|Phil Comer portrays notorious accused killer Chester Burge in Macon, GA|
(A Monologue in Five Acts, Each of Less Than a Minute.)
(Conceived and first performed for Riverside Cemetery's "Spirits in October," Macon, Georgia, 2010)
(Setting: A cemetery. "The Light Chester," unctuous, is represented in plain font. "The Dark Chester," bombastic, is underlined. Acts are continuous without intermission.)
ACT I - AN ICEBREAKER
(The Light Chester in formal dinner jacket approaches Visitors, pocket watch in hand. Stops short. Raises voice.) Visitors! How kind of you to come. I haven't walked amongst the living for half a century! Last I remember, that handsome young Jack Kennedy was elected President. How's that working out? (Pause.) I'm here. Waiting for my chauffeur.
(Pocket's watch. Cranes neck searching, wrings hands.) As I am cursed to do for eternity.
Have you seen my chauffeur? Did you pass him along your way? (Walking toward Visitors.) Come closer. Don't be afraid. (Pulls red handkerchief from breast pocket.) Allow me to introduce myself. I. Am. Chester. Burge. You've heard of me? No?
(Drapes hanky modestly over crotch.) Chester the Molester? (Flips hanky into air.) Chester the Good Dresser? (Flippant pose.) You like? Some accuse me of murder. (Snaps to attention.) My God, circumstantial evidence! No witnesses. No convictions. I am a man of great convictions, but certainly not murder.
I understand a young man from your time, Rick Hutto, has written a book chronicling my peculiar travails. I'm confident he establishes my innocence.
I had my run-ins with the law. I served time during Prohibition. I found liquor and loan-sharking profitable. I used my incarceration to expand my horizons. Make new friends.
Oh, I had rich relations, but was cut off. Inherited nothing! I showed them. Amassed a fortune. And a rich wife. A rich dead wife, Mary!
I was an entrepreneur. A progressive. The Ku Klux Klan even rallied their crosses on my lawn. All for renting to a black family in a white neighborhood. My God, it was 1960, not the Dark Ages. Then, that terrible business with my lovely wife. I suppose Mary's why you're here.
That's why they all come! To gaze into the eyes of a monster. You're wasting your time. I was never found guilty! I'm no more the monster than you are.
ACT II - AN ARGUMENT
But imagine, me, Chester Burge, bon vivant, "man about town," accused of killing my dear wife? Inconceivable. Ridiculous, actually. Married for thirty years. Such a beautiful woman.
If you're into that sort of thing. She cramped my style. Thought we were made of money.
(Sighs.) We were. The ideal couple. Mary, the perfect hostess, oversaw splendid entertainments. There was something about Mary.
The woman could worry the shine off linoleum.
She had the voice of a bird.
A crow. Her caw nagged pigeons in the attic!
She was fond of animals.
Mary and her infernal parrot! "Polly want a cracker? Braa!" I don't care what Polly wants! CHESTER WANTS HIS SUPPER! Damn bird witnessed her murder! (Gasps.) So. Some. Said.
My Mary was charitable to every Tom, Dick and Harry.
She spent my money like it grew on trees!
A vision of loveliness. So dainty and petite.
Who knew bones snapped like twigs? (Snaps fingers, gapes at gaff.)
ACT III - AN ALIBI
I had an iron-clad alibi. I was recovering from hernia surgery in the Macon Hospital. Excruciating. Hopeless to hold anything heavier than my chauffeur's hand. Preposterous! (Counts off on fingers:) That I should get up out of my sick bed? Return to my estate in Shirley Hills? Punt kick the poodle into the basement? (Kicks.) Throttle my wife? Fix a snack in the kitchen? Return to the hospital? And snuggle under covers before the nurses' shift change? You do the math. (Flitters fingers.) Impossible!
Without the able assistance of my chauffeur. (Checks pocketwatch. Turns, looks for him. Back to visitors.) Technical adviser, really. He'd served time for killing his own wife. A real go-to sorta fellow. Now, where is that man? (Cranes neck searching. Sneers.) I know what you're thinking. "Chester kicked a poodle." Fifi was fine. "Yap, yap, yap." (Dog barks with fingers.) "Polly wants a cracker. BRAA!" (Flaps arms as wings.) "I want to go to Miami. You never take me to Miami." (Spoken into telephone hand.) It's a wonder I didn't snap long before! (Gasps.) But, I didn't snap! I walked! I was a free man!
My God, detectives accused me! Those vicious prosecutors persecuted me -- the victim of prejudice and perjury -- like a common criminal.
To think, the fiends even put my own mother under oath. (Pause.) She testified against me. Said I was mean. And beat my wife! (Indignation.)
(Lip quivers.) Mommy? (Belligerence morphs into infantilism, sucks thumb. Eyes every visitor with thumb in mouth.)
I showed them. The jury found me "not guilty." N-O-T G-U-I-L-T-Y.
Acquitted! Acquitted, I tell you! (Pumps fist.)
ACT IV - DUBIOUS DISTINCTION
Mind you, the verdict was "not guilty," because unlike "Perry Mason," the crime was never solved. The killer remains at large (eyes visitors suspiciously). But, my God, those prosecutors were intent on conviction. For something. Anything.
Oh, they got their conviction. But not for murder. Consequently, I was the last man in Georgia convicted for sodomy. With my chauffeur.
Libelous! Trumped up charges! (Turns away from Visitors and yells.) Where is that man? (Turns back to Visitors.) Have you seen him? About yea tall. (Indicates.) The right shade of ebony tan. Solid as the Rock of Gibraltar. (Flashes physique pose.) Smells like cocoa butter and cash? Ha! But, Chester Burge had the best lawyer in the state of Georgia! In the end, that felony morals charge was overturned to a misdemeanor of "following too close!"
(Gauges reaction.) "Tail gating"? Work with me. Ladies and Gentlemen, I'll be here all week.
ACT V - REGRETS
(Draws up in indignation.) Actually, I'm here every night! Waiting for my chauffeur. This is NOT his night off!
(Shoulders slump. To self.) Be strong, Chester. He'll come. (To Visitors.) In summation to the jury, my own attorney called me obnoxious, arrogant and moody, one of a peculiar tribe. But, he assured them, I did NOT kill my wife. (Stammers.) The, the, the jury believed! (Pause.)
You stare. Don't be afraid. I'm no monster. The scary things are behind you. Boo!
The irony? Within three years of Mary's murder, even before young Jack Kennedy was assassinated, I, Chester Burge, was dead. Laid to rest -- if rest is to be had -- right here in Riverside Cemetery's handsome Mausoleum. Burned to a cinder on my own funeral pyre.
I died in an explosion at my Palm Beach oceanfront home that I shared with a friend. My new wife, older and richer than Mary, had already bailed! (Checks watch.) Now, you all. Run along. You're about to meet a female undertaker. Not unattractive. Just don't let her take you under. The next abs on her slab could be your own. (Pauses.) And, if you cross paths with my chauffeur... (Swallows hard.) Tell him... Tell him, "Chester is waiting." (Turns, walks away.)
© Phil Comer
Disclaimer: Although loosely based on reality, characters and events are none you or I know.
Text and video dialog are copyright material of the author. Photo with mausoleum by Maryann Bates, photo with parrot by D. J. Dammonn, actor Phil Comer as Chester Burge, used by permission. Unless stated otherwise, photos and links are for information and not the property of the author.