HAPPY BIRTHDAY, WANDA JUNE
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, WANDA JUNE
SILENCE. Pitch blackness. Animal eyes begin to glow in the
darkness. Sounds of the jungle climax in animals fighting.
A SINGER is heard singing the first bars of "All God's
Chillun Got Shoes." HAROLD, LOOSELEAF, PENELOPE, and WOODLY
stand in a row in the darkness, facing the audience. They
are motionless. A city skyline in the early evening
materializes outside the windows.
The lights come up on the living room of a rich man's
apartment, which is densely furnished with trophies of hunts
and wars. There is a front door, a door to the master
bedroom suite, and a corridor leading to other bedrooms, the
kitchen and so on.
How do you do. My name is Penelope
Ryan. This is a simple-minded play
about men who enjoy killing--and
those who don't.
I am Harold Ryan, her husband. I
have killed perhaps two hundred men
in wars of various sorts--as a
professional soldier. I have
killed thousands of other animals
as well--for sport.
I am Dr. Norbert Woodly--a
physician, a healer. I find it
disgusting and frightening that a
killer should be a respected member
of society. Gentleness must
replace violence everywhere, or we
Would you like to say something
about killing, Colonel?
Jesus--I dunno. You know. What
the heck. Who knows?
Colonel Harper, retired now,
dropped an atom bomb on Nagasaki
during the Second World War,
killing seventy-four thousand
people in a flash.
I dunno, boy.
You don't know?
It was a bitch.
You can leave now. We'll begin.
(to the audience,
making a peace sign)
All but PENELOPE exit.
(to the audience)
This is a tragedy. When it's done,
my face will be as white as the
snows of Kilimanjaro.
My husband, who kills so much, has
been missing for eight years. He
disappeared in a light plane over
the Amazon Rain Forest, where he
hoped to find diamonds as big as
cantaloupes. His pilot was Colonel
Looseleaf Harper, who dropped the
bomb on Nagasaki.
I should explain the doorbells in
this apartment. They were built by
Abercrombie and Fitch. They are
actual recordings of animal cries.
The back doorbell is a hyena, which
you've just heard. The front
doorbell is a lion's roar.
(to the wings)
Would you let them hear it please?
PAUL, her twelve-year-old son, enters from corridor, a
sensitive, neatly dressed little rich boys.
And this is my son, Paul. He was
only four years old when his father
He's coming back, Mom! He's the
bravest, most wonderful man who
I told you this was a simple-minded
Maybe he'll come back tonight!
It's his birthday.
Stay home tonight!
(ruefully, for they
have been over this before)
You're married! You've already got
He's a ghost!
Not even Mutual of Omaha thinks so
If you have to go out with some
guy--can't he be more like Dad?
Herb Shuttle and Norbert Woodly--
can't you do better than those two
Thank you, kind sir.
A vacuum cleaner salesman and a
A what kind of doctor?
A fairy--a queer. Everybody in the
building knows he's a queer.
That's an interesting piece of news.
You're the only woman he ever took
Still lives with his mother.
You know she has no feet! You want
him to abandon his mother, who has
no husband, who has no money of her
own, who has no feet?
How did she lose her feet?
In a railroad accident many years ago.
I was afraid to ask.
Norbert was just beginning practice.
A real man would have sold her to a
catfood company, I suppose. As far
as that goes, J. Edgar Hoover still
lives with his mother.
I didn't know that.
A lot of people don't.
J. Edgar Hoover plays sports.
I don't really know.
To only exercise Dr. Woodly ever
gets is playing the violin and
making that stupid peace sign.
(makes the peace sign
and says the word effeminately)
Peace. Peace. Peace, everybody.
Lion doorbell roars.
I hate that thing.
He goes to door, admits WOODLY, whom he loathes openly.
clothes, carrying a
under his arm)
Peace, everybody--Paul, Penelope.
You're taking Mom out tonight?
You're going out?
Herb Shuttle is taking me to a fight.
Take plenty of cigars.
(an apology, secret
We made the date three months ago.
I must take you to an emergency
ward sometime--on a Saturday night.
That's also fun. I came to see
Selma, as a matter of fact.
She quit this afternoon.
We don't have a maid any more.
The animals made her sneeze and cry
I'm glad somebody finally cried.
Every time I come in here and see
all this unnecessary death, I want
(winking at PAUL,
low opinion of him)
I don't cry, of course. Not manly,
you know. Did she try antihistamines?
They made her so sleepy she
Throw out all this junk. Burn it!
This room crawls with tropical
Everything stays as it is!
A monument to a man who thought
that what the world needed most was
more rhinoceros meat.
I apologize. But you didn't know
him, and neither did I. How's your
Don't worry about it.
How's the fungus around your
(concealing the thumb)
It's jungle rot! This room is
making everybody sick! This is
your family doctor speaking now.
(unrolling the poster)
Here--I brought you something else
to hang on your wall, for the sake
"War is not healthy for children
and other living things." How lovely.
No doubt Paul thinks it stinks.
Lion doorbell roars.
I hate that thing.
(going to the door)
Keeps fairies away!
He admits HERB SHUTTLE, who carries an Electrolux vacuum
Would you look what the car dragged
I'm glad you brought your vacuum
Is that a fact?
That maid just quit. The place is
a mess. You can start in the
He's not anybody to tell somebody
else what to do in a master bedroom.
I'll get ready, Herb. I didn't
expect you this soon.
Please--won't everybody be nice to
everybody else while I'm gone?
All freeze, except for PENELOPE, who comes forward to
address the audience. Lights on set fade as spotlight comes
Most men shunned me--even when I
nearly swooned for want of love. I
might as well have been girdled in
a chastity belt. My chastity belt
was not made of iron and chains and
chickenwire, but of Harold's lethal
SHUTTLE comes into the spotlight.
I keep having this nightmare--that
he catches us.
He'd kill me. He'd be right to
kill me, too--the kind of guy he is.
Or was. We haven't done anything
wrong, you know.
He'd assume we had.
That's something I suppose.
All through the day I'm so
confident. That's why I'm such a
good salesman, you know? I have
confidence, and I look like I have
confidence, and that gives other
people confidence. People laugh
sometimes when they find out I'm a
vacuum cleaner salesman. They stop
laughing, though, when they find
out I made forty-three thousand
dollars last year. I've got six
other salesmen working under me,
and what they all plug into is my
confidence. That's what charges
I was captain of the wrestling team
at Lehigh University.
If you want to wrestle, you got
Lehigh. If you want to play
tennis, you go to Vanderbilt.
I don't want to go to Vanderbilt.
You don't wrestle if you don't have
supreme confidence, and I wrestled.
But when I get with you, and I say
to myself, "My God--here I am with
the wife of Harold Ryan, one of the
great heroes of all time--"
Something happens to my confidence.
(to the audience)
This conversation took place,
incidentally, about three months
before Harold was declared legally
When Harold is definitely out of
the picture, Penelope, when I don't
have to worry about doing him wrong
or you wrong or Paul wrong. I'm
going to ask you to be my wife.
That's when I'll get my confidence
If you'll pardon the expression,
that's when you'll see the fur and
feathers fly. Good night.
SHUTTLE and WOODLY argue in pitch darkness, with PAUL
listening, and lights come up gradually to full on the
living room the same evening.
You've got to fight from time to time.
Or get eaten alive.
That's not true either--or needn't
be, unless we make it true.
Which we do. But we can stop doing
The lights are full. SHUTTLE and WOODLY are bored with each
other, WOODLY looks out the window, speaks to an imaginary
listener who has more brains than SHUTTLE. PAUL hates them
both, but prefers SHUTTLE's noisy manliness.
We simply stop doing that--dropping
things on each other, eating each
Penelope! We're late!
(off, in master
Women are always late. You'll find
The late Mrs. Harold Ryan.
I'm sick of this argument. I just
have one more thing to say: If you
elect a President, you support him,
no matter what he does. That's the
only way you can have a country!
It's the planet that's in ghastly
trouble now and all our brothers
and sisters thereon.
None of my relatives are Chinese
Communists. Speak for yourself.
Chinese maniacs and Russian maniacs
and American maniacs and French
maniacs and British maniacs have
turned this lovely, moist,
nourishing blue-green ball into a
doomsday device. Let a radar set
and a computer mistake a hawk or a
meteor for a missile, and that's
the end of mankind.
You can believe that if you want.
I talk to guys like you, and I want
to commit suicide.
You get that weight-lifting set I
It came yesterday. I haven't
opened it yet.
to find the idea
funny, in a way)
Maybe it's supposed to end now.
Maybe God wouldn't have it any
Start with the smallest weights.
Every week add a pound or two.
Maybe God has let everybody who
ever lived be reborn--so he or she
can see how it ends. Even
Pithecanthropus erectus and
Australopithecus and Sinanthropus
pekensis and the Neanderthalers are
back on Earth--to see how it ends.
They're all on Times Square--making
change for peepshows. Or recruiting
You ever hear the story about the
boy who carried a calf around the
barn every day?
He died of a massive rupture.
You think you're so funny. You're
not even funny.
Right? Right? You don't hurt
yourself if you start out slow.
You're preparing him for a career
in the slaughterhouses of Dubuque?
Take care of your body, yes! But
don't become a bender of horseshoes
and railroad spikes. Don't become
obsessed by your musculature. Any
one of these poor, dead animals
here was a thousand times the
athlete you can ever hope to be.
Their magic was in their muscles.
Your magic is in your brains!
PENELOPE enters from the bedroom, dressed for the fight.
She wears barbaric jewelry HAROLD gave her years ago, a
jaguar-skin coat over her shoulders.
Gentlemen! Is this right for a
fight? It's been so long.
Beautiful! I've never seen that coat.
Seven jaguars' skins, I'm told.
Harold shot every one. Shall we go?
(sick about the slain jaguars)
Oh no! Wear a coat of cotton--wear
a coat of wool.
Wear a coat of domestic mink. For
the love of God, though, Penelope,
don't lightheartedly advertise that
the last of the jaguars died for you.
She's my date tonight. What do you
want her to do--bring the poor old
jaguars back to life with a bicycle
pump? Bugger off! Ask Paul what
Your mother looks beautiful--right?
declines to answer)
(PAUL walks away from him)
Doesn't your mother look nice?
(he goes to PAUL,
wondering what is wrong)
I don't care what she wears.
Something's made you sore.
Don't worry about it.
You bet I'll worry about it. I
said something wrong?
(close to angry tears)
It's my father's birthday--that's
raising his voice)
That's all. Who cares about that?
his hand to swear an oath)
I had not the slightest inkling.
(to PENELOPE, feeling betrayed)
Why didn't you say so?
She doesn't care! She's not
married any more! She's going to
I hope you have so much fun you can
hardly stand it.
Dr. Woodly--I hope you make up even
better jokes about my father than
the ones you've said so far.
(reaching out for PAUL)
And I wish you'd quit touching me
all the time. It drives me nuts!
