I LOVE JACK KEROUAC
3 Characters (JK, Crystal, Mumsie) The Present; October. A diner:
Set in a small woebegone crossroads diner on the outskirts of Sailor Springs, Illinois,
this short one-act play enacts an early-morning stop over (5a.m.) and the yearnings of two very different people, strangers to each other – Crystal, a blind waitress – the only waitress – at The Cross Roads Diner , and JK, a wannabe Jack Kerouac who is driving back-and-forth across America with his buddy – Neal – gathering up impressions of people and lifestyles to perhaps write a great American novel in the manner of Kerouac. “I’m like tryin’ to live him . . . me and Neal, both . . . like he’s some role-model, kind’a . . . .” While outwardly blind, Crystal nevertheless “sees” herself in JK’s prospective book, providing he would write her into it – perhaps an audio book so that she can “hear” what it’s like out there “. . . on the road in your book, seeing things – colors, shapes . . . Will you do that for me? JK?”
Their short encounter is life-changing for both. Stranded in a small diner – Crystal’s mother mostly camped out in the kitchen –with few customers anymore, and a sparse menu she can’t see but only recite out loud, JK’s stop-by seems to offer her a change, adventure, a way out of the diner by means of JK’s spoken audio-book, with the promise of herself included in the story. JK similarly may at last never be forgotten by someone, he may be meaningful, be purposeful in life, acquire a legend if only ironically in a waitress’ blind eyes.
A ROSE, A CANE
3 Characters (Wilford, 50; Mila, 40; Klig, 15, Mila’s son). The Present. Summer. At
a stone wall in a field in Vermont.
The humor in this short one-act play turns surrealistic as the play unfolds the living portraits of Mr. and Mrs. Rose in the decline of their life while they sit at their dining table attended by their butler, Karl, and their cook, Hilda. While one of Mrs. Rose’s joys is the growing of roses, Mr. Rose’s joy has been trout fishing – (although he now needs to walk with a cane). The Roses are devoted to each other, a garden and brook unto themselves – but this day they have learned of the death of a dear friend and widow, Mrs. Bachman, and so their mood is somber. They turn down Hilda’s prepared supper for them, much to the chagrin of Karl, who learns from the Roses of the death of Mrs. Bachman.
Mrs. Bachman’s suicide triggers a discussion between the Roses of their Last Wills and possible bequests to their grown children. While paintings by Monet, Chagall and Wyeth hang on the walls of the dining room, the Roses veer into the subject of instead having an auction after their deaths. and during this discussion an off-stage auctioneer is heard. Karl returns to the dining room with Hilda, and then movers, to carry away items for the off-stage auction: the paintings, the dining table, the chairs with the Roses still seated in them.
The room becomes empty except for a rose which has fallen to the floor from a vase, and Mr. Rose’s cane, fallen from the back of his chair.
TWO ROADS DIVERGE
3 Characters (Wilford, 50; Mila Klee, 40; Klig, 15, Mila’s son). The Present. July. A picnic
at a stone wall dividing their properties in a field in Vermont.
Two Roads Diverge – is a short one-act romantic comedy – the second of a trilogy of short plays – paying homage to the poet Robert Frost. Each plays suggests the idea of strangers radically different yet coming to know and respect if not love each other, suggesting the haunting idea of other sets of man-made, dehumanizing walls, namely the Berlin wall, anti-immigrant and racist Mexican wall, a prospective Canadian wall. in this second play of the trilogy, Two Roads Diverge, over a picnic at the wall as Wilford tries to teach Mila poetic speech, they come to agree to tear the wall down. They begin to do so, warming to each other, creating a gap in the wall through which they can cross into each other’s field. However, Mia’s son, Klig protests! stating that the “Heritage Committee” on historic preservation (yes, he attends the local school) would be unhappy about the loss or maltreatment of the wall. Ultimately, Wilford and Mia decide on keeping the gap in the wall they have already made, leaving the remainder of the stone wall intact – a compromise – “diverging” a little from their original intent.
From the Play
I LOVE JACK KEROUAC
JK. a customer, any age
CRYSTAL. waitress, very blind eyesight, any age
MUMSIE. Crystal’s mother, any age
Diner on the outskirts of Sailor Springs, Illinois
A misty, October morning, 5a.m. The Cross Roads Diner on the outskirts of Sailor Springs, Illinois. In the dark, Off-Stage sound of a car horn – two hoots.
MUMSIE: (O.S. gravelly voice): WHAT’S THAT!!
CRYSTAL: (O.S.) CAR HORN!
MUMSIE: (O.S. gravelly voice) WHY?
CRYSTAL: (O.S.) WHO KNOWS!
LIGHTS UP : Interior of bare-bones diner. Door Opens – triggering overhead door chime . . .JK, ENTERS – stops, looks around
MUMSIE: (O.S. gravelly voice) WE GOT A CUSTOMER! EARLY!
CRYSTAL: (O.S.) I KNOW
JK crosses to a stool at the counter; sits. His eyes dart around occasionally, taking in some of the features of the diner. He lifts the sugar dispenser and sees it is empty. He lifts the salt shaker – it is almost empty; the pepper shaker-full.
