THOR'S DAY

by Edward Crosby Wells

COPYRIGHT 1997, 2007 EDWARD CROSBY WELLS




THOR’S DAY was first presented by Tony Award winning The Glines at the Trilogy Theatre, 341 W. 44th St., New York City, April 30, 1997, with the following cast:
BUCK ROSE: Blake Robbins
PHILIP WINTER: James A. Walsh

Director: Steve Thornburg
Stage Manager: George Seylaz
Set: David M. Mead
Lighting: Garth Reese
Costumes: Carla Gant
Music & Sound: Thomas Hasselwander




~REVIEWS ~


AS REVIEWED BY JOHN CHATTERTON, OOBR - Before AIDS, the greatest fear of gay men was "rough trade," "straight" men looking to get their ashes hauled who ended up hurting their gay victims. Given the attitude of the community toward gays, another dead bachelor found naked was no big deal. He asked for it.

Thor's Day brings together successful, 40ish insurance salesman Philip (James A. Walsh) and his dream trick, Buck (Blake Robbins), who meet in the parking lot of a porno-video store while Philip's wife is in the hospital for some elective surgery. Philip hasn't thought of gay sex since his boyhood friend died in a car accident for which Philip feels guilty -- though he hasn't thought of that since boyhood, either. Buck works on loosening Philip up, finally getting him to give Buck a blowjob. In the play's cruelest moment, Philip, shorn of toupee after the vigorous head action and exhilarated at finally accepting his sexual identity, tears off his own clothes, only to find Buck putting his clothes back on. From now on, Buck becomes the trick from hell, forcing Philip to suck on a gun barrel, even getting him to agree to leave his own house -- because now, as a faggot, he doesn't belong there. In an especially gruesome but fascinating moment, Buck tells how he killed a man in self-defense and had an orgasm while doing so -- an orgasm topped off by pissing on the corpse (“If I could have dropped a load on him I would've”). Buck represents the elemental force seen in lightning, thunder, and tornado, which can kill but also brings life to the earth.

After all this degradation, mysticism, and excitement, Buck finally gets to the point. He killed his own wife earlier that day, because she had an incurable disease. He wants Philip to shoot him, and in fact forces him to do so. Philip goes down on Buck for one last, dying orgasm.

All the above sounds rather implausible, baldly stated, but it wasn't. Each transition, from opening the first beer to pulling the final trigger, had its own psychological logic – a sign of complete commitment by playwright, director, and actors. But it's not a show for the faint of heart, the squeamish, or the hardcore heterosexual. (It was surprising that the Glines, noted for presenting comedies, got behind this one.)

Walsh's Philip was totally believable, in his thick glasses, wig, Wisconsin accent, and tight physical mannerisms. Robbins's Buck, dressed to a T as the midnight cowboy, also was perfectly cast and was entirely credible in the role ...


AS REVIEWED BY DAN TRUJILLO, PLAYWRIGHTS FORUM. . . . Thor’s Day takes two common types of plays, types that I usually don’t like, and makes them work.

It is a “strangers encounter” play, the best example of which is Albee’s “Zoo Story.” Most playwrights write them, often early in their careers. Few of these plays succeed, including the one I wrote. They’re usually just an excuse for a writer to find an easy way to engage in a philosophical debate. The problem is, a play doesn’t succeed on the quality of debate, it succeeds on a drama between people (I’m speaking of plays in the traditional sense, there’s a lot of avant-garde stuff theatre out there that operates in different ways). “Strangers encounter” plays are trouble for me because the strangers usually have no emotional stake in the actions of the other. As a stranger, you can hold me up with a gun. My life is in your hands, and I care about that. I don’t care emotionally about you, the stranger. So very often, I find myself watching a “strangers encounter” play, bored out of my mind, because I don’t understand why these strangers must speak to each other, and even if I do, I don’t understand why they care about each other, or why I should care about them.

“Thor’s Day” starts out as such an encounter: An older man (Phillip) brings a younger man (Buck) to his house for a sexual tryst. It’s clear from word one that this is their relationship, even though it isn’t alluded to until a few pages into the script. We also know from the very first moment that the younger man has hidden a gun under a living-room couch cushion. This is a high-stakes situation, but it’s not compelling emotionally. It could be the set-up to an episode of Law and Order: Whatever Spinoff. In the hands of a lesser dramatist, it could be a tired philosophical discussion of sex and death, with a gun thrown in for a little splash. However, Edward’s play is about more than a mere chance encounter. These two men seek not just anyone, but each other, even though one or both don’t know it consciously. Buck has a mysterious quality that draws Phillip, even more than outward circumstances decree. He's attracted to Buck because he senses that Buck is the rare kind of trouble he desperately needs. “What are you going to do to me?” Phillip says at one point, with a mixture of fear and hope. In spite of the fact that they're strangers, Phillip does care about Buck, because he needs him, not just physically, but fundamentally. Buck needs Phillip too, but I won’t say why, it’ll spoil the play. Their relationship is compelling emotionally, and the writer shows great skill in its crafting.

The play is also a “self-actualization” play. We’ve all seen these too. The main character discovers their true self. Very often, especially in the 20th century, these plays are tired exercises in pop psychology and ego worship. “Look at me!” our hero/heroine says. “I know who I really am! I just love me!” That’s great for you, sir/ma’am, and we care because...?

In Thor’s Day, Phillip has been living in denial all his life about his sexuality. Were the playwright to take this at face value (as some do), he would have Phillip finally come out of the closet, discover his real self, and follow up with big hugs and blow jobs. Edward delves further, though. Buck is not there to lend Phillip a therapeutic hand. Buck is a destroyer, and attached to nature in some way. In the play, there’s a thunderstorm on the horizon, and Buck is a part of that storm. He’s the badass, Kali side of the natural forces. He’s come to punish Phillip for his denial of nature’s place in his life, and it’s not going to be pretty. In that, Thor’s Day is a cousin of the Euripides’ “The Bacchae.” What makes it more interesting to me is that, as far as I know, this is the first time that this issue has been approached from a homosexual standpoint (I could be wrong, I’m not well-read). The play is essentially saying that to remain in the closet, to deny one’s sexuality, is not only a betrayal of the self, of the person, but of nature. It is cosmic treachery. I think this is an important thing to say right now in America, where the debate over homosexuality is at the forefront of the nation’s consciousness. The play challenges the notion that homosexuality is a choice or a lifestyle. It argues that it is a part of the essence of life, just as much as heterosexuality is, and if we try to deny it, we will find ourselves at the foot of lightning . . . .


AS REVIEWED BY S. BRAUN, STAGE PAGES REVIEW. THOR’S DAY is a brilliant creation, from the writing to the current production’s breath-taking performance and direction. Set on a stormy day in October, Philip (John Rengstorff) takes home a younger man, Buck (Adam Mervis). Repressed and bi-sexual Philip meets rough trade and is about to get a quickie roll in the hay. Of course, fine drama such as this has much more at stake. The audience, as well as Phil, is taken on an hour and twenty minute journey into the darkest and saddest places -- encountering possibly supernatural forces and certainly an agenda which is set by Buck. The genre is original and universal, as far as I can tell, combining psychological realism, suspense drama, erotic thriller and a new twist on the positive gay role modeling for which John Glines is famous. (At first glance, we are not sure that both of these heroes are honorable ones.) But what ensues is a completely well-rounded study of two humans -- a universal tragedy. And yet, these heroes may have succeeded in getting what they want -- or need.

Rengstorff and Mervis are epiphanies and in perfect chemistry with each other. Moment to moment acting is believable, without a single compromise to the pacing. Both players are hugely likeable, with humor and poignancy. These performances are brave, indeed, with enough nudity and simulated sex to discomfort a Christian. However, the action is not gratuitious and flows as a crescendo inevitably toward climax. Greater revelations (than the fleshy kind) surface after the sex; and salvation arrives.

Steve Thornburg directs the exciting staging in a way that opens up this black box with variation in playing areas and nuance in the drama. Fight choreography (uncredited) is scary and sometimes shocking. People around me cringed.

Music and sound design by Thomas Hasselwander is evocative and climactic -- pun intended -- and includes a tornado and haunting tango. Lighting designs on past Chashama productions have died (with eight or ten rudimentary instruments). But Jim Stewart’s balanced lighting shows just what one can do on a shoestring. His storm effects are augmented partly by simple scoop lights hidden inside furniture. Anthony Fusco’s costumes are appropriate, a handsome suit on the insurance salesman and the "midnight cowboy look" with edgy tattoos on Buck. The Tommy Barz set implies a middle-income living room with telling choices in set dressings (note the figurine of Jesus crucified).

THOR’S DAY is highly philosophical and sneaks in many issues, ranging from vegetarianism, the gay man’s sometimes preoccupation with "chicken," justification for murder, God, and -- most importantly -- the capacity for man to heal another man. In fact, the large theme is that of salvation and the ability which one of God’s lowliest has to give life to another. Philip represents Man’s guilt, conscience and potential; and Buck represents the elemental force of destruction in a metaphysical way. However, it is destruction that often leads the way to liberation and re-birth.


AS REVIEWED BY KEVIN CONNELL, nytheatre.com. . . .a mysterious and seductive game of rent boy and patron that spirals into an unexpected fight for life and death. Edward Crosby Wells’ play is a bit Gods and Monsters and a bit Zoo Story . . . compelling and intriguing drama.

HX MAGAZINE . . .an intriguing mixture of the erotic and dangerous.

HI DRAMA TV . . .strong, haunting, intense, suspenseful and engaging.

AS REVIEWED BY KENNETH WELLER, STAGE PAGES. . . .If you're married (with repressed desires) and your spouse is away for the day in the hospital. this isn't your average day. If you cruise the parking lot of the local porn store and take home a hot stranger half your age and taller, stronger and perhaps possessed of magical powers, this is an unlikely day. If you start to feel in danger for you life and you suspect the motives of this funny guy who may be a psychopath, this is a setting for a new classic--the heir to Zoo Story . . . . Electric . . . . The story-telling is assured and highly intriguing. Every behavior leads logically to the next. This property has a movie in it . . . .

AS REVIEWED BY JAY MICHAELS, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, GENESIS REPERTORY. . . . Thor's Day was great . . . I pride myself on guessing the 'math' of thrillers and suspense pieces but this one kept me guessing till the end and beyond.

AS REVIEWED BY ANDREW ROTHKIN, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, WHITE RABBIT PRODUCTIONS. . . . That was very disturbing--in a good way--and I am still shaking from it.

AS REVIEWED BY E. TOPPI, NY BLADE. . . . I recommend it!

AS REVIEWED BY BRIAN TIMBLE, INSIDER ENTERTAINMENT NEWS. . . . a great masterpiece of art.

AS REVIEWED BY AN AUDIENCE MEMBER (ON HER WAY OUT OF THE THEATRE). . . . I have to leave. I am a Christian. I'm sorry.

AS REVIEWED BY JENNY SANDMAN, OOBR Thor's Day is a new sort of thriller, one that blends the terror of the everyday unknown with the more powerful supernatural unknown. Set on the West Texas-New Mexico border, it examines the strength of both latent and overt desire . . . the play builds to a strange and startling climax . . . It's not a play for those uncomfortable with frank sexual situations . . . it's a Tennessee Williams play without a woman . . . enthralling . . . playwright Edward Crosby Wells has built a solid story on an exciting and original premise.

AS REVIEWED BY LOUIS LOPARDI, ARTzine. . . . a dreadful play . . . an unpleasant coupling of the profoundly inarticulate with kitchen-sink drama . . . spare us please the slathering of mysticism and pseudo-philosophy . . . all concept and contrast but no real substance ....



THE CHARACTERS

BUCK ROSE: Twenty-five, extremely attractive in a rough and rugged sort of way. He has a boyish grin that he uses to disarm, charm and delight. He is a chain smoker.

