Big ‘un!

(HENRY’s back on a train in the middle of the night. He boards politely, tipping his hat to the ticket-taker and sporting a freshly pressed collar, smartly tied tie, and a generally better, scrubbed up appearance. He trots down the almost solitary car in the way people do when they are given too many options: where to sit, where to sit? He passes by a vagabond beetle who is curled up asleep next to a small transistor radio, which crackles intermittently through the disc jockeys’ prattle)

DJ: Hey hey, all you late-night bugs and bugettes, keep your heads down and stay inside because this is the only Night Owl you’ll want to hear tonight, and I’m keeping the good music rolling with this rockin’ favorite!

(the radio begins to play the opening to “Henry the Eighth.” HENRY bristles visibly at the accursed song and immediately and involuntarily reaches over and switches the radio off. The vagabond stirs a little at this, but drowsily smacks his lips and goes back to sleep as HENRY chooses a seat. He sits there, a smile on his face, bumping along merrily with the rattle of the train car. He starts to sing a soft, gentle, yet giddy song, unadorned except for the noise of the train tracks.)

Got no bags and baggage to slow me down

(he extends his gangly legs that stretch well into the adjacent bench)

I’m a-travelin’ so fast my feet ain’t touchin’ the ground
Travelin’ light, travelin’ light
And I just can’t wait to be with my baby tonight

(he looks out the window at the dark sky, seeing his own reflection and imagining the no doubt warm reception he’ll get on the way home. CECELIA’s loving arms, LEW’s proud, beaming face, MRS. BROWN’s inescapable hugs, even VERA’s giggles. All will be as it should.)

No comb or toothbrush, I got nothin’ to hold
I’m carryin’ only, a pocket full of dreams, a heart full of love
And they weigh nothin’ at all
‘Cause soon I’m gonna see that love light in her eyes
I’m a hoot & a holler away from paradise
Travelin’ light, travelin’ light
Well I just can’t wait to be with my baby tonight

(His imagination takes him even further, to a ridiculously overdone wedding sequence between him and CECELIA, with LEW as the best man, VERA as the maid of honor, rose petals, clanging bells, et cetera, et cetera. All of this is done in mute pantomime as HENRY continues his simple little song.)

No comb or toothbrush, I got nothin’ to hold
I’m carryin’ only, a pocket full of dreams, a heart full of love
And they weigh nothin’ at all
‘Cause soon I’m gonna see that love light in her eyes
I’m a hoot & a holler away from paradise
Travelin’ light, travelin’ light
Well I just can’t wait to be with my baby tonight

(The train pulls into the station and HENRY hops off excitedly, hurrying to CECELIA’s neighborhood in hopes of his dreams coming true.)

Well I just can’t wait to be with my baby tonight

(As he nears the square, he becomes aware of a ghastly scene: Bug Bath & Body, CECELIA’s favorite shop and LEW’s employer, is aflame, surrounded by an angry mob of mantises, shield bugs, and various other insects. In front of the store, LEW, VERA, and the SHOP LADIES are all standing, some in their night clothes, shaken to the core.)

CLARICE: Oh…oh my goodness…

(and so on. All of the ladies are in absolute disbelief. HENRY approached the back of the mob and can’t help but ask)

HENRY: What on earth is going on?!

(a bug in the back turns to him with a sneer)

BUG: Serves ’em right, preachin’ that tripe, calling us stupid or somethin!

HENRY: What?

BUG: That shop’s been handin’ out them pink papers. “Wonderful World” my arse! We just had to show them what the rest of us think of their high ‘n’ mighty bollocks!

HENRY: You mean there’s more papers?

BUG: Just came out yesterday, courtesy of that coward what calls himself “Herman.” Bloody tyke, won’t even use his real name!

(HENRY is absolutely in shock.)

HENRY: More papers… oh my…!

(He marches in front of the mob, cutting them off from descending on the folks from the shop, holding his raptorial arms out wide)

HENRY: STOP THIS MADNESS! STOP IT AT ONCE!

(the bugs begin to cackle and ridicule)

A BUG: Oi, look at Mister Brave here, thinkin’ his skinny britches’ll save the day!

ANOTHER BUG: Another one of them, I suppose!

YET ANOTHER BUG: Maybe he’s Herman!

(and so on with the rabble-rousing. HENRY, forgetting what MR. BROWN had told him, tries to be the hero.)

HENRY: If I say that I’m Herman, will you leave these bugs alone?

CLARCIE: (not all happy with this idea.) Don’t do it, son!

A BUG: (calling from the crowd) I thought he looked familiar! That’s the pussyfootin’ little runt we ran outta town a month ago! That’s him, I know it, that’s Herman! Get him!

(the crowd begins to swarm in on HENRY, who stands to take his punishment. Behind him, the SHOP LADIES are cowering. One of the bugs, carrying a table leg or some such, bradishes at HENRY, ready to brain him. However, as he raises the object he’s knocked senseless from his right side, courtesy of a hard left thrown by LEW OXFORD.)

LEW: (standing over the senseless bug and cracking the bug approximation of knuckles.)
All right, chaps. Anyone else want one?

A BUG: Stay out of this, Stinky! It’s the beanpole we want!

LEW: Oh really? (he kicks the club away from a recovering bug and steps on his hand. The bug howls in pain) And what if I said I was Herman, eh?

(a chord is heard on a guitar, and the Gypsy Moth busker steps out into a streetlamp)

BUSKER: You’re both wrong! I’M Herman!

(the mob turns almost on a dime and focuses on him. Before they can even hurl a threat, another voice comes from the distance. The camera whirls around to see CECELIA BROWN striding across the square, pulling on a robe.)

CECELIA: If you want Herman, you’ll have to start with me!

