Monday, December 26, 2011

Rough Creatures: A Play for Advent - Part 3

"Rough Creatures" was written between 2002 and 2005 - I don't really remember the exact date. I just recall trying to get it ready for rehearsals, and then being unable to launch the production due to casting difficulties. Feel free to use it however you can - it's in fragments, but I think the pieces add up to something usable, or at the very least, intelligible.

Another time, another place. It is a land ravaged by perpetual winter; no one can recall how the winter began, if it was by the weapons of power which the world’s leaders had forged, or if it were an act of God, a meteor striking the earth and forcing everything underground. With time, small settlements have grown up under the ice and snow as Life finds a way through the grey death. Gamin Sanctuary is one such settlement, built within the basement levels of some once-great building. Nestled at the edge of the settlement, in all that remains above ground is the Inn, a place for travelers’ mad enough to traverse the ice wastes to stop, and for denizens of Gamin Sanctuary to come for a drink, a game of cards or stones, or more intimate pursuits.  


The Abbess – a strong, mature middle-aged woman who runs the Inn.
Tinker – a man of unknown age (older than mid-20’s) who roams the ice wasteland looking for items of value to trade
Simeon – a older Jewish man who lives at the Inn, hoping for the coming of the Messiah.
Rachel – Simeon’s eldest daughter – a whore
Sarah – Simeon’s younger daughter – a whore
Fen, the Matchstick Girl – the Abbess’ ‘daughter’.
Anno – The Abess’ husband
Woman – a traveler who comes upon the Inn in labor
Man – a traveler, the Woman’s companion


The Abbess – a strong, mature middle-aged woman who runs the Inn.
Tinker – a man of unknown age (older than mid-20’s) who roams the ice wasteland looking for items of value to trade
Simeon – a older Jewish man who lives at the Inn, hoping for the coming of the Messiah.
Rachel – Simeon’s eldest daughter – a whore
Sarah – Simeon’s younger daughter – a whore
Fen, the Matchstick Girl – the Abbess’ ‘daughter’.
Anno – The Abess’ husband
Woman – a traveler who comes upon the Inn in labor
Man – a traveler, the Woman’s companion

TINKER:         I could see Gamin Sanctuary's beacon from the top of MacIntyre’s Rise, right before the storm blew in on me. It was so fierce! I stumbled through the whiteout, but knew I’d be dead if I didn’t try for shelter. So I started digging myself a shelter into a shelf of ice. And as I chipped away with my shovel, I dislodged an ice sheet which was over a grating. I pried the grating loose with my shovel, and then crawled through the tunnel behind it. It was completely dark. I couldn’t see a thing. Finally, I came to another grating. I didn’t have room to light a torch and see where I was heading, so I knocked the grating off with my shovel and slid through. Since I couldn’t turn around, I eased myself head-first out of the metal tunnel until I could reach my fire kit. I lit a match, and saw that there was floor about seven feet beneath me. I could feel that I was in a big room, just from the air. So I jumped down, lit a torch, and began exploring. It was obviously all man made. At first, I thought it was just another underground place, like the Sanctuary. But as I explored further, through halls that made my footsteps echo, I came upon a door, which lead out into the most marvelous place I have ever seen, or even heard described. It was a city, but not open to the sky, like all the rest must have been. This one had a huge roof over it, with spots where huge windows had been built to let in the light. At points, I could see holes in the ice that had formed over the windows, and that’s how I knew it wasn’t underground.

SIMEON:        It’s really a city?  How big is it?

TINKER:         It’s so big, that there are hundreds of merchant’s shops, and inns. All the people living in Gamin Sanctuary could move there and would hardly take up any space. I walked several miles in one direction, starting at one end and going to the other. And that only makes up for maybe one third of the city—there’s little streets leading off the main one, and there are several levels to the city—just like the Sanctuary, only not just open stone. All the shops, the Inns…I’d never seen anything like it.

SIMEON:        And there were no people?

TINKER:         I came across a few remains, but whenever the Ice came, it came at a time when the people weren’t in the city. The bodies I found were carrying pistols like this one (he brandishes a revolver) so I assume they were watchmen, left to guard the city while the people were away.

ANNO:            Why the hell would an entire city just up and leave?

SIMEON:        It’s possible that they were away celebrating a festival of some sort. My people used to go to the City of God leaving their towns and villages once a year to worship God in His temple.

