Category: Plays

[A Play About Love]

Characters
Ben
Justin

A park bench. Winter. Ben sits, looking at his phone. Justin enters. Ben notices him.

Ben: Hey there.

Justin: Hey. It’s cold.

Ben: Yeah. Sit.

Justin: Okay.

Justin sits.

Justin: So…

Ben: Thanks for coming.

Justin: Yeah. Of course. Lunch break so…thirty minutes. Make it good.

Ben: Ha. Okay, so…

Justin: Are you breaking up with me?

Ben: No.

Justin: Oh God. Good. Okay. Go ahead.

Ben: Why would you think I’m breaking up with you?

Justin: I dunno. I’m crazy. I dunno. Things have been kind of…weird lately.

Ben: Yeah.

Justin: I mean, it’s not that crazy to think you’d just want to end it.

Ben: It’s a little crazy.

Justin: See? Like that. You think I’m crazy.

Ben: You just said you’re crazy.

Justin: That’s different. Everyone thinks they’re crazy.

Ben: I don’t.

Justin: Well, we can’t all be Ben.

Ben: What does that mean?

Justin: Nothing. Nothing. It’s just…you do this ‘perfect’ thing. You just have a way of making people feel inferior because you’re so damn put together.

Ben: It’s not my fault people don’t have the self confidence to deal with mine.

Justin: I feel inferior when I’m around you. Sometimes.

Ben: That’s-

Justin: Crazy? It’s how I feel, Ben. And I don’t know if I can spend the rest of my life feeling that way.

Ben: The rest of your life? You’re talking like we’re married or something.

Justin looks away.

Ben: Justin…

Justin: We’ve been dating for eight months.

Ben: Exactly. Only eight months.

Justin: Well it’s significant to me. We’re not these young queer little sex fiends anymore.

Ben: I never was. And I hate that word, queer.

Justin: It’s serious now. I want to be with the person that I’m with for the rest of my life.

Ben: So, you think about marrying me? After eight months?

Justin: Yes! Yes, I do. And I think about it a lot. What’s the point of staying with someone if there’s not at least the potential of being with them forever? It just gets in the way of finding the real thing out there. Somewhere.

Ben: Wow.

Justin: So you honestly never think about us getting married?

Ben: I do not.

Justin: Then why are you with me?

Ben: Because I like how it feels. Right here. Right now. Who knows what’s coming? No one. So, this is here and this is nice and that’s all that matters.

Justin: I love you.

Ben: I love you, too.

Justin: Do you?

Ben: Jesus Christ!

Justin: Stop! Stop it! Stop making my feelings seem invalid and ridiculous.

Ben: I didn’t say anything!

Justin: You don’t have to. It’s so deep inside of you. It’s down the atomic level. Patronizing and condescending to the core.

Ben: Okay. Well how about you stop making me out to be some loveless monster? I’m tired of having to constantly prove to you that I care about you when anyone can see that I do nothing but. I’m not keeping you here. If you want to leave me and go out and find that real thing then, by all means, if it’s not me then I want you to go find it.

Justin: Are you not listening?! I don’t want to leave. You…us…this…this is what I want the real thing to be.

Ben: Okay.

Justin: What did you want to talk to me about?

Ben: Nothing.

Justin: Right.

Ben: Something.

Justin: Alright.

Ben reaches into his pocket and pulls out a key.

Ben: Here. It’s the key to my apartment. I know how much you hate your place and I’m going on that business trip tonight for a few days and, you know, for after that. Any time.

Justin takes the key, exhales.

Justin: I’m crazy.

Ben: You’re not. I know I’m not really the most emotionally available guy and I can be a lot to take. That’s why we work, you know. Balance. Everything about you, even the stuff that makes me want to break something, I love. I don’t mean to be condescending.

Justin: Really.

Ben: Sometimes. A little. But I never want you to feel inferior. There’s no reason to. First off, I’m far from perfect.

Justin: Now that you mention it…

Ben: And, secondly, you and your ambition and passion and talents…

Justin: Like that painting of your childhood dog I gave you for Christmas…

Ben: Best thing I’ve ever gotten. When I look at you, think about you, there is nothing but awe. And gratitude.

Justin looks at the key.

Justin: I’m totally going to rearrange your furniture when you’re away.

Ben: I figured.

Beat.

Justin: Dammit.

Ben: What?

Justin: It’s the real thing.

Ben: Scary, right?

Justin: Terrifying!

Ben: As long as we keep calling each other out when we’re being idiots I think we’ll be fine.

Justin: Agreed.

Ben checks his phone.

Ben: Well, I’ve gotta head to JFK. Flight’s in an hour.

Justin: Yeah, I should probably actually eat something during my lunch break. I’m working a double and Miranda’s been a grade-A ho.

Ben: Total ho. Well, see ya in a few. Movie night when I get back?

Justin: Totally. You’ll love where I put your TV. Knock’em dead out there, my corporate tool!

Ben: Keep serving your way to stardom, my starving artist. I love you.

Justin: I love you, too.

They kiss and exit.

Not My Son

Characters (in order of appearance)

Luke. Male, pre-teen
Myra. Female, 30s
Alex. Female, 20s
Michael. Male, pale-skinned, 30s
Marlon/??. Male, black, 30s
Joe. Male, black, 60s
Craig. Male, 40s

NOTES

This is a play about Michael Jackson or, more accurately, my interpretation of the man. As a way to truly explore him I have opted to create a sort of alternate reality biography to give readers/viewers the opportunity to experience Jackson (or my interpretation of Jackson) and certain members of his family without his bubble of super celebrity that seems to create a sort of wall of distortion, skewing our opinions of those existing on the other side. Overall, the piece will reflect the anti-celebrity sentiment in that it (lighting, set, and other effects) will remain wholly contained, intimate, and minimalistic.

~PLAY BEGIN~

Setting: New York City, 1991

ACT I

Scene i – Myra’s apartment. Living room.
The place is filthy and obviously owned by people with very little, despite its size and architectural hints of former extravagance. LUKE, 11, a fair-haired bright eyed boy, sits on the floor, playing with toy soldiers, lined up and ready for battle. He is wearing pajamas.

Luke: (grasping the general of one of the armies in hand) “Alright, gentlemen, this is what we’ve been waiting for. The enemy is right over there and they will not stop until every one of us is dead. Do you understand?” “Sir, yes, sir.” “I said, do you understand?!” “Sir, yes, sir!” “That’s more like it. On the count of three: One, two, three!” (Luke engages in wild battle between the two sides) Bam! Bam! Pow! Kssh! “Oh, no!” “My legs!” Ka-pssh! “Why can’t I feel my legs?!” “Henderson! Henderson, where are you?!” Bambambambam! “They’re coming from above!” Whoosh-whoosh-whoosh. “My arm!” “Why…why is everything so black? Why do I feel so…cold?” “I’ve got you!” “Aghhh!!!” “Tell my wife…I love her.” (silence falls upon the battlefield and no pieces are standing. Gently, Luke picks up the general, who takes in the gruesome results of war) “Miles? Rodriguez? Henderson? Report.” (there is no response) “Dammit. Dead. All of them. But at least we took out the enemy. At least we won.” (he grabs onto another fallen soldier, speaking for it with a female voice, he coughs and moans. He switches back to the general – the conversation flips back and forth between these two for the duration of the quotes) “What the…?” “Samuels? Jackson? Clemmens?” “They’re dead.” “You…monster. They were good men.” “Mine, too. The best I ever worked with. But this is war. People die. We know this when we sign up.” “Agh! My darn leg is broken. You gonna finish me off?” “This is war.” “Right. People die. I get it…But why does it have to be this way?” “It’s how it’s always been.” “That’s not an answer. This isn’t some game. Winning shouldn’t have to mean that other people suffer. (more silence) Shoot me then.” “I’m out of bullets.” “There’s a lot of guns around. Find one. (Luke moves the general around. The general reaches and lifts up a gun) There you go. That wasn’t so hard.” “Shut up.” (the general moves to the woman) “I hope this is worth all the lives we’ve ruined.”

MYRA enters, 30, but aged a great deal by a rough life etched with substance and other abuse. She’s wearing a simple elegant dress. She stumbles while inserting an earring and approaches Luke.

Myra: The hell is this?

Luke: I’m playing.

Myra: Go to bed. You have school in the morning.

Luke: It’s only seven-thirty!

Myra: Don’t yell at me! Get in the bath. Go to bed. Mommy has a business meeting tonight. And, Jesus Christ, Luke, clean up this mess.

She kicks the army men at the word “mess”. Lights go down as Luke cleans up his toys.

Scene ii – Michael’s living room.
The room is simple and impeccably clean. You can tell immediately that, while in no way lavish, the apartment and its contents are costly. Certain choices in color and decoration bring to mind the innocence and imagination of childhood. MICHAEL (Michael Jackson,33, a thin pale man simply dressed, always in long pants with long sleeves) hunches over a drafting table painting an illustration of a group of young boys and their dog. Moments pass and then his phone rings.

Michael: Hello?…Oh, hi Greg…Uh huh…Okay…Greg, we talked about this…Greg, listen to me. Listen to me, Greg…Uh huh…Greg, I don’t care about the money. The books are doing fine…Oh, I know…But I don’t want them to enjoy them because of a name attached to them. I want it to be for the art, for the characters, for the magic in those pages…Greg. This is what we agreed on. Either accept my terms or find a new series…(calms) Let’s talk about book five. I think that-

There is a knock at the door. Michael is genuinely surprised by this; even disturbed.

Michael: (to Greg) One second, Greg. Someone’s at the door…No, not at all…Hold on.

Michael places the phone on the table and moves to the door. He looks through the peephole.

Michael: Can I help you?

Alex: (offstage) Hi. My name is Alexis Wales. Alex. I’m looking for Mr. Michael Jackson. Do you know where I can find him? Does he live here? Is this him?

Michael: What do you want?

Alex: I just want to interview him…you…him. I sent a letter a few weeks ago…

Michael roots through a pile of unopened mail. He finds an envelop with her name on it.

Alex: I-I work for Cornerstone Publishing. We’re putting together a biography on Marlon, you know, Jackson, and we were trying to find any friends or family to interview.

Michael: How’d you know I was here?

Alex: Michael? I…well, the publishing houses have sort of a network sometimes and, contrary to popular belief-

Michael: Greg.

Alex: What’s that?

Michael: Nothing. Nothing. Hold on.

Michael goes to his table and picks up the phone.

Michael: You still there?…Yeah…I’m fine.

Alex: Michael?

Michael: (to Greg) I have to go…(coolly) You can bet we’ll talk later.

Alex: Michael?

Michael: Yeah?

Alex: Oh. There you are. We honestly didn’t expect to find you. That’s why they’ve been sending me around. I’m just an intern. Well, trainee. Wild goose chases are kind of my thing. But I found you! (beat.) So if you’d be kind enough to let me ask you just a couple questions-

Michael: Now’s not a good time. Sorry.

Alex: But-

Michael: Sorry.

Phone rings. Michael answers.

Michael: Hello?…Yes, I’m upset, Greg. We had an agreement…That’s not the point!…We’ll talk later. Bye.

Michael hangs up the phone. Beat.

Alex: It will only take fifteen minutes! Tops.

Michael: Please-

Alex: It’s nothing too intrusive, I promise. It’s a fluff piece, really. Just a PR stunt, to be honest, what with the new album.

Michael: (softly) New album? (to Alex) Please leave. I’m busy. I have work to do.

The phone rings once again. Michael raises the receiver and drops it on the table, off the hook.

Alex: (silence) Okay. Fine. To be honest, I don’t even care about this stupid biography. It’s flat. It’s dumb. It’s just a bunch of old photos strung together by empty text. There’s no art. There’s no challenge. I’m better than this, Mich- Mr. Jackson. I know it. The only reason I even took this job was that maybe- just maybe I could meet you. I remember listening to my sisters’ records growing up. You were the real thing. I just want to meet you, Mr. Jackson. I’ll leave my notebook, my recorder at the door.

Michael thinks and then opens the door. ALEX, (25, mousey and bright dressed in the casual style of her youth) steps in and begins to remove her notepad from her backpack.

Michael: No. Keep it. This was bound to happen sooner or later. Would you like some tea?

Alex: Uh sure. That’d be great.

Michael: Follow me into the kitchen…

Michael and Alex exit. Lights down as the phone busy signal erupts then fades as the scene ends.

Scene iii – Backstage
Marlon, 34, dressed in leather extravagance, enters, collapsing on a chair, exhausted and covered in sweat.

Marlon: Ah, shit man! Woo! Jesus.

JOE (63, a fierce confidence in a three-piece suit) enters slowly. There is a dark power in his every move as he nears Marlon, unbeknownst to the other.

Joe: You were off tonight.

Marlon jumps up, startled.

Marlon: Shit, man! Come back later. I ain’t in the mood right now…

Joe: (correcting) I’m not in the mood right now…

Marlon: Whatever, man…

Joe: Don’t “whatever, man” me, boy.

Marlon: You can’t tell me what to do, old man. You got no dominion over me!

Joe: Then why am I here?

Marlon: (deflates) What do you want?

Joe: I want you to be the best.

Marlon: Not this again…

Joe: Yes, Marlon! This again and again and again until you get your act together.

Marlon: I’m fine! Did you hear that applause out there? Did you see that crowd? I’m on my way!

Joe: At thirty-five you should be there already…

Marlon: They’re writing a book about me!

Joe: That don’t mean nothin’!

Marlon: (correcting, spiteful) That doesn’t mean anything…

Joe raises his hand to smack Marlon.

Joe: You ungrateful…

Marlon: I’m not afraid of you.

Joe lowers his hand.

Joe: You should be. You’re all washed up. You had you chance and you blew it.

Marlon: Get out of here.

Joe: You’re this family’s only hope.

Marlon: I said get out!

Joe: You won’t let me!

Marlon: Why me?! Huh?! What about the others? What about Janet?!

Joe: She abandoned us.

Marlon: (dripping with venom) And why do you think that is?

Joe: (hurt, but covering it up) You should be something better than this. Instead you’re on the fast track to being a nobody. Book or no book.

Marlon: (beat) I’ll never be him.

Joe: (beat) Work on the chorus. Your voice gets weak on the third measure. And your moves are getting sloppy in “Baby, I Need You.”

Joe exits.

Marlon: (beat) (determined) Thank you, daddy.

Scene iv.
Michael’s kitchen.
Like the living room, Michael’s kitchen is simple, modern, colorful, and pristine. He and Alex sit at the table, sipping tea. Alex is enwrapped by the other’s words.

Michael: Marlon and I used to get into so much trouble when we were on the road. There was this one time in Chicago when we were at the Drake Hotel. Jermaine and I always shared a room, but he was playing cards with Tito so it was just me and Marlon, bored, looking for something to do. We took the ice bag- you know that little empty plastic bag you fill up with ice? We took four or five of them into the bathroom and filled them up with water then tied them up. We thought we were so smart with our little makeshift water balloons. The two of us went out onto the balcony, a couple water bags each, and waited for someone to come by. We waited and waited. Marlon was getting impatient, but I told him it would pay off soon enough. After a while, the most perfect targets came around the corner. There was this tall skinny man in a three piece suit and a top hat with a feather in it. And beside him was this big round woman wearing a huge fur coat. They looked like they walked right out of a cartoon or something.

Alex: (laughing) How old were you guys then?

Michael: Hm. I was ten, I think. And he was eleven.

Alex: Wow.

Michael: Well we didn’t really get out much so mischief-making was kind of the closest thing we got to being kids on those rare nights without rehearsal. So we drop the first couple bags and- Nothing.

Alex: Nothing?

Michael: We didn’t really take into consideration how thick the plastic of the bags was. The bags fell and all but they just sort of hit the ground around them. No explosion of water. We didn’t even hit them! And Marlon and I were hiding inside by the time the man and woman looked up to see who was targeting them.

Alex: Hilarious.

Michael: That’s not even the end of it. Marlon still had one of those bags in his hand, full of water. Annoyed, he tossed the bag to me. As soon as that thing touched my hands it just – BOOM – water all over the place. We were drenched! And then Jermaine and Tito come running in and Jermaine sees that we got his favorite bell bottoms all wet – not to mention most of his bed. There’s a big commotion and then my dad walks in. Everybody goes quiet. It’s like there’s not a sound in the world. He walks up to me and Marlon with that intense look in his eye. I remember being so scared. He’s towering over us and he just raises his arm and…and…

Michael drifts off into his head.

Alex: Mr. Jackson? Michael?

Michael: (snaps out of it) Huh?

Alex: Are you okay?

Michael: Yeah. Yeah, I’m fine. Would you like some more tea? I have some cookies, too, if you’d like that.

Alex: No thanks. I’m okay.

Michael: Okay.

Alex: When’s the last time you saw them?

Michael: Who?

Alex: Your family?

Michael: (after a pause) I think about them a lot. I never doubted that our dad loved us but- Sometimes I don’t know if I had the best life or the worst life a child could possibly have. It wasn’t a childhood. That’s something I’ll never have.

Silence.

Alex: I should probably go. I have to report back to my boss and then some of my friends and I are- Well, that’s not important. I wasn’t planning on this actually working out. Me finding you, I mean. Like I said. It was great. Thank you for letting me in.

Michael begins to rise from his seat.

Alex: Don’t worry. I know my way out.

Alex starts off.

Michael: Alex…

Alex stops.

Alex: Yes?

Michael: Drop by again, will you?

Alex: (smiling lightly, sadly) Sure.

Alex exits. Lights fade with Michael, dejected.

Scene v. – Myra’s apartment. The living room.
CRAIG (43, a long-haired burnout in a Hawaiian shirt) and Myra stand on opposite ends of the room like a pair of hungry beasts, ready at any moment to engage. They are both high on something serious, Myra, decidedly less than Craig, who is also wielding a half-downed bottle of liquor. Myra is half-dressed for work, as a cashier at a fast food restaurant. The rest of her outfit is scattered around her.

Craig: (growling) Rrrrrruff! Grrrruff! Woof!

Myra: (clearly loving it) Craig, you leave me alone you animal!

Craig: Woof! Woof!

Myra fumbles to get dressed.

Myra: Stop it! I have work!

Craig: Just one more time, baby. Please, baby baby baby, pleeeeeease?!

Myra: You’re a fucking animal! You’re a horn-dog!

Craig: (whimpers like a puppy)

Myra: Help me find my shoes.

Craig approaches Myra and begins kissing her lips and neck. Myra tries to push him away.

Myra: Get off of me!

Craig takes her hand and forces it on to his crotch.

Craig: Mmmm, dirty whore. (growls)

Myra: Craig!

Craig: Goliath hungers…

Myra: You’re disgusting.

Craigs: Hungers for your pussy…Mmm. Woof! Woof!

Craig pulls her in and they begin to kiss and grope wildly, collapsing on the couch in a fit of passion.

Craig: Oh yeah, baby. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah….

Myra tries to break free.

Myra: Craig. No. No!

Craig: (mocking Myra’s voice) “No, Craig, don’t stop!” “No, Craig, do me harder!”

Myra spots her shoe, a pump, on the floor beside the couch and begins beating Craig with it.

Myra: I! Have! To! Get! Ready! For! Work!

Craig rolls off of her.

Craig: Oh, you slut!

Myra: I can’t be late again this week.

Craig: Call off sick!

Myra: I’m out of sick days, moron.

Craig: Rrruff!

Myra: Enough of that! Some of us have a job and a kid to feed.

Myra gets dressed.

Craig: Aw, baby, don’t do that… You know I’m trying to get my business off it’s feet.

Myra: Hmph. His asshole daddy had to go and get himself killed. Crackhead moron.

Craig: I just need a little money and all our problems’ll be solved, baby.

Myra: All I got in that deal was this shitty apartment and a needy whiney mouth I have to feed for another six years…

Craig: I’m gonna be better than he was, baby. I just need a little money. (innocently) Do you believe me?

Myra: Craig…

Craig: Do you believe me, Myra? You believe me, baby? Myra? Myyyyyraaaa?

Myra: (endeared) Stop that! Of course I believe you.

Craig: That’s my l’il fuck bear. Grrruff.

Scene vi – a practice space.
Marlon dances while Joe keeps time. Marlon is a skilled dancer, and knows this, but the fact means little because he wants to be the greatest; redefine the art, leaving him frustrated. There is a stool on which Marlon’s backpack sits.

Joe: Again! One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight… One, two, three. One, two, three. One, two, three, four. One, two, three. One, two, three. One, two, three, four. One, two. One, two. One, two. One, two, three. One, two. One, two. One, two. One, two, three. Again! One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight… One, two, three. One, two, three. One, two, three, four. One, two, three. One, two, three. One, two, three, four. One, two. One, two. One, two. One, two, three. One, two. One, two. One, two. One, two, three. Again! One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight… One, two, three. One, two, three. One, two, three, four. One, two, three. One, two, three. One, two, three, four. One, two. One, two. One, two. One, two, three. One, two. One, two. One, two. One, two, three. Again!

A pager beeps and Marlon breaks out of the dance.

Joe: What do you think you’re doing?

Marlon: It might be important.

Marlon pulls the pager from his backpack and examines it. A sudden wave of surprise and disbelief washes over him.

Joe: What? What’s goin’ on? Is it Epic? What did they say?

Marlon hides the pager so Joe can’t see it.

Marlon: It’s nothing.

Joe: That look on your face don’t make it look like nothin’.

Marlon: Well it is!

Marlon hastily puts on his backpack.

Joe: Where’re you going, boy? We ain’t done here-

Marlon: I need to find somewhere to think…away from you.

Marlon exits.

Joe: Marlon. Marlon!

Scene vii – Michael’s living room. Evening.
Alex is joyously looking through a set of illustrations. Michael watches, warmed by her presence.

Alex: You drew all of these.

Michael: (laughs) Yep. Every single one.

Alex: And you wrote them?

Michael: I did.

Alex: This is so incredible, you have no idea. There was a little boy and girl who I used to babysit back in Buffalo. Hunter and Hadley, but anyway, they LOVED these books. I would have to read one to them every night before they even thought about going to bed. And I loved it, too. The Johnson brothers going on adventures, getting into trouble, saving the day. It was so honest and innocent like a child, but there was always this deep, beautiful message weaved in.

Michael: That’s very nice of you to say.

Alex: I can’t believe you did these. I had no idea you were a gifted artist, too!

Michael: It’s funny, actually. We were a music family so that was mostly what we were exposed to around the house. On the road it was mostly variety acts. But when we were really starting to make it big, my brothers and I moved out to Los Angeles. While our mom and dad got everything together to move from Gary, I stayed with Diana Ross a lot.

Alex: The Diana Ross.

Michael: The Diana Ross. Yes. That’s the one. She was like a second mother to me and also shared her love of art with me. Van Gogh. Picasso. All the greats. She taught me to paint and ever since then drawing has been very important to me.

Alex: Interesting. And I guess the writing part came easy for you. You had been writing a lot of the Jackson 5 songs…

Michael: Well, there’s song writing and then there’s story writing. Songs are stories, but you can get away with being more symbolic and less detailed. Fortunately, while we were on the road we got a tutor named Rose Fine who really instilled a love of literature in me. I’ve been addicted to books ever since.

Alex: I remember one- it was my favorite -where Michel had fallen through the floor at this abandoned house and got stuck in the hole he’d made. He was so sure that no one would find him and that he’d live out the rest of his life cold and stuck and alone. Then Andy comes in with his flashlight and Jerry with his little emergency fanny pack and they get him out and Andy says…

Michael: “You shouldn’t be afraid, Michel. No matter how far you fall, even straight through the floor, your brothers are here to lift you right up out of that hole every time. As long as we stick together, we’ll never be stuck for good.”

Michael deflates at his quote’s end.

Alex: That’s it! (pause, taking in Michael’s sudden melancholy) Michael?

Michael: Yeah?

Alex: Are you okay?

Michael: I’m fine. Fine.

Alex: You miss them, huh?

Michael nods.

Alex: What happened? Why did you leave?

Michael: (pauses to gather his thoughts) It’s complicated. I- It was the late seventies and a lot of things were changing. I was changing. I had been for a while. I remember my whole childhood looking out at all the kids playing in the streets and having fun and I’d cry, alone so no one would see me. I cried because I knew that that kind of freedom was something I might never have. My father was a stern man. A rough man. Everything was for the music with him. Sure sports were good and good grades were good, but we were performers. I loved music. I love music, but we weren’t free. So I got older. The Jackson 5 became the Jacksons and we were all changing. I had acne. I’m talking bad acne and I felt so self-conscious. Even more separated from people. My brothers were falling in love and getting married. I wanted something else. And I was an adult then. I was eighteen. Berry Gordy and Motown records came to me about a movie called “The Wiz.” They were considering me for The Scarecrow. So I get a call from Berry…that call that every performer wants to get. He said, “Michael, you got it, man. You’re gonna be the Scarecrow. Now all you gotta do is accept the role. Just say “yes” man and you’re a movie star!” I remember being real quiet then. My whole little life flashing in front of me. The late nights of rehearsal, the applause, the tears, my brothers and sisters, Motown, Epic, the crack of my daddy’s hand against my face when I missed a step. I remembered those kids playing outside of the window and, while I loved my life, I truly, truly did, I felt like I was missing a whole other one. And if I said “yes” to that movie I knew, I KNEW that things would just get bigger and bigger and I wouldn’t be able to be something different ever again. So I said “no.” My dad, oh he was furious. My brothers didn’t understand. We fought a lot, then. “No.” I had always been stronger than people gave me credit for and when I finally uttered that word, uttered it against my very self, I rebelled from it completely. I abandoned the music and performance that had enslaved me so wonderfully. I abandoned my family because I knew they’d pull me back in and- (teary-eyed, pulls himself together). Not a day goes by that I don’t miss them…

Alex flips through the illustrations.

Alex: Johnson Boys Mysteries. Ha, it all makes sense. Five brothers going on adventures and saving the day. Even your pen name: Benjamin Screws…

Michael: “Ben” for the rat that I identified with so much. My first movie. And “Screws”…

Alex: Your mom’s maiden name…

Michael: Despite everything, I was raised in a house of love. We’ll all tell you the same. (pause) How are they?

Alex: Honestly, I don’t know. They’ve been interviewed by someone else. Like I said, no one expected you to be found. When I told my boss that I’d found you, they made a big deal of it and were going to send in our main writer…but I kind of told them that you made me promise that only I would interview you.

Michael: (smiling slyly) Did you now?

Alex: Yeah. I mean…I couldn’t…that was bad huh?

Michael: I can’t complain.

They share a smile. Alex checks her watch.

Alex: Agh, once again I am totally late and have loads of editing to do so…

Michael: I’ll see you soon.

Alex: Yes. Totally. Bye, Michael.

Michael: Bye, Alex.

Alex exits. Beat. There is a knock at the door. Michael answers, assuming Alex has returned.

Michael: That was-

Luke enters, looking especially frail.

Michael: Oh, hi there. I recognize you. You live across the hall, right?

Luke: Mmhm.

Michael: What’s wrong?

Luke: My mom isn’t home.

Michael: Oh, okay. Do you know where she is?

Luke: (shakes his head) No. Probably with Craig.

Michael: Oh. (thinks) Would you like to wait in here until she gets home? It’s okay, really. I was just about to make dinner. Are you hungry?

Luke nods, treads deeper into the living room.

Michael: Okay. You make yourself comfortable. The remote for the TV is right there. There’s some colored pencils and paper by the desk. I’ll whip us something up.

Michael exits. Lights down.

scene viii. – Split scene
The scene is split in three. The first is a smaller version of Michael’s kitchen. Luke is at the table, scarfing down pancakes as Michael mills about the kitchen. The second, a slice of Myra’s living room, empty. The third is simply an open space meant to be the hallway between Myra and Michael’s apartments. Empty as well. Lights are only on the kitchen until each of the other scenes become populated.

Michael: How are your pancakes?

Luke: (swallows) Good. I never had chocolate chip pancakes before.

Michael: (laughs)

Michael hands him a glass of milk.

Michael: Milk?

Luke: (mouth full) Mmhm (swallows).

Luke takes a gulp of the milk.

Michael: Did you sleep well?

Luke: Yeah. Your pillows were soft. A lot softer than mine.

Michael: (laughs) Glad to hear it. I slept well, too.

Luke: Plus you’re the only grown up I’ve ever met that has so many cartoons on tape.

Michael: I like them. Besides they go great with pizza party sleepovers.

Luke: This is true.

Michael: Eat up. We need to get you ready for school.

Michael sits and joins Luke in eating breakfast. As this happens, Myra and Craig enter Myra’s living room, worse for the wear, drunk, stumbling around the room and fumbling over each other’s bodies.

Craig: It’s fucking dark in here.

Myra: Light’s busted. I’ll fix it. Gotta call the landlord.

Craig: Fat Jew fuck.

Myra: Watch your mouth. There’s children.

Myra checks her watch.

Myra: Fuckin’ shit it’s late.

Craig: Early, you mean, baby. We partied all night long.

Myra: That’s NOT what I mean. You’re goddamned retarded sometimes, Craig. Goddamned retarded.

Craig: That’s not what you said last night…

Myra: Oh, God, Craig! Help me find my shoes. They’re somewhere.

Craig: This is no place for shoes. I’m taking a shit…

Craig exits as Myra searches.

Luke: Ahh…

Michael: Full?

Luke: Yeah, but those are SO good. I could probably eat twenty more.

Michael: Let’s see if your mom’s home so we can get you to school on time.

Luke: (upset) Okay…

Michael: Come on. Let’s go…

Luke picks up his plate.

Michael: Don’t worry about that. I’ll clean it up later.

Michael and Luke exit. Myra finds her shoe and waves it above her head. Lights rise over the final third of the stage as Marlon enters the lobby, hiding his face under a hood, bristling with nervous uncertainty, looking around.

Myra: There you are! Ha. Luke! Luke! Get your little ass out here so you can get to school! Luke!

Marlon exhales deeply. Luke and Michael enter Myra’s living room.

Myra: What in the-? Luke, get over here!

Myra grabs Luke and pulls him away from Michael.

Myra: Who the hell are you?

Michael: I live across the hall.

Luke: When I got home last night I was locked out. Michael let me stay over.

Myra: You stupid idiot, you know better than to talk to strangers.

Michael: He was locked out.

Myra: Get out of my house.

Craig: (offstage) What’s going on out there?

Myra: Nothing. (to Michael) Out!

Michael looks sadly at Luke then starts off.

Luke: Thanks for the pizza and the pancakes and everything, Michael.

Michael: Anytime.

Myra: Get out! Get. Out. Now!

Michael exits.

Craig: Myra?

Myra: Get a job! (to Luke) Get your shit together and get the hell to school. And stay away from that man, do you understand me? Do you?!

Luke: (head lowered) Yes.

Myra: Good. Now get your backpack. Get dressed.

Michael appears in his kitchen, melancholy. He begins cleaning up as Myra sits on her couch and takes much longer than she should to put on her shoes. Michael grows tired of cleaning and simply sits at his table, head lowered. Joe enters beside Marlon.

Joe: What the hell you runnin’ away from me for?

Marlon: (startled) Dad! Not now.

Joe: Don’t “not now” me! We were finally getting somewhere… Where are we?

Marlon: I told you. There’s something I gotta do.

Myra: Luke!

Joe: Far as I can tell, you’re just standing around like a bozo.

Marlon: I just need to…prepare.

Craig enters Myra’s living room.

Craig: Luke, get your scrawny little ass out here! (to Myra) I’ll be back, baby. I gotta get a fuckin’ plunger. Shit.

Craig exits.

Marlon: And I can’t do that with you all up in my face!

The phone rings in Michael’s kitchen.

Joe: Ungrateful.

Myra: Dammit, Luke!

Elevator beep sounds. Michael answers the phone.

Michael: Hello?

Marlon: Fuck! Someone’s coming. Get away!

Joe hurries off. Marlon pulls his hood over his face as Craig enters the lobby.

Michael: I’ll have them for you by today at four.

Craig walks by Marlon, then stops himself to examine the other as if he recognizes him from somewhere.

Michael: I had an unexpected guest.

Luke enters Myra’s living room.

Myra: For the love of- Took you long enough. Let’s go.

Myra grabs Luke’s hand and they both exit.

Michael: Fine. Today at two. I promise. I’ll work on them right now.

Michael exits. Craig, giving up exits as well, followed by Marlon.

Scene ix- Michael’s living room.
Michael is working hastily on his illustrations. There is a knock at the door. He gets up and answers. Upon opening the door he is shocked. Michael , teary-eyed, takes a few steps back, as Marlon enters to meet him.

Michael: M-Marlon?

Marlon: Hey, Michael…

Beat. The brothers embrace fiercely then awkwardly come apart. Marlon examines his brother’s face, then the rest of him.

Marlon: What happened to you?

Michael: (side-stepping the comment) You’ve hardly changed at all.

Pause.

Marlon: Ten years…

Michael: More. (pause) You seem to be doing well for yourself.

Pause.

Marlon: I’m doing alright, sure. (beat) You abandoned us.

Michael: I- I had to find my own way…

Marlon: We needed you, Michael.

Michael: I needed you, too, but… Time slips away. I never intended…to…

Marlon: You were the soul of this family.

Michael: I- No. I was the black sheep. I think I’ve proved that enough. You were always the heart.

Marlon: What’s the heart without a soul, Michael? What’s a song without a soul? We fell apart without you. I-I’m doing better than most, but…(beat) I missed you.

Michael: Would you like some water?

Marlon: No.

Michael: I’d like some. I’ll be right back. I promise.

Michael exits. Joe marches in.

Joe: Marlon…?

Marlon: (startled) Dad! Shit, man! What did I tell you about doing that?

Joe: Watch your mouth. (notices Marlon’s expression) Where are we?

Marlon: Nowhere.

Joe: What’s going on with you?

Marlon: Nothing. Go.

Joe: You look like you’ve seen a ghost.

Marlon: I said “go”.

Joe: (compassionate) Marlon, tell me-

Marlon takes Joe by the arm and leads him toward the door.

Marlon: Go. Go. Go. Go. Go…

Michael enters with a tray of water and a bowl of grapes, perplexed by what he’s seeing. He is wholly unaware of Joe.

Michael: Marlon?

Marlon freezes in his tracks. Joe lays eyes on Michael and can barely stand, he’s so surprised.

Michael: Are you alright?

Marlon: I’m fine! Fine.

Joe drifts toward Michael.

Joe: (warding off disbelief) Michael…?

Michael: I brought some water for you anyway. And grapes. I know how much you loved them growing up.

Joe is practically touching Michael.

Marlon: (to Joe) Stay away from him!

Joe stops, but continues to gaze.

Michael: Marlon?

Marlon: Grapes, ha, yeah. I couldn’t put those things down. Sure, I’ll have a couple.

Marlon joins Michael and they sit.

Michael: How is everyone?

Marlon: Good and married, most of them. Some more than once. Ha. But good.

Michael: Mom?

Marlon: It’s strange seeing her age, you know? But good. Real good. We all take care of her pretty well.

Michael: And dad?

Marlon glances at Joe.

Marlon: Dad is…driven as ever.

Michael: And you? Following his dream, I see?

Marlon: (sharply) My dream. Our dream. Someone had to. I don’t know what he’d do if no one did. After you ran Janet was right after you. And the music just kind of fell out of the rest…except Jermaine, but…it didn’t work out for him.

Michael: How’s Carol?

Marlon: (it takes a moment for him to remember) Oh. She and I didn’t work out. She just didn’t understand the dream, you know? Couldn’t handle it.

Michael: That’s a shame. I thought the two of you were in it for the long run.

Marlon: The same could be said about a lot of people. (pause. With a laugh) You know, there are times that I think about Brandon, silly as that seems. My poor little twin. I’ll be alone and I’ll think, “Maybe, just maybe, if he would have survived, maybe if there were two of us, if I were double, then I’d be able to be the performer you were. And other times I think, “Hey, maybe Brandon was the lucky one. He didn’t have to deal with any of this shit.”

Michael: That’s not fair.

Marlon: I know. I know. I have a new album coming out next year.

Michael: I know. With a biography release.

Marlon: I think it’s a big deal. Dad, on the other hand…

Michael: It brought us together…

Marlon: (pause) Look. I have a bunch of songs I’m trying to get just right. If I… Could I..? I’d love to drop by and run them by you.

Michael: I… Okay.

Marlon: Good.

Marlon stands up and backs away to the door.

Marlon: (to Joe) Come on.

Michael: Huh?

Joe looks longingly at Michael and eventually comes to Marlon’s side.

Marlon: (irritated) See you soon.

Lights down.

Scene x: Michael’s living room.
Michael and Alex are sitting next to each other on the couch. There are a number of toys scattered around and paintings on illustration board that were definitely not done by an adult.

Alex: Redecorating, are we?

Michael: (laughs) They’re Luke’s.

Alex: Luke?

Michael: He’s a little boy who lives across the hall. He stays here from time to time until his mother gets home.

Alex: Oh.

Michael: Yeah…

Alex: The things you miss when you go away for two weeks. Sorry about that, by the way. They had me editing this top secret crap autobiography on a politician, let’s call him Shmonald Schmeagan, that no one will care about. Trust me. And speaking of things that I missed…

Michael: Yes?

Alex: Marlon?

Michael: You publishing people have no concept of confidentiality.

Alex: Hey, man, all is fair in media and literature. Knowledge is in high demand and always on sale. Plus, it’s not our fault you didn’t read the contract closely enough. So…how was it? An emotional embrace? A climactic battle. What happened?

Michael: Ha, nothing like that. It was good. Really good.

Alex: You missed him, huh?

Michael: (pause) I did.

Alex: Will you see him again?

Michael: Actually, yes. And I have. He’s been stopping by for the past two weeks. I’ve been helping him with his dance moves and some song writing.

Alex: No way.

Michael: (laughs) Yeah.

Alex: Well, I’m glad it all worked out.

Michael: It did.

Pause.

Alex: It did.

The two of them stare awkwardly at each other and other points in the room.

Alex: So now that we’ve gone through all that I guess it’s time to address the elephant in the room.

Michael: You’re leaving.

Alex: Yeah. I mean, we’re just about finished the biography on your brother. So…

Michael: A new project.

Alex: In a new place, yeah. It’s a social piece on youth and gentrification. It’s called “Youthinized” which is pretty terrible but I’ll be doing research in Boston. You know, the Harvard effect on the townies and whatnot. Definitely more up my alley.

Michael: It’ll be a great experience.

Alex: (pause) Michael, I-

Michael: I’m going to miss you, Alex. I’ve been locked in this apartment alone for so long with my books and then you knock on my door and…and then Marlon and Luke… My life…It’s like opening that door and letting you in opened the door to possibility and God delivered. So, thank you for that. I, um…to show my thanks…I made you this.

Michael reaches and pulls out an illustration of the Johnson brothers and Alex with them.

Alex: Oh my God. Is this…?

Michael: You and the Johnson brothers.

Alex: This is amazing. Thank you.

Alex sits the illustration down and faces Michael. A deep seriousness takes her as she gently takes his hand in her own. Alex thinks to herself, then grabs the bottom of Michael’s sleeve as if preparing to pull it up. Sensing her intention, Michael jerks away.

Michael: No…

Alex: These past weeks visiting you have been amazing. The fact that my job has consisted of getting to know the man who inspired me through his music and moved me with his art and writing has been more than I could ask for. You are a loving, gentle, passionate person and the world would benefit from knowing more of you. Like I do. People like you shouldn’t be hidden from the rest of the world. They shouldn’t hide.

Michael: I’m not-

Alex: You are. But from what I honestly can’t comprehend. Remember when you told me about how you got so self-conscious about your acne that you’d hide away from other people? And then when you told me about…your condition?

Michael nods.

Alex: Well, we all have things about ourselves that’s the worst, but we can’t use those as excuses to not be more; do more. I mean, you’re in an apartment alone and you still-! (pause) Show me. Let me see.

Michael hesitates. Alex gazes into his eyes, unblinking. Michael nods. Alex takes his sleeve and rolls it up, revealing spots of brown going with the length of his forearm and beyond. Michael can’t get himself to look at it.

Michael: I-t’s called vitiligo. It targets melanin and…takes away your… I hate it.

Alex: Thank you.

Alex hugs Michael tightly, slowly letting go. She grabs her illustration and rises.

Alex: You are a beautiful person, Michael. And you can’t hide forever. Keep in touch. Goodbye.

Alex exits and lights go down.

scene xi -Michael’s bedroom.
Michael and Luke are leaping around, flapping their arms as if they were giant wings.

Luke: Michael!

Michael: Yeah?!

Luke: Where are you?!

Michael: I’m flying high in the sky over Africa and I’m using God’s power to cure the sick and feed the poor. Luke!

Luke: Yeah, Michael?!

Michael: Where are you?!

Luke: I’m in South America. There’s rebel fighters terrorizing a village and I’m burning them to ashes with Hellfire. Woosh! Woosh! Woosh!

Michael: I don’t know if an angel would do that.

Luke: Have you met an angel?

Michael: Well, not personally, but I’ve read about a lot. They are peaceful loving things…

Luke: What about the angel of death?

Michael: (pause) I guess all things have their purpose…

Luke: Exactly. Whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh!

Michael: (laughs) Come here, you!

Michael scoops Luke into his arms and spins around and around and around.

Luke: Whoa! Hey! Not fair! Let go! You don’t see me trying to stop you from feeding the poor!

Michael spins until sufficiently dizzy and they both fall onto the bed together, lying down short of breath.

Luke: Are you still sad that you’re friend’s gone?

Michael: I feel a lot better now. Thanks.

Luke: You’re my best friend.

Michael:(breathing in Luke’s words) Mmm.

Michael puts his arm around Luke as they lay in silence. Shortly after Myra enters the room, inebriated. She sees her son in bed with Michael and flips.

Myra: Ohhh, fuck no!

Myra crawls over Michael, smacking him as she does, and retrieves her boy.

Myra: You sick fuckin’ son of a fuck! My God! Luke, get over here!

Michael: Myra, please-!

Luke: Mom!

By the time Myra climbs off Craig has entered the room, having heard her exclamation. He can hardly keep himself upright he’s so high. Michael climbs off the bed and to his feet.

Craig: What’s going on in here?

Myra: I’ll tell you what’s going on here! This sick, sick monster fuckin’ sick fuck was sleeping with my baby!

Luke: Mom! Let go!

