at Bow Bridge
by Mac Wellman
Bad Penny was originally performed at Bow Bridge, in Central Park, New York City on June 8, 1989, with the following cast:
Man #2.............................................................Reg E. Cathey
Woman #2.......................................................Zivia Flomenhaft
Woman #1.......................................................Jan Leslie Harding
Man #3.............................................................Jeffrey M. Jones
Man #1.............................................................Stephen Mellor
Boatman of Bow Bridge..................................Mitch Markowitz
Chorus..............................................................Sari Allyn, Robert Canaan, Laura Cox, Dennis Davis, Lori Alan Dennibert, Katherine Gooch, Johannes Oppusunggu, Fia Perera, Jessica Porter, Danielle Reddick, Ken Schatz, and Matt Scott
Producer: Anne Hamburger, En Garde Arts, Inc.
Director: Jim Simpson
Composer: Michael Roth
Assistant Director: Jeff Sichel
Stage Manager: Dan M. Weir
[Scene. Near a large rock on the shore of the lake fifty yards northeast of the bridge. A MAN and WOMAN talk. A SECOND MAN stands on the far shore about twenty five yards to the South; a SECOND WOMAN stands on the bridge, facing them. A THIRD MAN, with a bullhorn, sits in a chair on a small rock in the lake some twenty-five yards due East of the first. A CHORUS of twelve is hidden amongst the bushes and reeds on the Southern shore of the Lake, near the SECOND MAN. Pause. The two on the bridge appear to be a couple, but aren't.]
I come here every day, every
single day. I come here, to this
spot, every single day and
every single day, every single
goddam day, it's the same or
it's different or it rains or it's
clear or it snows or it's bright
and beautiful or it's dark, rainy,
and kinda foul. Or it's like it
is now, kinda strange. Sometimes
the sky reminds me of home and some-
times the sky reminds me of the
sea, or sometimes it doesn't remind
me of anything at all, much, and
I pay no attention and sometimes
the sky looks like its own reflection
in an oily puddle of rain water, like
nothing, like nothing at all. Sometimes
I think the sky is only pretending to
be the sky, or that it's a fake image of
the true image of the sky, like what you
see in a puddle, and that in fact there's
no true sky at all. I mean, anywhere. But
I realize there probably is a true sky
somewhere since if there's an image of
something there's bound to be an object,
somewhere, an object corresponding to that
image, don't you think, somewhere? Maybe.
I dunno. Do you realize that we probably
look like a couple, but aren't. Do you
realize that? I think the true sky must
be a wonderful, wonderful place where
all the lost things of the world assemble,
are discovered, and are kept in safe-keeping.
Forever. Safe forever. Lost hats, socks,
thumbtacks; I think there is a separate place
for solitary shoes and socks and other stuff,
solitary stuff. I think there is a separate
place for twisted paperclips, and too-short
pencil stubs, and old newspapers, like big,
dumb birds with broken wings, skittering
across the pavement, the pavement of the sky;
I think there is place for bent coathangers.
These places must be located up there, in the
sky, because there is no other place available,
no other place that empty, no other place that
someone hasn't laid claim to, and filled up
with some kind of perfectly ordinary junk,
whatever kind of junk there is that is
appropriate to that kind of place, because
you never know, given the people who live
there, wherever, and what they look like,
and what kinds of junk they like, and who
they are. All that stuff. Other times
I think, no, all that's a crock, and the
whole damn sky is just a big, fat, illusion.
You want to know why I think that?* [* = a lap]
I mean when I do think that because**
I don't think that all the time, I only
think that some of the time.
Go away or I'll call the police.
Well, the way I see it, all those stars
up there, out there, all those millions
upon millions of stars; which obviously
we can't see now because it's day,
but there're still there, as we all
know or think we know because all we
actually see at night are the images
of stars, not the stars themselves;
all of which means that during the
daytime what we are not seeing is
the image of a star—or stars—
maybe even thousands of them. How
can you say you're missing much of
anything if all you can be sure of
is that during the daylight hours
you cannot see the stars because the
image of something else blocks out
the image of the stars? especially
when you consider that all you see
at night is the image of stars, not the
stars themselves, which are far too far
away for anyone ever to see them. The
actual stars, I mean. It's totally
ridiculous. So, in fact, if that's all
we see, if that's truly the case, then the
whole damn sky is one big fake, one great
big, vast, optical illusion. I mean, really!
