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The sacrifice.

Characters: Muriel, late 20s Eddie, early 30s

These are white Americans of no unusual distinction, though Muriel is overweight. Both are attractive in the way of smalltown high school attractiveness--Muriel is prettily made up, despite being a bit disheveled: Eddie wears his longish hair sleekly oiled, and has a perceptible growth of beard Muriel wears bright lipstick, earrings, and "feminine " clothes; Eddie wears casual work- or sports-clothes that flatter his hard, muscular physique.

A bare stage in the foreground, representing a front or side yard of a small bungalow or house trailer. Scattered about are a few children's things--a junior-sized bicycle, a bare, battered doll, a baseball bat, etc.

In the background is the interior of a bungalow or house trailer. The outer wall missing, we see into the rooms, which may be minimally suggested There must be a refrigerator in the kitchen; and, in the bedroom, an open closet stuffed with a man's and a woman's clothes. Shoes, in some disorder, on the floor. (If a bed is included, it should be made up, not neatly, but with a look of haste; the covering should be a brightly colored chenille spread If curtains are included, they should be chintz or floral)

The time is the present.

LIGHTS UP. Muriel stands in the foreground, hands on her hips. She wears filmy, loose-fitting summery clothes, a shapeless shift, or smock, with an unbuttoned shirt or jacket over it, as if to disguise her plumpness; her legs are bare, and very pale; her feet dead-white in inexpensive summer sandals. Chipped bright nail polish on both fingernails and toe-nails. Her permed hair is extremely frizzy, as if to match her mood. Breathless, cheeks flushed and eyes unnaturally shining, Muriel speaks to the audience exactly as if confiding in a woman friend. The expectation is that her outrage is shared.

Muriel: Can you imagine?--bragging to my own brother Ray he's gonna do such things! To me! to me, he's married to, has kids with! Not even ashamed or anything! CAN YOU IMAGINE! (A pause) Oh sure I got a lawyer--in self-defense. Now he's got one too! (Deep shuddering breath) And all we owe!

In the background, from stage right, Eddie appears, a bit cautiously. He watches Muriel and hesitates before entering their home. A cigarette in his mouth.

Muriel (without turning, in a high, thin, girlish, aggrieved voice): Butt that cigarette you bastard! (As Eddie hurriedly complies, looking guilty, Muriel scolds him over her shoulder, yet without looking at him) You know better than that, damn you--Junie's allergic to smoke and me, I'm getting allergic to it too! Thanks to you! (Addressing the audience) See?--the lousy bastard sneaks back, middle of the day--Dwayne and Junie are in school. See? He can't look his own kids in the eye--that's the eye of a bankrupt.

Eddie has come home to collect his things, primarily clothes. At first he moves with exaggerated care through the rooms, putting items into a duffel bag, a shopping bag or two, perhaps a cheap suitcase. During Muriel's speeches, which follow, Eddie occasionally holds up an article of clothing--shirt, sports coat, necktie, boxer shorts, a sock, etc.--as if trying to recognize it, assess it. Some things he wads into balls and stuffs into his receptacles, others he treats with more respect. If there is a mirror in the bungalow/trailer, he may pause to contemplate himself in it, run a hand wonderingly over his jaws. With Muriel's things he is considerate--when one of her dresses or blouses slips off a hanger, he picks it up quickly, brushes it off, hangs it up again; he may kick one of her shoes, and very quickly puts it back in its place. He is nervously and defensively aware of Muriel even as, in her pride and hurt, Muriel staunchly ignores him.

Muriel (to audience): Whew! It's warm! (Dabbing at face with tissue) God damn day's gone on for-evv-er! Waking up at 5 a.m. like I do now, and the kids up early too all wired, nobody can sleep around here God damn him can you imagine it--him! Says he wants out so he walks out--like that! Three weeks ago! Just like that! (Snaps her fingers) Going around drunk telling folks he's gonna |take Muriel to the cleaners'--his exact words!--gonna declare bankrupt. In this town he's lived all his life, and mine.

