by John Steppling
MANCE John Horn
EDDIE George Gerdes
FORTUNE TELLER Lee Kissman
TRANSLATOR Soumaya Aakaboune
MALONE John C. McLaughlin
DR COUSA Harvey Perr
DR FRENCH Mick Collins
RUSS Ron Campbell
Pin spot up slowly on a man standing on platform—upstage center. All we see are his legs from knee down. He's wearing neatly pressed pinstripe trousers and a pair of highly polished cordovan wing tip shoes.
VOICE [Offstage, MANCE]: It was raining, very heavily. This rain went on all night, continuously, the entire night, without any let up. The men would come to the door, and they'd knock. It was a loosely fitted door—and it sounded loud. The men would be let in—and I could see them, I could see their feet and they all wore boots, and their boots were muddy—and the floor got dirtier and more full of mud as the night wore on. My head rested on the floor, the side of my head against the floor and the blood ran from my head toward the door. The blood looked almost black. There wasn't much light inside the house. The boots made a lot of noise on the wood floor, and with my ear and head against the hardwood I also felt the vibration of their steps. I don't remember what anyone said—or if they ever spoke at all. I think maybe nobody spoke. I could hear a car engine outside now and again—and I could hear the rain, [pause] I always wore good shoes, English shoes, and I kept them clean and polished. I liked my trousers cuffed, and I preferred a single break. I always dressed well, and I kept myself clean, even out there, [pause]. All I could see, as I lay there, was their legs and boots, the mud cak¬ing on their heels and soles, and the shadows, and my blood spreading across the planks of the floor. I fell unconscious at some point but when I woke noth¬ing was any different. I heard a dog barking, out in the yard, to the side, probably chained to a tree or to a stake.
Pin spot slowly fades out.
Lights up slowly. An old man, FORTUNE TELLER, sits with young girl, TRANSLATOR, behind small table and in front of canvas hanging with esoteric scribbling, graphs, drawings of palms-feet-eyes-etc. EDDIE enters—sits at table.
FORTUNE TELLER: [fast—emphatic—stuttering] Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, uh, uh, uh... ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah...
Slapping EDDIE'S palm.
Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, eh, eh, eh, eh, cha, cha, cha, cha, cha, cha, cha, cha, cha, cha, cha, ...ah, ah, ah, ah...
Pointing to palm as he looks at WOMAN TRANS¬LATOR.
Eeh, eeh, eeh, eeh, eeh, eeh...
He pauses to study palm, looking at it closely with his crossed eyes.
Mmmm... mmm,... ah, ah, ah...
He slaps palm again, then turns it over—using magnifying glass to examine the small lines on edge of hand.
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh... ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch...
He nodding rapidly now, turning hand over and over, looking at both sides...
TRANSLATOR: [with heavy accent] Your name?...he asks your name.
EDDIE: [beat] Eddie.
She looks over at FORTUNE TELLER, then back to EDDIE.
TRANSLATOR: Now you've come here. Eddie?
FORTUNE TELLER: Ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch...
FORTUNE TELLER pointing out something on EDDIE'S palm to TRANSLATOR.
TRANSLATOR: Without your wife?
EDDIE: I have no wife.
FORTUNE TELLER: [tapping EDDIE'S palm] Ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch...
TRANSLATOR listening intently to FORTUNE TELLER.
Ch, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah...
EDDIE: What's he saying?
TRANSLATOR: He says the night is warm—[pause] Are you afraid?
EDDIE: [pause] No, uh uh—
TRANSLATOR: You are alone?
EDDIE: [beats] I don't know.
TRANSLATOR: You want to give gold to the saints?
EDDIE: Excuse me?
TRANSLATOR: For saints.
FORTUNE TELLER holds up strip of gold leaf...
EDDIE: How much?
TRANSLATOR looks Confused.
TRANSLATOR looks to FORTUNE TELLER.
FORTUNE TELLER: Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah,
FORTUNE TELLER slaps gold leaf in EDDIE'S palm, then turns to TRANSLATOR. She looks to EDDIE.
TRANSLATOR: For the saints—
EDDIE smiles, takes money from pocket. He gives it to FORTUNE TELLER who then smoothes gold leaf out on EDDIE'S palm. She closes EDDIE'S hand into fist and blows on it—then slaps it on all sides, and slowly opens it... the gold leaf is gone.
TRANSLATOR: To the saints.
FORTUNE TELLER leans back, smiles.
Much luck—for you. Much good luck.
EDDIE nods slowly.
Lights fade out.
Lights up: veranda of clinic. MALONE stands to side, DR COUSA paces downstage. EDDIE sits.
DR COUSA: No, no, ...OK...
He looks back—at EDDIE.
Are we referring to, what? The AMA? Excuse me... ah... the "American" medical mafia—ah, is that... the "American" medical dictatorship—OK?! All right—yes—the AM A [beats] Right. Absolutely, absolutely. Just so, just so. [snorts a derisive laugh] The American Medical Association. Are we in Baja? Are we in Mexico?
Mexico—Mexico, [beats] It's a desert out there, [beats] OK. My certificate is from the University of Colorado—it hangs "On-the-Wall"—in my office, [beat] Let's see—let us look at what kind of energy exists in the body.
He advances on MALONE.
Are your eyes clear? Alert? Breath clean and free moving? Can I ask of your blood? Let me ask you—what do you eat? I was born in Brooklyn—I grew up there, in the grime, in the noise-eating grease and fats—oils, fats, sugar [beat] Brooklyn, New York—and I could see my father die of heart disease, and my mother die of complications from alcoholism—with gout, glaucoma, she wore thick ugly lenses on her glasses—and her arms were bruised from the slightest touch and she'd grown fat and grotesque—my mother—once a beauty queen, grown nearly monstrous—[beats] this amazing organism—the body—the human corporeal body—but without the spirit you will reach only partial conclusions—only part, a part-of-the-story. Huh?! OK—only a part! Only, only—a—part! [beats] There is such complexity—the human body. Our body must be respected, respected, and feared! [beats] I fear the body—give it nothing to use against you—it will punish with¬out hesitation—it will condemn all of us eventually.
DR COUSA stares at EDDIE—then steps toward him.
I am in Mexico so I can do the work I believe in. I do not make a great deal of money. [pause[ You do not know the treatment here. Russ—perhaps you will meet Russ—Russ was originally diagnosed with Schwannoma of the left cerebella—pontine angle.
DR COUSA gently pokes his fingers against EDDIE'S head.
The usual operation is through a small opening in the posterior occipital region. Here.
DOC COUSA pokes EDDIE'S head again.
Russ had lost use of his tongue—his fingers had lost most of their feeling and even his vision had become impaired. His doctor—in Virginia—told him at best he would never walk—or speak correctly and probably would not live more than two years, [beats] When I first saw Russ he could barely find his way into the room. His equilibrium was worsening. His legs were becoming spastic. The corner of the mouth deviated to the left. It was a tragic sight, [pause] That was four and a half years ago. [beats] We do not drill holes in anyone's head, [pause] There are no miracles. There is only simply put, "common sense." Nature provides—the orchards, the fields, the forests—there is abundance here on earth. We only have to resist giving in to the wretchedness of modern life—see?!—I tell you this with great humility. I cannot cure—none of us can. I can only point you toward what nature has always offered to us. See?!
DR COUSA now pacing between MALONE and EDDIE.
OK... OK... these are disturbing times—distressing times, and we have plagues, we have madness—people abusing their own children. Huh!? I am driven from my own country. Driven to foreign shores to practice what I believe to be sincere and honest treatment. And let me tell you—you are free to go anywhere, look at anything—the clinic is open to visitors—I only ask that you let us know, let one of the attendants know that you are here. I want to share, I do not do this for profit, [pause] Let me tell you both, this is a place of goodness, or so I believe. Let me tell you both—this is my sincere belief—sincere—I tell you this, as I always do—this is a place of goodness.
Lights fade out.
Lights fade up slowly: MANCE'S room. Seated in wheelchair is MANCE—he looks frail, wears tinted glasses and has a shawl on his lap. Seated to side is EDDIE.
MANCE: Almonds... almonds.
He looks at EDDIE. Pause.
Raw—you must eat them raw. [beat] Eddie?
