by Edward Crosby Wells


Enter JOEY and MARY, a young married couple. They are pushing a shopping cart filled with their belongings, including their infant child wrapped in a quilt. There is a helium-filled red balloon tied to the cart, rising overhead. A bare stage. Morning. Early autumn. The present. Along the side of a highway. Traffic sounds.

JOEY: (Dressed in slacks in need of ironing, a white shirt, tie and sweater. He stands back to display himself for MARY'S approval.) Well?

MARY: You look wonderful, Joey. Just wonderful! I know you'll get it.

JOEY: You think so?

MARY: Certain.

JOEY: He should be here soon.

MARY: He could have picked a spot where there's someplace to sit. Are you sure this is where he wanted you to meet him?

JOEY: Absolutely.

MARY: What kind of a car does he drive, Joey?

JOEY: One that works. What more do you need?

MARY: Very funny. (A little soft-shoe.) But seriously, folks. (Finishes her little dance with her hand extended toward him as if to say, "It's your turn.")

JOE: (He's too serious to dance today.) Green. Yes, green..

MARY: (Pointing.) Is that him?

JOEY: (Looking down the highway.) No. Besides, that's not green. That's blue.

MARY: Well, kind of greenish-blue, wouldn't you say?

JOEY: Yeah, but his is green-green. Unmistakably green.

MARY: Oh, that kind of green. That's too green, if you ask me. I mean, for a car. (A pause to look down the highway.) You know what I'd like? I'd like one in silver. Can we get a silver car? I mean, when things get all right again.

JOEY: Maybe.

MARY: Well, I don't want a green one. Least, not too green.

JOEY: (Looking down highway.) We'll see.

MARY: I hope you get it, Joey. Maybe, if you get it and they like you, of course, they'll like you, they'll give you overtime. Overtime's good, Joey. And soon, before you know it, we'll have ourselves a silver car. (To the baby.) Wouldn't that be nice, sweetheart? Oh, yes. That would be wonderful. And mommy and daddy will take you for nice long rides. Maybe, we'll take a vacation to Yellowstone. Yes. You'd love that, wouldn't you? (She reaches into the cart and removes a loaf of bread. She takes out a slice and hands it to JOEY who proceeds to eat it. She takes a slice for herself and puts the loaf back in the cart.) I was thinking the baby and I would go to the zoo today.

JOEY: They charge.

MARY: Really?

JOEY: Almost certain.

MARY: But, isn't it like a public park or something?

JOEY: They still charge.

MARY: That's not fair.

JOEY: (Looking down the highway.) What is?

MARY: I'm not staying in that bus station all day anymore. They're getting funny about it.

JOEY: Nobody said anything to me.

MARY: Nobody said anything to me either, but they look at us funny.

JOEY: I never noticed.

MARY: That's because you're too busy looking at my ravishingly, beautiful body. (Does her little soft-shoe.) But seriously, folks . . . I don't like to be looked at funny. That's why we took a nice long walk when you went to the unemployment office. Saw some awful pretty houses, Joey. Even saw the street where I want us to live.

JOEY: (Distracted.) That's nice.

MARY: (After a pause.) Are you sure this is where you're supposed to meet him?

JOEY: Yes, Mary. I'm sure.

MARY: Well, where is he? Maybe he was a phony. Maybe he was just saying he'd take you to see his boss. Maybe he was making it all up.

JOEY: Why would somebody do a thing like that, huh? If he said he'd be here, he'll be here. All right?

MARY: Yeah. But, I hope it's soon. (After a pause to look down the highway.) I need some big plastic garbage bags. If you run across any today bring them back with you, okay?

JOEY: 'Kay.

MARY: I'm going to start collecting aluminum cans. Dot and John got a regular business going. There's good money in aluminum cans.

JOEY: Who's Dot and John?

MARY: A couple I met when you were at the unemployment office. They live in their van, only it doesn't run. John's working on it though. Dot says John's a mechanic. There's big money in being a mechanic, isn't there?

JOEY: (Looking down the highway, distracted.) I suppose.

MARY: Sure there is. (Looking down the highway.) Wouldn't a van be nice, Joey? We could take all kinds of trips then, huh?

JOEY: (Still distracted.) Uh-huh. That would be nice, Mary. You don't suppose he was a phony?

JOEY: I hope we didn't miss him.

MARY: I don't see how. He'll be here. (To baby.) Won't he, sweetheart? He'll be here with bells on. Then, daddy's gonna get a job. Maybe in an office with real wood paneling and a brass lamp with a green glass shade on a great big desk. Then, we could visit daddy in his office. (To JOEY.) He's been sleeping an awful lot lately.

JOEY: That's what babies do.

MARY: Don't know. He never cries. Babies are supposed to cry.

JOEY: Naah. When they cry all the time there's something wrong with them. He's a prince. Princes don't cry.

MARY: I hope your right. (To baby.) I sure hope your daddy's right. (To JOEY.) Did he say what kind of job it was?

JOEY: Keeping count of things. Electronic stuff, I think.

