A VILLAGE INN

A Play by

Dean Barrett

Budhha

 

 

 

 

 

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Synopsis

A Village Inn is set entirely in an East Village apartment and is - with the exception of Buddhist imagery - realistic in form. The apartment is typically decorated - except for a Buddha statue which the main character salvaged from a temple fire in Vietnam. What occurred in the "village inn" in Vietnam haunts the main character many years later, even while he again attempts to connect with people in his present "village inn."

There is in the play an abundance of humor and, above all, great conflict and tension - especially in sexual relationships. These relationships are drawn through dialogue which shows how these people feel about and relate to one another. The tension mounts as the play tracks the deterioration of the main character - Paul Wilson - as he struggles with his conscience and his sanity.

He is aided in his struggle by an unlikely source - a Korean War vet and a devout Christian. Paul's relationship with his roommates and others builds to a climax in a struggle over a gun and in his own personal struggle to again genuinely connect with other people; as only then can his wounds heal.

A Village Inn is a one-set, two-act play, realistic in style with the exception of a vivid emerald green glow from a Buddha statue on a living room shelf at the opening and closing of each act. The glow adds heightened realism to the play and suggests many things - the power of belief, the inevitability of one's karma, even compassion. The play combines sensuality with spirituality which is in keeping with many aspects of Southeast Asian Buddhism itself.

 

Cast: 4 male, 2 female

Genre: Full-length drama

The play takes place on two consecutive evenings, July 3rd and July 4th, 1986.

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CHARACTERS

 

Paul Wilson 35

Unemployed playwright; embittered and guilt-ridden because of his Vietnam experience; unable to relate to American society; served in Vietnam with Jerry Bennett with whom he now shares an apartment.

Jerry Bennett 34

Fifth Grade teacher, Vietnam vet; about to be engaged to Tracy Miller; Has about used up all his patience with Paul Wilson but still cares for him.

Tracy Miller 29

First Grade teacher; girlfriend of Jerry Bennett; good-natured, patient with Paul, and more fond of him then she realizes.

Bill Holmes 44

Part-time security guard; also a Vietnam vet; although he has adjusted much better than Paul, he has also not gotten far in life. His marriage with Nancy is heading for a breakup. Where Paul's frustration leads him to self-hate and sarcasm, Bill's frustration will lead to violence.

Nancy Holmes 34

Hotel assistant P.R. Officer and wife of Bill Holmes. She is unhappy in her marriage and is attracted to Paul Wilson. She tries to find her independence in her work as her marriage fails.

Ralph Bennett 59

Father of Jerry Bennett; Korean War vet; a devout Christian but not a fanatic; had his own problems adjusting after a war and makes up his mind to aid Paul, whatever it takes.

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THE SCENE

Evening. July 3rd, 1986. The play is set in a Greenwich Village apartment. Four people are living in three bedrooms: a married couple in one, and a Vietnam vet in each of the others.

At stage left is an open kitchen with all the usual appliances. A large wall clock faces the audience.

In the center of the stage is the living-dining room. There is a bathroom door and, beside it, a hallway leading to bedrooms. Outside the lone living room window all is dark. In front of the window is a withered-looking house plant. The front door is at extreme stage right and opens onto a hallway which, when lit, is visible to the audience.

The apartment has been fairly typically and tastefully decorated on a low budget. The only unusual object is a large wooden Buddha on an upstage shelf. The Buddha is in a sitting position, one hand in its lap and one hand in front facing down, the fingers touching the shelf. Incense is burning in a censer before the Buddha. On the Buddha's face is a serene, enigmatic smile. The scenery does not change during the play.

*********************************************

 

AT CURTAIN

The stage is dark and we can distinguish only the Buddha facing the audience. It is glowing a vivid emerald green. As the lights come up, the statue's glow slowly fades.

PAUL WILSON is sleeping on a couch. HE is having a nightmare. He tosses, grunts, finally screams and abruptly sits up. He looks around, then, still shaken, slowly gets up. He walks to the kitchen table and sits down. He stares at a typewriter with a piece of paper in it, then begins typing on a noisy manual typewriter. HE is wearing a Vietnam Army jacket over a T-shirt, jeans, shoes but no socks. On the back of the jacket is a map of Southeast Asia and the words: "Southeast Asian War Games - 1961 - 1973 Second Place."

His typewriter is surrounded by typing paper, pens and pencils, an ashtray, a bottle of whiskey, a glass, packs of cigarettes, and cups of coffee.

On the shelf near the Buddha is a tape deck. He presses a button. A tape begins playing a late 1950's ballad, "My True Love" sung by Jack Scott. Another man, JERRY BENNETT, walks out from the bedroom. For nearly thirty seconds he rapidly opens kitchen shelves and drawers, peers into them, and slams them shut. HE then walks to the living room shelf, leans against it, and stares at PAUL. Another twenty seconds pass in this manner. The only sounds are those of the typewriter and of the tape deck.

 

TAPE DECK

DUM DEE DEE DEE, DUM DEE DEE DEE

I PRAYED, TO THE LORD, TO SEND ME, A LOVE

HE SENT ME, AN ANGEL, FROM HEAVEN, ABOVE

THE STARS, IN THE SKY, HE PLACED, IN HER EYES SHE IS MY TRUE LOVE

THE TOUCH, OF HER HAND, CAPTURED, MY SOUL-

(JERRY shuts off the tape deck. PAUL continues typing)

JERRY

I could understand if you had made the mistake of buying creamy smooth instead of crunch style.

(PAUL continues typing. Several seconds elapse)

JERRY   (cont)

Creamy smooth peanut butter would have been bad enough, understand, but I could have understood it. But to run out of peanut butter in India is...is...

 

PAUL

Round the bend, for sure. When's my court martial?

 

JERRY

Nobody goes to India without taking enough peanut butter with them. Nobody! Four days in some God-forsaken hotel in Benares - four days - and no peanut butter!

 

PAUL

You might have tried to eat Indian food.

 

JERRY

I did eat Indian food, remember? But not for breakfast. Breakfast is sacred, for Christ's sake. Toast with no peanut butter is like a religious service with no candles.

 

PAUL

So next time I'll bring candles.

 

(JERRY stares at him for several moments)

 

JERRY

There won't be any next time, Paul. That's the last time I'm traveling anywhere with you. Tracy and I...

 

(PAUL stares at him. JERRY is unnerved by his stare)

 

JERRY

(cont)

Tracy and I talked it over and I'm moving into her apartment. The end of next month. You'll have to find someone else to...

 

PAUL

To what, Jer'? To what? To lean on? To cling to? To burden?

 

(JERRY hesitates, then speaks with renewed determination)<

 

JERRY

On one September I'm out of here.

 

(JERRY strides quickly to his bedroom and slams the door. PAUL lights another cigarette and stares at the closed door. HE refills his glass from the whiskey bottle and takes a long drink. HE stares at the typewriter)

 

PAUL

Lordy, lordy!

 

(PAUL gets up and moves to the Buddha. He is in fact very shaken by JERRY's announcement)

 

PAUL  (cont)

So! I'd say he means it this time, wouldn't you? I guess...it's down to the two of us...

 

(The front door opens and TRACY MILLER enters the hallway carrying a grocery bag. SHE puts it down, then puts out her cigarette. SHE waves a hand about to dissipate the smell of tobacco. PAUL quickly sits down at his table. TRACY picks up the bag and enters the apartment)

 

TRACY

Hi, Paul. Would you like to hear something fantastic?

 

PAUL

(abruptly lightening up his mood)

You've decided to go to bed with me?

 

TRACY

That fortune-teller on St. Mark's Place says I've got one fire triplicity, one water triplicity, eight air triplicities and no earth triplicities!

 

PAUL

Which is as clear as mud triplicity.

 

(TRACY crosses to the kitchen, unpacks the grocery bag and puts items away)

 

TRACY

Eight air and no earth; that means I don't have my feet on the ground. I'm other-worldly and impractical.

 

PAUL

Spaced out, you might say. Why do you think I call you 'Spacy Tracy'?

 

(TRACY studies her chart)

 

TRACY

And one fixed quadruplicity, seven cardinal quadruplicities, and two mutables.

 

PAUL

My God! Anything but two mutables.

 

TRACY

Wow! What do you think?

 

PAUL

I think you'd gain at least one earth triplicity if you went to bed with me.

 

TRACY

Oh, come on, Paul. You know I'm practically engaged to Jerry, so please stop it. You and I are good friends, nothing more.

 

PAUL

That was before I found out you have one fixed quadruplicity, seven cardinal quadruplicities, and two mutables. Now my mind is fixed on the cardinal sin of nibbling your two mutables.

 

TRACY  (sighing)

Aren't you ever serious?

 

PAUL

Only in my play.

 

TRACY

How's it coming?

 

PAUL

Better. I can finally read the first act without falling asleep.

 

TRACY

When are you going to tell me what it's about?

 

PAUL

When I know.

 

(TRACY pulls up a chair and sits down near him)

 

TRACY

Tell me a little, OK?

(PAUL puts his arm around her but SHE shakes it off)

 

PAUL

If you'll make me...

 

TRACY

Paul!

 

PAUL

More coffee.

 

TRACY

Oh. Sure!

 

PAUL

Well, it's based on a guy I knew in Saigon: Whore House Charlie. He was the first man to combine a brothel with a solarium to create the world's first brothelarium; so customers could have both sunlight and a woman. Now, in Act One-

 

TRACY  (rising)

Um, it sounds really...singular, but I'd better get started on the dinner.

 

(PAUL shrugs and begins typing again. TRACY studies her chart and sighs)

 

TRACY  (cont)

I think I'd better check this chart with a fortune-teller in the West Village.

 

PAUL

That's the spirit; don't agree to an operation until you've checked with another expert in the field. In any case, as you'll find out some day, it's mainly duplicity in life that can hurt you; no amount of quadruplicity ever hurt a fly.

 

(TRACY begins making coffee and preparing food. PAUL starts typing then stops to observe her well-shaped figure as SHE bustles about)

 

PAUL  (cont)

Tracy, how long have you been coming to this apartment?

 

TRACY

How long? It's been...about six months.

 

PAUL

And how often do you come?

 

TRACY

You know how often. Practically every day. Why?

 

PAUL

Well, I don't know what the house regulations were like in Colorado but in New York's Greenwich Village East there are strictly enforced city regulations regarding sexual harassment.

