In short paragraphs and in your own words, answer each of the following questions. 1. Imagine yourself sitting in the front row at a performance of Fronteras Americanas.Choose a specific moment in the play during which you might be particularly aware ofthe “border” that conventionally divides audiences from performers. What might youthink or feel in this moment? What response(s) does this moment seem designed to invitein audience members?2. Compare and contrast Fronteras Americanas with any other play we have read this term.This may include comparing the subject matter of the two plays, the style in which thetwo plays are presented, the larger ideas presented, and/or focusing on particularmoments or scenes that lend themselves to comparison. Whatever you choose to focuson, ensure that your ideas are clearly explained and supported with specific evidence.PART 2:Record your own potential discussion question for Fronteras Americanas.*The show Fronteras Americanas is attached below**The play required for compare and contrast in question 2 is also attached below (Leaving home).*
In short paragraphs and in your own words, answer each of the following questions. 1. Imagine yourself sitting in the front row at a performance of Fronteras Americanas. Choose a specific moment in
Univers ity of Winnipeg Library Course R eserves Depart ment 204.78 6.9809 [email protected] Your d ocument begins after this page. D ISCLAIMER This copy was made pursuant to the Copyright Policy of the University of Winnipeg. The copy may only be used for the purpose of research, private study, criticism, review, news reporting, education, satire , or parody. If the copy is used for the purpose of review, criticism, or news reporting, the source and the name of the author must be mentioned. The use of this copy for any other purpose may require the permission of the Copyright owner. (_} Modern Canadian Plays Edited by Jerry Wasserman TALON BOOKS 1£ g01s t1�3 d.£> r ,4 v, I VOLUME 4 5th EDITION I Copyright © 2012 Jerry Wasserman Complete copyright and permissions for individual plays are set out on page 557. Talon books P.O. Box 2076 Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6B 3S3 www.talonbooks.com Typeset in Frutiger and printed and bound in Canada. Printed on 100% post-consumer recycled paper. Typeset and cover design by Typesmith. First printing: 2012 The publisher gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts; the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund; and the Province of British Columbia through the British Columbia Arts Council and the Book Publishing Tax Credit for our publishing activities. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior written consent of the publisher or a licence irom The Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency (Access Copyright). For a copyright licence, visit www.accesscopyright.ca or call toll free to 1-800-89 3-5777. Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication Modern Canadian plays/ edited by Jerry Wasserman.-5th ed. Includes bibliographical references. Also issued in electronic format. ISBN 978-0-88922-678-4 (v. 1).-ISBN 978-0-88922-679-1 (v. 2) 1. Canadian drama (English)-2oth century. I. Wasserman, Jerry, 1945- PS8315.M63 2012 C812′.5408 C2012-903922-5 V 1 tamps and books at one abs all they can get the ir 3mps everywhere, out the dndow. OLIVINE DUBUC in her wheelchair singin g men go out with their loot iABRIELLE stay a bit longe r ly own sisters! 70 out. The only ones left in I INE, LINDA, and PIERRETTE . 1to a chair. 1y stamps! arms around GERMAINE’s naine. > me. Get out! You’re no �m ! ‘er want to see you again! J help you! I’m on you r i leave me alone! Don’t t to see anyone! slowly LINDA also heads cleaning all that up! God! My stamps! There’s >thing! My beautiful new re! Gone! My stamps! My beside the chair, picking up She is crying very hard. We 1tside singing “O Canada.” �s, GERMAINE regains her “O Canada” with the others, with tears in her eyes. A rain from the ceiling … (1939-201 DAVID FRENCH Jf a sing le playwright could be said to have shaped Canadian drama in the 19 70s and ‘Bos, it would be David French. From his apprenticeship with the CBC and his early identification with alternate theatre in Toronto to the success of his plays as a mainstay of the regional theatres and a cul­ tural export, his career coincided with thelate twentieth-century growth , and maturation of Canadian theatrical art. For thirty years French wrote broadly popular, commercially appealing realist plays rooted in his own life and experience. His Mercer family saga, which brought a version ( and vision) of Newfoundland onto the Canadian stage, has been compared to the autobiographically based plays of Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Wil­ liams, and Arthur Miller. The Mercer plays and French’s hugely successful backstage comedy Jitters are painful, funny, affectionate examinations of conditions that are widely recognizable yet at the same time distinctively local and emphatically Canadian. French was born in Coley’s Point, Newfoundland, but moved to Toronto with his parents and four brothers when he was six, their emi­ gration part of a generation of postwar Newfoundlanders “goin’ down the road” to mainland Canada in search of economic opportunity. After finishing high school in 1958 he studied acting for two years in Toronto and Pasadena, California, and from 1960 to 1965 worked as an actor, mostly for CBC-TV. Meanwhile, he was also writing. In 1962, CBC bought his first play, “Behold the Dark River,” and over the next decade broadcast seven more of his half-hour television scripts. Through the late 1960s, French supported his writing by working at a variety of jobs, including a two-year stint in the Regina post office. While summering on Prince Edward Island in 1971, he decided to try writing a stage play about his family’s experience of adjusting to life outside Newfoundland in the late 1950s. By autuinn, he had a one-act called “Behold This House,” which he offered to Tarragon Theatre’s artistic dir ector Bill Glassco after seeing Glassco’s production of David Freeman’s Creeps at the theatre. Retitled and expanded to full length, Leaving Home opened in May 1972 and immediately made French a Canadian theatrical star. The play has since enjoyed well over a hundred productions. It also marked the start of a rich collaboration that _saw each of French’s plays pr e m iere under Glassco’s direction until the latter’s death in 2004. At the end of Leaving Home, young Ben Mercer sets out on his own · after a terrible row with his father, Jacob, leaving the rift between them as unresolved as Jacob’s own sense of manhood and feelings of cultural alienation. Of the Fields, Lately (1973) picks up two years later with Ben’s “-t-emporary return to his parents’ home in Toronto, ending with Jacob’s death. The play is gentler and more elegiac but also slighter than its pre­ decessor. It won the Floyd S. Chalmers Canadian Play Award for 1973 and has been very successful in its own right with productions across Canada and the United States, including a brief Broadway run in 1980. After a number of aborJive attempts to write a third Mercer play, French altered his focus to the sleazy underworld of cheap hoods, hookers, and con men,rbut One Crack Out ( 1975) was a disappointment. Glassco then suggested that he try translating Chekhov. French’s version of The Seagull ( 1977) seemed to get him back on track creatively, running for two months on Broadway in 1992-93. Now inspired to write a full-out comedy, he returned to a subject he knew well, this time the world of Canadian theatre itself. Jitters (1979 ), a self-referential backstage comedy set in a small, low­ budget Toronto theatre, is both a conventional genre play -“an almost perfect comedy of its kind,” the New York Times called it -and a hilarious rendering of Canadian cultural schizophrenia. To the standard insecurities and insanities common to show-biz people everywhere are added those peculiar to a culture which continually looks across its southern border for approval and in which, at the same time, according to one of the play’s characters, “success is like stepping out of line.” Jitters was a smash hit in Toronto, then had productions in nearly every regional theatre across Canada and a successful run in New Haven prior to a planned Broadway opening in 1981. Ironically, like the play-within-the-play itself, Jitters never made it to that Promised Land. But it remains French’s most popular play. The Riddle of the World (1981) – a comedy of ideas about the sexual and spiritual lives of urban sophisticates -failed to catch fire with audi­ ences or critics. But French found his way once again by returning to the Mercer family. Salt-Water Moon (1984), a prequel to his two earlier Mercer plays, chronicles the courtship of young Jacob and Mary in rural Newfoundland in 1926. A lyrical romantic comedy featuring only the two characters, it has proven as substantial a success as its predecessors and has probably had more productions in the past decade than the two earlier plays combined. A Los Angeles production in 1985 earned it the Hollywood Drama-Logue Critics Award for best play, and the published text won the Canadian Authors Association Literary Award for drama the following year. In 1989, the Mercer trilogy became a tetralogy with what French insisted at the time would be the last play in the series, 1949. For three days before Newfoundland officially joins Canada, Jacob and Mary host in their Toronto home a large, politically divided extended family of expatri­ ate Newfoundlanders whose personal dramas unfold against the larger issue of cultural survival. By turns comedy and melodrama, 1949 brings onstage for the first time important out-characters from the earlier Mercer plays and provides rich subtext for the domestic events, a decade later, of Leaving Home. In 1993, French shifted gears again with Silver bagger, a mystery thriller produced in Toronto by Canadian Stage, the company that 94 David French ) � premiered Ontario, o lished his Strin dberg In th Mercer pla ve rsary of French bat itis chro n lea rns fro m eant for pr ofoun d! f ath er’s wo c ult ural a p lay s. Fren evi dentl yi w ork. In2 play s at th ning with Soulpepp ·successive Of the Piel republishe artistic dir The sage into tangled d circumsta the charac and those the contex logical, po and geogr her boyfri answers.” living in T terms of u Haro Newfoun not at all b for Jacob’s all, are col exists not· dices and identity is legend on Labrador pr em iere d 1949. That Summer, a memory play about sisters in 1950s O nt a ri o, ope ned at the Blyth Festival in 1999, and in 2006 French pub­ li s h e d h is final work before his death, a translation and adaptation ofStri ndberg’s Miss Juli e. In th e intervening period, Soldier’s Heart (2001), the fifth and final M erc er pla y, premiered at the Tarragon. Set in 1924, on the eighth anni­ ve rs ary of the Newfoundland Regiment’s terrible day of reckoning on the French battlefield at Beaumont Hamel in the First Battle of the Somme, it is chronologically the earliest play in the series. Sixteen-year-old Jacob learns from his father, Esau, what leaving home to fight in the Great War meant for Esau and his Newfoundland compatriots. Hearing of Esau’s profoundly traumatic experiences on the Somme, Jacob becomes, in his .father’s words, “a man.” Soldier’s Heart establishes much of the near-mythic c u lt u ral and personal history that resonates through the other Mercer play s. French’s major plays remain firmly in the Canadian repertory, most e vi de ntly in Newfoundland and Toronto, the primary poles of his life and w ork . In 2009, Theatre Newfoundland Labrador produced all five Mercer pl ays at the Gros Marne Theatre Festival in their temporal order, begin­ l)ing with Soldier’s Heart and ending with Of the Fields, Lately. Toronto’s Soulpepper Theatre Company presented a David French play in four ‘successive seasons from 2007 to 2010: Leaving Home; Salt-Water Moon; , ‘ Of the Fields, Lately; and Jitters. The three Mercer plays in that series were republished in one volume in 2009 with an introdu!