Scene 3

(Spotlight rises on bitterly cold late winter afternoon in Lafayette Park. A mound of blankets is heaped under the sycamore tree. MONK, bundled almost unrecognizably, stands watch at three 8' x 8' signs



upon which are posted several essays. MONK beats his hands and paces to keep warm. Enter BO and FEY, also bundled.)

BO: "Cold, huh?"

FEY: "Reminds me of inauguration day last year. Pretty brutal for those without enough clothing. We were okay, though. We hardly noticed the cold. We had such fun seeing the President's show cancelled. We wrote to ask him if he'd turn over the half-million dollar parade reviewing stands to the homeless as a shelter for the winter ... he never replied, of course. Other than the wrecking crew that came out to tear the stands down, unused. -- Thanks, Monk, for giving me a chance to go help Jonah with his typing. We ran into Bo just as we were leaving to file final papers at District Court. Peaceful?"

MONK: "Sure. It's too cold for any nonsense but surviving. Hi, Bo. How's housing the houseless?"

BO: "Strenuous. The usual tensions of overworked people. Plus, of course, we're hungry these days."

MONK: "So how many besides Mitch Snyder are still fasting for the government to let you rebuild Rat-trap Hotel?"

BO: "Eleven of us."

MONK: "As usual, we only hear about Mitch."

FEY: "Give him credit. He's a great spokesperson. But we who know how hard the rest of you work appreciate you, Bo."

MONK: "You guys got guts, Bo, not eatin' while you're still cooking and carrying food to 800 people. Think Mitch'll die fasting this time?"

BO: "It depends on the President ... and Congress."

MONK: "Not much hope there."

BO: "That depends on public opinion."

FEY: "Is the shelter still open?"

BO: "Yep."

FEY: "What happened to the eviction notice the marshals posted?"

BO: "Still up. But the residents stayed. All but two out of 800. And the marshals chickened out after the White House canned their bazooka-wielding commando leader who had threatened to blow us disobedient derelicts away. THAT sure got through to the Christian citizenry! There were church groups from all over the Washington area forming a human chain around the shelter to keep the marshals away. Not even this administration could ignore THAT public opinion poll."

MONK: "Well, this public is gonna go warm himself at the Yule Log on the Mall."

BO: "Maybe I'll go with you and gawk at the White House Christmas pageant before heading back to the grind. Did you see the bastardized slogan mounted above the President's tree?"

FEY: "No, I haven't had a chance. What's it say?"


FEY: "What about grouches? Are they to be exterminated?"

MONK: "And what's `good will'? And who decides? Doesn't the song say `peace on earth and good will toward all men'?"

BO: "Good questions.... Monk, where are you sleeping these bitter nights? Want to help keep folks fed and housed at 2d and D shelter?"

MONK: "No, thanks. I can't take the clamor. Hate to see folks starvin' themselves for a five million dollar rat trap, too. I found a cubbyhole to keep warm in -- back behind one of the banks. They've covered up most of the grates this year -- there are big steel gorilla cages locked on."

FEY: "So Hester says."

BO: "Maybe the administration plans to stick the homeless inside the cages in the next step of assimilation, rather than help us build a model shelter."

(Enter UJC, two bags slung over his shoulders.)

UJC: "Well, it's goodbye again, dear friends."

MONK: "So you're headin' South, eh, UJC? Off to lobby NASA?"

UJC: "I sure am, campaigning along the way. There's another election coming up, and if I have my way the last one will be thrown out. Not only did the incumbent have me locked up in a mental institution during the campaign, but we now have proof that he may not really have been elected! You've heard about the Miami and Cincinnati VOTESCAMs, of course. Jonah and Fey published stories in their newspaper."

MONK: "I'm not sure I understood those stories."

FEY: "I wasn't either, so I spent some time this winter researching the evidence collected over fifteen years by a pair of renegade journalists who have convinced ME that media-controlled computers have been robbing us of the vote. Helped by the League of Women Voters, who were videotaped punching holes in computer ballots with pencils and tweezers in Miami and Cincinnati. There's a single computer in Brooklyn, New York that collects and adds vote counts via computer-to-computer telephone hookup from all over the country for all federal elections. That means the President. I found out this single computer is owned and closely controlled by ABC, CBS, NBC, AP, and UPI. There's proof if you want to see it."

