A WHITE PICKET FENCE (Complete)

A WHITE PICKET FENCE
An homage to Jacques Lecoq
English One Act Play
by Jay Crisostomo IV

The Characters

VAGABOND
WOODSMAN
WIFE
SON

The Setting

It is after the war, any war. It does not matter which. The play is set in a village, any village. It is a home, any home.

The Play

(A streetlamp hits the VAGABOND resting his head on a brick wall. At first we notice him scowling, making strange almost monstrous sounds. But as the light reaches its full cadence, we notice that he is actually crying.)

VAGABOND
(Wipes away his tears, to the audience) A madman? You say I am a madman? Bestial, detested, terrible!

Say the word. Come on, say it. That’s what the lot of you do when you spot someone you can kick around, someone undeniably lesser than your high and mighty magisterial selves. Say the word. Come on. I won’t bite. I promise. (Silence) Mongrel!

(With unexpected flare, seething rich with sarcasm) Come on girls and boys, children of all ages, come you little troglodytes! A penny for a little-look-and-see to my black black heart. What’s a few coins to experience, to completely immerse yourselves in the mongrel’s ungodly stench? Hear his awkward hunger pangs, and poke the grime off his busted eye, make a fool of the Village Mangler. Come one, come all!

No takers? Ha! You’re all afraid. No problem, no problem, just piss on your pants, you cowards!

You know, where I come from we’d literally either have you for breakfast or gang rape you, depends on the amount of meat you got on. You people know where that is? The real bonafide man-maker. Where men are made and boys are killed. Bet you won’t even survive the first five seconds in No Man’s Land. I bet you’d become a madman like me if you got out of it alive.

(Tired, he falls to the ground.)

I wasn’t always like this. Five. Ten. Twenty, god knows how long ago, I had a family. A wife all to myself, she wasn’t pin-up-girl beautiful but she was beautiful enough for my liking. She had this hair that reached to the small of her back… it still sends shivers down my spine. Every time, she’d go out of bed after sex for a glass of water or a quick cigarette, I’d stare at her. Of course she hated it, all women are obliged to hate it when men stare at them. All men, even their husbands. She’d always slap me softly on the cheek, but I’d keep my eyes on her. Bless her soul, she’d pretend not to notice.

One day, we were eventually blessed with a child. A young handsome boy. (An aside) Don’t worry, he looks nothing like me. (Back to the matter at hand) But we couldn’t support him so I did what I had to. Oh, I was so stupid back then. I believed it all. War makes men strong. War makes men rich. And I tried to tell her, don’t worry. I’ll come back soon enough, and we’d have enough to family an army of soldiers. (A pause) She’d laugh every time I said it, but every time there was a plasticity to her smile.

(Stands) That was so long ago, and from that point on I entered the jungle. It is a jungle that is rooted on indistinguishable man guts, that has trees forged from human limbs, and a brimstone grey canopy of gun powder smoke in the air. There are many of us in the jungle but we cannot see each other. En mass, we are alone.

Ever since setting foot in the jungle, I have been remade. (Turns to present himself) And look at the finished product! What has man gained from war but claws and fangs and stories.

Stories similar to this one.

This is not a story of a madman. Of a monster. But something infinitely baser. This is a ghost story, and it started just two days ago. (Falls)

(The WOODSMAN enters, he catches the VAGABOND.)

WOODSMAN
Sir? Sir, are you alright?

VAGABOND
(Drunk) Let go of me, you fucking twink. I need water, pretty boy. If you want to help, give me water.

WOODSMAN
(Procures a leather jug from his satchel) Here, you can have it all.

(The VAGABOND drinks greedily.)

VAGABOND
Don’t you expect any thanks from me, sissy. Wine, I said, wine. I said, If you want to be a helpful fag, give me wine, that’s what I said. And then you give me this piss water swill. What is this, water from the lake?

WOODSMAN
Oh, so you are no stranger to these parts. Why yes, that is water from the freshest fresh water lake in the village.

VAGABOND
You a woodsman? Get your kicks from shooting l’il bunny rabbits?

WOODSMAN
I do what I must, sir. For family and country, and all that.

VAGABOND
Do what you must? Family? Country? Please! You have no understanding of the word MUST. Have you ever shot a comrade for desertion? What about throw a grenade at an innocent civilian hut? Those are things you do for the great MUST. We MUST go to war to show ’em all whose dick is biggest. Being the country whose fought, and won mind you, in the most wars, we have the biggest dick. I have the biggest dick. (Chants) Biggest dick! Biggest dick!

WOODSMAN
Sir, you’re drunk.

VAGABOND
Drunk? Don’t you insult a decorated war hero, butt bitch. (Aside) Yes, butt bitch, that’s your name!