MANCE: Eddie... [pauses, thinking] there's a warmth here—comes up from the ground.
MANCE stares at EDDIE. Silence.
EDDIE: Can I get you anything?
MANCE pulls the shawl tighter around his legs.
MANCE: In my next life—maybe I'll come back as one of the scorpions here, [pause]... in my next life, [beat] An Emperor scorpion.
Silence. MANCE slowly wheels himself over to¬ward terrace...
The prostitutes down in town—they have girls, four¬teen, fifteen—very young girls—in China, the rich Chinese—rich Chinese gentlemen, believe that if they sleep with young girls—that sleeping with ten or eleven year old girls will prolong their life. Increase longevity [smiles, pause]... the Chinese prize longevity—they revere the man who attains great age.
EDDIE stands, looking out through curtains.
EDDIE: I think it's a little overrated, [beat] Long life.
EDDIE turns and looks at MANCE—pause.
MANCE: Long life.
EDDIE: You think it's OK to drink the soda pop here?
MANCE: I believe it is.
EDDIE: I wasn't sure, you know—with this whole deal about the water, [pause] I could really use a Coke. [pause] What about the ice cubes? In restaurants—say, when the ice cubes melt...? What about that?
MANCE: I don't think you should worry.
They continue to stare at each other. Pause. EDDIE: [cold, with edge]
Well—good—that's a relief.
Silence. EDDIE walks around MANCE.
I've never been out of the country, never been to Mexico, [beats] This is my first time. First time out of the United States.
MANCE: Travel broadens one's perspective.
EDDIE pauses, leans in...
EDDIE: You don't look the same, last time I saw you.
MANCE looks at him. Silence.
Malone came with me. [pause] He isn't one for traveling much either, [beats] He feels like I do—doesn't see the allure.
EDDIE paces—going back over to veranda. Silence.
Makes you appreciate the United States.
MANCE: Where's Malone?
EDDIE: We got a room,—a little hotel—twenty bucks a night. Air conditioned.
EDDIE turns back—looking at MANCE.
Malone came today—but he left. Said he'd come by tomorrow.
MANCE: I see.
EDDIE: I think he was gonna do some fishing.
MANCE nods very slowly. Pause.
One of those half day boats, [pause] Sea of Cortez—what they call it, right?!
MANCE: [nods] Sea of Cortez.
Pause. Lights fade down until only wheelchair is lit. EDDIE steps over to MANCE in wheelchair. He stands behind chair...
EDDIE: You in a lot of pain, Mance?
MANCE says nothing.
It's something, you know—it's big—it's a very big thing, what happens to your body.
MANCE sits silently. Pause. EDDIE steps away from chair.
Wouldn't you agree? Like one's lost—lost in the wilderness—stumbling along and falling... [beats] [leans in close to MANCE] The fuck do you do? You've be¬come your own enemy—it's a lot to try and think about.
EDDIE straightens up...
[pause] They let me in—you know—even though it's too early for visitors. They saw my name, when I signed in, saw it was McTier too. Didn't know I was just your stepson—I didn't tell 'em that. Saw no need to.
Seldom seen and hard to find, [pause] That's how I like to do it. [beats] Seldom seen and hard to find.
Lights fading slowly out NEDDIE backs away.
Lights up slowly: Veranda of clinic. DR FRENCH stands to side. He has on lab coat, white pants and white bucks. RUSS stands in pajamas, he's dirty, barefoot, out of breath.
DR FRENCH: [gently] What was it like?
Russ? [pause] What was it like? In your own words—
RUSS looks at him, still out of breath...
Let's get you a glass of juice, [beats] Orange juice.
RUSS: [hesitant—scared] Do you think... my feet... have I permanently damaged my feet... you think I might have—Doctor?
DR FRENCH strolls closer—still very gently, exceedingly calm...
DR FRENCH: Russ?
DR FRENCH: It was dark on the beach.
RUSS: And there were rocks—
DR FRENCH: I know it must have been very dark.
RUSS stares at him. Pause.
Dark and rocky. A quarter moon over the water—and everything was quiet.
RUSS: [softly] There was only the sound of the waves.
DR FRENCH nods...
DR FRENCH: Russ?
DR FRENCH: [beats] Let's sit together.
RUSS nods as DR FRENCH putts up two chairs. They sit. Pause. DR FRENCH pats RUSS on the thigh.
I want to hear about it in your own words, [pause] Do you want that orange juice now?
RUSS: [beats] Perhaps a blanket?
DR FRENCH stands slowly.
DR FRENCH: Russ... I will accompany you—until I can no longer be of use.
RUSS: I was quite active at one time.
DR FRENCH: That was another time.
DR FRENCH: [pause] We both understand that something about our old "Russ," there was something that allowed the tumors to advance in the way they did... something that maybe, even "crafted" them.
You cannot let yourself lose control, Russ.
RUSS: I feel on the other side of this wall... When I'm out there... I... it can seem... at times, at moments, that I am some part of a herd—a lost herd of exotic animals, [beats] Roaming around, just as we please.
DR FRENCH: We've talked about our dreams, about the emotions.
RUSS: The clouds at night—casting outlines...that our herd recognizes. It's part of our nervous system, these outlines.
DR FRENCH looks at him a moment, then places a hand on his shoulder...
DR FRENCH: Who does the tumor belong to?
RUSS: It belongs to me. To Russ.
DR FRENCH squeezes his shoulder.
DR FRENCH: It belongs to you. It belongs to Russ.
RUSS nods slowly as the lights fade out. Light and sound black out.
Lights up slowly—twilight, beach, Sea of Cortez.
MALONE and EDDIE.
MALONE: She knew Mance.
EDDIE: I saw her. Did you know that?
MALONE: When? When'd you see her? [beats] She looked bad there at the end.
EDDIE: Mance would send her money. He never gave that much.
MALONE: Back when I met her—she would model at trade shows. She would stand in the back of a pick¬up—wearing a bikini—eight, nine hours a day—in places like San Bernadino, Tucson, wherever. I met her she was doing an auto parts show in Las Vegas. Three days we had a room at the Tropicana. You talk about fun—we had some. She was just twenty-four then—with the whitest skin I ever saw.
EDDIE: She went blind you know?!
MALONE: I knew that, yeah.
Silence. MALONE paces down by the water.
EDDIE: I'd only see Mance—oh—twice, three times a year.
MALONE: Uh huh.
EDDIE: [pause] It may be hard—you know—to get back...after dark, to get back, in the dark, [beats] Malone?
MALONE: She met me once, out at Joshua Tree—at twilight. I stood by my car waiting, as it got dark all around, and you'd start to hear noises in the rocks, in the Cholla cactus, in the Yucca... and every set of headlights that came past I'd think were hers... and then just as complete darkness took hold she came—in a little car—I don't know—a small compact car—and she pulled up, and it was her.
EDDIE: Gonna ruin my shoes—walking back in the dark.
It's completely dark now—the only illumination comes from moonlight. Pause.
MALONE: The old fucker is gonna die. He's a dead man. [beat] Death bed sick and graveyard bound.
MALONE turns back to face EDDIE.
I don't hate him. I got nothing in particular against Mance. [pause] I came here—I wanted to talk to him, that's all. I've known him forty years, [pause] Forty, maybe forty-two. Forty-two years—so I wanted us to talk. Nothing else.
EDDIE: He doesn't ever say anything good about you man.
MALONE: No? Well—what difference does that make? [beat] You think that makes a difference?
EDDIE: It would to me.
MALONE: [beat] Uh huh.
MALONE slowly turns away—takes a deep breath.
Now—you can't actually see the water anymore. You can't see it, so it becomes something else.
EDDIE: You're a boring old fuck sometimes—you know it?!
MALONE: I know.
EDDIE: I spoke with him. [pause] I've been here a day and a half and my mood keeps getting worse.
MALONE nods and starts to walk back from the water's edge...
MALONE: Over forty years, [beats] If you saw her at the end—you've got no idea—she wasn't the same person. She'd become so sick.
EDDIE: Uh huh.
MALONE: Eddie... you react—see, and you get fooled. You react to the first thing, the first thing is not the real thing and you let yourself get fooled.
EDDIE: You're about broke—isn't that right?
MALONE: Just about right.