PHILIP WINTER: Fifty-something, he is mild-mannered, soft-spoken – what many would describe as “a nice guy.”

THE SETTING

The living room of the Winter residence – a middle-class American motif. An atmosphere both studied and meticulously arranged with delicate and fastidious care. The general ambience suggests that of lived-in comfort – not a conspicuous show of money, but rather a display of a traditional, conservative, somewhat academic inclination. A closer inspection might reveal a disguise to mask the truths its occupants hide from each other and, most likely, from themselves.

THE TIME

It is mid-afternoon on a Thursday in early October. The present.

THE PLACE

Hobbs: A small city in southeastern New Mexico, a mile from the West Texas border.

NO INTERMISSION


AT RISE – BUCK is standing behind the sofa. He stretches, looks around the room and examines the gun in his hand before placing it under a cushion of the sofa. He takes a cigarette from out his shirt pocket. He moves about the room searching for some matches. After a while, he finds a gold lighter on a side table and lights his cigarette. He then puts the lighter in his pocket, casually – not the deliberate act of a thief. PHILIP is offstage preparing snacks in the kitchen and will remain there until noted.


BUCK: Do you hear me?

PHILIP: (From kitchen.) What?

BUCK: I said, do you hear me?

PHILIP: Yes. I do now. Go on.

BUCK: Gotta eat. Three kids.

PHILIP: Three.

BUCK: Mind if I take m’ boots off?

PHILIP Not at all. Please, make yourself comfortable.

BUCK: How’s that?

PHILIP: I said, please do.

BUCK: (Sits on sofa – removes his boots.) One . . . boy . . . eight months. Girl . . . four. Don’t be ashamed to tell me if you smell somethin’ ripe. Ain’t had these here boots off in nearly two years.

PHILIP: Two years?

BUCK: Just kidding. I’m a great kidder. The other . . . six . . . crippled . . . had two operations.

PHILIP: Good God, two.

BUCK: Needs another. Can’t walk too good without her braces. Needs new ones. Out-growed ‘em. Insurance canceled. If I was to disappear, welfare . . .

PHILIP: I can’t hear you.

BUCK: I said, if I was to disappear, or somethin’ like that, welfare might start to kick in. Wife. She gets these here headaches, you see. And fits. Terrible fits. Only one kidney . . . and that’s gone bad. All over now.

PHILIP: What?

BUCK: I said it’s all over now. I shot her in the head this morning. Put her out of her misery.

PHILIP: What?

BUCK: Sent the kids to their Grandma’s and shot the old lady.

PHILIP: I can’t really be hearing what I’m hearing. Can I?

BUCK: Can’t rightly say. I told you I was a great kidder, didn’t I?

PHILIP: Yes. Yes, you did.

BUCK: You see . . . my wife . . . she’s very sickly.

PHILIP: How sad. I’m sorry to hear that.

BUCK: No need. Nope. Gotta eat. Know what I mean? Yessirree! Gotta eat. Three kids. You?

PHILIP: Me?

BUCK: Kids?

PHILIP: One. He and his wife live in California. He’s studying to be an architect. She’s a social worker.

BUCK: That’s like welfare, ain’t it?

PHILIP: She works for the Department of Welfare – or Social Services – if that is what you mean.

BUCK: Givin’ handouts to the wrong people.

PHILIP: You’ll have to speak louder.

BUCK: I said, that’s what I mean all right. He’s in college, right?

PHILIP: Berkeley.

BUCK: What’s that?

PHILIP: Where he studies.

BUCK: Pretty smart, huh?

PHILIP: He certainly thinks so.

BUCK: You?

PHILIP: Me?

BUCK: What do you do?


PHILIP enters from the kitchen with some bowls of nuts, chips, pretzels, and some bottles of beer that he places on the coffee table.


PHILIP: I have an insurance business. (Crosses to an imaginary downstage window and looks out.) Looks bad. Looks like we got inside just in time.

BUCK: In time?

PHILIP: For the storm.

BUCK: Yeah. We’re due for a good one.

PHILIP: A bad one, you mean.

BUCK: Right. That’s what I was fixin’ to say. Bad. Somethin’ wicked.

PHILIP: Not too wicked, I trust.

BUCK: Wicked enough.

PHILIP: Enough?

BUCK: To be exciting.

PHILIP: Oh. Well. I can handle that. I guess.

BUCK: Maybe. Terrible thing. Tornado.

PHILIP: Tornado? In October?

BUCK: And rain. Hard and heavy rain.

PHILIP: (Looking out window.) Look at those clouds. Brown. Brown as brown gets.

BUCK: That’s good ol’ West Texas dirt sneakin’ over the New Mexico border. Probably rain mud all over Hobbs. (Indicating the watercolors hung about the living room.) Those yours?

PHILIP: (Turning from window. Turns on a lamp or two.) Excuse me?

BUCK: Them paintin’s. You do ‘em?

PHILIP: The watercolors. No. My wife. My wife . . . did them.

BUCK: Nice. Flowers. Sunset on the mesa. More flowers. She’s an artist. Yes?

PHILIP: Yes.

BUCK: Nice.

PHILIP: Thank you. (Nervous.) There’s beer and snacks . . .

BUCK: You shouldn’t’ve gone to so much trouble.

PHILIP: It wasn’t any trouble. No trouble at all.

BUCK: Good. ‘Cause I don’t want to put you out or nothin’.

PHILIP: No. You’re not putting me out. I mean, it’s my pleasure.

BUCK: Your pleasure. Yes. I can see that.

PHILIP: (After an uncomfortable pause.) Where did you park?

BUCK: Around the corner.

PHILIP: (Nervously.) Good.


A long fidgeting SILENCE.


BUCK: How old are you – if you don’t mind m’ askin’?

PHILIP: (He does mind.) No. I don’t mind. I don’t mind at all. Fifty . . . something. (A forced smile after trying to make a joke that seems to have gone unrecognized.)

BUCK: Don’t look it.

PHILIP: Thank you.

BUCK: Naah, I’d’ve taken you for thirty-somethin’. Forty tops.

PHILIP: (Flattered.) Thank you.

BUCK: Twenty-five.

PHILIP: Twenty-five?

BUCK: Me. I’m twenty-five. Would be twenty-six in two weeks.

PHILIP: Twenty-six. (A beat.) Would be?

BUCK: In two weeks – if I was to live that long.

PHILIP: Of course you’ll live that long.

BUCK: Will I?

PHILIP: I’m sure of it.

BUCK: You’re sure of it?

PHILIP: Well . . . pretty sure.

BUCK: Pretty sure?

PHILIP: Well . . . I think it’s safe to assume . . .

BUCK: It ain’t safe to assume nothin’. Ain’t safe no way.

PHILIP: I only meant . . .

BUCK: I know what you meant.

PHILIP: Do you? That requires an assumption on your part, doesn’t it?

BUCK: Nope. Just me knowin’ somethin’ that you don’t.

PHILIP: And what’s that?

BUCK: That’s the thousand-dollar question, man. That’s the thing for me to know . . . and you to find out.

PHILIP: Really?

BUCK: Really. (After a pause.) I’m what you call your Libra. You?

PHILIP: Aquarius.

BUCK: When’s that?

PHILIP: February. (BUCK stares as though waiting for more. After a pause.) The eleventh. Day before Lincoln’s. (BUCK continues to stare. After a pause.) Abraham . . . Lincoln . . . President.

BUCK: Yeah, I know. Shot . . . right?

PHILIP: Shot . . . yes.

BUCK: Do you put much stock into that kind o’ thing?

PHILIP: What kind of thing?

BUCK: Signs. Like Libra and Aquarius.

PHILIP: Oh. I suppose there may be something to it. I don’t know, really.

BUCK: Yeah, I feel the same way. I don’t know – really. (After a pause. Sings.) THIS IS THE DAWNING OF THE AGE OF AQUARIUS AGE OF AQUARIUS AHH-QUAR-REE-US . . . (Speaks.) That’s an old hippy song.

PHILIP: Not so old. (A nervous attempt at making conversation.) You sing.

BUCK: All my life. You?

PHILIP: Sing? No. Like to though.

BUCK: Then, why don’tcha?

PHILIP: Can’t. In the shower maybe. Otherwise, can’t.

BUCK: Course you can. Everybody can.

PHILIP: But not well.

BUCK: Well . . . that’s a whole other matter, ain’t it? Sing somethin’.

PHILIP: No. Really. I can’t.

BUCK: Come on. There’s nobody here.

PHILIP: (Embarrassed.) No. Please . . .

BUCK: Come on. Ain’t nobody to hear you now.

PHILIP: There’s you.

BUCK: Ain’t nobody, I say. Sing.

PHILIP: I can’t.

BUCK: Sing.

PHILIP: (Firmly.) I don’t want to.

BUCK: That’s different. If you don’t want to, I understand (After a pause – with a big, boyish grin.) You sure?

PHILIP: As sure as sure gets.

BUCK: (Shrugs.) Suit yourself. (Sings.) THIS IS THE DAWNING OF THE AGE OF AQUARIUS AH-QUAR-REE-US AH-QUAR-REE-US (A beat. Speaks.) Like movies?

PHILIP: Used to.

BUCK: Don’t make ‘em like they used to, huh?

PHILIP: No. I mean, I don’t get out much.

BUCK: Should. There’s more out there than the eye can see.

PHILIP: Is there?

BUCK: Worlds and worlds.

PHILIP: Really?

BUCK: You’d be surprised.

PHILIP: Would I?

BUCK: You’ll think you died and gone to heaven.

PHILIP: Will I?

BUCK: Guarantee it.

PHILIP: (Uncomfortable – guarded.) It’s . . . it’s difficult.

BUCK: What’s that?

PHILIP: Getting out. Doing things.

BUCK: Sick?

PHILIP: No.

BUCK: Work hard, huh?

PHILIP: Yes.

BUCK: Tired, huh?

PHILIP: Sometimes.

BUCK: Sometimes?

PHILIP: Often. I feel locked into it. My life . . . the order . . . the order of my life. The routine.

BUCK: I don’t get out much myself. ‘Cept to make my deliveries. Very routine. Junk food, she calls it.

PHILIP: Who?

BUCK: The ol’ lady.

PHILIP: Your mother . . .

BUCK: My wife.

PHILIP: Of course.

BUCK: Of course?

PHILIP: You’ll have to excuse me. I’m . . . I’m . . . sorry.

BUCK: What are you sorry for?

PHILIP: Umm . . . not paying attention, I guess.

BUCK: Maybe you’re paying too much attention.

PHILIP: I don’t see how that’s possible.

BUCK: ‘Cause you’re lookin’ to close.

PHILIP: You think?

BUCK: Yeah . . . I do.

PHILIP: Sorry. (After a pause.) Your wife.

BUCK: Never know when one o’ those fits is gonna come upon her. (He lights a cigarette with the gold lighter. PHILIP does not notice that it is his. BUCK pockets the lighter.) I almost forgot.

PHILIP: What?

BUCK: Nothin’.

PHILIP: Nothing? It had to be something.

BUCK: Maybe. Maybe not. Anyway, I took care of it. All over now. She’s gone.

PHILIP: Your wife?

BUCK: My wife.

PHILIP: She’s gone?

BUCK: All gone.

PHILIP: She left you?

BUCK: We had this arrangement. First she’d go then I’d follow . . . just after I did some business.

PHILIP: Business?

BUCK: Tying up some loose ends – if you know what I mean.

PHILIP: No. I don’t know what you mean.

BUCK: How could you?

PHILIP: You could explain.

BUCK: I could.

PHILIP: (Waiting for BUCK to say more. He doesn’t. After a pause.) I see . . . I guess. Whatever. I hope it works out for you.

