Jack Capps, going by his chosen alias, Joseph Weatherbottom, spent thirty years in a state asylum for the insane after he freaked out as a young man during battle in World War II. He dresses meticulously in an open-collared white shirt, light blue cardigan, gray slacks, black Navy shoes and socks.
JOE’S room in a board-and-care home. He never leaves his room during the action of the play. In his imagination he drives to the beach with his two imaginary friends and has pie, coffee, and a beer at Ernie’s Cafe and Beer Parlor. At the end of the play he raises the shade and exposes the barred window.
The mid-1980’s. He is in his seventies.
SETTING: A dimly lit room, a single bed next to a window covered with a thick green air‑raid shade, a small rug on the floor, next to the bed. A straight‑backed chair set up to a dressing table holding an old lamp with a frayed shade. JOE’S clothes are hung neatly on wall hooks, his one pair of shoes sits squarely on the floor. A full‑length mirror on the door to the bathroom.
AT RISE: Mid-morning. JOE is making the bed to military specs. He takes his time, stretches the blanket, tucking it in with perfect hospital corners. He reaches into his pocket, takes out a quarter, bounces it on the bed, puts the coin back into his pocket, throws a bed-spread over the covers, and adjusts it for the exact tuck of the pillow, fluffed up with deft hands. He steps back to admire his work, adjusts the lamp shade, shuffles to the window and adjusts the shade so it comes exactly to the bottom of the window frame. He slips the sweater off it’s hook, puts it over the back of the chair, chuckles, sits in the chair, takes off his slippers, slips his stockinged feet into his shoes, equalizes the laces and tightens them with purpose. He takes a small black comb out of his back pocket, looks in the mirror, parts his hair carefully on the left side, puts the comb away. He puts the sweater on, goes back to the mirror, buttons the lowest button, looks, buttons the next one, looks, buttons them all, looks, unbuttons them all.
(A knock at the door)
JOE (Puts his slippers under the edge of the bed, hurries to the door, a little stiff and slow. He opens the door, whispers urgently)
Come in, quick. I don’t like ’em to know my business. I was beginning to think you wasn’t gonna get here anymore.
(Closes the door)
I was by your place yesterday but I didn’t see you. Thought maybe I’d see you out in the yard. I guess you musta been asleep.
What spoils my pretty eyebrows is I sleep too much.
(Smoothes each eyebrow with his finger)
I got up late. Supposed to get up at five, but I didn’t get up till five‑thirty. Landlady come in and got me with a wet mop, socked me right in the neck with it, plop! Then she took a pair of scissors and cut the sheets. I got up real quick, yes I did.
(Motions for quiet)
She drives me crazy, pounds on the door all the time so I can’t get no sleep.
Keep it outa the newspapers. I just keep my mouth shut, don’t tell ’em nothing, don’t cause no trouble. If you cause trouble in a place they take you away and put you in a orphan asylum, like Li’l Orphan Annie. I wasn’t never in one, no sir. Mrs. Pick took me in. She said,
(Low, gruff voice)
“Here’s a place where you can stay.”
Then she took the car and drove away.
She left me plenty to eat, though.
(Pinches his cheeks with both hands, puffs them out)
I eat apples every morning, I’m an apple eater.
(Pretends to take a bite out of an imaginary apple)
Satan was eating them yellow apples and he got conked on the head.
(Conks himself on the head, looks peeved)
I don’t like it here, too many crabs and cripples. Well at least I got a place to sleep and eat. Mrs. Pick’s okay. She’s so-so, I guess. I ain’t never touched her, took my hand and shooed her away. Some days I like her, some days I don’t.
(Holds his arms out toward the audience)
I always liked you. Remind me of my mother and father, what they was like. But I don’t have ’em no more.
I got an idea, why don’t you move over to my cottage, that’d be a good place for you, they got room.
(A knock at the door)
Keep quiet, sssh.
