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Proscenium

Issue Two º Spring 2015

Volume Two º Winter 2015

The Book of Leonidas Augusto Amador

Tango Mike Aleks Merilo

Boxing the Sun Aurin Squire

We’re Back

The Bus James Lantz

Nine Hours Zoe Kamil Spring 2015 Proscenium  1


TABLE OF CONTENTS Issue Two º 2015

The Plays

78 The Bus James Lantz 119 The Book of Leonidas Augusto Federico Amador

Nine Hours

prosceniumjournal.com Questions? Comments? Contact us at info@prosceniumjournal.com Like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/prosceniumjournal Follow us on Twitter @ProsceniumPlays

2 Proscenium Fall 2014

The Book of Leonidas

See pg. 18

33 Boxing in the Sun Aurin Squire

Tango Mike

See pg. 164

14 Nine Hours Zoe Kamil

See Pg. 10

06 Tango Mike Aleks Merilo


Dear Reader,

Proscenium osceni

Welcome to the second issue of Proscenium Journal! We are thrilled to be showcasing five more plays from some of the most exciting new voices in the country. We love the diverse backgrounds and experience levels represented in this issue, which include playwrights who have been produced Off-Broadway, a playwright who attends Julliard, and a playwright who just graduated high school who is the winner of our inaugural Young Playwrights Competition. These five plays were carefully selected from an extremely impressive group of 230 submissions — our largest submission pool yet. By harnessing a large, web-based audience, Proscenium offers playwrights the opportunity to increase their exposure and gives audiences the opportunity to read the best new plays for free. With the release of our second issue, we are thrilled to announce Proscenium’s latest development. While Proscenium is committed to providing playwrights publishing opportunities, we also believe that the best way to experience a play is to see it performed. A play is written for the stage, and offering playwrights the opportunity to see their play live in front of an audience is essential for the playwright’s development process. Today we are excited to announce Proscenium Live. In partnership with Portland Shakespeare Project and with the support of a generous grant from Stanford University’s Haas Center for Public Service, Proscenium Journal will be hosting a festival of new works in Portland, OR. The festival will take place this summer during the month of July at the beautiful Artists Repertory Theater and will feature plays published or to be published by Proscenium Journal. We will also commission a new play from a Proscenium playwright. And since Proscenium Journal is dedicated to exposing playwrights to the largest audience possible, Proscenium Live will be completely free. Stay tuned for more information coming soon. We hope you enjoy this issue of Proscenium Journal! And we also hope to see some of you at Proscenium Live. Sincerely, Steven Rathje Co-Founder and Co-Editor-in-Chief William Rathje Co-Founder and Co-Editor-in-Chief Fall 2014 Proscenium  3


Boxing the Sun Aurin Squire

Proscenium and present... 4 Proscenium Spring 2015


Proscenium

Live.

Coming this Summer Watch prosceniumjournal.com and portlandshakes.org for more information. Spring 2015 Proscenium  5


Tango Mike Aleks Merilo

Tango Mike

By

Aleks Merilo 6 Proscenium Spring 2015


A Conversation with the Playwright About the Playwright Aleks Merilo is a Portland based playwright and drama teacher. Merilo’s scripts include THE WIDOW OF TOM’S HILL (Currently scheduled for production at 59E59 Theaters in NYC, Fall of 2015), EXIT 27, (Performed at the Landing Theatre in Houston, Texas, and The Sanguine Theatre Company in New York City) BLUR IN THE REAR VIEW, (Winner of the James Rodgers Playwriting Contest, premiered at the University of Kentucky, Lexington) and LITTLE MOSCOW, (Winner of Dubuque Playwriting Contest, performed at the Labute New Play Festival). His plays have been performed/ developed with the aide of The Furious Theater at the Pasadena Playhouse, Old Globe Theater, Portland Center Stage Fertile Ground Festival, Pittsburgh New Works Festival, Ross Valley Players, The Moving Arts Theater, The UCLA New Play Festival, and Portland Readers Theater among others. Originally from Palo Alto, CA, he holds a BA in Theater, and an MFA in playwriting from The UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television. What was your inspiration for this play? My grandfather. He was an army veteran with a stoic nature, but I learned that towards the end of his life, he scheduled these terse phone calls with a retired navy officer who lived nearby. The brusque nature of these calls seemed to disguise a deep reservoir of compassion between these two men.

they bring to it. I believe we all have quiet but powerful relationships in our lives; my hope is that this may ring true with others’ own relationships. What playwrights have inspired you? Most recently, Ernest Joselovitz for his script “Vilna’s Got a Golem.” A story of Russian-Jewish actors, I initially I thought I was watching a comedy. As the play progressed, my expectations were so utterly reversed that I still have not forgotten the chill I got at the show’s conclusion. Absolutely harrowing. Why did you start writing plays? I feel that theater is alive in a way other literature is not. It’s the closest thing I can think of to stepping into a painting and becoming part of the imagined world. What kind of theatre excites you? Simple stories about complex characters. What advice do you have for playwrights starting out? Book a reading, show up, and don’t tell anyone you are the playwright. Best and most honest feedback you will ever get.

What do you want the audience to come away with? What someone takes away from a play is what Spring 2015 Proscenium  7


Tango Mike Aleks Merilo

One of your works, The Widow of Tom’s Hill, is going to be produced Off-Broadway at 59E59. Can you tell us a little about the process of developing the play and getting it to this stage? I really thought this play would never be staged. A play about a real life quarantine in 1918 Washington, I felt it was too, too dark, and the staging too limiting. It turns out that belief was a wonderfully liberating tool; it allowed me to take some creative risks that I would never have taken otherwise, experimenting with theatrical structure, telling a horror story disguised as a fairy tale. At each reading the universal comment from the audience was “more, “and suddenly a 15-minute experiment became a 90-minute full length. The rest I owe to Rachel Black Spaulding at Luna Stage in New Jersey – She really championed this play. Is there anything you would like to add? There are far too few theaters that devote themselves so passionately to new works. The ones that do deserve enormous recognition – Here are a few companies and professionals that I think all playwrights should be so lucky to know: The Landing Theater in Houston, Texas; The Sanguine in New York City; Trey Nichols at The Moving Arts in Los Angeles; Mike Ricci at North Hennipen, Minnesota. It is my deepest belief that these are the theater professionals that other companies should seek to emulate.

8 Proscenium Spring 2015

Tango Mike is copyright © 2014 by Aleks Merilo. All inquiries regarding rights shall be sent to info@prosceniumjournal.com and shall be forwarded to the playwright or their agent. Performances of Tango Mike are subject to royalty, and are fully protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America and all countries covered by the International Copyright Union. All rights, including professional and amateur productions, staged readings, television, motion picture, radio, translations, photocopies, and all other reproductions of this play are strictly reserved.


Tango Mike By Aleks Merilo

(Two regal chairs on the opposite sides of the stage, each near a phone on a side table. JACK, early 70’s, enters and sits in one of the chairs. The sound of a grandfather clock chiming. He picks up his phone and dials. The phone opposite rings. KENT, also early 70’s, enters. He sits in the opposite chair and lifts the phone.) KENT: This is Kent. JACK: What do they call those awful new cars? The Japanese ones? Shaped like a loafer? KENT: Station wagons? JACK: My daughter just came by in one of them. KENT: Carly’s old enough to drive? JACK: Caroline now. My Daughter’s 32 years old, Kent. How have you been, Major? KENT: Adequate, sailor. JACK: Sailor is not a job. KENT: Damn straight it’s not. JACK: I mean it’s not a rank. KENT: (Sighs.) At ease, Captain. JACK: You know, our wives crossed paths. KENT: Oh, Shit. Jack, she never really latched on to the idea of privacy I suppose. Well. It’s true. We have to move out in 30 days if we can’t pay for it. And then it’s demolished. JACK: What are they going to build, a strip mall? KENT: Look Jack, I appreciate the call, I really don’t want to talk about… I’m sorry if my wifeJACK: If I had money to helpKENT: I’m not a charity, Jack, don’t talk to me like I am one! (Pause.) Daddy built the house. He had red cedar shipped in by train. The cedar columns he carved to look like vines. They’re gonna tear this house out of the earth, Jack. Like it was never here. JACK: Well, listen. I’ve got a bottle of brandy from my son-in-law. It’s older than he is, and my wife doesn’t drink. Why don’t you bring an 8-ball by tomorrow? KENT: (Pause.) I’ll think about it. JACK: Tell you what, I’m gonna call you everyday at 5pm, until we work this out together, ok? KENT: There’s no need, Jack. Thanks much though. Tango Mike. (They hang up. Lights Change, clock Chimes, phone rings.) KENT: This is Kent. JACK: It’s 5pm. Bottles breathing. I feel bad for it. Might have to put it out of its misery. You got a glass? Your wife said you keep one in your den in the side table. KENT: She knows about that? (Kent grabs a bottle from his side table. He pours a glass.) JACK: Any news? KENT: It’s been a day, Jack. We should know in a month. JACK: Army-Navy game coming up tomorrow. KENT: You ready to lose? Spring 2015 Proscenium  9


Tango Mike Aleks Merilo

Tango Mike premiered at The Stay Awake! Theatre Prism Festival in Denver, Colorado, 2014. Directed by Jeannie-Marie Brown, performed by Ken Street as Kent, and Claude Diener as Jack. JACK: Ha! You know, I heard a joke the other day. A new private is on sentry duty at the main gate of the Army Barracks. His orders are clear; no car can enter. A big army car comes up with a general seated in the back. The sentry says, “Halt, who goes there?” The chauffeur, a corporal, says, “The General.” The kid says, “I’m sorry, I can’t let you through.” And the General sighs, “Drive on!” Now the sentry yells, “Hold it! You really can’t come through. I have orders to shoot if you try drive in.” The General repeats, “I’m telling you, son, drive on.” The private walks up to the rear window and said, “General, I’m new at this. Do I shoot you or the driver?” (Jack Laughs, Kent does not.) Hello? Hello? Are you still there? (Kent hangs up. Lights change. Clock Chimes. Phone rings.) KENT: (Answering) Anything you want to say? JACK: Army played a good game. KENT: Damn right. Don’t feel bad. Most Navy boys can’t tie their shoes without their mothers. JACK: Navy had a rough day. Call you tomorrow. (Kent hangs up. Lights change. Clock Chimes. Phone rings.) 10 Proscenium Spring 2015


KENT: (Answering) You see this thing on the news? JACK: With the president? KENT: Can you believe that? Draft-dodging hillbilly. JACK: I kind of like the guy. KENT: I’m hanging up. (They hang up. Lights change. Clock chimes, phone rings.) JACK: How are you? KENT: Not a good day. My granddaughter’s dating a foreigner. JACK: Where’s he from? KENT: Minnesota. JACK: Ouch. Any word on… The thing… KENT: I’ll talk later. (They hang up. Lights change. Clock chimes, phone rings.) KENT: (Answering) Jack, did you write a letter? To the veteran’s bureau? They called me about a letter they got. JACK: I’ve got some friends who know some lawyers who used to be in the service. Maybe a kind of guy who thinks a cottage in New Hampshire is a good thing to fight for… KENT: There are men on my porch “Appraising” my dad’s house, Jack. They don’t get to tell me what my Dad’s life- What my life is worth! This is a family situation, Jack! JACK: Helping a brother in the service is helping family. KENT: It’s not, Jack. Mind your own damn roof. (They hang up. Lights change. Clock chimes, phone rings.) JACK: It’s snowing out. KENT: It is. JACK: It must be winter. KENT: I suppose it is. (Pause.) Talk later? JACK: Talk later. (Lights change, phone rings, Kent answers.) JACK: Well? (After a silence.) 30th day Kent. KENT: It’s a landmark, Jack. Lawyers, you know how they did it? They called my Daddy’s house a local landmark! The cedar columns he carved. They can’t tear it down! JACK: Ha! That’s wonderful, Kent! Why don’t you throw your wife over your shoulder, I’ve got some steaks I got in the mail – Did you know you can do that? I’ll throw them onKENT: Actually, Jack… The wife and I are going to be out of town for a little bit. JACK: That’s no problem, they have telephones where you’re going? KENT: The thing is… Everything’s all better Jack. It’s okay. We’ll be fine. Without the phone. JACK: (Pause.) Absolutely. (Pause.) All right. Will you send me a postcard? KENT: I’ll see you around. Really, Jack, Tango Mike. JACK: Tango Mike. Of course. (They hang up. Lights change. Both men sit in their chairs. The clock chimes. They look at their phones, but do nothing. Jack gets up and exits. As does Kent.)

Spring 2015 Proscenium  11


Tango Mike Aleks Merilo

BEAT TWO. (Kent re-enters. He takes off his winter coat. He fans himself. Jack does the same. Kent walks up to the phone, picks it up and dials. Jack enters and picks up.) JACK: Hello? KENT: Hello Jack. (Pause.) Been a while. We were on this trip. My wife keeps wanting to visit these God-awful covered bridges. I mean, how are those efficient? JACK: We got the postcard. KENT: I didn’t send aJACK: From your wife. (Pause.) Well things are changing here. We got one of those new push button phones. KENT: You like it? JACK: I hate it. Made for people with really small fingers. KENT: Well. Our wives crossed paths. Said some things. Didn’t say what kind. What kind is it? JACK: Prostate. KENT: I got a book on it. I guess the way I understand it is, it’s like when a head gasket of a jeep blows, and you need a new transmission. Is that right? JACK: Kent, do not talk about my prostate in automotive terms. That is where I draw the line. KENT: (Pause.) You see the thing in the news? JACK: About the president? Can you believe it? KENT: I like the guy. JACK: Are you serious? Illiterate backwater rube. I’m hanging up now. KENT: Wait. You gonna’ be near the phone tomorrow? JACK: I can be. KENT: Okay. Talk later. (They hang up. Lights change. Clock chimes, phone rings.) KENT: (As Jack answers.) I heard a funny joke today. JACK: Oh yeah? KENT: Yeah. It was good one. JACK: You laugh? KENT: Oh, yeah. JACK: That’s nice. KENT: Well. Talk tomorrow. JACK: Talk tomorrow. (They hang up. Lights change. Clock chimes, phone rings.) JACK: (Lifts the phone. Silence.) Kent, that you? Why aren’t you talking? I can hear you breathing? Kent? KENT: Jack, I can’t talk. There is a foreigner in my home. JACK: You mean your son-in-law? KENT: He wants my grandson to play hockey. Hockey, Jack! (Hangs up.) JACK: Hello? (They hang up. Lights change. Clock chimes, phone rings.) KENT: (After Jack picks up.)Took you a while to get to the phone. JACK: Nurse wants me to move it to the bedroom. You know they have phones now you don’t 12 Proscenium Spring 2015


even plug in? This nurse they’ve sent is a pain in the ass. She hates all my best jokes. KENT: That bitch. JACK: Yeah. But what can you do? (They hang up. Lights change. Clock chimes, phone rings.) JACK: (Jack picks up.) I got a new nurse today. KENT: Do you like her? JACK: She’s pretty. (Pause.) Says she rarely does house calls. Guess I must be pretty special. KENT: Do you like her? JACK: I do. (Pause.) Didn’t your wife work at Immaculate Heart? KENT: 30 years. JACK: Huh. Funny that. (They hang up. Lights change. Clock chimes, phone rings.) KENT: (Jack picks up.) You didn’t answer yesterday. JACK: Yeah, Kent, I’m sorry. KENT: Don’t do that to me, okay? I have a schedule, it’s the only way my days make sense. JACK: Yeah. I got it. (They hang up. Lights change. Clock chimes, phone rings.) JACK: (Answering) Hey. KENT: Hello. JACK: Do you believe in heaven? KENT: Sometimes. Not everyday. Sometimes. JACK: I guess I’m the same. (Long Silence.) Talk later. (They hang up. Jack gets up, slowly painfully. Kent doesn’t move. He picks up the phone and dials. Jack answers.) JACK: Yeah? KENT: 4 Generals from the Army, the Navy, the Marines, and the Air Force are talking. They want to settle once and for all who is the bravest. So the General in the air force, he calls over an airman. He says “Airman! Go jump out of that airplane”, and he hands the kid an old, rotten, sack of a parachute. The kid says “Yes Sir!”, jumps out of the airplane, hits the ground and is smashed flat as a pancake. (Jack Laughs.) And the General looks at his friends and say, “That took courage.” So, the General in the Marines, he grabs a soldier, he hands him a knife, points him towards a pillbox, and says, “Take out that machine gun.” And the soldier says, “Yes Sir!” and gets ten feet before he is shot to pieces. And the General says, “No, That took courage.” So the Navy Admiral is next. He grabs a Seaman Recruit and points him to an old rickety, leaking ship, and he says, “Go sail into that squall”, and the sailor says “Yes, Sir!”, and he goes out, and the ship is crushed under the waves and drowns him. And the Navy Admiral looks up at his friends as saysJACK: “Now that took courage.” KENT: So they’re down to the last soldier. The army. The general steps up to his private, this 18 year old kid, too young to shave, and gives him a carbine rifle and says “Go climb through that barb wire, run across that mine field, sneak past those sentries, and take out the whole company fortified in those trenches.” And the soldier looks at his task, he looks at the general, and he points the general, and says, “Sir, Fuck you, Sir!” And all the generals look at one another and all toSpring 2015 Proscenium  13


Tango Mike Aleks Merilo

gether they say, “Now THAT took courage.” (Jack and Kent both laugh together. Jack continues Laughing.) JACK: That’s a good joke. KENT: You think it is? JACK: That’s a really good joke. (Blackout.) END OF PLAY

14 Proscenium Spring 2015


Nine Hours

By Zoe Kamil Spring 2015 Proscenium  15


Nine Hours Zoe Kamil

A Conversation with the Playwright About the Playwright Zoe Kamil is an 18-year-old playwright and theatre artist living and studying in New York City and hailing from San Francisco, California. Her plays have been workshopped and produced at Young Playwrights Inc, The Playwrights Project, The Midtown Theatre Festivals Short Play Lab, and The Blank Theatre among others. She is a winner of the 2014 Young Playwrights Inc. National Playwriting Competition, The 2014 Blank Theatre’s National Young Playwrights Competition, and the 2013 California Young Playwrights Contest. She’s also been recognized by Playground Theatre SF, and the National Theatre in London. Zoe co-founded and is the Associate Director of Semicolon Theatre Company; an organization dedicated to the development of new work by and for young adults - run entirely by theatre artists 21 and younger. She is a Literary Intern at the York Theatre Company in New York City.

post-apocalyptic wasteland happened to fit that description perfectly.

What was your inspiration for the play? This play has been a part of my life for just about 2 years (more than that, if we’re counting the period of time where the play existed as a feeling and an idea rather than words), and I’ve been asked this question many times. It never fails to give me pause.

What was the most challenging part of writing this play? Writing fantasy is difficult. It takes a very particular combination of creativity and logical thinking to make a story like this one ring true, and establish the rules of an imaginary world with the utmost specificity. It took me a while to find my footing there.

I can count two experiences as being directly responsible for the thematic content of the play: my attendance at a Jewish private school, and my adolescence set against the backdrop of ultra-liberal, ultra-wacky San Francisco. The science-fictiony plot of the play did not, however, come from any sort of personal experience. I knew that I wanted to create a world for these very different characters that could have the potential to trap them or set them free, and a 16 Proscenium Spring 2015

What do you want the audience to come away with? With any luck, a sense of hope. In too many ways to list here, I think our world is becoming the sort of environment that my characters find themselves in. Obviously, we are not headed toward any sort of storm-like apocalypse in the foreseeable future, but the stakes are so high at this point in history. Hopefully, when and if we as humans are forced to make that ultimate, base choice, “fight or flight,” we will be able to behave like Faye and Michal, and find some way to reconcile with one another rather than disperse and compartmentalize as a society and a species. I think that, with the proper amount of pressure and intention, any two people or groups of people have the potential to come together.

What playwrights have inspired you? Among countless others: Annie Baker, Edward Albee, Arthur Miller, Anton Chekhov, Gina Gionfriddo, Katori Hall, Stephen Karam, Chris Durang, Wendy Wasserstein, Henrik Ibsen, Tony Kushner, Sam Shepard, Caryl Churchill, Sarah Ruhl, Paula Vogel.


Why did you start writing plays? Ostensibly, I started writing plays because I took a class in my sophomore year of high school with a brilliant teacher who went out of her way to mentor and guide me, but probably also because I like to talk, I like to listen, and I like words. I like the idea of what gets said out loud and how it relates to what doesn’t. And I’ve loved performance and theatre of all kinds from a very young age. What projects are you working on now? Two full length plays: one that I’ve been working on for about a year and a half now, which is partly a courtroom drama, partly a religious fantasy, and partly an episodic play that travels through time non-chronologically to explore the events surrounding a rape in a public high school, and rape culture in general. Stylistically, I like to think of it as “12 Angry Men” meets “Angels in America” meets “Mean Girls.” Another play that is very research heavy, and not even a full first draft yet, is about a woman with mental illness in the 1960s, among other things. What kind of theatre excites you? Different aesthetics speak to me at different times. Recently, I’ve been fascinated with visually epic or stunning theatre. Stories that feel like they were meant to exist on stage - that they could only exist on stage - because they’re so inherently theatrical and present. You are the associate director of a theatre company, Semicolon Theatre Company, run entirely for and by those under 21. What is it like being both a young theatre artist and theatre leader? “Theatre leader” sounds so impressive! Really, we’re just doing the best we can, working things out as we go along. I run Semicolon alongside my dearest friend Miranda Cornell, who is an inspirational theatre artist herself.

The company was born from a shared feeling of intense frustration with the state of theatre for young people. Why are there so few opportunities for youth to try their hands at more than just the performance aspect of theatre? Why is the content of plays targeted towards youth often so shallow and watered-down? We produced two plays off-off Broadway last year. Watching them come together proved to Miranda and I what we already knew when we founded the company; that tweens and teens experience the world with a distinct perceptiveness and that we have strong, powerful points of view. That being said, as a young artist myself, the mission of Semicolon is incredible vital and personal to me. What advice do you have for playwrights starting out? This is an interesting question, in that I myself feel as though I’m a playwright just starting out. To anyone who is sitting down to write his or her very first play though, I will say this: just do it. Start writing words. Write from emotion, write a strong voice that compels you, and worry about plot and structure later.

Nine Hours is copyright © 2014 by Zoe Kamil. All inquiries regarding rights shall be sent to info@prosceniumjournal.com and shall be forwarded to the playwright or their agent. Performances of Nine Hours are subject to royalty, and are fully protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America and all countries covered by the International Copyright Union. All rights, including professional and amateur productions, staged readings, television, motion picture, radio, translations, photocopies, and all other reproductions of this play are strictly reserved. Spring 2015 Proscenium  17


Nine Hours Zoe Kamil

Nine Hours By Zoe Kamil

Winner of Proscenium’s Young Playwrights Competition ACT I SCENE 1 The stage is littered with junk - trash, product packaging, wrappers, twigs, brush, and rocks. Michal and Faye are sitting on opposite ends of the stage. Michal is silent; deep in prayer. FAYE: Well, there goes the sun, ladies and gentleman. Let's say a nice friendly gooooodddbye to week 3 of the Armageddon! No response from Michal. FAYE (CONT'D): No, you know. I think it's actually week 4. It's hard to tell, because the first big chunk was a bit of a blur, but... Again, no response. FAYE (CONT'D): God, you know what I could go for? I could go for a donut hole. Or a Big Mac. Or maybe a shishkabob. Definitely a shishkabob. Michal continues to pray, doesn't respond. FAYE (CONT'D): Something with meat. Again, no response. Faye stands up after a few moments, and starts to rummage around the boulder. FAYE (CONT'D): You could be doing something. MICHAL: Like what, exactly? FAYE: Well, if the past few days have been any sort of indicator, I'd say we have about a nine hour slot before the sun comes up, and it's too hot to look for food. Give or take 30 minutes or so. MICHAL: How can you be so sure? FAYE: I've been counting, sort of. For - since three nights ago. One minute, two minutes. Assuming my watch is still working, there have been - pretty consistently - ten hours between the last ray of sun at night and the first one in morning. But get this - the day before yesterday, there were about 20 extra minutes before the sun appeared that just disappeared last night. MICHAL: Oh. FAYE: You don't really panic, do you? You're not a panicker. MICHAL: I'm doing what I can. After a moment more of rummaging, Faye picks up a potato from behind a boulder. FAYE: Michal. MICHAL: I'm praying. FAYE: No, look - I found food! MICHAL: Where did it come from? FAYE: Right over here. It was just sitting there, under those leaves. 18 Proscenium Spring 2015


From Left, Tim Cummings as Faye and Sophie Kargman as Michal in Nine Hours at the Blank Theatre. Photo by Anne McGrath. MICHAL: We can't eat something we just found on the ground. FAYE: Are you kidding me? You are. MICHAL: I'm not starving. I'm hungry, but, I don'tFAYE: You will be. You will starve, I promise you. MICHAL: You eat it. I'm not going to eat it. FAYE: I'm not going to let you starve. MICHAL: Why do you care so much if I starve or not? FAYE: That's kind of a ridiculous question. MICHAL: It's not Kosher. FAYE: Is that what you're concerned about? I thought there was some loophole about being Kosher, if it's life or death. There has to be some clause about that right? Something. MICHAL: You're being melodramatic. FAYE: I'm not quite sure you understand what's going to happen in approximately nine hours. The sun's going to come up. Our throats are going to get very dry. And then, we'll probably stop breathing. MICHAL: We have time. FAYE: Maybe. Maybe. Or maybe we'll die tomorrow. I don't know, and you don't know - But, look, I used to read lots of adventure novels, and it's a pretty commonly accepted thing that noSpring 2015 Proscenium  19


Nine Hours Zoe Kamil

body ever lasts more than 4 or 5 days without food. Our last food was that Luna bar I found last week. And, not to mention the fact that whatever water is in that little pool you found is starting to dwindle MICHAL: That number doesn't sound right. I expect your novels took some artistic liberties. FAYE: No. No, this is biology. MICHAL: God-willing, we'll be alright. FAYE: So you're going to starve? You're just perfectly fine with that. MICHAL: God willing, we'll find something else. It's only week FAYE: No. MICHAL: Whatever. FAYE: Fuck. MICHAL: Could you please try to tone that down? FAYE: Shit. MICHAL: I don't believe this. FAYE: Just eat the potato. Pretend it's a latke. MICHAL: I keep praying for answers but there's nothing. FAYE: Anyone can pray. I can pray. MICHAL: Of course you can. But you won't, so I've got to. FAYE: Something tells me it's not going to be all that helpful. MICHAL: Gosh, I don't know how I'm supposed to survive if you keep talking like that! Just don't say anything to me. FAYE: You've got to give me something to work with here. Besides prayer and hope and faith and all of that. Something...concrete. Beat. MICHAL: Fine. Just give me tonight. The next nine hours or so... I know you're hungry... The next nine hours. God-willing, I know, I can find something else for us to eat. It's my responsibility now. FAYE: Michal... MICHAL: Please. FAYE: Fine. Fine. You have nine hours to prove to me that this potato isn't going to save our lives. MICHAL: Good. I won't talk to you unless you stop cursing at me, though. FAYE: I can try to tone it down. MICHAL: Do you promise? FAYE: If you tone down the ice queen. MICHAL: Perfect. FAYE: And quit shooting those glares at me. MICHAL: Fine. FAYE: Those holier-than-thou glares. MICHAL: I said fine. FAYE: Good. Michal gets up. FAYE (CONT'D): Where are you going? 20 Proscenium Spring 2015


MICHAL: I've got, like, 540 minutes before you try to shove a dirty potato down my throat. I don't really have any time to waste. FAYE: Wait, Michal. Don't you want to search around here first, before you go wandering off? MICHAL: No. FAYE: We lucked out once. It can't hurt. What the hell - heck. No response. After a moment, the two of them begin rummaging around the boulders on stage. FAYE (CONT'D): You know, my best friend when I was young was kosher. Marty Feinstein was his name. The first time I went to his house for a sleepover, I asked why there was no bacon on the table for breakfast. His parents laughed at me. I can still hear them. MICHAL: Why are you telling me this? FAYE: I don't know. I've always found that time flies when you're telling childhood stories. MICHAL: Well I'm sorry they laughed at you. FAYE: Really? MICHAL: I wouldn't have laughed. That's mean. FAYE: It was kind of mean. I got back at them, though. Marty and I did some things in the tenth grade that I don't think his parents would have laughed at. MICHAL: That's what I mean. Can you please try not to say things like that? FAYE: That was hardly scandalous. MICHAL: Please? FAYE: Anyway, the point is, I think that was when I started to mistrust religion. MICHAL: Fabulous. Thanks for letting me know. FAYE: Can I ask you something? MICHAL: What? FAYE: What did you think when you woke up after the storm and it was bright again, and you looked around, and saw that it was just me? MICHAL: I was a little preoccupied with the idea that it was very quiet, and that most of the human race had probably been wiped out by an all-encompassing storm. I didn't think much of you on a personal level. FAYE: Fair enough. MICHAL: I'd never met anyone like you before, if that's what you're wondering. FAYE: I didn't think so. Beat. FAYE (CONT'D): Noah. MICHAL: What did you just say? FAYE: Noah and the ark. That's basically - there's a story in the Bible about the world ending, isn't there? Noah's ark. MICHAL: Noah's... Oh. Yeah, so? FAYE: So then- you think God made all of this happen? MICHAL: I think God makes everything happen. FAYE: Then how...No. Never mind. MICHAL: What? FAYE: No, never mind, I don't want to say it anymore. MICHAL: Don't be ridiculous. Spring 2015 Proscenium  21


Nine Hours Zoe Kamil

FAYE: We made a deal. You'll think I'm rude. MICHAL: I'm giving you permission, alright? Just this once. FAYE: Well, you say you believe that God makes everything happen. MICHAL: I do believe that. With everything I am. FAYE: I know. So we've got this food that we've found basically right under our noses. MICHAL: And? FAYE: You don't think that God intended for me to find this potato? I mean maybe this is a holy potato. Maybe it has anti-aging powers or some shit. MICHAL: Just because God intended you to find it doesn't mean he intended me to eat it. FAYE: So you think he intended you to starve? MICHAL: Don't be ridiculous. FAYE: I think we're failing miserably at civility. MICHAL: You're the one asking all the questions. FAYE: OK. OK, hold on, I had an idea. What if we made a fire, and we cooked itMICHAL: That's a lot of "ifs." Anyway, it still wouldn't be kosher if it were cooked. Faye stops rummaging suddenly. Looks up. FAYE: You know, I could go out. Why don't I go out? I could go searching. I know you sort of had a look around yesterday, but I could see how far I can get before nighttime, see if I find anything interesting. MICHAL: Sure, you could do that. But it's notFAYE: Maybe I better not, though. MICHAL: Whatever you want. I'd have no problem going myself. In fact, I better get a move on if FAYE: What's it like out there? You were gone for a while last night. MICHAL: I didn't get very far. FAYE: Still. MICHAL: It's kind of a hard question to answer. FAYE: Well, you said it was interesting. MICHAL: The first thing you notice is that it is very, very empty. FAYE: No fuckin'- no freaking' way. Michal shoots Faye a half-glare, before remembering their agreement. MICHAL: It seems obvious, but when you go out there...I didn't think it was possible for that much nothingness to exist. FAYE: That sounds awful. MICHAL: I don't know. It's scary, but it's also beautiful. FAYE: I can't remember a time when I haven't wanted lots of people around me. MICHAL: Well, I was an only child. I was a loner. FAYE: Is that so? MICHAL: Yes. FAYE: You know what? I just had a realization. MICHAL: What? FAYE: I'm glad you're here. MICHAL: You're glad I'm here. 22 Proscenium Spring 2015


FAYE: Yes. I really am. MICHAL: I don't know whether to be touched, orFAYE: Or what? MICHAL: No. Nothing. FAYE: Considering everything that's happened, it could be worse. MICHAL: I hate this. And truthfully, I don't think I've ever really hated anything. FAYE: That just can't be true. MICHAL: There's a difference between pretending to hate your mom when you're mad at her, or something and really, actually hating something. FAYE: Well, not always. Sometimes you really do hate your mother. MICHAL: You hated your mother? FAYE: I think so. MICHAL: You think you hated your mother? FAYE: Well, she never hurt me, or starved me, or you know. Any of that. MICHAL: But you didn't love her? FAYE: I think it was more that I couldn't ever imagine that there was a part of her inside of me. My brother always used to say that he doesn't know how I managed to spend the first nine months of my life in her womb. MICHAL: Jeez. That's unfortunate. I loved mine more than anything. I wish so badly I could tell her that again. I hope she knew. FAYE: I'm sure she did. Mothers usually do. Beat. MICHAL: I feel lucky. People who hate their parents tend to get mad a lot. A least that's what I've always noticed. FAYE: Subtle. MICHAL: What? FAYE: It's fine. I understand. MICHAL: Understand what? FAYE: I actually much prefer when people are sorry for me. It's better than hatred, I always say. MICHAL: I don't feel sorry for you. FAYE: You're not my biggest fan. MICHAL: I'd be doing wrong by God if I were to expend unnecessary energy hating you or worrying about your childhood or something. FAYE: Well it's not like religion is some beacon of unconditional love. I mean, it's not all daisies and rainbows and being nice to people. You have to admit that it's not like that. MICHAL: Jews don't believe in hell, or, you know, eternal damnation. FAYE: Still. MICHAL: It's supposed to be about love. Christianity, too. I believe that. When people turn faith and religion into something political, and divisive, and hateful, it's- I don't presume to know what the Lord thinks, but I think that he wouldn't approve of all that. It is, at its core, about love. Loving God, loving yourself, loving your neighbors. FAYE: How old are you? MICHAL: I just turned 20. Spring 2015 Proscenium  23


Nine Hours Zoe Kamil

FAYE: Jesus, you're wise. I was a mess when I was 20. MICHAL: I'm sure you were very experienced, though. FAYE: I may have been a walking advertisement for the importance of condom usage, but that hardly makes a person wise. Especially when they're as young as you. MICHAL: I don't really feel young. FAYE: Hmm? Beat. MICHAL: I don't know. Never mind. FAYE: I promise I don't bite. MICHAL: I really don't know why I said that. I'm tired, I'm not thinking straight. FAYE: Huh. Very mysterious. MICHAL: Yes. I am. FAYE: Why don't you get some rest, then. If you're so tired. MICHAL: No. I'm leaving in a minute. I've still got to go out. FAYE: Or, I could. And you could just stay and MICHAL: It's alright. I don't think I could sleep if I tried. She starts to leave. FAYE: Oh my god. Turns around. MICHAL: What? FAYE: Did it always get this dark? Like, before. MICHAL: I don't know. FAYE: Well, damn. It's like there's not even a sunset anymore. It's like the sun just got switched off or something. Kind of like, at high school dances, once it's 11 o clock, I mean - BOOM! The lights go on, and everybody's out of that gymnasium. MICHAL: I have no idea what you're talking about. FAYE: You never went to a dance? MICHAL: Do I look like I went to a dance? FAYE: So what did you do? Cook? I bet you cooked for fun. That would make sense. MICHAL: No. I've never been a very good cook. Actually, mom always used to tell me that I'd have quite the task finding a husband who was willing to deal with that. FAYE: Ouch. Did they still do arranged marriages? MICHAL: Who? FAYE: Your people. MICHAL: Which people? FAYE: All of them. MICHAL: I don't know all of the Jews in the entire world, so I wouldn't presume to speak for them. FAYE: Fine, but in general. Did they? MICHAL: Not my family. FAYE: You were free to choose? MICHAL: I don't want to talk about this. FAYE: That's fine. I'm sorry. May I ask something? 24 Proscenium Spring 2015


From Left, Tim Cummings as Faye and Sophie Kargman as Michal in Nine Hours at the Blank Theatre. Photo by Anne McGrath.