=tion by Soulpepper’s r · artistic director, Albert Schultz. The Mercer plays are driven by archetypal energies: the difficult pas­ sage into manhood, the fierce protective love of one sister for another, the tangled dynamics of family. What make the plays special are the cultural circumstances that shape those energies, especially the conflict between the characters who remain bound by the powerful pull of Newfoundland and those who make the perilous choice of “leaving home.” Understood in the context of all five plays, that phrase resonates with emotional, psycho­ logical, political, and cultural complexities in addition to its generational and geographical meanings. In Leaving Home, Jacob asks Minnie about her boyfriend, Harold: “What is he, Minnie? Newfie?” “No, boy -” she answers. “Canadian.” After ten years of Confederation and even longer living in Toronto, Jacob and his expatriate contemporaries still think in terms of us and them. Harold is a brilliant comic symbol of the “Canadian” Other as the Newfoundlanders see him: the grey, humourless undertaker who speaks not at all but carries a very big stick. Harold’s comic potency serves as foil � for Jacob’s sense of impotence and patriarchal failure. His own sons, after all, are colourless, fully assimilated Canadians for whom Newfoundland exists not even as memory but only in their father’s embarrassing preju- dices and oft-told tall tales. As Chris Johnson has argued, Jacob’s cultural identity is closely tied to his patriarchal self-image. In order to sustain the legend on which his own sense of self is based ( “I was out fishing on the Labrador when I was ten years old, six months of the year for ten dollars, Leaving Home 95 er­ en ·to .e.” t er :he .r y , 1e­ )Se 1ge rns ing ian fol md )Ur F Leaving Home was first performed May 16, 1972, at the Tarragon Theatre, Toronto, with the following cast: Directed by Bill Glassco Maureen Fitzgerald Frank Moore Mel Tuck Sean Sullivan Lyn Griffin Liza Creighton Les Carlson Designed by Dan Yarhi and Stephen Katz Costume Design by Vicky Manthorpe MARY MERCER JACOB MERCER BEN MERCER l BILLY MERCER J their sons KATHY JACKSON, BILLY’S fiancee MINNIE JACKSON, her mother HAROLD, MINN/E’s boyfriend The play is set in Toronto on an early November day in the late 1950s. The lights come up on a working-class house in Toronto. The stage is divided into three playing areas.” kitchen, dining room, and living room In addition, there is a hallway leading into the living room. Two bedroom doors lead off the hallway, as well as the front door, which is offstage. Leaving Home The kitchen contains a fridge, a stove, cupboards over the sink for everyday dishes, and a small drop­ leaf table with two wooden chairs, one at either end. A plastic garbage receptacle stands beside the stove. A hockey calendar hangs on a wall, and a kitchen prayer. The dining room is furnished simply with an oak table and chairs. There is an oak cabinet containing the good dishes and silverware. Perhaps a family portrait hangs on the wall -a photo taken when the sons were much younger. Th e living room contains a chesterfield and an armchair, a TV, a record player and a fireplace. On the mantel rests a photo album and a silver-framed photo of the two sons -then small boys -astride a pinto pony On one wall hangs a mirror. On another, a seascape. There is also a small table with a telephone on it. ACT ONE It is around five thirty on a Friday afternoon, and MARY MERCER, aged fifty, stands before the mir0 ror in the living room, admiring her brand new dress and fixed hair. As she preens, the front door opens and in walk her two sons, BEN, eighteen, and BILL, seventeen. Each carries a box from a formal rental shop and schoolbooks. MARY: Did you bump into your father? BEN: No, we just missed him, Mom. He’s alf:ady picked up his tux. He’s probably at the Oakwood. ( He opens the fridge and helps himself to a beer. ) MARY: Get your big nose out of the fridge. And put down that beer. You’ll spoil your appetite. BEN: No, I won’t. ( He searches for a bottle opener in a drawer.) MARY: And don’t contradict me. What other bad habits you learned lately? Maybe she won’t show the kitchen clock and turns )es) Look at the time. I 1ad more t’ ought, your lp if he don’t hurry. He 1d mention when he’ll mght in his head. And I forget his tux in the beer nd looks at her two sons, he two of you. Too busy · your mother a second till my legs dropped off ! notice my dress. ,Mom? )n’t look foolish next to , dress up -Willard left the money. Dad won’t r day your own son gets he puts on a large apron) ‘vlinnie Jackson looking :en Mary and me the tug understands, don’t you, lorn. lly. I know you do. ( She i fills five dessert dishes. ) ,ur father. Did you know rs ago. :ally? eaven. Minnie was awful mght the world of him. prised. Your father was i his pick of any number k Minnie sometime. Of Nas going with Jerome ame a Queen’s Counsel mentioned him. The boys exchange smiles. B EN: I think you have, Mom. B IL L: A hundred times. MA RY : ( gently indignant -to BILL) And that I h aven ‘t! B il l: She has, too. Hasn’t she, Ben? MARY : Never you mind, Ben. ( to BILL) And instead o f sitt ing around gabbing so much you’d better go ch a nge your clothes. Kathy’ll soon be here. ( as BILL cr os ses to his bedroom) Is the rehearsal still at eight? B il l: We’re supposed to meet Father Douglas at th e chu rch at five to. I just hope Dad’s not too drunk. ( He exits. ) MARY: (studies BEN a moment) Look at yourself. A cigarette in one hand, a bottle of beer in the other, · at your age! You didn’t learn any of your bad habits from me, I can tell you. (pause) Ben, don’t be in such a hurry to grow up. ( She sits across from him.) Whatever you do, don’t be in such a hurry. Look at your poor young brother. His whole life ruined. Oh, I could weep a bellyful when I t’inks of it. Just seventeen, not old enough to sprout whiskers on his chin, and already the burdens of a man on his t’in little shoulders. Your poor father hasn’t slept a full night since this happened. Did you know that? He had such high hopes for Billy. He wanted you both to go to college and not have to work as hard as he’s had to all his life. And now look. You have more sense than that, Ben. Don’t let life trap you. BILL enters. He has changed his pants and is but­ toning a clean white shirt. MARY goes into the dining room and begins to remove the tablecloth from the dining room table. BILL: Mom, what about Dad? He won’t start picking on the priest, will he? You know how he likes to argue. MARY: He won’t say a word, my son. You needn’t worry. Worry more about Minnie showing up. Bill: What if he’s drunk? MARY: He won’t be. Your father knows better than to sound off in church. Oh, and another t’ing -he wants you to polish his shoes for tonight. They’re in the bedroom. The polish is on your dresser. You needn’t be too fussy. BEN: I’ll do his shoes, Mom. Billy’s all dressed. MARY: No, no, Ben, that’s all right. He asked Billy t o. Bill : What did Ben do this time? MARY: He didn’t do anyt’ing. Bill: He must have. MARY: Is it too much trouble to polish your father’s shoes, after all he does for you? If you won’t do it, I’ll do it myself. BILL: (indignantly) How come when Dad’s mad at Ben, I get all the dirty jobs? Jeez! Will I be glad to get out of here! ( Rolling up his shirt sleeves, he exits into his bedroom. ) MARY takes a clean white linen tablecloth from a drawer in the cabinet and covers.the table. During the following scene she sets five places with her good glasses, silverware, and plates. BEN: (slight pause) Billy’s right, isn’t he? What’d I do, Mom? MARY: Take it up with your father. I’m tired of being the middleman. BEN: Is it because of last night? (slight pause) It is, isn’t it? MARY: He t’inks you didn’t want him there, Ben. He t’inks you’re ashamed of him. BEN: He wouldn’t have gone, Mom. That’s the only reason I never invited him. MARY: He would have went, last night. BEN: (angrily) He’s never even been to one lousy Parents’ Night in thirteen years. Not one! And he calls me contrary! M ARY: You listen to me. Your father never got past grade t’ree. He was yanked out of school and made to work. In those days, back home, he was lucky to get that much and don’t kid yourself. BEN: Yeah? So? MARY: So? So he’s afraid to. He’s afraid of sticking out. Is that so hard to understand? Is it? BEN: What’re you getting angry about? All I said was- MARY: You say he don’t take an interest, but he was proud enough to show off your report cards all those years. I suppose with you that don’t count for much. BEN: All right. But he never goes anywhere without you, Mom, and last night you were here at the shower . MARY: Last night was different, Ben, and you ought to kno w that. It was your high school graduation. He would have went with me or without me. If you’d only asked him. (A truck Leaving Home 99 I can’t get this goddamn :’s one of those mysteries ife this far. If he didn’t w which leg of his pants Id her, huh? She doesn’t own. You want Dad to s she going to tell him? ink I ought to let her? Id tell him myself. · what’ll happen. Mom’ll :1lly want to do this? Are 1d tuition’re paid for. All e rent. I can handle that, e out. Listen, whose idea vours? I wouldn’t do it if st, you know that. Either ,y. I don’t want to move 1arried. I don’t know the 1ean, Kathy’s the first girl ing. The very first. We’ve times. The first time was :1ke! � been laid, Billy. I never. Pause.) I like Kathy. I like v what else. What do you · was in my shoes? I think oarry her, don’t you? me, you two. I don’t want me word or snicker even out. Is that understood? he wrong coat. I suppose J get to the Oakwood he l. JACOB enters singing, now dressed in the rental t ux and polished shoes. The sleeves are miles too short for him, the back hiked up. He looks like a caricature of discomfort. JA COB: (singing) Here comes the bride, All fat and wide, See how she wobbles From side to side. The boys glance at one another and try to keep from breaking up. JA COB: Well, boys, am I a fit match for your m oth er? B E N: Dad, I wish I had a camera. J A COB : Is you making fun? MARY: No, he’s not. The sleeves are a sight, but – (giving BEN a censorious look)-aside from that it’s a perfect fit. Couldn’t be better. Could it, Billy? Bill: Made to measure, Dad. JACOB: I t’ink I’ll kick up my heels. I’m in the right mood. (as he crosses to the record player) What do you say, Mary? Feel up to it? ( He selects a record.) MARY: I’m willing, if you is, Jake. JACOB: All right, boys, give us room. ( The record starts to play -a rousing tune with lots of fiddles.) Your mother loves to twirl her skirt and show off her drawers! ( He seizes his wife and they whirl around the room, twirling and stomping with enjoyment and abandon.) BEN: Go, Mom! ( He whistles. BILL and BEN clap their hands to the music.) Give her hell, Dad! MARY: Not so fast, Jacob, you’ll make me dizzy! JACOB stops after a few turns. He is slightly dizzy He sits. JACO B: ( to BILL) Dance with your mother. I galled my heel at work. (BILL does.) You ought to have seen your mother in her day, Ben. She’d turn the head of a statue. There wasn’t a man from Bareneed to Bay Roberts didn’t blink when she p assed by. MAR Y: Come on, Ben. Before it’s over. (She takes BEN, and they dance around the room.) JA COB: That’s one t’ing about Ben, Mary. He won’t ever leave you. The day he gets married himself he’ll move in next door. Finally, MARY collapses laughing on the chester­ field. The music plays on. JACOB: ( expansively) I t’ink a drink’s in order. What do you say, boys? To whet the appetite. ( He searches in the bottom of the cabinet. To MARY) Where’s all the whisky to? You didn’t t’row it out, did you? MARY: You trowed it down your t’roat, that’s where it was trowed. JACOB: Well, boys, looks like there’s no whisky. ( He holds up a bottle.) How does a little “screech” sound? BEN: Not for me, Dad. JACOB: Why not? BEN: I just don’t like it. JACOB: (sarcastically) No, you wouldn’t. I suppose it’s too strong for you. Well, Billy’ll have some, won’t you, my son? ( He turns down the music.) B!ll: (surprised) I will? JACOB: Get two glasses out, then, and let’s have a quick drink. ( BILL does and hands a glass to his father.) Don’t suppose you’d have a little drop, Mary, my love? ( He winks at BILL. ) MARY: Go on with you. You ought to have better sense, teaching the boys all your bad habits. And after you promised your poor mother on her death-bed you’d warn them off alcohol … JACOB: Don’t talk foolishness. A drop of this won’t harm a soul. Might even do some good, all you know. MARY: Yes, some good it’s done you. JACOB: At least I’d take a drink with my own father, if he was alive. I’d do that much, my lady. MARY: ( quickly) Pay no attention, Ben. ( to JACOB) And listen, I don’t want you getting tight and making a disgrace of yourself at the rehearsal tonight. You hear? JACOB: Oh, I’ll be just as sober as the priest, rest assured of that. And you just study his fingers, if they’m not as brown as a new potato from nicotine. I dare say ifhe didn’t swallow Sen-Sen, you’d know where all that communion wine goes to. ( to BILL) How many drunks you suppose is wearing Roman collars? More than the Pope would dare admit. And all those t’ousands of babies they keep digging up in the basements of convents. It’s shocking. BEN: That’s a lot of bull, Dad. Leaving Home 103 JACOB: It is, is it? Who told you that? Is that more of the stuff you learns at university? Your trouble is you’ve been brainwashed. BEN: You just want to believe all that. MARY: And you’d better not come out with that tonight, if you knows. what’s good for you. JACOB: ( to BILL) Mind -I’m giving you fair warning. I won’t sprinkle my face with holy water or make the sign of the cross. And nothing in this world or the next can persuade me. BILL: You don’t have to, Dad. Relax. JACOB: Just so you knows.