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Act I, Scene I

SCRIPT SAMPLE

TABULA RASA

A Two Act Play

Copyright (c) 1994, 1995, 1996 by Molly Louise Shepard (Registered, Library of Congress)

As Developed through the Judith Shakespeare Company, New York.

Special thanks to Jim Fritzler, Big State Productions, Austin, Texas; and Susy Blaylock, Little Finger Productions, Dallas, for all their assistance in developing TABULA RASA, Spring, 1995.

TABULA RASA: (tab-ye-le-raz-e)(Def. 2); something existing in its original or pristine state.

-- Webster's, '91

Note: TABULA RASA is a work of fiction by Molly Louise Shepard. Any similarity to persons living or dead, or any series of events, is purely coincidental. At no time should the contents of this work be considered a factual account of anything.

"My heart is inditing a good matter; I speak of the things which I have made touching the king: my tongue is the pen of a ready writer."

(PSALMS 45:1)

-- Molly Louise Shepard

Time: A Fall, sometime in the late Seventies.

Place:

East Texas. Small college town, Vandelia. Photography studio. A Mom and Pop deal.

Set:

Blank stage. Three clapboard representations, a triptych. Store front/sidewalk; interior, small shop; old, abandoned graveyard, covered over in vines like a beautiful ruin. The store interior should take the majority of center stage. Scrim for slides in background. A backdrop of "blue sky". Black stage floor.

For Diana.

For Dad.

CAST OF CHARACTERS:

Thadia Eadom-Johnstone: 40's. Athletic. A bit weathered. (Female Narrator). Wearing safari type clothing. Loaded down with camera gear. Professional Photo Journalist. Still pretty. Still a nice person.

"Tad" (Thadia) Eadom: 19 year old Thaddia. Winsome. Seems 14. College freshman. Nice. Young photographer, talented. Photographic Assistant, part-time.

Paul Lee: College student. Brooding young photographer. Photography Assistant, part-time. Mustached. Brunette.

Al Desmond: Kindly photography shop owner. Tall. Huge guy. Gigantic hands. Late 40's. Heavy. Badly dressed in double knitgolf clothes. Wears golf shoes to work. Wears lots of pastels.

Ava Desmond: Overbearing wife of Al. A shank of bone. Swathed badly in double knit. Has that dirty gray smoker's skin, thin flesh, hair, hard lines. Hacking cough. Bee-hive hairdo.

Toxie Merriweather: African American. Diminutive. 80. Dressed flamboyantly. A little senile, but lovely soul. Bitsy. Fragile.

Jynx Merriweather: 16 year old spirit. Daughter of Toxie. Killed in freak car accident along with father. Lovely girl in 1940's clothes. Like a young Billy Holiday.

Samuel Merriweather: 45 year old spirit. Husband to Toxie. Father to Jynx. In Army Sergeant's uniform. A very sharply dressed man.

ACT I

Scene I

At Rise: (TOXIE is walking slowly along "Railroad tracks" late at night, picking her way along, feebly singing "John Brown's Body" in an odd way to herself. The tracks indicated by ties placed near proscenium. "Railroad tracks" indicated by stripped lighting on stage floor. Those lights should be the only ones on stage at first so that the most that is illumined of TOXIE is her golden platform ankle strapped pumps. We hear her. She seems almost ghostly.)

TOXIE

(Singing under breath.)

"John Brown's body is now underneath..." now how's that go? "John Brown's body..." Uh. "John Brown's body..." (Pause) "John Brown's Bod-ee". "Eee." "Eee. (Loses balance.) An', an', where was I, oops! Huh! Here I was! Hah! "John Brown's body is still lying cold..." Naw, naw. That's not...know what they say, mind's the first thing to go. (Sings again.) "John Brown's Body...Body... Bodeee" (Train whistle is heard. TOXIE starts to jumble as train nears. Bright light on her from off stage. She leans her upper body forward, now pantomiming walking against the wind and oncoming train. She is illumined as if a cipher.)

TOXIE

(Stops. Crying. Softly.)