Michael: It’s not like that. Let me explain-

Myra: Ohh you aren’t gonna get away with this you…you pervert! (coddling Luke) Oh you poor, poor thing…

Michael: I just-

Myra: Shut up! Shut up!

Michael steps toward them. Craig, in a sudden burst of masculinity, places himself firmly between Michael and the others.

Craig: Stay back, man. (suddenly lucid, sly) The man in the hallway the other day. I knew I recognized him from somewhere. The pictures on your living room wall. I know who you are. And we’re gonna rob you for every penny that you have for the horrible, horrible things you did to this boy. Shame.

Craig takes Myra by the shoulder and leads the three out.

Luke: Michael! Michael…

Michael: Please, wait! Please…

Myra: I said shut up!

Myra, Luke, and Craig exit.

Michael: Let me explain…

Michael collapses onto his bed, distraught.

scene xii ” Luke’s room.
The set is mostly darkness with the option of a few hints to make the place actually look like a room. Luke, furious, is playing on the floor with his army men. As before the toys are split into two rival armies, facing one another.

Luke: This is war. Only one can win. And to the other, you can only hope that the winners are merciful. If they’re not you better pray to God that you die. (pause) Three. Two. One.

Luke pushes all the soldiers together into a crashing battle.

Luke: Blam! Blam! Blam! Pow! Krshh! “Aiieee!” “We have to win!” “No. We do!” Whoosh-whoosh-whoosh. “Somebody! I need back up!” “I’ll be right th-AHH!!”

There is a knock at the door in another room.

Luke: “We need more tanks!” Pow! Pow! “Head for cover!”

Craig: (offstage) I got it!

Luke: “The bastards are coming from the air now!” RrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrBOOM!

Craig: (offstage) Oh, hey officers.

Luke: “We can’t beat this.”

Craig: (offstage)Yeah. I called.

Luke: “We lost.”

Craig: (offstage) That’s right. The fucker is right over there. My girlfriend caught him in the act herself.

Myra: (offstage) It’s true. I did.

Luke: “It’s over.”

Craig: (offstage) Her boy’s right in there.

Myra: (offstage) Hold on.

Myra enters Luke’s room.

Myra: (sweetly) Luke, baby, the officers are going to want to ask you a few questions,okay? Now I know you’re in shock, but I need you to tell them everything you can. Michael is a bad man, remember? Just like we said. Just talk to the officers like we said and you’ll have whatever you want. A puppy. That new video game machine…the Super Nintendo, right?

Luke nods.

Myra: And all the games you want. A new house. Everything we’ve always wanted (pause). I know I haven’t been the best for you and I have a lot of demons…big, angry, powerful demons that you get the full force of…and I hate it. It kills me the way I treat you sometimes. Because I love you, baby. And I’m sorry. And I plan on getting help and making sure that you and I have everything we’ve ever dreamed of. All you have to do is talk to those officers like we talked about.

Luke: But-

Myra puts her finger to his mouth, silencing him.

Myra: Do it, baby. For us. I’m so tired of being angry all the time.

Scene xiii ” Emptiness.
Michael sits on a chair, head lowered, in handcuffs. A single light shines dimly on him as the rest of the stage is darkness. Silence is broken Michael’s light whimpers can be heard from time to time then fade away. When the silence becomes too much, Joe emerges from the darkness. This Joe is different than the one before in appearance and demeanor. He is dressed in a white tank top, blue jeans, and work boots, grease- and sweat- stained from head to toe. Joe circles Michael, who begins to whimper once again. Standing directly in front of Michael, Joe stands perfectly straight and smacks Michael hard against the face, snapping the other out of his gloomy trance.

Michael: D-dad?

Joe: That’s right, Michael. You couldn’t run away from me forever. You know that. It was only a matter of time before this little fantasy came crashing down around you and you’d come crawling back.

Michael: I’m not crawling back-

Joe: Of course you ain’t. You’re too proud for that. A little more like me than you’d like to admit, you always were. It’s why I pushed you so hard. Because I knew you had the stuff of greatness. The real thing.

Michael: I know-

Joe: I know you know, Michael. But knowing ain’t nothing unless doing follows. You really messed up not accepting that Scarecrow part. This. This right here. This is just the fruits of your mistake, twenty years later.

Michael: I didn’t do anything.

Joe: Don’t matter. Either way, you’re bringing shame to our family name. Marlon’s trying so hard…

Michael: What do I do?

Joe smiles a little.

Joe: You stick with me, boy. We got ourselves a brand new decade and a whole Hell of a lot of people hungry for something a whole lot better than that 80’s jive shit.

Michael: I’m not that-

Joe smacks him again then composes himself immediately.

Joe: You don’t know what you are, Michael. I made you. I…love you. I know. And I will not stop until you fully comprehend that. Understand?

Michael holds his father’s gaze then let’s his head drop, exasperated. Lights down.

ACT II

 

[notes]

The second act is a departure from the world of the first. Most notably, the use of defined scenes and locales will be replaced with a more fluid emptiness; the sort that the first act left us with. Characters and items will float in and out of the emptiness as needed. At times escaping from reality, at others, escaping to, in Act II we have entered a deeper circle of the mind of our protagonist.

Michael is dressed in black pants and a long sleeved white button-down shirt. Marlon is dancing and Michael is considering his moves. They have been at this for a while. The chair that Michael was seated in at the end of Act I remains on stage. Marlon comes down from his dance-high and takes a swig from his water bottle.

Marlon: How was that?

Michael: Good. That was much better.

Marlon: But…

Michael: But don’t forget to keep your arms sharp.

Marlon: Damn arms…

Michael: (laughs) Yeah, but from the waist down you’re killing it.

Marlon: Thanks, Michael. This is a huge help.

Michael: It’s no big deal. It’s the least I owe you. And it feels good to be involved in this world again…

Marlon: I bet it does. I’ve got a thing I gotta be at in an hour. Come on, let me take you out on the town… It’ll be like old times.

Michael: No. No, I’ve got work to do.

Marlon: That kiddie stuff can wait, Michael.

There is a moment of awkward silence between them. One of sadness and understanding. Michael smiles and produces a piece of paper from his pocket.

Michael: This is a little something I was working on in the old days. I tweaked it a little recently. I think you should consider it for your album. It’s pretty heady.

Marlon takes the paper, examines it. He bops his head to the written lyrics and notes.

Marlon: “Not My Son”.

Michael: Working title.

Marlon: Nice, man. Thanks. Same time next week?

Michael: I’ll be here.

Marlon: Cool. Bye, Michael.

Marlon exits. Michael takes a seat and his demeanor shifts to one of deep sadness. Marlon reenters, also transformed. He is doused in a cloud of shame and regret.

Marlon: Michael…

Michael: Marlon.

Marlon: Hey.

Michael: Hi.

Marlon: This is some shit, man. (pause) This is bad. Real bad. (pause) You’re my brother and I’m gonna help you get outta this. If you need money for a lawyer or whatever, you know, just let me know. (pause) The thing is, I’m trying to build a career here. My new album is, it’s right around the corner. This is it. I can feel it. And, you know, yeah, we’ve been apart for a while but I couldn’t have done it without you these…couple… Until this blows over, I’m going to have to keep my distance. I can’t drop by like I used to. They’ll…

Michael: I’m getting evicted.

Marlon: (shouts) Damn it, Michael, how the hell did you get all mixed up in – ?! (calms) Let me know if you need anything.

Marlon starts for the exit, then turns back to his brother.

Marlon: Did you….?

Marlon thinks better of it and exits. Michael produces a bottle of pills and gazes at it like a strange quirk of nature. A phone rings. Michael puts the pills away, reaches behind himself, and pulls a receiver out of nowhere.

Michael: Hello? Oh, hi Greg…I’m…okay. Yeah, I called you earlier about the deadline for my next book. I didn’t hear back from you so…Uh uh. Right. Well, I think that might be a little drastic seeing as I don’t even use my real name…Then figure out another arrangement. Another name. I-I can put together a new series…with a whole new style…What do you mean they’ll know?…(irritated) Then figure something out!…Greg, I have given you quality work for years. You can’t just let one bad tabloid ruin our relationship. I am so close to finishing this last album…Book. That’s what I said…Don’t abandon me, Greg. Don’t you dare abandon me. (pause) Greg? Greg?

Michael puts the receiver away. Once again he produces a bottle of pills, this time opening it and taking a few, swallowing it with a swig from Marlon’s water bottle. Alex enters, dressed for the Summer, am expression of concern on her face.

Alex: Michael?

Michael notices her, rising from his seat.

Michael: Alex?

Alex runs to the other, taking his hands in hers.

Alex: Oh, Michael, how are you?

Michael: Fine. How did you find me?

Alex: I looked. Nice place you have here. Cozy.

Michael: I had to move-

Alex: I figured. (pause) I came down as soon as I heard. Sorry it wasn’t sooner. How are you holding up?

Michael: How’s Boston?

Alex: Not the speed I’m used to, but it’s been great. I’m learning so much. (instantly excited and bubbly) Oh my God, can I have your autograph?!

Michael: What?

Alex: (back to normal) I asked if you’ve been writing much lately?

Heartbeat.

Michael: Oh. No. A little. I’ve been painting mostly. It’s been therapeutic.

Alex: (excited and bubbly) I love you, Michael!

Michael: Alex?

Alex: (normal) I’d love to see some. If that’s alright.

Heartbeat.

Michael: Y-yeah. Sure.

Alex: (bubbly) Have my babies!

Michael: Alex!

Alex: (normal) What?!

Heartbeat.

Alex: Are you alright?

Michael: I think I-

Alex lets out an excited shriek, which Michael reacts to. Heartbeat.

Alex: Should I call someone…?

Michael: No. No I’m fine.

Starting as a small whisper, the sound of a cheering crowd gradually grows louder and louder as it shifts into hundreds shouting “Micheal! Michael! Michael!” etc… in unison. Only Michael can hear this. The sound becomes nearly unbearably deafening and then stops completely. Michael is barely holding himself together and Alex isn’t sure whether to help him or run.

Alex: Michael?

Michael: (exasperated) Thank you for coming, girls, but I have to go.

Alex: It’s Alex. I’m Alex, Michael.

Michael: Alex. I’m sorry you have to go. Keep in touch.

Alex kisses Michael on the forehead, gives Michael one final saddened look, then exits. Michael, alone, returns to his chair. It is obvious that the effects of the pills are becoming greater. Craig and Myra enter, excessively and outlandishly dressed as wealthy socialites. They enter with a table and chairs, seating themselves at either end. Michael is invisible to them.

Craig: (in a bad British accent) Pass the Grey Poupon, love?

Myra: (with a similar accent) Oh certainly, my dearest.

Craig: Do you recall mustard, dear?

Myra: I don’t think I do.

Craig: Dreadful stuff, really. Now, Grey Poupon…that’s the rich man’s condiment.

Myra: And you are a rich man.

Craig: Quite right. And you, milady, a rich woman.

Myra: Oh, stop!

Craig: It’s true. Accept it.

Craig lifts his glass.

Craig: And now a toast to our benevolent benefactor.

Myra lifts her glass.

Myra: A toast!

Craig and Myra: To Michael!

They toast and drink. After swallowing both burst into laughter. Craig then pulls out a newspaper.

Myra: Craig, it’s rude to read your newspaper at the table during dinner!

Craig: Not when you’re rich!

They both laugh. Craig pages through the newspaper.

Craig: “Younger Jackson Brother Charged with Sexual Abuse”, “Jackson Settles Outside of Court”, “Jackson Exhibits Strange Behavior”, “Michael: The Man Who Won’t Grow Up”, “Wacko Jacko on the Loose!”

Michael: That’s not me!

Myra and Craig go silent for a second as if uncertain as to whether they heard something or not.

Myra: Dessert?

Craig: I thought you’d never ask.

Myra: (singing) Oh, butler! Butler-boy!

Luke enters, dressed in black.

Luke: (to Myra and Craig) Yes, ma’am? Sir?

Myra: We’d like some dessert.

Luke: What kind?

Myra: (annoyed) What kind…

Luke: Ma’am! What kind, ma’am?

Myra: That’s better. I’m in the mood for some ice cream, I think.

Craig: Gelato.

Myra: What’s that?

Craig: Rich people don’t eat ice cream, love. It’s called gelato.

Myra: Oh. Right. We’ll be having the gelato then.

Luke: What flavor…ma’am?

Myra: Strawberry.

Craig: Chocolate for me, boy.

Luke: Sure. Okay.

Luke starts off but stops just short of exiting. When he stops, Myra and Craig freeze. Luke turns to Michael, the two fully aware of each other. Regret permeates Luke.

Michael: Luke.

Luke: Hey, Michael.

Luke approaches the Michael.

Luke: I’m so sorry…

Michael: It’s not your fault.

Luke: They told me what to say…

Michael: I know…

Luke: I knew it was wrong, but she…

Michael: You don’t have to explain. She’s your mother.

Luke: They needed the money. She told me what to say! I knew it was wrong!

Michael takes Luke in his arms.

Michael: It’s fine, Luke. It wasn’t your fault.

Luke: I miss you, daddy.

Michael pulls away, startled. Shaking.

Michael: What did you call me?

Luke: You seem cold, daddy? Can I get you something? A blanket?

Michael: What?

Luke: A blanket! Blanket!

Michael: Who…are you?

Luke: We miss you, daddy…

Michael: Who are you?!

Luke: (composed) I have to get gelato for the master and missus.

Luke exits, Myra, Craig, table and chairs with him. Michael is suddenly hot. He unbuttons his shirt. He’s wearing a white tank top underneath. Michael pops a couple more pills.

Michael: What is this?! What’s happening to me?! Why, no matter what I do, does nothing feel right?! What more can I do?! What more can I do…

Joe enters, dressed as a larger-than-life businessman in a purple suit, wearing also a black fedora.

Joe: You know what. (pause) Have you talked to your mother? (pause) Writer forget how to speak?

Michael rises.

Michael: You did this…

Joe: I did nothing but love you…

Michael charges at his father and the two engage, one struggling against the other until they are both on the ground, grunting, sweating, straining, giving it their all. Joe loses his hat in all the action. Eventually, Joe slips from the struggle, watching, pained, as Michael remains on the floor, continuing to fight alone. Joe looks up to heaven then back to his son with determination. Joe exits. Michael calms, breathing heavily. He looks around realizing that he is alone. He pulls himself into his chair. He produces the pills, stares at them intently, then throws them offstage. Then enters [Marlon], looking and seeming at peace to the point of utter enlightenment. He is dressed from head to toe in a white suit, including a white flat cap and gloves. He is holding the pill bottle in his hand.

[Marlon]: Yo, bro. What’s happenin’?

Michael: M-Marlon?

[Marlon] shakes his head.

Marlon: Nope. It’s me.

Michael shrugs.

[Marlon]: It’s Brandon.

Michael: Brandon…

Brandon: It’s good to finally meet you, bro.

Brandon gives Michael a quick hug then pulls away.

Brandon: Truly.

Michael: That’s impossible…

Brandon: You of all people should know that nothing is impossible.

Michael: Brandon. You’re…d-

Brandon: Dead. Yes. I tend to think of it as existing happily on a higher plane.

Michael: Does…does that mean I’m…

Brandon: Almost. Not quite. But almost.

Michael: H-how?

Brandon raises the empty bottle of pills, gesturing to them as well.

Brandon: Life, bro. Sometimes I’m glad I only got to live it for a day. Ha.

Michael: If I’m dead than what happens. Marlon…

Brandon: Oh, my twin is fine. He and Carol are happily married with three kids. Four grandkids…But you know this…

Michael: No. But…he’s pursuing a music career. He never married…

Brandon: Think hard, Michael. That wasn’t Marlon. You pursued the music career. You became the star. Maybe the greatest there ever was.

Michael: No.

Brandon: (laughs) Bro, come on now. You know how they say that right before folks die they see their lives flash before their eyes? Well, there are other times where people see the lives they could have had…or wish they had. There was a lot of pressure on you, Mike. From your family, from the world, and most of all from yourself. It’s no wonder your final thoughts are of the alternative. Living the quiet life as a writer, nobody knocking on the door, judging you. But the truth always comes crashing in. You can’t hide forever. The price of the spotlight is hefty, Mike, and you paid it in full, in advance, and…ultimately. They loved you. You loved them. They hated you…and you hated you too, sometimes. This was a pretty little fantasy you created for yourself, but this simply isn’t you. It’s not who you were meant to be. Who you are. Because for every person accusing you of being crazy or some sort of sexual monster there were literally millions who saw your beauty, your innocence, your drive to heal. Heal everything. There was your family. Your friends. Diana. Berry. Quincy. Liz. There were your children, Michael.

Michael: (remembering) My children… I remember. I remember everything…

Brandon: A world that had never known you, Michael…well, thank God we’ll never have to know how that sentence ends. Now, what say we let go of this fantasy and you show me what you got. Come on. I’ll join you.

Marlon steps up. Michael joins him. A light washes over the both of them and Michael is completely taken by it. Michael reaches down and puts on Joe’s fedora. Marlon then removes his right glove and hands it to Michael with a smirk. Michael nods and puts it on.

Brandon: Ready?

Michael nods.

Michael: One, two, three, four…

The two dance in perfect sync, better than anything Marlon had achieved earlier in the play. After some time Brandon backs away, watching his Michael with awe, further and further until he exits. Michael’s moves become faster, more complicated as the cheering once again surges into “Michael! Michael!” etc… He does the moonwalk and the beep of a heart monitor rises as the cheers subside. The dance grows more intense, sprawling fluid gestures with sharp edges, faster, faster, faster as the beeping becomes more and more frequent. At once, Michael stops dead center, the monitor/beeping flat-lines, and lights go out.

~PLAY END~

Barbed Wire Oak

CHARACTERS

SKYE- airborne dreamer

ROSE- grounded beauty

BARTENDER (MILES)- traveled wiseman

STONE- rugged soldier

WEED- conniving flower

ORION- distant hunter

AMBER- exotic trapster

SAM LONGHORN- wily prey

JUNIOR: childhood friend

The set is set up into three distinct scenes, each fully visible and of equal stage presence. One scene is a bar, which should be as simple as a partial bar and two barstools. The second scene, a living room, can be a old couch, a rusty lamp, and an old coffee table. The third scene, a bedroom, can be a bed and an end table.

-PLAY BEGIN-

At the start of the play, Skye (at the living room scene) stands downstage, gazing dreamily out of an unseen window. Rose (in the same scene), sits on the couch thumbing through a magazine, secretly listening to the other with escalating irritation. Stone sits at the bar, facing upstage, head lowered. The Bartender is cleaning out a glass behind the bar. The Weed sits upright, hand around a mug of beer. In the bedroom, Orion and Amber kiss passionately, sitting at the downstage corner of the bed. All characters in the bar and bedroom scenes are completely motionless.
Skye. The rain falls so hard upon the fragile landscape. Lightning strikes, launching brilliant streamers of white across a gray and black sky. Then comes the thunder, pounding against the already weakened earth, causing all things, my heart included, to tremble. I could sit here-
Rose. Shut up.
Skye. Pardon me?
Rose. I said shut up, Skye. Come away from the window. Come to me.
Skye. (Focused outside) A squirrel. Look how it scampers about the yard, overcome with fear as the world around him rages onward, unfeeling toward the small creature, but a raindrop in the ocean of existence.
Rose. Skye-
Skye. He looked at me. The squirrel looked at me.
Rose. Skye, please-
Skye. For a second only, but, I-I think I could see the pain in its eyes. And the fear. The confusion. It wonders how I am permitted to live safe and warm inside this house while it is forced to survive under the cruel hand of mother nature-
Rose. Stop it, Skye! Just stop it! You can’t spend your entire life staring out of the window. There are far more important things like getting a real job, nine-to-five. Like going out into the world and meeting people. Like the fact that I’m carrying your child.
Skye. (Pause) No. You’re not. That’s impossible. You’re not carrying my child. I’ve never…been with you. I’ve never been with anyone. Ever.
Rose. Three weeks ago, Skye. You went to a party with Junior. My party. Your friend Junior. We met. I was extremely drunk and you were getting there. We found an empty bedroom, drank some more, and then we made love. We made love.
Skye. No. No, you’re crazy. You’re lying. I never went to any party. I don’t know any Juniors. We never had sex. Ever. (Returns attention to window) Such pain in his eyes.
Rose. Junior warned me about this. About the way you can just block memories from your head. You just…block them out and ramble on about nothing, hoping the memories, the reality, would just disappear. They won’t disappear. He warned me.
Skye. Such pain…
Rose. I’m going to make some tea. (Exit)
Skye and Rose freeze. The Weed takes a drink. Stone snaps out of a trance as the Bartender (Miles) continues to clean his glass
Stone. Miles, make me another one o’ those fruity numbers. My wife, Lily, she loved those. (Bartender gets to work on the drink) (to The Weed) Hey. You.
Weed. Yea?
Stone. You drunk?
Weed. Not yet.
Stone. Good.
Weed. Why?
Stone. You ever touch a kid before?
Weed. What?
Stone. You heard me. Have you ever touched a kid before? In the way no kid should ever be touched. In the way that hasn’t been legal since the Renaissance.
Weed. What the-? You mean-? No! ‘Course not! Who are-?
Bartender. (Gives Stone drink) Here you go.
Stone. (Takes a drink, eyes locked on the Weed) Good. Good. ‘Cause if you did I’d kill you. Right here. In front of everyone. (Moment of awkward silence. Stone takes a drink) Couple months ago someone took my little girls. Twins. Five years old. He took ‘em from a playground into the woods. Raped ‘em then killed ‘em. Cops found the bodies but never the mother fucker who did it do them. I can’t for the life of me understand why, how a human being could do a thing like that. Mental illness, maybe. Got abused as a kid. Sick bastard couldn’t get any from a lady his age so he thought he’d have a go at someone who couldn’t fight back. Doesn’t matter either way. (Takes a drink)
Weed. Wait. Yea, I recognize you now. You’re the dad. Stone Harper, right? Sick murder, I remember. All over the news.
Stone. Cops didn’t find jack shit. My wife left me a little while later. Said she couldn’t look at me because I reminded her too much of the girls. I got nothin’ now. No wife, no kids, no answers. Cops did nothing so I thought I’d do some detective work on my own. My brother sent me here. He’s a little guy, artsy type, but for some reason his idea of a good time is hanging around these kinda places with the scum o’ the earth.
Weed. Thanks.
Stone. Said it brought him down to earth. He told me about this place. He said it was a haven for all kinds of criminals. A place where questions could be answered for the right price. I never did understand my brother’s taste in friends…or lovers for that matter. (Stone takes a drink) Good kid, though. Confused. But good.
Weed. Well, I-I’m sorry about your loss, Harper, but if you’re looking for some sort of information from me…I got nothin’.
Stone. The Weed, right? That’s what they call you? (Weed nods. Stone reaches into his pocket) My brother told me about you. Said you’d say exactly what you did. (Stone hands a wad of cash to Weed) Said this would change your mind. I need you to find out who did this. I need to make them pay.
Weed. (Pause. Weed takes the money) I’ll see what I can do. (Exit)
Stone lowers his head onto the bar. Bartender faces Stone, concerned. Both freeze. Orion and Amber kiss passionately then pull away from each other, gazing into one another’s eyes
Amber. I love you.
Orion. I love you.
Amber. Do you?
Orion. More than anything, Amber. How was work?
Amber. Good. Five hundred dollars in tips. And no one tried to grab my ass.
Orion. Good. Very good. (Reaches for her butt) Very, very good. (Begins to kiss her neck)
Amber. Ry?
Orion. Hm?
Amber. Do you really love me?
Orion. Yes. Always. (Continues to kiss Amber)
Amber. (Orion’s kisses seem to hurt her. Pause) Orion, what do you do at night when you’re away for hours?
Orion. I go to O’Malley’s sometimes, with the guys from work. We talk business, have a few drinks, you know. Nothing, really. (Continues to kiss Amber)
Amber. Orion. Who is Sam?
Orion. (Stops kissing Amber. Slowly pulls away from her) Sam. I-I don’t know…Hm. How do you know about Sam?
Amber. Last night. You came in late. You tried to be quiet about it. You were on the phone with her. With Sam. I pretended to sleep. The things you said to her were the sort of things you should only say to me. (Amber cries)
Orion. (Places hand on Amber’s shoulder) I never said “I love you.”
Orion and Amber freeze. Skye continues to stare out the window. Rose returns with two cups of tea. She sits them on the coffee table.
Skye. (He hears Rose enter) The squirrel is gone. Into the great oak tree. It’s safe now. With its family. (turns to Rose. Moves to her) I did go to that party. I did meet you there. We did have sex.
Rose. I know.
Skye. (Sits beside Rose) You’re having a baby. I’m going to be a father.
Rose. Yes.
Skye. Wow. And I was going on about squirrels.
Rose. (Giggles) Yes. You were.
Skye. What do we do now?
Rose. I don’t know.
Skye. Hm.
Rose. Hm.
Skye. (Glancing out of the window) This storm won’t be stopping anytime soon. The squirrel, he’s going to be inside that oak for quite some time. Safe. Warm.
Rose. Plenty of time for us to talk.
Skye. Yes. Talk.
Rose. Would you like some tea?
Skye. Certainly.
Skye lifts the drink to his lips. He and Rose freeze. Bartender places a drink in front of Stone. Stone is inebriated.
Stone. It’s all gone, Miles. Everything. Everything I’ve ever loved. Forever. I have to find who did this to me. It’s all that keeps me alive, Miles. This thirst for answers. And most importantly, revenge. Not the most honorable motivation, I know, but it’s all I’ve got to get me out of bed in the morning.
Bartender. (Spends time cleaning out glass) Are you sure this is what you want, son? A guy in your position is in no condition to act like some kind of vigilante in this town. You’ll end up dead.
Stone. No. I won’t die. I can’t. Not until I kill the man who did this to me. (Removes gun from coat and places it on the bar)
Bartender. Suit yourself, son. It’s not my job to tell nobody how to live their lives. Just to make them forget a little. Drink up.
Stone grabs his drink. Stone and Bartender freeze. Amber moves away from Orion.
Orion. I love you, Amber. You know I love you. I’ve always loved you. I never stopped once. This…Sam… It’s nothing. Only talking, mostly. Kissing sometimes. Once, maybe twice…in a week. No sex. Never. That’s ours. All ours. (Pause. Amber doesn’t move) Stay there. (Orion exits for a short time and returns with some water) Here. Drink this. (Amber takes the water, still facing away. At this point, Skye, Stone, and Amber drink at the same time. Skye and Stone freeze after first gulp) I know there’s no possible way that I can make this better in your mind. I know that. I do. It’s just that- you know me. You know that I sometimes…want to try new things. Different…things.
Amber. (Crying) Fuck you.
Orion. Amber. Every night you go to work and you take off all your clothes and you dance for strangers and have I ever complained once? No.
Amber. Dammit, Ry, I do that for the money, not because it’s new and spontaneous. I’m not a whore.
Orion. We don’t need the money and-! (Calms) I know you’re not, baby. I know that. And neither am I. All we do is…talk.
Amber. And kiss.
Orion. And touch. Sometimes.
Amber. (Pause) Invite her over.
Rose and Skye take a sip of tea.
Skye. So…I suppose, with this baby…this…gift from above…we should live together.
Rose. Of course.
Skye. And, if at all possible, we should try to love one another.
Rose. Naturally.
Rose and Skye lean in to kiss each other and freeze just before contact.
Orion. What?
Stone takes a drink. He’s drunk.
Stone. (to Bartender) Maybe you’re right, ya know. Maybe I should just give up. Maybe I should just pack up and get on with my life.
Bartender. Sounds like the most intelligent thing you’ve said all night, son.
Stone stumbles off his barstool. He tries to exit but is stopped by the abrupt arrival of Weed, holding a manila envelope.
Weed. Mister Harper. I did it. I made a few calls. I found the guy you’re looking for.
Stone freezes, surprised. Bartender and Weed freeze.
Amber. Invite Sam over. If she’s so wonderful. So great to talk to. I should meet her. Maybe we could all do a late dinner. Catch a movie. Come back home. Talk. And kiss. And touch until the wee hours of the morning. Would that be different enough for you?
Orion. (Pause) Are you-? I mean, really?
Amber approaches Orion. Skye and Rose kiss passionately then freeze.
Amber. (Smacks Orion) Call Sam.
Orion and Amber freeze. The characters of the bar scene unfreeze. Stone snatches the envelope from Weed.
Weed. That envelope’s got everything you need to find the guy who killed your kids.
Skye and Rose unfreeze.
Skye. We should go for a walk.
Rose. But it’s raining.
Skye. We should put on coats…and then go for a walk. (Exit Skye and Rose)
Stone. Everything?
Weed. Address. Phone number. Places he frequents. Rough description. I didn’t have time to take a photo or nothin’.
Stone. It’s fine. Fine. Thanks. Goodbye. (Exit)
Weed. My work here is done. (Counts his money) Time for me to visit the love of my life. And then, when I’m all tuckered out, I’ll get home to my wife. (Exit)
Orion. (On his cell phone) Hey, Sam. It’s Orion. Uh…could you come over for a bit? See ya. Bye.
Amber runs off. Orion runs off after her. For a while the lone Bartender cleans out a glass, letting out a tired sigh. The sound of a clock ticking endures for about ten seconds. Skye and Rose return to their living room, throwing their coats on the couch.
Skye. (laughing) I am not going to have a son named Rufus.
Rose. (laughing) Aw, I think it’s a wonderful name.
Skye. What about Caleb?
Rose. I seriously hope you’re joking.
Skye. Caleb is a wonderful name.
Rose and Skye freeze as Amber rushes into the bar scene, escaping the cold. She sits down.
Amber. Gimme anything. Something strong.
Enter Orion
Orion. Amber. There you are. I’ve been looking all- What are you doing here? (Pause) I’m sorry, Amber. I am. Completely and unquestionably. You’re the one I love. The only one. I swear to God and Buddha and Zeus and anyone else I have to until you believe me.
Bartender gives Amber her drink
Amber. (Pause) Why?
Orion. What?
Amber. Why are you doing this to me?
Orion. I told you. You know how I like to try new things. Sam was something new. Different. Not better. Not by a long shot. (Pause) There’s something I think you should know about Sam.
Rose and Skye unfreeze.
Rose. What about…Orson?
Skye. Nope. Zeke?
Rose. Nuh uh.
Rose and Skye freeze. Sam enters the bedroom scene.
Sam. Ry? Orion? You here?
Enter Stone onto a part of the stage which does not belong to either of the three scenes. He examines his file, and investigates his surroundings.
Orion. Sam is…
Sam. (Playful) Ry, you hiding or something?
Sam freezes. Stone freezes.
Amber. What? What is she?
Orion. (Pause) A guy.
Amber. What?
Orion. Sam’s a guy. I met him in this bar a few weeks ago. We started talking, you know. Interesting guy, like most guys who come to this place. Society’s rejects. Criminals. You know the sort. Like I said, we were talking and one thing led to another and…
Amber. You’re not…
Orion. No. No! God no. It’s just…I’ve done so many things in my life. Traveled the world. Did that work for the military. Started my own business from scratch. Found love. But that I had never done. The opportunity had never come up and…
Amber. So, Sam is…
Orion. A man. Yea. Sam is actually short for…
Orion and Amber freeze. Stone and Sam unfreeze.
Stone. (Reading letter in envelope) …Samuel Longhorn. That’s the name of the guy who killed my children. Age thirty-six. Hair: light brown. Eyes: green. Ruined my life. Now he’s gonna pay. You already checked his house. No one there. Checked his favorite strip clubs…elementary schools. Thought I saw one more place listed here somewhere. (Reads and is suddenly shocked) No. (Exit)
Skye and Rose unfreeze. Rose pulls out a small piece of paper and a pen
Rose. Okay. We’ve narrowed it down to four names for boys and three for girls. (Notices Skye staring at her) What?
Skye. I think you’re the most beautiful woman I have ever seen in my life.
Rose rests the paper on the coffee table and moves close to Skye. They freeze. Orion and Amber unfreeze.
Orion. What are you thinking right now?
Amber. I’m thinking this is not what I expected. I’m thinking you’re fucked up.
Orion. Isn’t that why you fell in love with me in the first place?
Amber and Orion freeze. Sam unfreezes and sits on bed. He takes out his cell phone. Enter Stone, outside of the bedroom scene.
Stone. Ry! You in there?! Open up! It’s your brother!
Sam. (Hesitantly) Hold on. (Opens door) Sorry, Orion’s not here right now. (Pause) Y-you, alright, man? You seem a little pale.
Stone. Who are you?
Sam. (Pause) Sam. The name’s Sam.
Stone. Sam…Longhorn.
Sam nods hesitantly. There is a pause and then Stone pulls out a gun and aims it at Sam’s head. Everyone unfreezes.
Skye. Rose, I know this is quite sudden and the circumstances abnormal, but I think I…
Orion. Amber, no matter what, I need you to know that…
Stone.(to “heaven”) Lily, girls…
Skye, Orion, and Stone. …I love you.
All except Stone and Sam freeze. Stone shoots Sam in the gut then points the gun at his own head.
Stone. Daddy’s coming.
Orion and Amber unfreeze.
Orion. Let’s get out of this place. We have a lot to talk about, huh?
Amber. Uh huh.
Orion. Let’s go home. (Amber and Orion exit)
Rose and Skye unfreeze. Rose picks up the paper.
Rose. I hope the baby has your light brown hair.
Skye. And your emerald green eyes. (Examines paper) And what about…that name for a boy.
Rose. I think it’s a wonderful name.
Skye. (To unborn child) Hey there, little guy. I’m not completely sure that you can hear me, but I’m your father. And from the moment you enter this earth your mother and I will be there for you…no matter what. When the raging storm of life has you trapped and alone. We will be your great oak tree. We will keep you safe and strong. That’s a promise, my boy. My little Samuel Longhorn.
(Stone shoots himself in the head. Dies)

[THIS IS WHERE THE PLAY ORIGINALLY AND POSSIBLY WILL END]

Fade to black. The set is completely cleared. A blue light shines down on center stage. Junior practically drags an unwilling Skye into the spotlight.
Junior. Come on, Skye. Mellow out, man.
Skye. No, Junior. I will not mellow out. I don’t understand why we have to go to this party tonight. There are far more productive things I could be doing other than being trapped within that social prison with-
Junior. Loosen up already. Besides I got someone I wanna introduce you to. Hey, Rosie! Rose, get over here!
Enter Rose. She and Skye share a look.
Junior. I’m sure you two’ll hit it off right away. (Exit Junior)
Skye and Rose take one step toward one another and then quickly exit. The moment Skye and Rose leave the area under the blue light Stone quickly enters. He is on the phone.
Stone. Lily, please… Lily. I know this is hard, but we can… We will… Please don’t do this. I…I need you. (Lily hangs up the phone) I need you.
Stone exits quickly. Orion walks into the light. Sam chases after him, grabbing his attention.
Sam. Hey.
Orion. Do I know you?
Sam. My name’s Sam. Sam Longhorn. I, uh, noticed you in the bar there and, uh, wondered if you wanted to get a drink sometime or something.
Orion. (he thinks about the offer) Sure. Sounds great. See you around then. (Exits)
Lights fade to black over Sam. The sound of a hospital room fade up. The lights fade up revealing a single small scene. A hospital bed. Sam is in the bed, hooked up to life support. Orion enters, unsure.
Orion. I don’t know why the hell I’m here. I really don’t. You were good to me. I never thought in a million years, in an eternity, you could’ve done the things to those kids that you did. To my brother’s…(begins to cry) How could you? How?
Lights rise on a new scene with the sound of wedding music. Skye and Rose are dressed slightly more formally than usual as they stand beneath a wedding arch. Rose is approximately 9 months pregnant.
Rose. So, we did it.
Skye. Yea. We did.
Rose. Any regrets?

 

Skye. What? No. None. None at all.
Rose. Me either.
Skye. Good. So, the baby…
Rose. He’s due any day now. Sam’s due at any day now.
The two hold each other close then freeze. Lights go up over the final scene: the bar. The bartender cleans out a glass. The Weed enters, sits at a stool.
Weed. Long Island Iced Tea. And give it a little extra punch, will ya?
Bartender prepares drink. Weed and Bartender freeze. Orion, Skye, and Rose unfreeze.
Orion. It’s just so…hard to accept, you know? You were so kind.
Rose. We’ll raise him to be kind, like his father.
Skye and Orion. And caring.
Skye. Like his mother.
Orion. How you could’ve been all these things on the outside and then such a…a… (loses himself)
Rose. A wonderful human being. That’s what he’ll be.
Skye. A scholar.
Orion. A monster on the inside. I-I just don’t understand.
Skye, Orion, and Rose freeze. Weed and Bartender unfreeze.
Weed. You got a paper? (Bartender hands Weed a paper from behind the bar. Weed reads it. As he reads Amber walks into the hospital room and freezes) Will you look at that? Blue Beauty took first down at the tracks last week. There’s a lot of guys owe me money placing bets on that washed up Queensmaid. Heh heh.
Weed and Bartender freeze. Orion and Amber unfreeze.
Amber. Orion…
Orion. Amber. Wh-what are you doing here?
Amber. I could ask the same about you. This man killed your nieces, Ry. You saw the papers. He’s a murderer.
Orion. I know. I don’t…know.
Amber. Come home, Ry. Your family’s been calling all night. They need you now. You need them. (pause) Your brother is dead, Orion Harper! This man killed his children! What the hell is wrong with you?!
Amber and Orion freeze. Skye and Rose unfreeze. Rose is suddenly taken off guard by happenings in her womb. She appears weak and unbalanced.
Rose. Skye…I…
Skye. Rose, what is it?
Rose. The baby…
Skye and Rose freeze. Weed and Bartender unfreeze. Bartender places Weed’s drink in front of him. Weed notices something of interest in the paper.
Weed. Will you look at this? That fool did it. He shot Sam Longhorn. Says here he shot himself afterwards. He’s dead. Sam’s in critical condition. I half didn’t think the big guy would do it. Thought he was just another wannabe vigilante. All bark. No bite.
Bartender. Not Stone. The man had the fire in his eyes. There was nothing that could stand between him and his destiny. It was all he had to live for, poor sap.
Weed. Hm.
Bartender. (pause) Sam was a good man. Wouldn’t be surprised if you had a couple sleepless nights over this one.
Weed. (prepares to leave) Business is business, Miles. No room for conscience when cash’s involved. (Exits)
Bartender cleans up. Skye and Rose unfreeze.
Skye. Rose. Rose…
Rose. It’s time, Skye. The baby’s coming.
Skye: Really? Th-the baby? Our baby?!
Rose: Yes. Our Sam.
Skye escorts Rose offstage. As this happens Amber and Orion unfreeze.
Amber. Do you realize how completely fucked up this is?! Can you not see what you’re turning into? The man is a sick, horrible monster and you just- you sit here, crying at his beside, like he’s some sort of saint. Like there aren’t people who love you, waiting for you to come home! Well, I can’t do this anymore, Orion. I can’t. You’re fucking impossible. Fucking pathetic.
Bartender finishes cleaning and exits. Amber waits for a response from Orion. She gets none and exits.
Orion. I’m sorry.
Fade to black. The sound of a patient flat lining is heard. Lights come up over the empty section of the stage. Orion walks to center with a flower in his hand. Skye and Rose enter, seemingly much older, consoling Orion.
Rose. Thank you for coming, Orion. Sam would’ve been so glad you did. He talked about you all the time, you know? He had nothing but good things to say about you.
Skye: Thank you, son. Thank you for being there for him. I made that casket myself, you know? From this old oak Sammy used to play on when he was young. I thought it was the right thing to do. To bury him with a few good memories.
Skye places his hand on Orion’s shoulder and he and Rose exit. Lights go blue. Stone enters, distraught.
Orion. Calm down, Stone. Just…just breathe.
Stone. (frantic) They’re gone, Ry! They’re gone! Lily. My…my babies. My girls. I-I gotta find out who did this. I have to. There’s no other way around it. They have to suffer just like I’m suffering now.
Orion. You just need rest. Time to clear your-
Stone. No! No rest. Can’t depend on the cops. It’s up to me. All of it is up to me. And you. You gotta help me, Ry. I know the sort of people you surround yourself with. I know, Ry.
Orion. (pause) Fine. (takes out a small piece of paper and writes on it. Hands the paper to Stone) Here. This’ll take you to a bar I know. Look for a guy named Weed. If anyone has the answers you want. It’ll be him.
Stone. Thank you, brother. (Exits)
Orion faces forward, fixated on his flower. He freezes. The Weed walks in from behind. He stands, waiting. Amber moves in, cautiously toward the Weed.
Amber. E-excuse me. (grabs the Weed’s attention) You’re the Weed, aren’t you?
Weed. Maybe I am. What do you want?
Amber. Well, I heard about your…talents. From a boy I’m seeing. (pulls out a large amount of cash)
The Weed. (takes the cash) What do you want from me?
Amber. There’s someone I need you to get rid of for me. Some home wrecker by the name of Sam Longhorn. Here’s some information I’ve picked up from a few phone calls. (hands Weed a manila envelope)
The Weed moves to the now-lighted bar scene, where Stone sits just where he did in the beginning. He tucks the envelope in his jacket pocket. The Bartender is in his usual place. The Weed approaches Stone.
Stone. The Weed, right? That’s what they call you? (Weed nods. Stone reaches into his pocket) My brother told me about you. Said you’d say exactly what you did. (Stone hands a wad of cash to Weed) Said this would change your mind. I need you to find out who did this. I need to make them pay.
Weed. (Pause. Weed takes the money) I’ll see what I can do. (Exits, grabbing for the envelope)
Lights go down everywhere except for a small spot on Orion. Orion drops the flower and blackout the second the flower hits the ground.

The end.

Absurdities

CHARACTERS

Sal– 23,with bright eyes and a sense of style all his own

Vinnie– 20, is the darkest of the bunch, of slender build

Pablo– 22, a handsome character, the most stylish, built for the nightlife

Leo– 27, noticeably the oldest, dresses in plain clothes and has a curious look about him

Georgia– 20, a wistful girl, as old as the others but with at once an old soul and youthful spirit

Venus– 19, the perfect woman, physically beautiful, seductive and mysterious

The entire play takes place in the messy living room. There is a desk with laptop. A couch, a recliner, and a coffee table. (Each new day all characters but Venus are wearing slightly different clothing). Sal stands downstage of the scene, right on the lip. Leo is at his laptop, one hand grasping a cup of coffee. Vinnie is hunched over, drawing on a notepad resting on the coffee table. Lights are dim on the scene. Leo and Vinnie are frozen.