UJC: "These are the same folks, of course, who decide which three or four of the several hundred presidential hopefuls receive media coverage. Now, if they'd implement my idea of voting by personal computer, maybe we could have a truly representative electorate. Give 'em the facts and let 'em choose. My new platform slogan is 'WHY DIE FOR THE VOTE?' I think I may as well go wait out the end in Florida -- and try to see if I can't get somebody to listen to my program for averting disaster. I also thought I'd stow away on the next Challenger mission to the moon."

(Enter SPOOFNER bundled in street clothes.)

BO: "Undercover duty, I see, Spoofner. What is it today, narc squad? Surely you don't expect to catch anyone smokin' in this weather."

SPOOFNER: "I guess your time digging in dumpsters for CCNV has addled your brain, Bo."

(BO smiles knowingly. SPOOFNER turns to UJC.)
"Don't pay any attention. HE knows I've been unemployable as a cop for a year, now."

UJC: "A harsh penalty, Spoofner. I must say I'm grateful, though. One of you tree monkeys managed to inspire the Antioch Law School professor to step in and rescue me from lawyer Chizzum's inept claws.... Do you want to join my odyssey, Spoofner? The climate's bound to be better down in Florida."

SPOOFNER: "Thanks anyway. I'm needed here. I'm opening a 'home for the homeless.' It's enlightening. By the way, you needn't feel responsible for my current choice of work. I wasn't fired. I was offered a year's `recuperative' leave -- complete with paid vacation at a 'stress farm.' Something profound happened to me up in that tree. I quit instead. And I'm glad. This life agrees with me -- hard on my arthritis ... but easy on my mind."

(Enter LUTHER.)

LUTHER: "Have you seen Hester?"

MONK: (Nods over at mound of blankets under tree.) "Over there. She came up for air a while ago, asking for Fey, didn't make much sense otherwise."

LUTHER: "Hey, Bo, have you heard? The President just okayed the five million dollars for the shelter!"

BO: "Where did you hear that?"

LUTHER: "I stopped by 2nd and D to get my feet doctored."

BO: "I leave one day in six months, and darned if I don't miss the punch line. Great! FOOD! I think I'll go find out what happened. Want to celebrate with us before you leave, UJC?" (UJC assents.) "Spoofner?"

SPOOFNER: "Sure. See you later, folks."

(BO, UJC, MONK and SPOOFNER exit.)

LUTHER: "I'm worried about Hester, Fey. She has a bum heart. Only thing keeps her goin' is AC needs her. And now he's in the hospital again -- had another attack yesterday -- not expected to make it. She's feelin' real bad."

FEY: "Are you bringing her liquor again to make things worse, Luther?"

LUTHER: "No, Fey, not no more. Not today. Not yesterday, neither. I been thinkin'. I'm 53 years old. It's time for me to quit. The way my liver's been treated ... that's what else's gettin' Hester, her liver kept on drinkin' chemicals, and Lord if I know which got her, but the ol' gal ain't got much breath left. I learned a lot out here -- you know that, Fey, I don't bug you no more, do I?" (She shakes her head and smiles.) "I promised AC I'd look after Hester best I can. Gotta keep my wits."

(The mound of blankets stirs, and HESTER sticks her head out blearily.)

HESTER: "Izzat Fey? I went lookin' for Fey and she wasn't THERE!"

(FEY goes over and squats beside her.)

FEY: "I'm here, dear."

HESTER: "AC? Where's AC?" (Tries to get up, falls back down, her eyes clear a bit.)

FEY: "In the hospital, Hester."

LUTHER: "You remember, Hester. We went to see him this morning!"

HESTER: "Oh. Yeah. He looked like death. Be better off if he was dead, what kind of life do we have? OUR AGE, we should be sittin' in front of a fire someplace...."

LUTHER: "Do you want to go down to the Yule fire behind the White House? That'll warm you up, Hester."

HESTER: "You go." (Burrows down under blankets.) "AC'll know where to find me, here."

(Enter PARK POLICE ROOKIE, who strolls through the park observing, walks up to blankets.)

ROOKIE: "Are you all right in there?"

(Radio crackles. One eye peeps out.)

HESTER: "Yeah."

ROOKIE: (Nods, strolls past FEY.) "Keep warm, Mrs. Jonah." (Exits.)

LUTHER: "That's a change!"

FEY: "Yes. Peace Park has become quite civilized since we filed the lawsuit."

(Enter CHARLES, an ex-NASA astrogeophysicist from New Mexico, who reads JONAH's essays on the signs with relish. CHARLES weighs over 300 lbs., is bearded, dressed in overalls and a ragged coat patched with shiny silver duct tape. A gap-toothed grin shines beneath keenly intelligent eyes. He approaches FEY.)