BUCK: It will. I promise. (A beat.) Visiting some Roman Catholics who speak Latin backwards.

PHILIP: I don’t understand.

BUCK: Me neither. Guess speakin’ it forwards is hard enough, huh? (BUCK finds this very funny. He is amused with himself.)

PHILIP: (Puzzled.) I guess.

BUCK: Ain’t no guess about it.

PHILIP: (After a pause. Nervously.) Look. I think I made a mistake. Perhaps we ought to . . .

BUCK: (Cutting him off.) No mistake. Everything’s copacetic. Relax. She went to visit some of her kinfolk who used to live next door to a whole coven of witches. They’re gone now. Got burned out in the night. But when they was alive you could hear them chantin’ Latin backwards. That’s what devil worshipers do, you know? They chant Latin backwards. You could hear them through the paper-thin walls whiles you were lyin’ in bed beatin’ your meat – or slippin’ it to the old lady, the wife – in the middle of the night. (After a pause.) Yessirree! Three kids make you older. Know what I mean?

PHILIP: I know one does.

BUCK: How’s that?

PHILIP: Well . . . ah . . . on birthdays. On his birthday, I mean. My son’s. They always seem more traumatic than my own.

BUCK: Traumatic?

PHILIP: I feel my age more . . . my youth . . . or rather, lack of it.

BUCK: I wouldn’t worry ‘bout that.

PHILIP: I’m not exactly worried. (Indicating beer and snacks.) Please. Help yourself.

BUCK: Don’t mind if I do. (Chugs beer. Takes another.) Drink beer and pee, huh?

PHILIP: What?

BUCK: Piss, man. Some guys like to get pissed on.

PHILIP: Not me.

BUCK: Wanna see my dick?

PHILIP: (Nervous. Uncertain as to what he’s gotten himself into.) I’m not that way. I just had the afternoon free. My wife was out. I saw you. I thought . . .

BUCK: I know what you thought.

PHILIP: No, you don’t. You don’t know at all what I thought.

BUCK: Bet me.

PHILIP: Huh?

BUCK: Bet me.

PHILIP: Bet you what?

BUCK: Bet me one hundred dollars that I don’t know what you were thinking when you picked me up.

PHILIP: I didn’t exactly pick you up. You asked if you should follow me home.

BUCK: Whatever, man. Bet me.

PHILIP: One hundred dollars?

BUCK: That’s my price.

PHILIP: Your price?

BUCK: Don’t believe it when they tell you the best things are free, man. They ain’t. They ain’t free at all. (After a pause.) One hundred dollars . . . cash.

PHILIP: (Nervously.) Well, I uh . . . well, I think I’ve got that much in the house. Sure. Why not?

BUCK: Why not?

PHILIP: Okay.

BUCK: (Takes a long swig of beer.) Here goes . . .

PHILIP: But if you lose . . ?

BUCK: If I lose you get me, man. However you want me – you get me. I mean, even if you want me to piss on you. Okay?

PHILIP: I don’t want you to piss on me.

BUCK: But if you do. I don’t mind. I mean, I like it, man. I really can get into it. Some guys like to drink it. Ooh . . . I like that, man. I fuckin’ love it, you know?

PHILIP: I don’t.

BUCK: Whatever, man. Okay?

PHILIP: Okay. But . . . how will you know if I’m telling the truth or not?

BUCK: I’ll know.

PHILIP: How?

BUCK: I’ll know, man. I’ll know.

PHILIP: All right. You’re on.

BUCK: When you see me – when our eyes meet – you say to yourself, do I dare? Should I try? What would he want with me? I’m just an old geezer. Or somethin’ like that. I don’t think you love yourself, man.

PHILIP: I like myself all right.

BUCK: I said love. It’s already a fact how you don’t like yourself. But hey, don’t get upset. Nothin’ personal. Let me finish.

PHILIP: It feels personal.

BUCK: Sure it does. The whole world can seem like that sometimes. But it ain’t. No offense. All right? C’mon. C’mon. No pouting, all right?

PHILIP: I’m not pouting.

BUCK: Yes, you are. You’re just a big ol’ pouter.

PHILIP: Go on with your story.

BUCK: It’s your story. And, we’re gonna see just how much you love yourself . . . and pretty soon.

PHILIP: We are?

BUCK: Yeah. Anyway. He’s young and hot and full of life, you say to yourself. And then, maybe – maybe he’s dangerous. I could get him home and he could kill me. Right? Grab a baseball bat, a lamp, or a poker and bash my head to bloody pulp. Right?

PHILIP: Well, I . . . uh . . .I . . .

BUCK: Yes or no?

PHILIP: More yes than no, I suppose.

BUCK: This guy’s gonna cost me, you say to yourself. He ain’t gonna come cheap, I can see that. Nope. Not cheap at all. And maybe . . . maybe he’s got a knife, or a gun, hidden somewhere. Wanna frisk me? Maybe I’m sittin’ on it . . . sittin’ on the thing that’s gonna kill you, man. Wanna check me out? Check me out real good?

PHILIP: No. It’s all right.

BUCK: You don’t know that. Not really. (Rubbing his thighs and crotch.) Go ahead. A free frisk. On the house.

PHILIP: It’s all right, really.

BUCK: Your choice, man. Suit yourself. (After a pause.) And then you think about your wife . . . the poor unsuspecting woman . . . gone for the day. Got this golden opportunity. A plum dropped right in your lap. Can’t pass this one up. Nope. Not once the blood starts to flow . . . makin’ you hard as a rock. Achin’ for some relief from all your one-hand fantasies. Can’t pass this one up, you say to yourself. Can you, man? Where?

PHILIP: Where? I don’t understand . . .

BUCK: The wife! You ain’t listenin’, man. Where is she?

PHILIP: I don’t know why you need to know . . .

BUCK: (Cutting him off. Sharply.) Where the fuck is mommy?

PHILIP: What?

BUCK: (Less threatening.) Where’re you keepin’ her, man?

PHILIP: (With renewed anxiety.) She’s . . . she’s in the hospital. My wife is in the hospital. Look, I don’t see what this has to do with . . .

BUCK: (Cutting him off. With seeming concern.) Sorry, man. Ain’t nothin’ serious, I hope.

PHILIP: No. No, she’ll be just fine. Veins. Some veins in her legs. They’re removing them today. Did. A couple hours ago. And then they’re going to run some tests. Nothing really. Just in overnight. Maybe, a couple days. We’ll know better tomorrow.

BUCK: But long enough.

PHILIP: Long enough?

BUCK: For us. Long enough for us.

PHILIP: Yes.

BUCK: Now. Where were we? Oh, yeah, don’t tell me. I got the house all to myself, you say to yourself. Business is slow. Maybe I’ll call in and take the afternoon off. If I don’t do it now I may never get another chance. Least, not anytime soon. Right?

PHILIP: Something like that. Close enough.

BUCK: Close enough?

PHILIP: To the truth.

BUCK: The truth. I’ve just begun.

PHILIP: Then continue. Please

BUCK: Here comes a big one. I’m not queer, you tell yourself. Not really. It’s just that once in a while I like to get off with other men. I’m bi, right?

PHILIP: Right. Bi. That’s right . . . bi.

BUCK: Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that. And all the while our eyes haven’t broken contact. See? Like now. Should I look away, you ask yourself? Should I just roll up my window, turn the key and drive off – and miss my chance for the fuck of a lifetime? No. Maybe I’ll just keep starin’ till one of us breaks contact. One of us has gotta. Sooner or later. ‘Sides, he must be interested or else why hasn’t he broken contact? Should I smile, you ask yourself? Just a little one because there’s somethin’ very threatening about this whole thing – two guys, eyes locked, starin’ at each other in the parking lot of the porno store . . . and neither of ‘em really knowin’ what’s goin’ on in the other ones mind. And Christ! I’ve got this load just achin’ to explode . . . right here . . . now . . . in my pants. (Grabs his cock and squeezes.)

PHILIP: (Apprehensive.) I don’t remember thinking that.

BUCK: You don’t?

PHILIP: No. I don’t.

BUCK: I guess you win, man. Keep the hundred. Whatever you want. I’m all yours. Even if it’s . . . you know . . . odd . . . strange . . . something you’ve thought about, but never could say because the shame was too much. Maybe somethin’ a little more unspeakable than piss. Know what I mean? Whatever you like, man, you got it.

PHILIP: That’s it? Just like that?

BUCK: That’s it. Just like that.

PHILIP: That’s too easy. There’s a catch, right?

BUCK: You don’t like it easy? Maybe you like to make it hard on yourself, huh?

PHILIP: I like it fair. I believe in fair play.

BUCK: Really? We’ll just have to see about that, won’t we?

PHILIP: I don’t see how . . .

BUCK: (Cutting him off.) So, what do you do, man?

PHILIP: Well, that all depends on what you . . .

BUCK: (Stopping him.) No. Work. What do you do for work?

PHILIP: Work? Oh . . . well . . . ah . . . insurance. I thought I told you. House, car, life. You know. Insurance.

BUCK: Yeah, you did. It don’t always pay up.

PHILIP: Well, I’m sure if you had a policy with me . . .

BUCK: You’re uptown, right?

PHILIP: My office is on North Dal Paso, if that’s what you . . .

BUCK: I’d’ve thought you was in the oil business.

PHILIP: Oil? No. Not even snake oil. Insurance. I’m in the insurance business.

BUCK: Could’ve fooled me. Drivin’ a nice car and all like you do. I’d’ve taken you for some big shot oil dude. Maybe havin’ some wells of your own pumpin’ away . . . linin’ your pockets.

PHILIP: Don’t I wish.

BUCK: (Purposefully flattering.) Then, hearing how old you are, not that fifty-something’s old . . . and seeing how defined you are – good definition for a man of fifty-something – I figured you worked-out or did some kind of manual labor to keep yourself in such great shape.

PHILIP: (Flattered.) Thank you. I do go the gym every so often. I mean, I used to. I do things around the house, you know? I repair things, take on projects . . . physical projects . . . and get a lot of exercise at the same time.

BUCK: You see, I figured somethin’ like that. There you are. Doing whatever it is you do to keep yourself fit. Solid. You look solid. I saw that right away. I said to myself, that man looks solid, real solid. Here. Let me feel. (Feels PHILIP’s shoulders and arms.) Yes. See? Just what I thought. Solid as a man half your age. (Moves right up close to PHILIP.) Here. Feel. Go ahead. Don’t be shy. (PHILIP feels BUCK’s muscles.) See? Solid. But no more solid than you, man. Well, maybe just a little. There you are. I figured somethin’ like that.

PHILIP: How? How did you figure something like that?

BUCK: I’ve a nose for people. A natural gift. (Takes another beer. After a pause.) What’s her name?

PHILIP: Whose? Whose name?

BUCK: The ol’ lady’s. The missus.

PHILIP: Day. Daisy.

BUCK: Yours?

PHILIP: Philip. Philip Winter.

BUCK: Winter. Ooh, cool subject. Stay cool, I like to say. (Laughs.) That’s a joke, Philip. Told you I was a kidder. You’re awful serious, Phillip. You know that?

PHILIP: I’ve been told that before.

BUCK: Bet you have.

PHILIP: Not as often as you’d think, perhaps.

BUCK: Let’s hope not, Philip. (After a pause.) Philip Winter . . . sad and serious among the scrub pine and the cactus in a field of dying pumpjacks.

PHILIP: Excuse me?

BUCK: Philip Winter. He holds his head high in the desert where he waits for the sun . . . this season of death and nothingness . . . sad and serious among the scrub pine and the cactus in a field of dying pumpjacks. Philip Winter. Your name . . . and you.

PHILIP: And me?

BUCK: You give me that impression.

PHILIP: I never thought . . . Sad. But nice. Poetic. Beautiful, really.

