Tag Archives: henry viii

What is it with me and head injuries?

(HENRY’s “ow’s” can be heard for a second while the camera is still frozen on Cecelia’s worried and caring face. A quick jump switches to her face looking more agitated and exasperated as she dabs at HENRY’s swollen bonce with a bit of antiseptic. HENRY keeps “ow”-ing and hissing for a little while longer, perched on a comically short stool in the Brown’s homey kitchen. CECELIA houvering over him.)

CECELIA: It’s your own fault, you silly ass, prancing about like an idiot in an open stairwell. You’re lucky you didn’t split you whole ruddy head open!

HENRY: (still half in the bag) Phwaaw! I thought I looked rather dashing. You don’t agree?

CECELIA: (incredublous) Dashing? Henry Walters, you’ve never been dashing in your…are you drunk?

HENRY: Just a skoach…(he snorts) tee hee…scotch!

CECELIA: Oh, for the love of…! Henry, don’t you have to be at work tomorrow?

HENRY: (pouty, childlike) Awwww Cecelia, Don’t go sayin’ that! The less I have to think about that crushing bore of a job I’ve got the better. ‘Sides, I’d gladly take a sick day ‘n’ spend the night here…

(his liquor-addled brain takes a moment to realize just exactly what he said and, after all, he’s still Henry)

er, I mean…that is…not like “spend the night” spend the night, but…you know…just sit for a while…just sit…play some cards, maybe…you like pinochle? Funny word, that…

CECELIA: Henry?

HENRY: Mm? (he cranes his neck up to look at her.)

CECELIA: Shut up. (she says it sweetly, without malice.)

HENRY: Mm. (he puts his head back down. There’s a small pause as she continues to dab at the lump on his head, but he doesn’t make any more uncomfortable noises.)

CECELIA: Is it that bad, Henry?

HENRY: Feels better, thanks.

(she rolls her eyes)

CECELIA: I meant your job, Henry.

HENRY: Oh…oh! Yeah, yeah it’s awful…an’ stupid…an’ boring… an’ pointless! Tell me, why do we even need agencies and people like me to compensate people for losses or disputes? Can’t people just ask for help, or settle disputes on their own? I mean, I know I could ask my Mum and Dad for money if I got hurt, and they’d have a lot more money if they didn’t have to pay bloody insurance! It’s a racket, Cecelia, a bleedin’ racket… an’ I’m just one of the strings…

(CECELIA thinks to comment on the fact that his metaphor has gone awry, but HENRY’s got a full head of steam now.)

HENRY: (deliberately, with the conviction only a souse has)
I sit there every day, smashing numbers together, pulling them apart, filling out my forms, helping people fill out their forms, printing new forms, reporting on forms, changing forms, forming forms, making little paper dolls out of forms…I’ve got quite a collection, you should see.

CECELIA: Gets boring, then?

HENRY: Too right. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve almost been caught by the boss napping or playing solitaire or doodling an unflattering cari… carica… carature… a picture of him…I just have some days where I feel like I’m doing nothing, Cecelia…an’ I wanna DO something!

CECELIA: Then why not leave?

HENRY: …I can’t.

(any budding admiration CECELIA had for him has erupted into old frustration)

CECELIA: Oh, there you go again! Never wanting to take chances, never wanting to rock the boat, nice old Henry, wouldn’t hurt a fly even if it burned his house down!

HENRY: Oi…

CECELIA: I don’t want to hear it, Henry! Don’t you realize that you’ve got to take some chances in life? You can’t just avoid anything uncomfortable you come across, you can’t just keep working at that same dead-end job forever! They can’t even pay you that well, obviously. I’ve seen your tiny flat, barely enough room for you to stick your arms out in! But still, you don’t want to upset anyone, you don’t want any kind of conflict, so you keep letting yourself grind away under someone else’s boot! It’s things like this, Henry…this like this that just…they ruin everything!

(she tosses the cloth she was dabbing his head with into the sink with a splash and crossed her arms resolutely. HENRY, his head hung low, is effectively cowed and has moved onto a drunken malaise. He mutters something unintelligible.)

CECELIA: What?

HENRY: They pay well.

CECELIA: Who? Your job?

HENRY: Yeah.

CECELIA: Right. And I suppose you choose to live in that ramshackle place?

HENRY: Yeah, I do.

CECELIA: (she sniffs) I don’t believe you. Why would you willingly do something like that?

(HENRY begins to rise slowly, speaking slowly with his back to CECELIA)

HENRY: Let’s say, for example, that some foolish little bug decides he’s gonna marry this girl. She marries, and she re-marries, on and on until she’s has seven husbands. And let’s say that, all this time, that foolish little bug has been working a job he doesn’t like, he outright hates, but he’s been saving all that extra money he’s not spending on his flat, or fancy food, or a car, or anything like that… because he’s planning for a life with that girl he loves. Let’s say that, in a few more months, he’ll have enough to start a real life on, and finally propose to that girl he loves, and then all the terrible days and terrible bosses will be worth it to give his Princess the castle and all the things she deserves. Would you still call that bug foolish?

(he turns around and places his bowler on his head, a sad little grin on half his face. CECELIA, on the other hand, is on the verge of tears. HENRY takes a step forward.)

HENRY: Sometimes, Cecelia…you don’t have to take chances. Sometimes, all you have to do is plan, and when your plan finally works, and you see that look in that special girl’s eye you know that you’ve really taken the biggest chance of all.

(he cradles her chin in his hands and places a small, sweet kiss on her forehead.)

HENRY: (whispering) I don’t blame you for being angry. It’s just how you show you care. I appreciate it. They way you are, it’s just…you…and I wouldn’t change that, not for the world…!

(He pulls away and hiccups lightly, drunkenly, and the two of them share a nervous giggle. With a bit of his swagger back, HENRY doffs the hat in a move that is pure Jimmy Durante.)

HENRY: Good night, Miss. Brown, wherever you are.

(he plops the hat back on his head, kicks up his heels, and heads out of the Brown house, whistling once again “Leaning on a Lamppost.” When he reaches the street, the camera shifts to an aerial shot from the Brown’s house, as his whistle is segued by CECELIA singing “Wonderful World” softly to herself from the balcony, watching the silly little shape disappear into the night.)

CECELIA: But I do know that I love you…
And I know that if you love me too…
What a Wonderful World this would be…

physical comedy, anyone?

(A fade to later, outside the pub, where LEW and HENRY, both a little tipsy from the well-wishers in the pub and their free drinks, wobble out into the street and babble goodbyes to each other.)

HENRY: Well, you crusty old bug, do ya feel better?

(he pushes LEW playfully. LEW smiles and waves him off)

LEW: Phwaw…yeh, I’m feelin’ better, mate. Thanks. Buuuuuuut…(he looks with bleary eyes down the street) I gotta be headin’ home. If I’m late again, that ol’ fusspot’ll string me up by me antennae. Cheers, mate.

HENRY: Cheers.

(LEW trundles off down the street, gaily spinning his tribly on one hand while humming the chorus to “My Sentimental Friend.” HENRY squints his slightly blurry vision and swears he sees two dark figures follow LEW home, but after shaking his head vigorously they have disappeared. With a shrug, he heads in the opposite direction. Unfortunately, the two dark figures actually wind up being the two shield bugs that were embarrassed a few days previous. Luckily for LEW, he’s not too tipsy to realize how tipsy he is.)

LEW: Blimey. Lucky they bought the drinks.

(He sits down on a small bench and jangles the few coins in the pocket of his waistcoat as he waits around a single lamppost for the bus to arrive. As he is waiting, the shield bugs creep closer infringing on the small circle of protective light, creeping ever closer, ever closer, climbing up the back of the bench and preparing to pounce on LEW any moment…)

LEW: On time, for once!

(the bus shows up, and LEW makes to exit the bench and get on the bus, neatly tipping the unfastened bench backwards and sending the other two shield bugs crashing to the sidewalk. All of this goes unnoticed by LEW, who sleepily drops his coins in the bin and heads back to his seat. The bus driver, a centipede, laughs himself silly as he puts hands at 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11, and 12 o’clock and steers the bus away. The camera pans away in a bird’s eye view from the laughter at the bus stop and swivels a few streets over, farther into the night, outside the Brown’s household. Dinner has just been finished, and the family is setting about clearing up. MRS. BROWN is busying herself with the dishes, and MR. BROWN is drying each plate, glass, and so forth that his wife washes. CECELIA, as still the “child” of the household, is left with the dirty work.)

MRS. BROWN: (from the kitchen as CECELIA finishes wiping off the table and is about to head out of the dining room) Celia, dear? Remember that you said you’d empty the bins tonight…

(CECLIA stops dead in her tracks, caught. With an ill-tempered snort, she sets about gathering up all the rubbish in the house and carrying it down the stairs to the large bins outside the apartment building.)

CECELIA: (to herself) Make one comment as a child about how you don’t like doing dishes, and they stick you with rubbish detail for the rest of your life…

(she heaves the bag into the bin, trying her best to dust off the rubbish-y feeling from her raptorial arms, but we all know that feeling needs a good wash to truly come out. She heaves a sigh and turns to go back inside, but she gets that feeling. That feeling that there’s someone else on the street, someone else watching…waiting…)

CECELIA: Hello? Is someone there?

(a cold wind stirs up a few odd bits of rubbish next to the bins. A long, lanky figure can be seen down the street a ways, leaned up next to a lamppost, his bowler hat pulled down over his eyes.)

CECELIA: Who is that? Henry, is that you?

(HENRY begins a song slowly, wobbly, as wobbly as his Chaplinesque step)

I’m leaning on a lamp
Maybe you think I look a tramp
Or maybe you think I’m round to steal a car
But no, I’m not a crook
And if you think that’s what I look
I’ll tell you why and what my motives are

(the tempo picks up, and so does HENRY. Apparently, the spirits have put a twinkle in his toes. He dances around, almost Gene Kelly-like, all over the lamppost and the surrounding area.)

I’m leaning on the lamp post at the corner of the street
In case a certain little lady comes by
Oh me, oh my
In case a certain little lady comes by

(he indicates CECELIA at this point)

Oh, she’s wonderful, she’s marvelous
She’s fabulous, she’s beautiful
And anyone can understand why
I’m leaning on the lamp post at the corner of the street
In case a certain little lady comes by

(HENRY bounds up to CECELIA, grinning like a mad frog during the instrumental. CECELIA responds in her own special way.)

CECELIA: You’re nuts, you are.

(she moves to head back inside the building, but HENRY sneaks in ahead of her, and during the next verse they engage in a cat and mouse chase up the stairs to her floor.)

She doesn’t always get away
She cannot always get away
But anyway I know that she’ll try
Oh me, oh my
I hope that little lady comes by

CECELIA: Gerroutofit!

