A Worthie Woman All Hir Live

CAST:                        2 persons — 1 F, 1 M [doubling]

Allison                        — college instructor, a medievalist, mid-30s, recently widowed

Stranger                      — sly, small-time con man, late 20s

Policeman                   — police officer (off-stage voice)

Setting:                        suggestion of a kitchen — chairs, table, counter top, a cabinet

Time:                          February 1977

Option:                        time can be any year immediately after a Leap Year before the Internet era

Props:                          1970s phone, beer, wine bottle, a glass, books, notes, typewriter

Costume:                     female:  black turtleneck, long black skirt
male:  worn raincoat, scruffy jeans    [optional: unshaven]

Sound Effects:            floor creaks, low whistle, book drops, a dryer pings, knocking, car leaves

Summary:                  A con man, who breaks into a widowed teacher’s home, learns a lesson.

_______________________________

Synopsis:                    Chaucer’s lusty Wife of Bath could certainly speke of wo that is in marriage.  But turmoil made the much-married Alisoun of Bath more resourceful:  Of remedies of love she knew per chaunce, /  For she koude of that art the olde daunce.

 

A medievalist and recently widowed, ALLISON BATHFIELD is trying to gain career traction at the college where she teaches by submitting a monograph on The Wife of Bath Tale for a grant deadline.  The loss of her husband has left her absent-minded; she’s neglected to buy food, light bulbs, and stamps — and also forgot to lock the door of her lonely hilltop house.  Hastily arranging to borrow postage stamps from her sister, ALLISON assures MONA that she will recover her equilibrium shortly.  “I know the remedies for life’s mischances,” ALLISON insists.  Now, on the night when she must complete an important application, a menacing STRANGER confronts ALLISON in her kitchen.  Who is this man — and what does he want?

AT RISE:  ALLISON is talking on the phone in her kitchen

ALLISON

Just see if you have enough stamps for Special D.  Don’t pepper me with questions, Mona.  She gan to grucche a me!  I thought this was a Leap Year — — assumed February had an extra day.  Yes, I still have last year’s 1992 calendar up.  Stop making that sound, Mona.  Between the hospital, the funeral — — no, it’s not an excuse.  But I must finish this tonight.  I must make that deadline.  You found extra stamps?  Great!  (pause)  I’ll coffee through an all-nighter and drive to your place by nine A.M.  I can mail it downtown, then go straight to work.  (pause)  High-strung?  No, I know the remedies for life’s mischances.  I think I heard the dryer ping, Mona.  Let me go before I get all wrinkled.  (pause)  Me, too.  Call you later!

(ALLISON hangs up phone, checks her watch, and sits at typewriter)

[SOUND:  floor creaks]

ALLISON

HELLO!  Is someone THERE?

(ALLISON stands up, moves towards the doorway)

Another lightbulb died — — and I forgot to buy replacements!  Always one that outlasts the others.  Low wattage or not, we’re burning the midnight oil till I finish what I have to.  I should make coffee.  No, not until the dryer cycle ends.  No need just now to speak of that, forsooth.

[SOUND:  a low whistling sound]

ALLISON

What’s this noise: a restless soul?   I will fire up the coffeepot.  (pause)  She was a worthie woman all hir live — — husbands at churche door she had five . . .

(ALLISON walks to a counter, sets out two cups)

STRANGER

(STRANGER enters kitchen and hides near a cupboard)

ALLISON

TWO cups I’m preparing.  As if you were still here, Johnny.  (pause) What’s that smell?  COLOGNE?  What’s happening?  (pause)  I’ll call Mona, ask her to join me for supper — — and she’ll bring the postage stamps with her.  Kill two birds. . . .

[SOUND:  a heavy book falls]

ALLISON

Botheration!   I must get those old windows sealed properly before a shelf is blown down.

(ALLISON picks up the hand-set on the phone, about to dial)

No dial tone!  My lucky night.   May as well go to Mona’s, borrow a few lightbulbs, get my . . .

STRANGER

(STRANGER grabs ALLISON)

ALLISON

(loud)  HEY!  LET GO OF ME!  HOW DARE YOU!  TAKE YOUR HANDS OFF ME!

STRANGER

Don’t do anything silly and you won’t get hurt.

ALLISON

WHAT IS THIS?  How did you get in here?

STRANGER

(STRANGER moves hand menacingly inside coat pocket)

Sit down.

ALLISON

(ALLISON stares at him)

STRANGER

You deaf?  I said SIT DOWN.

ALLISON

My husband.  My — — my husband John will be home any second.

STRANGER

Your husband’s funeral was last month, lady.   Sit down and no one gets hurt.

ALLISON

(ALLISON stumbles as she grabs for a chair and then sits)

Who are you?  Do you — — did you know my HUSBAND?

STRANGER

Shut up and don’t be a pest.  I’ll ask the questions.

