MANNY: [Enters and stands.] Every morning I get up, drink a cup of coffee, read The New York Times—a newspaper I despise—shit and pee, save, shower, dress, and come here to.
stand for a few minutes before I move forward in space.
Then I move forward in space. [He moves forward.]
And again I stand. [He stands.]
And then I leave. [He leaves.]
[The stage is empty.]
[Manny enters and returns to where he last stood.]
And then I return. Don’t ask me why.
Later I have lunch.
Then I return home to undress, take a bath and put my feet up while I watch my favorite movie, The Postman Always Rings Twice. Don’t ask me why.
It is a film I cannot comprehend.
I have never seen a woman dressed all in white who has married some old geezer she hates.
I have never been compelled to electrocute anyone at any time or push a care down a canyon cliff. I am afraid of heights.
Nor have I ever had an inclination to run a restaurant out of my house.
And my postman does not even ring once, let alone twice.
I am not attracted to Lana Turner. Although I find John Garfield a most attractive man.
But I am not gay and eventually I fall to sleep.
So you see, I have a very busy life. [He looks at his watch.]
I must wait a little longer here before returning home to take a bath, put up my feet, and watch The Postman Always Rings Twice, my favorite movie.
Everyday I stay a little longer and some day I shall not return home to take a bath and put up my feet at all.
Or if I do return home and take a bath, I will not have time to put up my feet and watch my favorite movie.
Don’t ask me why.
[He looks at his watch.]
[A woman enters and stands where MANNY originally stood.]
WILLA: Every morning I get up and return to bed.
My husband feeds the cat. My husband wakes up my son and takes him to school after serving him a nourishing breakfast while I sleep.
When they leave the house I get up again and make myself a cup of coffee and turn on the television set to watch the very end of The Today Show. The news is over by that hour and usually they—the network personalities—talk about a new recipe or handy tip to save money in the kitchen or garage.
I have never been in our garage—I take that back; one time I went into the garage to fetch our howling cat who had got there, I suppose, when my husband left the house with our son after a nourishing breakfast. The cat, Buddy, might have escaped when he, my husband, opened the door to take my son, whom he had served a nourishing breakfast, to school. Damn cat!
I do not find the kitchen a useful place to be in, since I cannot cook. I can only make coffee and Jello and instant pudding, and things like that. I once fried some ground beef, adding catsup and tomato sauce. When it was done I put it on a bun. But my husband was not impressed and my son refused to eat what the newscasters had told me would be so popular with the young. Consequently—
I only make coffee—and Jello and, on occasion, instant pudding. In the kitchen, a place I do not find useful to be in.
My husband likes to cook.
MANNY: You sound like a very lazy woman.
WILLA: I am.
MANNY: I live a very busy life.
WILLA: [Looking over at him] You look as if you aren’t doing anything at the moment.
MANNY: I’m waiting.
WILLA: For what?
MANNY: To go home and take a bath and put up my feet while I watch my favorite movie,
The Postman Always Rings Twice.
WILLA: I’ve seen that movie. Fred McMurray…
MANNY: John Garfield.
WILLA: A very handsome man.
WILLA: You sound as if you were—excuse for the expression—as lazy as me.
MANNY: But I do a great many other things before I go home to take a bath and put up my feet.
WILLA: Such as?
MANNY: I wait. As I am doing now.
WILLA: So do I!
MANNY: But I get up and do not go back to bed.
MANNY: I don’t have a husband to feed the cat and serve my son a nourishing breakfast.
WILLA: So you’re married?
MANNY: No wife.
No son. No cat.
WILLA: Then there’s no comparison.
MANNY: I get up and drink a cup of coffee….
WILLA: So do I!
MANNY: I read The New York Times.
WILLA: I watch The Today Show. The very end. I despise The Times!
MANNY: So do I.
WILLA: I shit and pee.
MANNY: So do I.
WILLA: You see, we’re not so very different.
MANNY: I shave, shower, and dress.
WILLA: I comb my hair—sometimes—and usually dress [looking down at her skirt]. See?
MANNY: Quite sloppily!
WILLA: I wouldn’t talk!
MANNY: [looking down at his pants] I guess this morning, after getting up, drinking coffee,
and reading The New York Times—a newspaper I despise—shitting and peeing, shaving
and showering, I was a little hurried in my dress.
WILLA: I should say so.
MANNY: I was in a hurry.
WILLA: Whatever for?
MANNY: To be here—I mean there, where you are, to stand and say “Every morning I get up…
WILLA: But I’m here. You’re there!
MANNY: That’s precisely my point. First I stand there, then I stand here. And I leave in between, while you do absolutely nothing but stand in once place.