WOODSMAN
What? Butt bitch? Wha—

VAGABOND
(Ignoring the WOODSMAN’s comment) Five, no ten, no twenty. No. I don’t know how many fucking years I’ve given to this country but I know it’s enough to warrant me a punch to your face.

WOODSMAN
(Raises his hands) No harm meant, sir.

VAGABOND
A yellow belly country butt bitch like you calling me drunk? Puh-lease. I was just knocking back a few in the old tavern. Some well deserved appreciation from the locals. You know, just a good five plus fifty bottles before I got home.

WOODSMAN
You’re on your way home? I knew it, you come from this place!

VAGABOND
Yup. First time back since the gun play started.

WOODSMAN
Where do you live? I would gladly take a veteran to his family and home.

VAGABOND
(Confused) I live there… No… There. No… I’m not sure. I live in the wood nymph’s nose. The Virgin Mary’s ass.

WOODSMAN
If you have nowhere to stay for the night…

VAGABOND
What are you implying? That I am poor? I’ll have you know that I am a decorated war hero. I poured blood so you could shoot your rabbits in pastel pink harmony.

WOODSMAN
No. No, you mistake me, sir. I meant nothing of the sort. I just meant that maybe you’d like a warm bed, a nice home cooked meal tonight. Tomorrow we can look for your house. Is that alright?

VAGABOND
Is that okay with you?

WOODSMAN
It’s fine with me. I invited you. I lead a humble household. It’s just me, a simple wife, a bright young lad. But we promise that we will do everything to make your stay with us satisfactory. Is that alright with you?

VAGABOND
Is it okay with me? Is it okay with you? Is it okay…. Argh! This could go on forever. What I meant was…. Do you even trust me? I’ve been in the army for so long now that I have forgotten the taste and smell of my native flesh.

WOODSMAN
What was that?

VAGABOND
When were you born, butt bitch? Where do you live? Disney Fucking Land in a spinning tea cup? Is that why you’re so daft. I was talking about the marital act.

WOODSMAN
Huh?

VAGABOND
Fucking.

WOODSMAN
You must forgive me. I am a very simple man. Not a travelled soul such as yourself.

VAGABOND
I meant sex. (Grabs hold of his crotch) Penis. (Thrusts) Vagina. Sacred Hole. Ass Hole. My dick, your family’s holes.

WOODSMAN
Oh, you wouldn’t do such a thing.

VAGABOND
How can you be so sure?

WOODSMAN
I don’t know. Maybe it’s your eyes. And you’re from around these parts, you can always trust village-folk to do you good.

VAGABOND
Are you not… afraid of me? I can kill you, rob you dry, burn your house.

WOODSMAN
But you won’t, will you?

VAGABOND
I don’t think so.

WOODSMAN
Then come on. Dinner’s getting cold.

(The WOODSMAN pushes the VAGABOND to an exit. He follows for awhile. But he stops and talks to the audience.)

WOODSMAN
I trusted him. Yes, he smelled bad, looked bad… His speech was rude and different. His clothes have obviously been worn on both the inside and outside and then some and some more. (Sighs) He was in all figures of the word, bad. (A pause) But… There was something about his eyes. He looked like a good man.

VAGABOND
(Off-stage) Hey, come on I could eat a baby horse, butt bitch. Or maybe just a baby. Baby back ribs. Butt bitch’s baby’s back ribs.

WOODSMAN
As if, if we got to know one another just a little bit better, we could have been the best of friends, brothers even. But that’s all impossible now. It is impossible to befriend someone you have hurt severely…

That night when we first met. I felt like I was inviting kin to the table.

Oh well. Reflection for the philosopher. Dinner for the peasant. (Exits)

Scene 2

(The WOMAN enters from the kitchen, wiping her hands on her apron.)

WOMAN
(To her SON inside the kitchen) Come on, your papa will be home soon.

(The SON enters with a big cauldron. He is barely big enough to hold it upright.)

Don’t spill anything. Ay! If you want to be as big and strong as your papa one day, you have to practice hard at being a man. Being a man means you never spill, whatever happens, even if it’s a life or death thing, not a drop, you clench down, muster your strength and bring food to the table.

SON
(After successfully delivering the cauldron onto the table) See that, momma? Look at that, not a drop.

WOMAN
Oh that’s my darling. Come here. (Embraces her child) One day you will become big and strong. You will be able to lift the heavens. Pick out the stars. Hold the sun in your hands. You will be able to cross mountains with one giant step. You will rule this world with your strength. (Kisses the boy’s hands) One day, you will be bigger and stronger and better than even your papa.

SON
(Whines) Momma. You always exaggerate. I’ll never be that tall. And momma, just to make things clear, I never want to better than papa. Not bigger. Not stronger. Not better. I’m happy being just like papa. If it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me.

