Play Archive

Girls and Boys, When They Sit in Trees and Share Their Toys

THE GIRL and THE BOY are in a kitchen, or in a car. They are very young. They might be crying, but probably not.

THE GIRL

HE MET AT THE HOMECOMING

DANCE WHO TOLD HIM

THEY WOULD NEVER MARRY

The books are the only things left.

THE BOY

WHO LIKED TO DRIVE FAST

CARS WHO WISHED HER BOOBS

WERE BIGGER

And you expect me to just hand them over?

THE GIRL

WHO LIKED TO READ BOOKS

   Did you read the books?

THE BOY

WHO HATED SUMMER

                   Only the one book.

THE GIRL

WHOSE PARENTS LET HIM

SLEEP IN HER BED

   Which one?

THE BOY

WHO LOVED HER OR SO HE

THOUGHT

   The one with your notes in it.

THE GIRL

WHO BOUGHT HIM AN

AIRPLANE LEGO SET FOR

HIS 19th BIRTHDAY TO WHICH

HE SAID I ONLY LIKE THE

STAR WARS LEGOS

   I didn’t write any notes.

THE BOY

   WHO BOUGHT HER DIAMONDS FOR

   HER BIRTHDAY AND RECEIVED

   ONLY A POLITE SMILE

   IN RESPONSE

   What were the notes then?

THE GIRL

   WHO THREW UP HER DINNER

   WHEN HE TOLD HER SHE WAS FAT

   They were already in the book when I bought it.

   My flight is at 12:45 tomorrow.

THE BOY

WHO HOARDED FOOD WHEN SHE

TOLD HIM HE WAS TOO SKINNY

   And?

THE GIRL

WHO HAD SWORN THAT SHE

WOULD NEVER LET A MAN’S

OPINION DICTATE HER CHOICES

   I thought you might want to know.

THE BOY

WHO EXPECTED SEX SIMPLY

BECAUSE SHE WAS HIS GIRLFRIEND

AND THAT IS WHAT GIRLFRIENDS

ARE SUPPOSED TO DO

   I didn’t.

THE GIRL

WHO WOULDN’T WEAR THONGS

EVEN WHEN HE ASKED NICELY

   Are you going to give me back my books?

THE BOY

WHO WAS JEALOUS OF OTHER BOYS

   I will if you kiss me.

THE GIRL

WHO WAS JEALOUS OF OTHER GIRLS

   Your kisses hurt.

THE BOY

WHO PAID $75 TO BUY HER THE

CUSTOM CORSAGE SHE DEMANDED

FOR PROM EVEN THOUGH HIS FRIENDS

ONLY PAID $40 FOR THEIR DATES

   Not even to say goodbye?

THE GIRL

   WHO WAS ALLERGIC TO GRASS

   I said goodbye a long time ago. You just weren’t

   listening.

THE BOY

   SHE LOVED OR SO HE THOUGHT

   And that’s why you won’t touch me?

THE GIRL

   WHO WEPT THE FIRST TIME AND

   THE SECOND TIME AND THE THIRD

   TIME AND THE FOURTH TIME

   Give me my books.

THE BOY

SHE CALLED EVERY NIGHT

If I threw these books at your eyes, one after the

other, your eyes would turn black. They would grow two

sizes, they would explode. You’d have to grope around

with your hands in the dark, because you’d have no eyes,

because I would have your eyes forever.

THE GIRL

   WHO SWORE TO BE FREE

   I need them back so I can rip them apart. So I can burn

   them.

THE BOY

   WHO LIKED HER PUDDING AND PIE,

   WHO KISSED

   Like I ripped you apart?

THE GIRL

AND MADE HER CRY

Are you going to give me my books?

 

 

END OF PLAY

 


Anna Miles has been creating feminist theatrical spaces and experiences as an actor, director and playwright professionally since 2013. She holds a BA in Theater and Creative Writing from Northwestern University, where her play It Was the Nightingale: Persephone’s Play was workshopped under the mentorship of Lookingglass Theater’s founding member David Catlin. She went on to earn her master’s from Brown University/Trinity Repertory Company MFA Programs in Acting and Directing, where she continued her playwriting studies under Trinity Rep’s resident playwright, Deborah Salem Smith, and where her play Alice’s Sordid Adventures Into What Was Once a Wonderland was selected for a staged reading. Anna’s work has most recently been produced at the Chance Theater in Anaheim, CA: her short plays Thinking of Monkeys and The Highest Shelf debuted as part of the company’s annual Chance-A-Thon festivals in 2017 and 2018, and her play Think of Me, Fred Weasley performed at both the Chance Theater and the Little Victory Theater in Burbank in Summer of 2018. Her non-fiction and fiction writing has been published in Prompt Magazine, the Ms. Millennial Blog, and Z Publishing’s “California’s Emerging Writers” series.

The Wall of Language

In response to

A COUPLE OF POOR, POLISH-SPEAKING ROMANIANS by Dorota Masłowska

translated from the Polish by Benjamin Paloff

Characters:

Blythe and Sy: A couple of idiots

The ghost of La Virgen de Guadalupe


Los Angeles. Winter. It’s 80 degrees out, who are we kidding. A gas station. Mariachi music.

BLYTHE: Hey! Hey! Are you our Driver?

SY: Fucking Lyft.

BLYTHE: Hay lady!

SY: Dude.

LA VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE: Fue hace unos años.

Muchos años?

No sé.

No puedo estar seguro. No mas. Jamas. Pyjamas.[1]

BLYTHE: Hi we need to get to Echo Park.

SY: Echo Park.

BLYTHE: Hables English?

LA VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE: I’ll put it in my GPS. One sec. How’s your morning going?

SY: I don’t even know. Morning? It was morning, I suppose. Out on the Pacific. The big blue. The water isn’t really blue, you know. The Greeks didn’t even have a word for blue. Most ancient people didn’t. I know. I read an article. Recent concept, blue. Like, there’s this one tribe, they have like five words for different shades of green, but none for blue. And you show them some green squares and some blue squares and they can’t tell the difference, you know, but if you show them a fucking dark green square and man they’re all over it like white on rice. They probably don’t have oceans, though. It’s more grey, in the morning that is. On Pacific Coast Highway? You know? PCH? We had chorizo, I think. Yeah! And eggs. After Moonrise Shakers. From one of those little dive-y places. You know the type. I mean you’re His-panic. You know.

BLYTHE: Dude, wait up, have you seen my baby?

SY: Your baby?

BLYTHE: Yeah don’t fuck with me. My baby girl. You know.

SY: I hear. I dunno if I know, bro. You brought a baby out to the Moonrise Shakers last night?

BLYTHE: No, my baby girl. Cariño.

SY: (aside) Shouldn’t that be cariña?

BLYTHE: (aside) Nah dude. It’s a masculine noun. ‘o’ ending for male and female. (back in the scene) God. Where is she? I was cradling her last night. I was feeling her warm breath on my face in the mist, in the sea salt spray. They say there are women who live in the mist, in Ireland, at least, they say that. I don’t know in California. Probably they all burn up once the sun comes up. Baby girl, baby girl, melted away like so much ice cream. You ever wonder if ice cream truck drivers go crazy, listening to that same song day in and day out, if they ever go fucking bananas and just kill someone and stash their body in the freezer?

SY: Wait, is your baby like a baby or like a chick, you know?

BLYTHE: Like my sky and earth and sun. Not sun. Daughter. Ellen Degeneres. If she grows up to be a lesbian I think I’ll be okay with that.

LA VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE: (unheard) In like a tolerant way or a ‘fuck yeah!’ way?

SY: Wait, wait, go back, did you have her at Moonrise?

LA VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE: What color were her eyes?

BLYTHE: Green? Blue?

SY: Was she there with you at Moonrise?

BLYTHE: No? I think…nah man. If I had her I would have used her. OH! THERE she is! (Pulls out a gun.)

LA VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE: Pues, fue hace mucho tiempo.

No recuerdo tanto ahora.

Recuerdo que viniéron,

Que nos quitaron nuestro tierra,

Nuestro cielo,

Que despues, lo unico

Que podiamos hacer –

Era reir por falta de lagrimas.[2]

BLYTHE: Oh, we pretend to be frat boys but we’re secretly Mexicans.

SY: Or, wait, was it the other way around? Are these boat shoes or galoshes?

BLYTHE: He is the housewife. He does the cooking and cleaning.

SY: Oh I’m the housewife? Well, you’re the ranchero. That’s right. All he does all day is drink and sing ballads.

BLYTHE: That’s bullshit.

SY: It’s true.

BLYTHE: I’ve had enough of your blue and your green and your bullshit!

SY: There’s a wall between language and meaning. I’ll –

BLYTHE shoots SY. It’s gory. BLYTHE takes out an ear of native corn and begins to plant kernels in the corpse. He sneaks something from a hip flask while he plants, and mutters an old ballad.

LA VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE: Wait, you’re not Latino. Are you allowed to make metaphors with corn?

BLYTHE: I’m not sure what I am anymore. I lie there like a burnt-out whore in a burnt-out house. My body’s the house, understand? My mind is the whore? Maybe. Metaphor’s foggy. Too many amphetamines. Was it today? Yesterday? And when I say burnt out, I mean scrubbed out, scraped out. Barren soil, see. No one’s gonna mash bananas for the baby now. Just corn. Just plain corn and corn meal and masa and tortillas with salt. Y mi madre. Mi madre con los ojos revolucionarios, mi madre viene como un viento, un milagro, my madre viene y los lobos sueltan.[3]

LA VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE: Well, if you don’t mind, I’m going to put some music on. Some really hardcore EDM, I think. Like, untz – untz – untz. Something you could rage your face off too, all molly’d up, at your frat.

BLYTHE: I don’t know anything about rage. Could you teach me?

LA VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE: Of course I could. I’m the Mother of God.

BLYTHE: La sagrada virgen?

LA VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE: Si, mijo. Y aqui estoy al fin del mundo, por los ultimos dias[4], on fucking PCH.

BLYTHE begins to have contortions. Labor pains.

LA VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE: It’s all immaculate conception, from here on out. Do you want to go left on Sunset? Do you have a preferred route?

BLYTHE: It hurts…oh God, it hurts.

I wonder if I left the iron on?

LA VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE: You should have thought of that sooner. Ai, mijo. If we were at my place, mi sanctuario, te haceré un té con limon y menta. Menta for the pain. Limon ‘cause you’re an asshole.

BLYTHE: Ahhh!

As BLYTHE’s contractions come closer together, the corn he planted in SY starts to sprout, little tendrils rising up. 

LA VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE: I suppose I’d best get you to a hospital, in that case. Classic. Always la madre rushing in to save the day. You’re welcome! By the way. And you think you’re so punk. Not even punk anymore. That was too rebellious, too hippy, too anarchist. You think you’re so frat. So-future-investment-banker with coke already dusting his dollar bills. With your Sparies. Always carving out plates, spoons, hangers, ah, como se digan, some musical instruments.