WILLA: Perhaps I am just more certain of where I want to be.
MANNY: I would say you’re lazy.
WILLA: I would say you’re unsure of yourself.
MANNY: I am, I must admit.
WILLA: You see, we have a great deal in common. I’m lazy and you’re unsure.
MANNY: Perhaps it’s because I read The New York Times—a newspaper I despise—cover to
cover. I know what’s happening in the world, while you know only about kitchens and garages.
WILLA: And what to put in your child’s backpack, I forgot about that. Don’t ask me why.
MANNY: But have you ever done anything with this knowledge you have accumulated about
kitchens, garages, and your son’s backpack?
WILLA: No, I never have.
Have you ever done anything to change the course of history?
MANNY: What do you mean?
WILLA: Have you accomplished anything even remotely connected with all those events you
read about in the nation’s “paper of record”—a newspaper you despise?
MANNY: No. [pause]
But I intend to. I have the potential to encounter them when I stand there, where you are and when I leave.
WILLA: Where do you go?
WILLA: When you leave, where do you go?
MANNY: I don’t know.
Somewhere…anywhere I might encounter those events I read about.
But then I come back—before I do encounter those events—and stand here, where I am.
WILLA: Have you ever stayed there, where you go before you come back?
MANNY: No. I always return. Generally. I seem to remember staying there, however, for longer
than I usually do. You see, that’s what I mean—I have the potentiality, while you, if I am correct, have never even been where you are before and my never be again.
WILLA: No. Generally after coffee and the end of The Today Show, I go back to bed.
WILLA: I like to sleep.
MANNY: I like to stand here in the park. And watch people come and go. I am not lazy. I sleep
only eight hours every night.
WILLA: But you are so unsure of yourself, while I, in my sleep, am so comfortable, I would even
say secure—what with a husband who feeds the cat and serves such nourishing means to my son. I would say I am not only secure, but sure, quite certain of things.
That is until this morning—and on that day when I entered the garage to fetch the cat.
Today I couldn’t sleep. I felt—I don’t know how to describe it, a slight rumble in my stomach when I combed my hair—as early as that! And by the time I put on my skirt (self-cononsciously), rather sloppily, I must admit, I felt this urge.
WILLA: To go out, out of the house I practically never leave—and to come here to the park.
And standing here, in this, I have to admit, quite bucolic spot, I saw you. And you saw me.
MANNY: I see many things when I leave and come back. Many things. Sometimes they are very
beautiful and sometimes indescribably ugly.
WILLA: And today you saw me, here, where you had been before you left to come back again.
MANNY: I wish you would go away.
WILLA: That wasn’t very polite. I’m just going to ignore what you said.
MANNY: I suppose you want me to apologize?
WILLA: Yes, I do, I very much do. Don’t ask me why.
MANNY: [somewhat guiltily] I’m sorry.
But I truly do wish you would go away.
I may even leave again and return, or maybe I will stay. That would be something new!
WILLA: I’m new! To all this, to this, I have to admit, quite bucolic spot. So you see, I am not
just lazy. Today I have done something new!
WILLA: I couldn’t say. There was a rumble in my stomach, and I just had to leave the house,
which I practically never do. Don’t ask me why.
But I guess it doesn’t really matter. Because here I am, on the very spot where you told me you sometimes stand before you go away to come back where you are and watch.
What do you see?
WILLA: When you stand there and watch things that are sometimes very beautiful and sometimes indescribably ugly.
MANNY: I have never seen you before!
WILLA: That’s what I have been trying to tell you. I have never—I know it is hard to believe, but it’s true—come to the park before, never even seen this park which, I have to admit, is a
somewhat bucolic spot.
MANNY: I wish you would go away.
WILLA: Apologize again!
MANNY: I will not!
[A young boy enters on a skateboard and stops a short distance away from MANNY.]
SONNY: Every day after lunch, after my teachers have talked for many hours about all sorts
of things sacred and profane, things I try not to listen to or if I do, I cannot comprehend—don’t ask me way—I escape to where I am standing in the center of this park, this very pleasant park, and stare at that man over there. And he sees me staring at him, that man standing there talking to that woman….Mother?
MANNY: I often see that beautiful boy over there. That is what I often see while I stand here
upon my return after leaving where I was.
WILLA: [following the arc of his finger] Sonny?
SONNY: Mother? What are you doing here?
WILLA: I thought you were in school, where your father took you after serving you a nourishing
breakfast this morning while I slept.
SONNY: I was. But now I’m here in this very pleasant park.
WILLA: And I am here too in this, I have to admit, once bucolic spot.
[When the lights come up we see the trio, MANNY, WILLA, and SONNY, from a different vantage point, the actors having changed places. A bench appears stage left.]