TINKER:         That could be it. The whole city was decorated with shiny rope and huge sparkling shapes.

FEN:                A star.

TINKER:         What’s a star?

FEN:                It’s in this book. Were the shapes like this one? (She holds up the book and points to the star of Bethlehem.)

TINKER:         Yes! That’s what they looked like.

ANNO:            Perhaps Fen’s book is about the festival. What does it say?

FEN:                I don’t understand a lot of the words. Like this one; ‘messiah.’ What’s that Simeon?

SIMEON:        (excited.) The book talks about the Messiah?

ANNO:            Then you know what the word is?

SIMEON:        Do I know what the word is? It’s the heart of my people’s faith Anno. It’s the hope we cling to. The hope for the coming of the Messiah.

ABBESS:         You sound like you’re running for headman.

TINKER:         Who knows? Not a bad aspiration for the man who discovered the City of God

ABBESS:         The what?

TINKER:         Well, I was just thinking, since they were obviously worshipful people—what with having so many of those books and the dolls, all relating to the Messiah.

SIMEON:        We can’t be sure that book is true—

TINKER:         But a gift such as this city—it could only come from God, am I not right Simeon?

SIMEON:        I suppose—

TINKER:         And, most miraculous of all, there are trees everywhere, underground!

ABBESS:         Trees can’t grow underground!

TINKER:         So we’ve been told! But they’re there, fully grown, decorated with stars, and shiny things. I brought one to show you.

(He pulls a Christmas ornament from one of the pouches on his vest, and hands it to ABBESS, who looks it over.)

ABBESS:         (sarcastic) It’s beautiful. (She places the ornament on the bar. RACHEL scoops it up.)

RACHEL:        It is beautiful.

ANNO:            What about the air. Was it breathable?

TINKER:         It was pretty bad. I had to wear my mask. But I crawled in through a tunnel that seemed to be made for letting air into the city. If there’s one, there’s probably more. We’d just have to make sure they didn’t ice over. Keep them clear of snow. And besides, with all those trees, the air should clean up once we get all the dead bodies moved.

ANNO:            So I guess you’ll be needing a place to stay while you’re here.

TINKER:         A warm bed would be nice.

SIMEON:        (SIMEON puts his arm around TINKER.) Surely this man is messiah to me! He brings this news of the Promised Land! There is a giant to conquer with the air, yes, but (he takes the ornament from RACHEL.) there are also grapes the size of a man’s fist.

(Everyone else looks perplexed. SIMEON places the ornament on the table. FEN picks it up, and inspects it while the others continue talking.)

TINKER:         Well Anno, what do you say?

ANNO:            It sounds fantastic. Almost too good to be true.

ABBESS:         Which probably means it is.

ANNO:            ‘Bess—don’t be so hard. It’s someplace to go to! The place I’ve been hoping for.

ABBESS:         You’ve been hoping for it, not me.  I like this inn just fine. I expect if everyone in Gamin Sanctuary and Southtown just up and moved, we’d have no room in Tinker’s fabulous city.

TINKER:         You don’t sound enthused Abbess. Does this mean you won’t be coming with us?

ABBESS:         You don’t even know if anyone will go with you.

TINKER:         Of course they will! That’s what they—we all want—a place to start over!

ABBESS:         I’ve already started over. This Inn was where I did it. I have a family, and we’re happy here.

TINKER:         That’s something else I was meaning to speak to you about, Abbess. When I go to the city, I’m taking Fen with me.

(FEN looks up from the ornament. She missed the comment, but recognized her name.)

ABBESS:         (Stunned.) What did you say?

TINKER:         I said, when I return to the City, I’m taking Fen with me.

FEN:                (Not comprehending at all.) I’d like to see the city Mama. We could all go visit!

TINKER:         No Fen, I mean I’m taking you there to live with me.

FEN:                (Confused.) But why? This is where I live. Here, with Mama and Papa.

TINKER:         They’re not your real Mama and Papa Fen. I’m you’re real Papa.

ABBESS:         You son of a bitch. (She lunges at him, but ANNO holds her back.)

ANNO:            You’d better leave now Tinker.

TINKER:         Not until I’m finished.

ANNO:            You’re finished now.

TINKER:         I have a right to tell her.

ANNO:            No you don’t. You gave that up ten years ago. Now get the hell out of here. You’re not welcome.

