TALES FROM DARKEST SUBURBIA
a play by
Edward Crosby Wells
"A black comedy constructed in seven interconnected tales that explore the typical quirks associated with American Suburbia—murder, adultery, blackmail, kidnapping, cutthroat art critics, dismemberment, devious financial advisers, cannibalism, back-stabbing divas, flesh eating perfume, Tallulah Bankhead and the nature of reality."
© COPYRIGHT 2000, 2011 EDWARD CROSBY WELLS
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Internationally acclaimed playwright EDWARD CROSBY WELLS has had his plays produced from coast to coast in the U.S. and in Canada, Scotland, England, Ireland, Spain and Australia; including 3 Guys in Drag Selling Their Stuff which has had over two dozen productions worldwide, and counting. He is the winner of several international playwriting awards including the Spotlight On Best Play Award for Excellence in Off-Off Broadway Theatre for three consecutive years. His work is published by Greyridge Press, Cyberpress, StagePlays, Meriwether Publishing Ltd., Production Scripts, Smith & Kraus, Inc., and Samuel French, Inc. Edward is currently working on a novel and a new play.
Tales from Darkest Suburbia premiered at the Riverfront Playhouse in Aurora, IL where it opened on March 20, 2009 with the following cast and crew:
Marla Holman........................................Minnie Swisher
Carol Townsend.....................................Sissie Brockman
Gary Krolik Jr..........................................Judge Rudolph Bleeker
Brandon Vanlear....................................Harley Bean, Dr. Peter Swisher
Robert Richardson.................................Sid Dumpling, Dr. Frederick Edward Hall
Sarah Odenbach....................................Sylvia Dumpling
Nikki Edwards.......................................Millie Slaughter
Gary Riggle……………….……….......……Hank Slaughter, Smith
Tristan Porter……….....................……...Moe Beach
Jill Kustush………..............……….....…...Carlotta Bean
Vicki White.............………………….........Honey Aldridge
Jana Sanders……………....................…...Rosy Bleeker
“Who knows what evil lurks in the lush confines of bedroom communities across America. Edward Crosby Wells' dark series of seven interconnected vignettes [Tales From Darkest Suburbia] gets subterranean with the suburban set.” --Kerry Reid, CHICAGO TRIBUNE
“ . . . each of the tales surpassed the previous for ingenuity and humour. What I really like about this play though, is that the characters, however surreal, are still believable. Their conversation flows naturally and we gradually become embroiled in their extraordinary lives. Tales from Darkest Suburbia is a remarkable achievement. Although each story works very well on its own and could be presented independently as a short play, as a complete piece, it comes together very well, is most satisfying and very funny. --David Muncaster, AMATEUR STAGE MAGAZINE, U.K.
Then minimum cast size is 2M/2W/1E minimum, cast doubles, or as many actors as their are characters - abstract unit set.
CHARACTERS (in order of appearance).
JUDGE RUDOLPH BLEEKER
DOCTOR PETER SWISHER
SYNOPSES: Act One
Tale One – THE RUBBING
2W, 1 table set with tea things, 2 chairs.
Sissie Brockman has invited her friend Minnie Swisher for afternoon tea and to show off her rubbing of Tallulah Bankhead’s gravestone that also serves as the tablecloth upon which they have their tea. Minnie would do or give anything to keep Sissie from revealing that she had been having an affair with Moe Beach who was recently shot under suspicious circumstances. Sissie explores options for using the situation to her own advantage.
Tale Two – THE SULLIED ROBE
2M, 1 desk, 2 chairs.
A judge and a defense attorney meet in the judge’s chambers just before going to trial. The judge desperately tries to remove a stain of unknown origin from his robe using a variety of cleaning solutions. They discuss the merits of the defense attorney’s client charged with murder compared to the merits of the victim until they finally predetermine the outcome of the trial. This is obviously an amusement performed on numerous occasions.
Tale Three – THE DUMPLINGS
1M/1W, 1 small table, 2 lounge chairs.
Sid and Sylvia dumpling kidnap Lydia a well-known TV chef and have her on a chain in the kitchen where she is forced into cooking for them. Bound in the basement is Chef Pierre, another TV chef who refused to cook and went on a hunger strike. Though the characters of Chef Pierre and Lydia are never seen they are often heard as mumbles from behind duct tape. The Dumplings are now faced with the immediate dilemma of what to do with the chef in the cellar—less immediate is what to do with Lydia.
Tale Four – THE BUTCHER’S THUMB
1M/1W. A kitchen table, 2 chairs, a butcher’s block.
Hank and Millie Slaughter are having a conversation concerning the butcher’s severed thumb and the evening’s menu. The question is, who’s really the butcher and whose thumb is it anyway?
SYNOPSES: Act Two
Tale Five – THE SESSION
1W/1M, two chairs or a chair and a couch.
Moe Beach is hearing a strange voice. Doctor Swisher thinks Moe may be having an affair with his wife. The good doctor has an unconventionally diabolical approach to therapy. The line between patient and doctor becomes blurred when, together, they delve into the nature of reality. The cure may be far worse than the disease.
Tale Six – THE HANGING JUDGES
2W/1M, Bare stage.
Three conniving judges of a local art competition, each with their own devious agenda, select the winning entrees for a forthcoming exhibition.
Tale Seven – THE GAZILLION
1W/1M, 3 chairs.
Rosy is waiting for her plane to board that will begin her journey around the world. Smith wishes he had never sat next to her as Rosy terrorizes him in her own inimitable style. Both have something to hide.
Tale One – THE RUBBING
NARRATOR: Volumes upon volumes could be written on the dynamics of friendship. Friends come and friends go. Some stay and it seems they’ll be here forever. Then forever ends and everything changes—friendships vanish. Some we outgrow and some outgrow us. It could be something so simple as one no longer liking how the other sees them. It gets in the way of change—of growth. Some have friends they’ve had for so long they’ve become tolerated fixtures, like dripping faucets. They’re annoying but not enough to do something about it. Then there is a very special kind of friendship—a kind based on mutual contempt. What binds them is their love of the game and a taste for blood.
Sissie Brockman and Minnie Swisher are an example of this special kind of bond. Beneath the surface of their agreeable civility lurk lethal obstacles to uneasy compromise.
AT RISE: The setting is the dining room of SISSIE BROCKMAN. Two chairs and a cloth-covered table set with tea things. SISSIE is alone and putting the finishing touches on her carefully arranged table. After awhile, MINNIE SWISHER bursts into the room. She is wearing formal gloves.
MINNIE: (Announces.) So sorry I’m late, but Doctor Hall had his sprinklers going and I had to walk all the way down the block just to cross the street. And, when I did, I ran into cunning Carlotta feigning shock over the Art Society’s choices for this year’s hanging. I guess I know what that means.
SISSIE: Indeed. Carlotta Bean is just being—Carlotta Bean, I suppose. Rather ill mannered, but we love her just the same. By the way, what a pity I left the front door unlocked.
MINNIE: A pity?
SISSIE: Because it just saddens me not to have had the opportunity to open the door and properly escort you in.
MINNIE: You’re such a treasure, Sissie—always thinking of others.
SISSIE: It’s my nature. I can’t seem to do otherwise. Tea?
MINNIE: Of course. (Sitting.) What a beautiful table—and your “special occasion” china. (Quickly remembering.) How was your trip to Alabama?
SISSIE: Poor Uncle Willard has completely recovered and Aunt Martha—well, Aunt Martha being Aunt Martha was Aunt Martha. One lump or two?
MINNIE: Equal. (Holding a small sandwich.) Chicken Liver?
SISSIE: With watercress.
SISSIE: This one is egg salad.
MINNIE: Yes, I see it is. (An uncomfortable pause.) I really need to talk to you about something.
SISSIE: Of course, Minnie. What is it?
MINNIE: You remember what I told you before you took the bus to Huntsville—before your uncle had his heart attack?
SISSIE: Last time you’ll catch me on a bus.
MINNIE: Well . . . you do remember what I told you?
SISSIE: I’m not sure, Minnie.
MINNIE: You know—about Moe? You couldn’t have forgotten already.
SISSIE: Moe? Moe Beach—the plumber?
SISSIE: I seem to recall something. What was it again?
MINNIE: About our, you know—Moe and me? For God’s sake, Sissie, we did it.
SISSIE: Did what?
MINNIE: It. You know what it is.
SISSIE: Indeed I do.
MINNIE: Several times.
SISSIE: He hardly seems worth several times—once, maybe twice in a wanton moment. Do you think that was wise?
MINNIE: It’s a little late for that, isn’t it? Anyway, you may have heard that Moe is deceased.
SISSIE: Danny may have called me in Alabama to share the news. In your husband’s office, wasn’t it? How sad it must be for you—and Doctor Swisher, of course.
MINNIE: He didn’t do it.
SISSIE: Never thought he did.
MINNIE: Moe barged into the office, knocked my husband unconscious and then proceeded to go through his drawers until he found the gun he keeps in case of an emergency.
SISSIE: Like a riot or something?
MINNIE: It’s possible.
SISSIE: Moe Beach being Moe Beach leaves nothing unexpected—not even suicide, does he? It all makes perfectly good sense to me. Besides, if there weren’t something unusual about him in the first place, he wouldn’t have been seeing a psychiatrist, would he?
MINNIE: A good observation. I never thought of that.
SISSIE: That’s why I’m here—to help my friends. It’s my nature.
MINNIE: He must have been insane to begin with.
SISSIE: Not a totally unfounded assumption.
MINNIE: However, the thing is—because of Moe and me—
SISSIE: Don’t explain. My lips are sealed.
MINNIE: It wouldn’t help my husband’s case—it might look like he was defending my honor.
SISSIE: Like your honor needed defending.
MINNIE: Thank you. You know what I think?
SISSIE: I wouldn’t presume.
MINNIE: I think Moe was distraught over my telling him I didn’t want to see him anymore.
SISSIE: So he shot himself with Doctor Swisher’s gun.
MINNIE: Yes. Poetic, isn’t it?
SISSIE: More Dorothy Parker than Walt Whitman, I would say. Did he ever finish working on your plumbing?
MINNIE: Yes, thank God—that’s why I didn’t want to see him anymore.
SISSIE: Great reasoning. It’ll all work out for the best. Isn’t that how the cliché goes? Let’s get our minds away from such dreary thinking. Did you notice anything unusual?
MINNIE: (Looking around.) No. Everything appears to be the same, Sissie.
SISSIE: Look down—on the table.
MINNIE: (Looking down.) I see your “special occasion” china.
SISSIE: For the love of God, Minnie, look at the tablecloth.
MINNIE: (Moving plates around to examine the tablecloth.) That’s interesting. What is it?
SISSIE: A rubbing of Tallulah Bankhead’s grave stone.
MINNIE: You’re kidding?
SISSIE: While in Huntsville, I went over to Tallulah Bankhead’s grave and did a rubbing.
MINNIE: Tallulah Bankhead? I’ve heard the name. She was an actress, wasn’t she? In fact, I seem to remember hearing something about her being a tramp—more a slut, actually.
SISSIE: She was far from being a tramp or a slut! Were you there?
MINNIE: No, of course not.
SISSIE: Then you shouldn’t spread undocumented rumors.
MINNIE: I’m sure there are no documents that say Tallulah Bankhead was a slut.
SISSIE: There you have it. She was a great movie star. More famous than—oh, I don’t know . . . Madonna.
MINNIE: Madonna’s a singer.
MINNIE: (Looking closely at tablecloth. Reading.) Tallulah Brockman Bankhead. You have the same name.
SISSIE: The Brockmans are Cause Celebes in Alabama.
MINNIE: I didn’t know that.
SISSIE: I only mention it because it is a fact. Personally, I’ve never let it go to my head—that goes against my nature, as it were.
MINNIE: (Sweetly, coyly.) You are truly self-focused.
SISSIE: I suppose I am. We are very closely related, you know.
SISSIE: Oh, yes—once removed . . . on my father’s side, of course.
MINNIE: Of course.
