Stone Cold Dead Serious.
AN INTERVIEW WITH THE PLAYWRIGHT BY CELIA WREN
Was there an incident that inspired the play?
Yeah. Dallas Roberts was doing my play Nocturne at American Repertory Theatre and I was in his apartment on Saturday between shows. He was watching this crazy QVC shopping network show with guys who were selling baseball cards, and it was one of the most ridiculous, emphatic, almost evangelical sales pitches I'd ever heard. There was something about how committed they were that spurred an idea about a family looking for salvation through television. They eat dinner around it; it's always on, and it has kind of replaced religion in their house. In Stone Cold Dead Serious, I wanted to raise an important question: How does consumerism become a replacement for faith--how does it turn into salvation in some way?
There are religious themes in some of your other plays, too.
I personally don't have a spiritual habit, but I was raised Catholic. It's so deep inside me, it definitely haunts my theatre work--more so than my fiction. A Catholic mass is such a piece of theatre, with its ritual and imagery. Maybe it's about the space, too--how theatres look like churches.
When American Theatre interviewed you last year, you spoke about "the narcotic of TV."
Yes, it's something that freaks me out. It makes us sedentary. We are chained to our sofas and told to buy tennis shoes and Kit Kat bars and pharmaceutical drugs. And then there's the imagery and structure of sitcoms and dramas, where every 12 minutes there's a cliffhanger, and it feels utterly palatable and digestible. We get to watch this fantasy enacted and hope that we can attain that. I remember some of my aunts would talk about soap opera characters as if they were in the same knitting group. It's always baffled me how real TV characters can be. It's preposterous. It's just a bunch of pixels.
The scene in Stone Cold Dead Serious with the Snake Lady must reflect the shock you felt when you first moved to New York City.
Totally. That scene was cut in the ART production, and it's something I regret. The magic of the parents doubling as other characters in that weird Wizard of Oz way was a big part of why I wrote the play. Carolyn Cantor, who directed the play here in New York, wanted me to bring the Snake Lady back, and I'm so glad we did, because she's a great character. Any time you walk down St Mark's Place or Washington Square Park [in New York City] you see these characters who seem to pop out of a Roald Dahl novel. I wanted to come up with a true eccentric who seems ridiculous but is absolutely real.
Did you do a lot of research on the samurai theme?
A lot of web research, and I read kung fu magazines. But I didn't want to be too technically dead-on with the information, because I did not feel Wynne would be. He's plunging into it with great naivete.
In your plays you take very colloquial or vulgar language and make it both funny and poetic. Do you write down things you hear people say?
I used to write stuff down, but I've also been interested in creating worlds where I'd have to make it up. For example, I wrote a novel called The Copper Elephant, set in a post-apocalyptic world of nonstop poisonous rain, and I had to make up a language for the world, which was fun. I've always been a lover of Dr. Seuss and A Clockwork Orange and books in which language is a character. In my playwriting, I've always felt that if I could be specific enough about the world I'm creating, then the language would emerge out of that.
Do you go into different modes when you write novels and plays?
With the novel, it's like falling in love with a character and following him or her around. It's more meditative, simpler--more prayerful, in a weird way. With playwriting, I get an idea and write it that week. It takes me by the throat. It's more cathartic, but it interrupts my whole life. To me, playwriting is the hardest mode of telling a story. But I love being forced to tell a story in two hours before an audience.
Do you have the pessimistic view of the world that comes out in your plays?
Absolutely. I don't believe anything I'm told in the media. I think the war is ridiculous. I think politics--and the way they're presented in the media--are ridiculous. I think the capitalistic society we live in and the things we deem important are embarrassing. You go to France, and they have statues of writers and thinkers. The cultural equivalent here is Arnold Schwarzenegger. It's sad. We may be the superpower and have all the money, but I feel we're so far behind in what our ideas are.
Stone Cold seems a bit tighter and more symmetrical than some of your other plays.
I think so. I didn't want anyone to get dismissed. And I wanted the audience to feel that the family and their poverty and struggles were very real. It's probably one of the most personal plays I've written. We were very poor when I was a child. My brother Anthony did very well as an actor, but my sister and I were always trying to find our way in the world. In some ways the play is about me and my sister, and how we survived some rough times.
The end is moving and even hopeful. Wynne's in bad shape, but you feel that his family is going to pull through for him.
Yeah. A lot of people think this play is so bleak, but I think it has a hopeful ending. In general, I think that even though the world is designed, in some ways, to destroy you, and we go through these things in life and are ground down to dust--in the end I think we always move back toward the possibility of love. I like to think that.
Wynne Ledbetter--small for his age, a video game genius, sixteen.
Cliff Ledbetter--Wynne's father, an injured window glazer, fiftyish.
Shaylee Ledbetter--Wynne's sister, a runaway, seventeen.
Linda Ledbetter--Wynne's mother, a waitress, exhausted, late-forties.
Jack Gam--a salesman, fiftyish.
Sharice--Wynne's girlfriend, a fighter, sixteen.
Snake Lady--an East Village eccentric, late-forties.
Randall "The Randyman" Rockeyjohn--a hyperbolic Australian, a live-action death match pundit.
In and around the Chicago suburbs and New York City.
The living room of a small house on the outskirts of Chicago, somewhere near O'Hare Airport. Paneled walls. Drifts of coupons, empty cans of Old Style. A color console TV doubles as a coffee table. Also on the coffee table is a block of shiny new knives. There is the sense that nothing ever gets thoroughly cleaned. Upstage of the living room a small kitchen visible through a cutout. Upstage left, a small staircase leads to the second floor. Downstage right, the front door and a window. The only light source other than the TV is the harsh kitchen overhead spilling into the living room.
Clifford Ledbetter, fiftyish, heavy, unshaven, is beached on the sofa, watching QVC. There are three or four pharmaceutical containers on the coffee table. He is awake but appears to be in a state of hypnotic sloth. Perhaps his mouth hangs open. Perhaps he drools. The two men on the QVC are narrating sales pitches having to do with baseball cards. Cliff wears a housecoat, slippers, a white T-shirt. His hair is ridiculous. He has been farting continuously and without shame. Periodically, jets can be heard flying over the house.
In the kitchen the phone rings several times. Cliff continues staring at the TV, catatonic. Wynne enters through the front door, holding a paper sack. He bolts across the living room for the phone. In a blur we see that he is sixteen, small and thin. He wears corduroy pants, skater sneakers, and a rock-n-roll T-shirt. His hair is dyed blue. Cliff continues staring at the soothing miracles of QVC.
WYNNE (From off): Hello?... Hey ... Yeah ... Uh-huh ... Hang on.
Wynne enters the living room, holding the phone, the cord stretching from the kitchen, still holding the paper sack.
WYNNE: Pop ... Pop ... Pop ... (Covers the phone) Hey, fuckhead! (To phone) He ain't responding ... Yeah, he's up. I don't know ... I'll try it. (To Cliff) Cliff ... Yo, Cliff ... Clifford Ledbetter ... CLIFFORD LEMOYNE LEDBETTER! (To phone) Didn't work ... Yeah, he's been drinkin ... I don't know ... You want me to hit him?... Like hit him hit him?... Where?... Ma, I ain't gonna punch him in the balls ... No way, he'll kill me, man ... Okay, okay, fine, I'll do it ...
Wynne puts the phone down, takes a step toward his dad, sets the paper sack on the TV, hesitates a moment, and then punches Cliff in the balls.
CLIFF: Hey! You just punched me in the balls, man!
WYNNE: Sorry, dude. Those were my instructions.
CLIFF: From who?
CLIFF: Thanks a lot, Linda!
WYNNE: She's on the phone.
WYNNE: The phone. She's on the phone.
CLIFF: Who's on the phone?
WYNNE: Ma. She wants to know if you want your potatoes baked or scalloped.
CLIFF: Where the fuck's the phone?
WYNNE: It's over there. Baked or scalloped?
WYNNE: And she wants to know on a scale of one to ten how your back is feelin. One bein the worst, ten bein the best.
CLIFF: Four-fifty for a Tiger Woods rookie card. Must be blue book value.
WYNNE: It's two payments of four-fifty.
CLIFF: Two payments?
WYNNE: Yeah, man--it's called the Flexplan. That's nine hundred bucks.
CLIFF: Well, I can't afford that.
WYNNE: Nobody can afford that. The Flexplan is fuckin larceny.
Wynne turns a lamp on.
CLIFF: I went to school wit a kid named Larceny. Larceny Dimitrovits. Drove a '64 Skylark. Hand-cleaned the engine every mornin in the parkin lot. Hood popped, shoulders hunched. Wiped her down with a warshcloth. Guy smelled like vinegar.
CLIFF: I said scalped! Scalp the fuckers!
Wynne crosses to the kitchen.
CLIFF: Two payments of four-fifty. That ain't fair. I should write a letter and report those guys.
Cliff stands up very slowly, using every part of the sofa. He turns a full circle, disoriented.
WYNNE: (Into phone): He said he likes em scalped ... Yeah, scalped--that's what he said ... No he wouldn't give me a number ... He's trashed again ... I couldn't help it, Ma, he takes em when he takes em! I ain't a fuckin nurse!... All right, see ya in a few.
WYNNE: Pop, sit back down ... Sit down, Pop!
Cliff starts to cry.
WYNNE: What's wrong?
CLIFF: I pooped again. It's goin all down my leg.
WYNNE: Jesus Christ, man.
CLIFF: I can't help it, it just starts comin out. Please don't tell Linda. If your ma finds out I pooped again she won't let me sleep in the bed with her.
WYNNE: Stay there.
Wynne exits to the kitchen, searches for Cliff's diapers.
WYNNE: What happened to your diapers?
CLIFF: I ran out.
WYNNE: You tell Ma?
WYNNE: No you didn't. You gotta tell her, man.
Wynne re-enters with a wad of paper towels, hands them to Cliff.
CLIFF: Who're you, anyway?
WYNNE: Who am I?
CLIFF: I ain't never seen you before.
WYNNE: Dude, I'm your son.
CLIFF: My son don't got blue hair. His hair's black. Blackest hair I ever seen. His name is Wynnewood. Wynnewood Jericho Ledbetter. Who're you--Fuckhead Joe?
WYNNE: Pop, it's me, man--Wynne.
CLIFF: I wanna go to Cracker Barrel.
WYNNE: You ain't goin to Cracker Barrel.
Wynne exits to the bathroom, starts water in the tub.
CLIFF: I wanna go to Cracker Barrel. Homemade Chicken-n-Dumplings. Hickory Smoked Country Ham. Grilled Tenderloin. Peach Cobbler with ice cream. Last year they had a punkin carvin contest. Big huge fuckers. Punkins the size of Cadillac Sevilles. They got em for sale under the old wilma tree. A million inna half punkins. Carve up the jackalanner. Put a candle in it, set her on the porch.
WYNNE (Re-entering): Pop, we don't got a porch.
WYNNE: We-don't-got-a-porch-man. That was in Kankakee when you were a kid. That tree's in Bourbonnais. You used to make us get out of the car and run around it. You'd race us. We stopped doin it after you sprained your ankle that time. Come on, Pop.
CLIFF: What ever happened to the wilma tree anyway?
WYNNE: Nothin happened to it. It's still there. I saw it last week when I went down to Carbondale with Palumbo. And it's willow, tree. Let's go to the bathroom, okay?
They exit to the bathroom.
The knob to the front door is jiggled. The failure of keys. Cursing from a young woman can be heard. Moments later Shaylee can be seen peering in through the living room window. The window is lifted, she quietly crawls through. She is seventeen, pretty but sickly-looking. She wears old jogging pants rolled down at the waist, old running shoes. She carries a bag that contains the few fragmented parts of her life. She looks around the living room, runs upstairs, comes back down. Perhaps she limps a bit. She studies the labels on the pill bottles. She opens the bottles, takes a few, chases with Old Style dregs. She stares at the block of knives, removes a small paring knife, puts it in her bag.
She crosses to the living room shelves and starts to rummage through stuff, looking for money, anything valuable, puts things in her bag.
Wynne enters, watches her. After a moment, Shaylee turns, stands. They are frozen.
SHAYLEE: What's up?
He looks around to see what she's taken.
SHAYLEE: So gimme a hug, ya little dick.
He crosses to her. They hug. She goes for his pocket.
SHAYLEE: Lend me five bucks.
SHAYLEE (Digging in): Why not?
WYNNE: Cause I don't got it.
SHAYLEE (Really digging in now): Yes you do, Mr. Computer Fixer. Five fuckin bucks, man!
Wynne pushes her away. Some loose change falls out of his pocket. Shaylee desperately goes after the scattered change.
SHAYLEE: Smells like shit in here.
WYNNE: Where you been stayin?
SHAYLEE: At the Y.
WYNNE: What Y?
SHAYLEE: The one in Franklin Park.
WYNNE: Who's payin for it?
SHAYLEE: This guy Ed.
WYNNE: Ed who?
SHAYLEE: Just Ed. I met him near the candy machines.
WYNNE: Ma sees you here she'll call the cops.
WYNNE: You're like shakin.
SHAYLEE (Sitting): No I ain't.
WYNNE: You look like shit.
SHAYLEE: You look like a geek.
WYNNE: You ain't eatin are you?
SHAYLEE: I eat.
WYNNE: You're so skinny.
SHAYLEE: I just ate somethin the other day.
WYNNE: What, you chewed an aspirin, drank some nose spray?
