Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Deadwood story -- is that any way to raise a child? part 2


Please note that the following storyline and dialogue did not originate with me. It is the work of Carrie Anne Dubrona, Claytanic Kungler and Marrant Vita (Elizabeth). I just edited the material, rewrote some of it, and fleshed it out to fit in with the other segments of this story.

These three people have been some of my favorite folks to roleplay with in Deadwood. They epitomize what I mean when I talk about good ensemble rp, where the actors creatively play off each other with natural give-and-take dialogue. No one feels compelled to be the center of attention and bog down the narrative flow with long Bulwer-Lytton style multi-paragraph emotes, or screaming, scenery chewing mega-drama.

What they do is always shot through with subtle nuance, humor and humanity. Sometimes the dialogue they generate is so startlingly real, and the emotions are so genuine, it can be very affecting. This is also a good example of rp with people playing children that works and is not creepy. There are some folks who have real issues with child avatars in any context, and I think examples like this show how people playing children can contribute to good rp and storytelling.

Hey, creepy-ass motherfuckers are creepy-ass motherfuckers, whether they are wearing an adult avatar or a child one. Likewise, good decent folks are good decent folks, regardless of the appearance of the avatar they choose to wear. It's what is in the heart and mind of the typist and how they behave that makes the difference. I refer you to a
very excellent post related to this subject by Marrant, posted at her newly established and highly readable blog.


So anyhow...I was gonna tell you about the time when Carrie Anne, along with her friend Elizabeth, damned near drowned this inexpressibly annoying lil’ boy named Alonzo...this all happened after Carrie Anne had been living with Miss Dio for a while, and thing had been going quite well. In fact, Dio had gotten a pony for CarrieAnnie to go along with her ridin’ lessons. And dammit, I don’t mean one o’ them foofy-ass lil’ rich girl’s ponies that are bred to be small and almost toy-like: I mean a proper pony, like ones the injuns ride. it was, a sturdy, good-natured and tough critter, though of a rather compact build. Somethin’ you can actually ride, and I mean ride--without the miserable thing dropping dead from under you--but still of a stature that was suitable for a young’un.

Well, shit, there I go digressin’ again...back to the, as time went on quite a few people got to know Carrie Anne and took quite a likin’ to her, but she had some particular friends. For example, there wer the folks at the gem. You see, by this point, Clay Kungler had left Dio’s employ, a parting that was amicable and mutually-agreed upon, as Dio came to feel she really didn’t need two security people for the No. 10. Clay had gone on to take over management of the Gem Saloon for Miss Lil, (and in fact he ultimately later on came to own the place, but that’s another story for another time).

Carrie Anne would come down and sit on the porch outside the Gem--in the same place Dio had originally found her--and as she wasn’t allowed inside that big ol’ barn of inequity, folks from the Gem would come out and chat with her on the boardwalk. Among these were of course, Clay himself, but also one of Clay’s dancing girls, a very sweet young lady called Sparrow. And there was also Sparrow’s friend, a real fine old-style cowhand named Silver, who was workin’ as one of Clay’s security men for the saloon.

I think you probably would have liked Sparrow and Silver--they were both just straight-up good people, and Silver...well, he was what the boys used to call a “true gentleman.” Carrie Anne simply adored the both of ‘em.

She also had gotten real attached to a lil’ girl about her own age by the name of Elizabeth. Mind you, Elizabeth was not your average garden variety girl-child who likes frilly dresses in pretty colors, and is given to shallow and silly thoughts. Her family back east had all died suddenly from some curious unknown affliction, with only Elizabeth bein’ spared. This experience seemed to have inclined the girl to a melancholy disposition, expressed by the wearin’ of black and no other color, the reading of books by that Poe fella, and a habit of pondering the issue of human mortality with great regularity and enthusiasm.

Elizabeth, who had come out west to live with her Aunt Marrant, was just about the most happily morose creature you could have imagined.

At any rate, she and Carrie Anne found each other’s company quite agreeable, and they became fast friends. Generally speaking, the two of ‘em got on well enough with the other children in town, but not all of the young'uns, by any means. There was this one boy in particular, named Alonzo. He was just a tad younger than the two girls, and he pretty much irritated ‘em to the point of distraction. Though to be honest, he did that to pretty much everyone. The child was just strangely off-putting. But he was a real burr under the saddle for Elizabeth and Carrie Anne. The whiny, lil’ snot-drippin’ clodpoll, was always followin’ the girls around clutchin’ this pet rat he kept, and prattlin’ on, askin’ pointless questions and tryin’ to get a rise out of ‘em.