You sure don’t get no privacy around here. I guess it’s time for me to pack my bags, I’m thinking of moving on.
(Sits on the edge of the bed)
I’m getting so old I can hardly think anymore. I can hardly hear anymore, I can hardly be anymore.
Where are you guys going when you leave here?
Why don’t we all go up to Yosemite to build five dollar bills. We’ll join Nixon up there in Yosemite making five dollar bills. Yep. I know him well.
That ain’t in the funny papers, it’s the real truth.
I don’t like this place, too much dirt.
(Makes a wry face)
I have to scrub the floors, make the beds. I don’t like to scrub the floors, don’t like to get dirty. I don’t like dirt! I can’t stand dirt! I wanna be clean and neat, neat and clean!
(Tugs at his sweater, roughly)
I had this sweater six years, it’s getting all sweaty. I need a new one, this one’s worn out all the way up. Will you get me a new sweater for Christmas?
You ain’t that poor.
Let’s get the hell outa here and figure out how to get rich. I gotta get outa this place.
Too many crackpots.
(Makes his way quietly to the door)
Lemme see if the coast is clear.
(Opens the door a crack, peeks out, motions to come ahead, as in the old war movies. Lights down on bedroom, up on Down Right)
END OF SCENE 1
SETTING: The faint sound of a car engine. Two benches are set one in front of the other to represent the front and back seats of a V.W. Bug. JOE walks into the scene, scrunches down in the back seat. He peeks out, scrunches down again. A few beats.
JOE (To the imaginary people in the front seat)
Sure feels good to get outa there.
(Sits back, relaxes)
I wanna go to the beach. I wanna sit on the pier and watch the boats. One time I went to the seashore and picked a bag of crabs. They got out and were fightin’ all around me so I threw ’em back in the water. Pinched the hell outa me. Then I caught an octopus single‑handed, sucked me up with his feelers, tried to squash me to death. I’d be pulp if that guy hadn’t rescued me. Well that’s the life of a fisherman.
(Sits, deadpan. Pause)
Where you working at these days?
You making good money?
Maybe I can help you out, I got me a good job. I teach Law. Yep. I teach Law at Hollywood State Teacher’s College. I’m a lawyer on my right side and just a regular employee on my left. Pupils ask me,
“Do I do this and do I do that?”
I tell ’em to go home and study and come back tomorrow with the correct answer. Pay me sixty thousand a year. I’ll take you out to dinner some time.
I will…I sure will.
(A beat. He moves up close to the driver’s side, whispers loudly)
Git me two packs of Lucky Strikes, two packs of Luckys, but don’t tell her.
(Motions toward passenger side. He moves toward passenger side, says in a louder voice)
Where you goin’ when you leave here?
The Mojave Desert? Up by Death Valley? You gonna go up there and look at the old places where the pioneers used to be?
(Pause. A little huffy)
Course I know about it. I know and done all kinds of things you’d be surprised about. Old Joe’s done a thing or two. One time I had my own gold mine, guy hit me on the head with a pick and shovel and that was the end of that. I used to be a prospector, take me with you and I’ll prove it. We can go out in them hills and make some real money. My gold mine’s still there, I betcha. Over by the Mojave Desert, over them mountains. Turn this old buggy in the right direction and I’ll show you a thing or two worth seeing.
What do you mean you can’t? Can’t never could do nothing. I know we could find an old abandoned house out there, but the main thing is you have to have water.
Well if you don’t like that idea we can go to Portland. Portland, Oregon, they got lots of water there. We can live for nothing in my gramma’s old house, it’s just sittin’ up there empty. I used to live up there when I was a little tyke. Long time ago. Grocery man asked me if I wanted a job and I told him,
Oh yes, I’d like a job.
What can you do?
Gimme some groceries and I’ll deliver ’em with the horse and buggy.
I delivered groceries with a horse and buggy, yes I did. In the old times you saw it with the buggy back here and the horse up there.
