Woman on a Tightrope by David Mauriello


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  The sound of wind is heard. Then the squeaks of hinges on
      childrenís swings. A car door slams shout.

      JOYCE
      MARIE! STOP! Look out. We donít know this place.
      Youíll fall. Marie!

      MARIE
      I want to be the first one to break the ice.

      JOYCE
      Give me your hand. Iím out of breath chasing
      after you. Darting out from the car like that.
      Donít do that again, hear. HEAR!

      MARIE
      See the frozen puddles. The ice, itís like, thin-
      white, like the Holy Communion.

      JOYCE
      NO! Argh, POISON! Putting that dirty thing into
      your mouth. (a pause) Iím sorry. Darling donít
      cry. I didnít mean to hurt your hand pulling it
      that way. I wanted you to drop the ice. Itís so
      dirty around here. Do you forgive your mother?
      Youíre so good. Now, let me take a look at you.

      MARIE
      Youíve combed my hair. YOUíVE COMBED IT!

      JOYCE
      I wanted you to wear a hat. Itís cold.

      MARIE
      Daddy liked my hair like this.

      JOYCE
      But itís cold. And it makes you look older.

      MARIE
      Youíve buttoned my coat, over and over. Mother,
      stop! Mother, Iím old enough.

      JOYCE
      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

      JOYCE
      Brr, this wind, are you warm enough, why donít
      you wait in the car?

      MARIE
      Are we going inside?

      JOYCE
      I, well, I suppose we must. Itís just, itís
      so deserted around here.

      MARIE
      Mrs. Nettle made you afraid. I donít like her.

      JOYCE
      Iíve never come to a place like this.

      MARIE
      Her breath stinks of whiskey.

      JOYCE
      Stop. Mrs. Nettle is not so bad.

      MARIE
      Calls me Mary. (pause) Mother, look, look
      at the windows.

      JOYCE
      What? Whatís wrong?

      MARIE
      Theyíre all dark. When Daddy used to take me
      sailing, heíd say, thatís how you can tell deep
      water, so dark.

      JOYCE
      Itís the way the light is hitting them, thatís
      all, just that time of day. Itís the playground
      that seems so strange, a playground but no
      children. Itís the cold, I guess.

      MARIE
      Mrs. Nettle made you afraid. I heard her talking.

      JOYCE
      DID YOU? DID YOU NOW? When you werenít supposed
      to be listening.

      MARIE
      She doesnít listen. She calls me Mary. My name
      is Marie.

      JOYCE
      Sheís busy. She forgets. After all, she is
      President of the churchís 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,
      or something.

      MARIE
      Itís just an apartment house.

      JOYCE
      Itís a tenement, for poor people. What did you
      bring? Marie?

      MARIE
      Someone wrote things, with paint, see? By the
      doorway.

      JOYCE
      Itís kids, you know, graffiti, they call it.
      Marie, stop reading that stuff. What did you
      bring? to give them? MARIE! Come back.

      MARIE
      Look! Thereís more puddles over here under the
      swings.


      JOYCE
      One of those swings is broken. Donít go near
      it.

      JOYCE AND MARIE
          (their voices should be somewhat surreal)
      Iím breaking the ice. I want to be the first
      to break the ice.

      MARIE
      Look, Mother. Look at the ice. Tiny designs,
      like lace.

      JOYCE
      Marie. NO. This is dirty, filthy dirty, LOOK!
      An old sneaker there where you picked up that
      ice.

      JOYCE AND MARIE
      (surreal) Itís cold. So pure and cold.


      A voice is heard calling to them from inside

                RACHEL
          Mrs. Willard.

      A door is heard opening.

      RACHEL
      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 ďthat must
      be themĒ with the rich car and all.

      JOYCE
      Youíre Mrs. Johnson?

      RACHEL
      Yes. I mean no. Iím Rachel, Rachel Johnson,
      and this is Noreen. ( a pause) Oh HIM? Over
      by the entry way? Thatís Tony, just a friend.
      He was just leaviní. So if youíd like to come
      in. (pause) Noreen? What Honey? Why you pulliní
      at my arm that way? Sheís just shy. (pause)
      No, he wasnít leaviní. He thought, I told him he
      was crazy, he thought I might need him, and that
      made me laugh, didnít it, Noreen honey? And
      I said, ďTony baby, these people are bringiní us
      food, not a warrant for our arrest.Ē


      NOREEN
      He hit her, for cominí out.

