a circus

act one

(an older man is hunkered over a workbench. his back is to the audience. he’s working and hovering over something. another man, younger, is sitting with his back against the wall facing us. he’s tossing a wrench in the air and catching it again over and over.)

younger- did you hear about the wedding yesterday?

older- mm.

younger- you did?

older- no.

younger- it was on the news. another drone strike.

older- how many?

younger- the report said 37.

older- what’d they say about it? that the bride was a terrorist?

younger- they said the best-man was one of the ten-most wanted. it was all about him.

older- they sure they got him? and what about the other 36?

younger- you know.

older- well.

younger- it’s sad to imagine.

older- yes. it is.

younger- weddings are supposed to be about promise.

older- yes.

younger- do they have flower girls in their weddings?

older- they might’ve. just because it happened there doesn’t mean it was all one way.

younger- it doesn’t matter does it?

older- well, they’re all dead. so not really.

younger- maybe they all died happy.

older- maybe.

younger- doesn’t that surprise you?

older- what?

younger- i mean, that something like that happens. doesn’t that surprise you at all?

older- are you surprised?

younger- no. it makes me angry.

older- hand me that wrench.

younger-(passing the wrench. pauses thinking) that may be what makes me the most upset.

older- what?

younger- the lack of surprise i feel when i learn about another slaughter.

older- ha!

younger- why’s that funny?

older- (he stands up straight and faces the younger.) it’s almost monstrous to say that. to say that you feel more angry about your own loss of feeling than for another’s loss of life.

younger- that’s not what i meant.

older- but that’s what you said.

younger- well–

older- if that’s why you’re here, if that’s why you’re helping me build this, then i think you’d better go.

younger- i’m here for my cousin.

older- ah yes.

younger- they held him six years.

older- but he still has his life. and you, you have their passport. you attend their schools. you spend their money.

younger- i told you why i’m here months ago.

older- you did. but you still sound like one who’s not been listening.

younger- but i have!

older- clearly not. you are here for your cousin, you say. your cousin who is still alive. if that is your reason then you are not here for the hundreds of thousands of us who have been slaughtered and imprisoned and tortured and dehumanized. and if you are not here for any of those many reasons, then i have decided that you are not here for the right reasons.

younger- but i hate them as much as anyone!

older- you do, but do you love your own people as much as i’m asking you to?

younger- i love them. i love them so much, i must hate what is happening to them.

older- yes. that is what i’m asking.

younger- i love them so much, i must hate how they’re slaughtered.

older- yes.

younger- i must hate how they’re imprisoned and tortured.

older- yes.

younger- and how they’re dehumanized!

older- yes. perhaps most of all.

younger- i am here to bring justice to my people and to bring justice to the souls of those who received none in life.

older- yes.

younger- i am here for the love of my people.

older- yes.

younger- i am here for the protection of my people.

older- yes.

younger- i am here for the salvation of my people.

older- yes.

younger- i am a soldier fighting for the future of my people.

older- yes.

younger- i am a soldier fighting for my god.

older- yes. that is good. you are learning.

younger- i have learned.

older- you have. now, i will teach you something new.

(he pulls the young man over and begins helping him tinker with the project on the table.)

end of act one.

act two

(the music and sounds of a circus carnival are heard. the younger and older men walk up to a lamppost in the middle of the stage. they stand on opposite sides of the pole. the younger man drops his backpack on the ground at the back base of the lamppost. the older man sips coffee from a styrofoam cup. the younger man looks back at the bag nervously as various unassuming folks pass by.)

younger- psst! (being ignored) hey!

older- what?

younger- shouldn’t we go?

older- go where?

younger- anywhere. anywhere else!

older- relax.

younger- but the–

older- hush.

younger- how long till the… you know?

older- long enough.

younger- i want to go now.

older- you do?

younger- yes. i do.

older- alright. we can go.

(they exit together. people continue to pass. it is evidently a busy walkway. we begin to hear their conversations.)

(a mother with her boy who is holding a balloon.)

boy- i won, mommy!

mom- you did, didn’t you!

boy- i did. and did you hear him? he said i did a good job.

mom- well you did do a good job! i’m so proud of you.

(they pass and their voices fade.)

(a young couple arm-in-arm.)

him- what do you want to do next?

her- i don’t care.

him- do you want to ride the log ride? that’s always fun.

her- mmmm.

him- you don’t? well we can do something else.

her- it’s just i don’t really want to get all wet.

him- well we can do something else. you want some cotton candy or something?

her- sure.

him- ok well let’s get some of that then we can check out the bumper cars.

her- mmm.

him- you don’t want to do the bumper cars?

her- well it’s just that i sort of have a headache.

him- you do? well what do you want to do?

her- i told you. i don’t care.

him- ok, well…

(a woman and three girls. the man trails behind on his cell-phone.)

girl 1- mom i want to get my face painted.

girl 2- oooh yeah, mom, i want to get my face painted too!

girl 3- can we all get our faces painted?

mom- we’ll see.

girl 1- i want to get my face painted like a tiger.

girl 2- i want to get my face painted like a giraffe.

girl 3- i’m gonna get a tiger too.

girl 1- you can’t get your face painted like a tiger. that’s what i’m getting.

girl 3- i can too.

mom- girls, please. stop arguing or no one is getting their faces painted.