· BEN: All you got to do, Dad, is sit there in the front row and look sweet. JACOB: All right, there’s no need to get sauc:y. I wasn’t talking to you! (He pours a little “screech” in the two glasses. To BILL) Here’s to.you, boy. You . got the makings of a man. That’s more than I can say for your older brother. (JACOB downs his drink. BILL glances helplessly at BEN. He doesn’t drink.) Go on. ( BILL hesitates, then downs it, grimacing and coughing. ) You see that, Mary? ( his anger rising) It’s your fault the one’s the way he is. It’s high time, my lady, you let go and weaned him away from the tit! MARY: (angrily) You shut your mouth. There’s no call for that kind of talk! JACOB: He needs more in his veins than mother’s milk, goddamn it! BEN: (shouting at JACOB) What’re you screaming at her for? She didn’t do anything! JACOB: ( a semblance of sudden calm) Well, listen to him, now. Look at the murder in his face. One harsh word to his mother and up comes his fists. I’ll bet you wouldn’t be so quick to defend your father. MARY: Bestill,Jacob. Youdon’t know whatyou’re . saying. JACOB: He t’inks he’s too good to drink with me! BEN: All right, I will, if it’s that important. Only let’s not fight. MARY: He’s just taunting you into it, Ben. Don’t let him. JACOB: (sarcastically) No, my son, your mother’s right. I wouldn’t wish for your downfall on my account. To hear her tell it I’m the devil tempting Saul on the road to Damascus. 104 David French MARY: Well, the devil better learn his scripture, if he wants to quote it. The devil tempted our Lord in the wilderness, and Saul had a revelation on the road to Damascus. JACOB: A revelation! ( He turns off the record.) I’ll give you a revelation! I’m just a piece of shit around here! Who is it wears himself 0ut year after year to give him a roof over his head and food in his mouth? Who buys his clothes and keeps him in university? MARY: He buys his own clothes, and he’s got a scholarship. JACOB: (furious) Oh, butt out! You’d stick up for him if it meant your life, and never once put in a good word for me. MARY: I’m only giving credit where’s credit due. JACOB: Liar. MARY: Ah, go on. You’re a fine one to talk. You’d call the ace of spades white and not bat an eye. JACOB: ( enraged) It never fails. I can’t get my own son to do the simplest goddamn t’ing without a row. No matter what. BEN: It’s never simple, Dad. You never let it be simple or I might. It’s always a test. JACOB: Test! MARY: Ben, don’t get drawn into it. JACOB: ( to BEN) The sooner you learns to get along with others, the sooner you’ll grow up. Test! BEN: Do you ever hear yourself? “Ben, get up that ladder. You want people to think you’re a sissy?” “Have a drink, Ben. It’ll make a man out of you!” JACOB: I said no such t’ing, now. Liar. BEN: It’s what you meant. “Cut your hair,Ben. You look like a girl.” The same shit over and over, and it never stops! JACOB: Now it all comes out. You listening to this, Mary? BEN: No, you listen, Dad. You don’t really expect me to climb that ladder or take that drink. You want me to refuse, don’t you? JACOB: Well, listen to him. The faster you gets out into the real world the better for you. ( He turns . away) BEN: Dad, you don’t want me to be a man, you just_ want to impress me with how much less of a man I am than you. ( He snatches. the bottle from his father and takes a swig.) All right. Look. ( He rips open his shirt .) I still h av en ‘ t g s ti ll not a th re at to y o J AC OB: No, an d y ou ‘ u n til you gro ws up mo th er’s ski rts. BEN: No, Dad – un til Th e doorbell rings. M AR Y: Tha t’s K at th an enoug h for on bi ck erin g. Jak e, g et dr o ut of anyone . T h e p i n with a pack of wil JA COB: (getting in th b loody mistakin’ who he exits into his bedroo MARY: Billy, answer change your shirt. Y 9 BEN exits. BILL op enters. She is sixte ment her face is p KATHY: Hello, Mrs. MARY: You’rejust in a kiss.) Take her coat, ( She exits. ) KATHY: Where is eve BILL: ( taking her coat) to kiss her, she pulls aw ( He hangs up her coat.. KATHY: Nothing. Id BILL: Why not? Did party? KATHY: What party? BILL: Didn’t the girls a this afternoon? KATHX: I didn’t go to BILL: You didn’t go? KATHY: Just what Is BILL: What did you s KATHY: Will you get B ILL : What did I say. at me? KATHY : (looks at him y ou? I need to know . BIL L:.What’s hap pene ,etter learn his scripture, if 1e devil tempted our Lord aul had a revelation on the ( He turns off the recor d.) ml I’m just a piece of shit ,ears himself re a fine one to talk. You’d hite and not bat an eye. •er fails. I can’t get my own goddamn t’ing without a , Dad. You never let it be lways a test. rawn into it. mer you learns to get along you’ll grow up. Test! yourself? “Ben, get up that le to think you’re a sissy?” make a man out of you!” ‘ing, now. Liar. :ant. “Cut your hair, Ben. e same shit over and over, s out. You listening to this, ld. You don’t really expect :r or take that drink. You ‘t you? im. The faster you gets out : better for you. ( He turn s . nt me to be a man, you just h how much less of a man hes the bottle from his father �ht. Look. ( He rips open his s h ir t.) I still haven’t got hair on my chest, and I’m still n ot a thre at to you. JAC OB: No, and you’m not likely ever to be, either, u n t il y ou grows up and gets out from under your moth er’s skirts. BEN: No , Dad – until I get out from under yours. The doorbell rings. M ARY: That’s Kathy. All right, that’s more tha n enou gh for one night. Let’s have no more bickering. Jake, get dressed. And not another word out of anyone. The poor girl will t’ink she’s fallen in w ith a pack of wild savages. JACO B: (getting in the last word) And there’s no bl ood y mistakin’ who the wild savage is. ( With that he exi ts into his bedroom. ) MAR Y: Billy, answer the door. ( to BEN) And you – chang e your shirt. You look a fright. BEN exits. BILL opens the front door, and KATHY enters. She is sixteen, very pretty, but at the mo­ ment her face is pale and emotionless. KATHY: Hello, Mrs. Mercer. MAR Y: You’re just in time, Kathy. ( MARY gives her a kiss.) Take her coat, Billy. I’ll be right out, dear. ( She exits. ) KATHY: Where is everyone? BILL: ( taking her coat) Getting dressed. (As he tries to_kiss her, she pulls away her cheek. ) What’s wrong? ( He hangs up her coat. ) KATHY: Nothing. I don’t feel well. BILL: Why not? Did you drink too much at the party? KATHY: What party? BILL: Didn’t the girls at work throw a party for you this afternoon? KATHY: I didn’t go to the office this afternoon. BILL: You didn’t go? What do you mean? KATHY: Just whatl said. BILL: What did you say? KATHY: Will you get off my back! B ILL : W hat did I say? (slight pause) Are you mad a t m e? KAT HY: (looks at him) Billy, do you love me? Do you ? I need to know. B IL L: What’s happened, Kathy? KATHY: I’m asking you a simple question. BILL: And I want to know what’s happened. K A THY: If I hadn’t been pregnant, you’d never have wanted to get married, would you? BILL: So? KATHY: I hate you. BILL: For Chrissake, Kathy, what’s happened? KATHY: (sits on the chesterfield) I lost the baby … BILL: What? KATHY: Isn’t that good news? BILL: What the hell happened? KATHY: I started bleeding in the ladies’ room this morning. BILL: Bleeding? What do you mean? KATHY: Hemorrhaging. I screamed, and one of the girls rusned me to the hospital. I think the people at work thought I’d done something to myself. BILL: Had you? KATHY: Of course not. You know I wouldn’t. BILL: What did the doctor say? KATHY: I had a miscarriage. ( She looks up at him.) You’re not even sorry, are you? BILL: I am, really. What else did the doctor say? KATHY: I lost a lot of blood. I’m supposed to eat lots of liver and milk, to build it up. You should have seen me, Billy. I was white and shaky. I’m a little better now. I’ve been sleeping all afternoon. BILL: ( slight pause) What was it? KATHY: What was what? BILL: The baby. ·- KATHY: Do you really want to know? BILL doesn’t answer. BILL: What’ll we do? K.I). THY: Tell our folks, I guess. My mother doesn’t know yet. She’s been at the track all day with her boyfriend. ( slight pause.) I haven’t told anyone else, Billy. Just you. Enter JACOB and MARY. He is dressed in e1 pair of slacks and a white shir’_!-He carries a necktie in his hand. MARY wears a blouse and skirt. J ACOB: Billy, my son, tie me a Windsor knot. That’s a good boy. ( He hands BILL the necktie and BILL Leaving Home 105 a.ting. (to KATHY) He’s ju st . Jacob is. She’d start on .s you was lifting the pork 08) Let the pci’or girl eat in fY) You’ve hardly touch e d e spoiled your appetite? It ne. o hungry, Mrs. Mercer. Big day tomorrow. I wa s dding day. It’s a wonder I to KATHY) You notice Ben e’s sore. (KATHY glances at 1 , oblivious.) Oh, he know s the best, but he can’t take Hlly, he likes a bit bf fun, you don’t dare open your Dad? 1et you didn’t get sore with tlk back all the time when my dear? No, that’s what Jre respect. And I. bet now iild to choose sides, Jacob. do that. Anyhow, Kathy’s get mixed up in it. Don’t to honour thy father and >h, hold your tongue, for mr jaw ever get tired? 