I couldn't hep' myself. I starts to screamin' and cryin' 'cause I know what was down the. An' I couldn't see that. (Covers face with hands.) I jes' coudn't see that. So, I starts runnin' the other way, an' it seems like I cain't stop, no, I can't stop, no, I can't stop runnin'. I'm gonna' run far, far, away from that. I keep runnin' an' runnin'. Runnin' an' runnin'. Mr. Rupert, he the one who finally caught me, caught me an' carried me home in his arms like a baby, musta' looked crazy wit' my hair all wile and my clothes, I looked down. I done wrenched my clothes away from my body, like the say ye' does in the bible!

(Darkness, and the extremely loud sound of the train passing closely by. TOXIE plays Chicken with the train. At the last moment, she steps away from the tracks. The train seems to pass extremely close to TOXIE, indicated by her pantomime. After it passes, we see in the darkness, TOXIE, her head hung low. All the sound that is left is her heavy breathing. Lights out on TOXIE. TOXIE exits in blackness. Beat. Small, soft, warm spot on Narrator. THADIA EADOM-JOHNSTONE is sitting S.L., legs akimbo, cleaning a camera lens with a soft shammy. "The Sky Fell Down" from Ellington's Indigos is playing. On the scrim, the Ramsey mansion.)

THADIA

In Vandelia, where I grew up. I. Was. There wasn't much to do. A small town. You know how it is. Remote. I grew up in East Texas. We moved there when I was in Junior High. I had gone to Grade School in Titusville. Near the beach. Always. To be so far from the ocean. Well, it just seemed practically unnatural. Everything seemed so close. Closed in. Pine trees such a dark green they seemed almost black. Rustling together. Whispering. Like the people. Always. Closed in. Whispering. The beach was so wide open. I always thought it was good for people to see something grand, like the ocean. Something bigger than they were. To see that they weren't so important after all. God saying, "You speck of dust on the mere eyeglass of the universe, what is it about you that's so very important? Huh?" (Blows hot breath on lens.) That if the people in East Texas could have been transported somehow, someplace big. The Grand Canyon. The Red Wood forests. Mount Rushmore. They would realize...all that petty...ugly...small town stuff, wasn't what it was all about. (Rustles in pack for lens case.) My parents were really. I went to my first couple of years of college there, it was like High School all over again...same faces, same classes. It was the only way they'd let me go, my parents, only way they'd pay. If I stayed home. (Finds it, packs lens.) I was dying to. See the world. All those beautiful places. All those beautiful faces. Man, I couldn't wait to get...I was practically suicidal until I bought this old Pentax here. Pawnshop. Cost me $45.00. Spent all one birthday's money on it. I got all kinds of expensive equipment given me, gifts mostly, but I still rely on my first camera. It's still the best. I do my best work on it. My true Oevre. My eye. Just recently, I ran across some negatives of my early works, not too bad, for a kid. I was kind of lost until I got introduced to photography. I just began randomly shooting. The Ramsey Mansion. For instance. Who would know it was such a beautiful place, until it was captured in silver dust and nitrate. Huh? (Starts closing up case. She starts to focus the Pentax, as if to frame the audience in the shot.) It put a whole new perspective on things. On people. People seemed so damned interesting all of a sudden. People in Vandelia.

(Lights change. Out on THADIA. Center lights up. PAUL and TAD are at work in the photography studio. PAUL is cleaning the counter and TAD is sorting and alphabetizing 4x5" brown looking color transparencies in a smaller file box. She is wearing white cotton gloves.)

TAD

Paul, I shot me the coolest thing today. You know the old Ramsey mansion that's set for demolition? I shot the spookiest picture of the front door today. Vandals have come and stripped the house down, and they had taken all the etched beveled glass from the front door, and knocked the door halfway off it's hinges. I was standin' there, starin' at the building. People was walking past me, looking at me as if I was crazy. But I didn't care. I was thinkin' about old Mrs. Ramsey, how'd she'd shoot at people who stepped in her yard. Right here in the middle of town square. Unbelievable! And just then this one tiny ray of sunshine come out from behind one of them fat gray clouds, and right then, right as the door was just cut in two with this spooky gray and white dividin' line, I shot it.

PAUL

Black and white. Right?

TAD

Just as grainy as I could make it.

PAUL

I got lab Thursday night, I'll print it for ya'.

TAD

No, man. That's half the artistry. Gotta' print it yourself. Frame it just so. I want to print it real dark to bring out the contrasty shadows. God, I'm so revved. I can't wait to finish the roll. (Goes back to work, door still open. PAUL follows, slowly.)

PAUL

It makes me sad they couldn't have saved it...