SISSIE: I share her love for Noel Coward—what a man he was. I share her love for drama, for theatre, for literature, for life, for—
MINNIE: For literature? How would you know that?
SISSIE: She was Noel Coward’s best friend, wasn’t she? And, Noel Coward being who he was, is world renowned for his literature. I share so many things that are Tallulah. Tallulah being Tallulah is much the same as me being me being Tallulah. I’m—what do the Italians call it? Simpatico! Cousin Tallulah and I are simpatico. After all, we do share the same blood, do we not?
MINNIE: Yes, once removed. There’s a lot of shared blood when you’re only once removed.
SISSIE: There you have it. After our little tea I’m taking it to Honey Aldridge to be framed.
MINNIE: She’s blind as a bat, you know.
SISSIE: Yes, but she owes me a favor and free of charge being free of charge, seems a fair price.
MINNIE: I can see that. Be careful going past Doctor Hall’s.
SISSIE: Thank you for the warning. If anything were to happen to it—well, I shan’t allow myself to think about it.
MINNIE: Then, why on Earth are you using it as a tablecloth?
SISSIE: It seemed a casual statement at the time.
MINNIE: A little too casual, if you ask me. (She places her cup in the saucer in the manner of one who has decided, out of fear, not to touch another thing on the table.) Where will you be hanging it?
SISSIE: I thought it might be a nice gesture if I allowed the Art Society to hang it in their little gallery.
SISSIE: Me being me, I cannot fight the desire to share a good thing with others. It displays a kind of grandness befitting a close relative of Tallulah, wouldn’t you agree?
MINNIE: I must agree with that.
SISSIE: A good example, don’t you think?
SISSIE: Darling, you’re not drinking your tea. And, there are all those wonderful little sandwiches.
MINNIE: They do invite, don’t they?
SISSIE: They scream to be eaten.
MINNIE: We can’t have that. (She reaches for a sandwich, knocks over her cup, spilling tea over the charcoal rubbing. In her rush to clean it she destroys the rubbing and knocks a teacup to the floor—breaking it.) Oh my God! How clumsy can I get? These fingers sometimes—they fumble so. Can you ever forgive me? (Picks up pieces of broken cup.)
SISSIE: How stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid . . . of me.
MINNIE: I can’t tell you how much—
SISSIE: No, it was my fault. Mea culpa. It was very stupid of me to use the rubbing for a tablecloth. I just wanted to make some sort of a casual statement.
MINNIE: You did, Sissie. It was a very grand statement . . . and casual.
SISSIE: I shouldn’t want you to feel badly. Besides, I will rub another when poor Uncle Willard has his next heart attack. My only regret is that I will have nothing to lend the Art Society. Do be careful with that cup—I shouldn’t want you to cut yourself and bleed all over those lovely gloves.
MINNIE: (Getting up from picking up the pieces.) I am so sorry, Sissie. Are these cups open stock?
SISSIE: I’m afraid not—discontinued.
MINNIE: I’d better go before I destroy something else.
SISSIE: Think nothing of it. I’ll just sit here and assess the damage. I’m sure the front door is still unlocked. By the way, when is the good doctor’s trial?
MINNIE: No date is set yet.
SISSIE: You let me know because I want to be there for moral support.
MINNIE: Thank you. I’m sure it will be appreciated.
SISSIE: It just worries me.
MINNIE: Of course, it must.
SISSIE: I pray to Heaven that my better nature will allow me to stay mum.
MINNIE: (Sitting.) Mum? What kind of mum?
SISSIE: Nothing really. It’s just that if someone in authority should ask me if I had any information to add—well, me being me, I must confess that I have never lied before.
MINNIE: Nobody is going to ask you anything. I only mentioned it because it would be best for all concerned if you did not offer such personal information.
SISSIE: Not information that would help your husband’s current predicament, I’m sure.
MINNIE: What exactly are you telling me?
SISSIE: Nothing. Don’t worry. Everything will work out for the best, as it should. Forget I ever mentioned anything. (Holding up pot of tea.) Tea?
MINNIE: Yes. And a sandwich if you don’t mind—chopped liver.
SISSIE: Of course. (Pouring tea.) You know me, (Handing SISSIE a sandwich.) forgive and forget.
MINNIE: (Casually.) I came across something very curious while you were bussing off to Alabama.
SISSIE: Do tell.
MINNIE: While doing my everyday routine duties, I ran across something very disturbing while doing my research over at the Historical Society.
MINNIE: We’ve been best friends for how long, Sissie?
SISSIE: Ever since Danny and I moved here from up north.
MINNIE: Then it could not have been you and Danny.
SISSIE: Danny and I?
MINNIE: Because this was concerning two women who live, or lived in the south.
SISSIE: North. We’re from the north.
MINNIE: What a coincidence. Would you believe that there is another Agnes “Sissie” Brockman and another Danielle “Danny” Coon, two women and “longtime companions” living down south?
SISSIE: We never lived a mile south of here—except, of course, when I was a little girl growing up in Alabama. Coincidences happen everyday.
MINNIE: To make the coincidence yet more intriguing, Danny was also a high school athletic coach. That stretches the imagination, doesn’t it? May I please try the egg salad—and I wouldn’t mind a bit more tea.
SISSIE: Certainly. Have you ever heard of doppelgangers?
MINNIE: (Munching sandwich.) I’m not sure.
SISSIE: They say we all have a double somewhere on Earth—each and every single one of us.
MINNIE: That’s probably it. The odd thing is—
SISSIE: Isn’t it odd enough?
MINNIE: The down south Brockman was released from prison for manslaughter in a bar brawl, shortly before you came to town.
SISSIE: Makes one think, doesn’t it?
MINNIE: There was, as I recall, some accusations—unsubstantiated I must add—concerning Coach Coon’s relationship with a member of the girls’ basketball team.
MINNIE: We’ll just chalk it up to the mysterious—like Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.
SISSIE: When did you say your husband’s trial was?
MINNIE: I didn’t. It hasn’t been determined yet.
SISSIE: I’m really worried about my Aunt Martha. She was looking rather pale last I saw her. I really should go and stay with her until I’m sure she’s in the pink.
MINNIE: When would you do that, Sissie?
SISSIE: I really cannot say. I only hope it is not during your husband’s trial.
MINNIE: Let us hope not, but if it should work out that way, you can be sure we’ll be secure in the knowledge of your best wishes.
SISSIE: True. Very true.
MINNIE: Oh, dear. Look at the time. (Rises.) I really must be off, Sissie.
SISSIE: (Rises.) You take care and do give my best to your husband. And about the rubbing—don’t give it another thought.
MINNIE: Still there’s that teacup.
SISSIE: It’s just a teacup. I’ve never really put much stock into material possessions. Me being me has always worked to elevate my higher nature.
MINNIE: I can see that.
SISSIE: I shall miss you while I’m gone.
MINNIE: And I you.
SISSIE: There’s no telling how long I’ll be in Huntsville. I can make all the rubbings I want.
MINNIE: You’re such a treasure. (She hugs SISSIE.)
SISSIE: (Hugging back.) And so are you, sweetie. It’s not everyday two friends understand each other so completely. Thank God for friends like you.
(They continue to embrace as the LIGHTING FADES to BLACK OUT.)
END TALE ONE
Tale Two – THE SULLIED ROBE
NARRATOR: The understanding that Sissie and Minnie have come to agree upon is the glue sealing their friendship. Proof positive of the closeness of enemies. The fate of Minnie and her husband, Doctor Peter Swisher, is in the hands of Harley Bean, their attorney, and Judge Rudolph Bleeker. This could or could not be a good thing. Blind justice may hold her scales with fairness and compassion to all as she balances truths and facts, but sometimes those dispensing justice have their fingers on her scales. Guilt or innocence can also be decided by malicious caprice.
AT RISE: The setting is JUDGE RUDOLPH BLEEKER’S chambers. It is early morning and BLEEKER is seated at his desk frantically trying to rub a spot from his robe. There is an array of cleaning supplies cluttering his desk. Throughout the course of the play he angrily struggles to remove that stain. There is a chair nearby. After awhile HARLEY BEAN, Esq. enters carrying a briefcase.
BEAN: (Sitting.) I’m sitting.
BLEEKER: I see. And, on today’s docket?
BEAN: The People versus Peter Swisher.
BLEEKER: Doctor Swisher?
BLEEKER: Did he do it?
BEAN: Some say he did, Your Honor. Some say he didn’t. He, of course, agrees with the latter. The prosecution will speak to the former.
BLEEKER: Of course. And, the victim?
BEAN: Moe Beach. Naturally, he has nothing to say for himself.
BLEEKER: Naturally. That wouldn’t be the plumber Moe Beach, would it?
BEAN: That’s the one. You’ve used him?
BLEEKER: When Rosy clogged the toilet.
BLEEKER: Too much exotic cuisine.
BEAN: I see.
BLEEKER: She spells it with Y, you know.
BLEEKER: Her name—Rosy.
BEAN: Yes, some do and some don’t.
BLEEKER: She does—but most aren’t so militant about it.
BLEEKER: Nearly killed an auto mechanic when he called her Rosy with an I-E.
BEAN: Called her? You mean he only spoke her name?
BLEEKER: That’s what he did, all right.
BEAN: He didn’t write it for her to see?
BLEEKER: Didn’t need to. She can hear the difference.
BEAN: Between I-E and Y?
BLEEKER: Every time.
BEAN: Wives. Who can figure?
BLEEKER: Do you have another?
BEAN: No, just the one—Carlotta. She recently assumed the position of head of our local Art Society.
BLEEKER: Nice assumption.
BEAN: Bossy bitch! I’m thinking of killing her.
BEAN: I haven’t decided yet. Something painful, I imagine.
BLEEKER: That’s always a nice touch. It helps them understand the unfortunate choices they have made. Just make sure you do it in my jurisdiction.
BEAN: Of course. I wouldn’t want anyone other than you as the presiding judge.
BLEEKER: Slam-dunk. Kill the bitch.
BEAN: Maybe for her birthday.
BLEEKER: Won’t that be a surprise. (Pause.) What do you know about removing stains?
BEAN: What kind of stains?
BLEEKER: Don’t know.
BEAN: What did you have for breakfast?
BLEEKER: Don’t remember.
BEAN: Maybe the stain will remind you. Take it off.
BLEEKER: I’m trying to take it off.
BEAN: I mean the robe.
BLEEKER: You know as well as I that I’m naked as a jay bird under this robe.
BEAN: Ever wonder what that means?
BLEEKER: What what means?
BEAN: “Naked as a jay bird.”
BLEEKER: They’re naked, aren’t they? Well—except for the feathers.
BEAN: Why not naked as a goose—or, naked as a vulture, or a cockatoo?
BLEEKER: Cockatoo doesn’t seem . . . seemly, does it?
BEAN: I suppose not. I know it gives you pleasure.
BEAN: Being naked as a jay bird.
BLEEKER: More than you know.
BEAN: You can take it off. I won’t look.
BLEEKER: I’d rather leave it on. Bloated. Not a good day.
BEAN: In that case—
BLEEKER: Another time, maybe.
BEAN: I can wait. It may need dry cleaning.
BEAN: Your robe. (Picking up a bottle from desktop.) Try this. (Reading from bottle label.) Dry cleaning without the expense of dry cleaning.
BLEEKER: Already did. It doesn’t work and I can’t take the bench like this.
BEAN: Nobody will see it.
BLEEKER: I will.
BEAN: Don’t look down.
BLEEKER: I’ll know. It’s been sullied. I can’t pass judgment in a sullied robe.
BEAN: Of course you can. (Picks up another bottle.) This is interesting. Endless Wind—the dirtier you are the cleaner you smell.
BLEEKER: Ah, yes, a recent investment. It’s a man’s cologne and woman’s perfume in one.
BEAN: It looks like a powder.
BLEEKER: Exactly. (Raises his arm to show BEAN his armpit.) Come here?
BLEEKER: Smell my armpit.
BEAN: But . . .
BEAN: Yes, Your Honor. (Rises to sniff BLEEKER’S armpit.) Wow. You smell divine. (Buries his nose in BLEEKER’S ARMPIT.)