WOMAN
Yes. Maybe that’s good enough for us. A comfortable simple life. With home, and a wife. (Kisses his son’s cheek)

SON
Momma, stop embarrassing me. Please.

WOMAN
Hmm… You’re a big boy now are you? Can’t be kissed by momma, not even at home?

SON
It’s not that.

WOMAN
Whatever you say. Just make sure, one day, wherever you are, you’ll bring her home to meet your poor old mother and father in the countryside.

SON
Momma!

WOMAN
I’m kidding. Where is your father? It is getting late. I hope he hasn’t picked up another stray again.

SON
Oh! Oh! I hope he did. The last one papa brought home was cool. He’d roll, stand, sit, and bark if you told him to. A smart dog. Why did you have to send him away?

WOMAN
And he also pooped, peed, and bit even if you didn’t tell him to.

(The WOODSMAN and the VAGABOND enter. The WOODSMAN goes ahead, and kisses his wife and carries his son. The VAGABOND is glued stuck watching the scene.)

VAGABOND
(To himself? to the audience?) I know this place. I know this scene. My hands know them all. This wooden flooring, these rudimentary carvings. (Checks a lose tile) She told me to fix that. She… (Looks up at the WOMAN talking to the WOODSMAN who is currently scratching his head apologetically) She is older, much older now but I still remember. How can I forget. Oh… she cut her hair. And that beside her… yes. He is taller now, different but the same. As promised, looks nothing like his ugly father, that no one sperm donor. Everything was as I left it. My house. My home. A happy family. All that’s missing is perhaps me.

Thinking back, what a fool I must have looked like. But there is of course more misery in store for me.

(The WOODSMAN finishes discussing their visitor with his wife. He approaches the VAGABOND while the WOMAND and the SON finish setting up the table.)

WOODSMAN
Hello again, sir. Friend, I will call you, friend from now on. Why not? You are my guest. Enter please. My home is your home.

(The VAGABOND trips.)

Are you alright?

VAGABOND
Y-yes.

WOODSMAN
You don’t have to be a stranger. We’re all family here.

VAGABOND
What?

WOODSMAN
To tell you the truth, my wife’s not too pleased to have you here but I talked her into it. She understands, don’t you worry. As promised, there’s a meal and a bed for you tonight my friend.

VAGABOND
Wife?

WOODSMAN
Yes. She’s not that pretty is she? But to tell you the truth…

VAGABOND
She is beautiful enough for me.

WOODSMAN
Why yes. She is, isn’t she? I’m very lucky to have her.

VAGABOND
How long have you two been married?

WOODSMAN
It has been… I don’t know. All I know is that before her I was no one. After her, I have become, well… this (Points to himself). Not much but I’m happy enough.

VAGABOND
And the child?

WOODSMAN
He’s not of my blood but I love him as if he were. He was the woman’s at first but now we both call him son.

VAGABOND
I see. (Steps back)

WOODSMAN
What are you doing?

VAGABOND
(To the audience) I could have stepped out. Left. Ran away like I did so many years ago. I was the stranger in my own home. A burden to my own wife.

(The SON hides behind the WOMAN’s back.)

And what, what did my son, that boy, think of me?

SON
(To his mother) Who is that strange man? He smells bad.

WOMAN
(To her SON) Shhh. Don’t be rude. That’s just one of papa’s friends. (Smiles at the VAGABOND) We’re very happy to have you at our home.

VAGABOND
T-thank you.

WOODSMAN
Oh, haha, when you have decided to stop being foolish, the table is set for our meagre feast! (Sits on the head of the table)

VAGABOND
(Steps forward and converses with the audience) That was not how I expected my homecoming. But now, two days after those, these doors, that, this, (Pounds at his chest with a closed fist), this, this, this annoying prick in the heart that has never left me and will perhaps torment me for the entirety of my life! It is difficult to imagine it all otherwise. What did I expect? A woman who waited, a boy who is soon to become a man? Ha! It was so long ago. Of course, she would have… Of course, I should have… (Calms himself) What’s done is done, and all we have to talk about is what happened next.

I wanted to run away but I could not. Not yet anyway. I was, after all, after a very long absence, home. (Looks at the table)

(The WOMAN places a chair, obviously not part of the dining table set, beside the SON, facing her own chair. She then proceeds to sit in her place.)

And how kind of them, a chair set especially for me (Sits on the chair set for him)

WOMAN
Come on then, the food’s getting cold.

VAGABOND
(Snaps out of his reverie) Oh… Thank you. You’re all too kind. (Sits on the place reserved for him)

WOODSMAN
Let us say grace. As our visitor would you like to lead us in prayer, friend?

(In disbelief, the VAGABOND is looking back and forth at the WOMAN and her SON.)

Friend?

VAGABOND
What? Me? Oh. No. I do not believe in God.

