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Charlie's Not Home Much Anymore

 By

Anthony Steyning

revised December 27, 2016

 

subtitle

Would... That Manhattan!

 

 

 

You're witnessing the birth of a play. This is a first draft, I'm posting half of it. A bonafide stage director may contact me for the rest. This is a 1 Act show, of 1 hour duration, involving 2 main characters and briefly 1 child.

Fore Play

- Lord!?

- Yes, yes, what is it?

- Lord, I have bad news!

- Well, what is it?

- It seems, m'Lord, that we have intelligence on earth!

- Oh, SHIT! How did that happen?

- I don't know, m'Lord! An accident....

- So now what?

- I don't know, m'Lord! Search for an answer... meantime... at least pretend you care!

- Why?

- Or they'll fear that you set them up!

- No. I didn't. I have better things to do! You just said it, it was accident! So next time, let's be more careful!

- Next time, m'Lord?

- And only if these prove that they're worth it...

- It doesn't look that way! They're mostly morons and arseholes!

- So, then why do I have to pretend anything?

- I know, it's disconcerting! They even believe that prayer and sucking up to you fixes everything...

- No matter what I do, or do not do? I might as well not exist...

- You might as well, m'Lord! But let them pretend that you do, just in case...

- In case of what? This is getting very confusing! I had more fun making tigers and spiders and elephants!

 

 

Melancholy and ominous, listen to Sylvia Capova play Schubert, and read on....

 

 (Two older men near swings in the playground of a so-called star wood, a park laid out in the form of a star, preparing to don wig, clown’s red nose, propeller hat, shoes etc over business suits)

 

(First older man, sits down on swing in motion, with certain difficulty)

 

 

Jake: (hardly surprised) Well, well, look who’s here. (pauses) An irresistible invitation?

 

Charlie: (cutting him off) Am I late, missing the fun?

Jake: Attracted, like a moth to light?

Charlie: I love...

Jake: Escape? To run?

Charlie: I love it...

Jake: What? Forgetting?

Charlie: It doesn't happen much... (sly) that I get invited. Is there to eat?

Jake: To eat, to drink, but easy, after 6 o’clock it’s sex, sex and more of it…

 

Charlie: I knew it. I sensed it. I am dressed all right? The others?

 

Jake: I told you... Wear what you want, there’s only going to be the two of us!

 

Charlie:  (insisting) The more, the merrier...

Jake: You never listen.

Charlie: Where are they?

 

Jake: They’ve all been hanged...

 

Charlie: (shocked) Whàt? Hanged? (incredulous) Caught drinking, carousing, smoking?

 

Jake: (sombre) Much, much worse. (pause) There’s a hole in your lapel, right there, a burn; one of your cigars?  (consults his watch) What have you been up to?

 

 (Charlie, puts out cigar, checks lapel)

 

Charlie: (to himself) Can’t be overdressed…

 

Jake: (stern) Respectability requires precision… punctuality!

 

Charlie: (defensive) I’m not late. You said 4 o’clock!

 

Jake: I told you: At 4: Game…erg…curtains up! It’s 4.10!

 

Charlie: I’m walking slower now...

 

Jake: No you’re not. I saw you…

 

Charlie: (Throughout play will lower voice when lying) Yes I am…

 

Jake: I saw you coming.

 

Charlie: Yes I am…

 

Jake: You were marching!

 

Charlie: Yes I am…

 

Jake: That kind of day?

 

Charlie: Yes I am…

 

Jake: Not being stupid….

 

Charlie: Yes I am…

 

Jake: Got yah! And today… where do we come from, today?

 

Charlie: This is a party, isn’t it? Let’s have fun. It’s been a long time.

 

Jake: What has been a long time?

 

Charlie: That I had so much fun.

 

Jake: We haven’t started yet.

 

Charlie: Never mind. I’m ready for one! It’s good to be on the go. I like this park. It’s on my way...

 

Jake:  On the go? On your way? Where to?

 

Charlie: Nowhere, in particular.

 

Jake: On the run?

 

Charlie: Strolling...

 

Jake: Yes, right! And what feels good? Showing up whenever, wherever you want? Then taking off? How old are you?  

Charlie: Have we started? (Inexplicably dropping his pants)

 

Jake: Pull them up, this is not what you think.

 

Charlie: But you promised…

 

Jake: You’re diverting again. You always do.

 

Charlie: I digress. How old am I?

 

Jake: Every start… a false start!

 

Charlie: 24?

 

Jake: And loving your marches! (silence) Still missing them?

 

Charlie: (grabbing the other by the nose and holding it): Miss what? Born hopeless, near the bottom of the cauldron, picking a fight and WIN, leaving the weak behind? What do yòu think?

 

Jake: What are you doing? Let go of my nose! 

  

(Boy runs across stage, laughs, laughs, points at them, and disappears)

 

Charlie: I’m shaping it, bringing it down, it's way too big for your face.

 

Jake: Part of my outfit. Let go!

 

Charlie: (laughs) The one below, also cold, also wet, exactly the same….

 

Jake (trying to swing): All right. All right. You had your fun, you did your heroics, now let go.

 

Charlie (sounding horn, letting go): It feels good to be young, it feels good to be strong...

 

Jake: The spoils of it, the game of it, belonging again?