SHAYLEE: I ate a banana.
Wynne grabs the paper sack from under the coffee table.
SHAYLEE: What's in the bag?
SHAYLEE (Mocking): Nothin.
WYNNE: It's a Taser gun.
He takes it out, shows it to her.
SHAYLEE: Where'd you get it?
WYNNE: From this guy Palumbo knows in Libertyville.
SHAYLEE: What's it for?
WYNNE: Tasering. Ever been Tasered?
SHAYLEE: No. Why, you wanna Taser me?
WYNNE: No. It's for protection.
SHAYLEE: How much was it?
WYNNE: I scored it for eighty bucks. They go for two hundred on the black market.
He puts it in his back pocket. Shaylee pulls out a small box that contains many feeble cigarette butts, lights one, smokes.
WYNNE: When'd you start smokin?
SHAYLEE: I don't know. At some point I guess. Where's Ma been hidin her cigarettes?
WYNNE: She quit.
WYNNE: She did. Last month. She used the patch.
SHAYLEE (Quickly rising, crossing to credenza behind the sofa, looting again): Fuckin over-the-counter bitch.
WYNNE: Palumbo saw you in Joliet. He said you were on the casino boat and that you were with some rich Iranian dude who was wearin a popcorn bucket on his head.
SHAYLEE: His name's Amir and it's called a fez. He's Moroccan.
WYNNE: Palumbo said you were playin slots.
SHAYLEE (Crossing back to the sofa, sitting, trying to smoke): Amir was payin, I was pullin.
WYNNE: Palumbo said he tried talkin to you but you kept sayin you didn't know him and that your name was Katrina.
SHAYLEE: I guess I was Katrina that night.
WYNNE: He said you were dressed like a whore.
SHAYLEE: Little wop wouldn't know a whore if one walked up and spit on him.
WYNNE: He said you had so much makeup on you looked dead.
SHAYLEE: Maybe I am.
WYNNE: I love you, Shaylee.
SHAYLEE: Good. Gimme five bucks.
WYNNE: You should talk to Ma. Give her a call.
SHAYLEE: Fuck that bitch.
WYNNE: If you get your shit together she'd prolly let you come home.
SHAYLEE: I don't wanna get my shit together.
WYNNE: Pop misses you.
WYNNE: He talks about you all the time. The other day he was in your closet holdin your nightgown.
SHAYLEE: Boo-hoo-hoo, what a fuckin drag, huh?
WYNNE: They kept your room just like it was. Your runnin trophies and everything.
SHAYLEE: Tell em to rent it out, board it up, have a fuckin garage sale.
WYNNE: I'm goin to New York.
SHAYLEE: For what?
WYNNE: This video game competition. I'm one of the three finalists. If I win I get a shitloada money. I'll give you some. I could send it to you at the Y in Franklin Park. You could go to that place in Michigan and get clean. That place with all the maple trees.
SHAYLEE: Gimme five bucks I'll show you my pussy. (Pushing the front of her jogging pants down) See?
Wynne steps away, crosses to the kitchen. After a silence:
SHAYLEE: Drinkin alone, huh?
WYNNE: That's Pop.
SHAYLEE: Where is he?
WYNNE: In the tub.
SHAYLEE: What's he doin home?
WYNNE: He hurt his back.
SHAYLEE: Last time I was here I saw his dick. I was hidin in the shower. He walked in and took a piss. It looked like a mushroom. Like somethin that gets left in a salad bowl.
What happened to his back?
WYNNE: He herniated a disc.
SHAYLEE: Stupid fuck. How'd he do that?
WYNNE: Bendin over backwards glazin a window. He's sposed to have an operation to fuse his vertebrae but we can't afford it. He gets shooting pains down his legs. It fucks him up pretty bad. He shits his pants, has to wear diapers.
SHAYLEE: Is he gettin workmen's comp?
SHAYLEE: You know where he keeps his money?
WYNNE: Ma keeps it.
WYNNE: In her music box. But it's mostly checks.
SHAYLEE (Starting for the stairs): I can cash checks.
WYNNE: Don't take too many.
SHAYLEE: I'll take whatever I please.
WYNNE: Fine! Fuck it!
She stops halfway up the stairs, sits. Wynne fiddles with his Taser gun.
SHAYLEE: Guess what?
SHAYLEE: I got hepatitis. My armpits are yellow, wanna see?
SHAYLEE: I fucked this Chink in the back of the 7-Eleven in Elk Grove. I think he gave it to me. His dick stunk like shit. I'm gonna buy a gun, hunt the fucker down. Stick it up his ass and pull the trigger ... Got a girlfriend?
WYNNE: She's one of the three finalists.
SHAYLEE: What's her name?
SHAYLEE: Cause I'm jealous.
WYNNE: It's Sharice.
SHAYLEE: She a nigger?
WYNNE: I don't know.
SHAYLEE: Why not?
WYNNE (Mumbling): Cause I've never seen her.
WYNNE: I've never seen her. I met her online. And so what if she was?
SHAYLEE: Niggers are dirty. Trust me, I know. Where's she from?
WYNNE: Crothersville, Indiana.
SHAYLEE: Small-town nigger, to boot.
WYNNE: If Ma heard you say nigger she'd fuckin die.
WYNNE: So, you sound like one of those skinheads from Cicero.
SHAYLEE: I like those guys.
WYNNE: You're a racist.
SHAYLEE: No I ain't. I just don't like niggers.
He gives her the finger. She descends the stairs, crosses to him on the sofa.
SHAYLEE: Do you jerk off to her?
WYNNE: To who?
SHAYLEE: Sharice. You beat your meat to Sharice?
She administers a titanic titty twister.
SHAYLEE: Cum on your stomach, think about tastin it?
WYNNE (Wrenching away): Fuck no!... What time is it, anyway?
SHAYLEE: Time to fuck and buy drugs. Why?
WYNNE: She's sposed to call.
SHAYLEE: Phone sex.
WYNNE: I'm in love with her, Shaylee.
SHAYLEE: Nigger phone sex.
WYNNE: We instant-message each other all the time. We're goin to New York together. I'm hitchin to Crothersville and then we're taking Greyhound the rest of the way.
SHAYLEE: Where the fuck is Crothersville?
WYNNE: Somewhere in the middle of the state, offa 65. She's mute.
SHAYLEE: How the fuck is she gonna call here if she's mute?
WYNNE: She's got this thing that she types into. Some sorta transmitter. An electronic voice speaks into the phone based on what she types.
SHAYLEE (Getting off the sofa): That's so fucked.
WYNNE: I think it's cool.
Shaylee crosses to the kitchen.
SHAYLEE: What if the voice is all macho or somethin?
WYNNE: I don't care.
SHAYLEE: What if she sounds like a cop?
WYNNE: I really don't care. I think I'm in love.
SHAYLEE (From the kitchen): You better fuck her before you start talkin about love, Wynne.
SHAYLEE (Re-entering with a bottle of liquor): Cause her pussy might be dry.
Shaylee crosses to the sofa, sits. Wynne follows her.
WYNNE: I ain't in love with her pussy.
SHAYLEE: What are you in love with, her e-mail address?
WYNNE: I don't know, Shaylee. I don't have the slightest idea what she looks like and I'm totally in love with her. And tell me this isn't weird: You know how my e-mail address is dog on mars at mindspring dot com? Well, hers is dog on venus at mindspring dot com. Pretty fuckin trippy, huh?
SHAYLEE: Romeo and Juliet.
WYNNE (Sitting on the sofa): Mars and Venus, man.
SHAYLEE: Romeoville and Joliet.
Shaylee takes a slug of vodka, almost retches.
SHAYLEE: So you're still playin that video game, huh?
WYNNE: Yeah. I solved it. That's why I'm a finalist.
SHAYLEE: Fuckin genius.
WYNNE: There's only three of us. They're gonna film the championship. Put it on cable.
SHAYLEE: Wynne the boy genius.
WYNNE: I ain't a boy.
SHAYLEE: If I cracked your head open I bet your brain would be huge.
WYNNE: If I win I'm gonna send you some money, Shaylee. You can go to that place in Michigan with the maple trees.
SHAYLEE: Fuck the maple trees.
WYNNE: You're gonna die if you don't get help.
SHAYLEE: I met this guy at a truck stop. His name was Jesus. He looked like Art Garfunkel if Art Garfunkel was a spic. He told me my soul was floatin around somewhere in the stratosphere. He kept callin me a floater. I fucked him in Centralia while I was on my period and I had to go to this clinic cause I forgot to take my tampon out. This doctor had to remove it with salad tongs. Fuckin place was full of refugees and derelicts.
WYNNE: You can take whatever you want outta my room.
SHAYLEE: What would I take?
WYNNE: Take my Playstation 2. You could prolly get fifty bucks for it.
SHAYLEE: You don't want your fuckin Playstation?
WYNNE: It's too easy.
SHAYLEE: This chick I met at the Y told me you can kill yourself by slashin your wrists in the bathtub. She said it don't hurt if you make the water warm enough cause it tricks your brain.
CLIFF (From off): Hey!
They both sit up.
WYNNE: You better go.
SHAYLEE: You ain't gonna give me five bucks?
He goes in his pocket, produces two. She snatches the cash.
SHAYLEE: I'll suck your dick for two more.
CLIFF (From off): Hey, fuckhead!
WYNNE: You really gonna buy a gun?
SHAYLEE (Mocking): You really gonna buy a gun?
CLIFF (From off): Hey, Fuckhead Joe, is some-thin burnin? Smells like the house is on fire!
Wynne takes Shaylee's cigarette, drops it in a beer can, starts to cross to the bathroom with Cliff's pajamas.
WYNNE (Turning back): Ma's music box is in her closet under Grandma Ruth's Christmas Eve quilt.
Shaylee kisses him hard on the mouth, exits quickly up the stairs. Wynne exits.
Moments later, Wynne rushes back out, runs up the stairs, looks down the hall. The phone starts to ring in the kitchen. Wynne runs for the phone. Cliff enters from the bathroom. They meet head-on at the threshold of the kitchen. Wynne is trapped between Cliff and the wall. The phone continues ringing. Wynne breaks free, lurches for the phone.
WYNNE: Hello?... (Slamming the phone down) Motherfucker!
WYNNE: I missed my phone call!
CLIFF: What phone call? You don't get phone calls.
WYNNE: Fuck off, man, I do, too.
CLIFF: Who would call you?
WYNNE: Forget it. Back to the sofa.
CLIFF: I don't wanna go back to the sofa, I wanna go to Cracker Barrel.
Wynne pulls the Taser gun on Cliff.
WYNNE: Pop, get back to the sofa before I Taser your fat ass!
CLIFF: Where'dja get that?
WYNNE: Don't worry about where I got it, I got it.
CLIFF: I seen one of them on QVC.
WYNNE: Well now there's one pointed directly at your grille. Back to the couch, man. Now!
CLIFF: Okay, fine. Jeez!
They make their way back to the sofa, the Taser gun trained on Cliff. Cliff sits. Wynne puts the Taser gun back in his pocket, sits next to him. Only the sound of QVC. Cliff farts rather explosively. Wynne crosses to the chair.
CLIFF: Who was here?
CLIFF: Someone was here ... Shaylee. Was Shaylee here?
WYNNE: No, why?
CLIFF: I can smell her. Same smell she had as a baby. Like holdin your hand real close to your face. Holdin it real close like so. (He holds his hand real close to his face, smells) She was such a pretty baby. She squeaked. You sure she wasn't here?
WYNNE: No one was here, Pop.
CLIFF: She was so little. You could hold her right there in your hand. Talk to her like she understood stuff.
WYNNE: Here, take a pill.
He gives Cliff a pill. Cliff swallows it dry.
CLIFF: Hey, how old are you, anyway?
WYNNE: How old am I?
CLIFF: What are you now, seventeen, eighteen?
WYNNE: I'm fuckin sixteen, man.
CLIFF: When I was sixteen I worked.
WYNNE: I work.
CLIFF: You do?
WYNNE: I fix computers, remember?
WYNNE: That's your last bottle of painkillers, man. This shit is fryin your brain.
CLIFF: When I was sixteen I joined a band of glaziers.
WYNNE: I know. There were hundreds of you and you'd follow tornadoes around on a tour bus.
CLIFF: That's right. We'd follow the tomatoes around.
CLIFF: We'd fix all the greenhouses. I used to read the weather maps. Look for the tomatoes. Few years later I met that guy from the movies.
WYNNE: Sir Laurence Olivier. I know, Pop.
CLIFF: At the University of Indiana at Bloomington. In Bloomington, Indiana. Guy was sit-tin right there at the bus stop. I said, "Hey, Hamlet!" He gave me his autograph and then he got on the bus. Just like that. What a guy.
They watch the TV for a moment.
CLIFF: My fuckin nuts hurt.
WYNNE: That's cause I punched you in the balls.
CLIFF: You did?
WYNNE: Yeah, man. I broke your big ass down.
The sound of a car parking, car door opening and closing.
CLIFF: Hey, where'd that cat go?
WYNNE: What cat?
CLIFF: That little cat we had.
WYNNE: Pop, we never had a cat.
CLIFF: Sure we did. Little fucker'd walk around, stare at you.
WYNNE: That was my guinea pig, man. It's dead. Shaylee kept feedin it Dexatrim. Fuckin thing starved to death.
CLIFF: I swear we had a cat.