WILLA and SONNY in unison: Don’t ask me why.
MANNY: You know that boy? That beautiful boy who comes here every day and stares. He is one of the beautiful things when I stand here and look out over this, I have to admit, quite
lovely place. He is perhaps the only beautiful thing I see, standing here as I am after having gone away and come back.
WILLA: He is my son, to whom, after feeding the cat, my husband, my loving husband, feeds
nourishing meals. He is the boy with the backpack I was advised to fill with pencils and crayons and a little blue book along with an energy bar.
SONNY: She is my mother!
What are you doing here, mother, talking to that man? I have never seen you here before
and have always imagined you soundly asleep in our house until I come home and kiss you on the cheek.
WILLA: You must be a very wicked boy to come here in the middle of the day to stare at this
man the way you do [turning to MANNY] and you a very wicked man to watch such a pretty boy stare at you.
MANNY and SONNY in unison: O, it’s nothing like that!
[in unison again] Nothing ever happens!
MANNY: And never will! Although I must admit that this boy, evidently, is the reason I come
back when I go away, and the reason when I go away I never stay to encounter any of
those world events about which I have read in The New York Times—a newspaper I despise.
WILLA: And what would your father say—a man who every morning serves you a nourishing
meal—about you being here in the middle of the day, staring at a man who apparently enjoys being stared at?
SONNY: What would my father say, about you being here talking to the man who, when I come
to this formerly pleasant park, I like to stare at, and who likes me to stare at him too.
MANNY and WILLA in unison: O, it’s nothing like that!
WILLA: We just met.
MANNY: Quite by accident.
She felt a rumble in her stomach.
WILLA: He even told me to go away, that he had other things to do…such as watching you, I
suppose, my handsome boy, a very wicked child I might add, a son who will be a big disappointment to his loving dad, who every morning feeds the cat and serves his son a nourishing breakfast before he takes him to the school in which he should still be sitting instead of this, I have to admit, no longer very bucolic spot.
SONNY: [rummaging in his backpack] I think I’m going to write everything down in my little
little blue book into which my teachers, whom I seldom comprehend, have often told me I should register their statements sacred and profane as well as my often somewhat confused observations.
MANNY and WILLA in unison: O, you mustn’t do that!
MANNY: I don’t even know this woman who, apparently, is your mother. What she said is true, I told her to go away because I had other things to do. I knew you would soon be here again and I was afraid, somehow I knew, that she would interfere with your staring at me while I watched.
SONNY: What do you see when you watch me?
MANNY: I see a beautiful boy.
And why do you stare?
SONNY: Because I like you to watch.
[To his mother] Am I beautiful?
WILLA: You’re a handsome young man!
SONNY: But not beautiful, the way he sees me?
WILLA: You were a beautiful baby. But, well when you grow up it’s hard for a mother to say. You’re my son, a very wicked son, I might add, who would disappoint, if he were to know, such a loving dad.
SONNY: [to Manny] Why am I beautiful?
MANNY: You just are! Don’t ask me why.
SONNY: But not to her. Or even my father who serves me such nourishing meals. Nor to my teachers who tell me lots of things they want me to write down in my little blue book. I am not beautiful to any of them. Handsome, as my mother just said, comely, and just as often wicked, bad.
What do you see in me that the others can’t?
WILLA: [Looking over at MANNY] Because he’s a pervert!
MANNY: I beg your pardon! I am not a pervert. I am not gay. Although, I must admit, I think
John Garfield is attractive. But I have never had sex, nor do I ever intend to, with a person of my own sex.
SONNY: Why not?
MANNY: [to WILLA, ignoring the boy’s question] That was a very mean thing to say.
I want an apology.
WILLA: [pause] All right, I apologize!
But how do I know you’re not?
MANNY: Not what?
WILLA: You know, a pervert. A man who might abuse such a child whom you describe as so
MANNY: Because I just told you so!
MANNY: Why what?
SONNY: Why wouldn’t you, if you saw something beautiful in a world of indescribably ugly
things, have sex with a man—or a boy like me?
WILLA: [outraged] Because it’s against the law!
MANNY: Because I never cross the line.
My place is here, yours over there.
SONNY: But I could come over there, couldn’t I? And you could come here?
MANNY: I suppose so.
WILLA: There is an important difference, my young man, between pleasure and sex!
MANNY: [in quick agreement] Absolutely! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
MANNY: Children should be seen and not heard!
WILLA: Little pitchers have big ears!
SONNY: Would you have sex with my mother?
WILLA: Really, Sonny, what a thing to ask an absolute stranger!
MANNY: [evaluating WILLA] No, I think she is too narcoleptic for my taste.
SONNY: What does that mean?