Muriel paces about, breathless. Eddie is aware of her without seeming to hear her precise words.

Muriel: Our car's gone--|repossessed.' So, he's. got the use of his brother's, which leaves me with, what? Nothing. The old air-conditioner we junked, and the new air-conditioner, it's |repossessed'--which leaves me and the kids with what? Nothing. They came and took away the new T.V.--so all we got, the kids and me, is the one that's broke. And no VCR. That's a |luxury item.' Kiss goodbye to |luxury items!' (Incensed) At least the toilet isn't a |luxury item,' they'd take that away too. (A pause) And Mr. Big Shot always saying, "Nothing's too good for my family.' (Face crinkling as if she is about to cry, but resisting) |We never had enough when I was a kid, our kids are gonna have enough'--God damn him!

Muriel pauses. Moves closer to audience. A sly, hectic, determined smile as she draws a knife out of a pocket--a sharply honed 12-inch steak knife with a gleaming blade.

Muriel (whispering, wild-eyed): You think I can't do it, huh? You just watch. (Laughs)

Muriel contemplates the knife, testing possible grips-overhand, underhand. Muriel: The knife-and-scissor sharpener, from Sears--my Christmas present--that's gone. But it's done its job.

Muriel hides the knife again. In the same pocket, she discovers a brownie, which she nibbles at, as if experimentally; merely tasting.

Muriel (defensively): Didn't have any real breakfast this morning, only coffee. Jesus, who can eat--the world caving in like this! (Another dainty nibble) It's stale. (Another nibble) I prefer brownies with almonds but the kids spit them out. (She finds she has finished the brownie, and angrily brushes crumbs off her chin, bosom) Oh--hell. Sometimes you just want to cry, life's all weak-willedness and giving in.

(As if pleading): I've been Eddie Fitzroy's wife for nine years and-now--what? My parents' house? My old room? Like I never had any kids, never been--loved? (Fierce) Well I sure got kids. And all this, here--(a wave of her hand, indicating her home, property)--maybe the bank owns it but I'm sure here, and any son of a bitch wants me out is gonna have to carry me out.

(Incensed): Had to get a lawyer, to protect myself--his lawyer's saying he can file for bankruptcy, so I get--nothing. No place to live no alimony no child support, maybe--can you believe it? (Wiping face with a tissue) Eddie Fitzroy, that everybody likes so much. 'Cause he's good-looking and was a quarterback for Ashland High and grins a lot, laughs easy--the bastard. Nine years.

(Grimmer, calmer, "fatalistic" tone): You see it on T.V. all the time--women rising up against their oppressors. Oh, yes! (A pause) This world, you're not loved, y'know what it is?--all broken things. Like--the tops, the shiny surfaces, of things. You turn on the T.V., you switch the channels zip zip zip zap everything flying by, that's how I watch T.V. now, too wired to go slower--except, now, it's broke, it's dead. You walk from here to here and from here to here, you're in the kitchen, you call somebody on the phone to keep from going crazy, then you call somebody else, H'lo it's Muriel! oh hi, h'lo, it's Muriel don't hang up! don't roll your eyes hey please it's just me!--again. Then--the refrigerator door's open--you're eating something in your hand--no taste to it. Then--you get scared--the clock's stuck! If the kids are home you run to find them, you hug them, scare them--Aw Mommy it's O.K. lemme go.

Muriel picks up the baseball bat, the doll, contemplating them, about to cry. She holds the doll longer, then lets it fall.

Muriel (distractedly): Saying he loved me--us--so much. Well--I know for a fact he did. All those years he did I started putting on weight when I had Dwayne, he never minded- I'd swear. I minded more, going on one diet after another and making myself sick and Eddie would hug me and say, You look real nice to me Muriel. Was he lying.? He was not lying. I swear.

