Rachel Longstreet grew up in a suburb outside of Kansas City, Missouri then ventured north to pursue a BFA with a painting focus and a BA in philosophy from St. Ambrose University. In 2013, she completed an MFA in painting at the University of …
Month: January 2017
Terry Wright is an artist and writer who lives in Little Rock, Arkansas. His art has been widely exhibited and has appeared in numerous journals and venues, including Potion, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Sliver of Stone, Third Wednesday, and USA Today. More of his art and poetry can be seen at his website at cruelanimal.com.
The room is dimly lit. Most of the light comes from two spots on the actors. At downstage left, CELIA and LYMAN sit across from each other at a small table set for three. At each place setting an oversized menu. At upstage right, a DARK-HAIRED MAN stands casually, his back against a thick wood pillar. He holds a large, silver-toned serving platter under one arm and scans the room continuously, his eyes stopping frequently, anxiously, at Lyman and Celia’s table.
I long for the days when I ate fat black grapes and spat out the seeds wherever I wanted. Never had to worry where they fell, whether or not they took root, when the next bunch would come.
Why am I doomed to carry the bulk of the world’s hunger in my belly?
(CELIA picks up her menu; scans it perfunctorily.)
There’s nothing on this menu.
There’s never anything to eat anymore.
Let’s go someplace else.
We’re getting a free meal here.
Free? Is that all you care about? That it’s free? We’re getting a big free nothing so far.
And we’re practically the only ones here. Just one inattentive waiter and us.
Hunger isn’t free. It makes you pay.
You just said it was free.
‘Free’ is relative–in the appetite of the consumer–in a manner of speaking.
Free or not free, related or not, manners or not, I’m hungry. I want to eat. I came here to eat. Isn’t that why we came here? To eat? Why else come here?
How much do you have to offer to relieve your hunger? They take cash, plastic, barter. Whatever you’ve got. And the hungrier you are, the more they’ll take.
(His comments stop her short rant. She looks at him for a moment, probing.)
So … we’re not going anyplace else, then? We’re eating here.
(SHE scans the room, peers into the dark spaces.)
(disappointed, but resigned) Here.
This is the place–the right place for people with appetites like yours.
(CELIA looks around again.)
CELIA And yours?
(HE seems about to answer but instead just shrugs. SHE peers into the dark corners.)
(slightly sarcastically) Not much on ambiance.
Oh, I’m so hungry.
(looks around for a waiter)
Can we get some service?
It’s self-service. You order from the menu, signal your order number, then go pick it up at the counter when they call your number.
Food by numbers. It’s probably disgusting food, too. Well, if it’s self-serve, then what’s he for?
(indicating the Dark-Haired Man)
LYMAN He’s waiting.
He is a waiter, then? Not some performance artist?
LYMAN In a way.
He’s a waiter. Call him over so we can order.
(sarcastically) By the numbers.
He’s not that kind of waiter. He’s waiting.
Well, what’s he waiting for, then? I mean, he’s scoping out the room, holding a serving tray and all, like waiters do.
That’s his plate. He’s waiting for scraps and leftovers.
Leftovers? Why? The food’s free here. You just said so.
For us. Not for him.
He’s waiting to eat scraps? Like some dog? That’s disgusting. So what does he do? Gobble it off customer’s plates?
He serves himself. But he has to beg for it first. He’s not allowed to eat indiscriminately.
(sneaks a glance at the Dark-Haired Man)
That’s good. He looks kind of scruffy. I’m not sure I want him anywhere near my food.
What’s the difference between the food you eat and the food you leave on your plate?
Is he homeless? Oh, God, he’s homeless. They let a homeless person in here to beg customers for their leftovers!? That’s–that’s filthy. Probably violates some kind of health law. Someone should report them. God, it’s almost enough to kill my hunger.
I hope not.
Are you sure we can’t eat someplace else?
It’s too late to go anyplace else. This is the only place open that still has food.
(The DARK-HAIRED MAN shifts his weight from one foot to the other and in the process loose his grip on the platter. It drops with a loud clatter and startles CELIA.)
My God! What is his problem? I’m going to go over there and tell him to leave.
(She starts to rise but LYMAN grabs her by the wrist before she manages to stand.)
