Ragtime cowboy Ben
If Alan Ladd could make it, so can he
[A small sound stage at Daily Wire Studios. BEN SHAPIRO is wearing a green track suit with black stripes down the side, red Asics, and a unweathered black cowboy hat with a stampede string running under his chin like a little kid or a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader from the 1970s. SHAPIRO is holding a fancy pump-action shotgun, which has apparently been scaled down for him, in both hands. Trainer BUD WAD, rangy, bearded, and about a foot and a half taller than SHAPIRO, wears a loose-fitting black suit, Keds, and a weather-beaten cowboy hat with no string. He stands facing SHAPIRO.]
WAD: OK, Benji. You look OK standin’ square with that firearm, but we wanna make sure you look good pointin’ and shootin’ it. Now, have you checked your weapon and is the chamber clear?
SHAPIRO: Yes it is.
WAD: Alright, one more time, are you sure the chamber is clear?
SHAPIRO: [A little annoyed] Of course I’m sure! Look!
[SHAPIRO gets the shotgun in position, pumps it, and fires; it discharges and WAD falls backwards. SHAPIRO shivers, looks around, drops the gun, walks in circles. Two young women in slacks and golf shirts run out and check on WAD. SHAPIRO takes an iPhone out of his pocket, brings it to his ear.]
Walter, Walter, Ben, listen there’s been a little situation — we had an intruder and we had a situation and, and I had to shoot him, but I think he’s alive but I need crisis management stat, like right away, Walter.
[SHAPIRO sees WAD is sitting up, with the assistance of the girls.]
Call ya back!
[SHAPIRO gets off the phone, goes to WAD, who is standing.]
Bud! Are you all right?
WAD: [Angry, loud] ‘Course I’m alright, ya fuckin’ idiot! I knew you was a moron so I gave you blanks. What the fuck are you doin’, sayin’ you ain’t loaded when you are? Huh?
SHAPIRO: OK, girls, you get back to base now.
[The girls leave.]
WAD: Shootin’ right at me! You coulda fuckin’ killed me! What the fuck, d’ye think this like the cartoons where there’s just a cloud of smoke and I turn all black and blink my eyes like Deputy Dawg?
SHAPIRO: Totally sorry and look, I’ll double your fee. Really. And, and we won’t even do weapons, just show me how to walk and act cowboy.
WAD: Nah, fuck it.
[WAD starts walking away.]
SHAPIRO: OK, triple the fee. Really, Mr. Wad, please, I need this, I can’t do it without you.
[WAD stops, turns and looks at SHAPIRO.]
Please, you don’t know how important this is to me, Mr. Wad. It’s like a mission. Since I came to Nashville I’ve wanted to cowboy up. I know it’s not like being a real cowboy, like out on a ranch or a range or whatever it is, but I was never cut out for physical labor, that’s not God’s plan for me — the kind of cowboy I was meant to be is a show-business cowboy. Like Roy Rogers, he never roped a cow or punched a steer but everyone knew he was a cowboy. I can do that! I feel it deep inside me, like Elvis Presley felt rock and roll! And when our movie studio is up and running I’m gonna be the new Roy Rogers. But I can’t do it without you.
WAD: Why not?
SHAPIRO: Well — I just — well, Bud, people laugh at me. I walk around in my cowboy hat and my string tie and my boots and I try to walk cowboy and act cowboy but even though I feel it, I really feel it, they laugh at me. They call me Half-Pint and Marshall McLovin.
[WAD laughs. SHAPIRO is near tears.]
Sure, it’s funny to you, but you don’t understand — I’m doing this for America! America’s getting all soft and gay and trans and black and they need someone to show ‘em how to be tough and cowboy. And who’s gonna do it? Hollywood? Even Nashville’s gone woke. And the last really big cowboy song was by a gay black! God has called me to bring back the straight white cowboy! And you, Bud, Mr. Wad, you can be part of it, we can put you in scenes with Gina Carano! C’mon, you gotta give me another chance, please?
[WAD scratches his chin.]
WAD: Alright, Half-Pint, you clear that rifle off’n the stage and we’ll work on your acting.
SHAPIRO: You won’t regret it!
[SHAPIRO cleared the gun, runs back and stands in front of WAD.]
WAD: Alright, you practice rollin’ them smokes like I showed you?
SHAPIRO: Certainly — I mean, darn tootin’, pard! Watch!
[SHAPIRO takes out cigarette papers and a tobacco pouch, steps to a column and leans on it, and commences to hand-roll a cigarette. He sticks the cigarette in his mouth, pulls out a lighter and lights it — but the flame shoots to an absurd Jerry Lewis height and, in addition to immolating SHAPIRO’s cigarette, it lights the brim of his hat. SHAPIRO fumbles with the cigarette before throwing it away, then notices the flames creeping along the brim; panicked, he tries to remove the hat, but the string gets stuck under his chin and the flaming hat falls to the back of his head; SHAPIRO runs screaming in circles until WAD rips the hat from his head and stomps on it. SHAPIRO stands panting and sweating. Pause.]
SHAPIRO: Uhhh… much obliged.