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The Strangest Kind of Romance

A Lyric Play in Four


Scenes

Thc gcna cnforces tmirfu; bu,

zoa hattc

nan

tha tnoon in lonaly alleYt tnahe

a grail of laughter of an cmqty ash can, and tbough dll rcund of gaiety amd gucst han bcard a kitten in the zttildarnest, Hrnr CneNr (CluPlincsgual

CHARACTERS

TsB Boxrn. Nrrcnrvo, t/ze cat.

Tnr Lnrr.r Mars. Tnr Laworaoy. Tsr Or,o MlrN, her father-in_law.

The Strangest Kind of Romance


Scnwr: A fu.rnished room im a small industrial city of the niddle-atestern sttttes. It any srch rootn etcce?t that the .reserttbles walls are covered with imniptioi, tlze of fortncr occa?ants of it, men wlzo ha,ue steyed and. pissed along to other suclt. places, tlte itinerant, ummanied *rk;*g*"* oio *"tion. Tltere are two windows. One shows the d,eicate branches ol a tree ilzat is sunend'ering its reaves to rate euta,ftw. The other window adrnits a view of the brktling stacks ol the great *oo* factaring plant wlzich is the heart ollhe city.

Scnvr

Tlze Landlady, a heavy of foty anho n o,tres and speak ??ry utitlz a powerful sort ol indotettci, is'showing tlr" roori to a ?to:?ect*e room,er, the Linle Man, dark oh, *or" d"tiraiu and, nentoas in appearante iltan laborers usuoily are. As soon as lze en*rs the door beh.ind the Landldy, his'renorkably iL lapidated suitcase con es a?arr, spilling its conrents o,uer ,he fl.oor--.unlaandered shirts, old sho)s, sh"oe-polish, a rosary.

La*pr,aoy: (laugh.ing) Well! The suitcase has decided! tTr (ltooVtng to replace the scattered articles) _ been working loose all day. Lawpr,epy: How long have you had that suitcasel Lrrrr.r Max: Since I started traveling. r35

Lt;1r,e

lts

Lrrtr.r MeN: Itts a beautiful room.


Lelrplany: Whotre you kiddingl Lrmr.n MeN: You. FIow muchf Lar*pr.epy : Three-fifty-in advance. Lrrrr,r Maw: I will take it, providedLaworeny: Whatl Provided? Lnrr,r Mew: I can do like the Russian and keep the cat here with me. Lewnr,epy: (grinning) Oh, so you want to do like the Russian. Lrr-rrr Mex: Yes. Launr,eny: (fi*i"S her hair at tlre racked nirror) My husbanrs a chronic invalid. An injury at the plant. Lrrrr,r MaN: Yeahl Itm sorry. Lenprenv: Codein every day. Fifty cents a pill is what it costs me. I wouldntt mind if only he wasntt such a pill sometimes himself. But who can look at suffering in a person? Lrrrr,n MeN: Nobody. LaNu.roy: Yes. That's how I feel. Well . . . the Russian used to help me out with man's work in the house. Lrmrr MeH: I see. LeNpr.epy: How old are youl I bet I can guess! Thirty-fivel
Uh-huh. About. Leuorapyi Eyetalianl Lrmr,n Mau: Uh-huh. Ler.rnlaoy: Wouldn't you think that I was a fortune-tellerl My father was a Gypsy. He taught me a lot of the Zigeunet songs. FIe used to say to me, Bella, yourre nine parts music-the rest is female mischief ! (Slze smiles at him.) That instrument on the wall's a balalaika. Some night ltll drop in here to entertain you. Lrrrrr Meu: Good. I heard you singing as I came up to the house. That's why I stopped. (She smiles again and, stand,s as il waiting.)

Itll call you Musso. Musso for Mussolini. you got jobl Lrmr,e MaN: Not yet. Lerqpr-epy: Go down to the plant ant ask for Oliver Woodson. Lrrrr.r Merv: Oliver Woodsonl Lenpr,eoy: Tell him Mizz Galbway sent you. He'll put you right on the pay-roll.
Lnmpr.epy:
a

Lrrrr.r Mex:

Good. Thanks. Lexnr,apy: Linenrs changed on Mondays. (She srur, ,o tutt away") I got to apologi",e for the condition the walls are in. Lrrrr,r Merq: I noticed. Who did itl Lenpr,apy: Every man who lived here signed his name. Lrrrr.r Man: There must have been a lot. Lanor-epv: Birds of passage. You ever try to count theml RestIessness---changes.

Lrrrr,r Mew: (smiling) Yeah.


LaNor.eoy: Youtd think a man with pay-money in his pocket would have something better to do than sign his name on the walls of a rented bedroom. Lrmr.n MaN: Is the Russiants name here, tool LaNor,epy: Not his name, he couldntt write-but his picture. There! (She paints to a childish carroo?, of a big mon.) Right beside it, look-tail-whiskers-the cat! (Thry both taat{h.) Partners in misery, huhl Lrrrr.B Men: A large manl LaNpr.aoy: Tremendous! But when the disease germ struck him, it chopped him down like a piece of rotten timber . . . Statistics show that married men live longest. Irll tell you why it is, (Sh,e stroightens her bloase and ad.ju.sts the belt.) Men that-live by themselves-get peculiar ways. All that part of their lives that was meant to be taken up with family matters is all left over-empty. You get what I meanl Lrr:rrr MeN: Yeahl LeNnrepv: Well . . . They fill it with make-shift things. I once

Lrr:rrr Mru:

r38

r39

LeNor..epv: You must be Gulliver, then! Yory've stood up under the strain a lot better than it has. Lrrrr.n MeN: (stroightenizg) I don't know. Larqor.eov: You aintt held together by such old worn-out roPes. Lrrrr,n MaN: (smiling shyly and' sad.ly) I dontt know. Lenpr,epy: (crossing to rahe the dindoavblind) About this

Lrrrr.r Maw: The Russiani


Lnwpr.apy: Sympathetic, but silent. While I talked he was only watching the cat. Lrrrln MeN: (smiting o little) And so you don't like herl LeNoraov: NO. (Sia sits comfortably on the bed.) Itll tell you the story. FIe was a Russian or something. Polacks I usually call 'em. Occupied this room before he took sick. He'd found the cat in the alley ant brought her home ant fed her ant took
care of ter ant let ter sleep in his bed. A dirty practice, animals in the bed. Dontt you think so? (The Little Man sh'rugs.)

room-I

hope you aintt superstitious.