(Sits back, pretends to drive the rig. Pause. He sits forward toward the passenger, strains to hear)
What? I’m getting deef, you’ll have to talk a little louder!
(Moves farther forward)
Guess I’ll have to get me one of them big horns, the kind you put up to your ear!
(Cups his hand over his ear)
(Moves close to the driver’s side, says in a stage whisper)
Git me two packs of Lucky Strikes, but don’t tell your friend.
(Motions toward passenger side. Pause)
Whad’ya mean I shouldn’t smoke? I sure as the devil should!
Chokes me up to smell smoke, but I do it anyways. I like it.
(Whispers a little softer)
Two packs of Luckys, but don’t tell.
You li’l rascal, you wasn’t supposed to hear that.
(Whispers even softer)
Two packs of Luckys.
If you don’t want no smoke in the car I guess I’ll have to wait till I get on dry land. I like to smoke, I do I do I do I do! I don’t care if they are poison, will you get me some?
You wouldn’t do that to me, would you? You wouldn’t take my pleasure away would you?
(Moves closer to passenger, whispers)
Will you get me two packs of Luckys? Haven’t had a smoke since last week.
You ever tried smoking, Joe?
Yeah I tried it, made me choke. Landlady almost kicked me out, I forget her name. She’s that little short fat lady with the white hair.
Don’t wanna see her coming my way, not if I can help it. She’s too crabby, won’t let me have no cigarettes.
(Suddenly scooches down in his seat)
Watch out, there goes the cops.
Private ears, private eyes, stars and stripes forever, they all vote for us.
I want three pork hamburgers and cold pork sausage and pork steak and french fried potatoes and yellow mustard and yellow butter…and sugar. I ain’t supposed to have sugar. What do they do to a diabetes guy, draw the blood out?
They didn’t tell me nothing, just put the tubes in my arms, pumped it up with the rubber meter to see how much my temperature was. I told ’em, “Take that goddam thing off my arm!”
How about chocolate?
(Pause. He makes a wry face, draws himself in)
No pie? I’m skinny! My ribs are like a washboard, I gotta eat something!
(A beat or two. More cheerfully)
How about we go up and see my old school teacher, she’ll put out a spread for us, over in Silver Lake. Can we go up to see her?
(Points over audience)
See where that yellow car’s going? It’s going to Silver Lake. Follow that yellow car and it’ll take us right to her doorstep. Been twenty years since I seen her. She’s there all right. Name’s Mary Hazel. I forget her last name. What day of the week is this?
Thursday! Dammit we missed her. Always goes up to play bridge at the Odd Fellas on Thursdays. Guess you’ll just have to take me to the restaurant. I want my milk and pie, two pieces!
My legs are all cramped up. Some day get a bigger car.
(A beat or two)
See more, enjoy more, that’s what God give us eyes to see with, ears to hear with, lips to kiss with.
(Blows a kiss up front. Sound of the car stopping, motor shutting off. He gets out)
When I get home I gotta polish my shoes, everywhere you go there’s dirt. I used to go to Coney Island with my father and mother, brother and sister. Couldn’t stand it. Always got sand in my shoes and dirt in my face. Garbage all over the place, and a buncha damn pick-pockets.
(Checks his back pocket for his wallet, looks relieved)
New York, New York. Before my daddy died we lived right by The New York Times. I used to sell The Timeswhen I was six years old, right by Roswell’s Groceries between Macy’s and Hofbecks. My dad worked for the American railroad, sat in the cab and blew the whistle woo woo woo woo! Come around the bend, put on the brakes and there weren’t none. Killed him deader than a doornail. My poor mother went crazy, they locked her up and threw the key away. I went to live with Gramma and Grampa out on the farm. Grampa was called George. Had whiskers on his upper lip and a beard, kinda looked like Buffalo Bill.
(Pinches an imaginary mustache and pulls on his chin)
My gramma musta looked like me. I don’t have a photograph, I lost it. Put it in my coat pocket, stooped over to tie my shoe. It fell out on the highway and smashed to pieces.
