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Sun Country


Sun Country by John D. Biggs

For Miroslawa Biggs, that she might find her own sun country.

Cast of Characters








Act I, Scene I

Open on a bar. RALPH, MAXINE, CHARLES sit at the bar stage left, nursing drinks. Above them an old Budweiser clock sparkles with garish reds and blues. There is a simple table and two chairs stage right and the back of the stage is dark, with only the hint of an exit given by a set of dark beads that hang over it. Also to the rear is a raised platform and a well lit microphone stand and stool. Here the GUITAR PLAYER sits at curtain. The other, main exit, is right. The atmosphere of the place is dead and desolate. The three are the only visible patrons but as the play progresses, sounds come from the back of the stage, gentle raspings that sound like mice. This effect may be achieved by hanging heavy objects on the opposite side of the walls, which should simply be brushed at random times, at the director's discretion.. The Guitar Player begins, picking out "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" with no vocals. The sound of the guitar is low and slowly dies out, along with the spot, as the characters begin to speak. Ralphie is the oldest and most upbeat of the bunch, but not by much. He is at least forty, and wears an old T-shirt and faded jeans. Maxine is a wiry woman with short hair and sunken features. She wears a jeans jacket, old gloves, and loose shorts. Finally, Charles is a rough character, though he is almost rendered non- threatening by the desperation with which he tries to show his strength. The Guitar Player wears a vest and whatever else fits him.

RALPHIE: I'm going down south, soon as I'm able. Or west. Or any damn direction I can go. You think I'm kidding now, boyo's, but no such luck. You'll be rid of me one of these fine mornings. You'll walk into this old place and find my seat covered in dust and eaten by cobwebs.

MAXINE: `Course, who'll buy the drinks, Ralphie?

RALPHIE: Ain't none of my business who buys the drinks. Ain't none of nobody's business. As soon as I'm gone, somebody else will squeeze their nether cheeks right into this old seat and order up the days round. You'll see. You boyo's won't go a day without your Beam. And I'll be gone, soaking in sun and living it up. I'll send you all a postcard, one of those ones with the beach on it? Yellow sun up there, yellow sand? Blue, blue water. Like those lights up there, over the stage. Bluer, though. Deep blue. You'll just eat it up.

CHARLES: You ain't going.

RA.: Stopping me?

CHARLES: You wouldn't go.

RA.: No, lie, boyo, no lie. I'll be gone flying down the road sooner'n nothing flat. You see. Why don't you take off the jacket, Maxine?

MA.: Don't suit me.

CH.: Don't suit you to take off the jacket. It has to be ninety five for Christ's sake out there. In here it ain't no better. And the gloves...

MA.: I need some cream.

CH.: For what.

MA.: Work chapped them. They hurt. Anyways, I'm cold. Got chills. Womanly thing.

RA.: Suits you, suits me. Another slug, Charlie?

CH.: I guess. When's Boss come in?

Ralph pours Charlie another glass of Jim Beam. RA.: Not till tonight, when it gets up and exciting. Till then we got this whole bottle, and a couple of it's brothers, to ourselves.

MA.: I am cold. Anybody else cold?

CH.: I'm fine.

RA.: Bit of a chill. Not much, though. Take a swig of this, Maxine. Warm you up real right.

MA.: Don't want no more.

RA.: Biting?

MA.: Naw, stomach's fine. Just don't want anymore. Piece get off work soon? On account a that piece said he'd come by a little later. He told me that. What time is it?

RA.: Two to two.

CH.: Shit, ain't even. Ten minutes till.

RA.: That's what my watch says. Two to two.

CH.: I set mine by the phone. I know it's right. Two to two, my ass.

MA.: So he'll be here soon. Gets off at three. An hour to wait.

CH.: You're shivering, Maxine.

MA.: Just cold, I guess. Gimme another hit, Ralphie. Might help a little.

Ralphie pours again. CH.: What do you want with Piece? You hardly know the boy.

MA.: Body gets curious.

There is a lull. Maxine drinks.

You ain't really going to go, are you Ralphie? Not really?

RA.: I'm looking into it. Just as soon as old Mary gets hitched I'm off and out of here. Not more alimony, no more Ralphie.

MA.: You going west?

RA.: Sure. Las Vegas, Tiajauna, Los Angeleez. Whole deal, out there. You know what they say? They say that on your way out west? Out towards Las Vegas? The whole place is lit up like sunrise, even at three in the morning. All desert out there, and the closer you get to the big El Vee? Well, the bigger and brighter everything gets. No stars in the sky, out there, because all the stars is on the ground. And they got good steak dinners for a finn and a good show for a dollar and slot machines like you wouldn't believe. You could do things, make money down there? Just doing no work. And walking around, under all them lights? Big, big lights, signs that are winking at you a hooting at you to come on in? Like heaven, they say, or closest to it that side of the Mississippi.

MA.: You ain't going. Sure. Charlie, he was right. You ain't.

RA.: You're shivering like a short hair in winter. What's wrong?

MA.: Maybe I need to go in back.

CH.: You're staying right here, Maxine.

MA.: I'll be right back. Promise. Just need to go to the ladies. Just got to go back there to the ladies. Boss' got the key, back there? B-b-behind the b-bar.

RA.: Give her the key, Charlie.

CH.: I won't. It's a damn waste. We all got reasons to go back there, she's got no reason.

RA.: I'll get it then. Move out, there, boyo.

CH.: Don't make me rough you.

Ralphie reaches behind the bar and pulls out a ring of keys. He hands them the Maxine who looks at them dully. MA.: Sure Boss won't mind?

RA.: Not if you don't make a mess, he won't.

MA.: Hold my coat, would you, Charlie?

CH.: Put the stinking thing up on the bar. It's a damn shame...

MA.: If Piece comes, call for me, would you?

RA.: Sure, Maxine.

Maxine stands for a moment and looks into her small purse. Then she moves into the backstage darkness and passes through the beaded curtain. The two left at the bar are silent until the beads stop rattling. Then Ralphie coughs.

Ain't no business of mine.

CH.: Ain't right.

RA.: Ain't no business of mine. How's your bike?

CH.: I mean she's wasting money, there. And she's killing herself, that's for sure. I seen a kid once who did that. He got so skinny you could see through him almost.

RA.: How's your bike? CH.: Huh? Bad off. Chain's rusted. Got to get a new one. And I got to pay off her car. And she kicked me out, know that, Ralphie? Out on the street.

RA.: You told us.

CH.: Right on the street. I was sitting there on my ass with my jeans and shirts all around me like I was a fucking chicken in a nest and she's just in there smiling happy as... Jesus, that ain't nothing you do to a guy. If I weren't like I am? If I didn't have to keep out of trouble, I'd a gone in there and smacked her one, right across the face. Like I did the first time. Bruised so easily. There'd be your fucking blue as the ocean, Ralphie, right under her eye.