[She looks at his tire.]
I had a flat tire, over there.
Then what are you doing here, in the park?
What do you think? I'm going to change my
goddam tire. There's no goddam gas station
over there [Points East.], so I figure, what
the hell, I walk across the park, maybe there's
a gas station over there [Points West.]. Besides,
my jack is busted. I know, I know. You're
going to ask how did I get the wheel off if my
jack was busted. I LIFTED UP THE CAR WITH ONE
HAND AND TORE THE WHEEL OFF WITH THE OTHER, OKAY?
I don't get it.
Neither do I, so can we just forget it?
Fine with me.
What kind of a car was it?
What business is it of yours anyway?
Just curious, that's all. I mean, I didn't
mean to be nosy.* I wasn't trying to intrude.
Jesus, it's a public park, you know. I mean,
you don't have no monopoly on finer feelings,
buddy. I was just trying to be neighborly,
so don't mind me. I'm just another human being,
you are familiar with the species? Just another
rational biped, demonstrating a little natural
human curiosity. Natural human concern. But
I know, it's too much to expect. Fellow-feeling.
A little normal human empathy. No. Nope. So,
just go and feel paranoid. Fine with me.
I don't give a crap.
It's a Ford Fairlane 500. Candy apple Red. Two
four-barrel carburetors. Four on the floor.
Montana plates. Three hundred pounds of rock
salt in the trunk. Parked on 69th between Lex
and Park. Parked illegally. I hate parks.
I'm a freelance memory fabulist and metaphysician
and card player. Failed card player. Can't ever
go back to Atlantic City. I have a cat named "Myth"*
and I don't need a passport.
What a coincidence! My hobby is myth, and my name
is Kat.* Only I spell Kat with a "k"
Who're you trying to fool? Ford stopped making the
Ford Fairlane 500 years and years ago, and if you
really had one, it'd be a collector's item and you'd
have to be crazy to park it on the street. Are
you crazy? Hey, that guy's crazy! Either that or
he's a liar. Or both. Look, buster, I know what
I'm talking about. I know cars. Aside from which,
what's this stuff about there being no gas stations
on the East Side? There're plenty of gas stations
on the East Side.* I've seen 'em. I know. Oh,
for crying out loud, what do you want me to do,
give you the fucking street-number, the color of
the toilet seat in the men's room? As a general
rule I can make the absolute statement: there are
gas stations aplenty in the area immediately East
of Central Park, even if it is hoity-toity, even
if they are hoity-toity, for gas stations, I mean.
I have seen them. I have walked by them. I don't
know where they are, but wherever they are, I know
they are there. I do not know when or where the sun
is when it comes up, nor where it has come up from,
but I do not doubt it. I know for a fact the sun
”will• come up. It's a fact of nature. Only a nut-
case would give me an argument on that score. So
you just go and shove it up your tailpipe, buddy.
He don't have no car, and he don't got no
flat tire. Nobody who didn't have no flat
tire wouldn't go and tear the wheel off'n
his car without he had no jack and no
wrench and no tire iron, I don't care how
strong he is, without his being a monster
like some monster football player, some
gigantic goon, and even if he were some
fucking monster goon, why would he
go and do a thing like that in the first
place because it's his car, isn't it?
And it wouldn't make no sense, and for
that reason I do not believe his story.
No, I do not. It smells fishy foul to me.
No, I surmise this guy is in the park
because he is out of work and is, in
general, up to no good. This park is
full of people, these days, who are out
of work and up to no good and you know
what I would do with all these people
who are up to no good in the park? I
would say, politely, why don't you get
your collective ass out of the park
and get a job or join the armed forces*
or at least do something that will be a
service to your country and not just be
a lazy good-for-nothing who doesn't contribute
to society and don't got no job of real work
as we folks who are responsible must do. I
mean look at that look on his face.
SECOND WOMAN to the THIRD MAN
Who the fuck are you talking about, you,
if you're such a high-and-mighty, big-type,
American person how come you ain't at your
job, working away? What the hell are you
doing lounging around in the park, spying
on people who are minding their own beeswax?
I mean, you got one helluva lot of nerve
if you ask me. The man is standing there
next to his girlfriend*, with a flat tire—
show Mr Minder-of-Other-People's-Beeswax
[FIRST MAN does so.]