Matter o’ fact, I do believe he was trying his utmost to irritate them, and if so, he succeeded in a cosmically spectacular fashion. One day, when he was pesterin' them down by the Whitewood Creek, he made the mistake of turning his back on the two of ‘em, and without much apparent thought or consultation, Elizabeth and Carrie Anne. availed themselves of the opportunity to give him a tiny shove, propellin’ him into the stream.

Now, this wouldn’t have been too awful of a course o’ action, except that at the time, the water was rather cold, reasonably high, and truth be told, movin’ pretty goddamn fast. Alonzo quickly disappeared from their view, floating downstream with an expression of feckless befuddlement plastered on his face. The girls were convinced that they had succeeded in doing him in, and that, quite honestly, got them into a bit of a panic.

To make matters worse, along came Sheriff JF Kanto. Seeing that Elizabeth and Carrie Anne were visibly agitated, JF quickly elicited from them the sad intelligence regarding their having sent Alonzo for an unexpected swim. Sheriff Kanto sternly ordered the two girls go wait for him at the schoolhouse while he set off to see if he could locate the boy and rescue him.

Instead of following his instructions, however, Carrie Anne and Elizabeth, decided that under the circumstances, a much better course of action would be to run the hell away.

Needing advice and a loan to facilitate the execution of this plan, Carrie Anne suggested they go talk to Clay. In their experience, Clay Kungler was always good for advice and counsel when it came to anything of a questionable nature. The children always knew he could be counted to on discuss the most outrageous of topics in the most matter-of-fact manner possible. This instance would prove to be no exception, though just to be safe, the girls decided that before they sought his advice, it would be prudent to find out out if Clay was likely to be upset that they had “murdered” Alonzo:

They stood outside the door of the Gem, and Carrie Anne, her heart pounding, rapped on the doorjamb to attract Clay’s attention.

“Mr Clay?”

Clay came out, his usual sardonic smile on his face. "What can I do for ya?"

Carrie Anne gulped and then asked, “Mr Clay, do you like Alonzo?”

Elizabeth tried to look calm, but her palms were sweating, and as she wiped them on her skirt, she sort of felt like she was going to throw up. Carrie Anne was fighting the urge to cry.

Clay arched an eyebrow and replied, “Ya mean the weird little fella?”

Carrie Anne nodded her head "Yes sir"

Clay laughed, "Well, I'll say he's an odd lad..."

“Yes,” agreed Elizabeth, “but did you like him?, ah..I mean, DO you like him?”

Clay shrugged. “I don't reckon I've got any feelin’s about him, one way or t’other, really...”

Encouraged by this, the two girls looked at each other and finally Carrie Anne blurted out, “Me and Elizabeth sort of...kind of...pushed him in the creek and he might be dead...and Mr Kanto knows, and he went to rescue him. But then he is going to MURDER us for killin' Alonzo. We're gonna get hanged so we’re runnin' away...and we need some money...”

“And whiskey to trade with the Indians,” added Elizabeth nodding her head vigorously

Clay sighed. "Alright, alright. Well...first, calm down...I ain't seen a child hung for murder yet..."

“Carrie has a little money but we need a loan cause otherwise we have to blow up the bank to get it,” said Elizabeth.

Clay did not seem particularly fazed by any of this. “So, just outta mild curiosity, I gotta ask, why did ya’s push him in the creek?”

Carrie Anne answered quickly, “We pushed him...because he was just STARIN' at us like a maniac, and then he turned, and was just standing there and wouldn’t go away...and..well...”

“He kinda fell in after we pushed him,” concluded Elizabeth in a small voice. “He...just... is.. a...dumb boy,” she muttered.

Clay nodded as if this all seemed perfectly reasonable. “So what happened with Mr. Kanto... did he find the lad?”

“We don't know, we ran away,” answered Elizabeth. “And now Mister Kanto is gone, and Alonzo is not where we left him in the creek...maybe Mister Kanto pulled him out and is burying him up on the hilltop...”

“Well, maybe the Whitewood got both of them,” suggested Clay in a theatrically mater-of-fact tone.

“Oh NO!” wailed Carrie Anne.

Elizabeth's eyes widened. “ would be our fault...”

“We're gonna hang for sure!” added Carrie Anne.

Elizabeth nodded, “It’s not like Alonzo...people LIKE Mister Kanto...we WILL hang if we kilt him!”

Carrie Anne had tears running in streaky rivulets down her now puffy face. “I liked Mr Kanto,” she said quietly.

Elizabeth stared out into the distance, “The outlaws and bandits will be happy, but Mrs. Kanto will KILL me...”

Clay held up his hand and reassured them, “No, no... it's alright... I don't think Mr Kanto would go that easy...I was kiddin’ya. So now you kids are gonna run off, eh?”

Elizabeth nodded and wiped her nose with her sleeve. “We have no choice. We just need money and a pillow and blanket and my doll...oh and the whisky to trade...”