1, you can see for yourself r. Anyone in this room is :es about the old man, but 1ck and you’d t’ink a fox (en coop, the way Mother first-born under her wing. � but meant for his wife) I 1eard your mother and me ppose Minnie’s mentioned 5 ure of a woman, Minnie. er. ) be a real woman’s man, 1at? old you no such t’ing. B IL L : Y ou did so. Didn ‘t she, Ben? B EN smil es at his mother. J A C O B: W ell, contrary to what your mother tells, th at p arti cular year I had only one sweetheart, and t h a t w as Minnie Jackson. Wasn’t it, Mary? . M A RY: (nodding) She was still a Fraser then. T h a t w as the same year I was going with Jerome M cK enz ie. Wasn’t it, Jacob? JACO B: Oh, don’t forget the most important part, Mar y, the Q.C., the Queen’s Counsel. Jerome McK enzie, Q.C. ( to KATHY) Jerome’s a well-known ba rr is ter in St. John’s, and Mrs. Mercer’s all the ti m e t’ro wing him up in my face. Ain’t you Mary? N ev er lets me forget it, will you? ( to KATHY) You se e, my dear, she might pave married Jerome Mc K enzie , Q.C., and never had a single worry in the w orld, if it wasn’t for me. Ain’t that so, Mary? MARY: If you insists, Jacob. BfLL and KATHY stare silently at their plates, em­ barrassed. BEN looks from his father to his mother and then to BILL. BEN: Did you get the boutonnieres and the cuff links for the ushers? MARY: It’s all taken care of, my son. (pause) What kind of flowers did your mother order, Kathy? KATHY: Red roses. MARY: How nice. KATHY: I like yellow roses better, but-(She stops abruptly) BILL: But what? KATHY: Nothing. MARY: Yellow roses mean tears, my son. KATHY: Did you carry roses, Mrs. Mercer? MARY: I did. Red butterfly roses. And I wore a gown of white satin, with a lace veil. I even had a crown of orange blossoms. KATHY: I’ll bet you were beautiful. JACOB :, My dear, she lit up that little Anglican church like the Second Coming. I suppose I told . you all about the wedding ring? MARY: No, you didn’t, and she don’t want to hear tell of it, and neither do the rest of us. Don’t listen to his big fibs, Kathy. JA COB: I still remembers that day. I had on my gabardine suit, with a white carnation in the lapel. In those days Mary t’ ought I was handsome. MARY: Get to the point, Father. JACOB: We was that poor I couldn’t afford a ring, so when the Reverend Mr. Price got t’rough with the dearly beloveds and asked for the ring, I reached into my pocket and give him all I had -an old bent nail. MARY: Last time it was cigar band. JACOB: (still to KATHY) And if you was to ask me today, twenty years later, if it’s been worth it-my dear, my answer would still be the same, for all her many faults -that old rusty nail has brung me more joy and happiness than you can ever imagine. And I wouldn’t trade the old woman here, nor a blessed hair of her head, not for all the gold bullion in the Vatican. BILL: Dad. JACOB: And my name’s not Jerome McKenzie, Q.C., either. And the likes of Ben here may t’ink me just an old fool, not worth a second t’ ought – ( BEN shoves back his plate, holding back his temper. ) – and run me down to my face the first chance he gets – BEN: Ah, shut up. JACOB: -and treat me with no more respect and consideration than you would your own worst enemy! – BEN: Will you grow up! ( He knocks over his chair and exits into his bedroom. ) JACOB: (shouting after him)- but I’ve always done what I seen fit, and no man can do more! ( The door slams -slight pause. ) I won’t say another word. MARY: You’ve said enough, brother. (slight pause) What Kathy must t’ink of us! ( slight pause) And then you wonders why he’s the way he is, when you sits there brazen-faced and makes him feel like two cents in front of company. You haven’t a grain of sense, you haven’t! JACOB: Did I say a word of a lie? Did I? MARY: No, you always speaks the gospel truth, you do. JACOB: I never could say two words in a row to that one, without he takes offence. Not two bloody words! (MARY collects the supper plates. BILL and KATHY remain seated.) Look. He didn’t finish half his plate. (calling) Come out and eat the rest of your supper, Ben. There’s no food wasted in this house. ( slight pause) Take it to him, Mary. Leaving Home 107 . . I MARY: (picking up BEN’s chair) You -you’re the cause of it. You’re enough to spoil anyone’s appetite. JACOB: Ah, for Chrissake, he’s too damn soft, and you don’t help any. I was out fishing on the Labrador when I was ten years old, six months of the year for ten dollars, and out of that ten dollars had to come my rubber boots. ( to KATHY) Ten years old, and I had to stand up and take it like a man. ( to MARY) That’s a lot tougher than a few harsh words from his father! MARY: (as she serves the dessert) And you’ll make him hard, is that it, Jacob? Hard and tough like yourself? Blame him for all you’ve suffered. Make him pay for all you never had. JACOB: Oh, shut up, Mary, you don’t understand these matters. He won’t have you or me to fall back on once he gets out into the world. He’ll need to be strong or – ( He winks at BILL. ) – he’ll end up like your cousin Israel. MARY: And don’t tell that story, Jacob. You’re at the table. JACOB: ( to KATHY) Israel Parsons was Mrs. Mercer’s first cousin. MARY: Might as well talk to a log. JACOB: He was a law student at the time, and he worked summers at the pulp and paper mill at ‘Corner Brook, cleaning the machines. Well, one noon hour he crawled inside a machine to clean the big sharp blades, and someone flicked on the switch. Poor young Israel was ground up into pulp. They didn’t find a trace of him, gid they Mary? Not even a hair. Mary’s poor mother always joked that he was the only one of her relatives ever to make the headlines -if you knows what I mean. MARY: She knows. And just what has Israel Parsons got to do with Ben, pray tell? JACOB: Because that’s what the world will do to Ben, Mary, if he’s not strong. Chew him up alive and swallow him down without a trace. Mark my words. ( He lifts the bowl to his mouth and drinks the peach juice.) The front door bursts open. MINNIE: ( off) Anybody home? JACOB: Minnie! ( He glances at MARY, then rises.) MINNIE enters. She is in her late forties, boisterous and voluptuous, a little flashily dressed. MINNIE: Is you still eating? 108 David French JACOB: No, come in, come in. MINNIE: If you is – guess what? – I brung along me new boyfriend to spoil your appetites … Where’s he to? Can’t keep track of the bugger! ( She returns to the hallway, and shouts offstage.) For Chrissake , you dirty t’ing, you! You might have waited till you got inside! KATHY: ( to BILL) What’s she doing here? MINNIE: ( off) Come on. There’s no need to be shy. HAROLD enters with MINNIE. He is conservatively dressed but sports a white carnation. MINNIE: ( to HAROLD) That’s Jacob and Mary. This here’s Harold. ( They shake hands.) JACOB: Here give me your coats. ( He takes the co�) MINNIE: Tanks; boy. (to KATHY) Hello, sister! Still mad at me? ( KATHY doesn’t answer. To MARY.) Harold works in a funeral parlour. He’s an embalmer. Imagine. We met when poor Willard died. He worked on his corpse. MARY: (incredulously) You made that up, Minnie. Confess. MINNIE: As God is my witness, maid! JACOB: Just as long as you’m not drumming up business, Harold. HAROLD doesn’t crack a smile. MINNIE: He ain’t got an ounce of humour in his body, Harold. ( looking at JACOB) But he’s got two or t’ree pounds of what counts. Don’t you, Lazarus? KATHY: (sharply) Mother! MINNIE: “Mother” yourself. (sitting on an arm of the chesterfield next to HAROLD) I calls him Lazarus because he comes to life at night. And what a resurrection. Ah, I’m so wicked, Mary. To tell you the truth, I haven’t been exactly mourning since Willard died, as sister over there can testify. And I’ll tell you why. I took a good solid look at Willard – God rest his soul! -stretched out in his casket the t’ree days of his wake, all powdered and rouged and made up like a total stranger, and I says to myself, Minnie, live it up, maid. This is all there is, this life. You’re dead a good long time. ( to JACOB) And I for one wouldn’t bet a t’in dime on the hereafter, and God knows I’ve t’rowed hundreds of dollars away on long shots in my day. JACOB: Now, Minnie, enough of the religion. Would you both care for a whisky? ( MARY reacts.) MINNIE: (m ea u p. Su re, J a ke e arly. (J AC OB sp ee ch and brin drinks. ) An d M su ppose I’ll ne ha ppen e d, ma hand after sup m orni ng an d I MAR Y: That ‘s JA C OB: Bill y, That’s a g ood the ginger ale fr, ro om tabl e. ) H M IN NIE: Ali Harold’s. The him all excite JACOB: What i MINNIE: No, b JACOB: Harold this world -Ne MINNIE: That’s JACOB: W hy 49? Right, Mi with the drinks.) MARY: I t’oug t’ought all you Do you mean t you put Ben t’r JACOB: ( quickly you want to se MINNIE: Sure, JACOB: They’re Now’s a good ti MARY rises MINNIE foll MINNIE: ( indica more to drink, likes to get a he They exit. 11/JINNIE: ( off) M J ACO B: ( slight pa HAROLD no MINNIE: ( off) Ev head.) My Jesus, that compares! come in. ‘.SS what? – I brung along me il your appetites … Where’s k of the bugger! (She returns 1 uts offstage. ) For Chrissak e, You might have waited till it’s she doing here? n. There’s no need to be shy . th MINNIE. He is conservatively a white carnation. That’s Jacob and Mary. This 1ake hands. ) .e your coats. ( He takes the r. ( to KATHY) Hello, sister! HY doesn’t answer. To MARY.) funeral parlour. He’s an We met when poor Willard is corpse. You made that up, Minnie. r witness, maid! 1s you’m not drumming up rack a smile. an ounce of humour in his at JACOB) But he’s got two or :ounts. Don’t you, Lazarus? her! mrself. ( sitting on an arm of HAROLD) I calls him Lazarus > life at night. And what a so wicked, Mary. To tell you �en exactly mourning since JVer there can testify. And I’ll good solid look at Willard retched out in his casket the �, all powdered and rouged otal stranger, and I says to up, maid. This is all there is, 1 good long time. ( to JACOB) ln’t bet a t’in dime on the 10ws I’ve t’rowed hundreds 1g shots in my day. le, enough of the religio n. for a whisky? ( MARY reacts.) MI N N IE: ( meaning HAROLD) Look at his ears pick u p. s u re , Jake. That’s one of the reasons we come , ea rl y. (J A COB er.asses to the cabinet during MINN/E’s s p e e ch and brings out a bottle of whisky. He pours three dr in k s. ) And Mary, I got to apologize for last night. I su ppose I’ll never live it down. I don’t know what h app ened, maid. I laid down with a drink in me ha n d afte r sup p er and the next t’ing I know it’s this m orni ng and I’m in the doghouse. M AR Y: That’s okay, Minnie. ( She sits.) JA C O B: Billy, my son, bring me the ginger ale. T h at’s a good boy. ( During the dialogue BILL fetches t h e gin ger ale from the fridge and returns to the dining ro om table. ) How do you like your drink, Minnie? MINNIE: A little mix in mine, and not’ing in Harold’s. The ginger ale tickles his nose and gets hi m all excited. J ACOB: What is he, Minnie? Newfie? MIN NIE: No, boy- Canadian. JACOB: Harold, there’s only two kinds of people in this world -Newfies and them that wishes they was. MINNIE: That’s what I tells him, boy. JAC OB: Why else would Canada have j’ined us in 49? Right, Minnie? (JACOB crosses to the chesterfield with the drinks.) MARY: I t’ought you didn’t have no whisky? I t’ought all you had in the house was “screech”? Do you mean to tell me that was deliberate, what you put Ben t’rough? JACOB: ( quickly changing the subject) Minnie, don’t you want to see the shower gifts? MINNIE: Sure, boy. Where’s they to? JACOB: They’re in the bedroom. Show her, Mary. Now’s a good time. MARY rises and crosses to the bedroom door. MINNIE follows. MINNIE: (indicating HAROLD) Don’t give him any more to drink, Jacob, till I gets back. The bugger lik es to get a head start. They exit. IVJINNIE: ( off) Maid, will you look! A gift shop! Jesus! J ACOB: ( slight pause -to HAROLD, embarrassed) Well. HAROLD nods. They drink. MINNIE: ( off) Even a rolling pin! (She pokes out her head.) My Jesus, Harold, I finally found somet’ing t h at c ompares! JACOB glances at HAROLD. HAROLD glances at . JACOB. They drink. JACOB: (after a moment) Grand old day. HAROLD nods. Silence. JACOB: (after a moment) Couldn’t ask for better. HAROLD nods. Silence. JACOB: (after a moment) Another grand day tomorrow. HAROLD clears his throat. J ACOB: Pardon? HAROLD shakes his head. Silence. JACOB: ( embarrassed) Well, why don’t we see what mischief the women are up to? HAROLD nods. With visible relief both men exit together. BILL: Tomorrow’s off! We’ve got to tell them, Kathy! And right now! KATHY: We don’t have to call it off. BILL: What do you mean? KATHY: You know what I mean. BILL: You mean you’d get married without having to? KATHY: I work, you know. I’ll be getting a raise in two months, and another six months after that. I’ll be making good money by the time you get into university. I could help put you through. (slight pause) I wouldn’t be in the vyay. ( slight pause) Billy? Don’t you even care for me? BILL: Sure. KATHY: How much? Enter HAROLD. During the dialogue he helps himself to another drink from the dining room and crosses to the chesterfield. BILL: A lot. But I still don’t want to get married. I’m not ready. We’re too young. Christ, you can’t even cook! KATHY: And you’re just a mama’s boy! HAROLD is now seated. KATHY stares at him a moment. Then she smiles. KATHY: Well, Harold wants me, even if you don’t. Don’t you, Harold? (She rises and crosses to the chesterfield, flaunting herself.) BILL: Kathy! Leaving Home 109 KATHY: ( to HAROLD) I’ve seen the way you look at me. (She drops on the chesterfield beside HAROLD. ) You’d like to hop in the sack with me, wouldn’t you? Tell the truth. BILL: Why are you doing this? KATHY: You think he’s any different than you? BILL: What do you mean? KATHY: . This makes youjealous, Billy? (She caresses the inside of HARQLD’s thigh.) BILL: (grabbing her by the wrist) I don’t understand you, Kathy. KATHY: I understand you, Billy. Only too well. Poor trapped Billy. BILL: I’m not trapped. KATHY: Aren’t you? BILL: No! I’ll call it off! KATHY: Yes! Why don’t you? BILL: I will! KATHY: I wouldn’t want you to waste your life. I’ll bet now you wished you’d never met me, don’t you? You wish you’d never touched me_. All this trouble because you didn’t have the nerve to go to the drugstore! BILL: Well, why did you let me do it if it wasn’t a safe time? Answer me that? Enter MINNIE, JACOB, and MARY. MINNIE: Well, kids, you’re well off now. More than we got when we started out, heh, Mary? Willard and me didn’t have a pot to piss in or a window to t’row it out. ( to JACOB, as she sits) Where’s your eldest? I ain’t met him yet. JACOB: Ben? Oh, he’s in his bedroom – (He glances at MARY who is now sitting in the armchair. ) – studying. He’s in university, Minnie. (He calls to BEN’s door.) Ben, come out. ( slight pause) And bring your diploma. ( He glances sheepishly at MARY and looks away. MARY shakes her head, amused. ) Enter BEN, dressed in a sport jacket. He carries his rolled-up diploma tied with a ribbon. JACOB: Graduated from grade t’iri:een last night, Minnie. That’s Ben. Ben, this is Mrs. Jackson, and that’s Harold. They all nod hello. no David French MINNIE: ( appraising BEN with obvious delight) So this is the best man, heh? Well. Well, well, well. What a fine-looking boy, Jacob. He’ll be tall. JACOB: A little too t’in, Minnie. And not much colour to his face. MINNIE: What odds? You was a skeleton yourself at his age. Tell you what, B.en. Be over some Saturday night and give you a scrubbing down in the tub. We’ll send your father and mother to the pictures. ( to MARY) Oh, how wicked, maid. Don’t mind me, I’ve got the dirtiest tongue. The t’ings I comes out with. That’s what comes of hanging around racetracks and taverns with the likes of the Formaldehyde Kid here. (slight pause) You looks like your mother’s side of the family, Ben. JACOB: I kind of fought he looked like my side. ( to BEN) Show Minnie your diploma. BEN hands the diploma to MINNIE. MINNIE: ( to BEN) Proud father. BEN: ( to JACOB) I thought you didn’t have any whisky? JACOB: ( ignoring BEN and glancing over MlflJNIE’s . shoulder as she reads the diploma) He got honours all the way t’rough high school, Minnie. He got a scholarship. MINNIE: Where’d he get his brains to? ( embarrassed silence -to BEN) Told you you look like your mother’s side. ( She hands back the diploma, rises, and hands her glass to JACOB.) Next round less ginger ale, Jacob. Gives me gas. ( crossing to the record player) And I’d hate to start cracking off around Father Douglas. ( She puts on a record-‘- “Moonglow” theme from Picnic.) What a face he’s on him, already, the priest. Pinched little mouth. You’d t’ink he just opened the Song of Solomon and found a fart pressed between the pages like a rose. (She starts to move slowly to the music. ) KATHY: Mother, do you have to? MINNIE: Do I have to what, sister? KATHY: Make a fool of yourself. MINNIE: Listen to who’s talking! (slight pause) I’d dance with Harold except the only tune he knows is the “Death March.” And the only step he knows is the foxtrot. Imagine foxtrotting to the “Death March.” (to JACOB) Jacob, you was a one for dancing years ago. Wasn’t he, Mary? MARY: He still is, Minnie. MI NNIE: D id he e o u t with h im ? MA RY: I do n’t be !i MI N NI E: He did Bi sh op? He took s a lvation A rmy d th e wintert im e, an th e re , hang ing abo my way and I’d w· J A COB : I fo ug ht y Min nie. MINNIE: Yes, boy , . devil! … To make. it come time to go outside where his the post. He’d tied k now what this bu J ACOB: Now don’f MINNIE: Pissed on ice as big as me fist: up large as life and sled? (pause) Poor him he was cursing· done it and was s( his jackknife! ( She her story. ) Come dan Come on. If I’m not in your eye, too. J BEN’s arm around h Harold. You might I close against BEN.) no longer a little bo KATHY: Mother, yo MINNIE: How fast and straight. Do yo could have been yo g randfather -Jacob was a Catholic, and terms. Wasn’t it, Jae. Willard . . . ( They bre Ah, well, boy, I sup best. Just t’ink, Jaco might have been yo JACOB: That it m ig MINNIE: But you C t’ings work out. Ma JACOB: ( turns off mu -MINNIE: Your son turning Catholic in N with obvious delight) So thi s Well. Well, well, well. What cob. He’ll be tall. ‘in, Minnie. And not muc h You was a skeleton yourself what, Ben. Be over som e ve you a scrubbing down in ur father and mother to the h, how wicked, maid. Don’t : dirtiest tongue. The t’ing s it’s what comes of hangin g I taverns with the likes of the ‘.re. (slight pause) You looks e of the family, Ben. ght he looked like my side . ‘. your diploma. ‘oma to MINNIE. 1d father. ought you didn’t have any I and glancing over MINN/E’s . fie diploma) He got honours gh school, Minnie. He got a :t his brains to? ( embarrassed d you you look like your ids back the diploma, rises, and JB.) Next round less ginger gas. ( crossing to the record o start cracking off around ,uts on a record� “Moonglow” Lt a face he’s on him, already, ttle mouth. You’d t’ink he Jf Solomon and found a fart pages like a rose. ( She starts usic.) ou have to? what, sister? ,f yourself. ho’s talking! (slight pause) d except the only tune he larch.” And the only step he Imagine foxtrotting to the COB) Jacob, you was a on e Wasn’t he, Mary? nie. M IN NIE : Di d he ever tell you how I first got to go out with h im ? MA RY: I don ‘t believe he did. M I N NIE : He didn’t? Well, remember Georgie B is hop ? He took me out one night -to the sa l v ati on A rmy dance at Bay Roberts. It was in t h e w in t er time, and cold as a nun’s tit. I saw Jacob t h e re , h an ging about, and now and then he’d look rn y wa y an d I’d wink. 0 h, I was some brazen. J ACO B: I t’ought you had somet’ing in your eye, Mi nn ie . M IN NIE : Yes, boy, the same as was in yours -the devil! … To make a long story short, Mary, when it come time to go home, Georgie and me went outside where his horse and sled was hitched to the post. He’d tied it fast with a knot, and do you k n ow wha t this bugger had gone and done? JACO B: Now don’t tell that, Minnie. M IN N IE: Pissed on the knot! He had, maid. A ball of ice as big as me fist. And who do you suppose walks up large as life and offers to drive me home in his sled? (pause) Poor Georgie. The last I remembers of him he was cursing the dirty son of a bitch that had done it and was stabbing away at the knot with his jackknife! (She notices BEN’s amused reaction to her story ) Come dance with me, Ben. Don’t be shy. Corrie on. If I’m not mistaken, you’ve got the devil in your eye, too. Just like your father. ( She puts BEN’s arm around her waist and they dance. ) Look, Harold. You might learn a t’ing or two. ( She presses close against BEN.) Mmm. You know, Jacob, this is no longer a little boy. He’s coming of age. KATHY: Mother, you’re dirty. MINNIE: How fast you’ve grown, Ben. How tall and straight. Do you want to hear a funny one? I could have been your mother. Imagine. But your grandfather -Jacob’s father -put his foot down. I was a Catholic, and that was that in no uncertain terms. Wasn’t it, Jacob? (slight pause) So I married Willard … ( They break apart. To JACOB, as she sits.) Ah, well, boy, I suppose it all worked out for the best. Just t’ink, Jacob -if you had married me it might have been you Harold pumped full of fluids. JACOB: That it might, Minnie. That it might. MINNIE: But you can’t help marvel at the way t’ings work out. Makes you wonder sometimes. JACOB: ( turns off music) What’s that, Minnie? MI N NI E : Your son marrying my daughter and tu rni ng Catholic in the bargain. Serves you right, you old bugger. The last laugh’s on you. And your poor old father. JACOB: You’m not still carrying that grudge around inside you, is you? I’m getting a fine girl in the family. That’s the way I looks at it. MINNIE: ( rising to help herself to another drink) I don’t mind telling you, Jacob, I’ve had my hands full with that one. Not a moment’s peace since the day poor Willard died. She was kind of stuck on her father, you know. Jesus, boy, she won’t even speak to Harold. Won’t let him give her away tomorrow, will you, sister? Her uncle’s doing that. Oh, she snaps me head.off ifI as much as makes a suggestion. T’inks she knows it all. And now look. All I can say is I’m glad her father ain’t alive, this night. JACOB: Now, Minnie, you knows you don’t mean all that. Own up to it. MINNIE: Oh, I means it, boy, and more. T’ank God it’s only the second month. At least she don’t show yet. If she’s anyt’ing like me, she’ll have a bad time. Well, a little pain’ll teach her a good lesson. KATHY: I wish you wouldn’t talk about me like that, Mother. MINNIE: Like what? KA THY: Like I was invisible. I don’t like it; I’ve told you before. JACOB: Now, now, Kathy. MINNIE: Listen to her, will you? Invisible. Sister, you may soon wish you was invisible, when the girls from work start counting back on the office calendar. KATHY: Let them count! MINNIE: See, Jacob? See what I’m up against? No shame! JACOB: Minnie, let’s not have any hard feelings. It’s most time for church. I’ll get the coats. MARY: Yes, do. JACOB gets MINN/E’s and MARY’s coats. MINNIE: (crossing to BEN) You don’t know, Mary, how fortunate you is having sons. That’s the biggest letdown of me life, not having a boy … We couldn’t have any but the one … (bitterly) and that had to be the bitch of the litter. How I curse the day. A boy like this must be a constant joy, Mary. MA R Y : And a tribulation, maid. Leaving Home lll MINNIE: Yes, but look at all the worry a daughter brings. ( as JACOB helps her into her coat) This is the kind of fix she can get herself into. KA THY: Mother, I just asked you not to. BILL: Tell her, Kathy. MINNIE: And then to top it off who gets the bill for the wedding? Oh, it’s just dandy having a daughter, just dandy. I could wring her neck. BILL: Kathy. KATHY: ( to BILL) You tell her. MINNIE: If I had my own way I know what I’d do with all the bitches at birth. I’d do with them exactly what we did back home with the kittens KATHY: I’m not pregnant! MINNIE: What? KATHY: (bitterly) You heard me. I’m not pregnant. MINNIE: What do you mean you’re not? You are so, unless you’ve done somet’ing to.yourself … KATHY: I didn’t. MARY: Kathy. MINNIE: I took you to the doctor myself. I was in his office. Why in hell do you suppose you’re getting married tomorrow, if it’s not because you’re having a baby? KATHY: ( turning to MARY) Mrs. Mercer, I had a miscarriage … MINNIE: A miscarriage … MARY: When, Kathy? ( She puts her arms around KATHY.) KATHY: This morning. I went to the doctor. There’s no mistake; And I didn’t do anything to myself, Mother. MINNIE: ( quietly) Did I say you did, sister? MARY: Sit down, dear. ( She helps KATHY sit-long pause.) This may not be the right moment to mention it, Minnie, but … well, it seems to me t’ings have altered somewhat. ( She looks at BEN.) T’ings are back to the way they used to be. The youngsters don’t need to get married. There’s no reason to, now. Pause. No one moves except HAROLD who raises his glass to drink. Blackout. 