 

TRACY

Sexual harassment? I haven't done a thing!

 

PAUL

Exactly! You see, in the East Village, women are required to sexually harass the men they associate with at least once a week or else they can be deported. Back to Colorado Creek or Springs or Gulch or Junction or Canyon or Crevice or whatever.

 

TRACY

Paul, please! Besides, as you well know, I'm from the Bronx!

 

PAUL

Same thing.

 

TRACY

Just don't let Jerry hear you talking like that, OK?

 

PAUL

Don't worry. I've been warned. Repeatedly.

 

TRACY

Umm, Paul.

 

PAUL

Umm, Tracy.

 

TRACY

Jerry has spoken to you about...

 

PAUL

What? Oh! You mean his moving out. Into your apartment. To be with you, I mean.

 

TRACY

Paul, I know you guys have been together for years and I know how much, well, I mean how close you two have been...

 

PAUL

Close? Don't kid yourself. In 'nam we were close. After that, he got married; I got married; we went our separate ways. Then when the divorces came, we started living together again. And all these years Jerry's been my crutch and I've been a thorn in his side. But Paul is a big boy now and it's time for him to stop wallowing in self-pity and nasty war memories and to go it on his own. No problem at my end, kid. Besides, Saigon...is known as Ho Chi Minh City now, right? End of story.

(HE busies himself at his typewriter)

TRACY

Paul...

PAUL

Yes?

TRACY

Thank you.

(HE continues typing)

 

PAUL

For what?

TRACY

For...say, aren't you supposed to be working today?

PAUL

I took the day off. I'm getting so I can't stand the place.

TRACY

Really? I would have thought a bookstore is a nice place to work.

PAUL

Yeah, sure. People coming in asking me for books and they can't remember the title, author, publisher, nothing!

(imitating customer)

You know, that yellow book about the latest diet. Or maybe it was a blue and yellow book. It was advertised on TV right after the news. Channel 11 at seven, I think it was. No, no, let me think, it was channel 7 at eleven. Anyway, you know the one I mean!

 

TRACY

Do they really?

PAUL

They do. And the help we're getting. Nobody under 30 reads literature anymore. Our newest bubble-gum chewing, orange-haired, brightly-tattooed but dimly witted clerk shelved Dostoyevsky's Notes from Underground next to - wait for it - a book of New York City subway maps.

(TRACY returns to her kitchen duties)

 

TRACY

Did Jerry come in?

PAUL

He did indeed. He's in his room sulking because I didn't bring enough peanut butter on our trip to India and he had to eat Indian food and now he's worried that he's getting hepatitis. Anyway, yellow skin becomes him. Let him find out what it's like to be a wily Oriental for a change.

(The telephone rings. PAUL picks it up)

PAUL  (cont)

Greenwich Village Camel Company. The sale is still on but stock is limited. Arabian one hump or Bactrian two hump...Jerry? Ah, Gerald-Three-Hump! Just a second, I'll see if he's in.

 

(PAUL gets up and walks to JERRY's bedroom door. HE knocks and opens it slightly. HE affects an exaggerated Japanese accent)

 

PAUL   (cont)

Iz one phone callah for onorable gentleman by name of Jerry Bennett. Will mastah be so pleasedah to accept unknown callah at this ouwah?

 

(As JERRY strides by him toward the phone PAUL holds the door and bows ceremoniously)

 

JERRY

Jerry here...Yeah, hi, dad. Sure, dinner's still at eight. How's the hotel?...Great...And the reunion?..OK...No, don't bring anything! Just yourself and a large appetite. Tracy's cooking up a storm. I'll be leaving to get you soon. You sure you don't mind waiting outside the hotel? I'm really sorry but parking in that area is impossi-...Great.

 

(JERRY glances at PAUL who is correcting a page of his play)

JERRY  (cont)

Of course. It'll be just the three of us...Right. Goodbye, dad.

 

(JERRY hangs up the phone and walks over to embrace and kiss TRACY. While THEY kiss PAUL turns his head away and covers his eyes in feigned prudery)

 

JERRY

Hi, doll.

 

TRACY

Hi, Casanova. How's your dad?

 

JERRY

Fine. He says he's meeting with Christian leaders from all over the country. He wanted to know if he could bring anything. (hugs her) I told him I've got everything I need.

 

TRACY

I'm really nervous about meeting your dad, Jerry. Maybe-

 

JERRY

(kissing her again)

He'll love you.

 

TRACY

I hope so. Now let me get this place straightened up.

(SHE begins bustling about tidying up)

 

TRACY   (cont)

How was school?

 

JERRY

Fine. None of the little buggers knifed me yet. Some of them even did their homework. But I gave my last class to Mary Ann and came back a bit early. I felt a bit sick.

 

TRACY

Feeling better now?

 

(JERRY glances toward PAUL)

 

JERRY

I'm getting over it. No problem. Though I'd feel a lot better if I could find my peanut butter. Four jars just disappeared.

 

TRACY

Four jars of peanut butter can't just disappear.

 

(JERRY again glances at PAUL)

 

JERRY

I know. Anyway, I'll wash up and change.

 

(JERRY enters the bedroom and closes the door. PAUL speaks as he types imitating JERRY but with his own Japanese accent)

 

PAUL

Onorable gentleman iz get-ting ovah it. Nooo ploblem. But also nooo pea-nut-tah but-tah. Ah so! Iz a puzzlement!

 

TRACY

I take it you and Jerry have had quite a falling out.

 

PAUL

True.

 

TRACY

So that's why you came on to me so strong - just to irritate him.

 

PAUL

Tracy, you know you alone are all I'm living for.

 

TRACY

Paul, why can't you ever be serious?

 

PAUL

Why can't you admit to yourself when I am serious?

 

(They stare at each other)

 

(The front door opens and a married couple - BILL and NANCY HOLMES - enter. At 34 NANCY is still attractive but appears haggard, perhaps from overwork. BILL is burly, muscular and rough looking. The couple give only perfunctory and somewhat embarrassed replies to greetings from PAUL and TRACY and quickly enter their room and close the door)

 

PAUL

Uh, oh. Looks like our married couple is fighting again.

 

TRACY

Wow. I hope I never have a marriage like that. How long have they been married, anyway?

 

PAUL

Nearly ten years. I'll lay odds they won't make eleven. That should give one pause, don't you think?

 

(As TRACY turns to look at PAUL, BILL HOLMES opens his bedroom door and comes into the room)

 

BILL

Uh, anybody seen today's paper?

 

TRACY

Yeah, Bill, it's somewhere on the table.

 

PAUL

No, it isn't. I threw it out.

 

TRACY

Threw it out? Why?

 

PAUL

Because the news is depressing, that's why.

 

(BILL walks to the garbage can and extracts the paper)

 

BILL

I think I can handle it. How about not throwing out the paper until everyone's finished with it from now on? Living together means consideration; or else it doesn't work.

 

PAUL

It doesn't usually work anyway, Bill. Or are you in the two per cent that didn't get the word about the perils of living together?

 

BILL

Hey, look, I try not to let your...antics upset me. I've been briefed, you know what I mean?

 

PAUL

No, Bill, what do you mean? Briefly.

 

BILL

I mean, Jerry told me all about your Vietnam-related problem.

 

PAUL

All about it?

 

BILL

Enough to know we're supposed to go easy on you. We're not supposed to-

 

PAUL

Not supposed to trigger me, Bill? You mean like the old Groucho Marx show where the special word for the week - if said by a contestant - would bring down the duck and pay off one hundred bucks? Only with Crazy Paul, the wrong word would probably cause me to rape, kill, plunder, pillage and forget to change my socks?

 

(BILL shrugs and starts to turn away)

 

BILL

You AC/DC people are weird.

 

PAUL

Maybe you should have me committed. Put away. Isolated from the decent elements of our society.

 

BILL

I fought in 'nam, remember? You're not the only one. And-

 

PAUL

And you're not all fucked up like Crazy Paul, are you, Bill? What a man!

 

(PAUL salutes him. BILL glares at him and re-enters his bedroom and slams the door. JERRY's door opens and HE emerges with shampoo and a towel. HE enters the bathroom and closes the door)

 

TRACY

That wasn't very nice, Paul.

 

PAUL

A married couple should know better than to share an apartment with other people. Hear that? They're fighting again.

 

(Sounds of an argument between BILL and NANCY HOLMES are audible from behind their bedroom door)

 

TRACY

Paul, they can't afford anything else. He's practically unemployed, remember?

 

PAUL

So am I but you don't see me searching garbage cans for newspapers.

 

TRACY

Sometimes...sometimes you're very mean, you know that?

 

PAUL

Behavior displacement. I'm frustrated because you reject my advances and I take it out on Bill Holmes. That makes it your fault.

 

TRACY

Paul, you're too intelligent to be a sexist, so why don't you stop trying to be less than you are? And please don't let Jerry hear you.

 

(TRACY starts to turn away then turns back and stares at him)

 

TRACY

(cont)

Paul?

 

PAUL

Yes, loveliest of women, fairest of the fair, she whose very aura defies description, apple of my eye, banana of my breath, grape of my groin-

 

TRACY

Paul!...Why did he call you 'AC/DC?'

 

PAUL

Because once when Bill came back from work early in the morning, JERRY was sitting on my bed half holding and half shaking me trying to wake me from a nightmare. Our door was open, and to a real man like Bill, I guess real men don't indulge in compassion that involves physical contact.

 

TRACY

But that's ridiculous. I've never seen a man more obviously in love with female flesh than you. Based on the way you act and talk, you're the most disgusting sexist, chauvinist, lust-filled satyromaniac in New York.

 

PAUL

You do say the nicest things about me.

 

TRACY

No, I mean, really. You're nowhere near mature enough or sensitive enough to be bi-sexual.

 

PAUL

Thanks again. (waving his hand in dismissal) What the hell, let him think so. Bill needs something to focus his anger on.

 

TRACY

Isn't that exactly what you need?

 

(THEY stare at each other. Before PAUL can reply the bathroom door opens)

 

JERRY

Hey, what's the video doing in the bathroom?

 

TRACY

The video is in the bathroom?

 

(TRACY goes to look)

 

PAUL

If you must know, I took it into the bathroom. I forgot to take it out. Sorry.

 

TRACY

But why?