Lrmr.n Man: Whyl


Lnwnr,apv: This room is one that a man lived in who had a bad run of luck. Lrrrlp Mew: Oh. What happened to him? (The Lattdlad'y sud.denly obsenses the cat on the bed.) LeNpr-epv: Now how did that cat get in here? A little mysteryt huhl She must've got up the pear tree, dropped on the roof

Well'-the work at the plant is unhealthy for even a strongbodied man. The Polack broke down. Tuberculosis developed. He gets an indemnity of some kind and goes West. The cathe wanted to take her with him. I set my foot down on that. told him she'd disappeared. He left without her. Now

of the porch, an' climbed in th'window. (Tha Little Man sets don)n his valise and tosses gefi\ smiling to the cat. He
picks her up atith great tend'erness.) She used to occupy this room with the Russian. Lrmr.r Men: The whol LrNnr-apv: The fellow I mentioned who had the bad run of luck. I used to say I thought she brought it on him. Lrcrr.r MeN: They loved each otherl LlNpr-nov: I never seen such devotion. Lrrrr,n MeN: Then she couldn't have brought the bad luck on him. Nothing's unlucky that loves you. Whatts her namel LeNpr-eov: Nitchevo. Lrrrr.r MeN: Whatl LaNor.apv: Nitchevo. That's what he called her. He told me once what it means but Itve forgotten. It used to give me a
pain.

can't get rid of the dirty thing.

Lrrrr.e Mew: The catl


LaNpr.epv: Twice today I thrown cold water on her when she come slinking around here looking for him. See how she stares at mel Hatred. Withering hatred. Just like one jealous woman looks at another. I go* shets waiting around for him to come home. Lrr:n MeN: Will het

Lrmr.r MaN: Whatl


Lersor..e,ov:

Itd

come in here to talk. The circumstances Itve got

to live under are trying. I have a good deal of steam to blow ofi. He was a good listener. r36

need

LlNpr.apv: Never in this world. Lrr:rlr MeN: Deadl LeNor.eov: The sixteenth of January I got the notice. Wasntt nobody else to be informed. (The Little Mot nods with a sad snile and strokes the cat.) Some people say an animal understands. I told her this morning, He aintt coming back, hets dead. But she dontt understand it. Lrrrr.B Mxv: I think she does. Shets grieving. (holding het ogaimst his aar) Yes, I can hear her-grieving. Llwpr,anv: Youtre a funny one, too. How does this be&oom suit youl t37

Lrr:rr-r Mar: Itts

a beautiful room.

Laxor-aov: Who're you kiddingl Lrrrlp Mau: You. FIow muchl Laxpr,apv : Three-fifty-in advance. Lrrrrr MaN: I will take it, providedLaupreoy: Whatl Providedl Lrrru Maw: I can do like the Russian and keep the cat here with me. tanpr,eny: (grinning) Oh, so you want to do like the Russian.

Ltrrr,r

Mer.r: Yes.

Laxpr,epy: (fi*in7 her hair at the crackad mirror) My husbants a chronic invalid. An injury at the plant. Lrr-rlr MeN: Yeahl Itm sorry. Lexprepy: Codein every day. Fifty cents a pill is what it costs me. I wouldn't mind if only he wasn't such a pill sometimes himself. But who can look at suffering in a person? Lrmrn MnN: Nobody. LeNpr,anv: Yes. That's how I feel. Well . . . the Russian used to help me out with mants work in the house. Lrrrln Meu: I see. Lenor.epy: How old are youl I bet I can guess! Thirty-fivel LrmlB MeN: Uh-huh. About. teNor,apyi Eyetalianl Lrrrr-B Max: Uh-huh. LaNprepy: Wouldn't you think that I was a fortune-tellerl My father was a Gypsy. He taught rne a lot of the Zigeuner songs. FIe used to say to me, Bella, youlre nine parts music-the rest is female mischief ! (She smiles at him.) That instrument on the wall's a balalaika. Some night Itll drop in here to entertain you. Lrrrur MeN: Good. I heard you singing as I came up to the house. That's why I stopped. (She srniles again and sta*d,s as if waiting.) r38

LeNpr,npv: I'll call you Musso. Musso for Mussolini. You got a jobl Lrrrr,r Merv: Not yet, Leupr,epy: Go down to the plant ant ask for Oliver Woodson. Lrrrr-n Mer.i: Oliver Woodsonl Lenor,apy: Tell him Mizz Gallaway sent you. He'll put you right on the pay-roll. Lrrrr"B MeN: Good. Thanks. LeNnr,epy: Linen's changed on Mondays. (She storrs to turt away.) I got to apologize for the condition the walls are in. Lrrrr,r Mew: I noticed. Who did itt Laxor,apy: Every man who lived here signed his name. Lrrrr.B Men: There must have been a lot. Lenpr,eoy: Birds of passage. You ever try to count theml RestIessness--<hanges.