(the music mimes heading up the stairs)
She’s not the kind of girl to be late for
But this one I’d break any date for
I won’t have to ask what she’s late for

(they reach her floor, and HENRY opens the door with a flourish to the Brown’s flat.)
She’d never leave me flat
She’s not a girl like that

(CECELIA enters and stands in the doorway, incredulous as HENRY keeps on going, dancing about and using the stairwell as his makeshift “lamppost”)
Wonderful, she’s marvelous
She’s fabulous, she’s beautiful
And anyone can understand why
I’m leaning on the lamp post at the corner of the street
In case a certain little lady comes by

CECLIA: Get out of here, you nitwit!

(even she can’t help but smile a little. However, her smile changes to distress as HENRY swings her out of the doorway and has her dancing with him on the tiny landing before the stairway.)

I’m leaning on the lamp post at the corner of the street
In case a certain little lady comes by
Oh me, oh my
In case a certain little lady comes by

(during this last chorus, HENRY spins CECELIA, now begrudgingly swept off her feet, back into the doorway, and manages to plant a little peck on her cheek before CECELIA forcibly slams the door shut.)

Oh, she’s wonderful, she’s marvelous
She’s fabulous, she’s beautiful
And anyone can understand why
I’m leaning on the lamp post at the corner of the street
In case a certain little lady comes by!

(the impact of the door shutting, however, sends HENRY off balance, and he takes a backwards tumble down one flight of stairs. CECELIA, hiding behind the recently closed door and trying to dispel the furious amount of blushing she’s doing, hears him topple over with a protracted “whoa!” and re-opens the door in time to see HENRY as a jumble of spindly limbs on the next landing down.)

CECELIA: (worried) Henry!!

Pub!

(Fade to a scene of the local pub, a cleverly reused half of a whiskey barrel. HENRY and LEW are at one of the tables, and as HENRY tucks into his second pint, he notices that LEW is feeling rather morose.)

HENRY: Hey there, what’s eating you?

LEW: You name it, mate. My job’s a bore, boss’s a pain in my thorax, I’m workin’ two jobs to pay my bills, and every time I walk down the street I can tell people are waitin’ to see if they have to hold their noses!

HENRY: Even the ones who don’t have noses?

LEW: ESPECIALLY them. They’re the worst of the lot. I tell ya, mate, my life’s just not worth much at the moment…

(HENRY thuds his empty pint down on the table bitterly.)

HENRY: Oi! I will not have you saying that, Lew. You’re just in a rut, is all, just like I was.

LEW: Yeah, an’ now you’re tiptoein’ through the bleedin’ tulips every morning on the way to work.

HENRY: You’re just jealous ‘cos I’m the better dancer. (he grins. LEW scoffs.)

LEW: If you call that dancing, mate, I’ll keep my feet on the floor.

HENRY: Oh, come on, Lew! There’s got to be something to cheer you up! What about all those ladies at the shop? Don’t they?

(LEW gives him a murderous glare and HENRY remembers, continuing quietly, so as not to leak the secret. LEW keeps turning the opposite direction, and HENRY keeps bouncing from either side of the table to talk face to face.)

HENRY: Don’t they make you feel nice?

LEW: …yeh

HENRY: And isn’t it…fun?

LEW: …yeh…

HENRY: And aren’t they all cute little bugs?

LEW: Phwaw. Most of ’em could be my Mum, Henry…

HENRY: But not all of em, right?

(LEW gives HENRY scrutinizing, squinting glare.)

LEW: What’s your game?

HENRY: Oh, I don’t know…(he feigns innocence, and begins meandering round the table) Just saying that maybe there’s a little lady…maybe a butterfly, maybe not… who might think you’re pretty special, is all…

LEW: Shut it…

HENRY: Oh, so I suppose you’d just be mortified if little Vera asked you to a movie or something?

LEW: She wouldn’t have the guts, you know that…

HENRY: That’s not a ‘yes,’ Lew…

LEW: Yes, then! Yes, I’d go with her! Are you happy, you damn busybody!

HENRY: I was asking if you’d be mortified, mate, not if you’d go with her…

LEW: oh, bloody bleeding BLIMEY!

(all noise in the pub has stopped to see LEW, now fully to his feet and shouting at HENRY, who is beaming. LEW, in an even fouler mood, slumps back down in his chair as some of the older bugs at the bar chuckle. Those kids, so full of energy.)

HENRY: Sooooo…

LEW: Shut. up. Henry.

HENRY: I should shut up?

LEW: Yes.

HENRY: I should stop talking to you?

LEW: Yes!

HENRY: Really? You want me to stop talking to you?

LEW: Yes, damn you!

HENRY: Okay…you said so…

(he turns to the pub at large.)

Oi, everyone!

(There is a general clatter and squeaking of chairs and stools as all eyes turn in HENRY. LEW, knowing the game, is frozen with rage.)

You all know Lew, right?

BUGS: OI!

HENRY: And you know he’s a great bug, right?

BUGS: OI!

HENRY: Well, my friend here, my sentimental friend, is having a bit of a problem.

BUGS: No!

HENRY: He’s stuck in a rut, so he says, and we’ve all been there, aye?

BUGS: Aye! (A beetle at the piano begins playing a song)

HENRY: And there’s this really shy little butterfly I know, and she just thinks that ol’ Lew here (he pats his friend on the shoulder, who almost topples over out of embarrassment) is pretty special. The only problem is, neither of them can work up the courage to bite the bullet and give it a try!

BUGS: Awwww!

HENRY: Yes, it’s sad, it’s sad, isn’t it friends?

(The beetle at the piano begins singing)
On the floor the people dance around
Moving close together
But there all alone in the corner
There’s the girl I once knew
Who broke me in two

(the entire pub joins in on the chorus, and at this point LEW wishes he could get stepped on)

So won’t you please play a song, a sentimental song
For my sentimental friend over there
We’ve been so long apart, make it go right to the heart
Of my sentimental friend over there
Bring the tears to her eyes, help to make her realize
The love we had was just beyond compare
Then if the time is right, maybe I’ll hold her tight
My sentimental friend over there

(one wispy housefly with a high voice and watery eyes sings the next verse in a heavy Cockney slang)

I recall the way she used to feel
When we heard a sad song
The teardrops would fall and she’d hold me
And tell me she’d be forever with me

(HENRY jumps up on the bar as the fly is patted heartily on the back. He addresses the masses.)

HENRY: Brothers of the pub, I beg you, sing this song, inscribe it on your hearts, and send it out to poor old Lew! He needs something to brighten his day, he needs something to pick him up, so let’s do just that, shall we?

BUGS: AYE!

(the pub-goers rush the table, placing LEW on top of it and carrying him about like some demented Bar Mitzvah. LEW, originally angry, begins to soften as the entire bar repeats the chorus a few times, eventually with LEW joining in and laughing so hard his carapace might burst.)

So won’t you please play a song, a sentimental song
For my sentimental friend over there
We’ve been so long apart, make it go right to the heart
Of my sentimental friend over there
Bring the tears to her eyes, help to make her realize
The love we had was just beyond compare
Then if the time is right, maybe I’ll hold her tight
My sentimental friend over there

This post was delayed by Abraham Lincoln driving a Hyundai.

(Another short montage of HENRY showering and getting ready, this time for work, and with a decidedly more chipper, less anxious feel. LEW takes notice on their way to work.)

LEW: Thanks, Desmond. (he takes a coffee from their usual vendor) Oi, you seem awfully happy this morning.

HENRY: Aw, Lew, I feel GREAT.

LEW: Things go well last night, then? Glad I could help

(he smiles. HENRY, not forgetting his manners, responds in kind)

HENRY: You know it, mate. Thanks for the present, it really helped break the ice.

LEW: Sunk the Titanic, did you then?

HENRY: Lew, it was like she was a completely new person. She was sweet, and intimate, and even a bit vulnerable…

LEW: Are we still talkin’ about the same bug here?

HENRY: (not listening) and she looked so beautiful, the way her eyes were shining… I’ve got to tell you, mate, I’m really thinking this is something good, something special…

LEW: yeah, right, sure… (he offers a supportive smile, but it’s nothing he hadn’t heard for years before.)

HENRY: And what about you then, Lew? Lord of Lotions, Purveyor of potions…

LEW: …knock it off, eh?

HENRY: But why? It’s wonderful, Lew! I can tell you really know your stuff. You should be proud!

LEW: Thanks, mate, but… (he lowers his voice conspiratorially) it ain’t really my thing to know about it…know what I mean?

HENRY: Ugh! Let me guess…another one of these stupid rules? Mantises gotta eat each other. A shield bug can’t know what smells good… what’s next? A butterfly isn’t allowed to flap her wings?

LEW: Don’t be a prat…

HENRY: (mischevious) Why? Is there a certain little butterfly you’d like to flap on over, then?

(LEW comes to a dead stop, effectively crushing the already crushed pedestrians in the midst of the morning commute. Angry voices seem to propel him forward as he skitters ahead to catch up with HENRY’s long-legged gait.)

LEW: (in a keyed-up hiss) What are you talking about?!

HENRY: Oh, I dunno…(he rolls his eyes playfully) hey, you’re looking a little peaked there, mate. Dried out a bit? Well, I know what’s good for ya, a little Aloe Vera… ‘Allo, Vera!

LEW: WHAT?!

(LEW’s head swivels around so fast he nearly loses his trilby. HENRY starts cackling with laughter, which earns him a none-too-gentle punch to the arm from LEW.)

HENRY: Hahahah–ow!

LEW: (looking downright troubled) Come on, mate…lay off, will you?

HENRY: (smiling back) All right, I will this time, but only because I’m feeling charitable!

LEW: You’re feeling sick, is what you are.

HENRY: What a wonderful world, Lew, what a wonderful world!

LEW: Just make sure you tone that down before you get to work, or Driscoll’ll have ye shoveling paperwork for a week!

HENRY: Aw, cheer up, Lew!

LEW: You’re tellin’ ME to cheer up? Blimey, you sure that’s you, mate?

HENRY: Oh, it’s me, Lew. The new me, so get used to it!

LEW: I don’t know if I can, mate. Bloomin’ ray of sunshine, you are.

HENRY: I was so bright, my Mum always used to call me son, doncha know!

LEW: (trying not to smile at the awful joke) Cripes, I feel sorry for the poor bug in the cube next to you today!

HENRY: What, Wilson? Oh, that old caterpillar could use a little sunshine! Who knows…he might even turn into a… (he begins plucking LEW’s antennae playfully with one of his raptorial arms) BUTTERFLY…

LEW: Agh! No more from you, mate, no more! (he nervously glances at his watch, and blanches) You’ve made me late as it is, with all your skippin’ and singin!