SY: (sprouted, corn-filled) Out on the banks there wasn’t even much room for crops. We built terraces in the mountains to the North and curated las selvas like a garden, cured the trees like the meat we spat over fires in pots con sal y chiles. My Dad’s Irish my Mom’s Italian. I’m an asshole. But I grew up out here in the asshole of California so I guess that makes me Mexican, right, two hundred years ago, out before the Gold Rush and the Chinese and gay bars and Madame Toussads. And maybe I’m not an original, no, no maybe, I’m not an original, not even a carbon copy, but I was weaned on the desert and if my Mom didn’t know enough to bury the umbilical cord out back to tie me to the land it’s not her fault, okay, it’s not her damn fault, she’s just Italian, okay, my Mom is, she’s Italian, my, my okay, my just, my damn, fault, fault, fault, sprouted, husk me, huck me, Huckleberry Finn, American classics and the land still belongs, it still belongs to the Spanish to the Indians to the corn, to me, or, no, I to it, eye to it, intuit. Inuit? No. No, probably not that.

BLYTHE: Ahhhhh!

LA VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE: Can you translate?

SY: Sure.

BLYTHE: Ahhhh!

SY: His baby is a gun. It’s painful.

LA VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE: I can imagine.

SY: Second amendment.

LA VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE: What?

SY: Why he didn’t get an abortion. We talked about it.

LA VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE: Is it yours?

SY: The baby. The world. What isn’t?

Blackout. Gunshot. Baby crying.

 

[1] It was many years ago. Many years? I’m not sure. I can’t be sure anymore.

[2] Well, it was a long time ago. I don’t remember as much now. I remember that they came, that they took our land, our sky, and that after, the only thing we could do was laugh – for lack of tears.

[3] And my mother. My mother with the revolutionary’s eyes, my mother comes like a wind, like a miracle, my mother comes and the wolves are released/fall apart.

[4] And here I am at the end of the world, in the final days,

 


Brian is currently working on a book of essays for Harper Collins on site-specific and performance poetry’s intersections with marginalized spaces. He published his first book of poetry, I Sold These Poems, Now I Want Them Back, in 2016 with Yak Press. He has been the Writer in Residence for the Mall of America, Amtrak Trains, and Dollar Shave Club, and also creates typewriter poetry installations and shows for large clients from Google to the Emmys. As a teaching artist, Brian guest lectures at UCLA and teaches K-12 students throughout LA County in partnership with Get Lit and 24th Street Theatre. Brian holds an MA from the University of St Andrews, Scotland, with a thesis on community voicing projects.

Want: An Odyssey of an Interview

Cast of Characters

PRODUCER: A voice: a woman of unidentifiable age and a cool measuredness. Is
she God?

LEATHER DADDY: A man of at least 40. He wears a leather jacket and leather cap, a la
Tom of Finland, but his sexuality has partially spoiled. Probably has a moustache.

SIX PACK JACK: A man-child in his late teens to twenties. Young, swarthy, vapid, cartoon.

PAULIE: A disheveled and baseline-irate middle-aged man. He is wearing a soiled sleeveless shirt that once was white, and his gut asserts itself.

EAGLE EGG: A fussy yet urgently desirous woman in her 20s or 30s. She is pert,
dressed formally.

JUSTICE: A beautiful, wily, androgynous stud. They have short hair and two thin
lines of mustache drawn on with eyeliner or marker on either side of their
mouth. It is an obvious affectation, and is intended as such. Shimmery,
devilish, universally arresting.

Place

A spare studio.

Perhaps they’re in a mall, or somewhere in the Lower East Side. Or on the moon.

Note

All dialogue has been adapted from data culled from a widely distributed anonymous survey. No character represents any one respondent; they form a raucous aggregate every(wo)man.


Scene 1

Setting: ALL CHARACTERS sit on individual flimsy stools before identical photo studio
backdrops across the stage. Maybe the backdrops are patterned with clouds.
The spotlight will rest only on the character being interviewed. They are not present for one another’s interviews, and they’ve probably never met.
The transitions between scenes are 1-2 seconds long as lighting is adjusted.

At Rise: Spotlight on LEATHER DADDY as he stares confidently into a fixed point in the
audience that we come to understand represents the PRODUCER. The PRODUCER is offstage; her voice stands in for her body.

PRODUCER

Thanks for coming today.

LEATHER DADDY

Mhm. Sure.

PRODUCER

So. We’ll get to it. What do you want?

LEATHER DADDY

(Thoughtful, unexpectedly erudite)

To sit or recline comfortably in total darkness. To become drunk while cooking a delicious fillet. To have one friend, maybe two. To escape my inner saboteur. To avoid obligation both to others and the self. More money. Less dread.

BLACKOUT

Scene 2

Spotlight on SIX PACK JACK.

PRODUCER

So, what do you want?

SIX PACK JACK

To quit my day job.

BLACKOUT

Scene 3

Spotlight on PAULIE.

PAULIE (Desperately.)

The answers, man. I want the answers. I need to make up my mind. I can’t make up my fuckin’ mind.

BLACKOUT

Scene 4

Spotlight on EAGLE EGG.

EAGLE EGG (Timidly, tepidly.)

A sense of home, and an intriguing mind to share it with. I want to feel completely seen, you know? I want…

(Her desires have sprung a leak.)

I want to travel spontaneously. I want to want to go to… Madagascar! But I also want to be happy in one place. I want to live in my body, and to trace it. I want to do yoga on a mountain! To watch myself dance madly in the mirror, and to like it.

(Remembering herself.)

And I want to find a partner – not just a boyfriend or a husband to roll my eyes at and demand things from. I want a man who will go through life with me as a good friend. Nothing loud or showy or extravagant or wild – but paced and patient, and supportive. Maybe sometimes even boring! We’ll sit quietly together in our even happiness. And maybe go to Madagascar.

BLACKOUT

Scene 5

Spotlight on JUSTICE.

JUSTICE

Money, baby. I want to fill a yacht with dollar bills and float down the river by its side on an inner tube. No. I want to BE money. Am I already money? (Winks.)

PRODUCER (Nervously.)

Oh! Haha.

BLACKOUT

Scene 6

Spotlight back on LEATHER DADDY.

PRODUCER

What has to change?

LEATHER DADDY

Capitalism. The laws of physics. My relationship with my father. My mortgage rate. I’d like to subtract ten years from this body but keep the wisdom. I need to be less hungry – or hungrier. (Pointing.) To direct my desire.

BLACKOUT

Scene 7

Spotlight on SIX PACK JACK.

SIX PACK JACK

I need money, baby. I need to meet a rich woman who’ll take care of me. Look at me, look at this beautiful body, I deserve it. I’m a prize. I’m not picky, either. I’ll take ‘em young or old. I’d be like Anna Nicole Smith, marrying that ancient dude. I could have my own show on cable.

BLACKOUT

Scene 8

Spotlight on PAULIE.

PRODUCER

What needs to change?

PAULIE

(slumped, radiating anxiety. an dangerously unpredictable physicality.)

What needs to fuckin’ change? What doesn’t?

(He doesn’t say “bitch,” but he may as well have.)

The fuckin’ government, lady. The fact that I have to grind my hands to a pulp to put food on the table. The fact that my wife wishes she married Joe the grocer down the street, with the tiny fuckin’ Asian car. What the fuck do you think has to change? And now I can’t make up my fuckin’ mind. No one looks out for the guy like me, the average guy like me. And now I can’t fuckin’ decide or make up my fuckin’ mind.

BLACKOUT

Scene 9

Spotlight on EAGLE EGG.

EAGLE EGG (Somewhat loosened.)

What needs to change? Something fundamental about human nature, like at the lizard brain level. Our systems have failed. It’s depressing that the best compromise I can think of between an ideal future and a realistic one is something like The Matrix, only you don’t escape from it.

( She reveals to us her strangeness.)

We also need much more ozone. Also we should let the people who can afford to go to Mars do that and stay there, the sooner the better. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

BLACKOUT

Scene 10

Spotlight on JUSTICE.

JUSTICE (Licks their lips, contemplates.)

I need more sex. More dancing. More parties. Trips to Berlin. You know, the bouncers know me at Berghain. Stick with me, kid. I’m on the list. I am the list. Do you want a club-mate? I brought a case. We’re going to Bossa Nova later. (Holds up bottle.)

BLACKOUT

Scene 11

Spotlight on EAGLE EGG.

PRODUCER

Okay, this is a fun one. If you could live during any historical period, which would you choose and why?

EAGLE EGG (Vibrating with intentionality.)

Historical period? What do people say, like, the roaring twenties? The summer of love? What a question. (Considers.) I’d choose the 70s, maybe, for its emergent activism. (Considers further.) I won’t pretend I haven’t considered the question. Who hasn’t? But there’s also the issue of the continuum. I could put countless lives in jeopardy. I could erase my own existence. I mean, it’s not like that’s the chief issue, at hand, but… my perspective is inherently limited to the self. Damn self. Think of the wars, or dinosaurs, or paradoxes; the butterfly effect. There’s just so much unknown. I don’t know if I could be responsible for the repercussions of that decision. I can barely be accountable to myself.

(Pause.)

I’ll tell you — I’d love to adopt a little cat. I’ve even picked her out from the shelter. She’s perfectly white. I’d name her Iona. But every night I dream that once I have her, bring her home, her little head slides right off her neck and – plop! – drops onto the floor.

BLACKOUT

Scene 12

Spotlight on SIX PACK JACK.

SIX PACK JACK

(Gussying up as he considers.)

Historically? (Laughs.) I think I’d like to be a Roman. With a long sword. And golden shield. I’d charge out of that horse, you know. The big one from that movie with Brad Pitt. Slice some goddamn throats. Get the girl.

BLACKOUT

Scene 13

Spotlight on PAULIE.

PAULIE (Personally affronted.)

What kinda fuckin’ question is that?? Historical period? Must be nice to have the time to think about fanciful shit like that. Unicorns and sunflowers and strollin’ through the rain and shit. Must be nice.

PRODUCER

What do you think about?

PAULIE

Real fuckin’ life. My family. My kids. The fuckin’ government. Big brother watching over everything I say and do. The cameras they put in the trees in the parks, now. You heard about those? Good luck taking a leak when you need it. Good luck finding a moment of fuckin’ privacy.

BLACKOUT

Scene 14

Spotlight on LEATHER DADDY.

LEATHER DADDY (Calm. A breath of fresh air.)

I’d like to visit Ancient Egypt, before the library of Alexandria burned down. I think about that library often. What was lost? Of course, I’d have to be of a certain social class to benefit from the library. That’s implicit in all these historical what-if exercises. ( Pauses judgmentally.) Are you familiar with the concept of the grandfather paradox? Really, questions of this ilk are so transparently flawed.