112 David French ACT TWO A moment later. As the lights come up, the act o rs are in the exact positions and attitudes they w ere at the end of Act One. The tableau dissolves in to action. JACOB: Sit down, Minnie. We’ve got to talk t h is out. ( to KATHY) Can I get you anyt’ing, my dear ? KATHY shakes her head MINNIE sits. MINNIE: ( slight pause) What time is it getting to b e? BEN: Seven fifteen. / MINNIE: The priest expects us there sharp at eig ht. He’s got a mass to say at half-past. MARY: Now wait just a minute. I t’ink you’re bei ng hasty, Minnie. The children can please themselves , now, what they wants to do. Maybe they don’t want to get married. JACOB: Mary’s right, Minnie. Ask them. MINNIE: For someone who don’t like to butt in , maid, you got a lot to say sometimes. Stay out of it or I might say somet’ing I’m sorry for. MARY: I can’t stay out of it. I wouldn’t advise my worst enemy to jump into marriage that young, and neither would you, Minnie. They’d be far better off waiting till Bill i,finishes university … MINNIE: Well, maybe they can afford to put it off, butJ sure as hell can’t. The invitations are out … the cake’s bought, and the dress … the flowers arranged for … the photographer … the priest and organist hired … the church and banquet hall rented … the food – KATHY: (jumping up) I don’t want to get married! MARY: What? MINNIE: What? Don’t believe her, Mary. She do so. She’s got a stack oflove comics a mile high. ( to KATHY) Now you shut your mouth, sister, or I’ll shut it for you. KATHY: I won’t. MINNIE: You knows what’ll happen if you backs out now? I’ll be made a laughing stock. Is that what you wants, you little bitch? KATHY: Don’t call me a bitch, you old slut! MARY: Kathy. MINNIE: (to JACOB) Did you hear that? Why, I’ll slap the face right off her! ( She goes after KATHY.) JAC All r ofal hert JACO That’ learn (sli gh MINN own She’s since to get was, or die again, surpri defen to be BEN: go to s MARY: MINNI all the BEN: ( MARY: KATHY have t MARY: heard f JACOB: or after Kathy. MINNIE; about boards JACOB: MARY: JACOB: the lights come up, the acto rs Jtions and attitudes they wer e lne. The tableau dissolves in to 1nie. We’ve got to talk this get you anyt’ing, my dear? �ead. MINNIE sits. Nhat time is it getting to b e? )ects us there sharp at eight . at half-past. L minute. I t’ink you’re being dren can please themselves, ts to do. Maybe they don’t ½innie. Ask them. e who don’t like to butt in, say sometimes. Stay out of t’ing I’m sorry for. t of it. I wouldn’t advise my , into marriage that young, ou, Minnie. They’d be far lilly finishes university … they can afford to put it off, t. The invitations are out … td the dress … the flowers ihotographer … the priest he church and banquet hall [ don’t want to get married! t believe her, Mary. She do love comics a mile high. ( to t your mouth, sister, or I’ll ,vhat’ll happen if you backs 1 laughing stock. Is that what iitch? · a bitch, you old slut! >id you hear that? Why, I’ll her! (She goes after KATHY. ) J A C O B: (kee ping MINNIE away from her daughter) A ll ri gh t, now. This is no way to behave. Tonight o f all n ig h ts! KATH Y: That ‘s what you are, an old cow! He only w ant s yo u for your money. ( indicating HAROLD) MIN N IE: That’ s a lie. KA TH Y: Is it? M IN N IE: That ‘s a lie. Let me at her, Jacob. I’ll knock her to kingdo m co me. JA CO B: Enough, goddamn it! Both of you! (Silence. ) T h at’s better. Let’s all ca’m down. We could all learn a lesson from Harold here. He’s civilized. (slight pause) What we need’s a drink. MINNIE: (as JACOB refills the glasses) Imagine. My own flesh and blood, and she’s got it in for me. she’s never had much use for me, and even less since I took up with Harold here. She’ll say anyt’ing to g et back at me. Anyt’ing! JACO B: Kathy’s had a bad time of it, Minnie. No do ub t she’s upset. ( to MARY) Remember how you was, when we lost our first? Didn’t care if she lived or died. Didn’t care if she ever laid eyes on me again, she was that down in the dumps. And I’m surprised, Billy. Not once have you come to her defence or spoken a word of comfort. You’ve got to be more of a man than that. BEN: Why can’t they get married and Billy still go to school? MARY: ( to BEN) Mind your business. MINNIE: You hear that, Jacob? That’s the one with all the brains. BEN: ( to MARY) I’m just trying to help. MARY: Who? Yourself? KATHY: I want him to, Mrs. Mercer. He doesn’t have to quit school. I like to work. Honest. MARY: Well, Billy, you’re the only one we haven’t heard from. What do you say? JACOB: Ah, what’s it matter ifhe gets married now or after university? He won’t do much better than K a thy. MINNIE: She’s a good girl, in spite of what I said about her. A hard worker. She always pays her board sharp. And clean as a whistle. JACOB : That’s settled, then. MARY: Is it, Billy? J ACOB: For God’s sake, Mary. MARY: He’s got a tongue of his own. Let him answer. The poor child can’t get a word in edgewise. JACOB: Stop smothering him. He’s a man now. Let him act like one. ( amused) Besides, he’s just getting cold feet. Ain’t you, my son? BEN: Did you get cold feet, Dad? JACOB: All men do. ( MARY glances at JACOB who nudges her. ) Even the best of us. He’ll be fine after tomorrow. MINNIE: Tanks, Jacob. I could kiss you. Now, Harold, wait your turn, and don’t be jealous. ( She crosses to the record player and selects a record.) The mother of the bride and the father of the groom will now have the next dance. With your permission, Mary? MARY: With my blessing, maid. JACOB: (glancing at MARY) I don’t know whether I’m up to it, Minnie. MINNIE: Go on, Jacob. You’ll be dancing a jig at your own wake. Music: “Isle of Newfoundland.” JACOB takes MINNIE in his arms and they dance. BILL goes to KATHY, takes her hand and leads her into the darkened kitchen. They make up. MINNIE: Ah, Jacob, remember when we’d hug and smooch in the darkest places on the dance floor? The way he stuck to the shadows , Mary, you’d swear he was a bat. Dance with her, Harold. (indicating MARY) He’s some wonderful dancer, boy. Went to Arthur Murray’s. He’s awful shy, though. MARY and HAROLD exchange glances. HAROLD clears his throat. MINNIE: Ah, boy, Jacob, I’d better give Harold a turn. He’d sit there all night looking anxious. He likes a good foxtrot. Fancies himself Valentino. Come on, Lazarus. MINNIE and HAROLD dance. JACOB crosses to MARY who is sitting behind the dining room table. JACOB: Dance, Mary? MARY: You’ll make a good match, the two of you. JACOB: Mary, I t’ink you’mjealous. MARY:. Don’t be foolish. And don’t s!art showing off. That’s the next step. Leaving Home 113 JACOB: “How beautiful are thy feet with shoes, 0 prince’s daughter! The j’ints of thy t’ighs are like jewels, the work of the hands of a cunning workman. Thy navel is like a round goblet, which wanteth not liquor: thy belly is like -” MARY: (sharply) Jacob! JACOB:·”- an heap of wheat set about with lilies. Thy two breasts -” MARY: All right, boy -enough! ·JACOB: (sitting) Do you remember, Mary, when you was just a piss-tail maid picking blueberries on the cliffs behind your father’s house, your poor knees tattooed from kneeling? Did you ever t’ink for a single minute that one day you’d be the mother of grown-up sons and one of’em about to start a life of his own? MARY: No, and that I didn’t. In those days I couldn’t see no further ahead than you charging down Country Road on your old white horse to whisk me away to the mainland. JACOB: Any regrets? MARY: What does you t’ink? JACOB: Ah, go on with you. (pause) The old house seems smaller already, don’t it? MARY: Empty. MINNIE: (still dancing) Tomorrow’s a landmark for us all, Jacob. I lose me only daughter and you lose your two sons. (JACOB reacts.) Somehow I don’t envy you, boy. I t’ink it’ll be harder on you. If I had sons … JACOB crosses quickly to the record player and switches it off JACOB: What was that you just said, Minnie? Did I hear you correct? Whose sons? MINNIE: Yours. JACOB: Mine? Only one’s going. MINNIE: Didn’t anybody tell you? JACOB: Tell me what? I’m lucky to get the time of day. ( to MARY) Tell me what? MARY: Ben’s moving in with Bill and Kathy. Taking their spare room. JACOB: He is like hell! BEN: lam! JACOB: You’m not! BEN: I am! JACOB: Don’t be foolish! 114 David French MINNIE: I fought he knowed, Mary. I t’ought the kids had told him. JACOB: No, Minnie, they neglected to mention it. I’m not surprised! MINNIE: I wouldn’t have put me big foot in me mouth otherwise. JACOB: Why should I know any more what goes on in my own house than the stranger on the street? I’m only his father. I’m not the one they all confides in around.this house, I can tell you. I’m just the goddamn old fool. That’s all! The goddam n fool. BEN: I wanted to tell you after the wedding. JACOB: Yes, you did so. BEN: I would have sooner, but this is what happens. JACOB: Oh, so now it’s all my fault? BEN: I didn’t say.that. Stop twisting what I say. JACOB: How quick you is to shift the blame, my son. ( to MARY) How come you to know? He was quick enough to run to you with the news, wasn’t he? MARY: I can’t help that. JACOB: Yes, you can. I’m always the last to find out, and you’m the reason, Mary. You’m the ringleader. The t’ree of you against the one of me. MARY: And you talks about shifting the blame. JACOB: Wasn’t I the last to find out Billy was getting married? He told you first, but did you come and confide in me? That you didn’t. If I hadn’t found that bill from Ostrander’s for Kathy’s engagement ring … ! BILL: We would have told you … JACOB: A lot of respect you show for your father. A lot ofrespect. You’m no better than your brother. . MARY: Ca’m down, boy. You’re just getting yourself all worked up. JACOB: I won’t ca’m down. Ca’m down. All I ever does is break my back for their good and comfort, and how is it they repays me? A slap in the face! ( to BEN) What did you have in mind to do, my son? Sneak off with all your belongings, like a thief, while your father was at work? BEN: Go to hell. JACOB: What did you say? BEN: You heard me. I don’t have to take shit like that from anyone. And I don’t care who’s here! B EN: An JACOB : carries o minutey B EN: Co You’d ne MARY: (. as bad as MINNIE : forgot. JACOB: Y mother! BILL: A , JACOB: F BEN: He’l JACOB: Y it off, my by Minni revenge£ MINNIE: JACOB: Y believe in The poor little ones poor fath M INNIE: y our coat. c an’t wait BILL a JA COB: D nowed, Mary. I t’ought the ey neglected to mention it. 1ve put me big foot in me know any more what goes than the stranger on the ther. I’m not the one they his house, I can tell you. I’m Jo!. That’s all! The goddamn ou after the wedding. ). sooner, but this is what ; all my fault? Stop twisting what I say. 1u is to shift the blame, my ome you to know? He was l you with the news, wasn’t It. I’m always the last to find reason, Mary. You’m the ‘you against the one of me. about shifting the blame. last to find out Billy was told you first, but did you me? That you didn’t. If I rom Ostrander’s for Kathy’s told you … • you show for your father. A lo better than your brother. . boy. You’re just getting ). lown. Ca’m down. All I ever for their good and comfort, 1ays me? A slap in the face! m have in mind to do, my all your belongings, like a ‘.r was at work? say? don’t have to take shit like d I don’t care who’s here! JACOB takes a threatening step toward his son. MARY steps between. J A COB: I’ll knock your goddamn block off! MARY: Now just stop it, the both of you! Stop it! M IN NI E: I’d never have gotten away with that from rn y father. He’d have tanned me good. MARY: And Minnie -mind your own business. T h i s is none of your concern. JACO B: Talking like that to his own father … B EN: And if you ever hit me again … ! JA CO B: I’ll hit you in two seconds flat, if you ca r ri es on. Just keep it up. Don’t t’ink for one mi n u te you’m too old yet! s E N : Come on. Hit me. I’m not scared. Hit me. Yo u’ d never see me again! M A RY : (slapping BEN) Shut right up. You’re just as b ad as he is! MINNIE: Two of a kind, maid. Two peas in a pod. Th at’ s why they don’t get on. JA C OB: Why the hell do you suppose we slaved to . buy this house, if it wasn’t for you two? And now you won’t stick around long enough to help pay back a red cent. You’d rather pay rent to a stranger! BILL: Dad, I’m leaving to get married, in case you forgot. JACOB: You don’t need to. Put it off. Listen to your mother! Bill: A minute ago you said – JACOB: Forget a minute ago! This is now! BEN: He’ll have converted for nothing, if he does! JACOB: You shut your bloody mouth! ( to BILL) Put it off, my son. There’s no hurry. Don’t be swayed by Minnie. She’s just t’inking of herself. Getting revenge for old hurts. MINNIE: And you’re full of shit, Jacob. JACOB: You