BUCK: Yes. (After a pause.) Buck.

PHILIP: I beg your pardon?

BUCK: Buck. That’s m’ name. Buck Rose.

PHILIP: Nice to meet you. (A conservative laugh.) Now, that’s really silly. I mean, after all this time. It’s like “have a nice day” isn’t it? (Stiffening.) I’m sorry. (Relaxes.) Buck Rose. I like the sound of that. Buck. The masculine. The stag. Rose. Not feminine – but beautiful. Beauty is neither feminine nor masculine, it just is. Don’t you think?

BUCK: Of course. And you know what? You’re not so bad yourself. I mean, to look at you, nobody’d guess you were . . . well, you know . . . fifty-something . . . and bi . . . like you say (PHILIP forces a smile. After a pause.) So . . . she won’t be home till tomorrow. (A beat.) Nice house.

PHILIP: (With renewed caution.) Yes . . . thank you.

BUCK: (Offering a cigarette.) Smoke?

PHILIP: Thank you, no. Trying to quit.

BUCK: Good for you, Philip. Good for you. (Lights cigarette with gold lighter, then puts the lighter back into his pocket. PHILIP still does not notice that the lighter is his own.) I’ve been thinking about quitting myself.

PHILIP: What the hell. Give me one. (BUCK gives PHILIP a cigarette that he lights from off the end of BUCK’s. An ember falls into PHILIP’s lap.) Damn!

BUCK: Burn yourself?

PHILIP: No. Someone’s telling me not to smoke, that’s all. (He puts his cigarette out, then brushes the ember off, checking to see that everything is all right.) It’ll be all right.

BUCK: (Places his hand just above PHILIP’s knee.) Can’t never be sure. (Rubs the spot sensuously.)

PHILIP: (Nervously.) No. One can never . . . be. (A pause while BUCK’s fingers caress PHILIP’s thigh, moving upward.) I’m always so afraid . . .

BUCK: Of getting burned?

PHILIP: Yes.

BUCK: It could smart real bad.

PHILIP: Yes. You’d think I would have learned by now. Clumsy me.


BUCK’s hand works its way up PHILIP’s thigh, then onto his crotch. THEY kiss. Nervously, PHILIP pushes him away.


BUCK: I can make it feel better.

PHILIP: All the years . . ?

BUCK: Now. Just now.

PHILIP: I’m sorry. Look, I’m really not certain that we . . .

BUCK: (Putting a finger to PHILIP’s lips.) Shhh. Don’t say nothin’ that you won’t have a way out of later on. (After a pause.) You ain’t from these parts, are you, Philip?

PHILIP: No. We came down from Madison, Wisconsin . . . just after Phil Junior was born.

BUCK: Been a long time.

PHILIP: Over twenty-two years.

BUCK: Almost a native. You ought to be talkin’ like one o’ us by now.

PHILIP: Yes. (A beat.) You mean, I don’t?

BUCK: Hell no! I mean, we use the same words and all . . . but we got a different sense for them.

PHILIP: A different sense?

BUCK: A different understanding ‘bout a lot ‘o the things we say.

PHILIP: Surely, not that different.

BUCK: Like night and day. You can be sure o’ that. (After a pause.) You have a northern accent. I bet you think it’s me got the accent, right?

PHILIP: (Amused.) Oh . . . I suppose.

BUCK: Yeah. See? I know how you think.

PHILIP: Stop saying that!

BUCK: What?

PHILIP: That you know things about me. That you know what I think. You don’t. You don’t know the first thing about me . . . or how I think!

BUCK: Philip, I think you are very sensitive. (PHILIP does not reply. After a pause.) Like the Great Southwest?

PHILIP: Excuse me?

BUCK: The Great Southwest . . . do you like it?

PHILIP: It’s all right, I guess.

BUCK: You guess?

PHILIP: I’d prefer it better upstate, I think. Maybe, Albuquerque. Santa Fe, perhaps. I don’t know, really. But, my business is established . . . doing well . . . and . . .

BUCK: Insurance, right?

PHILIP: Winter Insurance Agency . . . yes.

BUCK: Winter Insurance Agency. Sounds like it means somethin’ different from what it says. But then, a lot does, don’t it?

PHILIP: I’m sorry. I don’t follow you.

BUCK: Some hear one thing . . . some another.

PHILIP: You’re in my head! I’m afraid. What are you doing? I’m really confused.

BUCK: I was makin’ a joke, Philip. I told you I was a kidder. I mean, there’s fire insurance, life, health, theft . . . but whoever heard of insurance against winter?

PHILIP: Ah, yes. (Chuckles.) A lot of claims to pay there!

BUCK: That’s the spirit! (A beat.) I’m a vendor. Candy. Crackers. Chips. Jerky.

PHILIP: That sounds . . . interesting.

BUCK: It is. You get to meet a lot of interesting people. Not as interesting as the ones you meet at the porno store, hey?

PHILIP: Like me?

BUCK: Exactly like you. You can bet on it. Very interesting. (Indicates kitchen.) You don’t got another beer or three out there, do you? Maybe some trail mix? Or something like that?

PHILIP: Now, isn’t that a coincidence?

BUCK: What’s that, Philip?

PHILIP: I was just thinking about trail mix. (Rises, crosses toward, then exits into the kitchen.) I picked some up at the health food store earlier. You know, the one on Turner. In fact, that’s where I was coming from before going to . . . you know . . . where we met.

BUCK: The porno store.

PHILIP: There, yes.

BUCK: The porno store.

PHILIP: That’s right. (Enters from the kitchen with more beer and a bowl of trail mix.) In the parking lot of the porno store.

BUCK: (After a pause.) You into health foods?

PHILIP: No. Not really. Although, I was a vegetarian once. (BUCK stares at him blankly.) I mean, I didn’t eat meat.

BUCK: Not even chicken?

PHILIP: No.

BUCK: Why?

PHILIP: Why didn’t I eat chicken?

BUCK: Why didn’t you eat meat?

PHILIP: I don’t know, really. (After a pause.) Well, I suppose I do. I mean, there’s the obvious – the price of meat.

BUCK: The price of meat . . . (He stretches his legs out in front of him.) I hear that.

PHILIP: What I mean to say is that it may well have been economics that led me to give some thought to a more humane, if you will, ideal. You know, when you don’t have much money you have to keep questioning your motives for giving up whatever it was you’ve given up in the name of morality, humanity, Christianity, what-have-you. (BUCK stares at him blankly.) Well, I mean, it’s very easy to tell yourself you’re doing something for some great and noble principle when, in fact, you’re doing it out of necessity.

BUCK: (Glancing around the room.) Necessity?

PHILIP: We had hard times . . . struggles . . . Day and me. Don’t think we didn’t.

BUCK: Day. Daisy. Your wife.

PHILIP: Yes.

BUCK: Times change.

PHILIP: Yes. Times change. Besides, this was a long time ago I’m talking about. I was single then – a student in Madison.

BUCK: Wisconsin, right?

PHILIP: Yes, Wisconsin.

BUCK: Hear tell it’s cold up there. Lots of snow.

PHILIP: Oh, yes.

BUCK: Even for a man named Winter? Hey! (Amused with himself.) That was a good one, wasn’t it? Even for a man named Winter.

PHILIP: Yes. That was a good one.

BUCK: (Arches his back, stretches, lets his hands rest in the vicinity of his thighs – smiles.) No meat, huh?

PHILIP: (Watches BUCK, nervously.) No.

BUCK: (Stiffens his legs, arches his back, runs his hands, palm down, along the outer seam of his jeans, then back along the inner seam until his thumbs come to rest hooked over his belt buckle. PHILIP watches nervously.) Ain’t never knowed nobody what didn’t like a taste of meat every now and again.

PHILIP: (The nervousness of insecurity. The excitement of the unknown object of desire.) Well, I do . . . now. But, then . . . I asked myself what I would do were I stranded on an island and actually had to kill for a meal. Would I do it? No. You go to the supermarket and you pay somebody else to do it for you. Your killing. Your murder.

BUCK: (Momentarily taken aback. After a pause.) It ain’t murder to kill if you got a good cause.

PHILIP: So I am told. But at the meat case you don’t really make the same connection.

BUCK: What connection is that?

PHILIP: The one you would make if you were stranded on an island.

BUCK: Or in the desert?

PHILIP: Yes. Or in the desert . . . and face to face with the thing whose ground flesh you just threw into the shopping cart without question.

BUCK: Sounds serious.

PHILIP: You never really know if your sacrifice is out of some great and noble principle, or what?

BUCK: Is that somethin’ anybody needs to know?

PHILIP: It helps. Yes.

BUCK: Who? Certainly not the animal.

PHILIP: No. But me . . . and you. Anyone who questions their motives, their reasons . . . themselves. It gives us an insight into what kind of human beings we’ve become.

BUCK: What kind is that?

PHILIP: For me . . . one who cares, I hope. One who tries to do the best he knows . . . who tells the truth at all times – except when it may hurt another unnecessarily.

BUCK: Or yourself?

PHILIP: Myself?

BUCK: You wouldn’t tell the truth if it was gonna hurt you, would you? I mean, you’d lie if you needed to protect yourself, right? Maybe if it would save your life?

PHILIP: To save my life? Yes . . . probably . . . no doubt, I’d lie.

BUCK: Like all the rest of us.

PHILIP: Yes . . . like all the rest of us.

BUCK: (Hooks his thumbs over his belt buckle, letting his fingers dangle over his crotch.) Powerful serious.

PHILIP: I suppose if there was no alternative – eat meat or die – I owe it to myself to survive.

BUCK: That’s the bottom line, ain’t it?

PHILIP: It does seem that way.

BUCK: There’s a killer in all of us.

PHILIP: Yes. To a certain extent. Something carried over from the old days. But, I couldn’t do it for pleasure. Not like some hunters seem to do.

BUCK: Not for sport, huh?

PHILIP: I see nothing sporting about it. It’s no longer necessary. Civilization is beyond that, don’t you think?

BUCK: Too deep for me, Philip.

PHILIP: When deer season opened my dad would go off with his buddies and shoot us a buck. He’d tie it on top of that old gray Oldsmobile of his and come driving, lickity-split, up the dirt road of our farm . . . honking his horn for all the neighbors to see his dead trophy . . . pull up next to the house and yell for me to come out and help him string it up on the front porch, where he would rub my face with its blood as he gutted it . . . laughing, because he thought it was funny . . . saying, “I’m going to make a man out of you, yet. Before I die . . . if it’s the last thing I do . . . I’m going to make a man out of you.” Mother would come out and scold him . . . but she was afraid to really challenge him. He’d beat the crap out of her just as sure as he would out of me. She cooked it and we ate it. All fucking winter we ate that trophy of his. It became impossible to swallow. I’ve never been able to eat venison since. (After a pause.) Anyway, I gave it up.

BUCK: (Running his hands down his thighs, then back to his belt buckle.) Meat.

PHILIP: No. I gave up giving up, so to speak. I mean, my giving up meat wasn’t going to stop the slaughter of livestock, was it?

BUCK: S’pose not.

PHILIP: Besides, I know now that I can do it. I know that I can give it up if I want to, or have to . . . again. I know that I can muster the strength of some of my convictions for at least some of the time. There’s some small salvation there. Funny, isn’t it?

BUCK: Don’t rightly know. I ain’t laughin’. I don’t think we share the same sense of humor, Philip.

PHILIP: I was being rhetorical. Sorry.

BUCK: Nothin’ to be sorry for. The thing is, when you got five mouths to feed you don’t got time to think of those things.

PHILIP: No. I suppose not.

BUCK: Nope. Not when you got five mouths to feed. You’ll kill. A rabbit here . . . a buck there . . . and any man who tries to keep you from it. You’ll kill. I promise.

