27

Prologue:

Stage: Split, the right side illuminates, showing the bedroom of Lisa and Joe Harmonmill . Joe is in bed half-sleeping. Lisa is off in the corner typing away at the computer. She stops, wipes at her eyes for a bit trying to halt silent tears while she slouches and stares at the screen. She looks at her husband, back to the screen, back to her husband.

LISA

Honey, are you up?

Pause. She's successfully no longer crying.

Babe, you awake? … Love?

JOE

Joe flips over, burrows into his pillow.

(grunts) What.

LISA

Um, I wrote this poem and I think it turned out—well, I think it kicks ass. But, just because I know what the poem'strying to say, doesn't mean other people will. I need you to tell me if it's garbage.

Pause.

Please?

JOE

Fine. But then it's you, me, and the bed.

With effort Joe climbs out of bed and walks over to Lisa. He spins her computer chair around to face him.

You got it.

LISA

Mhm.

Lisa nods her head enthusiastically. Joe spins her back to face computer screen and leans, hands splayed across back of the chair, reading over her shoulders.

JOE

(mumbles)

My beautiful place. My beautiful place is tenderness, all blurred around the edges, overflowing, to love this much and know. Till I see my children in all the news stories and I rush outside where God tries to hold me in the arms of the sunset. I tell him it's the color of the Monarch's wings I found crushed on my doorsill last summer, the feeble way it tried to fly…It's nice.

Joe lets go of the chair and steps back. Lisa turns to face him.

LISA

So you think it's good.

Joe turns his back and heads for the bed; Lisa follows, cuddling up next to him.

JOE

Yeah.

LISA

Good enough to kill a couple trees? Print out copy after copy, giving them to family and friends as gifts?

Slight pause.

JOE

Ah…sure. Go to sleep.

Another pause.

LISA

Um, Joe? That was a joke. Come on, tell me the truth. What did you honestly think? What did the poem say to you?

JOE

I dunno. I'm tired. I have to get up at five. I want to go to bed. That's what the poem said to me, 'Go to bed Joe, you sorry son of a bitch, before your wife kills you with questions'. Jesus.

LISA

…oh.

Lisa turns on her side, scoots away from Joe. Pause.

JOE

Joe turns in the same direction, wraps in close.

(sighs)

It started out nice, like you were happy but then…it's a bunch of dead butterflies and I guess I wasn't expecting that.

LISA

Mhm.

Pause. Lisa turns to face Joe, speaking in a conspiratorial tone.

I think we should go see that old guy. See if he's Ok or not.

JOE

What old guy?

LISA

You know that old man, with the one leg and the long beard, he looks like he stepped off the set of Gettysburg. You told me to watch out for him because he drives his bike in the middle of the road. Remember?

JOE

Joe sits up, running his fingers through his hair. Lisa is propped up on her side, staring after him.

He doesn't need any help. He's collecting social security or disability. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if he's got a million dollars stashed under his mattress.

LISA

And which mattress would that be?

Lisa sits up.

The one laying ripped up in his front yard, or the stained one out back. Come on, he's dirt poor…I can't believe his neighbors don't do anything about it.

JOE

Who says they haven't tried? I'm telling you, he's a crazy coot with money up the ass. Leave him alone.

LISA

But I think—

JOE

Joe lays flat on his back and closes his eyes.

--No, that's your problem, babe. You think too much. I'm going to sleep. And I think you should do the same. Good Night.

LISA

(sighs) Night. Love you.

JOE

Love you.

Black out. Slight pause, then we hear a loud groan and the lights come back on again.

JOE

I can't sleep.

Joe looks at Lisa who appears to be sleeping. He shakes her shoulders gently. She burrows her head into her pillow. He kisses her shoulder.

Wanna…?

LISA

Dream on.

Right side of the stage fades as left side illuminates.