BLACKOUT

Scene 15

Spotlight on JUSTICE.

JUSTICE (Oddly threatening.)

Germany, during the counter-reformation. (Takes a long sip of club-mate.)

BLACKOUT

Scene 16

Spotlight on SIX PACK JACK.

PRODUCER

Okay. Ready? Describe your ideal partner.

SIX PACK JACK (Flexing his arms. A caricature.)

Myself.

BLACKOUT

Scene 17

Spotlight on LEATHER DADDY, our North star.

LEATHER DADDY (Grins wrly.)

A partner? Trusting, witty, well-read. Not interested in ownership. Veiny forearms. Thick legs. Patient. Unconventionally romantic. Has a favorite Tarkovsky movie. Wants kids. Understands strength lies in vulnerability.

BLACKOUT

Scene 18

Spotlight on PAULIE.

PAULIE (Having lost some steam.)

My ideal partner? Can I be completely honest with you? I’m not such a conventional guy. People see me, they think, this is a conventional, everyday guy, walking down the street. No. Not so. I got exotic tastes. I don’t want your barbies, your bimbos, you know what I’m saying? I like flavor in my women. Spice. Vim. Vigor. Alright. My all-time dream woman? Cher in Moonstruck. She can slap me across the face any day, to tell you the absolute truth.

BLACKOUT

Scene 19

Spotlight on EAGLE EGG.

EAGLE EGG (Naked with desire.)

I want someone silly who will detect that, while I’ll never say it, I desperately want to dance to old timey music with them. I desire a mind I can love and fascinate over. Chew over. Someone with a lovely and lively intuition. “Two solitudes that meet, protect and greet each other,” as Rilke put it.

(Pause.)

I need someone who will let me trace and analyze them from head to toe. Someone who is learning and failing too, and waking up the next day. Someone funny and dumb and smart. Caring and eager to attend to this common world, who will love the sound of rain the with me. Who’ll watch movies with me.

(Another pause.)

I’m afraid to utter what I want out of fear that utterance will evaporate my chances. Evaporate the person. Or persons. (Baldly.) I believe in them.

BLACKOUT

Scene 20

Spotlight on JUSTICE.

JUSTICE (Thinking they’re a real card.)

I like legs that go all the way up to the asshole.

BLACKOUT

Scene 21

Spotlight on LEATHER DADDY.

PRODUCER

Okay, this is your last question. Describe your ideal self.

LEATHER DADDY (Considers.)

Voracious. A sexual hero. Peaceful. Compassionate. Assured. Accepting of change. Eating raw vegetables. Saying “no” more. Saying “yes” more. Myself. More of myself. At The Cock on Second Avenue.

BLACKOUT

Scene 22

Spotlight on JUSTICE.

JUSTICE

A Duchamp readymade radiating sex. A pulsing, erect art. The feeling when you wake up from a nightmare, skin cells percolating. A nonsense. An aroma: Tiresias Fucked. A brand. A lifestyle. An aimless bullet. An aimlessness.

BLACKOUT

Scene 23

Spotlight on PAULIE.

PAULIE (Drained, slumped, like a used handkerchief.)

My ideal self would be a self that could go the fuck home, please. When do I get my thirty bucks?

(Pause; implied silent encouragement from PRODUCER.)

Alright, fine, lady. I’m getting laid more. You like that? And I’m a world champion darts player. With groupies. I can’t think about this shit. What’s the fuckin’ point? Will you tell me, what is even the fuckin’ point of all this? Of thinking about this? I’ve got to decide on shit! I got real-life shit! How nice for you that you can spend your afternoons asking philosophical questions. Missus Socrates over here. How cute.

BLACKOUT

Scene 24

Spotlight on SIX PACK JACK.

SIX PACK JACK

(Now shirtless, applying grease to his pectorals).

My ideal self? Babe, why bother asking? You know what my answer’s gonna be. Take it all in.

(Grotesquely flexes.)

BLACKOUT

Scene 25

Spotlight on EAGLE EGG.

EAGLE EGG (Loosened.)

Who do I want to be? I want to act from the part of myself that wants to love, rather than the self that wants to be loved. To learn to be less crazed. Less neurotic. To commit to a yoga practice! To be forgiving. To recall that I have body, that I hold multiplicities in tension. To challenge myself, attending to my private world while also attending to the people I care for. To ask questions. To constantly learn and grow. To identify emotions and live happily, or contentedly, among them. To pluck from the tree of them and eat them. To find peace with the self and its notions. To grant others the strangeness that I often trick myself into thinking I am alone and lost in. To find communion with others. To allow in communion.

PRODUCER

Thank you. That’s all. Nice job.

(EAGLE EGG awkwardly rises from the stool, gathers herself, visibly adjusts her features to guard against the outside world, and walks off stage.)

BLACKOUT

THE END

 

 


Sam Regal is a playwright, poet, performance artist, and recent transplant from Brooklyn to Athens, Georgia. Her translation of Yao Feng’s One Love Only Until Death was published in 2017 by Vagabond Press, and she has performed most notably with Jennifer Vanilla at MoMA PS1, Le Poisson Rouge, and Brooklyn Bazaar. A former resident at TENT within the Yiddish Book Center, Sam was awarded the Colie Hoffman Prize in Poetry in 2017. She earned her MFA from Hunter College and now studies within the Creative Writing Ph.D. Program at the University of Georgia.

Why You Can’t Put a Wheelchair on the Stage

Conceived by Rani Deighe Crowe with Jill Summerville
* Monologues from Macbeth and Henry VI by William Shakespeare
** Dialogue from Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Additional references to A Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, Noises Off by Michael Frayn, and the musical Chicago
First staged reading Open Circle Theatre, Washington, DC


ACT I

Scene 1

Lights up. A special on an empty wheelchair center stage.

Director One enters, considering the wheelchair, making a wide circle.

DIRECTOR ONE

But what does it mean?

Director Two enters, followed by Director Three. They examine the wheelchair.

DIRECTOR TWO

It must be a metaphor.

DIRECTOR THREE

It will upstage the actors.

DIRECTOR ONE

Is it a tragedy?

DIRECTOR THREE

It will throw off the levels.

DIRECTOR ONE

Is it existential?

DIRECTOR TWO

It makes me sad.

DIRECTOR THREE

It moves so slowly. It’s gonna throw off the blocking. Maybe we can decorate it?

DIRECTOR ONE

Trapped in the modern condition…

DIRECTOR TWO

Exactly.

DIRECTOR THREE

Put it on a higher level? Do we have hydraulics? Or a flat? Where’s the stage manager?

DIRECTOR TWO

Just put it in the background. It’ symbolic.

The directors stop suddenly and stare at an actress with canes entering, moving slowly and loudly.

The directors silently watch her cross the stage and sit in the chair. The actress stares at the audience. Prepared to take direction. The directors huddle.

ALL THREE DIRECTORS

Shit.

DIRECTOR ONE

Now what are we supposed to do?

DIRECTOR THREE

It must be outreach night.

DIRECTOR ONE AND TWO

Outreach night!

Director Three approaches the wheelchair.

DIRECTOR TWO

Excuse me.

ACTRESS

Yes?

DIRECTOR TWO

Sweetie, are you sure you’re in the right place?

DIRECTOR ONE

       (Covering the actress with a blanket)

You look cold.

DIRECTOR THREE

Let us show you to the wheelchair section.

               AS THE DIRECTORS GRAB PART OF THE WHEELCHAIR AND START PUSHING IT TOWARD THE AUDIENCE.

DIRECTOR TWO

Thank you so much for coming.

DIRECTOR ONE

You’re such an inspiration.

The actress pushes back from the directors and moves herself back into the spotlight.

ACTRESS

I’m your actor.

Pause

I am waiting for you to direct me.

The directors huddle.

DIRECTOR THREE

Do you know any wheelchair plays? I’m classically trained.

DIRECTOR ONE

Normally, I’d cast an able-bodied actress…

DIRECTOR TWO

A wheelchair might help illustrate the character’s dependence…

DIRECTOR ONE

Maybe-

DIRECTOR TWO

… a physical manifestation

DIRECTOR ONE

Maybe.

They stare at the actress, considering…

DIRECTOR ONE

The Glass Menagerie!

       (to the Actress)

You’re crippled. You’re dependent. But you resent it.

Lights out.

The actors scramble to their places.

         LIGHTS UP WITH A WASH.:

Director Two becomes TOM. Director Three takes the spotlight and becomes AMANDA. Director One watches intently from the audience.

DIRECTOR TWO

The play is a memory…   gentleman caller…

DIRECTOR THREE

All that money up the spout.

DIRECTOR TWO

Blue Roses

DIRECTOR THREE

Jonquils. Jonquils. Jonquils.

DIRECTOR ONE

  (to Actress, feeding her lines)

Admit that I’m crippled… Admit that I’m crippled-

Actress halts everything.

ACTRESS

No. No. No. Laura? Have you no vision? Gimme Amanda.

     SPOTLIGHT COMES ON.:

ACTRESS

The typing instructor didn’t even know who you were. All that money just gone up the spout!

The picnics and dances. My gentlemen callers! Lovely. Everywhere filled with jonquils. And   then I met your father…

The Directors stare.

ALL THREE DIRECTORS

Huh.

DIRECTOR ONE

That was interesting.

DIRECTOR TWO

Yeah.

DIRECTOR THREE

Let’s do Lady M.

DIRECTOR ONE

Oooh.

DIRECTOR TWO

Yeah.

DIRECTOR THREE

Can you do Lady M?

ACTRESS

Out damned spot.

DIRECTOR THREE

More movement.

Actress uses hands.

ACTRESS

Out, I say!-One, two. Why, then, ’tis time to do ‘t. Hell is murky!

DIRECTOR THREE

Across the stage.

Actress starts wheeling herself.

ACTRESS

Fie, my lord, fie! A soldier, and afeard?

DIRECTOR THREE

   (to Director Two)

Puppet her. A la Julie Taymor’s Tempest.

Director Two grabs the back of the chair and moves the actress around as if she were a giant puppet.

ACTRESS*

What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account?- Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him. The thane of Fife had a wife: where is she now?– What, will these hands ne’er be clean?–No more o’that, my lord, no more o’ that: you mar all with this starting. Here’s the smell of the blood still: all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh, oh, oh!

DIRECTOR ONE

That is so interesting.

DIRECTOR TWO

My turn. Everybody in wheelchairs.

The directors all run off stage. A small set of steps and two doors are rolled on stage.

           BLACKOUT. :

Everyone scrambles to get in places. We hear things being knocked over.

       LIGHTS FADE UP.:

Director Three rolls on in a wheelchair carrying a plate and a phone with a never ending cord that gets wrapped around everything as they move.

DIRECTOR THREE

Sardines. Sardines. Where’s my head and where’s my sardines?

Director Three rolls in and out of the doors. Director Two and Three roll onto stage, Director Two has a bra around their neck.