Sal: (addressing the audience) Um…hello. Hi. My name is Sal. Just…Sal. This, behind me, is where I live. It’s not much, but…it’s not much. These are my roommates. Two out of three, anyway. The third one’ll pop up sooner or later I’m sure. Leo’s on his laptop typing to his secret lover. At least, we think it’s a secret lover. Hard to tell. Don’t let his somewhat lackluster appearance fool you. He’s a genius. An inventor. If you ask me, he should be a multi-billionaire right now, working on government-military weapons as secret as his romantic interest. But he’s not…that’s the world for you. The ominous looking fellow on the couch is Vinnie. An artist. A self-proclaimed Bohemian.

Vinnie: (unfreezes) Damn it! Piping hot hellfire damn it! (freezes)

Sal: He’s also tends to be a bit…mentally askew. A hothead, too. Hm. I guess these stage freezes can’t last forever. I’ll go ahead and wrap things up then. Like I said my name is Sal. I’m nothing amazing, really, but after years and years of ceaseless searching, looking for every symbol, every hidden meaning in every facet of everything, I have discovered the meaning of life!

Leo: (unfreezes. Sighs loudly and takes a sip of coffee. Freezes)

Sal: Oh. Well, I’d better get back to my apartment then. It’s time to share my discovery with the world…or my roommates. (Sal sits down in his recliner, lifts his notepad into his hand) And action. (lights go up. Everything unfreezes. Sal writes a little, building himself up, making sure he’s gotten everything right) Leo. Vinnie. I have an announcement to make. (clears throat) I have discovered-

Vinnie: I’ve created the perfect woman!

Sal: Huh?

Vinnie: For years and years I’ve searched…constantly, but I’ve done it. I have done it! Me! Vinnie! I knew that if I wanted it enough, if I embraced the true meaning of life, of love, I would eventually create the the perfect woman on paper for all the world to see!

Sal: The meaning of life?

Vinnie: Huh?

Sal: You said you embraced the meaning of life? What is it?

Vinnie: What? I don’t- Who cares? I have on this paper, written in these notebooks, what combines to be the true definition of the perfect woman for me, for you. For everyone! Flawless in every way.

Sal: I’m just saying that I’m interested in your meaning of life because I myself have been-

Pablo: (bursts in through the door and, as if all his energy drains out, collapses onto the couch, obviously hung over) Guten tag, mi amigos!

Vinnie: Watch it!

Sal: (aside) Pablo, our fourth roommate, back from another night of the intense perversion.

Pablo: (singing) I love sex. Sexy, sexy sex. Sex with ladies of all shapes and sizes…except for the fat ones. And the midgets. Sometimes the midgets. I have to be in a particular mood. (puts arm around Vinnie) I am so hungover. Woooo!

Vinnie: Will you-?

Pablo: (jumps up) Damn, I’m thirsty. (exits)

Leo’s computer beeps. He is immediately excited and types rapidly in response.

Sal: Anyway, guys, as I was saying…

Vinnie: The perfect woman. My mind has conceived her, but now I have to find her. She’s out there somewhere I know. (starts toward the exit)

Sal: Are you sure-

Pablo: (entering, holding an empty carton of orange juice) Who drank all the OJ? (notices Vinnie. Leo’s computer beeps) Where are you going?

Vinnie: You’ll see.

Pablo: Sal?

Sal: (sighs) He’s going after the perfect woman. He created her on paper and has decided to find out if she actually exists.

Vinnie: She does exist!

Pablo: You can keep your perfect woman. I like my ladies a little rough around the panties if you know what I mean. Experienced in the art of pleasure. Perfect girls are too clean. Too boring.

Vinnie: Excuse me for wanting more out of a woman than a drunken night of weightless lust and perversion. When I find this flawless form, this swan amongst swine, I will sweep her off her feet and she will sweep me off mine. And as we two merge into one being, the shared love will be far greater, far more potent than any love that this world has ever felt. (Computer beeps and Vinnie exits, slamming the door)

Pablo: (to Sal) Did you drink this? (Sal shakes his head. To Leo) You? (no response) I mean, I was really, really craving some OJ and then I open the fridge and what do I see? OJ! Right there, calling for me. I reach for it and, to my surprise, it’s empty. Another shattered dream for Pablo. Keep in mind that I’d be a whole lot angrier if I didn’t have such a sexy night. (singing) Sexy, sex sex…

Sal: I found out the meaning of life!

Pablo: Oh. (pause) Later. (Rushes out)

Sal: (creeps toward Leo, trying not to startle him) Leo? Um…Leo? (Computer beeps, Leo types something with a smile and then turns to Sal) Leo, hey.

Leo: Sal.

Sal: Sorry to bother you. I just- I made a discovery today and I- (Computer beeps, Leo returns to it and begins to type) I thought that I’d… You’d listen… Leo? Hey, Leo, I- Nevermind. (aside) It’s amazing how people can be so consumed by life that they fail to find the meaning in it. Oh well. Maybe tomorrow…

Sal snaps his fingers and the lights go out. He snaps again and the lights go on. Pablo is sitting in the recliner, reading an old book while listening to music on his earphones. Leo is at the computer, and Sal sits close to Georgia on the couch. Everyone but Sal is frozen at the beginning.

Sal: This is Georgia, my girlfriend of six months. We’re in love. She’s into nature and art and finding deeper meaning in life, like me. If anyone will appreciate my discovery it’s her. In a way, I’m glad she’ll be the first to know. It seems right.

Everything unfreezes.

Georgia: So you wanted to tell me something?

Sal: Yes, love. Yes I did. I have discovered the meaning of life.

Georgia: The meaning of…

Sal: Yes. Yes. I know it seems like a bit much for a mere mortal such as myself.

Georgia: No. Not at all. In the time I’ve known you I’ve found that you can accomplish anything you put your mind to. So, my dear, what is the meaning of life?

Sal: Well… (Computer beeps. Leo types) I… The meaning of life…

Georgia: What’s wrong?

Sal: I…I had it yesterday, I did. Something about…fate…brotherhood…the art of nature…the stars. The answer was so clear. I don’t know what happened.

Georgia: Maybe it’s different now.

Sal: Different-?

Georgia: Sure. Why not? Maybe life as we know it is changing right under our noses. Maybe what was true yesterday isn’t true today.

Sal: But the meaning of life it’s…it’s as old as life itself. It’s constant. Always the same. Like…like the passing of time.

Georgia: (kisses Sal) Nothing is truly constant, love. Even constants like time are relative. The hour before your first art show is a lot longer than the hour after.

Sal: So life…

Georgia: …is going through a metamorphosis. Can you feel it?

Sal: I…no.

Georgia: (rises from her seat) Give it time. You’ll see. Life is not what it was yesterday. (checks watch) Oo…I have to get going. I’ve got work in an hour. I’ll call when I’m done. Love you. Bye.

Sal: Love you, too. (Georgia exits) (aside) Isn’t she great?

Pablo: (to Sal, laughing) Hey, Sal, check out what I found when I was at my parents the other day. It’s the journal I kept when we were kids. Listen- listen to this. April 14th, 1994: “I found a baby rabbit today. I didn’t see its mom or dad I guess they got shot or hit by a car or something so I decided I’d be its new parents.” Ha. I was such a nerd.

Sal: I remember that day. You loved that little rabbit. What did you name it again?

Pablo: Bobby. Ricky. Who cares? It was just a stupid rabbit. (checks his watch) Oh, shit. I need to change. (places journal on recliner) I’ve got a date with a set of twins from Romania. They don’t speak much English but they won’t have to for what I’ve got in mind. Ha. (exits)

Leo gets up, puts his jacket on, and heads for the exit

Sal: Where are you going?

Leo: A date.

Sal: With your friend from the Internet?

Leo: Yea.

Sal: Will this be the first time you two’ll be meeting in person?

Leo: Yeah.

Sal: Are you excited?

Leo: Yeah. I’m in love. (exits)

Sal: (pause) (aside) Life is changing. I think I’m starting can feel it. (exits)

Vinnie enters with Venus. The two sit down on the couch.

Vinnie: They didn’t believe me. They didn’t think you were real. But here you are, the perfect woman. You’re everything I knew you would be and more. So much more. And you’re all mine. And I’m all yours. Forever. (they kiss passionately)

Lights out. Lights go up. Pablo, in his boxers and a robe, is typing and focusing intensely on Leo’s computer. The journal is exactly where it had been before. Sal enters from his room.

Pablo: Hey, Sal, where’s Leo?

Sal: I don’t know. He had a date last night. What are you doing on his computer?

Pablo: Reading all his saved conversations.

Sal: Pablo! That’s private.

Pablo: This is the most sickeningly cute, make-me-want-to-vomit, crap I’ve ever read in my life. Leo. Sheesh.

Sal: Pab, you shouldn’t be on there.

Pablo: Did you know Leo’s gay?

Sal: What?

Pablo: Yea. There are a few elements of the human anatomy mentioned here that I’m pretty sure are male-specific.

Sal: Hm.

Pablo: Says here his homo-lover’s screen name is HardforYou16. Haha…hard for you- that’s pretty frickin’ hilarious. Hard for…

Sal: Pablo, leave Leo’s stuff alone. He obviously doesn’t want us knowing anything about it. Besides, who cares if he’s…gay. His partner…

Pablo: HardforYou16?

Sal: They seem to be very happy. Now get away from there.

Pablo: Yes, mama. (Pablo sits down, lifting his journal)

Sal: Last night was their first date.

Pablo: Yea. I know. Read it ten minutes ago.

Sal: So, how were the Romanians?

Pablo: Pretty kinky. Europe really needs to enforce laws against unshaven…parts, though. Kind of a turn off.

Sal: Pablo?

Pablo: Yo.

Sal: Do you ever think about…I dunno…finding a nice girl…maybe getting married some day-?

Pablo: Ha, nope. That’s not my world. That’s yours. Not mine. Yours. Life’s a party, man. Spending every day with the same person is a waste when you can have a different one every night. Variety, the spice of life. Sex, drugs, rock and roll. The old legends had it right. Granted, they all OD’d, but while they were alive…oh man.

Sal: But what about love? The sacred kind between two people. Knowing that there is someone who will be there for you no matter what. Someone who accepts everything about you and cherishes every moment you spend together. Someone you can grow old with. I’ve got it. Leo’s got it. Even Vinnie’s out looking for someone.

Pablo: It’s not for me, alright? It’s just…love and I don’t mix. I don’t…love. It’s a waste. It’ll end in heartbreak every time. Maybe not now, but eventually. There’s too much stress involved. Arguments over nothing. Always compromising who you are to make the other happy. Forever trapped in the prison of a relationship. It’s a waste of good pure frivolous fun. Sex with strangers. Parties all night long without a care in the wold. Ultimate freedom. That’s the life for me.

Sal: I’m sorry you feel that way.

Vinnie: (enters from his room) I found the perfect woman. (silence) Don’t believe me? She’s in my bed right now. Go ahead, look at her. Gaze upon the immaculate.

Pablo: (pause) I gotta see this. (exits)

Leo enters, smiling.

Sal: Leo! How was the date?

Leo: Very good. (he goes to his computer) We’re in love.

Pablo: (enters) Well…

Vinnie: Wasn’t she the most beautiful thing your eyes have ever beheld?

Pablo: Um… Leo. How was your date?

Leo: We’re in love.

Pablo: My sincerest condolences.

Vinnie: Well?

Pablo: Yea. Beautiful. Whatever. Big deal.

Vinnie: Y-you’re just jealous because I have found true love and you have damned yourself to a life of hard liquor and STD’s! You will never know what love is! Never! (scurries to his room)

Sal: Pablo…

Pablo: No one was there.

Sal: What?

Pablo: I walked into his room, looked around a bit. No one was there.

Sal: Maybe she was under the covers.

Pablo: Nope.

Sal: In the bathroom?

Pablo: Nope. Unless this girl took a fifteen story dive from the bedroom window there was no one back there.

Sal: So…

Pablo: He’s nuts.

Sal: No, there’s got to be an explanation.

Pablo: There is. He’s nuts.

Vinnie: (enters) Oh, she’s awake. My Venus is awake. I know! I’ll make brunch for us all. Belgian waffles. Her favorite. (exits)

Pablo: Well then…wow. (slowly creeps to the recliner and pages through his journal) Remember yesterday when you wanted to know that rabbit’s name? It was Bucky. And I thought I was creative as a child.

Sal: (sits down on the couch, closest to Pablo) Are you sure there’s no one back there?

Pablo: (ignoring that comment) I made him a little house with a milk crate, furnished it with grass and a dog dish filled with lettuce and carrots and water. Remember?

Sal: Yea. You and Bucky were real close. Honestly, I was a little jealous.

Pablo: And then he ran away. After all those weeks I was there for him, caring for him, he just up and ran away. How could he do that to me? After all I’d done for him.

Sal: You loved him.

Pablo: …Yea. I should’ve taken that as a sign. Would’ve saved me a lot of shit down the line I can tell you that much.

Sal: Life’s not always easy.

Pablo: Mine is.

Leo, angry, slams his fist down on his desk, startling the other two. Leo types furiously.

Sal: Leo. Are you okay? (no answer) Hm.

Pablo: (reading still) Hm. Frickin’ rabbit. I could really use some hot sex right now.

Vinnie: (enters with Venus) Hello, everyone, I would like to introduce you to Venus, my angel on earth! Have a seat my dear. (They both sit on the couch with Vinnie in the middle) Have you ever seen anything quite like this?

Pablo: (looking past Vinnie) Can’t say that I have. No.

Sal: (pause) Haha, good one. You had us for a second.

Vinnie: What are you talking about?

Leo bangs on his computer, distraught.

Pablo: (whispers) I think he’s serious.

Vinnie: She’s into poetry just like me. Aren’t you, Venus? (she nods excitedly) She doesn’t say much but I’ve found that Venus and I are so in sync we communicate on a level that’s almost…telepathic. (he begins to stroke Venus’ hair and the two playfully kiss each other)

Sal: (to Pablo) There’s no one there-

Pablo: (to Sal) I know there’s no one there!

Sal: What should we do?

Pablo: Nothing. I’m pretty amused.

Sal: (to Vinnie) Vinnie, um, about this…Venus.

Vinnie: Isn’t she everything you could ever want in a woman?

Pablo: Jesus…

Sal: About that…I-

Leo bangs on his desk three times and the door buzzer buzzes

Pablo: I’ll get it. (moves to the exit and presses the intercom button. Leo stands and starts for the exit, like walking dead) Who’s there?

Police: This is the police. Is there a Leonardo-?

Leo: (into the intercom) I’m coming. (to the others) I love him. (exits)

Lights out

Sal: I can feel it.

Lights up. Vinnie is making out with Venus on the couch. Frozen. Sal addresses us. He changes his shirt as he talks.

Sal: We didn’t hear from Leo for the rest of that day and most of the next. Pablo suggested we go look for him…at the local precincts maybe…but I figured Leo had a good reason for keeping us in the dark. Besides, (gestures toward Vinnie) there were more pressing issues to attend to. Vinnie has been kissing and fondling his imaginary Siren for the better part of an hour. Though I wasn’t exactly sure how to break the news to him that his perfect woman didn’t exist, I thought I’d bring in someone who could.

There is a knock on the door. Everything unfreezes.

Sal: It’s open!

Georgia: (enters) Hey, love.

Sal: Hey there. Thanks for coming, I-

Georgia: (notices Vinnie) Oh wow.

Sal: Yea. I tried to get through to him a couple times yesterday but…he’s just…gone.

Georgia: (sits beside Vinnie) Vinnie. Excuse me…Vinnie?

Vinnie: Oh, Georgia! When did you get here? I was a bit occupied. I’ve found the perfect woman. Isn’t she amazing?

Georgia: (silence) She’s not real, Vinnie.

Vinnie: What…what are you talking about?

Georgia: Venus. She’s not real.

Vinnie: Haha, that’s the stupidest- She’s right here. Look.

Georgia: (thinks) When you kiss…how does it feel?

Vinnie: How does… It feels like- like the most wonderful, magical kiss that- that I’ve ever had!

Georgia: And when you make love?

Vinnie: It’s perfect. Perfect. It’s- I don’t have to talk about this with you!

Georgia: (to Venus) And, Venus, do you feel the same way?

Vinnie: (pause) She’s the quiet type. Shy. She only speaks to me. It’s…it’s…

Georgia: Telepathic?

Vinnie: Exactly. Beyond words.

George: Or all in your head.

Vinnie: No!

Georgia: She’s not there.

Vinnie: She is!

Georgia: You need help.

Vinnie: You’re just- you’re just jealous! Pablo, you, all of you! Jealous that you and Sal will never ever have what I do! Ever!

Sal: Yesterday during breakfast. Belgian waffles. Her favorite. She didn’t take a bite. Not one bite. She didn’t even drink a sip of water. Or pull her chair back when she stood up.

Vinnie: Maybe I’m the only food and drink she needs. Did you think of that? Did you think of that?! Jealous bastards. Fucking jealous bastards… (tries to hold Venus but she backs away, startled by his angry display) What are you-? (Venus stands up. He pursues) I’m sorry I…scared you. They don’t understand us. No one understands! The people in the restaurants, the park- no one! B-but we understand and that’s all that matters. That’s all we need. (Venus starts for the door) Venus. Where are you- ? Don’t go. Please…don’t go. Venus? (Venus exits) Venus!

Vinnie runs off after her, pushing past Pablo who is entering, holding a newspaper.

Pablo: Whoa. Trouble in paradise?

Sal: Georgia got through to him. Venus…ran away.

Pablo: Oh.

Georgia: I think he’s starting to realize that he was living a lie. His girlfriend’s departure is proof of that. Now it’s only a matter of time before his subconscious desires return to the subconscious. I just hope he doesn’t…

Pablo: Do something stupid? We’re way beyond that point, George. (holds up the paper) Anyway, check out what I found during one of my drunken odysseys in the wee hours of the morning. I was a little too wasted to read it at the time but…yea. (hands the paper to Sal. He and Georgia read)

Georgia: Is that…?

Sal: Leo. “Taken to the local precinct yesterday…in a five month relationship with local sixteen year old Ethan Sallis……charged with statutory…escaped during questioning…Ethan had been confirmed missing hours later…both claim to be in love…police believe the two are on the run…if anyone has any information…”

There is a long pause. Leo bursts into the room with a duffel bag and exits to his room. He reappears with clothing thrown in his bag then stuffs his computer inside. He runs to the exit, stops, shares a look with Sal and the others, and exits. Pablo’s cell phone rings.

Pablo: Hello? Yo, Mikey, what’s up? Uh huh…haha yea! (suddenly startled) Oh. I see. (continues to talk as he exits to his room)

Sal: (to Georgia) Leo…

Georgia: I-I…hope he’s… (exhales)

Sal: Me too. I mean…wow. I-I had no idea. The cops never came and- Whew. And Vinnie. An imaginary girl…

Georgia: I know. It’d be funny if it weren’t so utterly tragic.

Sal: A part of me still thinks it was a joke. I mean…an imaginary girlfriend?!

Georgia: You said he was on medication. Maybe he’s been skipping out, you know?

Sal: Maybe. Do you remember all that stuff you were saying about life changing.

Georgia: Mm hm.

Sal: I can feel it more and more with each passing hour. It’s…like a heavy weightlessness floating all around. Indescribable. Morphing. Terrifying. It’s terrifying. (Pablo returns, ghost-like) Pab…are you alright?

Pablo: Yea. Sure. I’m fine. I just have to go, that’s all. I’ll be back. (exits hurriedly)

Sal: Hm.

Georgia: Hm.

Sal: Life.

Georgia: It’s closing in.

Lights out. When lights come on. It’s dark in the room. Nighttime. Pablo sits in the recliner, mentally and physically disheveled, reading his journal. After a moment of silent reading Sal wanders in from his room in pajama pants and a closed robe, tired.

Sal: Pab. What are you doing up?

Pablo: (distant) Reading. I really did love that rabbit. L-listen to this. Listen to what I wrote with my little ten year old hands. “May 12th, 1994. Bucky’s been gone for a whole week now. I guess he’s never coming back. We were best friends. We played games and jumped and ate lunch together. But I guess he wanted to be off with the other rabbits. I guess it was time to go. But, I know wherever he is he’s still thinking about me just like I’m thinking about him. I bet he’s telling all his new rabbit friends about me. I’m sad that he’s gone, but I’m not mad. Because I will always have the memories of all the fun we had together. I’ll always have the love.” What happened to me? Why, because of a few tears at my heart, did I become this? You warned me. You’ve always warned me. But I was too far gone. Now I’m gone forever.

Sal: Pablo…

Pablo: It was Mikey who called yesterday. My buddy from around here. We go clubbing together sometimes, always competing to see who could get laid first. He said he ran into some street evangelist a couple few back with three ladies hanging from his arms. Heh. Said that evangelist put the fear of God into him and frightened him all the way to the hospital where he- he got…tested. The tests came out positive.

Sal: Pab…

Pablo: He’s dying, Sal. He’s dying. My buddy…

Sal: I’m sorry.

Pablo: And you know what else? He told me he was pretty sure how he got it. He said it was after a night he’d spent with a pair of twins from Romania. (pause) Fucking rabbit. (Sal moves close to Pablo who is growing more emotional by the second and they hug)

Lights out. Lights go up with Pablo on the recliner and Sal on the couch, both sleeping. Vinnie stands behind the both of them, darkness in his expression. Sal wakes up with a yawn, noticing Vinnie.

Sal: Vinnie?

Pablo: (Starts to wake up) Huh?

Sal: You’re back.

Vinnie: She’s gone. Gone. (reveals a handgun)

Sal: Vinnie, what are you?

Pablo: (sees gun) What the-?

Vinnie: (slowly raises it to his head) My Venus. My perfect woman. I was going to spend the rest of my life with her. We were going to get married and start a family and grow old together.

Pablo: She wasn’t real.

Sal: Vinnie, put the gun down. There’s no need for this.

Vinnie: (the gun is at his head) Of course there is. Without love there’s no reason to live. And when…when you’ve found the greatest love of all…and lose it, well…(to Sal) you’ll see.

Georgia: (in pajamas, from Sal’s room. Notices Vinnie)Vinnie!

Vinnie: Georgia. How could I forget? You’re the one who scared her away. (points his gun at her)

Georgia: AH!

Sal: (leaps to tackle Vinnie) No!

Lights out.

Pablo: Sal!

A gunshot followed by silence. Smoke fills the stage floor as Sal moves down center, looking out to the audience. Behind him, in a perfect horizontal line, Georgia, Pablo, Sal, and Vinnie (with Venus on his arm) emerge from the darkness and freeze.

Sal: (clears his throat) The meaning of life…according to me. Sal. Um…life is always changing. One minute everything seems exactly as it should be and the next everything you ever believed turns out to be a lie. Life is disappointment. It’s agony and heartbreak. But it’s yours. It’s mine. And we are its masters when all is said and done. (Walks to Pablo) Sometimes life stings us with harsh revelations. (to Leo) Sometimes it calls for us to betray what is accepted in order to do what we feel is right. (to Vinnie) Sometimes it forces us to betray reality in order to achieve our dreams. (to Georgia) Sometimes it gives us everything we’ve ever wanted…only to tear it away. Whatever life hands us we have freedom to react however we see fit. And, no matter what, no matter how oppressed, offended, defeated we feel life does go on. We learn from the hard times and face the future with knowledge and power we could never have achieved without the past. The meaning of life is love. Loving every aspect of your life. Yourself. Your talents. Your body. Your imperfections. Loving your world. Loving others. (opens his robe revealing a spot of blood, soaked through his shirt) Until death do us part.

Lights out.

-PLAY END-

Femme Noir

CHARACTERS
Bill
Anna
Roman
Lex
Marci
Shirley
Woman in Black
Jed
Hobo
Doctor

There are four scenes altogether. First, is the Wade kitchen. This is the kitchen of the basic newly retired middle-class family of the late twentieth century. In the kitchen there all all the basic appliances and a centralized table with three chairs. The kitchen seems like it is put to constant use. Second is Roman’s room. He is a teenager up to his elbows in the latest technology of the time, including an acoustic guitar, television, and flat-screen computer. There are no remnants of his childhood. Only a photograph of him and his brother. The third scene is the office space where Lex works. It is the office of a man who has become extremely successful in the advertising business. The fourth is a gray, lifeless, foggy street corner.

-PLAY BEGIN-

ACT ONE
Scene 1
Nothingness. Roman walks onto stage, suddenly notices the audience and addresses them with subtle ferociousness.

Roman. Don’t get used to this. This whole thing where I break the fourth wall and talk to you people. Because it won’t happen again. I’m not here to talk to you. I’m here to tell a story. For me. I mean, you can all enjoy it. I won’t stop you from enjoying it. Or hating it. Whatever. But at the end of the day the reason for this tale you are about to witness is so that I can fully understand the why’s and when’s of everything that went down. Anyway, this is a story about me…I guess. Well, I guess it depends on how you look at it. This could be a story about me. It could be about my brother, Alexander, named after the great…Alexander. Or maybe it’s about some obscure moral lesson I can’t even begin to comprehend right now. Hell. Maybe this single story could be about everything. But, seriously, who gives a starving shit what I’m about? The only reason I’m talking to you right now is to say that, after this, I’m never going to speak to any of you again. (Exit)

Scene 2-The kitchen
Lights come up over the kitchen scene. Anna is just finishing a plate of pancakes. Bill sits at the table, eating his pancakes while reading the paper.

Anna: (to offstage) Wash your hands! Breakfast’s ready! (Pause) Roman!

Roman: I’m coming!

Roman enters, starting for the table. Anna stops him, quickly handing him the plate of pancakes and starting for the refrigerator to get a carton of orange juice. Roman takes his seat.

Anna. Here’s your pancakes, Roman. You gotta cuttem’ up yourself.

Roman: Okay.

Anna: I got enough batter for a couple more if you want some.

Roman: No thanks.

Anna: You sure?

Roman: Yea.

Anna: You’re looking a little thin around the neck there.

Roman: I’m fine.

Anna: Okay. Let me fix you some orange juice.

Roman: Fine.

Roman begins to eat. Bill slowly lowers his paper, becoming increasingly focused on Roman’s hands

Bill: Lemme see your hands, boy.

Anna: (placing Roman’s orange juice in front of him) Bill!

Roman: What?

Bill: Lemme see your hands. Gimme your hand. (Takes Roman’s hand and feels it) Hm. Your hands are soft, boy. Like they ain’t never seen a day of work in their lives. Hmph. (Pause. Bill releases Roman’s hand and lays his own down in front of him) Feel my hand.

Roman: Feel your…

Bill: Feel my hand, Rome. (Roman lets out a sigh and unwillingly touches Bill’s hand) You feel that? That’s a real working man’s hand. Forty-eight years at the steel mill turns you into a man real quick. Hardens you. All kinds of men. Big, small, black, white, Asian. Don’t matter. All working together. Like some kind of paradise except instead of trees and vines there’s steel girders and giant cranes reaching way up to the sky.

Roman: (stands up) Okay. I’m done.

Anna: But, Roman, you barely touched your…

Roman: I’m done.

Roman begins to storm off, but is stopped by the arrival of Lex. Everyone’s mood seems to brighten when Lex enters the room, as if he’s the sun and everything else orbits around him.

Lex: Hey, all.

Anna: Lex.

Bill: Hey there, Lex. How are ya?

Lex: Fine. Better than fine, actually. Frank, from upstairs, you know, said that there are whispers of a new position opening.

Bill: Upstairs? But you’re already on the executive board. Can’t get much higher than that.

Lex: Vice President, Grampa. And Frank says he’s heard my name come up more than once in more than one meeting.

Anna: Well, that’s just wonderful. Your grandfather and I are very proud. And so is Roman. Aren’t you proud of your brother, Rome.

Roman: Yes. Yea. Of course.

Anna: (escorting Lex to a chair) Make yourself at home, Lex. Let me fix you some of your grandma’s famous pancakes.

Lex: Sorry, Gram, but I’m just passing through.

Anna: (sits Lex down, then starts on the pancakes) Nonsense. Tell us about Shirley. How is your fiancée doing?

Bill: Haven’t seen her in a while.

Lex: Oh. Shirley. She’s been busy. She’s been promoted to partner at the firm, you know. I hardly even see her anymore.

Bill: Partner.

Anna: She’s such a sweet girl. You two are so good for each other. So driven.

Bill: (to Roman) Maybe you could help your brother find a girl like that.

Anna: Bill!

Bill: Or any girl at all for that matter.

Roman: I…I’ve been trying to…

Lex: When I think about Shirley and myself I honestly can’t think of whose luckier, she or I. And that’s the way it should be, I figure. Completely balanced like that. We treated ourselves to a movie last night.

Anna: A movie. How lovely. What movie was it?

Lex: Something Tarantino, I think. Funny thing is, I was hardly able to concentrate on the film. Not three feet in front of me this man sat. Normal guy. Nothing special. But there was something about his hair. It was short. A little greasy. I just couldn’t take my eyes off of it. For reasons I’m not exactly certain of I could not for the life of me look away. It made no sense. And when I was finally able to tear my eyes of this guy’s greasy dome I’m looking at some extravagant ninja fight scene, totally lost, so I decide my time would be best spent figuring out why I’d spent the past forty-seven minutes fixated on a stranger’s hair. This is the sort of thing I’m paid to figure out you see. In the ad business. (Lex waits for a response but receives shared looks of warm confusion by Bill and Anna. Roman is genuinely intrigued by his brother’s words. Lex moves to Roman, placing his arm around him) And don’t you worry, Rome. One day, when you least expect it, you’ll find true love like me. And you’ll spend every day wondering how you ever survived without it.

Anna: Aww…

Roman: I…I’ve been thinking that. About love, I mean. I want it. I mean, maybe you could help-

Lex: (starts to leave) That’s the spirit. Grampa. Grams. I have to go. Duty calls, you know. If you don’t answer duty when it calls it’ll just call out to someone less worthy. And we can’t have that. Don’t forget that.

Roman: I (Lex exits) wont.

Bill: Your brother’s a great man, Rome. A successful man.

Roman: I know.

Bill: Wouldn’t hurt to be more like him.

Roman: I’m trying (Exits)

Anna: Leave him alone, Bill. You haveta let those boys live their own lives. Rome’s never gonna be like Lex and Lex ain’t never gonna be like Rome.

Bill: That ain’t no loss.

Anna: William Wade, bite your tongue!

Bill: (following a long period of silence) I think the boy’s a fag.

Anna: Bill!

Bill: It would explain a lot.

Scene 3-Roman’s room
Roman lying in his bed, awake. Through his window, Marci enters.

Roman: Marci.

Marci: Hey, Rome. (Reaches into her pocket and pulls out a CD). Check this out. It’s Deathgrip 4. I just bought it after school. Fifty-seven gut-slashing levels in a completely interactive online 3-D environment. Wanna play?

Roman: Not really.

Marci: Why not? What’s wrong with you.

Roman: Nothing.

Marci: Fuck that. There’s always something wrong with you. You’re the single most depressing person in the world.

Roman: Thanks.

Marci: I calls ’em as I sees ’em. Besides, we’ve been friends-

Roman: Best friends.

Marci: For eleven-

Roman: Ten

Marci: Eleven years now. We’re like family. It’s practically my job to tell you all the things about yourself you don’t want to hear. So, ass face, what’s wrong?

Roman: I want to have sex.

Marci: You what?

Roman: Sex. I need to have sex.

Marci: You want to fuck someone?

Roman: No! No, not fuck. Sex. Fucking is dirty and loveless. Fucking is the lowest rung of romantic sexuality. No fucking. I want love. I want to make love.

Marci: Fine. Okay. Love. And what brought this on? You’ve never been to eager to teach your dolphin to jump through hoops before.

Roman: We were eating this morning and Lex came over and-

Marci: Oh. I get it.

Roman: What’s that supposed to mean?

Marci: It means that your head is stuck so far up your brother’s ass that all you can do is breathe in his toxic bullshit.

Roman: My brother is a great man! He practically raised me after our mother died.

Marci: And now he hardly acknowledges your existence.

Roman: He’s busy.

Marci: He’s an ass.

Roman: Fuck you.

Marci: (Starts for the window) I really don’t fucking need this right now. I’m leaving. It smells like shit in here.

Roman: (Jumps up to stop her) No! Marci, wait! I’m sorry. Please. (Holds Marci close) I need your help. You’re my best friend. My only friend. Lex is my hero. He’s everything I want to be.

Marci: He doesn’t give two shits about you.

Roman: Why should he? If I had his life I wouldn’t care about me either. I’m nothing! I’ve failed him. But if I could just prove to him…

Marci: And sex fixes this how…

Roman: Shirley. His fiancée. You should see how he lights up when he talks about her. It’s like she’s this interminable energy source for him. Always driving him to be more and do more than he ever could alone.

Marci: And sex fixes this how…

Roman: Marci. (Pause) I want to kiss you.

Marci: What!

Roman: I know we don’t love each other, but I’m so far behind. I need…I need to be ready when love does come. I can’t afford to waste anymore time.

Roman leans in to kiss Marci and Marci pushes him away

Marci: What the hell is wrong with you? You’re crazy! You’re a fucking crazy person.

Roman: Marci. Please…

Marci: No. (Starts out of the window) Give me a call when your sense comes back. (Exits)

Roman: Marci.

Scene 4-The office
Lex sits, unpacking his things onto his desk. Frank enters the room and Lex stands immediately, walking to the other.

Frank: Hello, Mister Vice President. Nice place you got here.

Lex: Frank. How are you?

Frank: Not as good as you, I can tell you that much. Have you told Shirley yet?

Lex: Not yet. She’s in court. I left her a message though. I figure we’ll do dinner tonight. Go all out. A double celebration for her making partner and my making VP.

Frank: Vice President. Man, oh, man. If I didn’t love you so much I’d hate you. Any other company and I’d be in that chair. But I had to go and apply to the one you worked for all those years ago.

Lex: Haha. Well, you could always leave.

Frank: And pass up the chance of mooching off of your success. I think not. Besides, one day your streak of perfection will come to halt and I want to be right there to jump up to bat.

Lex: Always the true friend.

Frank: Business first. Pleasure later. Unless you can combine the two.

Lex: Hey. Do you and Diane want to join Shirl and I for dinner tonight? Our treat. It’ll give the two of you the unique opportunity of being in the presence of two corporate gods. Wear glasses. You might go blind.

Frank: Pick us up at eight.

Scene 5-The street corner
Lights rise softly over the dark scene. A light fog rolls over the concrete and asphalt. Woman in Black walks along the sidewalk in a slow and sultry manner. She is 1930’s beautiful. Her skin is pale and lips bright red. She wears a long elegant black dress. She stops at the street corner, downstage. Lex enters, holding a briefcase. He stops the moment he notices the woman. He examines her, entranced for quite some time, and then has to practically tear himself away from her.

Scene 6-Roman’s room
Roman sits at his desk, talking on his cell phone.

Roman: Hey, Marci, it’s Roman. I…I need to talk to you. Come over tonight after dinner. I got something to show you. We can talk. Thanks. Bye.

Roman reaches for his backpack and pulls out a small white plastic bag.

Anna: (offstage) Roman! Your brother’s here!

Roman rises immediately, drops his things, and runs out of his room.

Scene 7-The kitchen
Anna sits down facing Shirley who sits as well. Lex stands behind Shirley, hand on her shoulder. There is a cake on the table. Anna has a slice on a plate in front of her. Shirley has a glass of water.

Lex: Where’s Grampa?

Anna: Oh, he’s out. Probably went down to the tracks, wastin’ his money away.

Lex: That’s unfortunate. I was hoping everyone was here when I made my announcement.

Roman: (Enters) Announcement?

Shirley: Oh, hi Roman.

Anna: Yes. Your brother has some good news for us today.

Lex: That’s right, Grams. You are now looking at the Vice President of Sunburst Advertising Incorporated.

Anna: Vice President. My. My. My. I am so proud of you. I’m not surprised though. I always knew you could do it. Yep. My grandson. Vice President. Did you hear that, Rome?

Roman: Yea. I heard.

Shirley: So, Rome how’s school going? How’re your classes?

Roman: They’re not bad. I-

Lex: Roman. Grams. Before I forget, I have to tell you about this thing I saw last night. I was leaving the office, just like I always do, and I saw this woman. This woman in black. She just stood there on the corner. Looked like she’d been snatched right out of the 1930’s. She just stood there and I watched her for a while. It was hypnotic in a way. Beautiful like a dream. Maybe it was a dream. It seemed almost too unreal to be anything else.

Shirley: Lex…

Lex: Oh. Sorry, honey. We have one more announcement. My fiancee, Shirley Anderson, and myself are going to be parents.

Anna: (to Shirley, ecstatic) You’re pregnant.

Shirley: No. We’re adopting. We thought it’d be best to share our ample resources with someone less fortunate. We’ve been thinking China.

Anna: Oh.

Lex: (to Roman) You’re going to be an uncle soon. What do you think of that?

Roman: I…um…That’s great.

Lex: I can’t wait to tell Grampa.

Anna: He’ll be so proud.

Lex: (As he helps Anna out of her seat) Alright, guys. We’ve gotta go. The adoption agency in Hong Kong is calling us tonight for the initial interview and I’ve got a few clients to research before then.

Shirley: We’ll stay longer next time, I promise. It’s just that life is so hectic right now.

Lex: The price of success.

Anna: Oh, we understand, dears. Don’t we, Rome?

Roman: Lex. Do you think, sometime soon, you and I could…hang out for a little while?

Lex: Sure. Of course. I’m totally booked this week, but sure. Give me a call, okay? Let’s go, honey.

Shirley and Lex exit.

Scene 8-Roman’s room
Roman sits on the edge of his bed, facing away from the window, practicing singing and playing his guitar. Marci comes in through the window, unnoticed by Roman until she speaks.

Roman: (singing)
Devil’s fingers digging trenches
Digging graves and burning souls
Devil’s fingers cradling angels
Tainted blood of tainted ghosts

Marci: Rome.

Roman: Marci.

Marci: I’m here.

Roman: Good. Thanks. I just, um, wanted to apologize for yesterday. I didn’t mean to…

Marci: Nice song. Happy.

Roman: (Goes to computer) So, I bought Deathgrip 4. Now we can go online and kick ass together.

Marci: Cool.

Roman: I really am sorry, Marci.

Marci: I know.

Roman: I’m sorry.

Marci: Fine.

Roman: I just created my character. It’s a Centaurian Warrior. I figured you’d be a Zombie Warlock or something like that so I…I thought the Centaur would be a good match.

Marci: (Moves to the computer) I’m a Troll Warlock. Close enough.

Roman works on his computer. Marci stands beside him. They both examine the screen closely for some time in silence. As time passes Roman’s gaze slowly leaves the computer and moves up to Marci’s face. He leans toward her, moving faster the closer he gets, and steals a kiss.

Marci: What the fuck was that?!

Roman: I don’t know! I-

Marci: You know what? Forget it! I’m gone!

Marci starts for the window but Roman grabs her tightly, pressing her against a wall and speaking close to her face

Roman: Please, don’t go! Please.

Marci: Get off of me!

Roman: Stay with me. I need you here. Last night I thought about it. I stayed up all night just thinking about us. The people at school have always said you were beautiful. I never thought about it much because, well, because we were friends. But last night, every time I closed my eyes you would appear in my mind and I began to see what everyone else has always seen. You are beautiful. And then I thought, I thought I could maybe love you someday. And we could love each other…if we tried at it.

Anna: (From outside of the door) Is everything okay in there? I thought I heard shouting.

Roman: I’m fine!

Exit Anna.

Marci: Let me go…now. (Roman releases Marci and backs away from her) What is happening to you?

Roman: I don’t know. (Pause) My brother came by today. He made Vice President. He’s adopting a child. He saw the strangest thing on a street corner. This woman in black. You should’ve seen the look on his face when he talked about her. It was something I’d never seen before. So entranced and-

Marci: I don’t care.

Roman: What?

Marci: I don’t care about your fucking brother! I care about your fucked up brain! You need help.

Roman: I’m fine.

Marci: You kissed me and you forced me into a wall. I have bruises on my arm! You are not fine!

Roman: I’m sorry.

Marci: No. You’re not.

Roman: I really want to love you.

Marci: I-

Roman: And I want you to love me. Just imagine the great things we could accomplish together. We could be rich and successful and have children.

Marci: Adopted?

Roman: To help the less fortunate.

Marci punches Roman and exits in a huff. Roman begins to cry. As he does this he reaches into his backpack and pulls out a syringe in a sandwich bag. He prepares his arm and shoots up heroine as the lights fade to black.

Scene 9-The office
Lex’s desk is covered with logo designs. All are black and red with a few small sketches of women in black dresses. There is an easel, with a picture facing away from the audience. Lex stands in front of his desk shaking the hand of an Jed, a slightly overweight white-haired businessman.

Lex: Thank you for doing business with us, Mister Holenberg.

Jed: Please, Alex, call me Jed, and the pleasure is all mine. With this campaign I can really see Holenberg Cigars taking the industry by storm in…three, four months.

Lex: I’m no miracle worker, Jed.

Jeb: Ah, my boy. You don’t give yourself enough credit. Not nearly enough. (Checks his watch) And on that lovely note I must be off to one stuffed-shirt business meeting or another. A good day to you. (Exits)

Lex works at his desk, typing on his keyboard and jotting down a few notes and sketches. Roman enters the room, more tense and jittery than usual, but keeping it for the most part under wraps. He steps up to Lex’s desk and waits to be noticed. Lex does not lift his head until Roman speaks.

Roman: Lex.

Lex: Roman? Hello, little brother, what’re you doing here?

Roman: I…I came here for lunch. Remember? Today was the day we planned.

Lex: I’m sorry, Rome, I’d love to, but I don’t have that kind of time today.

Roman: You-

Lex: It’s the sacrifice of being successful I’m afraid. It’ll all be worth it in the end, though. I’m certain of that. For you. For Shirley. For Grams and Grampa.

Roman: For your Chinese baby?