Me and Grampa’d go out and find the bees, they live in hollow logs, in a tree stump. I used to watch my grampa get the bees out, he wore a mask, poured the honey into a wooden bucket, poured it in jars. In Minnesota, that was. Busy Bee, I think that’s what it was called.
Gramma and Grampa’d get in terrible fights, thought they was gonna kill each other. One time Gramma hit Grampa over the head with the cast-iron skillet and Grampa threw her down the stairs. She was full-blooded Scotch and he was full-blooded Irish. They was from the Old Country. Gramma and Grampa run into each other on the white horses going the wrong way, they saw stars. That stopped ’em.
(Looks out over audience)
See that boat over there, that’s my old ship, the S.S. Shanghai. It’s my old gun-boat. I was all through the South Pacific on her. World War II. I don’t like to talk about it.
(Puts his finger to his lip, spies a cigarette on the ground, picks it up)
Ho ho ho!
(Takes a book of matches out of his pocket, lights the cigarette, puffs happily)
Mary Hazel Kelly! I remembered her name! Let’s walk over to Ernie’s Cafe and Beer Parlor, have a piece of pie and look her up in the phone book.
END OF SCENE 2
SETTING: Ernie’s Cafe and Beer Parlor. A table covered with an oilcloth, two chairs set up to it, Right Center. A Sugar dispenser, bowl of Sweet-N-Low, cream pitcher, salt & pepper shakers, catsup, mustard, crackers, & napkins are set out. There is a an old-fashioned stand-up-to bar, Up Right, with a pitcher of beer and glasses.
AT RISE: JOE sits at the table, a cup of coffee and a piece of pie in front of him. The rest of the pie, a coffee decanter, and a pitcher of water are placed in the middle of the table. He straightens everything, puts the salt and pepper shakers next to each other, arranges the little packs of saltine crackers in their bowl. He gets up, takes his sweater off, hangs it over the back of his chair, sits down. There is a small bandage on his elbow. He looks at it, grimaces, says to his imaginary companions.
JOE What the hell, I blushed and started to cry. Fell and hurt my elbow yesterday, fell and cried. My chair broke, it clicked and broke. I bought that little blue chair for my birthday. I lost my chair. I’ll have to get another one, I guess.
They took me to the hospital, put a rubber meter on my arm and pumped it up so I could hardly breathe. I told ’em to take that god damn thing off my arm. It hurt like hell! I just fell off my chair, the chair broke, put me out for a minute. They had to throw cold water on me. I’m all right now.
(Fixes his coffee, four packs of Sweet-N-Low and a lot of cream)
I used to come here when I was a little kid. Yep, I’m a kid. You’re a kid, you’re a kid, we’re all kids. I’m just a kid dressed in white.
(Raises his cup for a toast)
(Takes his first bite of pie, savors it, takes a second bite, eats it a little faster, looks out over the audience)
I’m just looking to see if everything’s all right: vehicles, bicycles, stars-n-stripes.
(Takes another bite)
Awful good. Haven’t had a piece of pie since my Navy days.
I used to be married but I got divorced. My wife tried to get the best of me. Tried to pull the hair outa my head, tried to poke my eyes out.
(Talking between bites)
My second wife was all right but my first wife was so damn cruel she tried to take my eyes outa my head, tried to pull my hair out.
Lemme tell you this, I don’t like that place where I stay at. There’s a guy named Mrs. Pick lives there keeps bothering me.
(Crotchety old woman’s voice)
I tell her, Jesus Christ, you’re like a brace-and-bit!
(Pause. He sits deadpan)
And I don’t like that big fat cook they got over there, big as a car load of bread. I have to squeeze up against the wall when she comes down the hall to keep from getting squashed to death.