END SCENE 1

SCENE 2

Night. The lighting is dim, like a half-light. Theirs is an old house to the right but the action takes place in a field of tall-yellowed grass (strewn hay?), a figure of shadow, lanky, aged (anywhere from 60 to 90) moves through the grass, rummaging, black garbage bag in hand, bending, seeking, sporadically picking things up (unseen things) and puts them in the bag.

He bends, picks up an item.

OLD MAN

Annabelle Lee

He retrieves another item.

Lady of Shallot

And another item is recovered.

Little Boy Blue

Giggling, he takes another item.

And Christabel…

He peers at this last item in his hand still giggling, his laughter cracks into sobs. Left side of stage fades while right side illuminates.

END SCENE 2

SCENE 3

Afternoon. Kitchen (scattered amongst regular counter top appliances like a toaster are various tools: power drills, staple guns, nuts, bolts etc). "Me & Little Andy" by Dolly Parton is playing from a boom box. Lisa is rummaging through her cupboards retrieving can goods and macaroni and cheese type mixes and placing them in a cardboard box on the kitchen table. The phone rings as she pulls out a pen and paper. She turns off the radio and hits the speaker phone.

LISA

Hello. Pete's Pizza Palace, how can I help you? Our special topping for the day is…

Lisa pulls out a random can from the box.

Spam.

LAUREN

(deadpan)

You get more bizarre every second, don't you? And why am I on the speaker phone? You know, I Hate the speaker phone. I can barely hear you.

LISA

I'm busy. 'Sides, from my end you're loud and clear. Did you know, there's been a whole book of Haiku dedicated to the subject of Spam?

LAUREN

No. And I don't care.

LISA

Do you want to hear my favorite one, although it's from the internet, not the book, but I memorized it anyway—

LAUREN

--No please, don't—

LISA

--"Locked in room with Spam. Try to pick lock with can's key. It snaps, I am doomed." (1)

LAUREN

That's…lovely.

LISA

I was so inspired, I wrote my own.

Lisa walks over to the phone, tossing and catching the can. She leans on the counter.

It goes, um, just wait I have to remember it—

Lisa turns the can around to look at the backside (with the nutritional information).

LAUREN

--I don't have time for this. I don't want to hear it.

LISA

Pork-like bi-products? What exactly is in Spam? I think chicken butts.

LAUREN

--Oh God. It doesn't even rhyme.

LISA

You don't have to rhyme in Haiku,

Lisa trys to spin the can on the counter top—trys is the operative word.

But I made up another one that sorta rhymes; I was thinking about submitting it…

LAUREN

Don't. Not only do I not want to hear another word, but if it's anything like the first one you'll get sued for slander.

LISA

It is like the first one.

Lisa stops the can's spin. And holds it up in the air like the Holy Grail.

Boloney? Or Truth? My faith in Ham substitutes--Ingredients lie.

LAUREN

Are you finally done?

LISA

Well, yeah. Didn't you like 'em though.

Lisa puts the can aside, crosses arms, and leans her back against the counter.

I thought they were kinda pithy.

LAUREN

Oh God. Yes, you're a regular Shakespeare. Now, when are you going to pick up the kids?

LISA

Oh. Um. I have a quick errand to run today so I might be a bit late.

LAUREN

You leave that old man alone!

LISA

…I am, I don't know why'd you think I wasn't. It is to laugh—ha, ha…ha, ha, ha. Didn't I admitted during our last conversation that you were right? And you are. Right. Totally.

LAUREN

Then what's this little errand, hmm?

LISA

Oh. Um…I have to, to pick up…Joe's check.

LAUREN

You are the worst liar in the world.

LISA

Ok. Fine! But, it's not like I'm going to see the old man. I'm just gonna…Drop-off-a-box-of-food-and-run?

LAUREN

That's just mean!

LISA

Mean? I don't see how that can be—

LAUREN

--It's mean. It's an insult. How would you feel if someonedropped a box of food outside your home? Huh? Would you eat it?

LISA

Well no.

LAUREN

Of course, you wouldn't eat it! How stupid can you be!

