Bread and Salt
A one-act play
Performed February 9, 2002 as part of “Responding to Terrorism,”
a project funded in part by the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs’
“American Spirit” grant program
April Madison – mid-30’s, dressed in a bright, ethnic long dress
Various voices – female student worker, very young child, adult male
Lower level of a multi-story college library. April is seated at a large, very sturdy table in the center of an aisle bordered by book stacks. The light comes from basement windows and overhead fluorescent light fixtures. Various books are strewn about the table, as well as April’s raincoat, sweater, backpack, and purse. More books are piled on the floor next to her chair.
Scene I: Just before noon, Saturday
Voice of student worker (calling from offstage): Ma’am? We close at noon!
April: (engrossed in book, visibly startles and looks up) What?! Oh! What??
Voice of student worker (calling from a distance): We’re getting ready to close, Ma’am! You’re the last one here!
April: OH! All right. “Ma’am. Ma’am.” Since when did I become a “Ma’am”? (looks around distractedly) Closing? Oh – that’s right. Like nobody studies on Saturday afternoon. Nobody wants books on Saturday afternoon. We’re all supposed to be out playing volleyball or something. All right, all right. (begins picking frantically through all the books on the table and floor, picking up first one, then the other, looking into some of them, getting dreamily lost, then remembering and hastily picking up another, when a piece of paper falls out of one) What’s this? (examines it on both sides) Blank. Must be a bookmark. (looks at pages it was marking) Ah. Isn’t that beautiful. (reads majestically) “We two form a multitude.” These must all be pictures of married couples. (slowly reads) “Holland. China. Sicily. American Indian.” Look at them. Beautiful. (flips back to front of book, reads again) “And then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes / and then he asked me would I yes / and first I put my arms around him yes / and drew him down to me so he could f eel my breasts all perfume yes / and his heart was going like mad / and yes I said yes I will Yes. . . . James Joyce.” Of course. (looking at the pictures, sighs voluptuously) Ahhh. Yes. (laughs a little) I love this book. I should own this book. (looks around slyly) I should just take this book. . . Isn’t that what Abbie Hoffman said? “Steal this book?” (gathering up her things) But of course Abbie Hoffman is dead. A lot of people are dead. And he didn’t mean THIS book, I don’t suppose. He meant “steal MY book,” not just any book you want. I don’t know why not. Shouldn’t we all be allowed to steal one book? One really good book in our lifetime? I mean, aren’t we trying to promote book reading among the American public? Besides, this is out of print. (stuffs it into her backpack)
(A cell phone rings in her backpack. Again visibly startled, she jumps) WHAT? What the hell is that?? (grabs backpack, looks inside as phone keeps ringing) Oh. This stupid thing. (pulls it out, examines it as if she’s never used one before, finally opens it and pushes the right button) Hello? Hell- what? Oh. Hi Mom. Yes, yes, I have it. Yes, it works. I don’t go anywhere without it. You’re the only one who calls me on it, but hey. What? Yes, I’m fine. Yes, I really am. Truly. Sincerely. You don’t have to check on me so much, you know. Yes, I know it’s been six weeks. Six weeks is a long time, Mom. You think it’s a short time, I think it’s a long time. No, I am not in denial. No, I’m denying that I’m in denial, Mom. What? Why not? I like being funny! Now that I’m a widow I can’t be funny? What word? “Widow”? Why not? Oh, Mom, please. I’m okay. Yes, I’ll come to dinner Wednesday. No, wait, what about if I cook dinner for you guys? Aunt Ethel and Uncle Gus, too? But I like to cook. I don’t need taking care of, Mom, really. Let me take care of you for a change, okay? Okay. Wednesday night. No, I can manage it, really. I get off at 5, there’s plenty of time. No, not your place, mine. It’s a perfectly good place. It’s not like I’m creating a shrine to him. What? I will when I’m ready, all right? No, this does not prove anything. No, there are only five stages of grief. Besides, haven’t you heard that stuff has been disproved? I mean, not everyone goes through every stage. Or in that order. No, it’s true. I read it in the New York Times. Look, Mom, when YOUR husband dies you can do it your way, okay? Sorry. Okay. I’m going. This place is closing, I have to go. I’ll stop by later. Bye. (presses button to hang up, looks at phone thoughtfully. Drops it onto floor and gently kicks it a few feet away) Oops. Darn.