PHILIP: Surely, you don’t really mean that?

BUCK: When a man gets hungry he’s gotta eat.

PHILIP: I’d never get so hungry that I’d kill a man.

BUCK: No? A body can get mighty hungry for life.

PHILIP: Nothing is so important that I’d kill another human being for it. I’d rather die first.

BUCK: You think so?

PHILIP: I believe so, yes. I couldn’t hate that much.

BUCK: Hate? Off the ranch altogether! Hate ain’t got nothin’ to do with it. People who hate don’t kill nothin’, ‘cept maybe themselves. You gotta love to kill, Philip.

PHILIP: I don’t see the sense of that.

BUCK: No? You gotta love yourself enough when you’re hungry. You gotta protect the things and the people you love. When somebody you love is in pain and dyin’ right before your eyes – you gotta kill and take the misery away.

PHILIP: Ah . . . you mean euthanasia.

BUCK: I mean knowin’ what love is all about, really about.

PHILIP: (Shivers. Crosses to window.) I’m cold. You frighten me with this talk.

BUCK: Don’t mean to.

PHILIP: (At window – looking out.) All heaven is about to break open. Strange. All that sand and water up in those clouds. You wonder how it all stays up there. My God, the sheer weight of it!

BUCK: It don’t.

PHILIP: (Turning from window.) What?

BUCK: It don’t. When all that sky gets heavy enough it just busts open and lets loose. Like widow’s tears at a funeral. Pourin’ down to beat the band. ‘Fore you know it, the rain and a little bit o’ Texas will come down a-pourin’.

PHILIP: (Sotto voce.) A little bit o’ Texas.

BUCK: It’s ‘cause o’ all those cotton farmers and peanut farmers turnin’ up all that land ‘cross the border . . . and the wind whippin’ it up into the skies. ‘Fore you know it, there’s a little bit o’ Texas here . . . there. Why, Philip, I bet there’s a little bit o’ Texas comin’ down on Wisconsin right this minute.

PHILIP: (A long, wistful sigh.) Wisconsin. (After a pause.) Sometimes I think how nice it would be to survive without compromise . . . to live in a world of our own making . . . to be our own creation. But, I suppose this is all our own doing anyway, isn’t it?

BUCK: ‘Stead o’ God’s?

PHILIP: With God. Hand in hand with God.

BUCK: Don’t seem natural.

PHILIP: To really have free will. Free choice. To build upon what God has already created.

BUCK: Don’t seem natural.

PHILIP: Of course it is. We’re caretakers of sorts, aren’t we? Our body – our planet. (He looks to BUCK who does not reply. After a pause.) Maybe choice is a luxury of perfectly free time. Nothing to get in the way. Who knows? If you haven’t the time to think about the quality of your life, you’re probably too busy doing the best you can just to survive.

BUCK: I hear that.

PHILIP: I think it’s natural. As natural as growth, growing . . . becoming, being.

BUCK: S’pose so.

PHILIP: We just take what comes along and we make the best of it. At least, we should. Shouldn’t we?

BUCK: What else is there?

PHILIP: Something better . . . there must be something better.

BUCK: There’s magic.

PHILIP: Not in my life.

BUCK: It ain’t over, yet.

PHILIP: No, that it’s not.

BUCK: Maybe it’s all around you . . . hidin’ in plain sight.

PHILIP: I don’t see it.

BUCK: (Moving in on him.) That don’t mean it ain’t there. Maybe you don’t know where to look . . . how to pay attention. You gotta have faith. You gotta have faith that it’s there. And then you gotta reach out and grab it. Take it in your hands, Philip. Go ahead. Grab it, Philip. Make it yours. It’s right there waitin’ for you, Philip. Come on. Touch it. It aches, Philip. It wants you to touch it so bad.

PHILIP: (Confused. After a pause.) What exactly are we talking about?

BUCK: Magic. Magic, Philip . . . magic.

PHILIP: I thought. Never mind. (After a long reflective pause.) You know, there’s something hypocritical about it all.

BUCK: Hypocritical?

PHILIP: My not eating meat. After a year of vegetarianism I ended it with a hot dog from a street vendor. That’s a laugh. No, I’m not much into health food. But, they’ve got the best trail mix in that health food store on Turner. And from there it’s just a short drive to where we met.

BUCK: In the parking lot of the porno store.

PHILIP: Yes. In the parking lot of the porno store.

BUCK: I made my last delivery at Allsup’s and thought I’d swing by. And there we were . . . pullin’ into the porno store at the same time . . . parkin’ right up next to each other.

PHILIP: Coincidence.

BUCK: Two things happenin’ at once. (He snuffs out the last of a cigarette between his index finger and thumb, then drops it into an ashtray.)

PHILIP: You’ll burn yourself!

BUCK: Ye of little faith. (Showing him his thick, dark-stained fingertips.) Calloused.

PHILIP: (Sitting – sips beer.) I’m not much of a drinker. Too strong. I mean, in the afternoon.

BUCK: Yes.


In the SILENCE that follows, BUCK starts to light a cigarette. PHILIP recognizes the lighter, checks the side table to make certain. The cigarette doesn’t get lit.


PHILIP: How did you . . ? That was on the . . . Look, I think you’d better . . .

BUCK: (Cutting him off. Putting on his charm.) Wait a minute! Now, hold on. It ain’t how it seems . . .

PHILIP: Oh, it’s how it seems, all right!

BUCK: No, sir. You’re jumping the gun.

PHILIP: Am I?

BUCK: Yes, sir. Things ain’t as they seem. I promise. Things ain’t at all what they seem.

PHILIP: I know that lighter was right there on that table. That’s where I keep it . . . a reminder that I don’t smoke anymore.

BUCK: You sure got funny ways, Philip.

PHILIP: Well, they’re my ways.

BUCK: I wasn’t gonna keep it.

PHILIP: Oh?

BUCK: You thought I was a . . . well, shame on you, daddy.

PHILIP: I’m not your daddy.

BUCK Then stop actin’ like you wanna be. I was just lookin’ for a light, that’s all. And you was in the kitchen getting’ us all these nice snacks and such and I couldn’t find a match to save my life. So, I started to look around. (Moves around the room, playfully, making a game of his search. Lifting objects here and there.) High and low. Here. Nope. There. Nope. Nothin’. Nothin’, nothin’, nothin’. And then . . . low and behold! What do you think I saw?

PHILIP: (Amused by his boyish manner.) The lighter?

BUCK: Plain as day! Hidin’ in plain sight!

PHILIP: I’m sorry.

BUCK: No! I’m the one who’s sorry, daddy.

PHILIP: Really, it’s all right.

BUCK: Oh, no! It’s not all right. Not by a long shot. (Handing him the lighter.) Take it. I’m sorry. My daddy brought me up better than that. I’m really, truly sorry.

PHILIP: I’m sure you didn’t mean to . . .

BUCK: No, sir. (After a pause.) You don’t want to spank me, do you?

PHILIP: (Chuckles.) No . . . not this time.

BUCK: (Holding cigarette. After a pause.) I don’t suppose you have a book o’ matches, do you?

PHILIP: (Handing him back the lighter.) Here. Use this. It was really very silly of me . . .

BUCK: Oh, no. Weren’t silly at all. Thank you, Philip. (Lights cigarette and, with an obvious gesture, he places the lighter on the coffee table.) If ever I took somethin’ what didn’t belong to me, may God cut my hands off as quick as . . . (Raises his arm.) That! (Snaps his fingers.)


A great bolt of LIGHTING flashes just outside the window. In a moment, THUNDER.


PHILIP: (Startled.) Good God!

BUCK: (Moving closer to PHILIP.) It’s all right, Philip.

PHILIP: (Recovering.) Scared the bejesus out of me.

BUCK: Just a coincidence. Two things happenin’ at once.

PHILIP: One would think you were Thor himself.

BUCK: Thor?

PHILIP: A god in Norse mythology . . . dealing out lightning and thunder with a snap of his fingers.

BUCK: Powerful.

PHILIP: Indeed. In fact, today is Thor’s day. Thursday.

BUCK: Thursday – Thorsday. I get it. That’s a new one on me! That goes back a ways, don’t it?

PHILIP: A long way. Named after Thor. Are you interested in things mythological?

BUCK: What do you mean?

PHILIP: Myths. Creation stories . . . like Genesis in the Bible.

BUCK: I believe in Jesus.

PHILIP: Yes, of course. But, there are other cultures . . . civilizations. Some with as many gods as . . .

BUCK: (Cutting him off.) I believe in Jesus.

PHILIP: But, before Jesus there was . . .

BUCK: (Stopping him – firmly.) I said, I believe in Jesus.

PHILIP: (Nervously.) Well, I suppose I do, too. (After a pause.) I don’t know why that sounded like an admission of guilt.

BUCK: We’re all guilty, Philip.

PHILIP: (Reflective.) You’re probably right about that.

BUCK: Tell me about your guilt, Philip.

PHILIP: My guilt?

BUCK: Yeah. What’s the worst thing you ever did?

PHILIP: I don’t know. Lying, I suppose.

BUCK: Lying? That’s the worst thing you ever did? Wow, man! I could tell you some doozies!

PHILIP: I mean, to myself. Have you any idea how evil . . . what a treacherous undertaking it is to lie to oneself?

BUCK: I don’t know. Evil? Treacherous? Those sound like pretty serious words, Philip.

PHILIP: They are.

BUCK: Then why do you do it?

PHILIP: I don’t. Well, I do . . . but I’m not aware that I’m doing it till after I discover that I am. Lying, that is. I don’t set out to lie. I just realize at certain times in my life that I do . . . that I am.

BUCK: Accept him, Philip. Let him into your heart.

PHILIP: Who?

BUCK: Jesus. Jesus is for sinners.

PHILIP: (Uncomfortable.) Sinners, yes. (Pause.) I was only making reference to the lightning when you snapped your fingers.

BUCK: Like this? (Snaps his fingers.)


LIGHTNING.


PHILIP: (Startled.) Jesus H. Christ!

BUCK: It weren’t nothin’ but one o’ them coincidences.


The SOUND of THUNDER.


PHILIP: You. Who in hell are you?

BUCK: Shhhh. Buck’s here.

PHILIP: Who in hell are you?

BUCK: I’m your friend, man. I’m the fuck you’ve been waitin’ all your life for. Whoever you want me to be . . . that’s who I’ll be, man. C’mon. You’re freakin’ out over nothin’, man. Absofuckinglutely nothing. Just a little ol’ lightnin’ and thunder. Mother Nature havin’ herself a little hissy fit.

PHILIP: It frightens me . . . you . . .

BUCK: (Comforting.) Ain’t nothin’. It’s natural, that’s all. You gotta connect with it. Don’t let it get the upper hand. (After a pause.) You and me . . . we use the same words, man . . . but I don’t think we always speak the same language. Know what I mean?

PHILIP: I do. Actually, I believe I do.

BUCK: Good. That’s a start. Feel better?

PHILIP: Yes. Thank you.

BUCK: Don’t mention it. M’ uncle Kirby’s the same way. He’s a man among men. Nothin’ girlish about him. Nosirree! A fuckin’ man. All balls. Know what I mean? If it has a pussy he’ll have his way with it, I can tell you that.

PHILIP: Really?

BUCK: You can bet your ass on it. But for some reason God only knows, he was scared of thunder and lightnin’. That was until m’ aunt Opal and me cured him for good.

PHILIP: And how did you do that?

BUCK: Well, we went out on the Carlsbad Highway one night and gathered ourselves up a whole tin of tarantulas.

PHILIP: What?

BUCK: You know, the kind that fruit cakes come in ‘round Christmas time?

PHILIP: Is this a joke?

