is…something.
Rollins: (beside himself) Isn’t it, though? How it works is it receives a normal Morse telegraph message and converts it onto a record phonograph where I’ve recorded every possible word combination and then my voice comes out the speaker.
Cooper: Yeah, your voice. About that. Maybe a nice calming, soothing voice instead? Like a lady’s?
Rollins: (shoulders slump) I’ve been recording every word in the English dictionary for months now.
Booker: Tell me, Professor. How far this machine go?
Rollins: Why, as far as the telegraph lines travel.
Booker: Even up to Philadelphia?
Rollins: I suppose it could. Sure!
Booker: (eyes light up) Professor, my daughter is in Philadelphia, working for a family there.
Rollins: Why Michael my boy, they don’t have slavery in the City of Brotherly Love.
Cooper: Lol, gay.
Booker: (to Cooper) Stop saying ‘lol’. Nobody gets that.
Cooper: (frowning) I heard Henry Jr. say it just the other day when you dropped that thresher on your foot.
Booker: (to the Professor) I made a deal with Mr. Dukesbury to keep an eye on my fellow “workers” if he sent my daughter away from all this to work for a family in a free state up north.
Rollins: That Mr. Dukesbury’s a good man.
Cooper: Well, still…slaveowner.
Booker: I would give anything to speak to my daughter again.
(Booker scribbles on a scrap of streamer..)
Booker: That’s their address. Is there any way you can get in touch with them? With her?
Rollins: (adjusts his spectacles) Meet me back here at 10 o’clock and I’ll have her on the line. If the man of the house doesn’t protest.
Booker: They a good family, I’m sure they won’t mind. And you a good man, Prof. Rollins. There a spot in Heaven just for you.
Rollins: (snaps his fingers) That’s the next invention I’m working on! A cellphone that can call Heaven! Imagine, speaking with the very angels themselves!
Cooper: Why do you call it a “cellphone” anyway?
Rollins: (shrugs) Just a funny nonsense word.
(The slaves are riding back to the Dukesbury plantation with their supplies..)
Cooper: And how exactly are we s’posed to get back into town at ten? Overseer Stupidhead isn’t gonna let us go twice.
Booker: Don’t worry ’bout that. I got a plan. You still cookin’ that bundt cake?
(Michael is looking over James’ shoulder as he grinds a green plant into the cake mix..)
Cooper: And you say this herb is just gonna knock everybody out?
Booker: Like a light.
Booker: Like a candle.
Cooper: Wait, this isn’t that herb is it? ‘Cause I’m pretty sure I…used all that.
Booker: Nah, this a different one. And we got a whole ‘nother crop of that other herb that you don’t know about. We just gave you the schwag crop.
Cooper: Aw man, I’ve been smoking schwag?
(Cooper glances at Henry Jr., who’s come into the kitchen scowling..)
Cooper: For my…glaucoma?
Henry Jr.: What’s he doing here?
Booker: (scuttles out the back door) I was just leavin’.
Cooper: (pops the cake tin in the oven) Be nice to him, Junior. He’s a friend.
Henry Jr.: He’s a slave. And you’re a slave, too. You’re all good-for-nothin’ slaves!
Cooper: (leans down into Henry Jr.’s face, glowering) I am gonna feed you so much fucking bundt cake.
Henry Jr.: Good, I love bundt cake.
Cooper: Then you’re gonna love this cake. ‘Cause it’s bundt cake.
Henry Jr.: Good!
Henry Jr.: Wonderful!
Cooper: Stupendous! … Oh and happy tenth birthday, kiddo.
(Later that evening, Michael and James stand in the dining room staring at the birthday boy and the Dukesburys’ house guests slumped over the dinner table..)
Cooper: Wow, that was quick.
Cooper: Um, are they gonna wake up?
Booker: Yeah, they should be fine.
Cooper: “Should be”?
Booker: Well, Grampa Dukesbury’s already kinda old..
Cooper: Jeez, let’s get outta here.
(Cooper giggles as they run back toward the stables..)
Cooper: We are such naughty slaves!
(Prof. Rollins is waiting for the slaves as they arrive on a quiet Main Street in Magnolia, MS..)
Rollins: (smiling) Michael? Somebody wants to talk to you.
(Rollins hands Booker the receiver. The Professor’s robotic voice emits from the speaker..)
Mae: Hell-lo Dad-dy.
Booker: (eyes well up) Mae? That really you?
Mae: Yes. It is me. Your daugh-ter, Mae.
Booker: Oh, Mae! I’ve been waiting so long to hear your voice again. I think about you everyday, baby.
Mae: I miss you too, Dad-dy.
Cooper: Wait a minute. How do we know you didn’t just record this earlier, Professor? I mean, it is your voice.
Mae: Is that you, James?
Mae: Is it true you’re an Af-ri-can Al-bi-no?
Cooper: Oh, c’mon! You told her that?
Booker: (shrugs) Gotta fill those letters with somethin’.
Cooper: No, Mae. I’m a white man who — through a series of unfortunate circumstances — became a slave. Long story. I’ll tell you it sometime.
Booker: You gonna tell her it soon, ’cause we gon’ go get her. (into the receiver) You hear that, Mae? We gon’ come get you.
Mae: Real-ly Dad-dy?
Booker: (tear running down his cheek) Yes, Mae. I’ll talk to you soon. I love you, baby.
Mae: I love you, Dad-dy.
(Booker embraces the Professor and the slaves jump back on their horses, racing back to the plantation before the guests wake up..)
Cooper: What was all that back there about going to get Mae?
Booker: We’re leavin’ this plantation, Cooper. We’re leavin’ and we’re never comin’ back. I’m gonna get my daughter back.
Cooper: Should I pack a coat?