WOMAN
Forgive him, my Lord! (Covers her son’s ears)

SON
What does he mean, momma? We have a choice? We can chose not to believe?

WOMAN
Shhh… (Reprimands the WOODSMAN) Dear.

VAGABOND
Yes?

WOMAN
(Does not hear the VAGABOND’s reply) Please contain your friend.

VAGABOND
Oh.

WOODSMAN
It’s alright. It’s alright. All beliefs and non-beliefs are welcome on this table. I will lead then.

(The WOODSMAN, the SON, the WOMAN recite a prayer in unison. The VAGABOND tries to chime in at first but it is evident that he has already forgotten the words. He gives up somewhere in the middle of the prayer and just looks at the table dumbfounded.)

(They proceed to eat.)

WOODSMAN
You’ll never get enough of my wife’s cooking. I assure you, sir, it is the best grub you’ll find in the entire village.

VAGABOND
Is that so?

WOMAN
Here son, why don’t you offer our guest some potatoes.

(The SON hands the plate of potatoes to the VAGABOND. The VAGABOND takes the plate but stares too long at the SON. The SON is in turn disquieted.)

SON
Momma, that man’s weird. He kind of looks like a monster.

WOMAN
(A whisper to the SON) Manners. (To the VAGABOND) I apologize for that. He’s not used to having strangers for dinner.

WOODSMAN
But, I tell you, this young lad will be something someday. A lawyer. A doctor. Only God can tell. Did you know he was already reading and writing when I first met my wife.

VAGABOND
He walked when he was five months old. His first word was goodbye.

WOODSMAN
Pardon me?

VAGABOND
Nothing. The meal’s delicious.

WOMAN
Thank you, you are quite kind.

WOODSMAN
How old was he then? When we first met?

WOMAN
Six. It was a… friend who taught him.

VAGABOND
A friend.

WOODSMAN
See. A genius! A prodigy. One day for sure you’ll be something great.

SON
Thanks papa.

WOMAN
So where was it you came from?

WOODSMAN
Oh. Haven’t I told you yet? This guy is a soldier, a war veteran, a hero. Look at him son, one day maybe you could be like him.

WOMAN
Which war?

WOODSMAN
Does it matter?

WOMAN
No. It’s just that… I had a friend who went to war long ago. We never heard of him since.

VAGABOND
Perhaps he is dead.

WOMAN
Perhaps…

(A silence fills the room.)

WOODSMAN
You must pardon her, friend. It was the boy’s father who she was talking about. The man she calls friend, friend.

VAGABOND
Did he also come from this village?

WOMAN
Yes.

VAGABOND
What was he like?

WOMAN
I’m sorry. You’ll have to excuse me. (Exits.)

(Another silence.)

WOODSMAN
If I may be so bold, please do not talk about the war. It is painful for her. Sometimes at night she walks about the house with nothing to do. She goes on and on in the small space until she finally collapses in a cold sweat.

VAGABOND
She loved him?

WOODSMAN
I am sure she does but she’ll never say it. I’ve asked her but she just shuts me up with kisses.

SON
Papa!

(The WOODSMAN laughs.)

VAGABOND
She’s very lucky to have you.

SON
You’re my only father, papa. Even if that man came back… I’d spit at him. I’d curse him. I’d run him away with a kitchen knife.

VAGABOND
I’m sure he deserves it, son.

(The WOMAN enters. She puts refreshments down on the table.)

WOMAN
I just forgot to bring the water. How silly of me. I hope you’ll forgive me for being so rude.

VAGABOND
It’s alright.

WOMAN
So tell me more about this war. Did you enjoy it?

VAGABOND
For the most part, I felt homesick.

WOMAN
Are you traveling home?

WOODSMAN
Oh yes! He’s also from around here! He’s just here for the night and tomorrow you’ll be home sweet home.

WOMAN
It’s a small village. What’s your family name?

VAGABOND
I am not from around here. I live… in the village in the east. There my wife and son are waiting for me.

WOODSMAN
The lake. You knew about the lake. Outsiders don’t usually know about it. I just thought— That maybe you knew something about the boy’s—

VAGABOND
— You thought wrong!

WOODSMAN
I apologize again. This night seems to be full of apologies.

SON
You don’t have to apologize to a man like him, papa! He’s just a good for nothing killer.

WOODSMAN
Son!

WOMAN
If you are going to talk like that I have no idea what to do with you.

VAGABOND
No need to fuss. He’s right. I am nothing but a good for nothing killer. That’s what I do (Stands)

(The WOODSMAN, the SON, and the WOMAN continue their meal in dumbshow. They do notice the VAGABOND stand nor do they hear the words he is about to say.)

VAGABOND
That’s what I do, kill. That’s all I’m good for. I could kill you all right now! The whole fucking lot of you! Killing. That’s what I do. That’s who I am!