LYMAN You can’t.
(She plops back into her seat as the DARK-HAIRED MAN reaches down to pick up the platter.)
He can’t leave.
That’s stupid. Why can’t he leave? They should actually throw him out. He’s bothering the customers.
All he did was shift his weight from one foot to the other. Otherwise, he hasn’t moved. The platter dropped by accident. A twist of fate, you might say.
Well, he bothers me. Now I won’t be able to eat when our food arrives. I’ll gag on it thinking about him eating my leftovers.
And what do you mean he can’t leave?
(The DARK-HAIRED MAN squirms, bends and contorts his body to pick up the platter, but he’s tethered to the wall and can’t manage to reach it. He grows frantic–whimpers softly as he thrashes about in frustration, unable to reach his tray. His frustration turns to anger, then rage. He kicks hard at the platter. It skids across the room and crashes into Celia’s chair. The DARK-HAIRED MAN howls. CELIA jumps up from her seat and turns to face him.)
CELIA Stop that!
(SHE stomps to stand in front of him, just out of arm’s reach.)
Stop that noise this instant!
(At the table LYMAN raises five fingers on one hand, and three on the other. The DARK- HAIRED MAN continues to howl.)
I said shut up! All that howling’s not going to get you a thing! Not food, not water, not friends!
(The DARK-HAIRED MAN’s howls ratchet down to whimpers. He starts to cry.)
That’s better. But you’ve got to stop crying, too. It’s so unattractive–and bothersome–especially when people are trying to have a nice meal in peace and comfort.
(The DARK-HAIRED MAN continues to cry softly, as if he’ll never stop.)
You don’t listen, do you? Why don’t you listen?
(Still crying, the DARK-HAIRED MAN reaches his arms out to her. She jumps back.)
My plate. My plate.
(SHE looks back at the platter next to her seat.)
You want your plate?
Well, I’ll get it for you but you’re going to have to stop crying. Otherwise there won’t be any leftovers for you. We’ll take home doggie bags and give them to the dogs. That’s what they’re for. Right?
(The DARK-HAIRED MAN growls.)
What was that? What a horrible noise. What does it mean? Are you disrespecting me? Is that what that repulsive noise in your throat is?
(The DARK-HAIRED MAN growls again, louder.)
Again? After what I just offered you? You throw it back in my face?
(The DARK-HAIRED MAN howls.)
All right. Have it your way.
(SHE walks back to where the platter lies and stomps on it– over and over, as the DARK- HAIRED MAN’s howls intensify. Using her hands and feet SHE twists and bends it until it’s no more than a scrap of useless metal. Then SHE flings it offstage left, out of sight. The DARK-HAIRED MAN lets out an anguished cry, then slumps against the pillar, defeated.)
(A VOICE calls out.)
Nomber Three. Nomber Fie.
(LYMAN rises from his chair and crosses upstage. CELIA sits in her seat. She picks up her menu, smirks at it, then tosses it away. It slides upstage out of sight. LYMAN returns with two covered plates of food on a large silver- toned tray and sets it on the table.)
Oh, good. Food at last. I certainly worked up an appetite. But at least we can eat in peace. You know, sometimes a body just has to stand up.
(SHE reaches for one of the plates.)
That’s not for you.
(SHE reaches for the other plate.)
That’s not for you either.
You didn’t order for me? They’re both yours?
I ordered them.
What about me?
You need to make your choices and place your order.
I already threw away the menu.
(SHE grabs the third menu and reads it.)
It’s blank. There’s nothing on it. Let me use yours.
(SHE grabs LYMAN’s menu.)
It’s blank, too. How did you order from a blank menu?
They’re customer-specific and single-use. It’s what this place is known for. Besides, I come here often. I already know every item that’s on the menu.
Well, how am I supposed to eat if I can’t see the choices to order?
Guess you’re not.
Not what? Not supposed to eat or not supposed to order?
You could share yours with me. I don’t care what you ordered. I’m so hungry I could eat a yak.
No, I can’t. There are consequences.
Oh really? Consequences … Such as?
(LYMAN glances for a long moment at the Dark-Haired Man, who’s still slumped, dejected, against the pillar.)
You know, you weren’t very nice to him.
I can’t stand crying. Or begging.