(Takes a bite)
When I was a kid, years ago, I used to come in here all the time. I was a little kid two years old. Used to come in here with Mary Hazel Kelly and eat bread with yellow butter and sugar sprinkled all over it, white sugar. All boys and girls eat sugar with yellow butter, good for your blood, that’s what my gramma told me. One time Gramma tried to give me a dose of castor oil, chased me all over the barnyard.
That was more than sixty years ago.
Mary Hazel Kelly was my forth grade teacher. She was the best teacher I ever had, boy she was a cracker-jack. She was real tall and skinny, always wore a long dress and high button shoes and round eye specs. She taught me how to read books and I been reading books ever since. The boys called me sissy because I always sat and read books, I just sat in the corner and read books because that’s what I like to do. I never did like boys. I like girls.
(Touches his fingertips to his lips, blows a kiss, daintily. Pause)
I’m a professor in the daytime and I throw rivets at night, swing shift. I work in the shipyards. I throw rivets so the other guy can catch ’em in a pair of tweezers, puts ’em in the steel to make the ships.
I was just a little kid when the war broke out, World War I. I played war with the neighbor children. I don’t remember when it was, it’s been so long ago. I don’t remember. I didn’t go to war, I was just a little kid, a little child. I guess they fought, like World War II.
(Pours three packs of Sweet-N-Low into his coffee)
I like sweet stuff, I don’t have diabetes. I used to have it but I had it cut outa me three months ago.
(Carefully cleans the last crumbs off his plate, serves another piece of pie)
Too much sugar.
I won’t get no more pie till I see you guys again. This is probably the last piece of pie I’ll ever get. Don’t you dare tell.
(Hears something, looks out over audience)
Pretend you’re eating, highway patrol’s right outside.
(Puts several packs of crackers on his plate, fumbles around with one, stuffs crackers into his mouth, opens more packs, gulps his coffee, motions for audience to do the same. Pause)
Guess they decided not to come in after all, they’re leaving.
(Wipes his forehead with a napkin)
That was a close one. They tried to get a rope around my neck. They do have a guillotine in Germany. I saw thousands of ’em in Germany, saw it on the newsreel. I didn’t wanna go. They wanted me to go to Europe. They wanted to get me in the goddam German Army. I was in the U.S. Navy!
I don’t wish to talk about it, makes me shiver.
I like to remember the Navy life before the war. I went in the first time in peace time. In 1933 I was in Antwerp, Belfast, and Demifast. Almost went to Skagway, Alaska, named after James Skagway the famous movie star. He used to play in gangster movies. And Pat O’Brien. He used to play in war movies. Pat O’Brien was terrible, used to pull the hair outa my head.
(Pulls his hair)
And James Skagway pulled out my toenails. The first time I met James Skagway he was peeling Lucky Strike potatoes aboard the destroyer. He asked me did I want some raw potatas, I told him, Hell no I don’t want no raw potatas, I want ’em cooked! He got so mad at me he kicked me off my ship and put me in the damn submarines. I was all through those damn sub- marines. Didn’t like ’em, had to breathe too damn much cigar smoke. Makes me choke to think about it.
(Eats and drinks)
I had real office work to do, secret letters to type. In case you need me to type any private secrets for you I’ll do it. When I was in the Navy I sat in the office next to the Captain and did his work for him. I had a top security clearance. Yep. But I got homesick. I just wanted to go back to the old place. I just wanted to go home and feed the chickens and feed the pigs, help my gramma around the farm. Grampa was dead, died of meanness, I guess. I went back home and there wasn’t nothing left but a pile of ashes. They burned the place down. I don’t know what happened to my gramma, never found out if she was dead or alive. There wasn’t even a road! But the old barn was still standing. I cried and cried.