(Angry smile): This, what I'm gonna do--strike to the heart!--(she pats the knife in her pocket)--is no rash crazy-lady act. No sir it's |premeditated.' Oh yes! (Laughs) I got my defense all prepared--|PRE MEN STRUAL TEN SION SYN DROME'--you hear about it all the time. Even in the Pennysaver Shopping News. (Laughs) I read this article, underlined it, memorized it, threw it out--and you bet I'm not that stupid, keeping it on the premises for the police to find out.

During this speech, Eddie has been approaching the refrigerator cautiously; he opens the door, reaches for a can of beer--but, without turning, eyes in the back of her head, Muriel calls out.

Muriel (loudly): Out of there, you bastard! There's only two beers left, and they're for me.

Eddie quickly withdraws and resumes his task. He casts a disdainful glance at Muriel.

Muriel (smirking, to audience): There're Miller Lites anyway--Big Ed likes the 'real' thing. (Pouting, righteous) Anybody begrudges his wife and children actual groceries, he's got a hell of a nerve going in my refrigerator!

Muriel finds a broken cracker in one of her pockets and half-consciously nibbles on it during the next speech. She comes forward, to speak with growing sentiment, intimacy. Contradictory feelings during this revelation leave her distracted, blinking, panting, a bit wild-eyed, as if she is truly drawn in warring directions--profound sorrow, and rage. Which is deeper? Which is more real? She caresses the knife in her pocket; also, with equal unconsciousness, her breasts.

Muriel (intensely): There's a secret about Eddie Fitzroy nobody knows but me.

At this, Eddie pauses; glances over, frowning, he seems to have heard this, perhaps not clearly. As he stares at Muriel his expression is more quizzical than embarrassed, or annoyed. As Muriel speaks, Eddie continues putting items of clothing in his receptacles, distractedly, as if he can hear, or almost hear.

Muriel: Every time we--were together--I mean, made love--(A pause, for she is embarrassed)--up till maybe a year ago--(Pause) Oh God!--I'm actually telling this! Can't believe I'm actually telling this when I, I promised--I mean, it went deeper than any promise--that's just words- (Confused, pats at eyes with tissue) Oh I've been crying for three weeks my eyes are sore all the time just a big sad cow crying--fearful of looking in a mirror--(A pause) Had a nasty dream, after Eddie left, I didn't have any face. (Shudders) My kids ran screaming from me ... (A pause)

(Groping, intense): Well, the first time him and me were together--like that--Eddie got so sort of frenzied--afterward--I mean, uh--(with delicacy)-after he--came--he was almost crazy like he was fearful of letting me go--saying all kinds of wild things like how he loved me, wouldn't let anything bad ever happen to me, he was crying, actually, can you imagine--Eddie Fitzroy, crying!--and he'd be lying on me with all his weight, hot and sweating, like to keep me where I was, and his, uh--(word nearly inaudible)--penis was still inside me, but soft, and slipping out--and he was so--emotional. Hanging on to me so tight I thought my ribs would crack, and I did get bruises--(touching herself--breasts, thighs, belly)--that first year or so till I was pregnant with Dwayne and that changed things, some. (A pause) The actual first time, we weren't married yet, but he'd asked me, and I said yes, I was seventeen and didn't know anything, and he was twenty-three which was real mature to me, a real grown-up. And he was, most of the time. I mean, he acted that way, around people. (A pause) That bastard! Could pull the wool over everybody's eyes including my family, including me, I was so crazy in love with him and he was crazy in love with me ... it only happens once, like that. (A pause) When we made love, those years, he'd be so--tender--like worried he might get rough and hurt me--them, at the end, he'd lose control and go wild gritting his teeth, grabbing me so hard--I never knew, I mean I guess I still don't--(wan laugh)--is this how a man is, or just my husband?. (A pause) He's the only guy I ever loved--ever been with. Shit!

Muriel discovers part of a candy bar in one of her pockets, and this too she nibbles on, unconsciously.