      RACHEL
      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, thatís why I just had time to throw on this
      robe. But I said, ďTony, the food would be so
      nice, real turkey dinner.Ē Well, you know how it is, MEN! Always
      around when you want them least, then when you could just climb a wall
      when youíre feeliní so, well, with wantiní one.  HA. (pause) Oh
      please, tell your little girl donít just keep stariní at him.
      Heís a pussycat, really, just the way guys dress nowadays, that
      leather stuff and those tight jeans. I keep telliní him, ďFind a
      girl you own age,Ē but he keeps cominí back to me. (pause) I
      donít know what else to say. Itís real nice of you, cominí
      here.

      JOYCE
      This is my daughter Marie. Marie, come here, you
      donít have to stand behind me like that.

      RACHEL
      Mineís doiní the same. Come on Honey, go say
      hello to Marie.

      JOYCE AND RACHEL
      Theyíre the same height.

      RACHEL
      Sheís twelve.

      JOYCE
      Same as Marie.

      RACHEL
      Youíre kiddiní? Look at Ďem, shy, sniffiní out
      the competition. Thatís what itís all about with
      us gals, ainít it? Competition from day one.
      Your Marie is a real beauty.

      JOYCE
      Thank you. And soís Noreen, takes after you.

      RACHEL
      Me. Naw. MEEE? In this old robe.

      JOYCE
      Gorgeous black hair, those high cheek bones,
      makes for a handsome woman.

      RACHEL
      Thank you. Jesus, you make me feel embarrassed
      but nice at the same time. NOREEN. Stop, stop
      that jumpiní.

      NOREEN
      Iím breakiní the ice. Címon, Marie, jump.

      RACHEL
      YOU ARE GOINí TO FALL. NOREEN! (long pause)
      See, just like I said, and those are your
      new dungarees.  OK, donít cry. Here, let
      me hold you. That blouse ainít warm enough.
      Your pride is bruised. Just all nervous in
      front of your new friend. Why donít you go in
      baby, youíre shiveriní, baby, you go in.

                NOREEN
      (whisper) Tonyís there.

                RACHEL
      Whatjasay?

      NOREEN
      Tonyís there.

      RACHEL
      And so?

      NOREEN
      You know, heís mad, Ďbout the money.

      RACHEL
      Shhhh. Money? Didnít he promise to get you a
      coat, like Marieís maybe. Look, sheís got
      rainbow laces just like yours.

      NOREEN
      Will she come in? Marie, will she come in?

      JOYCE
      I, well, weÖWe didnít plan to come in.

      A long pause. The wind blows. The swings creak.

      JOYCE
      We have the dinner, in the car.

      RACHEL
      I guess the church group kind of asked you to
      to, do this. Weíre invitiní you in.

      JOYCE
      No. No, We.

      RACHEL
      Maybe this is all a mistake. I think Noreen and
      me should go in. Címon, honey.

      NOREEN
      But turkey, Mother, a turkey dinner.

      RACHEL
      Donít ya think Tony canít get us what we want.
      Címon honey itís gettingí colder by the minute.


      JOYCE
      Iím sorry, Mrs. Johnson.

      RACHEL
      Donít you understand. I ainít ďMrsĒ.  Noreen and
      me are alone.

      MARIE
      My daddyís gone too, with this young girl who
      worked for him.

      JOYCE
      Donít go without the food, please. Youíre doing
      us the favor. Ever since Iíve 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 whatís inside.

      RACHEL
      Well.
      MARIE
      All we got is the house.

      RACHEL
      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.

      NOREEN
      Tony bought me a yellow bird that sings.

      MARIE
      A canary?

      RACHEL
      Naw, a plastic thing. It sings the same thing
      over and over and over.

      NOREEN
      NO! I let it fly free all through the apartment.

      RACHEL
      We just have two small rooms.

 

[end of extract]



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