(reaching out again)
You sure misunderstood something--
and we'd better get it straight.
Explain it to them. I'm bugging
out of here.
He grabs a jacket from a chair. SHUTTLE is in his way.
Don't touch me. Get out of the way.
Men can touch other men, and it
doesn't mean a thing. Haven't you
ever seen football players after
they've won the Superbowl?
Where will you be?
Anywhere but here. I'd just sit
here and cry about the way my
father's been forgotten.
I worship your father. That
stuffed alligator your mother gave
me--the one he shot? It's the
proudest thing in my apartment.
(at the door)
Everybody talks about how rotten
kids act. Grownups can be pretty
He exits through front door, slams it.
It's good. Let him go.
If he'd just come out for the
Little League, the way I asked him,
he'd find out we touch all the
time--shove each other, slug each
other, and just horse around. I'm
going to go get him--
Don't! Let him have all the
privacy he wants. Let him grieve,
let him rage. There has never been
a funeral for his father.
I never knew when to hold it--or
who to ask, or what to say.
Tonight's the night.
If he'd just get into scouting, and
camp out some, and see how
everybody roughhouses around the
What a beautiful demonstration this
is of the utter necessity of rites
I feel like I've been double-
(to PENELOPE, peevishly)
If you'd just told me it was
We could have had some kind of
birthday party for him. We could
have taken Paul to the fight with us.
Minors aren't allowed at fights.
Then we'd stay home and eat venison
or something, and look through the
scrapbooks. I've got a friend who
has a whole freezer full of striped
bass and caribou meat.
(going to the front door)
I'm going to bring that boy back.
He exits through front door.
(going to PENELOPE)
This is very good for us.
The wilder Paul is tonight, the
calmer he'll be tomorrow.
As long as he keeps out of the park.
After this explosion, I think,
he'll be able to accept the fact
that his mother is going to marry
The only thing I ever told him
about life was, "Keep out of the
park after the sun goes down."
We've got to dump Shuttle.
(pointing to the
He brings his vacuum cleaner on dates?
That's the XKE.
It's an experimental model. He
doesn't dare leave it in his car,
for fear it will fall into the
hands of competition.
What kind of a life is that?
He told me one time what the
proudest moment of his life was.
He made Eagle Scout when he was
twenty-nine years old.
(clinging to him suddenly)
Oh, Norbert--promise me that Paul
has not gone into the park!
If you warned him against it as
much as you say, it's almost a
No! Oh no! Three people murdered
in there in the last six weeks!
The police won't even go in there
I wish Paul luck.
I'd be dead by now if that were the
Every night, Penelope, for the past
two years, I've made it a point to
walk through the park at midnight.
Why would you do that?
To show myself how brave I am. The
issue's in doubt, you know--since
I'm always for peace--
Me, too. I know something not even
the police know--what's in the park
at midnight. Nothing. Or, when
I'm in there, there's me in there.
Fear and nobody and me.
And maybe Paul. What about the
murderers? They're in there!
They didn't murder me.
Paul's only twelve years old.
He can make the sound of human
footsteps--which is a terrifying
We've got to rescue him.
If he is in the park, luck is all
that can save him now, and there's
plenty of that.
He's not your son.
No. But he's going to be. If he
is in the park and he comes out
safely on the other side, I can say
to him, "You and I are the only men
with balls enough to walk through
the park at midnight."
On that we can build.
It's a jungle out there.
That's been said before.
He'd go to a movie. I think that's
what he'd do. If I were sure he
was in a movie, I could stop
worrying. We could have him paged.
Lion doorbell roars.
I hate that thing.
He opens the door, admits SHUTTLE, who carries a bakery box.
Did you see him?
Is he all right?
Far as I know.
Is he coming home?
He ditched me. He started running,
and I started running, then he lost
me in the park.
It's dark in there.
And that's where he is!
I figure he ducked in one place and
ducked out another.
(disgusted with him)
Then I saw this bakery store that
was still open, so I bought a
For Harold. When Paul comes home,
we can have some birthday cake.
They had this cake somebody else
hadn't picked up. It says, "Happy
Birthday, Somebody Else."
"Happy Birthday, Wanda June!"
We can take off the "Wanda June"
with a butter knife.
Did you talk to Paul?
Before he started to run. He said
his father carried a key to this
apartment around his neck--and
someday we'd all hear the sound of
that key in the door.
We've got to find him.
(preparing to exit
through front door)
I want you to show me exactly where
you saw him last.
And you stay here, Norbert, in case
he comes home.
That's all he said--the thing about
He said one other thing. It wasn't
What was it?
He told me to take a flying fuck at
DARKNESS. Lights come up on living room. WOODLY is alone,
asleep on the couch.
HAROLD lets himself and LOOSELEAF in through the front
door--quietly. HAROLD has a full beard and a paunch.
LOOSELEAF is skinnier. He has a handlebar moustache. Both
wear new sports clothes and smoke expensive cigars. HAROLD
is calm. LOOSELEAF is nervous, confused. They prowl the
room cautiously, checking this and that. HAROLD awakens
WOODLY by playing with his feet.
(to LOOSELEAF, very amused)
Can I--uh--help you gentlemen?
feeling at home)
You startled me.
Yeah. We just got here.
I thought you might be burglars--
but you're not, I hope.
incapable of deception)
I got a lot of stuff.
(looking at him closely)
The door ws unlocked. Is it always
It's always locked.
But here you are inside, aren't you?
You're--you're old friends of
We tried to be. We tried to be.
He's dead, you know.
Dead! Such a final word. Dead!
Did you hear that?
Telephone rings. WOODLY answers, keeping his eyes on the
Hello? Oh--hello, Mother.
...Who?... Did she say how far
apart the pains were?... When was
that?... Oh dear.
Call her back--tell her to head for
the hospital. Tell the hospital to
expect her. I'll leave right now.
He hangs up, faces the intruders.
Look--I'm sorry--I have to go.
We'll miss you so.
Look--this isn't my apartment, and
there isn't anybody else here. Mrs.
Ryan won't be home for a while.
Oh, oh, oh--I thought it was your
apartment. You seemed at home here.
I'm a neighbor. I have the
apartment across the hall. I have
to go to the hospital now. An
HAROLD is unstirred.
I mean--I can't leave you here.
You'll have to go. I'll tell Mrs.
Ryan you were here. You can come
Ahh--then she's still alive.
She's fine. Please--
And still Mrs. Harold Ryan?
Will you please go? An emergency!
She still has just the one child--
He moves slowly toward the front door, with WOODLY trying to
hustle him and LOOSELEAF out.
Yes! Yes! The boy! One boy!
And what, exactly, is your
relationship to Mrs. Ryan?
Neighbor! Doctor! I live across
And you come into Mrs. Ryan's
apartment as often as you please,
looking into various health matters?
Yes! Please! You've got to get
out right now!
HAROLD moves a little more, stops again.
Just her neighbor and doctor?
(at the end of his
And her fiancÚ!
And her fiancÚ! How nice. I hope
you'll be very happy--or is that
what one says to the woman?
I've got to run!
He turns out the overhead light.
You wish the woman good luck, and
you tell the man how fortunate he
is. That's how it goes.
(holding open the
I've literally got to run!
I won't try to keep up with you.
I'm not as fast on my feet as I
All three exit. A moment later, HAROLD lets himself and
LOOSELEAF in again with a key. He turns on the light again,
roams the room, reacquainting himself with his beloved
trophies. LOOSELEAF is jangled by the adventure. HAROLD
chucks a lioness under her chin.
Miss me, baby?
I dunno, boy.
It's a bitch.
Didn't recognize you.
We've never met.
I wonder who'll recognize us first?
They'll wet their pants.
I hope the men do. I would rather
the women didn't.
I'm gonna wet my pants.
He laughs idiotically.
(looking around himself)
Home, sweet home.
One thing, anyway--at least
Penelope didn't throw out all your
crap. I bet Alice threw out all my
crap after I'd been gone a week.
HAROLD, who wants to savor the early moments of his
homecoming alone, now tries to get the very jumpy LOOSELEAF
out of the apartment.
It appears that we're going to have
to wait awhile for any more action
here, Colonel. Why don't you run
on home while the evening's young.
(makes his hands tremble)
I'm like this. Home!
Home is important to a man.
You know what gets me?
How all the magazines show tits today.
Used to be against the law, didn't it?
(fed up with LOOSELEAF)
(making no move to leave)
Must have changed that law.
Silence, while HAROLD attempts to be alone, even though
LOOSELEAF is still present.
admiring its balance
You know what gets me?
HAROLD does not respond.
You know what gets me?
encouragement in this)
How everybody says "fuck" and
"shit" all the time. I used to be
scared shitless I'd say "fuck" or
"shit" in public, by accident. Now
everybody says "fuck" and "shit,"
"fuck" and "shit" all the time.
Something very big must have
happened while we were out of the
Looseleaf--will you get the hell home?
At least we found the diamonds.
I'd really feel stupid if we didn't
bring anything back home.
It's enough that you've brought
I wish you'd tell Alice that. And
that Goddamn Mrs. Wheeler.
Tell them yourself!
You don't know my mother-in-law, boy.
After eight years in the jungle
with you, I know Mrs. Wheeler
better than I know anybody in the
I didn't tell you everything.
The time we were in a tree for
fourteen days, you certainly tried
to tell me everything about Mrs.
I didn't even scratch the surface.
You're lucky, boy. You come home,
and nobody's here. When I go home,
everybody's going to be there.
This room is full of ghosts.
You're lucky, boy. My house is
gonna be filled with people.
HAROLD ignores this, attempts to savor the ghosts in the room.
You know what gets me?
Thank God we found the fucking
The hell with the diamonds!
You were rich before. This is the
first time I was ever rich.
Go home! Show them how rich you
are for a change!
Can I have the Cadillac?
Take the Cadillac and drive it off
a cliff, for all I care.
What'll you do for transportation?
I'll buy a hundred more Cadillacs.
You know what gets me about that
When I drive it, I feel like I'm in
the middle of a great big wad of
bubblegum. I don't hear anything,
I don't feel anything. I figure
somebody else is driving. It's a
I'm liable to find anything!
That's the point! Walk in there
and find whatever there is to
find--before Alice can cover it up.
I know, I know. I dunno. At least
she's in the same house. Sure was
spooky, looking in the window
there, and there she was.
So long, Colonel.
You know what gets me?
(taking hold of
steering him to the
Let's talk about it some other time.
How short the skirts are.
(opening the door)
Good night, Colonel. It's been
Something very important about sex
must have happened while we were gone.
HAROLD shoves him out of the apartment and shuts the door.
HAROLD starts to roam the room again, but the lion doorbell
(going to the door)
HAROLD opens the door. LOOSELEAF comes in.
