putin

Poster credit: Michael & Holly Gerbino at ARCHIGRAFIKA.

a short play by Robert Kerbeck

SETTING
An empty locker room at a Moscow ice skating rink. Benches line the SL and SR walls. The sound of chanting: Putin, Putin, Putin. Chanting fades.

(Edward Snowden enters carrying two Russian Ushanka hats, which are covered in fur with large earflaps. He places them on the SR bench and uses his phone to take pictures of the hats. He types, then stops to read what he has written. He shrugs his shoulders and pushes send. Vladimir Putin enters wearing ice skates and full hockey equipment, including a helmet with a visor.)

PUTIN
Did you see? Did you see?!

SNOWDEN
Uh, yes, Mr. President, I did.

(There is a pause. Putin frowns.)

You, uh, had a great game. You scored a lot of goals.

PUTIN
(now smiling) Shitload.

SNOWDEN
Excuse me?

PUTIN
Shitload is right word, yes?

SNOWDEN
Uh, yeah, I guess.

PUTIN
Say it.

SNOWDEN
Shitload?

PUTIN
Yes, say you scored shitload of goals.

SNOWDEN
You scored a shitload of goals?

PUTIN
Say it like a man, Edward, not some pussy boy.

(Putin brings his stick up like he is going to use it. Snowden backs away.)

SNOWDEN
You scored a shitload of goals.

PUTIN
Again.

SNOWDEN
You scored a shitload of goals.

PUTIN
(pounding his stick) HOW MANY?

SNOWDEN
A shitload! A SHITLOAD!

PUTIN
Putting puck in net like defying the West, only better. Where is my PBR?

SNOWDEN
Uh, PBR?

PUTIN
Pabst Blue Ribbon. Is tradition after game to drink hip Russian beer.

SNOWDEN
I’m sorry, Mr. President, but Pabst Blue Ribbon is as American as it gets.

PUTIN
Edward, you need to read more than just state secrets. (laughs) Russian oligarch and good friend bought company. Is Russian beer now. WHERE IS MY PBR?

SNOWDEN
(looking around) There isn’t any. No one’s been in here since I came in.

PUTIN
There is always PBR, my puny American friend!

(A giant PBR can appears from a slot in the upstage wall and is placed onto a bench. Snowden notices and brings it to Putin, opening it along the way. Putin extends his stick, which Snowden takes. He offers Putin the can.)

PUTIN
Gloves only good for punching faces, not drinking beer.

(Putin presents his right glove to Snowden, who removes it and then gives Putin the beer can. Putin chugs a large portion of it.)

PUTIN
(Burps) Did you see those girly men afraid to touch me?

SNOWDEN
Uh.

PUTIN
Every one of them scared to check me. Did you see me skate by them all?

SNOWDEN
I did, Mr. President.

PUTIN
You got video? You post on YouTube, yes?

SNOWDEN
Not yet.

PUTIN
Edward, did you say “Nyet?” (laughs) You are learning our language! You make me proud!

(He throws a punch with his remaining gloved hand, nailing Snowden.)

SNOWDEN
Ow. (rubs his shoulder) It’s difficult.

PUTIN
Scoring seven goals against best players in Russia, that is difficult.

Undress!

(Snowden looks unsure but starts to unbutton his shirt.)

PUTIN
Not you! Me!

SNOWDEN
Oh. Sorry.

(He removes Putin’s helmet. Putin holds out his other glove and Snowden removes it. He tries to take the PBR can, but Putin won’t let go.)

PUTIN
Jersey! But you mustn’t let me spill. Not one drop. That would be bad luck. Yours! (laughs)

(He bends at the waist, and while drinking, switches the can from one hand to the other as Snowden pulls off the jersey. Putin stands upright with the PBR empty.)

PUTIN
Harashur!

(Putin hands the can to Snowden who places it on the bench. He waits for the can to disappear but nothing happens. He walks back to Putin. Once his back is turned a hand reaches through the slot and removes the can. Snowden turns around to see it’s gone. When he turns back to Putin, a bottle of vodka appears. Snowden turns back again, pissed he hasn’t been able to observe this. He retrieves the vodka and hands it to Putin.)

PUTIN
Remove elbow pads. (He takes a swig.)

(One of the pads has a sharp point, like a spear tip. Snowden goes to touch it.)

PUTIN
Careful. Tip has polonium 210. Will not kill you right away. Just make you weak during game. (pauses.) And dead right after.

(Snowden pulls away his hand.)

