Slaves – Episode 108
White slave James Cooper and black slave Michael Booker have escaped from their Mississippi plantation in order to reunite Michael with his eleven-year-old daughter Mae in Philadelphia..
Episode 108 – As Cool As I Am
(Michael and James stumble out of the Dukesbury Wheat bag and find themselves at the rear of a town market. A smell of salty air wafts through the breeze..)
Cooper: Where the heck are we?
Booker: Smells like we near the ocean. I thought you said that wagon was heading north!
Cooper: Edward is an unpredictable horse. He probably saw some sweet mare tail heading the other way and changed direction.
Booker: (shaking his head) We might as well have stayed on the plantation. Now it’s gonna take twice as long to get to Mae.
Cooper: We’ll ask around about that Underground Railroad you were talking about. Maybe there’s a train station nearby.
Booker: It’s not an actual train, you nimrod.
Cooper: So why’s it on a railroad, you…nimrod.
Booker: (rolls his eyes) Good comeback.
Cooper: (frowns) You’re a good comeback.
Booker: Let’s ask the storekeep here where in the hell we are.
Acorn: (creeping up from behind) You’re in Louisiana.
Cooper: What the! Hoozat!
Booker: (doffing his filthy cap) Ms. Acorn, you followed us all the way down here?
Acorn: (nodding) I hopped on the wagon with Rusty. Pretended I was interviewing him to keep an eye on you guys.
Cooper: (eyes narrowing) You’re not gonna rat us out, are you? (switching his demeanor) Because we’re totally not escaping or anything.
Acorn: (shaking her head) A real-live slave plantation escape. This story could make me famous. You’re too valuable to turn in. And besides, I had to get out of Magnolia anyway. Mr. Dukesbury got his hands on an early draft of my piece and was threatening to sue for defamation of character. How about I ask around about that Railroad and you two lay low here at the general store. Harvey there’s nice.
(Eloise hands the slaves some Confederate money..)
Acorn: Get yourself something to eat while I do some sleuthing.
Cooper: (grinning) Gee whiz, you sure are kind, Ms. Acorn.
(James picks up a bottle, reading the label..)
Cooper: “Coca-Cola, made with real coca.” Huh, wonder what that is.
(A young Union soldier in a bushy fake mustache stops into a nearby tavern and proceeds to the back corner, sitting down across from an older bearded man, cloaked in shadows..)
Stranger: You got some information for me, son?
Soldier: (nervously clutching at his hat) Uh, yessir. On the, uh, Underground Railroad.
Stranger: Lay it on me, soldier.
Soldier: I have it on good authority that the starting point has been discovered and is just outside this town. Near a place called “Gilligan’s Cavern”. Ms. Tubman should be there tonight.
Stranger: Excellent work, son.
Soldier: I don’t see any other troops around. Are you gonna take Tubman in yourself?
Stranger: (shaking his head, calling for another beer) I’m not gonna take her at all. Just needed to find out where the trail starts. You don’t take a smuggler when their arms are empty, son. You get ’em when they’re hands are full.
Soldier: (nodding) About that cash reward? I gotta get back to my troop.
(Gen. Stonewall Jackson leans forward grinning and flicks a shiny Confederate gold coin across the table..)
Jackson: Much obliged, Yankee.
Cooper: Let’s run to Philadelphia!
(James is busily scratching his arm to the point of bleeding as Michael glances around the empty soda shop..)
Booker: How much of that Coca-Cola did you have?
Cooper: About seventeen bottles. These Confederate dollars sure do go a long way! You wanna run to Philadelphia? Let’s run to Philadelphia. I bet I can lift this bar.
Booker: You gotta settle down.
Cooper: I’m gonna go find that underground train. (races out of the shop)
Booker: Ah, hell.
(Back at the Dukesbury plantation, Mr. Dukesbury and Overseer Tafford are meeting with two bounty hunters — one a heavily-tanned bald man, the other a young Indian — who answered an advertisement in that morning’s Magnolia Herald..)
Hannibal: (shaking the slaveowner’s hand) Mr. Dukesbury, my name’s Hannibal and this here’s Kid Curry. We call him that, ’cause he’s Indian.
Dukesbury: (frowning) Doesn’t look like any Indian I’ve ever seen. What are you, boy? Navajo? Cherokee? Takahoomsett?
Curry: (turns quizzically to Hannibal)
Hannibal: (chuckling) No, Mr. Dukesbury. I’m afraid you’re mistaken. Kid Curry here’s an actual Indian, from India. He doesn’t speak a lot of English, but he’s a helluva bloodhound. He’ll find your slaves.
Dukesbury: Great. So you’ve got the sketches there. One of ’em’s a bit lighter-skinned than the other.
Tafford: (chiming in) He’s an African Albino. And he’s a real dick.
Dukesbury: They should be heading toward Philadelphia. That’s where Booker’s daughter is.
Hannibal: Any idea how they’re traveling? By horse? By foot?
Tafford: I’ve heard some of the other slaves make mention of a railroad, under the ground.
Hannibal: An underground railroad. Will wonders never cease.
(A Coca-Cola-crazed James sprints headlong into a horse pulling a wagon. As Eloise hops off the wagon, James gets up in the horse’s face..)
Cooper: Think you’re so cool ’cause you’re tall, huh? I’ll take you, buddy!
(Michael holds James back..)
Booker: Whoa, Jim. This ain’t your fight.
Acorn: Gentlemen, I found your railroad.
Cooper: Railroad? We don’t need no stinkin’ railroad. I’ll fly us to Philadelphia. (grabs at Eloise) Here, get on my back.
Acorn: (pushing James away) What’s with him?
Booker: Too much soda. So, where is it? Did you meet Ms. Tubman?
Acorn: Not exactly. Clem here knows where it is and he’s willing to take us there.
Booker: Gee thanks, Clem.
Clem: He gon’ be alright?
(James is gnawing at the side of the wagon..)
Acorn: No. No, he’s not.
(An hour later in rural country outside of the small Louisiana town Clem, Eloise and the slaves come up on a rocky outcropping known as Gilligan’s Cavern..)
Cooper: (shakes Clem’s hand violently) Thanks for the ride, Giant Bunny!
Clem: Sure thing. Now y’all just wait ’til nightfall and that Tubman character will come along and take you on your way. Good luck!
Acorn: (waving after the wagon as it fades away) Thanks, Clem!
Booker: (takes a seat against the rocks) Now we wait.
Acorn: Any ideas of how to pass the time?
Cooper: (hands shaking uncontrollably) Let’s count how many back flips I can do!
(As dusk rolls in, James is rubbing his sore neck after half a back flip..)
Cooper: Crashing pretty hard after all that soda, you guys.
(A balding old white man with a cane hobbles up out of the cavern, jumping Michael and Eloise up out of their seats..)
Old Man: Why, hello there!
Acorn: (shaking the man’s hand) Evening, sir. We’re looking for Harriet Tubman?
Tubman: (smiling) I’m Harry S. Tubman!
Tubman: Y’all better hurry up. The train’s about to leave!
Cooper: (leaning over, whispering) Toldja.