You know what gets me? Those guys
who went to the moon! To the moon,
Leave me alone! After eight years
of horrendously close association,
the time has come to part! I crave
solitude and time for reflection--
and then a reunion in privacy with
my own flesh and blood. You and I
may not meet again for months!
I'm certainly not going to come
horning back into your life
tomorrow, and I will not welcome
your horning back into mine. A
chapter has ended. We are old
comrades--at a parting of the ways.
I'm lonesome already.
(roaming the room again)
The moon. The new heroism--put a
village idiot into a pressure
cooker, seal it up tight, and shoot
him at the moon.
(to his portrait)
Hello there, young man. In case
you're wondering, I could beat the
shit out of you. And any woman
choosing between us--sorry, kid,
she'd choose me.
(pleased with the room)
I must say, this room is very much
as I left it.
(sees the cake)
What's this? A cake? "Happy
Birthday, Wanda June"? Who the
hell is Wanda June?
MUSIC indicates happiness, innocence, and weightlessness.
Spotlight comes up on WANDA JUNE, a lisping eight-year-old
in a starched party dress. She is as cute as Shirley Temple.
Hello. I am Wanda June. Today was
going to be my birthday, but I was
hit by an ice-cream truck before I
could have my party. I am dead now.
I am in Heaven. That is why my
parents did not pick up the cake at
the bakery. I am not mad at the
ice-cream truck driver, even though
he was drunk when he hit me. It didn't
hurt much. It wasn't even as bad as the
sting of a bumblebee. I am really
happy here! It's so much fun. I
am glad the driver was drunk. If
he hadn't been, I might not have
got to Heaven for years and years
and years. I would have had to go
to high school first, and then
beauty college. I would have had
to get married and have babies and
everything. Now I can just play
and play and play. Any time I want
any pink cotton candy I can have
some. Everybody up here is happy--
the animals and the dead soldiers
and people who went to the electric
chair and everything. They're all
glad for whatever sent them here.
Nobody is mad. We're all too busy
playing shuffleboard. So if you
think of killing somebody, don't
worry about it. Just go ahead and
do it. Whoever you do it to should
kiss you for doing it. The
soldiers up here just love the
shrapnel and the tanks and the
bayonets and the dum dums that let
them play shuffleboard all the
time--and drink beer.
Spotlight begins to dim and carnival music on a steam
calliope begins to intrude, until, at the end of the speech,
WANDA JUNE is drowned out and the stage is black.
We have merry-go-rounds that don't
cost anything to ride on. We have
Ferris wheels. We have Little
League and girls' basketball.
There's a drum and bugle corps
anybody can join. For people who
like golf, there is a par-three
golf course and a driving range,
with never any waiting. If you
just want to sit and loaf, why
that's all right, too. Gourmet
specialties are cooked to your
order and served at any time of
night or day...
WOODY WOODPECKER VOICE
Ha ha ha ha ha!
You got me, pal.
Spotlight comes up on LOOSELEAF HARPER, who wears the
clothes he will wear in the next scene--new sports clothes,
a shirt open at the neck. As always, he is friendly and
When Penelope asked me to say
something about dropping the bomb
on Nagasaki, I didn't give a very
good answer, I guess. It's a very
complicated question. Jesus--you
know? You have to explain what
it's like to be in the Air Force
and how they give you your orders
and all that. What it feels like
to be in a plane, what the world
looks like down there. After I got
home from the war, the minister of
my church asked me if I would speak
to a scout troop that met in the
church basement. So I did. They
met on Thursday nights. I used to
belong to that troop. I never made
Eagle Scout. But you know
something? It's a very strange
kind of kid that makes Eagle Scout.
They always seem so lonesome, like
they'd worked real hard to get a
job nobody else cares about. They
get a whole bunch of merit badges.
That's how you get to be an Eagle
Scout. I don't think I had over
five or six merit badges. The only
one I remember is Public Health.
That was a bitch. The Boy Scout
Manual said I was supposed to find
out what my town did about sewage.
Jesus, they just dumped it all in
Sugar Creek! That was a long time
ago, but it's all coming back to me
now. There was another merit badge
you could get for roller skating.
There used to be a roller rink at a
bend in Sugar Creek, up above where
the sewage went in. I got in a
fight there one time. I had on
roller skates, and the guy I was
fighting had on basketball shoes.
He had a tremendous advantage over
me. He was a little guy, but he
beat the shit out of me. I had to
laugh like hell. Don't ever fight
a guy when you've got on roller
Jesus--I remember my mother used to
make me chew bananas for a full
minute before I swallowed--so I
wouldn't get sick. Makes you
wonder what else your parents told
you that wasn't true.
SPOTLIGHT comes up on HAROLD. He sits on the front seat of
an imaginary car. The seat is covered with zebra skin.
The night I met Penelope, I had no
beard--so imagine me, if you can,
without a beard. Actually, I
wasn't as good-looking then as I am
now. And, if anything, me health
has improved. At any rate--I had
just come home from Kenya--to
discover that my third wife,
Mildred, like the two before her,
had become a drunken bum. In my
experience, alcoholism is far more
prevalent among women than men. So
I got into my automobile--
He pantomimes turning the ignition key. The sound of a
starter and a powerful engine responds. He pantomimes
putting the car in gear and driving away from the curb.
Appropriate sounds are heard.
I drive through the night, until I
was attracted by a sign which said--
Spotlight comes up on PENELOPE, who wears a skimpy carhop
outfit she has had on under her coat in the previous scene.
HAROLD pantomimes swerving into Hamburger Heaven. Tires
squeal. He pantomimes a stop, kills the engine. He blows
his imaginary horn. A real horn blows the bugle call for
"charge." PENELOPE crosses to HAROLD.
Can I help you, sir?
I think so, daughter. How old are
and a half.
A springbok, an oryx, a gemsbok--a
Raw hamburger, please--and a whole
onion. I want to eat the onion
like an apple. Do you understand?
(to the audience)
It was a very unusual automobile.
It was a Cadillac, but it had water
buffalo horns where the bumpers
And what to drink?
What time do you get off work, my
I'm sorry, sir, I'm engaged to be
married. My boyfriend would be mad
if I went out with another man.
Did you ever daydream that you
would one day meet a friendly
Daughter--I love you very much.
You don't even know me.
You are woman. I know woman well.
This is crazy.
Destiny often seems that way.
You're going to marry me.
What do you do for a living?
My parents died in an automobile
accident when I was sixteen years
old. They left me a brewery and a
baseball team--and other things. I
live for a living. I've just come
back from Kenya--in Africa. I've
been hunting Mau Mau there.
Some kind of animal?
The pelt is black. It's a kind of
CURTAIN rises on empty living room. PAUL lets himself in
with a key.
(advances into room uneasily)
(sees the cake)
A cake? Who's Wanda June?
HAROLD enters quietly from the kitchen, holding a can of beer.
As a matter of fact--
(nearly jumping out
of his skin)
As a matter of fact--I am home.
(thinking HAROLD may
be a burglar)
His voice fails him.
(hoping to be recognized)
You were about to ask a question?
Are you--do you--
Do you know who Wanda June is?
Life has denied me that thrill.
Do you mind if I ask who you are?
God, yes, I mind.
I'm your father's friend. A man
claiming to be the family physician
let me in a while ago.
Dr. Woodly. I should make a little
Is anybody besides you here now?
The doctor was called away on an
emergency. I think it was birth.
You don't know where your mother is?
Does she put on a short skirt and
go drinking all night?
She went to the fight with Herb
Shuttle, I guess.
You think you could find me a
pencil and paper?
He rummages through a drawer.
And you've been roaming the streets
while your mother is God-knows-where?
I was going to a funny movie, but I
changed my mind. If you're
depressed, laughing doesn't help
(gives HAROLD pencil
When did you know my father?
Man and boy.
Everybody says he was so brave.
Even this--"Herb Shuttle", you said?
He worships Father.
Ah! And what sort of man is this
He's a vacuum cleaner salesman.
And he came into the apartment one
day, to demonstrate his wares, and
your mother, as it happened, was
charmingly en deshabille--
She met him at college.
They were in the same creative
She has a master's degree in
What a pity! Educating a beautiful
woman is like pouring honey into a
fine Swiss watch. Everything stops.
And the doctor? He worships your
He insults him all the time.
What's good about that?
It makes life spicy.
He doesn't do it in front of me,
but he does it with Mother.
(indicating HAROLD's portrait)
You know what he called Father one
"Harold, the Patron Saint of
(measuring his opponent)
What does he do--of an athletic
Nothing. He plays a violin in a
Aha! He has a brilliant military
record, I'm sure.
He was a stretcher-bearer in the
Were you in a war with Father?
Big ones, little ones, teeny-weeny
ones--just and otherwise.
Tell me some true stories about Dad.
(unused to the word)
The boy wants tales of derring-do.
Name a country.
Dad was never in England?
Behind a desk for a little while.
A desk! They had him planning air
raids. A city can't flee like a
coward or fight like a man, and the
choice between fleeing and fighting
was at the core of the life of
Harold Ryan. There was only one
thing he enjoyed more than watching
someone make that choice, and that
was making the choice himself. Ask
about Spain, where he was the
youngest soldier in the Abraham
Lincoln Brigade. He was a famous
sniper. They called him "La
As in "Death, where is thy sting?"
He killed at least fifty men,
wounded hundreds more.
(slightly dismayed at
Ask about the time he and I were
parachuted into Yugoslavia to join
a guerrilla band--in the war
against the Nazis.
Tell me that.
I saw your father fight Major
Siegfried von Konigswald, the Beast
of Yugoslavia, hand to hand.
(his excitement rising)
Tell me that! Tell me that!
Hid by day--fought by night. At
sunset one day, your father and I,
peering through field glasses, saw
a black Mercedes draw up to a
village inn. It was escorted by
two motorcyclists and an armored
car. Out of the Mercedes stepped
one of the most hateful men in all
of history--the Beast of Yugoslavia.
We blacked our hands and faces. At
midnight we crept out of the forest
and into the village. The name of
the village was Mhravitch.
Remember that name!
We came up behind a sentry, and
your father slit his throat before
he could utter a sound.
Don't care for cold steel? A knife
is worse than a bullet?
I don't know.
The story gets hairier. Should I
We caught another Kraut alone in a
back lane. Your father choked him
to death with a length of piano
wire. Your father was quite a
virtuoso with piano wire. That's
nicer than a knife, isn't it--as
long as you don't look at the face
afterwards. The face turns a
curious shade of avocado. I must
ask the doctor why that is. At any
rate, we stole into the back of the
inn, and, with the permission of
the management, we poisoned the
wine of six Krauts who were
Where did you get the poison?
We carried cyanide capsules. We
were supposed to swallow them in
case we were captured. It was your
father's opinion that the Krauts
needed them more than we did at the
And one of them was the Beast of
The Beast was upstairs, and he came
running downstairs, for his men
were making loud farewells and last
wills and testaments--editorializing
about the hospitality they had
received. And your father said to
him in perfect German, which he had
learned in the Spanish Civil War,
"Major, something tragic seems to
have happened to your bodyguard. I
am Harold Ryan, of the United
States of America. You, I believe,
are the Beast of Yugoslavia."