 

Charlie: My life in front of me, doing whatever I want, even picking another nose. I have choices, had them, missed them, not now. Have we started? I just came back from having left, from being gone.

 

Jake: From boredom? From ennui? From fleeing? From being alone…

 

Charlie: I’ve had it all… I won!

 

Jake: Are you listening? Back from being asked too much, from faking… yet another train?

 

Charlie: I won!

 

Jake: Ah, yes! Man the competitor, eternal rival, always the best! My sister’s like that, ten years older and forever counting… who she beat, till death, almost gleeful when a friend or lover dies, by virtue of outliving them. But I survived with her, we both... the others... (emotional) I still pine for them... days without them, not days... life without them, like the torture befalling them... (controls himself) Bet you anything she hopes her husband conks out before she does. Never mind the coming loneliness, the silence, they do get along, but like the man said, she likes to win at everything, including at losing… it seems.

 

Charlie: I prefer kicking arse, feeling strong….

 

Jake: Inspiring fear? Feared? Shoving? Shooting? Slashing? Burning? Thieving? Words resonating below real or imaginary bayonets, over the sound of boots on cobble stones? So whàt… you say…

 

Charlie: So whàt!

 

Jake: And now what? We play…?

 

Charlie: I met this woman who couldn’t sit down…

 

Jake: Nice move, nice fade... When?

 

Charlie: Any day! She had a fissure of the anus, in constant pain, couldn’t sit, couldn’t lie down, couldn’t go to the Loo, they had to purge her, afterwards giving her opium patches to kill the pain. Problem was her arse began to hallucinate, thinking it was a motorbike…

 

Jake: What a life!

 

Charlie: Whose?

 

Jake: Not hers, yours….

 

Charlie: Don’t ask!

 

Jake: Who’s asking? This is all play…

 

Charlie (contempt): You only question! Asking, asking, asking… all the time! What have yoù done to merit... Kept before captured, nicely fed, taken on strolls, while I had to march?

 

Jake: My life still taken away. Still figuring out by whom, still looking for another one, perhaps I’ll find it here and at last, in the playground, in the park... exactly where you stand.

 

Charlie: Too late…

 

Jake: You never know…

 

Charlie: At one point I wanted to be dead….

 

Jake: I would have had no unfinished business…

 

Charlie: What’s that?

 

Jake: Have you been back, ever been back?

 

Charlie: But then suddenly… things got better. I’m spotting this girl….

 

Jake: (derisory)(not believing a word of it) Annie? Annie Histamine? There to take care….of the dregs, the rag weeds, the pollen? Nice to sneeze you?

 

Charlie: ….she lives on the other side of town, where things look different, following her home one day, after school, where I paint window frames but am not allowed in. Her first smile changing my world, which had never happened before. I’m not ugly, but with bad skin, no money but willing to work and one day give a girl….whatever she wants.

 

Jake: But have you been back?

 

Charlie: I’m not too smart, but I’m not too stupid either, hoping she’ll give me a chance, that they will give me a chance, time, to be reckoned with!

 

Jake: That’s not what counts. What counts is that you matter…

 

Charlie: (insisting) Look, there goes….

 

Jake (imitating): So what, I told myself, if I joined the army, the party, get myself…a swank uniform, one, two, they’ll pay me, three, four, won’t they, and I’ll get to march in front of her house, three, four, and she’ll rush out and ask me who I am, and I’ll tell her that I’ll fight, fight for her, three, four… (pauses) (self) If you went back, you might be in for a rude... What’s your name again?

 

Charlie: Louis Armstrong! But who tells you all this...?

 

Jake: Nobody.  One always guesses… mostly everything.

 

Charlie:  I fought…

 

Jake: And murdered, Louis…. didn’t you?

 

Charlie: Practically a matter of State…

 

Jake: Practically?

 

Charlie: (ignoring the question) Impressing her, making people look up to me, to her standing next to me: (large gesture) LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: LOUIS… ARMSTRONG!!!  

 

Jake: (imitating).’I mattered, three, four, something which never happened before…’

 

Charlie (aggressive): I’m tall, they’re small, had it all.

 

Jake: It feels good to resent, doesn’t it? At 24! But if you don’t go back, you won’t understand what went wrong…

 

Charlie: For once getting, no one taking from me, keeping everything…

 

Jake: In the end what happened?

 

Charlie: (proud) I got her, I got her!

 

Jake: But dead! Trapped under rubble, dismembered, dehydrated, asphyxiated, starving, buried alive, crushed under the weight of unnatural dreams, the general idea OK, but the method stinking? (pauses) I remember our dog getting run over and my mother screaming as it lay bleeding in the middle of the road, (Charlie starts crying) with her crying and stroking its poor little head, trying to lift it up, taking it to the vet. But after years of faithful love it raised its snout, snarling, something it had never done before, eye whites showing, nearly biting her finger off. Blind with pain and dying, striking out defending itself, thinking it got attacked. My mother screaming, also in pain, it no longer recognizing her, feeling betrayed, one thing or another, it often happens I’m told, when in agony, animals and people alike, savagely striking out…

 

Charlie: (wiping his eyes, blowing his nose as best he can) Why are you telling me this? What’s your name?

 

Jake: Ella Fitzgerald. I never understood why the wounded wound…the mute remain silent, the blind close their eyes, how memories… how memories can bite fingers off, how nobody marches alone, those who march liking it, those who march having done it before. People who march… hey, you wanted to be dead, but decided to brutalize, the space in between…. calling it life?