BLEEKER: (Pushing BEAN away.) Thank you, Bean. I’m going to make a fortune on this—a gazillion.
BEAN: What exacting is it?
BLEEKER: Living microbes. You lightly dust them under your arms and in all your private places. As they eat the germs and bacteria on your body they put out a sweet floral gas.
BEAN: Are you telling me that what I’m smelling are microbe farts?
BLEEKER: Well, if you have to put it that way—yes, I suppose I am.
BEAN: Nice. Very nice, Your Honor. May I take another sniff?
BLEEKER: Certainly not. Now, if only I could get this spot out.
BEAN: (Picking up another bottle.) How about this? (Reading label.) Oh, wait. This is for cleaning guns.
BLEEKER: (Reaching for it.) I was looking for that.
BEAN: (Hands BLEEKER the gun cleaner.) I didn’t know you had a gun.
BLEEKER: It’s the only way I can keep my wife out of my bedroom.
BEAN: With a gun?
BLEEKER: It works. Don’t question it.
BEAN: Carlotta and I have talked about separate rooms.
BLEEKER: Stop talking and do it. Sex is better with separate rooms.
BEAN: Really? How?
BLEEKER: We don’t have any.
BEAN: How is that better?
BLEEKER: Is that rhetorical?
BEAN: Not by intention.
BLEEKER: (Opens another bottle and begins to use it on the stain. After a pause.) So, what do you say?
BEAN: About what?
BLEEKER: The value of a plumber’s life.
BEAN: Oh, I don’t know. I suppose that depends on how good a plumber one is.
BLEEKER: He wasn’t much of a plumber—this Moe Beach. He had to use a ten-foot electric vibrating snake to penetrate my wife’s stools.
BEAN: Good god! But, how was that his fault?
BLEEKER: It wasn’t. The fault was in telling Rosy she took the biggest dump he had ever seen in twenty years of plumbing. That accolade didn’t set well—even with her uncompromising competitive spirit. (Throwing down his cleaning rag.) This crap doesn’t work either!
BEAN: Excuse me?
BLEEKER: Nothing works on this stain. My robe is sullied, Bean.
BEAN: Wear another.
BLEEKER: They’re all sullied.
BEAN: You’ll need to take them to the cleaners.
BLEEKER: One day I will, perhaps. So, what is the value of a doctor’s life?
BEAN: He’s a psychiatrist.
BLEEKER: He loses points for that.
BEAN: I’d say they’re pretty much even, what with Moe insulting your wife’s bowel movement. Where should we start?
BLEEKER: Let’s give them ten points each. Where does that put us?
BEAN: I’d say we deduct two each.
BLEEKER: Okay. That takes them down to eight points each. What do you know about Doctor Swisher’s wife?
BEAN: I’ve heard she has a history.
BLEEKER: That will lose the good doctor a point. He’s down to seven. And, Missus Beach?
BEAN: Missus Beach keeps to herself mostly. If she has a history, nobody knows it—or, perhaps she’s adept at revisionism.
BLEEKER: Oh, I like that. That’s one point for the victim. What do we have?
BEAN: Swisher, seven points. The victim, nine points.
BLEEKER: It’s not looking good for the defendant. Especially since I can see the value of Rosy seeing him.
BEAN: Missus Bleeker needs a psychiatrist?
BLEEKER: I think so.
BEAN: In that case I think we ought to give a point to Swisher.
BLEEKER: Good. Doctor Swisher eight and Moe Beach nine. Damn this spot! Out, out, out!
BEAN: (Handing BLEEKER another bottle.) Try this.
BLEEKER: (Reading.) Do not use in an enclosed space.
BEAN: I wouldn’t worry about that. They’re probably just being over-cautious. You know, like cigarettes may be damaging to your health.
BLEEKER: So, what exactly happened to the victim?
BEAN: Swisher says Moe burst into his office, rushed over to his desk and pulled a gun from out the top drawer and shot himself.
BLEEKER: What was the doctor doing with a gun in his desk?
BEAN: I asked him that too. He told me there were too many crazies going in and out of his office.
BLEEKER: Good answer—though it is the nature of the business, isn’t it? Let’s give him another point. What have we got?
BEAN: Nine to nine.
BLEEKER: If the patient shot himself, the doctor couldn’t have been doing too good a job curing him. Deduct two points.
BEAN: Fair enough.
BLEEKER: What does the prosecution say?
BEAN: Swisher cold-bloodedly shot Moe as part of his therapy.
BLEEKER: He sounds perfect for my little Rosy. That’s two points for the good doctor. What’s the tally?
BEAN: Nine each.
BLEEKER: This is going to be a tough one, Bean.
BEAN: (Rises.) Your Honor—good people of the jury, Doctor Peter Swisher has been an active member of our community, a model citizen and a generous contributor to the political machine of our community.
BLEEKER: Try generous contributor to our political landscape. “Machine” sounds cold and calculating, don’t you think?
BEAN: Okay—a model citizen and a generous contributor to our political landscape. Much better, very humanizing.
BLEEKER: What if the plumber should accumulate more points?
BEAN: Your Honor—ladies and gentlemen of the jury, Peter Swisher may not have been all things to everyone in our community. But, he is a good man. He may have contributed to a political party many of you may not agree with—but he deserves as fair a hearing as we would give the lowliest vagrant squatting in the restrooms of our local bus station. But, he is still a human being, isn’t he? (A beat.) Your Honor, you’re rubbing.
BLEEKER: I beg your pardon?
BEAN: You’re rubbing a hole in your robe.
BLEEKER: Oh—so I am. Mustn’t do that. Wouldn’t want anybody to see what’s not underneath.
BEAN: Why don’t you try a little Endless Wind on that stain?
BLEEKER: You think?
BEAN: It might.
BLEEKER: (Putting some on the stain.) We’ll see.
BEAN: It’s gone, Your Honor!
BLEEKER: I see that it is, but I’m feeling all tingly. (Squirming.) I feel wonderful.
BEAN: I’ve never smelled anyone so heavenly.
BLEEKER: Now you have.
BEAN: May I? Just one more sniff?
BLEEKER: No. And now I’m ready to take the bench. Nine each, huh?
BEAN: Yes. It’s a tie.
BLEEKER: Got a coin?
BEAN: (Reaching into pocket.) A dime. (Hands it to BLEEKER.)
BLEEKER: Call it.
(As LIGHTING dims, BLEEKER tosses the dime into the air. BLACK OUT.)
END TALE TWO
Tale Three – THE DUMPLINGS
NARRATOR: Imagine, your fate could be decided by the toss of a coin. And you’d never really know, would you? In another part of town thoughts are on fine dining. Sid and Sylvia Dumpling, an unassuming suburban couple whom neighbors would say are likable and friendly, take their food very seriously. Some might say too seriously. Haute Cuisine plays a disproportionate role in their lives as they go on a quest for that ultimate gastronomical ecstasy. Very few appreciate the subtleties of the palate as much as Sid and Sylvia Dumpling.
AT RISE: The setting is a living room with no set other than a couple comfy chairs and a table with a telephone and a stack of empty bowls that once held spaghetti. Seated are SID and SYLVIA DUMPLING. A conversation is in progress.
SYLVIA: (Eating a bowl of pasta, which she does throughout the play, even during her dialogue.) About the chef—
(SID puts down the newspaper that had been hiding his face. There is spaghetti hanging from a corner of his mouth. He too eats a bowl of pasta throughout the play. BOTH often sip wine. At the moment, SYLVIA gives SID a scrutinizing glance then taps the side of her mouth. It takes him a while to “get it” before he wipes the dangling spaghetti away.)
SID: (Cleaning his mouth with a napkin.) In the kitchen?
SILVIA: In the cellar.
SID: Oh, him.
SID: (Mimicking a highbrow gesture and tone.) Chef Pierre.
SILVIA: Told you.
SID: You told me nothing. After the fact you told me . . . and you told me, and you told me again.
SILVIA: I knew before we chained him to the—
SID: Why didn’t you tell me then?
SYLVIA: You never listen.
SID: (Shrugs.) So you knew, so what?
SILVIA: Told you.
SID: (Resigned.) I know.
SYLVIA: Got to think of something.
SID: We will.
SID: When we do.
SYLVIA: He’ll starve to death.
SID: His choice.
SYLVIA: He’s very proud. You know the French.
SID: See where it got him.
SYLVIA: We can’t just let him go. He’ll head right to the police.
SID: We could put him in a box—
SYLVIA: What kind of box?
SID: Wooden, I suspect. Ship him somewhere.
SYLVIA: China. He’ll never find his way home.
SID: Maybe. Maybe not. Where in China?
SYLVIA: Where the crispy duck comes from.
SID: Beijing, Sylvia—Beijing.
SYLVIA: I never heard of Beijing duck—Peking.
SID: Peking has been renamed and is now Beijing, but I’m sure the duck is just as crispy.
SYLVIA: Whatever. I wonder if Lydia makes Peking . . . I mean, Beijing? (Calling to kitchen.) Lydia? (A mumbling comes from the kitchen.) You haven’t taken that tape off have you? (More mumbling from behind duct tape.) Good, good. You know what will happen to you if you take the tape off. (Mumbling.) Good, good. You don’t happen to make Beijing duck, do you? (More mumbling.) Thought not. (Turns to SID.) Italians. All they know how to cook is Italian. Who eats Italian seven days a week?
SYLVIA: Lucky guess. (Banging the floor with her shoe.) Hey you! (Mumbling comes from the basement.) You don’t cook Chinese, do you? (Mumbling.) Beijing duck? (More mumbling.) No, Beijing. There is no more Peking. Don’t you know anything? I’m beginning to think you’re a phony. (More mumbling. To SID.) The French—who can understand a word they say?
SID: The French.
SYLVIA: They’re too French, if you ask me.
SID: What do you expect?
SYLVIA: Nice sauces ‘though. They do make nice sauces.
SID: Very nice.
SYLVIA: Have you finished thinking about it?
SYLVIA: Chef Pierre.
SID: Oh, him. We could eat him.
SYLVIA: Sidney Dumpling! He’s a human being. He comes from France, not the stockyard.
SID: They eat snails—who eats snails?
SYLVIA: Somebody who was starving, I imagine. And then convinced somebody else they were the posh thing to eat.
SID: You are what you eat, I always say.
SYLVIA: Ewww. Then I certainly wouldn’t eat him.
SID: For Pete’s sake, Sylvia. I wasn’t serious.
SYLVIA: Thank heavens.
SID: What do you take me for?
SYLVIA: (After a pause to stare at him.) Well, what are we going to do with him? (Banging on floor.) Hey you! What are we going to do with you? (Mumbling from below.) How does China sound? (Mumbling.) How about we eat you? (She giggles. She waits but there is only SILENCE.) Hello? Hello down there. (Pause.) The French—who can figure.
SID: I told you a long time ago it was a bad idea.
SYLVIA: Pish-posh. I don’t remember your saying a thing.
SID: You never listen.
SYLVIA: I most certainly do. (A pause.) What exactly are you saying, Sid?
SID: You’re always making me do things. Do this, do that—
SYLVIA: You’re going to give me a sick headache.
SID: I thought it was a bad idea to kidnap the chef.
SYLVIA: I distinctly remember you saying that you’d kill to have Chef Pierre cook for you. Didn’t you? Did I take offense? Wasn’t my cooking good enough for you?
SID: Of course your cooking was good enough for— I didn’t mean to be taken literally.
SYLVIA: Well, you were. (Banging floor.) Hey, you! (Mumbling from basement.) How would you like to go to China? You could learn to cook Chinese. (Mumbling.) Don’t get huffy with me. I’m only trying to expand your horizons. (To SID.) Ingrate.
SID: That’s the French for you. Just as well, if you ask me. Postage would cost a fortune. Besides, eventually he’d make his way back here and then where would we be?
SYLVIA: Let’s not think about it. I hate thinking about things. It gives me a sick headache.
SID: Par for the course.
SYLVIA: What is that supposed to mean?
SYLVIA: Don’t give me a sick headache.