MICHAL: Can it wait? FAYE: One question. MICHAL: You're going to anyway, aren't you? FAYE: Well, you know, the way I was brought up...in Catholicism you're not supposed to have impure thoughts. That's the way they put it - impure thoughts. I've just never understood that. MICHAL: And? FAYE: I don't know much about Judaism. But you're 19, right? You must have felt something... tingly, for someone, sometimeMICHAL: Out of line, Faye. Just - so far out of line. Just. NO. FAYE: It's sex, come on. The old horizontal mambo. You're dying to talk about it, I know it. MICHAL: You don't know squat. Beat. MICHAL (CONT'D): It's about God, putting God above yourself. FAYE: That's pretty amazing. That you're able to do that. That you can just push feelings aside to make room for other ones. MICHAL: I think you're missing the point. I barely ever think about boys. I mean, I didn't before. I wasn't ready to get married yet or even think about FAYE: But there was someone you thought about. MICHAL: Well, Noah. ButSpring 2015 Proscenium  25


Nine Hours Zoe Kamil

FAYE: Noah. MICHAL: Noah. He belonged to our congregation. When we were younger, he and his family used to come over to our house for Shabbos sometimes, and we would play together. We became very good friends. But he moved, and I didn't see him for a long time. Like a month before the storm, he came back to visit. He was- I've never felt like that. We were too old to be alone together, but we kept staring. And then we were saying our goodbyes, and we snuck away from everybody else for a minute. We really shouldn't have, but we did. We were in this corner of my backyard, and neither of us could say anything. And then he said he missed me, and I couldn't even reply because I just wanted to touch him so bad. Beat. FAYE: And? MICHAL: I don't know why I just told you all that. FAYE: Well, you have to finish now. What happened? MICHAL: Nothing. He left. FAYE: I'm sorry. MICHAL: No, it's not - that was the good part. He was a good guy. He understood what was important to me. We really understood each other. FAYE: That's good. Love and understanding go hand in hand, I've always found. MICHAL: I didn't say I loved him. FAYE: You didn't have to. Beat. Michal turns to go yet again, before she's silenced by an intense coughing fit followed by dry-heaving. FAYE (CONT'D): What's happening? The heaves stop. Let me feel your head. MICHAL: You can't do that. FAYE: Do you see a thermometer around? I have to make sure you don't have a fever. MICHAL: Whatever, you can't touch me. FAYE: Why? Why can't I touch you? MICHAL: Because you're not my husband. FAYE: Not yet. MICHAL: That's not funny. FAYE: So what, is this no touching rule like, a Jewish thing? MICHAL: Yes. FAYE: What about doctors, though? Doctors can't touch you? MICHAL: Are you a doctor? FAYE: Seriously, avoiding doctors so that you don't have to be touched? That's a littleMICHAL: We don't avoid doctors. Men go to men doctors and women go to women doctors. That's all. FAYE: I'm not a man. MICHAL: You really don't need to touch it. That's not going to help. I'm not warm, I'm just exhausted. But, also, I'm really awake. And I have to findFAYE: You're cold, actually. You look cold. Maybe that's the problem. 26 Proscenium Spring 2015


MICHAL: Did you hear me? I'm exhausted. I'm sure that's all it is. FAYE: I'm no doctor, but I'm fairly certain that dry-heaving isn't a symptom of exhaustion. MICHAL: This is nothing bad. I never get sick. FAYE: Well, you might now. We're in a whole new terrain. MICHAL: You shouldn't talk like that. I'm sure I'm fine. FAYE: I'm sure you're going to be, too. But we can't rule anything out, and we have to be extra careful. MICHAL: Some things don't change. If you're not a sick person, you're not a sick person. FAYE: Everything's changing. Don't go thinking you're an exception to the rule, that will kill you. MICHAL: You're making me feel worse. I'm not hungry, and I'm not going to eat the potato. So don't even try. FAYE: You must be hungry. I'm hungry. MICHAL: I'm not too hungry. Faye stops, sits down beside Michal. FAYE: No one's going to force you to eat anything, Michal. I assure you. But you're only hurting yourself. MICHAL: I know. I mean-I know that no one's going to force me to do anything. FAYE: It's not going to stop me from trying, though. MICHAL: Fine. Gosh... FAYE: What? MICHAL: I just don't understand how I'm sick and you're not. FAYE: The universe works in mysterious ways. MICHAL: I bet you'll catch it too. If it's a cold. FAYE: I hope not. Who will take care of you? MICHAL: I can take care of myself. FAYE: Maybe for a while. MICHAL: I'm not saying that I want you to get sick. God forbid. FAYE: Does that mean you like me now? MICHAL: All I said was that I didn't want you sick, Faye. I don't want anyone sick. FAYE: That sounds an awful lot like affection to me. MICHAL: Well, it's not. I mean, it's not not affection. I guess it's just... it's sort of like, when your family has a pet. And you don't really like that pet, and the pet doesn't like you either. But then one day, the pet dies, and you find yourself feeling kind of sad about it. Because even though that pet was mean, it was a part of your life, and your routine, and everything. FAYE: Am I that pet? MICHAL: I guess you are. Beat. Faye stands, and casually begins to remove items of clothing until she is only in her underwear. MICHAL (CONT'D): What are you doing? FAYE: Huh? Oh. Nothing impressive, I know. MICHAL: Faye? FAYE: Would you believe, though? I used to have abs. Spring 2015 Proscenium  27


Nine Hours Zoe Kamil

MICHAL: Please - can you - why? Why are you doing this? FAYE: Clearly nothing lasts forever. MICHAL: Faye! FAYE: What? What is your problem? MICHAL: What are you doing? FAYE: I don't know - airing myself out? There is a brief pause as Michal takes Faye in. MICHAL: Why? Why would youFAYE: Oh..really? Is this...is this too scandalous for you? You were going to see me like this eventually. MICHAL: No I wasn't. There is absolutely no reason why I ever would have seen you like this. FAYE: Michal, I've been wearing the same clothes for a few weeks now, I sort of needed toMICHAL: You're making me incredibly uncomfortable. FAYE: This is making you uncomfortable? This, of all things? MICHAL: It's indecent. FAYE: Have you ever thought that maybe, I'm uncomfortable too? That I've always been uncomfortable MICHAL: Faye, stop. FAYE: That I'm always going to be uncomfortable. I am always going to be something that I don't want to be, Michal. In one way or another. MICHAL: I don't understand. Where is this coming from? You just sort of springing this on me and I can't FAYE: Have you never seen someone naked before? Is that MICHAL: Not a man. I've never- and even if I had, I'm telling you that I'm uncomfortable and that this isn't right. If that doesn't make sense to you, that's unfortunate, but it should be enough for you to go away right now andFAYE: But I'm not a man, really. MICHAL: Well, you are. Really. Look at you. FAYE: Actually, let me tell you something, Michal, because you're young, and you don't know. It doesn't work like that. You don't get to look at someone and decide what they are to the world. The truth is, I'm as man as I feel. I'm as man I decide to be. MICHAL: Just. Put something on. I'm begging you. FAYE: I have as much right to be naked as you have to cover your head, or refuse to be touched, or any other ridiculous, archaic thing. MICHAL: You are unbearable. Absolutely unbearable. We agreed that we were going to be civil and respectful toward each other as long as we're stuck together like this. FAYE: I was under the impression that that agreement was two-sided. MICHAL: What does that mean? FAYE: I feel like all I've been doing is censoring myself. It's not healthy. MICHAL: Please, Faye. Stop being such a drama quee - really, holding yourself back from cursing every now and then is not going to hurt you. FAYE: I'm starting to think that it's not my cursing you have a problem with. MICHAL: Of course I have a problem with that. 28 Proscenium Spring 2015


FAYE: But it's something else, too, isn't it? Go ahead, spit it out. MICHAL: Stop it, Faye. FAYE: You can't even say it, can you? You can't admit that it bothers you. MICHAL: You are unbelievable! FAYE: You could make the effort, at least, to understand where I'm coming from. You could try. MICHAL: I'm leaving. FAYE: What? MICHAL: If you don't put something on, I'm not coming back. FAYE: That's a pretty stupid idea. You're already sick and hungry. MICHAL: Stop. Leave me alone FAYE: You're really going to walk away from the last food on earth, and as far as you know, the last person on on earthNo reply from Michal - but she begins to stand. FAYE (CONT'D): You can't do that. You're only going to make it maybe a an hour. Maybe two hours. No more than a day, definitely. MICHAL: I don't care. Michal starts to leave, but as she does, she stops, grasping her forehead and stomach, falls down. Faye goes to her. FAYE: Michal. Stop. Please. MICHAL: Don't touch me. FAYE: Are you alright? MICHAL: I'm fine. FAYE: Please, sit down, don't go, don't - I'll put something on. I'm sorry. Faye begins to redress, Michal closes her eyes and silently prays, but abruptly stops when Faye reenters moments later with her clothing back on. FAYE (CONT'D): Feeling better? MICHAL: Yes. Much. Thank you for doing that. FAYE: I was referring to your physical condition, actually. MICHAL: And how should I have known that? There's no need to snap. FAYE: I didn't snap. MICHAL: I'm so tired. FAYE: So you aren't feeling better, then. MICHAL: I'm going to be fine. I'm just tired. Sometimes people get tired. I'll still be able to go find food soon, I've got a little time before dawn. God-willing... FAYE: Tiredness is generally easily remedied by sleeping. MICHAL: How profound, Faye. I hadn't considered that. FAYE: Now who's snapping? MICHAL: Not me. FAYE: Well, neither was I. MICHAL: Good. FAYE: Good. Beat. FAYE (CONT'D): Why did it bother you so much? Spring 2015 Proscenium  29


Nine Hours Zoe Kamil

MICHAL: What? FAYE: You know what I'm talking about. MICHAL: It's over. FAYE: Odds are we're going to be living like this the rest of our lives. Together. So I'd say it's not. MICHAL: Don't say that. FAYE: Why are you so afraid of the truth? MICHAL: Why are you so intent on making me uncomfortable? FAYE: I told you, honey. I'm being myself. MICHAL: I have no problem with that. FAYE: Then tell me why you felt uncomfortable seeing me naked. MICHAL: We don't know each other, and I wasn't expecting it. And I don't like nudity. FAYE: The truth? MICHAL: That is the truth. FAYE: OK Michal. Good. Fine. Tell me, is it nice and warm up there in Pious-ville? How's the food? MICHAL: Oh, just - be quiet. Shut up! FAYE: I bet you'd like that. MICHAL: Excuse me? FAYE: I'm assuming you didn't want to eat it because I touched it right? Wouldn't want to catch my disease, would you? I watch the news, Michal. I know what you think of me. MICHAL: You want to know what my real problem is with you people? You always think someone's out to get you. I lived in New York City, not Jerusalem. I've seen RENT. You're not so earth-shatteringly shocking as you think you are - and just because I don't agree with everything you do doesn't mean that I hate you. FAYE: Christ, Michal. MICHAL: And if I did hate you it would be because you're loud, and sassy, and more than a little self-centered. Not because you like to wear woman's clothes. FAYE: I'm a little unsettled by how much you have me figured out. Beat. MICHAL: No. No. I didn't mean to lose my cool. We did have that agreement. FAYE: Well, yeah. And I haven't been holding to it very well. Michal suddenly doubles over in pain. FAYE (CONT'D): Are you alright? MICHAL: Nauseous. Beat. FAYE: You're sick, and you're right. It's about time that I stop trying to find something to accuse you of, when you've done nothing at all but be kind, and open, and willing to think things through rationally. For the most part. MICHAL: I can take care of myself, though. FAYE: I know. But you shouldn't have to. Beat. FAYE (CONT'D): It's not going away, is it? 30 Proscenium Spring 2015


MICHAL: Faye? FAYE: Yes. MICHAL: I wasted my chance. FAYE: Oh..no. I'm sure we'll make it through today, alright? Tomorrow will come. MICHAL: But you were right. We can't know. Beat. MICHAL (CONT'D): I'm not sick. FAYE: Oh, honey, denial is not MICHAL: I think I'm pregnant. Beat. FAYE: Sorry? MICHAL: And that's why I was on the lower east side that day, because I was going to end it, because of course my mother could never know and my father, well heFAYE: Michal. MICHAL: Now do you see why I didn't want to eat the potato? Because who knows what's in itFAYE: Slow down. MICHAL: I mean, at first it was because it wasn't kosher but then I realized that I also probably shouldn't be putting something mysterious in my stomach if there's something growing in thereFAYE: Michal! MICHAL: What? After a moment, Michal bursts into tears. FAYE: Are you sure? MICHAL: Not really. But pretty much. FAYE: Oh my god. Oh my sweet mother of fucking god. MICHAL: Mm. FAYE: I'm sorry- I'm working on it. MICHAL: Fuck. FAYE: Excuse me? MICHAL: IFAYE: Oh myMICHAL: I needed that. God forgive me. FAYE: I'm speechless. MICHAL: I hope you enjoyed it, because you'll never hear it from me again. FAYE: I don't understand. MICHAL: There's nothing else. I've tried, believe me I have. There's no other explanation. Absolutely nothing. FAYE: Michal, you don't mind if I ask - he didn't force himselfMICHAL: No. No. He did not. He would never have done that. FAYE: OK. Well. That's something. That's good news. MICHAL: That's the worst part, actually. FAYE: You don't really believe that, do you? MICHAL: At least if he'd have forced me I could say it wasn't my fault. I've ruined everything. And I keep praying and going over the way things happened in my head and there's just no way Spring 2015 Proscenium  31


Nine Hours Zoe Kamil

around it. It's all my fault. FAYE: You didn't ruin everything. You made a mistake. That's what horny teenagers do. That's what everyone does. MICHAL: I don't even care anymore, you know? I just want to be right with Him. I just want to know what I have to do to be right with God. FAYE: I think you have to be right with yourself, first. Beat. FAYE (CONT'D): I want to say something but I'm afraid it will break our truce. MICHAL: I think you should say it. FAYE: I don't know. MICHAL: Please. FAYE: I was starting to think we were going to have to have sex. MICHAL: What? FAYE: Biologically, I'm a man. And you're a woman. MICHAL: Oh. FAYE: I kept wondering if it had occurred to youFaye trails off. Now none of it matters. Now everything is sorted out again. And I can't, for the life of me, understand any of it. MICHAL: Faye? FAYE: Yes. MICHAL: That's kind of what God is. FAYE: Really? MICHAL: Yeah. FAYE: Well. MICHAL: Yeah. FAYE: Isn't that something. MICHAL: Will you lay off the potato now? FAYE: I'm sorry. I think - I thought that if you starved, and I knew you were dying, I couldn't do it. I couldn't navigate all this on my own, because it is empty out there. They say that in the most desperate times, humans become their most primal and selfish. But I wasn't ready to let myself get like that. MICHAL: That makes sense, Faye. FAYE: You think so? MICHAL: Yeah. Beat. MICHAL (CONT'D): There is a loophole though. A kosher loophole. FAYE: There is? MICHAL: I could eat it, technically. I could eat it. But what if it has, I don't know, poison in it? I wouldn't want to FAYE: You need something substantial. MICHAL: Whoever is growing inside of me does. FAYE: So let's find something. 32 Proscenium Spring 2015


MICHAL: Where? FAYE: Out there. MICHAL: You want to go? FAYE: We'll have to go together. Beat MICHAL: Ok. Together. They hug for a long moment. They then exit, arm in arm. END OF PLAY

Spring 2015 Proscenium  33


Boxing the Sun Aurin Squire

Boxing the Sun

by

Aurin Squire 34 Proscenium Spring 2015


A Conversation with the Playwright About the Playwright Aurin Squire is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter, and reporter. He is a recipient of the 2014 Lecomte du Nouy Prize from Lincoln Center and the Lila Acheson Wallace Playwright Fellowship at The Juilliard School. In 2014-2015 he has fellowships at The Dramatists Guild of America, National Black Theatre, and Brooklyn Arts Exchange. Squire is the winner of the Act One Writing Contest at Lincoln Center Theatre. Squire graduated with honors from Northwestern University and worked as a radio reporter for the college’s national newsfeed. He was also a reporter for publications like ESPN, The Miami Herald, and Chicago Tribune. After graduating from Actors Studio and New School University with an MFA in playwriting he was commissioned as a screenwriter for Moxie Pictures, adapting the novel Velocity into a movie. His dark comedy To Whom It May Concern won New York LGBT theatre awards for best play, best playwright, and best actor before being optioned and remounted Off-broadway to critical acclaim at the ArcLight Theatre. In 2007 Squire received a year-long commission to move to Albuquerque and work with Tectonic Theatre Company. He interviewed Jewish Latinos and worked with an ensemble to create A Light in My Soul, a docudrama produced around New Mexico about Jewish families who fled from the Spanish Inquisition and settled in the American southwest. Squire also wrote Dreams of Freedom, the multimedia installation video about Jewish immigrants in the 20th century for the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia. Dreams won 3 national museum awards and is in the permanent exhibit at NMAJH. In 2013 his drama Freefalling was produced at Barrington Stage

Company and won the 2013 Fiat Lux Award (“Let There Be Light”) from the Catholic Church’s Theatre Conference. In 2014 Squire won the grand prize in the InspiraTO Theatre’s International Play Festival in Toronto (largest theatre festival in Canada) for Freefalling and the play was published in Dramatists Play Service’s annual collection of Outstanding Short Plays. Article 119-1, his drama about a gay rights activist in Belarus, was produced in Florence, Italy, Norway, Vancouver, and Los Angeles in March 2014. Squire’s comedy African Americana received its world premiere at London’s Theatre 503 in June 2014. He has been a guest artist and lecturer at Gettysburg College, Malloy College, and New School University. His plays have been produced at venues like Abingdon Theatre, ArcLight Theatre, Ars Nova, Barrington Stage Company, Brooklyn Arts Exchange (BAX), Cherry Lane, Lincoln Center Lab, National Hispanic Cultural Center. He lives in New York City where he currently attends Juilliard. What was your inspiration for this play? I was staying in New York City during a particularly sweltering summer and I spent a lot of time walking the East Village streets, searching for shade and relaxation. I would see life unfolding on the streets, and the temperature seemed to bring out the uninhibited nature in a lot of people. I saw and heard a lot of raw, violent, potent, sexual, dangerous things happen. At the same time I was hanging out with friends and we would riff and improv some of these people we would see on the streets. These voices began to grow in my mind, along with their aching, longing, struggles, and desires. The final part of the puzzle happened outside of a bodega one night and I met a Spring 2015 Proscenium  35


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college student who was selling his books for extra money. I picked up “Winesburg, Ohio” and started reading it that night. Sherwood Anderson’s woven tapestry structure fascinated me and I wondered if it could be done on stage with a play. As an experiment, I began taking these voices in my head and stitching them into short scenarios, and then trying to weave these incidents into a snapshot of an entire world.

into Northwestern University’s Creative Writing in the Media Program for my last two years in college. One of the classes in the cirricullum was writing for stage. I had never thought of playwriting before, but I was intrigued. So I approached each session with complete innocence and playfulness. I think that came across in the way I was writing and the teacher (Susan Booth) really encouraged me. I was thinking about that playfulness this morning as I was mapping a church scene What do you want the audience to come where the actors in drag would pass around a away with? collection plate in the audience. So I’m always The aesthetic approach may be experimental tweaking the level of play and satire. So inbut the emotional impetus behind “Boxing the stead of a collection plate, I started envisioning Sun” was very traditional. This is a drama with them using their wigs to collect money. And passionate characters in desperate situations then I started imagining them taking this monout of love, desire, and lust. I guess I want to ey from the wigs and throwing them on each achieve that most traditional emotion of clasother, making it rain like a stripper club. And sic drama, which is catharsis and empathy. then having a sermon going on about the joys of giving or a gospel song while they ‘make it What playwrights have inspired you? rain.’ So each time I’m taking something and I read and reread that book “Playwrights at always trying to do a improv game of ‘and Work” until it fell apart in my hands. So pretthen.’ I think this is what keeps me entertained ty much anyone in that book: Arthur Miller, and writing. August Wilson, Tennessee Williams, Lillian Hellman, John Guare, Tom Stoppard, Edward What projects are you working on now? Albee, Wendy Wasserstein, Harold Pinter, I have a few fellowships and commissions Eugene Ionesco, Neil Simon, David Mamet. this year so I’m working on about 4 different I was fascinated by how each writer revealed plays. This is not normal for me. The church their process or chaos of ideas. Before I read play i mentioned is for Brooklyn Arts Exor saw many of the actual plays of these crafts- change and it’s called “The Gospel Accordman, it was great to learn about their process ing to F*ggots,” which is an absurd, queer, so that I could approach their work with criti- sex-positive reinterpretation of Bible stories cal eye as individual pieces as well as a part of that are in verse. I’m halfway through that. their larger professional trajectory. I would add For the Dramatist Guild I have a very very I’m inspired by many other playwrights inrough draft of a comedy about love that’s a cluding Michael Weller, Peter Parnell, Marsha Robert Altman-esque piece of these bizarre Norman, Christopher Durang, Thomas Bradstories and the power of storytelling and love, shaw, Tony Kushner, and many many more. set in this mythical town called “Storytown, USA” which is also the name of the piece. Why did you start writing plays? For National Black Theatre, I just finished I was required to in order to graduate. I got a rough draft of “The Zoohouse” which is a 36 Proscenium Spring 2015


mental asylum for the ‘black and criminally insane’ set in a future where blacks have been so over policed, murdered, and brutalized that most live in these government wards doped on drugs. In 2015 I’ll be filling out ‘Zoohouse” adding music, verse, poetry. And at Juilliard I just brought in 2 new plays this semester that I’m excited about, but the last piece was “A Family Manual For Kwanzaa” and it’s an absurd play about everything that went wrong when my family tried celebrating Kwanzaa as well as the distortion of the American dream through contemporary media and politics. And I’m just starting research on “NDE,” a near death experience comedy and a woman who comes back and is surrounded by her family and small-town friends who are trying to find a way to use her experience to their advantage.

because you wouldn’t waste your time with anything that didn’t fit into the magical expansive world of your life. Is there anything else you would like to add? I think having a spiritual and physical life are two other elements that make for a dynamic artists. To engage in something physically creative (yoga, dance, kayaking, tennis, etc) keeps the body flexible and young. And then to have some sort of spiritual habit awakens the soul every day.

What kind of theatre excites you? Theatre of motility, music, and spectacle. Theatre of dance, verse, and energy. I’m interested in a stories that are vigorous, poetic, kaleidoscopic, and epic. What advice do you have for playwrights starting out? Do a 20: study 10 other art forms and 10 other subjects. And then come to the stage. I think writers who go to theatre summer camps and start off writing plays tend to create very dry and boxy works. The most imaginative and comprehensive theatre creators tend to come at it from different backgrounds and art forms. Before I got involved in theatre I had studied film, radio, tv, journalism, poetry, Russian literature, classical music. And I had a deep interests in Russian history, British politics, football, tennis, military strategy, ants, sociology, and a buffet of other subjects. If we enrich and expand our internal life, this will spill out onto the page. And then you don’t have to heed the advice of ‘don’t bore the audience’

Boxing the Sun is copyright © 2014 by Aurin Squire. All inquiries regarding rights shall be sent to info@ prosceniumjournal.com and shall be forwarded to the playwright or their agent. Performances of Boxing the Sun are subject to royalty, and are fully protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America and all countries covered by the International Copyright Union. All rights, including professional and amateur productions, staged readings, television, motion picture, radio, translations, photocopies, and all other reproductions of this play are strictly reserved. Spring 2015 Proscenium  37


Boxing the Sun Aurin Squire

Boxing the Sun By Aurin Squire

CHARACTERS The following is an ensemble cast of characters. They should be played with three male actors and three female actors, with everyone doubling up on a role. The elderly characters are comedic and should be played with young actors. For staging purposes a possible role combination is listed below. Brian is the only role not listed because he serves as the non-speaking role of witness to all of the events and therefore can be played by an extra or with the use of a stage dummy. Female Roles: DENISE/JASMINE TONYA/BILLY DIANA/CLAIRE Male Roles: CRAIG/JACK LUIS/PRIEST JASON/TROY BILLY –60s, retired masculine-looking woman who has nothing better to do then sit out all day and criticize people. Her only true friend is Claire BRIAN –60s, misanthrope who never leaves his apartment. As stated above this is a non-speaking, inactive role that can be played by an extra or a stage dummy. CLAIRE –60s, charming and a bit of an airhead. Billy and her have the combative friendship of people who’ve known each other for too long and in too close a proximity. CRAIG –20s, arrogant show-off who lives to brag. DENISE –20s, Loud and brash attitude is a cover for her more true, sensitive emotions. DIANA –20s, and sleeps around with many other men. Intellectually slow but emotionally explosive. JACK –30, successful landlord with a hardened heart. JASMINE –30, wife of Luis and mother who’s tired of being poor and has developed a cruel streak. JASON –20s, a former Casanova who has finally fallen in love and wants to settle down with a woman who hates his guts and won’t talk to him. LUIS –30, husband of Jasmine and a lifelong failure who hasn’t grown up yet. PRIEST TONYA –20s, funny, rude and ultimately shallow little girl in a woman’s body. TROY –20s, small-time clocker who’s trying to find a way out of drug dealing. He’s also Jack’s younger brother. 38 Proscenium Spring 2015


SETTING The story takes place on a New York block, mostly in and outside a small apartment complex. Due to the fluidity of the interweaving stories, the set should be sparse and flexible. Prologue BRIAN, a tired old man, sits facing out the window. He’s basking in the summer sun. The PRIEST addresses the audience. PRIEST: The heat was unbearable. And as Brian sat in his home, looking out into the neighborhood from his sun window he knew of this fact and several other truths. He knew from the radio that tomorrow was going to be the hottest day of the year. He knew that all the windows had been weather-sealed during winter and hadn’t been re-opened. He knew that no one would stop by to see about him. And he knew that this was the day he was going to die. Brian was devoted to his truths. A long time ago he had lost faith in things which couldn’t be proven absolute and thus he had lost faith in people. He had given up trying to make sense out of the chaos of thoughts and emotions. Brian was a child of the depression and had seen unanswerable suffering. The scars of famine never heal and it caused him to think in black and white. Brian devoted himself to the things he knew for sure. The world for him became a process of deduction. He striped everything to its core. And he had arrived at a few things he could place his trust in. Things that were either true or false; either an equation added up or it didn’t, either it rained or it didn’t. His life became a game of sorting these things he held true. He would seek them out and put them into their respective boxes. Because once boxed in, that thing could be defined, understood and perfected. Once everything was put into its appropriate box there would be no more mystery. No more chaos. No more trouble. There would be peace. And everything that didn’t fit into a particular absolute was discarded. He devoted himself to his absolutes, sitting in the sun and rolling them around like marbles in his palm. And thus, when a pinch sprouted inside his head a few days ago he had no one to tell it to. And since he couldn’t place that pinching feeling into anything definitive he ignored it. That pinch grew into a vise that griped his head and the only category he could put it in was a headache from all the sun. When the right side of his body stopped moving he finally realized it was one of his of truths: death. His left side was struck down and soon he lay trapped. And since there was no way of fighting this absolute, there was no point in figuring out the meaning of it. There was peace. In his paralysis he found tranquility; As the August sun blistered his skin and poisoned his blood he began to see things which he never knew. Hallucinations, visions, spirits. He saw his parents. He saw himself. Before his eyes stretched his friends and neighbors. Acting out their lives, in turmoil and triumph. In the tragedy and comedy of it all he saw God. In their relationships, in their fighting and lovemaking. That was God. As Brian sat there watching his last sunset he finally understood a little bit about the life outside his apartment. Outside his mind. Outside his boxes. As his hands and feet curled up slowly he wanted to dance, sing and shout. As he lay dying he realized he wanted to live. His cheeks became wet with tears, which glistened in dusk. Night descended upon him and neighborhood bustled with preparation for the hottest day of the year. But in the evening’s shadow he still felt the light. He still saw God. In the people and their lives. He sat at his window for one last day and watched it unfold before him. He could not tell the fact from fiction, right from wrong, light from darkness. Only 24 hours of life. In all its shades and shapes. This is Spring 2015 Proscenium  39


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what he saw. ACT 1.1 The Brownstone apartment windows are alive with light, while the thumping bass of a rooftop party can be heard. BILLY, an old woman in a cheap bathrobe and slippers limps out the front door. Her hair is in curlers and her face is smothered in cold crème. She gently sits down on the steps and sighs with relief. After looking around for a moment she whips out a metal file and begins grinding it to her hardened feet. CLAIRE, an old woman with a young spirit walks out in bathrobe and slippers, takes a step out on to the stoop and closes the door behind her. She turns around and sees BILLY, whose back is toward her. CLAIRE: What are you doing out here? BILLY: Couldn’t sleep. CLAIRE: Me neither. Wanna run around the block? BILLY: You’re joking. CLAIRE: Come on, I’ll race you. BILLY: You’ll race me to what? My first heart attack? CLAIRE: Billy, who are you kidding? You ain’t got no heart. BILLY: Said the scarecrow with no brains. CLAIRE: I’m not fussing with you tonight. BILLY: Then don’t start anything. It’s too hot. CLAIRE: Gets so hot during the day that my body can’t cool down at night. There ain’t no ventilation in my room. I tell you, this place is like a tinder box. The heat just messes with your body. BILLY: It ain’t the heat that’s the problem. It’s the noise. Damn fools in 3A throwing another house-rent party. If they’d get a job they wouldn’t have to scramble at the end of the month. Boom-chicky-boom-ta-boom-ta-boom bass banging on my wall all the good-God evening I couldn’t even get to sleep with wax plugged in my ear. Not with this racket. CLAIRE: So let’s make some noise of our own. BILLY: What are you jawing about? CLAIRE: I got some Coltrane, Ella and Lady Day in my room. Lets hook up the record player, stick the speakers out of the window and blast them right back. BILLY: Claire, you need a hobby. CLAIRE: I need a friend. BILLY: Then go to bingo night at First Baptist. But leave me and my corns out of this. CLAIRE: Those corns look tougher than Goodyear tires. Probably give you an edge in a race. (She gets up and starts getting into racing stance. Her back clenches up on her and she stands.) BILLY: See. It serves you right. That’s what you get. CLAIRE: Scoot over. (BILLY scoots over and CLAIRE sits down next to her. BILLY goes back to grinding her feet. CLAIRE stares out.) CLAIRE: It’d be great to have a man to call on tonight. BILLY: It’s too hot for a man. CLAIRE: I thought you said it wasn’t hot. BILLY: No, I said it wasn’t hot enough to disrupt my sleep. But it would be too hot for…’that.’ 40 Proscenium Spring 2015


CLAIRE: I ain’t even talking about that filth. You see, that’s a dirty mind that thinks that. A dirty mind. And there’s nothing worse than a dirty old-woman. BILLY: What am I supposed to think when you talking about ‘having’ a man? CLAIRE: Having a man: to open the windows. To turn the pillows. To get me ice cream and slice cantaloupe, and feed it to me. To fan me. BILLY: Ain’t no man wanna fan your burnt, wrinkled, dried-up carcass. So you can just forget that. It ain’t happening. CLAIRE: What are you talking about? Plenty of men want this. BILLY: For what? CLAIRE: For ‘that.’ BILLY: Filth. CLAIRE: You started it. BILLY: Then I’m finishing it. Besides, it’s too hot for that. To even think about that. CLAIRE: It’s never that hot. BILLY: They say it’s gonna be the hottest day of the year. CLAIRE: Oh good Lord. Give me the strength. A lot of people pass out in this heat. Get sun stroke. Others lock the doors and try to stay in. Seal themselves up, fall asleep on the couches. Got no one to stop by and check up on them. They forget the weather and roast. Dead. BILLY: Only people that don’t care that much about themselves anyway do that. Got nothing to lose. Lonely fools. CLAIRE: Old folks mostly. BILLY: Lonely old fools. CLAIRE: What do you think we are? BILLY: …I ain’t old. CLAIRE: You ain’t young. BILLY: I know but that doesn’t mean I’m old. CLAIRE: Then what are you? BILLY: Mature. Defined. I’m classical. CLAIRE: And what about me? BILLY: You’re just an old heifer. CLAIRE: All right. Don’t make me slap the cold crème off your jowls. BILLY: I do not have jowls. CLAIRE: Your face got so many sacks and bags you could store nuts over the winter for a family of chipmunks. BILLY: Don’t start cutting up or I’ll have to talk about your soup-bowl lips! (light in the center window on the second floor goes on) Mouth so big you could snap fish out a river sideways. CLAIRE: Listen you (looks up and notices light)…now see what you did? BILLY: What? CLAIRE: You done woke somebody up. BILLY: I woke them up? You the one that started playing the dozens, talking about ‘having men’ and going on something silly about the heat. CLAIRE: You the one that started screaming. Spring 2015 Proscenium  41


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BILLY: I did not. I’m a gentle lady! I barely make a peep! CLAIRE: Stop clicking your dentures and just be quiet. BILLY: You be quiet. I don’t have to be quiet for nobody. I did my quiet time. I’m retired and old. CLAIRE: I thought you said you were classical. BILLY: (laughs)…oh shut up, Claire. CLAIRE: We are really terrible. Sitting out here melting, flapping our gums. We probably added five degrees to the temperature with all this yelling. No wonder nobody can sleep. BILLY: See! Told you: it was the noise. CLAIRE: It’s summer. It’s the heat and noise. Tit for tat. BILLY: “Tit for tat?’ You got a filthy mind. CLAIRE: Lets not get started on that again. BILLY: You’re right. I’m going to try to go to bed again. Keep my fan on and my mouth shut, and maybe I can fall asleep. CLAIRE: Sure… BILLY: And Claire? CLAIRE: What? BILLY: Will you check on me…in the morning? Just stop by and make sure… CLAIRE: …yes. (BILLY exits. CLAIRE stands up gingerly to leave. After thinking about it she gets down into a racer’s stance: Mark, set, go! Holding her wig she takes off into the night.) ACT 1.2 JASON sneaks up to the building and stares at the window with the light on. He tries whispering loudly. JASON: Christine. Christine! I know you can hear me. Come on Christine. Please come down. Christine. Let me explain. Just talk to me. (As his voice gets louder, a few of the lights come on. Residents are trying to ‘shush’ him.)…it’s not my fault. Why we gotta play these games, Christine? MAN’S VOICE: Hey shut the fuck up! JASON: It’s a free country! (One of the windows snaps open and TONYA, a good-looking young woman, sticks her head out.) TONYA: Damnit you gotta shut up, it’s damn near 4…Well look at who it is. JASON: Tonya, great. Go get Christine. TONYA: Why? JASON: I need to talk to her. TONYA: Hasn’t she dropped enough clues for your snaggle-toothed pathetic ass? She doesn’t want you anymore. JASON: Listen Tonya, I don’t have time to argue with you. TONYA: And it looks like Christine doesn’t have time to argue with you. NOW! Tables are turned motherfucker. How does it feel? JASON: Don’t start, Tonya. 42 Proscenium Spring 2015


TONYA: Just like you did me. JASON: Here we go with this shit. Tonya, you always say the same thing. You have nothing new to offer. I know you hate my guts. I can’t do anything about your playa-hating mentality. That hatred in your heart is poison. I tried to get out of you, but you need a scalpel and a vacuum to get rid of all that haterade inside you. TONYA …you just love to play around don’t you? Corny-ass mother fucker. What makes you think you can keep getting away with this shit? You ain’t that fly. Your face don’t look that good, your clothes ain’t that fresh, your breath ain’t that clean. You get fired from some shitty-ass job every other damn year. JASON: Just tell Christine to come out for a second. TONYA: Why? So you can hurt her like you do every other woman… JASON: (overlapping) What happened between is over with, Tonya. JASON: Hatred! That’s why your ass don’t have nobody. Go to sleep at night humping on pillow. Then you wake up in an empty bed and you got all this anger against all men. I can’t do anything for you. But maybe if you just learned to be happy for other people you could find some happiness in yourself. Maybe if you just learned to be happy for me and Christine and what we have you could do her a favor and tell her I’m waiting downstairs!! TONYA …nobody wants your ass. You can’t provide for anybody. And don’t you live at home with your momma? What crazy-assed bitch would take you back? A broke, no-expectation, ugly, crooked smiling shit-stain. Us women aren’t having it any more. We are fed up with you and all the pathetic punks trying to pimp themselves to us. Your game is played-out like Atari. You need to stop hanging around here and get yourself a hobby ‘fore I get my shotgun. DENISE (O/S): Tonya? Is that you? TONYA: Yeah girl. DENISE: Want me to call the cops? TONYA: No, I’m handling this. (DENISE’s head pops out the window.) DENISE: Is that Jason? JASON: Oh God! TONYA: Yeah, that’s that fool. DENISE: Jason, go to bed. Ain’t nobody wanna be thinking about your ugly-ass before drifting off to sleep. JASON: Nice to see you too, Denise. Look, could you get Christine? DENISE: You ever heard of a phone, jackass? JASON: She’s not answering. DENISE: Motherfucker, then take a hint. TONYA: I keep telling him that. JASON: No, you were not telling me that. You were rehashing our relationship and all the nasty things you said. TONYA: Only said because of all the nasty things you did. DENISE: Don’t even get me started on this punk, Tonya? TONYA: You dated him too? JASON: LadiesSpring 2015 Proscenium  43


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DENISE: I’d prefer not to get into it? TONYA: Why not? DENISE: Because this jackass lied, cheated and betrayed me every waking second. TONYA: No he didn’t! DENISE: Yes he did. And I think he stole $20 from my purse. JASON: You lost that money, you said you lost it. DENISE: Yeah, lost it to you! TONYA: (to JASON) Thief! DENISE: That’s water under the bridge now. I’ve forgiven. I don’t even want to think about how he slept around with my entire step class. TONYA: What? DENISE: I shouldn’t be getting into thisJASON: No you shouldn’t. TONYA: Why not? DENISE: Because it’s just too painful. TONYA: How could he? How could you? JASON: We weren’t even seeing each other any more. DENISE: We had been broken up one week. And he had run through about four of those spandex-slapping bubble butt sluts. TONYA: You dog! DENISE: But I took it all like graceful. Like a lady. Even when they laughed behind my back every time I turned away. TONYA: Nasty dog! DENISE: But how the might have fallen. Trolling around in the middle of the night stalking women: it’s so sad. JASON: Stalking hell! I just want to say something to her. (DIANA sticks her head out another window.) DIANA: Is that Jason? JASON: NO NO NO! DIANA: Jason. I’m gonna call the police on you. JASON: You see what I’m putting up with for you, Christine? DIANA: So it’s Christine this time. Shame. I thought you were crawling back to me. JASON: No, Diana. I’m sorry, Diana. Could you please open the door, Diana. DIANA: Why, so you can walk right past me and ignore me? TONYA: Take that as a blessing, girl. JASON: I’m not going to ignore you. DIANA: You never called. JASON: I lost your number. DIANA: You knew where I lived. JASON: I didn’t want to disturb you. DENISE: Yet you have no problem doing that now for someone else. JASON: I won’t ignore you, Diana. I won’t ignore any of you any more. I made mistakes but I’m trying. I’m trying real hard. And every day I get a little bit closer. I’m a man. I have sinned, 44 Proscenium Spring 2015


wronged, lied and cheated. But does that make me evil? We all have. And now I’m trying to do something right. To make up for all the bad times. Can’t you see that? Doesn’t that count for anything? Don’t I get anything for my work? (TONYA dumps a pail of water on him. They all laugh.) TONYA: There’s your wages. Tax free. (Slowly they one by one close their window. As the laughter fades each one of the lights in the windows goes out.) JASON: I’m standing here. Waiting. Not because I think I deserve to get you. But because I know I deserve to wait. Out here. Wet. Cold. This is my punishment. I accept it. And I know this is only a fraction of what I made you go through. I know this is a small gesture. But I don’t know of any other kind of apology for huge mistakes. They’re always pathetic little offerings, you know? But forgiveness has to happen on both ends. It’s never gonna seem like enough when it’s just me. Out here. Waiting. Begging like a dog. In order for apologies and forgiveness to matter…it takes more than one. All I’m asking is that you let what I’m trying to do for you matter. Find it in your heart. Accept it. Accept me. (After a moment the door to the apartment building slowly creaks open. JASON walks up the steps and into the building.) ACT 1.3 The aftermath of the roof-top party. JASMINE and LUIS are worn-out. As LUIS sweeps, JASMINE counts the money and gets more frantic. LUIS: Did you notice how good Jack looked? JASMINE: I noticed. LUIS: Doing well for himself. JASMINE: Yeah. Give you any ideas? LUIS: I’m making my way. I’m trying. JASMINE: (counting) This can’t be right LUIS: What? JASMINE: We’re short. LUIS: Are you sure? JASMINE: Positive. Were you holding the box the whole time? LUIS: …yes. JASMINE: You don’t sound certain. LUIS: Yes, I was. JASMINE: Every second. Every single second you had your hands and eyes on the box. LUIS: I don’t know about every secondJASMINE: -Luis! LUIS: I’m sorry. JASMINE: Damn, Luis. This is our rent money we’re talking about. LUIS: I know, I know. I live here too. JASMINE: I don’t throw these parties to be friendly. I throw them so our kids don’t wind up on the streets. And now you’re telling me the one job I asked you to do, the one, singular, sole thing I asked you to do, you’re not sure about. Spring 2015 Proscenium  45


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LUIS: It’s a four-hour party. Music playing, dancing, food and I’m just sitting there holding on to a box. How do you expect me to keep my focus that long? How am I supposed to do that? JASMINE: Visualize our sofa on the sidewalk. LUIS: They’re not gonna kick us out, Jazz. JASMINE: How do you know? We haven’t paid the last two months. LUIS: I just got a job. It’s all gonna get paid. They know I’m good for it. JASMINE: The landlord doesn’t know anything. We’ve been avoiding him for the last three months. He could’ve filed eviction papers already. LUIS: He wouldn’t do that. More trouble for him than it’d be worth. JASMINE: Suddenly you’re an expert on what it takes to be a slumlord. LUIS: We don’t live in a slum. JASMINE: Rats. Roaches. Elevator that never works. Stairs that smell like piss. Crime and crack heads. Sounds like a slum to me. LUIS: We live in a working-class neighborhood. JASMINE: Luis, nobody works around here. LUIS: I do. JASMINE: You don’t count. LUIS: Why not? JASMINE: Because what we are is small in comparison to what this is: shit. LUIS: I grew up around here. JASMINE: And you’re gonna die here if you don’t get off your ass and do something. LUIS: I’m trying. JASMINE: That doesn’t count. LUIS: Well it’s hard. JASMINE: So’s the street. Which is where we’re gonna end up. LUIS: You could work. JASMINE: Taking care of two babies? LUIS: We didn’t have to have them. JASMINE: What? LUIS: Nothing. JASMINE: What did you just say? LUIS: I said we always find a way to get by. JASMINE: Luis, I don’t want my kids to get by. I’ll be damned if children of mine are just gonna get by. You can forget that. All my life, I’ve been getting by. That’s all anyone expected of me. Is to slide by. Make just on the deadline. Do the bare minimum. And look where I ended up. LUIS: With me? JASMINE: Yeah. With you. Here. LUIS: You could’ve done a lot worse. JASMINE: And I could’ve done a lot better. LUIS: With who? JASMINE: …never mind. LUIS: I’m busting my ass out there. Work just isn’t happening. Nobody’s offering. JASMINE: Then you make them an offer. Damnit, quit sitting around waiting for someone to pat 46 Proscenium Spring 2015


you on your head and give you a raise. Make a move. Do something. LUIS: I just started. JASMINE: You’re always just starting. You’re the man whose always starting and never finishing. I don’t want our marriage to end up that way. LUIS: What’s that supposed to mean? JASMINE: It means you be a fucking man and bring home some goddamn money. It means you’re reliable. Stable. That you provide food and clothing for your children. LUIS: Jazz, I’mJASMINE: -don’t. Don’t you dare say you’re trying. If you say you’re trying one more time I’m gonna shove your tired, trying ass off this roof. LUIS: Why are you so angry? JASMINE: Because I’m hot. I’m sweaty. And I’m right back to where I was a few months ago. On this goddamn roof. Nothing has changed. As much as I’ve pushed and shoved and kicked you in your ass, nothing has changed about where we are, where we live. About what we can do. It’s nearly 4 am in the morning and I gotta get up in a few hours so I can be the first to get food stamps. Because I’m ashamed of us. I’m ashamed of you. LUIS: I’m doing everything I can. All I think about is you and the kids. You don’t think I want to do better? JASMINE: That has nothing to do with it! Wanting doesn’t make it so. How have you been a grown-ass man for over two decades and not know what drives people? Do you wanna know what makes people a success? Fear. Fear and fear alone. Fear of failure. Fear of starvation. Fear of being worthless. Fear of losing something. And when I look in your eyes I never see any fear. All I see is a little boy daydreaming about TV, comic books and sports. When we got together we were kids. Now we got a pair of our own. It’s time for you to grow up. I don’t have room for another crib. I don’t know what I have to do to put the fear of God in you. To light a fire under your ass. Well I’m gonna make you afraid. I’m gonna make you fear if you mess up this time. LUIS: Honey, you’re tiredJASMINE: -so are you. (pause) But Jack isn’t. LUIS: Don’t even joke about that. JASMINE: You think you’re the only one who had your eyes on him. I saw him. He saw me. LUIS: You’re bluffing. JASMINE: You’re scared? LUIS: So that’s the way it is, huh? You’re just gonna auction yourself to the highest bidder? JASMINE: I’m going to give my children the best. Of everything. And I’m going surround them with people that make sure they get that. LUIS: I got something that Jack doesn’t have. JASMINE: What? LUIS: Come here, I’ll show you. JASMINE: What, so we can have three kids? LUIS: No. Just come hereJASMINE: -noLUIS: -just come here. JASMINE: Why? Spring 2015 Proscenium  47