 

Charlie (defensive): What do you know? I just got here, walking here alone, wanting to breathe open air, meet you, no flags, no guns, all that… old hat. Having fun, pretending we’re clowns, then leaving… How did we meet, who are you, have I known you…long? What are we playing, is it passed 4 o’clock? Have we started, what are yoù doing here? Are you following me? Am I your mother’s dog? Just like him, no family my own? (laughs) If I have no children, then why screw the babysitter?

 

Jake: I follow those who think they’re followed, because there must be a damned good reason and I want to find out. It stinks there where they march, ruining the fresh, the free open air...  Maybe you want to find out what the hell that smell is, protruding from uniforms walking the wrong side.

 

Charlie: It’s true. I fought. For my land, drawing the line…

 

Jake: A line in the sand? OK, but only in sand, where footsteps live, barely visible, partially washed ‘way, shifting, yet always leading some place.

 

Charlie: ….marking the limits.

 

Jake: Demarcation, the game?

 

Charlie: Everyone does. It’s what we are.

 

Jake: Nicolas Chauvin sure did, Bonaparte his favourite Emperor...

 

Charlie: See!!!

 

Jake: Have you heard of him? Victor Hugo, and his brother There…

 

Charlie: There Hugo?

 

Jake: Victor Hugo used to say Napoleon was the first idiot who thought he was Napoleon.

 

Charlie: So?

 

Jake: Chauvin his servant!!

 

Charlie: (sings) Mr. Chauvin, bring me a dream….

 

Jake: He was a good soldier, later always later…. ridiculed for delivering misery, endless pain. Always in uniform, never out of one, zealous, jealous…

 

Charlie: (sniffs) I don’t smell anything, but you.

Jake: (sniffs) And all I smell is defeat.

Charlie: (evasive) I never knew your age till we met. And what’s the right side?  TOPSHELF the only thing that matters, lying in a shop, front counter, everybody wanting you, in other words: (loud) MY TURN TO BE UP! And the boots under my suit, sounding beautiful, not sounding right, wrong, right, wrong, but simply… left, right, left, right.

 

Jake: Right left all right, but don’t be so loud! Are you leaving again? Loud people always say things they don’t want, to finish! Like GOOD BYE, NICE SEEING YOU AGAIN, MY REGARDS TO YOUR WIFE……!

 

Charlie: Don’t be a dope, rouse, rouse and SPEAK OUT!

 

Jake: Remembering quietly, is so much more important…. It’s all we have, don’t shout, ever seen how pathetic we get when we can’t remember, stopping to recognize. I remember almost everything, all of the unfinished business, helping those who can’t.

Charlie: You can’t forget? That’s a problem, worse than not remembering.

 

Jake: History…

 

Charlie: History? What’s that? But making it so, and now shut up!

  

Jake: Sure, I had mostly bad days, but also very, very clear ones. And I always knew my life was a story, a book, needing to be read in full, played out in its entirety, then probably placed peacefully on an oak shelf somewhere, just before my ultimate… demise. Having lived under the grass like a beetle, scuttling back and forth, every step of the way a discovery, for me grass a forest, each unevenness a mountain, every raindrop a flood, every footstep something larger... than I was. Fighting for life without knowing it, let alone knowing why, part of some food chain to produce something even more magnificent than what I could see... Than I!

 

Charlie: Yeah...

 

Jake: But if I’m allowed one wish, it would be: let me be, let me be... Today feeling no direct pain, but promising to be kind to those smaller than me. (slowly looking at Charlie, the mutant Chaplin) Except perhaps, one man....

 

Charlie: Let’s make your story a happy one, isn’t that what we’re here for, change everything, pretending? So I can stay? (Blows a plastic horn).

 

Jake: Not catching a train, departing no more…? (pauses) At least

yours has seats… (silence) They stole my parents, my home, my innocence…

 

Charlie: I don’t know your story. I am 24, and just beginning to feel great. Having the feeling I’m going to be all right...

 

Jake: Mine to be played out, so I don’t miss a beat, a stroke, a strike… The end of the long trek, the first balloonist to reach Uranus… The planet of surprises! For you, anyway....

 

Charlie: I have nothing else to do…

 

Jake: Yes, you do. You were marching, I saw you, you have everything to do. Some people march all their life, never get caught, not to get caught, not to get punished, not having to share, constantly faking anger to do the unthinkable, hating for the energy of it, some for the money, some for the esteem, for the elixir, or running from their executioner!

 

Charlie: I have nothing…

 

Jake: One never has ’nothing’, not nothing ‘to do’, not nothing ‘to regret’, not ever... Yes, perhaps you can help me too, acting out a full story, but first yours, then mine, leaving nothing to chance, twisted, warped, stolen, coerced.

 

Charlie: I don’t remember much, I don’t like this game! Let’s play another…

 

Jake: O, but you will and you must! Some board trains on their own, like you do. Others forced to travel... like freight, still more getting hurt laying the tracks, or shot, mistaken for buffalos. The trains of Burma, of the Gulags, the Camps, Iron Horses crushing the flesh and the bones of Comanche Indians...

 

Charlie: Do I know what you’re talking about?

 

Jake: You can help by imagining things, in a smart way. Things that never happened can be imagined, but better still, things that did happen but remain hidden, buried… brought back!