SID: Mustn’t do that.
SYLVIA: Don’t you love me, my little apple dumpling?
SID: (Having trouble saying it.) Of course I love you, my little squash blossom. But, we’re in a fine mess and it’s your fault.
SYLVIA: Lydia’s in the kitchen cooking up a storm. I see you don’t mind eating all her goodies.
SID: Waste not, want not.
SYLVIA: Besides, I think she likes it.
SID: How could anybody like being chained to the water pipe?
SYLVIA: There are people into that sort of thing. I’m told there are people who love being chained—handcuffs, whips. They do it all the time.
SID: I never knew that.
SYLVIA: Now you do. (Yells to kitchen.) Lydia, don’t you love cooking for us? (Mumbling.) No, we are not going to kill you. Honestly, who do you think we are? (To SID.) We’re not going to kill her—are we?
SID: We’ve got to do something.
SYLVIA: Why does everybody make the worse of what I say?
SID: I don’t know.
SYLVIA: I’m a good person, aren’t I?
SID: A regular Mother Theresa.
SID: I’m not torturing anybody, am I?
SID: Not Lydia—‘though most people don’t much care for being in chains.
SYLVIA: A minor inconvenience. (A beat.) We might make her an offer she can’t refuse. The Italians understand that sort of thing.
SID: What kind of offer?
SYLVIA: I’ll have to think about it.
SID: Careful. I wouldn’t want you to get a sick headache.
SYLVIA: I’ll think about it in small doses. All I know is when you say, “I’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse,” Italians seem to have a sixth sense for what that means.
SID: What does it mean?
SYLVIA: Something scary, I believe. I seem to remember that it involves the head of a horse.
SID: You think she’ll go for it?
SYLVIA: Watch this. (Crosses to kitchen.) Lydia. (Mumbling.) Would you run away if you had half a chance? (Mumbling.) All right—if you had a whole chance? (Mumbling.) Don’t make fun of me, Lydia. I’m dead serious. (Mumbling.) That’s not the answer I wanted to hear. Suppose I made you an offer you couldn’t refuse? (Mumbling.) Now, that’s more like it. (Crossing back to chair. To SID.) You see? Didn’t I tell you? Didn’t I?
SID: Yes, Sylvia, you told me.
SYLVIA: I don’t like that tone. You’re really giving me a sick headache.
SYLVIA: Don’t be sorry. Just do better.
SID: Yes, dear. Why don’t you give Doctor Hall a call before your headache sets in?
SYLVIA: I don’t need a doctor. I need quiet understanding.
SID: Yes, dear.
SYLVIA: You’re right on the edge, Sid—right on the edge. You know how I am when I get a sick headache.
SID: You turn into someone who’s not you.
SYLVIA: You better believe it.
SID: I do. I certainly do. The last time you had a sick headache you nearly gutted me with a boning knife. Doctor Hall had to give me thirty-nine stitches.
SYLVIA: You exaggerate. Besides, that wasn’t me.
SID: It sure looked like you.
SYLVIA: Well, it wasn’t!
SID: Okay, it wasn’t.
SYLVIA: It was an inner urge. It only looked like me on the surface. So don’t make me have a sick headache.
SID: I’ll do my best, dear. But, we do need to deal with the chef in the basement.
SYLVIA: Maybe we won’t have to do anything. He seems determined to starve himself to death. We should stay the course and let Nature take her course. (A beat.) I wish we had gotten a German. We could get the house cleaned in the bargain. Spic and span! You know how they are.
SID: We’d need a longer chain.
SYLVIA: Just a thought. Besides, I don’t think that television food show has any German cooks.
SID: Too many sausages.
SYLVIA: Just a thought.
SID: Besides we are not kidnapping another chef.
SYLVIA: I said it was just a thought.
SID: Would you like me to tell you what I think?
SYLVIA: Sidney, I’m in no mood to be bored.
SID: I won’t bore you this time. I promise.
SYLVIA: Well, if you must, you must.
SID: We’ve got to let them go.
SYLVIA: Are you crazy? What kind of a stupid thought is that?
SID: It’s for the best.
SYLVIA: Not for our best! You’re giving me a sick headache. (She jumps up and runs around the room like a wild woman.) Ow, ow, ow! Now you did it. Ow, ow, ow!
SID: Sylvia, get hold of yourself. I think we ought to call the police and turn ourselves in.
SYLVIA: Ow, ow, ow! (She goes behind his chair and picks up the telephone. After a pause.) Okay—I’m beginning to see the wisdom of your ways.
SID: That’s a new one.
SYLVIA: (In pain.) Ow, ow, ow! I’ll call them right now.
SID: Good idea.
SYLVIA: Ow, ow, ow! (Banging on the floor.) Hey, Frenchy! You want to go home? (Mumbling.) Just what I thought. I have such a headache.
SID: Try taking something—an aspirin, maybe. (Sotto voce.) Rat poison.
SYLVIA: What did you say?
SID: Nothing, dear.
SYLVIA: They don’t come any dumber than you, do they?
SID: Is that rhetorical?
SYLVIA: You know what I think?
SID: There you go thinking again.
SYLVIA: I have been struck by inspiration. I have the perfect idea.
SID: What’s that, dear?
(SYLVIA suddenly wraps the phone cord around his neck. A very animated struggle ensues. In the end she manages to strangle him to death.)
SYLVIA: Lydia! (Mumbling.) Stop whatever you are doing. We’re changing the menu. (Mumbling from kitchen. She dials the phone. Into phone.) Rosy, is that you? Are you sure this is Rosy with a Y? Good, good. You didn’t sound like yourself. I don’t know, dear. Somebody other than you—a Greek or a Puerto Rican, maybe. You know how fast they talk. What’s that, dear? (Glances toward SID.) He’s good. How is His Honor? I’m sorry. Tell him I hope he recovers soon. So, what are you doing tonight? Wonderful. Why don’t you tuck Judge Bleeker in and pop on over for dinner? Good, good. How’s six for cocktails? What’s that, dear? French. We’re having French. (Looking at SID.) Provincial.
(As she hangs up the phone the LIGHTING fades to BLACK OUT.)
END TALE THREE
Tale Four – THE BUTCHERS THUMB
NARRATOR: So much for haute cuisine. If our last tale was to your taste, we have another little gastronomical delight for your dining pleasure. This time it is served up by Hank and Millie Slaughter.
AT RISE: MILLIE is standing at a butcher’s block. HANK is sitting and watching television.
MILLIE: (Raising high a meat cleaver over a quartered chicken.) I hate him. (The thwack of the cleaver separates a leg from a thigh.) I wanted eighths not quarters. I hate him!
HANK: (Looking up.) Who?
MILLIE: You know who.
HANK: How should I know who? Put that down.
MILLIE: From what I’ve been telling you. Makes you nervous, does it? (Lays cleaver on butcher’s block.)
HANK: The last I heard was, “the butcher put his thumb on the scale.”
MILLIE: He didn’t put his thumb on the scale. It fell onto the chicken while he was quartering it and then he put it on the scale without quartering it again. Why can’t people follow directions?
HANK: Some can.
MILLIE: Why is it always about you? Anyway, there lay the bloody thumb.
HANK: You’re making this up.
MILLIE: Why would I make up a thing like that?
HANK: Didn’t he feel it—scream and carry on?
MILLIE: Everyone isn’t you, Hank. Stop trying to make this all about you! He felt nothing. He looked at it laying between the breast and the hindquarter and he said nothing—like it happens everyday. Though if it did he would have run out of thumbs by now.
HANK: I should think so.
MILLIE: You should indeed. I’m not paying for that chicken, says I. Once I cut it, Missus Slaughter, you own it, says he. So I says, you got to be kidding? And he says, I just cut off my thumb with a meat cleaver—do I look like I’m kidding? Have you done it before, says I? Nope, first time, says he. It was then—that moment—I decided to hate him.
MILLIE: I chose.
HANK: You could have chosen otherwise.
MILLIE: I could have, but I didn’t.
MILLIE: His attitude.
HANK: But the poor man just chopped his thumb off.
MILLIE: I don’t care if he beheaded himself.
HANK: Not very likely.
MILLIE: It’s a figure of speech.
HANK: Yeah. Go figure.
MILLIE: I was talking about the weight of his thumb, fat galloot that he is. That thumb must have weighed a quarter pound. Big as a Whooper, it was.
HANK: Surely you exaggerate.
MILLIE: Whatever. But given the price of meat nowadays—
HANK: Well? What happened?
MILLIE: What happened with what?
HANK: His thumb.
MILLIE: It’s still there. Nearly wrapped it in with the chicken until I had to ask him to remove it. I don’t know how to cook thumb.
HANK: I don’t imagine.
MILLIE: You should. That’s your problem. You damn well should imagine. I’ve never seen thumb on the menu. I really hate that man.
HANK: Because you chose.
MILLIE: Because I can.
MILLIE: You’re repeating yourself. There’s blood all over our chicken. I washed it real good, but I keep detecting a slight tinge of red and whiff of blood.
HANK: (Looking towards the butcher block. Horrified.) That’s the same chicken? You brought the chicken home?
MILLIE: I certainly did.
HANK: And that’s the same chicken?
MILLIE: You really should stop repeating yourself. Of course. Tonight is chicken night.
HANK: I’d be happy with meatloaf.
MILLIE: For Heaven’s sake, Hank! Tuesday is meatloaf. Tonight is chicken.
HANK: We could change every so often. Maybe give up chicken altogether.
MILLIE: Nobody’s gonna give up chicken! You’re gonna eat it and like it.
HANK: Still, I don’t think I’ll be able to eat it knowing what I know.
MILLIE: What do you know, Hank?
HANK: What you told me.
MILLIE: What a dummy!
HANK: That’s not very nice.
MILLIE: You are. You really, really are.
HANK: Why? Why am I a dummy?
MILLIE: You’re predisposed to it.
MILLIE: You only know what I tell you.
HANK: In that case, I may well be a dummy.
MILLIE: Don’t get smart with me, Mister.
HANK: I think I’ll pass on chicken tonight.
MILLIE: No substitutions!
HANK: Fine with me.
MILLIE: You’ll go to bed hungry.
HANK: Won’t be the first time.
MILLIE: What is that supposed to mean?
MILLIE: Nothing is right. You’re just a big dumb nothing. You don’t know anything except what I tell you.
HANK: Then there wasn’t a thumb?
MILLIE: Of course there was a thumb—big as a tuba. Do you think I could stand here and tell you I hate the butcher if there wasn’t a thumb? I don’t hate that easily. I always lean toward love. It’s a slight, but discernable inclination.
HANK: (Sotto voce.) Could have fooled me.
MILLIE: What did you say?
HANK: Yes, dear—like the Tower of Pisa.
MILLIE: You got that right. That’s what I thought you said.
HANK: Couldn’t we go out to dinner?
MILLIE: We could.
MILLIE: Hold on. I didn’t say we would. I said, we could. There’s a chicken on the cutting board and it’s not going to waste.
HANK: We could give it to some needy family.
MILLIE: We are some needy family.
HANK: Maybe a family more needy.
MILLIE: I’ll wash it in mouthwash. Will that make you happy?
MILLIE: Yeah, mouthwash—gargle, gargle.
HANK: Wouldn’t that taste terrible?
MILLIE: How would I know? I never ate chicken in mouthwash.
HANK: I think I’ll have a peanut butter sandwich.
MILLIE: No substitutions!
HANK: Does it have to be mouthwash?
MILLIE: I could use rubbing alcohol. You know what your problem is?
HANK: No. What’s my problem, Millie?
MILLIE: You have no sense of adventure.
HANK: You almost brought a man’s thumb home! That’s adventure enough for the both of us.
MILLIE: Always glued to that television. That’s as close as you ever get to an adventure.
HANK: I agree with you. No argument from me.
MILLIE: Well, pass the ammunition.
HANK: What does that mean?
MILLIE: Does it matter?
HANK: I suppose not.
MILLIE: What are you watching?
HANK: Martha Stuart.
MILLIE: I knew it was something felonious.
