HE. It’s dull. Real dull. But I’m not complaining. I’m not. If this is the way it has to be then this is what it has to be. I understand all that. I could never make anything work with the ups and downs anyway. So why not try dull? Maybe dull is the answer. Except that the truth is, you see, it’s going in the same direction. It’s just, when it’s this dull, it’s a little hard to see that it’s going in any direction, but all this understanding, this is not going to last. A couple of words here, a couple of words there, a couple of looks, a couple of wrong moves and all of a sudden nobody understands anything anymore and you spend all your time trying to explain what you meant and what you thought she meant and what you thought she thought you meant . . .
It has to happen. The honeymoon is over. And then you break up and you go and find somebody else and you start all over again. I can’t do it. I did it with you. I can’t do it again with somebody else. It could take years. All that time to get someplace with her that I’m already at with you. And then it hit me.
We can’t quit. You and me. We have something now. We can’t throw it away. It’s a failure, okay, but it’s ours. And it’s not the end. That’s too easy. It’s the place to start from. It’s two, two and a half years of our lives. It’s an investment. All that pain to get to zero; well, we’re here now, we’ve got nothing, nothing works, we’re finished, total, complete, everything we had is gone, not a hope, not a prayer, not a chance . . . . This is it. (pause) I think we should get married.
LIFE DURING WARTIME by Keith Reddin. Howard, talking to his mother after he gets home from school.
HOWARD. Hey, Mom, guess what happened today.
Barry and me after school, we’re driving around. We’re driving on the Parkway and we’re in the left lane, and Barry’s going fast, maybe a little too fast I say Barry slow down, but he’s trying to pass this car in the passing lane and it doesn’t move over, so Barry puts on his lights, he’s flashing his lights at this guy to pull over so we can pass and I go Barry, take it easy, but now like Barry is pissed, and we are tooling along and this other car it pulls alongside us and there’s some guys in there and they are very pissed off so we take off dueling back and forth like who can get in front of the other and Barry he goes mental and tries to push this car onto the shoulder and then he sort of bumps the car, well he crashes into the side of it, and we both pull over and Barry is incensed but I tell Barry I just want to get the hell out of here and we get out and the guys from the other car get out only there’s four of them and two of us, and this one guy the driver goes up to Barry and puts his face close to Barry’s face and says you messed with the wrong person today and these guys push Barry and me up against their car and then from out of their trunk they take this wire and they tie our hands behind our backs and they hit Barry in the head and they put us in the trunk and say we’re going for a ride and they drive us for about half an hour and then I hear this gravel crunching and we stopped and they opened the trunk and these four guys push us out into these woods and Barry’s pissing in his pants and I’m thinking we’re dead you know, so this guy with funny teeth he pulls out a gun and he puts it to Barry’s head and tells him hey, you scraped the side of my car what are you going to do about it and Barry and me we don’t say nothing and these other guys say if we don’t want to die we have to eat dirt and so we do, we eat dirt and these other guys get real quiet and watch us eat dirt and then they push this gun in Barry’s face and then they smoke some cigarettes and don’t talk then they get in their car and drive off. And after a while we get up and start walking down the road and look for a cop car but we couldn’t find one so we start hitching and we get a ride and we walk a ways to Barry’s car with this huge damage done to its side and he drives back to here and tells me not to say anything about this ever, but it’s just too incredible, you know, so I’ll be in my room till dinner.
THE RABBIT FOOT by Leslie Lee. Reggie (talking to his wife about a fellow soldier)
REGGIE. I’d rather be in the ground than to live this way. (Beat) There was this boy over there. His name was David Frames. We called him Little David. He said he was seventeen, but he probably lied ‘bout his age. Might’ve been fifteen. From Arkansas. One night, I’m comin’ back from guard duty. And it’s cold and dark and all I can hear is my feet crunchin’ on the ice. All a sudden I hear somebody snifflin’ and cryin’. And I gets close, and there’s Little David, sittin’ in the cold on some tree stump, huddled up to keep warm, and cryin’ his fool head off. And he sees me, but it’s too late to pretend he ain’t crying. I done caught him! “What’s wrong, Little David? You done got bad news from home?” He wouldn’t tell me. And I says, “Come on, Little David you’s a soldier in the Yew-nited States Army, and you ain’t s’pposed to be cryin’. S’ppose some German soldier sneak up on you and see you cryin’? They’ll swear they done got the war won.” And finally he tells me. He’s cryin’ cause he’s happy and sad at the same time. He’s happy to be alive for the first time in his life, but he’s scared to death a getting’ kilt by some German bullet. Just like ev’rybody else he found out what it is to be a man. And he kept talkin’ bout goin’ over the hill. He’s gonna desert. He ain’t gonna get kilt just when he knows what livin’s ‘bout. And I say, “Little David, you can’t, man. Ain’t no way. You’re a colored man. And even if you do get a bullet, least you know what it’s like to be treated like you s’pposed to.” Anyway, he didn’t run. He stayed. Well a bullet did get him one day near the end a the war. Blam! He didn’t even know what hit ‘im. Little David was gone. And that’s what it was all about. Wasn’t white women, it was Little david and Kansas City Jimmy and New York Billy. All of ‘em – gone! Done tasted a little bit a freedom, but a little bit’s better n’ nothin’. You all understand what I’m sayin’?