DIRECTOR THREE

Hackam Sackam and Clackam. Can’t wait to get out of these clothes-

    (They start bumping into the steps.)

I mean into something warm, I mean, into something wet, I mean, you know what I’m talking about.

DIRECTOR TWO

My contacts!

Everyone stops. Looks at the ground.

ACTRESS

Ladies and gentlemen, the performance will start in three minutes. Ladies and gentlemen, the performance will start in one minute. Ladies and gentlemen, the performance will start in five minutes. Ladies and gentlemen…

EVERYONE

        (yelling)

Selsden!

They all bow. The steps and doors are rolled offstage.

ACTRESS

A musical? I’ve always wanted to do a musical.

  BLACKOUT.:

Lights fade up on the four characters in wheelchairs backlit behind prison bars. They make sexy-like poses that change with vampy musical beats. And jazz hands. Lots of jazz hands.

DIRECTOR ONE

Abled

DIRECTOR TWO

Selfish

DIRECTOR THREE

Rude

ACTRESS

Dipshits!

Repeat two times. Faster each time.

EVERYONE

They deserved it. They sure deserved it. They can eat shit. And I’d do it again and again.

ACTRESS

I went to the groceries and this able bodied couple were parked in the handicapped parking space with their beautiful new SUV. So I ran my wheelchair into their car. I ran into twenty- two times.

EVERYONE

They deserved it. They sure deserved it. They can eat shit. And I’d do it again and again.

DIRECTOR ONE

Abled

DIRECTOR TWO

Selfish

DIRECTOR THREE

Rude

ACTRESS

Dipshits!

    LIGHTS FADE OUT. LIGHTS FADE UP.:

DIRECTOR TWO

That was fun.

DIRECTOR ONE

      (to Actress)

You know, you’re not bad.

ACTRESS

Thank you. You’re not bad yourself.

DIRECTOR ONE

I’m a little rusty.

DIRECTOR TWO

Let’s do another. Lights!

          BLACKOUT:

The extra wheelchairs disappear in the blackout. Directors One and Three sit in the audience.

Lights up on Actress, wearing a minimal costume suggestion of Juliet. Perhaps a long-haired wig. Director Two wears a minimal costume suggestion of a nurse. **

ACTRESS AS JULIET

Come hither, nurse. What is yond gentleman?

DIRECTOR TWO AS NURSE

The son and heir of old Tiberio.

ACTRESS AS JULIET

What’s he that now is going out of door?

DIRECTOR TWO

Marry, that, I think, be young Petrucio.

ACTRESS

What’s he that follows there, that would not dance?

DIRECTOR TWO

I know not.

ACTRESS

Go ask his name: if he be married. My grave is like to be my wedding bed.

DIRECTOR TWO

His name is Romeo, and a Montague; The only son of your great enemy.

ACTRESS

My only love sprung from my only hate! Too early seen unknown, and known too late! Prodigious birth of love it is to me, That I must love a loathed enemy.

DIRECTOR TWO

What’s this? what’s this?

ACTRESS

A rhyme I learn’d even now Of one I danced withal. One calls within ‘Juliet.’

DIRECTOR TWO

Anon, anon!Come, let’s away; the strangers all are gone.

They exit. Then quickly peak their heads out.

DIRECTOR TWO

What’d you think?

DIRECTOR THREE

Technically, you’re a little old for Juliet.

ACTRESS

Don’t even go there. That’s a whole ‘nother play.

DIRECTOR ONE

What about Beckett? That could work.

DIRECTOR TWO

Ooh!

DIRECTOR THREE

We stay away from Beckett.

DIRECTOR TWO

Oleanna? Could be interesting.

DIRECTOR THREE

Eh. Definitely no talkbacks.

DIRECTOR ONE

Albee?

DIRECTOR TWO AND THREE

No.

DIRECTOR ONE

Right.

DIRECTOR THREE

I have an idea!

    (to the Directors)

Take your seats.

Director Three takes actress backstage. Directors Two and One sit in the audience.

BLACKOUT:

Lights up on Actress sitting in wheelchair trimmed like a throne, wearing a minimal costume piece suggesting a queen. Perhaps a crown.

ACTRESS AS QUEEN MARGARET FROM HENRY VI*

Brave warriors, Clifford and Northumberland, Come, make him stand upon this molehill here, That raught at mountains with outstretched arms, Yet parted but the shadow with his hand. What! was it you that would be England’s king? Was’t you that revell’d in our parliament, And made a preachment of your high descent? Where are your mess of sons to back you now? The wanton Edward, and the lusty George? And where’s that valiant crook-back prodigy, Dicky your boy, that with his grumbling voice Was wont to cheer his dad in mutinies? Or, with the rest, where is your darling Rutland? Look, York: I stain’d this napkin with the blood That valiant Clifford, with his rapier’s point, Made issue from the bosom of the boy; And if thine eyes can water for his death, I give thee this to dry thy cheeks withal. Alas poor York! but that I hate thee deadly, I should lament thy miserable state. I prithee, grieve, to make me merry, York. What, hath thy fiery heart so parch’d thine entrails That not a tear can fall for Rutland’s death? Why art thou patient, man? thou shouldst be mad; And I, to make thee mad, do mock thee thus. Stamp, rave, and fret, that I may sing and dance. Thou wouldst be fee’d, I see, to make me sport: York cannot speak, unless he wear a crown. A crown for York! and, lords, bow low to him: Hold you his hands, whilst I do set it on.[Putting a paper crown on his head] Ay, marry, sir, now looks he like a king! Ay, this is he that took King Henry’s chair, And this is he was his adopted heir. But how is it that great Plantagenet Is crown’d so soon, and broke his solemn oath? As I bethink me, you should not be king Till our King Henry had shook hands with death. And will you pale your head in Henry’s glory, And rob his temples of the diadem, Now in his life, against your holy oath? O, ’tis a fault too too unpardonable! Off with the crown, and with the crown his head; And, whilst we breathe, take time to do him dead.

The directors applaud, rising to give the actress a standing ovation.

DIRECTOR ONE

I kinda forgot about the wheelchair.

They all look at Director Two, unsure if that is a good thing to say.

DIRECTOR ONE

I mean, it was there, obviously, but it wasn’t about that.

DIRECTOR THREE

Yeah.

ACTRESS

Exactly.

ALL THREE DIRECTORS

       (epiphany)

Oh.

THE END

 

 


Rani Deighe Crowe is a theater and film artist teaching screenwriting in the Creative Writing Program at Ball State University. Her award-winning short films Heather Has Four Moms, Beautiful Eyes, and Texting: A Love Story have screened at film festivals all over the world. Her poem, ‘Beautiful Eyes’ was published in the January, 2018 edition of The American Journal of Poetry. Her flash fiction story, ‘Church of Denial’, was published in the August, 2018 inaugural edition of Delay Fiction.

http://ranideighecrowe.com

“13 Minutes”

CHARACTERS

BETHANY                              Owner of Refresh, Inc.
SAM                                           Potential customer for Refresh, Inc.

PLACE

A medical office

At Rise:                    SAM stands outside the door of Refresh, Inc. and holds a newspaper open. He reads outloud.

SAM

Craving oblivion? Keep your options open. See if oblivion is really what you’re after, or just a good rest. Our gun uses a clinically-tested ray instead of a bullet, so you decide how many hours of safe, monitored “death” you need. Wake up refreshed, ready to face the world again. Reasonable rates. Completely confidential. Hygienic.

                    (He considers for a moment, drops the paper and walks into Refresh, Inc. A woman in nurse’s scrubs stands behind a counter staring at a computer screen. Behind her are a number of closed doors, some with red lights, others green. The man walks in. The woman looks up and smiles.)

BETHANY

Hi there. What can I do for you today?

SAM

I read your ad in the paper and I was wondering. What happens … what happens if you don’t set a time to undo the rays’ effects?

BETHANY

No worries. A default wake-up revives the customer in 24 hours, so there’s no chance of an accident.

SAM

Can you override that?

BETHANY

I could, but I won’t. You could die.

SAM

I know.

BETHANY

I’m not sure you understand what we do here. Refresh, Inc.’s mission is to prevent intentional deaths, not cause them. It’s an epidemic. Did you know that someone kills themselves in America every twelve minutes.

SAM

I’m surprised it’s not more often. Have you any idea what it’s like out there?

BETHANY

I know. It’s bad. But we can survive it, in the same way you can survive how you’re feeling right now.

SAM

Please. I’ll pay you double. Cash.

BETHANY

No. Experience a safe suicide here, then return to your life. Tell me your name.

SAM

Sam.

BETHANY

Sam, I’m Bethany. Tell me. Do you have family? Children?

SAM

I suppose. Two teenage girls.

BETHANY

You’ll devastate those kids if you commit suicide. If you can’t think of yourself, think of them.

SAM

I am thinking of them. I’ll be one less carbon footprint on the planet. You’d be doing a great service to everyone if you just turned off the safety mechanism and let me drift away.

BETHANY

No. That would be murder. Think of me if you can’t think of anyone else. Think of my franchise.

SAM

I’ll sign anything you want. I’ll get it notarized.

BETHANY

Go to a state that allows it. Find a doctor.

SAM

I am a doctor.

BETHANY

Then what are you waiting for? Just write yourself a prescription and be done with it.

SAM

I can’t. I’m afraid of throwing up. I need your help.

BETHANY

I’ll help by giving you this number to call for depression.

SAM

I don’t have depression. I have a diagnosis. A bad one. I’m just waiting to die, and I hate waiting.

BETHANY

I’m so sorry. Many terminally ill come here thinking they’d like to end it, but leave with a renewed purpose for the time they have left. May I ask? Cancer?

SAM

No. Human mortality.

BETHANY

Sam, we’re all human. We’re all dying. Go home and enjoy the journey.

SAM

I want an exit ramp and I want it now. (He pulls out a gun and aims it at her) Override the refresh button.

BETHANY

You’re kidding? You have a gun? You don’t need me. Just use it on yourself.

SAM

I can’t. I’m a coward.

BETHANY

But brave enough to shoot me? What then? You’ll go to jail. They’ll take your shoelaces so you can’t even hang yourself. If you really think there’s no hope, then go find a tall building and jump. Just leave.

SAM

I can’t. I’m afraid of heights. And the pain. I don’t want any pain.

BETHANY

A razor blade?

SAM

I faint at the sight of blood.

BETHANY

What kind of a doctor are you?

SAM

A psychiatrist.

BETHANY

Of course you are. Put that gun down Sam, or I’ll call the police.

SAM

I wonder if I can get them to shoot me.

BETHANY

No. You’re much too white.

SAM

                    (Sam starts sobbing. Bethany comes around the counter, takes the gun from him, and puts it next to the computer. Then she gently guides him to a door with a green light.)