You could have given him his plate back. But instead you destroyed it. Why?
(CELIA squirms and shifts her position on her chair. She looks down at the tray of food on the table and touches the cover of one, then the other.)
Answer the question. Why did you destroy his plate?
(SHE stares at him, trying to decide something. HE returns her stare, silently demands an answer. She opens her mouth to speak but stops. Starts again.)
(forcefully, her voice rising)
Because I didn’t want him to eat my leftovers. Because he’d make me leave enough on the plate for leftovers. Because I wouldn’t be able to eat everything on my plate because I knew he’d be waiting for leftovers! I’d leave as hungry as I came–even though I ate. All because I couldn’t have everything I ordered!
(SHE pauses for a moment and looks speculatively at Lyman. Then realization dawns.)
And you knew it! You picked this place on purpose knowing I wouldn’t be able to eat my fill! Knowing he–
(indicating the Dark-Haired Man with her head)
would be here, waiting with his stupid platter! A platter, for god’s sake! Not a simple, regular plate!
I’m so hungry! Why can’t I eat!? What is it with you? You bring me to this place to eat then keep finding ways to keep me from eating! You bring food you say isn’t for me and I can’t have! Why?!
(SHE stops ranting suddenly and looks intently at Lyman.)
(LYMAN takes the covers off the plates of food. The food is wrapped burrito-style in butcher paper.)
Take one. Number Three or Five. It doesn’t matter.
(CELIA hesitates, unsure.)
Go ahead. Help yourself.
(CELIA reaches for the one closest to her. Gingerly, she unwraps it. She’s puzzled by what she sees and opens the paper fully, spreading it flat. The food is gorgeous– colorfully, artfully arranged plastic. She stares at the display for a long moment. Behind her, the DARK- HAIRED MAN moans softly and moves as if to stand up.)
(rising from her chair; to Lyman) You bastard!
It was my chance. My first, last and only chance. I only had three, you see.
(pacing back and forth)
You used me? For some mysterious, perverted quest of yours?
All I wanted was to eat! Everybody eats! It’s basic–human survival. Why did you need to go through all this–this–? What’s the point? What were you after? What do you get in return? You’re clearly not hungry. You don’t seem to need to eat.
(SHE stops pacing.)
And just what is this mysterious last chance of yours? Why is it so important that you had to put me through all this?
I thought it would work. I had faith in you–your voracious hunger. You’ll do just about anything to ease your hunger. Feed mine in the process. Release him–
(indicating the Dark-Haired Man) from his.
(CELIA struggles to understand and respond. She opens and closes her mouth, tries to get words out, but she can’t seem to figure out what to say. She pushes.)
Feed yours in the process …? what the hell does that mean?
Are you going to tell me what’s going really on? Or should I leave now–and forever? Take this starving body and march it decisively out the door. Never again to have even the slightest contact with you. Or even care.
You still haven’t figured it out, have you?
Would I be asking if I had?
(LYMAN rewraps the plastic food in the butcher paper and places both bundles in his pocket. He stands.)
You are my food–or rather, your ravenous hunger is what feeds me–what you do in its name. It consumes so completely. It’s so intoxicating–voracious, never satiated. And it feeds me completely —fills me–so I don’t have to be hungry.
(LYMAN stares for a long moment at the DARK-HAIRED MAN.)
So I don’t have to bleed. Or cry. It’s that I can’t stand to be hungry. I can’t stand to be in such want. That’s all.
(CELIA falls back into her chair, stunned, seeming not to understand. The DARK-HAIRED MAN mumbles something unintelligible. LYMAN walks stage right, stops and turns back to Celia.)
By the way, about your leaving, now or ever. This place is open for starving customers twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, always. But it’ll be a while yet for you. You haven’t eaten yet.
(HE exits. CELIA sits for a long moment, confused, still trying to understand. She gets up and crosses to stand before the Dark-Haired Man. HE rises to a fully standing position, straightens his clothes, looks uncertainly at her. She glances at him but doesn’t seem to see him, then looks around the place as if searching for something she lost but can’t quite remember what it is.)
(to no one in particular)
We could have been friends.
Nomber Seven. Nomber Nine.