HANK: Today’s show is about untraceable poisons for a perfect garden.
MILLIE: I’m not much into horticulture.
HANK: You should be. There are so many ways to eliminate bothersome creatures. For instance, when a leech grabs hold and sucks the life right out—you need to know the best poison to take care of the problem.
MILLIE: There are no leeches in our garden—how disgusting.
HANK: And there’s nothing disgusting about dismembered thumbs?
MILLIE: It’s more understandable than garden sucking leeches.
HANK: I see. You wanna hear something about thumbs?
MILLIE: From you? I’m sure it’ll be a kicker.
HANK: It will be. I’m tired of your thumb. No. I’m sick of it! (Jumping up!)
HANK: You’ve kept me under your thumb since the day we met.
MILLIE: Don’t be ridiculous.
HANK: You’re the one who’s ridiculous. Give me your thumb.
HANK: (Goes to butcher’s block and retrieves the cleaver.) Give me your thumb.
HANK: I’m going to chop it off—be free of you.
MILLIE: Don’t be stupid.
HANK: Stupid? It’s the smartest move I’ll ever make.
MILLIE: Well, you can’t have my thumb. Get somebody else’s.
HANK: I want yours.
MILLIE: (Begins backing away.) You’re beginning to scare me.
HANK: (Moving in.) There’s a switch.
MILLIE: Back off, Mister!
HANK: I don’t think so.
MILLIE: All right. You’ve made your point. We don’t need to have chicken. A meatloaf sounds pretty good right now.
HANK: Forget about it.
MILLIE: Anything you want, dear.
HANK: (Raises cleaver.) I want to be out from under your thumb. Give me your hand.
MILLIE: You can’t have it.
MILLIE: How about deli? We could send out for deli.
HANK: I’ve lost my appetite.
MILLIE: I’ll cook whatever you like. Anything. Tell me what you want.
HANK: You’ve had your pound of flesh! (Grabs her hand and pins it to the butcher’s block.)
MILLIE: Pork? Lamb? How about lasagna? We could send out for pizza!
HANK: (Raises high the cleaver.) I want out from under your thumb!
(Quick BLACK OUT. The SOUND of the thwack of the cleaver.)
END ACT ONE
Tale Five – THE SESSION
NARRATOR: The friendship between Sissie Brockman and Minnie Swisher is well intact. All those lethal obstacles threatening to undermine their solid relationship have been carefully maneuvered into safe waters.
Judge Bleeker and Harvey Bean have already decided the fate of Doctor Swisher. Justice, as it were, has been dispensed prior to the fact.
Sylvia Dumpling has strangled her husband, Sid, in a moment of uncompromising values prior to sitting down to dine on an exotic French meal with her best friend Rosy, Judge Bleeker’s wife.
Since the doctors grafted Millie Slaughter’s thumb back on she’s been the perfect wife.
From a casual glance, all is well in darkest suburbia. As for the facts surrounding the death of Moe Beach—judge for yourselves.
AT RISE: The setting is the psychiatric office of DOCTOR PETER SWISHER where a conversation with MOE BEACH is in progress.
MOE: A voice from within—but I don’t remember.
DOCTOR: (Writing on yellow pad.) You don’t remember the voice—
MOE: What the voice said.
DOCTOR: Of course.
MOE: But it said something.
DOCTOR: They usually do.
MOE: I think it was trying to give me advice.
DOCTOR: They usually are. What kind of advice?
MOE: I don’t remember. Seemed relevant then—real.
DOCTOR: And now?
MOE: I’m not sure.
MOE: It was real.
DOCTOR: Ah. (Smiles.)
MOE: But it seemed relevant.
DOCTOR: Of course. (Throws pencil on the floor.) Pick that up.
MOE: Excuse me.
DOCTOR: For what?
MOE: I don’t think I heard you correctly.
DOCTOR: Of course you did. (A pause.) These sessions are expensive, Mister Beach. Stop wasting our time.
MOE: (Crosses to pick up pencil.) It looked like you threw it.
DOCTOR: I didn’t throw it.
MOE: (Retrieves the pencil and returns with it.) Here.
DOCTOR: Now, where were we?
MOE: I don’t remember.
DOCTOR: Correct. You don't remember, but I do. You hear voices.
MOE: Just one voice.
DOCTOR: Are you certain that it was only one?
MOE: Isn’t that enough?
DOCTOR: Why do you ask?
MOE: It seems like it ought to be.
DOCTOR: Ought to be?
MOE: Enough to make one wonder.
DOCTOR: One shouldn’t—
DOCTOR: I should think not.
MOE: So you agree—
DOCTOR: Of course not.
MOE: It seemed so important.
DOCTOR: So did my wife’s webbed fingers.
MOE: Mrs. Swisher has webbed fingers?
DOCTOR: You didn’t know?
MOE: How would I know a thing like that?
DOCTOR: Of course, you wouldn’t. That’s why she wears gloves year ‘round.
MOE: I thought she was just being fashionable.
DOCTOR: Let’s not change the subject. Tell me more about the voice, what it said.
MOE: What it said?
DOCTOR: That’s the question. You said you don’t remember what—
MOE: It said. I know. I just can’t remember.
DOCTOR: So you said.
MOE: What do you suppose it means, Doctor Swisher?
DOCTOR: I’d have to hear it first.
MOE: Yes. (A pause. Makes an eerie high-pitched sound.) Eeeeee-ahhhhh-ipper, ipper, yahhhhh-ooooh—it sounded something like that.
DOCTOR: Hmm, then I don’t believe it actually said anything.
MOE: It made perfect sense to me, at the time.
DOCTOR: So did intelligent design until I took a good look at most of my patients.
MOE: I sometimes feel—
DOCTOR: You say you feel—
DOCTOR: You feel. (A pause. Sighs.) Is this one of those times?
DOCTOR: And, what is it you feel?
MOE: I don’t know to say.
DOCTOR: But, you know you’re feeling something. Is that correct?
MOE: Yes. Once you’re no longer there it’s gone—you forget.
MOE: There. I forget there.
DOCTOR: There— Where is "there?"
MOE: Where I am no longer—where I do not remember.
DOCTOR: What do you think that means?
MOE: I don’t know.
DOCTOR: You seem to know little to nothing.
DOCTOR: There you have it! You don’t know. That’s your problem. (Throws yellow pad on floor.) There’s a strong wind blowing. Pick that up.
MOE: There’s no wind. We’re inside. (Moves to pick up pad.)
DOCTOR: There is always a wind—moves right through you.
MOE: I don’t feel it.
DOCTOR: I know. (Snatches pad from PATIENT. A beat.) Where were we?
MOE: You were telling me what my problem was.
DOCTOR: And what is that?
MOE: I don’t know.
MOE: What about the voice?
DOCTOR: What about it?
MOE: I can’t put my finger on it.
DOCTOR: Nobody can.
DOCTOR: Who can put a finger on—
MOE: A voice?
DOCTOR: In your head.
MOE: It’s quite familiar.
DOCTOR: That can be annoying—eeeee-eeeee-ya-ya-yo-yo—
MOE: It was more like—
DOCTOR: I don’t care! Why have you been sneaking about with my wife?
MOE: I haven’t been sneaking about with your wife.
DOCTOR: Somebody has.
MOE: Not me. I was only at your house to fix your plumbing.
DOCTOR: Don’t change the subject. We’re talking about your voices.
MOE: Voice—just one voice.
MOE: After it’s been in your head awhile you can’t tell if you recognize it as something from reality—
MOE: What we agreed upon.
DOCTOR: We agreed upon reality?
MOE: Didn’t we?
DOCTOR: You tell me.
MOE: A long time ago.
DOCTOR: You and I?
MOE: All of us. We decided to call it a rock and the rock became real.
DOCTOR: Rocks are real.
MOE: Yes, because we all recognize them.
MOE: As rocks.
DOCTOR: How’s that?
MOE: From the beginning we are taught.
DOCTOR: So, are saying that rocks are real because we recognize them? Aren't they real without us?
MOE: Are they?
DOCTOR: You tell me.
MOE: I think they are. I seem to remember they are. But, the voice—
DOCTOR: Is real?
MOE: Maybe. Or, something I only imagined.
DOCTOR: I see. We are all in agreement when it comes to rocks being real. However, a question remains when it comes to a voice you may or may not have heard in your head—especially one that sounds like a pig call.
MOE: Yes. Although we haven’t agreed upon the voice yet.
DOCTOR: Do you think we ever will?
MOE: It’s possible.
DOCTOR: And when we do—
MOE: It becomes real.
DOCTOR: Voices or rocks?
MOE: The voice. Just one voice.
DOCTOR: In your head?
MOE: That’s where my ears are.
DOCTOR: Most people have ears attached to their heads.
DOCTOR: But yours are in your head.
MOE: That’s where I hear.
MOE: And other things.
DOCTOR: Ghosts? Satan? God?
MOE: Doorbells. Phones. Horns.
DOCTOR: You hear doorbells?
MOE: The chimes—the ringing. I’ve heard the ringing—never the doorbell itself.
DOCTOR: In your head.
MOE: Through my ears.
DOCTOR: Relax. Imagine a quiet meadow—rolling hills of green—
MOE: It’s not my kind of place.
DOCTOR: And, what is your kind of place?
MOE: I generally know when I’m there but when I leave I don’t know anymore. I forget. However, I always know when it isn’t.
DOCTOR: Imagine that.
MOE: That’s hard to imagine, but when it isn’t, I know it isn’t, you know?
DOCTOR: Do I?
MOE: You must.
DOCTOR: Or you’ll do something felonious like you did to my wife?
MOE: I don’t know what you’re talking about. I barely know your wife.
MOE: Hardly at all.
MOE: At all.
DOCTOR: You know she has webbed fingers.
MOE: Only because you told me.
DOCTOR: You know she’s never seen in public without gloves.
MOE: Everybody knows that.
DOCTOR: Who’s everybody?
MOE: Everybody who knows her. We thought it was just your wife’s style.
DOCTOR: Minnie certainly has style. Suppose you tell me how you know my wife.
MOE: I wouldn’t know how—
DOCTOR: To say?
MOE: Wouldn’t know where—
DOCTOR: To begin?
MOE: She’s a friend of my wife’s.
DOCTOR: Don’t change the subject.
MOE: Sometimes, I really don’t feel—
DOCTOR: You only feel sometimes. You don’t know what you think and you don’t know whose gibberish is jabbering in your head. Reality requires majority approval. You hear the ringing but not the bell. You only know where you are when you are no longer there. You only know what is when it isn’t and you claim not to have had carnal knowledge of my wife. Next you will be telling us you don’t know why you are here.
MOE: Isn’t that what you are supposed to tell me? I thought you already knew—
DOCTOR: Surprise. I am not here to know. I am here to assist you with exploring your problems.
MOE: My problems—
DOCTOR: You weren’t expecting a euphemism, were you?
DOCTOR: I find it best to treat the patient with a hard dose of reality.
MOE: I appreciate your directness.
DOCTOR: Then we agree.
DOCTOR: On reality. It goes right to the heart of the matter.
MOE: I see your point.
DOCTOR: Do you?
MOE: I think so—I guess.
DOCTOR: Spoken with certitude.
MOE: Perhaps something less than that.
DOCTOR: Not so sure?
MOE: I don’t think so—it moves so quickly it becomes a blur. I can’t see it anymore.
MOE: The train. The thought. The thread.
DOCTOR: And, with it your vision—
MOE: Is my time up?
DOCTOR: When I say it is. (A beat.) Get on the floor.
DOCTOR: Lick my boots.
MOE: Is this part of the therapy?
MOE: (On the floor.) I can’t see what—
MOE: I don’t know—
DOCTOR: Let’s see some tongue-action, boy!
MOE: (Licks boots.) Why?
DOCTOR: Get up.
MOE: I was only getting started. (Getting up.) I didn’t mind—really.
MOE: Not at all. I’ve often thought of—
DOCTOR: Licking my boots?
MOE: Not your boots necessarily. Boots in general.
DOCTOR: You would lick just anybody’s boots?