EDDIE: Am I fooled about this too? I don't think so.
MALONE: I don't know.
EDDIE: You're sixty something and broke and talking to me about gettin' fooled?
They look at each other—pause. MALONE turns away.
MALONE: It's not easy to die away from home, [pause] It's not easy being old—sick—and you gotta come down to this shithole—[pause]
He looks back EDDIE.
Give me a hand Eddie...
EDDIE starts to offer Him a hand as light and sound crossfade and EDDIE walks into fortune teller stall...
Lights coming up on FORTUNE TELLER, who sits behind the small wood table. The TRANSLATOR stands in rear by the hanging canvas diagrams etc. EDDIE approaches...
FORTUNE TELLER: Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah... ah... ah...
FORTUNE TELLER slapping his own palm. EDDIE watches him. The TRANSLATOR steps over and sits next to FORTUNE TELLER. She whispers in his ear. She nods as she looks over at EDDIE.
EDDIE takes out wallet, opens it, pulling out a couple bills. FORTUNETELLER whispers some more to TRANSLATOR. EDDIE stands, offering bills. What's the matter?
EDDIE steps closer, arm still outstretched offering bills. FORTUNE TELLER whispers again to TRANSLATOR. She then looks up at EDDIE.
TRANSLATOR: Sit down, here.
She pulls out chair for him. EDDIE sits, money still in his hand. FORTUNE TELLER pulls out paper pad, an old worn leather bound book and mag-nifying glass...
Give him your hand.
EDDIE extends hand without money, FORTUNE TELLER takes it—examining it closely under magnifying glass.
FORTUNE TELLER: Ah, ah, ah, ah, eh, eh, eh, eh...
FORTUNE TELLER leans over to look in his book, then returns to EDDIE'S hand.
Ah, ah, ah, eh, ah, eh, ah, eh, eeeh, eeeh, eeeh, eeeh, eeeh, ahh, ahh, ahh...
FORTUNE TELLER leans over mumbling—stut¬tering to TRANSLATOR. She nods, then looks at EDDIE.
TRANSLATOR: Says, you lost your mother—before.. ahm,.. when you were very small.
EDDIE: My mother only died last year.
FORTUNE TELLER whispers to TRANSLATOR.
TRANSLATOR: You lost her. [beats] She was lost to you—[beat] You were a young boy.
FORTUNE TELLER grabs his hand again, look¬ing at it closely...
FORTUNE TELLER: K, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k...
TRANSLATOR: You were not well.
FORTUNE TELLER: Ah, ah, ah, ah.
FORTUNE TELLER leans in quickly to whisper something to TRANSLATOR...
TRANSLATOR: Says a sick little boy—
EDDIE: I was?
TRANSLATOR: Huh? Yes, yes. You.
FORTUNE TELLER: K, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k, k...
TRANSLATOR: Says you step out... ah... step away, out from under the wings of death.
EDDIE: Yeah? OK.
FORTUNE TELLER: Kkkkk...
TRANSLATOR: The wings spread out low...
FORTUNE TELLER: Kkk...
TRANSLATOR: The shadow spreads out over the sea...
Over the sea, and over the land.
You will come back? Please?
Lights up. Veranda.
DR COUSA: Eddie.... Join us. [beats] Edward—how are you this day?
EDDIE: Me—I'm fine.
DR COUSA: Have you met my colleague, Dr. French.
DR FRENCH smiles, extends hand. EDDIE and DR FRENCH shake.
Dr. French founded this clinic with me when my origi¬nal site in Bermuda was closed.
DR COUSA brings a chair over for EDDIE, who sits...
Here Edward, have a seat. You appear a little tired, a little fatigued, [to MANCE] Doesn't he? A little under the weather?
MANCE: Yes. He does. A little.
DR COUSA: We were discussing the Hunza Valley, in Pakistan. Have you heard of the Hunzas?
EDDIE: Afraid not, no.
DR COUSA: Well—in the 19505 it was discovered that there was no cancer of any kind among the peoples of the Hunza Valley.
DOC COUSA stares intently NEDDIE.
I traveled to Hunza—I researched this phenomenon myself—personally. I was a young physician then, and had decided to specialize in oncology I wanted the truth,
DR COUSA suddenly steps over to EDDIE—
Did you know there is no cancer in the animal kingdom?
EDDIE: Never thought about it.
DR COUSA: Diet—we poison ourselves from without—and "emotion"—we poison ourselves from within. It all interacts Eddie—and it all happens in multiple stages—there is no single casual agent. There are "initiators" Ed, and they are acted upon—by "promoters"—and then only after a latency period.
DR COUSA strolls downstage...
Eddie, do you understand the treatment here?
EDDIE: Do I "understand" it?
DR COUSA: In the late 50s the medical establishment in the United States began to persecute those of us who were trying to find alternative treatments—I even fought fluoridation—which you're too young to remember.
He steps closer to EDDIE again...
My father was Egyptian—he left Cairo when I was two years old. Know what Cousa means in Egyptian? [beat] Squash, it means squash—the vegetable, [smiles] Dr Squash huh? [laughs]
EDDIE looks over at MANCE—then back to DR COUSA.
We focus on restoring balance—we use nutrition—diet—all right, we use treatments that include B-17, a form of Laetrile—a product derived from the pits of apricots—OK—I will not expound here—but this theory was first introduced by a Chinese herbalist in the year 2800 BC—OK?! It is cyanide containing substance—a nitriloside—and there continues to be a lack of con¬sistent standards in its production. You see?! But this is secondary, because the reversal process must start in our hearts, in our hearts and our minds.
DR COUSA steps over to MANCE, putting his arm around him.
Mance has had to change everything—everything.
EDDIE: Everything huh?!
DR COUSA: Top to bottom, start to finish.
DR COUSA: He has had to change everything—he has had to change the very way he perceives the world, how he reacts to this world, [beats] The transforma¬tion must take place throughout the entire organism, not just in the aberrant cells, not just in the tumors.
EDDIE and DR COUSA watch each other. Pause. DR FRENCH steps toward EDDIE...
DR FRENCH: The organism must not abuse itself any¬more.
EDDIE: Uh huh.
DR FRENCH: Everything here is done to promote health and cleanliness.
DR FRENCH now stands next to EDDIE,..
Would you like anything? Some orange juice?
EDDIE: Nothing. Thanks.
DR COUSA: Moderation, [beats] Excess in anything leads to distortions, to deformities.
DR FRENCH backs away...
DR FRENCH: I must go. A pleasure Eddie.
EDDIE nods as DR FRENCH exits.
MANCE: Can you move me out of the sun.
DR COUSA: Of course.
DR COUSA moves wheelchair a few feet to the left. Silence.
EDDIE: No cancer in animals... well I remember my cocker spaniel died of fuck'n cancer.
DR COUSA: [to EDDIE] No spontaneous cancer, [turning to MANCE] How is the pain today Mance?
MANCE: It's much the same. EDDIE: Spontaneous cancer huh.
DR COUSA looks at EDDIE—pause.
DR COUSA: 1971—September one, 1971, the FDA an¬nounced, after an ad-hoc committee of experts, and so on—they said that Laetrile may not be tested or sold in the United States, under provisions of the Fed¬eral Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. I had to leave the country. First I went to the Dominican Republic, then Bermuda, and finally Mexico, [pause] An "ad-hoc committee"... [beats] Are you going to tell me something new Edward?
EDDIE stands and then slowly turns away. Silence.
I have to make rounds.
He leans in to MANCE. [pause] Beautiful day isn't it?!
MANCE: The water. The water looks almost emerald today.
DR COUSA nods, smiles, backing away, exiting. EDDIE steps over to MANCE, Silence. Lights dim until only small area around MANCE and EDDIE is lit.
The gulf of California—or, as it's called, the Sea of Cortez. [pause] The history is full of Jesuits—disease—the occasional hurricane, [pause] They grow dates out there, and olives.—They got a federal prison here someplace, but it's got no prisoners at the moment. Good sportfishing—a few American college students on the weekend, [pause] It's too late for me to have much time on my hands. Even waiting to die, too much time can be a problem, [pause] My whole life, I've never been close to anybody when they died. I'd always hear about it later, my mom—I heard about it months later... and my dad, I just assume he's dead [laughs then coughs—pause]... He was an immigrant—the low class old fuck and he'd beat whoever was available, and I can only hope he died a miserable, slow, painful death.