Lrrrr-e Men: (smiling) Yeah. Ler.inr.eny: Youtd think a man with pay-money in his pocket would have something better to do than sign his n4me on
the walls of a rented bedroom. Lrrrr,r Men: Is the Russiants name here, tool L.o,wor.eoy: Not his name, he couldn't write-but his picture. There! (She points to a childish carroon of a big rnen) Right
beside

it, look-tail-whiskers*the cat! (Th"y both lough.)


disease germ struck

Partners in misery, huhl

Lmrr-r Meu: A large man? Lenor"aoy: Tremendous! But when the

him, it chopped him down like a piece of rotten timber . . . Statistics show that married men live longest. I'll tell you why it is. (She straightens her blouse and ad.justs tlte belt.)

Lrrrrr Merq: Yeah? Lawnrapy: Well . . . They fill it with make-shift things. r39

Men that-live by themselves-get peculiar ways. All that part of their lives that was meant to be taken up with family matters is all left over---mpty. You get what I mean?

once

had a roomer who went to the movies every night of the week. FIe carried a brief<ase with him all of the time. Guess what he carried in it! Llr:rr-r MaN: Whatl LeNor.epy: sanitary paper toilet-seats. (The Little Man loohs away in ermbarrassrmel1't.) L crank about sanitation' Another

Or,n Mer: I'm only looking for some empty bottles. F{ave you any empty bottles?

Lauor-eov: How would he have empty bottles?


moved in.

He

just

Or,o MeN:

I had, had a pair of pet bedroom slippers'


Lrrrr.r
Pet-bedroom-? LeNpr.e,ov: Slippers. Plain gray felt, nothing the least O1t P1c' turesque about them. Only one thing-the odor! Flighly ob' jectionable, after fifteen years-the length of time I 1&o1 h. *.r.t rve worn ,em! well-the slippers disappeared-accidentally on PurPose' as they say! Fleavens on earth! How did I know he would die of a broken heartl He practickly d\dl (she lat*glzs.) Life was incomplete without those bedroom slippers. (She turns back to the walls') Some day I'm going to iake rne a wire scrubbing-brush ant a bar of Fels'
M.q,n :

fr"pltn"

ant leave them walls as clean as they was before the first roomer moved in. (The d'oor is pushed' open' The QId' Mon enters. He looks like WaIt Whitman')

trade them in at the Bright Spot Delicatessen. I'll drop in later to finish our conversation. (He goes oilt.) LeNnlapv: My father-in-law. Don't encourage him, he'll be a nuisance to you. (She taps her forehead.) Alcoholic-gone! Lrrrrr MaN: (sinking down on the bed' and' lifting the cat again.) I'm-tired. Lexpr,aov: I hope youtll be comfortable here. I guess thatts all. Lrrr:,r MeN: Oliver Woodson? Lexpr.eov: (ot the door) Ohryes4liver Woodson. (She goes out. The Little Mon rises and. retnoqtes a st*b of pancil lrom his pocket. Srniling a little, he goes to the wall ond. beneath rhe large ond elkptical selfTortrait of the Russion, he draws his own lean figne, in a lew gukk pcncil statches- Beneath the cafs ?rcttre, he p*ts an etuPhntie check+ttark. Then he smiles at the cat *nd stands asid.e to saruey.)
CURTATN

Olo Mars: You mustntt do that,

daughter'

LeNnr.apv: Aw. You. WhY mustntt Il Olo Men: These signatures are their little clairns of remembrance. Their modest bids for immortality, daughter. Dontt brush them away. Even a sPat'row-leaves an emPty nest for a souvenir. Isntt that so, Young man? Lrtrr.r Marv: Yes. oro Man: cataracts have begun to- (He wal)es his hand' in of his nearly sightless eyes') l'm not sure where you

ScsNr

II

It

front
are.

while you stay. And write your name on the wall! You wontt be forgotten. LeNor,epv: Thatts enough, now, Father' r40

Ltrrln MeN: (sttetching oat his hand) Flere' olo Mew: Be comforted here. For the little

is late one night that vinter. The fu'rnished room is enapty ercce?t for the cat. Through the frosted' panes of the windorp in the left wall a steely winter moonlight enters" The window in the right wall adrnits the flickering ruddy glow of the plant and. its pulseJike throbbing is hemd fairtly. The Little Man errrers and saitches on the suspend,eil elecftic globe. He carries a small package. He smiles ot Nitchauo ond' wnwaps the pachage. It is a srnall bottle of crearn wh'ich he brand'ishes belore
her.

r4r

Lrmr-r MaN: Just a minute. (He lowers the window shade that (He pows th'e laces the ptant.) Now. We forget the plant. crea"ln,in a blue saucer.) There. Supper. (He sets it on the
don't be fl.oor by the bed' and' sits to watch her eat.) Nitchevo, hands my winter In about. nervous. There's nothing to worry get stifi, it makes me clumsy. But I can rub them together, I
can massage the joints. And when the weather turns warmer stiffness will pass away. Then I won't jam uP the ma-

Lrrlt.s MeN: Itm-not

-the chine any more. Today Mr. Woodson got mad. He bawled me out. Because my clumsy fingers jammed the machine' FIe stood behind me and watched me and grunted-like this! (He uilers an omino'tr,s gril,nt.) Oh, it was like a knife stuck

in me, between my ribs! Because, you seer I . . . have to keep this job, to provide the supper. Well . . . I began to shake! Like this! (He irnitates shahing-) And he kept standing behind me, watching and grunting. My hands went faster and faster, they broke the rhythm. All of a sudden a part was put out of piace, the machine was jammed, the belt conveyor stopped! SCR-E-E-ECH! Every man along the line looked at me! Up and down and all along the line they turned and stared-at nre! Mr. Woodson grabbed me by the shoulder! ('There you go," he said, ('you clumsy Dago! Jammed up the works again, you brainless Spick!" (H" covers his face") Oh, Nitchevo-I lost my dignity-I cried. . . . (H" draws kis breath in a shwd'dering sob.) But now we forget about that, that's over and done ! Itts night, wetre alone together-the room is warm-we sleep. . . . (Hu strips off |tis shirt and lies back on the bed,. Th'ere is a knock at the door and' he sits up guickty. He makes a warning gest&re to the cat. But tlze caller is not to be easily discouraged.. Th'e knock is repeated', the d.oor is thrust open. It is th.e Landlad'y in a soiled but fancy
negligee.)