You… How could you? You told me you would wait. You told me you would… And you, you cruel smiling you! How dare you take my wife away from me. You pretend to be a nice person but I know there is evil in your heart. There are worse things that can be done to a man. Beat, torture, kill him and his spirit survives, take away his heart and he truly dies. You, you, flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood, you would chase me out with a kitchen knife. Is that what you said? I heard you. (Falls on the floor, his rage melting into self-pity) I heard you all. I am here. I am present. Please, acknowledge me. Please! Please understand this is not easy for me. To see you all so happy… so happy without me.

(To the audience) Friends, it is a cruel thing to realize that you are alone when you are with company. Alone, home with your family…

But there is more to tell. (Inhales deeply to ready himself and sits down, his eyes fixated with the WOMAN)

WOODSMAN
That was fantastic dear!

SON
Thank you for the food, momma.

WOMAN
No you go up and ready yourself for bed.

(The SON runs up to his bedroom.)

Be sure to brush behind your teeth!

WOMAN
Well boys, would you like to have a night-cap while I tidy up?

WOODSMAN
(To the VAGABOND) Come on, there is a lot you can tell me about the outside world.

VAGABOND
(Under his breath, staring at the WOMAN) And there is a lot you can tell me. What happened while I was away?

WOODSMAN
What was that?

VAGABOND
Nothing.

WOODSMAN
You have to speak up friend? What’s the matter? Cat got your tongue?

VAGABOND
No. A viler creature. That preys on the weak and the down-trodden.

WOODSMAN
A soldier and a poet! Come on then, let us boys get out of the woman’s way.

(The men move to a sitting area while the WOMAN tidies up. The WOMAN on her way to the kitchen looks back.)

WOMAN
(To the audience) He stared at me that entire meal. Yes he was courteous enough for his kind. He even knew how to use a fork! What a surprise. At first I thought he was just another monster, another brute but there was something about his eyes, something from my younger days. Something of an astonished gaze, like a boy looking at his first girl, really seeing a woman for the first time. It made me smile. Embarrassing to say, but it even made me blush. I do not know but perhaps behind the frenzied hair and the battle scars, somewhere deep deep down. Perhaps there is humanity down there.

Look at me, a woman my age acting like a schoolgirl. Ha! (Exits)

Scene 3

(The mise-en-scene follows the VAGABOND and the WOODSMAN to a porch landing.)

VAGABOND
(Takes out an already smoked tobacco stick from his breast pocket) You mind if smoke?

WOODSMAN
Sure. My house is your house.

VAGABOND
(Betrays composure) Yes. You already told me!

WOODSMAN
(Laughs) I know how a smoking man reacts when he’s taken from his one true love. Go ahead.

(VAGABOND lights his tobacco.)

The wife’s first husband smoked here you know?

(VAGABOND coughs. Kills the tobacco on the railing.)

VAGABOND
Did he?

WOODSMAN
Yes. Look at all those burn marks on the wood.

(A pause. The VAGABOND and the WOODSMAN look at one another. The WOODSMAN’s curiosity is piqued.)

VAGABOND
Did he?

WOODSMAN
Yes he did.

(Another silence.)

VAGABOND
What about that drink?

WOODSMAN
I’m sorry. I forgot.

(WOODSMAN steps out to get the refreshments.)

VAGABOND
You don’t have to apologize so much. This is your house after all.

WOODSMAN
Oh I’ve always been like this. Always apologizing. (Steps back in with two glasses of white rum) I know my wife loves me and my son adores me. I am a very lucky man. But to tell you the truth, I’ve always felt… what’s the word… alienated. Like I’ve stepped in someone else’s shoes. Someone else’s life. They treat me as if I were him but I am not. I can never be. It’s okay but… Let’s just say I feel fragile here. Like… What if he came back? (Hands one to the VAGABOND) Drink it slowly. It’s strong stuff.

VAGABOND
I am sure you’re doing a good job. You seem to be a genuinely nice guy. A lot of widows from the army would love to meet you. (Drinks it in one gulp)

WOODSMAN
You like it?

VAGABOND
I’ve been drinking this from my mother’s teat. Can I have some more?

(Another pause. The VAGABOND hands the glass to the WOODSMAN. He does not take it. Suddenly,)

WOODSMAN
I knew it!

VAGABOND
(Worried) Knew what?

WOODSMAN
I knew it! First there was the weird way you looked at her, then at him, the boy, my son. After that was the way you told us you didn’t live here. You lived around here, I’m sure of that. No one knows about the lake except the natives.

VAGABOND
But—

WOODSMAN
No one. It’s a secret boys from the village pass on to the next generation. There’s only one way through, a path behind the abandoned mill.

VAGANOND
You’re mistaken!

(The VAGABOND puts out his tobacco.)