 

PAUL

Because I felt the need for self-gratification and stroke video material is far superior to stroke printed material. "Revenge of the Hairless Hookers" is much sexier on video than in print.

 

TRACY

Paul, you're really sick sometimes, you know?

 

PAUL

Lenny Bruce might have disputed that.

(JERRY shakes his head in disgust and re-enters the bathroom and closes the door)

 

 

TRACY

OK if I tidy up your bedroom a bit? Just in case Jerry's dad wants to see the apartment?

 

PAUL

By all means. But anything less than a scorched earth policy in there is doomed to failure.

 

(TRACY enters the bedroom and closes the door. PAUL rises, walks to the plant and speaks with a French accent)

 

PAUL

(cont)

Monsieur! Yes, you! Monsieur Le Plant! You think I did not see you smiling upon the woman I love? You wish to offer an apology for your atrocious behavior? Non? Very well, monsieur, if it is a duel you wish, it is a duel you shall have.

 

(PAUL slaps a leaf of the plant with his palm and then with the back of his hand as if challenging an opponent. He strides to a kitchen cupboard, withdraws a plant spray container, and walks to the plant. PAUL continues to speak in a French accent)

 

PAUL

(cont)

I have tolerated a great deal of your insolence, Monsieur Le Plant, but this time you have gone too far. You have, how shall I say, mistaken kindness for weakness. The time has come to put an end to your impudence, monsieur. Prepare!

 

(PAUL stands immediately beside the plant and turns his back. He holds the plant spray container at his shoulder, nozzle upward, as if it were a dueling pistol. He lifts his feet high ten times, but is taking very small steps. At his tenth step he turns and fires a blast of water at the plant, with his free hand held upward as in fencing. He then walks to it and looks it over)

 

PAUL

Let that be a lesson to you, monsieur: Live by Cyrano, die by Cyrano.

 

(PAUL replaces the spray, sits at the table and continues typing. NANCY HOLMES emerges from her bedroom and closes the door. SHE is facing PAUL's back. SHE fixes her hair before SHE walks to the table)

 

NANCY

Hi. Mind if I sit down?

 

PAUL

You pay your share of the rent, so you do as you like, little lady.

 

(SHE sits and points to PAUL's cigarettes)

 

NANCY

May I?

 

PAUL

Help yourself. Better take a drink too.

 

NANCY

Oh, no, thank you. I get very...silly when I have alcohol...I hope you can't hear us through those walls.

 

PAUL

Fighting again, is it?

 

NANCY

(sighs)

A woman can't please her husband and work in the P.R. department of a hotel at the same time. Marriage isn't the greatest of relationships people can enter into. Love makes...pain inevitable, you know?

 

PAUL

You ever read Goethe on the subject?

 

NANCY

Goethe? No. What was-

 

PAUL

"Love is the ideal; marriage is the real. A confusion of the real with the ideal never goes unpunished."

 

NANCY

That's wild. He must have had a hotel P.R. woman for a wife too.

 

PAUL

Yeah. Well, some people think if you introduce enough love into the picture all will be well. Probably the same people who believe in trickle-down economics.

 

NANCY

What's that?

 

PAUL

Hard to describe, really; in the literary world it's known as "magical realism."

 

NANCY

Well, life gets tougher all the time, I can tell you that.

 

PAUL

Nonsense! Absolute nonsense! Cars run smoother, faster; computers get better and cheaper and, last but not least, women have become sexually active earlier in life. I mean, it's not all downhill, you know what I mean?

 

(PAUL stops typing and faces her. THEY lock eyes and smile at each other. A bedroom door opens and TRACY re-enters the kitchen to start cooking. JERRY walks out of the bathroom and enters his bedroom. PAUL starts typing)

 

NANCY

How's your play going?

 

PAUL

Really great!

 

NANCY

What's it about?

 

PAUL

Well, it's kind of a cross between Shakespeare and Sam Shepard; with just enough touches of Neil Simon to keep the bridge-and-tunnel crowd coming in.

 

NANCY

...I don't think I-

 

PAUL

Just kidding. It's actually a spoof on Macbeth. It's called Black Beth. I decided to write it after I found out under the Freedom of Information Act who really wrote Shakespeare's plays.

 

(TRACY stops her action to turn around and listen)

 

NANCY

Really? Who was it?

 

PAUL

Joseph Papp.

 

NANCY

...Who's that?

 

(PAUL stares at her, then shrugs)

 

PAUL

Oh, just a guy who hangs around the East Village. Anyway, Black Beth is an ambitious gay pimp in the Village. The play opens with three cross-dressers stealing the wallet, watch and jewelry off a drunk in an alley: GAY IS STRAIGHT, STRAIGHT IS GAY - HOVER THROUGH THE FOG AND FILTHY DAY.

 

NANCY

Sounds...great. But how do you, I mean-

 

PAUL

Create characters? Bring them to life?!

 

NANCY

Yes.

 

PAUL

Well, it's like this. Have you ever bet on cricket fighting?

 

NANCY

Cricket fighting? I don't think so.

 

PAUL

Well, in Asia, people collect crickets and put two of them facing each other in a kind of shallow basin. Then they irritate them with straws. And they keep irritating them until finally the crickets are maddened enough that they fling themselves at each other and fight to the death. And that's what you've got to do with characters in a play! Annoy the hell out of them!

 

NANCY

I'll bet you're good at it.

 

 

(TRACY speaks while turning back toward the kitchen)

 

TRACY

He should be; he's had plenty of practice irritating people around here.

 

(PAUL throws her the bird, Italian style. TRACY speaks without turning around)

 

TRACY

(cont)

And if I thought for one moment that anyone was making any kind of obscene gesture in my direction, that person could lose his arm.

 

(PAUL quickly brings his arm down)

 

PAUL

I hate women with eyes in the back of their heads.

 

TRACY

Knowing you as I do, I doubt you'd mind if a woman had eyes on her breasts.

 

PAUL

...Oh! Is that why some women wear see-through bras?

 

NANCY

Well, I'd better get ready. Bill and I are going out tonight. Tonight's my birthday and Bill decided we'd splurge, so we're going all the way to the West Village for dinner.

 

(TRACY turns to Nancy)

 

TRACY

Oh! Well, happy birthday!

 

PAUL

And many happy returns.

 

NANCY

Thanks! Bill's taking me to that restaurant where Bob Dylan died.

 

PAUL

Um, I think you mean Dylan Thomas.

 

NANCY

Oh, right. Dylan Thomas.

 

PAUL

Same genre; different hair styles.

(NANCY returns to her bedroom. TRACY returns to her cooking)

 

 

PAUL

The West Village. (HE whistles)

 

TRACY

"Black Beth," huh? (SHE whistles)

 

PAUL

I had to give the kid something.

 

TRACY

What ever happened to Whore House Charlie?

 

PAUL

Oh, he underwent a sex change; he's now known as Good Pork Betty.

 

TRACY

Let me know when the day comes that you're serious, OK? I'd like to mark it down on my calendar.

 

(JERRY enters the living room, sits in a chair and begins reading the Village Voice)

 

TRACY

All right, boys. Since you're both so anxious to help, the garbage needs emptying. Whose week is it to clean?

 

JERRY

It is Paul's week to clean. (looks around) My God, look at the dust. We certainly need someone to clean and dust.

 

PAUL

Is that why you're thinking of marriage?

 

(THEY stare at each other. PAUL gets up, enters the bathroom and wheels out the combination TV-video stand and plugs it into the living room outlet)

 

(HE also changes the kitchen garbage bag and leaves the full one in the hallway. He empties his living room waste basket into the kitchen bag, quickly places the plant spray container in the living room waste basket and places it again on the floor near the living room table close to the plant)

 

(HE throws a cautious glance behind him to ensure that no one is looking his way, bends over and pretends to be dusting off his trousers. Very quickly, he reaches into the waste basket, withdraws the spray container, blasts the plant, then quickly drops it back in)

 

(HE places his hands behind him, saunters about, almost Charlie Chaplin style. HE then enters the bathroom with a cleaning brush and closes the bathroom door. As HE is carrying out these chores the phone rings and JERRY answers)

 

JERRY

Hello?...Mrs. Holmes? Yes, just a minute. I'll get her.

 

(JERRY walks to the HOLMES's door and knocks)

 

JERRY

(cont)

Nancy. Telephone.

 

(JERRY returns to his seat. NANCY enters and answers the phone)

 

NANCY

Hello...Yes, this is she...it's all right, Grace. What's happened?...My God, we're about to go out for my birthday. If I tell Bill I've got to work tonight he'll go crazy. Can't Mr. Glenn get anyone else? What about Margaret?...All right. I'll be there as soon as I can.

 

(SHE puts the phone down and stares at it)

 

TRACY

Trouble?

 

NANCY

Big trouble. The P.R. on duty at the hotel is sick. So somebody has got to be there to entertain the press tonight at a dinner in their honor. That's me, I'm afraid. And Bill...well, wish me luck.

 

(NANCY enters her bedroom and closes the door. JERRY checks his watch)

 

JERRY

Time to pick up dad.

 

TRACY

Jerry, isn't it possible that we're...rushing things a bit just because your dad is in town for a reunion?

 

JERRY

Sweetheart, how long do we have to know each other before we know we're right for one another?

 

TRACY

I know. It's just...

 

JERRY

You're just worried about how dad will take you. He'll adore you as much as I do.

 

TRACY

I told him.

 

JERRY

You told who what?

 

TRACY

I told Paul that you'll be moving out.

 

JERRY

(long sigh)

Jesus. I already let him know. I told you-

 

TRACY

Jerry, I feel guilty; as if I'm luring you away from a friend in need. And other times I feel stupid for feeling that way.

 

JERRY

Paul has a knack for making people feel guilty without even trying. I've been trying to leave him for years.

 

TRACY

So why didn't you? (After no response, SHE continues) Let me guess. Male bonding after a vicious war, an unwelcome homecoming and failed marriages?...Sorry. I didn't mean to sound nasty.

 

JERRY

It isn't just that. I was under fire with Paul and I think inside his head he's still "under fire." And I never wanted to leave him that way. You don't leave a buddy on the battlefield and sleep well at night.

 

TRACY

This isn't a battlefield. The war's over.

 

JERRY

Not for him it isn't. Why do you think he rents cars and drives until three or four in the morning?

 

TRACY

He said he can't sleep.