(Gets up, puts on backpack, then sees coat and tries to put it on, realizes she has to remove the coat first, gets flustered, drops several books on floor, bends down to get them, sees another book under table she wants, gets under table to retrieve it, backpack still on.) Oh for goodness sake. How did this get here? (sound of door slamming in distance) Oh great, she’s locking up. Oh well. (grabs the book, starts to get up and hits her head on bottom of table) OW! Ow ow ow! (sitting back on floor, cradles her head in her hands for a moment, then looks up calmly) This is like that old Peanuts cartoon. Charlie Brown comes up to Lucy when she’s playing psychiatrist, he tells her, “I’m depressed.” She hits him on the head and he says, “OW! Why did you do that?” And she replies – blithely – “Nothing like a little physical pain to take your mind off your problems!” Ha ha ha. (touches head) Ow. No problems in my life, of course. Just a husband who . . . who can’t look both ways when he crosses the street. Good thing we never had kids. I mean, if you can’t teach your own husband how to cross the street, how can you be expected to teach your children . . .?
Not that we weren’t planning to. Not that we weren’t actually trying to before the . . . accident. The “thing.” The “event.” Why does everybody keep calling it that? Like it’s something we could have sold tickets to. (Dramatically) Come one, come all, step right up for the event of the year! Right on this spot, a wonderful, gorgeous, fully-employed married man steps off the curb and gets hit by a bus! His own bus! How ironic! (more quietly) And dies!
(looks pointedly at phone where it lies on floor) See? I’m not in denial. I am NOT in denial. No, no, no, no no. She means well. She just doesn’t understand that not everybody does this the same way. I mean, it’s not like I’m an expert. Well, I guess I am. Now. What’s her name, Elizabeth something? Keebler? Little grief-stricken Keebler elves? No . . . it’s Kubler. Elizabeth Kubler Ross and her 87 stages of grief. Hey. (Counting the five stages on her fingers as she says the following, emphatically) I denied. I got mad. I bargained. I got depressed. I accepted. I did it all. It just didn’t take me that long. He’s dead. He’s gone. He’s not coming back. He’s not showing up on the next stupid bus. She thinks I’m in denial because I’m not moping around all day. (looking down at her colorful dress) Because I don’t wear black. Because I don’t want to move back to my old room and let her bring me tea and toast all day. (dreamily) Some days, I’ll admit, that sounds pretty good. But that would have sounded pretty good before, too. Hey. I’m still me. I’m moving on. I’m productive, I’m efficient, I’m in control. I’m getting out of here, for one thing (starts to get up, again hits her head, though not as hard) OW! FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! Why can’t I seem to remember that I’m sitting under a table? Am I in some kind of denial of the fact that I’m sitting under a table in the library . . . talking to myself?? Do I have to go through the 47 stages of grief about my injured head in order to move on with my life? Am I stuck in Grief Land here? (gets out from under table) Whew. I need to go to the bathroom. (zipping up backpack, knocks purse to floor under table) Oh for god’s sake. I might as well LIVE here. (gets back under table to retrieve it, starts to chuckle) Maybe there’s some kind of black hole under here. (poking under book stacks on other side) Maybe I’ll find all my lost keys under here. My missing mittens! All those Barbie shoes! (Just sits for a moment under the table, yoga like – legs crossed, hands on knees.) Okay. Let’s all just take a moment here. Let’s take a deeeeep breath (breathes in slowly and loudly) in (voice choking, getting very high) and then, ouuuuuuuut (breathes out through her mouth, dramatically). Ah, there. Okay. I’m leaving. Just one more nice, big, cleansing breath, all right? All right. (Hands on knees, eyes closed) First innnnnnn (deep breath in, holds it) (voice squeaking) and then (exhaling) ouuuuuuuut. Ah. (Wide, peaceful smile) Much better. Now I’ll just (starts to crawl out when –
THERE IS A GIGANTIC, CRASHING SOUND LIKE A THOUSAND SHELVES COLLAPSING, A MILLION BOOKS FALLING, THE LOUD AND ENDLESS SOUND OF AN EARTHQUAKE, AN EXPLOSION, A VERY TALL BUILDING FALLING DOWN)
April: (screaming) OH! OH MY GOD! (buries her head in her arms, collapsing back down)
(The lights go out, the sound continues, the main curtain closes)
Scene Two: About 20 minutes later
(Staging notes: The back curtain is pulled open and we see the set behind it. Constructed haphazardly of various building materials [drywall, insulation, cement blocks] plus library shelving and books, all tossed together wildly from the force of the earthquake and/or explosion, the stage should look as if it had blown up. At the scene change, the table should be quickly covered with the same materials, especially books, bricks, and pieces of shelves. Yet April is safe, though covered in dust and what have you, under the massive table, though of course some debris has come in under the table. As the lights come up, dust should still be settling; perhaps a brick or two, as well as a few books, could be tossed down from above. Since the power is out, the stage should be lit as if through a very distant window; it is still daytime.)
