By George F. Walker
George F. Walker is one of Canada’s most prolific and popular playwrights. Since beginning his theatre career in the early 1970s, Walker has written more than 30 plays and has created screenplays for several award-winning Canadian television series. Part Kafka, part Lewis Carroll, Walker’s distinctive, gritty, fast-paced tragicomedies illuminate and satirize the selfishness, greed, and aggression of contemporary urban culture.
(In Part Two, Raven wants revenge for her brother’s death and Joel’s the one who is going to get it for her. Stacey wants to kill herself but Kyle helps her and they hatch a plan to get her kids back.
LIGHTS ON PEGGY
So she’s gone. No one knows where. The police basically told me they couldn’t care less. One of them even told me that I should just forget about her. Said he was sorry to have to say that. Yeah right, he looked devastated. The prick.
(Stacey is sitting on the ground. Looking around)
Five tents under a full moon. Two of them not real tents. Pieces of discarded nylon tied to a fence. The other three meant for children, so small. Like mine. Any kind of serious storm and this whole community blows away.
My nearest neighbour has no legs. His lady friend has no mind. Diabetes took his legs. One at a time. And how she lost her mind is a story she doesn’t tell. Not to me at least thank God. Or maybe she has and I just wasn’t listening. Lost in sad wondering like I am one big question still unanswered. Is this just a setback on my way to a life worth living or is this what I deserve?
So! When my kids get old enough. Ask them. Also where’s my runaway companion? Run away too? Just because I wanted him to. I guess this was a bottom too low for him to fight for. A life too hopeless. Even for…A guy who’s spent most of his time on Earth struggling with a “destructive rage condition.” For him this was just too much. He couldn’t appreciate the tranquility of having nothing. The stillness of having no place to go. And how can a rager rage against a guy with no legs? Like my kindest new neighbour or a middle aged junkie gal who does a non stop Pop Princess impersonation.
I think maybe one of the other residents who has three dogs was making him nervous. I was worried. For awhile. But I make more on the street with my nervous man/boy gone. And him leaving was just another thing to make me sad if I let it.
And. Yeah. My sadness is a force. I’m amazed by its power. Where it can take me. How it can trap me there. When I think of losing my kids and how I kissed them both goodbye without saying a word. Not a single word. I stop breathing.
When I get strong enough to die that’s how I’m gonna do it. Just get sad enough to stop breathing forever.
No drama. Just be gone.
The guy with the dogs gets a lot of visitors. They park down the road a bit and walk to his Coleman Weekender. They yell out “Randy” then enter his tent to transact. Might be crack. Because I hear it’s making a comeback. Might be anything because Randy’s connected and, this is true, I sometimes see him in a suit.
Not here but he passes me by on the street sometimes. Just walking Like he’s going somewhere for a meeting. Or I think it’s him. Like I sometimes think the legless man has legs. Or a man I know has legs sometimes doesn’t.
Oh look who it is. My beautiful Black saviour. And she’s bringing me food again.
You look awful
I thought I might. Kyle told you about my new home?
He thinks you’ve given up
And that’s bad?
You’re only 20
A really old 20.
Are you taking anything?
She means drugs.
I think I should get her checked out.
Drugs to make me forget.
I need to get her to a hospital.
I don’t want to forget anything. Just to make sure. I have to feel every bit of it. The abuse. The rape. The stupid wedding. The stupid life in a city of strangers. Getting deserted. Going hungry so my kids could eat.
I like it here.
There was no light in that basement where my kids and me lived. No light in that barn where I was attacked. But here finally. I can see everything. Even stuff that isn’t there.
I mean it. I’m not leaving you here. Let’s go.
No!! And don’t you have things to do. Revenge to get.
Justice. I had to get some justice.
He was arrested.
Because of you?
No he was being watched. He did even more bad things and got caught. Caught by a good cop.
And put in jail?
Shot too, I think.
Yeah I thought that. Your friend got killed. I thought that too. I mean when I was just thinking things.
Anyway he got bail.
Yeah and when he got out, he got shot again. This time in the head. He died in a gutter. Let’s go. It’s not safe here for you.
The dogs will protect me
Or they might kill you.
So they’ve got a choice. That’s fair.
You need to come with me.
Not gonna happen. But thanks for the food.
(Vic and Rudy. Rudy has a bullet hole on his forehead)
(pointing to bullet hole)
So what was all this about? That kid I killed? Which one?
Right. There was also that mental case on the bus.
So it was payback for which one?
Neither. It was your son
Fuck me. I thought he might pull something like this. So he confessed?
He might if we could find him. Truth is, we all know you probably deserved it.
So fucking what?
So we’re not looking very hard to find him.
When she was very young she could imagine things. Imagine being things. Like a tree. Living through all that weather. Especially winter. And that was too scary. So she imagined being animals in the barns. Cows mostly. Sometimes pigs. Until she found out they were raised by her father and slaughtered in town to sell as food.