 

JERRY

Yeah. Well, take it from me, Paul drives at night because in his mind he's still out on night patrol. He's still looking for Charlie.

 

TRACY

Jesus. Then maybe you shouldn't leave!

 

JERRY

My leaving may be the best thing for him; once he lives with people who don't take his bullshit he might just have to try harder to adjust.

 

TRACY

Yeah. Maybe. Maybe it's for the best.

 

JERRY

If he can scrape up his rent.

 

TRACY

He still works a few hours a week in the book-

 

JERRY

He was fired last week.

 

TRACY

Fired? He just told me tonight how wacky the customers are.

 

JERRY

Paul's a great story-teller. But I ran into Marie on St. Mark's. She told me Paul was fired for arguing with customers whenever he thought they were buying books which were "beneath" them.

 

TRACY

Oh, Jesus.

(JERRY heads for the door, then turns back)

 

JERRY

Funny thing. I told dad about Paul just in case he ran into him. I told him not to pay any attention to anything he says. And the more I told him the more dad got interested in him.

 

TRACY

Did he say why?

 

(PAUL re-enters the living room. JERRY grabs his jacket, kisses TRACY and walks to the door)

 

JERRY

Well, I'm off.

 

TRACY

I'm really nervous, Jerry. Couldn't I have-

 

JERRY

Absolutely not. No cigarettes! I told him you don't smoke or drink or-

 

PAUL

Go to movies?

 

(JERRY glares at PAUL, then exits)

 

TRACY

Paul, why must you always upset Jerry?

 

PAUL

I don't like it when he bullies you.

 

TRACY

Oh, he doesn't mean it. It's just that he wants his father to like me. It's his moment of truth.

 

PAUL

He should like you as you are or not at all. Have you ever asked him what he'd do if his parents didn't approve of you?

 

TRACY

Of course not. Jerry's not a child.

 

(PAUL glances toward the bedroom door)

 

PAUL

Whatever you say...Anyway, poor Nancy. It sounds like her moment of truth has arrived.

 

TRACY

I guess. Some people just shouldn't be together.

 

PAUL

Exactly...Anyway, you'd better hope they're not still here fighting when Jerry's father arrives.

 

TRACY

Paul, I want you to know that you can stay for dinner if you like.

 

PAUL

...Thanks. I appreciate that; but Jerry wouldn't. I'll be long gone by the time Papa-san gets here.

 

(TRACY walks to PAUL and stands near him)

 

TRACY

Paul?

 

PAUL

That's me.

 

TRACY

I'm...awfully nervous about tonight. You see, Jerry's folks are...very religious people.

 

PAUL

I know. Jerry used to talk about them. They're from the Bible belt. I think he's close to his father but not his mother.

 

TRACY

His dad's never been to Manhattan before and his mom refused to come to New York. I mean, they watch Jerry Falwell and Jimmy Swaggart and send in money to spread the gospel and all that kind of thing, you know?

 

PAUL

They're right on both counts. Jimmy and Jerry are two of the finest comedians this country ever produced. And this certainly is the city of the devil. Eve's Big Apple.

 

TRACY

Well, the thing is...

 

(SHE sits in the chair next to his)

 

TRACY

(cont)

The thing is they're so, well, Christian, you know what I mean?

 

PAUL

(staring at her)

Christian?

 

(TRACY shifts uneasily in the chair and glances toward the Buddha)

 

TRACY

Christian.

 

(PAUL glances toward the Buddha, then back to TRACY, then suddenly back to the Buddha in understanding)

 

PAUL

Oh! You mean as in 'followers of Jesus Christ' Christian!

 

TRACY

Yes!

 

PAUL

And you'd like me to...

 

(Without rising, HE makes an elaborate gesture of picking up the Buddha and moving it into the bedroom)

 

TRACY

Would you, Paul? For me?

 

(HE stares at her intently and then abruptly changes to a jovial mood)

 

PAUL

For you? The honeysuckle of my soul, mangosteen of my mind, coconut of my crotch? Anything! It'll be gone by the time they arrive!

 

(TRACY holds his arm with both her hands)

 

TRACY

Thank you, Paul.

 

PAUL

Forget it! You want me to run out and buy a crucifix or a Bible or some rosary beads or something?

 

(PAUL gestures as if sprinkling holy water)

 

TRACY

(laughing)

No, thanks. Let's not overdo it.

 

(TRACY removes an apron)

 

TRACY

(cont)

I think I have a nerve-induced headache coming on. I'm going to take some aspirin and lie down. Call me the second the bell rings on the stove, will you?

 

PAUL

Sure. You need somebody to massage your aches and pains?

 

TRACY

Just don't forget, OK? I've got to have a perfect dinner tonight of all nights. But I've got to lie down for a few minutes or my head will burst. I wish I had more time.

 

PAUL

You can rely on old Paul. Get a good rest.

 

(TRACY enters the bedroom and closes the door. PAUL jumps up immediately and runs to the stove where he moves the hand of the timer backward)

 

PAUL

(cont)

You want more time? Well, Crazy Paul will just give you more time, how's that?

 

(HE reaches up to the kitchen clock and moves the minute hand back fifteen min- utes. HE then walks toward the Buddha, stops, and stares at it)

 

PAUL

(cont)

Yeah, yeah, I know. Stop worrying. I saved you once, I'll save you again. No fucking Fundamentalist moron is driving you out. Not in this house.

 

(HE then takes a box of joss-sticks down from the shelf, lights one and places it in the censer. HE looks back to the Buddha)

 

PAUL

(cont)

How many years has it been? And what did you ever do for me? I saved you, remember?

 

(PAUL rolls up his jacket sleeve and holds out his left hand)

 

PAUL

(cont)

Remember? I've got the scars to prove it.

 

(HE slowly lowers his arm and rolls down the sleeve)

 

PAUL

(cont)

All I'm asking is that one day you do something for me, OK?

 

(PAUL gives the Buddha a quick salute. HE then gives the plant a double- take. HE reaches into the waste basket, and holds the spray container in front of him like an M-16. HE walks normally around the desk then instantly changes and stoops with caution. HE moves for- ward very slowly as if out on patrol. Suddenly, he motions to imaginary sol- diers behind him to crouch. HE also crouches. Then suddenly HE leaps up, pivots, and blasts the plant again. HE walks to the plant and looks it over)

 

PAUL

(cont)

Next time you set up an ambush on my patrol, you better know what the fuck you're doing...Dickhead.

 

(PAUL replaces the spray can in the cupboard. HE then looks at the video set. HE walks toward the video, selects a tape from among the stack on a shelf and inserts it into the machine. HE unplugs the machine and gleefully pushes it into the bathroom and shuts the door)

(The stage remains empty for several seconds during which we can hear shouting faintly behind the HOLMES'S bedroom door. The door opens and NANCY HOLMES, sobbing softly, walks into the room holding her hands over her ears. SHE sits in a chair)

(BILL HOLMES appears in the doorway wearing only a pair of jeans and an undershirt. His face is red with anger)

 

BILL

Nothing is more important to you than that goddamned hotel, is it? Not me, not you, not your birthday, not our marriage, nothing!

 

NANCY

Bill, I can't...I can't take this pressure. You've got to stop before-

 

BILL

Oh, yes! Pressure on you. Pressure in the form of a husband who loves you and wants you to spend some time at home before the marriage collapses altogether.

 

NANCY

Home? You call this a home?

 

BILL

(moving closer)

Baby, I told you - I'll be a full-time guard soon. And then we can - have a family.

 

NANCY

Meanwhile, I should let someone else host the press dinner and lose whatever chance I've got of becoming Public Relations Manager? The other assistants all have college degrees and more experience than me. I'm doing the best I can to compete with-

 

BILL

So I'm supposed to watch helplessly as you become a slave for the eunuchs that run that damned hotel? So you've got pressure because your husband would like to see you stop ruining your health and marriage. I think a lot of women neglected by their husbands would love to have that kind of pressure!

 

NANCY

I have a job to do. Am I supposed to stop entertaining guests at the hotel at exactly five-thirty and tell them my husband wants me home? How long do you think I would keep my job?

 

BILL

Hotel public relations isn't a job; it's a...disease! When you joined that fucking hotel you were in perfect health and you were a very happy person. Satisfied with what you had in life. Now? You've lost weight, you're nervous and irritable and exhausted all the time. And nothing's good enough for you anymore.

 

NANCY

What do you expect me to do? We need the money and-

 

BILL

What do you expect me to do? You make no effort to take time off from a job but you take an incredible amount of time off from your marriage.

 

NANCY

Mr. Glenn said it would be good if I came into work tonight because-

 

BILL

Good?! Good for who? Good for me? Good for you? Good for our marriage? Or good for the goddamned hotel?

 

NANCY

Bill-

 

BILL

No overtime pay, no real holidays; you entertain the press until two in the morning. Fuck the press!

 

NANCY

That's easy for you to say. And could you please stop shouting?

 

(BILL sits down in a chair across the table from her and lowers his voice)

 

BILL

Baby, you have to put distance between yourself and your job, can't you understand that? Otherwise, it will eat you up. You'll give it everything you have and there won't be anything left for us...Baby, call in and say you're sick.

 

NANCY

That wouldn't be honest.

 

BILL

(shouting again)

Not honest to lie to a hotel about being sick but it's OK to let a hotel destroy our marriage?

 

(For a few moments both remain silent. NANCY stares at the Buddha, BILL glances at the Buddha, then stares at his wife. HE starts to reach one hand out toward her, then taps the table with his knuckles a few times and withdraws his hand)

 

BILL

(cont)

You know these hotel people aren't real flesh-and-blood people like us, don't you?

 

NANCY

Bill, please. Don't.

 

BILL

Yeah, that's right. These guys aren't human beings like us. They're not born; they're assembled in a secret factory in Switzerland, programmed to read menus in French, to learn about food, wine, dress and petty conversation; to bow and scrape to anybody who's got the price of an overpriced room. Then! They have their sweatglands removed.

 

(NANCY starts to rise; BILL grabs her arm and sits her back down)

 

BILL

(cont)

Oh, yeah! A lot of people don't know about that but they do! No great hotel-i-er is allowed to stink! Then they dress them up like penguins, put carnations in their buttonholes, program their faces into a smile, and set them loose upon the world. Human- oids. Me? I'm human.