ALLISON

(low) She was a worthie woman all hir live . . .

STRANGER

WHAT?  Are you casting a spell?  What did you say?

ALLISON

Just reciting a line from a poem I was working on before. . . before you interrupted me.

STRANGER

Lah-di-dah.  So you fancy yourself a poet, eh?

ALLISON

I didn’t WRITE the poem.  I’m working on a monograph about the poem.  (pause)  If you came here looking for money, I don’t have any.

STRANGER

(laughs) You’re the first one I ever met who has time to go monogramming poems.

ALLISON

Monograph — — not monogram.  I teach in college.  Ever hear about “publish or perish”?

STRANGER

I know a lot of people who died before their time, if that’s what you mean.

ALLISON

Please.  I don’t know why you selected our house but . . .

STRANGER

You left keys in the door.  Like you wanted company.  Must get lonely — — no neighbors up on this hill.  The closest house empty — — with a faded “For Sale” sign flappin’ at no one.

ALLISON

(low) Prut!

STRANGER

(somewhat alarmed) You got a cold?

ALLISON

Perhaps I am coming down with influenza, the plague, or a highly contagious bokeler.

STRANGER

(chuckles)  Maybe you can use one of your enchantments to get well.

ALLISON

Enchantments?

STRANGER

Yeah, I’ve heard about these things of yours: potions — — abra-cadabra-ing weird shit.  But I ain’t afraid of you.  I’m like a cat with nine lives.

ALLISON

Obviously, you must have me mixed up with someone else.

STRANGER

Naaaah.  I got you pegged.  Don’t try none of your voodoo.

ALLISON

There’s no wizardry around here.  What makes you think there is?

STRANGER

I heard about you.  And this place is one helluva bizarre bazaar.

ALLISON

You were misinformed.  I teach literature in a college — — for very low pay.

STRANGER

Yeah, yeah, yeah.  Don’t get on my nerves, you know what’s good for you.

[SOUND:  ping-ping-ping]

STRANGER

What’s that?  A burglar alarm?

ALLISON

No!  That’s the dryer.  The cycle finished.  (pause)  Can I get my clothes?  They get wrinkled if they stay cloistered in the hot machine.

STRANGER

(imitating her)  Can I get my clothes?  (sarcastic)  You kidding me?

ALLISON

(coughs)  Would you mind if I get a glass of water then?  (cordially) Would you like a drink?

STRANGER

Don’t be scheming — — trying to grab a knife.  G’ahead.  But I got my eye on you.

ALLISON

(ALLISON gets up, goes to counter, selects a drinking glass, pours)

Want a glass of water?  There’s not much in the refrigerator — — until payday.

STRANGER

What’s that yellow stuff?  Is that a bottle full of piss?  Or witches’ brew?

ALLISON

(ALLISON holds up a bottle with yellow liquid)

This is mead.  It’s delicious.  Want some?

STRANGER

What’s mead?

ALLISON

It’s like a wine made from honey.  It’s homemade.

STRANGER

Is that how you killed your husband?

ALLISON

HOW DARE YOU!  I DIDN’T KILL MY HUSBAND!

STRANGER

Listen, girlie.  You got your drink of water.  Now sit down and behave yourself.

ALLISON

You really have some nerve — — breaking in here . . .

STRANGER

(over “breaking in”)  Nobody BROKE in.  I was invited like.

ALLISON

Threatening me, being a bully, holding me against my will.  (pause)  Who ARE YOU?

STRANGER

(STRANGER picks up some papers from the table)

Who are you — — the whiff of bath?

ALLISON

That is part of my monograph on The Wife of Bath.  And tonight I was supposed to . . .

STRANGER

(STRANGER aggressively shoves the papers at ALLISON)

(angry)  “Whiff of bath” is what you typed.

ALLISON

You’re right.  I made a typo.  I typed “whiff” when I meant “wife.”

STRANGER

And what kind of a WIFE were you?

ALLISON

I was — — I am a good person.  I don’t go around bullying, making people miserable.

STRANGER

Except when you were busy killing my sister-in-law.

ALLISON

WHAT?  I didn’t kill anybody.  I’m sure I do not even know your sister-in-law.

STRANGER

(STRANGER takes a photo from his pocket, shoves it at ALLISON)

Here she is — — with her sex-machine Johnny-boy.  Now they’re both cold in the ground.

ALLISON

(ALLISON stares at the photo)

STRANGER

Recognize her?

(STRANGER looks at the photo, then he pockets it again)

ALLISON

I’m sorry for your loss.  I did not cause her death.  It was known she had a heart condition.

STRANGER

Ol’ Johnny-boy was her “heart” condition.  My brother hasn’t been the same since his wife died.

ALLISON

(insincerely)  It is difficult to lose a spouse.  (pause)  But I had nothing to do with this.

STRANGER

Way I heard it was that Johnny was leaving you for her.  Your black magic foxed her.