I HAD A JOB I ILKED. ONCE. By Guy Vanderhaeghe. Les, talking to police during an interrogation).
LES. It only came to me this summer, you know? That I was invisible. (Laughs) I mean, I thought I was flesh and blood and solid but certain people, certain kinds of people, were looking right through me. Not all people, like my old man sure as hell sees me because who else is he always yelling at? And Mike, he sees me, and the girls who have to work at the Dog ‘n Suds and the old ladies who shop at the Saan Store – these kind of people can see me. But the other kind – the ones that live in the nice houses, the ones that drive the Chrysler New Yorkers and Buick LeSabres, you know, the ones who sit on the Recreation Board, the fat old farts who waddle around the golf course and tip you a dime for hauling their golf bags around after them for three and half hours when you’re thirteen years old, and blame you because they hit a duck hook, you were supposed to’ve moved or something – they look right through you, to them you’re invisible. (pause) Like Tracy and her crowd at the pool. I stood right up to the grill but they never saw me. Didn’t have a clue I was there. (pause) I studied them. I even knew whose beach towel was whose. I spot an empty beach towel and I knew who’d jumped in the pool. The girls – they never swim – they just jump in when they get too hot from tanning. And the music going all the time, full blast. When the pumps are shut down I hear the music. (pause) Nights they had parties. Teen parties, I mean. Somebody would bring a barbeque to do hamburgers and hotdogs. And there’d be dancing. All the floodlights shining down and the underwater lights in the pool turning the water a beautiful green and the sky pitch black, or sometimes a big yellow moon, and everybody dancing in their bathing suits. (beat) I used to sit in the dark and watch them. Soon as the party started I’d turn the lights out in the pump room. If I’d have had a light on they could have seen me watching at the window, right? So I sat in the dark. I held my cigarette like this. (He holds up a cupped hand.) So they couldn’t see the tip burning red in the window. My old man said that’s the way they did it in the war, so they didn’t give themselves away to the enemy. (beat) They didn’t even know I existed.
THE LARAMIE PROJECT, by Moises Kaufman. Aaron Kreifels, on finding Matthew Shepard.
AARON. Well, I, uh, took off on my bicycle about five o’clock PM on Wednesday from my dorm. I just kinda felt like going for a ride. So I – I went up to the top of Cactus Canyon, and I’m not super familiar with that area, so on my way back down, I didn’t know where I was going. I was just sort of picking the way to go, which now . . . it just makes me think that God wanted me to find him because there was no way that I was going to go that way.
So I was in some deep ass sand, and I wanted to turn around – but for some reason, I kept going. And, uh, I went along, and there was this rock on the – on the ground – and I just drilled it. I went – over the handlebars and ended up on the ground.
So, uh, I got up and I was just kind of dusting myself off, and I was looking around and I noticed something – which ended up to be Matt, and he was just lying there by a fence, and I – I just thought it was a scarecrow. I was like, Halloween’s coming up, thought it was a Halloween gag, so I didn’t think much of it, so I got my bike, walked it around the fence that was there. It was a buck type fence. And, uh, got closer to him and I noticed his hair – and that was the major key to me, noticing it was a human being – was the hair. ‘Cause I just thought it was a dummy, seriously, I noticed – I even noticed the chest going up and down. I still thought it was a dummy, you know. I thought it was just some kind of mechanism. But when I saw the hair, well, I knew it was a human being.