Linda enters carrying a tin of lasagna, a tin of scalloped potatoes, and a large sack of groceries. She is early forties. She is wearing a waitress uniform and has a smoker's voice. She sets her armload on the TV.
CLIFF: Hey Linda, didn't we have a cat?
LINDA: We had a guinea pig. Shaylee starved it to death with those diet pills.
CLIFF: What she name it?
WYNNE: His name was Jack. But everyone called it Cokehead.
CLIFF: Cokehead! Here kitty-kitty!
WYNNE (Carrying the groceries to the kitchen): It was a fuckin guinea pig, man!
LINDA: What was that awful name she tried givin it at first?
WYNNE (Popping his head out of the kitchen): Dickburn.
LINDA: Yeah, Dickburn. (Kissing Cliff on the crown of his head) How awful is that? Not in my house.
WYNNE: His name was Jack.
CLIFF: Jack Cokehead. Best goddamn cat I ever seen.
LINDA: Hey, who was smokin in here?
LINDA: Someone was here and they were smokin.
CLIFF: Smells like the fuckin house was on fire.
LINDA: Wynne, was your sister here?
WYNNE: I don't know.
LINDA: Well, you've been home ain't it?
WYNNE: Yeah, but I wasn't guardin the fuckin door.
LINDA: Well, what the heck were you doin all day?
WYNNE: I was down here with Pop.
CLIFF: He left me alone. I almost died.
WYNNE: Bullshit I left you alone. I was upstairs in my room.
CLIFF: He went out. Left me alone to die.
LINDA: Did you go out of the house, Wynne?
LINDA: You heard me, smart guy.
WYNNE: Yeah, but just for little while.
LINDA: I thought I asked you not to leave.
WYNNE: It was only for an hour.
LINDA: You know what your sister's capable of.
WYNNE: I needed some fresh air. It smells like farts in here.
LINDA: Wynne, if you say you're gonna stay, then I'd appreciate you stickin to your word. You know your father's condition. The pills make him sleepy. If I knew you were gonna go out I woulda called Marna and had her come over. For all we know, your sister's upstairs right now robbin us blind.
Linda starts for the stairs.
WYNNE (Running to the stairs, cutting her off): SO I'LL CALL NEXT TIME! I'M FUCKIN SORRY, OKAY?!
LINDA: Was he smokin, Cliff? Wynne, were you smokin? Don't you lie to me.
WYNNE: I wasn't.
LINDA: Let me smell your breath.
WYNNE: Back off, Geraldo.
LINDA: Your father wasn't smokin, was he? Cliff, you better notta been smokin. It took me two months to get off the Merits. I spent half my tip money on patches. You know I start cravin cigarettes if I'm around em. (To Wynne) Look at this house. It's a dang pigsty.
Wynne, help me clean up.
Wynne starts to gather beer cans. Linda retrieves the food from the TV, crosses to kitchen. Halfway there she drops the lasagna. It spills on the floor.
LINDA: Oh, crymie! That lasagna cost me seven dollars! Cliff, stop diggin in your nose.
Linda goes into the kitchen, comes back with a rag, starts scooping the lasagna back into its tin.
LINDA: Who put the air conditioner on the kitchen table?
WYNNE: I did.
LINDA: What the heck for?
WYNNE: I was tryin to fix it.
LINDA: What's wrong with it?
WYNNE: I don't know, it stopped workin.
LINDA: Whattaya mean it stopped workin, it's a dang Maytag. Maybe it needs Freon. A lot of em need Freon.
WYNNE: It ain't the Freon.
LINDA: How do you know?
WYNNE: Cause I checked.
LINDA: That thing ain't even a year old. I got it at Kresge's just last summer.
WYNNE: The thing that holds the fan belt's all fucked up. I called customer service and they said it would cost more to fix it than it would to buy a new one.
LINDA: But it's under warranty.
WYNNE: No it ain't.
LINDA: It is too.
WYNNE: Ma, you didn't get the warranty.
LINDA: I did so.
WYNNE: No you didn't, Ma. I was with you when you bought the thing. It was an extra twenty bucks and you didn't wanna pay it.
LINDA: I shoulda went to Service Merchandise and got mine when Donna got hers. I ain't goin to Kresge's no more.
She cleans. Cliff farts rather explosively.
LINDA: Excuse you.
LINDA: You're the Ha. (To Wynne) Did that guy from the bank call again? Mr. Worrell?
LINDA: What'd he say?
WYNNE: He said what he always says. We're late on the mortgage, when are we gonna pay, this can't keep happenin. Same old shit.
LINDA: He's actually really nice man. I saw him at the restaurant with his family. They got a little girl and she's so cute.
WYNNE: He's a fuckin vulture, Ma!
LINDA (Cleaning): He's just doin his job. That ain't no easy job, Wynne, houndin folks for their mortgages.
WYNNE: How short are we?
LINDA: We're short.
WYNNE: How short?
LINDA: Four hundred dollars. If your father didn't buy those dang knives we'd be okay this month.
CLIFF: Cutco Cutlery. Best knives in the world.
LINDA: Nothin like a little QVC to ruin your summer. If you see your father with my bankcard again you take it away from him.
Wynne reaches into his pocket, removes a knot of money, hands it to Linda.
LINDA: Where'd you get that?
WYNNE: I've had it.
LINDA: You've had it from what?
WYNNE: I fixed that guy's hard drive.
LINDA: What guy?
WYNNE: That guy who I met at the restaurant. The guy from Rosemont.
WYNNE: Yeah, Alvin. The rich guy with the hair.
CLIFF: Alvin and the Chipmunks.
LINDA: That guy's a little weird, Wynne. He's always tryin to get one of the chefs to go for a ride in his Lexus with him. Sally thinks he's a homo.
WYNNE: He ain't a homo.
LINDA: How do you know?
WYNNE: Cause he's married.
LINDA: He's too good-lookin to not be a homo, Wynne. And besides, what does he do anyway?
WYNNE: He works at the stock exchange. He's got a seat on the floor. You're the one who introduced me to him.
CLIFF: He's a homo!
WYNNE: Pop, you don't even know the dude!
CLIFF: Everyone's a homo! I'm a fuckin homo!
LINDA: You didn't go in his Lexus with him, did you?
WYNNE: I told you I fixed his hard drive. It wouldn't spin down right, I fixed it.
LINDA: You're tryin to tell me he gave you four hundred bucks for fixin his computer?
WYNNE: Just take the money, Ma.
She takes it, folds it into her bra. She starts to cry.
She tries to stop.
WYNNE: Don't cry, Ma.
LINDA: I did a dang double today. Eighty-four lousy bucks on a double. Fat-ass Glenn's yellin at all the gals. "Stop socializin! Bus your goddamn tables!"
WYNNE: That guy's such a dick.
LINDA: Sweatin all over the food! Fat-ass Glenn! (Wiping her face) I'm sorry. I shouldn't get like this in fronta you.
WYNNE: It's okay, Ma. Here, take some more.
He produces some more money. She takes it.
LINDA: Thanks, honey.
Linda rises, kisses Wynne, crosses to the kitchen.
LINDA: Now ask your father what he wants to drink. I got bug juice and chocolate milk ... It's so dang hot in here.
WYNNE: Pop, you want bug juice or chocolate milk?
CLIFF: Old Style.
WYNNE: We're outta Old Style.
CLIFF: Eight ninety-five a case at the Day-n-Night.
WYNNE: I ain't goin to the fuckin Day-n-Night.
CLIFF: Eight ninety-five a case. Milwaukee's Best for seven in a quarter.
Linda brings the tin of scalloped potatoes and three paper plates out to the top of the TV. She exits and returns with a thin roll of paper towels, three forks, a serving utensil, sets stuff down, exits again, returns with three glasses and a gallon of bug juice. Linda pours bug juice into each glass.
Wynne scoops potatoes onto each plate, hands a plate and glass of bug juice to Cliff, grabs his own plate, sits on the sofa between his parents.
LINDA: I got chocolate milk in the fridge, too.
Cliff claps twice so that the lamp next to the sofa turns on. They all begin eating. After a silence:
LINDA: I think we should start goin to church again.
LINDA: Whattaya mean why. Does there gotta be a why?
LINDA: Well, for one thing, we're sposed to be Catholic and your Grandma Ruth's been gettin on my case about that. We have certain responsibilities.
And Marna's been collectin these portraits of the saints. She's been bringin em into work to show the gals. They're the most beautiful things. There's this one of St. Christopher and he's carryin the Baby Jesus across this stream on his shoulders. What a handsome guy that St. Christopher was. By the way, what happened to that picture of St. Anthony of Padua we had hangin over the kitchen table? The one where he's sittin in the gazebo holdin a sea bass?
CLIFF: They got chicken gumbo at Cracker Barrel. Best gumbo around.
LINDA: Gazebo, do-do brain. Not gumbo. (To Wynne) Marna was tellin me the most interestin things about St. Anthony of Padua. Did you know he lived in a cave in Italy and that he spoke in multiple tongues and that legend says he was such a good public speaker that even the fish would listen? That's prolly why he's holdin that sea bass. Cliff, get your dang hand outta your pants!
CLIFF: Fuckhead Joe punched me in the nuts.
LINDA: Oh, ha your nuts. I wonder what the heck happened to that picture. I wanted to show it to Marna.
WYNNE: Ma, what's with the sudden religious trip? We don't even say Grace, man.
LINDA: I know, but we used to.
WYNNE: We did?
LINDA: Sure we did, ain't it, Cliff?
LINDA: You were too little to remember, Wynne. Shaylee would say it. Bless us O lord, for these thy gifts--
CLIFF (Lucid): Which we are about to receive, from Thy bounty, through Christ our Lord, Amen.
Shaylee appears on the staircase, watches them.
LINDA: See? We said Grace.
WYNNE: Did he just pray? Pop, did you just fuckin pray?
LINDA: We could start goin to church again. Whattaya say, Cliff, I think it would be good for us. Lainy the new cashier says there's this really nice parish in Aurora. Our Lady of Good Councel. She says they're real welcome to new folks comin in.
WYNNE: Church is for cowards.
LINDA: No it ain't. Why do you say that?
WYNNE: Buncha guilty people actin like wimps about it.
WYNNE: God don't give a fuck. He's an asshole, man.
LINDA: No he ain't.
WYNNE: He's an asshole and people go to church cause they're fuckin scared of him.
LINDA: No they don't either.
WYNNE: Why do they go, then?
LINDA: Well, some go to pray. Some go just to think or take communion and get rid of their sins. I personally like singin the hymns and stuff.
WYNNE: What a waste.
LINDA: It ain't a waste! Wynne, when you were a little boy you used to pray!
WYNNE: That's only cause I wanted toys.
LINDA: That don't matter. You still prayed.
WYNNE: Well, you can start goin to church again, but I ain't.
LINDA: Why not?
WYNNE: Cause I'm leavin.
LINDA: You're leavin?
LINDA: You're leavin for where?
WYNNE: Ma, I got an announcement to make.
LINDA: You do?
Wynne rises off the sofa, stands.
WYNNE: Yeah, man. So pay attention
WYNNE: Pop, you listenin?
WYNNE: Stop eatin--I'm makin an announcement.
Cliff stops eating. They stare at Wynne.
WYNNE: I'm goin to New York City.
WYNNE: I am, you fuckin sloth!
LINDA: Wynne, you can't go there.
WYNNE: Yes I can, Ma.
CLIFF: New York City--ha.
WYNNE: You know that video game I been playin for the past six months--Tang Dynasty?
WYNNE: Well I solved the fucker and there's a Tang Dynasty Superchampionship in New York City and I'm a finalist. There's only three of us. Only three people in the whole goddamn country solved it.
LINDA: Well, congratulations, honey, but you can't go there.
WYNNE: I'm one of the three they invited, Ma, and I'm goin. My shit's packed and I'm leavin tonight.
LINDA: Whattaya mean you're leavin tonight? You can't leave tonight!
WYNNE: Watch me.
LINDA: And how are you plannin on gettin there exactly?
WYNNE: I'm gettin a ride to Crothersville, Indiana.
LINDA: You're gettin a ride from who?
WYNNE: Palumbo's droppin me off where 65 connects with 80/94 and I'm hitchhikin.
LINDA: You can't hitchhike, Wynne! Hitchhikin's so dangerous anymore. It's like suicide.
WYNNE: I can protect myself.
LINDA: Oh yeah, how?
CLIFF: He's got a Taser gun.
LINDA: You got a Taser gun!
CLIFF: Got it off QVC.
WYNNE: I did not get it off QVC. That's your trip, man.
CLIFF: Sat right here and watched him. Called em up and everything. Fuckhead Joe.
WYNNE: You're the fuckhead, Pop.
LINDA: Wynne, if you used my credit card to buy a dang Taser--
WYNNE: Ma, I got it from this guy Palumbo knows! He sells em down in Carbondale. Pop's talkin outta his ass again.
LINDA: Well, what the heck's in Indiana?
WYNNE: That's where I'm hookin up with one of the other finalists. I'm spendin the night and in the morning we're taking Greyhound the rest of the way east. The finals are gonna be broadcast on TV.
CLIFF: TV, huh?
WYNNE: Yeah, man. T-motherfuckin-V. You guys can sit here right on the sofa and watch me win.
LINDA: What do you win?
LINDA: How much money?
WYNNE: A shitload. Winner gets a million bucks.
LINDA: I don't believe you.
WYNNE: I got the contract upstairs in my room. I can go get it if you want.