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LUIS: Because I want to hold you. JASMINE: You think that’s gonna change my mind? LUIS: No. But I still want to. (LUIS takes a reluctant and stiff JASMINE into his arms. He holds her.) LUIS: The sun is rising. JASMINE: It’s a new day. That’s what happens. LUIS: It’s more than that. JASMINE: Coolest part of the day. They say it’s gonna be the hottest its ever been all year. LUIS: I like this part of the morning. Almost forget it’s summer. Before the garbage trucks and newspaper trucks and the screaming babies and honking cars. Before everything starts to boil and brew. It makes me think this brief moment, this LUIS: (cont’d) Could be any place. It makes me think this could be any time and place. Which means I could be anybody. JASMINE: Sometimes I wish you were. LUIS: What? JASMINE: Somebody. LUIS: I will…but it takes time. JASMINE: (breaking away) I need more than that. (JASMINE exits off the roof, leaving LUIS with his sunrise.) NIGHT INTERLUDE These are the last moments of the night. There is peace. Tranquil and minimalist music flows through the interlude. For these last few moments of night there’s a calm that settles over the building and neighborhood. The only sound are of the buses running across town and an occasional car. ACT 1.4 JACK walks back from the store with a pack of cigarettes to the front of the building. He takes out a wad of cash and starts counting it when he spots, TROY and rushes him, jacking him up against the building. JACK: What the fuck are you doing here? TROY: Jack, chill I ain’t doing anything. JACK: Bullshit, I thought I told you never come around here. TROY: Lemme go! JACK: I’m gonna choke the shit outta you! TROY: Jack I ain’t even do nothingJACK: (overlapping) This is my block! TROY: Can’t a motherfucker go for a walkJACK: (overlapping) Not here. This is my place. I paid for it. I own it and it’s gonna stay clean. TROY: I was just out for a walk. JACK: At five o’clock in the morning? TROY: I couldn’t sleep! JACK: Then take some Nyquil, motherfucker. But don’t walk in front of my building! You hear 48 Proscenium Spring 2015


me? You hear me?!? TROY: Yes! JACK: Keep your fucking voice down on my block. TROY: You were just yelling. JACK: I collect the rent. I can yell any damn time I feel like it. TROY: Sorry. (JACK lets him go. He opens a pack of cigarettes.) TROY: Can I get one? (pause) Okay. Be like that. Got a little bit of success and it went straight to your head. JACK: Troy, what the fuck are you doing here? TROY: I live five blocks away. JACK: So? TROY: So? Why are you so cold? JACK: Hey, just be lucking I’m talking to you. I’m risking a lotTROY: By talking to your brother? JACK: By talking to a dealer. TROY: What’s that gotta do with us? JACK: What you do in life has everything to do with the people that surround you. TROY: So I’m not good enough to be around you anymore? JACK: Don’t pull that anything-should-be-good enough for your family shit. You know that’s not true. I got a roof to keep over my head. I got a business together. TROY: I got a business, too. JACK: You’re trying to compare yourself to me? All you got is some rocks in your pocket and a rubber band of bills. That’s not a business. TROY: A few more years, Jack, I’m telling you. A few more years, have enough money put away. Safe, can kick back and relax. A few more years, Jack… JACK: …and you’ll be dead. You ain’t got shit, Troy. You just another dealer, barely making it. TROY: And what you got that’s so great? A brokedown slum building with rats and crackheads. You think that’s big time? Who ya trying to play, Jack. We grew up in buildings like this. Residents who only pay every other month, halls soaked in piss, and everybody and their momma hates your ass because you’re ‘the man’ in charge. Don’t get ‘phisticated with me. Nobody liked your ass growing up and nobody still likes you, no matter how much money you have or how many slums you own. JACK: What the fuck do I need to be liked for? TROY: If you didn’t care then you wouldn’t be showing up at everybody’s damn party, grinning like a fool, trying to get everyone to like you. I bet you’re still chasing that bitch, Jasmine… yeah, you are. Been chasing that pussy like it was the Holy Grail. JACK: Get off my property. TROY: Sidewalk ain’t you property. This is the public space, this is my space. JACK: Troy, I’m not going ask you again. TROY: So what you’re gonna call the cops on me? JACK: I don’t need the cops. TROY: …Jack…wait. Back up off me. Spring 2015 Proscenium  49


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JACK: Or what? TROY: Back up off me. JACK: Why? You’re still just a punk. Even with a couple of dollar bills in your handTROY: I’m warning you, Jack? You can’t knock me down anymore. I ain’t in grade school anymore. You think because you’re older than me, you can push me around. Playing daddy ain’t gonna work. I’m my own boss now, I don’t take shit from anybody! JACK:…oh? You’re warning me, are you? Is that supposed to be a threat?…Yeah, I know that. Your dumb ass needs to get back in a classroom. You know what? I should’ve let them gangs beat you dead when you was a kid. Then I wouldn’t have to do it now. (TROY draws out a pistol. There’s a momentary pause.) TROY: NOW WHAT?!? HUH? Say something, motherfucker! Say something! Say something so I can peel your fucking skull back! Who the fuck do you think you are? Who do you think your talking to? Who do you think you’re talking to? (Beat.) JACK: My brother. TROY: Oh, now you know I’m your brother! Right? Is that it? Now you remember when you’re staring down my gun. What the hell is wrong with you? Treating me like shit all my life. Like I don’t mean anything. What did you expect? A happy ending? Pull myself up by my bootstraps! Where were you? Fucking pops ran out on us, mom strung out half the time. I needed you! I wanted you to…help me! You didn’t give me anything. JACK: I didn’t have anything to give. (TROY slowly puts the barrel on JACK’s heart.) TROY: You had this. That’s all you needed to give. You had this and you locked it up. Twenty years. And you could’ve let it out at any time. But you didn’t. JACK: Why are you here? TROY: Chris got shot. You remember Chris? From school. JACK: I remember. TROY: It got me all messed up. JACK: I don’t feel sorry for you. TROY: Fuck, Jack! I’m not trying to get you to feel anything. I just got to thinking and I wanted to talk. JACK: (pointing to gun) This how you talk? TROY: That’s because you wouldn’t listen. You just wouldn’t shut up. All that self-help bullshit makes me wanna… JACK: What’s stopping you? (looks at him for a moment and laughs) You’re not gonna do it. Give me the gun. TROY: I’m gonna kill you… JACK: What’s stopping you? Because I’m your brother? That doesn’t mean anything. I never liked you anyway. But I know you’re not gonna use that gun for the same reason that you came here. You’re weak and looking for a way out. Your crew is dying and getting locked up and now you remember your big brother. Well don’t. Don’t remember anything about me. Walk away and forget about me just like I’m trying to forget about you. Be a stranger. TROY: Well right now I’m a motherfucking stranger with a gun. 50 Proscenium Spring 2015


JACK: No, right now you’re still my little brother. Trying to get attention. Pull that trigger and I’ll haunt you. Walk away and we can forget this. TROY: You were never thereJACK: DAMN! So what motherfucker, so what? I was never there. No one was ever there! Do you see me crying? Am I beating my chest every night and wandering the streets. You want pity? I got none. You wanted me to be your daddy, your mommy, your brother, your sister, you auntie and uncle, your best friend? Too bad, not going to happen. Needed morale support? Go to church. Wanted to learn more about the world? Should’ve stayed in school. Had it rough growing up? I was standing right next to you the whole time. Wanted somebody to hold you at night?!? Fuck you! I didn’t ask for you. I never even had a say in whether you could exist. What did you expect from me? I became a man on my own. With no help. Beating my fist against the walls, trying to find my own way. Pops ran out on us, so what? Probably the last smart thing that dumb bitch ever did. I know his type, what’s the point of having him around? And mom was strung out, yeah I was there when she started. I went days without food and learned to beg and borrow. But you never had to, JACK: (cont’d) Did you? I learned which cans to dig in for food and what dumps to get rugs and chairs from, how to call electricity and trick them into turning the lights back on and when to stand my ground against gangs, dealers, thugs, pimps, creditors, cops, junkies, and the motherfucking I-R-S. And they were all trying to kick my ass at one time or another. I don’t blame the world. I don’t blame anybody for shit and I don’t ask anybody for shit. I’m self-made, flaws and all. And this is my property, cracks dents and bumps. I own all of it. So if you’re gonna shoot, shoot. But don’t waste my fucking time because I have to tend to my property, my life. My business. (JACK wraps his hands around TROY’s and removes the bullets. He hands it back to him.) JACK: Get going. TROY: What? JACK: I don’t want you, I don’t need you, I don’t know you. If I see you again, I’m kicking your ass on-site. You’re nothing. You’re a corner clocker. And that’s all you are to me. That’s it. And the world would be a lot better if you never existed, which I’m happy to oblige. (JACK walks away. TROY breaks down, shaking and tearing up for a moment. Then he gets angry and soon enraged. He begins to exit and then stops mid-stride. He turns around and points the empty gun in Jack’s direction and pulls the trigger. The sound of a clock alarm explodes.) SUNRISE INTERLUDE A city awakens. Several more alarm clocks explode with noise. Cars, machines and babies erupt with life. A sound collage builds of the world waking up. Honking car horns, burglar alarms builds into a cacophony. ACT 1.5 The noise fades away as the lights come up on JASON lying awake in bed with DENISE. She’s sound asleep and nudges up against him. He gently takes her into his arms and looks at her: long and hard. After a few moments of thought, he carefully tries to extricate himself. He artfully slides from her grasp and out of bed. He searches for his pants, shoes and shirt. DENISE Spring 2015 Proscenium  51


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rustles in the sheets and stretches for his body. JASON hops back into the bed. DENISE: How are you? JASON: …wonderful. DENISE: Are you? JASON: Oh yeah. Wonderful. DENISE: You want some breakfast? JASON: Denise, I think I should get going. DENISE: Why? JASON: Well I have to get ready for work. Go home, freshen upDENISE: Jason, you can do that here. You can use my shower. JASON: Thanks, but I don’t shower. I take baths. DENISE: Eww…you should shower. It’s more efficient. JASON: Baths are more regal…more romantic. DENISE: Okay, Romeo. You can bathe here. JASON: Uhh…I don’t think so. DENISE: Why not? JASON: I have to use my own. DENISE: But you just said it’s romanticJASON: -yesDENISE: -then what better way of finishing off a romantic night together then waking up in the morning and taking a romantic bath …together? JASON: Germs. DENISE: What? JASON: Your tub is littered with germs. Which is fine and natural. But they’re not mine. They’re yours. DENISE: We just spent the night together! JASON: Fucking is different from bathing. DENISE: Oh, so is that all that was? A fuck. JASON: Denise, you know what I mean. I just want to use my own. (DENISE gets up and walks around the bed to his side.) DENISE: Fine. Let me fix you some breakfastJASON: I don’t eat breakfast until after I’ve bathed. DENISE: What? JASON: I don’t eat until after I’ve bathed. DENISE: Is this some strange ritualistic shit? JASON: You ooze out what you take in. Through your ass, your eyes, your lips, your breath and your skin. Whatever you eat comes out your body. If you sashayed in there and whipped me up a homestyle country breakfast of eggs, bacon, fish, cheese grits and toast washed down with a orange juice and coffee and I went home and took a bath, what do you think I would be sitting in? In that great, big breakfast. Mixing the runny eggs and dessicated fish in my coffee. The cheese grits and toast in my orange juice. All mixed together in one big cauldron that I’d be sitting in, right before I slipped on my shirt, slacks, shoes and socks and headed out the door. Smelling like a mash of food and drink that’s been stewing in a tub for a half hour. Could you 52 Proscenium Spring 2015


imagine how that feels? Every pore of your body marinating in food, basting in breakfast. Are you willing to take the blame for the strange looks I’ll get? For that faint whiff I’ll be sending out with every step and breath as I make my co-workers nauseous? Would anyone want to date a man like that? Would anyone want to work with a man like that, who fouls the air and earth with each breath his skin exhales. Would anyone take showers or take back a man like that? No. So I’m going to take baths, clean and eat breakfast only when I am done. If that’s all right with you? DENISE: …Are you all right? JASON: I’m wonderful. DENISE: Jason…what did you mean by ‘take back?’ JASON: What? DENISE: You said, would anyone be willing to take back a man like that. JASON: Did I? DENISE: Yes. JASON: Oh. (laughs) I meant take baths. Takes showers, take baths. Take showers, take baths. You see? DENISE: Yeah. I see all right. JASON: And what’s that supposed to mean? DENISE: You think I’m slow? Like I can’t tell the difference between an accident and a… a- aa Freudian trip? JASON: …it’s a Freudian slip, Denise. DENISE: So you ad-mit’it?!? JASON: No, I was correcting you. It’s called a Freudian slip. DENISE: So? What the fuck do I care if it’s a slip, trip, dip or sip? JASON: I just thought you’d like to be educated. DENISE: Oh! Oh! So now, I’m ign’ant. Is that it? First I’m slow and now I’m ig’nant. JASON: No, Denise. I don’t think you’re ig-no-rant. DENISE: Schools in session, huh? Well I got something to educate your ass to: Christine ain’t ‘taking you back’ anyhow. JASON: And how do you know that? DENISE: Because I talked to her last night at Jazmine’s party. She said she was getting out of here. JASON: Where the hell would she suddenly get money to move? DENISE: I don’t know and I don’t care. I’m just happy she got away from you. JASON: I’ll talk to the landlord. DENISE: I thought you had to go to work. JASON: Stay the hell out of it! It doesn’t concern you. DENISE: I know, I was just a cheap fuck. JASON: No…that’s not what I meant. DENISE: That’s the way you act. Shoes, socks and everything all lined up when I woke. You were planning on skipping out, weren’t you? (The lights go out.) What the hell is it now? Spring 2015 Proscenium  53


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JASON: Well, did you pay your light bill? DENISE: Yeah I paid the damn bill! I’m not like you, I actually have a good job and making DENISE (cont’d) Something of myself. I’ve never been on welfare. I have always supported myself, unlike you. Your moma was known as the block welfare queen when we was growing up. I know that just rubbed off on your and your sorry, dependant self. Always asking for handouts…what? Don’t ‘shhh’ me. This is my home. You don’t pay rent here do you? So don’t ‘shhh’ me…what? JASON: …are you sure your bill didn’t do a Freudian trip? What?…your idea of a promotion is moving from the deep frier to the grill… (goes to window) so what? What’s that supposed to mean? I’ve never been on welfare? Is that an accomplishment? Do you put that on your resume? Special skills: allergic to welfare…shhh…I think… if you would please just shut up for a second… looks like the entire neighborhood is out. JASON: I said it looks like there’s a brownout. DENISE: Are you sure? JASON: Yeah, out. DENISE: But why? There’s not a cloud in the sky. JASON: It’s summer. Everybody blasting their A/C, stocking the fridges and flipping on the TV. Probably blew out some transformer. Power is out. In the entire neighborhood. DENISE: Which is where you about to be? Out. In the neighborhood. Get your shit. JASON: I’m leaving anyway. DENISE: Good then. First thing we’ve agreed about all morning. JASON: And I have taken baths with other women. With women I love and respect. Regal women. In Christine’s apartment. DENISE: Get over! She’s gone. It’s a mute point. JASON: Moot! It’s a moot point! As in there’s no clear resolution. Mute is what you do to a TV and what I’d like to do to your face right now! (She begins throwing his clothes out. A tussle ensues.) JASON: Bitch, are you crazy? DENISE: I said get out! JASON: Let me get my stuff. Don’t get mad just because I love her more than you. That’s childish. DENISE: What? JASON: I said it. I love her. Those are the only people I take baths with. DENISE: Out! JASON: I’m not going out there naked. DENISE: Either that or I’ll call the police and said you tried to rape me. Then you’ll have to switch to showers. (DENISE shoves him out and slams the door. She finds another article of clothing and throws it out the door. After taking a moment to calm down, she lays on the bed. Then she gets up, realizing its tainted with him. She jumps up and opens a trash can. She rips off the sheets, quilts and pillow covers and balls them up in her arms. Then she stops and smells the sheets.) 54 Proscenium Spring 2015


(Outside, Jason picks his stuff off the ground. Then he looks back at Denise’s apartment. He feels remorse and goes to the door. He’s about to knock, but stops himself. He exits.) ACT 1.6 Setting: Dog kennel. CRAIG, mid-20s and arrogant, sits with TONYA and LUIS in pitch darkness. They each hold a flashlight. The dogs bark intermittently, but spend most of the time panting from the heat. There’s a sexual tension between CRAIG AND TONYA. LUIS is lost in thought. CRAIG: This is hell. TONYA: What? CRAIG: Heat, without light. Space without freedom. And these fucking barking dogs. Sometimes I think that this is hell. That I’m being punished for something. TONYA: Punished for what? (Beat.) TONYA: Well let’s skip the punishment and get to the pleasure CRAIG: (stops her) Let’s not. TONYA: Why? You afraid of Jason coming in? He’s two hours late. They’re probably gonna can his ass anyway. CRAIG: I wish they would fire me. TONYA: You need this job, Craig. Just like me. Just like all of us. CRAIG: Hell, it’d be Christmas in August. This has got to be the worst job in the fucking city. TONYA: It ain’t that bad. All we need is a little air and light. CRAIG: Cutting dogs open and putting them to sleep. Stuck in a fucking basement with no light and no A/C with hundred sick, lost and/or rabid bitches. TONYA: Craig, I don’t think they intentionally turned the power off. CRAIG: Course not. Hottest day on record and the power goes out. Tending to dogs in the dark. Sometimes I wonder if this job is even worth it. TONYA: At least it’s something. CRAIG: Barely. TONYA: Could say it’s bare bones. CRAIG: You’re corny. TONYA: Fuck you. CRAIG: Too hot. TONYA: Hey, Luis. You still there? LUIS: I’m here. TONYA: Why are you so quiet? LUIS: Just thinking. TONYA: Not good. LUIS: Why not? TONYA: In this heat. No good thoughts come out of this weather. In this blackness. LUIS: I was just thinking about asking for a raise. TONYA: See, I told you. LUIS: Those assholes in the front office know I got kids to feed. I should be getting more. Spring 2015 Proscenium  55


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TONYA: Luis, you just started. Times are slow. CRAIG: And hot. LUIS: And dark, so? I have to make a move. I can’t rot in this kennel forever. I’m gonna be 30 in a few months, guys. Thirty-years-old and I’ve never even had a desk. My own phone. A computer. Nothing. I’ve worked nametag jobs my whole life. TONYA: Then why did you take this job in the first place? LUIS: Because I needed it. Why does anybody take a job? CRAIG: My father used to train greyhounds. These tall, lanky agile creatures with giant black marble eyes. Ever seen one up close? Near perfection. Some people love horses and think they’re the most beautiful runners. And I admit, back in my gambling days watching them gallop down the track was pretty nice. But horses crash and fall. Their legs break too often and have to be shot. I’ve seen some of the best horses get a chipped bone and by next month their using its meat for burger patties, its hooves for jello, its hair is in a beauty parlor and the rest of it is somewhere out there in a glue bottle preparing to stick to kid’s heart-shaped mother’s day card. For my money, I’ll take a greyhound. All they do is run and when they can’t run ‘em anymore they’re useless. That’s all they can really do. You can’t eat ‘em, use their hair for weave or anything else. There’s a beauty there. In their singular purpose. Sometimes I wish I had a life like that. Like a greyhound. To be treated as king. Sure it’s only for a few years but… more than most of us get all our life. And to be able to do one thing absolute. With purity and precision. To have a goal. To have vision. LUIS: What makes them run so well? CRAIG: Fear. LUIS: Fear? But you just said they’re treated like kings. CRAIG: I know. And a good king is always afraid of losing his crown. That’s how they stay on top. And the ones at the bottom…don’t do shit. Just dream without desire. Wish without any will. That’s why they stay there. At the bottom. (LUIS begins pacing around.) TONYA: Well we’re being treated like some kind of dogs, but they ain’t greyhound. LUIS: We’re the mutts. That’s the way we’re being treated. DAMNIT!!! ( He knocks over tool kit. Barking crescendos for a moment)…I’m about to lose my mind down here. Why don’t they just let us go home? We can’t work in this. What do they expect us to do? (pause) Typical. This is just so fucking typical. Shoving us down into the basement, leaving us in the dark, with no air, no water, no light. With a bunch of fucking dogs. That’s what they think of us. Bunch of fucking animals fit for cages. And not even good ones. Those top-of-the-line dogs get treated better than us. We’re the mangy garbage. Unwashed and unwanted. Those lame n’ limp bitches people kick on the street. That get run over by cars and trucks. That get shot at for sport. (JASON enters and slams the door behind him. He’s flustered and struggles to turn on his flashlight.) TONYA: Late again. JASON: So what? TONYA: Gonna dock your pay. JASON: I’ll live. TONYA: Maybe even fire you. 56 Proscenium Spring 2015


JASON: Like I give a fuck…and until they do I’m still your supervisor. TONYA: So what? Supervisor, that don’t mean anything. You getting paid the same amount as me, fool. They just gave you a desk and title and shoved more tasks up your ass. Supervisor is just a punk job. JASON: And you’re under me…as usual. TONYA: Fuck you. JASON: Not anymore, honey. TONYA: Shut up! CRAIG: A little past history between you guys? TONYA: Very much in the past. Before I dropped his ass. JASON: You dropped me? You dropped me? TONYA: Yeah, just like Denise dumped you and just like Christine left. JASON: Go fuck yourself. TONYA: If I did, I’d do a better job at it then you. CRAIG: But she doesn’t have to worry about it now. TONYA: No, I don’t baby. JASON: You two together? (Laughs) Congratulations you deserve each other. CRAIG: What the hell does that mean? JASON: It means get back to work. CRAIG: How genius? All the power is out. JASON: Then go upstairs and help out. CRAIG: We did and they shoved us back down here. JASON: Well then clean up all these tools on the floor. CRAIG: Do I look like the fucking janitor? JASON: Hey! Do what I say. CRAIG: Motherfucker, you are tripping. I ain’t doing shit. I didn’t even knock them over. TONYA: Course you would know that if your ass showed up on time. JASON: I don’t care, I’m telling Craig to clean it up. CRAIG: Or what? LUIS: (stands up) Guys, just stop. I knocked them over. I’ll clean them up. JASON: Sit down Luis. LUIS: What? JASON: (shoving him down) I said sit down! Nobody is talking to you! Craig, clean up this mess. CRAIG: Lou just said he wanted to. JASON: I didn’t assign Lou the job. I gave it to you. CRAIG: And I’m giving it to Lou. LUIS: You’re not giving me anything, okay. I said I would do it and I will. JASON: No, you’re not. LUIS: (stands up) Yes I am. JASON: NO…(shoves him back down) you are not. LUIS: Don’t shove me. JASON: Then don’t disobey my orders. Spring 2015 Proscenium  57


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LUIS: Disobey your orders? This ain’t the navy, who do you think you’re talking to? JASON: I’m talking to my employee. A 30-year-old who still works at an entry position. A man so dumb he knocked up his high school sweetheart, not once, but twice. A man who’s failed at everything! A man who isn’t in charge of his own life or even his wife. LUIS: What the hell are you talking about? JASON: Like everyone wasn’t noticing Jack and her at your little pathetic rent party. Like she isn’t already getting fucked by him to pay for the light bill. (LUIS picks up a sharp, long, screwdriver.) LUIS: Say that again. JASON: What are you doing? LUIS: You don’t know the first thing about anyone. JASON: Put down the screwdriver. LUIS: You don’t know anything. JASON: Put down that fucking driver! LUIS: I’m not taking orders from you. What are you gonna do? Call security on me? JASON: I don’t need security. (JASON picks up another screwdriver. JASON and LUIS’S start circling each other, with the beams from their flashlights stabbing around each other, searching. The dogs are barking and yelping wildly. Everyone has to scream over their cries.) CRAIG: Hey! Just wait a minute… TONYA: Get him, Lou. Get him. CRAIG: …just calm down. LUIS: Why? You know you wanted to do this for a long time, too. JASON: One at a time, one at a time. I’ve got all day to handle all of you. LUIS: Got a fucking title and desk. While we’re stuck down here sweating it out in the dark. CRAIG: Luis don’tLUIS: Maybe you’re right, Craig. Maybe this is hell. And if it is, then what do I have to lose? I’ve gotten nothing, so they can’t take anything awayCRAIG: It’s just the heat that’s making you say this shit. Once there’s air, once there’s lightLUIS: Then everything will be all right? CRAIG: Then you can see things for what they really are. This man doesn’t have anything on you but a title. And what does that mean? JASON: It means I have a better chance of getting your wife to fuck me than you do. (LUIS flails wildly at JASON who jumps back.) CRAIG: Guys you’re too close to the cages. Back upTONYA: Cut him open, Lou. You ain’t shit if you don’t make this motherfucker bleed. CRAIG: If you knock one of these shelves over they’re gonna domino. LUIS: At least my wife doesn’t fucking ditch my ass in the middle of the night, like your girl. And everyone else. (JASON flies at LUIS who falls back.) JASON: What d’ya got now? What d’ya got now? Gonna stand here circling me all day. Can’t make up your mind, can you? That was always your problem. Even in high school you were a little slow…never make up your mind about anything. Weak. You are weak, slow and stupid. 58 Proscenium Spring 2015


Damn, I pity you. Even your fucking, whore-ass wife calls you stupid to your face. TONYA: Hey, watch it you’re gonna set loose the… (LUIS drops his screwdriver. He sprints into JASON and tackles him, piledriving him into a shelf. They all fall over. One shelf at a time, they collapse in a heap of cages filled with screaming dogs. Many of the dogs can be heard breaking free and scattering around the basement. In the apocalyptic chaos, JASON and LUIS regain their senses. Empty and silent. All the dogs are gone. JASON, CRAIG, LUIS and TONYA look wildly about in vain. They realize it’s too late.) TONYA: Dogs. END OF ACT ONE ACT 2.1 The Blackout is still in effect and city noise is at peak level. A mid-afternoon chaotic symphony of people, animals and machines build. TROY, JACK and JASMINE stand on the stage facing the audience, talking to an unseen person. Their dialogue overlaps. JASMINE: I need a favor. JACK: I need the rent. TROY: I need you to take care of something. A special delivery. JACK: It’s quite simple. JASMINE: Just another few days. I promise. TROY: Special delivery. For my brother. After it’s done you’ll get your money. JACK: This fucking neighborhood. Always looking for a hand-out. This isn’t a charity service. You want something you gotta give something, honey. So what d’ya gonna give me? JASMINE: And afterward, you’ll get your money. JASMINE/TROY: I’d do anything. JACK: That’s not good enough. JASMINE/TROY: Do this for me and I’ll be the mostJACK: Grateful? JASMINE: …Appreciative… TROY: …relieved, motherfucker you ever met. JACK: And then next month will be back to the same thing? No. JASMINE: -one-time… JACK: -one-time? Yeah, rightTROY: -one-time deal. In and out. Quick. So what do you say? (pause) Come on! What’s wrong with you?!? Make a fucking decision already! JASMINE: You know, it’s not right to kick somebody when they’re down. JACK: You fall down, then pick yourself up! TROY: Look there a million other people who’re willing to do it! TROY: I lost my temper. JASMINE: I’ve been going through some problems. JACK: We all have problems. I have one. TROY: It’s this fucking heat. Been driving me crazy. JASMINE: Dog days of summer. JACK: All right, I understand. Spring 2015 Proscenium  59


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JASMINE: So what does that mean? TROY: Does that mean yes? JASMINE: I’ve never done this before. I don’t want you thinking I’m that type of woman. I’m never done this. JACK: Congratulations. There’s a first time for everything. Today… JASMINE: I’ll blame it on the heat, right? That’s what they say, sometimes. It was the heat. JACK: What are you gonna do for me? ACT 2.2 SETTING: Living Room. JASMINE and Luis enter with flashlights. LUIS: Do you love me? JASMINE: What? LUIS: Jazz, do you love me? JASMINE: You took me away from my kids to ask me that? LUIS: Yes. (JASMINE gets up.) I need to know. JASMINE: What did you do? LUIS: What? JASMINE: You wreck the car? Spent all our savings? Is your mother coming to stay with us, because I can’t stand that bitchLUIS: Jazz! Do youJASMINE: Yes! Of course! We’re married. (LUIS comes up to JASMINE and they hug. JASMINE looks into his eyes. They stop hugging.) JASMINE: What happened? LUIS: They let me go. JASMINE: …they let you go? LUIS: There was an accident. JASMINE: There was an accident. LUIS: But it wasn’t my fault. JASMINE: But it wasn’t your fault. LUIS: Jazz! (Beat.) LUIS: I did it for you. JASMINE: Thank you. LUIS: I’m serious. JASMINE: And I’m just playing around? Luis…what happened? LUIS: Jason was saying things… JASMINE: And? LUIS: About you and me. JASMINE: And? LUIS: It’s hard to explain. JASMINE: But it’s easy to fight over? LUIS: Jasmine, I love you. JASMINE: You’ve said that before. 60 Proscenium Spring 2015


LUIS: What else can I say? JASMINE: How about ‘don’t worry about it, Jasmine. I’ll take care of everything,’ or ‘you and the kids can depend on me.’ LUIS: You want me to say that? JASMINE: No, I want you to mean it. LUIS: But what if I’m not sure. JASMINE: THAT…is exactly the problem. (JASMINE exits into the bedroom and slams the door.) LUIS: Jazz…I’m going go out, first thing in the morning, and pound the pavement. All day. I’ve got a few friends I can call. You don’t have anything to worry about. They say it’s a bad economy. But I think any time is good for someone with a strong back and some motivation. I have it. (pause) Jazz. I’m scared. I’m scared you’re gonna leave me. I’m scared of where I’m going. I realized that when I was sitting there at work. In that basement, with no A/C or lights. My clothes were drenched in sweat and smelling like dog shit, piss and vomit. Stench was so bad my eyes started swelling up with tears. I was sitting there and I got scared. I started thinking that maybe this was all I was meant to do. I realized it was the first time I had cried since you were in the hospital with Paul and I thought you might not make it. I thought of our empty home. That was the last time and I remember it. And when I thought of it, I started crying. But this time for real. Not because of the smell, but because I thought I was losing something. I wept. Sitting there in the dark, biting down on my lip so the guys couldn’t here. I wept until I got a headache. I never want to go there again. (JASMINE comes out in an alluring dress with a pocketbook and gloves.) LUIS: Where are you going? JASMINE: First I’m going to the store to get something. LUIS: And then where? JASMINE: To pay the rent. LUIS: Stop playing around. JASMINE: No, Lou. That’s what we do. Play around. Talk about doing this and that, building and doing it big. Our heads are held so high we can’t even see our today problems. And this is a today-right-now-problem that I need to solve. LUIS: With who? JASMINE: Who do you think? LUIS: And what’s Jack going to have you do? JASMINE: What does it matter? LUIS: Because you’re my wife. JASMINE: Husband and wife in words. Not in deeds. In that sense we might as well be strangers. LUIS: You’re going to sleep with him? JASMINE: What? LUIS: Are you gonna fuck him? JASMINE: You have no right to ask me that. You have no right. I don’t give a damn what paper we signed or ring we put on each other. Where do you get off asking me that question? Where do you get off making me feel…wrong? Spring 2015 Proscenium  61


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LUIS: It’s infidelity. You’re supposed to feel wrong. JASMINE: And how should you feel, Luis? How should you feel? How can you walk back home every day and stand it? How can you open that mouth to say shit to me, about anything? LUIS: You’re not going to walk out. JASMINE: I’m not? LUIS: You’re testing me. JASMINE: If I was you’ve already failed. LUIS: You think I’m going to let you do this? JASMINE: You think I’m going to sleep on the street just because I’ll be lying next to you? LUIS: If you walk out that door… JASMINE: …what? If I walk out that door, what? LUIS: Don’t leave. (JASMINE heads for the door.) I’m sorry that I lost the money! JASMINE: What? LUIS: The money from the rent party. None of this would have happened if I was more careful. JASMINE: (sorrow)…honey…we’ve been heading this way for a long time. (LUIS is as stunned by Jasmine’s statement as by his awareness in its truth.) LUIS: I know…but…the money… JASMINE: What was the argument about? LUIS: What? JASMINE: The one that lead to you being fired? LUIS: It’s hard to explain. JASMINE: Try me. (Beat.) LUIS: Dogs. ACT 2.3 Setting: Jack’s living room has been done over into a plastic tropical paradise with candles. Jack is sitting in front of the TV in swimming trunks and flip flops. He’s drinking something exotic and another cup sits by his side. He flips through the channels. There’s a knock at the door. JACK: It’s open. I’ve been waiting for… (LUIS walks in looking ragged.) Oh. Luis. I thought you were someone else. Jesus, man! You look like shit. Thought you were supposed to be at work. The heat and the blackout are kicking your ass, huh? You want something? LUIS: No. JACK: What’s your business? LUIS: To talk. JACK: That’s it? LUIS: That and I have something for you. JACK: Can it wait? I’m expecting a visitor in a few minutes. LUIS: I won’t be long. 62 Proscenium Spring 2015


JACK: What do you want to talk about? I already put in an order for a plumber to come by and fix the sink you said was leaking, so you don’t have to worry. What else is it? People upstairs making too much noise again? LUIS: (points to surrounding) What is this? JACK: Oh, this? This is my oasis. No troubles, no worries. Leave your problems behind. We all need our little oasis, right? Somewhere we can go to escape. Especially on days like this. Life’s a fucking desert, Lou. If you don’t build your own oasis, you’ll die of thirst. I always believed that once you have a place for yourself in this world, you can have some sort of peace. Personally I think there’s not going to be world peace until every man is assigned his own spot of land. A piece for peace, yaknowhatimsaying? (Laughs) I like that, a piece for peace. Well this is my piece when I’m trying to be at peace. What about you, Lou? Do you have a piece for yourself? LUIS: Yes. JACK: Really? What is it? LUIS: …Jasmine. JACK: (uncomfortable pause) Sure you don’t want a drink? LUIS: Jack, what do you think about that? JACK: Lou, I really don’t have time for thisLUIS: -what do you think about that, Jack? About Jasmine being my oasis. JACK: Well, she’s your wife. LUIS: Yeah, she is. And I don’t know what I would do if someone took her. It would be like taking away my sanity, you know? JACK: There’s the inherent flaw in finding peace in other people. LUIS: What is? JACK: You just said Jasmine is your oasis. And you wouldn’t know what you would do if someone took her away. Well…you’re assuming that someone is taking something from you… when you might have already lost her to someone. By yourself. LUIS: What are you saying Jack? JACK: Nothing. I’m just saying it’s always safer to invest in property, not people. My oasis can’t get up and leave me. LUIS: Mine isn’t either. At least not without a fight. JACK: A fight? With who? LUIS: You remember the movie, “Lawrence of Arabia”? JACK: Lou, what does this have to do with anything? LUIS: When I was a little boy I used to watch it all the time. One of my favorite movies: adventure, intrigue, military strategy. Epic history re-created on screen. But the scene I always remember, more than any other one, is when Peter O’Toole -or Lawrence- is with his guide and they use someone else’s well. You remember, that? Miles and miles of burning white sand. In the distance they spot a well and rush over there. Dying of thirst. But it’s not their oasis. They’re trespassing. And on the horizon Lawrence’s guide spots a black dot and his face changes into horror. Before he can aim his gun, his guide has a bullet in his head. The black dot grows bigger and bigger until Lawrence sees it’s a Bedouin tribesman. Omar Sharif was great in that role. So O’Toole’s character is furious, almost foaming at the mouth with rage. He screams about how Spring 2015 Proscenium  63


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cruel Sharif is. How could he shoot him? He just wanted a drink of water. We were just passing through. All this shit. And Sharif is just sitting there. High up on his camel, robed in all black with a rifle slung over his shoulder. He sits there looking down at O’Toole, waiting for him to finish. And when O’Toole finishes his tirade Sharif says three words. Three words which end the conversation: he was trespassing. That’s it. End of discussion, case closed. You see some motherfucker had stepped on his oasis and Sharif shot him dead. No questions asked. And in the laws of the desert, Sharif was right. The guide knew it when he saw that black dot approaching on the horizon. He knew that he was wrong. He knew that he was going to die. And Sharif knew that he had to kill him. Otherwise, you’re not a man. And tomorrow Sharif would have had another trespasser, and the next day another, until all the men in the surrounding tribes would be stopping by Sharif’s spot. Squatting on his property, thinking they could do whatever they want with his oasis. Then he would’ve lost not just his piece, but his peace. In this world you gotta fight to keep both. That’s what I have to do. Because nobody is taking anything from me. If someone is trespassing on my peace, then I won’t hesitate. JACK: Hesitate to do what? What’s this got to do with me? LUIS: I don’t know. What does it have to do with you? JACK: Well you seem to be implying something. LUIS: I think that’s just your conscience. JACK: No, that’s you. Unless you go around talking about Sharif and O’Toole and the sociological implications of “Lawrence of Arabia” to everyone you meet. LUIS: Only to the people I think need it. JACK: You know, Lou, why don’t you just leave. You’ve obviously had more to drink then me and you’re a little heated. Just go home and sleep it off. LUIS: Who are you waiting for? JACK: What? LUIS: When I came in, you looked like you were expecting someone else. Who? JACK: I’m waiting for the plumber. LUIS: (pointing to other cup) You always fix fancy tropical drinks for the plumber? JACK: Lou, is this what you came here to do? Ask questions about me and Jasmine? LUIS: You made some sort of deal with my wife? JACK: If I did, it’s between me and her. LUIS: Is that how it works? JACK: That’s how it works. LUIS: You fucking her? JACK: Get out. LUIS: I can’t. Your brother made a deal with me. JACK: Keep it to yourself and get out. LUIS: No, it involves you. He wanted me to give you something. JACK: I don’t care. LUIS: You don’t care. JACK: No. LUIS: So you don’t want it? JACK: No. Get out before I throw you out. 64 Proscenium Spring 2015


LUIS: Well you’re going to get it. JACK: You’re pretty arrogant for someone who hasn’t paid the rent. LUIS: You’re pretty arrogant considering. JACK: Considering what? LUIS: You’re trespassing. ACT 2.4 BILLY, CLAIRE and JASON are sitting out on the front steps eating ice cream cones. They’re laughing and in the middle of a conversation. BILLY: Everywhere? JASON: In every corner, behind the stairs, in some of the air ducts. Don’t ask me how they got there. CLAIRE: I wish I could’ve seen it. JASON: Every breed you could imagine. Chihuahuas, boxers, poodles, German shepherds running around the entire building. It was like a riot at Westminster. BILLY: You seem to be taking it all very well. JASON: In stride ladies, that’s the only way to take things. CLAIRE: You haven’t even brought up her name once. JASON: Who’s name? CLAIRE: Christine. (JASON crushes the cone in his hand until the ice cream oozes out over his fist.) CLAIRE: Oh my. BILLY: Now look at what you did. CLAIRE: I’m sorry. BILLY: You just don’t know when to keep your mouth shut, do you? CLAIRE: I said I’m sorry. JASON: Ladies, it’s all right. BILLY: It’s not all right. This heifer just can’t stop talking until she’s started something. CLAIRE: Who you calling a heifer? BILLY: I’m calling you a heifer, heifer. If the cowbell fits wear it. I’ve seen the way you eat. Chewing on bread like cud. Seen more sophistication in barnyards. What? You must’ve slipped and bumped your horns…what figure? Seeing you coming down the street is like watching a pair of six’es rub against each other…and that’s all I’m gonna say. CLAIRE: You best not talk about me like that. I know where you live and I got your number. Furthermore I’m a lot younger than you and I look it. Ask anyone passing by who has it better. Just look at my face and my figure…I’m talking about my figure. You haven’t had a figure since the March on Washington. Last time your ass got any exercise. JASON: Do you two do this a lot? BILLY/CLAIRE: No. JASON: Got a little bit on my pants. CLAIRE: Let me get that. JASON: It’s fine, I’ve got it. BILLY: You don’t know what you’re doing, I’ll get it. Spring 2015 Proscenium  65


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(BILLY and CLAIRE are bent over JASON’S pants and continue arguing.) CLAIRE: I said I would get it. BILLY: And I said you don’t know what you’re doing. Step asideCLAIRE: -I know exactly what he needsBILLY: -You already messed up his pants once(CLAIRE puts handkerchief in her mouth and takes it out.) CLAIRE: Just a little dabble. BILLY: What are you doing?!? Using spit like it’s discount soap. You’re such a heathen. (DENISE walks up to the steps.) CLAIRE: This will get it out. BILLY: No, what he needs is some club soda. JASON: Denise! (JASON manages to free his appendages from the old ladies and clings on to DENISE.) DENISE: Hello. JASON: So glad to see you. DENISE: Jason, what are you doing here? JASON: Just hanging around… with my girls: Claire and Billy. DENISE: Your girls, huh? What are you doing hanging with your girls? It’s 5 o’clock. Shouldn’t you be at work? CLAIRE: He doesn’t have to worry about that anymore. DENISE: Canned again? JASON: Suspended without pay…status pending. DENISE: You’re pathetic. Well, what happened? JASON: How about we go for a walk and I can tell you. DENISE: I don’t have timeJASON: -just a few minutes. DENISE: I’m really busy. JASON: Come on, Denise. Just a walk. We could go get some ice cream, catch up on things… DENISE: Jason! JASON: What? DENISE: I don’t know where Christine went. JASON: You don’t? DENISE: No. So you can stop acting nice to me, ok? (DENISE un-attaches JASON and heads up the stairs.) JASON: Denise. DENISE: What? JASON: Want to go for a walk? DENISE: Jason, what did I just tell you? I don’t know about anyone except for myself. JASON: That’s what I want to talk about: you. DENISE: Why? JASON: I want to apologize for what I did to you. DENISE: Apology accepted. Consider everything wiped clean. JASON: I don’t want that. 66 Proscenium Spring 2015


DENISE: What? JASON: I don’t want everything to be clean and done between us. DENISE: So you’d rather have it messy and hateful like the past few months? JASON: I don’t want that either. DENISE: Then what do you want? JASON: I don’t know. (pause) Walk with me. DENISE: I have to fix dinner. JASON: Walk with me and I’ll get you some dessert. Some ice cream. DENISE: I shouldn’t be having dessert. JASON: Denise, you’re fine. DENISE: I’ve gotta watch my figure. JASON: I’ll watch it for you. Now will you quit stalling? I can tell you everything that happened at work. All the ridiculous details. At least listen to my story. BILLY: It’s quite a funny story. CLAIRE: Go with him, honey. (Beat.) DENISE: I’m doing this because of your girls. JASON: Thank you. (to Billy and Claire) Thank you. (JASON and DENISE exit.) BILLY: What do you make of it? CLAIRE: I don’t think there is anything. BILLY: Sounded like they have a history. CLAIRE: History is good, but it can’t make a relationship. BILLY: That isn’t a very promising for us. We’re so old all we got is history. CLAIRE: We got something else. BILLY: Claire, I swear to God, if you say we have each other I will dump this ice cream on your $5 flea market wig. CLAIRE: Do it and you’ll be sweeping your teeth up off the steps. BILLY: Why do you have to talk about my teeth? CLAIRE: Why do you have to talk about my hair? (Beat.) CLAIRE: Ain’t it funny? BILLY: What? CLAIRE: We spend all our lives grooming and cleaning and brushing those two things: our teeth and hair. Even when we lose some of it, we put these fake pieces in just so we can feel like we’re still young. To fool ourselves, because we ain’t fooling anyone else. And when we die, the only thing we leave behind is some bones, teeth and hair. BILLY: No. CLAIRE: No what? BILLY: That ain’t funny. CLAIRE: I didn’t mean funny in a ha-ha way. BILLY: What other type of funny is there? CLAIRE: There’s boo-hoo funny. Spring 2015 Proscenium  67