So . . . I ran to the nearest house and – I just ran as fast as I could . . . and called the police. There was nothing I could do. I mean, if there was anything that I could’ve done to help him, I would’ve done it, but there was nothing.
THE LARAMIE PROJECT, by Moises Kaufman. Dennis Shepard, making a statement to the court after his son’s death.
DENNIS. My son Matthew did not look like a winner. He was rather uncoordinated and wore braces from the age of thirteen until the day he died. However, in his all too brief life he proved that he as a winner. On October 6th, 1998 my son tried to show the world that he could win again. On October 12th, 1998, my first born son and my hero, lost. On October 12th, 1998 my first born son and hero, died, fifty days before his twenty-second birthday.
I keep wondering the same thing that I did when I first saw him in the hospital. What would he have become? How could he have changed his piece of the world to make it better?
Matt officially died in a hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado. He actually died on the outskirts of Laramie, tied to a fence. You Mr. McKinney with your friend Mr. Henderson left him out there by himself, but he wasn’t alone. There were his lifelong friends with him, friends that he had grown up with. You’re probably wondering who these friends were. First he had the beautiful night sky and the same stars and moon that we used to see through a telescope. Then he had the daylight and the sun to shine on him. And through it all he as breathing in the scent on pine trees from the snowy range. He heard the wind, the ever-present Wyoming wind, for the last time. He had one more friend with him. He had God. And I feel better knowing he wasn’t alone.
Matt’s beating, hospitalization, and funeral focused worldwide attention on hate. Good is coming out of evil. People have said enough is enough. I miss my son, but I am proud to be able to say that he is my son.
Judy has been quoted as being against the death penalty. It has been stated that Matt was against the death penalty. Both of these statements are wrong. Matt believed that there were crimes and incidents that justified the death penalty. I too believe in the death penalty. I would like nothing better than to see you die Mr. McKinney. However this is the time to begin the healing process. To show mercy to someone who refused to show any mercy. Mr. McKinney, I am going to grant you life, as hard as it is for me to do so, because of Matthew. Every time you celebrate Christmas, a birthday, the Fourth of July remember that Matt isn’t. Every time you wake up in your prison cell remember that you had the opportunity and the ability to stop your actions that night. You robbed me of something very precious and I will never forgive you for that. Mr. McKinney, I give you life in the memory of one who no longer lives. May you have a long life and may you thank Matthew every day for it.
AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY, by Tracy Letts. Beverly, opens the play by describing the relationship with his wife.
BEVERLY. “Life is very long.” T.S. Eliot. I mean, he’s given credit for it because he bothered to write it down. He’s not the first person to say it . . . certainly not the first person to think it. Feel it. But he wrote the words on a sheet of paper and signed it and the four-eyed jerk was a genius . . . so if you say it, you have to say his name after it. “Life is very long”: T.S. Eliot.
Absolutely goddamn right. Especially in his case, since he lived to be seventy-six or something, a very long life, especially in those days. And he was only in his thirties when he wrote it so he must’ve had some inside dope.
Give the devil his due. Very few poets could’ve made it through his . . . his trial and come out on the other side. I admire the hell out of Eliot, the poet, but the person? I can’t identify. (We hear Violet’s voice off stage)
Violet. My wife. She takes pills, sometimes a great many. And they affect . . . among other things, her equilibrium. Fortunately, the pills she takes eliminate her need for equilibrium. So she falls when she rambles . . . but she doesn’t ramble much. My wife takes pills and I drink. That’s the bargain we’ve struck . . . one of the bargains, just one paragraph of our marriage contract . . . cruel convenant. She takes pills and I drink. I don’t drink because she takes pills. As to whether she takes pills because I drink . . . I learned long ago not to speak for my wife. The reasons why we partake are anymore inconsequential. The facts are: My wife takes pills and I drink. And these facts have over time made burdensome the maintenance of traditional American routine: paying of bills, purchase of goods, cleaning of clothes or carpets or crappers. Rather than once more assume the mantle of guilt . . . vow abstinence with my fingers crossed in the queasy hope of righting our ship, I’ve chosen to turn my life over to a Higher Power . . . (hoists his glass) . . . and join the ranks of the hiring class. It’s not a decision with which I am entirely comfortable. The place isn’t in such bad shape, not yet. I’ve done all right. I’ve managed.
THE PILLOWMAN, by Martin McDonagh. Ariel, a police officer in an interrogation room.
