Woman on a Tightrope by David Mauriello
The sound of wind is heard. Then the squeaks of hinges on
children's swings. A car door slams shout.
MARIE! STOP! Look out. We don't know this place.
You'll fall. Marie!
I want to be the first one to break the ice.
Give me your hand. I'm out of breath chasing
after you. Darting out from the car like that.
Don't do that again, hear. HEAR!
See the frozen puddles. The ice, it's like, thin-
white, like the Holy Communion.
NO! Argh, POISON! Putting that dirty thing into
your mouth. (a pause) I'm sorry. Darling don't
cry. I didn't mean to hurt your hand pulling it
that way. I wanted you to drop the ice. It's so
dirty around here. Do you forgive your mother?
You're so good. Now, let me take a look at you.
You've combed my hair. YOU'VE COMBED IT!
I wanted you to wear a hat. It's cold.
Daddy liked my hair like this.
But it's cold. And it makes you look older.
You've buttoned my coat, over and over. Mother,
stop! Mother, I'm old enough.
We must check and recheck. Remember the woman
on the tightrope at the circus, when she came
down and talked to the children. Check and
recheck, to keep the balance.
The wind blows
Brr, this wind, are you warm enough, why don't
you wait in the car?
Are we going inside?
I, well, I suppose we must. It's just, it's
so deserted around here.
Mrs. Nettle made you afraid. I don't like her.
I've never come to a place like this.
Her breath stinks of whiskey.
Stop. Mrs. Nettle is not so bad.
Calls me Mary. (pause) Mother, look, look
at the windows.
What? What's wrong?
They're all dark. When Daddy used to take me
sailing, he'd say, that's how you can tell deep
water, so dark.
It's the way the light is hitting them, that's
all, just that time of day. It's the playground
that seems so strange, a playground but no
children. It's the cold, I guess.
Mrs. Nettle made you afraid. I heard her talking.
DID YOU? DID YOU NOW? When you weren't supposed
to be listening.
She doesn't listen. She calls me Mary. My name
She's busy. She forgets. After all, she is
President of the church's committee. This was
her idea, to bring Thanksgiving dinner to poor
people. But I was hoping someone would, I mean
just anyone, another person would walk by,
It's just an apartment house.
It's a tenement, for poor people. What did you
Someone wrote things, with paint, see? By the
It's kids, you know, graffiti, they call it.
Marie, stop reading that stuff. What did you
bring? to give them? MARIE! Come back.
Look! There's more puddles over here under the
One of those swings is broken. Don't go near
JOYCE AND MARIE
(their voices should be somewhat surreal)
I'm breaking the ice. I want to be the first
to break the ice.
Look, Mother. Look at the ice. Tiny designs,
Marie. NO. This is dirty, filthy dirty, LOOK!
An old sneaker there where you picked up that
JOYCE AND MARIE
(surreal) It's cold. So pure and cold.
A voice is heard calling to them from inside
A door is heard opening.
Mrs. Willard? Hi. ( a pause) May we come closer
My daughter and me. We were afraid you were
leaving. Oh, look at me, forgive me, dressed in
my robe like this, but well, Noreen saw you
from the window, Oh, we live up there, near the
top. And we were so excited. I said "that must
be them" with the rich car and all.
You're Mrs. Johnson?
Yes. I mean no. I'm Rachel, Rachel Johnson,
and this is Noreen. ( a pause) Oh HIM? Over
by the entry way? That's Tony, just a friend.
He was just leavin'. So if you'd like to come
in. (pause) Noreen? What Honey? Why you pullin'
at my arm that way? She's just shy. (pause)
No, he wasn't leavin'. He thought, I told him he
was crazy, he thought I might need him, and that
made me laugh, didn't it, Noreen honey? And
I said, "Tony baby, these people are bringin' us
food, not a warrant for our arrest."
He hit her, for comin' out.
NO! Honey, NO! He, he tried to stop me, and when
I pulled away, I, I just twisted my wrist. See,
he thinks people like us could never fit in with,
well, that's why I just had time to throw on this
robe. But I said, "Tony, the food would be so
nice, real turkey dinner." Well, you know how it is, MEN! Always
around when you want them least, then when you could just climb a wall
when you're feelin' so, well, with wantin' one. HA. (pause) Oh
please, tell your little girl don't just keep starin' at him.
He's a pussycat, really, just the way guys dress nowadays, that
leather stuff and those tight jeans. I keep tellin' him, "Find a
girl you own age," but he keeps comin' back to me. (pause) I
don't know what else to say. It's real nice of you, comin'
This is my daughter Marie. Marie, come here, you
don't have to stand behind me like that.
Mine's doin' the same. Come on Honey, go say
hello to Marie.
JOYCE AND RACHEL
They're the same height.
Same as Marie.
You're kiddin'? Look at 'em, shy, sniffin' out
the competition. That's what it's all about with
us gals, ain't it? Competition from day one.
Your Marie is a real beauty.
Thank you. And so's Noreen, takes after you.
Me. Naw. MEEE? In this old robe.
Gorgeous black hair, those high cheek bones,
makes for a handsome woman.
Thank you. Jesus, you make me feel embarrassed
but nice at the same time. NOREEN. Stop, stop
I'm breakin' the ice. C'mon, Marie, jump.
YOU ARE GOIN' TO FALL. NOREEN! (long pause)
See, just like I said, and those are your
new dungarees. OK, don't cry. Here, let
me hold you. That blouse ain't warm enough.
Your pride is bruised. Just all nervous in
front of your new friend. Why don't you go in
baby, you're shiverin', baby, you go in.
(whisper) Tony's there.
You know, he's mad, 'bout the money.
Shhhh. Money? Didn't he promise to get you a
coat, like Marie's maybe. Look, she's got
rainbow laces just like yours.
Will she come in? Marie, will she come in?
I, well, weWe didn't plan to come in.
A long pause. The wind blows. The swings creak.
We have the dinner, in the car.
I guess the church group kind of asked you to
to, do this. We're invitin' you in.
No. No, We.
Maybe this is all a mistake. I think Noreen and
me should go in. C'mon, honey.
But turkey, Mother, a turkey dinner.
Don't ya think Tony can't get us what we want.
C'mon honey it's getting' colder by the minute.
I'm sorry, Mrs. Johnson.
Don't you understand. I ain't "Mrs". Noreen and
me are alone.
My daddy's gone too, with this young girl who
worked for him.
Don't go without the food, please. You're doing
us the favor. Ever since I've been alone things
have been so empty. But bringing the food, Marie
and I really enjoyed it. She tied ribbons around
the tin foil so you could enjoy untying them and
seeing what's inside.
All we got is the house.
I grew up in a house, with a big garden and a
a barn. I wish Noreen had. We had two collie
dogs, Lassie and Laddie.
Tony bought me a yellow bird that sings.
Naw, a plastic thing. It sings the same thing
over and over and over.
NO! I let it fly free all through the apartment.
We just have two small rooms.