Carrie Anne put her arm around Elizabeth’s shoulder. “Yes sir. Otherwise we're going to hang or at least get a beating.” She wondered to herself, if Dio or Silver hit her, would it be as hard or maybe even harder than when her father had done so.

Clay looked thoughtful for a moment and then pronounced with great solemnity. “Ok. well, if that is what ya gotta do, then that is what ya gotta do. First off, ya need supplies and certain gear... which one of ya has a shotgun?”

Carrie Anne looked at Elizabeth and shrugged. “We have sling shots,” she offered.

Clay shook his head. “Just won’t do. Ya need a scatter gun when yer gonna be tradin’ whiskey with the Indians or renegades... if they think yer defenseless they'll scalp ya...

Carrie Anne’s eyes went wide with fear. Elizabeth thought for a bit and then suggested, “We could cut our hair real short and just give ‘em the hair we cut off if they wanted it.

Carrie Anne frowned. She hated to disagree with her friend, but she had a pretty good idea that was not going to work. “I think they want the skin, too, Elizabeth.”

Clay nodded in agreement, "Oh yes.. the skin holds it together... keeps it like the top of yer head. It's not the hair they are after... it's proof they killed ya..."

Carrie Anne gasped in horror but Elizabeth was still inclined to figure out a rational answer to this problem. “ about...we could...we could sign a paper that says we're dead?”

“I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t suit their needs,” Clay laughed.

“Oh Elizabeth, we're doomed, moaned Carrie Anne. “We stay here, we'll hang, and if we runaway, we'll be murdered.”

Clay smiled slightly. “Well, don’t give up hope just yet...maybe we can work something out. Like if ya had a good reason to push that little idiot in the water...remember, this is Deadwood: ya can pretty much kill anyone, so long as ya have reason...”

Elizabeth was seeing a glimmer of hope. “Well, um.. cause he's a boy and he's a...”

She tried to remember what term Miss Dio would use in the circumstances.

“Feckless goddam idiot,” offered Carrie Anne.

Elizabeth nodded and looked questioningly at Clay, “ that?

He's always chasin' after us, showin' us his pet rat, and he's always in trouble,” explained Carrie Anne.

"So ya were just standin’ up for yourselves, right?" asked Clay.

“Yessir,” said Elizabeth.

“That's...right, we were," agreed Carrie Anne, still not entirely convinced.

Clay seemed satisfied by this. “Well then, they can't hang ya's... ya might get a spankin’... but they can't hang ya for that...”

Carrie Anne was beginning to feel somewhat reassured, but something still bothered her. “How hard does Dio hit?" she asked Elizabeth.

Elizabeth looked at her friend and shrugged. “I don't know, she never hit me.”

“Well, Dio once beat up Sparrow in a ladies boxing match,” offered Clay helpfully.

Elizabeth frowned. “She's pretty strong, then.”

Carrie Anne pondered the possibilities for a moment and then finally put into words what she actually feared deep down inside. “She probably won't hit me, she'll just get rid of me."

For first time in the course of the entire conversation, a hint of irritation crept into Clay’s voice. “Now why would Dio get rid of ya?”

Carrie Anne looked up at him with expressionless eyes. “She ain't my ma. She can just kick me out into the street...”

“Did she ever say anything to make ya think she'd do that?” asked Clay sharply.

“No sir.” Carrie Anne replied. “She said we'd buy a ranch when Mr Sepp comes home from the army, and we’d all go live on it.”

Clay folded his arms over his chest and smiled slightly. “Well then, if that’s what she said, then I think that's what she'll do... I mean if anyone would understand what ya did today, it's Miss Dio. She knows what it's like to deal with us stupid menfolk.”

“She'll prob'ly just spank can wear a pillow,” added Elizabeth in a reassuring tone.

A tiny smile crept across Carrie Anne’s features. “So, we should stay, and we won't hang, and it'll all work out?”

Clay nodded. “It'll be just fine... besides, they went and made me deputy mayor, I wouldn't let anyone hang ya’s." Clay muttered quietly under his breath, "Might give ya a reward for gettin’ rid of that kid."

"Mr Clay wouldn't trick us," Carrie Anne whispered to Elizabeth, who nodded in agreement.

“Alright then...okay...we'll stay,” Carrie Anne announced. “But if you see Mr Kanto, tell him we're dead."

“Oooh, that's a good idea!” agreed Elizabeth. “At least until he isn't so mad.”

“Once he calms down, you can tell him we're alive,” suggested Carrie Anne.

Clay laughed. "Ok, but ya can't let him see ya's then. Ya gotta hide when he is around."

“We will. We have LOTS of hiding spots,” said Carrie Anne with considerable enthusiasm.

“Hmmph,” snorted Clay, "now ya got me lyin for ya's...”