April: (slowly raises head from under her arms, looking cautiously around) Oh. Oh my goodness. Oh – my – god. What in the world? Why – the shelves must have fallen down, something must have – (peers carefully out from under table, looking up and around) Ohhhhhhhh. Oh nooooooooooo. (clutches her legs to her, making herself into a tight ball, ducking her head as if expecting another collapse, then looking up again at the table above her, eyes wide with fear) This – this – this (beginning to hyperventilate) No, this can’t be happening, I don’t believe it, I don’t believe it, this can’t be happening. (bursts into tears, very loudly, for a long moment) oh god oh god oh god………
(A few bricks settle, a few threatening noises sound, and she stops crying. Now she is hypervigilant, listening intently) What? What in the world? (Looking more in control) We don’t have EARTHQUAKES in Iowa! Excuse me! We do not – oh god, maybe it was, maybe it was (panicking again), but who would, who would, god, who in the world would want to blow up this place? I mean, come on! This isn’t even the state capital! (Becoming more aware of herself, her physical state) Well. I’m all right. Aren’t I? Am I all right? (inspects herself, feeling her arms, legs, the top of her head for damage) Ow. I did that before. Ok. I’m all right. Perfectly all right. (beat) Well. Except for being – whatever this is – being – oh, I don’t know – being TRAPPED in the library, being in this pile of – god! there must be a million books on top of this table! Not to mention the ceiling! And the other six floors! Why is this table still standing?! Why didn’t it just get smashed to – oh (looking more closely at the underside of the table) – huh – this must be stainless steel – (laughs) right, April, it’s STAINLESS, no, maybe it’s STERLING silver – well, what do you call it, what do they make buildings out of, big strong buildings – well, it’s just called steel, isn’t it? Just plain – boy, I wish I had a dictionary. (beat) Yeah, that’s rich. I wish I had a dictionary. I’m in a library! There’s dictionaries all over the place! I had a big old unabridged Webster’s on top of the table, maybe I could (tries to reach out from under table, quickly pulls her hand back and holds it protectively) – maybe not. Ohhhhh there must be (lies down on the floor, in the fetal position, momentarily, then sits back up, resolutely) No. I can’t do that. I just cannot let myself do that. This is no place for panic. No place for fear. We have nothing to fear but fear itself. (at this point she begins shoving the debris that is encroaching on her space as far to the periphery as possible, while continuing to talk) You know, I’ve never understood that. I mean it sounds great, it sounds all patriotic and stirring, but if there’s nothing to fear but fear itself, aren’t we still afraid? Of the fear, I mean?
It’s probably not that bad. It’s probably just – I don’t know. Somebody else can figure it out. They can tell me when they rescue me. I mean, I’ve had enough happen to me already. How ridiculous would it be to lose my husband and then lose . . . myself? No. I have to survive, I have to give my parents grandchildren. Which means I have to start dating again. (shudders) No thanks. I’ll just stay here. Here in my little . . . cave. God. What a mess. Well. I’m sure it’s just here. I’m sure it’s nothing catastrophic. I need to keep my wits about me. I need to . . . make a list. That’s it. A list of things to do. So I’ll be ready to get out when the, when the time comes. Okay. (Looks in her purse, finds a pen and small notebook) Okay. Number 1: Keep talking. Talk out loud so they can hear you. Don’t YELL all the time, you’ll lose your voice, but just keep a running – I don’t know – just keep talking. It’s not like I have a HABIT of talking out loud, I mean to myself, but – (smiling) David and I were always talking to each other, across the room, across the house, we just had this running dialogue going on. Sometimes it was more like parallel monologues, but it was . . . nice. Now I guess I need to get a dog. A cat. A fish. An invisible friend. (looks at notebook) Okay. Number 2: Know where you are. Investigate your surroundings (makes a show of looking under the table, to every side, then looks resigned, goes back to writing). Stuff. There’s a lot of stuff here. I can’t go – well, there’s a little bit of space on this end (reaches hand out in front of table, causing a book or brick to fall down, quickly brings her hand back in). A very little space. Number 3: My backpack. Oh, god, I hope I didn’t lose that (looks around frantically, not realizing it’s on her back), Oh NO, it’s got everything! I can’t believe I lost it! (falls backward in despair, slowly realizes she’s lying on the backpack) Oh. (reaches around to feel it, then up to feel the straps, which she slips off) Oh. Here it is. How embarrassing. Question: If you do something stupid and you’re all alone, should you be embarrassed?