...he's minding his own business, and he's
from out of state, and therefore should be
shown some courtesy as a tourist,** and
some aggressive, hostile goon like you
has to show up and spoil everything. Did it
not occur to you maybe he was only postponing
the inevitable task of changing the tire to
take advantage of the great outdoors and
the splendid weather we are having, finally,
after the usual awful cold and shitty and
rainy weather that in this miserable nut-
house of a city passes for Spring?
I am not his girlfriend.
I am not a tourist.
Why don't you need a passport?
Because I never leave the country.
I knew it, I just knew it.
What did you just know?
I know I shouldn't've picked up
that goddam bad penny I found
on the path, over there, near the
big fountain. I knew it would turn
out this way: bad. BAD. Bad bad. But
Kat goes and does it, goes and picks up
the goddam bad penny, which I know for a
fact is a bad penny because it's tails,
and when its tails it's a bad penny and
he who touches it is in for a bunch of
bad luck, and will be eaten by trolls, or
suffer the pharaoh's curse, or be killed
by the Boatman of Bow Bridge, and no good
will ever come of it, that's what I've heard.
Then what the hell's a good penny? I mean,
how can you tell the difference? A penny's
a penny.* I don't get it.
She's trying to explain, meathead. Why
don't you shut up.
FIRST WOMAN to the THIRD MAN
A good penny is one you find heads up. A bad
penny is tails up. The one you pick up and
pocket, the other you don't. It's a rule.
I violated the rule by picking up the bad penny.
Easy enough for you, Meathead?
I will not respond to that sarcasm.
There's something the matter with you.
Normal people don't talk like you.
Normal people don't talk about the sky.
Normal people don't act crazy.* Normal
people act normal, and don't go around
thinking about the curse of the pharaohs
and if they do they don't talk about it,
they don't talk about it with anyone else
because they know it is shameful and a
bad thought and one likely to get them
in trouble with the boss, their family,
and arouse suspicion in the minds of the
authorities, who have better things to do
with their time, better things than this.
There is not a thing wrong with me.
I am a perfectly normal human being
with perfectly normal hopes and wishes
and aspirations and dreams and ideals.
Perfectly normal in all respects. I
possess a job, an apartment, the normal type
clothes and shoes you would expect of
one such as me. Normal. A cat, a dog, a
parakeet. I have no unusual interests,
except the one I mentioned before, the
interest in myth. I have no abnormal
desires and cravings. I believe everything
I see on television and never doubt the
authorities, even when others less prudent
push the panic button, raise the alarm,
sound the tocsin. All of it, futile.
Futile. I do not believe in werewolves
and vampires. I believe neither that
there are alligators in the subways, nor
that there are trolls in central park, yes,
trolls, among them the hideous Boatman of
Bow Bridge, hidden within culverts, thatched
over by bosky thorns and briars in regions
inaccessible to normal human trespass.
I believe in the future of the American
dollar, Wall Street, and that...
[She has a private moment of the visionary kind.]
...a new kind of cheese...
will be discovered...a cheese capable...
yes, quite capable...of curing cancer...
It will be called Wonder Cheese, and it
will be miraculous; and whence it cometh
and whence it goeth, no man can say, and
the doings of this cheese shall be called
wondrous and inscrutable and it's name
shall be chanted by the multitudes, all
over, everywhere, even in the park, even at
night, when unholy things are done, are
done by those who possess not the secret of
Wonder Cheese and...babble...babble...
no man can say...no man can say...
My name is Kat. I was having a basically okay
day until I picked up that bad penny. Now
it's ruined. Now I don't even know what I'm
saying. Weird. This is really weird.
Let the world be covered with cobwebs.
Let the world be covered with shadows.
Let the world be covered with dead leaves.
Let the world be covered with rat fur. [Repeat.]
My name is Ray. Never mind the last
name. Call me Ray X. I grew up in
Big Ugly, Montana. That's the name of
the town. Big Ugly. Montana.
I went to Big Ugly Highschool and
played end on the Big Ugly Football
team, which was called the Big Ugly
Metacomets. The Big Ugly Metacomets
were the best football team in the
state, only they were defeated in the
State championship game by the team
from Why Not. Why Not, Montana.
They were named the Why Not Downwind
Scars, and they were a wicked awful
bunch, even more wicked awful than us.