TAD

Yes, it's too bad.

PAUL

The family, there's family, right?

TAD

Oh, yeah. In Houston. The monied side. The daughter's a newscaster. The place was just too...ookey. Spookey. Fallin' all to pieces, an' haunted on top of all that. Ever been in there? There's poor trash cousins all over the place still here. They're distant. Twice removed.

PAUL

Twice removed from what?

TAD Don't ask! Hah!

PAUL

So like, that's Ramsey lane. Those Ramsey's.

TAD

Right. And the Ramsey library.

PAUL Oh, ho! Ho!

TAD

Ever been to the mansion? Inside?

PAUL

No. Wanna' go sometime?

TAD

Sure. But we gotta' do it soon. Wreckin' crew. Soon.

PAUL

What's in there?

TAD

You mean what's left?

PAUL

What is left?

TAD

Oh, I love it. Always wanted to go in. Mz. Ramsey, she done got so crazy and senile, shut in. The place is ruin't. But it was once a showplace. A big beautiful banister. I was walking up the stairs, 'fraid I'd fall through. The banister was sanded so fine, hand rubbed with body oil, I imagine. Slaves pro'lly built it, the thing has been there forever. We don't got things made outa' wood like that now. 25 year old saplin's, stuff like 'at. That's what we got stuff made out of, now.

PAUL

Let's go see it tomorrow, before it's too late.

TAD

Oh, yes.

(She is through filing. Doffs her white cotton gloves.) An' I wandered up to th' attic. Found an old roller skate key when I was up there. Wanna see it?

(She gets out purse from under front counter, shows him key. He stands so very near, he can practically taste her skin.) Three stories. A basement. Real unusual in these parts. On account of the water table. Must have been made before they knew better. Storm cellar. Grape arbor. Gazebo. All together, must a' been. A very lovely place, in it's prime.

PAUL

Plums.

TAD

Huh?

PAUL

Plums. You've been eating...

TAD

Oh, gosh...oh, hah! Stop it, Paul. You're standing too...

(She pushes him back flirtatiously.)

PAUL

You're blushin'.

(Beat. She burns, eyes to floor. He grins a little.)

TAD

I. Uh.

PAUL

Hey. I brought a big ol' thing of black bean soup today. Wanna' eat lunch with me? I got enough for two.

TAD

That'd be uh. Nice.

(She laughs a little.)

PAUL

You. I been wantin' to tell you. You look like a Botticelli. Today.

(Beat)

Well. Got some color prints to do before Desmond and his evil bride get here. Nya-ha-ha!

(Makes an "Nya-ha-ha", evil laugh. He puts on his apron, and goes to back to work in the lab. The door swings back and forth behind him. TAD fans herself with an order pad.)

TAD

Oh, honestly.

(Mops brow. Blows bangs with breath.)

I swear I don't know how to take that. That boy is such a dang flirt!

(She begins wipin' down the counter top.)

Oh, dang! He did that already. I swear!

(Realizes door is still hanging wide open.)

Oh, the door. Geez! What if Mrz. Desmond came in an saw that? Whew, all heck-a-far' would break loose! Shoot.

(She laughs to herself, bending over and laughing in her apron for a second, in the middle of the store.)

(Enter MRS. DESMOND.)

MRS. DESMOND

(Stands and stares her down for a second.)

Well, well. And what's so all fahr'd funny, young lady?

TAD

Oh, nuthin', Ms. Desmond. Nuthin'. I wuz. Just. Doin' my relaxation technique. Like Reader's Digest says, "Laughter is th' best med'cine." Hah-hah.

MRS. DESMOND

That's fine. Next time I suggest you do your histrionics on your own time, hear me? I have got some calls to make in the back regarding the Baker nuptials.

(Pause.)

You sit the front for now, O.K.?

(MRS. DESMOND exits through back door. TAD breathes a sigh of relief. MRS. DESMOND pokes her head back through. Eyes TAD up and down. TAD visibly tenses.)

MRS. DESMOND

That reminds me. I forgot to ask ya'. You reorganize last year's weddin' transparencies?

TAD

Yes, Ma'am. Finished Wagadorn through Yarbough this afternoon. Almost through to Ziller.