Muriel (sudden anger): |Gonna take Muriel to the cleaners'--huh? Can you believe it! Just' cause he's out of work he don't give a shit for his own kids can you believe it! I'm just so ashamed, what am I s'posed to do, wear a paper bag over my head?--the rest of my life here in Ashland where I was born same as him God damn him! (A pause) A man like that, he loved his wife so, he near-about fainted when I was in labor, both times--like, like he was in labor. And that was no joke, either. He was.

Eddie now does seem to be listening, rueful; moved.

Muriel (softer tone): He was that way with the kids, too. He'd hug them sometimes squeezing the breath out of them, hurting them so they'd get scared. They'd think Daddy was playing but Daddy wasn't. |I love you honey, I love you'--he'd say to Dwayne, and to Junie. I'd hear him. Like it was some kind of prayer. (A pause) I guess you'd have to say he was a good father, sort of a nervous father but a good one, up till maybe a year ago. (Wistful smile) Maybe they all are--men--fathers--real nice--up to the day when they're not.

Eddie now lights a cigarette with shaking hands; this time, absorbed in her account, Muriel does not notice.

Muriel speaks passionately, as if the profound mystery at the heart of her experience is something that must be communicated, yet cannot be; she has lost the edge of her aggression and rage, and speaks almost reverently.

Muriel So--one day--one night--a few years ago--I'd gained maybe thirty pounds by then--we were in bed and, with Eddie, it was like always, him holding me so tight, all sweaty and scared-like, and groaning, except this time he really hurt me--(she cups one of her breasts tenderly)--and I, panicked and shoved him away, I put on the light and looked at him. |Are you crazy,' I said, my teeth were chattering I was so scared, |--what is it?' and Eddie's staring at me like he doesn't know me, this look on his face like he's a wild man or something, so now I was scared. (A pause) |Honey,' I said, |--better tell me: what is it?' (A pause, then, breathless) So he told me. (A pause) You won't believe what he told me!

Eddie comes forward, hesitantly. He smokes his cigarette distractedly, as Muriel has been eating. As he speaks, Muriel stands to the side, toward the rear, listening, now and then nodding in agreement. At first she tries to remain detached from Eddie's words, but, finally, she begins to cry quietly, wiping at her eyes. Eddie addresses the audience directly, as Muriel has done, except he does not feel that he has the audience's natural sympathy; he must argue for it.

Eddie (guiltily): You think I don't feel bad? I do--it makes me sick, having to leave Muriel. And Dwayne, and Junie. Having to. Like, that part of my life's over. Just--over. (He makes a whistling blowing noise, tantamount to |What can you do?') Just--letting go. (A pause) No shit about filing for bankruptcy--I am bankrupt. Your debts outweigh your assets by $23,580-you've borrowed all you can--you're bankrupt. (A pause) But the hell with that. (A pause)

(Trying to be matter-of-fact): This cousin of mine, Bobbie--he was five years old when it happened. I was nine, and he was five. It was an accident, him drowning--that terrible way. But my fault. (A pause) We had these sleds--both of us, new sleds--Christmas sleds--playing on the hill at his folks' place--sledding down, and going on the creek--the Yewville Creek--and Bobbie broke through the ice and--(Breathless, speaking too rapidly, Eddie must stop and try again) My--uh--uncle and aunt, they had a farm up in Schuylersville--and my dad took us up there a lot, weekends. Bobbie and I played together, he looked up to me I guess, not having a big brother,--we got along real well. Bobbie was ... a nice kid. (A pause. Stares at his hands, flexes his fingers.) It's hard to talk. I hate talking. Any kind of serious talk. You can't do it, so why try. Fuck it! (Tries to control himself) O.K., there was this big long hill--cow pasture--we'd sled down--to the creek. We took our sleds down the hill but we weren't supposed to go out on the creek even when it was frozen because, in the middle, sometimes, the ice was thin. I'd take my sled out, though, and Bobbie didn't tell on me, he was scared, watching me sled out onto the ice--then steer to the side, quick, before the ice cracked. (Dreamily, as if sledding, steering, a look of rapt, childish concentration) There was a feeling I'd get if the ice was thin, here--(He indicates the pit of his belly, scrotum)--so I'd know. One day I was teasing Bobbie, I guess, and he followed me out onto the ice, but instead of steering