LISA

Well, maybe if I was hungry enough I would eat it.

LAUREN

You would not! It could be poisoned by some lunatic. God! No one in their right minds would eat it.

LISA

Exactly! What if he is crazy, huh? Then maybe—

LAUREN

--Maybe nothing. If he's crazy that's even worse, you'll set him off into a paranoid chain-reaction. "Whose watching me. They're watching me. The men in the black helicopters are coming for me." He'll shoot the mailman. Do you want that onyour conscience? I certainly don't. You go do whatever you feel you have to, in that tiny little brain of yours, but I'll have no part of it. Mark my words, nothing but Bad things can come of it. Leave the old man alone!

LISA

But what if I write a note explaining…

LAUREN

Leave him alone!

LISA

…with a self-addressed envelope.

LAUREN

Sure, give the crazy man with a gun your home address. Leave him alone!

LISA

God! Fine! I'll leave him alone.

LAUREN

Good. And don't go pussy footing around today either. I want you to pick those kids up as soon as possible. I just cleaned the living room and I don't need your children trashing the place.

LISA

Fine! As soon as class is over, I'll rush right home. I won't even stop to pee.

LAUREN

Good that's what I like to hear. See you soon.

LISA

Yeah, see ya. Lauren.

Lisa scowls into the phone, pushing off the speaker buttonwith relish and goes back to the box. She pauses, sighs, and starts putting everything away.

Right side of stage fades while left side illuminates.

END SCENE 3

BEGIN SCENE 4

Gray Morning.

The House: strewn w/ garbage bags, old rusted parts to cars & bikes, papers, cans, oil drums, glassware, broken records, broken toys, broken CD's, torn books of poetry. The window's are boarded up, the paint is peeling, the façade faded. There is a complete and new three-wheel bike however parked in yard.

Man bends over (he has a rifle) to retrieve a box left on his doorstep, he pulls a letter from box, reads it, laughs, lifts out a can tosses it up in the air and shoots it. In a fury, he tosses the rest of the box's contents all over the yard, including the box and enters home slamming door.

Left side of stage fades while right side illuminates.

END SCENE 4

SCENE 5

Night, after eight, Lisa is at the kitchen table, playing the guitar, singing a sad melody without words, "Song without Words". She also has a pad of paper and pen sitting in front of her. She hears the door rattle, immediately sets the guitar aside and picks up the pen beginning to write. Joe walks in, takes off his Snap-On hat and looks at Lisa.

JOE

Ready to haul some dry-wall?

Lisa ignores him and keeps scratching at her paper.

LISA

Nope. Too busy planning my mid-life crisis. I'm making a list—see—

She holds the paper up for him.

And oops too bad, hauling drywall isn't on it.

JOE

Ah, guess you can't start your crisis tonight then, since you're hauling dry-wall.

Pause.

LISA

Then I guess I can't hit my sexual peak with Joe tonight either—it's on my list. It's a thirties thing. In fact, maybe I'll never have sex with Joe again!

JOE

Let me see that.

Joe grabs the paper from her hands. Chuckles a bit and shakes his head in bemusement.

Belly-button ring?

Lisa grabs the paper back, pouting.

LISA

My options for crisis-ing are very limited, I'll have you know. I can't sleep around, because of the kids and I sorta love you and all. Go figure. I can't buy a muscle car, don't have the money. Can't get a boob-job—again, no money. E'll what's a girl to do!

JOE

Well, hauling dry-wall builds muscle. And then you can check off 'butt busting excersise'.

LISA

I'm weak Joe. I'm not a guy. Besides, I always have to twist around the corners and it hurts my back and I'll probably end up in traction! Is that what you want! I'm very sickly. Serious, I've been having chest pains.

JOE

Oh. Please.

Joe rolls his eyes, crosses his arms, then smiles big, inclining his head.

If you help me, I'll 'you know'…tonight.

Lisa thinks it over.