RA.: Easy, boyo.

CH.: Naw, shit! I don't have two fucking quarters to put some gas in the tank and she's got my stereo and all that...

RA.: Tried getting it back?

CH.: I said, I ain't got no money.

RA.: What's that got to do with anything?

CH.: Where the fuck am I supposed to put all that stuff? Huh?

RA.: You got a bed in my place. Just put it under the bed. Easy, Charlie. You're gonna break that bottle if you keep twiddlin' it so. What's your pigeon say?

At this point the Guitar Player comes back on stage from the back. He sets up during the silence as Charlie puts down the bottle, and then begins to play a quick, jarring blues in a minor key. Em - Am - B7 should do it, with a jangle of notes in between. CH.: Three more weeks and I'm off parole. Three more weeks. That's when I'd go out west, that's for sure. And I didn't even do what they said.

RA.: Sure.

CH.: Didn't. Swear to god. Hell... Just...

RA.: You called her?

CH.: Fuck `er.

RA.: You called her, Charlie?

CH.: ... right in the ear, I gotta tell ya, she ain't no woman. Don't even know how I got into her. Now the garage won't take me back on account of a valve cover I fucked up, and it wasn't even my fault, and she's got all my tools.

RA.: Quiet down.

CH.: I am fucking quiet.

RA.: Just quiet down.

CH.: Gimme a snoot, Ralphie. I'm quiet.

RA.: Don't think you should have anymore...

CH.: Gimme a snoot.

RA.: You gonna stay quiet? Boss ain't gonna like it one bit if you rough the place up tonight when the rest of them come in.

CH.: Boss my ass. He ain't coming for... I said I'd be fucking quiet. Come on, Ralphie.

RA.: Easy...

CH.: Jesus Christ, you ain't got a lick of respect for me. That's you're problem. I'm your fucking boyo, and you don't even know what a boyo is... Like the damn pigeon. Charles, this, Charles, like I'm in school or something. I did my time fair and easy and they're still hastling me. I don't need it, Ralphie... Ralphie, you listening at me? Hear? I don't need what they're giving me. I really don't need that shit and if...

RA.: You better leave. Boss'll blame me if you get up and off again.

Charlie stands and starts the leave.

CH.: Jesus Christ, Ralphie, Jesus....

He starts for the door, turns towards the back, and then comes back to the seat. The blues stops.

I'll be quiet.

RA.: I ain't scolding you. You're like a whipped...

CH.: I said I'd be fucking quiet. Now get off it all already.

RA.: You sure?

CH.: Fuck you.

RA.: Charlie, I ain't fooling. I'd loose my job.

CH.: Fuck you, again. This ain't a job.

Charlie looks at Ralphie, who is stone-faced. I'm sure.

RA.: Take another snoot.

CH.: I don't want one now.

RA.: Suit yourself.

CH.: You ain't really going west, are you.

RA.: Sure I am. Far out west. When I got a kitty stashed, I'm pulling up and heading out. Say they got places in Los Angeleez where you don't need too much money. Or I could live in Tiajuana, down there they ain't got no need for money. Tequila down your throat and woman for a quarter, down there, at night? You'd better believe it. And I'd go up north? Up to San Francisco? I'd live up there maybe. Open a tattoo shop or a bike shop or something?

CH.: You ain't really...

RA.: Bet your sweet ass I am.

CH.: You gonna send for me?

RA.: On account a what?

CH.: You gonna send for me? Tell me where you are? I'll come down and I can help you in the shop, you know. Pretty good place to work, I think. And I could help you?

RA.: Soon as I get settled out there, I won't be thinking a hair of you. Maybe a year later, when I'm biting into a mango? You seen them, they're kinda green, red? Got a peppery taste to them? Well, when I'm biting down on one of those, I'll say to my self: What's old Charlie doing? Better drop him a postcard from out here. Maybe call him up. He can come on down and visit... Then I'd pick my teeth, on account of that those mangoes get stringy sometimes if you bite them wrong. A week later I'd write you, when I got it into my head to.

CH.: You swear?

RA.: On what?

CH.: That you'll call?

RA.: You ain't got a phone.

CH.: But I will.

RA.: Post card. Real pretty post card.

CH.: You ain't lying?

RA.: About what?

CH.: About going?

RA.: Naw, I ain't lying.

There is a lull. The Guitar Players tunes and exits center.

CH.: Hell, I don't even need you to send for me. I'll be going out there myself.

RA.: You think?

CH.: Sure. Just up and leave one of these days. Get a new chain for my bike, fix the carb. I can do it. And I'm out of here, like a blue streak. Goodbye, downtown, goodbye Illinois, goodbye everybody. Hell, I'll be calling for you before you even set foot in California. The pigeon says I'm doing pretty good, so I'll be out of here. Just need some quiet, fix things up for myself. Then I'll beat you to California, count on that shit.

RA.: Who says I'm going to California?

CH.: You did. Said you're going to El Lay, and all that.

RA.: Might not even go to California. Another hit?

CH.: Yeah. Ralphie pours another drink and lights a cigarette.

RA.: Might just go south, Florida. Awful humid, but I'll manage. Live out there, oranges when I want them. Oranges, boyo, size of your head. Hell, size of my nuts. Swear to God, now that would be living. Read a book once, about wine. Something like that. About this old family just riding across the prairies and shit. Read it on account of the cover. And they said California is the Garden of Eden. But I don't know. Depends on how I feel. I might head west and turn around and head south. Everything would be fine, then, that's for sure. New Orleans, Atlanta...

CH.: You'll be going to France next. I thought you said you're going to California for sure.

RA.: Anywhere they got sun, year round. Anywhere where they got fruit on the tree and a little water that you can dip yourself into. Anywhere like that I can get my claws into. That's the place for me. Don't have to be California, but that'd be one place I could go. Just as soon as she gets hitched again, and I'm a free man.

CH.: Just go.

RA.: Doesn't work like that. They got courts and people who take care of that stuff. If I skipped out I'd be hounded rest of my life. No, I want to go over to California free from it all over here. First thing I'm going to do? Know what it is?

CH.: I don't.

RA.: Know what it is? Going to get so drunk it hurts, and when I wake up, I ain't even going to remember her face. She's going to come up and visit me some time, long time from now, I'll just walk right past her. I won't even remember who she was. She'll have to turn right back around. She won't have no place to stay.

CH.: That's what I ought to do. First I got to get my stereo back, though. Get the chain fixed, get this damn pigeon off my back. I can cross state lines after parole's over. A few more weeks...