SILENCE. Pitch blackness. The sounds of a Nazi rally come
up slowly: "Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil!" Spotlight
comes up on MAJOR SIEGFRIED VON KONIGSWALD, and officer in
the dreaded SS. He is in full ceremonial uniform. The
(sadly, resignedly, remembering)
Ja ja. Ja ja.
I am Major Siegfried von Konigswald.
They used to call me "The Beast of
Yugoslavia," on account of all the
people I had tortured and shot--and
hanged. We'd bop 'em on the head.
We'd hook 'em up to the electricity.
We'd stick 'em with hypodermic
syringes full of all kinds of stuff.
One time we killed a guy with
orange juice. There was a train
wreck, and two of the freight cars
were loaded with oranges, so we had
oceans of orange juice. It was a
joke--how much orange juice we had.
And we were interrogating a guy one
day, and he wouldn't talk, and the
next thing I know--somebody's
filling up this big syringe with
There was a guerrilla war going on.
You couldn't tell who was a
guerrilla and who wasn't.
Even if you got one, it was still a
civilian you got. Telling
Americans what a guerrilla war is
like--that's coals to Newcastle.
How do you like that for idiomatic
English? "Coals to Newcastle."
That Harold Ryan--he says he spoke
to me in perfect German? He talks
German like my ass chews gum. I'm
glad to hear the wonderful thing he
said before he killed me. I sure
didn't understand it the first time
around. I figured he was a
Lithuanian or something, which will
give you an idea of how wrong you
can be. All I knew was he was very
proud about something, and he had a
machine pistol, and it was aimed at
me. The woods were full of all
kinds of nuts who were proud of
some damn thing or other, and they
all had guns. They were always
looking for revenge. You find a
way to bottle revenge--that's the
end of Schnapps und Coca-Cola.
Harold Ryan said he killed maybe
two hundred guys. I killed a
hundred times that many, I bet.
That's still peanuts, of course,
compared to what that crazy
Looseleaf did. Harold and me--we
was doing it the hard way. I hope
the record books will show that.
There should be a little star or
something by the names of the guys
who did it the hard way.
I'm up in Heaven now, like that
little Wanda June kid. I wasn't
hit by no ice-cream truck. Harold
Ryan killed me with his bare hands.
He was good. My eyes popped out.
My tongue stuck out like a red
banana. I shit in my pants. It
was a mess.
When I got up on the day I died, I
said, "What a beautiful day this is.
What a beautiful part of the
world." The whole planet was
beautiful. Up here I meet guys
from other planets.
We got some really crazy-looking
guys up here. Their planets
weren't anywhere near as nice as
Earth. They had clouds all the
time. They never saw a clear blue
sky. They never saw snow. They
never saw an ocean. They had some
little lakes, but you couldn't go
swimming in them. The lakes were
acid. You go swimming, you
dissolve. We got some guys up here
who got shoved in them lakes. They
Harold Ryan stopped talking German
to me there in Yugoslavia. He
switched to English, so I finally
got some kind of idea what he was
so burned up about. He wanted
revenge for the guy we killed with
orange juice. I don't know how he
ever found out about it. There was
just three of us there when we did
it--me and two regular military
doctors. Somebody who cleaned up
afterwards must have squealed. If
I'd lived through the war, and they
tried me for war crimes and all
that, I'd have to tell the court, I
guess, "I was only following
orders, as a good soldier should.
Hitler told me to kill this guy
with orange juice."
DARKNESS. Lights come up on living room. HAROLD has just
finished telling his true war story to PAUL.
Mhravitch. Remember that name.
The name will live forever. It was
there that Harold Ryan slew the
Beast of Yugoslavia. Mhravitch.
When I grow up, I'm going to go to
It's rather a disappointment these
days. It isn't there any more.
The Germans shot everybody who
lived there, then leveled it,
plowed it, planted turnips and
cabbages in the fertile ground.
They wished revenge for the slaying
of the Beast of Yugoslavia. To
their twisted way of thinking, your
father had butchered an Eagle Scout.
Play lots of contact sports?
I wanted to go out for football,
but Mom was afraid I'd get hurt.
You're supposed to get hurt!
Dr. Woodly says he's seen hundreds
of children permanently injured by
football. He says that when
there's a war, everybody goes but
Does it bother you to have your
mother engaged to a man like that?
They're not engaged.
He seems to think they are. He
told me that were.
Oh no, no, no, no, no. It can't be.
You're a very good boy to respond
No, no, no, no, no.
I'd like to use the sanitary
facilities, if I may.
(as HAROLD exits)
No, no, no, no.
PENELOPE and SHUTTLE enter through front door. They are
tremendously relieved to see PAUL.
What a relief!
(going to PAUL)
My baby's safe!
PAUL angrily avoids her touch.
What's the matter now?
We got a birthday cake, kid. Did
you see the cake?
Are you and Dr. Woodly engaged?
Who have you been talking to?
What difference does that make? Is
Dr. Woodly going to be my father now?
Yes, he is.
(a stifled, gargling cry)
That goes double for me.
I don't want to live any more.
I feel like I want to yell my head
off--just yell anything.
I'll kill myself.
The wife of Harold Ryan is going to
marry a pansy next? This is the
end of Western Civilization as far
as I'm concerned. You must be
crazy as a fruitcake.
How long has this been going on?
A week. We were waiting for the
right time to--
I feel as though I had been made a
perfect chump of.
Marry me instead.
Thank you, Herb. You're a
wonderful man. You really are.
Everybody respects you for what
you've done for scouting and the
You're saying no.
I'm saying no--and thank you.
I didn't make my move fast enough.
That's it, isn't it? I was too
You were wonderful.
What's so wonderful if I lost the
(turning to PAUL)
You poor kid.
Don't touch me.
Wouldn't you rather have your
mother marry me than him?
toward the front door)
All my dreams have suddenly
We did have a lot of laughs
Well--it was nice while it lasted.
Thanks for the memories.
Silence. A toilet flushes loudly and complicatedly.
Is Norbert still here?
Then who flushed the toilet?
What's his name?
For Heaven's sakes!
HAROLD enters, still adjusting his trousers.
How do you do?
How do you do, Mrs. Ryan? I'd
heard you were beautiful, and so
you are. Am I intruding here?
Not at all.
I couldn't help overhearing that
you were about to get married again.
PENELOPE has now recognized him, but attempts to protect
herself from shock by pretending that she has not.
Our family physician has asked me
to marry him. Paul needs the
guidance and companionship that
only a man can give. He isn't at
all like Harold. But then again,
I'm not the woman I was eight years
She slumps into a chair, buries her face in her hands.
That man is your father.
There stands the loins from which
I don't get it.
It is you, isn't it, Harold?
(enjoying the drama hugely)
Yes, wife, it is.
Come here, boy. Your father is home.
Go to him.
PAUL goes to HAROLD dazedly. They embrace clumsily.
Son, son, son... Father, father, father...
They part, unsatisfied and confused. HAROLD goes to
PENELOPE, his arms outstretched.
Wife, wife, wife...
PENELOPE struggles to her feet, her face blank. HAROLD
embraces her, finds himself wrestling with a rigid,
Wife, wife, wife...
HAROLD lets go, backs away from her.
What's the matter?
Give us time.
Like hugging a lamp post.
Give us time, Harold--to adjust to
your being alive.
You were well adjusted to my being
We adjust to what there is to
adjust to. Perhaps Paul, being
young, can adjust to joy or grief
immediately. I hope he can. I
will take a little longer. I'll be
as quick as I can.
What sort of time period do you
have in mind? Half an hour? An hour?
I don't know. This is a new
disease to me.
This reunion isn't what I imagined
it would be.
A telegram--a phone call might have
Seemed the most honest way to begin
life together again--natural,
Well--enjoy the natural, honest,
unrehearsed result--surgical shock.
You feel that you're behaving as a
Every fuse in my nervous system has
Lion doorbell roars.
Who's that? Teddy Roosevelt?
PAUL answers the door, admits WOODLY.
Safe and sound, I see.
Oh--you came back.
I came back.
You know each other?
We met here earlier this evening.
How neat. How keen.
How was the emergency, Doctor?
Profitable, I hope.
A policeman delivered the baby in a
Tough luck. You'll have to split
(puzzled by PENELOPE's
Are--are you crying, Penelope?
She's crying because she's so happy.
That's why I'm crying.
You know who this is?
I didn't get his name. A friend of
He isn't any friend of Father.
He is my father.
Eeeeeeeeeeee-yup. Dr. Woodly--I
would like you to meet Harold, my
husband. Harold, this is Dr.
Woodly, my fiancÚ.
She crosses to the door of the master bedroom, kissing each
male lightly as she passes.
Good night, dear. Good night, dear.
She stands in the doorway.
Stay or go, talk or sulk, laugh or
cry--as you wish. Do whatever
seems called for. My mind is gone.
She exits into bedroom, closes the door firmly, locks it
I feel the same way. What next?
What next? You leave promptly, of
course. There is no question as to
whose home this is--
Whose son this is, whose wife that
is. A fiancÚ is the most ridiculous
appurtenance this household could
have at this time. Good night.
(crushed, without any
He exits through the front door. HAROLD goes at once to
PENELOPE's door, tries it, finds it locked.
Penelope! God damn it! Penelope!
He considers kicking down the door, thinks better of this,
Wants to fix up her makeup, no doubt.
Is Looseleaf Harper alive?
Alive and hale. He's throwing a
little surprise party for his own
family. Is your mother often this
(not waiting for an
answer, calling again)
She's a real heavy sleeper sometimes.
Why don't you go to bed--son.
I can't take my eyes off you.
Tomorrow's another day.
You know what my English literature
teacher said about you?
Can't it keep till morning?
She said you were legendary. I
wrote a theme about you, and she
said, "Your father is a legendary
hero out of the Golden Age of
That's nice. You thank her for me.
Go to bed and get lots of sleep,
and then you thank her in the morning.
Tomorrow's Saturday. Anyway, she's
She was killed in the park two
months ago--in the daytime.
She was on her way home from a
meeting of the African Violet
Society, and they got her.
Will you go to bed?
Yes sir. If you can't wake Mom up,
I've got double-decker bunks.
(stamping his foot)
PAUL exits hastily down the corridor to his room. HAROLD
goes to PENELOPE's door, attempts to woo her through it.
Penelope--darling--can you hear me?
Wife--you know what kept me alive
all these fevered, swampy,
nightmare years? Your heavenly
face, Penelope, my wife--shimmering
before me, coaxing me up from my
knees, begging me to stagger one
step closer to home. Has love ever
reached so far? Has love ever
overcome more hardships than mine?
Has love ever asked more manliness
of a man, more womanliness of a
woman? Has ever a man done more
for a woman's reward?