LISA

Really? For more than five minutes?

JOE

Ten.

LISA

Lisa jumps up and down.

Whoo hoo! That's what I'm talk'n'bout. You got a job to do? You call me – Me'ow--aka Construction Kitten!

Lisa attacks Joe with a kiss and embrace.

JOE

Goof.

He lifts her up, puts the Snap-On hat on her head and starts to carry her towards the bedroom as they continue to kiss.

What about the dry-wall?

JOE

It can wait.

Right side of stage fades, left side illuminates.

END SCENE 5

SCENE 6

Old Man is inside his House. The inside is as filthy

and garbage strewn as the outside, except slightly organized. The broken things are set in scattered piles. His walls are covered with magazine & newspaper clippings—disturbing images. In the center of the room is a table; a little behind it, there is a TV.

The Old Man has the bag from the previous night. He reaches into it, bringing out the items. He hangs up the clippings and places the broken things into the piles. All the while he hums "Song without Words." When he finishes, he sits at the table and turns on the TV. A high speed flash of clips, disturbing images (disaster, war, murder, movies, etc.), fly across the screen. Then, Lisa walks in. She pushes the TV aside as the old man stares on. In comes Lauren, and her father pushing a hospital bed with Lisa's mother laying in it. Lisa, Lauren, their father pray the Rosary.

LISA, LAUREN, FATHER

The fifth sorrowful mystery—the crucifixtion. Our Father who art in heaven hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done—

LAUREN

She's gone, Oh God--

Lauren rushes out of the room, retching. Lisa cries in her father's arms. Her father, whispers in her ear, disengages her, and nods. Lisa walks over to her mother and kisses her goodbye. The mother rises from the bed and exits with the father. Lisa gets into the bed. Enter Joe, pushing in a night stand and a teddy bear, which he places on the night stand. He takes Lisa's hand.

LISA (crying)

Our baby—Joe she wasn't breathing, was he? Where did they take her?

JOE

To clean her up, honey.

LISA

But she wasn't breathing. She--

Enters a doctor.

DOCTOR

I'm afraid the news is bad. Yourdaughter is dead. The cord caught around her neck. The labor, afterwards, it took too long. I'm so sorry. Would you like to say goodbye. It helps…sometimes, for some people, to be able to hold the child.

JOE

(Vehemently) No.

DOCTOR

Alright. I'll give you two some time alone.

LISA

No, wait. I want to see her. Please. Joe?

JOE

You're choice.

The doctor leaves. A nurse arrives shortly carrying a small bundle. She hands the baby to Lisa. Joe backs away and makes to leave.

LISA

Joe don't go.

JOE

I can't handle this Lisa.

Joe leaves. Lisa kisses the baby and holds it close.

LISA

She's so tiny, and pink too. Isn't that strange?She could be sleeping, so still…

Pause. She hands the baby to the nurse.

LISA

You better take her. Please, take this too.

Lisa reaches over to pick up the teddy bear.

LISA

She should have something. I don't wanther to be alone. It has a heartbeat, you know. Joe bought it, so the baby wouldn'tbe scared. So she'd feel like I was right there sleeping next to her in his crib.

NURSE

That's sweet dear. I'll make sure it stays with her.

The nurse takes the bear and leaves. Pause. Lisa gets off the bed and pushes it off stage. She returns to push the TV back in place and exits.

Again, the images flash across the screen. TV's that have been placed across the theater play the same feed. The broadcast ends on a current sad/horrible news story or image that has local or national relevance. The broadcast holds on that image. An announcer speaks.

ANNOUNCER (LISA)

The lamp of the body is the eye. If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light; but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness and if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be.(Matthew, 7: 22-23)

During this the Old Man has been peeling an apple. At the end of the announcement his knife slips and he cuts himself. He stares at the wound on his palm. Deliberately, he cuts his arm.

Left side of stage fades, right side illuminates.