(The DARK-HAIRED MAN perks up. Looks around, searching. LIGHTS DIM, leaving only a low-level spot on the platter on the table. BLACKOUT.)
END OF PLAY
elena minor is the author of TITULADA and founding editor of PALABRA. Her work has been published in more than two dozen journals and anthologized in Angels of the Americlypse, BAX 2015 and Coiled Serpent. She teaches community-based creative writing to high school students.
BELINDA, elderly woman, never married, a nurse. MAJORIE, her sister, also elderly, in sixties or above. Uses a cane. Also never married. A retired bus and farm truck driver. SETTING: The front porch of the two sister’s shared trailer house. Two rocking chairs, potted plants …
CHARACTERS: GINA: protagonist, early twenties PAUL: ex-boyfriend of GINA, also early twenties MOTHER: of GINA MARGOT: best friend to GINA; we only hear her voice MIDDLE-AGED MAN: balding, with a paunch I. Lights up on a mostly empty stage. Center stage is a bed. GINA …
AVERAGE AMERICAN: Female or male. In the depths of poverty.
BULLY: Ruler of America if not the world. Impossibly wealthy. Despicably egocentric.
JOSEWULF: A citizen of Mexico. Courageous. Fearless. Heroic. Honorable. Strong. Wise. Good.
Washington, D.C., and Mexico on the U.S. border. ~
AT RISE: Dawn. The mall in Washington, D.C. AVERAGE AMERICAN, dressed in rags, speaks to us. BULLY sits on the Lincoln Memorial marble chair. The Lincoln part of the statue has been removed.
Lo, honor the Bully
He brooks no nonsense
Bully bathes in the glory
upon his head
lighted by ego
bright as the sun.
He is the sun, the moon, the stars,
black holes, northern lights, you name it — Bully is all.
Over my bed hangs The Motto, framed in gold: I am All.
(SOUND: trumpet salute.)
Indeed this trampled earth
indeed the rights to
and miscellaneous mines of everything else are his.
Bully owns all.
(BULLY polishes his nails, combs his hair, admires himself in a hand mirror as AVERAGE comes downstage to speak to us.)
How did this happen?
was it ever
the question, but
has been lost
How did it happen that an Evil lord
of land, of sea
owns every animal
How, the peasants ask,
but quietly ‘lest
slaving day and night for naught.
Children in rags
cry into pillows at night or
they had pillows.
(laughing, to no one in particular:) “Build! Build!”
He gestures toward the southern border.
“Build, you dirty devils!” I’ll send the bill by U.S. Post.
(JOSEWULF, apart, is on the U.S. border in Mexico. He wears a Mexican warrior outfit with traditional weapons such as a chimalli [shield] and macuahuitl [staff with obsidian blades]. He shakes a fist in BULLY’s direction.)
Like Midas of old
wealth upon wealth
that is never enough;
grinding all in
Die, American monster!
Why or when it began
we do not know
only that judges were named
laws changed —
Bully is Ruler for Life!
The Days of Bullydom are numbered.
Unbeknownst to the
of another sort
to the south
Come all ye downtrodden,
join me in a Battle for Good.
Not one more bill will
for The Wall
he has constructed with the blood
of my people
and those to the north
beneath his stupendous ego
Pay for his
(SOUND: a call to arms.)
(admiring himself in the mirror:)
I’m the richest, most
successful businessman in the world. Everybody loves me.
farmers, laborers, craftsmen
all of Mexico stands beside noble Joséwulf.
North, my friends!
Right marches beside us.
The army surges forward north, toward The Wall.
(The sun is overhead.)
Lunchtime. Service please!
American cow patty
American bun. Caucasian er vanilla milkshake
Side of non-French fries.
The Frenchies love me but I don’t trust them.
Smart move, tearing down the Statue of Liberty.
Frog woman. Can’t have that in New York Harbor!
Unaware of the approaching host
Josewulf and his thousands are over The Wall
like flood waters over a dam
aided by Americans on the other side
starving for education,
medicine, food, justice,
equality, the vote. One vote for
a leader who cares.
Join us, Americano amigos
together we march
as one we destroy Evil!
(SOUND: a rousing cheer from a large crowd.)
As Bully naps
the army heads
Women washing rags
in polluted streams
too weak to play
men scratching for berries,
for something for dinner
as The Army of the Righteous approaches.