Almost got killed poking around the place. Some guy come up in a pickup truck and told me to get the sam hill outa there. I told him I used to live there and he said, “Well you don’t live here anymore, this is private property!” Then he knocked me over the head with a two-by-four, chased me clear into the barn. I hid in the haystack till he got tired of looking for me, waited till dark and went out on the road. Stood there with my thumb out till it got so cold I had to build a fire. Built a big bonfire right in the middle of the road. Guy come around the corner almost run me down, stopped in the nick of time. He says, “What the hell are y’ doin?” I jumped in the car and told him the whole story on the way to New York, New York.
Haven’t seen my family for years, haven’t seen ’em since I was eight years old, that’s when I left home. Gramma and Grampa had a family fight, I had to leave. Makes me mad to think about it. Grampa started it at the breakfast table. He got drunk and came home and slapped my gramma’s face. Gramma started to cry. I said, Don’t cry, Gramma, or I’ll have to leave home. She said, “You better leave because Grampa might slap you across the face too.” I packed my bags and left. Grampa made me lose my home, he was so damn mean. I was just a little tot. I didn’t like his looks, looked like an old polly parrot, old poke nose. Used to put his feet up on the desk and smoke White Owl cigars. Chewed gum on the other side, had to leave a little hole to blow smoke rings out of. He looked like Bringing Up Father, Old Jiggs.
Monday I serve my grandmother with the laundry, Tuesday I press the clothes, Wednesday I fold ’em and put ’em in the closet and lock it up. Thursday I do the darning and Friday I take a pole and a cord and I think I’ll go catch a fish. Saturday I saw the wood for the fireplace, go out in the woodshed and get the bucksaw and saw the wood.
Sunday I had to prune the trees and pick the apples. I had to stop and rest. Grampa got me by the ears!
“Pick them apples or I’ll pull your ears off!!!” It’s hard work picking on the limb above your head. I couldn’t reach so I shook the branch and I fell in the dirt. I did, I fell in the dirt. I quit! Grampa said they was gonna have to turn me out because all I was good for was reading books. That was what they was fighting about when I packed my bags and left. All I wanted to do was go to school and read books and eat yellow apples and yellow pears and yellow peaches. Cheese, milk, icecream, ham and eggs, cornflakes and bread and cereal. Hot cakes, waffles, scalloped potatoes bought from the Safeway store. Me and Gramma used to go to town in the old Model T and get the groceries.
Watch out where you step when you cross the street so you don’t burst the bags in the middle of the highway, that’s what God give you eyes to see with.
Gramma told me to stay away from Grampa, makes me shrivel up like a dead fish to think about it. So I left. Got a forked stick, put it on my shoulder with my clothes tied up in an old dish towel: T-shirt, pair of shorts, pair of overalls, no razor. Didn’t shave at the time, didn’t have a whisker to me. Cop stopped me, asked where I was going. “I’m going straight ahead, buddy.” Big Irish cop, sideburns and whiskers. I wouldn’t care to be a cop today, might get shot. I saw it in the movies. I wouldn’t care to be one myself. Everytime I see a picture about crime I get up and leave. I like to see a picture about a girl swimming with her doggy beside her on the beach.
Never had a girlfriend. Nope. I only had my sister, haven’t seen her for years, haven’t seen any of ’em for years.
Guess they’re dead or alive, I don’t know.
My daddy was an American railroad boy, mother was an American school teacher. I don’t like to talk about it, makes me cry.
I was just seventeen years old when I joined the U.S. Navy. 1933. I had a good time, got to go all over the world. Went to Paris and Brussels, Holland, Sweden, all over. I took trips, that’s all I did. But in ’41 we all knew war with Japan was coming, it was all over the papers, all through the newsreels. Landlady give me the notice soon as I got in the door. Special delivery, official business. They took me back and made me shoot a gun. I asked ’em what I was shooting a gun for and they said I was gonna go out and fight for my country. They started putting up dummies for me to shoot at, I told ’em I quit! I wasn’t gonna kill nobody, I couldn’t do such a thing. Let ’em live!!!
(Throws up his arms)
I need a beer. I used to drink my ass off when I was in the Navy.