 

(BILL strikes one of PAUL's matches and holds it against his arm)

 

BILL

(cont)

See, I feel something. That's flesh and blood you're looking at, baby. Human feeling and emotion!

(NANCY leans forward, grabs his arm, and blows the match out)

 

NANCY

Stop it! Will you stop it!

 

(THEY are frozen in position. BILL starts to put his other hand on her arm. SHE pulls her arm away)

 

NANCY

(cont)

I have to work, Bill. Can't you understand that?

 

BILL

Baby, I don't live in the Stone Age. You can work if you like but get a nine-to-five job, OK? Not a career without the benefits of a career. But you're letting yourself be sucked into their world. All I-

 

NANCY

(angrily)

I have to work. We need the money and I...I want to be independent.

 

BILL

Independent? What does that mean?

 

NANCY

Just what I said. I want to be independent. The opposite of dependent.

 

(BILL stares at her for several seconds, then slowly gets up. When HE speaks, HE understands the marriage is over. HE no longer is shouting or trying to persuade her of anything)

 

BILL

OK. OK, baby, you win. You can be independent. But just remember one thing: You're sacrificing your husband, your marriage, your health and...and my love for you all for the glory of hotel public relations and for the right to sit at your desk in some four-star, five-faggot hotel and shuffle P.R. papers without interference. All right! You're now gonna get exactly what you want and I sincerely hope you will be very happy.

(BILL enters the bedroom and shuts the door. NANCY weeps for several seconds then takes a tissue and dries her eyes. The bathroom door slowly opens. PAUL hesitantly walks out holding a video tape. HE walks toward NANCY and stands near her)

 

PAUL

Nancy, I'm sorry.

(NANCY looks up at him, attempting to smile)

 

NANCY

Heard all that, did you? Well, that's all right. They probably heard us in New Jersey.

 

(TRACY opens the bedroom door and slowly walks out)

 

TRACY

You all right, Nancy?

 

NANCY

Sure, I'm all right. It was...it's been building up to this for a long time.

 

(PAUL grabs the whiskey bottle)

 

PAUL

Drink?

 

(NANCY shakes her head. TRACY smells the burning food and runs to the kitchen)

 

TRACY

Oh, my God. The dinner!

 

NANCY

Sorry, Tracy. It looks like we ruined your dinner and Paul's video show.

 

PAUL

Nah, I grabbed the wrong tape, anyway. It's "Casablanca."

 

NANCY

(rising)

Well, if he's packing, I guess I'd better help him. He never knows where anything is.

 

TRACY

(from the kitchen)

Good luck.

 

(NANCY enters her bedroom and closes the door. TRACY opens a pot and steam pours out)

 

TRACY

Oh, my God! It is ruined. We'll have to eat out. What a way to meet Jerry's father. I was going to check but I didn't dare come out when I heard them shouting. Oh, well, I can't really blame poor Nancy. One more woman who's lost her marriage because of male reluctance to let a woman have her own career.

 

PAUL

Poor Nancy? Poor Bill! One more of a select group of men who have lost their wives, not to the charms of another man, but to the bogus glitter of a wife's cushy job.

 

(TRACY speaks while cleaning up the kitchen mess)

 

TRACY

Would you clear the table now, Paul?

 

PAUL

You got it!

 

(PAUL clears the table, then sits in the armchair reading the New York Times)

 

TRACY

God, I feel so sorry about Nancy and Bill. It makes me feel so helpless, you know? I like both of them.

 

PAUL

You like both of them?

 

TRACY

Yes. Don't you?

 

PAUL

What does a woman find in a guy like Bill that's to like? He hates so-called faggots the way I hated second lieutenants.

 

TRACY

I don't think Bill would know a...a faggot if he saw one. To him, any man who expresses his feelings or shows vulnerability is a 'faggot'. I think he's just one of those men who are always one decade behind social change. Just about the time he's got relationships between men and women figured out, bang! They change again. But at least he's out there trying; unlike you, I might add.

 

PAUL

Hey, that's very good. Very...insightful. Where do you come up with stuff like that?

 

(TRACY walks toward PAUL with the coffee pot)

 

TRACY

I teach first grade, remember? I interact with little boys before they grow up to become men. And every new class I get, I walk down the aisles and scrutinize all the little boys to see if I can spot any who will grow up to be like you so I can nip them in the bud before they can get a moment older.

(Without missing a beat, TRACY aggressively thrusts the pot at PAUL forcing PAUL to lean back)

 

TRACY

(cont)

Coffee?!

 

PAUL

...Um, yeah, thanks. Wow! 'Far out!' as they used to say in the sixties. 'Nip in the bud.' I don't like the sound of that. You haven't actually-

 

TRACY

Don't ask!..And if you think you're any different than Bill you're only deluding yourself.

 

PAUL

Dare I ask what that means?

 

TRACY

You think I don't know why you play nothing but ballads from the late fifties? I'm not stupid. Every song you play is Before the War, right?

 

PAUL

Oh, no! I've been found out! Paul Wacko Wilson prefers music from a simpler era. Before firefights, before dustoffs, before body counts, before body bags!

 

TRACY

Right! And why only ballads? Because you can't express love and tenderness in words, so you express it in your choice of music. Oh, sure, you talk a blue streak but that's not the same as expressing yourself. Every song you play exposes you for what you really believe in: Affection, sincerity, warmth and true love. And your real self is in your selection of music: Late 50's love songs. Beneath your carefully crafted caustic facade, you're nothing but a romantic slob.

 

PAUL

(momentarily stunned)

Have you been taking mail order courses in psychiatry?

 

TRACY

Never mind. Just don't ever make the mistake of thinking that because I'm patient enough to listen to your bullshit I'm dumb enough to believe it...And as I don't have time to read the paper, how about reading me some news.

 

PAUL

Anything to change the subject. Anything! Well, speaking of feeling helpless, here's a report about a Black Hole swallowing stars in a nearby galaxy heading in our direction and licking its chops. Any day now that insatiably hungry little mother-fucker is going to have a midnight snack of East Village apartments.

 

TRACY

Worry about the here and now for once, could you, Paul?

 

PAUL

All right. Closer to home we find that nearly fifteen thousand New Yorkers were bitten last year by dogs, cats, goats, rats, raccoons, opossums, parrots, turtles, crabs, a sea lion, a goose and a lion fish. Almost the same number were bitten by other New Yorkers! And six were sexual bites! Love bites that went to far...Now that's a frightening piece of news.

(PAUL puts down the paper and watches TRACY as she cleans up)

 

PAUL

(cont)

Let's get it on before the world ends. What do you say?

 

TRACY

Paul, please!

 

PAUL

Tracy, we've got a black hole about to suck us up! It's in the next galaxy, for Christ's sake. There's not a millennium to lose. (He kneels near her feet) It's in the next galaxy!

 

TRACY

(pushing him over)

Sometimes, Paul, I wish you were.

 

PAUL

We could cavort in a sensual garden of pleasure. A garden-

 

TRACY

Garden?! Oh, God, I forgot to water the plant!

 

(TRACY takes the spray container from the cupboard and walks to the plant. PAUL lowers his head into his arms in abject defeat, sighs and rises)

 

PAUL

All right, sweet maiden, if you prefer the embrace of the black hole to mine so be it!

 

(As TRACY sprays the plant HE stands slightly behind her and places his hands on his cheeks and grimaces as if someone is being murdered)

 

(TRACY stares at the plant after she waters it)

 

TRACY

Will you look at this! My India rubber plant is a goner. And they're the toughest plant I know of.

 

(PAUL joins TRACY to stare at the plant)

 

PAUL

Something tells me you should try giving it less water.

 

TRACY

I did try less water. And then more water, and less sunlight, and then more sunlight. I turned its leaves to face Mecca, then toward the Vatican. I even tried mouth-to-leaf resuscitation. I practically offered it my body.

 

PAUL

Did you talk to it?

 

TRACY

Oh, Paul, for God's sake. Don't tell me you're into talking to plants.

 

PAUL

Believe me, Tracy, they listen. They know.

 

TRACY

The plant is dying. It's given up. I've given up. I'll get a new one, OK?

(SHE looks at the clock which reads 7:45)

Oh, my God! Jerry's father will be here in fifteen minutes. I've got to change!

 

(PAUL holds TRACY and stares hard at her)

 

PAUL

It's alive, Tracy. The plant is alive. Isn't life important too?

 

TRACY

Oh, sweet Jesus. It's dying! Do I have to die with it? Is that what you want?

 

(PAUL moves TRACY downstage away from the plant and lowers his voice)

 

PAUL

Look. Plants know what's going on. I'm telling you. Me. Paul Wacko Wilson. Nine out of ten sick plants can be saved by a bit of pleasant conversation and soft music. But there's always one out of ten (glances toward the plant) that wants to be a hardass. So you don't use the carrot. You use the stick. You see what I'm saying?

 

TRACY

Are you serious? It's a lowly plant.

 

PAUL

Shhh. Don't add insult to injury. That only works with the Philodendron. This one...(lowers his voice still more) we've got to threaten! And I mean scare the hell out of it!

 

TRACY

Paul, I've got Jerry's father coming to meet me in fifteen minutes. I'm not dressed, the dinner is ruined, and you want-

 

PAUL

Tracy, we can save this plant's life in one minute. One!

 

TRACY

Paul-

 

PAUL

Trust me, OK? I'll take full responsibility. OK?

 

TRACY

...OK. OK. One minute. Not one second more.

 

(PAUL gently guides her to a chair and sits beside her. HE speaks softly)

 

PAUL

Now, here's what we'll do.

 

(As PAUL outlines his plan in a voice too low for the audience to hear, HE and TRACY occasionally glance at the plant and then face each other. TRACY finally nods her head in reluctant agreement. SHE quietly enters the bathroom and closes the door. PAUL runs to the window and then walks quickly toward the kitchen to check the clock)

 

PAUL

(to the plant)

Not one word!

 

TRACY (O.S.)

Now?

 

PAUL

Not yet!

 

(HE runs again to the window, sees what he's been waiting for, then sits in a chair near the plant and picks up the newspaper and begins to read)

 

PAUL

(urgent whisper)

OK! Now!

