Fragments From 'Death Comes For Britney Spears! The Musical'

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 takes a closer look at the event that keeps us awake at night with anticipation: The impending death of now-childless young Britney Spears.

[DEATH is bored. He calls his friend BILL.]

BILL:

Hey, you

What say you?

DEATH:

It's not a good day

Really, Bill

Sure I have the

Time to kill

But I fear that I don't have the will

I go about my business

Every morning, noon, and night

Most doomed souls go easily

Some put up a fight

But honestly it's boring me

I don't know what to say

The last pickup that I enjoyed

Was probably that Martha Raye

BILL:

Dude, you know what?

You should totally get

Someone who isn't ready quite yet

DEATH:

It's not allowed.

The fines would be large.

BILL:

Fines? Wait a second—

Aren't you in charge?

DEATH:

In a sense, but it's complex

The afterlife has many checks

And balances. I can't just slay

Whoever springs to mind today.

I mean, well, yeah, I guess I could

But I'm not sure it would be good.

BILL:

That's the very point I'm making

You need to stop your bellyaching

You're not the flu. You're not the sprain.

You're Death, so rule your domain.

Now I have to hang up the phone

My wife went out and I'm alone

It's one of those rare Just Bill nights:

Just Bill and fifty porn websites.

[DEATH laughs at his friend, betraying a trace of envy.]

DEATH:

Bill is a genius

Although he's a rake

But who will I go for?

Who will I take?

I'm calling Bill back

Damn, he turned off his phone

I don't really feel like

Going out there alone

[DEATH calls some other friends to see if anyone wants to go collect a few souls with him. Most are busy or invent an elaborate excuse to avoid the errand. Finally, DEATH calls LITTLE RICHARD.]

LITTLE RICHARD:

Whoooo-eeee!!!

Who's calling me?

DEATH:

It's death

But don't worry

This isn't business

It's just that, well

I feel depressed

And I'd love to have you

As my guest

On a little trip across the earth

To find some souls and reverse their birth

[LITTLE RICHARD is enthusiastic about the idea.]

LITTLE RICHARD:

Whooo-hoooooo!!!

Where should I meet you?

DEATH:

It doesn't really matter. We'll

Be traveling by astral plane.

So how about the Platter Kill?

I've always loved the name.

[LITTLE RICHARD and DEATH meet by the Platter Kill, a stream in upstate New York. DEATH is wearing his trademark black robe. LITTLE RICHARD is wearing his traditional red jacket with rhinestones.]

LITTLE RICHARD:

Eeeee-aaaaaaaaaa!!!

Good to see ya.

DEATH:

Good to see you, too, my friend

So tell me: whose life should we end?

LITTLE RICHARD:

I've got an idea

DEATH:

I'm all ears

LITTLE RICHARD:

Let's go get that Britney Spears

DEATH:

That's an interesting notion

It would cause a great commotion

And her music's already dead, if you know what I mean

But she's still in her youth

And to tell you the truth

I had sort of been thinking of killing Tom Green

LITTLE RICHARD:

The girl can't help it

She was born to sleaze

You'll see her here and there

Down on bended knees

Can she at least get

Green monkey disease?

[They agree to flip a coin. LITTLE RICHARD produces a coin, which is a quarter with a picture of himself on one side. The other side has a picture of his butt.]

LITTLE RICHARD:

Snakes and snails

And hog slop pails

And whips and wails

I call tails!!!

[It is tails. In Canada, in this middle of filming a scene where he French-kisses a cow, TOM GREEN feels an unspeakable cold shudder through him.]

TOM GREEN:

You know what's strange?

I was briefly changed.

A cloud crossed my heart

And gave me a start

But I'm all better now.

Please bring back that cow.

[DEATH and LITTLE RICHARD land in the living room of BRITNEY SPEARS. It is disorganized. Magazines are everywhere, along with lingerie and empty pizza boxes.]

DEATH:

It's hard to find her

Amidst this debris

She's probably still sleeping

It's not even three

[BRITNEY SPEARS stumbles out of the bedroom. She has slept in sunglasses.]

BRITNEY SPEARS:

I'm really sorry

I slept so late

Did I miss another court date?

LITTLE RICHARD:

Girl, listen, I'm sure you did

But that's not why we're here

You were young and pretty before

Now you look like you drank a whole keg of beer

BRITNEY SPEARS:

Don't make rude sport

Of my rise and fall

I'm not a bad sort

Not at all, y'all

[DEATH interrupts.]

DEATH:

Do you truly wish to understand

Why we've come unannounced and unplanned?