 

Charlie: OK As long as we pretend, nobody gets hurt.

 

Jake: I’m young, too, travelling, escaping from whatever...

 

Charlie: From poverty? From holiday camps!?

 

Jake: A camping for the rich, but weak somehow, in one way dumb! Shipped there by train…

 

Charlie:  To the dump, to the dump.... What are trains for..?

 

Jake: In Argentina, they use planes, sky trains. Let’s just say camps for the short, those only nominally smarter, and you… well, let’s say … you’re in charge!

 

Charlie: Smart-arse girls in attendance? Bathing in the creek?

  

Jake: Up the creek. Sinking a lot….

 

Charlie: Skinny ones?

 

Jake: Numbering their legs, to keep them apart?

 

Charlie: I like watching…

Jake: Mix bloody fluids?

Charlie: Or lie down...

 

Jake: And masturbate?

 

Charlie: Naw, go ‘way!

 

Jake: Par for the course?

 

Charlie: Naw, go ‘way!

 

Jake: Part of the weaponry?

 

Charlie: A weapon?

 

Jake: A Weapon of Mass Turbation!

 

Charlie: Naw, go ‘way!

 

Jake: Excellent whores, they? Pants to break into, than shoooof, shoved away, shoved deep down, the problem forgetting one can’t abuse them all, without killing oneself: exhausting, debilitating work..., mostly anyway!

 

Charlie: Pushing, what’s pushing? Pushing’s not drowning, this they do themselves. One can drown...

 

Jake: In the stones, in the asphalt of Fifth Avenue, the Champs-Élysées?

 

Charlie: That’s what I meant…

 

Jake: So every bloody one, for them bloody selves ?

 

Charlie: That’s what I mean!

 

Jake:(to himself). Personally I never understood this train business, the trains, if that’s what one has in mind, why spend millions killing the millions so far away? I mean, why industrialize annihilation? Think of the staff, the organization, the meals, the pipes, the chemicals, all that ink, ink on papers, on documents, ink in the skin of arms… So much simpler and faster to do it at night, in a stadium, near by. Even Rwandans know that! Look at Sudan! (pauses) Chile, Cambodia here I come… (bitter) God knows nothing about efficiency…

 

Charlie: Yes, they’re tiresome, not caring for me, keeping me out, keeping me out, and busy being younger, me just 24, already rejected… Imagine that!

 

Jake: (zooming back in) Ànd angry?

 

Charlie: How would you know?

 

Jake: Because you are pushing, still pushing…

 

Charlie: Pushing myself up! Like everybody else.

 

Jake: One can bathe without kicking, letting others live…

 

Charlie: Anyway, I don’t know what you’re talking about. (blows his horn) Whose story is this? Yours? Mine?

 

Jake: Every train arrives somewhere…

 

Charlie: They wouldn’t even say goodbye…

 

Jake: So you forced them?

 

Charlie: I made them admit they’re smart-arse anti-Caucasians. They looked different...

 

Jake: Goodbye babes! The final heave-ho. Like you would burst into an obstetrics ward growling, some people do rasp, snarl, growl, unable to speak normally for lack of convictions, and to a newborn raising that ugly voice, shouting: (imitates voice) So when are you going to buy your first shiny, brand new Bugatti, you rich, little bastard?

 

Charlie: (jumping, shouting, mimicking) It’s a jerk! It’s a jerk! Have a cigar!

 

Jake: Congratulations…. DAD!

 

Charlie: Can’t take the crying, water quieter. Can’t stand being ignored, hate babies, that scream and grow up walking… all over you.

 

Boy (in feathered gear, angry, raising, aiming, toy bow & arrow): Go Away. This is my land! I got here first… hunting... conquering… according to the laws…. of my people.

 

Jake: (kindly) Is it written somewhere, Kid? A family obsession? True therefore? What’s your name? Are you an Indian Brave? Do you have a horse?

 

Boy: I’m from the land of Kansas, I’m a Comanche, I’m going to shoot my arrow if you don’t go away!

 

Charlie: Why the little bastard!

 

Boy: Mammie, Mammie…. (runs away)

 

Charlie: So where’s your tomahawk, Chief Toughlittlebigshit?

 

Jake: It’s funny…

 

Charlie: What’s so damn funny?

 

Jake: Memory. It doesn’t only say what we were and what we are, but what we will be!

 

Charlie: How do you know? Are you really my age? I don’t know what’s happening. I’m getting old, except today. Where did that little monster come from? What did he want? Where did he go?

 

Jake: Yes, where do monsters come from, it’s what we must find out! Recidivism, lapsus is collapsus...  All and everything about stemming the tide…..If we could do that…. If only we could do that…..!

 

Charlie: (re-enacting)(laughing suddenly)

 

Just get up and hide halfway behind that tree. Now pull down your pants and your shorts. Now take an open stance and bend over. Now let me have a good look…you are… you are…72 years and 4 months old

 

Louis, you said, Louis, getting dressed and after a long silence, Louis that’s truly amazing…

 

What, that I asked you to pull them down, your pants....?

 

That you can tell my age by looking at my balls, you said.

 

What are you talking about, I said. You told me so last week, what’s your problem...