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BILLY: Boo-what? CLAIRE: Boo-hoo funny, as in you gotta laugh in order not to cry. BILLY: Claire, you’ve lost it. CLAIRE: You’ve never laughed at a funeral? BILLY: Laughing at a funeral? I certainly hope not. CLAIRE: You’re a simpleton BILLY: Well if it makes you feel any better, Claire, I’ll be laughing at your funeral. CLAIRE: And what makes you think you’re gonna outlast me? BILLY: My spite for you will keep me alive. CLAIRE: I can’t wait till they throw your spiteful carcass in the ground. BILLY: Really? CLAIRE: Yes, really. BILLY: Well let me tell you this: if I catch you laughing at my funeral… CLAIRE: If you catch me? You’ll be dead, you old fool. How are you gonna catch me? How are you gonna stop me from laughing? Nobody tells me when to laugh and cry… BILLY:…there will be hell to pay. I don’t care if I gotta rise up and snatch you -and everyone of your little tighthead friends- bald, I’m gonna get a few tears… (A loud crack echoes through the neighborhood. BILLY and CLAIRE rise to their feet.) CLAIRE: What was that? BILLY: Sounded like a firecracker. CLAIRE: Or worse. BILLY: Probably just some brats setting one off down a drain pipe. (JASON rushes back on-stage.) CLAIRE: What is it? JASON: Call the police. ACT 2.5 SETTING: CRIME SCENE. CRAIG, LUIS, JASON and CLAIRE stand around in shock. LUIS has a bag of ice on his newly swollen eye. JASON: It takes forever for the ambulance to get to this part of town. CRAIG: He had a lot of enemies. I knew a few of them. CLAIRE: What is this neighborhood coming to? Nobody is safe anymore. CRAIG: You think anybody ever was. JASON: They took their sweet time. It was almost 6 before they came. I’ve seen people bleed dry in the streets before 911 showed up to help. CLAIRE: There was a time when you could walk down the streets and not have to worry about this happening. You could just walk. JASON: I was walking with Denise. We found him right after it happened. At the end of this dead-end alley. The blood was still squirting out of his head on the pavement. CRAIG: I was with Tonya in her apartment. CLAIRE: I was sitting out front with Billy when I heard the crack. JASON: What was he doing in an alley like that any way? CRAIG: Do you remember where you were, Luis? 68 Proscenium Spring 2015


(LUIS continues to hold the bag of ice against his eye, without saying a word.) CLAIRE: I think he’s in shock. JASON: It was this fire-engine nail-polish red. It was running down the sidewalk cracks and into the gutter. Small waves of it, rolling down the sidewalk. CLAIRE: And he should be. How are mothers and fathers like Luis and Jasmine supposed to keep a family in an environment like this? Just not safe anymore. CRAIG: Luis, are you ok? JASON: I went back. The terrible thing was I didn’t go back to help him. I knew he was dead. I went back because I couldn’t stop watching. CLAIRE: Is it any wonder our children turn out so messed up? JASON: I couldn’t stop watching. The concrete was so hot his blood starting congealing in these little bubbles. Insects were crawling out of the ground around his head. CRAIG: The police said they’re going to question everybody in the building. CLAIRE: I have nothing to say to them, except if they would do a better job we wouldn’t have murder happening on our front steps. JASON: They were little flecks of brain and skull that were simmering on the sidewalk. The ants had started gathering around these bits and were lifting them up, carrying them back underneath the sidewalk. CRAIG: Everybody better have their stories straight. CLAIRE: People killing each other, and over what? Money, drugs or some stupid girl. Nobody has any sense any more. JASON: A fly circled around his forehead and landed right down on his eyelash. It started stepping across his eye, which had this sticky film coat. It was lifting its legs up and down when it began sliding down the top of the lens and fell into the pool of liquid at the corner of his pupil. CRAIG: I got my witness. Tonya knows I was with her every second. CLAIRE: There’s just isn’t any reason to take someone else’s life. JASON: We all just stood around watching it. This fly. Rolling around in this lifeless eye, trying to get its bearing. When his wings and legs broke free of the liquid it took off. That’s when the police and ambulance arrived. I knew he was dead and so did they. When the driver got out, he didn’t even rush. Just whistling and smacking gum. Like he was picking up the trash off the corner. The cops stood over him finishing their cigarettes. No big deal. And that’s the way we all had to think of it: no big deal. To keep our cool. Because on any given day we knew that could be us they’re picking up off the corner. CRAIG: Nobody liked him. This isn’t so shocking. CLAIRE: Who would do something like that? (Police and ambulance sirens fill the street. They all leave, one-by-one, until there’s just LUIS standing there alone.) ACT 2.6 It’s evening and LUIS sits at the table, nursing his eye when JASMINE walks in. She turns on her flashlight and hits Luis. She walks past him and into the bedroom. She comes back. She’s visibly shaken but tries to busy herself. JASMINE: What do you want for dinner? Spring 2015 Proscenium  69


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LUIS: Not hungry. JASMINE: Well if we don’t get power back on, the food’s going to spoil. So I might as well cook everything. What do you want when you get hungry? LUIS: I’m not going to get hungry tonight. JASMINE: I’ll fix you a plate anyway. LUIS: Did you see the cops out front? JASMINE: No. LUIS: How could you miss them? JASMINE: I wasn’t paying attention. LUIS: They’re questioning everybody. JASMINE: About what? LUIS: Someone got shot around the block. JASMINE: Do they know who did it? LUIS: If they did they wouldn’t be questioning everybody. They were even questioning me, and where I was. JASMINE: And? LUIS: I told them I was with you. JASMINE: Why? LUIS: I wasn’t thinking straight. I got nervous and figured I’d just say my love, my wife…my oasis. JASMINE: What? LUIS: Nevermind. No one’s gonna question that. Now all I need to know is where you were? JASMINE: Walking. (LUIS lunges at JASMINE grabs her. He crushes her between his arms and slams her onto the ground. LUIS thrust himself between her legs and has her by the neck. Their words explode from them in quick burst.) JASMINE: Luis! LUIS: You fucking slut! JASMINE: Let me go! LUIS: You think you can walk out on me, do whatever you want and waltz back in like it’s nothing. What am I supposed to do? And I’m supposed to sit here, grinning like some limp-dick foolJASMINE: -Luis, you’ll wake the kidsLUIS: -I can’t believe my kids call you mother. You’re core rotten. You ragged, loose fucking twat. I could gut you clean. I could rip your intestines out through your whore-ass and choke the shit out of you. Is this the way he fucked? Is this the way he took you? Or was it doggy-style? You bend over and let him shove it up your ass, raw? And I bet he called you dirty names and spat on your breast. You feed my babies with those breast. Those breast you let him spit on and suck. You let him spit on and suck my babies’ food. You let him do you. And you probably enjoyed it. While he spat at and sucked on and fucked through your chicken grease skin and hair. You probably smiled and enjoyed it, thinking you were being a maternal martyr for your family. Thinking you were being a saint by throwing your legs in the air. But you weren’t doing it for us. You were doing this for yourself, so don’t put it on me. You weren’t even thinking about 70 Proscenium Spring 2015


your babies or your husband. Because when he was fucking you, he was fucking us. Of course you’re such a dumb/deaf rotten bitch to realize that. You’re too self-absorbed to realize that. He was spitting at us. Did you know that? When he was fucking you, he was fucking me too. Grinding his dick into meJASMINE: -Luis, it hurtsLUIS: -pounding you swollen, until your teeth broke and your skin fell off your black rotting bones. You’re core rotten. Stinking like bag of dead fish. I can smell it. JASMINE: It didn’t happen that way. LUIS: You’re just saying that so I don’t stab a kitchen knife up your cunt. JASMINE: No! LUIS: Why should I believe you? Tell me one thing that would make me trust you. JASMINE: Troy’s the one who got shot. (LUIS stops. He loosens his grip.) LUIS: How do you know that? JASMINE: I just do. LUIS: I thought you saidJASMINE: I knew. LUIS: How? JASMINE: I never slept with Jack. (LUIS lets her go. JASMINE stands up and catches her breath.) LUIS: He asked you for favors. JASMINE: No, he asked me for one. And I did it. But it didn’t involve sex. LUIS: Then what? JASMINE: Troy. (TROY materializes. The lighting changes to earlier in the day. It’s the side of the building. TROY is pacing back and forth.) LUIS: You were there. JASMINE: I was just the bait. LUIS: Jazz, what did you do? (JASMINE walks into flashback with TROY.) JASMINE: Nothing much. Just asked for the time? TROY: What? JASMINE: The time. TROY: It’s five… JASMINE: Don’t recognize me? TROY: Should I? JASMINE: I guess not. TROY: Then why would you ask? JASMINE: I thought we knew each other…come here often? TROY: Funny. JASMINE: So do you? TROY: Look, lady. What do you want? JASMINE: Nothing much, just the time. Spring 2015 Proscenium  71


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TROY: Well you got it. JASMINE: Time with you. TROY: (laughs) You’re pretty corny. JASMINE: I like it when you smile. TROY: Thanks (pause) are you tricking? JASMINE: No. TROY: Because I ain’t no John. JASMINE: Well I ain’t no trick. I’m not like that. TROY: Right, you just hit on random strangers on the street? JASMINE: Only if they’re handsome. like you. TROY: (laughs) Come here. (JASMINE walks over seductively. TROY grabs her in mid-stride and brings her close. He grabs her chin and harshly examines her face for telling signs.) TROY: Hmmm…if you are a prostitute, you must be new. JASMINE: Take your hands off me. TROY: Or you know how to cover it up. There’s one other way to tell. Under the skirt… (JASMINE breaks free and slaps him.) JASMINE: You fucking asshole! TROY: Hey, take it easy. JASMINE: What the hell do you think you’re doing? TROY: I was just playing. JASMINE: (exiting) Go to hell. TROY: Wait! I’m sorry. Just thought you were one of them. JASMINE: I told you I’m not. TROY: I know, it’s just that random women don’t usually come up to me and start flirting. JASMINE: With the way you react, I think I know why. TROY: You’re right. I’m sorry. JASMINE: Prove it. TROY: Let me buy you a drink. (JASMINE rubs her arms and thinks about it.) JASMINE: I don’t know. TROY: It’s the least I should do. JASMINE: If you really want to do me a favor you can do something else for me. TROY: What’s that? (JASMINE goes up to TROY and whispers. She nudges his earlobe.) JASMINE: What do you think about that? TROY: Sounds like you’d be doing me the favor. JASMINE: The pleasure would be all mine. TROY: No, hold on now. I don’t think the pleasure would be all yours. JASMINE: Come here. (JASMINE begins leading him down a darkened path. But TROY hesitates.) JASMINE: What is it? 72 Proscenium Spring 2015


TROY: I’m supposed to be waiting around for one of my boys. JASMINE: Forget him. TROY: He’ll be worried. JASMINE: Let him worry. He’s the one that kept you waiting. TROY: Guess you’re right. Let’s go… (They start walking off.) JASMINE: It’s right around the corner…oh… TROY: What’s wrong? JASMINE: I just dropped something. Go on ahead, I’ll be right there. TROY: You sure? JASMINE: Yeah, meet me around the corner. (TROY walks down the path and talks as he goes off-stage.) TROY: I can’t wait. This is going to be good. You said, right around here? Never been down this back street. (pause) I don’t see it. Girl, what are you talking about? This is a dead-end. (The CRACK OF A GUNSHOT echoes off the buildings. JASMINE cringes and the lights darken to evening. She’s back in her living room with LUIS, who’s been listening the whole time.) JASMINE: It was one of the other clockers. Jack had worked out a deal. He got rid of his potential problem and the dealer got rid of his competition. LUIS: You’re making this up. JASMINE: Jack tried to get me to sleep with him, but I said no. I told him to give me something, anything else. Because I wanted to be faithful to you. Isn’t that what you wanted? LUIS: Not like this. JASMINE: I keep telling myself I didn’t pull the trigger. I didn’t kill him. And even if I did, he was only a clocker, right? World’s a better place without him. I’m the one with the husband and kids. I’m the one that counts, right? I’m the one that matters. I’ve got kids to feed, I got a family, I got a place to lay my head at night. We don’t mean to do bad things, so we aren’t bad people, right? And that’s what is important: what we mean, because sometimes everything is so awful you can’t help but do bad things. Sometimes there no other choices but the ones that hurt people. And when we destroy things we have to say to ourselves, we didn’t intend for that to happen. We just wanted to survive. And that’s what I was doing. You have to believe me, Luis. LUIS: I believe that you believe everything you just said. But you’re still the one who’s going to pay. You’ve gotta sit with that. You’ve gotta live with it. But I don’t. (LUIS gets up to go, and JASMINE pleads with him.) JASMINE: No, you’re not leaving me. I’ve stuck by you when you had rough times. I stuck by you in your dark days. Well these are mine. LUIS: Jasmine, I don’t think your’s will be ending. And I can’t live under your cloud. JASMINE: You made a vow. LUIS: Not to this. Jasmine, you were my oasis. You were my peace. We shielded each other against all the terror. But somewhere something awful got into you. You changed. JASMINE: We all change. That’s the way of the world. LUIS: But we didn’t marry for the world, Jasmine. That wasn’t a part of us. That was outside. That was other people. We married to stay above the world. Above the chaos. And you’ve slipped and become a part of it. Spring 2015 Proscenium  73


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JASMINE: We can turn it all back, Luis. It’s not too late… you know none of this would have happened if you keep your eye on that box! This whole day would have been different. LUIS: No, Jasmine. What said earlier was right: this day has been coming for a long time. JASMINE: Luis, I didn’t cheat on you. LUIS: I know. JASMINE: I’m not a whore. LUIS: No. You’re something worse. NIGHT INTERLUDE Somber music plays as night falls on the neighborhood. As the blue moonlight glows, we hear the sounds of people gathering outside their apartments and on the apartment steps. Both children and adults come out to play. People blasting their TVs and radios with the window open. Laughter. ACT 2.7 DENISE’S apartment. DENISE enters with her flashlight and JASON follows behind her. DENISE: The bathroom is… JASON: I know where the bathroom is, Denise. DENISE: Right. Put the seat down when you’re finished. JASON: All right. DENISE: What are you waiting for? JASON: What am I waiting for? DENISE: I thought you said you were about to explode. (JASON smiles coyly.) DENISE: Oh…the ol’ gotta use the bathroom trick. That’s lame, Jason. Even by your standards. JASON: Would you have let me up otherwise? DENISE: Probably not. JASON: Then quit calling my game weak, girl. I do what I have to. Glad you let me walk with you. Sorry last night turned out that way. DENISE: No problem. JASON: No problem? DENISE: Yeah, it was no big deal. JASON: Denise, are you all right? DENISE: I’m hoping we get power back before all my stuff rots in the fridge. JASON: I didn’t ask about the stuff in the fridge. DENISE: Normally don’t stay up this late. But I’ll live. JASON: I didn’t ask you if you’ll live. I asked you if you were doing ok? If you were keeping it together? DENISE: I’m keeping it together. JASON: How? DENISE: I’m an independent woman. JASON: That’s a terrible thing. DENISE: What? 74 Proscenium Spring 2015


JASON: Not to have anyone to depend on. DENISE: Not as bad as being dependent on people you can’t trust. JASON: And what if you can trust them? DENISE: Who’s them? The plural ‘you?’ JASON: I’m talking about anybody. DENISE: Well ‘anybody’ walked out on my ass a long time ago. So I had to make plans, so I wouldn’t fall a part. JASON: So you’re keeping it together. An independent woman, who doesn’t need…anybody. DENISE: Yes. JASON: An island. A self-sufficient eco-system of living. Nothing from the outside. DENISE: That’s the plan. JASON: You don’t want anybody. DENISE: I didn’t say that I didn’t want anybody. I just don’t need him. JASON: What if he showed up at your door? DENISE: I’d asked ‘anybody’ what he wanted. JASON: What if it was to use the bathroom? DENISE: I’d tell ‘anybody’ he could and anybody probably already knew where it was. But I’d probably have to remind him to put the seat back down. JASON: What if anybody wanted to touch you? DENISE: Why would he want to do that? JASON: Because anybody knew what a rough day it had been for everybody and he just wanted to make sure that a special somebody knew he cared. (DENISE edges close to him and JASON takes her in his arms. They grip tightly at each other.) JASON: I’m sorry. Been a rough day. DENISE: It’s all right, it’s not your fault. JASON: It’s not my fault, hold up. Did I just hear you say something bad that happened wasn’t my fault? Oh my God, this is incredible. You saying that is like a lunar eclipse or Hailey’s Comet. It must be a special day. DENISE: Ok, I admit. I was a little quick to blame everything on you the past few months. I’m over that. JASON: Hopefully you’re not over me as well. DENISE: Why do you care? JASON: Why? DENISE: Yeah. You’ve been chasing Christine around like she was the last woman in New York. Now all of a sudden you’re acting nice to me. What are you trying to do? JASON: Make some corrections. DENISE: So Christine dumps your ass and you feel like you gotta hook up with the closest thing walking by with legs? JASON: You know, you’re more than that. DENISE: Do I? JASON: Yes. DENISE: Then why did you cheat on me? JASON: Denise…I told you I’m sorry. Spring 2015 Proscenium  75


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DENISE: I know you’re sorry. I want to know what was going on in your head. JASON: Cheating on you had nothing to do with you? DENISE: What? JASON: What I did with other women had nothing to do with you. DENISE: (thinking about it)…what…a…relief. Because for a second there I thought our relationship included me in some way. For a second I thought that counted for something. But apparently that would have been too crowded of a picture. Thanks for telling me that. Now I don’t know if I regret helping her leave. JASON: Who? DENISE: Christine. JASON: …so you know where she went? DENISE: …you know, she loved you. Did you know that? She loved you and was absolutely terrified of that feeling. It was her first time and she was so unsure she wanted to get away. We were at the party and I saw the light in her eyes and remembered when I used to have that. That glow, that twinkle. I hated her. And for a moment I hated you. Then I started hating men…and women…and men and women…and couples of any type. I wanted to hurt someone. I looked over and spotted Luis and Jasmine. Married since high school, with kids and their whole future ahead of them. Dancing and laughing. It was like seeing someone who’s in bliss when you’re miserable: you want to bring them down. Hurt them in some way so they’re not so goddamn happy. JASON: Denise, what did you do? DENISE: It’s funny how the heart and hand work together, Jason. One minute your heart is overwhelmed with hate and the next minute your hand is bringing them down. It was only a few hundred dollars. But I had to take them down a peg. And then when Christine kept whining about running away, I thought: why not? Kill two birds with one stone. I talked up a game so sweet that, by the end, I could’ve had her booking a one-way ticket to the Sahara. Jason, I gave her Jasmine’s money. I gave her everything and the second the bills left my hand… my heart stopped hurting. I didn’t hate her any more. I didn’t hate you. I didn’t hate men or women or men and women. It all left when I realized what I had done. I don’t exactly know what taking that money meant, but I know it hurt a lot of people. I know it hurt Jasmine and Luis. I know it indirectly hurt Christine and you, and who knows how many others. So I stopped hating them and stopped hating you. And now my heart only hates one last person, Jason. One last person. (Beat.) DENISE: Aren’t you going to running after her? (JASON walks over to her.) DENISE: Jason, why are you wasting your time? JASON: It’s not a waste of time. DENISE: You should be out there looking for her. JASON: She left me. But you’re here. DENISE: (backing away) You can’t do that. JASON: Why not? DENISE: Didn’t you just hear what I said about her? You two are each other’s love. JASON: She would still be here if that was true. 76 Proscenium Spring 2015


DENISE: She would still be here if I hadn’t driven her away. JASON: Then she wasn’t strong enough. DENISE: And what makes you think I am? JASON: You don’t think you are? DENISE: Obviously not. Look at me. JASON: I am. What I see is… DENISE: Is this another part of your game? JASON: No game. Just saying what I see. What I feel. How do you feel? DENISE: You don’t care. JASON: Of course I care. I want to know. I even want to know how your day went. DENISE: (laughs) Nothing special. JASON: There’s always something special. DENISE: The same as every day. JASON: And what’s every day? (DENISE shrugs it off and then thinks for a moment.) DENISE: Every morning I slap my alarm clock off and roll out of bed. Alone. I go to work, sit in meetings, daydreaming and hoping that I’ll be ignored so that my bosses won’t talk down to me. “Did you catch that, honey? Or do you want us to talk slower?” Afterward I go to the bathroom and hide out in the stall until lunch time. I even started smoking. Not because I enjoy it, but just because it gives me something extra to fill my time with during the day. Every afternoon at around 3:30 I start watching the clock. Not because I have anywhere to go, or have anyone to go home to… it’s all just habit. And at exactly 4, I sprint to the elevator and catch the nearest train back to the hood, where men, teenagers and little boys whistle and holler at me for just walking down the street. And if I choose to ignore them or take offense to their pleasantries, I’m called an uppity bitch or a frigid dyke. Then I reach the front steps where Billy and Claire are usually sitting there. They say ‘hi’ to me and I can see a look of pity in their eyes, probably thinking ‘poor girl, she has no life except work and TV.’ And they wouldn’t be too far off from the truth. I take a shower to wash off my walk home and put on my bathrobe and fix my dinner. And that’s at around 5. I spend the rest of the night watching Turner Classic Movies and debating whether I should just throw in the towel and become a full-fledged spinster with five cats, knitting needles and those fuzzy pink Sears slippers with the animal of my choice riding on the hood of my feet. That is my day. JASON: Why? DENISE: What other choice do I have? JASON: Anything… DENISE: Or anybody? JASON: What do you have to lose? DENISE: I don’t know. What do you plan on taking this time? JASON: Just another chance. DENISE: And if I do, what do I get? JASON: What do you think I am, a car salesman? I don’t know what you’ll get. I don’t even know what I’ll get. I just know it’s worth risking it to find out. We’re both dying, Denise. And it ain’t pretty. It’s not even quick. It’s slow and gray and pointless. Why are we doing this to ourSpring 2015 Proscenium  77


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selves? DENISE: Because it’s safe. JASON: Yeah, it’s safe. You do nothing, you’re guaranteed nothing. Why not give me another chance? What do you have to lose? (Beat.) DENISE: You know, for someone who’s not a car salesman you have a pretty persuasive argument. JASON: I told you my game wasn’t weak. DENISE: Don’t get all cocky. You’re not that good. I just said, you have a point. JASON: And what do I get for my point? DENISE: You want something for your point? JASON: Yeah, give me something for my point. (DENISE comes over to JASON who closes his eyes and braces for the kiss. She gives him a peck on the forehead.) JASON: That’s it? DENISE: Jason you just got back in the saddle. Don’t start talking about the way I kiss. JASON: That wasn’t a kiss. That was a nibble. DENISE: A good lover always saves some for next time. JASON: There won’t be a next time unless you give me something more than that little nibble you tried to pass off on me. DENISE: Why do I have to give you something? Why don’t you try it? JASON: Girl, I can give. DENISE: You can? JASON: Yes. DENISE: Show me how you give. (JASON saunters over and DENISE closes her eyes for the kiss. JASON gives her a tap on the forehead. They both laugh as he proceeds to kiss the top of her head. Then JASON leans in close and looks at her. They kiss. The lights fade out.) EPILOGUE JACK knocks a few times on Brian’s door. After a moment he keys into BRIAN’S apartment and is carrying a ladder. He finds BRIAN. JACK drops the ladder and covers his nose and mouth with a handkerchief. Priest walks on stage. PRIEST: The body had started decomposing. The smell wasn’t overpowering yet, but the stench was in the air. What brought Jack to Brian’s apartment wasn’t a concern by Brian’s children or the neighbors or even the desire to be a friendly landlord who was checking up on his elderly residents during the hottest time of the year. The people upstairs had complained of the smell. They thought it was a dead rat in their floorboards or in Brian’s ceiling. When Jack couldn’t find anything in their floor, he decided to check Brian’s apartment. And found him. Nature had begun to take its course. In that moment, in that place, on the hard floor, a shiver ran through Jack. He didn’t know why but his brother came to him. He saw Brian and wondered if this is what Troy would have looked like as an old man. And he remembered the delivery Luis had made on his brother’s behalf. 78 Proscenium Spring 2015


(JACK takes out two gold necklaces with crosses on it. He holds it in his hands. He puts one on.) The necklaces they wore as children. The one thing their mother had left them. No matter how hungry or cold they were they never thought of selling them. It was their inheritance. It was their bond. (JACK puts the other necklace on BRIAN.) Jack never knew why he gave part of his inheritance to Brian. Maybe it was to remove part of the memory from himself and to put it on someone else. To bury it with him. But regardless Jack had given the one thing that he valued. And when he touched Brian he saw not his life, but his brother’s and what could’ve been. Dates and weddings. Baby showers. He saw his nieces and nephews that would never be. And now, as the day fell into darkness, the weight of Jack’s sin pressed down on him. Not only was his brother’s blood was on his hand, but all of the life that could have been. Like Brian he had begun to grasp at what life means, in its glory and tragedy. He realized he had been shut off from not only his brother, but from everyone, and thus he had been living in darkness. And despite all his achievements he didn’t know anything about life because he didn’t anything about people. Because that is where the living light lies. In the apartments, down the halls and on the streets. That is where the light is. That is where God is. And his soul had been living in the night. All of us have a choice to make: to live in the eternal night or to bear witness to the glory of the life. Only then can we live with each other and ourselves. (The lights fade away like the setting sun until there’s nothing but the silent darkness.) END OF PLAY

Spring 2015 Proscenium  79


Boxing the Sun Aurin Squire

The Bus by James Lantz

80 Proscenium Spring 2015


A Conversation with the Playwright About the Playwright James Lantz is a filmmaker and playwright. His theater work has been produced Off-Broadway, nationally and internationally. As a filmmaker, James is currently producing a feature-length documentary film which was proudly funded on Kickstarter.com. He is also an award-winning filmmaker of over 200 commercial films, many for Fortune 500 companies. He has programmed films for The Brooklyn Museum of Art, worked as an adjunct college instructor, an artist-in-residence, and a high school teacher where he was named ‘Teacher of the Year’ by the student body. www.JamesLantz.com What was your inspiration for this play?

What kind of stories excite you? You can’t google a feeling. The world is already full of knowledge and it’s right at our fingertips all of the time and there’s something insanely numbing about all this information. But a story that evokes feelings, passion or, what David Foster Wallace once wrote as being ‘an erection of the heart’ — that’s the kind of story that makes me want to be alive and stay alive, and I can’t get enough of. What projects are you working on now? I make my living as a filmmaker so I’ve got a few film projects I’m working on including a couple of documentaries. I’m also writing a new play and am working to adapt part of “The Bus” into a short film. I just finished writing the script and have started sending it out to producers and actors.

A few years ago there was a spate of heartbreaking suicides of gay teens, and some of them had a connection to a church or religion, and the whole thing just made me profoundly sad and angry at the same time. Then this image of a parked bus came to me, and it wouldn’t leave. What advice do you have for playwrights And that’s where it started. Writing is such a starting out? beautiful and mysterious thing. Instead of advice, I have admiration, tons of reWhat playwrights have inspired you? spect, and two lines from a Robert Frost poem that hang above my desk: Instead, can I tell you a filmmaker that I’m in- “Here are your waters and your watering place. spired by? Alfred Hitchcock has been my cine- Drink and be whole again beyond confusion.” matic teacher and idol. As a storyteller, he was brilliant. I love how he was constantly experi- The Bus is copyright © 2015 by James Lantz. All inmenting, pushing against boundaries and threw quiries regarding rights shall be sent to info@prosceniumjournal.com and shall be forwarded to the playplausibility out the window. His masterpiece, wright or their agent. Performances of The Bus are ‘Vertigo,’ is one of the least plausible stories subject to royalty, and are fully protected under the ever — and yet, like a brilliant magician, Hitch- copyright laws of the United States of America and cock leaves you spellbound so that you never all countries covered by the International Copyright think how unrealistic it all is. I love his sense Union. All rights, including professional and amaof humor and innuendo, his artistry and fearless teur productions, staged readings, television, motion picture, radio, translations, photocopies, and all othdigging into psychological themes. er reproductions of this play are strictly reserved. Spring 2015 Proscenium  81


The Bus James Lantz

CHARACTERS LITTLE GIRL: A girl in her teens, a storyteller of some significance who plays a variety of roles. Little Girl is her name. MR. SLOAT: A loyal man in his late-sixties/seventies who works at Hamp’s Texaco. HARRY DEFORGE: The owner of Hamp’s Texaco, late-forties/fifties. Salesmen address him as “sir,” people holding clipboards never ask. Has a history of high blood pressure. IAN DEFORGE: A boy, fifteen. Harry and Sarah’s son. JORDAN MCRAE: A boy, fifteen, Ian’s friend and a lover of movies. Has a little sister with whom he can confide things. SARAH DEFORGE: Harry’s ex-wife, Ian’s mom. A member of Golden Rule Bible Fellowship. At one time, was the church’s secretary. SETTING Small town America. Most of the action takes place in the early 80’s, though at other times, years earlier. The locations include a gas station, a parked bus, a large church, high school hallway, a kitchen, and a few others. PLEASE NOTE On staging: the play is designed for minimalistic Our Town-like staging. Some chairs, a few boards and a couple of step-ladders could serve as the bulk of the main set. Most things are imaginary with a sound effects track that is rich and suggestive. Regarding Little Girl: It’s vital that she be close in actual age to Jordan and Ian — she can be younger, but if she’s older, she shouldn’t be more than just slightly older than the boys. Her name is Little Girl which shouldn’t be taken too literally; she’s not necessarily little as in small or weak, nor is she childish or child-acting. She could be thought of as a sister or a close friend who got her name when she was much younger, and it stuck. “We dance round in a ring and suppose, But the secret sits in the middle and knows.” —Robert Frost Act One Onstage is a clutter of old chairs, some boards and not much else. Little girl enters. LITTLE GIRL: If you stand here and look around, you can see a secret. You can see a gas station, some years ago, in a small town in America — a crowd standing around talking and laughing, holding hot dogs, balloons and bottles of Coca-Cola. Over there, an old teacher wearing her hair up in a beehive, shouts to some kids, "Walk please!" While over by the phone booth, broadcasting live beneath a banner that says Grand Opening, is the disc jockey from WRFL — normally, at this time of day, he'd be broadcasting crop reports and death announcements, but instead is announcing a week-long special on lube jobs. (Stands atop chair) Now if you stand up here, you can see how everybody grows quiet. How hats are removed, and heads are bowed and a preacher raises his hands in prayer: 82 Proscenium Spring 2015


(as Pastor) "Heavenly father we ask that you bless our celebration, today. We pray for the new owner of Hamp's Texaco who has answered the call to begin anew. We ask that he, his wife and baby son — who is just three weeks old — will grow their new business for years to come, and look back upon this day as one truly worthy of being called, a Grand Opening." (steps off chair, as Little Girl) Now it's years later, and the gas station has grown ... a little rusty. There's a desk cluttered with an old carburetor, a swollen parts book or two. The smell of axel grease and burnt coffee hangs in the air. Look out the front window there and you can see the pumps — one has a sign on it that says Out of Order — then the main road, and way out around the corner, you can just barely make out the bus. And if you stand here and look straight up toward the sky, that way — yeah, there — you can even see the light of the Texaco Star. (As little girl exits, sounds of a hard rain, distant roll of thunder, a car pulling up to the pumps. The service bell goes ding-ding. Impatient, the car blows its horn. Sloat enters, covering himself from the rain. He speaks as if to somebody sitting in their car.) SLOAT: Closed!?! Of course we're not closed! After all these years, we gonna let a little rain get us down? ... How ya doin' ms. Givens! Fill 'er up? ... Oh harry? He's on the phone talking to some lawyer. (Harry Deforge enters talking on a rotary phone.) HARRY: (on phone) That's not what I said — I said i want that goddamned bus off my lot and I want it off now! SLOAT: Oh, just lawyer talk y'know. I tell ya, I don't understand half of what they're saying. HARRY: (On phone) A conveyance?? Well convey this: fuck you! SLOAT: 'Course some things come through clear. I'll tell Harry you're here. Stay in your car here by the pumps and i'll get him. (Sloat crosses back into the station to where harry is on the phone. Sloat shakes off the rain.) HARRY: (On phone) Nah, the previous owner let 'em park it here for a road marker and I guess, back when I bought this place fifteen years ago, I might've signed somethin — but hell it's not the sixties anymore, it's the eighties! People know where their church is at, they don't need that bus pointing up the way! SLOAT: (loud whisper, to Harry) Ms. Givens. HARRY: (on phone) Well, sure hope you can help me out. Yeah, send it to me: Harry Deforge, Hamp's Texaco. (cups phone, to Sloat) What she want now? (Sloat raps his knuckles on something hard, indicating what she wants — he knocks.) HARRY: (on phone) Hey and uh, sorry about getting all heated-up on the phone with you just now. It's just that this is my gas station, mine. And I don't like people up there telling me what I can and can't do with what's mine. You can understand that, right? ... All right then. Yep. Sure will. Thank you. (Harry hangs up. He stares down at a business card in his hand.) SLOAT: Well? What’d he say? HARRY: Somethin's gonna happen now, Sloat. Yes sir. The Law offices of Warrington, Wolfe Spring 2015 Proscenium  83


The Bus James Lantz

and King. Heard good things about this bunch. Heard they were all pricks, which, I guess is what you want in a lawyer. Supposedly Wolfe's the prickiest. SLOAT: What's your guy's name? HARRY: (little pause) Bill Bland. SLOAT: Bland!?! HARRY: Yeah. His name is Bland. So what?? SLOAT: You didn't get a lawyer, you got a diet for your irritable bowel. HARRY: Fuck you. You watch. Fifteen years I've had to deal with that goddamn bus and finally, finally! — somethin's gonna happen. Look out at that road out there. Hundreds of people drive by this gas station every day and never think a thing of it. All they see here is a worn out shop with a flickery sign with a star on it. But what they don't know is what happens here, matters! This is where it comes from — gas, fuel, power — energy, mother fucker. And you know what: You can't park your bus on my property unless I say you can, even if you are the biggest damn church in town. SLOAT: So there. HARRY: So there. (laughs a little, self-mocking) Listen to me. Hell, maybe I should've been a preacher. (looks down at business card in his hand) You know what else he just told me: they got a frozen yogurt stand up there now. SLOAT: No. HARRY: I shit you not. Golden Rule Bible Fellowship's got a frozen yogurt stand in their lobby. Those sons'a bitches can pay for frozen yogurt but they can't give me a damned dime for where that bus has been for years. ... I tell you, Sloat, I've had it. SLOAT: Might lose a lot of customers, you start gettin nasty. HARRY: I don't care. SLOAT: So you're really gonna do it, huh? Gonna sue that church. HARRY: Goddamned right I am. (Sound of a honking horn.) SLOAT: Oh shoot! HARRY: What? SLOAT: C'mon Harry! It's old Ms. Givens. I told her you'd talk to her about that knocking she keeps hearing. HARRY: She's been out there all this time?? (They both exit the station, duck through the rain.) HARRY: (to Ms. Givens) How ya doin' Ms. Givens? Still hearing that noise, huh? Might be this new-formula gas they keep forcing on me — whatever happened to just plain Regular, y'know? SLOAT: It's knockin', Harry. HARRY: (to Ms. Givens) Nah, I don't hear it. What's it sound like? SLOAT: She told me. Sounds like this: knock-knock-knock-knock-knock-knock-knock-knock— HARRY: (to Ms. Givens) Like Sloat's doing it?? ... Oh. Like that, but slower. SLOAT: Knock — knock — knock — knock — knock — knock — HARRY: (to Ms. Givens) And a little lower, too, huh...? 84 Proscenium Spring 2015


SLOAT: Knock-koo-knock — knock-koo-knock — knock-koo-knock — knock-koo-knock — HARRY: (to Ms. Givens) With a little hitch in it, huh? SLOAT: Knock-koo-knock-HICK!! — Knock-koo-knock-HICK!! — Knock-koo-knock-HICK!! — Knock-koo-knock-HICK!! — (As Sloat continues the sound, Harry regards him.) HARRY: Wow. I have no idea what that could be. (to Ms. Givens) But it sounds like somethin's wrong. Why don't you pull in the garage there and we'll put 'er up on the lift and take a look, okay? (Harry and Sloat exit, Sloat continuing the car sounds.) SLOAT: Knock-koo-knock-HICK!! — Knock-koo-knock-HICK!!— Knock-koo-knock-HICK!! (It turns moonlight dark. Night sounds. We're at the bus. Little girl enters as a policeman. She shines a spotlight toward the bus seats, talks into a walkie-talkie.) LITTLE GIRL: (as policeman) Uh 10-68, Carol. We had a, uh, report from somebody up at the church that some kids were messing around the old Golden Rule bus, but I don’t see anything. We’ll take another pass in an hour or so, look again. (police radio static ) Oh, hey Carol? Somebody should tell the Pastor up there the lettering on their bus is peeling off. Yeah, it should read: 'This way to Golden Rule' but the 'T' is peeled off so that it says: 'his way to Golden Rule'. Just thought somebody up there should know. (Little girl exits. Ian and Jordan enter stealthily, with flashlights.) JORDAN: (in God voice) And God said, Let there be light! IAN: Shh! Turn that thing off! JORDAN: What?? IAN: Just quiet, okay? ... Hello? Anybody in here? Hello? JORDAN: Ian, what're you doing? IAN: I'm checking. JORDAN: For what?? (Jordan hides behind a seat.) IAN: Hello? Anybody?? ... Hello? JORDAN: (jumps up) Blaaahhh! IAN: Jordan! Goddamnit, that’s not funny. What if somebody sees us? JORDAN: What if somebody doesn't? We've been here like — what, six times? — and never seen anybody. What're you so scared of? IAN: I'm not scared. JORDAN: Look, this door back here: welded shut. The front door: jammed closed. You turn the key: nothing. It's not even a real bus anymore, it's dinosaur-land. On top of that, every night your dad closes the station he heads straight for the Moose Club. IAN: This isn't about my dad. JORDAN: Then what's the problem? IAN: I haven't even seen him in like— JORDAN: Then why do you freak-out every time we're here? IAN: Jordan, it's a church bus! Like church! I mean, just think about that for one moment. Think Spring 2015 Proscenium  85


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about, y'know... (insinuating) ...Commandments. (Jordan stands on a seat, holds the flashlight high, and shines it down onto himself.) JORDAN: (in God voice) Jordan McRae, you have broken my commandments. You have said shit, damn, fart, fuck, titty, twat, boner, bitch, douche, dick, pussy, pucker, cum, cunt, cock ........ and moist. Jordan, you have had impure sexual thoughts! Jordan! Look at me when I'm talking to you! I command you to stop those impure thoughts right now!! Jordan! Stop it! IAN: You fucker. JORDAN: Man I don't care if it's a church bus. You're the one that goes up to Golden Rule, not me. IAN: C'mon I told you, I go up there for my mom. She's been through so much shit, it's nothing — it's y'know, couple days a week. You don't see me buying any of that shit. JORDAN: (dumbstruck) Ian!?! IAN: What?? JORDAN: The fuck I don't. IAN: Like what? JORDAN: Okay, so where do you go after you die? IAN: Y'know, you're dead. JORDAN: Okay, okay, okay, okay so what if you're flying on a plane and it's on fire and people are screaming and the plane is rumbling and flying upside down and glasses are breaking, babies are crying and even Indiana fucking Jones is on the plane and even he's given up— IAN: Whoa. JORDAN: And you know that in a few minutes you'll be dead. I mean dead-dead. What would you— IAN: —No, no, what would you do? You wouldn't start praying or shouting Oh God! or, like, y'know ... praying or something? JORDAN: Hunh-uh. IAN: I asked that very question to this kid once, Joey Pallone— JORDAN: I hate Joey Pallone. IAN: You know what he said? He said he'd lean back, smile and enjoy the ride. JORDAN: That dumb fuck. IAN: Really. JORDAN: So what would you do? IAN: I dunno. ... I mean, I guess I'd be a little scared. Probably close my eyes. Think about some things. And then I guess, y'know ... it would just happen. (another thought) You know how the pastor up there says you can tell if you're gonna go to heaven or not? He says close your eyes and imagine God. Just sorta get in your head this picture of what you think God looks like— JORDAN: Ever read Lord of the Rings? IAN: Hunh-uh. JORDAN: That's how I'd picture God. Like Gandalf. Or Obi Wan Kenobi. Or George Washing86 Proscenium Spring 2015


ton. Or ... Santa Claus. IAN: —all right, anyway, so you do that, close your eyes and get this picture of God in your head. Now if God is looking at you then you're gonna go to heaven. But if God won't look at you, like he's turned away like he's ashamed of you or something then, well— JORDAN: For real?? IAN: That's how you can tell. JORDAN: Shit, I'd be scared to do that. I mean, what if he gives you the finger? IAN: (genuine) I know! (Jordan suppresses a smile.) JORDAN: You ever try it? IAN: (evasive) Nah. Just something stupid. (A quiet beat as Jordan takes this in.) JORDAN: Whatever. They don't know everything up there. I heard they got frozen yogurt now. IAN: In heaven?? JORDAN: No dumbass. Golden Rule. IAN: Oh yeah. ... Y'know I could go for some double-dip chocolate chip frozen yogurt, right about now. JORDAN: With hot fudge. IAN: Some caramel syrup. JORDAN: Gummi bears? IAN: Yeah, gummi bears. JORDAN: Me, too. IAN: Yeah? JORDAN: Yeah. (A quiet, charged, beat.) JORDAN: Hey break out that sleeping bag— IAN: —Yeah, I'm getting cold. JORDAN: Yeah. Brrr. IAN: (while retrieving the sleeping bag) Get this: the guy up there who runs the frozen yogurt machine — he's like the Youth Pastor, or something — he does this thing with chocolate sprinkles and crushed nuts: a little sprinkle here, some spoon action there — and right there on top of your frozen yogurt you got the face of Jesus. JORDAN: You people are so weird. IAN: Not me. (Now seated next to each other, they stare straight ahead. A few awkward moments pass. Jordan tenderly shoulder bumps Ian.) JORDAN: Hey beautiful. (Ian shoulder bumps him back.) IAN: No, you’re beautiful. JORDAN: No, you're beautiful. IAN: Hey beautiful. JORDAN: Hey. (They kiss. Suddenly, Ian is spooked.) Spring 2015 Proscenium  87