CLIFF: I knew a guy who won a million bucks once. He bought condos down in Florida. Turned out to be swampland. Nothin but alligators and toilet water.
WYNNE: If I win I'm gonna use the money to help Pop get that operation and pay off the rest of the mortgage.
LINDA: Well, that's thoughtful.
WYNNE: Maybe start my own business fixin computers. Incorporate and everything. Ma, you could like do my books and shit.
LINDA: I like bookkeepin. Sometimes I help out at the restaurant when Glenn's busy with stuff.
WYNNE: I was gonna maybe give some to Shaylee, too. Help her get clean.
LINDA: Well that's a laugh.
WYNNE: Why is that a laugh?
LINDA: Cause, honey, one has to wanna get clean. Shaylee don't wanna get clean.
WYNNE: She might, though. If I came back with some money she might wanna get clean.
CLIFF: Shaylee was the cleanest kid I ever knew. Cleaner than Christmas, that kid.
WYNNE: Well, anyway, that's what I'm doin. And I'm leavin tonight, as soon as we're finished eatin.
Shaylee goes back upstairs. They eat to QVC.
CLIFF: Potatoes are fuckin good, Lin.
Cliff farts like a French horn. Wynne scoots toward Linda. She hugs him close.
LINDA: I don't think I can let you go, Wynne.
WYNNE: I'm goin.
CLIFF: Let him go, Linda. Let the kid go.
LINDA: Thinkin about you on that highway.
WYNNE: I'll only be gone a few days.
LINDA: But who's gonna help your father?
WYNNE: Call Marna.
CLIFF: Yeah, call Marna. I like Marna.
LINDA: I guess I could call Marna.
CLIFF: Marna takes me to Cracker Barrel.
LINDA: Well, what exactly happens at these finals?
Wynne rises off the sofa again, excited.
WYNNE: Three of us go to this unnamed site in the East Village and we have it out.
LINDA: What's the East Village?
WYNNE: It's in New York. It's like a neighborhood.
LINDA: Whattaya mean you have it out?!
WYNNE: I mean we compete, man. Except, insteada playin the video game it like comes to life. The three Tang Dynasty Broadswordsmen actually enter and we go hand-to-hand.
LINDA: Three Tang Dynasty Broadswordsmen enter where exactly?
WYNNE: An armored room in an undisclosed location in the East Village, that's all we know. Whoever kills the Broadswordsman with the golden sun on his chest wins the million and gets a blue star tattooed to his head.
LINDA: You're fighting guys with swords?!
WYNNE: Yeah, and they're like these totally ripped expert mercenaries, too.
LINDA: Well, that's not fair! Cliff, does that sound fair to you?
CLIFF: I say shoot the fuckers! Taser their macaroni asses!
WYNNE: Mercenaries, man!
LINDA: How do they expect you to defend yourself?
WYNNE: They give us each a wakizashi. So it's totally fair.
LINDA: What the heck's a wakizashi?
WYNNE: It's a sword. The blade's like a foot and a half long.
CLIFF: Kawasaki makes a good motorcycle, Lin.
LINDA: He's talkin about a sword, Cliff! A goddang sword!
WYNNE: And we get one optional weapon of choice. That's how come I got the Taser gun. So I'll have the wakizashi and the Taser.
CLIFF: Why don't you take a machine gun? Pack some fuckin heat, man!
WYNNE: No firearms allowed. Stun guns, Tasers, and pepper spray were our three options.
LINDA: Crymie, Wynne, you can't participate in somethin like that! It don't even sound legal!
WYNNE: Ma, it's totally legal. I signed a waiver sayin I was responsible for my own life and everything. It was part of the contract.
LINDA: Wynne, this is such a nightmare. Cliff, ain't this a nightmare?
CLIFF: I think it's pretty fuckin cool.
WYNNE: Ma, I've been trainin for this for the past six months. Check out my abs, man.
He pulls his shirt up, revealing his abs.
WYNNE: Punch me.
LINDA: Oh, crymie.
WYNNE: Come on, Ma, punch me.
Linda taps his stomach.
She taps his abs harder. Wynne quickly crosses to Cliff.
WYNNE: Come on, Pop. It's time to render me inoperable. Blaze a hole in my abs.
Cliff tries to punch Wynne, but Wynne evades it swiftly, mock attacking him, then patting him on the back.
WYNNE: See? Me and Palumbo have been goin to Zion every Sunday to play paintball and this Japanese dude from Norridge has been teachin me kendo.
LINDA: What Japanese dude from Norridge?
WYNNE: His name is Slice. He's a total badass. He trained me on the wakizashi. I'm a fierce and brutal weapon of death.
LINDA: You are not a fierce and brutal weapon of death, Wynne, you're a dang boy!
WYNNE: Ma, the other day I cut a pineapple in half while it was in the air. A pineapple and a Maxwell House coffee can.
LINDA: Who the heck's this kendo?
WYNNE: Kendo ain't nobody. Kendo's the Way of the Sword, man. Slice taught me all about it. How to conquer my ego and keep my mushin up. The way of the Samurai.
LINDA: The way of the who?
WYNNE: When a cow drinks water it becomes milk. When a snake drinks water it becomes poison.
LINDA: What the heck are you talkin about?
WYNNE: The way of the Samurai is a natural way of the Universe, Ma, and to learn it, one must live one's life from first to last in self-control. I know all about that stuff now.
LINDA: I want the phone number of this Slice fella. Someone needs to talk to his parents.
CLIFF: I played Keno in Nevada once. Nevada, Las Vegas.
LINDA (Lunging at Wynne, clinging to him): You can't go, Wynne! I ain't lettin you go!
WYNNE: Ma ... Ma ... Let go, Ma!
Wynne pries himself loose. Linda goes after him. Wynne pulls out the Taser gun.
WYNNE: Back off, Ma, or I'll Taser your ass!
LINDA (Freezing): Do somethin, Cliff!
CLIFF: Do what?
LINDA: I don't know! Talk to him! He's your son, too!
CLIFF: That ain't my son. My son's hair ain't blue, it's black. That's Fuckhead Joe ... Lin, you're blockin the TV.
WYNNE: Wish me luck, Ma.
LINDA: Good luck, Wynne.
WYNNE: Wish me luck, Pop.
WYNNE: Sunday night, Channel Thirty-seven. I'm comin home with a blue star tattooed on my head, okay?
WYNNE: Stop cryin.
She tries to stop crying.
WYNNE: Make sure to give that cash to that dude from the bank.
WYNNE: And don't worry about the air conditioner. I'll take care of it when I get back. In fact, throw the fuckin thing out. After I win, we're gettin central air.
WYNNE: Man, you gotta stop cryin. I ain't leavin like this ... Pop, you got potatoes all over your face.
Cliff wipes his face.
WYNNE: And Ma, make sure to get him a new thinga diapers.
LINDA: I'm goin to Kmart tomorrow.
WYNNE: One finds life through conquering the fear of death within one's heart. You gotta empty the mind of all forms of attachment, make a balls-out, go-for-broke charge at your opponent, and destroy him with a single, decisive slash. Togo Shigekata said that. Or somethin like that. I love you guys.
Wynne lowers the Taser gun, exits.
Linda crosses to the door, stares out, crosses back to the sofa, begins to clean. Lights fade.
LATER THAT NIGHT A NEW YORKER
The Interior of a Chrysler New Yorker. A Man, fiftyish, is driving, the light from the dash glowing on his face. He wears a white shirt and an expensive tie. He is clean-shaven and well-kempt. Wynne is sitting in the passenger seat, holding his gym bag. It is raining.
MAN: So where you goin again?
MAN: Crothersville, huh? What's in Crothersville?
WYNNE: Um. A friend.
MAN: Well, we could all use a friend, now and then, God knows that. (Pause) You from around here?
WYNNE: I'm from Chicago.
MAN: That's what I thought. I seen you over there on the shoulder and I says to myself I says I'll bet two paychecks and a box of Chiclets that this poor fella's from the Windy City. Chicago, Illinois--now there's a town. You got the Sears Tower. The Lake. Navy Pier and all that ... So why are you hitchhikin, you broke?
WYNNE: I got money.
MAN: A solvent hitchhiker. Interesting.
WYNNE: I just felt it was somethin I needed to do.
MAN: I can understand that. The need to do a thing.
WYNNE: I'm sorta on this journey.
MAN: Aren't we all, aren't we all.
WYNNE: Um. You got a radio in this thing?
MAN: The Chrysler New Yorker? Are you kidding me, stranger?
The Man turns on the radio to some Chuck Mangione. They listen for a moment. Wynne turns the dial, finds some Wu Tang Clan or something like that. After a moment, the Man turns the radio off altogether. A silence.
MAN: Wanna smoke a joint?
WYNNE: Um, you're like drivin, dude.
MAN: Oh, I'm used to it. Helps relax me. Stressful job.
MAN: Aren't you gonna ask me what my job is?
WYNNE: Um. What's your job?
MAN: Well, I sell cutlery, actually.
WYNNE: Like knives?
MAN: That's right. I drive around with a trunk fulla knives. But it's not just knives. It's all sortsa stuff. What's your name?
WYNNE: Um, Danny.
MAN: Hi, Danny. I'm Jack. Jack W. Gam, Junior.
Jack extends his hand. Wynne regards it, shakes.
JACK: Nice to meet you, Danny.
WYNNE: Watch out!
WYNNE: Jesus, man! Holy shit that was close! You want me to drive?!
JACK: Oh, that won't be necessary.
WYNNE: Dude, that was a fucking semi!
JACK: As I was saying: It's not just knives, Danny. It's utility shears, serving implements, barbecuing utensils. Cutco Cutlery encompasses a vast and versatile strata.
WYNNE: You sell Cutco?
From some unknown region, Jack produces a steak knife, hands it to Wynne.
JACK: Best cutlery in the world.
WYNNE: My dad bought some of those knives offa QVC.
Wynne tries to hand the knife back.
JACK: Oh, you can keep it. It's a sample.
Wynne drops the knife in his bag.
Jack lights up, takes a hit from his joint, offers it to Wynne, who declines.
JACK: You sure you don't want a hit of this? It's Hawaiian.
WYNNE: I'm on a journey, dude. Tryin' to stay pure.
JACK: That's right, you're journeying.
Jack takes another hit.
JACK: So tell me about this journey.
WYNNE: You ever hear about Samurai warriors?
JACK: Weren't they those guys who would disembowel themselves?
WYNNE: It's called seppuku.
JACK: Seppuku, huh?
WYNNE: Yeah, man. It means to prove the purity of one's heart and soul. The truest Samurai is more afraid of shame than death. Seppuku is this totally noble act. It like protects your honor.
JACK: And how does that work exactly?
WYNNE: Let's say you ambushed my platoon and I was about to become your prisoner of war.
WYNNE: Before you could get your shit-smeared paws on me I'd pull out my sword and perform seppuku.
JACK: I guess that would be honorable.
WYNNE: It would be the only option, man. Honor over everything else at all costs.
JACK: But what I always wondered was why do they have to slash away at their own stomachs with a sword? I mean, wouldn't it be easier to jump off a bridge or put a bullet in your head?
WYNNE: The ancient Japanese believe that your soul exists in your abs.
WYNNE: Yeah, man. It's your spiritual center. So cutting your stomach like frees your soul.
JACK: But I can't imagine the suffering that would result from that. I mean, the blood and the gore. All your guts spilling into your lap.
WYNNE: You have to fight the fear, man.
JACK: And wouldn't it be hard?
WYNNE: Dude, it takes a huge will and the physical strength of an NFL lineman. But that's part of what makes it so honorable. The most popular way to do seppuku is called ZyumonziBara--crosscut style. According to my training master, this dude called a Kaisyakunin has to be present to cut off your head at the end of the ceremony.
JACK: What a job.
WYNNE: I know, right? And he better have a kick-ass sword or else things can get pretty gory.
JACK: So how does one actually do this seppuku thing?
WYNNE: You wanna know like step by step?
JACK: Just the general stuff.
WYNNE: Well, when you're all set up you sit erect with your legs folded under you on this mat thing called a tatami. In front of you is your wakizashi, which is a foot-and-a-half-long sword that makes your Cutco bull-shit look small and sad. So when the moment of purity happens, you loosen your kimono and expose your abdomen--
JACK: My second wife had a kimono. She'd wear it around the house with nothing underneath. Go on.
WYNNE: So when the moment of purity happens you expose your abdomen and seize your wakizashi and stab yourself at the lower left corner of your stomach and slowly cut across. Then you thrust all treacherous and vertical to the upper abs, and punctuate with a swift slice down toward your balls. As soon as this is done the Kaisyakunin dude chops your head off and your soul like totally leaps through your neck and gets to chill for the rest of time.
WYNNE: Huh, what.
JACK: I thought you said the Japs believe that your soul lives in your stomach.
WYNNE: They do, dude. And it does. That's where you free it. It's freed there. But when it leaps out of you it goes through the gorge in your neck.
JACK: Are you aware that your hair is blue?
WYNNE: Um, yeah.
JACK: How did that happen?
WYNNE: I like dyed it. I'm actually gonna ask my girlfriend to shave my head tomorrow.
JACK: Got a girly, huh?
WYNNE: Yeah, dude.
JACK: Is she this quote-unquote friend down in Crothersville?
WYNNE: Um. Yes, actually. She is.
JACK: What's her name?
JACK: Pretty name.