(begins taking things out of pack) I hope my stuff isn’t too (unzips, begins peering inside and bringing things out) flattened . . . .Okay. Let’s take inventory. I have . . . a notebook. A newspaper – yesterday’s newspaper. A magazine – Redbook – Why does Mom keep giving me these things? Why do I keep taking them? How can I be the perfect housewife when I’m not a wife anymore? (sets it aside, back to looking) Oh, here’s a – yes! my leftover bagel! And my water bottle is – yes – it’s here! And full of water! And (digging deeper) my keys, a stapler, a pen, my library card. . . . I suppose if I were McGyver this would be MORE than enough to get me out. I could construct a little .. . you know . . . a little . . . THING. A little – digging thing. (looks up) That’s what they do, isn’t it, like when kids fall into abandoned wells? They dig another well? (beat) This is not exactly TOPSOIL I’m embedded in; I don’t suppose they can just put some kind of AUGER down next to where I am . . . if they can even figure out where I am (a sudden change of mood to despair, tears) God! This is unreal! This is NOT happening! (falls back down, head on backpack, pulls raincoat over herself) [lights down]
Scene 3: Same day, about 9 P.M.
(It is quite dark now. She awakens with a start.)
April: Oh! (sits halfway up, looks wildly around) What the hell? What is this? (tries to crawl out from under side of table, encounters rubble) Oh noooooo (suddenly remembering – a long pause) Oh god, it’s so dark now! (beat) Oh – wait! My keychain! (rummages around, finds it, turns on the small flashlight on the chain, aims it around; it only lights a tiny area) Well. Now THAT’S reassuring. I don’t know what I’m afraid of. I mean, with all this stuff packed around me, it’s not like the boogie man is going to come crawling in (startles, then forcibly calms herself) The boogie woman. The boogie person. (sternly) All RIGHT. That’s enough. That’s about enough of that.
(uneasy, quietly) David? Hello? (sighs loudly) Look, I know you’re not out there, or up there, but could you humor me a little? (pause) You would have known what to do in this situation. You would have gotten us out. Well. Maybe not. But you would have known how to keep our spirits up. Wouldn’t you? Am I making this up? Am I making you into some kind of saint, now that you’re not here to contradict me? Well, why not. How many pleasures are reserved strictly for widows?
I think it’s time to eat something. (pulls out bagel, has a bite.) Boy, I wish I had more to eat. (holds up bagel bag, a few things fall out) Oh boy! Here’s two packages of salt and a toothpick! Boy, am I set. I am really set. (absent-mindedly picks up backpack, looks around in it, feels something in the bottom she missed before) What’s this? (digs inside, brings out something in a paper bag, pulls out a package) Please be a candy bar, please please please. Oh. The pregnancy test. I need to get this to Jessica – or not. I don’t know, I bought it as a joke, but she did say she was late, and they’ve been trying. Just like David and I were trying. We thought it would be so cool if we got pregnant together. We could raise our kids like little cousins . . . (dreamily) hmmm. (looks inside package, pulls out cup) I do need to pee. Oh! Why didn’t I go when I had the chance! Why didn’t I just leave when that girl told me to? Now I’m going to be late for – huh. (clearly thinking about something else) I’m going to be late. We were trying, too. I just kept getting my period. In fact I’m due now. (stops to count on her fingers) Overdue. (puts the kit down, looking stunned) You don’t think. Nah. Too weird. Too much. Much too richly ironic, don’t you think, to take away the husband, to, to make him a daddy after he, after he departs the scene? A daddy angel? How helpful would that be in the middle of the night? (puts cup back into box, box back into sack, and stuffs it into her backpack, which she pushes away)
Forget it. Right now I just . . . need to . . . think about getting out of here. I’m just tired. I’m tired all the time lately. (angrily) NOT because I’m pregnant. I’m just tired of being alone. I’m tired of being a widow, you know? (looking up) Do you know that? This has all been very interesting, but I’m sick and tired of it now! (makes gagging sound) Or just sick, again. This must be the second stage of grief – nausea.