Lex: Who? Oh. Yes. Him, too. That reminds me. I have to call the agencies. Adoption agency. Travel agency. Shirley and I have to fly out to China soon and pick out which one we want. I figured we could spend a few week’s vacation in Sri Lanka while we were on that side of the world. It would be a waste not too.

Roman: Lex-

Lex: Hey. I want you to see something. (He walks to the easel and turns it around, revealing a stylized painting of his Woman in Black, holding a cigar) Here she is. The logo design for Holenberg Cigars, inspired by none other than that dark siren I encountered a few night’s back. You remember the woman in black I told you about, don’t you?

Roman: Of course I-

Lex: Of course you do. Well, between you and I, I haven’t been able to get her out of my head for the past ninety or so hours. So I thought to myself, maybe I could use this unhealthy fixation to my advantage. And so this was born. Beautiful. Every night I leave this office I walk by that street, even if I parked somewhere out of the way, to see if she’s there. Don’t tell anyone any of this, please. Imagine what our Grampa would thing of such odd behavior.

Roman: I won’t.

Lex: Good. I knew I could always trust you with a secret. (Returns to his work)

Roman: L-like when dad ran away and mom was sick and you used to bring Amy Gonzalez in and you two would fuck on the couch and I saw the one time?

Lex: Yea. Sure. That’s it.

Roman: And you made me promise not to tell and I never did. (No response) So…no lunch then?

Lex: Sorry. Did you say something?

Roman stands there for a while and eventually leaves, head lowered a bit. As he exits Frank enters. Lex looks up the moment Frank nears his desk.

Lex: Hello, Frank.

Frank: You sure did a number on Holenberg. He sang your praises the whole way out the door.

Lex: What can I say? I’m a talented individual.

Frank: I see all this power’s already draining you of your modesty.

Lex: I can afford to be immodest. It’s a benefit I’ve discovered. Nice work, by the way, on the toothpaste thing.

Frank: Oh. You heard about that? Thought your ears were too stuffed with endless compliments and cigar butts.

Lex: Always have to keep an eye on potential threats to the throne.

Frank: I’m flattered. Got time for a quick lunch downstairs?

Lex: Actually…yea. And let’s hit that little coffee shop on the corner. I’m ahead of schedule today.

Scene 10-The kitchen
Anna is cooking spaghetti on the stove while Bill moves from place to place gathering ingredients for a sandwich.

Bill: (Reaches over Anna) ‘Scuse me, Anna.

Anna: Can’t you see I’m trying to cook here, Bill! Make you’re sandwich some other time. Get out of my kitchen.

Bill: Calm down, woman. It’s my kitchen, too.

Anna: Well, I don’t see you paying for any of the food in it. All you do is eat it up.

Bill completes his sandwich and goes to the table.

Bill: Where’s Roman at?

Anna: I don’t know, Bill. I’m not nosy like some people.

Bill: Hm. He have a girlfriend yet?

Anna: I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. Let ‘im focus on his school work. There’s plenty of time for girls later.

Bill: Hope it’s girls.

Anna: The boy ain’t a fa- He ain’t gay, Bill.

Roman enters, backpack on. He’s a bit exhausted. Bill and Anna’s eyes move to him instantly.

Anna: Hey there, Roman.

Bill: Roman.

Anna: What have you been up to today?

Roman: (Walks by) Nothing.

Anna: (Blocks Roman. Checks his face) Roman. You look a little tired. Are you okay?

Roman: Yea. Just…didn’t get a lot of sleep last night. Writing music.

Bill: Loud ass guitar.

Anna: Bill!

Billy: Hm?

Anna: Are you hungry?

Roman: No.

Bill: You sure, boy? You look a little thin.

Roman: (Loudly) No! (Shocks himself) I mean…no. (Reaches for the cupboard and pulls out two cups) I’m just…need water…sleep. That’s all. (Exits)

Scene 11-Roman’s room
Roman scurries around his room, looking for something, more jittery than before. The glasses of water on placed on his desk. He finds his cell phone and calms down substantially. Digging into his backpack he pulls out a pill container. He places one pill in each cup. They dissolve to nothing in the water. He dials a number into his cell phone.

Roman: (In a panicked voice) Marci, it’s me. I need your help. Come over. Come over now.

Roman hangs up the phone. Lights fade to black. Lights go back up. Roman is practicing guitar on his bed. His backpack is nowhere in sight.

Roman: (Singing)
Fiery faces melt my mind
Persecution far from home
Tainted empire tried to find
Suffocating. Fall of Rome.

Desperate shadows call my name
Singing chorus drowned in moans
Tears and laughter sound the same
Suffocating. Fall of Rome.

Marci enters through the window. Roman drops his guitar and quickly runs to her.

Roman: Marci. You came.

Marci: Of course I came. Are you alright?

Roman: Well…it’s my brother…

Marci: What happened? Is he okay?

Roman: Yea. Sure. (Grabs the glasses of water and offers one to her) Here. Have a drink. This might take a while.

Lights go down. When they come up both glasses of water are empty and sitting on the desk. Roman and Marci sit side-by-side on the end of the bed. Both are in a light daze, Marci more than Roman, and they speak closely to each other.

Roman: So my centaur is at level five now. I came across this big spider-thing. You know the one?

Marci: Yea…

Roman: Yea, so I thought the thing was gonna kick my ass, but just when I could practically see the words “Game Over” racing across the screen I leveled up and squashed that thing. It was pretty amazing.

Marci: Sounds like it. (Pause) Hey, Roman. I’m feeling kind of…off.

Roman: What? Are you sick or something?

Marci: No. No sick. It feels like my brain is deflating. It- (She glances at the drinks) Did you put something into my drink?

Roman: Both drinks. Mine and yours. But don’t worry. It’s harmless. A minor tranquilizer. To relax the both of us.

Marci: Relax.

Roman: Yes. We’ve both been a little tense lately, I think. I figured it’d be good for you and I if we just took the time to calm down and talk to each other. Like we used to.

Marci: You fucking bast-

Roman: (Puts his pointer finger to her mouth) Shhh. It’s okay. I would never force you to do anything you wouldn’t want me to. (His hand creeps to her thigh)I love you.

Marci: Roman…

Roman: Can I kiss you, Marci? Ever since the first time I’ve dreamed of kissing you again.

Marci: Roman I…

Roman: Would you stop me if I kissed you?

Roman pushes himself onto Marci, kissing her. His hand moves up her thigh, while his other hand works at her face and torso. Marci jerks back at first but gradually gives in to the other.

Roman: You’re beautiful, do you know that? I’m sorry I didn’t realize this sooner. We could’ve done this years ago. You’re so soft and fragile and wonderful. I want you so badly. (Roman kisses her again and she shivers a little. He pulls away) Are you okay?

Marci: I-I don’t…I can’t think.

Roman: It’s okay, Marci. I can think for the both of us. We’ll be one soon. (Roman pulls the covers back from his mattress) We’ll have each other. We’ll never be alone. We’ll drive each other to success and adopt a small child from the Philippines. (Roman guides Marci back onto his bed and climbs on top of her, pulling the covers over the both of their lower halfs) It will be perfection in its purest form. Happiness like neither of us have ever felt.

Marci: Roman…

Roman: Shhh. All is as it should be. (He kisses her neck as he undoes his pants and belt with one arm, while propping himself up with the other) I love you, Marci. More than anyone has ever loved anything, I think. Do you love me yet? (Pause) Do you, Marci? (Pause) Do you love me?

Marci: I…No…

Roman: (Taken aback) No? No. No! No! (Roman climbs off of Marci in a hurry, redoes his belt and pants, and leaps from the bed, disgusted and disbelieving, experiencing a violent tantrum) This is wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

Anna: (from outside the door) Roman Wade, what on earth are you doing in there?

Roman: GET THE HELL AWAY FROM MY DOOR!

Anna exits. Roman moves back and forth, motioning to hit something, then he slumps over, exhausted and defeated. He reaches under his bed and pulls out his backpack. He puts the backpack on and exits through the window, leaving Marci alone on his bed.

Scene 11-The street corner
Woman in Black arrives at the corner. She is wearing a large black hat with a veil that falls over her face, covering it from view. The black dress is even more elegant than before. Lex enters, noticing the Woman instantly. He stops and examines her as before. This time he tries to approach her from behind, moving carefully as not to frighten her or snatch her attention. When Lex is almost close enough to touch her she turns to him, frightening him.

Lex: It’s you. It’s really you. Just when I started to think that fateful night was all a dream, some dark fantasy, you’re here. Here you are.

Woman in Black moves with liquid motions. She reaches into her purse and pulls out a black envelop. She hands the envelope to Lex and hurries offstage. Lex starts after her, stops, and opens the envelope. He reads the letter, becoming increasingly excited and exits the way he came.

Scene 12-The kitchen
Anna is pouring hot tea into a teacup as Marci sits at the table, distant, rubbing herself for warmth.

Anna: (Places the cup in front of Marci and sits down beside her) How are you, dear?

Marci: Fine, thanks.

Anna: I haven’t seen you around here in a while.

Marci: I’ve been sneaking in through the window.

Anna: Oh. (Pause) So…What happened up there?

Marci: I don’t want to talk about it.

There is silence as both Marci and Anna drink their tea. The silence is broken by the arrival of Roman from another room of the house. Roman sees Marci and the two share a glance. Roman then goes to the refrigerator and pours himself a cup of milk.

Anna: Roman. (Pause) Roman.

Roman drinks his milk and exits the way he came. Marci stands up and marches off in the same direction.

Scene 13-Roman’s room
Roman sits on his bed, staring blankly at the ceiling. Marci bursts in and stops a few feet away from him.

Marci: Where were you? (Pause) I asked you a question. Where the fuck did you go?

Roman: Nowhere. I was right outside. Under the big tree. I couldn’t stay in here. I couldn’t look at you.

Marci: (Pause) You practically raped me. I hope you know that. I hope you understand what you almost did to me. What you did to our friendship. You fucking drugged me, Roman! You drugged me! With one phone call, ONE call, I could put you behind bars…or in an asylum. I could. I should. (Pause) I hate you so much. More than I’ve ever hated my spiteful mother, my alcoholic father, my abusive boyfriends. And do you know why? Of course you don’t. It’s because out of all my crappy relatives and neglectful friends you were always the only one I loved. And it wasn’t the kind of love that results in you and I fucking in the backseat of your ’97 Civic outside of a movie theater. It was much more real than that. (Pause) I guess that wasn’t enough for you. I guess I wasn’t enough. (Starts for the window) I’m leaving your room now, Roman Wade. Don’t expect to see me again. (Exits)

Roman begins to cry. He reaches into his backpack and pulls out a syringe.

Scene 13-The office
Lex sits back in his desk chair staring at the letter from the Woman in Black.

Lex: Amazing.

ACT TWO
Scene 1-The kitchen
Anna and Bill eat breakfast at the table.

Bill: Where’s Roman?

Anna: I don’t know, Bill. He hasn’t been here in days.

Bill: Think he went off with that girl you were talking about?

Anna: I don’t…think so. I don’t know, Bill.

Scene 2-The office
Lex sits, working hard in his office. The office is covered in pictures and designs of the Woman in Black. Covered to the point of obsession. Frank walks in, disturbed by all the new decorations.

Frank: Jesus, Lex. Obsess much?

Lex: Hello, Frank. What can I do for you?

Frank: Nothing. Nothing at all. Just wondering why we work on the same floor of the same building but I never see you anymore.

Lex: I’ve been busy, Frank. It’s an undesirable yet unavoidable side effect of my new title.

Frank: I think there’s a little more to it than that. I talked to Shirley. She doesn’t see you either.

Lex: You talked to Shirley.

Frank: As concerned friends, of course. Nothing more. Lex. Something has happened to you. Everyone sees it. This strange behavior. You missed the closing meeting with Holenberg. You missed it and had no real reason to from what I see. (Pause) I was placed in charge of phase two of the campaign in addition to the toothpaste thing. (Pause) Did you not hear me? I’m in charge of your campaign. (Pause) Has there been any news about your brother?

Lex: Huh?

Frank: Your brother. Roman. He’s been missing for days. Shirley told me.

Lex: Roman…

Frank: Wow, Lex. You’re gone. (Starts to exit, but is stopped by Lex)

Lex: Frank! Wait!

Frank: I don’t have time for-

Lex: The Woman in Black. The mascot for the Holenberg campaign.

Frank: Uh huh. What about her?

Lex: She’s real.

Frank: Oh boy.

Lex: I met her once on a street corner. A week or so ago. She came back to me a few days later and gave me a letter. The letter said that she would meet me again tonight. It’s all I can think about. (Frank stands in silence, thinking to himself) What? What are you thinking?

Frank: I’m thinking that this office is going to go through some major renovations when it’s mine.

Scene 3-The kitchen
Anna, Bill, and Shirley sit under dim lights, drinking tea.

Anna: I don’t understand it. We gave that boy a good home. Always fed him.

Bill: Always had money. Damn kids today. Acting so stupid for no reason. Had a lot more than any of us had.

Shirley: I’m sure he’ll show up. He’s a smart kid.

Anna: Honor roll every year.

Bill: Better than his brother at that age.

Anna: Mm hm.

Bill: Hope he didn’t go off into the streets. Boy like that wouldn’t last long. Angry boy. I always knew he was a little off…but with a father like that…

Shirley: Father? Lex never talks about his father to me.

Anna: His father was a good man. Our boy. A confused man, too. One morning he just decided he wasn’t happy and left his family with some man. Tore his wife apart. Wasn’t long after her sickness set in. Cancer. When she died the boys came to live with us.

Bill: About a two weeks after she died, you mean. The boys ran off on their own. Lex and Roman. Had to have been twelve and six at the time. Lex took care of Roman out on the streets. They were both a bit thrown by their mother’s death. They didn’t want anyone else raising them. Police found them eating out of a dumpster and sent them here. Haven’t complained since.

Anna: Lex and Roman were inseparable for a time. But the difference in age and-

The phone rings. Everyone is quiet and still. Shirley picks up the phone.

Shirley: Hello, Wade residence, how may I- Oh. I see.

Bill: Who is it?

Shirley: Okay. Thank you. We’ll be right there. Goodbye. (Hangs up the phone) They found him.

Scene 4-The street corner
Lex stands on the corner, searching the area impatiently, holding a dozen red roses.

Lex: Come on. Where are you? You said you’d be here by now. Please, come. Please.

A Hobo wobbles onto stage from upstage. He looks around and then notices Lex.

Hobo: Hey, you. (Gets Lex’s attention) You lookin’ for her?

Lex: Her?

Hobo: The lady. The one in black.

Lex: I am.

Hobo: Well, she ain’t comin’. She had some business to attend to. Busy lady, you understand. But she told me you’d be here. (Reaches into his pocket and pulls out a red envelope) Make me promise I’d make sure this got to ya.

The Hobo hands Lex the envelope and hobbles offstage as Lex opens it and reads the letter inside. He seems disturbed by its contents. He exits.

Scene 5-The kitchen
Anna, Bill, and Shirley, in a panic, rush in through the outside entrance. As they speak, Shirley pulls out her cell phone as she hurries Bill and Anna through the kitchen and both of them exit through the other side.

Shirley: You two get whatever you need. I’ll be right here waiting.

Anna: Thank you, dear.

Bill: Where’s Bill?

Shirley: I’m calling him right now. (Bill and Anna exit) Hello. Bill. It’s Shirley. There’s been an emergency. No. I’m at Bill and Anna’s. No. They’re fine. It’s Roman. They found him in the city. He was- What? You need to-? Bill, you and I can talk later. This is your brother we’re talking about here. At the hospital. He’s in a coma. Drug overdose. The doctor’s say he’s in critical condition. Your grandparent’s are packing to stay overnight. We’ll meet you there in a- What? What do you mean you can’t make it tonight? He’s your brother! Fine. Look, I-I hear Bill and Anna. We’ll talk later.

Bill and Anna rush in.

Bill: Did you get a hold of Lex?

Shirley: Yes. He’ll be there as soon as he can.

Scene 6-Blackout
Lights fade to black. There is a period of silence.

Shirley: You have reached the voicemail of Shirley Myers. I am not able to answer the phone right now but if you leave your name, number, and a detailed message I will get back to you as soon as possible. Have a great day.

There is a beep.

Frank: Shirley. Hey, it’s Frank. Lex hasn’t been to work in three days. I was wondering if you had any idea where he’s been hiding. Talk to you later, babe. Bye.

There is another beep.

Frank: Hey. Frank again. I heard about Roman in the hospital. I’ll try to get down there as soon as I can. PS. I’m acting Vice President until your man gets back.

There is a succession of beeps, soft, one every other second.

Shirley: The doctors say he’s falling fast.

Anna: Oh, God. Please. Please don’t take my baby away.

Bill: Where’s Lex?

Shirley: I don’t know, Bill.

Anna: Our father, who art in heaven…

Bill: You told him his brother was in the hospital, didn’t you?

Anna: …thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth…

Shirley: Yes. Three days ago. And a million times after that. He hasn’t returned any of my messages.

Anna: …and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…

Bill: What is wrong with him? Wasn’t anything Roman wouldn’t do for him and he can’t even show his face.

Anna: Amen. (Anna gasps)

Doctor: Mr. and Mrs. Wade?

Shirley: (Pause) Doctor?

Doctor: I’m sorry. He’s gone.

Scene 7-Roman’s room
Bill and Anna enter. Anna is crying, carrying a box of Roman’s belongings, including his backpack. Bill holds her in his arms. Anna places the box on the bed and the two exit. Once Bill and Anna are out of sight a spotlight appears on Lex, standing on an empty portion of the stage, shivering from the cold. In his hand is his latest letter from the Woman in Black, wrinkled from endless use.

Lex: (After a moment of silence) Well, I’m here. I did everything you said. My job. My family. Everything. I left it all…for you. Now, come to me…

Marci climbs in through Roman’s window

Marci: Rome? You here? (Looks around) Hm. (Sits down on the bed. Notices the box of belongings. Casually looks through the box, eventually making it to the backpack. She opens the backpack and finds something of interest) What in the…? (She stands up, pulling out a long black dress. The one the Woman in Black last wore) Roman Wade. You need some serious help.

Light fades out over Roman’s room. Five seconds later the spot light over Lex goes out. In a second it comes back on but Lex is gone. It is Roman who stands under the light. He is dressed in light colors, but in the same style as usual. He examines his surroundings a bit, takes a few steps downstage, lets out a deafening cry, shouting until he’s out of breath, collapsing to his knees, and the lights go out.

-PLAY END-

A Shade of You

CHARACTERS

Narrator – an unseen noir-style storyteller
Joe – a private investigator plagued by love
Dr. Sol – a mad scientist
Violet – Dr. Sol’s stoic assistant
If – a tall, dark and handsome thing
Bobby – a smooth-talking playboy
Bobby-Two – Bobby’s sidekick/lackey
Clara – Bobby’s pretty little girlfriend
Then – ethereally beautiful young woman
Other Recorded Voices

Notes.

Though the entirety of this play occurs in the present-tense, its style rests firmly in those of film that encompassed Depression Era America. The piece, while melodramatic and strange to the point of comic at times, will maintain a generally tense mood; one that is both dark and gritty when the situation permits. Until Act Two, that is, when the status quo meets its opposition. Also, all sets, props, costumes, and even the actors themselves will be rendered completely in gray-scale, giving the overall appearance of a black and white film unless otherwise noted.

~PLAY BEGIN~

ACT I

Scene i.
Joe’s office: a small, dark, and gloomy space, riddled with shadows. JOE, mid 30s, a guy who was once perhaps successful, attractive and sober, sits at his desk, hunched over piles of paperwork and unread files. There is a phone, a bottle of scotch and a half filled glass. He sits, suffering under the weight of what he’s allowed his life to become. Despite all this, there is an intensity to him fueled by his innermost demons. The NARRATOR’S sharp and confident voice pierces the darkness as lights slowly rise…

Narrator: Here sits Detective Joseph Powers. “Joe” to his friends…if he had any, that is. A sadder soul you’ve never seen. You can trust me on that one. Used to be a time, not too long ago, when Mr. Powers was on the up and up. A favorite on the local police force, Joey here was destined for greatness…but he got cocky and lost it all when word about him getting mixed up in the wrong side of the law…I’m talking the mob…got to the wrong ears of the wrong reporters. One thing led to another and here we are. Detective Joseph Powers. Detective. Ha. Just some private investigator, desperate for booze money and picking up any half-baked sideways case to get it. Take his latest: There’s a murderer on the loose who’s raped and killed the type of girl who, judging by her lifestyle, was asking for it. Cops can’t figure out whodunnit. What makes this pathetic excuse for an inebriate think he can succeed where decent guys have not is beyond me. Maybe he’s finally lost it. Maybe the cops just don’t give a damn. After all, there is a high-profile serial killer on the loose. And what’s worse is that the ol’ Detective here can’t keep his mind on a damned detail because of her, which is ironic because she’s the reason he’s in this pickle in the first place. Her. The object of his desire. A femme fatale in five-inch heels. An acid-tipped trick that he just can’t kick. I’d feel sorry for him if it was worth my time…

Scene ii.
The living room of Bobby’s condo. It’s a modern trendy place; simple yet elegant. The ultimate bachelor pad. BOBBY, 30, a striking man of average looks made to seem above average by his dual senses of fashion and self-worth, sits on his couch, playfully sipping a mixed drink. BOBBY-TWO, 30, his dopey friend, stands near him, a small planet orbiting the sun.

Bobby: Another successful night on the town, wouldn’t ya say, Bobby-Two?

Bobby-Two: You did good, Bobby.

Bobby: Good? Man, I was incredible! Remember the babe with those big green loopy earrings…

Bobby-Two: I-

Bobby: You didn’t think I could do it, did you? Thought she was out of my league…

Bobby-Two: Well-

Bobby: I was hurt. Really. My best friend betting against his truest bluest. But I showed you, didn’t I?

Bobby-Two: Yeah-

Bobby: Yup. I did. I did indeed. Because when Bobby wants something, Bobby gets it. The world is full of low-born ladies who will do anything for their moment in the sun. Ha! (takes a sip of his drink) (to Bobby-Two) A little bitter, huh, Bobby-Two? Not your best work. Next time let Rosa make it. That’s what she’s for, after all.

Bobby-Two: (takes a quick sip of his drink) (under his breath) S’not that bad.

Bobby: What’s that?

Bobby-Two: Nothing.

Bobby shrugs. Takes another sip and overreacts to its bitterness.

Bobby: Blech! Did you even try?! I’m kidding…mostly. Rosa’s is better, but I guess I could-

Bobby-Two: Why do I have to be Bobby-Two?

Bobby: Huh?

Bobby-Two: (fights an impulse to say “nothing”) Bobby-Two.

Bobby: Aw jeez…

Bobby-Two: It’s degrading!

Bobby: I think someone’s upset he didn’t get any last night.

Bobby-Two: Bobby…

Bobby: You’re just Bobby-Two. It’s who you are. I mean, I’m certainly not Bobby-Two. (gestures towards himself) No. Some people are destined for greatness and others are destined to make sure they get there…Bobby-Two. (notes Bobby-Two’s less than amused expression). …Other Bobby? Ha, I’m joking. I’m kidding. I’m a kidder. (looks at his glass) Mix us up another round, pal?

Bobby-Two: (cold) How’s Clara?

Bobby: Fine.

Bobby-Two: Okay. (pause) She doesn’t mind all your little side projects?

Bobby: What she doesn’t know isn’t going to hurt her. Plus, a girl like that…as long as I keep her drowning in dresses and jewels she’s not going to go raising a fuss about my extracurriculars.

Bobby-Two: Hm.

Bobby: ‘Nother round?

Scene iii.
Lights rise on the laboratory of Dr. Sol. It is a place of clutter and intrigue, filled with all manner of experiments in the works and, of course, a table on which lay some humanoid thing completely draped in a white sheet. DR. SOL, 40-60s, a kooky-looking intellectual fellow and VIOLET, 22, his assistant, a dark and Gothic thing in headphones, toil away at this and that as a storm rages around them. They both wear lab coats and black rubber gloves. An ode to the age of silent film and the general theme of this piece, the scene, and all others that take place here during Act I, are completely without sound (save for the option of a light piano backdrop). All character dialogue will be portrayed via written text (CAPTION) presented to the audience by way of projector.

CAPTION: The Laboratory of Dr. Sol

Dr. Sol speaks excitedly as he looms over the sheet-covered creature.

CAPTION: “Soon, my dear Violet, all of our work will come to a head!”

Violet looks to Dr. Sol, shrugs, puts on her headphones, and returns to work. Dr. Sol shakes off her apathy and returns to his work. He pours liquid from one beaker to another and an eruption of smoke appears, causing him to choke. He begins to falter, unable to breathe, convulsing as he collapses to his knees trying to get Violet’s attention. It is when Dr. Sol is lying on the ground, nearing his last breaths, when Violet turns with a question and notices his dire situation. With utter calm, she plucks a potion from her coat pocket and pours some down his throat. Once again able to breathe, he climbs to his feet and scolds her.

[NOTE: Depending on the resources of the production, the previous “silent gag” scene can involve any science-related physically comical situation that results in Dr. Sol almost dying and Violet realizing it in the nick of time to nonchalantly save him]

CAPTION: “You infernal girl! Take off those blasted things! I could have died!”

Violet points to her headphones, gesturing that she can’t hear what he’s saying. She removes her headphones. He is preparing to repeat himself, but a (silent) knock at the door startles them both. Dr. Sol points to Violet, hoping for an explanation. She shrugs. They react to another knock. Dr. Sol exclaims.

CAPTION: “Who dare travel so far and be so brave as to rap at my door at this hour?!”

Dr. Sol thinks of his creature, exclaims again.

CAPTION: “We must protect it at all costs!”

Violet nods, reaches into a bin and produces a large weapon, like the 1930’s version of a gun from the distant future. She returns to Dr. Sol’s side, nods and points the weapon in the direction of the door.

Dr. Sol shouts.

CAPTION: “The door! It’s opening!”

A moment of terror quickly gives way as Dr. Sol falls under a spell of childish gleeful disbelief and Violet, suddenly bored, hands the gun to Sol, returns her headphones to her ears and goes back to work. Enter IF, mid-20s, a disarmingly beautiful, chic and modern, strapping man who is a bit too tall and has a pair of bolts sticking out of his neck. He wears a pair of aviator glasses and is utterly drenched. Dr. Sol, hardly able to contain his excitement, exclaims anew.

CAPTION: “If! My dearest If! I knew you’d return to me! I just knew it!”

Dr. Sol captures If in a warm embrace. If stands perfectly still. Sol looks to him, lovingly, and speaks.

CAPTION: “You’re back, my love. Just in time to meet the newest addition to our little family…”

Lightning strikes.

Scene iv.
Joe’s office. There are even more papers piled on his desk. Joe roots through them, wildly, until he becomes overwhelmed.

Joe: DAMMIT!

Joe drops his head onto his desk.

Narrator: Well, will you look at this? Can’t say much has changed since the last time, eh Detective? Well, except maybe that your workload is piling up faster than you can keep it down. You lost five cases in the past week, Joe! Get a hold of yourself! You used to be one of the best, Joe. Every one of these cases you let pass by is less money in your pocket. You have to sustain yourself…even if you’re method of sustaining involves a pit stop at the local liquor store.

Joe: ARGH! I have to get to the bottom of this…

Narrator: You can’t let her get to you like this, Joe.

Joe: She loves me…

Narrator: Joe… (sighs) Alright. Alright. Let’s see what we’ve got so far. Take a deep breath. (Joe does so) That’s right. Now exhale. (he does) Good. Good. Alright. The facts.

Joe: The facts. The facts… (examines a sheet of half-crumpled paper) Whew. The facts. Mary Sandino, Caucasian, twenty-three years old, murdered in her boyfriend’s apartment. She was found naked on the floor, half way between the bedroom and the kitchen. She’d been raped and strangled, but the kill wound was one of fifty or so gashes received by a letter opener from the night stand. Boyfriend couldn’t’ve done it. He was a whole state away. We have confirmation of that from his trucker buddies and managers at most of his drop-off spots. There were no prints. Neighbors didn’t see anything. Hear anything. (pause) I…

Narrator: Yeah, Joe?

Joe: I…I don’t know! The cops couldn’t figure it out! How can I?!

Narrator: Give up, Joe.

Joe: I can’t give up! I…can’t…

Narrator: And to think, if you weren’t so pathetic you’d be working on that high profile serial killer case with your old cop buddies. You’d probably be captain by now. It’s a damn shame and that’s a fact.

Scene v.
Bobby’s condo. Bobby is talking on his cell phone, pacing, serious.

Bobby: Hello? (irritated) Oh. Oh, it’s you. Put my uncle on the phone. (a moment passes and he brightens up) Uncle Bill! How are ya? It’s your favorite nephew. Ha ha. Oh, I can’t complain. City life is city life, ya know? You should come visit some time. Come down from the mountains and get a little taste of culture and life, for once. Ha ha…just kidding. But seriously, I’d love to have you. Work going well? Oh! Oh, I understand. I’ll just be a minute, I promise. See, the thing is, I’m running a little low on cash. It’s…the recession, ya know? No one’s safe. Heh. Yeah, no…I’m…my job’s…coming along. The economy…Wow, ya know? I mean…It’s like…hard out here.

CLARA, mid 20s, enters, a beauty from head to toe, but something about her is a little off.

Clara: Who’re you talking to, baby?

Bobby: (surprised by Clara’s entrance) Ah! Oh! Hey, it was great talking to you as always! Think about what I said! Do you still have my… Okay! Great! Good! Tell what’s-his-face I say ‘Hi’! Bye! Bye! (hangs up the phone and scoops Clara in his arms) Hello, beautiful.

Clara: Who was that on the phone?

Bobby: That was my Uncle Bill.

Clara: Oh. You never mentioned an Uncle Bill…

Bobby: Really? Are you sure? We’re pretty close, Uncle Bill and I. We’re all each other have left in the family since my father died…

Clara: And left you all alone…

Bobby: And six million dollars richer. Right. How ever did I find the strength to go on?

Clara: Bobby…

Bobby: Clara…

Clara: You sure did seem to hang up in a hurry when I came in.

Bobby: My Uncle’s a sweetheart, he really is, but he’s losing it, I think. There was the stroke and…I can’t talk to him for too long, ya know? It reminds me of my dad. I feel guilty sometimes, but I just…can’t. You came in and I used it as an excuse to hang up.

Clara: You promise?

Bobby: Cross my heart, beautiful.

They kiss.

Clara: So, what are we doing tonight?

Bobby: It.

Clara: Bobby, you gotta lower a girl’s defenses with expensive wine and a night on the town before you get the prize at the bottom of this box. I was thinking Le Fleur…

Bobby: Le Fleur. Isn’t that place reserved for the foreseeable future?

Clara: So what? Slip the hostess a couple hundreds and we’re golden.

Bobby: (thinks) What about McCabe’s?

Clara: McCabe’s?!

Bobby: What’s wrong with McCabe’s?

Clara: It’s beneath us.

Bobby: It got four stars!

Clara: Out of five!

Bobby: I- (tries to find the logic in her retort and fails) You were raised on freakin’ Happy Meals and TV Dinners! Ruby Tuesdays should be a god-damned gourmet restaurant to you!

Clara: What did you say?!

Bobby: Kidding, kidding. Honestly, I’m in a meat and potatoes sort of mood. We can do Le Fleur on Friday.

Clara: Nice try. You’ll be in Vegas on Friday.

Bobby: Oh, that? I’m not going anymore.

Clara: (serious) What?

Bobby: Yeah, we had to cancel. (softly) Between you and me, I think Bobby-Two’s having some serious money issues.

Clara: Oh…

Bobby: Yeah, poor kid. (notices the look of concern on Clara’s face) What’s up, baby?

Clara: Nothing. I… I have plans this Friday.

Bobby: Oh?

Clara: I was going to have a friend over.

Bobby: A friend. What kind of friend?

There is a spell of silence in which their eyes lock and the answer makes itself known to Bobby.

Bobby: Ah, I see. And when were you planning on telling me this? (she does not respond) I see.

Clara: It’s none of your business.

Bobby: Oh. Right. My girl invites some man into my house without telling me…it’s none of my business.

Clara: (in tears) You don’t even care about her!

Bobby: I’m paying-! (swallows his frustration) Put your coat on. We’re going to fucking Le Fleur.

Clara: (distant) If only I would’ve gotten there a second sooner…

Bobby: Let’s go.

Scene vi.
Dr. Sol’s laboratory. The storm has subsided. Dr. Sol and If sit on a freshly placed carpet in front of the covered creature, tea cups in hand. Violet sits in her usual spot, bobbing her head to the music playing in her headphones. Dr. Sol gazes lovingly at If as he pours him some more tea. The moment is ruined as Violet’s head-banging becomes more fierce and she uses some nearby objects as drumsticks which she (silently) bangs against anything within reach. Dr. Sol scolds.

CAPTION: “Violet, will you stop that racket?!”

Violet hears nothing and continues her raucous activity. Dr. Sol, patience worn, marches over and tears the headphones from her ears. He points toward the hallway, barking.

CAPTION: “Leave here this instant! I need peace! Unplug everything in the house! Internet. Cable. Telephones. Everything! No more interruptions from you or the outside world today, thank you!”

Violet leaves in an irritated huff. Dr. Sol, smiling widely, returns to If. Sweetly, the doctor speaks.

CAPTION: “It means so much to me that you’ve returned.”

If gestures to the thing under the sheets, saying.

CAPTION: “Says the man who’s almost done building my replacement.”

Dr. Sol is aghast. Shaking his head, he assures.

CAPTION: “Oh no! No! No! No! Nothing could ever replace you! This is something…else entirely.”

If’s eyes narrow and he takes a sip of tea. Dr. Sol places his hand on If, whispering.

CAPTION: “My bed has been quite the lonesome place without you.”

If freezes, grows somber and removes Dr. Sol’s hand from his person. He explains.

CAPTION: “I only wanted to see if you were okay. Nothing more. Feelings do not just…fade away into time and distance, whether they are good or bad.”

Dr. Sol, saddened and embarrassed, turns away, muttering.

CAPTION: “I made you.”

If, for the first time exhibiting his power and monstrous potential, turns Dr. Sol’s face to him, snarling.

CAPTION: “But you do not own me. Just like you will not own this newest creation. Mark my words, old man.”

If rises and Dr. Sol reaches for him, distraught. If speaks.

CAPTION: “It was good seeing you, William.”

Dr. Sol jumps to his feet and pleads.

CAPTION: “Dearest If, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I kept you from the world for so long! I’m sorry I lead you to believe that this was it and that my love was the only love! But please, stay. Help me make things better with this one.”

Dr. Sol gestures toward the thing under the sheets. If looks at it, then at Dr. Sol. If closes his eyes and declares.

CAPTION: “I will visit when I can. If only to make certain this creature knows that it is its own master.”

Scene vii.
Joe’s office. The papers are piled even higher. Joe is eating a sandwich as one might imagine a  starving wolf tearing through a young deer.

Narrator: Isn’t this a sight? Slow down, man! As much of a welcome surprise it is to see you putting something into your mouth that isn’t 40 proof and wrapped in a paper bag, you’re no good to anybody dead on the floor from a clogged trachea. And don’t think I didn’t see the way you looked at the girl who put that sandwich together for you. You should go down and talk to her. Ask her out. She’d make an honest man out of you. Get your act together. Ah, what am I saying? As far as causes go, you’re about as lost as they come. How’s the case coming along?

Joe, sandwich in one hand, forages through his mess of papers.

Joe: Jesus!

Narrator: That good, huh?

Joe continues to scan his notes. He comes across a newspaper clipping. Just as he’s about to cast it to the side, he is struck with a thought.

Narrator: What’s this? A newspaper clipping?

Joe sits his sandwich on the table and lifts a small journal in his free hand, looking curiously between it and the clipping.

Narrator: That article, that’s…that’s about the serial killer half of the city’s looking for. You don’t think-? No. That there’s a connection between the serial killer case and your insignificant little side project, do ya? Come on, Joe! Yours is an isolated incident in the city. We’re talking about sixteen girls all raped, strangled to death and found in the woods…miles away. Sure, your girl was raped. Strangled, too. And yeah, most of the girls found in the woods had homes in the city…and just about all of them were confirmed runaways. No friends. No real family. Just like yours. Hm. It’s a longshot, Joey, God knows…but maybe you’re on to something…

Scene viii.
Bobby’s condo. Bobby is sitting in the dark, talking on the phone. There’s a storm rumbling on outside.

Bobby: Bobby-Two! How are you doing tonight, my best of friends?! What?! No. Nothing like that. Can’t a guy just call his friend and- Look. Okay. I need you to come over on Friday. Yes, I know! Don’t- I’m not asking you to cancel your trip to Vegas. Just to postpone…a little. Come on! After all I’ve done for you! Look! Wait! Listen! It’s Clara! No, she’s fine. She’s fine! It’s just…that guy I was telling you about. Yeah. Him. He’s coming over for some kind of…talk and I need you there in case we have to…in case he starts to put the moves on her I need you to help me maintain my property, ya know? Because I love her, that’s why! (pause) Nevermind that. They’re just whores. Barely people. Just get your ass over here on Friday. (pause) Ah, that’s my Bobby-Two! Ha ha! What? Oh. Fine. That’s my…Bobby (he mouths the word “two”). What’s that? Oh. Oh, that. I’ve got enough to get by. Don’t worry. I’ll bounce back from this. I’m Bobby Sol. Ha. See ya Friday, bud.

Scene ix.
Dr. Sol’s lab. The storm is (silently) raging like never before. Dr. Sol, Violet, and If surround the thing under the sheet. The Doctor is giddy with excitement. If stands expressionless. Violet chews on gum, blows a bubble and holds up a wired plug of some kind. All are wearing their goggles up. Dr. Sol looks to Violet. Violet pulls her goggles down over her eyes and nods. Dr. Sol nods, pulls his goggles down over his eyes and produces a device from his lab coat pocket with a large switch on top. Dr. Sol and Violet turn to If and he, too, pulls his goggles down over his eyes. Violet plugs in her wire and all manner of things start to light up. All eyes are on Dr. Sol as he makes a spectacle out of flipping the switch in his hand. When he at last does so, lights flicker and flash. The Doctor bellows.

CAPTION: “It’s alive! IT’S ALIVE!”

Violet rolls her eyes behind her goggles, smacks herself in the face and shakes her head at the Doctor’s cliched statement. If crosses his arms. The arms of the thing under the sheets rise toward the sky and it sits straight up, still completely covered.

Scene x.
Bobby’s condo. Bobby sits on the couch, deep in thought. Clara enters, dressed to perfection, as she fastens her earring.

Bobby: Well, look who’s all dressed up. What’s the occasion?

Clara: I don’t need an occasion to look spectacular.

Bobby: Obviously.

Clara: Zip me.

Bobby rises and zips Clara’s dress.

Bobby: The things I do for love.

Clara: Thank you.

Bobby: No problem. So, when’s the man of the hour coming over?

Clara: He should be here any minute. And be good.

Bobby: You got it. Oh, I invited Bobby-Two.

Clara: What?

Bobby: I figured, you’re bringing a friend. So can I.

Clara: You’re a bully.

Bobby: I thought that’s one of the things you loved about me. Like how I handled those guys at the bar that one time.

Clara: That was a horrible day for me.

Bobby: It was the day we met!

Clara: It was the day she died! It was the day I found her… And this isn’t some frat party, Bobby. Mary was very important to me.

Bobby: You hardly even knew her.

Clara: I knew enough to know she deserved better than what she got.

Bobby: Hmph.

The doorbell rings.

Bobby: (moves toward the door) Allow me.

Bobby opens the door and Joe enters.

Joe: (obviously surprised to see Bobby. He’s immediately unnerved by the other’s presence as he tries to hide it) Bobby.

Bobby: Joe. It’s been too long, bud. Come on in.

Bobby leads Joe to the couch,being certain to place himself in between he and Clara. He places his arm around his girlfriend and smirks at the detective. Joe’s eyes rarely leave Clara. It is obvious that she has a firm hold on him from the start.

Bobby: What do you have for us? Something? Anything? Lord knows I pay you enough. You’d hope something would come of my investment of love.

Clara: Bobby…

Bobby: What? I hired him to find out who killed your friend and it’s been, what, five months and he hasn’t given us anything we couldn’t get from the evening news. So Joe…whaddaya know?

Joe: (clears his throat) Well, I-

The doorbell rings.

Bobby: Hold that thought. (rises and moves toward the door) Jeez, Joe, you smell like cheap liquor. (opens the door. Bobby-Two enters) Bobby-Two! My friend! Just in time for the party! Get in here!

Bobby-Two: Hi, Bobby. Clara. (produces a bottle of wine) I brought wine. (to Bobby) Hey, Bobby, help me bring up my luggage? The cab driver’s charging by the minute. I figured I’d just leave for the airport from here in the morning.

Bobby: I… (looks to Clara, who is concerned with Joe) Yeah. Okay. Hurry up.

Bobby and Bobby-Two exit.

Joe: I thought he wasn’t going to be here!

Clara: I know! Me too.

Joe: Thanks for the head’s up…I can’t face that man, unprepared.

Clara: Sorry, Joey.

Joe: Don’t worry about it. (pause) You look real nice tonight.

Clara: Thanks. You, too.

Joe: Ha.

Clara: Ha. You do…

Joe: How much longer is this going to go on? I can’t stand it anymore.

Clara: As long as it has to, Joe. You know this.

Joe: It’s making me crazy. I can’t eat. I can’t sleep. The thought of you and him…It just-

Clara: I know. I know. But this is how it’s gotta be. You’re saving up all the money he’s paying you, right?

Joe: As much as I can. Work’s been a little slow lately.

Clara: Maybe if you didn’t drink so much…

Joe: Clara…

Clara: I’m serious.

Joe: I hate this.

Clara: We need the money.

Joe: So, what? We just keep robbing this guy while you pretend to give two shits about this sleazy little girl-

Clara: (smacks Joe) Don’t you dare speak about Mary that way.

Joe: Jesus…

Clara: I loved that girl like a sister. That’s why this is all so believable.

Joe: Remember the old days? Before all this shit?

Clara: I remember you were a handsome cop and I was a bad girl.

Joe: You still are.

Clara: (playful) Joe…

Joe: The guys told me to stay away from you, but I didn’t listen. You got me wrapped up in all sorts of nonsense, but I didn’t care. I knew from the moment I laid eyes on you that you were the one.