ARIEL. Well, y’know, I’ll tell you what there is about me. There is an overwhelming, and there is an all-pervading, hatred . . . . a hatred . . . of people like you. Of people who lay even the littlest finger . . . on children. I wake up with it. It wakes me up. It rides on the bus with me to work. It whispers to me, “They will not get away with it.” I come in early. I make sure all the bindings are clean and the electrodes are in the right order so we won’t . . . waste . . . time. I admit, sometimes I use excessive force. And sometimes I use excessive force on an entirely innocent individual. But I’ll tell you this. If an entirely innocent individual leaves this room for the outside world, they’re not gonna contemplate even raising their voice to a little kid again, just in case I hear’em and drag’em in here for another load of excessive force. Now, is this kind of behavior in an officer of the law in some way questionable morally? Of course it is! But you know what? I don’t care! ‘Cos, when I’m an old man, you know what? Little kids are gonna follow me around and they’re gonna know my name and what I stood for, and they’re gonna give me some of their sweets in thanks, and I’m gonna take those sweets and thank them and tell them to get home safe, and I’m gonna be happy. Not because of the sweets, I don’t really like sweets, but because I’d know . . . I’d know in my heart, that if I hadn’t been there, not all of them would have been there. Because I’m a good policeman. Not necessarily good in the sense of being able to solve lots of stuff, because I’m not, but good in the sense of I stand for something. I stand for something. I stand on the right side. The child’s side. The opposite side to you. And so, naturally when I hear that a child has been killed in a fashion . . . in a fashion such as this . . . You know what? I would torture you to death just for writing a story like that, let alone acting it out! ‘Cos two wrongs do not make a right. Two wrongs do not make a right. So kneel down over here, please, so I can connect you to this battery.
RABBIT HOLE, by David Lindsay-Abaire. Jason, writing to the parents of a boy who died in a car accident.
JASON. Dear Mr. and Mrs. Corbett, I wanted to send you my condolences on the death of your son, Danny. I know it’s been eight months since the accident, but I’m sure it’s probably still hard for you to be reminded of that day. I think about what happened a lot, as I’m sure you do, too. I’ve been having some troubles at home, and at school, and a couple people here thought it might be a good idea to write to you. I’m sorry if this letter upsets you. That’s obviously not my intention. Even though I never knew Danny, I did read that article in the town paper, and was happy to learn a little bit about him. He sounds like he was a great kid. I’m sure you miss him a lot, as you said in the article. I especially liked the part where Mr. Corbett talked about Danny’s robots, because when I was his age I as a big fan of robots, too. In fact I still am, in some ways – ha ha. I’ve enclosed a short story that’s going to be printed in my high school lit magazine. I don’t know if you like science fiction or not, but I’ve enclosed it anyway. I was hoping to dedicate the story to Danny’s memory. There aren’t any robots in this one, but I think it would be the kind of story he’d like if he were my age. Would it bother you if I dedicated the story? If so, please let me know. The printer deadline for the magazine is March 31st. If you tell me before then, I can have them take it off. I know this probably doesn’t make things any better, but I wanted you to know how terrible I feel about Danny. I know that no matter how hard this has been on me, I can never understand the depth of your loss. My mom has only told me that about a hundred times – ha ha. I of course wanted to say how sorry I am that things happened the way they did, and that I wish I had driven down a different block that day. I’m sure you do, too. Anyway, that’s it for now. If you’d like to let me know about the dedication, you can email me at the address above. If I don’t hear from you, I’ll assume it’s okay. Sincerely, Jason Willette. (Beat.) P.S. Would it be possible to meet you in person at some point?
WATER BY THE SPOONFUL, BY Quiara Alegria Hudes. Chutes and Ladders, about his rescue from drowning.
CHUTES AND LADDERS. Ah, the ocean . . . There’s only one thing on this planet I’m more scared of than that big blue lady. LOL, truer words have never been spoken. You know I was born just a few miles from the Pacific. In the fresh salt air. Back in “those days” I’m at Coronado Beach with a few “friends” doing my “thing” and I get sucked up under this wave. I gasp, I breathe in, and my lungs fill with water. I’m like, this is it, I’m going to meet my maker. I had never felt so heavy, not even during my two OD’s. I was sinking to the bottom and my head hit the sand like a lead ball. My body felt just like an anvil. The next thing I know there’s fingers digging in my ankles. This lifeguard pulls me out, I’m throwing up salt water. I say to him, “Hey blondie, you don’t know me from Adam but you are my witness: Today’s the day I start to live.” And this lifeguard, I mean he was young with these muscles, this kid looks at me like, “Who is this big black dude who can’t even doggy paddle?” When I stand up and brush the sand off me, people applaud. An old lady touches my cheek and says, “I thought you were done for.” I get back to San Diego that night, make one phone call, the next day I’m in my first meeting, sitting in a folding chair, saying the Serenity Prayer.