ABBESS:         Go, talk to the headman. I’m sure he’ll be interested to hear your story. But I’m not so easily given to your honey tongue, Tinker. What happens when the work gets hard? Will you be the one helping with the removal of the dead? Or will you just tuck tail and run when the going gets hard—like you did before.

TINKER:         I don’t have to listen to this.

ABBESS:         No, you’re right. You can always just walk away and do as you please, and come and go as you please.

TINKER:         What do you want from me?

ABBESS:         I wanted you to stay the hell away from her! You can’t just show up here now and tell her you’re her real father! That’s not fair! You don’t have the right!

ANNO:            Get going.

(TINKER turns, grabs his pack, looks at FEN for a moment, and then heads up the stairs. SIMEON, RACHEL AND ESTHER all exit in the awkward silence. ANNO lets ABBESS go.)

ABBESS:         Fen—

FEN:                Are you my real parents?

ABBESS:         (After a lengthy pause.) No.

FEN:                So Tinker wasn’t lying?

ABBESS:         No, for once he was telling the truth.

FEN:                How come—you never told me?

ABBESS:         I didn’t think you needed to know.

FEN:                Oh.

ABBESS:         Do you want to go with Tinker?

FEN:                You don’t want me anymore?

ABBESS:         No, no that’s not what I meant. I just—I don’t know Fen. I feel all mixed up, and I don’t know what to say.

FEN:                Me too.

ABBESS:         So what are we gonna do?

FEN:                I don’t want to leave you and Pa—Anno.

ABBESS:         You stop that right now. Anno is still your Papa—and I am still your Mama. If you don’t want to leave, then that doesn’t change. Do you understand?

FEN:                I don’t know Ma—mama, I don’t know. I just want to go lie down. I want to lie down and read.

(FEN slides out of her chair and exits. ABBESS slumps into a chair, ANNO comes up behind her and places his hands on her shoulders.)

ANNO:            I’m sorry ‘Bess.

ABBESS:         I should’ve shot that bastard the minute he set foot in my
Inn! Who the hell does he think he is? Fen’s so filled up with fairy tales and Simeon’s old stories—babies left by their parents, taken in by kings and queens—will she think it’s all wonderful, like one of those stories?

ANNO:            I don’t know. She’s just a little girl. She doesn’t see the world the way we do. All hard and cold.

ABBESS:         What if she wants to go with him?

ANNO:            She doesn’t. She’s confused, but she won’t leave you.

ABBESS:         You mean she won’t leave you.

ANNO:            She won’t leave either of us. Stop hurting yourself. You’re the one who’s always saying we shouldn’t make pain up where there isn’t any. Fen loves you very much. No more than me, just different. The only reason she’d want to go would be to see the City, not to live with Tinker.

ABBESS:         That’s what I’m afraid of. That she’ll go for that reason. Or that you’ll both go for that reason.

ANNO:            Why are you so afraid of going? What if it’s as wonderful as Tinker says?

ABBESS:         You trust that man?

ANNO:            Tinker may be honey tongue, but he’s not stupid. He’s not going to lead two settlements across the ice waste to a place that doesn’t exist. He’d be torn apart when the lie was found out.

ABBESS:         Maybe he’s just planning to lead everyone out there so he can steal from them.

ANNO:            You know as well as I do that Tinker isn’t that kind of person. He’s selfish, but he’s not a murderer.

ABBESS:         Anno, we’ve both seen what this world does to people. The ice wastes are just a beast, with great, sharp teeth, and it eats people. Some it eats slowly, and others faster, but it eats them all, just the same! I will not fill that child’s head with hope that doesn’t exist!

ANNO:            You don’t know it doesn’t exist.

ABBESS:         And I’m not risking the lives of my family just to see if Tinker’s city is really as grand as he says! My father took that risk on some wanderer’s say so, and we never made it!

ANNO:            But Tinker knows where the city is. And he’s willing to lead us there.

ABBESS:         Oh yes, for his glory. He’s equipped to travel the wastes. He’s been doing it ever since Fen’s mother died! Fen’s just a little girl! You really think she’ll make the journey

ANNO:            I think the risk is worth it. So we stay here, while everyone in the Sanctuary leaves—who will we trade with? Who will stay at the inn?

ABBESS:         People on their way to the ‘City of God.’

ANNO:            You know as well as I do that’s a lot of heat. When the settlements hear about this place, they’ll all be coming here—one last time. There’ll be a few stragglers, sure, maybe even some who would take the journey farther than Southtown, but then that’s it.

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