Imagine that? So she did. And then she cried about the animals. For the animals. And her world started to shake. And she started to worry about everything really. School was a problem. Reading was a problem because the letters wouldn’t stay still and even sometimes left the paper. Turned over and spun until they reached her eyes. So there had to be lessons to make that stop. Leaving the class for help. Twice a week not once like it was For the kid who stuttered. Whatever her problem was, it was worse and people thought she musta been slow. But really she was fast
She did things fast. She said things without thinking. She asked too many questions. And when she didn’t like the answers, she asked them again. She was annoying. To her father mostly. She knew he was annoyed.
And she tried to annoy him even more. Because it hurt her, what he thought about her. The way he looked and talked hurt her. And kept on hurting. Until it got even worse. Everything got way worse. When she was attacked. When a neighbour, her boyfriend’s dad, her father’s friend took her somewhere private and dark and kept her there until he was finished.
She was 15.
And that was the end of that life. Because she was going to have a baby. Her boyfriend’s baby brother. Her first child. And a there was a rush. A great rush. For permission to get married. And then another babyNot from rape. Just from dull sex. At least for her. And off they went to the friendless city. Two teens with two kids. No jobs. No money. Just welfare and food banks.
And why doesn’t her husband get a job? And keep a job? Please just to get enough money to get them home or to somewhere where they weren’t invisible. But the next job is gone too. And right after so is he.
Gone. To nowhere. Maybe even dead, she hopes. And that he suffered. Because she has nothing. And she and the children eat noodles, macaroni and play puzzles in their dark basement apartment. Dark and damp and nowhere to go.
So she calls me. Her mother. You know, just for some money. Just to get help. So she can find a job. Any kind of job. But instead of money, I bring her dad.
We look at her. All around her. Smell the misery in that dirty little hole. Grab her kids and take them away. Steal them from her.
“You’re stealing them!” she screamed. And that’s the second time her life ended. After that there was an escape from the basement. Just a walkaway really. With not much to carry. A night or two in a park. And soon a new friend with a drug problem. Too hard for them both. Except he was kind and she misses him. She missed him in a shelter, on the sidewalk with a dog she loved, that died.
And then there was her tent amongst other tents in a park. Still mostly hungry but not alone. People there were harmed. Actually damaged. Like her. And worse than her. Too damaged to be in a family. But trying. And there was help, of a kind. Whatever their damaged minds could manage until all that ended real fast.
Like that. The tents were gone. Her friends were gone. Another family was gone. The shelters were full. The sidewalks were cold and things were just going to get worse. She knew this for sure. And she knew this time when her life ended. It had to be forever. And not imagined. Because she’d just had enough. Sometimes people do. Sometimes they just feel it. Sometimes they add it all up. What’s happened. What else is probably gonna happen. And it just makes sense.
Thanksgiving on the street. People are already giving more. I got a Tim’s breakfast sandwich and a coffee. Plus two elderly women gave me all the change in their purses and one asked, “Are you all right, dear?”
I just nodded. Then added, “Oh sure. I’m fine.”
Some guy asked, “where’s your dog?”
“He just died?”
To myself. No. I’m not okay. I miss him. It hurts how much I miss him.
Then the same guy said, “Turkey tonight at the shelter?”
“Don’t they give you a turkey dinner?”
I don’t think so.
“Try a church.”
Then he’s gone. Like I pissed him off or something
My kids are gonna eat it. My mum will give them and everyone else a big dinner. Some neighbours. Some family and my oldest might say, “I miss mummy.”
I know. And I know she misses you too.
She knows shit about me.
“Is mummy okay?”
I’m sure she is
See? Nothing. She stole my children from me. And nobody cared. Not even me. Because I was not doing so good at the time. I was very sad and very tired.
Look at her. She can’t take care of them. She can barely talk in full sentences.
The Lord’s vengeance.
Lights on Kevin
Yeah put me down. Make a joke of my new life. But I was nothing in that friggin’ city. Making nothing. Going nowhere. A man who people pitied. Mocked. But when my mum died, we used her insurance money to buy our farm. And then there was hope. Yeah hope. But not for long.
Because right away I was just some stupid pissant from the city working his guts out to be a legit farmer and failing at it big time. I was a laughing stock, okay. Yes I was. Until I went into that church. Prayed like I’d never prayed before. Which was actually never. Or before. And that church gave me a life. It brought me into a community of people who believed in something and sang about their belief so loudly that their belief could not be disbelieved. And when I believed like they did, or just tried to, I invited Jesus into my heart. And just by doing that I attached myself to something. Sure. I try to be like them. Why wouldn’t I? And here’s the thing. I feel the deepest sorrow for what my daughter is suffering. I do. But I have a duty to the church, to God, to my crops, to my community, and to all my sheep. So yeah. I’ll pray for her. But that’s all I got to give.
Lights on Stacey
One of the elderly women is back.
“Would you like to join me and my sister for dinner?”
“It’ll just be us.”
They’re sisters. And they’re alone.
I’m feeling sad for them.