CHARLES: "It looks like I've found a home. Are you composer of these signs?"

FEY: "Two of them."

CHARLES: "And how about the essays?"

FEY: "Jonah wrote those." (JONAH enters.) "Oh, great, here he is now."

CHARLES: "I need to meet this man." (Advances on JONAH, hand outstretched.) "My name is Charles Hyder. I have an idea for a couple of signs: `MR. PRESIDENT, HISTORY AWAITS YOU! END WAR! END VIOLENCE! END TYRANNY!' And 'WHAT I OWN MATTERS NOT; FOR ALL TO LIVE, I'D GIVE THE LOT.' I think I'll set them up down the sidewalk, eight foot square, if that's all right with you."

JONAH: "It's a free park." (They shake hands warmly.) "You might find your signs outlawed soon, though -- the Interior Department has written a new regulation due to be enforced any day now which will restrict us to no more than two four foottsquare signs per demonstrator..."

CHARLES: "That doesn't allow for much creativity!"

JONAH: "...despite our lawsuit -- but you may as well go ahead and get some intellectual licks in before the larger signs are splintered. What's a sign, anyway, but wood and paint and a piece of your mind? You're welcome here in Peace Park. Stay as long as you can. People come and go."

CHARLES: "I'm here for the duration -- after I tell my five grown kids I've found my next anti-holocaust chore. I've been fighting proposed nuclear waste dump sites for l2 years. I lost my job with NASA in the process. But we won the battle -- New Mexico salt mines are still radwaste free..."

JONAH: "You're from New Mexico?"

CHARLES: "Land of the gods. I was living in a state of bliss. But the holocaust kept intruding. So I decided, dammit, I'd just have to come down off my mountaintop and take care of the holocaust or I'd never be able to enjoy Nirvana." (Looks around.) "Interesting spot to see out the end.... You call this `Peace Park'? I thought it was named after General Lafayette."

FEY: "We renamed it last 4th of July and proclaimed it a nuclear-free zone. Peace Park Hiroshima greeted us by live radio during the 40th anniversary commemoration of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki bombings. Taxi drivers and tour guides call it Peace Park these days, so I guess we're on the people's map. The President's men and women call it 'President's Park' - but since he's never been seen out here we figure our name for it has more validity than his.... You say you're anti-nuclear. Is that anti-nuclear power -- or nuclear weapons?"

CHARLES: "Both. They're both just as lethal. Just as likely to have an accident. You heard about the accident at Four Mile Island, I assume."

JONAH: "Sure. Heard and read about it. But only what information the 'free' press has provided. Do you know what really happened there?"

CHARLES: "I sure do. I'm a solar physicist, but I keep my nose buried in nuclear issues as a priority...." (Chuckles.) "I find it amusing that what saved Four Mile Island from being an irreversible disaster was an ordinary garden hose." (Chuckles again.) "The folks at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission don't like me much.... I keep telling on them.... We're still being lied to that there will be no more cancer deaths than 'normal' near Four Mile Island -- but a friend of mine knocked on every door around the power plant, and there was a recent cancer in almost every household -- in one, everyone died of cancer! And this only five years after the accident! Wait till we compare the ratio of cancers in the Four Mile Island community to those in non-radiated communities after 30 years. Then there'll be no room for official denials. I predict."

FEY: "An anti-nuclear physicist. What a handy new friend!"

CHARLES: "Well, anti-war physicist would be more accurate."

FEY: "But you're opposed to nuclear power."

CHARLES: "Oh, sure, absolutely, as long as there's nuclear waste. Of course, it's not impossible that scientists will one day find a way to make radioactive wastes harmless. If a method can be found to use nuclear energy with l00% efficiency -- no radioactive waste to contend with -- I'd be all for nuclear power. But as yet there is no safe nuclear waste disposal system. Therefore all reactors should be shut down -- before they melt down. For years I've predicted meltdown was only a matter of time. There are too many reactors with poor safety histories and ripe for disaster. Don't believe 'em when they tell you nuclear power is safe in the good old U.S. of A.!" (CHARLES turns to JONAH.) "What's the gist of this lawsuit you mentioned?"

JONAH: "Do you want the full presentation, or a nutshell version?"

CHARLES: "Nutshell first."

JONAH: (Pulls a paper out of his thick briefcase.) "'Conspiracy to punish, suppress or terminate political or moral expression critical of administration policies because of official opposition to those expressions.'"