to the side like I did he went straight out and right away the ice started cracking and he was screaming and his sled broke through, he was in the water, screaming, this freezing water that's black, and running fast--and I grabbed hold of him by the arm--got down on my stomach on the ice to try to keep it from breaking more--but I couldn't pull him out--he was screaming, |Don't let me go! Don't let me go! |--Jesus, I'll remember it all my life. (A pause) He tried to grab onto me too, and pull himself out of the water, but he couldn't, and I couldn't get him out, the ice was breaking, the water was pulling him away, I don't know how long I had hold of him, by the wrist--ten minutes? five?--till my fingers froze and I just ... had ... to ... let ... him ... go. (A pause)

(Self-loathing): He was screaming, he didn't want to die. There was nobody but me to save him, nobody in the whole fucking world but me, a nine-year-old kid, and ... I had to let him go. (A pause.) So he died, he drowned. I saw him go. I could see his body go. (A pause)

(Smoking; trying to be matter-of-fact): Well--that was it. Bobbie died, aged five; I was to blame. All the years I was growing up I'd hear him screaming. I hear him now--it's always there. (A distant look) And Bobbie's folks, and mine--they'd look at me, and they'd think of him, of it. Of what a shit I was, getting him out on the ice, letting him go. Sure, that was what they were thinking--still is. You think I blame them?--I don't. They're right. I'm a shit, I know.

Muriel has reacted emotionally to this story, as if hearing it for the first time, as a young wife. She approaches Eddie shyly, touches his arm.

Muriel (sympathetically, tenderly): Oh hon--oh, my God! That's the saddest thing! I never knew!

Eddie (half-sobbing): I let him go. I couldn't save him.

Muriel (embracing him): It wasn't your fault!

Eddie (holding her, tightly): 1-1 guess it comes over me, sometimes. I sort of black out. I don't know where I am. (Dazedly, blinking) Except--there's you. (Pleading, as if for forgiveness) Muriel, I love you so much. I love you so much. I want to take care of you, you and the kids, forever and ever I'd give my life for you, I love you so. You believe me, don't you? You love me, don't you? Muriel? Muriel (overlapping with the above): I never knew, that poor little boy, but it wasn't your fault, Eddie, hey hon it wasn't your fault, you were such a little boy yourself, try not to think about it, hon--let me hold you.

Eddie (overlapping the above, passionately): I swear to God I won't let you go, I won't let you go, Muriel, all my fife I'll take care of you, I'll show you--you and the kids. Jesus, I love you so much. LIGHTS DIM briefly as they embrace, to suggest an interlude; a full stop.

LIGHTS UP. The mood is immediately shattered. Muriel shoves at Eddie who sidesteps her, to return to the house and his task of moving out.

Muriel (disbelieving, voice rising): What?--what? You're moving out?--you want out? Eddie- (Her voice lifts to a fading wail)

Eddie (stumbling into bicycle): Fuck it! Who left this here! (Kicking the bicycle)

Muriel (desperate, flurried, appealing to audience): You heard him!--his exact words!--|All my life I'll take care of you'!

Eddie resumes his task. Moving now hurriedly, carelessly. Grabbing things and stuffing them into his receptacle. When one of Muriel's dresses slips from a hanger he doesn't pick it up. He exhales smoke savagely.

Muriel (furiously, without turning): Butt that cigarette, asshole!

Eddie (muttering): Fuck you!

Eddie stubs out the cigarette in a vehement gesture, against any handy surface; tosses the butt to the floor. If a bed is present, he tosses the butt onto the bed.