 

(After several seconds, the bathroom door slowly opens. TRACY peeks out and stares in PAUL's direction. SHE slowly emerges and it becomes clear that SHE is holding a large knife in her hand. SHE moves stealthily into the living room with the knife)

(An elderly man - JERRY's FATHER - appears in the hallway, walking toward the door. HE holds a bouquet of roses in one hand. HE steps over the garbage bag and stops in front of the living room door. HE raises his hand to knock)

(TRACY raises the knife, screams and rushes toward the plant)

 

TRACY

Arrrrgggghhhh! You ungrateful bastard! I've done everything for you and you won't even try!

 

(PAUL jumps up and blocks TRACY's path. THEY struggle as PAUL attempts to restrain her)

 

PAUL

Tracy, No! Put the knife down! That won't solve anything!

 

TRACY

I'll kill the son-of-a-bitch!

 

PAUL

For God's sake, give it another chance. Don't kill it!

 

(JERRY's FATHER, arms still extended to knock, is standing completely immobilized, mouth agape)

 

PAUL

It's only a baby. You can't kill it! Please! Stop it!

 

TRACY

Get out of my way, Paul, or you'll get it, too.

 

PAUL

Please don't kill it! Drop the knife! Please!

 

(TRACY and PAUL continue their struggle. TRACY is moving closer to the plant. Her hand with the knife is poised above the plant but PAUL is holding onto her wrist)

 

TRACY

Let me kill the son-of-a-bitch!

 

PAUL

It's only a baby! Nooo!

 

(TRACY stabs it)

 

PAUL

(cont)

Oh, my God! You stabbed it!

 

(JERRY's FATHER drops the flowers, and moves away from the door. As he does so, he trips over the garbage bag and sprawls on the floor of the hallway. HE painfully picks himself up then bolts down the hallway offstage i.e. back outside)

(PAUL and TRACY stand and stare at the plant with the knife through it)

 

PAUL

You weren't really supposed to stab it, you know.

 

TRACY

I'm sorry. I got carried away. Bill and Nancy's troubles depressed me; the ruined dinner depressed me; I guess I took it out on the plant.

 

PAUL

I thought we agreed we were only going to scare it.

 

(TRACY lights a cigarette and sits down. SHE pours herself a bit of PAUL's whiskey and takes a drink)

 

TRACY

So I'll turn myself in, all right? You're the type who likes getting back to nature. I'm the type who likes getting back at nature.

 

(PAUL puts his cigarettes into his jacket pocket, salutes TRACY and walks to the door)

 

PAUL

OK, sweet lady, you can play Lizzie Borden if you like, but I think I'd better get out of here and grab a bite to eat. You try to relax, OK?

 

(PAUL opens the door and notices the flowers. HE picks them up and smells them)

 

PAUL

(cont)

Hey, look at this. Somebody left roses on our doorstep.

(TRACY doesn't even bother to look up)

 

TRACY

That's New York for you. People hear that you abused your plant they want you to abuse their plants too. But just because I abuse my own plant doesn't mean anybody can leave his plants here to be abused.

 

(PAUL stares at TRACY, shakes his head, and talks to the flowers)

 

PAUL

You guys better come with me. It's not safe here right now.

 

(As PAUL takes a step toward the outer door, JERRY and his FATHER rush into the hallway)

 

JERRY

What in God's name is going on here?

 

PAUL

Nothing in God's name, that's for sure.

(PAUL hands the roses to JERRY's FATHER)

 

PAUL

(cont)

Hi! You must be Jerry's father. I'm Paul. Welcome to our humble home.

 

(JERRY's FATHER accepts the flowers and shakes PAUL's extended hand. HE speaks while looking them over)

 

RALPH BENNETT

These are my flowers.

 

PAUL

Really? In that case, you really shouldn't abandon them in doorways. Well, nice meeting you.

 

(Just as PAUL is opening the outer door, JERRY grabs his arm and spins him around)

 

JERRY

Just a minute! Something has been going on here and I'd like you to stay.

 

PAUL

I thought you wanted me to go.

 

JERRY

Come on!

 

(JERRY shoves PAUL toward the apartment and the three of them enter the living room)

(TRACY suddenly notices them entering, and quickly and awkwardly stands up)

 

TRACY

Hi, Mr. Bennett. Welcome to New York. I'm Tracy.

 

(JERRY stares daggers at the cigarette in TRACY's hand. SHE follows his stare and realizes SHE has a lit cigarette there. SHE quickly stubs out the cigarette. JERRY looks into the kitchen)

 

JERRY

What in God's name is that smell? Did something burn?

 

TRACY

The dinner.

 

JERRY

Our dinner? Burned?

 

(RALPH BENNETT glances toward the wall shelf, notices the Buddha, approaches it cautiously, and stares at it)

 

RALPH BENNETT

What is that-

(HE and PAUL speak simultaneously)

 

PAUL/RALPH BENNETT

Buddha/idol!

 

JERRY

Tracy, didn't I...didn't we...what is that doing here? What are you-

 

(RALPH BENNETT has been moving toward the Buddha as if to grab it. PAUL blocks his path. RALPH BENNETT then turns enough so that he sees the knife sticking into the plant. HE slowly raises his arm and points)

 

(EVERYONE turns to where HE is pointing. JERRY and his FATHER move cautiously closer to the plant)

 

JERRY

What is that knife doing in the plant?

 

PAUL

Umm...it's a rare knife plant from Vietnam. They grow that way.

 

(JERRY glares at PAUL and then turns to TRACY for an explanation)

 

TRACY

I stabbed it.

 

RALPH BENNETT

What did it do?

 

TRACY

It wouldn't stop turning brown.

(Only PAUL laughs)

 

PAUL

Right. Better not show up with a deep suntan around this house.

 

(HE laughs again then stops as everyone stares at him. RALPH BENNETT sets the roses down and slowly withdraws the knife from the plant)

 

RALPH BENNETT

(to TRACY)

This your knife?

 

PAUL

That's my knife, sir. Compliments of a deceased Vietcong.

 

TRACY

Mr. Bennett, I think you must have overheard our quarrel with the plant.

 

RALPH BENNETT

Well, I've done a lot of gardening in my life but I never had a quarrel with any of my plants.

 

TRACY

Well, I mean, it was dying. So...I...

 

RALPH BENNETT

Stabbed it?

 

TRACY

We only meant to scare it.

 

RALPH BENNETT

Scare it?

 

TRACY

Plants aren't stupid. They usually respond to affection.

 

PAUL

(aside to himself)

I would too if she tried me.

 

TRACY

But this one was dying so we decided to scare it into recovering.

 

RALPH BENNETT

(looking over the plant again)

So you stabbed it...looks to me like the soil needs changing. You people practice euthanasia?

 

PAUL

Oh, no sir! With India rubber plants it's called euthanIndia.

 

(PAUL laughs to himself. RALPH BENNETT uses the knife to dig up a bit of soil)

 

TRACY

But I guess I got excited and went too far.

 

PAUL

(aside to himself)

But never with me, damn it!

 

(RALPH BENNETT

glances up at PAUL and TRACY suspiciously)

 

RALPH BENNETT

If I didn't know better, I might think you people are into some kind of kinky sex.

 

PAUL

(aside to himself)

Don't I wish...

 

JERRY

Tracy, the dinner is ruined, you're not even dressed yet, the Buddha is still here, you've been smoking and drinking, you and Paul have been doing something weird with the plant-

 

PAUL

Everybody loves a conspiracy theory.

 

TRACY

Jerry, I seemed to have lost track of time.

 

JERRY

Time? You've got a clock right there.

 

(PAUL begins walking to the front door)

 

PAUL

Well, on that happy note, if I'm not needed, I think I'll just-

 

(RALPH BENNETT's knife strikes something in the soil of the plant)

 

RALPH BENNETT

Hey! There's something under here.

 

(HE scrapes more dirt away and reaches into the pot. JERRY and TRACY gather around. PAUL edges nearer to the door. RALPH BENNETT pulls up a jar of peanut butter)

 

JERRY

(grabbing the jar)

My peanut butter! (to PAUL) You bastard!

 

TRACY

So that's why the plant was dying. (to PAUL) You took the dirt out to hide Jerry's peanut butter!

 

(As JERRY and TRACY pull up the three remaining jars, RALPH BENNETT stares at PAUL with curiosity)

 

PAUL

(holding out his wrists)

I guess I'd better turn myself into the police.

 

RALPH BENNETT

No need for that. I don't know what's going on here, but whatever it is, it's obviously a civil situation.

 

PAUL

Nothing civil about us.

 

RALPH BENNETT

(looking toward the Buddha)

Someone's been burning incense to the Buddha.

 

PAUL

Oh, yeah. Jim and Tammy-Faye stopped by.

 

TRACY

Oh, God, Mr. Bennett. I'm really sorry about all this. It's not usually like this.

 

PAUL

Yeah, sometimes it's weird.

 

JERRY

You're a real jerk, you know that?

 

PAUL

Shhh! Careful. The plant might think you're talking to it, and I think it's been through enough for one day.

 

JERRY

What is it, some kind of horticultural symbolism? Peanut butter buried in an India Rubber plant; our relationship finally buried because we ran out of peanut butter in India?

 

PAUL

Don't flatter yourself. It was just an experiment in cross-breeding a rubber plant with peanuts. I wanted to produce the world's first chunk-style rubber pea plant. Anyway, I didn't attack the plant; I defended it.

 

JERRY

That's right. You save your malice for people. You have no character at all, have you?

 

RALPH BENNETT

Jerry, why don't we get something to eat?

 

JERRY

Tracy?

 

TRACY

Jerry, I'm sorry, but I'm not feeling up to this evening.

(TRACY walks to JERRY's bedroom door)

 

JERRY

Tracy!

 

TRACY

Mr. Bennett, I have an enormous headache. Please excuse me for tonight. I'm just not myself.

 

(SHE enters the bedroom and closes the door)

 

JERRY

I'll be right back, dad.

 

RALPH BENNETT

It's all right, son. If she doesn't feel-

 

(JERRY ignores his FATHER and enters the bedroom after TRACY and closes the door)

(PAUL sits in his chair, lights a cigarette and pours himself a drink. HE holds up the bottle to JERRY's FATHER)

 

RALPH BENNETT

(waving smoke away)

No. Thank you...You know, son, how you live is up to you but one biblical saying that's proved especially true in my life is the one that tells us that he who doth not answer to the rudder shall answer to the rock. You might-

 

PAUL

Ah, yes, sir, but don't forget also: 'He who would rudder get his rocks off shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.'