They join us
they march with us
strong at the thought
of conquering Evil.
Dinner time. Service!
(BULLY tucks a dinner napkin under his chin. Dusk approaches.)
Dallas, Memphis, Nashville, Norfolk —
(SOUND: cell phone rings. BULLY answers.)
Advancing northward? Ridiculous. They couldn’t
Besides, they’re Losers
They love me,
but they’re Losers
America doesn’t want Losers.
A short lesson on Losers is necessary before continuing. If you have the notion that Losers are small, nasty, or un- pleasant in anyway, get rid of it right now. That is propaganda spread by media — controlled by you-know-who. Wipe it from your mind. Losers are often courageous, strong, wise, heroic, and they smell like honeysuckle. Got it?
Forward, to Washington to
the White House —
Castle. It’s called the “castle” now.
The big white building
emblazoned with letters
in flashing lights.
to boldly breach
the Evil king in
and disappear him.
(BULLY holds out a wine glass.)
California, New York State, anything but French or Chinese.
Do they have Chinese wine?
José’s plans could not
one mistake make
nor one slip up
nor one small
Years went into planning,
no holes barred
now or never
(BULLY has finished dinner. He is wiping his mouth with the napkin.)
Word gets out of the fateful
up and down Pennsylvania Avenue
if there was voting anymore, now
(though they have nothing
to bet with),
(though praying is not
Hoping, for they have not forgot hope.
You have resurrected hope, Joséwulf!
(SOUND: crowd cheers. JOSEWULF holds up a finger for silence, but too late BULLY has heard the mob.)
He flings wide the door to his chamber balcony
sneers at us below.
His mouth a hollow cave.
Orange hair electric.
tied tightly below
No idea that others have brains
can come up with
Sees himself as the only
be all and end all
AVERAGE + JOSE
So he is not afraid.
I know you love me I love your love
I’ve had a hard day.
Plumps his pillow and
is soon asleep
of eggs Benedict and latte laced
French — it’s a dream
morning paper filled
with news of
(Silence. Silence. Silence. Night falls. JOSEWULF cracks his knuckles. BULLY snores in his marble seat. AVERAGE AMERICAN has a weapon now. SOUND: suddenly a rousing warcry as the peasant army attacks. BULLY sits up, calls:)
911! Everybody to the boardroom! Department of Defense. Department of Anti-Immigration. FBI. CIA. Get in here!
(JOSEWULF faces BULLY.)
Throw him out.
I am Joséwulf.
I don’t give a damn if you’re the Mona Lisa. Deport him!
I do not like you.
Everybody loves me.
and here and —
I don’t have to answer to you, disgusting poor person. Loser.
(BULLY grabs JOSEWULF. A fearsome struggle follows between them.)
I was ready to fight
ready for —
(SOUNDS of raging battle: gunfire, screams of horses, shouts, bombs, cannons, chaos. AVERAGE cuts off the sound. It stops as quickly as it began.)
a shot was fired. Only these two
Good and Evil
to the death.
(JOSE and BULLY are locked in a fearsome struggle. First it looks like JOSE will win, then BULLY [who of course fights dirty]. Just as it looks like BULLY might win, choking the life out of JOSE with his foot upon JOSE’s throat, JOSE lunges up, grabs BULLY’s arm, and wrenches it loose from the shoulder socket. JOSE waves the torn arm above his head victoriously.)
Power to the People!
never to be seen again.
(SOUND: crowd cheers. JOSE and AVERAGE embrace. BLACKOUT.)
– END OF PLAY –
Robin Rice is the author of 90+ plays (short, one-act, full-length), produced worldwide — South Korea to Africa, London to Off-Broadway. Publishers include Samuel French and Original Works. The environment, social justice and realizing individual passions are frequent themes. Synopses of available plays: www.RobinRicePlaywright.com
Carolyn Kras is a writer whose awards include the Hamptons International Film Festival Screenwriters Lab, Alfred P. Sloan Screenwriting Award, Visionary Playwright Award, and a Fulbright LUSK Grant to the United Kingdom. She has been a writer-in-residence at Ucross Foundation, Hawthornden Castle, Sell a Door …