EDDIE: You ever hear anybody say anything good abut you Mance?
MANCE: Not to my face.
EDDIE smiles. Pause.
EDDIE: There's nothing happening out there, [beat] See?! [beats] And I turned forty last year—and things are slow... it's just very slow...
MANCE: Slow, [nods slowly]
EDDIE: ...And I figure you owe me something... Mance? What do you figure? Huh? You think I deserve something?
MANCE: You can't find anyone who doesn't deserve more of something.
EDDIE: ...But I think maybe my situation, you know, needs a second look.
MANCE: All right.
EDDIE: All right, [beat] Talk about my lack of prospects. [getting angry] My prospects—see—prospects is a thing I never had. So, so let's discuss why you never tried to be any help? MANCE: Help you with what?
EDDIE: I tell you I lived in Michigan—? The upper Peninsula.
MANCE turns and stares at him. Silence.
Never told you about that I guess, [pause] Job scene there sort of fell apart—after a while, [pause] I looked up Malone when I got to California, [pause] He's the one told me you were here.
Lights up slowly on the FORTUNE TELLER and TRANSLATOR. NEDDIE continues we hear FORTUNE TELLER stuttering softly.
FORTUNE TELLER: ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah...
EDDIE and MANCE continue simultaneously...
EDDIE: I was a dispatcher—in Michigan—I did pretty well, 'til the cutbacks began—I mean, among these guys I was a lot quicker—smarter—quicker to pick up things and so I got a "supervisional" position—
FORTUNE TELLER now mumbles to TRANSLATOR, then stutters again, more emphatically...
FORTUNE TELLER: Ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch...
EDDIE and MANCE continue...
EDDIE: All the money has just leaked out of those towns. Towns that have stopped repairing broken street lights—potholes—anything.
FORTUNE TELLER: [louder] Ch, ch, ah, ch, ah, chee, chee, chee, chee, chee, chee, chee, chee, chee...
MANCE: What? Eddie? Speak up...
FORTUNE TELLER: [loudly now] Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah...
EDDIE: So I looked up Malone. Malone was in the phone book—[pause] But Malone isn't much help.
FORTUNE TELLER: [loudly] Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah...
EDDIE: Malone wants to watch you die—
EDDIE: Malone wants to be here, wants to watch you die.
FORTUNE TELLER: Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah...
MANCE: Eddie...? What did you say?
Lights fading out on EDDIE and MANCE.
Lights out—Lights remain up on FORTUNE TELLER and TRANSLATOR. She turns out toward audience...
TRANSLATOR: When it comes, Eddie, it comes in a gentle voice... Eddie?
She opens hands—palms up.
[pause] For the saints, please... Eddie... [beats] to make the whispering stop, [beats] Eddie...
FORTUNE TELLER mumbles to her...
To soothe the dreams... [beats] for your dreams... Eddie?...
Lights fade out
Lights up, MALONE and MANCE in pool of light.
MALONE: What can you see?
MANCE: I can't see much.
MALONE: [nods] You can see me.
MANCE: I know who it is.
MALONE: Can you see my face?
MANCE: [beats] I see better in daylight.
MALONE: It gets very fuck'n dark down here at night.
MANCE: Twice before—I've almost died, [beats] Thirty-three years ago, the first time.
MALONE: In the desert.
MANCE: I was shot in the head.
MALONE: It was the bleeding. They said you almost died—it was how much blood you lost.
MANCE: The second time was fifteen years ago—I had pneumonia, [pause] I was young then, I did not be¬lieve that man would shoot me.
MALONE: Anyone can shoot you. They have the gun—they pull the trigger. There is no doubt about this.
MANCE: I had dreamed of my death before—since I was a boy. And leading up to my being shot, the dreams became more frequent, [pause] Then there it was—and there was no pain. And I never had those dreams again.
MALONE: Eight, ten, years since I seen you.
MANCE: This time there's pain.
MALONE: They'll carry you out of here—at sunset—they'll place that wreath on your right side—a bunch of white carnations, [beats] They got carnations down here?
MANCE: I don't know.
MALONE: They'll bury you one morning—before it gets too hot. [beats] And I'll try to find you some carna¬tions, and I might be the only guy there who knows you.
MANCE: [pause] You're a fool, [pause] All the years I've known you...
Lights fade out.
Lights up on EDDIE and FORTUNE TELLER and TRANSLATOR.
EDDIE stands—looking at both of them.
EDDIE: In the first of these I was chasing some rats down the street. It was night, and the streets were wet, and it felt cold. The rats were big, and there were dozens of them. And as I ran faster I suddenly noticed a snake alongside me—and he was chasing the rats too—slith¬ering down the street—and then there were no more lights, and I was running through the dark—and then I fell, and I was rolling and could feel the snake was caught up with me, and we were rolling together and then we came to a stop. And I was breathing hard—each breath was hard—hard. And I felt I was becoming part snake, and I stood up, and I was feeling some panic, and looked around, and I saw my reflection in the glass door and I saw the skin on my face had started to form scales and I had caught the rat, and swallowed it, and the rat's tail was hanging out of my nostril—moving back and forth and I woke up screaming.
Lights fade out.
Lights up on veranda. RUSS seated, blanket over his lap. MALONE stands, MANCE in wheelchair.
MALONE: All the money we made—and nothin's left. [pause] Massage parlors, adult books, mail order—but things changed... the times changed...
MANCE: [pause] You think I owe you some money?
MALONE: That's what I think.
MANCE nods slowly. Silence.
MANCE: That's a long time ago.
MALONE: I didn't come for any money. That's not why I came, [pause] You owe me, but I don't want any¬thing.
MANCE: All right
MALONE: Back when I worked for you—we did a lot of the same things—did a lot of things together, [beats] Somehow I ended up broke—and you just kept making money. I wanted to understand that part.
Silence, MANCE moves forward—looking out over balustrade toward the sea.
MANCE: The ruins of a Jesuit mission are out at the end of the road there. It was built in the early seventeen hundreds. The Jesuits failed, riddled with epidem¬ics—their Indian slaves died by the thousands. The Franciscans failed later—under Junipero Serra. Same problems.
Really, there was never much here, [pause] This was still federal territory until about seventy-four—didn't become a state until then. [beat] Nobody cared enough about it.
RUSS stands, folds blanket and puts it on chair.
MALONE: I have no friends left—Mance—everyone's gone, everyone's dead.
MANCE looks at him. RUSS exits as lights fade on MALONE and MANCE.
Lights follow RUSS to hospital room with DR COUSA and DR FRENCH. EDDIE enters from op¬posite side.
DR COUSA: Russ... Eddie... please, please...
DR COUSA ushers RUSS over to bed where he sits, and EDDIE to chair. EDDIE sits.
DR COUSA looking down at EDDIE.
Out late, Edward.
EDDIE: Is it?
DR COUSA turns to RUSS.
DR COUSA: You having trouble sleeping?
RUSS: Yes, yes I am.
DR COUSA: Hmmm... sleep can be a mysterious phenomenon.
DR COUSA nods, smiles, goes back to RUSS...
Russ has never slept well. His mother troubled his sleep—she would wake him to tell him about her problems, her anxieties.
DR COUSA pats RUSS on shoulder.
RUSS: I had to listen.
DR COUSA: Often until the first light of morning.
RUSS: I had to listen—sitting up in bed.
DR COUSA: She'd tell him all her current fears, her angers, the chronic jealousies and hatred that shadowed her through each day.
RUSS: She'd sit in her bed—watching television until there were no more shows on, and then she'd sit in the dark until she couldn't stand it and she would come downstairs to my room and sit on the edge of my bed and shake me until I awoke and she would begin to recite these difficulties she saw—and I would sit up—and I'd listen—waiting for the sky to lighten—through a crack in the curtains in my room—I'd keep looking over to see if the darkness had started to lift.. .because when it would begin to lift I knew she would return to her room, and she would sleep.
DR COUSA moves over toward EDDIE...
DR COUSA: Edward... I've noted, that often, new surroundings can occasion a disruption in normal sleep patterns, [pause] But you say that's not the case with you.