MRS. DESMOND

Good girl. I got some mattin' and framin' for you to do on the Byrd weddin' sometime today. I got one they ordered, extree, and one I want put in the display weddin' winda'. That girl's so pretty, I don't care if he did marry beneath him, it'll be good advertisin'. She was a lovely bride.

TAD

Yes, Ma'am. That you're ryat.

MRS. DESMOND

You'll find, dear, that I am often ryat.

TAD

I've noticed, Ma'am.

MRS. DESMOND

That's ryat. Well, then. Very well. I'll be in the back, if'n ya' need me.

TAD

'Kay.

(MRS. DESMOND exits. TAD breathes a sigh of relief. TOXIE MERRIWEATHER is seen, toddling up to store front window. She is slowly reading sign through her spectacles and speaking to herself. Today, she is in a gold lame turban, a white chiffon dress, and silver shoes that buckle at the ankles. She is a very old lady, and rail thin. She's dressed like she must have imagined Lena Horne to be dressed like in her heyday in the forties. She is carrying a silver and gold beaded evening bag from the twenties. She's also wearing sparkly hose.)

TOXIE

(Slowly. Can't see well.)

Pho-to re-furbish-in'. "Ever'thin' ol' is new agin'".

(She self-consciously checks herself in the store window reflection. She hesitates at door. TOXIE comes from an era where African Americans weren't often welcome in Anglo establishments. She opens the door just enough to accidentally ring the bell.)

TAD

Come in, hon'. We don't bite.

(TOXIE doesn't make eye contact. She thinks maybe they do. She looks at floor.)

TOXIE

No, Ma'm. I reckon you don't?

(She laughs a little.)

TAD

(Comes from around counter. TOXIE seems like she might make a run for it.)

Come on now. I ain't no ma'am. I'm same as you. We're all, uh. Persons. Ahem. Uh. Hello. I'm Thaddia. "Tad" fer short. Hi.

(TAD bends over until she is looking up into TOXIE'S shining eyes.)

TAD

Is there anythin' I can do for you?

TOXIE

(A little afraid of her up front approach. Thinks maybe she is being made fun of.) Whut?

TAD

Can I help you?

TOXIE

Oh, uh.

(Briskly makes her way to the counter the best she can. Faces front, still tries to make no eye contact. Pulls out old ripped in two sepia tone photo, and a wallet. From the wallet, she pulls a wad of bills.)

I want ta' speak with the owner of this here photo establirshment.

TAD

He ain't here. Mrs. Desmond is. And you don't. Wanna' deal with her. If you can help it. Believe me, honey. Really, you don't. Believe you me. I can help you. Though. Be happy to.

TOXIE

Oh, well, I uh. I.

TAD

Yes.

TOXIE

(Bravely looks her in the eye.)

I needs ta' have this here pitcha' re-does.

TAD

Can I see?

TOXIE

(Reluctantly hands it over.)

An' I need extree special ker' takin' of it. As it is my only one.

TAD

Oh, it's lovely. It is tore up? What'cha' been doin', carryin' it 'round with cha'?

TOXIE

"Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the Lord of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? saith the Lord."

(MALACHI 1:13)

TAD

(Grins a little)

I beg your pardon? I-1

TOXIE

Malachi.

TAD

Malachi.

TOXIE

Yes. Malachi.

TAD

Oh, Malachi! Right. I should have known. I guess...I'm not familiar with that passage.

TOXIE

Hm. Well. How much?

TAD

Depends.

TOXIE

Oh, I must buy a frame, too, is that it?

TAD

Oh, no ma'am. The framin's optional. Up to you.

TOXIE

Well, then. How much? I mean, if you don't wanna' do biznez wit' me. I. Unner'stan'. I'll just seek me out a 'nuther studio photography house. That's fine. I unnerstan'.

(Tries to take back picture.)

TAD

Wait a minute, here, now, you're gonna' rip it some more, yourself.

(TAD smiles sweetly at TOXIE. TOXIE smiles back, reluctantly. They both bust out in quiet laughter.)

TAD

Let me get out an order form.

(She does, and writes as she talks.)

Such a pretty girl. Who is it? Was this you when you were young? It could be, same high cheek bones. You're part Cherokee, ain't ya', I can tell, me too? See?

(Shows cheekbones.)

TOXIE

(Nervously fingers money.)

My gran'ma-ma was Creole and Choctaw. She married my Gran'pere, who was part white and part West Indian. So we's mixed, you see. A mixed fam'bly. Ramsey line.