The bedroom door opens, revealing PENELOPE.
(hollowly, to the
world at large)
There is no one in here of any
earthly use to anyone tonight.
Tomorrow is another day.
She closes the door and locks it.
End of Act One.
DARKNESS. PAUL, alone in the living room, hammers on his
mother's door. He wears pajamas.
Mom! Mother! Mom!
Toilet flushes. Lights come up on the living room. It is
Dad's got jungle fever, Mom.
What'll I do? Mom!
(a moment of exhaustion)
Door to the master bedroom suite opens. PENELOPE appears in
the doorway. She has decided during an almost sleepless
night that she owes it to PAUL and to her own self-respect
to explore the possibility of beginning her life with HAROLD
anew. She is terrified of him. She hopes that if she can
keep calm and open, her fears will diminish. Perhaps she
can love him again.
(attempting to behave
mechanically as a
good wife should)
What are his symptoms?
Shivers and sweats and groans. His
teeth chatter. What'll we do?
What does he say to do?
He can hardly talk.
(responding to a last
twinge of nausea)
You'd better get Dr. Woodly.
It is an emergency, isn't it?
Then get him.
(thinking she has
made a mistake)
He exits through front door, leaves door open. We hear him
knocking on a door in the hallway.
HAROLD enters, drained but recovering. He chews on a root.
He has slept in the shirt and trousers he wore the night
before. He is barefoot. PAUL knocks again.
There is the sound of WOODLY's door opening. WOODLY and
PAUL speak unintelligibly, WOODLY evidently inviting PAUL in
for a moment. WOODLY's door closes.
What's that all about?
We thought a doctor might help.
Your old beau?
We thought it was an emergency.
I don't want that chancre mechanic
He's a very decent man, Harold.
We all are.
Shouldn't you lie down?
When I'm dead--
(throwing it away)
Paul said you were awfully sick.
I was, I was. It never lasts long.
He hears WOODLY's door open, is alert to WOODLY's approach,
continues to speak to PENELOPE absently.
The Indians call it "Zamba-
keetya"--the little cloudburst.
WOODLY and PAUL enter. WOODLY is correctly professional and
carries a little black bag.
Ah! You're ambulatory!
What a brilliant diagnosis!
You know what I want?
(all look at her)
I want you both to be friends. I
know you both, respect you both.
You should be friends.
Nothing would please me more.
(pleased but careful)
Well now--what seems to be the
trouble with the patient today? A
touch of malaria, perhaps?
I know malaria. Malaria isn't
caused by the bites of bats.
You've been bitten by bats?
Colonel Harper and I once shared a
treetop with a family of bats.
There was a flash flood. There
were piranha fish in the water.
That's how Colonel Harper lost his
You have chills?
Chills, fevers, sweats. You can
describe it and name it after
yourself: "the Woodly galloping
WOODLY enjoys the joke and the blooming friendship.
You can also describe its cure.
I'm eating its cure.
I was going to ask.
Would you say that again?
Pacqualinincheewa root. Means
"cougar fang." Cures anything but a
yellow streak down the back.
I've never heard of it.
Congratulations. By crossing
twenty-eight feet of cockroach-
infested carpet, you've become the
third white man ever to hear of it.
Are you've seen it work cures?
I'm so glad you like each other. I
was so scared, so scared.
(breaking off a
piece, offering it)
Thank you. Thank you very much.
I believe in miracles now.
Wasn't that sweet of me?
More and more we find ourselves
laying aside false pride and
looking into the pharmacopoeias of
primitive people. Curare,
ephedrine--we've found some amazing
We have, have we?
That's an editorial we, of course.
I haven't turned up anything
Everything about you is the
editorial we. Take that away from
you, and you'd disappear.
I could carve a better man out of a
You and your damned bedside manner
and your damned little black bag
full of miracles. You know who
filled that bag for you? Not
yourself. Men with guts filled it,
by God--men with guts enough to pay
the price for miracles--suffering,
ingratitude, loneliness, death--
I can just hear the editorial wee-
wee-weeing when Looseleaf and I
start flying in pacqualinincheewa
root. I can hear the Alice-sit-by-
the-fires now: "We discovered it in
the Amazon Rain Forest. Now we
cure you with it. Now we lower our
eyes with becoming modesty as we
receive heartfelt thanks."
HAROLD suddenly goes to WOODLY, takes his hand and pretends
Oh, bless you, Doctor, bless you--
oh healer, oh protector, oh giver
WOODLY withdraws his hand, examines it as though it were
He doesn't deserve this! You don't
know him. It isn't fair!
He thought he could take my place.
It is now my privilege to give an
unambiguous account of why I don't
think he's man enough to do that.
I thought she was a widow.
You were wrong, you quack!
but not getting too close)
I can't tell you how sorry I am.
Say hello to your mother.
Do say hello to your mother.
I'm taking her to the airport a few
minutes from now. She's going to
East St. Louis--to visit an aunt.
Tell her to have a nice trip.
(moving towards the
HAROLD laughs. This stings WOODLY to a cold, peace-loving
I'm going to have to report you to
the Department of Health.
Quarantine, possibly. You may be
suffering from a loathsome disease
which the American people could do
He exits instantly.
Now that's what I call fun.
Ghastly, cruel, unnecessary.
You'll get so you enjoy twitting
weaklings again. You used to eat
We were one hell of a pair--and
we'll be one again. What we need
is a honeymoon. Let's start right
A trip, you mean?
I had a trip. We'll honeymoon here.
Go out and play.
Your mother and I do not wish to be
disturbed for three full hours.
He hasn't had breakfast yet.
Buy yourself breakfast.
(takes his billfold
from his hip pocket,
hands PAUL a $100 bill)
There we go.
A hundred dollars!
The smallest thing I've got.
Can I get dressed first?
Make it fast.
PAUL exits to his bedroom. HAROLD turns to PENELOPE.
Honeymoon! Honeymoon! Say it:
It's so--so stark.
You used to like it stark!
Just--bang--we have a honeymoon.
(beginning to stalk
I'm not going to strike you. I am
going to be as gentle as pie--as
lemon meringue pie. You mustn't
run away now. This is your loving
husband approaching. I'm your
husband. Society approves!
PENELOPE wants to run, but doesn't.
Good! You held your ground.
HAROLD is very close now, but not touching her.
Now--turn around, if you would.
I'm not about to introduce to you a
jungle novelty. What I have in
mind is massage--a perfectly decent
massage. Turn around, turn around.
I'm going to touch your shoulders
very gently now. You mustn't
shoulders gently, expertly)
So tense, so tense.
You shouldn't have talked to
Norbert that way.
You're thinking with your brain
instead of your body. That's why
you're so tense! Forget Norbert.
Relax. It's body time.
I have a brain.
We all do. But now it's body time.
Relax. Ideally, the body of a
woman should feel like a hot water
bottle filled with Devonshire cream.
You feel like a paper bag crammed
with curtain rods. Think of your
muscles one by one. Let them go
slack. Relax. Let the brain go
blank. Relax. That's the idea--
that's my girl. Now the small of
the back. Let those knots over
those kidneys unsnarl.
(entering, dressed to
go out and play)
(hanging on to
PENELOPE, but knowing
the mood has been broken)
Couldn't you have vanished quietly
out the back door?
A hundred dollars for breakfast?
Leave a tip.
away, having been
I have some change!
Ram it up your ass!
He realizes at once that his violent side has severely
damaged the side of him which is the great seducer.
PENELOPE and PAUL are straight as ramrods.
I do beg your pardon.
Those words were illy chosen.
There is tension in all of us here.
Something you must both understand,
however, is that the head of this
household is home, and he is Harold
Ryan, and people do what he says
when he says it. That's the way
this particular clock is constructed.
Lion doorbell roars.
Sometimes even I hate that thing.
PAUL goes reeling to the door in terror, admits LOOSELEAF,
who has also been sleeping in his clothes.
(walking right in)
I've been looking at motorcycles.
You ever own a motorcycle?
You're right! We'll take a trip.
A trip is what we'll take.
I don't want to talk about
motorcycles. I don't want to talk
about tits. Go home!
Haven't got one.
And you went home unannounced, too?
I dunno. Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! I did.
And how were things?
Let's talk about something else.
Alice got married again.
You didn't even find that out?
There was so much going on.
She married an accountant named
So that's it! "Kestenbaum,
Kestenbaum." Everybody was yelling
"Kestenbaum, Kestenbaum." I thought
it was some foreign language.
Otherwise, how are things?
I sure didn't expect her to drop dead.
Alice is dead?
No, no--shit no.
Excuse me, Penelope.
For saying "shit." Or is that okay
My mother-in-law. Fire engines,
pulmotors, doctors, cops, coroners--
Well--I walked up to the front door.
I was still alive. Big surprise.
I rang the doorbell, and old Mrs.
Wheeler answered. She had her
Goddamn knitting. I said, "Guess
who?" She conked right out.
Yeah--cripes. I never did get any
sense out of Alice. She found me
holding up the old lady, dead as a
mackerel. It was a bitch. You
know--maybe Mrs. Wheeler was going
to die then and there anyway, even
if I'd been the paper boy. Maybe
not. I dunno, boy. That's
civilian life for you. Who knows
what kills anybody?
Could have happened to anybody.
First Nagasaki--now this.
How about breakfast, wife?
(as though to a waitress)
Scrambled eggs, kippered herring,
fried potatoes--and a whole onion.
I want to eat the onion like an
apple. Do you understand?
PENELOPE turns away.
And lots of orange juice--oceans of
Mrs. Wheeler is dead.
All right--bring me a side order of
resigning himself to
being stuck with his
company for a little
Oh, hell--sit down, Colonel.
Penelope will bring you some chow.
That is the most heartless
statement I ever heard pass between
"Bring me a side order of Mrs.
She's up in Heaven now. She didn't
hear. She is experiencing nothing
but pure happiness. There's
nothing nicer than that.
slamming a table with
Chow! Harold Ryan wants chow!
What a honeymoon.
Honeymoon temporarily canceled.
(catching sight of
PAUL, whose physical
The boy should still go out and
exercise. I have the impression he
never gets any exercise. He simply
bloats himself with Fig Newtons and
bakes his brains over steam radiators.
Then let me see him go out and get
PAUL goes reeling in terror to the front door, opens it.
(to HAROLD, abjectly)
What kind of exercise?
Beat the shit out of someone who
PAUL exits. HAROLD pounds on a table.
Chow, chow, chow! God damn it--
We're all going to have to go out
for breakfast. The cook quit
You're a woman, aren't you?
Then we have a cook.
Cook, by God! Cook! You're the
People don't use that word any more.
Don't lecture me on race relations.
I don't have a molecule of
prejudice. I've been in battle
with every kind of man there is.
I've been in bed with every kind of
woman there is--from a Laplander to
a Tierra del Fuegian.