CHARLES: "And the full presentation?"

JONAH: (Grins.) "Have you plenty of time?"

CHARLES: "All you can spare."

JONAH: "That's a heady promise."

(He begins pulling sheafs of paper from his briefcase as their heads bow. Enter STRANGER.)

STRANGER: "You know an old geezer named AC or DC or something like that?"

(HESTER sits up. LUTHER, who has been tucking HESTER in, steps forward protectively.)

LUTHER: "Yeah?"

STRANGER: "Hedied." (HESTER shrieks, clambers out of her blankets and staggers offstage, eluding the others' hands.) "Who's she?"

LUTHER: (Bitterly) "The widow. Will you watch her stuff, Jonah?"

(JONAH nods. LUTHER grabs one blanket and runs offstage after HESTER.)

FEY: "How do you know AC died?"

STRANGER: "Well, I heard."

FEY: "WHERE?" (Looks at him sternly as he squirms.) "You don't know what you're talking about, do you?"

(He shakes his head and exits. FEY calls offstage after LUTHER.)

FEY: "LUTHER! Come BACK!" (Waits, then turns to JONAH.) "I'm going to go check on AC."

(FEY exits. Lights down, then spotlight rises on HESTER entering Metro station wringing her hands, moaning.)

HESTER: "AC, AC, what now, AC?"

(Sits leaning against the wall, hugs herself. A METRO COP enters, stands over her threateningly, taps her on the foot and gestures with his nightstick that she must leave. She gets up and limps away; spotlight stays with her, slide/backdrop rises on alley.)

"I'm tired, AC. Cold and tired. Used to be I could make it on my own. But you spoiled me. I was safe with you. I'm so sick of this life. I don't want to wait." (Weeps wearily.) "Old Man, I'm comin' home."

(Spotlight rises on opposite side of stage on AC snoring in hospital bed, tubes extruding from his nose and wrists, a cardiac monitor blipping. LUTHER enters the alley as FEY enters the hospital room.)

LUTHER: "There you are, Hester. Are you okay?" (She looks at him blankly.) "Here, the wind will sap the life right out of you." (Drapes the blanket around her.) "Lemme take you to Roy Rogers, get you somethin' to eat." (Blanket slips; HESTER still doesn't answer. LUTHER tucks blanket in closely.) "Well, I'll just sit with you here, then, for a while."

(LUTHER wraps his arms around HESTER. Meantime Nurse (Nu) enters, checks AC's pulse, reads the monitor, nods her satisfaction, motions FEY to leave.)

NURSE: (Whispers.) "It looks like he might make it after all."

(FEY hurries out. LUTHER's head nods, dips down on HESTER's shoulder. She jumps once, then sags. AC starts, lifts his head, the cardiac monitor speeds. Head drops back.

METRO COP enters alley and stands for a moment over HESTER and LUTHER, then raps the wall. LUTHER sits up, startled. HESTER doesn't move.)

METRO COP: "Wake up!" (No movement.)

LUTHER: "Hester?...."

(No movement. He shakes her. She slowly topples over. AC stirs, lifts his head again. He and LUTHER simultaneously speak)

LUTHER & AC: "Hester?...."

(METRO COP feels her pulse, calls for backup.)

LUTHER: (Bewildered, tears welling.) "She didn't even let me know she died." (Cries.)

(Spotlight down on AC and LUTHER, rises on FEY, sitting alone on a park bench. She blows on her fingers, then writes in her lap.)

FEY: "`Letter to the Editor: A woman died in an alley two nights ago. This morning I saw your headline: 'BAG LADY DIES OF EXPOSURE.' Hester was no `bag lady.' She was a generous and compassionate friend. And though it was cold the night she died, Hester didn't die of exposure. What Hester died of was a broken heart.'"

(While FEY's writing, ANNIE enters, stands hesitantly watching. FEY becomes aware of her presence, looks up.)

FEY: "Annie? ANNIE?"

(FEY jumps up, dropping her papers, which the wind picks up and blows, and she chases. FEY returns, laughing and clutching her papers.)

FEY: "My God, I never get over how beautiful you are."

ANNIE: "Bad genes." (Her mouth quirks in an errant smile.)

FEY: "Do you have a hug in your heart for me, honey? Or am I too much of a reprobate?"

ANNIE: "A hug? Sure, why not?" (Allows FEY to hug her, stiffly.)