LeNpr,apv: Nobody needs to be bashful on my accotut' I thought youtd gone out and left on the light in your room' We got to economize on electric current. Lrru-n MIN: I always turn it off when I go out. LeNpr-epv: I don't believe you ever go outr excePt to the plant' Lrrrr.r Mar: Itm on the night-shift now. Leupr-aov: The grave-yard shift, they call it. What is the trouble with you and Oliver Woodsonl Lrr"rr,s MaN: Troublel Why? ('Oh, by Lenuanv: I met him in the Bright Spot Delicatessen. way:'I said to him, 3(howts that feller I sent you getting ((Aw, him!" said Mr. Woodalongr that Eyetalian fellerl" son. '(Say, what's the matter with himl Isn't he doing okayltt ttNaw, he jams things uPl' ttwellrt' I saidr ((give him time, I think he's nervous. Maybe he tries too hard.t' Lnrr.n Men: What did he say? LeNpr-epv: FIe grunted. (She smiles. The Little Man pou'rs the rest ol the ffeefir' in the cntts sotrcer. He is trembling') You must try ant get over being so nervous. Maybe what you need is more atnusement. (She sits en the ed'ge of the bed', a:ith the batalaiko.) Sit back down! There's roorn for two on this sofa! (She pats the space beside her. He gingerly sits brck d,own ct a cowiderable distance- His hand's knot otttc' iously together. She ptays a soft chord' ott tha balaloika atd hurns ssith a sidelong glance at ,ha rreruous roomer.) Tiredl Lrrrr,r MeN: Yes. I-eunr-epv: Some nights I hear you-talking through the door. Who is he talking to, I used to wonder. (She chacklas.) At first I imagined you had a woman in here. Well, I'm a tolerant woman.

dressed.

LeNor-env: (resentfully but coyly) Oh-you were playing Possum.

what people need is more than food and more than work at the plant. (She plays dremnily for a rno/r?ent.) So when I heard that talking I was pleased. I said to

I know

r42

myself-((That lonely little man has found a woman!" I only r43

hoped it wasntt one picked up-you know<n the street. Women like that aren't likely to be very clean. Female hygienets a lot more--complicated. Well . . . (The Little Mon looks dovm in an ogony of ernbamassrment.) Lrrrlp MaN: It wasn't-a woman. LeNor,eov: I know. I found that out. Just you. Carrying on a one-sided conversation with a cat! Funny, yes-but kind of pitiful, too. You a man not even middle-aged yet-devoting all that care and time and afiection-on whatl A stray alleycat you inherited just by chance from the man who stayed here before you, that fool of a Russian! The stangest kind of a romance . " . a man-and a cat! What we mustntt do, is disregard nature. Nature says-((Man take woman or-man be lonesomel" (She smiles at hin coyly and, ,ttoves a little ((Man take cat!tt closer.) Nature has certainly never said,
said anything

LRrcpLAoy: Quit dodging the issue! (There is a paase and, ther she torrches his shouJd.er.) thought explained things to

to me.

Ler'rpr.aoy: (fuzpatiently) Because you wouldntt listen! L,rmr.e Mex: Oh, I listened. But all I ever heard was my own voice-asking me troublesome questions! LeNpr-aov: You hear merdonttyou? Lrrrr-n MeN: I hear you singing when I come home sometimes. Thatts very good, I like it. I-aNor.epv: Then why dontt you stop in the parlor and have a chatl Why do you act so bashfuIl (9he rkes and stands back ol him.) We could talk-have fun! When you took this room you gave me a false impression. Lrrrr,r MaN: What do you mean? Lewor-apv: Flave you forgotten the conversation we hadl Lrrrr,n Maw: I dontt remember any conversation. LeNpr,epv: You said you wanted to do just like the Russian. I-rrtr,r M.lw: I meant about the cat, to have her with me! LaNpr.aov: I told you he also helped about the house! Lrmr.n Men: I'm on the night-shift now!

you. My husband's a chronic invalid, codein, now, twice a day! Naturally I have-lots of steam to blow ofr.! (The Liule Mam firoves neryousl! away. She tollows gonderously, rercb ing above her to switch off the electric globe.) Now-that's better, aintt itl Lrmr,n Mar'l: I don't think I know--cxactly. Lerpr,eoy: You ain't satisfied with the room? Lrrrr,r Men: I like the room. LeNpr.aov: I had the idea you wasntt satisfied with it. Lrr"rr,r Meu: The room is home. I like it. Ler.lor.eoy: The way you avoided having a conversation+lmost ran past the front room every night. Why dontt we talk togetherl The cat's got your tongue? Lrtrlr MaN: You wouldntt be talking-to me. tar.ror,apv: Itm talking to you-direckly! L,rtrr.r Mew: Not to ma. taupr,aoy: You! Me! Where is any third partyl Lrurr-r Mew: There isn't a second party.
LaNpr-.nnv: What?