EDDIE: I sleep fine.
DR COUSA: Well—isn't that fortunate.
EDDIE: Uh huh.
DR COUSA: [pause] Not everyone can be cured. That just isn't a reasonable expectation.
EDDIE: Doesn't seem like, no.
DR COUSA: I do not work miracles.
Sometimes people think, they expect, the impossible. [pause] And when they receive disappointment they become embittered—and even vengeful.
DR COUSA turns away—looks at DR FRENCH, then at RUSS, then back to EDDIE.
It's getting very late Ed—and you know, you can't make up for lost sleep. EDDIE stands...
EDDIE: I didn't know that.
DR COUSA: You may try to sleep a little extra the next day—but it doesn't work—once it's lost, it's lost.
EDDIE: What?—the hours?
DR COUSA puts his arm around him—
DR COUSA: You should try to go to sleep before you tire too much.
They walk downstage together, slowly...
It's the hours before midnight—that's the sleep you need the most.
Edward, I know the sort of young man that you are—I know the things that haunt you—[pause] when you walk you have the look of hunted game, [beat] That nervousness—the 'You can't hit a moving target' kinetic swagger, [beat] I know the violent daydreams you carry within you—the silent curses you mouth to yourself.
I've seen hundreds of young men like you. [pause] Take some time Edward, and think of the road you're traveling, [beats] I can tell you where those other young men ended up. Men who resembled you in many ways—men who lived much as you have—without guidance, without direction—men, young men, from broken homes, [beats] I can tell you of the tragedy, but I think you know already, [pause] Don't you?
DR COUSA smiles benevolently.
I don't expect an answer, Edward. Not now. I only want you to think back over what I've said, how I've spoken to you.
EDDIE nods, and he backs away. The lights fade on DR COUSA and come up on FORTUNE TELLER and TRANSLATOR. FORTUNE TELLER begins to stutter, more frenetically than before. The TRANSLATOR moves imploringly toward EDDIE...
TRANSLATOR: You are afraid.
EDDIE hesitates, standing just outside the light.
FORTUNE TELLER: [continuing] Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah...
TRANSLATOR: Closer... Eddie...
EDDIE takes a single step closer.
FORTUNE TELLER: [continues] Ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch...
TRANSLATOR: You want protection?!
EDDIE: [almost under his breath] The fuck are you sayin'?
EDDIE inches backward—then has impulse to move forward—but stops.
FORTUNE TELLER: Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah...
TRANSLATOR: Give him your hand...
EDDIE steps forward—
She extends her hand—palm up—to show
EDDIE. Here, Eddie, open.
EDDIE stares at them.
FORTUNE TELLER: [softer] Ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch...
TRANSLATOR: With your palms lifted—with your palms open—
Pause—EDDIE doesn't move.
FORTUNE TELLER: [softly] Ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch...
TRANSLATOR: Is there anything you want to ask?
EDDIE remains silent. FORTUNE TELLER stops. She slowly takes hold of his hands—she hold them...
Your hands are cold.
He pulls them away.
FORTUNE TELLER: Ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch...
TRANSLATOR: What do you want to ask? [beats] You have to ask... [beat] only to ask...
EDDIE backing away as lights fade out.
Lights up slowly on MANCE. EDDIE stands behind him.
EDDIE: First time I met you—she walked me in, holding my hand—then shoved me forward. I was maybe seven—eight, [beats] You showed me the scar on your head—where you were shot, [pause] It was still pretty fresh and pretty ugly—and I had nightmares about that for a long time.
MANCE smiles without warmth. Silence.
You laughed at me—'cause it was pretty funny that I was scared. You said it was nothing to have a hole in your head—asked me "did I want a little hole in my head—right above my ear."
MANCE laughs—short—hoarse. Silence.
I started crying. That's the most I ever cried about anything. The most scared I ever been.
Lights fade out.
Spot up MANCE in wheelchair. Alone.
MANCE: I dream of mermaids, [pause] It's night—on the sea—virgins—quietly—afloat on the glassy black water, [pause] And I want my body tossed from the bow of a steamship—in the dead of night, meeting the water in a splash I'll never hear.
Lights fade out.
Lights up on EDDIE standing downstage. RUSS is behind him. In rear is DR COUSA puffing a large cigar.
EDDIE: Can I tell you something?
Ross—it's Ross isn't it?
RUSS: [nods slightly] Russ.
EDDIE: I'll tell you this—you see, I'm not a real passive kind of person, [pause] I did not grow up with a real positive outlook and I do not "deal" well—you see what I'm sayin' ?!
I do not have a family.
I'm not a weakling. I know how to take care of my¬self.
EDDIE leans in closer...
I'm not someone to play with. I am not a play-mate. [beat] I believe a man should learn how to take care of himself.
EDDIE pulls back.
[with sarcastic edge] You got somewhere you got to be—? I don't want to keep you from anything.
RUSS: I have no place I have to go.
RUSS: [pause] I would like to go home, [beats] Eventually.
EDDIE: You would huh?!
RUSS: I had a twin. My twin brother, [pause] This is a story. About my brother.
RUSS: He would complain—this is how it began—he would complain of bad headaches. Then of blurred vision. His face twitched—around the eyes and his behavior changed. He did not seem like my brother anymore. Then he died. He had a pituitary tumor. [pause] My family sent me away to school after that. I was twenty-one.
EDDIE: That's the story?
RUSS: Jerome was sickly his whole life.
Pause as they look at each other.
EDDIE: How long you been here?
Lights up on DR COUSA—still puffing cigar.
DR COUSA: I read the report from Queens General—New York. Severe headaches and progressive loss of vision. Originally diagnosed as chiasmal lesion. The visual fields diminished—more severely in the left. Cerebro angiogram revealed a mass in the frontoparietal area—a meningioma—explaining the psychotic episodes. X-rays of skull show curvilinear radiolucent defect in frontal region.
Angiography: the anterior cerebral artery radically displaced—[pause] it went on, pathology in the optic foramina and then the twitching of right facialis—strong and often painful, [pause] Brain tumor—. And so he died. He was twenty-one.
Silence. He walks downstage. Lights crossfade—EDDIE. TRANSLATOR stands silently. FORTUNE TELLER sits.
EDDIE: [angrily] No—no—uh huh—listen kitten—I dreamed—I had a dream—of you—I just now—only just now—I dreamed I was fucking you—and it wasn't very good—but I was fucking you—and I kept fucking you—I was fucking you hard and when I looked at you—you were a lot of people I knew—and I looked away and there was a mirror and I saw myself and I had no arm—just a crudely stitched stump and my whole body and face were deep red—maroon—and my hair was turning black—but then I noticed my hand hanging in mid-air—just where it would be if I'd still had my arm—and it wasn't burned, it was white—and it seemed to gesture to me, and then I woke—I couldn't breathe.
Silence. Lights follow EDDIE to rear, seated down¬stage is DR COUSA.
DR COUSA: [to EDDIE] A renowned physician once said "Internal medicine was born of witchcraft—and surgery the child of the battlefield." [pause] You know the saying—"the horse would have lived except it died." [beats] Perhaps it's just a crap shoot. What do you think?
Silence. Lights fade out very slowly.
End of Act I
In darkness—sound of wind—loud, stormy—intense. A small light comes up on EDDIE—very gradually. He is squatting—darkness all around him. After a couple moments EDDIE lights a cigarette. After another couple moments the sound of wind/storm fades slightly and another light comes up revealing MANCE, in wheelchair, blanket on his lap. The sound contin¬ues throughout scene. He watches EDDIE a moment.
MANCE: You should think about quitting.
EDDIE looks over at him. MANCE laughs, a raspy laugh that turns into a cough. Finally he stops. Si¬lence. EDDIE looks back out at the water.
Have you heard any forecasts? Anything about the weather?
MANCE: About the storm?
EDDIE: I didn't hear anything.
MANCE: Hurricane, [beats] Moving north from the equator, [pause] More than one storm will form at times—both moving north.
EDDIE: I haven't heard anything. MANCE: Very little protection—this area—from the hur¬ricanes.
EDDIE: [pause] Shit's in Spanish here—I don't understand it.