WATER BY THE SPOONFUL, BY Quiara Alegria Hudes. Fountainhead, about his struggles with addiction.
FOUNTAINHEAD. Me and crack: long story short. I was at a conference with our C.F.O. and two programmers and a not-unattractive lady in H.R. They snorted, invited me to join. A few weeks later that little rock waltzed right into my hand. I’ve been using on and off ever since. One eightball every Saturday, strict rations, portion control. Though the last three or four weeks, it’s less like getting high and more like trying to build a time machine. Anything to get back the romance of that virgin smoke. Last weekend I let myself buy more than my predetermined allotment – I buy in small quantity, because as with food, I eat what’s on my plate. Anyway, I ran over a curb, damaged the underside of my Porsche. Now it’s in the shop and I’m driving a rental Mustang. So, not rock bottom but a rental Ford is as close to rock bottom as I’d like to get.
Last night we ran out of butter while my wife was cooking and she sent me to the store and it took every bit of strength I could summon not to make a “wrong turn” to that parking lot I know so well. I got the butter, and on the car ride home, I couldn’t help it, I drove by the lot, and there was my dealer in the shadows. My brain went on attack. “Use one more time just to prove you won’t need another hit tomorrow.” I managed to keep on driving and bring the butter home. Major victory. And my wife pulls it out of the plastic bag and says, “This is unsalted. I said salted.” Then she feels guilty so she says never mind, never mind, she’ll just add a little extra salt to the pie crust but I insist. “No, no. no, my wife deserves the right kind of butter and she’s gonna get it!” I mean, I bark it, I’m already halfway out the door, my heart was racing all the way to the parking lot and raced even harder when I sat in the car and smoked. So, Michael Jordan is benched with a broken foot. But he’ll come back in the finals.
FREDDY. I could lose my job, ma’am. I told them I’d be there when they call. Please try to understand. I need this job. It was the only thing I could get, the only thing I’ve been able to hold onto. And there’s competition for this kind of job, believe it or not. They’d fire me in a second if they had any trouble with me. They’ve told me so. There’s plenty more where I came from – that’s what they say. I’m not what you’d call highly employable. About the only thing I know how to do is fly a plane and they won’t let me do that anymore on account of my injury. I caught some flak on the left side here and I haven’t got any strength on my whole left side, see? So I can’t fly. But I can drive all right. It’s not the same, but sometimes I use my imagination and it almost seems like I’m flying again. That’s why I need this job – it keeps me from going nuts. See, with any other job, it’d be impossible to even use my imagination; but driving a car, see, I pretend like it’s my plane. My old plane. That old Ford out there. In my mind, while I’m tooling down East Main with the sunlight coming through the trees, I imagine I’m back in my little baby. Corsair. Best damn flying machine they ever built. And the treetops, the branches hanging down covered in leaves, they’re the clouds. With the sunlight flickering through them. And the sky over me. And if I squint a little bit, I can imagine it’s the whole earth below me, not just Main Street. (Looks out the window.)
You’d never think, looking at that old Ford, that anybody could use their imagination and make it the best little fighter plane they ever saw. But I’ve got a powerful imagination. That’s one thing about me – ever since I was a kid, I had a powerful imagination. I never lost it.
THE DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES, by J.P. Miller. Joe Clay, a recovering alcoholic.
JOE. My name is Joe, and – (He clear his throat.) – and I’m an alcoholic. (He takes a deep breath ad lets it out, relieved. Then he smiles broadly.)