BUCK: No, sir. I’m the one drove ol’ Opal out there. Sometimes those tarantulas are so thick on the highway the crunchin’ under the truck wheels like to turn your stomach. And vinegaroon scorpions! We gathered up about a dozen big ol’ scorpions and mixed ‘em in with the tarantulas. Then we let ‘em loose one night in the bedroom whiles he was sleepin’.

PHILIP: Good God! That’s terrible!

BUCK: Naah. They’re harmless as horny-toads. Anyways, after we locked him in and made a lot of noise so he’d wake up, we waited outside . . . till the screamin’ stopped.

PHILIP: (After a pause.) And? What happened?

BUCK: Nothin’ happened. Broke him of it, that’s all. Things what don’t mean him no harm don’t frighten him no more.

PHILIP: That’s horrible.

BUCK: It worked.

PHILIP: You could have frightened him to death . . . given him a heart attack.

BUCK: That ol’ geezer’s been right as rain ever since.

PHILIP: Still, it could have killed him . . . driven him mad.

BUCK: So could lightnin’, daddy. But, it ain’t likely.

PHILIP: (After a pause.) Well, I see your point . . . I guess. (Inhales deeply. Exhales.) I’m sorry.

BUCK: Ain’t nothin’ to be sorry for.

PHILIP: I’ve always been like this. Ever since I was a kid I’ve been like this. I feel I’m connected to it.

BUCK: To what? Thunder and lightnin?

PHILIP: To the weather in general. It’s like the weather outside and I, in here, are one. Does that sound strange?

BUCK: Is it the truth?

PHILIP: I . . . I don’t know. It’s my truth, I guess.

BUCK: Do you know how you feel?

PHILIP: How I feel? Yes. I know how I feel.

BUCK: (Reassuring.) That’s it then. That’s all you need to know, Philip. That’s all there is to know.

PHILIP: (After a pause.) Do you really think a tornado is coming?

BUCK: Yup. There’s a tornado comin’ all right.

PHILIP: Then, you see, I feel I’m responsible.

BUCK: How’s that?

PHILIP: That it’s my fault somehow . . . my doing.

BUCK: Don’t seem possible.

PHILIP: I know it doesn’t. But it’s how I feel goddamnit! That’s how I feel.

BUCK: Shhhh. You just got worked into a state.

PHILIP: Sometimes, I’m in a crowd somewhere . . . or in Furr’s cafeteria with Day, or just walking in the mall, where my office is, when it happens. I’m connected to them. All these people . . . and events. They’re pieces of me and I’m a piece of them. Connected. And, I’m thinking that they can hear what I’m thinking. And, I’m hearing what they’re saying as what I’m thinking.

BUCK: (Comforting.) It’s all right.

PHILIP: They say these are classic symptoms of schizophrenia . . . but I don’t buy that. There’s more to it. It’s real. There’s something very real about it.

BUCK: It’s all right.

PHILIP: No, it’s not all right. I’m connected to the whole of everything. We all are. And I can’t free myself of it.

BUCK: Then why try?

PHILIP: I want my own will! Don’t you understand what I’m trying to tell you?

BUCK: Sure. You’re scared o’ bein’ alone when the end comes.

PHILIP: No. I want to be alone. It’s something else. I want to be in control. But I’m afraid of the responsibility of control.

BUCK: You want to be God?

PHILIP: No. I’m afraid that I may discover that I am God!

BUCK: That’s a lonely place to be, Mr. Winter.

PHILIP: Yes. Yes it is.

BUCK: Best you relax. (Comforting.) Shhhh. Buck’s here.

PHILIP: And when I try to talk to somebody I hear . . . no, feel . . . I feel an exchange of information taking place that has nothing to do with the actual words themselves. Sometimes it is like there are layers and layers of meaning in the same sentence. Like an intuitive language is being spoken. Good God! I don’t know what I’m saying anymore. What are you doing to me?

BUCK: Ain’t doin’ nothin’, daddy.

PHILIP: Please. Don’t call me daddy. I feel old enough as it is.

BUCK: But you could be my daddy.

PHILIP: If you mean age-wise . . . yes . . . yes, I could.

BUCK: But you don’t wanna be, right?

PHILIP: Right.

BUCK: How ‘bout I be your daddy?

PHILIP: I don’t see how that could be possible.

BUCK: Philip. Phil. May I call you Phil?

PHILIP: If you like.

BUCK: Phil. This is a world in which anything is possible.

PHILIP: Theoretically, perhaps. In the abstract. Certainly not literally. One cannot imagine a world in which anything is literally possible. That would be chaos.

BUCK: It would be heaven.

PHILIP: I don’t think so.

BUCK: You’ll see. Time will tell. (After a pause.) Feelin’ better?

PHILIP: Yes.

BUCK: Good, Phil, ‘cause you’re a nice man and you oughta feel good. It don’t feel good when you’re scared and alone.

PHILIP: No. Not at all.

BUCK: I mean, you could be surrounded by everybody in the world and you’d still be scared and alone.

PHILIP: It seems that way.

BUCK: People can go out of their way to love you . . . yet; you’re so deep . . . so far into yourself . . . you can’t really be touched by it . . . by love. You can’t love and you can’t be loved. That’s scary. That’s alone. Unreachable. Untouchable.

PHILIP: Is that what you see? Is that how you see me?

BUCK: Well, son . . . quite frankly, yes. You break my heart, boy.

PHILIP: I see. I guess I’m to be an object of pity, huh?

BUCK: You see? There you go. Nobody’s pitying you, man. ‘Cept maybe yourself. You need one of m’ aunt Opal’s remedies. That’s what you need all right. You’re like in a prison, man. You’re hidden away behind bars of fear, man.

PHILIP: How? How did it happen?

BUCK: Shame. Guilt. Lying to yourself. Who can say, really?

PHILIP: (Takes a long, deep breath.) And you. You are right out there. On the wing. What you see is what you get, right? You’ve got youth, looks, strength, charm. Ah, yes . . . a most disarming charm. Afraid of nothing and nobody, right?

BUCK: That’s not true. Not true at all.

PHILIP: What’s a strapping young man like you afraid of?

BUCK: Lots o’ things.

PHILIP: What kind of things?

BUCK: Dark things. Evil things. The devil’s things.

PHILIP: (Unsure.) You’re kidding. The great kidder, right?

BUCK: No, sir. There ain’t no kiddin’ when it comes to the powers of darkness.

PHILIP: You believe that?

BUCK: Yes, sir. That’s why I accepted Jesus as my Savior.

PHILIP: You don’t strike me as a man who has accepted Jesus as his Savior.

BUCK: I don’t?

PHILIP: No . . . not Jesus.

BUCK: Why is that, Philip?

PHILIP: You know . . . the things you say . . . the things you like.

BUCK: What things, Philip?

PHILIP: You know. You don’t need me to tell you what you already know.

BUCK: Maybe I do.

PHILIP: Well . . . like . . . like pissing on people. There. I said it. You said you liked to piss on people.

BUCK: You’re a brave man, Philip. I bet that was real hard for you to say.

PHILIP: I was only repeating.

BUCK: And Jesus?

PHILIP: What about Jesus?

BUCK: He don’t like to piss on people?

PHILIP: I don’t know. How would I know a thing like that?

BUCK: Yeah. How would you know a thing like that?

PHILIP: I don’t. I don’t know. I don’t want to know a thing like that.

BUCK: You don’t want to know Jesus?

PHILIP: I don’t want to know those kinds of things about Jesus.

BUCK: You mean, you want to know what you are prepared to accept and nothin’ else. Right?

PHILIP: I don’t want to argue.

BUCK: Then believe me when I tell you I am born again . . . baptized with the holy water of Jesus Himself.

PHILIP: Born again? What exactly do you mean by that?

BUCK: What I mean is what I say.

PHILIP: You needn’t be defensive.

BUCK: I’m not.

PHILIP: It’s just that I’ve heard that phrase “born again” used so often and so loosely . . . I don’t have a sense for it. I don’t know what it means.

BUCK: I guess you gotta be to know. Before I was born again I was a dead man. I was walkin’ the earth without the breath of Jesus in me. I was a dead man walkin’ in the darkness. And darkness, Philip, is pure evil . . . and sexy.

PHILIP: Sexy?

BUCK: Ain’t nothin’ so sexy as pure evil. (After a pause. Matter-of-factly.) Once . . . I killed a man in Lubbock, Texas.

PHILIP: I don’t think I want to hear this.

BUCK: Of course you do.

PHILIP: No, really.

BUCK: You do, Phil. I guarantee it. Pure evil, Phil. There ain’t nothin’ like it! And sexy.

PHILIP: I really don’t want to hear it. Let’s talk about something else.

BUCK: No, no, no. You gotta hear it. You gotta face it. You gotta come right down to it, Phil, before you can be born again. You’re not exactly the happiest camper on the block no, are you? (PHILIP does not answer. After a pause.)

Well, you’re not. Take my word for it. You see, Phil, evil is darkness. Pure darkness. And it’s sexy because in pure darkness you can do anything your heart desires. Who’s gonna see you? Who’s gonna tell? God? (A pause for PHILIP to answer but he doesn’t.)

So . . . I drove on over to Lubbock – this was years ago before I found Jesus – and I found myself in an alley behind this porno movie theater getting’ myself a blow job. Oooh boy! It was a good one! You see. It was my first. Ain’t never had a blow job like that since. Ain’t nothin’ like the first time. Is there, Phil? (PHILIP tries to speak, but nothing comes out.)

Anyway . . . this guy – this older gentleman – he’s down on his knees. I’m pushed up against a dumpster . . . smell of somethin’ foul, somethin’ maggoty-rotten in the air . . . jeans down around my boots . . . and then we both hear somebody comin’ our way . . . outta the shadows. The old man starts to get up, but I’m startin’ to cum, you see, so I push his head down hard on my prick . . . and I shoot a long, heavy load down his throat. Oh, God, it was good! (After a pause.)

Next thing I know there’s this other guy – this younger guy – and he’s standin’ right in front of me . . . behind the old man who’s still slurpin’ up the last o’ my wad. And this younger guy . . . he’s got a baseball bat. (PHILIP cringes and shivers.)

Suddenly, the bat cracks the skull of the old man . . . everything goes into slow motion. He looks up at me . . . cum runnin’ down the sides of his mouth . . . and he smiles. He smiles like he’s seein’ an angel or somethin’ . . . and I’m that angel. And then he falls over, sideways, into the dirt. Dead. Me . . . I’m still standin’ there with my jeans down around my ankles . . . my prick still drippin’ . . . when I grab the fucker’s bat and, before he has a chance to run, I give him what he gave the old gentleman. Next thing I know I got a hard on like nobody’s ever had a hard on. I raise the bat and I smack him again! Again! Again! Again! Again! Shit, man! Shit! I’m gonna cum! Every fuckin’ time I hit the sonofabitch I’m that much closer t’ cummin’. Here I just had my first blow job – shot my biggest wad ever – and I’m startin’ to cum again. One last crack of the bat and I explode, man . . . shootin’ my load all over the stupid bastard. It felt like a fuckin’ cupload man! Like the fuckin’ universe was explodin’. I thought it would never stop. And then . . . then I took a piss, man.

PHILIP: (Dazed, shaken – on the verge of tears.) What?

BUCK: I pissed all over that sonofabitch! I drunk a shit load o’ beer so I was pissin’ like a race horse. I washed the smirk off his sorry face, I’ll tell you that. Shit, man! I never felt anything like it . . . before or since. I’d’ve taken a dump on him if I could have. Yup. If I could have . . . I sure as hell would have. Then . . . then I pulled up my jeans, got in my truck and got the hell out o’ Dodge. I took the bat with me. Prints, you know. Burned it when I got back to Hobbs. I still get a hard on every time I think about it. (After a pause to rub his crotch.) Scary stuff, huh, Philip? (PHILIP begins to cry.) But that was before I was born again. (Touching PHILIP.) C’mon. C’mon. You’re takin’ this all too seriously. You gotta lighten up. Chill out. Stay cool, man. C’mon, you’re gonna be okay.

