West Texas Massacre by Edward Crosby Wells

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This Play is the copyright of the Author and may not be performed, copied or sold without the Author’s prior consent

    AT RISE: GROVER OATS, behind bar, is pouring out a whiskey for MARY
      HOLIDAY who is lavishly posed on a barstool wearing a slinky dance
      hall dress, circa 1880.

      PERFORMANCE LIGHTING.

      NOTE: ALL ACTORS are in period costume, since what we are
      watching is a performance of the melodrama within the play.  We do,
      however, travel back and forth through time to witness prior
      rehearsals and the personal interactions between the actors performing
      the melodrama. These changes of time will be noted in the text of the
      script by calling for either PERFORMANCE LIGHTING or REHEARSAL
      LIGHTING.


      ALSO NOTE: The character name before the backslash is
      the character speaking.  For example, MARY/MARSHA followed by dialogue
      or stage directions belongs to the character of MARY in the melodrama
      within the play.

      MARY/MARSHA: (A very broad character as played by MARSHA.)
      This ol’ bug juice shoor hits the spot, Grover, but I ain’t a-gonna
      tell ya jest where that spot is.  Ha, ha, ha!



      GROVER/HAL: (HAL, likewise.)  You’re a good-un, Mary Holiday.  You’re
      a good-un!



      MARY/MARSHA: Any news from that thare brother o’ yours what got
      hisself dee-tained by that thare sheriff up in Ok-lee-homa?



      GROVER/HAL: ‘Fraid they’re gonna throw the key away on that one,
      Mary.

      MARY/MARSHA: Dear me.



      GROVER/HAL: ‘Sides, he ain’t no full-brother
      anyhow.

MARY/MARSHA: He ain’t?



      GROVER/HAL: Nope!  I’m an Oats and he’s a Blackey.  Ya see, his ol’
      man, Bad Billy Blackey, took advantage o’ my mother . . . rest her
      soul . . .

      MARY/MARSHA: Rest her soul.


      GROVER/HAL: . . . while m’ pa was off doin’ his duty.



      MARY/MARSHA: Yor pa was in the cavalry?

      GROVER/HAL: Nope.  He was in the outhouse.



      MARY/MARSHA: He wasn’t only bad, Grover.  He was quick!


      GROVER/HAL: That he was, Mary.  Bad Billy Blackey . . . curse his
      soul . . .

      MARY/MARSHA: Curse his soul.



      GROVER/HAL: . . . snuck up on m’ ma whiles she was a-stuffin’ the
      bird.



      MARY/MARSHA: A-stuffin’ the bird, Grover?

GROVER/HAL: It was
      Christmas.



      MARY/MARSHA: Ya say it was Christmas and yor ma was a-stuffin’ the
      bird whiles yor pa was in the outhouse?



      GROVER/HAL: Right you are, little lady.  Only m’ pa was
      a-stuck.



      MARY/MARSHA: A-stuck?



      GROVER/HAL: In the outhouse.



      MARY/MARSHA: Yor ma was a-stuffin’ whiles yor pa was a-stuck?



      GROVER/HAL: And Bad Billy Blackey was a-sneakin’!



      MARY/MARSHA: Ya mean ta tell me that whiles yor ma was a-stuffin’ and
      Bart Blackey’s pa was a-sneakin’, yor pa was a-stuck?

      GROVER/HAL: Yup.  In the outhouse.



      MARY/MARSHA: Oh dear.



      GROVER/HAL: But, Bad Billy Blackey weren’t Bart’s daddy yet.



      MARY/MARSHA: He weren’t?



      GROVER/HAL: Nope.  That happened after Ma dropped the bird.



      MARY/MARSHA: She dropped the bird?



      GROVER/HAL: And screamed.



      MARY/MARSHA: Well, why didn’t yor pa come a-runnin’?



      GROVER/HAL: ‘Cause he was a-stuck.



      MARY/MARSHA: In the outhouse.

      GROVER/HAL: Sure ‘nough!  ‘Twas the coldest December anybody
      could remember.  So, when he sat down he got hisself frozified.



      MARY/MARSHA: Frozified?



      GROVER/HAL: Sure ‘nough!  Ma had ta crawl in under the outhouse and
      set a fire under ‘im.



