Fragments from "Larry! The Muscial"

From time to time the news cycle offers up an event of such import and complexity that it can only be comprehended through the medium of musical theater. This week resident composer Ben Greenman examines the sad story of Idaho Senator Larry Craig, tapper of toes.

[A men's bathroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. A white spotlight passes from right to left across the stage, illuminating each stall. In each case, the door opens briefly to show the occupant.]

FIRST MAN

Why am I here?

Isn't it clear?

I had gas

It was severe

SECOND MAN

It's not an interesting story

I won't use the lavatory

On the airplane. It's disgusting.

This is, too, but I'm adjusting.

THIRD MAN

I like to read

OK! magazine

This way I can do it

Without being seen.

FOURTH MAN

Close the door, please

Privacy's the rule

When you are dropping off

Kids at the pool

[The fifth man, who is bathed in blue light, is SERGEANT DAVE KARSNIA of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Police Department.]

SGT DAVE KARSNIA

Oh, well, I have much to say

But I cannot say it

I am a policeman

I have a badge but can't display it

I'm here to respond to claims

Of public sex in these facilities

It's not a plum assignment, true

But these are my responsibilities

[A man enters the restroom and stares into SGT DAVE KARSNIA's stall to see if it is occupied. He enters the adjoining stall. After a few minutes, he taps his foot.]

SGT DAVE KARSNIA

Knock three times on the ceiling if you want me

That's how the old song goes

Tap your foot three times if you want bathroom sex

That's the code that everybody knows

I'll bide my time

I'll just stay put

I'll wait for him

To slide his foot

[The man stops tapping his foot and slides it closer to SGT DAVE KARSNIA's foot until the two shoes come into contact. The man's hand appears under the stall divider.]

SGT DAVE KARSNIA

And there's the hand

It's not exactly a surprise

The public-restroom crowd

Likes to advertise

[SGT DAVE KARSNIA arrests the man. It is Senator LARRY CRAIG (R-ID).]

LARRY CRAIG

I was sitting in this bathroom stall

In Minneapolis-St. Paul

Maybe my hand brushed against the wall

It wasn't like I said hello

I was sitting in a private place

A contented look upon my face

Now you've dragged me into disgrace

I'm a Senator, you know

SGT DAVE KARSNIA

You sent me a signal, sir

Don't say that did not occur

LARRY CRAIG

This scenario that you're relating—

What are you insinuating?

It was just my left foot tapping

I'd suggest that you're entrapping

SGT DAVE KARSNIA

Senator, your foot brushed mine

That had to happen by design

LARRY CRAIG

When sitting on the throne

My wide stance is well-known

I take up the whole stall

Please don't tell Roll Call

SGT DAVE KARSNIA

The hand that has your wedding band

Appeared to make a crass demand

LARRY CRAIG

I was minding my own business

Reaching for a piece of paper

Your incompetence reduces this

To a Keystone Cops-like caper

SGT DAVE KARSNIA

Embarrassing, embarrassing

In nearly every other sting

The men I've caught accept their disesteem

Why is your defensive posture so very extreme?

You might think it's Senatorial

But if I were to be editorial

Or even prosecutorial

I'd say to do whatever you can

To buck up and take it like a man

This incident will bring you

The wrong kind of renown

I can see the headlines:

"Red-Faced Senator Goes Down."

[The other stall doors fling open. The other men sing in unison.]

OTHER MEN

Your refusal to be honest rankles

We all have our pants around our ankles

But we just came here to use the toilet

It's a place of peace. Don't spoil it!

[LARRY CRAIG pleads guilty. Amazingly, SGT DAVE KARSNIA and his department do not leak the story for more than two months. When it breaks, LARRY CRAIG first denies the charges. Prominent Republicans speak out against him.]

MITT ROMNEY

It fills me with disgust

To think that I extended trust

To a moral reprobate

His decisions desecrate

The America I love

If we ever meet again

I will wear a rubber glove

[Journalists, including MIKE ROGERS of blogactive.com, reveal that they have heard about LARRY CRAIG's rendezvous for years.]

JOURNALISTS

One man came out

And talked about

A secret assignation

He enjoyed with the Senator

In a stall at Union Station

Another sent some emails

They included many details

With physical description

I laughed at the transcription

Of the tape of the arrest

At Craig's defensive posture

And his feeble protest.

I had what I needed

And so I proceeded.

[Conservative commentators, including SEAN HANNITY, walk a delicate tightrope, condemning LARRY CRAIG while still trying to link the story to Democratic hypocrisy.]

SEAN HANNITY

If he led a double life

And if he then misled his wife

He should resign from government

He isn't fit to represent

The citizens of Idaho

If he lied, then he should go.

And yet, and yet

Let's not forget

Jim McGreevy, Marion Barry

Hart and Condit, Barney, Gerry,

Sandy Berger, Rostenkowski

Hillary Clinton and how she

Engineered her shady business

If this isn't a witch hunt, then what is this?

[LARRY CRAIG is at home. The entire scandal has given him terrible stomachaches. He is on the toilet.]

LARRY CRAIG

I sit here in my solitude

All my friends have gone away

My political career is screwed

My family is in disarray

My colleagues won't forget this

And then there is the capper:

No more Minneapolis

My whole existence, down the crapper.

[LARRY CRAIG stands. He is washing his hands when the seat of his toilet goes up, imperceptibly at first and then clearly. The TOILET begins to sing.]

TOILET

Larry, Larry

Don't be so contrary

You were trying to have your fun

Now do what needs to be done

Stand up and take your medicine

Or resign as a result of this affair

I tried to tell you that before

But my voice was muffled by your derriere.

[LARRY CRAIG follows the advice of his TOILET and announces that he will resign, though his spokespeople continue to insist that the issue remains open pending the Senate's ethics investigation. The next morning, LARRY CRAIG looks in his bathroom mirror and begins to speak to himself.]

LARRY CRAIG

My own decisions caused it

I was too long in the closet

There shouldn't be such shame attached

Every man, if cruelly scratched

Will show a hidden aspect

Behind his public being

The man that I am seeing

Is not the man in whole

Hypocrisy is common among men who are driven

I leave it to my voters.

This is the speech I should have given.

[LARRY CRAIG goes out into the hallway. He hears a faint voice coming from the bathroom.]

TOILET

Larry, Larry

I misjudged you at first blush

You're braver than I thought

Now please come back and flush

Ben Greenman is an editor at the New Yorker and the author of several books of fiction. His latest book, A Circle is a Balloon and Compass Both, was recently published.

Previously: Fragments From 'Bonds! The Musical'