Muriel (to audience, arms out): You heard him! You heard him! You heard him! The liar! The bastard! That's the eyes and soul of a bankrupt! (A pause, dabbing at her warm face with a tissue) I know we had some hard times together lately. A--cash-flow problem. Buying things on credit--both of us to blame. Then, other things--'marital problems.' (Embarrassed, tries for brazen cheerfulness) Well, we all have them, huh?--'marital problems.' You're married, that's what you have. Don't we? (Peering at audience; a pause) We'd been seeing a marriage counsellor, but, hell, you never tell them the truth, so--. (Laughs) Eddie'd clip me in the mouth, if I did. (More somberly, trying to comprehend) He was cutting down on his drinking, he said--; I was on a new diet, I am on it--'28-day Grapefruit Diet'--so, yeah, I thought things were looking hopeful. Then, one day, instead of sitting down for supper, he looks at me, his face gets all funny, his eyes, and he says he can't do it, - so I say, |Can't do what? and he says, |Can't eat,' and I say, |What? Can't eat?' and he says, |I want out, Muriel, I can hack it, I want out--' Like out is some kind of new fucking beer. (Brays with angry laughter)

Eddie (to MURIEL'S back, taking up her words): Muriel, I want out of here. This--that we have--this--(stumbling, faltering, with a gesture that takes in their house, household, life together, everything)--I DON'T BELONG HERE!

Muriel (to audience, astounded): You hear him? You hear him? Like somebody on T.V.! (Another wild laugh)

Eddie (inarticulately): I'm not the man! This is some other man! Not me! Muriel (to audience, childlike pleading): Y'know what I wish?--we could go on trial, that's what I wish! Him, and me! |A jury of one's peers!' (A gesture at the audience) Then justice would be done! Eddie (muttering as he holds up an article of clothing, a plaid or checked shirt): NOT ME!

Muriel (hugging herself tightly): I read the Bible, now. I'm a sinful woman but I mean to exact justice. This morning, so early! I opened my Bible my grandma gave me--first words I read were--(Muriel shuts her eyes, lets her head fall back, an expression of ecstasy on her face) Psalm 68: |Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered: let them also that hate them flee before him.'

In her ecstatic trance, Muriel draws the knife out of her pocket. it against her breast. Eddie does not see. Muriel: |PRE MED I TATED'--|PRE MEN STRUAL.' (Laughs) The jury can decide who's the murderer!

Eddie has finished his task, and is eager to leave; Muriel, hiding the knife in the folds of her clothing, or behind her thigh, confronts him.

Muriel (surprisingly soft, pleading, girlish tone): Eddie, hon--wait, The schoolbus will be here in twenty minutes. The kids- Eddie (guiltily): I can't.

As Eddie tries to ease away, Muriel clutches his shirtsleeve. Muriel (pride gone, pleading, close to tears): Oh, hon--jeez--! Eddie (guiltily, sorry for her): Muriel, let me go? Muriel: Eddie, I love you--how'm I gonna live without you? Eddie: Christ, Muriel, you're making it so hard-- Muriel (sobbing): Eddie, honey, I'll lose weight--I will I'll look like I used to! I'll go back to work! I won't bug you about things! Dwayne and Junie, they'll be good--they promised! Wait and see them, they'll tell you themselves--

Eddie (sweating, desperate to escape): Muriel, let me go, huh? Muriel (holding onto his arm): |Let me go'!--you promised yo'd never let me go! God damn liar, cruel fucking shameless liar-- Eddie (stumbling away, toward stage right, as Muriel stumbles with him): Muriel, for fuck's sake LET ME GO! Muriel (raw, unmitigated yearning): I LOVE YOU--HOW CAN I'LET YOU GO!'