(looking behind her for her husband. he has leaned against the lamppost to talk.)

man- yes, well did you tell him he doesn’t have a choice?

(the woman looks about and spots what she’s looking for.)

mom- does anyone have to go to the restroom? let’s go to the restroom.

girl 1- but mom i don’t have to go.

girl 3- me either.

mom- let’s just go together girls. your father’s obviously busy.

(she looks at him. he shrugs and points at the phone.)

man- i get it. that’s the kind of sentimental bullshit i’m trying to avoid. i’m not paying for sentimentality. i’m paying for land. does he want our eight million or not? (pause) well get him to take it. (pause) no. no. i don’t care. that’s not your job to tell me that. your job is to tell me that you acquired what i told you to acquire. listen. you have to figure this out. i’m at the fair. and i’m going to have a happy time knowing that you’ve taken care of everything and made us a whole bunch of money. just get it done and call me when you do. and not a minute after. understand. alright. till then.

(he hangs up and looks over toward the restroom. he checks his watch. the girls all come out and he joins them.)

girl 1- daddy can we get our faces painted?

man- well i don’t see why not.

girl 3- can i be the one to get my face painted like a tiger?

girl 1- but that’s my idea! i’m getting the tiger!

man- baby, why don’t you get painted like a fairy or a lion?

girl 1- i just want to be a tiger.

mom- if you all don’t stop arguing, no one is getting anything.

man- ah, don’t be so hard on them.

mom- i’m sorry, have you decided to be my husband again? or are you still away on business? (she turns and starts walking.) let’s go girls!

man- honey, wait. dammit.

(he follows after.)

(two mid-60’s couples. the men walk together up ahead. the women walk together behind.)

man #1- they need to fix it. it’s been tearing up my driveway for too long.

man #2- did you tell anyone up at the council meeting?

man #1- i did. i said i’d cut it down myself if they let it keep digging its roots under my property.

man #2- and what’d they say?

man #1- what do you think? didn’t seem to matter that my taxes pay their salary.

man #2- doubt it did. if you want to cut ‘er down, i got a trailer.

man #1- a trailer and a bad back.

man #2- i didn’t say i was gonna help ya lift nothin’! hahaha.

man #1- yeah laugh it up, ya blockhead.

(focus is shifted to the women passing by the pole.)

woman #1- how’s your knee?

woman #2- it’s feeling better. the physical therapy is paying off.

woman #1- it does. i’m sure it wasn’t easy.

woman #2- it wasn’t, but i did it!

woman #1- you did and you took care of him the whole time!

woman #2- you know he didn’t take care of himself!

(they stop to laugh. one of the men off-stage calls back.)

man #1- will you two keep movin’? otherwise we can call you a cab!

woman #2- oh hush. i’ve got the keys, remember?

woman #1- has he always been this foggy?

woman #2- ha! this is him on a good day!

(a two-man patrol of officers.)

officer #1- so he tells the guy, ‘get your fucking hands where i can see them! right now!’ you know? ‘do it motherfucker!’ that kind of stuff.

officer #2- yeah.

(they stop in front of the lamppost and watch the crowd continue to pass.)

officer #1- yeah, well, he hears the guy saying something but he’s only kind of mumbling it. and so of course he figures the guy is fucked up on something. like he’d stolen the car and then gone and bought himself a case of beer or something to celebrate.

officer #2- yeah.

officer #1- anyway he tells the guy, ‘put your hands where i can see them and get out of the car.’ then the guy says what sounds like, ‘blehblheciaca,’ you know? and then he starts honking the horn. just full on ‘REEEEEEEEEE!’ so davis kinda circles around and looks into the cab. the guys passed out. he can’t even lift his head off the steering wheel. he was shooting up the rest of his heroin while he was in there. knocked himself clean out. the moron. scared the shit out of davis too.

officer #2- jesus. did the guy make it?

officer #1- i don’t know, actually. probably not. sounded like he shot up a lot.

officer #2- that’s fucked up.

officer #1- yeah.

officer #2- hey you see that kid?

officer #1- the one in the sweater?

officer #2- yeah.

officer #1- yeah i see him.

officer #2- he just looked at me weird.

officer #1- huh. now where’s he going?

officer #2- should we follow him?

officer #1- why not? not much else going on. the drunks won’t be out till later.

(start walking off.)

officer #2- you hope.

officer #1- yeah that’s right. i hope. cause by then i’ll be off.

officer #2- shit. got me working a double.

(they leave.)