CRYSTAL enters from the kitchen and stops.
CRYSTAL: Oh, there you are.
She feels her way along behind the counter using her hand on the counter-top – so discreetly it is practically unnoticeable.
JK: Yeh . . . (drums his thumbs on the counter-top) … bop-bop . . .
She proceeds to approach him from behind the counter- every bit a waitress, smiling, coquettish, yet an air of being worn out and desperate for some change in life.
. . . bop-bop . . . be-bop.
CRYSTAL: (chirpy) Welcome to our Cross Roads Diner here at Sailor Springs, Illin-ois.
CRYSTAL: Up early! – 5 a.m!
JK: Yeh. . . . bop-bop . . . be-bop.
CRYSTAL stares over JK’s shoulder and recites flatly.
CRYSTAL: Ok. Here goes – it’s this –
One egg any-kind nuked in microwave; hash-browns –nuked; white-toast – nuked; no-meat-any-kind; no-cheese-any-kind; no-onion-any-kind; no grits-no-fancy-grain any-kind; dry-cereal-Cheerios; raisins-pineapple-juice;-sunflower-seed-trail mix; have-a-good-and-a- filling-day. (she smiles) That’s it.
A ROSE, A CANE
MRS. ROSE (Angrily): I mean that generally you need assistance, and that’s what KARL was doing. You mustn’t treat him so rudely. We’re fortunate to still have him, and . . .
(Her voice trails off as KARL enters with a platter of broiled trout.)
KARL: Madam . . .
MRS. ROSE: No thank you, Karl.
KARL: But the trout are very fresh, madam.
MRS. ROSE (Glancing at MR. ROSE) I know, I know . . . they’re always fresh.
KARL: Broiled, crisp . . .
MRS. ROSE: No . . .
MR. ROSE (waving KARL back) Take them back, Karl.
KARl: (showing concern) Will there be vegetables, sir?
MR. ROSE: Catherine?
MRS. ROSE: No. But tell Hilda . . . tell her that I’m sure they’re delicious.
KARL: And you, sir?
MR. ROSE: What are they?
KARL: Brussels sprouts, sir. In sherry cream.
MR. ROSE (Ponders, then) She’s a wonderful cook, Karl.
KARL: Indeed, sir.
MR. ROSE: I might . . . no. (Sighs) None for me.
KARL: Will there be salads?
MRS. ROSE: No.
MR. ROSE: No.
KARL: Perhaps . . . perhaps a little desert?
MR. ROSE: What is it?
MRS. ROSE: Apricot flan.
MR. ROSE: Hilda’s?
KARL: Yes sir.
MRS. ROSE (somewhat angrily) Naturally! (Raising her water glass to drink) Whose did you think? Sara Lee’s?
KARL: In a hot caramel sauce with . . .
MRS. ROSE (Drops her water glass to the floor): Ohhh . . . dear . . . dear . . .
(MR. ROSE – (anxious, pushes his chair back, stands, starts towards her.)
MR. ROSE: Careful! Don’t step on it; Catherine. Sit still!
TWO ROADS DIVERGED
WILFORD – 50.
MILA – 40
KLIG – 15, Mila’s son.
LIGHTS UP: summer. A board sits atop the wall, a tablecloth spread over it— a light picnic is underway. WILFORD, sits atop a short step ladder on his side of the wall; MILA sits atop a short step ladder on her side of the wall . . . Wilford, holding a poetry book, is instructing Mila, who too is holding a book of poetry. Her ill-fitting bonnet reveals a part of the appendage growing from h er head.
MILA: (reads slowly) “And I shall be tell–ing this with a sss ii ghh … with a sss ii gghh …” (suddenly looks up, to Wilford) . . . what is that? what is “a sss ii ghh?”
WILFORD: What, a “sigh?”
MILA: Say it again.
MILA: No . . . say, “a sss ii ghh.”
WILFORD: Well, that’s just not how we do say it. Ha ha. (beat) Wonderful picnic, isn’t it?
MILA: Well, how just do you say it? (beat) “Picnic?” What’s that?
WILFORD: “Picnic?” Oh-well-then, should we learn “sigh” or “picnic?”
MILA: “Then,” when? When is “then?” And where is it?
WILFORD: (looks at her, a moment.) Ha ha. Well. I see. We’ll do all three, one at a time, how’s that?
WILFORD: Duricle? Ha Ha. Duricle – from your language, no doubt.
MILA: Begin, Willy.
WILFORD: Ah . . . “Will.” “Will” will do. Ha Ha.
MILA: “Will will do” – “Will will do” – “Will will do” . . .
WILFORD: (excited) You see? You see? What you are doing, is “rhythm!” Three beats! Very poetic!
“With a sigh” – “With a sigh” – “With a sigh” – do you see?
MILA: “Do you see?” – “Do you see?” – “Do you see?”
WILFORD: That’s it! Three beats! “Two roads diverged” – “Two roads diverged” – can you hear it? Three beats?
MILA: (counting on her fingers) “Two roads di-verged” – “Two roads di-verged” – four beats, right?