HENRY: (shrugging) I wasn’t singing this time…

LEW: (fully flustered) It doesn’t matter! I’ll just…I’ll see ya tonight, eh?

HENRY: Of course.

(LEW begins to trundle away)

HENRY: Oi, Lew?

LEW: (fully riled) WHAT?!

HENRY: Thanks, pal.

LEW: (finally cracking a smile) Yeah, whatever…

(the camera continues on LEW as he trundles through a few streets, with each one looking less and less energetic. By the time he reaches the construction site, foot traffic has slowed to a crawl, and so has he. He trudges into the yard as if he’d rather be in Hell…and maybe that’s not too far off as a mean-spirited wolf spider explodes out of a trailer made from a discarded soda can. His multiple eyes whirl madly in his head at the sight of a new victim, and his cigar puffs like an out-of-control locomotive from behind two unkempt mandibles.)

SPIDER: LEWIS! Wot’s yor game, aye?

LEW: Sorry, Mr. Graves. Traffic was bad this morning. It won’t happen again.

SPIDER: Yor damn roight it won’t! Cos if it does, yew’ll be out on yer arse! Now git ta work, Lewis!
(the cigar smoke is nearly impenetrable now, and seems to hand about MR. GRAVES’ face like a horrid beard on-top-of-a-beard)

LEW: It’s just ‘Lew,’ sir…

MR. GRAVES: Doo Oi look loike Oi care? Move yer shell, stinkbug!

(we can see a few of LEW’s hands tighten into fists, but he relents instead of punching his boss in his fat, smug face.)

MR. GRAVES: An’ hurry up, Lewis! Yew don’ pick it up an’ yor fired!

(While LEW drags himself over to grab a hardhat and start working, a incessant beat begins, and he grumbles out his grievances in a rough baritone. He begins to work in rhythm to the song, carrying bits of debris away from the site.)

The man with the cigar walked on up to where I was workin’ this mornin’
The man with the cigar said that I was workin’ too slow
& if I didn’t speed it up, he’d have to let me go

(a shot of MR. GRAVES over LEW’s perspiring shoulder, overseeing his least-favorite employee…or at least the one he can easily make fun of. His grin is monstrous, when visible through all the cigar smoke.)

I’m workin’ like a dog, so why’s he always hangin’ around me to hound me?
He’s pushing me too far, & pretty soon my back is gonna break
I’ve taken all that I can take from the man with the cigar

(LEW begins to help put things together: nailing, sawing, etc)
I need this job & I need it bad
That’s why I gotta keep myself from gettin’ mad
The man with the cigar, I hope he doesn’t push me too far
Yeah the man with the cigar
Yeah the man with the cigar
Yeah the man with the cigar

(the hands on the clock begins to spin, and the sun makes its long trek through the sky, baking the grassless, sandy construction site to a wholly undesirable crisp)

MR. GRAVES: Awright, you sad bunch, come in fer some water

(they all start walking)

MR. GRAVES: Essept Mr. Lewis, who doesn’ think ‘ee needs ta come ta work on time!

(GRAVES continues guffawing as LEW silently goes back to work. He has to, although by now he’s gritting out the lyrics as he continues doing the work we saw before, the work of five or six bugs, by himself.)

I need this job & I need it bad
That’s why I gotta keep myself from gettin’ mad
The man with the cigar, I hope he doesn’t push me too far
Yeah the man with the cigar
Yeah the man with the cigar
Yeah the man with the cigar

(the day is finally over, and LEW is trudging out, late, of course. He had to make up the few minutes he missed…by working another half hour. GRAVES dangles an envelope in front of his bent back and weary eyes.)

GRAVES: Oi dunn’even know if Oi should give ya this, Lewis, wot with your showin’ up late an’ all…

(LEW is silent, but his face registers disgust.)

GRAVES: Maybe…maybe if’n ya say “pleeze.”

(silence.)

GRAVES: Cummon, ya dumb little stinkbug, say “pleeeeeeze…”

(he draws it out insultingly. Finally, LEW caves.)

LEW: Please, sir…may I have my pay?

(GRAVES pretends to think about it)

GRAVES: …

(LEW is drawn closer and closer to ripping each and everyone one of those eyes out of his boss’ smug face. GRAVES realizes he can’t go much further, and, like all bullies, folds.)

GRAVES: Awright, ‘ere ya go, Lewis.

(LEW trudges away, dead tired. GRAVES, being a bully, and therefore a coward, fires one last parting shot)

GRAVES: Why not use it to buy yorself a little perfume, Stinky? Haw haw haw!

(LEW tightens a bit, but realizes that he’s just making a general joke, not that he knows about his other job. Slightly relieved, he heads to the fence at the perimeter and meets up with HENRY

HENRY: Tough day?

LEW: ERGH.

HENRY: I’ll take that as a yes. C’mon, mate (he tosses an arm around LEW’s comparatively low shoulder) first round’s on me.

(the two walk off to the pub, without noticing that they are being watched. As the two walk out of the shot, we can see another two watching them from behind a bin…the rowdy shield bugs from the previous night, malicious grins painted on their sneering faces.)

High Noone

(MR. BROWN gives a small smile, which HENRY pays back twentyfold. MRS. BROWN appears, drying off the bowl that held the big salad)

MRS. BROWN: Oh, you’re still here! Really, Edgar, keeping him out here so late with your silly little games! He’s got work in the morning, you know!

(MR. BROWN looks at HENRY and rolls his eyes, as if to say ‘get a load of her, eh?’ and trundles off. MRS. BROWN, as is her wont, begins to fuss over HENRY.)

MRS. BROWN: All that way to walk, and through that neighbourhood you live in, tsk tsk! It used to be so nice, but then the buildings got a little run down…oh, do say you’re saving up for a nicer place, Henry dear!

HENRY: (who doesn’t at all think his neighbourhood is bad) Er, sure, I’ve thought about it…

MRS. BROWN: Well, see that you do. The minute something goes wrong, they’ll blame a mantis, just you watch! And they call us savages! Oh, but look, here I am making you even more late! Can’t have your boss angry at you, he’s such a grumpy fellow to begin with!

HENRY: I suppose…

MRS. BROWN: I’ll make sure you make it out of the building okay. Celia, dear!

CECELIA: (her voice comes muffled through a wall, from her room, with a bit of agitation, as if upset Henry is still there.) What, mother?

MRS. BROWN: Can you lead Henry out back to the street, dear?

CECELIA: It’s only three floors, Mum…

MRS. BROWN: Cecelia Anne Brown, you were brought up better than that! In this house, we treat our handsome guests with respect! Now get out here this instant!

(There is a faint squealing noise as we can tell CECELIA is screaming into her pillow. Eventually, she stops screaming and relents with a beleaguered)

CECELIA: (sighs heavily) Yes, Mother…

HENRY: (Turning to MRS. BROWN as she makes to exit back to the kitchen) Excuse me, but did you just call me…

(he is cut off as CECLIA enters, none too pleased)

CECELIA: Come on, Hank. Let’s go.

(The two exit the apartment, to a darling wave from CECELIA’s mother and a grunt from her Father. As they head down the stairs, HENRY tries to strike up a conversation.)

HENRY: I like your family.

CECELIA: …

HENRY: Your Dad’s quite good with word games ‘n’ such

CECELIA: …

HENRY: Er… your Mum’s nice…as always…

(CECELIA rounds on him.)

CECELIA: Oh stop it, will you?

HENRY: (poleaxed) Stop what?

CECELIA: Just stop… being so NICE!

HENRY: (flabbergasted) …Pardon?

CECELIA: You’re so damn nice all the time, Henry! Doesn’t it ever get, I don’t know, annoying? Mum likes you, Dad likes you, EVERYONE likes you…but you’re stuck at a job you hate, in a crummy little apartment, and you keep chasing after me…for FIVE YEARS, HENRY… just because you’re too damned nice to do something that might upset someone. Well guess what?

HENRY: (dumbfounded, and a little behind) …I like my apartment…

CECELIA: (not listening, continues back down the stairs) You’re upsetting ME, Henry! You’re so nice, you’re so gentle, you’re so… perfect… it just pisses me off, all right?

(she throws open the door from the apartment building to the street, and continues)

CECELIA: So what, I’m supposed to marry you? Glorious, wonderful, hoo-bloody-ray, Henry! Then what? I gobble you up, as always, leaving me to live with my weird Dad and insufferable Mum EVEN LONGER while I raise your little brats which, might I remind you, you won’t even be around to help me with? I beg your pardon, but not bloody likely!

HENRY: But, Cecelia…

CECELIA: (on too much of a roll to stop now) I never did it, Henry. There. I said it. My big secret’s out. My seven husbands didn’t get eaten, they left… in shame! Each one thought they could be the one to sacrifice themselves in some ridiculous, tribal, primordial ceremony, just to say that they were manly men who got me pregnant! I never did it, Henry. It’s ridiculous, barbaric! I told them all that I wouldn’t, but for some reason they thought they could change my mind… imagine that! These idiots actually wanted to CONVINCE me to KILL them! Morons!

(she’s now pacing up and down in the street light.)

CECELIA: So I sent them all packing, one by one, off into the bloody sunset, ashamed that they couldn’t “conquer” me, or some such…bollocks! Of course, to protect their own stupid man pride, they made me tell everything that they had done it, and had been gobbled down, and it was MY fault that I couldn’t ever produce any offspring!

HENRY: (sympathetic) Cecelia, I’m sorry…

CECELIA: (almost sneering) Sorry? Hah! What’s there to be sorry about? It’s not like there wasn’t another stupid suitor who thought he could be “the One” standing in line, and I sent them all packing, until the seventh was gone, and I’d finally had enough…but still the idiots won’t stop! Dancing outside my window, proclaiming themselves…for WHAT? Just do DIE? It doesn’t make any bloody sense, Henry! And here you come, never once talking about mating rites or cannibalism…you just talk about loving me…and how am I supposed to deal with that? And Mum bloody loves you, and now Dad likes you… did you know that he’s actually my stepdad? My Mum had to send HER first suitor packing like I did, while all the time she was having a kid with Dad, lying and saying it was the supposedly “dead” first husband’s! It’s…it’s DUMB!

(her breath comes in heaves, like a mad hyena, as HENRY finally finds an opportunity)

HENRY. It…it is dumb, Cecelia…

CECELIA: Don’t! Just… don’t! Don’t tell me how you agree with me, and don’t tell me about how you’re going to change all the rules… Blimey, Henry, us mantises have been doing this for hundreds of years. Lying…for hundreds of years!

HENRY: (surprised by his own forwardness) Not out in the country! Not where I come from! It’s been proven, Cecelia, it’s been absolutely proven that we mantises only engage in those ridiculous practises in urban areas, close to the humans!

