Wednesday, February 9, 2011


I'm tired of talking about death on my blog. But important people just. keep. dying.

Douglass Parker is gone. My dearest darling Dougie. You already know the story of how I loved him. He died yesterday at the tender age of 256 of injuries sustained from a heated agon with an organ grinder's monkey.

But you oughta see the monkey.

When he saw the effusive blog post I wrote about him last year (here's the link once more for the cheap seats in the back), he emailed me with one of his signature lyrical missives:

You've done me proud, and I'm almost afraid to go out for the mail, lest the crowds of the classical curious crush me in their rush. That "familiarity of friends or lovers from another lifetime," while quite true, could get frantic with the huge readership you must have...

He signed it Best love, doug. I blushed from my head to my toes. I wrote him back with eager tales of my exciting young life, but I guess he really started to decline around then. I wrote and wrote but I never heard from him again.

Readers, I loved him.

I loved to write for him. Translations were my votive offerings to him. So I've unearthed my circa 2006 attempt at a Parkerian rendition of a scene from Apuleius' Metamorphis. If that sounds boring, you have never read any Douglass Parker. Or Apueleius. I wrote this for Doug's Apuleius class and performed it with classmates Steve and Steve for Doug and the whole class.

NB: I do my best to keep this blog appropriate for all audiences. This is ancient literature so it's okay that this entire piece is about sex. Consider yourself warned.

Elbow Grease

an adaptation from Apuleius' Metamorphosis


Trixie, an adulterous wife
Phil, her cunning lover
Marc, her clueless husband

SCENE: It is late morning on a weekday in Marc and Trixie's modest home. Light is streaming in between cracks in closed shutters. A large pot rests in the corner, and a bottle of perfume sits on the dresser. Trixie and Phil are in bed, entirely obscured by covers, candoodling. All is quiet but for giggles and smacking noises. Suddenly, the doorknob rattles; someone is trying to get in.

PHIL (popping his head out from under the covers):
Did you hear that, my darling?
I thought I heard knocking!

TRIXIE (popping her head out from the other end of the covers):
It's nothing, my baby,
just neighbor kids playing.
Now stop all this nonsense
and get back to--

The doorknob rattles again, this time louder.

MARC (from the other side of the door):

TRIXIE (leaping up clumsily, kicking Phil in the process, pulling a robe on over her nightie, trying to smoothe her frizzy hair):
Shit-SHIT-shit, shit-SHIT-shit,
my husband is home!
(Louder, towards the door):
(mumbled, to herself, with raised eyebrows):
I wish.

PHIL (petrified with fear, pacing the room in a robe and shaking his hands):
Oh no oh no oh no.
He's home he's home he's home.

TRIXIE (exasperated, whispering, hissing):
Stop it and shut up and get in my pot!

Phil looks up expectantly and lustily.

(now really exasperated, pointing at the pot):
NO! No no no! In the pot!!

Trixie grabs Phil by the arm and hurls him towards the pot, throwing his clothes in the pot on top of him. She pats her hair one last time, grabs a bottle of perfume and spritzes it on herself, spreads the sheets on the bed hurriedly. She takes a deep breath and opens the door.

TRIXIE (icily):
So sorry it took me so much time to answer.
I'm working on weaving and covered in blisters.
So why are you home at this quite early hour?
Forgotten we've run out of money for flour?
(with increasing hostility, up in Marc's face)
Forgotten your wifey a-weaving all day?
Forgotten the thick stack of bills left to pay?
I wish I was Daphne, the slut-queen next door
With lovers and manfriends and callers galore.

MARC (looking wounded):
Oh darling, my darling, it's not what you think
My boss is in court, I've got it in ink (waves around piece of paper)
He gave us the day off, believe or not,
And I found some poor sucker to buy that old pot!
It's a big useless thing and it just takes up space
And for six smackeroos, it can fill up his place!
(Looking pleased, he starts to walk into the bedroom.)
Would you give me a hand with this big heavy thing?

TRIXIE (jumping in front of him and talking sarcastically):
Oh, my big man, he got him a swell deal.
And for six big old smackers! A regular steal.
Well, let me just tell you, you're dumb as a louse
I sold it for seven without leaving the house!

MARC (excitedly):
Sweet sassy molassy, oh could it be true?
That pot sold for seven by a woman like you?
But the pot is still here, Trixie. Where is the guy?

TRIXIE (nervously)
Old boy jumped in the pot just to give it a try!

Phil pops out of the pot right on cue, wearing only his robe and a tie. He adjusts his tie and pushes his glasses up on his nose, affecting a very serious air.

PHIL (regretfully):
I tell ya, Miss Trixie, I'm not gonna lie
I was willing to give your old warhorse a try
But it might be just a bit too ancient for me
There's cracks and there's chips on the side, you can see
And one thousand years worth of oil residue
And the pot is just covered with sticky black goo!
(turning to the husband, speaking to him as though he were a slave)
You there, dear boy, go do something for me
Give me a flashlight so that I can see
The extent of the damage this pot has incurred
It's too dark in here and my vision is blurred.

Marc, taken aback, pauses for a moment and then scurries off, returning with a flashlight.

MARC (hesitating):
On second thought, friend, leave the looking to me
I'll scrape out the goo for a nominal fee.
I'm just kidding, good man, I will clean it up right
and we'll have it to yours by the end of the night.
(Marc moves towards Phil, pulls him out of the pot and shuffles towards the door.)
Now, thank you for coming, and if you would please--

PHIL (assertively, leading Marc towards the pot):
No, tonight is no good, sir, I need it today
My-–uh--mother, who needs it, is in a bad way
I'll just stick around while you give it a wipe
And take these few moments to talk with your wife.

Marc shrugs and climbs into the pot with the flashlight.