They stomped us good, and after that
they kidnapped our mascot, a bulldog
named "Meathead". We all loved Meathead
because he was the mascot of the Big
Ugly Metacomets. And those damn Down
wind Scars from Why Not went and took
him off. Meathead was heard from no
more. It was the saddest day of my life.
Used to be my day job was at this site,
This nuclear toxic-waste site. Facility.
But this facility was actually a dump,
a dump located near the town of Futile.
Futile, Montana. Mainly I checked dials
and stuff. A little glove-box work.
A little light contamination. Routine.
Nothing to worry about much, if you bear
the mark of Cain on your forehead. Nah.
Time to play cards in the detox chamber.
Time to think about things. Big things
like Time and God and Destiny and so forth.
Big, mythic things. My night job was, ah,
unspeakable. Days and nights in Futile
made me think how happy I'd been before,
back in Big Ugly, with Meathead. Strange.
Wow! I can't believe it. You won't believe
this, but I had a bulldog when I was growing
up and guess what his name was,* just guess!
Go ahead! Guess!
I know, I know. Meathead.* Right? Right.
Let the world be covered with...[Etc.]
The Dead Boatman of Bow Bridge
is coming, he is coming to take the thief,
take the thief in his boat to hell, he is
coming to ferry the criminal to hell, the
one who stole his penny, the one who thieved
his bad penny,* the one who thoughtlessly
took what did not belong to him; that one
is going down to hell...[Repeat.]
Takes all kinds, I guess.
My name is Kat, and I grew up
in a remote part of the city, a part
of the city considered unfashionable
by those people who were our social
betters, and who continually reminded
us, the entire family, of this fact.
This was because our family business
would be incomprehensible to most
well-bred people, and therefore our
neighborhood was called the Place of
Solitary Shoes or the Place of Twisted
Coathangers or the Place of Gruesome
Doilies and no one would ever come
to visit us because we gave off a
strange odor that everyone found
somewhat disgusting even though we
washed and bathed regularly still we
gave everyone who came into contact
with us the creeps. So, all in all,
I guess you could say I had a
fairly disgusting childhood, a
fairly gruesome childhood, and labored
in dark spooky places assembling robot
vermin and big spools of lethal twine
and gruesome cheese, fake cheese, made
out of spoiled vegetables and petroleum
In short, I came from a gruesome family.
Everyone looked at everything too closely,
and that's why I went mad. Gruesome mom,
gruesome pop, gruesome cat, gruesome dog
[FM: Named Meathead]. Precisely: named
Meathead; a gruesome house, gruesome sofa,
gruesome TV, gruesome radio, gruesome kitchen,
gruesome car, gruesome backyard, gruesome
gazebo, gruesome mailbox, gruesome garden
hose, gruesome carpet, gruesome back porch,
gruesome front porch, gruesome vegetable
garden, gruesome doilies...all of it
gruesome, all of it the work of gruesome
adults who look at you too closely, and
find fault with all you do. So, like I
say, I went crazy, then I got sane, then
I went crazy, then I got sane again, then
I got crazy again and got well once more
then I moved out, to a more respectable
part of town, learned to talk like normal
people and not like someone from the
gruesome neighborhood where I grew up,
acquired a few skills, the kind you need
to make your way through the world, as
it is understood by respectable people,
people who have no reason to be ashamed
by the facts of their origin, where they
grew up, what food they eat, the size and
shape and color of their shoes, and such
bad habits they might have acquired by
hanging out with the wrong type of people,
people not used to acting normal, people
who act strange.
[The choral chant stops. A long pause.]
What kind of a fool do you take me for?
I really don't know what you see in her;
You can tell just by looking at her that
she is a floozy, or homeless, or damaged goods,
or at the very least a very insincere person,
a person with no scruples; and just between you
and me, if I were you I would watch out she
don't lift a wallet or wristwatch or some
other valuable from off of you. Maybe even
that tire you got there; she looks like the
kind that would stoop to a thing like that.
Vicious. Antisocial. Avaricious. Maladjusted.
Possibly a drunk. Probably a loony tunes.
Human garbage. Schemer. Tramp. Weirdo.