CECELIA: Ah, the lunatic fringe. Didn’t all those scientists lose their licenses?

(she starts to walk away, but HENRY cuts her off, placing on arm on each shoulder gently.)

HENRY: It’s true, Cecelia. My Dad is my Dad, he always has been. There’s a problem here, just like your Mum says. If no one’s doing it anymore, why do we keep up the charade? Just so people can mock us and call us savage? Is that really worth keeping up tradition? Is that really worth all of our stupid pride?

(CECELIA, strangely, is standing still with her head bowed. It’s the calmest she’s been since we’ve seen her. There’s a slight sob in her voice as she speaks, her face still to the pavement.)

CECELIA: It’s not fair…you know. You show up, and you’re all nice, and you help Mum out in the kitchen, and you play along with Dad’s STUPID games…you fit in with the family, we all get along…and then, you start singing THAT SONG…

HENRY: Pardon?

CECELIA: (raising her face upwards. Her eyes are a little wet.) That stupid song, the one you talked about at dinner. Dad used to sing it to Mum all the time while she was courting that other lump she married first… and you just pull it out of that dumb-looking hat of yours, bold as brass, like you didn’t realise that it was the last piece of the puzzle…you can be such an ass sometimes, Henry, and you don’t even know it!

(there’s a beat.)

CECELIA: (slipping out of HENRY’s grip) It’s late. You’ve got to get home.

(She moves to go back inside. Finally, HENRY tries to help the situation.)

HENRY: You really think my hat looks dumb?

CECELIA: Yes. Always have. But you should wear it…it suits you.

(She gives him a sad little smile and shuts the door, leaving HENRY alone in a street that suddenly seems very cold. He stands there for a while, a little smile on his face, until he sees a light go on at the top floor of the cinder block building. Softly, sweetly, he starts singing)

Dunno much about History
Dunno much Biology
Dunno much about a Science Book
Dunno much about the French I took

But I do know that I love you
And I know that if you loved me too
What a wonderful world this would be

(he trots out to where the Browns’ street meets the roundabout, where the mantises had danced earlier.)

Dunno much about Geography
Dunno much Trigonometry
Dunno much about Algebra
Dunno what a slide-rule is for

But I do know that one and one is two
And if this one could be with you
What a wonderful world this would be…

(he’s looking directly at the lighted window now.)

Now, I don’t claim to be an “A” student
But I’m tryin’ to be
But maybe by being an “A” student, honey…
I can bring your love to me

(he sings out loudly now, so there’s no way she can’t hear him)

Dunno much about History
Dunno much Biology
Dunno much about a Science Book
Dunno much about the French I took

(slowly now, almost reverently)

But I do know that I love you
And I know that if you loved me too…
What a wonderful world…

(the light goes off. She doesn’t come out and yell, she doesn’t cry, she doesn’t say anything. The light just goes off. Chuckling, HENRY turns around and heads home, a small, sad smile on his face and determination shining all the more brightly in his eyes.)

Back to normal…maybe!

(cut to a short montage of HENRY getting ready for his big date: doffing his tie and hat, scrubbing up, and stepping into the shower. As we see him in silhouette, the radio next to the shower cuts in over the incidental music.)

RADIO: Hey hey hey, all you beetles, bugs, and creepy-crawlies, this is your buddy Daddy Longlegs playin’ all the hits for you, so sit back and enjoy this thorax-shaker from Herman’s Hermits!

(HENRY is muttering to himself, busying himself with the shower, until the first opening strains of Herman’s Hermit’s “Henry the Eighth” come wafting through the air.)

RADIO: Ah’m ‘En-er-ee the Eighth, Eye Am…

(The camera, slowly zooming in on the radio, is suddenly invaded from the left hand side from HENRY’S raptorial arm, angrily swatting the offensive electronic device away as his scowling head pokes out from behind the shower curtain. After a few moments comical pause on his frustrated face, the montage continues: preening, adjusting antennae, and tying and re-tying his necktie until finally sighing resignedly and grabbing his hat, heading out. Cut to a first person shot of a door opening to HENRY, gift in hand, looking only slightly terrified for his very life.)

HENRY: Er, ah… hello…

(A large, silent, but not necessarily ill-tempered mantis answers the door and waves HENRY inside. HENRY, feeling supremely uncomfortable, tries to strike up a conversation.)

HENRY: Nice place you have here…

MANTIS: …

HENRY: Nice weather we’re having, eh?

MANTIS: …

(The silent MANTIS leads HENRY into a dining room/kitchen, where MRS. BROWN is busy putting the finishing touches on an obviously elaborate dinner. Naturally, she is overjoyed to see HENRY.)

MRS. BROWN: Ah, there you are, Henry! How nice to see you again, and so prompt! Isn’t that a good quality to have, dear?

(The silent MANTIS mutters a little and exits the room.)

MRS. BROWN: Oh, don’t mind Edgar. He’s always quiet around the fellows Cecelia brings home. I’m sure he’ll love you!

(HENRY adopts a lopsided, tentative smile.)

MRS. BROWN: Cecelia will be out in a moment. Takes forever in the bath, you know…

(CECELIA’S voice can be heard, muffled through a nearby wall)

CECELIA: Mother!

MRS. BROWN: Well, it’s true, dear! She’s always been neat and tidy, cleaning up after Edgar and I. I always said she’s make a lovely housewife, but…

CECELIA: MOTHER.

MRS. BROWN: Oh, fine, fine!

(she takes stock of the box in HENRY’S hand)

Oh, my!

(HENRY jumps, on pins and needles, as usual lost behind the verbal barrage of CECLIA’S effervescent Mum.)

You took my advice, I see! Well, what is it, what is it? I’m dying to see!

HENRY: It’s a new, er, fragrance, actually. I, er… I got the manager to give me something special…

MRS. BROWN: Oh, my! I could use a few insider deals like that, you simply must introduce me sometime!

HENRY: (recalling the afternoon’s events) Yeah, right…

MRS. BROWN: I’m sure Celia will love it. (a buzzer sounds from the stove) Oh! That would be the cake! Henry, darling, be a dear and set the salad on the table, would you?

(HENRY assents and carries the bowl of mixed greens over to the table. As he sets it down, he manages to knock over the salt shaker and, embarrassed, tosses a little over his right shoulder. However, the shaker proves to be a tricky foe and constantly escapes his grasp, leading HENRY to chase it round the dinner table like some escaped convict, grasping at it desperately but each time feeling it slip through his fingers. He finally clamps down on it as CECELIA, unheard enters upon the strange scene)

CECELIA: What on earth are you doing?

HENRY: Aaagh!

(HENRY overreacts as the sound of her voice and smashes the salt shaker in his hand. In doing so, he overreacts again and throws his hands up in dismay, spilling almost the entire contents onto his head and into his face. Of course, this is salt, and once it gets in his eyes, well…)

HENRY: AAAAAAAAAGH!

(jump to an extreme close-up of HENRY’s red and inflamed eyes as dinner is being enjoyed. Despite the obvious pain, HENRY puts on a brave front. There is no way this evening is going to be ruined.)

HENRY: (only slightly sycophantically) Everything is delicious, Mrs. Brown.

MRS. BROWN: Oh, thank you, Henry. Picked this up specially for today, you know (she gestures to a grape which is sitting in the place of honor on the table, not unlike a Thanksgiving turkey) it’s a Muscadine, I almost had to clobber an old ladybug at the store to get the last one! She took one look at me, though, and decided best not to. Isn’t it amazing how those old preconceptions still exist today?

HENRY: (thinking back to his experience in the boutique)
Sure is…

MRS. BROWN: (perturbed) I mean, it’s just a grape, it’s not like I’m going to kill her over it. But, I’m a mantis, and we just roam the streets killing and maiming as we please, don’t we? Even in this day and age, people see a mantis and think they’re going to be gobbled up…ridiculous! I didn’t hear any of them complaining when Edgar and his unit helped bring down Nazi spies and carrier pigeons. What was it, dear, was it fourteen pigeons you and your boys intercepted?

EDGAR: Hm.

MRS. BROWN: I guess it’s okay to be a fearsome hunter when there’s a war on, but as soon as the treaties are signed, we’re back to being savages. The nerve!

CECELIA: (trying to calm her mother) It’s all right, Mum. Things are getting better…

MRS. BROWN: Oh, but they shouldn’t have to, Celia dear. There hasn’t been a report of a mantis eating anyone since before the turn of the century, and here’s your father, a war hero, still treated like some monster just because of what he is! For crying out loud, he pulled our boys out at Dunkirk…do you know about Dunkirk, Henry?

(HENRY, who had been politely eating his salad, is blindsided. He responds genuinely while worrying the salad into oblivion with his fork.)

HENRY: Erm, I’m sorry, Mrs. Brown. Don’t know much about history, I’m afraid…

(he adds the second part as an afterthought, a nasty habit of lame jokes based on song lyrics)

HENRY: Don’t know much biology, either, I suppose…

(he chuckles nervously and looks up to see the entire family looking at him with shocked expressions on their faces. Embarrassed and appalled at what he took for a faux pas, HENRY dives back into his dinner and the rest of the meal passes in a tetchy silence. Cut to a post-dinner scene: MRS. BROWN is busying herself with the dishes, MR. EDGAR BROWN has returned to the den with a pipe and a newspaper, and CECELIA has taken to the veranda for some air. After being shooed away from helping at the sink for the third time, HENRY finally gives up and looks over his situation. To his left, the father, who hasn’t said but two words the entire evening and probably hates his lack of historical knowledge. To his right, Cecelia, who probably just hates him out right. Still, HENRY is reminded of the present and, quickly nicking the package off the sideboard, he heads out onto the veranda. CECELIA, not having heard him, is humming a strangely familiar song softly to herself. HENRY approaches quietly, meekly.)

HENRY: … hi.

(CECELIA finally clocks that HENRY is there and jumps nearly out of her skin.)

CECELIA: Ahh!

(this, in turn, upsets HENRY, who does much the same.)

HENRY: Ahh!

CECELIA: Don’t sneak up on me like that! (she whirls around to face the opposite direction, giving a superbly cold shoulder)

HENRY: Erm, sorry, Cecelia. It’s just…well…err…

(he awkwardly thrusts out his hand containing the little blue box. His next words come out as a nervous jumble.)

HENRY: Thiszzferyou!

(CECELIA turns slowly, only her head at first, then finally her whole body to take the gift. Upon opening the box, she forgets herself momentarily.)

CECELIA: Oh, my God! This is the new one, isn’t it? How on earth did you get a hold of it, Henry? Oh, I’ve been wanting to try this forever…thank you!