MOE: Absolutely not—not just anybody’s boots, sir.
DOCTOR: Then whose, boy?
MOE: Certainly not just anybody’s, sir.
DOCTOR: Did you lick my wife’s boots?
MOE: I certainly did not! (A pause.) Does your wife wear boots?
DOCTOR: Don’t change the subject. Take this.
MOE: What is it?
DOCTOR: A pill. And, don’t ask for what.
DOCTOR: Take it.
MOE: I need something to wash it down.
MOE: I don’t think—
DOCTOR: Swallow. (MOE does.) Good. Now tell me why you are here.
MOE: The voice—
DOCTOR: Go on.
MOE: At night, when I’m walking down Main Street—
DOCTOR: At night?
MOE: Coming home from work.
DOCTOR: I see.
MOE: Outside the super market.
DOCTOR: I’ve gotten your point.
MOE: I hear the voice most everywhere.
DOCTOR: Eeeeee-ahhhhh-ipper, ipper, yahhhhh-ooooh.
MOE: That’s it! That’s exactly how it sounds. How did you ever? That’s amazing.
DOCTOR: Can you see who it is?
MOE: Who what is?
MOE: Now? No.
DOCTOR: Then! Then, you idiot!
MOE: It was just a disembodied voice. More like sound and light—kind of weird. (A beat.) I don’t think a doctor should call his patient an idiot.
DOCTOR: I don’t think a patient should secretly meet with his doctor’s wife.
MOE: That’s not true!
DOCTOR: Stop trying to change the subject. Was the voice male or female?
MOE: Does it matter?
DOCTOR: What do you think?
MOE: I don’t think it matters.
DOCTOR: Are you bisexual?
MOE: Absolutely not.
DOCTOR: Are you sure?
MOE: I would know a thing like that, wouldn’t I?
DOCTOR: One would think. Do you suppose my wife knows your sexual preference?
MOE: Doctor Swisher, I told you that I am not having an affair with your wife.
DOCTOR: Mr. Beach, did I ever mention “affair?”
MOE: You insinuated—
DOCTOR: I’m merely trying to establish the gender of the voice and which gender it is that holds more of an attraction to you.
MOE: It wasn’t sexual—the voice.
DOCTOR: Would it matter if it were?
MOE: If it were—it might matter. I might respond differently.
DOCTOR: To the voice—
MOE: Yes. (A beat.) Isn’t my time up yet?
DOCTOR: Did I say it was?
MOE: No. I was only thinking—
DOCTOR: Stop thinking. When your time is up you will know.
MOE: You will tell—
DOCTOR: It will be obvious.
MOE: You’re not going to charge me—
DOCTOR: You’re thinking. I told you to stop thinking.
MOE: I can’t help it.
DOCTOR: Your gun—
MOE: I don’t have a gun.
DOCTOR: (Shoots PATIENT with imaginary gun.) Bang! You’re dead!
MOE: I get it. (Does likewise.) Bang—you’re dead too.
DOCTOR: No I’m not.
MOE: Of course not.
DOCTOR: You’re imagining things—again.
MOE: But you—
MOE: Pulled a gun—
DOCTOR: A finger.
MOE: Yes. Of course.
DOCTOR: Are you sure?
DOCTOR: The difference.
MOE: Of course.
DOCTOR: Good for you. I could have pulled a rock—or a stiffy.
MOE: That would be nonsense.
MOE: I think so, yes.
DOCTOR: I told you to stop thinking.
DOCTOR: The session is over.
MOE: So soon?
DOCTOR: We’re finished.
MOE: Am I better?
DOCTOR: Than what?
MOE: Than before?
DOCTOR: You tell me. (Pointing finger as a pretend gun.) Bang, bang!
MOE: You’re doing it again.
DOCTOR: Doing it?
MOE: Pretending your finger is a gun.
DOCTOR: Then you know the difference?
MOE: Naturally. Is this part of the therapy?
DOCTOR: Do you want it to be?
MOE: (Shrugs.) Sure. Why not? (Points finger as a pretend gun.) Bang, bang! You’re dead!
DOCTOR: No, I’m not—again.
MOE: Of course not. It’s just a game. It’s not real.
DOCTOR: (Pulls out a gun.) What about this? Is this real?
MOE: Good grief! That’s a gun!
DOCTOR: Are you sure?
MOE: Of course I’m sure.
DOCTOR: It could be a rock—or my wife’s vagina.
MOE: It could be but it happens to be a gun.
DOCTOR: Then we agree that it's real.
MOE: Yes, it’s real. But, I wish you’d put it—
DOCTOR: Did you put it away with my wife?
MOE: I don’t know what you’re talking about.
(DOCTOR pulls the trigger and MOE falls to the floor.)
DOCTOR: Now it's away.
MOE: You shot me.
DOCTOR: Yes I did.
MOE: You shot me for real.
DOCTOR: Wise and right—two admirable attributes.
DOCTOR: They just are. You don’t think so?
MOE: It doesn’t matter at this point.
DOCTOR: I suppose you’re right.
MOE: Why did you shoot me?
DOCTOR: It’s part of the therapy.
MOE: Shooting your patients is part of the therapy?
DOCTOR: It works, doesn’t it?
MOE: No. It doesn't work. I'm dying.
DOCTOR: That's what you are supposed to do.
MOE: But I'm dying. I'm dying for real.
DOCTOR: That’s good.
MOE: Good? What’s good about getting shot and dying?
DOCTOR: It goes to show.
MOE: (Gasping.) Show me what?
DOCTOR: You’ve always known the truth.
DOCTOR: What’s real. What’s not. The consequences of adultery.
MOE: I’m going to die.
DOCTOR: Of course you are.
MOE: I don’t want—
DOCTOR: Who does?
MOE: This is it, isn’t it?
DOCTOR: Yes. The session is over. You may leave now.
MOE: I won’t pay for this session. (Gasps and dies.)
DOCTOR: Nobody ever does. Eeeeee-ahhhhh-ipper, ipper, yahhhhh-ooooh—
(LIGHTING slowly dims to BLACK OUT.)
END TALE FIVE
Tale Six– THE HANGING JUDGES
NARRATOR: Despite all the facts in the case, the jury will decide for themselves the predetermined guilt or innocence of Doctor Swisher.
Somebody once said that art is the food of the soul. In suburbia the Art Society provides the soul with more than enough nourishment. There are painting classes year-round, holiday crafts classes, painting classes, Christmas gift wrapping classes and much more—all provided by the local Art Society. Their premier event is the annual art contest. Entries pour in every year from the far corners of suburbia, but only the best of the best are hung for all to see and to satisfy their hunger as souls are fed with much needed sustenance.
AT RISE: The setting is an art gallery. The fourth wall is hung with unseen paintings being judged by CARLOTTA BEAN, HONEY ALDRIDGE and DOCTOR HALL. They are bunched at far left or far right stage—the idea is to have them move their way across the stage to the opposite side by the end of the play.
CARLOTTA: (Facing the audience.) We ought to start somewhere and it might as well be here.
HONEY: Where is here, Carlotta?
HALL: (Rather fey. Holding a clipboard.) Here is right where you are, Honey. Right in front of you. Step forward, my dear. Careful —don’t walk into the wall.
HONEY: (She walks into the wall, bounces off, then sticks her nose against the painting. After a pause.) Oh yes. One can nearly smell the texture.
CARLOTTA: I bet one can.
HALL: What is your verdict, Honey? Is it a nay, or is it a yea?
HONEY: I don’t much care for storms or seascapes. Never have. This one has both storm and seascape. A bit of a mish mash, if you ask me.
HALL: Do we have a nay?
HONEY: Well—all the colors seem to look like real colors. The blues are blue, the yellow is yellow—but, I don’t think that’s enough to give it a yea. It’s a bit small for a seascape and a storm. One or the other would have sufficed. Besides, it should be wider than it is tall.
CARLOTTA: For pity’s sake, would you please give Doctor Swisher’s lively rendition a yea or a nay?
HONEY: Doctor Swisher? I wouldn’t give that quack the time of day. Nay. A definite nay.
HALL: That’s one nay for the quack. (Putting a check mark on the clipboard.)
CARLOTTA: Let me have a look. (A pause. Impatient.) Honey.
CARLOTTA: Move on to the next painting please. The good doctor and I need to judge this one.
(HONEY moves on to the next painting, pressing her nose against it as she does with all that follow.)
HALL: I must contemplate this one.
CARLOTTA: Contemplate away. (Bobbing up and down, she adjusts herself so that her eyes are level with the painting.)
HALL: (Watching her. After a pause.) How shall I say?
CARLOTTA: How shall you say what, Doctor Hall?
HALL: I was just wondering—why are you bobbing up and down like that?
CARLOTTA: It requires my eyes to be level with the painting. I know of no other way to fairly judge the worth of art—especially when done by my psychiatrist.
HONEY: You go to a psychiatrist?
CARLOTTA: Just for the Prozac, Honey.
HALL: He did murder one of his patients, didn’t he?
CARLOTTA: Some say he did and some say he didn’t. I just don’t know what to say. Besides, as you all perfectly know, my husband is his attorney.
HONEY: I don’t much care for the quack, but in all fairness, one should give him the benefit of the doubt, shouldn’t we?
CARLOTTA: That would be the proper thing to do, wouldn’t it?
HONEY: I heard it was suicide. Moe Beach walked into Doctor Swisher’s office and then Moe shot himself dead. Poor Mrs. Beach—she’ll surely miss him.
CARLOTTA: I imagine.
HALL: Carlotta, is it a yea or a nay?
CARLOTTA: Don’t rush me—like you do all your patients. I’ve decided to do the right thing and wait until the trial and then we shall see what we shall see.
HONEY: I think that’s best, Carlotta.
CARLOTTA: However, with his attorney being my husband, I’m expecting a positive result.
HALL: What about the painting? Surely we won’t have to wait until the trial to get a yea or a nay on the painting.
CARLOTTA: Give me time. I’m teetering on the brink of a decision. I need to get close to it. (She moves forward.)
HALL: I always stand at a respectable distance. (Moves upstage.) See? This . . . oh, how shall I say? This is the proper way to view a work of art.
HONEY: Art and I need to be quite close.
CARLOTTA: You really ought to have those cataracts attended to.
HONEY: I like to see the stroking.
HALL: The stroking?
HONEY: The way the brush makes its way across the canvas.
HALL: I thought . . . oh, how shall I say? I thought you meant—
CARLOTTA: I’m sure you did. Your mind is “oh, how shall I say,” subterranean.
HALL: That’s hardly polite, especially for a woman in your condition.
CARLOTTA: In my condition?
HALL: The results are in on your yeast infection—
CARLOTTA: (Quickly changing the subject.) Honey, this appears to be a rendering of Gainsborough’s Blue Boy.
HONEY: Are you sure it’s not brown and yellow clouds over a raging blue sea?
HALL: He looks like a big blue poof to me.
CARLOTTA: Everybody looks like a poof to you.
HALL: I meant the original. This one looks like a Smurf.
HONEY: (Giggles.) You’re so funny, Doctor Hall. You always make me laugh.
HALL: Thank you, Honey. They say that laughter is the best medicine.
CARLOTTA: For what?
HALL: For dreary occasions and unsatisfied conclusions, Carlotta. I say nay.
CARLOTTA: That’s one nay for Doctor Hall and one nay for Honey Aldridge. Therefore, since we won’t be hanging poor Doctor Swisher’s little masterpiece, I’ll have to say yea. He would die of a broken heart if he ever found out that his favorite patient didn’t fight the tides of his misfortune and vote yea. Besides, I’m almost out of Prozac. I don’t know what I’ll do if he gets the electric chair.
HALL: (To CARLOTTA.) Are you sure there’s not . . . how shall I say—a bit of Hieronymus Bosch lurking behind that Rubenesque exterior?
CARLOTTA: (Ignoring the last. Moving to next painting.) Have you made a decision on this one, Honey?
HONEY: Oh, my god! That’s frightening. I’m afraid it’s a nay.