Lrrrr,s MeN: You're only talking to something you think

is me"

Lenpr,eov: Now we me getting in deep. Ltrrr-n Mew: You made me say it. (tarning to tace her) l'm not like you, a solid, touchable being. Lewor.any: Words*wonderful! The cat's let go of your
tongue?

Lrr.rr"s Man: Youtre wrong

if

you think

I'm-a

person! Itrn

not-no person! At all . . .


Lewpr..e.nv: What are you, then,

little rnanl
kind of a-ghost of

Lrrrlr

Maw: (sighing a-rnan . . .


Ieonts ghost!

and. shrwgging) A,

Lewor,.eoy: (laughing) So you're not Napoleon, you're Napo-

r4+

t45

Lrrrr,s Marc: When

out....

a body is born in the

world-it

can,t back

LaNpreoy: Huhl Lrrrr,n MeN: But sometimesLauor,aoy: Whatl Lrl:rrr Mer: (with a bewild.ered. gesture) The body is only__a shell. It may be alive-when what's inside-is too afraid to come out! It stays locked up and alone! single! private! That's how it is-with me. you,re not talking to me_but just what you think is me! LeNor,apv: (laaghing gently) Such a lot of words. yourve thrown me the dictionary. All you needed to say was that you're lonesome. (She touches his shoulder.) plain old lonesomeness, thatts whatts the matter with you! (He turns to htr on'd she gently touches !,is fo.ce.) Nature says, ((Donrt be lonesome!" (The cuttain begins to fatt.) Nature says*( Dorlt

Or,o

Will wei (There is a rap at the door.) Bellal (The door is pushed
opan a.nd the Otd. Man uaps inside.) Mau: May I come inl (The Litile Man nods.) Don,r men_ tion this visit to my daughter_in_law. She doesnit

-be lonesomeltt

CURTAIN

Scrur

III

is again hte at night. The Little Mam enters with sno* on his nrned*p collar a*d, knitted black wool cap. He corries the ustnl little pachage o! cream for his friend. the cat. Again he follows his nightly routine of l.owering tke shad.e on ,h.e glare of tlze pla*t, pouring the crean in the blue sattter, ond the sigh.ing relaxation on the bed.

It

Lrrrr,r Mar: Nitchevo-dontt worry-donrt


needless admonition

tie nervous! (l Nitchmo doesn't ha'e a care im ,he for qporld. The Little Mon, smiling, watches her as he hatfreclines om the bed.) As long as we stic-k together therers nothing to fear. There's only danger when two who belong to each other get separated. We wonrt get sepa"rated_nevej

Or.o Mau: Thank you. I wonrt stay long. Llrrr.r Meu: you may stay as long as you wish. Or"o MaN: Thatrs very generorr. oiyor. But I wonrt do it. I know how tiresome I am, a tiresome old man who makes-his needof companionship a nuisance. I donrt suppose yoo_t ro" a little tobaccol Lrt."r,r Mer: (prodrcing some) yes-here. shall I roll it for youl Or,p MeN: Oh, no, no, no. I have a wonderful lightness in my fingers! Lrmr.B MaN: Mine shake, theyrre always clumsy. or.n MeN: yes. I understand that. So liropp"i in. I thought we would have a talk. Lrrrr,r Mers: (em.barrassed) I donrt_talk much. Oro Meu: Fools hate silence. I like it. I see you have books. From the public libraryl Lrmr,u Merc: One or two. I own them. Oro Maw: As I was passing outside, I heard some clinking, Lrrrr.n Mer: Clinkingl or'p Mex: Yes--like bottles. I collect empty bottres which I exchange at the Bright Spot Delicatessei. Lrmr,B Max: The bottle you heard was only a little crearn bottle. It's under the bed. Oro Mer: Oh. That wouldnrt do any good. you drink creaml Lrrrr,r Maw: The cat. Orn Meu: (nod.ding) Ohhh, so the cat is present! That,s what made the air in the room so soft .nd f,rll of ,r"."tr.oi Nitcheve-where are youl

social relations with her roomers. "f where"pfr""" is a chairr Lrrrr,r Mer: (shoving one tuunrd hir) Here.

my having

r46

t47

LrrrI.s MeN:

Shets having her supper.

Or,o Merv: Well, I won't disturb her until she's finished. You are devoted to animalsl Lrrrr,e Men: To Nitchevo. Or,n MeN: Be careful. Llrrln MaN: Of what? Orp Man: You may lose her. Thatts the trouble with love, the

of loss. Lrr"rr.r MeN: Nitchevo wouldntt leave me. Olo MeN: Not on purpose, maybe. But life is full of accidents, chances, possibilities--not all of which are always very good ones. Do you know tJratl
chance

Ltrrr,r

Marq: Yes.

Olp MeN: A truck might run her down. Lrrrr.r MeN: Nitchevo was brought uP on the street. Or-o Mer: The luxuries'of her Present existence may have
dulled her faculties a little. Lrrrr.n M.cn: You dontt understand Nitchevo. She hasn't forgotten how dangerous life can be for a lonely Person. Oln MaN: But she hasntt control of the universe in her hands! Lrmr.r MeN: No. Why should shel Or.p MeN: Other things might happen. You work at the plantl Lrr:rr,r Mell: Yes" Orn Mer.r: (a lonatical light coming into his clotd'ed' eyes) Uh-huh! I know those fellows that operate the plant, I know the bosses. They know I know them, too. They know I know their tricks. That's why they hate me. Look. Suppose the demand for what they make slacked off. Therets two things they could do. They could cut down on the price and so put the product within the purchasing power of more consumers. Listen! Iove read books on the subject! But, no! Therets another thing they could do. They could cut down on the number of things they make--create a scarcity! Seel And boost the price still higher! And so maintain the rich mants margin r48

