THUMPERTOWN THEATER PRESENTS… Bill and Bob Go to the Library
A Screenplay by Robert F. Beach
The scene opens on a living room. The furnishings are clearly of high quality but from another era. The date is May 12 1935 and it’s Mother’s Day. There are some gift-wrapped packages on the coffee table and an abundance of fresh flowers in vases around the room. Two tall men rise from their seats and are led from the room by a woman who appears to be the hostess.
A very brief Scene 1 ends and Scene 2 opens with the two men seated in a room that is clearly a library. The man who looks somewhat ill starts speaking.
BOB: My wife informs me that you want to…
BILL: SHUT UP!!
BOB: I beg your pardon?
BILL: You’re a washed-up souse – are you deaf as well? Look at you – you’re pathetic. I said, “SHUT UP!!” You have nothing to say, so don’t bother flapping your gums. As a matter of fact, though, I’m going to ask you to do me a little favor. Could you stand up for a minute, Doc?
BOB: I suppose. (The older man rises)
BILL: Excellent. Now, SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP!!!! Yes, I like that. Those two belong together – “Sit down” and “shut up.” You got a pen, Bootleg Gin Breath? I want to write this down. Henrietta tells me you’ve got a problem with booze.
BOB: Well, I… you see… I…
BILL: Don’t worry, Doc. I’ve been there. I’ve been where you’re at. So, Bob, you’ve managed to hang onto your medical license… so far? Are you a GP?
BOB: No, I’m a surgeon.
BILL: What’s your area of specialty?
BOB: I’d rather not get into all that.
BILL: Oh My God!! You’re a proctologist, aren’t you?
BOB: Well, I… I… Er… I mean… Somebody has to do it!!
BILL: Oh My God!!! A proctologist!!! I’d guess you’re the butt of a lot of jokes!
BOB: Now see here!!
BILL: SHUT UP!!
BOB: What do you do for a living, Mr. Wilson?
BILL: That’s the thing. I’m here in Akron heading up a big proxy battle that could see me become president of a huge local concern.
BOB: Wow! Goodyear?
BILL: No. Never mind the details. They’re… uh… confidential. Yeah, that’s it – confidential… It’s a big deal though. Take my word for it.
BOB: So, I take it that you’re unemployed right now?
BILL: Well, yeah, but only for the past couple of years, or so.
BOB: Does your wife really work in a department store like Henrietta told me, Mr. “Sit down and shut up?”
BILL: SHUT UP about that, or I won’t cure you. Look, if you’ll agree to drop the department store stuff, I won’t say anything more about you being a proctologist. Deal?
BOB: Yeah, okay, But pour me another drink. How many men have you cured so far with your revolutionary new methods?
BILL: I don’t have the exact numbers here with me. My files are back in New York. But let’s get back to the main reason we’re both here. I can show you how to quit drinking one day at a time if you easy do it and keep coming back. It works if you work it.
BOB: Work what?
BILL: Well, you have to let go and let God and take all twelve steps by following the instructions precisely as they are outlined in our book.
BOB: What book?
BILL: Never mind about that. I haven’t written the book yet, but I will — I need to earn some money. Lois is threatening to cut off my allowance. Anyway, we can wing it for now. So, first things first, I need you to take the cotton out of your ears and put it in your mouth.
BOB: I don’t have any cotton in my ears! Why would ANYONE have cotton in their ears? What in the name of Holy Hell is wrong with you, man?
BILL: Back off, Sawbones! I’m still working some of this stuff out, okay? Ease up on me or I’m going back to the “Doctor Rectum, anusologist” talk. You really do that for a living? Hey, do you ever hand a guy your business card and say, “Give me a ring.”
BOB: Mrs. Wilson? Department store? You wanna talk about that some more, Mr. President? How’s the proxy thing going, by the way?
BILL: Look, I’m not here to discuss all that. If you want to quit drinking, I’m the guy who can help you do that. I used to drink like you and now I’m completely indifferent to alcohol. The problem has been removed. It doesn’t exist for me.
BOB: So, how come you were drooling when you poured me that last drink?
BILL: I WAS NOT!!
BOB: Yeah, you were. You wiped your chin with your sleeve. Right there. Look. It’s still a bit wet.
BILL: I have allergies, okay?!
BOB: Don’t give me that bullshit. I’m a physician. Your goddamn nose wasn’t running. It was spittle. It leaked out of your mouth and started running down your chin! You looked like Pavlov’s freaken dog!! AND, your hands were shaking!
BILL: I’m rubber and you’re glue. That bounces off me and sticks to you.
BOB: Can we get back to the quitting drinking thing?
BILL: Sure. SHUT UP!!
BOB: Why do you keep saying that?
BILL: Because that’s how it has to start! I’m here to bring you some harsh truth – you can’t quit drinking on your own. Besides that, I have terribly low self-esteem and pushing you around a bit makes me feel better. In any case, you’re going to need a spiritual experience and a Higher Power.
BOB: What’s a Higher Power?