Fake. I wouldn't be surprised if she hadn't
already planted a tiny, inconspicuous electrode
to your head, so she can monitor your thoughts,
find out what your dark, little secrets are
so her associates may be able to blackmail you
or involve you in bizarre conspiracies, where
your life may be at risk, or unwittingly you
may play a part, albeit a small part, the part
of a geek or bagman, in some incredibly wild,
dangerous and byzantine, clandestine operation
involving drugs, the mafia, the CIA, terrorists
of several rival Palestinian factions, and
covert actions against the civilian population
of at least five separate Latin American banana
republics. You are in danger, in danger by
death by deadly force is what I am trying to
get through your thick skull. Others may
tell you this is not so, but I am a friend,
even though we are not personally acquainted,
and, yes, I am aware that my concern may strike
you as a bit peculiar; nevertheless, it is true;
in fact, I am your only friend* and I have documents
to prove this, documents which reveal a vast conspiracy
against you, a conspiracy organized by ones close to
you, family, friends, colleagues at your place of
work; all their schemes center on the total destruction
of you, your happiness, sanity, the health of your cat
and dog and houseplants; the destruction of your credit,
reputation, your morale, your good standing in the community,
and even your self-identity and your faith in God who is over
all, and who ordains all things, even vast conspiracies such
as this. Do I make myself clear? Be warned.
FIRST MAN to the SECOND WOMAN
I am telling you once and for all:
we only appear to be a couple. We are
emphatically not a couple now, nor
have we ever been a couple, nor will
we ever be a couple. So please keep
your advice to yourself, I don't need
it, I don't want it, I can't stand
it, and to tell you the truth it's driving
me crazy so shut up and go away or I'll
call the police and have them issue a
warrant for your arrest and you'll be
put away for good. Good riddance.
What did you mean by all that stuff,
that stuff about the sky? You, Kat.
I am asking you a question, because
it's all set me thinking,* because
something about what you said,
something made me feel like a big,
dumb bug creeping over a sheet
of plate glass, looking through the
glass to an infinity of sky and more
sky, and allatime I was unaware of the
larger implications of this stuff. I
mean, I like to know where I am going,
and what I am doing and that whatever I
am here for, it's not just like some bad
joke, something to do with the zoo
at night or some deeply twisted nightmare,
I mean I am no mere insect; I am a
deeply caring individual with special skills
and habits, and a fondness for things like
Cuban cigars, Hawaiian shirts and French
brandy. I have always striven to be more
or less honest, more or less courteous,
even to my social inferiors, even when
driven nearly out of my mind with an
insane desire to run amok, and tear down
whatever small portions of the civilized
world I can lay my hands upon, without risking
my job or getting hurt on dangerous machinery,
or injecting some lethal substance into
my veins, while all the time knowing that
the moon and stars are whirling senselessly,
mindlessly overhead at speeds I can't even
imagine, much less make any sense of. It
scares me, it scares the shit out of me.
It scares me, and it scares me even more
that what I see when I look up there, at
the sky, isn't a picture of anything it
isn't any thing at all. And yet it is, it
is everything there is—all jumbled up,
all jumbled together in a mad merry-go-round
of comings and goings, of appearing and dis-
appearing, and none of it strictly speaking,
means anything at all. Except to us down
here, in our littleness and stupidity and bitter-
ness and rage and greed. And you know what
bugs the hell out of me even more than that?
Do you? I mean, really, DO YOU!? because I
don't mind telling you I don't get excited
by things like this everyday, and if you think
I'm enjoying this you are sadly mistaken and
the thing is, nothing up there in the sky
has changed a bit since the time I was seven
years old and first got interested in things
like that. Nothing has changed. NOTHING!
Nothing up there has changed since the time
of Christ, the time of the Incas, the time
of the pharaohs. Nothing very much has changed
for a very long time, except us. Only us!
Crummy, little, cheesy, lousy, liars and
con-artists that we are. With our cheesy,
lousy deals and bad debts and addictions and
pathetic bad faith and cigarettes and childish
obsessions with the flag and baseball and comic
books and grotesque things like getting rich
when this whole, damn city is filling up with
people so fucked up you can't even look one
in the eye without being ashamed of being...
of being...of being anything but a snake coiled
up under a rock, over there, in the reeds, over
there, by the boathouse, or there across the
lake, where people go wading, even though you're
not allowed to, on account of all the shit and
broken glass on the bottom. You follow what
I'm saying, Kat, because I'm talking to you,
Incomprehensible, the bridge.
Incomprehensible, the puddles.
Incomprehensible, the sky.
Incomprehensible, the hats.
Incomprehensible, the thumbtacks.
Incomprehensible, the shoes.
Incomprehensible, the socks.
Incomprehensible, the stars.