I’ve never said that in public before. I’ve said it to Fred, in private. But he’s my sponsor, as you know, and I was in a straight-jacket at the time, and I thought that telling him that I was an alcoholic just like him, whether I meant it or not, was a nice way to thank him for putting cigarettes between my lips and lighting them for me. I also told my wife I’m an alcoholic, but she says I’m not, because I’m just like her and she’s not. But that’s another story . . . My mom and dad were a night-club act—still are, somewhere – I’m not sure where at the moment. When I was a kid, everything they did had to do with booze. Get a booking? Celebrate. Meaning get drunk. Close a split week? Forget by getting drunk. Can’t pay the rent? Get drunk and forget it. Have a birthday? Get drunk and laugh. A friend dies? Get drunk and cry. After the last show they always had a few to “relax.” Not me. Too young. I had to relax by watching them get drunk. You can get pretty tense, believe me, relaxing that way.
Then, when I was fourteen, they were playing a small room in Vegas and bombing out and my mom entered a beautiful legs contest and won. They stuck a big sexy picture of her outside the lounge with “Mrs. Las Vegas Legs” emblazoned on it, and we started selling out and were held over. To help them celebrate, they let me have a drink – a nice icy stinger – my first drink ever. It was delicious. All I could think was – how could I have wasted all those years? Well, I continued to celebrate my mom’s election as Mrs. Las Vegas Legs from that day on with great enthusiasm.
WHEN A DIVA DREAMS, by Gary Garrison. Lipton, a man doing his best to help a friend in need.
LIPTON. There’s nothing tender ‘bout that woman, and when someone walks through your life with no trace of tenderness, people are gonna get hurt. And if you’re family, you’re gonna get hurt bad, ‘cause family is the spoon that stirs your pot like nobody else.
I had an old hound dog. His name was Buster. Loved that dog like a wife. Anyway, one early morning me and old Buster was down at Coleman’s Gully fishing for Buster’s favorite, crawdads. Never knew a dog to eat shellfish, but Buster could make his way through a pound and a half of shrimp or crawfish ‘for he’d stop. Well, we were having a good day that day. I bet I caught five pounds of crawfish ‘for the sun broke over the horizon. Old Buster was lickin’ his chops and waggin’ that tail ninety-miles an hour. He knew there was a feast in that bucket. Now for some reason, on this particular morning, Buster wasn’t in a sharin’ mood. He wanted every one of them crawfish. Every time I reached for the bucket, he’d snarl and snap at me. So I let him have it – the whole bucket. And he ate every crawfish in there, that tail just a-waggin’. He died about an hour later . . . Some family’s are like that. They’re greedy, and they’ll take everything you offer them and you’ll always give them everything you got. But sooner or later, someone’s gonna croak on the excess.
Don’t give her everything you got. It’s the best thing for the both of you.
MOLLY’S DELICIOUS, by Craig Wright. Jerry, a young soldier on leave from the war in Vietnam.
JERRY. Can I tell you something? Was thinking in town, you know: I’m brave about everything but you. Yeah. I had a whole ship run over me once when I was working in a buoy cage in the Marshall Islands, and I wasn’t half as scared then, bouncing and clanking around underneath that ship as I am whenever I get around you. And darlin’, believe me, I know exactly what you mean about me being gone all the time, I know it’s not a good way to be married. My Dad was a Coastie and he was never around, and when my Mom died, I had to keep her casket in the house for two weeks waiting for him to get clearance to come home and see her. So I know it’s not ideal. I do. But darlin’, I gotta be honest with you. When I die, when my mind flips back through the pages, trying to find what really mattered? If I had to pick which moments to look at right before I slipped away, I know that every one of those moments would be on a ship in the middle of the ocean, because that’s the only place my soul is really satisfied. I mean, I can talk a good game back here in polite society, and I do like a pretty girl – well, one pretty girl in particular – but at heart? – I’m a sailor. And like my Daddy used to say to me, “Sailors belong on ships, and ships belong at sea.” And it’s true. I love you SO much darlin’. . . but I don’t know what I’d become if I left the service – probably some sort of monster. And that wouldn’t be good for you or Junior.
I won’t get killed, I promise. Look, you want this war to end? Le me go. Send me back. Let me do my job and I guarantee you in six months time there won’t be one American soldier left over there. And I’ll come home in three years to you and Junior and we’ll be stationed in San Francisco or who knows where – it’s just three years away, darlin’. Every kind of happiness you ever dreamed of us having is just three years away. Can’t you hold on til then? Please? I love you so much. Please?
ECHOES FROM THE STREET, by Corey Tyler. The Father, a man whose son has been murdered.