Clara: (half-listening) Yeah…

Joe: (sobers up) Can I say something?

Clara: Ha, of course you can, Joey.

Joe: Sometimes I think there’s no expiration date on this scam…That you like being with this guy. That I’m the one getting used.

Clara: (pause) I don’t know what to say to that other than you’re just going to have to trust me.

Bobby: (enters,dragging a small suitcase) We’re back! Hope I didn’t miss anything good!

Bobby-Two enters with two large suitcases.

Clara: Nope. Nothing.

Joe: We were waiting for you.

Bobby: I bet.

Clara: Bobby, what’s with all the luggage?

Bobby: Baby, don’t be upset but…Bobby-Two’s going to be staying here for a little while. Until he gets himself back on his feet. (to Bobby-Two) I know you didn’t want me spilling all your secrets, but we’re all friends here. We know you’d do the same for us. (guides Bobby-Two and seats him between Joe and Clara) Sit down. Take a  load off. I’m going to see how Rosa’s coming with the drinks. (exits)

Clara: Bobby, this is Joe. Joe, Bobby. He’s the one investigating Mary’s murder for me. Bobby’s my Bobby’s friend from college.

Bobby-Two: Nice to meet you.

Joe: Same.

Clara: Bobby, I’d heard about the trip to Vegas getting cancelled but I had no idea things had gotten like this. You know you’re always welcome here. Anything Bobby or I can do to help, just let us know.

Bobby-Two: (irritated) Clara…

Clara: Yes?

Bobby-Two: Listen. About all this talk about-

The doorbell rings. Everyone pauses, as if sharing the same feeling of unease for no good reason.

Clara: (calls to the kitchen) Bobby!

Bobby: (off-stage) Yeah?

Clara: Are you expecting anyone else?

Bobby: (off stage) No. It’s probably the cleaning lady.

Bobby-Two: (stands up) I’ll get it.

Bobby-Two opens the door and in walks Dr. Sol, dressed in a three-piece suit, with If, stunning as always.

Bobby-Two: Um…

Bobby enters, happily, with a tray of mixed drinks.

Bobby: Round one is served!  Hors d’oeuvres will- (he notices Dr. Sol and musters all available self-control to keep from dropping the drinks all over the floor) Uncle Bill?! W-what are you doing here?

Dr. Sol: You extended an invite, my boy, and I accepted!

Bobby: But…but-

Dr.Sol: If we’re not welcome here, we can surely-

Bobby: No! (calms himself) No. Stay. Of course. Sit. Drink. Everyone, this is my Uncle Bill and his…

If: Associate.

Dr. Sol: If.

Bobby: Right. If, the associate. Great. Okay. Come, Uncle. Both of you. Sit. Drink. Be merry and all that. Ha.

Joe: (to Clara) Maybe I should come back at a better time…

Bobby: I think he’s on to something…

Clara: (to Joe) Not until you tell me what you’ve discovered.

Dr. Sol: Discovered…?

Bobby: He’s our personal psychic. All the rage in the city.

Dr. Sol: Personal psychic? No wonder you’re running out of money…

Clara: What?

Bobby: Oh, Uncle Bill and his crazed accusations. Ha…stop it, Uncle. You’re too much.

Bobby-Two: Maybe I should be going…

Bobby: No! No…you’ve got nowhere else to go…

Bobby-Two: Oh, I can think of a couple…

Bobby: (sharply) None as surrounded by love and loved ones and fun and games as right here so stay put! (to Dr. Sol) Uncle. Uncle’s giant friend. Sit, please. Regale us city folk with tales of the countryside.

Dr. Sol looks to If, who nods in agreement.

Dr. Sol: That is exactly why I am here, my boy. You see, I, Dr. Sol, have been working on a project like none the world has ever seen. Equal parts science and art and magic and (glances at If) love. Yes. In my constant quest for perfection my experiments have born many fruit, each a different flavor from which I sampled and, through them, acquired a higher, more fulfilled plane of existence. I was recently informed by my wise, wonderful…associate…that to keep such things to myself was selfish…it was cruel…and I’m sorry (to If) I am so sorry… (gathers himself and addresses all) and vow, from this moment forward, to share all my discoveries will the world! And so, without further rambling on my part… (calls to the hall outside of the condo) You can come in now!

In enters something covered in a sheet held tightly against itself so that not an inch of it is visible. There is a crackling tension rising from Joe, Clara, Bobby, and Bobby-Two.

Dr.Sol: Introducing my latest creation: The incomparable Then!

THEN, early 20s, a girl with unnatural beauty, removes the sheet from herself at last. She stands before the others, fully in color from head to toe. Her clothing, like a rainbow. Flowers are braided into her hair. The others are in complete shock. Bobby-Two is frozen in disbelief. Joe leans forward, mouth hanging open. Clara shrieks and Bobby passes out.

Lights down.

ACT II

Scene i.
Act II begins with darkness. Then emerges the voice of a radio newscaster, guns blazing.

Newscaster (recorded): Kip Freely here, bringing you breaking news from KP997, The Buzz. What started as a loose sprinkling of crazed conjecture has exploded into near frenzy as more and more citizens of this fair city are reporting sightings of something beyond our vocabulary to properly describe!

Guy (recorded): I was grabbing a hot dog on the corner of Second and Houston when I saw her. It…it was definitely a her but…I’d never seen anything like it. I only saw her for a split second- she was in the back seat of an old Caddy, head poked out of the window, full of wonder- but I can picture that face like I had a lifetime to study it. Incredible. There was something about her that I…I just can’t find what to call it…she was…brighter, somehow. Yeah. Brighter.

Newscaster: These “Bright” sightings have been popping up all over the city. The phones here at the station have been ringing off the hook. No one’s quite sure how many are out there, where they came from or what they want, but I think I’m with the rest of my listeners when I say, I’m chomping at the bit to find out!

Scene ii.
Joe’s office. It’s a bit brighter than it’s ever been before. There are less papers on his desk and the ones that are there are, for the most part, neatly organized. There is a half-filled glass and no bottle of scotch in sight. As always, he is burdened by some weight on his shoulders, but the burden seems lighter somehow. Joe toils at his work, focused like never before.

Narrator: Hey, Joe. Whaddaya know? (pause) Joe. There’s something different about you. I haven’t seen you looking this put-together since you were on the force. That’s been what? Ten, fifteen years now?

Joe’s phone rings. He answers.

Joe: Hello? Oh, Mr. Henderson. How are you? Fine. Fine. I uncovered some information on the whereabouts of your son, including an address and a friend he’d been tagging along with for the past few months. I emailed it to you about an hour ago. Right. As soon as you’re home then. Let me know how it all works out.

Narrator: I can’t believe what I’m hearing. Joseph Powers working on a case that isn’t connected to that two-timing floozy, Clara. What’s going on here?

Joe stops what he’s doing and rests his head on his hand, staring longingly into nothingness.

Narrator: Ah, I see it now. It’s that girl from the other night isn’t it? What was she called? Then, I think. The one they’re calling…bright in all the papers. It’s been days, Joe, and you only saw her for an hour, hour and a half. Two, tops! Jeez, Joe, sure she was the most beautiful girl this side of the ocean, seemed about as sweet as a cherry pie, sharp as a razor and said the most interesting things anyone’d ever heard…but that’s no reason to fall head over heels for her; especially since, not three days ago you were tangled up in hurricane Clara…not that I’m complaining, of course. You seem to be doing okay for yourself. And if I had to choose between one or the other, well…I think you know where I’m going with this.

Joe rises from his chair.

Narrator: Joe?

He straightens his tie.

Narrator: Joe. What’s going on? What are you doing?

He exits in a hurry.

Narrator: Joe!

Scene iii.
Bobby’s condo. Bobby sits, hunched over, upset. Clara is dancing around him, admiring herself. Bobby-Two sits beside him.

Bobby-Two: How are you feeling, Bobby?

Bobby: I’m fine.

Bobby-Two: You don’t look so good.

Bobby: I’m fine, I said!

Clara: It’s no use trying, Bobby. It’s been a week and he still won’t talk about it.

Bobby: What’s to talk about?! I saw that…thing and I fainted!

Clara: My baby’s just embarrassed.

Bobby: (snaps) Would you two just-?! (calms) Leave me alone.

Clara: (to Bobby-Two) How was Vegas?

Bobby-Two: It was great.

Clara: I’m so amazed you could afford it with all those money issues…

Bobby: Clara…

Clara: Bobby.

Bobby: Shit.

Bobby-Two: Tell you what. There wasn’t a thing in that entire city that could hold a candle to your Uncle’s “creation”. All the glitz and glam and flashing lights and all I could think about was that girl, Then. Wow.

Bobby: Feh.

Bobby-Two: Ha. You weren’t conscious long enough to catch a glimpse of her.

Bobby: I caught enough. It’s not right.

Clara: She was beautiful.

Bobby-Two: And the way she’d speak…the things she’d say… Wow.

Bobby: Could we talk about something else, please?

Clara: I highly doubt you’d want to do that right now.

Bobby: Ugh.

Clara: Anyway… (to Bobby-Two) Robert Johanssen, I think you’re in love.

Bobby-Two: Clara!

Bobby: Clara…

Clara: I see that little twinkle in your eyes. You love Then.

Bobby: Quit it, Clara.

Clara: It’s adorable! Oh, I know… (Clara produces a piece of paper from her purse) You should go see her! Yes!

Bobby-Two: I…um…

Bobby: No!

Clara: Yes! Yes! Yes! (hands the paper to Bobby-Two) Here is Uncle Bill’s address. He’d said that if we needed anything to just come by for a visit. Such a sweet and not at all senile old man. (to Bobby) Has he turned his phone back on?

Bobby: Clar- Ugh. No. Not since yesterday.

Clara: Perfect. (to Bobby-Two) Then you go visit. Say that we tried to call and couldn’t reach him. Tell him that Bobby’s condition has gotten worse and we’ll need…five…six…eighteen thousand dollars to cover the procedure. Yes! There’s your excuse! You’ll see the girl and pick up the check and we all win! (forces Bobby-Two toward the door) Now go, Bobby-Two! Go! Go! Go! (pushes him off-stage)

Bobby-Two: (re-enters) I don’t know-

Clara: Do you want to spend your whole life being Bobby-Two or do you want to start taking some risks, following your heart and maybe even becoming Bobby One? (to Bobby) I hear there’s an opening. (to Bobby-Two, sweetly) Please, Bobby. I can’t go all the way out there alone and we really need the money.

Bobby-Two: Fine.

Clara: Yay! This the the beginning of something wonderful for you. I can feel it!

Scene iv.
Dr. Sol’s lab. Violet is working, headphones on. Then enters, unknown to Violet, a splash of color. When Then speaks there is none of the rest of the play’s style in her voice. She is utterly and genuinely real.

Then: Hey. I’m Then. (Violet hears nothing) You’re Violet, right? I remember you were there when I woke up. Dr. Sol and If say that you don’t like to be bothered, but…you’re a girl like me and I was hoping that we could be friends.

Violet starts to (silently) drum on the counter.

Then: Oh, that looks like fun.

Then picks up two random items from the lab and begins to drum as well…except her drumming produces an actual sound. Violet slowly notices Then mimicking her actions as well as the sound that Then is able to produce. Violet removes her headphones and produces a small beat with her makeshift drumsticks. Then imitates it, with the addition of sound. Violet does this twice more, with increasingly complex beats. Then executes them perfectly and Violet stops and stares at the strange girl beside her.

Then: Hi, Violet. I’m Then. Would you like to be my friend?

Then extends her hand and, realizing that Violet has no intention of responding, pulls it back.

Then: Why do you stay hidden in this laboratory when there’s so much world to discover out there? (Violet is quiet, but listening) I don’t know much of it yet, but I would be happy to show you. (pause) You should come with me into the house. Dr. Sol and If are talking and laughing and everything is wonderful now! You won’t even recognize them!

Violet: I can’t. Eep! (covers her mouth, startled by the sound that burst forth from inside her)

Then: Hehe. (takes Violet’s hand in hers) I can see in your eyes that you’ve been hurt. I’ve seen the hurt in so many eyes these days. It’s cold and it’s dark and it makes everyone afraid of love. But I’m telling you, Violet, that there is no need to be afraid or to hide in this place. Dr. Sol couldn’t survive without you here. If would not exist. And certainly not me. You are needed. You are loved.

Then releases Violet and takes a step back. She then extends her arm with a wam smile.

Then: Friends?

Violet shows signs of emotion and slowly removes her glove from her right hand. Much to her surprise, her bare hand is in full color. Then giggles. Violet smiles and grab’s the other’s hand in her own.

Violet: Friends.

Dr. Sol: (from off-stage, drunk with joy) Then! Violet! Get down here! The party’s just getting started! Woohoo!

Then: Ready?

Violet nods excitedly.

Then: Excellent.

Then grabs Violet’s colored hand and pulls her toward her creator and If. Before they exit there is a knock at the laboratory door. Both stop and look at one another. There is another knock.

Bobby-Two: (off-stage) Hello? Is anybody there? There’s so many doors in this place. It’s Bobby’s friend! I’m here for Dr. Sol. It’s about his nephew.

Then: Oh! The nice man from the city!

Then skips to the door and opens it. Bobby-Two enters, clutching a bouquet of flowers, instantly smitten.

Then: Hi, Bobby’s friend! Welcome! Come on in! You’re just in time for the party!

Scene v.
The woods at night. In addition to the trees there are a few stones and fallen branches on the ground. The design makes it seem as though the forest is larger than the actual space of the stage, allowing characters to travel substantial distances without exiting. Wolves and owls and other creatures of the night perform their off-putting symphony as Joe enters then stops, spotting something in the distance. He keeps moving.

Narrator: Well, isn’t this a sight? Joe Powers scampering around in the forest like a lost squirrel. How in the world did we get to this juncture? Everything seemed to be going so well for ya. Wait a minute. This is the forest that all those girls were buried in, isn’t it…give or take a few miles? What’s your angle, Joe? What’s-

Joe pulls a single withered flower out of his pocket. He then pulls out a pair of binoculars from the same pocket and looks intently through them, off into the distance.

Narrator: I should’ve guessed. That serial killer case is the farthest thing from your mind, isn’t it, Joe? You’re peeping into the old doctor’s house, trying to catch a glimpse of that Bright girl, aren’t ya? Jeez, Joe, you’re an embarrassment to us all.

Joe’s demeanor brightens.

Narrator: Spotted her, did ya?

Joe’s expression goes blank…and then annoyance sets in.

Narrator: What now? Oh, I see. She’s in there dancing with another man…and, from the looks of it, he came with a bigger bunch of flowers, too. This is an inescapable product of the life you chose, pal. Go home. Get your head together. And don’t go running back to you-know…oh who am I kidding?

Joe throws the flower on the ground and sulks away. His foot kicks a pile of leaves, revealing a small wallet.

Narrator: What’s this?

Joe picks up the wallet and examines it with a detective’s eye.

Narrator: A wallet. What’s a wallet doing out in the middle of the-?

Joe’s eyes widen as he examines its contents.

Narrator: Is that? It is! It’s Then’s driver’s license, but she’s not so…bright in it.

Joe draws out a set of plastic-sleeved photos and explores them. A few moments pass and he pulls a particular picture from it’s sleeve, pocketing the wallet and the rest. Mouth hanging open he can’t take his eyes off of it.

Narrator: Joe? What’s going on in that- ?! Oh. I see. That picture. It’s a picture of Then and…and…

Joe exits in a hurry.

Scene vi.
Bobby’s condo. Bobby and Clara sit on the couch, spread out and dazed as if all the class had seeped out of them.

Clara: Being poor is awful.

Bobby: No. Having people know you’re poor is awful. This is fine. This is temporary.

Clara: How do you know?

Bobby: Because anything else would be unacceptable.

Clara: Ugh. I’m hungry.

Bobby: Have Rosa make you a sandwich.

Clara: I fired Rosa.

Bobby: You did what?!

Clara: I fired her. She was expensive.

Bobby: She’s been with the family for eighteen years!

Clara: She cost you $8,500 a month.

Bobby: Oh.

Clara: Yeah.

Bobby: Well then. No more sandwiches.

Silence passes between them.

Bobby: Clara?

Clara: Huh?

Bobby: Do you love me?

Clara: What a silly question. Of course I love you, Bobby Sol.

Bobby: Even poor?

Clara: (pause) Even poor.

Bobby: You’re a better man than I.

Clara: What about you, Bobby? Do you love me?

Bobby: Honestly? I don’t know if I’ve ever loved anything. I’m almost positive I’m incapable of such a thing. But if, by some off-chance, I have it in me…you’d be the one I’d spend it on.

Clara: How romantic.

Joe bursts onto the scene, waving the wallet in the air.

Joe: I’ve done it!

Clara: Joe!

Bobby: What in the name of-?!

Joe sits down beside Clara and shows she and Bobby the picture. Bobby looks queasy.

Clara: (gasps) It’s Mary! And is that…?

Joe: Yeah. It’s Then. Before she turned Bright and changed her name, I guess. She was a girl named Alice Swanson, according to her driver’s license. She fits the M.O. of all the other victims. No family. On the wrong side of the law. And, according to my files, has been missing for over a month.

Clara: Where did you find this?!

Joe: I was…investigating the forest where they found most of the bodies and came across this.

Clara: What does it mean?

Joe: (to Bobby) The place I found the wallet…it wasn’t too far from your uncle’s house.

Bobby: Oh yeah?

Joe: And that’s not all. On my way out of the woods I almost fell right into it.

Clara: Into what?

Joe: An open grave.

Clara: No!

Joe: It was fresh, too, and a set of footprints lead right up to your uncle’s doorstep.

Bobby: Oh…

Clara: (tearing up) Bobby. Bobby, do you know what this means?!

Bobby: I…

Clara: Your Uncle Bill killed those girls! He killed my Mary!

Bobby: That’s…I mean, I always knew he was eccentric, but…never this…

Clara hugs Joe tightly, for a moment.

Clara: (to Joe) You did it! You really did!

Joe: (practically gushing at the attention she’s giving him) Well, I…

Clara: What happens now?

Joe: (gathers himself) I march up there and I bring him into my office for some questioning. I just wanted to tell the both of you in person first.

Bobby: Thanks, Joe. Whatever we can do to help…

Joe rises as Bobby-Two, in full color, enters as if king of the world.

Bobby-Two: Hey, guys, notice anything different about me?

Bobby: Jesus Christ, Bobby…wh-what happened to you?

Bobby-Two: It was Then. She and the doctor and If and Violet…it was incredible. Ha. (reaches into his pocket and throws Bobby the envelope) Here’s a check from your uncle for twenty grand. Money. Ha. All paper and nothingness. Enjoy it while you can, my friend. Soon you will understand that this is all meaningless. Pollution. A diversion. The weak man’s refuge. Bobby…the future is bright.

Joe exits as the lights go down.

Scene vii.
Dr. Sol’s living room. Everything, people included, is in full color as the music plays and Dr. Sol, If, Then, and Violet dance and prance and lounge and play in their righteous rainbow world.

Dr. Sol: Eat, drink and be merry, my friends! Wahoo!

Violet: I feel like I’m flying!

Then: You are, Violet! Your feet will never touch the ground again!

If: (to Dr. Sol) I’ve seen the world. I’ve felt its pain and I’ve felt its pleasure, but this is my home. This is where I am from and this is where my story will end.

Dr. Sol: Oh, my love, you have no idea how that makes me feel!

If: If it’s half as good as I’m feeling right now then the rest of the world will envy us both.

Dr. Sol and If embrace.

Dr. Sol: Then! Violet! Get over here!

Then and Violet join the embrace.

Then: I think I’m the happiest that anyone has ever been.

Violet: I feel more complete than I ever thought possible!

Dr. Sol: Oh, my precious Then. My beautiful If. My blossoming Violet. We’ve found perfection, haven’t we?

Suddenly, as if snapped out of a trance, Then steps away from the others and stares to the ceiling.

Dr. Sol: Then? What’s wrong, dear?

Then: It’s just that there’s so much sadness in the world, Doctor. So very much. And we’re so happy. The world is full of the most wonderful people and they suffer while we have everything. It’s not fair…

Dr. Sol: You can’t save everyone.

Then: But we can try.

If: She’s right. We have too much to offer. We can’t keep it locked inside this one house. It’s selfish. It’s…evil.

Dr.Sol: Yes. Yes, of course. I almost lost you once because I did not give you to the world. I’ve learned from my mistake. To the car, everyone! There’s work to be done!

Scene viii.
Darkness. A montage of voices fills the air, starting with that of the radio newscaster from the beginning of the act.

Newscaster: Kip Freely from KP997, The Buzz, here to interrupt coverage of yet another body found in the City Strangler case with breaking news! The Brights are out tonight! The calls are flooding in as Bright sightings reach a fever pitch in midtown! For more, let’s go to Fiona Ferrara on location at 43rd and Broadway…

Fiona: Thanks, Kip! I’m standing here with Teddy Fox who claims to have… (fades out)

Partygoer: It was crazy, man! Me n’ my bros were chillin’ at the bar and there they are! Like, ten of ‘em! Dancing and smiling and…it was- it was nuts!

Young Woman: Oh my god! Oh my god! It’s the Brights! They’re real! They’re really real!

Man: One of them. The one with flowers in her hair. She sat down with this guy. They were talking, just talking, but there was this…I don’t know…this connection between them. You could almost see it. Then he starts crying. I swear to God, this huge guy breaks into tears and, I kid you not, his eyes turn that kind of blue and his cheeks turn that kind of red…just like a Bright’s.

Bag Lady: They’s angels, they is. Angels sent from above to save us all! Alleluia! Alleluia…

Scholar: I looked at one of them, a tall, handsome fellow, straight in the eye. We took each other in. There was nothing but purity in there. Truth and happiness and…purity. And then he moved on. The moment passed. I don’t know how I can look at anything else and find it the least bit beautiful again…

Wildman: I’m transformed! I’m beautiful! Look at me! I am the future! I am eternity! I am love!

Woman: I don’t know what to make of this…

Boy: …it’s weird, but cool…

Old Man: No such thing…

Officer: …keep everybody calm…

Old Woman: It’s an epidemic!

Partygirl: I wonder if the tall one’s single…

Fiona: What a night it’s been so far and the stories keep coming in. Here with me is Dan Sanders from out of state. Tell us what you saw…

Dan: Yeah, okay, so the Brights were doing there thing, right, when this guy comes up and starts talking to the old Bright. He was, like, getting in his face and things got pretty heavy. Guy pulls out a pair of handcuffs and the tall Bright looks like he’s ready to fight, but the old one calms him down. Guy slaps the cuffs on the old guy and they go driving off. The other four Brights stand around for a while, crying or whatever, and then hit the scene some more.

Fiona: Fascinating. If what this boy says is true, what people are calling Bright Night is just the beginning of the headlines these people will be making come tomorrow.

Scene ix.
Joe’s office. The desk is turned perpendicular to the audience and Joe, sitting on one side, faces Dr. Sol, on the other, handcuffed to his chair. The Doctor is completely at ease, taking in his surroundings and the situation with wonder and curiosity. The same cannot be said for Joe, tense as ever with so much riding on this interrogation. He places a recording device on the table and begins,.

Joe: I’m going to record this.

Dr. Sol: Alright.

Joe: (gathers himself) January 18th, 2012. Detective Joseph Powers here with Doctor William Sol discussing probable connection to the City Strangler serial murders. (to Dr. Sol) Do you know why you’re here, Dr. Sol?

Dr. Sol: (chuckles) Well, judging by your conversation with that little machine just now I’d say you’re trying to convict me of murder.

Joe: (clears his throat) Are you a murderer, Doctor?

Dr. Sol: Heavens, no. The decision as to when someone’s soul departs this plane is not a judgement call I, or any other man, has the right to make.

Joe: What do you know about Mary Sandino?

Dr. Sol: Nothing at all, I’m afraid.

Joe: What about the City Strangler?

Dr. Sol: I’m sorry?

Joe: Dammit, man! They practically found the bodies in your back yard!

Dr. Sol: (thinks) Ah, yes. I recall Violet mentioning something about police officers and questions and whatnot a while back. I was in my lab at the time. Not to be disturbed.

Joe: Who’s Violet?

Dr. Sol: My lab assistant. Not very talkative until recently, but a sharper youth you will never find.

Joe: So you knew nothing of the Strangler?

Dr. Sol: You must understand, I don’t get out much. And television and the Internet are not for me. I can’t waste time when there’s progress to be made.

Joe: Hm. Okay then. What’s your relationship to Alice Swanson?

Dr. Sol: I don’t know anyone by that name.

Joe: Hm.

Joe reaches into his pocket and slides the picture across the table to Dr. Sol.

Dr. Sol: (scoops the picture in his hands) Oh, how delightful! It’s Then before the transformation. It seems like just yesterday…

Joe: Her name is Alice Swanson.

Dr. Sol: I’m sure it was.

Joe: I found her wallet in the woods about a quarter mile away from your home.

Dr. Sol: I see.

Joe: Not fifteen feet away from what I can only think was an open grave.

Dr. Sol: Yes. Yes. Of course. That’s where we found her.

Joe: Found her…

Dr. Sol: Oh, yes! What fortune. Violet and I were searching the forest for some inspiration…sometimes scientific breakthroughs can exist right under your nose and, lo and behold, we stumbled upon this freshly covered grave. My assistant and I spent half the day digging her up, carrying her to the lab and cleaning her off.

Joe: You dug her up?

Dr. Sol: Oh yes. The specimen was in wonderful condition. Not a discovery to be left to waste! Did you know that during the civil war, scientists such as myself would use the bodies of fallen soldiers to further their studies? Why, a pair of anatomists-

Joe: She wasn’t dead!

Dr. Sol: Of course she was! She’d been down there for days!

Joe: (pauses to take it all in) But- If she was-

Dr. Sol: Oh, basic re-animation. I’d be happy to walk you through the process…

Joe: So you brought her back from the dead…

Dr. Sol: Oh no! I’m not God. I simply utilized the body as a sort of foundation from which to bring a whole new life into existence. Between you and I, I’d never planned on re-animating anything again.

Joe: You’ve done this before?

Dr. Sol: Only once. A few years ago. You’ve met If. Wonderful as Then is, If will always be my first and hold a special place in my heart.

Joe: Jesus…

Dr. Sol: …had nothing to do with this. Though I cannot help but think he’d approve. Soon peace and love will spread throughout the entirety of this planet. Go out into the streets. Its already begun.

Joe: You’re nuts.

Dr. Sol: (chuckles then grows deadly serious) How quick you all are to defend a status quo that has brought you nothing but grief. You think you understand; that you’re in control of your destiny when the reality is that allowing yourself any sort of freedom; any sort of power, terrifies you. So you accept your shortcomings, your pain, your fear, your grief as an inescapable part of life when they are actually the weapons used by the powers that be to imprison you…and you accept this as the way it must be. Well, let me tell you this, Detective: You might have convinced yourself that you enjoy the life of a lonesome, hardened slave, but myself and those like me are the truth. We are freedom, change and immortality. Either you will accept our truths or fade, half a man, into oblivion.

Scene x.
Bobby’s condo. Clara rests on the couch, flipping through a magazine.

Clara: (speaking to Bobby, off-stage) It’s all over the news, Bobby. The stuff with your uncle. He’s in police custody now. Can you believe it? They say there’s fifty Brights protesting outside of the station. Fifty! Can you believe it? There were barely five of them a couple nights ago. And that poor Alice girl. She’s protesting, too, after what he did to her. She doesn’t even remember her own name, poor thing. I wonder how he did it. I wonder how long he’ll get in prison. Life I bet!

Bobby enters, zombie-like, slowly moving toward Clara, who is wholly unaware of him.

Clara: Or- (gasps) -maybe he’ll get the death penalty. It’d serve him right after what he did to my dear Mary and all those other girls. On the bright side, if they kill him all of that money he’s been hoarding will probably go straight to us. You don’t think he’d leave it to that big guy, do you? No. Of course not. You’re family. So far they haven’t connected you to that homocidal bastard, thank God. What would our friends say? It’s all anyone would talk about the second we entered a room. I don’t know if I could stand it-

Bobby strikes, grabbing Clara by the neck.

Clara: Bobby!

Bobby: Shut your mouth, you fucking slut!

Bobby tightens his grip as Clara struggles to speak; to fight him off with no success.

Bobby: You traipse around like you’re some perfect little princess, but I know you’re the same low-life breed of whore that your friend Mary was. I heard you snooping around her boyfriend’s front door when I was finishing her off, so I stabbed the bitch and ran out the back way. I had to see how much you saw, so I followed you to the police station, the post office, the salon until you finally stopped at that bar where we had our “chance” meeting. I knew you didn’t recognize me by the way you didn’t scream bloody murder when our eyes met. Your so-called devastation over Mary’s death sure didn’t stop you from noticing my fancy watch and fucking me in the back of my limo.

Clara goes limp.

Bobby: I would’ve killed you right there, drove you out into the forest, if you hadn’t mentioned your detective friend somewhere between those stripper-whore squeals and how you’d hired him to find out who killed your friend. I figured, what better way to keep one step ahead of the cops than to keep you close.

There is a knock at the door that goes unnoticed.

Bobby: It wasn’t until later that I realized he was just some washed up investigator, but I thought, what the hell. Even if he never came up with anything, a gold-digging bitch like you would be the perfect alibi while I was out strangling all your old friends to death.

Another knock.

Bobby: But now…now I’m off the hook. My uncle’s taking the hit for me, bless his heart. I’ll get his money and- and I’ll disappear. Ha

Joe enters, not realizing what he’s seeing at first.

Bobby: And if that detective tries to point a finger at me I’ll drag his alcoholic ass into the-

Bobby stops. He slowly turns to Joe, who is moving toward him. Bobby stands and tries to speak, but is knocked to the couch by Joe’s left hook. Joe looks at Clara.

Bobby: (hazy) She ain’t worth-

Joe knocks him out. He kneels down beside her, checking her pulse. He goes pale and numb at the realization, taking his time taking it in.

Narrator: (pause) Dead.

Joe rises to his feet, eyes fixed on her.

Narrator: If you had been a few minutes earlier instead of wasting time with all those reporters, maybe things would’ve been different. But here you are. Too little, too late. When they make a movie about you, I think that’ll be the title. Too little. Too late. She’s gone now, Joe. How are you feeling? What are you thinking? Say something for Christ’s sake. Anything!

Joe: I…I’m free.

Joe lets out a nervous laugh.

Joe: I’m free.

Narrator: Hm. Hey now. Maybe there’s hope for a guy like you yet in this world…

Joe smiles to himself. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a single flower. It’s a beautiful rose, red, fully colored. He gently drops it on Clara’s body.

Joe: The future is bright.

~PLAY END~

Utu

CHARACTERS

Anansi
Lion
Crocodile
Gazelle
Crane
Dodo

 

~PLAY BEGIN~

The play takes place exclusively in a clearing in the Serengeti. The play begins with Lion, Crocodile, Gazelle, Crane and Dodo, froze and under dim. Each character embodies the animal of which they are named after. Crane is the only female of the group. Standing, lit, front and center stage is Anansi, addressing the audience.

 

Anansi: (to the audience) Hello, my friends! I am Anansi, the spider, handsome and wise. You have heard of me, yes? Ha ha, of course you have, for my name, or variations of it, have spread far and wide, from the blistering plains of the Serengeti to the clear blue waters of the Caribbean isles. They call me “Aunt Nancy” in America, but we won’t talk about that. You see, I am many things, but above them all I am a storyteller. Did you know that once, long, long, long ago, my father, the sky god Nyame had all the stories? Well, it’s true! Nyame said that I could not have his stories unless I brought Onini the Python, Osebo the Leopart, the Mmoboro Hornets…and a dwarf. It was tricky but I did it! And now I’ve got a million stories to share. Let’s see, let’s see, let’s see…which of my stories will I share with all you fine people today? Hm?! What’s that Nyame? You- you want me to tell that story? No. No. No! These people didn’t come here for that! They came here to be entertained, right people?! To laugh! To love! To- What’s that, Nyame? In these times it is more important to teach? To inspire? Oh…well, you are the Sky God. (to the audience) I am sorry. I wanted to make you laugh until your sides split at my antics, but Nyame bids otherwise. The tale begins where most of the greatest tales do…in Africa, where five animals have come together to speak of pressing matters. But first: a quick story. (looks to Nyame) It is a short story and fits in nicely to this one, I promise, sky god! (relieved) Ah, good. He will allow it. (to the audience) A long time ago, when the earth was but a child and its mountains and valleys still soft as clay, when the serpent gods were newly hatched, a great and powerful witch lived in a cave deep in the Ol Doinyo Lengai. This was not any witch, but the father of all witches, for it was the last of the dark beings that once encompassed everything before the gods made the universe and all that is good within it. This witch, Bori-kuu was his name, was jealous of the gods and all their power so one night he went over all of Africa and gathered up all the animals, from the great elephant to the diligent ant, and made from them a great crown which he wore around his head and hurried them to his cave by daybreak- all but one: the lion. Lions, you must know, were not like they are today. They were small and thin and ugly, hairless things. A curious lion went to the demon Bori-kuu’s cave and asked, “Witch King, why have you taken all of the animals except for me and my kind?” The witch replied, “Because you are a frail and fragile and ugly thing and not worthy of the crown of a king.” Hurt by Bori-kuu’s words, the lion swore to free the animals. The following morning the lion asked the sky god Nyame for a cloud. The god granted him this wish and, tying one end of the cloud to a mighty baobab tree, he took the other end in his mouth and stretched it into a long rope. The lion tied the rope into a lasso and threw it in such a way that he captured the sun. With all his strength, the little lion pulled the sun from the sky. He pulled and pulled, until his muscles grew, making him big and strong and the sun tanned his fur a golden brown- as it is to this day, across the Serengeti and to the Ol Doinyo Lengai into the witch’s cave. The sun’s light destroyed Bori-kuu instantly and the animals rejoiced, crying, “Hail the mighty lion, the greatest and wisest of us all!”. The gods were so pleased with the lion’s work that they made him and all of  the males of his kind receive a crown of long hairs on their heads, one strand for each animal over which they were now guardians and protectors for the rest of time. And that is how the lion became king of all animals… (exits)

 

Once Anansi exits, the others unfreeze. Dodo dawdles.

 

Lion: RRRROOOOOAAAAR!!!!

 

Dodo: Ouch.

 

Crocodile: Show off…

 

Gazelle: Why so angry? Why now? They’ve been around forever.

 

Crane: Not as long as we have.

 

Gazelle: Not as long as we have, but, still, a very long time. What I’m asking is, what makes today especially different from the nine or ten million before it?

 

Lion: They’ve gotten worse, Gazelle.

 

Crocodile: Much worse…

 

Lion: Once they roamed with the animals, living off the land as we do, killing only what they needed to survive. Power. Power is all that matters to them now. They destroy our land and replace it with monuments of silver, closer and closer to heaven on a foundation of the blood and bones of our kind.

 

Gazelle: Right, Lion. As usual you are correct, but, I ask you, what is the point of complaining? It has been made quite clear that they are the gods’ favorite? We are powerless against them. Why meet like this when we could be better spending our time hunting and gathering with our own kind?

 

Anansi creeps in, unseen.

 

Lion: I am king and it is my duty to protect you all, my subjects. The human menace is real and it is a plague. If we do not react in some way, I fear that we will all be dead within five generations…

 

Crocodile: A bit dramatic, don’t you think?

 

Lion: No, Crocodile, have you ever known me as one to exaggerate a tale in any way?

 

Crocodile: I suppose not.

 

Crane: You are an honest king and we are honest subjects (to Crocodile) for the most part. Lies are a human thing. They have no control over their vices or the emotions that fuel them.

 

Crocodile: You hurt me, Crane, with the things you say…

 

Dodo: You’re all crazy! Humans are a wonderful thing! They are gods among us! They have fun and can do whatever they want! They can fly like a crane or swim like a crocodile or move faster than a cheetah and can do anything any of us can a thousand times better! To be human is to be alive!

 

Lion: You sin with your talk, Dodo.

 

Dodo: It’s the truth, your majesty! And I stand by it!

 

Anansi: (drawing all attention to himself) As you should, Dodo! As you should… (They animals are clearly unnerved by Anansi’s presence. Anansi’s overall demeanor seems slightly darker and more calculating than when he addressed the audience) Hello, all! My, my, my what an odd assortment of animals here! Gazelle, do you have a death wish with the company you keep?

 

Lion: What do you want, trickster?

 

Anansi: Trickster? Me?! I am offended, King Lion! I am but a humble storyteller, I assure you. Once, Nyame, the Sky God, had all of the stories, but-

 

Crocodile: We know the tale, Spider…

 

Anansi: I’ve got a billion more!

 

Lion: We have no time for your stories. There are pressing matters…

 

Anansi: Sounds serious! What are these ‘pressing matters’?

 

Lion: None of your concern. This involves the animals and the animals take care of themselves.

 

Anansi: I am offended! I am an animal, just as much as you all! I am a spider…and sometimes a hare, or a tortoise, two tortoises…or whatever else I want. I am more animal than all of you combined…and, when the world was new, human and animal alike would come to me for guidance. So, tell old Anansi, what is the matter?

 

Gazelle: Humans.

 

Lion: Gazelle!

 

Gazelle: What is it, Lion?! What will this change? The humans have won. We are nothing more than a source of food or money or slavery or-or…artistic inspiration to them!

 

Crocodile: (to Gazelle) You are nothing more than food to me, as well…

 

Gazelle: (ignoring the other) I have said it once and I will say it again…this is a waste of time!

 

Crane: (bitingly) Then why are you here?

 

Pause.

 

Gazelle: …because we must hope. Even if there is no logic to it.

 

Anansi: Hm. Hmmm. Hm! Hmmm? Hmmmmmmm…

 

Crocodile: What is it, Anansi?

 

Anansi: I’m going to have to agree with Dodo on this one: Humans are quite fun. And they continue to tell of me and my stories- unlike you people. But! I am wise and I am animal and I would love nothing more than to help you, my brothers (to Crane) and sister, in any way I can. So, tell ol’ Anansi, what exactly is your problem with humans?

 

Gazelle: Aside from the fact that they’re going to cause the extinction of us all.

 

Anansi: (faking a yawn) Yes, yes, the dinosaurs said the same thing about all of you…

 

Gazelle: Well…I especially hate the way that humans think they are better than everyone else, when all they do is attempt to breathe underwater like us, fly like us, see in the dark like us, attack with spikes and poisons like us! Without us they are nothing!

 

Anansi: Superiority complex, yes. Crocodile?

 

Crocodile: There is no honor in their actions. I kill to survive. Meat and marrow crunch between my teeth, red blood mixing with the muddy water of my lake because that is as it has to be. Humans, they lie and lie and lie again while they have everything they could ever want. Brothers in the sun, enemies in the shadow.

 

Lion: Crocodile is right. This lack of honor feeds well into my complaint…their thirst for power. There are few things a human will not do to achieve control over other humans. There is a hierarchy in the animal kingdom and all respect it.

 

Anansi: Ah-

 

Lion: Their power takes the form of gold and coins and other humans and they fight to have more, more, more than their brothers until their last breaths.

 

Anansi: Power-hungry deceivers. Got it. Crane?

 

Crane: (She pauses, then speaks as if lost in her thoughts) Humans. I cannot help but feel sorry for them. Do I wish to see them extinct? Yes. Yes, of course, but I watch them from above, closer than any of you- aside from Anansi perhaps “and I see how tragic their lives are.

 

Gazelle: Of course their-!

 

Crane: Gazelle. (Gazelle is silent) I cannot say how much of the fault is their own and how much is their nature, but their lives are so complex. We adhere to the laws of the jungle: Only the strong survive. Kill or be killed. Protect the young. The laws might be brutal sometimes, but they are simple. And Lion upholds them. Simple. Humans have a thousand laws for a thousand things. They are imprisoned by them. We know fear and we know anger and we know various levels of contentment, but they are poisoned…yes…they are poisoned by doubt and pride and shyness and hatred and ignorance and…and love. They have let these emotions get the best of them and their complexities have infected the other facets of their lives and the lives of all things on the earth. This is why they must go. They have overcomplicated the beauty of the simplicity of this world…

 

Anansi: Drama queens. Check. Dodo, is their anything you’d like to say before I make my verdict?

 

Dodo: Humans are great and the only reason you are all complaining is because you’re jealous!

 

Crocodile: (to Dodo) I’m going to eat you when this meeting is over…

 

Anansi: (pacing) Hmmm. Hm! Hm. Hm! Hmmmm…mmmmmm….mmm….

 

Lion: Get to it, Trickster!

 

Crocodile: (to Anansi) I’ve got room for seconds…

 

Anansi: As you wish, your majesty, of course. I am Anansi, son of Nyame the sky-god, keeper of stories, shape-shifter, bringer of rain…but there is far more to my power.

 

Lion: Hmph.

 

Gazelle: Go on…

 

Anansi: I will make a deal with you…

 

Lion: No. I will never deal with your sort!

 

Gazelle: (enwrapped and empowered by Anansi’s words) Go on.

 

Anansi: Come close. I must speak low so that my father does not hear me. (Gazelle is the first to move closer. Followed eagerly by Dodo and a hesitant Crane) Come! Come! (Crocodile shrugs and repositions himself so that he can hear) (to Lion) Lion?

 

Lion: I will not.

 

Anansi: Then stay there. Keep quiet. Use your ears. (to the others) I can make them disappear.

 

Gazelle: What?

 

Anansi: I can make the humans disappear.

 

Dodo: No!

 

Anansi: Shh!

 

Crane: But…how?

 

Anansi: It’s easy, really. I am a god. What we create we can destroy.

 

Crane: You would do that for us?

 

Anansi: Of course I would! I live to help. But, as I said…

 

Crocodile: The deal…

 

Anansi: The deal. It is nothing, really, compared to what you all will gain.

 

Dodo: Gain! I don’t want any of this!

 

Anansi: Shh!

 

Crocodile: Your opinion doesn’t count, Dodo. You are the last of your kind.

 

Dodo: But I still matter!

 

Crocodile: Untrue.

 

Gazelle: This deal…

 

Anansi: It is nothing. Really. All you must do is live as humans for one year.