(her bright and shining eyes finally turn up from the box and she remembers just who exactly she is gushing to. The joy falls from her face immediately and she vacates the veranda before HENRY can say a word. He is left there for a few agonizing seconds, knowing that there isn’t much more he can do, and at least she seemed happy for a few moments… he’s about ready to get his hat and leave when EDGAR BROWN appears on the veranda, shuffling out quietly and resting his raptorial arms on the railing, the same railing CECELIA had shouted to her angry, would-be suitors earlier that morning. There is another agonizing pause as HENRY wants to leave, but can’t. After all, he still loves Cecelia, and getting in good with the father is essential.)

HENRY: Erm…nice night, Mr. Brown?

EDGAR: Some Enchanted Evening.

HENRY: (blinking, baffled) Pardon?

EDGAR: But…the Night Has a Thousand Eyes.

HENRY: I’m sorry, are you…?

EDGAR: So don’t go being…Two Silhouettes on the Shade.

HENRY: No, no! Of course not! Er, I mean… I couldn’t…she’s an Earth Angel?

(a tiny smile begins to show on EDGAR’s features)

EDGAR: Will You Still Love Her Tomorrow?

HENRY: (smiling, catching on) Until the sun no longer shines, sir. That is, in other words…

EDGAR: Until the end of time?

HENRY: Right… Cherish, you see, would be the word I use to describe…

EDGAR: Take Good Care of My Baby…

HENRY: (grinning) Oh, I’ll make sure to never make her cry, sir.

EDGAR: (with a defeated shrug) Devil or Angel, I can’t make up my mind…

HENRY: Whichever she is, I love her.

(EDGAR’s a bit taken back by HENRY’s seriousness of that last one. After a moment, he goes on.)

EDGAR: She’s your soul and your heart’s inspiration?

HENRY: She’s all I’ve got to get me by!

EDGAR: You’ll love her tender, love her sweet?

HENRY: All I do know is I love her, and I know that if she loved me, too…

(EDGAR chuckles a little to himself, looking out at the darkening sky.)

EDGAR: Hh. What a wonderful world this would be.

Delayed by a stopped toilet and a boring movie

(the two SHIELD BUGS begin to swagger about the shop, miming that they are looking at products to avoid a charge of loitering. However, it is apparent, as the camera sweeps behind LEW and the girls at the counter, that the two ne’er-do-wells have a particular axe to grind. They are dull and dusty coloured, with shifting eyes and an air of persecution about them, though no one has said a word. Finally, one of the bugs struts up to the counter and picks up one of the small, inexpensive impulse items by the cash register and plunks it contemptuously on the counter.)

LEW: (unphased) Will that be all for you, sir?

BUG: (seeming supremely bored) Yeh.

LEW: That’ll be one-fifty, then?

(the BUG seems slighted)

BUG: Aw, come on, man, you can’t get me a discount?

LEW: Sorry, sir, discounts are for store personnel only.

(he steals a conspiratorial glance at HENRY, who dutifully remains silent and relatively out of sight.)

BUG: Aw, come on brother, can’t you get me a discount. I mean, we gotta stink together, know what I mean, Stinkbug?

(The girls behind the counter gasp as a flash of white-hot anger darts across LEW’S eyes, but he swallows it back down quickly and responds quickly and coldly)

LEW: Sir, if you’re going to speak like that, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.

BUG: What’s wrong, brother? We’re all Stinkbugs, ain’t we?

LEW: We don’t use that word around here, sir. It’s offensive.

BUG: (seemingly offended) Whatever, man! I’m proud to be a Stinkbug! I’ll stink everyone in this crazy place, me and my brother. I’m proud of who I am!

LEW: (starting to boil over) It’s a lie, you twit! Go make something of yourself, be more than what people tell you you are. Now, if you’re not going to pay full price, I’m going to have to ask you to leave, you’re upsetting the rest of my staff.

BUG: Whatever, man. You ain’t got no heart, you ain’t a real bug. You’re the one listenin’ to what people tell you, tryin’ to be somethin’ you ain’t, whatever. We don’t even wanna talk with your ladies here no more, they ain’t what we’re lookin’ for… don’t smell right…

(LEW’s jaw clenched so tight he can barely speak)

LEW: Then get out.

BUG: Yeah, whatever, brother. You ain’t nothin, and we don’t want your ugly, old ladies either.

(It’s clear that the BUG is looking for a fight, and LEW is about ready to give in. Seeing what could be a problem as the shield bugs begin staring each other down, HENRY sneaks his thin and gangly body around various displays and kiosks until he is behind the two bugs, his tall, predatory frame easily looming over the two troublemakers. As HENRY raises himself up to his full height, LEW takes notice and begins to settle down, even cracking what becomes a massive grin as the two BUGS realize their folly and turn around to see one of the more fearsome insect predators bending his raptorial arms hungrily, his bowler hat and tie quickly discarded in a bin of moisturiders to cement the chilling effect.)

HENRY: (in his most menacing voice, which actually isn’t all that menacing) Do we have a problem here?

(Both BUGS are petrified and beat a hasty retreat as HENRY fastidiously replaces his hat and tie. LEW rings him up gleefully while the rest of the girls offer to pay for the item themselves as a show of thanks.)

CLARICE: Well done, young sir! You might be handy to have around!

VERA: Oi’ll say!

LEW: (bagging up the purchase) I’ll see what I can do, ladies, see? I’m putting an application in the bag with him…

(he gives HENRY a look of thanks, which HENRY reciprocates and thanks the entire store.)

LEW: Now get a move on, mate. You’ve got yourself some a dinner date tonight!

VERA: Make sure it daon’t get too serious, or Yew’ll end up bein’ dinner!

(HENRY takes his turn to be embarrassed and quickly exits the store, parcel in hand. Work resumes as normal at Bug Bath & Body.)

CLARICE: (opening a box) (to LEW) I hope that boy’s careful, Lew. He seems nice, I’d hate to see him gobbled up…

LEW: Don’t worry, marm. Henry’s looking to change the whole flippin’ way a mantis goes about love!

Totally not based on real life. At all.

(HENRY steps down the street slowly, a little dazed, still not quite sure of what just happened. After all, he’s almost got a dinner date with Cecilia Brown, the love of his life. It doesn’t take him long to find the store MRS. BROWN described to him, as it is ridiculously bright and cheerful compared to the other utilitarian gray stores on the block. The place is blindingly white, offset with touches of sugar pink and leafy green, coupled with a bewildering scent that seems to waft out of the very wood of the store walls, which carry enough lotions, poultices, creams, scrubs, washes, and soaps to scrub squeaky clean the Thames. The sign above clearly proclaims “BUG BATH & BODY” in a gaily adorned font and, as HENRY looks inside, he sees the entire store populated by female bugs, most likely stranded in the desert of grumpy gray man-stores and using this as their lone oasis. Determined to impress CECILIA, HENRY takes a deep, perfumed breath and walks in, taking care to duck his head on the low (for a mantis) doorway. He is immediately set upon by VERA, a noxiously chipper young butterfly)

VERA: ‘Allo, sir! A bit lost, are we?

HENRY: (embarrassed) Erm, yes…I was recommended here, looking for something for a lady…

VERA: Phwaw! Oi shoulda known! Fellas’re always comin’ in here fer their ladies, makes me wish Oi ‘ad a fella of me own ta boi me things… but ‘e’d ‘afta be rich, cos Oi’d want th’ ‘ole store!

(VERA laughs with enough gusto that HENRY is thoroughly embarrassed, but none of the other regulars seem to mind. Apparently, this is what VERA is always like. Still chunnering away, VERA leads HENRY over to one of the walls and begins assaulting him with various items of merchandise, trying to find the right thing for CECILIA. As those two fade in the foreground, the camera focuses on the background, where a burly looking shield bug trundles out from the back room, clad in a brown apron and carrying a ridiculous amount of cardboard boxes, ready for re-stock. He sets them all down on the counter with a big exhalation, rolling his shoulder joints satisfactorily, his back to the camera.)

BUG: Whoo! Don’t that just get your motor runnin, eh Clarice?

(a nearby middle-aged beetle regards him warmly over half-glasses)

CLARICE: There’s no reason you should carry all of that by yourself, you know…

BUG: Awwww, come now, I couldn’t have all you lovely ladies doing all the heavy work. Leave it to the ol’ grumpy man to hide in the back room an’ take his discount, I’m no good with customers. You lovely things can get ’em buying better than I can!

CLARICE: Oh, Mr. Oxford, you’re friendly enough, you’d get plenty of sales!

MR. OXFORD: (ambivalent) Eh, you know as well as I do that no ladybug or ladybeetle would wanta buy her lotions from a you-know-what, ‘specially a feller, and how many times did I tell you? It’s not Mr. Oxford, it’s Lew.

CLARICE: (smiling with motherly love) All right…Lew. You are my boss, though, it’s a bit weird…

LEW: You’re older than I am, fer cryin’ out loud, don’t think about it so much. Now (he coughs officiously as he neatly slices open the top box) as manager, I’m ordering you to go an re-stock the Sweet Cinnamon Apple over there. Quick as y’like now, spit spot!

(he adds a ridiculous wink that makes CLARICE laugh out loud)

CLARICE: Big seller, that one!

LEW: You should try the candles, dearie! Nothing sweetens up a room better than Sweet…

(LEW finally comes to realize that HENRY has long since stopped paying attention to VERA’S jabbering and has been gaping, slack-jawed, at his friend behind the counter, caught working at his secret, very unmanly, very un-quarrylike job.)

LEW: SWEET CINNAMON APPLE!

(LEW exclaims with a squeak and immediately ducks behind the counter. In doing so he upsets a few of the cardboard boxes, which topple over onto his broad back.)

LEW: Ow, ow!

(This, unlike VERA’S bubbly personality, is apparently not something the bugs in the store have become used to. The other ladies rush to his aid as LEW orders them away.)

CLARICE: Oh, my! Are you all right, Mr. Oxford?

VERA: Lew! What’d yew do?

LEW: I’m fine, I’m fine! Go about your work, please!

(The ladies freeze for a moment, then slowly fan back out to their appointed sections of the store. After another few minutes of the hard sell from VERA, HENRY finally stops even pretending to pay attention and heads over to the counter, where LEW is still hiding.)

HENRY: Lew?

LEW: (his voice is muffled under the boxes) Dunno who you’re talking about, mate. My name’s, er, Tony…

HENRY: (rolling his eyes) And I’m Margaret Thatcher. Come on, mate, up with you.

(he grabs two boxes in his raptorial arms and pulls them off his friend. LEW is cowed and embarrassed beyond belief.)

LEW: Oi…

HENRY: And may I ask just what you are doing down there?

LEW: Well, er, I, um, that is…

HENRY: Don’t tell me you were hiding…big, manly Lew Oxford afraid to be seen working at such a (he makes a perfectly limp-wristed gesture with his mantis arms) “fanciful” store?