RA.: Sure, that's what I mean, boyo. Got to cut the ropes that are holding you down around here and just fly, boyo. No cops chasing you, no warrants, no fights with nobody about no money you owe them. Pay my last months rent, start up the car, and just go. Read you got to go through desert to get there. I ain't never been in a desert, and that'd be a hell of a ride just by itself.

CH.: Got to drive at night, you know.

RA.: Sure. And I heard too? If you're not careful? You could get into a bad wind storm, and it'll just pit your windshield like a sand hammer, the kind we used to clean off the black from the church downtown. That'd be something to see. Said a good storm can scour the paint off your liscense plate, clean as polished silver.

CH.: I'll make it first. I'll call for you.

RA.: Either way, some day, boy, I'll pack up and just go. Piece ought to be here soon.

CH.: It's about two thirty.

RA.: I'm going out for cigarettes. If Piece comes in... you going to be here?

CH.: Where the hell else I'm going to go?

RA.: Right...

Ralphie exits, right. The Guitar Player begins again, this time playing "Wildwood Flower," a folk song available in any folk anthology (suggested source, Alan Lomax's Folk Songs of North America.) Charlie is very nervous, moving from the bar to the table, right. He lights the covered candle in the center of the table. A moment later, PIECE enters from the right. Piece is a very young man at the most eighteen, dressed in coveralls and carries a black, scuffed lunch pail. He seems nervous, moving with gestures that are sudden and speaking with a quick tongue. The song should die at the point when Maxine re-enters.

CH.: Maxine's looking for you.

PIECE: Hi, Charlie.

CH.: She's in back.


CH.: And Ralphie, he went out for cigs. He'll be back.

PIECE: Looks like a storm out there.

CH.: Yeah?

PIECE: Hot, though. Humid like. Pretty much up into ninety five or so. Going to be bad, I think.

CH.: And you with those damn coveralls.

PI.: I could get acid or something splashed on me. I got jeans under. They get hot, sure, but if you wear a t-shirt, you get cooled down. Soaks up the sweat or something.

CH.: Beam?

PI.: No, I don't want nothing. Thanks, though. Is the ice machine working?

CH.: Don't think so.

PI.: `Cause Ralphie said he'd try to get it working.

CH.: Ralphie'll be back.

RA.: So he said he'd fix it?

CH.: He told you he'd fix it, didn't he. Piece sits at the table. Charlie moves to the bar.

Why don't you sit over here?

PI.: My back.

CH.: Shit on your back.

PI.: It hurts. I need something behind it. I can't sit on a stool. Maxine was looking for me?

CH.: Yeah, before she went back. She's been back a long time, though. Might want to check on her. She's...

PI.: She's...?

CH.: She's... got shivers. It looked bad.

PI.: Should I go back there?

CH.: I wouldn't.

PI.: But should I?

CH.: Like I said...

PI.: I should. Charlie is silent. Then, almost as if answering Piece's question, the beads shimmer and Maxine enters. At this point the phrase "Enter Ophelia" should be applicable. Maxine floats into the room, her thin body gliding forward, a half smile on her face. She sits at the bar and looks at Piece.


MA.: Hi, Piece. Hi, boy.

CH.: Shit, this is more than I can take.

MA.: What?

CH.: Nothing. Just, Christ...

PI.: What is it, Charlie.

CH.: Nothing, just leave it...

PI.: You OK, Maxine.

MA.: Real fine. I was in the red room, the one at the end of the hall? Turn left? It's right there? All red. Real pretty red, too, and there's a sofa with mirrors on the armrests? Real, real nice. And it smells like roses, just like roses should smell, fresh? Oh, Piece...

CH.(building in anger): You're going to kill yourself.

MA.: No, Charlie, no...

CH.: You make me sick. You really do. All that money. If I had that money. If I had that money...

MA.: It don't cost nothing...

CH.: But it does, don't it. Costs something pretty heavy. Look at your fucking arms, girl.

MA.: Doesn't hurt.

PI.: Easy, Charlie.

CH.: Easy, Charlie. I'm sick of that shit. I really am. Easy, Charlie. Just ease back. Jesus. I'm easy, I'm easy. You, you Maxine, you ain't. You ain't nowhere near.

PI.: Charlie...

CH.: What are you going to do, kid? Going to give me a touch? Going to knock me one real good?

Piece stands and Charlie moves towards him, threatening.

You're shooiting a twenty into your arm everytime you go back there. I don't care what you say. This place doesn't work like you say it does. It'll kill you.

Charlie exits, right, storming past Piece. There is a silence as his lack on the stage is slowly accepted. Then Maxine coughs. MA.: He's going to hurt himself sometime.

PI.: I don't know. He'll take somebody down with him, that's sure.

MA.: Ralphie likes him.

PI.: I guess.

MA.: Piece?

PI.: Yeah?

MA.: Does it... this bother you, how I am?

PI.: Not really.

MA.: On account of I'll stop if you don't like it.

PI.: No, Maxine. If it's... I mean...

MA.: Just that that room, back there? It's so pretty. I don't know when Boss set it up like that? How it is? But it's just dark enough and just light enough back there? Just enough of a flower smell, and just enough noise, like fan somewhere upstairs? And it's real nice for just sitting, and... feeling what you want and what you're doing. Know?

PI.(nervously): I guess.

MA.: You ever been in that room?

PI.: No.

MA.: Just to the left.

PI.: Yeah, I guess.

MA.: You like work?

PI.: What do you mean?

MA.: Was it good?

PI.: Good enough. MA.: Are you alright, Piece?

PI.: Sure, fine. Fine. I mean...

MA.: What's the matter?

PI.: Just that I don't like... I mean, it's fine, but I don't like thinking about it back there. Just something I don' t like to think on too much. I mean, what's back there?

MA.: Ain't nothing bad back there. Just everything you need. You ought to go back. I wonder what Charlie gets back there.

PI.: What do you mean?

MA.: What would he get from going back there? Can't think of it...

PI.: Maybe it's quiet for him.

MA.: How do you mean?

PI.: I don't know how I mean. I mean...

MA.: You ought to go back, though. You'll... like it.

PI.: I might.

MA.: It's like nothing you can get, outside?

PI.: Yeah, I might go back.

MA.: Your hands are shaking. Oh, Piece. Come here, come one. Look at me.

PI.: My hands aren't...

MA.: What's wrong?

PI.(stuttering, spitting out the words): Ain't nothing wrong. Nothing that... I mean ain't nothing at all wrong. Just stop...

MA.: Awww, Piece. Little tow-headed Piece. Innoccent Piece. Do you want to dance, Piece? Do you?

PI.: There isn't any music.

MA.: I got music in my head, right now. Real easy music. A nice waltz. Best I heard. I can hum it, and we can dance. Do you want to? It'll calm you.

PI.: I don't think it'd be a good idea.

MA.: Come one, Piece. Stand up.