(Begins switching the flashlight on and off) This is fun. This is really fun. I could do this all night. I could do this forever. This is like those students who keep playing with their ballpoint pens over and over and over while you’re trying to engage them in a meaningful discussion. I suppose I should stop doing this. This is going to wear out the battery. Okay. Just one more – okay – one more – time. (stops)
So, boys and girls! What next? Now that we’ve slept the afternoon away, what’s up for the evening? (looks up abruptly) Well? Is anybody out there? Is anybody even trying – Is anybody even AWARE of the fact that this building fell down? Do you suppose? (Suddenly stops making a sound, listens intently, raising herself up as far as she can under the table) Is that – what is that? Is that a sound? A good sound? (strains to hear, then settles back down, disappointed) We’re getting a little ahead of ourselves here, I think. They couldn’t possibly be anywhere near me – I mean, if they even know I’m here – (takes out her water bottle, drinks a little bit) Now I just have to pee. I really do now. I guess I’ll use this (rummages through backpack, pulls out bag with pregnancy kit) cup . . . somehow. You know, this would be funny if it wasn’t so potentially tragic. All right. Let’s get this over with. But I am NOT doing any pregnancy test. No sir, not me. [lights out]
Scene 4: About 7 AM the next day (Sunday)
(Stage notes: Everything is pretty much the same, except the light is brighter than in the previous scene. April has again been sleeping)
April: (rubbing her eyes, pulling her fingers through her hair, looks around) I can’t believe I’m still here. And I have to pee again. Nothing like a little natural disaster to focus your attention on the elemental things. Food, shelter, pee. “Elimination.” Sorry, Mom. I wouldn’t want to offend anyone in my final . . . hours. Now, wasn’t there some guy who survived for days by drinking his own – his own – oh, never mind.
Maybe I should stop eating. Yeah, right. Now there’s a good idea. Just drink water. (groans – she really is very hungry) No. I don’t think so. I am so hungry! I am so sick of bagels and – bagels. No. (looking up imploringly) I’m not sick of them, I didn’t mean that; they taste like, you know, manna, ambrosia, the food of the gods – and goddesses! I’m just so sick of taking teeny tiny stinking little bites! I want to eat an entire bagel! With a bowl of stew! And some chips! Barbecue chips! No – nacho cheese tortilla chips! Beans! Rice! Potatoes! Pickles! Ravioli! And a big – glazed – Krispy Kreme donut!!!!! Damn it!
(As this scene goes on, she begins to waver between rational and humorous, and hysterical and desperate) I want – food. I want food. I want food I want food I want food. Now. God! It’s only the second day! Who knows how long I’ll be here! Who the hell knows! Those people in the earthquakes, sometimes they find them a week later! I mean alive! They call them, what, “survivors” if they find them alive, “bodies” if they don’t. (TV announcer voice again) “The body of Ms. April Madison was found – ” no, wait – “was extricated from the rubble at 2:15 today. This reporter MUST say that it was a very good looking body, if he says so himself. Ahem.”
How am I supposed to do this? It’s like – yes, it’s like these people you see on the news, in the rubble, being pulled out, I mean the ones they find alive, it’s like they are the earthquake experts. I mean, Official Buried Earthquake People. THEY know how to do it. They managed to stay alive somehow and they, you know, they are the experts. They know the rules. However they did it, they did it right. We see them pulled out alive and we want to ask them what it was like, as if they studied Earthquake Survival for the past decade, and all of a sudden that’s who they are, that’s the main thing they are. The Earthquake People. It’s like when you see somebody on crutches, somebody who broke their foot last week using these big metal crutches. They’re swinging along, going up and down the stairs, and you look at them and you think, “Yeah, guy on crutches, official, experienced, expert Guy on Crutches.” You don’t think, “Whoa, that looks hard, boy, I’ll bet he’s having a hard time getting the hang of that.” Except when it’s you. I do not feel like an Official Earthquake person. Or Explosion Person or Tornado Person. There should have been a book here for me. (sing song voice) “What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do.” How to act when you’re trapped underground for an indefinite number of days (beat) Days. God. Every MINUTE is so – okay, never mind.