BRITNEY SPEARS:

Yes

I guess

DEATH:

In a minute I'll take off my hood

And you'll behold my flaming skull

And terror will consume your mind

And all your senses will go dull

An icy finger on your brow

Will take you from the here and now

BRITNEY SPEARS:

I'm sorry, y'all, but I don't know Greek

Is that the language you're trying to speak?

DEATH:

Your mortal essence will lay coiled

At your feet just like that snake

You danced with at the VMAs

And I don't mean Justin Timberlake

You'll sleep but you will not awake

BRITNEY SPEARS:

I swear, I don't know what y'all are saying

Is this some trick that Kevin's playing?

LITTLE RICHARD:

Bama lama bama loo

Honestly, what can we do

So that you understand this visit

It's not that complicated, is it?

A wop bop a loo bop a lop bam boom

We are here to seal your doom!

Ready, set, go man go

Let's get started with the show

BRITNEY SPEARS:

I'm dying now?

What? Why? And how?

[DEATH fidgets.]

DEATH:

Well, it's not like I was bored

And needed something to do

And looked around the world

And randomly picked you

[DEATH removes his hood. He has, as promised, a flaming skull. He steps forward and touches BRITNEY SPEARS on the breast.]

BRITNEY SPEARS:

Hey! Uh, wait—

You said my head.

DEATH:

Oh yeah. Right.

Okay. You're dead.

[BRITNEY swoons. Everything around her dissolves. She begins to sing with the voice of an angel.]

BRITNEY SPEARS:

Once I was a kind of modern Cinderella

And then I beat the crap out of a car with an umbrella

Oh...

It's all coming back to me now in a blur

I worshipped Madonna and made out with her

I lived a life of adventure and fun

I drank! I smoked! I hit and run!

I shaved my head! I shaved my vagina!

I acted as dumb as Miss South Carolina!

Please take care of my mom and my kids

I am kneeling and praying and closing my lids

Goodbye, Sean Preston. Goodbye, Jayden James.

Hey - not bad - I remembered their names.

My journey from childhood to B-cup to pre-nup

Is over. I'm done. I surrender. I give up.

I'm laying down flat on the floor of the room

So you can convey me to my timeless tomb.

[DEATH bends down to pick up BRITNEY SPEARS but notices that she is not wearing underwear.]

DEATH:

Problem.

LITTLE RICHARD:

What?

DEATH:

I would take her but...

[LITTLE RICHARD peers downward. He notices the absence of underwear, too.]

LITTLE RICHARD:

Oooo-aaaaa-eeeeee!!!

Do you mean to say

That you can't lift her

And take her away

If she isn't wearing drawers?

DEATH:

Sadly, yes. Can she wear yours?

LITTLE RICHARD:

Aaaaa-iiiiii-ooooooo!!!

Upon further review

I'm sorry to say

I'm commando, too

[BRITNEY SPEARS stirs, wakes.]

BRITNEY SPEARS:

I must have left the world behind

This place I'm in, it must be heaven

I was born back in the eighties

And died here in two-thousand-seven

Be strong, my fans—be good, be brave

Bring cans of Red Bull to my grave

[BRITNEY SPEARS stands shakily and tries to float away.]

LITTLE RICHARD:

Jenny jenny, wooo, jenny jenny

When it comes to brains you ain't got any

Hep-bop-a-dee-dee-dee-dee-wa-bop-bop

The process came to a full stop

[DEATH explains the situation to BRITNEY SPEARS more respectfully.]

DEATH:

I thought you'd be taken

I thought we'd be going

But we ran into trouble

Your privates are showing

[BRITNEY SPEARS is elated.]

BRITNEY SPEARS:

I'm saved, I'm saved!

I feel so strange

I'll learn to behave

I promise I'll change

[DEATH shrugs. He isn't really concerned with better behavior.]

LITTLE RICHARD

Bad luck baby put the jinx on me

I think it's time for us to flee

[DEATH and LITTLE RICHARD return first to the Platter Kill and then to their respective homes. DEATH is still frustrated by his inability to kill BRITNEY SPEARS, and the rules prohibit him from taking another crack at TOM GREEN for a while, so he kills his friend BILL instead. BILL's wife comes home to find him slumped in front of the computer, which is displaying a porn site. At BILL's funeral, she makes a speech about how BILL was the man of her dreams, and how she hoped to have a family with him, and how those imagined children would now never have the opportunity to have him as a father. She then sits in her car and plays BRITNEY SPEARS's new album, "Blackout," at top volume. It helps, a little, for a little while.]



Previously: Fragments From "Isiah! The Musical"

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.