 

And you said: You’re my problem, always were, always will be. Now let’s go. And if you want to know your own age, just ask, ask me just once, so I return the favour…

 

Which I didn’t understand and you left, but I always knew that you’d be back, so I could ask you again, my name Charlie for the first time. And here we are today, together, in the park, and I must help you remember, when I always forget....

 

Jake: I only played along, it’s never too late!

 

Charlie: Too late for what?

 

Jake: To close the book, to stem my rage.

 

Charlie: The man from Nirvana…

 

Jake: Who?

 

Charlie: You sound like the man from Nirvana, or Walhalla, or…

 

Jake: Maybe I am!

 

Charlie: Where are you from? How long do I know you?

 

Jake: I found you in the park, a few years ago. I followed you, wanting to know who you were, if it was you…

 

Charlie: If I was who?

 

Jake: Nirvana’s not for everyone! I followed you from station to station, from town to town, from Café to Café, asking myself over and over again… to exact my pound of flesh, to avenge… or not...

 

Charlie: That’s true, Nirvana’s not for all, but one can make one’s own. I did it for years and for years, it worked fine for such a long time...

 

Jake: Getting away with it, getting away.

 

Charlie: (suspicious) Is this some sort of confession, are we playing something here?

 

Jake: (sadly) I once lived by what I was told about me, believing everything, how special I was. That I owned the horizon and beyond, everything sacred, mine, not realizing at the time how identity and owning kill sometimes.

 

Charlie: Kill off, the way it should be! Isn’t that what these guys Darwin & Nietzsche said all the time?

 

Jake: Identity discriminates, eliminates. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, if there’s one place where all this pain, all this hurt originates… (sighs) Don’t believe everything about yourself and yours, take it with a grain of salt. Darwin’s not about a super anybody. It’s about strength to face the elements, the tallest not master, or the Giraffe would say Mass on the square, command armies, build castles and walls… 

 

Charlie: Dog eats dog!

 

Jake: The Praying Mantis not having a prayer?

 

Charlie: Of course not. Ideas see me through, I never get hurt.

 

Jake: Rotten ideas… But let’s play this:  for 10 minutes not allowed to use the word ‘I’. To see what’s left, of us...

 

Charlie: There are no rotten ideas, when elbowing up they’re the straw raft making one float…

 

Jake: See, you’re not so forgetful, you’re just DEAF.

 

Charlie: Either that, or yòu don’t have a voice...Have to have a voice... I had a voice that got me somewhere.

 

Jake: Or was it the uniform, or at least the getting into one?

 

Charlie: I don’t seem to recall …

 

Jake: Or care. And true, your ideas NOT rotten: they’re…. NOTHING, and in the first place why and where those elbows and boots come in! As weapons…

 

Charlie: (evasive again) I tell you what, let’s not go to Hong Kong!

 

Jake: What? No more evasion, staying here, in the park, the journey to end? No train to L Mancha, China, Cathay, Manchuria?

 

Charlie: (pleading) Let’s not go to Damascus, Kabul…

 

Jake: You really don’t want to leave? Or am I coming along? Excuse me, no ‘I’ we said.

 

Charlie: I’ll try, here ‘we’ go, ‘we’ like it here, don’t we. ‘We’ would do anything for you… (suddenly emotional) You’re the only one ‘we’ know, in the streets, on the paths… everyone gone... (normal) ‘It’ only followed orders... ‘It’ did what ‘it’ was supposed to do, so ‘it’ was not responsible, ‘it’ personally having nothing to do with anything, ‘it’ only wanting to be better off, while still others always looked at ‘it’ in a funny way... ‘It’ slighted at every turn... provoked...hurt... left, feeling low... quite miserable…

 

Jake: (sardonic) ‘It’ feeling sorry for itself and where hate got born.

 

Charlie: (almost begging) But we’re friends, aren’t we? ‘We’ thought…

 

(Boy, comes in sight again, kicking a ball to them, hoping one of them will kick it back)

 

Jake: (kicking ball back) ( To Charlie) Why?

 

Charlie: The others long gone, the parade stopped, the creek drained.

 

Jake: You killed them?

 

Charlie: In winter it’s always cold.

 

Jake: What?

 

Charlie: They had everything….

 

Jake: Who?

 

Charlie: Them!

 

Jake: The ones with the roots, not the boots, sticking together, helping each other, smarter?

 

Charlie: What’s one to do?

 

Jake: ‘We’ don’t know, shoot roots, perhaps, not them

 

Charlie: ‘We’ tried, ‘all’ tried, she died, she ran, then all of us…

 

Jake:  But ‘we’ found you….

 

Charlie: Were you in the camp, the camping, where I… On holidays, learning how to swim?

 

Jake:  Oh, ‘we’ knew how to swim, it was you who was sinking. And by the way finding you, doesn’t mean ‘we’ met!

 

Charlie: So what, how long have we been coming here? At first, all alone...

 

Jake: We met a few years ago, both obsessed! With trains, getting on, getting off, going nowhere, somehow coming back, the other passengers gone, or not there, invisible, or else to be avoided at all cost…

 

Charlie: ‘It’ doesn’t remember too much!

 

Jake: (Anger, spell broken) Yes, you do. You’re doing this all the time. Walking behind me, you picked up a pencil that by accident ‘we’ had dropped on the path. ‘We’ were well dressed, looking respectable like today if ‘we’ took off our nose,  you wanting to kiss arse, because it’s who you are. You kick arse, but when required…. kissing one, too!