MANNY: She sleeps too much. And you are so beautiful because you are so wide awake.
SONNY: I like to sleep too, but my father gets me up, right after he feeds the cat, to serve me
a nourishing breakfast before he drives me off to school. And he won’t let me go back to bed.
WILLA: [without hearing, it appears, what has just been said] I don’t think my husband, his
loving father, likes me very much.
SONNY: He never kisses her.
WILLA: Each afternoon my son, a wicked boy really, but—beautiful too—kisses me on the cheek.
MANNY: Then perhaps you should go home so that when he returns he can do that, kiss your
cheek to wake you up.
WILLA: Like sleeping beauty.
WILLA: [to SONNY] Maybe I should go.
SONNY: I’ll see you soon Mom.
[WILLA turns to go] Goodbye.
MANNY: You should take some anti-acid.
[WILLA looks confused.]
MANNY: For that rumble in your stomach.
WILLA: Yes. Thank you. I will.
[SONNY stands upon his skateboard and openly stares at MANNY who raptly watches from afar.]
The same park.
The bench is now stage center. It is slowly growing dark. On the bench sits a well-dressed man.
SONNY, SR.: Every day on my way home from work I stop here at twilight for a short while.
Don’t ask how long I stay. It depends upon what I need to say to myself.
It’s usually a very short while, although I have sat here, on some occasions, an hour or more before moving on.
I once had to lie to my wife, something I hate to do, but is necessary sometimes to keep the peace in our house. Not that I am suggesting that my wife is difficult. But she hates to wait. Hates to wait for dinner. You see, I’m the cook, the cook at our house. I like to cook. I would have liked to have been a chef. But my father thought that cooking was a woman’s job.
Strange, when you come to think of it, because my mother was a terrible cook, and on those nights when my father couldn’t barbecue—nights on which it rained or was too cold or hot—we ate out. Or I made sandwiches for us.
But my father was a man of principle and what he believe he believed unreservedly. Women were intended to be cooks. And belief was more important to my father than reality.
So I became a clerk, a court clerk, which is a fancy name for a kind of courthouse tour guide. My job is to tell the jurors where to go.
And some days I take them there. But mostly I just tell them: “Group 38, report to courtroom C.” “Group 22 to B!” And for that I get paid.
“Group 21, you can go home today!”
Someone else has to tell them when they forget which group they’re in.
“Group 27, follow me!” “Group 30, courtroom D.”
There are five courtrooms, but we only use three: B, C, and D. I have never told
Anyone to go to A or E.
My job may sound very boring, and I suppose it is. But it is also quite demanding with more than 300 jurors every day to herd about.
Yet I would still have preferred to have become a chef.
I would like my son to be a chef, but I don’t think he takes to cooking the way I do. Right now he wants to be a champion skateboarder or, as he told my wife one night, just before she helped him in his prayers, he wants to be a disco dancer wearing nothing but a string bikini into which women or men—depending upon the clientele—stuff $20 dollar bills. But these, my wife assures me, are only passing fancies: he’s just 12!
He’s a good-looking kid and I bet he could be a disco dancer if he put his mind to it!
Unlike my Dad, I don’t like to push my values upon Sonny, Jr. I prefer reality over abstract beliefs.
People should become anyone they can be. Maybe I would never have been able to have been a great chef—I cook plain nutritious meals for my little family—but I would have loved to have tried. I am an excellent court clerk.
And I can’t say I’m not happy…
But I’m not happy either, not sad, certainly not depressed the way I see some get. I have never wrung my hands in despair!
I have a good family, an open-hearted wife who loves me a lot when’s she awake and leaves me alone when she’s not. My son, I have to admit, is a good-looking boy—although I don’t know how that happened; just look at me, I’m no diamond in the rough! And my wife—don’t tell her I said this, promise me—is rather slovenly. But my son is such a charmer. He could be….well almost anything he wanted to be. If he had some imagination!
But still…despite the good life I have, some nights—like last night for instance—I feel…I can’t exactly explain it…a rumble in my chest.
Not because I did anything wrong or something terrible is going to happen. But maybe…I don’t know…maybe just because I did everything right. I was a good son, I am a good husband, a good father—at least I try to be.
My wife and I hardly ever fight!
And if she gets mad it’s just because she’s hungry.
[The daylight has waned, and the park lights have come on. For the first time we see, beside where he sits, a stone stature of an owl set upon a pedestal.]
SONNY, SR.: [looking up at the darkened sky] I’m afraid I’m going to have to lie tonight! “Traffic was terrible,” I’ll say. And she’ll believe me with all her heart.
[He stands and gently kisses the owl.] Goodnight, my love, my wise old friend.
[He exits fast.]