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JORDAN: What was what? IAN: I heard something. Shhh! JORDAN: I didn't hear anything. IAN: Shhh! Just listen! JORDAN: It's nothing. IAN: Shhh! (As Ian and Jordan remain on high alert, Little Girl enters wearing pastor's robes. she reads a letter to us:) LITTLE GIRL (AS PASTOR): “You are hereby notified of material trespass. Pursuant to the County Ordinance of the Municipal Code, if said property, henceforth known as ‘the bus,’ is not removed within 72 hours, it will be considered abandoned and presented for immediate disposal.” (Ian and Jordan exit.) So reads this letter I received from the law offices of ‘Warrington Wolfe and King’ accusing our church — us! — of trespass. ... An old old word, trespass. Meaning to go too far, to go beyond, to pass a border. In some parts of the world trespass is used euphemistically for death, as in, he has ‘crossed over.’ Well, we will tell Mr. Harry Deforge that here at Golden Rule, we know a few lawyers, too. And it is not we who have trespassed — somebody is guilty of going too far — but it is not us. The Bible says that if a man enters not by the door but climbs up some other way— (indicating letter) —then he is the same as a thief and a robber, and that he comes to steal, to kill, and destroy. So Mr. Harry Deforge, I ask you: what do we have up here that’s so threatening to you? Is it our new sanctuary? Our smiling faces? Our fellowship? Or is it simply because we shine? (Little girl exits. Sarah enters, dressed for church, placing on earrings.) SARAH: IAN, I NEED YOU IN THE KITCHEN! CHURCH STARTS IN ... oh gosh. IAN COME ON! KITCHEN, NOW! IAN: (off stage) I SAID I'M COMING! SARAH: (sotto voce)We're gonna be late, we're gonna be late. We're always late. (She applies lipstick, straightens dress, glances at watch.) SARAH: IAN, WHAT'S TAKING SO LONG!?! WE HAVE TO GO, NOW! (Ian enters, dressed for church and wearing large mirrored aviator sunglasses that are a tad too big.) IAN: (obnoxiously calm) There's no reason to yell. I'm right here. SARAH: Must we wear sunglasses? IAN: Shades mom, shades. (Meanwhile, sarah has stopped dead in her tracks — she stares at ian.) IAN: What?? SARAH: Look at me. IAN: Why—? What's wrong—?? (Sarah reaches toward ian's neck. Ian pulls back.) IAN: What—? What’re you doing—?? SARAH: There's a ... you have a ... you have something on your neck. 88 Proscenium Spring 2015


IAN: I do?? Like what?? SARAH: A ... a love bite. IAN: A LOVE BITE!?! A LOVE BITE!?! ... WHAT'S A LOVE BITE?? (Panicked, Ian whips the glasses off his head, turns them toward himself, then looks at the mirrored reflection, desperately scanning his neck for the 'love bite.') IAN: Oh god where, where, where, where—?? (he sees it) NO!! OH GOD NO, NO, NO!! OH GOD, OH GOD!! SARAH: Ian! IAN: (attempting composure) I'm sorry. Sorry. I didn't mean to say, "oh god" — not, "oh god." I meant — (looks at reflection of it, again) JESUS H. CHRIST!! SARAH: IAN! IAN: Mom, this is serious. SARAH: (mostly unruffled, digs in her purse) Calm down. IAN: Like what do I do, now? SARAH: We'll fix it for church. IAN: Church?? I don't care about church — what about school!?! SARAH: Here, put some of my make up on it. (She hands Ian her compact. Ian starts slathering on way too much make-up.) IAN: Like this?? Yes, yes?? SARAH: No, Ian— Here, lemme— You're putting on too— IAN: More?? More?? I should put on more!?! SARAH: No, honey! Here, let me do it. (Sarah takes the compact and begins blending and hiding the mark on ian's neck.) SARAH: So. IAN: So. SARAH: So about last night. Guess it's safe to assume you weren't at church for Family Fun Night. IAN: It's not what you think. SARAH: You don't know what I think. So where were you last night? IAN: I dunno. Some girl's house. SARAH: Do I know her? IAN: No. SARAH: When I say 11 o'clock, I don't mean 12:20. You hear me? ... Ian. Look at me. IAN: I said, okay. SARAH: I think I've got it — lemme look at it. (inspects his neck) All right. That should just about do it. IAN: But you can't see it, right? Like nothing's showing. It's totally gone? SARAH: God can see it. IAN: Yeah but people in reality can't, right? Spring 2015 Proscenium  89


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(She cuts him a look.) IAN: Sorry. SARAH: Listen ... I've been meaning to tell you, they're gonna read something at church today, and it has to do with your father. IAN: Is it about the bus? SARAH: How did you know that? IAN: Mom — the phone, the letters — I'm not ten, anymore. SARAH: No, you're not. (another thought) Your father. It's always his way or the highway, isn't it? IAN: Well ... it is, sorta like, y'know ... on his property. SARAH: It's the church's bus! And it was there when your father bought the station. He knew what the agreement was. IAN: Thought you guys bought the station together. SARAH: Puh. I didn't know what he was doing. I could not have cared less about that gas station. Gas, uggh. He was high octane enough, the last thing he needed was more gas. ... And anyway, I had been given this precious baby, this beautiful child— IAN: (eye roll) Mom. SARAH: —this beautiful child that God placed in my care. So what you're thinking: No. IAN: No what?? SARAH: He doesn't need your help. IAN: I didn't say anything. SARAH: You didn't have to. IAN: The court thing says I can visit him one day a week, right? SARAH: You got a pretty busy schedule, mister. Just what day were you thinking? IAN: What about, y'know ... Sundays? SARAH: Don't be silly. IAN: Then what day?? SARAH: We have to go. IAN: Mom! SARAH: Not now. IAN: What about after school or— SARAH: We're leaving. IAN: I wanna talk about this! ... And don't say that thing you always say. (Sarah cuts him another look.) IAN: Whenever the answer’s No that’s what you say. SARAH: It's not that the answer is No ... it's ... when God closes a door, he opens a window. IAN: Ugh! There it is, there it is! You said it! SARAH: But it's the truth! IAN: Mom that's like the stupidest saying and you say it all — the — time —! SARAH: Ian—! IAN: All — the — time! SARAH: — don't start! 90 Proscenium Spring 2015


IAN: No, no, no, no let's think about this: When God closes a door, he opens a window. So God is closing the door on that thing you really want. But just so you don't forget who's in charge, God opens a window so you can look out at thing you really wanted but never got. Which, if you ask me, is a little sadistic of God. SARAH: Ian! IAN: Can I drive to church? (Sarah digs in her purse for the keys.) SARAH You wouldn’t lie to me, would you? You haven’t been down there, have you? IAN: Where? SARAH: You know where. IAN: No I don't. SARAH: You said you'd tell me when you wanted to see Dad again, and 'til now you never mentioned it. ... Ian, have you been down to the station? IAN: No. ... Keys? (Sarah hands him the keys and they exit. Meanwhile sounds of a large tow-truck backing up: beep-beep-beep...Harry enters and motions to the truck.) HARRY: C'mon back! C'mon back! Keep comin' ... That's right, c'mon back! ... You're looking good! C'mon back! ... Keep coming! (We're back at the bus. Harry motions to the truck to stop.) HARRY: All right, that's good! (Pshhh! The sound of the air brake. the tow-truck turns off. Sounds of somebody getting out. sloat enters wearing work gloves. He and harry begin hooking the bus to the tow-truck.) HARRY: Two weeks since we sent that legal letter — two weeks! — and not a damn thing! So to hell with them. I don’t need their permission to tow their damn bus. SLOAT: You ask that lawyer about this? HARRY: You think I asked that lawyer about this?? ... Should've yanked this thing outta here years ago. Hand me that clamp there. SLOAT: I dunno, Harry. Feels like we're breaking a law or something. HARRY: Breaking a law!?! Listen, I don't give a goddamn what they do up there. But they can't come down here and tell me what I can and can't do with my property. Hunh-uh. Doesn't work that way. Down here, I'm in charge! ... Chain. SLOAT: So you just gonna tow it back up there, or what? HARRY: Nope. SLOAT: So where you gonna drop it? HARRY: Y'know that X-rated video store at the state line? Big neon sign: Live Nude Girls. All porn, All the time. Ten-thousand titillating titles on VHS. Sex shop downstairs. Mastercard and Visa accepted. ....... Know that place? SLOAT: You wouldn't. HARRY: This bus, that parking lot. SLOAT: Well heck I'll ride with ya, you gonna drop it there. You can drop me off, too. HARRY: We just gotta get it outta here quick before somebody sees us. Hand me that wrench. Spring 2015 Proscenium  91


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SLOAT: Y'know you should take your boy up there, sometime. Bet he'd like that. That's what my dad did for me. I liked it a lot. HARRY: Ian? ... Hell, I'd settle for just talking to him every now and then. But noo I'm just his father. She's turned him against me. I'm sure he hates me. Sure of it. SLOAT: Well you just need to do something nice for him like your dad probably did for you — pass something down to him. People don't pass stuff down to their kids like they used to. HARRY: Yeah well, best thing my old man did for me was die. SLOAT: C'mon. HARRY: I'm serious. You know what people called him? Sorry Pop. SLOAT: Sorry Pop, huh. HARRY: For good reason, too. Hard and mean, stuck in his ways— SLOAT: Huh. HARRY: He was in the war. They sent him home, broke. My mother would pour urine in his liquor to keep him from drinkin. SLOAT: Maybe people was sorry for him. As in: 'Sorry somethin happened to you. Sorry, Pop.' HARRY: Sorry for being a prick. SLOAT: C'mon, you didn't get nothin from your dad? HARRY: All right, all right. I guess he did teach me how to shake a man's hand, I'll give him credit for that. Firm handshake. Nothing burns me more than to shake a guy's hand and it just lays there. SLOAT: Ever shake Wake McDonald's hand? HARRY: Like a dead fish, isn't it? SLOAT: (he shudders) Nothin worse. HARRY: Now I can’t tell you how many times I showed Ian the right way to shake a hand, and you know what he’d do? He’d stick out his left hand, like he wasn’t sure which hand to use... SLOAT: (sotto voce, seeing something in the distance) Least it’s not a dead fish. HARRY: (continuing thought, musing) ...wonder if he ever figured that out. SLOAT: Got your blood pressure pills with ya? HARRY: Why? SLOAT: (indicating somebody’s approach) Sarah. HARRY: Goddamnit. (Sarah enters.) SARAH: Can I help you, Harry? HARRY: Shouldn’t I be the one asking that question? SARAH: It’s our bus. You’re trespassing. HARRY: My property. You’re trespassing. SARAH: This bus belongs to Golden Rule Bible Fellowship, and you know it. HARRY: You want it? Take it with you. Go on, drive it off. Hell, I’ll even hold traffic for you. SARAH: Get away from this bus now. HARRY: (to Sloat) 92 Proscenium Spring 2015


Stay. We’ve got work to do. (to Sarah) Sarah, I’m gonna tow this thing outta here and there’s not a damn thing you or anybody up there can do about it. SARAH: Don’t you embarrass me in front of my church. You got a problem with me, you deal with me. But leave this bus and my church out of it. HARRY: This doesn’t have anything to do with you. SARAH: You made an agreement. HARRY: Y’know, I keep hearing about this agreement I made with Hamp. I dunno what you’re talking about. Now get outta here or I swear to god— SARAH: Don’t say that in front of me — don’t you dare say that in front of me! (Sarah abruptly turns and heads elsewhere.) HARRY: Where’re you going? Sarah! ... SARAH!! (to Sloat) Fuck! She’s in the bus! She’s in the goddamned bus! (Sarah sits in a bus seat. harry catches up to her and glares.) HARRY: What’re you doing in here? Think you’re Rosa Parks or something? ... Now get off this bus or I SWEAR TO GOD I’ll tow it with you still in it. SARAH: You do, you’ll lose your license. Hard to run a garage without a license. HARRY: Leave Sarah. Now. ... Sarah leave or ... or ... or I’ll call the police. (Sarah does not move.) HARRY: Yeah? You want it that way? Fine. Let’s see what the police have to say. SARAH: Go ahead. Call Sergeant Reeves, or Lieutenant Lockridge. Better yet, go right to the top and talk to Chief Harless. They all go to Golden Rule and I’m sure they’ll tell you that the law is on our side. HARRY: Who’s on my side, huh? Tell me that. How come nobody’s ever on my side, Sarah? SARAH: I’d show you somebody who’s on your side, if you ever came to church once in a while. HARRY: What?? Up to Golden Rule?? SARAH: I know you won’t. You’re jealous. HARRY: Of the church!?! I’m not jealous! I don’t care who you get holy with. Fact, you have my permission to get holy with any of ‘em up there you want. Get holy with the preacher, get holy with the choir director. Hell, get holy with the lot of them, see if I care. SARAH: Be as vulgar as you want, Harry... (lowers voice so Sloat won’t hear) ...but at least the church doesn’t have problems keeping its steeple up. (Pause. Harry takes this in.) HARRY: Sarah, get off this bus, now. SARAH: I’ll pray for you, Harry. HARRY: Yeah, really? You’ll pray for me? ... Pray they don’t open a Quikie Mart on the corner over there. Pray I can pay for fuel this month, taxes next month. Pray I can go another year without digging up tanks Hamp buried in all the wrong places. Pray I don’t have to retrofit the Spring 2015 Proscenium  93


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whole goddamn station ‘cause Hamp did a half-assed job the first time — then pray I can actually get the son of a bitch on the phone when he’s not at a time-share or on a cruise ship. You wanna talk to God for me?? Pray the sky’ll crack open, lightning’ll spring out, and strike that for-shit sign out there ‘cause that’s the only way I’m ever gonna be able to change the name of this business ‘cause of a sign ordinance says if I take down Hamp’s old sign, I can’t put up a new one — THIS ISN’T HAMP’S TEXACO! IT’S MINE! (pause) Can you pray that prayer, Sarah? Can you do that for me? (Sarah remains seated, defiant.) SLOAT: Come on, Harry. Let ‘er go. Come on. (Reluctantly, harry exits with Sloat. Sarah remains. Time passes. in the wake of Harry’s tirade, she begins singing, a capella, the 1800 hymn by Reginald Heber, holy, holy, holy — it is a quiet and fragile rendition.) SARAH: (singing) Holy, holy, holy. Though the darkness hides thee, Though the eye of sinful man, thy glory may not see. Only though art holy, there is none beside thee, Perfect in power, love and purity. (The lights fade. Sarah exits. Sounds of a bell, change of class in a crowded high school hallway. As Ian places books in his locker, Jordan enters. Ian sees him, and is unnerved.) IAN: (loud whisper) Jordan! What’re you doing at my locker!?! JORDAN: (furtive glance around) Relax, okay. Just heading to class like everybody else. IAN: You’re not supposed to be here. Leave. JORDAN: What’re you mad at me for? IAN: We agreed! Not at school, never. You see me, or I see you — we don’t know each other. JORDAN: So? IAN: So other kids might start thinking things. JORDAN: Yeah thinking at school, that would suck. IAN: Jordan, leave! JORDAN: Man you’re in a mood. IAN: Yeah well, Saturday night you gave me something called a love bite — a phrase I didn’t even know existed but my mom did. JORDAN: Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, not your mom, you’re not saying this! IAN: Not only that ... it’s in the shape of a smile. JORDAN: No, no! IAN: Yeah, yeah. I was gonna start shaving this week, but I can’t do that now — not with this little grin staring back at me. (Jordan is quite amused.) IAN: It’s not funny! JORDAN: C’mon, I wanna see it! IAN: No. JORDAN: Please! IAN: No! JORDAN: C’mon, Ian! 94 Proscenium Spring 2015


IAN: No!! You can’t see it. I’m ... I’m wearing make-up. JORDAN: YOU’RE WEARING MAKE-UP!?! IAN: Quiet!! ... Jeesh. (Ian quickly scans for listening ears, spying eyes.) IAN: So I think my mom suspects ... I dunno, I think she knows ... something. JORDAN: No she doesn’t. She probably thinks some girl blew you in her basement while watching Little House on the Prairie. IAN: Hunh-uh. JORDAN: So what could she know? IAN: I dunno. It’s sorta like she invited me to go to some party with her, and now she’s sad and mopey all the time ‘cause she knows I’m not going. JORDAN: Yeah well ... see you tonight? IAN: Can’t. It’s Wednesday. Church. JORDAN: So leave early or something. IAN: I can’t. JORDAN: C’mon. IAN: Maybe. JORDAN: Say yes. IAN: I said maybe. JORDAN: Shake on it. (Jordan extends his hand. Ian glances around.) JORDAN: C’mon. It’s cool. (Shaking hands, ian is unimpressed with jordan’s grip.) IAN: Man you gotta do something about that handshake. JORDAN: What’s wrong with it? IAN: See ya. JORDAN: Ian?? What’s wrong with it? (They exit. Sloat enters carrying a lawn chair and a beer; a cigarette dangles from his mouth. He opens the chair and sits.) SLOAT: It’s 8:30 pm, quittin time here at Hamp’s. Closed up the station. Lights off. Harry home watchin JR on Dallas. Time for a smoke and a non-alcoholic beer. (He stands, holds his beer high in salutation to the alcoholics anonymous serenity prayer.) SLOAT: God, grant me serenity to accept the things I can’t change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference. (Sloat sits, drinks. He then cranes to look far in the distance.) SLOAT: Now if things are as they’ve been, in the distance we’ll soon be seeing Ian and his fella friend ... ridin’ their bikes across the field toward the bus ... risin’ and fallin’ like a couple of ponies on a carousel. (little pause) God, you better watch over them boys — and whatever you do, don’t let Harry ever catch ‘em. (Little girl enters as young ian.) LITTLE GIRL (AS YOUNG IAN): Hey ya, Mr. Sloat! You came to my house! Spring 2015 Proscenium  95


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SLOAT: Ian! Well there he is, there’s the birthday boy! LITTLE GIRL (AS YOUNG IAN): Ten years old! Thanks for coming to my party. SLOAT: Wouldn’t have missed it. (Sarah enters carrying a plain white birthday cake with a ‘10’ candle on it.) SARAH: Ian, go tell your father the party’s starting. I think he’s in the living room — no, the garage. LITTLE GIRL (AS YOUNG IAN): Okay. (screams) DAD MY BIRTHDAY PARTY’S STARTING!! SARAH: Ian! I could’ve done that. (to Sloat) Hi Sloat! SLOAT: Looks like a birthday cake, to me! LITTLE GIRL (AS YOUNG IAN): Mom!! SARAH: What, honey? LITTLE GIRL (AS YOUNG IAN): You said you were gonna make it pink! SARAH: Honey, they ran out of pink icing at the store. LITTLE GIRL (AS YOUNG IAN): (deflated) That’s what you said last year, too. SLOAT: Pink cake, huh? LITTLE GIRL (AS YOUNG IAN): You like pink, Mr. Sloat? (Harry enters.) HARRY: Hey hey! How’s my birthday boy! LITTLE GIRL (AS YOUNG IAN): (excessively glum) Hi dad. HARRY: Ian at ten years old. Well lemme give you a ten year old hug, which is much better than a nine year old hug. ... You know how much I love you, right? LITTLE GIRL (AS YOUNG IAN): (hugging, still glum) Love you, dad. HARRY: Hey, what’s the matter? LITTLE GIRL (AS YOUNG IAN): Mom didn’t make me a pink cake ... aaagain. HARRY: But it’s your birthday, right? And not just any birthday. Ten years old is special, you get anything you want. That’s the rules. LITTLE GIRL (AS YOUNG IAN): Anything?? HARRY: Anything. Now put ‘er there. (Harry extends his hand to shake the hand of young Ian, who hesitates then mistakenly holds out his left hand.) HARRY: Other hand. (Young Ian switches, they clasp in a handshake. Harry is warm and fatherly.) HARRY: Remember how I taught you: all the way to the thumb, firm grip, look me in the eye. ... Good, good! Now that’s a young man’s handshake. LITTLE GIRL (AS YOUNG IAN): Thanks, dad. HARRY: I’m proud of you. LITTLE GIRL (AS YOUNG IAN): Mr. Sloat, lemme shake your hand, too. (Young Ian crosses to Sloat. Meanwhile, Harry and Sarah conference in tense, hushed tones.) HARRY: Why didn’t you make him a pink cake? 96 Proscenium Spring 2015


SARAH: Harry. HARRY: What?? SARAH: You don’t see anything, do you? HARRY: What’s the problem?? SARAH: Harry, I thought you didn’t like ... pink. HARRY: So it’s my fault? You’re gonna lay this on me, huh. You didn’t make him the cake he wanted, so now you’re gonna blame me for it? SARAH: Harry— HARRY: (grandstanding, sarcastic) Well there it is! My fault, as usual. Ian, I’m sorry but your mother didn’t make you a pink cake ‘cause of me. Your dad’s spoiled everything. LITTLE GIRL (AS YOUNG IAN): It’s okay, dad. SARAH: Harry, stop it. HARRY: (to Sarah) Maybe I should just go to the goddamn store and get him one. Would that make you happy? Maybe then you won’t blame me, huh? My son wants a pink cake on his birthday, I mean for chrissakes, what’s the problem? It’s pink. I mean it’s— (a big thought slowly emerges) It’s not like it’s— Or that he’s— I mean, he’s not— (Harry shifts his gaze to young Ian. Sloat and Sarah do, too.) LITTLE GIRL (AS YOUNG IAN): Um ... why is everybody looking at me? (Nobody answers. Harry stands there, blind-sided.) HARRY: Y’know ... ‘bout time I go down, close the station for the night. Yeah I should go close. LITTLE GIRL (AS YOUNG IAN): Dad, can I come with you? HARRY: (cold) Nah. SARAH: Harry, it’s his birthday. LITTLE GIRL (AS YOUNG IAN): Aw c’mon dad—?? SARAH: Harry—?? HARRY: Nah. It’s closing time. LITTLE GIRL (AS YOUNG IAN): Please! HARRY: Nah, no. Hunh-uh. ... C’mon, Sloat. LITTLE GIRL (AS YOUNG IAN): Thank you for my present, Mr. Sloat. SLOAT: (to young Ian, aside) You come down the station, see me anytime Tiger, okay? HARRY: SLOAT, NOW! (Harry and Sloat exit to the sound of a loud house-rattling door slam. Pause, quiet.) LITTLE GIRL (AS YOUNG IAN): Dad must really hate pink. SARAH: (repressing tears) Ian, I think we should take a little trip for your birthday. Just you and I. LITTLE GIRL (AS YOUNG IAN): Aw cool, where? — Oh Mom!?! You’re crying! — It’s okay you didn’t make me a pink cake. Really, it’s okay. SARAH: You’re a sweet boy. LITTLE GIRL (AS YOUNG IAN): And next year when I’m eleven, who knows, maybe I’ll want a pink cake, and maybe I won’t ... and when I’m twelve, maybe I will, and maybe I won’t— Spring 2015 Proscenium  97


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SARAH: Honey, let’s go pack suitcases, okay. LITTLE GIRL (AS YOUNG IAN): —and when I’m a teenager, maybe I will, and maybe I won’t ... and when I get a car, maybe I will, and maybe I won’t... (Sarah and young Ian exit. Ian enters. We’re back at hamp’s texaco, 1981. Sounds of a tinny radio and jingle for a Hamp’s Texaco radio spot.) IAN: Hello? Anybody here? ... Hello?? (Announcer on radio) Come to Hamp’s Texaco where all this week, you’ll find specials on oil changes, fluid checks, valve and brake replacements, tires and more! So whether you’re an old customer (OLD HORN SOUND) or a new one (NEW HORN SOUND) come to Hamp’s Texaco where this sound (DING DING OF GARAGE BELL) means you’re with family! (Sloat enters.) SLOAT: Harry, that you? You’ll never believe it, I been at the station here all afternoon and not a single customer. Not a one. So I just busied myself here with this old— IAN: Hello? ... It’s me, Mr. Sloat. Ian. SLOAT: Who?? Ian? ... Oh ho, Ian! ‘Course it’s you. Cheese and crackers boy, you’ve grown! Been a few years, hasn’t it? (They shake hands. Sloat is impressed with Ian’s grip.) SLOAT: Now there you go, there you go! IAN: My dad around? SLOAT: Nah he’s out talking to that lawyer. Harry don’t like him much so I ‘spect he won’t be long. You’ll wait for him, won’t you? IAN: I dunno. My mom would go crazy if she knew I was here. SLOAT: Well, she don’t have to know, now does she? IAN: So um, what’re you working on? SLOAT: Oh that. That’s a mean old car there. Loud, nasty. Come here. ... See that rusted thing? That’s the old muffler. IAN: Uh-huh. (Sloat displays a new muffler and a separate long pipe.) SLOAT: And this is the new one. I gotta Put this tail pipe here into this thing here. (He tries marrying the two pipes) But the dern thing’s being a bit — rascally and— urr — when I finally get it in here, we’ll be in biz — ness. (Winded, he stops) Not hard to be a mechanic. One afternoon I could teach you everything you need to know. IAN: Think my dad could use some help around here? SLOAT: Know anybody lookin for a job? IAN: Maybe. SLOAT: Well if a fella was lookin for a job, first thing he’d want to do is fill out an application. Had any experience in the automotive industry? IAN: Um no, but— (Sloat crosses to a toolbox, removes a job application.) SLOAT: ‘Bout time you got some. Here. Take this application home and fill it out. 98 Proscenium Spring 2015


(Pointing at a line on the application) See that line there? Put ‘son.’ IAN: Job applying for...? SLOAT: Son. So Harry knows it’s you applying and not some other ding-a-ling. (Confidentially, he wink-winks) Harry don’t see things so good. Know what I mean? IAN: You mean my dad can’t see so well anymore?? SLOAT: I mean he don’t seeee things. Get what I’m sayin? IAN: Um, he doesn’t— SLOAT: —seeee things. As in y’know... IAN: Like what things? SLOAT: (more confidentially) Y’know ... the lifestyle that fellas like you and me are in. IAN: The lifestyle?? SLOAT: The lifestyle. ... Now I’m not gonna embarrass you or nothin’ but I seen you and that other fella go in the bus and I said to myself, ‘Cheese and crackers, that Ian is in— IAN: (thunderstruck) —THE LIFESTYLE!! SLOAT: The lifestyle! IAN: Oh god, oh god—! SLOAT: No need to worry. We’re low key, us fellas in the lifestyle. IAN: Oh god Mr. Sloat this is ... this is just ... sooo weird. SLOAT: Yeah, somethin’ isn’t it! You and me, lifestyle buddies. IAN: Oh wow. My um ... uh ... my dad know you—?? SLOAT: You kiddin!?! Harry don’t see nothin’. And all I gotta do to keep it that way is, every once in a while pick up one of his Playboy magazines, open the centerfold, and announce real loud: “Nice puppies!” (Ian crosses to a different part of the stage, lost in a disturbing thought. It grows quiet.) SLOAT: Hey? You okay there, Ian? ... Ian?? IAN: Um, my dad. Does he um ... y’know ... does my dad know about me? SLOAT: Nothin! I’m tellin ya, Harry don’t see a thing. So don’t worry, I got your secret safe, okay?? IAN: ...Yeah, okay. SLOAT: And some day, maybe you can keep a secret safe for me. Deal? IAN: Deal. (They shake hands.) SLOAT: All right now, come over here and help me switch out this muffler. IAN: Now?? You mean right now? SLOAT: You get a little experience, then on your application you put, ‘Assisted Sloat replace muffler.’ Some places, that’d get you a job right there. ... C’mon, don’t be shy. IAN: (backing away) Mr. Sloat, I’m sorry but I really gotta be getting home. Y’know, my mom— SLOAT: But your dad’ll be back any minute. Spring 2015 Proscenium  99


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IAN: Thanks for the application— SLOAT: Well all right then. IAN: —See you. (Ian exits.) SLOAT: Hey want me to tell Harry you stopped by? Ian? Ian?! ................ Well, see you, then. (Sloat returns to the shop, but suddenly the service bell goes ‘ding-ding.’ Sloat reverses and heads back toward the pumps— but then he stops. Sounds of the car pulling away.) SLOAT: Yeah yeah, just turnin’ around are you? Dern turnarounds. ... I just don’t get it. Where’s all the customers at? (Sloat exits. Night sounds as it grows dark. Little girl and dark figures skulk onto the stage — they surreptitiously affix a large banner to the gas station. Little girl and the others exit. the light of the next day reveals flyers strewn about the floor and the banner which says: liar. harry enters, talking on the rotary phone.) HARRY: (angry, on phone) Who’s responsible!?! I wanna know who up there’s behind this, then I want you to go after ‘em, Bill! ... Hell, they sprayed graffiti on the station, put an ad in the paper, spread flyers all over town. Listen to this: (reading leaflet, on phone) “Calling all friends of Golden Rule Bible Fellowship, the owner of Hamp’s Texaco purports that no agreement exists between he and the church regarding our trademark bus. This is a lie. We ask that you not patronize Hamp’s Texaco until Mr. Deforge retracts false statements blah blah blah...” Can you believe this? You believe the crap I gotta put up with? I got a monthly nut to pay! How do I stay in business without customers? (Listening on phone, then) Bill, you keep tellin’ me: Harry don’t do a thing, I’ll take care of it. But Bill, you’re the one not doing anything! Now somethin’s gotta be done here or, or — or I’m tellin’ ya, I can’t take much more of this! (Reproachfully listening, then) All right. Yep, yep. Sure will. Thanks. (Hangs up the phone, slamming it) Asshole. (Sighing, harry gets down on his hands and knees, begins crawling about the stage, picking up flyers — until something catches his eye. He stands, and crosses over to the bus. Glancing around to be sure he’s not seen, he looks underneath the bus.) HARRY: Hey Sloat! SLOAT! Come over here! Over by the bus. THE BUS! (While he waits for Sloat, Harry crawls beneath the bus. He reaches up, then smells his fingers. Sloat enters.) HARRY: Smell that. Look up under the bus there. SLOAT: Well I’ll be. Leaking gas. Never drained the tank, did they? ... Well, probably not much left in there. HARRY: You figure? I dunno. SLOAT: Shoot, Harry, bet it’s the gasket. I get a gasket, fifteen minutes I can have it stopped. Maybe ten. 100 Proscenium Spring 2015


HARRY: I don’t wanna fix it for ‘em. It’s just that, under their bus they got a leak of a highly flammable liquid. And that’s ... that’s a danger. Bet my bottom dollar it’s also a violation of the safety code. SLOAT: Want me to call the fire department? HARRY: (Thinking beyond this) Might be more gas in that tank than you think. SLOAT: So what do you want me to do? ... Harry? HARRY: Yeah, no. Don’t want you to do anything. Not a damn, thing. Fact, you and I, we should probably get away from here. SLOAT: Why? HARRY: Don’t want people gettin the wrong idea. SLOAT: Harry I ... I don’t like how all this is adding up. HARRY: Listen, you know how many customers we’ve got since they started spreadin’ these flyers around? None. Zero. Not a goddamned one. Jesus himself is gonna have to come to Hamp’s to get his tires rotated before anybody in this town feels it’s safe to come to my station again. SLOAT: So what’re you gonna do? (Harry rips down the liar banner.) HARRY: (sly) Nothin’. Not a damn thing. This bus is not my problem, anymore. (Harry and Sloat exit. The light dims, night sounds. Jordan and Ian enter with flashlights.) JORDAN: Ian! Come on, I’m in the bus already! IAN: Shh! ... Hello? Anybody in here? ... Hello? JORDAN: Nobody’s here. Nobody’s ever here, like ever! (Jordan gets right to business, stripping his shirt off. He crosses to Ian and begins tugging at, and kissing, him.) JORDAN: Hey beautiful... IAN: But Jordan what if— JORDAN: I said, Hey beautiful... IAN: But Jordan— (Jordan continues unbuckling, unbuttoning and kissing ian until he finally has ian’s attention—) IAN: Hey. (They keep at it and soon move below the seats and/or into the sleeping bag. Meanwhile, headlights pass by and shine on the bus. Sound of a passing car: sshhhhhh. Little girl enters as Rebecca on the radio. She’s completely sincere, without irony or humor, and accompanied by the sound of a radio jingle or music. She speaks to us.) LITTLE GIRL: (as dj rebecca):And it’s a great night to be with your special someone, be it a him or a her. This is Rebecca On The Radio, and I’m so glad to be sharing this evening with you. A listener in Spokane writes, Dear Rebecca, recently my boyfriend stole a car he said he wanted to give to me. I begged him to turn himself in. We argued. He cried he’d rather die than be separated. He jumped into the car and sped away. The police went after him, there was a terrible crash, and now he’s on life-support. I just found out I’m pregnant. I want to name the baby, Chase. Is that okay? Signed, By His Bed in Spokane. (Again headlights pass by with sounds of a passing car: sshhhhhh) LITTLE GIRL: (as dj rebecca) Dear By His Bed, it’s dangerous to love an outlaw, but it’s not Spring 2015 Proscenium  101


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without its gifts. Chase is a beautiful name but he’ll be afraid of going places. Write this down and pin it over the crib: Just because everything around you is moving, it doesn’t mean you are — it only feels that way. (Again headlights pass, sounds of the passing car: sshhhhhh. As little girl exits, Jordan and Ian come into view. They’re flushed and quiet and don’t look at each other as they snap, button and buckle.) JORDAN: Oh um ... I think I put your shirt on. IAN: Oh yeah. Me, too. (They take their shirts off, exchange them. Jordan hesitates before putting his back on.) JORDAN: Or ... what if I just wore yours, y’know. And you wore mine? IAN: Um ... sure. (They exchange shirts once again.) JORDAN: I’m not gonna start quoting commandments now, am I? IAN: (smells the shirt’s arm pits) You’ve been precipitating. JORDAN: Ian, I’ve been thinking — what if we didn’t come back here anymore? What if next time we went someplace else? IAN: Like where? JORDAN: I dunno. The movies and McDonald’s and stuff. You could come to my house. I got a bunch of movies on VHS. IAN: You got ‘The Shining’ yet? JORDAN: Aww man... (imitating movie) “Redrum, redrum—!” IAN: (imitating movie) “Little pigs, little pigs, let me come in!” JORDAN: (imitating movie) “Here’s Johnny! “ IAN: Oh oh oh oh here’s Jack Nicholson’s wife in almost all of The Shining: (He imitates shelley duvall’s excessively rubbery, always frightened performance. they laugh.) JORDAN: Okay so if I get ‘The Shining’ you’ll come over? (Little pause.) IAN: I dunno. ... What about your little sister? JORDAN: She’s okay. She’s not all annoying like some little sisters. IAN: It’s not that bad in here. JORDAN: Just think it’d be cool to hang out ... y’know, like regular kids. IAN: We are regular. JORDAN: You know what I mean. IAN: I mean, we are, aren’t we? I’m regular. You are, too, right? JORDAN: Yeah. ‘Course I am. IAN: I mean, things that happen don’t have to mean other things. JORDAN: Hunh-uh. IAN: Like fashion? I don’t care about fashion. You a vegetarian? JORDAN: I am so not a vegetarian. IAN: See. Bet you don’t like little dogs, either? 102 Proscenium Spring 2015


JORDAN: Little dogs are evil. IAN: Man I don’t even like musicals. JORDAN: ... Really?? IAN: What?? You like musicals? JORDAN: Y’know ... they’re all right. (Little pause.) IAN: Okay I lied. I like some musicals. JORDAN: Cool. (Re-aroused, they begin kissing again. A moment later, something outside catches ian’s attention. He quickly ducks.) IAN: Oh fuck! JORDAN: What!? IAN: Fuck, fuck!! JORDAN: What is it?!? IAN: Outside. Somebody’s coming. JORDAN: Aw fuck! ... Here? Here?!? IAN: Shit! It’s my dad! JORDAN: Your dad?!? IAN: Shut-up! Get down!! ... GET DOWN!! (They hunker low and trade nervous glances as harry enters, near the bus. Carrying a flaslight, Harry looks over his shoulder to be certain he’s not seen. Harry remains outside the bus, stooping then shining the flashlight underneath, as he begins crawling beneath the bus, Jordan and ian whisper to each other:) JORDAN: What’s happening? IAN: He’s outside. JORDAN: What’s he doing? IAN: I dunno ... I think he’s gone under the bus. JORDAN: Under it!?! (Ian and jordan slowly look down at the floor as, beneath them, harry looks up and shines the flashlight at the gas tank. He begins knocking on the tank: gong-gong-gong. ... Gong-gong. It sounds empty. Harry stops.) HARRY: Goddamnit, empty. (Disappointed, harry moves out from beneath the bus, then stands beside it.) HARRY: Empty. ... Shit. (Harry just stands there deep in thought. Then — just as stealthy as he entered — he exits. ian and jordan cautiously peek out the window.) JORDAN: Is he gone? IAN: Yeah. ... Fuck. (Crouching low, they begin a quick pack-up to leave.) JORDAN: Goddamn that was close. IAN: What was he doing under there, knocking like that? JORDAN: Man, I almost said hello. IAN: Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck. Spring 2015 Proscenium  103


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JORDAN: So that was your dad. IAN: The church must be really screwing with him. I don’t know why he doesn’t just, y’know .... do something to them. JORDAN: Yeah well, can’t imagine what he’d do about this. IAN: (suddenly acerbic) He’s not that bad. JORDAN: Okay. Just thought you never talk to him, is all. IAN: I’m gonna get a job down here. JORDAN: Doing what?? IAN: I dunno. Fixing things. JORDAN: You ready to go? IAN: That knocking was just weird. JORDAN: Ian?? You ready? IAN: Oh yeah, take your girl shirt with you. JORDAN: What? IAN: Gimme my shirt back! JORDAN: I thought— IAN: Come on!! (They exchange shirts.) IAN: You go first. JORDAN: Really?? IAN: Yeah. You should go on. JORDAN: All right. Well. Yeah. Um ... so see you. (Jordan waits for a response as ian stares out a window.) JORDAN: Ian. I said, see you. IAN: I said, see you. JORDAN: No you didn’t. IAN: Well I am now. (snide) See you. (Jordan exits.A moment passes as Ian remains seated. Soon, the sounds and headlights of another passing car: sshhhhhh) END OF ACT ONE Act Two (Along with Ian and Jordan, little girl enters. She addresses us.) LITTLE GIRL: If you stand here and look all around, you can see a secret. You can see the story of Ian and Jordan before they knew each other — the High School hallways crowded with over-stuffed jocks, big hair, and the constant monitor of the appropriately named assistant principal, Mr. Dick — then the gymnasium wall against which they both leaned after being simultaneously eliminated in a particularly nasty game of Bombardment, and where they employed that old reliable conversation starter that seeded all that was to come, thereafter... JORDAN: Hey. 104 Proscenium Spring 2015