WOODSMAN
I am not! Look at that. The way you put out your smoke. Exactly the way he did it.

VAGABOND
No!

WOODSMAN
Yes!

VAGABOND
No! I must go.

(The VAGABOND tries to move away but is held by the WOODSMAN.)

WOODSMAN
And the final tell! The rum. This rum was specially made here, right in this village, it doesn’t exist anywhere else. The few visitors we have don’t even dare touch it because of the strong smell but you drank it, how was it you said it, like you were drinking it from your mother’s teat.

(A silence.)

I have to tell her.

VAGABOND
You mustn’t!

WOODSMAN
So you confess!

VAGABOND
I confess to nothing.

WOODSMAN
Come on. It’s in your face. You’re guilty of being him. The man who’s life I took over. You have to tell them. Don’t you want to hold her as your…

(A silence. The WOODSMAN releases the VAGABOND’s hand.)

I have no idea what happens next. But. You must tell her. She deserves to know. She is—

VAGABOND
She was my wife. And that was a long time ago. Another life. You were there when I was not. I can not do that to you. I can not take away what is properly yours.

WOODSMAN
(Quieter) But the same could be said about you. This is your house. You built it with your own hands, I know she told me everything.

VAGABOND
Again (a difficult word to say), friend, the man who built this house was another man. The man who was married to your wife was another man. He died long ago in the war.

WOODSMAN
That’s what she thinks. She married me only because she thought you were dead. But look at you, you’re here in front of me, breathing. Please…

VAGABOND
No. I can not do that to her. Let her have her happy life. Let me. Him. Let him stay six feet under. She deserves it. So does the boy. So do you. I am happy at least that you acknowledged me. That you saw it fit for her to know. But… I am not the man she married. I have seen things, done things, that can change a man into a monster. And so I have changed.

(A silence.)

WOODSMAN
You are no monster. You are a good man.

VAGABOND
Thank you. Now, I must go. (Moves to an exit)

WOODSMAN
What about the boy?

VAGABOND
(Stops) What about him?

WOODSMAN
Talk to him. It’s the least I can do. He is your son. It is the least you can do. Even if he doesn’t recognize you. Know you as his father. Please. Go in, talk to him. Then you can go.

VAGABOND
It will only hurt me. You.

WOODSMAN
Do it for the boy.

(The WOODSMAN and the VAGABOND shake hands.)

VAGABOND
Thank you again, friend. (Enters into the house)

WOODSMAN
(To the audience) And so started the longest night of my life.

Scene 4

(The VAGABOND sits on a chair by the hearth. The WOODSMAN follows and proceeds to fetch the SON from his room. A quiet tension between the two men as one passes the other.)

VAGABOND
What should I say? What if he recognizes me. I don’t know. This is foolish.

(The WOODSMAN enters with the his SON. The WOODSMAN pushes the SON towards the VAGABOND.)

WOODSMAN
Now. Play nice you two.

SON
But Papa.

WOODSMAN
Do as I say. I am your father. (Exits)

(A silence.)

VAGABOND
So how old are you now?

SON
Old enough.

VAGABOND
Are you going to school?

SON
Yes.

VAGABOND
Do you get high grades?

SON
Top of my class.

VAGABOND
That’s… nice.

(Another silence.)

SON
Look mister. I don’t know why my papa wants me to talk to you but I really don’t care for you.

VAGABOND
Why is that?

SON
You’re a soldier. A killer.

VAGABOND
What do you have against soldiers?

SON
Nothing. I don’t want to talk about it.

VAGABOND
Then let’s talk about other things.

SON
I don’t want to talk to you.

VAGABOND
Then we won’t talk.

(And one more silence.)

SON
My father. The “real” one. He was a soldier too.

VAGABOND
Is that why you don’t like soldiers?

SON
He left my mom when he needed him the most.

VAGABOND
What?

SON
(Goes on as if he did not here the VAGABOND) My mom had to take care of me all by herself. She even had to take guests. Ugly dirty men like you. She’d have them spend the night so that we could at least eat twice a day. She would lock herself in her room the next day. The men would have breakfast alone and I’d have to serve them whatever we had. Then the man would leave. This house has thin walls. I know she was crying.

VAGABOND
(Buries his face on his hands) I’m sorry.

SON
Sometimes I’d have to go to the Church to beg for alms, people were kind enough but they knew something bad was happening in the house. What that was I don’t know, but everyone looked at me differently. Eventually the priest shunned me away. And the guests grew more frequent. My classmates back then called my mother a horse. My mother is not a horse! People don’t ride on her. She doesn’t neigh for carrots! I tried to beat them up but they were bigger than me. I guess they had more to eat than me.

VAGABOND
I’m sorry.