 

(RALPH BENNETT begins walking about the room. HE looks abstractly at items in the room but it becomes clear that HE is looking for an opening - a way to communicate with PAUL)

 

RALPH BENNETT

So.

 

PAUL

(with quiet finality)

So.

 

RALPH BENNETT

You know, Paul, when God gave the world his only-

 

PAUL

No, no, sir, your God didn't give the world his only son; He fragged his only son. And that is something to think about.

 

RALPH BENNETT

...I believe Jerry said he'd been in Vietnam with you, Paul.

 

PAUL

I believe he was. Yes! If memory serves, I believe he was! (holds up the bottle) You sure?

 

RALPH BENNETT

Quite sure. Thank you.

 

PAUL

Well, as the Bible says, one man's meat is another man's poison.

 

RALPH BENNETT

It doesn't.

 

PAUL

Excuse me?

 

RALPH BENNETT

The Bible doesn't say that. That line is from a play and the actual quote is: 'What's one man's poison, seignior, is another's meat or drink."

 

PAUL

A scholar. I'm impressed.

 

RALPH BENNETT

I'm no scholar. I just like to read. Gardening, fishing and reading are my hobbies and I'm retired now so I've got lots of time for them.

 

PAUL

And for watching televangelists praise the Lord. When they're not too busy consorting with hookers or building up a private fortune.

 

RALPH BENNETT

Not really. That's more the missus' thing than mine. I never could stand a man who uses religion to try to make someone feel guilty about going to a movie or a dance. I go along to keep the peace. Like most married men, I guess. You know how women are.

 

PAUL

No. Tell me. How are women?

 

(RALPH BENNETT ignores the question)

 

RALPH BENNETT

Do you have hobbies, Paul?

 

PAUL

Not really. When I'm not too busy making life difficult for other people I spend time writing my play.

 

RALPH BENNETT

A playwright. Very nice.

 

PAUL

Undiscovered so far, of course.

 

RALPH BENNETT

Takes time...I wonder...I wonder if I could stop by some time while I'm in New York and have a chat with you. When we've got more time, I mean.

 

PAUL

Chat? What about?

 

RALPH BENNETT

About fishing. About Jerry. About Vietnam. About war, maybe. I served in Korea and I thought-

 

PAUL

Rehash America's wars? Sure, why not? You just drop by anytime and we'll get it all squared away. Defending freedom! From George Washington to John Wayne. From Battle of the Bulge to bulging body bags. Let's rap awhile! One vet to another.

 

RALPH BENNETT

Thank you. How about tomorrow? About this time?

 

PAUL

Tomorrow? Well, I'm kind of-

(JERRY and TRACY re-enter the room)

 

JERRY

All set, dad. Tracy's feeling better. She'll be coming with us after all. Let's get going.

 

RALPH BENNETT

You didn't tell me you've been living with a playwright.

 

JERRY

A playwright! One off-off-Broadway play performed for two weeks three years ago and he's a playwright!

 

PAUL

Yes. Time does fly, doesn't it?

(TRACY quickly fills a vase with water and places the roses in them. SHE places them on the table)

 

TRACY

Really, Paul? You had a play performed? You never told me. What was it called?

 

PAUL

It was called, 'The Enlightened One.' And it did not run for two weeks three years ago; it ran for three weeks two years ago.

 

TRACY

Wow! What was it about?

 

JERRY

Tracy! Let's go!

 

RALPH BENNETT

I'd like to know also...Really.

 

PAUL

It was about a man who believed he was a playwright. He took a job as a desk clerk in a seedy hotel in mid-town Manhattan to gather material for his play. But as the years went by he was still working in the hotel and he had written only a few pages. He finally woke up one day to the truth about what he really was: Not a playwright working in a seedy hotel to gather material. But an aging desk clerk in a seedy hotel who imagined that he was a playwright. So he shot himself. End of play.

(After an embarrassed silence, RALPH BENNETT speaks up)

 

RALPH BENNETT

What's your play about this time?

 

JERRY

Dad, I think we'd-

 

PAUL

(animated again)

Well, it's kind of a sociological play, really- it's about honeycide.

 

RALPH BENNETT

Honeycide?

PAUL

Yeah. You know. Like homicide. Only honeycide is about the types of people who commit suicide on their honeymoon.

 

RALPH BENNETT

(laughing)

Who would ever commit suicide on their honeymoon?

 

PAUL

...My wife did.

 

RALPH BENNETT

Oh! I'm sorry, I-

 

JERRY

For God's sake, dad. Don't believe anything he says. His wife left him for...Anyway, he's crazy. Let's go.

 

PAUL

'Crazy Paul,' that's me. But I'll tell you what. Give me one second before you go.

 

(PAUL picks up his calculator. JERRY starts to protest but his FATHER holds up his hand to quiet him)

 

PAUL

(cont)

You came just in time to help me grapple with a problem.

 

RALPH BENNETT

Shoot.

 

PAUL

(picking up his notations)

There's an article in today's paper that's terrified me. It says that for every percentage point that unemployment rises, the suicide rate rises 4.1 per cent.

 

JERRY

Dad, could we please just-

 

PAUL

And so I calculated that if for every percentage point unemployment rises, the suicide rate rises 4.1 per cent, then that means when the unemployment rate rises to just a fraction over 24 per cent - there won't be any more Americans! Have you any thoughts on that?

 

RALPH BENNETT

(chuckling)

Not a one.

 

JERRY

Come on, dad, let's go.

 

(RALPH BENNETT waits for his SON and TRACY to exit and just before he shuts the door he speaks to PAUL)

 

RALPH BENNETT

I'll be stopping by for that chat. Don't forget.

 

PAUL

(toasting him with his glass)

Anytime, sir! Anytime. From fishing to firepower, I'm your man.

 

(PAUL stares at the closed door for several seconds, then moves to the kitchen and resets the clock to the correct time. HE pours more whiskey over ice in a glass. HE then walks to the Buddha, lights incense, wais the Buddha with the joss-sticks between his palms, then places the incense in the censer before the Buddha. PAUL speaks to the Buddha while raising his glass)

 

PAUL

(cont)

So...Do I keep my promises or what?

 

(PAUL walks to a shelf to get a pack of cigarettes. He lights a cigarette and just as he passes the plant, he stops suddenly, looks back at the plant, looks behind himself to see if someone else is there, then looks back to the plant. He gestures with his cigarette and speaks exactly as Robert Di Niro spoke to his mirror reflection in "Taxi Driver.")

 

PAUL

(cont)

You talking to me?..You talking to me?..You talking to me?!

 

(HE again checks behind him and then turns back to the plant)

 

PAUL

(cont)

Well, who the hell else are you talking to? You talking me me?..Well, I'm the only one here!..Who the fuck do you think you're talking to?..Oh, yeah?

 

(A bedroom door opens and BILL HOLMES enters the living room carrying a suitcase. HE is wearing a workman's cap and jacket).

 

(PAUL whispers to the plant)

PAUL

(cont)

Later.

(PAUL sits down, takes a drink, and begins working on his play. BILL glances at PAUL and walks to the door. He hesitates and then turns to face PAUL)

 

BILL HOLMES

She's all yours now.

 

(PAUL gives him a puzzled look)

 

BILL HOLMES

(cont)

My wife. You've been after her since we moved in. Now you can have her.

 

PAUL

Bill, in the three months you and Nancy have been here I've spoken to her no more than-

 

BILL HOLMES

Spare me your bullshit, all right? You think I don't know about guys like you?

 

PAUL

Like me?

 

(BILL HOLMES seems about to speak but gives up the idea. He angrily exits the apartment, slamming the doors. PAUL hesitates then continues to type)

(The bedroom door opens again and NANCY HOLMES comes into the living room. SHE again preens a bit before coming into PAUL's line of vision. PAUL looks up)

 

NANCY

Hi.

 

PAUL

Hi, again.

(NANCY walks to the kitchen sink, fills a glass with water and drinks some. SHE walks to the table and sits down on a chair facing PAUL)

 

NANCY

Well, that's that.

 

PAUL

Is he gone for good?

 

NANCY

It looks like it this time. I feel so...Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt you.

 

PAUL

That's all right. It's too late for a Tony award this season, anyway.

 

NANCY

You really work hard on your play, don't you?

 

PAUL

The play's the thing.

 

NANCY

God, I wish I could write a play or do something right; or have something go right or...

 

(NANCY's voice trails off and SHE is near tears)

 

PAUL

Get a glass and some ice and I'll give you a shot of something that'll take the edge off your troubles.

 

NANCY

I don't really drink very well; I get silly. Anyway, I've got to get ready. But I appreciate-

 

PAUL

Get it! One drink won't hurt you.

 

(SHE gets the glass and ice. PAUL pours a liberal amount of whiskey into it. SHE begins drinking. SHE stares at the Buddha)

 

NANCY

You lived in Asia for years, huh?

 

PAUL

Years and years and years.

 

NANCY

Where?

 

PAUL

Oh, Somerset Maugham places: Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore. You name it.

 

NANCY

Bill served in Vietnam. He actually fought. You're lucky you didn't have to go there.

 

PAUL

Oh, I went there all right. But I didn't live there; I served there. Fighting and living are two different things.

 

NANCY

You fought against the Vietcong?

 

PAUL

Damned if I know. I spent a year in the jungle shooting at noises and shadows and occasionally getting shot at myself. I could have been fighting the New York Yankees for all I know. But I wasted more mosquitoes and leeches than - well, anyway, then I came back home and adjusted beautifully.

 

NANCY

(frequently sipping her whiskey)

How long have you been back? home, I mean.

 

(PAUL ignores her question)

 

PAUL

I remember I landed at L.A. airport and the first thing I saw was a line of people drinking water from a water fountain. They were drinking water without boiling it first, for Christ's sake. Talk about barbarians! It took me six months to stop boiling water. And the blue color up above! At first I didn't know what to make of it! And then I realized I had been under a triple canopy jungle so long I had forgotten about the sky!

 

(PAUL offers her a cigarette and THEY both light up. HE pours more whiskey into her glass)

 

PAUL

(cont)

Then on my way in from Kennedy airport, the cab driver kept talking about somebody named Steinbrenner. Steinbrenner this and Steinbrenner that. Finally, I asked him who the hell Steinbrenner was. It seems he owned the New York Yankees. I didn't know because I didn't give a damn about sports. But I had forgotten how provincial Americans are. They assume the whole world follows baseball. So after my question the cab driver treated me like a grenade-carrying Communist child molester with my fly open. I thought I was going to be lynched.