THE FATHER. People ask me how? How can I do it? How can I forgive? How can I love my life from day to day and not hate the ones that took my son away from me? And I tell them, by the grace of God. There’s no more room in my life for anger. No more room inside of me for hate. I wanted so much to be angry at the ones who killed him. But I spent so much of my life that way for all the things I thought God had done to me . . . that I forgot how to live. So many years I wasted angry. So much time I let slip past . . . all because I didn’t know the way God works. Because I didn’t know that heartache and pain aren’t in our lives to cause us pain but strengthen our faith. That loss and hardship . . . and even death, aren’t meant to punish us . . . but bring us closer to his will.
He was such a beautiful boy. Mo matter what they say about him . . . he was precious to me . . . to both of us. The first time I ever held him I knew what all the pain in my life was for. Every burden I’d ever carried brought me to that moment. Standing in the delivery room . . . holding everything I’d ever hoped for in my arms. He was all the proof I needed that there was a God . . . and that there had been a plan for my life all along. That I wasn’t suffering all those years for nothing.
I realize that we are all just as beautiful in God’s eyes as my son was to me. In that moment, I found the answer to every question I ever screamed at God. He was the reason why. I had to be ready for him. So I can’t be angry now, because I know the way God works. I know that this was his plan for my son’s life. And I know that God in all his wisdom doesn’t give us what we can’t handle. And whatever he does give us, he uses to make us stronger. Even if it means burying your only son. Although I have the burden of living without the sight of his smile or the sound of his voice, I know that day will come when I will see my son again. And it will happen . . . in the twinkling of an eye.
ECHOES FROM THE STREET, by Corey Tyler. The Murderer, a young sociopath who reveals his barren soul.
THE MURDERER. I am what you think I am. I am everything you think I should be. You speak of me in circles, in fear or in disgust. I am the embodiment of your judgment or compassion, your dreams or your disdain. Your fondest wish or your deepest fear. For you see, I am a murderer.
I was born into the world a bastard. Stripped of the natural crown of a father’s name. Nursed through infancy by a mother no more than a child herself. The common traits of warmth and safety were absent in my childhood. In their place were stripped walls and shattered windows. Burned out cars in empty lots. Sidewalks cluttered with empty cans and corners draped with haggard men. Their young faces hardened from lives lived without purpose . . . To be hungry meant to eat and to eat meant to steal. To live meant to survive and to survive meant to fight. I began to wander the streets of my neighborhood at night. Meeting with others who were as bruised and weakened by that force we could not explain, the aching pulse of the world’s disgust. We began to travel in something of a pack . . . like stalking wolves in the hours past dusk. Running from the hate the world had to offer toward the destruction it assumed. We were mercenaries without purpose, villains without cause. Pillaging the world that wronged us. We would write our names in spray paint on the sides of buildings long abandoned so that the world would know that we were here and had lived. When the need was fit to warrant we robbed the handbags of women old enough to have nursed us. Using our earnings to purchase delusions. Drugs, drink . . . anything to drown the voices in our heads The voices telling us our lives were being wasted running from what we could not escape, the truth of our worthlessness.
And as the pain of my life continued, my heart began to swell with a rage without regret. An anger that turned my thoughts toward Vengeance. Vengeance for those who damned. Vengeance for those who scorned . . .for those who left me with so little that was right and wondered why so much I did was wrong. And then, that night, I saw him. The boy . . . That night, that need, that lasting thirst for vengeance of the world’s denial I quenched in the instant of a gunshot’s echo. Leaving in the boy’s body on that corner in the night what was left as my birthright . . . nothing.
JUST TAKING UP SPACE, by Nancy Gall-Clayton. Frank Owen, a juvenile offender whose future is in question.
FRANK. Let’s see, I was telling you about my dad’s birthday. I was nine or ten. It was about a year before my dad disappeared on us. I got every fishing pole out of the cellar and managed to get them down to the riverbank. I laid those poles out on the big rock where we fished and put little rocks on top of them so the poles wouldn’t roll in. Then I just waited. Figured I’d have a mess of catfish for my dad. Surprise him real good, only guess what? I fell asleep, and while I was asleep, a breeze came up, and those lines got all tangled up and not one of them with a fish on it!
I woke up with my dad standing over me hollering at me. He said my mother was worried about me and no one knew where I was and why did I think I could take other people’s fishing poles. Then he tells me, “Franklin,” -- he always called me “Franklin” when he was mad. “I’m going back for my birthday supper but you, you stay right here until you untangle those fishing lines!” And he left in a big huff. It was hard to do, real hard, and by the time I finished my stomach was growling, my fingers were bleeding, and it was almost dark.