END SCENE 6

START SCENE 7

Lisa's back at the computer. She's talking on the cell-phone while intently focused on the screen in front of her.

LISA

No. I don't know when he'll be home. He keeps pretty odd hours. You could try late tonight after nine but…yeah, yeah, OK, alright, I'll let him know. Thank you, sure, bye now.

She turns off the cell-phone, sets it aside. Pause, as she continues to stare at the screen, tense.

LISA

Would the red line be pretty?

She types.

No.

She erases. Sits still, fingers on keyboard listening. She gives up leans back, crosses arms over her chest, sighs, then uncrosses her arms and sits forward.

OLD MAN

Simply his voice, we don't see him; but Lisa seems to hear.

Would the red line be pretty?

OLD MAN/LISA

They speak in unison.

Like a bracelet? The droplets like fat charms, dangling? Scarlet pearls? Is this an occasion of festivity to dress for?

She types. She's crying.

Would the red line…

Black out.

END SCENE 7

START SCENE 8

The right side of the stage illuminates showing the Harmonmill's kitchen. Joe is messing under the sink with the plumbing. Lisa walks in, angry, holding up her cell-phone.

LISA

I'm ready for my talk'n to.

(Pause) Joe extracts himself from under the sink and looks up at her.

JOE

Not now.

LISA

Why? Are you having lunch with your grandmother?

Lisa tosses her keys and the phone on the counter while Joe stands up to face her.

That was the stupidest thing! I can't believe you did that.

JOE

She didn't hear me.

LISA

She didn't have to! We were in the restaurant when you called. You think she didn't know something was up! God, she already thinks you're exactly like Grandpa, and then you have to pull something like this?

JOE

Something like what? Expect my wife to help out a little. I've been busting my ass around here. I go to work; I come home and work. That's all I do. What do you do Lisa, huh? The wash is never folded. We're lucky if you make supper once a month. You should of been home.

LISA

Oh you are not pinning this on me. I specifically told you not to make that appointment; you knew I was going to Grandma's. The water heater guy could of waited.

JOE

No, he couldn't. I called all over the place, he was the only one available before next week, and he was squeezing me in. You think it's so easy. Next time, you make the calls.

LISA

Like I care, I would of made it for next week, not thrown a hissy fit on the phone.

JOE

That's right you don't care. The only things you care about are school, your computer, and that old man.

Stunned Pause.Lisa leaves the room and heads for the bedroom. Joe follows. She sits on the bed and hides her face starting to cry.

LISA

Leave me alone. Go away. I should of known you wouldn't apologize. It's the same fight, over and over again.

JOE

Yeah, because you can't seem to do the wash--

Lisa is starting to cry in earnest.

LISA

Go away! I can't do this right now! I'm done, I'm done. I don't want you to see me like this, Go away! Please… just go away.

Joe stands tense in the doorway watching her cry. Finally, Lisa gets it together enough to talk.

This was not the day to start something with me. And it's not about the wash or me not doing enough around the house.

JOE

Yes it is.

LISA

No it's not. You don't even know me. You don't. I have been so messed up and you keep pushing and pushing. You work yourself ragged and you expect everyone else to do the same. But guess what? You choose to do that. I don't nag you, I don't even complain that you're never around, that you're always late or always working on the house. But maybe I should, because life is pretty damn short, Joe. You say, I only care about school and my computer. That's a lie. I'm doing it for you and the kids, trying to find something…I'm good at; I can make a life out of, so you can be proud—but it's such a joke because it's never going to be enough; I'm never going to be good enough for you.

JOE

That's not true.

LISA

Yes it is! I'll tell you what's going on here Joe; what you're really mad about. You think I should just drop everything when you snap your fingers. Nothing I do matters. You're wrong. I went to Grandma's today, not to mess around, but because she's important to me, she's the closest thing I have left to a mother! And so what if I'm worried about the old man.I can't help it. It's like… seeing a child bleeding in the middle of the road and just…passing by. Day after day, passing by. He could be you or me, Joe, or one of the kids—anyone. Don't you see?