If I'd ever been to the South Pole,
there'd be a hell of a lot of
penguins who looked like me. Cook!
You leave me so--so without--
People now have dignity when frying
They don't have to feel like slaves.
Then go now--and fry with dignity--
PENELOPE attempts to respond to this, but is too enraged.
She exits, making a tiny mosquito-like hum.
I dunno, boy.
The educational process.
I guess. You're lucky you don't
have any old people around here.
She was about to get married again.
She locked me out of the bedroom
LOOSELEAF starts to laugh. HAROLD shuts him up.
What's funny about that?
You know me, boy.
PENELOPE enters from the kitchen with a question on her lips.
I should have torn that door off
its hinges. Should have scrogged
her ears off. Should have broken
What do you want?
(words fail her)
I--I was wondering--is there
anything you shouldn't eat--because
of jungle fever?
I could eat a raw baby crocodile.
(turning to LOOSELEAF crassly)
The way to get your wife back is in
bed. Do such a job on her that
she'll be lucky if she can crawl
around on all fours.
We're starving. Do you mind?
PENELOPE exits dumbly, detesting the word "scrog," which she
has never heard before.
She had two lovers, by the way.
LOOSELEAF starts to laugh again, stops the laugh as HAROLD
One of them is the doctor, whose
weapons are compassion,
He and his love are like a
retiarius. Do you know what a
He's a kind of gladiator who fights
with a knife and a net and doesn't
wear anything but a jockstrap.
How do you know that?
You told me.
When we were up in the tree so
long--with the bats.
Oh. I'd forgotten.
Fourteen times you told me. I
You'd get this funny look in your
eyes, and I'd say to myself, "Oh,
Jesus--he's going to tell me what a
retiarius is again."
(acknowledging a flaw
in a manly way)
PENELOPE enters, is about to speak. HAROLD stops her with a
Let me guess--breakfast is served?
I do not wish to be scrogged--ever.
I never heard that word, but when I
heard it, I knew it was one thing I
never wanted to have happen to me.
That's what you're supposed to say.
This is not a coy deception. I do
not want to be scrogged. I want
love. I want tenderness.
You don't know you want. That's
the way God built you!
I will not be scrogged. I remember
one time I saw you wrench a hook
from the throat of a fish with a
pair of pliers, and you promised me
that the fish couldn't feel.
I'd like to have the expert opinion
of the fish--along with yours.
(shaking his head)
Fish can't feel.
Well, I can. Some injuries,
spiritual or physical, can be
excruciating to me. I'm not a
silly carhop any more.
(an unexpected, minor insight)
Maybe you're right about fish.
When I was a carhop, I didn't feel
much more than a fish would. But
I've been sensitized. I have ideas
now--and solid information. I know
a lot more now--and a lot of it has
to do with you.
The whole concept of heroism--and
its sexual roots.
Tell me about its sexual roots.
It's complicated and I don't want
to go into it now, because it's
bound to sound insulting--even
though nobody means for anybody to
be insulted. It's just the truth.
I like the truth. I wouldn't be
alive today if I weren't one of the
biggest fans truth ever had.
Well--part of it is that heroes
basically hate home and never stay
there very long, and make awful
messes while they're there.
And they have very mixed feelings
about women. They hate them in a
way. One reason they like war so
much is that they can capture enemy
women and not have to make love to
them slowly and gently. They can
scrog them, as you say--
You learned this in some college
I learned a lot of things in
college. Actually--it was Norbert
who told me that.
And what is his most cherished
(not sensing the
drift of the conversation)
His most cherished possession? His
violin, I guess.
And he keeps it in his apartment?
(still at sea)
And no one's there now?
I don't think so.
That's too bad. I would rather
have him at home--to see what I'm
going to do.
on, sick with fear)
What are you going to do?
He did his best to destroy my most
precious possession, which is the
high opinion women have of me. I'm
now going to even that score. I'm
going to break in his door and I'm
going to smash his violin.
No you're not!
Because if you do--I'll leave you.
(promptly and emotionlessly)
SPOTLIGHT comes up on VON KONIGSWALD and WANDA JUNE, dressed
as before. They have become close friends.
We have this new club up here in
Yes, we do.
We only have two members so far,
but it's growing all the time.
We have enough for a shuffleboard
team. In Heaven, shuffleboard is
everything. Hitler plays
Albert Einstein plays shuffleboard.
Mozart plays shuffleboard.
Lewis Carroll, who wrote Alice in
Wonderland, plays shuffleboard.
Jack the Ripper plays shuffleboard.
Walt Disney, who gave us Snow White
and the Seven Dwarfs, plays
shuffleboard. Jesus Christ plays
It was almost worth the trip--to
find out that Jesus Christ in
Heaven was just another guy,
playing shuffleboard. I like his
sense of humor, though--you know?
He's got a blue-and-gold warm-up
jacket he wears. You know what it
says on the back? "Pontius Pilate
Athletic Club." Most people don't
get it. Most people think there
really is a Pontius Pilate Athletic
We're going to have jackets, aren't
You bet! "The Harold Ryan Fan
Club." Pink, eh? With a yellow
streak up the back.
We got very good tailor shops up
here. They'll make you any kind of
uniform, any kind of sweatsuit you
want. Judas Iscariot--he's got
this black jacket with a skull and
crossbones over the heart. He
walks around all hunched over, and
he never looks anybody in the eye,
and written on the back of his
jacket are the words, "Go take a
WANDA JUNE punches him in the ribs.
leap at the moon."
MILDRED, HAROLD's third wife, enters. She is voluptuous,
blowzy, tough--about forty-five. She has trouble with
alcohol. VON KONIGSWALD is expecting her.
Aha! Hello! You're Mildred, right?
I heard you were looking for me.
You were Harold Ryan's third wife.
You want to join the Harold Ryan
Fan Club? Wear a pink jacket with
a yellow streak up the back?
Do I have to? Who's the little girl?
Mr. Ryan just borrowed my birthday
cake. I don't really know him.
Thought you were another wife, maybe.
I'm only ten years old.
That's what he wanted--a ten-year-
old wife. He'd come home from a
war or a safari, and he'd wind up
talking to the little kids.
Won't you please join our club?
Honey--Alcoholics Anonymous takes
all the time I've got--and Harold
Ryan is an individual I would
rather forget. He drove me to
drink. He drove his first two
wives to drink.
Because he was cruel?
JUNE's little ears)
No grown woman is a fan of
premature ejaculation. Harold
would come home trumpeting and
roaring. He would the kick the
furniture with his boots, spit into
corners and the fireplace. He
would make me presents of stuffed
fish and helmets with holes in them.
He would tell me that he had now
earned the reward that only a woman
could give him, and he'd tear off
my clothes. He would carry me into
the bedroom, telling me to scream
and kick my feet. That was very
important to him. I did it. I
tried to be a good wife. He told
me to imagine a herd of stampeding
water buffalo. I couldn't do that,
but I pretended I did. It was all
over--ten seconds after he'd said
the word "buffalo." Then he'd zip
up his pants, and go outside, and
tell true war stories to the little
kids. Any little kids.
That is sad.
I have this theory about why men
kill each other and break things.
Never mind. It's a dumb theory. I
was going to say it was all
sexual..but everything is
(making peace sign)
VON KONIGSWALD WANDA JUNE
(making peace sign) (making peace sign)
WOODY WOODPECKER VOICE
Ha ha ha ha ha!
You got me, pal.
Silence. A baby cries. Silence. The lights come up.
Go to the funeral?
Of course! Not only go to it but
go to it in full uniform! Rent a
That's against the law, isn't it?
I can't wear a uniform anymore.
Wear your uniform and every
decoration, and let them despise
you, if they dare.
Alice would be absolutely tear-ass.
When I was a naive young recruit in
Spain, I used to wonder why
soldiers bayoneted oil paintings,
shot the noses off of statues and
defecated into grand pianos. I now
understand: It was to teach
civilians the deepest sort of
respect for men in uniform--
(raises his glass)
To our women.
I didn't know we had any women left.
The world is teeming with women--
ours to enjoy.
Every time I start thinking like
that I get the clap.
Lion doorbell roars.
(going to the door)
This could be my next wife.
He admits HERB SHUTTLE, who carries a bouquet of roses.
(puzzled by HAROLD)
How are you, honeybunch?
Is Penelope in?
The posies are for her?
I wanted to apologize.
You've come to the right man.
I forgot my vacuum cleaner.
I forget mine for years on end.
who HAROLD is)
Oh my God--
And you are Looseleaf Harper.
It's what I've dreamed of all my
life, Looseleaf! To have a grown
man realize who I was--and faint!
End of Act Two.
MILDRED enters drunkenly up aisle, sits precariously on
apron of stage and speaks to audience.
Two days later. The afternoon of
the day of Looseleaf Harper's
mother-in-law's funeral. You got
it? Two days later.
You know what happened in Heaven
today? There was a tornado. I'm
not kidding you--there was a
Goddamn tornado. Tore up fifty-six
houses, a dance pavilion and a
Ferris wheel. Drove a shuffleboard
stick clear through a telephone
pole. Nobody got killed. Nobody
ever gets killed. They just bounce
around a lot. Then they get up--
and start playing shuffleboard.
I never saw a tornado when I was
alive, and I grew up in Oklahoma.
There's this big, black, funnel-
shaped cloud. Sounds like a
railroad train without the whistle.
I had to come to Heaven to see a
thing like that. A lot of people
After the tornado was over, a man
had some film left and he wanted to
take pictures of me--to use up the
roll. I don't like people who go
around taking pictures of everything.
Nothing's real to some people
unless they've got photographs.
Two days later--right?
She exits clumsily, the way she came. Silence. Lights come
up on the living room, which has become a pigpen. LOOSELEAF,
HAROLD, SHUTTLE and PAUL sit around a dinner of nearly raw
beefsteak set on the coffee table. LOOSELEAF wears an ill-
fitting uniform, which he has rented.
I told you the uniform wouldn't help.
It helped more than you know. Down
deep, people were deeply affected.
You keep on saying "deep" and
"deeply." I wish something good
would happen on the surface sometime.
I can't get over how you guys are
my friends. Harold Ryan and
Looseleaf Harper are my friends.
Eight years you guys were together--
through thick and thin.
For seven and a half of those years
we were heavily drugged--or we
would have been home long before
now, believe me. We were saved
from starvation by the Lupi-Loopo
Indians, who fed us a strange blue
It sapped our will--made us
peaceful and unenterprising. It
was a form of chemical castration.
We became two more sleepy Indians.
So, kid--how they hanging? Or
don't you say that to a little kid?
He's a man.
Tell him you're a man.
I'm a man.
We've got to do something to make
this boy's voice change. I wonder
if we couldn't get bull balls
somewhere, and fry 'em up.
Still miss your mother?
You're free to go to her, if you
want. If you'd rather be a woman
and run with the women, just say
Are we really going to find out
where the elephants go to die?