(a group of four young women.)

girl #1- how was the honeymoon?

girl #2- oh my gosh. amazing!

girl #3- girl, did you two just have the best time ever?

girl #2- we did. he was so sweet. he wanted to carry me into the room and he made sure the hotel changed out my flowers everyday. they weren’t really mine, but he kept calling them mine. he clipped them up one day and made me a crown with them. i’ll show you a picture. (they all stop while she searches her phone for the picture.) he really made me feel special.

girl #4- ha, no duh! you are special.

girl #2- you’re sweet.

girl #4- no you are. haha.

girl #2- haha, no you are!

girl #1- am i sweet?

girl #4- no. you’re a cunt-whore.

girl #1- haha, fuck you!

girl #4- no fuck you!

girl #1- no fuck you!

girl #2- oh i found the picture!

(all gather round to look.)

girls #1-4 in unison- AWWWWWWW!

(the lights cut out and the sound of a bomb exploding.)

end of act two.

act three

(the sounds and concussion of an explosion are heard. the lights reveal a smoldering wedding altar center-stage. bodies are scattered about. only one moves and sits up. most are clearly dead. their clothes are torn. their faces are bloody.)

(the groom is the first to regain his senses.)

groom- honey? oh my god.

(moans start to build up from the mess, but just as quickly they die out.)

groom- honey where are you?

(a woman sits herself up near the front of the stage.)

woman- hello?

groom- hello!?

woman- where am i?

groom- please sit down, madame. please stay down while i find my wife.

woman- the wedding.

groom- honey where are you?

(he starts to dig near where he thinks she must be.)

woman- the wedding. she was carrying white flowers and she was wearing white.

groom- yes, yes. she was. (moving towards her) can you get up?

woman- what’s that?

groom- can you stand madame? or do you have a phone?

woman- i… i don’t know.

groom- do you have a purse?

woman- (starting to cry) don’t yell at me! i didn’t do anything!

(the groom moves away in frustration. he resumes looking for his wife.)

groom- is anyone else here alive?!

woman- how can this…

(an arm raises out of the rubble. a child’s.)

groom- oh my god. (moving towards the arm. he digs the child out. a girl in a scalded dress. her face is burned.) sweetie are you alright?

(the child is dazed and expressionless.)

groom- are you hurt little one? can you tell me how hurt you are? your face? does your face hurt you badly? can you speak?

(the child just stares at him.)

groom- madame can you take the girl?

woman- what girl?

groom- this girl. she’s badly burned. and apparently in shock. can you take her?

woman- who’s girl is she?

groom- i don’t know. i can’t hardly recognize her. the flower girl maybe. my wife’s niece, i think. i can’t say for sure.

woman- give her here.

groom- alright little one. (handing the girl to the woman, still seated.) there we go!

woman- there we are! let me hold you, sweet girl.

groom- madame, can you manage. i must find my wife. (pause.) and my mother and father. (realizing.) can you manage the girl? i must find them all.

woman- who?

groom- my family.

woman- ah yes. well (she points) who are they?

groom- i see two cousins dead. there are a few there i don’t know, or can’t recognize. do you know anyone here?

woman- i’m not sure.

groom- who did you come with?

woman- i… i’m sorry. i just can’t recall.

groom- try and remember and i will help you find them.

woman- i will try. (turning to the little girl.) won’t we try, sweetie?

groom- ok. do you feel like you want to move?

woman- what?

groom- do you want me to move you in case they come back?

woman- who’s coming back?

groom- listen, can you move? i can move you to the tent over there if you’d like. but i need to look for anyone still living.

woman- i don’t think i should move. i can’t feel my toes.

(both realize what that means.)

groom- well just stay calm, alright.

woman- but i can’t feel anything!

groom- you will. in time. just relax.

woman- i can’t feel my legs!

(the girl senses the badness and starts to cry. he takes her from the cracking woman and holds her against his shoulder.)

groom- sh-sh-shhhhh! little one. it will be ok.

woman- i can’t feel my–

groom- listen! you must. please. i need you to watch her.

woman- but–

groom- madame i can move you, but i must start looking right now.

woman- yes. you must look. and i can do this. even sitting down i can.

groom- thank you. (hands the baby back to the woman.)

woman- come here precious girl.

groom- (turning back to the bodies around the altar) honey! i’m here! please. tell me where you are!

woman- (starting to sing) hush little baby don’t say a word, papa’s gonna buy you a mockingbird

groom- (falling to his knees before the altar) honey, please just let me find you. (digging frantically.) i’ll find you. just help me find you.

woman- (singing) and if that mockingbird don’t sing, papa’s gonna buy you a diamond ring

groom- oh my god.

woman- and if that diamond ring turns brass, papa’s gonna buy you a looking glass

groom- (he drags the burnt and bloody body of his wife out from under the others.) you’re here! i’ve found you!

woman- you found her!

groom- oh honey, please say something.

woman- is she still…

groom- say something! (starting to shake her.)

woman- oh no.

groom- honey, please tell me what you were saying. say, ‘i do.’ say, ‘i love you.’

woman- i think she’s

groom- i know but i still want her to breathe. i still want to hear her say it!

woman- i know, but she’s

groom- quiet! be quiet! she’s strong. she’ll say it. she loves me and she’ll say it.

(the woman and the little girl look at each other knowingly.)

groom- say it, honey. you have to today. (he laughs.) it’s our wedding day.

curtain. the end.

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