(VERA hops out from behind LEW’s broad back)

VERA: An’ me!

CLARICE: (stepping up behind HENRY) And me!

(the SHOP LADIES all follow suit, standing as a meager ten to a mob of near fifty. The mob starts to close in, backing them up against the swiftly burning storefront.)

VERA: Someone call th’ police!

LEW: No use, love. I think I see a few in there.

(the mob is now circling round, and there’s no more room for the small group to back up. A camera shot from inside the store facing out crackles and snaps maliciously. Then suddenly a voice calls out.)

VOICE 1: Yahooo!

(and another)

VOICE: ‘Ere comes the cavalry, folks!

(the mob turns to see Mr. Ian Thrush and Mr. Percival Cleary, the two formerly foul “stinkbugs,” rushing to their aid. They skid to a halt, somewhat comically between the two groups. It is now obvious that both bugs were lost sons from fairly wealthy families, and are now wearing their wealth in top hats, bowties, and sparkling accoutremants.)

HENRY: You two? What are you doing here?

IAN: Helping you, you daft mantis!

LEW: Why?!

PERCY: A few nights in jail can change your mind about things, mate. Now go, we can take this lot!

(HENRY and LEW exchange a look, then advise for everyone to indeed leg it. The mob, furious that their quarry has escaped, close in on the two bugs.)

IAN: (affixing a clothespin to the closest approximation of a nose he has)
You ready, Mr. Cleary?

PERCY: (doing the same)
Too right, Mr. Thrush!

(Both together emit a massive cloud of stink that sends the entire mob scattering to the four winds, the two reformed bugs cackling all the while, only stopping to hack and cough as the vapors get to them. The scene cuts quickly to the running group, as each bug peels off to their own houses, safe and sound as they an be.)

HENRY: What’s happened, Lew? I wasn’t even gone a month and…and THIS? What happened?

LEW: You did, “Herman.” After Cecelia dumped your pamphlets on all of bug kind, people either wanted Herman’s blood or to canonize the poor sod. They were clamoring for more, or clamoring for war, so…

CECELIA: So I wrote a new one. What you saw out there is about everyone who still hates your ideas Henry. Most others think you’re on the right track, but as long as there’ll be people around to bully them, they’ll keep their mouths shut.

HENRY: (stopping, along with VERA, LEW, and CECELIA, all breathing heavily)
So what do we do?

LEW: We keep our gobs plastered shut, too. But they’ve seen us now, so we’d be smart to leave town, hide out in the country…
(sarcastically)
Your parents got extra room?

HENRY: (heaves a heavy sigh) This wasn’t what I wanted. I didn’t want violence, I didn’t want hate, I didn’t want…all of this!

(he leans up against one of the buildings, almost grieving. CECELIA walks over.)

CECELIA: No one said changing the world was easy, you prat.

(he turns to face her, tears in his eyes.)

HENRY: I shouldn’t have done it. I knew it was a bad idea, and you knew it, too, but I did it anyway…I should have known…

(his head is bowed, very melodramatic. CECELIA cups his chin and raises his face to hers.)

CECELIA: (smiling lovingly) Don’t you think we would have left if we didn’t think this was worth it, if we didn’t think YOU were worth it?
(She straightens up and sighs.)
Henry Walters… you’re a silly, worrisome, idealistic fool of a bug…
(she sings a little, softly)

But I do know that I love you,
And I know that if you love me, too

(She and HENRY harmonize on the last line)

What a wonderful world this would be.

CECELIA: Now come on, I’d like to meet your parents.

(the camera goes behind CECELIA’s shoulder, to there LEW and VERA stand. VERA is sobbing, with LEW’s arm around her)

VERA: It’s just so beautiful, Lew!

LEW: (chuckling) After all this time, love, it had better be.

(the scene transitions to all four, back on the train, riding off to the country. IAN and PERCY are there, too, but far in the back of the car, still reeking.)

IAN: Oi don’t blame ’em, Mr. Cleary. You oughtta smell yerself!

PERCY: Me?! You daft bug, you reek to high heaven!

IAN: I do not!

PERCY: Do too!

IAN: You smell like a dung heap!

PERCY: You smell like a dung heap’s dung heap!

IAN: Wot’s that even mean?

PERCY: It means your Mum’s plug-ugly, that’s what it means!

(the two begin to wallop each other with their fashionable top hats. The camera pivots to see the four main players, sitting politely as the train clacks along. They all have the air of children who are waiting for father to scold them for something they have done, praying he doesn’t find out. After a particularly concussive bump, the vagabond from earlier wakes with a grumble and peeks over the seatback, seeing the four. He blinks experimentally several times through bleary eyes.

VAGABOND: Oi, wait a minnit… yew, yeah, yew, lady… (he points a craggy finger at CECELIA) Oi sawr you on th’ telly, talkin’ bowt that Herman business… is yew really him?

CECELIA: (shrugging disarmingly) Sorry, no.

VAGABOND: These yer friends? They ‘Erman?

LEW: Nope. Not me.

VERA: Where did yew wotch telly?

(LEW elbows her and she yelps)

OWCH! Er, I mean…not me, neither!

VAGABOND: (looking finally to HENRY, who has been nervously minding his own business, fidgeting furiously.)
An’ yew, skinny…wot about yew?

(there’s a tense moment where the camera slowly zooms in on HENRY’s face as each of his friends turns to see his response. HENRY takes a deep breath, the music climaxing with a cracking great silence, until…)

HENRY: (convincingly boggled)
Never heard of him. He a singer or something?

(all present give out a sigh: some of relief and, in the case of the vagabond, a snort of derision as he returns to his nap. The camera pulls away out of the train as it speeds out through the night, into the lightening morning, the sun rising behind it in the East, signaling a new day.)

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