“See the Elephant”
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.
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?!
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.
Jack: Sorry. How long’ve we been stuck here?
Stan: (checks his watch) ‘Bout six hours.
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?
Jack: (quickly draws another) The…two of clubs?
Belinda: Oh Jack…
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…
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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…
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Lights go blue. All freeze except Belinda. Rich enters with a bouquet of flowers. She notices him immediately.
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.
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?!
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?
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.
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…
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?
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?
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?
Jack: Good. Good. Now tell me, what’s your favorite color?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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…
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?!
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?!
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.
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.
Jack: Not now!
Belinda: It’s Anish!
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.
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?
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!
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?
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!
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)
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…
Belinda: Sleep, Jack…
Jack: Just a quick one…
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Anish: (thinks for a bit) I want you to wake up.
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.