MANCE: [pause] "Course not." [pause] This is hurricane season, in this part of the world, [beats] Tropical storms, tropical depressions, tropical cyclones, hurricanes. On the horizon, the layers of cumulus clouds—cumulonimbus, walling off the true storm—you can see the rain bands first—and feel the air change. Storms are natural forces—they gestate, are given birth and grow—from adolescence to maturity, and eventually death. Decline and death. A tropical storm cannot form exactly on the equator—they must be ten or fifteen degrees from it—where the earth's rotation can nurture their destructiveness. [pause] The peoples of hurricane prone areas, they live in fear during the warm season—they never sleep well, and authorities have documented the increase in domestic quarrels, public intoxication, traffic accidents. The collective life of the people vibrates at a higher pitch—the nervous system is affected, headaches are common, and auditory impairment often occurs, [pause] Western Pacific storms tend to be shorter lived than Atlantic systems. In 1939 I'm told, in September, Sep¬tember '39, five separate hurricanes struck Baja Cali¬fornia. The most famous came ashore at Ensenada—it moved up across San Diego. They called the storm "El Cordonazo"—the lash of St. Francis, [beats] Beautiful isn't it—the lash of St. Francis.
I did very little traveling, most of my life—didn't grasp the idea—never thought about vacations, [pause] I never came here, to Mexico, [pause] Business took up all of my time, [beats] The films, the massage parlors, mail order. My business concerns, [pause] My warehouse employed eleven men. Eleven. All of the boxing up and shipping adult magazines. Magazines, newspapers, catalogues. I needed two lawyers just to keep track of where I sent what—which states had passed new obscenity rulings—which didn't care, and who could be bought. I mailed to every state in the country at one time or another. [beat] The climate changed—by the mid-seventies I had to close down all the shipping and mail order. [beat[ Do you remember this magazine—very small—"God" I believe, that's what it was called—this magazine—the name of the magazine; it was "God". I don't recall how many issues came out—not many. There was a lot of "excrement eating"—and some child porn—pictures—and then addresses of those child/love enthusiasts. "God" was a kind of test—to push things—see how far you could go.
MANCE looks at EDDIE—silence. MANCE laughs to himself—coughs. EDDIE looks back at him.
I think we could have gotten away with the eating shit, but the pictures of little eight and nine year olds, spreading their legs provocatively, striking sexy poses, licking their lips and touching themselves—that's where the line was drawn. That created considerable pressure.
EDDIE: It's disgusting.
MANCE: [beats] Yes, of course it is.
EDDIE stands. He looks around. Finally he turns, looking at MANCE.
MALONE: Nevada, if memory serves. The majority of child pornography came from Nevada. Small enclaves of boy-man love, or man-girl, all kinds of combinations and specialties. Little communities devoted almost entirely to their specific erotic pursuits, [beats] Out in the nowhere of the Great Basin, alongside the survivalist outposts, the random casino or copper mine.
EDDIE: They're disgusting.
EDDIE: People who do that stuff.
MANCE looks at him, says nothing.
Makes me sick. All of it. The sleaze, all of it.
MANCE: Makes you feel dirty.
EDDIE: [beats] I just never liked any of it. [pause] I never liked fuck films, looking at dirty pictures. I just didn't ever do those things.
MANCE: You were raised correctly [beats] Isn't that it?
EDDIE: [pause] The worst is with kids, [pause] I just never liked it.
MANCE: [beats] Makes you angry.
EDDIE stares at him a moment...
EDDIE: [nodding Makes me angry, [pause] I don't know how people can do things like that.
MANCE: [silence] I'm sure you don't.
MANCE stares at him. Silence. Sound of wind/storm increases gradually as lights slowly fade.
Lights up slowly. DR COUSA—slowly getting dressed—putting on a long sleeved white shirt. DR FRENCH sits, watching. Silence.
DR FRENCH: I hate the way mold grows on everything. [pause] Everywhere. Everything.
DR COUSA is buttoning his shirt—taking great care with his appearance. He is slipping on his rings—checking his hair—the last touches.
You can't live as a white man. Not here.
DR COUSA: There are times when I imagine a home—my home, a home to return to. [beats] But there is none. I can return nowhere.
Lights come up downstage, revealing EDDIE wheeling in MANCE. DR COUSA and DR FRENCH approach...
On the beach this morning, [beats] The tide is already washing out the low lying housing, [pause] By to¬morrow... who knows? Right? Might wash away ev¬erything.
DR COUSA smiles, laughs. DR COUSA stands close to MANCE...
[softly to MANCE] I wish you'd come to me sooner.
MANCE nods slowly.
Before the chemotherapy, before all the drugs—before the "cancer industry" had begun to destroy your inner life.
After a moment, DR COUSA straightens up, looking over at EDDIE ...
It's all about money—that's what it's all about.
EDDIE: [beat] What "what" is all about?
DR COUSA: [beat] Everything—the destruction of life.
EDDIE stares at him. Silence. DR COUSA takes a deep breath.
The air is changing.
DR COUSA takes another deep breath. Lights slowly fade as EDDIE backs away, with DR FRENCH...
Light on: EDDIE and DR FRENCH...
DR FRENCH: You're losing your hair.
EDDIE touches his receding hairline...
You don't have to. [beats] I was involved in various cosmetic surgeries—I personally performed over three thousand hair restoration procedures.
EDDIE: I'm not too concerned. [beat] People go bald—right? Happens.
DR FRENCH: [nodding] ... Hair transplantation works. [pause] Virtually painless, [beats] Bottom fell out of hair restoration and I had my reasons. [beat] When I left—I had good reasons.
EDDIE: Mance is gonna die soon, [pause] Anyone come here who doesn't die?
DR FRENCH: People come here who are terminal... otherwise they don't come.
EDDIE: Last resort.
DR FRENCH: The very last
EDDIE: But nobody is ever really cured?
DR FRENCH: "Cured" is a vague word, [beat] Everybody dies.
EDDIE: You work with only the very desperate—right? [beats] The very desperate.
DR FRENCH only looks at him. Pause. EDDIE takes a couple steps back...
I'm goin' back to the hotel. I gotta pay another day. [beats] Pay by the day.
EDDIE looks at DR FRENCH. Lights fade out.
In dark: Sound of storm.
Lights up slowly. Storm fades out gradually.
MALONE standing—holding up umbrella. EDDIE huddled against wall in background.
MALONE: The road's closed. Washed out.
EDDIE: You want to go back to L.A.?
MALONE: [beat] Yes I do.
EDDIE: We're paid up 'til Sunday.
MALONE nods. Pause.
MALONE: I've seen him. [pause—shrugs contemptuously] He's a dead man. [pause] I've seen him.
EDDIE: [beat] OK.
MALONE: You should come with me. [beat] Let him die alone.
EDDIE: When she got sick... [pause] Nobody ever told me.
MALONE: I don't know about that.
EDDIE: She was cremated?!
EDDIE: Some service, they scattered her ashes. They phoned me—asked did I want them scattered over the sea, over the desert, or over the mountains, [beats] I said the sea. [beat] Probably, those guys, they probably just put the ashes, just put them in some dumpster—out in the alley.
MALONE: No way to know for sure.
EDDIE: I read about this place—this funeral home—they just burnt all these bodies together, all mixed up—to save time, save money—and they'd just divvie up the ashes—this much in this can—this much in this one.
MALONE: [shrugs] Lots of unscrupulous folks out there.
EDDIE: Yeah, I guess there are.
MALONE: Why'd you choose the sea?
MALONE: Why'd you choose to have her ashes scattered on the sea?
EDDIE: I don't know.
MALONE: I don't remember her liking the ocean—anything like that, [beat] She hated the beach.
EDDIE: [pause] I don't know.
MALONE nods slowly. Sound of storm increases...
MALONE: I want to leave here.
Your mother lived with me first. It was never like that for her again, [pause] It was something else altogether, her life with Mance. [pause] She didn't have a regular life with him.
Pause. EDDIE steps forward.
EDDIE: Is that what she had with you? A regular life?
They look at each other.
'Cause you're such a regular guy?!
Sound of storm becoming even louder. Pause.
MALONE: She didn't leave me for Mance—you know that?! There were other men.
EDDIE: If you say so. What's the difference...?!
