Monday, May 9, 2011

Labor Day

Cast of Characters
Gerald: African American man, 23-year-old dance student in NYC. He is traveling and has happened upon the community Labor Day picnic of a little town in Ohio. He's wearing T-shirt, shorts, and athletic shoes.

Gerry: 39-year-old IT professional woman. Gerry has lived in this little town all her life. Gerry's casually dressed, but not for actual exercise. Maybe has a broad-brimmed straw hat at her side.

Scene: Labor Day Picnic in City Park, in the shade of a tree near the volleyball game.

[Lights Up. Sounds of volleyball game from off left. Gerry is sitting on a blanket, leaning against the tree, drinking a soda and reading a book. Gerry has a little drink cooler at her side—obviously planning to stay a while. Occasionally looking up to watch the game off left.

There's a masculine cry of pain, some Ooos and Ohs, the game stops. Gerry looks up at the first cry, puts down her drink, and watches attentively, then relaxes. Sounds of the game resume. She goes back to reading her book.

He limps on stage from left. Game sounds fade as the conversation starts.]

He: [flopping down at right angle to her, winces] Oh, Jeez. Mind if I share your tree?

Gerry: [Shifts away from him a little. Says nothing. A brief silence.]
He: [Looks at her to evaluate if Gerry's interruptible.] You from here?

Gerry: [Looks up questioning]

He: Not here, the park, I mean. Here, Emmitt, Ohio.

Gerry: Yes. And from your question, I deduce you are not.

He: You deduce correctly.

Gerry: [Nods. Returns to her book.]

He: [Wiping sweat from brow and neck on his T-shirt] This is nice, though, a little Labor Day celebration, the whole town turns out. I've been in school—never see little kids for months at a time. Didn't know I missed them.

Gerry: [Without looking up] Hm.

He: They sure are short.

Gerry: [Puts book down.] You're long on conversation. Would you like a frosty cold Mountain Dew?

He: Oh, yes, please. [Gerry hands him one from cooler] Caffeine choice of champions… Thank you!

Gerry: A professional hazard… [Offers her hand] I'm Gerry.

He: Funny! [Shakes] I'm Gerald.

Gerry: So, Gerald, how's your ankle?

He: [briefly places cold can against ankle, wiggles ankle] That'll heal by next week.

Gerry: What's next week?

He: Back to school.

Gerry: Yes, a guy with a limp doesn't really attract the women -- until he's old and grizzled. Then it's a little like a dueling scar, can work for you.

He: Huh. Never thought of it like that. Actually, I'm studying dance at NYU, so it would be a serious problem.

Gerry: Oh, a dancer. I should have realized. I think that was a pirouette you were executing when you went down?

He: (It almost executed me.) And—let me guess—you're a… librarian—No!—an English teacher.

Gerry: IT for the community college. But I write a little as a hobby…

He: [Reaches across her to pick up her book, playfully] And what's this you're …

Gerry: [Grabs it from him and tries put it out of his reach, embarrassed] Never you mind… That's …

He: [snatches it from her grip and reads the cover] Love's Savage Rebellion. Whoa, cover art of white woman in clingy nightie clinging to Native-American-looking man with long hard …knife at his hip…

Gerry: [Taking the book back] It's escape literature.

He: [Sighs] Yeah, I guess everyone's got something to escape. If I was a geek working for the community college, I'd want to escape, too. [He rises on his one good leg, performs a little dance to Escape, on one foot, returns gracefully to his spot by the tree.]

Gerry: [ Brief applause] Is that why you're in Emmitt, Ohio? You escaping [flaps her arms in teasing imitation of his dance] something?

He: No-- [Booming of cannon offstage]

Gerry: What? [More cannon fire off]

He: Nice, peaceful little town, Emmitt, Ohio. Let's see, it's Labor Day, so the cannon is for…?

Gerry: They shoot it off at any excuse. The Boy Scouts love it.

He: They let little kids shoot it off?

Gerry: The Cub Scouts used to do it, but somebody suggested maybe they were too young to be playing with live explosives.

He: So they took it out of the hands of the 8-year olds and handed it off to the 12 year olds?

Gerry: [sardonically] We're very safety-conscious here with our youth.

He: [Brief silence while they contemplate the safety of youth. Gerry offers him another Mountain Dew, which he accepts, raises in silent toast] Any kids?

Gerry: [Hesitates, confused about something, then jokes] No, thanks, I've had enough. You?

He: What, me?

Gerry: [Shrugs] You could have mis-spent your youth.