IAN: Hey. LITTLE GIRL: ...then the slow, cautious unwinding of the months that followed, because spies were everywhere. If you stand here, you can see the moonless night when they rode their bikes together, laid them one atop the other, and first pried open and entered the bus in search of something felt, but ill-defined — then for long moments, sat silent in opposite rows. And if you listen hard, you can hear in the far distance, Casey Kasem and American Top 40 — because not far away, Chad Nichols had parked his heavily accessorised Datsun 280Z in the ‘Same Day Dentures’ parking lot and, with his stereo cranked, felt the need to share with every resident within a quarter-mile radius, a song that, after a long run had only recently fallen from the charts, was the subject of a special Long Distance Dedication, and was guaranteed to draw more swaying bodies to the gym floor at homecoming dances all across America, than any other song that year — a song so cloying, so sappy and sentimental, that nearly all who were of a certain age could not resist its siren call. (Little girl exits. Sounds of the faraway song which could be, air supply’s early 80’s hit, “all out of love”, or a ballad like journey’s “faithfully,” or night ranger’s “sister christian.” hearing it, Ian and Jordan stand, slowly.) JORDAN: Listen. IAN: Yeah. JORDAN: You hear it? IAN: Yeah. Yeah, I do. JORDAN: What is it? (They cross to a window and peer out.) IAN: I dunno. Like a radio or something. JORDAN: Fuck. You think somebody’s out there? IAN: Nah. It’s too far away. Probably some kid at the mall, blasting his — JORDAN: Shh, listen. ... Oh, no. IAN: What? JORDAN: (tortured) No, no, no, no, no, no, no... IAN: What? What?? JORDAN: Aw man, aw man... (Sighs, resigned) I hate this song. IAN: Really? ... They played it at Homecoming. Like three times. JORDAN: Yeah, I hate it. IAN: Wish it was louder. JORDAN: Yeah, me too. (Quickly energized, jordan crosses to a window, stands on a seat and begins working to lower it.) JORDAN: C’mon. Let’s see if we can get a window down. IAN: I dunno, they’re pretty stuck. (Together, they claw their fingers on a window, strain, grunt and pull downward until it scrapes open.) Spring 2015 Proscenium  105


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JORDAN: There. Yeah, yeah! IAN: Now it’s louder. (For a while they just listen, lost in the music.) JORDAN: So, like ... you went to Homecoming? IAN: Yeah. JORDAN: Thought you couldn’t go. IAN: Then I could. JORDAN: Who’d you go with? IAN: Nobody. JORDAN: You dance any? IAN: A little. JORDAN: With who? IAN: Just some girl. JORDAN: To this song? IAN: Hunh-uh. (A little pause.) JORDAN: Wanna dance now? IAN: ...You mean here?? Now?? JORDAN: C’mon. It’ll be over soon. IAN: Like now. With you. Like now now?? JORDAN: C’mon Ian. It’s just us. IAN: But what if somebody sees us? JORDAN: What if somebody doesn’t? (Like two kids at their first formal dance class, Ian and Jordan come together, awkwardly placing their hands on the other, keeping a good six inches of open air between them.) IAN: Jordan like ... I dunno if I can. I mean, what if — JORDAN: Shh. It’s all right. It’s just ... slow. It’s just a slow dance. (They begin to sway, and move closer together — and soon, the moment moves them closer still. As the music rises to full, they slow dance. Soon the lights fade, the song fades, and Ian and Jordan exit. Sounds of a door opening and the jingle of a store’s bell. Little girl enters as Connor, wearing an automotive supply cap on her head.) LITTLE GIRL: (AS CONNOR) Hey’a Sloat! How ya doin’? SLOAT: Connor, if I was any better they’d have to squeeze me and call me juice. LITTLE GIRL: (AS CONNOR) Well sit up to the counter there and tell me, what’s Harry want now? SLOAT: Got it written down right here ... somewheres ... here it is: Connor’s Auto Supply. He wants a couple of gallons of cleaner. Something called Timmenzene Phosphate. LITTLE GIRL: (AS CONNOR) Timmenzene. Hot damn, Harry must have something damn dirty he wants clean. SLOAT: Yeah?? LITTLE GIRL: (AS CONNOR) We don’t even keep that stuff in the store. Keep it out back in the cinder block shed. SLOAT: Cinder block shed, huh? 106 Proscenium Spring 2015


LITTLE GIRL: (AS CONNOR) Know what they used to use that stuff for? SLOAT: No. Never heard of it. LITTLE GIRL: (AS CONNOR) Back in the war when the Nazi’s knew they were whipped, they had all this evidence had to be got rid of including piles of bodies, everywhere. Problem was, nothing would burn long enough to do the trick. So they invented this stuff that, once it starts burning, nothing can put it out. And I mean nothing. SLOAT: Well shoot. Some nasty stuff, there. Real nasty. HARRY: (off stage) Sloat? ... Hey sloat!?! connor hands sloat two yellow jugs of timmenzene. LITTLE GIRL: (AS CONNOR) When you get back at the station, you tell Harry be careful with this stuff. Tell him to call me, I’ll tell him how to use it right. HARRY: (off stage) SLOAT!! SLOAT: I’ll tell him. Sure will. (Harry enters. Sloat’s face has grown pale and drawn.) HARRY: There you are. Been lookin all over the station for you. SLOAT: Well ... here I am. HARRY: You get that stuff I asked you? SLOAT: Yep. Got it right here. HARRY: Well can I have it? (Sloat reluctantly hands him the jugs.) HARRY: What’s the matter with you? You feelin all right? SLOAT: Why you ask? HARRY: Lookin kinda green around the gills. SLOAT: Connor said you shouldn’t keep that stuff, inside. Said you should give him a call, he’ll tell you how to use it right. HARRY: Yeah well, you tell Connor nobody tells me what to do. That includes him. SLOAT: So ... gonna do some cleanin, are ya? HARRY: (taunting) Or maybe you were gonna tell me how to use this stuff? That it? You got some instructions for me, Sloat? SLOAT: Harry—? HARRY: ‘Cause now would be the time for you to tell me how to do my job. SLOAT: Harry I’m goin’ home. Maybe I’m not feelin so good. HARRY: Way you look, might not be a bad idea to have a drink, too. SLOAT: Do that, might not be back for weeks. HARRY: Well — see you. SLOAT: Okay. I’m goin’ then. HARRY: That’s what you said. SLOAT: Harry ... you be careful there. HARRY: You take care of you. I’ll take care of me. (Harry and Sloat exit in opposite directions. Meanwhile, sounds of a joyous church organ and a crowd coming into church. Sarah enters, followed by Ian, both dressed for church. seeing familiar faces in different places, Sarah beams.) SARAH: Oh hi! Hi! ... Don’t you look good. Have you lost weight? Well whatever you do, don’t Spring 2015 Proscenium  107


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ask me. ... Hi there, nice to see you! ... Oh I know, the church looks lovely this evening, doesn’t it? ... Well now I’m jealous! Where do you get your hair done? IAN: Mom— SARAH: (indicating Ian, still talking to unseen churchgoer) Look who just barely made it, though I still can’t get him to wear a tie. IAN: Mom, I gotta go. SARAH: (to an unseen churchgoer) Does he have a girlfriend, yet?? Um, well ... you’ll have to ask him. I suspect he’s sweet on someone. IAN: Mom— SARAH: Ian, I said we’d talk about it after church. IAN: But I gotta go now! SARAH: No. The service is just about to start. We’re gonna sit and pray and sing and listen to the word. Then we’ll talk. Not before. IAN: No, Mom. I’m leaving. Now. SARAH: No, Ian— IAN: So bye, okay? (Little pause.) SARAH: It’s your father, isn’t it? It’s Wednesday night and you’ve agreed to meet him at the station or the Moose or — haven’t you? IAN: No. SARAH: You don’t have to lie to me. I know where you’re going. IAN: Mom, I’m not meeting dad. SARAH: Well you tell that father of yours — no, on second thought, I’ll tell him — I’m on to him. IAN: Okay, so ... see you?? (As sarah keeps talking, she doesn’t look at ian and therefore doesn’t see as he begins backing away, then moments later, exit.) SARAH: He doesn’t know that I am — but I’m on to him. I know what he’s doing, and I know how he’s doing it, because I’ve seen it all before. (Head-shaking exasperation) Oh Ian ... your father. When you were little, he used to lift you up on his shoulders and carry you to the highway and say, ‘See those cars out there? I’m the fuel that makes them go. And see those trucks? I’m the power that turns their wheels.’ I could always tell when you two had been to the highway because afterwards, oh how you’d look at him with such ...... awe. How could I tell you back then — how could I warn you? — your father will only show you what he can do. What he can’t do, he just hides. (Sarah suddenly realizes ian’s absence. She glances left and right, over her shoulder.) SARAH: Ian? Ian...?? (She sighs, resigned. The light fades. Night sounds. Sarah exits. meanwhile, jordan enters, calls out in a loud whisper.) JORDAN: Ian? Where are you? (Ian enters still wearing his church clothes and carrying an empty gas can. He, too, calls out in 108 Proscenium Spring 2015


a loud excited whisper.) IAN: Over here by the gas pumps! C’mon! (As ian reaches his arm up and inside something, Jordan crosses to him. Jordan appears uneasy.) IAN: My dad used to keep the pump keys up in here— JORDAN: Ian man, I dunno about this— IAN: It’s perfect. Nobody’ll know, nobody’ll care ‘cause the bus’ll just be gone. JORDAN: (nervously glances around, then at unseen sign) Hamp’s Texaco. Who’s Hamp, anyway? IAN: (finds keys) Ha-ha-ha! What’d I tell you? A little rusty, but still here. So ... Unleaded, Premium, or Premium Supreme? JORDAN: Ian, this is so fucked— IAN: Yeah. Premium Supreme. (Ian tries to unlock the pump.) JORDAN: Ian, will you just listen to me? IAN: Fuck! The keys don’t fit anymore. JORDAN: So let’s just leave — fuck the bus! IAN: No, fuck them! That bus is not supposed to be there. And because my dad has the balls to stand up to that church, they get to kill his business? JORDAN: This is arson, like ... people go to jail for this shit. IAN: This is a gas station, right? Gotta be gas around here somewhere. JORDAN: Come on man, let’s just go. IAN: (shining flashlight all around) Old tires, old batteries, old car — wait — what’s that? Over there. (As jordan remains, ian crosses to what he’s seen.) JORDAN: Let’s just go, okay? We should just say fuck it and just leave. Just go. Ian—? Ian—?? (Ian returns with the two yellow jugs of timmenzene.) IAN: Look what I found. I think it’s like concentrated gas. And they’re even full! Fuck yeah. JORDAN: Ian listen to me. Just stop it, okay! Please! IAN: What’re you worried about? I put these in the bus, light a fuse, zoom back up to church— Fire? What fire? I didn’t have anything to do with any fire. ... Now gimme the matches. JORDAN: This is so super-fucked. IAN: C’mon, gimme the matches! JORDAN: No. Not gonna do it. Sorry. IAN: What’re you shivering for? JORDAN: ‘Cause I’m cold! IAN: ‘Cause you’re chicken-shit. JORDAN: Fuck you. IAN: Look, I don’t even need your goddamn matches. (Ian digs in his pockets, produces matches — then starts to leave with the jugs.) IAN: Thought you’d pussy out on me. JORDAN: Ian—! ... Ian—! Spring 2015 Proscenium  109


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IAN: Say what you want, I’m still doing it. JORDAN: Okay then — okay — I’m telling everybody about us. (Ian stops.) IAN: What?? JORDAN: You heard me. You do this, I’m telling everybody. About you, me. The bus. Everything. IAN: No you won’t. JORDAN: Yeah I will. I’ll start tonight. IAN: No you won’t ‘cause ... ‘cause then everybody’d know about you, too. JORDAN: I don’t care, I’m not afraid. People gonna find out sooner or later. Already told my little sister ... about me. IAN: You did? JORDAN: Yeah. IAN: Tell her about me, too? JORDAN: ...maybe. IAN: URRRRR! Jordan why—! Why did I ever even trust you? Why did I—? We agreed! We would never tell anybody — never! I never told anybody about you! Why would you—? Why would you go and do something like that? (Jordan says nothing.) IAN: Tomorrow, you see me at school or the mall or the movies or anywhere you just better disappear ‘cause after tonight I don’t wanna see you, or know you, or anything you ever again. ... You fucking faggot. (As Ian exits with the two yellow jugs, Jordan remains. Meanwhile, Sarah enters as if still in church. She sings, A Capella, the 1899 hymn by Lewis Jones, Power in the Blood — her singing is defiant.) SARAH: (singing) Would you be free from the burden of sin? There’s power in the blood, power in the blood; Would you o’er evil a victory win? There’s wonderful power in the blood. (As sarah remains, Little Girl enters. Little Girl crosses to Jordan who watches the distance, presumably the bus. She gently touches him on the arm and something tender passes between them.) JORDAN: Hey Little Girl. LITTLE GIRL: Jordan, are you okay? JORDAN: I think so. LITTLE GIRL: I’m scared. JORDAN: Yeah, me too. (As they watch the distance, sarah continues singing the hymn.) SARAH: (singing) There is power, power, wonder-working power In the blood of the lamb; There is power, power, wonder-working power 110 Proscenium Spring 2015


In the precious blood of the— (Suddenly there’s a huge explosion and a bright orange light.) JORDAN: Ian!?! SARAH: Ian!?! (Blackout. In darkness, sounds of sirens, fire engines, walkie-talkies, water spray, breaking glass. We listen as it unfolds. Lights fade up on Jordan and Sarah (little girl has exited), blankets over their shoulders. shocked and dazed, they watch the flames.) SARAH: Oh child. Oh child. JORDAN: It happened so fast. I couldn’t find him anywhere. I kept asking everybody. And then this fireman says he’s gone. I didn’t understand. You mean, he went home without me? He left? What do you mean? Then he says, no ... they found a body. SARAH: Oh child. JORDAN: How can that be? SARAH: You knew him? JORDAN: Yeah. ... You’re his mom? SARAH: I am. But who are you? I don’t know you. JORDAN: I’m a ... I was a ... friend of Ian’s. SARAH: You don’t go to Golden Rule. Where do you go? JORDAN: I don’t go anywhere. SARAH: They said you’d been in the bus with him. What were you doing in there? JORDAN: I dunno. We hung out. (Sarah scrutinizes jordan.) SARAH: Who are you? JORDAN: I’m ... nobody, really. SARAH: You’re lying. I’m a mother. I can tell things. Who are you? JORDAN: Just a friend. SARAH: What were you doing in there with my son? JORDAN: Nothing. SARAH: That’s not true. Use your words to tell me exactly what you and Ian were doing in that bus. JORDAN: Nothing, really. SARAH: Liar. Tell me. JORDAN: Nothing. SARAH: Please just tell me. (Pause.) JORDAN: It was ... I am ... we, were ... I mean, Ian was ... SARAH: Tell me! JORDAN: (beat) Ian was teaching me to pray. SARAH: To pray? ... To pray!?! (Sarah covers her mouth — it’s a profound moment for her, and she sobs tears of joy.) SARAH: Oh Jesus — thank you. Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Jesus! He was teaching you to pray! — To pray! — My baby was teaching you to pray! Spring 2015 Proscenium  111


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(She looks skyward and holds a hand above her as though she were reaching up to touch something.) SARAH: Ian baby, I’ll be seeing you! Okay, honey! Wait for me, baby! I’ll see you there, honey! I promise, I’ll be seeing you! (Jordan does not look up. Lights fade to darkness. Lights up on little girl who wears a dark suit jacket and tie as the detective. She begins preparing an interview table with a portable cassette tape recorder and microphone. Harry solemnly enters. He sits at the table. Sarah enters likewise, and sits across from Harry. They avoid eye contact. A moment or two passes. LITTLE GIRL: (AS DETECTIVE) Mr. Deforge, Mrs. Deforge? Thank you for being here. My name is Detective Smalley. ... I know this must be a terrible time for ... for both of you. And I just ... I just can’t imagine the pain you must be feeling, right now. (Harry and sarah mutter an acknowledgment.) LITTLE GIRL: (AS DETECTIVE) But we don’t know anything, yet. All we know is that there’s been a death. The medical examiner should be able tell us more soon, but your son— SARAH: Ian. LITTLE GIRL: (AS DETECTIVE) —we know that Ian was down there when it happened, and now he’s missing. So there’s a protocol we have to go through. And for our investigation, I have to tape record everything we say. ... So do I have permission from both of you to record this conversation? (Harry and sarah mutter.) HARRY: Sure. SARAH: Yes. (The detective carefully prepares the cassette tape recorder.) LITTLE GIRL: (AS DETECTIVE) Well let me get started. ... Just put the microphone here. ... Cassette tape, in here. ... Click it shut. ... And press this button here— (Wham’s early 80’s song, Wake Me Up, lead vocals by george michael, blares from the tape recorder: george michael’s voice) Wake me up before you go-go, don’t leave me hanging on like a yo-yo, wake me up before you go-go— (The detective jams at the ‘off’ button until it stops. She’s mortified.) LITTLE GIRL: (AS DETECTIVE) I. Am. So. Sorry. This is ... this is unacceptable. And there’s obviously been an unauthorized use. (She pops the cassette out, looks at it, holds it up to the light. Uncertain what to do next, she calls out behind her.) LITTLE GIRL: (AS DETECTIVE) Hello?? Can i please get some audio-visual help in here?? Thank you! (They wait. Uncomfortable moments pass. Nobody comes.) LITTLE GIRL: (AS DETECTIVE) Y’know ... I think I know what I did wrong. You have to press both buttons and I just— Let’s try it again, both buttons this time. (She pops the cassette back in the recorder. With careful precision, using two hands, she presses both the tape recorder’s buttons — but wham’s song still blasts from the speaker: George Michael’s voice) Wake me up before you go-go, don’t leave me hanging on like a yo-yo, wake me up before you 112 Proscenium Spring 2015


go-go— (She jams and jams a finger at the tape recorder until finally, it stops. little pause. LITTLE GIRL: (AS DETECTIVE) Excuse me. I’ll be right back. (Scooping up the tape recorder, little girl exits. Meanwhile, cold moments pass between Harry and Sarah.) HARRY: Sarah, I know what you’re thinking. SARAH: You, you, you — you have no idea what I’m thinking. HARRY: I didn’t have a thing to do with this. You hear me, Sarah?? I was his father. You think I wanted something like this to happen? SARAH: We’ve nothing to talk about anymore. Ian has a new father now. HARRY: I’m not the monster you make believe I am. I am a good man. And I was a good provider. And a good father until you— SARAH: —Until I what!?! HARRY: Until no reason you just up and take Ian and leave. No note, no nothing. Just vanish. To this day, I dunno what I did or said or what. I mean, what kind of mother does that to her ten year old son, huh? SARAH: Who set that fire, Harry? HARRY: Wasn’t me. Had nothing to do with it. SARAH: Well ... I’m sure she’ll tell you when she gets back, but the police suspect you did it. HARRY: What’re you talkin about? SARAH: Something about some highly flammable liquid you bought a couple days ago. HARRY: No, no. That was— SARAH: They have a witness. HARRY: Who? Sloat!?! SARAH: For all I know, you paid him to do it. HARRY: You’re lying. Nobody believes this. SARAH: Supposedly it’s the kind of — what were the words the police used? — “accelerant popular with arsonists.” HARRY: It’s called Timmenzene. And yeah, Sloat bought it for me, day before yesterday. So what? (Digging in his wallet) And here’s the goddamn receipt. There. See, see! ... And it’s still at the station, outside on the pad, sealed in two yellow jugs, right where I left it. SARAH: Are you gonna sit there and tell me you didn’t want to burn that bus? HARRY: No. ‘Cause I didn’t just wanna burn it — I wanted it to melt a fuckin hole in the ground big enough it’d swallow that church up there, and its whole stuck-up congregation with it! (Pause, lower) But somebody beat me to it. SARAH: Who then? Who did this and caused the death of my son!?! (Sarah bursts into tears and unexpectedly grabs onto harry and sobs into his chest. harry consoles her. A tender moment passes between them.) HARRY: (gently) Sarah ... the police said you were talking to some other boy after the fire. Spring 2015 Proscenium  113


The Bus James Lantz

Could he have had somethin to do with it? (Sarah pulls away from harry and stiffens. She begins composing herself.) SARAH: No. No. ... He’s an acolyte at our church. He knew Ian. HARRY: Well maybe he was a part of it, somehow. SARAH: No. He didn’t have anything to do with it. HARRY: How do you know? SARAH: Because he goes up to the church and I know him. And I believe him when he says he didn’t have anything to do with it. HARRY: He told you that? SARAH: Leave him alone, Harry. HARRY: He got a name, or—? (As harry and sarah continue, ian enters unseen and faces the audience — though because his face is blackened with soot, his clothes scorched and torn, he’s not that recognizable.) SARAH: I said, leave that boy alone, Harry! You hear me!?! HARRY: What was he even doing down there? SARAH: If you so much as— HARRY: Who was he, Sarah? Who was that other boy? (Harry and sarah exit. Still facing the audience, and in front of an imaginary mirror, ian begins cleaning his face. Soon, jordan enters with a bag of clothes — he sees ian, stops in his tracks. They regard each other.) JORDAN: (quiet)Hey beautiful. IAN: (quiet, post-shock)Hey. JORDAN: (crosses to Ian) I think I got everything. IAN: Shoes, too? JORDAN: Yeah. Thrift store, Salvation Army kinda stuff. IAN: (digging through bag) Combat boots? JORDAN: Motorcycle. ... Y’know, like motorcycle boots. IAN: Cool. ... Nobody saw you? JORDAN: Nah. Nobody’s in the park this time of year. (Ian begins changing clothes. Quiet moments pass.) JORDAN: (delicately) So like ... y’know ... the other night ... what happened? (As jordan waits, Ian says nothing and continues changing his clothes.) JORDAN: I mean, I understand you not wanting to talk about it and all, but y’know ... it’s me. (More moments pass.) JORDAN: C’mon Ian ... talk to me. ... Please. IAN: Talk. ... Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk.... There, I talked to you. JORDAN: (sharp) You know, the last time I thought I saw you, some fireman was scooping shovel fulls of burnt shit into a box labeled human remains. Now you’re hiding in a public restroom on the far side of the park, scrubbing black shit off your face — you ask me to get you clothes so you can change ‘cause you’re all scorched and shit. And why?? ‘Cause ‘cause ‘cause— 114 Proscenium Spring 2015


IAN: —’cause I fucked up, Jordan! I fucked up majorly, okay. I crossed over, deep calling to deep, far shore kinda shit. And you know what, maybe I’m just a little freaked-out about it, okay? (Little pause.) JORDAN: Everybody thinks you’re dead. Everybody’s talking about it, the news and everything. IAN: Like it’s in the paper? JORDAN: Like it’s on TV. IAN: Shit. JORDAN: At school, kids are all ‘Oh nooo he died.’ Kids who never even knew you. ... Ian man, they held a moment of silence for you. IAN: Those fuckers. JORDAN: Everybody thinks that body the police found was yours. IAN: Yeah, well. JORDAN: So y’know, like ... if that wasn’t you in the bus ... who was it? (Sloat enters carrying a liquor bottle, drunk. A cigarette dangles from his mouth.) SLOAT: Ian, you gotta get outta here — get out, get outta here, now! (Ian crosses to him, carrying the two yellow jugs.) IAN: Mr. Sloat...?? What’re you ... what’re you doing here in the bus?? SLOAT: These seats, should’a been yanked outta here years ago... (he stumbles, steadies himself with a seat, laughs at himself) ...but I’m glad, glad they’re here now. IAN: Mr. Sloat— SLOAT: I know what you’re thinkin’, this man I admire has been drinkin. But lemme tell you what you should be thinkin’ — this man I admire has come to tell me to leave this bus and never come back ‘cause this man I admire knows more than me. IAN: Mr. Sloat I will, but first— SLOAT: NEVER!! So get outta here, before it’s too late. (Sloat starts shoving Ian.) IAN: But wait, wait — please just wait, hear me out— SLOAT: I said get outta here, NOW! IAN: —but wait, wait, please. Mr. Sloat just listen! (pleading his case) Now you know what that church has been saying about my dad, right?? What they’re doing to him, right?? Well this bus is on his property, and they can’t do that! And tonight, I can fix it for him, really fix it right now! SLOAT: Harry ain’t puny, he can fix it himself. IAN: But I can help— SLOAT: HARRY AIN’T PUNY!! And he don’t need your help! Fact, that’s what I come to warn you. (grabs Ian by the collar, pulls him close) You’re not supposed to be here, boy. You and your fella friend. You don’t know what I know. So you gotta make me a deal, leave and don’t ever come back here, ever again. Not here, not ever! Spring 2015 Proscenium  115


The Bus James Lantz

Say it! IAN: Okay. SLOAT: SAY IT!! IAN: Okay. SLOAT: (shoves Ian away) A deal then. Now ... get outta here. (Sloat glances down at Ian’s hands at the yellow jugs.) Wait a second, stop! Stop! Hold, hold everything! What’ve you got there?? Those yella jugs— Is that—?? IAN: Um, I— SLOAT: CHEESE AND CRACKERS, BOY!! That’s not yours! ... Where did you find those?? IAN: Mr. Sloat, I—? SLOAT: THESE AREN’T YOURS!! (crazy eyes, grabbing them from Ian) You know what this stuff is?? You know what this stuff does?? IAN: (wide-eyed) No?? ... What?? SLOAT: (very dark) It burns. (Stooped and hoarding both jugs, mr. Sloat stumbles to another part of the bus, muttering.) SLOAT: Now go on. Get outta here. Don’t ever come back. (Ian starts to leave, then stops. Something blocks his exit.) IAN: Mr. Sloat ... the uh ... the door won’t open. SLOAT: What d’ya mean ... won’t open?? IAN: (pushing on the stuck door) I mean, the bus door’s jammed ... it jams. It does that sometimes. (Little pause.) SLOAT: You turd. You piece of crap. You lying sack of shit. ... I don’t care if the door’s jammed! JUST GET OUTTA HERE! And don’t come back! Hell, crawl out a window if you have to! Just get out! Get out! Yeah, get out that window, then! (Ian wastes no time stepping onto a seat, and climbing out a window. meanwhile, sloat has started laughing — he stumbles, stamps and roars with laughter.) SLOAT: Yeah ... the window ... out the window you go, boy! The window! ... Out the window! ... I know, I know, he went out the window! The window... (His laughter soon trails off. Unsteadily, he unscrews the cap of a timmenzene jug— he drags on his cigarette—) SLOAT: ‘Cause you know what they say, “When God closes a door—” (Immediate blackout and far off muted sound of the original explosion. as the lights fade back up, Ian is back with Jordan.) JORDAN: It wasn’t your fault. IAN: No but ... yeah it was, too. JORDAN: Did you ask him to help or something? IAN: No, hunh-uh. JORDAN: Then why was he there? IAN: (thinking of something else)I dunno. (Pause.) 116 Proscenium Spring 2015


JORDAN: So like I got this idea, okay. The bus is gone, everybody thinks you’re dead— IAN: They’ll figure it out, the police— JORDAN: So we should go before they figure it out. We should just leave, hit the road and stuff. IAN: (Lukewarm) Where would we go? JORDAN: Y’know, all over — deserts, mountains, little towns — Alaska. IAN: You and me? JORDAN: On Harleys. IAN: Motorcycles?? Really? JORDAN: Brothers of the highway. IAN: Jordan, we don’t even have our licenses, yet. JORDAN: Look, I found this in a magazine. (Jordan quickly takes from his pocket, and unfolds, a ripped out page from a magazine and hands it to Ian.) JORDAN: Look at that. Doesn’t that look like us! I mean, Ian ... that’s the road! IAN: (distant, quiet) Yeah, yeah it is. JORDAN: What? IAN: So Jordan... JORDAN: (deflated) You don’t wanna go, or—? IAN: No, no, it’s not that. This is... (indicates magazine page) I mean, this is great. It’s just... (a little defensive) ...so don’t gimme shit about this, okay? But before anything else happens I, like, gotta do this other thing first. JORDAN: What do you gotta do? IAN: I gotta do something for, y’know ... Mr. Sloat. JORDAN: Really? Like what? IAN: I dunno. ... It’s just that I got this major feeling that won’t let me go, that he’d want me to go down to where the bus was and, I dunno, say something ... do something. Like leave flowers and say ... Mr. Sloat, thank you for not letting me get killed. Thank you for doing what my dad said to do all those years. I’m sorry you died. And ... thank you for other things, too. ... Amen. (little pause) So don’t gimme shit, okay? It’s just something I gotta go do. JORDAN: Okay. IAN: Then I’ll be back. JORDAN: Promise? IAN: Jordan look at me: I’ll be back. JORDAN: Then maybe we can go someplace? IAN: Yeah, yeah. JORDAN: Ian?? IAN: I promise. (Uncertain, Jordan exits. Meanwhile, Ian readies himself to go down to where the bus was. he holds a few wild flowers, then crosses to the broken remains of the bus. For a moment he just Spring 2015 Proscenium  117


The Bus James Lantz

stands there, silent. Behind him, Harry enters.) HARRY: (intimidating) Can I help you? (Startled, ian whips around.) HARRY: I said, can I help you?? IAN: (deer in headlights) You don’t know who I am? HARRY: Well you look a little like my son, but that can’t be ‘cause he did a stupid thing that ended up in him being killed. Fact, his mother and I already bought a headstone for him, a plot up to the cemetery. So yeah, he’s gone. ... Plus he’d never have the balls to come down here to this wreckage and tell me what he done. (pause) You got some nerve showing up here. IAN: I’m sorry. Like, really I am. HARRY: You’re sorry? You’re sorry?? IAN: Yeah. Yes sir. HARRY: You do this? That what you telling me? (beat) You telling me that pile of ash they got down to the county morgue is Sloat? IAN: Yes sir. HARRY: What?? ... You and him scheme this? You wanted to embarrass me? That it? IAN: No. No sir! HARRY: Then why the bus, huh?? You hated me so much, why not burn down the station? Or there’s a stack of tires and pallets back there — why not them? Or hell, what about the pumps?? (a flash of contained fury) Don’t you stand there and tell me you burned this bus ‘cause of what was going on between me and that church up there — don’t you dare tell me that!’ Cause I was taking care of it! I was! This is my property! Mine! And no church, no lawyer, and no son ........... is gonna tell me what can or can’t be done on my property. IAN: I just wanted to ... y’know ... help. HARRY: You wanna help me? Really?? All right, then... (Sarcastic and surly, harry starts grabbing broken bus parts, absurdly trying to piece them together.) HARRY: Put it back together. Start by gluing this thing here to that thing there, then put this thing back into that thing — then while you’re at it go down to a freezer in the basement of the courthouse and put that old man back the way he was. Sloat, who never did anything to anybody since you were born, except be nice to people. You wanna help me — do that! (pause) I don’t need help from nobody. And especially — not from you. (The moment hangs.) HARRY: Why’re you here, right now? Really. Why’d you come down here? IAN: I just wanted to ... y’know ... I wanted to say something for Mr. Sloat. Say a— HARRY: Go on. IAN: Say a few words for him. HARRY: Yeah, words? Speak up, I can’t hear you. 118 Proscenium Spring 2015


IAN: Words, yes. HARRY: Like a prayer, maybe?? IAN: Yeah. HARRY: (snide) Well that’s nice. A prayer. ... You know, the night of the fire, some other boy was down here, and he told your mother you were teaching him to pray. So I guess that figures. ‘Course that made your mother real happy, what he said. That what you two were doing in the bus ............... was praying. (Ian’s face goes ashen.) HARRY: (mocking) “Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” — come on, join in any time you like — “Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass—” What’s the matter? You and he not get to that one yet? Or were the two of you too busy doin’ somethin else in the back of that bus? You know, like you were about six weeks ago, just you and him? ‘Cause that’s about the time I saw you two horsing around back there. So I went up to the bus, looked in the window and that’s when I saw what I saw. ...... That was no prayer. IAN: (realizing, growing angry) So what you said all along — what you told everybody about the bus — it didn’t have anything to do with the church, did it? It never did. It was about me all along, wasn’t it? HARRY: So there. There it is. I lied. ... Pretty bad, huh? Well what’d you expect after what I saw? Me to throw my arms around you, stick out a hand and say, ‘Way to go, son! Put ‘er there!’ ... There’s rules, y’know. Rules. From way back they come. And one day, you and he, you can’t suddenly say those rules don’t matter. IAN: (anger through a few tears) Why not? HARRY: Because some rules, you can’t break! IAN: Why not? HARRY: BECAUSE YOU CAN’T! IAN: But we did. (Harry tries to restrain his fury.) HARRY: I’m trying here, boy. I’m trying. At one time, I had a son named Ian and I’m trying to hold that here. But I’m also trying real hard not to come over there and— (pause) I don’t know where you came from, I don’t know why you’re here, and I don’t know why I’m even talking to you. For the life of me, I don’t understand how a son of mine could’ve ended up like ... that. IAN: (terse, indicating flowers) Would you mind if I left these here ... for Mr. Sloat. (Harry motions and ian crosses to place the flowers — as he does so, harry stands there, stonefaced. Ian returns.) IAN: Y’know before I met Jordan, I was like the loneliest ... and, I dunno ... now when I’m with him, I can’t even remember what lonely was. So I don’t care what you say, you can’t make me feel bad about feeling like ... that. Spring 2015 Proscenium  119


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(Harry is unmoved.) IAN: Sorry your son died. HARRY: Yeah, so am I. IAN: Well I should go. Yeah. I should go. (A moment or two passes. Ian crosses to Harry and extends his hand.) IAN: Goodbye, Mr. Deforge. (Harry looks down at Ian’s extended hand, then back up at Ian. Ian keeps his hand extended. The moment hangs. Blind-sided, Harry begins to falter. He slowly extends his hand. They shake hands — unexpectedly, Harry starts to become emotional. He pulls Ian into a close hug, begins to cry. For a while they stand like this. A moment later there’s a ‘ding ding’ at the pumps. Impatient, the car blows its horn. Little girl enters, and calls toward Harry and Ian.) LITTLE GIRL: Hey mister, you open?? Excuse me ... are you open? (Ian and harry release their hug. Harry begins to compose himself, clearing his throat, removing handkerchief, etc. Harry calls to little girl who remains): HARRY: Um ... yeah. Just give me a minute, will you...? (Meanwhile jordan enters and crosses to ian, who takes his hand into his. Standing hand in hand, ian and jordan look at harry, who looks back at them. Little girl remains, waiting for a response. Harry calls to her.) HARRY: I’ll be right there, okay? Be right there. (Harry, ian, jordan and little girl, regard each other.) THE LIGHTS FADE. END OF PLAY.

120 Proscenium Spring 2015


The Book of Leonidas

by Augusto Amador Spring 2015 Proscenium  121


The Book of Leonidas Augusto Amador

A Conversation with the Playwright About the Playwright “The Book of Leonidas” is currently a semi-finalist for the 2015 Eugene O’Neill Conference and was recently a part of the Playwright’s Nest Festival at the Los Angeles Theater Center. Augusto was a playwriting fellow with the 2011 Emerging Writers Group at the Public Theater in New York. In addition to the Public Theater’s Spotlight Series, his plays have also been presented at the Lark Play Development Center, Terra Nova Collective’s Groundbreaking Series, Repertorio Espanol, Red Room, Queens Theater in The Park, and INTAR Theater. In Los Angeles, his plays have been presented at the Celebration Theatre, Audrey-Skirball Kenis Theater Projects, Playwrights Arena, the Blank Theater, Ricardo Montalban Theater, Imagined Life Theater, Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum as part of the Seedlings New Play Series, the John Anson Ford Theater, and the Inkubator new play reading series at the Skylight Theater. He has also served a playwright residency at the Arkansas Repertory Theater in Little Rock, Ark. His plays have been finalists or semi-finalists for the Eugene O’Neill Conference (2011, 2015), the Sundance Theater Lab, INTAR Playwright’s Lab, The Metlife National Latino Playwriting Award, Bay Area Playwrights Foundation, The Arch and Bruce Brown Foundation, Kitchen Dog New Play Festival and the Hormel New Play Festival at the Phoenix Theater. Augusto was named a finalist for the prestigious 2013 Terrance McNally Award and for the 2013 Clifford Odets Ensemble New Play Commission from the Lee Strasberg Theater & Film Institute. Augusto was a member of 2014 Los Angeles Latino Theater Alliance’s Writers Circle. His play “Kissing Che” was listed in HowlRound’s, “101 Plays by The New Americans, or on Latinidad.” 122 Proscenium Spring 2015

What was your inspiration for the play? I started this play thinking about legacy and tradition. These both can be very compelling and positive factors a person can be raised with. That is, if you accept the legacy and tradition you have been raised to follow. The hard question is: What happens if you don’t want to walk the path that has been laid for you by your family? If you fear that you will lose your identity in the forced march to duplicate your father’s life? My inspiration to tell this story is in showing the consequences and damage created from breaking free. Pieces of oneself will be irrevocably destroyed in the process. At the end, will there be enough of oneself to begin again? What do you want the audience to come away with? The Pabon family are haunted and followed by the actions of a dictator that died in another country over fifty years ago. In everyday life, some families are influenced by an event/s that happened two, three, even four generations ago. The next generation repeating the lives of the previous one, and the one before that and so on, not even aware of why they do. They just do. As one of my character says in another one of my plays, “The dead always affect the living… always.” What was the most challenging part of writing this play? The ending for me was the most challenging. So without giving it away, I believe the ending was the most realistic.


Why did you start writing plays? It’s safe to say that one could label me as a loner. Solitude has for the most part come easy to me. And well, writing requires solitude, so it’s been a good fit. What advice do you have for playwrights starting out? Love your solitude. The Book of Leonidas is copyright © 2015 by Augusto Amador. All inquiries regarding rights shall be sent to info@prosceniumjournal.com and shall be forwarded to the playwright or their agent. Performances of The Book of Leonidas are subject to royalty, and are fully protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America and all countries covered by the International Copyright Union. All rights, including professional and amateur productions, staged readings, television, motion picture, radio, translations, photocopies, and all other reproductions of this play are strictly reserved.