 

Charlie: Doing what all the time? What are you talking about?

 

Jake: Stealing!

 

Charlie: Stealing? Me? Stealing what?

 

Jake: You looked at my balls, making me take my pants off. You wanted to steal my dignity, because you have none.

 

(Little boy runs away)

 

Charlie: Your pencil? Stealing it? C’mon!

 

Jake: You tricked me, but ‘we’ wanted you to trick me, so you would talk about it in time, and ‘we’ could show you your memory’s fine. Damn, my tattoo’s aching again, it does that all the time when ’we’ talk...

 

Charlie: (laughs) Mine, too! It used to be the tough ones tattooing themselves, but now everyone’s doing it, leaving them shaving their head, sitting in health food café’s, putting on an earring, plotting, avenging among the unfried chips and the whole-wheat tarts… 

 

Jake: Funny, thugs eating health food and guards coming to parks. What the hell for? Prey? Prey on? Play? Pray? My tattoo was put on by you…

 

Charlie: Don’t pray, grab! (suddenly alarmed) What did you say?

 

(Jake hums throughout this sequence, something operatic, attempting to drown Charlie and his nonsense out)

 

Something about your tattoo? What does it say? Let me see? Is it a flower? A dragon? Is it new?

 

Jake: (interrupting himself)(sarcastic) Is it new? What do yòu think? Of course it’s not new, a child can see that, a child knows a tattoo doesn’t fade, staying fresh on the skin, on the mind. You just wànt it to be new, so you couldn’t possibly have anything to do…

 

Boy: Look, an old tattoo, it’s all blue! (pauses) I brand cattle, I carve trunks, as far as the hills, and if I could, would mark those, too!

 

Charlie: I never tattooed anyone! Wouldn’t know how! (remembering again to hide, not to use ‘I’) ‘Wenever touched anyone, ‘we’ never liked touching, they weren’t clean, they had lice, they needed a wash, the Indians had it coming as well, trying to stop the world, time, look at Manhattan, what would it be like today, is what ‘we’ ask...

 

Boy: Mammie, Mammie, that man wants to hurt me….

 

Jake: (interrupting, then resuming his humming, but signalling he’s been listening all the same) Manhattan, tell me about Manhattan. Skyscrapers are meaningless. Everything, everybody scrapes the sky, my nose scrapes the sky, my fingers scrape the sky, in agony at times. Cloud scraper’s more accurate, more appropriate, not so ambitious, still tall but less vast...

 

Charlie:......’we’ were right and some have to serve, why not. We all served, ‘we’ ruled and ‘we’ served, and who doesn’t know his place has to disappear, that’s all, just go away, just don’t stop us, and hide behind weak myth, behind silly rite, and claims which are self-serving history at best, there to keep us out, there to make us all inferior, when we’re strong with our own heroic struggles and victories to live by, yes we’re the steel Samurai and no bomb will kill us, and Hiroshima for the wrong reason a terrible mistake for the right reason righted one day. Real man surviving only by leading, by having others submit, obey…

 

Jake: The way you submitted, obeyed? STOP! Might as well say ‘I’ again, it makes no damn difference. By saying what you’re saying, you’re just one more power fetishist. I say this killing will stop only by acting like one species, without privacies and privileges as obstacles, all Giraffes or no Giraffes, who, it’s widely known, don’t attack, not even as rivals after girls in heat, with no skirts, sweet long necks and short shirts…

 

Boy: Mammie, these people won’t go away. You promised me this playground’s mine, all mine, forever...

 

Charlie: Get away, you little…. Maybe if your mother disappeared…You too would…

 

Jake: If not gallant, at least be Gallic, learn to be indifferent, a pragmatic lover, allez-oop, in, out, a thousand times, leaving them panting, not bleeding..., I’m telling you, can’t kill them all, making them disappear, so better just penetrate…

 

Boy: Mammie, Mammie.... I’m scared.... I want to go home... They want to hurt you...

 

Charlie: Sentiment, emotion, it just doesn’t work, and doing all the damage, equality doesn’t work mainly because there’s none...

 

Jake: So God created a little the dilemma, leaving us to solve it, like everything else, with a bit… of our own grace.

 

Charlie: In good pace, do like the bird of prey, reduce, eliminate!

 

Jake: (ostensibly to the heavens) But what’s man to do when attacked by predator or sickly dog, and in order to save his troop? Strike out and defend, doesn’t he, wouldn’t he, mustn’t he, won’t he? And he who breaks the code…of human acts…of decency….getting relegated to another Kingdom, the status of the wild.., paying the price of those who won’t feel pain, those perversely creating darkness at noon?!

 

Charlie: From Giraffe to Crocodile, you’re really into….

 

Jake: (self-deprecatory) Going from fish cage to bird bowl…

 

Charlie: Ah, yes, spotted zebras… It’s a Zoo, you can’t get me out… but when the guards are satisfied… (hoots his horn)

 

Jake: (back to meditative) ….identified. When guards get identified….

 

Charlie: Custodians…

 

Jake: Exterminators, reverse suspects, minds atrophied, emotion hobbling, background base, esteem erased, banality king, raking leaves and brooming yards while ignoring total agony, vacant smarts a cause of absent empathy, pathos, running out of time, running out of brain… terrain.