He: Instead of shooting off artillery in Emmitt, Ohio, like a good boy?

Gerry: [a tad bitter] Even a Boy Scout in Emmitt, Ohio, can mis-spend his youth

He: [kind of keeping tabs on her out of the corner of his eye—he is suspecting Gerry has a story and is working on getting her to dump it] High school is hard an everyone. Everyone. [Again he rises on his one good leg and dances, this time to the Agony of Adolescence. Limps back to the tree and flops down]

Gerry: [Adroitly shifting the conversation back to his life] It must have been hard for a good boy who wanted to dance when he grew up.

He: Nah.

Gerry: No?

He: I was on the track team. They have to catch you to kick your ass!

Gerry: Good to know things haven't changed.

He: And what about the good girls at Emmitt High School?

Gerry: [Looking away] Yeah, I wouldn't know.

He: [Looking inquiringly]

Gerry: [Resigning herself to telling the story] I got pregnant. [Standing, swinging her arms, pacing a bit]

He: Mm. One little slip—

Gerry: --Twice.

He: [Smiling] Hard-headed, eh?

Gerry: Ha! Not one, but two failures of the diaphragm. I swear on my mother's grave, if I find the guy who sold me that thing…

He: Oh, wow. [Another thought strikes him] OH, oh, wow.

Gerry: [Too wrapped up in her story to notice] Turns out, my mother got me courtesy of a diaphragm. Two generations--Maybe three. It's not the kind of question you ask your grandmother.

He: Hell, no. So, what did you do?

Gerry: I put the second child –a boy—up for adoption. [Sits back down under the tree. Poping open another Mountain Dew]

He: A boy, huh?

Gerry: Mm hm.

He: Hardest thing you ever did?

Gerry: Well, up to that point. I had kept the first one, see. [Wistfully] A beautiful girl, a wonderful girl. She was sociable, thoughtful, verbal, creative, funny. I didn't think I could raise two kids on part-time work and go to school. [A little apologetically:] She died in a swimming accident.

He: Oh, I'm sorry.

Gerry: Yeah, so… So the hardest thing I ever did was survive that. Sort of.

He: [Nodding] Sort of... You know they have these web sites now where parents who have given up kids for adoption can register and… [He rises, limps, pacing back and forth]

Gerry: [Sarcastically] Yes, Gerald, in IT, we have heard of such wonders.

He: Because your little boy might be looking for his mom.

Gerry: Gerald. It's not something you do lightly.

He: [Daring to hope. Drops to his hands and knees] What year did you have that little boy?

Gerry: Why?

He: Well, I mean, was he—was your boyfriend—

Gerry: What do you mean?

He: [Crawling toward her on all fours] Gerry, what do you think I'm doing in Emmitt, Flyspeck, Ohio?

Gerry: Visiting stations on the Underground Railway? Research for a blog on the most boring places in America? I have no idea.

He: [Now on his knees] I'm looking for where I was born. Maybe going to look up my birth mother.

Gerry: In Emmitt?

He: Well, I know I was born at Memorial Hospital down the road there in Josephstown… And my mom—my adoptive mom—said my birth mom's name was… Gerry…

Gerry: [Mildly interested in the coincidence] No shit?

He: No shit. [Waits] But… your boy wasn't Black, was he?

Gerry: No.

He: Not even a little…?

Gerry: [Touching his shoulder] Oh, God, I'm sorry, Gerald, no.

He: [Head to ground, covering his head with his hands] OK, I feel silly.

Gerry: At least you have the courage to hope. At least you're trying to find out.

He: [Stands, does a little dance on one foot to Hope] Gerry, suppose he is looking for you?

Gerry: [Stands, mimics his gestures] Ok, Gerald. I'm supposing. Sort of. [Stops moving.] Gerald, suppose he died in a swimming accident?

He: [His dance deflates, then flutters back to life] Fat chance, Gerry.

Gerry: [mimicking his gestures again] Or a car accident.

He: [His dance deflates again, then again flutters back to life] Nah.

Gerry: [Refusing to follow along] You have no idea how many bad things can happen to a kid.

He: [Facing her] You have no idea how many kids make it to adulthood! Look, I did. Somebody put me up for adoption, and, look! I'm fine—other than the purely temporary ankle problem... I'm even happy. Gerry, sometimes things do work out.

Gerry: [Suddenly something in the distance, left, catches her attention] Gerald!

He: Gerry?

Gerry: That's the hot dog cart. Come on! I'll treat you to a genuine Labor Day dinner in Emmitt, Ohio. [They exit left]

[Lights down and End of Act]