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Spring 2015 Proscenium  123


The Book of Leonidas Augusto Amador

The Book of Leonidas By Augusto Amador ACT ONE Scene One

TIME: Present PLACE: Queens, NYC (The sounds of a typical New York City day: Car horns blaring, loud construction noises, distant police sirens etc... Lights up on a busy street corner lined with a crowded mixture of Bengali, Muslim and Greek restaurants and businesses. Seemingly out of place in this neighborhood are two white doors with a lit up neon crucifix and sign beneath that reads, "Divinity Baptist Church". Actively pacing the stage while hustling loosies to passing pedestrians, is LENNY PABON. He walks with a distinct left limp but he hustles with a lot of flair and humor. Unbeknownst to him, LINDSAY, enters the stage from the church door. She puffs on an E-cigarette and watches his hustle with interest.) LENNY: LOOSIES! LOOSIES! Two for a dolla! Two for a dolla! These prices guaranteed to make you holla!... (to a passing pedestrian) I got Kooool Menthols for all you morenos y morenas... (to another passing pedestrian) Camels for you sons of Mohammed! (stepping to another) P-Funks for my stylish hipster amigos!...And of course, Virginia Slims for all you sexy mamacita's out there! (eyeing a cute girl walking by; smooth) "You've come loooong way, baby, girl"...Loosies! Loosies! Two for a dolla! Two for a dolla! (Lenny makes a sale to a passing pedestrian. He collects his dollar in exchange for a couple of cigarettes. Entering on the opposite side of the stage is, Uganda, carrying a back pack. He faces out to the audience and begins his hustle to passing pedestrians. He speaks with a thick African accent and lacks Lenny's flair for selling.) AFRICAN MAN: Cigarettes! I have cigarettes! Only two for one dollar! One dollar! Cigarettes! Cigarettes! (Lenny quickly turns to see him.) LENNY: Yo, Uganda?! (Uganda ignores him.) UGANDA: (to passing pedestrian) Cigarettes for you! (Lenny angrily steps across the stage to him.) 124 Proscenium Spring 2015


The Book of Leonidas publicity photo for the Playwright’s Nest Festival at the Los Angeles Theater Festival. Photo Credit: Tailstar.com. LENNY: Uganda! I'm talkin' to you! (He turns to face Lenny.) UGANDA: (unmoved) First of all, I am from Chad. LENNY: Looky here, Africa. This be my fuckin' block. My block! You hear? UGANDA: No. I don't think so. LENNY: Don't think so?! Take a deep breathe...I said, do it, bembe. Spring 2015 Proscenium  125


The Book of Leonidas Augusto Amador

(Uganda inhales deeply.) LENNY: You smell that? AFRICAN MAN: I smell Bengali food. LENNY: (in his grill) Nah, bro. You smell me. You know why? UGANDA: I have no idea. LENNY: 'Cause I marked this block a long time ago. UGANDA: I do not care. LENNY: Do you know who I am? UGANDA: A cigarette salesman? LENNY: (with pride) I'm Lenny Pabon, yo! UGANDA: And my name is Adisa Okoro. LENNY: That right? Nobody gives a shit. Go mark your own block! UGANDA: (standing firm) I'm just trying to make money. I'm acapitalist, just like you. LENNY: Capitalist, huh? 'fraid you got it all wrong, chan... (Lenny looks around before lifting up his jacket and flashing the handle of gold plated pistol that's tucked in his waistband.) LENNY: This is what a real capitalist looks like. (Uganda holds up his hands in submission.) UGANDA: Whoa, man. Take it easy. LENNY: Now do you get me? UGANDA: Yes, yes. I am sorry. LENNY: In Queens, this is how we way say "time ta' get steppin'"... (placing his hand on his pistol) Now...time ta'get steppin'... (Uganda gets his back up. They both stare at each other in a long tense standoff. For a moment, he appears as if he may charge Lenny...Then suddenly, he releases a wide smile.) UGANDA: Okay. No problem, bro. You got no problems from me. (He goes to exit.) LENNY: Yo Africa? One last palabra... (Uganda stops and turns around.) LENNY: (turning around) Ask around who Lenny Pabon's father is. Cono! You gonna shit your pantalones, chan! (Uganda exits offstage. Lenny beams with pride and does a little triumphant strut.) LENNY: (to himself) Who's a a bad ass, mofo? (beating his chest) You is, son! (Lenny snaps back to the hustle.) LENNY: (announcing) Listen up, listen up! BLUE LIGHT SPECIAL! BLUE LIGHT SPECIAL! Three Generic loos126 Proscenium Spring 2015


ies for a dolla! Yo' ears heard that right, nicotine fiends! Three for a dolla!... (Lindsay steps up to him.) LINDSAY: Alright, I'll bite. Who's your daddy? (Lenny turns around to see Lindsay.) LENNY: Come again? LINDSAY: I was wondering who yourLENNY: (impatient) -Looky here, chica. You gonna buy a loosie or not? LINDSAY: Huh? Oh, I only smoke E-cigarettes. LENNY: (shaking his head) Fuckin' hipsters. (Lenny walks away annoyed.) LINDSAY: (calling out) I was watching you. LENNY: (whipping around) You was what? LINDSAY: Watching you. LENNY: Do I know you? LINDSAY: Well, noLENNY: You a cop? LINDSAY: A cop? No. LENNY: (like she's a whack job) Right. Why don't you go and keep yo' cray-cray-self long distance. (He walks away.) LINDSAY: "Cray cray"? (She follows after him.) LENNY: (turning around; final) Chica, time ta'LENNY/LINDSAY: (unison) -get steppin'. (Beat.) LENNY: Ah, I get it. You like some crazy meth bitch, ain't you? LINDSAY: What? Oh, God no! LENNY: (looking her over) Must be new at it 'cause you still pretty. LINDSAY: No, look...I don't think you understand. LENNY: Narco ain't my trade, girl. Try the next corner over. Ask for Super Puppet. (Ignoring her, he steps away going back to his hustle.) LENNY (CONT’D): (calling out) Dos por uno! Spring 2015 Proscenium  127


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LINDSAY: I just wanted to sayLENNY: (calling out) Uno por dos! LINDSAY: (loudly blurting out) I thought it was cool how you handled that African guy. (He freezes.) LENNY: Hold up? You saw that? LINDSAY: You like scared the shit out of him. LENNY: (pleased with himself) I did, didn't I? LINDSAY: You were great. LENNY: (flattered) So you meanin' to say, I was a baddass nigga? LINDSAY: Um, I can't say that word. LENNY: Awright, awright. I can dig that. I ain't a violent dude, know what I'm sayin'? But sometimes you gotta send a message. LINDSAY: Sure. You got to stand up for yourself. LENNY: Exactly. I never seen you around here before. LINDSAY: I'm new here. LENNY: New from where? LINDSAY: Chelsea. LENNY: Chelsea? Very nice, very nice. LINDSAY: It's not as nice as you think. LENNY: Wassup? You get kicked outta the garden? LINDSAY: Garden? LENNY: The Garden of Eden that is Chelsea. LINDSAY: No. (pointing to the white church doors) I do charity work at the Divinity Church. LENNY: Charity work? LINDSAY: Well, actually it's more like "court ordered" charity work. LENNY: Court ordered? I'm impressed. Fist bump. (He puts out his fist. She firmly bumps it. He laughs.) LENNY (CONT’D): There you go! So what you get busted for? Driving yo' Benz drunk and running over a rich old lady's poodle? LINDSAY: Uh, not exactly. LENNY: Lay it on me. LINDSAY: Forget it, it's embarrassing. LENNY: Come on, spill it. LINDSAY: (beat) I was having a rough day so I bumped a few lines. And well, what goes better with coke than Grey Goose, right? 128 Proscenium Spring 2015


LENNY: Well, around here it's crack and a bottle of Old English but go on. LINDSAY: Later in the night I start getting woozy and remember that in the morning, I popped a couple of Xanax. So I decide to drive home before I turn into a hot mess, you know? And then that's when I hit a parked cop car. LENNY: Damn... LINDSAY: (reluctantly adding) And then I slapped the cop in the face. LENNY: You really are a hot mess, ain't you? LINDSAY: What? I was having a rough day. LENNY: (sarcastic) Sure. Sounds normal enough to me. (mimicking addressing a judge) Yo' honor. I know I was caught with that Glock and brick of cocaine but...I was having a real rough day. LINDSAY: OK. Point made. LENNY: Hold up. So you did all that and only got community service? LINDSAY: What do you mean, "only"? LENNY: And the cops didn't shoot you neither? LINDSAY: Shoot me? Why would they do that? LENNY: (amazed) Cono, it really is true what they say about white folks. LINDSAY: What's that supposed to mean? LENNY: Means next time I gotta get your attorney. (Lenny turns to a customer.) LENNY (CONT’D): That's one dolla, brotha. (He exchanges the loosies for a bill.) LENNY (CONT’D): So what you do in the church? LINDSAY: I work in the soup kitchen. I don't think the people I work with don't like me too much. LENNY: Ah, I'm sure they do. LINDSAY: They gave me the nickname, "PWP". LENNY: PWP? LINDSAY: Pretty White Pony. (He busts up laughing.) LENNY: Yeah, they definitely hate your ass. LINDSAY: I'm standing right here, you know that right? LENNY: But hey, at least you're making an impression? LINDSAY: (playing along) I'll actually take that. Thank you. (They both laugh. Beat. He checks his phone.) LENNY: There's an AA meeting breakin' down the street I got to roll to. Spring 2015 Proscenium  129


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LINDSAY: (surprised) Oh. How long have you been sober? LENNY: Sober? Nah, it's where I unload most of my loosies. Alkies smoke like fiends. LINDSAY: I guess, I should get back as well. This week, I'm on pots and pans detail. LENNY: Sucks. LINDSAY: (shrugging) Yeah but I guess that's what I get for fucking up... (She starts to step back to the church. He watches her for a moment.) LENNY: My name is Leonidas. But the block knows me as Lenny. LINDSAY: I'm Lindsay. (self-deprecating) I know, it's a stupid sounding name but that's only because that bitch, Lohan, fucked it up for all us other Lindsay's. LENNY: Who's Lohan? LINDSAY: Forget it. See you around sometime? LENNY: Seven days a week. Three hundred sixty-five a year. LINDSAY: (smiling) Cool. (She steps to the church doors.) LENNY: Yo Lindsay? (She turns around.) LENNY: Welcome to Queens. Scene Two

TIME: Present; Late Night PLACE: Washington Heights, NYC (Lights Up on a cramped and poorly furnished living room of Lenny and Luz Pabon. Several crucifix's hang on the walls. We are immediately drawn to a large and imposing 4' x 6' framed oil painting of El Jefe, also known as ex-Dominican dictator General Rafael Leonidas Trujillo. He looks regal as his eyes are ever pondering down at the happenings of the Pabon household. Beneath the painting, sits an empty small wall mount. The front door creaks open and Lenny enters the apartment. He tries very hard not to make a sound as he closes the door behind him. He pulls out his gold plated pistol and places it ever so carefully on the wall mount which holds it perfectly in place. Unbeknownst to him, LUZ PABON, wearing a nightgown, appears in the doorway.) LUZ: Only a righteous hombre with huevos so large, they can barely fit into the palm of his hand, deserves to hold that pistola. LENNY: (heard it all before) Yo se, mama. LUZ: That pistola is what separates the powerful from the weak. LENNY: Si, mama. LUZ: How I wish I was born with a pinga and a pair of cojones...Then I would show the world what I would do with it. 130 Proscenium Spring 2015


The Book of Leonidas at the Playwright’s Nest Festival at the Los Angeles Theater Festival. Photo Credit: Tailstar.com. LENNY: Ma, the meds you taking are making you talk funny again. LUZ: (relishing) I have dreams about it. Muchos Suenos. LENNY: Sounds more like nightmares. LUZ: (biting) So whispers the crippled muchachito. (Lenny crosses to the kitchen.) LENNY: I'll bet you a warm glass of leche will get you sleeping real good. LUZ: I try praying to the Holy Mother but she is deaf as a dead burro. LENNY: Cono, now I know you need to get some sleep when you start talking like that. (He tries to escort her to her room but she brushes him off.) LUZ: Dejame. LENNY. Alright, ma. Suit yourself. I'm going to bed. (Lenny goes to exit to his room.) LUZ: Esperate! How much? LENNY: (turning around) Around two-fifty. Spring 2015 Proscenium  131


The Book of Leonidas Augusto Amador

LUZ: (holding out her hand) Dame. (Lenny steps to her and pulls out a large wad of cash. He hands it to her.) LENNY: Noches, ma. (She instantly feels the weight of the bills in her palm.) LUZ: (scrutinizing) It feels light. LENNY: (avoiding) What? LUZ: Los Cuartos? It don't feel like two-fifty. LENNY: Mama, I told you it was 'round two-fifty. (She eyes him suspiciously.) LUZ: Ven aqui. LENNY: (childish) Ma, serio. I'm really tired. LUZ: Ahora! (Lenny pauses before stepping close to her. She presses her face close to his and smells his breathe. Suddenly disgusted she pushes him away.) LUZ: Sucio! Your breathe smells like a boca de pero! LENNY: I had a few drinks. So what? LUZ: That how you spend my money? You drinking out there while I suffering alone in here? LENNY: I was celebrating! LUZ: Borracho. LENNY: Celebrating somethin' I did. Somethin' you be proud of, ma. LUZ: (skeptical) Proud, huh? LENNY: This African cundango tried to front me on my own block. And you know what I did, ma? I showed him my power. I showed him who was the jefe. LUZ: And then what? LENNY: Then what? He ran outta there. That's what. LUZ: Ran? LENNY: Yeah, you heard me. LUZ: Why wasn't that cundango crawling away? LENNY: Huh? LUZ: Or better yet, carried away in a body bag? LENNY: The point is he ran away outta fear. Fear of me. LUZ: Asi, fear of you? LENNY: That's right. Fear of me. I got my own power. So stop telling me I don't. LUZ: Your fatherLENNY: -Pop woulda been proud. LUZ: He woulda beat him to death. LENNY: Pop had his way and I got mine. LUZ: Then stop calling yourself the son of Leonidas. 132 Proscenium Spring 2015


LENNY: I am his son. LUZ: Then start acting like one, pendejo! LENNY: Have I not been taking care of you like he asked me to? LUZ: He used to bring me home steaks and champagne. Tu? You only bring home McDonald's and colas. LENNY: (cowed) I'm sorry, mama. I always try my best for you. LUZ: Power?...Si, you are powerful, boy...As powerful as a 38 year old cripple. (Lenny looks ashamed. She stuffs the bills in her bra and starts to exit to her room.) LUZ: No forget, we have to leave for church en la manana? (crossing herself) Pray to Jesus to take away mi diabetes. LENNY: Si, mama. (She exits leaving Lenny alone with his thoughts as he stares out above the audience.) Scene Three

TIME: 1957 PLACE: In a village outside of La Vega, Dominican Republic (Spotlight up on a simple bar and a single stool. A BARTENDER,50's, Dominican, stands behind the bar, drying a glass. A folk song plays from a cheap radio. LEONIDAS PABON, 33, Dominican, enters. He is sharply dressed and handsome. In fact, he takes on the style and fashion of a famous band leader. The Bartender freezes upon seeing him. He suddenly becomes nervous. Leonidas flashes a disarming smile, before removing his hat and placing it effortlessly on the bar. LEONIDAS: (sitting) Buenas tardes. BARTENDER: Buenas tardes, senor. LEONIDAS: I'll have aBARTENDER: (sputtering out) The answer is no. LEONIDAS: Tsk...Well, I suppose when you become very good at something it's inevitable that your reputation is bound to proceed you, eh? BARTENDER: (more nervous) The answer is again "no"...Respectfully. LEONIDAS: Asi?...Is that no to a glass of rum as well? BARTENDER: Rum? (He pours him a very short glass and slides it to him.) LEONIDAS: Poquito mas, please? (He looks at him for a moment before pouring him a heavier shot.) LEONIDAS: (taking the glass) Now that's more like it. And a little for yourself? BARTENDER: I don't drink no more. Spring 2015 Proscenium  133


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The Book of Leonidas at the Playwright’s Nest Festival at the Los Angeles Theater Festival. Photo Credit: Tailstar.com. LEONIDAS: A bartender that doesn't drink?... Must be tough, no?...Then again, it explains why you are so strong willed in your decisions. BARTENDER: (pleading) You've had your drink. Now please leave us alone. LEONIDAS: That I can no do. Because you see, senor...Like me, Marisol too has a reputation that has proceeds her. BARTENDER: You leave her alone! LEONIDAS: Por favor, be reasonable? BARTENDER: She is not available. LEONIDAS: Are you sure about that? BARTENDER: Marisol has been promised to someone else. LEONIDAS: Alono was his name, verdad?... BARTENDER: (beat) Was?... LEONIDAS: Alono was an hombre of the worst kind: A comunista. BARTENDER: (horrified) No, that is not true. No es verdad! LEONIDAS: Ah, but it is. 134 Proscenium Spring 2015


BARTENDER: She loves him. LEONIDAS: Tsk, tsk, tsk. Be serious. What kind of woman could love a dead comunista? BARTENDER: So he's, he's dead? LEONIDAS: Much more importantly, she is now available. (A terrified looks falls over the bartenders face.) LEONIDAS: Tu sabes, I've been doing this for quite some time. Marisol is one of the most the most beautiful women I have ever seen. You should be proud, senor. BARTENDER: You'll never find her. I made sure of that. Nunca! Nunca! LEONIDAS: But I already have. BARTENDER: No! You couldn't of! Impossible! LEONIDAS: Don't worry, viejo. El Jefe will treat her like a queen. BARTENDER: (going to rush out) You're lying! (Leonidas casually pulls out his gold plated pistol nonchalantly and places it on the bar.) LEONIDAS: Sit...I said, sit! (The Bartender sits.) BARTENDER: (sobbing) You don't have a daughter, do you? LEONIDAS: No. As matter of fact, I don't have any children at all. However, if I did have a daughter?... (He refills his glass of rum.) LEONIDAS: ...It would be my honor to give her over to El Jefe. BARTENDER: But I don't understand?...If you have Marisol already, why are you here? LEONIDAS: (shrugs his shoulders) I was thirsty... (The lights slowly fade to black as Leonidas takes a drink.) Scene Four

Time: Present Place: Lenny's street corner. (The sound of a train, loudly passes overhead. Lenny sits on a stoop, intently drawing on a sketch pad. Lindsay enters from the church doors and steps over to him.) LINDSAY: Hey, Lenny? LENNY: (continuing to sketch) Wassup? LINDSAY: You taking a break? LENNY: (shaking his head) Too hot. LINDSAY: Yeah. Jesus, what is it like a hundred freakin' degrees out here? LENNY: Nah. I mean, it's too hot. Las Placas be on the prowl. Know what I mean? LINDSAY: (confident) Yeah, sure... Spring 2015 Proscenium  135


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(Aside, she quickly Googles, "LAS PLACAS" on her iphone and learns the meaning.) LINDSAY: (to herself) Oh right. (to Lenny; enthusiastically) Fuck the po-lice! LENNY: Shshh. Yo, you trying to get me arrested?! LINDSAY: (embarrassed) Oh, right. Sorry. (She takes a drag from her E-cigarette and watches Lenny drawing with focused concentration.) LINDSAY: What are you drawing? (Lenny doesn't seem to hear her and keeps drawing.) LINDSAY (CONT’D): (playfully in a street accent) Like, yo Lenny?! I asked, Wassup, yo?! (Startled, Lenny stops and looks up.) LENNY: Huh? LINDSAY: I asked, what are you drawing? (Quickly putting away his sketch pad.) LENNY: Nuthin'. LINDSAY: Nuthin' ? Then how come you're hiding it? LENNY: I ain't hiding anything. LINDSAY: Okay. If you say so. LENNY: It's my private business. LINDSAY: I didn't know you're an artist? LENNY: (defensive) I never said I was no artist. Did you hear me tell you I was an artist? LINDSAY: Alright, alright. Jesus, you'd think I called you a child molester or something...So what you drawing? LENNY: Just some stuff I been working on. LINDSAY: Very cool. Can I see it? LENNY: Cono, you're a real huevos buster. LINDSAY: What? I'm just curious that's all. LENNY: Yeah, I'm sure you are...Look, maybe some other time? LINDSAY: Deal. LENNY: (politely) Don't you got some pots and pans waiting for you? LINDSAY: Huh? Oh I'm past that. Now they got me on toilet detail. So how's the tobacco trade? LENNY: Same ol' mierda. LINDSAY: (nodding confidently) I hear that... (Aside, she quickly begins to Google the word "MIERDA". Lenny notices. 136 Proscenium Spring 2015


LENNY: Cono! You don't get out much, do you? LINDSAY: What's that supposed to infer? LENNY: It infers that you don't get out much. LINDSAY: Hah! I'll have you know that I'm a local. LENNY: (skeptical) Hmmm-mmmm. LINDSAY: Moved a couple blocks down the street. LENNY: Half-way house, huh? LINDSAY: No, smart ass. I moved here to take a break. LENNY: (incredulous) Take a break? Here?! LINDSAY: Yeah. Like a sabbatical. (He checks his cell.) LENNY: Sounds like a bullshit word for "running away" to me. LINDSAY: I'm not running away. LENNY: Let me guess? Your boyfriend, "Todd", kick you to the curb? LINDSAY: No. LENNY: Yo' mama throw you out of her penthouse? LINDSAY: (dismissing) Oh please. Mother is much too neurotic to live in a such a small space. LENNY: Ah, I got it. It was yo' daddy who kicked you out? (Beat. She takes a silent puff.) LENNY (CONT’D): That's it, ain't it? He cut you loose? LINDSAY: Other way around. I cut him loose. LENNY: (impressed) Your pop? He have it coming to him? LINDSAY: (beat; serious) Yeah...Adam Wasserman. You ever heard of him? LENNY: Let me think...old, rich, Jewish white dude? No! LINDSAY: Seriously? His name is like all over the TV. LENNY: TV is a brain killer. LINDSAY: My dad is like the most infamous criminal since like forever. LENNY: Hold up. Your pop is a thug? LINDSAY: He's like what you'd call a mob boss. LENNY: Mob boss?! Fo'real?! From which family? Gambino? Columbo? LINDSAY: The Prometheus Group. LENNY: Yeah, I heard the Greeks were taking territory. LINDSAY: They're a multi-billion dollar hedge fund company. LENNY: Say again? LINDSAY: A multi-billion dollarLENNY: -yo, what kinda a thug is your pop anyway? LINDSAY: A thug of the very worst kind. Spring 2015 Proscenium  137


The Book of Leonidas Augusto Amador

LENNY: And what kind is that? LINDSAY: Wall Street banker. LENNY: Mierda! You white people even make crime sound boring! LINDSAY: Adam Wasserman, the fabulous-fucking-fraud of Wall Street. LENNY: Why you telling me this? LINDSAY: I thought you'd be impressed. (Lenny checks his phone.) LINDSAY: Aren't you?... (She watches as he responds to text.) LINDSAY (CONT’D): Well...I guess, I'll talk to you later? (He doesn't respond. She starts to exit.) LENNY: So your pop got popped, huh? LINDSAY: (turning around) Yeah. LENNY: Don't you got no friends to hear you out? LINDSAY: Coincidentally, I'm not so popular anymore. LENNY: How come? LINDSAY: My daddy robbed them out of all their fortunes. LENNY: Were you part of his hustle? LINDSEY Of course not. But they still hate me just the same. LENNY: Why? LINDSAY: Sins of the father and all that shit... LENNY: Sorry, that's rough. LINDSAY: Thanks. LENNY: What he did...don't make you a fuck up, you know? LINDSAY: I guess...What about your daddy? You guys close? LENNY: He's dead. LINDSAY: I'm sorry. LENNY: It was a long time ago. LINDSAY: Your daddy? What did he do? LENNY: He was a thug. Like your pop. LINDSAY: (quietly) My daddy never killed anybody. LENNY: No? Well there are other ways of wiping somebody out than using a gun. (Beat.) LINDSAY: Was he respected? LENNY: (correcting) Feared. LINDSAY: You're lucky. My daddy is just plain hated. (Beat. Lenny checks his text.) LENNY: Looks like the coast be clear... 138 Proscenium Spring 2015


LINDSAY: (regretfully) Right...I'll let you get back to it. (She starts to walk off.) LENNY: (trying to comfort) Being alone ain't so bad, you know? (She stops and turns around.) LENNY: After awhile you get used to it. LINDSAY: (beat; sad smile) I'm sure you're right. (She turns and steps off to the church. He appears conflicted.) LENNY: (suddenly) Hey Lindsay? LINDSAY: (turning around) Yeah? LENNY: (shyly) I don't...I don't gotta get back to work this second... (They smile at each other.) Scene Five

Time: 1960 Place: A butcher shop somewhere in the D.R. (Pitch black stage. We hear the loud repetitious sound of a thwacking noise. Something like steel hitting wood. Spotlight up on a BUTCHER, 50's, in a blood stained white apron intently butchering a piece of meat with a large cleaver. Leonidas enters in a sharp suit and hat. He watches the butcher for a moment. The Butcher turns around and freezes upon seeing him.) LEONIDAS: Por favor. Keep working. (Non-plussed, the Butcher goes back to chopping meat.) BUTCHER: Still the same arrogant pendejo, I see. LEONIDAS: After all this time, is that all you have to say? (The Butcher stops and wipes off the blood from the butchered meat onto his apron.) BUTCHER: Bueno...In one way, it looks like we both turned out similar. LEONIDAS: How is that? BUTCHER: We're both butchers. LEONIDAS: Is that right? BUTCHER: Except the blood on my apron is from animals. LEONIDAS: People are also animals. BUTCHER: And what does the El Jefe have you doing for him besides kissing his culo? LEONIDAS: (smiling) I've torn men's flesh for saying less. BUTCHER: (not intimidated) That I have no doubt. (Leonidas takes a seat.) Spring 2015 Proscenium  139


The Book of Leonidas Augusto Amador

LEONIDAS: I'm now in charge of procuring the most beautiful young women for the enjoyment of El Jefe. BUTCHER: "Procure"? You even speak differently. LEONIDAS: Claro. I've learned the art of refinement. BUTCHER: Nah, that's not it. You used to talk more bluntly. Honestly. LEONIDAS: And what is the honest truth? BUTCHER: That you are El Jefe's pimp. (Leonidas stares at him coldly before becoming amused.) LEONIDAS: Bravo...I have to admit that is the truth. Pero it sounds better the first way, no? BUTCHER: I've heard stories. LEONIDAS: Si, there are many... (Leonidas lights a cigarette.) BUTCHER: How about the bartender outside of La Romana? LEONIDAS: (correcting) La Vega...Tsk. His daughter was so beautiful. El Jefe would have really enjoyed that one. BUTCHER: But the bartender wouldn't let him have her. Would he? LEONIDAS: He shot her in the head. BUTCHER: So he'd rather have his own daughter dead than in the arms of that goat. LEONIDAS: Could you blame him? (Silence.) BUTCHER: And now it's my daughter you have come for? (He places his hand on his cleaver. Leonidas kicks out a chair.) LEONIDAS: Sientate, por favor? (The Butcher hesitates, his hand still on the cleaver.) LEONIDAS: With or without the cleaver. Your choice? BUTCHER: Remember the days whenI used to always kick your ass? LEONIDAS: How times have changed everything, eh? (Leonidas politely gestures for him to sit.) BUTCHER: I'll stay standing. LEONIDAS: (beat) Tu sabes? El Jefe loves many types of women...but the ones he denies desiring...the women that he denies, but secretly desires the most, are the morenas...Like your daughter, women of the darkest skin...of the darkest midnight... (imitating El Jefe) "Leonidas? Do you know that it is their Africano blood that gives those morenas, culos as solid as the hood of a Cadillac." (beat) I was called to one of his villas in Barahona, where he spent the night with a young morena...He had raped her badly, sodomized her in ways...Well, lets just say she was a mess...But he always leaves them that way... (The Butcher grabs his cleaver.) LEONIDAS: (calmly) 140 Proscenium Spring 2015


Calmado. I'm not going to take your daughter to him. BUTCHER: You're not? (Leonidas shakes his head in contemplation.) LEONIDAS: Cono, all my life I've wanted many things...nice cars, nice suits, gold watches, money, power...But for the first time in my life...for the very first time I saw her...For the very first time I only wanted one thing: Her. BUTCHER: (suspicious) Quien? LEONIDAS: She has turned out to be so beautiful since I last saw her as a little girl. BUTCHER: (stunned) You don't mean?-You're, you're not saying?LEONIDAS: (as if explaining it to himself) -After all these years of serving him so well. Serving him so selflessly. So loyally. (looking up at him) Do I not deserve some happiness of my own? BUTCHER: Por favor not her! LEONIDAS: (affectionately) I spoke to her after she got out of school today. So intelligent she is. So sweet she is at sixteen. So sweet. BUTCHER: (pleading) There are other women that I know of. Beautiful women you never new existed! LEONIDAS: No. I have found the one thing. (Beat.) BUTCHER: That summer?...That day in July on mi papa's farm? Do you remember? LEONIDAS: Ah, yes. Vaguely... BUTCHER: He handed you the blade. His blade. What was the name you gave that pig? LEONIDAS: Lucille. BUTCHER: I think you loved that pig more than you loved us? (Leonidas doesn't answer.) BUTCHER: My father handed you that blade and said it was time...You refused. You cried so hard you pissed your pantalones. Disgusted, papa called you a maricon. But still you refused. LEONIDAS: And then he handed you the blade... BUTCHER: (relishing) Si. He handed me the blade. LEONIDAS: You grinned at me, as you slit her throat. BUTCHER: And you screamed like a puta. Didn't you cousin? (getting in his face) Didn't you? (Leonidas cool, doesn't answer.) BUTCHER: I'll make you a deal? You leave now and I won't report you to your superiors? LEONIDAS: Verdad, I would be killed if El Jefe knew. But then so would you, your daughter, your esposa, everyone you love...down your mangy dog. (Beat.) Spring 2015 Proscenium  141


The Book of Leonidas Augusto Amador

LEONIDAS: Truth is, I've come here for your permission? BUTCHER: My what? LEONIDAS: Without your blessing she will never fully give herself to me. BUTCHER: Or I could slit her throat and smile. Knowing that you will never have her? LEONIDAS: You would never do that. BUTCHER: How can you be so sure? LEONIDAS: Because like me, you would never spill family blood. (The Butcher lowers his cleaver in submission. Leonidas gets up.) LEONIDAS: I will adore her. Protect her. She will be my reina. And you, as her father, will be well taken care of. BUTCHER: Tell me? What's the difference between giving her over to one monster instead of the other? (Silence.) LEONIDAS: The difference is?... (turning to him) I am going to marry her... Scene Six

Time: Present Place: Lenny's apartment (The living room is littered with paper plates, plastic cups and empty beer bottles. Lenny dressed in black, cleans up as Luz also dressed in black, enters from the kitchen. She is a little drunk.) LUZ: (with disgust) Look at this place! Gente sucia. LENNY: That's our familia for ya'. (She plops down on the couch.) LUZ: Like a heard of burros they come stampeding in and out of here. LENNY: I think pop woulda liked that so much family showed up for his birthday. LUZ: Mierda. Your papa always knew they are: Maldito pendejos! LENNY: Ma, calmada, por favor? (She fishes out a half smoked cigar from the pocket in her blouse.) LUZ: They used to show respect when he alive. Bring Johnny Walker Blue and good cigars. Ahora? They only bring Budweisers and empty stomachs. Mama huevos! (Few beats. She eyes him as she lights up her cigar. Lenny continues to clean up.) LUZ: I see, tu sabes? LENNY: See what, ma? (She bites on her cigar.) LUZ: See how you looked at her. LENNY: Looked at who? LUZ: Your cousin Catalina? How your eyes could no stop staring at her legs in her mini skirt. LENNY: You're crazy. LUZ: Your mouth may been talking but your eyes were raping. 142 Proscenium Spring 2015


LENNY: We was just talking. LUZ: You think she could ever love you? LENNY: Ma, enough! LUZ: A chica like that? She want a strong man with strong legs. Not a weak hombre with one and half legs. LENNY: Si, mama. (She glares at him.) LUZ: Oye?...Pure me a glass of rum. (Lenny steps to the cabinet and pulls out a bottle of rum.) LUZ (CONT’D): No not that one. The good shit, eh? (He puts it back and pours her a glass from a more expensive bottle of rum. He hands it to her. She takes a relishing sip and falls into a relaxed state.) LUZ: (dreamy) He looked at me the same way... Like he owned me. Like I belonged to him...His eyes tell the truth: That life is inhumana. Primitiva. Those ojos that for some people be the last thing they see before they die. But I see something different when I look into his eyes: Pure power. I see what I could have been if I were born un macho, cono (She glances over at the painting of El Jefe.) LUZ (CONT’D): I only met him the one time. LENNY: Who? LUZ: El Jefe. LENNY: You never told me. LUZ: A few months after we marry, Leonidas introduced me to him at a large dinner party. General Trujillo, like your father was a sharp dresser. Muy elegante. Very charming, he was...While your father was busy talking with some officers. El Jefe whispered into my ear to meet me in his private bathroom... LENNY: What? Did he... LUZ: Did he what, mijo? LENNY: Forget I don't want to know. LUZ: Did he rape me? Is that what you are asking? (Lenny goes to loudly clean up.) LENNY: Ma, let's talk about something else, huh? LUZ: (exploding) You asked the question, pendejo! LENNY: (meekly) Did he? (She takes a puff of her cigar.) LUZ: Yes...I let him do it. LENNY: Christ, mama. LUZ: (bitter) Spring 2015 Proscenium  143


The Book of Leonidas Augusto Amador

The Book of Leonidas at the Playwright’s Nest Festival at the Los Angeles Theater Festival. Photo Credit: Tailstar.com. I do what has to be done. LENNY: Why? LUZ: Because he would have kill your father if I refuse. LENNY: Did did pop know? LUZ: No. Nunca. Because your father would have killed him and then both of us be dead. LENNY: (heartbroken) So he, he raped you? LUZ: I do it do save Leonidas. (Lenny kneels down next to her.) LENNY: (teary-eyed) I'm sorry mama. LUZ: Shhhh...To do what has to be done. That the difference between the weak and the strong. Intiendas? LENNY: Si, mama... (Beat.) LUZ: I spoke to your tio Hernan... LENNY: (suddenly bothered) You did? LUZ: We both agree you are ready. 144 Proscenium Spring 2015


(Lenny gets up and steps away.) LENNY: Ma, I told you that I don't think I can do it. LUZ: Of course you can, baby. LENNY: So many things can go wrong. LUZ: Nothing will go wrong. You just leave everything up to your mami. LENNY: But... LUZ: But what? LENNY: (beat) Nobody is gonna get hurt, right? LUZ: Not you. LENNY: I mean, like...I'm not gonna have toLUZ: -kill someone? (Lenny and his mother look at each other.) LUZ (CONT’D): (coldly) I thought you are your father's son? (Silence.) LUZ (CONT’D): Then no problemo. (Conflicted, Lenny looks away as her answer sinks in.) LENNY: I'm gonna go to bed. LUZ: Good idea. LENNY: (kissing her on the cheek) Noches, ma. LUZ: Have good dreams, mijo. (He goes to leave but she stops him.) LUZ: I know you're not going to let me down. LENNY: I ain't said I'd do it. LUZ: But you will. LENNY: How can you be so sure? LUZ: Because like me?...You will do what has to be done. (Beat. Lenny exits. Luz takes puff on her cigar. Lights slowly to black.) Scene Seven

Place: Basement in Queens, NY Time: 1973 (Music from Willie Colon's song, El Malo, plays before slowly fading out. A large spotlight up on Leonidas. He appears as we have never seen before: Unshaven and wearing a wife-beater. Lenny stands next to him. We notice immediately that he does NOT walk with a gimp. NOTE: The same actor plays the nine year old version of himself.) LEONIDAS: Nine years ago, mijo. Nine years ago you were born in the Repワblica Dominicana. Nine years ago today. Spring 2015 Proscenium  145


The Book of Leonidas Augusto Amador

LENNY: I know, papi. LEONIDAS: (proud) You do? Dime? What do you know? LENNY: I know you were El Jefe's main man. LEONIDAS: (smiling) What else? LENNY: Queens is your own little D.R. LEONIDAS: And what does that make me? LENNY: (thinking) The ruler. LEONIDAS: Correcto. And what does that make you? (Lenny thinks hard for a moment and then finally shrugs.) LEONIDAS (CONT’D): A prince. LENNY: The other kids at school are afraid of me. (Leonidas kneels down in front of his son.) LEONIDAS: Fear is a good thing. LENNY: It is? LEONIDAS: Claro. Because when you make someone fear you, you have the power. LENNY: To do what, papi? LEONIDAS: Whatever you want, mijo. Whatever you want... LENNY: I don't understand. (Leonidas hands him a wrapped box.) LEONIDAS: Happy Birthday, Leonidas. LENNY: (beaming) You got me a present?! LEONIDAS: What are you waiting for? Open it up! (Lenny tears off the wrapper and opens the box. He freezes upon what he sees what's in the box.) LEONIDAS (CONT’D): Bring it out. (Lenny reaches in and pulls out a gun. The same gold plated gun we've seen him carry before. He holds it awkwardly.) LENNY: Is it real? LEONIDAS: What a question to ask. Of course it's real. (Leonidas takes the gun from Lenny and aims it out above the audience.) LEONIDAS (CONT’D): Here hold it like this...With two hands. (He hands the gun back to him. Lenny holds it like he's shown.) LEONIDAS: How does it feel? LENNY: Heavy. LEONIDAS: (laughing) Don't worry, mijo. You'll grow into it. 146 Proscenium Spring 2015


(Lenny aims out and pretends to fire it.) LENNY: Bang! Bang! Bang! Take that pendejos ! LEONIDAS: That is a very special pistole you are holding. LENNY: How come? LEONIDAS: El Jefe gave me that pistole himself. And now I give it to you. LENNY: Gracias, papito. (He hugs his father.) LEONIDAS: Now my son, it is time to show me that you are man enough to use it. (Another spotlight comes up to reveal a HOODED MAN, tied up against a chair.) LENNY: (scared) Who's that? LEONIDAS: An hombre. (Leonidas leads Lenny by the hand to the hooded man in the chair. Lenny carries the gun by his side. The Man sudenlly jerks around violently but he is unable to escape from the chair.) LEONIDAS (CONT’D): (to the Man) Shut up! (The Man falls still. Leonidas takes the gun, loads it and takes the safety off.) LENNY: Papi, why is he here? LEONIDAS: An example needs to be made. LENNY: Why? LEONIDAS: A good question. This is only the beginning of your educacion. (Leonidas hands Lenny back the gun.) LEONIDAS (CONT’D): Now put the pistole to this hombre's head and show me why you should be feared. (The Man again violently jerks his body around. Lenny looks back at his father who returns him a hard cold stare.) Scene Eight

Place: Lenny's street corner Time: Present (Lenny and Lindsay sit on a stoop eating.) LINDSAY: What do you call these again? LENNY: Empanadas. LINDSAY: Gotta admit. When you're right, you're right. LENNY: Better than pastrami on rye, huh? LINDSAY: No. But it's still pretty fucking good... (They both laugh. She looks out. The sound of train passes loudly overhead.) LINDSAY (CONT’D): You ever get tired of hearing that train? LENNY: Shit. I got the Q Train rollin' around inside my head like 24/7. I love these streets. LINDSAY: What do you love about it? LENNY: Gotta lot of my history here. Spring 2015 Proscenium  147


The Book of Leonidas Augusto Amador

LINDSAY: Good history or bad history? LENNY: (pointing out) You see that where that barber shop is? LINDSAY: (looking) Yeah. LENNY: Back in the day it used to be an arcade. Dizzy's Arcade. I French kissed a girl for the very first time there. LINDSAY: In an arcade? What a charmer. LENNY: Taking a girl on a first date playing pinball? Cono. Worked everytime... (pointing) Now. Down on the other corner? Got in my first brawl with the neighborhood bully, Lil' Junior Bocanegro. LINDSAY: Knocked him out, I bet? LENNY: Nah. Got a black eye and a busted lip. But the third time? That's when I whooped his ass real good. (He points above the audience.) LENNY (CONT’D): And over there is where... (He stops himself cold. His face grows serious.) LENNY: Like I said I gotta a lot of my history here. LINDSAY: How about girlfriends? LENNY: What you asking about that for? LINDSAY: Curious. LENNY: Curious about what? LINDSAY: About how respectable you are? LENNY: (laughs) Not respectable enough for you, I figure. LINDSAY: (playfully) Who says I like my men respectable at all? (Beat. They stare at each other.) LENNY: Ah, I get it. You like the bad boys, right? LINDSAY: (coy) Maybe I'm going through a phase? LENNY: Shit. Well, I guess a girl can never be too old to get herself a bad case of jungle fever. LINDSAY: (amused) Answer the question, smart ass. LENNY: You first. LINDSAY: (thinking) Let's see, past boyfriends... LENNY: Or girlfriends? I mean, I'm just saying? LINDSAY: Yeah, I think we know what you're saying...Okay, my first serious boyfriend was Bain. LENNY: Hold up, his name was Bain? Wow. 148 Proscenium Spring 2015


LINDSAY: Yes, Bain. Anyway he was a Vanderbilt. LENNY: A what now? LINDSAY: Vanderbilt. They're a prominent family. LENNY: Prominent? You mean like loaded? LINDSAY: Obscenely. Anyway, me being eighteen at the time, I thought...what better way to make daddy happy than marrying a Vanderbilt? So I proposed to him. LENNY: You proposed? LINDSAY: Well, I knew it would make daddy happy. And Jesus, did it ever. LENNY: But you're not married no more? LINDSAY: No, it lasted only a couple of years. LENNY: How come? LINDSAY: I got tired of trying to make daddy happy. LENNY: And after that? LINDSAY: I told you enough already. Your turn? LENNY: Me? I almost got engaged once. LINDSAY: Almost? LENNY: Ma chased her away with her machete. Said she was no good. LINDSAY: Fuck me. Go mom. LENNY: She was right about her all along... LINDSAY: Is your mom right about everything? (Lenny shrugs off the question.) LENNY: Anyway I'm too busy to get a serious girlfriend. LINDSAY: How come? LENNY: I got mami to support. LINDSAY: That's sweet, the way you take care of your mom. You must really love her? LENNY: Yeah... LINDSAY: That doesn't sound very convincing. LENNY: I do love her. It's just...sometimes I dream what my life woulda been without her? LINDSAY: And how's that? (Lenny smiles and shakes his head.) LENNY: Nah, it's retarded, forget it. LINDSAY: Alright. Then show me your drawings? LENNY: Huh? LINDSAY: You promised you'd show it to me sometime. Remember? LENNY: I said, maybe, I would show them. LINDSAY: Come on? Please? (Silence. He pulls out his thick sketch pad.) LINDSAY: I used to study art, you know? LENNY: Yeah, I wouldn't call what I do as art. (She takes a look at it with Lenny at her side.) LENNY (CONT’D): I got a lot more detailed stuff at home. LINDSAY: (into it) Spring 2015 Proscenium  149


The Book of Leonidas Augusto Amador

Huh...This is really edgy... LENNY: Yeah? LINDSAY: I love the detail here. LENNY: Thanks. Took me a week to finish his shield. (Flipping through it.) LINDSAY: Who's this? LENNY: That's the demonic spirit of this long dead dictator risen from hell. LINDSAY: Dark themes. (Stopping on another page.) LINDSAY (CONT’D): And this one? LENNY: Oh, that's the hero. He's been raised from the dead by a powerful voodoo priestess to protect the families of the innocent. So, the story is about this bloody dictator who when alive, killed and tortured all his people. But one day, his son and the people he killed get together and gun him down. Now, years later, the dictator is back as a demon and is going for revenge by killing all the families of the people who assassinated him. Turning them into zombies that form his dark armies plan on robbing the world of all it's light. LINDSAY: And the son? LENNY: The son goes to battle with his father but in doing so risks turning into a demon just like him. LINDSAY: Is this for a comic strip? LENNY: (correcting) Graphic novel. LINDSAY: I knew it. You are an artist, Lenny. (Taking the pad away.) LENNY: Nah. I don't got skills like that. LINDSAY: Yes, you do. Those drawings are really amazing! (Lenny blushes.) LENNY: Get outta here. LINDSAY: You know what we have to do, right? Go to the Met sometime? LENNY: Ah, hell no! LINDSAY: Why not? LENNY: Why not? I'm a fo'real Yankees fan! That's why! LINDSAY: Uh, Lenny?LENNY: I hate the Mets! LINDSAY: Actually, I was talking about the Metropolitan Museum of Art. LENNY: (beat) Museum of Art? LINDSAY: Yeah, you know? "The Met"? LENNY: (embarrassed) Not the Mets baseball team? (Lindsay shakes her head.) 150 Proscenium Spring 2015


LENNY (CONT’D): Mierda. Don't I feel like a retarded dumb ass? LINDSAY: It's okay. LENNY: Ma's right. I can be real baboso sometimes. LINDSAY: Why do you do that, Lenny? LENNY: Do what? LINDSAY: Put yourself down? LENNY: (embarrassed) I don't know. Do I really? LINDSAY: Yes, a lot. LENNY: Oh...I'll try to stop it then... LINDSAY: (beat) I think I know now. LENNY: Know what? LINDSAY: What you dream your life would be like? (Lenny freezes and vulnerably awaits her answer.) LENNY: It's being an artist, isn't it? (Lenny to embarrassed doesn't answer. She kisses him suddenly on his cheek. It's a soft and affectionate kiss. Surprised, he stares at her for a moment before kissing her deeply on the lips. The loud sound of a train passes overhead...) Scene Nine