I'd rather go to Viet Nam.
Would somebody please pass me the
What you say is, "Pass the fucking
Pass the fucking catsup.
LOOSELEAF gives it to him. SHUTTLE dumps catsup on his steak.
I keep thinking about Africa--and
I don't think I'll go.
Of course you'll go! You're going
to fly the helicopter.
You're so low! Look at that
beautiful red meat. You haven't
Sorry. At least you've got a place
to come back to. I don't have a
place to come back to anymore.
All the more reason to go to Africa.
I dunno. You know.
I used to really love that Alice.
Do you know that?
You know her for what she is now--
She was always a rotten wife! She
was against everything manly you
ever wanted to do.
He was the most daring test pilot
in the country at one time, and his
wife made him quit. She made him
become a life insurance salesman
I'd think any woman worth her salt
would be proud to be married to a
test pilot. I know I would.
She tried to like it. She was a
very nervous woman.
I could tell that at the funeral.
Would you please pass the fucking
catsup again? Was it dangerous
I dunno. Who knows? You know--
you're up there, and you're in some
plane nobody ever flew before. You
put her into a dive, and everything
starts screaming and shaking, and
maybe some pipe breaks and squirts
oil or gasoline or hydraulic fluid
in your face. You wonder how the
hell you ever got in such a mess,
and then you pull back on the
controls, and you black out for a
couple of seconds. When you come
to, everything's usually fairly
okay--except maybe you threw up all
over yourself. It's just another
job, but you try and tell Alice that.
You actually sold insurance!
I sold him some. That was the only
insurance I ever sold.
Hyena doorbell laughs.
What an awful sound!
Get used to it.
Back door, Paul.
PAUL exits to the kitchen.
It's possible, of course, that
you'll die in Africa.
I've considered that.
Selling vacuum cleaners isn't the
best preparation you could have.
I just want one true adventure
before I die.
That can be arranged.
PAUL appears at the mouth of the doorway. He has something
amazing to announce.
Who was it?
He steps aside. PENELOPE appears. HAROLD and SHUTTLE
stand, HAROLD angrily.
Shut up, you ninny!
You were never to come here again--
for any reason whatsoever!
I came for my clothes.
Sneaking in the back door.
I rang. It seemed like the proper
door for a servile, worthless
organism to use.
Your clothes are at the city dump
by now. Perhaps you can get a map
from the Department of Sanitation.
I came for Paul as well.
If he wants to go.
You took him to the funeral, I hear.
He'd never seen a corpse. He's
seen a dozen now.
It's a big and busy funeral home.
Did you like it, dear?
It isn't a matter of liking. It's
a matter of getting used to death--
as a perfectly natural thing.
Would you mind leaving? No woman
ever walks out on Harold Ryan, and
then comes back--for anything.
Unless she has nerve.
More nerve than the doctor, I must
admit. He hasn't been home for two
days. Has he suddenly lost
interest in sleep and color
television--and the violin?
He knows you shattered his violin.
I'm dying to hear of his reaction.
The thrill of smashing something
isn't in the smashing, but in the
About a broomstick and a cigar
box--and the attenuated intestines
of an alley cat.
Two hundred years old.
He feels awful loss--which was
precisely my intention.
(moving toward the
herself much closer
He had hoped that someone would be
playing it still--two hundred years
the futility of such
He spots the vacuum cleaner, probes it with his toe, asks
SHUTTLE with seriousness.
Do you hope with all your heart
that someone will be using this
vacuum cleaner two hundred years
SHUTTLE starts to answer, but stops, supposing that he is
being made sport of.
You're making a joke.
I'm interested in long-term
It's engineered to last about
Things. Oh--you silly people and
your things. Things, things, things.
(to SHUTTLE, as
majestically on the
emptiness of materialism)
You and Harold are friends?
(revealing how mixed
and worried his
He's the most wonderful guy I ever
met, Penelope. He's the most
complicated guy I ever met. I
can't believe it, but he's going to
take me to Africa with him.
You feel I've done a dreadful
If I were married to him, I sure
wouldn't walk out.
(directly to the audience)
Never mind the condition of your
body and your spirit! Look after
your things, your things!
And you, Colonel? Let me guess:
You don't know.
(to the audience)
Go live in a safe-deposit box--with
Jesus--I wouldn't want to be
married to him. You know?
I wouldn't want to be married to me.
We're too crazy. You know?
In what way, pray tell?
I didn't like that violin thing.
That was sad.
Tit for tat--as simple as that.
You never played a violin.
Yeah. I practically forgot. But
after you busted that thing, I got
to thinking, "Jesus--maybe I'll
start the violin again." That
didn't just belong to Woodly. That
belonged to everybody. Maybe he
would have sold it to me, and I
could have some fun. After you
busted the violin, boy, and
Penelope walked out, I thought to
myself, "Jesus--who could blame her?"
Maybe it's time you got out.
You're an imbecile.
I know you think that.
Everybody thinks that.
Anybody who'd drop an atom bomb on
a city has to be pretty dumb.
The one direct, decisive,
intelligent act of your life!
(shaking his head)
I don't think so.
It could have been.
If I hadn't done it. If I'd said
to myself, "Screw it. I'm going to
let all those people down there
They were enemies. We were at war.
Yeah, Jesus--but wars would be a
lot better, I think, if guys would
say to themselves sometimes,
"Jesus--I'm not going to do that to
the enemy. That's too much." You
could have been the manufacturer of
that violin there, even though you
don't know how to make a violin,
just by not busting it up. I could
have been the father of all those
people in Nagasaki, and the mother,
too, just by not dropping the bomb.
I sent 'em to Heaven instead--and I
don't think there is one.
LOOSELEAF walks around and gathers his things.
So long, you guys.
What will you do, Colonel?
I dunno. Marry the first whore
who's nice to me, I guess. Get a
job in a motorcycle shop. So long,
PENELOPE kisses LOOSELEAF. Everybody but HAROLD acknowledges
his departure is some way. HAROLD turns his back. LOOSELEAF
exits, closes door. Silence.
Who's going to fly our helicopter now?
We got to get another pilot.
Do you really think that Harold
Ryan would go to Africa with a
vacuum cleaner salesman?
You invited me.
To make an ass of yourself.
What went wrong?
We're ahead of schedule, that's all.
You're finding out here what you
would have found out in Africa--
that you are a rabbit, born to be
It would have been fun to see you
drop your rifle and run the first
time an elephant charged us.
I wouldn't drop my gun.
You're hollow, like a woman.
I'm smarter than Looseleaf.
He can shoot! He can hold his
ground! He can attack! You're in
your proper profession right now--
sucking up dirt for frumpish
housewives, closet drunkards every
(close to tears)
How do you know how I'd act in Africa?
Look how you're acting now! This
is a moment of truth, and you're
almost crying. Slug me!
You're my buddy.
No matter what you say to me, I
still think you're the greatest guy
I ever knew.
You--you aren't going to have any
friends left, if you don't watch out.
He propels SHUTTLE out the door and slams it. He faces
PENELOPE and PAUL, speaks with malicious calm.
Well--what have we here? A family.
Almost a Christmas scene.
Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.
Just one favor.
Money? There's plenty of that.
Mildred got the brewery. You'll
probably get the baseball team.
I want you to tell me that you
loved me once.
HAROLD is about to dismiss this request majestically, but
PENELOPE cuts him off with a sharp, dangerous warning.
I mean it! I must have that, and
so must Paul. Tell him that he was
conceived in love, even though you
hate me now. Tell both of us that
somewhere is our lives was love.
HAROLD experiments inwardly with responses of various kinds,
obviously saying them to himself, directing himself with his
hands. Nothing quite satisfies him.
Testimonials of that sort are--are
beyond my range. I don't do them
liking to fail in any way)
That's a failing, I know.
(accepting this ruefully)
I don't care. I don't care if
there was love or not. That's all
right. I'm going to go to my room
and close the door. I don't want
to hear any more.
PAUL exits wretchedly to his room.
See how you've upset him. He was
so merry and hale before you came
How unhappy he's going to be--alone
in his room.
He'll play with his rifle, I expect.
That will cheer him up.
I bought him a twenty-two
yesterday--on the way home from
Hamburger Heaven. And where is the
good doctor? Have you two
feathered a love nest somewhere?
He's in East St. Louis with his
mother--visiting an aunt.
Last I heard, his mother was going
He's afraid of you, Harold. He
knew you'd want to fight him. He
doesn't know anything about
fighting. He hates pain.
And you, a supposedly healthy
woman, do not detest him for his
It seems highly intelligent to me.
What kind of a country has this
become? The men wear beads and
refuse to fight--and the woman
adore them. America's days of
greatness are over. It has drunk
the blue soup.
An Indian narcotic we were forced
to drink. It put us in a haze--a
honey-colored haze which was
lavender around the edge. We
laughed, we sang, we snoozed. When
a bird called, we answered back.
Every living thing was our brother
or our sister, we thought.
Looseleaf stepped on a cockroach
six inches long, and we cried. We
had a funeral that went on for five
days--for the cockroach! I sang
"Oh Promise Me." Can you imagine?
Where the hell did I ever learn the
words to "Oh Promise Me"? Looseleaf
delivered a lecture on maintenance
procedures for the hydraulic system
of a B-36. All the time we were
drinking more blue soup, more blue
soup! Never stopped drinking blue
soup. Blue soup all the time.
We'd go out after food in that
honey-colored haze, and everything
that was edible had a penumbra of
Sounds quite beautiful.
Beautiful, you say? It wasn't
life, it wasn't death--it wasn't
(anger still mounting)
Beautiful? Seven years gone--
(snapping his fingers)
like that, like that! Seven years
of silliness and random dreams!
Seven years of nothingness, when
there could have been so much!
physical, seizing a
Action! Interaction! Give and
take! Challenge and response!
He splits a coffee table with the ax.
(rushing in with his
.22 rifle at a high
PAUL wilts instantly, attempts to make his rifle
inconspicuous, harmless, meaningless.
That's a rifle you have?
Of course it is. Is it loaded?
Open the bolt!
PAUL obeys. A cartridge pops out.
That's a cartridge, if I'm not
mistaken. Gunpowder, bullet,
cartridge case, and fulminate of
mercury percussion cap--all set to go.
I was cleaning it.
Pick up that cartridge and slip it
back into the chamber--where it
Gee whiz, Dad--
Welcome to manhood, you little
sparrowfart! Load that gun!
Too late! It's man to man now.
Protecting your mother from me, are
you? Protect her!`
He's a child!
With an iron penis three feet long.
Load it, boy.
You're begging him to kill you?
If he thinks he's man enough.
(amazed by sudden insight)
That's really what you want. You
become furious when people won't
make you dead.
I'm teaching my son to be a man.
So he can kill you. You hate your
own life that much. You beg for a
hero to kill you.
I plan to live one hundred years!
No you don't.
If that's the case--what's to
prevent my killing myself?