SON
Everything changed when the woodsman came. He is not a rich man. He is not ambitious. He did not go to war. People even called him a coward but he is a good man. He provides. He puts food on the table. Yes, sometimes it’s not enough to make my stomach shut up but at least he tries. He even gives to the other poor families. Even if he didn’t go to the war, people here grew to love him. I love him. He stopped momma from crying.

VAGABOND
(Stands, shouts) I’m sorry!

SON
(Startled, he moves away) What’s wrong.

VAGABOND
(Regains his composure) I’m sorry… I just don’t like sad stories.

SON
Well dumb-luck mister. This is the house sad stories come to sleep.

VAGABOND
But everything changed when the woodsman came in?

SON
Yes.

VAGABOND
That’s good.

(The VAGABOND moves away, turns his back on the SON, and starts to cry.)

SON
What’s wrong mister?

VAGABOND
I told you I do not like sad stories. (Loses control, proceeds to bawl like a child.) I don’t. I told you. I just don’t.

(A silence. The SON hugs the VAGABOND.)

What? Why?

SON
You don’t like sad stories, well, I don’t like it when people cry. There’s been enough of that in this house.

VAGABOND
Please hold me tighter.

SON
(Moves away) Are you what they call a pe-pedo…

VAGABOND
(Defensive) No. No. I’m not interested in… It’s just been such a long time.

SON
You are a good man aren’t you? Somewhere deep down there.

VAGABOND
I don’t know. I really don’t know.

SON
Mister, please stop crying. (Hugs the VAGABOND)

VAGABOND
(Embraces back) Out there, son. Do you mind if I call you—

SON
Do whatever you want.

VAGABOND
Out there son, there are many dangers, pitfalls you might never come back out of. Out there, there are monsters who would kill you just because. They don’t need a reason. All they need is the ability to. And to survive in that savage wilderness, you have to become a monster yourself but sometimes maybe we can tame a monster’s face. (Smiles) You have to be strong, son. Stronger than I was, stronger than I am. I have no right to tell you anything. I am a stranger in this house. But, please if I can do you one good thing it’s that one piece of advice. When you go into the forest, tread carefully, use your awesome power for gentleness.

SON
You talk funny.

VAGABOND
Is that so?

SON
You also smell of… I don’t know. Home.

VAGABOND
Home?

SON
Like somehow you belong here.

VAGABOND
I don’t.

SON
Yeah, I know.

VAGABOND
(Releases himself from the SON’s embrace) It’s getting late. I have to get ready to go.

SON
Do you mind if I sleep here? Like this?

VAGABOND
Wha-

(SON embraces the VAGABOND.)

Sure.

(The two sleep. Light dims. It comes to the darkest part of the night.)

(The WOODSMAN enters. He notices the SON and the VAGABOND sleeping by the hearth. He sighs and stokes the flames. He gets a blanket from a cupboard and covers the two.)

WOODSMAN
(To the audience) Is it so painful to see something right? A homecoming, a tearful welcome back, a father and son finding one another in this fog of war. But in the end all there is that cruel pang behind things that cannot be said. Should not be said. Maybe one day. When he is older, he will learn that the stranger that came into his house and embraced him with a curious warmth was actually his real father. Maybe he will hate me for it. And all there will be is night, a darkness that would be his sky for the rest of his life. But until then, let them sleep. Let them have this one night as father and son.

(To the SON) Good night, my so… (Cannot say the word). I believe that whatever good I have done to this point for you has been erased by my silence. I am sorry, in the end I am only a man.

Scene 5

(The sun rises, cocks crow, dogs bark their first barks of the morning. The light from the window almost promises a wonderful day.)

(The WOODSMAN wakes up the SON. The VAGABOND is also awakened.)

WOODSMAN
I’m sorry to wake you two. I just wanted to tell you both that I want to go the forest early. You know what they say, the early bird… Just tell your momma I went ahead.

SON
Okay, papa.

(The WOODSMAN steps to the exit.)

VAGABOND
There is no way I could thank you, friend.

WOODSMAN
(Without looking at the VAGABOND) Whatever you decide to do, please do it before sunset. I will be back by then.

VAGABOND
I won’t do anything, friend. Nothing to harm you.

WOODSMAN
Just please. (Exits)

SON
What was that about?

VAGABOND
I guess I should get going now.

SON
No, mister. You should have breakfast first. Wait. I’ll wake momma up. (Runs to the rooms) Momma, it’s morning already! Wake up sleepyhead!

VAGABOND
(To the audience) I saw him when he was a child. He was so small back then. What will he be in five, ten years? The woodsman will be a good influence to him. That is enough for me.

(The WOMAN enters.)

And of course the most painful, killing stab comes at the end.

WOMAN
Did you have a nice sleep?

VAGABOND
Yes. I was just about to get going.