PUTIN
I am kidding. It is joke, Edward. Grow ball sack. Though pads are illegal in your NHL. Good thing we are not in the States, yes? (laughs)

(Snowden removes both elbow pads, as Putin takes an enormous pull of the vodka. Snowden removes Putin’s shoulder pads too, leaving him naked from the waist up. Putin inhales and flexes his arms in a muscle man pose, gesturing toward Snowden. Putin’s face starts to turn red from holding his breath.)

SNOWDEN
Oh, right.

(Snowden takes out his phone and snaps pictures of Putin.)

SNOWDEN
Hold it. Just a little longer. Come on. You don’t wanna be one of those “girly men.”

(He keeps taking pictures.)

Almost. Wait. One more. You can do it. Okay I think I got it. (Putin goes to breathe) NO, WAIT! ONE MORE!

(Snowden takes a close-up of Putin’s flexed bicep.)

SNOWDEN
Perfect. That’s a wrap.

(Putin bends over and takes a huge breath, while Snowden smiles. Putin continues to have trouble catching his breath.)

SNOWDEN
Hey, you all right?

(Snowden goes to assist Putin.)

Here, let’s sit you down so you can rest for a moment.

(When Snowden touches Putin’s arm, a large, muscular bodyguard enters. The guard moves to Putin’s side.)

SNOWDEN
I was, uh, just going to help him sit down. He lost his breath for a second.

PUTIN
(Still bent over) Is okay, comrade. Too much vodka, too fast. (stands upright) Got, how you say, ice cream brain freeze?

SNOWDEN
It’s ice cream headache. Or just brain freeze. You don’t, uh, say both.

PUTIN
This is why I like you, Edward. You teach me secrets—about American language too! (laughs, then turns to the guard) Bring me my chair.

(Bodyguard exits.)

Forgive me. I am not good host. (Gives vodka bottle to Snowden, who takes a small sip). Please! You insult me! Give me, I show you.

(Putin takes a long swig.)

PUTIN
Now you.

(Snowden takes a sip but spews it out his nose.)

PUTIN
Again.

(Snowden takes another sip but this time gags. Putin grabs him by the throat.)

PUTIN
Either you drink or I make you drown in it!

(Snowden takes a long pull, forcing himself not to cough.)

PUTIN
I will make you real man if it kills you! (laughs)

(The bodyguard returns, shirtless this time, carrying a golden throne. He sets it center stage and exits. Putin sits on it.)

PUTIN
Skates!

(Snowden unsteadily bends to untie and unlace the skates.)

PUTIN
You are happy?

SNOWDEN
What?

PUTIN
You are happy here?

SNOWDEN
(pauses) Yes.

PUTIN
Very.

SNOWDEN
Excuse me.

PUTIN
Say very happy.

SNOWDEN
Oh. Yes, I am very happy here.

PUTIN
That warms my testicles. You are my guest. You must be happy!

SNOWDEN
I am. Very.

PUTIN
And you have freedom here, no?

SNOWDEN
Yes, thank you.

PUTIN
I give you freedom to go on internet, yes, to say what you want, yes?

SNOWDEN
That was very generous of you.

PUTIN
You will tweak yes? About my goals?

SNOWDEN
Uh, tweet. But, yes, I will tweet about your goals.

PUTIN
You will say against best players I scored seven goals. You will tell how my people littered the ice with hats after I scored third goal for, how you say in English, hat trick, then they do again when I score sixth goal for SECOND hat trick!

SNOWDEN
Okay, sure, I’ll say all that. (pauses) But . . . (long pause) where did the hats come from?

PUTIN
From people’s heads, idiot! It is negative ten centigrade outside rink.

SNOWDEN
No, I know the hats came from their heads after the first hat trick but where did they come from for the second hat trick. If everybody threw their hat onto the ice after the first one, how did they have another hat to throw for the second one?

(Long pause. Putin rises from his throne.)

PUTIN
NOW REMOVE SUSPENDERS!

(Snowden does and the hockey pants slide to the ground, revealing a giant jockstrap featuring the image of a growling bear. A black garter belt holds up his hockey socks.)

PUTIN
You have not seen jockstrap before?

SNOWDEN
Uh.

PUTIN
Maybe you have not seen hockey garter belt before, no?

SNOWDEN
Actually, I haven’t.

PUTIN
It holds up socks.

SNOWDEN
(Dubious) Couldn’t you just tape them up?

PUTIN
I try but tape loosens when I sweat. Socks slide down. (whispers) Tape chafes my skin too. This is why I wear garter (gestures for Snowden to remove it).