MALONE: By the time the Mance thing happened... [pause] You were pretty little... [pause} I didn't know your Dad. [pause] I don't know that much about it—the way it started...what she was thinking.
EDDIE: [beats] I never figured you knew anything.
MALONE: [pause] You're too old to ask anyone for help Eddie. At your age, you're not sympathetic.
Lights fade out.
Lights up slowly on: EDDIE, alone in front of FORTUNETELLER'S stall. He looks around—silence. Crossfade lights-out on EDDIE, slowly up on DR COUSA. He sits, after a moment he looks over his shoulder...
DR COUSA: Eddie.
EDDIE steps forward into the light. Pause.
They may have left, [beats] This kind of storm, it just screws up everything.
They look at each other. Pause.
Most of our power is out. Already.
EDDIE: [beat] Left where?
DR COUSA: Huh? Ah... I couldn't tell you. [pause] The American authorities are going to come for me—won't be long. A few more months—maybe less, [beats] Fraud, and... who knows what else. FBI, and the FDA, the National Cancer Institute—they'll all be starting to formulate their cases now—deciding how to prosecute.
EDDIE: You going to move?
DR COUSA: [pause] I'll move, yes.
DR COUSA shrugs. Silence.
And what happens to your patients?
DR COUSA: They'll go somewhere else, [pause] Why do you stay Eddie, why not leave? [beats] Maybe it's what you're going back to?! That what scares you?
EDDIE: You think I'm scared.
DR COUSA: What you're asking from Mance...? You're asking him; can I return to you? [pause] It would be best, be easier, after he's dead. Don't you think?
DR FRENCH steps forward into the light. He has on sleeveless undershirt. He's just taken a shower and is drying his hair. He watches EDDIE and DR COUSA,..
How old are you? Huh? People will look at you... People you know. You're not a kid anymore—and when they look at you, at what you do, at your lack of plans, your lack of goals... they think; such a pity, if he could have only found a direction—something to which he could apply himself... [pause] Such a waste... it's really too bad. Friends will want to avoid your having contact with their children—you're not a good example, not a good influence, [beats] Things have changed, for those friends, they have families—they've grown up—and they won't want to be re¬minded of when they were like you... but that was when we were younger they'll tell each other—and now we've changed—we know where we're going. [beats] They don't want you around, Eddie, things can't be careless and unpredictable any longer. They'll think of themselves as responsible now, as moral—and you'll just be another of those unattached men who they experience as threatening—as sick.
Silence. EDDIE steps backward... as lights change—crossfade, out on DR COUSA and DR FRENCH. Lights coming up on MANCE in bed, RUSS sits next to bed. EDDIE stands, watching. RUSS has open book on his lap—he looks up at EDDIE. MANCE lies on his back, asleep.
RUSS: I'm reading to him. [beats] I'm reading him Thucydides.
EDDIE pulls up chair and sits next to RUSS.
EDDIE: He's sleeping.
RUSS: [pause] I usually keep reading. He'll wake...and fall asleep. Wake and fall asleep, several times in an hour.
EDDIE: You like doing this?
EDDIE: You like reading, here, this way, to this old man?
Sound of FORTUNE TELLER stuttering. RUSS listens a moment, then looks at EDDIE...
RUSS: I can't read anymore now, the electricity—we have to conserve on the generator.
EDDIE stands. Pause.
Because of the rain. The rain and the storm.
Lights crossfading as stuttering continues. EDDIE walks downstage into light as lights fade on RUSS and MANCE. The TRANSLATOR is there, alone. The stuttering continues throughout scene.
EDDIE: I've had a third dream.
TRANSLATOR: Money, Eddie, for protection.
He stares at her. She extends her hand.
For shelter. Please.
EDDIE: I want to tell you the dream. I want to tell you both the dream.
Sound of storm added to stuttering. Both increasing...
TRANSLATOR: Everything has closed down Eddie. There are no more fortunes...
EDDIE: You were in my dream.
TRANSLATOR: Money please. You must give.
EDDIE digs in his pocket—brings out a single dollar.
EDDIE: This is my last dollar.
He shoves it toward her angrily.
I'm broke now—that's it.
She takes it and starts backing away.
TRANSLATOR: We are left out in the storm. [beat] You and me...all of us...
In background light starts coming up on DR COUSA. He stands watching EDDIE and TRANSLATOR. Lights slowly fading out on downstage area.
TRANSLATOR: You must give, for the saints, for the future, to find shelter... to fight the pain...
Lights up slowly, on MANCE sitting up in bed. Sound of storm fades very gradually out. DR COUSA stands next to him.
MANCE: Is it night?
DR COUSA: It's evening.
MANCE nods. Silence. He looks at DR COUSA.
MANCE: You have any children?
DR COUSA: No.
MANCE: Any wives?
DR COUSA: No. None.
MANCE: I have no children.
DR COUSA: I did not want any children.
MANCE: Fatherhood as an idea always felt unsavory to me. [pause] You produce boys, and you must wait for them to try and destroy who you are—and fathers with their daughters, fathers and their growing girls, that is an ever spreading infection, a sunless tunnel of filth and cowardice.
Pause, then MANCE hacks out a laugh... which eventually becomes a prolonged cough.
[pause] I feel my body disappearing.
DR COUSA: Within all men, the capacity exists to fall sick. It is the potential of all living tissue.
MANCE: [pause] I've never trusted anyone.
DR COUSA: Uh huh.
MANCE: And nobody has ever trusted me.
DR COUSA: You made a great deal of money Mance, in your lifetime.
MANCE: A great deal.
DR COUSA: Is that what Eddie wants?
MANCE: I made my money selling pornography... and I spent my money on much the same thing... on sex—on things like sex—always with strangers. What I have left I'm spending with you. [pause] I don't believe in having anything to do sexually with people I know too well. It embarrasses me. It embarrasses both of us.
DR COUSA: The FDA is trying to find a reason—the FBI—Mexico is no longer safe for me.
MANCE: I'll try to hurry and die, [laughs hoarsely] I won't linger.
DR COUSA looks at him. Lights come up further revealing DR FRENCH who strolls forward. He has on white lab coat. He pauses, then gives MANGEL big smile...
DR FRENCH: Well, Mance, you about ready for some dinner?
MANCE: If you like.
DR FRENCH: I'll tell the girls in the kitchen—I'll tell Russ to bring it up to you. How's that sound?
MANCE looks at DR FRENCH, then at DR COUSA. Pause.
MANCE: Is there anyone else left? Besides me? Besides Russ?
DR COUSA: No one else.
DR FRENCH: Red snapper. Broiled with rice and beans. How's that sound?
MANCE: Red snapper. Hmmm.
DR COUSA: The FDA—the AMA—they persecute alternative treatment.
DR FRENCH: A little tomatillo sauce on the fish, and some sliced papaya—for dessert—sound OK to you?
MANCE: And a glass of water.
DR COUSA: People have the right to choose their own treatment, [pause] People have the right to self medication.
DR FRENCH: ...squeeze some lime on the papaya.
MANCE: Yes, lime, give it a little bite.
DR COUSA: The impurity of our lives is what kills us. I sometimes wonder if we couldn't live forever.
DR FRENCH is backing away as lights fade out.
I believe it's possible... to live forever...
Sound of storm in dark.
Dim spot up slowly on MALONE. Another light reveals EDDIE to side. Sound of storm fades a little but continues throughout the scene. MALONE starts humming, then singing "Walking My Baby Back Home"—the Johnny Ray version. After a moment he pauses, looks at EDDIE then sings a little more—this time EDDIE joins in for a couple bars. Then MALONE dances a few steps, sings, and finally stops. Pause.
MALONE: Johnny Ray.
EDDIE: I know.
MALONE: That was a big hit for him. Everywhere you went you heard that tune, [pause] Your mother loved Johnny Ray.
EDDIE: She had the record, [beats] She played all his records.
MALONE: I can't drive—the road is washed out.
EDDIE: Johnny Ray wore a hearing aid. Did you know that? Called him Mr. Emotion.
MALONE: It was your mother liked him. I didn't care for him. She adored him. I told her he was a faggot... but she didn't care.
EDDIE: I remember all his songs.