CARLOTTA: I certainly agree. We are all well into the twenty-first century—most of us, anyway—and there is no longer any point to bloody pointillism. And, I do mean bloody.
HALL: I quite agree. That’s three nays for Sylvia Dumpling’s Pork Chops in Handcuffs with a Hatchet in a Side Dish. Let’s move on, ladies. I’m becoming nauseous (ALL quickly move on.)
CARLOTTA: What have we here? Pigs in a Blanket by Heinz Fleishmann. Oh, our butcher. Not bad for someone without an opposable thumb.
HALL: Yes, it’s a shame about his thumb. I could have reattached it if he hadn’t dropped it in the meat grinder.
HONEY: It ended up in my meatloaf. His thumbnail—I thought it was a piece of onion, at first.
CARLOTTA: How tragic for you, dear.
HALL: I reattached Millie Slaughter’s, you know.
CARLOTTA: Even with an opposable thumb she can’t paint. I sent it back. We couldn’t have it hanging in our little gallery. So what do you think of Fleishmann’s Pigs in a Blanket?
CARLOTTA: That’s three yeas. Move along, Honey. You’re in the middle of the road.
(ALL move to the next painting.)
HALL: Let’s see. This one is titled Portrait of Picasso’s Portrait of Gertrude Stein as Done by Jackson Pollack by Danny Coon. Dear me, how shall I say?
CARLOTTA: Say nay, nay, nay. Gertrude Stein never had a mustache.
HONEY: How do you know, Carlotta?
CARLOTTA: Because if she did, Picasso would certainly have put one there.
HALL: She might have been a secret shaver.
CARLOTTA: Moving on. (Moves to next painting.) I will need to disqualify myself from this one.
HALL: What have we here? A Night at the Acropolis by Carlotta Bean. Mon Dieu, naked Greeks. Did you paint this from memory?
CARLOTTA: It’s a metaphor—the unashamed freedom of the Greek psyche.
HONEY: Is that you, Carlotta?
CARLOTTA: Many artistes place themselves in their work.
HALL: But, pray tell, how did you manage to place yourself in that position?
CARLOTTA: It’s called artistic license, Doctor Hall.
HALL: As a doctor, I must inform you that the human body cannot assume that position.
HONEY: Looks like an orgy to me.
CARLOTTA: Well, it’s not! Is it yea or what?
HALL & HONEY: Yea.
CARLOTTA: It appears to be a tie. In that case, according to our bylaws I am required to break it—yea. Now it’s unanimous. Next. (At next painting.) Oh my God! This looks like it was painted with a sponge mop.
HALL: We have here Wall Surrounding The Virgin Mother Nunnery for Wayward Girls by Honey Aldridge. That explains the penguin in the lower corner.
HONEY: She wandered into the picture.
CARLOTTA: It’s not like a photograph, Honey. You didn’t need to paint her in.
HONEY: I know, but she was there and then she wasn’t there and I couldn’t get her out of my mind.
CARLOTTA: I’m sure that makes perfect sense to you. It’s a very large canvas, isn’t it? It does crowd out the other paintings, doesn’t it? How would you say, Doctor Hall?
HALL: Well, how shall I say? Large—quite large. Honey, what exactly did you paint this with?
HONEY: A sponge mop.
HALL & CARLOTTA: Brava, brava.
CARLOTTA: I’d say that’s two yeas, wouldn’t you, Doctor Hall.
CARLOTTA: Then, two yeas it is.
HONEY: And I say yea.
CARLOTTA: You don’t get to say yea, Carlotta.
HONEY: It was a tie, wasn’t it?
CARLOTTA: Only the president of the Art Society gets to break a tie. Hal, I give the Virgin two yeas. Let us move on please. (At next painting.) What have we got here? Taking Heart to Give a Heart by Doctor Feh. Feh, Feh?— who’s Feh? I don’t know a Feh.
HALL: Frederick Edward Hall.
CARLOTTA: And a lovely painting it is. A bit heavy on the dripping blood. But, I like it—very medical.
HONEY: Is it going into the patient or coming out of the patient?
HALL: That’s . . . how shall I say? A mystery. Something to tantalize the observer and leave them to arrive at their own conclusions. As an artist, I merely ask the questions.
CARLOTTA: And, such a profound question it is. I’m sure we all agree that it’s a yea.
HALL: You humble me.
CARLOTTA: (Watching HONEY who is already at the next painting.) Honey, stop rubbing your nose all over the paintings. (Handing HONEY a tissue.) Look at yourself. The paint wasn’t dry on that one.
HONEY: (Rubbing the paint from off her nose.) So, that’s why there are so many trails going through that woodland pastoral.
HALL: I think it is ruined, ladies.
CARLOTTA: Nonsense. Get me a brush, Honey. There’s dozens in the framing room.
HONEY: (Running to exit.) I’m on it. (Exits.)
HALL: Yes, but what is she on? You know, Carlotta, you really shouldn’t tamper with another person’s art. It’s . . . oh, how shall I say—
CARLOTTA: Can it, Hall!
HONEY: (Enters with two brushes) Soft or stiff?
CARLOTTA: Just hand me a brush. (Grabs one from HONEY’S hand.) Now, let’s see. (Applying the brush to the painting.) Maybe if we extend this branch so that it covers—
HALL: I can’t watch.
CARLOTTA: This tree seems to have a road going right through it. That’ll never do.
(They ALL move in on the painting.)
HALL: I think that tree is supposed to have a road going through it.
CARLOTTA: Nonsense. (Begins filling in the gap.) There—look how much better that is—no more hole.
HONEY: Oh, thank you, Carlotta.
CARLOTTA: I’m not finished yet. There’s still those trails going through the sky.
HONEY: They could be airplane trails.
HALL: Of course. Mucus-filled airplane trails. Just extend that cloud, Carlotta.
CARLOTTA: Like this? (She paints.)
HALL: Now see what you’ve done. It looks like a giant rabbit hopping over a redwood forest.
CARLOTTA: Quite surreal—reminiscent of Dali.
HALL: (Grabbing the other brush from HONEY’S hand and begins painting along with CARLOTTA.) You’ve got the bunny’s feet caught in the branches. What’s this?
CARLOTTA: A power line.
HALL: It used to be the horizon.
CARLOTTA: Now it’s a power line.
HONEY: (Stepping up to the painting. While the others brush away, she moves the paint around with her finger.) Maybe we could get rid of the power lines by (Finger painting.) blending this into that.
HALL: You just blended that family of bears into the giant rabbit.
CARLOTTA: Oh, what the hell. If you ask me it’s a much better painting.
HALL: It looks like . . . oh, how shall I say? It looks like a rabbit on an aquarium filled with brown and green fish swimming under a power line.
CARLOTTA: Give it a yea and let’s move on.
HALL: (Takes CARLOTTA’S brush and along with his own, attaches them to his clipboard.) Driving Through a Redwood by Dottie Beach receives unanimous yeas. (Making three check marks.)
CARLOTTA: It’s the least we can do for the poor grieving widow—considering what Honey did to it. Thank goodness we were able to salvage it.
HALL: I quite agree.
CARLOTTA: Honey, try and keep your nose off the paintings from now on. (Handing HONEY a huge handful of tissues from out her jacket pocket, or elsewhere.) Here, clean your hands.
HONEY: Sorry. (Cleaning her hands.)
CARLOTTA: (At the next painting.) What a beautiful frame.
HONEY: I framed that.
CARLOTTA: You did good, Honey. Hal, look at this frame. I say yea just because I like the way it’s hung.
HALL: I can’t argue with that.
HONEY: Does being hung well make it art?
HALL: One could argue that case.
CARLOTTA: You certainly could.
HALL: A definite yea.
HONEY: Another yea here.
CARLOTTA: Moving on. (ALL move on to the next painting which happens to be offstage.) Shameful!
(The LIGHTING begins to FADE.)
CARLOTTA (Con’t.): That’s not art—that’s an insult to art lovers everywhere. If Minnie Swisher thinks we’ll show sympathy just because she has webbed fingers and her husband may or may not be headed for the electric chair, she’s got another think coming.
END TALE SIX
Tale Seven – THE GAZILLION
NARRATOR: There seems to be a penchant for predetermined results in suburbia. The dilemma of what is worthy and best appears to be resolved by special interests and by the voice of persistence.
Residents of suburbia love to travel. Leaving suburbia for short periods of time only serves to make home that much more attractive upon their return. Many spend the entire year planning those excursions that will net them souvenirs and photographs to share with family and friends throughout the following year.
The most serious traveler of all must surely be Rosy Bleeker who, with style and flare, is about to fly to destinations unknown as she bids a fond farewell to suburbia before setting out to journey around the world.
AT RISE: The setting is a bare stage except for a row of seats in an airport. ROSY BLEEKER and SMITH are seated with a chair between them. They each have carry-on luggage.
ROSY: (To SMITH.) I’m Rosy with a Y. Everybody thinks it’s I E, but it’s not. It’s Y. It is astonishingly difficult to tell one way from the other when one is speaking, of course. One can, however, when it is written—if it is legible. I get angry when somebody puts I E when it ought to be Y. Why? Because it is my name. I’m over-sensitive. It’s a gift. I hear I E in the voice, in the way the second syllable is pronounced. Rosy, Rosy, Rosy—that’s the sound of Y. Rosie, Rosie, Rosie has the definite ring of I E—and who are you?
SMITH: (Reading newspaper. Uncomfortable.) Ah . . . Smith.
ROSY: Good, good. Brevity and a real American name—solid, rock solid. Good for you. I’m all-American too as was my late husband the judge—that’s rather as is my late husband, isn’t it? One only gets to be late once. He moved on. Where? I don’t know where. How should I know where? (Pointing upward.) Somewhere up there, I suppose. Who knows? At least he had the good sense to know that someday he would actually transition. Some don’t know that, you know. He did, however, and he enjoyed a sense for the depth of my grieving after his departure. He left me with a gazillion. Invested in a very expensive fragrance. Perhaps you’ve heard of it—Endless Wind?
SMITH: I do believe I have.
ROSY: It made a gazillion.
SMITH: (Sudden interest. Stops reading newspaper.) A gazillion?
ROSY: I Exaggerate. Enough to do what I’ve always wanted to do. He rarely spoke, you know. Why? More than likely he had little to say—at least to me. However, that’s then and this is now and I’m ready to begin my great adventure.
SMITH: What might that be?
ROSY: No might about it. I’m going ‘round the world, Smith—outward bound, alone and on my way. Have you ever been ‘round the world?
SMITH: Can’t say I have.
ROSY: I can’t say I have either, but I will a year or so from now, from where it all began right here, right now.
SMITH: Have you ever considered investing some of your money?
ROSY: Maybe I have, but it is doubtful.
SMITH: I know of several sure-thing opportunities—
ROSY: Sure thing? How silly you are. I’d much rather prefer less “sure things.” Those are the things that make life exciting. You would agree, of course. Where are you headed, Smith?
ROSY: Is that euphemistic or metaphoric?
SMITH: I don’t understand.
ROSY: Sorry. Is home where your heart is or is it where we’re all headed—far, far away—when the mortal coil is shed, as it were?
SMITH: Jersey City.
ROSY: That really shouldn’t be either one of those choices, should it? Of course it shouldn’t but sometimes it is.
SMITH: You mentioned a gazillion.
ROSY: Give or take a few.
SMITH: Where do you . . . ah . . . keep it? Where is it invested, if you don’t mind my asking?
ROSY: Of course I mind. It’s in a safe place, Smith. (A beat.) Jersey City, huh?
SMITH: Have you ever been to Jersey City?
ROSY: If I had, I have the good fortune of having no memory of it—the more exotic local for Rosy. I’m a voluptuary, you know.
SMITH: That must take a lot of money. I’m sure I could be of great service to—
ROSY: Must it? Of great service? I might be interested. I’ll let you know when I am—if I am.
SMITH: Perhaps, today?
ROSY: One should never say one way or the other, but I will keep you posted as time goes by.
SMITH: I am at your disposal.
ROSY: Yes, I can see that.
SMITH: I could double your money.