WYNNE: I know, right?
JACK: You like her a lot, huh?
WYNNE: Yeah, man, she's my girlfriend. I love her.
JACK: She good-lookin?
WYNNE: She's beautiful.
JACK: Nice figure?
WYNNE: Yeah. She's stacked, why?
JACK: Sharice, huh? I like that name a lot. Jack smokes, exhales.
JACK: Can I ask you something, Danny?
JACK: Does Sharice like to give you blow jobs?
JACK: Blow jobs. Fellatio. You know what a blow job is, don't you?
WYNNE: Of course I do.
WYNNE: What the fuck kinda question is that?
JACK: A pretty simple one, I'd say. I sure like em.
WYNNE: Are you like hinting at somethin, Jack?
JACK: I don't know, Danny, am I?
WYNNE: Dude, you're a total freak, aren't you? Jack slows down, pulls the car over.
WYNNE: Why are you pullin the car over?
JACK: It's awfully wet out there. Only the sound of rain.
WYNNE: Dude, I'll suck your dick for a hundred bucks, but I want the money up front and if you blow your load in my mouth I'll Cutco your fuckin balls off. Jack pulls back onto the road. He reaches into his pocket and peels off a hundred-dollar bill, bands it to Wynne.
JACK: You ever done something like this before?
WYNNE: ... Maybe.
JACK: I'm driving along and I see this kid and I says to myself I says now there's a young fella who's done something like this before.
WYNNE: So I'm sposed to do this while you're drivin eighty miles an hour?
JACK: I'll take her down to sixty-five. Just think of it as being part of the journey. And no teeth now or I'm taking fifty back.
Jack undoes his pants and turns the radio back on: Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass this time.
JACK: So ... (Flipping tie over shoulder) whenever you're ready.
Wynne stares down at his lap. Lights fade.
Cliff is on the sofa watching QVC.
LINDA (From off): Cliff, this saint stuff is just so interesting. Today Marna was telling the gals about St. Veronica. The story about this Veronica goes that when Christ was on his way to Golgotha he got tired and fell in the road and this woman--this Veronica gal--wiped his face with a towel. Apparently some sorta image of Jesus remained on the towel. Can you imagine that, Cliff? Gettin your towel back with a dang face on it? Now if that ain't miraculous I don't know what is.
I guess this Veronica became the patron saint of laundry workers and photographers, I swear to God, they got a patron saint for everything.
Cliff stands suddenly, teeters a bit, turns a full circle, as if he doesn't know where he is.
LINDA (From off): I asked Marna if there's one for back pain. She was gonna look it up in her index thingy and tell me tomorrow.
Cliff takes his robe off, starts to fashion and hold the top part of it as if he is trying to hush a crying infant.
LINDA (From off): She brought in a portrait of St. Dymphna, too. Oh, that Dymphna gal is so beautiful, Cliff. She looks just like Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet. She's wearin this dress with puffy sleeves and she's holdin this pink rose. They put a glow around her head and everything.
Cliff lies down on the sofa, stomach first, and falls asleep, using his housecoat as a blanket.
LINDA (From off): Marna didn't get into Dymphna's story cause she had to go pick up her daughter from choir practice, but she did say that this Dymphna gal is the patron saint of the insane and that you're sposed to pray to her if you think you or someone you love is goin crazy.
Dang, I wish I knew where that picture of St. Anthony of Padua was. I really wanted to show it to Marna. She don't believe me that he's holdin a sea bass.
Shaylee appears at the head of the stairs. She is wearing a white nightgown. She is soaking wet and she has slit her wrists. There is also a gash in her leg and her dress is bloody. She is holding on to the paring knife. As she descends the stairs she starts to recite dinner Grace.
SHAYLEE: In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen. Bless us O Lord for these Thy gifts which we are about to receive from Thy bounty through Christ our Lord, amen. Bless us O Lord for these Thy gifts which we are about to receive from Thy bounty through Christ our Lord, Amen ... Shaylee crosses to the sofa, inserts the paring knife back into its slot in the block, and climbs on top of Cliff, blanketing his sleeping body with hers.
LINDA: Oh, there it is! How bout that! It musta fallen off the dang wall when we put the leaf back in the table--Linda enters with the picture, sees Shaylee sprawled on top of Cliff, blood seeping from her wounds, then drops the picture. Black out.
THE ST. MARK'S HOTEL
A hotel room in the East Village. A queen-sized bed. A TV. The walls are filthy. A window overlooks a slightly seedy stretch of Third Avenue. Sharice is quietly seated on the bed. She is white, pretty. She wears simple clothes and no makeup. There are two gym bags in the corner. She wears a small spiral notebook around her neck. There is a pen attached by a string. Wynne paces by the window, staring out at the street, coughing. Sharice watches him.
WYNNE: Fuckin rain, huh? It's like it followed us here. How's your neck?
She rubs her neck, nods, smiles.
WYNNE: Yeah, sleepin on a bus ain't gonna do much for your neck. Once when I was a kid I took Greyhound to Milwaukee with my sister. There weren't any double seats open so I had to sit next to this skinny black dude from New Orleans. He had this huge fro and I accidentally fell asleep on his shoulder and when we got to Milwaukee I woke up with a mouthful of jerry curl juice. (Looks out the window, coughs) I've never seen so many freaks. You heard what that chick in the hall said to me?
WYNNE: What a weirdo, right?... There's a guy out there pushing a duck around in a shopping cart. (He coughs)
Sharice takes out a cigarette, lights it.
WYNNE: You shouldn't smoke, Sharice. That shit'll kill you. My ma smoked for twenty years and her voice is fucked. This doctor did an X-ray of her lungs and one of em was black. (He coughs) Like some bombed-out city in Europe. She smokes.
WYNNE: What time did that guy from Tang Dynasty say he was sposed to call?
Sharice opens her notebook, writes something, turns the page toward him. It reads: SOON.
WYNNE: Great. How soon is soon?
He starts to pace, coughs. Sharice turns the page, writes, taps on the pad to get his attention. He crosses to her, takes the pad.
WYNNE (Reading from the pad): Stop pacing. You're making me nervous ... Sorry.
Snake Lady enters from the bathroom. She is mid-forties, white. She wears a snakeskin vest and a fake boa constrictor around her neck. She wears red boots. She has a vast array of tattoos and chews a lot of gum.
SNAKE LADY: Hey.
SNAKE LADY: Who are yous two?
WYNNE: Um. Wynne and Sharice. Who are you?
SNAKE LADY: I'm Snake Lady. And this is Snake. Snake says hey.
WYNNE: Hey Snake.
SNAKE LADY: We share a bathroom.
WYNNE: We do?
SNAKE LADY: Yeah. I just thought I'd come through and welcome yas to the neighborhood.
WYNNE: Oh. Thanks.
SNAKE LADY: And Snake welcomes yas, too.
First time in the Big Apple?
WYNNE: Um. Yeah.
SNAKE LADY: Yeah, you got that fresh look.
New York's pretty weird, huh?
WYNNE: It's all right.
SNAKE LADY: Big buildings. Taxicabs. Psychopaths on every corner.
Wynne coughs convulsively.
SNAKE LADY: That cough sounds serious.
WYNNE: It's just a cold.
SNAKE LADY: Raw garlic. I got a festoon of it in my room. You should come by. Eat a coupla cloves. Get a little freaky. You know what freaky is?
WYNNE: Um. Yeah.
SNAKE LADY: Yeah, I bet you do. You ever been freaked?
WYNNE: I've been freaked.
SNAKE LADY: What about your girlfriend, does she like to get freaked?
Sharice nods to Snake Lady.
SNAKE LADY: If yous two wanna get freaky you've come to the right place. (She starts dancing to some weird inner music) A lot of very interesting vibrations are exploding offa Snake Lady's bod right now. Can you feel it, Glenn?
SNAKE LADY (Still dancing): Can you feel my vibes, Wynne?
WYNNE: Um, sure.
SNAKE LADY: Can I bum a cigarette, Eunice?
SNAKE LADY: Can I bum a cigarette, Sharice? Sharice gives her a cigarette, lights her.
SNAKE LADY: Thanks, love ... You know we got the best bathroom on the floor?
SNAKE LADY: But yous two got the Magnavox. Snake Lady's Trinitron jumps around so much it's like watching TV on a mechanical bull. I hope you appreciate the perks.
Snake Lady crosses to the window, peers out.
SNAKE LADY: I wish the freakin trailers would get here.
WYNNE: What trailers?
SNAKE LADY: The movie trailers. They're supposed to be settin em up on Cooper Square. Yous two got the classy view. The window in Snake Lady's room faces the courtyard. There's a pit bull chained to a tree. He's been eatin the tree for like three years.
WYNNE: Um, Mrs. Snake Chick or whatever your name is, I don't mean to be rude or anything, but what do you like, um, want?
SNAKE LADY: What do I want? I don't want nothin, Glenn.
SNAKE LADY: I don't want nothin, Wynne. Like I said, I just came through to welcome yas to the neighborhood. Snake Lady and Snake have lived in the St. Mark's Hotel for over twenty years. In room 4-G for gorgeous babe to be exact. A very important movie company is doing a documentary film about Snake Lady and Snake. They promised us a state-of-the-art honey wagon. (She strokes snake a bit) Could I trouble you kids for some oil? Snake's gettin dry, Snake Lady needs to slick him down. Wesson oil. Coppertone. Crisco.
WYNNE: I'm sorry, but we don't got any oil, do we, Sharice?
Sharice shakes her head.
SNAKE LADY: Why's she so quiet?
WYNNE: She only speaks when she feels like it.
SNAKE LADY: Why you so quiet, Sherry?
SNAKE LADY: Why you so quiet, Sharice, you afraida Snake?
WYNNE: Dude, I wouldn't fuck with her. She knows kung fu and she'll totally blaze a hole in your chest.
SNAKE LADY: Kung fu, huh?
SNAKE LADY: Fancy, fancy. What part of the Midwest are yous two from, anyway? And don't tell Snake Lady you ain't from the Midwest cause you got that smell.
WYNNE: What smell?
SNAKE LADY: It's something between 7UP and caramel corn.
Wynne smells himself.
SNAKE LADY: Smell it? 7UP and caramel corn. Farm boys and Catholic girls. Chevrolets in all the parking lots. Ain't you gonna ask me about my tattoos?
WYNNE: I wasn't like planning on it.
SNAKE LADY: What about you, Sherry?
SNAKE LADY: What about you, Sharice, you curious about Snake Lady's tats?
SNAKE LADY: This one was done in '74 after Jack and the Silver Elephants played CBGBs. I got the spaceboy dragon twins at Tattoo and Cappuccino on St. Mark's between First and A. That was a very enlightening seven and a half hours. And Snake Lady just got her buns done on Tuesday but this gorgeous broad who stands before you ain't showin you her buns unless you got a king's ransom you're willin to part with.
WYNNE: What's that one?
SNAKE LADY: This one?
WYNNE: No, the one next to it. The one just above your bush.
SNAKE LADY: Oh, that's Saigo Takamori's sword. He was some Japanese hero.
WYNNE: Did you say Saigo Takamori?!
SNAKE LADY: Yeah, Saigo Takamori. You know who he is?
WYNNE: Dude, Saigo Takamori was the Last Samurai! He was like the greatest hero of modern Japan! He was a total badass!
SNAKE LADY: Good for him. Sounds like a interestin fella. If he ever comes to town I'd like to get together with him.
WYNNE (Bemused): It's a buke-zukuri koshirae. One of the finest weapons ever made. (Tracing the tattoo with his finger) The hand manipulates the sword, the mind manipulates the hands. Cultivate the mind and do not be deceived by tricks, feints and schemes. They are properties of the magician, not of the Samurai.
SNAKE LADY: Did Saigo Takamori say that?
WYNNE: No. Saito Yakuro said that. Saigo Takamori hardly ever spoke.
SNAKE LADY: Huh. All I know is it was the summer of '72 and Snake Lady was on this mescaline that was made in some basement on Great Jones Street and Snake Lady kept thinking she was a purple snow leopard who could speak Spanish--Cuando estoy baracha mi espanol is mas major--and she woke up two days later in a black van with Canadian plates just beyond the city limits of West St. Louis, Montana, and she had the tattoo.
One of Snake Lady's old lovers who she refuses to go into detail about due to his untimely death running several hands of hashish out of the foothills of Little Honda, California, told her about Saigo Takamori and how it was his sword. This unnamed lover was a Zen Buddhist and he lived in a cherry-red '68 Vette with Florida plates.
WYNNE: Conquering evil, not the opponent, is the essence of swordsmanship. Yagyu Munenori.
Snake Lady cocks her head oddly, listens for a moment.
SNAKE LADY: Oh, no.
SNAKE LADY: Snake just told Snake Lady that someone in this room's gonna die.
SNAKE LADY: Yes, I'd be careful if I was you. Snake rarely makes a mistake.
Sharice and Wynne stare at each other. The phone rings.
Sharice and Wynne stare at the phone. Sharice nods at him to answer it, hands him the note-book and pen. He takes instructions down.
WYNNE (Into phone): Hello?... (He coughs) Yeah, that's me ... Uh-huh ... Uh-huh ... She's with me ... He's not?... Oh. Why not?... Uh-huh ... Uh-huh ... Okay ...
While Wynne takes his instructions down, Snake Lady crosses to Sharice, stands over her. Sharice reaches out and pets the snake.