MARY: Electronic stuff? Oh, maybe it's computers. That's the thing nowadays. I hope it's computers. There's a big future in computers, Joey. (To baby.) Daddy's gonna be a computer operator like those men at NASA. Won't that be nice? (To JOEY.) Are you sure he said today?

JOEY: Eight o'clock.

MARY: Well, it's just about that now. (Looking down the highway.) Oh! There he is! There he is! (BOTH watch the same passing car.) Nope. I guess that wasn't him. It was green though, wasn't it?

JOEY: Yes. It was green.

MARY: (After a pause.) Pass gas.

JOEY: What?

MARY: Pass gas.

JOEY: I don't have to pass gas.

MARY: That's too bad because if you did, he'd come. Every time I'm waiting for someone and I got to pass gas, I hold it 'cause I'm afraid they're gonna show up and smell it. But, as soon as I let it out, sure enough, there they are! It's one of those laws of nature.

JOEY: I'll remember that. (After a pause.) Mary . . . maybe we should find someplace to keep the baby. Until we get ourselves situated. Not for long. Just a few weeks maybe.

MARY: We are situated. We got each other. You'll get that job and everything will be just fine.

JOEY: But, suppose I don't?

MARY: Suppose, suppose, suppose. Suppose you do and you will. How can you talk like that? You frighten me when you talk like that.

JOEY: Sorry, but things haven't been turning out the way we thought.

MARY: They will, I promise.

JOEY: It's not yours to promise.

MARY: Everything will turn out just fine. You'll see.

JOEY: Until it does, I think we ought to find someplace for. . . .

MARY: (Cutting him off. Covering her ears.) No! I don't want to hear it anymore! You promised! You promised!

JOEY: We've got to face the facts, Mary.

MARY: What facts? Everything's looking up. Everything will be just fine.

JOEY: (Resigning.) I hope you're right.

MARY: I am. You'll see. You make me so mad when you talk like that. (To the baby.) He makes me so mad. Doesn't he, sweetie? You won't ever be negative, will you? Oh, no. Negative is a bad thing to be. It sets all kinds of bad things into motion. Doesn't it? Our little prince will be so positive . . . why . . . you might grow up to be the President of the United States of America. (To JOEY.) Wouldn't that be nice? I mean, he could be the President, couldn't he? Or, a doctor. I think there's more money in being a doctor.

JOEY: He could be both.

MARY: That's right! A doctor first and then the President. Did we ever have a President who was a doctor?

JOEY: I don't know.

MARY: Then he'll be the first. Oh, I'm excited already.

JOEY: Now don't go pushing him. He might want to be something else.

MARY: Like what?

JOEY: I don't know. A mechanic, maybe.

MARY: Of all the things in this world to be, why on Earth would our son want to be a mechanic? Yuck.

JOEY: Maybe he won't, but maybe he won't want to be a doctor or the President, either.

MARY: Don't be silly. Who wouldn't want to be the President?

JOEY: I wouldn't.

MARY: Go on. You wouldn't want to be the President? Don't tell me. You mean to tell me you wouldn't want to rule the world?

JOEY: The President doesn't rule the world.

MARY: He does our world. He runs the country, doesn't he?

JOEY: Running the country and ruling the world are two different things.

MARY: I suppose. Ruling the world would be more fun, wouldn't it? I mean, the President doesn't really do anything, does he? I mean, who's in charge anyway?

JOEY: We. The people. Us.

MARY: Yeah, that's right. Kind of makes you feel proud, doesn't it? I mean, this great big country of ours, for good or for bad is run by we, the people. (Shivers.) Oh, God! Can't you feel the power? It gives me goose bumps. But how come we're not doing a better job?

JOEY: I don't know. Maybe, we don't know how.

MARY: That's it! We don't know how. Here we are--"we, the people" running the best country on Earth, America. We don't know how we do it, but we do it. What a shame.

JOEY: What's the shame?

MARY: The shame, Joseph Carpenter, is that we don't do it better. If it were run more by the people and more for the people, we the people would be a lot better off.

JOEY: Humph. I can't argue with that.

MARY: There's no good reason why you should want to argue with that. (To the baby.) Is there, sweetheart? (To JOEY who is looking down the highway.) Maybe, he meant eight o'clock tonight.

JOEY: No. In the morning. He said to be here eight in the morning if I wanted a ride.

MARY: Well, this is the morning he meant, isn't it?

JOEY: Yes. This is the morning he meant.

MARY: Just checking.

JOEY: Are you sure I look all right?

MARY: You look wonderful, Joey.

JOEY: It's important to make a good first impression.

MARY: You will. I promise, you will. (After a pause to search the highway.) I was thinking. I mean, when things are better. You know, when we get a place to stay. A real place, not like the bus station. Do you think I could get a job?

JOEY: You know how I feel about my wife working.

MARY: I know, but it would be like a kind of insurance. You know, insurance against this happening again. I guess we didn't manage things quite right, huh? I'm not complaining. What's done is done. Things could be worse. I just don't like the way they look at me. You know, funny.