      MARY/MARSHA: That must o’ smarted, Grover.



      GROVER/HAL: Not as much as what she had ta tell Pa ‘bout what Bad
      Billy Blackey went and did after she dropped the bird.



      MARY/MARSHA: Fo’ shame, Grover.  Fo’ shame!



      GROVER/HAL: So, ya see, Bart’s a Blackey.  He ain’t a Oats at all.
      He was conceived in sin and heís mean as rusty nails through and
      through.



      MARY/MARSHA: That’s the saddest story I ever did hear.  Still, he’s
      kin, Grover.  And you know what they say about blood and water.  Pour
      me another shot o’ that amber lightnin’.  I feel a faint comin’
      on.



      GROVER/HAL: Now, you take ‘er easy, little lady.  I don’t want no
      harm ta come to m’ little angel.



      MARY/MARSHA: Am I really yor little angel, Grover?



      GROVER/HAL: Why, you jest say the word, sugar pie, and I’m all
      yours.



      MARY/MARSHA: Even though I, too, have a child conceived in sin?

      GROVER/HAL: Now, don’t you fret, little Mary.



      MARY/MARSHA: Oh, booo-hooo, booo-hooo . . . Guess talkin’ ‘bout kin
      made me think o’ my long lost daughter, Louise . . . abductafied by
      Injuns fifteen years ago today.  Stolen on her third birthday.



      GROVER/HAL: Fo’ shame.



      MARY/MARSHA: Yup.  She’d be eighteen today, Grover.  Eighteen.
      Booo-hooo.



      GROVER/HAL: (Pouring her another drink.)  Now, don’t you cry, little
      lady.  Here. Drink up.



      MARY/MARSHA: Here’s to a frog in your corset! (Swigs drink.)



      (REHEARSAL LIGHTING).



      HAL: (A major transition from the character of GROVER. ) A frog in
      your corset?  This is fucking garbage, Marsha.



      MARSHA: (Ibid.)  Garbage?  I’ll have you know that Mike and I did a
      thorough research and “a frog in your corset” was definitely an
      eighteen-eighty West Texas colloquialism.

      HAL: I don’t think so.



      MARSHA: Mike and I spent a year working on this script, Hal, so we
      could save the theatre some royalty money.  And it was approved by the
      board, as you doubtless recall, unanimously.

      HAL: That doesn’t make every word the two of you write
      sacrosanct.



      MARSHA: Unanimously, Hal.  This is a melodrama.  Massacre at Dirty
      Gulch . . . not bloody Long Day’s Journey Into Night!

      HAL: I’m certain O’Neill would be the first to point that
      out.



      MARSHA: Well, what the hell did he know about entertaining people?

      HAL: You’re not serious?

      MARSHA: Of course I’m serious.  People don’t want depression.
      They want entertainment.  We did that Electra thing here and it was
      as boring as a cow patty.



      HAL: I’m not surprised.



      MARSHA: Suppose you let me direct my script.  All right?



      HAL: Fine.  Direct away.



      MARSHA: How else do you think we can afford to put on everything else
      we do around here?  Huh?  Melodramas make money.  Money, money, money.
      And as the new president of our board of directors it would behoove
      you to keep that in mind.



      HAL: (Sarcastic.)  I’ll make a mental note.

      MARSHA: You do that, Hal.



      HAL: Can we get on with rehearsal, Marsha?



      MARSHA: I don’t bust my buns every summer with these goddamned
      melodramas for my health.  You don’t really think anybody gives a
      ratís ass about what you consider “good” theatre, do you?  They’re
      here for the beer and the popcorn.  And if that is what it takes to
      pay the bills around here . . . and then maybe subsidize some O’Neill,
      Williams, Miller, Albee . . . whomever . . . then that is what it
      takes!  Understand?  (The SOUND of HAMMERING.)  What the hell is all
      that noise?  We’re trying to rehearse here!



      MIKE: (Popping his head in from upstage landing.)  Hi-ho!  Just
      securing the escape behind the landing, Marsha.



      MARSHA: Well, secure it somewhere else!



      MIKE: I can’t secure it somewhere else.  I’ve got to secure it
      here.