PHILIP: (Wiping his tears.) I don’t know who you are.

BUCK: I told you. Whoever you want me to be. ‘Sides, do you really know who anybody is? Take your time. Think it over.

PHILIP: What are you going to do with me?

BUCK: What do you want me to do with you, Philip?

PHILIP: Magic. Earlier you told me to reach out and touch it. Well, I’m ready to touch it.

BUCK: I bet you are! (He raises his arm.) Coincidence? (He snaps his fingers and there is a sudden flash of LIGHTNING.) Two things happening at once!


The LIGHTING from the lamps goes out. This should not effect the LIGHTING too much, as it is still mid-afternoon. It is, however, darker outside than would otherwise be normal for this time of day – this time of year. Every so often throughout the remainder of the play the SOUND of gusts of wind can be heard howling, accompanied by the SOUND of a tree’s branch scratching against the windowpane.


PHILIP: (Rises. Crosses to window.) The electricity’s out!

BUCK: (Rises. Follows him.) It’ll be back on in no time.

PHILIP: (Looking out window.) I don’t think . . .


Suddenly, the LIGHTS flash back on, followed by the SOUND of THUNDER.


BUCK: See? Magic.

BUCK: (Looking out the window from over PHILIP’s shoulder.) They come in hard and fast. Go out the same way. (While standing behind PHILIP, he has unbuttoned his shirt. As he turns from the window, he pulls his shirt out of his jeans. He is bare-chested.) You don’t mind if I get comfortable?

PHILIP: (Turning from window. Getting a good, hard look at him.) No. Not at all.

BUCK: (After a pause.) Storm’s makin’ it dark out there.

PHILIP: Yes.

BUCK: Be pitch black before you know it.

PHILIP: Yes.

BUCK: There’s a lot o’ scared and lonely out there . . . in the darkness. (Removes his shirt and throws it aside.)

PHILIP: Yes.

BUCK: Yes. (Begins to unbutton PHILIP’s shirt.) Your wife. She doesn’t come home till tomorrow, right?

PHILIP: Yes.

BUCK: Yes. All the time in the world.

PHILIP: Time?

BUCK: For us. For magic.

PHILIP: Magic. Yes.

BUCK: Yes.

PHILIP: I . . . I never did anything like this before.

BUCK: Before?

PHILIP: Now.

BUCK: Like what?

PHILIP: This.

BUCK: This?

PHILIP: You know.

BUCK: Yes. I know, Philip. (Removes PHILIP’s shirt and throws it aside.)

PHILIP: I never asked a stranger into my home before.

BUCK: I ain’t no stranger. Why, we been getting’ on ‘bout all kinds o’ things all afternoon.

PHILIP: You know what I mean.

BUCK: Yes. I know exactly what you mean.

PHILIP: I don’t know what possessed me. (Runs his hands along BUCK’s body.)

BUCK: Do you hate her?

PHILIP: (Shudders.) Her?

BUCK: Your wife . . . the old lady.

PHILIP: No. I love her. Do you . . . love your wife?

BUCK: Love’s funny. It comes. It goes.

PHILIP: Yes.

BUCK: Yes. (He undoes his jeans, steps out of them and throws them aside.)

PHILIP: Yes.

BUCK: Yes. (He removes his underwear.)

PHILIP: Yes.

BUCK: (Running his hands over the length of his own body. After a pause.) Do it much?

PHILIP: No.

BUCK: Been a long time, right?

PHILIP: Yes. A very long time.

BUCK: Yes.

PHILIP: (Having second thoughts.) Music. Would you like some music?

BUCK: I don’t mind.


PHILIP crosses to the radio and turns it on. The MUSIC is a slow tango played on a guitar: Isaac Albeniz’ TANGO.


PHILIP: How this? It’s the Roswell station.

BUCK: (Moving close to PHILIP – pulling his body up against his own.) Not bad.

PHILIP: Want to hear something else? I can change it.

BUCK: Relax. (A pause to listen.) It’s one o’ them tangos.

PHILIP: Yes. I believe it is.

BUCK: Can you do it?

PHILIP: The tango? (BUCK nods “yes.”) Well, I haven’t danced in years.

BUCK: Me neither. Wanna try?

PHILIP: With a man?

BUCK: Take a good look at us, Philip . . . and then tell me you still have a problem with that.

PHILIP: No. I guess not.

BUCK: Good.

PHILIP: You lead?

BUCK: Naturally.


BUCK and PHILIP begin to dance a slow, sensuous tango. Their dialogue should be stretched out over periods of dancing.


BUCK: Dangerous.

PHILIP: Yes.

BUCK: Seductive.

PHILIP: Yes.

BUCK: Precise.

PHILIP: Yes.

BUCK: Powerful!

PHILIP: Yes!


LIGHTNING.


BUCK: Yes!


LIGHTNING.


PHILIP: Yes! Yes!


The SOUND of THUNDER. The MUSIC and the LIGHTS go out. PHILIP slides to his knees and, with BUCK’s back to the audience, PHILIP buries his head in BUCK’s crotch.


BUCK: (Holding PHILIP’s head and pushing his crotch into PHILIP’s face.) YES. YES. SWEET JESUS! YES! YES! YES. . ! (THUNDER! LIGHTNING! THUNDER!) YES! GOD! SWEET JESUS! YEEEESSSS . . !


A long SILENCE.


PHILIP: (Slowly rises.) The electricity . . .

BUCK: Shhhh . . .

PHILIP: (Crosses to window.) The storm . . .

BUCK: (While putting underwear and jeans on.) That was nice. Fucking nice! Sweet Jesus, that was beautiful! (Gets a cigarette.)

PHILIP: (Disturbed.) How can you say such a thing?

BUCK: (Lighting a cigarette, slipping the lighter into his pocket.) Such a thing as what, Philip?

PHILIP: (Reluctantly.) “Sweet . . . Jesus.”

BUCK: Ain’t he sweet?

PHILIP: I don’t know. I . . . I just don’t think that it’s appropriate, that’s all. (Realizes that BUCK has, once again, pocketed the lighter.) Please give me the lighter, Mr. Rose.

BUCK: Huh?

PHILIP: The lighter. You just put it in your pocket.

BUCK: (Feeling his pocket.) So I did. Why don’tcha come on over here and get it? C’mon. Just reach your hand right down in there and lift it out, daddy.

PHILIP: No.

BUCK: Your warm hand . . .

PHILIP: No.

BUCK: Slidin’ hot. Slippin’ it out.

PHILIP: Stop it!

BUCK: C’mon. (He extends his arms outward from his sides, pushing his pelvis forward.) Slip your bisexual hand in there and feel around for it. C’mon.

PHILIP: Stop it!

BUCK: What in hell’s wrong with you, man? Shame? Guilt? Maybe you’re not bi at all. Maybe you’re just plain queer.

PHILIP: I’m not queer.

BUCK: Ain’tcha?

PHILIP: (Standing firm.) The lighter. Please.

BUCK: That’s it. You’re all-hog queer, ain’tcha?

PHILIP: I’m married. I have a son. I never did anything like today before in my entire life! The lighter, Mr. Rose.

BUCK: Buck. Nobody calls me Mister Rose. That’s what they call m’ daddy.

PHILIP: (After a pause.) Buck . . . please. It’s getting late. Please give me the lighter . . . and leave.

BUCK: Leave? Just like that? (He snaps his fingers.)


LIGHTNING.


PHILIP: (Panicked.) Oh, my God!

BUCK: Yes, Philip Winter. Yes.


The SOUND of THUNDER.


PHILIP: Oh, God! (Backing away.) Don’t hurt me. Please don’t hurt me.

BUCK: (Moving toward him.) Ain’t nobody gonna hurt you, Philip.

PHILIP: (Backing away. On the verge of tears.) You can have the lighter. Keep it. Just leave me alone, please.

BUCK: (Grabbing his hand, forcing it to his pants’ pocket.) You want it? Huh, queer? Dig for it, queer!

PHILIP: No!

BUCK: (Holding PHILIP’s hand firmly against his thigh.) I said, dig for it!

PHILIP: Please . . . please don’t do this.

BUCK: Ahhh . . . C’mon faggot. You love it.

PHILIP: No. I don’t. Honest to God, I don’t.

BUCK: I’m the fuck you’ve been waitin’ for all your life, man.

PHILIP: Stop it! (Pulls away. Raises his fists into BUCK’s face.) All right! That’s it! You want to fight, fucker? I’m not afraid of you!

BUCK: (Laughs.) You’re not, huh? (Raises his hand and snaps his fingers. LIGHTNING. PHILIP lowers his fists. THUNDER.) Now that’s a good boy, Phil.

PHILIP: (Frightened – backing away.) Please. I’m sorry. Please. Look, if it’s money you want . . . if it’s that hundred dollars . . .

BUCK: (Sparring. Punches PHILIP several times.) I don’t want none o’ your money, faggot! I just saw an old dead queer. Walkin’ dead.

PHILIP: Fuck you!

BUCK: No, faggot. I fuck you. (Punches PHILIP again.)

PHILIP: STOP IT!

BUCK: You ain’t never been alive. Have you, faggot?

PHILIP: I don’t know what you mean. Of course I’ve been alive . . . I mean, I am alive.

BUCK: Are you? (Punches him.)

PHILIP: Yes. Stop hitting me. I’m alive, goddamnit! I’m alive!

BUCK: Hear and now . . . maybe. But it’s my breath you’re breathin’. Maybe you feel alive now ‘cause you’re thinkin’ I’m here to take it. Maybe I’m the angel of death. Huh, faggot? Fight back, faggot!

PHILIP: No. You want my life, take it! I’m not going to fight you for it!

BUCK: Your life. It’s like cummin’ for the very first time. You don’t really feel it till it’s almost over . . . all over. Snap! (Snaps his fingers. LIGHTNING.) And then, by God, you want it to last forever. Snap! (THUNDER.) But it don’t, man. It just don’t last forever. Snap! (LIGHTNING.) You’re already dead, man. Dead meat hangin’ in the closet, man. Snap! (THUNDER. He removes the lighter from his pocket.) Here! Here’s your lighter. (Extends it to PHILIP who is backing away.) Here. Take it. Go on now. Take it! Take it! (Following PHILIP as he backs away.) You wanted it, faggot. Now. Take it!

PHILIP: (Grabs the lighter from out of BUCK’s hand.) Thank you. Now. Please. Leave, Mr. Rose.

BUCK: Buck.

PHILIP: What?

BUCK: Buck. Say it!

PHILIP: What? What do you want me to say?

BUCK: BUCK. BUCK. My name is Buck. Say it, queer. Say it!

PHILIP: (With renewed fear. Sotto voce.) Buck.

BUCK: Again!

PHILIP: (A little louder.) Buck.

BUCK: AGAIN.

PHILIP: Buck!

BUCK: That’s better. Again.

PHILIP: Buck! Buck, Buck, Buck! All right?

BUCK: (A big, boyish grin.) That’s m’ name, faggot. That’s m’ name.

PHILIP: (Regaining composure. Truly alarmed.) Yes.

BUCK: Yes? Yes what?

PHILIP: Yes, Buck.

BUCK: Yes. That’s nice, Philip. Philip Winter. Sad and all alone in the darkness of the desert.

PHILIP: (Placating.) Yes, Buck. Sad. Alone. Buck.

BUCK: Good. (After a fearsome pause.) Y’all better leave now.

PHILIP: (Stunned.) What?

BUCK: I said, it’s time for you to go.

PHILIP: Go? Go where?

BUCK: Git!