 

Boy: (sticking out tongue) Brrrthththllllll!!!!!!!

 

Charlie: (faking) Still here, my son? How’s your dear, dear mother?

 

Jake: Run away, child! Run, run, run!

 

(Boy doesn’t move)

 

Jake: (sad) He won’t move. Thinks we’re clowns. But also fools who rob, jokers who steal, with a mother who….  First you, now it! Poor kid! A child ignored, a child assaulted. Worse than having no food, no clothes, no money, no roof, her standing there, not here, not listening, not moving, unmoved, absent, blind, the passive aggression of it, poor …

Charlie: How do you know all that? You over-dramatize. Hey son, with your bow and with your arrow, why don’t you kill that beautiful bird over there…

 

Jake: (exasperated) The anger...

Boy: Where?

Jake: Why?

Charlie: Because it bothers me. You bother me. That kid bothers me.

 

(Boy aims arrow at Charlie)

 

Jake: Do you know how to swim, boy?

 

Boy: I pull down other kids. (stamps foot) If I can’t swim, nobody swims...

 

Jake: Holy shit! How old are you? 24?

 

Charlie: No that’s me…

 

Boy: (proudly) I’m seven!

 

Jake: Going on seventy!

 

Charlie: A sensible kid. I’m beginning to like him. Here, have a cigar…

 

Jake: That’s not funny….

 

Charlie: I’m a clown…

 

Jake: A clown with a past, evil, hiding behind time, words, games, trains, idiocy, cruelty…

 

Charlie: (pauses) I remember when I was seven.

 

Jake: …suffering from severe… insecurity?

 

Charlie: I do remember….

 

Jake: ….selectively! You forgot to say ‘I remember selectively’…

 

Charlie: Ah, yes, seventeen years ago! It was a wonderful year; I had just blown up my first frog….

 

Boy: (fascinated) With a straw? With a straw? (sits on Charlie’s lap)

 

Jake: The straw that kept you afloat all that time, but broke the camel’s back?

 

Charlie: The first, but also the only, the last straw… Beside it, nothing else!

 

Boy: (To Jake) You stay out of it!

Jake: Go to your mother, both of you, if it’s not too late, if it’s not…

 

Charlie: (putting the boy down, taking off his clown paraphernalia) It won’t change a thing. Too many mothers putting us down, not letting us speak...

 

Jake: Speak for yourself, speak for yours. My mother a saint, you had no right to…. (chokes up)

 

Charlie: Of course I speak for myself, and fast so I lose no one’s attention. She never, ever listened to me... Or now, if people don't listen I speak in reverse. And when that doesn’t work I walk backwards. Not in parks, too few people here…

Jake: I'm here.

 

Charlie: She simply wasn't interested...

Jake: In you? And getting her to care? Or perhaps already trying to get away... with murder?

 

Charlie: She never…

Jake: Try any tightrope stuff?

Charlie:  She wouldn't...

Jake: Can’t see you in ballet shoes, tights, that little umbrella, the..

 

Charlie: (snaps out) The make up?  Bah, circus puff!

 

Jake: Or scared... of vertigo? All strength but no courage?

 

Charlie:  I'm not good alone. Men work better in groups!

Jake: Hiding in the mob, I should have known…

 

Charlie: Why?

 

Jake: Do any under water stuff?

 

Charlie: I'd drown…

 

Jake: How could I forget… How rude of me to ask….

 

Charlie: Sometimes I felt like walking on my hands.

Jake: (walks backwards)( speaking in reverse) Takes it what that’s if well…. somewhere get we’ll maybe and backwards speak Let’s.

 

Charlie: What’s that…?

 

Jake: Speaking in reverse. Well, if that's what it takes.. Let's speak backwards and maybe we get somewhere.

 

Charlie: Get where?

 

Jake: (phrase in reverse) Truth the telling you’re if seeing, you like walking, you like speaking I’m? I'm speaking like you, walking like you, seeing if you can tell the truth.

 

Charlie: (coy again) About what?

Jake: You should know. …I said Bullshitting, thought I what Just: Just what I thought, bullshitting. (starts to hum)

 

Charlie: (insisting) Walking, speaking backwards in busy roads….

 

Jake: Just to be heard, or... or....

 

Charlie:… in squares and markets, people taking note, sometimes even asking ‘What are you doing?’, and then I say, I’m so glad you asked, can you play the honky-tonk, backwards?

 

Jake: What? No Berg, no Berlioz, Beethoven, Bach, change tune, make new music that nobody has heard, opening up a wide new world…? A place where anger gets confused with honour, with backbone, and never anything else…. A place not necessarily offering the fastest, the cheapest way out...and up?

 

Charlie: Uhh?

 

Jake:  Instead of speaking fast or backwards, ever tried having something to say?

Charlie: (sarcastic) (deep voice) Oh, yeah! In a deep voice, with a half-frown, looking like I mean it, then, zing, cutting down the other guy?

Jake: You mean the innocent... (pauses) Have you ever tried not talking to hide, inventing new notes, new ivories, new ebonies, invent new victims (impatient)… FUCKTIMS a better word! (pauses) Ignoring an ancient teacher like Aristotle, understanding so much, except consequence… Never home… accountable… for anything… Living, lying... a day, years at the time.

 

Woman’s Voice: Oscar, we’re going home. (severe) Oscar, it’s getting dark out there. Oscar, where are you?