WYNNE (To phone): Hang on a second. (To Sharice) They said the third finalist backed out and they wanna know if we're still gonna go through with it. It would be three against two ... So you still wanna go through with it?
WYNNE: You sure?
She crosses to Wynne, kisses him on the mouth.
WYNNE (To the phone): Yeah, we're still in ... Okay. Later.
Wynne hangs up, coughs.
SNAKE LADY: You two involved in some kinda rumble?
WYNNE: Yeah, you could say that.
SNAKE LADY: Go for the knees. Snake Lady made it with a Abenacki Indian once. He said the weakest two spots on a man's body besides his balls are his knees. Kick em right in the kneecaps and take your bow. (Turning, looking out the window) There they are. Finally. Snake Lady was startin to think this whole thing was a sham. Well, I'm gonna go check out my honey wagon. You get bored, Glenn, come knock on my door. It's the one with the big blue star on the front. Thanks for the cigarette, Sherry.
Snake Lady exits. Silence. Wynne coughs convulsively.
WYNNE: So it's just gonna be me and you against three of those Tang Dynasty Broadswordsmen.
WYNNE: The dude said we don't get our wakizashis till we show up. Some apartment on Tenth Street between First and A. Next to a Russian and Turkish bathhouse. (He coughs) This cold is fucking killing me, man. It's drainin all my mushin ... Sharice, I'm scared for you, man.
She pushes him.
WYNNE: Sharice, on Sunday three Tang Dynasty Broadswordsmen are gonna try and kill us! I mean, I'm like scared for myself, and I'm a highly trained weapon of death. Are you sure you can handle this?
With a quick burst, Sharice effectively punches him in the stomach, taking him out. He lands on his back. She straddles him, on the floor.
WYNNE: Okay, okay, okay.
Sharice thaws out of her strike pose, dips down, kisses him. She starts to hum.
WYNNE: Dude, are you humming?
She nods, hums.
WYNNE: You can hum?
She nods, hums more.
WYNNE: But you can't talk?
She shakes her head, still humming.
WYNNE: You didn't hum once on the bus.
She finds her pad, writes.
WYNNE (Reading aloud from the pad): I hum when I'm horny.
He turns away, nervous.
Sharice writes something on her pad. Wynne reads it.
WYNNE: You really want me to do that?
WYNNE: You ever like done that before?
She shakes her head.
WYNNE: Yeah, me neither.
WYNNE: So we're like virgins.
WYNNE: Wow. Samurai virgins.
He laughs, coughs. Sharice takes her shirt off.
WYNNE: Whoa ... You're like wearin a bra, man.
They sit. They kiss, descend on the bed. Just as Wynne's back hits the mattress, he grabs the remote, turns on the TV to a rather involved porno.
WYNNE: You ever watch this shit?
Sharice shakes her head. They move to the foot of the bed, watch for a moment.
WYNNE: There's this one where this chick drives around in a Lamborghini and picks up hitchhikers and sucks their dicks for gas money. The weird thing is, you can't tell if she's suckin dick cause she likes it or if she really needs gas money. But on a symbolic level that's what sorta makes the movie work. Metaphors, you know?... I should prolly change this, huh?
Sharice nods. Wynne changes the channel to QVC. The same two men from act one, scene one are narrating emphatic sales pitches about a Michael Jordan rookie card.
WYNNE: My pop watches this shit. He's like totally addicted. Sometimes he actually buys stuff. Once he bought a Christmas tree. It was the middle of May. I came home from school and it was set up in the living room. The fuckin thing was silver. My ma was pissed for like six months.
He's all fucked up on pain pills, too. He's basically turnin into the kinda person you can talk about when they're right there in the room with you. About thirty percent actually registers.
Sharice removes his shirt.
WYNNE: I worry that you might think that I have a small dick or somethin.
She looks down his pants, gives him a thumbs-up, smiles.
WYNNE: But do you think we like love each other, Sharice?
WYNNE: Do you love me?
She nods, then gestures to him as if to say, "Do you love me?"
WYNNE: Yeah, man, I love you. I love you so much, Sharice. I couldn't stop thinkin about that the whole bus ride.
She kisses him passionately. They roll on the bed. Wynne breaks from the kiss.
WYNNE: But what happens if you start like bleeding? Maybe I should get some towels.
She push-pulls him on top of her. They kiss more, roll again. Wynne breaks away, crosses to the phone.
WYNNE (While crossing): I gotta call my ma.
Wynne grabs the phone, dials, waits.
WYNNE (Into phone): Hey, Ma, it's me ... Hey ... Yeah, I made it ... (He coughs) ... Yeah, I'm okay, it's just a cold ... New York's a trip ... How's Pop?... Uh-huh ... Uh-huh ... Just punch him in the balls, Ma, you were right, it totally works.
Shaylee came home?... She what?... With Pop's Cutco?... Holy shit, is she okay?... Uh-huh ... Uh-huh ... Oh, shit ...
Wrapped in the sheet, Sharice crosses to Wynne, joins him on the floor next to the phone.
WYNNE (Into phone): Don't cry, Ma ... Ma, please stop cryin ... Ma ... Ma, listen to me. Tomorrow night is the Tang Dynasty Super-championship and it's gonna be televised on Channel Thirty-seven. I want you and Pop to make sure and watch it, okay?... Nine o'clock ... Promise me you'll watch it, Ma ... You swear?
... Okay, you two better watch it or I'll fuckin kill you. I'm puttin my ass on the line in a serious way here. And when I come home Pop can get that operation and I'll pay Shaylee's hospital bills and she can get clean and I'll start that computer business and we'll get central air and eat at the Sizzler every night, okay?
... Okay, Ma?...
Are you gonna see Shaylee?... Well, if you see her, tell her she's so fuckin stupid but I love her ... Okay, Ma ... I gotta go, I love you, too.
He hangs up, sits there a moment.
WYNNE: Holy shit ... My sister's in the hospital. She tried to kill herself.
She used to be a runner. She was like the best runner in Illinois. As a sophomore she won state in the mile and now she's a fuckin suicidal junkie prostitute. How the fuck does that even happen?
I mean, we used to do all this stuff together. When we were like kids. Once we made a snowman with tits and a Hercules boner and threw it off the roof. And another time we broke into our neighbor's house and pissed on their bed. For like no reason. We used to do stuff.
Sharice comforts him.
WYNNE: Sharice, I want you to shave my head, okay?
WYNNE: If I win I'm splittin the money with you.
She gestures as if to say, "Me, too."
WYNNE: But if I fuck up for some reason--like if I somehow lose my honor or I just plain suck--I want you to do somethin for me, okay?
WYNNE: I want you to cut my head off before those Tang Dynasty fuckers can get to me. I'm gonna perform seppuku and I want you to be my Kaisyakunin.
WYNNE: You promise?
She nods, then gestures as if to say, "And you'll do the same for me?" Wynne nods, sits.
WYNNE: Fuckin Shaylee ...
Sharice lays next to him, covers them with the sheet. She comforts him.
WYNNE: Hey, Sharice, can we like pretend we're Samurai warriors? Like I'm some young Samurai in trainin and you're Saigo Takamori and you're wearin this totally ancient-looking kimono with like dragons and tigers all over it?
She nods, pushes him down on his back, starts to go down on him under the covers.
WYNNE: And you're teachin me some totally unknowable shit about Zen. Like how when the cow drinks wow water it becomes milk. And wow when wow a snake drinks wow water it wow becomes poison wow wow wow--
He looks under the covers.
WYNNE: My boner's huge, man! I should like take a picture!
She mounts him. They start to make love awkwardly, passionately. Sharice starts to hum as lights fade.
A large white room with a thin, horizontal viewing window in the upstage wall. Shaylee lying asleep in a hospital bed. Her wrists are heavily bandaged and her arms are immobilized with straps. Her room is very clean and white. Cliff is sitting in a chair under the TV, watching QVC with the sound turned down very low. He is wearing an old suit and his hair is combed severely. His hands are heavily bandaged. One of them may even be in a cast. Shaylee watches him for a long moment.
SHAYLEE: Hey, Daddy.
SHAYLEE: I said hey.
SHAYLEE: Whatcha watchin?
CLIFF: They want five thou for a Michael Jordan rookie card. Who do they think we are, the German automotive industry?
He watches the TV.
SHAYLEE: You can look at me, you know.
SHAYLEE: Hey, tough guy.
SHAYLEE: Too chicken to look, huh?
CLIFF: No I ain't.
SHAYLEE: Yeah you are.
CLIFF: Screw you.
SHAYLEE: Screw you, fuckface. You won't even look at me. You're a chicken.
CLIFF: I ain't no chicken!
CLIFF: I ain't no bawk-bawk!
SHAYLEE: Bawk-bawk, chickenshit.
CLIFF: You're the bawk-bawk!
SHAYLEE: You're the bawk-bawk!
CLIFF: I ain't afraida nothin! Except for water moccasins. Find one in your canoe and you better know where you're sposed to be.
Only the TV.
SHAYLEE: I'm sorry, Daddy.
SHAYLEE: Did you hear me, Daddy? I said I was sorry.
CLIFF: I heardya.
SHAYLEE: Do you hate me?
SHAYLEE: Yeah you do. You hate me.
CLIFF: No I don't either.
SHAYLEE: You won't look at me.
SHAYLEE: Am I that ugly?
SHAYLEE: Do I got snots in my nose or somethin?
SHAYLEE: Crap in my teeth?
SHAYLEE: Wanna fight?
SHAYLEE: Cause I'll kick your ass, motherfucker.
SHAYLEE: I'll kick you in the nuts and steal your lunch money.
CLIFF: Kick you in your nuts.
SHAYLEE: What happened to your hands anyway?
SHAYLEE: Daddy, how'd you hurt your hands?
He stares at his hands, turns to her.
CLIFF (Rising, crossing to upstage window): Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and I don't know where I am. It's like I turn into ... Like I'm ...
SHAYLEE: Like you're what?
CLIFF: Like I'm nothin.
SHAYLEE: You're somethin, Daddy.
CLIFF: I'm a piece of meat.
SHAYLEE: No you ain't.
CLIFF: I'm meat that moves. I'm like ham.
SHAYLEE: You're Clifford Lemoyne Ledbetter of thirteen twenty-seven Rockland Drive. World-famous window glazier.
Cliff takes his pills out, considers them, puts them back in his pocket. He crosses back to his chair under the TV.
SHAYLEE: Where's Ma?
CLIFF: She's down the hall.
SHAYLEE: What's she doin?
CLIFF: Talkin to the doctor.
SHAYLEE: Daddy, when I was asleep I had this dream.
SHAYLEE: You listenin, Cliff?
He mutes the TV, turns to her.
CLIFF: I'm listenin.
SHAYLEE: I had this dream that I was little again. We were at the circus and my pants kept fallin down and I couldn't get em fixed right cause I had this big thinga cotton candy. And every time I'd go to eat it, it would turn into a bouquet of flowers.
When they brought the elephants out, my pants disappeared and I started eatin the flowers and it made you laugh.
CLIFF: You ate the flowers?
SHAYLEE: Yeah, and we weren't sad or nothin.
CLIFF: You ate em?
SHAYLEE: Yeah, I ate em.
SHAYLEE: Did you hear me, Cliff? I said we weren't sad.
CLIFF: I heardya.
SHAYLEE: Daddy, do you remember that time when me and Wynne made that snowman with the boobs and the Hercules boner and we threw it off the roof and you made us sit at the kitchen table for three hours cause you were so mad about us almost fallin off the roof?
SHAYLEE: And you sent me to my room until I apologized but I wouldn't apologize and later you came in to see if I was okay and I was hiding under my bed and cryin and I wouldn't come out until you sang that song about the three volcanoes. Do you remember that, Daddy?
SHAYLEE: I was just checkin.
Cliff watches QVC for a moment.
SHAYLEE: Why you so dressed up, you goin to the prom or somethin?
SHAYLEE: You're the Ha.
CLIFF: It's my old fishin suit. Used to wear to Lake Manteno. Manteno, Illinois. Catch more fish when you wear a suit. Bass mostly. Crazy about suits, them bass.
I took your mother fishin once. She wore her raincoat in the boat. I tried to get her to wear one of my JC Penny's Executive Man Ensembles with the matching power vest but she kept sayin she thought it made her look like Mayor Daly of Chicago, Illinois.
SHAYLEE: Did she?
CLIFF: Heck no. I thought she looked more like that guy who sells TVs at the Kmart. Dick Fryhoffen.
SHAYLEE: When I get outta here will you take me fishin? I'll wear one of your suits.
CLIFF: Bass fishin ain't like readin the phone book. It takes a steady hand.
SHAYLEE: What, you think I'm a idiot? I know I'm a worthless drug addict slut but I ain't no idiot.
Linda enters carrying flowers. Cliff crosses back to the TV, sits. Linda's hair is done and she is wearing a simple dress. There is a rosary wrapped around one of her hands. She sets the flowers down on the bedside stand, gently brushes Shaylee's hair out of her eyes.
LINDA: How you doin, baby girl?
LINDA: You was sleepin when we came in. Dr. Kennedy said you slept for fourteen hours yesterday. You feelin better?
SHAYLEE: A little. Why are you two so dressed up?
LINDA: Cause we went to church.
SHAYLEE: You guys went to church?
LINDA: We sure did, didn't we, Cliff? Our Lady of Good Councel in Aurora. Real nice people at that parish.
