(The actors mingle with audience members as their characters until it is time to begin. After a signal, Rex Laramie moves to the front. He is energetic and cheerful, addressing individual members of the audience.)
REX: Are you excited? I sure am excited. Hey! Hey you! Have you heard the news? Ain’t it exciting? I’m so excited that I’m…I’m…well, I’m excited! (beat)
Why’re y’all staring at me like that? Today’s the big day. Are you telling me you don’t know what today is? Shoot! I’m the village idiot and even I know what today is! (beat) Would you like me to tell you?
(Pause for audience response.)
REX: I don’t reckon you wanna know.
(Pause again for audience response.)
REX: Are you sure? Do you really, really wanna know?
(Another pause for audience response.)
REX: Well, okay then! I’ll tell you. (beat) What was I gonna tell you again?
(A final pause for audience response.)
REX: Oh, that’s right! I was gonna tell you what today is. Well. It’s Tuesday!
(Bree Cormac enters. She is a delicate and dainty thing, wearing a thick pair of glasses, carrying a couple of books.)
BREE: It’s Friday, Rex. Now really.
REX: Friday, Miss Cormac?
BREE: What was yesterday?
REX: The day before today.
BREE: What day of the week was it?
REX: One that ended in a Y?
BREE: Think, Rex.
REX: But it’s so hard, Miss Cormac!
BREE: Just try. For me. (beat) Please?
REX: Well, all right. But only cause you asked so nice.
(Rex scrunches up his fists and face, groaning with the effort to think. After a moment he stops.)
REX: Now, what was I supposed to be thinking about?
BREE: What day of the week was yesterday?
REX: Oh! Right! (he “thinks” again) Thursday!
BREE: Very good, Rex. Now, think again. What day of the week comes after Thursday?
REX: Aw, c’mon, Miss Cormac. I’m mighty tired.
BREE: Just give it a shot, Rex. Please?
REX: Shoot! I am a sucker for a good “please.” Okey dokey!
(Rex puts forth the effort into thinking again. It takes him twice as long. There may be some comical sound effects accompanying the ritual.)
BREE: Very good! Oh, Rex, don’t you see? If you just paid a little more attention to your lessons, you’d be such a brilliant student!
REX: Aw, shucks, Miss Cormac.
BREE: So what is today?
REX: Well, today’s the day that Phineas McGee comes back into town!
BREE: Ugh. That horrible man is coming back?
REX: You don’t like Phineas McGee, Miss Cormac?
BREE: I certainly do not. And you shouldn’t either.
REX: Why not?
BREE: That fraud is a horrible man. He’s a liar and a thief and a swindler.
REX: Yeah. Ain’t he the greatest?
BREE: The greatest?
REX: Liar and thief and swindler.
BREE: He’s certainly good at it, I’ll give him that. Every couple of years, he rolls into town with some new kind of far-fetched scheme.
REX: The best. Why, I seen him steal the bacon. I seen him steal third base. I even seen him an audiences’ hearts.
BREE: I hope you mean that metaphorically.
REX: Aw, Miss Cormac. This ain’t go nothing to do with religion.
BREE: Never mind.
REX: I sure can’t wait to see what he does this time around.
BREE: Rex, really, I wish you weren’t so excited about this. Every time he comes here, he just cheats you out of all your sending money.
REX: He sure does.
BREE: What was it last time? He sold you a hat that could make you invisible?
REX: He sure did.
BREE: Did it work?
REX: Not according to the ladies in the dressing room at the Flute Theatre.
BREE: And the time before that? He sold you a “magical” yo-yo that was supposed to make it rain?
BREE: Did the magical yo-yo work, Rex?
REX: The yo-yo was a no-no.
BREE: And the time before that? He sold you a pineapple that was supposed to grant wishes.
REX: Now that worked!
BREE: It did?
REX: Sure did. I was wishing for some pineapple.
REX: Sorry, Miss Cormac. But I can’t wait to see how Phineas McGee swindles me this time.
REX: I need to uphold my reputation as the village idiot.
BREE: Rex, you’re such a…a…good boy. Think of what you could do if you just tried to learn. (she holds out her books) If you spent less time being so proud of your reputation as the village idiot and a little more time reading books.
REX: I already got all I need. Anyway, everyone needs their place in the village. We already got a sheriff. And a doc. And a madam. And you’re our school mistress. I figure I should just be happy with my place.
BREE: Oh, Rex. You could be a cowboy.
REX: No, ma’am. I don’t trust cows much. They always look like they’re gonna say something. And then they never do.
BREE: I think you’d be fine cowboy, Rex.
REX: I tried, Miss Cormac. Really, I did. I even adopted a dachshund.
BREE: Why ever did you do that?
REX: Ain’t that what cowboys are supposed to do? Get a long little doggie?
BREE: Not exactly, Rex.
REX: I brushed my teeth with gunpowder too.
REX: To shoot my mouth off.
BREE: Oh, Rex…
Rex: Anyway, I was no good as a cowboy. I was always late getting some place.
REX: My horse had engine trouble.
Phineas: (offstage) Did I hear someone say Rex?
(Phineas McGee enters. He is oily and slick, wearing an expensive suit, rings, and a hat. He wheels on a cart with him, loaded with assorted potions and tokens and other products.)
PHINEAS: Where is he? Where’s my favorite customer?
REX: Hey, look, everyone! It’s Phineas McGee!
BREE: Oh, boo.
(Bree encourages the audience to boo Phineas.)
PHINEAS: Rex Laramie! It has been too long. I am de-lighted to see you, boy.