(Shuffles over to the bar, says to the imaginary bar maid)
Gimme a quart of Pabst Blue Ribbon and a clean glass. And put it on my tab, toots.
(Pours a glass full, takes a gulp, stands drinking)
Aahhh, just like the old Navy days.
(Wipes his mouth with a napkin. He sips the beer with much enjoyment)
You sleep side by side by with your wife?
The boys sleep on one side, the girls sleep on the other, I sleep in the middle. That’s the way they do it at my place. At least they don’t try to hug me.
(Clinks his glass on the bottle in a toast)
I always liked you dear, always liked your boyfriend too. You treat me just like my dear mom and daddy. Bring tears to my eyes.
(Dabs his eyes with his handkerchief, puts it back in his pants pocket. Pause)
Do you have any music? Got a gramaphone? Don’t like folk music. Hate the stuff, puts me to sleep. Don’t like symphony music neither, sounds like chicken scratching. Makes me itch. I used to sing and play the guitar back in New York, played in a band for all the square dances, Gramma used to call ’em. But Grampa took all the money and wouldn’t give her a nickel. Musta been six or seven at the time. I was real small for my age, wasn’t no bigger than a midget. I still am. Anybody small they call ’em a midget. You’re a midget, she’s a midget, I’m a midget. We’re all midgets. We don’t grow no bigger.
What is it getting to be?
I don’t give a damn if I don’t get home till eight o’clock.
(Pause. He takes a harmonica out of his pocket, hits it on his leg to get the moisture out)
If you ain’t gonna do it I guess I’ll have to.
(Sings and plays, ad lib, old-fashioned style)
I wander through the hills Maggie, the hills that only we knew, silver hills among the gold.
I forget the rest.
(Leans toward audience)
Can I tell you a private secret?
(Puts his finger to his lips)
Mum’s the word.
I used to get drunk, but don’t tell nobody. I’d fall on the floor with all my clothes on, couldn’t sleep because my ass hurt so much from falling down. Housekeeper come in and picked me up.
Hell no I ain’t dead, I’m drunk!
“Lemme smell your breath.”
“Hell no, lemme smell yours. I smell whiskey on your breath!” She beat me with the broom all the way down the hall and back, almost killed me. I got in my room and locked the door. Used to drink about 40 gallons of wine a day. I was intoxicated, but don’t tell nobody. I still drink a little wine sometimes, go to the store, put it in my back pocket, sneak it out. Storekeeper grabs me by the collar.
“Put that back!”
“Tut tut tut.”
I have to chew gum. How much is gum going for these days?
Jesus Christ it’s gone up, used to get it for a nickel.
I like Sen-Sen too, anything sweet. Over there at my cottage they don’t let me have anything sweet, have to eat my mush with nothing on it, just clear, just dry.
(Drinks the last drop, pours another glass, sings, ad lib, cowboy style)
Ooooohhh Jessee James was a bad man, Jessee James was a killer, shot ’em up, shot ’em down, shot ’em in the butt, ooohhhhhh then along came Jones, gun blazing in the sun, he was gravy, white cream gravy.
(Puts his hand to his heart, barber-shop quartet style)
No bread an’ butterrrrrrrr.
Now Jessee James had a big brother name of Frannnnnk, he robbed the baaaaank…
I don’t like dirty songs, I like ’em clean and neat.
I went out and got the milk, milk man says woo woo woo, get the bucket and scrub up all the steam spilled all over New York and the U.S. of Aaaaaaa, ooohhhh it’s a long way to skyway with a lonely heart, ooohhh peg of my heart don’t let us paaaarrrt.
(Dances around with his hand over his heart)
Over the hills where I used to roam, on the hills of Saint Mary I’ll be there, your eyes your lips your cheeks yes, if God walks with me I’ll be theeeerrrre.
(Sits down, tired out)
I need me a glass of water.
(Pours water, toasts feebly, takes a drink)
God save the queen.