WOMAN
No. Please eat something before you go. You need something in your stomach. (Walks to the kitchen) Yes. The village to the east was it? I remember that place well. I was married there. (Pauses) To a man who died in the war. It was a beautiful place.

VAGABOND
In the chapel inside the grove.

WOMAN
Yes. The roses were in season then. I really didn’t have a thing about roses. It was my husband, the first one, I meant.

VAGABOND
The roses there are beautiful. The local priest was something of a green thumb. The roses come in white buds, blue buds, red ones. So red that they seemed to glow the color of love itself.

WOMAN
You sound exactly like him. (Sits next to the VAGABOND)

VAGABOND
Do I?

WOMAN
I wonder. Perhaps you knew him. Oh. (Smiles to herself) Never mind. He was such a kind soul that I am sure that he died in the first encounters. He couldn’t even kill a fly. Nor be too rough when we made love. He just liked to look at me. (Laughs to herself) Why am I telling you these things? I can be such a girl sometimes.

VAGABOND
Tell me more about him.

WOMAN
He’s dead. He hasn’t come home for what? I don’t even remember. It was difficult for a while with out him. We’re lucky the woodsman came.

VAGABOND
Tell me, do you love him, the woodsman?

WOMAN
I love him enough. He takes care of that. Nowadays my reason for living is my son, he looks like him, the soldier.

VAGABOND
Does he?

WOMAN
In a way. The shape of his eyes. Big and kind. A little slack in the jaw. Small things that I think even he would miss. Stupid little things that made me love him more. What am I saying! You’re a complete stranger! Next thing you know we might be doing something unthinkable. (Laughs)

VAGABOND
I hope you become happy. You and your family have been very kind to me.

WOMAN
It’s nothing. I usually don’t warm up to the people my husband brings home but you seem to be different. I don’t know. You seem cozy, familiar, as if we’ve met before.

VAGABOND
Do I?

WOMAN
Yes. I’m sure if I was younger I would have fallen for you. You have the eyes. A little war-worn but there is kindness in them. But that is stupid talk. I’m already married twice over! (Stands) Let me get you that breakfast. (Walks to the kitchen)

VAGABOND
Look at me.

(The WOMAN turns back. The VAGABOND is looking at the WOMAN. A look that he gave her before when she was naked, after making love.)

You are a wonderful woman. A loving wife. A loving mother. But you are so much more. There is strength in you, a strength that has no name, and rightfully so. Since names are cheap in times of war. You survived and you blossomed. Any man would be lucky to have you. You are color. You are fire. You are life itself.

WOMAN
(Dumbstruck) What?

VAGABOND
There is only one thing a wounded heart can give and that is parting. Farewell, I must be on my way. I have a long way to go.

WOMAN
What?

VAGABOND
Once there was a man who loved a woman. They were married and they were happy. But one day they had a child but they had no money to feed it. So the man went to war in search of riches and glory. There was no gold nor accolade in the battlefield, none in the corpses that one by one turned him sourer; more gruesome per warm body he turned cold. Long after that he went home, and his wife was still there and so was his son. The woman was older, she cut her hair, but she was still beautiful. The son was bigger, stronger, almost as tall as the soldier. They exchanged tears, and embraces. So tight that it seemed that they would never let go… I could go on what use are fairy tales?

(The WOMAN cannot move.)

Excuse me. I have to go now. East. East where there is more war, and more men to be killed. (Exits.)

WOMAN
Wait. (Runs after the VAGABOND but falls on the ground) Wait… I told you to wait! That was my fairy tale. That was my happy ending. Please. Wait for me. I waited for you!

(To the audience) So I shouted and shouted. I wailed through the bright new day but all that came back was the heavy silence of night. (Wipes her tears and exits.)

End Scene

(The VAGABOND enters. He is once more on the street.)

VAGABOND
(To the audience) So that is my story. It is short one or a long one. I am sorry if I bored you. It is not about monsters but ghosts. Even monsters die. I have no more home but maybe the wolves will take me as their kin. Maybe the guns will sound like home. Corpses as embraces. And bloodshed as tears. I do not know. I am not a poet. I am nothing. Nothing now. Now where will I go? I will go into memory and hopefully into the the forgetting night. In a forest where the ground is a mass of the dead, the trunks of trees have faces of the nameless, and the sky is smoke. Ha. Welcome home, vagabond. (Exits)

(The SON enters, now older or maybe just playing his proper age.)

SON
(To the audience) It is rare for a child to talk plainly and frankly. But please let me. I have something to say. I once met a man when I was younger. He smelled of piss and talked like a madman. But there was something in his eyes that betrayed his masquerade. So now, into the night I go, the forest of the damned. I do not really know why. Perhaps to have one more glimpse of his eyes. Perhaps to save his soul.

(The SON exits as he does lights come to a close.)
ENDl March 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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