Honor, I suppose.
What a handsome word.
But it's all balled up in your head
with death. The highest honor is
death. When you talk of these
animals, one by one, you don't just
talk of killing them. You honored
them with death. Harold--it is not
honor to be killed.
If you've lived a good life, fought
It's still just death, the absence
of life--no honor at all. It's
worse than the blue soup by far--
that nothingness. To you, though,
it's the honor that crowns them all.
May I continue with the rearing of
Load that gun!
PAUL shakes his head.
Then speak, by God! Can you fight
I don't want to fight you.
Get mad! Tell me you don't like
the way I treat your mother! Tell
me you wish I'd never come home!
It's your house, Dad.
(throwing up his hands)
Everybody simply evaporates!
audience, inviting it
to share his indignation)
There are guest issues to be fought
out here--or to be argued, at least.
The enemy, the champion of all who
oppose me, is in East St. Louis
with his mother and his aunt! I
have so far done battle with a
woman and a child and a violin.
The old heroes are going to have to
get used to this, Harold--the new
heroes who refuse to fight.
They're trying to save the planet.
There's no time for battle, no
point to battle anymore.
I feel mocked, insulted, with no
sort of satisfaction in prospect.
We don't have to fight with steel.
I can fight with words. I'm not an
inarticulate ape, you know, who
grabs a rock for want of a
vocabulary. Call him up in East St.
Louis, Penelope. Tell him to come
(emptily, turning away)
Pause. He contemplates PAUL.
And my son, the only son of Harold
Ryan--he's going to grow up to be a
I don't know. I hope he never
hunts. I hope he never kills
another human being.
(to PAUL, quietly)
You hope this, too?
I don't know what I hope. But I
don't think you care what I hope,
anyway. You don't know me.
You don't know her, either. I
don't think you know anybody. You
talk to everybody just the same.
I'm talking to you gently now.
Yeah. But it's going to get loud
He's right, Harold. To you, we're
simply pieces in a game--this one
labeled "woman," that one labeled
"son." There is no piece labeled
"enemy" and you are confused.
Lion doorbell roars. PAUL goes to answer it.
There won't be anybody out there.
That's the new style: nobody anywhere.
PAUL, aghast, admits NORBERT WOODLY. WOODLY is high as a
kite on his own adrenaline.
Get out of here.
It's really that bad?
He comes farther into the room, bravely.
You fool, you fool.
Oh--look at the poor, crucified
violin, would you?
It died for your sins.
This little corpse is intended as a
There's a certain amount of
Lest we forget how cruel you are.
(moving to the telephone)
I'm going to call the police.
WOODLY closes the door. PENELOPE backs away from the phone,
drifts toward PAUL, who still holds his rifle.
This is man to man.
It's healer to killer. Is that the
What brought you back?
The same hairy, humorless old gods
who move you from hither to yon.
"Honor, " if you like.
He's a champion after all.
Of the corpses and cripples you
create for our instruction--when
all we can learn from them is this:
how cruel you are.
This is suicide.
Go get the police.
There's going to be no bloodshed
here. I know how he'll fight--the
only way he can fight: with words.
Am I correct?
I can defeat him with anything from
flavored toothpicks to siege
howitzers. But he got it into his
little head that he could come here
and demolish Harold Ryan with words.
The truth! Correct?
What an hallucination!
Oh, dear, dear, dear, dear. Oh
You haven't heard me yet.
You intend to crack my eardrums
with your voice? Will I bleed from
my every orifice? Who will clean
up this awful mess?
We'll find out now, won't we?
No, we won't. No matter how it
begins, it will end in death.
Because it always does. Isn't that
always how it ends, Harold--in death?
There has to be a threat of some
sort, nobility of some sort,
glamour of some sort, sport of some
sort. These elements are lacking.
You're a filthy, rotten bastard.
(pretending to be wounded)
Oooooo. That hurt.
You're old--so old.
Now who's being cruel?
A living fossil! Like the
cockroaches and the horseshoe crabs.
We do survive, don't we? You're
going to have to apologize, of
course, for calling me a bastard.
That's a matter of form--not
allowing you or anybody to call me
a bastard. No rush about that.
Just remember to apologize sometime
PENELOPE takes the rifle from PAUL.
You're a son of a bitch.
Yes--well--uh--that's another one
of those statements which more or
less automatically requires an
apology. Whenever you feel like it.
It's sort of like turning off an
alarm clock that's ringing loudly.
Your apology turns off the alarm.
(leveling the gun)
I'm turning off the alarm. I'm
turning off everything.
Ah! The lady is armed.
I want you to get out of here,
Norbert. Harold--I want you to sit
down in the chair, and not lift a
finger until Norbert is gone.
Whoever has the gun, you see, gets
to tell everybody else exactly what
to do. It's the American way.
I mean it!
Then you'd better fix your bayonet,
because there aren't any bullets in
Where's the bullet?
PAUL makes no move to help.
Help your mother find the bullet.
(to PAUL, pointing to
There it is. Give it to me.
How do I load?
Load it for her.
PAUL shakily obeys.
Cock it, too.
Give it to her.
All right! Am I exceedingly
The National Safety Council would
Then listen to me.
You're both disgusting--with your
pride, your pride.
I hate you for coming here--like a
federal marshal in a western film.
I loved you when you stayed away.
But here you are now--high noon in
the Superbowl! You fool, you fool.
Everything's going to be beautiful.
You fake! You're no better than
the dumbest general in the Pentagon.
You're not going to beat Harold.
You're not going to beat anybody.
You're not going to stay here,
either--yammering and taunting
until you're most gloriously killed.
She's right, Norbert--go home.
I haven't said all I have to say.
I haven't told you, Harold, how
comical I think you are.
absolutely unable to forgive)
Sit down or I'll shoot!
HAROLD goes over to her, easily takes the gun away)
Give me that Goddamn thing! Now
get out of here, or I might kill
you. Who knows?
You've killed women?
Seventeen of them--eleven by
accident. March! Move!
PENELOPE and PAUL move toward the front door.
Norbert--you come, too.
Let him go, Harold. Let him go.
Of course he can go--if he'll just
go down on his hands and knees for
a moment--and promise me that he
does not find me comical in the
Do it, Norbert.
Hands and knees, you say?
And terror, if you don't mind.
(to PENELOPE, simply,
(before she can
protest any more)
He bellies and bullies PENELOPE and PAUL out the front door.
Get the police! No time to lose!
He slams the door, turns to WOODLY.
You're in one hell of a jam. You
I'm high as a kite.
Glands. You're supposed to be
happy when you die. Call me
You're a clown. You're a clown who
kills--but you're a clown.
I love you! Have a cigar!
(ignoring the cigar)
Evolution has made you a clown--
with a cigar. Simple butchers like
you are obsolete!
I'm to be left behind--in primordial
If you're at home in the ooze, and
This is going to become very
physical. Are you prepared for that?
You're not such a creature of the
ooze that you'd hurt an unarmed man.
I'm an honorable clown?
In any event, I will not beg for
No quarter asked.
(taking a sword)
No quarter given.
Don't you laugh even inwardly at
the heroic balderdash you spew?
Cut me open. Find out.
I've struck my blow.
I've poisoned you.
(pointing at WOODLY
(looking around frantically)
Something I drank or touched?
You refused a cigar. That's it!
Potassium cyanide in the humidor!
Treacherous lover of peace!
I put a poisoned thought in your
head. Even now that poison is
seeping into every lobe of your
mind. It's saying, "Obsolete,
obsolete, obsolete," and, "Clown,
You have a very good mind, or I
wouldn't have come back. That mind
is now asking itself, cleverly and
fairly, "Is Harold Ryan really a
clown?" And the answer is, "Yes."
I--I really must congratulate you.
Something is happening in there.
You can never take yourself
seriously again! Look at all the
creatures you've protected us from!
Did you shoot them on the elevator,
as they were on their way up here
to eat us alive?
(blankly, as though
in a dream)
The magic root you gave me--I had
it analyzed. It was discovered by
a Harvard botanist in 1893! He
explored your famous jungle for
five years, armed with nothing but
kindness, a talent for languages,
and a pocketknife.
You aren't going to hurt me. You
aren't going to hurt anybody any
more. Any violent gesture will
seem ridiculous--to yourself!
My violin is avenged!
Something seems to have happened to
And the hell with it. It was so
tragically irrelevant, so
The new hero is you.
I hate crowds, and I have no
You're too modest.
But the new hero will be a man of
science and of peace--like me.
He'll disarm you, of course. No
more guns, no more guns.
Was I ever of use?
Never. For when you began to kill
for the fun of it, you became the
chief source of agony of mankind.
HAROLD picks up the rifle, considers it, offers it to WOODLY.
Here. Finish the job.
I'm utterly satisfied.
You're making a mistake. Obsolete
old carnivores like me are most
dangerous when wounded. You've
More clowning! Don't you see?
We never quit fighting until we're
You'd be killing a friend. Don't
you know how much I like you?
I'm going to shoot you now.
My self-respect is gone--and my
soldier's honor with it. It is now
very easy for me to shoot an
New dignity can be yours--as a
merciful man. You can change!
Like the saber-toothed tiger.
Oh God--you're really going to kill
It won't hurt as much as the sting
of a bumblebee. Heaven is very
much like Paradise, they say.
You'll like it there.
Can I beg for mercy--on my knees?
If you want to be found that way.
What is this thing that kills me?
Man, as man was meant to be--a
vengeful ape who murders. He will
soon be extinct. It's time, it's
I've enjoyed being man.
He aims the rifle tentatively.
(goes down on his knees)
Have it your way. We'd both be
better off dead now.
HAROLD begins to squeeze the trigger, falters, lowers the
Can't do it.
He turns his back on WOODLY, who stands shakily.
Thank you--for my life.
It's trash now, like mine.
New lives begin!
Somewhere in this city. Not here,
not here. Tell Penelope I loved
her--in my clownish way. And Paul.
Tell him to be a healer, by all means.
What are you going to do?
Use the sanitary facilities, if I may.
Leave the rifle here.
I'll put it in Paul's room, where
Give me your word of honor that
that's all you're going to do.
For what it's worth now, Harold
Ryan, the clown, gives his sacred
HAROLD exits into corridor. WOODLY looks after him
helplessly, apprehensively. Silence.
VON KONIGSWALD, MILDRED, and WANDA JUNE enter from the side
stealthily. VON KONIGSWALD, pantomimes that his companions
are to be quiet and to listen for something wonderful. All
ghosts cup their hands to their ears.
There is a shot offstage. VON KONIGSWALD is delighted.
MILDRED is sickened. WANDA JUNE is dazed. WOODLY collapses
in grief. HAROLD enters from the corridor, shaking his head.
VON KONIGSWALD expresses disappointment. MILDRED covers her
face. WANDA JUNE sucks her thumb.
Happy Birthday, Wanda June
Writers : Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
Genres : Comedy