FEY: (Stung.) "What's happening with you? Here, let's sit down."

ANNIE: (Allows FEY to lead her to the bench.) "Well, since I saw you last I've had five jobs, three apartments, I've dropped in and out of college, I've sold all the heirlooms, I'm now unemployed, I'm breaking up with my boyfriend, and lots more that isn't any of your business. Is that enough?"

FEY: (Stifles a smile.) "So, welcome to the world you chose!"

ANNIE: "You may think it's funny, but I'm a wreck. I can hardly stand myself."

FEY: "Good for you."

ANNIE: "What do you MEAN? GOOD for YOU. I should hate myself? Am I that terrible?"

FEY: "No, honey. It just means that you're in the middle of some growing pains. They'll pass quicker if you learn how to forgive."

ANNIE: "Forgive who? You? I'm finding that hard to do."

FEY: "I noticed. No letter for nearly two years."

ANNIE: "You should never have had me. You had no right to have me unless you wanted me."

FEY: "WANTED you? I WANTED you from the day you were conceived! No, since the day my mother miscarried when I was eight years OLD! To me YOU were that long-awaited sister! Poor kid, I always embarrassed you. Other kids had moms." (Laughs.) "Remember when we lived together up there in the north woods, just you, me, and your brother, and I took you to the jazzercise class, you sedate in your proper adolescent clothes, but me in tights and ragged cutoffs, a yellow parka and shocking blue moon boots and you didn't want to be seen with me? Or how you pretended not to know me in Duluth when your brother and I skipped down the middle of Main Street in broad daylight?" (ANNIE nods solemnly.) "Hey, kid, you could use a sense of humor."

ANNIE: "Well, you were okay as a mom, when you were there for me. You know," (grows passionate) "'re the only person I felt at home with, and there you went, running away to live on a sidewalk, how can you expect me to feel at home with you on a sidewalk?"

FEY: (Flinches.) "It was you, you know, who ran away!"

ANNIE: (Aghast.) "I ran away?"

FEY: "Yes."


FEY: "When you left D.C. You could have stayed here. I asked you to. But you didn't want to. I've often figured maybe you were ashamed of having a street person for a mother."

ANNIE: "Well, what do you expect? Besides, D.C.'s too expensive...."

FEY: "So you spent $2,000 moving to the beach...."

ANNIE: "It was time to go."

FEY: "And now you wish you were dead because I don't have a roof to put over your head?"

ANNIE: (Grins sheepishly.) "Well, I suppose that seems melodramatic." (Pumps up new outrage.) "But it's my LIFE we're talking about!" (Sweeps her arm around.) "WHAT do you EXPECT?"

FEY: "Nothing but the finest."

ANNIE: (Grimaces.) "I know."

(They both fall silent. ANNIE's foot taps impatiently on the ground as she looks out at the White House; FEY watches ANNIE's hands twisting in her lap.)

FEY: (Sighs.) "And you? Where do you go from here?"

ANNIE: "Well, that's really what I came to tell you. I've joined the Navy."

FEY: "The Navy."

(ANNIE looks at her defensively as FEY thinks a long moment.)

FEY: "Okay.... But what if you have to kill?"

ANNIE: "I won't. I'm a girl."

FEY: "What if that changes? It's easy to kill these days -- a push of a button, a video game."

ANNIE: (Rises irritably.) "I'll deal with that. Meantime I travel for six years, get trained, and Uncle Sam takes care of me."

FEY: (Remains seated. Thinks a moment.) "Well, we all have to learn our own way. This is bound to be educational." (Grins.) "Let me know what you find out, okay? And ... Annie?"

ANNIE: "What?"

FEY: "Thanks for telling me."

ANNIE: "Sure." (ANNIE turns away, toward audience.) "This is torture. I'd better get out of here before I fall apart."

FEY: (Stands up. Turns toward audience.) "This is torture. Such distance. So unnatural. Unnatural? I'll figure it out after she's gone." (They turn, bump into and grab each other.) "Please, Annie, thaw ... or go ... I pray ... before I fall apart." (They hug clumsily.)

ANNIE: "I have to go!"

FEY: "You do? I know."

(ANNIE pulls back and walks away, her back stiff and straight. FEY watches her, hand unfolded, until just before ANNIE exits.)

FEY: "I love you!"

ANNIE: (Pauses, looks back over her shoulder and nods once, lips pressed firmly together.) "I love you too. But why does love have to hurt so bad?"

(She turns and exits.)


Peace Park Page | Proposition One