Marc (from inside the pot):
This jug is so filthy--this black goo, it reeks!

TRIXIE (leaning over the edge of the pot, facing the audience):
Mind if I take just a few little peeks?
(Phil creeps up behind Trixie on his knees and lifts up her robe. His head disappears under the fabric. She is visibly surprised.)
OOOH! O-oh my god, that's dirty as hell.
(She realizes she's spoken out loud and tries to recover.)
I mean, uh, the pot, um--clean it up well!
(With increasing intensity)
It's been months since it's gotten a good proper cleaning
So keep at it boy! (whispered, to Phil) If you get my meaning.

She gasps loudly. Marc pops out of the pot and turns to look at her. She straightens up quickly and you can hear Phil's muffled yelp as she suffocates him.

Are you okay, Trixie? You're getting worked up.
(Starting to climb out):
You want some tea? I'll make you a cup.

PHIL (muffled): I CAN'T BREATHE!

TRIXIE (horrified, trying to recover):
I CAN'T BREATHE! I CAN'T BREATHE! You're stirring up dust!
I need to lay down. (aside): 'Cause I'm shaking with lust!
(Marc looks up; he's heard her aside)
I mean must! I mean rust! My god, is it hot?
I think right down here on the floor is the spot.

Trixie sinks down out of view suspiciously behind the pot. While Marc bangs away inside the pot, Trixie's legs slowly rise back into view from behind the pot and they move around suggestively.

MARC (calling up from inside the pot):
So, Phil, my good man, just what do you do?

PHIL (poking his head up so it is visible above the pot):
I'm a personal trainer at 12th and Magoo.

Phil's head disappears as Marc's rises out of the pot. Marc looks perplexed, looking around.

MARC (cautiously, confused):
Say there, dear sir, why are you on the floor?

I'm, uh, showing her stretches!

Never done these before!

Marc sinks back down into the pot with his brows furrowed. Trixie's legs rise back into view. Her legs move in time with the banging in the pot. Suddenly a clamor arises from inside the pot.

MARC (explosively):
Oh, dammit, goddamn it, I've done it again!

Trixie leaps up and looks over the edge of the pot. Phil leaps up behind her and starts going at it vigorously.

TRIXIE (exasperated, even pained):
Oh Jesus, you dumbass, you're scraping too hard!
Ouch! Stop it, you'll hurt it! You're scraping too hard!!
(Phil stops his wild gyrations. Trixie looks relieved.)
That's better, much better, oh thank you, my dear.
But I'm thinking you missed a spot right over here.
Just a little bit left, and a little bit south
Just do it the way you would do with your mouth!

MARC (confused, still down in the pot):
Just do it the way I would with my mouth?
What on earth in the world are you talking about?

Trixie takes a moment, still bent over, grasping at what to say. Phil's eyes roll back in his head and he makes the face of la petite mort. He stops and smiles and wipes his brow and dusts his hands off, rewrapping his robe and stepping away. Marc rises slowly out of the pot as soon as Phil is safely away.

Um, Trixie, you're acting a little bit whack.

Marc sets down his tool.

TRIXIE (explosively, speaking neither to Marc nor Phil):
So you're stopping and thinking I'll cut you some slack?
You're worthless, just quitting whenever you're through,
Didn't think of the pot, what she needs, did you?

Trixie pauses, thinks, and turns on Phil, assuming a cool demeanor.

Well, I reckon she's got just as clean as she'll get
Just seven denarii and we'll be set.

She pauses again as Phil fumbles for his wallet in the robe. She picks it up off the floor.

Here's your wallet right here, sir, I'll get it right now.

She counts out a few denarii, starts to hand it back, pauses, opens the wallet again and takes out all the money, pauses, and then takes out a credit card. An ancient Roman credit card. She hands it back to him with a hearty clap on the shoulder.

That should do it! I tell ya, that's a deal sir, and how!

She smiles and walks over to the pot, pulling out Phil's clothes.

And, honey, ya see, I got you new pants!
They'll look fabulous Saturday night at the dance.

She hands the pants to Marc and kisses him on the cheek, looking over at Phil pointedly.

Well, pack it up boys, and take her away,
I've got lots of weaving to finish today.
It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr.--What was your name?
Well, it's been lovely to meet you, dear sir, all the same.

She stops and checks her watch.

Okay then! See ya later! I hope you can manage!
Watch out now! You don't want to add to the damage!

Marc and Phil dutifully scoot the pot towards the door in silence. Phil is glaring at Trixie. They walk out and shut the door. Trixie checks her watch. After a few beats, there is a knock at the door.

Trixie? You here baby?

Trixie smiles and pats her hair and spritzes on some perfume and walks over to the door.


If you'd like to read a proper obituary for Douglass Parker, there's a lovely one here.


  1. Hey! Bummer for Douglass, but that's an AWESOME translated escapade. Those Greeks were Freeks. :)

  2. Bless ya for translating something fun...and I tell you, happy moments like your class were the only things that kept WAG from being sucked into an evil vortex a la Poltergeist, and DP was good for keeping the evil at bay like that. God help 'em all, hope DP is somewhere far more enjoyable.

  3. I hope the memory of his sweet spirit is enough to keep that place from finally losing its fingernail grip on reality. Maybe I should loan them my apotropaic baby head.

  4. I wish I had come here early enough to have had class with him. I have really missed out.

    TP sent out an email to the department listserv saying (among many other things) that "Douglass brought a shaming decency into the most indecent turmoils in the department." The comedy seminar at the APA was dedicated to him, and the presenters cried.

  5. WHOA BROOKE CHECK MY TWITTER, I just tweeted that almost verbatim. Shaming decency. So true.

  6. He was an amazing professor, and I made some lifelong friends in his Parageography class. I'm going to miss him (even if he never gave me back my map!). :-)