“Is it time yet?” our pet rabbit wanted to know. He was anxious, and I saw him getting ready to chew the wires of his pen to hurry me along.
“For … what?”
He grabbed his pen with his forepaws, which is fine, because that’s not so rattly. “To go outside! I’m all ready and set, let’s go!”
“You mean to play the raccoon?”
Here I have to explain. We put up a wildlife camera in the backyard, and it’s taken a month’s worth of photographs of us checking to see if the wildlife camera is taking photographs. We asked our rabbit if he’d go outside and hop around, so we could know whether the camera would photograph something like a raccoon.
He started to chew on the cage, “Yes! I’ve been doing a lot of research and I’m all set!”
“You really just have to exist. You’re already very good at that.”
He stood up on his hind feet and looked up and raised his left forepaw, and cried, “Arr!”
“It’s threatening rain. I thought we’d wait for … what?”
“Avast ye mateys! Ready with the jibs! We’re off to the Egg Harbor!”
“That’s a pirate.”
He nodded. “I’ve been doing a lot of research for this part!”
“We asked you to play a raccoon. That’s completely different from being a pirate.” He looked at me impatiently. “I’m sorry to be the one who tells you this.”
He rolled his head back and sighed. “I’m playing a raccoon who plays a pirate.”
I lapsed into a dignified silence because I was unprepared to answer something like that.
“My raccoon character is named Berkeley Nishimori, and he’s long been fascinated with the history of piracy on the Atlantic seaboard.”
“You don’t need to have a character, though. You just need a body, and you’ve got one.”
“If I don’t have a character this’ll be lifeless. It’s having someone who wants things that makes for compelling scenes!” I looked toward the back window. “Drama or comedy, put in an obsessed character and you’re in good shape! Mister Brock, we’re off for the Egg Harbor!”
“But all I want is you to be there.”
“Now, Berkeley has gotten particularly interested in the mid-Atlantic coast, and he’s set up his pirate character as operating from the South River, as the Dutch termed the Delaware River, but obviously operating as far afield as possible.”
“… Really doesn’t come into play for hopping around the pond.”
“He reasons that the Delaware Bay area is a good one for operations since even though it’s less active than Boston, the divided authorities between the main of Pennsylvania, the Lower Counties, Maryland, and the reunited New Jerseys will make hiding from official inquiries easier.”
“I figure if you just look at the camera, and then look away from the camera … ”
“Now, Berkeley sets Davis — ”
“Yes, Davis, and I admit Berkeley hasn’t established whether Davis is his first or last name, but it seems one historically plausible enough either way, and he’s leaning towards working `Trent’ in there for obvious reasons, is aware that at this time New-Jersey itself was administered by the Governor of New-York, so that helps the administrative confusion, obviously.” No, I did not doubt that he was using the hyphens for the colony names.
“Maybe stand on your hind feet. I imagine raccoons in the wild do that too.”
“Now, Berkeley has figured that Davis isn’t a pirate for reasons of petty greed, of course. He reasons that Davis was driven to it to support his family, disgraced after being named as accomplices to the theft of the colonial treasure chest from the western capital of Burlington in 1714.”
“So all I mean is, you don’t need to have a recursive mass of character.”
“Obviously, I’m drawing on the 1768 theft of East Jersey’s funds from treasurer Stephen Skinner’s house for this. But Berkeley figures that setting his pirate in that era necessarily involves him in pre-revolutionary politics that he doesn’t want to explore just now, and while it wouldn’t require relocating the action to the North River — ”
“The Hudson. I know.”
“Well, it would bias the setting anyway. I should say I don’t think I’ve completely ruled out the other interpretation of this relocating, besides just making up an incident.”
“I really think you’re over-working the part — ”
“And that is, maybe Berkeley is just sloppy about character development. He might have made it up without realizing there was a strikingly similar scandal a half-century later.”
“You really don’t need a character.”
He sneezed at me, so I knew I was in trouble. “You know you’re terrible at improv? You haven’t given me a single `Yes, and’ all this time.”
“Hold on. First, not all life is improv” — he sneezed again, that little buzzing noise — “and second, you haven’t actually responded to my perfectly reasonable skepticism about you over-planning a little hop in the backyard, so how good at this are you?”
He didn’t sneeze at that, but his ears did droop.
“I need to establish,” he finally concluded, “whether Berkeley is deliberately moving the Skinner treasury theft to Burlington circa 1712 or whether he’s making it up. We can wait.”
I agreed, but said, “You’re getting caught in a research spiral. Carry on like this and you’ll build everything about your character and never play him,” while it started to drizzle outside.