Incomprehensible, the Great Nebula in Andromeda.
Incomprehensible, the flat tire.
Incomprehensible, the Ford.
Incomprehensible, the East Side.
Incomprehensible, the West Side.
Incomprehensible, the bad penny.
Incomprehensible, the dog.
Incomprehensible, the trolls.
Incomprehensible, the cheese.
Incomprehensible, the Big Ugly Metacomets.
Incomprehensible, the coathangers.
Incomprehensible, the paperclips.
Incomprehensible, all things gruesome.
Incomprehensible, Santa Claus.
Incomprehensible, the Easter Bunny.
Incomprehensible, the Tooth Fairy.
Incomprehensible, the Plutonium.
Incomprehensible, Bow Bridge.
Incomprehensible, the Boatman of Bow Bridge.
FIRST WOMAN to SECOND MAN
Kiss my behind, you moron.
[Pause. Turns to FIRST MAN.
Hands him a penny. He pockets it.]
Penny for your thoughts.
You don't understand, all I want
is to get my flat tire across this
damn park to a service station,
over there, where someone can
help me fix it. That's all I want.
I don't need any sermon or lectures
or advice, because like I say I'm
nobody special, but I'm me, just an
ordinary hard-working Joe, out of
Big Ugly, Montana, with the curse
of Cain on my forehead and a flat
tire, and no place to live, and no
prospects, and no future, and no
hope and nothing, nothing but rancor
in my heart. [FW: Despite even Meathead?]
Yes, despite even Meathead, because what
could be more useless than an goddam dog?
A bulldog at that, ugliest creature
ever thought up, even in places
like Big Ugly, Montana, for Pete's sake.
Whose idea was this stupid, monster
of a park anyhow, I could've had my tire
changed eons ago if not for this insane,
little blip of enforced rusticity, set
down in the howling wilds of the city!?
At least in the city the killers know
they are killers, and why they are killers,
and who the other killers are, and who they
kill and how and why and for how much money,
and what they must pay for their crimes, how
many weeks on Rikers' Island, the slap on the
wrist, how many weeks their library card will
be suspended, maybe even revoked. Here all the
killers are sentimental killers, outdoorsy killers.
And you know what? I don't believe in myth
[The CHORUS stops as the BOATMAN's
heaves into view, far off, behind
the FIRST MAN, who does not see it.
The FIRST WOMAN does. The BOATMAN
is shrouded in black, and carries an
...even though I have a cat named "myth". No,
to me myth means "bullshit", and I hate cats and
dogs and parakeets and I especially hate my car,
even if it is a Ford Fairlane 500, because what
can you do with a car when you got a flat tire,
and no will help you, and I am sick of this
damn fruit-basket turn-over we call New York City,
the only god there is in New York City is this.
[He holds up a dollar bill.]
So I don't want to hear any stuff about the sky,
the earth, the trolls or the Boatman of Bow Bridge
because it's all a bunch of malarkey, you can
take from me, sure, shitass no, and I'll tell
you one more thing, I think truth and beauty and
love bite the big hairy banana, and that nobody
but fools believe in anything but power, money,
muscle and good old-fashioned American cheese;
and I'll tell you one more thing: there ain't
no Santa Claus, there ain't no tooth fairy, there
ain't no Easter Bunny, there ain't no wonder cheese;
there ain't no heaven and hell; there ain't no
such thing as right and wrong; there ain't no such
thing as no human soul; and our lives mean absolutely
nothing, and we would be better off had we never climbed
up out of the muck from whence we began, out of that
primordial slime, spawned out of what unimaginable,
putrid sludge and goop, because human existence is just
one, big, awful hoax and shitwagon; and if it were up
to me I would go and fill this whole damn park with leaky
drums of Plutonium wastes and by products, acids
and oxides. That would fix this places for good, and you know
why, baby, because Plutonium has a half-life of 24,161
years, baby,* and that's a long, long time. So: I say, to hell
with your Boatman of Bow Bridge. I don't believe in him. I
don't believe in nothing, but lies and deceit and mayhem
and vileness and corruption and curses and may all my
curses come down, like a ton of bricks, on the mythical head
of the Boatman of Bow Bridge, and if he hears me let him
come and drag me down to hell, because I do not believe in him;
[The "incomprehensible" chorus begins,
louder than before. The BOATMAN nears.]
for I do believe only in cheese...crud...power...
oilyrags...asbestos...all of it, buckets full of it, heaps of it,
nothing, nothingness. So kiss my ass, Mr Boatman of Bow
Bridge, come on and kiss it, I dare you, wherever you are,
show me your stuff because I don't believe in you. So there.