Maxine, still floating, stands and takes Piece's hand. She places his other hand on her waist and gets him into position. Then she smiles and begins to hum. Slow at first, it is really a tuneless waltz, three-four time, notes tumbling over one another with just enough structure to allow for dancing. They start to move. Lights fall all around them, and they are lit. Piece's eyes are glazed and dull as he moves. Maxine begins to sing, gently, in three/four time. Imagine a woman or a young girl alone in a house singing to herself to sleep. The tune is the least important thing at this point.

MA.: After the dream is ov-er After the night is done After the stars cover ov-er After the lights are gone After our love is sweetest After the old friends call Then you leave, my dearest Af-ter the ball

After the night birds call-ing After the moon glides low After the sun has fallen After the laughter goes After our hearts a-flutter Pass through the empty hall Then I'll love my dearest, Af-ter the ball.

I know what you want. Piece? I said I know what you want.

PI.: Hell, everybody knows. Otherwise they wouldn't call me what they call me.

MA.: See, you're not nervous anymore. Your hands aren't sweating. Do you want to?

Piece dashes his hands away and wipes them on his coveralls.

PI.: I'm sorry, I really, we'd best...

Maxine raises his hands again. MA.: Quiet. Just... There, back into it. You can get it back there, you know. Somewhere. Just what you want.

PI.: Maybe I really don't want it.

MA.: Maybe you do.

PI.: I mean, it's something... it is something I want, but it ain't, in a way.

MA.: I can give it, too, you know. You going to look up at me?

PI.(surprised): No. I mean, no, that wouldn't be a good idea. I...

MA.: Then what do you want, Piece.

PI.: Just, not what you're thinking. Just something that ain't what you're thinking. I couldn't go back there. I just couldn't. It wouldn't work for me, I bet.

MA.: You wouldn't be here if it didn't work for you. You know what's back there? Everything perfect. When I sit down in that red room, everything I do is just perfect. Once, long time ago, before I went straight for a while, I got real confused. And I remember making up a hit? Just running around the place, looking for my hit? And then I remember starting to put it in. And I realized that I was shooting saccharine. I could tell, because the whole bottle was all over the floor. And I had the needle in, ready to push? And a drop of blood came up because it was a new vein? And I was about to shoot up with saccharine. But that don't happen back there. Everything you do is right. Oh, Piece, you got to know, I mean it feels so wonderful doing things and knowing that they're right. So, so right.

Maxine hums some more of the waltz. Piece then speaks, three measures later. PI.: We better stop.

MA.: What's wrong? You don't like this?

PI.: Just we better. Ralphie'll be here and...

MA.: Why?

PI.: Ralphie'll be back, soon. So'll Charlie.

MA.: Charlie ain't coming back.

PI.: You don't think?

MA.: I don't. Anyway, we'd go in back. I'd be much better, a hundred times better, back there. Just like we were floating in space. You going to kiss me, Piece? I'll kiss you if you don't know how.

PI.: Probably not.

MA.: Your hands are sweaty again, but leave them right where they are. I'm going to ask again. Are you going to kiss me, Piece. Baby Piece? Or am I going to kiss you. Either way, I know you been waiting for it.

PI.: No, I don't think so. I don't think it would be a good idea. I mean...

Maxine slides her head around and moves her mouth toward Piece's. Piece turns his head. Maxine drops her arms and moves away. The stage is lit again and Piece stands center, alone. He moves to the table to the right and Maxine moves to the bar. He whispers.

I'm sorry. Lights down.

Act I, scene ii

Lights up. Maxine is gone and Piece is at the table, right. A moment later Ralphie enters from the right, wearing a tattered coat. His hair is wet. He shakes himself of an smiles at Piece, who attempts to smile back.

RA.: Slow day, huh, boyo. Rains coming down in buckets out there. Couldn't find a store open for the life of me. Had to go running all over town.

PI.: Everything's closed?

RA.: Looks that way.

PI.: Maxine's in back again. She said Boss called.

RA.: What did he say?

PI.: Don't know, just that he called.

RA.: He'll be in soon enough. I got to get that stage cleaned up. Take a drink, Piece. You look like you lost your damn dog.

PI.: Don't feel like it.

Ralphie goes behind the bar and brings out a broom and a dustpan. He begins to clean the floor, using broad sweeping motions. Each sweep should seem to punctuate the character's words. Ralphie?

RA.: Yeah, boyo?

PI.: You going to be on the up and up with me? If I ask you something?

RA.: Sure.

PI.: What's back there?

RA.: Back where?

PI.: You know. Back there.

RA.: What have you seen?

PI.: I don't know. Not what Maxine sees, that's one thing for sure.

RA.: Then why are you worried about it?

PI.: I just... I just don't understand it at all. Maxine says she sees a red room. You, I don't know what you see. Charlie sees a street, sometimes, he says. He says it's quiet back there. Me, I looked back once but I never went in. Been damn close to going in but I never did. I don't know why. What's back there, Ralphie?

RA.: A lot of things.

PI.: Come on.

RA.: If I told you I'd be lying. It's special, back there. What I see isn't what you see and what we see isn't what Charlie sees. Kind of like looking through one of those... kalidascopes. Always different. Don't matter who's holding it, you move it a little, and you get something different. That's how it works, back there. Whatever is...

PI.: Whatever is what?

RA.: Whatever is important.

PI.: I don't understand, I mean, what's...

RA.: Hush a little, boyo. You'll know soon enough.

There is a lull. Ralphie sweeps. PI.: Is this all there is?

RA.: What do you mean?

PI.: This? I go to work, come here. That's about it.

RA.: Big questions today, looks like. You're starting to worry me. Got an itch in my bone. Shit, boy, if this was all there is, I wouldn't be talking about going west, now would I.

PI.: But you ain't gone west.

RA.: On account I ain't started my trip yet. I'll go, mark me, boyo.

PI.: And Maxine. Is that all for her?

RA.: What do you mean?

PI.: You know. Will she be like that, forever?

RA.: Ain't nobody can stop a person from being what they are. She's going to be what she wants to be for as long as she sees fit. Some day she's going to come out of that red room of hers and she's going to come out crying, and she's going to have a needle in her hand and she's going to drop it on the ground and crush it. Then maybe there'll be a change.

PI.: There ain't a red room back there. I've looked back there, real quick? When Boss was here? I looked and there wasn't a red room back there. Then Boss pulled me back out. Gave me a drink and told me to play darts. That was the only time I saw Boss.

RA.: He comes and goes. He'll be here tonight, sure. But there's stuff back there. Sure there is.

PI.: There's a pool table and a sprung sofa. That's all I saw.

RA.: You ain't seeing it right, boyo. You ain't seeing it right.

PI.: I'm seeing what I'm seeing. There's nothing back there.