MALONE: [beat] Me too. [pause] He was very big—very big—for a couple years. Didn't last long, [pause] We weren't together then—it was after—but I'd still see her... I'd visit her once in awhile. I don't remember you—you had to have been pretty little.
EDDIE: I don't remember you then either... but then I was pretty little.
MALONE: Everywhere you went, you'd hear "Walkin' My Baby Back Home." [beats] Los Angeles wasn't big then—not the same kind of city it is now.
EDDIE : All my aunts—the only pictures I have—pictures of these parties with all my aunts. All her sisters.
MALONE: She had eight sisters.
EDDIE: She was the oldest. [beat] In the pictures the parties look pretty big. I don't even know the names of some of my aunts—nobody ever told me. I got their pictures though. One box of crummy photographs.
MALONE starts humming "Walkin' My Baby Back Home" quietly,
[pause] I don't know why I looked you up.
MALONE singing now. Lights fade out as sound of storm increases. Sound of FORTUNE TELLER stuttering as sound of storm fades slightly. Light up gradually on MANCE in bed—stage center—another light up on DR COUSA nearby. A third light up slowly on FORTUNE TELLER seated alone. He keeps stuttering softly.
DR COUSA: Adenocarcinoma of Sigmoid colon. [beat] Colon; extensively infiltrating and ulcerating anaplastic adenocarcinoma with evidence of metastasis of fatty mesocolon. [pause] Pinkish discharge with stools. Accumulation of gas and increasing difficulty in elimination of stools—mixed with bloody mucus and some pus. Original specialist found rectoscopy negative. Later x-rays found a filling defect ten inches above anus, [beats] Additionally patient complains of discomfort from old age arteriosclerosis.
Lights fading on DR COUSA. Moving behind MANCE is DR FRENCH, watching.
MANCE: [pause] Is it night? Is it still night?
DR FRENCH: It's evening.
MANCE: [pause] I had mirrors on the walls. Had them installed myself, and one on the ceiling, [beats] I didn't do it to watch the women, I did it to watch myself.
DR FRENCH: [pause] Your supper is almost ready, [beats] I was just in the kitchen, the red snapper, well, there just are no words.
MANCE: I didn't want any photographs—nothing like that, [beat] When it was over I wasn't interested in reminiscences. Wasn't interested in the reliving of anything.
Lights fading out
Lights up on EDDIE standing near FORTUNE TELLER and TRANSLATOR. The TRANSLATOR steps toward EDDIE...
TRANSLATOR: There are no more readings... no more fortunes told.
EDDIE says nothing. He doesn't seem to move. Pause.
You have nothing to give?
EDDIE shakes head "no".
I'm sorry Eddie.
EDDIE: I had another dream.
TRANSLATOR: It makes no difference.
EDDIE extends his hand, palm up...
EDDIE: Have him look at my hand...
TRANSLATOR: We have been driven away.
EDDIE: I want him to look at my fuck'n hand...
TRANSLATOR backs away as lights start fading.
TRANSLATOR: You have nothing Eddie... nothing... nothing... nothing.., [trailing off]
Lights fade out.
In dark, sound of storm.
Spot up on MALONE, lit from neck up. Sound of storm fades only slightly.
Light up slowly on EDDIE to side... [pause]
The car's gone, [beats] I came back and it was gone.
EDDIE: The transmission is dead. It wouldn't run anyway.
MALONE: I'm soaked. Soaking wet... to the bone, [beat] Eddie?
MALONE: Your mother—there were people who really cared about her.
EDDIE: That right?!
MALONE: [pause] Eddie... you know what I sometimes think? [beat] If I'd handled it all a little differently, with your mother—I think, I might have been able to do something to raise you.
MALONE: I should have tried harder—with her—later—made a home for her, you know... and for you.
EDDIE: Malone? [beats] Fuck off. . . will you—just go and fuck off.
Lights going out on EDDIE.
MALONE: Eddie? [beats] You can't understand...
Sound of storm increases as lights go out on MALONE.
You can't know...
In dark, sound of storm.
Lights up slowly on EDDIE, standing in bed, on back. A plate of food on tray next to bed.
Sound of storm fades slightly. . .
EDDIE: It's a thing, what happens to your body.
EDDIE steps closer. Pause.
I been sleeping in Malone's car, last couple of days. [beats] Seventy-five Mustang, [pause] I got no more money, [beats] Is Malone still here you ask? Ah, yeah, he's still around. He doesn't have anything left either. [beats] Looks like you didn't eat your dinner.
EDDIE bends over to look at plate of food.
Fish, huh? [pause] You know, when I was a kid, I was kinda small—pretty small—in seventh grade I was al¬most the smallest kid in school. And I was always picked on. And I was afraid to fight back, 'cause I was so small I guess. And I stayed afraid. And I'm still afraid. I'm afraid of all kinds of shit—all the time. I'd like so much to not be afraid. To find a way to quit being scared.
MANCE tries to speak but only wheezes. Pause.
I was scared of you. [pause] Even at military school—when you were a couple hundred miles away. I was afraid of you. I'd be there and think of you—feel how scared of you I was. [pause] I'm a grown man now.
MANCE wheezes again. Silence.
You're gonna die tonight.
EDDIE picks up the plate of food.
Looks pretty good—rice, beans—fish.
He looks at MANCE, leaning in close...
Don't want to let it get cold.
He dumps the food on MANCE, half of it on his face. He shoves it in his face. He straightens up. MANCE shakes a little, wheezes.
Lights fade out.
Spot up on DR COUSA seated. DR FRENCH stands a few feet behind him working on his hair...
DR FRENCH: Russ has disappeared again.
DR COUSA: Hmmm.
DR FRENCH: He'll get lost... in this storm. I was wondering, thinking I might try Puerto Rico—try to get into liposuction, fat farms... high end stuff.
DR FRENCH continues to primp.
DR COUSA: Puerto Rico.
DR FRENCH: Puerto Rico, [beats] San Juan, [beats] The Caribbean.
DR COUSA: [beats] Puerto Rico.
DR FRENCH: [beats] San Juan, [beats] A spa. A health spa, sort of situation—specifically—what I was told. [pause] A terrible rain.
DR COUSA: An intense rain, [pause] Twenty some years and I only find humiliation.
Lights fading on DR COUSA and DR FRENCH as EDDIE appears by FORTUNE TELLER. The FORTUNE TELLER looks at him but says nothing. The TRANSLATOR looks at him. Pause.
EDDIE: In the third dream I was in a gymnasium. There were people there, but I couldn't tell if I knew them or not. [indicating TRANSLATOR] And you were there. The room had three windows—large windows. And through each window I could see a tornado approaching. The sky was dark, dark grey, very dark and the tornados were getting closer and then I felt the gym¬nasium moving—being blown along and I went to the window and it was black outside. And then I was clinging to the branches of a tree, you were holding on too, and we were being blown along this field—like a wheat field, but I wasn't—
Pin spot slowly up on MAN standing on platform—upstage center. We only see his legs from knee down. He has on same pants and shoes as opening of play.
—afraid. Then we crashed into this small house—little two-story house, and the storm was over. I stood there with you, looking around. Then I saw this old woman looking down at us from a small window on the second story. She had a very neutral expression—she was just watching. All around my feet were vines with giant green cucumbers. My legs were entwined and I bent over and picked up one of the cucumbers and I cracked it open and it was full of thousand dollar bills. I dropped it and picked up another one and cracked it open. It was full of thousand dollar bills too. [pause] Then I woke up.
FORTUNE TELLER starts to slowly stutter. EDDIE looks around helplessly. Lights fade out slowly on everything. Sound of storm increases. Blackout.
Copyright (c) 1992 by John Steppling. Reprinted from John Steppling, Sea of Cortez and Other Plays (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1996). Reprinted by permission.
John Steppling has long been an important influence on theater in Southern California, particularly as the founder of theater companies and an original founding member of the Padua Hills Playwrights Festival. Among his many plays are The Dream Coast, The Shaper, Standard of the Breed, Teenage Wedding, My Crummy Job, Deep Tropical Tan and Theory of Miracles, and Sea of Cortez. A four-time NEA recipient for writing and directing, Steppling has also received a Rockefeller Fellowship, two L.A. Weekly Awards for Best Play, and a Pen-West award for drama. He also has written several screenplays.