(Opens backpack, looks in) I don’t know what I expect to find in here. A ladder? A wrecking ball? Duh. I guess we don’t need one of those. A – cell phone? Yeah. Very funny. (unexpectedly loud) DAMN! Why did I do that? It could have saved my life! What an idiot! (trying to calm down, wraps her arms around herself) Okay. Stop it. It’s not your fault. Maybe if – maybe if I go back . . . retrace my steps . . . what? (shakes her head) Boy, I am not feeling so good. Time to pee again. Okay. (picks up cup, turns away and edges to back edge of her space, sings a little bit while she maneuvers) tip toe, through the tulips — (then crawls back, holding the cup of yellow liquid) Okay. Here we are. (she is visibly unwell, trying to stay focused) Okay, I know what we can do! Let’s play a game! Let’s play a game called “See if April is going to have a baby!” (rummages in box for instructions) Let’s see if she’s with child! Let’s see if she’s not alone down here after all! (looking down at her stomach) Hello? Anybody in there? (looks up) No, I don’t suppose that’s how it works. Now what. [consults direction sheet] “It’s so simple! Just one easy step!” Right – if you don’t count the step where you pee into a shot glass, or the step when you find out the results. (still holding stick and cup, lowers them to the floor) I wonder how most women do this. Do they do it alone? While hubby’s away at work? I mean assuming they’re fortunate enough to be married to the possible father of their possible children? Or do they do it together, light a candle, gather around the stick – maybe he does the dipping, eh? – eww, maybe not – and that way they find out at the exact same moment?
(picks cup and stick back up, looks upward) Well, darlin’, you’re not here, you’re not exactly anywhere, so here goes. I’ll do it for both of us. (dips the stick in the cup, puts the cup down, holds stick away, hands blocking her view of it) I can’t look. I really cannot look. Not now, not in one minute, not ever. . .. I’m not pregnant. I don’t want to be pregnant. I don’t want to NOT be pregnant. I don’t want to have your baby without you and I don’t want to have somebody else’s baby.
I’m not going to get married again. Even if I do, I don’t want his kids. I want (looks upward) YOUR kids. I guess I do, anyway. I mean, God, it would be nuts to be pregnant now. Have a baby all alone, eight months after the funeral. Who’s going to help me? How am I going to provide for a baby, a child, a – teenager? Oh God, I can’t do this alone. I can’t even look at the god damn stick alone, how can I have a baby alone?
(lowers the stick, still not looking at it) It’s not going to happen anyway. We tried for months. Nothing happened. I mean it was almost a year. We probably would have had to go through all that testing, and taking my temperature, and going to fertility doctors, and considering adoption, and going to Romania to pick out an orphan . . . or China . . . and we’d have to learn Chinese so we could communicate with it . . . (starts to laugh a bit deliriously) right . . . (looks upward) you would have loved that one, wouldn’t you?