CLIFF: Priest looked like the Queen of Diamonds.
LINDA: Oh he did not either.
CLIFF: Did too. Harry the Queen of Diamonds. Homo sapien if I ever seen one.
LINDA: Father Harry ain't no homo, Cliff! He's a very nice man and he said some really important things about love and forgiveness and communication.
CLIFF: He kept singin the songs like he had to urinate. Kept makin this face. I thought he was gonna whip it out and piss right there on the antler.
LINDA: That's ridiculous, Cliff. And it ain't antler it's altar.
CLIFF: Homo sapien if I ever seen one.
LINDA: Shaylee, he told a parable about this little boy who kept cuttin down the olive trees and how after he got banished God appeared to him on a sacred rock and told him to repent and ask the people from his village for forgiveness and he did and then for the rest of his life he worked in the olive groves and pruned the trees and the olives flourished and he wound up helpin to make his village wealthy and they became famous for their olives.
CLIFF: Kid shoulda took the money and high-tailed it to Mexico.
LINDA: Oh you!
CLIFF: Right down there at the Yucatan Peninsula. Fish tacos and square dancin all down the coast.
LINDA: I thought there was some real interestin messages in that story, Cliff. I thought his sermon was real thought-provokin.
CLIFF: Never did like olives, anyway. Things taste like cat food.
SHAYLEE: Is that a rosary, Ma?
LINDA: It sure is.
SHAYLEE: Wow. Where'dja get it?
CLIFF: She bought it out of a gumball machine.
LINDA: Oh I did not either, Cliff. I got it from that Christian bookstore in Minooka.
CLIFF: She got it out of a gumball machine. Twenty-five cents. It was right there next to the SweeTarts and the jawbreakers. Kmart Blue Light Special.
LINDA: I got it last time we went down to visit your Aunt Ricky, do-do brain. I'll show you a dang Blue Light Special.
LINDA: You're the Ha! (To Shaylee) Don't your father look nice, Shaylee? When was the last time you seen him like this?
SHAYLEE: He looks like a porn star.
LINDA: No he don't either. I think he looks like Burt Lancaster.
Cliff suddenly stands, disoriented.
LINDA: What wrong, Cliff?... You okay?... You need another diaper?
Cliff nods. Linda reaches into her purse, hands him a diaper. He takes it, crosses to the bathroom as quickly as possible.
Linda mutes the TV, sets the remote on Cliff's chair.
LINDA: I ran into your track coach, Shaylee.
SHAYLEE: Who, Mr. Mecklo?
LINDA: He came into the restaurant with his family. He's got this little girl Winona. She's so cute. And his wife's real pretty. She's like showroom pretty. What a nice man, that Mr. Mecklo.
SHAYLEE: Yeah, real nice.
LINDA: What's wrong with him?
SHAYLEE: Well for one thing he fingerfucked Jane Baranowski behind the high-jumping mats.
LINDA: Oh he did not either.
SHAYLEE: He did so, Ma! He popped her cherry! He's disgusting! And he carries a picture of Muhammad Ali around in his pocket.
LINDA: Well I don't know nothin about that. All I know is he came into the restaurant the other day and he asked about you and he seemed real concerned.
CLIFF (From the bathroom): Mahatma Gandhi was the greatest fighter that ever lived! Float like a bumblebee, sting like a sticka butter! Mahatma Gandhi!
LINDA: He said he thought he could help get you reinstated in school and maybe even back on the track team. I talked to Dr. Kennedy about it and he says that if you do all the group work and show a real interest in betterin your life and you keep recoverin that you might be ready to come home as early as the middle of September. And I talked to Principal Jeffcoat and she said she could work somethin out so that you could start doin schoolwork now so you wouldn't be too far behind when you went back. Not a bad deal, huh? And you could make up more classes in the summer and maybe even graduate in August. Principal Jeffcoat said if things went well that you could prolly even walk across the stage with the rest of your class in June ...
But you gotta wanna do this, Shaylee.
SHAYLEE: I do, Ma.
LINDA: I don't wanna lotta talk, now. You gotta start over for real this time. Get back on the good side of the track, you know? Dr. Kennedy said they got a new methadone program for kids and it's been real successful.
SHAYLEE: Methadone's for junkies, I ain't no junkie!
LINDA: Oh yeah, what are ya, a pharmacist?!
CLIFF (From the bathroom): Come on, Lin, leave her alone. She said she was gonna put her shoulder in it.
LINDA: I know that's what she said, Cliff, but I just wanna reinforce the importance, you know? I mean, here she is, dehydrated, she lost all that blood, she's got goddang hepatitis!!!
SHAYLEE: Dr. Kennedy says it'll go away.
LINDA: Look how yellow you are! You're lucky you don't got AIDS, Shaylee! They tested you, you know!
SHAYLEE: I know.
LINDA: Usin needles! Screwin guys! You're really lucky!
SHAYLEE: I screwed a chick, too, Ma! This millionaire bitch from Barrington. Fucked her doggy style with a strap-on. It vibrated and it had veins!
LINDA: I don't wanna hear about that stuff right now--
SHAYLEE: And one night I smoked opium with this photographer I met down on Rush Street and we went into this van and I let him open me up with salad tongs. He took pictures of my cervix and sold em in Jewtown. And a lotta other really fucked-up shit happened, Ma! I lived in a laundry mat for a week!
LINDA: A laundry mat! Where the heck were you livin in a laundry mat?!
SHAYLEE: In Gary.
LINDA: Oh for the love of ...
CLIFF (After a pause, from the bathroom, singing): I've got three volcanoes Two are hot The other one is not But I keep my eye On that one as well Because with volcanoes You never can tell.
LINDA: Are you're sure you even wanna come home, Shaylee?
LINDA: And you'll go back to school and do your homework and help your father?
LINDA: No more lyin, no more stealin?
SHAYLEE: No more lyin, no more stealin.
LINDA: You swear to God?
SHAYLEE: I don't believe in God.
LINDA: Why not?
SHAYLEE: Cause he's a dick. He's like the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus and Rumplestiltskin. The guy never shows up.
LINDA: Then give me your word.
SHAYLEE: I give you my word.
Linda sits in the chair opposite the TV, starts to cry.
LINDA: You lived in a dang laundry mat?
SHAYLEE: It was only for a week. It was cool cause I knew how to steal candy outta the vending machine.
Cliff enters from the bathroom walking a little bowlegged.
SHAYLEE: What happened to his hands?
LINDA: You want me to tell her, Cliff?
LINDA: Shaylee wants to know what happened to your hands. You want me to tell her?
CLIFF: I don't care.
LINDA: He punched out all the windows.
LINDA: The night you ... After we came back from the hospital. He went from room to room and punched out the dang windows, the big gorilla.
CLIFF: You're the gorilla.
SHAYLEE: Daddy, why'd you do that?
CLIFF: I don't know. Felt like breakin stuff.
LINDA: Glass was every dang where. And now the house is all fulla mosquitoes.
CLIFF: I said I was gonna fix em.
LINDA: Yeah, you better.
CLIFF: Shaylee had a dream about the circus. Cotton candy and the human cabbage ball. Confetti everywhere. Little kids runnin around. Everyone was happy, ain't it, Shaylee? Shaylee nods.
CLIFF: When my hands get better I'ma take Shaylee fishin.
LINDA: Well, that'll be interestin.
CLIFF: Takin her to Lake Manteno. Manteno, Illinois. We're gonna go bass fishin, ain't it, Shaylee? I'ma maker her wear her life saver, too.
LINDA: Life preserver, Cliff.
CLIFF: I'ma make her wear her life preserver, too. And if she takes it off I'ma make her put it back on.
LINDA: Well, whatever you do, don't let him make you wear one of those dang goofy suits.
CLIFF: Them suits ain't goofy.
LINDA: That's your best suit. The one you're wearin right now. Got it at TJ Maxx and it was a real good deal.
Cliff farts rather explosively.
CLIFF: Goddamn leprechauns.
Shaylee starts to laugh. Her laughter starts her coughing. She coughs convulsively for a moment. Linda comforts her. Cliff watches from the chair.
LINDA: Shaylee, Marna gave me this beautiful picture of St. Barbara. She's sposed to be the patron saint of family tragedies. In the picture she's standin in front of a castle holdin this golden chalice. The story has it that her father got real angry after she converted to Christianity and he found her prayin in the forest and dragged her home by her hair and killed her. Well, God didn't like that none so he ordered her father to be struck by lightning.
The new cash register gal says Barbara's the patron saint of mine collapse, but Marna insists on family tragedy and she's the one with the index thingy. I hung it in your room, right over your trophy shelf.
After a silence, Linda checks her watch.
LINDA: Oh crymie, Cliff! Change the channel! Wynne's gonna be on TV. Channel Thirty-seven! It prolly already started. Quick, Cliff! Cliff switches the channel to Thirty-seven. Randall "The Randyman" Rockeyjohn, an announcer with a boisterous Australian accent, is speaking.
RANDYMAN (Voice-over): Mr. Ledbetter, you're from Chicago, Illinois, is that right?
LINDA: Turn it up, Cliff!
Cliff adjusts the volume.
WYNNE (Voice-over): Yeah. Well, actually Norridge, which is just north of the city.
RANDYMAN (Voice-over): And in September you'll be entering you junior year in high school, is this correct?
WYNNE (Voice-over): Yeah. Norridge High School. Go Rams.
RANDYMAN (Voice-over): And do you have family back in Norridge?
WYNNE (Voice-over): Yeah. There's my ma, Linda, My pop, Cliff, and my sister, Shaylee. They're prolly watching right now. Hey, Ma. Hey, Pop. Hey, Shaylee. Shaylee, you're stupid as fuck for what you did but I love you anyway.
RANDYMAN (Voice-over): And Wynnewood Jericho Ledbetter, do you feel you're ready for tonight's Superchampionship?
WYNNE (Voice-over): As ready as I'll ever be. When a cow drinks water he becomes milk. When a snake drinks water he becomes poison.
RANDYMAN (Voice-over): And what would you do with one million dollars?
WYNNE (Voice-over): I'm gonna pay off the mortgage on our house back in Chi, take care of this operation my pop needs for his back, and give a chunk to my sister Shaylee so she can get her life back together.
RANDYMAN (Voice-over): And what exactly is wrong with your sister?
WYNNE (Voice-over): She's just a little screwed up right now.
RANDYMAN (Voice-over): Fair enough, Mr. Led-better. And how have you been preparing for today's event?
WYNNE (Voice-over): Well, for the past six months I've been training with Slice, my kendo master. What's up, Slice?
RANDYMAN (Voice-over): And you feel you're comfortable with the wakizashi?
WYNNE (Voice-over): Dude, I'm more than comfortable with it. I am it. As it is me.
RANDYMAN (Voice-over): Excellent answer! And one last question, Wynnewood Jericho Ledbetter of North Chicago, Illinois: Rumor has it that you and your fellow finalist, one Miss Sharice Williford of Crothersville, Indiana, are romantically involved. Is this indeed true?
WYNNE (Voice-over, coughing): Yeah, man. Sharice is my girl. I love her. She's a badass kung fu master and those Tang Dynasty dudes better watch out. If one of us wins, we're splitting the money.
RANDYMAN (Voice-over): And here she is now. Miss Sharice Williford of Crothersville, Indiana. Is this true, Miss Williford? Do you intend on splitting your prize money with Mr. Wynnewood Jericho Ledbetter of North Chicago, Illinois?
WYNNE (Voice-over): Um, she's not much of a talker.
RANDYMAN (Voice-over): No, I guess she's not. But we did get a nod, ladies and gents!
So there you have it: a young bloke from the North Side of Chicago, Illinois, and his Indiana girlfriend, a kung fu master with a lot of intensity but not a lot to say! This is a challenge to the death, ladies and gents! Both finalists have loads to lose but even more to gain! When we come back we'll get right down to it: The Tang Dynasty Superchampionship! A winning purse worth one million dollars! A cottage cheese commercial. Linda crosses to Cliff, takes the remote, mutes the TV.
LINDA: Neat huh? Wynne looks good with his head shaved, ain't it?
CLIFF: He looks like that guy in the toilet.
LINDA: What guy in the toilet?
CLIFF: The Tidy Bowl Man.
LINDA: No he don't either, Cliff. The Tidy Bowl Man wears a dang sailor's cap. You're thinkin of Mr. Clean. What do you think, Shaylee?
SHAYLEE: I think somethin bad's gonna happen.
Linda unmutes the TV. Back to the show. Cliff moves his chair to the other side of Shaylee's bed, sits.
RANDYMAN (Voice-over): And we're back, ladies and gents! Live, from an undisclosed location in New York City's East Village, it's the Tang Dynasty Superchampionship, where two young lovers will take on three professional mercenary Broadswordsmen! Wynnewood Jericho Ledbetter and Sharice Williford have been given their wakizashis and are poised, back to back, awaiting the onslaught of the three kendo masters, who will appear one at a time! Will they come through the window? Or from down that hallway? Will they come out of the bloody bathroom? Nobody knows! It's just like the video game, only now it's real live life and death!
And here comes the first one--Zhang Yun Chen! He simply walked into the room, can you believe that?! Very unlike the video game! Look at those legs! Those arms! What power! What unbelievable confidence! And there they go! Zhang attacks Sharice high, low, high, low! He's got Sharice off her mark. She's losing her foothold! But here comes Wynnewood Jericho Ledbetter from North Chicago, Illinois, who counters with his wakizashi! High, low, high, low! You can see the sparks flying off their swords! And Sharice Williford is back on her feet and they have Zhang Yun Chen cornered! And there's a clean blow to the midsection! Zhang Yun Chen is down! Look at all that blood! If that's not a fatal blow I don't know what is!