RA.: Can't say. Maybe it ain't yours to see. But you'll see something. It might not be back there, but it'll be somewhere. Mark me, boyo. You ain't here for nothing.

PI.: So something's going to happen?

RA.: Sure, something's going to happen to everybody. No matter who you are. Something'll happen.

PI.: And what about Charlie?

RA.: What about him?

PI.: I mean, I don't know what I mean... it's just... He says he's seen a street. But he ain't been back there more than once. He says it's quiet back there, like about two in the morning quiet, where there's nobody around. What's that got to do with anything?

RA.: You don't know how he works too terrible well, now do you, Piece... I saw somebody do a trick once. They filled up a sink with water? And they sprinkled pepper all over the water till it was just black. Then they took a bottle of washing detergent and held it over the water and said: "See that? Swimming pool full of blacks and whites." Then they dropped a drop of the detergent into the water and all that pepper just ran away, leaving a big circle in the middle. Then they said: "That's what happens when you put a Jew in there." and they were laughing to beat hell.1 Now I ain't saying that was the proper idea, but some people are just like that, so there was truth in it somewhere. Put them in someplace, no matter if they're a Jew or a black or a white or whatever, and everybody just slips away into a big circle around them. Truth is, Charlie's one of those people, but he's as fine a man as anybody else. So whatever happens to him will maybe make him see that big circle around him. Someday, he'll walk right out of there and he's going to walk out that door and find just what he wants.

PI.: So even him? Even for him it'll get better?

RA.: Can't say. Might get better, might get worse. Sometimes what's back there is exactly what you want. That's the problem. Nobody really wants what they want. They always want something a little different. Maybe a little something different. Something that ain't going to give them everything, just a taste of it. That's all some people need.

PI.: But I'm looking and I'm looking back there, looking for what's supposed to be something good? All I see is a pool table. And a sprung sofa. Is that all there is? Is that just all of it, for me?

RA.: No, it gets better, Piece. It gets a whole hell of a lot better, if you just let it. What do you want, Piece?

PI.: Hell, you know what they call me...

RA.: No, I don't think you want a piece of ass.

PI.: I mean... I don't know what to tell you. The guys at work call me Piece just cause I ain't got any and you guys call me Piece because I told you I wanted it.

RA.: You'll get what you want. It's coming. Everything works out. Promise. Somehow it'll work itself out. You ain't here for nothing.

Charlie enters right, completely soaked.

CH.: Fucking raining out there. Give me a drink before I got to bust some faces.

Lights down.

Act II, scene i

When it is dark, the Guitar Player takes his seat and begins to play "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" again. It begins loud and as the lights come to full, it dies out. This process should be slow and gentle. Open on Maxine and Charlie at the table, Ralphie at the bar, and Piece sitting on the bar.

RA.: And they got things they call jumping beans down there...

CH.: I seen some already.

RA.: Hell, those things are finer than anything you've seen. They got a little worm inside them. And when you get them warm or put them in the light? They start to hop like water on a warming skillet. I mean they're little worms inside these beans they grow. And they're just as lively as you could want, when the sprit's in them. Put them down and they'll be quiet a minute and start jumping, and then get quiet again.

CH.: Had a couple, when I was a kid. They ain't nothing special. I've seen them before.

RA.: Just explaining to the rest of the crowd, Charlie, is all. Don't get worked up.

CH.: Now that right there is just what I'm talking about. I wasn't worked up at all. I wasn't jumping on you or nothing, and I get that.

MA.: You were being... contrary, Charlie. That's all.

CH.: Contrary? Big big words you're using, Maxine.

PI.: So what'd they look like, Charlie.

CH.: What did what look like?

PI.: The beans.

CH.: Oh, they were little and brown colored. That's all they were. I kept them on my bedstand and they kept me up all night, just jumping and clicking away. It was a pain in the ass, mostly.

RA. When I get out of here...

CH.: I been thinking, Ralphie. You've been saying that and saying that and while I was out I just was thinking "I don't think he's ever going anywhere." What do you think, Ralphie. And maybe you could shut up about California or Florida.

PI.: Watch it, Charlie. He's just talking. Don't do nothing like that.

CH.: Like what.

PI.: Same thing as the jumping beans. Exact same thing.

CH.: What are you talking about?

PI.: You were being contrary.

CH.: I'm trying to liven things up around here. Dead like a morgue around here. Swear to God.

MA.: Make the best of it.

RA.: Just don't worry your pretty little head, Boyo. I'll get to the sun country in plenty enough time. Soon as it stops raining, maybe. Or as soon as the sun comes up tomorrow. One morning you're going to slide your sorry ass out of bed and you're going to go to work and then come here. And when you get here, ain't going to be no me where a me should be.

CH.: You said the exact same thing three hours ago, and last week, and last month, and last year. It's all the same. You ain't leaving. Nobody's leaving.

PI.: Ain't true.

CH.: Is true. Maxine stands quietly and starts to move to the center door. The Guitar Player takes the stage as she reaches the door and begins to play "This Train" (also from Lomax), only with a much slower gait, much like an old gospel call.

PI.: Where you going, Maxine.

MA. I'm cold.

PI.: You ain't cold. Get back here.

MA.: I'll be back.

CH.: You seeing this? Let her go. It doesn't matter. She's taking a fortune in that arm of hers. Tell you what...

PI.: Don't let her, Ralphie.

MA.: You really don't want me to, Piece?

PI.: What?

MA.: You don't want me to go back there.

PI.: No.

CH.: What does it matter?

RA.: Quiet, Charlie.

CH.: Hell... Charlie downs a shot.

MA.: I'll be back. I promise. I'm just cold, that's all. I got to lie down.

PI.: Don't...

Maxine slides through the curtain. The guitar dies down but does not stop.

What's wrong with her, Ralphie?

RA.: How am I supposed to know?

PI.: You said...

RA.: I know some people, but like I told you before, sometimes people need what's back there. And sometimes what's back there is just right.

PI.: What's back there?

CH.: Go look.

PI.: What's back there?

RA.: Isn't a way we can tell you. It's a pool table and a sprung sofa.

At this point Ralphie is saddened by what he says and Charlie filled with glee. Piece, always and in all ways the youngest, stares pleadingly at them both. By the time they exit, both Charlie and Ralphie should be nervous in their manner, Ralphie the most. CH.: It ain't. I've seen it.

PI.: What's back there?

CH.: A red room? Maybe a red room, huh, kid. I'm getting something to eat. Want something, Ralphie.

RA.: I might. Coming, Piece? You hungry?

PI.: Why won't you tell me? If you leave, I'm going back there.

RA.: Coming, Piece?

PI.: What is it?