BILL: You know – God, Baby Jesus, that sort of thing. My friend Ebby got saved by the Oxford Group, then he brought the good news to me.
BOB: I’ve been through all that Buchman mumbo-jumbo, Bill, but I get tight every night.
BILL: So, quiet time? Meditation? Praying to God a thousand times a day? Hanging out with the churchy folk?
BOB: Check, check, check and check.
BILL: Who’s Your Daddy?
BILL: Lord’s Prayer?
BILL: Hmmmm, this is a tough one. Have you ever pretended to have a life-altering spiritual experience?
BOB: No, why would I do that? And how would I do that?
BILL: It’s not hard, just start by thinking of your drunken granddaddy.
BOB: My grandparents did not drink.
BILL: Why am I not surprised? That doesn’t matter. It’s all in the imagining. Now close your eyes. I want you to picture a mountain on a bright, sunny day. Can you see it? Can you see yourself starting to climb it?
BOB: No, I can’t.
BILL: You’re carrying a jug of shine and you stop to take a swig.
BOB: I can see that! Yes, I can see it!! Gimme a fresh drink so I can re-enact the swigging part. Please.
BILL: Okay. That was pretty clever, by the way. Now – back to the mountain. The sky is clear, and the morning sun is blinding.
BOB: I noticed that when I was swilling down the shine. It hurt my eyes.
BILL: That’s the spirit. Can you feel the cool breeze a’blowin’?
BOB: Yes!!! It’s cold — I wish I’d have brought along a jacket.
BILL: Perfect! Now we ask God to remove the obsession to drink. Let’s kneel down together.
BOB: Oh, boy! Here we go!
BILL: I’ll give you a fresh drink.
BOB: You’re a sweet-talker, Bill. Kneeling it is.
(The two men kneel and pray together for two full minutes. Every ten or fifteen seconds, Dr. Smith opens one eye to see if they’re done. Finally, the New Yorker opens his eyes and the two men rise.)
BILL: Feel any different, Smitty? Think you can stop drinking now, for good and all?
BOB: Well, yes. Maybe. I really do want to stop drinking, you know. I feel sick constantly and the drinking is affecting all areas of my life.
BILL: Trouble looking your patients in the eye?
BOB: Stop it! Look, Bill, here’s the thing, the fly in the ointment, so to speak. Next month is the AMA Convention in Atlantic City. There’s this nurse from Akron City Hospital who’s agreed to go there with me. She’s a fun girl, a real partier, a heavy drinker. Could I get a pass that week?
BILL: I think we can arrange that. Hmmm… How do you like the sound of this? “Relapse is a part of recovery.”
BOB: I like it. I like it a lot.
BILL: Hey, Doc. You know this Henrietta woman much better than I do. Do you think she might let me sleep over tonight?
Robert F. Beach is no stranger to AA Agnostica. He has appeared here previously with The Watering Down of AA, The One and Only Kool-Aid, and the Bobby Beach classic, Freaken Big Book Fundamentalists Hate Freaken Everything.
What does the F. stand for? I bet I can guess…
Satire: the use of ridicule, irony, and sarcasm to expose folly or vice. Skillfully applied. Good job! I’ve read all the replies and they seem to indicate a Pulitzer Prize for drama may be on the horizon, so I’m choosing to be devil’s advocate. Poor old Bob, he was only around for 15 years, give the old boy a pass. Wilson’s AA life never left a gap where those elements of satire couldn’t be expounded upon by someone with Mr. Beach’s creative talents. One reply suggested a book; here are five possible chapters – nicotine addiction, womanizing, an effort to find drug based spirituality, playing loose with facts, and what would be a real beauty, as depicted by Susan Cheever, Bill’s persistent demand for whiskey throughout his last days of life.
Let’s all enjoy the humor, but let all of us be cautious. It is possible for unrestrained ridicule and sarcasm to veer off into intellectual arrogance. Let’s hope that we agnostics benefit more from the AA slogan, “attraction rather than promotion” than those we abhor who are mired in blind dogma.
Although the Thumpertown Theater play has only 2 characters, and I poke fun at both of them a bit, the daggers are pointed at folks not appearing in my little drama. Those who love to talk tough and treat newcomers rudely try to justify their pathetic behavior by claiming that was the way it was done in the old days.
The idea of Bill Wilson talking in a disparaging way to Dr. Smith is ludicrous, and hopefully amusing.
“I have allergies, okay?!” That had me rolling!
I’ve been allergic to tree nuts my entire life and I am hyper-aware of where they lurk in food. If one gets past my defense and I ingest it, I immediately do everything in my power to not only stop consuming it but purge myself of what is in or on me. The last thing I would do is continue.
Not only is the allergy thing bullshit; it doesn’t make any sense in the first place. Not even Joe and Charlie could explain it to me, though they tried like hell.
Thanks for this, Robert! Well done!