JOE

I'm trying to do the best for my family.

LISA

So am I. Why not…let me!

JOE

You're blowing this way out of proportion. You're not thinking logically.

LISA

(Flabbergasted)

What?

JOE

All I'm saying is that women think with their emotions.

LISA

You are so blind.

JOE

Why because I want you to pull your weight? I don't think I'm asking for much, you've got my clothes all piled up, mixed in with everyone else's stuff. I can't find a fucking thing!

LISA

Lisa stands up.

This is not about the laundry! Wake up! I've been crying at least once a day for the last month.

Lisa hugs herself tightly across the chest.

Sometimes when you were laying right next to me. And you didn't know.

Lisa uncrosses her arms.

How can you not notice something like that? How can you claim to love someone and not notice something like that?

A moment of the two of them staring at each other, Lisa turns away. Long pause.

JOE

Maybe you should go to a psy--

Joe tries to edge next to her.

LISA

--No. I already know what the problem is.

Lisa turns to face him.

JOE

(Stoic)

What?

LISA

My only talent is being nice in a world that calls itworthless.

JOE

Lisa.

Joe takes her hand.

LISA

It's true. I can't block things out anymore.

Lisa takes a deep breath, let's go of Joe's hand and backs away.

I think my emotions and I need some time alone.

JOE

You want a divorce?

LISA

No, Joe! God! I just need to be alone right now. Ok?

JOE

Fine! If you need me, I'll be at the 24 hour-fucking- laundry!

Joe leaves. Lisa looks at her computer, then at the guitar in the corner. She goes to the guitar and starts to play"Song with no words", brokenly.

The right side dims, the left side illuminates. The Old Man sits on his porch staring at his wounded arm. It's full of cut marks, new and old. He picks up his knife and makes one horizontal cut across his arm.Lisa's song is still playing but it stops as the Old Man speaks and she cries quietly.

OLD MAN

Pretty.

Pause.

He cuts himself again.

Angry.

Pause.

Sad.

He starts to cry dropping the knife. Right side illuminates. Left side still illuminated. Lisa is holding her guitar, wiping her eyes. Pause. She fumbles with the guitar a little and then starts a new melody, a new song. She doesn't see that Joe has returned standing in the doorway.

LISA

Haven't we've had enough of pain? Hasn't the storm too many lives already claimed. Reach out your hand and I will lift you up—

Joe walks to her side; she sees him.

My name is Love.

He stops her strum, takes guitar away and holds her.

JOE

I'm sorry. (Pause) But, honey, I think your poetry sucks. It's horrible and depressing as hell.

(They laugh.)

LISA

It's real life Joe.

JOE

So is this. (He kisses her.) I liked the song you were just playing, though. And if you want to give food to that old man or visit your Grandma, you should. Your choice. And, I think it's great.

LISA

You're just saying that.

JOE

No, I'm not. (He kisses her again.)

LISA

Yes, you are. You after make-up sex.

JOE

No, that's the furthest thing from my mind.

(He kisses her again).

LISA

You are so transparent.

He shakes his head 'no'.

Ok. Fine. Then say I was right and you were wrong.

JOE

I was right and you were wrong.

LISA

Joe.

JOE

How about we were both wrong? I'm sorry. I love you. I want you to be happy.

Isn't that enough?

LISA

Yeah, I know it is. I'm sorry, too. (She kisses him).

Right side dims. Long Pause.

Then left side illuminates and we see Lisa meeting the old man in his field. She walks him to his house. On the porch he hands her the garbage bag, then steps inside and closes the door. Pause.

She looks at the garbage bag, the house, the decay. She shakes her head and starts to walk away, but stops to turn and charges the door, knocking the façade of the house over. Then she sets to cleaning up the wreckage singing "New Song" the whole while.

(1) Much thanks to Tom Elliott for use of his Spam Haiku: "Locked in room…"