goddamn Catholics, you don’t even believe in birth control. Holy Jumping Jesus Christ. The poor young boy’ll be saddled with a gang of little ones before he knows it! And all because my p oor father hated the Micks! MINNIE: Come on, sister, we don’t need that. Get your coat. You too, Harold. Let’s go, Billy. The priest can’t wait on the likes of us. BILL and KATHY move to go. JACOB: Don’t go, Billy. There’s no need! Bill: First you say one thing, Dad, and then you say something else. Will you please make up your mind! ( to BEN) Ben, what should I do? Tell me. BEN: I can’t help you, Billy. KATHY looks at BILL, then runs out, slamming the door. MARY: ( to BILL) Go after her, my son. Now’s the time she needs you. We’ll see you in church. Go on,now. Bill: Ben? BEN: In a minute. I’ll see you there. BILL: Dad? (JACOB turns away BILL runs out.) MINNIE: I’ll take the two kids with me, Mary. See you in a few minutes. JACOB: You won’t see me there tonight, Minnie, and you can count on that. And not tomorrow, either. MINNIE: That’s up to you, Jacob, though I hope you changes your mind for Billy’s sake. (slight pause) We oughtn’t to let our differences interfere with the children. ( slight pause) Come along, Lazarus . It’s time we dragged our backsides to the church. They exit. Silence. MARY removes her coat, then slowly begins to clear the table. BEN looks over at his father. Finally, he speaks. BEN: Dad … JACOB: What? BE N: I want to explain. Will you let me? JACOB: I should t’ink you’d be ashamed to even look at me, let alone open your mouth. (slight pause) Well? What is it? I suppose we’m not good enough for you? BEN: Oh come on. JACOB: ( to MARY) If you’s going to the church, you’d better be off. BEN: We still have a few minutes. JACOB: ( to MARY) And no odds what, I won’t go to church. They can do without me. MARY: Suit yourself. But I’m going. Just don’t come back on me afterward for not coaxing you to. JACOB: You can walk in that church tonight, feeling the way you does? Oh, you’m some two­ faced, Mary. MARY: Don’t you talk. You was quit� willing to see Billy go, till it slipped out that Ben was going, too. Leaving Home 115 JACOB: That’s a lie! MARY: Is it? JACOB: That’s a damn lie! MARY: I’ll call a cab. ( She crosses to the phone, picks up the receiver. To JACOB.) We can’t always have it our way. (She dials and ad libs softly while dialogue continues between father and son.) JACOB: A lifetime spent in this house, and he gives us less notice than you would a landlord! And me about to wallpaper his room like a goddamn fool! ( slight pause) And don’t come back broke and starving in a week or two and expect a hando1,1t, ’cause the only way you’ll get t’rough that door is to break it in! (slight pause) You’ll never last on your own. You never had to provide for yourself. BEN: I’ll learn. JACOB: You’ll starve. BEN: All right, I’ll starve. And then you can have the satisfaction of being right. ( slight pause) You’re always telling me it’s time I got out on my own and grew up. JACOB: Sure, t’row up in my face what I said in the past! BEN: Dad, will you listen to me for once? It’s not because home’s bad, or because I hate you. It’s not that. I just want to be independent, that’s all. Can’t you understand that? ( slight pause) I had to move out sometime. JACOB: Was it somet’ing I said? What was it? Tell me. I must have said somet’ing! BEN: No, it was nothing you said. Will you come off it? JACOB: Can you imagine what our relatives will say, once they hears? They’ll say you left home on account of me. BEN: Well, who the hell cares? JACOB: And you any idea what this’ll do to your mother? You’m her favourite. ( Th e last syllable rhymes with “night.”) MARY: Jacob! That’s not fair! JACOB: What odds? It’s true, and don’t deny it. (to BEN) Your mother’s always been most fond of you. She even delivered you herself. Did you know that? MARY: There’s no time for family history, Father. 116 David French JACOB moves quickly to the mantel and takes th e photo album. He is slightly desper:ate now. He flick s open the album. JACOB: ( intimately, to BEN) Look. Look at that one . You could scarcely walk. Clinging for dear life to your mother’s knee. ( turning the page) And look a t this. The four of us. Harry Saunders took that o f us with my old box camera the day the German s marched into Paris. ( turns the photo over) There. You’m good with dates. June 14th, 1940. Look how lovely your mother looks, my son. No more than ninety pounds when she had you. MARY: Ninety-one. JACOB: She was that t’in; you’d swear the wind would carry her off. We never believed we’d have another, after the first died. He was premature. Seven months, and he only lived a few hours. MARY: Enough of the past, boy. JACOB: That was some night, the night you was born. Blizzarding to beat hell. The doctor lived in Bay Roberts, and I had to hitch up the sled – MARY: He’s heard all that. JACOB: Some woman, your mother. Cut and tied the cord herself. Had you scrubbed to a shine and was washed herself and back in bed, sound asleep, before we showed up. MARY: Took all the good out of me, too. JACOB: And wasn’t she a picture? She could have passed for her namesake in the stained glass of a Catholic window, she was that radiant. MARY: Get on with you. JACOB: Your mother’d never let on, but you can imagine the state she’ll be in if you goes. You’m all that’s left now, Ben. The last son. ( a whisper) I t’ink she wishes you’d stay. MARY: I heard that. Look, you speak for yourself. I’ve interfered enough for one night. JACOB: Your mother has always lived just for the two of you. MARY: (pained) Oh Jacob. JACOB: Always. BEN: Come on, Dad, that’s not true. JACOB: It is so, now. It is so. MARY: Well it’s not, and don’t you say it is. The likes of that! JACOB: Confess, Mary. I don’t count, I’ve never counted. Not since the day they was born. B EN: If J ACO B : MARY : you? A n JACO B: you and wise toy MARY : I lik e it an h ousewi i s to go, w ay beca y ourself, JACOB: I out the d MARY: JACOB: JACOB: { minute,· Ingrate! MARY: I. might,an JACOB: see about charges in MARY: Be It only m JACOB: ( which heh of that go’ I can gets work. BEN: Dad, J ACOB: D hear anot BEN : All JACOB: ( t charges ba BEN: Wh y to the mantel and takes th e ightly desperate now. He fli c ks EN) Look. Look at that on e. lk. Clinging for dear lif e to ,ming the page) And loo k at ury Saunders took tha t of mera the day the Germ ans urns the photo over) The re . . June 14th, 1940. Look h ow Jks, my son. No more th an he had you. t’in; you’d swear the wi nd~ e never believed we’d ha v e t died. He was prematur e. only lived a fe w hours. past, boy. e night, the night you was �at hell. The doctor lived in I to hitch up the sled – that. . your mother. Cut and tied ou scrubbed to a shine and d back in bed, sound asleep , >od out of me, too. ea picture? She could have tke in the stained glass of a was that radiant. m. d never let on, but you can 1 be in if you goes. You’m all te last son. ( a whisper) I t’ink ook, you speak for yourself. t for one night. has always lived just for the tcob. hat’s not true. lt is so. and don’t you say it is. The -:y. I don’t count, I’ve never e day they was born. (II: Jf th at’ s tru e, Dad, you should be glad to get d of both of us. Have Mom all to yourself again. A RY : W ho’ s the one making all the fuss? Me orou? A n swer me that . ACO B: No, you’d sit by silent and let me do it for ‘ ou an d tak e all the shit that comes with it. I’m · se to yo ur little games. M ARY : I ca n’t stop him, if he wants to go. I don’t li k e i t an y m ore than you do. I can’t imagine this o us e w ith o ut our two sons. But if what Ben wants to g o , h e’s got my blessing. I won’t stand in his y bec ause I’m scared. And if you can’t speak for u rs elf , don ‘t speak for me. I’m out of it. coB: If he’s so dead set on going, he can march t the door this very minute. .(RY: He will not! Don’t be foolish! C O B: He will so, ifl say so! ( He charges into BEN’s roo’/n and returns with a suitcase which he sets on ,floo r.) There! Pack your belongings right this cond, if we’m not good enough for you. RY: Ben, don’t pay him no mind . . COB: I don’t want you in this house another :ihinute, if you’m that anxious to be elsewhere. � hgrate ! MARY : If you don’t shut your big yap, he just I. pu ght, and then you’d be in some state. JACOB: Oh, I wmild, would I? Well, we’ll just se e about that. I’ll help him pack, if he likes! ( He charges into BEN’s bedroom.) ARY: Ben, don’t talk back to him when he’s mad. lt only makes it worse, you knows that. JACOB: ( comes out with a stack of record albums which he hurls violently to the floor) There. Enough of that goddamn squealing and squawking. Now I can get some peace and quiet after a hard day’s work. BEN: Dad, I think I ought to … JACOB: Don’t open your mouth. I don’t want to hear another word! BEN: All right, make a fool of yourself! JACOB: ( to MARY) And that goes for you, too! ( He charges back into the bedroom.) BEN: What’ll we do, Moni? We got to get out of · here. Can’t you stop him? MARY: All you can do, when he gets like this, is let him run down and tire himself out. His poor father was the same. He’d hurl you t’rough the window one minute and brush the glass off you the next. JACOB: · ( comes out with a stack of new shirts still in the cellophane) And look at this, will you? Talk about a sin. I walks around with my ass out, and here’s six new shirts never even opened. ( He hurls the shirts on the pile of records. ) BEN: I don’t want to spoil your fun, Dad, but so far all that stuff belongs to Billy. (JACOB stares at the scattered records and shirts, alarmed. ) MARY: Now you’ve done it, boy. Will you sit down now? You’re just making a bigger fool of yourself the longer you stands. JACOB: (Her reproach is all he needs to get back in stride.) Sure, mock me when I’m down. Well, I’ll show you who the fool is. We’ll just see who has the last laugh! ( He charges into his own bedroom . MARY picks up the records andshirts. ) BEN: (pause) I wanted to tell him, Mom, a week ago. I kept putting it off. MARY: I wish you had, Ben. This mightn’t have happened. BEN: It’s all our fault, anyhow. MARY: What do you mean? BEN: We’ve made him feel like an outsider all these years. The three of us. You, me, Billy. It’s always been him and us. Always. As long as I can remember. MARY: Blame your father’s temper. He’s always had a bad temper. All we done was try our best to avoid it. BEN: Yeah, but we make it worse. We feed it. We shouldn’t shut him out the way we do. MARY: And what is it you’re not saying, that’s it’s my fault somehow? Is that what you t’inks? Say it. BEN: I didn’t say that. MARY: Your father believes it. He calls me the ringleader. BEN: Well, you set the example, Mom, a long time ago. When we were little. MARY: Don’t you talk, Ben. You’re some one to point fingers. ( slight pause) Perhaps I did. Perhaps your father’s right all along. But you’re no little child any longer, and you haven’t been for years. You’re a man now, and you never followed anyone’s example for too long unless you had a mind to. So don’t use that excuse. Leaving Home 117 BEN: I’m not. I’m just as much to blame as any­ body. I know that. MARY: I always tried to keep the peace. And that wasn’t always easy in this family, with you and your father at each other’s t’roats night and day. And to keep the peace I had to sometimes keep a good many unpleasant facts from your father. Small, simple t’ings, mostly. BEN: You were just sparing yourself. MARY: I was doing what I considered the most good! And don’t tell me I wasn’t. Oh, Ben, you knows yourself what he’s like. If you lost five dollars down the sewer, you didn’t dare let on. If you did, he’d dance around the room like one leg was on fire and the other had a bee up it. It was just easier that way, not to tell him. Easier on the whole family. Yes, and easier on myself. – BEN: But it wasn’t easier when he found out. On him or us. MARY: He didn’t always, Ben. BEN: No, but when he does, like tonight -it’s worse! JACOB enters the room from the bedroom, slowly, carrying a small cardboard box. He removes the contents of the box -a neatly folded silk dressing gown -and throws the box to one side. JACOB: I won’t be needing the likes of this. Take it with you. I’ve got enough old junk cluttering up my closet. BEN: I don’t want it, either. MARY: He gave you that for your birthday. You’ve never even worn it. JACOB: Take it! ( He hurls it violently in BE N’s face. Then he notices the diploma lying on the table. He grabs it.) MARY: Not the diploma, Jacob! No! BEN says nothing. He just stares at his father, who stares back the whole time he removes the ribbon, unfolds the diploma, and tears it into two pieces, then four, then eight.