 

Gazelle: What?! You mean…

 

Anansi: I will use my powers to make you all human for exactly one year- I will provide you each with clothing, language and enough money to live comfortably “and at the end of that year I will get rid of those pesky humans forever.

 

Crocodile: What’s the catch…?

 

Anansi: No catch, no catch at all! (darkly) Spend the year as humans, come back with your fears and accusations validated…and they disappear. Forever.

 

Dodo: Humans for a year…Woohoo!

 

Anansi: Shh!

 

Crane: This is too good to be true…

 

Anansi: (laughs, bright again) Not at all, my dear, not at all. Too good, yes.And too true. Both things! (to Lion) But I cannot perform this magic unlesseveryone agrees to it.

 

Lion: No.

 

Gazelle: No? No! You were the one who called this meeting. The sun is almost set and we are no closer to reaching a solution than we were at midday. A god has come to answer our prayers. If you have a better idea than Anansi’s please let us know. If not, let us know why you would see us all dead, king.

 

Lion: (growls)

 

Gazelle: Go on! Devour me! If you do not agree to this I will be dead anyway.

 

Lion: (calms himself) I have a kingdom to rule.

 

Dodo: Uh…i-if I may, Your Majesty.

 

Lion: What is it?

 

Dodo: Well, Anansi here is a great and powerful god…and a shapeshifter. He could take your place as king while you are away…

Lion: Never!

 

Anansi: You have my word as a god and friend that no drought or sickness or death by unnatural means will occur while you are away to any of your subjects. (extends his hand- Lion hesistates)

 

Gazelle: I don’t understand how this is a difficult decision. A god’s word is gold. Even a trickster-god.

 

Crane: You are our king. Do and we shall follow.

 

Crocodile: Hm.

 

Dodo: Please, Lion! Please! Please! Pleeeease!

 

All But Dodo and Lion: Shh!

 

 

Lion: Do you swear to serve the best interests of my subject while I am away?

 

Anansi: I do.

 

Lion places his paw in Anansi’s hand.

 

Anansi: It is settled then! (moves to the middle of them slowly, extravagantly) I raise my hand. I snap (snaps his fingers, one hand then the other, and the animals begin their transformation) my fingers. Spin around and dance like so (dances and the animals transform to human) and…you are human. (the animals explore their new bodies) That’s it, that’s it…get used to your new bodies…especially you animals with four legs…or eyes on the sides of your heads. You will all travel east to the man-city. You will live there amongst the humans, telling no one of my magic or your former paws and claws and scales and feathers. We will all come to this very spot to talk of our adventures and discoveries. We will do this after one week, one month, one season and, finally, one year. Yes. That will suffice. (Pause.) Well, what are you waiting for? (shoos them away) Go! Go! Go!

 

Lights fade to black. Lights rise up on Anansi, who addresses the audience.

 

Anansi: Hello! Hello! It is Anansi, here with another story for you! This one takes place in the wetlands. Personally I want nothing to do with them. So muddy and sticky and…oh, the mosquitoes! Pesky little things. At least when I suck the blood out of something I finish the job… (catching himself on a tangent) Anyhow!…waaay back when, the wetlands were even dirtier and smellier than they are today- if that were possible- and everything that lived in the wetlands was brown or gray and filthy, filthy and ugly. Among these ugly creatures were the hippos and the mudskippers and so many other ugly things that I would have to list them for twenty-seven years to get through them all…but the ugliest of the ugly was the crane. I mean ugly! They were tall and gangly and covered in spots and lumps and things that do not even have names they are so repulsive…but they could fly. And though they did not migrate like normal birds, the cranes would fly up, up, up in a straight line so that when they looked down they could see far beyond the wetlands to the grasslands and the jungles and the deserts where the prettier animals dwelt. Fully aware of their utter hideousness they spent most of their day crying and hiding from the other animals until one crane thought to ask for the help of the greatest of all the gods…Me. Anansi. And so I descended from the heavens…but didn’t touch the ground because…yuck!…and heard him say, “Great and wise, Anansi!” – that’s me -“my kind are ugly”- I was not blind -“Please lend me your paintbrush so that I we can show our faces in public without frightening cubs and fledgings!” And so, being kind and generous, I gave him my paintbrush and told him that I would collect it in seven hours. The crane rejoiced and got to work. The sun was high when the crane took the brush and- SWOOSH “dipped it into the sunlight and painted a golden ray crown upon its head. It then dipped the brush into the sky and made his eyes sparkle a brilliant teal. He approached a young hippo, and when the hippo opened his mouth in awe at the golden crown and sparking eyes, the crane took his brush to the hippo’s teeth and ” SWOOSH -painted his great wings and parts of his face a blinding white. As the sun set he returned to his fellow cranes, who were impressed at his colorful accessories. He noticed a cluster of girl cranes looking his way with lustful eyes and- SWOOSH “the crane used my paintbrush to take the red from their cheeks and apply it to his gular sac- that’s this thing (gestures towards his nonexistent gular sac), and face. The crane then did an extravagant dance for the girls of his flock, cooing and swaying for hour after hour until, before he knew it, I returned to take his brush. “But, Anansi!” pleaded the crane, “I was so busy entertaining these girls that I lost track of time! Please give me one more hour so that I can paint my middle!” “No, no, no!” I replied. “Rules are rules!” I snatched it away and disappeared. And that, my friends, is how the crane became beautiful…except for their middles, which to this day are a drab, drab gray.

 

Anansi exits. Lights rise on the rest of the stage. Crane, Lion, Crocodile and Gazelle are there. Anansi enters.

 

Anansi: Greetings, animals-no-more! It has been one week since I made you all human. Tell me of your discoveries!

 

Lion: First, you tell me how my kingdom fares.

 

Anansi: Flawlessly, that’s how, your majesty! No illness or unnatural death as promised! All are happy and none suspect your absence!

 

Lion: Fine. Well, humanity is worse than I thought it before. Sneaky, awful things.

 

Gazelle: Petty, self-indulged…

 

Crane: Too many problems. Too many problems… (catches Gazelle staring at her) What is it?

 

Gazelle: Nothing. Nothing…

 

Lion: Begging on the streets. Not putting in their honest effort…

 

Anansi: And you, Crocodile?

 

Crocodile: There’s nothing to say about them that I haven’t said already…

 

Anansi: When you say, ‘Too many problems’, Crane, what do you mean?

 

Crane: Life does not have to be as hard as they make it. If only they would see the beauty in simply being oneself. If only they would not want more and more and more…

 

Lion: We have been humans but one week and have all found homes, correct?

 

Gazelle: Right.

 

Crane: Yes.

 

Crocodile: Correct.

 

Lion: And these humans have spent their whole lives as humans and somehow some of them have made nothing of themselves.

 

Anansi: You, Lion, cannot make such judgments without knowing the reasons why these people have ended up this way. Not everyone has a god hand them a pile of gold before they enter the world, king.

 

Lion: Hm. (thinks) Then I will rid myself of your money upon returning to the city…and we will see what becomes of me then.

 

Anansi: Bold choice, your majesty.

 

Dodo: (enters in an excited flurry, dressed more extravagantly then before) Sorry I’m late!

 

Anansi: Ah, Dodo, I was wondering when you would show up. How has your week been?

 

Dodo: The best of my life! Wooeee! These humans are a thousand, a million, a…zillion times more wonderful than I ever could have dreamed with my Dodo brain! I have danced, oh have I danced! And the food! The fashions! I have drunken drinks that free your spirits and taken many a human woman to bed and, in bed did a different kind of dance entirely! I am in love with this life and want to be human forever!

 

Anansi: Ah, I see. (claps his hands together) Whelp, I guess that settles it. You are all as stubborn as before. Go then, go back to the human world and I will see you all in three weeks!

 

Lion and Dodo exit first. Crocodile lumbers off behind them. Crane looks longingly around her. Gazelle remains, fixated on Crane. Anansi approaches Gazelle.

 

Anansi: (whispers) I cannot help but notice you have taken a liking to Crane.

 

Gazelle: What are you talking-?!

 

Anansi: It’s only natural, young Gazelle. After all, you are a man…and she is quite beautiful… (exits)

 

Gazelle: Crane…

 

Crane: Oh! I didn’t know anyone was still here.

 

Gazelle: I- You…you seem troubled.

 

Crane: No. I just want to savor as much of my animal life as I can before….

 

Gazelle: I understand.

 

Crane: I’m afraid, Gazelle.

 

Gazelle: We will do this for a year and then there will be nothing to be afraid of ever again.

 

Crane: I notice how they look at you, the humans.

 

Gazelle: What do you mean?

 

Crane: How they respond to your voice and your looks. Men and women alike, they are mesmerized by you.

 

Gazelle: I haven’t noticed.

 

Crane: They talk about you in the market and on the streets. “Who is this new guy Gazelle?” they say. “He is so charismatic, so charming and bright…and easy on the eyes as well.”

 

Gazelle: Ha, they say that?

 

Crane: They do.

 

Gazelle: Well…let them. I don’t care. They always need something to gawk over.

 

Crane: Indeed.

 

Pause.

 

Gazelle: You know, you are “easy on the eyes” as well.

 

Crane: What’s that?

 

Gazelle: You. Everyone can tell. You are a beautiful human.

 

Crane: Am I?

 

Gazelle: Yes.

 

Crane: Oh. I had no idea…

 

Gazelle: Everyone can tell.

 

Crane: Oh.

 

Pause.

 

Gazelle: We should go. It’s getting dark and this place isn’t safe for humans at night.

 

Crane: You’re right.

 

Gazelle: (extends his hand) Come. Come back with me. I promise I won’t let any harm come to you.

 

Crane: (takes Gazelle’s hand) Alright. (both exit)

 

Lights go down on the scene and come up on Anansi, front and center.

 

Anansi: (looks distant, a little upset, until noticing the audience) Ah, there you are. My friends. Ready for another story? Ha! Ha! Of course you are! (to the sky) No, father, of course these little stories are not interrupting the flow of the primary tale at hand! If anything, they amplify it! Note how each one deals with a character from the story. (Listens) I knew you’d see it my way. (clears throat) The mighty river Nile, since the beginning of time, was a happy place. A paradise! The cradle of life for the world! And of the creatures of the Nile, none were happier or more well-loved than the crocodile! They would spend the day dancing and playing in the water, singing their songs to the lion and the eagle and all who would listen. Always smiling a smile that warmed hearts and formed fast friendships, they were. Smile, smile, smile all day long! The crocodiles were guardians of the river, but would turn none away from its clear, cool waters. No, sir! That is until, one day, a mother Dodo lost one of her chicks along the shore- it was swept away in the current. Too embarrassed to admit she had not been watching her children all that closely she sang out, “It was the crocodiles who ate my baby! They gulped her right up!” “No!” the crocodiles replied, “we only dance and sing and play and smile all day and all night- eating babies is not our thing!” But the rumors spread throughout all of the Nile…and further still. One by one the lions and the eagles and all the others stopped speaking with the crocodiles. “Would you like to dance and play?” the crocodiles would ask with a grin, and the animals would pretend that they heard nothing. “Fine!” snarled the crocodiles, fed up. “If you think us so bad then so bad we will be!” and all the crocodiles did a new kind of dance: They gnashed their teeth and thrashed their tails in the water until they had kicked up the sand from the riverbed, turning the river a muddy greenish brown. Since the river was the only source of water for miles, the animals were forced to come and drink the mucky stuff. And every once and a while- SNAP! “a crocodile would rise from the murky river and eat one of them whole. And that, my friends, is how the crocodile became feared. (Crocodile enters) And if you don’t believe that they were once happy things, look no further than the smiles that they still wear to this day.

 

Anansi exits. Crocodile sits, smiling. Content. Anansi enters the scene, intrigued by Crocodile’s expression.

 

Anansi: What is so amusing, Crocodile?

 

Crocodile: Hm?

 

Anansi: Why do you wear that smile on your face?

 

Crocodile: Because I know.

 

Anansi: Know what, Crocodile?

 

Crocodile: I know that this is a trick…

 

Anansi: Ha! A trick?! That is rich! Besides, how could one so honorable as you know the smell of such a thing?

 

Crocodile: One must know a trick to know honor…

 

Pause.

 

Anansi: You are most intelligent.

 

Crocodile: Lion knows, too, of course. We carnivores have to be a step ahead of the rest. But he will say nothing. His pride will not allow it. (Pause) Tell me.

 

Anansi: (Pause) You cannot trust a crocodile.

 

Crocodile: I suppose not. (Pause) I can help.

 

Anansi: Hm.

 

Crocodile: Hm?

 

Anansi: Perhaps you can. (Whispers to Crocodile)

 

Crocodile: Hm…

 

Lion enters and both Crocodile and Anansi pull away from each other. Lion looks suspicious at them both.

 

Lion: How is my kingdom?

 

Anansi: Better than ever, your majesty.

 

Lion: Good. (sits)

 

Pause. Dodo stumbles in, dressed in a dusty and disheveled version of his previous garb. He shows the beginnings of instability but is still mostly optimistic. Gazelle and Crane enter together, then find separate places to rest.

 

Anansi: Hello, my friends! It has been one month since you embarked on this journey. Tell me now what you have learned.

 

Pause.

 

Gazelle: I was late because I was telling stories by the pier. You should see how the humans line up to hear me tell my tales, to perform and sing.

 

Anansi: Stories, eh?

 

Gazelle: Yes, Anansi. Some yours, some my own. I act them out. I entertain.

 

Crane: He is quite good. I watch him from time to time.

 

Gazelle: A man approached me. He manages a group of performers and wants me to audition for their next show.

 

Anansi: Interesting, Gazelle. You seem to be doing quite well for yourself amongst the humans. Not as bad as you thought them to be, eh?

 

Gazelle: Worse, Anansi. I smile and twirl and dance about to pass the time, but these humans drooling over me. It’s sad, really. Pathetic. Animals have far more self-respect.

 

Anansi: So you do not get even the least bit of enjoyment out of it?

 

Gazelle: (Pause) It’s just a way to pass the time.

 

Anansi: Very well. (Pause) Lion, what about you? How was it to be penniless?

 

Lion: I persevered. Through honest labor and strength of character I was able to find a job. I helped an old man drive a nail into his wagon and did it with such force of will that he hired me to work as his assistant on the spot. He is a notable blacksmith. Well-known throughout the city and the ninth in generation of blacksmiths with no children of his own. He is the president of the Smiths’ Guild. A man who knows how to maintain a kingdom.

 

Anansi: Well, look at you go, Lion. Surely this opportunity has opened your eyes to the generosity of the human species? The old man giving a complete stranger a chance…

 

Lion: You heard nothing I said, Trickster-god. There was nothing generous about it. A frail man without sons encountered a promising successor and acted accordingly. There is nothing generous about it. It was an act of self-preservation and good common sense.

 

Anansi: Ah, yes. Of course. I always mix the two. (to Crocodile) Crocodile?

 

Crocodile: I am getting by in my own way.

 

Anansi: That is all you have to say for yourself?

 

Crocodile: Yes.

 

Anansi: Fine, then. (to Dodo) Dodo? You are uncharacteristically quiet today.

 

Dodo: Hrm…

 

Crocodile: Has the poor little birdie come on rough times?

 

Dodo: No…

 

Crocodile: Low on money? Spent too lavishly?

 

Dodo: N-no!

 

Anansi: Settle down, Crocodile, I’m sure Dodo is doing just fine.

 

Dodo: (it becomes clear now that he is drunk) Yes. Yes, I am! Great! W-wonderful! You all might have you prejudices, but not me! Not me! Humans are great, I said and I still say the same! They’re great! You’ll see! (to Lion) Don’t judge me, king. You claim to be fair and generous but you are just a pompous ass hovering above all of us hard-working animals. You lie there and you roar at us about an honest day’s work and what did you do as king? You let your females do your hunting for you!

 

Lion: Silence.

 

Dodo: No! We’re human now, Lion! Hu-man! I am not your subject.

 

Lion: I said ‘silence’.

 

Dodo: (to Crocodile) I know what you do, I do! I do! You talk about honor…but we all know a crocodile’s honor is worth less than this (gesturing toward Anansi) this beautiful, magical creature!

 

Crocodile: I will make you extinct…

 

Crane: Let’s all just calm down.

 

Dodo: Ha! Crane, quiet and beautiful. Innocent and pure. Ha! Unlike you all, I actually talk to the people! I-I hear their stories and many (gesturing at Gazelle) are about you, their new favorite- and don’t pretend you do not enjoy their applause “and I heard many interesting things about you. Do you want to know the most interesting? Anyone?

 

Gazelle: Dodo…

 

Dodo: (wildly, gesturing at Crane and Gazelle) These two are sharing a bed! (All eyes move to Gazelle and Crane)

 

Gazelle: I-! It’s not…

 

Crane: It is not safe, the human world- especially for a female. We are both pack animals by nature. This arrangement- it’s easier.

 

Gazelle: That’s all.

 

Dodo: (mutters under his breath, to Gazelle) You love it when they cheer… (gesturing toward Crane) You love it when she cheers.

 

Anansi: (to Dodo) Alright, my friend. I think you have proven your point. Thank you. Thank you, and now it is time for you to go. I am sure you have much to do tonight.

 

Dodo: I do. Thank you. (starts to exit. To Anansi) They love it. Don’t let them fool you, they love it. (exits)

 

Anansi: Unfortunately, I must go, too. I hear there is a feast in honor of me at sundown. I am not one to miss being honored.

 

Lion: Do not stay too long. You have a kingdom to rule.

 

Anansi: Ah, yes. Of course, Your Majesty. That is something I have indeed… (exits)

 

The rest start to leave except for Crocodile.

 

Crocodile: Wait. (They stop) Stay.

 

Lion: What is it, Crocodile? We have-

 

Crocodile: I spoke with Anansi about our arrangement.

 

Lion: And?

 

Crocodile: And you were right to think it was a trick, Lion. This is a trick he has performed a dozen times before. A group of animals agree to give up their animality for a year in exchange for the promise of human extinction. The story unfolds like this: Four animals are certain that humanity must go. The fifth finds humans to be a absolutely fantastic.

 

Gazelle: Dodo…

 

Crocodile: Right. And when the year is up, Anansi asks the five animals if they are ready to see humanity destroyed. While the four are ready indeed to rid the earth of the human plague, the one has grown to love them even more. Anansi then explains that humans cannot be all that bad if, out of five animals, one finds them acceptable. He explains that most animals do not receive a one-out-of-five approval rating and that that alone is reason enough for humanity to remain. The four animals are then trapped as humans forever and Anansi has another tragic story to tell.

 

Crane: No…

 

Lion: How do you know this?

 

Crocodile: Anansi told me.

 

Gazelle: Why would he do that?

 

Crocodile: Because I am supposed to help him. I have been in this human city for only a month, like the rest of you, but in that time I have taken to the shadows, the cover of night where another sort of person dwells. I am big and strong and terrible, you know, and my sort has a lot of pull in a world like that. Though I am only scratching the surface of this underworld I see that its claws stretch into all facets of religion and politics and other manifestations of human power. Not to mention that my world of ill repute is the one in which Dodo gathers much of his pleasures…

 

Lion: What are you saying?

 

Crocodile: I am saying that, to ensure the story pans out as Anansi wants it, the god enlisted me to make sure that Dodo remains enwrapped in the women and drink and erotic vice that only my world can offer.

 

Gazelle: No. No, we can’t be humans forever!

 

Crocodile: Agreed.

 

Crane: What can we do?

 

Crocodile: While the human underworld offers many pleasures it can tear a life apart as well. We will use what power we have to bring misery to Dodo’s life. We will make sure he despises humanity as much as we do. We will outthink the trickster.

 

Lion: You have done an honorable thing today, Crocodile. Your king will not forget it.

 

Crocodile: Trust me, I will not let you.

 

Crane: But what if you would have followed through with Anansi’s plan? How would you have benefitted?

 

Crocodile: I would have been allowed to return to my animal form…unlike the rest of you.

 

Lion: Dodo will be undone.

 

Gazelle: Yes.

 

Crane: It’s the only way. (to Crocodile) Thank you.

 

Crocodile: Save your ‘thank yous’. I only want to make certain than manipulative little god doesn’t get his way. Nothing more.

 

Lights fade to black. The animals exit and Anansi returns, once again standing in a spotlight. The light this time is dim.

 

Anansi: (to the sky) Well, father, we’re almost at the end of your story. I hope you are happy. Yes, I figured you’d be. (to audience) Hello, people, I am Anansi, wise and handsome god and keeper of all the stories- (glances at the sky) almost all. Did you hear the one about how the Gazelle learned to leap so high? This is one of my favorites. You see, way, way back when the Earth’s clay was soft and the serpent gods had not even shed their first skin, the gazelles wobbled around, stocky creatures on stubby legs. (sighs) (to the sky) Maybe we should just move on to your story. Maybe that is best to, you know, get it over with. (listens) Yes. Yes, it is good to finish what one started. Yes, father. Perhaps quitting now would set a bad example to the audience. You are right, of course. It is my responsibility as storyteller to…tell…the story. It is who I am and what I am for. I know, father-Nyame. I took your stories willingly. I wanted them. They could have still been yours and I-Back to the story. (to the audience) Two gazelle were rolling a papaya back and forth when that troublesome Black Tom Eagle swooped down and grabbed with melon in his talons. With a sinister laugh, ol’ Black Tom sat the papaya way up in the sun singing, “Stupid pudgy little gazelle! You’ll never in a million years play with your favorite papaya again!” The gazelle, furious, could not reach as high as the sun, or even as high as the lowest branch on the tiniest tree. Upset, the gazelle trotted off to their favorite rock on the jungle to think. “Ah ha!” said one of the gazelle. He had an idea. The other gazelle gathered all the fallen vines he could and brought them back to the rock. He tied some tightly around the legs, antlers and neck of the first gazelle. Then he pulled and pulled until the vines were so tight around his friend that the gazelle’s legs and antlers and leg were squeezed long and thin. The gazelle returned the favor and soon enough both were tall and thin. Proud of their new stature, the gazelle looked up at their papaya and…

 

Lights up. Gazelle enters with Crane, Dodo and Lion listening to his every word. Dodo trails behind the others and is a tattered mess. Anansi exits.

 

Gazelle: (genuinely enjoying himself) …and they stretched their necks high into the sky and…couldn’t reach that papaya. Black Tom Eagle laughed, “Haha! All that and you still can’t reach the papaya! What a shame” The gazelles grumbled. Then one of them had an idea. They trotted off to the other side of the valley where a lone tree stood, and in that tree was a nest and in that nest were four black eagle eggs. The gazelle were not tall enough to reach the sun, but with a bend of the knees and a great leap they were certainly tall enough to knock that nest right out of the tree. “No!” cried Black Tom Eagle. “Please! Please don’t hurt my babies! I’ll do anything!” “Then bring us our favorite papaya,” snapped one of the gazelle. Black Tom Eagle had no choice but to fly to the sun and return the papaya to the two gazelle. The end. (bows. Crane and Lion applaud)  Thank you, thank you.

 

Anansi enters. Dodo notices and quickly motions toward him.

 

Dodo: (whispered) Anansi…

 

Anansi: Yes, Dodo?

 

Dodo: I have come upon some misfortune and- and I am in need of some more gold.

 

Anansi: Now you know I cannot break the rules, Dodo. Rules are rules.

 

Dodo: But-

 

Anansi: This is what you wanted, Dodo. This is what you have… (Dodo deflates)

 

Gazelle: (to Anansi) Ah, Anansi, my friend, you just missed my latest rendition of “How the Gazelle Learned to Leap So High”. I really think I mastered Black Tom Eagle’s objective this time.

 

Anansi: Performing going well, I see?

 

Gazelle: Oh yes. I’m starring in my troupe’s next performance. It’s a serious piece. Not something everyone can do, you know. Only the most skilled artists.

 

Crane: Which you are.

 

Gazelle: I have a long ways to go, my dear. Fortunately, I have an absolutely phenomenal mentor. Phenomenal. (to Crane) And my inspiration. (he kisses her cheek)

 

Crane: Gazelle!

 

Gazelle: What? We have nothing to hide! You are my Muse. My sweet, beautiful Muse and I love you, I love you, I love you. There. I said it. And I’ll say it a million times over!

 

Crane: (overcome with emotion) I-I love you too, Gazelle. (they kiss)

 

Anansi: Whelp! Looks like that’s that!

 

Crane: What’s…what?

 

Anansi: Gazelle! Crane! Look at you! In love! Surely this could only be made possible due to your humanity! Certainly the Serengeti would not allow for a love affair between a bird and a mammal! Humanity made this possible! Your minds have been changed!

 

Silence.

 

Crane: No. What must be done, must be done. We understand the cost, but this is not only about us, (looking into Gazelle’s eyes) because if it were the decision would be a simple one.

 

Anansi: I don not follow.

 

Lion: We have a responsibility to our kind, Trickster. Something you will never understand. It has been a season since we were transformed. A season, and in this time I have enjoyed much good fortune as a blacksmith. I caught on quickly to the technique and my natural leadership skills have placed me as one of the old man’s advisors in the guild. I make good money. I have the respect of many. But I have not forgotten my origins. We are human, yes, but we were not always so. Our families are still gazelle, crane, lion…

 

Dodo: (under his breath) I have no family…

 

Lion: Our responsibility, to them.

 

Anansi: I see…

 

Lion: We will not stray from our course.

 

Anansi: You have not yet asked about your kingdom.

 

Lion: I’m sure it’s fine. You gave your word.

 

Anansi: I did indeed.

 

Gazelle: Where is Crocodile?

 

Dodo: (chokes on nothing)

 

Anansi: Dodo. Do you know something we do not?

 

Dodo: N-No! Nothing.

 

Lion: Nothing…

 

Dodo: Nothing at all! I swear! Leave me alone…

 

Crane: I hope he’s alright.

 

Gazelle: Of course he is. He’s Crocodile. Terrible in any skin…

 

Lion: (to Anansi) What if he does not show?

 

Anansi: Let’s not talk about that.

 

Gazelle: He’ll be here. Of course…

 

Dodo: He’s not that terrible.

 

Lion: What did you say…?

 

Dodo: Nothing!

 

Gazelle: He said “He’s not that terrible!” I heard him! That’s what he said. Tell us what you know, Dodo!

 

Lion: Tell us.

 

Dodo: I know nothing! I know nothing! I- (Crocodile enters, rundown, exhausted, angry)

 

Crocodile: (to Dodo) You…

 

Dodo: I-, I-I-, um…

 

Crocodile: You did this to me.

 

Anansi: Did what?

 

Crocodile: He framed me. The humans, they threw me in jail…but I got out…I have friends, you know… (advances on Dodo)

 

Dodo: Why would I do that?

 

Crocodile: How am I supposed to know the inner workings of the bird brain?

 

Dodo: Wh-what are you doing? Stay away from me!

 

Crocodile: I’m going to show you what happens to anyone who crosses me…

 

Dodo: N-no! I don’t know what you’re talking about!

 

Crocodile: Oh, but you do…

 

Dodo: N-no! No…

 

Crocodile: Shut up.

 

Dodo: You killed a man! H-he killed a man! I saw it! I saw it with my own eyes!

 

Crocodile: You lie…

 

Dodo: You killed him and I did…what any good person would do… (Crocodile is leaning over Dodo) Go ahead! Kill me! Kill me! See what happens then! See what happens to all of you if there is one less at the end of the year! (Pause)

 

Anansi: Crocodile. Did you…kill a human?

 

Crocodile: I did not. (Pause) But if I did it would be because it is within my nature to do. You can cast your spells, give me this soft skin and these ridiculous cloths to wear, but I am a crocodile. I am a cunning killer of things. I am an animal. An ANIMAL! Just like the rest of you. You’d be stupid to think otherwise…

 

Silence.

 

Crane: It’s been, what, three months- a little more “since we’ve lived the human life? In that time I have learned and seen many things. Many wonderful things. The existence of the human being is fraught with wonder. (shakes her head) But none of it can compare to flying; to spreading your wings and taking to the sky. The freedom of it. Yes, that’s what it is. The freedom. Nothing compares.

 

Gazelle: Nothing, Crane…?

 

Crane: Gazelle-

 

Gazelle: No. No, you’re right. We love so that we might survive. That’s all this is. For nine more months and then we are both free.

 

Silence.

 

Lion: I should be going. There is much I have to do for the old man before sundown. (starts to leave. The others follow, except for Crocodile and Anansi)

 

Crocodile: (to the animals) Our next meeting is our last. Remember what I told you the before. This is it. Do what must be done…

 

Exit all but Anansi. Lights down. Anansi moves forward into a dim spot.

 

Anansi: (he is quiet for a time. Incurably sad, perhaps a little lost in thought. The energy, playfulness and optimism that had been with him before is now nowhere to be found) The dodo went extinct at the hands of man in 1693. (The other animals enter, soundlessly, taking the spots they had taken at the play’s start) They were discovered by the Dutch in 1581 on the island of Mauritania. They lived in peacefully on an island without predators. Discovered in 1581 by man. In 1693, extinct. That’s a little over a hundred years. Man came in with guns and livestock and that was it. There’s your story. The end. Exit now, single file. Single file. There are refreshments in the lobby and feel free to tip the- (looks up to the sky,listens) (Venomously) Right. Of course, Nyame. Father. Finish what you started. Right. Of course. Rules are rules. Without further ado, the truestory’s end…(sits in a dark corner of the stage)

 

Lights come up over the animals. There is tension in the air, practically fuming off of each of them. Crane and Gazelle have a special tension that only exists between the two. Lion and Crocodile wear expressions that are too serious to be easily read. Dodo sits, defeated, shaking. The final scene begins with a near unbearable stretch of silence.

 

Lion: (yawns)

 

Silence.

 

Gazelle: Where is Anansi?

 

Crocodile: He’ll be here…

 

Gazelle: Well I wish he’d hurry up. I think we’ve waited long enough for this.

 

Crane: Hmph.

 

Dodo: You were right. You were all right. I couldn’t see it at first, but how could I? I was so afraid. So afraid! I am the last of my kind. The last of the Dodos. I wanted to continue my life. I’ve been so alone since my parents and my brothers and sisters died off. I needed to have something; to live. And I would hear about these humans and about their accomplishments, about how every year there were more and more of them. And then this opportunity arose. This impossible opportunity. How could I not want it? So we became human and I, finally, lived a life without this looming doom hovering over me. You should’ve seen me that first night. You all would have laughed. I sat on the docks, looking out to sea while the fishermen were getting their boats ready for the morning. I thought to myself, “Dodo, you can have everything now. You can meet a nice pretty mate and you can raise a family and be a father. You can teach your little ones the things that your father taught you, now, and everything will be wonderful. Sadly, those thoughts did not manifest in the best of ways. When you are faced with not just your own mortality, but the mortality of your entire species, your vision is clouded. I took my money and I used it to buy the things I wanted: Delicious food, beautiful clothing, family and love- How could I know money could not buy the latter? It could do so much else. But all it did was turn me down this path of pain and suffering. Drinking and eating things that made me forget…or helped me escape. I lost all of my money, you see. I asked Anansi for more gold but he refused- something about the unspoken, unbroken rules of…something. (Pause) I remember one night months and months ago… I had just been kicked out of a brothel because I couldn’t pay. I was drunk, of course, and I stumbled into the night and ended up on that dock- the one from my first night. I started crying, uncontrollably, and I swore, right then and there, that I was going to change my ways. I was going to make an honest man out of myself and do it right this time. But no matter how hard I tried everything went wrong. My friends abandoned me. I could not get a job of any kind. People on the street would look away when I would come around, as if I had done something awful. In the wild, everything heals. Seasons change. Dry ones come, but wet ones follow and everything is okay. With humans there is only one long season and the healing never comes. If I must end it will be as I began. Because to die as an animal has meaning. The scavengers will use every piece of me to build the families I will never know. To die a human is…nothing.

 

Pause.

 

Crane: I’m sorry.

 

Dodo: What do you have to be sorry for, Crane?

 

Gazelle: (to Dodo) Nothing. (to Crane) Keep your mouth shut.

 

Crane: Do not speak to me that way. Dodo…

 

Gazelle: You’re being real stupid right now.

 

Crane: …we did this to you…

 

Gazelle: Gods…

 

Dodo: That’s absurd, I was the one who-

 

Crane: Crocodile told us that if we did not convince you to become an animal then Anansi would force us all to remain human forever.

 

Dodo: I-I don’t understand…

 

Crocodile: You were going to ruin everything so we used our newfound influence to make your life miserable. Lion used his connections in the guilds to make sure no one would employ you. Gazelle spread unsavory rumors and so on and so forth…

 

Crane: I’m so sorry.

 

Dodo: (to Lion) Is this true?

 

Lion: It is. (Dodo lowers himself to the ground) It was the only way.

 

Gazelle: (to Crane) Now look what you did…

 

Crane: I told the truth.

 

Gazelle: And now he’s more hurt than he ever was before. He feels betrayed!

 

Crane: That’s because we betrayed him!

 

Gazelle: This wasn’t the right time…

 

Crane: The right time…? So that’s what you’ve been waiting for all these months? The right time. And what is the right time, oh wise one? Is it when you happen to overhear a conversation by two strangers about how that poor Crane had no idea her handsome mate is going to bed with other women?! Is that the right time?!

 

Gazelle: Not here…

 

Crane: Then where?

 

Gazelle: Look! I know what this is all about! I’m not stupid. You got jealous! You got jealous of all the attention, all the fame I was getting and you weren’t!

 

Crane: What?!

 

Gazelle: Oh, don’t play the innocent victim now, Crane! You became unbearable. The more they loved me the more you made me feel like I was worthless.

 

Crane: That’s not true!

 

Gazelle: Do you know why I ran off late at night and let those girls take off my clothes and give me whatever I wanted?

 

Crane: Stop!

 

Gazelle: Do you know why I laid with them until the morning and gave them my passion again and again, whispering “I want you, I need you” into their ears and laughing at how you had no idea…

 

Crane: Stop…

 

Gazelle: It’s because you never loved me!

 

Crane: I-

 

Gazelle: It’s true! You loved the safety of being with me. You loved the way I made you feel and the songs I would sing, the stories I’d tell…then my fame. But you never loved me. (Pause. He is in tears by this point) I did what I did because I knew… that when this day came…when the choice came between this and me…you would choose to fly.

 

Crane: Gazelle…

 

Gazelle: Please. Don’t say anything to me. Let’s just wait for Anansi to come and…and get on with it.

 

Silence.

 

Crocodile: (to Lion) You’ve been uncharacteristically quiet this meeting, Lion. And in the last one, if I recall correctly. What does our mighty king have to say on this momentous day?

 

Lion: When Anansi comes…

 

Anansi leaves the stage, distraught, and enters the animal’s scene, pretending to be upbeat.

 

Anansi: Greetings, greetings, my friends. Today is the day of days. The moment we have all been waiting for. One year ago I struck a deal with you five, one that might result in the removal of the entire human raise. Just. Like. That. Let us talk. Now, in order to gather the magic involved in making a species- disappear “I’m going to need all of you to be in absolute agreement about this. All of you. Starting with Dodo…

 

Dodo: I don’t care. I am done with humanity. (to the others) I am done with animals, I think. I don’t want my children to grow up in any of this. Whatever the group decides. That’s what will happen.

 

Anansi: Interesting. Interesting, indeed. Who’s next? Gazelle? Crocodile? Crane?

 

Lion: How is my kingdom, Trickster-god?

 

Anansi: More perfect than you could ever imagine. All are happy. No one wants for anything at all.

 

Lion: Then I will remain human.

 

Anansi: I-I’m sorry. What did you say?

 

Lion: I will remain human. The old man has died and I am needed. I am to become master of the Smiths’ Guild. And perhaps I will be master of them all one day. There is an uphill journey ahead that I have just begun to climb. At the end of this journey is wealth, influence…

 

Anansi: Power?

 

Lion: There is.

 

Anansi: And what about your kingdom?

 

Lion: You have assured me it is better than it ever was.

 

Anansi: Hm. I guess I did, didn’t I?

 

Lion: Then I have done my job as king. One of my children can take my place…

 

Anansi: What about you, Crocodile?

 

Crocodile: I am and will always be a crocodile. And to be a crocodile is to feed, to hunt, to sneak, to kill…and there is no better place to be a better crocodile than in human skin. I will remain as I am. The city is my water hole and I exist beneath its surface, always waiting, waiting to strike when my prey least suspects it.

 

Anansi: There seems to be no honor in that lifestyle, Crocodile.

 

Crocodile: That is the point, Anansi.

 

Anansi: Gazelle. What about you?

 

Gazelle: I am beloved and treated as a god. Human. Obviously.

 

Anansi: That leaves you, Crane.

 

Dodo: Um…Crane?

 

Crane: Yes, Dodo?

 

Dodo: What part did you have in my misfortunes?

 

Crane: Well, I…I never once tried to stop them. My shame is the shame of inactivity.

 

Dodo: That is not so bad a thing, Crane. And I have always found you beautiful.

 

Crane: What are you saying?

 

Dodo: Your heart was broken and I want to give my own to someone else. Become an animal. We can be mates. We were both birds once, you and I. We can start a family. You are beautiful, Crane. And I will treat you like you deserve to be treated and nothing less for as long as we both live.

 

Crane: (Pause) I’m sorry, Dodo. I can’t. (Pause) I love Gazelle.

 

Dodo: But he hurt you!

 

Crane: (to Gazelle) I choose to stay.

 

Gazelle: You do? (Crane nods) What about flying?

 

Crane: My feet never touch the ground when you are beside me, Gazelle…

 

Gazelle: (to Crane) I’m sorry… (they embrace)

 

Dodo: Explain to me this: Why, if you all were so intent on staying and betraying your kind- why did you have to ruin my life?! Why keep pretending that you hated your lives and wanted humans to disappear?!

 

Crane: Humans are a complex thing, Dodo. They…we double-talk and we are doubtful and proud and shy and hateful and ignorant and…and loving, and our path to discovery leaves none unscathed…but it is within these complexities that our beauty lies.

 

Dodo: That is no answer! I have nothing! Nothing! (to Anansi) I change my mind, Anansi! Make me a dodo again! Please! I can’t be a part of this! They’re all crazy! They make no sense! They do things for no reason, no reason at all! I must die as I was born! They taught me what I could not teach myself! Change me back, Anansi! Change me back!

 

Anansi: I’m sorry, Dodo. But there are rules. Four out of five. Majority. You are a human forever now. Make the best of it.

 

Dodo: That’s not fair! They all got what they wanted! Why not me! Why not me?!

 

Anansi: But you did, Dodo. You wanted this more than any of them.

 

Dodo collapses to the ground. Leaves the scene and returns to the darkness he had found himself in before, with the same abysmal expression on his face. Lion, Crocodile, Gazelle and Crane leave one by one. There is quiet.

 

Dodo: (he sounds different than ever before- more confident) Are you going to say it?

 

Anansi: No.

 

Dodo: Well, you must. The story is over, you must finish it.

 

Anansi: No.

 

Dodo: Do it.

 

Anansi: (as if reciting) And that is how the Dodo lost its will to live.

 

Dodo: Marvelous. (joins Anansi, sitting down beside him) But it perplexes me. Why not create a positive spin on it like you usually do? Why not end it with, ‘And that is why humans come in so many shapes and sizes and dispositions.’ Something like that. I’m no storyteller like you.

 

Anansi: Was it you all along?

 

Dodo: It was.

 

Anansi: You played the part well.

 

Dodo: Your old father still has some tricks left in him, boy.

 

Anansi: I see that. (pause) Why did you make me tell that story, father-Nyame?

 

Dodo: Because you needed to do it. It’s been almost a week and you have not told it once.

 

Anansi: I hate that story…

 

Dodo: I know…and I’m curious as to ‘why’. You are the architect of thousands of adventures, but none have affected you like this one. You are Anansi, the great and fabulous conductor of trickery and tales…which are, more or less, the same thing. It was you who left open that hole in the darkness that the great Demon king climbed through which made the lion mighty. It was you who gave the Crane that magic paintbrush. You who took the form of a Dodo and ruined the crocodile’s reputation. You who turned into Black Tom Eagle and took the Gazelle’s papaya, forcing them to grow tall and leap to the sky. So many lives you’ve tampered with…

 

Anansi: I know.

 

Dodo: But such is the nature of the storyteller. To tell a tale you must make a tale…and to make a tale you must tamper with the truth.

 

Anansi: I know.

 

Dodo: I used to have all the stories. But you thought that they should be spread out into the world for everyone to enjoy…

 

Anansi: I was young.

 

Dodo: You were right to take them. Because without stories there can be nothing. No changes. Nothing to make us any better or worse than we were before. When you brought me Onini the Python, Osebo the Leopard, the dwarf and the rest you invented stories on Earth. You made them, my son. And with those first stories you created life…and for that the gods were glad. It has been ten thousand years to this day since you did so and in that time you have always taught and told but never really learned anything for yourself. So I transformed myself into a Dodo and took audience with Lion and, infuriating him with my talk of the wonders of humanity, orchestrated the meeting that you so excitedly thrust yourself upon. I chose the animals that you would see most of yourself in. The power of the Lion, the trickery of the Crocodile, the longing of the Crane and Gazelle’s spritely love of leaping higher, wanting more. All characters of tales that define the sort of god you are.

 

Anansi: Why, Father?

 

Dodo: Because it was time for you to learn something.

 

Anansi: And what was that?

 

Dodo: You tell me…

 

Anansi : (thinks) I was king in the place of the lion for that whole year.

 

Dodo: Mm hm…

 

Anansi: After one week I hated it. Being bound to the earth. The responsibility. Nothing could have been further from the life I lived.

 

Dodo: Go on…

 

Anansi: After one month I was better acquainted with the position. The idea of being actually needed…not imposing, imposing on other people’s lives…was strange…but different. After a season it was no longer strange. It was special. Magical. I was necessary. Really and truly. I got to know the other animals. Know them. What lives they lead. And after a year the only thing I hated about living on the earth as a creature of the earth was that it would soon end.

 

Dodo: So…

 

Anansi: I realized that I am tired of telling stories. Each time I met with you and Gazelle and the rest, I found myself truly affected by their lives. By the results of my actions in their lives. By the power of their experience. I realized that I want to live.

 

Dodo: Well, there you are.

 

Anansi: Just like that?

 

Dodo: Just like that.

 

Anansi: So who will tell the stories?

 

Dodo: The stories tell themselves. Life is stories. Stories are life.

