This bit of a dialogue came about when I was sitting through a meeting that was insufferably boring. On the wall of the meeting room was a painting of 5 men, sitting around a table in a stockyard. It depicted a western scene, western men, with some topic under discussion. I decided that my time could be better spent imagining the characters of the men and creating a bit of dialogue. Here's what came out:
Dialogue from a Stockyard Painting.
Jedediah Montgomery: A rancher from Colorado, Jed spent his youth as a candidate for the priesthood. After an experience of the “dark night of the soul” brought on by heavy drinking and profligate sexual activity, Jed returned to his father’s ranch. He has now taken over the ranch and is a candidate for the Colorado House of Representatives.
Arthur Holland: Arthur is a circuit judge in Wyoming and Montana, well respected for his sagacity as well as his understanding of Western customs and values. Arthur was a Pony Express rider and is most at home on horseback.
Frank Marsden: The youngest son in a family of 14 children, Frank has bounced from one career to another, from one wife to another, and from one state to another. Currently homeless and unmarried, Frank is a closeted homosexual. The majority of his energy is spent hiding this fact from his older brother, William
William Marsden: The patriarchal oldest brother, William rules both his family and Golden County, Montana, with an iron fist. Feared by everyone who knows him, William has no friends and many enemies. He is the larges landowner in Golden County, president of the county school board, a county commissioner, leader of the city council of Jewel, Montana, and the father of 6 children. He is also a deacon in the Jewel First Baptist Church.
Flippo Harthead: The town drunk of Jewel, Montana, Flippo grew up in Boston and moved out west after the death of his sweetheart, Clara. Highly educated and sophisticated, though often intoxicated, Flippo rarely speaks.
Scene: All 5 have gathered for a conversation on the last evening of the Golden County Fair. The big event of the day was the Prison Rodeo, which was held in the very arena in which they are meeting.
William: (bangs fist on the table, rises, and bounces on his toes, looming over the others) (Shouts) Jed, this is complete BULLSHIT! Totally out of line, and I’m not going to stand for it.
Jedediah: (shrinks back in chair)
Arthur and Frank (together): Now William, let’s be sensible. William, please. . .
William: (thundering): Jed. What do you say?
(Long, uncomfortable pause, during which Jed looks down at the table and slowly straightens his spine)
Jedediah: (Quietly) I’m not changing it, Mr. Marsden. I can’t. And I won’t.
Arthur: Look, Will. It’s a public rodeo, a public event, for crying out loud. The winner has been announced, the prize was awarded. You saw the crowd, the way they clapped and cheered when Rodney was announced. He’s their golden boy, no matter what he’s done. We can’t reasonably do anything about it now.
William: I don’t care about reasonable – I could give a shit about reasonable. I want results.
Frank: Look, William, it’s all going to work out. Penelope knows how you feel about Rodney –
William: (snarling) I’m Penelope’s father, and I’m the one who will break that little rat’s neck if he comes anywhere near my daughter again.
That’s as far as I’ve gotten. Here’s the idea – Jed is a judge at the Prison Rodeo. The conflict involves William’s daughter, Penelope, who is pregnant by a prisoner, Rodney, who competed in the rodeo and won. The prize for the winner: release from prison, unconditionally.
William attempts to force Jedediah to change his ruling – using blackmail and other forceful methods.