TAD

Oh, "Heinz 57". Me too, I got Bohan blood on my Daddy's Daddy's side, their insignia was the swan, they was de-scended from Frainch Roy'lty; then my Mama's Daddy was Cherokee and Irish mixed, my Lord, he was fierce. And then on th' other side was Granny, she was part Scottish and part German. My mother's mother was so much Cherokee she coulda' lived on the reservation, 'cept she was too ashamed, 'cause they could still recount scalpins', and the like. So you see, we're mixed, too.

TOXIE

(Looks at her like, "Are you finished?" Prepares money to be paid.) You still ain't tol' me how much?

TAD

Ramsey. Sure. I shoulda' seen it in the shape of your nose. The way it tilts up just so! All of 'em got just such a pretty profile. I always thought that. Say. I know some Ramsey girls. (Beat) But they're white. (Knowing look from TOXIE. They both grin at each other.) Well. Let's see, we'll have to re-shoot a second negative from the original, and then touch it up. That's $10.50, right there. I got to be honest with you, Ms.? Mrs.?

TOXIE

Toxie Merriweather. Mrs.

TAD

Yes, Ma'am, Mz. Merriweather. I am gonna' have to be honest with you. This photo is in pretty bad shape.

TOXIE

(Sighs.)

I wuz afeered o' that. Then you cain't fix it?

TAD

Oh, no ma'am. I mean it's just real labor intensive, fer me. See, you wuz talkin' to the ryat' person all along, weren't ya'? I'm the photo retouch artist. When I ain't bein' the archivist, framer, or "Girl Friday".

TOXIE

I see. But then you can fix it?

TAD

Oh, yeah. We can get this lookin' real, real purty.

TOXIE

Oh, good. How much did you say, all together?

TAD

Um. Let's say, $7.50 for my labor, plus the new neg., making $17.50, plus tax.

TOXIE

(Frets her money)

Oh. Uh. $17.50. Plus tax. Well then. Well, here. (Counts out 20 one dollar bills, slowly.) One, two, three, four.

TAD

Oh, no ma'am. You pay fer it, when it's ready.

TOXIE

I'd rather pay fer it, now.

TAD

You cain't.

TOXIE

But I won't to.

TAD

You cain't. It's policy.

TOXIE

Well, uh. But won't they? Won't they insist own it? When they see me?

TAD

Don't think so.

TOXIE

Well, all right then.

TAD

But I'm afraid I won't be able to do the work. Irregardless.

TOXIE

Why on Earth not, girl? You said...

TAD

Artistic integrity, and all.

TOXIE

(Crestfallen. Afraid of this sort of racism and teasing.)

Why not? I gots the money. You said it could be fixed.

TAD

Oh. It's purely an artistic thang with me.

TOXIE

Artistic?

TAD

Sure, I gotta' know about the subjects, or I won't do the piece.

TOXIE

(Brightens a little.)

Oh, well, then, that'n there is Samuel Merriweather, Jr.

TAD

The Mr.?

TOXIE

The one an' only.

TAD

An' the lovely young lady?

TOXIE

My daughter, Jynx. She was 16 when that was taken.

TAD

Jynx?

TOXIE

On a' count a' she was born on Halloween.

TAD

Oooh, scary.

TOXIE

Oh, I don't know.

TAD

So is this like a...a sort of a...birthday present? Bonne Anniversaire? I'm ryat, ain't I. I knew it. I am often ryat. That is. About things. Often. Gut instinct. Your daughter's birthday present. Then?

TOXIE

Oh, of a sort.

TAD

Oh, won't she be thrilled when she sees it?

TOXIE

I don't think so.

TAD

Why sure she will. Why wouldn't she?

TOXIE

No. She. Did you ever have somethin'...somethin' you considered above all price?

TAD

(Thinks a bit.) Well. Yes'm.

TOXIE

Well, what is it?

TAD

Well. It ain't no material possession. It'd be. Uh. My freedom.

TOXIE

Oh. Your freedom.

TAD

Yes'm.

TOXIE

To be sure. Freedom's a beautiful thing. Truly. But you see. Freedom seems to have always come at such a price. Come with qualifications. To us. To me. Seemed so...expensive at times. Do you see? To where sometimes I barely thought I could afford it. You know?

TAD

I suppose so.