ROSY: Double it?
SMITH: Maybe triple it.
ROSY: You certainly are an extravagant talker. We’ll see, Smith. Perhaps, if you could triple—
SMITH: Quadruple even—depending on how much you are willing to invest, of course.
ROSY: I’m thinking about gold.
SMITH: Not a good investment.
ROSY: See this pin? (She moves into the middle chair, leans toward SMITH and shows him the pin on her breast.) Can you read it?
SMITH: I can barely make it out.
ROSY: (Grabs his head and pulls it towards the pin.) How about now?
SMITH: “Rosy around the world.” (Pulling back.)
ROSY: My best friend Sylvia Dumpling gave it to me. It’s a going ‘round the world gift. Solid gold, you know. Don’t you love the color gold? That’s rhetorical—everybody does.
SMITH: I could really help you with setting up a trust—
ROSY: I trust no one, Smith. (She moves back into her seat.) That’s why it is carefully concealed.
ROSY: (Adjusting her breasts.) Concealed.
SMITH: You mean?
ROSY: I do.
SMITH: How much?
ROSY: That’s a bit personal, don’t you think?
SMITH: But the x-ray—
ROSY: They match the pattern of my . . . (She gives her breasts a boost upwards.).
SMITH: Ah . . . I see. Maybe you could make an exception in my case. I could invest as little as you like. Show you my worth, so to speak.
ROSY: I believe I already know your worth, Smith.
SMITH: I’m very trustworthy.
ROSY: Trust is the quickest way to misfortune, Smith. I’ve always found trust a disappointing virtue.
SMITH: Perhaps you could learn to trust me.
ROSY: The impossible happens everyday, Smith.
SMITH: I think I could relieve you of some worry.
ROSY: I am already certain of that.
SMITH: Get it off your chest, so to speak—your worry.
ROSY: I don’t worry. I haven’t the time to worry. I’m off on safari into Darkest Africa. Why do you suppose they call it Darkest, Smith?
SMITH: From how it looks under all those jungle trees.
ROSY: Is that your guess? If it is, I’m sure that’s not it. It must be something else. There always is, you know—something else.
SMITH: The amount of sun it gets?
ROSY: I’m sure it gets the same sun as any other part of Africa. There must be something else—another meaning, I think. I’ll come to it—you can be certain of that. (Looking to the side.) Is that a policeman?
SMITH: I believe it is.
(BOTH hide behind their newspapers.)
ROSY: (After a pause.) Is he gone?
SMITH: (Looking out from over the paper) I don’t see him.
ROSY: But, is he gone?
SMITH: I suppose he is. There’s something blue going down the moving sidewalk.
(BOTH lower their newspapers.)
ROSY: It’s a little game I like to play.
SMITH: A game?
ROSY: Policeman peek-a-boo. Sylvia and I play it all the time. It helps pass the time. I see you play it too.
SMITH: Yes. Yes, I do.
ROSY: I didn’t know it had reached Jersey City.
SMITH: A long time ago.
ROSY: I should have patented it, eh Smith?
SMITH: Things travel around the world. They take on a life of their own. Take you and your gazillion for instance. Know what I mean?
ROSY: I do indeed, Smith. The question remains—do you? Everything has many meanings, don’t you think?
SMITH: I do.
ROSY: See how clever you are.
SMITH: Thank you. About your money—the gazillion—
ROSY: (A sudden realization.) Oh, no!
SMITH: I only meant that perhaps I could be of some service—
ROSY: No, no, no. Darkest Africa. I know it means.
SMITH: What does it mean?
ROSY: I can’t say it. It has the potential of being politically incorrect. There are others listening.
SMITH: I don’t see anybody listening.
ROSY: Is that a fact—what you do not see isn’t?
SMITH: There’s nobody within earshot.
ROSY: There could be listening devices. Security is extremely important nowadays. One never knows what foreign company could be managing this airport. They could be listening through hidden microphones in our chairs.
SMITH: I don’t think so.
ROSY: There you go not thinking again. I think there could. We had best change the subject before they come and get us.
SMITH: Nobody’s going to come and get us.
ROSY: You’re just full of assertions, aren’t you? Besides, after Darkest Africa I’m moving on to Casablanca. That means white house, you know. You should know. If you do not I certainly don’t want to hear about it. There’s nothing politically incorrect about a white house, is there?
ROSY: That’s rhetorical. Besides, I’m getting tired of what you don’t think. Nobody cares what anybody doesn’t think.
SMITH: All that money—before or after taxes.
ROSY: That’s a bit too familiar, don’t you think?
SMITH: Forgive me. (After an uncomfortable pause.) So, now you’re going ‘round the world?
ROSY: Indeed I am. Have you got chewing gum in your ears? Everybody ought to go ‘round the world at least once, but then everybody wasn’t married to Rudolph. I wasn’t married to Rudolph. Of course I was but we had separate rooms you know. (A beat.) I wonder what his room looked like? I never took as much as a peek—afraid I’d catch him doing something felonious.
ROSY: Like peeking back. Oh, well—when I return home, it’ll still be there—his late room. Neither euphemism nor metaphor there—this is home. Always has been. My heart is in suburbia. Never wanted to go anywhere unless it was ‘round the world. Why do anything half posterior? Anybody can go from here to there. If you’re going to go somewhere you ought to go all the way—‘round the world. Do you believe in going all the way, Smith?
SMITH: I suppose.
ROSY: Suppose? You really ought to learn to think—at least learn to say yes or no a bit more often. Until you do you’ll never go ‘round the world, Smith.
SMITH: Maybe I don’t want to go around the world. I’m a financial investment broker.
ROSY: Is that what you call it?
ROSY: Tut, tut, tut. Rhetorical again. I’d be very uncomfortable wearing your shoes. I’ve walked in many a shoe—never yours. I would have remembered I can assure you of that—I never forget a thing. Is that euphemistic or metaphoric—to walk in ones shoes? Can you answer me that?
SMITH: I’m not sure.
ROSY: Give it the old college try.
ROSY: Wrong. I should have said give it the old high school try. Do you have any money, Smith?
ROSY: On you?
ROSY: Either you do or you don’t.
SMITH: A bit.
ROSY: How much?
SMITH: I’m not sure.
ROSY: Can’t be much.
SMITH: It isn’t.
ROSY: That doesn’t speak well for your investment abilities. How do you expect me to put my trust into a pauper?
SMITH: I do better with other people’s money.
ROSY: I’m sure you do.
SMITH: Does that mean you’ve decided to let me handle your fortune?
ROSY: We shall see what we shall see. (A beat.) I don’t use a (Covers her mouth) gun (Uncovers her mouth.) you know.
SMITH: (Defensively.) A gun?
ROSY: It’s not that kind of safari. Cameras.
SMITH: I didn’t think—
ROSY: Shhh—nobody cares what you didn’t think. We use cameras—like those up there. (She points upwards.) Whatever you say make your lips move like you’re saying something else.
ROSY: Because they could be reading lips. (Covering her mouth.) Guns (Uncovering her mouth.) could be an easy one to spot especially because they’re looking for things like that. One must cover one’s mouth when saying something provocative. Like this, (She covers her mouth.) guns, bombs, knives, machetes, con artists, jagged-toothed saws, blow-torches, ice picks and gold digging gigolos. (Uncovers her mouth.)
SMITH: I’ll try and remember.
ROSY: Do that. I remember everything, as you already know. Besides, as I have already told you, it’s not the kind of safari that uses (Covers her mouth) guns. (Uncovers her mouth.) I think (Covers her mouth.) guns (Uncovers her mouth.) should not to be in the hands of the general public. Rudolph believed otherwise, but look where it got him.
SMITH: Where did it get him?
ROSY: (Covers her mouth.) Dead. (Uncovers her mouth.) You really don’t listen well, do you? Some kind of obstruction. Did you have a terrible childhood? Molested by the town idiot, I suspect. I sold all his stock in Eternal Wind the day after he died. And not a moment too soon.
SMITH: Eternal Wind? I’ve heard something else about it. A cologne or perfume isn’t it? In fact, I think I heard there was some kind of scandal concerning it.
ROSY: You sure did. A week after I dumped the stock, a mysterious flesh-eating bacteria started eating all those who had worn it.
SMITH: You’re joking, right?
ROSY: Wrong. Do I look like a woman who would joke about hundreds, maybe thousands of people being eaten alive—flesh oozing from off their bones?
SMITH: No, I guess not.
ROSY: Good guess. Anyway, to make a long story short, you couldn’t squeeze a nickel out of Rudolph. I would have been lucky to get a new pair of panty hose while he was alive. His motto was, one must buy only what one needs—everything else is extraneous. That’s why I told him it was a waste of money to buy that gun—who would burgle us? The living room only has two chairs and an orange crate.
SMITH: You don’t really mean—
ROSY: Don’t you tell me what I really mean, Smith. I told Rudolph over and over again that nobody’s going to burgle us. This isn’t New York City, is it? That’s rhetorical. This is suburbia and nothing like that happens in suburbia. He was cleaning his gun and I forgot to tell him I filled it with bullets— just in case.
SMITH: In case?
ROSY: One never knows—even here in darkest suburbia. First time I ever forgot anything. Odd, isn’t it? I’m not one to forget anything, am I? (Glances down.) Is it hard? It appears a bit stiff—you’ll never be able to squeeze it in however hard you push. It’s a bit large—too oversized. They’ll never let you on the plane with that.
SMITH: You’re making me blush.
ROSY: Surely you know that won’t fit into the box.
ROSY: The one that tells you what size is allowed. Luggage that large ought to have been checked in. I could be wrong—completely erroneous—although unlikely. Sometimes they let one break the rules and sometimes not. They’re not consistent—just indiscriminate. Much like those who sometimes choose to end Rosy with an I E and only sometimes Y. Say Rosy.
SMITH: Excuse me—
ROSY: Not once have you said my name. Say Rosy.
SMITH: (Hesitantly.) Rosy.
ROSY: Thank you, Smith, you remembered. That was a definite Y. (A bit panicked. Covers her mouth.) That’s not a policeman coming this way, is it?
(BOTH cover their faces with newspapers.)
SMITH: (Carefully looks over the top. Squints. Relieved.) That’s just somebody in a cheap blue suit. (Puts the newspaper away.)
ROSY: (Lowers her newspaper.) Of course I wasn’t worried. It could have been a policeman and I certainly would not have cared one way or the other—not in the least. It is not like I’ve got a (Covering her mouth.) bomb (Uncovering her mouth.) strapped around my waist, is it? Of course it isn’t, Smith. Don’t you just love policeman peek-a-boo?
SMITH: My favorite game.
ROSY: Play it often?
SMITH: Often enough.
ROSY: Now, all there is to do is wait. Soon it begins.
ROSY: My adventure into the unknown. Haven’t you been listening? (She moves into the seat next to SMITH, grabs his head with both hands and shoves his face into her breasts.) Here, read the pin.
SMITH: (Struggling. Gasping for air.) I can’t breathe.
ROSY: Of course you can’t. I said it before, Smith, and I’ll say it again and I’ll say it one last time—Rosy’s going ‘round the world. (She releases him.)
SMITH: (Jumps up and grabs his luggage.) You’re crazy, lady! Keep your gazillion! (He runs to exit.)
(ROSY looks about until she spots the audience.)
ROSY: (To audience.) Hello there. I’m Rosy with a Y. Everybody thinks it’s I E, but it’s not. It’s Y. It is astonishingly difficult to tell one way from the other when one is speaking, of course. One can, however, when it is written—
(ROSY continues moving her mouth silently as the NARRATOR speaks. The LIGHTING begins to FADE.)
NARRATOR: The misfortunes of some become the fortunes of others. Some fly off to distant ports while others grind away from day to day and nothing changes until that moment when the unexpected happens and everything changes. Some take comfort from the illusion of security in the complacency of their ineffectual suburban lives. Hidden in plain sight are ordinary thugs executing ordinary evils daily as ritual. Few see them of course. They are hidden in the light of the sun—in the fanciful tales from darkest suburbia.
END OF PLAY