· He drops the pieces to the floor. MARY: God help you. This time you’ve gone too far. Pause. Then BEN crosses to the suitcase. He picks it up. BEN: I’ll pack. ( He exits into his bedroom. ) 118 David French MARY: All right. You Satisfied? You’ve made me feel deeply ashamed tonight, Jacob, the way you treats Ben. I only hopes he forgives you. I don’t know if I would, if it was me. JACOB: I always knowed it would come to this one day. He’s always hated me, and don’t say he hasn’t. Did you see him tonight? I can’t so muc h as lay a hand on his shoulder. He pulls away. His own father, and I can’t touch him. All his life long he’s done nothing but mock and defy me, and now he’s made me turn him out in anger, my own so n. ( to MARY, angrily) And you can bugger off, too, if you don’t like it. Don’t let me keep you. Just pack your bag and take him with you. Dare say you’ d be happier off. I don’t give a good goddamn if th e whole lot of you deserts me. MARY: You don’t know when to stop, do you? You just don’t know when to call a halt. What must I do? Knock you senseless? You’d go o n and on until you brought your whole house tumbling down. I suppose it’s late in the day to be expecting miracles, but for God’s sake, Jacob, control yourself. For once in your life would you just t’ink before you speaks? Please! (slight pause) I have no sympathy for you. You brought this all on yourself. You wouldn’t listen. Well, listen now. Have you ever in your whole life took two minutes out to try and understand him? Have you? Instead of galloping off in all directions? Dredging up old hurts? Why, not five minutes ago he stood on that exact spot and stuck up for you! JACOB: ( surprised, slightly incredulous) Ben did … ? MARY: Yes, Ben did, and don’t look so surprised. Now it may be too late, but there are some t’ings that just have to be said, right now, in the open. Sit down and listen. Sit down. ( JACOB sits.) For twenty years now I’ve handled the purse strings in this family, and only because you shoved it off on me. I don’t like to do it any more than you do. I’m just as bad at it, except you’re better with the excuses. (JACOB rises.) I’m not finished. Sit down. ( He does – slight pause.) Last fall you tumbled off our garage roof and sprained your back. You was laid up for six months all told -November to May -without a red cent of Workmen’s Compensation, because the accident didn’t happen on the job. And I mad e all the payments as usual -the mortgages, your truck, the groceries, life insurance, the hydro and oilman, your union dues. All that, and more. I took care of it all. And where, Jacob, do you suppos e the money came from? You never once asked. Did you ever wonder? JA COB: Wher e ? F MA RY: T h e b an kr b an k. Not a ft er t he J A COB: What i s y o MA RY: Ju st th i s . (S g ot a sch o l ar s h ip , h th is fall. H e co u ld m o n ey that to ok u s of worki ng p ar t-ti JAC OB : Ben did th M ARY: An d yo u sa JA COB: I do n’t wa p ay him b ac k ev e M A RY: Shut u p. He you to kn o w, so do you, you he ar? He he k nowed yo u wo su ppo rting you r fa who’s got the last 1� puts it on as she crossJ. Th e taxi ought to be looks at JACOB. T here speaks her voice is dra, ought to be, too, by A lifetim e of this is e it an .even match fo nothing else. I don’t· the worst of it. You a Enter BEN, carryin BEN: ( to MARY) Isn’t eight. MA RY: He’ll beep hi s need to take that no BEN: That’s okay, Mo you can throw out. ( J ACOB: Your mother winter. I- M AR Y: (sharply) Jaco J ACOB: I wants to t’ ·M ARY: You promi se hea d in exasperati on. ) J ACO B: (slight pa use) he re tonight. I wan ts it up to you. I will. BE N: ( meani ng it) It’s MARY: Let him say h ttisfied? You’ve made me 1ight, Jacob, the way you , he forgives you. I don’t sme. ed it would come to this ted me, and don’t say he tonight? I can’t so much ulder. He pulls away. His Juch him. All his life long :ick and defy me, and now mt in anger, my own son . ‘OU can bugger off, too, if :t me keep you. Just pack with you. Dare say you’ d ve a good goddamn if the me. v when to stop, do you? hen to call a halt. What senseless? You’d go on 1ght your whole house Jse it’s late in the day to mt for God’s sake, Jacob, :e in your life would you aks? Please! (slight pause) you. You brought this all ‘t listen. Well, listen now. 1ole life took two minutes i him? Have you? Instead ections? Dredging up old 1utes ago he stood on that for you! 1 incredulous) Ben did … ? l don’t look so surprised. but there are some t’ings ·ight now, in the open. Sit 1. ( JACOB sits.) For twenty the purse strings in this : you shoved it off on me. 1ore than you do. I’m just : better with the excuses. ,hed. Sit down. ( He does – 1 tumbled off our garag e >ack. You was laid up for •ember to May -withou t Compensation, becaus e in on the job. And I made 11 – the mortgages, your nsurance, the hydro and All that, and more. I took , Jacob, do you suppos e ou never once asked. Did J A CO B: Where? From the bank. M ARY: The bank! We didn’t have a nickel in the b an k, Not after the second month. J AC OB: What is you getting at, Mary? M AR Y: Just this. (�he lowers her voice. ) If Ben hadn’t go t a sch olarship, he wouldn’t have went to college t h is fal l. He couldn’t have afforded to. It was his m on ey that took us over the winter. All those years of work ing part-time and summers. All ofit gone. J A COB: Ben did that? MA RY: And you says he hates you! JA COB : I don’t want no handouts from him. I’ll pa y him back every cent of it. MARY: Shut up. He’ll hear you! He never wanted you to know, so don’t you dare let on that I told you, you hear? He knowed how proud you is, and he knowed you wouldn’t want to t’ink YQ.U wasn’t supporting your family. (slight pause) Now, boy, who’s got the last laugh? ( MARY takes her coat and puts it on as she crosses to BE N’s door. ) Hurry up, Ben. The taxi ought to be here any second. ( She turns and looks at JACOB. There is anguish in her face. When she speaks her voice is drained. ) I’m tired, Jacob. And you ought to be, too, by all rights. It’s time to quit it. A lifetime of this is enough, you and Ben. Declare it an even match for your own sake, boy, if for nothing else. I don’t want to see you keep getting the worst of it. You always did and you still do. Enter BEN, carrying his suitcase. BEN: ( to MARY) Isn’t the cab here yet? It’s almost eight. MARY: He’ll beep his horn. ( slight pause) You don’t need to take that now, my son. Pick it up Later. BEN: That’s okay, Mom. I’ve got all I want. The rest you can throw out. ( He sits on his suitcase. ) JACOB: Your mother told me what you done last winter. I- JACOB: I wants to t’ank you. I’ll pay you back. MARY: You promised you -(She stops, shakes her hea d in exasperatio n.) JACOB: (slight pause) I’m sorry what happened he re tonight . I wants you to know that. I’ll make it up to you. I will. B EN: (meaning it) It’s nothing. Forget it. MARY: Let him say he’s sorry, Ben. He needs to. JACOB: Maybe I’ve been wrong. I suppose I ain’.t been the best of fathers. I couldn’t give you all I’d like to. But I’ve been the best I could under the circumstances. BEN: Dad. JACOB: Hear me out, now. We never seen eye to eye in most cases, but we’m still a family. We’ve got to stick together. All we got in this world is the family – ( He rises.) -and it’s breaking up, Ben. ( slight pause) Stay for a while longer. For a few more years. BEN: I can’t. JACOB: You can. Why not? BEN: I just can’t. JACOB: Spite! You’m just doing this out of spite! ( BEN shakes his head.) Then reconsider … like a good boy. Let your brother rent his room to a stranger, if he’s that hard up. Don’t let him break us up. The taxi sounds its horn. MARY: There’s the taxi now. JACOB: ( desperately) You don’t have to go, my son. You knows I never meant what I said before. You’m welcome to stay as long as you likes, and you won’t have to pay a cent of rent. ( even more desperately) Come back afterward! BEN: No, Dad. JACOB: Yes, come back. Like a good boy. I never had a choice in my day, Ben. You do. BEN: I don’t! JACOB: You do so! Don’t contradict me! BEN: What do you know? You don’t know the first thing about me, and you don’t want to. You don’t know how I feel, and you don’t give a shit! JACOB: In my day we had a duty to – BEN: In your day! I’m sick of hearing about your fucking day! This is my day, and we’re strangers. You know the men you work with better than you do me! Isn’t that right? Isn’t it? JACOB: And you treats your friends better than you do me! I know that much, I can tell you. A whole lot better! And with more respect. Using language like that in front of your mother! The taxi honks impatiently. BEN moves to go. JACOB grabs the suitcase. MARY: Jacob! The taxi’s waiting! Leaving Home n9 JACOB: ( to BEN) You’re not taking that suitcase out of this house! Not this blessed day! ( He puts the suitcase down at a distance.) MARY: That’s okay, Ben. Leave it. You can come back some other time. ( MARY exits. ) JACOB: He will like hell. Once he goes, that’s it. He came with nothing, he’ll go with nothing! BEN: (slight pause) Do you know why I want to be on my own? The real reason? JACOB: To whore around! BEN: Because you’re not going to stop until there’s nothing left of me. It’s not the world that wants to devour me, Dad -it’s you! JACOB whips off his belt. JACOB: (as he brings it down hard on BEN’s back) Then go! BEN instinctively covers his head, crouching a little, unprotesting. JACOB: (sobbing, as he brings the belt down again and again) Go! Go! Go! Go! Go! Finally, as JACOB swings again for the sixth time, BEN whirls and grabs the belt from his father’s hand. Then with a violent motion he flings it aside. BEN: You shouldn’t have done that, Dad. You shouldn’t. ( He exits,) Silence. JACOB retrieves his belt. A slight pause. JACOB: ( fiercely striking the chesterfield with his belt) Holy Jumping Jesus Christ! Silence. MARY enters from the hallway JACOB begins to put on his belt. He notices MARY. 120 David French JACOB: What’s you doing here? Isn’t you going? He crosses into the dining room and sits at th e table. Slowly MARY puts down her purse and en­ ters the dining room, crossing behind JACOB and sitting at the table beside him. She says nothing. JACOB: (anguished) In the name of Jesus, Mary, whatever possessed you to marry the likes of me over Jerome McKenzie? (MARY says nothing . Pause. ) I’ve never asked you before, but I’ve always wondered. Pause. MARY: It was that day you, me, and Jerome McKenzie was all sitting around my mother’s kitchen and in walked my brother Clifford. He was teaching grade six in St. John’s that year, and he told of a story that occurred that very morning at school. You’ve must likely forgotten. A little girl had come into his class with a note from her teacher. She was told to carry the note around to every class in the school and wait till every teacher read it. Clifford did, with the child standing next to him. The note had t’ree words on it: Don’t she smell?Well, Jacob, boy, when you heard that, you brought your fist down so hard on the tabletop it cracked one of Mother’s good saucers, and that’s when I knowed Jerome McKenzie hadn’t a hope in hell. (slight pause) Q.C. or no Q.C.! Slowly MARY lifts one foot then the other onto · the chair in front of her. The lights slowly dim into darkness. END cre ati� le gendi compl: ofth e R writing of Toro poetry,. seven y in 19581 se cond at the U for thre journal the thea playofr The Kill in 1962. t ypal st th e shap He and The Centre ‘ s· the Mo ort asso cia ti d Reaney ‘ s




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