JOEY: Nobody looks at you funny, Mary.

MARY: They do. Honest, they do.

JOEY: Who? You tell me who looked at you funny and I'll--.

MARY: You'll what, big man?

JOEY: (Making a fist.) I'll have a word with them. That's what I'll do.

MARY: (To the baby.) Listen to your daddy talk. What a funny man. What a big, funny man your daddy is. (Notices something on the ground, several feet away.) What's that?

JOEY: What?

MARY: (Pointing.) That. That, over there. On the ground. (Crosses to it.) Oh, no. (Sad and angry.) Oh, no. No, no, no.

JOEY: What? What is it?

MARY: Look.

JOEY: (Coming over - looks.) Come on. Get away from it.

MARY: But, somebody should bury it.

JOEY: It's half eaten and decayed already. In another week there won't be a trace of it left.

MARY: It's not right to just leave it there.

JOEY: (Pulling her back to the cart.) Come on. That thing carries all kinds of diseases. Think of the baby.

MARY: I am thinking of the baby. (Rummages through the cart and comes up with a small quilt.)

JOEY: What are you going to do? That's Mom's quilt!

MARY: Not it's not. Mom's quilt is covering the baby. This is just an old one they gave me down at the shelter. If it's not going to get buried, it needs to be covered.

JOEY: But, not with that.

MARY: I'm sorry, Joey. But that little animal needs it more than us.

JOEY: It's dead, Mary.

MARY: (Crossing to the road kill.) I know. I know. (Covers it with the quilt.) There. Nobody deserves to be left out in the open--even if they are dead.

JOEY: Sure.

MARY: I found this beautiful street yesterday lined with trees and grass as green as green gets. Greener than that man's car, I bet. And the houses. They were so pretty. And somebody was burning leaves. I love the smell of burning leaves. There was this woman in the window of her beautiful house. And she looked at us looking in at her and she grabbed her baby. . . .

JOEY: She had a baby?

MARY: Yes, bout the same age as our little prince. She grabbed her baby, held it close to her, then gave us a look. I'll never forget it. Never. I saw myself, Joey. Looking out as I was looking in, I saw myself in her eyes. It frightened me.

JOEY: (Embracing her.) She wasn't looking at you. She was looking at a stranger on the street. Not you. If she was looking at you, Mary, really looking at you. she'd have come to the door and invited you in. (Kisses her.)

MARY: (After a pause.) What were you thinking of?

JOEY: When?

MARY: Just now. When you kissed me. What were you thinking of?

JOEY: I was thinking . . . well, I was thinking of you.

MARY: No, you weren't. Your eyes looked off to the side. You didn't look at me. You avoided me, Joey.

JOEY: That's not true.

MARY: You avoided me.

JOEY: I'm sorry. I just wish to hell he'd hurry up and come, that's all.

MARY: He will. Be patient. (To the baby.) Good things come to those who wait. Don't they, sweetheart?

JOEY: There was a man. One of those people who were forced off the church property. He moved in with that bunch living in the parking lot under the bridge. His wife's in the city jail. They picked her up for shoplifting. So, he celebrated by getting drunk. Stinking, dead drunk. This was the day before yesterday. That night, the night before last when that storm hit us--

MARY: That was some storm! (To the baby.) Wasn't it, sweetheart?

JOEY: Dead drunk, he crawled into one of those dumpsters near the bridge and passed out. Yesterday morning the truck came to get the garbage==

MARY: (Picks up the baby and clutches it tightly.) Oh, no.

JOEY: And they hooked the dumpster to the truck, lifted it and dumped it into the truck. Then they turned on the switch to compress the garbage--

MARY: Oh, God.

JOEY: They heard a squeal. Like a sheep, they said.

MARY: Is he . . . dead?

JOEY: No. He lost both his legs, but he's not dead.

MARY: Poor man.

JOEY: (Seeing his ride coming.) There he is! Across the street!

MARY: (Putting the baby back into the cart.) Oh, hurry, Joey! Don't keep him waiting!

JOEY: (A quick embrace. Kisses her. Kisses the baby.) You sure I look okay?

MARY: You look magnificent. Now, hurry up and go before he leaves you here on the side of the highway.

JOEY: (Hurrying towards exit.) Wish me luck. Where will you be?

MARY: (Calling after him.) Look for the red balloon! (JOEY exits. To herself.) Luck. (To the baby.) What are we gonna do today, huh? What does mommy's little prince want to do? We could go to the park, collect aluminum cans, look at the leaves turning. falling. We could find another nice street with pretty houses on it. Would you like that? There's all kinds of things we could do. (Pushing the cart, slowly, towards the exit opposite the one taken by JOEY.) Maybe today somebody will invite us in for tea and cookies. One never knows. Wouldn't that be nice? It's possible. In these United States of America, anything is possible. Isn't it, sweetheart? (She does her little soft-shoe dance and then abruptly, stops.) But seriously, folks--(She exits.)



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