(Takes another drink)
I can hardly talk anymore, my throat’s so sore from singing.
Over hill, over dale, we will hit the dusty trail…
I don’t like that one, reminds me of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He stole my eye-specs. I don’t like the gopher. Then he laid down and told ’em what to do, them poor guys that was in the Navy. That was in the Second World War. That’s all I can remember.
I don’t care if I don’t get home till eight o’clock. If I get home at eight I’ll go to bed. They’ll ask me did I have my supper, I’ll tell em, “Yeah, I had my supper.” And I’ll go right to bed. I’ll put my clothes out to be laundered, my pants, my shirt, T-shirt, socks and my white tights.
Don’t tell nobody. And I won’t tell ’em at my cottage that you got me drunk. Crackers and milk, that’s what I’ll tell ’em. I just had crackers and milk. No beer.
Ooohhhh I used to be a three o’clock scholar, used to come to school at eight, in the school time of May, I was a paper mate, ooohhh I used to come to school at eight, ooohhh I was walking down the railroad track, ooohhh I used to live on a farm, never did nobody no harm, ooohhhhh look at the three fishes with their tails a wagging, one of ’em said, “Goddam you put me back in the water, I don’t wish to go to the frying pan.” And the fisherman said, “I’m hungry, I got little kids to feed.”
“I don’t wish to go to the frying pan!!”
(Normal voice, he sings)
So the guy takes the hook out and throws the fish back in. “Thank you, thank you” it says, and throws out fifty gold pieces so the guy could feed his family.
I had too much milk and crackers.
Maybe you better take me back pretty soon, must be getting on to five o’clock. Gimme a phone call when I go back to my cottage, I’ll answer you. I’ll tell ’em I’m expecting a phone call from…
What’s your name? I don’t remember. You better write it down so I don’t forget.
(Pretends to think)
That’s all right, I got it now.
Will you guys come and get me someday? Maybe next time we can have lunch right here.
Will you cook me a pork steak? I saw president Reagan eating pork steak on TV the other day, made my mouth water.
Reagan. I don’t like the gopher. Goes in people’s lockers and eats their lunches.
And he makes too many bombs. There shouldn’t be any bombs. I was on Manila on Pearl Harbor Day.
Do I look like a killer? I wouldn’t kill anybody.
I ran away and hid in the jungle. I wanted to live.
Woke up one morning staring a bayonet in the face. They hauled me back and threw me in the brig, kept me chained up till my court martial. I told ’em, “What the hell you guys think your doing? I’m the sheriff, I got the gold key.” Guess they didn’t believe me. They locked me up in the State Asylum for the Insane. Thirty years I was in that place. They took away my trousers, took away my shoes and socks, folded ’em up and put ’em in a bag. They put me in white and took me away.
I let ’em do it once but by God I won’t let ’em do it again.
END OF SCENE 3
AT RISE: Lights up on JOE in his room, standing near the door.
JOE If I’m dead my spirit will say, “Where’s my mom, where’s my dad?” But I’d rather stay here.
(Reaches out with both hands)
We’ll all save a life. I’ll save your life, you’ll save mine. We’ll save each other’s lives.
Jesus Christ had to lay out the word for us. He said, “Please don’t nail me to the cross, I didn’t do nothing.” That was before they crucified Him.
Will you take me with you? Children eat more than I eat.
I always remember you guys. Sometime we can go back to Ernie’s and sometime we can go to see Mary Hazel Kelly over at Silver Lake, she’ll put out something to eat for us.
(Lights dim. He turns, shuffles to stand just inside his bedroom, says gently)
You coming in for awhile?
Come back and see me about Tuesday, Wednesday, will you?
I always liked you guys.
(Opens the door)
Come back some time.
It’s too early to go, makes my heart hurt.
And get me two packs of Lucky Strikes!
You need to git a bigger car, will you?
(He walks over to the window, pulls up the shade, exposes the barred window)
Git me outa here so I don’t have to die.