(Snowden unclips socks from the garter. They slide to the ground revealing shin pads. He removes the socks and shin pads, then undoes the garter. Putin is naked except for the jock strap.)

PUTIN
I must pee.

(Snowden looks around nervously.)

PUTIN
Please, you are guest, not serf. (laughs)

(He spins the throne around to reveal a golden urinal. Snowden glances away to avoid looking at Putin’s ass. Putin gets frustrated when he is unable to pee.)

Sing.

SNOWDEN
What?

PUTIN
Sing something! I cannot pee when someone is listening!

SNOWDEN
Okay, okay.

(Snowden starts humming, then quietly sings—Neil Young’s KEEP ON ROCKIN IN THE FREE WORLD. Putin begins to pee, the flow increasing in harmony with Snowden’s singing. Putin shakes his ass and sings along. Snowden dances.)

PUTIN
Ahh, much better! Now picture.

SNOWDEN
You want a picture in your jockstrap?

PUTIN
I want picture that shows how strong I am. (looks down) How big! You will tweak yes?

SNOWDEN
Oh, yeah, I’ll tweak.

(Snowden snaps pictures.)

PUTIN
Focus on my bigness. (He points to his crotch and growls like a bear.)

(Snowden gets closer.)

PUTIN
You want to see how big?

SNOWDEN
No, it’s all right. I’m fine.

PUTIN
Of course you do. Everyone wants to know this. About everyone.

SNOWDEN
Not me, I don’t care . . . how . . . whatever you are.

PUTIN
You must care, Edward. You must see.

SNOWDEN
No, I mustn’t and no, I won’t. I will post video of your glorious goals. I will post pictures of your masculine manliness. I will “tweak” about the hats on the ice that somehow far outnumbered the fans. But there are certain things I won’t do.

(The bodyguard appears again, this time wearing only underwear. He grabs Putin’s hockey stick and stands next to Snowden.)

PUTIN
Please. You offend me with what you insinuate. In my country, I do not tolerate behavior that is “unnatural.” I am only asking you see for yourself what makes me a man.

(Putin gestures to the guard. A blade pops out from the hockey stick.)

SNOWDEN
Let me guess. Polonium 210.

(The guard trains the blade on Snowden, forcing him to his knees. His head is level with Putin’s crotch.)

PUTIN
(to the guard) Privacy!

(The guard turns his body away but keeps the stick trained on Snowden.)

PUTIN
You may begin.

(Snowden reluctantly moves his hand toward the jockstrap as Putin stares down.)

PUTIN
(Just as Snowden is about to touch him) Stop!

(Snowden withdraws his hand.)

SNOWDEN
I knew it! I knew you were just testing me!

PUTIN
Helmet.

SNOWDEN
What?

PUTIN
My helmet!

(Snowden retrieves it from the bench and tries to hand it to Putin.)

PUTIN
Blow it.

(Snowden looks down toward Putin’s crotch.)

SNOWDEN
No, no, no, wait a second.

PUTIN
The visor!

SNOWDEN
What?

PUTIN
Blow on visor. Make it steamy.

SNOWDEN
You want me to steam up . . . ?

PUTIN
BLOW!

(Snowden huffs and blows.)

PUTIN
Blow hard. Make it steamy everywhere.

(Snowden continues to puff and blow.)

SNOWDEN
(Breathing hard) Okay, there you go. Completely fogged up.

PUTIN
Give to me.

(Snowden hands him the helmet. Putin places it on his head.)

PUTIN
Now I cannot see what you do. (pauses) You may begin.

SNOWDEN
Wait, I thought . . .

PUTIN
You must not think so much, my young male friend. (He rubs Snowden’s hair, pushing him to his knees). Come, this will be our secret. You are good with secrets, no?

SNOWDEN
(has an idea) Yes. Yes, I am.

(As Snowden slides one hand up Putin’s thigh toward the jockstrap, Putin tilts his head back in titillation. With his other hand Snowden pulls out his phone. He begins filming.)

(BLACKOUT)

carriage.2
Based on his short stories, fourteen of which have been published in the last year, Robert was selected for mentorship by the managing editor of Tin House. His work has most recently appeared in Word Riot, Cream City Review, and Cortland Review with stories forthcoming in Gargoyle and The MacGuffin. Robert was the recipient of the upstreet short fiction scholarship at this summer’s VCFA Postgraduate writers’ conference. His first play, “Putin And The Snowman,” opened Off-Broadway in July.  www.robertkerbeck.com