BETHANY

Sam, you don’t want to die, you just want to stop hurting. Lie right down here. I’ll give you the maximum. 24 hours. This one is on me, because I like you and want you to live.

SAM

But you don’t love me. No one loves me. Not even I love me.

BETHANY

What’s important is that you have the ability to love. I think you have this giant heart and that’s why you’re in so much pain.

SAM

It’s true. I love my girls.

BETHANY

Good. What else?

SAM

I used to love my ex-wife. And I’ve always loved carrots. I love when a flock of sparrows sit on a wire all facing one direction. How do they do that? How do they communicate with one another to say this way, not that way?

BETHANY

It’s amazing, isn’t it? You see, Sam, it’s not all misery out there. There’s also beauty and poetry. Now I want you to take this ray gun, hold it to your temple, then press the trigger. You’ll hear a soothing gunshot sound, then you’ll be out.

SAM

Can you do it for me? I’m afraid.

BETHANY

No, you have to do it yourself. Those are the rules. You have to want it bad enough.

SAM

It’s bad enough. It’s worse than enough.

                    (Lying on the gurney, staring at the ceiling, he holds the ray gun to his head and shoots. There is a sharp noise and the gun falls to the floor. Bethany picks it up and puts it back on the charger. She looks at her watch.)

BETHANY

Thirteen minutes from door to snore. Score one for the team.
                    (Bethany returns to the counter and picks up the real gun and stares at it. She puts it to her temple, closes her eyes, sighs and smiles.)

END


JoeAnn Hart is the author of the novels Float (Ashland Creek Press) and Addled (Little, Brown). Her short fiction, essays, and articles have appeared in a wide variety of publications, including Orion magazine, The Hopper, and the anthology Black Lives Have Always Mattered. She recently presented Float, a dark comedy about plastics in the ocean.

Miracle

CHARACTERS

KATE                                                                                                                             30.    Aria’s mother.

ARIA                                                                                                                               7.    Kate’s daughter.

SETTING
A park, in any town.

TIME
November, hopefully not forever.

At lights up, Kate, 30, is sitting on a bench C; outside, November, a chill in the air. Her large handbag sits on the ground next to the bench. Behind Kate is a scrim showing bare trees and an open expanse of land. We hear a young girl shriek, and Kate looks up. ARIA, 7, rushes on from the audience, holding a plastic container of milk. Aria collapses on the bench.

ARIA

Mama!

KATE

What’s wrong, sweetheart?

ARIA

Lincoln asked me to share my milk, and when I said no, he tried to take it from me.

KATE

And what did you do?

ARIA

I stomped on his foot and ran away.

KATE

What have Daddy and I said about sharing?

ARIA

I don’t have to if I don’t want to.

KATE

And?

ARIA

No more foot stomping.

KATE

That’s right.  It’s your milk, and if you tell him no, he should respect that.  But stomping on feet isn’t the best choice, okay?

ARIA

Okay.

KATE

What would be a better choice?

ARIA

Telling him “no,” again.  But that doesn’t always work.

KATE

So, what could you do?

ARIA

Yell.  Yell, “Hands off, you big fartface!”

KATE

Or tell an adult.

ARIA

That’s not as fun.

KATE

Can we pretend I’m a good mom, and stick with telling an adult?

ARIA

Okay, we can pretend.

KATE

Drink your milk.

ARIA

It’s gone.

KATE

Do you want some crackers?  I have crackers

Kate reaches for her handbag.

ARIA

No thank you, I’m full.

KATE

Okay.  I think I’ll have one, though.

Kate eats a cracker.

Are those your friends?

ARIA

Some of them.  That’s Kennedy.  She’s really smart and always wears fancy clothes.

KATE

That is easily the most expensive jacket I’ve ever seen on a seven-year-old.

ARIA

And Susan runs all of our games.  The boys didn’t used to let the girls play, but she made them.  Now we all play together.

KATE

What about Lincoln?

ARIA

He usually plays by himself.  He likes really artsy stuff, like theatre.  I’d rather play kickball.

KATE

You’re very good at it.

ARIA

Thank you.

KATE

I spoke to your grandmother today.  She would have come, but her back is acting up again.  She was putting her flowerpots back into the shed and she fell.

ARIA

I miss Grandma.  You should go see her.

KATE

I will.  When she’s feeling better.  I don’t want to be an imposition.

ARIA

You could bring her some of Daddy’s chicken soup.

KATE

I sure could.  That stuff works miracles.  Miracles.

ARIA

Where is Daddy?

KATE

He’s at home, making some special food for your birthday dinner.  Lasagna.

ARIA

I love lasagna!

KATE

It’s my favorite too.  And since you’re turning seven, you can have a great big piece.

ARIA

And ice cream?

KATE

I think we can find some.

ARIA

Yay, ice cream!

KATE

Not like you need any more sugar, little one.

ARIA

And it’ll be Mama and Daddy and me.  Just us.

KATE

Just us.  Is that okay?

ARIA

Yes.  Birthday parties are overrated.

KATE

What about presents?

ARIA

I like presents.

KATE

Don’t tell Daddy, but I brought you one.

Kate pulls a thin package out of her handbag. Aria tears the present open.

It’s a book, about great women of history.

ARIA
(Reading)

Jackie Kennedy…Susan B. Anthony…Mary Todd Lincoln…

KATE

So see, you can be anything you want to be.  Unlimited potential.

ARIA

I could be a chef like Daddy.

KATE

Or a teacher, like Mama.

ARIA

Nah.  I don’t really like kids.
I could be an astronaut.

KATE

Sure, an astronaut.  That’s a lot of school, though.

ARIA

You like school.  You and Daddy met in school.

KATE

Yes, we did.  First year of college.  First day, actually, we met at orientation.  We were on the same team for the campus scavenger hunt.

ARIA

Did you win?

KATE

You know, I don’t remember.

ARIA

Daddy’s so competitive, he would remember.

KATE

I think you’re right.  But I do remember, after the hunt we went back to his dorm, and we made cookies – ginger cookies.  They were awful.  Completely burnt.  So Arthur – Daddy – promised me he’d keep practicing, if I’d help him with his English homework.  We got married two days after we graduated, four years later.

ARIA

Did you wear a big poofy dress?

KATE

I really wanted to.  I’d always thought it was silly until I got engaged, and realized how much I wanted to feel special.  But we were flat broke, and we didn’t want to ask your grandparents for money, so I bought a lace dress at Macy’s, and he wore his best suit, and we got married at the courthouse.

ARIA

I didn’t know people did that.

KATE

It was actually really fun.  We all went out to dinner afterward.  I threw a fake flower bouquet.  And all the people we cared about most in the world were there.

ARIA

I wasn’t there.

KATE

You’re right, except you.

ARIA

I wish I had been.

KATE

I would have liked that.

ARIA

I’ll bet you looked beautiful.

KATE

I don’t know about that.  But I felt beautiful, and I think that’s more important.

ARIA

And then you had me right away!

KATE

Well, not right away.

ARIA

Why not?  Isn’t that what happens when people get married?

KATE

Sometimes.  But Daddy and I just wanted to be a couple for a while.  He started culinary school, and I got a teaching job, so we decided to wait.  We wanted to make sure we saved enough money so the baby could have a good life.  But everyone kept saying, “Oh, now is the best time to have kids!  You don’t want to be old parents!  Don’t you want your mother to have grandkids?”  And one day, you came along.

ARIA
(Giggling)

Surprise!

KATE

The best surprise in the world.  Daddy and I were very scared, but we couldn’t wait to meet you.

ARIA

Do you remember the day I was born?

KATE

Every second.  You caused me a lot of pain, you know.

ARIA

I’m sorry, Mama.

KATE

It was worth it.  Every push, ever rip, every tear, to see your little face shrieking to high heaven.  I held your Daddy’s hand and cried when they handed you to me.  I’d never held anything so small.  It was like the world stopped, and it was just our little family that mattered in all creation.
We brought you home, and put you in your crib, and it still didn’t feel real.  We named you Aria, because you would always kick when Daddy and I sang at Temple on Saturdays.

ARIA

Was I expensive?

KATE

You were very expensive!

ARIA

I’m going to go tell Kennedy.  I’ll bet I was more expensive than she was.

KATE

Don’t you want to hear the rest of the story?

ARIA
(Suddenly very grown up)

Are you sure you want to tell it?

Kate pats the seat next to her, and Aria sits back down, nestling her head on Kate’s lap.

KATE

I’d never been so tired in my life, so when it came time for your six-month checkup, I made Arthur go so I could sleep.  He was late coming home, and I was so worried, and – I didn’t mean to yell.  He was crying.  He said the doctor found a red spot on your eye.  That we would start seeing changes.  That you would stop hearing, stop seeing…stop moving.  That there was nothing we could do.

ARIA

Nothing?

KATE

We tried so hard, I promise we did.  We sold our little house, maxed out our credit cards, borrowed from anyone we could.  But all those people, everyone who insisted we have a child – they’d all vanished.  They were happy to care about you before you were born, but after…we were on our own.
I found you, lying on my chest.  I’d fallen asleep, I prayed you had too.  But it was over.  Our little surprise hadn’t become our miracle.  We asked for forever, we got two years.  Six months of that was heaven.  The rest was the darkest circle of hell.

ARIA

Would you do it again?

KATE

Which part?

ARIA

All of it.

KATE

I don’t know.  We decided not to have another child, it’s taken care of, but going back in time and doing it again, I don’t know.  We loved you so much.  You know that, don’t you?

ARIA

Yes, Mama.

KATE

Good.

ARIA

Can I go play with my friends now?

KATE

Of course, sweetheart.

Aria hugs Kate.

ARIA

I love you, Mama.  And I love my new headstone.

Aria runs off.  Kate picks up the book and discarded wrappings.  She pulls a small bouquet of flowers out of her bag and places them DC.  Kate exits.  The image on the scrim shifts to include headstones on the ground.
Lights down.
End play.


Kayla Hambek is an actor and playwright from Minneapolis, Minnesota. She has a B.A. in Theatre from Bethel University, and is currently pursuing her MFA in Playwriting at Augsburg University. Her most recent original work, an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, was produced in June 2017 by Aethem Theatre Company.

Silver Water

(Regular and unremitting except where pause is indicated)

A Underwater. Deep underwater

B No. Shallow water

A Deep Underwater

B Set sail in your deep water. Shallow water

A I could fuck you now

B Deep Underwater?

A In your shallow water

B I told you. Shallow water

A Deep Underwater

B There’s nobody there

A Let go of

B Yes?

A The things

B Oh yes

A The marriage

B Ha!

A The ring

B The clit ring? Ha Ha!

A For instance

B The rings

A Your head

B Deep underwater

A Shallow water

B I love Manhattan

A It too

B That

A It and That. Both shallow water

B Deep underwater?

A Say it once more

B Shallow water

A No. Say “deep underwater”

B Deep underwater?