You wouldn’t have been afraid to look at the stick, either, would you? Of course, if you were here, I wouldn’t be afraid either. . . . So. Okay. One two three go. If it’s – what (looks at directions) If it’s pink I’m pregnant, if it’s blue I’m (looks at it) oh my god – it’s pink – that means I’m pregnant – it’s pink – oh my god! Does that mean it’s a girl??? (lights down)
Scene 5: Later that day (about 6 PM)
(Stage notes: Lights come up on April leaning against a front leg of the table, reading the Redbook magazine, holding the last piece of bagel and chewing it slowly. She is pretty grim at this point. Holds out last bite of bagel before eating it)
Goodbye, bagel. Nice knowing you. Take your time. (drinks some water – about a quarter of her bottle left) Here, have some water. Expand. Feed me. Feed us. Pats stomach. Stay down there. At least I know why I’ve been so sick. Queasy. (says it exaggeratedly) “Quee-zee” Even the word is enough to make you want to barf. (clicks on her flashlight to look at the magazine) Plus, I’m looking at all these recipes. “Cherry chocolate chunk cake.” Yuk. (peers closely at picture) No, actually, I would eat that. “Tira misu pudding cake.” Oh my. Tira misu sounds like some kind of . . . exotic dancer. “I saw Tira Misu at the club last night.” Or a language, “Do you speak tira misu?” Or something out of the Kama Sutra. “Hey, we did the tira misu last night. It was great.” (mirthless laugh, looking upward) David, you would think this is funny, wouldn’t you? (crying a little) Sounds like something they’d write about in this magazine. “Fourteen ways to keep your sex life alive!” (flips through to the back) And then there’s all these articles about child rearing. Hey, now I can read them, too. Hey, Davey, it seems that keeping your sex life alive might have something to do with this child rearing. How do you “rear” a child? Eh? What does that mean? David? Mom? Anyone? We’re down here, you know! Feel free to send the rescue squad! I mean if they’re not too busy rescuing other people! I wonder. I wonder if the whole city collapsed. Maybe it was a tornado? A giant . . . sink hole? We had one of those in the alley once. Maybe (drowsily) the whole city just got . . . tired. Just sort of . . . sank. I wonder if my house is okay? Mom and Dad’s house? (pats her stomach) What do you think, little one? Little fetus, little fish, little bug? (looks at far end of her space, leans over slightly to see something) Little bug! Hey! Another living thing! What kind of – oh! (starts, pulls back) A beetle! Yuk! Don’t come near me! (leans toward it again, bravely) I’m sorry. You have every right to be here. I won’t hurt you. Are you scared? Are you lost? Have you lost your people, too?
(leans back against table leg, talks more drowsily now) I’m sorry. I’m sss—sad. Oh. I didn’t mean to say that. (laughs derisively) Why the hell shouldn’t I say that? For god’s sake, David is dead, I’m stuck in some hole, I’m out of food, nobody can hear me, I don’t even know if anybody’s looking for me, I’m pregnant and nobody but me knows it, my water’s almost gone. . .
(stage note: very muffled, VERY distant noises sound)
April: (throws magazine aside) What is that? Did I hear something? Did I (a muffled crash sounds, very far away) – oh great! They’re tearing the building down! They don’t even know I’m in here! Did I tell anybody where I was going? Did I tell Mom on the phone? Oh. My. God. I’m going to survive three days in here and then die as they clear the rubble. Didn’t anybody see me go in here? (looking completely panicked) And not come out?
Scene 6: About 11 PM that night (Sunday)
(Stage notes: pretty much the same as previous scene. April is sleeping as the lights come up, and she is laughing loudly and happily in her sleep)
April: (laughing, then waking up not laughing, she sits straight up) Oh! Oh, wow, oh. (rubs her eyes, looks at her watch) Great. Eleven at night. I wake up when it’s time to go to bed. My biological clock is all screwed up. (beat) Like it matters. (picks up flashlight, crawls to farthest back corner) Like anything matters. Like I’m going to be getting out and going to work tomorrow. Right. Yes. Maybe a little LATE, but there I’ll be, Monday morning, hoping nobody finds out . . . how I was . . . I mean, it’s a little embarrassing, you know? “How was your weekend, April? Do anything exciting? Or did you just spend it in the library again, ha ha?” (beat) I mean, where WOULD I begin?
(out of nowhere, a piece of concrete falls at the front of the table. We hear April from the back corner) OH! What was that! OH! (she comes crawling, smoothing her dress down, back to the front of the table) What is this?? (shines the flashlight on the front leg of the table) I saw it move. It moved. This table. This table is going to collapse. Oh, God. Oh, sweet Jesus. Just let me die, okay? Don’t let me end up on the floor with an inch of air above me, okay? I don’t think I could maintain this valiant good cheer too well if that happened! (yelling) Let’s just get this over with!!
(her flashlight goes out, she screams, shaking it in vain) DAMN IT!! Not now! I just put new batteries in this stupid thing!! (we can just barely see her during the rest of this scene) Oh great. Oh great. This is just great. This is just wonderful. Now what do we do? Make a fire. Finish the water and give up? Scream real loud one more time just to hedge my bets? (does so) HEY UP THERE! WHERE ARE YOU? WHY AREN’T YOU TRYING TO SAVE ME? DAMMIT! (more dejectedly) Dammit.