Place: Somewhere in the D.R. Time: May 30, 1961 (Spotlight up on a large SILK SCREEN U.S.C. The silhouette of a pregnant woman screaming loudly in the painful throes of labor while lying on a table as the silhouette of a mid-wife leans in between her legs assisting her in giving birth. Lights up D.S.R. Leonidas sits at a table, a telegram lies crumpled up before him. He stares out distantly. The silhouette of the pregnant woman screams loudly before pushing out the baby. The midwife lifts the baby by the legs and slaps it hard on the behind causing the baby to start crying. Spotlight on silk screen goes to black. The phone on his desk rings. Leonidas lost in his thoughts ignores it. Finally on the seventh ring he picks it up.) LEONIDAS: ( angry; into phone) Si...Basta! Entiendo! (He slams the phone down. He pulls out his gun and places it on the desk. He stares out again this time with a look of worry. Luz enters with a look of despair. Leonidas doesn't seem nor want to notice her.) LUZ: Leonidas?...Leonidas? LEONIDAS: (not looking at her) Si? LUZ: Adriana is dead. Spring 2015 Proscenium  151


The Book of Leonidas Augusto Amador

(Leonidas shows no reaction.) LUZ (CONT’D): Did you hear what I said? LEONIDAS: (shakes his head; beat) Is it a boy or a girl? LUZ: A boy. (Leonidas shows no emotion.) LUZ (CONT’D): (crying) Is that all you have to say? (The phone rings. Silence as Leonidas ignores the phone continuing to ring. Finally after the seventh ring it stops.) LEONIDAS: They'll be coming for me. LUZ: Who will? (Leonidas doesn't respond. Luz becomes more emotional.) LUZ: Leonidas? I just told you that yourLEONIDAS: El Jefe...I just learned he was gunned down in his car. LUZ: Muerto? (The phone begins ringing again.) LEONIDAS: They'll be coming for me... (Lights slowly to black.) END OF ACT ONE Act Two Scene One (Spotlight up on Lenny as he sits up in a bed dressed in only his boxers. We notice the deep scars that gnarl his knee. He stares out pensively. Lindsay wrapped with a bed sheet around her, sits up behind him a few moments later. She kisses the back of his shoulder.) LINDSAY: Who knew that playing pinball could get a girl so hot? (She kisses him on the back of his neck.) LENNY: (grinning) Like I said, works every time. (She passes her arm over his chest.) LENNY (CONT’D): I like the way the color of your skin looks against mine. LINDSAY: It's beautiful... (Lenny points to unseen photos that hang on the unseen walls.) LENNY: You take these? LINDSAY: (glances out) Years ago, yeah...You like them? LENNY: All these people look miserable. LINDSAY: That's the point. 152 Proscenium Spring 2015


LENNY: You ever take photos of people who are smiling? LINDSAY: No. LENNY: How come? LINDSAY: Because unlike suffering, happiness is not an inevitability. LENNY: You don't take no pictures, no more? LINDSAY: Nope. LENNY: How come? LINDSAY: Lost interest. LENNY: Why? LINDSAY: (shrugging) I don't know...it's the way it's always been. I would get excited about something for awhile and then...I'd just move on. LENNY: Is that what is gonna happen with me? LINDSAY: What are you asking? LENNY: Just trying to figure out what we're doing together. LINDSAY: Why does it need to be figured out? LENNY: We barely know each other. LINDSAY: So? LENNY: You fuck every person you barely know? LINDSAY: I could ask you the same thing. LENNY: Why are you interested in me anyway? LINDSAY: You don't like yourself very much, do you? LENNY: I like myself plenty. LINDSAY: (gently) No you don't. Otherwise you wouldn't have asked why I fucked you. LENNY: You mean, why I fucked you, don't you? LINDSAY: Not the way I recall it. (Silence. She smiles at him. Lenny is not satisfied.) LINDSAY (CONT’D): (relenting) I find you interesting, alright? LENNY: In what way? LINDSAY: I don't know...because I think we have some stuff in common. LENNY: Like? LINDSAY: We both have daddy issues. LENNY: (getting up) The hell you say! LINDSAY: It's true. LENNY: I don't got no daddy issues. LINDSAY: Okay, you don't have daddy issues! LENNY: I said, I don't! LINDSAY: Fine, my bad. I take it back. (Lenny looks away, still bothered.) Spring 2015 Proscenium  153


The Book of Leonidas Augusto Amador

LINDSAY: (beat) What happened to your knee, Lenny? LENNY: I already told you. Car accident. LINDSAY: Is that true? LENNY: Why would I lie? LINDSAY: I don't know...maybe because you don't trust me. LENNY: (beat) When I walk? Sometimes my knee aches so bad it feels like he's wrapped himself around my knee so tight. Like I'm carrying him with me. LINDSAY: Who? LENNY: My father. LINDSAY: Jesus, did he do that to your knee? (Shaking his head.) LENNY: When I was nine, my pop was gunned down in a in shoot out with the cops. LINDSAY: (realizing) You were with him. LENNY: One of the bullets hit me square in the kneecap. And that was that. LINDSAY: (beat) Your father? What kind of man was he? LENNY: Back in the D.R. growing up...he started as a private in the army. He admired El Jefe. LINDSAY: Who? LENNY: El Jefe. That was the nickname of dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo. My pop was named after El Jefe's middle name, Leonidas, by my grandfather. Anyway, it wasn't long before my pop made lieutenant. LINDSAY: Must have been a great soldier, huh? LENNY: He had skills, alright. LINDSAY: Skills? LENNY: He knew how to make a people scream. LINDSAY: Say again? LENNY: Priests, nuns, doctors, students. Communistas. They said, he could torture a confession out of a dead man...It was only a matter of time before his reputation caught the ear of El Jefe himself. And soon my pop got promoted again. LINDSAY: Promoted? LENNY: Captain Leonidas Pabon of the secret police. His sole mission? Scour the island, for beautiful women for El Jefe to rape. LINDSAY: Wait. Did you say rape? LENNY: Now...El Jefe was an evil mutha fucka. But what made him extra evil, was that he had a thing for virgins. Beautiful virgins. And it was the duty of all his top peeps to give him their most finest daughters. LINDSAY: Enough. I don't want to hear anymore. LENNY: You asked. LINDSAY: You tell your fathers story like it's your own. (Silence.) 154 Proscenium Spring 2015


LINDSAY: (beat) You're nothing like him, Lenny. LENNY: And how do you know that? LINDSAY: For starters, it's not like you killed anybody. (Lenny looks away. Long beat.) LINDSAY (CONT’D): Besides you got that graphic novel you're working on? LENNY: Nobody is gonna wanna see that. LINDSAY: I got an idea. I have friend of a friend who's in publishing. I can show it to him? LENNY: No way. LINDSAY: Why not? LENNY: What if they hate it? LINDSAY: What if they love it? LENNY: I don't dream that way. LINDSAY: What way? LENNY: Like you do. Like anything is possible and shit like that. LINDSAY: Anything is possible. (Lenny laughs to himself.) LENNY: Yeah, right. LINDSAY: We're here together, aren't we? (Lenny looks at her.) LENNY: You really think my drawings are that good? LINDSAY: Yes. They're special, Lenny... (Lenny blushes.) LINDSAY: Come back to bed? (They both share a smile. Lenny checks his cell phone and suddenly becomes anxious.) LENNY: Oh, shit... (He goes to put on his pants in a hurry.) LINDSAY: Where you going? LENNY: Gotta get home, it's late. (She glances at the clock.) LINDSAY: Seriously, it's 12:30! LENNY: Ma, will lose her shit if I ain't in bed in the morning. LINDSAY: So, what? Let her lose her shit. (Lenny puts on his shirt. Lindsey notices Lenny's pistol lying on the nightstand. She picks it up and points it out above the audience.) LINDSAY (CONT’D): This is gotta be the most beautiful goddamn thing I've ever seen. LENNY: What is? (He turns to see her pointing the pistol randomly above the audience.) LENNY (CONT’D): (alarmed) Spring 2015 Proscenium  155


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Hey! Be careful with that. LINDSAY: Is that gold on this gun? LENNY: Gold plated. LINDSAY: Where did you get this? LENNY: Come on, stop foolin' around. LINDSAY: Only way you get this back is if you spend the night? LENNY: I already told you I can't. LINDSAY: So you said. LENNY: Hand it over. LINDSAY: You really want it back? (Lenny returns her an impatient stare. She lies down seductively and slides the pistol down by her bare thigh.) LINDSAY: Be naughty, Lenny. Disobey her. (Lenny smiles and slowly steps to her as he unbuckles his pants.) Scene Two (The early morning sun streams through the window. Lenny enters through the front door taking great care to be very quiet. He turns around and freezes upon seeing Luz sleeping on the couch.) LENNY: (whispering) Mami? (He checks closer and sees that she appears to still be sleeping. He pulls out his pistol and places it gently on the gun rack beneath the painting.) LUZ: (warning) Best be at least two Benji's barking in your hand, boy. LENNY: (startled) Huh? Shouldn't you be in bed? LUZ: Yo going deaf on me muchachito? LENNY: What, ma? (She lifts up her hand and makes a "money" gesture with her fingers.) LENNY (CONT’D): Oh, right. (He pulls out a wad of bills and steps behind her placing the bills in her hand.) LUZ (CONT’D): Ven aqui. (Lenny reluctantly steps before her. She weighs the money bills in her hand.) LUZ (CONT’D): Feels like 140. LENNY: 155. The hustle was slow. LUZ: That lie has more weight than these bills. LENNY: I'll double it tomorrow. LUZ: But why is it light? LENNY: Does it matter? 156 Proscenium Spring 2015


LUZ: You gambling? LENNY: No. LUZ: Drinking? LENNY: No! (She gets up and steps close to him and studies him.) LUZ: (demanding) Tus manos. LENNY: What? LUZ: Your hands! Give them to me! LENNY: Ma, you're being ridiculous. LUZ: Give them to me, cono! (Beat. Lenny finally relents and slowly offers his hands. Luz grabs his hands and puts them to her nose and breathes them in.) LUZ (CONT’D): Huele a toto! (She pushing away his hands in disgust.) LENNY: I can explain. LUZ: That smell of pussy on your hands tell me all I need to know! (She steps to the kitchen in rage.) LENNY: Mama, por favor? LUZ: Who's the cuero? LENNY: She's not a whore. LUZ: Mentiroso! You are spending money for her toto. That make her a cuero! LENNY: Her name is Lindsay. LUZ: Lindsay? What kind of name is that... (realizing with dread) Ah...you have la fiebre. LENNY: Fever? LUZ: Si, and of the worse kind too. LENNY: Ma, what are you talking about? LUZ: The fever for the white girls. LENNY: It's more than that. LUZ: Muchachito. The white girls are very bad for the black boys. LENNY: You talking nonsense. LUZ: White girls make black boys dream of white lies. LENNY: You finished? LUZ: So my chico is in love? LENNY: I didn't say it was. LUZ: And she love you back? LENNY: Stop spitting that word at me. LUZ: Which palabra? Love? (She steps close to him.) LUZ: When I find out that I'm pregnant. I pray to both Jesus and La Virgen de altagracia to Spring 2015 Proscenium  157


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make it a boy. Months later when I feel you punching around in my belly? Yo sabia. I knew it was going to be a boy. Even Leonidas no sure. But a mother knows these things. After I spit you out. I feed you with leche from my tetas. I raise you with no husband. All by myself. And who do I do this for?..Para quien?! LENNY: (cowed) Me. (She caresses his face.) LUZ: Such a handsome boy you are...Mi papi bello...Remember that chica you want to marry. She was fucking everybody in the 'hood. People laughing behind your back. You want to stay blind. But I make you see. Remember? LENNY: Si, mami. (She smiles and hugs him with affection. Lenny hugs her back halfheartedly. She breaks away and then kisses him on the mouth.) LUZ: All I have left in this world is mi diabetes and you. And I will die before I give you up. LENNY: I'm not asking you to give me up, ma. Just askin' you to let me breathe a little. LUZ: That's the fever talking. LENNY: No it's me talking. LUZ: You have responsibilities. To me, you hear boy?! (Lenny steps away.) LENNY: I got other skills. LUZ: Like what? Workin' the drive-thru at Popeyes?! Skills my ass. LENNY: Artist skills. LUZ: Come again? LENNY: You heard me. I got artist skills. LUZ: You cracked out, boy? LENNY: Nah. I'm straight. LUZ: You got mierda for brains. Artista?! Moreno, por favor! LENNY: What's wrong with that? LUZ: Those chicken scratchings you draw! Is that whatmake you an artista?! LENNY: There something more to them. LUZ: (laughs him off) Shit. Next you gonna tell me you're a maricon? LENNY: Forget I brought it up. (She grabs his backpack.) LENNY: Ma, what are you doing? (She pulls out his sketchbook and opens it.) LENNY: Please be careful? (She rips out a page and it falls to the floor.) LUZ: These are nothing but the chicken scratchings of a faggot! LENNY: (picking it up) Stop it. (She rips out another page.) 158 Proscenium Spring 2015


LUZ: Who's been planting this mierda into your cabeza? LENNY: No one. I come up with it up on my own. LUZ: What I tell you about white lies? LENNY: Maybe I am talented? Huh? You ever think that about that? LUZ: (affectionately) You are talented. Muy talentoso. But your talent breathes on the street. LENNY: (beat) Si, mama. LUZ: Bueno. (She drops the sketchbook on the floor.) LUZ (CONT’D): Ahora, what do you say about I fix you up a plate of Mangu? (Lenny nods.) LUZ: You're a loser, boy. But you're my loser. (She kisses him on the mouth and steps off to the kitchen.) LUZ (CONT’D): And by the way, by the end of next we gonna be rich, I tell you! Rich! LENNY: What? LUZ: You heard me shooter. The plan got the greenlight. Your tio Hernan is coming over and telling you how its gonna go down... (Lenny looks up and stares at the portrait of General Rafael Leonidas Trujillo.) Scene Three (Large spotlight on a pitch black stage. We hear the sound of a mean dog, loudly barking.) LINDSAY: (O.S.) You sure it's safe being out here? LENNY: (O.S.) Yeah, don't worry. (A moment later they step into the spotlight together.) LINDSAY: (looking around) This place is disgusting. Shit, what did I just step in? LENNY: You're looking in the wrong place. LINDSAY: Jesus what is that smell? (Lenny leads her D.S.C. He looks out above the audience.) LENNY: This is where you should be looking. LINDSAY: I can't believe you dragged me to(She looks out to where Lenny is looking.) LINDSAY (CONT’D): Wow. LENNY: This is my museum... LINDSAY: (looking around; impressed) All these murals... LENNY: I knew you'd dig it. LINDSAY: I love it. LENNY: A couple of years ago some of the hottest graffiti artists would come out here and do their craziest shit. Spring 2015 Proscenium  159


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LINDSAY: Crazy, yeah... LENNY: (pointing) Over there. Banksy painted that one. (They both look out as they admire the murals.) LINDSAY: (beat) I have to leave for a few days. LENNY: How come? LINDSAY: My brother, Phillip, is in the hospital. LENNY: What for? LINDSAY: Last night, he got fucked up on pain killers and whiskey and decided he wants to kill himself. So he goes to the garage, gets into his car, starts it up, and waits to die by Carbon Monoxide poisoning. Of course Phillip, being Phillip, passes out before remembering to close the garage door...He always was an douche. LENNY: So he's going to live? LINDSAY: Thankfully, yeah. LENNY: Why did he do it? LINDSAY: He got indicted yesterday for fraud. He worked for my father. LENNY: Shit... LINDSAY: Yeah...my father's legacy just keeps on giving... LENNY: Are you going to come back? LINDSAY: (beat) Yeah. LENNY: Good. (He holds her hand. Silence.) LINDSAY: (beat) You okay? LENNY: Nah, not really. LINDSAY: What's wrong? LENNY: (beat) I think I might be the bastard son of El Jefe... (He looks out. She turns to him. Spotlight slowly to black.) Scene Four

Time: Summer, 1978 Place: Queens, NY (Large spotlight on Lenny, 9 years old, sitting at a small table. A small radio on the table plays the Ruben Blades song, "Plastico". Leonidas, wearing a wife-beater tee shirt, bumps a line from a big pile of coke, while dancing around the table. Lenny watches him dance with amusement. Note: As before the adult actor will play his 9 year old self.) LEONIDAS: Mijo? Boogie with me. (Lenny shakes his head bashfully. Leonidas does a flashy dance move.) 160 Proscenium Spring 2015


LEONIDAS (CONT’D): Shake it! Show your papi what you got? (Lenny again shakes his head and laughs. Leonidas pulls him from his chair and dances with him. Encouraged, Lenny surprises by performing a few flashy dance moves of his own. They both laugh and continue dancing. Luz enters dressed up. She glares at Leonidas.) LUZ: Ain't that sweet. (Leonidas and Lenny both turn around.) LENNY: Mami, did you see me dancing? (She ignore Lenny.) LUZ: (to Leonidas; annoyed) Getting high on your own supply, huh? LEONIDAS: That's right. My supply. (A scared Lenny puts his hands over his ears and sings quietly to himself so as not to listen.) LUZ: You're slipping. LEONIDAS: I'm what? LUZ: Estas sordo? (Lenny is high as a hell and feeling good.) LEONIDAS: Tranquila, baby. It's all cool. (He goes to kiss her but she stops him.) LUZ: Cool, huh? (She pulls out a woman's panties and throws it in front of him on the floor.) LEONIDAS: (playing dumb) What's that? LUZ: The man I married would never let me find those. LEONIDAS: (stepping away) Maybe I don't care whether you found them or not? LUZ: Like I said before...You're slipping. (She gives him a hurt look and exits. A moment later we hear the front door being slammed shut. Leonidas steps over to Lenny and gently removes his hands from his ears.) LEONIDAS: Let this be a lesson to you. Never trust a woman. Nunca. (He bumps another rail.) LENNY: Mami is a woman. No? LEONIDAS: (thinking) That is a different matter. A son always trusts his mother. No matter what. Siempre. Intiendes? LENNY: Si. LEONIDAS: Bueno. LENNY: But how is mami different than a woman? LEONIDAS: Good point. Smart boy, you are...Your mother gave birth to you. She will always love you. Forever. No matter what. LENNY: And what does a woman do? LEONIDAS: Always trying to change you. Always Strangling you with your own words... Spring 2015 Proscenium  161


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(beat) Bueno. Someday you'll learn that your own, eh? LENNY: (beat; disturbed) I had a nightmare about that hombre again? LEONIDAS: Which hombre is that? LENNY: The hombre. (He takes a seat next to him.) LEONIDAS: I'm going to level with you about something...when I was a boy...a boy about your age, my uncle give me a knife and tell me to slice a pig's throat...I could not do it. I was too weak. Now, I hand you a pistole and tell you to kill that hombre and you do it! (snaps his fingers) Like that! On the first shot...Do you know what that means? LENNY: No, papi. (He caresses his face.) LEONIDAS: It means, that you became a man before I did. It means...you will become more powerful than I will ever be. (Lenny looks at him with a deep impression.) LENNY: I don't want to be. LEONIDAS: It's not your choice, mijo. It's the law of nature. (Lenny nods in understanding.) LEONIDAS (CONT’D): Now let's say we listen to some musica? LENNY: (enthused) Si ! (He turns up the radio until the music blares out. We hear a loud banging of an unseen front door. Leonidas doesn't notice it and turns up the radio even louder.) LENNY: (scared) Papi?! (The banging on the door continues.) MAN (O.S.) NYPD! Open the door now! We have a warrant for your arrest! LENNY: The policia! LEONIDAS: Shhhh. They'll hear you. (Leonidas takes another bump of cocaine.) MAN (O.S.) Last warning! LENNY: Papa? MAN (O.S.) Open the fuckin' door now! (Leonidas smirks and quickly disappears into the spotlight and returns with an automatic rifle.) LENNY: I need to go pee. (Leonidas lifts up his automatic rifle and aims it off-stage left.) LEONIDAS: Viva el jefecito! 162 Proscenium Spring 2015


(to Lenny) Say it with me, mijo? LENNY/LEONIDAS Viva el jefecito! (We hear the sound of the door being broken down. Lights to black.) Scene Five

TIME: The Present. (Lenny hustles loosies on the street corner.) LENNY: As-salaam alaykum...Do I got "one humps"? Shit yeah, I got one humps!...You preferring Camel regular or no filters?... (Lenny reaches in his bag and mimics handing the customer a couple of cigarettes in exchange for a dollar.) LENNY (CONT’D): Well, Allahu-akbar, to you too habibi! (pacing the corner) Loosies! Two for one! (Lindsay enters. Lenny doesn't notice.) LENNY (CONT’D): Get yo'fix! Get yo'fix! (He turns and see her. He freezes.) LINDSAY: (smiling) Hey? LENNY: (ignoring; back to the hustle) Dos por uno, dos por uno! LINDSAY: You pissed at me? (Lenny turns and to an invisible customer.) LENNY: (to customer) Yeah I got those. (He mimics swiping the cigarettes for a dollar.) LINDSAY: Can I tell you something? LENNY: I left you a couple of texts, you didn't get back. LINDSAY: I know. I messed up. I should have called you. LENNY: How's your brother? LINDSAY: Fine. LENNY: So he'll be okay? LINDSAY: That's the thing about being the child of my father. You fuck up and bounce right back. LENNY: It's been a week. I wished you called. LINDSAY: I'm here now?... (Lenny doesn't respond .) LINDSAY (CONT’D): Spring 2015 Proscenium  163


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(blurting out) I missed my period. LENNY: I'm gonna be a pop? LINDSAY: What? All I said I missed my period. (Lenny suddenly shouts out to the audience.) LENNY: Yo! You hear that everybody?! I'm gonna be a pop! LINDSAY: (alarmed) Lenny, shush! MALE: (O.S.) (yelling back) Way to go, Lenny! LENNY: (to himself) Holy shit! I can't believe it! Me? A papa. LINDSAY: Lenny, please calm down! (Lenny comes back down from his cloud.) LENNY: What? Ain't you happy? LINDSAY: Happy? Jesus, all I said was, I missed my period. I didn't say I was pregnant. LENNY: (suddenly disappointed) Oh... LINDSAY: (to herself) Shit, why didn't I make you wear a condom? LENNY: Yo? But if you don't think you're pregnant why did you say anything? LINDSAY: Because... (She lights up a cigarette.) LINDSAY (CONT’D): I've missed my period before but this feels different. LENNY: Soooo?... LINDSAY: So, my gut tells me that I probably am. LENNY: Yeah?! LINDSAY: I have an appointment with the doctor on Friday. LENNY: Alright! (he yells out) It's back on, everybody! LINDSAY: Christ, my life sucks. MALE: (O.S.) (yelling back) Way to go, Lenny! (Lenny takes the cigarette from her mouth and flicks it away.) LINDSAY: Hey?! LENNY: It's bad for Junior. LINDSAY: (sighing) Yeah, my life's gone to shit alright. LENNY: I can be a great pop! I can do this! 164 Proscenium Spring 2015


LINDSAY: Lenny? LENNY: Listen me out for a sec? Please?...This our chance to end our father's legacies. This our chance to start a new one. By just being better parents than ours is. LINDSAY: Have you not been listening to me tell you about my life? I can barely manage to keep above water as it is much less be a mother! You can't be that fucking blind! LENNY: We're fuckups. So what? You told me to dream and that's what I'm doing. LINDSAY: Dream? Are you goddamn nuts?! A dream is moving to Paris. A dream is having a successful career! A dream isLENNY: We got a chance to have something we can call our own. LINDSAY: First of all, how are we going to support a kid? I don't have that kind of money. LENNY: What about me? LINDSAY: You're a small time hustler, Lenny. Look at yourself! You don't make nearly enough money to raise a kid! LENNY: What if I told you I could get the money? LINDSAY: From where? LENNY: Never mind that. What if I could? LINDSAY: (getting up) I need to think this through. LENNY: Look I'll get the dough. Trust me. (Lights to black.) Scene Six

Place: Somewhere in the D.R. Time: May 30, 1961. A continuation from the flashback of scene ten, Act one. (Large spotlight on Leonidas sitting at his table, a distant look on his face.) LUZ: Did you hear what I said? LEONIDAS: (beat) Is it a boy or a girl? LUZ: A boy. (Leonidas shows no emotion.) LUZ (CONT’D): (crying) Is that all you have to say? (The phone rings. Silence as Leonidas ignores the phone continuing to ring. Finally after the seventh ring it stops.) LEONIDAS: They'll be coming for me. LUZ: Who will? (Leonidas doesn't respond. Luz becomes more emotional.) LUZ: Leonidas? I just told you that yourLEONIDAS: El Jefe?...I just learned he was gunned down in his car. LUZ: Muerto? Spring 2015 Proscenium  165


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The Book of Leonidas at the Playwright’s Nest Festival at the Los Angeles Theater Festival. Photo Credit: Tailstar.com. (The phone begins ringing again.) LEONIDAS: They'll be coming for me... (After a few long rings the phone goes silent.) LUZ: Who will? Who will be coming? LEONIDAS: (looking at her) The families of the dead. LUZ: What does that have to do with you? LEONIDAS: I am the one responsible for those dead. LUZ: (beat) Did you hear what I told you about Adriana? (Leonidas doesn't answer.) LUZ: Your wife. She's dead. She died after giving birth. (Leonidas remains distant. She crosses over in front of him.) LUZ: My sister would have wanted you to live. For her son to have a future. Your son. LEONIDAS: There is nothing left. LUZ: Wrong. There's life. New life. Fight for it. LEONIDAS: What can I do? El Jefe is dead! (She kneels down in front of him.) 166 Proscenium Spring 2015


LUZ: (affectionately) The day you came to marry my sister, I saw an hombre I wanted only for myself. But you didn't want me, you wanted her. LEONIDAS: (crying) Adriana... (She takes his face in her hands.) LUZ: There's plenty of time for that later. (Leonidas shakes his head helplessly. She grabs him forcibly by the lapels of his jacket and pulls him to her.) LUZ (CONT’D): Right now you need to do something! LEONIDAS: Do what? LUZ: Take us away from here. LEONIDAS: Us? LUZ: Yes. Little Leonidas and me. LEONIDAS: What? LUZ: Marry me and I'll take care of your son. I'll take care of you. LEONIDAS: I don't love you. LUZ: You will. LEONIDAS: No se. LUZ: We can make a new start in Ciudad de Nueva York! LEONIDAS: Where? LUZ: Yes! We can make a new start over there. LEONIDAS: (coming around) New York? LUZ: But we must leave now. LEONIDAS: And the baby? LUZ: I will care for him as if I gave birth to him myself. (Leonidas gets up. His strength starts to come back to him.) LUZ (CONT’D): You can trust me. LEONIDAS: Little Leonidas...he must never know about Adriana. LUZ: If that's the way you want it. LEONIDAS: He will never feel like a complete man if he knew... (She steps to him and caresses his hand.) LUZ: I will be a good wife to you. I will help make you powerful. (He turns to her and is inspired by the determination in her eyes.) LUZ (CONT’D): Just think?...You will become known as, El Jefecito de Nueva York. Scene Seven (Lenny's street corner. Lindsay sits on the stoop looking out. Lenny comes out of the white church doors with a look of concern. He sees her and steps over quickly to her.) Spring 2015 Proscenium  167


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LENNY: Hey? There you are. You didn't show up at the diner. I figured you were held up at the church? LINDSAY: I texted you. LENNY: You did? (He checks his text.) LENNY (CONT’D): (reading his phone) Oh, got it. LINDSAY: Lenny? LENNY: (all smiles) Guess what? It's all set. LINDSAY: What is? LENNY: Okay, check it... (sitting down next to her; lowered voice) It's, it's so simple it's like, fuckin' retarded. LINDSAY: You're losing me. LENNY: Hear me out. Look if we gonna make this work we gotta start learnin' how to listen each other. LINDSAY: Make what work? LENNY: I got the whole plan finalized last night. LINDSAY: What plan? LENNY: It's like gonna be worth... (looking around; whispering) ...Two hundred grand. Well, our cut gonna be more like eighty, but fuck that's pretty sweet, huh? LINDSEY: Our cut? LENNY: Yeah, sure. For you, me and the baby... (Bothered, she gets up.) LINDSAY: Oh, wow... LENNY: Chill. With that dough, we gonna make a great start somewhere new. Somewhere with some class. (She lights up a cigarette.) LENNY: You know that ain't good for the baby? (She takes a deep drag.) LINDSAY: You need to listen to me for a second. LENNY: Sure. Is everything cool? LINDSAY: Go back and tell them you aren't going to do the deal. (He gets up.) LENNY: It's already finalized. LINDSAY: Shit! LENNY: I already told you. For the baby. For... (He goes to hold her. She pushes him away.) LINDSAY: (blurting out) There isn't a baby. 168 Proscenium Spring 2015


LENNY: Huh? LINDSAY: I had a miscarriage. (Beat. Lenny just looks at her.) LINDSAY (CONT’D): It meansLENNY: -I know what it means. (Long silence.) LENNY: (inspired) So we'll have another kid. LINDSAY: Huh? LENNY: I never been more serious about anything in my life. LINDSAY: I'm not staying, Lenny. LENNY: Where you going? LINDSAY: This whole pregnancy thing was a wake up a call. LENNY: Yes. For both of us. LINDSAY: My way of starting over isn't going to happen from being a mother. LENNY: How about with just being with me then? LINDSAY: The miscarriage was a blessing, Lenny. I mean, can you imagine me living in place like this for the rest of my life? LENNY: Yeah, I can. LINDSAY: You can still get away. You don't need me or a baby for a reason to do that. LENNY: Then for who else? LINDSAY: Yourself. LENNY: You going to Paris? LINDSAY: St. John. LENNY: Where's that? LINDSAY: U.S. Virgin Islands. LENNY: I still don't know where that is. LINDSAY: I ran into an old acquaintance when I went to see my brother. LENNY: An ex-boyfriend? LINDSAY: A guy I used to date. LENNY: You love this pendejo? LINDSAY: (long beat) I don't even know if that matters. LENNY: Right, I got it. He's rich. LINDSAY: His name is Richard. LENNY: Like I said. He's rich. LINDSAY: It's my way out of being Adam Wasserman's daughter. Richard's last name is Andrews. Which means, after I marry him I will have the last name of Andrews. My children will have the last name of Andrews...It's my way out, Lenny. LENNY: Marry me and you'll have my last name: Pabon. (Silence.) LENNY (CONT’D): Spring 2015 Proscenium  169


The Book of Leonidas Augusto Amador

Get outta here, huh? LINDSAY: If you go through with that plan then you'll become what you never wanted to be. LENNY: (lashing out) I said, get ta' steppin! (Silence. She exits. Lenny walks across the stage and kicks a garbage can over in his rage. Lights slowly to black.) Scene Eight (Lights up on the living room. Luz paces the floor in a fury. We hear the sound of a door opening and slamming shut. A frantic Lenny enters.) LUZ: You wanna tell me what the fuck happened?! (He crosses to the kitchen. She's on his heels.) LENNY: I don't wanna talk about it. (He pours himself a glass of water.) LUZ: You'll tell me alright! You'll tell me every last goddamn detail! (He goes to drink it but she slaps it out of his hand and it crashes into the sink.) LENNY: Ma, what the hell! LUZ: You tell me now! (Lenny crosses over to living room.) LUZ: Hernan said you threw up all over his shoes. Ignominioso! LENNY: You lied to me! LUZ: You were meeting with Haitian narcos. What the fuck you was thinking you was going to have to do?! I gambled on you. LENNY: What? LUZ: I gambled that the instincts of your father take over. That the power that make your father so fuerte come out of you like a bullet. That you becomeLENNY: -A killer... LUZ: You were once. LENNY: I was nine. LUZ: You know how much money you cost me you fuckin' cobarde?! LENNY: I'll make it up to you. LUZ: How? Selling loosies?! (The phone rings. She glares at him for a long moment before picking it up.) LUZ: (into phone) Si?...I'm talking to my boy right now...Yeah, he fucked us real good...just reset the meeting...Do it!... (She hangs up the phone.) LUZ (CONT’D): You best pray that El Diablo smile on you and make this deal happen. (Lenny sits down in exhaustion.) LUZ (CONT’D): Tsk, tsk, tsk. You're all alone. So alone. You betrayed me. But still I will take you back. 170 Proscenium Spring 2015


LENNY: If? LUZ: If you do this for me. (Lenny rubs is head.) LUZ (CONT’D): I turned your father into the powerful hombre that he became. Let me do the same for you? (She touches him lovingly.) LUZ (CONT’D): Do it for him, baby. Make him proud. (Beat.) LENNY: I've slaved for you. I've been alone for you but I ain't gonna kill for you. (She slaps him hard across the face.) LUZ: Despierta, cono! (She goes to slap him again but he grabs her hand.) LENNY: I know the secret that you been keepin' from me. (He gets up and steps away.) LUZ: What secret? LENNY: I know the lie. LUZ: What you going on about? LENNY: Leonidas ain't my father. LUZ: He isn't, huh? LENNY: Don't play stupid with me. LUZ: Then how you think I get pregnant? Immaculate conception or some shit? (Lenny looks up at the portrait of El Jefe. Luz follows his eyes to the portrait.) LUZ (CONT’D): Hold on now? You thinking that, that?... (She starts to double over in cruel laughter.) LENNY: El Jefe is my real father. LUZ: El Jefe? Cono do you got dreams of fuckin' grandeur! (She busts up into even more cruel laughter.) LENNY: I know it's true. LUZ: (dead serious) Boy! If he was your father you think you woulda became the loser you are today? Not a chance in hell! LENNY: But...What about what you said about being raped by him? LUZ: I was. But that was a couple of years before you was born. (Lenny becomes distraught.) LUZ (CONT’D): Pobracite. You wrong about everything you think you know about yourself. (beat) And now that we cleared the air. You gonna kill those narcos for me. LENNY: (weakly) No. LUZ: You gonna chop them down like El Jefe slaughtered all those fucking Haitians! Spring 2015 Proscenium  171


The Book of Leonidas Augusto Amador

LENNY: I will not kill for you, pop or El Jefe. I am gonna to walk away from you all. LUZ: You mean, gimp away from me, don't you? LENNY: I'll check up on you from time to time. Toss you a few bills now and then. LUZ: You're always was a big zero. LENNY: Tu sabes? What I never got was, if you wanted to be a thug boss so bad? How come you just didn't do it yourself? LUZ: 'Cause it's a man's world. That's why! LENNY: That ain't it. It's 'cause you a bigger loser than you accuse me of being. LUZ: (lashing back) No. It's because I never had a goddamned son of my own! (Stunned silence.) LENNY: What you say? (Luz bites her tongue.) LENNY (CONT’D): (beat) What you saying, ma? That I ain't your son? (Silence.) LENNY (CONT’D): Oye me? Maybe if you were never shaming me my whole life I woulda loved you. Woulda wanted to take care of you. LUZ: You killed her. LENNY: Come again? LUZ: You heard me, boy! She died while spitting you out of her. All of seventeen years old. LENNY: (knocked back) What? LUZ: Even as an infant you were a killer...You were born to be. LENNY: (not buying it) You're sick! You're sick the way you're trying to play me! LUZ: It was your father's idea not tell you . Said if you knew, it would made you feel incomplete. Incomplete, like the one and half legged coward that you are. LENNY: Serio, ma. You need to see a head doctor. LUZ: The very first time I laid my eyes on your father, he wore an immaculate white linen suit, sharp hat, gold Rolex on his wrist and being driven in that fancy car...I then knew he was my ticket out of that peasant town...Back then, I was the most beautiful woman of Puerto Plato. Well, all except for one...my sister, Adriana. LENNY: (losing it) You saying...You saying, she is my mother? That what you're saying? LUZ: When Leonidas, saw her, everything around him became invisible. I became invisible. My love for him became invisible. Later after we married it became clear that your father will never love me like he loved Adriana. Always cheating on me again and again...And that is when I knew that all men were weaker then me. I wanted the power that they had. So I decided to use your father and make him powerful. Because then I would become powerful. But your father took to cocaina, liquor, whoring that made him weak. And when he died, he took my 172 Proscenium Spring 2015


power with him...And I thought all was lost, but then I think I can build you up. Make you even greater than your father. But you became nothing. Weaker than a girl. LENNY: (final) Your sister is my mother. LUZ: Adriana. She was weak and as naive as you. You were her bloodline, alright. LENNY: All these years you been lying to me. LUZ: You had still had your uses. All small time shit. But you had your uses. LENNY: This is the last you gonna see of me. LUZ: You ain't gonna go nowhere. (She lights a cigar stub.) LUZ: After 38 years of life, all you got left is me, boy. You got no girl. No identity other than the one I gave you. (Lenny's strength drains. The phone starts to ring.) LUZ: You hear that? That be your future calling. (Luz grunts out a laugh and goes to pick up the phone. Lenny pulls out his gun and levels it at Luz. She freezes at the sight of it. The phone keeps ringing.) LENNY: You see this? LUZ: What you think you gonna do with that? LENNY: I said, do you see this?! LUZ: You gonna shoot your mother? Well, ain't that a bitch. LENNY: You ain't my mother. LUZ: I'm the only mother you ever knowed...Now I'm gonna pick up that phone and you gonna do what I tell you to do. (The phone keeps ringing.) LENNY: (unsure) No. LUZ (CONT’D): Then go ahead. Shoot me. (Silence.) LUZ (CONT’D): That's what I thought...You all outta choices. LENNY: (still pointing the gun) Nah...I still got one last choice. LUZ: But you ain't gonna make it. LENNY: (conflicted) Maybe I will? LUZ: No, mijo. I, like a good mother, have been making those choices for you since you born. Without me, you as a helpless as a baby. Still needin his mothers sweet milk. Still needin' to suck on his mama's tetas. (Lenny appears as if he is going to shoot her! Suddenly, he throws the gun with all his might and it smashes into the portrait of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, tearing a huge hole into it.) Spring 2015 Proscenium  173


The Book of Leonidas Augusto Amador

LUZ (CONT’D): (horrified) What have you done? LENNY: Next time you need help? Ask for government assistance. LUZ: You are going to fail in everything you do without me! LENNY: Probably. But it will be all my own. (He exits, followed by the loud sound of a door slamming shut.) LUZ: (yelling after) You ungrateful mutha fucka! You'll be back, you hear?! And when you do, I'll make sure you crawl over broken glass before I ever take you back! You hear me, boy?! (Lights to slowly to black.) Scene Nine (Lights up on Lenny's street corner. Lenny paces the corner, hustling his cigarettes. He is in great spirits.) LENNY: (Out the audience) Open yo' ears wide my nicotine fiends! Next ten minutes only! THREE loosies for one GW! Yeah! Ya'll heard that right! THREE loosies for a dolla! In celebration of my Independence Day! My personal day of liberty! THREE smokes and that's no joke! (A passerby hands him a dollar and Lenny gives him three cigarettes.) LENNY (CONT’D): Three loosies for a dolla! A dolla gets you three smokes and that ain't no joke! (Lindsay enters from OFFSTAGE RIGHT.) LINDSAY: Hey? (He freezes on seeing her. He gives her the cold shoulder.) LENNY: Shouldn't you be in Bermuda or some shit? (back to the hustle) Three for one! Three for one! LINDSAY: I'm leaving tomorrow. LENNY: Good to know. LINDSAY: I wanted to say goodbye. LENNY: Well you done said it. (He steps away.) LINDSAY: It was my only move. LENNY: Con migo. Staying with me. That shoulda been your only move. LINDSAY: It's not realistic, Lenny. LENNY: Don't use that word with me, puta. LINDSAY: And why am I bitch? LENNY: Because you can start over like that. Just by marrying a rich guy. Cono, you 'bout as real as a plate of beans and rice. LINDSAY: Please? We never said good-bye properly. LENNY: "Properly?" There you go sounding like a Chelsea chick. LINDSAY: Right. It's because that's who I am, Lenny. I like nice things. Big houses, expensive 174 Proscenium Spring 2015


cars. Summers in Cape Cod. It's who I am. I can't change that, Lenny. (beat) I know that makes me sound like a shallow bitch. (Silence.) LENNY: You didn't have a miscarriage. (She shakes her head.) LINDSAY: I did what was for the best. LENNY: For you, you mean. LINDSAY: (gently) I'm sorry... (Silence. She gives him a kiss on the cheek.) LINDSAY: Stick with the drawing. You're very good at it. (She begins to walks off.) LENNY (CONT’D): I woulda been a good father. Ya' know? (Lindsay turns and smiles sadly.) LINDSAY: (sad smile) I'm sure you're right... (She exits as Lenny watches her walk out of his life. He chokes back his pain and tries to get back to the hustle.) LENNY (CONT’D): Two loosies for a dolla! Two(He stops trying to gather himself. Unbeknownst to him Uganda ENTERS OFFSTAGE LEFT.) UGANDA: Hey brother? (Lenny whips around to see him standing with a wide smile.) LENNY: Uganda, you back? UGANDA: Was their ever a doubt? LENNY: Didn't I tell you to stay the fuck away? UGANDA: (stepping to him) Brother? I asked around who your father was...But here's the thing... (Uganda pulls out his gun and levels it at him. Lenny stands up straight.) UGANDA (CONT'D): My father was known as the butcher of N'Djamena. I am my father's son. (Beat. Lenny releases a self-realizing smile.) LENNY: And I am no longer the son of mine... (They stares at each other. Lights to black. We hear the deafening sound of a gunshot.) END OF PLAY

Spring 2015 Proscenium  175


Mai Dang Lao David Jacobi

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Proscenium Journal Issue Two Spring 2015  

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