PHILIP: Where? What are you talking about? You’re the one who needs to go.

BUCK: (Sternly.) Git outta this house.

PHILIP: (Dumbfounded.) What?

BUCK: (In a deep, threatening, resonate voice.) GET . . . OUT . . . OF . . . THIS . . . HOUSE.

PHILIP: This is my house, Mr. Rose!

BUCK: BUCK!

PHILIP: Buck. This is my house. You don’t order me about in my house!

BUCK: Snap! (LIGHTNING.) This ain’t your house. This is my house. You live in a closet, man. Snap! (THUNDER.)

PHILIP: You’re crazy.

BUCK: Am I . . . faggot? (After a pause.) Git out!

PHILIP: No!

BUCK: (Snaps his fingers.) Go!


LIGHTNING and HOWLING WIND.


PHILIP: No.

BUCK: You ain’t nothin’ but a dead old man. Walkin’ around . . . livin’ in the closet . . . hangin’ from your daddy’s porch . . . gutted . . . stinkin’ up the place.


The SOUND of THUNDER.


PHILIP: No.

BUCK: Can’t love ‘cause you don’t know how. Can’t be loved ‘cause you don’t know who. (After a pause.) Who are you man? You’re so busy tryin’ to figure out who I am . . . when you don’t even know who it is you are.

PHILIP: Maybe. Maybe not.

BUCK: Fuck you! You’re a faggot, man. A queer! That’s who you are! And you know what?

PHILIP: No! God damn it! What?

BUCK: It’s okay. It’s fucking okay, man. Just be it. Stop the bullshit. All right? Philip? Stop the fucking bullshit. Are you listening to me?

PHILIP: Yes, Buck. I’m listening.

BUCK: Then stop it, man. Stop lyin’ to yourself.

PHILIP: (Breaking down, realizing that there may be some truth to this; a truth he does not want to hear – much less, face.) I’m not lying to myself.

BUCK: Dead and stuffed and still walkin’.

PHILIP: No . . .

BUCK: You gotta be born again!

PHILIP: No! I don’t want to be! (After a pause.) It’s a lie!

BUCK: What is? What’s a lie, Philip?

PHILIP: You. Being born again. Everything. Everybody! It’s all a lie.

BUCK: Who, Philip? Who?

PHILIP: Me! (After a pause.) Me. My life, goddamnit! My life.

BUCK: So . . . are you tellin’ me you’re not bi, Philip? That maybe you’re queer?

PHILIP: I suppose that I am. Yes.

BUCK: When did you discover this about yourself?

PHILIP: Now. Just now.

BUCK: No bullshit. Remember?

PHILIP: Twelve. Maybe thirteen. I knew I was different. I just didn’t know how I was different. I was a loner. Isolated. I was filled with . . . with . . . rage. Rage and desire.

BUCK: Rage and desire? For what?

PHILIP: I don’t know.

BUCK: Love?

PHILIP: Yes. I had love. Love for anyone who could end my isolation . . . who would take even the slightest interest in me. It was Bobby who took that interest. It was Bobby who took my love. (After a pause.) Bobby was the most beautiful human being I had ever seen . . . until you, Buck. (After a pause.) Bobby had . . . he’s dead now . . . he had gray eyes. Gray eyes that saw through lies and deceptions. They kept me on my toes by forcing me to think – actually think for the first time in my short-lived life – by making certain I spoke the truth. You see I couldn’t help but speak the truth when looking into those magnificent gray eyes of his. There was some sort of silent understanding. A kind of natural hypnosis. There could be nothing but truth when looking into Bobby’s eyes. They were magic. And I knew that I loved him with all my heart. He was lean, solid, muscular. He was caring, thoughtful, full of life, full of promise. He was everything I was not. And everything I longed to be – to possess. (After a pause.) Until you.

BUCK: I wouldn’t be getting’ no ideas if I was you. (After a pause.) You said he was dead?

PHILIP: Yes. We were walking home from school. He had detention. I sat with him. It was dark already. Winter. Snow. Blowing. Bitter Wisconsin cold. Ice. The road was covered with ice. Packed now. We slipped several times. We helped each other up. It was downhill to the farm where we both lived. His was the next house over. Someone suggested we race. We did. He fell . . . and slid under an oncoming car that never stopped. No one ever found out who it was killed him. My love.

BUCK: Who suggested you race?

PHILIP: Does it matter?

BUCK: It might.

PHILIP: I don’t remember.

BUCK: I bet you do. In fact, it was you. Wasn’t it, Philip? (No answer. After a pause.) Wasn’t it, Philip?

PHILIP: (Sotto voce.) Yes.

BUCK: I can’t hear you.

PHILIP: Yes. It was me. All right? It was me. So what? We were kids. Twelve. Maybe thirteen.

BUCK: And you died with him. At twelve. Maybe thirteen.

PHILIP: Yes. (After a pause.) Oh, God! I just want to touch someone else’s soul. I want to really touch someone outside my body. I want to know.

BUCK: What’s that, Philip? What do you want to know?

PHILIP: (Through tears.) God! I want to know God! God . . .

BUCK: Poor, poor, old man Winter. (Softly.) It’s time for you to leave, Mr. Winter.

PHILIP: No. You have no right. I’m calling the police.


PHILIP crosses to the telephone. BUCK crosses to the sofa and removes the handgun from where it was hidden.)


BUCK: (Crossing to PHILIP.) Run, Philip. (Rips cord off telephone.)

PHILIP: (Sees the gun.) Oh, my God!

BUCK: Run. You don’t love, man. You don’t know how.

PHILIP: (Backing away.) I do! I do!

BUCK: You’re trapped, Philip. Trapped.

PHILIP: No . . .

BUCK: Who do you love, Philip? Who do you love?

PHILIP: I love you! I love you!

BUCK: Bullshit!

PHILIP: No. I do. I love you, Buck Rose. I love you.

BUCK: Too late, man. Too fucking late!

PHILIP: Don’t hurt me. Please . . .

BUCK: He’s dark. He’s evil. The son o’ Satan!

PHILIP: Who? Who are you talking about?

BUCK: Me, man! Who the fuck else?

PHILIP: I don’t think you’re evil.

BUCK: No? How about sexy? You think I’m sexy, Philip?

PHILIP: Yes.

BUCK: Yes?

PHILIP: Yes. Very.

BUCK: You never know whose eyes he’s gonna show up behind.

PHILIP: Who?

BUCK: God. Satan. Bobby. My wife.

PHILIP: Your wife?

BUCK: I told you. I had to shoot her, man. She was in pain, man. Terrible fucking pain! What else was there to do?

PHILIP: You said you were kidding. The great kidder, right?

BUCK: I don’t kid.

PHILIP: But you said . . .

BUCK: Fuck what I said!

PHILIP: You’re crazy. You’re a goddamned psychopath.

BUCK: With a gun, cocksucker. (He grabs PHILIP.)

PHILIP: Let me go! Leave me alone!

BUCK: Time to go.

PHILIP: (Struggling, breaks free and falls to the floor.) HELP!

BUCK: (Straddling him.) Shhhh. You’ve been in the closet too long.

PHILIP: (On his back.) Shoot me! Shoot me! Go ahead. Shoot me you sonofabitch! Shoot me if you’re going to. Shoot me.

BUCK: (On his knees, tracing PHILIP’s face with the barrel of the gun.) I’m sorry, Philip. But it’s time for you to meet Jesus. (Gives PHILIP a long, hungry kiss.) Now. Suck on it man!

PHILIP: What?

BUCK: (Shoves the barrel of the gun into PHILIP’s mouth.) Suck on it! (PHILIP does and gags.) That’s good, man. Real good. Run your tongue along the barrel, boy. Yeah. Oh, shit, man! I’m cummin’! Oh, God! I’m fuckin’ gonna cream, man. YES! (He withdraws the gun from PHILIP’s mouth. After a pause.) Now you better get the fuck outta here, man.

PHILIP: (After a pause.) Where? Where should I go?

BUCK: Away from here. Outta the closet.

PHILIP: I can’t.

BUCK: Yes. You can.

PHILIP: (Resigned.) Okay. You’ll let me go, right?

BUCK: You should o’ left whiles you had the chance, Philip.

PHILIP: What do you mean?

BUCK: Too late now, Philip. I can’t let you go now. (After a pause.) Listen.

PHILIP: What?

BUCK: Shhhh. Listen (He rises and kneels beside PHILIP. The SOUND of the TORNADO, like a freight train, moves slowly toward the house.) Listen.

PHILIP: (Rises to his knees.) What? What is it?

BUCK: The voice of God . . . tornado.

PHILIP: Oh, my God!

BUCK: He’s coming, Philip. He’s coming to wash away the sins of the world.

PHILIP: Stop it! Stop it!

BUCK: I can’t.

PHILIP: Yes! Yes, you can. I know you can.

BUCK: No, Philip. Only you can stop Him now.


The SOUND of the TORNADO grows louder.


PHILIP: How?

BUCK: Here. (He offers PHILIP the gun.) Take it.

PHILIP: No.

BUCK: Take it!

PHILIP: (Grabs the gun and points it at BUCK.) Please. Please leave. I’m afraid . . .

BUCK: Me, too, Philip. Me too. (Pause.) Shhhh. Listen (The SOUND of the TORNADO grows louder.) Sweet Jesus! Save these poor servants . . . trapped . . . with nowhere to go! Save us, Lord! Save us!

PHILIP: Stop it!

BUCK: Show us the way, Sweet Jesus. Show us the way!

PHILIP: Stop it!


The SOUND of the Tornado grows louder.


BUCK: Show us the way! Show us the way!

PHILIP: We’re going to die!

BUCK: We’re all going to die!

PHILIP: I don’t want to.

BUCK: Are you born again?

PHILIP: I don’t believe!

BUCK: Are you ready for the rapture?

PHILIP: No!

BUCK: We’re here, Lord! Come and get us!

PHILIP: No! You can stop it. You can stop the tornado. Now.

BUCK: With a snap of my fingers?

PHILIP: Yes.

BUCK: Too late. (Backing away from where PHILIP kneels on the floor, stretching out his arms as if crucified.) Dear Lord, there ain’t nothin’ on this ol’ planet of yours but shit! Piles and piles of shit!

PHILIP: Please . . .

BUCK: Can you love?

PHILIP: Yes.

BUCK: (Heavenward.) You hear that, Lord? He can love! (To PHILIP.) Can you love yourself?

PHILIP: Yes, yes!

BUCK: Kill me!

PHILIP: WHAT?

BUCK: KILL ME!

PHILIP: No!

BUCK: Show me your love, Philip. Show me your love!

PHILIP: I don’t know how!

BUCK: Shoot me! Set me free, Philip! Let me fly!

PHILIP: I can’t!

BUCK: Show him the way, Sweet Jesus. Show him the way!

PHILIP: Oh, God. Help me.

BUCK: (Wails.) Do you hear me, Lord? (He turns toward PHILIP with his arms outstretched as if crucified.) I said, do you hear me? (The TORNADO has reached the house. The SOUND is a deafening rumble.) DO YOU HEAR ME? Hear me, Lord! Hear me! (PHILIP pulls the trigger. SILENCE. The TORNADO is gone. BUCK stands stunned with a contented smile. Softly, at peace.) Sweet. Philip, I love you man. (He falls to his knees.) Sweet Jesus . . . you give me a hard-on. (He keels over - dead.)


LIGHTNING and the far off rumble of THUNDER. The electricity returns and the LIGHT of the lamps and the MUSIC of a tango resumes. PHILIP kneels paralyzed in place, horrified, with the realization of what’s just taken place. The SOUND of a gentle rain beginning to fall. The LIGHTING slowly dims to the MUSIC of the tango. BLACK OUT and CURTAIN.


END OF PLAY












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