“It’s just going to be us.”
Stop saying that.
“We weren’t planning a big meal but if you came…”
I feel like killing myself.
I can’t deal with anyone else’s sadness
“We’re not sad, dear.”
Jesus. I said that out loud
“We’re just alone.”
I can’t. I’m expected at the church
“Oh. The church? What church?”
But I keep talking. They’re having a big thing. With turkey
“Oh. So you’ll be all right then?”
She smiles. She leaves
What church?! What fucking–
A car pulls up. A young girl gets out. Maybe she’s 12. And she’s got a bag from McDonald’s
“Are you okay?”
She’s crying. She’s crying!
“Yeah I’m good.”
I’m so sorry.
And then she’s back in the car with her mum
And the mum is crying too
Jesus. And now they’re both looking at me.
Too much. Just drive away
I feel like killing myself
It’s bad what I’m doing to some people.
They cry for me. They bring me food
It’s better sometimes when they just walk by
Ignore me. Like I’m not even here.
“Where do you think mummy is, Nana?”
I don’t know.
That’s right. She doesn’t have a clue. But she’s somewhere, right?
Oh yeah. She’s somewhere
Unless she’s fucking dead you mean.
Good one, Dad. Especially from a Man of The Lord.
You bring out the worst in me. By the way, I got made a deacon last week.
Don’t get me started on that crap. He had to donate a third of the farm to make it happen.
God hears you talkin’ all that shit, woman. I don’t have much hope for your soul.
One day I’m gonna cut off his head. Just like you were planning to do to that policeman in your other dream.
Someone is coming towards me with more food. More food! I’m gonna have to give some of it away.
Hey, tomorrow might be my birthday. I’ll be 21.
Or maybe I already am because I’ve lost track of time. Just like I’ve kinda lost track of my life. But that might not matter. I might not matter. I can’t feel my feet on the sidewalk. I’m always sort of floating. Not deciding where to go. Just getting to somewhere and then stopping. I don’t remember leaving that shelter but I’m not there so somehow…
And then I’m under a highway. With a lot of noise. Too much. And I’m walking down a line of cars. They’re stopped for a light. And I should be asking for money like I’ve seen that done but I don’t have the words. Any words. Not one
So I just walk. Not even looking. Just hoping.
Hoping. Jesus. For what? That someone will just reach out or maybe I’d rather starve. I might be starving right now. I might be a bunch of things besides sad about my kids. Besides afraid of just about everything
I feel alone. They took away our tents. No answer to why. But they’re gone. And so are my friends. We sat there on the ground for awhile. Then we just left. Not together. I don’t know why but someone said try a shelter. Might have been me. And then I floated off and later I was there.
Here. And look at it. No room to even sit for awhile. Food all gone. And just women. Just for women to keep them safe. One of them with a baby and can that be okay? That baby should have been taken away like my babies were stolen by my parents to keep them safe from me. From me not handling things. So… Good for them.
But the end of me. The end that had a beginning when I was 15 and raped. Or 16 and pregnant. Or 18 and deserted by a weak man. Or thinking about dying. Really thinking about how to just stop.
To find a bridge somewhere. To just float until I find one high enough. I’m tired. I’m maybe 21 but I feel older. A lot older. Bad choices, bad luck. I don’t think it matters. I mean. I don’t think anyone really cares
So why should I?
Lights on RAVEN
Cops got an anonymous call, and I’ve been asked to identify the corpse of a young woman. Her broken body is in the bushes under a bridge, and it’s been there a while. Three people have already told me it was suicide and I’ve only been at the scene five minutes. Two uniforms have written that down and closed their notebooks. And a ratty old guy who lives under the bridge crawls out of his sleeping bag to give me a shout out of his same hazy drunk or demented opinion.
It’s Stacey. I just stared for awhile to make sure. And when I was sure I told the cops all I knew about her. It didn’t take long. Because I didn’t know much. And what I knew, I didn’t really want to talk about.
So I just prayed. I prayed the silent prayer of an atheist. Just silent thoughts of concern really. Thrown out into an indifferent world. My way of coping, I guess
And now I’m doing it again as I walk away from her so very lifeless body. My atheist prayer. What fucking good does this do? Doesn’t even make me feel better.
All I can think of is her alone on that bridge.
(very deep breath)
Except she wasn’t. Not actually. Someone killed her.
And I know who it was. He seems to have been her only friend. Trouble on a park bench. Lurker in an alley. Lost boy with a drug habit. They shared a sleeping bag and whatever food they could steal. He’d been in trouble since he was ten, and he was so hard to help. I think she needed a bodyguard. And he probably cared about her when he was in his right mind. After I found out about him he wasn’t hard to track down. He was well known in the “really fucked” community and the police had no trouble gathering him up. He admitted it right after he remembered it. He was sad but he blamed the drugs.
What’s it matter he asked. No one cared about her. Just like no one cares about me.
Okay but why’d he throw her off that bridge?
I did that? Fuck. Maybe I thought she wanted me to.