 

Boy: My mother, my squaw! Ssssst! Don’t tell her I'm here. She doesn’t care. She doesn’t really like to come here, take me to the prairie, all she wants is…. (stamps foot) It’s not dark! I don’t want to go back to the Teepee…

 

Jake: (Hums)

 

Charlie: It’s getting dark all right. A child can see that. I don’t know man, this kid has some imagination. I didn’t even have a fantasy, fancying nothing, how poor can one be, not even dreaming of dreaming…

 

Jake: (explosive) You’re doing fine. Hiding takes lots of ingenuity, of imagination. (to himself) Am I sure it was him? That I spotted him, followed him…. It looks like him, it speaks like him, it thinks like him, it stinks like him, it acts like him, and so it murders like him (gets off swing, looking at Charlie), I don’t know, man! But what do I do, what do I do, what a dreadful dilemma, to be like him, or not to be like him, kill, liquidate now, or… later. Look at him, that his hair? Toupée or not toupée? Good thing that I can laugh, but can I punish? And are there reverse suspects, in places where jailers… are the real inmates? Are there reverse victims, too? The question… the question… not if you can do it, but there being a point in doing it? For can we kill the words and the acts by people not actually touching the condemned, not themselves digging the graves, the others mere miserable slobs, dressed in make-believe outfits, without conscience, even in later pinstripes? Occupying some visible or invisible corner as only raison-d’être…. Yes, I feel bitter, lonely, but I know beauty! And that guy over there, he knows no beauty and has no doubts. That is the difference, not a thought, but the certainty with which it is applied. A rationale, a terrible thing sometimes, even worse than individual blood sacrificed; so what… as it’s phrased so eloquently in Denmark these days… What the fuck do I do now?

 

Charlie: (facetious) Fancy a cup of tea, a blow-job? Some hot party this is!

 

Jake: You kill me! Shock running riot...

 

Charlie: Schlock?

 

Jake: Schlock and shock! Everything designed by you, not to say anything…

 

Charlie: What?

 

Jake: Where do you live, I keep asking myself, as you never bothered to answer.

 

Charlie: Home’s not a place I go much anymore!

 

Jake: What’s home?

 

Charlie: When a home isn’t…

 

Jake: A place?

 

Charlie: No place.

 

Jake: No place I could go to?

 

Charlie: Much of one.

 

Jake: What happened?

 

Charlie: (taking a deep breath) Oooof!

 

Jake: That…. good?

 

Charlie: Oooof….

 

Jake: Or bad? I guess...

 

Charlie: Don’t guess…

 

Jake: Confess?

 

Charlie: Confession isn’t a place, I go much anymore!

 

Jake: What’s a confession?

 

Charlie: When a confession isn’t…

 

Jake: Isn’t worth the paper…

 

Charlie: Much of one.

 

Jake: What happened?

 

Charlie: (taking a deep breath)  Ooooof….

 

Jake: That… bad?

 

Charlie: Ooooof…

 

Jake: I guess.

 

Charlie: Don’t guess…

 

Jake: Slay? Betray? Oneself?

 

Charlie: (resolute) (Jumping to attention, saluting) I Deny!!

 

Jake: Deny what, three, four?

 

Charlie: I deny…., that I deny…..

 

Jake: Ooooof! (to himself) What if he is innocent… (halts) I still despair of him, his kind! His certainties, his satisfactions, his silent anger… His simple complexities, unhappy selling shoes, vegetables…crying for himself, looking for much more… never getting an embrace… arrested… mindless… forever getting even…dangerous…sadly, independently healthy… defiant… inexhaustible.

 

Charlie: That’s all gone …

 

Jake: What is?

 

Charlie: Whatever it is!

 

Jake: Over? It’s over? New days! New friends…

 

Charlie: You might say so!

 

Jake: I don’t say so! I’m still finding out…

 

Charlie: Finding out what?

 

Jake: (exasperated) What do you mean What? Who framed Roger Rabbit, you fool, that’s what! Are you totally insane? Don’t you know that friendship…

 

Charlie: Mmmm…Jessica… that sex bomb … what a beast… her tits… her lips… When I’m alone, I go to the movies all the time... (pauses) Your obsession with confession... Listen, some untruths are not lies. Someone told me Rhode Island, Coney Island are not an islands, Martha’s Vineyard not a…

 

Jake: (sarcastic) Yeah, and if the Holy Virgin or that carpenter of hers fessed up, nobody, nobody would cancel Xmas! (pauses, sad) I just want the unspeakable… the unspeakable….to be spoken…. by you! (pauses, angry) But the fox nothing….

 

Charlie: The fox? Roger the Fox?

 

Jake: The fox nothing compared to…!

 

Charlie: (false modesty). Thank you!

 

Jake: Crafty! Sly! Cruel!

 

(Incorporate somewhere: Jake: And if I'm wrong, all wrong, why didn't you walk away, telling them Are You Nuts!?, Invade Poland, Chechoslovakia, what for? These people and all the others have done nothing wrong! I'm not going anywhere, I'm staying home. What, kill, gas who? You must be insane! Apart from the immense cruelty, it leads nowhere, solves nothing, only digs our graves. For who can hold ten others all alone, for all time?

Also weave in Charlie's early immoral wife theft under cover of chaos (see notes) as sub-plot and of which Jake somehow became aware.)