of proft! Which do you think they'd dol Why, God Almighty-Nllchevoknows rhe answer! Theytd do what they've always done. (He chrckles and rises and bagins to sing in a hoarse tacked ooice.) Hold up, hold up the Profit, Ye Minions of the Boss! Lift high the Royal Proft, It must not suffer loss! (There is a pounding on the wall and vocal objectio* o*tsidc.) Lrrrr.r MaN: Mrs. OrFallon-disturbed. Or,o MeN: Yes, yes! What theytll cut down is production. I-ess and less men will be needed to run the machines. Fewer and fewer will stand at the belt conveyor. More and more workers will fall into the hands of the social agencies. Independence goes-then pride-then hope. Finally even the ability of the heart to feel shame or despair or anything at all-goes, too. What's left? A creature iike me. Whose need of companionship has become a nuisance to people. Well, somewhere along the line of misadventures-is the cat! Lrrrr,n Maw: Nitchevol Or,o Mrrv: (nodding sagaciously) You are not able to buy the
cream any more.

Lrrrrn

Merv: Well? Oro MeN: Well, cats are capricious! Lrrrr,r Man: She isntt a fair-weather friend. Oro Mex: You think she'd be faithful ro youl In adversity,
even?

Lrrrlr

Mew: Shetd be faithful to me. Orn Mex: (bearning slowly) Good! Good! (He touches his eyelids.) A beautiful trust. A rare and beautiful trust. It makes me cry a little. That's all that life has to give in the
way of perfection.

Lrrrr,r MeN: What?


Or,n MaN: The warm and complete understanding of two or

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three in a close-walled room with the windows blind to the world.

and Stupidity, that is the two-armed cross on which you have nailed me! stupidity and cupidity, that is the two-armed cross

Oro Mer'r: (alternatingly

tend'er and, 'rtociferoas) The roof is thin. Above it, the huge and glittering wheel of heaven which spells a mystery to us. Fine-invisible'--cords of wonderattach us to it. And so we are saved and purifred and exalted. We three! You and me and-Nitchevo, the cat! (He lif ts h* against hh eor.) Listen! She purrs! Mmm, such a soft and sweet and powerful sound it is. It's the soul of the universethrobbing in her! (He hand.s her back to the Little M'an.) Take her and hold her close! Close! Never let her be separated from you. For while youtre together-none of the evil powers on earth can destroy you. Not even the imbecile child which is chance*nor the mad, insatiable wolves in the hearts of men! (The sound ol exterior ?rotest gathers vohmw. A a;indow bangs open amd' a asontan' shouts Jor an ofi'cer. The Old Man crosses ta the atindaw that faces the plont. He raises the blind and the f.ickering red' glare of the pulsing forges shines on his bearded. face.) There she is!

on which you have nailed me!', What did he say, thenl The Superintendentl Oro MeH: The Superintendentl Said, ((Hush up, be still! I'll send for the wagon!" Wouex Roounn: (sh.outing in the hall outsid.e) I ain't gonna live in no house with a lunatic! I calied the police, hers gonna

l-rrrrr Mer:

send

for th' wagon!

[,rrrr-r Mau: (sod.ly) She's going to send for the wagon. Orn Mer'r: There! You seel I speak for the people. F'or me,
they send for the wagon! Never mind. Take down rny name. It's Man! (He leans out the windaw and. shakes his fi"rt at tlze plant. The forges blaze higher ond their stead.y pulse seems

Lrr"rr,r MeN: The plant? Orn MeN: Uh-huh. (in a qaiet, corfl)ersatiorrtl tone) The day
before yesterday

('Oliver Woodson," I said, intendent about a job. 'this corporationts too big for me to fight with. Itve come with the ((You're too old," he told rne. olive branch. I want a job.t' ((Never mindrt' I said, ('take down my nameltt ((But, Poprtt (tyou're nearly blindlt'((Never mind,t'I said, he said to me, ('take down my name!" "Okay, PoPr" said Mr. Oliver ttWhatts your nameltt *My name is Manrtt I said. Woodson. ((My name is Man. Man is my namert' I said, ((spelt M-A-N." ('Okayr" said Oliver Woodson. ((Where do you livel" t(I live (tOn whatl" ((On a cross! I live on a cross, on a crossr)t I said. on a cross! (His ttoice rising loud.er and' Iouder-) Cupidity IJO

went down to the plant.

asked the Super-

to quicken with the Old. Manrs frenzy.) I see you and I hear you! Boom-boom-boom! The pulse of a diseased heart! LnNprany: (in the hall) Be still, you drunken old fool, you've woke up the house! Wopren Roourn: (outside) Terrible, terrible, terribtrel Lunatics in the house! ()ro Mew: A fire-breathing monster you are! But listen to me! Because I'm going to speak The Malediction! Go on, go on, you niggardly pimps of the world! You entrepreneurs of deception, you traders of lies! We stand atbay but we are not defeated. The passion of our resistance is gathering force. We can Boom-Boom, too, we,re going to Boom! Itrs only a little while we give you license! We sayr Feed on, Feed on! you race of gluttons! Devour the fesh of thy brother, drink his biood! Glut your monstrous bellies on corruption! And when you're too fat to move-that fist will clench, which is the fist of God-to strike! Strike! STRIKE ! (He smoshes a pane ol the windout. At tlzis m,oment tlte d,oor i.s burst open. Ligh.t .rpills in lrom the h.all.)

I5I

Wouew R.ootrrnn: (outside the d'oruay) Watch out! Hetll kill


somebody!