“We can pay you off if you want,” suggested Carrie Anne, like a true daughter of Deadwood.

“Except first, you have to loan us the money to do it,” added Elizabeth.

"Naw, I don't need no payments... ya just keep yer eyes open and if ya’s ever see anything weird from now on, ya gotta come tell me...Now go on..time to git, I have things I need to look after.”

The girls thanked him and dashed off down the street. As he watched them go, Clay was pretty much pleased with the outcome of the entire episode so far. Not only had he got the two young’uns to not be runnin’ off, now he had two small, inconspicuous spies keepin’ an eye on things around town for him. It never ceased to astonish him what people would say and do in front of kids, as though the lil’ critters weren’t even there, or like they couldn't understand.

And Clay was a pragmatist. Any and all information was eventually useful in some way. But that ain’t essential to this story. You’re probably wonderin’ if this boy Alonzo actually wound up being fish bait. We’ll get to that next.



  1. Oh my, that's hilarious! (My compliments to any and all involved with the dialogue.) I found myself laughing along with the tale...keeping it to a discrete chuckle most of the time, so my colleagues wouldn't come by, thinking that I was reading politicians' statements.

    Re: children in SL (and this applies to Miss Vita's very nice post as well), I must admit I have no idea how to play a child convincingly. I trembled in fear at the 16 year old neighbor boy who came by selling cookie mix for his wrestling team - not because he isn't a fine lad, but because I have no idea how to talk to one. My nieces are a little younger, but I'm limited to talking to them like adults because I don't know any better.

    That said, most of the child avatars in SL drive me mad with rage, as they aw sweem to tawk wit' a wisp, I mean lisp, and have the conversational skills of 3 year olds regardless of their SL ages - except when they're roundly cursing out someone who gets offended at the lisp-y baby talk. (I got an earful of that on ISC Chat one night - not directed at me, mind you - from someone who was name-calling while still doing the baby talk. It was so inane I had to laugh.)

    But I do recall enough about being young to admire those who can pull it off convincingly. In the story above, the idea that these little girls could run off and survive with slingshots if only they had a little whiskey to trade is both hilarious and spot-on with regard to how the little buggers seem to think.

  2. Hey Rhia,

    it's funny as a rule I don't get bothered too much by the affectation of a particular typed form of "accent" or dialect. After all, considering what I inflict upon other folks, I got no fuckin' room to squawk about how anyone "talks." But I will admit there is one aspect of people "tawkin wike a widdle kid" that bothers me, and that is I think a lot of these folks use it as a lazy alternative to understanding children's actual speech patterns or tyring to think like and interact like a realistic child.

    That's one of the reasons why I like the way Carrie Anne and Elizabeth are portrayed. Their typists make a serious effort to think like kids, which sometimes can be just as bizare and irrational as the way that adults think.

    The other thing that galls me about some of the players who wear kid avatars--both with and without the lisping speech pattern--is that they seem to delight mocking the adults and acting like oh-so-cute little bug-fucking assholes. They seem to think that becuase they are playing kids, they can get away with what is at best, shitty rp, and at worst, a form of low-key griefing: you know, the kind of thing where they make themselves obnoxious, but while being very careful to just skirt the line of actually doing something that will get them booted and banned.

    The thing is, of course, that in a Victorian context a child acting like smarmy, smart-mouthed, disrespectful little douche was gonna get walloped with anything ranging from the back of a hand to a 2X4.

    The worst rp'ers, both adult or child, are the ones who don't like to accept the idea that their actions and choices have consequences. And that's another reason the rp recorded above was so great: the girls were really embracing the idea that what they did (literally on the spur of the moment) was going to have consequences.

  3. Well, what you two said :-)

    Seriously though, brilliant post with wonderful dialogue that made me laugh out loud. It's also made me want to RP with the Steelhead Scamps too - there's a result for me!

    p.s. You say we would have liked Sparrow & Silver... have they gone?

  4. *sigh* life is a series of meetings and partings, my friend

  5. Ha, that was so much fine to read, as much fun as it was to play!!

    True confession here -- a sampling of how you can use roleplay to work on OOC issues. That player was sooo annoying in many ways, we couldn't resist pushing him from the middle of town to the river when he typed "afk" and left for an hour or so...

    I haven't had that much fun since Carrie moved to the farm... *sigh* life is a series of meetings and... oh, wait.. where did I hear that?

  6. OH hon, that was the wonderful thing about this--that the whole story line developed as people just ran with the improv after the initial chance situation of a player going afk while standing in the middle of the street (very poor form, by the way, as well as being risky) and then getting pushed into the water.

    So anyway, yeah, I don't recommend going afk and just leaving your avie standing around in Deadwood. Stuff happens.