 

Anansi: And what will become of the animals I turned human?

 

Dodo: The same thing that always happens to every character you touch- any animal you’ve turned human or human you’ve turned animal. They become something more than they were before…or in the very least different.

 

Anansi: And what did you learn, father?

 

Dodo: I learned that I have spent so much time up in the clouds that I have completely forgotten how to live down here on the ground. I made quite the fool of myself, didn’t I?

 

Anansi: Ha. You certainly did. Just think, you could be laying eggs with Crane right now.

 

Dodo: If people ask I will say that that was part of my plan to get her to acknowledge her love for Gazelle.

 

Anansi: Life is not to be taken lightly.

 

Dodo: Certainly not.

 

Anansi: What will I do now? If I am no longer Anansi the storyteller… I am empty.

 

Lion enters.

 

Dodo: I’ll be on my way, I think. (exits)

 

Anansi: Lion. What are you doing here?

 

Lion: I thought I would come back to see my old kingdom. See how they were doing from a safe distance… The plants not as green as I remember. The animals do not seem so alive. My son is not the ruler I was, I suppose, or maybe this is just what humans see through human eyes…and then I remembered something. A year ago you made me a promise…a promise to rule my kingdom for as long as I was away. And, well, look at me…I am very much away.

 

Anansi: Lion, what are you-

 

Lion: Will you rule my kingdom, Anansi? There are none better suited to be king than you, if I remember correctly…

 

Anansi: I- Yes, Lion. Of course.

 

Lion: Good. By the way, you had no choice in the matter. Rules are rules, after all. Enjoy your life. (exits)

 

Anansi: You as well, Lion. Take care of each other! I won’t be around to help you anymore! (thinks to himself) And that is how the storyteller came to be alive… The end? No. Not for some time… (exits)

 

~PLAY END~

The Evils Without…

The Evils Without…

CHARACTERS

Spender Wade/Hotshot

Kathleen Michaels/Seductress

???/Whisper

The Baron/???

Jebediah Cross/Dr. Sane

Dan McCarthy

~PLAY BEGIN~

Lights rise over the impossibly dark stage, revealing the first five characters mentioned above in that order from right to left, their bodies lit like the horror storyteller at a campfire. Spencer, 24, is beautiful from head to toe. Radiant. Kathleen, 33, has a dark allure to her, a mix of intense danger and interminable sadness. Whisper ,(???),  is hunched and draped in a black hooded cloak, leaving no clues as to age, sex, height or weight. The Baron, 56, is a thin but imposing man dressed to old-school perfection and sporting a monocle and permanent frown.  Jebediah, (_), is a tough and disheveled man with the sort of grin that could topple an orphanage. Each one is in a deep state of personal soul-searching, unaware of nothing but the words they say, which are low, suppressed, acting as barriers between what you see and their true selves. Your instincts tell you that there’s something ‘off’ about these people, but you quickly brush that aside as you are eager to hear what intriguing, heartfelt and relatable things they have to say.

Spencer: I was five at the time- or was it-? No. No. It was six. I know it was six because that’s how old I was when my dad disappeared. Fucking douche. Anyway, I was six (takes a breath) at Wilhem Park, trying to fit in…

Kathleen: Teenagers think they know everything. I know I did. I thought it was my right to break curfew every chance I could get. I thought I was smarter than every gray-haired teacher that St. Anne’s Academy for Girls threw my way. I thought I was beautiful, complex, quick-witted, invincible…I thought I was in love…

Whisper: (raises its head as if to speak, then lowers it in sadness or shame)

The Baron: (in a light German accent) I find more often than not that a man’s weakness often lies in his constant dwelling on the past. Reliving repeatedly the savory tales of yesteryear, piling one on top of the other on top of the other until their crushing agony reduces them to a mere shell without substance, existing without living until the inevitable moment some harsh word or stray breeze crushes them beneath their own psychological weight…

Jebediah: I want to marry all the Backstreet Boys…

Spencer: My mom didn’t give two shits about me. I was always the thing that got in the way of her being the alcoholism coke-riddled tramp she so strove to be. Despite all that my stupid ass tried so hard to get her to pay attention to me, to like me. To love me. I’d make her Mother’s Day cards and birthday cards and get good grades, but…So, I was at the park. Billy Stewart started throwing handfuls of sand at me while his lackeys laughed it up from behind him…

Kathleen: His name was Dave and he was everything I ever wanted: tall, handsome, star quarterback of the football team at the public high school. I was sixteen. A sophomore. He was a senior. A senior, can you believe it?! I was sixteen and I was ready to give myself to him, all of myself. So we hopped in his little blue Saab and blazed off into the sunset. I asked where we were going. He said his parent’s house. They were on vacation. We would be alone.

Whisper: (seems even more eager to speak, but collapses under its doubt)

The Baron: My brother was one such weakling. He was three years my elder, but you would never know it, the way he would whimper and whine over life’s inescapable circumstance. Our parents were lost to us, murdered before our eyes for housing a family of Jews in our barn during what you all call the ‘Holocaust’. Dietfried and I were orphaned in a land ravaged by war and depression. War and depression were all I knew…

Jebediah: We’d all have matching tuxedos and *NSync would be soooo jealous of us…

Spencer: I wasn’t what you would call a tough kid. I know, hard to believe, right? Well, I was a skinny little nothing and Billy and his friends scared the shit out of me. I remember shaking, my teeth chattering and shit. Ha. Pathetic. So fight or flight kicks in, and for me it was pretty much flight or flight and I jumped up on my spindly-ass legs and started to run away when- Boom! I ran right into Jacob Dempsey, the only kid nerdier than me, and I knocked him to the ground. I felt bad, I think, at first. Then I heard the familiar laughing. Billy and friends getting hard off my pain. And then I realized. They were laughing at Jacob. Not me. They weren’t laughing at me…

Kathleen: We pulled up to the football field. I don’t think I even thought to ask him why we were stopping there. ‘Come on’, he said, his every word causing my heart to sing, my insides to flutter, my life to be worthwhile. I followed eagerly through the huge empty parking lot, over the fence and to the bleachers where a bunch of his friends I’d recognized from the team were sitting in a circle, in folding chairs, empty beer cans all around them. They were so happy to see me. I was so happy to be there. Dave sat me down on his lap. We drank a few. And then world began to spin…

Whisper:  (shrugs, defeated, shaking its head)

The Baron: We found odd jobs, working under the stinging whip and harsh hands of the starving farmers for a few scraps of food and a bed of hay to sleep on. Eventually we escaped to Dusseldorf where we begged for food until we found a job at a factory where the conditions were brutal, the earnings meager. Deitfried had grown lifeless, defeated from our journey as I became hard as diamond, not letting anyone or anything in that brutal world destroy me. My brother was fortunate to find a woman willing to put up with his weakness one Spring. They married and produced a son. Having shown an aptitude for hard work and commanding obedience I was made manager of the factory. And from the whispers of the city folk came word of a wall being built in Berlin…

Jebediah: We’d have our honeymoon in Atlantic City and we’ll all make sweet, sloppy love and although all of us have done it like a billion times before- except Nick -it’ll be like we’re doing it for the very first time…

Spencer: Maybe they thought I did it on purpose. Maybe- it didn’t matter. They weren’t laughing at me. They were laughing at stupid little Jacob Dempsey. I was free, if only for a moment. No. It would be far more than a moment. So before he could climb to his feet. Before he could reach for those ridiculous glasses that made his eyes look ten times too big for his face, I kicked him as hard as I could in his stomach. Billy and his gang gasped for a second and then the laughter started again. Bigger this time. They were cheering me on. Me! So I kicked him again. And again. And again and again and I was on top of him punching and kicking and punching and punching and the laughter, the cheering was so beautiful, so compelling and it was mine. Mine! I was under its spell. Acceptance. Reverence. Fame. Punching, kicking, punching, kicking so lost in it all that I couldn’t feel the blood on my hands, couldn’t see the horrified expression on Billy’s face…or hear Jacob’s last earthly breaths…

Kathleen:  The first thing I remember was the look in their eyes. Even though everything was swirling so fast around me and my vision was blurring and I felt like I hadn’t slept for days, the look in their eyes was unmistakably…carnivorous. Their laughter echoed in the chambers of my head left untouched by their poison. I could feel the cool breeze on my flesh as they ripped the clothes from my body. Then the blinding pain as they penetrated me, thrusting their powerful hips against my small body, the laughter and the grunting grew more demonic in my head. I couldn’t breathe. They just kept going. Different voices. The cheering. One after the other. Three at a time. I was covered in them. In their excretions. The agony…I remember wanting to die. Begging that I would die. Praying to God that He kill me. But he didn’t. No man ever would again…

Whisper: (sits, as if thinking)

The Baron: There was a general disquiet throughout West Germany as if all the wounds healing from the Second World War had been torn open with a searing knife…but I had my job. My workers. And Deitfried had his Beata and little Manfried. There was peace amongst us for a while. And then, as is the way of the world, tragedy struck. My brother returned from a long day’s work to learn that his wife and son had been casualties of a van-bombing, a demonstration by the German terrorist Baader-Meinhoff Group.  He was inconsolable after that. I tried to make him strong enough to continue living, reminding him of the horrors our parents had witnessed in their lives and managed to remain strong people. But it was no use. I was not four feet away from him when he drew out the gun and planted a bullet in his head, spattering me with blood and chunks of bone and brain matter. Standing there, in a pool of Dietrich’s fluids, I thought of the world. How my parent’s generosity was repaid with death. How true leaps of human progress have are the seeds of chaos, destruction and pain. How feelings and attachment to anything other than yourself can lead to ultimate weakness the day that those things are torn away. From that moment forward I swore that I would not become a victim of the world. No. I would make a victim of it

Jebediah: And then I cut open their hairless little bellies and choked them to death with their frilly little intestines. The end.

Spencer: And that’s when…

Kathleen: And that’s how…

Whisper: (faces the audience with raising of the head)

The Baron: And that’s why…

Jebediah: And that’s one of the many daydreams I’ve had…

Spencer: …I became…

Kathleen: …I became…

Whisper: (stands, suddenly confident, terrifying)

The Baron: …I became…

Jebediah: …because I’ve always been…

Spencer, Kathleen, The Baron and Jebediah: …evil!

The five characters fade back into the darkness of the stage. There is an eerie silence. A single light comes from above, revealing Dan McCarthy, 31, a man with a ‘bring home to mom’ look who happens to be in his pajamas, knocked out and tied securely to a wooden chair with a small metal device around his neck. There is another chair as well and a small table somewhere on stage. From the darkness whence they’d gone, the five characters from the beginning emerge, surrounding Dan and looking absolutely sinister while staying true to their varied personalities. Whisper looks especially ominous and Hotshot (they are now mostly going to be referred to by their Aliases) is too pleased with himself to keep the sinister guise on for too long.

Hotshot: This- THIS- This is too cool!

Seductress: Hm.

Hotshot: AHHH yeah!

Dr. Sane: Can’t we just kill him already? Torture him a little…?

The Baron: No, you idiot! This…this must be done right.

Hotshot: Oh my God, I can’t believe that- this! Us! This is-!

Seductress: Shut up, Hotshot, before I make you.

Hotshot: (startled) Right. Sorry.

Seductress: So, who’s going to do the honors?

The Baron: Obviously, that particular honor should belong to me-

Dr. Sane and Hotshot: What?!

The Baron: I have been his most worthy opponent.

Dr. Sane: Give any ornery old fart a multi-billion dollar empire and an army of minions and of course you’re worthy, but me…I kept him on his toes. Never saw me coming. Filthy little punk always stopped me though (getting himself riled) every time (losing compsure) always tried to STOP ME! (draws a knife and tries to pounce on Dan. Hotshot and The Baron try to stop him…)

Seductress: BACK UP! (…but it is Seductress’ words that makes Dr. Sane rethink his actions and calm himself) I was closer to him than any of you sociopathic neanderthals. I’ll look into his helpless eyes and revel in his tears has he slits his own throat.

The Baron: Infantile.

Hotshot: I’ll rev up the ol’ power gloves and fricassee him!

The Baron: Pedestrian.

Dr. Sane: Why don’t we just force razors down his esophagus and wash it down with battery acid. Worked wonders on my ex-wife.

The Baron: Grotesque. I vote we seek the suggestion of the one who made this night possible. (all face Whisper, who says nothing)

Seductress: Silent as a grave. As always.

The Baron: Hm. (suffering from a sudden change of thought) Perhaps we should think on this dilemma and reconvene in a few hours, having had time to truly bask in the finality of-

Hotshot: Fuck you, man! (putting on a fiery-colored glove while shoving The Baron to the side) I’m getting this over with! I’ve got-

The Baron: (drawing a futuristic-looking weapon to Hotshot’s face) You DARE push me aside, BOY?!

Dr. Sane: (pulls out a pair of knives) Finally!

Seductress: (she raises her arms, aiming one at The Baron and the other at Dr. Sane) Enough! All of you!

The Baron: No one orders me around…

Seductress: Whatever, Baron. Pull the stick out of your ass so you can see I agree with you. (Baron lowers his weapon from Hotshot’s face) We’ll think about this. He’s been a big part of all of our lives and he deserves to die properly. We will keep watch, one at a time, that way we can have some time to say what we want to say to him individually before we come together and figure out a way to kill him that pleases EVERYONE…Jeb.

Dr. Sane: The name’s Dr. Sane. Doctor. Sane.

Hotshot: Hehe

Dr. Sane: Something funny, Twinkie?

Hotshot: Nope. (laughs under his breath)

The Baron: It’s settled then. Hotshot, you will take the first watch. If he attempts escape call and we will be here to stop him instantly. Now let us part ways so that we can create our own personal masterpieces…

Lights down. Lights come up and Hotshot is sitting in the extra chair at the table, looking at some magazine filled to the brim with sexy women, reacting to each titillating page while drinking from a wine cup. Then boredom begins to set in. He looks from his magazine to Dan and back again. Finally fed up with the lack of action he marches over to Dan and smacks him in the face.

Hotshot: Hey! Hey man, wake up! (smacks him again) Come on! I’m bored off my ass here, man! (pushes him) Ugh! (he stomps to the table, grabs his wine glass and launches its contents into Dan’s face)

Dan: (comes to, coughing)

Hotshot: Thaaat’s better.

Dan: (disoriented) Wha? W-where am I? (notices the other) Hot…Hotshot, is that you?

Hotshot: (overcome with pride in himself) Yup. It’s me.

Dan: What’re you-? I’m- I’m tied up. What did you do to me?

Hotshot: Caught you, duh. (Dan struggles to break free) Oh, and don’t even think you can break free. (gestures at the device around Dan’s neck) Champ Mechanical whipped up this cool power dampener thing so you’re not gonna be super heroing your way out of this jam, man. The Champ sends his regards, by the way.

Dan: This…this isn’t…how did you…?

Hotshot: Never underestimate the power of Hotshot. He’s not just dangerously good-looking ladies, he is also brilliant enough to single-handedly capture Nexus City’s premiere superhero!

Dan: Ha. Single-handedly…with the help of Champ Mechanical. (sniffs the air) And is that…it is…Seductress’ perfume. Who else is in on this?

Hotshot: Dude! Fine! Whatever! Who cares if every villain in the tri-state area is hiding in that closet over there?! The fact is, you’re going to die…and I’m going to be one of the people responsible. Heck, the only person responsible once I threaten the media. Ha! Picture it. Super-Villain Extraordinaire Hotshot Sends Dan- Exemplar -McCarthy Up In Flames! Haha! Woo!

Dan: You won’t get away with this!

Hotshot: (mockingly) Okay…

Dan: Let me out of here!

Hotshot: (slight pause) Seriously?!

Dan: (searches for the right words to say, but instead blurts out:) Dammit, Hotshot, murder?! That’s not your style. You’re a bully, a thief, an idiot kid…

Hotshot: Not helping your case there, skippy.

Dan: What I’m saying is that you’re not like the Seductress or any of these other guys-

Hotshot: Like Dr. Sane?

Dan: (stops in his tracks) Sane’s here?

Hotshot: Yup. And he’s as crazy as ever. Look, Dan, I don’t have anything against you really. I’m sure you’re a great guy and I appreciate your concern for my moral fiber but this is what’s going to put me on the map. Killing Exemplar. The television interviews. The magazine covers. The ladies. Evil is in, my friend. Evil. Is in.

Dan: No. It’s not-

Hotshot: Besides I’m not as clean-cut as you think, guy. I had quite the violent streak when I was a kid so…don’t pretend to know me, ‘kay?

Dan: Hotshot…

Hotshot: You know that I wanted to be just like you when I was younger. I mean, after all the psychiatry and junk I was a pretty functional guy, you know? Class-clown, always out for a laugh or attention, attract the girlies, see. So I was feeling kind of empty, like ‘Hey, maybe there’s more to life than being the center of attention and partying and fucking and stuff’- all the popular kids go through this sort of shit and hide it by being an utter asshole to ugly people- Anyway, I was kinda down and I see you on the news. “Exemplar, Nexus City’s first super hero, debuts in a big way,” the foxy cougar news lady said. Jake the Quake was shaking things up in the financial district and the old bank was collapsing. The firemen were clearing out, but you just ran right in there and saved one-hundred and forty-eight people. It was a miracle. Only one casualty. Only one.

Dan: Only one…

Hotshot: Jesus, man, they loved you! You were a real hero. The first any of us had ever seen. An instant success. Fame beyond belief. All that attention. It was just what I needed. More! So I had my P.A. Champ rig me up a pair of gloves and Hotshot was born. I was going to be a hero just like you! And I tried, I really did, stopping robbers and helping old ladies across the street…but it was hard. And they never appreciated it. I’d save some old bitch from being mugged and she slaps me for setting her purse on fire! They didn’t care that we had to maintain real jobs and real lives while giving our all for them with every spare second. And no matter what you did and how much you did it there were always more problems, more evils unleashed into the world! It was…it was too much. It was infuriating. I…this is so much easier.

Dan: Of course it is. But I bet you, despite all that stolen money and all those one night stands, you still look in the mirror and feel empty because you took your problem and tried to solve it by swelling it up so large in your head that their wasn’t enough room for anything else! You wanted to be a hero for all the wrong reasons. Let me out of here and you have my word that I will help you fill the void in you life. It’s never too late and you have so much potential, Hotshot. Spencer.

Hotshot: (lost in his thoughts) When they cheered your name it felt great, didn’t it? You were never unwanted. Never shunned. Always loved. And you deserved it. (to Dan) Thanks for the chat, dude, but this is the closest thing to love I’ll ever have. You understand, right?

Lights out. Lights go up. Hotshot is no longer there. Seductress enters, amused and intrigued by the situation. She seems far sexier than she did before, as if putting on a show for Dan. He sees her upon arrival.

Dan: Seductress…

Seductress: Aw, you know I hate it when you call me that, Daniel.

Dan: (coldly) Well, it’s who you chose to be. Take the name and everything that comes with it.

Seductress: We’re going to kill you.

Dan: So I’ve heard.

Seductress: Really, darling, this is serious. Not the usual ‘break out at the last minute’ thing you’re used to. There’s no escaping this time. Hotshot, Dr. Sane, The Baron (Dan’s eyes open wide at the mentioning of ‘The Baron’), Whisper and myself.

Dan: Whisper?

Seductress: Yes, yes, you’ll meet that enigmatic thing soon enough I suppose. But until then…is there anything you’d like to say to me before you are whisked away from this world?

Dan: Nothing.

Seductress: An apology…?

Dan: An- You ruined my marriage!

Seductress: You ruined your marriage. You broke my heart!

Dan: You broke mine!

(silence)

Dan: I lost everything for you.

Seductress: You were the only man who ever loved me…by choice. I was the only woman who really understood you. Why you did the things you did. Your wife pretended to understand, but-

Dan: Don’t bring her into this.

(silence)

Seductress: Daniel…

Dan: Seductress…

Seductress: That’s not my name!

Dan: Yes it is.

Seductress: Say my name!

Dan: No.

Seductress: (raises her hands as if to enchant him) Say it!

Dan: Your spells don’t work on me…

Seductress: That may have been true when you were at full power, but not so much the case today. So…SAY IT! (she reaches her arms to him as if casting a spell, concentrating intensely on him) Sayitsayitsayitsayit…

Dan: (becoming increasingly enchanted by her power) K-K-K-K-K-KATHLEEN! (he chokes on the words)

Seductress: That’s better. (pause) Do you remember our first date, Daniel? I certainly do. That Italian restaurant by the river. The starry sky. Oh, it was perfect. Just. Perfect. You were the only man who I ever really felt safe with. I mean, a date? Me?! Really? Ah, I almost couldn’t believe it myself. But it happened. I remember it perfectly. It went something like this… (she pulls the table center stage, pushes Dan up to it and sits herself down across from him and smiles longingly) You were so nervous. After a few seconds passed I asked, “What are you thinking?” and you said… (she forces her spell on him)

Dan: (trying to fight it, but failing ultimately) You look beautiful.

Seductress: “Thank you,” I replied with a shy smile. (forces her powers on him again)

Dan: (almost in pain) So…

Seductress: You began, lost in my eyes as I was yours. (enchants)

Dan: (struggles) How was your day?

Seductress: “Oh…” I batted my lashes seductively. “It was nothing special…until now.” And you blushed. Isn’t this fun?

Dan: You twisted b- (she waves a hand at him and he goes silent)

Seductress: We ordered our food. You got the lobster, me a half-portion of veal with light marinara. I can almost smell it. “This is so nice. I haven’t felt like this for another human being in a long time…” I got myself all worked up then and then…and then…I can’t seem to remember what happens next…

Dan: That’s because it was the moment I suddenly lost my appetite because I got sick- sick over the fact that I was a married man…and a father…on a date.

Seductress: You loved me!

Dan: I was confused! But…but that was no excuse. I loved Carol. I love Carol. I just up and threw it all away for…for…

Seductress: You. Loved. Me.

Dan: I was an idiot!

Seductress: She never could have made you happy!

Dan: You don’t know that.

Seductress: Of course I do. She wasn’t like us…

Dan: I’m nothing like you.

Seductress: Special!

Dan: Just go.

Seductress: No. No. You may be willing to give up on us, but I will not! We had our differences…

Dan: You were a murderer! You forced men to fall in love with you and you took all their things and you killed them!

Seductress: And they deserved it! They were scum. Filthy perverse animals propagating evil and lust and sex upon the earth. It was justice. I am a hero, like you!

Dan: You’re sick! Told told me about…when you were a kid, remember? I wanted to help you and I still do.

Seductress: (stops, centers herself) And I want to help you, Daniel. To escape. To get out of here. I used my gifts to set up these little one-on-one sessions for that purpose. So we could be alone and talk about our future together.

Dan: Sed-

Seductress: I will free you if you promise to give yourself to me and only me for the rest of our lives. This nightmare will end if you just tell me you love me. (Dan stares hard into her eyes, silent) Tell me you love me. (more silence is his response) TELL ME! (she puts her all into enchanting him this time. Her strain causes Dan immense levels of agony as he fights it with all his will)

Dan: I…

Seductress: Yes? Yes?

Dan: …would rather die than spend another second with you. (she stops trying, and he collapses, breathing heavy as if having been choked)

Seductress: (unexpectedly composed) Fair enough. Just know, that in a few hours, when we kill you, it will be your fault. Like your wife leaving you. Like the fact that you only see your beloved child for a few hours every other weekend. Like any chance at a pleasant future, with a loving family that you traded for a pair of tights and that ridiculous cape. I guess the only thing a true hero lacks the strength and sense to save is himself.

Lights go down as Seductress leaves. Lights come up. Dan is struggling to break free as The Baron enters, nose raised at the other.

The Baron: It seems as though the tables have turned, Exemplar.

Dan: Baron…

Baron: Right you are. It is I, your most worthy opponent. We both knew this day would come, the day that one of us would emerge the victor. Ah, the battles we had. Masterful plans, years in the making, foiled by you in a matter of hours. I’ve come up against countless factors of competition over the years, political, religious, militaristic, other so-called heroes, but none like you. Ever since you arrived on the city’s stage, having saved all those people in the collapse.

Dan: All but one.

The Baron: (brushing his comment aside) Yes, yes. Ever-vigilant you were. Ever-willing to place yourself between my lust for power and the blind sheep that make up the majority of the human race, occasionally with that irksome sidekick of yours. I disagreed with your code, but had nothing but respect for the vigor with which you executed it. An era is truly ending tonight.

Dan: But why, Baron? Why like this? You are the greatest villain of them all and you’re okay with sharing credit with these other guys, with Hotshot, for killing me? That’s hardly your style.

The Baron: (laughs in spite of himself) That feeble attempt at deterring me from the task at hand will yield no fruit for you. Over the years I would go as far to say that we understand quite a bit of each other. How could we not? But whereas your goal is to protect the world from myself and people like me who would wish it harm, mine was always to rule it. Never for a moment was it to kill you. You, dear Exemplar, were merely a hindrance and this opportunity was a quick fix to the one factor keeping me from my destiny. It is a common misconception amongst the heroing community that villains would be lost without their counterparts, but that could not be more wrong. It is you heroes who need us, to validate your desire to leap around in bright colors and tight clothing, to always be in the spotlight. We villains know what we want and we know what needs to be eliminated in order to achieve it. Would I rather have killed you on my own? Yes. But this world is not in the habit of giving us what we want. It is a matter of taking what it gives you and bending it to your will. For example, I now find myself in a secret lair with my greatest opposer and four people who simply do not fit into my plans for a better world. What I have prepared for this upcoming event will be nothing short of magnificence, I assure you. (He’s lost in thought for a moment) When you are gone I will at last be free. Ta. (exits)

Lights go down. When they come back up Dr. Sane is sitting in the extra chair, playing with some random object, sitting behind Dan so that the other cannot see him until he leans forward and sings into his ear…

Dr. Sane: (singingYou are my fire. My one desire. Believe when I say. I want it that way…

Dan: Sane…

Dr. Sane: I beg to differ. Heeheehee…

Dan: (his bravado weaker than before) I heard you were here. Strange. You’re even less of a team player than The Baron.

Dr. Sane: What can I say? I’m a sucker for a party and full to the brim with surprises.

Dan: So…

Dr. Sane: So…what?

Dan: So what do you have to say to me? Everyone else marched in here with their standard monologues. What do you have for me?

Dr. Sane: Oh, Danny-boy, you know me better than that. I am a psycho of few words. I prefer my fine cutlery to do my talking for me. (draws out a gun) And sometimes old Betsy here.

Dan: Great.

Dr. Sane: But since you asked…(becomes very theatrical) I’m gonna miss ya, buddy. I really am, honest and true. You’re pretty much the only nemesis I haven’t slowly killed in my Den of Infinite Mutilations. And, for, well, surviving our relationship, I thought I’d give you a parting gift of sorts. Just so you know how much I care. Stay right there I’ll be right back. (he exits then quickly returns from behind Dan, carrying a balled up piece of yellow fabric. He throws it over Dan’s head so that it unfolds in the air, landing on the floor in front of the other, a blood-stained cape) Ta daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa…

Dan: (in disbelief, then horror) No…

Dr. Sane: Yes.

Dan: You didn’t…

Dr. Sane: I did!

Dan: B-B-Bil-

Dr. Sane: Billy Ramirez, aka Kid Maximus! (faking ignorance) Oh… Oh! Oh my! He was- He was your sidekick a few years ago, wasn’t he? You and him were pretty close…right? You, like, fought crime and stuff? Best friends, if I recall. Then he went solo or something… I forget. I forget.

Dan: You…you monster.

Dr. Sane: Tell me something I don’t know. Come on. I dare you. I know a lot.

Dan: He was just a kid…

Dr. Sane: They grow up so fast…

Dan: You…monster.

Dr. Sane: You already said that. And settle down, Spanky, he’s not dead. Idiot. He’s hanging by a pair of meat hooks in my basement. (a side thought) I wonder if the dogs got to him yet. Hm. (returns his attention to Dan with wild intensity) But that’s neither here nor there. Just a means to the ends, really. You see, Seductress was the one who gave up your secret identity…you two musta been close, huh? Hotshot (makes the universal blow-job gesture) convinced his pal Champ Mechanical to come out of hiding and make that power-sucking thingamajig. The Baron was nice enough to lend us one of his lairs. Whisper brought us all together…I was beginning to feel a little left out. Useless. So I decided to take matters into my own hands. Maximus wasn’t all that hard to track down. Once a sidekick… It also wasn’t all that hard to coax a few tidbits of information out of him…

Dan: What are you talking-?

Dr. Sane: Ah, ah, ah, daddy’s talking. (signals for Dan to wait a minute as he reaches into his pocket) Wait for it… (pulls out a ring) Surprise! (Examines it for a while, then is blindsided by the realization of its significance) That’s right, sport.

Dan: Carol…that’s her wedding ring…

Dr. Sane: Yeah, she still wore it, isn’t that crazy?

Dan: What did you-

Dr. Sane: (truly outwardly cold, evil, for the first time) I killed her. I snuck into her room while she was sleeping, that peaceful, beautiful thing, and my passion made her scream, louder and louder and louder until your little boy walked in the room, too young to understand. Too innocent. So I finished under the backdrop of his whiny little ‘Stop! Stop! You’re hurting mommy!” adding to the overall ambiance of it all. Ha, pain. He had never experienced real pain in his life. Until I took his mommy and I broke her bones in front of him. I took her by that long blond hair and I cut and I cut and I cut her to little itty bitty pieces and he watched the whole thing and now there’s no way he’s going to be like you because he’ll be too FUCKED up. He’ll be me. Now not only will you be dead, but so will your legacy. And now I’m satisfied. Because I finally contributed. (his eyes are quietly fixed on Dan) It’s funny, because when the gang gets back together and finally do you in, they’ll think themselves champions, victors. But they won’t understand that you’re already dead…on the inside. Courtesy of Dr. Sane. HAHAHAA…(exits, cackling)

Dan: (falling gradually into a frantic mindless fit) You’re lying, Sane! You’re…you’re fucking lying! Maximus is too smart for you! He…he would n-never- NEVER -tell you where Carol and…DJ…YOU’RE LYING! You’re…you’re… (sits in silence until the tears begin to swell. A gentle sob erupts into an agonizing, nearly inhuman wail that echoes within our insides, as he thrashes in his chair, eventually causing it to fall on its side. He barely notices) No…NO! NOOOO! NO! Carol… No. Fuck. Fuck…fuck…DJ…No…NO! NO! NOOO! NO! FUCK! NO, GOD! God…no. (He eventually collaspes under his own grief and when he is entirely quiet, Whisper enters like a wraith, outside of Dan’s field of vision. It creeps nearer and nearer to Dan, leaning toward him, its cloak almost touching his face. Dan feels Whisper’s presence, but it is out of sight when he lifts his head to see) Wha? (After some more curious observation, Whisper makes itself noticeable, crouching down beside Dan) (still an emotional wreck) What…? Who…? You’re Whisper, aren’t you? You did all of this, didn’t you? You brought all these fucked up people together? (Silence) But…why? (Silence) Why? (Silence) All I ever wanted was to be a hero. I slipped up sometimes, I’m human, I…Carol…Oh God…DJ. Did you know he killed my wife? Did you know what he did?! (pause) Kill me. Please just kill me… No. DJ…I have to… (Whisper reaches into its cloak and pulls out a torn rectangle of newspaper. It holds the paper in front of Dan’s face) What are you doing?! I don’t care about- (pause) Is that…? Keith Nielson. What does this have to do with-? (she points to something on the paper) “…fell victim to a super villain attack…” I know this! I know how he died! I tried to save them all! I was so close, I thought I had everyone… (Whisper points again, this time more aggressively) What does this have to do with anything?! (Whisper shoves the paper in Dan’s face) “He was a widower! Survived only by his beloved daughter…” (As he reads the name, Whisper removes its hood, revealing a girl who couldn’t be much more than fifteen years old) “…Veronica, aged eight…” You… (Whisper nods) This is why you put me through all of this? Because I couldn’t save your dad?! This is what I deserve?! A dead wife and a son who- (can’t drive himself to speak further) Oh God… (Whisper exits)

Lights down. Lights up as Hotshot and Dr. Sane sit Dan upright. Dan is passed out, a direct factor of his grief. Seductress, The Baron and Whisper (her identity concealed) are there as well.

Hotshot: Geez, he’s heavy!

Dr. Sane: You’re just not used to any real labor, Snowflake.

The Baron: Well, here we are. I suppose you’ve been given ample time to say your goodbyes and formulate the most effective manner in which to end Exemplar’s life.

Seductress: His name is Daniel.

The Baron: Not to me.

Hotshot: I don’t care how he dies. Let’s just get this over with. I gotta take a few pics and text ’em to the all the papers before the morning.

Seductress: I agree with the boy. Let’s just get this over with. I’m over it.

The Baron: Dr. Sane?

Dr. Sane: Shot to the head. I’m sick of you jerks…besides, I’ve got a nice new heir to play with back at the lair. His son. Teehee. I’m such a rascal.

(pause. Whisper is subtely effected by Sane’s statement)

The Baron: Hm. Well, after much thought on my own part, and in part due to the conversation I shared with Exemplar here, I have put aside my thoughts of a magnificent spectacle of a death as it is but a means to a far greater end for all of us. A ticket to possibility. A weight lifted indefinitely. (to The Baron) Fire away.

Dr. Sane: With pleasure. (shoots the gun. Dan’s body jolts a little, but otherwise there is no effect aside from the face that he groans as if reaching an obnoxious roadblock in an otherwise wonderful dream) Did I load this thing this morning? (Shoots him again, to the same effect) Hm. (Shoots him over and over and over, until…)

Seductress: Stop that, you moron!

Hotshot: Oh shit…

The Baron: His powers…

Hotshot: Ohhh shit…

The Baron: They have returned to him.

Seductress: The device must have broken when he fell over.

Dr. Sane: And here I thought this was gonna be booooring…

Hotshot: Shit! Fuck! (thinks) I know! I know! I’ll call Champ! He’ll know what to do! (pulls out his cell phone and exits)

Dan: (waking up…) Wha…

Seductress: Jesus…

Dr. Sane: Whoa boy.

Seductress: I’ll try to keep him sleeping…

The Baron: His skin is near-invulnerable. Aim for his brain, through the eye, the second he opens it.

Dr. Sane: (pulls out his gun and starts for Dan) Heh. Heh. Heh. (Whisper draws a knife from Dr. Sane’s belt and holds it up to his neck, standing between him and Dan. She then quickly lifts her hood) What in the-?

Whisper: You weren’t supposed to hurt his family…

Dr. Sane: You ain’t my boss, girly…

The Baron: Seductress, stop her…

Seductress: (strained) I-I…can’t…taking everything I have…to keep him…down…

Dan: Carol…Carol…

The Baron: (Draws out his weapon, aiming it at Whisper) Move.

Whisper: No. No! This was supposed to be fast! It was supposed to be easy! He was supposed to pay for what he, for what he failed to do. All the- all the newspapers and the- and everyone, he was such a hero. They loved him and everywhere I looked there he was, always, always so perfect. So perfect, but he wasn’t perfect. He let my dad die. He saved everyone else…why’d he have to let my dad die…

Dr. Sane: Oh, boo hoo.

Whisper: Shut up! But this- I gave you all a chance to be free…for me to get my vengeance…

Seductress: Guys…

Whisper: …but you just let all your childish, personal shit get in the way and now look at us! His family was innocent! Now look where we- (Dr. Sane shoots her, Whisper drops to the ground. The unexpectedness of the event causes Seductress to break concentration and Dan’s eyes snap open)

Dr. Sane: Oh shit.

Dan moves slowly, as if allowing his dormant power to return to him fully. There is a darkness to him that cannot be denied. Seductress continues to use her failing powers on him. Dan  looks to Whisper, at his feet. She is just barely clinging on to life.

Whisper: I’m sorry…I’m so sorry… (dies)

Dan stands, breaking easily out of the ropes that bound him. In a lightning-quick move, he grabs Seductress by the neck.

Seductress: Daniel…please…I-I tried to set you free…r-remember…?

Dan: Stop. Talking.

Seductress: P-please, Daniel, no one…will ever…love you like… (notices Dr. Sane starting to sneak out) Dr. Sane…escaping…

Dan looks to Dr. Sane, who freezes in place with a weak smile flickering on his face. Seductress breaks free of Dan’s grip and exits, eyes never leaving her love as she does. Dr. Sane exits quickly. Dan is right behind him, but stops just short of exiting at the sound of The Baron’s voice.

The Baron: Your son’s safe.

Dan: What?

The Baron: He’s safe.

Dan: How…how would you-

The Baron: Because fancies your DJ some sort of heir to his throne, nestled in his lair. That, and the fact that Dr. Sane will be dead before he leaves these grounds. Upon suggesting this lair be your deathplace, I had my minions construct a number of high-powered weapons about its perimeter, trained to seek and destroy anything that does not exhibit my exact DNA the moment they step outside. I activated the system when the others were speaking with you. As we speak the doctor is breathing his last breaths on the yard as all manner of bullets and lasers and whatnot make a fine puree of his body. The same rings true for the Seductress and, judging by his extended absence, Hotshot before them. I do despise competition.

Dan: Hm.

The Baron: It seems as though our little dance continues, Exemplar.

Dan: No. It’s over. It’s all over.

Lights go down and come up as they were in the beginning, to Spencer, Kathleen, Veronica, The Baron and Jebediah standing on stage, staring blankly into the distance.

Spencer: My name is Spencer Wade. Hotshot.

Kathleen: My name is Kathleen Michaels. Seductress.

Veronica: My name is Veronica Nielson. Whisper.

The Baron: My name is…Deitfried Strauss. The Baron.

Jebediah: My name is Jebediah Cross. Dr. Sane.

Spencer: And these are…

Kathleen: And these are…

Veronica: And these are…

The Baron: And these are…

Jebediah: And these are…

Spencer: …my last thoughts…

Kathleen: …my last thoughts…

Veronica: …my last thoughts…

The Baron: …my last thoughts…

Jebediah: …my last thoughts…

All: …before I died.

Spencer: I’m sorry, Jacob. God dammit, look at my life…You died for nothing. (Backs away into the darkness upstage and exits)

Kathleen: Pain? This isn’t pain. Pain is everything that lead up to this. Don’t forget me, my love. (Backs away into the darkness upstage and exits)

Veronica: We’re going to be together again, daddy. I’m coming. I’m coming. (Backs away into the darkness upstage and exits)

The Baron: I have failed. It seems the world will never be tamed. (Backs away into the darkness upstage and exits)

Jebediah: Th-th-th-th-th-th-that’s all, folks. (Backs away into the darkness upstage and exits)

Dan enters from the darkness, stepping forward into the light, hands in his pockets to start. He is wearing dark street clothing, a pair of sunglasses resting on his head. There is pain in his eyes that seeps into the depths of everything he does, but a contentment beyond explanation. There is something wrong about this that the audience senses clearly, but can’t quite put their finger on. When he speaks it is directly to the audience.

Dan: There’s a kind of darkness in me now that- I -It feels like it’s been there forever, but I know that’s not the case. I know that, once upon a time, life was…good? No, that’s not fair. It’s good now. It really is. And I know I could spend the rest of my life wondering ‘what if’ this, ‘what if’ that, but where’s the solace there? Where’s the progress in that? I maintain tiny fragments of the memory of my family. The three of us, our relationship inflated to some impossible fantasy, but I don’t dwell…I don’t. Forward, always forward. The years that followed the incident were hard- hell, they’re still hard some times, a lot of temptation to deal with, a lot of evil out there and I’m screwed up enough for some of it to seem like a real good idea, but when I’m really down, when I start to feel that raging, howling beast tearing and pulling at the insides of my psyche…I think about my father. He was a real hero. Superhuman strength and flight and everything. You know he once saved one hundred and forty-eight people from a collapsing building all by himself? Everybody loved him. Even if mom pretended she didn’t…she loved him. He was just that kind of guy I guess. (pauses) No one really knows what happened that night. Just that five super-villains were found dead, four of them shot to death and the fifth, he was called The Baron, was inside, his head was twisted the whole way around, a look of agony plastered on his face. A couple hundred miles north was where they found my dad, his body lying beside the mess of blood and skin that was my mother, his wife. He had taken one of the bed posts, the police say, and just kind of- rammed it through his chest. (he goes quiet for a time) The past. (Another pause, this one ends with a light smile) I’m getting married soon. Four months, three days and (checks his watch) five hours. Her name is Melanie and she is absolutely wonderful. She puts up with my screwedupedness and I love her more than words and breath and life. One day we’ll have a little boy, or girl, and it’ll be perfect. Life is good. It’s all good.

See the Elephant

“See the Elephant”

Characters
Jack Wynce
Belinda
Stan
Anish
Rich Wynce
Emily
Man (unseen)

~PLAY BEGIN~

ACT ONE

Scene 1.

The play begins in absolute darkness. Slowly creeps in the sounds of a circus, bustling with people and all manner of activity; the ringmaster’s booming voice above it all. The sounds grow louder as a few camera flashes go off, giving the first glimpse of the set and characters there. The final flash brings absolute silence and lights gently rise up on the scene: Death Valley, 1926. The four characters exist, amidst sand, rocks and pieces of luggage, silent and hot.  A broken down model-T may or may not be visible on stage. There’s JACK (31, a handsome well-dressed man), standing center, gazing outward with a look teetering between hopefulness and disbelief. The remaining three characters are seated, frozen. BELINDA (35, a pretty woman, aged slightly by stress), ANISH (17, small, curious-looking Indian boy), attempting to hide his nervousness with indifference, his torso wrapped in dried blood-stained bandages, and STAN (55, a hobo clown in fading make-up), tired and deep in thought. RICH (34, an average looking man with a god-like air of confidence) enters, approaching Jack as a playful predator would its unsuspecting prey. The lighting is mainly blue, signifying a dream.