LaNpr-epv: Mrs. OtFallon, be still, get out of the way! Ofrcer, go on inl (A police oficer enrers' followed' by the Landlady in owrapper. A group of trightened' rootners, gray and blooL less-looking, haddle behind. her in the d'ootw:oy. The AnIe Man stand's clutching the cat ogainst his chest. The Old Mads
rage is s?ent.

abwe her atd. switches it off. He s*ddenly goes ,o her ond phmges his head against her chest,) O beautiful, cruel Zigeuner! Sing to me, sing to me! Comfort me in the dark! (At first she stands stiff ond hostile. Then she relents ond embraces his crouching bod.y, and. begins to sing, softly.)
CURTAIN

He

stand's

with head' hangingin the banal glow

of the electric bulb which the Land,lody switches on.) Lewnr.env: (to the Old' Mon) Ahh, you drunken old fool, my patience is gone. Officer, take him away. Lock him up till he comes to his senses. (The officer gras?s the OId, Marls artn.) Orrrcnn: Come alongr old man. \Mouan Rooprrn: (in the crowd ot the d.oor) A dangerous, criminal character! LaNpr-apv: (to the groa?) Go on, go on back to your beds. The excitement is over. (The Old Man seerms barely consciaus as he is pushed' out the door. The others retreot behind. hbn. The Little Mon makes a dutmb, protesting gest',tre, still clutching Nitchevo agoinst his chest vith one ornt. The Landlady slam.s the door om the others. She turns angrily to face the Little Man.) You! You're responsible for it! Flaven't I told you not to encourage him in his drunken ravingsl Well! . . . Why don't you say somethingl (She ierks the v;indow doan.) Christ. Youtre not a man at all, youtre a Poor excuse. Put down that cat! Throw that animal down! (She stutches Nitchevo lrorn h.irn and casts her to the floor.) She hates me. Lrrrr,r MeN: She doesntt like unkindness. (F/a stares at her.) LeNpr-eoy: (uneasily) Why that-look? What's the meaning of it? Lrrnr,r MeN: Itm not looking at you. I'm looking at all the evil in the world. Turn out the light. I've lived too long in a room that was nothing but windows and always at noon and with no curtains to draw. Turn out the light. (She reaches slowly

Scnrr IV
A norning in spring. The bra*ches oatside the ceind,ows of the fwnished. roont bear d,elicate new lea,ues which cast ,heir trenb bling shad.ovts through the panas. On the v:hite iron bed. is seated. the Boxer in his undershirt paring his corns with o penhnife. With a faint creoking, the d.oor k pashed. open, T he Little Man conres in. His n anner is dazed, he look as though he had
had a long illness.

Lrmr,r Mew: (faintly) Nr-tchevol Boxrn: (grinning) Sorry, you've got the wrong party-my narne is Bill! (F/a points to a s?ace on the wall afiere his signatare is suaailed. in greot letters. A great X mark has been d.raasn through the portraits ol the Rassiam, the Cat, and the Little Man.) Lrr:rr"r Mer: This was-my old roonr. Boxun: Well, it ain't any more. Unless the landlady rooked me. Ltrrr,n Mer: Youtve-moved in herel Boxrn: Yep. I've hung my boxing gloves on the wall. And there's my silver trophies. (He points to glo'ues suspended.
from a nail and several sihter caps on the bweou.) Lrt:rr,B MeN: There was-a cat. Boxrn: A cat? Lrrrr-n Mew: Yes. Boxnn: Yoursi

r52

Lrrrr.n MeN: Yes.

She was

mine-by adoption.

thought

might-hoped-find her here. Boxrn: (tooking ot hint, with hu,morous c*riosity)

I can't help

you out. Lrrrr-r M.eN: You haventt seen onel A gray onel (He tottches his chest.) White-spottedl BoxsR,: Why, I've seen dozens of cats of every description(Away in tlte house somattshere the Land'Iod'y corturtuerrces to sing one of her haot'nting Zigeuner songs. As he speaks the Boxer retutns to paring ltis corns with an amioble expression"\ seen gray ones, black ones, white ones, spitted, spotted, -Itve and sputted! My relations with cats is strictly-loissez foire! Know what that means, buddy? Live and let live-a motto. I've never gone out of my way-(looking up refl.ectitt"b)-to injwre a cat. But when one gets in my way' I usually kickitl (The Litile Man stares at him speechlessly.) Any more in' formation I can give youl Lrr"rrn Meu: You see, I worked at the plant. Boxrn: So? Lrmr-r Mau: I was fired, I-<ouldn't handle the work! Myfingers-froze up on me! On the way home, I-*omething happened. They took me to the Catholic Sisters of Nlercy! (Th.e Boxer grunts") I had no idea how many weeks I was there. Observation-mental. When I got out-I wondered about my cat, and that was only this morning. I've-come to get her. Boxrx: I haventt seen her, buddy, Lrrrr,r Meu: (desperately) She hasn't-dimbed in the window?

Man laughs with kim, breathlessly and. uncontrollably. For several rnatnents tltey laugh together, then all at omce the Little Man's foce puckers up. He covers his fa.ce and. sobs" The Boxer grunts with arnazernent. This is entirely too rnuch. He strid,es to tlze d,oor,) Boxnn: (shouting) Bella! Bella! Hey, tseiial (The Landlad.y answers. Atter a flr"ornem, of tqJ)o she a??ears in the d,oor. Her lorge sirnplicity is gone. She hos trizzed her h.air and. has on a tighrfitilng d.ress and. f,ashy jewelry. In her now is a sinister,
gl.eaming rich.ness.)

Boxnn: No.
ception.