TOXIE

(Sighs.)

Naw, child. I ain't got much. But I do have my freedom. At what ever the cost. Sometime it seem jest sech a burthen. Come an go as I please. Don't got to answer to nobody. I wonder though, if that's how the good Lord intended for us to be. Free as a bird. Free as a sparrow.

TAD

Yeah. I get ya'.

TOXIE

I was thinkin' more of...mmm. Forgive me honey. Uh. Oh. Here it is. Not sparrows. Ravens.

"Consider the Ravens: they neither sow nor reap; which have neither storehouse or barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?"

(LUKE 12:24)

TAD

Yeah. It makes you think. 'Bout what's important.

TOXIE

True. True. Too true. I'm an old woman. And an old woman don't got much. Don't care about much. Not too much. I ain't too much into material possessions, 'cause that ain't Christian. An ol' lady like myself. Not much of my possessions are worth a darn. Why I couldn't give two hoots in this worl' for the contents of my house, my barn. The older you get, you care for very little material things. Not for much in this world. 'Sides. It ain't Christian. Puttin' so much store by them material objects. Not at all. Worshipin' Idolotries. That's whut.

(Beat.)

TAD

Hmmm.

TOXIE

Mmmm-Hmmm.

(Beat. Both lost in reverie.)

Whut was we talkin' about?

TAD

Things.

TOXIE

Oh. Yes. Stuff.

(Pause.)

But I got a confession to make to ya' chile.

(To self.)

Me. Confessin'. To a mere child. To a mere slip of a girl. Huh!

(To TAD)

Well, see, I do gots one thing. One material possession that ...puts great store by. One thing. That ain't too bad, is it? I done give up carin' 'bout everythin' else? That ain't too un-Christian, is it?

TAD

You seem real Christian to me, Ma'am.

TOXIE

Do I?

TAD

(Smiles mischieviously)

Yes'm.

TOXIE

(Smiles mischieviously back at her.)

Oh, do I? Thank ye'.

(Beat. Tries to explain.)

See here, I gots my picture. For rememberance.

(Pauses. Gains composure. Tries not to tell her some things.)

You gots to take extree special care o' this here pitcher. 'Cause it's my one and only earthly treasure. Do you see?

TAD

I guess I do. I'll try to. I'll do my very best.

TOXIE

Oh, well your very best. Hm? A body couldn't ask for too much more than that. No. Hm-mm.

(Smiles and squints up at her.)

So when will it be ready?

TAD

Come see me in about a week, Mrz.?

TOXIE

You sure I don't need to pay yet?

TAD

No, Ma'am.

TOXIE

Your word?

TAD

Surely, Miss?

TOXIE

Toxie.

TAD

Miss. Toxie. I'll handle it real special like. My retouch work is my speciality. I'll treat it as if it were my own.

TOXIE

You be sure to do that. Your word on it.

TAD

Well. Hah! O.K. I swear on a stack of bibles this high, cross my heart and hope to die. My word.

TOXIE

Be careful what you swear to. Your word.

(Pause. Thinks a minute.)

"And her father heard her vow, and her bond wherewith she hath bound her soul, and her father shall hold his peace at her: then all her vows shall stand, and every bond wherewith she hath bound her soul shall stand."

(Beat.)

(LUKE 30:5)

TAD

I'm. Impressed.

TOXIE

Gots lots o' time on my hands, child. Lots and lots of time. Lots and lots.

TAD

Yes Ma'am.

(TOXIE exits. Mr. Desmond enters, cheerfully.)

MR. DESMOND

(Enters from the back)

Who was that crazy ol' coot, Taddie?

(SAMUEL AND JYNX begin entering from opposite sides of the house.)

SAMUEL

"In Rama, there was a voice heard."

TAD

Oh, just a re-touch photo job, Mr. 'D'?

JYNX

"Lamentation and weeping."

SAMUEL

"And great mourning."

MR. DESMOND

Takes all kinz' ta' make a worl', don't it?

(He laughs in a jolly way as he makes his way back to the back of shop with packages.)

JYNX

"Rachel weeping for her children."

TAD

That it do, Mr. "D", that it do.

SAMUEL

"And would not be comforted."

MRS. DESMOND

(At interior shop door.)

Who was that, Thaddia?

JYNX

"Because they are not."