      MARSHA: (Strained.)  Then secure it some other time, Michael.



      MIKE: But I need to do it now before somebody gets hurt.



      MARSHA: Then, for God’s sake, do it quietly!



      MIKE: Yes . . . right . . . quietly . . . sorry . . .
      (Disappears.)


      SHERIFF/O.T.: (Rushing on.) Did-ja hear the news?  Did-ja?



      MARSHA: Not now, O.T.!



      O.T.: Oh.  I thought I heard Hal say “fo’ shame.”

      MARSHA: No.  Hal didn’t say “fo’ shame,” damn it!

      O.T.: (Fingering his ear.)  Battery must be low on my hearing
      aid.  I thought he did.



      MARSHA: Well, he didn’t!  Besides, it’s not “did-ja hear the news?
      Did-ja?”  It’s three did-jas and you left out the Ok-lee-homa.

      O.T.: Three did-jas and put back the Ok-lee-homa . . . right!
      Got it.



      MARSHA: Then let me hear it, O.T.



      O.T.: Well, now . . . let me see . . . Did-ja hear the news, did-ja,
      did-ja, from Ok-lee-homa?



      MARSHA: NO!  Did-ja hear the news from Ok-lee-homa?  Did-ja!  Did-ja!
      Did-ja!



      O.T.: Right.  Got it, Marsha.  (While exiting.)  Did-ja, did-ja,
      did-ja . . .



      MARSHA: (To HAL.) Honest to God!  Every time that man opens his mouth
      his brain leaks.  Now, can we get on with this . . . today?

      (PERFORMANCE LIGHTING.)

      GROVER/HAL: Today, huh?

      MARY/MARSHA: Yup! My poor little Louise would be eighteen
      today.



      GROVER/HAL Fo’ shame. Fo’ shame.



      SHERIFF/O.T.: (Rushing in.) Did-ja hear the news from Ok-lee-homa?
      Did-ja? (There is a long pause. MARY flashes a tight-lipped smile.
      Suddenly, he remembers and quickly adds:) Did-ja? Did-ja?

      GROVER/HAL: Now calm down, set a spell, have a drink and fill
      us in, Sheriff Upstringer.


      SHERIFF/O.T.: Ol’ Blackey’s escaped!



      GROVER/HAL & MARY/MARSHA: No?!



      SHERIFF/O.T.: Yup!  And that ain’t the worst!



      GROVER/HAL: It ain’t?



      SHERIFF/O.T.: Nope!  (Fingering his ear.)  Did you just say “it
      ain’t,” Grover?



      GROVER/HAL: (Sotto voce.)  Yup.  (MARY looks panicked.)



      SHERIFF/O.T.: Did-ja?  Did-ja?



      GROVER/HAL: (Something is wrong.) Yup!

SHERIFF/O.T.: (Fingering
      his ear.)  What’s that?



      MARY/MARSHA: (Through clenched teeth.)  He said “IT AIN’T,”
      Sheriff.



      SHERIFF/O.T.: (A couple taps on hearing aid. Removes finger from his
      ear.)  Gotcha.  (A long pause. Taps hearing aid.)  Nope.  (A pause to
      tap hearing aid, again.)  Nope, that ain’t the worst!



      GROVER/HAL & MARY/MARSHA: IT AIN’T?!



      SHERIFF/O.T.: Nope.  He’s here in Dirty Gulch.


      MARY/MARSHA: He is?



      SHERIFF/O.T.: Yup.  (Again, he’s forgotten his line.)  Yup . . . yup
      . . .

      MARY/MARSHA: (Helping him out.)  You saw him, Sheriff?



      SHERIFF/O.T.: (Remembering.)  Right!  Yup!  I saw him, Miss Mary . .
      . behind the livery stable, playin’ one-eyed jacks.



      GROVER/HAL: He always did like a good game o’ cards.



      SHERIFF/O.T.: And who do ya think was a-sweepin’ in all o’ the
      winnin’s?

      MARY/MARSHA: Pray tell, Sheriff.



      SHERIFF/O.T.: Bart Blackey!



      GROVER/HAL & MARY/MARSHA: No!



      SHERIFF/O.T.: Yup.  (A long pause.)  Yup.