CH.: Boy, if we could tell you we would. We're here, it's here, and we got to live or die with that. Now shut your hole and come on if you want to eat. Everything is here and we got to accept it.

PI.: Well, wait, let me get my lunch bucket... No, I ain't going. You're just fooling with me.

CH.: Suit yourself.

PI.: Hear me? I ain't leaving. And I might just go back there.

CH.: It'd be for the best, count on that.

Charlie and Ralphie exit, right. "This Train" begins to rise in speed and intensity. At this point a recording should step in as the speed necessary soon will be unattainable by a guitarist. Piece sits at the bar and pours a drink. "This Train" rises in tempo.

PI.: You going to stop me? Are you? Cause you can't, you know. You can't, you can't, you can't..Hear me Charlie?

Piece pauses. The music rises and the clock buzzes. Maxine? Maxine, are you still back there. Maxine, I'm going to come in. Piece stands.

Maxine? They left. They won't tell me. Maxine? Maxine, I want to dance.

Again a rise in tempo. The lights fall to a single spot in the center of the stage. Piece is temporarily in darkness and he moves to the light.

Maxine? I'm coming back there. If you don't come out, I'm coming it. I'll do it, too. I will. And I'll talk to Boss. He'll tell me what's up. What's going on. And you can't hide it from me. What's back there, Maxine. Because Boss'll be here and he'll tell me. You might fool me, and Ralphie might fool me and Charlie might fool me, but I know. It ain't like you say. It ain't. Everything's different than what you say. I'll leave, Maxine. Won't ever come back. I'll move out of town. I can do that, you know. I can... Maxine?

Raise tempo. Woman #1 and Woman #2, dressed in as little as the director deems fit, enter from the center. These women should not be put on display. They should by the acme of youth's yearning. Taste is at a premium at this point. Like a dance, Piece should follow these women with his body as they enter his circle of light. They must draw him towards the center door. At this point, "This Train " should be a jarring cacophony with only the barest outline of the original song below. And, as the women move, there should be the sound of a high guitar string breaking, and a continuation of the song. The women should move to a culminating point, drawing, with sinuous motions, Piece towards the center door. And when the guitar reaches fever pitch, there is the amplified sound of the beads parting and Maxine enters from the center. Piece falls to his knees. There is a silence as Maxine falls to him in the circle of light.The women move into the darkness.

I was going to go back. I was... And they left, and they knew I had to go back. I asked to many questions, didn't I, Maxine? Didn't I?

MA.: Sweet, sweet, innocent Piece.

Lights fall.

Act II, scene ii

Lights up on Piece and Maxine at the table. Piece's head is on his arms and Maxine strokes his hair. She smokes a cigarette with her other hand. Both are agitated, and Maxine's hands shake.

PI.: Why wouldn't they tell me...

MA.: Don't worry about it. Listen, Piece? Listen...

PI.: I just wanted to know and they left and it just... it just happened.

MA.: It does that sometimes. Sometimes you have to go to it and sometimes it just happens.

PI.: I felt it coming, through the door? And I looked and it was dark and they... they were there and it was...

MA.: What?

PI.: Nothing. Don't worry, Maxine. I got to pull myself together.

MA.: It was what, Piece?

PI.: Nothing.

MA.: It was perfect, wasn't it. Just like I told you. You got a look like it was in your eyes. I can tell...

PI.: No, not perfect. It could never be perfect. It's just like something gave way in my head and it happened. Not good, not bad. But...

MA.: Scary?

PI.(quietly): No.

MA.: You want to leave?

PI.: I can't, now.

MA.: Sure you can.

PI.: You know I can't. Now I have to come back. Just like you do. Just like Ralphie and Charlie. Boss'll come in tonight, and I'll be here. Boss'll leave, and I'll leave. And tomorrow? After work? I'll be here. That's how it works, doesn't it.

MA.: Don't always work like that.

PI.: But it will. Don't you see? Don't you? It just happens to you. I'm here, and I'm here forever.

MA.: Don't talk like that, Piece. Even Charlie can't stay here for long, and he's got something back there that he really needs.

PI.: No, I mean... It's true. You know it. Back there? I can't leave it anymore.

MA.: You can.

PI.: You can't.

MA.: It's different for me. I...

Enter Charlie and Ralphie, carrying bags containing food. Both enter quietly and watch as Maxine lights another cigarette. Then she stands.

You left him.

CH.: Hate to break it to you, Maxine, but he ain't ours to leave.

MA.: You left him and he...

RA.: Had to happen.

PI.: What is this?

CH.: Did you like it?

PI.: What? Like what? 2 RA.: Quiet, Charlie. Just eat.

CH.: Kid just comes out of the wringer for the first time. I want to know what he thought of it.

PI.: What am I supposed to think, huh? What the hell...

MA.: Just sit down, Piece. Don't listen to him.

CH.: Was it good, Piece? Did you get some?

PI.: I don't have too take this...

CH.: Of course you don't.

PI.: I'll leave.

MA.: Piece...

PI.: I'll leave and I won't come back. I don't have to, now do I. Think about it. I don't have to. I could walk out that door right there and never come back. The bell could ring at punch-out time and I could get off my back out from under whatever shit I was working on and just go home. Ever think of that?

MA.: Come on, Piece...

PI.: No, I don't need this.

CH.: You sure?

PI.: Fuck the lot of you.

As if trying to be a restraint, Maxine grabs Piece's arm and he pulls free. Ralphie stands up to stop him but Piece exits. Ralphie moves to the door. CH.: Where're you going, boyo.

RA.: Out.

CH.: Out?

RA.: Out.

Exit Ralphie. Maxine sits at the table and Charlie pours another drink.

MA.: What's the matter with you.

CH.: Don't you start with me now.

MA.: I'm just asking. Why did you have to do that?

CH.: He had to find out some time. You know that.

MA.: But you don't have to be like that.

CH.(building): I don't have to be like that? Like what? I know I don't have to be like that. Nobody should be like I am. But think about it, Maxine. Think about it. Why are you like you are?

MA.: Smack.

CH.: That's it?

MA.: That's it.

CH.: I don't beleive a word of that bullshit. You could kick it if you wanted to. I know you could. Or maybe you don't know that, and that's why you're here. Maybe that's why I'm here.

MA.: You're just going to start it up again. You'll get angry because somebody says something and you'll just keep going.

CH.: I do it because I have to. If I don't stick up for myself who the fuck will? Who sticks up for you. Your Johns?

MA.: Charlie, you don't even say that. You know I ain't like that.

CH.: How do I know that. You're all over Piece, there. He pays good?

MA.: Fuck you. Just fuck you. I mean... you make me sick.

CH.: Lot of people tell me that. I make them sick. My girl said that before she kicked me out. Know why she kicked me out? Because of another guy. I can tell. Found shit around the house. I could tell. So I'm gone and she's got somebody else. All my stuff in a box cause I make her sick.