(we hear her blow her nose) I’m down to my last Kleenex. My last three inches of water. My last bite of bagel. Oh, god. (beat) I’ve heard that starving to death is a good way to die. You just kind of drift off . . . your body just kind of . . . shuts down. Piece by piece. But – wait – who was telling me last week that starving to death is really painful? Who was that? And how would anyone know anyway? At least – at least David had a good breakfast before he –
Well. Hey. I guess I’m the expert now. I’m the crash survivor. Temporarily, anyway. Is it sacrilegious to be sarcastic when you’re dying? Are we supposed to say only noble, uplifting things ? I hope not. I guess it’s up to me anyway. I’m the only one here. I’m the Expert Dying Person here right now, so what I say goes.
(more contemplative) I feel . . . I feel like I live here. Like when I wake up tomorrow, IF I wake up tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that, however long it takes to die of starvation – or of, of – whatever – boy, I wish a bus would go by so I could jump in front of it – (looks down at stomach) sorry little one, we’re just running out of choices. Where was I. Oh yeah. Right here. Ha ha. What was that story – that little girl in Colorado – I can’t remember her name – it wasn’t a well she fell down . . . no, she was kidnapped, anyway she was missing for a week and it was on all the TV stations, all the time, it seemed like . . . everybody was so concerned for her. She was this pretty little blond girl, and it was like everybody wanted to be the one to find her. I know I wanted to find her.
And then this park ranger finds her, and she isn’t dead, she’s alive. I mean, she ended up being okay. She’s probably 22 or something now, going to college, all of it a bad dream. But the thing is, the reason I can’t forget it, is where they found her. They found her in a – in a park – a latrine. An outhouse. Down inside of it. (shudders) God! This park ranger, I don’t know, maybe he was cleaning it, checking it for raccoons, but he heard her. She wasn’t calling out, she wasn’t saying “Help! Help!” or “Mommy! Mommy!” She was just crying quietly, in among all that – oh. But he heard her – thank God he heard her – and he looked down the hole, down at that – God – that godforsaken place – and he asked her – “What are you doing there?” And she said, bless her heart, she said to him: “I live here.”
That’s where the bad man put her, after he was through with her. (long pause) Nobody put me here. I can’t blame this on anyone, I mean it’s not a malicious act. Not a hate crime. Nobody’s going to – rape me. No sir, I’d say I’m about as safe from rape as anybody could be, right here in my little cave! But I’d be happy to leave. Really.
But I’m sure it’s just this building that fell down. I am sure that my house is still standing. It has to be. It’s just hard to picture it. If David were still here . . . or there . . . he might be home, with the lights on. I always loved how our house looked at night, from outside, with the yellow light coming out of the windows, the windows open in the summer, like now, and maybe he would be playing the piano and I would hear it as I came up the walk. And then I’d go in and just – be there. Be there with him. I miss that. I do miss that.
I guess I’ll try to sleep again. I’m not used to sleeping alone. . . Funny . . . at first I thought I’d never be able to sleep with David. I knew I talked in my sleep, and jumped around, and . . . well, I guess I was more worried about him getting any sleep with me. He told me I was laughing all the time. I still don’t know what he’s talking about. I don’t laugh in my sleep. Even last summer, that awful trip to the lake, I thought I’d never get to sleep, and then he tells me the next morning I was laughing all night. Right.
Well. Maybe that’s my optimism. When I can’t summon it in the daytime it comes to me in the night. For all the good that does. . . Well, there’s no sense in dwelling on the negative. Not good for the baby. I should eat something . . . Oh. That’s right. No more food. (looks in bag, finds salt packet)
(lights completely out)
Scene 7: The next morning, Monday, about 9 AM.
(Stage notes: as before. April is curled in sleep. She awakes with a start)
Little Girl’s voice: MOMMY!
April: OH! What? What? Honey? (looks around, lies back down, wipes her face absentmindedly) Oh. Dream. (sits up) Well. I don’t have to pee. Isn’t that nice. (she sounds muted, much more exhausted and worn than before) Maybe that’s because the water ran out, eh? Do you think so? Hmm. Maybe.