Rudy Went Riding was originally written as one of seven monologues in a play titled The Prayer List. That play was originally performed at the Jeslyn Performing Arts Center in Huntington, West Virginia in June 2007 and subsequently at the Clay Center in Charleston, WV as a part of Festiv-ALL Charleston. Travis McElroy played the title role. Since then, it has been performed at theatres in New York City and Asheville, North Carolina. It is also on a waiting list for possible translation and production with the Cluj Theatre in Romania.
Ruby Went Riding
Every day, on my break, at 12:15 on the dot I go riding. I hit the downtown streets straddling my turquoise Kazuma Cheetah motorbike. I ride up the fifth street hill and onto the interstate. There I can really let loose. I know I got the kind of hog that motorcycle enthusiasts laugh at. But here, on that stretch of winding highway road between fifth street and the west end of town, maxed out at forty-seven miles per hour, with the wind slicing sharply at my body, I feel right at home. Riding in the slow lane for nine and a half miles with the cool smell of an oncoming rain in my nose and Bon Jovi’s Blaze of Glory playing on the radio in my mind, I feel alive.
My lunchtime rendezvous with the open road has become a welcome routine. Daily, I pass up the opportunity for a vending machine snack and mindless conversation with my fellow worker bees. Instead, I strap on this helmet, don these sunglasses, tuck my tie snuggly into this bland button up shirt and I bolt for that bike. For thirty-three minutes, my life is my own. For thirty-three minutes, I can escape from that soul sucking office and the endless castigations of a boss half my age with twice my income. It is the best thirty-three minutes of my day, every day. I go out in the wind and the rain, in the snow and the sun. I ride and ride and ride. And it feels good.
In the evening, after work, I go home. It’s only a five minute trip and I wouldn’t dare to be late. At five past five o’clock, I return to a small house in the east end of the city and park my bike safely in the garage. I open the door and enter the house and I return to a wife that barely speaks to me since that drunken Christmas party affair last year. I say hello to two loving children who are both so well-mannered and studious and beautiful that they often make me feel bad about myself. At times, I can’t help but think that they aren’t my children at all. I sit down to a nice dinner prepared by my lovely wife and the entire meal is eaten through an uncomfortable silence that has taken the family years to cultivate to perfection. After dinner, I retire to the living room sofa, which now doubles as my bed, and eventually I fall asleep while watching soft core porn.
In the morning, my wife wakes me with a nudge. Not a word, a nudge. I shower and read the paper and eat my Toaster Strudels. I watch my children happily leave for school. Then I leave for work. And the cycle repeats. Work, ride, work, home, dinner, TV, sleep.
Everyday has progressed this way for a long, long time. Until now. My wife told me she was leaving me. She said she was taking the kids and that they would be living with her father in Cumberland for a while. She said it was my fault and that she hated me. She said a lot of things. Her mind is made up. And so is mine. I decided to make some changes. I decided to start living again.
It started at work where I quit my job in a hellacious way. I stormed into my boss’s office and told him that I slept his wife and that his coffee had piss in it and that he could go straight to hell. Security escorted me outside where I hopped on my bike and ripped my shirt off and rode all around town. And every time somebody stared at me or snickered just a little bit in my general direction I would stop and scream at the top of my lungs, “What are you looking at? Do you want to die today?” I got my ass kicked three times. And it felt good. It felt good to feel something again.
I rode that bike out of town. I didn’t know where I was going. I just rode for hours. I stopped at a gas station for fuel and corn dogs. I decided to take up smoking. I chugged a Colt 45 at 2:30 in the afternoon and then I hit the road again. I rode until I couldn’t ride anymore. I spent the night in Aberdeen with a hooker named Marcel. I did forty push ups. I took a shower. I fell asleep.
The next day I bought a gun at Wal-Mart and had a grand slam breakfast at Denny’s. Extra bacon. I robbed a bank and I shot a guy just because I felt like it. I took in a matinee and I ate the super large popcorn with extra, extra butter. I cried at the end of the movie. I went to a biker bar where I hustled some guys at pool and drank until tequila was coming out of my ears. Benjamin Franklin was playing the bongo drums in a corner while six penguins were dancing the electric slide. I drank some more and then I passed out in the bathroom in a pool of my own vomit.
The next thing I knew I was steering my chopper down the streets of L.A. when a damsel in distress stopped me for help. It was Halle Berry. Her car had broken down. I gave her a ride home and she was real appreciative and asked if I wanted to go out later and party with her and Marylyn Manson and the Energizer Bunny. I said sure. That’d be cool. But only if zombie Elvis can come too.
Then I woke up. At home. On my couch. It was all a dream. And my wife was there. And Halle Berry wasn’t. And I was okay with that. My kids were eating breakfast. I took a shower. I ate my Toaster Strudels. Before I left for work, I kissed my wife on the cheek and told her that I was sorry. She smiled a little. A good sign. I jumped on my bike and rode to work. For a moment, I thought about riding right past the office and out onto the open road. I thought about telling my boss off. I thought about it. I did. I thought about going home and making some grand romantic gesture to win back my wife’s trust. Instead, I went to work, clocked in and started another day. Three more hours until my break. I can’t wait.
Jonathan Joy is the author of 25 plays, including “The Princess of Rome, Ohio”, “American Standard”, the “Bitsy and Boots” series, and over a dozen one acts that are regularly produced. His work has been staged in 12 US states, from countless productions in his home state of West Virginia to Off-Broadway and Off-Off Broadway stages in New York City, and overseas in France and Dubai. Publications and features include the New York Times, Smith and Krauss, Brooklyn Publishers, Southern Theatre magazine, Insight for Playwrights, the One Act Play Depot in Canada, and more. He has won several regional writing awards and is the only two time winner (2005 & 2008) of the national “Write like Mamet” award sponsored by the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco. His books have topped the Amazon charts in Theatre, Drama, Political Humor, and Christian Literature categories. Mr. Joy is an English/Writing Professor at Ashland Community and Technical College in Ashland, Kentucky, where he enjoys his dream job and has been nominated for Teaching Excellence Awards five straight years. He is the son of James Edward Joy, a Biology professor once described by a colleague as, “…the conscience of Marshall University for forty years…” and Susan Karnes Joy, a retiree of the Corps of Engineers and the kind of woman that would gladly take her son out of school early to see “Return of the Jedi” on its opening day in 1983. He is married to his best friend, Rissie, who is a successful Scentsy Director (rissiejoy.scentsy.us) and is father to an enthusiastic, playful four year old son, Levi.