LEW: No! Hide…I’m not hiding! Not at all! Whatever gave you that idea, mate? I was just, er… just trying out this new foot cream is all! It’s deep moisturizing, doncha know, ‘s got Aloe Vera… ‘Allo, Vera!

(the energetic butterfly has followed her potential sale to the counter, and is now peeking out from behind HENRY, obviously a little perplexed. Being around LEW brings about a rapid, reticent change in her personality, and it’s probably due to more than just workplace hierarchy.)

VERA: H…hello, Mr. Oxford, sir…

LEW: (getting up and dusting himself off, he begins to re-stack the boxes)
You’ve been treating our customer right, I trust?

(VERA is far too flustered to answer)

HENRY: She’s been terrific, Lew, really helpful. In fact, (he snags a bottle of eau du toilette from a nearby display) she recommended this to me as a present for a lady friend of mine. could you help me ring it up?

LEW: (regarding VERA warmly, which only makes her wings flutter more) Well done, Vera. That ought to do nicely. Off you go now, back to the front of the store with that smile of yours. Can I get a smile, eh?

(fidgeting furiously, VERA cracks a timid smile)

LEW: Oi, there we are! That’s what BBB is all about! Now go and turn that gorgeous gob of yours on the customers, eh?

(VERA giggles and floats away…literally. She hovers a few milimeters off the ground in elation. LEW turns back to HENRY once she is out of earshot, gesturing to the spray bottle.)

LEW: Actually, sir, I think that item you have might be damaged. If you’ll come into the back with me, we’ll see if we can find a better one…

HENRY: Looks fine to me, I–

LEW: (with dark, serious eyes) NO. It’s DAMAGED. Please come into the BACK so we can DISCUSS it.

HENRY: (finally getting it) Ohhhhh… right. (He nods idiotically)

LEW: Clarice, mind the counter, will you, luv?

HENRY: Of course, Lew. Friend of yours, this tall drink of water?

LEW: Yep. Just going to see if I can’t find him a better item for his lady friend… that’s who it’s for, right?

HENRY: (now fidgeting himself) Er, yes…you know the one…

LEW: Good on ya, mate. Not a lot of gentlebugs have the stuff to walk into here alone, you know. Come on, let’s find something PERFECT for her…

(He leads HENRY past a swinging, double-hinged door, and immediately becomes tense, nervous, and irritable.)

LEW: I’m sorry.

HENRY: For what?

LEW: I didn’t tell you about this place. I lied and told ya I was taking more work at the quarry. Truth is… I’ve been working here for years. Store Manager now, an’ all that… you must think I’m a real…(he puts heavy emphasis on the curse word) STINKBUG for not tellin’ ya.

HENRY: (shaking his head) Lew…if I would have cared, I would have asked. It’s your life, mate, do what you want. What, you think I’ll think less of you for working here?

LEW: It’s just so…girly, Henry! I work in a quarry, fer cryin’ out loud, but when I’m here… it’s relaxing, right? All the nice smells, all the nice people… it makes me forget what I am.

HENRY: And what is that?

LEW: You know…a…one of those…one of those bugs…

HENRY: (putting a comradely arm around his friend) Lew, I’ve known you since we were larvae. I’ve never thought you stunk, not once. Even when all the other bugs would tease you, I was there. Blimey, you usually smell better than any other bug I know…although now I know why…

(LEW laughs shakily, looking up at his tall friend with an equally shaky smile.)

LEW: So… you’re not mad?

HENRY: Never, friend. Cripes, you know where I work, you don’t think I’d rather work here?

LEW: (rationally thinking, in “manager mode”) Well, we do need help for the holiday season…

(HENRY smiles and pats LEW on the head)

HENRY: I’ll think about it, mate. So! (he straightens up, and almost crashes his tall head into a low hanging cabinet stocked with scented oils) Your “professional” opinion for Cecilia…does this work?

(he holds out the box he had nabbed. LEW looks it over for a bit, cocking his head to one side, and eventually shaking his head.)

LEW: Nah. She don’t strike me as the fruit-scented type…wait! I’ve got it! Stay right here, mate…

(he trundles off and returns after a few comical crash-boom-bangs echo from the store room’s interior)

HENRY: Blimey! What’s all back there?!

LEW: Don’t ask. Here…

(He produces a box labeled SOPHISTICATED SAPPHIRE.)

HENRY: What is it?

LEW: Brand new fragrance. Not even out yet, so keep it real quiet, eh? Real classy, real glamorous. First in a new line they’re developin’ at corporate. Coupla sprays of this an’ she’ll feel like a Lizzie Taylor!

HENRY: (dumbstruck) WOW. Thanks, Lew, you’re the best! Er…

(he glances at the bottom of the box and blanches at the price tag.)

HENRY: You get a discount, right?

(LEW laughs heartily, clapping HENRY so hard on his thin back that the spindly mantis almost falls over.)

LEW: Yeah, mate…yeah. Now come on, I’ve got shelves to stock…and you’ve got a date with you-know-who!

(he opens the door and returns to ring up the box secretly. HENRY follows behind, in a daze after LEW’s last comment.)

HENRY: Yeah, I’ve got a date…with her…

(HENRY doesn’t pay attention to where he’s going and, as he ducks under the low (for a mantis) doorway, the double hinged door swings back and smacks him square on top of the head, sending him crashing backwards into a jumble of boxes. Not wanting to be accused of destroying store property, HENRY immediately leaps back to his feet, retrieving and undenting his hat, checking gingerly for a goose-egg. To his surprise, no one had even noticed his little pratfall and, as he opens the door again (carefully this time) he sees why: two particularly sour looking shield bugs have come into the store, looking to cause a row. The camera follows behind HENRY’S left shoulder as the next scene develops.)

Pobrecito Enrique!

*A short montage of HENRY at work follows, including him eating a somber lunch in the breakroom, gazing bleary-eyed at his hundredth insurance policy today (after all, bad things happen to bugs very often), and bashing his raptorial arms against the office copy machine, which constantly refuses to work properly. At each turn, HENRY finds himself humming that song to himself, only to be interrupted: first by the janitor (an industrious ant), then by his co-workers again trying to shut him up, and thirdly by the copy machine jamming, effectively ruining his day. Thoroughly drawn out and bedraggled, HENRY trudges back through the streets toward home. LEW works late at the quarry, so there’s not even anyone to share his misery with, save the crush of other miserable bugs in the “rat” race and a positively annoying Gypsy Moth busker, playing a repeated rhythm on a strangely muted guitar. The light seems adamant on not changing, and as HENRY continues listening to the busker, eventually realizing that it fits the tune he’s been humming all day. Finally at his limit with the humdrum existence, HENRY breaks into song in the middle of a crowd.*

HENRY: Mrs. Brown you’ve got a lovely daughter
Girls as sharp as her are somethin’ rare

(Cars zoom by angrily as HENRY moves into the intersection when he oughtn’t, but all HENRY can hear is the tires to the pavement, serving as “background singers”)

HENRY: But it’s sad,

CAR: zooooooooom!

HENRY: she doesn’t love me now

CAR: zooooooooom!

HENRY: She’s made it clear enough it ain’t no good to pine

(The light changes, and the throng begins moving toward Henry, who has amazingly made it to the middle of the intersection without being “accidentally depressed.” He appeals to several of the bugs in turn, most of whom give him a quizzical look or avoid his gaze.)

HENRY: She wants to return those things I bought her
Tell her she can keep them just the same

(By this point, the busker has gotten up from his bucket/seat and is following Henry with his guitar.)

HENRY: Things have changed,

BUSKER: (back-up singing) Hmmmmm….

HENRY: she doesn’t love me now

BUSKER: Hmmmmmm…

HENRY: She’s made it clear enough it ain’t no good to pine

(The busker changes the tune a bit, and we get some aerial shots of the intersection from above as Henry pleads his case to the city at large.)

HENRY: Walkin’ about, even in a crowd, well
You’ll pick her out, makes a bloke feel so proud

(HENRY continues to cross the intersection now, being actively followed by the busker. He is now singing to no one in particular, his muse, the ether, what have you.)

HENRY: If she finds that I’ve been round to see you

BUSKER: (round to see you)

HENRY: Tell her that I’m well and feelin’ fine

BUSKER: (feelin’ fine)

HENRY: Don’t let on, don’t say she’s broke my heart
I’d go down on my knees but it’s no good to pine

(HENRY’s enthusiasm is beginning to wear off on the passers by. A few older ladybugs smile warmly at him, knowing he’s in love. Larvae regard him quizzically, looking to their parents as if to ask “What’s wrong with him?” And most of the other men in attendance give him a look that says “you damned fool, but we know how you feel. More wide shots as HENRY even attempts a shuffling soft-shoe in the small circle of sidewalk the crowd has allowed him.)

HENRY: Walkin’ about, even in a crowd, well
You’ll pick her out, makes a bloke feel so proud

If she finds that I’ve been round to see you

BUSKER: (round to see you)

HENRY: Tell her that I’m well and feelin’ fine

BUSKER: (feelin’ fine)

HENRY: Don’t let on, don’t say she’s broke my heart
I’d go down on my knees but it’s no good to pine

(HENRY brings the song down for its trailing finale as those around him clap. The BUSKER sees an opportunity, and snatches HENRY’s bowler hat off his head and begins passing it around, gleefully hearing coins clink into it.)

HENRY: Mrs. Brown you’ve got a lovely daughter…

BUSKER: (lovely daughter)

HENRY: Mrs. Brown you’ve got a lovely daughter…

BUSKER: (lovely daughter)

HENRY: Mrs. Brown you’ve got a lovely daughter…

BUSKER: (lovely daughter)

HENRY: Mrs. Brown you’ve got a lovely daughter…

BUSKER: (lovely daughter)

(HENRY stands still, shoulders hunched, not sure how to handle the applause at his moment of mania. The BUSKER offers him half his hat worth of the coins, but HENRY neatly tips his hat, sending all of the money into the BUSKER’s haversack, delighting the wild & otherworldly looking moth. The BUSKER grins yellowed and cracked teeth and hastily makes his exit, should HENRY change his generous mind. The crowd slowly disperses with HENRY still humming snatches of the song to himself until, of course, he sees CECILIA and HER MOTHER coming out of one of the nearby grocery shops. MRS. BROWN is another rustically coloured mantis, although a bit faded with age with a generally congenial disposition.)

MRS. BROWN: Hello, Henry! What a lovely song!

(She waves cheerfully at HENRY who, upon seeing them, promptly trips and falls into a raising garbage elevator.)

HENRY: Waaagh!

(The garbage is slowly raised with HENRY perched atop a stack of bags, looking incredibly sheepish but unharmed. The two dung beetles operating the garbage truck nearby shoo him off the pile and begin busily rolling the garbage balls to the truck. Brushing himself off in a vain attempt to look presentable, HENRY fumbles through an introduction.)

