My Pest Friend

I don’t have a Best Friend. I don’t yearn for one, either.

I do, however, have a Pest Friend – and he is a treasure.

Pest Friends, if you need a definition, are friends who harass you into doing things you don’t want to do but know you should do. In their irksome, persistent way, they (metaphorically) make you eat your vegetables.

I’ve known My Pest Friend — also named Mike — since we were undergrads at Carnegie Mellon University. He and I first met in a playwriting class and the roots of our friendship began to grow once we admitted that we found each other’s scripts funny. This is about as good a way to begin a friendship as any. In fact, it is possibly the best way.

At that time I was taking playwriting very seriously. I wasn’t a good playwright, not even close, but I was serious. In fact, I shunned a number of social opportunities to read every last play that could be found in Hunt Library’s extensive collection. And when I wasn’t reading, I was writing. Not only did that allow me to hone my skills, but it also allowed me to indulge my Sullen Loner instincts.

Mike was different. He did not take playwriting seriously. He also was more of social animal than I. But he, too, exploited any free moment he had to pursue his passion – musical composition – with a rigor that equaled and perhaps even surpassed my own.

After graduation we continued our pursuits. Mike moved to L.A. and became a composer of some renown, and I went back to New Jersey where, by some kind of miracle, I learned how to make a decent living as a writer and editor.

Both of our passions evolved over time. I shifted from playwriting to children’s books. Mike, in addition to scoring movies and video games, began to drift into musical theatre. His drift in that direction, however, was slow, almost glacial. By the time he was fully committed to the idea of writing for the stage, I was no longer there to welcome him. Theatre didn’t interest me much anymore.

My actions, I’m afraid, vexed Mike. From that day to this, Mike became my Pest Friend.

Mike used to live in New York so, once or twice a year, he heads to the East Coast to visit his family. Once he arrives, we set up a time to have lunch.

I always look forward to these lunches, but, I must admit, I dread them a little, too. For one thing, Mike does not have children – or, to put it another way, his mind is not addled. His intellect and wit are every bit as sharp as they were in college. I used to be able to keep up with Mike’s lightening quick conversational skills, but those days are long gone. My mind is now as sharp as a billiard ball, and the closest I can come to “witty” these days is when I trot out my impressive collection of poop-related humor.

I also kinda dread these lunches because I know where our conversation will eventually lead. Mike will pester me into writing a short play.

First he softens me up. Mike always was one of my biggest fans, and he goes on for a bit about how I’m turning my back on my natural talents. This flatters me because I know he is sincere.

Mike then observes that a 10-minute play does not require a major time commitment. Which is true.

Mike then points out that online theatre databases make it easy for me to find acting companies that would produce my stuff. Which is also true.

Mike then reminds me that there is no financial outlay. This, too, is true. Unlike the old days, I can submit my scripts via email (so no snail mail costs). I also no longer need to pay dues to The Dramatist Guild.

“And you make money, don’t you?” he asks me.

Indeed I do. Usually, anyway.

Oh, I try to negotiate with Mike as he works me over. “Tell ya what,” I say. “I’ll write a new play as soon as you marry that girlfriend of yours. And, to sweeten the deal, I’ll write a full-length script as soon as you two have a baby.”

But these counteroffers roll off Mike like water off a duck’s butt. He knows they are just the ravings of a man who has already lost.

He also knows that I would never lose if I didn’t, somewhere deep down, want to lose.

“Writing for kids is great and you’re good at it,” he says to me telepathically. “But you, Allegra, need to write for grown-ups once in a while. Poop humor is fine, but your sense of humor used to make people bleed. You miss it.”

And, ugh, that’s true, too. Damn that Mike and his razor sharp brain!

Long story short, I’m writing another short play and Mike is the pestiest pest I know.

And, well, I don’t think I’d want it any other way. Thanks, buddy.

29 Replies to “My Pest Friend”

  1. At first I thought Mike was your alter ego, then I thought he wasn’t, now I’m not sure! If he isn’t, then it would be much easier for us if you only spoke about friends that have different names to you 😉 Either way, good on ya, I bet you’re a great short (or long!) play writer. I’ve written a few screenplays but not play plays, I’ve thought about it though…maybe I need a pest friend.

  2. Love it – Pest friend:-) Any advise on how to attract one of these fabulous creatures? You’ve got me thinking – again – as you did when you last mentioned playwriting. I have an old one act two-hander collecting dust…Happy (play)writing (maybe it’s more fun than work/normal writing:-) – and let us know how you get on. Happy hugs, Harula xxxx

    1. I’m afraid I can offer no advice on how you can get a Pest Friend. I do know, however, that Pest Friends need to be “regular” friends first.

      Mutual respect and trust need to be firmly cemented in place between the two of you before any pestiness can emerge. Good luck!

      1. Great advice (not least, reminding me how to spell the noun…dang…) Ok, so I have regular friends aplenty, and we’re good at the respect and trust stuff, so…time to cultivate some ‘pestiness’..i I just LOVE the sound of that word…actually, come to think of it there are four friends who’ve shown potential in this area, hmmm…with gratitude, H xxxx

  3. My Pest friend is my sister-in-law—but her area of expertise isn’t writing. I’m not sure I’m missing an opportunity or dodging a bullet, there . . .

  4. Your Pest Friend sounds like a gem. It’s nice to have someone force you to think outside the box, or outside your comfort zone once in a while. I think we all need someone like that to push us just that little bit further, someone who believes in us and what we can accomplish. 🙂

  5. I tried screenplays but found it not my forte–however, plays are amazing. I wrote one as a spinoff from my YA NaNo novel a couple of years ago. Sadly though without a pest friend all those scripts sit whimpering in the file box until I have time and/or to send them out. Coercing can be a motivator. Does your friend do freelance pestering?

    1. I wrote a screenplay but it was a special commission where I was asked to adapt another guy’s story. It was an interesting experiment, but it couldn’t hold a candle to the intimacy and immediacy of theatre. I do enjoy writing for the stage.

      To get the gears moving regarding your own relationship with the stage, here’s a database of theatres looking for new scripts. So dust off that old play of yours and get to work.

      Your Pest Friend, over and out.

      1. Wow! I guess procrastination just lost out to motivation. Thanks for the list–beats scouring the back of my Writer’s mag classified pages.

  6. My Pest Friends are my writers group. Love em. But I just pestered a new friend yesterday that I met at Squaw Valley Writers Workshop in July. She hadn’t done anything with her novel since the workshop. She’s a fabulous writer and everyone (agents, editors, peers) loved her work, but she said that her day job and home improvement were getting in the way. So I pestered her into doing something on the book every week. We’ll see if it sticks. I’m glad you’ve got your own pest. Sometimes people need to pressure you into doing something you love. But I’m with you on the adled brain part. Mush Mush Mush.

    BTW, I intended to spend yesterday revising an adult story, but I got an idea for a kid’s picture book and just had to write first draft of that, instead. Geez, the best laid plans….

  7. Good luck with the play, I am sure it will turn out good even without the poop humor…or maybe you could find a way to fit it in somehow. In any case best of luck and keep us up to date with your progress.

  8. That must be so interesting to have a long-time friend in the creative arts business too but going different paths. That’s great that you are writing a play, good luck!

  9. Ha! We know the same Mike. And, I’m not the only one Mike harasses. But then I bug him a lot as well.

    “Help me write this.”
    “Let me use your studio.”
    “NO I won’t listen to your ideas.”
    “Tell me I’m pretty.”

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