      MARY/MARSHA: (Feeding SHERIFF his line.)  Was he as big as life,
      Sheriff?



      SHERIFF/O.T.: Huh?  Oh! Right . . . Yup.  Big as life.  Ol’ Blackey
      hisself . . . the meanest, baddest varmint ever to set foot in Dirty
      Gulch.

      GROVER/HAL: Why didn’t ya put the cuffs on him, Sheriff?



      SHERIFF/O.T.: Cain’t!  Long as he don’t break the law here in . . .
      in . . .

      MARY/MARSHA: Dirty Gulch.

SHERIFF/O.T.: Right.  Dirty
      Gulch.  Long as he donít break the law here in Dirty Gulch, it’s
      outta my hands.



      GROVER/HAL: But he’s wanted for murderin’ and rustlin’ in
      Ok-lee-homa.



      SHERIFF/O.T.: But not in Texas, boy.  I’m a-feared my hands is tied.
      But if he so much as spits on the sidewalk here in . . . in . . .
      Dirty Gulch . . .

      MARY/MARSHA: Thare ain’t no sidewalks here in Dirty
      Gulch.



      SHERIFF/O.T.: Well, on the ground.  If he so much as spits on the
      ground here in . . . Dirty Gulch, I’ll run him in sure as shootin’.
      Now, give me a shot o’ that snake venom, Grover.



      GROVER/HAL: One snake venom comin’ up.  The venom’s on The Horse’s
      Mouth, Sheriff.  (Gives whiskey to SHERIFF.)



      MARY/MARSHA: Fill ‘er up again, Grover.  I feel another faint comin’
      on.



      GROVER/HAL: You better be careful, little lady.  That thare scorpion
      juice will sneak up behind ya and strangulate ya.


      MARY/MARSHA: My poor Louise.  My poor little Louise.



      SHERIFF/O.T.: By the way.  Ol’ Blackey’s got hisself a purty young
      squaw by the name o’ Princess Desert Flower.  Said he won her in a
      poker game up in Tulsa.  (Moving toward exit.)  Shor is purty.  (Exits
      and quickly re-enters.)  Well, I better mosey on over to the jailhouse
      and see what’s a-stirrin’.  (Exits.)



      GROVER/HAL: (Calling after him.)  Say hello to the little woman,
      Sheriff!



      SHERIFF/O.T.: (Re-entering.) Say what?

      GROVER/HAL: (Through clenched teeth.) Hello to the little
      woman, Sheriff.



      SHERIFF/O.T.: Right.  Sure ‘nough, Grover.  (He exits. From backstage
      we hear:)  Did-ja, did-ja, did-ja . . .

      (REHEARSAL LIGHTING)

      MARSHA: Hal, O.T. is never going to get that right.  So, you’ve
      got to get your line out before he exits.

      HAL: I’ll do my best.



      MARSHA: So far, your best hasn’t been good enough, Hal.



      HAL: Sorry.



      MARSHA: “Sorry” doesn’t cut it.  It doesn’t look good.  You’ve got to
      stop him with your line before he gets offstage.  Didn’t they teach
      you anything down in Dallas?



      HAL: Yes.  How to be a good doctor.



      MARSHA: You know perfectly well what I mean.

      HAL: There’s no need for you to be abusive.



      MARSHA: When I’m abusive you’ll know it, Dr. Luce.



      HAL: Marsha, what exactly is your problem?  Whenever the least little
      thing doesn’t go exactly the way you think it ought to, you go off the
      deep end.



      MARSHA: I’m trying to direct a show here.  Now, if you can’t take
      direction, then I’ll just have to find somebody who can.

      HAL: From where?  You came crying to the board about how nobody
      turned out for your auditions.



      MARSHA: I didn’t come crying.



      HAL: Demanding we take parts in this stinking melodrama or the
      collapse of The Derrick Community Playhouse would be on our heads.

      MARSHA: I don’t recall.



      HAL: Marsha, the entire board of directors of The Derrick Community
      Playhouse, including your husband and daughter, are in this show . . .
      not to mention yourself both acting and directing.  It’s not our
      problem if you’ve run everybody off and can’t get anyone to audition
      for your shows anymore.

[end of extract]

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