REX: Thank you, sir. Looking forward to being swindled again!
PHINEAS: Oh, I’ve got some doozies for you, my boy.
BREE: Mister McGee.
PHINEAS: Why Bree Cormac. I do declare, you get prettier every time I see you.
BREE: I would appreciate it if you would stop trying to sell your snake oil to Rex.
REX: You have snake oil! Sign me up! My snake could use a good oiling!
PHINEAS: That old thing rattling again?
REX: She sure is.
PHINEAS: I’ve got something for that!
REX: What else you got?
BREE: Mister McGee.
PHINEAS: Take a look at this, my boy.
(Phineas takes an absurdly shaped gun out of his cart.)
PHINEAS: This, my boy, is the only gun you need. Why, this thing will help you survive the zombie apocalypse.
BREE: Zombie apocalypse?
PHINEAS: Yes, ma’am.
REX: I’ll take two!
PHINEAS: Excellent choice, my boy.
BREE: Mister McGee, I really must insist-
PHINEAS: Look what else I have for you.
(Phineas puts the gun on the cart and takes out a pack of chewing gum.)
REX: What’s that?
PHINEAS: It’s gum. You chew this and you’ll be able to spit it and anything else you please nearly twenty miles.
REX: Twenty miles!
PHINEAS: Yes, indeed. It’ll make you the finest gum-slinger in the whole West.
REX: I’ll take fifteen packs.
PHINEAS: Fifteen packs!
REX: You got any in pineapple?
PHINEAS: I’ll see what I can find!
(Phineas puts the gum away and takes out a pair of spurs.)
REX: What are those?
PHINEAS: Magical spurs. Make you run faster than a roadrunner being chased by a coyote.
REX: I’ll take a pair.
PHINEAS: You sure?
REX: Yup. I love spur of the moment purchases.
BREE: Oh, I can’t take it any more!
PHINEAS: Miss Cormac?
BREE: You should be ashamed of yourself! Taking advantage of an innocent young man with a cheerful, if not vague, disposition, and a very, very vulnerable mind!
REX: But I want to be taken advantage of.
PHINEAS: Now, Miss Cormac. It’s not as sinister as you’re making it sound. I just give the customers what they want. I’m a business man.
BREE: You’re a liar and a thief!
PHINEAS: Definition of terms.
BREE: What you do is disgusting.
PHINEAS: Now, Miss Cormac. What I do has provided for a lot of people. I’ve got mouths to feed, the same as anyone else.
BREE: You’re probably lying about that too.
BREE: You disgust me.
PHINEAS: I’m sorry you feel that way.
BREE: Every time you come here, I’m left with a bad taste in my mouth.
REX: Maybe you should sell her some of that pineapple gum.
BREE: It’s a metaphor, Rex!
REX: A what? Oh! Amen?
BREE: Never mind.
PHINEAS: We’ll just have to agree to disagree, Miss Cormac. But as a gentleman, I can tell you that-
BREE: Gentleman? Gentleman! You’re no gentleman.
PHINEAS: Now, Miss Cormac.
BREE: A gentleman…takes off his hat in the presence of a lady.
(Bree pulls a small pistol out of her purse and aims it at Phineas, shooting his hat off of his head.)
REX: Boy, Miss Cormac, you sure can shoot.
PHINEAS: Be careful! You could kill someone like that!
BREE: Next time, perhaps, you’ll learn to take your hat off! And if I had my way, you’d never return to the town of Huh at all. You’ve made fools out of everyone here!
(Bree storms off. Phineas lets out a low whistle, going to retrieve his hat and put it back on.)
PHINEAS: Now why’d she have to go and say something like that?
REX: Don’t mind her too much. She thinks everyone in the town of Huh is one of her students. Probably because she’s the only teacher we got.
PHINEAS: And I can see she’s doing a fine job.
PHINEAS: Tell me, Rex. Why is this town called Huh anyway?
REX: Well, Mister McGee, when my granddaddy first came here, he was looking for New York City. Some of the natives told him that it was the other way and he just went “Huh.” And that’s been the name of the town ever since.
REX: No, Oh is one town over.
REX: Ah is the town on the other side of the mountain.
REX: Nah, Rex ain’t a town at all. I’m Rex! The village idiot!
PHINEAS: It’s always an adventure, coming back to Huh.
PHINEAS: That’s right.
(Doc Whitmore comes storming on stage.)
DOC WHITMORE: What in the name of Sitting Bull’s Buffalo Bagels is going on out here? Who’s shooting off pistols like it was the Fourth of July?
REX: Oh, that was just our school teacher.
DOC WHITMORE: Is she out of her ever-loving mind? A man could go deaf, hearing one too many gun shots. And my ears aren’t what they used to be, I tell you. I hear ringing, first thing in the morning. Never leaves me be.
REX: What about in the afternoon?
DOC WHITMORE: That’s when the waxy build-up starts. Then I’m more stuffed up than a Thanksgiving turkey. (sadly) Hungarian Ear Cankers, no doubt. I’m sure I’m a goner.
REX: You think you got Hungarian Ear Cankers?
DOC WHITMORE: It’s the only explanation. Unless it’s Korean Mallard Fever. I tell you, my aching neck-
PHINEAS: Doctor Whitmore.
DOC WHITMORE: Phineas McGee. Speaking of a pain in the neck.
PHINEAS: A pleasure to see you, as always.
DOC WHITMORE: You again. No wonder Bree was shooting.
PHINEAS: I see you’re still convinced you have every illness in the book.
REX: Have a seat, Doc. Mister McGee was about to start his show.