Don't call me "baby", Kat's the name, and I wouldn't talk
that way if I were you because that penny I gave you was
the baddest of bad pennies, and there is a Boatman of Bow
Bridge, a truly wicked awful troll and he's going to come
for you, believe you me, and you're just asking for it,
buddy, whoever you are. Ray X from Big Ugly, Montana.
Because there are some things people don't understand.
There are some things people only screw up when
they mess with them.
[The "incomprehensible" chorus stops as
the BOATMAN arrives and summons the FIRST
MAN. After a blank moment of horror, the
FIRST MAN climbs into the BOATMAN's row-
boat, and they disembark. Pause. The FIRST WOMAN continues quietly,
Just because we think we know everything
doesn't mean we do. Some things escape us,
and drive us slowly mad. People come to the
lunacy of places like parks to escape the
even more terrible lunacy of their lives
in the city, lives lived without love in
many cases, lives of terrible, meaningless
work, lives of torment, addictions to
strange and disgusting substances, lives
devoted to insane passions, obscenity
piled upon obscenity, lives rendered un-
endurable by long incurable wasting diseases,
diseases that could have been avoided had we
taken our medicine as the doctor warned us,
or not been who we are, damned by ignorance
and bad luck and by our own servility and avarice
and lack of cunning to a life of crime and useless
boneheaded self-abuse and substance abuse and other,
stranger kinds of abuse we know not the names
of, and pains, nightfevers, retching and public
vomiting and the dry heaves, and bellowing and
howling, crying and weeping as we yearn for more
of whatever it is we think we lack; as the Boatman
of Bow Bridge completes the ring and circles the
square of his infernal destiny and rubs out the one
who would not believe, the one whose name was Ray X
where X stands for the nothingness of the unknown, X the
nothingness of infinity. Ray, that hopeless loser,
[Pause. The "proverb" chorus begins,
chanted by the SECOND MAN and WOMAN,
the CHORUS, and the THIRD MAN.]
What you don't know can't hurt
you; make hay while the sun
shines; soon ripe, soon rotten;
if every man would sweep his
own doorstep the city would
soon be clean; the dog returns
to his own vomit; the exception
proves the rule; do as I say,
not as I do; dead men tell no
no tales; call no man happy
till he dies;* facts are stubborn
things; practice makes perfect;
a little pot is soon hot; honey
catches more flies than vinegar;
you can lead a horse to water
but you can't make him drink;
judge not, lest ye be judged;
as you sow, so shall ye reap; a
bad penny always turns up;
nature abhors a vacuum;
thought is free; the squeaking
wheel gets the grease; today you,
tomorrow me; there are more
ways of killing a dog than
choking it with butter; curses
like chickens come home to roost;
wonders never cease; blood
will tell; if you're born to be
hanged then you'll never be drowned.
For all things beneath the sky are
lovely, except those which
are ugly; and these are odious
and reprehensible and must be
destroyed, must be torn limb from limb, howling,
to prepare the ritual banquet, the
ritual of the Slaughter of Innocents.
For they all must be slaughtered
to pave the road of illusion.
[She puts on a strange hat, as do the
others. The BOATMAN's craft gradually
pulls out of sight.]
For the Way is ever difficult to discover
in the wilderness of thorns and mirrors
and the ways of the righteous are full
strange and possess strange hats and
feet. For the Way leads over from the
Fountains of Bethesda, where the Lord
performed certain acts, acts unknown to
us, across the Bow Bridge of our human
unknowability, pigheadedness, and the
wisenheimer attitude problem of our
undeserving, slimeball cheesiness; and
scuttles into the Ramble, there, of
utterly craven, totally lost, desperate
and driven incomprehensibility—friend
neither to fin, to feather, nor tusk
of bat, bird, weasel, porcupine, nor gnat.
And we who are not who we are must forever
bury the toxic waste of our hidden hates
in the dark, plutonic abysm of our human
hearts, and be always blessed in the empty promise
of the sky that looks down upon us with
a smile, a divine smile, even as she
crushes us all beneath her silver foot.
End of play.
Copyright ©1989 by Mac Wellman
All rights reserved.
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