When I got home, no one was there. I found out later they’d gone to a movie. The cellar door was open, so I put the poles down there, and then I went in the kitchen. The cake plate was sitting next to the sink, but there wasn’t a single piece left. I scraped some frosting off with my finger, but the dirt and the blood got mixed up with it. I had to spit it out. Then I went to bed in that empty house. (pause) I’ve never told anybody that story. I never even told my dad what I was trying to do, that it was all meant for a birthday gift.
JAKE. You know what I was thinking about? How we met at that club . . . you were a city girl in a black skirt, sipping on a Sloe Gin Fizz . . . and then I asked you to dance . . . I gave you my number and it took you two days to call me . . . but you did. Then it was back and firth for us. Me going to the city. You coming out here. We just kept going . . . back and forth. Like marbles. I was supposed to get married when I met you. Monica still hates me. She came into the hardware store the other day and she just stared at me with these icy cold eyes, like she wanted to spit on me. Just like my old man. She looked at me, just the same. I just stood there, like an idiot. And I smiled at her. I was kinda hoping she would have forgiven me by now. No such luck. She wishes that I was dead.
Dana, I remember the first weekend that you and I spent together. I had to drive you to the bus depot. Right there, in front of God and everybody, I kissed you. I could feel your heart . . . ba-boom . . . ba-boom . . . like a heart attack. Then you looked at me. And I thought you were gonna cry, because you usually do. But I knew that you loved me. Nobody ever looked at me the way you did that day.. Your eyes . . . they were so warm to me. I could tell you were sad, Dana. In fact, when I first saw you . . . I knew. I knew it was going to be this. Living together and making spaghetti. Getting wired and staying up for days. I wasn’t going to marry a rich girl named Monica. No way. I got me a Dana. She wants to write herself a best-seller. She wants to go to Paris someday because when she was a little girl, her grandmother sent her a postcard and she wanted t crawl inside of the picture. And she makes those crazy wishes on those glow-in-the-dark stars I put up on the ceiling above the bed. She sees herself up there. She is higher than high. She wants to be famous and take me with her on the ride, but she feels like she’s got to hurry. She’s scared I might get bored with it all and just say forget it.
THE ENDS OF THE EARTH, by Morris Panych. Walker, a man suffering from paranoid delusions.
WALKER. People don’t go through my garbage for no reason. Interview my neighbors. Publish secret messages in the press. Taunt me with mocking tongue gestures. Throw salad. These are no accidents – these little – events – in my life. From that day I was struck by lightning, three years old, charred and dazed, staring up into the sky and wondering what happened, I began to sense a certain something about myself: that I was a sort of – a conductor – of bad things. You know? That all the ill will that could exist in the universe was somehow attracted to me, drawn down through me like a kind of lightning rod. Just this – lone tree on the landscape. An orphan from birth, left standing, just waiting for bad luck to strike me. Sometimes it only happened in little, quiet ways. The way ice cream falls off the cone. Just another dream lying on the ground. Melting in the gutter. Or sometimes in ways more excruciating. Those prospective parents at the orphanage? Looking at me. Ugly. Ridiculous. Standing at the other end of the room. They’d never pick me. But how many times did they bring me out anyway, just to let me know. How many teachers would ignore my raised hand? How many prayers at night go unanswered? How many women charitably smile at me at bars. Hoping I wouldn’t come over to chat. How many years pass me by – and how many chances – before I realized there was a kind of pattern to all of this.
Of course, I shouldn’t expect people to really care. After all, isn’t life complicated and difficult enough? Yeah – maybe. But why is it so complicated and difficult? Well. That’s just the way the numbers come up, you think. Bingo. Nobody bothers to think about it. And then by chance, one day standing at some bus stop, you happen to notice a stranger who somehow seems connected to something. Something of which you are a part. However unwittingly. He seems to be alone. Acting on his own. You might almost believe that he’s just some nobody – just like you – working away at some pointless kind of – life. Maybe this isn’t about anything, you begin to think, waiting for your bus. Maybe there is a higher order to things. No conspiracy of any kind. Just some runaway machine we’re part of. Pistons wildly pumping, the speed accelerating, and no one at the controls. But then, out of the corner of your eye – you may suddenly catch a glimpse of the truth.