A Say it once more

B No

A You must

B You dust

A Legs off, you must

B I’m stupid. Big tits

A Tango tits

B Remember the cross-your-heart?

A PLAYTEX

B It fucking worked on you. You clown

A Let it go

B Why?

A It’s time

B It’s boring

A It’s transcendental meditation

B You fuck

A You fuck too

B This is boring

A I hate you

B Shallow water

A I won’t let you win

B You will beat me?

A No. I will not

B You will nerve me

A Nerve rain

B You rain I rain it rains

A I licked the rain

B Off my angry tits

A Deep underwater

B Shallow water

A Deep underwater

B Like me!

A Just once?

B Try

A It’s all a try

B Try harder

A Code for fuck

B Shallow water

A Deep underwater

B Ha!

A Your ceramic dildo

B That thing

A Let it go

B And walk funny?

A What’s funny?

B A camp Singaporean

A What?

B It’s a joke

A Deep underwater

B Shallow water

A Carry on

B Stop looking

A My eyes are closed

B Lose your anger

A Like a fish?

B Swim off

A To the sea?

B To shallow water

A Deep underwater

B Say what you mean

A I am trying

B Try harder

A Give me permission

B It’s too late

A Give it anyway

B Well. Yes

A No. Just “Yes”

B That’s worthless

A Deep underwater

B Shallow water

A It’s getting humid

B You stink now

A Now?

B You always did

A You always said so

B I could have done better

A Bowl of cherries

B Cherry

A Deep underwater

B Shallow water

A Smell it

B Then what?

A Who can say?

B The asylum

A So what?

B Who will visit me?

A I will

B You don’t count

A I never counted

B Only up to 4. Like MONBODDO’s savages

A Clever cunt

B I’ve read your books too. Cunt-breath

A Are you a match for me?

B Only you know

A Clever. Clever cunt

B I don’t like to be called cunt

A I’m sorry

B It’s aggressive

A What isn’t?

B Not that. OK?

A Deep underwater

B Shallow water

A Cry for me

B It’s been a while

A Far too long

B My dentist

A Your student dentist

B Never again

A It was just a job

B You fucking clown!

A A job is a job

B A blowjob

A Please

B A slow blowjob

A Why tease?

B Languorous blow…job. Blowjob, blowjob, BLOWJOB!

A That’s not nice

B Blowjob blackout

A Be careful

B Blowjob backhand

A Deep underwater

B Shallow water

A All over again

B You started it

A I had hopes

B You’re a fucking dreamer!

A I am

B And a clown

A Am I?

B First a clown

A Funny

B No. Droll

A Strange

B As fuck

A Why don’t we

B Let me think

A Fuck

B Fuck it. Why don’t we fuck?

A For a change

B Change of what?

A Feelings

B Walk away

A Walk away?

B Walk away

A NYPD

B I’d shoot you

A If what

B I had a gun

A Here

B What’s that

A A gun

B Bang

A I’m dead

B That changed nothing

A Deep underwater

B Shallow water

A Feel better?

B That changed nothing

A Deep underwater

B That changed nothing

A Deep underwater

B Nothing changed

A You didn’t do it right

B So what? Nothing changed

A It’s connected

B You and your connections

A Everything is about connections

B Let me try again, you tricky fuck

A You’ll only fuck up again

B What’s it to you?

A I couldn’t take another fuck-up

B Another fuck but not a fuck-up

A You see the connection?

B No. No ropes, no chains, no connections

A Only things

B My things and your things

A Let go of

B My things?

A All things

B Fuck me then

A In the middle of this?

B There’s no middle

A Deep underwater

B Shallow water

A Temp work

B Never again

A Temping worked

B Not for me

A For us

B Us is a non-entity

A You and Me

B Me and You

A Lift your skirt

B I’m not wearing one

A Lift it anyway

B There

A That was nice

B Fuck you!

A The way you flashed, didn’t hold it up

B A flash fuck might grab you then

A Please

B Flash fuck, fuck in a flash

A Flash in the pan

B Quick as a flash

A Flashy

B Flash Harry

A Flash Gordon

B Savior of the Universe

A Deep underwater

B Shallow water

A You and me

B I was never your friend

A No-one was

B What would you call us?

A You first

B Not lovers

A Why not?

B You never loved me

A But you loved me

B Even less

A But we made love

B Fucked

A We called it making love once

B We never existed

A And love?

B Fucking, making love, it’s the name of an act

A Deep underwater

B Fuck you. Shallow fucking blowjob water

A Your clit is magnificent

B Eat it motherfucker!

A Like a small cock

B Shallow water

A Deep underwater

B 19 years

A Of bliss

B Of this

A I gave you hope

B I’m full of it now

A I gave you things

B So what?

A You gave nothing

B You’re an addict

A For what?

B Anything

A Llamas?

B If a llama could give you pleasure, then yes

A Why down on pleasure?

B Your its addict

A Pleasure is good

B In moderation

A I never reached that level

B One taste and you’re off

A Off?

B Hoping never to return

A To where?

B Reality

A Deep underwater

B You had none at all until me

A Deep underwater

B You’re a fucking baby around me

A And a dreamer and a clown

B A clown first

A Then a dreamer?

B Then a baby

A A dreamer last

B You’d overdose on candy if you weren’t a dentist

A Deep underwater

B Shallow water

A It’s finished

B What is?

A The lamb

B The Llama?

A Walk away

B Clear me a space

A For what

B A spree. To clip my nails

A Toes or fingers?

B Both. Motherfucker

A Filing and painting?

B The whole shebang

A Deep underwater

B Shallow water

A Will you be messy

B Afraid of fever?

A It’s gone

B It’s always gone

A Everything’s gone

B It can come back

A Comeback jinny joe

B Comeback blow job

A Bring me back an eggy-o

B Fuck your entire line

A Don’t cry

B I hate you all

A How much?

B To the 17th century

A To where we were related

B See?

A I see nothing

B France?

A Losers

B Shallow water

A Deep underwater

B Magwitch

A Haversham

B Shallow water

A Deep underwater

B No to it all

A Might as well be yes

B But never broken up. Intermingled.

A Let’s break it up

B You fucking dreamer

A Smile for me

B I’ll grimace if you smile

A I don’t smile

B You smiled once

A When it rained

B On my tits? No. When your father died

A Cruel cunt

B He didn’t like anyone

A He’s in heaven

B Why?

A Because I smiled

B Your little boxing gloves

A Where’s this famous grimace?

B Where’s the smile?

A Fuck it

B Fuck that

A Deep underwater

B Shallow water

A I smell scallions

B Your dinner

A “Where’s my dinner?!”

B Oh, darling. Forget him. He’s dead now

A Stone dead

B Stone dead

A Stones last forever

B Oh (sighs)!

A I love you

B Fucking clown

A But only your tits

B Never again

A Never again what

B I could have done much better

A Or much worse

B Then what did I do?

A You did worse AND better

B Big fucking eyes

A Bigger than your belly

B Yours. Not mine

A Mine the same

B Nothing is the same

A Clever cunt

B Your words. You…VOID!

A That’s me trying

B Well try harder

A To what?

B To be acceptable

A To whom?

B Me

A In what sense?

B I’ll settle for smell

A Deep underwater

B Shallow water

A Deep underwater

B I want to scream

A You’re only saying that

B Or touch a poisonous snake

A Deep underwater

B Shallow water

A You don’t have to speak

B Curlew Cry

A But not your cry

B Cry of a curlew

A Why not your cry?

B Isn’t curlew plaintive enough?

A I can’t imagine a curlew

B Fucking liar

A You make me one

B And a clown? A baby? A dreamer?

A Cough it up

B You mean break it up

A I want to intermingle

B Shallow water

A Deep underwater

B Over my dead body

A It wouldn’t matter

B Completely still?

A That would be better

B And the putrefaction?

A It might be nice

B Nice?

A Nice and disgusting

B I have a brain

A Maybe that’s the problem

B It’s in the way?

A In the way of yourself

B You mean in YOUR way

A That’s what I mean

B Say what you mean!

A Deep underwater

B Shallow forest water

A What forest

B THE forest

A Your brain?

B YOUR fucking brain

A I could fuck your brains out

B This is boring

A There’s nothing else

B We’ve been over this

A At least it’s comforting

B At least that much

A I’m sorry

B So am I

A You could have done better

B So could you

A At least we can be frank

B At least that much

A It’s not much

B It’s only weird for me

A For me too. It’s only weird.

B Are you happy?

A I was never happy

B I suspected as much

A Are you?

B Never

A I had no idea

B Now what?

(Pause)

A I could happily kill you now

B Shallow water

A Deep underwater

END


George Saitoh’s essays, fiction and poetry have appeared in Aeqai, Kyoto Journal, Orbis, Clarion and Word Riot. My plays have been performed in Tokyo and Dublin. He has a doctorate from the University of York and teach at Waseda University in Tokyo. He was born in Dublin.

The Nine Friends of Death, A Short Play

Characters

The Singer
The Daughter
The Lover 1
The Lover 2
The Painter
The Lost
The Elder
The Mother
The Hunter

 

Opening

Nine women gather around a large oak tree that dwarfs the stage. There is the SINGER, the DAUGHTER, the two LOVERS, the PAINTER, the LOST, the ELDER, the MOTHER, and the HUNTER. Some stand, some pace, and other sit, tangled among the branches. They are old and young, familiar to each other but not family.

One of them, the SINGER carries a lantern. She lights it with a match.

SINGER
(Addressing the audience)
Sit down.

DAUGHTER
Quickly.

SINGER
Not you.

ELDER
I’ll begin.

SINGER
I already have.

ELDER
There’s really no hurry now. No need to be rude.

SINGER
Ahem!

DAUGHTER
Bitch.

SINGER
I heard that! I damn well heard that!

The HUNTER bangs her fist against the tree. The lantern light flickers.

HUNTER
Enough. Don’t waste the light.

MOTHER
Now, now…

LOST
Must we?

SINGER
Yes. We only have the night.

The LOVERS sigh.

SINGER
Ahem! I am the Singer. Mine was an accident. I was struck by my lover and my head went–

She claps

SINGER (CONT.D)
He was very sorry.

MOTHER
I’m sure he was, dear. I am the Mother and mine was unplanned. I never met my child. They said this sort of thing doesn’t happen anymore. We’re civilized now.

ELDER
We are, we are. But this night is older.

MOTHER
I would have named her Eva, but I never told a soul. Do you think she knew?

DAUGHTER
Who knows?

The SINGER raises the lantern up.

SINGER
Shh! There are rules.

DAUGHTER
You and your rules…

LOST
Are we playing a game?

HUNTER
If we are, then someone wins.

SINGER
Wait your turn! It’s not your time yet.

HUNTER
Hmm.

DAUGHTER
Fine. I’ll play. They call me the Daughter and I went too soon. My friends wore green at the funeral. Silk, too. I couldn’t stand black.