A brief stuggle. Eddie pushes Muriel away. Both are panting, hair in their faces. A passionate glisten upon them as of stark, erotic love. But Muriel crouches, cunning, feet apart, and brings around the knife-gripping it underhand so that, if she swings it, the upward arc would bring its blade into Eddie's abdomen or groin. Eddie freezes, staring at the knife. Eddie (whistling thinly through teeth): Hey Muriel--! Muriel (wildly): You think I can't? You think I can't? You think I can't? Muriel feints with the knife; Eddie sidesteps, feints at grabbing her wrist; he misses; Muriel comes close to stabbing him. Eddie, scared, crouches, protecting himself with his arms. (He has dropped his things to the floor, and may stumble over them. He may also try to keep them between him and Muriel.)

Eddie (pleading): Oh hell, hon--what's this? Give me the knife. Muriel: We're better off dead, both of us. Eddie: Muriel, don't talk that way. Hon, listen-- Muriel swipes at him again with the knife; again, narrowly misses. Eddie (wild laugh): What if the kids see you! Jesus! Muriel (panting): Let them! I want them to! I'll go on trial! I'm not ashamed! Eddie: Muriel, this isn't you.

Muriel: Promised you'd take care of us all your life--never let us go like you let your little cousin go--Murderer!

Eddie (pleading, bravely): Muriel, hey, hon--I just can't. I told you-- Muriel: That little boy you let drown, you liar, stinking hypocrite-- Eddie (angrily): Bobbie's got nothing to do with you! Muriel: How can you let me go, after all that? A tense pause. They stare at each other, unmoving. Eddie (an outburst): Because--I don't love you any more. There is another tense pause. Then Muriel realizes it is hopeless; she lowers the knife.

Muriel (sudden flat, ironic tone): Then--get the hell out, mister. (She gestures with the knife, waving him away.) Eddie snatches up his things and backs off. He stares at Muriel--his expression shows guilt, remorse, pity; yet, more than this, simply relief at the prospect of being freed.

Eddie (about to exit): I'll call you--first of next week. Muriel (braying): No, call my lawyer! Bankrupt!

Eddie exits without looking back. Muriel stares after him. Just when we think that Muriel is resigned, she loses control; takes up the nude doll, stabs it with the knife, sobbing. Muriel: Ugly thing, Muriel!--poor sad cow, Muriel! Take that, Muriel! Die! (Throws the doll down, kicks it.)

LIGHTS DIM to suggest a brief interlude.

LIGHTS UP almost immediately. Muriel has gone into the kitchen, is opening the refrigerator door. Pauses midway, to address the audience. (She has tidied her hair somewhat, and straightened her clothing; her demeanor is more composed.)

Muriel (as previously, as if confiding in a woman friend): So, well-shit! That's that. (Laughs, embarrassed) Muriel tried. Muriel sure did (She takes a grapefruit out of the refrigerator, tosses and catches it; then, as she speaks, she cuts it in two with the knife and prepares it to be eaten.) With Sweet-N-Low--plenty of it--these things are real good, actually. I'm getting to like it. (Laughs) I lost three pounds this week--that's a start. (A pause) I guess my weakness is--I know right from wrong. My parents taught me to be good. (Shrugs) Probably couldn't stab Hitler, the bastard's standing in front of me. If that's goodness or just weakness, I don't know. One thing I know- you can't hurt another person to fix up your own life.

Muriel eats a grapefruit segment with her fingers, then another, hungrily. Addressing audience, in an appeal, grapefruit in one hand and knife in the other, she speaks |reasonably.'

Muriel: Except, hell--I'd've liked a jury--|one's own peers.' So you could explain it to me. Explain Eddie to me. How a man loves you, and the love wears out. How you love him--and that passes too. Like the black water's carrying us all away? Is that it? (A pause) Maybe you can explain it ... ? I'm just trying to understand. Muriel holds her questioning, appealing pose as LIGHTS DIM. LIGHTS OUT.
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Title Annotation:drama
Author:Oates, Joyce Carol
Publication:The American Poetry Review
Date:May 1, 1993
Previous Article:The interrogation.
Next Article:"Feminine technologies": George Oppen talks at Denise Levertov.

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