HENRY: Mrs. Brown?! Erm, hello, yes, hi, and, erm, Cecilia, hello, hi, erm…
MRS. BROWN: (diffusing the discomfort) That was a very nice song, Henry darling, but next time why not sing about how lovely I am?

(she gives him a playfully lascivious look that forces HENRY to swallow audibly. Fairly giggling, MRS. BROWN turns back to a stony-faced CECILIA.)

MRS. BROWN: Ah…(she sighs) Cecilia and I were just out getting a few things for dinner tonight, you know, a little of this, a little of that…say…

(there’s a forced spontaneity to her voice that might as well come with a billboard saying “I KNOW HENRY WALKS THIS ROUTE AT THIS TIME EVERY NIGHT”)

MRS. BROWN: I don’t suppose you have any plans for dinner tonight, HENRY?

HENRY: Er-

MRS. BROWN: (cutting him off at the second syllable) Great! Why not have dinner with us, then? It won’t be anything fancy, of course, just a good old fashioned dinner with family (she stresses family as if assuming HENRY is one of the clan). Your family lives out by the pond, right Henry dear?

HENRY: Erm, yes. Qu…Quite a drive, actually, but I’ll see them at the holidays-

MRS. BROWN: (interrupting) Holidays?! That’s ages from now! That settles it, you’re coming to dinner with us tonight. I’ll just…

(she leans in to dust a few bits of refuse from HENRY’s shoulder, taking the opportunity to whisper urgently in his ear)

There’s a shop on this block that my Cecilia loves, sells all sorts of sweet smelling things, you can’t miss it. Why not bring a present tonight?

(she snaps back to her previous position, with CECILIA giving her a murderous sidelong glance)

There. Go and clean up a bit, and we’ll see you at seven. Sound all right?

HENRY: Er-

MRS. BROWN: Great! We’ll see you then! Come along, Cecilia…

(she leads CECILIA away, but not before the younger Brown can give HENRY a glare from the grave. HENRY quails slightly as MRS. BROWN chastises her daughter.)

MRS. BROWN: Now now, Celia dear, is that any way to talk to your future husband? Oh, dear me, look what I’ve said…

CECILIA: MOTHER!

(the two disappear into the crowd, leaving HENRY in a state of terrified shock. However, the opportunity of the situation finally appears to him and, with a gleeful shiver, he heads off in search of the boutique Cecilia’s mother had mentioned, even pulling out a few more dance moves on the way.)

Stop that, stop that! No singing! Cut that out!

*HENRY and LEW part, both to their respective jobs. We fade to a scene of HENRY in a cubicle in an “office building,” which is the rusted out old truck from the farm. HENRY is seen typing away like mad at a computer in an office that seems far too modern and technologically advanced to be in a rusted old lorry, but it’s funnier that way. The telephone rings and Henry neatly nips it, slings it up to his shoulder, answering as he types.
HENRY: Driscoll Insurance, how may I help you? Uh-huh…uh-huh…yes, all right, Mrs. Harrison, let me look up your account…
(he types a few more keys, hen-pecking, of course, and continues)
Yes, Mrs. Harrison, we have an account for you and your husband…excuse me? Oh, I’m terribly sorry, my condolences. Well yes, I guess these things do happen, but…it was your husband, wasn’t it? Well, I just assumed you would grieve a loved one and… pardon? Yes, I am a mantis, why? Ah, I guess the accent is a bit of a tell…what?

WHAT?
What do you mean I can’t know anything about love? I’m perfectly capable of loving…
(an angry looking stag beetle in an ugly tie shuffles up and glares at HENRY, who cowers)
Erm, never mind, Mrs. Harrison, never mind…let’s talk about your policy. Now, your late husband…yes, Herbert…you say he was squashed? Ah yes, that is the leading cause of death in insects these days, outside of natural causes for the fruit flies… is he covered? Um, I’ll have to ask you a few questions…
(he types a few more keys and reads the questions robotically off the screen)
Was your husband a smoker, or a drinker? Okay… Was he intoxicated at the time of the incident? I’m sorry, Mrs. Harrison, but I have to ask…okay… was the squashing intentional? Pardon? Oh, it means did he allow himself to be squashed…okay…and… was he in a designated no-crawl zone? You know, driveways, sidewalks, anywhere a foot can easily tread…ah, okay. Yes, Mrs. Harrison, you can qualify under your policy for Accidental Depression. I will process the paperwork and send you the necessary forms. Erm…)
(The stag beetle taps a birchwood pipe against the wall of his cubicle, where a placard has been affixed. HENRY rolls his eyes ever so slightly and continues again, robotically)
Thank you for calling Driscoll Insurance, Ma’am, “the biggest coverage for the smallest folk at a competitive price.” Yes, thank you, Ma’am, have a good day, and I’m sorry for–!
(It is obvious that Mrs. Harrison has hung up on HENRY before he could express his sympathies for the deceased Mr. Harrison. The stag beetle glowers at HENRY, who fumbles for an excuse.)
HENRY: Sorry about that, Mr. Driscoll…it’s been a rough morning, Wednesdays, you know…she just got under my carapace a bit, I’m sorry…it won’t happen again…
(MR. DRISCOLL shuffles closer, nearly poking HENRY with his horned proboscis. He grumbles in a Cockney basso profundo)
DRISCOLL: See that it don’t.
(MR. DRISCOLL walks away, leaving HENRY to pull faces at his back and slump into his chair.)
HENRY: Really, the nerve of some bugs! Saying I don’t know a thing about love, her HUSBAND JUST DIED and she didn’t care! People think we mantises are crass…blimey!
(the phone rings again, and HENRY winces, but has to answer it)
HENRY: Driscoll Insurance, how may I help you?

Oh!
(he seems initially elated to get a personal call, but then remembers who it is and deflates.)
Hello, Mrs. Brown, how are you? Yes, yes, I’m all right. I’m getting exercise, of course…I know how you hate this place, but it’s good money…yes, I know…thanks for watching out for me, as usual…hm? What’s that? Oh…(he grimaces) oh yes, they did it AGAIN today. Yes, every Wednesday…been almost a year now…I think it’s ridiculous too…hm? Oh…why thank you, Mrs. Brown, but I don’t think Cecilia shares your sentiments. I appreciate that, Mrs. Brown, but…yes, you are a bit old for me, and I’m not sure what Mr. Brown would think…
(despite himself, he’s enjoying the conversation)
Ah, well…I should be getting back to work, Mrs. Brown. (loudly, as if his boss is still prowling)Don’t like to waste company time, after all! (softer) I’ll talk to you…what? Pardon? No, no no no Mrs. Brown, you don’t have to do that, please… it won’t do any good, she won’t listen to you, she just… me? Well, yes, but…it won’t…(he sighs) Okay, you go an talk to her…yes…yes…(a bit grudingly) thank you. Bye.
(He hangs up the phone, shaking his head and smiling. Taking a brief moment for himself, he leans back and sings happily to himself:)

Mrs. Brown, you’ve got a lovely daughter…

(But is immediately interrupted by his cube-mates telling him to knock it off and get back to work. With another sigh, HENRY hunches over the keyboard and pecks away.)

About the dog?!

(Pan up as HENRY laughs, looking up through the grassblade “forest to get a glimpse at the moon through the modest clearing. Quick transition to show an early morning sun from the same vantage, then swoop back down onto the same clearing, now a busy intersection for the insect world. Bugs, insects, beetles, arachnids, and all other sorts of creepy crawlies bustle this way and that. It’s just another day at the grind. Zoom into the melee to see HENRY and LEW plodding along side by side, in no hurry to reach their destinations. All around them is the walla-walla noise of civilization in a pushing, grumbling throng. By day, the clearing becomes a de facto village green, with an inner circle of bugs pushing various wheeled carts of wares. LEW and HENRY stop to get a coffee, which HENRY sighs into with despondent vigor.)
HENRY: Ugh.
LEW: You said it, mate.
HENRY: Is it really only Wednesday, Lew?
LEW: Sad to say it is.
HENRY: Three more days of this…
(he shakes his head at the thought of the monotony that awaits him, but softens momentarily)
But then again, I suppose it’s not my place to be complaining, what with you being called in on your day off.
(LEW seems surprised by HENRY’s comment)
LEW: Right, yeah… what can I say, you know? Job’s a job, and a bug’d be daft to not try to get as much as he could in this economy.
HENRY: Still, I can’t believe they keep calling you into the quarry on your day off.
LEW: (sagely) Any port in a storm, mate. If I keep working my carapace off, it’ll keep one of those showboating ants from moving in and taking my job. Did you know they can lift fifty times their own weight? We’re a dying breed, us hardworking regular bugs…
(HENRY clucks his tongue reproachfully)
HENRY: Now Lew…you shield bugs worked hard and long to get the rights you got, now’s the time to support someone else, eh?
LEW: (sheepishly) I guess you’re right. Not like toting rocks is the only thing I’m good at, right?
HENRY: Of course not! For instance…
(Without breaking stride through the crush, HENRY rest his gangly arm on top of LEW’s head, further illustrating the latter’s lack of stature to the former)
…you might a terrific armrest.
LEW: Har har, you’re a real card, Mr. Walters!
HENRY: (Adopting grandiose modesty) Sometimes, I impress even myself, doncha know–!
(HENRY is interrupted by a growing rumble of noise that rises far above the clatter at the far end of the clearing. The crowd splits at the far end of the square as a collection of roughly twenty young mantises begin stomping and clapping a rehearsed beat, almost as some sort of strange street theatre. However, as they all turn to face a particular three story home made of a pile of discarded cinder blocks, their true purpose becomes evident. As one, the mantises begin to sing lustily, still thumping out the beat like some kind of ritual dance.

Celia, youre breaking my heart
Youre shaking my confidence daily
Oh, cecilia, Im down on my knees
Im begging you please to come home

Celia, youre breaking my heart
Youre shaking my confidence daily
Oh, cecilia, Im down on my knees
Im begging you please to come home
Come on home

(The collection of young Mantises switch then into a bridge of vocalized syllables, the last notes of the said bridge left floating in the air as the “dance” halts, each of the mantis’ raptorial arms outstretched to what appears to be the heavens, but is really an apartment on the third floor. The song is held in limbo, along with the young mantis’ arms, hanging on the titular heroine. After what seems like a tense eternity, wherein all activity in the square ceases, a delicate, brownish-green arm curls itself over a ledge of the cinder block. The arm is quickly followed by the rest of Miss Cecilia Brown, a strikingly beautiful of-age praying mantis with shining eyes and an alluring, womanly, but not dowdy quality to her. She surveys the mob haughtily for a moment, realizing she has them all in the crooks of her claws. The entire scene is pregnant with bated breath, waiting on the address given by the elected Queen of the Mantids. Finally, with a scowl that crinkles her entire face, Cecilia responds.)