Rich:  Well, will ya look at this? I mean, jeez, man! Wow. Heh. Jack. Jackie boy! It’s me! It’s… Ah, I get it. Giving me the cold shoulder. I understand. Well…heh…that is to say, I understand you enough to know why you would choose to ignore me. Not that I would ever do such a thing. I’ve never been hardwired that way. Towards childishness, I mean. Towards… (takes a moment to fully be affected by Jack’s silence) I should be upset with you- I really should. But, ha, look at this mess you’ve made for yourself! (gestures toward the frozen characters) For them! I was mad at first- I mean, who wouldn’t be!- but, Jesus, Jack! This is an all new low for you…and that’s saying something. Remember…remember when we was kids and you was caught in the barn with that girl Lily…Sally…Farmer Acker’s daughter? I had to save your ass that night. Took a shovel right to the face. I still have a scar if you look hard enough. And this tooth…never quite felt the same again, ya know? Out of the two of us, you got the lion’s share on positive attributes. You’re more talented, the better performer, charming and damn sure the more handsome out of the two of us…but you never did have an ounce of common sense. And without that, well…look at you. Sad thing is, it’s not just you that’s gonna pay for this. (shifts focus to the others and a twinge of sadness enters his words) These are good people, you know that? Some of the best people I ever worked with. I fed them and gave them a roof over their heads, protected them just like mom and pop taught us to, but…how could I protect them from you? Huh? I don’t have the tools to fight your kind of manipulation, dragging these poor souls off to their-!

Jack: I didn’t manipulate- !

Rich: No. No. No. No. No, little brother. I’m not in the right mind, all of a sudden, to hear your voice. I can’t. You hurt me substantially. After all I’ve done for you without asking a thing  except that you do your job and pull your weight and you- you’re smug fucking self just prances in here, taking the most important things in my life and…you probably don’t feel a damn thing.

Jack: Rich…

Rich: Nope. Too late. You’re all alone now, Jack. They’re not going to be under your spell forever and, I…well, even if I could help you out… God forgive me, but I highly doubt I would. (exits)

Jack sits down with the rest and lights change to something like realistic. The characters unfreeze, but their movements are subtle. Anish coughs and clutches his chest.

Stan: You okay, kid?

Anish: I am fine. I just-

Stan: I know. I know. You’ll be fine, buddy.

Belinda: Jack. Jackie…

Jack: (as if released from a trance) Huh? What is it, Bella?

Belinda: It’s Anish…

Jack: Anish, how’re ya doing?

Anish: Fine, Mr. Wynce.

Jack: Right. He’s fine. You’re fine. (pulls out his cigarette case, and from it a cigarette, and lights up) And I’m not going to tell you again: don’t call me ‘Mr. Wynce’. That’s my brother. (he and Belinda share an odd look)

Anish: I am sorry, Mr…Jack.

Jack: That’s better and no need to apologize, kid. It’s how you were raised. Just don’t do it again and we’re square.

Anish: I understand.

Jack: We’ll be out of here in no time, mark my words, gang. Some car full of kindly people, people like us trying to make a new life out west, will come down this road any minute now. Mark my words.

Belinda: I trust you, Jackie.

Jack: Thanks, Bella. Stan, you sure there’s nothing we can do to start that ol’ jalopy over there?

Stan: Well, seein’ as I’m a circus clown and not a mechanic…and I ain’t got no tools…it don’t look too good.

Jack: Alright, alright. There’s gotta be some kind of instruction manual in the damned thing.

Belinda: We’ve already looked.

Jack: Then look again! Anish!

Anish starts, with obvious pain, to stand up, but Stan gently pushes him down.

Stan: Sit down, kid. (to Jack) He’s in no condition-

Jack: Well, nobody told him to- (gestures towards Anish’s wound) Fine, I’ll check!

Belinda: Jackie, it’s not there!

Jack: (furious) How the hell do you know?!

Belinda: Jackie…?

Stan: Throwin’ a tantrum ain’t gonna get us moving any faster, Jack.

Jack: (settles) You’re right. You’re right. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I can saw a full grown man into five pieces, rearrange him and put him back together, but I can’t get a fucking car to start.

Belinda: Language.

Jack: Sorry. How long’ve we been stuck here?

Stan: (checks his watch) ‘Bout six hours.

Jack: Shit!

Belinda: Jack!

Jack: What kinda road doesn’t have cars on it?!

Stan: The kind that cuts straight on through the hottest place on earth.

Jack: Yeah. (pause) Anybody wanna see a magic trick to pass the time? A little hypnosis or something to keep our minds off the heat until we get rescued…

Belinda: …or until Richie finds us.

Jack: He’s not coming after us.

Belinda: We took his money!

Jack: We took his car!

Stan: (to Jack) You took his wife.

Jack: Rich is not coming after us. That’s all there is to it. (pause. Jack puts out his cigarette) I’m doing a card trick. It’ll get our minds off of…things. (to Anish) You’d like that wouldn’t ya, bud?

Anish: Oh yes. Yes, Mr…Jack.

Jack: Attaboy. Look at you. You look great. You really do. Okay. (pulls a deck of cards out of his pocket. To Anish) Pick a card, kid. (Anish takes a card) Alright. Okay. You know the drill. Commit that card to memory. Show it to your friends. Return it to the deck. (Anish shows Belinda and Stan the card. Jack turns away for the sheer theatricality of it and Anish returns to the card to the deck) Bee-ootiful! Okay. Okay. I will now have the lovely Belinda shuffle this deck to her heart’s content. (Belinda shuffles and returns the cards to Jack. As he speaks, he first sits down his cigarette case and then circles the other three, only to stop before Anish upon the revealing of the card) You’ve all seen the card pulled by our dear Anish here. I have not. I cannot possibly know what the card is nor where the card is in this deck. It’s impossible! And yet, I happen to deal exclusively in the impossible. Anish, boy, is your card the… (draws a card) …ace of spades?

Anish: Hm. It is not, Jack.

Jack: Ah, well, friends, magic, like politics and religion, is an imperfect art. (clears throat) How about… (draws another card) …the jack of hearts?

Stan: Nope.

Jack: (quickly draws another) The…two of clubs?

Belinda: Oh Jack…

Jack: Shit!

Belinda: It’s okay, baby. We’re all a little flustered. The heat…

Jack: Anish! Hand me a cigarette, will ya?

Anish reaches for Jack’s cigarette case and opens it. His face lights up as he raises a card from within.

Jack: What’s that you got there, kid?

Anish: (astonished) It…it is the card… (he shows the others)

Belinda: Oh Jackie!

Stan: (mildly impressed) Hm.

Jack: I am Jack Alder Wynce, Mysterios the Great, the most capable master of the metaphysical arts in all forty-eight states and most awe-inspiring act at the Wynce Bros. Circus. If something seems off; a miscalculation, a wrong turn, a broken-down car in the middle of the fucking desert…

Belinda: Jack…

Jack:…trust, my friends, that it is all a part of the grand illusion and, in the end, Jack Wynce will always deliver. We’ll be looking out over that California coast before you know it. Mark my words. (looks up and down the road, disappointed) Dammit.

Scene 2.

Night has fallen. Anish and Stan are asleep, Anish resting on the other’s lap. Jack and Belinda sit close together, staring up at the night sky. Anish is shaking violently and moaning. The word “Emily” can be heard nestled within his pained sounds.

Belinda: Jack, he needs a hospital.

Jack: Stupid kid. Jesus.

Belinda: Look at him, poor thing.

Jack: We never should have brought him along.

Belinda: What choice did we have?

Jack: We could’ve left him behind like we left everything else. He had a great life back at the circus. He was even dating that cute little bird, the trapeze one…

Belinda: Emily.

Jack: Yeah! Emily. Kid would never get a girl like that out in the actual world, with or without his…you know.

Belinda: I know. But could you imagine what it must have been like for him? Never able to live a normal life. On the stage or off the stage, always a sideshow act.

Jack: That’s why the good Lord gave us the circus. To supply all the freaks of the world with a home!

Belinda: But you’ve got it all, Jack. You’ve always had it. Good looks, talent, charisma…

Jack: All the reasons you fell hopelessly in love with me…

Belinda: Oh, Jack. Well, yes, but my point is that you didn’t have to stay with the circus. You could do anything.

Jack: Maybe. Maybe not. The boys from the speakeasy were talking about some kind of something or other with the banks. They say that things’re gonna get pretty rocky pretty soon for the common man.

Belinda: You’re not anywhere near common, baby.

Jack: Thing is, these boys might not be on the right side of the law but they’re definitely on the inside of it, Bella. They knew about the ol’ Nobel Experiment months before it got passed. Remember that?

Belinda: I do.

Jack: Okay. I’m just sayin’. We got my brother’s money to keep us going for a while, and… I’ve got more faith in myself than any man should, but I’m still gonna play it safe once we make it west. Pack light. Act smart.

Anish: …Emily…

Jack: Jesus Christ. Speaking of light packing, we also gotta figure out what to do with these to tagalongs. A smelly old man and the Indian. I’ve got half a mind to drop one at the hospital, the other at the old folks’ home and be done with it. You n’ me, we got a life to start.

Anish: …Emily…

Jack: We should’ve never brought him! I heard people that are raised up in India live in little holes in the ground. Whole families living in little holes in the ground! Half of ‘em starve to death and the rest of ‘em run around, diseased, skinny as skeletons, with no clothes or toilets or anything worth having. (points to Anish) This boy here is born into all that…but he’s different…he comes along with this… (gestures towards his chest) …this extra arm popping out of his chest.

Stan: (there’s no telling how long he had been awake before this point) Vestigial.

Jack: What?

Stan: It’s called a ‘vestigial arm’.

Jack: (ignoring the other) Anyway, this, that or the other thing happens and, whoosh, he gets snatched into a circus, shipped to America, bounces around a bit and ends up on our doorstep. Luckiest kid in the world and what does he do? He gets the idea of cutting it off with a damned ax so that he can live a normal life! He’s a fool, is what he is! Plain and simple.

Stan: You got no idea what it’s like to live life thinkin’ you’re a freak.

Belinda: That’s exactly what I was saying!

Jack: You’re right! I don’t! You both happy?! Doesn’t change the fact that he’s a damned stupid fool. I’m tired. Somebody keep watch for a car. I’m going to sleep.

Stan: (irritated) Gonna throw me into the old folks’ home then?

Jack: (thinks) No one asked you to come along, Stan. And the way you were high-tailing into our car I’d say we did you a favor no matter where we decide to dump you. What’d ya do, Stan, that got you so shook up last night? (no answer) Good night, Stan. (lies down)

The scene goes blue, as it was at the play’s beginning, signifying a dream. Stan, Belinda and Jack all freeze. Anish is lying so still that he seems frozen as well. EMILY (14, a thin girl with fair hair and fair skin, with a look at once adorable and odd) enters, takes a seat and stares, wide-eyed, at the night sky. There is a sweetness to her that is unparalleled. Anish wakes up, displaying no signs of being uncomfortable. He yawns then notices Emily with a start.

Emily: (her eyes remain fixed on the sky) Aren’t the stars just darling here?

Anish: (in utter disbelief) Emily?

Emily: Oh, Anish, look at them. There’s so many! I feel like it would take a person a hundred, no! A thousand lifetimes to count them all, don’t you?

Anish: (approaches her) How are you here? How did you find me?

Emily: (she laughs; the purity of the sound is disarming and it is soon followed by a sadness that is equally so) Silly guy, of course I’m not here. I’m at home, sleeping in my family’s trailer. I’m not even convinced you’re gone yet. Heehee. Your friend, the dwarf, he says he saw you hop in a car and drive off with Jack and Belinda, but I swore I knew you better than that. I knew you wouldn’t just run off without saying goodbye. (almost in tears) I thought you loved me…

Anish: Emily, I do! I do love you! I love you more than anything on heaven or earth!

Emily: Then why would you… (she notices his wound) Oh, Anish! What happened to you?! Your arm!

Anish: I cut it off.

Emily: (she looks at him as though he were a stranger) You…

Anish: I was tired of being treated like some sort of aberration!

Emily: You were always beautiful to me…

Anish: And only you! No one else! Not the crowds of people, pointing and laughing, pointing and laughing. Not even most of the others in the sideshow! Not your father…

Emily: Anish.

Anish: I had to do it! I had to do it and I had to leave! Trust, though, that my plan was always to return so that I might bring you back with me. I promise this to you. You are my breath and my heart. You are my one true love. Wait for me. I will give us a good life.

Emily: I…we had a good life, I thought.

Anish: How could we possibly know this if I do not at least try at something different out here? I will make it to California and I will build us something more wonderful than we have dreamed. I love you.

Emily: I love you, too. And I trust you. Now get some rest, okay?

Anish: Okay.

Emily walks him back to his resting place. He lies down with her help.

Emily: Sleep well, my love. I have a feeling that tomorrow will be hard for the both of us. I miss you already, ‘Nish.

Anish: Me too, you. With all of my being. (falls alseep)

Emily gently rubs her hand against his face, smiling warmly. Then, with sudden fury and a contrasting darkness that is nothing less than terrifying, she takes Stan by the collar, waking him with a jolt.

Emily:  (practically growling) YOU!

Stan: (startled, shaking) Y-y-you! W-what are you doing here…?

Emily: Reminding you that you cannot run from what you’ve done!

She releases him as quickly and violently as she grabbed him, lovingly touches Anish one more time and exits.

Scene 3.

Morning. Belinda hands an empty sack to Jack who, dressed down to accommodate for the heat, munches on an apple. Stan and Anish are just waking.

Belinda: Are you sure you have everything you need, baby?

Jack: I’m fine. I’m fine. (notices Stan and Anish) Look who’s decided to wake up.

Stan: Mornin’.

Jack: How’d you sleep?

Anish: Well, thank you. / Stan: I’ve had better…

Jack: Okay. I’m off. Don’t get rescued without me.

Anish: Where are you going?

Jack: Just over that ridge. I figure it’s worth a shot. Could be we’re sitting here while all this time there’s a family camping or a…a ranger station or something right over there. Wouldn’t that be swell? (exits)

Belinda: Be careful! (to Stan) I hope he’ll be alright…

Stan: He’ll be fine. He’s the great Jack Wynce.

Belinda: Hm.

Stan: Jeez, feels like it’s hotter n’ yesterday and the day ain’t even started yet…

Belinda: Yes. I hope Jack finds help.

Anish: Or help finds us.

Stan: I think we might literally be the only folks in the world stupid enough to try this road dead in the middle o’ summer.

Belinda: But what other choice did we have?

Anish: We could have never left.

Stan: Or gone East instead.

Belinda: Jack says that the whole country’s going west. That that’s where the opportunities are. A fresh start. “Anyone can make it if they have a little bit of brains and a whole lot of ambition.”

Stan: I’m starving. (to Anish) What about you, kid?

Anish: I could eat something, yes.

Belinda: (reaches for a bag and pulls out some circus peanuts and an apple) Jack said that we should ration. You know, just in case.

Stan: Sure, great, just hand over the goods. (gesturing toward Anish) Give him the apple. He needs the health.

Belinda gives Anish the apple and hands Stan a couple peanuts from the bag.

Stan: That’s it?

Belinda: Jack’s orders.

Stan: Jesus…

Belinda takes a few peanuts for herself and then sits, eating.

Stan: I can’t take all this quiet. Let’s do something.

Belinda: Like what?

Stan: You ever heard of Mahjong?

Belinda: Oh yes. It’s quite the fad in the cities these days.

Stan: Good, ‘cuz I got a set in the car.

Belinda: Wonderful, but…don’t you need four people to play?

Stan: (goes to the car to retrieve the set) Traditionally, yeah, but I met a guy a while back came from Malaysia. He was a contortionist. Damn good one. Did some clowning, too. Taught me how to play it, Malaysian-style, with three people. Poor guy died a little while later n’ I took his set. (game in hand, he returns and begins to set up) The rules’re about the same. I’ll explain as we go. (to Anish) You remember, don’t you?

Anish: I believe so, yes.

Stan: I’ll go ahead and deal. Main difference, three people instead of four. No north wind. No characters or bamboo tiles neither. You got four each of animal and face tiles that act just like flowers. And (picks up a joker) the joker tile. Jokers are wild. Ready?

Belinda: I…

Stan: You’ll pick it up.

Anish: It is no difficult thing, Mrs. Wynce.

Belinda: That’s…Ms. Wynce, Anish.

Anish: Oh yes. Of course. I am sorry.

Belinda: It’s fine.

They begin playing.

Stan: (to Belinda) Your turn.

Belinda: Right.

Stan: So…

Belinda: Yes?

Stan: I didn’t realize you and the boss were havin’ troubles.

Belinda: Excuse me?

Stan: The boss? Your husband?

Belinda: I know who you are referring to, but this is hardly appropriate conversation.

Stan: Lady, I’m an old run-down clown. Appropriate ain’t part of the job description.

Belinda: Well, I refuse to take part in it. (to Anish) Your turn.

Stan: It’s just…you two always seemed like a match made in heaven. Then you off and run away with his little brother. S’odd, is all.

Anish: (softly) Mr. Wynce…Rich…was always very nice to me.

Stan: (to Anish) He had his angry side, too, I know. I seen it a few times. (to Belinda) I’m just trying to be friendly, is all. Sayin’ I seen his not-so-good side.

Anish: Your turn, Stan.

Stan: I know, I know…

There is quiet for a while.

Belinda: He couldn’t satisfy me.

Stan: Say no more. Heh.

Belinda: What?

Stan: Nothing…

Belinda: Hm.

Lights go blue. All freeze except Belinda. Rich enters with a bouquet of flowers. She notices him immediately.

Belinda: Richy?

Rich: (looking around, faux-impressed) Wow. Wow, wow, wow. Will ya look at this place? And here I was up all night, knockin’ back the hooch, drowning my woes with the knowledge that my runaway wife was gonna get hers as  soon as she found out my little brother was nothing but a hoodlum with a pretty face. Then I come out here. And I see this. Boy did I have Jackie wrong. He’s the Real McCoy, that one. You guys’ve found the promised land.

Belinda: Rich…

Rich: I’m jealous. And here I was thinking that the warm bed and nice things I offered you were pretty nifty but oh my!…

Belinda: Stop it…

Rich: (sad as he is furious) I WILL NOT STOP IT! You were nothing but a goddamned washed-up flapper whore when I found you. You were nothing. Nothing! And this is how you repay me?!

Belinda: Rich…

Rich: I bought you these flowers. They’ll be waiting for you on that vanity I got you for our second anniversary. Right beside your wedding ring and that fucking note you left me. You know the one. (exits)

The lights return to normal.

Stan: Belinda! Hey!

Belinda: (as if returning from a trance) Huh?

Stan: It’s your turn. Look, if you don’t want to play…

Belinda: No. I do… (makes a move) See? There. (to Anish) Go ahead, Anish.

They play silently for a while longer.

Anish: I wonder what they are doing at the circus. I hope they can get on along without us.

Belinda: (distant) I’m sure they’ll have no problem getting on without me. I’m nothing.

Anish: (not knowing quite how to process her words, he turns to Stan) And you, Stan?

Stan: They’ll get along fine without me.

Anish: But you were one of the star acts. Under the big top!

Stan: Yeah, but I’m gettin’ old, too. Guy like me, wasn’t long ‘til I was gettin’ replaced anyway.

Anish: And…what was his name? The one that got attacked in the menagerie?

Stan: Yeah. S’clown name was Mr. Bingles. S’real name was…Spencer or…or Stephen or something like that. Poor kid. Talented, that one. You see them trainers interactin’ with those animals like they’re the most harmless things in the world so much, you forget. Poor thing got torn apart. Talented, too.

Anish: Which one did it?

Stan: Vishala.

Anish: The tiger?

Stan: Yup. Beautiful as she is deadly, that one.

Belinda: He had no business being in there by himself.

Stan: I know it. But, you know kids.

Belinda: Someone should have locked the entryway.

Stan: I couldn’t agree more.

Pause.

Belinda: I hope Jack is alright.

Anish: I am sure he is fine.

Stan: Yeah, long as I knew that kid there wasn’t no kinda trouble he couldn’t get himself into or out of.

Belinda: Hm. I only hope his talent extends to the people in his care, as well…

Scene 4.

Nighttime. Stan and Anish are sleeping, Anish as restlessly as before. Belinda is sitting, awake, gazing worriedly into the distance. After a while, Jack enters, out of her direct line of sight dehydrated and exhausted. She hears him  and leaps to her feet.

Belinda: Jack! Jack Wynce, you’re alive!

Jack: Hey there, Bella…

Belinda: Oh my, are you alright?

Jack: Water…

Belinda: Yes, of course! Just…sit down, baby! (she brings him water) Here you go, baby. Drink…

Jack: (after downing all of the water) Thank…thank you…

Belinda: What happened? Where did you go? Are you okay?

Jack: I’m fine. Fine. I walked…and walked. It was…so hot. I made it to the ridge. Nothing. There’s just more desert. Endless desert. I was tired. Fell asleep. I woke up and…got lost. So fucking hot. I came back. Here I am.

Belinda: You poor thing.

Jack: I’m fine. How are you?

Belinda: Better. I’ve…been better. I’m glad that you’re back, but-

Jack: (with obvious distaste) And them?

Belinda: Good enough. Anish needs help.

Jack: I…I had a lot of time to think…while I was out there and… (gestures towards Stan and Anish) I don’t know how long we’ll be out here, you know? We only have so much food…n’ drinks left, you know? And they were never part of the plan…

Belinda: Jack, what are you saying?

Jack: If you were drivin’ a car drivin’ by and you saw some old man dressed up like a clown and a wog in bandages, would you pull over?

Belinda: Jack…

Jack: Would you?!

Belinda: Well, I…

Jack: No. You wouldn’t. I wouldn’t. You wouldn’t. No one would.

Belinda: What are you saying, Jack?

Jack: (shrugs) I don’t know. I had a long day.

Belinda: You should get some rest.

Jack: Yeah. Rest. (pulls out his pocket watch, which is attached to a chain) Hey, remember when we used to sneak off into the stables and I’d pretend to hypnotize you to fall in love with me?

Belinda: Ha, I do…

Jack: (raises the watch and swings it, slowly, in front of her. His voice becomes more melodic and slow as well) Those were great times, weren’t they.

Belinda: They were.

Jack: Yeah. They were.

Belinda: Jack, what are you…?

Jack: Ah, ah, ah… Just relax, alright?

Belinda: We shouldn’t be-

Jack: Relax… (Belinda drifts into a trance) That’s my girl. Can you hear me?

Belinda: Yes.

Jack: Good. Good. Now tell me, what’s your favorite color?

Belinda: Violet.

Jack: Violet. Good. Good. But, I seem to remember that your favorite color was always blue. Actually, I’m almost sure of it. Your favorite color is blue, Belinda. Do you understand me?

Belinda: Yes.

Jack: Belinda.

Belinda: Yes?

Jack: What is your favorite color?

Belinda: (pause) Blue.

Jack: That’s right. Okay. Next question: Who do you love more than anyone in the world?

Belinda: Rich. My husband.

Jack: (pause) Hm. How about that? What if I told you that it was me, Jack Wynce, that you loved more than anything you have ever loved before? (pause) Belinda.

Belinda: Yes?

Jack: You love me more than anything you have loved or ever will love in your entire life. Is that clear?

Belinda: It is.

Jack: Good. So tell me, Belinda, who do you love more than anyone in the world?

Belinda pauses for a long while, much to Jack’s frustration.

Belinda: You. I love you.

Jack: That’s better. I need you. I love you. It’s just the two of us from here on out and we will make it to the coast and we will do whatever it takes to get there. Nothing will stand in our way (looks to Stan and Anish) But for now, sleep. When I snap my fingers you will wake and you will be mine.

Belinda lies down to sleep.

Scene 5.

Morning. Jack is hovering over sleeping Belinda. Stan is wandering around. Anish is lying very still.

Jack: (snapping his fingers) Bella, baby, wake up! (she wakes) Good morning, my dear.

Belinda: Mm. Good morning.

Jack: How’d you sleep?

Belinda: Well, thanks.

Jack: Excellent.

Stan: Mornin’, Belinda.

Belinda: Good morning, Stan.

Stan: Clouds’re out. Means we’re one step farther from burnin’ to death.

Jack: That’s the spirit. Glass half full.

Stan: (regarding Anish) This guy’s sleepin’ in today. (examines him and becomes concerned) Anish? Hey, kid. (touches him) Wake up. Anish. Anish!

Belinda: (worried) Oh no…

Stan: Anish! Ani-

Anish: (wakes up in a strange burst of energy, though he is dazed) Huh?

Stan: Oh, thank God…

Belinda: Whew!

Stan: Get the kid some food!

Belinda grabs the bag of food and takes it to Anish.

Stan: (to Anish) You feelin’ okay?

Anish: I am good. I dreamed that we were rescued…by Richard. He took us back home…

Stan: Scared the mess outta us.

Belinda: (offers the food bag to Anish) Here you are.

Stan: Eat up. (takes an apple out of the bag and hands it to him) Here. (Anish takes the apple and eats voraciously) We need water!

Jack: (notices Anish reaching into the bag for more) Hey, slow down on the food!

Stan: He’s hungry!

Jack: We’re all hungry! We need to ration-

Stan: He’s sick! I think his wound’s infected…

Jack: And we’re supposed to starve because some fucking wog chops his own arm off?!

Belinda: Jack!

Stan: Watch your mouth…

Anish begins to look visibly unwell, swaying in and out of consciousness.

Jack: Or what, you fucking washed up old clown?!

Belinda:  Jack!

Jack: (to Belinda) Shut up!

Stan: Where’s the water?

Jack: I drank it all!

Stan: You fuckin’ hypocrite…

Jack: I was dehydrated after I spent the whole goddamn day burning to death so that I could find us some help!

Stan: All the good that did!

Anish: (softly) Stan…?

Jack: Look, no one forced you to chase down the car as we were drivin’ off that night! No one wanted in that car when we were drivin’ off that night.

Anish: Jack…?

Jack: I know people, Stan. I know how they tick and I know that us slowing down to let you into that car was the biggest favor you coulda got that night. I could see it in your beady fuckin’ eyes. The fear. You did somethin’. You were runnin’ from somethin’ and I bet it was somethin’ terrible…

Stan: You don’t know from nothin-

Anish collapses. Belinda reacts immediately.

Belinda: Jack!

Jack: Not now!

Belinda: It’s Anish!

Stan: Kid…

The lights go blue and everyone freezes. The stillness lingers for a beat and then Emily enters, distraught. Anish slowly rises, first taking in his motionless comrades and then noticing Emily.

Anish: (playfully) Hello, you.

Emily: (unable to hold back the tears) Oh, Anish!

Anish: What is wrong? Has someone done something to you?

Emily: Yes. And no.

Anish: I do not understand. Tell me and-

Emily: You’re dying.

Anish: I am?

Emily: Yes. You are. You never should have run off without saying goodbye. We never know when it will be forever.

Anish: N-no. No! I will not allow it! I will be stronger than death! My love for you will give me strength and I will-

Emily: (smiling, she puts her finger to his mouth) This isn’t a fairytale. There’s no such thing as magic and happy endings are lies told to children so that they might feel some form of joy before reality takes hold. You’re dying.

Anish: I am sorry.

Emily: Apologies are meaningless. They can’t undo the past. Or the present…

Anish: (pause) What do I do?

Emily: You accept it as inevitable, I suppose. You look at your life not as a collection of wrong and right turns but as a set of experiences that simply are. And whether you are pleased with them or not you must accept that this is what you chose to do…and, in that, find your peace…my love.

Anish: If I had not run I would have never known that I should not have run at all.

Emily: In dying, we learn the lessons that entire lives could not dream to teach us. Now rest.

Anish moves to his previous position.

Anish: We will meet again in the next world. (collapses)

Emily: Fairy tales, my love. (exits)

Lights returns to normal. All unfreeze. Anish has died.

Stan: (at Anish’s side) He’s gone.

Belinda: (in tears) Oh no. Oh no.

Jack: (to Belinda) What’s your favorite color?

Belinda: Jack, this is not the-

Jack: WHAT THE FUCK IS YOUR FAVORITE COLOR?!

Belinda: (shaken) It’s blue. It’s blue.

Jack: Very good.

ACT TWO

Scene 1.

Midday. Jack and Belinda stand in an open area, looking down at Anish’s makeshift grave. Both are frozen. Stan sits off to the side, wallowing in sorrow. He is unaware that Emily is standing behind him. The blue lighting is in effect from the start.

Emily: Hello, Stanley. (Stan nearly leaps from his resting spot from the start) Settle down, Stan. No need for all of the theatrics. You wouldn’t want your travel companions to start questioning your stability, would you?

Stan: Wh-what do you want?

Emily: Just to talk. That’s all. Hey, what did they call you under the big top? What was your name painted on all of those posters?

Stan: McDoodle…

Emily: (playful) Haha, yes, that’s the one. So funny. So cute. The last name I’d ever give a murderer.

Stan: What do you want?

Emily: The only thing I want is to grieve the loss of my little sheik. Hehe. Our Anish. He loved you oh so very much, you know, the naive little dreamer. Oh, he would talk about you, on and on and on. You were kind of like a father to him. He said that to me once.

Stan: Kid was like the son I never got to havin’….

Emily: I never would’ve told him what I saw. Honest. I never would’ve told anyone because if my little ‘Nish found out it would destroy him.

Stan: How was I supposed to know that?

Emily: I don’t have all the answers, McDoodle. I don’t even have a fraction of them.

Stan: Will you ever leave me be?

Emily: Oh sure. The past can only hold on to a person for so long, right? Hehehe. I mean, I don’t see the ghost of that poor little clown from Malaysia whose food you poisoned because he was getting the bigger applause lingering about. You got off scott-free and you got a spiffy mahjong set to boot! Haha! Having said that, if, by chance, you’d like to quicken the process of ridding yourself of me…I might have something you could do.

Stan: Name it.

Emily: Return to the circus. Come back and tell me that Anish is gone. Give me closure so I can move on with my life, instead of hoping, hoping, hoping for a reunion, an embrace…a kiss that will never come.

Stan: I…I can’t.

Emily: (sinks her nails into his chest) Then I will haunt you until your dying day. I suffer. You suffer. It’s really as simple as that. Come back. Tell me he’s gone. Be on your way. It’s easy.

Stan: After what I’ve done…

Emily: I’ll give you some time to think about it. You’re grieving. I get that. Just be sure not to take too long. See you later! (exits)

Lighting returns to normal. Jack and Belinda unfreeze.

Belinda: (to Stan, as if she had been calling him for a while now) Stan!

Stan: Yeah…?

Belinda: Would you like to say something? I know the two of you were close.

Stan: (thinks) Yeah. (stands and slowly takes his place near the grave) Everybody here deserved what he got more n’ he did. Boy was good. Boy was an innocent. Seems like, these days, those’re the only folks that God wants anymore.

Stan saunters back to his previous position and takes a seat. The moment he sits, the lights go blue and Emily emerges.

Emily: What a disappointing eulogy that was. Had the tables been turned as, if there was a God, they would have been, my ‘Nishy would have sent you away on verbal wings of pure poetic perfection.

Stan: Beat it.

Emily: Hm. Nope. Okay. What’s your decision?

Stan: Huh?

Emily: I gave you time to think. I lived up to my side of the bargain. So, what’s it gonna be, Mc Doodle?

Stan: (firm but nervous) I ain’t goin’ back.

Emily: (sweetly) Aww… McDoodle scared?

Stan: They might know what I did…

Emily: Oh, come on! How could they know you were the one that led Mr. Bingles into the menagerie and forced him into the tiger pen?

Stan: I ain’t talkin’ ‘bout that-

Emily: (silences him, suddenly harsh) I know exactly what you are talking about because I was there to see it. Remember? Remember?! You are a fucking soulless murderer circus freak who has never done a worthwhile thing in his whole sad fucking life and I am here, offering you the chance to not only add a dash of decency to your sorry sinful existence but also perform a duty that I think Anish, sweet, innocent Anish, would have wanted more than anything. Come back to the circus and tell me he’s gone!

Stan: No!

Emily: (smacks him) Yes!

Stan: Even if I wanted to, I’m trapped on the side of the road with a guy dead set on goin’ in the other direction!

Emily: You’ll figure something out…

Stan: I ain’t doin’ it….

Emily stops. She then smiles something dark before all of her feelings seem to evaporate to a cold distant gaze, intently directed at Stan. She smacks him once. And then again. The repeated slaps increase in frequency and intensity, as they slip into a crazed flurry of slashes and punches. Eventually she kicks him to the ground and continues to beat him until she reaches a stoic calm, her foot pressing against his chest. All the while he shouts for her to stop.

Stan: Okay! Alright! Alright!

Emily: Alright what?

Stan: I’ll do it.

Emily: What will you do?

Stan: I’ll find a way to go back. I’ll…tell you about Anish! Just leave me alone!

Emily: (cheerful) Hehe. That’s my McDoodle! (exits)

Scene 2.

Nighttime. Jack, Belinda and Stan sleep. There is a peaceful serenity for a period of time until the distant sound of a car is heard, faint at first but growing more and more by the second. Eventually the sound is accompanied by a dim light that grows steadily as well. Jack wakes up, eventually realizing with a start what it was that woke him. He is drunk with exhaustion.

Jack: (to Belinda, nudging her) Hey. Hey, Bella. Wake up. Wake up…

Belinda: (waking) Huh?

Jack: We’re rescued, baby. We’re getting out of here! (to the oncoming vehicle, waving his arms) Hey! Hey, we’re here! Hey pull over! Over here! We’re over here! Slow down! Slow dow- What’re you doing?!

The car passes by. Stan squirms a bit, but does not awaken.

Jack: No, wait! Hey! (exits after the car) Hold on! We’re back here! We’re back here, motherfucker! Wait… (returns, defeated)

Rich’s maniacal laughter can be heard. Jack reacts to it as if reacting to a headache.

Jack: S-stop it! Shut up! Shut up!

Belinda: (attempting to comfort him) Jack…

Rich’s laughter dies out.

Jack: (brushes Belinda aside, stares at Stan) It’s him. It’s his fault. No one’s gonna pull over for a fucking clown. (begins pacing, trembling as if mad) We’re gonna kill ‘im. That’s the only answer. God took care of one of ‘em for us and he’s all that’s left…

Belinda: Jack. You’re talking crazy…

Jack: (unaware of her words) We’re gonna kill him. We’re gonna kill him and bury him and the next car that comes by will pick us up and we can start our new lives together just like we always wanted!

Belinda: You should lie down; get some rest…

Jack: I will NOT-

Stan: (awake) What’s all this commotion about?

Jack: Nothing! Nothing at all, Stan!

Belinda: We were just going to sleep, right baby? (Jack is obviously furious, but says nothing) We’ve all had quite the tiresome, emotional day. Sorry to wake you. (to Jack) Come on, Jackie… (takes Jack’s hand and guides him to lie down beside her) Goodnight, Stan.

Stan: There’s something I gotta talk to you two about in the morning. It’s important. It’s about our…situation.

Belinda: Okay. We’ll talk about it in the morning then. Goodnight.

Stan: Goodnight. (lies down)

Belinda: (whispers) Jack.

Jack: (whispers) What.

Belinda: Today was a long, sad day. Blaming yourself isn’t going to make you feel any better. Close your eyes and sleep. Things will be better in the morning. You’ll see.

Jack fumbles a bit and pulls out his stopwatch.

Belinda: No, Jack…

Jack: Please…

Belinda: Sleep, Jack…

Jack: Just a quick one…

Belinda: No…

Jack: (sits up, struck with a burst of energy. He dangles the stopwatch from its chain, swaying it before her) Belinda, my dearest, I’m sorry, but I really need us to be on the same page with this.

Scene 3.

Daytime. Belinda sleeps, but Stan and Jack are awake. Jack is smoking, facing away from Stan, and Stan is eating an apple, cutting slices with the hunting knife.

Stan: So’re you two alright?

Jack: Huh?

Stan: When I woke up last night, I heard you to goin’ at it. Just wonderin’ if everything’s alright between the two of ya.

Jack: It was nothing.

Stan: Oh. (pause) There was somethin’ I been meanin’ to talk to you about.

Jack: Oh yeah?

Stan: About when we get rescued.

Jack: Uh huh.

Stan: I think we should go back to the circus.

Jack: Uh huh. Well, we’re not going to be doing that.

Stan: I see.

Jack: I’d also appreciate it if you’d stop eating all of my food.

Silence.

Stan: Ain’t you gonna at least hear me out?

Jack: (feigns thinking) No.

Stan: Okay then. (pause) I killed your brother. (Jack is obviously shocked by this, but remains still and quiet) That’s why I needed to get away that night. I obviously wasn’t thinkin’ too straight ‘cuz I hopped in the car with his own flesh and blood, but…I was desperate. (pause as Jack’s eyes begin to water) Y’see it was him that called for me bein’ replaced by that new kid. I heard it from a reliable resource that that was his intention. I took care o’ the immediate problem but knew that if I didn’t nip it at the source there’d be another…and another come to take my livelihood away. So I walked right into his trailer and I took out a knife and I… I checked and double checked to make sure nobody was there to see me but, after I finished the deed I look outta the window and see that Emily girl starin’ right at me. Right into my soul, ya know. She musta been headin’ back from sneakin’ a visit with Anish at the sideshow. Her eyes move to the bloody knife I got raised in my hand and she runs off. I do the same thing…right to you. (pause) So, what I’m sayin’ is, you ain’t got no reason to run no more. You go back and you’re Mr. Big Stuff. You’re the boss man. And you won’t look like no criminal for runnin’ away. S’perfect, ain’t it? (pause) Jack?

Jack: I’m not going back.

Stan: (rises, dropping the apple and raising the knife) Then it looks like I got no other choice…

Jack turns to Stan for the first time this scene, tears streaming down his eyes, but fearless. Stan takes a small step toward him. Then another. Jack only watches him. It isn’t until Sam has covered half the distance between him that Jack snaps his fingers and Belinda wakes up instantly.

Belinda: W-what’s going on?

Jack: (plainly) Stan killed Richard and now he’s going to kill us.

Belinda: What?

Jack: Richard’s dead. Stan killed him.

Belinda: (cries) No…

Stan: I don’t wanna do this.

Jack: Uh huh…

Stan: (to Belinda) We gotta go back to the circus. You’d be runnin’ the show. The both o’ ya.

Belinda: (in tears) Oh Rich, oh my dear, sweet Rich…

Jack: Go to Hell.

Stan: So be it.

Stan moves to stab Jack. Jack snaps his fingers and Belinda immediately places herself between the two of them and Stan’s knife pierces her instead. Belinda drops to her knees. Stan steps back, shocked.

Belinda: (to Jack) I…I never should have come with you. You doomed us all, Jack. You selfish…selfish bastard. Why…why did I ever love you? (dies)

Jack: (looks to Stan with dead eyes) You killed her.

Stan: Why…did she…?

Jack: Because she loved me.

Jack rises and faces Stan.

Stan: We gotta go back.

Jack: No.

Stan: What are you running from?! The stardom? The attention? The respect?! You had everything!

Jack: (pause) It was all an illusion…

Stan: And what’s waitin’ for you out west?

Jack: (looks westward and then back at Stan) Anything else.

Stan: (raises the blade once again) Can’t be said I didn’t try to stop all this.

Jack draws out a gun in the blink of an eye and points it at Stan. The lights go blue and both characters do not quite freeze, but stay exceptionally still. Emily and Rich enter, taking the sides of Stan and Jack respectively. Stan cannot see Rich nor is Jack aware of Emily.

Rich: Come on, Jackie-boy! I’m not around to save your ass for once, but we sure as Hell ain’t gonna let this sap get away with what he’s done. You’re a Wynce, boy. A winner! Bump this clown…

Emily: McDoodle, McDoodle…it is very important that you keep your promise. Look at him. He just found out that his brother is dead…and now Belinda. He’s off and he’s hot and exhausted and not all that good of a shot to begin with. Kill him, McDoodle or I will follow you into the depths of Hell…

Rich: I forgive you, I do. I know how it must’ve felt having all the talents in the world n’ nothing to show for it but a couple a’ shows n’ a half-filled house at a fifth-rate circus. Never being able to become more or less than you always been. Then you look at your ugly big brother with his pretty lady and all that power and of course it made you a little batty. I get that…

Emily: Focus, you stupid clown. Maintain your focus and this is simple. I’ll thank you for what you’ve told me and I won’t tell a soul about the things I’ve seen, I swear it. It’ll be our little secret…

Rich: I love you. Despite everything, I love you, Jackie-boy. Never forget that.

Emily: Don’t fuck this up!

Lights return to normal. Rich and Emily exit in a flash.

Jack: (smiles) Abracadabra.

Stan drops his knife and Jack shoots himself in the head. Lights go black at the sound of the gunshot.

Scene 4.

Blue lights rise and Jack appears on stage, alone, standing tall on a cliff face. Sounds of the circus play softly as they did at the play’s beginning. Rich and Belinda enter lovingly, hand in hand. They look at Jack, feeling sorry for him, and continue on their way, exiting. Anish enters. He approaches Jack. The circus sounds fade to nothing.

Anish: Hello, Jack.

Jack: Hey there, Anish. How’s it going?

Anish: I am fine.

Jack: Good, good. You wanna see a magic trick?

Anish: No, thank you.

Jack: Okay. Then what do you want?

Anish: I just wanted you to know that it isn’t your fault, what happens to me. It’s inevitable.

Jack: Thank you.

Anish: Oh, and one more thing.

Jack: Yeah?

Anish: (thinks for a bit) I want you to wake up.

Jack: Huh?

Anish touches his head and he collapses into a deep trance.

Anish: (touching Jack’s forehead) (whispers) Wake up.

As Anish exits the lights return to normal. It’s dusk. Jack wakes up, rubbing his eyes.

Man: (offstage) (calling as if he’d been trying to get his attention for a while) Hey! Hello? Are you alive up there?!

Jack: (noticing the Man, offstage, who is standing below Jack. He is dehydrated and exhausted) Yes… Yes I am.

Man: You can thank God for that. How on earth’d you get all the way out here?

Jack: I…I was…trying to go to California. Coming from…from the circus. Near Las Vegas. Car broke down yesterday. I…I walked to this ridge to see if there was anything on the other side…help, maybe…

Man: Well, today’s your lucky day then. Not much ‘round these parts but rocks and vultures usually, but my wife and I like to come out and do a little hiking when the sun’s not so high. We live about thirty miles west. We don’t got much space in the car, but we can probably squeeze you in and drop you off some nicer part o’ California if you’d like. We got some water, too. Looks like you sure could use it.

Jack: Th-thank you! Thank you so much!

Man: Not a problem. Was anybody else in that car with you?

Jack: (looks out into the distance, in the direction of the car) Nope. Just me.

Man: Fair enough. Now come on down and let’s get you out of here.

Jack looks back once more then exits hurriedly.

~PLAY END~

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