MA.: It's true.

CH.: Why? Why, Maxine. Why do I make people sick? Huh? Am I like your little quarter ounce that you just shoot up and it makes you shake and freeze? Am I like that? Am I a shithead that stole some Social Security checks? Am I some shithead that has a woman who threw him out onto the street? Am I some shithead that can't get his bike working to get out of this fucking place? Is that what's making you sick about me?

MA.: I didn't say...

CH.: You did say it. You said I make you sick. You know as good as me that neither of us wants to be here. I would leave in a second if I knew how. Think Ralphie'll ever leave?

MA.: I think he will.

CH.: Well you're fooling yourself. I remember how he used to be, even before you got here. He was just like me. He's just mellowed or some shit. You, I remember how you used to be. Nickel whore...

MA.: Don't...

CH.: It's true.

MA.: It was the only way. I needed to buy the stuff before I came here. Now I don't need to. It's like God did it...

CH.: But now that you got this old hole, you don't have to put out anymore. Unless it's to Piece.

MA.: You know that's not true. Piece is something special. He's... innocent.

CH.: Innocent my...

MA.: You could learn something from him. You could learn how to be... nice. And don't you even say anything, Charlie. Don't even. Because you got your whole head so far up your own ass that you think it belongs there now. You're stuck, Charlie. You got to see that.

CH.: Of course I'm stuck. My bike's out of order. That's about it.

MA.: It's more than that...

CH.: You don't think I know that? I know that sure as I know that Piece'll be back. Sure as I know that Ralphie'll never leave that seat. Sure as I know that Boss'll never come tonight, or the next night, and sure as I know that as soon as you get cold you're going to go back there and sit down on your couch and shoot another twenty dollar bill into your arm.

MA.: There're reasons I do this.

CH.: Yeah?

MA.: Reasons.

CH.: What are they.

MA.: It helps me move. And I know, I know in my heart? One day I'm going to look at what I'm doing and I'm going to stop. And I'm going to be able to leave this place. But for know it's what I need. If I didn't have it I'd be someplace a whole hell of a lot worse.

CH.: You hear yourself?

MA.: I hear myself. I hear myself fine. Back there you don't have to worry about a dirty needle. Back there you don't have to worry about them doctoring the batch. Back there you don't have to worry about people picking on you or keeping you back? It's perfect. But one day I know that I'll leave. I'm sure of it.

CH.: It'll never happen.

MA.: That's why you make me sick.

CH.: You're getting pale agian.

MA.: I need a cigarrette.

CH.: Sure.

MA.: That's all I need.

CH.: Sure. Maxine lights a cigarrette. Lights down.

Act II, Scene iii

Lights up. Enter Piece and Ralphie. Maxine sits at the table and Charlie is gone. As they enter, Maxine stands.

MA.: You found him.

RA.: I wasn't looking for him.

MA.: You OK, Piece?

PI.: `Course.

MA.: You can't let Charlie bother you. He's just...

PI.: I know.

RA.: Slug, boyo?

Piece nods. Ralphie pours a drink.

You just found out how this place works, that's all.

PI.: But I don't... Where's Charlie?

MA.: Naw, he didn't go in back. He went out. He just got tired of being here.

PI.: He didn't finish his lunch.

MA.: No, he didn't. You going to be OK?

PI.: `Course.

MA.: You got a sad look.

PI.: It ain't sad, it's just tired. I'm tired of being here.

MA.: You'll get used to it. You'll like it, after a while.

PI.: Is that true, Ralphie?

RA.: Can't say.

PI.: No, Ralphie, just tell me. None of this stuff anymore. You've been riding around all this for too long.

RA.: I can't say. Charlie doesn't like it, I don't think.

PI.: Doesn't he?

RA.: Just look at him. But that's just how Charlie is. Some people are born like that. Like I said. Some people got a circle around them. He don't like them, and they don't like him. It's plain as that.

PI.: Me?

RA.: You, you're somebody that's going to leave. If you stay... naw, there ain't no way you could stay.

MA.: He's right.

PI.: You think?

MA.: I think.

Enter Charlie, wet and shivering. He is unusually happy, yet it seems forced and alien. CH.: You think what.

MA.: Nothing, Charlie.

CH.: I ain't worried about it.

PI.: Where'd you go?

CH.: Where'd you go?

PI.: Places.

CH.: I ain't going to press you.

RA.: Just sit down, Charlie.

CH.: What?

RA.: Nothing. Need something?

CH.: Are those towels still back there?

RA.: Bar rags? Sure.

CH.: Toss me one. So what did I miss.

RA.: Nothing.

CH.: I think I can get the bike working. I went down to look at it.

RA.: You think?

CH.: `Course I think. I took a look at it. Nothing that new points wouldn't fix. The oil is staying high and there's gas in the tank. If I sold the stereo... Why're you looking at me, Maxine.

MA.: Looking at you how?

CH.: The way you are.

MA.: I ain't ever seen you smile before, Charlie. It's strange.

CH.: Shit, I smile.

MA.: I guess. You look like the cat with the canary.

CH.: What's that supposed to mean.

MA.: Nothing.

CH.: What does it mean?

MA.: Nothing. Don't worry about it. I'm glad you got your bike fixed.

CH.: You're trying to say something.

MA.: Don't worry about it.

CH.: Cat and the canary, my ass.

PI.: Is it going to be the same.

CH.: Jesus Christ, I try to start things up on a better feel and what do I get.

RA.: Nobodies bothering you, Charlie. Just sit down.

CH.: I don't like it.

MA.: I didn't mean anything by it.

CH.: Then why'd you say it?

MA.: I don't know. It just came out.

CH.: Well don't do it, just don't. What the fuck...

PI.: Come on, Charlie.

CH.: So now you're the king of this place. Got slicked back once and he's king. Good thing it came to him. Otherwise he'd be wiping shit out of his coveralls by now. 3 RA.(moving towards Charlie): Charlie...

CH.: He's got to learn. A lot of people learned the hard way. They went back by themselves. He got it easy. Was it good, kid? Real good? I went back there by myself, the first time, and it was...

PI.: That's it. This is all there is. I come back and I come back and it all stays like this, doesn't it. Doesn't it! Look at me, Ralphie. Don't lie. Just look... is this it?

RA.: Piece, I can't...

PI.: This is it.

CH.: Sure is.

PI.: Is it, Ralphie?

RA.: It never is, and it is. It can change, Piece. It will. Like I said before...

PI.: Hell, Ralphie. You ain't going south and I ain't ever quitting my job, and I'm going to come back tomorrow and I'm going to go through those curtains and I'm going to see it again, and the next day, the same thing. You didn't tell me that. Why didn't you, Ralphie? Why? Because if that's all there is I wanted to know. I got years of this ahead of me. A million, a decade... Jesus, Ralphie. This is it. For you, for me, for everybody...