(MATHEW 2:18)

TAD

Oh, nobody, Mrs. "D", jest an ol' lady for a retouch photo job. Jes' a little order. Under $20.00.

MRS. DESMOND

Weird looking ol' thang. I don' like her dress. I'm gonna' need you in the back here in a second, ya' hear?

TAD

Yes, Ma'am.

JYNX

Mother, we come unto you. Your heart beseeches us. Our hearts leap up in response. Your prayers are not unanswered. Though the expanse of time, and torment, and grief. Down the river of rememberance. We come.

(As TOXIE nears sidewalk, SAMUEL and JYNX come to her side, from either side of stage. A little smoke encircles their feet, and a little chilling music plays, ghostly chimes.

They are dressed as they are in the photo, but are in shades of gray, and their skin is grayed, also. TOXIE straightens up, to a younger version of herself. The ghosts speak more hollowly, rounder, slower, more ghostly than real people.)

TOXIE

(To herself)

The redbuds is given us their best, last, rat' afore we have us a little winter. You smell it in ta' air Daddy? That' ye' do. Mmm. That' little nip that's startin' in de' air. I can tell, be a few weeks, now, and frost'll be on de' groun'.

SAMUEL

Your soul cries out to me and I answer, "My sister, my spouse, here am I."

TOXIE

(To herself.)

If only I had you wif' me, this beautiful Fall. This crystilline, bright Fall, before my. If oney you could still breafe' da' same air I do. In my mouth, from your mouth. One breaf'. If'n I was to say what I think...I would have to say, that I would consider that very pleasant. Yes, indeed.

SAMUEL We with you, Mama.

JYNX

Can you not hear us? Oh, my Mother, do not grieve so. We are right here.

TOXIE

Makes me think o' that Fall we met, Daddy. I 'member it as if it were yesti'day. You standin' there. So remote seemin'. So handsome there in your officer's uniform. Wham. I knew it right then and there. My heart just fell at my feet. You was standin' there with cousin Renny. Visitin' home with him on leave. Ramsey's had a big fambly reunion out at the ol' fam'ly place, near Trinity, an' they was playin' Glenn Miller. What was that song? Do you 'member? "Toxie". That was it. Loved it -- 'cause it was named after yers truly! Hah! Love that drum solo. It was jest...rascally. Do you 'member? I allus think o' you when they play it, Daddy. How'd it go?

(Sings.)

Dah-da-da-dah-da da da!

(She attempts to dance a little. Jitterbug. Loses her balance. SAMUEL rights her.)

Whoops. Like to break a hip. Got to 'member, I ain't as young as I used to be. I don' feel old though? Why is that? I may be gettin' older, but I refuse to grow up. Ah, hee-hee!

(Begins to go home.)

I feel like I kep gettin' younger ever day.

(Straightens up a bit.)

Whelp. I guess I should be headin' home now. Important business takin' care of, this day.

(She sing-songs some more to herself under her breath.)

SAMUEL

"Whither is thy beloved gone, O thou fairest amoung women? whither is thy beloved turned aside? That we may seek him with thee."

TOXIE

(As if speaking to herself. Stops.)

Oh, yes, now somethin' is comin' to me? What is it? Ah.

"My beloved is gone down into his garden, to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens, and to gather lillies."

SAMUEL

"I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine...

TOXIE

"He feedeth amoung the lillies." I-1

SAMUEL "Thou art beautiful, o'my love..."

(SOLOMON 8:1 to 8:3)

TOXIE

"My beloved is mine, and I am his; he feedeth amoung the lilies. Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether."

(SOLOMON 2:16 and 17)

TOXIE

'Tis true it is one bright Fall day. The air is just cracklin' with...anticipation. I am achin' for somethin' but...what is it's name?

(Manages aching bones.)

Welp. Guess I best be headin' home.

JYNX

Ready, Daddy?

SAMUEL

Ready.

JYNX

(Softly. Slowly. After them. An Annunciation.)

"Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon was not arrayed like one of these."

(LUKE 12:27)

(They take either of TOXIE's elbows and help her down the steps from the shop to the sidewalk. The stage fills with dry ice smoke, and the lights go to black.)

(Song cue: "TOPSY" by Glenn Miller.)

(On scrim: A sepia tone torn picture of SAMUEL and JYNX is shown.)

BLACKOUT

END OF SCENE 1


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