If

she

did she wouldn't have got a very cordial re-

Lrmrr MeN: She hasntt-been


r5+

arownd" thenl (His voice breaks, his lips tremble. The Boxer stares at him incred* lously. Su'd.d.mly he begins to la*gh' Helplessly the Little

Lervpr.eov: Aw, YOU. They tole me you got laid off at th' plant. Itm sorry. The room'as been taken. Itts now occupied by this young gentleman here. Your stufi, your few belongings, are packed in the downstairs closet. On your way out you may as well pick them up. (The Little Man cloax in his pockeu and. puJls out a large dirty rag. He blows his nose on it.) I cantt afrord to let my rooms stay vacant. I got to be practical, don't Il I didn't take you under false pretenses. You must remember the first conversation we had, before you even decided you'd take the room. I told you there wasntt nothing soft in my nature. That I was a character perfectly fair and deeent*but not sentimental. It's luck in this world, plain luck-and you've got to buck it! Lrmr.s Mers: You---<ame in, nights and--sang. Boxnn: FIuh! Lrrrrr Mew: (wond.eringly) Sang. . . . Laupr-aoy: What of itl I gave you free entertainment. But that dontt mean I was sentimental about you. (The Little Mon shokes h.is head.\ LrmlB Meu: Nothingl l.eNnr,aov: Whatl I-rrrr,n Marq: Nothing? BoxrR: (annoyed.) What is thisl What's this going on herel Is this my room or is it somebody else'sl (He grabs his gloves

I5J

frorn the atall..) Return me the fin I paid you and out! LeNnr-epv: Just hold your horses a minute!

Itll

move

Boxrn: Mine or hisl


Leupr,aoy: Yours, horse-mouth! Take it easy! Boxrn: Naw, I won't. I dontt like this kind of business! I rent a room, I want no crack-pot visitors coming an' cryin' over
some---catts disappearance ! Leupr,eoy: Easy, for God's.sake! Is this a national crisisl Mr.Chile con carne! Whatever it is! Please go. Lrrrr.r Mau: (recovering his d,ignity) I'm going. I only wanted

luriously in the face. The Borer grabs his sha*Id.ers atd. shoves him oat the d.oor with a kick.) Boxpn: Now, God damn it! A mad-howe! Lewnr.eoy: Ahhh! Th'Lrrrr,r Mar.i: (screaming through the door) Where is shel Nitchevo, Nitchevo! Where is shel Where did she gol
Nitchevo, Nitchevo! Where! LeNpr,anv: (sueaming back at him) Hroly God, what do I care where that dirty cat went! She rnight've gone to the devil for all I care! Get out of the house and stop screaming! I'lI call the police! (The Littte Man does not ansaw and ,arns aa)ey frorn the door where the Boxer is blocking him,) Boxrn: Huh! Yes-a mad-howe. Lewpr,apv: Out of his mind. Completely, (She wipes her face on her slee,ue and. ad.justs her clothes.) Goingl Can you hearl Boxnn: Yeah. Going back downstairs. Lewplaov: God. I hate for people to make a scene like that. Imagine! Holding me responsible for a sick cat. (She snifi.es a little.) Mean, ugiy, fat. . . . I guess I am. But who isnrt? (She sinks exkaasted.ly on the bed,. The Boxer stand,s at the wind.ous rolling a cigarette.) Boxnn: FIe's gone out back of the house. Leupreny: What's he doing back therel BoxrR: Poking around in the alley and calling the cat. (The Little Man calls in the distance: .rNitch.evo!") Lewor.eny: Useless. He'll never find her. (Th.ere is a swdd.en burst of joyful shouting. The Boxer leans out the vsindow and cltuckles. A softer, watmer guality a??ears in th.e slanting swnlight. There is d.istanr rursic.) Now whatts going onl BoxBn: A celebration. Lewor,aoy: Celebration of whatl Boxrn: (ligh.ting h.is cigarette and resting a loot on the old cra&-pot with the whiskers has found the cat"

to

ask you. Where is the catl

LaNnr.env: (grondly) That question I cannot answer. I turned her out. Lrr.nr Mew: Whenl Leupreov: I dontt remember. Two or three weeks ago, maybe. Lrr:rr.n Mew: (despairingly) No! Boxrn: Christ. Lrrrr-r Men: No, no, no! LeNnrepy: (angrily, to them both) Be still! What do you think I aml The nerve a some people . . . Expeck me to play nurse-maid to a sick alley<at? (There is a pouse.) Lttrr,r MeN: Sickl Lexnr.aoy: Yes! Whining! Terrifrc! Lrrrrr Maw: What was-the matter with herl LeNor,eov: How should I knowl Aml a---qtettinerry? She cried all night and made an awful disturbance. Yes, like youtre making nowl I turned her out. And when she come slinking back here, I thrown cold water on her three or four times! Finally, finally, she took no for an answer! That is all I have to say on the subjeck. LrrT rr Mar: (staring at her) Mean-ugly-fatl. (Ha repeats it faster.) Mean, ugly, fat, mean, ugly, fat! (She slaps hin

sill) The

r56

r57

LeNpr,epy: Found herl Who did you sayl Boxrn: The old man, your father-in-law. Lauoreoy: The old man couldn't have found hert (She gets &? longuid.ly and. rmoves to the wind,ow.) How could he have found herl The old man's blind. Boxrn: Anyhow, he found her. And there they go, (The La4tdlady gazes wonderingly out the atind,ow, Tha Bonar slQs hit arm abou, hot waist. The light is golden, the m,tasic is tabt, ard, tender.) LeNpr.eoy: Well, well, well. And so they are leaving together. The funniest pair of lovers! The ghost of a man-and a cat named Nitchevo! I'm glad. , . . Goodbye! (The m*sic soutds louder and, triumphant,)
CURTAIN

'

r58