MOTHER
Were you in pain?

DAUGHTER
It happened too fast.

MOTHER
Oh…

DAUGHTER
Don’t cry. You didn’t know me at all.

SINGER
It’s still very sad.

MOTHER
Yes…

PAINTER
No one cried for me. It’s fair to say no one knew I was gone.
ELDER
I’m sure that’s not true.

PAINTER
But it is. I’m the Painter and I died in war. No one knows where I’ve gone. They’ll never bury my bones.

LOST
But they’ll remember your art.

PAINTER
They won’t.

LOST
They will. There’s a gallery in Canada, some border town that sells glass, and they put your paintings on the factory walls. The night manager lights a candle below his favorite every night.

PAINTER
Which one?

LOST
The one with the mountains. You named it after a Hemingway story.

PAINTER
Hills Like White Elephants.

HUNTER
I never liked that one.

DAUGHTER
You never liked Hemingway.

SINGER
I’m sure that’s not the point.

PAINTER
Someone remembered me.

LOST
They’ll always remember you.
LOVER 1
Be careful with that.

LOVER 2
If you’re remembered, then you’re known.

DAUGHTER
What happened to you?

SINGER
The Lovers. They’re dramatic.

LOVER 1
We’re not.

LOVER 2
We’re just here.

HUNTER
Oh?

LOVER 2
We died in a dark place.

MOTHER
You died for love?

SINGER
Don’t say it like that.

LOVER 2
They called it wrong.

LOVER 1
I didn’t think they would–

HUNTER
Of course they would.

LOVER 2
We loved.

LOVER 1
We were honest. We were the Lovers and we died for it.
LOST
So it goes.

ELDER
It’s an old story.

DAUGHTER
So sad.

SINGER
Don’t be like that.

The two LOVERS embrace.

ELDER
My turn, then? It was time that found me. Far from tragic. I am the Elder and I died as the road ended.

DAUGHTER
Is that a metaphor?

ELDER
Yes.

SINGER
I’ll allow it.

ELDER
I never asked you, my dear.

SINGER
Hmph.

LOST
Were you sick?

ELDER
At the end.

LOST
I was sick the whole way. I’m Lost and I saw no way out.

DAUGHTER
What do you see now?
LOST
Strangers. Nine of them.

MOTHER
But no one left to speak.

They all look to the HUNTER.

SINGER
Oh, right. The murdering bitch.

PAINTER
The Hunter.

MOTHER
Oh, dear.

HUNTER
What?

MOTHER
Won’t you say anything?

HUNTER
Nothing worth saying. I did it and was then done in.

PAINTER
Was it righteous?

HUNTER
You’ll never know.

DAUGHTER
Oh.

They all turn to face the audience.

SINGER (CONT.D)
Well, we’re due for another tonight. Who’s it gonna be?

She blows out the lantern. Blackout.


Emma Johnson-Rivard is a Masters student at Hamline University. She received her undergraduate degree in Film Studies at Smith College in Massachusetts and currently lives in Minnesota with her dogs and far too many books.

Alimento

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.

CELIA
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.

LYMAN
‘Spat’?

CELIA
Why am I doomed to carry the bulk of the world’s hunger in my belly?

LYMAN
‘Bulk’?

(CELIA picks up her menu; scans it perfunctorily.)

CELIA
There’s nothing on this menu.
(beat)
There’s never anything to eat anymore.
(beat)
Let’s go someplace else.

LYMAN
We’re getting a free meal here.

CELIA
Free? Is that all you care about? That it’s free? We’re getting a big free nothing so far.
(looks around)
And we’re practically the only ones here. Just one inattentive waiter and us.

LYMAN
Hunger isn’t free. It makes you pay.

CELIA
You just said it was free.

LYMAN
‘Free’ is relative–in the appetite of the consumer–in a manner of speaking.

CELIA
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?

LYMAN
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.)

CELIA
So … we’re not going anyplace else, then? We’re eating here.

(SHE scans the room, peers into the dark spaces.)

CELIA
(disappointed, but resigned) Here.

LYMAN.
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.)

CELIA
(slightly sarcastically) Not much on ambiance.
(beat)
Oh, I’m so hungry.
(looks around for a waiter)
Can we get some service?

LYMAN
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.

CELIA
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.

CELIA
He is a waiter, then? Not some performance artist?

LYMAN In a way.

CELIA
He’s a waiter. Call him over so we can order.

(sarcastically) By the numbers.

LYMAN
He’s not that kind of waiter. He’s waiting.

CELIA
Well, what’s he waiting for, then? I mean, he’s scoping out the room, holding a serving tray and all, like waiters do.

LYMAN
That’s his plate. He’s waiting for scraps and leftovers.

CELIA
Leftovers? Why? The food’s free here. You just said so.

LYMAN
For us. Not for him.

CELIA
He’s waiting to eat scraps? Like some dog? That’s disgusting. So what does he do? Gobble it off customer’s plates?

LYMAN
He serves himself. But he has to beg for it first. He’s not allowed to eat indiscriminately.

CELIA
(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.

LYMAN
What’s the difference between the food you eat and the food you leave on your plate?

CELIA
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.

LYMAN
I hope not.

CELIA
Are you sure we can’t eat someplace else?

LYMAN
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.)

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.)

LYMAN
He can’t leave.

CELIA
That’s stupid. Why can’t he leave? They should actually throw him out. He’s bothering the customers.

LYMAN
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.

CELIA
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.
(beat)
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.)

CELIA
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.)

CELIA
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.)

CELIA
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.)

CELIA
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.)

DARK-HAIRED MAN
My plate. My plate.

CELIA
Your plate?

(SHE looks back at the platter next to her seat.)

CELIA
You want your plate?

(HE nods.)

CELIA
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.)

CELIA
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.)

CELIA
Again? After what I just offered you? You throw it back in my face?

(The DARK-HAIRED MAN howls.)

CELIA
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.)

CELIA
So there.

(A VOICE calls out.)

VOICE
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.)

CELIA
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.)

LYMAN
That’s not for you.

CELIA
Oh.

(SHE reaches for the other plate.)

LYMAN
That’s not for you either.

CELIA
You didn’t order for me? They’re both yours?

LYMAN
I ordered them.

CELIA
What about me?

LYMAN
You need to make your choices and place your order.

CELIA
I already threw away the menu.

(SHE grabs the third menu and reads it.)

CELIA
It’s blank. There’s nothing on it. Let me use yours.

(SHE grabs LYMAN’s menu.)

CELIA
It’s blank, too. How did you order from a blank menu?

LYMAN
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.

CELIA
Well, how am I supposed to eat if I can’t see the choices to order?

LYMAN
Guess you’re not.

CELIA
Not what? Not supposed to eat or not supposed to order?

(LYMAN shrugs.)

CELIA
You could share yours with me. I don’t care what you ordered. I’m so hungry I could eat a yak.

LYMAN
No, I can’t. There are consequences.

CELIA
Oh really? Consequences … Such as?

(LYMAN glances for a long moment at the Dark-Haired Man, who’s still slumped, dejected, against the pillar.)

LYMAN
You know, you weren’t very nice to him.

CELIA
I can’t stand crying. Or begging.

LYMAN
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.)

CELIA
(surprised)
They’re cold.

LYMAN
I know.
(beat)
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.)

CELIA
(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.)

CELIA
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!

(SHE screams.)

CELIA
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.)

CELIA Why?

(LYMAN takes the covers off the plates of food. The food is wrapped burrito-style in butcher paper.)

LYMAN
Take one. Number Three or Five. It doesn’t matter.

(CELIA hesitates, unsure.)

LYMAN
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.)

CELIA
(rising from her chair; to Lyman) You bastard!

LYMAN
It was my chance. My first, last and only chance. I only had three, you see.

CELIA
(pacing back and forth)
You used me? For some mysterious, perverted quest of yours?
(beat)
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.)

CELIA
And just what is this mysterious last chance of yours? Why is it so important that you had to put me through all this?

LYMAN
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.)

CELIA
Feed yours in the process …? what the hell does that mean?

(LYMAN hesitates.)

CELIA
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.

LYMAN
You still haven’t figured it out, have you?

CELIA
(annoyed)
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.)

LYMAN
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.)

LYMAN
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.)

LYMAN
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.)

CELIA
(to no one in particular)
We could have been friends.

VOICE
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.

The Mating Season of Flying Monkeys

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 that clearly need some TLC, a stack of paperbacks by each chair. Light is sunny and bright. Time is now.

~

[ Belinda sits on one of the chairs, checking her heavily made up face in a mirror. She shakes her head, her hair elaborately fixed. Marjorie dozes in the other chair, wearing sweats, a big sweatshirt, a book open and resting on her chest. Her cane is within reach. Belinda tries to be very quiet. She puts the mirror down on the floor of the porch, checks Marjorie, sets her shoulders as if for a very hard duty. ]

MARJORIE
Where ya going, Belinda?
[ Marjorie sits up, yawns hugely, the book falling to one side. Belinda sniffs, but makes a show of going through her purse, a giant purple affair that could house a city, the proverbial old lady purse, if you will. ]
That’s my purse. We need some eggs. Throw these plants out! Why do you have my going-to- town purse? Where are you going without me?

BELINDA
None of your beeswax, you nosy cow. Those plants are fine, perking up, you let them alone.
[ Marjorie makes a grab at the purse but Belinda steps just out of reach. ]

MARJORIE
Gimme back my purse! If I have to get up, you are not getting your cup of Lipton tonight.

BELINDA
I might not be here tonight…so…so there. And we share this purse. I’m sharing it. So go back to your nap. Maybe I hate Lipton, maybe I’ve always hated it.

MARJORIE
Where are you going? Hate Lipton? Pig’s whiskers you do. You don’t have night shifts anymore. Are those bruises on your cheeks?

BELINDA
[ Rubbing at one cheek, a deathgrip on the purse with the other. ]
It’s just not blended in yet. I never wear makeup. I’m not very good at it. I’m taking the car. I’m taking the car and might be out all night, all night! So. Don’t call the police. I’ll be out all night, and, the police do not need to be called.

MARJORIE
You are not taking the car. It needs oil. And tires.

BELINDA
I’m stopping to get tires. It only needs one new tire. You’re so negative! And…and I put some oil in this morning, when you were still in bed. I’ve always put the oil in, ever since we’ve had that car. I’m going.
[ Marjorie picks up her book from floor, looks through it for her place, then bends the page. ]
Ignore me all you wish. I’m going to do this.

MARJORIE
No, you’re not. I’m a year older than you. I’m still the boss here. What exactly are you NOT going to do? Wearing clown makeup.

BELINDA
Marjorie. You can’t tell me what to do anymore. I’m…an old woman now. You’re my sister, not…not my mother. I’ve decided to have a one night stand, if you absolutely must know.