 

NANCY

You're serious? You didn't know who Steinbrenner was? Even I know. Bill loves sports. He talks about nothing else except baseball and boxing and football.

 

PAUL

Well, my granddaddy couldn't stand sports either. He always used to say - 'If you've got a first rate woman who the hell needs to steal second base?'

 

(NANCY begins giggling from the effect of the whiskey)

 

NANCY

I like him.

 

PAUL

I'm sure he would have liked you too but he's dead at the moment. Died in bed. On top, I might add.

 

(NANCY laughs as PAUL pours her more whiskey)

 

PAUL

(cont)

But the thing that almost sent me racing back to Asia was when I found out about American women's legs.

 

(NANCY follows PAUL's gaze to her own legs. Her skirt is at her knees)

 

NANCY

Their legs?

 

(PAUL leans forward, lowers his voice, and speaks confidentially)

PAUL

They shave them.

 

(HE leans back, takes a drink and waits for her reaction)

 

NANCY

You didn't know that?

 

PAUL

I had forgotten. I mean, Asian women never have to. The idea of a woman having to shave hair off her legs to keep them smooth, Jesus! I don't mean to offend you, but it was a shock, you know what I mean? Anyway, now I'm a real American! I drink water from the tap, I watch a baseball game every Sunday, and I chase after women with hairy legs. Maybe if-

 

NANCY

I'm...I'm feeling a bit better!

 

(SHE gets up, walks to the sofa and stretches out languorously. Her skirt has risen still further)

 

NANCY

(cont)

Wheee! Oh, I'm sorry, did I interrupt you?

 

PAUL

No, no. Whiskey-interruptus is perfectly acceptable at times like this.

 

NANCY

You know what?

 

PAUL

No. What?

 

NANCY

(looking around)

I...think...I...smell...incense!

 

PAUL

You do indeed...smell...incense. I burned another joss-stick.

 

NANCY

(shyly)

And made a wish?

 

PAUL

Oh, the Buddha already knows all about my desires. He doesn't-

 

(NANCY leans her head back and looks up at the Buddha through her glass)

 

NANCY

Look at the way he smiles. It's so...so...

 

PAUL

Serene?

 

NANCY

That's it! See-rene!

 

PAUL

Like he's got his act together.

 

NANCY

That's it! He...has...got...his...act...together!

(still looking the statue over)

Say, has he been in a fire? He looks...burnt.

 

(PAUL doesn't answer)

Why does he have one hand in his lap and one down there?

 

PAUL

That's the position known as 'Calling the Earth Goddess to Witness.' You don't know how Prince Siddartha achieved Enlightenment? That's worse than not knowing who owns the Yankees.

 

NANCY

Was he really a prince?

 

PAUL

He sure was. He had it all! He lived in a luxurious palace but then! When he became aware of suffering in the world, he moved out and became a wandering monk.

 

NANCY

I like that! You mean like somebody who could live in Trump Tower but moves out and hangs around Avenue D.

 

PAUL

Well, yes. Kind of like that. Only-

 

NANCY

I like that! That shows...

 

PAUL

Character!

 

NANCY

Right! Character!

 

PAUL

Well, the prince left his wife and child and-

 

NANCY

He did?!

 

PAUL

Oh, yes. All worldly attachments were left behind him. So-

 

NANCY

But he paid alimony and support, right?

 

PAUL

Um, I'll have to check the Buddhist scriptures on that one. So, anyway-

 

NANCY

Well, he just better!

 

PAUL

Sure, I'll mention it. So, anyway, after spending years meditating in forests and jungles, he realized that he still had to find the true path so one day he sat down under a fig tree and decided to meditate and not rise again until he had attained Enlightenment.

 

NANCY

Wow! When was all this?

 

(PAUL refills both of their glasses. HE is genuinely enthusiastic as HE describes the action to her)

 

PAUL

Before Steinbrenner. Before baseball even. But! But while the prince spent weeks in deep meditation, Mara - the evil Tempter - the King of Demons, did his best to destroy the prince.

 

(NANCY sits up abruptly. Her speech is beginning to slur)

 

NANCY

(infuriated)

That son-of-a-bitch!

 

PAUL

Right! Because he knew that if the prince attained Enlightenment and showed man the truth beyond the World of Illusion, then Mara would lose his power over man.

 

NANCY

And women?

 

PAUL

Right on! Power over women too!

 

NANCY

(holding up a fist)

Power to the people!

 

PAUL

Right! That's exactly what the Buddha wanted! Power to the people!

 

(PAUL lights another joss-stick and inserts it into the censer. His excitement is rising to a feverish pitch; When he speaks, he speaks rapidly)

 

NANCY

God, that smell is so...sensual.

 

PAUL

So while the prince sat meditating, Mara massed his armies against the prince but their spears and lances turned into beautiful flowers and fell at the prince's feet!

 

NANCY

Wow! (pointing to the roses) You think maybe they were spears and lances? Before, I mean?

 

PAUL

No question about it. So, anyway, Mara created a great storm to try to stop the prince from meditating, but a king cobra protected him by winding his body in coils under him and spreading out his hood over him to protect him.

 

NANCY

God! I wish I had a friend like that.

 

PAUL

Ah, but, finally, the Demon King tried his last and best shot.

(HE stares at NANCY)

Sex!

 

(NANCY leans slowly back into the sofa and closes her eyes)

 

NANCY

Oh, seexx!

 

PAUL

Mara sent his incredibly beautiful daughters to tempt him. Right in front of the prince they did the most sexy, salacious, lascivious dance ever performed.

 

NANCY

It must have been difficult for him to resist. They sound so tempting.

 

PAUL

Not only were they tempting but guess what their names were: Tracy and Nancy.

 

(NANCY giggles and writhes about on the sofa. PAUL continues with increasing excitement in his voice)

 

PAUL

(cont)

But the prince wasn't having any of that so finally the demon king had to admit defeat! But he asked the prince where his witness was that he had attained Enlightenment. So the Buddha moved his right hand slowly, ever so slowly...

(PAUL moves his hand along the hand of the statue)

to touch the ground whereupon the Earth Goddess appeared and before you could say 'Alakazam!' she squeezed her hair and all the drops of lustral water formed by the Buddha's good deeds in his past lives drowned the demon king and his army, and the prince had become the Buddha, the Enlightened one! He who has Awakened!

(NANCY jumps up and runs to PAUL and throws her arms around him. THEY move erratically about while SHE clings closely to him)

NANCY

Hooray! Victory for the Buddha!

PAUL

It's the Awakened One by a TKO in the last round!

 

NANCY

The Awakened One! TKO in the last round!

 

PAUL

Grand slam, bottom of the ninth!

 

NANCY

Grand slam, bottom of the ninth!

 

PAUL

A hole in one!

 

NANCY

A hole in one!

 

PAUL

Slam dunk at the buzzer!

 

NANCY

Slam dunk at the buzzer!

 

PAUL

Touchdown!

 

NANCY

Touchdown!

 

PAUL

It's Nirvana on the outside in a photo finish!

 

NANCY

Nirvana on the outside! Photo finish!

 

PAUL

Checkmate!

 

NANCY

Checkmate!

 

PAUL

Game! Set! Match! to the Enlightened One!

 

NANCY

Game! Set! Match! to the Enlightened One!

 

(PAUL now speaks more quietly but with increasing intensity; HE is almost entranced)

 

PAUL

Now we can see the World of Illusion for what it is!

 

NANCY

For what it is!

 

PAUL

(very seriously and in great pain)

Oh, what bliss it is to know there is no happiness in this world. Now we can see!

 

NANCY

(slyly)

...Ah, we shall see!

 

(THEY stand still for several seconds. NANCY stares at PAUL. PAUL stares at the Buddha)

 

NANCY

Paul?

(PAUL is too preoccupied with his own thoughts to hear her)

 

NANCY

(cont)

Paul?!

 

PAUL

Yes?

 

NANCY

Let's try it.

 

PAUL

Try what?

 

NANCY

You know. You be the prince and meditate and I'll be one of the daughters. You sit and try to reach Enlightenment and I'll do a dance and try to tempt you.

 

(PAUL only now turns to face her)

 

PAUL

Are you serious?

 

(NANCY stares into his eyes and smiles. SHE moves unsteadily to the table and pulls out a chair for him. SHE places it near the Buddha facing downstage. SHE motions for him to sit. SHE puts his glass down for him and sits him in the chair. NANCY turns on the tape deck. It is MY TRUE LOVE. The tape begins exactly where it left off at the beginning of the play and finishes exactly as Act I concludes)

 

NANCY

(slowly and seductively)

There! Now you sit and close your eyes and you meditate as hard as you can. I'll stay here in the World of Illusion and do a sexy dance and we'll see if you can keep meditating or not.

 

(PAUL stares at her)

 

NANCY

(cont)

 

Do it! Please!

 

(PAUL assumes the meditation position and closes his eyes. NANCY hums along with the tune and removes the roses from the vase. SHE throws them a few at a time at his feet. SHE holds onto the last one as she dances closer to him. SHE runs her hands over her body as SHE sways. SHE briefly lifts her skirt as she twirls about)

 

NANCY

(cont)

I saw you peeking.

 

(This continues for several seconds. PAUL opens his eyes. HE stares at her as SHE sways sensually back and forth. NANCY takes his hands to pull him up. HE gets up. Then SHE walks to the Buddha and turns it to face the wall)

 

NANCY

Now he can't see anything.

 

(SHE walks back to PAUL and kisses him. PAUL doesn't respond. SHE attempts to embrace him but HE takes her arms away)

 

PAUL

He still sees, Nancy. He knows.

 

(SHE stares at him for several seconds and then slaps his face hard. And again. And again. SHE turns in tears and runs into her bedroom and slams the door)

(PAUL stands for a few moments staring at the door, then walks a few steps toward it as if HE might enter, then stops. HE turns and walks to the Buddha and turns it to its original position)

(PAUL stands near the Buddha, takes a drink of whiskey, picks up a rose and places it across the Buddha's lap. HE stares at the statue. The music MY TRUE LOVE increases in volume. As the lights dim to darkness, the Buddha again glows a vivid emerald green)

 

BLACKOUT

END OF ACT ONE

 

A Village Inn continues