CECILIA: Go away!

(And immediately retreats to her apartment, the audible slamming of her door echoing lightly over the collective. There is another pregnant pause as the mantises stand rooted in place, their faces masks of shock. Then, suddenly, the song and dance begins again, seemingly choreographed as well.)

Jubilation, she loves me again,
I fall on the floor and I laughing,
Jubilation, she loves me again,
I fall on the floor and I laughing

(As instructed, the mantises fall onto the floor of the marketplace as part of the ritual, dancing, laughing and singing all at once, their voices gently fading away with more vocalizations like the first set. Once the voices have gone, the young mantises rise, slapping each other on the shoulders and congratulating each other on a job well done, eventually dispersing and leaving the morning bustle as it was, seemingly unchanged. HENRY and LEW stomp through where the dance had been only minutes before, the former in a particularly foul mood.)

HENRY: Do they have to do that EVERY Wednesday?!

Pixar, DreamWorks, you know you want me.

We open with a broad shot of the English countryside, west, near Wales. Small cottages dot the impossibly green fields, along with ancient stone fences that neatly divide one field from another. The camera lowers itself to look at one little stone cottage in the foreground, pausing for a moment to glance through the window, seeing a modern farming family watching whatever happens to be on the Beeb at this hour. They laugh, or cry, or scream accordingly, and the camera moves on lower, lower. At the level of the stoop, an old farm hound’s ears perk up, still keen after all these years. He leans forward to give a curious snuffle and, deciding that the camera is no great threat, returns to his lazy perch on the stoop as the camera continues lower. Beneath the dog, a tabby cat lays stretched to his limit, completely oblivious to the camera, the dog, the world around him. Such is the attitude of a cat asleep, the only signs of life coming from a gently rising and falling orange-yellow belly, trimmed in white. Lower the camera goes, lower. We are now combing through grass blades like massive redwood trees, rustling with a deafening whoosh to the left and to the right, the camera some sort of miniature Land Rover, cutting through a magnified jungle. As the camera travels, there’s a tiny ghost of a noise that grows louder and louder.
It sounds like rock ‘n’ roll.
The camera speeds up as the music grows louder. It’s not the overblown, overproduced rock of the modern age. It’s not the loud and raucous rock of the previous age. It’s not even the angry rock protestations of the previous, previous age.
It’s just good old rock ‘n’ roll.
A final curtain of zoomed grass parts to find a miniature paradise, an infinitesimal Eden, no more than a puddle and a pebble to you and I, but an oasis of joy to those of another world, the smaller world. On the stone next to the puddle, HENRY WALTERS sits, a praying mantis and hopeless romantic. He is lightly anthropomorphised, but large, emotional eyes but no clothing save a small, starched, white French collar and short brown necktie, topped off with a tan-coloured Bowler hat. He dabbles one of his six legs in the murky water of the puddle, one of his raptorial arms supporting his lovelorn head, staring up at the stars through the gaps in the tremendous grass. He sighs heavily, his entire exoskeleton heaving, singing in a simple Manchester lilt:

“There’s a kind of hush,
All over the world, tonight,
All over the world,
You can hear the sounds
Of lovers in love…”

As soon as his selection is finished, there is a horrible, guttural gobbling sound that erupts from the nearby grass, breaking the beautiful scene with all the delicacy of a tack hammer to a plate glass window. Two mantises have just finished professing their love and, as is almost uniformally customary, the female has devoured the male, making no attempt to hide her gluttonous ambition, or the cacophony therein. The ridiculous irony of Henry’s sentiment in juxtaposition to the scene is darkly humorous to the audience, but Henry merely heaves yet another sigh and seems ready to burst into tears. Before Henry can do so, however, he is joined on the stone by a bright green shield bug, commonly known as a stinkbug, who trundles over and settles down next to him. He’s obviously a bit more portly appearing than Henry, sporting a tweed trilby and russet-coloured waistcoast

BUG: Hey.
HENRY: Hey.
(the BUG jerks an arm in the general direction of the consumption)
BUG: Thought that’d be you.
HENRY: No chance, Lew.
LEW: Ah, that’s right, ‘cos you’ve only got eyes for the inside of one stomach, eh?
(HENRY smiles a little)
HENRY: Yeah…I mean, if I’m going to get eaten, it might as well be by the person I love, right?
LEW: Mate, from what I’ve seen, love don’t much factor into it.
(HENRY sighs again)
HENRY: It does with me…
LEW: Yeah, and you went and chose the brass ring, didn’t ya? Cecilia Brown, the toast of the town, she’ll steal your heart, then she’ll swallow it down!
HENRY: Please, not that old thing again. We’re not in Stage Three anymore…
LEW: All I know is that that beautiful bird went through seven husbands like they were hors d’Ĺ“uvres, and she seemed to have a taste for…
HENRY: Don’t say it.
LEW: She always seemed to wind up with…
HENRY: Lew…
LEW: A bloke named Henry.
HENRY: pah…
LEW: Which means, if you were able to finally wrap that great, cracking claw of yours around the brass ring known as Ms. Cecilia…you’d be Henry the Eighth!
(LEW gets a bonk on the head for that remark, flattening his trilby with a soft *thunk.* Indignant, LEW sets about fixing his dented hat as HENRY laments)
HENRY: Henry the Eighth, I am, I am! God, I got so sick of that song! Everywhere I went, I was teased with it. First, it was because there were eight Henrys in our module…eight, can you believe it? Henry Achison, Henry Dale, Henry Gates, Henry Leftwich, Henry Oswalt, Henry Pendleton, Henry Wadsworth, and me. If only Wadsworth would have been Wedsworth, or Wodsworth, or even Wudsworth…HE would have been the eighth, not me! And then, after school, Cecilia…
(LEW re-affixes the trilby to his head)
LEW: She went through each of those Henry’s right quick, eh?
HENRY: And now…there’s only me left… and she wouldn’t even molt if she thought it would make me happy! What’s wrong with me, Lew? What?
LEW: Oi, you’re preaching to the flippin’ choir, pal. Us shield bugs…
(HENRY cocks a mischievous eyebrow…or the closest thing to it)
HENRY: Don’t you mean…stinkbugs?
(LEW is obviously upset. This is a particularly sore subject)
LEW: Watch it now, skinny-britches! I’ll have you know I’ve never stunk a person in my life, I haven’t! Not even when I was a larvae! It’s…it’s iggerant hate-speech like that that keeps us shield bugs from finding a decent way of life!
HENRY: Oh, shove off, you reactionary twit!
(HENRY gives LEW a tiny shove. LEW glares back at Henry, face scrunched tightly in frustration. After a few tense moments, the two burst into laughter, nearly falling off the rock and into the puddle. When the laughter finally subsides, they are both lying on their backs, looking up at the sky.)
HENRY: Ahhh…
LEW: Too right.
HENRY: Lew, I’m going to do it.
LEW: Eh?
HENRY: I’m going to break the cycle.
LEW: What are you on about?
HENRY: I’m going to marry Cecilia, and I’m going to stay alive. We’re going to live together for the rest of our lives. This love I feel for her, it’s too strong, Lew…I’m not going to be eaten, I just know it. I’m in love.
LEW: Good luck to you, mate. You do that, and you’ll go down in history.
HENRY: That doesn’t even matter.
(LEW looks a little worried at HENRY’S fervor)
LEW: Right…
HENRY: Hey, tell you what. After Cecilia and I get married, everything’ll change, and then we’ll get to work on shield bug civil rights, all right?
(LEW looks at him skeptically, but HENRY’S smile is too genuine and gentle to not be contagious.)
LEW: Right.
(HENRY grabs one of LEW’S hands and starts singing loudly, exaggeratedly)
HENRY: We shall overcooooome…
(LEW yanks his hand away)
LEW: Oi, shut up.

‘Aitch! ‘Ee! Enn-Arr-Why!

Hi-o, my name’s Henry. I’m a praying mantis, and I’m also in love.
Now, for those of you who are “fans” (and I use that term dubiously) of the snuff-torture networks known as “National Geographic” or, Heaven help you, “Animal Planet,” you probably know one or two things about the courting habits of us Mantises, and no doubt by now you’ve had yourself a good laugh at my predicament you horrible, horrible person. Yes, it is true that female mantises are known to engage in “sexual cannibalism” which, disturbingly enough, has its own entire page on Wikipedia… and it basically comes down to a post-coital snog gone horribly, horribly wrong.
How wrong?
She usually bites off the blighter’s head, and that’s just for starters!
So naturally, when you hear that I, simple, gentle, handsome Henry have fallen in love, you’ll probably tell me to turn away that kind of thinking and run very quickly in the opposite direction from any amorous abbatoir contained therein. However, if you say that, then I will assume that you have obviously never been in love. Sadly, this is love, true love, which is not something that can be avoided. And before you say anything, it is certainly something outside of a simple, primordial urge to procreate. I mean, for God’s sake, I’m a mantis speaking the Queen’s English, you’d think I’ve got a shred of higher thought to me. It’s not like I’m speaking Scottish, or something.
But anyway, onto the bird in question (ha ha that’s actually quite funny because we’ve been known to eat birds from time to time). Her name is Cecilia, and if you know a thing or two, you’re probably seeing the joke about her “breaking my confidence daily” coming from a few astronomical units away. Yes, as dire fate would have it, Cecilia is not exactly a steadfast or even gentle lady. She’s a spitfire of caustic wit and dry humour, which is something that draws us gentlemantises to her like those idiotic moth fellows to the brights lights in the summertime. As you can probably assume, we’ve got a bit of a fatal attraction weakness, so it only stands to figure that we love a woman who knows how to fight back…even if it’s in a decapitory fashion.
So as it stands… I love Cecilia, and she could barely stand to sniff at the ground I prostrate myself on in front of her. I’m considered daft, even for a mantis, for trying to break such a barrier, as after the gobbling death of her seventh husband, Cecilia has become a rather old spinster, almost insisting on no longer partaking in the rituals of love. Ah, but what is love, I ask you, dear friends, if you do not have the ridiculous belief that you can bring something to the table that no one else can? As it stands, my heart is set on Cecilia, whether she likes it or not, and my love for her is so deep and so complete that I believe I can win her heart and still overcome any honeymoon homicides. Yes, I will show myself to be better than the seven that came before me, and win her mind, body and soul…without losing the second on my side of the table.
…Hm? What’s that?
Her previous husbands? Well, that’s a bit of a sore subject. You see, they were all named Henry as well, and…
Yes, I suppose you could say that she “wouldn’t drop a Willy or a Sam.”

Oh, do shut up!