[ Silence. Marjorie gropes for her cane, and then gets to her feet. Belinda backs off. But still rather defiant. ]

MARJORIE
But. You’ve hated men since Jack Klingerholfer broke your heart when you were sixteen.

BELINDA
Well, better late than never. I’m going to a bar and…picking someone up.

MARJORIE
What is this, mating season for flying monkeys??

BELINDA
I have no idea what that even means, but I am not a monkey. I have my best nightie and that perfume I got at the Dollar Store. I am ready for love!
[ Gets behind chair as Marjorie advances. ]

MARJORIE
Belinda, have you gone plumb stone crazy? They cut down on your hours at the hospital, so what. Learn to knit. Good women don’t go to bars, or go home with some stranger.
[ Stops, begins to smile. Goes back to chair and sits carefully. ]
Cause we’re old witches, we should have flying monkeys. You’re plumb stone crazy.

BELINDA
I’m not crazy. I am headed out to…follow my heart.
[ Belinda sits in the other chair, purse on her lap. ]
And it’s not a man…I’m not looking for a man. I meant that. Never again for men.

MARJORIE
Then what are you blathering about? Maybe you just need some sleep.

BELINDA
I’m…queer.
[ Marjorie coughs, chokes, bangs her cane on the floor as she tries to get her powers of speech
back. ]
I must be. I’ve hated men since I was sixteen. I live with my sister. I like women. Are you okay? Do you need some water?

MARJORIE
I just swallowed wrong is all. What’s got you so stirred up? Did you take my heart pills again?

BELINDA
I have never taken your heart pills, that was a dream you had.

MARJORIE
You took them, you hid them and then ate them like candies.

BELINDA
I am a nurse. I know better than to take your blood thinners like candies. You’re starting to think what you dream actually happens.

MARJORIE
I’m starting to think you think I’m crazy. I know you’re up nights sneaking around the house.

BELINDA
Of course I am. You don’t like me drinking milk before bedtime.

MARJORIE
You fart all night. I don’t want to smell your farts all night.

BELINDA
It settles my stomach. You know I can’t stand the taste of Pepto.

MARJORIE
Who can? You drink it because it works, not for the taste. You don’t pour it over ice cubes or…

BELINDA
Fine fine fine! I’m taking this purse and going out. I won’t stand here and argue about Pepto. I won’t.

MARJORIE
So you can find some queer gal and…and…what would you even do with her?

BELINDA
How do I know? I just know I want to.

MARJORIE
It’s sick.

BELINDA
Oh now, things have changed. People have changed. No, they haven’t. I drove truck for almost thirty years, I got called names. I would have been perfectly happy cooking pot roasts for any of those guys I drove beets and onions and taters to the sheds for. Any one of em! They looked at me and went, ugly bulldyke queer, cause I cut off my hair that one time, I saw it in a magazine, I thought it looked cute.

BELINDA
Oh. That short hair did not look good on you. I never knew they made fun of you. You were better than most men at driving, so what? You were happy driving.

MARJORIE
I was. I could change my own tires, too. Was I supposed to wait around? Worry I’d break a nail. Goddamn it.
[ Both women smile. ]
It’s a rough ole world sometimes.

BELINDA
I was once told, by mother, that it was good I didn’t have children.
[ She sits, hugs purse to her stomach. ]
Cause I didn’t have patience.

MARJORIE
I think she really wanted grandchildren. She should have had prettier daughters.

BELINDA
Yes, she should have. But. I never thought you were ugly. Or I was. Not everyone is meant to marry and have all that. That’s all. And we’ve had good lives. Fun ones at times. We can eat whatever we want, any time we want. We’re not being bossed to death. Well, you’re a bit bossy, but that’s just you, Marjorie.

MARJORIE
I’m the oldest, I’m supposed to be bossy. Don’t take my purse. What’s wrong with your little yellow number?

BELINDA
It’s not big enough for my good nightie, my slippers and my reading glasses, plus my perfume, toothbrush and…

MARJORIE
Good heavens, why not just take a suitcase?

BELINDA
It would look awful strange to be lugging a suitcase about.

MARJORIE
I didn’t mean it. I didn’t mean you should go and pack a suitcase for your night out with…with the funny women.

BELINDA
I know. I was making a little joke. I tried fitting everything into my yellow purse.

MARJORIE
Why are you doing this?

BELINDA
I told you, your purse is three times the size of mine.

MARJORIE
You think, in all these years, I didn’t want to find some stranger and..and find out what all the fuss’s about? But it never happened. It wasn’t supposed to.

BELINDA
Well then…come with me.
[ Silence. Marjorie makes a sound like a snort. ]
We can go pick out a new tire and…drive somewhere nice. A nice clean friendly bar. And we could have fingersteaks, you love fingersteaks. With honey! And…and take our chances. Have a little fun. We’re old now, nobody cares what we do. We’re the only ones who care what we do! Come on, sister. I already put oil in. All you have to do is put on those nice slacks you got and you can borrow my silver necklace.

MARJORIE
I do like that necklace. It was on sale.
[ Belinda touches her hand. ]
Oh now…no. I’m not foolish anymore. And my leg hurts. It’s going to rain.

BELINDA
My knees say it is, too. Let’s be foolish. It could be nothing much will happen tonight…but what if it could? Umm?

MARJORIE
Because we’re not foolish women. We went to work when no one would marry us, like you’re supposed to when you’re ugly and poor. We toughed it out, lived here in this trailer for, what, almost thirty years now. You’re still young, you still think life will turn out wonderful…

BELINDA
I’m a year younger, I’m not twenty anymore, you still think I’m twenty. Life is what it is! I know that. But. I want to…to know a few things before I get slapped in a coffin. What it’s like to kiss someone and have them want to kiss you back. I want to eat a mango. I’ve been too afraid to eat one! I look at them in the store and go, what do you taste like? I dream at night about eating mangoes.

MARJORIE
They’re not a real fruit.

BELINDA
Why does it have to be an orange or an apple or a banana to be a real fruit??

MARJORIE
Maybe this is how you act before you have a stroke.

BELINDA
Oh stop. Every time I disagree with you, you tell me I’m sick or fevered or about to have a stroke.

MARJORIE
Your cheeks are all flushed and you’re yelling at me, what am I supposed to think? And you’re not serious about going out and finding some floozy, maybe that’s a joke, too.

BELINDA
I always yell at you. I’m not joking about this.

MARJORIE
Of course you are. You’re not going anywhere. You don’t have the nerve.

BELINDA
I do. I have just enough nerve.

MARJORIE
No, you don’t. Anytime anything goes wrong, you just give up. Look at Jack! One bad time with a boy and you…you gave up until now.

BELINDA
He broke my heart.

MARJORIE
So? You get over it. You never got over it… in fifty years? Has it been that long?

BELINDA
I loved him. I’m not shallow.

MARJORIE
No, you’re a scaredy-cat.

BELINDA
I am not. I’m a romantic.

MARJORIE
That’s another word for scaredy-cat. You were sixteen. Nothing sticks when you’re sixteen, it’s not the end of the world, ever, when you’re sixteen. You never grew up. Other people…

BELINDA
I grew up. I took up nursing even though I hated it. I worked. I saved my money. What about you? You’re not exactly blazing the trails. You’ve never even been in love. A few men make fun of you and you just…give up. Scaredy-cat!
[ Silence. The two glare at each other. ]
Everything sticks when you’re sixteen. Everything gets remembered years later. That’s the point. You’re supposed to live and love and have adventures so you can remember them years later. Well. I want to have my adventures. I want them. At least one adventure! At least one. And then…and then I’ll settle down and drink tea and play canasta with you until I die.

MARJORIE
If you hated nursing so much, why didn’t you go back to school?

BELINDA
And do what? Teach?? Oh I hate those horrible monsters, I’d have been arrested. I wanted to be a singer, but I can’t sing. I took lessons once, long ago. The lady was very nice, but she told me outright I couldn’t sing and it would be a waste of my money. Every dream I’ve had…has been killed.

MARJORIE
Do you think I wanted to drive trucks and school buses? It was just something I could do until my real life started.
[ Stops, does not look at Belinda. ]
But it never did.

BELINDA
You’ve had a good life! You always seemed happy.

MARJORIE
I made the best of things. They don’t teach that so well nowadays.

BELINDA
They don’t teach gumption, either. I have to go out and…see what’s out there tonight. Make this your best day ever. I read that phrase in a book yesterday. It…it stayed with me.

MARJORIE
So every day that follows will be terrible or you supposed to do crazy things every day?

BELINDA
I don’t know. I just know I want to go out and see what’s what.

MARJORIE
Cause of a book. What book?

BELINDA
Just a book.

MARJORIE
You never read. You do puzzles. What book?

BELINDA
I read.

MARJORIE
What book?

BELINDA
A book I found at the Dollar Store. Life Strategies or something like that, okay??

MARJORIE
You read a few pages in this book and…and turned all queer?

BELINDA
I don’t think they say queer anymore. I’m not queer. I don’t know what I am.

MARJORIE
Belinda. You are giving me a headache. And give me back my purse.
[ Grabs it, Belinda holds on. ]
It’s my purse!

BELINDA
You never go anywhere! Let go!

MARJORIE
Mine!
[ Has managed to wrest the purse away from Belinda. Wraps her arms around it. ]

BELINDA
I will hit you with your own cane if you don’t give that back. You know I’m not a peaceful sort.
[ Picks up cane. Marjorie makes a face. ]

MARJORIE
Oh. Oh fine.
[ Tosses purse at Belinda, who drops the cane to catch it. ]
Please use my purse when you’re out making sure you go to hell.
[ Sits down carefully, snorts. Belinda sighs, makes a face. ]

BELINDA
You’re an old crank. You were born an old crank. No wonder the men left you alone.

MARJORIE
Best be careful. This trailer is in my name, missy.

BELINDA
I’m your sister. You’d make me leave?

MARJORIE
I’m a very evil old witch, try me.

BELINDA
If I stay here…I won’t ever change. Nothing will ever change.
[ They look at each other, look away. ]

MARJORIE
You do whatever the hell you want.

BELINDA
Marjorie.

MARJORIE
You’re the only friend I got.
[ Belinda walks to her, after retrieving the cane. Marjorie takes the cane when Belinda hands it to her. ]

BELINDA
Come with me. Borrow my silver necklace.

MARJORIE
I have to do the dishes.

BELINDA
[ Kisses the top of her sister’s head. ]
Thank you for letting me use your purse.

MARJORIE
You’d have beat me with my own cane if I hadn’t.

[ Belinda laughs, walks off as the lights dim to black. End of play. ]

 


Ann Wuehler is a native Oregonian. She’s lived in China, visited Bangkok and taught in Lithuania and Honduras. She received my BA in Theatre from Eastern Oregon University and her MFA in Playwriting from the University of Nevada/Las Vegas. A novelist for Kensington Gore, with Oregon Gothic out now and more to come.

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