And what's this, ladies and gents!? Jack Li Foi, also known to kung fu aficionados as The Future, has just crashed through the street-facing window and he is wielding his infamous Three Powers Sword! He goes right for Wynnewood Jericho Ledbetter of North Chicago, Illinois! The flash of the Three Powers is blinding, ladies and gents! Our camera crew is in awe! Cameras up, boys! Back into the fray! Jack Li Foi hurls his Three Powers at Mr. Ledbetter! Ledbetter counters with his wakizashi once, twice, thrice! Jack Li Foi comes at him again, this time attacking the lower torso, but Ledbetter counters! Can you hear that clanging! It's unbelievable! And now Sharice Williford has thrown herself into the mix! And what's this! Pepper spray! Good old-fashioned pepper spray! A quick spritz to the eyes and Foi is down! He's begging for mercy, ladies and gents, down on his hands and knees, pleading with Sharice Williford of Crothersville, Indiana, like a bloody baby! And it appears that Miss Williford is actually going to spare the bloke!
LINDA AND SHAYLEE: NO!
RANDYMAN (Voice-over): There's no room for mercy when one million dollars is on the line. Take him out, Sharice! Drive your sword into his jugular!
LINDA AND SHAYLEE: DO IT!
RANDYMAN (Voice-over): But wait! At long last! Lo and behold! Straight off the fire escape! The moment we've been waiting for, ladies and gents! The man with the golden sun on his chest! It's Gao Mein Jian and he's wielding twin Wushu nine-ring broadswords! There are two swords flying from one bloke, ladies and gents! And before you can say who-what-when he's on top of Sharice Williford of Crothersville, Indiana, and she's fallen on top of the blubbering Jack Li Foy! And look at Foy! A moment ago he was begging for his life and now he's collaborating with Gao Mein Jian! How quickly things turn! And Jian strikes! Once! Twice! Thrice! And there goes her head! Ladies and gents, Gao Mein Jian has beheaded Miss Sharice Williford of Crothersville, Indiana, with the blazing fury of double Wushu nine-ring broadswords! And what's this?! Gao Mein Jian is down as well! Gao is down! He's down, ladies and gents! And Ledbetter is clutching his Taser gun! It appears that he has actually Tasered Gao Mein Jian! It doesn't get any better than this!
Wynnewood Jericho Ledbetter, the young giant slayer from North Chicago, Illinois, has felled perhaps one of the greatest living kung fu masters! And now Ledbetter is measuring off his final fatal blow! Ladies and gents if you're faint of stomach I'd advise getting to your nearest W.C.! The five-time kung fu champ is dead and the golden sun on his chest is awash in crimson! And now Ledbetter is measuring off on Jack Li Foy! I highly doubt that there will be mercy involved in what you are about to see, ladies and gents! And--oooof--there it is! Inevitability! Destiny! A head for a head, as it were!
Wynnewood Jericho Ledbetter of North Chicago, Illinois, is indeed our true, real-life Tang Dynasty Superchampion! And here he is now, kneeling before his dead beloved! Oh the bloody cruelty of the world! The fight marshals have confiscated his wakizashi!
Ladies and gents, Sharice Williford's head has literally rolled out of the frame and Wynnewood Jericho Ledbetter of North Chicago, Illinois, is on his knees, seemingly praying to her nogginless corpse!
And what is this?! From some unknown fold of his kimono Mr. Ledbetter has produced what appears to be a small knife and he's attempting to disembowel himself! Could he be attempting the legendary Samurai warrior's seppuku, more commonly known in lay person's terms as hari-kari?!
The fight marshals are all over him! And they've located the knife! His stomach is bleeding! Somebody call an ambulance! Somebody call an ambulance! For the love of God, will somebody please--
A long beep. Linda grabs her purse, sprints out of the room. Cliff goes after Linda, moving as fast as he can.
Lights fade as Shaylee lays back in the bed, staring straight ahead.
The same room, one week later. Wynne is lying in bed, watching QVC with the sound turned down very low. His head is shaved and there is a large blue star tattooed to the top of his skull. His stomach is heavily bandaged. He is in extreme pain, can only communicate by writing with a marker on a large notebook, which rests on the bedside stand. It's the same notebook that Sharice was using in act two, scene one. Wynne's arms are strapped down. There is an IV connected to one arm and a tube in his mouth. There is a pitcher of water, a cup, and a large flexible straw placed next to his bed. Shaylee eases into the room. She's wearing a white hospital gown and holding a small paperback book. She is nervous, a bit tentative, somehow eager.
Wynne looks over.
SHAYLEE: How's it goin?
He gestures vaguely.
SHAYLEE: Cool haircut.
SHAYLEE: Is the tattoo real?
SHAYLEE: Did it hurt?
SHAYLEE: Your skull is weird. It makes you look like you got a huge brain. Freaky genius boy ... This was my room, you know?... You better treat it good. No pissin the bed ...
So there's like a zillion reporters downstairs. You're all famous and shit. They're callin you nicknames. Wynne the Winner. The Samurai Wonderboy. The Kendo Kid ...
So this place is pretty wack, ain't it? Prolly never thought you'd wind up in a fuckin loony bin? Ugly doctors and fat nurses. You should see the sixth floor. It's just the opposite. Food sucks, too. You try the chipped beef yet? Wynne shakes his head.
SHAYLEE: Tastes like dogshit. Chipped beef on Tuesday, hoagies on Wednesday. Pot pies every Thursday.
Awkward silence. Shaylee looks around, unsure of herself.
SHAYLEE: I'll bet you beat your meat to all the nurses.
Shaylee mimes Wynne beating his meat for a moment, tries to make him laugh.
SHAYLEE: Check it out.
She shows him the book: Franny and Zoey.
SHAYLEE: It's the only book I've ever finished. It's about this fucked-up family from New York. This guy from group gave it to me. We made out in the commons room after this crack addict chick played the guitar. His name is Blacky. Cool name, huh? His real name's Marcus. He's from Harwood Heights. He's court-appointed. He accidentally killed his little brother in a drunk-drivin accident. He's got crooked teeth and he sort of smells but he's cute as shit ...
Maybe you could read the book?
She places the book on his chest.
SHAYLEE: Your girlfriend was so pretty. She was like showroom pretty.
Wynne starts to cry, tries to bust out of the straps, nearly lifting out of the bed, collapses. Shaylee calms him.
SHAYLEE (Singing): I've got three volcanoes Two are hot The other one is not But I keep my eye On that one as well Because with volcanoes You never can tell.
Shaylee remains standing, tries not to fidget.
SHAYLEE: Wynne, you know about six months ago I had a baby? It came out dead. It was about the size of a tomato. I put it in a McDonald's bag and threw it in the garbage. I talked about it in group today. How I keep dreamin about it. How sometimes it's huge and it's eatin hamburgers at that Wendy's Oasis on 294. How I always wake up all fucked up and cryin.
This nun told me that God's tryin to talk to me and that I should use the opportunity to ask him for forgiveness. Like I should start prayin and shit.
In group we had to go around a circle and describe our own personal picture of God. The crack addict chick said God was Smokey the Bear. I said he's like this old freak wrapped in a shower curtain and he's got this big holy boner. And he's eatin one of those side salads from Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Blacky was all, "Naw, man, God's a meat eater." His personal picture of God is this old buff ancient-lookin fucker in a toga. And he's got a perm and he's at the Sizzler eatin a steak. Pretty funny, ain't it?...
Group's pretty cool. You get to talk about yourself, you know? Listen to all these fucked-up stories. Some people just sit there. You don't even gotta say nothin if you don't wanna ...
In the book there's this whole thing about God, but it ain't all phony. The brother calls him the Fat Lady. It's actually pretty cool, Wynne. They learn about stuff, you know? Like how to get through the shitty times ...
Ma's talkin about you like you're her hero. She paid off the house yesterday. And Pop's seein this back specialist in Mount Prospect. And I guess Marna's husband's gonna come over and look at the house to see about central air.
Pop's callin you the Champ. They're on their way right now ...
Dr. Kennedy said I can go home next month. I might do this halfway house thing first, but I'd get to crash at home on the weekends. Urine samples every three days. Try your luck, piss in a cup.
Ma says I've been approved to re-enroll at Norridge, too. If I catch up in school they're gonna let me back on the track team. Mr. Mecklo asked me to run the mile again but I was like, fuck that, I wanna pole-vault. Fly over some shit, you know?...
I'm gonna stay clean this time, Wynne, I really am ...
So what about you? What are you gonna do when you get outta here? Any big plans? Ma says you're gonna start some computer company.
Wynne gestures toward the notebook and marker. Shaylee hands it to him, undoes his straps so he can write. Wynne writes MY PILLOW. Shaylee reads.
SHAYLEE: Your pillow?... You need me to adjust it?
Wynne writes. Shaylee looks.
SHAYLEE (Reading from pad): Smother me. Shaylee watches him for a moment, confused, her hands trembling. She takes the pillow from under his head, stares at it for a moment, crosses to the other side of the bed, stays there for a moment, raises the pillow, can't do it, lowers the pillow.
SHAYLEE: Hey Wynne, you know that tree we used to drive by when we'd go down to Kankakee? That willow tree where they sell the pumpkins during Halloween? Pop would always stop the car and make us get out and race around it? I wanna go there and just like sit under it for a while. Listen to the cars go by. Fall asleep, you know?...
After we get outta here I'm takin you there, okay? Grass, and shit like that ...
Cause I just want us to be happy again. And not just not-sad. Happy.
She gets in the bed with him, then takes his hand as if to keep herself from shaking. They stare at each other for a long time. Grandaddy's "Underneath the Weeping Willow" plays as lights slowly fade.
END OF PLAY
ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHT Adam Rapp has been the recipient of the 1997 Herbert & Patricia Brodkin Scholarship; a fellowship to the Carmago Foundation in Cassis, France; two Lincoln Center LeComte du Nouy Awards; the 1999 Princess Grace Award for Playwriting; the 2000 Roger L. Stevens Award from the Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays; a 2000 Suite Residency with Mabou Mines; and the 2001 Helen Merrill Award for Emerging Playwrights. He is the author of numerous plays, including Nocturne (Faber 2002), which was awarded Boston's Elliot Norton Award for Best New Script as well as Best New Play by the Independent Reviewers of New England. It was chosen as one of the ten "Best Plays of 2000-2001" (the annual Chronicle of U.S. Theater) and was a finalist for the inaugural William Saroyan International Writing Prize. His plays have been produced at the Humana Festival of New American Plays; Victory Gardens in Chicago; the 24th Street Theatre in L.A.; the Juilliard School; the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Mass.; Berkeley Repertory; New York Theatre Workshop, Chashama and Rattlestick theatres in New York City; and the Bush Theatre in London. A graduate of Clark College in Dubuque, Iowa, he also completed the Lila Acheson Wallace Playwriting Fellowship at Juilliard. He is currently writing and directing his first film, Winter Passing. He lives in New York City.
ABOUT THE PLAY Stone Cold Dead Serious was originally produced in Cambridge, Mass., by the American Repertory Theatre on February 6, 2002. It was directed by Marcus Stern, sets were designed by Christine Jones, costumes by Catherine Zuber, lights by John Ambrosone and sound by David Remedios and Marcus Stern. The production stage manager was jennifer Rae Moore. The cast included Guy Boyd, Philip Graeme, Deirdre O'Connell, Elizabeth Reaser, Robert Runck and Matthew Stadelmann. Stone Cold Dead Serious was subsequently produced in New York by the Edge Theater Company at Chashama on March 28, 2003. It was directed by Carolyn Cantor, sets were designed by David Korins, costumes by Victoria Farrell, lights by Ben Stanton and sound by Eric Shim. The production stage manager was Jeff Myers. This cast also included Betsy Aidem, Gretchen Cleevely and Anthony Rapp.
Excerpted from Stone Cold Dead Serious and Other Plays by Adam Rapp, which also includes the plays Faster and Finer Noble Gases, to be published in May by Faber and Faber, Inc., an affiliate of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. Copyright [c] 2004 by Adam Rapp. All rights reserved. Lyrics from the song "Three Volcanoes" reprinted with permission of the author, Don Black.
Stone Cold Dead Serious, copyright [c] 2003 by Adam Rapp. All inquiries regarding rights should be addressed to Carl Mulert, Joyce Ketay Agency, 630 Ninth Avenue, #706, New York, NY 10036. Professionals and amateurs are hereby warned that performances of Stone Cold Dead Serious are subject to a royalty. It is fully protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America, and of all countries covered by the International Copyright union (including the Dominion of Canada and the rest of the British Commonwealth), and of all countries covered by the Pan-American Copyright Convention and the Universal Copyright Convention, and of all countries with which the United States has reciprocal copyright relations. All rights, including professional, amateur, motion picture, recitation, lecturing, public reading, radio broadcasting, television, video or sound taping, all other forms of mechanical or electronic reproductions, such as information storage and retrieval systems and photocopying, and the rights of translation into foreign languages, are strictly reserved. Particular emphasis is laid upon the question of readings, permission for which must be secured from the author's agent in writing.
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|Date:||Feb 1, 2004|
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