This is the best script I’ve ever read in my life. “I can show you how to quit drinking one day at a time if you easy do it and keep coming back. It works if you work it.” LMFAO!!! Seriously, how much money do I need to offer to get this performed in an audio or video format? Bob K talked this up for at least week prior to the release of this screenplay and it was fully worth the wait.
This play should be performed at the next Secular AA convention. Bob and Bill wearing masks may add an odd dimension.
I’ll pray that this materializes!
So very well written! Reading it, I thought it would have to fall apart at some point but no, it was brilliant from the beginning to the very end. Thanks Mister Beach!
Satire needs to have elements of truth — Bob WAS a proctologist; Bill WAS unemployed and living off his wife; he came selling a solution that lacked any history of results.
There are those who glorify “the olden days” as an era of tough talk. The Bill-Bob meeting on May 12, 1935, took place on the oldest of the old days. The notion of Bill talking to Bob as represented in “Thumpertown Theater” is ridiculous. Thus, the mythology of “Sit down and shut up” is worthy of ridicule. That is not to say that newcomers were never treated rudely. Preachers are gonna preach and they like to feel righteous in doing so.
Nice job. This was genuinely funny.
Ha ha ha!!! Loved it – So creative, hilarious and clever!!
I can’t imagine that the sit-down-and-shut-up school of AA originated with the early members. I’m glad it wasn’t the loudest message where I got sober (’87 in West LA), as I would have missed the life I have enjoyed since. I wonder who the first person was that came up with the cotton-out-of-your-ears crap; in a very real sense it’s often appropriate, but terrible in its wording and condescending attitude.
I’m thinking the Beaches are open for business. Sadly the proctology humour was a tad tongue in cheek, but it will do in a storm.
Big books are prone to err. Like the oft quoted Spencer quote which should have been attributed to William Paley a century earlier in his discussion of the Romans. It is remarkable that those most frequently referencing this quote have already decided that spirituality is the answer. The big book has helped many but its best attribute may be that it serves as a placebo as defined by the late Jerome Frank.
This has a Beavis and Butt-head do Bob & Bill feel to it.
I laughed out-loud often, mostly non-stop.
It’s like spraying anti-dogma disinfectant over a nearly dead story. I mean no one knows exactly what was said, and wouldn’t you have loved to have been a fly on the wall, blah, blah, blah, but it doesn’t matter at all, does it? It wouldn’t have been any more interesting than the conversation two alcoholics had with another this morning on first meeting (online or in person), would it? I’m sure that nothing profound was said. It would have been sincere but it wouldn’t have been other-worldly. So…
Then why try to replicate in some trite exacting way? Have at it! And you have, you blasphemous sot!
The words that were said between these two alcoholics is not the salient part of the story, right? It’s just that two drunks, who had no idea they were making history, or that they were news worthy, or that they started something that they would each contribute to ensuring would have the possibility to catch on.
So back to “the conversation…” I love it. It’s as good as anything. Others have pieced statements said by him or him or what was written, remembered, regaled, but what are the chances any of that would have exacting accuracy? 50-50 would be generous, based on what we’ve recently learned about the records vs the coffee pot legends (Thank you Bill Schaberg). So let’s have some fun with it.
It’s a special kind of hard work and brilliance, Bob. One day, if I stay healthy, I’ll be able to say, “I knew that guy. This is the hand that shook his hand; would you like to touch it?”
Cheeeesus Joe, touch it, have you any idea where that hand could have been!!! 😉😈
I am a long time fan of Mr. Beach from his earliest appearances on this stage. Somehow I picture a series of Cronenberg/Scanners type heads exploding all across the AA world this Sunday AM. In my brief years as an AA member I have been amazed at this callous treatment of the newcomers by various “wise” old timers. They all have some higher justification for treating suffering newcomers like something nasty the dog left in the yard. Something about ego deflation and teachability and “It worked for me” and “I needed to be treated like an STD salesman” and “You can’t sugar coat life and death”. How far from our own principles can we get?
My own sponsor on our first meeting said, “Newcomers are desperate and in bad shape in every way. There is never a reason to not be kind.” That has always stuck with me. I will always remember a reaction at one of my first meetings. When someone suggested the newcomer was the most important person at an AA meeting a couple of “Old Bulls” had to shoot this down and wallow in their key importance. “If it wasn’t for guys like us there wouldn’t even be AA in this town.”
I often ask myself how we got to this point.
The answer seems to be untreated alcoholism. What a surprise!
Omg too funny. Lmao!!!
What a fertile imagination you have Robert; you know, you may just have it in you to be a writer. Funny characters you’ve created here with Bill and Dr Bob, almost believable, just like the scenario, almost believable. The one thing that’s missing for me, probably the only thing that’s missing for me, is a certain lack of spirituality. Plenty of humour but lacking that miracle effect. Too human by far. Great story but lacking reality somewhat, ‘proctologist’ indeed; but who knows, maybe the story has something to it. You should consider writing a book, expand the storyline, make it a big book. Plenty of scope for getting the odd miracle or ten into the storyline in a big book. It’s good to laugh; you just gotta laugh!! 👍 🤣 😈