ALLISON

No!  No!  She worked at the same college where I teach.  She had a heart attack one evening.

STRANGER

Maybe the police bought that fairytale.  I don’t.  (long pause)  I got evidence, girlie.

ALLISON

(alarmed and trying not to show it)  I’m innocent.  Really I am.

STRANGER

I got hard evidence — — more than whiff of bath.  I could bring proof to the police, Allison.

ALLISON

I barely knew this woman.  I’m sorry she’s dead but I don’t know what you’re talking about.

STRANGER

I didn’t expect a confession.  You’re a pro at your business just like I’m good at what I do.

ALLISON

Just what is your line of work?  Home invasion?  Assault and battery?  Blackmail?

STRANGER

Johnny-boy used to like a brewski with supper.  You got any beer left?

ALLISON

In the refrigerator.

STRANGER

(STRANGER keeps an eye on ALLISON as he gets a beer)

ALLISON

(sarcastic)  Sorry I can’t offer you chips and onion dip.

STRANGER

Hah!  I wouldn’t touch your food.  Last meal she ate was some dainty you brought her.

(STRANGER raises beer bottle as in a toast)

You’re a clever dame.  Gotta hand it to you.  You almost escaped detection.  Almost.

ALLISON

If you came looking for a nice house to rob, you won’t find much.  We’re college teachers.  It was a struggle to pay the bills.  Even my wedding band is plain.  Tonight I was supposed to . . .

STRANGER

(over “to”) Nice try.  But he was worth more dead than alive.  What a juicy insurance policy, eh?

ALLISON

This is not the land of milk and honey.  All I have is a few dollars I needed for application fees.  If I give you that, will you please leave?  PLEASE!  I really need to get back to work.

STRANGER

Okay, that will do.  (long pause)  That and your car keys.

ALLISON

My car keys?  You can barely get up or down this hill without a vehicle.  How’d you get here?

STRANGER

Heh-heh-heh!  Yeah, yeah, maybe I hitched a ride.

ALLISON

My husband’s car is in the garage.  The blue sedan with the “For Sale” sign on the side.  I was driving it around last weekend, hoping to sell it — — make a quick sale.  John’s car is newer than my jalopy.

STRANGER

You wish to donate the better vehicle to my charitable cause.  I’m touched.  Yeah, riiight.

ALLISON

Consider this.  Folks around town recognize my rattle-trap.  But if you were driving John’s car, it would raise no suspicion.  People would assume I sold it to you.

STRANGER

Gimme the keys.  And the money.

ALLISON

(ALLISON takes something out of her pocket, gives it to him)

STRANGER

See ya tomorrow.  We’ll talk more — — on the way to your bank.  Don’t try nothing funny.

(STRANGER grabs ALLISON and kisses her, then he exits)

ALLISON

(ALLISON watches him from window, then picks up phone)

I forgot — — there’s no dial tone.  HE probably cut the phone lines.  Oooof!  Now what?

(ALLISON exits, returns with her handbag, coat, a beret or scarf)

I better call Mona from a payphone.  Wait!  I can’t come back HERE.  I better pack my things.

(ALLISON grabs her research papers and then exits again)

[SOUND:  closet noises — — then a heavy knocking on the door]

MALE VOICE [off-stage]

Hello!  I’m looking for Mr. John Bathfield.

ALLISON

Who’s there?

MALE VOICE [off-stage]

Police, ma’m.  There’s been a collision on Route 9.  The license plate was linked to this address.  Does John Bathfield . . .?

ALLISON

My husband is not here, officer.  You mean a thief stole our sedan?  Was there much damage?

MALE VOICE [off-stage]

I’m told it came shooting down the hill like a speed demon, ma’m.  Like it had no brakes at all.

ALLISON

Pity.  My husband kept saying he had to get those brakes fixed.  Terrible.

MALE VOICE [off-stage]

Sorry to disturb you at this hour.  Would you have any idea who was behind the wheel?

ALLISON

No name I can think of.  Were there many passengers?  Was the driver injured?

MALE VOICE [off-stage]

Here’s my card, ma’m.  If you call tomorrow, I’ll have an up-date.  Off-the-record, it looks bad.

ALLISON

Cars can be so unreliable.  Such a shame.  Always one that outlasts the others, though.

MALE VOICE [off-stage]

Good night, ma’m.

[SOUND: a door closes and a car drives off]

ALLISON

(triumphant and strong)  She was a worthie woman all hir live — — husbands at churche door she had five.   (dark laughter sustained)

[Black-out]

THE END.


A Lifetime Member of the Dramatists Guild, LindaAnn LoSchiavo wrote her first one-act at age 9. A year later, the play for a cast of five was produced in Brooklyn, NY and had a nice run. Since then her plays have been seen in New York, California, and Australia. Her writing has been featured in The Dramatist and elsewhere.

 

 

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