MA.: Piece, just sit down, honey. Come on, over here.

Maxine leads him to the table. Charlie sits at the bar with Ralphie who pours another drink.

RA.: I was about twenty when I came here the first time. It was different, then. Outside it was different and it was different inside. Sometimes you just come in to cool off. I can leave, Piece. I can, any time I want. But I don't want to. Everything is here, and nothing hurts. I don't have to worry about a thing. Boss'll come and Boss'll go and that's all there is. People change every time you come in. Sometimes they go and sometimes they got back there and never come back out. I remember this one kid, The Stick, we called him. His real name was Joey Trane. His daddy was a bricklayer, helped build the church out at the edge of town. He came in one night when it was snowing. Joey was a thin as a whip cane. Wiry and always half asleep. And you could tell, there was something about him. He got bad things done to him. The way he walked, the way he moved his hands. Maybe his Dad or maybe somebody else, but he wasn't quite right. He was about fourteen. And he came here the first day looking for a sandwich. I made him one, and this other woman who was here gave him some coffee. Then he left. I figured he came back when I wasn't here because last I saw of him was his old ball-cap, he was a Phillies fan, sitting on that table. And sometimes, I can hear church music and I know he's back there. That's how it is sometimes. Sometimes you go back there and you don't come out. On account of how good it is. But that lady who was here, who made the coffee, she got a job and left town. And someday, when it's safe to go back out, I'll be gone, just like I said. You too, Piece. You just came here without knowing why or how. You're one of the lucky ones. If you really knew you had to come here, you'd be real bad off, believe me.

MA.: He's right, Piece. You'll leave.

CH.: Hell...

RA.: Charlie... watch that. Just `cause you don't have any faith.

CH.: Faith, hell. Real bad off if you know why you came. I still don't know why the hell I'm here, and I ain't ever going to leave. Never going to fix that chain, never going to get my shit out of my old lady's place. Long as I'm here, and I'll be here long, I'm out of luck. Shit out of luck, Piece, sure. See this place? And the place through that door? That's all there is. There ain't no place better or worse. Think about it. Ain't no place at all where we can go. We're stuck. We can go outside, but we come right back. Boss can't kick us out, and we can't ride away south or no shit like that. Nothing, Piece, nothing.

RA.: There ain't no reason to say that, Ralphie. You're just hurting him.

CH.: Best he knows, Ralphie. Going to keep him on, not knowing where he's going or what he's doing? Shit, Ralphie. That ain't no way to live.

RA.: You better leave.

CH.: None of that, now. None of that. Shit all over that.

RA.: This ain't all it is. It's all there is right now. What's back there, boyo, is what's there is right now. One day you're going to walk out that door...

CH.(building towards climax): Never. Jesus Christ, don't lie to the kid. Never, it ain't ever going to happen. Look at me, Ralphie, look at me. Nothing. Came in here because of... because I'm like I am. You know that. And I can't ever leave. Never. I'm going to be like this, right here, as long as I live. Maxine's going to be shooting the crap into her arm, right here, as long as her veins hold out. You're going to be sitting on your stool, talking about the fucking south and the fucking west and all the other ruts you wheeled yourself into, and it ain't ever going to change. Forever, and ever, and ever, amen, this is all there is, Ralphie. This is all there is.

RA.: Get out, Charlie. We don't need your mouth here.

CH.: Going to kick me out?

RA.: Boss'll...

CH.: You know damn well Boss can't touch me. Hell, he hardly knows we're even here. Just that place back there, this place, and us. That's all there is. Boss can't do anything, you can't do anything... go ahead. Slug me. Go on... Come on, Ralphie, give me a wallop that'll send me to your fucking beach over in sun country.

RA.: Get out.

PI.(pleadingly): What's the matter, with you, Charlie.

CH.: Oh Jesus...

Charlie turns and rears back, his fist high behind his head. Then he throws the punch, meeting squarely with Piece's jaw. Piece falls backwards, onto the table, and then onto the floor.

Oh Jesus... this place is the closet thing to hell this side of the Mississippi. You assholes don't see it, it is...

Simultaneously, Ralphie runs to Charlie and Maxine runs to Piece. Ralphie pushes Charlie up center, towards the door.

Ain't going to do nothing. I'll just come right back out. Naw, that ain't it. I ain't coming out if you touch me again. I won't. I don't need your shit anymore, Ralphie boyo... Touch me, Ralphie. Touch me! Ralphie pushes again, harder. The beads sway and their sound is amplifi4ed.

I'm going to be like your Stick boy, back there. You're going to hear church music for the rest of your fucking life. Hear me, Ralphie. Push one more time and you'll hear it. Touch me!

Ralphie pushes again. Charlie is engulfed by the beads and lights fall except on Maxine and Piece, center.

MA.: Come on, Piece. Let's dance. One last time. Come on, Piece. Wake up... come on.

RA.(entering): He'll be OK. Let him be...

MA.: One last dance...

RA.: Let him be, girl.

MA.: We're going to dance...

Lights fall completely.

Act II, scene iv

Maxine and Ralphie sit at the bar. The Guitar Player is in place. He tunes gently and then starts into "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry." Maxine is quiet, dazed as if she had just been "in the back."

RA.: She'll be hitched in June or July. Then I'll be a free man.

MA.: Piece'll be by soon, won't he.

RA.: Around three.

MA.: That's right.

RA.: Then down to San Diego. They got a nice zoo down there. Doesn't interest me much but I might as well see it. Biggest one in the world. And you know what I'm thinking? I'm thinking I'm going to go to Disney. Just might. Don't know why, just have a hankering to go to Disney. Think that's a good idea.

MA.: Sure.

RA.: But not to much of that greasy kids stuff, boyo. I'll be down Tiajuana and Mexicali quicker'n you can cough, that's for sure. At night, boy, that's the place. Everything's lights, down there, and music. Mariachi, I think it's called. Play those marimbas and it sounds like a thousand people playing all at once. Hell of a nice place, down there. Three little tacos for a quarter, friend of mine told me. They sell them right on the street. And a bottle of tequila or mescal to wash them down with. Whole bottles. None of these little shots.

MA.: You hear something, Ralphie.

RA.: Like what?

MA.: Nothing.

RA.: Piece'll be here soon.

MA.: I thought I heard something.

RA.: You just wait and see, Maxine. One fine morning you're going to come in here and I'll be long gone. You won't even remember my name after a while, that's how far I'll be. I'll just be a ghost to you.

MA.: Sure, Ralphie. Sure.

Maxine walks to the center and parts the beads. The music slowly stops and Lights fall.